Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sowing Our Wild Oats

Actually, oats are one of the few things we DIDN'T order to plant...

We filed our taxes on Saturday and went through our list of seeds, trees, and plants last night to remove extraneous items and get our list to a more-manageable volume and price. Today, while I was home sick, I ordered all those items. The damage:
  • 15 fruit, flowering, or windblock trees
  • 24 bushes for a hedge
  • 18 bushes for a windblock for the driveway
  • 143 fruit plants/bushes
  • 2 packets of herb seeds
  • 8 "decorative" plants
  • 31 vegetable seed packets
  • seed potatoes for white, red, and blue potatoes
  • starter sets for red, white, and yellow onions and leeks
  • 1/4 lb of sunflower seeds
  • 1 lb of jerusalem artichoke starter
  • all manner of food processing, storage, collection, and garden-maintenance supplies

In total (after taxes, shipping, handling, etc.): $541.86

And those totals do not take into account the 30 or so seed packets that we already have, the seed starter supplies that we already have, or the "free" seeds and plants that we will get as "valued customers" from three of the four companies we ordered from...

Sure, some people might say we're crazy. And M says he definitely didn't till enough ground for this garden, but these are not all going to be planted at the same time. We have specifically planned so that we will have some replantings, so some sort of vegetable production from late spring through fall, and even possibly into early winter (weather winter, not calendar winter). And several of the varieties we bought are heirlooms, rather than hybrids, so we can harvest the seeds and use them next year and know that we will get the same plant next year as this year...so, we won't need to buy as many seeds next year. And we'll already have a good windbreak and a small orchard/fruit yard started, in addition to perennial and re-seeding annual flower beds to keep calling pollinators back to our garden and yard year after year.

* Stringham high: Tax refund not as high as we had hoped, but combined with money put back, definitely enough to pay for plants, the installation of the coils for our geothermal heat pump, and a nice sum on a credit card.
* Stringham low: M is still going to be unemployed after this Friday.
* Stringham super-high: M is less stressed about being unemployed than about continuing in his current job (as attested to by his fingernails)--how sad is that?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

State's Unemployed Worker Total Increases by 1

M called me as I was leaving work yesterday to tell me that, yet again, he will be unemployed. At the end of next week (February 27), he will be (for the 3rd time since July) "let go" by his company. Once again, his boss is considering going directly to the president of the company to plead for M. After all, he's really the only one working on a couple of extremely important projects, and definitely the only one who knows what's going on in every top-secret and high-importance project they have.

Yes, of course, he's bummed, but we have a plan. So long as the state's unemployment funds hold out, with our current budget, we still should be able to pay all the bills. But we're still going to scale back in a couple of places. We have been preparing for this since last fall, buying dried beans and nuts and canned goods and rice, etc. So we may not be able to eat as healthily as I would like/need to lose weight, but surviving is far more important, and I'll just switch diet tactics.

Not that it's all about me. Oh, no. M is handling it far better than I expected, though part of it is that he hides more from me now, I'm sure. And, hey, this is the third time in 8 months, as I mentioned earlier. By now, this is getting to be old hat for him. :) At least this time, he has warning...

We're getting our taxes done this weekend, and then we plan to order our seeds and plants so we can further cut our grocery bill (one of the very expenditures we have any control over) this spring, summer, and fall. And then we'll be setting up an appointment for our geothermal heat pump to be installed for the end of next month. (Click the title of this post for more information.) Yes, a big expenditure, but oh! how much money it will save us! (Our propane was filled yesterday for the 4th time since October...$300-600+ per fill. Sheesh.)

And a few years ago, we discovered the joy of the crockpot. We mentioned to M's mom that we liked using it, and she got us a FABULOUS crockpot cookbook. We have now nearly exhausted the recipes in it. So I ordered 4 more on Half.com (possibly the best book-lover's website out there). We have three of them. I'm excited!

Is it sad that I get so excited about a garden and crockpot recipes? I don't think so. It's better than getting all worked up about, say, the results of a football game that doesn't impact my life at all....

And I got a book today about eating properly to increase chances of fertility. It may be an utter crock, but from what I saw when skimming it today, it seems well-balanced, a load of practical information and tips, and far more credible than things like Atkins or South Beach. So what the hell, I'll give it a try. (And it's meant for men OR women, so M can maybe now get rid of his "baby belly" and transfer it to me....)

That's our life in a nutshell at the mo'. Stay tuned for more.

* Stringham high: Geothermal heat pump. Woo!
* Stringham low: Unemployment. Bummer.
* Stringham super-high: The freelance work for Steph just keeps pouring in. And she just keeps sending it out to others because she's got so much. Oh, and the contractor came and fixed our roof last Friday afternoon...Damage on Wednesday, complain on Thursday, fixed on Friday. Damn, I like it here!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Windy Days and Bunnies Always Get Me Down

No, folks, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. Since our trials at the beginning of the month with snow, it's been nice--warm weather, or cold but without show or ice. So I've been busy...catching up on hours at work mostly, and doing some urgent freelance work.

This morning is finally relatively quiet. M and Maurey are still asleep in the bedroom while I sit here on the sofa and George is in the picture window, watching the traffic and talking to the few song birds that have come out of hiding. (Either that, or he's complaining to the sun that he can see it, so a direct ray of light should be falling on him, damn it!)

"So why is she writing?" you ask. Because of the wind.

"The wind?"

Yes, the wind.

We had some lovely warm weather late last week and early this week, up in the high 40s and low 50s. It was fantastic. And on Wednesday, that warm front met up with a cold front, and boy, howdy! We had straightline winds measuring at 60-70 mph. Luckily, the trees withstood this time (probably because there were no leaves to act as sails and pull the trees surfing through the soil). But our roof didn't. Yep, right there, every place our roof had been injured in June, shingles were blown off or up, sticking up like the feathers of a bird that has been handled very roughly and then hit back and forth a couple of times by kids with badminton rackets.

M was pissed. He had taken pictures. So I sent the pictures to the contractor who had repaired our roof (still waiting for good-enough weather so he can fix our soffit, gutter, and siding over there) and explained that we wanted him to repair the damage and we didn't feel that we should pay, despite the abnormally high winds, because those shingles have been on for less than 4 months. He responded the next day by saying that the shingles we had were simply not rated for such high winds and that we would probably want to consider, when we have our roof replaced in a few years, using a higher-rated shingle.

But he is an upstanding member of the community, and he fixed them for us. Later that evening, when I got home, it was to find him climbing his ladder onto our roof. Turns out, he told M, that the problem wasn't that the shingles weren't rated highly enough but that they had been put on so late in the year that there hadn't been enough heat to activate the adhesive on them to make them stick to the roof. (Okay, I'll admit, I thought There's ADHESIVE on shingles? Who knew?)

* Stringham high: We had a good Valentine's Day. We slept in, partook of some nookie, went to the roller derby [at halftime, they were auctioning away busts--no, not heads, plaster casts of the players' BUSTS--so we saw some art (boobs)], had some junk food (mmm, fat-, crack-, and sodium-based fries and burgers!) on the way home from roller derby, and shared a bottle of wine while playing Rayman's Raving Rabbids (BWAAAAAAAAAA!) until 2 AM.

* Stringham low: We had a real winner of a genius sitting behind us. Real smart in very stupid way. And he had to anounce every thought that stumbled through his head (and directly to his mouth) VERY loudly--and one of his daughters (the one sitting just at my left ear) was turning out to be exactly like him...my hearing will never be the same again. (But he was a great dad to the three young daughters he had with him.)

* Stringham super-high: M feels he had found his place in this world last night. We got to the derby and picked our seats in the stands, and within a few minutes, he had a redhead sitting directly behind him, one just on his right, and another (me) on his left. He even got some brushes on his arm from the sizeable bust of the redhead on his right (when they're that large and the stands are as crowded as they were, it was unavoidable). He was one happy man. I think a redhead in front of him (plenty walked by, but none sat down and stayed) would have simply made him...explode...from happiness.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Oh, Woe Is Snow!

I diligently went out on Thursday evening and dug out the area in front of my garage door, and some of the driveway, too. At the end, I was still suspicious that the snow between the treads that M's SUVhad left was too high for my car to traverse, but I thought it was good enough that I would at least be able to give it a go for work on Friday morning.

Friday morning came, and I got up as usual. I checked outside and saw something from a nightmare--the snow was back! Everything that I had so diligently cleared the evening before had been filled back in by the wind overnight! There it was, mocking me--I saw a very slight indentation that indicated the areas I had shoveled and shoveled and shoveled to clear, but that was the only hint that I had ever been outside the night before. Even my footprints had been filled in. The snow I had piled up from shoveling was still piled up, though, so this drifted snow must have come from the roof and the yard and the fields. So yet again, no driving to work for me. I drove M to work in his SUV and then went to get groceries and a second snow shovel (I have never seen Walmart's parking lot so empty) before slogging home again to freelance. (Hey, we have to pay the bills somehow, and if I couldn't drive to work, I was still going to make the best of it.)

Yesterday, the sun was out, the temperature was in the high 20s, and the wind was mild, so M and I again went outside to clear. This time, I spent 3 hours outside (M was with me for about 2 of it) and cleared the area in front of my garage door alone and about half the driveway with M's help. Finally, we were sweaty and exhausted and couldn't stand without falling over, so M treated the remaining snow and slush with salt. We had cleared enough snow away that by the time we were finished, the sun had finished melting whatever we hadn't been able to clean up, so we were satisfied that we would be able to finish the rest today.

This morning, the thermometer read 36 degrees outside, so I thought shoveling would be a breeze, especially with the fantastic second snow shovel I had bought Friday, which had proved to be far more effective at clearing packed snow than our other shovel. Well, I was wrong. Things had melted just enough that I couldn't get much of a handle on things. Whereas yesterday, the snow had been packed tightly enough that one or two good shoves of the shovel would break up iceberg-sized pieces, this morning, every shove or scoop attempt I made seemed to simply pack the slush together more tightly. This was not going to do.

Finally, I told M that we should test it. No use exhausting ourselves if my car could get out, after all, because that was the point of this little exercise. So I pulled my car out of the garage and drove down the driveway. I slid a little in the slush, but no problem there. Ah, but when it came time to pull out of the driveway, it took a very long time to get enough traction to pull out. That isn't a problem, of course, at an intersection, say, at a stoplight, where everyone can see you sliding a bit, or on a nice long flat stretch of road. But our driveway, of course, is at the top of a hump that most people can't see the top of in time to slow down because they drive far too fast and don't expect the driveway. So pulling out of our driveway in the best conditions is always a little risky, even when you can go from 0 to 60 in only a couple of seconds.

Anyway, I drove down the road, turned around, and put my car into low before turning in to the drive. I made it halfway up the initial incline and then spun my tires feebly. I was going nowhere. But maybe, I reasoned, I could use the same process that had gotten me back into the garage on Thursday afternoon. So I backed up a little and then pulled forward again. *grumble* Just more useless tire spinning. I tried the process again. This time, I fishtailed a little, but nothing productive. M signaled for me to stop after I reversed once again, and he started shoveling the tracks out. Turns out that I was losing traction right where he had stopped spreading salt the night before.

So he started digging out that area, up to the top of the drive's incline, and I started digging out the area next to the road, in all the crap that had been piled up by the state snowplows and had since been very slowly thinned by M's efforts on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday but that had still managed to suck my car tires firmly down, like a suckling infant on a mother's breast.

Finally, M believed he had the top of the incline cleared and told me to try it again.


I parked my car back in the garage, and we finished clearing out the tracks on the incline (we're letting the stuff in the middle melt on its own now that my car's undercarriage can clear it) and the rest of the crap at the bottom of the drive onto the road.

Now I am no longer prisoner on my own property. Not that that's a bad thing, of course, if I had vacation days and didn't HAVE to make it to work to make a living (I ran out of freelance work on Friday afternoon)...

Lucky me, I get to go back to work tomorrow. It will be a bittersweet return, however, with three days' worth of work piled up for me and a fellow employee, whom I was beginning to count as a close friend, let go on Friday (not because she was a bad worker--quite the contrary, she kicks some major ass!--but because her security clearance wasn't quite up to par for this particular branch of Federal service).

Stringham high: Woo! I can go back to work!

Stringham low: This storm required the use of an entire 5-gallon bucket of ice melt to get our driveway clear enough (but nowhere near completely clear) for my car to get out and back in.

Stringham super-high: Warm weather is making an appearance this week--in the 50s by next weekend!