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Monday, May 28, 2007

When money's tight

Airing out the ducklings

Granddaughter has been here for a lovely three day visit. I read her a book in Spanish, which was a risk, since all my rusty Romance Languages training is in French and Italian.

I asked her how she liked it and she said, "I think you better learn Spanish."


We read a lot of old Richard Scarry books, on which we we had raised her dad, but which were new to her, and a good deal of time was spent watching Pokemon and Ranma 1/2 DVDs or playing with puppets or painting with tempera. And hours were spent tending the new family members.

There are now almost a dozen Barred Rocks, half a dozen Araucanas, eight or so Khaki Campbell ducklings, and three goslings -- I think White Chinas, though I forgot to ask -- they're yellow right now. Basically the chickens and ducks all remember being wild somehow, but the geese are sweet and trusting and regard Beloved as their mom.

Some drainpipes somewhere in our 18" crawl space have plugged up, so I'm putting in a temporary greywater system by setting a used bathtub underneath the washing machine's drain pipe, which I've opened at one of the unions, and am feeding trees from there by means of a quickly constructed yoke with 4 gallon buckets These one fills halfway (to avoid staggering around sloshing eight gallons of water) and, shrugging into the yoke, one walks with a kind of drunken, measured rhythm, which is dictated by the buckets, to wherever one wishes to go.

It's pleasant to rediscover sensations that have mostly been read about, or that have been disappearing from knowledge, in our rather out-of-touch civilization. The yoke, like the wheelbarrow, easily negotiates tight squeezes and gets quite a lot of water to wherever it's wanted, with a minimum of fuss.

Last Son has also been here, as well as Daughter and her young man, so there has been bread baking and veggie-burrito making and beer-tasting and general bedlam.

In the midst of all this activity, as there are no sheep at present, I have been mowing, an activity Beloved detests and about which I'm ambivalent, as we are still relying on gasoline to get it done. But I console myself by using a mower with a bagger, and windrowing the clippings to make hay. After the hay dries, we gather it into the "barn" (poultry house really) or pile it round all the trees, shrubs, and especially the garden.

We have lots of lettuce, peppers, eggplant, squash of various kinds, and tomato starts ready to go in the ground, but it's Beloved's garden this year (we tend to take turns) and, as she's taking Granddaughter back to the Big City to the North right now, there's a pause in activity on the premises.

After the other two ladies drove off, I napped a little bit, then drove to the Big Box to get five rolls of ninety-pound roofing felt, in light grey, to re-roof the barn and the playhouse after the day cools some. Grey is a compromise. White would have better reflectivity, which we're going to need, but black goes better with our general color scheme. Hence the light grey. Much, much better would be a solar membrane, but one has to do one thing at a time when money's tight.

And why, one may well ask, is the money tight?

It's thus: We're both twenty minutes away from our jobs with no bus route nearby, requiring us to have two vehicles for now. We have have 40 mpg/hwy Saturns, but filling them now takes 35 dollars. Our tanks are lasting two weeks. So that's $150/month for gas (petrol to some of you) or $1800/year just for the work commute. And Beloved has just had to spend $700 on maintenance on her ride, and I expect to do the same for mine within a month (it has 190,000 miles on it).

We're what used to be called middle class, but that seems to be going away now, thanks to peak oil, global warming, globalization, and the policies now in place that won't allow the once vaunted American ingenuity to tackle these problems in time to do any good.

That's fair that it's happening to us at Stony Run; we've had a good turn; but aside from the question of what's going to happen in Granddaughter's time, think about the effect of these things on those who haven't had the margin for economic security that we've had.

Minimum wage here right now is a whopping (to Republicans) $7.50 an hour. If that's you, and your ride is a 12 miles/gallon used Plymouth, the transportation range of $7.50, hereabouts in 2001, was 66 miles. Currently it's 26 miles and dropping. Under these conditions there is no route from here to the American dream for many more Americans than has been true for a very long time.

And that's nothing like the trouble that's brewing elsewhere...

I have always loved the National Geographic, and of late they have been doing even more splendid -- and brave -- work than ever.

In their article on Darwin, they noted that more than 40% of Americans believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old. As this is the same 40% that is largely the "base" for current policy, it's a thing to worry about. Other recent articles have noted the continued automobile-dependent paving, urbanization, and suburbanization of more and more land; the fading of oil supplies; destruction to the arms and legs and brains of tens of thousands of good kids sent by the Bush administration's policies to wrest other people's oil from them; the dreadful conditions in Darfur and the specter of genocide; the destruction of most of the fish in the seas; the theft of Nigeria's oil by large corporations and conniving politicians and the desperate resistance of the local people (who are then labeled "terrorists"); the rapid disappearance of millions of acres of carbon-sequestering forests; the intensification of typhoons, tornadoes and hurricanes; and the fading away of glaciers and icecaps at twice the rate predicted by those scientists who have escaped the administration's censorship.

It's a wonder the Geographic hasn't been lobotomized on these topics the way most television networks and newspapers have. I know they have been losing some stiff-necked subscribers, and probably some advertisers as well. Hat's off to them.

But about those glaciers.

The article did mention that seas will rise, which most of us will have heard by now, but it also noted that water for irrigation, power, and industrial and domestic use is disappearing along with the glaciers -- often in very poor regions of the world. Setting aside for a moment yet another brilliant Geographic article that documented the worldwide "corporatization" of ownership (and bottling and sale) of indigenous people'sown water to them--

-- When the lands beneath the peoples of the world's arid and mountainous areas dry up, who do you think they're ultimately going to come after?

And we think we have an immigration problem?


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