Missing Futureman

Dateline: 21 December 2014

Futureman, in the Fall of 2014, shortly before his departure.

One month ago today my daughter-in-law packed up her car and took Futureman (my nearly-three-year-old grandson) with her to the suburbs of Toledo, Ohio. They are now living with her family. The marriage is, I am led to believe, over.

Since starting this blog back in the spring of 2005, I have chronicled many of the events in my life and family. I do not, of course, tell all (that’s more of a Facebook thing, isn't it?), and I would not tell this except for the fact that it is significant to me, and it is the sort of reality that plenty of other parents and grandparents go through.


Future man helping me to count out chicken plucker fingers (which I sell). I put him to work at a young age. 

For the past 17 months, since my son was discharged from the Army, Marlene and I have seen Futureman nearly every day.  And we have cared for him to some degree nearly every day during that time. He was a sacred responsibility. He was near and dear to us. He was sunshine in our days. He was special. And now, just like that, he’s gone.


Marlene, Me and Futureman shortly after he got here from Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

It is a sad development, to say the least. I am sad for myself, yes, but I am more sad for the little boy who must now grow up in a broken family. He is a victim of the selfishness, immaturity, and foolishness of his parents.

While there is nothing at all unusual about divorce and broken families in this day and age, the commonness of divorce does not make it any easier for the children who are its victims.

Those who have been fortunate enough not to grow up in a broken family can not fully comprehend the psychological damage divorce inflicts on a child. It wounds the psyche, and though the wounds may heal in time, scars remain. 


Futureman helping Marlene make bread.

My parents divorced when I was young, much like Futureman. It was not a good experience for me. In retrospect, there was nothing good about it. Nothing.

My situation could have been much worse, and I’m thankful that it wasn't much worse. I’m also thankful for my Grandmother Kimball. She helped (in ways she probably never fully realized, and I did not see at the time) to give me a connection to my family— a family that would have been otherwise lost to me. In so doing, she helped to ground me and shape my identity. It made a difference. It made all the difference.


Me and Futureman Taking A Walk on the land.

My wife, Marlene, is one of the fortunate ones. She never experienced divorce in her family. She has five siblings, none of which have had divorces. Divorce is not in her generation, or the generations before her. 

Now, as did my grandmother, as have done so many other grandparents, Marlene and I will endeavor to stand in the gap. We will be an example of stability in an unstable world. Our home will be a place of peace, and patience, and joyful acceptance as long as we are here to keep a home. As the opportunity presents itself, we will give of our time and attention, when others do not have the time, or the conviction. And we will pray, without ceasing, more earnestly than ever before, for God’s grace and mercy to flow into this precious child’s life.


Me and Futureman taking a selfie


========


I am nearly 57 years old, but the little boy is still inside me. 

He was visiting his grandmother for the summer some 46 years ago. One day, sitting in her copper-colored Cadillac (with the big fins on the back), while she drove them to her camp on Cross Lake, the little boy was brooding. After some time, he asked the question which greatly nagged him (and which he never asked his mother)...

“Why did my parents get divorced?”

All these years later, the little boy remembers exactly what his grandmother said to him....

“I don’t know. I never asked. But there’s nothing that can be done about it now, and it doesn’t do any good to feel sorry for yourself.”

She said more, but I don’t remember it. I was struck by those words: “It doesn’t do any good to feel sorry for yourself.”

My grandmother, like many rural-raised folk, had a matter-of-fact outlook on life; she was more stoic than emotional. I think that she probably experienced her own share of personal disappointment and unfairness over the years, and her response to me was an expression of her personal credo: “It doesn’t do any good to feel sorry for yourself.”

So, I didn’t get any pity. My grandmother loved me, and she surely felt pity for me, but she didn’t give me pity. She gave me the unvarnished reality of the situation.

I grew up to be more stoic than emotional, at least outwardly. In time, I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I understand the Providential sovereignty of God, and I accept it. 

But I do feel powerful sorry for my grandson.


Futureman in the spring of 2014, helping in the garden (he helped me a lot in the garden).










The Lost Writings
of
Eleutheros

Dateline: 18 December 2014

A Depression-Era farm Family.
Poor? Perhaps in Babylon, but not in reality.

(How can those children be smiling!)


Eleutheros had a blog titled How Many Miles From Babylon. Some of you reading this may remember it. 

Eleutheros apparently valued his privacy. His name was a pseudonym. It means 'free man' in Greek. He never showed a picture of himself or his family.

Eleutheros lived a self reliant, agrarian life in the mountains of Tennessee. He never said exactly where in the mountains of Tennessee.

Eleutheros blogged from June of 2005 to October 2006. He was an excellent writer and I thoroughly enjoyed reading his essays. But the writing stopped. In time, How Many Miles From Babylon disappeared from it’s location on the web.

If Eleutheros has reemerged on the internet in a different format, I don’t know of it. Maybe someone else knows and can share the information here.

I got to thinking about the writings of Eleutheros and decided to see if I could find his old blog at the WayBack Machine web archive, and I did. The blog is gone from where it was, but it was saved. Amazing.

So I've decided to post an example of one of the blogs of Eleutheros for you here. His writings should not be lost. I'm doing this without permission, of course.  I will remove it if the need arises. And I may take the liberty in the future of posting some other excerpts from this free man, Eleutheros.

The following essay was originally posted on December 3, 2005 at How Many Miles From Babylon....


Ptocheiopsis 
(A View of Poverty)
By: Eleutheros


I have the advantage of understanding this century because I understood that last so well. And I understood the last becasue of my insight into the one that came before. Not personally, I'm not quite that old. But when I was a teenager, my great-grandmother was still with us. She was past 100 years old by then, having been born just a couple of years after the War for Southern Independence. Ah, if one could go back and ask her things now! But even as a 13 year old there was much to take note of. 

My mother was raised in very rural Lee County, Virginia, and was a small child during the Great Depression. She was two years old in 1929 and so the depression economics was all she knew until she was grown. When she and my father would wax nostalgic about the hard times, I asked her what 'hard times' meant. 

"Did you not have enough to eat?" 

"Oh, we always had plenty to eat, we lived on a farm just like almost everyone else in those days. It was common stuff, cornbread, beans, greens with fatback, milk, and such but there was certainly plenty enough."[This, by the bye, in a family of a widow with sixteen children (at the time)].

"Did you not have enough clothes?"

"Nothing fancy and one pair of shoes, but we had clothes enough."

"Were you cold?"

"Don't recall ever being cold."

"What did it mean then that there was a depression? What were hard times?"

"Oh, it was because no one had any money." 

So I talked to my paternal grandmother who was born in the late 1880's and who would have known the world before the hard times set in. 

"What was the depression like?" 

"Oh, hard times."

"Were you all in this hollow, hungry, cold, ill-clothed?"

"No, no, ate then about like we eat now." [Appalachian peasant fare].

"Then why were times hard?"

"Because no one had any money." 

My recources were deep and rich then. I went in to see 'Mommy-Mamaw', the Applachian term of endearment for the ancient matriarch of the fourth generation. She sat up in her bed and spoke in the whistling whisper of a voice from another century and listened patiently to my question. 

She told how just before the crash in '29 there was a brief spate of coal and logging activity and the silver dollars that was the day's wage for a working man flowed for a while. She told how she commanded the same wage as a skilled cook in the logging camp and how she'd fallen from the horse on her way home once and broke her pelvis and so had not had any more children besides my grandmother. You could tell by the expression in her ancient visage that her emotions were mixed, only the one child, and yet here was I, the next to the youngest great-grandchild of a considerable tribe and clan. 

"But what about not having any money?"

The question brought her back from her reverie and her high Cherokee cheekbones seemed to raise up in a crinkled smile as her pale grey eyes lit up with amusement.

"Lord, child, nobody in these hills ever had any money." 

My parents were dedicated post-war suburbanites but my grandparents still lived a horse-drawn eighteenth century lifestyle. The picture that emerged from my quizzing of my elders was that before the 1920's, the economy in this part of the world was subsitence and direct use. Money was not necessary, not much of it anyway. A person with a cow and few pigs and chickens and good stand of corn was well off. 

Then in the 30's electricity came to the hollow. Parallel to the hollow where my father was raised (Crooked Branch Hollow) was a far more arable draw (Hamblin Creek Hollow) which was abandoned and is now reverted to forest because the power company ran the electric lines up the former but not the later. 

This was in the wake of the rampant consumerism of the 1920's that helped bring about the depression in which washing machines and refigerators were being pushed on the public. Now by comparing themelves with people who had electricity, washing machines, refrigerators, and automobiles, the pastoral household was poor in comparison and by those standards. 

The poverty remembered by my parents did not come about as a result of a loss or diminishing of the livelihood of the folk, it came about because there was a new and external standard to which they did not measure up.

==========

P.S. I blogged about Eleutheros' advice on debt back in 2008. Here is the link: Eleutheros on Debt









The Downside
To Investing
In Precious Metals

Dateline: 16 December 2014

Note: If you neglected to read the corrected version of my previous blog about The Myth of Compound Interest, please go check it out. The actual loss of value in the example savings account is far more serious than my incorrect calculations first indicated. Also, be sure you read all the excellent comments. Now, on with today’s blog...

Once upon a time (not all that long ago) American money was made with a precious metal content. Those days are gone, and a thin, worn, 90% silver  Mercury dime is now worth about $1.50.

There are people who invest in precious metals, like gold and silver. By “invest” I mean they purchase with the hope that the price of the metals will rise, and when it rises they will sell, thus making a profit. Some of these investors actually do end up selling and making a profit on their investment.

There is, however, a downside to investing in precious metals, and it is rarely discussed. The downside is that when you go to sell your metals, the US government wants a significant chunk of the profit you make. Precious metals are classified as collectibles and, if held for more than one year, they are subject to a long-term capital gains tax on any profits realized when you sell. The tax is currently 28% (the government can raise it at any time).

If you invest in precious metals and lose your record of purchase (i.e., a receipt), then sell years later, my understanding is that your capital gains tax would be on the entire sale, not just the profit realized from the sale.

Also, if you invest in precious metals and hold them for a long period of time, then sell for a profit, you may not be making nearly as much profit as you think you are. When you figure the loss of dollar purchasing power due to inflation over those years, along with the 28% capital gains tax, you could find there was little actual profit, if any. Read A Basic Lesson in Financial Repression to better understand how yearly inflation destroys investment profits in a basic savings account. The same principle applies to precious metal profits.

And then there is the matter of your investment not generating any income for all the years you held it. Some investments do generate a steady income (e.g., rental fees or a dividend). Precious metals do not.

With all of that in mind, am I suggesting that it is not wise to own precious metals? No, I am not. My point is that it may not be wise to invest in precious metals, with the expectation of making a future profit.

It so happens that there are reasons other than investment and hoped-for profit to own precious metals. Many people buy precious metals as a hedge against inflation. A “hedge” is a financial tactic taken to insure against total loss. As explained in My Hyperinflation Series, precious metals have historically been a dependable hedge in a hyperinflationary crisis.

The value of paper dollars always eventually goes to zero, but the value of precious metals never goes to zero. Even in a deflationary crisis (which it appears the world economy is currently experiencing), precious metals will maintain some real value.

Another reason people own precious metals is as a hedge against a socio-economic meltdown. But in the early stages of such a meltdown, precious metals will probably be of little value. A supply of twenty-dollar bills (cash) may prove to be the best thing to have in the early stages of a crisis.

If the collapse proves to be one of epic proportions (and duration), tools, skills, and land on which to live and supply yourself with the basic needs of life (food, water, shelter) will be much more valuable than any precious metals. See my Agrarian-Style Economic Self Defense Plan for more details.

After the epic collapse, as civilization restructures itself to adapt to post-industrial, neo-agrarian realities, precious metals may be a part of the new economy, in which case, having some precious metals may be beneficial. 

Another reason some people buy precious metals is for privacy.  As “collectibles,” precious metals are not conventional paper assets and therefore are not easily “seen” and tracked by the eyes of government and financial institutions.

However, depending on who you purchase from and how much you spend, your transaction may be reported to the IRS. My understanding is that any purchase over $600 is supposed to be reported to the IRS by precious metals dealers (somebody can correct me if I have that wrong). And, of course, when you sell, there are government reporting guidelines that dealers are required to comply with.

Another plus to having some precious metals is that, unlike conventional, dollar-denominated assets, precious metals can not be so easily stolen or mismanaged by banks, brokerage houses, governments, and so on. Institutional theft (of various kinds) is something that we will surely be seeing more of in the years ahead. The infamous Greek bail-in of 2013 is just one example of this kind of theft. 

Many cultures around the world traditionally accumulate and preserve their life savings by purchasing precious metals instead of paper investments. They are more interested in preserving wealth than investing to generate more wealth. People in Asia, India and the Middle East have a long history of this, and they are major buyers of precious metals today. These cultures have a completely different perspective from that of the average American about what what real wealth is. But there are some Americans who have the same mindset. 

A final reason for having precious metals could be the fun and satisfaction that comes with collecting something as a hobby. Precious metals in the form of coins have been collected by people for generations. Unlike collections of things like stamps, baseball cards or beanie babies (remember them?), precious metals have an intrinsic value and can be sold very easily if the need ever arises.

In the final analysis, there are several reasons for owning precious metals. But purchasing precious metals as in investment may not be such a good idea.

That's the way I see it. As always, I welcome your insights and comments on this subject.

People in India buy precious metals (primary gold) in the form of jewelry.
PHOTO LINK





The Myth Of
Compound Interest
or
A Basic Lesson
In Financial Repression

Dateline: 14 December 2014



You’ve probably heard of the miracle of compound interest. It has gotten a lot of attention over the generations. I myself have pondered and marveled at how consistently saving a little, on a regular basis, over a long period of time, coupled with compounded interest, can make a person rich in later years. I’ve even expounded about this fundamental investment advice to my children, hoping they would grasp the wisdom of delayed gratification and disciplined saving.

But I must admit that I’ve always had a niggling feeling about the miracle of compound interest.  Is it truly a valid (or even desirable) approach to attaining wealth? 

Maybe some day I will discuss the desirability (or ethics) of seeking to pursue wealth by usury, but not today. In this little  blog post I’d like to address the validity of the miracle of compound interest. That is to say, does this so-called miracle really have a sound basis in fact? After giving this subject some serious thought,  I submit to you that it does not.

Theoretically speaking, it’s entirely possible to make a lot of money with compound interest. And it may be that there have been periods of time throughout history when the miracle of compound interest actually worked as the experts say it will. But I can assure you it has not been a logical or wise investment strategy for a very long time in this country. 

Furthermore, within the emerging new economic realities that we are all facing, the miracle of compound interest is a complete and total myth. As such, it is one of the worst bits of investment advice that you can follow.

Compound interest can not make anyone wealthy these days, and it has not made anyone rich in the last hundred years or so. This is the case because for the last hundred years we have experienced continual inflation, and inflation destroys the miracle of compound interest. Worse than that, inflation typically results in a negative real interest rate, which amounts to a compounded financial loss. This is known as financial repression.

For example, according to This US Inflation Calculator (as seen in the screen shot below), $20 in 1914 had the equivalent buying power of $474.87 dollars today. And the inflation calculator tells us that is a 2,274.3% rate of inflation.





In order for the miracle of compound interest to bear fruit in that hundred years, the interest earned on saved money would have to be more than the rate of inflation. There may have been periods of time when that was the case, but I don’t think it was the case very often or for very long.

The reality of compounded financial loss can be illustrated very easily by looking at today’s interest and inflation numbers. Let’s say you have $10,000 dollars in your savings account. It is probably earning less than 1% interest. To make this example easy, we’ll be generous and say you’re earning a full 1% on your money.

Now we’ll figure in the current inflation rate. These days our government tells us that the inflation rate is around 2% and that it has been around 2% for several years. But the government lies. As I’m sure you know, our government can’t be trusted to provide us with true financial numbers. By lying and deceiving us about these things, our government cheats and steals and mismanages even more of our money.

In a recent interview, John Williams of ShadowStats, says that the true inflation rate is between 5% and 9%. I heard another independent financial analyst say that he thought the inflation rate was around 6%. Suffice it to say that inflation has has been much more than 2% for many years. Let’s go ahead and assume that 6% is the number....

If the inflation rate is 6% and you are earning 1% on your savings, then you are losing 5% a year. Very few people see or fully understand that they are losing money because their bank account doesn’t show a loss. Here’s what I mean...

If you earn 1% simple interest, compounded annually, on your $10,000 savings, you savings account would show the following gains...

Year 1:  $10,000.00 x 1% interest = $100.00      
Total savings = $10,100.00

Year 2:   $10,100.00 x 1% interest = $101.00      
Total savings = $10,201.00

Year 3:   $10,201.00 x 1% interest = $102.01     
Total savings = $10,303.01

Year 4:   $10,303.01 x 1% interest = $103.03      
Total savings = $10,406.04

Year 5:   $10,406.04 x 1% interest = $104.06    
Total savings = $10,510.10

Year 6:   $10,510.10 x 1% interest = $105.10      
Total savings = $10,615.20

Year 7:   $10,615.20 x 1% interest = $106.15     
Total savings = $10,721.35

Year 8:   $10,721.35 x 1% interest = $107.21    
Total savings = $10,828.56

Year 9:   $10,828.56 x 1% interest = $108.29    
Total savings = $10,936.85

Year 10:  $10,936.85 x 1% interest = $109.37     
Total savings = $11,046.22

Thus we see that after ten years of 1% interest, an investment of $10,000 will earn $1,046.22 in interest. HOWEVER, the reality of the situation is that, even though the $10,000 has grown by 1% a year, and it shows an increase in money in the account, the purchasing power (the true value) of the $10,000 has actually DECLINED by 5% a year (as I explained above). So let’s look at the same account, showing the true, compounded loss of 5% a year.

Year 1:   $10,000.00 x 5% inflation loss = $500.00
Total purchasing value = $9,500.00

Year 2:    $ 9,500.00 x 5% inflation loss =  $475.00
Total purchasing value = $9,025.00

Year 3:    $ 9,025.00 x 5% inflation loss =  $451.25
Total purchasing value = $8,573.75

Year 4:    $ 8,573.75 x 5% inflation loss =  $428.69
Total purchasing value = $8,145.06

Year 5:    $ 8,145.06 x 5% inflation loss = $407.25
Total purchasing value = $7,737.81

Year 6:    $ 7,737.81 x 5% inflation loss = $386.89
Total purchasing value = $7,350.92

Year 7:    $ 7,350.92 x 5% inflation loss = $367.55
Total purchasing value = $6,983.37

Year 8:    $6,983.37 x 5% inflation loss = $349.17
Total purchasing value = $6,634.20

Year 9:    $ 6,634.20 x 5% inflation loss = $331.71
Total purchasing value = $6,302.49

Year 10:  $ 6,302.49 x 5% inflation loss = $315.12
Total purchasing value = $5,987.37

As you can clearly see, when we look at what is actually happening to the value of the $10,000 savings account over ten years, with a 1% interest rate, and a 6% inflation rate, there is no net gain in value at all.

The owner of the savings account may look at the total of his account and think the value of his $10,000 increased by $1,046.22, but it actually declined in value by $4,012.63.

That is a significant loss. Almost half of the investment has been lost. If that person worked, scrimped, sacrificed and saved $100,000 (instead of the $10,000 example) for their retirement years, their money would have lost $40,126.30 in purchasing power.

This little mathematical exercise reveals the wickedness of inflation. Some people refer to inflation as a ‘hidden tax,” but it is not a tax. It is government sanctioned, premeditated theft. 

Knowing this, the question arises. What can a person do to preserve the value of his hard-earned savings? That is a difficult question that I think about quite a bit. There are no easy answers that I know of. But I may try to offer some suggestions in the future. If you have any solutions, feel free to share them in the comments below.







We've Bought More Land

Dateline: 12 December 2014

(click picture for an enlarged view)

Well, we’ve gone and done it. Marlene and I have bought more land. It's nice grass land. We found out that the land was for sale, and heard that the price would be going up quite a bit after the first of the year, so we bought eight lots.

They aren’t building lots. They are burial lots. I suppose they are more commonly referred to as “plots.” 

Our final resting places will be side by side in the southwest corner of Kelloggsville Rural Cemetery. It’s a nice little cemetery, on the other side of the field across from our house. Our children will be able to stand by our plots as we are lowered into the ground, and see the little homestead where they grew up.

We once knew many of the people who are already buried in the cemetery. They were our friends and neighbors. Our lives intersected with them in various ways, and memories come to us when we look upon their headstones.  Maybe someday I’ll introduce you to some of them.

I feel very good now that this responsibility has been taken care of. The next thing will be to pick out a grave stone and figure out what to put on it. That will require some thought. There is no hurry, but I do want to have this done too. I am, after all, pushing 57 years old. My time is running out.

I only need one plot, of course, and Marlene only needs one plot. The other six are for our children and their wives, or whoever in the family may need them, when their time comes. I hope and pray that Marlene and I do not live to see any of those other six plots taken. They are for after we are gone.

Have you procured your own final resting place? It’s something to think about.

=====

Today's blog post reminds me of an excellent (agrarian) short story by Leo Tolstoy titled, How Much Land Does a Man Need? If you have never read any Tolstoy, this story is a good place to start. It is much shorter, and less complicated than War and Peace.



It's Okay To Be
An Introvert

Dateline: 9 December 2014



I’ve always been an introvert, and a fairly serious one. But only recently have I given it much thought. It started when I read Ten Ways Introverts Interact Differently With The World. Then I watched This Ted Talk with Susan Cain, author of the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

It is estimated that 1/4 to 1/3 of the population is introverted to some degree. Maybe you are an introvert. If so, you may have had a difficult time growing up. That's because we live in a society where the qualities of an extrovert ( the “extrovert ideal”) are seen as better or more desirable than the qualities of an introvert. 

There are a lot of misconceptions about introverts and 10 Myths About Introverts is well worth reading if you would like to understand people like me (or maybe yourself) better. Myth #7 is so particularly me that I am compelled to share it here...


Myth #7—Introverts are weird.    Introverts are often individualists. They don't follow the crowd. They'd prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don't make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

In reading about the qualities of introverts I came upon the statement that introverts tend to be more deliberate than extroverts. Well, no wonder I latched onto the The Deliberate Agrarian as the ideal title for my blog. 

Like I said, I'm a fairly serious introvert. Another example of this is my lifelong dream to have a home-based mail order business. It's the perfect business for an introvert. And I don't have a business phone (introverts don't like to talk on the phone). 

I encourage you to watch the TED talk. See if  you can relate to what Susan Cain says. And check out her Quiet Web Site for more information. Also, you may find Susan's Manifesto For Introverts of interest.

I have ordered the audio version of Quiet to listen to. I'm very anxious to hear this book. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this subject in the future.


The quote is from Emerson. I don't believe that being yourself is "the greatest accomplishment," but I do think it is a worthy goal. And it is also  a noteworthy accomplishment to live contra mundum (against the world system), which is pretty much what living a deliberate agrarian lifestyle is all about.