Wednesday, May 30, 2012

6 years

Tim and I celebrated our 6 year anniversary on Sunday.  In some ways, it's hard to believe it's already been six years, but it also feels like it's been much longer than that- after all, we've been together almost 9 years at this point.

Since our anniversary fell on a Sunday and Tim had to work, we decided to wait and go out to dinner on Monday, reasoning most people would be grilling out for Memorial Day.  We were absolutely correct- Carrabas was nearly deserted.  Yes, before anyone asks- I did have a coupon.

Each year we look up what the "traditional gifts" are and try to make sure that our gifts to each other incorporate that.  Some years it is definitely a challenge to find a gift the other person will like!  This year was Iron. 

Ugh, iron.  Really?  I looked up a lot of very blah gifts before stumbling on one I thought Tim might have fun with- a branding iron for steaks! You heat it up and can sear words in to your meat.  It was goofy enough and geeky enough I knew he'd love it and it plays off the "iron" theme.  I got him a few other little odds and ends to round out the gift.

In return, Tim purchased me a beautiful limited edition print from an artist I was drooling over- and some iron coins.  I  had no idea there was such a thing either, but there are- this set of three is from Sweden.  I have a passion for collecting foreign coins and old US coins, so this was definitely the perfect gift.

So now we are hurtling towards Anniversary #7 and I'm already thinking ahead to next year's gift.  Copper and Wool? Really? Don't make it too easy on us now.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thinning the Herd and Decluttering!

We have too much stuff.  I've been working on trying to declutter the house a bit and it is somewhat working.  I've got a box of things for Goodwill and have thrown out massive amounts of old papers that somehow just hang around in the house.  You never realize how many old bill envelopes are sitting around until you collect them- believe me.

My goal is to reduce the amount of junk just sitting around.  I have multiple copies of books, so I plan on keeping the nicest looking copy and donating the rest, or trying to resell them on if they have any value.  I am trying my hardest not to hold back things for a yardsale- I don't have enough right now and I sure don't need to be storing junk to try to sell for a dime later on! It would be better just to donate it outright, I think.  This is what I say now, anyway.

I'm also "thinning down the herd".  This started on Saturday when I sold three rabbits, but is most noticeable in the chicken coop.

We had 13 chickens- 8 3 month old bantam cochins, 1 younger bantam cochin, 2 bantam cornish and 2 d'uccles.   They are all bantams, so it's less than you might think, but still- they are really going through the feed right now!

One of my favorite roosters, who is also the most useless genetically, was the mottled rooster pictured to the side.  He's beautiful, but I don't particularly want to use him to breed from because the the colors he would produce are not highly sought after.  Not that I am saying I will breed, but why keep the rooster in that case?  He also has been showing more aggressive tendencies lately, both towards the ladies and towards me.  His behavior is fine in a larger or less hands-on flock, but since my chickens are also pets, it's not ok here.  He is currently pending sale, along with the pair of d'uccles I mentioned earlier.  I wanted to keep the hen, but the best chance to sell the d'uccle rooster was as part of a pair.  Plus, they are not as friendly as the cochins are.  Now if I can just sell the bantam cornish and possible the blue bantam rooster, I'll be in good shape! That will cut the flock down almost to half, which will be cheaper and more rewarding from a pet-standpoint in the long run.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Vegetable Gardening

This year I am planning on doing a fall garden- which will consist mostly of lettuces, onions and broccoli.  I decided to go on and do some research early to find out when to do my planting- I'm sure glad I did!  I'll have to get my seeds started as early as late July/early August to have the seedlings ready for the cooler temperatures.

I guess this means I need to go on and buy my seeds now.  It won't be long until stores stop carrying them, as prime summer planting time is rapidly approaching.

I discovered that the chickens really love broccoli leaves and rutabaga leaves.  Since it was never my plan to have rutabagas, this makes me especially happy- perhaps they will like rutabagas themselves as well. 

Meanwhile, I couldn't figure out why my sunflowers weren't sprouting.  I inspected the garden today and it was just as I feared- something dug up the seeds and ate them! *sigh*.  Guess I will have to start them inside after all.  I was trying to be lazy- I should know better by now!

The hot banana pepper plants are flourishing.  We've even picked our first pepper off one! It is growing several others, which thrills me.  The green pepper plant has a baby pepper on it as well.  It seems like this year they are fruiting very early- especially the green pepper plant, which has always been more of a late bloomer in my mind.

Our cucumber plant is doing beautifully- it is blooming, along with a few of our tomato plants, including the "volunteer".  I also saw "baby broccolis" on a few of the broccoli plants!  The onions are shooting up like weeds and several of them are reproducing as well.  I may hold back their babies to plant in the fall garden.

I think we have some volunteer shoots of corn in one of the onion beds- which blows my mind, as I didn't plant corn this year and it was on the other side of the garden last year!  We have three shoots growing together- I know I need to thin two out, but I always hate to do that.  It feels so wasteful to destroy growing vegetable plants.

The peas are shooting up like weeds- it's incredible! I'm beginning to worry they aren't going to have enough space to climb, but ya know- I only have so much room!  Perhaps next year I'll plant the "three sisters" and let them all grow together naturally.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Second Job & Debt Snowballing

I'm looking in to picking up a second job.  It's nothing super impressive- actually it would be working 1 hour, 1 day a week. It would pay $20-$25 per day though, which is an extra $80-$100 a month.

Not setting the world on fire, but not bad for working a grand total of 4 hours each month either.

My plan, if I get this job, is to set aside 1/4 for taxes.  We have to pay taxes anyway (we withhold ourselves because of some crappy tax laws), so I might as well go above and beyond to cover and surprises.

That leaves, let's say, $60 left.  Now, I could do something fun with it.  Lord knows, I'm fighting the desire to use that money to buy fun things- dinners out, movies, buying new rabbit cages/equipment or just going nuts in stores.

Instead, I'm planning on using that money to pay on a bill each month.  The same bill- the goal would be to have $60 extra go directly to principal.  I am thinking right now it would be best to put it on our oldest car- we're so close to paying it off anyway, we'd free up a few hundred dollars extra as soon as that bill is gone!

Then I can work on doing a "debt snowball".  Basically, I'd take my extra $60 and combine it with what we are spending on the car payment to pay down another debt even faster. Then I take that money and use it to pay off something else even faster.  See how that works? The amount you pay to principal snowballs each time you pay off a new debt.

For instance (all numbers are made up to use as illustrations).

Let's say we that monthly we have a $500 car payment, a $500 house payment and a $100 credit card payment.  You can either pay off the lowest balance first, or the highest interest rate, whichever is your preference.

So I use my $60 a month to pay to principal and eventually pay off my credit card debt.  The next month I pay $160 extra towards my car payment.  We pay off the car after a year or two and then we pay an extra $660 each month on the house payment!  You're paying more to principal each month than your minimum balance is! So a 30 year loan just dropped to 15 years and you saved untold thousands of dollars in interest, not just on your car and credit card, but on your house as well.

So, fingers crossed for me.  $60 extra isn't a lot, but it's just the beginning!


Monday, May 21, 2012

$1000 Challenge- Completed!

4/17- $12.00 Survey Payment
          $8.00 Survey Cashout

4/21- $5.00 Rebate
         $5.00 Rebate

4/28- $2.99 Rebate

5/4- $3 Survey Payment
       $3.50 Survey Payment

5/5- $15 P&G Rebate
        $16 Phone-App Payment

5/8- $20 Market Research Study
       $17.75 in loose change turned in (mostly pennies!)
        $10 Superpoints

5/9- $5 Survey Cashout.
       $3 Survey Payment

5/10- $3 Survey Payment
          $20 Market Research payment

5/19- $20 Survey Cashout
          $18.68 from Ebates


We did it! We did it! I am amazed at how quickly $1000 added up!  Since it's so early in the year, I'm going to tempt fate and see if we can't make it $2000!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Happy to be home!

We're home, we're home! 

The vacation was fun, but in most cases by Day 5 I am more than ready to be home.  Pictures and stories will be coming soon.

All the animals are doing great- the smallest set of chickens have mostly integrated with the flock, though they still prefer to hang out together.  At least there aren't constant fights! They have gotten so big, it's amazing!

The rabbits are all doing great as well- several of the babies are old enough to wean now and one little guy has hopped out of the nestbox!

The biggest surprise was the garden!  It looks fantastic- the volunteer tomato plant has blooms on it, as do several of the pepper plants and the cucumber plant!  The peas are shooting up with a vengeance that amazes me.  I was even able to pick our first bit of produce today- a hot banana pepper.  Woo hoo!

We added in a cantaloupe plant today.  I nearly bought some cilantro and basil, but I honestly don't use either very much.  The cilantro would mostly be for the salsa and one bundle from the grocery store is more than enough and cheaper than planting my own.  If we ever get our own home, I will definitely be planting a herb garden.

The cats are thrilled with life now that we are back.  They always act like they don't love us, but they totally do :).


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Helping Hands

As I sit here trying to while away my last few hours in North Carolina (at least for a week), I was thinking about everything that had to be done.

We dropped the dogs off at my Dad's house yesterday.  We're so lucky that he is willing to watch all three whenever we need him to!

I gave some final information to my friend Becca who is coming to care for the rabbits and chickens, as well as check on the cats.  We're so lucky that she is willing to drive 20 minutes out to our house every day to make sure they are comfortable and don't go hungry or thirsty.

We finished putting up the insulation in the rabbitry and it works beautifully with the AC to keep the temperatures nice and cool.  For the first time in six years, I can go on vacation and not worry about them being too hot.  We're so lucky that my Dad was willing to come give up an entire Saturday to work with us, helping us get it up.

We're extremely lucky that we now live close enough to friends and family that are willing to lend a helping hand when we need it- it's most apparent right now as we prepare to leave for a week.  We've had tons of offers of driving us to the airport and picking us up from the people at Tim's churches- one lady is even going to come water the garden for us if it doesn't rain while we are gone (her idea!)

It's easy to get caught up in all the bad stuff and the bad people.  Sometimes it's nice to just take time to appreciate the little things people do that make our lives better.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Right to Vote


North Carolina faces an important vote today on "Amendment One"- but that's not what this blog is about- at least, I'm not going to tell folks how I think they should vote.  I've been doing enough of that on Facebook.

Instead, let's take a brief look at voting in general.

When the United States was founded only free white men who owned land were able to vote.

By the time the Civil War came around, most free white men were able to vote, regardless of whether they owned land or not.  Remember- if you were an indentured servant, you weren't free.  However, the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and in some places religious tests helped to make sure if you were poor, illiterate, etc, you wouldn't be casting your vote.  Who cared about your opinion if you were poor?

By 1866, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution changed the status of former slaves, making them whole people, not 3/5 of a person.  In 1869, the 15th Amendment came about, guaranteeing the right to vote to black men.  However, let's not forget about the literacy tests, poll taxes, threats of violence, the hiding of polling places, etc that were used to keep black men from being able to cast their votes.  The states weren't helpful, as they enacted laws to restrict freedoms to African Americans- including restricting their right to vote.

In 1848, the Women's Suffrage movement began (though initiatives promoting giving women the vote can be traced as far back as the 1770s.)  It wasn't until 1920 that women finally were granted the right to vote by the 19th Amendment.
Native Americans became US citizens in 1887 if they gave up their tribal affiliations, but many didn't become US citizens until 1924.  Many Western states continued to deny them the right to vote using many of the same strategies employed against African Americans.

We can keep going- many Asian Pacific Americans were ineligible for the right to vote until 1965 unless they were born on American soil- and even then, during WWII they were not allowed to vote.

 Mexican Americans were supposed to be granted voting rights and American citizenship in 1848 when the Mexican-American War ended.  Big shock- Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas and New Mexico used violence, intimidation, property requirements and literacy requirements to keep them from voting.  It wasn't until 1975 that all Mexican Americans got the right to vote.

In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was enacted thanks to powerful civil rights movements, banning literacy tests and providing federal enforcement of voting registration. 

In 1970 the Voting Rights Act of 1970 provided language assistance to minority voters who weren't fluent in English.

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act provided for ballot and poll access to folks with disabilities.

We have a long history of fighting for the right to cast a vote.  So get out there and do it.  People were killed over their desire to cast their vote, to have a say in their country.  So why now are we so busy that we can't be bothered?  With early voting, lines are shorter than ever.  We can go at any time- before work, during lunch, after work- some business will even allow their employees to leave to vote. 

Instead, too many people remain ignorant of the issues.  In the age of the internet, you can easily find a distilled version of a candidate's beliefs or get the bare bones version of what an Amendment is calling for.  Get out and vote- because you can.  It's your right- too many people suffered to make sure we all are granted the ability to make our opinions known to ignore their sacrifices and stay home.