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From the Hinterlands

June 25th, 2011 at 01:12 am

I need to start this for myself, to put into perspective the absolute impossibility that is living in the middle of no where on next to nothing. I know, that is a terrible way to start a blog. Why would anyone want to read that? It's depressing. However. you maybe able to glean a few gems on how to reduce your costs, based on my tried and true methods. Furthermore, you may gain a more complete understanding of the desolation your fellow humans must endure. Compassion, is not required, but you may find yours here.

I live on ten acres, that I have more or less, tried to farm...with some success. The latest year has been the worst to date. My husband, lovingly and jokingly referred to as "the mule", has been working the land for all these years and no longer can. I, not accustomed to having to do his share and my own, did not get enough planted. We were going to need those plants in the ground, to eat you see. They still didn't get in there in time.

It seems someone had other plans for us. Every piece of machinery we own broke down within one week of the other. The repair bills would be too much all at once, more than our savings. Also, no one can be found to repair the machinery within a few miles, so we have to wait until one can come to us from faraway. We were left with one option, do it by hand. Do you know how hard it is to till an acre by hand with just a shovel? Never mind the fact this was a new virgin acre we were supposed to bring online, to let our old land lay fallow and recover. It is impossible alone.

Instead I planted the old land and we tried to clear the new land, to hopefully plant a fall garden in. I still hope that will happen. We don't have a lot of time left, and we still have a few pieces of broken equipment. Hope, what is there without hope? People seem to think I am an optimist. I am a pessimist, I assure you, with a lot of "let's hope for the best" thrown in.

Due to our poor spring harvest, I am having to buy groceries...like everyone else. Everyone else that has a normal job, a normal car, or at least has SNAP benefits. In the beginning, I used my savings which was minuscule. Originally, we were saving for the car...just in case it broke down. It is over 20 years old now. No, I had to use our savings for food. I don't regret it, I just wish it could have stretched further.

My savings has been gone for about a month now. I have had to become very creative in my budgeting. I receive about 428 a month in child support from my first marriage. For a while, I sold cosmetics through a large company and made about 400 usd more per month. I stopped selling them last year though, due to the expenses being higher than my returns. Gas was killing me. I also make money on the side from a call center, but it isn't anywhere near full time. It is more like part-time, 2 days a week. Nothing big. It's inexpensive to get to work, because I don't have to drive anywhere, have a babysitter, or even worry about professional appearance. I work at home with my internet and VOIP through Google. I may make 200 usd in a good month on this job. Now, this is money already allocated to bills.

As you can see, I am in a bind. All of my income is going straight to bills. One might reason, cut back. Turn off the cable, cut the internet, use less electric and try to find a real job. Trust me, I have thought about that too. I turned off my land line and only get my phone through Google Voice. I need the internet to work for the phone center. I hang dry laundry, I cook from scratch, and I sew my kids clothes when they get new ones. Yes, I am that frugal.

As far as finding a "real job" (TM), they don't exist within 30 miles of here. My car is too unreliable, gas is too high, and the returns are too low. When my husband had a "real job" (TM) making min. wage, 100 usd went straight to gas. Keep in mind, this was when gas was in the low 2.50 usd per gallon range. At the end of the week once we paid for gas, and his lunch, plus the tools he had to buy for the job... we got may be 100 usd left. For what? 40-50 hours of work a week, 16 hour shifts, leaving home at 2am to make his 4 am shift and then have to work until 6 pm? The "real job" (TM) wasn't worth all the work to get there, all the expenses to get there, and the insane hours. That doesn't take into account the toll it had on his health or the lack of health insurance.

I only need 40 to 50 usd a week to get groceries. I came up with a few ideas about how to get that money. First, I sold many of my old college books on half.com. It has so far netted about one weeks worth of groceries. Not bad, but not something I would like to bet my food budget on. I still put stuff up on half.com, but it isn't my primary strategy.

Second, I have started becoming a Turker. Yes, Mechanical turk. While sitting waiting for calls from customers for the phone center, I work on mechanical Turk. Currently I have earned almost 100 usd, about 2 weeks worth of food. That has taken about 3 weeks to make, by the way. It beats doing nothing at least.

Finally, I have begun putting in more time on the phone line. I know many don't have this option. I am very lucky I do. It doesn't yield as much return on the weekdays, so I am not getting much more. It may just be enough, to round it all out.

I am thinking of more ways I can cut back. We have a few options I will discuss later, but for right now...I am signing off.

D. L. Mitchell

8 Responses to “From the Hinterlands”

  1. patientsaver Says:

    I'm really sorry to hear about your situation. However, a few things came to mind as I read it.

    First, i don't know where you live, but at least here in the northeast, it wouldn't be too late to plant many vegetables in the garden, especially if you bought inexpensive seedlings from the garden center that already have a head start.

    There are some veggies, like string beans, that ou can continue planting into August, I think, and then of course you can plant lettuce, snap peas and cool weather crops in late summer for a fall crop. You could probably rent a small rototiller to dig up some ground, not the whole 10 acres, obviously, but enough to feed yourselves.

    Believe me, I know how back-breaking it is to try to dig up sod with a shovel. I don't think it's the end of the world to replant the same crops in the same space from one year to the next. I know you're supposed to let land lay fallow, or rotate crops for pest management, but again,not the end of the world.

    If you're home and sort of tied to your computer while you do the phone work, you might consider doing online surveys. It can get very tedious, but having been underemployed for over a year and a half, I've been doing Pinecone and Toluna surveys every day, and I average $100 a month. I spend at least an hour doing surveys every day, so if you try to calculate your hourly take, it would look pitiful, but the way I look at it, it's money I wouldn't otherwise have, and you're sitting there at your desk anyway.

    There are tons of ways to either cut expenses or earn more money. It's hard to know where to start, but I'm sure many here like me would be glad to brainstorm with you if you have a particular focus, whether it's food or other household stuff.

    I've been out of work for a while. If you browse through some of my older blog posts, you may get some ideas because I have done many things to save or earn money.

    My sister is a farmer of her 3 acres, but she never has enough time to tend to it as she works f/t gardening on a private estate. She also has a tenant in a barn, but even then, she is scraping for $$.

    PS What in the world is a Turker?

    PSS Meant to say, welcome to the site and i hope you stick around. There are a lot of people here in varying circumstances, but I think everyone is looking to save or pay off debt. So you're in good company, and please don't think your post is not worth reading.

  2. NJDebbie Says:

    Welcome and I really hope your situation changes. ((HUGS))

  3. rob62521 Says:

    Sorry for your struggles. Hopefully things will turn around. Welcome to the site.

  4. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    You might want to start mulling over the possibility that the time is near to move to a non-farm situation, closer to more employment possibilities. Rural isolation can really be tough.

    Do you have friends and acquaintances who can be reminded that you and/or your spouse need work? Personal connections are the biggest resource for jobs, I think. Can you constantly advertise (in free ways) emergency childcare at super-good rates?

  5. CB in the City Says:

    I am very intrigued. It sounds like you made a bold move at some time in the past (unless you inherited the farm), and now it has become quite difficult, through no fault of your own. I admire your spirit and your tenacity. I hope you will continue to post and let us share in your struggles. We can provide moral support, if nothing else.

  6. Jerry Says:

    A job with a take home of $100 is not much, especially without insurance or other benefits, but are there other possibilities closer to where you live? It is true that the gas prices are prohibitive right now, are there other transportation options? I hope that you are able to find a solution that leads to a good situation for your family. I am a big fan of gardening as much as possible! Good luck...

  7. baselle Says:

    I'm so sorry. But even writing this means that you have a little fight and optimism left.

    I'm intrigued also. I sure know how hard it is to till the land with just a shovel. And an acre is big. Are you growing crops just for personal use or are you growing for money? If it is for personal use, I'd search online (because you are at least 30 miles from a library) for Intensive Gardening tips and plans. Better to have a well cared for small survival garden than even an acre that you can't handle. I'd also second PatientSaver's plan for starting in with a fall garden. Get the kale, garlic, and lettuce going.

    Another crazy, thinking out of the box idea ... foraging and wild foods, aka Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons. You'll need to identify edible plants (there are some surprisingly common toxic plants out there) but ironically, some of the weeds in their youth are better nutritionally than the garden plants you are growing. Young dandelions are salad greens, if you can believe it.

  8. aukxsona Says:

    There are no public transportation options where I live. In fact, I am looking at how I will get to the store, just 10 miles away, if the car would die. So far I have 2 ideas, bicycle or walk.

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