Friday, October 12, 2018

The Next Industrial Revolution (?)

Deus Ex Machina came home from work the other day and asked me if I'd heard of Industry 4.0.  

I hadn't.  

According to Google, Industry 4.0 is a name given to the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing and cognitive computing. Industry 4.0 is commonly referred to as the fourth industrial revolution.

It's more than that, though.  

The belief that American manufacturing jobs left the US for cheaper, overseas markets is only half true.  It's true that some manufacturing companies shuttered their factories here in the US in favor of cheaper labor markets in developing countries, but the real culprit, the real elephant in the room that took American jobs was automation.  Yes, the robots supplanted us.  More jobs have been lost in the last three decades to machines than to overseas cheap labor markets.  

Let that sink in.

Then take a look around at the other jobs that are currently being replaced by machines, because the replacing of humans with machines for those unskilled labor jobs is only going to increase.

Any one remember the joke about the Liberal Arts grad?  Back when I went to college, we were strongly encouraged to select a course of study that would net us a future career.  I chose teaching, but I had a friend who was a non-teaching Art History major with a minor in philosophy.  I heard more than one person who advised her to learn the phrase, "Do you want fries with that?" for her future career.

The problem is that machines are taking that job, too.  So, my friend, who has a degree in Art, won't even be able to work at McDonalds.

I have another friend who has a degree in Library Science.  I met her when she was a Children's Librarian, and when she left that job (which isn't a great paying job, either), she ended up at a home improvement store.  In general, I'm not a fan of big box stores, but every now and then, when we're working on a project at our house, we end up there.  We started going to Lowe's, thinking it the lesser-of-two-evils, but over the last couple of years, something happened at Lowe's.  I've resolved not to shop there anymore, as a result.  

They have been trying to replace their cashiers with self-check outs, and while I don't have a problem, necessarily, with self-check outs, that's the only option ... and half the time they don't work properly.  So, the store may be saving a bundle on labor costs, but because their machines are inferior to a human, who can see that I have paid for the item that was just scanned, or figure out how to scan an item that I'm holding in my hand, they are losing sales.  I tried to purchase an item the other day - a gift for a friend on impulse - but it wouldn't scan.  So, I didn't buy it.  Take that Lowe's.  Lost a sale, because you decided not to employ humans.  

Unfortunately, the "unskilled" labor sector aren't the only ones who have to worry.  Loss of jobs to machines will only increase as Industry 4.0 continues to take hold.

Self driving cars will replace taxi cab drivers (I shudder, remembering that scene from Total Recall when the animatron cab driver turns to Arnold Schwarzenegger's character and introduces himself as "Johnny Cab"), bus drivers, and long-haul truckers.  The last one will be a significant loss, as truck driving as a career has surpassed nearly all other careers as the top job in twenty-nine states.  Transportation accounts for 3% of the jobs in the US.  

Millions of people out of work, because someone thinks a machine can do it better.

Here's the thing.  I like my washing machine, and I know that there was a time when the job of "washer woman" was the only way a single mother or a poor, Irish housewife could feed her children.  Creating a mechanical washer women took jobs away from hundreds of women.  

I'm thankful that I don't have to pay someone to do my laundry, but I'm more thankful that I don't have to put my hands into hot water infused with caustic laundry detergent, scrub my family's clothes on a board, and then wring them out - as best I can - and hang them on the line, where they may or may not dry this time of year.  The nice thing about machine washing is that the machine is able to get out a lot more of the water than hand-wringing does.

But, for me, and maybe I am the Luddite I've been accused of being, I believe that there are some jobs that should not be handled by machines.  Maybe driver-less cars would cut down on traffic jams and accidents, but maybe having both driver-less cars and humans on the roads at the same time will cause a lot more injury and devastation.   

The top 5 industries in Maine are:  healthcare, retail, tourism, education, and construction.  Every. Single. One. of those jobs can be replaced with a robot.  

A video I watched on Industry 4.0 explained that healthcare workers are already at risk of losing their jobs to machines.  It's not the CNAs, though, that will be losing their jobs.  It's the higher paid, more technical jobs, like surgeons and radiologists.  Look out, Dr. McDreamy.  Johnny-5 is coming for your job. 

Technology isn't bad, necessarily, and there are a lot of things I like about living in this very luxury-centric world, but there are many more very negative things about living a life that is so wholly dependent on technology and computers .... 

... not the least of which is that technology is wholly dependent on a working grid and that grid needs a lot of power and that power, mostly, still comes from fossil fuels, and while too many people don't want to admit it, the use of fossil fuels may be the culprit in our current climate anomalies.  

Even if the latter isn't true, and we could still burn fossil fuels like there's no tomorrow, fossil fuels are a limited resource, and we already know that we have surpassed Peak Oil - which means that there's only half as much as there was when we started AND what's left is harder and more costly to get.

So, while other folks are wiring their houses to sync up with Rosie ... or Siri ... or Alexa ... or whatever the name of the robot that's going to connect all of the appliances and thermostats and whatnot, I'm collecting oil lamps and tapping into those old-timey, mostly forgotten skills, because we aren't ready for Industry 4.0.  Power outages still happen.  Computers malfunction (almost as often as they work correctly), and as we become more dependent on systems that are completely imperfect, things are going to get a lot ugly.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

I Had a Blogger Friend Who Lived by the FAR* Philosophy - *Forget About Retirement

I was a stay-at-home Mom for twenty years.  During that time, I was fortunate to be able to also run a home-based business, serve as a volunteer with several non-profits (and even sat on a couple of Boards), write two books, and build a homestead.  

I didn't save any money, though, and by "save" money, what I mean is to put cash in an investment account for retirement.  I have always joked that I have five kids, and THEY are my retirement plan.  One of them will have to stay in my house and take care of me when I get old.

While that is definitely a possibility, and would be my favorite option, I know that my children may, eventually, want to move out of my house and make a home of their own.  It may well be that they have spouses who don't wish to live with the in-laws, or maybe my children will have careers that take them away from southern Maine.  

As such, the second half of my retirement plan is to tailor my life so that when (if) I reach retirement age, I won't really need a lot of money anyway.  The goal is to be, for the most part, off-grid and self-sufficient. 
In short, the goal is to plan NOW, how we can survive on a much smaller income, because we won't have millions of dollars when we retire.  We may not even have the hundreds of thousands that the experts say we should have.   Further, we may not be able to depend on Social Security.

On one of my FB groups, there is a discussion about stay-at-home parents and the fact that stay-at-home parents (mostly women) end up sacrificing their careers to be home with the kids and maintain the home.  The person who wrote the comment pointed out that it's not just the career advancement opportunities that are being forfeited by the folks who are classified as "homemakers", but they are also giving up future social security benefits by not working and paying into the system.  

As this article points out, homemakers are a particularly vulnerable demographic.  As stay-at-home parents, who are not earning an income, they are dependent on their spouses, and sometimes this ends up being a really bad deal for them.  We hear all sorts of horror stories about women (especially) who were homemakers for decades while their husbands climbed the corporate ladder, and then, after years of marriage and raising a family, the homemaker is given her pink-slip and the husband walks away, leaving her with very few options.  

The exact comment on the Facebook group was:

" ... people will say they have one spouse at home because daycare costs so much.  But, do people take into consideration the lost Social Security contributions and the loss of career momentum? Perhaps there is a mechanism for addressing these issues that I’ve missed.  I’d love to know what people think on this."

First, I don't know very many adults, even stay-at-home parents, who never worked.  So, while there is a potential loss of SS benefits, there's still the likelihood that the person will have some SS benefit.  The way social security works is to take the highest 35 years of wages, add them all together, divide by the number of months, and get an average monthly income.  The payment will be a percentage of that number.  A person only has to work for 10 years to be eligible for Social Security.  If a person works less than 35 years, but more than 10, the years between will be calculated as a zero.

I responded to the Facebook query.  My answer was that I worked from home, which put money into my social security fund, but I also stated that my ultimate goal is to tailor my life so that I don't need as much money when I retire.

The fact is, when Deus Ex Machina and I do retire, our budget will look very different than it does today.  In fact, in a few short years, it will look very different.  I think that's true of most married couples who have children.  Once the kids are grown, the way the money is spent changes drastically. 

In less than five years, all of our children will be adults, and many of the things that we are currently paying for them will no longer be our responsibility.  We will no longer be paying for their medical, dental, and orthodontic expenses.  Our phone bill will be reduced by over half.  Our grocery budget should be much lower, because we will only be feeding the two of us.  
We will no longer be paying for our children's clothes, shoes, school supplies, music lessons, dance classes, and all of the other assorted expenses that come with raising kids. 

With only two people in the house, we should be able to lower our electric bill even further.  We will use less overall water, and less HOT water, which means both our water bill AND our propane bill will decrease.

We will be driving less, because we won't need to drive our daughters to their lessons or other events.  So, we'll be saving on gasoline, and we will be saving on wear-and-tear to our vehicles, which means we will spend less on maintaining, repairing, and replacing our automobiles. 

In fact, we could probably reduce the number of vehicles to one, and Deus Ex Machina and I could share a car, which means that we would lower our bills even that much more.

I've run the numbers before, and when we take all of those expenses out of our budget, Deus Ex Machina and I could live, rather comfortably, on less than what a full-time minimum wage earner makes ... if we have made a few adjustments - like paying off our house and having no revolving debt (like loans and credit cards).  

Knowing this makes me feel really comfortable with regard to my golden years.  If social security is still a thing, and if Deus Ex Machina and I don't drastically change our spending habits after we retire, we could live on just what *I* would earn with social security.  His would be gravy.

I sensed a lot of fear in that comment, which made me kind of sad.  The reality is that we should be concerned about our future finances, sure, but it's also a fact that kids who have a full-time at-home parent benefit in so many ways, and, as a society, we should work harder to enable more families to survive on one-income, especially when they have small children.

I didn't stay at home with my kids because day care was too expensive.  I stayed home with my kids, because I wanted the opportunity to be with them, and I am so thankful that I was able to make that choice.  The fact that we saved THOUSANDS of dollars on day care expenses is just a bonus, and the loss of social security benefits and retirement income is totally worth every single second I got to be home.

We can hope for a future in which our society will do more to help stay-at-home parents as they near retirement, but in the meantime, we have millions of men and women who aren't financially secure, who are nearing retirement, and who "worked" for most of their lives caring for their families.  What about these folks?

I reference my grandma a lot, here on my blog and in my other writing.  She was a remarkable woman.  Born around the time of World War I, she survived the Great Depression, four "wars" (WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War), the Civil Rights Movement, and the fight to unionize the mines where she lived in southeastern Kentucky.  She raised eleven children, all of whom graduated from high school (which is pretty remarkable for the time and place where they were raised), and several who graduated from college, mostly by herself while her husband (my grandfather) worked out of state in a factory in Ohio.  

She never had a job.  She never even had a driver's license, but she worked her whole life.

When she reached that "golden age", when we all quit our jobs and settle on the couch to watch television until we die, she owned her home, she had her deceased husband's social security for income, and she had a couple of kids (my uncles) still living and working the old homestead with her.  

Hers is the idyllic situation, I think, for us homemakers.  She had lived her entire life frugally, and as a result, in her old age, she wanted for nothing.  And she died in the house that she had helped to build.

Most of us won't be that fortunate, but there are some things that we could do to help ourselves when we get old.

1.  Secure your housing.  On average, the elderly spend 23% of their income on housing.  The fact is that retired people aren't going to have the same income they had when they were working, even folks who were savvy retirement savers.  One's income will be less, and so it really just makes sense to plan for having less money by needing less money.  Eliminating a house payment, therefore, is smart.  I happen to live in one of the top five states for home ownership in the US.  Over 70% of Mainers own their homes.  Owning a house is a big deal for us Mainers, but I think that should be true for everyone.  Buying a house and paying it off before retirement will ensure that when we retire, we, at least, have a place to live.   

2.  Capitalize on your assets.  Even beyond just having a place to live, if we own our homes, and we stay in our homes, there are things we can do to help us fund our retirement.  That is, owning a house carries benefits beyond having a free place to live.

The design and layout of my house lends itself perfectly to the possibility that I could rent a portion of my house to a young couple or perhaps some college students.  I could live in the one half of the house and have a couple of rooms to myself, my tenants could have a private suite on the other side of the house, and the kitchen, living room and dining room could be shared living space.   My tenant's rent payment would pay my living expenses.

It's possible, however, that I don't really want any strangers moving into my house.  Luckily, for me, I have alternatives.  

3.  Bank on your skills.  As a stay-at-home Mom, I spent years learning homemaking and homesteading skills.  In retirement, with less need for a larger income, I could easily turn those skills into income.  I can sew, and I have a stash of old fabrics that would make quilters swoon.  Making baby quilts is fast and easy and could provide me with a nice income.  Because I can sew, I could also offer my services to people who are looking for costumes or custom-made clothes.

With my garden, I could sell excess produce.  In addition, Maine permits cottage industries, like baking and canning, and I could spend the summer harvesting berries for assorted jams and cucumbers for pickles, and spend the fall picking apples for applesauce.  Then, I could sell these goods at the local farmer's market along with loaves of home-made bread.  

I could reopen my home-based office service and offer typing or graphic design (like making posters and signs, which I'm pretty good at).

I can teach classes on everything from writing to making strawberry jam.

I can tan rabbit hides and make hats to sell.

In a pinch, I suppose I could cook meals (maybe even for other retired folks) and offer a home-made meal delivery service.

I've been very fortunate over the last 20 years to learn and cultivate dozens of marketable skills.

And I don't think my story is unique.  I think there are a lot of homemakers who've learned some great skills they can use to improve their incomes, before and after they retire.  We, stay-at-home parents, just need to reframe how we think about what we do, and understand that if we have full-time outside-the-home employment, we're often paying someone else to do many of things homemakers do, which means that someone would be willing to pay us to do them, when we no longer need to be doing them full-time for our families.

For me, the key to a secure and comfortable retirement is not to have a huge savings, but rather to reduce my expenses and pay off debt, and then the rest of it will be easier to manage.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Climate Change and Building our Community

Bad weather is becoming our new normal.  An article published by a government emergency management agency stated just exactly what most of us, preppers, have been warning for years.  In an emergency situation, we can't count on someone else to take care of us.  We need to be ready to weather the storm and its aftermath without waiting for help.  Help may not come, or it may take the help a lot longer to arrive than we expected.

The article gave all of the standard advice on things we should have on hand.

Stock up on water and non-perishable food

Be sure to have any prescription medications filled.

Secure important documents.

Have batteries for flashlights, etc.

The usual stuff.

Preppers who live in areas with bad weather (you know, places where flooding and hurricanes happen pretty regularly) give additional advice.

Do the laundry, because if the power goes out, it's more difficult to wash clothes.

Charge anything that needs charging (phones, computers).

Gas up the cars and have an additional filled gas can to run a generator (or, if you don't have a generator, to give to the neighbors who can fill up their generator, and as a thank you, will allow you charge your devices).

I actually like that advice.

As those who read my blog and/or my book know, I've long recommended community building as a survival strategy.  There are a lot of good reasons to meet one's neighbors.  In the best of circumstances, it's just nice to know who will be coming in and out of one's neighborhood.  If we know our neighbors, we also know our not-neighbors, which is a safety measure.  If some strange person is lurking around the neighborhood, we'll know.

If we know our neighbors and we need something, it's easier to ask someone with whom we have already established a relationship.  For instance, if we have to go out of town for a few days and we already know the young couple living down the road, it's easy enough to ask them to pick up our mail while we're gone.  Which is also a safety measure, because everyone knows that mail piling up is one of those things that burglars look for when scouting out targets. 

In a worst case scenario, knowing our neighbors means that we can work together so that everyone's needs are met.  If I know my neighbor stocks up on bird seed, and then, something catastrophic happens, I can barter with my neighbor for that bird seed to feed my chickens and offer to supply the neighbor with eggs in return. 

The other day these two young girls came to the door.  They are college students who are renting the house across the road from us, and they were just out meeting their neighbors.

As someone who has always recommended meeting the neighbors, I was so excited to see someone who was actually doing it.

And the wholly positive thing about the experience is that, this winter, when things get bad for us, Mainers, we will know there's someone living over there, a few college kids, who may not have a shovel or have planned for snow-plowing, and we can keep an eye out to make sure they're okay.

What's all that got to do with Prepping for a hurricane?

Having a community means that not all of us have to have everything. 

I don't have a generator, but I do have an on-demand hot water heater and municipal water and a woodstove I can cook on.  If the power goes out, we can jumpstart our water heater and have a hot shower, and I can cook an awesome chicken stew on the woodstove.  So, maybe our neighbor let's us use his generator to keep the food in my freezer (the quarter cow we bought and all of those chickens we raised) from thawing, we give them dinner and a hot shower.

It's always a good idea to be (as) self-sufficient (as one can be).  In emergency situations the basic preparations should cover shelter, water, and food.  It's also nice to have some creature comforts, like clean clothes and a good book to read.

But as humans are social animals, it's also great to know we have a tribe ... or at least some neighbors who are - at least - as prepared as we are so that we can help keep each other safe and alive when the weather gets bad.

As this hurricane (ironically named after one of the most famous care givers in history!) nears the coast, we'll be keeping our southern neighbors in our thoughts. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Plan, Don't Panic

This summer, Deus Ex Machina and I traveled up to Baxter State Park with Big Little Sister and a group of her friends.  We've made this same drive for the last three years in a row.  In 2016, I dropped off Deus Ex Machina and Big Little Sister at the Abol Bridge entrance to the Appalachian Trail.  In 2017, Deus Ex Machina met Big Little Sister and Matches at Abol Camp Ground and the three of them started at that same trail head on the Appalachian Trail. 

This year, 2018, I stayed with them.  We camped in Baxter State Park Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning, we went to the mouth of the Chimney Pond trail that goes up Mt. Katahdin, climbed the mountain, had a wedding, and climbed back down.  Just for the curious, coming down the mountain is significantly more difficult that going up ... and going up wasn't easy.  At my age, I never considered that climbing the mountain would be something I would be doing.  It wasn't on my bucket list.

But it was an amazing experience, and I am so honored that my daughter and her fiance (now her husband) chose me to perform the ceremony. 

The past three summers have been really instructional with regard to prepping. 

First, just let me say that most back packers would never consider themselves preppers.  They aren't trying to live for the rest of their lives on what they can carry, but they are trying to survive - at least for a few days, as is the case for those traveling the 100 mile wilderness section of the AT here in Maine. 

It took us eleven hours of nearly continuous walking (there were a few short rest breaks along the trail, a half hour stop at Chimney Pond, and a half hour or so at the top for the wedding, but mostly, I was moving for the entire eleven hours on the trail) to get from the bottom to the top and back down again.  It was five and a half miles up and five and a half miles down.  We walked about a mile per hour.

On a straight and level path, I can walk four miles per hour, comfortably, and maintain that pace for a few hours.

The AT, here in Maine, is not a straight and level path.  There are sections of the trail that are considered "scrambles."  When Deus Ex Machina came home in 2016, he tried to explain it to me.  I didn't know what he meant, until I'd saw it for myself. 

Imagine you have a storage unit in which you have packed all of your belongings in nice, sturdy boxes that you can walk across, but it was packed quickly, and so nothing is at the same level, and then, there's an earthquake and your storage unit is tilted at about a 30° angle with the back of the unit at the top, and then, you need something that's at the back of the unit, and you can't unpack the whole thing, because this is my scenario and I make the rules. 

Instead, you have to climb over everything.  Sometimes you can walk from one piece of furniture to a box next to it.  Sometimes you have to crawl up.  It's step up, step across, climb over, step across, step up, step up, step up, step up, crawl across, step across, crawl across, step up, step across, step across, step up ... ah, a dirt path ... step up, crawl across, crawl across, pull yourself up using some tree roots and branches, get bitten by a horsefly, wipe sweat out of your eyes, step up, step up, look up and see the path is just a bunch of boulders for as far as you can see, stop for two minutes to cry, crawl up, crawl up, step across ... for four and a half hours. 

It was hard.  Every step was torture, and yes, there were actual tears of exhaustion and resignation.  I couldn't go another step.  I couldn't stop.  Holy shit!  I have to come back down!!  Will this f#&%^ng trail ever end???

On the way down the trail, I realized that I had chosen to leave my water filter at the campsite ... down at the bottom of the mountain ... where we had gallons of fresh water we'd carried in.  Basically, where I didn't really need it, because we also had pots and matches and firewood.  We could purify any water by boiling it.

What I carried up the mountain was a camelback filled with water, and I guess I never considered that I might run out.  I did.  Deus Ex Machina is smarter than I am.  He's also more experienced, and he had the foresight to bring his Sawyer filter.   Midway down, we stopped at a stream, and he filtered a liter of water for each of us.  I didn't want to completely fill my bladder, because I just wanted to get off that damned mountain (and kill that pesky horsefly that had already bitten me once, and wouldn't leave me the *eff* alone.  He managed a second nibble.  He'll never get a third - not from anyone).

So, after our water stop, after we'd walked for another hour or two, after I had drained my bladder for the second time, I realized that, if Deus Ex Machina and I got separated, I could not get water. 

It was horrifying, although not terrifying (and they're two different things, I'll explain).  I was horrified that *I* was so woefully unprepared, given that I live my life as someone who pretends to always be prepared for the worst.

But I wasn't afraid, because the absolute only way that Deus Ex Machina and I would have gotten separated would have been if HE had fallen and gotten hurt, and I had gone ahead to get help, but got lost. 

The thing is, though, I would not have left him, because we were registered with the Game Wardens, and if we hadn't returned by nightfall, they would have come to find us. 

Fortunately, for most of us, most preparedness scenarios are like that one.  Most of the time, there is a fail safe: someone will come and rescue us. 

Unfortunately, sometimes that's not the case, and we can do much better, most of us, at not needing to be rescued.

In the case of us climbing the mountain, I resolved not to need rescuing by taking my time, setting MY pace (which was slower than the rest of our group), and taking each step with a great deal of care so that I didn't get injured.  Deus Ex Machina was behind me on the way down.  He let me set the pace, which was slower than he would have gone, which means he was also taking care.

Knowing one's limits, not panicking, and just taking one moment at a time are essential in an emergency situation. 

That I had no water and no way to filter wasn't a panic-inducing moment.  It was just a realization that flitted into my head, and then, I started a mental inventory of what I had in my pack, and what I could use, if the worst case (we got separated) happened.

It was all good.  I had a bush hat on my head, a cotton bandanna in my pack, and a cotton tee-shirt on my back.   There was plenty of sand and gravel on the trail.  I could probably build a mostly safe filter.  Ta-da.  Problem solved.

That's the key, though, right?  To think about solutions without worrying about what we don't have, and concentrating on what we do have.  In a preparedness scenario, what do we have that we could use to make the things we need?

The other day, when I was making dinner, I used the last of my White Wine Vinegar, and I had this cute, little glass bottle.  I almost put it in the recycling ... you know, because it's glass. 

But, then, I took a closer look at it, and I thought, "I could put a hole in the top of that lid, add one of my lamp wicks, and fill it with some of that mosquito repellent oil and put it on the table outside.

I didn't fill it with the anti-mosquito oil.  Instead, I decided to save it and fill it with lamp oil ... in case we lose power this winter, which if the Farmer's Almanac is correct, is going to be a really tough winter here in New England. 

Storms will happen, which means that power outages will probably happen, too. 

And, we'll have light.

And I also have my water filter ... you know, because ....

Sunday, September 2, 2018

I Climbed a Mountain

A friend told me that a friend of hers, who is not on Facebook, but who was a reader of this blog was concerned, because I hadn't posted much recently.

There are reasons - of course ;).

In January this year, for the first time in two decades, I started working at a job outside my home.  I am the office manager of a local community theater, and yes, it is as cool as it sounds.  I wasn't looking for a job when I found out that the Theater was looking to fill the position.  As a long-time volunteer at this theater and as someone who worked (for a very long time) as an administrative assistant, the job was a perfect fit.  Plus, I get (paid) to hang out at the Theater all day.  There's not downside ...

... except that having a job outside the home makes it a little more of a challenge to live this lifestyle that we've been cultivating for over a decade now.  Just doing laundry requires a little more planning than before, and with no clothes dryer, doing laundry already required planning. 

I guess other people, the prepper-set who were already juggling a home/work balance, can laugh a little at me, now.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.

Here, look at some picture of my other "summer adventure" while you're laughing. 

Yes, I climbed a mountain, but not just any, old mountain.  I climbed the tallest mountain in the State of Maine, where I officiated over my daughter's wedding ... in July.  It was hard, but it was also incredible.  I'm so honored and humbled that she chose me to perform the ceremony, and also that, not once, during the 5 hours it took me to summit, did she ever wonder if I was going to make it.  She just always trusted that I could.  I am humbled by her faith in me, because there were many times during that climb that I questioned whether or not I was going to make. 

 At the Summit.  Mt. Katahdin, Maine.

About half-way there.  

What's interesting about the job, though, is that having more of an income, and especially, being away from home so many hours a day, has strengthened my resolve to be prepared. 

As the summer was coming to an end for us, and we were planning our fall schedule, there were so many more things I needed to think about than just the transportation issue (although that was a big one, actually - without the Mom Taxi, it's harder to juggle schedules). 

For one, there's the issue of heat.  We heat with wood, and usually, there has been someone home for very extended periods during the day.  I've been here to, literally, keep the home fires burning.  If I have to be at work, that will be more difficult. 

Luckily, however, my job hours are still pretty flexible, and my teenagers are still homeschooling.  So, there won't be too many really long stretches of time (more than five hours) when there won't be anyone home.

Of course, there's a second concern regarding heating, and that's the issue of firewood acquisition. In the late spring, Deus Ex Machina injured his elbow, and he can't, really, operate a chainsaw.   As such, gathering firewood has been on hold.  For the first time in a lot of years, we're going to have to purchase firewood. 

The super positive about having a job, for me, was actually quite surprising.  One of my biggest concerns was that, after working all day, I wouldn't have the stamina or desire to cook, and that we'd be eating out more often, or relying on processed foods.

Neither of those things really happened.  In fact, we eat out less now that I'm not home all day (weird, I know), and this summer has been especially hot here in Maine, which means that I am loath to turn on the oven to heat up freezer foods, like frozen pizza (not that we would do too much frozen pizza anyway).

Other than the fact that my job doesn't drain me, because I work in a Theater and it's awesome, we had two things going for us.

First, we've spent the better part of the last decade localizing our diets, which means there isn't a lot of prepared food, or even restaurant food, that we can eat - and still be mostly local.  In the past, we've allowed non-local ingredients if the restaurant was locally owned, and/or if the food was ethically sourced (like Chipotle's pledge to serve ethically sourced ingredients - not local, but still in keeping with our overall goal of making good food choices)  ....

But, and this is the second thing, a couple of years ago, Deus Ex Machina eliminated gluten from our diet.  So, the reality is that there aren't a lot of places we can get food anyway.  And, too often, when we do eat out, we end up "accidentally" getting gluten, and we feel it, unfortunately.  We used to go to this locally owned pizza place, because they had a gluten-free crust, but we found out that their cheese is NOT GF.  Ugh!  Why would someone put flour in CHEESE?!?


I also had one of the best gardens I've had in YEARS.  Go figure.  I think part of it was that I didn't try to buy a bunch of seeds and plant more than I could tend.  The plants I purchased were purchased from a local organic farm rather than from the local nursery (not sure where they source their vegetables).  Also, we had a lot of rain, which helped, because I didn't take much time to water.

It's been an amazing summer - very busy, but in all good ways - and moreover, we've been super productive.

In addition to the usual garden, raising meat birds, and just life stuff, we also replaced the old, worn linoleum in the kitchen and hallway.

My only complaint is that I didn't get to beach, not once, this whole HOT summer, and I didn't get to spend nearly enough time in my hammock.

Other than that, things are good here at Chez Brown. 

And I'll try to post some of the other projects we're working on (including something with solar ... :).

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Problem with Doomer Fiction

I'm a huge fan of Doomer Fiction. 

Well, mostly.

Sometimes, though, it's depressing, because it feels like most of the authors of this genre don't have much faith in their fellow man.  Most of the time in these novels the central plot involves a lot of people being really awful to each other.

I guess my experience is different.  Not that I've lived through TEOTWAWKI, but that, in an emergency situation, I've found people to be kind and helpful more often than people who are self-serving individualists.

I also believe that everyone has something to bring to the table.  We just don't always know what that thing is until we start to ask.  I mean, that person may not even know what he/she has until WE tell him/her.  

For example imagine that it is a TEOTWAWKI situation, and you have this neighbor you know by name, but you're not close.  Your lives run down different paths.  Her house looks like something out of the magazine Better Homes & Gardens.  All summer long, while you're breaking your back out in the woods gathering fuel to heat your home during the winter, she's vacationing in Aruba, or she's hanging out down at the beach - a place you never have time to go, because when you aren't working your soul-sucking 9 to 5 job, you're raising food or gathering firewood.   

She doesn't even do her own yard work.  During the summer, some guy stops by once a week to mow her lawn and weed her landscaping, none of which is edible.  She was, at least, accommodating when you asked her to switch her landscaper to someone who didn't use poisons that would waft over into your organic garden.  Probably, the fresh peach pie from your fruit tree helped to convince her.  She's not unreasonable - mostly. 

But she did make some disparaging remarks about your clothesline making the neighborhood look like an Irish slum, and that really nasty letter she wrote about your chicken coop being an eyesore and giving you three weeks to spruce up or she would go to the town, is still, kind of, stuck in your craw.

Then, the SHTF, and she's over at YOUR house asking for YOUR wood and YOUR supplies.  And acting as if YOU should help her, because .... Well, because you're neighbors. 

YOU know that the shit has hit the fan.  She doesn't know it, and she's acting like a little brat, because her house is cold and her power is out.

Do you tell her to go home and huddle in her cold, dark house, because you think she's pretty useless and she has nothing of value to offer?

Or do you invite her into your warm home (because you have a woodstove and fuel for it), give her a cup of coffee (because you gave up an electric coffee pot YEARS ago in favor of a French Press - which makes better coffee anyway - and with the woodstove you have a constant supply of hot water), explain what you believe is happening (because you've kept abreast of the latest news and know that the rest of the world is pretty well sick of us arrogant Americans), and ask her to tell you a little about her life?

It's possible that she grew up on an island and helped her father build their off-grid house.  It's possible that she visited Costa Rica as a youth missionary and learned to make sandals out of old tires.  It's possible that her hand sewn stitches are straighter and neater than a machine stitch, because she learned to do cross stitch and embroidery as a child as a way to cope with a neglectful mother and an alcoholic father.

Those are some pretty valuable skills.  Without machines to sew clothes, for instance, we'll need to be able to sew by hand.  It's a tedious task, and if it's not done properly, clothes fall apart.  Someone who can sit for hours hand stitching a flower on a napkin as an ornament, can surely piece together a pair of pants or a nice dress shirt.  She might even have some really nice sheets in that fancy-smancy house that she would be willing to use to make said shirt - which she'd happily make for you in exchange for some firewood and a jar of peaches.  

But if you slam your door shut, you'll never know these things, and maybe you can't see the immediate value of what she has to bring to the table, but when/if the shit-hits-the-fan for real, we can't possibly know what skills will be valuable.  If we end up in a powered-down world, people who can sew will be valuable.  

It's not just about food.

But what if it is all about food?

You have no idea what treasures might be hiding in her kitchen.  For instance, maybe she's a food snob and gourmet chef who only eats organic vegetables.  She has a massive spice cabinet that includes a lot of salt (are you getting it yet?) and several dozen varieties of fancy vinegars (light bulb, yet?).   She has an impressive wine cellar in her basement.  Originally, she was doing to have it climate controlled with electricity, but her contractor talked her into building it so that it took advantage of the natural temperature and humidity controls underground. 

Do you see what I'm saying?  SHE has a real, suburban ROOT CELLAR!  That's got to be worth something, right?

Plus, she a food snob, and so she has a refrigerator full of organic vegetables.  

You could help her save those vegetables from total ruin by teaching her to ferment.  And then, you could save the seeds so that, in the spring, you would all be able to plant MORE food, from ORGANIC seeds (which means the seeds will most likely NOT be sterile).

See, I know, as  Preppers, we have these fantasies about how prepared we are.  We think we have  covered all of our bases, but there's a really good chance that there's something we're missing, and you know why? Because none of us have ever been completely self-sufficient.  

None of us have.

And so we can be as prepared as we can be, but there is no single Prepper I know who doesn't find some weak spot in his/her preps every time there's a power outage or other event.

The fact is that, most of the time, we don't have to worry about it, because we know the emergency is short-term, and we can run to the store to get that milk or that replacement pair of jeans or a new pair of glasses.

But if we can't, then we will be forced to be dependent on people we may think are useless.
And that's what I hate about Doomer Fiction - the cavalier way that the characters, who believe themselves superior to their neighbors, because they've prepped and their neighbors haven't, can just dismiss other people.

I don't believe anyone is totally useless.  At very least, even if they don't have a lot of food or any stored water, they will have other stuff that can be valuable to the group.  If we just dismiss them out of hand, we could be digging our own graves.

I guess I just feel like, if the shit ever really does hit the fan, that it will be an amazing opportunity for us to build community and to teach and learn the skills we need to survive.  Maybe between all of us, if we're willing to share what we have with each other, we can build a life.  

In essence, as a group, we won't Just Survive.  We'll Thrive!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Heating with Wood Q&A

Fellow blogger, Mavis Butterfield, is moving to New England. 

Having lived in the Pacific Northwest for a while now, Mavis had some questions about heating during the winter.  She states that when she was looking for her new home here on the right coast, she made sure to find a place that already had a wood stove, or that at least had a chimney that would allow for the installation of a wood stove.  Smart girl.  Honestly, I can't imagine living here without a wood stove.  I know people do it, but I don't know how.

Since New England gets a lot colder than over there on the other side of the continent during the winter, she had a few questions about heating with wood.  As a decade-long veteran of heating and living with wood heat, I (naturally) had some answers.

Mavis:  Is it really practical to heat an entire home with wood heat?Surviving the Suburbs (STS):  We have been heating our home, exclusively, with wood for ten years. I say exclusively with the caveat that we do have a forced hot (ha!) air oil burning furnace, and over that 10 year period, when it has gotten extremely cold (double digits below zero) at night, the furnace has kicked on a few times, but we keep the furnace at its lowest setting (50°), and haven’t had an oil delivery since 2008. And it has to be REALLY cold for the house to cool off enough for the furnace to kick-on. The ONLY time it comes on is in the middle of the night when the fire burns too low and we’re asleep.
Mavis:  I’m assuming we’ll need some sort of steamer/humidifier to place on top of the wood stove. Can you recommend one?
STS:  We have never used any sort of steamer or humidifier in our house. We do keep a kettle of water on the wood stove for making coffee and tea, and I don’t have a clothes dryer. We hang our wet clothes on a drying rack, which probably adds humidity to the air.
Mavis:  Do I need some sort of fan to circulate the heat?
STS:  We do not have a fan. I suppose this would depend on the layout of your house. We have a single- story house with a, kind of, open floor plan. Some rooms are cooler than others, especially if doors are left closed.
Mavis:  How about a tea kettle? I have visions of heating my water for my afternoon cuppa on the wood stove. Do you do this? Do I need a special kettle? Do you have any tips I should know about?
STS:  We just have a regular old metal tea kettle. I also do a lot of cooking of soups and stews and things other people would put in a crockpot (I don’t have a crockpot). I use my dutch oven filled with whatever I’m going to cook. The key is to ensure that there’s plenty of liquid … I guess, just like with a crock pot. We also fry foods in the cast iron skillet on the wood stove, and I toast bread or make flat bread right on the surface of the wood stove.
Mavis:  How many cords of wood do you think someone in the NE would need during a typical winter? 
STS: We use 5 to 7 cords of mixed hard and soft woods (lots of pine up here in Maine). We have a 1500 sq ft house.
Mavis:  We plan on buying our first winter’s worth of wood, but hoping to harvest our own in later years. What kind of wood should we be buying/looking for? 
STS:  Most people will tell you to buy only hardwood. We burn a mix of hard and soft woods. Hardwood is best for night time, as it burns slow. The soft woods burn hotter and faster, and we like that for during the day, when we’re home, and for cooking, as the stove gets much hotter much faster. Whatever you get, the most important thing is to make sure it is well seasoned. Hardwood needs a good year to season. So, an oak that was cut down in April is probably not ready to burn by winter. If you decide to burn pine, which most people advise against, because of “creosote” concerns and chimney fires, the pine is well seasoned in less than six months. Any green wood can cause creosote build-up, which can result in a chimney fire. Just make sure your wood is well seasoned. Seasoned wood isn’t as heavy had green wood.
Mavis: What is a fair price for a cord of seasoned, cut firewood these days? 
STS:  So, it's been a while since we purchased cordwood, but from what I remember, here, a delivery of split wood will cost $200 a cord (minimum) during the spring and summer. Sometimes you’ll tell them you want seasoned wood, but what they deliver is not what you ordered. In the winter, you’ll pay $300 for a cord of green wood. If you can cut and split it yourself, you can get tree-sized logs delivered for half that price. Pro Tip: Find a tree service and inquire about removing tree trimmings. Sometimes you can get free wood that way, but you have to cut it to length and split it. My husband has a chainsaw and we bought a manual woodsplitter, which is easy to use (although time-consuming) and doesn’t require any gasoline.
After having spent the last decade with wood heat, and having survived several day-long power outages, during which we stayed comfortable and warm and were able to cook and heat up water for baths and other cleaning, I wouldn’t live without a wood stove. In fact, the power outages turned out to be a lot like regular days, because we didn't have to change a lot.  
Having a wood stove has allowed us to save a great deal of money on heating costs (we have been getting free firewood from a family member’s wood lot for the last few years). We also save money on electricity by cooking on the wood stove. And the warmth of the wood stove and the ambiance of the flames … there’s just nothing like it. I love my wood stove. I can’t imagine life without it.
Thanks for asking the questions, Mavis ;).  

Monday, February 26, 2018

Store More Than You Think You'll Need

A few years ago, Deus Ex Machina and I watched the historical reenactment reality television series Frontier House.

The useful thing - for Preppers - about this sort of show is that it can give us an idea of ways we can make our lives more low-impact and less dependent.  Back in those days, for instance, there were no grocery stores to fall back on.  There was no heating oil truck to deliver one's winter's supply of heating fuel.  There was no electricity to provide lighting for evening tasks or Yankee Candle in the mall.  There was no mall.

Given people's attitudes when the electricity is interrupted during bad weather, it's kind of amazing that humans managed to survive without modern amenities.

But we did.

These days, though, we really don't have much of a clue as to what it takes to really survive for the long haul without all of those safety nets.

As I've mentioned, probably a billion times, we heat with wood.  The last heating oil delivery we had was almost ten years ago - in the early spring 2008.  There have been times over the years when the night-time temperatures plummeted and the furnace (set at its lowest setting - 50°) kicked on in the middle of that cold, COLD night.  This year was the first year that the furnace never kicked on.  In fact, I'm not sure the furnace even works anymore, although the oil tank reads that there's still a little oil in there.

Two years ago, we were very fortunate when a family member allowed us access to his property to harvest our wood supply - for free.  So, while in the previous years, we spent a lot of our summers finding free wood on Craigslist, and such, from people who had, what they believed to be, a substantial amount of firewood, but which, almost invariably, ended up being, maybe, a week's worth of heat for us, we also ended up having to purchase a cord here or a cord there.  This year, we didn't buy any.

In fact, luckily for us, we also harvested enough of what Deus Ex Machina calls "early season wood" to do our sugaring.  The early season stuff is mostly dead fall - branches or standing dead wood, little saplings that were competed out and died still standing.  We still have a third of what we originally harvested - enough to boil another quart or two of maple sap to syrup.

The thing is, though, that we're nearly out of wood.  We may have enough to get us through the rest of the cold days, but we'll be cutting it close.

Back to that documentary ... when those families were out in that wilderness, their goal was to discover how it would have been to live on the Montana Frontier - basically, without any help.  They, also, heated (and cooked) with wood, and the experts told them that whenever they had any free time, they should be chopping wood - that the amount of wood they would need for heating and cooking through the winter would be more than they could imagine.  It might look like a lot - all stacked neat in perfect cords at the end of the summer, but they would be surprised at how fast it went when it was too snowy to get more.

Last fall, when we were still harvesting our winter supply, one bright, sunny day, Deus Ex Machina and I were out in the yard stacking and splitting wood.  A stranger walked up to us and expressed his awe at how much wood we had.  We mentioned that we heated with wood.  To which he replied, "You won't use all of that, though?"

Well, actually, yes, depending on how cold it gets, we'll use nearly every stick of that impressive amount of heating fuel, and unfortunately, maybe even a little more.  Finding dry firewood in February ... yeah, not happening.

It's interesting, to me, how little we modern folk understand of how much it takes to keep us alive and comfortable.

Deus Ex Machina knows.  And this summer, when he's pushing me and the girls to work harder at harvesting our winter fuel supply, I'll try to remember that it always takes more than we think it will.  Better to have too much than too little.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Pickles, Syrup, and Pot Pie

I did something today that I don't normally do.  Today, I made pickles.

I really love to eat pickles - especially this time of year, but really, any time.  My favorite pickles are sour pickles, which are fermented and usually cucumber.  I REALLY love hot dilly beans.  I also adore pickled beets, both sweet and spicy.  I've even pickled garlic, which is pretty awesome.  A friend gave me some pickled carrots once.  I didn't know if I'd like them.  I did.

And pickled eggs!  Those are SO good.  I love to pickle eggs in leftover pickled beet juice, because pink eggs.  Right?  So yummy for both the eyes and the palate.

I make a lot of pickles.  In fact, if I can pickle it, I will.  It's one of my favorite preservation methods.  Over the years I've amassed a great many books on fermenting and pickling.  Making pickles is not the unusual part,
The unusual part about today's activity, at least for me, is that I don't normally make pickles this time of year.  The only thing I can this time of year is syrup, and today, I did that, too.

Yesterday was our first boil of the season.  We ended up with two pint jars of sweet, amber syrup.  We're hoping that we get at least six times that much.  Last year, we only boiled once.  It was a bad sugaring year. 

Given the amount of work and time involved, and the fact that each year we've ended up with less and less of this ambrosia, for us, the maple syrup is like gold.  It's precious, and we do everything we can to make sure that it will last.

As such, after we boil the sap to syrup and filter it into a jar, we water bath the jars to ensure that they seal properly.  With only two pints, what we would have is a lot of energy and a lot of water used just to seal those two jars.

Several weeks ago, we visited the winter store at a local farm.  During the winter, they have, mostly, long storage crops, like carrots and onions, and of course, I picked up some of both that day.  The carrots were a mix of different colored carrots, mostly purple.  I bought 10 lbs.

Unfortunately, I found that I don't like adding the purple carrots to stews and stir-fries.  Purple carrots are a little like beets.  I'm typing this with purple-stained hands from cutting up 3 lbs of purple carrots.  When they're used in cooking, they color the food.  Purple beef stew was a bit much for my aesthetic enjoyment.

So, I had all of these purple carrots, and while carrots store well in the refrigerator, they don't last forever.  I decided I would make some pickled carrots (I used this recipe), and then, I would water bath the carrots and the maple syrup at the same time.

Today, I made pickled carrots ... and then, I made a chicken pot pie with leftover stew from last night's dinner, which is something else I love.  Unfortunately, when we stopped eating wheat, I also stopped making pies, because gluten-free flour doesn't work as well as wheat flour - for me - when making pastry doughs.  For the crust, I used a biscuit recipe and just made it as thin as I could.  It's crumbly, like any baked good that is made with gluten-free flour, but it was tasty ... and just what I wanted.

Pickles.  Syrup.  Pot pie. 

It was a good day. 


Monday, February 12, 2018

Surviving Emergencies

Yep.  That's a picture of a newspaper article.

I was out and about the other day running a few errands while my daughters had dance class.  We've changed dance schools this year.

Long story.

Not going to share it.

The gist is that we're closer to home - so less driving, less wear-and-tear on the car, and less gasoline (yay!) - but also that their dance schedule has changed.  So, instead of three days of dancing for three to six consecutive hours, they dance four days a week, but two of those days they only have one hour-long class.  It doesn't make sense to drop them off, drive back home, and then, essentially, turn around and go back.

So, I hang-out, and when I can, I combine trips to the dance school with other errands, like going to the post office.

That's what I was doing on the day I found that article.  I was at the post office, and on the way out, I noted the time.  I still had forty-five minutes to wait.  Luckily, for me, there was a box of free newspapers and so I grabbed one to give myself something to read while I waited.

The paper is the Portland Phoenix.  It's a community-based paper, mostly full of news about the Art Scene in Portland, Maine.  I guess they have a bit of a reputation of being, kind of, edgy.

Even so, to be quite honest, I never expect to see articles, like that one, in newspapers - even the "rags", that aren't specific to us prepper types.  I certainly never expected to see an article, like that one, in a mainstream, edgy newspaper.

Unfortunately, those who live in Hawaii, recently, had a real-life half-hour-of-terror after a warning about an impeding Nuclear bomb was accidentally released to the masses.  For a half hour, Hawaii's residents scrambled to get ready for a bomb they thought was on its way.  It was a mistake, and not quickly enough, the public learned there was not bomb, but for those thirty-eight minutes ....

It's hard to know what one would do in that situation, which is why preparedness is so important.

The good news, as I discovered in the article, is that there are, in fact, bomb shelters near me.

The bad news is that traffic in that area is bad on a good day, which means there's little chance that I'll be trying to buy my way in with my stored water and home-canned goodies - all in carcinogenic-free glass jars.

I would definitely be bugging in at my house.  Since I will be bugging in, in the event of a nuclear blast, what can I do to protect myself, my family, and our livestock?

According to FEMA, we should:

1. Get underground, if possible.  If not, go to an inner room or a room with thick walls.

We have one inner room in our house that has a single, north-facing window.  Our best defense would be to put our king-sized mattress in front of those windows, and then, using duct-tape and plastic, seal all of the doors going into other rooms.

2.  Have a plan for how to contact loved ones.  Cell phones will, likely, be useless.

3.  As always, before the emergency, have a few supplies on hand that will allow you to hunker in place for at least forty-eight hours.

There are no recommendations for supplies that are specifically for surviving Nuclear fall-out, but a general list of emergency supplies as recommended by FEMA includes:

1.  One gallon of water per person per day for three days.
2.  Three days of food, per person.
3.  Battery operated or hand-crank radio, and extra batteries.
4.  Flashlight and extra batteries.
5.  First-aid kit.
6.  Whistle to signal for help.
7.  Dust mask to filter contaminated air; plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal off rooms.
8.  Baby wipes and garbage bags (for personal hygiene, as there may not be water for cleaning).
9.  Tools to turn off utilities.
10.  Local area maps.

The following supplies are also recommended: 

11.  Prescription medications and glasses.
12.  Extra supplies for babies and feminine hygiene products, if applicable.
13.  Pet food and extra water.
14.  Important documents in a waterproof and portable container.
15.  Cash or Traveler's checks.
16.  A good first-aid book and other emergency reference materials.
17.  Water purification, like standard household chlorine bleach.
18.  Matches in a waterproof container.
19.  Disposable plates and eating utensils, in case dishes can't be washed.
20.  Games, books, puzzles, and other activities to keep oneself entertained.

For us Preppers, that's the short list.  We have all of those things, and a whole lot more, generally.

In all of the years that I've been prepping, the threat of Nuclear War has always been way down on my list of possible scenarios, but I suppose the recent events in Hawaii, plus some blustery political posturing, have me reconsidering that threat.  I still think it's far-fetched, but it pays to consider it a possibility - even a very remote one.

The point of prepping is not to fear-monger and get us all terrified and on a frenzy to buy a bunch of stuff so that we're ready, but rather to empower us by giving us the tools and skills to handle whatever may happen.

Puerto Rico is still without power on much of the island.  According to this article, there was an explosion at one of their power plants.   My guess is that the folks on Puerto Rico must have been pretty prepared, because they're still there, and while it's not easy, they're still surviving.  Some may even be living.

My guess is that the rest of us will learn a lot from those who survived Hurricane Irma and its aftermath.

And that the people in Hawaii aren't taking the threat of a nuclear bomb as cavalierly as they might once have.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Randomness of my World

I just finished reading Agenda 21.  I won't give it a full review.  I will say that it was clearly a book with an agenda (ha! ha!).  The goal of the book was to draw attention to the UN initiative (called Agenda 21) that will substantially limit individual freedoms, especially with regard to private ownership of land.

Then, FB gave me this gem. 

Not all of it is true.  Permission means that we are required to be given consent to act.  Many of the items on that list require no consent.  

For example, here in Maine, I am still able to own land (not without government involvement, which isn't the same as granting permission.  If I have the money to pay for it, I can call it mine), and with only a few exceptions, I can do what I want with my land.  

I can drive my unregistered car as an unlicensed driver on my own property - without permission.  I just can't drive an unregistered, uninsured car as an unlicensed driver on government-built roads.  That's fair.  

If I own enough of it, I can hunt on my land without a license.  If I hunt with a bow, I don't even have to tell anyone that I'm hunting.  It's no one's business.  Likewise, if I have a stocked pond on my land, I can go fishing ... without a license.   If I'm not, yet, 16, I don't even need a pond to fish without a license.

Depending on the business and where it is located, one does not need permission.  I owned and operated a virtual office service for eighteen years.  I didn't need a license.  

I have never asked for nor been given permission to cross the road.

I do not need permission to collect rainwater.

The fact is that we don't need "permission" for several of the items listed.  Like getting married.  In order to have one's "marriage" recognized by the State for the purposes of filing taxes, receiving social security for dependents, or being eligible for spousal employer benefits, we need to file a legal document called a marriage license, but I can live with someone, in the way that a husband and wife live together (share a house and a bed, have children, adopt dogs, grocery shop together, and essentially build a life as a couple), and it's not illegal.  I won't go to jail.  So, in that respect, I don't need permission.  I only need a license when it comes to receiving support and benefits from the government.  I'm completely free to not accept those benefits and completely free to live with anyone I wish as that person's "wife."  In fact, in some States, the permission thing is so *not* needed that if one can prove that one lived with another person for a specified period of time as a spouse, there's no marriage ceremony or license required.  It's called "Common Law Marriage."  

Memes like the one pictured might be helpful to point out that the government is pretty pervasive and invasive in our lives, but there's also some degree of fear-mongering propaganda - which is not usually very useful.

We have a great deal of freedom, but with that freedom also comes responsibility.  We can't demand that we be allowed to do what we wish, but then require that the government fix it for us when things go bad. We don't get it both ways.

The Maine legislature introduced a bill to prohibit any laws being passed, here in Maine, that supported the Agenda 21 initiative.  That's interesting. 


Today, here in the US, millions of people will be watching a football game.  I've been asked several times this week about my intentions regarding the game.  I actually thought it had already been played.  Isn't the Super Bowl on Thanksgiving weekend?  Apparently, not.

Twice this weekend, when someone asked me about watching something, I was able to give my stock answer, "I don't have a television."  

I've read dozens of articles recently about how millennials are getting rid of their cable bills and their televisions, and I have so many regular readers who've been TV-Free longer than I have.  So it still surprises me when people are surprised that I don't have a television.

Like this:

Guy:  Hey did you see that commercial with the guy that looks like your husband?
Me:  I don't have a television.
Guy (visibly shaken):  You ... don't have a TV?  How ...?  What ...?  I don't have cable, but I couldn't ... no TV?
Me:  I have Netflix ... and Amazon Prime.  It's not like I live in a cave.

And then:

Guy:  So are you ready for the Super Bowl?
Me:  I don't have a television.
Guy:  *stunned silence*

I sure know how to kill a conversation.  


I was reading an article this morning about a kid in Puerto Rico who started a campaign to provide solar lighting to people who are still without electricity after Hurricane Harvey last fall.  

 My first thought is that it's a cool thing this kid is doing.

But ....

When we had our very-short-by-comparison, power outage last year, my area of least preparedness turned out to be lighting.  I fixed that.  We have all sorts of solar lights, now, and solar chargers for our electronics.  

And I was annoyed that it is so important to us to have lights.  

My second reaction is to be disappointed with the tone of the article, which implies that people can't survive without electricity.

Millions of years of human evolution.  Less than two centuries of having electricity.  How did we grow so weak that we can't survive without lights at night time and access to ice cream whenever we want it?    

The reality is that they have survived - for FOUR months - without electricity.  They've survived.  They're living.

I hope one of the "survivors" will write a book ... or at least a few great articles ... about how to survive for the long-haul after a major disaster.


I found this book at the library.   For those who don't want to click-through to the Amazon link, it's called "Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes."   The story of Cassandra is that she was both gifted with the ability to see into the future and know what would happen, but she was cursed with the inability to get people to listen to her.  So, she was a prophet to which no one cared to listen, and her warnings went unheeded.

The authors of the linked book state that we have modern Cassandras.  People who know what is about to happen, but fail to convince the masses about what's coming, and it's always too late.  

The book is divided into two sections.  Section One discusses the catastrophes in the past that could have been avoided, if we had listened to our Cassandra.

Section two outlines the possible events in our near future and the Cassandras who are trying to warn us.  This is the section I'm most interested in reading.  What does this author believe are the REAL threats to our safety and personal freedom?  A quick scan of the table of contents was interesting.  Anthrax and AIs are two of the first topics. 


It's a rainy, cold day here in Maine.  I'm slow-cooking a pork roast in the Dutch Oven on the top of the wood stove.  When it's done, I may make it into pulled pork sandwiches.

Deus Ex Machina and I split some wood earlier, and he's now a nap in the wing-backed chair.  I hear music practice from somewhere in my house.  It's a lazy afternoon.

I'll bet pulled pork sandwiches are considered Super Bowl food.