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Thursday, February 27, 2014
More People Are Leaving
My rural county is in a fairly wealthy region of Virginia. Some of the large farms here are held by families who have owned large acre tracts since the 1700s. A few can be traced back to original land grants from the British king of the day. Some of the local lands were part of the vast lands owned by Peter and Jane Randolph Jefferson who were Thomas Jefferson's parents. Most of the other large tract or estate owners of contemporary times, made money in banking, insurance or electronics. Most bought their homes at the top of the market when their homes were pricey indeed. We came here fifteen years ago seeking expansive land and a chance for our children to raise livestock as my husband and I had in childhood. We built two farms here, and two family homes. We used to joke that we were the token "Middle Class" family in a county where many were much wealthier. This really didn't bother us, and we busied ourselves acquiring land adjacent to ours, building our farms, one at a time, homeschooling and raising our children. More middle class families joined us in the area after we came, and it's been a good place to raise a family and to weather life and its losses.
In this location, we have been fairly isolated from the initial crashes of the economy in 2008. Most families who had money here, had it well diversified, and so their losses in one sector didn't harm their overall finances. However, since then, there has been a palpable and ever constant financial slippage. The foreclosures here began in 2009 and have been a steady stream. There is no mail actually delivered here, and we must pick up our mail at a small rural post office. Earlier this year there were discussions about closing both our post office, and the one nearest it. This would have left no post office for us for many, many miles. Fortunately, a strong local lobby, including our own family, kept both post offices open if just for a few hours a day. The two local food banks here have grown to five, and I am told they are often completely empty. I don't know for sure because I can no longer afford to drop boxes of canned goods there,on my way back from Sam's Club, as we used to when our youngest son Daniel was still alive. He enjoyed this regular routine of ours, and it makes me sad that we can't do this any longer, or at least not as often.
Lately, there is a new phenomenon here. There had been foreclosures. Usually we hear about these when the family is fighting it and hopes to renegotiate their mortgage or buy more time. Many of them believed the present regime would help them in this, but one by one, they all disappeared from their homes. Most people don't tell you when they are leaving, and I don't think they know. Some of them leave their bewildered pets there, when they leave, perhaps not being able to take them to an apartment or friend's home. We did bring home one of these pets. Now, there are people who simply move from their homes overnight. No one knows where they are, and their house sits empty, sometimes for a year or more, but without the notices on the front windows that tell you which bank has foreclosed, or who to call if the house is on fire or there is another emergency there. This has happened to several homes locally very recently.
The latest interesting trend here are the farmers who have placed their homes for sale and who are leaving for another nation. One of these farmers is headed for Belize where they plan to "raise fruit" if they are sharing the truth with me. Another one of these families is headed for Ecuador where they plan to do the same. I don't speak Spanish, and despite the fact that I am fairly adventurous, I don't think I would want to sell up everything I have gathered here, move to a place where I don't understand the language, the customs, the laws, the insects, the wildlife or even the parasites, and try to earn and living, and try to acquire all the farming implements I had here, which could be a good deal more difficult to get there. I also don't think I would want to dash my children's chances of jobs, if in fact there are any left here. I am personally a little unhappy with their decisions because it leaves me fewer people with whom to trade goods in a true financial collapse, if one comes. I am also left with wondering, what do they know ? So much change locally is unsettling.
We are also noticing a financial squeeze. Our homeowner's insurance has risen forty percent in the last year. I have tried to find other carriers but most won't cover farms or homes on farms. Our food prices have risen substantially. We are combatting this by growing some of our food and by reducing meat to more of a garnish that a serving. We also use chicken and turkey often, and beef rarely. We are considering making our own cheese for personal use. We still have plenty of eggs from the chickens, and rarely from the ducks. We still pray for Obamacare to be rescinded as we watch our friends who are physicians or other health care workers look at alternatives to getting out of health care entirely.
Utility prices have risen here. Electricity and gas have risen substantially. We use solar for small items here, but we don't see enough sun here in the forests to do much more with it than we presently already do. We wonder what other changes in our own environment are coming.