So....I've been working. Not that this is new, because I am always working. But as of right now, I am working as a substitute clerical worker for the local school district. Yes, this would be my OTHER job. Though no one outside of my immediate family considers what I do here to be work, I actually consider THIS (homesteading) my primary job and the other secondary. I love my primary job. If you were ever to ask me what I do for a living, this is it. It's who I am and what I'm all about. My secondary job, well, I like it quite a bit. I like the people I work with, I like the routine and the paperwork (yes, I like doing paperwork--it appeals to my orderly, rigid side) and I like interacting with others. I like that it's in a school, because I like the kids. So it's good.
I have been working my secondary job as much as I can lately because I have found that, as of late, it has gotten much harder to get by. For years, since the year after my daughter was born and the company I worked for went under, we've been a one income family. After my children got older, and we moved here to Chicken Scratch, I would sub here and there, usually to save for a birthday or Christmas or something, but otherwise, I worked as hard as I could at home to A) raise my children and B) produce food to save us money. With my husband's income, and my money saving, we did alright. Even with the addition of animals, which, as you know, are expensive to keep and expensive to obtain. But lately....not so much. The same money that we were just fine on last year we're no longer fine with this year. Anyone else notice this? I'm thinking that you have, because it seems to be all around me as well. I do not read mainstream news--basically because it's a bunch of crap--but I can see from what I've read elsewhere, that whatever we're all being told is horseshit, and the truth is that the country and it's people are in a lot of trouble.
This is not the forum to discuss that, though. I bring it up because of this: a couple of weeks ago, my husband was discussing a job with someone. This person works in the city, and my husband currently telecommutes from home. For a lark, we tried to figure out how much money my husband would have to make to make commuting to the city "worth it". Not in time--we weren't talking about being reimbursed for his travel time--just for him to bring home enough money to actually afford the stupid train ticket. Simple, right? Well, it got interesting. We picked a number for a yearly salary. Slightly higher than what he makes now, but still, it sounded like a lot. I found a number of paycheck calculators online and plugged in the appropriate numbers here and there and got the result. He would have LOST about $400 a month in commuting costs (just to pay for the train ticket, in other words), and though the salary would be higher, he'd bring home less.
So I went higher, and put in a higher annual salary. No better. Higher again, and I broke even. He'd bring home the same amount as he makes now, he'd pay for the train and all, but his yearly salary was getting pretty high (on paper). Truly, I was getting a little freaked out. So, for shits and giggles, I plugged in the salary my husband was making at his highest point, which was significant (he's not making that now--those days are gone, friends). When I did, I found that he could afford the commute, and bring home extra, but it wasn't much extra. And the salary number was very high.
And I thought "No way in hell can that be right, because we had a LOT of extra money back then". But guess what? It was right. No matter what program I plugged that stupid number into, it still came back the same. So I went back into my records (remember, I like paperwork) and looked to see if our expenses were SO much lower back then and that's why we had so much more money kicking around.
They were higher. We had more and higher expenses, but STILL had more money.
Want to know why? Because at some point in time between 2007 and 2013 the tax laws changed (probably a trillion times). And if my husband brought home the SAME salary today as he did in 2007, paid bi-weekly as it was then, he would be bringing home a whopping $1200 LESS a month. I think I might have vomited a little when I figured that out. So why is it getting harder to get by? Well, for one, we seemed to be being taxed to death. That, my friends, is scary.
Anyway, that is my off topic rant for today. How does it relate? Well, even if you never saved paperwork from 6 years ago (which you probably don't) and had never wanted to play "what if" with a paycheck calculator, I still think you'd notice that we're all losing ground, fast. In terms of homesteading, I have noticed within the past year, and notably within the past few months, that:
1. Egg sales have fallen flat. I can give them away (everyone likes free), but even my staunchest customers are coming to get eggs fewer times than normal.
2. I couldn't sell Olive, who was priced so low. I had chalked that up to stupid newbee suburbanite homesteaders who can't wait, and that could very well be, but it's also possible that there isn't money to wait.
3. Someone wanted to buy Stewart for a lot of money, when he wasn't offered for sale. That's interesting, because he's a male with a lot of baby potential. Baby potential = milk, obviously. Meat as well, if you eat goat. I know how valuable he is, it seems others do, too. In the long run, owning Stewart will cost less than "renting a buck" for your does every year--especially if you have a number of does.
4. Meat bird sales were non-existant. Yes, they are expensive. No, I can't sell them for supermarket prices (even those have gone up, though, have you looked?). The only people to purchase meatbirds from us this year were family members. Last year this was not the case. This could be poor marketing on my part, but I don't know. I do know that when people were told how much the birds were per pound, the conversation was over. Sing whatever song you like about how well raised they are (and they are), but if the person can't afford it, there's nothing you can do.
Outside of here, I have noticed the following:
1. The number of horses for sale on Craigslist has gone up. I don't need or ever want a horse, but people around here keep them as lawn ornaments for whatever the hell reason. That seems to be changing, slowly.
2. The number of entire flock sheep sales has gone up, from "I've never seen one" to, "There were three posted just yesterday". Why? I think it may have the same reason as number three, here, which is....
3. I was privy to a conversation the other day between two women who keep lawn ornament horses, and they said someone was getting rid of their alpacas. One woman said to the other "Do you want them?" and the second said "There's no money in alpacas anymore". That's interesting. Along with lawn ornament horses, Alpacas also do nothing. Yes, they are a fiber animal, but they are an artisan fiber animal. Not too many people walk around with alpaca fiber clothing on a regular basis. The fiber is usually for spinners and weavers and knitters and so on, those with a bit of money, because it's expensive stuff. When Alpacas, with their high end fiber, are no longer worth money, it means there's no money to spend on them. End of story.
I could go on. I won't. I would tell you that in Tractor Supply yesteday, I saw a "Seed Survival Vault", which said on it "The seeds you need in the toughest of times". I wish I had a picture, but I don't carry an idiotphone with me, so I don't have a camera. I cannot find it online to show you. However, weird? Um.....yeah. Weird. I'm not sure what that means, if anything at all.
In all fairness, I live in a not-particularly rich area. Some people have money here, most do not. Other areas may be experiencing different things. But it seems to me, living in this area, that this economic mess, collapse, whatever you want to call it, is getting worse and instead of starting from the top down as it did in 2008, it's coming from the bottom up. Either way it sucks. But I am curious...are any of you seeing similar things? Would you share? I'm interested. Either this post will get a million responses, or the crickets are going to chirp. But if you've seen anything "odd" by you, or have noticed that things aren't all kosher, let me know. Let us all know. Maybe we all need a heads up.
Anyway, I'm totally off topic, so next time we'll talk meatbirds. Until then, take care!