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Monday, April 24, 2017

Getting A Grip On Myself

The subheading of the title of my blog says The Ups and Downs of Learning How to Buck the Consumer Economy, and largely to date since I wrote that, it's mostly been down. I’ve been failing miserably.

I’m really, really good at tracking my spending; I just suck at reining it in. But I think I’ve finally figured out how to fix that and that’s what I want to write about today in the hopes that it helps somebody somewhere.

For instance, I can give you my total household spending per annum for the last three years, and tell you the average monthly spend, and give you the percentage increases year over year, but I couldn’t tell you why it increased when it’s supposed to be decreasing and I couldn’t tell you what I spent it on or why it keeps increasing.

I have been budgeted $2,500 a month for handling the everyday household stuff for several years now. In that $2,500 dollars I include the savings I have to take out every month in order to handle the annual larger bills like the house and vehicle insurance, the firewood delivery and annual wood stove cleaning, and the big one, which is the property tax. I also save for incidentals like vehicle repair, and house maintenance.  When the fence blew down a year or so ago, the new one came out of my household savings (and largely wiped it out, I might add).  I started with $300 a month and over the course of the years, I've bumped it up to $700 a month, which was really close to our monthly house payment at one time, and makes me very grateful that we don’t have one anymore because I would be in big trouble if we did. As it is, I’m struggling to manage things within my household allowance and largely failing at it, I'm ashamed to admit.

At $2,500 a month, which is $1,250 every pay period, I have only $30,000 per year with which to work, which is actually a lot more than I’d like to be spending. I’d really like to keep it at $24,000 a year, and I had wanted to ratchet my monthly average down to $2,000 a month in order to do that, but instead of my spend going down, it keeps going up.  Likely you’re thinking, well, that’s because everything in sight is going up in price, which is somewhat true, but it doesn’t account for all of it. 

For instance, in 2014, I spent $31,144.39 with a monthly average of $2,595.37, which wasn’t too bad, but was definitely over budget.  Then in 2015, I spent $33,022.30 with a monthly average of $2,751.86, which was a six percent increase over 2014.  And in 2016, I spent $33,715.12 with a monthly average of $2,809.59, which was a two percent increase over 2015. Clearly, the problem was that I needed to 1), recognize that the problem was me, and to 2), get a grip on myself!

Spend:
Total for 2014: $31,144.39
Monthly Average 2014 $2,595.37
Total for 2015: $33,022.30 6% increase
Monthly Average 2015 $2,751.86
Total for 2016: $33,715.12 2% increase
Monthly Average 2016 $2,809.59

But it didn’t get any better. In January of this year I spent $3,607.81, and then in February I spent $3,771.13!  What the hell?! Well, okay, January was largely because of going to Phoenix for Thanksgiving (I count the current credit card bills as part of the spend for the month in which I’m paying them, not the month I’m actually spending the money; it simplifies things greatly), and February’s spend was the result of Christmas, and then also in December we had to get the dog spayed which was around $450, and then had to get a barium series done on her which was close to $700, so in truth, January and February were not really within my control. But I realized quickly that if I didn’t get a grip on things right away, there was no way I would come in within budget by the end of this year. And since I’ve already spent well over budget for the months of January and February, I needed to fix it quickly.

So I thought about it. And then I figured it out. 

Starting with my $2,500 allowance, and taking out all the fixed costs, like the electric bill (which largely does’t change because we’re on solar - more on that later), the average for the garbage bill, a reasonable average for the natural gas bill, my $700 savings bill, and the city’s bill for water, et al,  I determined that I have $190.41 in non-auto-paid bills, which gave me $1,609.59 as my adjusted monthly allowance.

I next removed all the bills that hit the credit card as auto-paid charges like the cable bill, the phone bill and a supplemental insurance bill.  I averaged the phone bill, and rounded up the cable and insurance bill to the nearest dollar, and that gave me my FAMA (Final Adjusted Monthly Allowance), which is $1,442.59.  And that was the magic number. That is the number to which I have to manage our cash and credit card spend in order to make budget every month.

FAMA Figuring
$1,250.00 pay period




24 periods
$11.82 PGE (grid connection charge)

$30,000.00 annual housekeeping allowance $60.00 avg Northwest Natural

$2,500.00 monthly allowance $93.81 City of West Linn minimum
-$700.00 monthly savings $24.78 WL Refuse (billed bi-monthly @ $49.56)
-$190.41 total non-auto bills <-----> $190.41 total non-auto bills
$1,609.59 adjusted monthly allowance



-$105.00 autocharge Comcast



-$20.00 autocharge Ting



-$42.00 autocharge AFLAC



$1,442.59 Final Adjusted Monthly Allowance (FAMA)



(from which everything else, including food and gas, vacation, etc., has to come)

And so far it’s working; in March I spent $2454.56, and in April I spent $2,417.42 (all the monthly bills for April are paid and accounted for, and the only ATM withdrawal for this month’s cash, which was actually debited yesterday, have also been accounted for), which is below budget.  The big trick for me to keep an eye on my current spend was to take my FAMA and keep a running tally in big pink letters and numbers at the top of my spend tracking spreadsheet.  It starts with my FAMA, removes my cash and credit card totals as I spend them and which I track scrupulously, and gives me the remaining spend I have left for the month.  And since I’m tracking it through the credit cards (we use only two), I track spend from billing close to billing close, including the cash; I don’t track it by calendar close. It’s probably weird, but it works for me. But having it all in big pink figures made a huge difference for me.

Number to which you have to manage: $1,442.59 Current CC charges and cash: $486.78 Money Remaining: $921.46


The above shows that I currently have $921.46 left, which seems like a lot, but that has to last until the 13th, which is billing close for the MC, the card we use the most. The Visa closes on the 15th.

I mentioned earlier that while figuring out my FAMA, I take a reasonable average for my natural gas and phone bills, the former of which I pay manually and the latter of which I pay automatically on my credit card. When we go over on a bill for something that I’ve accounted for already like this month's electrical bill, I add the difference to my credit card tracking and label it, because it’s what I’m looking at all the time. I could just as easily add it to my cash tracking, but the point is, I’m spending extra, so I’m tracking it. It has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is my FAMA, so I have to track it.  

And here is where things get a little squirrely and I hope I don’t lose you.  I actually keep two columns for my MasterCard bill, because I figured out that I needed to.  Originally, I was keeping a running tally on my MC spend because I reconcile it every month with the billing statement. But if I kept only one tally, I was double dipping on the auto-charged stuff because I’d already taken them out to get my FAMA figure. So I keep one column to track my spend, in which I don’t enter auto-charges, and one column in which I do track auto-charges to be reconciled with the bill. To date, I’ve been putting the bill differences in the ‘manage spend’ column and not the ‘match to bill’ column, but as I’m writing this I realize it would really probably make a lot more sense to put it in the cash tracking, since it's really coming out of the checking account, so I guess I’ll start doing that. It doesn’t really matter in the long run as long as I track it somewhere and be consistent about it.


MC - Autos MC - Bill

$15.96 $15.96

$19.90 $19.90

$78.92 $78.92

$20.39 $20.39
*schlenker > $26.71 $113.40
**AFLAC > $24.95 $41.99

$37.38 $26.71

$70.90 $24.95


$37.38


$70.90



Records total: $295.11 $450.50

Use this column to manage spend Record this column and match to bill

(Do Not include auto-charges) (include auto-charges)

* this is a doctor bill which comes out of FSA money, so I don't count it in my spend
** this is that monthly insurance bill that auto-charges, which is why it doesn't get counted in my spend
Once I fill up the first column to be filled I'll take the record totals for each column and move it up to the top cell of its respective column and work from there until billing close.

Speaking of cash tracking, that’s a little squirrely as well. But it works.  For my annual and monthly average spend tracking, I just note the amount we’ve removed from the checking account, because in the larger picture, that’s where the rubber hits the road. 

For my monthly get-a-grip-on-it-Paula spend tracking, I track the minutia, like $2.00 for my library fine, and $1.99 we spent at Costco for Steve to get a slice of pizza one day.  Keeping an eye on the minutia is how we got all the way to the 23rd of this month without making an ATM withdrawal, and by the way, we had zero ATM withdrawals for the month of March. If we don’t spend it this month, we probably won’t have to make a cash withdrawal next month, which should help next month’s numbers look better.

We actually don’t really spend a lot of cash, but that’s because we don’t make any money spending cash.  We use our credit cards for just about everything because those lovely credit card companies like to pay us to use their product. The only way this works is to use a credit card that pays you to use them, and this is key, to pay your bill off every month. (According to something I read a long time ago, people who pay their bills off in full every month are known in the credit industry as deadbeats. So I'm a deadbeat. I can live with that.) We’re able to do that because we track everything and treat our credit cards mentally like a debit card, which works, because you know, eventually you have to pay the piper.  For emergency situations, or even planned expenses we take money out of our savings account, but we put everything on the MC and pay it off every month.  

Right now we’re running everything through Citibank; our Citibank MasterCard pays us a total of 2% (1% when you use the card and 1% when you pay your bill) which we have found to generally be the best deal out there.  The other card we use is the Citibank Visa that is associated with Costco, which is also a pretty good deal. The Costco Visa has a tiered reward system that includes 4%, 3%, 2% and 1% on various categories, and we could do a lot better on our rebates than we do, actually. We even have the tiers noted on our smart phone; we just never remember to consult it when we’re shopping. It’s also possible that we could do better on willy nilly various retail credit cards, but keeping things relatively simple goes a very long way to keeping one’s sanity, so we don’t sweat it.

One thing that I am going to sweat, however, is that for this year, I am still hugely over budget to date.  Out of my $30,000 annual allowance, I have only $17,748.08 left to spend, which means that I have only $2,218.51 a month instead of $2,500 a month with which to work. This means that if I’m really going to do it this year, I’ll have to adjust my FAMA again. Which is okay. The only way to be successful at life is to keep adapting.  I’ll just have to adapt to spending even less.

The only thing I haven’t really covered here is how I actually got a grip on my spend.  That required some good old-fashioned belt tightening. No, not that kind of belt tightening; we’re not going hungry, although I did determine that for the February-March billing period, I spent $940.96 on food, which was way too much for only two people! What finally did it for me was to realize that things were never going to get better if I didn’t start behaving myself. So I stopped misbehaving.  

I decided that I needed to adopt the old-fashioned maxim of paying as you go, and saving up for larger things.  For instance, I have a sewing project in mind, but it’s going to be kind of expensive. So I bought part of it in February (for which I paid in March) and part of it in March (for which I paid in April).  There is one more piece of it to buy, but since I don’t plan on wearing it until next fall, I’ve decided I can put off purchasing the last piece of it until later. We have registration costs at $107 apiece coming up on two vehicles this month and next, so I’ll probably wait until June at least to buy the last piece of the project. The last piece would also commit me to the project; if I change my mind about it later, I can still use everything else I bought for something else.  The point of all this is, I’m consciously making decisions about what on which I’m spending my FAMA.  And I am making myself wait.

There are financial independence people out there who insist that you have to really decide between wants and needs in order to rein in your spend, and that when you decide that you need something, it helps to put off the purchase for thirty days in order to determine for yourself if it’s a need or if it’s really a want. I’m being honest with myself and with you; that’s way more disciplined than I’ll ever be. I recognize that I am a somewhat emotional buyer (Really? Somewhat?), which is kind of funny because by trade, I’m a buyer and emotion has nothing to do with buying for a business. For me, it just makes sense to think about things and to keep my expenditures on the small side, and don’t do them too often.  Maybe eventually I’ll get to the point where I can put off purchases for thirty days, but maybe I won’t need to. Right now I need to figure out how to squeeze everything into $2,218 a month.  If I can do that for the remainder of this year, then I can certainly get our annual spend down to $24,000 like I wanted.  

I realize this post was kind of dry, but I hope it was helpful to some of you. If it was, or you want to share some of your strategies, I’d love to hear about it. 

Sorry about the illustrations being so crappy; I could not for the life of me figure out how to get this information into my post any better.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Potholder Redux

My potholders were in a deplorable state. Not dirty, although they've certainly been that from time to time. No, I mean dilapidated.  Plus, the black ones were just plain hard to see on my black countertop, particularly in the shadows.

I didn't see any reason to buy new ones, so I recovered the old.

On one I got crafty.  That's a pea pod, in case you can't see it.

This one's my favorite, I think. For some reason, I just love brown and blue and brown and pink together, and in this one I got to combine both.

And there's no missing this one on the counter, huh?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

More Info on the Wooden House





A while back I posted a film about a Latvian gentleman named Jacob who built his wooden house over the course of three years using timber he felled himself and old joinery techniques.  It's a beautiful home.  Here is another about it.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Best Tiny House I've Seen Yet

Back when I was in high school I found a book at the library which really captured my imagination, and I brought it home several different times.  It was Rolling Homes: Handmade Houses on Wheels, by Jane Lidz. For a long time I wanted this book, and kept an eye on the copy that was for sale on Amazon for $74. It's since come down in price, but when I found it for $25 at Powell's, I grabbed it. So naturally I'm a huge fan of the Tiny House Movement and have been keeping an eye on that as well.

I'm also a huge fan of Ana White.  Ana makes furniture with her husband, and they put the plans out for everything they make on her site, www.ana-white.com for free. If you're in the least (and I do mean least) bit handy and need a piece of furniture you ought to look for it in her many designs, because there are a lot and they look pretty easy to put together. Lately, she and her husband have turned their collective hand to making tiny houses.

This house is not the fanciest or the most high-end finished I've seen, but it does incorporate a lot of really clever ideas I haven't seen anywhere else.  I especially like the elevator bed and have thought this a good way to get a bed in a small space without having to climb up stairs or a ladder (think: age in place), but my idea for getting it up and down was a lot more primitive. Using a garage door opener to get the job done was pretty ingenious.  There are other smart ideas as well. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Why I'll Never Buy Commercial Deodorant Again

I've had this post in draft form since the middle of February of 2015, which tells me that I've been using the following homemade deodorant preparation for almost two years!  I used to be a 'clinical protection' antiperspirant user, but at close to eight dollars a throw every time I needed to buy it, it was quickly burning through my money because the clinical protection versions are very soft, which means you use them up quickly. Plus, I've found that they don't work nearly as well as the homemade stuff does. As my twenty-something niece told me after wearing it through a six-hour ballet rehearsal, "no stank!" (her words).

Anyway, I'll never go back to commercial deodorant again because this has saved me a ton of money and worked phenomenally over the course of two years, so consider this a gift from me to you.

For a 4oz jar:

4 T coconut oil (use the same grade you would eat: organic, virgin unrefined cold pressed)
4 T arrowroot powder
1 T baking soda (sodium bicarbonate [Arm and Hammer) which is aluminum free- important!)
3 drops  tea tree essential oil
7 drops patchouli essential oil
5 drops lemongrass essential oil
15 drops lavender essential oil

In a bowl over a pan of boiling water (or a double boiler if you have one), melt the coconut oil. Mix in the arrowroot powder and baking soda. Remove from heat and allow to cool to pudding consistency. Then mix in the essential oils and quickly get it into the jar because it's starting to harden at that point.

Helpful tips:

  • stir well at pudding stage because otherwise the arrowroot powder drops out of suspension and settles
  • the patchouli is an antibacterial EO so if you don't like the smell of tea tree oil, skip it and add more patchouli. I find that the patchouli oil, with the lemongrass and lavender go a long way to covering most of the tea tree oil
  • apply a pea-size amount to your underarms and rub in well.  then grab a tissue or hunk of toilet paper and blot the excess off to keep it off your clothes


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Soil Health Card

A quick post for those of you wanting to improve your soil (okay- everybody).  I found a nifty scorecard online that you can use to take visual tests of your soil to assess its health. Most soil tests only ascertain the alkalinity or acidity of a soil and the amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous in it, plus some other minerals like calcium.  You could have all this information and still have pretty crappy soil, though.

The test card helps you assess ground cover, penetration, infiltration, diversity of soil life, root development, soil structure, aggregate stability, earthworms, soil pH, and leaf color. There is also a separate test for soil microbes which involves rotting a piece of cotton fabric in the soil.  Pretty easy stuff, and it all happens with some home made tools which the soil health card tells you how to make (and even that is pretty easy).

It comes to us from the generosity of the good folks at New South Wales Agriculture and the (Australian) National Heritage Trust.

The 2017 Lineup

I mentioned in my last post that I have been making plans for redoubling my efforts to get more food out of the yard.  I want to definitely add rabbits this year (more on that in another post) but not until much later after I've got the garden going.

The first thing I did was order my seed for this year. After discovering that some vegetables that I like to grow and eat were part of the reason I was getting sick, I was disheartened and lost a lot of focus and interest in my garden. But Steve and I have recently discovered bok choi, which I bought on a whim, and lo and behold we really like it.  So now I'm going to try growing it and a few other asian and domestic vegetables we've never tried before and this prospect has me all fired up about gardening again.  I can't wait!

But to order the seed, I had to first decide which of the many catalogs I receive in the mail I'm going to actually use. I cut this list down to the below.


Then I wrote down all the seeds that interested me.  The things I need to know to make a decision is the vegetable, the variety, the seed company, the days to maturity (more on that later) and any features and benefits that interested me in the first place.

Then I wrote down all the information from all the different seed companies in alphabetical order of vegetable name so that I could choose the best of the lot, or in some instance, a close second. The seeds that I highlighted are the seeds that were chosen.

Pursuant to all this was the thought that I'd better start doing a better job of organizing and keeping my seed so I came up with a plan. I created a seed record card and I'll print one for every different variety I have. The seed will go in a quart freezer bag (because I currently have ton of these and won't have to buy anything) and the card will go in with it. Then all the seed will be organized by the month I need to start planting it. I mocked up a sample card for myself, and as I washed dishes or folded laundry, something else that would be good to have on the card suggested itself and I'd get up and write that down.  Here is what the final cards look like:
You can use this as a PDF from here if you like.  The idea is to print this on card stock or at least very thick paper and cut it into four cards. I split each of the plant and harvest dates into two because I figure I can squeeze ten dates each into the same space.  Five dates for some items is just not enough.  Obviously, this will necessitate re-writing the cards for next year, but all the pertinent information will be there including the results.  The other thing I plan to do with this is to get a days to maturity on those varieties where the seed company did not divest that information, and then I can carry that information forward to next year's card.

Days to maturity is probably the single most important thing to know about your seed variety, in my view.  It's right up there with who owns the seed company or where they source their seed, and whether it's F1 or OP or heirloom. Days to maturity is important because it could make all the difference on whether you get food out of your efforts or not. It's more important for those of us with short growing windows. Actually, the Willamette Valley where I live is pretty blessed with a long growing season, but that growing season is better suited to growing cabbage and kale than it is tomatoes and eggplant, and I want to be able to grow those hot weather vegetables and get food from them, so I need to make sure I'm getting early varieties.  Our summers are fairly unpredictable anymore.

The other reason you want short season varieties is that if you plan on doing any succession planting in the same spot, you'll have better luck if the first vegetable is well out of the way when it comes time to plant the new one. And lastly, the best reason for growing short season varieties is something I learned from Carol Deppe in her wonderful book The Resilient Gardener, which is that there were two major reasons that folks survived The Little Ice Age which started somewhere in the 1400's and finally ended in the 1850's: short season varieties and crop diversity.

And whereas the current climate change we're experiencing does not seem to be tipping us toward another little ice age (ask your local polar bear if you don't believe me), it did occur to me that the same strategy would probably work just as well for the climate changes we're all going to have to come to grips with eventually. And maybe not so eventually; climate change could be the reason our summers (and winters, for that matter) are becoming unpredictable.

At any rate, the bench in the garage where I usually start seed is all set up and ready to go.  I also have a new soil blocker and soil blocker tray from Johnny's Seeds to get seedlings off to a good start.  I've never used a soil blocker before, but the advantage to using soil blocks is that as the seedling roots grow to the edges of the block they are air pruned, so the root ball is concentrated; you don't have the roots hitting the sides of a pot and growing round and round. This way there is no transplant shock and the seeds are off to a rip roaring start once they're in the ground.  I'm always of a wait-and-see attitude, but even if all else fails, I won't be fiddling with trying to get a seedling out of a container, and that appeals a great deal.  Just dig a hole, plop in the seedling, soil block and all, tamp around it and water it in. It should be a lot easier on my back.

So- there it is: the 2017 lineup.  Tomorrow is the first of February, which means I can get started. I'll start on the 2nd and 3rd (because I'm still using planting by the moon to break up the work) and I'll plant: asian greens, broccoli, cabbage, chard, choi, endive, escarole, kale, lettuce, mustard, parsley, and peas.  On the 13th through the 18th I'll plant garlic and shallots , and start beets, carrots*, and onions.  I'm still on the fence about whether or not to plant potatoes, but if I do it will be in some sort of grow box; I am definitely not putting them in the ground. Potatoes are the gift that keeps on giving, and that'll be great if they are coming out of a grow box, but not so much if they are coming out of a part of the garden where I want to grow something else. Which is what usually happens.



* I know you're wondering about starting carrots because we all know you can't transplant carrots. I saw a guy on YouTube who does it in toilet paper tubes and then plants the whole tube, so I'm going to try it as well. This is just to get a head start on carrots; I'll direct sow when the soil warms up enough.









Sunday, January 15, 2017

Forced Simplicity

Last Monday, our television died.  Then the very next night, Tuesday, we received our fourth snowstorm of the season which had the very bad manners to bring Ice and his very good friend, a thirty-six hour power failure, with him.  So between the TV being dead and then the rest of the house being dead, we were subjected to a kind of forced simplicity, which was actually a little stressful. It didn't help that the brunt of the power failure took place on one of our fast days which is when we have only one meal for the day. We decided that if a power failure ever occurs on another fast day, that fast day is quickly going out the window, and that it truly is a good idea to include comfort foods in your emergency supplies. Now I get why. Things would have gone so much smoother if I just wasn't so damn hungry.  And I'll also plan better for what to do the next time. If I lose another game of gin to Steve I don't know what I'll do but my story will be cabin fever and I'll stick to it.

What is truly weird about this was the timing, because for the two previous nights we'd been watching How to Live a Simple Life with Peter Owen Jones.  I was more curious than anything when I decided we needed to see it because, this will not surprise you, I haven't made any real headway with my vow to buck the consumer economy, and I was beginning to suspect that the real problem stemmed from not simplifying our life enough.



What I mean by this is that I haven't simplified my needs; I'm still confusing my wants with my needs.  If I understand the concept of simplicity well enough, then to live simply means to live within your needs. Learn what is enough and then learn to live with enough. If you get this right, then somewhere in there you're supposed to discover your own happiness as well, because getting more stuff does not make you happy. Oh sure, I'll be happy when my shearling Birkenstock Bostons show up but that's because my toes are so freaking cold.  Could I make do with a much cheaper pair of slippers? Possibly, but most slippers do not come with a cork sole and Birkenstocks do, which is more insulating on this unheated stone floor that we have, and I'm not actually paying for these shoes. Steve won some serious brownie points at work and the most sensible thing he found he could do with the award money (which isn't actually cash) was to order some Zappos gift cards, so I'm getting new slippers and a much needed new winter jacket for free, which, as we all know, is my favorite price. (Actually, I like it better if you pay me to take something off your hands, but that's all part of the negotiation, n'est-ce pas?).

And yes, I'm one of those doom and gloomers who thinks that life is going to get very difficult very soon, so I am hoping to learn to live simply sooner so that I'll be used to it later when everyone else is forced into simplicity. I seriously hope that I'm wrong here, but I don't think I am and I, for one, want to get ahead of this curve because it's going to be a doozy.

So in the meantime between now and the great Forced Simplicity, I need to get my needs understood.  And I need to learn to live within them.




The European Cookie Notice

It's been awhile since I last posted and I finally have something to share with you but things have changed since I last posted, most notably Google told me that due to some European law I have to tell you about cookie use on my blog.

I don't use cookies.  If Google is using cookies to track what you are doing on my blog, that's their thing and they can tell you all about it as far as I'm concerned.

Not sure if this covers my obligation or not, but it will have to do.

But since I want my own privacy respected, I'll certainly respect yours, and just know that I am not tracking anything.

You're welcome.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

What I Did With My Saturday

Click on the pic for
better clarity
Saturday the 24th I went to the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in Canby, Oregon with my buddy Rae and her friend Jodi.  I've never been to one of these and have always wanted to go, so I canceled a kitchen painting date with another friend (my kitchen- I don't think Stephanie minded much) and said yes I'd go.

It was largely dominated by women- no surprise there- but there was a reasonable representation from the other half of humanity, which was a surprise. Most of the vendors were women, who owned their own businesses- yarn goods, specialty fibers like tencel and silk, raw wool sellers, lots of rovings sellers, special dyed and combined batts, dye, weaving suppliers...all kinds of things.

Then there were fiber animals.  French and English angora rabbits, goats, sheep, alpacas and llamas. The ram here to the right was a super mellow fellow, but Rae discouraged me from patting him anywhere on the top of his head as it encourages the animal to butt. Better to scratch under their chins.

Curiously, there was no sheep or herding dog competition, presumably because the fairgrounds are pretty small.

Upstairs in the sheep hall they had the various competitions' entries.  Some of the entries were really stunning, but the entry that swooped everything and got best in show was this amazing felted hat.  A very Jules Verne-looking octopus at that. Isn't it amazing? Then at the far end of the hall they had an enormous poster of all the different fiber animals with their pictures. I had no idea there were so many.  If you were interested in starting a fiber business and wanted to raise animals for that purpose you could literally do it anywhere, north and south poles excepted, of course.  Even if all you had was an apartment, you could still raise angora rabbits in your apartment.

So by now you're wondering, well where are you going with this?  Did you buy some rabbits or a goat or something?  No,  but I did come home with a very pretty drop spindle and several bits and pieces of rovings, specialty fibers, and acid dye. None of which I needed, I know, but this is for a productive hobby.  It'll keep me off the streets and out of the pool halls, and when I'm done I can use it for another productive hobby- knitting.   However, as you can see from my example here, I still have a lot to learn.

But I'm finally spinning! Yay! New skill!