Homestead Economics

By , October 11, 2015

Life is all about balance. On the homestead we find this particularly true. We’re constantly seeking to strike balances: Economy vs. value, time vs. money, convenience vs. quality. In my more cynical moods, I’d say everything’s a trade off.

Our latest trade off involves one of our homestead’s key balance points: weight vs. cost.

Our rocky beach, drastic tide ranges and northern weather make boating loads to the homestead difficult much of the time. We pack most supplies and gear a mile and a quarter from the roadside to the cabin on our aging backs. For this reason, weight and size of the load matter (for a typical example, see Chair Man of the Back Board).

As you may be aware from this blog, we make wine, much of it from common Concord grape juice. We’ve always favored the canned concentrate that has mostly replaced the old frozen concentrate. We like that these allow us to add the water at the time we make the wine, rather than hauling the extra liquid weight across the ridge. A gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds; added water in any product quickly weighs down a pack.

However, this concentrate has grown scarce in Haines. The last grocery store that carried it recently stopped.

At first, this bothered me. We opened a conversation with the manager about bringing it back. In the meantime, we settled for half gallon jugs of grape juice, even though that meant we needed to haul the extra water weight.

Once I started making the wine, the economy angle came into play. A gallon of wine requires 2 cans of concentrate, or 48 oz. of juice. I realized that 3 jugs of grape juice yields 4 gallons of wine. At regular prices, this represents a savings of about $1.30 per gallon of wine over the concentrate method.

We live by a mantra: “More calories than cash.” By this, we mean that when we can save money by working harder, we will. The savings may not seem significant to some, but for us, it adds up quickly. Since we restarted our wine making efforts (see A Return to the Vinyard), I’ve made 50 batches of grape juice wine alone. Almost all of our other wines come from fruits and other plants we grow or gather for free, so grape wines are our most expensive.

Neither of us look forward to packing in that water weight, but we know we can do it. That extra effort will allow us to continue making our wines, and saving a little bit of money in the process.

For another example of homestead economics, see the essay When “Good Enough” is Best.

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