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Monday, November 23, 2015

State of the Homestead

Garden: It's nearly the end of November and we're still getting peppers, eggplants, okra, and kale. We've been pulling kale from the same plants for two years in a row! 

I picked over five pounds of serrano peppers and turned them into pickled peppers and hot sauce. Later today I'll use up the last of the bell and poblano peppers in a sausage and pepper medley.

I've been using the eggplants for sandwich fillings. I like to saute thin strips of eggplant with spinach and green onion and stuff them into toasted pita bread. Delish!

Our tomato plants died off during the height of summer (too much sun) but I started new plants and they're producing fruits now. They're not as prolific as the spring tomatoes, but I can't complain when I can pick fresh tomatoes in December.

My only disappointment has been my romaine lettuce. It's gorgeous, but still bitter even with the cooler temps. I've read that black seeded Simpson lettuce is less prone to bitterness so that's on my list for next year. I'm determined to grow sweet lettuce. 

The winter garden consists of: peppers (hot and sweet), tomatoes, radishes, beets, kale, spinach, snow peas, carrots, potatoes (in pots), eggplant, sweet potatoes, chard, garlic, pumpkin, winter squash, and strawberries. 

I accidentally planted cucumbers! Oy! So now I have little baby cukes on the vine. I'm trying to keep them protected for another few weeks until they're harvest size.

I also planted soybeans (a lark since I knew it was too late to for them), but they actually produced pods. Still, they could've used another 3 weeks of warm weather. Soybeans are a great cover crop though, so they won't go to waste. They'll amend the soil.

We had a light freeze over the weekend, but it looks like everyone weathered it fine.

Goats: I think the girls are pregnant. We've yet to decide for certain, but we may just raise these kids to sell in 2016. They sold really well this year. 

We've been toying with the idea of raising a small cow for the freezer. We'd have to get other people to go in with us because there's no way we could store, let alone eat a whole cow. It's a two-year idea at least. From what I've read, 18 months is the average age for slaughter.

I kind of like the idea of raising beef on our pasture--with no antibiotics or growth hormones. It's a 'maybe' project for the think-shelf.

Chickens: After raising the Marans for two years, I've decided to sell the birds next spring. They lay beautiful dark brown eggs, but they're fussy birds, and don't lay near as prolifically as the Australorp or Americaunas. 

We may add a few quail next year. I've never tasted quail but Greg says they're good. I don't mind trying a few to see what they're like.

Rabbits: Alas, Frodo (our male rabbit) tries his best but he has a hard time mating with our bigger girl. I'll probably sell him in the spring and find a bigger bunny to do the job. 

Around the house:  
We put up a fence for our indoor atrium. I didn't want to do it at first, but I got tired of the dogs picking up a mouthful of dirt from one of my potted plants and then expertly grinding it into the light-colored Oriental rug.

It was the perfect weight in wrought iron for indoor use. The only thing I did was paint it a bronze color. 

Countdown to Thanksgiving: This is the week when most of the US settles down to food and family. I bought a small turkey this year. The sides dishes will come from the garden. Broccoli, snow peas, and garlic mashed potatoes. 

Greg gets his traditional homemade pumpkin pie all to himself. (I dislike pumpkin.)

We're planning for a quiet Thanksgiving. Good food with my weird landscaping dogs and my best guy.

How about you? If you celebrate Thanksgiving, what do you plan to serve?

Have you ever tried quail? How would you describe the taste?

Gardeners, do you have any lettuce recommendations? 

And raise a paw if you have a pet that likes to spread dirt like a coal miner. You can cry on my shoulder. I know your pain.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Dead Couple Walking

I thought I had come down with food poisoning, and then Greg got sick the next day. By the second day of headaches, body aches, and chills, I knew it was stomach flu.

We've yet to keep anything down but sips of water, though Greg did try oatmeal Sunday, much to his regret.  
I still have body aches and headache, but the cramps are almost gone. I might try some dry toast later this morning.

Have any of you ever had stomach flu? Any suggestions?

Monday, November 9, 2015


What do you call your blog? Why did you choose the name you did?

Using my name as the blog name was a deliberate act on my part. I felt that as a writer, it was important readers know me by name. It was and is my brand.

For the new blog (still in pre-production) I need something catchy with good search engine potential. I'd also like to create a logo around it, so it needs to be short and spiffy.

Somehow, and I need to think on this some more, I need to keep my name linked with the new blog name. I've worked too hard and too long to lose my name in the quagmire of searchable bloggers.

Over the weekend, I've been keying in various names to see what hasn't been used yet. A quick Google search states that in 2013 there were over 152 million. Another site says it was over 173 million (in 2011). 

Let that sink in. That's millions upon millions of blogs.

Many blogs are abandoned. Still the url remains. If no one deletes it, it continues to exist in the blog realm of the ethereal.

Coming up with a catchy name has been incredibly easy. Coming up with a name that hasn't been used yet...not so much.

Have you ever considered renaming your blog? What would you call it if you could change it?

PS  I'm in and out today. I'll reply to comments as soon as I'm back in internet range.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Are You on Pinterest?

There's been widespread flooding throughout Texas, and more rain expected. Right now, we're just sitting it out. Our main road into town is under water. Thankfully we have other options, but I hate it when we lose the 'best' road.

I lost one chick due to the relentless rain. I can't imagine how he drowned but he did. Down the road from us there was a drowned sheep. There are probably more dead animals in the fields. The vultures are circling everywhere.

Help! I discovered a deadly pastime. Pinterest.

How do people navigate that thing?!

I'm overwhelmed every time I go there. I don't have any boards yet. My brain hasn't yet recovered from the "welcome choices" Pinterest gave me.

I blame the rain for leading me there. That's all I need--another web site to suck my time. LOL.

Any tips on how to use Pinterest? Do you have boards there? If you do, let me know in the comments. I'd love to see what other people do with this site.

How many social networks do you belong to? What's your favorite? 

I like to hang out on Facebook just to chat with friends, but that's also how I got sucked into Pinterest. My evil friends tend to cross post and I made the mistake of going down the rabbit hole.

I have two pages on Facebook, my social page, and my frugal living page. If we're not already friends, add me to your list.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Why am I Reinventing my Blog?

It was my birthday (back in March) that got me serious about reinventing my blog.

There's an old African proverb that says: When a man dies, a library burns to the ground. It got me thinking about how much knowledge old people have and how we kind of disregard them (until we need them).

I've had friends come over and marvel at how I did something--something so totally old fashioned it must've looked new and innovative to younger people. To me, it was nothing, but to them it was like I had opened their eyes. 

I had begun to wonder if I wasn't like an old library. I have no children, so who was there to pass on my experience? I've done a little sharing here on this blog, particularly with my homesteading articles, but I wanted to do more.

Other times I had learned something all by myself, and again there was no one to share it with. That seems a sad fate for hard-won knowledge.

The details on how this blog will evolve are still a little nebulous. I know I'll be blogging a lot more often. Sometimes it'll be just bargains I'd found (including books). Other times it'll be real articles about DIY projects, saving money, gardening, or (gasp) even cooking. 

There'll be more pictures. Eventually I might put out a call for guest bloggers if they have a good topic in one of the above subjects.

Regardless of whether I stay on Blogger or go to WordPress I'll cough up the money to have my own domain and web host. I want to do this as professionally as I can.

My (blog) voice will remain the same, so expect the same folksy anecdotes and occasional dog dramas. Who knows? I might even make Nana my mascot. She's always hamming for attention. Might as well put her to work.

None of this will happen until 2016, but I'd like to hit the ground running when I do.

Do you have any big plans for 2016?  Is there any one thing you'd like to accomplish next year?

 This is part two of a two-part post. Click here for part one.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Should I Move to WordPress?

We had a tremendous amount of rain since Friday. More than 12 inches in a 24 hour period. We'd been dry for months so the rain was welcome. I just wish it hadn't come all at one time.

The storms were so fierce it brought down two (dead) trees on our land, but further south of us, flood waters derailed an entire train hauling cement. That won't be pretty to clean out.

I'm continuing my research on expanding my blog. The big question will be whether I should migrate to WordPress or stay on Blogger. I like Blogger but many of the affiliates I'm interested in seem better connected to WordPress. It would be a big step for me. 

Right now I'm busy reading up on their terms of service. From what I've heard, blogging with affiliates is a lot trickier than it used to be. I don't want to make any missteps out of ignorance.

For instance, I can't advertise too big a percentage of free books if I also happen to have an affiliate that sells books. I think I can get around that if I post a separate post that doesn't compete with the affiliate. My plan right now is to offer a small venue to my writer friends.

In my own small way, expanding into a bigger audience looking for bargains and DIY articles, I might be able to showcase a few books every week. I'll know more once I parse out all the fine print. 

And tomorrow, I'll tell you why I'm doing this. 

In the meantime, I want to give a shout out to a few friends in the middle of a promotion.

Jenny Schwartz is asking people to nominate her novel, Sky Garden for the Kindle Scout program. This sounds like a pretty sweet deal so be a pal and nominate Jenny's book. Here's the link.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan is in the middle of a blog tour promoting her fantasy series, Seasons Avatar. They're offering some pretty nice prizes in the rafflecopter. Check it out.

My buddy, Jimmy Garcia Jr. is doing a bang up job in direct sales of his books with a couple of live book events. I really need to interview him and find out if he has any secrets to share. He always seems to do a great job hand-selling his books. Must be the smile. 

Tyrean Martinson is putting her book, Champion in the Darkness for free to get people interested in the rest of her fantasy series. Go over and take a look.

Last but not least, Mike Keyton is looking for readers with a soft spot for "not your average" noir fantasy with his novel, Clay Cross. I know Mike must be serious about his career because he sent me his author photo and I touched it up with the right background. Look out world!

To all my WordPress friends, how do you like it? Is it easy to navigate? If I do this I'll be spending the extra bucks to have my own domain. 

Is it cool by you? Other than the rain, our temps have been pretty mild. 

End of Part One. Click here for Part Two.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Is It Time to Reinvent Myself?

Every decade or so I feel it's necessary to take a step back and evaluate where I've been and where I'm heading.

I feel like that time is drawing near again. I've been questioning myself, asking myself what I want out of life.

I know I still want to do covers, perhaps expanding into advertising and branding. Frugal living/saving money is also important to me, along with the ability to share that knowledge.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how to best bridge those two interests so I'm not spreading myself thin between two web sites.

I might lose some followers with this change, but I might also gain some too. Only time will tell.

Do you ever step back and reevaluate your career/life? Have you ever tried to reinvent yourself to change the course of your life?

How would you feel if I switched the format of this blog to more instructional articles?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Family Legacies

My mother (on loan from my other siblings) has been regaling me with stories of her childhood. One of the stories I found fascinating was that she never knew her grandfather. He died in the early 1910s, before my mother was born. grandfather had been killed by a real life guerrilla from Pancho Villa's regime. The motive, according to family lore, was robbery, which makes sense considering they owned property. Villa's forces were often known to demand tribute from wealthy landowners.

This, in turn was how I found out my sweet, soft-spoken grandmother always packed a big, old revolver near her person. I guess I would too if I had revolutionaries riding around my hacienda.

I always knew my grandmother was a practical woman and apparently, fearless too. I've heard other stories when she had actually threatened a bad guy with that same gun while she was home alone with her young children. I never heard conclusively whether she fired or not. Knowing her, she probably scared the crap out of that guy though. No one messed with my grandma. :-)

Another interesting factoid: My mother says she had a hard time understanding her grandmother, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman from Spain. Spanish dialects are remarkably unique to Mexico and Spain. It would take a keen ear to understand both dialects.

I have one small photo of my great-grandmother. She was very old by then, and tiny! She reminded me of a doll in her long flowered frock and ruffled collar, still as svelte as when she was young. 

My grandmother (a young woman at the time of the photo) stood a whole head taller. I guess I can thank my great-grandmother for my lack of height. Alas, I inherited no blonde hair or blue eyes, though occasionally it pops up in a descendant.

Do you have a favorite family story about one of your ancestors?

My mother's memories are beginning to fade, so I treasure the small gems she's able to remember.


Speaking of stories with family secrets, I promised my friend, R. Mac Wheeler to mention his 28th book, "6 Ways to Where". You can read an excerpt here.

Just out of curiosity, authors, how many books have you published?

Monday, October 5, 2015

40 Years Without a Restraining Order

This Saturday, (10-10-15) marks our 40th wedding anniversary.

I know. I find it hard to believe too.

Firstly, because I don't feel that old. And secondly, because it went by REALLY fast.

We have company all this week so we'll probably celebrate properly once we're alone again. For now, we'll partake of soft-shell crabs and lobster bisque, and toast another year.

I'll never forget the judge who married us. She was an old black, Baptist justice of the peace who believed young people didn't have the foggiest notion what marriage was about. (She was right!) She did her best to scare the bejeezus out of us, but we stood our ground and assured her we were ready. (Ha!)

I remember her fondly because she was so stern and mean. I know now looking back, she was only looking out after our best interest. I guess she figured that if she couldn't scare us, we might be strong enough for whatever lay ahead.

Once the deed was done, she was all smiles and wished us well, but for a few tense minutes, I wasn't sure she was going to let us marry.

Thank you, Judge Armstrong. When we toast our 40 years, we'll be toasting you too, for giving us the benefit of the doubt.

I'm often asked what makes for a long, happy marriage. Lots of things come into play and it's different for every relationship. For me, it's honesty, equality, and a big dose of seeing the funny side of things. Life is hard. When both people have a good sense of humor it can lighten the load.

I think I chose wisely. I knew Greg would be the kind of guy who would be there even when times got rough.

What do you want most in a mate? Was it easy to find that kind of person?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Out of Phase With the World

It's been a weird few days. I feel like I'm not quite in sync with the rest of the world and I can't put my finger on why. I have this nagging feeling that I forgot something important or left something undone.

First, Facebook blocked both me and Greg from logging in. It was acting funny Friday, constantly jerking me out of my timeline and resetting itself. By Saturday, we couldn't connect at all.

Then it was the goats. Friday, they picked at their food. Our goats never pick. They eat every pellet as if it were their last and if we walk by their pen, they bleat at us as if they're starving. For three days, they've been silent. Other than not eating, they seem fine, but it was unnerving.

Saturday, I opened a fresh bag and they ate most of what I gave them, but still left some. They were happy to eat leaves and sunflower seeds. Maybe they were bored with their feed, but all of a sudden like that? I don't like not knowing why my animals act strange.

To complicate things, the person I normally buy hay from called and told me she wouldn't have any more this year. Now I have to hustle and find another supplier. The goats can't go without hay.

Friday, I borrowed Greg's car and I was stranded in town, missing my yoga class. It turned out to be nothing (the shifter wasn't exactly on Park so it acted like the battery was dead). Had I reached Greg in time, he could've told me his trick for getting it to work again, but alas, we missed each other. By the time he called me back, my schedule was shot.

The chickens are eating their eggs again. They're in molt so I've been giving them more protein, but it hasn't stopped them from eating their eggs. The goats won't eat, and the chickens eat too much. My homestead is topsy turvy.

Even my appetite is strange. Like the goats, nothing appeals to me. I'll eat a little and push the rest away. Not that that's a bad thing for me! Ha! Missing a few meals wouldn't hurt me in the least.

We were invited to a party over the weekend. I really didn't want to go. I felt unwell and a little tired. I even took a nap which is unheard of for me. I whined about going but Greg guilted me into doing the right thing. I put on a brave face and powered through it.

All in all an eventful weekend but nothing that felt right. I can't remember ever feeling so out of phase with everything around me. It made me feel anxious over nothing in particular.

Have you ever felt out of sync with the rest of the world? Was it just as disconcerting for you?


Did you get a chance to see the Super Moon eclipse on Sunday? It was pretty neat. Who knows if I'll be around for the next one in 2033, so I wanted to be sure to see this one.

Our skies were a little cloudy but it was clear in the area around the moon. It really was red too. It made me think how our ancient ancestors must've felt to see the moon 'die'.

Friday, September 25, 2015

LASR Needs Your Blurbs

I was approached by Long and Short Reviews the other day to see if I'd be willing to blurb a book for them.

I don't blurb books as a rule. Much as some of my friends think I throw some influence, (partly because of my cheeky confidence) in truth I feel other people do this better than I would, especially since I don't write anymore.

Still, that doesn't mean I can't ask my blog readers to come forth and blurb a book if they're so inclined.

If you'd like to read a book and have the chance to blurb it, contact me and I'll put you in touch with the Admin staff at LASR. I was offered a paranormal romance, but I'm sure they have plenty of other genres.


Have you ever blurbed a book? Has your book ever been blurbed?

I think it's a great networking tool and another way to introduce new readers to your name. You might be doing something good for the author you're blurbing, but it's also putting your name out to a potential new set of readers too.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pantry Attacked! Oh, The Horror!

That summer cold knocked me flat for a solid week. Worse, was that sinking feeling when you find yourself throwing back Nyquil cocktails just to keep going. Deep down I knew a quick recovery was futile. I was doomed.

This is the first sickness in 15 years that I didn't have to manage alone. Husbands, I've discovered are very handy.  The dogs were sweet too. It's funny how they know when you're not feeling well. 

There's something about getting sick that:
1. Makes me think of all the things I have on my to-do list.
2. Drives me into purging mode as soon as I feel better.

On Sunday, I attacked my pantry. I have a wonderful, big pantry, but it was time to whip it back into shape. It had begun to look like a catch-all for every little thing, and I was having a hard time keeping track of my staples. 

Because it's a long drive into town, I try to keep my pantry and fridge stocked. Most of my grocery runs are for fresh vegetables and anything that goes on clearance. If I wanted, I could go for weeks without hitting the stores, but I'd miss fresh veggies. My summer garden is all but spent.

I've started the fall garden which is looking great. I'll share some of the details on the next State of the Homestead report.

Back to the pantry. Even a small pantry can increase your ability to save money on food. In the early days, I started small, buying a few extra cans of whatever went on sale. I'm fastidious about checking expiration dates. And while I sometimes "try" something new, I generally stick to the things I know we'll use regularly. 

Loyalty cards: In the US, many grocery stores offer loyalty cards. Kroger, my local chain, regularly sends me coupons and freebies. I may not always use the coupons but I always grab the freebies. Even if I don't use it, it can be donated to a food pantry.

Double down on holidays: In the US, you are guaranteed some great food prices right before major holidays. Set aside a little extra cash to use in November when grocery stores have their biggest sales on baking supplies, turkeys, roasts, and frozen foods.

Freeze it: Every box of baking mix, flour, rice, or pasta goes straight to the freezer for two weeks. I don't take chances with weevils which you'll find in almost every package if you don't use it up quickly. Food distributors can't help it. For the record, weevils aren't harmful, but I still don't want to see them.

Use Glass: I retired nearly all my plastic containers years ago. Although glass is heavier, I find it easier to clean and disinfect. Plastic tends to absorb the smell of whatever was in it last.

Go in with a friend: Those big warehouse stores are great for large buys. If you can't use up a whole bag of flour or sugar, divvy it up with a friend that way you both save.

When I lived in an apartment, I dedicated one bank of cabinets to food. I stored my pots and pans in the dishwasher because I never used it. Big Reveal: This is the first year (in 40) I've used a dishwasher regularly. 

I know most people can't live without a dishwasher but it was only me and Greg and I felt it unnecessary to use the extra energy. Now I'm just busy. Easier to load the dishwasher and go on to another chore than do them by hand.

So how about you? Do you store food for more than a couple of weeks? Are you lucky enough to have a pantry? Do you use a dishwasher, or ever use it as extra storage?

What tips do you use when buying in bulk?

Because Melissa McClone reminded me...

If you want more tips on grocery shopping, try this book: smart grocery shopping

Saturday, September 12, 2015


I was only planning on being off last Monday for the holiday, but the sudden onset of plague has forced me to take off a few more days. It started out as a sinus headache, but now it's a full blown sore throat and general overall ache. The drugs have only made things worse. So there I am. Rock and hard place.

I hope to feel better soon but if I don't I'm not going to waste time suffering.  Might as well put that medical insurance to work.

At least I got many of my projects done before I went down. Still a few things left undone, but not too many.

Greg is taking care of the animals and me, so my only job is to recover.

Hope all is well in your world. If I missed your blogs I'll try to catch up next week. Meanwhile, pass the tissues.


Monday, August 31, 2015


I had missed a couple of homestead high points, so consider this Homestead report 2.0.

A new garden: We had planted corn, soybeans and sunflowers THREE times in the spare goat pen. It gets some dappled shade so I thought it might grow some plants during the hot summer months.

In theory, it was a good idea. I hadn't counted on some malevolent creature eating off the leaves of every baby plant. I tried diatomaceous earth. That deterred them for a couple of nights, but by the third night there had been enough moisture to wash it away.

Some of the corn made it, so did the pumpkins. I'm not going to waste my time planting sunflowers and soybeans a fourth time. 

Greg thinks it's a rabbit or some other rabid leaf-eating critter. They are very careful just to eat the tender leaves. :shakes fist:

Beans: Here's a tip for you. I popped several white northern beans straight out of the bag into some soil and got perfect little plants. I was so pleased. They take three months to grow so I don't know if they'll make it, but I'll put them in pots so we'll see what happens.

Buckling: Sold my little buckling right away. I was shocked that the buyer insisted on giving me more than my asking price because she felt I had priced him too low. That has never happened to me before. I thought it was a fair price.

That little goat pulled one over on me. His mother's udder was really full the next day. I checked her out and sure enough, she was still in milk--and very full. I milked her right away to relieve the pressure. I know all you moms out there know what I'm talking about. ;-)

That little guy must've been visiting the milk bar after hours. We thought she had weaned him. update: I placed an order with and was relatively pleased. They are not as fast as Amazon. The dvds I ordered came straight from their distributor and took a solid five days to arrive. Still, I can't deny their prices were far better than Amazon. My first order granted me six months free membership (instead of the three they advertised). I'll used them for a while and see how they fare.

I will say that when they realized an order was going to be delayed, they promptly sent me an email to apologize for the inconvenience. I wasn't in a hurry, so it was no big deal.

I had forgotten this before but I'll bring it up if anyone is interested. Jet sent me an offer that if I send a friend a code, they (and I) get $15 off a $50 order. I don't know if the code is proprietary so I don't want to make it public. But if you're interested, email me and I'll send you the code. The offer ends September 1, so not much time. Sorry.

Nana: It's a terrible picture (from my phone in a very dark room) but I thought it was cute. There was some gawd-awful movie about Rin-Tin-Tin as a puppy. Schmaltzy and saccharin, but hey, cute dog.

Nana, my tv-watching border collie was mesmerized. I couldn't resist taking a picture of her watching Rinty. 

Does anyone else have a tv-watching pet? Nana and Tank were the only two who ever watched and understood tv.

Have you ever put a grocery store seed in a pot to see if it would grow?

Monday, August 24, 2015

State of the Homestead

During the height of summer, there's not much going on outside. We've been lucky this year. So far we've had only one month of triple digits. The bad news is we've had very little rain.

Garden: Water is always on my mind. Since I can't talk Greg into moving where we get a little more rain, we have to devise ways to water more efficiently.

We've tried it all. Sprinklers. Hand watering. Soaker hoses. Timed watering. Each has pros and cons. Greg is now piping the water directly at the plant roots. It's like a soaker hose but the pipe is more rigid. He punched holes at six inch intervals to spray water at the base of the plants.

We've already tested it out on a couple of beds and it's working beautifully. I can put more water on plants in three minutes than 15 minutes worth of sprinkler water. Less waste and more direct watering. I wish the soaker hoses would've worked but they never last, and those suckers are expensive to replace.

Our project for next summer is to hang shade cloth to see if it will help some of our plants make it through the brutal summer. Pepper and okra do fine, but the rest wilt away under a blistering sun.

I've started a few seeds for a fall garden. It won't be a big garden, just a few veggies for the winter table.

Update on plant fails: All my squash failed. Zucchini, yellow squash, butternut, and spaghetti squash. Lots of flowers but few fruit. When it did fruit, they withered away before they could mature. It could be a calcium deficiency, but it seems unlikely since I crush eggshells around most of my plants. Still researching.

Update on plant successes. The asparagus bed is looking great. I'm hoping to pick asparagus next spring. The sun was killing my blueberry plants so I dug them up and put them in pots. I'm pleased to say they came back to life within weeks and sprouted new leaves.

Isn't he handsome?
Goats: I have one buckling left. I'd like to sell him this year. We'll have only one breedable doe for next year, but that's okay. We want to downsize for a couple of years so we can travel.

Rabbits: The summer is always hard on them. I'm running a fan 24/7 and bring them frozen bottles of ice three times a day. They lay next to the ice bottles and it keeps them cool.

Chickens: We've been hatching chicks left and right. I'm half thinking about raising all of them and selling the hens in the spring. They'll be ready to lay by April and people will be clamoring for laying hens--especially with the price of eggs lately. It won't cost much to feed them for a few months and I should get a pretty good return. We'll see.

We have had some terrible luck with a few older chicks. I had a nice habitat inside an existing chicken coop, but somehow a few always got out. Big mistake. Birds in general, and chickens in particular are ruthless killers of other birds. 

The chicks that escaped were quickly decapitated by the resident hens. I finally moved them to a safer location, but not before I lost four of them.

Indoors...and out: My house has three living areas. Two of them are in the front of the house. The previous owner painted murals in both these rooms. It's not that she didn't do a good job, but it's not to my taste. It's been on my to do list to repaint it for quite a while. 

I finished one room and it looks quite nice. It's a soft neutral. I had planned on painting the other room the same taupe color but now Greg thinks I should repaint it the existing color (sage green). I'm okay with that except for the fact that I already bought the paint.

Generally, poor Greg doesn't get a vote on how I paint/decorate the house, but I'm not opposed to the green. As long as the mural goes bye-bye, I'm open minded. 

Over the weekend we hit a few garage sales (as usual) and found a couple of estate sales in a high end area. The homes were gorgeous and so beautifully decorated. 

Most of my wood furniture came from garage sales and antique auctions. I get a kick out of transforming ratty antiques back to glory. 

Curio cabinet with my boys.
But my one piece of high end furniture came from a store. It's a curio cabinet and I spent an obscene amount of money on it. Still, it's my favorite piece of furniture. (It was also the piece that destroyed my knee when we were moving.) 

Much as I dislike spending big bucks, this is one of those cases where I simply loved the piece too much. Even after all these years, it's still my favorite. That makes it a good buy in my book.

Do you have a favorite piece of furniture? Ever spend a lot of money on something you love to bits? 

The only bad news around the home front is that our water heater went out. (We just replaced the other one this year!) That's another 600 bucks out the window. At least Greg can install it himself. The hard part is getting it up to the attic.

I get so aggravated that things break down after only a few years. It's nothing short of planned obsolescence. I'm old enough to remember when things lasted much longer. Our old water heater at our other house was over 35 years old before we replaced it. This one is only ten.

My mom is coming to visit for an extended stay in October so I've got a lot to get done before then. My house is never cleaner than when company comes over. How about you?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Alternative to Amazon? is a shopping membership similar to Amazon Prime. Over the weekend, I did a sample shopping basket full of the items I had on my Amazon wish list to see how their prices compare. 

Surprisingly, it was significantly cheaper. First some caveats.

Trial membership is free for the first three months. Real membership is $49.99 USD. So while I saved $22 in my shopping cart, plus another $10 with their promo code, it still doesn't make up for the 50 bucks I would've paid in membership fees. Still, it's only one transaction, so not bad for a start.

• Their trial membership is really nice. 90 days as opposed to the 30 days Amazon gives you--and NO automatic renewal when your trial is up.

Free shipping on orders over $35.

• I haven't yet ordered anything, so I can't comment on their delivery. They do have a peculiar bonus. If you waive free returns on your purchase you save a few more cents. I don't know that I'd want to take that risk.

Pros: If you shop online a lot, it might be worth switching to Jet. Also the trial period is much more generous.

Cons: As of yet, they don't provide any streaming. And I was unable to locate a few of the more unique products from my Amazon wish list, like a water pump for my sprouting trays, or a lamp like the one on top of the TARDIS police box. (Greg wants to build a life size TARDIS this winter.)

I'm married to such an interesting man. :-)

Of interest to authors: I typed in my name in their search box and only one of my books showed up in their listing (in paper, listed as used in good condition). I haven't yet figured out how they source out their product requests.

Sell through There is a link (click Terms & Conditions) that allows you to sell directly through Jet. There was only a partial listing on the commissions charged for various products, but the highest commission shown was 15%. Interesting.

Aside from that I have no other information, but I think it's worth a look. If you know more, please share.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Living on Less, Deliberately

I take saving money seriously. You have to when you consider we now live on less than half of what we made only a few months ago as full time employees.

Severe? To the uninitiated of the secret cult of retirees, maybe, but we've been preparing for our retirement for a long time. 

Here are some of the things we've done to stay ahead of the curve.

• I buy in bulk whenever something we use or eat goes on sale. 

• We're disciplined with our spending. We've learned to recognize impulse buys for what they are-- cash-sucking vampires.

• We buy used whenever possible. Garage sales help here. Last weekend, we spent twelve dollars for: 
-a Pyrex measuring cup
-15 dvds
-1 xBox game
-an electronic food scale
-an excellent hanging feed bucket (for my goats)
-an electronic range finder
-steel beams for Greg's metal working projects
-a metal work stand, also for Greg's projects
-a stone entry table that's tres chic

A lot of these things were 25 cents or less. Others were free (like the entry table). It had a broken metal leg that Greg welded back to new in seconds. By the way, that little piece of red decorative porcelain was a quarter.

• We still keep an expense journal which has helped in keeping us honest about what we really spend. To be fair, though, it's a pain in the tuckus to keep it updated.That takes discipline too.

• We reuse and repurpose whenever possible. For example, we need a hay barn. We could build it from scratch, but we have a HUGE greenhouse we're not using. We're going to dismantle it and use half as the skeleton for the hay barn and half for another building elsewhere.

• We sell what we no longer need. Our last garage sale was so successful, we plan another one with what's left over from the other house. We still have appliances and furniture over there. 

If you want to make some quick cash, sell the stuff you no longer use. It's not doing you any favors sitting in storage. Use Craigslist, eBay, or team up with friends to hold a yard sale. Even Facebook has groups that lets you sell your stuff locally.

• I freelance. Even a little extra cash softens the blow of surprise expenses.

• We don't care about keeping up with the Joneses. I used to be envious of friends who were ten years older than us. Gorgeous home, expensive cars, great vacations. I didn't know then that they were always in debt...and probably still are.

When you're used to a certain amount of income, it can be jarring when you cut it to the bone, but it's entirely doable. Before we both retired, we spent a long time calculating expenses. The hard part is calculating emergencies and major auto or appliance breakdowns. And replacements? Those are killers!

We're lucky in that Greg can diagnose and fix most anything. In back to back weeks, he's had to fix both our AC units, each with a different problem. Replacing the parts wasn't cheap, but still a helluva lot cheaper than hiring a specialist. You can't live in Texas without air conditioning. Well, you could, but you wouldn't be happy.

I am not handy. I can grow stuff and I'm pretty good at keeping man and beasts alive, but that's the extent of my practical home skills.

Sometimes I toy with the idea of going back to work. Fortunately, I've managed to talk myself out of it. I guess if we ever have to replace our ginormous roof, or put Greg through school for his doctorate, I might consider working for da man, but until then, I'll stick to making do with what we've got.

Do you earn income from something--aside from your regular job? If you were retired right now, what would you do with your time?

I've had to teach myself to be more easy going and not try to do everything in one day. Retirement is still a hard concept for me to grasp. 

In retrospect, I now know why retirees look younger than people their same age who work. We get to sleep more. :)

I highly recommend it.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Saying Goodbye

I had to say goodbye to three more of my goats. Lucy, Heidi, and Heidi's baby. This is a picture of them in their new home, meeting the other tenants.  :)

They went to someone I actually know (at least online). Some of you might know Marguerite Butler. She's the author of several historical romances and at least one paranormal. You can see her books at Goodreads.

When she mentioned she'd be interested in seeing my goats when I was ready to sell, I was elated. We had a lovely visit and it was great to meet a fellow author so close to me. ...well, relatively close. 

I was sad to see the girls go, even more than when I sold the buck a few weeks ago, but I know they're going to a good home. Marguerite is a true animal lover. You should read the stories she tells about her rescues and the way she nurses her sick animals. She regularly posts pictures of her farm animals on Facebook.

Marguerite has a lot more goat experience than I do so I know the girls are in good hands. 

The first time I brought my goats home I was paranoid beyond belief checking on them nearly every hour. Any time you change an animal's home and feed they suffer stress. I knew so little about goats back then so I was stressed too! You never saw anyone examine poop so closely! LOL!  

Heidi was just a baby then. I think I'll miss that goofy goat most of all. I raised her from a 3 month old. She used to love nuzzling Tank, my old rottie. The other goats stayed clear of Tank, but Heidi was fearless...and a little naive. Thankfully, Tank was a true gentle giant. He loved babies of all sorts.

We are that much closer to downsizing our farm. If we can sell our other house we can do some seriously planning on vacations. At this rate, it looks like 2016. I was so hoping we could go up to Chicago this year. I even have a friend who's offered to house and animal sit while we were gone.

Until that house sells, we're tied. We did get some good news about the house. There's a serious buyer but he wants the land rezoned. I don't know if he can pull it off with the City Council, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

This year has been an uphill battle, but somehow it feels like it will all work out in the end. Things happen when they happen and not before. I sometimes think life would've been easier had Greg worked one more year, but having him home has been worth the extra struggles.

Everything will be all right in the end... if it's not all right then it's not yet the end.   The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Lofty Question

I believe life is meant to have a purpose. Our job is to find our purpose and fulfill it to the best of our abilities. 

If my purpose on this Earth was nothing more than to save a couple dozen animals from death, then I feel it was a life well spent. Not all of us can change the tide of human history, but we can change the tide of one soul.

Greg feels that we aren't born with a purpose but rather we should be useful (and the best) in whatever kind of situation Fate throws at us. To him, the test lies in how we face challenges, demons, and the consequences of our actions.

I think both viewpoints ring true depending on your personality. 

How about you?

Does life need a purpose? Is it enough just to live a good life? And here's a tricky question. What is a 'good' life?

Sometimes it seems all we see are the loud mouths and the crazies, rocket fuel for higher ratings and clickability. Beneath all the noise there are still decent people out there trying to do the best they can.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Selling My Chickens

Recently, we had a boy contact me (through his mother) asking if we had any chickens to sell.

As it happens, I wanted to sell my black Australorps. I invited them over and showed them the birds. A mutual friend had encouraged him to contact me, but I didn't want him to feel obligated to buy my birds.

It turns out he's in 4-H. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it's a youth organization that strives to teach kids through doing. It's most commonly practiced in rural areas. 

Had 4-H been offered in the inner city of Chicago back when I was a kid, I would've been all over it in a heartbeat. Alas, I too learned by doing, but for the most part it was trial and error. A lot of error. LOL.

We were glad to help this kid anyway we could because we appreciate children wanting to get hands-on experience in something other than texting and Instagram. His mother insisted that he also buy our 'chicken tractor', a movable pen so chickens can pasture in safety.

Greg built ours. 

We don't use it anymore because frankly, we're too lazy to move it around the pasture. When the garden is through for the year, we usually let the chickens roam free. They're good about returning home every night. In five years, we've only lost two birds. One to a coyote and another to a car.

I was surprised they wanted the chicken tractor since he's already building a coop, but they have the acreage for a movable pen so it'll work well for them. Besides, he's young and won't grouse about hauling it around the way we do. Ha!

We've got a few eggs from the Australorps in the incubator. I shouldn't have done it, but darn it, I like those birds. They're so well behaved compared to the Marans.

I'm still on the fence whether to continue with the Australorps or the Marans. 

I'll know by Wednesday if any of the eggs hatched. Wish me luck.

Have you ever been in 4-H or known someone who has? How was it? I'm envious of anyone who grew up on a farm. How much further ahead I would've been if I had had a mentor.

Have you ever mentored someone in anything? What was it?