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.

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The tree was humming…

I  didn’t want to go to work this morning. (And I love my job) 🙂

I wanted to stay home and putter.

The  apple trees are simply loaded with flowers…

 

The honey bees are scheduled to be split this morning.  (I found a local bee keeper who was willing to come by and see  if they’re ready to be split into two hives.)  He has 40 years experience…This  is my 3rd season…even that is hard to believe.   Wow,

He’s supposed to be here at 9 AM.

Let’s hope he is a good mentor

Sure looks like a  queen cell to me 🙂  (That little peanut shaped thing sticking out from the bottom of that frame).

And..well, it’s morel mushroom season again.  Two weeks of serendipitous discoveries. 🙂

Grey morel mushrooms on the edge of the windbreak.

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And in the garden, I’m experimenting with a combination/ square foot gardening/ heavy mulch (think Ruth Stout) layout, with wood chips covering everything this growing season.  I do have (6) 4 ft by 12 ft long wooden boxed beds, but the level of the soil in the bed is the same as the walkways.  The problem with raised beds is that the water leaches out, so a lot more time is spent watering.

Simple is better.

2019 garden layout.

Doubling the size this year with three more 12 ft by 16 ft beds. Still need to put wood chips over the cardboard. I do this to smother the grass.  Next Spring this will be ready to plant.  No tilling, no weeding, no watering, and the earth worm count will be off the chart.   I have 6 to 12 inches of black Iowa top soil I am planting into.  There used to be 3 feet of topsoil, but now it’s measured in inches.  Much of it (Iowa topsoil) has wound up in the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s sterile.

One quick story.

Last week after work,  while I was hunting  morel’s in the orchard, something caught my attention.  The tree was humming…. I’m not joking, it was literally alive with noise…the noise of dozens of  honey bees (our bees)  moving quickly from one flower to the next.

What a joy.

Several of them were caked with yellow pollen:

Photo by Google

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Couple of years ago now, I gave a link to my farming blog to a friend of a friend who ran  a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) on the East coast.  Since she had been gardening on a much bigger scale, and for a lot longer than I, I was genuinely interested in getting her input..

Big mistake.

Condescending and impatient.

I had an equally disappointing relationship with a local bee keeper the first season I had bees.  Nice guy, big heart, but that is as far as it went.  He wasn’t verbal,  I got this sense he was making things up as he went. 🙂 (turned out he was)

 

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Good mentors are hard to find.

A mentor is a teacher.  Someone willing to pass on to another person their practical wisdom in an area of life.

Have you ever been mentored?

Have any stories to tell?

Anything else on your mind?

Take care. DM

 

 

 

 

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

The Wedding Dance

One of our nephews got married this past weekend.

At the reception, the DJ announced a dance for “All the married couples.”  And then he said,  “You know how this works…keep dancing until your year is called, so we can find out who here has been married the longest…”Wife looks and me and says, “Let’s  do it!”  I’d already been out on the floor dancing with one of our granddaughters so I was OK with the idea.  I’m going to guess there were about 20 couples on the floor.

“5 years or less, please leave the floor…”  “Dang,” said a young couple off to my right.

“15 years or less…please leave the floor..”

“25 years or less…

35 years or less...(the parents of the bride and groom left at this point.)

40 years…. (It was at this point we made a bee line to the edge of the floor.)

I could hear the DJ saying something about that last couple, turned out it was us. We were that last couple.  Then I felt a hand on my shoulder, thought it was one of my brother-in-laws, for a second, then realized it was the DJ.

“Any words of advice?”

My mind went  blank.  Completely  blank.   And then, a thought began to take shape, but I wasn’t sure I should say it.

What the heck, he asked me again so I blurted it out: ,“It takes a lot of work” (not the most romantic words, but he’d asked, and as far as I was concerned, it was the truth. 🙂

He asked the question a third time? ” What words of advice would you give a younger couple after being married for 40 years?” 

Fortunately, my wife had her wits about her and she said,  “Well, coffee in bed…He brings me coffee in bed, and has done so for years..” (I could hear a collective awe) 🙂

“It’s the little things that matter.  Kindness..”

After we sat down and the microphone was no longer in my face, my wife added…“I wish I would have said a sense of humor…a sense of humor in marriage goes a long ways!”

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The year we marked our 25th anniversary,  I did  write down some thoughts on marriage.  They are as true today as 15 years go and if you’ve never read my list,  here is what I wrote:

#1. A marriage relationship is a living thing, very much like a plant.  There are things you can do to enhance it, make it flourish, and there are things you can do in terms of neglect.  It can go without water and sunlight for a spell, but make no mistake…the principle of sowing and reaping is just as relevant in marriage as in any area of life.

#2.  A “healthy” marriage takes work.  You don’t feel the “warm fuzzies” for each other all the time.  Don’t panic…that is normal. Wife and I like to spend time together, we enjoy each other’s company.  But, as Dr. Dobson puts it, “Emotions come and go.  Do the deeds and the feelings will follow.”

  Make the phone calls from work just to say, “Hi. I was thinking about you.” Bring her coffee in bed.  Get out one-on-one, just the two of you , even if it’s just for a cup of coffee. Help out around the home with the dirty dishes, dirty, diapers, and here is a big one…pick up after yourself!

#3, Take time to listen and stay “current” with each other.  Don’t pour all your energy into your job and have nothing left over for your family.  Don’t become “married singles.” (two people living in the same home who no longer have anything in common.)  If your job does take all of your energy, all of the time, then Buddy, you need to find a different job.  There is nothing more tragic in life than a man who makes it to the top of the company ladder and loses his family in the process.

#4. Use these words often (You will need them):

“I’m sorry.”

“I was wrong.”

“Please forgive me.”

“You are right.”

#5. Dance…have fun…keep doing the silly things you did when you were just dating or courting.

#6. When (not if) you find yourself having an unresolved conflict in some area (money, sex, parenting, work, church, etc.) work at it until you find an answer! (God has used everything from books to other couples, to paid counselors, to help keep our boat afloat over the years.)

#7 Get out (or stay out) of debt.  There are a lot of spin-off ramifications that come with financial pressure.    Just a side note on this one-  for the most part, we have been a one income family, and since I have chosen to make a living with my hands (I am in construction)  we have made financial choices including…renting instead of owning the first 15 years of our marriage,  driven an older dependable car, shopped @ garage sales, discount grocery stores, etc.

These are choices we all have to make, but as children enter the picture, Dad needs to have some time and energy left over at the end of the day or be willing to “pay the piper” later in life. (Remember the song, “Cat’s in the Cradle”???)

#8. Give each other some space and freedom.  Trust and respect are foundational issues.

#9. Pray and share with each other spiritually.

#10 Be a forgiving person.  Let’s face it, you are not perfect, your mate is not perfect, “stuff” happens.  Cut each other some slack….practice grace….be the first to initiate reconciliation.

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If you have any thoughts you would like to add to this list, absolutely feel free to do so.

I feel a nap coming on. 🙂 It’s raining here today.  I took off work early in order to take a couple of our chickens to do a program for group of Kindergardeners before I sat down here at the computer.

What a hoot.

Take care.  DM

 

Dancing with the granddaughters.

 

Not quite sure

I published my first blog post in 2007.

Since then, I’ve had the privilege to meet several of you in person… Kristina, Grace, Brittany, Cheryl, Val, Lisa Maris, Michelle, and I’m a thinking I am missing someone :-).  I’ve connected with a few more of you via facebook   something I’ve never taken that for granted either.

On the flip side,  I’ve watched people I loved to interact with suddenly drop off the face of the earth without nary a whisper…Doctor Victo, Linda, Joy,  Bill, Michael, to mention just a few…their blogs either just  went silent or were deleted without any notice.  Every time, it felt like a friend had just skipped town without explanation.

In my last post, , I mentioned in passing the “writing muse” seems like it is starting to dry up.  When I first started blogging back in 2007, my mind was overflowing with topics and issues I felt driven to write about, but now, 12 years later, I feel like I’ve said everything I want to say.

I actually still have 5 active blogs….this one, my farm blog, a history research project blog, a 4th one  that is unapologetic-ally deeply spiritual, and an earlier version of this one, currently set to private.  Each with a specific purpose.  this blog (heart to heart) is where I tend to process life.  Last count there were between 600 and 700 blog posts between all of the blogs…Many of the posts “clunkers” I’d be the first to admit.  🙂  A few I may revisit and eventually assemble into another book…I’m still not sure.

So I’m not sure what is coming next, if anything…When Kristina  was here last week, we talked briefly about this, and maybe I would be interested in using “prompts” to stimulate my writing.  That doesn’t really appeal to me, I do have plenty to keep me entertained now that the new growing season has arrived.

What would help me out more than anything, would be for those of you that are regular readers (even if you don’t leave comments all that often) is to answer this question- Why do you subscribe to  this blog?    Are there certain topics that resonate with you more than others?  Is there something I’ve touched on in the past, you’d love for me to write about more fully?  Or are you good with  things just as they are? (Even that would help me get some direction.)

Give it some thought and let me know.  Any feedback @ this point would be helpful.

Danka.

DM

Me in the orchard….

Few more weeks and this is what it will look like.

 

Pa Ingalls and keeping a good perspective

This will be short.

I told Kristina earlier this week, I think the creative muse that lives in my  head has  started to dry up.

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Google image

In the grip of Old Man Winter

 

 

Eight weeks ago while we were still in the grip of Old Man Winter,  I picked up  The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I  wanted to get my bearings and re-calibrate my winter “can do” attitude.  Figured that was as good a place to start as any.

Anyway, at  one point in the story, Laura’s family had just run out of kerosene (for lighting), the wheat was running out,  potatoes were running out, and it was still another two months until the supply train would be able to get to town….

 

“If only I had some grease I could fix some kind of light,” Ma considered.  “We didn’t lack for light when I was a girl, before this newfangled kerosene was ever heard of.”

 “That’s so, said Pa.  “These times are too progressive.  Everything has changed too fast.  Railroads and telegraphs and kerosene and coal stoves- they’re good things to have but the trouble is, folks get to depend on ’em.”

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Pa said those words 140 years ago and  they are still relevant.

My problem  (it’s not really a problem) is I am also a student of history.

In my mind’s eye, I filter current events through a 200 year lens.

(We just watched a couple of documentaries on the Irish potato famine for example…..wow, if that didn’t stir up a feeling of thankfulness.)

I am living in a time of unparalleled prosperity, the current political climate not withstanding.  There are kind, selfless people all over the place.   

(Make sure you click that link)

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Would love to hear your thoughts…

Or….

Tell me about this past winter and how you fared.

If you know me, you know I love detail.

Take care.  DM