Making Choices

Today I had a great comment on my $4 Gasoline post by Joy at Joy’s Victory Garden and Our Friendly Earth, that got me to pondering an issue that I have addressed here before. With the inevitable $4 gasoline, and the possibility of the rising cost not taking a downward turn anytime soon, what are average Americans going to do? Choices will be made…choices born out of fear and exasperation.

My concern with $5 gasoline is that people will have to choose between buying a gallon of milk or loaf of bread and buying a gallon of gasoline. Without fuel, people will not be able to afford to drive to work. If a person doesn’t work, then what? There are assistance programs, but I am certain it is not enough.

DH drives 36 miles round trip for work everyday. He drives an older vehicle with terrible fuel economy…but that is our only choice at the moment. Just cipherin’ in my head, I come up with a monthly expenditure of around $200 for him to drive back and forth to work. It is not proper form to tell you what percentage of his net income that actually respresents, but let’s just say….I would much rather that be going into a college savings fund instead pouring out into the environment. There is no choice for us for now, we will keep paying the amount, whatever it is, so that DH can earn his paycheck.

What about other’s who do not have other resources to offset this enormous budget buster? For a minimum wage employee, almost one hour work will pay for a gallon of gasoline. I am thinking that most minimum wage workers drive older less fuel efficient vehicles. Using the same scenario as DH’s, except on minimum wage, the percentage of net income spent on fuel is approximately 25%, a percentage that was once reserved for the most important issue of your budget…housing. Rising fuel costs added to a fixed rent figure could skyrocket to a 60-70% of a minimum wage earners net salary. So that puts us at 85-90% of salary….hmmmm….what about child care (I am thankful I do not have to worry about this expense), medical, and ummmm…let’s say FOOD? There’s another hit below the belt. Milk is as much as gasoline and bread/eggs not to far from it.

I am not an economist….and there is much I do not understand about inflation, recession, supply and demand, but one thing that I recognize with our current situation and where it is headed is that we are in deep stuff here. I think I could ramble on and on here with what ifs. It seems…and I realize that I will most likely be corrected in the comments section….that we have a full viscious cycle building larger and larger….like a thunderhead in the distance. If people are put into a position of making choices of whether to purchase gas to drive to work, or to feed a hungry family, what will that choice be and what are the ramifications of the choice? No work? No paycheck! No paycheck? No food or housing! Then what? Subsidies are available, but will they continue if a the need becomes greater? Certain jobs are filled with minimum wage workers (right or wrong) that will otherwise not be filled by anyone else. What will happen if the need for employees is not met? What if, what if?

I don’t know the answer. Do you? One thing I do know, it that I am watching the lightning strikes…..1….2….3…..and counting the moments…1…..2…..before I hear the thunder…..1……and I believe it to be a prudent time to take cover! There is a different kind of storm a-comin’!

Homemade Laundry Soap

I have promised to post the recipe I use for my homemade laundry soap. Making my own laundry soap is not without scrutiny, nor rewards. My family thought Ihad gone bonkers when I began making my laundry soap. DD complained about everything from the scent to the new soap was “bleaching” out the colors of her favorite tee shirts. I happened to like the scent, as it had such a clean aroma to it and the reason her shirts are fading is that she wears the same favorite ones over and over…which means more washing…duh!

DH poked a slight bit of fun at me making my own “hooch”, but after I proved to him the amount of money I was saving, he hasn’t said another word. Correction, when my last batch failed to thicken, he made asked me what I did wrong..haha!

Today, I was going to make another batch and take photos to share, but I found that our water was turned off for the day. Okay, I cannot side step a quick rant here. Our city is undergoing a complete water system revamp..for over a year now. The town is divided into sections and assigned a letter…ours is E. On the post office door, the sections and hours that the water will be turned off are posted…however, I have learned not to depend on the validity of it. I had not check the television or the post office today and found, as I was putting a load of laundry in that there was no water. After a few words left my mouth, I turned the television on to find that the water is to be turned off in my section between 10AM and 4PM with the note An Emergency-Sorry. Holy Cow, has the day gotten away from me? Is after 10:00 already? A quick check showed it to be only 9:15 AM. ! Now my question is why even bother to post something, if it s not going to be correct?  {end rant}

Making your own laundry soap does save a considerable amount of money. I believe my initial investment was less than $20, and yet I have not purchased commercial brand detergent in several months. I still have plenty of my supplies left, and even have FELS NAPTHA Bars for sale at $4.75, which includes shipping.  I figure that I have gone through 40 or so bottles of detergent since I started this method and it boggles my mind, how much I have saved.

Anyhow, here’s my re-SESS-i-peee (recipe) for the laundry soap…it comes with no warrantees, gaurantees, or promises. I now make mine up in a double batch and fill several recycled laundry and vinegar bottles, but I suggest that anyone trying it for the first time to mix only one batch.

HomeMade Laundry Soap

1/3 bar Fels Naptha Bar-Grated

1/2 cup Washing Soda

1/2 cup Borax

~In a large pot, add soap to six cups of water and heat on the stove, set at medium, until soap has melted.

~Add soda and Borax and stir until dissolved.

~ Remove from heat.

~Pour 4 cups hot water into a 5 gallon bucket.

~Add mix to hot water in bucket and stir. ( I use a recycled long piece of wood from a window shade.)

~Add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water to mixture and stir until mixed.

~Allow laundry soap to sit for 24 hrs. to gel, stirring occasionally.

I use a little over 1/2 cup for regular loads of laundry. You can adjust as needed. Please note that this soap does not really produce bubbles. I have substituted other soaps for the FELS NAPTHA because I could not purchase it locally. Ivory soap, Zote, or homemande scented soaps work also.

If you decide to try this, let me know how your project goes.

UNCLE!

Okay, I call uncle, time-out, I give…..

Do you ever feel that way? Today I am there…I QUIT!

I have yet another failed attempt at solar cooking. The beans were hard! I guess, unless it is just to heat up something that is already cooked, I am not going to waste another bit of food. DH has a problem with food cooked at low temps and it just goes to waste.

On top of it all, I just received notice that my solar cooker from Path to Freedom is on back-order. Well, actually I knew that part already , but NOT UNTIL MID JULY!  The air conditioners are going in tonight. I have puttered around with NOT cooking inside the house for long enough. Peanut butter sandwiches are getting extremely old, as are salads.

So please excuse me while I have a temper tantrum sitting here melting away in the heat.  I think I will go take a nap!

The Future of Food

This past week, I have had several different blog topics rolling around in my head. Most of those thoughts have been about food…either the growing of, the shortage of, the cooking of, the harvesting of, the preserving of, or, yes, the genetic engineering of…..OUR FOOD!

These thoughts have prompted a couple of movements for me.  I requested Michael Pollan’s books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, , In Defense of Food, and A Place of My Own, from our local library. As I have begun to read, I have been wishing I belonged to a book club with members with whom I could discuss my readings and thoughts. DH has been kind enough to oglige, but it would be nice to hear what others have to say.

On another path, I attempted some solar cooking last weekend and hope to share my failures with you soon. Because of those failures with a home-fashioned solar cooker, I purchased a new one from The Peddlar’s Wagon at Path to Freedom/Urban Homesteaders. I am excited about the possibilities of not heating up the kitchen and still being able to prepare a meal.

What brought me to all of these thoughts about food and has me attempting action on those thoughts? First was the Path to Freedom Sustainable Food UCLA Lectures hosted on YouTube. Part four was just recently uploaded and now we are waiting for the Q & A video to be released. In Jules Dervaes’ lecture he mentioned Deborah Koons Garcia, the wife of Jerry Garcia, who is the producer of The Future of Food Documentary about, well, the future of food.  Immediately searching YouTube for Garcia and the future of food, I found several videos from which to choose. DH and I listened to Mrs. Garcia on a radio show broadcast, as she talked about the history of the documentary and her journey with food.

This radio broadcast is a bit longer than most YouTube clips…but you will gain so much info for a small investment of your time.

Introduction to The Future of Food

The Path to Freedom Sustainable Foods UCLA Lectures began with Part One……

I had not written a post, because I was not certain what I, as an individual, could say about the mess that we appear to be heading toward. My head is reeling from everything that I am learning. Today, at Prairie Dreams, Anita posted an entry about farmers being thrown out of the Food Shortage Summit in Rome and though Rome is on the other side of the earth, I know that we are all in this together…farmers, consumers, and unfortunately, large agribusiness corporations. As Jules Dervaes often speaks…it is time for a HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION. While our backyard and patio “farms” will not head off world hunger, it might just make a difference in our own household.

I encourage all to “do your own research” and take some baby steps toward sustainability. That is all that we can all do….each take baby steps toward a success.

Food Prices to Rise 9% Annually

Holy Cow! How many of us get a 9% cost of living raise each year? Not me, not anyone that I-I-I know!

Food Prices to Rise 9%

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. food prices will rise a stiff 9 percent a year through 2012, the largest increase since 1979 and the result of record-high crop prices, the head of an economic consulting company said on Thursday.

<snip>

During a telephone news conference, Lapp said he was completing a new analysis of food and commodity prices. He foresaw average corn prices of $5.25 a bushel through 2012, with wheat around $6.50 and soybeans near $11.

“When I do that analysis and look at the relationship between that and food prices, I get a 2008-12 average annual rate of increase in the consumer price index for food of 9.0 percent,” he said.

<snip>

A 50 percent increase in corn prices was likely to result in a 1 percent increase in food prices, he said in February.

Lapp said crop prices will plateau at higher levels than prevailed through 2006, due to factors that include global economic growth, geopolitical uncertainties, the weak U.S. dollar, China‘s larger role in the world economy and the use of food to produce fuel.

<snip>

“There is virtually no cushion” to offset a poor harvest, said Collins, who is now a consultant.

USDA has predicted that prices of cereals and bakery products will zoom by 8 percent this year, and that eggs and fats and oils also will go up in price. Increases are expected in 2009 for meat, poultry and fish.

Driving Mileage Down

Just found this on yahoo….

According to the Government March Driving Down for the First Time since 1979~~

….. In a sign that Americans are curbing their driving in the face of record-high gasoline prices, data released on Friday showed highway miles driven in March fell 4.3 percent from a year earlier, the first March decline since the last major oil shock in the late 1970s.

According to the Department of Transportation, Americans drove 11 billion miles less in March 2008 than a year earlier, the first time estimated travel on public roads fell in March since 1979.

The data marks the sharpest year-on-year drop for any month in the history of the agency’s reporting, which dates back to 1942.

Complete Story

FUEL PRICES!

My friend, Anita, at Prairie Dreams blogged about Gas Prices today.  The more I thought about $130 a barrel fuel…the angrier I became. I began to leave a comment, which began to turn into a pretty long comment, so I thought in all fairness to Anita I should move my overloaded mouth to my own blog.

This is an official RANT happening before your very eyes folks!  And as with most of my rants, my thoughts usually flop out on the screen in huge messy chunks…so I apologize up front for any randomness or incoherent moments.

Fuel is expected to skyrocket in June. WHAT? What the #&@! is it doing now?  I cannot imbed this video, but you can go to Chicago NBC NEWS to watch a video clip about $4.39 fuel or this clip about People Expressing Anger.  They use some of the same footage in both. $4.39 is not even the highest per gallon found in Chicago.

The Capital Group reports that Goldman Sachs predicts $200 barrel oil in 2008.

One of the videos states we should brace ourselves for a rise in prices during peak summer driving times.

How can we, the average people, make a difference in what is happening all across our nation? Some of us, out of necessity, are making individual differences in how we are surviving this crisis. On Prairie Dreams Blog, some of the comments note that people are being more conscientious about combining trips and try to cut down on unneccesary travel.

These fuel prices are not only affecting the pumps, but we see it in our grocery bills as well. I was in stunned in disbelief when 18 ct. eggs jumped over an dollar in the matter of a month. Milk at over $4 a gallon even at the large grocery chains. What can we do? Everyday people are making life decisions…do I buy milk and bread for the table or do I put fuel in the tank? There should be some law stating people should not be put in the position to make these kinds of decisions. Okay,okay, I know that there are many people who have had to make these types of decisions since the beginning of time, but come on! This is ridiculous!

I wonder what would happen if a large portion of U.S. citizens just decided NOT to go to work for one day. Now, I realize that most Americans cannot afford to miss a day of work, but there are those that are able. With the prices rising faster and higher, I feel it won’t be long before people cannot afford to drive to work and will be making that choice…do I drive to work today or do I put food on the table?

What if there was a movement toward a 4 day work week until this crisis is over? For employers who could shut down for one day a week, they would have the added benefit of cutting heating and cooling costs. We have a school district south of us who went to a 4 day school week and I have heard positive things about it. There were many obstacles to overcome in the initial transformation, but for the most part I believe it was a positive move.

I have seen email forwards asking for every person to not purchase fuel on a particular day, but that has not seemed to make a difference. I think NOT going to work for a day…..WOULD!  Maybe I am delusional…I am not economist, nor do I play one on television, but it seems there would be some relief, if not some kind of satisfaction, in a cohesive campaign. What do you think?

Eating Our Trash

Would you like a table or a booth?

 The old adage “we are what we eat”  hits too close to home after watching this video about Garbage Island in the Pacific Ocean. I saw the documentary on television some time ago and I was amazed at the footage. The floating island of trash is said to be twice the size of Texas and 80% of it is comprised of household and municipal waste, filled with plastic. Plastic is not biodegradable, it is photodegradable, which means it will always remain as plastic.

In this floating monstrosity tiny pieces of plastic are floating about with an array of larger discards. Filter feeder fish, such as jelly fish, take these plastics into their systems. Well, we all know how the food chain works. Big fish eats little fish, which is then eaten by a bigger fish, and another until it makes it on our dining room table.

Concerns over the chemicals in plastics infiltrating our food chain have prompted studies in Japan; where women with high levels of these toxins have been know to have multiple miscarriages. Doctors in Hawaii express concern over the high levels linking to early onset diabetes, liver disease and kidney disease.

I love fish…especially shellfish, salmon, and grouper. Living in landlocked Kansas, I rarely have an opportunity to dine on any of my favorites, but occasionally I am able to sit down to a bit of catfish or trout….some of which I have angled myself…however, even our Kansas waters woes concern me over what I am consuming, but I will save that for another entry.

Small Farms More Profitable

A snippet from an Editorial/Opinion in The New York Times~~~

Change We Can Stomach

“…small farms are the most productive on earth. A four-acre farm in the United States nets, on average, $1,400 per acre; a 1,364-acre farm nets $39 an acre. Big farms have long compensated for the disequilibrium with sheer quantity. But their economies of scale come from mass distribution, and with diesel fuel costing more than $4 per gallon in many locations, it’s no longer efficient to transport food 1,500 miles from where it’s grown. “