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Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Time Off, and the Barter Economy
Somehow, Labor Day just wasn’t the same now that every Monday is a day off. More people were around, that was the major difference. We’ve done a lot of cooking on the patio this summer to keep the heat outside, like everyone else, so that really wasn’t different either. I know a lot of people are burning cardboard or paper to cook with, which hasn’t helped the air quality any — but when it comes right down to it, wood, charcoal and even propane create fumes too. I can appreciate making use of the trash instead of chucking it in the landfill, too.
Right after Labor Day, we went up to the resort in Helen for a couple of weeks. We got a Tuesday-Friday block for like $150, and it was even the same unit where we have our regular week so we didn’t have to move our stuff. Internet access was pretty much gone this year; they've given up trying to keep wi-fi running and the units aren’t wired for Ethernet. Sure, I could have gone up to the clubhouse and plugged in, but we were too busy doing things together. (You know: walking, swimming, biking…) Helen is worried that their Octoberfest is going to be a bust this year, but the hotels got smart and chartered a daily bus service down to Atlanta (with a stop in Gainesville). People can come up for a day trip or stay a few days.
The other trendy vacation thing I heard about this year is a “Resort @Home” service — a maid, butler, and cook straighten up your house and wait on you hand & foot for one or two weeks. It sounds really nice, but it wouldn’t work at FAR Manor (maybe next year when the chicken houses are shut down) even if we could afford it. I guess the staff lives in a motorhome unless you have extra bedrooms.
We had a quiet vacation overall. The Boy is installing and maintaining backup power systems (with solar or wind), it’s good money and he’s staying busy; Daughter Dearest is doing a little post-grad work before starting her new job in October. We traded last year for a week in July, so she could spend the week with us without missing the start of the school year. There weren’t too many people here this year, so we didn’t have a problem finding pool chairs and we didn’t get caught behind too many people playing mini-golf. Mrs. Fetched enjoyed walking around this year, which is nice. A lot of Mountain Shadows properties are up for sale, cheap; if I thought we wouldn’t need the money for composting toilets or solar panels, I’d grab one. Of course, then I’d have two places that would need composting toilets and solar panels. I guess not.
More people are taking vacations close to home this year. Since rationing allotments are only good for 3 weeks, you can’t save up all year to burn a bunch of gas on a long road trip. Labor Day was the first holiday since rationing went into effect, and it seems that holidays (or rather, the 2 weeks previous) are going to bring a lot of activity to the exchange, and a bid-up on allotment prices — not everyone is ready to give up their long trips, I suppose. You can get stale (4 to 7 days to expiration) allotments for 25 cents/gallon most of the time, but they went to nearly a buck the week before Labor Day. We usually sell our freshest allotments, since they generally bring a higher price, and use up the stale ones. We haven’t needed to yet, but we figure we can pick up some more allotments if we run short. We’ve cleared close to $20 so far on the exchange — nobody’s getting rich on it — so we just leave it in the account just in case we need some extra go-juice. Given that rationed gas is pretty much available, we may make that trip to Florida after all — the other side of that coin is that we can’t get a place for next to nothing now.
Our new plan, though, might be to start trading. Allotments that have less than 4 days to expire can’t be auctioned on the exchange, but you can use the “private exchange” section to transfer allotments and settle the bill off-line. What with milk topping $7 at the supermarket, one of our neighbors bought a goat for milk. She’s a good producer, I guess — they said they have more milk than they know what to do with, so we might start trading allotments for goat milk. They gave us some to try; Mrs. Fetched thinks it tastes a little strange, but she said she could get used to it. (I tried it in college, and liked it quite a bit, and that hasn’t changed.) We’ve done a lot of produce-swapping this summer, too. I traded peppers and herbs for spinach, corn, and eggs. The in-laws have these green beans that can embarrass zucchini to death (I’ve seen it happen), and they had plenty to trade for stuff they wanted, too. The church down the road started offering their yard as an open-air market the last couple of weeks; I think they’ll start earlier next year.
The in-laws are doing quite well with the cattle nowadays, which is giving them a cushion for when they shut down the chicken houses next spring. Beef might be a luxury item, what with so much corn going to ethanol, but this herd eats grass. That pretty much means the only expense is fuel for cutting hay or taking the cows to the auction. The cattle farm was certified organic last year, and that’s helped a lot too. We’ve put a lot of brainwork, and a bit of physical labor, into trying to minimize the amount of fuel needed for the hay. I’m sure we could come up with some better stuff than what we’ve done so far, but every bit helps. Sooner or later, others will catch on and stop using corn for feeding livestock, but for now the advantage is ours. It’s amazing what you can get in trade for a whole cow… someone even offered them an older SUV (yeah, right — who wants a gas hog these days?). Mostly they take cash, unless it’s from a neighbor; they have enough fuel to run the farm and aren’t lacking for anything else.
What’s your “beef” these days?