Killing the hammocks business

For almost all of the communities 44 years, including last year, our largest income source has been making hammocks.  At the community meeting yesterday, i think for the first time in this format seriously, a number of people suggested we get out of the business, mostly because of the low $/hour we make at it.

i am one of the two general managers of the hammocks business and were we a classical capitalist entity, this proposal would be terrifying.  My salary, my status, my retirement circumstance, my continued high level of employment would all be tied up in keeping this business going and maintaining my job.   But Twin Oaks is not like this.  Were the hammocks business to close tomorrow, i would be fully employed, basically equally respected and no aspect of my benefits would be influenced.  Which gives unusual detachment in viewing the situation.

Shal is the other Geneaal manager here doing the real work

Part of what is driving the conversation is a labor shortage we are currently experiencing, despite being at a high population level.  The Garden, Tofu production and hammocks have been competing for labor for the last couple of month.  But hammocks just largely stepped out of this position.  Not because we are folding, but because we schedule our production so that we complete about 70% of our hammocks inventory needs for year by this time of year, to insure that we have enough labor for our seasonal work, much of which is agricultural.

Which is not to say that i dont care about the hammocks business and am not thinking a lot about it and whether we should continue in it and if so how to improve our $/hour.  But i do this from a considerably more personally detached place than if i were a classical manager.

Despite it’s lower hourly income, there are lots of aspects of hammocks production which are highly desirable.  It is easy to train people in many aspects of the work.  It is very time flexible, people can come in and work for 20 minutes or several hours depending on their desire and schedule.  It is relatively light work, so many people can be involved in it.  And it is vertically integrated, meaning we bring in nearly raw materials (trees and thread) and run our own sawmill, kilns and woodshop as well as rope machines and weaving studios to create the finished product.  Vertical integration means we control quality and many of the input costs to the business.

And the question we will have to answer before we get out of hammocks (which is part of why this decision is unlikely to be rushed) is “where will the replacement income come from?”  Which is a fascinating and rich talk, that i look forward to.

About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

6 responses to “Killing the hammocks business”

  1. kelpie says :

    I missed you at that mtg yesterday, but having you not there did help me hear other voices. Thx for this particular blog entry.

  2. Rob L says :

    You did not mention how well the hammock shop weaves together the community. Last weekend, I had a lovely conversation with the labor manager; we talked about the policies and job of assigning now and 35 years ago when I did it ‘most every week. Other weavers shared their info and learned a bit about the community. Weaving together is also a nice way to get to know someone better – while making a little money 🙂

  3. paxus says :

    Dearest kelpie:

    I am glad you enjoyed this post, it was the result of a “what shoudl i write about” moment and realized there was this big thing going on which i had not commented on.

    Dearest Rob:

    This is actually one of the most valuable aspects of the hammocks business and most difficult to quantify. For example, we grow our own food, instead of making more money and buying it, because we value having our hands int he dirt and growing food. Tofu (as it currently operates) is very poor for socializing, the noise in the hut is such that i can do a 4 hour shift and have no conversation with anyone, despite being surrounded by other busy (mostly non-conversational) people.

    Most of the loudest voices in the “close the hx business” group dont actually make any hx.

    We oft make choices to be uneconomical. AND hx is a lot of hours of being uneconomical.

    Paxus in Fredrick MD (selling hx)
    4 Red 2KXI

  4. teagan says :

    not that I have any say – just any opinion – even if you got out of it for the business part I think that some materials should be kept around for members to continue to make enough to sell to visitors and tourists and perhaps on an as ordered basis? That way the hobbists could still do it and perhaps that would raise the $/hr aspect because the smaller amount of product would be largely already spoken for…

  5. Ken says :

    Interesting news and much to ponder. Thanks for some interesting insights and comparisons!

  6. Mary says :

    I’m sad to hear that folx were considering this, I didn’t work on hmx much, but loved making harnesses and having work to do in meetings when I wanted to do it. The tofu business seems like much more of a problem in the long run, between the eco problems it was (is?) causing on the land, and that the majority of people I know who are concerned with health avoid all soy like the plague, doesn’t seem like a bright future for the business. Has anyone there brought up the health concerns coming to light about eating high doses of soy/tofu? You can find out more at the Weston A. Price foundation website.

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