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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