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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.

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=''> / 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?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Time, Taxes, and the Old Days

I'll have a State of the Homestead update on Wednesday. It should've been today, but I was too preoccupied with our taxes.

For someone who counts pennies, you'd think I'd be more aware of my income--or lack of it.  

Hi. I'm Maria, and I'm doing my taxes today. :cue groan:

In 2014, I had no fewer than four clients who either skipped out on the bill, or consumed way more time than what was reasonable.

Two of them were cases of micromanagement. By the time it was over, I lost money--big time. At the end, all I wanted was to part company with them. For those of you who don't know, I charge a flat rate, rather than by the hour.

The other two were friendly and earnest new clients who emailed me for several days in lengthy conversation. I tossed out a few ideas and some rough thumbnails since they seemed ready to sign on the dotted line. When I emailed them their respective contracts, all I got back were cricket sounds. Never heard from them again.

I should be more rigid in my business practices but I always assume people will do the right thing. It's foolish on my part, or maybe old-fashioned. The world is different from the one I grew up in.

When you freelance, people don't realize that time is indeed money. Hours spent on a project that went nowhere could've been used on a job that paid my grocery bill.

I think part of the problem is that we're accustomed to getting many things free so we don't realize that the poor schmo at the other end of that internet connection is trying to make a living. 

Authors have it the worst because it's hard to know if your marketing efforts are paying off. But this applies to anyone who freelances and who gives away tangible and intangible goods and services.

Free books. Free art. Free advice. In essence, none of these are free. Not really. 

We give away free books to entice people to buy the rest of our back list.

Stock art companies let you "borrow" art for the chance to advertise on your web site.

Free advice from a professional is always given on the premise that his expertise will encourage you to pay for the rest of his services.

All companies, big and small that offer coupons, discounts, or freebies do it with the hope you'll buy their products or services for full price the next time.

Anecdote from the old days:  Many years ago we raised rhea and emu. We had a phenomenal track record for hatching and raising healthy chicks. We became respected experts in our field, and people called us from all over the US and Europe asking for advice on chick rearing.
Mail we received after my first rhea article was published.

One day, we got a frantic call from someone who had visited our farm for many weeks, asking countless questions and picking our brains for information. 

In the end, he bought from someone else who was "cheaper". Lo and behold, his chicks started dying, and the seller stopped taking the buyer's calls. He was desperate.

From what he described, we figured out the problem and helped him as best we could. We could've turned our backs on him--after all--he chose the other breeder, but we didn't. No matter how we felt about this guy and all the time he took from us, we couldn't allow his animals to suffer needlessly.

Flash forward. I still help people when they ask, but since there aren't any lives at stake, I only give what I can when I can.

Luckily, my good clients far outnumber the bad ones. If it hadn't been for doing taxes today I probably wouldn't have remembered the bad ones at all.

Authors:  It's difficult to know whether a freebie book has netted you any solid sales. How do you decide when to give something away and for how long?

Have you ever been stiffed with the bill?

In other news, it is full-on Spring here. The homestead has been buzzing with activity. More on Wednesday!