Country Living Series

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The novel frugality

Over the last few weeks, I've been collecting stories about something that's being termed the "Novel Frugality." Apparently – no surprise – the concept of thriftiness is being abruptly introduced to a whole lot of people who previously paid it no mind.

"We're trained to buy often, buy cheap, and buy a lot," observes a woman named Anne Helen Petersen in a piece called "I Don't Feel Like Buying Stuff Anymore." "And I'm not just talking about food, which everyone has to acquire in some capacity, or clothes. I mean all the other small purchases of daily life: a new face lotion, a houseplant holder, a wine glass name trinket, an office supply organizer, a vegetable spiralizer, a cute set of hand towels, a pair of nicer sunglasses, a pair of sports sunglasses, a pair of throwaway sunglasses. The stuff, in other words, that you don't even know that you want until it somehow finds its way to your cart at Target or T.J. Maxx."


While people like Ms. Petersen may find themselves astonished at their sudden desire to be frugal, my thought is something along the lines of, "Welcome to the club." I don't mean that in a snarky way, either; I mean it quite seriously. Welcome.

I'm a huge advocate of frugality. It is a powerful fiscal weapon. In fact, arguably it's one of the most powerful weapons in anyone's financial arsenal.

We were forced into a frugal lifestyle back in 1993 when we left California (and our two well-paying jobs) and moved to Oregon, where we found ourselves without paid employment. Until our woodcraft business got off the ground, we had to be very careful of our spending. We had no choice. After our woodcraft business got off the ground, we kept up that level of frugality because we preferred saving money rather than spending it.

We nipped here and tucked there. We trimmed this and cut that. Little by little, step by step, we brought our spending in line with our income, whatever that income was at the time. Sometimes our income was more, at which time we spent more. Sometime it was less, at which time we tightened our belts.

This has been our way of life for nearly 30 years now, so it's second nature. I think that's why I derive some amusement from articles purporting to be shocked when people actually line-dry their clothes and forego restaurant meals.

But then I remember, that used to be us. Frugality is a learned skill, just like anything else.


In one article entitled "The Novel Frugality: After decades of materialism, some Americans are experimenting with thriftiness for the first time" (warning, some bad language), writer Meredith Haggerty examines the rise of the disposable consumer culture and the falling away of the thrifty legacy from the Great Depression. "In this environment," Haggerty writes, "the remaining [frugal] holdouts have often been laughed at, ignored, and little studied, but they haven't disappeared."

Apparently frugality can be separated into two types: intrinsic and extrinsic. This means frugality can be voluntarily adopted (intrinsic) or involuntarily imposed (extrinsic). What isn't discussed is how frequently extrinsic frugality can lead to intrinsic frugality. In other words, how often does involuntary frugality (imposed by poverty) result in the ability to regain control of one's finances, after which voluntary frugality allows one's standard of living to rise? We started off in one category, and it allowed us to move to the other category.

Even if their finances are not immediately threatened, a lot of people are responding to the pandemic by acting as if resources will become scarce. Accordingly, they're washing and reusing their Ziploc bags and using bread heels to make croutons, while joking they're "turning into their grandma." Reasons range from concerns about the supply chain to a reluctance to jostle among crowds at the supermarket.

[As an aside, Haggerty's article also has the obligatory warning about when frugality becomes hoarding. For whatever reason, these two positions are linked in a lot of peoples' minds. To this end, Haggerty quotes a social worker and author named Elaine Birchall as follows: "She [Birchall] helps clients, before and now, work through how to persevere, to trust that there will be enough. Birchall's own household found itself down to one roll of toilet paper ("because I do not hoard") but, just as she tells her clients, the universe provided and she was able to buy more before it became a problem."

Um, the universe provided? What a stoopid explanation. At first I was inclined to be charitable toward this piece – after all, a lot of people have no experience with frugality – but then the whole "hoarders" association and "the universe" nonsense put me entirely off. Okay, back to the main point.]

But enough about this first article. In another article I read shortly thereafter entitled "How a $500 Monthly Allowance Saved Our Marriage," the author reports on her financial hang-ups and insecurity from the trauma of growing up with a breadwinning father and a stay-at-home mother. (The horror, I know.)

This writer (Catherine Baab-Muguira) reports that only by instituting a $500/month allowance for discretionary spending – in which she and her husband can each spend that sum on whatever they want, no questions asked – was she able to save her marriage. "I am so wary of dependence that the merest suggestion makes me break out in hives," Baab-Muguira writes. "I have to feel that I am independent or I cannot be married, as much as I love Chris."

It sounds like Baab-Muguira and her husband are financially responsible people ("Since we adopted the system, we've paid off all our student debt, opened a joint brokerage account, and even bought a modest house"), but I do wonder how either or both would adapt if they lost their income or were forced into frugality due to present circumstances. Would Baab-Muguira's marriage survive? I sincerely hope so.


Meanwhile, according to an older (2009) New York Times article, it seems Don and I fall under a category called the "gleefully frugal." This oddball subset "happily seeks new ways to economize and takes pride in outsaving the Joneses. The mantra is cut, cut, cut – magazine and cable subscriptions, credit cards, fancy coffee drinks and your own hair." The article references people who darn socks, air-dry clothes ("even though it takes a few days for the clothes to dry inside"), wash and reuse plastic bags, and employ other thrifty practices that apparently baffled the writer.

The bottom line on all these "Novel Frugality" articles are what Don and I learned years ago: You can either EARN MORE or you can SPEND LESS. We chose to SPEND LESS so we could keep homesteading. But at the time we chose to SPEND LESS, it was just that – a choice. Now a huge number of people are being forced to SPEND LESS because the choice to EARN MORE is no longer there.

What I hope is this Novel Frugality can be seen as liberating, not traumatizing. If you're used to an affluent lifestyle, then yeah, it's a difficult adjustment. But living low can be amazingly freeing (no more worrying what the Joneses think!).

And it truly does become second nature. I'm always startled whenever someone tells us they went out to eat at such-and-such a restaurant. Why would they spend the money? Ditto with purchasing clothes, especially new clothes. Why spend the money, when thrift stores have everything you need?

In the field of behavioral economics, there's a theory called "loss aversion" which suggests that once we get used to a certain level of luxury in our lives, we find it almost impossible to give up, and doing so feels like deprivation. Therefore for whatever luxury you enjoy and would feel deprived without, find a frugal workaround and give yourself permission to enjoy the results.

The goal in frugality is balance. It does no good to cut expenses to the bone if you're sullen and resentful the whole way. Instead, find what luxuries you don't want to cut, and find frugal alternatives.

Above all, frugality is not deprivation or a penance; it's deliverance. Deliverance from debt or from a lifestyle you long to escape. Frugality and thrift have allowed endless people to escape circumstances they didn't like and pursue the changes they wanted.


For those engaging in the Novel Frugality, I'll say it again: Welcome.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Birds everywhere

Needless to say, this is the time of year we're dripping with birds. Here are a few we've seen.

Western bluebird.


Robin. Still one of my favorite birds.


Black-chinned hummingbird.


Barn swallow.


Tree swallow (down at the lake).


Osprey (down at the lake).


Loon (down at the lake).


Canada geese (with wood ducks behind)(down at the lake).


Mallards (down at the lake).


Eurasian collared dove.


Killdeer (three of them).


Meanwhile we have a blackbird nest in the corner post of the garden.


Here's the mother, eyeing me suspiciously.


She's sitting on five eggs.


A few days later, the babies had hatched.


Bump the post slightly, and mouths pop open.


Here's the mother, scolding me with her mouth full.


Here's a male red-winged blackbird. We have numerous nests in the cattails in our pond.



As a side note, yesterday a hawk flew low over me clutching a squirrel in its talon. What a windfall for the hawk. For the squirrel, not so much.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

30th anniversary!

Today is our 30th anniversary!! Can you believe it?


Where do the years go?


I'm so grateful for my wonderful husband.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day

As I often do on Memorial Day, I like to draw your attention to a set of remarkable photos taken a few years ago by a reader (Katie) and her husband, who were formerly stationed in Germany. Katie learned that Don's uncle, Donald Sowers, who was killed in World War II, was buried in Ardennes American Cemetery in Liege, Belgium. She and her family visited the cemetery and sent these photos.


Last year, a reader named Kathy left the following moving comment on that blog post I shared:

I searched for 2 years to find my mother's first husband Harold Norris, killed 4/4/44 @ 2:04 PM over Romania. I received a photo of his grave from Belgium and walked over to my mother's home and said, "Mom where is Harold buried?" She said, "New Jersey". I said, "Mom, sit down, we need to talk."

Her mouth dropped open when she learned that her first husband was buried in Belgium! He has been there for (then) 65 years. All I started with was his purple heart, his name and service number. It has lead me down a path filled with new compassionate friends and a new understanding of the word sacrifice. Harold was an airman, navigator and top turret gunner. His plane the Miasis Dragon was shot down after delivering a fatal blow to an oil refinery in Bucharest Romania. The plane was hit at the waist by a land-to-air missile. The plane nose dipped, the pilot pulled it up, then it went nose-over-tail to the earth in a fireball. 4 crew were "carbonized" and were buried together in one grave by Romanian Monks. Later, in 1949, with dental records my mother provided, the US was able to locate his remains from the others and he was buried for the 9th and final time in Ardennes. The other 3 airmen are still together buried in the US.

One of the beautiful things I noticed was that each man's life is symbolized with a marble cross. They all worked and sacrificed as a group and from above, all of their individual crosses make up a larger cross. This collective larger cross can only be seen by people in airplanes and God. 3/5ths of the graves hold the remains from airmen who lost their lives....it is to those who fly that the larger cross is visible...a beautiful way to honor them.

The other thing I learned in 2010: the people of Belgium, France and other countries meet and honor our heroes. At Ardennes in 2010, there was approximately 100,000 people present, not many were from the USA. It seems that in life, we considered these men to belong to us, but in their death, the European people consider that these men belong to them, whom they thank and honor every year. Most graves have been adopted. Harold's grave was adopted many years ago and now the lady who adopted his grave is teaching her young grand daughter to care for it. She obviously does not want her grand daughter to forget the gratitude she has for the men who lost their lives saving hers.

I wrote to a man who was age 7 when the bombs were falling on to his town. He was scared and saw more than a 7 year old should see. He remembers the American forces and he remembers liberation. For those who know what happened, who saw the cruelty and oppression, who had no hope, our US Military saved them, their children and their grand children. The maximum gift was given, freedom was restored at a great price, those receiving the gift are grateful....and other airmen and God can see their collective cross, a memorial for their sacrifice, from the air. This has put many things in perspective for me...I hope it will for you too. --Kathy

_______________________________

This is an essay Don wrote many years ago in tribute to his fallen uncle:

Forever Young

I don't know how he died, really. No one does, since everyone who was with him died at more or less the same time.

I'll bet he was afraid. I would have been.

It must have been hell on earth – above earth to be exact. A booming, banging, grinding, shaking, shattering horror. Especially it must have been tough on him, hanging as he was below the belly of a crippled plane, a bubble of glass exposed to the flak and the fire from enemy aircraft. A tasty and too-visible target.

His B-24 Liberator was powerful, true. But it was also lightly armored and easily damaged in combat. When damaged, the B-24 often lost the electrical power needed to rotate its gun turrets, and the gunners would have to hand-crank their turrets around, trying to follow the enemy planes.

Too slow. Too slow.

He was probably the youngest man on board. He was certainly the lowest-ranking member of the ten men who made up the crew. That first day of August in 1943, he'd only been in the Army Air Corp for a year and a half. He'd only been overseas for six months. He was 19 years old. He came from a farming family that lived in a very small town in Kansas. He had one sister, two brothers, and two very worried parents.

He was assigned to 98BG, a bomber group stationed out of Benghazi, Libya. His mission that day? In coordination with 178 bombers and 1,700 crew members, the 98BG was to attack and destroy the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. These facilities provided the Third Reich with one-third of its fuel … and the Nazis were very hungry for fuel in the waning days of 1943.

The oil refineries at Ploesti were protected with massive anti-aircraft batteries and hundreds of German and Romanian fighter planes. The distance traveled by the Allied bombers meant that no fighter protection could attend them. They were alone.

"Fire over Ploesti" by Roy Grinnell

It was a tremendous undertaking, a gamble of men and machines desperately needed for the war effort. A 2,400 mile, eighteen hour trip there and back again, with only a half-hour of available time over the target.

And in the end, for over 500 airmen and 52 bombers, there was no going home.

They say he's buried at a cemetery near Liege, Belgium. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. The records show that his B-24 was shot down over the refinery, but that it happened before the crew could disgorge the plane's 8000-pound payload of high explosives. And the B-24 Liberator was well known for burning merrily when it crashed.

But his name is on one of the white crosses standing in formation at the lovingly well-tended cemetery.

His parents back in Kansas received the medals that he was awarded posthumously at a ceremony, probably one of many such ceremonies on that same day. The medals were: a Distinguished Flying Cross, a Purple Heart, and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

Both his brothers eventually went to war as well. One went as another tail gunner, the other as a pilot. His younger sister stayed home, grieving for the older brother she would never see again on this side.

Eventually she married my father.

The parents, the brothers, and the sister passed away some time ago. There is now no one who can tell me anything more about Donald Phillip Sowers – Sargent, United States Army Air Corp. The uncle I never knew and whose name I share.

Donald Philip Sowers never woke to the face of his bride on the day after his wedding. He never paced the floor late at night singing softly to an infant daughter who just couldn't sleep. He never got to hold his child's hand the last time she needed, or wanted, help to cross a street. He never felt the aches and pains of a long life, well lived. And well loved.

But I will remember him and so will my children. If you've taken the time to read this, tip a glass in his name and remember him. And all the other lost brothers and sisters as well.

Think of the things he missed, for the things you have.

Donald Philip Sowers died fighting the greatest evil of our time – a young man of 19 who will never grow old.
_______________________________

A mighty "thank you" to our past and present veterans, whose sacrifices too many of us are willing to overlook, dismiss, or forget.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Trade school commencement speech

Well, here's something pretty cool.

Mike Rowe, the blue-collar advocate from the television shows "Dirty Jobs" and "Somebody's Gotta Do It" just posted his version of a commencement speech ... for trade school graduates.

He opens with the stellar words "Thanks for resisting the temptation to borrow vast sums of money" -- and it just gets better.



Well worth watching.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

KaBOOM

If I've been quiet on the blog lately, it's because we very very busy with projects around the homestead. And that, in turn, is because we have prospective viewers coming out our ears.


Our homestead is for sale, as everyone knows. We took it off the market over the winter and re-listed it just as the coronavirus shutdowns started happening, which meant we had no one viewing the property for the longest time. We weren't worried, since we're not in a hurry to sell; and used the pause to continue making improvements and tackling outdoor projects as weather permitted. But we did notice our Zillow listing was beginning to get a large number of views, and especially a large number of saves.

Now suddenly, after weeks and months quiet, the phone is ringing off the hook. We've had two home showings so far, and potentially three more for this upcoming weekend. Yowza.

So – in addition to writing deadlines and a tankard production run we're finishing up – we've been working on the house and property.

In some regards, this delay has been beneficial for us. Rural properties are suddenly hot as people realize city living has its drawbacks. (Apparently a Silicon Valley venture capitalist named Balaji Srinivasan summed it up in a pithy tweet: "Sell city, buy country.") News articles confirm this (here, here, here, and here).

We're situated in a fortunate position, on the edge of the wild but within commuting distance of two metro areas. Our Zillow listing keeps getting more and more "saves" every day.

The weather has been too cool and wet to plant anything in the garden yet (except peas and potatoes), but I've been prepping beds and trimming raspberry canes. My tomato and pepper seedlings are ready to be hardened off and planted as soon as the weather permits.


Don's been doing a lot of weed-whacking, though the rain has prevented mowing and the lawn is shooting up.


I've been gathering up tangled fencing to bring to the metal recyclers.


Don's been doing last-minute inside improvements, both big (kitchen cabinet frames and doors)...


...and small (trim work).


And of course, we're trying to keep the house clean – floors vacuumed and mopped, laundry caught up, dishes washed. You know how it goes when you're trying to sell.

The nice thing is we're still not in a hurry. We haven't found another place to buy – we're not even looking yet – so we're not stressed by trying to support two mortgages at the same time. If we don't sell this year, no biggee – we'll try again next year. (It's astounding how this bit of information shuts down realtors who try to persuade us to abandon our For Sale By Owner listing and list with them instead.)

We're confident that as more and more states open up, we're going to see a lot more people ready to get out of dodge, especially because so many people are interested in becoming more self-reliant and aware of the fact that working from home is possible.

So anyway, I apologize for not posting more frequently. Busy busy busy!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The road less traveled

Here's a piece I wrote for the Lehman's blog entitle "The Road Less Traveled."

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Making money from home

Want to earn money from home? Below are a few suggestions (some of which are based on reader responses to an earlier post):

• Telecommute. This is obviously the easiest solution. The recent coronavirus lockdowns has demonstrate that a surprising number of jobs can be done remotely. Yay for the internet! Even if your employer insists you return back to the office after the lockdowns, it’s worth negotiating to work at home at least part-time.

• Consider seasonal work such as spring cleaning, house or pet sitting, fall garden clean-up, etc. Post flyers around the neighborhood offering your services.

• If you’re good with young children, consider childcare in your home. Many working mothers desperately need loving, reliable care for their children.

• If you’re a fast and accurate typist, consider transcription work which can include general, legal, and medical. These types of jobs can pay by the page, by the word, by the hour of tape, or other factors, and most are done by independent freelancers contracted by larger companies (such as Rev, Scribie, Aberdeen, Dailytranscription, Transcribeme, or GMRTranscription). If you are fluent in a foreign language and can translate, your earnings can skyrocket.

• If your writing and editing skills are superior, you can do everything from freelance magazine writing to editing and proofreading to tech writing. Some have even started independent e-publishing services.

• If you’re a tech person, build websites for businesses or freelancers.

• For creative and crafty people, open an online store through Etsy or some other e-commerce platform. It can take time to build a business, but established crafters can do very well.

• Also for crafters, sell your items wholesale or consignment to brick-and-mortar businesses. You can also sell at farmer’s markets and/or craft shows.

• Do consulting work. If you possess specialized knowledge, offering your assistance on a freelance basis can bring in extra income.

• If you have a green thumb, consider local food production providing produce to local restaurants, groceries, or farmer’s markets. If your home has adequate traffic, you can also set up a produce stand at the end of your driveway (check with local authorities for any restrictions). Produce farming can be a heavy workload, but a benefit for those who are passionate about eating locally.

• Sell seedlings and cuttings. We know a local woman who makes at least $10,000 each spring by selling thousands of vegetable starts from a stand in her front yard. She uses open-pollinated seeds and can maintain her seed stock indefinitely.

• Learn how to film and edit your own YouTube videos. Some people use these videos as stand-alone income (through monetization), others use them to supplement a separate business.

• If you’re skilled in sewing, do alterations or custom work. Some seamstresses draft their own patterns in various sizes and offers custom tailoring in local stores. For those who specialize in the needle arts (knitting, crocheting, embroidery, etc.), some people sell original patterns as well as finished items on Etsy or other online e-commerce platform.

• Offer online courses. Whether your talent is sign language, cheesemaking, or woodcrafting, someone else wants to learn from you. If you have a background in education, you can teach online through Connections Academy, K12, or Edmentum. You can also tutor online through Cambly or Chegg Tutors. Many opportunities exist to teach English, such as EF (Education First), Golden Voice English, and VIPKid.

• If you have a pleasant phone voice and a quiet room, consider call-center jobs. Many companies both large and small need someone to answer phones. Look online for companies that contract out such work such as FlexJobs or Indeed. If you want customer service work, try Working Solutions, Vicky Virtual, or ModSquad.

• Teach a foreign language. For several years, our homeschooled daughter took conversational French lessons from a woman who taught both children and adults out of her home. If you’re fluent in another language, teach what you know.

• Rent a room. Visiting professors, traveling nurses, students, business people – if they’re passing through, they need a place to stay. You can offer space formally through an organization such as AirBnB, or simply through word of mouth.

• If you have a working homestead, consider hosting workshops with overnight stays for those interested in learning rural skills.

• Cut and sell firewood. This can be an extremely lucrative side gig in rural areas where woodstoves are common.

Pitch in with some more ideas! Let's hear 'em.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Green living

It's 7 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. It's pouring rain, absolutely pouring buckets. This is the view from the back window.


Everything is green green green. As we like to say, this time of year it's like living in Ireland.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Stalked by coyotes

A few days ago, Older Daughter took Mr. Darcy on a hike in a nearby park. We've both been on this trail many times, and frequently we'll see deer or moose. If Mr. Darcy sees wildlife -- being the Mighty Hunter -- he lunges on the leash. In fact, Darcy's behavior is often the first indicator something is out there.

On this occasion, Mr. Darcy started lunging, so Older Daughter pulled him close and scanned the area. She saw a pair of ears sticking up from behind a log. A coyote.


She kept hiking and kept Darcy close at her side. The coyote got bolder.


In fact, it started following her.


Soon it was joined by a second coyote.


As she later told me the story, and since I knew coyotes wouldn't hurt her, I asked, "What did you do? Did you say 'Scat'?"

"Well, not exactly," she admitted. "Specifically I yelled, 'You come over here and I'm gonna whoop your a**.'"

Whatever. It worked. No more coyotes.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

To all mothers

This cracked me up.
___________________________________

A MOTHER'S PRAYER
By Glenda Lehman Ervin,
Daughter of founder Jay Lehman and VP of Marketing

Blessed are the poor in allowance
For this will teach them the value of savings.

Blessed are those who mourn
For I have a Winnie the Pooh band-aid for every boo-boo.

Blessed are the meek
For they always share their toys.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst
For I have cookies and milk.

Blessed are the merciful
For they will stop picking on their little sister.

Blessed are the pure in heart
For they will not lie when I ask if they brushed their teeth.

Blessed are the peacemakers
For I have a headache.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of the name I gave them
For they will appreciate it when they grow up.

Blessed are my children
When other children make fun of the way I dressed you . . .
You are persecuted because I insist we pack your lunch . . .
Others ridicule you because “all the other kids are doing it” and I won’t let you . . .

Rejoice and be glad that you …
have to take a nap
be in bed by 9 pm
have a curfew on school nights
must finish the food on your plate…

Blessed are my children
I do these things because I love you.

___________________________________

Also, be sure to read my WND column entitled "What My Mother Did for Me."

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 9, 2020

A trip to the city

On Thursday, I did something I haven't done for weeks: I went into the city. I haven't been to Coeur d'Alene for quite a long time, but there were some things I wanted to pick up. Besides, I was curious about what I might see.

My first stop was Costco, where I haven't been since mid-March. People were lined up, a respectful six feet apart from each other. I wore a mask, as required for entry into the store.


A sign posted outside (right next to a Costco employee with a box of complimentary face masks for customers who didn't have their own) listed what was, and wasn't, available.


At the meat department, these signs were posted everywhere.


One thing I didn't think to check were meat prices. I hear they've gone up, but since we seldom buy meat, I forgot to check.

In the freezer section, similar restrictions were posted -- along with prices. Holy cow.


But I did find both tuna and dog food, which were my main reasons for going into Costco.

While paying, I asked the checker when they expected toilet paper back in stock. We have enough for a few more weeks, but I'm on the lookout.

The checker gestured toward the front of the merchandise section. "That whole area was filled with toilet paper last weekend," she told me. "It didn't last long."

Everyone in Costco, customers and employees alike, were polite and cheerful.

Next stop, Cash'n'Carry (now called SmartFoodservice), a wholesale grocery supply store and one of my favorite places to shop. I checked the paper goods aisle. It had major holes, but -- yes! -- it had toilet paper.


With limits, of course.


I picked up two packages of industrial-size TP. Note, these packages cost $11.49 each (you can see the price card two photo above), a bargain considering how much TP is on each roll. Keep this price in mind for a moment.


I noticed gaps on several shelves, such as cleaning supplies...


Flour...


Sugar...


...and meats.


I passed someone's cart, loaded up with bulk staples.


As with Costco, everyone was polite and cheerful.

By the time I got out of Cash'n'Carry, it was lunch time. Every restaurant I passed had their dining areas closed, but their drive-throughs open. I passed a Wendy's which had a line so long at the drive-through that it actually extended onto the street. I was driving so I couldn't take a picture, but when I stopped at a nearby stoplight, I photographed it in the mirror (which is why the lettering is all backward).


I was very pleased to see the restaurants as busy as they were, even though I'm certain business is still desperately down.

Last stop, Winco, which has the best bulk section in town. I passed some industrial-sized shelves with bulk foods for sale. Evidently there was enough demand for large quantities of staples that Winco was offering the big bags in one convenient spot.


The biggest surprise -- I don't know why it surprised me, but it did -- was in the bulk section. I wanted to pick up some spiral pasta, but to my surprise, every single lidded bulk bin no longer had loose items available for customers to bag up. Instead, they offered pre-bagged portions. Literally the only thing in the spiral pasta bin was a ginormous 25-pound bag of spiral pasta. I shrugged and bought it. Pasta doesn't go bad, and I like spiral pasta for macaroni and cheese. (This photo shows a different pasta bin, not the spiral pasta.)


As with everywhere else, some shelves were conspicuously understocked, such as flour, though there was plenty to be had.


Soup was popular.


And the canning jar section had been raided.


Cleaning supplies were also picked over.



Then, curious, I peeked into the toilet paper aisle. They had some, but clearly it was a popular place.


It also had the obligatory sign.


Then I noticed the prices. Holy cow. Contrary to the "24" on the package, each pack contained six rolls. Six. (Apparently these are "mega rolls" equivalent to 24 smaller rolls or something.)



Now compare this to what I paid at Cash'n'Carry for industrial-sized rolls. Definitely the better bargain at Cash'n'Carry.

As I checked out and bagged my purchases, I fell into conversation with the checker since there were no other customers behind me. In fact, the store was by no means crowded. The checker said things had been crazy-insane through March and April, but had slowed down quite a bit in May. I don't know if this is good or bad.

I photographed the line of checkout lanes on the way out, each one of which was now kitted out with plexiglass barriers for the safety of the cashiers.


So that was my excursion going into town. What are you folks experiencing?