Saturday, January 21, 2017

Things I've Learned from Judge Judy

I've been youtube binge watching episodes and clips of Judge Judy shows.  It's not a good thing to do with my I'm trying to find some redeeming value for my many wasted hours.

Turns out there are indeed some good financial lessons on Judge Judy:

1) NEVER EVER CO-SIGN a loan for anything, ever.  If the person can't get credit from professionals, or rent an apartment on their own, or get utilities turned on...whatever...then do not put your own money at risk.  If you cosign, the loan or utility bill or rent or whatever is actually all yours when they can't find the other signer.  So DO NOT CO-SIGN ANYTHING EVER.

2)  DO NOT pay anyone's bail.  They aren't going to pay you back.  They are going to say it's a gift.

3) DO NOT GET A CELL PHONE FOR ANYONE.  Or pay their cable, or any other media/communications type thing.  Just don't.  They will run up the bill and not pay it. 

4) DO NOT LOAN MONEY, and when you do, get a signed note with a specific pay off date.  Never ever let them say "I'll pay you when I can" or "I'll pay you when I have the money."  That just makes you a sucker because they will never be able to or never have the money. 

5) DO NOT SHARE HOUSING WITH ANYONE NOT ON THE LEASE because you are just screwed.

6) DO NOT TAKE ANYONE ON VACATIONS THEY WILL NOT PAY FOR IN ADVANCE.  They will just say that it was a gift and you will be screwed.

7) YOU CANNOT GET MORE THAN A CAR'S BLUE BOOK VALUE IN COMPENSATION FOR AN ACCIDENT.  It does not matter what sort of fancy wheels/stereo/paint job you paid for after market, she's going to award you fair condition blue book value. 

These are all things I knew, but it seems that most people who end up on Judge Judy do not know these things.  And are not going to learn them.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017! Off to a Good Start

Because I live in a freaking Christmas card...which is funny because I don't even do Christmas, but "Solstice Card" isn't a "meme."

Here is a recent pic:

Cool!  Those are the trees by the creek.

Here is the homesite from the road where I park:

These are the beehives with my white trash windbreak:

I do love pallets.  They are backed with thrift store window blinds that were meant for a different task (not windows though).
You can see I've dug out the wee doorways in the bottom of the hives.  That way the bees have ventilation.  There is another door under the lid that you can't see.  You can see how much snow.  And honestly, that is two snows ago.  The mounds on top are even taller.  Instructions are to leave the snow on as it insulates the hives.  The bees are eating their way up through honey in the 2nd big box.  The top box, which is smaller, is holding dry sugar for them to eat when they run out of honey.  I hope it lasts! I have more sugar and some "bee candy" (basically sugar made into patties) to put in there as soon as the outdoor temp is 50F or higher.  It just has to hit that for one day and I throw in more sugar as fast as I can.  I have heard them buzzing a bit a few days ago so hopefully they still are hanging in there.

The parking situation.  Even days like this when I cave in and spend the night in town (due to COLD), I try to go buy and shovel.  And shovel.  And shovel.  Thank goodness I've been working out or I would be immobile now.

It was pretty funny yesterday.  I was shoveling a few inches of snow, after I went ahead and parked on it.  A nice young man stopped his truck across the road and ran over.  He asked if I needed help digging my car out of that hole (again...that is a few snows after this pic was taken).  I explained that I actually park in this hole and was just putting on my snowshoes to get up to the homestead.  He looked around for a while...presumably searching for a house.  Here's a hint:  There isn't one!  HA!  I said, "I've made some unique life choices and this is where I live.  Thank you very much for your offer."  I wonder if it was a story he found worth telling...

This is a picture of the highway to work.  That's Plummer Butte in the distance.  It is super pretty here when it snows.  

And finally: A look to the ESE from the shed:

You can see the bee yard windbreak, the big tree with the shower room and living room under it.  Just to the left of the big tree you can make out the shape of the camper...or as I like to call it, "my 2nd home."   ...two homes and 36 acres owned outright...and yet...I count as "homeless."  Only in America.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016...goodbye and good riddance

2016 is a year that will live in infamy.  For me anyway.  Bit up and down.  Too much down.

Simplicity and frugality-wise, it wasn't terrible.  I managed to re-supply my savings enough to think about getting the real cabin started in 2017.

And thank goodness, and frugality, I had enough savings to do what needed to be done during some rough times.

Starting last December, ok, end of 2015, but it rolled right on through the new year so I'm lumping it all into 2016.  Why ruin 2 years?

Last December, I lost two people.  First a really good old friend passed away suddenly.  She was younger than me.  I didn't stay to help her family because I was heading back to the folks to visit my father.  He had the "big C", not that one, cancer.  It was bad.  Really bad.  He died.  But at least I had the cash in savings to help my friend's family and to go back for the visit over the holidays and the vacation time to stay through the end times and the memorial.

Then, 11 days later, Gramma falls and breaks a hip.  Frankly, I think the hip broke, and then she fell.
I didn't go home immediately.  I already had another trip planned for Feb to help with my father's stuff.  Instead, helped pack up Gramma's apartment as she had to move to a nursing home. I got to visit her and Mom and the rest which was good.

In June my godson graduated college which was/is AWESOME!  SOOOO proud of him (he got out with very little debt..yeay him!!!).  I went for the graduation, helped with a move.  Then he and I took a celebratory road trip back to the family homesite for my father's memorial.  Drove Idaho to Iowa, and back.  We thought we could take a leisurely tour on the way back to Idaho, but alas, he GOT A JOB!  Yeay him!!!!!   So, we booked.  The graduation and trip were the highlight of 2016.  And again, glad I had saved up and could do this.

In Sept, another trip to Iowa.  Flew out and an Aunt (a very young fun one) and I drove a moving van back to Idaho with my stuff and a couple of her things out of Gram's apartment.  Got to visit Gram again.  And Mom and the rest.  The trip with the moving van went really well until the end.  The end SUCKED.  But the company and the scenery were excellent. Thanks Aunt!

Alas, a few weeks after I got back, a person I had worked with and who filled the role of uncle or grampa for me, passed away.

Next Gramma died.  She had decided it was time and that there would be NO memorial or funeral or anything.  Nothing.  She did want my sister and I to take a vacation with Mom.  So we went.  It was great and once again I was glad I had saved up and had the money to do this for Gram. (We all paid our own way so actually: yeay all of us.)

Finally, I got word that a friend from college had passed suddenly.  He was almost exactly my age.  I miss him. 

That's enough now.  Just one more day of 2016 to go. 

More on the good stuff:
The graduation and road trips were great!

The vacation with Mom and my sister was fabulous.  We love Vancouver BC.

And I love my wee shed cabin thing!  It is a BIT tough to keep warm when it is below 10degs F, and windy.   The rest of the time it is awesome.

I splurged and spent 20$ on a sled!  RETAIL and NEW.  Very unlike me but I had enough screwing around looking at thrift stores and the snow wasn't going to last forever.  I have been sledding and snow shoeing on my land.  That is now my favorite thing.

The solar got fixed and the well works!  I spent a bit to get the good electricians out, but now it works.  That was worth it.

And I got bees!!!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Solstice!!!!

The light is coming back and I NEED IT.  The days getting shorter and shorter and shorter get on my nerves.  Which isn't fair to the universe.  It's just a thing that happens.  And if the days didn't get shorter, they wouldn't later get longer.  (I'm like a philosopher).

Anyway. I do love the winter solstice.  I even convinced myself that the sun came up earlier this morning because it was up while I was still at the gym.  Reality check:  I was running late.  Whatever.  I liked it. 

At my place the ski was completely clear when I got home at 7:12pm...and it was pitch dark.  The moon wasn't up yet.  It was a truly gorgeous night.  I woke up at about the time of the actual solstice which was nice.  I wake up every night, but at least this time, it had a side benefit.  Apologies to the recipient of my actual-time solstice text.  I kind of wish I had one of those cameras that takes night photos.  By which I mean...a camera.  The phone and the ipod weren't cutting it.  Hard to describe the stars to those of you who live in lighted areas.  It's amazing when it's dark and cold and clear. 

I see this as the beginning of the new year.  So, Happy New Year!  I guess that means I have several "years."  The calendar year beginning on Jan. 1.  The fiscal year which starts on Oct. 1.  The solar year that begins on winter solstice.

For those of us who celebrate solstice, we need better music.  Not crap like "here comes santa clause" or the smarmy tripe that runs on the radio and stores NON STOP for MONTHS.  Nor the moody enya type stuff.  Good songs like these few tolerable xmas ditties:


And just in case I don't get back to the blog before the calendar new is an offering from Stephen Colbert and Michael Stipe with a needless and distracting James Franco cameo:

Thursday, December 1, 2016


There is a question mark on that because the discussion is so often presented as "must save 1million dollars!

It's as if f Dr. Evil were in charge of retirement planning...

There is no way in heaven or hell, or even in places that actually exist, that I will have 1 million dollars for retirement.  Not happening.

So, can I retire?

What about Social Security?  I hear that it might go bankrupt any minute.  But will it? Just because less will be coming in, fewer workers per retiree etc, doesn't mean it immediately heads to zero or that we can't start taxing the wages above whatever the current top limit is for SS tax (seriously, there is a top limit...I'll never hit it).  But, what if it DOES still pay out at something near the current rate.
Here is a spot to find out approximately what you'll get:

You can see it in today's dollars or future dollars.  It did NOT say "zero."  I will get something.

I have a retirement plan at work, 401k type.  I contribute to get the maximum match from my employer.

I could contribute more but I'm going a different route.
I'm cutting expenses.

IF I can get expenses down below my estimated social security payment, then my work retirement account will be there to cover slack and unexpected expenses.

First, I do not currently have any debt and I take drastic lifestyle measures (to some, they don't seem drastic to me) to avoid debt.  E.g., I live in a shed and a camper. I paid cash on the barrel head for my current car.  For my land.  I have a small solar system for which I paid cash.  Same with the well.  My only recurring monthly out of pocket expenses at the moment are my cell phone and a storage unit with the stuff I hope to put in the future cabin I hope to build without debt.  Annually I pay car insurance and a healthcare/fitness program that I choose to fund and find worth the expense at this time.  The healthcare/fitness could be dropped if I lose some income.  As could the cell phone.  There is no TV expense, no internet, no utility bill of any kind (no I said, some might find that drastic).

And of course, taxes on the land which I am working to keep to the minimum, like everyone else.

I do spend on travel, gifts, and other things.  Those expenses can be minimized or eliminated if need be.

Food...I'm going to need that.  I'm always trying to find ways to be cost effective with food.  Eating crap processed foods...which I not the best.  While it can seem cheaper up front, one is not healthy on that.  And, turns out it's not cheap.  So, I try to eat as much whole food, cooked from scratch, as possible.  I'm also working on growing more food.  I have space, but not much decent soil so it takes time to get that going.  I do have 2 apple trees, some berries, and a small garden.  I have access to a cheap fishing license and stocked trout ponds which I could take better advantage of.

In the coming months, I'm going to focus back on eating whole foods, more fruits and veg and working to get my "added sugars" down to the recommended levels (6 teaspoons a day...which is 24 or 25 grams).  Since it's hard to tell how much of the "sugar" on a food label is added, the easiest way is going to be by not eating food that comes with nutrition labels!  Hello produce aisle, farmers market, and maybe a CSA.  And of course, gardens, sprouting jars, and the like.

I doubt I can totally eliminate packaged or restaurant food (much added sugar there too) or that I want to, but as I eat up what I have and even throw out some of the worst, I'll focus on replacing it with actual produce and meat.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Utility Sled...Money Well Spent

So, I need to move many straw bales.  I've been moving them by hand and with a wheelbarrow.

Why do I need to move them?  I'm stuffing them in the erosion problem and spreading them over the bare dirt that will run down the hill this winter without some help.   When one's land is made of snot (actually, it's mostly clay.  Clay and live gopher meat), one must try to keep it in place.  It needs some organic matter.

So, I got a bunch of straw bales.  Chopped straw is used on erosion issues.

I don't have a picture of the bales stuffed in the erosion issue.  The "erosion issue" is also known as "the path of the water line from the well head many hundreds of yards up the hill to the storage tank."  With the top of the tank also just being bare clay dirt that turns into runny snot.  The waterline path was an actual river all last winter and spring and eroded into a mini-canyon with depths varying from 2 inches to 2 feet, width from about 4 inches to nearly a foot.  Cripes.  SO.  I thought long and hard and decided if everyone else puts a few bales crosswise, I will also put a few bales crosswise to the problem, and a whole bunch more stuffed down IN the problem.  Then, I plant them with whatever seeds I can get my hands on.

The bales I got are not organic.  One only has so much money and time and I appreciate the farmer letting me know what the main herbicide is.  No broad leaf type things will grow.  BUT the bales will double as thistle killer so that could be handy.  I will try to get organic next time.  For now I am working with what I have.

Anyway, moving them by hand, carrying, turned out to be OK when they were dry.  At least OK for the first dozen and if I wasn't going far.  It's hard on the back.  And the butt.  I started using the wheelbarrow which was much better, but required that I carefully place the bale to avoid tipping it over AND that I balance the thing on the way to where it went.  Still, a good option for part of the job.

Removing all of the lifting seemed like a better idea.  So I got a utility sled:

It is "Otter" brand.  I haven't tried others.   It's made to move stuff around.  I measured the interior below the curve on the leading edge.  It is just big enough for 1 bale.  If I got one big enough for 2 bales, I'd try to do more weight than I could handle.

Here it is with a bale in it.

Works great.  The bales were stacked so I could put the sled by the side of the pile, pull a bale over the edge so it fell in.  Then I pull it with the included rope (which is crap but when it breaks I'll find something better), to where it goes.  Tip the whole thing over and go get the next one. 

I had all the bales stuffed in the path of the erosion issue so I was spreading some out around the bare earth.  I cut the strings off and raked the straw over the exposed ground, which had some seed on it.

As for the bales in the erosion issue.  I've added "nitrogen" to almost all of them now (yes, pee).  I also spread rye grass seed and whatever other random seed on them.  They are also sprouting lots of wheat.  WHATEVER.  All biomass is good.

As I was raking this straw about over the bare spots, it was covering clover and rye grass and winter pea seed.  It was also upsetting the odd gopher.  A group of vehicles on the highway were treated to the site of an old woman with a garden rake madly slamming it randomly and wildly into the ground.  Had they been closer, they could have seen that I was trying to impale a gopher.  So much for my karma.  Though I'm pretty sure he escaped unscathed.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Simple Thrifty Introvert Friendly Holiday Extravaganza!!

I'm partway through an excellent Thanksgiving.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, how very American to celebrate the immolation and slaughter of native people.

Anyway, as you may have deduced, not my favorite holiday.  I don't mind celebrating the harvest with a bit of gluttony.  One can do that any day.  I have today off work and access to a friend's kitchen since she's out of town.  I am alone.  There is no television.  Introvert paradise.

Let overindulgence begin!

Breakfast: What did I have?  Oh, right. Spinach frittata and a coconut milk vanilla latte' which I made in my travel french press.  I did steal coffee beans from my hostess since I am out and forgot to buy any yesterday.

For a snack, a handful of walnuts (left from some thrifty holiday gift assemblage done yesterday) and a handful of stolen triscuits...sorry hostess!

I spent the morning preparing the big meal.  Most of my duties involved remembering the stove was one while something simmered or baked.

The main dish: Spicy adzuki beans on spelt berries. YUM!  I'd never cooked adzuki beans or spelt berries before but had done plenty of dry beans and whole grains.  That expertise along with the odd internet search saw me through.  I started both of those soaking, separately of course, last night.

In the morning I put the spelt in a big sauce pan with enough water to come about an inch over the top of the grain.  Brought it to a boil, and simmered. I don't know how long it simmered.  The internet said it would take 90 minutes, but it didn't take nearly that long.  I tasted it every now and then.  Once it wasn't crunchy, I called it good.  After a good drain in a seive, it went into a bowl in the fridge.
Since I still had some coconut milk after the latte' was made, I put some cooked spelt in a pint jar and topped it up with coconut milk and some fresh grated ginger root. It's in the fridge now becoming progressively more delicious.

After the exhausting time spent watching a video while the spelt simmered, I dove in and took on the beans.  These cooked up super fast as well.  Not the 40 min the internet told me. Lying damn internet! It was more like 25 min.  Again, I was tasting them off and on while they cooked.  They went from definitely not done to "OMG!  OVERDONE!" Pretty quickly.  But, still held up well in the final dish.

I drained the beans and left the lid off the pan to get them dried out a bit.  I don't like to leave cooked beans sitting in water.  Then, just let it all cool off.

Obviously I needed a rest after all that.

But wait!  What about dessert???
After the rest period, I made one of my quick tarts.  This may be the best one so far.
Apple with fresh grated ginger, and whatever cinnamon and nutmeg I could round up. Unroll the crust (the cheap store brand refrigerated pie crust...bought on sale of course), just one.  Put it on a baking sheet.  Not an insulted cookie sheet.  Those are stupid.  Just a thin piece of metal.
I had some plum pineapple jam from the farmers market so I used a couple tablespoons of that to make a circle on the unfurled crust (leave 1-2 inches of the edge unjammed).  I put the ginger more or less evenly on the jam.  I sliced up one granny smith apple, and scored the hide...these had crappy thick skin that was hard to bite through.  Arrange slices neatly on the jam.  Sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg on.  Fold the crust edges up over the apple edges any which way.  Seal up any cracks or tears in the crust. Bake at 425 until the crust is brown and the jam is a bit bubbly between the apple slices.

I have no idea how long that is.  Just keep an eye on it.

After another good rest, time to finalize the main dish.

I diced up an onion and sweated it in peanut oil.  This is thrifty peanut oil that I poured off the top of natural peanut butter I got on sale.  So, basically free oil.  I chopped up the remains of a head of garlic I found at my place.  Threw that in.  Let it sweat some more.  Turn up the heat and get a bit of carmelization going on the onions, but not much.  I put in about a tablespoon of cumin, and a mix of hot pepper (new mexico, ancho, chile de arbol, something else) that came in a multi-pack as a gift last christmas.  Stir that around and let it cook a tiny bit.

Open a can of diced tomatoes and throw that in.
While it heats up, get the beans.  I put in about 2 cups, maybe 2 1/2 cups.    Stir.
Then, I let it simmer.  It got quite dry even with the lid on the pan.  But, I let it be.  I probably kept it simmering about a half hour.

I heated up a cup of the spelt berries in a TINY bit of water in a smaller saucepan.  Once hot, I threw some spicy beans and mixed it up.  I had meant to slice up an avocado on there, but I didn't remember that until I was settled on the couch watching a movie and eating out of the pan so I just didn't bother.

The beans and spelt was really good!

The remains of the beans went into sandwich baggies with some spelt berries.  As I type they are freezing and I will take them to the office for microwave lunch options.

I meant to only eat ONE piece of the tart, but as I was doing some odd jobs in the afternoon, I just kept having "one more piece" and now, there is no more tart.  Oh well.

So, how was this all thrifty?

I got the organic adzuki beans for 50cents a pound and the spelt berries for about 66cents a pound.  A store was changing up the bulk-bin selections and had random bags of things they weren't going to carry in bulk anymore.  So, I grabbed what looked good.  I also got some prunes (which it turns out I do not hate) and other items.  The beans and spelt berries were the last things left from that deal.
The tomatoes are store brand, not expensive, but organic. The onion was something like 79cents a pound and the garlic is from the community garden for free.

Coconut milk is often a high end item.  The coconut milk I am using is from powder.  Wilderness Family brand.  While the bag of powder is still fairly spendy, there is virtually no waste.  You mix up as much as you need when you need it.  The bag I have is over a year old.  I think I spent $12.50 or so on it.  I don't use it that often, but it is still good.  Doesn't take up much space and no worry about freeze/thaw as I would have with cans.

The ginger was bought on sale about a month ago and I've been using it but it's time to use it up before it gets too dry and old.  Hence, ginger in things.

The jam was 3$ for homemade at the local farmers market.  I used 2 or 3 tablespoons full for the tart.  That's pretty thrifty.

I must say, it was a damn tasty meal!  All based on "what needs to be used up" supplemented with "what's on sale."  And a bit of theft from my hostess.  But I will leave her a tart or something as a thank you.
The store brand crusts were on sale for $1.69 and I used only 1 from the package of 2.
The apples were 79cents a pound.