Friday, August 20, 2010

Small Town Communications

One of my favorite things about living in a small town is the communication system. Many times I don't even have to use my cell phone or email to talk to someone I need information from. I do it on the street.

I walk everywhere I can and have noticed that many of my neighbors are doing the same, especially this summer. Even though it is a pretty hot day outside for the upper midwest (over 85), there were a lot of people walking to the grocery store, the hardware store, the Family Dollar store, or the "we sell anything you need except bananas" local drug store.

I saw one of my friends who happens to be the student activities director for our college. I told him how glad I was to see all the students coming back and how much I enjoyed the change in atmosphere.

He brought up that one of his new hats this semester is supervising food services. We got onto local foods and he mentioned the name of the person on campus who is in charge of the local foods iniatitive. The sieve that is my brain promptly forgot it because I wanted to mention the local foods bus tour tomorrow. I didn't know it but we have an edible bean plant right here in town.

As we were talking, a complete stranger to both of us walked up and overheard our conversation. My friend had to leave but the wonderful thing was that this strange woman, with jet-black, dyed hair, tatoos and piercings said that in their little town of 287 nine miles up the road, there was another edible bean plant. Who knew?? I certainly didn't.

I thanked the woman for letting me know and immediately walked across the street to our local food co-op. I told her about the edible bean plant on the bus tour and about the other one in the little town to our north. Imagine my surprise that she knew about the one on our tour and was related to some of the people who were growing the beans. She also said she would check into the other one to see what they had.

Sometimes the gossip can get nasty and feel intrusive but when we are all looking out for each other, I love our small town communication system.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Our little town will make it if more people shop locally!

Today at the Farmer's market, I was relieved. For quite some time, I have been worried about the long-term survival of our small town. We are a little town of about 5,000 people. That census figure counts the 1500+ college students that just started showing up for the fall semester over the past couple of weeks.

I live uptown on main street and there is a very different atmosphere in our little town when the students leave. The locals come out more often but I know the chamber of commerce and local development agency are worried about the drop off in sales for our local merchants. The loss of sales tax revenue has impacted the state, county and local governments and they are cutting across the board.

Today when I got to the Farmer's market a little earlier than my normal time, I was happily shopping when a crowd of Chinese foreign exchange students showed up. There were at least 20 of them and the first thing I noticed was how closely together they all stood. They crowded together in front of the organic vegetable and meat stand and the owner quickly approached me.

He asked me if I wanted some of his produce as he knew they would clean him out. I had already gone over my $10 budget and was ready to go so I told him I was looking for some meat. My normal meat farmer wasn't there so I didn't pick up any pork or beef. I couldn't afford this farmer's wonderful looking grass fed beef, but am thinking I may splurge next time. I know I could cut it up into smaller portions. I seem to recall that my meat portions should only be the size of a deck of playing cards.

This is the first year that the Farmer's market is in this location and I am hopeful it will remain there. They are also open now until 6pm and that is helpful for people like me who are still working.

For many years the Farmer's market was only open from 11-2 and I could never get there. If I did, I usually showed up on the wrong day. More and more people are talking about this and as they also work, they are able to get there now.

Some of the Items I purchased today were:

3 small yellow summer squash .75
4 pounds of red potatoes 2.00
1 red onion .50
2 pounds of green beans 3.00
4 pounds of roma tomatoes 2.50
12 ears of sweet corn 3.50
1 pound of cherry tomatoes 1.50

With the college students returning and the college promoting locally grown foods, the Farmer's market will do well this year. I will have fresh produce, save some money and stock up for the winter.

I do have to buy another box of peaches to freeze, but so far I have dehydrated or frozen:
20 pounds of blueberries
15 pounds of peaches
4 pounds of green beans
1 pound of peas
8 green bell peppers
4 red bell peppers
12 jalapenos
8 pounds of carrots

My pantry is getting fuller and fuller and I am prepared for whatever the winter brings. If my hours are cut, and changes are 50/50 they may be, I will be okay. I do know that my little town has a lot of people like me who are also putting things up for the winter. Canning jars are in short supply and the local grocery store can't keep gallon jugs of vinegar on the shelf. The farmers market was doing a brisk business when I left and it was early yet. I know we will make it through.

Eat Where You Live: How to Find and Enjoy Fantastic Local and Sustainable Food No Matter Where You Live

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Right Direction

Today when I was volunteering at my local food co-op, I was reading one of my favorite daily blogs, Get Rich Slowly. J.D. Roth is a great guy and has inspired me to get more frugal and increase my income. He is reviving one of his older blogs about animals and donating the money to a charity.

After reading his post, Building A Money Making Blog: Preparation, as is my habit, I took some notes and read the comments. On of the commentators turned me onto Lee Wind's blog, The Zen of Blogging, which contributed to more notes and I finally got it. Consistency and focus are key in staying on course and moving in the right direction in life, why not in a blog.

I will be two score and ten on my next birthday and I still love pens and paper. Tactile and audible pencil lead scratching helps me plan and so I sharpened one up and made a few notes to finalize my plan. As part of my plan I needed to come up with a few reasons why I wanted to blog and ways my blog would pay me.

1. Making a few extra dollars from my writing would be nice. I intentionally work a part-time job at a place I love to give me a lot of free time. I live on a very limited income but would like to visit my grandchildren more often. I have received royalties from a series of genealogical books I have co-authored, but more money and visits to the grandchildren would be a good thing.

2. I love reading, learning new things and sharing what I have learned. I had way too many books before I downsized but I have been a lifelong learner. Sharing lists of resources, books, blogs, primary documents and files is something I will definately do in each post.

3. Making the blog a priority and fitting my passions has to be a part of the plan. I will post each week and on living in a rural area. It is a very general topic I am passionate about there is a lot to write about. There are a lot of subtopics, Supporting Local Foods, Entrepreneurship, and Preparing for Emergencies are three I know for sure I will cover.

4. Other rural dwellers also need a place to share their stories. There are a lot of other people like me who have made the conscious decision to either stay, return or investigate a quieter lifestyle. I would like them to come here and feel at home.

Now that I narrowed down the general topics and made a decision to commit to doing this, I just have to figure out how to get the traffic here. In an email I subscribe to, Yaro Starak of Entrepreneurs Journey and a regular contributor to recommends at least five "Pillar Articles" so that search engines send more visitors to find you. With my three main topics, I think three pillars will create a very strong blog. I just have to get writing and decide on two more. Stay tuned.