Saturday, October 11, 2008

12:45 and wide awake

No idea why I'm not all that tired. I should be, I've been up since 5am, but I'm not.

Today was pretty uneventful. Another fun day at the hotel job, but I still can't complain since it's so close. I left there at 3:30, went to the bank, and made my usual Friday Goodwill stop. Nothing, not a thing worth getting, so I headed home. Lisa called as she was leaving work and asked what I wanted to do for dinner, and I suggested going out. I have a good bit of overtime on this check, and we deserve a night out. So as I waited for her, I cut the last 2 sunflowers and set them out to dry. I looked over the garden, and discovered I have another boatload of peppers to pick. I took this weekend off since there is so much to get done, and the housewarming party is Sunday, so I'll just add pepper picking to my std list for tomorrow. I'm glad there are more out there though, after eating 2 jelly jars of the jabenero jelly Lisa made, I know we better make as much as possible....and this time in pints.
She came home, we jumped in the truck, and went to a local family resteraunt for dinner. Nothing special, just good basic food. After we ate, we went to the BIG Goodwill store 15 minutes away. I was hoping to find some cheap furniture for this room, but what was there was either in awful shape or overpriced. We did manage to get about 30 candles at the tune of 3 for $1 (can never have too many!), some were broken, but she'll melt them and make new as she always does. I found another 25lb feed hopper for $5, which struck me as odd since I found the same one there in July for the same price. Not an item you'd expect to see twice, guess it was my lucky day lol. We left there and headed for Walgreens for Halloween cards for Lisa to mail out. She always does them, but she ooops'd and forgot to send some to the kids at the new address, so we just needed 2. While we were there, I added to my stockpile by getting 2 packages each of shaving soap and double edge blades. I'll vac-seal the blades and store them down here with the soap. We picked up another small yard Halloween decoration, Lisa's prescription, and found some reeeeeeeeealllllllly cheap old black and white horror movies for a buck how can ya turn down a 1 dollar movie?? We came home, fed the pack-o-hounds, and watched one. (each dvd actually has 2 movies on each-so we really got 4!!!!) Let me tell ya........Atom Age Zombies was worth the dollar LOL we pretty much laughed through the whole thing. Lisa started to fall asleep in the middle of Revenge of the Zombies, and went to bed. I wasn't tired, so here I sit.

Earlier, I sat here and read through an interesting blog that was suggested on the Backwoods Home forums. The post suggested was titled: 100 Things That Disappear in a Panic. It's a pretty interesting list. Some things on the list I hadn't thought of, and have added to my personal list, (like writing paper or a battery operated co2 detector), and some we wouldnt have use for (like baby items), but it's still a great list. It got me to double check my list for anything else, but it seems like I have all bases covered. Tomorrow I'll bring in the last of the camping gear, even the cots, sleeping bags, and my tents (2-4 man, and 1-12 man). They aren't really items necesary to have in here, but I have the room now, and it's better to have them stored inside so they don't rot or mildew.

I took a few minutes and posted some misc pics at the bottom of the page, most are on the one older post I made of my Photobucket account, but I thought it was better to have them directoy on here. I'm going to try to take more tomorrow if my camera stops acting up.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Here I sit, surrounded by hounds. A basset to the right of me, a beagle to the left, and a hot cup of coffee in is good. Today I spent the day climbing up and down ladders and through an attic, so tonight I decided I needed to take a break. I've been reading and relaxing since I got home.

After writing my last 2 posts, I've been thinking non stop on ways to become more self sufficient at home. I'm not only trying to think of ways to save money, but also thinking of ways to not need it. That's always a huge issue that people don't understand. They get this puzzled look on their face when I tell them I am working toward a time when I dont NEED much money. "But you always need money" is usually the response. Those who don't get it shouldn't comment, but thats their right, so I just smile and nod as I TRY to explain.

I have come up with a few ideas. One will be talking to my friend Jim about using some of his land to grow wheat, straw, and possibly corn. He has 17 acres and does nothing with it but tell people he has 17 acres. He likes living "in the country" and having all the "old time" things around for decoration, but doesnt get any of what I do. What a prime opportunity...unused land 10 minutes away. Plus maybe he can learn something...who knows. He's a great guy, but definitly not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Other steps will be adding to the chickens and rabbits. More meat and egg production at minimal cost will be a big benefit. I want to get 1 more doe for the Californian buck I have. That way I can alternate litters (hopefully) with 2 does. I also want to get 3 New Zealand Whites, same thing, 1 buck and 2 does. Rabbits are just too easy NOT to. They're easy, feed cheap, make NO noise, produce a lot, and are a very good meat. (see chart above) Next will be to add more chickens. Not necessarily more layers, but to get meat birds. Red meat just doesn't agree well with Lisa's stomach most of the time, so she eats a lot of chicken. She makes all kinds of recipes with it, and has me eating more myself. So why buy it when I can just raise more? I know what they ate, I know where they came from, and I know what's in the meat. It just makes sense on both counts. I also want to hunt and fish more. I grew up with and enjoy both. It's not just the "food" sense, or the sport of it, it's different. When I'm alone in the woods or sitting in the boat in the middle of the lake, I'm at peace. I have to stop working around here every single day and give myself a break and time to enjoy something. It's gotten more into my head with both since I put this room together. At this very moment I am sitting here staring at my first pheasant, my first mallard, my first wood duck, my first squirrel, and my first bass. (Uncle B has my first deer) I just miss it. And hey.....if it helps keep the freezer full, I'm all for it. Fish, squirrel, rabbit, duck, goose, venison.....mmmmm. I'm making myself hungry lol.
These aren't HUGE steps, but they aren't tiny ones either. They won't happen overnight, more like over the winter. But they will happen. Little by little we are getting there, but sometimes the urge comes to do more, like it has this week. But this week it's hit harder for some reason. Maybe it's because I have this room all together and can see all the books, notebooks, catalogs, files, and papers all at once that used to be scattered throughout the house. Maybe it's because the kids are gone and we have the freedom to do more now without hearing grief about being "wierd" having the utilities drop by probably 75% will help. It's almost time to start plotting out next years garden. Time to make a material list for rabbit hutches and a new chicken coop for meat birds, time to lay out the whole place and decide what areas get bigger next year, what stays the same, and what will switch around. Time to get out the seed books and figure out what to order for next year. Time to order plants for timely delivery. Time to decide what crops did well and will replant, what didn't, and whether we will try them again next year. But...we have all winter to decide and plan..... it's only October.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I'm glad I read that little article I mentioned...

Yes folks.....that's mens underwear worn as a halter top, LMAO. Too funny. I'm all for being frugal, but WOW! I just had to share that one!
Lisa and I haven't gotten to talk tonight, so it will have to wait till tomorrow. She went with her daughter to get some things for the housewarming party this Sunday and won't be back till probably after 9.
Today I got home, read my usual forums and blogs, and headed outside. I filled the chicken feed bin, replaced a broken water bottle in the rabbit hutch, and brought out most of Lisa's outdoor halloween decorations. I got everything set up that I had brought out, including about 10 fake foam headstones, and spread some of the brush from the fallen trees amongt them. I figured it would look more than just like grass with headstones in it lol. I drove a few stakes in the ground, and wrapped them with the dried corn stalks from the garden..I had more than I thought!!! Tomorrow I'll get the rest out and set up, and run cords to the spotlights I have from last year. I love decorating for Halloween...when else can I make the yard look like one of my favorite heavy metal videos???? LOL
Tonight I decided to relax and sit in my new room after dinner....NO T.V.!! I already read through the latest Mother Earth News again, and after this post, I'll check out the new Countryside. After that, I'll more than likely start reading Four Season Harvest again. I skimmed through it when I got it for Xmas and havent touched it since. I want to learn more on what I can grow possibly this winter in the cold frame other than a few greens...gotta be something!
I sat earlier as I ate and went through my notebook I started for preparadness/emergency/shtf and realized something. What I have in there are the BASIC things we need to live. No frills, no extra's, no convienences, no frills, just the basics...and it make me think. (again) What do we currently have in the house that ISN'T on that list? What do we have that we can certainly live without? The answer is "A LOT". Most of my belongings that arent on that list are tools, others are hunting and fishing gear far beyond the basics. Lisa's list would be her sewing & other craft items. Both of us have far more than we really need, but both of us have things that are at least helpful or productive. My tools can make things like the cold frame, fix the tractors and vehicles, make home repairs.....etc.My fishing and hunting gear can bring us food and if ever needed, be home defense. Lisa can make damn near anything. She quilts, sews, makes candles, paints, does needlepoint, and all kinds of other crafts. Some are useful like mending clothes, making quilts for warmth, candles for light, and other crafts can be sold or given as gifts. So basically, both of us on those 2 large lists are on the "keeper" side of things. Now to figure out what ISN'T on the keeper side.
We had a list long ago that I can't seem to find and will have to make again. As a starter, we listed every single thing we had in the house that used electricity. We listed room by room, every thing there was, no matter how small. If it got plugged in, it went on the list. We made the list with 3 columns. One for things that were always on, one for things that were at least always plugged in, and another for things that we only had to plug in to use. When we were done, we were amazed at the amount of things we actually had that were electric. When we went down the list, we found some to be so obsolete and rarely used that they went to Goodwill. (like a quesadilla maker and cappucino machine) The microwave has been gone for a few years, long before we started this list. The electric griddle went bye-bye as well, along with the mixer, "spare" toaster, and 3 of the 5 crockpots we had for some reason. Less electric gadgets, less clutter, more savings down the road. It felt good to get rid of unnecessary items, and we continued through the whole house eliminating gadgets and gizmos and clutter and energy hogs....basically anything we hadn't used in 6 months went out the door. Even clothes we hadn't worn went to Goodwill. Face it, I'm not planning on wearing those Dockers anytime soon lol. I'm a jeans and tshirt kinda guy...always have been, always will be.
Now that we have gone pretty much through the house and eliminated most every unnecessary electric item, its time to look at everyday things. How we live and what we do...basically what we spend money on and how we spend our time. It's time for big changes. I'm tired of making excuses and having reasons to avoid doing this or that to better our lives. Starting next week, if we don't HAVE to have something, we aren't buying it. Starting first with my cigarettes and gatorade addiction. Sure, gatorade is cheap, it's only 2 for $3 at the gas station....but I buy 2 every day for work. Figure last week....I worked 7 days. So 7 days x $3= $21 I spent on gatorade. If I continued that for a month, thats approximately 30 days x $3 day or $90 a month in gatorade! A year would be $1095 a year. That's one helluva Lehmans shopping spree. Smokes are even worse at almost $4 a pack now. 2 packs a day @ $4 each x 30 days=$240 a damn wonder we're always short on cash. I HAVE to quit, no ways around it. Besides the fact that at 43 now, I'm noticing the affects more and more. Especially at work now going up and down 3 flights of stairs and ladders all day. Add just those 2 together, and eliminating both would save us $330 a month. (give or take a few) THATS MORE THAN OUR CAR PAYMENT!!!!! Step one figured out and will start this weekend. As I more excuses. None of the "just one last one" or "I'd kill for a smoke". It's time to get my head together and get some self control and discipline. If I can stop eating junk food, stop relying on a microwave, and stop watching tv for 5 hours a night, I can sure as hell stop smoking and drinking gatorade.
Now thats just ONE step. Imagine what we can do with the grocery bill, the utilities, and other spending if we put our minds to it. The savings can get us the woodburner we want, or the grain mill, or the wringer washer. All of which will save money and simplify our lives, which are some of our goals. It's time I looked beyond gardens, chickens, and rabbits and concentrated on the rest of our more excuses.

what to do now?

Since I've never shared it before, to the left is a picture of the little chicken coop I built for the 3 layers we currently have. It has wheels now, and I move it every other day to fresh grass around the back and side yard. You can see the ramp on the left bottom that the birds use as acess to the roost and nest boxes in the top. I nailed pieces of shoe molding every 3 inches along the length so they have something for traction, it's worked great. Not bad for being made from 2 landscape timbers (free from an 18 wheeler load of pipe), a small rabbit hutch (free from a freecycler), a few 2x4's (bulk load buy from craigslist),hinges and latches from the Habitat for Humanity store (at $1 each set), and chicken wire from Lowes. All in all I have only around $25 invested in it, including the brown paint done after this pic was taken ("oops" mix bin from lowes at $2 for a gallon can). It works fine for now with only 3 birds, but next year will get a bigger model of the same basic design when we get more birds.
The initial reason for this post was to talk a bit about where we go and what we do next. While reading the newest issue of Mother Earth News, there was a letter from an older woman in her late 60's. She told how she dreamed of homesteading her whole life, but something always got in the way. She's retired now, and has poor health, and can't. Her idea behind her letter was basically this-What is stopping you from following your dreams and when do you plan to do it before it's too late? It really made me think....a lot.
What DO we do next? We talk constantly about self suffiency, and make small changes here and there, but when are we going to take the BIG steps? What is stopping us? We have electricity and gas for heat and hot water. When can we get to the point that we can shut them off or use them very little? Why aren't we there yet?
Of course there is a money issue. We have a house and car payment, one credit card payment (we dont use it anymore), one loan payment, and utilities. We have electricity and gas. Cable is an option really, but we do occasionally watch something and I use the roadrunner for internet service. Gas runs the heat and hot water, everything else is electric. Utility bills SHOULD drop quite a bit now that the kids are gone, but they're still there. I'd love to go solar, but you have to BUY the materials of course, which would create another bill. I'd love to go with a wood cookstove and another for heat, but again, those aren't free. So what do we do?
First and foremost, I want to REALLY concentrate on getting some things paid off. I hate the fact that Lisa has to work, and so does she. For 3 years when we first married, she stayed home. Things ran smooth, bills were minimal,more got done, we were basically in better shape as far as the household goes. I lost my job and couldnt find work for almost 9 months, she had to go to work. We got so far behind that we both still have to work now. We miss the days of her being home, and we both want that again.
Tonight I want to sit down with her and seriously look at the bill situation. I want to do everything we can to get the most to these bills and get them paid down or off. I don't want to keep making excuses. I want to follow our dreams, even if it means making sacrifices. It's high time we WENT forward instead of just looking there.
I'll try to post tomorrow on how the talk went and what we have come up with. Off to work for now......

Monday, October 6, 2008

Weekend happenings

I worked 10 hour days all last week, and then all weekend, 8 hours on Saturday and 5 hours on Sunday.

Saturday I had left work to run to the feed store to get layer feed, only to find out they close at 2pm, grrr. Yesterday we left at noon, and I drove 20 minutes to the nearest TSC, and they were sold out! ARRGH! The girl there called 2 other stores for me, and they were sold out as well. WTH?? The closest one that had any in stock was Massilon, and I'm not driving the 40 minutes there in a truck that gets 15mpg on it's best day. Lisa doesn't have to go in today till 11, so she's going to the feed store before work.

After I got home, I talked to Lisa for a bit, who was busy again all day behind the canner. She got 12 pints of pickled hot peppers ut up, another 6 jars of my pepper jelly, and 16 quarts of tomato's. I went outside and dug the last of the onions, covered the beets since we won't get t0 them till later this week, and dug all the potato's. It was our first try at potatos here this year, and it was a total sucess. We'll definitly do more next year. I dug a trench, lined it with straw, filled it with the potatos, covered it with straw, then about 8 inches of soil. Our first little potato hill is roughly 8 feet long and 2 feet wide...not bad at all for our first year at 'em! I'll keep track of how they get used till next season, and base next years plantings on that. One more thing we've figured out we can easily do.....yay! The tomato's are done, so I pulled all the plants and put them in a pile for the composters. One day this week I'll put the blade back on the Lowboy and level out all the raised beds where they were. Next year I'll run them opposite the direction they were this year. They were n-s, next year they'll be e-w. With the corn in the back, and facing n-s, the back row didn't get enough sun with the front rows blocking it, so hopefully that will eliminate the problem.

I finished my day by working on our basement room a bit. I cleaned out the desk drawers, and organized and filed all the misc papers we had all over the house. We had papers printed from offline on all kinds of subjects, and now they're sorted and filed by category, FINALLY. I also sorted and filed all the magazines we had laying around too, just too much info in those to toss 'em after we read them. We get Mother Earth News, Backyard Poultry, Countryside, Field & Stream, and occasionally at the store get Grit and Hobby Farms. LOTS to sort, but I think I got 'em all. It will be great to be able to find something now when I want to read a particular article or paper again, rather than search through piles all over the house. Soon this room will be ready, and we plan on spending a lot of time in it. Next will be putting Lisa's sewing room back together......does it ever end?????

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