Is stability still possible?

financial sustainability

These days, my heart is just breaking. It’s breaking for all the people who have been separated from their families as the skies closed. For all the people who lost their businesses. For the older folks who were active and hardy and kept in good shape, mentally and physically, by going to exercise classes, swimming, and traveling, and are now stuck in their homes, deteriorating by the day and unbearably alone if they have no nuclear family living with them.

It’s heartbreaking that children will have to start school next year burdened with restrictions that are far too heavy for their age, and other children who will be left out without adequate resources for at-home learning.

It seems we are saying a reluctant goodbye to job security, financial security, pension security, any-kind-of-security as stocks are plummeting and pension funds losing value as we speak. I am heartbroken for all the people who lived wisely and made all the right choices, and still find themselves financially (among other ways) vulnerable today.

This was also the core of my latest Mother Earth News post.

“What does this mean? I won’t say anything radical like “money is worthless now” or “ditch the money economy.” I’m a firm believer in personal finances, putting money aside, and planning for the future. 

But I also believe that the coronavirus crisis has shown us that stability, security, and wellbeing depend on much more than money. “

Now is the time to ask ourselves: how self-reliant are we? How prepared are we for another event of extended lockdown and empty store shelves? Do we have barterable skills we can use in lieu of money if the latter loses some of its value? Do we belong to a supportive community of people who can be counted on to help each other out when the you-know-what hits the fan and starts flying in all directions?

Read the rest here.

 

Crocheting through tough times

Lately, I have found myself putting things off: a visit to the bank, the doctor, the post office… “I don’t have to do it today. There’s time. Maybe in a week or two…”

Then I caught myself: why? What is going to happen in a week or two? Will the coronavirus go away? Will it be safer to go out and about?

Not likely. The you-know-what has hit the fan and is now flying in all directions. I’m afraid the world as we used to know it is no more.

A few days ago, we had a huge local demonstration of small business owners – restaurant owners, tour guides, dance instructors – who were all hit hard by COVID and now demand that the government gives them a financial boost to keep their businesses afloat.

I understand their plight, I really do. I know what it’s like to be financially desperate. However, I believe that no amount of handouts will enable businesses to operate if they don’t adapt to the new situation (Zoom lessons, takeout instead of sit-down meals, etc). And it often sounds like that: people don’t want to adapt. They want things to go back to normal, refusing to admit that normal has flown out of the window.

Even if we are lucky and the coronavirus disappears (which doesn’t seem likely), the impact of the past months has already hurled the world into a deep recession with a wide ripple effect. To get through it, we must be resilient, resourceful, and flexible.

In the meantime, there’s yarn: the best escape whenever things are stressful.

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My latest make, a little crochet tunic for Hadassah. It was meant to be a dress, but I ran out of yarn and, as it was one of the oddments of a vintage stash, had no way to buy more.

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Nevertheless, I like it, and so does the recipient. I put some vintage buttons at the back. Love the open raglan top – such a useful design.

I hope you are all using your favorite wholesome destressing outlet, whether it involves gardening, fabric and yarn, baking, or any other thing you can do away from dangerous crowds.

Power Outage

Today I got an early start in the morning and was sitting in peace and quiet in front of my laptop, working on a project for a client, when the power suddenly went out. Since I have a problem with my laptop battery that I didn’t make a priority to fix, the screen instantly went black, not allowing me to save my work.

A call to the electric company let me know that there was an unexpected accident and the power supply would return in 3-4 hours. Thoroughly bummed out, I went ahead to straighten up the kitchen in preparation for breakfast. 

The power eventually returned and I completed my project and sent it off, but this was a throwback to the good ‘ol days when we lived in a place where this could happen any moment, and for much longer. I remember 72 hours without power, during which we did our best to eat everything that spoils and I was careful not to open my freezer so that it wouldn’t thaw.

I love living in a place with a steady electricity supply, but today’s incident reminded me how much we have to improve in preparing for emergencies.

In our old home, we took care to keep our mobile phone power banks charged and our freezer always stocked with ice bottles so that it would thaw more slowly. A laptop battery would most certainly be fixed earlier. There was a communal backup generator we could fuel and hook up to if need be.

And, from electricity my thoughts jumped to preparedness in general, which is something we really should gear up for again. A life of convenience lulls you into a sense of security which may, unfortunately, be false, as the covid-19 pandemic showed us all, turning our world upside down and giving it a thorough shake that totally messed it up.

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From Your Own Hands: Self-Reliant Projects for Independent Living

A radical homesteader from Connecticut who prefers to call himself Xero says, “Consumerism to a large degree only exists because it profits off of our own loss of skills. Over the last hundred or so years people have undergone what I see as a horrifying loss of survival skills.

Without these skills, without the ability to survive on one’s own, one must depend on already manufactured, and continuously manufactured goods and services to stay alive. These goods and services cost money. In order to get said money, one must submit to paid labor. Sometimes one can find labor that is fun and fulfilling, but that doesn’t represent the majority of folks, especially on a global scale.” 

Hunkering down

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I am honored to say that my latest Mother Earth News post has been included in the magazine’s online newsletter. If anything I have to say is even a bit helpful to a single person across the world at this tough time, it is ample reward for me. 

It appears that the you-know-what has really hit the fan now. When I wrote my post in the link above, the restrictions imposed by our government were not yet as stringent as they are at this moment. Right now, people around here are permitted to leave their houses only for absolute necessities (buying food and hygiene products, medical treatment, etc) or for a short walk with their dogs. There are strict social distancing rules and it only looks like the restrictions will become harsher still in the very near future. Tens of thousands of people who live alone will be celebrating Passover in isolation – a heartbreaking but necessary measure.

Personally we are hunkering down right now and operating on the assumption that everyone on the street is a covid carrier, just in case. There has been an alarmingly high number of confirmed cases in our area, and some people in our family are at an increased risk due to respiratory issues, so we definitely take every measure to protect ourselves.

The worst part of it all is the uncertainty. Although we fully approve of the government-mandated quarantine, and believe it should be enforced even more strictly than it is now, there’s no knowing whether it will be enough. This is a new virus which is, apparently, remarkably contagious and adaptable. Several studies point to the conclusion that the incubation period of the covid-19 may be a lot longer than previously supposed. So if the quarantine is lifted too soon we might see a new wave of contagion.

I think that right now we are all keenly feeling our vulnerability. At the start of the social distancing measures, Prime Minister Netanyahu promised there would be no food shortages. Well, there are. Yes, you can still go into a supermarket and fill a cart, but many products are in insufficient supply, such as fresh produce, eggs, and milk. It is natural and very predictable.

I can tell you I am going to make a lot more effort with my vegetable garden this spring and summer – now is a great time to start a garden and I know a lot more people are giving it a try. I also plan to hatch a few extra chicks if possible this season. I would like a couple more laying hens myself, and I predict backyard chickens, other poultry, and even goats will become a lot more popular in smaller towns.

My opinion is that many people are beginning to internalize that the lifestyle of universal abundance and cheap disposable goods might not be as stable and reliable as we have grown to take for granted. Many have remarked to me how lucky I am, working remotely from home as a fiction editor and writer, that my employment opportunities have been largely unaffected by the covid pandemic. Yes, I am grateful, but people should also keep in mind – I know I do – that money may very well lose some of its value in times of crisis. Stocks are falling. Many people are experiencing devastating losses in their retirement funds that have been tied up in stocks – imagine saving up and being financially prudent all your life, only to have everything collapse because of external circumstances no one can control! It’s a huge wake-up call for all of us to examine our lifestyle and priorities.

There is no better time to invest in building skills and resources that will be valuable regardless of what happens to the money economy – growing food, foraging, upcycling, various repairs and handiwork, and a robust barter and small local business system that will be much more reliable in times of crisis.

For the time being, we are doing our best to keep safe (and sane!). I wonder what kind of world we will all emerge to once we can leave our homes again. I suspect there will be substantial changes and it is better to be prepared.

Unseasonably warm crochet cardigan

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This was my last winter project for this year – a top down raglan cardigan made from alpaca yarn. I love the satisfaction of throwing something over me that feels almost like a blanket – but I suppose I will get to enjoy it next season, as it’s already getting too warm here for stuff like that. I’ll probably attach a couple of nice big buttons.

Now on to summer projects – lacy tops, table runners, baskets, bags, and more. Always more ideas than time!

On another note, we are doing OK in the midst of all the craziness that is taking over the world. We are, of course, privileged to have a house with a private yard and a nice balcony with a beautiful view, so despite the lockdown we never really feel confined. There’s always plenty of outdoor work going on, whether it’s hanging out the washing, weeding, or mucking up the chicken coop.

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One of our recent projects has been raising a pair of Japanese quail Shira got for her birthday. The female just laid her first egg a couple of days ago. Japanese quail rarely go broody, but we’ll probably try to incubate once we gather enough eggs.

Stay safe, everyone. These are scary times we live in, but I have never felt so connected to friends all over the world. We are truly all in this together, and I am optimistic that it shall pass and we’ll emerge on the other side stronger and more resilient than before.

A baby for my baby

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During this busy time of us all staying at home in quarantine, I found a few relaxing moments to put the finishing touches on this crochet doll I got done just in time for Hadassah’s second birthday. I’m happy to say that, though not perfect, this cuddly doll is a big hit and Hadassah loves toting it around.

I made it like I usually make my dolls – crochet the head and body from the top down, fill with stuffing, and then attach arms and legs. Then I used scraps from other projects for the dress. That’s one of the things I love most about making dolls – you get to use up yarn odds and ends, and the craft cupboard is a lot less messy by the time you’re done.

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Here is also a photo from our walk this afternoon. We are being very, very careful, but fortunately, very close to our house there are empty fields where you can wander as much as you want without meeting a living soul except the occasional distant glimpse of someone walking their dog.

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I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. Please run no risks! We’ve got this and we’ll get through this.

Quarantine: the whole world turns to homeschooling

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One aspect of the coronavirus crisis and the ensuing quarantine is that being a work-at-home, homeschooling family is now totally mainstream. In fact, those who have been doing this already feel like they are one step ahead.

Of course, the current situation poses some additional challenges. I don’t know how things currently stand in every country, but around here, pretty much everything is closed except for supermarkets, pharmacies, and other essential services, and the guidelines make it clear that people should socialize as little as possible with anyone outside their immediate family. So it’s definitely not a time for getting together with friends. It might be hard for some children, but on the other hand, it’s also an opportunity to strengthen sibling ties.

Nevertheless, being locked up at home can make people stir-crazy in no time, and young children (and their parents) might soon find themselves climbing the walls. 

We, personally, have the huge advantage of a yard where my children can go out whenever the weather is nice and play safely. Gardening is also a great way to keep busy. Plenty of weeding to do at this time of the year! Those who are confined to an apartment no doubt have it much harder.

Regardless, I would advise anyone to get out (safely) as much as possible. Take a day trip out of town and walk in the fields, climb a hill, hike down a river – whatever you have in the area and whatever the weather permits. We live on the outskirts of a small town so we have several nice hiking directions around here where we can get on foot and are unlikely to meet anyone.

This is a good time to organize all those arts and crafts supplies you might have forgotten you even had. I organized the book/toy/craft shelves today and I can tell you I found some hidden treasures such as new packs of glitter pens, crayons, stickers, and more. Art paper and coloring books had been unearthed too. Everything is a lot more inviting now that it’s neat and orderly.

When everyone is at home a lot more than they had been used to, it can be easy to slide into letting the kids have a lot more screen time than is healthy for them. I totally understand this and there’s nothing wrong with a good movie or some games, but I have really noticed that excess of screen time brings all sorts of issues such as crabbiness, difficulty to concentrate on other things, lack of motivation for anything but passive entertainment, and sleeping troubles.

Sleep is another matter I would encourage everyone to keep under the bounds of healthy discipline. Personally I can tell you that nothing exhausts me like having everyone stay up late. So, while my older girls have reached the age when it’s difficult to actually get them to fall asleep if they don’t feel like it, I normally tell them to get into pajamas and into bed with a book.

Finally, it’s important to count our blessings. Most of us aren’t in any real physical danger. We have electricity and running water, full refrigerators and pantries, and many ways to keep busy and connect with others. Think of people have gone through wars or live in extreme conditions and have been snowed in for many months – it really does help to remember that comparatively, we really have it good.

So just keep your days simple. Spend time with your family. Hug them a lot. Get out when you can. Pull out a board game. And remember, you are not alone. ♥