Sunday, October 04, 2009


Not as in bailouts, but rather the little day to day things we do that end up being banking, as in banking a fire to save it for the morning.

I think first of all the manure I bring home. We were talking with some chemical farming types lately and they would talk about how much nitrogen this or that amendment had and how manure doesn’t have that. They are right in a way, manure has a certain amount of free nitrogen and that is usually less than your other nitrogen amendments. But manure has more in there that it releases over time. And not just nitrogen, of course. No matter how clever people think they are, they are not so clever as nature, and if a garden (or pasture) is full of organic matter, it has a tendency to balance itself out and become more and more fertile.

Ah, but people are almost always sure that they are more clever than nature, and that something depends on them doing something that nature can’t do. Well, there is a place in the world for round-up, but there’s a place in the pasture for weeds too.

Back to banking. A couple of years ago I blogged about getting a pair of work boots. Well, they wore out, what are the odds, being worn every.single.workday and then standing in urine and manure and getting me around miles and miles of walking and getting torqued pretty good sometimes too. But cash money is scarce right now. Not as scarce as it has been, say, last winter, but still. When it became obvious that I was going to need new boots soon, I started a “jar”. That is just some sort of place to stash a little money as I come into it. We’ve had “jars” for all sorts of things . . . like for the Wii for the kids (that took a couple years to fully fund), like for the extra freezer, all sorts of things. So I started this jar, and when I got a little extra money for some extra horse job (like feeding at someone else’s farm), or when I had a few extra dollars that I could purloin from myself, it would go in there. And by the time I actually found boots that fit and felt good, I had almost as much money as they cost in that jar. It is a lot easier to come up with an extra $20 than an extra $120.

Today I’m selling a goat, and that money will go into a jar of its own. It is a long term thing for it. It might be needed for some farmstead milking expense (a new cow (which has its own jar actually) or a new billy goat, for example), or if we don’t end up needing it for that, it might be used to take the family out to eat or to the movies. But the goat has been a family endeavor and so the produce of it will go to the family, not to bills, and not to any one person, or not even divided up. It will be there to fund something that we don’t know quite what it is yet but it will be there.

We bank partly by not having many bills. This starts, I believe, with the security of owning our own land and house, and that is probably the one thing I would go into debt for. Instead of doing that, though, we spent a decade, and a lot of our time and energy, and most of our financial resources during those years, building it. It was hard but it was better than 30 years of debt or the possibility of being homeless in month's time.

But there was also the time when my mother thought we just needed TV. We got one channel at the time, and had videos, but she thought we just needed more than that. I cannot relate at all to *needing* TV. So anyway, my mother bought for us this expensive satellite system . . . and I took it back. Thanks but no thanks. It was the $40 per month bill for the minimum service. No thanks. Don’t need to worry about having to meet that, not for TV. I’d love to have Netflix even now but I’m not up for the monthly expense -- instead during the winter when it is dark in the evening and we have time to watch DVDs, we go rent the 5 for 5 for $5’s. Everything we see is a few years old. But we either have that extra $5 in our pocket or we don’t, and if we don’t, we don’t get them and that’s fine. A monthly bill is just totally something else again.

Another way we bank is that we don’t borrow. Not that we never have, or never would, just that it is something to avoid if at ALL possible. And if it wasn’t possible to avoid it, then it is something to pay off ASAP period. And doing that is just like having a jar for savings . . . when I was paying off my student loan, every time I had an extra $20 or $40, I put it toward that so that the load was paid off in about half the time allowed. And if we borrow, we have a plan as to how we’ll pay it off, and when, which is always early.

I knew a person once who borrowed money to take her family on a vacation to Scotland. She jokingly said that it would take 20 years or something to pay that off, which horrified me. So what she said to me was this (I’ll always remember): “I admire you not borrowing money, not being in debt, living the way you do. But you give up an awful lot to do that, like this trip to Scotland.” To which I say now, you do not give up anything except debt to be out of debt. If we wanted to go to Scotland, we’d have a jar for it, and when it was a fully funded trip, we’d go. Doing it that way tells you a lot more about what is really important to you. If you are borrowing from the future, a thousand here and a thousand there doesn’t seem so bad because it isn’t real. If the choice is, I could have this shot of single malt Scotch tonight or I could put that money in the jar, it becomes real clear what is important to you. I’ve found out that most people think that their debt will somehow magically disappear -- maybe they’ll die and not have to pay it, or win the lottery, or something. When they end up homeless and eating cat food, I find it very difficult to feel sorry for them. They made their choices.

We bank by filling up the freezers and canning shelves and having a few barrels of wheat and corn and caches of potatoes. What of that is boughten we buy when we are feeling a little flush. It gives us a thrill to put by: it gives us a thrill to eat from what we’ve put by.

If you don’t have debt or many bills, it doesn’t take much money to get by. If you have a place to live and food, then even if you don’t have money, your children aren’t cold and hungry.

How do I keep myself from wanting so much stuff? Well, not having the TV is a start. It is certainly possible to see through the manipulation of advertising, but it is still seductive to see so much. Another way is to simply not go shopping. When I stay home, I don’t spend much money, but what is more, I don’t see things that I then think I can’t live without. What ends up happening here is that we find that we actually need a new sifter, that the old one is kaput, and so we go and find out what is available in sifters. During that process I also see other things, things I might drool over but don’t truly need, like those nice bamboo spoons (I love kitchen stuff). Still, I find when I get home, my old wooden spoons work just fine, and the new sifter is all we bought. I know I need towels at some point, but if I don’t have the money for them, then no use deciding which of this year’s colors I would buy if I did have the money. In fact, it is worse than “no use” because it plants that seed of discontent with what you already have.

And perhaps most important, if you live this way, if you don’t borrow from the future, then hopefully you’re children will know not to borrow from the future too. Pouring money onto discontent does not really do anything about that discontent -- if you learn contentment, perhaps your children will have the chance to learn contentment also.

And then too, not to be forgotten, is the fact that every war that ever was, every exploitation of people and the environment was and is caused by money or the love and seeking thereof. So if you can control your own grasping, your own consumption, then and only then can you contribute to things like world peace and non-exploitation and environmental integrity. If it doesn’t actually inconvenience you in some way then it is all just gnashing teeth and sounding brass and tinkling cymbals -- and without love that is a verb.


WonderSoul said...

I absolutely love this line - "So if you can control your own grasping, your own consumption, then and only then can you contribute to things like world peace and non-exploitation and environmental integrity." (May I borrow it?) It amazes me when the people at work comment 'I don't know how you get by on so little, especially with 2 boys' and then they turn right around and, seemingly small to them I suppose, order lunch out every day, or buy the latest movie on DVD, or pay $99 a month for their phone/TV/computer package... Small things I think they justify doing by telling themselves that life is hard and I need this to make myself happy.

How have you been BTW? Looks like you had a fantastic beach trip!

CG said...

I agree with your observations, and of course you may borrow it! Isn't it funny how people miss happiness as a choice and not a thing and keep trying different things to get it?

I am pretty gosh darn good myself. Had a great trip, am riding a good bit, family is good, all that.

Wendy said...

If you don’t have debt or many bills, it doesn’t take much money to get by. If you have a place to live and food, then even if you don’t have money, your children aren’t cold and hungry.

This is exactly the point that I've been trying to drive home for years. I actually had a discussion with a friend, who had a substantial savings AND a mortgage, and I said if I had that much money in the bank I'd spend it on my house. She was aghast at my suggestion, and I said, basically, what you say here - if the house is paid off, and there's a garden and/or a few animals for food, there is little need for other "things", and little need for money.

Speaking of "things", you mentioned renting DVDs, but if you have DVDs collecting dust at your house, and you're interested in swapping, you might try It will cost you postage to send your DVDs, which is how you get points to order others' DVDs (about $2). There's also for trading books, but the nice thing about PBS is that I've been able to find used titles I could never find in a used bookstore - or my sad little library ;).

Will Shakesbeer said...

Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry

CG said...

at least you don't think it comes from the Bible, which is where most people seem to think that quotation comes from! LOL! Although the Bible is pretty clear on interest as usury, and the whole idea of Jubilee year rather mutes the idea of living off interest income which seems to be what most people in this society aspire to do. Bad bad bad ideas folks!

Amanda Huddleston said...

Just found your blog through Mr. H, through Agrarian Grrl...all I can say is "Amen, Sister!" Thanks for for sharing your experiences and putting a voice to some of our thoughts. By the way, how funny that I live in East Tennessee, too! The town of Midway, to be precise.

clairesgarden said...

you're welcome to stay here if your 'jar for scotland' ever makes it into being.
debt seems to be a way of life that is acceptable here. I find it much in discussion as one job ended suddenly. looking for another to keep filling those jars and doing without meantime. not for the first time either.

CG said...

clair! Thank you so much! If we ever should make it to Scotland, we will be sure to look you up and if at all possible stay with you! That would be so grand! There are always times of doing without but they aren't so bad . . . if you can eat and keep a roof over your head. In retrospect, they are often the best of times. Much luck to you!