I don’t want you to be a victim of circumstances.  To get there, you need to learn to see the world differently. Mold it to you instead of the other way around. Cast-off the chains of group-think.  Smart School is now in session…


We have done a couple of articles on how to set up a “minimal survival” plan for yourself. 

One track might be to accumulate a small tool collection and then oen a bike shop, or even a small general fix-it shop as a Depression (or hard web down) comes along and settles in.

Today, there are several topics to consider:  Knock-down and stabilization plans, Small and self-propelled businesses, and the future of dispersed manufacturing.  Roll up your mental sleeves…

Knock-down Plans

If you’re still in a big city, you may still be able to find an “exit plan” for yourself by hitting Indeed.com and applying for jobs in smaller towns.  Particularly those over 100-miles, or more, from the next large town of a million.

The reason?  While you won’t get as much direct income from such a move, you will get some “intangibles” that may – as you “redenominate your life in values, not bank statements  – become tangible, at some point.

In return for a lesser home, fewer consumer choices, and definitely a more independent-minded bunch of neighbors, you might also find small towns offer:

  • Lower food costs because sometimes you can buy from farmers-direct.  Or, you can grow your own food.  Want to bet on what’s healthier?
  • Lower taxes because run-away spending on public employees (see Illinois for examples) won’t pose the threat of imminent bankruptcy.
  • A much shorter commute.
  • Less status consciousness – a 10-year old car is fashionable in the American Outback of flyover country.
  • No air pollution compared to cities
  • And a lot less “social life.”

In a virus-impacted world, a lot of these may  seem pretty damn desirable.

The real problem for most people is they are conditioned to insanely broad consumer choices. As a consequence, they have a hard time imaging “going without” because, well, they have  had to before.

Repeat after me:  Brands are mostly scams.

The lifestyle out here in the woods is different, than the Big City, no question.

We tend to buy simple foods and eat a diet of veggies, meats, and a starch of some kind.  Hardly ever will we eat a dessert.  Reason?  Sugar will kill you. The arrival of sugar is a fairly recent event in human history.  Whole Millenia went by without people eating anything but the basics.  Fruit?  Maybe in summer or as homemade jelly with parafin sealing wax on top…

In the city, people “go out to eat” and, amazingly, most folks have no idea what is in food bought away from home.  You have no idea whether something is genuinely organic, or not.  Labels are great, and honestly in today’s world is in short supply, as well.

Our only expolsure to canola is when we travel, too.  Seeing how this works?

Oh!  You won’t live in the same kind of “posh” home you’re used to:  I know people in thousand-square foot marvels of high tech.  But, considering you might actually own a small mobile home on a few good acres of land some day, it doesn’t seem an especially big sacrifice.

During the Great Depression, a lot of families, including the Ure clan, made it through “America’s Hungry Time” by having one hell of a big garden (about 60-by-80 feet) and caring for it with a huge amount of love and attention.  Things you’re putting into the disposal right now would have been treasures used make some of the finest soil amendments possible.

One member of the family, usually dad because he had skills that were in-demand, would work out of the home.  Mom was the “home maker.”

Social narrative BS breaker here: It was not an insult nor was it sexist.  It was the way stuff really was.  Sexism is a shameful financialization by dividing people, selling misconstrued notions of what life was like in Hard Times.  Partners – down at the soul-level… Why, Moms and Dads were by God teams and they treated each other with respect.  Which is why everything was shared.   (“Which one of us should spank George Alex this time?” I remember the folks discussing…That, dear reader is quintessential equality!)

Wouldn’t you know it?  As a consequence of such living as teams, lots of ‘grand parents’ were marred 50-years and longer. Yet another chapter on living in a disposable world, is it not?  The sad chapter on Disposable Humans.

Home wreckers on social media, don’t bother to mention this critical aspect of the “Home Teams” that kept America going in a Hungry Depression and a Terrible World War.  But, don’t get me started.  Just know everything is a business model.  It’s the dirtiest secrets of liberalism.  If you get something, some lazy prick will want it and take it, if you blink.

You see where cities are legalizing shoplifting now?  ISYN – no reason to have a business in one of those crooked cities. Mobs will be along shortly.  Lackadaisical cops and commies at the courthouse; though you’re not supposed to notice.  End was coming anyway.

Another Self-Propelled Business

On a little more practical (and cheerier) note: In the past we kicked around the Bike Shop idea, as well as a general Fix-It shop.  Today, I have another low-overhead idea to offer.

Starting a furniture and upholstery business.

To do this, you’ll want to read a couple of books, first.  On the woodworking side, Complete Idiot’s Guide to Woodworking is easy-enough.  For the upholstery?  This is a more serious undertaking so a good flow-oriented book like Professional Upholstering: All the Trade Secrets would be recommended.

As long as you are book-shopping, toss in Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre while you’re at it.

Why These Books

Since the invention of computers, societies around the world have been rolling more and more into the “intellectual content” model of life.  Yes, that’s right:  We have become a society full of deep thinkers but the “doing?”  Left to outfits like (name any company in China) and their U.S. importing arm.

It was long-held, even when I was a boy (early 1950’s) that it would be nice if we kids went on to college.  BUT, we were also taught that we needed to always  have a fallback plan.

In a world where consumption is level (or worse, declining) the idea of corporate  growth will disappear.  With it, stands a kind of re-organizational period for the entire planet. Could be violent – so cities will be risky places.  More on this topic of resource depletion and the rest, is in  my next book The 100-Years Toaster.  Still editing.

But, the point is, one upshot of global pandemic(s) (Ebola is still lurking, too, don’t forget) is that  people making things, locally could again become a very big deal.

The whole middle of America is ripe for this kind of rethinking.  Prices for single family homes in the rural Midwest and South provide the prospects of working your ass off for 10-years, but then settling down into a really good life.

Small towns usually have generally similar trades as bigger Cities.  If you want to perform an “opportunity sort” just take a big phone book (Seattle, or Dallas, for example) and then the local small town phone book where you’re considering relocation.

Head for the Yellow Pages part.  Now, start with the big city book and what’s the first listing?  Open the small-town book and see if there is such a business in a small town you are looking at.  If not, that’s the first “opportunity list” candidate.

When you’ve got the list done (it will be large) sort out which ones you could do (step 1) and then which one makes the most money (step 2).  There it is:  Golden opportunity with two easy sorts.

One of our long-time readers, known as the  Millennial Caller lives in about the closest thing to a perfect town I can think of:  Grand Junction, CO.  Small enough to be highly affordable and yet almost big enough to need  one of everything that can be found in Denver up over across the Rockies to the east.

Let’s say that you find such a place.  Rates are low so you buy a big lot with a cheap home.  Maybe it’s a double-wide…ours has been a ton of fun.  Hopefully, it has a 2-4 car detached garage.  There’s where your new business can live.

Toss in a high roof (*sheetrock and insulation) a stove of some kind, and a few basic woodworking tools fished on Craigslist on the cheap.  Now, apply the first book.

Begin to turn out a few basic pieces of furniture. Tune up your own home.  Spouses are great critics, lol.

Maybe put up a card, or two, and offer to do some basic home remodeling.

Better, yet:  Focus on learning the woodworking skills in the aforementioned first book and give your cards out to remodelers in the area.  They tend to be “lightweight” businesses (operating out of pickup trucks, lol).  As long as you demand and never waiver from “cash on delivery” and never fall for a sob story, you can get a little bit of work and while working your “get started” jobs, you will be skill-building for the future.

Of course, you won’t be sitting on your lard butt, either.  Because when you’re not doing the woodworking business, you will be in book #3 – figuring out how to make you whole home self-sufficient.  Say you got almost a half-acre on the outskirts of town?  Perfect!

Even so, it gets cold as hell up in Colorado in the winter, so all the wood scraps turned out by your wood shop during the year?  That all becomes firewood in that big stove.  Or, you get a “barrel stove” kit and build up one of those.  You can find the kits to put one together.

Get a couple of 55-gallon drums, get to know someone with a plasma cutter (it’s gonna cost you a six-pack of your other hobby – home-brewing – to get me to cut it) and in next to no time, you’ll have heat and a source of material.

Speaking of which, if you have a pickup-truck (tell me you did, right?), with little work you can set up a wood pallet collection business on the cheap.  This means you will spend money on some gas for the truck and some labor.  But, at the end of the day, with the exception of a few long pieces of wood (think 2-by-4’s) the rest can be knocked out of pallet wood that you’ve recovered.

Used planer on C/L, anyone?

And save the cut-offs!   Fires the wood stove.

Pretty quick, word about your side-hustles will be getting around. 

Not only that, but all of your neighbors will love you, too.  Why?  Well, you’re going to find a few Dollar store 10-20 gallon garbage cans with critter-proof lids) and you’re going to pass them out to 3 or 4 big families around you.  Here’s your pitch:

Hi – I’m so-and-so and I living 2-houses down.  I’m going to be putting in an organic garden this spring and I was wondering if I give you a plastic garbage can, would you mind saving me your vegetable  leftovers and coffee grounds in it?  I will come around and collect it whenever you call and put it in my compost pile.  And, when your kids are old enough, I’ll show them how to become expert gardeners, too…

(optional) Maybe pay them a few cents a weed piece work.  You know, teach ’em about living in harmony and all that, too…”

No, this is not scamming or child labor abuse (spare me)  It’s how real ag in done.  I got paid something like 50-cents a flat for picking strawberries.  The more I worked, the more I made.  Huge lessons in there.

You will no doubt lose a couple of garbage cans (whatever, people are scammers, right?) but then you know “who’s real” around you.  If they don’t try to make it right, those are people to steer clear of…

Let’s see:  Working 35-45 hours at something “real” –  and having a wood shop going with some projects coming in, got a few items built on display in a few stores…and the organic garden soil fertilizer is basically free except for labor….See how all this comes together?

What happens next?

Well, you come up with fabric, a nail gun and stapler, a couple of hammers, some scissors and into Book #2 where you go through a number of upholstery projects.  Then get a heavy-duty sewing machine (used).

Again, there are free furniture carcasses to be had all over the place:  Just hit Craigslist keeping an eye on “Free” and get creative.  You still have that pickup truck, right?

Now comes another creative part:  When you get good at upholstery, and you’ve got a couple of chairs and sofa carcasses ready to roll, you put an ad on C/L:

LOCAL FURNITURE: CHOOSE YOUR FABRIC

We make custom recycled highest quality, genuine solid wood frame furniture.  We’re ready with several chair and sofa models just waiting for you to pick the style, firmness, and features you’d like.  Give us a call to visit our factory/showroom…”

When your cost of the frames is an hour of pick-up and stripping off old crap and getting the frames ready (reinforcing as you need to) and the costs of new foam and fabric is reasonable, selling a sofa for $300 bucks when you’ve got $125 of parts in  it might give you something like $15-bucks an hour. Depends how good you get, focus level, and so forth.

Make it sizzle, too:  A label “Recyled Furniture by (You)” on the bottom and how about a Certificate of Authenticity, too?  People are such braggarts…it’s a hell of a marketing tool so use it!

Now, you begin to organizing your business spending the most time on the things that make you the most on a per-hour basis. 

Like me, you may end up working 12-hours a day six days a week, but if two people are working 72-hours each over a six-day workweek, even at 10-bucks aqnd hour that’s $1,440 a week with very little  in the way of expenses.  Bump that average up to $15 an hour and you’re well over a Big Hunsky ($100K) per year.

The number of young couples banging down $75K (with gobs of write offs) from their efforts in small towns is not that big.  In a few years, you ought to be able to save enough money to build your own new home as you go and doing that?  OMG now you’re into real sweat equity.

Next thing you know that $70,000 big lot with the sad mobile home will sport a new how, new – larger shop – and will be a rolling concern worth a half million or more.

So much for the books part and planning part.

The Future of Manufacturing and Consumption

Finally, the main point of this morning’s long discussion.

Forget about news stories focusing on the virus impacts on the economy, AI, robotics and all that.  Keep your eye on what people are actually doing.  Make your plan and roll with it.

To me, it looks like people don’t have enough sense and gumption to keep themselves rolling at a high level of personal productivity.

Fact is, though, anyone can step-up and roll.  It just takes a certain mindset and busting out of the “victimhood” roles that politicans and crooked HR departments serve up.

You don’t have to eat the slop served to others.  You do have a right – and path if you take it –  to an independent, healthy and business life where you can really test your personal limits.

Somewhere in the process, the Biggest secret of them All comes along.

You don’t have  any Limits.

Write when you get rich,

george@ure.net