Who's got your back?
I stopped trading metals futures at the end of March and have only continued to trade leveraged mining ETFs in my new employer’s retirement account. I just can’t bear to have my retirement fiat in mutual funds; besides it keeps me tuned in to metals. Some days that is good and some days that is bad. One cannot help but notice the exuberance around here after a small rally, as well as the pessimism after smashes. But I hold my emotions in check by working on other projects that prepare my family for the new economy. The on the down days, I can point to progress on another very important front.
My project this week has been to enclose our back patio so we can store a few things and keep our kindling dry for the wood burning stove. Last winter, which was artificially mild, my stuff out on the patio was buffeted by high winds and a bunch of snow that blew in. I am expecting a hard winter this year, just as I am expecting a hard life ahead. So I have decided to become a carpenter for a few days to get everything ready (metaphor alert!).
First, summer is a good time to work. The skies are clear, a breeze is blowing, and the sun is out. The weather is warm, but not hot, cooling as evening comes, and no rain in the forecast. There is no pressure to finish by tomorrow, and that is good because I am a novice carpenter and realize that my task may take a while to do properly. Teasing out this metaphor gives me perspective. We face a hard life ahead, but the economy is still functioning, we are reasonably free in many countries, and most of us have the finances and ability to improve or move our homes. We also still have time to stack, even if it means selling stuff that we probably will not need any longer.
Second, almost everything I need to know about carpentry is published on the internet. How wide do I leave the opening to frame in a 32-inch door? Simply type that question in google and … Voila! … 34 inches is the fast answer. Everything I need to know is at my fingertips. And likewise, here on this blog I can ask questions and receive answers from experts like you on investing, timing of metals purchases, where and what to purchase. But the site goes well beyond metals as we
argue about discuss a plethora of subjects from solar power, water availability, gardening, immigration trends, etc., to help us become knowledgeable and ready. I even learned about the Burrito of Doom here on this site. By the way, my 80 year old mother-in-law made one such burrito and stuffed it down a pesky gopher hole and caught a skunk instead! She calls us nearly every day to tell us the latest news on her war with the axis of evil--skunks, gophers and wild pigs.
Having a good foundation for your work is important. My concrete patio has a 4” thick slab, but no footer around the perimeter.. This is not good enough to convert the patio to an actual room. For that it would need a 30” deep trench, filled with concrete underneath and around the perimeter of the patio so there would be no settling. Otherwise the concrete will crack from too much weight. I have chosen to simply enclose the patio from the weather, but not put the kind of weight that a room addition would add. I am impressed by several ideas about the hard road ahead from this: first, that our deep relationships with relatives and friends serve as a foundation for our lives. If we try to build a community with people we don’t know well, or who are not committed, we shall have some cracking relationships as the weigh gets heavier. So open up your heart and life to others now, share your vision for the future, they will reciprocate and you will find out what your relationship is made of. Keep in mind that friendships can run deeper than blood and family can be flaky. Find solid stable relationships and strengthen them to provide a solid foundation for your house.
I have learned a few things about carpentry over the years. First is that it is best if the boards are straight. That seems to be a general rule about everything—good materials lead to a quality product. I have tried framing with the cheaper boards that have twists and bows. While the task is possible with inferior materials, it is more difficult and time consuming, not to mention that my irritation level rises as the day progresses. It is not a good idea to build the community around you relying on people who are crooked, warped, bowed or have kinks. Everyone has their issues and hang-ups. But some people are worse than others. I dated a woman for a while when I was in my twenties until I found out she was struggling with a cocaine addiction—mostly clean, but with “setbacks” when she became frustrated. I just couldn’t go deeper into a relationship with a person who had a problem I was unprepared and unqualified to help with. A close relative is married to a woman who manages to alienate everyone around her. Even though I trust him with my life, I cannot trust her and will not be inviting them to be part of our community when times get hard.
As I build, I try to keep in mind the carpentry principle that helps me the most—arrange my boards in a way that they are “stacked” with weight supported by wood, not nails. If the wind did not blow, the structure would stand. Then I use fasteners to hold it together. But fasteners should not support weight (except for metal hangers and straps designed for the task). So as we deepen our relationships with our family and community, I cannot expect friends or relatives to do more than they are able. I can probably share a home with immediate family—children and their spouses & kids, parents, or my brothers and sisters. But my best friend of 35 years probably ought to live next door, not down the hall. We can watch one another’s backs and help with projects. We can build and garden together, have meals together, keeping the favors reciprocal. Living together may be a bad idea and strain the friendship beyond what it was designed to be. Plenty of natural pressures will come without any help from thieves or overzealous authorities.
I am very fortunate that my wife and I think the same about stacking, the state of the economy, and what we are going to do about it.
For my patio, I have to use a number of fasteners—nails, bolts, screws, glue, caulking to hold it all together. Each has to be correct for its task. I bolt the wall plates to the concrete, nail or screw the boards together, screw the windows and door in place, and glue down the flooring. In my academic discipline, we say that “communication” is the glue that holds relationships together—that relationships are established and maintained through good communication. I see communication happening at four levels. First is our casual conversation. We keep things polite, try not to say too much or too little with an assumption of truthfulness. This goes a long way to starting and keeping friendships. Second, we have this practice called “metamessages” (“indirect speech act” explained in the video clip) when we want to get something deeper across, but do not want to “put it on the table.” So we drop hints, say some unexpected things, perhaps even break a rule to send a message that “I want this relationship to go deeper” or “I want to back off a bit,” or “I make the decisions, not you.” People who communicate fluently with metamessages are the “good communicators” with what we call "people skills." But sometimes the metamessages are not understood and we have go to a third level, saying “We need to talk.” This puts everything on the table. We make decisions about the future and solve problems this way. Finally, when we screw things up, we need to apologize. This fourth level seeks to repair and restore strained or broken relationships. “I’m sorry” may be the two most powerful words in our language. “It’s my fault, I’ll do better next time.” Friends want relationships to continue. We are generally forgiving of one another—but the one who has offended needs to apologize and make things right to get a relationship stabilized again. Some people try to apologize with metamessages, but it often doesn’t work too well. Some things need to be bluntly and directly stated. After that, it takes time to rebuild trust, but most people will generally give us that chance.
We will need like-minded people at our backs, people we can trust, people who will stick with us if we seek to flourish in the hard life ahead. We need to establish relationships that are deep enough to do the job, where we don’t expect more than we ought, and relationships we are willing to maintain when problems come. The expertise required to be self-sufficient AND live a pleasant life is too broad. Sure, you can survive living in a one room shack in the woods and hunting for all your food. But I don’t want to just survive. I’d like to enjoy life, with relatives and friends nearby. Nobody can do it all and there are some tasks, like building a barn, that take a whole crew of people to complete.
Without good building practices, disaster happens.
I do not expect to be able to sell my metals for a profit as long as this system is intact. If AG hits $100 per ounce, I might try. But many of you doubt that will happen, and something tells me you are right. The metals will help us build a future life, but we ought to be ready to survive without them in the meantime.
I do not think any of this dream—of having a community of like-minded friends and relatives living nearby—can come to pass and survive for the long term without stacking sufficient metals to finance the project once that tipping point of societal breakdown has been passed. Our year’s worth of food and other items will get us started, but our plan must extend well beyond that year. We face a new normal. As we see popping bubbles, deflating assets, recession, depression, and then a subsequent hyperinflation, the whip saw action could wipe any of us out financially. Metals and other income producing assets, free from bank liens, are what will get us to the other side intact.
Well, that’s my view from the mountain top next to my house.
Keep stacking, keep prepping, and invite someone over for dinner.