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Thursday, April 2, 2020

More on Lehman's

With regards to the blog post on Lehman's I put up this morning, I received a comment as follows:

"I do like their stuff and have bought from them in the past. Looking through one of their latest catalogues a while back, I was sad to see how many of the items were made in China though. Perhaps they will rethink that moving forward?"

Within a couple hours of posting, I received a reply from Galen Lehman himself, CEO of the company, as follows:

"Dear Anonymous - I'm sorry you were disappointed with the amount of product we have from China. I am too! The problem is that we have no choice. If we want to offer a full line of product, we have to include Chinese product, because there is so little made here any longer. I can tell you this: If we know of a USA made version, we carry it. I challenge you to find anything in our store that is made in China but has a good source from an American factory. If you find it, I will carry it.

"Here are some areas where we have problems: Cast iron (yes, we carry USA-made Lodge cookware), tools, stainless steel and glass. For example, when was the last time you saw a stainless steel USA made teakettle. (For me, it's 1970.) We have American made glass from the last family owned commercial glass factory in the USA. But the rest comes from you know where. It's a sad situation."

Please note I've never communicated with Mr. Lehman before. He obviously came to the blog through my emails to his sister Glenda.

Personalized replies. Just part of Lehman's customer service. Gotta love it.

One business that's booming

I got curious the other day, and emailed my contact at Lehman's: Glenda Lehman Ervin, VP of Marketing.

Lehman's, as you no doubt know, is the massive mercantile originally founded to serve the needs of local Amish and Mennonite populations in Ohio. They cater to those living off-grid or rural, with an emphasis on leading customers toward a simpler and more sustainable life. I've been writing for their blog for a couple years now, and twice I've been privileged to visit the store in person.

We - the Lewis family - first learned about Lehman's in the late 90s. We ordered some toys for our girls from their catalog. Later, when Y2K hit, we wanted to order something else and found out they were slammed, just slammed, with customers concerned about the future and anxious to obtain products and supplies to help them weather any potential disruptions.

Remembering this experience, I emailed Glenda and asked, "Just as a matter of interest, have you folks been busy? I can imagine a lot of people are interested in what products you're offering."

I received a heartfelt response as follows: "The store is open but almost empty - but direct sales are through the roof! Shelf-stable food, gardening and prepper supplies (water pumps and wood cook stoves) are very much in demand."

Our emailed conversation continued. "If Lehman's is nothing else, it's virtually recession-proof," I wrote. "When the chips are down, people know old-fashioned products are more important than fancy whiz-bang gizmos."

"Yes, interesting times," Glenda replied. "I am grateful we can keep most of our employees busy."

Glenda then sent additional information, as well as some photos of their massive and busy warehouse, as follows:

"As an essential business selling shelf stable food, emergency supplies and cleaning items, Lehman’s in Kidron is open with reduced hours (10 am to 5 pm). There are very few customers in the store so we have staff shipping product out for online sales, which are increasing.

The increased demand is coming in two very different areas - in self-sufficiency supplies, such as canned meat, wood cook stoves, water pumps and gardening and food preservation products. We also see a dramatic increase in what we are calling comfort products. For example, last March we sold about 20 puzzles. This March we have sold over 130. There is also an increase in 'how to' books, toys and games, and baking items.

Our store events for March and April were cancelled or postponed (like the visit from 'Off Grid with Doug and Stacy') and we will decide soon on May events.

One of our biggest challenges is getting product from vendors. Some have ramped up production, but others cannot keep up.

You can also review this blog for more information, as well as visit our web site.

In summary, our mission for decades is to help people to be prepared, not scared. We have the resources to help in times of need, and a big part of that is providing information. We are hearing from people who have no knowledge of self-reliance (city folks, as we call them) so we are spending hours on the phone, explaining things like how to install a water pump or when to plant your garden. We are also sending emails, posting blogs and doing social posts that are helpful and comforting.

Happy to talk on the phone if you need more information."

I'm not kidding, folks, Lehman's is the best resource I can think of for self-sufficiency information and products. When I visited the store last November and was given a tour, one of the things I learned was how much Lehman's emphasizes education -- not just for its customers, but for its staff. The training its sales staff receives in their particular areas of specialty is amazing.

It's good to see, once again, Lehman's rising to the occasion during this pandemic.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Some humor to lighten your day

In dark times, it's always good to laugh. Here are some memes, tweets, and photos to make you chuckle.

Here it is April 1. We woke up to the ultimate April Fool's joke: snow. Whee!

Darcy, being canine, thought snow was a terrific idea.

But I don't think this little bluebird seemed amused by the joke.

(For extra chuckles, we all felt the earthquake that hit central Idaho yesterday afternoon at 4:55 pm our time. From this distance, it was just a gentle rolling that caused no damage.)

Anyway, on to lighter stuff. Hare's some humor that, hopefully, will brighten your day.

(This drink is known as a "Quarantini.")

(I got a chuckle out of this because I'm from the old school of typing -- learned on a manual typewriter in 1975 -- when double spaces after a period was de rigueur.)

(It's hard to see, but the logger spray painted the words "Raw toilet paper" on the ends of his logs.)

(Actually, this is no joke.)

(Needless to say, I sent this to Younger Daughter.)

(As devoted introverts, this cracked us up.)

(This made me howl. Seriously, look it up.)

Last but not least, our neighbor sent this parody of the Sound of Music. Brilliant!

Monday, March 30, 2020

In like a lamb, out like a lion

Forget the old adage that March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. We've had the reverse this year.

In fact, March started out rather nice and I was able to get a bit of early garden work done.

I also started some seeds in the house: tomato, cayenne peppers, Anaheim peppers, basil.

Some have started to sprout.

(I have a feeling it's going to be a heavy gardening year.)

But then the great celestial powerhouse of weather reversed itself, and we're getting a late blast of winter. We've had wind. Rain. Hail. Sleet. And of course, snow.

Spring is around the corner -- the daffodils are doing their best to tell us that.

But it sure ain't here yet.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Financial irresponsibility

Here's an opinion piece I found entitled "Coronavirus reveals financial irresponsibility of Americans" by a columnist named The text appears below in its entirety.

I'm not sure how I feel about this piece. It seems brutally unforgiving.

At the very bottom is a snippet from another article entitled "Coronavirus lockdowns expose the financial fragility of the modern American lifestyle" which is similarly unforgiving.


How long could you sustain your household if you were to stop earning income? If you are like most Americans, the answer is not for long. Only 40 percent of Americans can afford an unexpected $1,000 expense with their savings. In fact, nearly 80 percent of workers are living paycheck to paycheck. It is no surprise that the probability of an economic recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic caused many to worry.

In major cities such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, restaurants and businesses have been ordered to close. For many hourly workers, this means no paychecks in the coming weeks. Almost one in five Americans have already lost their jobs or have reduced hours. At the same time, salaried workers are concerned about job security, as mass layoffs at numerous companies loom. While the situation is understandably stressful for every person affected, it serves as a sobering reminder that Americans must learn to live within their means and regularly save money.

The need for all Americans to be able to sustain themselves for at least a few months on savings is accentuated during a time of crisis. This means planning ahead when times are good. Financial planners suggest saving at least 20 percent of take home income, while spending at most 30 percent on discretionary items. Yet too many workers still fail to think twice about spending entire paychecks for things they want but do not need.

Recent decades have offered us relative luxury. More than 80 percent of Americans own smartphones. The same portion of households own one high definition flat screen television, while over half of households own more than one. Over 60 percent of Americans dine out at least once a week, while nearly 20 percent dine out three or more times a week.

The current panic is refocusing us on what is important. We now stockpile the things necessary for our health. Smartphones, fancy televisions, and restaurant meals are usually luxuries rather than necessities. Living within our means is not just rhetoric. It is a means of guarding ourselves during times like these. We have so much to learn from those who came before us. How many of our grandparents fared the austerity of the World Wars and the Great Depression, discovering to save, mend, and repair?

The availability of credit gave us an opportunity with a great hangover. It made nice homes, flashy cars, and expensive consumer products within reach for earners across income levels. But purchasing on installment is often a trap and a major contributor to our $14 trillion in consumer debt. Financing items as diverse as furniture, laptops, clothing, and more with easily obtained credit opened the door to fiscal recklessness. Consider that average Americans spend $800 monthly on car payments.

It is not only low income and middle income earners who blow through their paychecks every month. Many high income earners also live above their means. Indeed, at least a quarter of households making $150,000 and above live paycheck to paycheck. Our fiscal irresponsibility means that when an unexpected crisis like the one today hits, Americans are unable to sustain their own families, even for a short time period.

So politicians from both parties urge the federal government to step in and dole out checks to everyone across the country. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has announced that the administration wants to send checks to citizens totaling $1,200 per adult and $500 per child, with another round of assistance to follow if the pandemic continues.

While our leaders must act decisively in times of disaster, our own errors have made this situation untenable over the long run. On top of consumer debt, our government holds $23 trillion in national debt. A combination of stimulus checks, a potential recession, and new bureaucracies to oversee a recovery will further accelerate our rendezvous with financial default in the next generation. The money will eventually come due in the form of taxes, deferred payments for benefit programs, or outright inflation.

We each have a civic responsibility to our families and to our country. The more fiscal control we show at the kitchen table, the better our ability to handle the next crisis. A solid balance of fiscal government and personal finance courses at the high school level is a start. For most young people, however, true financial literacy is taught at home. We have a chance to show the next generation that saving is earning by another means.

I have hope during this crisis. It is a reminder, much like other traumatic events in history, of what is truly important. The survival and prosperity of our families is the key to our success. As the pandemic unfolds, the ability to budget, prioritize, and teach is our chance to make things better. Our grandparents suffered tremendously during the Great Depression. With the right attitude, we can teach our children how to prevent one.


And here's the snippet from the article "Coronavirus lockdowns expose the financial fragility of the modern American lifestyle":

"These state-wide shutdowns have placed a tremendous amount of stress on most Americans, and while this is understandable, most Americans have never attempted to prepare for widespread disruptions to their way of life. Many have never had to prepare, never thought of preparing, were never trained to prepare, and were only told that prepping was needless 'fear-mongering.' With credit cards in hand and new age theories in their heads, many young Americans were taught that everything is awesome, that the government or the universe would take care of us all. Now, after two weeks of shutdown and mass layoffs, most Americans are begging the government for bailouts, as hyper-inflation, higher taxes, homelessness, and bankruptcy lingers on the horizon."

Both these articles seem extreme. I welcome readers' reactions.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Beef and mushroom pie

In cleaning out the fridge last week, I came across a bag of mushrooms I'd bought a while earlier. These were supposed to get chopped up into salads, but the lettuce had gone south and was inedible. I didn't want to waste these mushrooms, however. They needed to get used up before they went bad.

Assessing what ingredients we had on hand, I decided to try my hand at beef-and-mushroom pie. My philosophy is "Everything tastes better in a pie crust." I modified an online recipe I found here.

First step: Defrost some bacon and beef (cube steaks, in this case).

I diced and fried up the bacon bits.

While those were cooking, I diced up the cube steaks and added flour.

I also gathered up various other ingredients: Beef broth, carrots, garlic.

Slicing mushrooms.

The recipe called for sautéing the mushrooms in olive oil, but why waste the bacon fat?

I also browned the meat in the bacon fat.

Adding flour and spices to the carrots.

Next, red wine. I loathe red wine with all my heart, but we had inherited this bottle and I kept it on hand for cooking. It's great for cooking.

Finally, I threw all the components together in a pot and just let them simmer for a couple of hours on the lowest possible heat.

When the simmering was done, I rolled out a pie crust and pulled everything together. This is the uncooked pie.

The baked result was utterly dee-lish.

Here's the recipe I used. Older Daughter doesn't care for onions, otherwise I would have added a couple. Feel free to modify for your own family's tastes:

• Six slices bacon
• 1 lb. mushrooms
• 2 lbs. steak (cube steak or other cuts)
• 2 cups diced carrots (and diced onions, if you wish)
• 2 cups beef broth
• 1 cup red wine (or Guinness beer, if you have some)
• Thyme and bay leaves (we have thyme in the garden, but no bay, so I just used thyme)

- Dice and fry the bacon and reserve the fat; put aside the bacon
- Slice and sauté the mushrooms in the bacon fat; put aside the mushrooms
- Cut up steaks and mix with 1/4 cup flour, salt and pepper to taste
- Add 1/4 cup flour to the veggies and sauté in bacon fat until veggies are soft (I skipped the sautéing since the carrots were canned and already soft)
- Brown the beef in the remaining bacon fat, along with thyme and garlic
- Combine all ingredients (bacon, veggies, mushrooms, beef broth, wine/beer, beef) and let simmer on low for a couple of hours.

Pie crust:

• 4 cups flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/3 cups lard/shortening/whatever
• Enough cold water to make a dough

Roll out two-thirds of the dough to fit a 9x13 pan. Add filling. Roll out remaining dough to cover the pie, pinch edges.

Bake at 400F until crust is golden

Bon appétit!