What's It Like At Your Place?

Sharon April 27th, 2008

My readers have been so great about reporting shortages and prices, I thought I’d expand this and start a discussion of what things look like in your neck of the woods, and through your budget.  How are you all doing making ends meet?  How are rising food and energy prices affecting your household?  What are you most concerned about?  What are you seeing when you go the store?  I admit, I’m curious to hear more about what this looks like through the eyes of more people.

Today’s New York Times reports that people are changing their dietary habits in response to the recession, buying cheaper food, cutting back on some luxury items and cutting red meat from their budget.  I have to admit, the last quote in this section struck me – this is, after all, the New York Times. 

Home prices are sliding, wages are stagnant, job losses are growing and the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, a broad measure of stock performance, is down 6 percent in the last year. So consumers are going on a recession diet.

Burt Flickinger, a longtime retail consultant, said the last time he saw such significant changes in consumer buying patterns was the late 1970s, when runaway inflation prompted Americans to “switch from red meat to pork to poultry to pasta — then to peanut butter and jelly.”

It hasn’t gotten to human food mixed with pet food yet,” he said, “but it is certainly headed in that direction.”

So how does this look to you?  To your friends and family?

 Our region is one of the few that hasn’t had a major downturn in housing prices – the greater Albany area has slow sales but is still hanging tough.  Still, we were finally able to get the house reassessed after a ridiculously high assessment (redone after Eric’s grandparents moved in near the peak of the market), and will see our property taxes drop by 30%.  We’re actually benefitting from everyone else’s suffering, and so are some elderly neighbors.   It is tough on others as well – one of our neighbors lost her husband recently and wants to sell the house, but can’t.

The other big savings has been getting rid of the van.  We’ll save nearly a 1000 keeping it on the road.  Cramming in the little car is quite uncomfortable, but then again, having riding in the car be a bit uncomfortable isn’t bad for us.  Someone asked what we were driving – it is a 1993 Ford Taurus – we inherited it from Eric’s grandmother and it has been our commuting car ever since.  We can put 2 boosters and a carseat side by side in the back. 

We’ve definitely slowed our stock up rate, and at this point are just trying to maintain on everything (we’re actually letting our rice supplies slide a bit).  But we’re rapidly approaching our six months of grocery-store free time, where we live primarily off our own home produce.  Even better, the goats will arrive in July and we’ll be able to cut back on milk runs to the local farmstand.  Meanwhile, we’re getting the property into order – fixing the leaky roof (grrrr…we had it replaced 3 years ago and the $&#@*! who did it did a bad job), replacing attic insulation, putting drainage on the back field so we can expand the gardens that way, building more raised beds close to the house, setting up fencing for goats and sheep.  The hoophouse is going up this year, come hell or high water – I’m determined to produce all of our greens over the winter.  If we can afford it, I might even put up two, and start a winter CSA this year.

 We’re betting on the fact that as the New York State budget collapses, Eric, who isn’t tenured (intentionally so) and is much cheaper than tenure track faculty with similar qualifications, will probably keep his job, even if he’s stuck with more courses.  Last recession, they encouraged older profs to retire, had a hiring freeze and added more adjuncts rather than tenure track faculty, so we think Eric’s status may serve him well.  We’ve got dentist appointments for everyone and tetanus boosters for us planned, since we won’t be shocked to see benefits cut at some point.  Definitely working on *staying* healthy.

 I’m going to intensify my efforts to find birthday and holiday presents at yard sales, so that we aren’t buying much of anything new.  Also Eli’s feet jumped three sizes this year, and since he is drawn to mud puddles the way metal is drawn to magnets, more bigger shoes are on the list.   I figure at some point, things will get so expensive people stop using things lightly and discarding them so easily – so might as well look a little further ahead and pick up clothes a couple more sizes up.

We’re going to suck it up and fill the oil tank (which runs backup heat to keep the pipes from freezing when we’re out of town and the hot water heater) this spring, since I don’t think the price will be any lower in the fall.  We’re already splitting and hauling wood for winter.  May will be a tight month, given the price of oil.  But a tank full should, at our present rate of use, last us two years, so better do it now.

I’ve upped my plans for growing our own chicken feed and alfalfa hay for the bunnies and goats.  Feed prices are way up.  Not a lot of ways we can cut our food budget, except by producing our own milk and perhaps by giving up some seasonal fruits we really like and don’t grow enough of.  If we had to, we would.  For now, it is worth keeping them.  I’m already canning rhubarb and drying nettles and dandelions.

We’re going to start a homeschooling coop with two neighbors, to cut back on everyone’s trips to various activities.  And we’ll do all our swimming one day a week, to cut back on trips to the pool at the next town over. 

I’ve decided not to sell eggs this year – I have noticed in the last few years that the things we give as gifts sometimes profit us more than what we sell, so I decided that this year, we’d give the extra eggs away – to the food pantry, to neighbors, Eric takes them to work and hands them out.   

So far, things haven’t really penetrated hard into our lives – we’re lucky – and we’re reaping the fruits of a long time of being called nutcases ;-) .  But I don’t expect it to stay that way for the longer term.  How are you doing?

 Sharon

83 Responses to “What's It Like At Your Place?”

  1. Danielle says:

    I love, love, love our hoop house, though we built ours from scratch, and it cost about 1/3 of the price. It’s roughly 14′ X 36′ and it grew enough to support us and 3 annual CSA families through the winter. Right now it has shade cloth instead of plastic to enable growing greens through the high heat of summer. I’m planning to add another tunnel next to it this fall and may take a couple more annual members, but I haven’t yet decided.

    On another note, we’re also getting a milk cow, which should help liberate us somewhat on the animal feed front. We’ll be able to feed the excess milk to the pigs and the chickens, and we’ll have our own dairy, which will be huge. We’ll also be growing several different kinds of grains and planting pumpkins, kale, and beets to use as animal feed… and maybe mangels as well.

    Those are just some of the changes and projects on the horizon.

  2. Pat Meadows says:

    I read the article too and “It hasn’t gotten to human food mixed with pet food yet,” he said, “but it is certainly headed in that direction.”

    That struck me as an awfully stupid remark, even for a ‘long-time retail consultant’ – whatever that may be. The guy evidently never heard of rice and beans.

    How is it for us? OK so far, but we’re very concerned about inflation – mainly inflation affecting property taxes and food prices. We really don’t buy much of anything else, except used books. :)

    Our income increased considerably two years ago which certainly helps. This won’t happen again, though.

    Pat Meadows

  3. Christina says:

    The situation in Europe is different. Food prices are rising here, too, but we are nowhere near what it’s like in the US. In our area property values are still rising and we could probably sell our house with a profit if we wanted (we don’t). In some ways Europe is actually benefitting economically from the American crisis.

    But people are becoming more aware of the global crisis and the media are full of reports of food riots, problems with biofuels and of course the American recession. Global warming is also on the agenda. (Much of this reporting is however drowning in the usual silly stuff like who will win the Eurovison Song Contest or what kind of jeans we’re supposed to buy this spring etc.)

    At our place we are cutting down significantly on meat, trying only to buy local, grassfed meat (we are fortunate enough to know some producers). But switching to more vegetarian meals is not easy and especially the kids are not always happy. Any ideas for kid-friendly veg meals would be welcome…

    We are also driving less and walking/biking more. This winter were able to keep the indoors temperature rather low, using our wood stove to keep warm (we heat with wood pellets and some wood). Now we’re cutting more firewood.

    We’re expanding the garden a little bit each year, this year we will plant several more fruit trees and berry bushes and grow even more potatoes and root veggies.

    I would like to forage more for wild berries, mushrooms and greens, but it takes a lot of time! I work 4 days/week – I would like to work less, but we can’t afford that right now. But in Sweden you can pick berries etc. more or less everywhere (not only on your own land) and the woods are full of free food! So more berrypicking would certainly lower the food budget (we eat a lot of jam…)

    And I’ve bought a spinning wheel :-) I have a friend who raises sheep and I can get wool from her more or less for free :-) ) So next winter we’ll have almost free mittens, hats and scarfs! (I love to spin and knit!).

    Well, that’s a little about us. We are still living a more or less normal life (whatever that is), no big changes here. But things WILL change, of course, and we try to prepare for the changes. Not always easy… OTOH we have lots of fun trying ;-)

    Christina
    Sweden

  4. Sue says:

    Well, we’re definitely starting to see changes, and adjustments around our house. I went to the grocery store yesterday and was pretty shocked by the sudden price increases. Organic, cage-free eggs were up 75 cents in one week. I don’t look at milk, because we buy from a herdshare, but I think it was up significantly as well. Rice prices were sky high, as were cereal prices. Organic bread was up to $5 a loaf.

    In the recent past, we switched to all pastured meat. Now, we’re switching to very little meat. I think this will be overall good for our health, since I always feel better when I don’t have meat more than once a week anyway. I’d switch to none at all, but my kids are known to chant “meat. meat. meat” if we go too long without.

    Real estate prices are holding steady in our area. Our assessment was down 5,000 this year, but still 30,000 more than when we bought the house 5 years ago. We’re trying to find a piece of farmland (about 5-15 acres) to buy, so we can move towards being more self-sufficient. Land prices seem to be skyrocketing these days, though. I’m seeing 5 acre parcels of vacant farmland go for 50,000. So, we’ll wait until the right one comes along.

    We have enough wood to heat the house for the next two years, which is good, because wood prices have gone up about 30% since last fall.

    So, in our neck of the woods, things are definitely in belt-tightening territory, but not too bad, yet.

    Sue
    Ithaca, NY

  5. feonixrift says:

    “we’re reaping the fruits of a long time of being called nutcases”

    *grins* I wish I were. Ok, to a small extent I am, but nothing like what I’d hoped for by now. Almost all of the energy I’d hoped to spend learning to cook has gone into trying, yet again, to get healthy. We’re trying to eat out less, with limited success due to me getting ill enough to be unable to cook fairly often. I’m trying to garden, with limited success since I keep getting too ill to regularly water. Our budget’s alright, but some of my friends are finding things really tight, and I don’t have the spare energy to help them out with anything more than planting schedules.

    Gas here is nearly $4, I’m very glad that I don’t drive. I doubt I will ever drive. I’m considering getting a bicycle, not because of the buses being expensive, but because with the increased ridership they’re becoming more unreliable. Mostly, my life continues to be a race between getting my health back and watching my world dissolve. If I can get enough of it back in time, I can try to lessen the blow.

  6. Jordis says:

    I can only agree with Christina’s general assesment about how it is around here (‘here’ being Europe – actually quite a diverse place, but nonetheless *g*)

    Food prices are up a bit, but then they were so ridiculouslky low these last years I have heard more than once fornm farmers that they were struggling to get any kind of decent income as they were strangled by retailers and their buying (and price dictating) power.

    Poeple around here are noticing about the world food crisis (and its links e.g. to bio fules and the question of saving our planet from impending doom by climate change – bio fuels are a very good case of ‘well meant, but wrong’ IMO), but even those on unemployment are only slightly affected – by now. Noone can say how things will be a year or two from now, admitted. But there’s neither a housing crisis nor food rationing or wait lists for rice or pasta. Actually the idea would seem pretty odd – not only to me.

    Having only a window sill to grow greens I started lettuce and a tomato plant, in addition to my little medicinal herb garden. My efforts in talking my relatives with gardens (and families to feed) into spending less on widely travelled food stuffs and begin to grow more themselves are starting to show effects. Probably only so that I stop nagging them *grins*

    I cannot begin to imagine how it must be for those of you seeing the worth of their property dwindle, and being in need to make plans in case things get worse.

    … but then I better start preparing to, coming to think about it….

    Greetings, Jordis

  7. Kati says:

    Fairbanks, Alaska area: We’re seeing big increases in grocery prices. Milk is up to $4.00 per gal, or $3.50 for 2 gal. (At Safeway, a 2 min. drive from my house.) Things like lentils (which we don’t use, but should) and split peas (we DO use, but not as often as we should) went up by almost half at least 6 months ago. Rice has been consistently almost sold out for the past 3 or 4 months. White & wheat flour went up from 4.30 per 10 pound back to 5.69 for a 10 pound bag just in the past 2 months. Potatoes are still the cheapest bet, at 1.69 a pound for russets, though small white & red potatoes sometimes come down to that price as well.

    We’re eating a lot more potatoes now, as I figure that you’re right that we ought to acclimate ourselves NOW while it’s an option, instead of waiting till it becomes a necessity. I’m going to try to do 2 or 3 chicken-wire potato bins this summer for a small supply to get us through at least PART of the winter. I’m also using cabbage a lot more, mainly in colcannon or kimchi (partially homemade). Occasionally I’ll make Fried Cabbage & Kielbasa (a cheap, meal using meat that’s still relatively inexpensive), but my hubby doesn’t care for that. What meat I buy lately is usually from the clearance bin at the grocery store. If my hubby had better success with his hunting, I’d prefer to eat only moose or caribou. (Preferably caribou as it tastes better, IMO.) We’ve also been eating more eggs lately. Though they’re up to 4.19 for an 18 pk of large eggs. I only know one woman locally who sells home-grown eggs, and as soon as the farmers market opens, I’ll see about buying eggs from her. Though that means a trip to the far side of town every week or two. It may not be worth it, financially.

    We’re going to be trying another extensive garden over at my father-in-law’s place, but I don’t have very high hopes that this year’s garden will be any more successful than the past 2 years have been. (We’ve been gardening for 4 or 5 now.) Though, this year he’s gone & bought a small greenhouse to grow tomatoes & cucumbers, peppers & a couple hardy variety of melon that I bought seeds for through SSE. I’m pestering (with my father-in-law’s encouragement) the hubby to let me put a “victory garden” in the front yard. All he’s agreed to at this point, though, is a strawberry bed. But, I’ve got plans for the south-facing side-yard and the small bit of back-yard available to me. (That includes the potato bins, my composting bins, and a small 2-step tiered veggie bed.) My dad, in his weeding & disposing in preparations to move out of state, has given me his large pressure-canner and all his canning jars. My FIL also has a large pressure canner and a shed-full of canning jars that he bought years & years ago. Canning and freezing will probably be our primary means of preserving whatever harvest we do get. But, I also have expressed an interest (to the hubby) in using the entrance to our crawl-space under the house (accessable from a “trap door” outside the house) as a root cellar for potatoes, onions & cabbage.

    We’re trying. We may or may not be successful, but we’re trying.

    Oh, and housing prices have dropped, but not by as much as it appears is happening in the “lower 48″. My dad did just sell his house to a family that appears very able to buy, as did a neighbour across the street from him. So, there IS still the possibility of buying or selling a house around here, though the folks looking to buy are fewer than only a year ago. Fuel is currently $3.83 per gal. at the closest gas-station to my house. (Though, that’s not the station I usually fill up at, usually filling up in town on my way home from work at the Safeway gas-station so I can use my 10-cents-a-gal. discount.) I’m trying for a job out here in my little town (14 miles from where I currently work) at the little branch library, but as yet haven’t been successful in getting one of the positions out here. Will have another chance at the job in the fall, and should I get it I’ll be easily able to walk to work, though somewhat less comfortably when it’s -40 deg. outside in Dec. and Jan.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    My husband and I live in West Virginia and are fairly use to a somewhat depressed economy. We both have steady jobs with the big state university here and are able to ride to and from work together which is extremely helpful since gas is currently 3.59 a gallon.

    Our grocery shopping hasn’t changed too much, since my husband was already a vegetarian and I already cook most of our food from scratch, but we do try to get most of our staples from Aldi now, and we try to go only once ever two weeks to cut down on the impulse buys.

    We rarely buy anything new (or anything at all lately, besides food) but we do splurge on books at Goodwill.

    Thankfully, we purchased 7 acres of land not too far but not too close to town a little over a year ago and have planted many fruit and nut trees and shrubs and are well on our way to building our little house (it’s a pole building, so the roof is up, now we just need to fill in the sides!). We have a garden at our current house in town as well, and try to take advantage of all the space we have to produce as much of our own food as possible.

    Current conditions haven’t changed our habits much, since we were already tightwads and gardeners, but they have definitely made us more alert and added an urgency to everything from growing onions to worn out socks.

  9. Rosa says:

    The thing that has hit us is anxiety about housing prices – we want to sell and move to a smaller place, but the market means we have to put more work into the house in order to even sell it, and then do we still want to? (I think the answer is *yes* but I am not the one who put my life savings into the downpayment, since my life savings barely covered closing costs.) So far it’s been a lot of arduous discussion, and this summer it will be a lot of work.

    But overall the pricing changes are just supporting the life changes we wanted to make anyway – I have been trying to cut back on car trips and suddenly the price of gas has my partner on my side. We don’t use the car for daily stuff – or, we do, but we *try* not to and we don’t have to. So gas prices don’t really hit us. Heating prices went up but we had decided to drop the temp anyway, having ditched the roomate who wanted it higher, so ours actually went down. And the big change is that I have a job, after two years as a stay-at-home mom – my income went from $0 to $15,000 from 2006 to 2007.

    Our daycare is going up, though. And I am trying to do more charitable giving, because most of it comes from my salary and got cut when I wasn’t working.

  10. Nettle says:

    “reaping the fruits of a long time of being called nutcases” is about where we are. We live in a residential area of a large east coast US city. Property values are holding steady, I think because this area actually has something intrinsic to offer, unlike many suburban neighborhoods. It’s very easy to live without a car here (we haven’t owned one in years) – we have decent public transportation and everything is within easy walking or biking distance – stores, schools, businesses, museums, theaters, libraries, everything. I would rather live in a rural area because that’s where I’m from and where my heart is, but looking at it from a logical perspective, a neighborhood like this is probably the ideal place to be right now.

    We have quite a few immigrants in this area from India, East Africa and Southeast Asia. These are people who know how to look out for lean times, and some of my neighbors are very concerned about the future because they know how bad it’s getting at home. They are doing a whole lot more to get prepared for the hard times to come than any of my American-born neighbors, and we’ve had some great conversations about food storage and backyard farming. If things ever got seriously bad here, I think they would do a good job of banding together and looking out for each other.

    Most of our food comes from a CSA and a farmer’s market, we aren’t big on stuff like new clothes (or much of anything new, actually), our house is well-insulated and very efficient, and while I don’t have much growing space, I’m surprising myself with how many vegetables I’m fitting in this year in containers and our tiny backyard. This is all stuff we’ve done because we want to and we’re thrifty by nature – I’m a big fan of the Theory of Anyway – but I think it’s going to start to really pay off soon.

  11. Karin says:

    Our family is expecting to lose a significant amount of monthly income. But we have known about it for a while so have been preparing to live leaner. We’ve paid down some debt, live with one car for a family of four, we already live pretty simply. We are expanding our gardens to include dent corn, amaranth, and buckwheat, dry beans. We will be growing a pig, a meat lamb, goat and more poultry. We will be growing soybeans and some of the corn for feed. We have access to sour milk and slop from a local breakfast joint. But plan to buy a bulk order of feed for the summer at a local grainery because it is cheaper than by the bag. I’ve planted grapes, 100 strawberry plants, blueberry plants, asparagus, extra parsnip and potatoes.

    And with our tax return we purchased oats, rice, hard red wheat, several varieties of beans. As the summer moves on I will be purchasing bulk barley and beans from a local farmer.

    Central Maine’s economy has always been stagant. Factory closing are the norm around here. Some of the real estate boom was fed in this region by Snowbird retirees. It is common to hear folks talk about ways they are adapting to rising gas prices.
    Our concern is not so much for the summer ( my husband is a teacher, so will not be commuting) but for next winter; when what we would have spent for food will be going into the gas tank. So our focus is making sure we have a full larder. I have clothes stashed away in several larger sizes for the little one but I also have teenage son (with hollow legs).It is harder to predict his clothing size for next winter, but his is roughly my size right now so I can wear most of his clothing. I make sure to find rugged stuff at the Goodwill for him that will last a long time whether they still fit him or not.
    I’ve lived through some hard times in the past. But those were my hard times. The collective hardship of what is to come worries me. I am trying to help friends and family become aware and become more self reliant.

  12. Fern says:

    We got lucky – just as food prices did their latest leap forward, we got an Aldi’s grocery store in the area. It has the lowest prices in the area for pintos, lentils, milk, and eggs always, and usually for fresh fruit and veggies as well. My husband had agreed to meals where meat is an accent instead of the centerpiece. Have bought lots of whole wheat and corn … from the feed store. I grind them into flour, or make the into just whole grain pilafs.

    Our son, who is in college, is the only commuter in the house, so he gets to drive the best car (newest and gets best mileage). But the commute is still 2 gallons of gas a day, 4 days a week. Less expensive than if he had an apartment, of course, and having Mom cook and do laundry lets him more easily keep those A’s coming in. It’s okay, he CAN cook and clean, and did so when we homeschooled.

    Almost all fresh greens are currently home grown – spinach, lettuces, violet flowers/leave, dandelions, and sprouts. I know which stores sell which frozen veggies for $1 for 1 pound bags, and we get those when we go by those stores (usually son buys on his way back from school).

    Lunch is soup just about every day, sometimes with a salad, sometimes with half a peanut butter sandwich.

    Husband and I sat down last night and reviewed what veggies we can get thru’ the CSA and from the local farmers market, and which ones we can’t. Some of those we can’t we are trying to grow at home – carrots and celery, which I use a lot for cooking. But our clay and gravel soil isn’t the best for either of those. In general, those are grown far from here and trucked in. So, before diesel prices for farms and trucks get higher, I’m drying those veggies for cooking with later, anticipating price increases.

    Wish I had dried more red and green peppers last year. Wish I had dried and canned more tomatoes.

    I built a rocket stove to cook on – used a bad part and need to replace it, but that with a hay box cooker looks like a plan for making more soups, stews, and chilis with. Not to mention rice and stir-fries.

    Boy, do we need some new clothes, tho. Most knees and elbows are patched, most necklines frayed. Shoes, too.

  13. lavonne says:

    I haven’t noticed a big hit on food prices yet because I haven’t bought any processed food in quite a while, other than pita bread which jumped 70% overnight a couple of months ago. I mainly buy bulk [which I haven't run out of yet] and some produce from a co-op that stocks mostly local organic food. The rest of my produce comes from the farmer’s market where prices were already high, being organic, so I don’t think local organic produce is going up as fast as conventional produce in the supermarket.

    However, both of my grown sons have been hit with underemployment. The younger one, who lives with me, had his hours cut to part-time. That’s directly costing me money because he can no longer pay his full share of the rent. The older son lost his job a couple of months ago when his company went out of business without warning. He hasn’t been able to find another full-time job but he’s actually happy about it because it prompted him to focus on his first love: music. He now has about 15 guitar students, which brings in a third of what he was earning. Thank goodness his wife has a good job!

  14. lavonne says:

    Oops, forgot to say I’m in San Diego, CA.

  15. Shamba says:

    I retired early a year ago and have been improving things around my house to be more energy efficient.

    I also wanted to downsize everything–mostly in the “stuff” area–so that whatever I have fits in my small townhouse–owned free and clear for 3 years now. I’ve had a storage unit full of somethings from my parent’s house for almost 7 years, from when my father died and my mom moved. I’ve just about empitied it out and that will save about $50.00 a month and I won’t have as much stuff to deal with in my life. My mom is still alive and lives nearby in assisted living.

    I learned to cook again and more than meat and potatoes cooking i was raised on. I;ve adjust my buying somewhat since prices have been going up the past few months. Even the cheapest of foods is noticeably more than it used to be. And cat food is definitely costing more–I have 8 small cat mouths to feed. they’re getting more meat in their diet and I’ve cut back on my meat input.

    It has it’s advantages, I’m losing some weight by paying more attention to what and how much I eat.

    thanks so much for your informative and touching blog,

    shamba

  16. Shamba says:

    One more thing — got out of credit card debt in the last year and I plant to buy a solar oven–I live in southern Arizona.

  17. Ani says:

    Hmmm- timely post- just what I have been thinking about actually. I live in Vermont- and am noticing prices skyrocket at the grocery store- milk, any dairy products actually, etc- as well as cordwood- they guy I bought from last year wants $35 more a cord this year(yikes), gas, propane, etc. I don’t use heating oil fortunately but friends do and I know it’s high.

    Have been having these discussions with people the past few days actually- most people are experiencing this sense of dread as they don’t see it getting better or as a blip but rather just a forerunner of what is coming down the pike.

    As for me, I live pretty low on the food chain in terms of spending as it is- have chosen to do work I believe in and have time for community stuff- and thus don’t make a lot in terms of income. I have gotten by as I don’t spend much-but the problem is that I have very little fluff to cut out- so when necessities go up- not sure where that will come from. I am thinking this will be a tough winter- as people will be going into it having tried to fill their fuel tanks out here and gotten wood while trying to keep the car running and feed themselves- I think a lot of people will be hurting and I expect to see lots of demand at the foodshelf.

    I am trying to do as much wood as I can but I do it by hand and that is tough and slow-up til now I have figured that it paid to do other things and just pay someone for the wood but that may change- I am trying to cut and split a couple of cords at this point- but with a handsaw and a maul………

    There is nothing growing here yet- fiddleheads are just peeking out- in a few days they will be ready- there are some ramps in the area, and the chives are up-that’s about it- the snow(most of it) has just melted but for the back of the house- so it will be a bit before edibles are ready. Next year I definitely want to have a cold frame for early season greens- can’t manage to keep the plastic up on the greenhouses as the snow depth is too high and they will be crushed.

    I am worried about the fruit trees and blueberries however- the hot spell we had has pushed everything along too fast- the apricots are in bloom- they usually get zapped by frost anyway- but it means the blueberries, etc will be close behind- and we can , and do, get frost into June so this is not a good thing- I grow the blueberries as a main crop on the farm and lost them last year to frost- can’t imagine two years in a row…… the weather being so weird is not helping any…

  18. Frogdancer says:

    I’m in Australia. There’s no shortages of rice, flour or anything else… shelves in the supermarkets are stacked high, and people have no idea about what’s going on with regard to food shortages elsewhere in the world.

    Petrol (gas) prices are amazoingly high. Up to $1.50 a LITRE in the last week. (3.87 litres per gallon). You guys have cheap petrol, so don’t complain!

    We’re heading into winter so I’ve pulled out everything in the veggie garden. Last year I grew things over winter, but it was hard work coming home from work when it was dark and tip toing out to the veggie patch with a torch. (But then again, we don’t have to contend with snow like you guys do, so maybe I’m just being a bit sooky la-la about it.

    We commonly freeze produce here. No one cans at all. I wouldn’t know how to go about even finding a canner, let alone using one. I have a side by side fridge and freezer, with the freezer crammed to the gills with chopped up veggies from the summer garden, as well as soups and pasta sauces made from the produce as well. They’ll last us through most of winter.

    The main problem here is the drought. In Melbourne we’re only allowed to water our gardens twice a week, so I kept the veggie garden going by bucketing water out from our showers. (Hard on the back, and very time consuming.) People are installing water tanks all over the place, but at 2K a pop they’re not cheap. So petrol and water are the main areas of concern over here.

  19. Lisa B-K says:

    Central IL, here.

    Gas is between 3.55-3.59/gallon here.

    We don’t buy much in the way of “conventional” (I speak in the ag sense) staples, but I’m pretty sure milk is the same as it’s been for awhile. Eggs seem to be more expensive. And I know for sure the price of flour and pasta have gone up. I do hear people talking about the cost of food being more of a burden lately – I guess we’re just used to paying more already.

    Food at the the co-op (which is mostly organic) held steady for awhile, but then flour went up .50 overnight last week. The price of locally-raised eggs is $3.75, which is up .50 over last year. I haven’t noticed any big increases in rice yet, but I bet that’s coming. Produce seems expensive, but not that much more than usual. Milk costs about the same – about 7.50/gallon. Overall, I notice that we’re paying more for food, but I shop sales pretty hard and we’re in the process of cutting out convenience foods (I have a teenager in the house). It’s difficult. My husband and I both work full time, and there never seem to be enough hours in the day.

    Oh – a little more about us. There are four of us – my husband and I, plus two kids, age 15 and 9. We live in a medium-size town that is very walkable/bikeable and is quite forward thinking in terms of sustainability efforts. If I can’t live out in the country, then I’m very happy to live here.

    My husband works in entertainment. I worry every day about his job, though I’m fairly certain that he will remain employed by his boss for a long time – just not doing the same stuff. We’re also good friends with just the kind of guy you want to know in these times – a “junk guy” who can pretty much do everything. We trade/barter on a regular basis, and my husband, in particular, has increased his skill set (especially in terms of building and working on vehicles) enormously, and I think my husband could work with this guy if he lost his job.

    Me? I work for my city, where my primary job is running our (quite large) farmers’ market. While I feel my job is pretty secure, I know municipalities are facing tightening budgets. I’m curious to see how the market does this season (we open in two weeks) – I know meat and eggs will definitely be costing more, and patrons will be looking for bargains. I do other work for my city, though, so even if the market tanks (and I’d be interested in hearing peoples’ opinions about that – I almost think the market will be more popular, at least this season, because of the increased mainstream emphasis on local), I can probably find something to do.

    In the meantime, we grow a very large backyard garden. I no longer have chickens, but know several in the neighborhood who do (they’re very legal in town!) and will probably barter produce for eggs all summer. I plan to preserve much more of the harvest this year, do some share-picking for some local fruit growers, and live more by hand. My kids both know how to plant, weed, and harvest (though they don’t love it sometimes). I’m teaching the younger one how to cook.

    We bike where we can. I bike to work, and my son bikes to school. My husband and daughter will be biking to work/school as soon as the weather completely normalizes.

    We’re trying to erase debt, so we’re working our asses off at our day jobs, but we understand the importance of taking care of this other business, too.

    It’s a lot. It’s not even close to enough. We’re watching Jericho on DVD right now, though, and I notice a) how improbable the show is – I mean, everyone’s still shaving and doing their roots? and b) how so few people actually know how to do anything. I think that’s what scares me the most – people are so far removed from basic knowledge.

    I think we have some time to learn, but how do you get people to tear themselves away from whatever other thing they’re doing to gain some knowledge?

  20. Tara says:

    North Texas reporting here! (Dallas area)

    I don’t really know what’s going on with housing here right now – no one I know is trying to buy or sell, and we’re surrounded by rentals (but we own). We’re negotiating a deal to buy a 12-acre farm property from a good friend, and keep our present house as a rental. If we have trouble renting or selling it, we’ll own it outright anyway, so we’ll just have to pay the very nominal property tax on it.

    Regular unleaded = $3.50-3.60, diesel = $4.00. This has prompted DH to get on the stick and start running veggie oil in the car like he’s been talking about for awhile now. We have no public transportation in our town, and our jobs are about 20 miles away, so we’re both still commuting. We are talking about riding together, though, so that might start happening soon. We do have small, VERY fuel efficient vehicles, though, so that helps.

    I’m only just now seeing some dramatic rises in food prices, although not too many because I mostly buy bulk, fresh or unprocessed foods. Veggies come from our garden or a CSA, meat is 100% pasture fed and from a local ranch (eggs too). It does seem to me like, at least here, the rise in food prices is mainly affecting more heavily processed foods. Wheat flour is still $0.50/lb at Whole Foods, but english muffins have gone up by $1.00 in one week. I’ve long been a food stockpiler anyway, so no changes there, really – it’s the foodie in me – I like to have choices. :) We are instead stocking up on other things – ammunition (gone up in price A LOT), over the counter meds and first aid supplies, etc. I just bought a huge supply of vegetable seeds.

    We intend to keep small livestock on the farm, but can’t keep anything except our rabbits here in suburbia. Also, we have a postage stamp lot that’s heavily shaded – great for the electric bill but not for growing food. We’re trying to maximize every square inch of growing space we can find for now, including containers. There is a very large open area behind our house that’s been empty for the entire 9 years we’ve lived here. DH and I just started talking about finding the owner and asking if we can start a community garden there.

    Money is still fine for us (for now) – not cutting corners just yet, really, although we are very frugal already. In fact, we’ve all but paid off all of our debt and are throwing money at savings like crazy.

    The absolute biggest change I’m seeing though is in other people. We’ve long been (and to an extent still are) the nutjobs, but we seem less nutty now than we used to. Even though most people are still reluctant to change their ways, they tend to be approving and often envious (?) of our lifestyle. If I had a nickel for every time I hear “Wow, that’s great – I’d love to live like you guys.”. Sheesh. Ahhh, but this is Texas, where they LOVE their giant vehicles, red meat and conspicuous consumption. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of very responsible people here, but there are also a WHOLE LOT of Hummers here for such a BIG. FLAT. STATE. And always just one person in them. I’m just sayin’…

  21. Jenn says:

    We haven’t seen many drastic jumps in my neck of the woods (southern Ontario), other than gas, but grocery prices are steadily rising all the time, especially for foods that are organic or otherwise healthier than most of what the grocery stores sell. I suppose to a degree that I don’t notice it as much as I could, though, since I live somewhat below my means and can accomodate some shifts, and it’s very rare that I buy processed foods. However, I don’t get much of a sense of most people around me really being aware of what’s going on or being all that worried about it, other than now-routine complaints about gas being over $1.20 a litre. It’s rather worrisome, though, since I suspect that the less worry there is, the less people will be prepared, and the worse the reaction will be as things get worse.

    As for me, I’m in grad school – fairly small income, but no debt, which is a good thing, and I save as much as I can every month. I don’t have a car, so I don’t pay for gas or any of those other car-type things, and I walk, bike, or use my included-in-my-tuition quasi-free bus pass to get around. Any shopping beyond groceries that I’ve done recently has been both secondhand and in the service of preparation for post-peak life – extra wool clothing, some extra shoes, bike gear, gardening tools, and whole raft of books on food preservation, gardening, cooking, “country life,” sewing, knitting, woodworking, and herbal medicine (plus a few novels for fun). I’m now looking to get a food dehydrator, though that will have to be bought new, I think.

    Really, I think the next project has to be food. Sadly, I live in a rented apartment with only north facing windows, but I’m going to give growing a few things a go anyway and see what happens. In the meantime, I’ve been buying extra rice, beans, powdered milk, and a few other bits and pices every week. And, if I get the dehydrator, my food stores should increase that way as well. I already cook almost everything from scratch, so it’s really more about the growing and preserving now. I’m also looking into building my own worm composter, since I can’t have one outside, and it’ll tie in well with the growing of food.

  22. Hopeful Pessimist says:

    Austin, TX: we’ve been very fortunate to both be in a city whose economy is still holding up pretty well, and also reaping the benefits of being nutcases for years. I have had a good income which we have lived well below, so we have accumulated decent savings and begun to focus more on stocking up and preparing for the hard times that are coming. We put a metal roof and solar panels on the house, and repaced an aging vehicle with a new tiny one (Honda Fit). I am an accountant, and am leaving a large corporation that has just about sucked the life out of me to the extent that I can stand, but feel that it has been worth it to have been able to get prepared for the future and have no debt. My wife is training to get a medical tech certification that we hope will be useful wherever we wind up living.

    We have never been spenders – the term “consumer” makes my skin crawl – so we haven’t really had to cut back any. We each use about 5 gallons of gas a week so rising gas prices have not been a factor for us, although we do see a lot of other people (the ones with long commutes in big SUV’s) cutting back and complaining more and more. Restaurant and shopping center parking lots seem less crowded, but just a little at this point. We are storing food; eating rice and beans won’t seem like a hardship since they’re a part of our diet anyway and we love them. But rather than cutting back to a more simple diet now, we are savoring the simple pleasures – a cup of good coffee, a Swiss chocolate bar – that we realize will probably not be available, at least a price we would pay, in the not too distant future.

    Our biggest concern now is whether to stay in Austin or move to a much smaller town. We are in a close-in suburb that will probably hold up fairly well, with a small energy efficient house. But we are on hilly, rocky terrain with a greenbelt and lots of critters that make having a garden a tough proposition. We get all of our produce from several wonderful local farms & farmers markets, but wonder how those will hold up if things start to really accelerate downhill – they are already getting pretty crowded. We ideally would like to find an intentional community in or near a small town, but since our current situation is pretty good we don’t feel that it’s urgent for us to leave Austin right now. When my wife finishes school next year we will look very seriously at relocating. In another year, of course, economic or social conditions could preclude that – but for the moment it’s a risk we are willing to take. We are continuing to prepare as though we are staying here for good, but with an eye out to moving if the right situation comes up.

  23. Lisa Z says:

    Reporting from a small city, urban home and lot in Central Minnesota, USA:

    This past year my husband essentially had a “pay decrease” which was actually a health insurance increase. He is a public school music teacher and because the Union and School Board couldn’t agree on a contract (until last week), he and all the teachers saw health insurance go up 25% with no raise in salary. So, we were short $200-300/month over last year. Luckily, I know all kinds of tightwad stuff from living on low income in the past, and that combined with participating for a while in the Riot for Austerity really helped us make it through the year and we are now in financially better shape than we were last fall. Amazing how that worked out!

    Now, because the teachers approved their new contract last week, we will see a slight (2%) raise in income and a bit more school district contribution to our health insurance. Still, I don’t think DH’s income will be what it was last year b/c of the ins. costs. But, it will be more than we’ve gotten used to this year. And we’ll get a backpay check and tax rebate soon! So, things are looking up for us financially and we’ll be using the extra cash for essentials for the new economy–grain mill, Harsch crock, bulk foods, etc. We’ll also be repairing DH’s flute, tuning DD’s/household’s piano and hoping to get a few other musical instruments with some of this money. For something to do in a low energy society! And because we love music…

    I am glad we’ve had this year to be really, really frugal though. Not only for financial but environmental reasons, we’ve cut back on energy use, driving, buying processed foods, eating out, etc. We’re enlarging our garden by about 4 times, and we’ve planted three apple trees and a sour cherry. We also just got a gooseberry bush from our neighbor and same neighbor is giving us raspberry canes as soon as it stops snowing here in Minnesota (!). We also plan to plant blueberries. We’ll be doing potatoes in a Lasagna Garden type bed, and I’m going to try growing more potatoes in a tire stack, a la Jackie Clay’s column in the latest edition of Backwoods Home magazine. Also we’re growing onions and garlic for the first time, as staple foods.

    I work in a smallish natural foods co-op that does about $1.5 million in business a year. We’ve seen prices go up a lot on many basic foods, as everyone has. However, I’ve seen no shortages of anything here in Minnesota and no mad rushes to buy things. The garden seeds in our store are still selling at their usual pace. Our bulk buyer has not noticed people stocking up on bulk foods more than usual. Our business is so far about the same as it’s been, holding steady. We did see income at the co-op level off last year as opposed to the 10% growth we were seeing annually for the last ten years or so. I think that trend will continue and also wonder if business will go down at some point as people find it harder to buy organic foods. However, I think co-op shoppers are very loyal, care a lot about their food quality, and will probably give up other things like driving before they’ll give up organic foods.

    I did go to a small local nursery yesterday and asked there if business was up. They said they are seeing a lot more people expanding or starting their gardens and looking for basics like seeds, potatoes, etc. She said at least one person a day mentions the economy and growing more food because of it.

    Another thing: we’d really like to get down to one car but are having a hard time deciding which one. The newer, more dependable Honda Civic with good gas mileage but monthly payments or the 200k+ miles Subaru Forester with terrible gas mileage and less dependability but no payments. We can’t give up both cars because my husband teaches at two schools, one of which is out of town unfortunately where there is no bus service. He tried to get out of traveling to this school but the district wouldn’t make the change. Boo hoo!

    This is too long a report! Sorry. I’ve enjoyed reading the others, though, as well as yours Sharon. It helps to get the bigger picture.

    Peace, Lisa in MN

  24. Tara says:

    Oh yeah – forgot to mention this. Hubby and I have become experts at exploiting the natural resources our tiny suburban lot came with (that most modern folks would never consider resources). Pecans, mulberries, dandelions, honeysuckle. Lots of overgrown trees, vines, etc. for backyard cooking fires, makeshift tools, etc. We’re quite handy and NOTHING gets wasted around here. It’s mini woodland here in our yard, and does provide lots of interesting things, including homes for tons of birds, squirrels, and other wildlife. Anyone else would have chopped it all down immediately.

    The only trick is getting the mulberries before the birds too!

  25. Rebecca says:

    I live in northern Alabama and I’m struggling. Currently, I’m in school full time and I’m working 4 part-time jobs in addition to my business and garden. Three of these jobs are not for companies and none of them employ me for more than 3 to 4 hours per week. I live by myself, am unmarried, and the only family I have is my 87-year old step grandmother. I would like to take in a roommate but have no idea how to find one I’m compatible with and who will put up with my weirdness.

    My house payment is about the same as rent on a decent apartment in this area. Housing prices are still increasing slightly here. I would like to sell this place and buy some land outright but that’s not an option right now. Besides, I need to hang on here because I have the garden, the berry bushes, the fruit trees, etc all right here. On the downside, the city’s a PITA, there’s little to no public transportation, and I’m worried about the economic future here.

  26. desert rat says:

    I run a small plant/tree nursery behind the family motel here in rural New Mexico, and am known locally for selling tomato and chile plants around this time. Sales are dismal so far. I believe the weather is partly to blame – a few cold spells a little later than usual – but the temps are a fairly steady 80/40 now, with the usual April high winds. I wonder if higher prices are encouraging more people to start their own plants from seeds, or whether perversely they garden LESS in tough times, still thinking of gardening as a luxury.

  27. Megan says:

    Reporting from NW WA:

    We’ve got some of the highest gas prices in the country here due to the proximity to the Canadian border. I haven’t checked today, but it was approaching $3.80 a gallon earlier this week. I use very little gas, luckily. We have a great transit system and I live within 2 miles of pretty much everywhere in my small city. I’ll probably start walking more now that the weather is shaping up.

    I bought my tiny house about 4 years ago, and even with the housing prices coming down, mine is still above what I paid. The housing market is definitely suffering, but I think it’s affecting our local realtor swarm more than anyone else, really. I don’t know anyone in dire situations yet. I just refinanced in February to do some repairs, but have diverted a bit of that to building garden beds and stocking up a bit, and I’ll probably keep much of it in savings and only do the bare bones repairs for now. I have no consumer debt, which was a huge struggle over the last five years. Heating and cooling are not a big deal in the PNW in a 700 sf house. I’m in a great neighborhood, very active and tight-knit. Chances are good that some of my neighbors are reading this. (Hi!)

    My town is pretty progressive and sustainability-minded. I work for a fantastic local credit union where they keep us fairly informed about trends in the financial world. There is concern, but nothing panicky or anything that I’ve heard so far. I feel very confident on that front. I personally like it that all of my finances are local. I don’t want to sound like a commercial for credit unions, but not-for-profit local banking gets a thumbs up from me right about now.

    I think that for an urban dweller, where I am is pretty ideal. I have a lot of work to do, but I’m in good shape on most fronts. I’m still only a beginner nutcase so far but I’m getting there. :)

  28. anon says:

    I have significant congnative dissonance. I read the news. My husband works in advertising, which usually falls apart in a recession. And yet we’re fine so far. This tells me something is very wrong. This recession is very different.

    We’re usually in the first wave of those feeling the oncoming recession since marketing budgets traditionally are the first to get cut. I joke that my husband is the canary in the coal mine. The last two recessions had us moving cross country just so he could work, and he took pay cuts both times. This one is so different from the past ones I’ve lived through, that it is confusing. My husband’s work is thriving. He is making good money and getting good bonuses. They are getting lots of new business. He got a good promotion recently. We are not feeling pinched.

    I am in a major urban city. We rent our house intentionally and will continue to rent for some time going forward. We are renting brand new construction. The builder couldn’t sell it. He also is struggling to pay bills (and I think property taxes but not sure on this one yet), so we may suffer from his inabiility to pay if he is forclosed on. (Due to this paragraph, I prefer to post anon.)

    The construction industry is still building houses that are sitting on the market for more than a year. The realtors try to convince us this is normal for this city, but we aren’t buying it – pun intended. On my block there are 4 new houses (2 still being completed) that are all vacant waiting for buyers (or even renters I guess). When we were looking for our rental, nearly everything we saw was vacant. It was weird – no tenants or owners.

    My husband just filled up his gas tank for the next month or so. It was a record – $75 for his tank. It’ll last nearly a month, but still! No shortages of food items here that I’ve seen and no restrictions at Costco. However, we have the busiest Target in the country. I’ve lived here for 18 months, and I’ve noticed by Sunday night the store always looks like it’s been ransacked. They always get it restocked within a couple of days. But, the weekend warrior shoppers just take everything. Kind of scary to think about what happens if stocks run low. I usually shop on a weekday morning if I have to go.

    I’ve noticed some of my favorite imports from Europe aren’t available anymore. Specifically Soignon creme cheese. It’s a goat cheese from France that tastes just like regular cream cheese (no goat taste), which I liked because I can’t eat cow dairy.

    None of my friends are talking about struggles right now. Perhaps they are suffering quietly. Well I just remembered one person whose husband is bouncing around with work contracts and can’t get a permanent job. But, they feel unstable, not pinched.

    The thing I worry about the most is banking. I worry about losing all our house money in a banking collapse. We will need all our cash to buy a house when we are ready to do that again. We are positioned for bad times, but I don’t know how to find a safe bank for our cash. I’ve actually started taking some cash out and putting it away (not in my house if anyone finds us. LOL!)

  29. Shamrockmom says:

    Checking in from Southern California-the O.C.–I am a single mom, 3 kids (17, 16, 12)Gas prices–cheapest I saw is $3.75/gal. Diesel is $4.59/gal. Milk at Sam’s club today was $2.75/gal for 1% today. No rice at all, except for Minute rice. Plenty of flour, sugar, cooking oil, only 1/2 pallet of pinto beans. Plenty of everything else. Local grocery store had plenty of rice in 5 & 10 lb bags.
    As for us, I am trying with only minor success to pay off credit card debt incurred when the kid’s DD stopped paying child support for 3 years. We had to eat, kids needed clothes, shoes etc. 17 & 12 yr olds whine constantly about what they don’t have that their friends do. They are anything but deprived. 16 yr old is high functioning Asperger’s kid and is dealing well with life. He is amazingly informed for his age about the economy, and is concerned about his/our future.
    Definitely very surreal here. Many folks have adjustable mortgages, you know people have to be hurting, but there’s plenty of SUV’s on the road, people are buying stuff at the mall (including the high-end teen clothing store my daughter works in). At the dental office I work at in nearby L.A County, our patients are moving out of the area in droves, business has dropped and hours got cut (except for mine, I am lucky) Only a couple houses for sale in my area, no foreclosure/bank owned signs. Property values have dropped $200K in my neighborhood, from almost $700K in 2005 for avg. house to $500K. We live in a “lower” property value area, higher end properties have lost more.
    I joined a food co-op (goldenshare.org) and clip coupons but haven’t started a garden–no time when you are working 10 hr days and have homework and house chores afterward.
    The Good news: my car is paid for and is not a gas-guzzler, my fixed rate mortgage is less than rent would be for an apartment, and my parents are in good health. live nearby and help me with the kids.

  30. Nellie says:

    First of all, I LOVE your blog! I find it to be the most balanced, well-grounded, down-to-earth, outspoken, with a touch-of humor reading that I look forward to daily.

    I am reporting from my home on the Kitsap Peninsula of Puget Sound, WA. Yesterday I paid $3.79/gallon to fill up my ’96 Honda Civic. Prices seem high on food, but no rationing here. We get most of our produce from a CSA. The shopping center parking lots are still full of SUVs and people here seem to be spending money like crazy, property prices here have continued to rise, though probably not for long, as houses are taking longer to sell. I work part-time and my partner works full-time in the city. We both commute by bus and ferry boat. The bus schedule is very limited, so sometimes that part isn’t an option.
    My dream has been to have a 2-5 acre farmlet in this area, but that acreage is still well above $100,000 (above my budget)! Thus, we are staying put for now in our modest home on a shy 1/2 acre.
    One problem we have here is SHADE from surrounding Maple, Alder, Cedar, Fir and others. I have recently planted the following shade-tolerant fruits: currants, gooseberry, hardy kiwi, alpine strawberries, lingonberries, elderberries, goji, goumi, etc. I will also be attemping to grow shade-tolerant veggies and herbs.
    We use a pellet stove for heat in addition to electric forced-air. Pellets were quite high this past winter ($5-$7 per 40lb bag), and at times were sold out all around here. They were usually shipped from somewhere far away like Kentucky or Arkansas. Apparently our local timber industry primarily exports to China? Last week pellets were offered at a local lumber store for $3.40/bag, produced only about 20 miles from here! So I stocked up for next winter. That allows me to postpone the decision to switch to a woodstove until “later”.

  31. Diane says:

    I’m a single woman in NE Tenn, and people at work have been talking a lot about the rising cost of gas lately. They’re beginning to talk about food prices too. I work in a call center so I talk to a lot of people. Yesterday a stranger at the grocery store commented on the incredible rise in the cost of canned beans, and when I said I felt it would get worse she agreed and noted it might be time to stockpile.
    As for me, I have been trying to learn gardening for the past two or three years. I’m not naturally gifted in this area, but have had some success. I live in an 800 sq ft house, on a good-sized but mostly shady lot. I’ve been trying square foot gardening, and just planted a 4×4 in strawberries yesterday. Last fall I planted four blueberry bushes, and they’re doing well. I just planted boysenberries recently and they don’t seem to be doing as well. I plan to try potatoes and sweet potatoes this year, as well as beans, and carrots. I planted broccoli last fall, and it didn’t do much, but survived the winter and produced a couple batches this spring.
    I’m most worried about my sister and brother who live in GA and SC respectively. My sister has the green thumb in the family, but doesn’t seem to feel the need to grow much beyond a few tomato plants. My brother seems to have no desire or urgency to grow anything. I don’t get to see him much so I don’t know how he’s reacting to current events.
    This is the first time I’ve commented here, though I’ve been reading your blog for several months now. You encourage me to try new things and to stretch my boundaries. Thanks.
    Diane

  32. Megan says:

    Quick update after a trip to the community food co-op:

    Hard red winter wheat was sold out in the bulk section. One kind of rice was very low, but everything else was full. What I did notice was the bulk food section was crammed with people. It usually is, but really, today more than usual. I spent about twice as much as I usually do just to stock up on some pantry things, but the one thing that shocked me was the price of pasta! My bag of organic macaroni that I used to get for $1.19 was $2.49. Ouch!

  33. emeeathome says:

    Another report from Melbourne, Australia.

    Food supplies are fairly OK here – no problems getting bulk supplies of anything I’ve needed, though the prices have crept up a little. Vegetables and fruit are a little more expensive due to the drought.

    The problems here are interest rates and housing. We’ve had about 8 interest rate rises in the past couple of years, and that coupled with higher petrol prices is hitting home. Australia-wide there is a huge shortage of housing. Prospective renters are competing with 50+ other prospective renters for properties. Rent rates are going through the roof.

    “The brother-in-law on the couch” syndrome is happening at our place. My daughter is moving back in with us for about 12 months – forced by interest rates. She will rent her unit out now, instead of next year. Fortunately we get on extremely well, and we’re all looking forward to it.

    My capsicum plants are heading into their third winter – still covered in fruit and flowers. I will be experimenting more with various root vegetables this year, and will be planting a finger lime tree (Australian native) and a new bed of strawberries.

  34. Idaho Locavore says:

    Southern Idaho here.

    Gas is around $3.40-ish right now at the cheaper places. Diesel is significantly more, around $4.15 or more. It’s also taken to jumping several cents or more every time you turn your back.

    We’ve cut way back on our driving. Some weeks my car hardly gets out of the garage. My husband and I are both on the job market this spring, or at least I was until last Friday! But I now have a job that’s within walking distance. How recession proof it is, we’ll find out as things unfold. My husband is trying to get a job near where I work, so if we manage that, we’ll both be able to commute by walking or biking, which would help a lot.

    We buy the vast majority of the staples we need in bulk from a local dealer that mostly deals in local grains and beans. We grind our own flour, make most of our own bread, make many of our own dairy products (kefir, yogurt, sour cream and some cheeses.) We also brew beer and wine and make home made vinegar, eat wild foods and pick wild fruits in season to make preserves with.

    We have a medium size garden, but we’re big on edible landscaping, so we actually grow a fair bit here on this city lot. We have apples, cherries, a peach tree, an apricot tree, crabapple trees, a pear tree, three plum trees, chokecherries, clove currants, red and black currants, Jostaberries, saskatoons, nanking cherries, filberts, an almond tree, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. We also grow many of our own herbs for fresh and dried use and for teas. I have an indoor orchard that includes tropical herbs like lemongrass and ginger root. We also have several potted citrus trees and a fig – and several dwarf cavendish bananas that I hope will fruit this year. We make our own jams, syrups, canned fruits and many condiments like sweet and sour sauce, pickles and chutneys.

    In the vegetable garden this year we’ll be growing lots of tomatoes, several kinds of peppers, eggplant, potatoes, rhubarb, green onions, shallots, Italian coin onions (they keep VERY well for us), peas, beans, turnips, broccoli, salad greens galore, rutabaga, carrots, beets, garlic, cucumbers, melons, summer and winter squashes. We’re aiming for enough stuff this year to carry us through winter, concentrating mostly on the things that store well or can be canned or dried or frozen. We usually keep a cloche going all winter long with salad and braising greens, so that is generally covered as well, even in our rather harsh winter weather.

    We live in a small city, with typical stupid small city restrictions (a permit to keep a chicken costs you $50 a year, PER CHICKEN) so we can’t have chicks. I hope some day soon they will rethink that and allow at least a small home flock of hens. If I could, I’d have a small flock of laying hens and a couple or three dwarf nigerian milk goats. :-)

    Fluid milk isn’t up much here so far, we mostly buy from a somewhat local farm, but sometimes have to get ours at the grocery store. But milk at the grocery store is around $2.80 for the cheap stuff on up to nearly $4.00 for the good stuff or the stuff that’s locally produced (not all stores carry it, though.) Butter is up a bit, I only buy on sale (can’t get local butter, unfortunately) but sales are fewer and prices higher this year. We also usually buy local eggs but the folks we buy from live out of town, so occasionally we have to get some from the grocery store. The last time we did that large eggs were on sale for $1.39, I believe. We don’t buy many processed foods these days, so even though we’re eating mostly locally grown, pasture fed meat, because we’re eating less and not buying convenience foods, our grocery budget has actually gone way down.

    I guess that’s it. Prices are up here, but we’re adjusting. We’re trying to lower our utility bills a bit every month. We’re getting rid of “stuff” as fast as possible, stocking up on low tech tools and supplies just in case and trying to pare down to a simpler life while we’re at it. It’s been stressy, and will be for a while, but we’re starting to feel like we might make it after all for the forseeable short term future. While this all plays out, that’s the best we can hope for, I think.

  35. Idaho Locavore says:

    Oh, btw – while we have seen a lot more houses for sale here lately, including some we’re pretty sure are in foreclosure, it doesn’t so far seem like prices have taken a huge hit in our area. But then again, while homes in much of the rest of the country were appreciating at 20% or more a year, homes here were only appreciating maybe 5-8% a year. So because we didn’t “bubble” as much as lots of other places, it’s likely that we’ll probably fare a bit better than most as things deflate – that is, unless the whole bottom drops out.

  36. Maryann says:

    This is my 1st post, since discovering this blog in March,

    I’m a recluse/stick-in-the-mud [especially true in April!]. I rarely leave our farm, where we’ve been growing most of our food for ten years (actualizing my dream, ever since 1st grade [I grew up in the 'burbs' in the 1950's]). My S.O is the shopper/go-fer, by choice.

    In response to events of late we decided in March to stock up on what we don’t grow: grains, spices, a few condiments, lanterns, and kibble. We had been supplementing our dogs’ kibble with rice for the past year (which we had perceived as cheap), but decided to stop, instead feeding them more of our own eggs: we can’t sell all of them any longer at $3/dozen (a bargain, considering the price of organic chicken feed).

    We’re in quieu to have our 25-year-old roof replaced in June. We recently replaced our equally-old refrigerator. We’re ‘blowing’ our inheritance stocking up and shoring up the homestead. We figure the rainy days are now and what with inflation and potential collapse, it’s best to spend while we can, and prepare for off-grid self-sufficiency.

    A large farm nearby that was slated to become a housing tract is being planted (I hope it’s not GM corn) for the first time in 3 years.

    We’re considering re-fencing the property, while our money still has value, in case we decide to get goats or horses. Our fields are getting very weedy (Multiflora, honeysuckle and briars), and may as well produce food, other than mowing and gathering mowage for mulch and compost. [Gene Logsden will be publishing an updated version of his book about growing grains....]

    We’re planning a greenhouse attached to our south-facing frontage, for growing winter greens. We topped up the oil tank this week. We’re cutting wood [bought a wood cook stove from Lehman's in Feb] preparing to rent a splitter in May.

    This is the year we need to grow out a slew of zucchetta vines in order to save seed. They are the most rampant squash vines on the planet, and will take over everything if left to their own devices. We usually only grow 3 vines. One year we harvested 700 lbs. Apart from contributing some to the local CSA, we trundled them to the food pantry.

    I can’t report about food prices, but not being able to sell all of our organic eggs at a previously-fair price is a barometer of sorts. Anecdote: We’re out in the sticks, in a ‘red’ area. Even so, an artisanal baker popped up in town this winter. The few ‘lefties’ meet there on Saturdays for foccacia and pizza. My S.O. is a regular. The breads and pastries are not organic or whole wheat, but they are quite good. The baker expressed an interest in using local ingredients, but declined to purchase our organic eggs for double the price from his supplier. Your idea of just using the eggs for good will and barter is great. I’ll see if that works for my next haircut!

    We’re not hurting now because we decided to spend our inheritance/savings like there’s no tomorrow. It’s a guilty pleasure, after years of frugal living, to buy mail-order stuff like yuppies. We still need to stock up on dungarees, undies, boots, etc. We’re also thinking about what we can stock up on for barter purposes.

  37. Liz in Australia says:

    I’m trying to expand my garden, but with a 6mo baby I’m not finding it easy. It’s late autumn here (SE Australia) so I’m trying brassicas and onions for the first time. At least I can’t kill chard quite as easily… *blush* Compost and wormfarm systems are up and running. I was very inspired at the harvest of potatoes I got from the small, probably-too-shady-in-parts, neglected potato bed; I’m hoping to put a very large proportion of now-vacant compacted grass to potatoes next spring.

    We got three more pullets, although our older two are moulting so we’re buying local, free-range eggs. We built a new, expanded run and converted an old toolshed so we could keep more than twice as many in comfort – and even start breeding if times get bad enough that neighbours would stop objecting to a rooster in exchange for the occasional roast :) I have pipedreams of a goat but I doubt we have enough room to keep her or enough time to look after her properly, at least until the baby is bigger and more independent. But milk and dairy prices are through the roof and this isn’t a dairy area so I can’t buy local. I have *just* discovered a local dairy goat smallholder though, so I’ll be investigating them!

    Biggest thing I have in train right now is turning almost all of our front yard (which is probably nearly half of our 1/4+ acre) into an edible ornamental garden. Currently it’s a very sad, compacted “lawn” (ha ha ha) with a border of natives. I’d like to keep that because it supports a lot of small birds, but interplant the existing plantings with edible natives. And I want to put in fruit trees wherever I have space, plus start an orchard at my parents’ property a 1/2 hour’s drive away. Cane fruits and berry bushes are on the cards too.

    Property prices are doing okay here – last month our across-the-street neighbours sold their place after one showing and the price hadn’t dropped even with the recent interest rate rises. We probably could sell handily now, but frankly our place is in such a disastrously lived-in, cluttered state that with 3 kids at home full time (we homeschool) it would take so much effort that we’re reluctant to do it. Plus if we did buy land near my parents it would be so far away from DH’s work (currently PT-accessible) that the commute would become untenable pretty rapidly. So it looks like we’re staying put for the foreseeable future…

    I’ve just come back from doing half of my monthly grocery shopping and haven’t noticed a big jump in anything since last month. I buy organic local grass-fed beef once a week and organic non-local chicken twice a month. The rest of our meals are vego, from bulk beans or local tofu, except for tinned fish once a week. I’m not stocking up on rice any more than usual :^) Actually I didn’t notice any change in stocks today; I don’t think it’s really in the news much over here (a bit hard to be sure since I get most of my news from doom’n'gloom PO aggregators).

  38. Wendy says:

    Here in Maine my family has been voluntarily making changes for a couple of years now – cutting out processed foods in favor of local, fresh food or bulk items, reducing our spending (cutting up a credit card), line-drying our clothes …. As a result, we haven’t really been “hit” by any of the things that are happening. In fact, we actually seem to have a surplus of cash in the recent months, even with higher fuel bills and spending more at the grocery store. But we haven’t been spending much on “stuff”, either, especially this month, as I joined Crunchy’s “No Buying” challenge.

    We haven’t really “stocked up”, per se, although I always try to keep certain things in large quantities – specifically, flour and beans. I’ve always kept more of this on hand than we use between shopping trips.

    We’re talking about trying to replace some of the energy-hog systems in our house, like our oil-burning furnace with something that’s a little more “friendly” – hubby’s talking about an electric heat pump coupled with some solar panels. I’d like a wood cookstove, because I like things that are dual-purpose.

    I already have chickens, and I’d like to get a couple of goats (does only, because I live in the suburbs on only a quarter acre … but my neighbors are excited about the idea of goats and have agreed to allow grazing on their lawn :) . We’re tapping our maples. My husband wants to get a bee hive. I’ve expanded my raised garden bed system and added a “cold frame.” I’m planning to add some hazelnut trees to the property.

    We’re already planning to order wood this summer, because it’s not as expensive in the summer as it is in the fall, and having a couple of cords split and stacked well before we need it will give it an opportunity to dry before cold weather returns.

    I’d like to add a composting toilet, a solar water heater, a dug well with a handpump out back, and a cob or other masonry oven in the front. None of those things will happen without my husband’s blessing, however, and he’s still not convinced they’re a good idea :) .

    So, I guess we’ll see ;) .

  39. Deb G says:

    I’m pretty sure Megan and I are neighbors, so I’m just going to add that there are a lot more people on the buses. I’m so glad I sold my car a year ago!

  40. Tamara says:

    My basic situation: Married mom of 2, ages 8 and 2 years old, living in Wheaton, MD, (a Washington DC suburb). I live in a two bedroom apartment with an east facing balcony that appears not to support any plants beyond a couple of shade friendly ornamentals.

    I feel like I’m hemorrhaging money. Both of my pairs of shoes are wearing out (yeah, I only have 2 pairs…I am so not a real girl), but I’m making them do a bit longer so my husband can get a couple of pairs of decent pants for work.

    What’s changed most for us? First, I’m no longer in a position to turn down work, so I’m teaching, tutoring, or proctoring whenever my husband can be home with the kids. We don’t see each other much anymore, which is a strain on the marriage, since neither of us get “us” time or even “alone without the kids” time. At least niether of us has the time to have an affair *jk* DH has a government contract job that should last through the first of the year, but after that I wouldn’t count on him being employed. My work should increase as long as people thing they can ride out the recession by going to grad school, but will fall off sharply once people find that grad school is no longer a cost effective option.

    On the other hand, rising food and gas prices have begun to wake my husband up to what the future likely holds for us, and has made him more willing to consider radical “Plan B” options. Including becoming the returning offspring on my inlaws couches. They do have rooms and beds enough for us and want us there, and they have a few acres they could use some help farming (gardening, whatever you want to call it).

    My biggest worry? That gas prices or shortages will make it impossible for us to move at the end of November and we’ll be stuck in this unliveable situation long term. I’m already looking into means to reduce our moving costs, like maybe not bringing most of our stuff with us. Maybe one suitcase each for me and the kids and fill the rest of a small Uhaul trailer with my husband’s DVDs. (He has been preparing for Peak TV for years, apparently, by the size of the stockpile).

    Anyway, we’re doing the best we can with what we have.

  41. I’m in the very northeast corner of California, far from any big cities. Gasoline here is $4.18/gal and diesel is $4.98/gal.

    I’m fairly well stocked up on staple foods, but not so good at knowing how to use those staples in a hunger-satisfying way. That’s one of my focuses for now.

    I’m also in the midst of buying a Geo Metro, which will more than double my gas mileage, from about 20mpg to 50mpg or [hopefully] more. I drive about 120 miles weekly, and may be upping that with some extra work schedules.

    My main worry is housing — I recently left a relationship and am now living in a rental house that has a lot going for it but also a lot I don’t like. I’m starting to really wish I owned my own home, so that I could at least pretend that any changes I make are good for the long haul. I hate worrying about whether I should plant those strawberries in containers so that I can take them with me if I move again!

    I am also still dealing with the emotional effects of the breakup — perfectly normal stage to go through, but watching things start to collapse from that vantage point really makes me uneasy — the fear of being alone is nothing compared to the fear of being alone during troubled times! Fortunately I have a good strong community of supportive people around, so that is helping me adjust a bit.

    My other concern is income/employment. I’ve been getting by on just a few part-time jobs. Now I have more expenses (rent, utilities, plus higher gas/food prices) so I’m looking for more work. I may have the opportunity to resume full-time federal employment (which was my career before quitting 4 years ago) which would give me a healthy salary, plus health insurance, plus contributions towards retirement (if that program lasts long enough). Sounds great, except that I really don’t WANT to work fulltime and have only evenings & weekends to grow the garden and do everything else. And I don’t want to quit my part-time jobs, which I love and which get me out into my community! It may seem like I’m fretting over good news, but it’s actually a major dilemma for me about whether to go back or not.

    Food prices are going up and housing prices are going down, but I have no dramatic examples yet — I buy most of my groceries from our local buying club co-op, who gets them from Azure Standard — and only use my local grocery for perishables. But said grocery has recently introduced organic produce! I hope they sell enough of it to continue carrying it — I’m buying more than I otherwise would in order to encourage them. Hopefully by next year they’ll be ready to consider “local” instead of “organic” but for now we’re all very happy they’ve taken that step.

    Our little valley towns are so isolated, end-of-the-road, that I’m a bit worried as services become uneconomical and start to disappear, that they will be dropped from here first — everything from having a local gas station to having a local library to how well/often our roads get maintained.

    Feels like a bumpy road ahead.

  42. Amelia says:

    Salt Lake City checking in –

    Today our neighbour brought over the trade invoice for finishing our spare room, and we may have a guest in it sooner than I thought: the mother of a friend of DS is ill, and he’s asked to stay with us until his father can get a flight back from Bruges — fortunately exams have finished for the term at the university, and I don’t think he’ll mind spending the summer in Belgium.

    The only rice available at our Costco as of last Saturday was Minute Rice and a few 6-pound plastic containers of a wild rice pilaf; gas there was $3.28 for regular unleaded with the average in the Valley running at $3.40 and diesel at $4.12.

    DH has told his bosses that apart from essential in-person meetings with partners, he will be telecommuting five days a week instead of three; this means a tank of gas should last us at least a month.

    FrontRunner commuter rail northbound went live this week: now DS can visit his father without being dependent on a car to get him there. The buses and light rail lines here are crowded; the bike shop up the street is expanding. I’m seeing a lot more people out walking, on bikes and on skateboards, but there are still plenty of idiots speeding along in their cars . . . .

    Housing prices have slowed and actually dropped in outlying areas, but as Idaho Locavore said, outside the major metro areas in Colorado the Intermountain West didn’t see the acceleration in prices that much of the rest of the country experienced. The stagnating economy seems to have put paid to the notion of developing the last open 30,000 areas in the northwest quadrant of the county and building a new highway, for which many of us are very grateful.

    We’re looking at another two weeks before the last frost date (it SNOWED last week), so we’re still working on preparing the ground and clean-up. The Wasatch Community Gardens plant sale is on May 10th, and I’m taking my neighbours and their truck up with me: we’re going early, as I expect it to be very busy this year. Another neighbour’s hives seem to have overwintered well, and the woman who cuts my hair has new chickens.

  43. Liz in Australia says:

    I just did the other half of my monthly shop at a different chain, and saw that they are completely sold out of rice in sizes bigger than 2kg…

  44. Alan says:

    Here in Portland, Oregon, regular gas is $3.60 — $3.75 per gallon. Milk and egg prices are increasing — even the farm eggs I get from a lady where I volunteer went from $2.00 to $2.50 doz.

    Our food co-op is doing well and preparing to expand to a second location only a mile (instead of 7.5) from where I live. People in this area are getting excited about that. It will fill an empty storefront that was a Wild Oats Natural Foods until Whole Foods bought them out and closed it as too small.

    I’m a little late in getting my garden started this year — April has been colder and wetter than normal. I have rebuilt two of my raised beds with tight-knot cedar. Their orginal sides were douglas fir and were getting pretty rotten in spots after about 15 years. I have planted 5 new blueberry bushes and have 3 more to plant. Planting blueberries requires lots of soil prep in our heavy clay ground.

    I’ll be growing more potatoes this year. Last year was the first time and I was surprised how easy it was. Our garlic is coming along fine and will be ready to harvest in late June or early July. We used a cold frame for the first time this year and had lettuce actually overwinter despite a colder-than-average winter.

    Our local Farmers’ Market continues to expand even though it is one of a couple of dozen here in Portland. The local food movement is very strong here and, of course, Oregon grows some of the best produce anywhere.

    Not much evidence of new hardship here, although the number of people using the Food Banks is increasing. Probably plenty of tightening budgets below the radar.

  45. Robbyn says:

    We’re in southwest Florida, and it’s myself, 42, my hubby, a bit older, and daughter 19 who is working and lives here at home with us for now.

    Recession hit us 3 years ago during the hurricanes…property values spiked, then bottomed out royally. At the same time as the housing sucker punch, hubby lost his job of 25 years…3 days notice, not much severance. Then his partner he’d invested money building a house with on the side decided not to pay him back his modest life savings he’d invested, so attorneys’ fees took what was left to protect it from happening again. I was laid off work with no notice after a major state-wide downsizing two years ago, and have worked in low-paying jobs since. Thankfully, the job I have now provides a vehicle for most of the days I work, which saves us an enormous amount we’d be paying in gasoline.

    I think gas is about $3.59-3.69 here, depending on the week. Our location is in a backwater, between two bigger cities each an hour away, so we each have a hour-each-way commute on work days. There are no ride share programs, and no real bus service from here…nothing to the areas we need.

    On top of all that, we began to have some physical problems, and now I have no health insurance. So instead of despairing, we decided to have a hard look at things, and at our future. We’ve made important changes, namely to get out of all debt, which is our first goal. Second goal is self-sustainability, paired with eating and positioning ourselves work-wise with what benefits us more. We both want to be at home with each other, grow our own food, have little or no budget demands, and set aside a bit for the future. We’re willing to do without, but cannot endure the same physical and time demands we could have when we were younger. Also, stress was killing us, and the corporate rat race. I never want to return to it again. We’ve talked about living in anything but a tent, and are using this getting-out-of-debt time, which we hope will not last more than one more year, to learn skills we want to try…to see which ones are a good fit for the long term.

    We’re trying to gently TRY things…growing things from seeds for the first time, learning a bit about the plants that’ll work for us in this climate, making our own yogurt, trying things like goat’s and raw cow’s milk (we prefer the latter), removing ALL processed foods and preservatives from our eating. Since beginning with the Caspian Sea Yogurt, we’ve cut back to meat to only twice a week, and the rest is veggies and some fruit, not much bread.

    I have no idea about the rice, because we don’t eat it. We’ve eliminated pasta, too…we just don’t feel good when we eat it. We eventually want to grind our own flour and try things that way. We need to move where we can have chickens or other animals because the restrictions here allow for NONE. The groceries here in Florida have always seemed abominably expensive to me since I moved here, especially for a state that should be growing its own things to put in the stores rather than having them shipped from California or Chile…weird.

    Our stockpiling will come from our own garden as we need it, unless there are other things crucial to our daily meals. We won’t have a garden till next year, so right now we’re nurturing different medicinal herbs (trying them out in attempts to one day replace our pharmaceuticals), fruit trees, and fodder plants. And we’re doing a lot of research, compiling lists, and learning. We hope to build a top bar bee hive in the next couple months and get that going this year.

    I’ve thought for the past decade that at some point our economy would reach a day of reckoning, or at least come to a dramatic slowdown, and my husband and I helped our daughter to train in a skill that would still be necessary regardless of economic situation…she is now a nurse and is at her first job helping people that way, and getting paid more than both of us put together, with full benefits. I have a sense of relief that she’ll have that no matter what else she chooses to try in her life. Our jobs are very vulnerable, so we want to work ourselves out of a job and TO farming. Our goal is to not need cash.

    We’ll stockpile things we can grow ourselves, such as beans and “peasant foods” such as sweet potatoes, etc, that generations before us grew because they had to feed their families without much cash. We want to focus on heirloom, open pollinated crops that can repeat yearly. We’ve decided that our biggest luxury would be having a cow or two, since the raw dairy products such as the yogurt seem to be very healing to our bodies and are the backbone of protein needed in our diets. We’d also like to have a few sheep or beef cattle for supplementing our meals, as well as chickens and turkeys, ducks, geese. We hope that eggs, milk, and vegetables will provide all we need.

    We are trying to avoid “spending to save”…we are trying to trade existing vacant residential properties for some land in the country…hasnt happened yet, but you never know. We want to go solar, etc, but are still trying to stay away from overspending on all those “investments”…when we sell this place, we hope to build only what we need, and a very small guest cottage for friends or family who may hit hard times and need a place to get on their feet.

    Houses here that had been built two years ago and left on the market, not selling, are finally picking up in sales. No vacant land is selling. And the move far out from the suburbs has declined, except for folks like us who want to be self-contained and don’t need to commute that distance daily. Since the very hard winter, there are still a lot of folks from the northern states buying (more slowly, but still doing it) up the houses down here that had been stalled out for a while. I suppose it’s the warmth and the fact we havent had a hurricane now in a couple years.

    Though we’ve had a wet spring, we are still officially in a drought.

    And that’s the report :)

  46. Phil Plasma says:

    There is no evidence here in Montreal of any impending changes except for the price of gasoline and heating oil. Food prices have risen but have not yet risen so much that we have had to change our buying habits. My wife is getting a fairly significant pay raise in the next three weeks so that offsets our food price increase.

    Having just moved last November 30th, we have moved much closer to where we work so our fuel spending and car maintenance expenses have gone down, not up. In our new place I am planting tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, lettuce, potatoes, carrots, strawberries, chives, taragon and thyme. Over the next two or three years I hope to double my crop each year and eventually plant some apple trees. I’m also considering planting a copse of four or five sugar maples to see if I can get some maple syrup going sometime in the distant future.

    So things aren’t bad now, but I’m planting the seeds to be in a better place once food prices really do increase too much.

  47. Segwyne says:

    We have always had a tough time and budgeting has been a skill I am finally learning at 30+ years old. We have 4 kids at home plus my daughter who lives at her father’s, and I stay home and homeschool the older ones here. My husband is a licensed nurse’s aide (LNA) so we feel pretty good about his job security, even if the pay isn’t really enough to live on. We are benefitting from our strong local economy, and that is helping to keep things sane around here. Gas is (as of last night) $3.50/gal. I have a 180-mile round trip nearly every week for visitations with my daughter, so that is a bit of a burden, but we are making it.

    We are also buying a 31-acre parcel of land a few towns over so we can finally start producing our own food. We will be closer to our families, and my husband’s job is pretty portable, with a nursing home just two miles away or so from the land so that will help keep fuel costs down.

    We don’t have any credit cards, and therefore no associated debt, we can afford to apply all of our income to our living expenses. Our local supermarket is jumping on the “Buy Local” bandwagon, and has started showcasing farmers from within our state as some of their producers. Around here, local means pretty much all of New England, rather than just in the state. I am really very grateful to live in this part of our state because it has always been very local-oriented.

    When we get our money from China later this week, I need to get an eye exam for nighttime driving glasses, I want to get dental visits in for hubby and me, and a bike for me.

    So overall, we aren’t feeling the crunch as bad as some folks are, even if we are insane for buying land in the middle of the housing crisis. :)

  48. Steve H. says:

    I’ve been pretty well insulated so far.

    I haven’t owned a car for almost twenty years, so any direct impact there is minimized. My transit fees haven’t been increased yet, although I except that they will have to be raised. Whatever the amount, I expect it to be far less than I’d be paying for gas if I owned a car.

    My electrical consumption, here in Baltimore, is rather minimal. At times, the only electrical devices I use are the refrigerator and my laptop. At night, I rely upon a twenty-watt desk lamp for my illumination, much like people of the last century would have a single lamp at night to illuminate what they were working on.

    I don’t own a television, stereo system, VCR, DVD player or game console. I don’t have cable television. I rely upon my laptop and my DSL connection for my information and entertainment, and I try to remember to shut these down when I’m not home.

    Last summer, I used my window air conditioner a total of two days to make my guests comfortable. I didn’t use my space heater over the winter, relying upon the minimal heat the landlord provides.

    As a result of these measures, my electric bill now hovers around $US13 per month.

    I’m currently not doing any cooking for myself. I go through periods of time when I primarily eat out. The restaurants I frequent haven’t raised their prices at all, perhaps eating any extra costs to encourage more customers and avoid losing business.

    I’ve lived in my current apartment here in Baltimore for four years. The rent has been increased once in that time, from $US500 to $US520. Heat, hot water and cooking gas are included. I live in the center of the city, and every basic need is within walking distance. I commute to my office by train.

    So I’m not hurting from fuel, energy, housing or food prices, really. I have a cushion that will last over three years of my basic expenses.

    Here’s my one worry, and I haven’t seen this concern addressed anywhere: I have HIV and I rely upon expensive medications month after month to keep my condition under control. I’m healthy as long as I’m on the meds, but if TSHTF, my health will deteriorate rapidly.

    I can make other adjustments in my life and live frugally, but if the pills stop coming, I’m not going to last long. I’m not the only person in this boat; cancer survivors, transplant patients, heart patients… the list goes on.

    My reliance on these meds means that I must have health insurance, so I can’t opt out of my day job. There’s 31 acres of land with a house, septic system and well for $US110,000 six hours away in Pennsylvania that I’d love to snatch up and settle on, but I can’t make it work if I’m tied to my job.

    Folks, pay attention to your health. Chronic health conditions put you on a short leash.

  49. J shepard says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for years and finally decided to add a comment, better late than never. My family (my wife and two kiddos – 10 year old veteranarian wana-be girl and 8 year old goat and chicken harasser boy) reside on two acres about twenty miles south of Seattle. I ran a small CSA for a few years but the price of water was a killer so I scaled back to just supplying friends and family in veggies. Last year after seeing the really fast run up in food and fuel prices I decided to take the bull by the horns and quicken my pace of trying to transform our property into a profitable little farm. I took a small loan from my (falling) 401K and am now in the middle of several projects that my neighbors think are sure proof that I’m a certified nut. A little taste of what I’m doing:

    Bought a 5,000 sq ft pond liner to make a fish/irrigation pond (we get plenty of rain here …. Excepting June, July and August. Ouch!

    Started digging in a root/beer/wine cellar under the house. Should finish sometime in August of this year. Will use lots of rock I have collected on the property in the concrete walls. (My wife had taken to calling me the breakout mole last summer)

    Started clearing more area for pasture. Plan to eventually have enough for at least one milk cow or several large milking goats.
    Doubling the size of the garden this summer. Hope to get to around ½ acre eventually.

    Added to the chicken “herd” this spring. I’m a sucker for the early spring chicks at the local feed store (and my wife hasn’t a jealous bone in her body)

    Started clearing more area to expand my fruit orchard, which already has at least ten different fruit varieties.

    I guess like most folks in the peak oil know, I’m planning for the worst and hoping for the best.

    Ps
    This weekend my wife made her first batch of homemade laundry detergent. It’s feels good to finally not be seen as a peak oil nut by the spouse. Now I’ve graduated to just normal nut status.

  50. ncbill says:

    I found it interesting you talked about property taxes.

    The house where I grew up, which we sold for $500,000 over 20 years ago (nearly 6000 sq.ft.), is on the market for double that.

    But property taxes over those same 20 years have quadrupled!

    Wonder what awaits the new owner over the next 20 years.

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