Friday, December 31, 2010

It's the New Year! It's Gotta be Better, Right?

Um, yeah, sure.
Sitting here on December 31, 2010, with a 60-mph-whiteout blizzard raging outside, I am cozy and secure. The woodstove is cranking out the heat, and needs to be fed every two hours or so; the clever animals are snuggled down in the hay beds I made for them in the pole barns. We had homemade waffles and homegrown eggs for breakfast. The freezers are full of produce, not to mention 1/4 of a cow and almost a whole butchered hog, still. Mike is baking bread in the kitchen, hoping that the flickering power stays on long enough for the oven to bake it. Jars of produce, of apples and apple butter and even apple jelly sit on the shelves downstairs, next to 60-lb, 5 gallon buckets of rice, wheat, oats, sugar, and honey, snuggled in with # 10-sized, freeze-dried cans of fruit and vegies, dried spices and flavorings.

And yet, here I sit, going over seed catalogs, drawing out the garden - the garden that right now is frozen, six inches down, under its blanket of snow, that looks like a barren wasteland instead of the virulently productive summertime landscape it becomes. Why on earth when I have so much already, would I want more, more, more? What sort of paranoid fantasy is churning my guts and driving me to choose another spring of hard labor, another summer of endless harvesting and canning and dehydrating and preserving? What sort of maniac would wear themselves out, every year like this?

I bought a lot of seeds already, this past summer, when the stores put them on sale, clearance racks full of unwanted, discarded, picked over seeds. Then they were 97 cents a pack (few people realize that seeds will germinate 2-3 years after the year for which they are produced and packaged). I bought fall trees and grapevines on sale, that sit in my greenhouse right now, barely warmed to above freezing, going thru their cold-hardening without exposing them to the 30-below temps and pounding wind that they will have to be strong enough to endure next year. What do I need an orchard or a vineyard for?

The seed catalogs sent to me this week are giving the lie to the "YAY! No more recession!" pathetic fantasies that are gripping the media and every talking head with a passionate frenzy. The seed prices haven't doubled - they've tripled, some even quadrupled, just since last spring. Of course, seed companies had to pay more this year; for fuel, for water, for shipping, for fertilizer in the fields to produce these tiny seeds, as well as for printing and packaging and producing their glossy colorful catalogs.

If seed is higher this year, produce costs will be higher this summer. If it takes more to produce it, then the end costs will be higher. This is just simple math, anyone can do it. If weather plays a factor, prices will leap upward. Look at Florida, just this week, where fresh vegetable prices at the farmers' markets doubled in one week. Literally doubled. They said it was because of the two previous frosts, and that was a part of it, of course. But when a farmer has to pay double for his fuel, his production, and his own expenses, the buyer of his produce will pay for it.

It has been a long time since we have seen food shortages; few alive now remember (or, they choose not to remember) the sanded sugar, the green meat, the wilted vegetables that stores were passing off at high prices in the late 70's and early 80's. Back then, folks grumbled and whimpered and whined, and ate soy burger instead of beefburger, ate whatever they could afford, cut out sweets and coffee. This year, I have a feeling things will be different... and not just because the prices will be so high, or the stores will be so empty.

Things will be different because the mouth-breathers, the gullibles, the same ones who fell for the "Everyone deserves a home!" political, media-driven housing bubbles and dot-com bubbles, are falling for the media and governmental lies that "Everything is looking up! I'm fine, you're fine, we're all gonna be just FINE!" self-congratulatory wolf cookies they have desperately, frenetically, believed in, over and over again. When, once again, it turns out to not be true - this time not just resulting in bankruptcies, housing repos, and moving in with Mom and Dad, but real base desperation and hunger for basic necessities - things will be very bad. Those who still believe that the world owes them a living will be shocked to their core when they realize they have become grasshoppers, out in the cold with no food, no where to go, and no one to care for them. They will be angry. They will be resentful. And they will take it out on those who 'have' - have a little more, have a little security, have a little job or a little income or enough foresight to pre-plan.

Me, I'm not too worried about divulging what I have on here. Those who read this, who have failed to plan will not be able to make it this far; they will run out of not only fuel and food, but the incentive to go to the back of beyond, when there is so much to take all around them - and so many unarmed, undefended, unprotected sheeple around them to take from. The folks around me have the same attitude as I - we have what we have, we are armed and won't allow not only ourselves, but each other to have it removed from us easily. We work hard, we stock up, we grow what we can and share what we have, we keep our guns loaded and our powder dry - and wait.

Yes, Happy New Year - here's hoping that all the signs that I see, all of the plans that I've made, all of the work that I'm doing and have done are totally unecessary; that they are merely the paranoid fantasies of someone who thinks that most folks are self-righteous, self-promulgating assholes who firmly believe that their survival is paramount, when they have never lifted a finger to ensure it, other than to sign their EBT application or Welfare deposit slip, or to beat an old lady to death for her Social Security check.

But - what if they aren't? What if I'm right? What are YOU doing to ensure your own survival?

Monday, December 20, 2010

No Catharsis for Most

Not too many folks believe it, but I am actually a kind person. For example, a woman owned a 26 year old horse and had no where to keep it. I told her she could leave it on our property, for free - as long as she paid for its feed and hay. Well, finances being what they were, she didn't feed it. I won't let any animal starve if I can help it, so we paid for feed and bought it hay. Finally the horse - old and crippled and arthritic - had to go. I told the woman that she would have to put it down. She finally got a relative to come and get it and have it shot and buried on their property.

A year passed, and we had written off the expenditures of the horse as a bad debt. Suddenly, this past weekend, a Christmas card arrived from this woman - with a $500 check inside. We were stunned, pleasantly so - and I told her. It had taken her 3 years to crawl out from her bad debt and miserable divorce, yet she paid it off at last. She said it was a catharsis for her - to pay off every debt she owed.

And I look around me at all of the miserable people, whining that they can't get ahead, that no one will help them, that no one will succor them, that no one cares. Most of them have been cared for all of their lives; expect someone, anyone, the government, their neighbors, their families, their friends, to pay for what they want and need. They take and take and take, with no thought of what they owe. They walk away from debts they incurred as if those debts had nothing to do with them. They insist that because they can do what any rabbit does - screw and breed - that the world OWES them and their ever-so-precious (usually spoiled, rude, obnoxious, demanding) brats. They vote for people who promise them more and more, never caring who is paying the penalty or the bills for those politicians who promise them freedom from want. Some of these greedy, grasping morons actually believe that President Obama is using his own money to pay their bills, while others believe that the Federal Government has lots of free money, and when they run out, they print more. There is no economic education any more; no responsibility, and no need for them. People are stupid and believe what they are told - that they DESERVE the sweat off of other peoples' brows.

These people in their whining self-pitying misery will never know the freedom of paying off one's debts, the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing financial success, of raising children who strike out on their own and succeed. They will never know the extreme pleasure of getting a call from their daughter, as I did last month; that this tall, willowy, wonderful child, who worked three jobs to put herself thru college (even with scholarships and grants) got a job that pays $75,000 a year with benefits. They will never know the joy of success, of overcoming failure, of becoming adults who take responsibility and life into their own hands and wrest all that they can from it.

I heard a great quote yesterday, and it rings true - "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death". The sad part is that they are too stupid to even know that they are starving.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Can't Dance, Too Cold to Hunt Crickets

It's early morning, and it's cold - 9 degrees. The kiln I fired off yesterday heated the whole house from it's little cavity in the basement; it is now cooling. I can't wait to open it to see my newest creations - gifts for family and friends and co-workers.

There's a pork roast thawing since last night too; from the pig we bought butchered from a local rancher. Grass-fed and luscious, about $.50 a pound, that pig will last s a long, LONG time; bacon, hams, roasts, ribs. They even saved the fat for me, which I rendered into lard.

We might get a snow day tomorrow; it is supposed to start snowing tonight again. It's not so much the snow that is bad - it is the ice underneath, that makes the paved roads treacherous enough, but also makes the gravel paths to the local ranches impassable. Since we have next Friday off too (a failed experimental push to put our school calendar at 4-day weeks), that would mean a possible 3-day work week. Not good for the January paycheck, but WTH - I can get more stuff done.

One of my friends asked if any of our family was coming for Christmas; I told her , no. Half are in Vegas, half around Savannah. She suggested we all meet half-way. I laughed, I said, "I AM half-way!" but everyone is working, busy with their own lives - exactly how I raised them to be.

I took Mike to see the cardiologist this past Friday. He had an 'incident' the previous Friday, where his ankles suddenly became swollen, almost as big as his thighs (thighs once described as 'braugh!' by an Irish nurse). Tests all week, then the visiting cardiologist saw the results Thursday and insisted we see him this past Friday. The cardiologist said Mike needed a heart cath. It has to be done in Lincoln, 5 and a half hours away. It only takes 3 hours - but if they put a stint in, they'll keep him overnight.

I'm not too worried - shit happens, one deals, and that's the end of it. So rather than making that almost-6-hour trip, waiting, then either scrabbling for a motel room at the last minute or driving back ANOTHER 6 hours, (and who knows what the weather will be - snow or ice or bright and clear) I made motel reservations for both the night before and the night after. We'll leave the day before, drive slowly, take our time, get a good rest, then go to the appointment. Then - no matter what happens - we'll have the motel room for that night, too. Sleep well, then back home again.

But not just ANY motel. Since my current job includes making reservations for over 30 people, all over the state at different times for different events, I 'know' most of the motels in the big cities and tiny hamlets. I know what Mike requires - a comfy room that includes, not just a bed for me, but a recliner for him, because he cannot sleep in a normal, 'flat' bed. Peace and quiet. Safety and accessibility. Short access to food. Maybe a pool; definitely a whirlpool, to take away and stretch out the tightened muscles from the long drive. We are going to make a little 'holiday trip' out of it; since we are expecting no one, and I'll have two and a half weeks off work for Christmas vacation, we are going to make the most of it. So - why not the Embassy Suites? It is what the local folks call "spendy" - not your $39 a night place. But - nice. And close to the hospital.

Also importantly, if I have to spend that night overnight while he is in the hospital, I don't want to have to go out and about looking for food or maybe a bar in which to have a (single, calming) drink. If I want to explore, there are amenities snuggled right up to the motel in the next block - antique shops, and something called "The Haymarket" which I assume (from the descriptions and satellite pictures) is a lot like City Market in Savannah. Maybe I can find something cute and fun to take away his fear and trepidation about still another potential surgery.

This is what I do, this is what my life is like now. While my friends are all agonizing over what to buy everyone for Christmas, who's coming to the feast, who's cooking, which family members are going to be a pain or get drunk or whose kids will tumble into the tree, I am busy struggling for calm, for normalcy, for an even and steady flow to my life. Grasping at small joys, creating small pleasures, turning fear and pain into comfort and stability. WTH - I can't dance, and it's too cold to hunt crickets. "It is what it is" - another pretty common local idiom.