Friday, August 11, 2017

Haze...But It's Not Purple

If only it were this cool:



Alas it is hot...hot hot hot:


But not in a chipper way.   In an oppressive, smoky hazy way.

Here is a screen shot of the smoke map:

I'm under the blob of yellow and red over Idaho.  We're excited when it's only in the green (which isn't "good", just slightly less bad).  We've been breathing smoke for weeks now.  Smoke from forest fires.  

And it's been in the 90s during the day. 

For the past week or more the sun has mostly just been a red blob in the haze.  We can't see mountains, just haze.  More haze.  Always the haze.

People in the area are getting cranky.  I'm getting cranky.  I need clean air.  Cripes.



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Boise, Idaho...Less Boring Than I Thought It Would Be

I was in Boise last weekend.  It was the first time I had stayed downtown with any free time at all.

There was plenty to do and some of it was thrifty.
The parks are great.  I happened by a community garden on or near State Street, checked out the architecture of a couple of historic districts, and got a reasonably priced donut at DK Donuts (Guru Donuts looked good but I wasn't in the mood for hipster donuts.  I wanted traditional donuts and plain coffee).  The donuts were VERY good.

I splurged a bit with a movie at The Flicks.  Independent films...so much fun.  I got to eat a cookie and see "The Little Hours."  I had been leery of the film based on a trailer I watched, but it was that feeling that I could either love it or hate it.  I LOVED it.  So funny.  Apparently it is based on a medieval story so now I need to read the original story...but in modern English so I can actually get through the stories.

I stayed at the Safari Inn downtown.  I loved it!  I didn't make it into the lobby for the free cookies from 2-9pm.  Oh well.  Next time.  The breakfast isn't bad.  Boiled eggs.  Some sort of pre-fab omelette thing, and peanut butter for proteins.  Oatmeal packets, bread selections, a few small pastries, fruit cups, yogurts, coffee, tea and juice were available.  I can start a day with a couple of boiled eggs and some fruit.  The fruit cups were recently made, not canned or in prefab shelf-stable tublets.  They were in the fridge!  As if they could actually go bad.  As much as I'd rather have an apple, I realize that we'd all just take an apple for later and that ups the cost.  If the fruit is already diced up, you need to eat it sooner. 

The room was big, a king bed with dining table and chairs in a semi-separate area, good functional bathroom.  There was one hair on the pillow, but it was probably just a maid with long hair.  It happens.  The sheets were clearly clean as was the bathroom.

One feature I really liked was the clothesline in the shower/tub!  It is a retractable deal with a connector on the far end of the tub.  You could wash the delicates and hang them to dry over the tub. There was a guest laundry for only 1$ per load for the washer and the same for the dryer.  That's not bad.  The workout room was pretty good as well and had a sauna, but I didn't try those out.

The location is close to all of downtown and over a few bars and things but with the window shut and the AC on, very quiet. I didn't hear the people above or beside me in rooms.  That impressed me.
Overall, not a bad value.

I did have some spendy coffee because I love that.  It was a treat.  I ate meals with family and friends so didn't spend on those (the brats wouldn't let me).


Friday, July 7, 2017

Best Fundraiser EVER. Also, Breakfast of Champions

Here is what I had for breakfast






 I don't know what the "Las Vegas Classic" is.  I don't care.  It could be a stripper competition.  I don't care.  Fry bread, sausage, egg, and that plasticine cheap "cheese" product.  5$.  EVEN though I had to scrape off the cheese because the sammiches were already assembled, I didn't care.  I usually have a tantrum about incipient dairy.  This time, I didn't care.  The actual sandwich was quite a bit larger than pictured. 5$.  And seriously delicious.  I supported a local group, locally made food (the fry bread was fresh), and talked to several community members as we stood in line.

The limited run of 150 sammiches gave the sale quite a bit of cache.  No dawdling over decisions because they were going to run out.  It also means the folks making and serving didn't have to hang out for very long.  There are over 1000 people in this town.  They will run out fast.

At least 300 of us got paid this morning.  Good timing.  I got there a bit before 8 and the sandwiches were already going fast.  So much for "Indian time"..."fry bread time" means "show up early or miss out."

 



Friday, June 30, 2017

New skill! Cedar Baskets

My baskets are wonky, but sturdy. 

One piece of cedar bark folded, laced with cedar.  

There was a workshop going on where I work and I was allowed to jump in and learn.  Very fun.
And a great skill for the self-reliance quest.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

SWARM!!!!

Last weekend my bees swarmed!! I saw them go.  I had stared at the hives at about 8am.  No bees were out.  I thought maybe they were dead or had all left.  But really, 5 hives.  What are the odds they would ALL bugger off the same time?

At 10am or so I walked by again.  There were bees everywhere.  EVERYWHERE.  I heard a hum.  A LOUD hum.  Bees were pouring out of the hive of carniolans.  The hive I had split a few weeks ago.  Both that hive the the nuc I made from had looked plenty strong. Apparently they were.

Then I noticed at a buttload of bees were all apparently trying to eat about 5 flowers on the ninebark bush 10 feet from the hive.  I thought "That looks like a swarm."  Then it hit me.  IT WAS a swarm.  DUH.  It was my first time.  I was a swarm virgin.

Nice of them to wait until I was home and walking around.  Had it been a weekday, I wouldn't have been there and would have lost them all.

I went to the ninebark and sure enough, a beard of bees hanging off a branch.



































I literally dropped what I was doing (had to go hunting for various tools after the swarm was dealt with) and ran get my bee stuff and figure out a new home.
I had an extra hive body, a top and inner cover and a couple of crap bottoms that I was going to make better one of these days...oops. 

Anyway, I put it all together and put in frames (note to self: next time put the frames in AFTER the bees). It's up on a pallet.  Didn't have bricks or blocks but perhaps one of these days.

I grabbed a rubber tub with a lid and headed to the swarm.  I shook the bee-jezuz out of the branch and many many bees fell into the box.  I laid the lid on gently and took them to the new hive, quite a ways from the old hive and facing away from the beeyard.  I want them to feel like they really moved.

I went back to the tree and there was a smaller beard on the
branch.  Must not have gotten the queen.  The 3rd trip back to check there was a tiny bee beard so I broke the branch off into the tub and took it all to the new hive.  I did one more trip just to be sure.

I fed them but didn't have a feeder I liked so I put sugar and warm water in a quart jar, put a few holes in the lid, then up ended it on an over turned muffin tin.  Worked just fine.
















I didn't have any drawn comb to give them so put in empty frames of foundation.

Then I went to relax, hydrate (it was hot as blazes and I had to wear the bee hat. Didn't bother with gloves), and look up what to do about a swarm in my bee reference book.  I pretty much nailed it.  I have had some classes so I wasn't flying totally blind.  The book said that a swarm is all prepped to draw comb so it is the best time to set up bees in a box of empty foundation if one must do that.  Good to know.

They weren't all that interested in the sugar syrup so that is probably a sign they have plenty of real food out there.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Self-Reliance: Solar System

I went with solar to run the well.

There IS a power line crossing part of my property, and yet it would mean paying to set poles and run line to the homesite or well head or somewhere to get hooked in to that.  It was going to be  extremely expensive.  And then I'd be paying a monthly bill.

So, I skipped it.  As I plan the real cabin to live in properly, I'm planning to stick with stand-alone solar.  Not grid tie.  Grid tie here means paying to set those poles and hook up, and then having a more expensive solar system to avoid feed back and meter it and etc.  So, skip it.  I might get more panels.

Right now the system is 2 panels (I forget the size, but biggish, not crappy little ones), 8 batteries, a 24volt system into the inverter which runs the well and has an outlet on it.  There is also a charge controller, The panels are on a pole that can turn and tilt them.

I have learned that I should have gotten a 220/240V well pump, or a DC well pump, or a special one that can run on any power (220, 110, DC, whatever).  I got a 110.  Oh well.  We can't get it all right the first time.   It draws much amperage especially at start up so one scraped wire dropping volts meant it didn't work right for about a year until I found the right solar guys to figure out the issue.  That wire will be replaced when the real cabin goes in and the solar is moved and that portion will need to be re-wired. 

IF I wanted a fridge and washing machine and freezer and to live like someone on the grid, the solar would be too expensive or too high maintenance for me.  I will have lights, a bathroom fan, a few outlets, the well.  That's about it.  I may get a couple more panels to keep the charge up and I'm exploring microhydro and microwind for the not-so-sunny times, but that will probably end with exploration.

I'm not "self-sufficient" with the solar since someone built the panels and other components and I don't do my own wiring etc. I am self-reliant in that with this system in place, I am currently fulffilling most of my electrical needs.  I did bring the electric weed whacker and battery to work today to charge, but that was because I didn't want to leave the charger unattended, and yet I want to weed whack tonight while it's cool out.  I COULD have charged it at home.

Having the solar run the well pump, even the poorly chosen pump, is pretty darn self reliant.  The whole well/water system is pretty cool but I guess that's another post so I will save it.

Here is a picture of the solar panels and the well pump controller (power thingy) stuck on a post by the spigot.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I Found the Tree!!!

It was closer to the bee yard than I remembered and I hadn't staked it immediately...then the hay left over from the land's previous life as a hay field grew as tall as the wee tree start.  Totally invisible until I nearly tripped on it.  I put in a stake and it has leafed out nicely.  This is the Wallis Cherry.  I may be spelling that wrong.

Friday, June 2, 2017

One of My Personal Heroes: Tyrone Hayes

Dr. Hayes is a biologist at Berkeley, UC Berkeley that is, who studies atrazine effects.  Atrazine is an herbicide used for a variety of things, especially corn crops.  Lots on corn.  I saw a map of atrazine use per acre of agricultural land and my home town is in the red zone.  For reals.

Anyway, Dr. Hayes studied what this atrazine would do to frogs.  At levels lower than EPA standards, atrazine chemically castrated the male frogs (they not only didn't turn into male-looking frogs, they made eggs, mated with other males, and had live baby frogs come out of those eggs).    The atrazine manufacturer who was paying for this study thought many things...one of which was that perhaps Dr. Hayes could report the results differently.  Perchance in a way that made it look like atrazine didn't do that. He said, "No."  He stuck with that.  He is a hero of mine.

Here he is on Democracy Now a few years ago:
https://youtu.be/IOOOZi6TI1s

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Self-reliance: Reference Library



1) Reference library.  I can find stuff out without a smartphone or even the interwebs!!!! OMG.  I'm rocking it 1990s style.
 


First: REMEMBER TO CHECK BOOKS OUT OF THE LIBRARY BEFORE YOU DECIDE WHETHER TO ADD THEM TO YOUR HOME REFERENCE LIBRARY.  

I didn't do this every time, but lots of times.  Once I decide I want something, like the Tightwad Gazette, I then start keeping an eye out at the free book bin at the Moscow, Idaho, recycling center, yard sales, and thrift stores.  If something is 25cents, I may get it and then feel free to donate it to a thrift store or little free library or the free book bin if it's not quite what I want.



Here are a few book types in the library:

--Budget/Thrift/Frugality manuals
        My favorites are The Complete Tightwad Gazette (from a thrift store) by Amy Dacyczyn, The Ultimate Cheapskate's Guide to True Riches by Jeff Yeager, various olde tyme housekeeping and thrift books from the recycling center free book bin or 25cents or less at thrift and yard sales.  I try to cull these every year or two.
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--Cookbooks (real ones) and recipes
         Old cookbooks are better for me in general.  Ones where the recipes start with flour, milk, eggs, rather than "a box of cake mix."  Others might like something else.  The classic Better Homes and Gardens cookbook with guides on roasting meats, making bread and cakes from scratch, how to cut up a whole chicken, etc, is a great place to start.  I got two excellent reference cookbooks from a friend (Hi Jon!) who got them at thrift.  Debra Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and Cooking Under Pressure by Lorna Sass.  Both have guides to cooking many many vegetables.  I use these as guides once I've learned how to deal with a meat or veg product.  I also check out cookbooks from the library and copy out the recipes I like.  A collection of recipes from family, friends, and events needs culling right now, but often serves as inspiration.  I also have a couple of solar cooking cookbooks that I found in the free book bin at the recycling center.
         Food preservation books on fermenting, canning, dehydrating and root cellaring are also in there.

--First Aid and Home Healthcare References
       I found both at thrift stores.  The first aid manual is an scouting one.  The healthcare is based on nutrition and herbs that probably grow in the garden.          

--Basic carpentry how-to
       This mostly lets me know that something is beyond my skills, but good to have.

--Various low cost and energy efficient housing design books (Alex Wade is my hero!!!!)
       These were and are used for planning my "real" house that I hope to have built eventually.


--Beekeeping book (Thanks Hilch and the girls!!!  Great gift)
         This one is a nice basic reference.  There are tons out there so I don't know if it is the best but it is very good.   I am on the look out for an old version of The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture partly as useful reference and partly for the history of beekeeping.


--Dictionary.  Actually 2.
          One basic new one and one vest pocket type from 1906!  Both found at thrift for about 25cents. 

--Manuals for my appliances, tools, systems, etc
        These come in SO HANDY when something breaks or I get the question "what is the model number?" or "when did you buy that?" from a repair person.  Write the purchase date, or at least year, on the cover and store them either all together in a good sturdy box, or in a protective bag/cover and on the wall right by the appliance/tool/system.

--Plant/Animal Identification guides
        I have wild plants (medicinal, food, and otherwise), wildlife, birds, and would like a good mushroom guide.  I also have free e-books on weeds and local native plants.   I may print them out so I don't have to turn on the computer to find the info.



--Gardening/Orchard guides
         From the free book bin at recycling, I got the Sunset Western Garden Book from the 1970s.  Excellent!  I recently found a newer hardcover version at a thrift store for very cheap.  Currently deciding which to keep and which to put in a "tiny library" for someone else to have.  I also have a second gardening techniques book that is similar and may cull down to just one or the other.  I have an old copy of the Square Foot Garden, Let it Rot (composting), and a set of handouts on various plants from gardening classes.  I keep the notes from the garden/farm classes I attend in a hardcover notebook (that I got at a thrift store), so these notes are all together and I can find them.


--Repair and Maintenance and Hack guides.
      I haven't settled on the ones I like, but these are books on how to refinish furniture, fix household items, mend clothes, and the like.  An old housewife's guide from the 1800s has been extremely useful and was a gift from my gramma years ago.  I found a new general fix it guide at thrift that is being auditioned.

--Guide to my garden/orchard
     This is one I am putting together myself.  I haven't settled on a format but I'm thinking one page for each type of tree/shrub/cane-berry to record when/where I got it, when/where it was planted, and how it is doing.   I'll put in notes on annuals in another section or another notebook.


I switch out books now and then.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Self-Reliant vs Self-Sufficient

I was watching the youtubes a while back, because...well, because I didn't feel like working for a bit.

I saw a random vlog post by someone who spoke about being "self-sufficient" vs "self-reliant."
Very interesting.  I think I prefer, as did the vlogger, to work toward "self-reliance" rather than "self-sufficiency."  Partly because people have ideas about self-sufficiency being an absolute.  Much like "off-grid" there are levels of self-sufficiency.  Is one off-grid if one uses gasoline?  One probably does not drill and refine one's own petroleum.  One did not make, probably, the engine into which one puts the gasoline.  You get it...there is a grid out there and it's not realistic to live in the US, or the developed world, and not bump into the grid now and then.  I have a stand alone solar system and a well.  But I do drink water at work from the tap and am typing right now on a computer that is plugged into the grid. So, am I self-sufficient and off-grid?  Is it like being a "flexitarian"?  Those vegetarians who eat meat sometimes?  I'm off-grid-ish at home, but not at work.  Anyway, I don't really care.  I'm not in an "off-grid" competition anymore than I'm in a "self-sufficiency" competition.  I do overtly work toward self-reliance.

So what do I think "self-reliance" is?  (Way to set up a straw man so I can respond to it!  Good debate technique.)

I think Self-Reliance means having the skills, knowledge, supplies and motivation to deal with one's problems, and the self awareness to know when one is in over one's head and needs help.
I'm working toward that.  I don't have all the skills, knowledge, etc yet.  Maybe one day, maybe not.

The last bit, knowing when to get help, is also important.  Being self-reliant falls apart if one can't deal with a problem but won't get help, or doesn't even know to get help.  The problem can upset the whole shebam.

E.g. Folks who don't have the skills or self-reflection needed to see that their debt is a problem and pay it down to a manageable amount, perchance an amount of zero.  I've seen people get credit card cash advances to pay the credit card bill, while not mustering up the motivation to cut up the card or otherwise quit using it.  The problem escalates and in a case or two I've seen personally, put the people out of house and home.  I've also seen someone figured out that they were not good with money, drowning in debt, and not able to sort it out. This person faced the issue, decided this was not something they could solve on their own, and got help.  The help was dramatic and possibly traumatic, but resulted in a better life with cash flowing through a money manager.  The person was able to free up time and mental energy and develop other attainable skills.

For me, I will never be a builder.  I want to learn the basics and play around the edges, but for the big stuff, it ain't a happenin'.  I will never get a roof over my head, but I might put up a wall.  Or maybe hang a shelf.  So, I am getting help with the roof bit.  That takes money so I'm using my mad penny pinching skills to pull together that money.

Here are some of the elements of my self-reliance (not yours, not anyone else's).  I'll do blogs on some of them individually:

STUFF:
1) Reference library.
2) Solar system
3) Well
4) Land
5) Housing
6) Reliable Vehicle (hear me knocking on that wood?)
7) Garden
8) Orchard
9) Composter
10) Paper calendar
11) Notebooks/writing stuff
12) Food stock
13) Sturdy clothes
14) Blankets!
15) "Junk" that seems useful (and often is)
16) Tools for building/gardening/etc
17) Cooking utensils
18) Liquid assets/savings
19) Friends
20) Phone
21) Bees
22) Manual Appliances (like not electric)


SKILL SETS/KNOWLEDGE:
1) Knowing what I want vs what I need
2) Food: Production, gathering, processing, preserving, cooking, etc
3) Mechanics
4) Researching
5) Familiarity with resource sites (dumpsters, recycling center, community garden, libraries...etc)
6) Frugality

7) Observation skills
8) Record keeping skills
9) Willingness to try new things, to fail, to assess, to try again
10) Personal awareness/insight
11) Beekeeping
12) Chicken husbandry
13) Paying attention
14) Seeing the whole system and spotting the weak spots
15) Mending
16) Planning
17) Laundry




There must be more, but this is where my brain (and my break time) ran out.  This will be revised as I blog about the bits and pieces of it.






















Monday, May 22, 2017

I LOST A TREE!!!

Seriously.  I was planting the final set of tree starts for this year and I can't find one of them.  I KNOW it got planted...but where.  There are about 4 good locations and I've check them.

I may have to use my mad archaeology surface survey skills and walk a tight transect pattern over the entire acreage.   Dang it.

If anyone has seen a twig in the ground without a stake and a label, let me know.

Friday, May 12, 2017

White Trash Craftery™ Part Deux: Hummingbird Feeder

"Deux" is Paris talk for "2"


So, I was spending a day INSIDE (inside the wee shome) because I was sick of humanity.  More so than usual even.

I decided to watch movies, listen to the radio, talk on the phone with carefully selected others, and do crafts.

Crafts.  Tiny shed home.  I used what I had.

Supplies:
A left over jar with a sturdy screw on lid













Turns out I LOATHE caviar.  It tastes like salty fish slime.  But it was on sale and I wanted to try something new...and it was in a cool tiny jar that would be handy for something.

A used bottle with a sturdy screw on lid.  It looks like I used a wine bottle but it was actually filled with stevia sweetened sparkling apple juice.  Also, on sale.  It cost less than the jar of nasty salty fish slime.  I will be keeping an eye out at the recycling center for cool bottles and jars.

A coat hanger (wire).
Duct tape (optional)
A bit of glue or silicon sealant (probably optional)


Tools needed:
Leatherman
Scissors (optional, you could just use the knife on the leatherman or your teeth).

Step 1: Wash the jar and the bottle very well, but don't bother picking the label off the bottle unless you want to.

Step 2: Use the screw top of the bottle to make a circle more or less in the center of the jar lid.
Use the olde tyme bottle can opener thingy on the leatherman to cut a cross from the center of that circle to not quite the edge of the circle.  You want the bottle top to hold the jar lid onto the bottle.
Use the needle nose pliers thingy on the leatherman to tear off these little tabs you just made, still trying to stay inside the circle you drew.  The pliers can be used to fold back, toward the inside of the jar, and pinch the sharp bits from tearing the metal.

Step 3: use the tiny screw driver or punch thingy on the leatherman to make little holes about 1/8inch in diameter around the lid.  I made 4 holes.  A couple were a tad big but that can be corrected later with the duct tape.  Punch the holes from the outside toward the inside so you aren't creating little hummingbird beak stabbers.

Step 4: use the rasp thingy on the leatherman to mash down and smooth out any sharp bits on the jar lid.  When you can run your finger over it and not get cut, it's probably good enough.

Step 5: Use whatever portion of the leatherman works to make a biggish hole in the top of the bottle lid.  Smooth off any sharp bits as above.

Now it gets complicated:

Step 6:  Push the jar lid over the top of the bottle threads.  You want the top of the jar lid "up" when the bottle is upside down.  Once you get it part way on the threads, start screwing on the bottle lid to push the jar lid along firmly.

Step 7: you can put a little ring of glue or silicone around the seam between the jar lid and the bottle lid if you want.

Step 8:  Screw on the bottom of the jar and admire your work.

Step 9:  Use various parts of the leatherman to twist a wire coat hangar around the bottle so you can hang your contraption up, jar at the bottom, rear end of the bottle facing the sky. (Duh)

Step 10: Optional decorative crafty bit!  Find some random British flag duct tape you forgot you had (how do I lose things in that tiny space?), use scissors, the knife thingy on the leatherman, or your teeth, to get rid bits out of the tape and apply these to the jar lid, keeping the  holes open.  I strategically placed some of the tape to smallify the holes that were a bit large.

And Voila:

















Mix up some hummingbird food and you are in business!
Unscrew the jar from its lid, use a funnel to fill the bottle.  If you take the bottle lid on and off you will loosen up the jar-lid-bottle-lid joint that is crucial to the White Trash Craftery™ Hummingbird Feeder longevity.
















There was a rufous hummingbird at the feeder within an hour or so of hanging it up.  Perhaps sooner since I was elsewhere on the estate for a bit.




Friday, May 5, 2017

Take that MotherFlicker!...White Trash Craftery™

No, a FLICKER.  The bird.  The bird that is destroying me wee shed.

It, or they, has/ve been pecking holes in the cabin for a while.  I covered the first batch of holes with the bits of metal I had on hand...muffin tins from the thrift store.  That looks sort of cute actually:














THEN the stupid motherflicker (I'm assuming it's a parent trying to bring home the bacon/beetles to wee ones), moved to another side of the cabin and spread out the damage.

I was out of muffin tins.  Didn't want to move to loaf pans.  Or baking sheets.

I thought perhaps SHARP would be a benefit.

I had a couple of #10 cans from the recycling center that I'd had plans for.  Plans that were never executed.  So I though perhaps I could use the tin snips to cut strips from those and hang them (White Trash Craftery Rule #1: use what you have).  As I am cutting up the first can, I figured out that hanging 10 strips from the eaves would be complicated and I would never get around to it  (White Trash Craftery Rule #2: plan for your inherent laziness).  The remaining can got flattened out.  The seams on the sides cut off.  Then I cut it as though making a garland out of a sheet of paper. I couldn't find a diagram of this on the internet so I made one for you special.  Just like the actual product, the cut lines (shown in green) are unevenly spaced and crooked.  I'm not bothering with neat work for a stupid motherflicker.












Once you make the cuts, you just pull the ends apart...voila, instant sharp jaggedy metal garland for free!

It was definitely sharp.  I wouldn't stand on it to bang my face into a wall, but I'm not a flicker.  
To put it up, I started a nail through each end, stood on a slippery metal cooler on the weakening boards of my shabby stoop, and tried not to let anything hit my eyes (the safety glasses were clear down in the car...like a quarter mile away (White Trash Craftery Rule #3: Safety is secondary)).

Here it is:















It's blocking the view of the worst holes but you can see a smaller one above the Flicker-B-Gone™ garland and how it has been stripping a few of the battens on my board-n-batten siding.  As it happened, the #10 can had a coppery inside and a silvery outside so this turned out to be more interesting looking than I'd planned.

Of course when the wind blew I was awoken in the night by a mysterious metal rattling sound.
I think that means the Flicker-B-Gone can also be labeled as Wind Chimes.

I'm thinking that putting a few of these along the top of the fence between me and the rest stop might deter ne'er-do-well types.  That makes it both a "Flicker-B-Gone™ " and a "F...er-B-Gone™ ."  With a side of Wind Chimes.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day!!!!

For reals.  Happy EarthDay!
I'm celebrating with a couple dozen new plants to plant from realfoodgardens.blogspot.com!!
Thank you to them for the lovely plants.  The owners threw in an extra berry start AND a jug of soapwort laundry soap (well, everything-soap).  That more than covered the price of admission (meaning gas to get up there an back).

Here's the plant list I went to pick up:
10 hops 
2 black aronia 
1 wallis cherry 
4 Black jewel raspberry 
4 Oak leaf blackberry   
2 Chokecherry  

The berries are nice and thorny and HUGE.  I added a soapwort plant while I was there and while I think it might be tacky to point out the actual price for the lot, it is also about the only way to show how thrifty it is: 80$ and I came home with 25 plant starts.  The 23 listed above plus an extra berry and a soapwort.  Most of the berry/tree starts had to be bent over to get them in the subaru.  These are not tiny plants.  They are nice big plants in pots.

Excellent way to honor Earth Day.  Use a bit of fossil fuel for a permanent food (human, animal, bee, worms, etc) source.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Queen Is Dead...Long Live the Queen

The queen bee.  And all the other bees.
Just the Italians.

I have 2 bee hives.  Carniolan and Italian breeds.  Well, had. 
Both were doing well a month ago.
2 weeks ago the Carniolans were doing well and the Italians were dead.   Dang.

The grant that got me the bees in the first place got replacement bees for those of us who lost bees over the winter and into spring.  These are from a local beekeeper who has many many hives.

I'm not sure of the breed yet, but they are definitely AGGRESSIVE!!
3 stings!  ON MY STOMACH!  Geez Louise.  Itchy like crazy but not overly painful.  I respect that sort of aggression.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Some of the Worst Frugal Advice I've Been Given

We all know that there are many ways to save $$ or cut costs or make more money.

Frugality in my view, as part of working toward simplicity, has to do with deciding what I value, what I want out of life, and what makes me "happy."  It's also about having the money to put it where my mouth is when need be.

So, given those things, I like to keep my money life simple.  No complicated financial deals.  No high risk investments that I have to keep track of.  I don't have a natural understanding of those things and taking the time to get that understanding would cut into time doing things I enjoy...depressing foreign films and staring at bees or the creek or sledding.

All that as a disclaimer.  Perhaps for YOU (dear imaginary reader), the following would be good advice.  For me, it was the worst.

1)  Don't pay off a mortgage! 
This is based on the assumption that I would take the money I could have spent paying down the mortgage (which was at 6.75%) and invest it and earn MORE than 6.75%.  I didn't have those skills or knowledge of financial investments.  Those skills don't interest me. 

There was also the argument that I would lose the tax deduction.  About 1/3 of the mortgage interest payment did come back to me as a tax deduction, but that's chump change at my home buying level.  2/3 of the interest payment went right into the pockets at whatever company owned my mortgage at the moment.

Let's add into all this the fact that gainful employment is not a given.  If you, I, miss a mortgage payment (or a HELOC...ugh), you, I, can lose the house.  At that point, you, I, would be out all the money paid in on interest and equity, lose the deduction, AND have to find a place to live.  A job loss can mean much more than a job loss if one has a mortgage or HELOC (which is just another name for mortgage)

And then there is peace of mind.  Without a mortgage, I now have much greater peace of mind.  If I lose my job, that is all I have lost.  No worrying about finding the mortgage payment, liquidating other assets to save the house, or the like.  I still have a home.  I can decide to sell that home but I can't lose it to the bank for nonpayment.

2)  You can pay for ______ with a HELOC and SAVE MONEY!!!
OR...I could NOT put my home at risk for whatever I'm paying for.  How about that?  See #1 for how I feel about mortgages and I can't see anyway that a HELOC is not a mortgage.  The house/home is at risk over a missed payment.  That is the key element of a mortgage to me and I'd rather buy a car with a car loan (miss a payment, lose the car), than a HELOC (miss a payment, live in the car).  Or better yet, save up and pay cash for the car.

3)  Just buy it! You'll feel better!
Uh...right.  If you are buying something to feel better, perhaps solve the emotional trauma THEN go shopping.  Also, personally, I don't really make choices based on feelings.  Feelings change.  Thus, they are not a basis for choices.  Then again...I do sometimes buy things just because they are awesome but it's a mistake, hence, bad advice.

4)  You don't need to read all the paperwork, just sign here!
This was said to me by the mortgage broker.  I informed her that I would indeed be reading the ENTIRE document before I signed it.  She said I could sign it, take it home and read it, and then call her if I had questions.  Right........NOT.  She acted like I was wasting her time.  Good thing I didn't care.

5) Buy the extended warranty.
Now, there may be a case where this is a good idea, but in my view, it is rarely a good idea.  Do your research ahead of time and hope for the best.  In researching actual repair rates I've often found that I could pay for a major repair for the annual cost of the extended warranty. No gain.  In reading the fine print, the extended warranty often has so many holes in it, that it wouldn't cover the most common repairs...unless I upgrade to the gold-plated extended warranty.  Nope. 

6)  Do things for the next owner of the house/car/whatever
Not for me.  I had a car hit by hail.  LOTS of hail.  Tons of hail.  Big a$$ hail.  Every single metal panel was dinged and dented.  The glass survived.  I was advised that rather than pay off the car loan, I should get the hail damage fixed so I'd have a better trade in value.  Um...the math.  I paid about $6000 for the car.  The hail damage was for $3400 and change. And, I drive cars until the wheels are about to fall off, or in a few cases did fall off.  That is more cost effective for my lifestyle.  I have no need for a pretty car.  I took that check to the bank and paid off the car.  I drove it for many more years.

When building or fixing up a house, I also believe in doing what is right for me, not what some imaginary future owner might want.  Screw them.  They may not exist and how do I know what they would want?  I am planning a new home right now and it will be what I want.  I did that with my current lodgings and you would not believe how much other people think it is "cool" and offer me cash for it.  Had I listened to those who talk about "resale" I would have had a bland standard boring plan, not the unique interesting fun one that I do have. Stick to your own style or the place will have no style.

Six is a good number so I will stop now.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Frugal Cheat Sheet

HA!  Tricked you.  Because a "frugal cheat sheet" would really just say "spend all your money on crap and then borrow money at a high interest rate, preferably as a HELOC so if you miss a payment you lose your home, repeat until you are dead."

This is more of a few frugal life hacks (frugal-life hacks? frugal life-hacks?  Cripes.  Forget it.)

These are things I do that I now find easy and tend to save me some cash and I actually enjoy them a bit. 

1) keep a list of stuff you want/need but don'/t have to have immediately.  When you see a thrift store, yard sale, merchandise-graveyard (I'm looking at you Tuesday Morning, Ross, and T.J. Maxx and the rest of your ilk), look in those places first.  And for a while.  E.g. I've been wanting to try thermos cooking again.  So I put "thermos to cook in" on the long term list.  It's been a few months but a good quality option for 2$ popped up the other day.  I don't make special trips to thrift for this stuff, just check if it's on the way to elsewhere.

2) eat what you have.  The "pantry challenge" system has saved me a bunch.  I like to stock up but once I'm there, time to stop shopping and just eat what I have.  Right now I'm well stocked.  There have been excellent sales at scratch-n-dent grocery stores and regular stores that I also hit, with a list, if I happen upon them.  Always start with the discounted food shelves in the back...I have gotten great stuff there.  You need to be a little flexible but it works.  I have a list item "flour" rather than "king arthur organic spelt flour."  If I see a flour that will work, preferably organic but not always a crucial criterion, I can get it.  Once stocked up with the thrifty groceries, then you eat them.  I can go about 2 weeks right now without going to the store for anything but greens and fresh fruit and of course I COULD live without those if I really didn't have time or money. 

3) stop at stores when you are going past anyway.  I don't make many special trips to buy things.  I have my master list with me on an ipod I got as a gift when a friend upgraded.  If I see a store, I check the list and the store.  Then I move on.  This saves me gas by not making the special trips, and money since the list is with me and I'm not there just to browse around, I'm there with a target or two, and I'm on the way to somewhere else.

4) feel free to cross things off the list.  If things are on the master list or the grocery list for a while and I don't get them, and don't miss them or find I already have something that works fine for this supposed "need" or "want," then the item gets dropped.  The list is not a commitment to buy.

5) develop a route on errand day.  OK, I totally just said I don't make special trips.  True-ish.  On the weekend I hit the laundromat as the main goal (clean undies are a NEED not a want).  While there, i can walk to my storage unit and trade out winter/summer clothes or whatever else needs to be swapped out or culled for donation.  That usually takes up the wash cycle.  In the winter I use the dryers since I don't have room to hang 2 loads inside.  During that dry cycle, I run my recycling, on foot, a couple blocks up to the recycling center and drop them ...while checking the free book bin and the free bucket bin but trying to take only items on a list or with immediate uses.  Back to the laundromat, fold and go.  Next is the furthest thrift store which is also by one of the cheap-o groceries.  Then if really need something, another thrift, and any other stores in that town but in a clear loop, not random starfish like driving patterns.

6) know your gas stations.  This applies more to me than to most.  I drive 30,000miles a year or more.  I know, I know...the environment and the potential blood clots.  But, we makes our choices and we lives with them.  About 10,000 miles a year are work miles and tax deductible, but that's still a lot of personal miles.  Anyway, that means I spend quite a bit on fuel.  So I know the gas stations in my region.  I also know how far apart they are and keep an eye on my gas tank levels.  I don't go below a quarter tank because that is just a stupid game.  I make a note of fuel prices on my way to a place, check at the place, and then fuel up at the cheapest option if I need gas that day.  It can save me up to 25cents a gallon.  I usually need 10 or 11 gallons.  $2.50 twice a week (or 3 times...) is 250$ a year or so in savings.  Some say it's not worth my time, but those people are stupid.  OK, not stupid.  Those people aren't me.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Farewell My Culvert-bine

Ok, that title sucked but have you tried to rhyme or pun with "culvert"?  I could have gone with "pipe" as in "Ceci N'Est Pas Une Pipe" but that was even less accessible and would have required a Magritte type illustration.
 Image result for ce n'est pas une pipe


It's also not true because the pipe is still there. It just doesn't work that well anymore.  Water goes through.  It also goes BESIDE and possibly underneath.  That is like super not good.  For reals.  There is also a large chunk of dirt and rock that went...presumably...through the pipe.  Or beside.  Given the conservation of matter, it went somewhere.  That is not the real issue.  The real issue is that the dirt and rock is NOT where it was: The upstream end of the aforementioned culvert.  It eroded out all the way to a tire track in the two tracks that I refer to as "my road."  That's not good.  It's too wet to drive on for the moment, but even when it's dryer, I don't think I will be trusting this.  More dirt and rock could fall and the tire follow those, and the subaru will be stuck. 

It is time to squeeze the budget and buy some new pipe.  I don't even know where to get that shit.  oh well.

Friday, February 3, 2017

She Thrifts...She SCORES!

I needed brown slacks for an upcoming trip where my aunt (Hi Chris!) warned me that we're going to a "NO JEANS ALLOWED" restaurant. I thought I had an outfit that would work.  But then I tried it on...it "fit" but it made me look like I had narrow shoulders and a giant rear...basically the opposite of my actual linebacker-build.  So, I needed a new pair of pants to go with the 25cent thrift shirt I got a few weeks ago (Eddie Bauer cranberry colored button down blouse).  I tried the goodwill and sure enough, REI brown pants in my size!  They look new but no tags.  20$ to start...that tag color was on 1/2 price...down to 10$.  I whipped out my "20% off coupon" from donating stuff ...BAM!  8$ pants.  Nice.  

I do realize that these aren't formal.  And yet, I'm going to wear them.  They are a nice chocolate brown, smooth fabric, and easy to pack. 

 In summer I bet they will be my "go to" pants for days at work.  I always need sturdy outdoorsy pants for the archaeology parts of my job.

The 25cent shirt may never be matched. It is an actual nice shirt.  Not a "sturdy" shirt.  Pretty rare that I get one of those but seriously.  25cents!  New.  Eddie Bauer.  And it fits.  It will cost more to wash it than to buy it.  It and the pants are thin fabrics so they will pack nicely for the trip.

I've got another trip in March and I'm sure the outfit will get wear then as well.

I think the pants will go nicely with my various REI and Eddie Bauer work button downs with pit-zip vents. Those are the bomb for the hot flashes.  I wish they weren't nylon, but what are you going to do?  So far they are wearing well and easy to wash even in a sink.  They dry super fast.  I should plan that walking trip across Scotland while I've got these nice packable garments.

With 3 shirts, jeans, the brown pants, and a few tank tops to wear under, I can get by for weeks. (also socks, undies, bras and shoes....obviously)

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 time...so 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.