Archive for June 8th, 2008

Time For a Check In?

Sharon June 8th, 2008

So oil went up $11 on Friday, while the stock market dropped 3%.  Unemployment is up, and reports of a recovery are greatly exaggerated.  And most importantly, the word bubble is started to get scraped off the oil price jump:

But many analysts say that fundamentals, not speculation, are driving prices.

I don’t know how else to say it, this is not a bubble,” Jan Stuart, global oil economist at UBS, said. “I think this is real. There is a whole bunch of commercial buyers out there who are spooked and are buying. You are an airline, right now, you’re scared. I don’t see who would buy at these prices unless they need to.”

Jeffrey Harris, the chief economist at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who was speaking before a Senate committee last month, said he saw no evidence of a speculative bubble in commodities. Instead, Mr. Harris pointed to a confluence of trends that has contributed to the oil price rally, including a weak dollar, strong energy demand from emerging economies, and political tensions in oil-producing countries.

“Simply put, the economic data shows that overall commodity price levels, including agricultural commodity and energy futures prices, are being driven by powerful fundamental economic forces and the laws of supply and demand,” Mr. Harris said. “Together these fundamental economic factors have formed a ‘perfect storm’ that is causing significant upward pressures on futures prices across the board.”

Who’d a thunk it?  You mean peak oil is a real thing?  Shocked.  Shocked, I say!  Note that this is the New York Times, not me ;-)

But more seriously, let’s be blunt, even for the best prepared of all of us, this sucks badly.  All of us are feeling the scraping at our budgets, at least a little, and I know that some people are really hurting.  So I thought it would be worth doing an update on how this is looking in your neck of the woods?  How’s your family doing?  What you are seeing in your neighborhood that you haven’t seen before?

The New York State Budget strips the Universities pretty badly, so Eric is losing a lot of sleep about his job.  Now we made the choices we did pretty consciously – he doesn’t have tenure.  He’s been offered tenure track jobs at smaller Universities (he wants to teach, not do bench science), but turned them down because our long term estimate was that all of them were more likely to either dump him before he got tenure or go under completely if the economy tanked.  Eric teaches one of the largest classes at his University – 1/4-1/3 of all SUNY Albany students go through is class, so he makes the University literally millions of dollars a semester, and they pay him about half what they’d pay a similarly qualified research scientist.  Our bet was that Eric will look like a good deal to the University.  We may lose that bet – of course, we could lose the other way around.  But it is tough on him, because he loves, loves, loves his work. 

Otherwise, we’re not hurting too much, although we may have to cut back on stocking up a little.  We’re lucky – Eric’s off for the summer and so we’re hoping to go to driving only two or at most three days a week, and of course with the garden kicking in, and a reserve of stored food mostly bought at lower prices, we can economize.  The problem, of course is that I’m reluctant to dig into stores right now, since I think times are only going to get tougher all around. 

Lots of new gardens popping up around here, and lots more people asking me serious questions about energy and the economy.  The place I’ve gotten some plastic buckets from is saying they’re going to have to start charging me, and that’s ok - their costs are going up too.  A fair bit of economic strain among folks I know.  But mostly, a lot of hoping and praying that things will get better while there’s still a little hope of fixing the worst. 

 How about you?

 Sharon

Independence Day Update – Late Again, but Much to Report

Sharon June 8th, 2008

Ok, finally, a good one.  Sorry I’m late again.  We’ve had a lot of heavy thunderstorms, and so some of the time I’ve been planning to devote to the computer I haven’t been able to – and I admit, I’ve been slacking off on screen time.

 But the good news is that things are coming together rapidly.  Here’s what I’ve done so far:

 Plant something – Oh yeah – Tomatoes, Peppers (sweet and hot), leeks, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, beets, savory, rosemary, lavendar, carrots, bush beans, snapdragons, johnny jump ups, evening primrose, licorice, fennel, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, watermelon, dry beans, bacopa, stevia, lemon balm, gotu kola, rau om, cilantro, epazote, malvas, hollyhocks, marigolds,  mullein, lambs ears, rhubarb, petunias, flossflower, dill, borage, mother of thyme, lemon thyme, cabbage, echinops, caraway, cumin, garlic chives, artichokes, good king henry, blueberries, bush cherries, American persimmons, ginkos, blackberries, concord grapes, saskatoon, goumi, pawpaw, old roses.

Still tons more to go, but catching up!

 Harvest something: Rhubarb, asparagus, spinach, arugula, lettuce, chive blossoms, plantain, willow bark, a couple of wild strawberries.

Preserve something: willow bark tincture, rhubarb sauce, chive blossom vinegar, dog biscuits.

Store something: Bought 4 cases of canning jar lids, 5 lbs of cocoa (came in a slightly damaged package and the coop was selling it for $.50 lb, even though the seal was good), at a yard sale someone had a huge box of unopened packages of Goodnights (required at Eli’s school – he’s not allowed to wear cloth diapers) for $3 package – we bought ’em all – saved like $7 package, more canning jars from freecycle, 10lbs dried cranberries.  Bought a ton of children’s books for $5 at a school library sale, including some comic books that I’m saving for when Simon is older – he’d like them now, but they’d be trashed in a week, and he’ll appreciate them more in a couple of years (shhh…don’t tell him ;-) ).

Manage Reserves: Sorted through some of the older buckets and consolidated them, and cleaning the storage closet is on the agenda for today. I haven’t done it yet, though, so it probably doesn’t count.  Also, went around and made a new, current non computerized list in my plant notebook of what varieties of small fruit and trees we have, so that if the computer ever gets  fried, and I haven’t (as usual) printed the latest, I’ll remember which apple is where.  Stacked some of the remaining firewood we’ve got, and tried to realistically estimate how much of the standing dead stuff I’m likely to bring down this year (given that I didn’t do it when I should have in the winter because of the book) and also given that a. I won’t use a chainsaw and b. I won’t take down any tree that makes me remotely nervous, which lets out a bunch), and how much I can persuade my BIL (with chainsaw and more nerve than me) to take down for me on shares if I help buck it up.  Mulled over whether it was worth buying wood now when it is comparatively cheap and a neighbor is selling, or if I actually will have enough.  Did nothing about it.  Considered the merits of building a woodshed.  Did nothing about it ;-)

Prepped: I have a line on a free futon, which would mean that all the rooms that didn’t have one of us in (or a kitchen) in it had a good sized bed.  At the moment, including the bunk beds my kids never actually sleep in, besides the six of us, we could sleep eight additional people comfortably, although I’ve also got some carpet scraps that would make pallets.  Getting up to 10 wouldn’t be bad, given that I’ve got several weekends this year just for pleasure when our house is going to be at maximum bed capacity already.  I figure since I’ve had no luck getting anyone to come share the house with us so far, I might as well prepare to operate a hotel ;-) .  Scored a free truckload of composted horse manure, and happened to be at Agway when they were dumping some ripped bags of composted manure.  Started to build a chicken tractor.

Worked on Local Food Systems: Gave some herbs to a neighbor, agreed to share our hay barn with a neighbor who has horses, in exchange for splitting the haying on both of our properties.  Wrote a prospectus for a local soup kitchen to use getting a local office park to donate its land and some corporate charitable donations to a soup kitchen garden.  Began working on a menu for our synagogue’s local foods meals during our yearly Kallah.  Talked to my friend who owns the bulk store (which also as a deli attached) about collecting her food scraps for our chickens and worms.  Showed a neighbor how to build a self-watering container for her elderly mother to grow tomatoes in.

Reduced Waste: Made a policy that any food scrap, no matter how small, needs to go into the critter food bins *before* it ends up in the sink.  My children have been dumping plates unscraped into the sink.  Enforced.  Tried to figure out a way to ensure that no oatmeal ever gets to the gloopy stage at which no one but Eric will eat it – have not yet succeeded.  Am working on having Eric eat last ;-) .

Learned a skill: How to do whole knee replacements on jeans. 

 Ok, that’s more like it!  How about y’all?

 Sharon