How We are Making Changes, and Our Lessons Learned, by K-Dog

After college (in the early 1990s), I was educating myself about finance even though I was not employed in that industry, I felt that if I was going to be responsible for my own financial well being during life I better start my education. I learned quite a bit, but failed to act on any of the information.  I was constantly seeking more and more info, then I had a series of jobs changes and got married, our first house and hence missed the “dot com” stock rally on all levels. Looking back I associate this with information paralysis.
Lesson:  Action beats collecting information any day!

Leap forward to Y2K, I spent some time researching Y2K but was not concerned about the outcome (perhaps still naive). And we took no action to be ready in the event something did happen.

Sept. 11, 2001 was a day that shook me to my core not only did we lose loved ones it showed how fragile our society and systems truly are.
My anxiety grew and grew knowing that this would only be the start of ‘events’, I felt almost paralyzed with inaction, I knew I needed to do something, but didn’t know where to start or who to turn to for help or help getting started. For instance, I wanted to start a garden but didn’t make the time and kept busy with other projects around the house. I was my own worst enemy.

From 2002 – 2004 I had submerged myself back into my work putting in 80-to-100 hours per week, seeking advancement, because that is what I felt I was meant to do.  When the job opportunity passed me by I was devastated, but stepped back and took the time to re-evaluate where we were in our lives (across the board).  We lived in one the nations largest  ‘metro’ areas (OPSEC desire not to reveal info) away from any other family member. I was also feeling the pressure to get closer to family in case I needed more help with care for my wife; with her being a cancer survivor. I looked into a career change to allow us to move closer to family.  We felt it prudent to move while we were financially capable and she was in remission. 

Lesson: We can go through life with blinders on and not see that God’s Grace carries us though even when we do not deserve.

Move forward again to 2005, I was very concerned with the state of the union and the zero down mortgage loans being offered to anyone who asked. To compound my fears my co-workers were leaving our well paying industry to become home builders… my mind was working overtime thinking about this gigantic bubble.  I re-read my financial books and started to pull together all the ways this could go wrong on a macro and micro level. This also reaffirmed that the days of keeping your nose to the grindstone is a big, shortsighted mistake.  As I had just spend the past 3.5 years burning both ends of my candle in my work and ignoring more relevant issues; even though I should have known better.

I discussed my fears and presented my findings with my wife and we moved all our 401(k) accounts into cash investments; keep in mind this was only 2005. I regretted that tactical move a few times as co-workers were proclaiming how much their funds had moved up this quarter or over the past year.   We had moved into some gold as an insurance policy. Note I didn’t say inflation hedge as some of the materials I read show it isn’t a hedge against inflation.

By 2007 my worst economic fear(s) were still not coming true; was I wrong?  Not according to the facts… then things were just starting to unravel across the edges of the US financial systems. To compound my anxiety I was still seeking to move to a state which would position us closer to family but not really doing anything to be prepared for such a move or self reliance.  We fully put our faith in God to deliver us on his time frame and in June 2008 our prayer came true. I was offered a position in another state where we could be very close to family and the icing on the cake was I could work from home a few days a week. 

We moved in Sept. 2008 (ring a bell as the start of the maelstrom?) and we were able to sell our home in Nov. 2008 (the height of the financial storm). During the crisis we both had more peace in our lives than we had in a number of years even as the markets fell freely; we were safe in God’s grace and close by family. We lived with family and rented a home as our new home was being built (I know how contrarian) and we picked an outside the new metro area. Even while being repeatedly questioned by my new co-workers what would cause me to drive 1 hour + to work?  My initial response was, why do you drive 1 hour to cover 15 miles while I select to drive 70? How is that so different?  This “issue” quickly became a non-issue.   We selected the new living area due to it being close to natural spring and tons of wildlife (Deer, Turkey, Fish, Ducks, etc) and it is far enough away that we can ride out from most of the major waves from the coming failure. We also have two fallback locations to go to if conditions require it.

Since moving we have picked up some hunting and fishing skills, now I can catch, scale and filet a fish, I can also bring down small game, and we will see how I do this fall when deer hunting season opens. Don’t laugh I had to learn it because I never was exposed to these activities growing up.

Lesson: The ‘ financial collapse’ took longer than I could have ever imagined, and caused us considerable anxiety while falling into place (no pun intended). The collapse felt like we were moving in slow motion until the slippery slop inverted then it hit the gas like a road rage driver. We had placed full faith in God for our job and move process and he took care of it even as things were falling down across the globe. Sometimes, we rationalize away such discussions with God, how intently do you listen? Another lesson is that skills can come in all sizes, large and small and you never know when you might need them.

In 2009 we found the awesome SurvivalBlog web site and started to learn more about self reliance and we started small garden 60’x40′ (or so we thought it was small), we had great ambitions however, between the manual tilling, weeding and bugs we realized many a great lesson (soil, soil treatments, hardiness zones, workload to till that much land by hand). Overall, we did get more out of the garden than we put into it, so we were intent on having a bumper crop in 2010.  We used the long winter learning about soil and how to treat it properly for crop growth. We had been collecting coffee grounds from the local (National) brand shop up the way (when they were available because the other home based farmers were collecting them too).  We also treated the ground with commercial fertilizers, wood ash (to bring down it’s high acidity levels). With our efforts we were sure this years crops would be much better based on our efforts. Although, I was confusing effort with results! Mother nature had been blessing our area with plenty of rain right up until May then it just stopped raining and the garden suffered even more in mid-summer when we had to travel extended distances for a couple of funerals, needless to say the summer garden was a total loss. We have since scaled back our garden vision and re-worked it toward new smaller square box garden style (20×8) built using 2x10x10 pieces of wood.  To ensure more garden success I removed the non-fertile soil (at one shovel depth all the way through the new square box) using the 5 gallon bucket method to move the dirt out. To help the square box blend into the surrounding ground we painted it brownish. We strove for the mnemonic Wide rows, Organic methods, Raised beds and Deep soil (WORD) using deep layers of manure to properly support crop growth.  In order to get that manure I needed to do some ‘horse trading’. Here is how I did it; I helped a friend cut down several large trees (> 110 feet) and then section them and haul them off. In return, I now had a friend  and who owed me a favor (instead of dinner). I have since made another friend  who in turn has a need for manure too. The new friend also had a truck with a trailer, all we needed to complete our manure equation as I had made a friend  in the spring who had all the manure we could haul away.  Now we feel we have the proper soil to get a successful fall planting. 

This year’s global drought impacted crop growth and reinforced what we had seen in our area. With that in mind, I took the time to learn about PVC piping and how I could use it in my garden. Then I designed and installed my own 3/4″ PVC irrigation garden soaking pipe system (quick overview version = one long pvc pipe with “T” connectors with shorter sections coming off the main supply pipe drilled through with smaller drill bit to allow water to drain and soak the designated section. I also installed a hose connector on the supply side so, I can just hook up the hose directly to the new under ground irrigation system and flood the square box garden).  I feel this is going to be more efficient way to water my fall crops; this remains to be seen.

We also started to “compost” using four 5 gallon buckets (free), I vented the buckets using a large drill bit and then spray painted them black to allow the proper air exchange and get the heat up on the compost matter.  The 4 buckets were originally desired for a one for each week of the month cycle, there by allowing each week to be further along in the compost cycle than the next. We also envisioned our compost maintenance being simple by stirring each week to ensure proper air / water mix.  However, the compost process took longer than we imagined even though the buckets were solid black and in full sun 90% of the day in the SW position on our property. Since, April we have made 4 complete compost deposits into our garden (beware this stuff is ‘HOT’ and will indeed burn your plants even the Asparagus which is a strong feeder).  We learned we can put in saw dust and shredded paper for ‘brown’ material as part of our mix.

Lessons: This year we learned that rain is very critical to crop growth even if you can get water to your garden at regular intervals, something about mother natures version that plants love.  Lots still to learn about proper gardening, we are glad we are learning this now while we can still run to the store for items we need for the menu.  Free items for compost are easy to get (wood ash, sawdust, shredded paper).

We also learned that we can get about 9 months of hard yard / garden work out of a pair of leather gloves before they are worn out.  We learned that moth balls last 2-3 weeks in mid-summer heat (90-100 degrees). We also learned that it took two cans of wasp spray to control the wasp nest creation on the exterior of our new home this spring. We learned that a 5 gallon of bug spray will allow six exterior applications as we used it every two weeks to control the exploding spider population. (Our desire is to keep the bugs out of the house and not have to spray indoors).

Road Warrior:  when I do travel  to / from work or other job sites I always travel with my BoB (which has the essentials such as a normal ankle carry firearm for most state patrol officers loaded with defensive rounds, extra ammo, a full first aid kit, poncho, flash light, large pocket knife, compass, lighter, spare clothing, gloves, food and water).  The water gets replaced daily since, I drink from it on my journey.  If an “event” takes place my wife and I have a standing arrangement that I will do everything I can to keep in constant contact and get home ASAP. If I fail to arrive after 3-days she is to follow the Bug-out plan and proceed to our double-up home.  One of our first self standards for our firearms is to rotate ammo between magazines monthly, to keep the spring(s) in healthy condition. It’s easy to remember on the 1st of the month.
I was never a fan of the big box stores (where you were required to pay to for the ability to shop) until I found this web site, while on the road and of course after my work is complete, I can (and do) swing by one of these types of stores and pickup items in need and items for storage as we don’t have any close by our home.

Final Lessons:  please understand some of the new warning signs currently flashing are for the coming double-dip recession/depression/collapse. For example, all the Federal stimulus money that was spent and produced something like 11 jobs as governments don’t produce anything they only consume from others. The consumer “shadow home inventory” is going to hit the market very soon (Alt-A, Alt-B, and jumbo loans coming due), the looming US commercial real estate collapse,  the delay in home foreclosures can’t continue forever as the banks will need to move the ‘toxic assets’ somewhere. The growing pension crisis (most if not all, are underfunded); do you know what the condition of your pension is in? How concerned are you?  The biggest piece of the pie in my mind is the US Dollar continues to weaken (part of the unannounced deleveraging strategy or think of it as the race to the bottom for all fiat currencies) while foreign governments are seeking gold as an alternative in their currency basket(s).  This market pressure pushes the US Dollar down even more, making the cycle even tougher on US citizens or those holding US Dollars.  You still have time to plan and act.

We trust that you Lesson from our journey that even during the storms (Financial meltdown, jobs, etc) God’s Grace and comfort are still above all else!
Things will come on God’s time not ours! You must pray for divine insight and listen to your Lord!  Take the proper action based on the previous step and go out and expand your life by learning something new. Even if the bottom of the economy doesn’t fall out I have learned new skills, made new friends and have had fun along the way. While the most important is we have drawn closer to God for his Grace!