Friday, 3 February 2012

So...how do we get by?

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I'd like to clear the air a little before I keep going with this blog.

First of all, I'd like to thank all the people who have been reading.  It brings me hope and inspiration to know that you care about what we're doing here and the ideals that we are striving to achieve.

Secondly, amongst the readers, I hope that we have caught the interest of families living a similar lifestyle.
I'd like to be candid with those families for a moment and talk about finances.
You might be wondering how we do it.
How we can both be home working on the homestead and still be able to pay the bills.
Here's the truth.

I have been a boat and motor mechanic for ten years.  Most years I was able to work throughout the year.
When I was eligible, I took parental leave during the Winter.  Once for Auren and once for Fern.
In the latter part of my career, my gross income was roughly $50 000 a year.  That meant that I received the maximum allowable benefit for parental leave, which is $450 per week.  Kira has been at home since Auren was born and so our family income has come solely from my job and tax credits.
Even as a single income family we would gross about $54 000 per year.
Compared to many families, I believe that income to be quite high.  I have a great deal of respect for the families who can get by on the wages that are paid these days.  Minimum wage is much higher nowadays, but it sure doesn't make ends meet.
I am currently on parental leave for Meer and that is how we can both be home.  We live on the tax credits and the $450 per week which is well above what a single income family on minimum wage would bring in.
We are in an enviable position right now.
However, I will not be returning to my former job.
Not only does the occupation clash with our ideals, but ten years of the same thing was crushing my spirit and  the need for change was overdue.

Now we face the reality that so many of you already live.
The parental benefit will run out.
We don't live in an area of good employment opportunities.
But then, most places where you might build a homestead won't be good for jobs.
That is the problem.
How do you go back to the land when the banker owns it and the township wants the taxes?
How do you build and farm when the government wants over 20% of what you make?
You need fuel.  You need equipment.  You need investment capital. You need materials.  You need feed.  You need to insure yourself against litigation.  You need the phone line.
You might not need the hydro line but if you don't then you'll need some kind of electricity.
Like or not you need money.
The economy is easy enough to negotiate if you have no aspirations for life.
If all you want to do is pay your bills, buy some stuff, and shop at the grocery store then it's relatively straightforward.

Once upon a time, homesteading was supported as a way of building a country.
I look around me and I see a country that is not done being built.
Why the complacency?  Why the stagnancy?
Progress has become the latest consumer demand.
What happened to feeding everyone?  What happened to building communities based on strong ties of family and friendship?
Fed on cheap toxic food, and propaganda.  Greenwashed into thinking that we're making a difference.
We've gone off track and badly.

Here at home we are struggling to plan for the future.
Torn between doing what we believe is right, and what is actually attainable.
Yes, I'm idealistic.  But damn it! Things have got to change!
The left wing has been working on these problems for decades with little success.
How can you have hope for change in the face of a world that so desperately resists it?

Yet we hope.
But, in order to foster change, we need to keep doing what we are doing.
I just need to build money-making into the homesteading model.
The combination makes me feel unclean.  It makes me feel like a hypocrite.  It makes me feel like I have no integrity.  But without money we will fail.

Part of the purpose of this blog is to determine how much willingness there is out there to participate in change.
I hope I haven't made you feel used.  My intentions are altruistic and genuine.

Part of our homestead plan includes offering educational experiences in exchange for money.
That is how I hope to keep going.
I don't believe that education is something that should be paid for.
Just like I don't believe that information should cost money.


I am working on my first educational workshop.  We would like to do both online and in-person experiences.  There is a lot to share here and I feel passionate about doing so.
I wish I could do it for free.  But I am inextricably linked to this economy as much as anyone else and so I will be charging for the workshops that we offer.

If you think that you might be interested in what we have to offer, then consider what I have said and know that our goals lay beyond wealth acquisition.
If you are a family trying your best to homestead, then I wish you well and I hope that you succeed.


4 comments:

  1. I really hope this comes to fruition for you guys.
    I am a huge believer that if you begin weaving, the Universe (God, Great Spirit, etc) provides the thread.
    You've begun weaving. Now you trust.
    Much Love,
    e.

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    1. Hi Erin,
      Sometimes I lose faith, especially when the facts are cold and hard.
      Thanks for the love and support.
      Andrew

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  2. I sympathize with your dilemma.
    Years ago I moved out in the woods to raise a family with no idea how I would provide a cash income. We decided to home school our children too so time available to make a living was diminished.
    Before we moved to the country we had travelled extensively in the third world.
    Despite many difficulties we had trying to make money over the years we never felt poor. There are no poor in most of Canada if you compare our standard of living to that of others globally.
    So how can you get by...?
    Well from the get go you need to mentally "have the right stuff", be prepared to live with less, be open to trying out various ways of making a living. I picked up the tool belt when there were houses to be built, and picked up the chainsaw when there were trees to be cut. At times when there is nothing I put time into the "Buddy Pool" helping friends for free. When you need to make a "withdrawal" from the buddy pool you can get help without using money. One winter my son flushed a small "Thomas the tank engine " toy down the toilet. I had to excavate from the house to the septic tank in weather -35 degrees with a pick axe and a spade shovel to extract this blockage in my plumbing. I didn't have the money for a plumber or to rent an excavator but I did have some hand tools and time.
    Well what about the taxes....
    Find out how long you can let them go...where we used to live you had 3 years before things got serious. Three years is a long time to find some income for taxes.
    We used to say that we lived in the "cracks of society" just holding on. Its a choice one makes. Sure at times it's not easy but you don't have to be rich to live a rich life...you just need to be prepared. I read a lot of blogs about families with big incomes that one partner makes expounding about the simple life. Walden was written by someone who only lived in the bush on the weekends! Everyone will draw the line where they feel comfortable and where they can. I think though being flexable is important. I started out years and years and years ago a staunch vegetarian and now I hunt and trap. How did that ever happen? My family needed to eat and the reality of living in a place over the reality about reading books about living changes one....the bush will too if you are one who can find the patience to listen to it...
    Financial coping strategies will develop for you but be prepared for this to happen slowly and try to stay open to the plan changing as things progress. Also realize that you are unique and what you read about someone else coping with country life might not work for you.
    Get my phone number from Dave Potter we should talk about this some more....
    Stay Positive.
    Martin

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    1. Hi Martin,
      Kira laughed when you mentioned the toy train.(Not at you!)
      I spent a similar night trying to thaw a frozen sewer pipe.
      That was because of the wrong rate of fall on the pipe, though.
      I still fear the 'toy down the toilet' scenario.
      I hope to flesh out the financial challenges that accompany homesteading life.
      Doing so will encourage solutions.
      Your insight and experience is most welcome.
      Andrew

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