One of many (thoughts)

I mentioned an hour ago, my mind is a tangled up mass of  thoughts.  There’s a song in my heart so the tangled up knot is not stress related. (For which I’m thankful) 🙂

Thirty minutes later, I was out in the orchard picking up branches.  My mind went to a comment I’d left on a Dave Ramsey facebook group this morning.  (Dave Ramsey in case you’ve never heard of him is a money management, get out of debt author and speaker)

Someone on the group asked the question:

 Where would you love to retire?

Why?

Out of the 82 people who answered, only one person mentioned they loved where they currently lived, wouldn’t mind being able to go somewhere warm in the winter, but 81 of them  said something other than where they were.

While I rarely leave comments on an open forum (except with those of you I know via blogging, I decided to say something….

“Two thoughts.

Love what I’m doing, (I’m a carpenter) as my dad was fond of saying “retirement” is not a word in my vocabulary, so plan do keep doing some variation of that as long as I’m physically able.

Secondly. Love where we live. Plan to stay right where I’m at, as long as I have any say in the matter.

Years ago, when my life was spinning out of control with too many commitments,  small children, work, financial stress..you know, the normal every day, stuff all of us deal with, I remember wishing things were different.  I remember saying to someone, “Peace and contentment are entirely under rated.” 

What I wouldn’t give for a more peace filled life.

Here’s a picture I’ve shared before from that season in my life… I taped it to the wall to remind me business does not automatically equal progress:

When I read later about  Henry David Thoreau  tromping off to the woods to live on Walden’s pond, I remember thinking to myself,  why did he only stay there the better part of two years?  Why not stay there long term?  I made up my mind at that point, to do just that…create my own version of Walden.  I hate water, so I didn’t need a pond 🙂  (I can’t swim, don’t have the patience to fish, plus with standing water you have to deal with mosquitoes).

And so, since  1995 I have been slowly moving in the direction of a life that I don’t need to take a vacation from. Here’s what it looked like in 1995:

…an old run down acreage with a set of 100-year-old farm buildings. Curb appeal it did not have. The house and out buildings hadn’t been painted in 50 years. Nothing appealing except that it was 4 miles from town, and the foundation on the house was still solid.

I  have been  slowly  carving out my own version of Walden here ever since….Laying hens, apple trees, honey bees, lots of flowers,  garden beds, a dog, no TV, lots of books to read.

My vision of Walden  would probably looks different from yours.

But I would suspect it would be built on the same foundation stone.

The stone of living life intentionally.

Talk to me about living life intentionally. What does that mean to you?

It is never to late to start.

Take care. DM

 

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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.

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.

 

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

 

That’s Twice Now

It has been a very productive winter for me as I’ve had the time to work on  family history.  It’s an interest I’ve had for years that comes and goes.  I’ve had individual folders with old family pictures, notes  from conversations from people now passed, two different family trees books I am descended from…a lot of information that begs to be organized.   Last Fall, I happened to run into Diane at a local picnic for a tour group in the area from Ostfriesland.  (Part of northern Germany.) By the end of our conversation, Diane had offered to help me work on our family tree.  She had the time, the know how and I jumped at her offer.

She reached out to me this past January and asked if I was ready to get started.  I gave her some names and she started setting up a family tree.  I didn’t hear anything for several weeks, and discovered in the meantime  that since my wife had taken a DNA test there was a free ancestry account already in existence in our name. So while I was waiting for Diane’s results, I started doing some work on my own…adding pictures, uploaded stories, using the search tools in the local newspaper archives.   It has been a great way to break up some of the time these past few months.

Night before last Diane wrote me a note.  I’d given her a link to the family tree I’ve been working on,  this is a portion of what she said:

“I can tell you that your instincts, Doug as a genealogist and family history keeper are excellent.”

That is the 2nd time someone as given me unsolicited affirmation about that area of my life. (lover of history.)

The first time was in 2009.  I’d shared a link to a history blog I was working on with one of my favorite authors.  Andrea Seu Peterson.

She wrote me back and said : “You may want to call yourself a contractor, but I think you’re a historian. “

I hesitate to share those two affirmations and yet, I believe there is a place in our lives for personal affirmation.  God knows there is enough negativity most of us battle with that goes on in our private thought life.  So, when  a few words of genuine affirmation makes it into my life, I celebrate. :-).

So there you go.

I am a voracious reader, especially when I get on a topic that interests me.  Heck, I grew up in a home where World Encyclopedias were on a bookshelf in our bathroom.

So for me, to receive two unsolicited affirmations  affirming my work in the area of history,  does as much for me as getting a piece of paper telling me I have a Masters degree.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I’d never seen any of the following pictures before…(except the one of grandma on the boat.  I’ve share that one before.)

Picture of my grandmother (little girl on the left)  She was 13 years old.

My grandma, front row second from left.  Getting together with  her friends right before emigrating to America. March 1929.  She was 23.

Grandma on ship March 1929 coming to America

1949 Picture from my grandmother on her first visit  back to Germany since she immigrated. 

(She is in the center)

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Twenty years had passed…She’d gotten married to an Iowa farm boy.  She’ had three children.  Her father had passed away while she was gone.  She’d endured the Great Depression in America, experienced WW 2 as a German living in America.    I think of the emotions she must have been feeling at that moment.

I miss her.

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I need to get moving.

Thanks for tagging along.

Take care.  DM

Ten Reasons Why You Need To Plant An Orchard

Few years ago, I got an e-mail from a college professor.  Seems some of his students at the time had stumbled across the following blog post on another blog of mine.  He wanted me to know  he’d heard them talking about my blog outside of class around the campfire on a class trip.  Talk about honored. Anyway, Spring is in the air.  If I want to do any pruning it needs to happen in the next couple of weeks.  So, to kick off the 2019 apple growing season, I  would like to repost the following musing.

Ten Reasons Why You May Want To Plant An Orchard.

(and if not a whole orchard, at least a couple of trees) 😉

 

Hanging scale in our sales area

1.  Photo opportunities.   Our apple orchard constantly changes with the seasons.   There is always something catching my eye and bringing me joy.

Apple blossoms

2.  It provides the perfect blend of solitude and social interaction.  I love my peace and quiet.  There is nothing more nurturing for me than spending a Saturday morning alone, picking apples.  At the same time, I do love meeting and bantering with the public on occasion, and when the mood strikes, I will load up the pick up and head to our local farmers market.

Hawking apples at the farmers market last season

3.  Supplemental income.   Sure there is some work involved in tending an orchard, but not nearly as much as you might suspect.  One Semi dwarf tree  will cost you  $20 to $25.00 and once it’s mature, it can produce between 2 to 4 bushel of apples a year. = 80 to 160 pounds of fruit @ $1.50 a pound that’s $120 to $240 gross, from one tree…per year..not bad for some additional pocket change if you ask me ;-)

4.  mental stimulation.    While the basics of tending an apple orchard are pretty easy to grasp, there is always something new to learn.   Did you know there are over 750 different varieties of apples in the United States alone, and over 2000 varieties world-wide?

5.  Keeps you physically active. Keep those muscles moving”  my grandpa used to say.  Between the pruning in the early spring, to the picking in the fall,  having an orchard provides me with lots of  opportunities  to be physically active outside, all the while,I’m getting paid  and enjoying some fresh air.  As I  get older  I will probably do more of that “you pick” marketing, but for now, I can still climb and honestly, I love picking apples.  Last Saturday, I picked about 1200 pounds of apples in about 6 hours.

6.  Provides me with lots of opportunities to bless others.  I’m not going to brag and tell you how this works itself out except to say, I try to sell mostly our #1 apples, which means, what to do with the seconds?    The opportunities  to give are all around.

7.  Get to enjoy some varieties of fruit that are hard to come by normally – plus if you can find them, you’ll pay through the nose.  Sure we have Honey crisp, was told last year they were charging up to $5.00 a pound for those little rascals.   So far this year, I’ve picked 11 crates of them and probably have at least another 8.  My personal favorite is called the Ginger Gold:

Ginger Gold.

It is every bit as crispy as the Honey crisp and sweet.   Last year we had 32 crates of these little jewels.

8.  Fresh apple cider.    You haven’t lived until you’ve had fresh apple cider pressed from your own apples.   It’s got a texture and taste you’ll never , ever find in a store -ever.  If you come to visit, and the apples are in season, you can help me press out a batch. ;-)

9.  You’ll  give the bees something to talk about.  Ever hear of the “waggle dance”?

10. Provides me with lots  of spiritual insight.

Life is full of mystery.    I believe God has hidden the answers to some of our questions about life in the apple orchard.

Pruning and suffering.  I hate it when people try to slap pat answers onto my life when I’m in the middle of something hard.  It makes me angry.  So I will not disrespect you and do that now.  Sometimes it feels like I’m getting “pruned”  and when it does, I barely have enough energy to survive, let alone  do more.

Fruitfulness (ever see an apple tree grunt?  :-)   Me neither.

Seasons.   Apple trees don’t produce fruit 12 months out of the year.  In fact, they need large blocks of “down time”  in the winter..to get ready for the next season.  They literally need that time, which is why apple trees don’t do well in warmer climates.

Variety.  Already mentioned this one, but it bears repeating.    Apple trees vary widely and differently in the type of fruit they produce.  I think people are created much more varied than culture tries to tell us.   I found an apple tree on an abandoned farmstead a few years ago like nothing I’d ever seen before.  Some heirloom variety I’m sure.  It looked and tasted just like it was designed to taste.  Definitely not some domesticated boring apple.  So why do you and I sometimes think we have to look like everybody else?   Nothing more beautiful than someone being 100% alive just the way they were designed:

As always, thanks for reading my stuff ;-) DM