Archive for November 18, 2009

“Free” Groceries? Not Hardly!

A city friend wistfully remarked to me how wonderful it must be to live in the country and to be able to go outside and get “free” eggs and “free” vegetables from the garden. Not to mention all that “free” chicken and lamb, too!

In order to get those “free” eggs, I have to put eggs in the incubator. In order to get, say, 50 hens, I would have to put 150 eggs or more in the incubator. After all, some of the eggs will be infertile and won’t hatch. Some of the eggs may start to develop and then die. About half of the eggs that do hatch out will be roosters. It takes 3 weeks to incubate eggs.

Those newly hatched chicks will have to be temperature protected and carefully brooded. They will be fed a diet that is the equivalent of chicken baby food until they are old enough to graduate to adult fare. Little pullets will then mature for 20 or so weeks before they lay their first eggs, eating all the while. Little roosters will also be eating until such time as they are kept as breeders or put into the freezer. Feed stores do not give away free chicken food no matter how nicely you ask.

The time spent caring for livestock or gardens is not “free”, either. If a person’s hourly rate is @ $50 an hour, then 2 hours a day spent on gardening and livestock would “cost” $700 a week. At an hourly rate of $10 an hour, that “cost” goes down significantly but still comes to $140 a week.

Having sufficient land to grow livestock, fruit and nut trees, and gardens is not free, either! In Florida, the price for land that floods in a gentle rain starts at about $10,000 per acre.

So, forgive me for laughing maniacally whenever city people start talking about “free” eggs, pecans, blueberries, tomatoes, milk, wool, or any other agricultural product. Those products are no more free for the producers than a house is free for a builder (oh, damn, I hope that isn’t another delusional bubble waiting to be popped).

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Crashing Sound of Shattered Dreams As Another Small Business Bites the Dust

SwampMan and I do what we can to help local small business. We know what it is like trying to eke out a living during an economic downturn because, for so many years, we were self employed. We buy groceries at our local grocery store (but we stock up on things the local grocery store doesn’t carry, like 50# bags of sugar and rice, at Sam’s Club). We eat at local restaurants. We buy insurance from local folk.

More and more, we drive past places that were open last month only to see a “for lease” or “for sale” sign, knowing that nothing will be coming in to take its place in the foreseeable future.

SwampMan needed to stop by the pharmacy, so I proposed that we stop by a restaurant that had opened a few months ago. We were just there Friday. We stopped, got out, and it wasn’t until we walked to the door that we noticed the sign saying “sorry, we’re closed” hanging on the door.

Yeah, I know. No big deal, just another restaurant shut down. But in a small town, losing those 20 or so jobs that a restaurant open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner provides hurts. There will be even less money available to pay the mortgage or the rent, to pay for a haircut, to purchase groceries, and to provide Christmas presents for the kids.

I don’t see this getting any better; in fact, it is getting worse at an accelerating pace.

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