The Expatriated Consumer

Imagining life without debt. Working to make it reality.

Everything but the squeal…

Posted by Max Finkle on July 17, 2008

My grandmother told me that one day, when we were talking about her childhood. When they butchered a pig, they used every part of it, everything but the squeal. She grew up in lean times, as everyone in the country did at the time. There was no excess, because oftentimes there wasn’t even enough. So, they had to use everything they had and squeeze the maximum amount they could from it. That applied to everything from foodstuffs to socks.

My father-in-law relates tales of days when, because of rationing for the war, they had no butter. They would get a large block of white plastic-looking stuff and some yellow food coloring at the beginning of the month so they could make their own margerine. No one could drive anywhere because there was no gasoline to be had, nevermind that tires couldn’t be replaced even if you had the money.

An elderly friend once told me how every Sunday after church, one family from the congregation would come to their house for supper, because being farmers, they had enough food to share. I always wondered what the rest of the families in the congregation did on the weeks they weren’t fortunate enough to partake.

Myself, I grew up darning my socks. (That’s fixin’ the holes in my socks with needle and thread, for those who may not be familiar). My mom did it for me when I was younger, but as I grew older I had to fend for myself. Once my dexterity was acute enough to avoid stabbing myself constantly, the needle and thread were presented to me; my mom had enough. There was no guilt, I never worried what the other kids would think, it was a part of growing up. I even sometimes had to patch my winter boots after I wore holes in them. It was my choice to either work the farm with wet feet, or to break out the tire patch kit and fix it myself. I learned to make do.

We grew a huge garden, upwards of an entire acre of food, annually. I hated pulling weeds and picking stones, what with all the bugs, and the dust and the grit. I recall my mother canning and freezing loads of veggies, filling the cabinets and the deep freeze for the colder seasons. We picked wild blackberries, which grew in abundance on our property, and tapped maple trees in the spring. We lived off the land as much as we could.

I got my first chainsaw when I was twelve years old, because my stepfather felt it was time for me to contribute more to our winter heating bill. All we had was wood heat, and when we ran out of wood in the middle of February, as we did more than once, I would have to go out into the woods with my stepfather and fell trees in two feet of snow.

I, and many people I know, have lived in leaner times. To me, no matter how horrible the economy is, or how high gas prices are, I live in a time of prosperity. Everywhere I turn lately there is empowering stories in the news of families who are are stretching their dollars to make ends meet, and living with less. I take it all with a grain of salt, because as tough as the times are currently, they don’t compare to what it could be, or what it has been. I appreciate their efforts, and even draw some inspiration from them, because I have come to realize the excess in my own life, and am learning to scale back.

It makes it easier for me to make the changes necessary to fix my finances when I keep it all in perspective. I’m not living without, I’m not really living with less. I am certainly not hurting, even though I would like to have a 52″ LCD t.v. and a blueray player to go with it. At least I’m eating well, I have a roof over my head, and my family is healthy & loving. I can ask for more, but I am content if I don’t get it.

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One Response to “Everything but the squeal…”

  1. Yep. But you try and tell the young people of today that… and they won’t believe ya’.

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