Settled In

We’ve been here for four months now. We’ve come through the summer, and I think we’ve got a reasonable handle on things.

I’m a Michigan boy, and in many ways this is very similar. Summer was very similar to Michigan, only the hot weather was twice as long. The vegetation is different from both New England and Michigan. In many cases, oak and ash for instance, it’s just different species of the same genus. But I’ve never seen a persimmon before, and mulberries grow wild here.

We never did get a garden in. The options are raised beds and dynamite. I don’t believe there is a spot on our land with more than three inches of soil. That’s below average, but “tillable soil” is explicitly mentioned in real estate listings. I’m cutting trees for the goats and they will be raised beds by spring. We have plenty of fence and I’ hoping to clear enough area that the grass will come in faster than it is eaten.

The food situation locally is interesting. The hyperprocessed stuff is cheaper than in New England, while good food is largely more expensive, which is saying something. NE is after all at the far end of the supply chain. There is one exception: There is significant local vegetable growing in the summer, and the local stores both pick it up and advertise local produce. There’s not a whole lot of farm stands or farmer’s markets, but it pays to buy seasonally and can/freeze out of the local supermarket. I missed the best prices on tomatoes, which were in June!?!, but got enough in July and August for sauce and freezing for the winter. I missed the green beans as well, but caught the onions, which were roughly when I expected them.

That segues to two more points. First, the grocery marketing model here is deep loss leaders to get you into the store, which will be made up on the other (very expensive) stuff that you buy. In New England the game was loyalty cards, except for Hannaford which advertises “No card games” which is their shtick. Anyway it is very worthwhile to keep a floating $50 in the grocery budget to jump on whichever staple is 35-50% off this week.

The second point is state Department of Ag policy. New Hampshire has been overrun by flatlanders. The department of Ag is on the teaparty ropes. Vermont has a laserlike focus on family businesses. There is no big Ag in New England, so that’s not relevant. However the agency of Ag is all about being able to send truckloads of food down to NYC and Connecticut at premium prices, and has no qualms about stomping on homesteaders about practices that they even think might sound strange to a flatlander. On farm slaughter, followed by raw milk are the big two.

Missouri, OTOH has a viable Big Ag, which, surprise, surprise, seems to be strongly favored over family farms. (Dude, if you’re grossing 7 figures, that’s a privately held corporation, not a family farm.) However, it is more homesteader friendly than Vermont. Somebody picking up a few grand on the side is no threat to ADM, and it’s great PR.

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