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Archive for April, 2014

Wednesday morning stuff

April 30th, 2014 at 01:34 pm

My pickup's odometer hit 100K this morning. Of course when I bought it a year ago December, it had 78K miles. DW's van just hit 150K a week or so ago. My hope is still to keep the van at least as long as it takes to pay off the truck. I hope to have the truck paid off September or October, or maybe even November 2015.

Remember when I posted the picture of the goats a few weeks ago? And one of the goats was much smaller than the other? That smaller goat has continued to have health problems, including now a torn ligament in one of her hind legs. She won't make a good fair goat now, or a good breeding goat either. She'll be a pet. I'm guessing that mother goat stepped on her foot. We've separated the young goats from their mother now.

So, DD2 needs a fair goat now. Because of the very harsh winter, a lot of the goats born in Jan. and Feb. were lost, so there is an actual goat shortage now. At least a shortage of meat goats of suitable age for the fair. DW did some calling around, and found a wether (castrated male) goat to buy. The owner is asking $50, which is cheap. The problem is, it's a dairy breed, not the meat breed we've always used.

DD2 is happy, which is all that really matters. She won't be in the run for champion, but she wouldn't have been even if the other goat would have been healthy enough for the fair.

Today is the last day of the month - pay day for me.

Dignity

April 28th, 2014 at 01:59 pm

I'm not ashamed to admit that DW and I claim WIC benefits. We are eligible for WIC benefits because we adopted two children from foster care. Because WIC expires when a child reaches age five, we currently have benefits for one child.

We generally shop at one of about five grocery stores in three towns. Two of the stores are Wal Mart, and the other three are smaller stores.

At two of the smaller stores, the employees are generally very polite and discreet when it comes to using the WIC card. One of the stores in particular is very discreet and polite to patrons utlizing WIC. (I'll freely admit that DW used the card more frequently than I do, she probably uses it two or three times for every one time I use it, so this information is from her).

But on Saturday, I brought our three youngest kids into town for DD2's soccer game. I needed to pick up a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk before heading back home. I stopped at our local, home town grocery store. The one that is not at all polite or discreet when it come to using WIC.

As it is near the end of the month, I was not sure how many items we had remaining on our WIC card. So, before I started shopping, I asked the clerk to check our remaining benefits.

She took the card, and started tapping in some information through the register, and then said very loudly "Oh this is a WIC card, not a Bridge card" in Michigan a bridge card is a regular food stamp card, and the two cards look almost identical. She printed out my information, and handed me the slip, and I thanked her. She then told me, very loudly again, that the store now has an entire aisle dedicated to WIC items. I thanked her, and went about my shopping.

We had two gallons of WIC milk remaining for the month. No bread. So, I picked up the two gallons of milk, and a brand of bread that is not WIC eligible, and headed back to the check out, back to my friend that had helped me out in the beginning.

She rang the items up, I swiped the WIC card, and had the two bucks in my hand to pay for the bread. She said, loudly again, "I didn't think that bread would go through, you can go back and get a different kind". I tried to help her understand that we had already used our bread allocation for the month, and that I would be paying cash for this loaf. I'm still not sure if she quite understood me. I just handed her the two bucks, collected my change, and left the store.

Our boys are also on Medicaid. We witness all sorts of shabby treatment through the Medicaid system as well. Again, DW gets the majority of that shabby treatment.

I'll just say that DW and I have now witnessed first hand a lot of the world surrounding the safety net that is in place for poor Americans. I'm glad it's there for those who need it. And, yes, I know that it is abused by some people.

I'll also say that from a "treating recipients with dignity" stand point, things are probably much better than they were 20, or 30, or 40 years ago. But, I think there is still a lot of room for improvement.

A raise for our cleaning woman

April 25th, 2014 at 01:49 pm

I've blogged a couple of times about our cleaning woman, Robin. She started with us last June, and we've been happy with her. She hasn't yet missed a single session, and we're happy with her results.

I've been thinking that we should probably give her a raise at the point of her one-year anniversary.

My employer granted me a 2% raise last October. So, I figured that Robin could maybe get the same raise as I did. That made sense to me.

We pay Robin $15 per hour for three hour cleaning sessions every other week. I know that some of you have mentioned that that is very cheap. Keep in mind that we found Robin through a posting at our local grocery store, and that she advertised herself for $15/hr. And, we also live in a very rural low COL area.

I digress.

When I did my first calculation of $45 (the amount paid for one session) time 1.02, I came up with $45.90. That seemed insulting - a raise of 90 cents per session. Maybe I should be insulted by my own 2% raise - but I know that a lot of people have had their pay cut or have received no raises at all over the past five or so years.

I digress again.

The figure for Robin that I'm working with now is a fifty cent per hour, or $1.50 per session raise. That's a 3.3% raise, and seems much more reasonable. I've not yet talked with DW about this. I'll see what she thinks, of course, before we make any changes.

Our Goats

April 11th, 2014 at 07:26 pm

I blogged a few months ago about the baby goats we were expecting. A set of twins was born on Feb. 14. DD1, the owner, named the doeling Valentine, and the buckling Hiccups. Fortunately, Feb. 14 was warm, at least as compared to the rest of that month, and they were born without problems.

The problem occurred almost two weeks later. The momma doe rejected the young doeling. She wouldn't let her nurse.

So, we bought a bag of goat colostrum replacer (I don't remember how much it cost, but probably around $7 or $8), which lasted 4 or 5 days, and a bucket of goat milk replacer that cost $23, and lasted about a month, and then we found a recipe for making our own, which included non-fat dry milk, whipping cream and a raw egg.

We bottle fed her as many as four or five times a day in the beginning, three or four times a day for the bulk of the time, and just two times a day before weaning. Valentine is on grain and hay now.

Part of the reason that the doeling was rejected was that she was a runt. So, she did start out smaller than her brother. But, this picture is evidence that real goat's milk, straight from the mother is an important part of growing a strong, healthy goat. This picture is almost two weeks old now.

Possible part-time job for DW

April 9th, 2014 at 05:18 pm

As some of you may remember, my family produces maple syrup.

Three years ago, the state of Michigan made grants available to producers of specialty crops - maple syrup is a specialty crop. When DW was in the work force, her job was as a public relations professional. When the specialty crop grants were announced, she put together some ideas for promoting our product, creating awareness, educating new producers, etc.

After she had put her ideas together, but before the grant paperwork was due, we took charge of our second foster child (now adopted as DS1, who is older than DS2, but we had DS2 in our home first) and she became very busy, and has been very busy for the past three years. So her grant ideas were not forgotten, but they were put on the farthest back of back burners, filed away in her computer.

Fast forward to yesterday. It turns out that a member of the Michigan Maple Syrup Association has been working on applying for the same grant, and her basic ideas are very similar to DW's. The lady who has been working on this grant was seeking input from a handful of producers from around the state - for whatever reason, she contacted my dad. My dad asked DW if she could help him out. She said, of course I can.

So, DW and my dad met for a couple hours this morning. DW took her outline, added some details, and they hammered something out. She attached it to an email, sent it to the grant writer, and headed out the door to pick our boys up at the Autism Clinic they've been attending for about a month.

As she was driving, she gave me a call to talk to me about how the morning had gone. While we were talking, we both heard that annoying call waiting pause. When she hung up with me, she checked her voice mail, and called me right back.

The person who had called was the grant writer. And in her voice mail, she said how impressed she was with DW’s ideas, and that she was planning on writing into the grant funding for a ¼ time position to manage the grant, and she was wondering if DW would entertain the idea of managing the grant.

Wow. DW asked me what I thought of the idea. DW is a SAHM. We have four kids. She home-schools the girls, and the boys have special needs. She already keeps herself busy. What we both decided is that she has about two hours a day October through February when our girls are at swim practice (and I have the boys). It might work.

I’m not sure what kind of money ¼ time means – but if you figured a base salary of 32 – 40K we might be talking about 8 – 10K. Maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less. It sounds intriguing and exciting.

Of course, the grant needs to be funded first. And, DW will need to do her own due diligence to find out if the proposed job can be organized in a way that will work for her. We’ll see, but it sounds kind of neat.

Fuel Oil Budget Plan

April 7th, 2014 at 07:51 pm

Last summer I began a budget plan with out fuel oil provider. We've been paying $220 each month since July, and each month we receive a statement detailing how much we've paid vs. how much we've used.

Each month, our account balance has been negative - that is, we've paid in more money than the value of the fuel oil we've used - until this month (March statement).

Our March delivery brought our balance up to a positive $42.

Of course we'll still be making payments in April and May. June is the settle-up month.

Our usage (home heating) is about to decrease greatly, so we'll end the cycle with a negative balance.

I'm thinking it would be better to apply that balance to next year's monthly payment, rather than receive a lump sum in June.

Our monthly payment has been $220. I'm thinking that a monthly payment of $20 or $25 less each month would be better than a $250 (or whatever is is) payment in June. Unless we really need that money for some reason.

Thoughts?