Monday, August 03, 2009

Money Monday: August 3, 2009

A couple weeks ago when I posted about my crazy self-sufficiency idea, Pipney Jane mentioned The Good Life . I hadn’t thought about that show in years, but I used to love it (although they called it The Good Neighbors here in the States).

For those who haven’t seen it (and I imagine that’s a lot of people, more’s the pity), the basic story is that these two people decide to drop out of the rat race and go to a life of nearly complete self-sufficiency. The catalyst for them is husband Tom turning 40 and starting to ask himself why he feels so…well, just…well. If he could just figure out what It is that bothers him, he’s sure they could do something about It.

After yet another frustrating / unfulfilling day at work, he comes home…and comes to this (the first five minute are the crucial ones):

I find it completely hysterical that, having forgotten all about this show, I’m in just about exactly the same place as Tom – forty, sick of the cycle and willing to work ten times harder at farming my “homestead” rather than face reentering the commute-work-commute-sleep-commute-work-commute-sleep cycle…especially since doing so would mean barely breaking even after paying for commute and childcare costs.

NOW. When it comes to what I’m planning to do around the old Den of Chaos – it’s nothing like The Good Life. What I’m after is not complete self-sufficiency. What I’m after is more of a self-sustainability concept.

I don’t expect to break us free of a paycheck. We still have a mortgage, and car loan, and credit card bills to pay. We have four kids who are going to get nothing but more expensive as time goes by.

I don’t expect to be completely free of the supermarket, either. We don’t have that kind of space, for one thing. Wheat alone would be a deal-breaker for us – we’d need double the space we have to grow enough to keep us in flour. For another thing, the definitive word from the city on keeping livestock is this: NO. The line between ‘suburban housing’ and ‘ranchland’ is literally my back fence, and I’m on the wrong side of it.

Which is probably actually a good thing. I’m flying solo on this deal and probably already biting off way more than I can chew just with the garden, harp and hand crafts. And being the primary caregiver for the Denizens. As well as being in charge of all maintenance of Den and Denizens.

Yeah…I think chickens wouldn’t stand a chance for survival around here…

I also don’t expect that I’m going to earn an actual paycheck-as-such doing this. This is not a replacement of money…it’s replacing the things we use that money to buy, by either growing or manufacturing them ourselves, or by selling things we can make to buy the things we can’t.

This obviously isn’t something that’s an instant-start kind of deal. Oh, the work can start immediately, sure – but the benefits are months away. A supermarket carrot can be had in under thirty minutes, even given the time it takes to find your keys…a carrot you grow in the backyard can take three months from seed to soup.

And in terms of having any actual income, either from selling the excess from the garden or from me peddling my handcrafts at fairs, well. That’s going to take a while, too, and again – it’s not going to be oodles and gobs of money. Twenty bucks here, a hundred there…hardly enough to keep four kids in jeans and tennis shoes.

But over time, as we settle in and figure out what works and what doesn’t, the ultimate goal would be to have the household endeavors provide for the household needs. Instead of using the paycheck to buy things for immediate consumption, we either make it ourselves or dip into the petty cash we’ve acquired by selling our excess to others.

I can lift up to $20,000 of post-tax spending off my husband’s paycheck, if I could provide all the food, clothing, entertainment and “etcetera” we currently just buy because that’s how it’s done, you just BUY it.

It’ll be work and plenty of it – but hey. Life is work. Most of us work in offices wishing we were somewhere else doing something else all day; I’ll be working in my backyard all morning wishing that seeds planted themselves, coming inside to make some soap for the next craft fair, or can some jelly or get some corn in the freezer.

And 2:00 is going to come around brutally fast, each and every single day. I’ve got four kids with four different schedules at three schools this year – that pickup ordeal is going to put gray hairs on my head, I just know it is!

I’m sure I’ll get sick of it sometimes, and wish I’d never started this twelve-layer Crazy Cake. I’m sure I’ll do something stupid and watch an entire crop die, or spend entire days watching the fish not bite my bait. I’ll go to craft fairs and not sell a thing, or find myself caught up in stupid politics at the farmer’s market.

Life is like that. Whatever we do to keep body and soul together is full of things that are fun, and things that aren’t fun at all. I tend to make my own fun wherever I am, much to the annoyance of more adult people who think offices are not playgrounds. (Two words for such people: Poopy. Head.)

But I think I’d like to take a page from The Good Neighbors for a little while, and work at the business of life for a while.

Knowing me, I’ll have a pretty good time doing it…and maybe, just maybe, the Denizens will learn a little something about where jelly actually comes from, and how much work goes into a jar of peanut butter…


Ellen said...

And don't forget public transportation. The denizens will be getting old enough to get themselves home from school in a year or two. Well, at least the two oldest will.

Bullwinkle said...

Yay for you!

I haven't done it. But I'd love to. There are so many resources out there (not that you need them - you've got the idea). I've thought about it for years and years. (You'd think being single would make it easier but being single doesn't pay the rent/mortgage.)

Steph B said...

You've almost got me convinced to try a garden again next year. Almost. :-) You are absolutely going to make this fly, and I can't wait to hear all about it.

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping you're going to do some reading on French intensive gardening - the up front work is killer, but the upside is productivity, sustainability and less work once you get the first huge whack done.

Marty52 said...

For years I made jelly, canned and froze all manner of veggies to keep the wolf from the door. It is alot of work; however, it can also be fun, entertaining, invigorating (nothing better than spending hours in the garden and coming in to a hot shower!), and a teaching/learning experience with no parallel. Enlist the denizens whereever you can... they can fetch and carry if nothing else! Remember your blog community, there are lots of blogs out there by gardeners. See if you can find one in your area and you'll learn much from them!

PipneyJane said...

Fingers crossed for you!

Something I heard about on my podcast trawling last week was how to price knitted/crocheted items. Thought you might find it useful. (It was Lionbrand's Yarn Craft podcast episode 44 or 45.) They recommend charging 20 cents per yard of yarn, rising to up to 50 cents a yard depending on complexity and whether the design is original.


- Pam

cari said...

I think it's a fantastic, worthy endeavor. Looking forward to watching/reading!