Underconsumers

Added Note: Fourteen years ago today I began keeping this journal! The very first entry, hand coded html, is here: Maggie’s very first blog entry.

As Attila was leaving for work this morning, and I was waving goodbye from the window, he held up a snow ball. A small amount of snow, or it could have been white ice, had accumulated on the windshield of the car. Snow is predicted here for Thursday, but should melt quickly as the temperature will be above freezing.

At the country house the leaves are not all down yet, so we have been putting off raking until they are all down, so that we only have to do it once. Tricky, because we have to get it raked after the last of the leaves fall, and before the snow sticks. Todays strong wind gusts are stripping the trees naked, so soon.

With the autumn leaves mostly gone, this is as far as the eye can see. It’s a small world, after all.
2013 autumn branches

On Saturday last we visited Luna, Janus, Imp, Elf, Tink, Benny, Bim, and Soot. Luna, our daughter, was getting ready for a Sunday photo shoot, as she is a freelance photographer. Janus had taken the weekend off work to install an air conditioner in their house, with the assistance of Lares, daughter Terra’s husband. Terra was busy building a LEGO four wheeler with Elf when we arrived. Imp, Elf, and Tink, the grandchildren, were in fine form being their wonderful selves. Benny and Bim, Luna’s dogs were enjoying a visit from Dash, Terra and Lare’s dog. The dogs all got on well but for one spat, which was quickly resolved. Soot the cat we saw little of, she doesn’t mix with the dogs when she can help it.

We had intended to drive home Saturday night, but were enjoying ourselves so much that we stayed the night. Janus cooked a super breakfast, of bacon wrapped in croissants, pancakes and maple syrup, decadent and delicious. This was after preparing, the night before, a melt in your mouth roast of beef, and home made french fries, which were served with cheese curds and gravy to create poutine. Attila was in heaven, as he eats a lot, and really enjoys his food; a pleasant byproduct of daily manual labour.

Our weekend was so relaxing that we did not remember to move our car, from the street in front of Luna’s house, into the driveway for the night. Two parking tickets awaited us on the car’s windshield, deposited there just after four in the morning. Our own fault, we were making rather merry. However, one of the tickets had the wrong license plate recorded on it, and so was cancelled on the spot, while speaking to the parking department on the telephone yesterday. The second ticket was paid online yesterday afternoon. Living in the country, one becomes unaccustomed to thinking about things like parking tickets. Urban life is so regulated!

Yesterday was a work day for me; it passed quickly and pleasantly. I had been concerned because my back has been quite stiff in the mornings, and the job is very physically demanding. An aspirin at breakfast and I sailed through the day with ease.

Since I am offered few hours, and so seldom work, there are usually many significant changes in the software used, every single time I go in. It is almost like starting a brand new job, every time, for just three or so hours; and then starting a brand new job the next time I go in, over and over and over again. It can be stressful when I work alone for the day, running the office by myself, because there is no way to find out what has been changed since the last time I worked. I have to “wing it”. Customers do not seem to appreciate the “excitement of discovery” when it comes to processing their purchases; can’t blame them.

It is amazing that a company can stay in business with this level of built in inefficiency. Still, the people at the top end are making a great living, and find that cutting hours for the people at the bottom of the food chain is the best way to keep the profit margin healthy. There are a legion of contract workers at the bottom, with no regular hours, can be fired at any time for no reason, on call six days a week every week of the year, with no benefits, no travel compensation, and no pension. The top dogs in the company call themselves good employers; they are the only ones making those kind of statements, at great expense in the media. Of course, they have regular hours, travel expenses, health benefits, and pensions; but they are a small minority.

When I am making my few purchases in this world, one of the considerations is how the company treats its employees. Does the company use contract workers? Does the company, if Canadian, employ Canadians? Does the company pay a living wage? More and more we are purchasing from small local companies, where this information is available in the community where the employees live and work. It seems hopeless that we can make any difference, but at least our consciences are clear.

Speaking of which, our beef arrived this past week. We purchased a side of beef from one of Terra’s neighbours, a farmer. The beef is grass fed, these are the cows that escaped their pasture to graze on Terra’s yard, and she herded and returned to their pasture. They lived happy lives, in a beautiful pasture, with a roofed shelter for inclement weather. The meat cost far more than that purchased in a grocery store, but we will save money elsewhere.

I think we could be considered “underconsumers”; just made that up, pleased with myself. A lot like underachievers, only generating less garbage. We are the very first, and the leading edge, of a new species: underconsumers!

Terra and Lares are thinking of raising their own chickens. That would be wonderful, and perhaps we can subsidize a few members of the flock as our own. Chickens raised in this way do not taste anything like the chicken meat purchased in a grocery store. Fresh eggs would be most welcome.

The curing of the masonry heater is now complete. We closed the damper for the first time in the five day long process. The heater, with one half-load firing a day, is now keeping the house warm enough to walk around in bare feet.

The half bushel of Macintosh apples are keeping well. Attila keeps a fresh pan of apple crisp on the counter. He uses a lot more sugar and fat in his baking than I do, so he eats most of what he bakes. I have been eating applesauce made from the Macintosh apples, which contains very little sugar, and no fat. And still, I am a little overweight, and Attila is not.

A gust of wind just blew by, and the hydro flickered. Yesterday a gust of wind did the same thing to hydro service. This is tiresome because it shuts down the computer, the microwave and range clocks, and the settings on the telephone; all of which need to be restarted or reset. Also, sometimes the telephone service disappears for a while when it rains. Country life, gotta love it.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

3°C
Date: 8:56 AM EDT Tuesday 22 October 2013
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.7 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 3.2°C
Dewpoint: 0.4°C
Humidity: 82%
Wind: SW 11 km/h

Quote

“If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. The free mind is not a barking dog, to be tethered on a ten-foot chain.”
Adlai E. Stevenson Jr.
1900 – 1965

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