Sunday, July 12, 2015

New Clothes

I had a few minutes this week to start cutting out the pattern for my new skirt. I bought the pattern at the end of May and then, purchased some fabric a couple of weeks ago. Things often move very slowly here, and I fit in new projects wherever I can. It's a process.

I cut the pattern out, and then, stuff happened, and I didn't get around to sewing it until this weekend.

It's a bit shorter than I was expecting, and the skirt isn't quite as full as I thought it would be, but overall, it's comfortable and I like it.

I was so excited about it, I decided to try making one out of some old shirts I had lying around. I used three shirts, and added a bit on the skirt and waistband. It's a denser material, and so it came out a little heavier than I expected. Plus, I'm pretty sure that I'm going to dye it, because I have had bad experiences with wearing white skirts.

I had some awesome helpers while I was sewing.

And my daughter was so excited about my skirt projects, that she requested to make her Darlek shorts. She learned to sew on a machine. She had a great time. She loves her new shorts.

Life is good.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Reducing Dependence on Money - Austerity? Or Good Sense?

What happens when a government has no money?

Well, they can't pay employees: teachers, garbage collectors, emergency response personnel, snowplow drivers, road maintenance crews, sewer sanitation workers, Town Clerks, library personnel, trail maintenance crews, parks and monument workers, some health care workers (esp. low-income or free clinics), and many others.

They also can't fund projects or pay for social assistance programs like: unemployment, Medicaid/Medicare, prescription reimbursement, food stamps, food pantries, student financial aid programs, government funded research projects, and many others.

They can't subsidize farmers or the oil industry - which would increase prices for both food and gasoline.

In the last three decades, there have been many countries that experienced economic collapse. In the 1990s, the USSR imploded, and now, no longer exists. It broke apart into sovereign nations, but not without some turmoil. The Siege of Sarajevo was one such unrestful event that was sparked, in part, by the fall of the USSR. Russia experienced a significant financial collapse, and while they've, mostly, recuperated, life is still a struggle for a lot of people.

Cuba's economy collapsed when they lost their oil suppliers.

Argentina has been a hotbed of financial shenanigans for a while now.

Since we can not see into the future and know what will happen, we should be assuming that these United States are not impervious to financial collapse either. In living memory, our country suffered a significant financial upset. This very interesting article details the Top 5 causes of the Great Depression, and guess what? All of them (except #4, but with this whole Greece thing happening right now, who knows what our leaders will do) have happened - recently - or are happening right now (see #5 "Drought").

Even more recently, we've gone through some financial hiccups. The 1970s were a very difficult time for a lot of people, and that "recession" did not end until the early 1990s. Even more recently 2008 is widely touted as the beginning of the current recession, which some argue ended some time ago, but others say is still worsening. The stock market is up, but spending, overall, is down. Jobs are being added, but most of them are low-paying retail or seasonal jobs. Unemployment is down, but the official numbers don't take into account people who have just given up trying to find a job and have found other ways to survive.

From where I'm sitting, prices are way up. The price of gasoline has been hovering between $2.70 and $3 per gallon. for a few years now. Food prices are ridiculously high. Everything is more, which means people are spending less (see #3.

So, when I see what's happening in Greece, I think about what it might mean if such a thing happened here in the US and what it would look like. 100% of Americans receive government assistance in the form of gasoline subsidies. In countries where there are no such government measures, the cost of gasoline is more than four times what we're paying. What would happen to most people's lifestyles if we were paying $10/gallon for gasoline rather than $2.70? Many people can't afford $2.70 and still maintain their current standard of living. Things would have to change ... and pretty fast.

I've been talking, for years, about resiliency, about self-sufficiency, and no, we're not 100% self-sufficient here, but we wouldn't starve, we'd stay warm, we'd have clothes to wear (even if they were repaired many times over), we could live fairly comfortably - but only because we've made the kinds of changes that we've made over the years ... and really, none of the things we've done have been all that difficult.

As the economy in Greece teeters, many of the folks who call that country home are finding life pretty difficult, but the good news is that some people have been living my kind of lifestyle, and while money may be tight (or unavailable), they know they'll be okay, because they, at least, will eat and have a place to live.

Start today. Plant something. Preserve something. Lower your dependence on something. Each step toward independence only gets easier ... and more fun. Did I mention that we have baby ducks? What's more fun than baby animals?

This article entitled Here's What Greek Austerity Would Look Like in the US was pretty interesting.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Life on the Farm

It's fitting that we are trying to increase our own independence from the consumer culture and the grid and the Big-Ag food system and that, today, on our nation's "Independence Day" our duck's eggs finally hatched.

We are completely smitten.

Happy Independence Day! We have baby ducks :).

Friday, June 12, 2015

Urban Rainwater Cistern ... It's a Thing, Right?

In my book, Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs: the Thrivalist's Guide to Life Without Oil, I stated that the second most important factor to consider for survival is water (in the book water is Day 2, right after shelter). The rule of threes in an extreme survival situation states that one can live:

1. Three hours without shelter.
2. Three days without water.
3. Three weeks without food.

Here in the suburbs, we're not in an extreme survival situation (i.e. without resources or tools), and even in the face of a TEOTWAWKI event (or a Long Emergency a la James Howard Kunstler), we'll still have access to stuff that can help us survive. For instance, we'll have shelter (top priority in an extreme survival situation).

The question is, and the reason for this blog (and the above-mentioned book), will we have access to all of the other things we'll need (to survive) and want (to be comfortable)?

Day 2 talks about water, and in places, like Maine, where I live, water may not be such a huge issue. I'm pretty sure I can find it. There's a lovely water fall about a mile from where I live, and worst case, the ocean is two miles in the other direction, and I could distill the saltwater to make it drinkable.

The problem is that transporting the water from there to here would be tiresome (although, on Day 21, I offer alternatives to my having to carry stuff ... and, indeed, it's one of the reasons I have large dogs who are learning to be comfortable in a harness and pulling a wagon - and Jenn Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm also wrote about using dog power in her book Made from Scratch).

Even better than using dogs, however, would be having a fairly reliable and easily accessible water source right here. Rain barrels work well here in the late spring, summer and early fall, but they tend to freeze and split, and as a result, we lose access to that stored water (and have to replace the rain barrels ... although they make cute planters).

I mention underground cisterns on Day 2, as a way to store water long-term, and ultimately, my goal would be to have either a "garden well" or a cistern. I'm leaning toward cistern, and this article seemed like a decent resource for getting started toward more long-term water storage.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Make It

I hate buying clothes for myself. It's a drudgery, because I just don't really have a personal style. My daughters can wear clothes. They have an amazing sense of style, and they always look awesome - I'm a little jealous, actually. I've never been very good at buying clothes for myself, and the only time in my life when I was both comfortable and felt okay about my wardrobe was when I was in the military, and I did like the way I looked in my uniform.

I've been thinking, lately, that I just need a new uniform, and I actually tried wearing my old camouflage, but I found that people looked at me oddly when I wore my cut-off BDUs. So, I stopped.

Even worse, regardless of where I buy the clothes, I've found that seven out of ten things I bring home, I end up not really liking, most of the time, because they just don't fit right. Even if I try them on before I buy them, once I get them home and start to wear them, I find that I don't like they way they look. Buyer's remorse sucks, and even if I buy those clothes at a deep, deep discount from the secondhand store, I'm still spending money on things I, ultimately, will not use. It's very disappointing.

There's that, but I also hate buying clothes, because we read all of these articles about slave labor and sweatshops and the environmental degradation that occurs in areas where clothing manufacturing happens. Too many of the clothes we wear are not manufactured in the US, and so we don't have to live with the consequences of our clothing choices.

So, there's the issue of spending money and adding clutter to my house and the ethical dilemma of purchasing clothes that are destroying communities. Unfortunately, naked is not an option ... even if it were legal, it's a bit cold here to be naked all of the time, which means I need to find clothes I can wear.

My grandmother was an incredible woman - very frugal, perhaps because she didn't have much choice, because they didn't have a lot of money to spend, or perhaps because she grew up in an economically depressed part of the country during a time when no one had much of anything, or perhaps because it was just smart to not be wasteful and practice the philosophy of enough-ness. She always wore dresses, and they were always in decent enough condition. It wasn't until I was in my teens that I realized she always wore the same dress.

Not the same dress. She had half a dozen (or more) dresses of many different colors and material textures, but it was the same dress. Some had pockets. The ones she wore to church had fancier collars. She had a few with snaps and some with plain buttons and some with fancy buttons. She wore dresses made of a light-weight linen during the summer and had some of a heavier wool or polyester material for winter wear.

I've been thinking about it for a while. Recently, while I was rifling through my very full clothing drawers, I kept coming up short in my efforts to find something I could wear. That skirt is too tight. Those skirts are not appropriate for informal wear. Those pants are too dressy. That pair of shorts no longer fits. That one has a hole. That one has a stain.

And I'm wondering why I'm keeping all of these clothes ... why I even HAVE all of these clothes.

And I start thinking about my grandmother ... and about the woman who did the Little Brown Dress challenge a few years ago, where she sewed two identical brown dresses, which she wore for a whole year. She accessorized with sweaters and leggings, but her base wardrobe was the little brown dress.

And I start thinking that's what I want. I just want some clothes that fit and are versatile enough for a lot of different activities.

So, I started looking for a pattern.

I found a pattern I think I'll like. It's a "two-hour" pattern, which means I can make a new pair of pants or a new skirt in two hours. The pattern makes three lengths of skirts and three lengths of pants.

I could have a whole all-season wardrobe from one pattern ... just like my grandma ... except I'd need a few shirts and sweaters or jackets, but imagine, not ever having to look for bottoms again. That would be awesome!