I've purposely stayed away from most talk about what's happening in the world. The news is just depressing, and really, who of us needs help being depressed?
But I wanted a record of what it was like, today, here, because we are making history right now, and someday, I'm going to wonder what October 7, 2009 was like, and if I don't write it now, I won't remember, then.
Mostly, it seems like life is just going on business as usual. For the most part, our lives haven't really changed. We're both still working, and we haven't, yet, had any problems paying the bills.
My client mentioned that they weren't getting as many referrals. I've always been aware that my job is only "as-needed", but I think what I do is such a small part of their total costs that I feel pretty secure. I don't think they'll "let me go." What's more likely is that they just won't have as much work for me to do, and since I get paid per the job, my pay check will be less if I work less.
Deus Ex Machina's company went through a restructure earlier this year, and everyone who wasn't laid off ended up taking a huge pay cut from April to August. Once everything was reorganized, they brought everyone back, but at reduced pay. So, we're not making as much as we were this time last year.
Still, the pay cut didn't hurt us. We were still able to live within our means, and when I say it was a substantial cut, I'm not sure how we managed given that we were, I thought, living right at our income level before. Either we really did some serious budget reduction over the summer, or we were saving a lot more, before the pay cut, than I knew.
Maybe a little of both.
Knowing that, though, makes me feel a little more confident about our future. We were making only 75% of what we earned in 2008, and our lives didn't change. We still did whatever we wanted and seemed to have plenty of money to fund our choices. It must of have been the change in our attitudes about spending money that made the difference. We still have a lot of fat we could trim if we had to cut to the bone.
We haven't been negatively affected ourselves, but we do know some people who are having some problems.
Several of my kids' friends' parents have lost jobs or are underemployed, and I do hear some grumbling about how difficult *things* have become. We're pinching pennies, because we choose to do so. I guess that's not the case for everyone we know.
I've heard about a couple of folks who are close to foreclosure, but I don't actually know anyone who's lost a house, yet.
Maine farmers were pretty hard hit this year. I was talking with Sue at the local farm store this evening when I stopped in for potatoes, and she said that they lost 60% of their crop. Sixty percent! I wanted a 50# bag of spuds, which combined with what I grew, would do us the whole winter (potatoes are our staple food, and we eat them almost every day). They only had 5# and 10# bags. Sue told me that the owner might be doing a few 50# bags, but mostly, selling the few potatoes they managed to coax along in smaller quantities for a higher, overall, profit, looked much better than trying to sell the heavier quantities. I don't blame them. She took my name, though, and *if* he gets some, she'll give me a call. I guess she felt bad about the potatoes, because she gave us some oranges ... although she thought they might have been "passed." They taste fine, and the girls are happy, because I haven't let them have oranges for a couple of years (oranges are not local ;).
The potato crop did poorly, the tomato crop didn't do so well. So far the apple crop has been good, but we still need to go back to the orchards for our BIG picking. All of the applesauce I canned the other day is gone. It was good. But I know I'm going to need about three dozen quarts to get us through the winter - which is something like 100# of apples. I'd rather not try to can 100# of apples at a time. That would be a lot of work - for me AND for my poor seven-quart capacity canner.
I haven't seen a lot of hardship, yet. Things here are always cyclical, and Maine has never been prosperous like, say, California. The upshot of that, I suppose, is that because we've been forced to be frugal as a way of life, we're not as hard-hit when things truly get bad. It's always bad here ... or good - depending on what one is currently experiencing with regard to the current financial climate ;).
But, also, I think we haven't seen things bad here, yet, this year, because the worst of what other parts of the country have experienced started happening in the middle of the most profitable time of year for us. We're just now exiting our "tourist season", when most of the dollars spent in our state were carried in by visitors, who've gone back home. I think the picture here will be very different by the time we reach sugaring season again.
And I think it's going to be a very long winter.
The Farmer's Almanac is predicting cooler-than-normal temperatures and a lot of snow.
At least recreation will be free ;).