Far Past Our Father’s Land – What Are You Seeing?

Sharon March 27th, 2009

I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but Aaron and I are still collecting stories (and images) of the New Depression for a book/website/video – who knows.  If you haven’t seen my account of this project, you can check it out here: http://sharonastyk.com/2008/12/09/far-past-our-fathers-land-stories-from-the-greater-depression/

 So tell me (or put in a link to your blog) – what are you seeing in your neck of the woods?  How are events unfolding?  What is life like for you and your neighbors now?  What has changed?  What’s still the same?

Thank you for sharing, 


65 Responses to “Far Past Our Father’s Land – What Are You Seeing?”

  1. cynon 27 Mar 2009 at 8:59 am

    Hello to all,
    I have recently been witness to the caravan of homeless (mostly middle aged women) with their shopping carts down my very white, middleclass neighborhood street, on their way to the nearby park by the river… God Bless them. Cyn

  2. Michelleon 27 Mar 2009 at 8:59 am

    We are facing job loss, but had the foresight to plan ahead for it. We think on our feet, which sort of sounds like you and Eric, (the farmer :>)).

    Here is a link to my post about the lay off for us:http://www.leavingexcess.com/2009/03/anatomy-of-lay-off-in-slow-motion.html

    Beyond that we are working to live with less, do more ourselves and starting this growing season, focusing on growing/storing our own and eating foods locally grown by small farms.

    I have no idea what the future holds – between peak fossil fuels, climate change and economic woes, it is hard to know which thing to address first, but in the end less is more and simple is the new black.

  3. Jennieon 27 Mar 2009 at 9:06 am

    The most striking thing I’ve noticed is a complete lack of job security. No one I know looks forward to Fridays anymore. Fridays are when people get fired.
    Fridays are when banks go under.
    Most of people I know go to work on Fridays convinced they will be the next one to get that pink slip.

  4. YiddisheMamaon 27 Mar 2009 at 9:27 am

    I’m mostly worried about folks…I think that my partner’s job is pretty safe she is an independant homehealth care aide, so we are used to her having to find new clients when one can no longer stay at home or passes away but the jobs are there. As the stay at home parent I have been working on storing up more food, planting a bigger garden, making more quilts and this year instead of good will getting out grown clothes or unwanted items they went into a plastic bin “in case someone we know should need them) we have practiced living on less for years now and are thankful that we have no debt on basic living to cover. The reason I am worried about others is that I see no sign of them realizing what is going on. I try to talk to folks but most just stare at me like I have lobsters coming out of my ears. I agree with sharon that community is security but I am not sure that people are getting it. The Temple is having some sort of Las Vegas night fund raiser (I don’t know what it really is I don’t attend there so don’t have the info) and my Shul’s men’s club just had a night out for the guys for the guys that was at a fancy restraunt and a speaker about where to invest money. Seems to me like the matress is as good a place as any. (Joke) I do worry that people don’t see what is coming and I am afraid that it is going to be bad.

  5. Whereawayon 27 Mar 2009 at 10:10 am

    For the moment, at least, me and my immediate family are doing well. I figure I’ve got 3 months of job security before the next round of layoffs hit the company I’m working for.

    My wife’s web based business (hand crafted lampshades) has seen about a 20% drop in business from last year, but that’s quite manageable for us.

    Given that, we’re continuing to prepare ourselves – increasing our food stores, saving, and slowly purchasing those things that will be useful or needed if the power goes out.

    Our greater family and friends are being impacted. My oldest son gets a masters in computer science this spring. The job he wanted, and was the leading candidate for, was frozen by the hiring company. Now – he has a number of other companies interested in him, but he’s starting to worry about the economy.

    We have numerous friends who’ve been laid off, or had hours significantly reduced. A couple of our younger friends have moved back in with their parents.

    Our charity donations have changed from global donations like ‘The Heifer Project’ to the local food bank. It’s my expectation that there’s a real chance we’ll be need the food bank ourselves at some point in the next couple of years.

    Almost every commercial building in Colorado Springs – from strip malls to office complexes – has an ‘Available’ sign in front of it.

    I, and most of my friends, are in the odd emotional state of ‘waiting for the shoe to drop’ (except for those friends for whom it already has). It’s an odd, anxiety ridden place to be.


  6. ChristyACBon 27 Mar 2009 at 10:18 am

    Here we have a fairly stable job market however I am seeing a lot more houses that remain on the market. Lots and lots of them. Even though most of them are older, they are on large lots with good soil and far less distance to travel for commutes than outlying suburbs.

    I agree with a previous commenter in that people don’t seem to get it.

    These houses are being left unsold, but as prices are going down in the far off suburbs with their tiny lots yet prestigious addresses are the ones being sold. I really think people are still under the assumption that they are getting a good deal on those with the lower prices.

    Bad choices are still being made!

  7. Nettleon 27 Mar 2009 at 10:27 am

    My city (Philadelphia) is experiencing a budget crisis and there’s all sorts of talk about cutting back basic services – there was an uproar lately when they tried to close a bunch of libraries and the neighborhoods came out big against that. We just found out that property taxes are going WAY up next year. We own a duplex and rent out half of it. I’m afraid we might need to raise rent to cover taxes just when the tenants can’t afford it. Even if we don’t most other property owners will. I expect to see even more homelessness when those new taxes hit.

    In better news, my local farmer’s market has expanded enough that they’re talking about building a pavilion for it – right now, it’s just on the sidewalk but they get such crowds that there’s no room anymore. It’s gotten huge. We’ve been using the same CSA for a few years now and our farmer warned us to get our checks in early for the summer to make sure we got a slot – she expected to sell out of shares really fast.

  8. Willowon 27 Mar 2009 at 11:14 am

    In our town workers of every stripe are being laid off. It is so bad that the city is putting on a free workshop, “How To Survive The Recession”. The city, county, and state have closed 45 parks because they have no money to run them, so unemployed people can’t even sit in the park now. Almost all the parks near our house are closed. Many houses on the market unsold and empty. Foreclosures. People who lived alone are starting to consolidate living situations. I know students who lived in their cars or on couches this winter while going to school because their minimum wage jobs dried up. I am supposed to graduate college in June, but every professional person I speak to says, “Don’t do it! Stay as long as you can! There are NO jobs.” Our food bank is overwhelmed and unequal to the need.

    The neat stuff: Our neighborhood church is converting their baseball field to a community garden. I see a great many lawns being partially or totally converted to vegetable gardens in our neighborhood, that is good. The other Apocalyptos are coming out of the woodwork and finding me, so that is fun to plan gleaning parties and canning parties and stone soup potlucks where we can talk about the collapse with our eyes twirling. It is so nice to be understood!

    We have a good sense of community here that is only getting stronger, and even though these are worrying times, I think beneficial social restructuring will come of it so long as people don’t lose hope.

  9. Shambaon 27 Mar 2009 at 11:43 am

    In our small complex, two units are now for sale and 2 are for rent. I don’t think anyone has even glanced at the 2 for sale and they have been there for at least 6 months each. I know the people who own the rentals and they are in no big hurry for a resident, when they find one it will be fine. that’s kind of interesting but they are older people and may have the rentals paid off, i don’t know.

    Where I used to work for the state has been cut very badly in the past 3 months and that’s only for the 2009 budget year. what happens in the 2010 budget?! :(
    People let go, half the staff hours slashed in half (those have all been restored to 30 hours a week instead of 20) and threat of each week not knowing what’s coming next week.

    Large local food bank sent out info on how in Feb 2009 they had a 90 percent increase of use from Feb of 08. Director hasn’t seen things so bad in 40 some years of being associated with this particular food bank.

    that’s the latest local news I have,


  10. Jerryon 27 Mar 2009 at 11:58 am

    I will give a small farm perspective to what is happening down on the farm. The price of milk has dropped to the point of we are receiving less than a dollar a gallon. Our cost of production is probably fifty cents more. I’m afraid there will be no local dairyman left after the dust settles.
    Our family is better suited to survive because we pasture our cows with rotational grazing keeping our costs for feed lower for seven months out of the year. What the future brings is anybody’s guess.
    I’m also a selectman in our small town that just purchased a former mental hospital with a 30 million dollar cleanup cost. I was dead set against this purchase and think it will eventually bankrupt the town. The powers that be think they can find developers to assume the cleanup costs. They all think the economy is going to rebound to build a car dependent development next to the two Indian casinos that just had their bond ratings dropped. One of them halted construction on their new thirty story hotel and the other is laying off employees. When the town passed the purchase of the property I gave the residents of town some economic advice plant a garden.

  11. Phil Plasmaon 27 Mar 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Here in Montreal there are still very few signs of anything changing. There is of course all of the media talking about economic slowdowns but the shopping malls are still busy from personal and anecdotal evidence. Just this week there was a news article about downtown restaurants and business owners wanting a change in the parking-meter schedule to allow for more free parking so that they can help to improve access to their businesses.

    There are big infrastructural plans for this city planned for the next five to ten years. The money is budgeted for these projects but who knows if all of the energy and resources will be as available five to ten years from now as they are right now.

    In December 2007 we moved such that I am much closer to work, so even though fuel is at 95 cents a litre (30-40 cents more then the last time oil was at 50$/barrel), we can swallow that without any problem.

    The jobs for my wife and I appear to be safe at least for the next few months.

    I am doubling the size of my garden this year and will be installing rain barrels. I also plan on purchasing the equipment needed to tap my maple trees for sap so that next spring I’ll be ready.

    The last thing I want to mention is about how my house is heated – I have dual energy with an electric heat pump and an oil furnace. The oil furnace only comes on when the temperature drops below -12C, but still we go through about 2200L of oil per winter season. I’ve been seriously considering the idea of purchasing an outdoor wood boiler. In the short to medium term I would be purchasing compressed sawdust firewood logs (http://www.labuche.ca/), but it would mean that in the long term I could use any wood.

  12. dogear6on 27 Mar 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Even with all the layoffs and bankruptcies, we do not see much change. The restaurants and malls are still crowded, as are the roads. Weekends are still hopping most everywhere.

    The people I know personally who were laid off are upbeat. They have interest in their resumes (although not necessarily in this area) and are interviewing. None of them are overly worried about landing somewhere.

    The hubby and I are buying food on sale and storing it to build up our stash – fresh, frozen and canned. It is amusing to watch myself at this – each time a layoff happens at work, my first reaction is to go get more for the stash.

    We plan to put in a better garden this year (last year it failed miserably) mostly because of a lack of good farmer’s market in less than an hour drive. We’ve also cheapened our meals, going back to how we used to cook 20+ years ago in our marriage. More rice, beans and eggs, less eating out.

    When we moved last year, we gave up our live-in-the-country dream to be closer to work, shopping and our life. The cars only get filled up every 2-3 weeks. I buy fewer books and go to the library more.

  13. Williamon 27 Mar 2009 at 12:29 pm

    We live a quarter-mile off a state highway in rural Western Oregon. The 50 or so log trucks that used to stream by each day have been reduced to 4 or 5. The sawmill 16 miles to the North of us has been permanently shut down after more than 100 years of continuous operation. The school 3 miles to the South of us closed mid-year due to falling enrollment. Hard times here.

  14. curiousalexaon 27 Mar 2009 at 12:29 pm

    I’m not seeing much change here in suburban Chicagoland. I’ve had one friend laid off, but with a pretty decent severance package so they don’t seem too worried. Everyone else I know is pretty much saying “wow, it sucks out there, glad I’m snug in here” without seeming to acknowledge their dependency on ‘out there’. I hope that I’m simply not privy to their more private concerns.

    My own family is facing an interesting conundrum – the doctor in the family has been offered an ideal position…in Ohio. umm. [wry grin] So one person will be well employed (he’s a geriatrician/palliative care specialist – he’ll keep busy!) but what about the others? Being an anti-social bunch, we all want several wooded acres in the middle of nowhere, and I’m the only one concerned about continued transportation feasibility. It’s an amazing opportunity, and a really really tough choice.

  15. Ravenon 27 Mar 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Lots of houses for sale in Montana. People are trying to go “back” to wherever it was they lived first – Oklahoma, California, etc. – so they can be near family, but nobody’s buying houses right now. Lots of expanded gardens, though we have an absurdly short season here. My church is turning what was going to be extra parking into a community garden and redoubling their efforts to support young single moms. Several people I know are getting backyard poultry this spring. :)

    As for shopping, I see some stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond holding desperate-looking sales and no cars in the parking lot. The mall here is always a ghost town so that’s no big difference. But the Good Samaritan thrift store and Goodwill sure are hopping these days.

    We’re putting our tax refund into the pantry, instead of the bank.


  16. MEAon 27 Mar 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Here in central NJ I’ve noticed stealth homeless in the indoor malls and the public libraries. They may not be homeless– they may be couch sleepers (usually not allowed inside between 6am and 10pm) or people who still have a home but are looking for a warm place inside. And, of course, becuase they are very, very good at blending in, I may be mistaking a few none homeless people for them.

    That’s the big change here. The fact the soup kitchen is running all it’s programs (education, transitional housing, etc. as well as feeding) on a wing and the prayer is old news at this point.

  17. MEAon 27 Mar 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Forgot to mention, the circulation of Romances, SF and Mystery is up, up, up, at the library. Also books on gardening and living cheaply.

  18. Iraon 27 Mar 2009 at 2:22 pm

    We live in N. Arizona as the rare Jews in a Mormon community. The Mormons seem to have a great support system, to include stockpiling food and repairing their horsedrawn farm implements for the hard times. We are also stockpiling our basic needs, though ammo seems to have disappeared from the shelves of our stores. Some businesses have closed. The school district will be laying off some teachers, assistants, and administrative personnel, as well as eliminating medical benifits for anyone who works less than a 40 hour week.

  19. Anon-in-GAon 27 Mar 2009 at 3:11 pm

    My state’s unemployment rate is nearing 10%, but there are areas relatively close that are as high as 21%. We live in a rural area, and the convenience stores between my home & work are struggling; shelves & coolers are mostly empty, and when I asked about it, they told me it was “the recession.” They all have one owner, and his suppliers have all switched to cash-only; all 28 of his stores are sharing what stock he can afford to buy. The local Wal-Mart is strange, too. They’ve removed a lot of their display shelves and the store aisles are HUGE now. We do have some industry still building in our county, but we’ve lost far more jobs than we’re bringing in.

    My company’s “voluntary attrition plan” concluded today. They wanted to reduce the workforce by 300-400; at last count, 555 had accepted the package. The budget is insanely tight; we didn’t get our annual raises this year (first time in the company’s history), and system maintenance … well, I don’t know how they’re going to maintain an electric grid and generating plants with no money. :/ I desperately wanted to take the package, but they wouldn’t let me go, so I guess my job is relatively safe for now.

    My dh works in industrial maintenance/welding. His hours were cut, starting last week, and the chemical plant where he works will probably be cutting production even more, and soon. So, we’ll see how that goes.

    We live very close to family, and have an extended family of neighbors that we’re also very close to. Together, we total 14 people: 10 adults & 4 children. Of the 10 adults, 2 of us have fairly secure jobs, 3 have iffy employment, 3 are surviving on pensions/SS, and 2 are unemployed. Thankfully, we are all on pretty much the same page, prep-wise, and are hitting the gardening HARD.

    The people I work with seem to be fairly oblivious, but “on-the-street,” the tension is mounting.

  20. Erinthebeekeeperon 27 Mar 2009 at 3:29 pm

    I live in Oklahoma. The very name of the state brings to mind the images of the dust bowl, hunger, windswept barren lands, mass exodus. I think that because this state got hit harder than any other in the depression there is a collective gut, a collective understanding of something wrong on the horizon. There is a resigned sense of foreboding that is almost universal here. My elderly neighbor and I were talking a few days ago. She grew up in the depression here, and just got sad in the middle of the conversation and said she was to old to do this again. I asked her to explain further and she said, that last year was 1929, we have about two years before things get really bad.

    People are stocking up. Sure the stuff they are stocking up on is useless. How long will six boxes of nutrigrain bars last. But there is a sense that something is up. I have noticed sometimes the rice is all gone from sams club, dried beans are hard to find at walmart, and there is never ammo anymore. Mason jars are a hot commodity!

    We have here been fairly untouched by the recession. Last month was the first month that we posted higher unemployment numbers. Home values are still rising on paper, and poverty isn’t something people are really dealing with here. However, people are renewing a sense of community and value in living intentionally with one another. That is the biggest most important thing that will get us through whatever is coming.

  21. FarmerAmberon 27 Mar 2009 at 3:30 pm

    In central Kansas things are starting to happen. My brother’s employer just completed their second round of layoffs. While my brother still has a job, he’s been moved departments and is now doing a job that someone else was laid off from. Where I work (a factory with about 650 employees), we have about 150 extra people every day painting walls and cleaning. I can’t imagine that will continue – layoffs are only a matter of time is the common opinion. I think I will survive round 1, but all bets are off after that. I am the only income for my family of 4 so this is a major concern. Other employers in the area have laid off hundreds already. Food pantries are being hit hard. Lots of people are interested in gardening now that haven’t been before. I’m helping a community garden and it seems like we have new people signing up every week. I really relate to the other commenter that said its just a matter of waiting for the other shoe to drop. My husband has started picking up odd jobs for friends to make a little extra money and we’re going to try to grow some produce from our garden to sell. Every little bit helps. I’m thankful that I started reading this over a year ago and it spurred us to speed up our preparations. I don’t think we would be as far along now if we hadn’t. Thank you. Now I’m focusing on helping the other people I know prepare.

  22. Linda Son 27 Mar 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Nothing much has changed here on my sandbar in the Gulf of Mexico. Most of my neighbors are fifty-something retirees with no job worries. That’s both the good news and the bad news. With the exception of me, myself and I, everyone (including Hubby Dear) expects things to return to normal by the end of this year or early next.

    As for me, I’m trying desperately to learn skills I may need in the very near future. My efforts at gardening are rather comic (see my blog at http://homesteadingonasandbar.blogspot.com/). I have done some gardening before, but always with real dirt and no salt winds.

    Sharon’s post on ‘adapting-in-place and when not to’ really hit a nerve. I know we cannot survive here longterm. Sooner or later, another hurricane will wipe out any garden I may plant (this yard has been flooded at least five times already), and losing our house altogether is an everpresent possibility. And I’d like to have chickens, but what would I do with them the next time we have to evacuate?

    Leaving is not an option for now. For one thing, property on our street has been virtually unsellable since hurricane Ivan in 2004 (right after we moved in!) and secondly, my things-will-get-back-to-normal hubby loves it here and would never consider moving as long as the house stands. So I find myself hoping for disaster sooner rather than later. Odd place to be in my life.

  23. TheNormalMiddleon 27 Mar 2009 at 5:04 pm

    I live in semi-rural NC. We have lots of manufacturing jobs (mainly furniture, textiles, etc) and they are going under very quickly. The move to China hurt us years ago, but the factories continue to close left and right.

    Several people in my family have been laid off or let go completely. My husband is on short time at his job and because he’s in the automotive industry, it is quite touch and go. I am a middle school teacher; however not as safe as one might think. Due to the huge NC budget deficit, we will be losing 7% of our budget and about 150 teachers in my county will be let go. We were told today at my school that we only get one trash can a week to fill up now because they’re cutting back on janitorial staff and the cost of trash bags is too high (?!?!?)

    We have been trying for years to prepare ourselves. I garden, I cut everyone’s hair, we use the library, etc. We drive old paid for cars that we can fix ourselves for the most part.

    However, little has changed for many people around here. A coworker of mine just paid merry maids several hundred dollars for a one-time spring cleaning. She makes a little more than I do. Friends of ours are still shopping into oblivion and they think WE are the weird ones for staying home on Friday nights and eating leftovers for lunch instead of going out with the gang each day.

    It’s all about perspective and priorities. And until the big bad wolf knocks on your door, you really don’t know what you’ll do.

    Experience is the best teacher I guess.

  24. Sarahon 27 Mar 2009 at 5:11 pm

    We had layoffs at work in January, and are bracing for another round by the end of the fiscal year — our union may have bargained with the administration to not give us an expected raise in exchange for not laying anyone else off. I don’t know if that’s actually going to be binding, but they really can’t lay off anyone else from my department before the library stops working. Two people quit on their own besides the one who was laid off, and there’s a bit of a “rats leaving the sinking ship” feeling. On the plus side, us brave little rats left clinging to the timbers are now indispensable until the university folds (quite possible, but unlikely in the very near future; things aren’t *that* bad yet). The rest of us are having a sort of survivors’ guilt at this point…yes, I can honestly say that I’m very good at what I do, but so were most of my coworkers who got laid off. I just happen to have a less disposable position. In terms of actual personal finances, I’m doing great. Which feels weird and unfair, and I’m not doing great enough that the amount I can afford to donate to charity feels like it’s significant.

    Our synagogue is starting an effort to join several interfaith organizations in sharing people’s stories about the current state of things and organizing projects to help people based on where those stories show need is. We’re also doing intra-congregational work to figure out how to help people talk about stigmatized troubles like job loss or mental health issues so that they can be properly supported by the community.

    There have been a number of stories in the local papers about former executives now working as janitors or data-entry temps, and how that’s affecting people’s sense of self-worth.

  25. Ponyon 27 Mar 2009 at 6:33 pm

    My neighbor and her husband, retired professionals, have volunteered at the Cancer Society “Discovery Shop”, for several years. She tells me that the shop is having a hard time getting enough donations to keep the shop operating. If there’s no stock, shoppers won’t come. Perhaps people are not replacing things, but making do for a while until they see how things shake out.

  26. Annieon 27 Mar 2009 at 6:34 pm

    I work for the Legislature in my state, Nevada. We have a terrible shortfall in the budget and we are also the highest state on the house foreclosure list. Tourism and gaming, which are our budget mainstays are naturally suffering because of the economy and more and more stores are closing, both chain and local. Restaurants are really feeling the pinch. I have been storing food and supplies for some time now, but have been ramping up because I believe what Sharon said in Depletion and Abundance. My garden will be much bigger this year even though this is not the greatest growing area. We will be adapting in place because we have no choice and besides, I love it here–it’s home. There have been lots of layoffs and rumors upon rumors of more. All in all things look pretty grim. But, the upside is that I’m a firm believer in diy as much as possible and helping others. Perhaps this will do the the American people some good. The sense of entitlement I see all around me makes me very sad, and it’s not just the young people. We all have the entitlement disease to some degree.

  27. Susanon 27 Mar 2009 at 7:45 pm

    As a nurse in one of the trauma centers in Arizona, I can tell you that things are difficult. A year ago I would have said my job was as secure as you could get. That was before I took an hour cut (thankfully they left my pay alone as the outcry hospital wide was huge) and realized that my job is not secure if no one can pay their bills.

    We have only laid off one tech, but the hospital as a whole has laid off housekeepers, cut the hours of those that are left, cut nursing staff to the bone, took away our cost of living and merit raises, and cut food services.

    And yet the emergency room is filled with people every day. The problem is, a great many of those have no insurance, no jobs, and no way to pay for their care. There has already been a great move in society toward using emergency services for primary care due to our insurance nightmare, now this trend is magnifying and accelerating.

    Funny thing though, none of our administrators have agreed to take a pay cut. They did however agree to forgo their bonuses and their travel allowances. And this, at a nonprofit hospital.

  28. Kellion 27 Mar 2009 at 9:20 pm

    My husband’s organization, a non-profit human rights organization, has cut half its staff, and he’s been on 80% pay for the last year. He’s working double-time trying to keep his organization afloat and thinking about what to do next if it doesn’t work out.

    We live in an intentional community dedicated to both sustainable living and serving the poor; the majority of my time is spent on that. If he loses his job, though, there will be changes.

    The poorest in our community are struggling more than ever. But there also seems to be a groundswell of people interested in making changes in their lives to live more simply and sustainably.

  29. Claireon 27 Mar 2009 at 9:35 pm

    The usual here in St. Louis MO – foreclosures, more stores closing, layoffs. Pretty much what most people have said. The one new thing I can add has to do with billboards. Missouri has not managed to pass an anti-billboard law so the highways are littered with them – multiple per mile in some locations. Up until a few months back, nearly all of them were rented out. Now I’d estimate that maybe 1/3, perhaps more, of the ones I pass by on a regular basis sport the information that they are available for rental. If I think of it, I’ll do a billboard census on I-170, which I drive the entire length of about once a week.

  30. zucchinion 27 Mar 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Here in Central Florida, layoffs are everywhere: the Mouse laid off several hundred people this week, including someone my husband has worked with on occasional freelance gigs. His wife still has her part-time job, but they have three small children to feed. Luckily my husband works with a very tightly-knit family-oriented company, so I’m sure they will rally round to help the family out as needed. But it is interesting to note that this company, a small start-up a few years old which had been doing well, also shows some signs of tightening the belt: for the secretary’s birthday last fall, they all went to lunch at a very nice restaurant. For one of the owner’s birthdays this month, they had a potluck lunch at the office.

    The school district has announced that they are expecting to be $240 million (yes, that’s right) in the hole for the coming school year, based on sharply decreasing sales tax and property tax revenues, as well as declining enrollment. They will be laying off many, many people, probably cutting out all freshman sports programs, and closing at least six schools. The last one is what really gets me. My vision of school closings happens out in some western ghost town, where the jobs have dried up and people have moved away, not in downtown Orlando! I have been staying home since my son was born in ‘06, and it’s looking like I will not be able to get my teaching job back when/if I need to go back to work.

  31. conchscooteron 27 Mar 2009 at 10:32 pm

    In Key west life goes on much as normal. The oblivious attitude of the majority means many hotels, bars and restaurants report an excellent winter season despite lower rates and fewer numbers overall. People are leaving the Keys but a certain number of “permanent residents” always do at the end of the winter season, so its hard to say if that’s the economy or the usual attrition rate. Homes are for sale but they always have been and though prices have dropped it’s still impossible to find a ready to occupy single family home in the city for less than $500,000- though there are fixer uppers for 3-400,000 dollars. Rentals remain expensive.
    The city budget is in good shape with a 12 million dollar surplus, enough to pay off a lost lawsuit costing eight million dollars. Overtime is frozen, as is most hiring, though I work for the police department (as a civilian dispatcher) so I’m as recession proof as anything is these days. I don’t relish the prospect of law enforcement post apocalypse. Pay cuts are likely when this depression drags out longer than my bosses expect so the question will be whether we will be able to cover the mortgage with whatever they do pay us… My wife is a tenured teacher so has reasonable job prospects as long as we still have a civilized society.
    Hurricanes are always a possibility, like the Red River flooding or California burning down from time to time. It all depends how you want to lose your home I guess. We have a rainwater cistern at home, with an outside fireplace for alternative cooking and no need for heating year round. Air conditioning is nice in summer but not critical for survival. We grow a small garden in planters, we have access to fish and the by-product of living in small islands in the hurricane belt isia tight knot community of people used to power outages and living on the edge. Having a generator is normal around here having a survival attitude is too. After Wilma flooded us out in 2005 we had no rioting, no violence, no disorder in the Keys. that felt pretty good in a town 70 percent underwater.

  32. Stephon 27 Mar 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Grocery shopping tonight, I noticed that beans are selling faster than they can re-stock and lots of the better cuts of meat have discount stickers to get it sold before the expiration date. Prices are higher and people are shopping carefully. Our little town has a paper mill which let 150 go through layoffs and many more through attrition. People are dejected and struggling here already.

    Dh has survived a few rounds of layoffs and seems fairly safe for the time being but neither of us knows how long we’ve really got. I’ve got 150 chicks on order and a bunch of seeds coming. We now assume there will be no retirement, no foreign travel. Our house hunt has focused on places heated with wood with southern exposure and good gardening soil.

    On the other hand, our old house sold quickly and for a better price than we expected.

  33. Anion 28 Mar 2009 at 10:54 am

    Here in VT we haven’t been directly touched much by the foreclosure problem- we didn’t have lots of subprimes or large housing developments built on spec so we have seen little foreclosures. Houses in my area that are reasonably priced for a first-time home buyer are still selling but those that are aimed at higher levels have had problems. Housing/land prices have not dropped a great deal here so far.

    Unemployment is up a lot- it is officially 7% but that doesn’t reflect all the people who don’t qualify for unemployment and so are not counted in those stats. Many people are in those categories and they get nothing; several carpenters I know of without work are struggling as are farmers, small business owners, laid-off adjunct teachers etc- none get unemployment insurance and don’t count as unemployed.

    The Food Shelf usage is up. The local thrift store is the busiest place in town by far.

    There are literally no jobs out there for the most part- the occasional posting for a p/t sports coach at a school or a calf feeder for a farm, a p/t dogwalker or something. I saw the first ads for people to work with a developmentally delayed person and one to provide a home for one that I’ve seen for awhile- usually those jobs are going begging too but I haven’t even seen listings for these. So the scary thing with all of this is that if one does lose their job there just aren’t any out there to take.

    Stores have been closing- big box stores are not around here but about an hour away there are the ones that closed due to chain failures. A local car dealer has closed.

    Gardening supplies are selling well and canning materials sold super well this year, and I’d expect that to continue.

    A really bad sign too is that a number of festivals and parades have been cancelled this year due to lack of funds, etc- there is a huge Labor Day one that was threatening to not happen if they didn’t get funds and volunteers quickly- I’m not sure what has happened with that one but that is a traditional one with a huge following. It is weird watching the ceasing of activities that we have grown to expect to happen- I wonder if they will resume as they were, in a different perhaps more modest form or just end?

    I’m pretty worried about this coming year; propane prices in this area have skyrocketed and many people heat with propane. Firewood dealers hiked their prices really high last year and I doubt they will want to lower them; I think they figure people are just stuck unless they can cut their own wood and will have to pay the price. I’m waiting to see where the propane price goes and haven’t started dealing with firewood yet…….

  34. Barryon 28 Mar 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Here in the Ohio River Valley we have had jobs outsourced to China/Asia for years, but there are now more people laid off or with hours cut back. A couple of weeks ago the Work Force One offices (unemployment) web sites for both Indiana and Ohio were overwhelmed. Also, several malls around Cincinnati are going to be foreclosed. Went to an open air flea market east of Cincinnati last Sunday, depressing ‘Mad Max’ scene. I am planting an even larger garden this year so that I can plant grains for harvest as well as for cover crops and green manure as in the past-have a copy of Gene Logsdon’s “Small-Scale Grain Raising”. If the garden gets to be a survival tool, grains will help feed us as well as the ‘critters’. The Episcopal Church I attend seems to be sailing on business as usual, don’t think they get it that things are getting rough as most of them are cushioned from the hardships of many of my neighbors.
    My immediate fear is hyper-inflation resulting from the massive budget deficits. What is all that funny money going to do when the banks get paid off by A.I.G.? Are they going to just sit on that money? Buy up even more of the assets in this country? Invest it in China?

  35. Wanna in NJon 28 Mar 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Nothing has changed yet here at the Fort in NJ. New hires are still arriving. Although there is talk going around that if your work does not support current efforts in Afghanistan, its at risk of budget cuts. People are wondering what to do with their investments, has the stock market bottomed out yet? The young think they have enough time til retirement for the stock market to recover. I’ve been slowing selling my 401K stocks into a money market fund since January and will continue to do so til the fall.

    On a personal note, I recently purchased goji berries from Whole Foods and the local asian market. The berries from Whole Foods cost twice as much as from the asian market. Both germinated readily. I would recommend soaking the berries in water for about an hour, then extract out the seeds which are like tiny tomato seeds. There’s about 20 viable seeds per berry. They germinated in 3 days on a wet paper towel in a ziplock on my stove top. I transfered all the sprouted/plump seeds into potting mix and discarded the seeds that didn’t plump up. You can also germinate them directly in potting mix. Sow 3 seeds per pot and keep the strongest seedling. They emerge in about 2 weeks.

    Plant in sunny, permanent location. (You might want to put some chicken wire around it the first year for protection until its roots develop and it grows out of reach of critters.) Its said to be invasive but if you plan on eating it, that may be a good trait.

    It grows into a suckering, thorny, viney, deciduous shrub about 8′x8′. Produces small, purple flowers and red goji berries in its 3rd year. The leaves are edible; we prune and pluck the leaves off the cuttings and add to soup. The berries are tasty, the seeds are so tiny that they are not noticeable.

    It is easily propagated via cuttings of the current years growth in the fall. Place the cuttings in water and plant when roots emerge but give it winter protection the first year since its root system hasn’t had a chance to develop yet. I would put some chicken wire around it and after the leaves dropped, I would stuff with dry leaves for insulation.

    Grows well in temperate zone. I think if you protect it when its young, it can survive in zone 5. If you want to find out more about it, you can google Lycium barbarum.

  36. Debon 28 Mar 2009 at 4:39 pm

    In my rural location in Wisconsin, I dont see much happening pubically which doesnt mean it isnt happening. I dont listen to news much and dont go out much to save on gas costs.

    However, my son was laid off from a huge year round tourist venue in January and the only work he could find was stocking shelves for Walmart overnight. He’s thinking either about moving home or joining the military.

    My daughter is worried she wont be able to go to college since prices for everything, including tuition are up and she cant save enough to cover the tuition costs–she lives at home.

    My husbands day job is secure but he works for a govt funded non profit in renewable and sustainable energy–they may actuallys see an increase in thier budget.

    75% of the savings we have invested in the last 25 years of marriage are gone. I dont foresee any retirement in the near or far future.

    Our LLC is actually doing better against this quarter last year–sales are up and coming in fast every day–we make and sell woodturning lathes for hobby woodturners. Old retired white guys are our demographic and they apparently still have the cash to spend on durable goods.

    The last time I was in the local yarn store/coffee shop to spend some time with friends, the place was hopping and the owner said business is way up from last year. They had the best 4th q last year ever–people are staying home and making things. I spent some time helping a friend darn her hand knit socks–she didnt know how to darn. The yarn store owner asked me if I was willing to teach a class in repair– they are seeing an interest in it.

    I am taking accounting classes for our business at the local tech school and 50% of the students in my classes are displaced workers trying to retrain for a differnt job.

    The grocery store was out of canning lids, canning jars and pickling salt the last time I went there. I go to the store with a fixed list of what I need, a calculator and a budget. Any money leftover to either storage foods or storage containers. I dont buy any mixes, boxed items or precooked, frozen etc.

    I have been doing all the baking at home for 6 months. My daughter and I joined a CSA a mile from our house on a worker share program this summer to learn some basic gardening skills. We plan on biking there.

    We have a neighbor coming down to till up part of an old pasture to get it ready for planting–the daughter is babysitting for him in trade. I am putting in things like rhubarb and tomatoes that I know I can grow and can this summer while I get the soil upgraded from the clay it is right now.

    I spent the winter with the furnace set at 62 degrees during the day and 58 at night– that means most of the rooms were much lower than that since this is an old farmhouse with craptastic heating dispersal. I make all our wool socks, hats, scarves etc from yarn I buy at a local woolen mill’s seconds box. Last time I was there I got 3 lbs of undyed yarn for $2. I will dye it with Koolaid, set the dye with vinegar and soften the colors with leftover coffee grounds. All odds and ends get knit up into lap warmers and shawls for when we arent moving around in the house.

    I am worried.

  37. WNC Observeron 28 Mar 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Western NC checking in:

    Because we have a disproportionately high percentage of retirees living here, and not that much big manufacturing, the unemployment situation has been somewhat muted so far. A lot of those retirees are starting to feel the pinch, though, with both stocks and interest rates being down.

    Because we have so many elderly, and Medicare has not been cut, our health care industry is holding up pretty well, and that is a mainstay for our local economy.

    One of the other big local industries is tourism, and we’re all holding our breath to see how this summer and fall are going to go. It is certain that a lot of households are going to scale back or cut out vacation travel altogether this year; on the other hand, a lot of people who would have traveled to more expensive, distant destinations will now be vacationing at more inexpensive places closer to home, so we might pick up a lot of those. If tourism falls off, then a lot of the camps and conference centers, B&Bs, hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. all do layoffs; that is where a lot of our low-income people find their jobs, they will be the ones worst hit.

    Local governments are having to start cutting back. Most will not be giving their employees any pay increase this next fiscal year; I suspect that most public employees will be happy just to have jobs.

    I’m seeing a lot more houses with “for sale” signs now, and also more small businesses closed; there are a number of vacant retail spaces downtown, usually new stores would be moving in about now. Construction is down sharply, but most things that were planned a year ago and are underway are being finished; I don’t know what they will do when the last of that work is finished.

    At my church last week it was reported that their government board met with officials from the Town Government to find out where there were needs where our church might be able to help. They gave us a very long list, lots of people with problems out there. The director of the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministries (the most active relief-type charity in our community) also spoke at our church a couple of weeks ago; again, the report was that the needs were very extensive, but also a lot of activity going on to try to help. People and resources are being mobilized to ramp up the effort in response. Not much help is coming in from “elsewhere”, it is mostly up to us to look after our own.

    I’m still walking to work each day; I occasionally encounter someone else walking, but I don’t see much evidence of much effort to economize on transport costs yet. I’m seeing a few more bicycles and a few more motor scooters, though. Also I’m starting to see a few electric cars around; the town government where I work is getting its first GEM next week – and I AM excited! I am also seeing quite a few more Toyota Priuses on the road now, just about the only obviously new cars that I’m seeing around.

    I saw a number of people stocking up on firewood this fall, more than in previous years; since we are surrounded by forests, wood heat is an economical alternative, and more people are now heating with wood.

    We have more people than ever – 40 – leasing plots at our community garden. The project is expanding and improving quite a bit; we now have a water tank that receives rain runoff from the roof of the nearby firestation and is piped under gravity pressure to a standpipe at the gardens. Another tool storage shed has been built, and they are getting ready to build a second set of compost bins. In addition to the leased plots, half the land is dedicated for food bank production, using local college students as volunteers. We produced 11,000 lbs for our local food bank, hope to exceed that this year. One issue that was identified by the town and the food bank was that the food bank clients don’t know how to cook or preserve vegetables. I am working with the community garden coordinator to research and prepare a proposal for a community canning kitchen, to be located at a community center where welcome table meals are served to the elderly. There is apparently some grant money for this, so this might fly, and would be the logical next step up from the community garden. If we can get the kitchen set up, then we can offer classes and group projects. Another project I hope to get started on this year is setting up another community garden on the grounds of the college where my wife teaches. I also hope to set up a seed-buying co-op this fall so that we can do a large bulk order of seeds. Once we get that running, the next step would be to identify people willing to produce and save seeds for us locally, becoming our group source of supply.

    I’m seeing evidence that a lot of people are also starting gardens at home. I’ve finally cut down a tree that was casting too much shade on my home garden, and now have room to about double my space there.

    Rainy all weekend, maybe that means the end of the drought. Putting me behind in getting my gardens planted, though. Lots of people put in rain barrels last year.

    An interesting local development that might have big ramifications down the road: a local author, Dr. Wm. Forstchen, has written a new book, “One Second After”. It is about a surprise EMP attack on the US and its aftermath, and the setting is our own community. He even does surprisingly little fictionalization of the town and its people, so they can easily see themselves in what he paints as close to a worst possible scenario. The town survives, barely, but he provides a lot of food for thought as to what we might and should be doing, both individually and collectively, to prepare for various catastrophic scenarios and general harder times that might lie ahead. I am hopeful that the book will provoke a lot of fruitful discussions in the weeks and months ahead.

  38. Donnaon 28 Mar 2009 at 5:36 pm

    We’re in southeastern Wisconsin. On the surface, things have been eerily similar in my immediate locale; we live in a relatively upper-middle class inner-ring suburb (very walkable! three blocks to school!! five to the library and grocer!!!) and people are still going to Disney for spring break, still buying at the malls, and whatnot. But under the surface, I know that many people are dealing with reduced work hours, layoffs, and business closures; lots of parents in my kids’ school are feeling the pinch; there haven’t been any big birthday parties this year (compared to almost every weekend last year) and the social worker at school has been asking for donations of snacks and breakfast items for kids who aren’t coming to school fed or with a snack, and for winter clothing items because they’re seeing kids without proper winter gear.

    Where we see real visual differences is in the downtown area (where DH and I work) and in the more rural area where we go to church; people are desperate. I am in indigent legal services and we are seeing a significant uptick in petty theft and drug dealing arrests, higher incidences of drunk driving and substance abuse, but far fewer social services available to deal with the problems. Lots of homelessness, one of the local day shelters stayed open 24/7 through the worst of the winter, and were at limit, always.

    We personally are very blessed; my husband survived 2 rounds of layoffs at a Fortune 200 company (he said it was the lamb’s blood on the doorpost) and just landed a better position at a smaller company in a more stable industry (long term health care). We are spending money like crazy compared to last year, when we were eliminating debt, but the purchases are long term durable goods investments (desperately needed new kitchen gear, a .22 rifle and ammo, a wood burning stove in the summer, canning supplies, garden supplies) and we have the money in hand an an emergency fund also. I’m buying extra pantry stuff and toiletries and donating a lot to my local food pantry and shelters. We give God ten percent. He’s never been unfaithful.

  39. Mary in MDon 28 Mar 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Some folks are still claiming that DC is recession-proof. We live in one of the oldest burbs and houses are still selling with prices down 5%, but the distant suburbs have tanked. Article in the WashingtonPostMagazine a couple weeks ago about a young couple buying a house in Gaithersburg in a development riddled with cheap foreclosures–they decided to splurge and buy a new one because it wouldn’t need cleaning. Very worried that any delay would mean missing the bottom of the market.
    Our circle is mostly working in non-profits. Nobody’s getting raises and lots of hours cut and layoffs. Talked with someone today who manages 8mill of accounts for a food distributor –he’s getting last year’s bonus in installments and the CEO is working for nothing.
    The Washington Post is about 60% the thickness it was last year.
    Personally, we’re involved with a number of charities–Mayan development, dog rescue, Quaker meeting. All working with much less than we had last year. Dog rescue is all volunteer with no building, not apt to tank but taking on fewer dogs and only as we have fosters available. Quakers still discussing renovation, but it seems unlikely. A friend and I are talking up selling the meeting house and renting a storefront.
    The neighborhood put in a group order for seed. Discussing goats and chickens.

  40. Devin Quinceon 28 Mar 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Well on Wednesday I joined the ranks of the unemployed. We are okay for awhile as we have my vacation pay and our tax return which should last us a around 6-8 months with unemployment and my side gig. We are lucky we are going into the growing season which should help with the money situation. Also having winter stores still is really helping.

    The scariest thing is we run out of insurance on Wednesday so we will be joining the ranks of the uninsured and never to be insured again thanks to insurance companies rules on preexisting condition and lapse in coverage.

  41. MDSFon 29 Mar 2009 at 9:11 am

    Not much has apparently changed here in Santa Fe; I’ve asked various service workers how things have changed, and they typically respond that business is down about 20%.

    Home construction has by and large stopped; at the corner of Miles and Richards there’s a spooky un-neighborhood with streets, lights, and signs and not a single house.

    Many of the Mexicans who worked here, seasonally or year-round, have left, so I see far fewer Mexican license plates in traffic. I haven’t checked the place downtown where the day workers hang out to see what the gangs are like.

    Santa Fe is the state capitol, so we depend a lot on tax revenue, and we’re hearing warnings of state budget shortfalls, but it’s more likely that the state will choose to cut programs in the rest of the state before it starts laying off workers here in town.

    A few chain stores have closed, but not many local businesses (at least not the ones that cater to locals, as opposed to tourists) have closed.

    And Outback Steak House is packed every night of the week.

  42. Steven Earl Salmonyon 29 Mar 2009 at 9:57 am

    I am seeing a world full of many too many avaricious and arrogant leaders who look out for themselves, their cronies and those who hold the political power their wealth has purchased.

    How do we calculate the environmental “sins of omission” and the economic “sins of commission” that have been foisted upon the Earth and the family of humanity in the first eight years of Century XXI? How will our children and history view this brief period of time at the outset of the new millennium when arrogant and greedy, self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe willfully and recklessly chose to “pad their own pockets” and, by their fraudulent efforts, take life as we know it and the living Earth down a descending, primrose path into darkness and to some colossal wreckage, the likes of which only Ozymandias has witnessed.

    If the human community keeps doing precisely what we are doing now and not choose to make necessary changes, then a sense of foreboding overtakes me because the shameless Masters of the Universe will have ’successfully’ perpetrated a gigantic financial sham and left our children with a world – both ecologically and economically – in shambles.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001

  43. Kation 29 Mar 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Kinda “waiting for the other shoe to drop” around here as well. It’s gotten harder, each month, to make our paychecks cover all the bills (both un-usual medical AND normal electric & water, as well as the groceries). My hubby’s looking to refinance our home-loan, as the bank that we got it through, 9 years ago, has loan rates down to 4% from the 6.5% we got when we bought. They aren’t returning his calls, though, even though they’re advertising these great home-refinance-rates. *sigh* Not sure how I feel about that. Taking about $200 off our house-payment a month WOULD be grand (we only pay $720 a month NOW), but is it a good long-term plan? It’s not like we plan on “flipping” this house. We like our neighbourhood and we’re in it for the long haul, if things work out.

    At the same time, the hubby’s company is a multi-national company who’ve over-all lost money in the past couple of years. BUT, the branch that my hubby works for is the ONLY branch that’s seen multi-billion-dollar sales profits in the past year. Nontheless, Hubby was told on Friday that all employees, even in HIS branch with their profits this past year, are expected to now take 2 weeks of unpaid leave this coming year. That the leave can be taken one day at a time, or all at once. It’s been left up to each employee how to manage that, but the leave MUST be taken or face penalties being forced all 2 weeks at once. *sigh* We’re definitely thinking a day off here and there is the better option than all at once. At the same time, though….. Taking a whole week off right at planting time would allow us to get the plants into the ground when they need to be, rather than fitting planting around our work scheduals. We’ll have to see. But financially, this is going to be a bit hard on our family, and a lot harder on a few of hubby’s coworkers who are in even tighter situations than we are.

    Homes in my neighbourhood that were up for sale, have now sat vacant for the better portion of a year. On in particular, 2 doors down from us, hasn’t had a tenant in since the beginning of August. We’re curious as to whether the heat has been shut off completely, or if the bank (who owns it after the owner defaulted after his return from Iraq) has bothered to keep it heated and lit for possible home-buyers. We think the electric has been turned off.

    FWIW, the charter schools seem to be seeing a definite boost in interest. I know my hubby and I are incredibly interested in placing our daughter in a charter school for the duration of her middle-school years. (Homeschooling hasn’t worked out for us, due to some defiance and learning issues on her part, and our work scheduals.) There is a new “Watershed Charter School” opening this coming year that will base it’s curriculum around local ecological, geological and ethnic history, instead of focusing on the nation and the world to the exclusion of the local. It is being felt that our children can best learn about the world if they start by learning about their own place in it. The “Effie Kokrin” Charter school does this from a Native perspective, with emphasis placed on Native values and traditions including subsistence living. And there is a lot of interest in more Native-focused schools opening. “Star of the North” focuses more on learning-disabled children, with a lot of emphasis on local civil-service. “Barnette” is aimed at gifted & talented students, with a focus on local government & economy. If any one “industry” looks to benefit from the economic times, it may well be the charter schools with their emphasis on different learning styles and learning different subjects. And a great many of us feel that these charter schools are better able to properly educate our children for the future, than are the traditional public schools. (Also, FWIW, these Charter schools are ALL public schools receiving public monies, BUT they must be applied for by the parents and the children must be accepted to the program. They don’t accept just anybody from the area and they all have small class sizes, with the newWatershed school’s class-limit set at 22 kids per age/grade level. “Effie Kokrine” and “Star of the North” are middle school and High school level schools; “Watershed” and “Barnette” are elementary and middle school level schools. Those of us with kids this age who are interested in Charter school educations are hoping that more schools in both categories open up, giving more options and allowing for more children to receive Charter educations.)

    The irony is, my state is the only state in the USA who’s reported a GROWTH thus far into this depression. But as I was telling my hubby just last week (the day before the news of the unpaid leave-time, actually) that our state’s financial success depends on the ability of other states to buy what we produce or to visit and benefit the tourism industry. Now we know that the owners of businesses up here fully expect that our financial success will drop off, as our massive productions of chemicals (in my hubby’s line of work) and fuel cannot be purchased by other states and countries. And they’re cutting out employees or cutting down on hours, in an attempt to stay afloat. And I’ve already told my hubby that if we thought last year was slim for tourism, he’s going to be very suprised this year, I’d betcha! In the past, you could see caravans of tourists in their motor-homes and travel trailers driving up the Richardson Hwy. Last year, it was unexpected to only see one motorhome at a time, maybe 2. Never more than 2 traveling together. It’s going to be worse this year, I guarantee it. And as the other states have seen, as the major industries drop off, the minor service industries are following suit quickly. It’s already happening. Haven’t seen a “help wanted” sign at McD’s in months. Several fast-food places in town have shut down and the buildings have sat empty for months.

    The local farm & garden stores are reporting massive increases in purchase of seed and planting & growing impliments. Which is fantastic, of course! I wonder though how many new gardeners are planning on their garden supplying their food needs this fall & winter, and actually being UNABLE to afford to buy it. Makes me very happy that my family started the trial & error gardening and processing process several years ago now. (What, 5 years?) We haven’t had incredible successes, but we actually saw enough produce this last summer that we’re getting more confident in our skills and that we are still eatting pickled goods that we “put up” last year. (As a matter of fact, I really wish more of our tomatoes had fully ripened, as those pickled green tomatoes are “getting old fast.” *wry smile*)

    There was a home-show here in town yesterday (our annual home improvement merchant show) and one relator expressed disappointment when we said that we were only looking to improve our place, not sell or buy a new place. He said he hasn’t had ANYBODY wanting to sell or buy, everybody’s talking about improving. (We were only at that booth to sign up for a prize-drawing of $100 gift-card to the local Fred Meyer’s store.) But, the number of people signing up for free flooring-installation estimates was up considerably, according to the woman who coaxed my hubby into signing up for same. (Thing was, this is something we’ve wanted to have done for years, tear up our carpeting and put down wood flooring. So it’s not like it was an unplanned, but we’ve yet to see how much the flooring Co. wants to charge for a couple of rooms in our place.) So, people who own homes are definitely more interested in upkeep and improvements, than they are in selling for something better. Hey, I think that’s fabulous!

    Last but not least, my workplace is a library. Our last employee meetings have included the Library Director talking about the great increases in patron usage. Our usage is up over 200%, and apparently the library sees over $2 in usage for every $1 in local taxes used by the library. So that’s a definite benefit to the community, that my library system is providing. And I’ve had patrons comment on that, as well…. That if there is ONE community program that they would hate to see cut out due to taxes, it’d be the library. That our library system has the best usage of tax money out of any other borough system to receive tax-money for operating costs. The books being checked out have definitely changed from when I started here 4 years ago. At first, it was primarily novels and high-intellect science books, computer system-instruction books, and the kitchen & bath renovation type books, along with test manuals (including real-estate-agent test manuals). Now, along with the novels (still a popular item being checked out), we see a LOT more “build your own home” type books, instead of the kitchen renovation types. We wee a LOT more wiring and heating repair books and even the basic crafting (from painting, to woodworking, to quilting, soap making, beer brewing, and christmas-gift-crafting) instead of computer instruction manuals. I see more people checking out _Power Down_ and _Surviving the Coming Economic Collapse_ (I think that’s the title) rather than books on learning to be a real-estate agent. Folks are looking more at “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” type books than they are at books on revamping for the sake of revamping, or learning SIMPLY for the sake of learning. (Not that there’s anything wrong with learning for the sake of learning, but folks seem to be feeling that if they’re going to learn something, it should be something of use to them right now.) Dieting books aren’t as popular right now as are vegetarian and whole-grain cookbooks, or cooking from scratch. Also, the fancy “Cooking with Jacques Pepin” type cookbooks are being neglected in favor of slow-cooker cookbooks, and the couple of depression-era cookbooks in our vast collection. The gardening books are seeing a shift in interest, as well. More veggie and organic food gardening, less rose-gardening and fancy landscaping books. And our CD and DVD collections have seen a major increase in Patron usage. Instead of folks buying cds for their own home use, they’re borrowing ours, as well as the DVDs (AND we’ve also got a burgeoning video game collection that is quite popular). And the Patrons seem more inclined to care about how roughly or gently these items have been treated, and they’re more likely to tell us if a disk is scratched or needs cleaning. They’ve started caring (at least, from what I’ve seen) as to how carefully they treat our materials and how carefully others have treated them. They’re more cognizant that damaged materials mean that they can’t use them again, but also that tax monies must be used to replace these items, if they’re replaced at all. They’re expressing a desire to see the tax monies that the library receives used to buy NEW materials to enlarge our collection, and not be needed to replace materials that have gotten messed up by patron carelessness.

    These are the things I’ve seen around my home-town, and my state.

  44. Gidsmomon 29 Mar 2009 at 3:15 pm

    I’m checking in from the Seattle area. I know a few people who have lost their jobs. Boeing is, of course, laying off but people who work for Boeing are always expecting a layoff some time in their careers. The suprise for me was when Microsoft layed off 5,000 people. Now this is just a small percentage of their workforce, but still…Apparently their profits went from 4.5 billion to a measly 4.1 billion. Very interesting thing about people being laid off around here (tons from WAMU ect) I think they are moving. We had such an increase in population in the past 10 years of people moving here to take well paying jobs. When they got laid off, I think they are going back home. The cost of living here just doesn’t warrant working at a mediocre job especially if your friends and family are elsewhere.

    My husband’s business is actually picking up. He is in residential organic produce delivery, we figure people are staying in and cooking more. His parent’s, who run a very successful pizzaria on Capital Hill, profits are down 14% — ouch! During past “economic downturns” their business has always done well – everyone could afford pizza and beer – but this one is different.

    Housing actually seems to be coming back slowly. We may have hit bottom. King County is still losing ground, but apparently Pierce County (Tacoma) is having record sales because people can finally afford to buy.

  45. Mary in MDon 29 Mar 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Oh, my husband and everyone else at University of Maryland is getting 5 furlough days this year. We went out for dinner Friday to a restaurant where we split the $11 platter. No line. Half the tables empty. Same at Borders and the other restaurants.

  46. Rosaon 29 Mar 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Well, our neighborhood seems like it’s stabilizing. I think most of the immigrants who couldn’t get jobs have gone home, and some of the stores and restaurants that catered to them have closed down. A lot of the houses and apartment buildings that had been for sale for a year or more have been foreclosed and have boarded up windows and doors, or auction signs, but I’m not seeing new for-sale signs (and this is the season for it.)

    I got the part-time job I’ve been angling for, so we took a hit on salary…but I feel like, as long as the company is around, I’m cheap & not likely to get pink-slipped. Boyfriend’s company continues to thrive, as business customers switch to open-source software because it’s cheaper.

    But the state has a huge budget deficit and the governor is holding the line on raising taxes, so they’re gonna have to cut something…the good news is, they *already* cut our services, so maybe the city won’t cut a bunch more. We’ll see. And we’ll see if we have another crime wave this summer – last summer the teenagers and young unemployed men meant a big uptick in armed robberies, but I’m hearing the crime rates are actually down this year so far, year over year.

  47. The Screaming Sardineon 29 Mar 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Things are doing good here in ND. When I initially posted a comment on your original “Far Past Our Fathers’ Land,” I had mentioned things were generally pretty good and didn’t seem to change from what they had been a couple years ago. I recently found out that ND is in very good shape. In fact, a company is leaving one of the big cities (Minot) because they can’t find enough people to work; I think the unemployment rate here is around 2%.

    A couple of my friends are going to grow gardens this year, as am I. I have heard that a few people have taken a cut in pay, but their wages were pretty high for this area anyway.

    There are no more empty houses here than there were a few years ago. If there’s a house for sale, it usually gets snatched up pretty quickly cuz they’re under $10,000 and there’s a good possibility for mineral rights for the off again, on again oil drilling.

    I have noticed a change in the food pantry. They give much less than they did a few months ago; however, food stamp allotments have increased enormously.

  48. TH in SoCon 30 Mar 2009 at 1:14 am

    Here are a couple of links:



  49. ~debra~on 30 Mar 2009 at 3:44 am

    a local bar has started holding “pink slip” parties for people who have been laid off or are just looking for another job

  50. Ericon 30 Mar 2009 at 5:57 am

    In South Carolina, I saw partially built homes in a new gated community that the builder had walked away from mid-build. The houses are sheathed-in and were house-wrapped but the house-wrap is now in tatters and literally blows in the wind. The underlying wood is grayed with weather exposure. By now I’m sure the unfinished homes are damaged and complete losses.

  51. Mark Non 30 Mar 2009 at 6:18 am

    The snow has finally melted in my area of upstate NY. My neighbor and I are cleaning up our gardens. Just another spring, but I do notice more neighborhood folks clearing more trees in their yards than usual. This could be from fear of future ice storms, or to put in or expand vegetable gardens. I’m hoping the latter. I’d feel more comfortable if all the neighbors had food gardens.

    Commercial real estate has been turning into a dead sea of vacant spaces for quite some time. The Salvation Army and other thrift shops seem to be doing a cracking business, though.

    I live in an extended family. I take care of my elderly parents. We are able to live pretty well since we can share costs. We all like to eat healthy food and have much fresh delicious produce during the growing season. Although, I don’t mind serving as the go-to guy when work needs to get done, I might need to add someone with good housekeeping and food preserving skills soon.

  52. ctdaffodilon 30 Mar 2009 at 8:32 am

    Jerry – We live near you (i think) and I can remember driving by that hospital daily during HighSchool – on my way to the catholic one near the sun. Does that give it away too much? I hope that your town can make a go of it with the site – The area has changed so much since I was a kid – its kind of heartbreaking. My hometown had more cows & livestock than people when I lived there – its not the case now. Now on the other side of the river I see my little town fighting about how much taxes everyone will pay and how dare everyone in town be expected to pay for public education (especially special education). There are actually people in my town who want an exeption because they are done using the public school system and don’t want to pay for it anymore – Hello – what about the rest of us that paid in before we needed to use it and didn’t complain! (sore spot for me).

    We need small light industry in town to help the tax base but have a lot of NIMBYs who moved near a light industrial park who complain about new companies coming in and wrecking their view – or traveling by their house….

    The economy in my state is starting to take a hit- the pantry I contribute to is seeing more people come and go with less. The town pantry is struggleing and while our elementary school held a food drive – our 3rd this year.

    Its tight all around – I’m staying hopefull though – My library bought Sharon’s book – YEAH! More people are planting Gardens YEAH! and I’ve noticed that my garbage can has only been half full most weeks because we are being more careful about what we buy at my house.

    I hope this doesn’t last long – but am prepared if it does – hopefully my kids will learn a lot from this whole thing and not get into this kind of mess when they are adults!

  53. Rosaon 30 Mar 2009 at 9:44 am

    Screaming Sardine, you’re thinking of Sykes Enterprises. They left because their tax incentive for locating in ND ran out, they have a history of doing that – check this article out:


  54. deweyon 30 Mar 2009 at 10:03 am

    Also from St. Louis, this is the week when a third of the bus service gets cut off and the metro light rail service reduced. They had indicated earlier that the cuts would include all bus lines in the outer suburbs and in the downtown (hello?!). Well, in the neighborhoods around my home and work (city proper, and not downtown ), ALL of the bus stop signs are bagged to indicate that they will no longer offer service. So, basically, no bus service. Key routes on major streets have been killed. One of those ran near my house; we often see people walking to the stop with groceries from the discount supermarket several blocks in the other direction. They obviously live in neighborhoods that do not have supermarkets, and have to ride the bus to get groceries. How will they do that now?

    Of course the buses have always been so expensive, especially for someone with a kid or two in tow, that you’re better off driving if you can. But that’s nothing to the Call-a-Ride service for the handicapped. It used to be $4 a ride, and they are now slashing service and jacking the cost up to – this is a fact – $13 to $17. EACH WAY. How many handicapped people can afford to pay $34 a day just to go someplace and get back home? Yikes!!! Of course it’s fine to go on subsidizing road-building and road repair. I can only imagine the sort of misery that will ensue when the impact of these cuts hits home. What a pack of lazy, self-centered, BAU idiots we have in this town.

  55. Wendyon 30 Mar 2009 at 10:26 am

    A recent article in the Portland Press Herald states that here in Maine there has been an increase in burgularies, which authorities are attributing to the bad economy.

    Burgulars have been targeting rural suburbs, where the houses are spaced far enough apart and are in fairly wooded areas, so that their crimes are concealed behind a tree cover.

  56. jannieon 30 Mar 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Regrettably, there are multiple signs of a serious recession here in MN.

    Over the weekend, we learned that our neighbors were being evicted from their basement apartment. The reason? Too many people in a place designed for college students – not for parents, four children, grandfather and a dog! My husband gave them a name of someone who had a house for rent. It is in a less expensive neighborhood so hopefully they will thrive there.

    Still, on the surface it all seems to be serene and normal. Our major local park is experiencing record breaking crowds and park patrons are donating gererously. Restaurants are full on the weekend with jovial crowds and our state high school basketball tournament is as exciting as ever.

    However, behind the Wizard of Oz screen, all is not as it seems. The legislature is preparing to cut off park funds for much needed improvements; last weekend I observed people splitting orders at a local upscale restaurant, and our newspaper (currently in bankruptcy) reports that less than half of our public school students partcipate in sports for a variety of reasons – but finances was one of them.

    In the past, starting with the 1930s depression and subsequent recessions, Minnesota has benefitted from a diversified economy. Many technological and multi -national companies had their origins and headquarters here. However, this time, we are facing a downturn of unprecedented proportions and are in line with the rest of the nation in unemployment, foreclosures,
    state deficits and the rest of the toxic stew.

    Another sign of the times, is unprecedented interest in gardening, farmers markets and CSAs. Farmers markets are uniformly crowded, gardening stores report high sales in gardening supplies, and many CSAs had to turn folks away last year because they were full.

  57. Andreaon 30 Mar 2009 at 9:13 pm

    SW Ohio here, and we *just* dodged the layoff bullet. There is exactly ONE person between my husband and the Exit. Remember the old cartoons (Tom and Jerry and Bugs Bunny) where they’re trying to force one of the characters out/in the door and said character is holding on to the door jams with fingers and toes??? Yeah, it’s about like that. We’re holding onto a job with fingers and toes.

    On an encouraging note, I’ve noticed a lot of folks starting gardens this year…even if it’s just in pots on patios. No fewer than 4 of my immediate friends/family have decided to break ground and grow something, anything. I find that extremely encouraging.

  58. Anon-in-GAon 31 Mar 2009 at 7:44 am

    An update to my earlier comment: my husband lost his job yesterday. I’m so very, very grateful that we have a well-stocked pantry, seeds in the ground, and a nearly-complete chicken tractor. I wish we’d made more progress towards paying down our debt. I don’t WANT to default on debts that I legitimately owe, but all available funds will now be going towards mortgage and associated housing costs.

  59. MEAon 31 Mar 2009 at 2:52 pm


    Wish you every luck.

    My brother, in Reno, NV (going to pharm school) reports that as expected it’s becoming more of a wasteland. His stepson (age 28) was driving a HUMVEE limo, and getting fewer and fewer hours. His wife (24) , an RN, was down to 30 hours a week. Just in time, her father offered them a house (in good repair) in MO, on a no-longer-working farm. Much better school (they have 4 children, ranging from less than a year to 6); (that suprised me — the schools being better) 2 miles from the house — full time nursing job for her, 5 miles away, and he’s found a truck driving job, but is finally listening to my brother and looking for something less fuel depentend. Lots of extended family in walking distance. I hope they’ve landed on their feet.

  60. Anon-in-GAon 01 Apr 2009 at 7:21 am

    Thanks, MEA.

    We have a dear friend in Vegas; I worry for him, but he can take care of himself(former Ranger, combat veteran). We’d love for him to come here, but he seems happy where he is for now.

    I’m happy your extended family found such a good place to land!

  61. Teartayeon 02 Apr 2009 at 11:29 am

    I’m from Alberta, Canada… It’s kind of funny how things are hitting here. Some people seem unaffected, others are drowning.

    I work at a quality chocolate shop. Our sales were really low for Christmas, so 1/2-3/4 of the factory was laid off and every store but ours let people go (two people quit). Many of the people who kept their jobs had their hours halved.

    However, since the middle of January our sales have returned to the level they were last year. I think lots of customers were worried the new year would bring lay-offs, and when it didn’t went back to “business as usual.” The company hasn’t re-hired their staff though.

    Unless my store closes, my job is pretty secure. As good as the chocolate is, I realize it is a luxury and I’m trying my best to plan accordingly. My pantry *is* slowly growing.

    The used book store next door has lots of people coming in to sell books, few to buy.

    One of my friends works in a liquor store and their sales are through the roof. People are desperate and trying to drown it. You can catch that desperation on the streets, too.

    I live by the University of Calgary, as well as near the train — which is easier than the buses to get around in (frequent, simple, runs really early/late, etc.) but every other house is either for rent or for sale. Quite a few of them have been listed since we moved in, back in October. Many more have been empty since the start of the second semester.

    My upstairs neighbour has been out of work since we moved in. A year ago you could find a job by looking for 15 minutes.

    I’ve seen a few businesses close, and heard lots of desperate sounding sales on the radio (I don’t have a TV).

    The province bailed out the oil sands. And while it’s keeping us afloat, I know that it was only a temporary thing – that will most likely make the crisis worse when it does hit.

  62. freelearneron 02 Apr 2009 at 7:49 pm

    Sharon, I’m wondering if you’ve seen the photography of Harvey Finkle? At HarveyFinkle.com you can find his photo galleries on homelessness, child poverty, housing rights, and related topics. Many of his pictures are haunting in a Dorothea Lange sort of way.

  63. MEAon 03 Apr 2009 at 3:01 pm

    There is nasty fight brewing on the Princeton NJ freecycle board. Someone is outraged that people are selling things they got off freecycle, since she freecycles things as a humnaitian act, rather than having a garage sale. Others say why not let people who need the money make it that way. This come up because of a suggestion (from another source) that selling items from freecycle is a way to make money in hard times.

  64. Kay from Ohioon 25 Apr 2009 at 2:37 pm

    On the surface, one might not even see anything too out of the ordinary in my area; many things appear to be the same. But there are also many troubling things that ARE apparent.

    Nearly everyone seems concerned about being laid off. I myself am very worried; I’ve got little seniority, our budget is a mess, spending has been cut to the bone, and we recently had job cuts. I was spared this round, but I’ve heard another may be coming. Mandatory furloughs are also being planned for everyone. And recently, I had a coworker recently tell me that someone broke into their garage at night to steal meat (yes, meat) from their freezer. I’ve also talked to coworkers who seem to be on the verge of running into big financial problems. While they would be considered squarely middle class in terms of income, they are one incident from disaster, with no savings and plenty of debt.

    Although the mall seems fairly busy, I did notice differences on a recent trip. Certain over-priced teenager-focused stores, which just a year ago were packed, are now nearly empty. The mens’ suits section of the department stores seemed fairly busy, though — with men shopping for suits for job interviews (which I gathered from conversations).

    I’m in my mid-twenties, and I am also VERY concerned about the tremendous amount of college debt so many people my age and younger seem to acquire. I think many of us, myself included, signed up for loans thinking that it is “good debt,” worth the investment, and will be cinch to pay back. We don’t think about the monthly payments stretching for years or decades, the possibility of deferment and of racking up interest and penalties if things go wrong, or the inability to discharge the debts in bankruptcy. Luckily, I don’t have a huge amount of student loan debt, and have manageable payments. However, both myself and my husband have family members who have run into real problems with student loan debts. And I’ve heard many stories from people with loans of over 50 or even $100,000 — for an undergrad degree. I know many people around my age who are underemployed.

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