Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Managing Uncertainty (part 2)

As promised yesterday, this post will discuss what I'm doing to manage my uncertainty level during these transitional times.

To start, I'm keeping up with the daily tasks around the house. It's easy to put off laundry, dishes, routine cleaning, etc. with the excuse of 'plenty of time to do that tomorrow, next week, or whenever. If change is sudden and unexpected, I don't want to start it with the liability of being behind in managing my household.

I ensure that fuels are topped off, including a car, propane tanks and extra fuel for tools.

Running errands more frequently may sound counterintuitive, but consider it. The very last thing I want to do if things are unraveling is drive 50 miles to town to grab XY or Z. By shopping more often, I will be short on fewer things than if I shop less often. This keeps me from stocking up on too many perishables yet keeps fresh foods on my shelves. For me, this translates from going to town twice a month to going three times, or even weekly. For some people that may seem like going less often, but weekly should be enough if you are otherwise prepared.

Picking up good deals. My weakness is sale items at I'm in pretty good shape on my long-term storage, but some deals are not to be ignored. When high protein items like freeze-dried cheese or meat are on sale in the price range around $25 per #10 can, I'll buy. I don't 'stock up' heavily, but I may buy up to 4 cans to supplement my stores or practice food preparation from storage.

Tend my garden. I usually am on this anyway, but this winter I practiced a winter garden. It was a good experiment, gave us some nutritious salad materials and could be scaled up for a food shortage. Some of the plants are now growing roots to bring me early beets and rutabagas. We've also gotten the berry beds cleaned up and are tending fruit trees for the summer crops.

Vacation at the BOL. We're retired and the BOL isn't far away, so I spend more time here. I realize this is a luxury, but if you or your spouse and kids can do this, you could consider it. If you are working and you have a stay at home spouse, this could be a great compromise so you don't find yourself worrying about your family.

There are other thing you can do, to include target practice, to help manage the anxiety that certain times may bring. You don't need to buy the latest expensive gadget or barricade yourselves into a mountain cave. Knowing that you are ready for and have the flexibility to manage through uncertain times will allow you some extra peace of mind and better sleep!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Managing Uncertainty (part 1)

The world is realigning after almost a decade of 'new normal.'  It feels very tumultuous to me, but it probably is neither as chaotic nor as business-as-usual as our variety of news media portrays. So I thought I'd share some of my methods to gain perspective and manage my level of uncertainty.  I've used many of the same methods for years so that I can remain functional yet feeling peacefully prepared while trying to live a normal life' -- whatever that is.

The first part of all of this is to check my own thinking to manage both the normalcy bias and the worst-case thinking that I'm capable of letting rule my mind.  Most people are US-centric in their thinking, so don't believe any one or group could actually want to create a world of chaos. That leads to groups of people supporting stupid ideas, like supporting causes that are bent on the destruction of our society. Believing that there are magic words that will cause the bad guys to stop their long-game process is denial of the highest order. On the flip side, believing that a young man who was raised on bravado and testosterone won't use a nuclear weapon in the short-game is also folly. So how do live a normal life without being paralyzed between these two possibilities during a time of extended economic and social uncertainty?

I do this on four levels. The first is physical. I am slowly collecting the stuff needed to maintain a somewhat productive life if a worst-case scenario unfolds. For this I do what I can afford and store, so primarily some long-term food storage, alternative but minimal solar power and small appliances and forms of home security and defense. Lots of websites cover these things ad nauseum, so I won't belabor this level of preparedness.

The next is social. I'm fortunate to live in a small community. We are not like-minded, with community members covering the spectrum from ultra-conservative survivalists to ultra-liberal.  Oddly, across this political and philosophical spectrum many of the people, not just conservatives, are long-term preppers. Taking the local temperature and sharing sources and methods with carefully vetted others is helpful. Regardless the politics, many of us have reached the same conclusion -- that the political system and our government don't care about anything beyond the eastern seaboard, so we're on our own.

Third is informational. Cultivating sources of local, national and international information, and knowing what the biases of each are is important. This process helps avoid over-reacting to hype and under-reacting to real threats. One will cost you money -- possibly selling you stuff is the point of the hype OR getting you injured or killed while trying to minimize chaos for the masses. I watch several indicators that to me often reflect psychological respopnse to what's happening. These include:

- the VIX volatility index, which gets my attention when it increases quickly or goes above 15
- the price of gold. When it goes up it is a signal of international uncertainty
- a variety of websites of reputable news organizations and individuals
- local networks

The fourth is spiritual. I network with those of my own denomination for prayer and support. I spend time in prayer and solitude for guidance, perspective and peace of mind.

So how does this translate into now?  What am I doing differently? The little things, mostly. Many of these are habits, but I am reviewing and renewing these. Most of these cost little or nothing above normal expenses. Here are some of the examples:  Going for fresh groceries weekly rather than every couple of weeks.  Keeping the gas tank in my car topped-off. Keeping up with the laundry. Keeping up with home repairs. Paying more attention to my garden and doing little things (like weeding more often) to improve production.

I'm having trouble with the Blogger, so will add a part 2 to this later today or tomorrow.

Friday, April 14, 2017

For City Folk Considering a Move to the Rural West

Here is some guidance for urban dwellers traveling through the rural west, especially those who are considering retiring or otherwise relocating to these rural parts. If you are already a rural dweller, western or not, please add your additional advice in the comments!

1. Many of us were urban dwellers before we moved out here. Even if we weren't, you have to be pretty smart to make a living in the sticks. Don't assume we're stupid or YOUR stereotype hick. It will come back to haunt you if you stay here very long.

2.  The local cafe is a good place to test out the tempo of the village or town. Be pleasant. Listen to the chatter. See what happens if you ask a question about the local ... something -- weather, festivals, etc. just to see the reaction and interaction of the customers. It tells you a lot. Also notice if the waitress calls any customers by name.

3. If you think you want to buy a place in the area, spend two weeks there in advance. Go to the local cafe, post office, etc. frequently. See if people notice you are staying longer. See if they are a little friendly.

4. Do your research on water, the local fire department (probably volunteer), library, etc. See if people volunteer or contribute to keeping things running. Consider whether you have something positive to add, not just 'straighten this out' ideas. Find out how much utilities cost, etc..

5. Start to ask around about places for sale in the area you think you want to live. In rural areas, many properties are never listed with a realtor. They quietly change hands through a title company. Some of the ones listed with realtors have major problems that all the locals know about but won't tell you unless you ask. Not their business.

6. If you think you want to buy a specific house, ask questions that most city dwellers assume away, like:
  -  Where do you get your drinking water? Reason: you don't want to find out at closing that water has to be bought and hauled 50 miles to a cistern, or that you have a well but you must disinfect the water yourself. Yup, it happens. UPDATE: I forgot about my friend who bought near Tucson. The house was on a 'well share' meaning he and his neighbor shared a well. He noticed that right after school was out, the neighbor's car was packed solid and they left town. About a week later, beginning of the hot and dry season, nothing came out of the taps in his house. Apparently, the well wnent dry every year between the end of May and the summer monsoon recharge. Oops. Got to ask about water!!

  - What is the sewer situation? Reason: As an example of bad homework,  my sister just discovered (after owning a house for 20+ years) that she doesn't have a septic tank. She has 2 cess pools. She discovered this after a law was passed that if you have less than 1 acre, you have to have a special, very expensive type of septic installed to replace any grandfathered system. She has half an acre. She can't legally sell until she has a new septic that meets the new law.

  - Where is the nearest hospital? Fire Department? EMT? Grocery store? Gas station?  Most people don't believe the sign at the interstate that says NO SERVICES and get mad when they must retrace the last 20 miles to get gasoline.

  -  How long does it take for law enforcement to respond to a 911 call?  If you can't take care of a situation for the first hour or two, don't move out here.

  - How's the cell service? We still don't have it here, but we do have the internet, finally. If your life revolves around your connectivity rather than your community, don't go rural.

7. Hate dirt roads? Most of your new neighbors like that dirt roads keep taxes and speeders away. If you don't want your new Land Rover to be dusty and think you can convince the locals to get the roads paved, stay where you are. We live on dirt roads for lots of reasons, none having to do with being ignorant or hicks. If you want pavement, buy on an already paved road.

8. Concerned your prospective neighbor's yard junk will bother you, but you're sure they will clean it up if you mention it, or even pay for it? Wrong. If you don't like it, don't buy there. Many rural areas have no legal support for neighborhood beautification. Some people actually keep their front yard looking like the Kettles to disuade burglars -- camoflage, nothing but junk here, keep moving. WYSIWYG

Readers: what did I miss?