Thoughts

My brain is a tangled up knot of thoughts this morning and has been for several weeks.  Ever cut open a golf ball?  A tight mass of rubber bands.  Yep, that’s my brain.

Job related thoughts.

Honey extracting thoughts.

Relationships thoughts.

Ordering Your Private World  thoughts.

Early morning thoughts when I hear  crows talking to each other in the distance.

Photography thoughts.

Fermentation thoughts.

Gardening thoughts.

Henry David Thoreau thoughts.

Louisa May Alcott thoughts.

Older parent thoughts.

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Think I’ll just post a quote call it good.

 

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”

― Henry David Thoreau

 

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Saw it at the auto parts store

I was running late.

Had just a couple of minutes before I had to head back to class, figured I had just enough time to get the part.

Walked in the door of our local auto parts store. Two guys behind the counter and  three people in line.

I felt a tight knot in my stomach.

I had tried to squeeze too many things in.  Had not yet learned the importance of building margin into my schedule.

Then I saw it…. a sign on the wall, about the size of a piece of typing paper.

It put everything into perspective.

I left the store without the part that day.

I first encountered that sign 45 years ago, and to this day I still refer to it in my personal dealings with people…..

 

Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part

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Agreed to help another carpenter with a large project this past fall. The project meant a couple of months of steady work/ great pay… At the last minute, the financing fell through.  I had scheduled my fall work around that job, and suddenly found myself scrambling to stay busy….

It happens.

Same project was rescheduled to start this Spring.  I was told, it would be ready for us, late May/ early June…  then got bumped back to first week of July…then 3 weeks ago, we got an e-mail that they wouldn’t be ready for us until early August.

Right about that time, Paul approached me about finishing off their basement, and since I wasn’t going to be needed until early August, it fit perfectly into my schedule.  Lined up an electrician,  a plumber and a drywall finisher.

Start date July 1st.

Got a phone call on Monday…the large project will be ready mid July. (Not early August).

It took me a little bit to sort this one through.  Keeping my word is important to me, and I had given my word to the other carpenter that he could count on me with the large project.

Then I remembered that sign from the auto parts store.

Bet you’ll never guess where I’ll be working mid July. 🙂

Well, I have time to spray the orchard this morning.  No wind. Perfect conditions.  Currently shaping up to be the best apple crop we’ve ever had….

Take care. DM

Historical perspective on money and personal debt

Hey John, ( and anybody else who cares to listen) 🙂

This picture caught my eye the other day and I wanted you to  see it.

I wanted to plant a financial seed in your minds eye if I may. 🙂

It is the home of Dr Lebron Lackey, still standing after a 250 mph hurricane.  Notice his neighbors…

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When I was studying early Iowa history one of the things that struck me, (and we never covered in school), was the number of other recessions and depressions that had taken place.

All I had ever learned about was The Great Depression of 1929.  

We never talked about the Panic of 1837, that lasted until 1843 – (6 years).

“The Panic of 1837 was one of the longest and deepest depressions of the 19th century. It was a period of pronounced deflation and massive default on debt.”

Then came the the Panic of 1857  that  didn’t really turn around until after  the Civil War – (7 years).

“…the years immediately preceding the Panic of 1857 were prosperous, many banks, merchants, and farmers had seized the opportunity to take risks with their investments and as soon as market prices began to fall, they quickly began to experience….. financial panic”.

Or The panic of 1873 that lasted until 1879   (6 years).

Since you didn’t bring this topic up, I am kind of reluctant to get too preachy,  but knowing what I know,  it would be just wrong of me to not say something.

Back in  January of 2014, I was  at my wit’s end (financially).  To use a word picture at the time,  I felt like I was flying a 747 and we were about 10 to 15 feet above the ocean.

Yes we were still in the air, and yes we were still moving, but the waves were lapping at the wings, and I was tired.   Being self employed, my income can vary a lot from year to year…as much as a 1/3.   I  sat down, crunched some numbers and realized we had been spending $700 a month more than I was making for a couple of years.  Our budget was based on the incomes of better years. Those extra expenses were going  fun things like heating bills, medical bills and medical insurance.

We’ve never been big on going out to eat, yada, yada….

So there you go, and it was right in the midst of that craziness that I came across the book by Mary Hunt called  Debt Proof Living.

Within a month of reading it, I had hope.  Finally had some practical ideas on how to get some distance between myself and the water.

Our income hasn’t change all that much, but (knock on wood) we’ve been able to pay off all of the credit card debt, our car loan, a line of credit loan, and the loan to build that little extension on my shop.  Over $30,000 worth of debt, on the same income…we switched medical health insurance coverage that saved us $400 a month, and replaced the 20 year old furnace/ shut off the heat to the 2nd floor of our home and whacked another $300 a month off expenses.

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So when I see that picture of the house still standing when the neighbors have all been blown away, I see someone making different financial decisions than the rest of the culture.

Pop culture says, debt is just a normal part of life.

I say we are living in a fools paradise.

Historically, things go in cycles.

We are way past due for another financial $@#% storm.

Get out of debt and stay out of debt.

It is possible to raise a family on one blue collar income.

You can take that to the bank.

Overlooking Main Street and other short stories

I’d heard my urologist was a fellow bee keeper, and that he’d lost all of his bees this past winter, so when I went to see him yesterday for my annual visit,  that’s the first thing I asked him about.

“I heard you lost  your bees?”

“Yep.”

He said this was his 4th season as a bee keeper.

He told me he bottled 185 honey bear last year.

He asked me how mine did?

“They came through great!” I told him.

I struggled to find the words….I’d never seen anything like it, this thick mass of bees, just milling around in the middle of February. (On a rare 50 degree day in February, I  had opened the hive to slip in some extra winter pollen patties.)    I told him, on a hunch, I’d  put a couple of extra inches of Styrofoam on 3 sides of the hive when it got really cold, and since it was their first season, I decided not to take any honey.  I suggest to him that doing those two things, plus the mite control in the fall  all contributed to their surviving.  Who knows.   It sounded good. 😉

Then we moved onto the reason for my visit.

My psa number had dropped again for the 4th time in a row. (Happy dance.)  The psa  number is a reference point urologists use as an indicator for possible prostate cancer.  It is not an exact science.  You can have a low psa number and still  have cancer, or as in my case, a high number and no cancer present.   Mine was off the chart 2 winters ago (26) which resulted in a biopsy where they  put me under.  (They took 40 some core samples.)    Six months later my psa dropped to 17, then 11.5 and yesterday 10.

As I was leaving his office my doctor came around the corner with a honey bear. He said he had just two left…

Made me feel special. 🙂

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Since I still had  a good hour before I was supposed to be on the job, (we’re repairing a deck,)  I called my sister  just to see how her weekend went with my parents?   Sister mentioned she was down at her store, and since I was in the area, wondered if I had time for a cup of coffee….?

When I got to the store, there was nobody there except her, so we sat in her front window over looking main street.  Just my sister and I.   First, we caught up on her weekend, then  we started talking about childhood memories growing up…..the good and the not so good.  We also talked about various “what if” scenarios, as my parents age.  Not saying this is how things will ultimately shake out, but how much better to have these conversations, before.   Ended up having  a 40 minute therapy session, right there in the front store window over looking main street.

It was awesome.

I texted her last night  to tell her again, how much I enjoyed our visit.  She texted me back,  said she felt the same way.

One of my life goals is to age gracefully.

I’ve known both types , so I know what it looks like.

Absolutely, there needs to be a place where I can process the loss of my youth, and it will probably be right here on a personal blog post, just so you know.  🙂

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Got time for one last story?

Last Tuesday I was invited to take one of my chickens to school.  Grandson was studying farm animals, and his mom asked if I would be willing to come to school with a chicken?

“Absolutely” I said.

As I thought about what sort of things Kindergarten kids would get a kick out of, I decided  to tell a couple of stories, then let them pet the chicken.

I told them about how my last batch of chickens and their love for cat food…Told them how when I let them out in the morning to free range, the first thing they did, was run around the back of our house, into the entry and clean out the cat food bowl.

First thing/ every morning.

 

Then, at some point they discovered our neighbor, an 1/8 of a mile west of us, also had cat food in a bowl, so that’s where they would head next.  (It wasn’t long after that, that I sent them packing.)

So as I was wrapping up my visit, I asked the kids that age old question, “So, why do you think,  the chicken cross the road?” 

One little girl said,  “Because they were going to the neighbors to eat cat food.”

Now you know.

Henny Penny and I visiting school

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Well, I better to get to work.  DM

Did not see this coming

Did not see this coming.

Once a year, our 4 children agreed a couple of years ago, as it is hard to get everybody together at the same time, it would be great just to set aside a couple of days each year where we knew everyone would be able to be back.  (2 of our 4 kids  live out-of-state).

So everyone was back in town this week to celebrate their mama’s birthday.  5:15 we had planned to get together for a cookout @ one of the daughters homes.

Walked into the garage and I was confused.  Saw my brother, my mom and dad, heck, all of my siblings were there and their spouses….I thought..ah, neat..they’d been invited to help celebrate my wife’s birthday with us….but then  a cake caught my eye.  A Princess Bride themed cake… It was a good 45  to 60 seconds before I realized this was a surprise anniversary celebration, and I was one of the guests of honor.

I have never had a real surprise party in my life…never.

Two days later I am still in shock.

If it would have been possible,   I would love to have had each of you that read this blog, to have been invited.  I mean that.

The Princess Bride is one of those goofy movie’s from the 80’s that has taken on a life of it’s own in the fabric of our family’s life.

 

Princess Bride themed cake

Group photo

 

Chicken Run

I have been wanting to get laying hens for a while.

Sent the last ones packing about a year ago because we were not getting any eggs.  It’s not that they were not laying, (they were).  But because I was letting them free range, they were hiding the eggs all over the property. Then, one of the little stinkers acquired a taste for farm fresh eggs.  It finally came to a head when they started venturing over to the neighbors every morning  and stealing the neighbor lady’s cat food.

Free ranging chicken sounds good in theory, but  a chicken has no concept of property lines, and when they can fly over a 6 ft fence, good luck telling them they have to stay home.

But in the back of my mind, Robert Fulguhm’s  essay “Not Even Chickens” continued to cast a long shadow over my life.

I really do feel like a rich man when  I have a few chickens.

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So, while the desire was there,  that didn’t mean I was just going to act on it.

Financially, I wanted having chickens fit into the big picture of our life and not be a slow bleed on our finances.

And then last week, I had enough discretionary  money saved up between my monthly stipend, some cash I got for Christmas, and then more cash for my birthday to buy some chickens.

I figured 6 or 7 chickens would be perfect.

Decided to put out some feelers on a local garage sale site on Face book.

30 minutes later I had a lead.  Lady had 13 pullets born in August, that had just started to lay.  She was looking to get a different breed.

The only catch, I had to take all 13.

Then we started to talk money.  I asked her what she wanted per bird?  She wasn’t sure.  How much would I pay her?

I hate dickering.  Told her that right up front.  Didn’t want to insult her, by being too low.  She would just need to set a price and I could say yes or no.

Having bought chickens before, a fair price for a young laying hen starts around $10 a bird, and could be as much as $12 to $15, especially if you’re only getting a few.

She said, “Well I raised them from babies …I would like maybe $3.00 a bird but if that is too much we can talk.”

Sold!

Told her I could pick them up  Saturday morning.

As we finished loading the birds,  She teared up as we put them in the back of my pick up.  I could tell the chickens were her pets….her babies as she called them.

“They need to ride in the cab if it will fit” (the cage). 

Temps that morning were single digit.  I had brought a tarp,  my intention was put them all in one cage together, throw a tarp over the cage for the ride home.  (They would have been fine).

Well, the cage fit into the cab, (barely).

The ride home was interesting.

13 chickens taking up 2/3’s of the front seat.  I managed to get the drop cloth under part of the cage.  Wasn’t long before they were crapping past the tarp.  I noticed my coffee mug was directly below an untarped portion of the cage.  ;-(

I was glad to get home.

I really didn’t want to keep all 13 of the birds, so I put an ad on Craigslist Sunday morning.

Pullets for sale – $10

6 pullets for sale. Born in August 2018, just starting to lay. (Brown eggs) $10 firm. I had to buy the whole lot when I picked up these birds…few more than I really need.

Had an offer in 2 hours.  Delivered those 6 hens  Monday morning.

Paid $40 for 13 hens.  Sold 6 for $60.

So there are now 7 happy healthy laying hens on the property and I’m $20 ahead.

Just got home after an hour cooped up with 13 nervous birds

Early morning view of the chicken house.

Life lesson in this for me again is this…

God knows the desires of my heart.  He is not some cosmic Genie, nor is he a killjoy. He is unpredictable.  And sometimes, in the most unexpected ways, he shows himself in my life.  DM

 

Winter Sketches

I have two stories that rumble around in my head  each winter, when the weather gets testy, this year I added a third.

First story

(And you may have heard this one before).

Growing up, my Grandpa would talk about a train  that derailed south of his farm in the dead of winter, January of 1929.   The train derailed and “turned turtle”  (went over on it’s back)  when it hit a hard snow drift.  One of the engineers (Roscoe Stevens) was trapped in the wreckage for over 3 hours.   Grandpa said, (and I have this on tape) ” I can still see that man…had a damn rod as thick as my arm over his arm…he was laying there, couldn’t move. Both engines were lying in the ditch. then the doctor hollered,” Does anybody got some whiskey??? Come on, get some! If you got nothing, get some! We’ve got to have whiskey for this guy.” they poured the whole pint in him. He was suffering….It was 35 to 40 below. You don’t ever forget those things…”

Here are a couple of pictures of that train wreck:

 

Second story

You may have heard this one before too,  that can happen around here.  😉

Back in 2011 I  stumbled across the poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong on-line. She was a pioneer mother who lived from 1789 to 1891.  She wrote a series  poems called “Sketches Of My Life.”  One of the most powerful accounts happened in 1831.  They lose their provision of salt, which in that time apparently was a life and death situation. ( I know it had to do with food preservation for the coming year, but not sure how that all works…)

“Our salt was in a gum,

And was standing on the loft,

But met with a bad accident,

when the cover got shoved off.

I had some in a box,

That was standing down below,

Not enough to last till spring,

And we knew not where to go…

Elsie asks  a man who had been selling salt if he had more to sell?  He didn’t, and didn’t know when more would be in.  He said...”If I go for salt, I’ll freeze to death, and perish in the snow.” 

She goes home,  and tells her children the situation.

When I got home, I told my children

What the man had said,

Then William said, I’ll go myself,

And take that big old sled.

“Mother do not be uneasy,

None but lazy people freeze,

Because they will not exercise,

They are so fond of ease.

There is no fear for me Mother,

I will jump and kick the sled,

I will keep myself in exercise

Run, and kick the wagon bed….

Their team was good and active,

All four year olds and strong….

The account goes on…

Fifteen year old Will and his little brother take off on a 90 mile trek in the dead of winter with their team. They have to cross a frozen river, deal with winter storms, not get lost, be on guard for  roving Indians, (all while mom is at home second guessing herself, with the rest of her brood).

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This week, just to make sure I was on my game  because the weather man said we were in for it, we were going to get a “Polar vortex”,what ever the heck that was, I decided to add a third story to my winter attitude folder.

I decided to reread a portion of  novel The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

It was perfect!

It was just what the Dr ordered!

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Pause.

I am torn.

Torn because I love winter.

I love winter storms.

I love being snowed in.

I love busting through drifts with my 4 wheel drive pick up.

Last thing I want to do is mock someone to whom the winter storms are a heartache.  (My parents are in their 80’s and I know it can be hard on both of them).   The thing is, from my vantage point, all of the negative, naysayers are the only voices I hear.  Fellow lovers of winter weather  seem to be either a dying breed or keeping their thoughts to themselves.

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I grew up on a farm.

On the farm, when you have livestock, you don’t get to stay in the house when it gets cold.  Sometimes just the opposite.  Those are the times when stuff starts to break. Water lines to the cattle get frozen or the pilot light to the tank heater won’t stay lit, etc. etc. Christmas morning if you have milk cows (like we did)  the cows still need milking, haying,  might even have more manure to pitch than normal if you keep the cows in the barn overnight so they don’t freeze their utters off. 🙂

So here I am now in the year 2019.

All of our children are grown.  No longer have cows to milk, tank heaters to keep lit. none of it.

Predictions of winter storms stir up within me feelings of thankfulness.   I feel like some little creature tucked away deep in my burrow,  Cozy.  My larder is full.  The house is staying warm. Smell of freshly baking bread is in the air. Garden seeds have started coming in the mail.  The new little heating pad that goes under the seed starting tray is working like a charm.

I  feel better.   Now you know.

I got into a conversation yesterday with a young mom  about this past weeks weather.  She asked me what I thought about it.  I paused, looked her in the eyes and told her the same things I’ve just told you here.

She smiled and said, “I feel the same way.”

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Here’s a picture I took earlier in the week in front of our house:

Got to run.  Need  to go to the bank before they close.   Take care. DM