Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why be prepared? econ 101

Barton M. Biggs is a money manager running Traxis Partners, a multi-billion dollar hedge fund based in New York City. He formerly held the title of "chief global strategist" for Morgan Stanley and was with that firm for 30 years.His influence could be seen when, in 1996, some traders were surprised that India funds suddenly became popular. "Barton Biggs is there, having a look around," one trader said. "Do you need to know more?"

Biggs is also author of the 2008 book Wealth, War and Wisdom (358 pages; Wiley; January 2008; ISBN 978-0-470-22307-9). In this book, Biggs has a gloomy outlook for the economic future, and suggests that investors take survivalist measures, such as looking into "polar cities" as safe refuges for future survivors of global warming. In the book, Biggs recommends that his readers should “assume the possibility of a breakdown of the civilized infrastructure.” He goes so far as to recommend planning adaptation strategies now and setting up survival retreats: “Your safe haven must be self-sufficient and capable of growing some kind of food,” Mr. Biggs writes. “It should be well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc. Think Swiss Family Robinson. Even in America and Europe there could be moments of riot and rebellion when law and order temporarily completely breaks down.”[7]

I didn't write that. I copied it from Wikipedia. It can be found on numerous web sites including news sites and I included it because I thought it interesting (maybe a little scary) that a Wall Street-er would say it.  Although I don't think this will happen all at once I do think we are in for a "lifestyle correction" that will take place over time. How much time I don't know but given there is a learning curve to anything you need to learn the sooner you get to it the better.

 One of the biggest hurdles to being prepared is to know what it is you are preparing for. Whether it's peak oil, economic collapse, mother nature pitching a fit, or a pandemic.  I have to say it is pretty much impossible to convince anyone of something they don't want to believe. Until it happens.And I'm not saying the world is coming to an end in (pick a month)______ because that's kind of silly. What I am saying is change is inevitable. And being just a little bit prepared for that will make your life much easier and cost you nothing but a little time and fore thought. We have a tendency to believe that Kroger store will always be stocked and you will always be able to buy fuel (for car or home) but it hasn't always been that way and it hasn't been that long ago that it wasn't that way. We have been living in a sweet spot for enough years that our kids can't imagine things being different than it is right now. Being prepared also means knowing why something isn't working. What the circumstances are that lead up to it and the best way of coping with it......before it happens. The last post on this subject was about peak oil. Let's move on.

Economic collapse-For years we have been working up to what we call our current "economic recession". We have had them in the past starting with the first major US  panic of 1819 Followed by the  panic of 1837  and the panic of  1873 that triggered a severe international depression in the US and Europe. It was referred to as the great depression until the "Great Depression" of 1930's that we are more familiar with thanks to our exposure to relatives that actually lived through it. I suppose most of them are all old enough to be dead now so perhaps we will forget that hard won history and repeat it. The panic of 1873 is now referred to as the Long Depression.  That's not to say we hadn't experienced economic downturns before (in the late 1700's and early 1800's) but these were caused more from the Atlantic economy and foreign trade. (deep breath)

So what is different about it this time? Events leading up to it. Some that I wont even mention for fear of  this  becoming a book. But let's start with the end of the Gold Standard.  This was  a fairly workable system until Nixon decided to get rid of the gold standard and just print money. This is called fiat currency  and is the system used in the US today. It works as long as other countries have confidence in the country producing it and the government is a responsible one.  In 1971 Nixon(R) had a choice to declare bankruptcy and tell the world we didn't have the gold to back up the debt we had run up after Vietnam or get rid of the gold standard in the United States. Bankruptcy would have been the responsible thing to do but not politically expedient. That was the year I graduated from school and I remember how impossible it was to get any kind of job. (It was also pretty hard to get gas for a car too.) He chose the later telling the world the US was going off the gold standard and our currency would be the standard of exchange worldwide and anyone wanting to trade oil had to do it in US dollars. Our GDP was huge and our oil reserves well stocked making the US look like a good alternative to the gold standard. So the rest of the world went along with it. They had confidence that we could pay our debts even though we were living beyond our means.  At that time the government started printing money and the whole mess just started rolling downhill. When Nixon left office our debt was about 35% of the GDP. Ford(R) took office and nine months into his presidency US involvement in Vietnam ended and he resided over the weakest economy since the Great Depression. Jimmy Carter(D) took office in 1977 during a time of international  Stagflation which persisted through out his term.  Regan(R) took office in 1980. He advocated reducing tax rates (for the wealthy of course) and depending on a concept called trickle-down_economics leaving the people worse off than before. He is also known for deregulation. Something we are still paying for in that corporations and banks have little or no government over site leaving them to pretty much do as they wish. The CEO's like this. Perhaps the best way to understand how regulation and deregulation  works is to read this link. Then in March of 2006 congress voted to raise the limit on our debt instead of raising taxes (on the wealthy?) and spending less. Not only does this sound familiar, it sounds a lot like someone with a credit card that just maxed it out. So what do we do?  Well we simply got the credit limit raised. As a result in 2009 our debt was closer to 90% of the GDP. George Bush Sr. (R) took office in 1989 after a successful career in the Navy, graduating from Yale, becoming a successful business man, and making his fortune in the oil business. He inherited huge deficits left over from the Reagan era and managed to piss off most of the Republican party by doing the right thing and trying to reduce the deficit. Republicans wanted to reduce government spending and the Democrats wanted to raise taxes.  He lasted one term. Sound familiar? Bill Clinton(D) took office in 1993 and ran for two terms. He presided over the longest period of peace time economic expansion in American history. He worked with George Bush Sr. to pass NAFTA (which had been crafted during Bushes presidency) signing it into law during his term and was involved in Barack Obama's campaign.The congressional budget office reported budget surpluses for 1998, 1999, and 2000 during the last 3 years of Clinton's presidency. Despite his scandal he left office with the highest end of office approval rating of any president since world war II. Since leaving office he has been highly rated in public opinion polls of U.S. presidents.

Then we have George W. Bush (R). What can I say. A lot I guess but I would need to write pages and pages so it would be best if you just follow the link and read for yourself. All I can say is the same thing I said to my sister during his campaign. If this man walked into my business with his resume I would definitely file it in the round file before he got out the door. I don't need a cheerleader or a baseball player. And I certainly don't need someone skilled at bankrupting businesses. I could say "how he ever got elected is beyond me" but I have my suspicions about that too. Now this should get some of you fired up I'm sure.
Under GW we got a tax cut for the wealthy, GDP grew at average rate of 2.5% (considerably below average), poverty rate peaked at 12.7%, and the national debt increased 100% from 5.6 trillion in 2000 to 11.3 in 2008. By the end of his presidency unemployment climbed to 7.2% and kept going. In December 2007 the U.S. entered the longest post WWII recession which included a housing market "correction", sub prime mortgage crisis, soaring oil prices, and a declining dollar. To aid the situation Bush signed a $170 billion economic package intended to improve the economy. (Maybe that was suppose to be trickle down economics) Many economist and world governments determined that the situation became the worst financial crises since the Great Depression. In November 2008 over 500,000 jobs had been lost, the largest loss of jobs in 34 years. By the end of 2008 2.6 million US jobs had been lost. I could go on but what's the point. You get the idea.

January 20th 2009. Barack Obama(D) took office. If it had been me I would have run screaming in the other direction rather than inherit that mess. But he didn't. Unfortunately the American people were looking for Superman. He isn't. It will take a lot of work and time to climb out of this mess and it will take even longer since he is now bucking the republican head winds. The question here is will he last long enough to actually make a difference? Will he win this next election and be able to say full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes. Let's get'er done? Well it took a while to get here and while 4 years isn't enough 8 years may at least put us back on track to get there. But what if it isn't. Are you prepared to ride it out? Are you independent enough to live on your own without the help of society basically? Do you own your home out right, have an independent source of income and a way to feed yourself?

What I am saying is learn to take care of yourself and work towards getting your community to come together to take care of each other. It hurts no one and makes you and those around you happier in their self sufficiency. The next couple post will be about peak water and food. Hopefully they wont be as long and maybe there will be some pictures? Stick with me here. We will eventually get to what we can or should do about it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

I am so Frustrated

Could use a little help from someone that knows something about Blogger. I have been fighting with the comment box for weeks. My last post "silky mothers" etc. Would not put a comment box at the end of the post. I tried everything I could think of. All the old post appear to have a comment box. I thought maybe it was because it was a new post and when it became the post before the one I am writing now a comment box would pop up. Nope not yet anyway. And to make matters worse this one seems to have a comment box. So if anyone out there knows what the heck is up give me a heads up will ya?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Silky Mothers, Geese, and the Wrecking Ball

Goose egg,  duck egg, chicken egg
Today we got our first goose egg from our Sebastapols. I was watching from the kitchen window but didn't realize she was laying an egg because she was sitting in the open in front of the chicken coup. I should have known because both ganders were guarding her from all the other birds like she was a queen. I thought it odd but didn't see the egg until I went out to put them away for the night. I hope she figures out what a nest box is for.

Two of my three Silkies started sitting on duck eggs almost two weeks ago.  About the second day I noticed Baby Mama wasn't really sitting on the eggs. She was straddling them and trying to keep them warm but not setting. She didn't look good at all and she was extremely thirsty. She would drink and drink and then the water would just run out her mouth. She had diarrhea too. It was time to do something or lose her so I took the eggs and put them under the other silkie and mixed up a teaspoon of Epsom salts with 1/2 cup water and flushed her with an eye dropper. After two days of that I switched her to Pedialyte for a day.  Guess that did the trick because she started eating. I also rigged up a light over her perch to keep her warm. She seems OK now and not interested too much in the eggs that the other is sitting on. I was afraid she had a broken, stuck egg because her eggs shells had been getting very thin even with extra calcium. Guess she just got into some nasty plant or rotting thing that was poisoning her tiny little body. The white silkie is sitting tight on her nest and maybe it is just my imagination but those duck eggs look darker :-)

In an earlier post I told you we were going to rip out that ugly bathroom. Well we started and I am so excited. The first thing we (I) did was buy a claw foot tub. I have been looking for one for months. Every time I found one it was either more than I could afford, in really bad shape or someone would beat me to it. That's one of the disadvantages of living on an island.  I found a really great one in the Fremont District of Seattle. One tiny little chip you can hardly see and no visible rust. The outside and the feet have to have the paint removed and repainted but the inside is a smooth and shiny porcelain. A tub in that condition would probably sell for 6 or 7 hundred dollars around here (sometimes more) and it was advertised for $450 but I got it for $375. Guess that got the man moving because he started ripping out walls the next day. I helped by putting the plaster board and junk into big plastic bags and hauling them out to the garage to wait for dump day.

In between doing that I started stripping the paint off of the tub feet. LOTS of paint. Layers of green, yellow, white, black, and a primer. That took about three days of soaking and scraping and soaking again but its off. Then the man took the feet out to the wire buffer in the garage and polished them up. He is going to use a Drummel to take off the crud in the knuckles of the claws. We have been tossing around what color we want to paint them and the outside of the tub. So far yellow or light blue or maybe a warm ivory.

I also started ripping out the ugly 12 x 12 ceramic tile on the floor. The previous owner had placed it right over the old linoleum (also very ugly) so that will go next. You can see in this picture the light switch hanging in mid-air and the closet which ran along the back wall and in an L shape up to the door is GONE! Thank you so much God! Have you ever had to have your clothes hanging in a damp bathroom? Yuk! I actually had to throw away my suede belt because it was growing something. Guess there are worse things though. At least I had a closet (and a bathroom).  Now the man and I are brain storming where we want to put the tub and the sinks. The shower and toilet will stay put because of the plumbing but we are going to put in a bigger shower and probably put tile in it. (An extravagance on our budget). I think I have him talked into wood floors (real tongue and groove fir stained to match the kitchen floor which is reclaimed pine). So far the only expense has been the tub. A good friend gave me an antique quarter sawn cabinet with a leaded glass door that I am very jazzed about. It even has the saw marks on the shelves.  Although I was already using it in the old bath I can't wait to see it in the new one. It's perfect for holding towels and toiletries. I think we are going to put in a pocket door so the bath looks bigger and that along with the shower will probably be the next thing to do. But that is up to the man of course.

Here is what I have been doing in my spare time. It's a very easy, very yummy light oat bread. Gotta feed that guy to get any work out of him! ;-)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A political question of Note for February

I must be the only stupid person on the planet. How can anyone think about voting for someone that doesn't pay their fair share of taxes? Someone please tell me. Click the comments button at the bottom of this post to get a window. I have yet to figure out how to get a window to automatically appear on my blog.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Getting In On The Action

Guess it's contagious. Now Baby Mama wants some eggs to sit on. When I went down to the coop this morning both Silkies were in the same nest. Baby Mama had stolen a duck egg from the white silky and was sitting on it. Thinking maybe she was just wanting to use that nest to lay her own egg I left her there for awhile. Silly me. When I came back sometime  later she was still there. Rather than having them fight over the babies I took one egg from the nest and added another freshly laid egg from the ducks and put her in a nest next to the other one with her own two eggs. Now we have two Silkies with four duck eggs being incubated. Lets hope that male duck is doing his job or I am going to have a couple very disappointed ladies.

Thought you might get a kick out of this picture. One of the cats discovered the bird feeder stuck to the kitchen window and was sneaking up on it. You can see the little bird was unconcerned.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Spring Babies and Greens

I have been battling with my white silkie again.  As usual she is broody. Has been for almost two weeks which gets her into trouble with the other girls because they wont take her bitchiness for more than a minute before they chase her and smack her around. So yesterday when I was unable to get her off the nest for more than 5 minutes I decided to give her 3 duck eggs to sit on. My Khaki Campbell ducks are prolific layers in the winter when the chickens aren't so I was thinking of adding two more to their group any way and every spring I get the urge for babies so I may as well let her raise them. That's always a hoot! Just don't tell the man what I'm doing.

The nest she has chosen is on the storage side of the coop and about 2 feet off the floor. That is the side I put all three of my Silkies to roost at night so they don't have to fight with the big girls for space. However, if I leave the door open on a nice day the geese come in to snoop around. Her nest is at just the right height for them to look right in. You would think that big face staring in would be enough to get her to move. Yesterday I found them in the coop harassing her and I had to chase them out and put a baby gate up to protect her. She isn't about to move for a bunch of obnoxious loud mouth geese. Even when they bite her.

I have finished putting soil in the cold frame and although it is a little early I decided to plant some greens. Just lettuce greens. Asian baby lettuce, red sails, butter crunch and romaine. Hope it works. I would love some fresh lettuce not to mention getting a jump on growing stuff. Technically we could still get snow up until April and last year we actually got snow off and on though out April. It was very weird. We had pretty heavy frost all last week but it really kind of feels like the first faint breaths of spring. If anything germinates I will try to find some herb plants to put in too. I'm tired of paying for herbs every time I need a little of something.

This box actually gets limited sun during the day because the sun is so low in the sky that it doesn't clear the neighbors trees but a girl can hope.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why Be Prepared? part one

My closet is done enough to move clothes into so I did. The inside is painted the outside is not but I don't care. We will get the outside painted maybe this weekend. I just want to get into that ugly bathroom and rip out a few walls. Like where the old closet was in the bathroom. I am now on the hunt for a claw foot tub that is in pretty good condition. It needs to be in great condition on the inside because I don't want to put a lot of money into re-furbishing the inside just to sell this house to someone else. I don't mind sanding and painting the outside. I will probably want it painted a different color anyway. I'm thinking light blue.

In a previous post I said I would talk about preparing for what the future might have in store for us and why. Now let me say there are many different thoughts and opinions on this subject and I am certainly not an expert, but one thing I have learned is I could write a book about this subject. The information goes on forever and would make most peoples eyes glaze over. So although I may touch on a few facts and add a few links here and there I have decided not to go into the where and whys too much. You may notice that I am using Wikipedia throughout this post. I am doing so because it is the best condensed version of any one subject that I am writing about. However there are many books, articles, and news stories that I have read before attempting these post.  If anyone should have a question or comment by all means leave it in the comment section.

Problems, challenges, cause and effect. Call it what you will but society today is facing a number of challenges. Some for the first time. Some that are repeats of history. The difference today is that it seems to all be coming together at the same time. Peak Oil, economic collapse, peak food and water (yes water) climate change and over population.

Peak Oil-I think a  lot of people take this as meaning that we are running out of oil. We're not. We are running out of the easy to get oil. The cheap and easy oil. The less expensive use all you want oil. Our modern lives depend on oil for many many things that we don't even think about. Make a mental list of all the things we use oil for and I will bet you don't list half of them. Petroleum is used in everything from the food we eat to the shower gel and shampoo in the bathroom. It clothes us. We sit on it in our living rooms. We watch it on our wide screens. Pharmaceuticals, food dyes and flavors, tires, toiletries, cosmetics, appliances, building supplies and adhesives, paraffin wax and oil,  and of course fertilizers and pesticides. Without it we wouldn't go too far. It brings us foods that would only be a distant memory to most of us. Did you ever wonder what the big deal was of getting an orange in your Christmas stocking?  Use to be rarer than a star fruit or mango is today. Can you imagine digging a foundation for your house or digging a well without the help of a diesel powered piece of heavy equipment? It would take weeks and a lot of humans to do it.

Although the major use of petroleum is as a fuel, (gasoline, jet fuel, heating oil), and petroleum and natural gas are often used to generate electricity, there are many other uses. Americans consume petroleum products at a rate of three-and-a-half gallons of oil and more than 250 cubic feet of natural gas per person, per day! Those numbers change depending on who you ask of course and there is the thought also of the petroleum used in China to make stuff that the US buys. So whose tally sheet does that go on?
The world's top five crude oil-producing countries are: Saudi Arabia, Russia, United States, Iran, and China.
Over one-fourth of the crude oil produced in the United States is produced offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. The top crude oil producing states are: Texas, Alaska, California, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
About 59.5 percent of the crude oil and petroleum products used in the United States come from other countries.
 With the price of a barrel of crude poised to do nothing but go up you better figure out how your going to compensate for that because your wages will definitely not keep up.

How about the collateral damage after we use the stuff?  Who gets to pay for that? Well you do of course, silly! You get to pay to clean up the oil spills, the air pollution, and the landfills and oceans that are overflowing with plastic that doesn't degrade. Not to mention motor oil and gas that finds its way to our other precious resources, water and air, in the form of burning it off or run off from all the drips, spills and asphalt on our roads. How about fracking that uses a ton of water and pollutes that.  How about the medical problems caused by those pollutants?  (I will stop there cuz you are all intelligent readers and know what I am talking about). I see a small percentage of people getting rich on the backs of the middle guy and his family. And they pay less taxes than you do. If you don't read any of this post, at least take the time to watch this link from 60 minutes.

Now back to that closet. We built that closet with wood products held together with adhesives. Then we painted it with petroleum based latex paint. We used plastic hangers for the clothes and some of them were made from synthetic material. All this stuff was shipped to the places we bought it from using some form of fuel. I really really like my closet.

So here is the question. What is a person going to do about it?

Do you have a plan B for this one thing in your life? Even a bug out plan requires petroleum. What do you do when it's gone or so freaking expensive that you have to decide between eating or _________? (driving, medicine, food?)

So I am signing off now because my eyes are finally glazing over but I will be back to discuss the next topic which I think will be economic collapse. However my brain feels kinda overloaded at the moment. I am looking forward to your comments as I always learn something so click that comment button on the bottom of the page.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Ahhhhh....Candelmas and Spring! Almost.

Yesterday was Candelmas day. In case you don't remember last years post Candelmas is the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox traditionally celebrated with candles of course. Very pagan-est I suppose. It also happens to be  ground hogs day (which by the way came about because of Candelmas) and my birthday which I keep telling everyone I don't have anymore.  My girls and I did a pajama and movie night with banana splits to celebrate. When the man got home from work at 9pm they gave me a "Candelmas" present. A pasta maker for my Kitchen Aide mixer which I have been wanting for years. Now the time between Christmas and Valentines day is the worst for me for gaining weight because there are always left over Christmas goodies, New Years, Candelmas and Valentines Day. All very heavy in the food and goody department.  Up until last week I was doing really good not putting on the weight I had lost over the past year and with the banana splits I figured a weeks worth of steamed veggies would take care of that. With a new pasta maker I could be in trouble.  Apparently one of the girls heard me complaining about rolling out the egg noodles I made a couple weeks ago. Gee, I wonder what else I can complain about.  I do so like those shoes I saw in the J.Jill catalog!
Although today started out at 32 degrees it is suppose to get into the 50's and the sun is shining. The man rode the bike to work today and that is a sure sign that spring is on the way (even though he has heated riding gear).

The geese went out to our "seasonal" pond and spent hours playing and preening and I saw the first attempt at breeding between Alphie and Mimi. (I think it was Alphie) He doesn't know quite what he is doing since he got the wrong end but at least he is trying. Then that stupid boy duck had to try to join in. That didn't help much however since he seems to know what he is doing maybe he was just giving Alfie some pointers.
Ya. That's Alfie upside down in the pond.