Friday, February 27, 2009

It's funny...

We have only been our to the property we are looking at 'unofficially'.  That is, we went out, poked around the outbuildings and land and peered into the windows of the house.  Based on this, we have gone to 2 different financial institutions to see about loans based only on my salary.  We were approved at both.  Although I found it interesting that the guy at the credit union this afternoon, when commenting on the percentage of my salary that would be going into the payments, stated that it would be a 'lifestyle choice' to live off what little was left.   DUH!!!  Like we hadn't already considered that before we went to ask about a loan! We're not stupid.  We have done the number crunching.  Until we can sell our current home things will be TIGHT!  Fortunately, V signed the contract with his brother's energy firm for freelance work.  He will be writing a lot of their online 'presence' for them.  Except for the fact that there are no taxes or SS taken out of it all that money will be 'gravy'.  We can survive, although quite frugally, on just my salary.  We had that discussion with the children, or at least started it, at dinner tonight.  Explaining that there are some things that will be put on hold for a while.
I do find it amusing that, 'official' sight unseen even V is planning and plotting about this place.  He was talking about taking advantage of the beautiful south facing wall of the house (faces the downslope meadow and creek) to build a greenhouse/solarium attached to the house.  Hmmm, doesn't seem that he's too opposed to this one.
We get to officially see the property on Sunday afternoon.  I work all day tomorrow so that is out.  But we are meeting with the realtor on Sunday to get a look at the inside of the house- more than through the windows.  He has assured us that he will have all the outbuildings open so we can look around inside them as well.  I also want to have time to walk a bit of the property to scope out the best places for garden and such.  I'm quite tempted to dig up the riding arena that they have built to put in my garden (it's already leveled and fenced) but I have concerns about the soil compaction.  I don't really have any experiences with this.  Any suggestions? We are not planning to get a horse so will need to convert the riding arena to something else.  It is near the creek but looks well drained.  Like I said, it is fenced which I think may be an advantage with the number of deer that I expect are out there waiting to snack on an unsuspecting garden.  With the financial crunch of the mortgage payments, I will need to get the most I can from the garden this year as we will be relying on that food rather heavily.  As I said. Any and all suggestions are welcome.  
I will plan to take my camera on Sunday and may post pictures if we decide we want to make an offer.  If we make a decision that this is the place we already plan to offer them less than their asking price since we have noticed some issues that will need to be addressed either by them fixing them or by price reduction.    
I am so excited by all of this.  I am really hopeful but I'm trying not to make too many plans in my head in case things don't work out.  But it's hard...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

They like me- they really like me!

The appointment at the bank went well.  We have, in our hot little hands, a pre-approval letter for the loan.  I have a call into the real estate agent and am just waiting for a call back.  It was late by the time we made it home so I didn't get a message to him until after 4 this afternoon.  Tomorrow we meet with a loan officer from the credit union so we'll see who will give us the better deal.
J14 is freaking out a bit and to be perfectly honest, so am I.  Things seem to be moving really quickly and while this is something I've been wanting for a long time it's kind of scary that it's actually happening.
In less fun news, we had a meeting with our boss today.  It turns out that we are being asked to cut our budget by $17,000.  Unfortunately, the only thing we really have to cut is staff.  We were essentially given the option of getting rid of our PRN person who helps us out one day a week (she has a full time job as a college professor but is moonlighting with us to keep up her clinical skills) or each of us take one unpaid day per month.  We opted to get rid of our PRN person, as much as we love her, we're all looking at self preservation.  Of the 5 of us permanent employees, 2 are full time (myself and another young lady married to a farmer and they just purchased land), 2 women with small children both working part time (one 80% and one 60% with 8 month old twins) and our final therapist is going through phased retirement and she only has 2 years left before she's gone.  None of us were financially willing to take unpaid leave.  This whole economic situation sucks.  I'm just happy that we may be getting our place in spite of V not working right now.  Having a bit of land will give me a sense of security in uncertain times.  I just hope it all works out.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Here's the scoop

We have appointments!  I expressed my frustration this afternoon (Ok, I'll confess- maybe I got a bit snippy) when V reported that he hadn't been able to reach anyone at the credit union.  We were having a slow day at work (a total rarity!!) so I had him pick me up half an hour early- since I generally work through my lunch break I took my break at the end of the day.  He still had his paycheck to cash so we went down to the bank, cashed his check and asked about making an appointment with a loan officer.  We have an appointment for tomorrow afternoon at 3.  With that success under our belt V decided that we may as well drive over to the credit union and talk to someone in person.  It turns out that their receptionist was out and we were directed to the teller line for all questions.  While we were in line conversing about the possibility of being able to make an appointment we were approached by a man who turned out to be the branch manager as well as vice president of the entire credit union.  He took us back to his office, got our information, got on his computer and made an appointment for us Friday at 430.  So we can see who will give us the better deal- if anyone will give us a loan at all based solely on my salary.  He seemed impressed when we told him that we don't have a mortgage on our current home, saying that gives us some leverage.  I'm thinking that if we get good news from tomorrow's appointment I'm going to give the realtor a call tomorrow after the appointment.  Things are moving.  EEEK!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I'm normally a pretty patient person but things are starting to get to me.  It may have something to do with my need for a sense of control as much as impatience though.  Here's the deal:  Considering that things have been busy at work and V isn't working much (only a little freelancing and he's at home for that) I handed off to him the task of setting up an appointment with the credit union to see about a loan.  Friday he put it off since he was working on a manuscript- Ok, I'm  impatient to get the ball rolling on this, but I can go along with this.  Monday, rather than just call, he sent an email to the credit union.  As of tonight he still has had no reply from them.  What crappy customer service!  I can't imagine that the loan officers there are that busy.  
He also mentioned this morning that he was going to stop by the bank where we have our checking accounts today since he still has a paycheck from his last freelance job to cash.  Did he do that- NO!  He doesn't seem as excited or anxious about this as I am.  I have this fear that we will get approved for a loan only to find that someone else has made an offer on the house.  Several times over the last year I have talked him into looking at a house only to find that it had just been sold.  
I keep telling myself that he can do this, that I don't need to jump in and take over but it's hard.  He assured me that if he didn't hear from the credit union by tomorrow noon that he would call.  But I wanted it today!  whine, whine, whine...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Taking care of business

I've been a bit preoccupied recently- not to mention really busy.  There is a bit of blog business that I'm behind on.  First, Sara at Mama Craft tagged me with the Happiness meme.
For this meme, you are to list 6 random things that make you happy.
1. Climbing into a warm bed on a cold night.
2. The smell of freshly dug dirt (can you tell I'm jonesing for the garden)
3. Saturday movie night with all 5 of us snuggling/crowding onto the couch together, eating locally grown popcorn.
4. Getting packages in the mail.
5. Cooking with my children.
6. Curling up with a good book, hot chocolate and a warm blanket.

I'm not sure how to pass this on but if you want to participate go for it!  It was fun to think about what makes me happy.

In other business, I got an award!  Edain from English, Pagan and in Canada gave me this award:
Thanks Edain!
This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day.
The rules to follow are:
1. Accept the award, post it on your blog, together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link.
2. Pass the award to another (up to) 15 blogs that are worthy of the acknowledgement.  Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Wow!  I think all of you are excellent at transmitting your values every day!  But there are a few that I think stand out.
Robbyn at The Back Forty
Zan Asha at Wild at Heart Farm

I'm sure there are others who deserve this.  I so hate to make calls on these things.

Thanks to Sara and Edain for brightening my day!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Independence Days- week 12

Another week gone by.  I'm 12 weeks into my participation in the Independence Days challenge.  Things are beginning to pick up with spring approaching.  I'm hopeful for the future but we'll see what the next week brings.
This week:
1. Plant something- YES!!  Yesterday I planted broccoli and 3 varieties of hot peppers under the lights downstairs. As an experiment I used toilet tissue tubes (cut in half) for pots for starting my seeds.  The cardboard tubes should disintegrate when the seedlings are planted either into larger pots or into the ground.  We'll see how it works.  So far so good.  They are actually about the same size as a little peat pot and were essentially free.  
2. Harvest something- Had lettuce from under the lights for salads last night.  I'm going to have to find somewhere else for it to live in a few weeks as I need my space under the lights for tomatoes.  Maybe by that time it will warm up enough that I can out it outside, at least during the days.
3.  Preserve something- No
4. Store something- picked up unbleached flour on sale for an extra. Purchased 20 lbs of chicken hindquarters at 49 cents a pound.  Froze most of it and made stock from some to be used this week.  Also got a pack of red hots (heart shaped ones) on discount after Valentine's day.
5. Manage reserves- Ate almost entirely from stores this week.  Only had to pick up a few things from the store for next week's menu plan.
6. Cook something new- um, no. Nothing new- we've been pretty boring lately.
7. Prep something- other than house hunting- Nope.
8. Reduce waste- recycled, composted and used cloth bags as usual.  Used empty toilet tissue roles as 'peat' pots for seed starting- we'll see how it goes.
9. Learn a new skill- Hmmm- worked a little on knitting but not much else.
10. Work on community food security- helped cook and serve at a pancake breakfast this morning that was a benefit for our local crisis center.  We raised $500 directly and I think there will be about an additional $150 in matching funds available.  Not bad for a morning of serving pancakes.
11.  Regenerate what is lost- It's been a slow week.  Since I was sick for half the week with respiratory crud I wasn't feeling as ambitious as usual.
12.  Behavior change- I'm working on not procrastinating.  I need to sit down with V tonight before bed and work out a timeline for meeting with the bank. We need to make sure we have all the documentation we need before we go.

House hunting update-  We went out yesterday and peered in the windows and poked around the outbuildings a bit.  Of course, everything is locked up, but we took mental notes of issues that we can either ask to have fixed or ask for a price reduction.  Also today I was curious so I looked up information on the county website about that parcel of land.  It turns out that the county has it recorded as only 5.74 acres rather than the 7 that it is advertised.  Something to investigate and challenge the price on if it's accurate.  I've been making a list of the minor repairs and things that will need to be done to this place to get it ready to sell.  
J14 has also been bitten by the acreage bug now, and has become almost as obsessed as I have been with plotting and planning, even though there are NO definite plans.  I got (very late last week) the Gurney's seed catalog and have been looking wistfully at new varieties of raspberries, blueberries and such that I don't have room for here- dreaming of lots more space- envisioning that lovely meadow sloping down to the creek brimming with berries and wildflowers- maybe even a bee hive.  
Need to get those financial documents in place.  V has a manuscript to hand in tomorrow morning and has a conference call Tuesday about his new freelance job.  Things are moving but I'm impatient.

Friday, February 20, 2009

No new developments

Not much new to report here.  I was too busy at work today to have time to contact the local credit union for an appointment time.  V had a freelance job he was working on today and even though I tried to prod him, he didn't make an appointment either- although he did take time to play with the online mortgage calculators.  The one at the credit union says we don't qualify for a loan as large as we want.  Of course, they don't take into consideration any assets and we have our house that we plan to put on the market or rent when we're out.  I don't think our chances of selling this place are good while we're in it.
We have accounts at both a local bank and at the credit union.  We got both our last house loan and our car loan through the credit union since they tended to offer better deals.  We'll have to see. Both are offering about the same interest rates, but from what I've seen on line, the bank may actually be more willing to work with us.  Last time the credit union immediately sold our loan to a large holding company anyway.  
We were talking about house and finances over dinner.  The biggest concern now seems to be having enough money to make modifications to the house (one of my first priorities is a wood stove). It seems we, at least, have moved beyond the worry that we can make the payments to figuring out how we can still have the extras. I just hope the bank will see it our way.
I DO so hope this can work out.  This is something I have been dreaming about for years.  I really hate this economic chaos that has interfered with our dream.  Things would be so much easier if V still had his job.  The work with his brother won't bring in much and he doesn't have a signed agreement yet so we can't really count it.  So we're hoping to secure this loan with just my income.  (Sigh)  We did it before.  V wasn't working when we bought this place so I know it can be done.  The stakes are just a bit higher now, and I feel more of a sense of urgency.
I hate to be negative but I feel a real need to have some land and the ability to support ourselves should things get really bad.  If it turns out that V can't find a job we can still feed ourselves, at least.
Well, now I'm just getting depressing....  
I will be planting my broccoli seeds tomorrow.  I can't wait to get my hands in the dirt, even if it's only under the lights.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thinking it over

We've been talking over finances and moving again.  We may have found somewhere.  Better house than the last one.  This one is a 4 bedroom on 7 acres.  I think I have V talked into going to the bank to see if we can get a loan based on just my salary.  Payments would be doable if we can get the loan.  
In good news for him he will be doing some freelancing work for his brother's energy firm that should pay $500 a month.  Hurrah!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Independence Days- week 11

Busy, busy weekend, and it's not even the busy time of the year yet.  I'm trying to get caught up on things that need done before it warms up outside.  Yesterday was pretty much a bust for getting anything accomplished.  It seemed like we were at church all day- which we kind of were.  J14 played her violin and was the assistant minister (she sang the liturgy) at the 8am service and then we were the hosts for the youth/family Valentines party which was from 12-2.  It didn't help that I was coming down with a cold and was exhausted and sick by the time we got home.  I still feel like I have a pillow wrapped around my head but I haven't let it slow me down today.  I've got my bread rising, waffles made, more laundry done and have been working on sorting through my fabric stash and sewing room mess since I need to use the table for seed starting in a few weeks.
I normally do my IDC updates on Sundays but I was so tired last night I couldn't think straight and was in bed by 9:30.  But here goes for the last week:
1. Plant something- No, but I did get new light fixtures and  bulbs for grow lights, cleaned off the table in the sewing room and picked up more seed starting soil mix since I'm planning to start my broccoli next weekend.
2. Harvest something- a bit of lettuce but nothing more.
3. Preserve something- No.
4. Store something- picked up 2 extra bags of sugar since there was a decent sale at the store.
5. Manage reserves- Made more spiced apples for oatmeal from apple slices from the freezer.  
6. Cook something new- Nope, this has been a fairly boring week in the food department, lots of old standbys.
7. Prep something- Not really.
8. Reduce waste- recycled, composted and used cloth bags at the store, as usual- nothing new on this front.
9. Learn a new skill- Nothing new this week.
10. Work on community food security- Made chili for a meal at our local homeless shelter.
11. Regenerate what is lost- Hmm- can't think of anything for this week.  It's been a busy week and I've just tried to get through.  
12. Behavior change- I've been working on not procrastinating. I did manage to get my student's mid-term evaluation done last week and got lots done this weekend.  

While it's not really a category for IDC I thought I'd throw this out there since it directly relates- I did spend some time looking for land again this weekend.  There is a place not far from town- actually only about a mile and a half from the garden that is available.  7 acres of land and a house- unfortunately the house is VERY odd looking (looks like a couple of trailers attached to a garage), is only 2 bedroom and the basement isn't finished. Of greater concern is the proximity of the river- with last year's flooding that is something we are definitely looking at.  This property did not flood last year (a 500 year flood) so it should be good.  I've been trying to talk V into at least going to look- What they're asking is about what we could probably get for our house.  If we could live in weirdness for a few years we could build a house that has everything we want- including the fireplace in the kitchen that we could cook in (with bread oven).  We'll see... 

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hope I can get it all done

I'm taking a break to have some online fun.  Today is one of those crazy-busy days that I hate.  I just hope I can get it all done.
Here's the list:
1. Laundry -a never ending thing at our house.  Luckily, V did a couple of loads yesterday so I don't have as much to do today.
2. Grocery shopping- I've got lots of extras on my list since we have several things going on at church tomorrow that I volunteered for- see numbers 3 and 4 below.
3. Making chili- We are serving a meal at the homeless shelter so I need to make a double batch of chili to take for that.
4. Cut up veggies for a veg and dip platter for the youth Valentine's party tomorrow afternoon.  I am also supposed to supply drinks. I'm planning apple juice but I'm sure I'll also be expected to bring some HFCS laced soda along as well.  (sigh)
5. Shopping for clothes for boys for my nephew's wedding.  I'm guessing that jeans and t-shirts are right out for that one, so they'll each need a new pair of pants and a nice shirt. I still need some work pants since I didn't have much luck at the thrift store last time I went.  I'm actually thinking of buying new (gasp) but the one store that I have a store credit card has a deal where you are randomly assigned a discount (15, 20 or 30%) and I got a 30!!! so I may actually be making a shopping trip to a 'real' department store this weekend.
6. Trip to find new light fixture- In checking out my seed starting lights I discovered that one no longer works at all and one has one side that the ballast is out so it only lights one bulb.  It's the fixture, not the bulbs- I checked.
7. Making waffles for the week.  Definitely NOT the recipe I tried last weekend since J14 and I were the only ones who liked them.
8. Romantic dinner for 5??  Well, we have to feed the children too.  We decided that this isn't the year to go out for dinner, even though it would be nice to get away.  I think we're having sauteed chicken breast in a blood orange and cream sauce, maybe some broccoli and baked potatoes.  
Well, I'm going to do some blog reading and then back to the grindstone.  Laundry beckons...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Favorite comic

I have a few on-line comics that I enjoy on a regular basis.  One is Bunny.  A lovely, quirky comic that is sometimes strange and sometimes very, very funny.  Another favorite is Something Positive, which can be anything but...  It has a very sarcastic, adult, non-politically correct view on life- but sometimes, after having to be politically correct all day, it hits the spot.  The artist, R.K. Milholland drew a special panel in honor of the season:


Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'm terribly confused

AARGH! My head is spinning! I can't sort it all out!!!
OK, enough panic...  One of my nephews is getting married the end of March and we are all trying to work out travel and hotel plans for the wedding.  He is getting married in Champaign, IL, about 6 hours from here.  My brother, the world traveler and proud papa, booked 6 hotel rooms way back last August to get a really good rate.  He and his family are using 3 rooms which leaves 3 rooms available.  My parents will be in one and we are trying to figure out the most economical way to share out the remaining rooms.  There are 2 queen beds in each, I think V and I and the boys will get one room and one of my sisters, her husband and 2 children in another.  Here's the catch.  This means we don't have room for J14 unless she bunks with my parents (no offense intended, but my parents snore like a herd of chainsaws!).  We had planned for her to sleep in a room with her female cousins.  We thought we had it all worked out then found that both nieces' fiances are coming along as well as the nephew we didn't think would show.  Now we have 17 people and 3 rooms.  NOT going to work!!  I can't get anyone to make definite statements and I've been getting confusing messages from my Mom who seems to think that we can get more rooms at the discount rate.  I talked to my brother tonight- that isn't possible.  And of course, it is a pricy place so reserving rooms at full price will break our budget. But we would all like to be together at one hotel.
I'm getting ready to pull out my hair.
Is anyone else's family this disorganized???  You would think that in this day of instantaneous communication that we could figure this one out.  SIGH

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A bit of philosophy

I was cleaning off my desk at work this morning and stumbled across this in a file of group topics in progress.  It struck a chord with me when I first saw it and it still does.  I thought I'd share.

The Paradox of Our Age
We have bigger houses but smaller families; more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgement; more experts, but more problems; more medicines, but less healthiness.  We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We built more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication.
We have become long on quantity, but short on quality.
These are the times of fast foods but slow digestion;
Tall man but short character; 
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It's a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room.

-the 14th Dalai Lama

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Of birds and bad moods

V saw quite a sight in the backyard today.  We had a visitor.  We're not sure if it is a Cooper's hawk or a Sharp Shinned hawk.  It was large, about the size of a good sized crow and has more of a cap than a hood so it makes me think that it is a Cooper's.  He shot video of it eating it's little birdy snack but blogger is having issues with me uploading video tonight.  At least I got the photos up.
Hawk lunch
Isn't it beautiful?
I'm sorry I missed it.  We have had hawks visit the backyard before.  I think it's because we have feeders for the songbirds and the hawks are attracted to their version of a 'bird feeder'.

Thanks to all who commented on my last post. I have been feeling more and more uneasy for the past few days.  I had a dream last night that we got our utility bill and it was $732.  I'm glad it was just a dream.  I do worry that things will get much worse before they get better but I hate to be alarmist.  V wants to sit tight where we are and just ride things out.  I'm more of the opinion that we sell this house and find our acreage.  Of course, right now there isn't one out there that we're interested in.  I'm hoping to talk V into at least going to talk to a realtor to see if we can get some guidance on what's available.  Of course, I'm not sure that I would trust a realtor to actually work in our best interest.
J14 is also in a funk tonight.  Her boyfriend broke up with her this morning.  It sounds like he was giving her mixed messages but he wants to try to concentrate on his schoolwork more and evidently she is a distraction.  She is very down.  SIGH.
One last, lighter note. This is a photo of a gift from Roger last year.  It always makes me smile!
My garden stake.
These days I need all I can get to make me feel better.  I hope I can shake this funk soon.  The weather is warming up (although the bottom is supposed to fall out again tomorrow) so maybe that will help.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Should I be worried?

Ok, there is a lot of rumbling out there about TEOTWAWKI.  I don't know where I fall.  I really don't think things will get THAT bad but I'm sure they will get worse before they get better.  After hearing the president's first press conference, I'm not any more hopeful that things will get better quickly, either.
I've been giving some thought to our long term plans here.  Last fall, we were actively looking for an acreage out of town so we could be more self sufficient.  Those plans were instantly put on hold when V lost his job.  With little or no job prospects out there, we have to be realistic that we will be relying only on my income.  Now, don't get me wrong, I make a decent wage and we have always had our healthcare through me so we're doing well there.  We don't have a mortgage so the only outstanding debt is the car payment.  I have enough set aside that I could pay it off in one fell swoop but I was saving that money for our down payment on somewhere new.   If worse come to worst, we can stay here, fairly financially secure.  We still have access to our garden at Roger's house since we don't have much yard here.  Things stay status quo and we don't get any closer (or farther) from our dream.
The other option is that we put this house on the market and hope it sells, then take that money and put it toward a new place.  That would be ideal, if the timing worked out well.  I would hate to have our house sell out from under us with nowhere to land.  Conversely, I would hate to lock in on a new place just to have this house sit on the market for forever.  We do live close enough to campus that I do think it would probably sell fairly quickly, or we could rent it if necessary, but that doesn't help the cash flow and I'm not sure we could swing a mortgage payment as well as all the other bills. 
I guess, if things get really bad we could up stakes and move down with my parents and take over the family farm. But that is definitely a plan of total last resort.
I'm just musing over the possibilities.  I definitely like the second scenario the best but it also concerns me the most.  This whole economic mess really sucks right now.  I'm feeling cranky and uneasy for some reason tonight.  Tomorrow will be better... writing out some of the options helps me clarify.  Any feedback is appreciated.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Independence Days- week 10

What a week.  It seemed to fly by!  Even after having had a three day weekend I can't believe it's already time to go back to work tomorrow. Today wasn't as warm as it has been but was still above freezing so the snow and ice continue to melt. We still have snow in the yard and behind the house in the driveway and alley.  It's supposed to rain tomorrow, hopefully it won't flood since the ground is still frozen.
I'm itching for spring... getting more and more impatient. Only a few weeks until I can start planting little seeds, first the broccoli.  I have high hopes for the garden this year.  I hope I can keep up with my goals.  I do think that the Independence Days Challenge will help keep me on track.  Here goes the update for this week:
1. Plant something- Nope, but getting closer and closer.  I've got all my seeds organized and ready to go.  
2. Harvest something- A little bit of lettuce from the planter in the basement but, Hey, it's February!!
3. Preserve something- I don't think so.
4. Store something- Found a reasonable deal on craisins so stocked up on a few.  They'll make a nice addition to granola bars.  Made more waffles for breakfasts for the week so that's short term storage.
5. Manage reserves- Ate almost entirely from stores this week.  I found an acorn squash with  spot on it so it will have to be used this week.
6. Cook something new- I made granola bars this week.  I thought they were a bit sweet but the children LOVE them.  I'll need to tweak the recipe a bit until I get it the way I like it.  At the rate we've been going through oatmeal I'm going to have to make another run to the Amish bulk food store soon.  Usually our fall purchase last longer than this.
7. Prep something- Not really.  We're pretty status quo for the moment.  I'm not sure if this counts as prep but my Mom offered me some old canning jars. I'll have to see what they look like next time we're down at the farm.
8. Reduce waste-  Composted, recycled and used cloth bags as usual.  Shopped at a local thrift store for 'new' clothes.
9. Learn a new skill- Didn't get around to knitting at all this week. Having  our friend Mike in town really threw off my usual schedule this week.  Did learn how to make granola bars but I'm not sure that is a skill.  This isn't a new skill for me but will be for J14.  We went to a local fabric store this afternoon since they were having a pattern sale (patterns that are usually $15.95  or more were all $1.99) We picked up a few patterns and some fabric.  She will start out with a project of flannel drawstring PJ pants.  She has been saying that she wants to learn to sew her own clothes so this is a good start.
10.  Work on community food security-  Signed up at church to provide a double batch of chili to serve at the local homeless shelter next weekend.
11. Regenerate what is lost- Had a great discussion with my parents yesterday about gardening and canning. I want to see if my Mom will teach me how to make pickles this summer.  I tried it once years ago and they were awful!  My Mom makes fantastic pickles of all sorts and I would like to learn at the hands of a master.  I remember helping as a child, but back then, I really didn't care. Now, I wish I had paid more attention.   I would like someday get my hands on one or more of the pickling crocks that have been in the family for forever, maybe I'm just being mercenary but I don't think that's entirely it.
12. Behavior change- I've been better this week about setting priorities and sticking to them.  Since the weather has warmed up, I'm going to start walking to work again.  I've been spoiled by having V drive me when it was really cold here.

Not a bad week.  We'll see what this week holds in store.  I can't wait until I can get out into the garden to really see what I can do.  

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A day at the farm

Today was my father's birthday.  Happy Birthday Dad!!!  So we made the 70 minute drive down to the farm to have lunch, visit for the afternoon and wish him well.
Here's the birthday boy!  83 years young!
It was a lovely day.  I'm not sure how warm it got here, but at the farm, it was a sunny, pleasant 68 degrees.  Warm enough for shirt sleeves.  The boys spent time outside, being boys:
Boys in the mud
Of course, they found the biggest puddle they could find and played in it.  If I had been smart, I would have brought along a change of clothes for them.  As it was, my Mom gave I11 a dry pair of socks to wear home.  The boys were sailing corn husk boats and then sinking them with rocks.
V and J14 also had a grand time outside.  My parents cut a large tree in the yard late last fall and some of it still remains. Mostly the brush and the logs too large to split.  Since they had been at Kum Do earlier in the morning they decided to practice their moves.  Of course, they were a bit more Errol Flynn than Korean stylized fighting:
Father daughter bonding??
But they had fun fencing on a log.  We took my parents some of our beef as well on this trip.  All Mom had asked for was soup bones.  I couldn't see only giving them bones so I included some ground beef and a small roast.
All in all, a good, relaxing day at the farm.  No pressure.  We talked gardening and I found out from my Mom that she may have some old canning jars in storage that I can have.  I'll have to check it out next time we're down there.  I'm always up for more jars, especially since we're working to have 50% of our food home produced or locally grown.
Well, it's movie night here and I need to make the popcorn.

Friday, February 6, 2009

OK, I'm a hypocrite

Wow, what a busy day.  I got almost everything on my list accomplished.  I didn't manage poop patrol. It warmed up faster than I expected and by the time I made it outside it had thawed too much.  So I'll try again tomorrow morning when it's colder.  
I got three loads of laundry washed and hung on the lines in the basement, tried a recipe for granola bars, had some quality time with my sweetie, had a discussion about finances, made enchilada casserole for dinner, and went shopping.  
That's where I feel like a hypocrite.  Essentially right after having a discussion about finances and the need to control spending, I went out and spent money.  Yeah, it wasn't that much.  A few groceries (and more rum!), a pair of pants for work and a pair of jeans from the thrift store for $4 each and some new socks (my old socks were many years old and have reached the end of their lives- they're not even darnable anymore.  I had 3 catastrophic failures this week!).  But  I also got this:
Sorry for the bad photography
The thrift store we went to is run by the local Mennonite community and they a section of fair trade and other items from the MCC.  I succumbed to my desire for 'stuff' and got another cookbook.  It is one that has been on my list since I learned of it.  I have 2 other cookbooks by the MCC.  I already have the More With Less Cookbook and Extending the Table.  This is their most recent one: Simply in Season.  It is a celebration of local, seasonal food.  They have the recipes divided up by season.  While I feel a bit guilty, this is also something that I will use as we depend more on our own food and try to eat more seasonally.  But then, to make me feel better, we got a credit card bill today.  It was for less than $11...  OK.  We'll be fine.
In more humorous news:  The dog enjoyed having both V and I home for the day and was quite relaxed:
Sleeping puppy
He sacked out on the couch this afternoon after making himself quite comfortable. For a dog that was skinny and in bad shape when we rescued him, he has come a long way.  
As have we all.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Budget woes

I have Friday off since I worked last weekend.  I have lots of things on my to do list. Here are a few:
Laundry- I washed only enough on Sunday to get us through the week so I have LOTS to do.
Poop Patrol- The snow pack is melting in the backyard and has revealed too many presents deposited by the dog. EEW!!  We had enough snow often enough that it was out of sight, out of mind for a while- but no more.
BUDGET REVIEW!!!  I have a checking account account, V has an account and we have a joint account.  Yeah, I know- kind of crazy but this is a result of our marriage woes of a few years ago.  My lawyer advised me to have my own account and keep all my money separate.  (OOSH! I'm glad we're through all that mess)  But it has worked for us.  My paycheck is directly deposited into my account, V and I both feed money into the joint account and most bills are paid from that. I do most of the grocery shopping, pay the boy's tuition for their before/after school program, pay lunch money to schools, etc.  The problem is that last month $250 more went OUT of my account than IN.  While there is a cushion so this wasn't a problem, this is something that can't continue.  I realize that last month was exceptional in lots of ways.  We had bigger credit card bills than usual due to Christmas (we always pay in full every month), we purchased our side of beef and it was incredibly cold, leading to a gas/electric bill of $307!!!  But still!  V and I need to sit down and run through things so we can both get on the same page here.  I don't anticipate it being difficult, just annoying.
But, with things looking the way they are, we can't afford to keep hemorrhaging money every month.  I do need a few things from the store.  I need at least one new pair of pants for work since one of my favorite pair got ripped yesterday and I need to look "professional" (yes, we have a dress code).  I  also need to get something to use for trellising my peas when I plant them in a few weeks.  I'm going to look in the local thrift stores for pants and will keep an eye out for trellis material.  I'm hoping for something on Craigslist.
But at least it is supposed to be warm this weekend.  Highs into the 40s!! Time to break out the swimsuit.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

So long old friend

Our friend Mike was over again tonight.  He is leaving tomorrow for the drive back to southern Missouri.  It has been nice seeing him again.  He is an incredibly intelligent, well rounded person (if a bit overly talkative and given to lectures on the minutia of books, movies, plays or quantum physics) and is fun to spend time with.  Hopefully it will not be another year before we see him again.  
Sorry if I haven't kept up on my posting or reading others posts in the past few days.  With him around we have spent several evenings talking late into the night.
And now, it is time to sleep.  I just have to get through tomorrow and then I have a 3 day weekend.  Since I worked last Saturday I have Friday off as a comp day.  I can't wait!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Seeds-part 2

Hurray, the rest of my seed orders arrived today.  So now I have everything but my potatoes that will ship when it's time to plant them.  Now I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.  We're expanding what we're growing this year and I'm going to need to get more lights or I won't have enough room to start all the seeds I want to. I have 3 varieties of tomatoes (Amana orange, Amish paste and Polish Linguisa), 5 varieties of peppers (Anaheim, jalapeno, hungarian wax, paprika and bell), eggplant, tomatillos,  and broccoli to start.  I'd also like to get a few cabbages but may just buy plants locally.  Whew!! What was I thinking. 
But I definitely need tomatoes this year, I'm down to only 2 quarts of sauce and 8 jars of whole tomatoes left.  Roger is starting 3 colors of Brandywines, Mortgage lifters and one other that I can't recall right now. He is also starting several peppers and a few other things.  I may ask him how much room he is going to have and send a few things his way if he has room.  It's so nice to have a partner to share the work with!  
I've been tossing around the idea of building a cold frame out at the garden.  I could see it coming in handy.  Mostly for hardening my seedlings (especially my broccoli that I want to get in the ground early) but also for extending the season in the fall for greens.
In other news, our friend Mike is still in town and came over for a while last night.  He is going to provide us with dinner tomorrow night and I think he plans to leave town on Thursday or Friday.  He managed to get a good deal on new servers for his web-hosting business and has been  busy transferring everything from the old servers to the new ones.
I've really been dragging my tail recently.  I'm getting too old to stay up really late and Saturday night/Sunday morning has definitely caught up with me.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Independence Days- week 9

Whew! Where has the time gone.  We are already 12th through the year. EEK!  But I am so glad it's February. I'm also glad that February is a short month.  It will make it that much easier to get through until March when I can get started planting little things inside.  I can't wait.  But, it's time for my check in with Independence Days.

1.  Plant Something-  Well, kind of... K8's class is studying 'growing things' in science and have been learning about plant life.  He is really enjoying it.  He came home with a spider plant baby which we potted up and then one day last week he came home with a pre-soaked lima bean which he wanted to plant.  So we found the seed starting mix in the closet and planted it into a cup.  It's down under the grow lights with my lettuce.  It isn't up yet,  I just hope it isn't too cool down there for it.
2.  Harvest something- we picked a jalapeno pepper off our big potted plant and added it into the chili that I made this week.  That was the last pepper on the plant but it now has little flower buds on it!
3.  Preserve something- Not that I can think of.
4.  Store something- Picked up a bag of sugar at the store this afternoon.  It wasn't on my list but they were having it on sale.  A good thing since V brought up the last of my stash from the basement this morning.  I also picked up a couple of bags of mini chocolate chips since the boys like them in their waffles.
5. Manage reserves- used sugar from stores in basement and then replaced.  Ate almost entirely from stores this week.  I discovered that my last butternut squash is starting to get a soft spot at the stem end to I'll need to figure that into the meals this week.
6. Cook something new- Not really. I did try a new waffle recipe this morning- I'm still trying to find one that I really like.  We've been trying a different one each weekend and making extras for breakfasts for the week.  The one I tried to day was OK.
7.  Prep something- Ummm... No. I don't think so this week.
8.  Reduce waste- used cloth bags, recycled and composted as usual.  I need to reprogram the thermostat so it keeps it at warmer temp than 60 during the day.  It doesn't get reset in the morning, then V gets cold and cranks the heat to 68.  So much for the Freeze Yer Buns challenge.
9.  Learn a new skill- Not necessarily a new skill but I've been researching how to grow broccoli.  It's something I've never done before and I want to make sure I get it right.
10.  Work on Community Food Security-  Not really, waiting for my seeds to arrive.  I saw a request on Craigslist for someone looking for heirloom seeds.  I may respond.  I'm sure we will have more than we need and would be willing to share the cost.
11.  Regenerate what is lost- I never know quite how to handle this one.  I guess in relationships we spent time with our friend Mike who we haven't seen in a year.  
12.  Behavior change-  Procrastination is my enemy!  But I did sit down with the calendar and figure out my planting dates.  Last year I started my tomatoes too late and they were really small when I planted them out.  I'm going to do better this year!  I have been putting off starting an exercise program and I can really tell- especially since V has been off work and giving me rides to work when it's been cold. I NEED to get onto that.   And I am going to go reprogram the thermostat right now!

Unexpected visitor

Our friend Mike is in town.  He used to live here, and in fact still has his 'office' here but he now lives 8 hours away.  Mike owns and operates a web-host company and has his servers here in his office.  V looks after them while Mike is out of town.  Mike lives near Branson, MO and works at Silver Dollar City- the big amusement park there.  So for 10 months out of the year he doesn't get any time off.  But the park is closed January and February so he is off for a few weeks.  This is the time of year when he wanders back north and pays us a visit.  He sleeps in his office but knows that he is always welcome to join us for meals, so we'll probably be seeing him for dinner again tonight.  Last night was the first time we had seen him in a year so we sat up quite late talking (Okay, yes, there was alcohol involved as well).  I finally called it quits around 2:45 but the guys sat up until, I think about 4.  Now is one of those times I curse my inability to ever sleep past 7:30 unless I'm sick.  
But, it's just as well I'm up early. Since I worked all day yesterday, none of my usual weekend stuff got done (like laundry) so I'm going to be busy today and operating on little sleep. 
Maybe we'll have to plan another trip to the park to see Mike this summer.  We've gone a few times- I LOVE roller coasters!!. We discovered that we can rent a log cabin with a kitchenette near the park for about the same price as a hotel room there and be able to cook our own meals so we don't have to eat the park food (at least not much).   We'll see...