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Monday, January 27, 2014

A Simple Lesson in What 'Free' Sometimes Costs

My slightly disheveled 12 year old son recently came in from mucking about outside and slumped into a chair near me.  On his way in, he turned on several lights (none of which were necessary as it was the middle of the day), passed by the fridge, which he stood in front of (door open, of course) for ages, and then meandered into the living room.  He hadn't taken off his boots and had brought his faithful companion, Prince, with him.

Muddy boot and dog prints were EVERYWHERE.

So I sighed and, for the gazillionth  time, launched into the 'wasted money/creating work' lecture that never seems to penetrate his prepubescent little mind.

Glassy eyed, he listened, mumbled an apology, and lapsed into silence.

After several minutes, he sat up quickly and suddenly proclaimed that we were way too frugal (well, to be accurate, he accused us of being tightwads).  He launched into a diatribe about how I always get stuff for free through couponing, but still don't let the kids eat whatever they want, whenever they want.  He noted that I often even earn money on things I buy, yet still scold if things are mis-used or wasted.

He paused for a breath and glanced at me to see if he was treading on thin ice.  I merely looked back at him with slightly amused eyes and said nothing.  Figuring he was 'safe,' he continued, emphatically.

"We have free wood," he declared, sweeping his arm dramatically toward the bay of windows that overlook our thickly forested acreage.  "We grow herbs in pots and vegetables all summer.  You can that free food, too," he added knowingly. "We eat it all winter."

"And," he pronounced in a final display of triumph, "even our water is free.  We have a well."

He fell back in his chair with a slightly smug 'how-are-you-going-to-refute-THAT' kind of look on his face and waited for my reply.

I paused for a moment.

I wasn't gathering my thoughts, though.  I was trying to keep myself from breaking into giggles.  I had an opportunity here to teach my son something valuable and guffawing at the wrong moment would ruin all that.

So I waited for a moment or two while I collected myself.

And then I just looked at him and thanked him for his perspective.  I told him that a lot of what he said had merit and were certainly things we should be thankful for.

Couponing does provide a LOT of things for us we wouldn't otherwise have.  Plus, he was right, I do earn money on some things I buy.  And it's certainly true that we are blessed to live on land that has a sustainable supply of wood for us.

Nodding in agreement, I noted that we've only turned the central heat on once this whole winter. 

So I'm thankful for that wood and for a house that is so well built our wood stoves can easily heat it by themselves.

I also mentioned that we were, indeed, blessed to live in a location that, despite being at altitude, has a good growing season.  And having a pure underground river, fed by crystal clear melted Sierra snow, filling our well is an absolute, delicious treasure.

"We are so blessed to live where we do," I concluded, and fell silent.

He looked puzzled for a minute and then he asked me if that was all I had to say.

I said "yes. . .well, no. . .I guess I want to know which of those 'free' things you are going to be in charge of?"

He stared at me, half confused and half with the look of someone who has walked this path before.  He knew me well enough to know he was about to. . .gasp. . .learn something!

"I. . .I. . .I don't know what you mean," he stammered.

"Well," I replied, "if your point is that we should not need to be careful of resources that we get for 'free,' I'm assuming people are going to start using things up a little quicker.  So we'll need some extra hands to keep up with the increased demand.  So, which thing are you going to help with?  Wood?  Food?  Water?"

I could see his brain start to work as he went through the options.

Wood was the obvious choice, as he helps his dad with that already.

"What about wood?" I suggested, innocently.

I could see his mind running through the back-breaking process of felling trees, removing branches, cutting lengths, hauling, splitting and then stacking wood.  Cords of it.

"Probably not wood," he mumbled.

"Food, then?"

He slumped even further back in the chair as his mind clearly went over the process of gathering, cutting, and filing coupons, then to computer research, actual shopping, and taking care of our stockpile.

He sighed.

He stared at the ceiling and silently mouthed the word 'garden' as he continued to consider this option.  Setting seeds, planting out, watering, weeding, harvesting, and many days of canning in a hot, steamy kitchen was clearly running through his mind.

"Um, no."

"Guess it's water then," I said, smiling.

He looked at me suspiciously.  "What does that mean I have to do?"

"Well, the water is free," I replied, "but the electricity to run the pump which brings the water up to the house is not.  Nor is the cost of well inspections or maintaining the pumphouse.  Guess that means you'll need to get some sort of job."

He sat, silently, for a few minutes.

Finally, he got up and came over to where I was sitting and kissed my cheek.

"I'm sorry I tramped mud all through the house," he said.

"I forgive you, hon," I replied, giving him a little squeeze.

"Now go get the mop."


  1. Loved this! Wish I could find a "like" button on this page.

  2. LOL, thanks, Kris! Hitting the "g+1" button either above or below the post (it's in the red little rectangle) is the equivalent of Google liking it, which helps our rankings, too. And if you feel extra motivated, hit the Facebook button to share the link that can then be 'liked.' :)


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