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Archive for March, 2016

Our Amish Contractor

March 30th, 2016 at 02:29 pm

The Amish guys that sided and roofed our barn didn't use all the materials we purchased. They were left in a nice, neat stack, but they never did mention to me or DW that there were any left overs.

My experience is that Amish crews do a great job. They work quickly, they are honest, and the finished product is done very well. They biggest complaint I have is how they communicate. Generally, they don't do very well with communications. First, and most obvious is the lack of phone communication.

What I'm about to describe is the Amish order that lives in my neighborhood. As I understand it, the different rules that govern Amish orders can vary drastically, and the community in my neighborhood is probably about in the middle, not particularly conservative, not particularly liberal.

Amish people in my neighborhood are allowed to have telephones in their place of business, but not in the house, and they can't own cell phones. They guy that did our work has a land line out in his shop that he shares with his dad, who is a tarp maker. There is no answering machine, but there must be caller ID. Every time I called, I would let the phone ring several times and hang up. Then I would get a call back, it might be later that evening, it might three days later.

When they guy was working on our barn, he did give me the cell phone number for his English driver so I could talk to him directly. If he happened to be with his driver. And, I'm pretty sure that Paul, our contractor, wasn't strictly on the up and up when using the cell. It has to do with whether or not the phone is connected to the earth. I'm not really sure.

Also, Paul wasn't on-site actually doing the work. He had two employees that did all the physical building. You see, Paul had been kicked in the ribs by a horse a few weeks before. That was a terrible, and painful accident, and I felt bad for him, but it also created another barrier to communication. With him not on site each day, I communicated in person with his employees, rather than Paul himself each day. Again, they did great work, but I didn't always know for sure what was going on.

Which brings me back to the beginning of my post. The afternoon that the crew finished the roof and siding, we were hit with a big snow storm. When the snow melted, there were three piles of stuff that the Amish crew left. One was a pile of mostly scrap lumber, with some plastic and steel mixed in. One was a pile of mostly scrap steel, with some lumber and plastic mixed in, and one was a pliƩ od unused, returnable steel.

I hadn't recognized it immediately as returnable steel, because of the snow and the mess in the yard, and because no one had mentioned to either DW or me that there were any left overs.

When I did recognize it as returnable, it took me a while to get back there, and get the stuff returned. The ground has been fairly wet and soft, and I didn't want to rut things up too badly.

I finally did get the stuff returned this morning. The steel roofing/siding dealer is another Amish neighbor who lives about 1/2 mile down the road from me. What I returned was - 17 pieces of J Channel @ $5 per piece, 1 piece of L Shaped steel @ $12 per piece, and 1-10' piece of steel siding @ $20. That's $117 of returned material. I had no idea it would be that much.

I took the cash directly to the bank that we used for the loan to renovate the barn. I used it as a payment toward the loan. That seemed like the only logical thing to do with it.

If you ever have to opportunity to do business with an Amish person, they do good work. At least the Amish people I've worked with. Every group has its bad apples, I'm sure. But, they are culturally different from non-Amish. They work hard, but at a different pace. The things I find important, and worth getting in a rush over, aren't necessarily the same things that they get in a rush over.

Hair Cuts

March 28th, 2016 at 03:03 pm

I got my hair cut by a professional last month for the first time in about 2 1/2 years. I've been using clippers to cut my own hair for about 6 or 7 years. That coincides with the same timeframe that I came here to SA when I was butt broke.

A set of clippers costs about $30 locally. A haircut with tip costs about $15. At a haircut per six weeks, the math is pretty easy.

The way I had been doing for the first 3-5 years of using the clippers is that I would alternate between clippers and professional hair cutters. So I would say I was getting 3-4 haircuts per year. Then, about 2 1/2 years ago I just quit going to get my hair cut, and did it myself.

My recipe went something like this - #8 guard (1 inch) on the top. #6 guard (3/4 inch) on the sides. #2 guard (1/4 inch) above the ears and very bottom of the back. Blend with a 3 or 4 guard, or both depending on available time and patience.

Just recently I grew tired of the super short hair. In fact, when I went in for the haircut last month, my hair was fairly shaggy for me. It's starting to get shaggy again.

I think I'm done with the clippers for now. At $15 per cut, and two cuts every three months, that's $10 per month. I'll chalk that up to another treat for myself since quitting the tobacco.

I still use the clippers for my two sons, so we are saving money as a family with the clippers. Who am I kidding? Both boys have special needs, and taking them to a professional is not much of an option.

Tidying Up

March 17th, 2016 at 03:10 pm

The scrap that was left over from our barn renovation has been cluttering our yard. I took some time this morning before work to tidy some of it.

Some of the scrap is left over lumber, some is plastic and cardboard packing material, and some is steel left over from the roofing and siding. I hauled the scrap to our local scrap dealer.

I took two loads, that combined to total #600. When I settled up, I received $9, or $30 per ton. Seven years ago, when we started cleaning up around the farmstead, it was selling for about $250 per ton. That was clearly an inflated, top of the bubble price. That was the same summer that gasoline was selling for as much as $4.50 per gallon, and corn was selling for $7.50-$8.00 per bushel. For those of you who haven't been watching the grain markets, corn is selling locally for $3.60 per bushel.

It's difficult for me to wrap my head around how commodity values can swing so drastically. But they do, and it seems to be a post 9-11 reality.

As far as the scrap metal goes, and I've blogged about this before, today I cleaned up the yard, and the steel is a waste that I can recycle and get paid for it. I don't care how much I'm paid for it. I could have sat on it until the market went up, which it inevitably will, but I don't want to store it. I want it gone.

Hauling the leftovers from our renovation allowed me to also haul a small amount of scrap that was accumulating outside of the renovation process, including a grill. We've had that grill since we were married in 1996, and my in-laws gave us a new one for Christmas. It was a little bit sad to see the old original grill go. We've hauled it to every home where we've lived since we were married. But, it was time.

Renovation, Bracket, and Braces

March 16th, 2016 at 01:53 pm

Our barn renovation is complete. And we came in ... under budget.

I've never been able to type that before when it comes to a contracted project like this. And, keep in mind when I say "under budget" I mean by just a couple hundred dollars. But, it's still under budget nonetheless.

I woke up this morning to an electricity outage. We're having an early spring thunder storm. I got the generator going, and we were all able to compete our morning routine. As I was heading out to work, I saw that the electric company service vehicle was just pulling in to our neighborhood.

The electric line that services our house is three miles long. It connects to the main line via a line that runs through a swamp to the south of our house. That is always where the power outages occur. As I understand it, our electric company has scheduled a project to have trees and branches cut back this summer. Hopefully that helps alleviate the problem.

I have my NCAA tournament bracket filled out. It's not much of a stretch this year, so I picked my MSU Spartans to win it all. I picked Kansas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia to round out the Final Four, and MSU to win in the championship game against Oklahoma.

We paid off DD1's braces a few weeks ago. I had increased the amount taken out of my pay check for my flexible spending account, and I was able to pay off the balance using that. It's good to have it paid off, but my pay check is correspondingly smaller. The advantage, of course, is that our tax liability is decreased.

I'm Back.

March 14th, 2016 at 04:28 pm

Hi,

I've returned, and will be providing my normal irregular posting here in the SA Blogosphere.

For those of you who may have missed it, I quit using smokeless tobacco near the beginning of the year, and took a hiatus from SA to start another blog at a site related to quitting smokeless tobacco. Today is my 53rd day free of all forms of nicotine (I had used Nicorette gum for a few weeks).

While I was at the other site, I blogged on such topics as: how I became addicted, weight gain, aspects of addiction, nicotine pushers, my previous caves, smokeless tobacco user stereotypes, sin taxes, temptations, $ previously spent on tobacco, phases of a quit, thinking about tobacco, nicotine as a laxative, tobacco replacements, anxiety during a quit, oral health, and trigger events.

Who new that for 25 years, nicotine had worked in my body as a mild laxative, and removing it from my system ...

Number one, I've kind of run out of topics without becoming redundant, and number two, I'm at a phase in my quit where things are a bit more smooth than they were a couple months ago.

Don't get me wrong, I still need to steel myself against caving, and going back to tobacco use. But I'll be doing that more on the forum side of the site than the blog side.

Within the forums I have my own "quit group", that is, other "quitters" that quit within the same month that I did. According to the site rules, I couldn't count the period that I was using Nicorette, only the days that I was completely free of all forms of nicotine.

Within my quit group, I do what's called "posting roll call" each morning. When I post roll, I make a promise to all members of my quit group that I will not use nicotine in any form for that day. We post roll every day, and make the same promise. It seems to work really well.

Just like any on-line forum community, there are spots within the forum to help others, new quitters and old quitters.

As far as the blog goes, I was the only one actively using it for the past six weeks. I got a few comments, and I could tell that others were following it by some comments in the forums. But, it's not like here where there is an active community. The active community is pretty much in the forums.

But, just like when I joined here to get out of debt, my quitter blog helped me organize and clarify my thoughts, and helped me to stay accountable.

I'm just at a point where I can do that through the forums by themselves.

And, I thought I'd come back here to blog about all that money I'm not spending on tobacco anymore.