Monthly Archives: August 2006

Now that’s local!!

Pictures of the apple and pear trees in my neighbor’s backyard. They’ve agreed to let me have what I want from them.

To repay them I pick up all the ones that have fallen on the ground and aren’t edible so they won’t fall when they are walking around the yard. They’re elderly and they don’t have any business being out there doing that kind of stuff.

So far it’s great! I’ve made two batches of applesauce/pear sauce and the trees have hardly had any fruit ready yet.

My mother in law just brought me a Victorio strainer so I’m ready for some saucing action!

FGLB

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Misc information share

I have a few links that I wanted to share with anyone who wants to read them

Here are a couple of links about our dear President. Click here and here.
(Thanks for the links Donut Guy)

Contrary to your possible belief, I am not expressly anti-Bush in my leanings. I am anti-lying, anti-stupid decision, anti-strong arm tactics and anti-deception in politics. Unfortunately Bush uses all of those tactics in spades, and worst of all, he doesn’t change his path or thoughts when presented with facts that his path is wrong. That’s unconscionable in my book when you are supposed to be a leader.

It’s unfortunate because during his original Presidential campaign I think he had a lot of good ideas. Somewhere along the way he got off track and hasn’t been able to stop the train since. (Or hasn’t cared to stop the train since)

This group is a left leaning group, but it’s still a good comparison of then vs. now.

My only hope for the future is that we will end up with Congress and the White House controlled by different parties so that they will be locked in a stalemate and can’t force things through like we have experienced for the past 6 years. Hopefully then things won’t get worse.

Another link about Cuba and their food after their Peak Oil experience.

A link discussing a “Revolution” that I bet we all wish had never happened. And more here.
(Thanks for the links Ka-bar)

Enjoy!

FGLB

Investing update

I thought I would update this story based on some recent revelations I had while riding my bike. (It always seems to work out that I do my best thinking when riding.) Thanks to all of you who commented on that posting by the way. I decided to break this down into a two part posting. If you aren’t interested in reading all this I promise I won’t be offended, it is quite long.

How do I invest my assets leading up to Peak Oil and it’s aftermath, in the short term?
My general assumption is that after Peak Oil most of America’s financial community will be on an overall downward trend. It may not always be down year after year, but overall the trend should lead to lesser financial returns. As Americans we have become accustom to nothing but growth in our financial markets.

Most of the decline we will experience will stem from the broad application of conservation of our remaining resources (I would hope) and less focus on continual expansion of everything around us. I would also expect that the world will experience a population decrease over time and this would lead to less need for these products, compared to now. This will obviously lead to less “growth” each year which could take on inflationary or deflationary trends, depending on how consumers and the Federal Reserve react to the situation. I think one way to be successful with this type of investing is to focus on what people must have to live, find companies that have operations around the world and focus on a strategy of conservation of your financial assets over continual growth of your assets..

I think if you break down what people will need to survive in a Post Peak Oil world it breaks down fairly simply. Food and Shelter. Additional minor pieces would be Transportation, Financial Services, Energy of some sort for heating and cooking, Personal Goods and Clothing.

Food
Shelter
Transportation
Financial Services
Energy
Personal Goods
Clothing

But even before we discuss investing for the future we should take care of some general housekeeping. Moving into a period of possibly unstable monetary policy by the government, potential for debt defaults by scores of individuals, companies and governments and a period of time that might just generally be unstable it is important to put your personal financial house in order, in my opinion. By this I mean, you need to own your house and have an extremely low level of debt. When you are thinking about how to plan for Peak Oil these two things should be your primary goals. Now I know, a mortgage is “good debt” (if you want to believe that I have some land in Florida I’ll sell you) but the sooner you pay it off the sooner you will quit giving the interest to the bank and start making the interest yourself. The interest you pay and the tax savings from the interest will never equal out. On top of that, if things really get bad I would want to hold title to my house free and clear so that I’m not dependent on anyone else in any way and can be assured of having a place to live that couldn’t be taken away from me very easily.

Having a low debt level is also important because you can’t guarantee that you’ll have a job through this period and the lower your monthly living needs are the more likely you are to make it through the rough period unscathed. Think about your life currently. Are you basically living to payoff the debt you’ve accumulated? The house, the car, the computer, the braces, etc. It’s enough of a struggle now let alone if or when the future is uncertain. Especially if you may have a household income that is dramatically reduced. Something to think about.

Paying off your debt is living by the old theory of paying yourself first. Everytime you pay more principal you are shifting value into your positive asset column and removing it from your negative column. Most of the debt you have will be in the 6% or greater APR range. I think it would be difficult to generate a return higher than that (after tax) for the forseeable future. For every dollar you pay down you are generating a tax free 6% investment return. Which would be roughly 9% before taxes. After we hit Peak (if we haven’t already) I think it will be hard to generate returns in excess of 9% due to the instability, high oil prices, interest rate swings and other general factors of a world without access to cheap oil.

Now that we have that out of the way let’s talk about what sectors to put your assets in after you’ve done all these things.

Food and Shelter
These are the two most difficult of this group to become personally invested in. Obviously you have the choice to invest in yourself and attempt to raise more of your own food goods, which I imagine all of us will be doing, and really that is one of the best returns available even in today’s markets. Today you could easily invest in Food and Shelter by picking any of the publicly traded grocery stores, or Wal-Mart/Target. And there are a plethora of public home builders to choose from. But as I think about what logically should happen in an environment of conservation and slower growth (or no growth) these don’t seem like good choices.

It would seem that with reduced oil resources for Grocers to transport goods to their stores that the large retail stores we are accustom to should either contract/disappear, be divested or take on a decidly local flavor where they would almost be local stores selling local products but sending the profits back to corporate. It doesn’t seem likely that these companies will change their method of operation to reflect the higher transportation costs so I would think that they would just close stores one at a time as they became less profitable each year. This is what Wall Street expects and most managers walk lockstep with how the Street expects them to act. This obviously leads to short term thinking, but could benefit local companies. The grocery void would be filled by local entrepeneurs who will bring back the local general type of stores and farmer’s selling direct to consumers. I can also see that some local private grocers might be able to withstand this time period because they won’t need to answer to Wall Street and can make the necessary changes to their stores to reflect the new world we will live in.

The home builders make their profits by continually building new houses on new land in the suburbs, or possible mixed use projects in the city. These don’t seem like very good options just for the simple fact that I don’t imagine that a lot of people will be buying new houses, and I would foresee interest rates being quite high which would make borrowing money quite expensive, for anyone. It would seem more likely that people would buy older houses in the city and remodel them if they needed housing. Unfortunately I don’t know of any remodeling firms that are public that someone could get involved with. I am going to lay off home builders just because I can’t see anything very clearly with their future.

Another aspect of shelter would be REITs. REITs are an asset class that could experience some serious discomfort during this period. REITs rely on financing to acquire properties, and to keep the properties they have. Financing will be difficult to obtain or expensive if you can obtain it. REITs also work because they lease either apartments or office/industrial buildings to individuals or companies. If the economy is in a downward trend and we are experiencing a population decrease I would expect that REITs will experience significant vacancies in their properties as time progresses. These vacancies will lead to lesser valuation of the properties (commericial real estate is valued based on the income it generates. Less renters = less income) which could lead to massive losses in their portfolios. I think this sector could possibly be a valuable addition to a portfolio once the situation stabilizes, but I’m unsure when this might be, but it also encompassess a lot of risk because it is really hit or miss on which companies, propeties and areas of the country will experience the most sudden downturn.

Transportation
This grouping could be broken down into automotive/trucking, trains, boats and planes. I’m going to skip automotive/trucking and planes because I don’t see those being a potentially lucrative area and want to focus on other areas. If you think of how things were shipped in the pre-oil days it was by wagon, train or boat. Well, trains still exist today and are easy to get involved with. It stands to reason that trains could be converted back to running on coal (or even better, electification. Electrification is much more efficient than any other method of transportation. By the way, if I read this on your site let me know and I’ll give you credit. I can’t remember where I read this now.) and trains can be used for the majority of our transportation again. Actually, it would seem that this is something that really should happen and should have already happened. Trains can carry a large amount of goods per load vs. a truck which really carries the same amount of goods as one railway car. To me this smacks of an obvious situation where trains should return to our country’s primary means of goods transportation, however, don’t forget that we would be living in a time of decreased consumption so I wouldn’t expect any growth. I would expect that it would mostly be a means of maintaining the funds you have put into this group. In order for trains to handle more cargo (and possibly passengers) the rail system will need to be upgraded and expanded.

Another method of transport that could be discussed is by boat. While I imagine there will be new companies started up over time that will use the waterways more to transport goods, we have done a very good job of damming up our rivers and these dams may limit the rivers that could be used for navigation. Additionally, the rivers now are much more channelized because of flood protection. I’m not sure how this would affect their ability to transport goods, but it might be something to think about. I’m not currently aware of any boating companies that specialize in transport of goods by river. If you spend any time on the Missouri or Mississippi rivers you will see plenty of barges moving around, but I can’t figure out who owns them. Perhaps train companies? I don’t know. Either way, this seems like something that will be worth keeping an eye on in the future as there could be potential to get in on the ground floor of some new businesses this way.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I will discuss Financial Services, Energy, Personal Goods and Clothing and hopefully wrap it all up.

FGLB

I hate it when…

I ride to work and forget my towel.

Air drying after a shower is not much fun.

Grrr.

Aug 29
10 miles (commute)

Local meal week 10

This week’s local meal was fairly simple.

We enjoyed a grilled T-bone steak.

Fried potatoes with red onions, salt and pepper.

Sliced apples and pears.

All ingrediants local except olive oil, salt and pepper and the steak seasoning spice rub.
I decided to stop feeling bad about us eating so much beef (especially steak) because even when we eat it we eat way less than most people. This one T-bone was enough for the whole family and there was enough leftover for my lunch tomorrow. My impression of most Americans is that they would have eaten the whole thing themselves, or at least most of them would have. And besides, all the beef we eat is grass fed which is way healthy compared to a lot of meat products, even fish.

Want more info about eating grass fed products? Click here and search around the site, including info about providers near you.

FGLB

Book review

I’m going to start doing book reviews of books of books I’ve read that I think have some general relevancy to the public. With the cold weather approaching I’ll be able to pick up my reading so this is something you should see more often going forward, although it will taper off when the weather is nice outside.

I recently finished reading a book called Garbageland by Elizabeth Royte. I picked this book up to read after seeing it recommended on the Hen Waller website. I found it to be quite interesting. The author decides that she wants to track her garbage and see what kind of impact her family is having on the environment. This leads to her starting to monitor and weigh her family’s trash (yes, really) and to her studying the future home of her trash. She visits landfills around her house, recycling centers and sewage treatment facilities. She begins composting her organic refuse, albeit not completely successfully, and she spends a lot of time talking to environmentalists about the impact our disposable lifestyle is having on the world around us. She spends some time riding with some NYC sanitation workers learning about trash and recycling habits of people, and she traveled to Berkeley to learn about their extremely successful sanitation program.

Two things from the book that really stuck with me
Only 2% of the trash generated today is municipal garbage, meaning garbage generated from residences. The rest is generated by industry and commercial groups. This is mind blowing to me. Think about how much trash is generated by households and it’s only 2% of the trash generated each year? Wow. For us to reduce our trash generation as a country the key is to reduce trash generation for the 98%, not the 2% where we currently are trying to focus all our efforts.

Currently most types of plastic can only be recycled one time. Once. Then it has to be throw away. (I figured plastic could be recycled over and over.) In a perfect world plastic could be recycled over and over, but for that to happen you have to maintain the purity of each type of plastic to a certain integrity, which won’t happen because too many people commingle their recycled materials. Makes me think about buying more products wrapped in cardboard (extremely easy to recycle and can be done many times) or glass which can be reused by me over and over. (Glass has no recycle value because it is cheaper to buy glass made from scratch than recycled glass in our current world, and according to this book, a lot of the glass we put in our recycle bins is just broken up and dumped in the trash at the recycling centers.)

I would recommend this book to everyone, but only if you have no interest in continuing the American consumerism lifestyle. Once you read this book and see how much trash people generate while maintaining their current lifestyles you will definitely feel differently about how you live. Especially those of you who live in areas that don’t even recycle their trash at all, or even compost your organic materials.

Enjoy

FGLB

Market differences

As I said yesterday I was down in KC this past weekend. I attended the Farmer’s Market Saturday morning in Overland Park, KS, which is the town I use to live in when I live in KC. I thought I would discuss the differences as I saw them from Saturday.

The market in OP was in downtown OP and was really integrated into the area and part of an event. Not only were there produce vendors but also some people selling baked goods, honey and homemade pasta. The market here in CR is much more removed. It isn’t downtown and it’s basically just a building (especially for this purpose) that is full of people selling their products. There is no attempt at making it an event. It is mostly akin to just a normal store visit. (We do have a downtown market once a month this summer which was very similar to this one. Maybe it will happen more next year. It was more of an event.)

I noticed that the market in OP was selling produce from all over the country, not just locally produced produce. And in fact, because of the disgusting sprawl in KC even the locally produced items came from quite a long way a way. I did see some people selling things from their neighbor’s farms too. In CR everything is required to be locally produced and must come from that person’s farm. You can’t sell your neighbor’s produce (this rule seems rather harsh. Why have two people drive the same distance if one can?) and in my experience I’ve never seen any produce at the CR market from more than 50 miles away, let alone Colorado, Texas or Minnesota. I think this might have to do with differences in the soil to grow crops and also with the reduced sprawl around CR. (The whole state of IA has less people than just KC does)

I also noticed a difference in the size and appearance of the produce. All of the produce in CR is bigger, cheaper and from the few I tasted, more flavorful. I guess this might relate to the soil differences again? Or possibly the distance traveled by the produce to the market? I’m not sure. I was excited that they had a farmer’s market there at all. They do a poor job (as does CR) of promoting the market though. I lived there for 4 years and heard nothing about it. I was more familiar with the market in downtown KC, which was about a 30 minute drive from our house in OP.

The last major difference I found between CR and OP was that at the market in OP there was no meat or eggs being sold. I did see some honey but it was mostly produce for sale. Perhaps there are some state laws in place that I’m not aware of but it’s something to mention. I also thought the range of choices is larger in CR, but perhaps that is because of climate differences. It was noticeably hotter down there then up here.

Overall, I liked the festive event type atmosphere of the market in OP, but I liked the choices, prices and taste of the market in CR. If you really compare the reason you go to a farmer’s market, which is to purchase food, the market in CR is a better market. It’s just a lot less fun.

FGLB