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Monday, May 18, 2015

Mini Movie Reviews and Some Introspection

It's been so rainy lately, there's been talk of building an ark. I won't complain. We were under drought conditions for four years. This year our lakes are back to normal.

With the weather so bad and my allergies holding me hostage, we opted for a marathon of movies.  

We went out to see the Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Good flick, but a little long. I was thrilled to see James Spader and Paul Bettany in the cast. Those two never disappoint. I'd read that while they were filming, the cast was so impressed with Spader's performance they applauded him after his first take. How's that for peer validation?

Lots of back story in this one. Normally, I like back story, but with so many characters, it got unwieldy. I won't say more so as not to spill spoilers, but if you like the franchise, don't miss it.

At home, we finally watched Battleship with Taylor Kitsch. I was shocked at how many people panned this movie. Some hated it with a passion citing that it was a confusing mess. We must've watched a different movie because other than the slow lead up to the action, it was a classic popcorn movie.

Aliens come to Earth with bad intentions. The aliens create an impenetrable force field bubble between a piece of Oahu, Hawaii and the ocean where three of our warships are separated from the rest of the fleet on Naval exercises. The aliens are trying to create a communications base and it's a race to stop them before it's too late.

Both sides have vulnerabilities and that's where it becomes interesting. Why so many reviewers said they couldn't follow along is beyond me. I'm generally very easy to confuse but even I could figure out what was going on. 

Supposedly, it's based on the old board game, Battleship. Maybe it's generational. I've never played the game, but I understand the concept. My favorite part is that they included real wounded soldiers and WWII veterans in the movie as valuable assets to the story. 

Definitely a popcorn movie. Watch it for the fun, and leave the nitpicking for something else.

We also saw Lone Survivor with Mark Walhberg. All I can say is that it was intense and pretty depressing. Not my kind of movie. They say it's based on a true story which only makes it sadder. I don't recommend this movie unless you're a diehard military film lover.

Finally, we re-watched Meet Joe Black with Brad Pitt. This is another movie where reviewers either loved it or hated it. The haters called it boring. Disagree entirely. Maybe they were looking for a lot of action and car chases. This movie is very cerebral in a metaphysical context. 

There's a scene between Joe Black and an old Jamaican lady that brought up an odd, old memory, something my mother mentioned once.

She said when her brother died, she'd had a vision of him. He told her he was all right and not to worry. Behind him were two other brothers and two sisters who had died before him. All of them were smiling. Behind all of them was her mother. She couldn't help thinking her mother looked sad.

This troubled me. I love my grandmother. I didn't see her often but she was one of those people who had a profound influence on me. I don't like to think of her as sad for any reason. 

I inherited my love of gardening and homesteading from her. Born at the turn of 1900, she was a true pioneer and one tough lady. I'm hoping what my mother saw as sadness was instead introspection. My grandma was like that--always thinking.

***

At least ten more days of rain. Looks like we'll be watching a lot more movies.

Have you seen anything good lately? Anything you'd like to recommend?


Monday, May 11, 2015

The Garage Sale Report


No matter how much time you spend preparing, it’s utter chaos once you open your doors to garage sale hounds.

I was thorough, pricing (almost) everything, sorting, grouping, and even staging certain pieces together so people could see how they could be used.


Despite living in the middle of nowhere, we were mobbed. Some people returned several times a day and even the following weekend. 

It was just as well, even though we moved the overflow outside, there was still stuff in the back that we didn’t bring out until we had more room.

The photos can't do it justice. By the time I had a chance to take a few pics, half the stuff was already gone and disheveled once again.

There were two comments people kept making throughout the sale.
  1.  Our prices were incredibly low.
  2.  We had the most unique assortment of things they’d ever seen.
What can I say? We’re eccentric eclectic collectors. 

Eventually, we did have a few book buyers, but most of them went for nonfiction. (Is that a hint for me?) The other popular subject was military historical novels. That’s what Greg reads. Only one person picked up a romance novel.

What went first?

Almost all of Greg’s stuff. Chain saws. Mowers. His mountain bike. All our camping gear. The other big sellers were housewares, gadgets, small appliances, and plastic storage containers.

Some of you might remember when I did a post about changing out most of my plastic containers for glass.  

I finally got my chance to get rid of the excess. I sold stuff by the box load: Christmas, overused canning jars, and plastic. Then I marked the whole box for a dollar. Those things literally ran out the door.

D├ęcor moved the slowest which surprised me because everything was pristine. The kitschy pieces went first and then the more traditional stuff.

We had a few pieces of antique furniture that sold to the same person. We still have two sideboards and two dining tables in the house I need to sell, but I’ll put them up on Craigslist.

What didn’t sell? Two glass and iron end tables. I thought they’d be great indoors or out, but no one wanted them. 

…and just as I’m writing this, I got a text from a lady who took our number. She wants them. Huzzah! 

Nobody wants me!
Still, the lone albatross was an exercise machine, priced at a steal. As Mike Keyton rightly pointed out on Facebook: Why do I even own an exercise machine?  



Good question, Mike. Good question.
Loved this. Wish I had a spot for it.

Anyway, it all went well, though that hard-earned money might have to be donated to the vet today. Iko hasn’t been feeling well. We've had some severe storms lately, and he chews when he’s nervous.

This time he chewed up his dog bed and ate a lot of the stuffing. I’ve been treating him at home, but I’m considering taking him to the vet just to make sure he’s okay. Impaction can kill a dog, and I like my Iko alive. 

Have you ever had a garage sale? What was your experience like?

By the way, I wrote an ebook on garage sales if you're interested in getting an insider's secrets. It covers both shopping a sale and holding one. It's called Garage Sale Bible.





Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Descendent of Job

I'm beginning to think I might be related to Job.

Every time I think I've got a handle on things and we get some forward momentum, something disastrous, costly, or dire knocks at my door.

We had our garage sale to great success. That's the good news. We didn't sell the furniture because most of it was too big to move and we were so busy I didn't have time to make a sign in case anyone was interested. I think it'll be better if we sell it on Craigslist or a Facebook group.

We did sell tons of stuff though. Before we opened, I couldn't even make a path between rows of tables--we were that full. I had to move the overflow outside. Now with what's left I can keep everything inside and easily walk around the tables. 

There's a neighborhood sale this week. If the weather is decent we'll open our doors for a few hours to see if we can sell what's left, otherwise, it gets boxed and shipped to Goodwill. 

People kept commenting on our low prices. I wanted that stuff gone. The bigger it was, the cheaper it was. It wasn't coming back in the house. I'll try to write a separate post on the garage sale later.


the twins















During the sale, my other two does had their babies. That's when my troubles began. First, it was Heidi's twins. They're still scrawny but they'll eat if she lets them. 

Lucy is the one I'm really worried about. She has a blown teat, which means one of her teats has ballooned. Her udder is terribly full. We try to milk her a couple of times a day but she hates being milked and it's always a struggle. She only had one baby and it is finicky! She nurses when SHE wants to nurse. Leading her to the teat is futile. 

Lucy meanwhile is hurting with all that milk. I haven't had time to sterilize jars so I've resorted to using any old bucket and feeding the milk to the chickens. They think they've gone to heaven. I've since ordered a milking machine in the hopes it'll be faster than me and less painful for her. Poor girl.

Lucy with her baby

So the final score is two males and two females. Prince Albert is looking quite magnificent. I'm hoping his cousins will catch up soon.

The owls and hawks have been cruising by their pen in shifts. I need those babies to grow big soon before those predators get wise.

In other news, we had to rush to Casa South (the house we're selling). We've had a LOT of rain down there. The grass was nearly knee high and I had to give the ground enough time to dry off. This was my only window of opportunity to mow the property.

Meanwhile, the top half of a tree had fallen on our power line. Fortunately, it didn't knock it down, but we had to pull that tree off and that was a job and a half. 

Then we walked inside and found the parquet floor in the front room had buckled. During periods of high humidity, (it's semi tropical there) you must keep the AC on. The power had gone out at some point and the AC was off when we got there. That had created enough moisture for the wood floor to expand and buckle. 

Oy! 

We're alleviating that problem by removing most of the wood floor and having carpeting installed. At least if the wood expands again, what's left can move freely against the carpet.

There's more, but I'm trying not to sound like a soap opera. That's just the highlights.

It's a juggling act, but I'm trying to look on the bright side. The house still looks nice and will look nicer still when we install the carpeting.  The babies are all alive. The mama goats look better than they did a few days before.

In time everything will work itself out, but I'm exhausted. I'd kill for a solid day off with no worries.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a cute picture of Prince Albert sticking his tongue out. It's a little blurry but it was too cute not to include.





A big hug for Greg. Through it all, he's been a real help to me, helping to wrangle goats, nurse babies, and milk Lucy.  It would've been so much harder without him.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Update, Sorta

Goats: Everyone is born but the twins are struggling. They were born during the garage sale so I REALLY had my hands full. We had four babies born all together.

More later. I'm so tired I can't even think straight.

I'll try to post on Wednesday. There's so much to tell you. Right now I just hope all my babies make it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Garage Sale Countdown

Prince Albert (the goatling) is doing fine. Unfortunately, his cousins still haven't been born yet. He wanders around, doing meet and greets with the adult goats, but you just know he wants to run and play with kids his own size.

We've had some beastly weather the last few days so I'm glad the other does didn't deliver during those squalls. Soon, I hope.

The sorting continues for our upcoming garage sale. I'll have pictures Monday. 

The neighborhood is having a group sale the following weekend. Considering how much stuff I have, I'll probably throw in with them as well. It'll all depend on the weather. I know at least this weekend will be dry.

We have furniture: beds, tables (different sizes), sideboards (yes, more than one), lamps, mirrors. Most of these things are antiques which makes them more solid than the new stuff you see today.

I have enough decor that I can group them by civilization. So far, I've found Oriental, Aztec, English, and Egyptian. We've got paintings, prints, sculpture, and ceramics.

Housewares: Holy moly! How did we end up with so many pieces of housewares? I think as we kept buying higher end stuff, the older stuff got stored and they had babies. Isn't that what happens in dark boxes?

Clothes: All of them Greg's. I've found three boxes of his jeans. I can guarantee you they're all in mint condition. Some still have tags.

Art equipment: If clothes are Greg's impulse buys, art supplies are mine. I have at least three easels, one custom-made and heavy. There are also a few crafty things that I'm sure will go quickly.

Tools and yard machines: Lawnmowers, chainsaws, etcetera, etcetera.

Bedding: I've downsized so that I only keep one set of sheets on the bed and one set as a spare. The rest have to go.

Books: Paper and audio. It's sad. Books hardly ever sell at garage sales--unless someone like me comes along. I'll probably have to donate them when the sale is over.

I found other things that will probably go on Ebay because they're too specific for the general public. Like our climbing gear. We'll likely never go rock climbing again and this stuff was expensive. Made me feel nostalgic when I found it. I loved rock climbing. 

bouldering wall
I know we have a box of those hand holds to build a bouldering wall too, but I haven't found them yet.

It's kind of creepy to discover we had so much stuff in storage.

Have you ever emptied out a closet or drawer and gasped at how much you've kept? When was the last time you performed a purge?

No matter how this garage sale turns out, I know I'll feel better getting rid of all this stuff. Time for someone else to love it.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Life Interrupts My Plans to Bring Me This

I was planning on doing a regular post today but I got sidetracked over the weekend. 

This coming Saturday, we're planning a MONSTER garage sale. We'd been busy doing all the prep work associated with a garage sale of gargantuan proportions--dragging stuff out of the attic, cleaning, polishing, and pricing. 

What could pull me away from these vital tasks?

This little guy. 


This is Pandora's little boy. I call him Prince Albert. He's 2 hours old in this picture.

Why did I call him Prince Albert? I don't know. He just seemed very in charge and ready to get on with the business of living. I never saw a baby in such a hurry to be born. He was taking his first breath and wriggling before half of him was even out.

Pandora, his mother, is our youngest, but she delivered like a champ. I was glad all she had was the one.

I'm sparing you the hard labor video in exchange for this one where all the painful stuff was over.

video

I'm equally proud of Greg who did all the photos and videography without wincing too much. As a matter of fact he was the one who noticed Pandora on her side.

Pandora is the most vocal when people are nearby, so when she wasn't moving, Greg knew this was no drill.

She delivered within a half hour from when her water broke. The only thing that bothered me is that she didn't expel the afterbirth right away, and we had an appointment in town and had to be away for several hours. 

I contacted my goat forum friends and the administrator told me not to worry. Sure enough, by the time we returned, the placenta was expelled and Prince Albert was nursing greedily. 

Two more girls to go. I'm not as worried about Heidi and Lucy. They're both experienced and good mothers.

I'll post again on Wednesday. Hopefully by then everyone will have delivered and I can concentrate on the garage sale.

And yes, my garage sales are the stuff of legend. If you're nearby, you must come and see us. I'm sure I have just the thing you've been looking for.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Great Links for Indie Authors...and Normal People

There've been a lot great web content out there lately and I need to share.

First, for Self-publishing Indies, check this out: 7 foolproof design tips to crush your book cover.

If you're thinking of designing a cover, or having it designed, read this first. The last paragraph in this article is the best one. 

The number one tip in my opinion: Be clear before you are clever.

I was nodding my head the whole time I was reading it. 

For everyone else, some links for life outside of publishing. 

Gardening: 20 Insanely Clever Gardening Tips. Brilliant stuff. I especially like #19, the Dry Creek Bed landscape. 

Food. Easy Homemade Bagels, A Step-by-Step Tutorial. This looks easy enough that even I can do it.

Upcycle: 8 Clever Ways to Recycle the Things Your Kids Outgrow. So many great ideas here. Makes me wish I had kids so I could cannibalize their toys for the greater good of my yard. :cue the little urchins crying at my door:

Life and Death Stuff: Life Lessons from a Funeral Home. Really sobering article. I especially liked the paragraph that states: the real currency is time, not money

Lots to read here, but I promise, they're all good articles. 

Elsewhere in my life: Still waiting for baby goats to arrive. I've noticed some physical changes in the future mamas. I hope that  means we'll see babies soon.

My main garden looks great. Lots of rain, bees, and butterflies. Also a few snakes. Gotta have snakes in the Garden of Eden, I suppose.

A little bird told me we're getting new neighbors in our secret cul-de-sac. When you only have four neighbors in the immediate vicinity, this is news. I hope they're nice people.

Finished two more covers and assorted banners. I really love my job!

Greg is interfering with my yoga. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I have the best intentions, but an important task always comes up. Sometimes it involves his projects, but most of the time, it's me needing him for my mad machinations.

I'd go later in the day, but the traffic is awful, and I'm a grouch in bumper-to-bumper traffic. It would erase all my mellow after a yoga class.

What's new with you guys? What's the best thing that happened to you last week? What was the worst? I will comply with obligatory hugs and your choice of virtual chocolate or alcohol. 


Update: I'm a little late responding to comments. I came down with a killer headache yesterday that would not let go. It's still with me, but not quite as bad, thanks to a doting husband and a cold compress.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

More Nifty Tips

We're still using our expense journal. Slowly, we're getting used to naturally spending less because now we know where our spending weaknesses are. Last month (and so far this month), grocery shopping was way below budget. As a matter of fact, every category was below the limit. Tracking our expenses is working!

Being aware is a priority, but we also look for ways to stretch our money when we can.
Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_cukmen'> / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo
Here are some more tips from my frugalista vault.

• I'm not a stranger to buying clearance-marked meats, but I just started buying bakery rolls and bread. I freeze them immediately and thaw what I need on those nights when we really want garlic bread, but as usual, forgot to put it on the grocery list.

• The quietest day to grocery shop is Sunday.

• The best-stocked day to grocery shop is Wednesday--at least in the states.

• Shop an hour before the store closes. That's usually past my bedtime, but the few times I've been out, the store was giving away bakery goods and rotisserie chickens. It's happened to me several times, so this is standard practice for some stores.

• Is your milk nearing its expiration date? Freeze it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, you can move them to freezer bags. You can do this with juice too.

• Cilantro always goes bad on me before I can use it a second time. A friend showed me to clip the stems of the remaining cilantro and stick it in a jar with water. Cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.

• Weigh pre-bagged fruits and vegetables. You'd be surprised how much a five-pound bag of potatoes can vary.

How's your budget so far this year? Have you had any surprise expenses come up? We've had a few, most notably Maggie's large vet bill, but we managed to absorb it. As long as no one else gets sick for a couple more months, we'll be sitting pretty. :)


Monday, April 13, 2015

As Long As I Can

The other day, we were clearing brush and dead trees. It was a particularly dense area, the trail too narrow for a tractor.

Greg used his 4-wheeler to pull out the last tree. I wrapped the cable around the trunk and he dragged it out of the gully where it had fallen. It was nearly out when it caught on something. I managed to lift one end, hoping it would be enough to give it clearance.

Suddenly, the tree broke free and swooshed past me. One of the branches hooked my leg as it went by. Down I went, dragged through the forest floor for several long seconds.

The only thing going through my head at that moment was: Where was the rest of that tree? I had visions of being raked over by those spiky branches.

Fortunately, Greg stopped immediately, and me? I just kept rolling--hoping I was rolling perpendicular to the direction of the tree.

When he reached me, my back was embedded with mulch and cedar needles. I was scraped up and bruised, but otherwise unharmed. He said I rolled really well for an old person. :grin:

It might seem that we rough it, but we really don't. We raise our own food, and we recycle and upcycle whenever we can. Someday, we hope to even make our own energy, but we'll never be as cool Mr. Jack English.





I did a little research after I saw this video. Sadly, Mr. English can't live in his cabin anymore. At 94, he's become too fragile after his heart attack. Still, I'm in awe just to witness what one man can accomplish.

Good on you, Mr. English. The next time somebody tells me I'm too old to do something, I'll think of you, and tell those naysayers I've only just begun.

One thing I did notice on the video was how gnarled his fingers were from arthritis. I have arthritis in my hands too and I can well imagine the pain he suffers. That only makes me admire his tenacity more.

Anybody out there suffer from arthritis? Gotten injured lately? I need some company in my Klutz Club.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

State of the Homestead

It's spring! That means weeds, warm breezes, and mosquitoes. We've been hard at work cleaning the land, dragging brush to be burned, starting gardens and planting trees.

Garden: In the main garden, we now have raised beds. It's still a work in progress. While I have weed barrier cloth on the walkways, I'm biding my time trying to find free brick on Craigslist so I can line them. I have brick-envy bad. Everywhere I go I look for someone giving away their bricks.

It'll probably take a long time. I'm looking specifically for old brick. The good solid ones.

Not much to see yet. The tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and okra are in. The onions and garlic are in the back, and in the middle are the strawberries, full of flowers.

My friend, Mel, gifted me with a three grape vines for my birthday. I love my friend! If you're ever in doubt about what to get me for a birthday or Christmas gift, you can't go wrong with plants. I'll always find some place to put them.

Next month, that garden should be entirely full. We'll also start the back garden with the tall plants like sunflowers and corn. I should plant soybeans too. I hadn't done them in a while.

Rabbits: We put the last litters in the freezer. I normally don't talk about killing and butchering our farm animals on this blog, but I have to mention the device Greg forged to make the deed less cruel. 

He made a cervical dislocator which makes the process of dispatching our rabbits much quicker and more humane. Anything that makes this difficult procedure less brutal is a blessing.

Goats: The girls still haven't delivered. This means they didn't get pregnant when the boys escaped last fall. Unfortunately, I still don't know when they did mate. I'm speculating they'll be April births, so I'm checking them several times a day to make sure no one is in labor.

Ray Charles: Does anyone remember my little goat who was born blind last year? (He was so big he'd gotten stuck in the birth canal and damaged his spinal cord, resulting in temporary blindness.)

Ray Charles is a sweetheart. Because I spent so much time with him, he thinks I'm his second mother. But things aren't turning out the way I had hoped.

Even though he regained his sight, Ray Charles continues to have health issues. Nothing terrible, but you can tell he's not the studly goat his cousin is. He's smaller and less thrifty looking. I've made the difficult decision that Ray is going to have to go in the freezer. The job of stud will go to his cousin, Moe. 

Moe is superb looking, but I can tell he's just like his father, BBQ. Remember him? Meanest goat that ever lived. (But very tasty.) Moe is manageable right now, but every so often you can see shades of BBQ in him. 

Here's a picture of him getting tangled in a tarp. I tack up tarps during the winter to give them a wind break, but lately, he's been using it for goring practice, and this was the result. (Just like his father!) 


If we have any boys from this delivery, it won't bother me to put Moe in the freezer too. Our plan right now is to sell or freeze all but two goats so that we'll be able to travel. We'll have a caretaker while we're gone and I don't want it to be an overwhelming task to whoever gets the job.

Chickens: I need to put a For Sale sign at my local feed store and sell my black Australorps. I hate to see them go because they're such nice birds, but I really need to downsize.

Greg has plans to build a new and improved Chicken/Rabbit Condo. We're going to build it inside the goat pen so we can have all the animals in one area.

I really want to raise a couple of geese, but Greg thinks they need a pool/pond and I don't have one. I'll have to ask around to see what their requirements are.

Dogs: Here is where I admit I was a bad mom. Maggie, our white lab, hadn't been feeling well. I was afraid she'd had a stroke because she was panting heavily and her right side looked droopy. We took her to the vet and she confirmed it was Horner's Syndrome. 

It's a good news/bad news situation because most dogs recover within four months--UNLESS--the damage is near the brain stem. If it is near the brain stem, she'll only get worse. All I can do is wait and see. I'm glad at least Maggie is in good spirits.

While we were at the vet's office, we did find out one other thing. She had gained weight and it was my fault. 

After Tank died, I lowered the ratio of cooked food to their kibble. More kibble, less meat. The reason I cooked for Tank was to keep his protein intake high (because of his tumors). Kibble has too many carbs. 

When he passed away, I started feeding the others more kibble thinking it would save me money since these guys had no health issues. What I didn't realize is that I was giving them too much kibble. I never read the instructions on the bag. It turned out I was feeding almost twice their normal requirements. 

Bad dog mama!

Now it doesn't matter with Nana, the border collie. That dog expends more energy than a tornado, but the other two are couch potatoes.

I feel bad for getting them used to so many extra calories but hopefully they'll drop the pounds soon so I can give them treats again. In the meantime, it's lots of belly rubs and walks.

I should have better pictures next month when the gardens are full and we have babies on the ground.

This is the busiest time of the year for me. The weather is perfect too. We're even getting record amounts of rain which is great because we'd suffered four years of drought. If this continues our lake levels could be back to normal this year.

Is it Spring by you? Are you a gardener? What are you planting this year? I've got a helper this year so I plan to do a lot of canning this fall.

If you're not a gardener, what's your favorite Spring activity--or Fall if you're in the Southern Hemisphere?