Several years ago, for a short time, Frank and I lived in the house my grandfather was born in. Only one of his siblings remained, but she had fallen and broken her hip and was then living with her daughter. The house remained, just as she left it.
Alone, at her age, she had not been able to maintain the house and farm as she once had. Frank and I, living there, began to clean, clear and organize.
In sorting through the spare bedroom (which had become a storage room of sorts) I found an entire box of elastic bands cut from little boys’ underwear. In another box, I found a collection of dry-rotted thread pieces.
At first, I was confused. Then, I remembered. Elvie, my Great Aunt, had survived The Great Depression….
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Before I moved to Central West Virginia, I never heard of “free gas” or “free water.” Now, here on the farm, I crank the heat in winter without a thought, and take long, hot showers until the water runs cold.
Of course, we still pay for electric, but we work to keep that utility bill low the best we can. For example, the minute it was warm enough to dry clothes outside on the line — I discontinued use of the dryer. Besides, in a house without air conditioning, who wants to heat up the place with the dryer running?
We splurge for hi-speed Internet, but feel that it’s a balance since we refuse to pay for cable or satellite television. We can watch news, weather, shows, movies — on the computer, if we wish. We also splurge for Netflix movie rentals — but still, Netflix and Internet combined is still cheaper than one Direct TV bill.
We have a garden. If I lived in the city, I wouldn’t have lunched on a fresh-picked cucumber yesterday — nestled on a bed of fresh-picked leaf lettuce.
I worry about those in our country who can’t grow their own food, or survive without utility services, or have any idea how to cut these expenses.
I could never survive the urban jungle. Where on earth would your plant your beans?
The current economy is tough on small businesses, new businesses, old businesses. I’ve seen articles on various media outlets on the topic of all three. It’s like dissecting the downfall of the world’s economy, featuring each symptom without making any true diagnosis.
Several people have said that they don’t know how we do the magazine. How we get by, how we’re making it, etc. It’s understandable. Hundreds of similar publications have come and gone in West Virginia, popular but unsupported, or mismanaged, or underfunded, or whatever. I can think of five, right off the top of my head, two which have taken great blows in the last year alone.
To anyone casually-known that asks, I say we’re doing great. But the truth is, NO one is doing great right now. All of us are feeling a pinch. The thing about Frank and I though, is Frank and I are accustomed to feeling pinched, we are fortunate to have the choice to live in rural West Virginia, and we don’t have children.
Accustomed to Feeling PinchedÂ
When Frank and I met — many, many moons ago — we were both in the bottom, black-slime levels of our entire lives. We lived in a secluded cabin on top of a mountain in Wirt County (See http://www.twolanelivin.com/Archives/dec07tlfl113.html), with wood heat, water from a cistern of rain water, and 4-wheel drive only in the winter. We were both jobless, and in debt. But, it was a healing and recouperation time for both of us. We learned to do without frivolities, and thus, learned to appreciate simpler things.
Then, we both got jobs in the rat race. We paid off debt, upgraded our lives and surroundings, had dinner out alot, doubled our VHS collection. And at one point, we found ourselves in Chicago Illinois, each of us with offers for high-dollar positions in a toy company. We chose to be unemployed in West Virginia instead, and came back to Frank’s family’s farm.
Then we were feeling pinched again, and we got used to it.
We found 9 to 5 jobs here, good jobs, with benefits — and we were miserable. In the meantime, we just got used to doing without some things, and like it. We don’t pay for cable or satellite, we don’t go out much, we try not to be wasteful — some things, after a while, become automatic.
For example: The minute the weather broke for summer, I quit drying clothes in the dryer. Savings? Up to $7 a month.
Also, we already make a habit of getting everything we need in a single trip to town. We even check with family members before we go to see what they need.
We use candles and lanterns for evening lighting when we’re watching movies.
We close up the house in the summer before the heat gets in — and don’t have air conditioning.
We use coupons. We cut back on our meat and dairy. We work to be happy with what we have.
So many people wonder how we’re “doing it” – but I wonder, do they know how to “do it” too?