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Home > Archive: June, 2015

Archive for June, 2015

Loose Ends

June 30th, 2015 at 09:01 am

First I'll respond to a couple comments from previous entries ...

When I mentioned I was growing a beard in my Cemetery Walk post, Secretary Saving wondered how long it would have took for the Duck Dynasty guys to grow their beards out. Well, I've been cutting my own hair for about the past four or five years. I've come to determine that the hair on my head grows at about 1/8 inch per week. I've also been trimming my beard for the past month. I'm not sure how fast it grows, but definitely slower than the hair on my head. But, not at half the rate of the hair on my head. So, maybe 0.10 inches per week? And, let's say that to have a "Duck Dynasty worthy beard" one would need 10 inches of beard? So, I'd estimate about two years to have a duck dynasty worthy beard. I thought you should know.

I appreciate yesterday's responses about my Barn post. We will definitely look in to selling lumber from the barn. My guess is that there will be a supply/demand problem. We have a huge supply of old barn lumber in my rural neck of the woods, and relatively little demand, because there are so few people in the area. But, we will look in to it.

As far as the girls kicking in some money. I think they would have about $3,000 saved between them. Clearly that get's us very close to where we need to be. The problem is that for both me and DW, we had an agreement with our parents: we would buy the animals, feed and water them, our parent would house them, we would sell them at the fair, and keep the difference in a bank account, saved for only one thing: college.

Maybe we could work out a deal where we share in the cost. Maybe even DW and I could take out a low interest "loan" from our daughters. But the biggest problem I have with draining most of their accounts to refurbish our barn is that in the end, the money for college will have to come from somewhere.

I have no illusions that funds from 4-H animal sales will ever pay for all of college. Nor do I have the illusion that we will have to cover 100% of their college costs. Part time work and/or loans will certainly be part of the package. But, I would like to see where a good chunk of the first year or two of college costs are covered by 4-H animal savings. That's the way it was for me. That's the way it was for DW.

Speaking of 4-H animals - we're about to run out of straw for the animals. I'm guessing that not all of you know what straw is. I know many non-farm types call the bales of yellow plant matter "hay". Hay is green, and is fed to animals. Straw is yellow, it's what's left over when a wheat or oat crop is harvested, and it's used to provide bedding for barnyard animals.

When we moved into our house six years ago, I saw that there was a lot of straw left upstairs in our barn. I found out that it was put there by our Amish neighbor, Ray. My grandpa had let him store some straw in the barn. So, I visited Ray, and asked him about the straw. Ray had apparently forgotten about it, and told me it was mine to keep. It was, for us, apparently a six year supply, and we are about to run out.

It normally wouldn't be a problem to go out and buy straw. There's usually an abundance of straw on the market around here about the second week of July, when wheat is harvested. The problem is, last fall was vey wet. Locally, winter wheat is planted in the fall, and harvested in July. But, because of all the rain in the fall, relatively little wheat was planted. Most all of the local straw is already spoken for by the nearby dairy farms. It seems that no matter what small timers like me might be willing to pay, there will be little straw available.

My neighbor across the road has some large round bales of straw left over from last year. I could get them from him, no problem. But, we are set up to use small square bales best. I'm thinking that we'll need to figure out pretty quickly how to fit big round bales into our system.

Boy, it seems like there was something else I wanted to include in this entry, but it's not coming to me. I'll have to remember it, and include it later.

The Barn

June 29th, 2015 at 06:53 am

I am at a loss as to what we should do.

As anyone who has followed my blog for any amount of time knows, raising animals to show at the local 4-H fair is a big part of my family's life. I raised and showed hogs and beef steers. DW raised and showed dairy heifers, sheep, and goats. Our kids raise and show dairy heifers, hogs, goats, and chickens.

Caring for and showing animals is a learning experience, the kids can make some money for college, and it keeps them busy. All good stuff.

Some of you may also remember that we raise these animals on my family's original farmstead that was settled in 1882. The animals are raised in a hog barn that was built in the 1950s. I'm not sure which year in the 1950s, but '52 or '54 seems right. Either way, it is an old building that has outlived its useful life by about 30 years, and it is falling apart.

If we want our kids to continue to raise and show animals, which we do, we need to do something with the building.

We could do anything from spending 80-100K to tear down, and completely rebuild a barn, to spending 40-50K for completely gutting, tearing down to the studs and rafters, and rebuilding, to spending 2.5-10K to put on a new roof, and gut the inside, and build new pens.

Clearly, we will choose something in the 2.5-10K range, but to do anything that will get us to where we need to be, we will probably need to be closer to the 10K end than the 2.5K end.

The pen doors are too narrow for the dairy animals. And even hogs are bigger than they used to be. A fair hog finishes out (is ready for slaughter) at 240-270 pounds now, and was more like 230-250 pounds when I showed in the 1980s.

The roof is original, with one layer of shingles. It must have been made with a quality shingle. It hasn't leaked yet, but it has outlived its useful life. To do anything to improve the guts of the building would be folly without putting on a new roof.

The pen walls and doors are falling apart. Fewer than half of the pens are useful at all. My dad and I have done some patchwork fixing along the way, but our patchwork is falling apart, because the wall and door foundations are not strong. We need to remove all of the old lumber that makes the pens and doors, and replace them with probably tube steel gates.

The original barn had a gutter system for manure removal. The gutter system has not worked for a very long time, and now only serves as a channel between the pens and central alley that is a danger for a broken leg on a $2,000 dairy heifer borrowed from my brother-in-law. The gutters should be filled in with concrete.

The hydrant has failed. Mid April through mid October, we hook up three hoses from the house to deliver water to the animals. The hoses are subject to leaking. In the winter time, we haul buckets from the house out to the barn. We need a frost-free hydrant in the barn.

The girls do have some money saved up from raising and selling animals in the past. It just seems wrong to say to them "Congratulations on all your hard work. Now buy yourself a new barn."

I've also thought that maybe we need to abandon this barn, and build something smaller from scratch in a different spot.

I'm not particularly handy with building things, and we have the boys with special needs that doesn't lend itself well to spending a lot of time outside near a construction zone.

So, there you go SA community. This is my conundrum. What say you?

The Cemetery Walk

June 8th, 2015 at 11:56 am

I'm struggling to figure out how to tie this in any way to personal finance. I'm not coming up with any thing. This is something interesting in my life, and I guess they don't all have to be financial...

For the past two years my local library has sponsored a cemetery walk. Local townspeople dress up like locally important/historic figures from my home town, and stand by their grave stone, and tell their story dressed as that person. For example, an MLB executive, and baseball hall of fame inductee was born, and is now buried in my home town. I didn't know that before two years ago. A retired astronaut is from my home town. I did know that. He's living, but his mother is buried in our cemetery, so her life story was told. Others include early physicians, the first news paper publisher, the founder of the bank, etc.

My wife and girls are pretty well known at the library. For the past two years, our girls were asked to dress in historic clothing, and collect tickets during the event. Both have been enjoyable autumn Sunday afternoons for our family.

This year, one of the local pioneering farmers will be featured on the walk. He is my g-g-g grandfather on my paternal grandmother's side. I've been asked to play him. I'm told that this will be the first time that a descendant has played a person featured in the walk.

I'm fairly familiar with the genealogy on my paternal grand father's side, but not as much on my grandmother's side. Maybe it's because we live on the farm settled by my g-g-g grandfather on my Grandpa's side, and I share his last name, or maybe it's genealogic sexism. But, I'm becoming much more familiar with my Grandma's side now.

This man (and his wife) emigrated to the US from Germany in 1851. They settled in Michigan in 1866, sixteen years before my grandfather's family did. He was a farmer and a cooper - a maker of barrels, kegs, butter churns, and buckets. The house that he and his wife built still stands prominently one mile north of town, and is owned and used as a summer home by one of his descendants.

This is the really cool part - My dad learned that the tools that he brought with him from Germany to make barrels are on display at the house. We have a maple sap bucket that he made on display at our maple woods. I'll use them as props during the cemetery walk.

I'm growing a beard for the first time in my life. I have a 1200 word script that I need to memorize. I've not yet figured out my wardrobe. And I need to figure out just how far I want to go with a faux German accent.

The event is the last Sunday in September, and I'm really looking forward to it.

Braces II

June 5th, 2015 at 09:59 am

I blogged a couple months ago - it might have even been February - about DD1 and braces.

I looked a little more closely at her teeth, and so did DW. We both agreed that braces would help.

I'm not sure what all I included in my previous post, so I'll start at the beginning.

We've known for a while that our younger daughter, DD2, would need braces. She has an overbite, and a gap between her upper front teeth. A couple years ago we scheduled an appointment with an orthodontist to get an early professional opinion. He agreed that she would need braces, he agreed that we should wait. He asked us to schedule another appointment in one year. While we were there, we figured we might as well have the ortho look at DD1 as well. His opinion at that time was that he could do some cosmetic work if we were concerned, but there was no pressing need for braces.

We never did schedule a one year follow up DD2 still has too many baby teeth. But, early this year DD1 saw our regular dentist. He recommended an ortho consult, and that get's us at least to my previous post.

So, DD1 got her braces on the last Friday in April. And, we have a $160 per month payment for 18 months.

We put $800 down, and my dental insurance covered a bit more than $700. I've spent down my current year Flexible Spending Account, so we're caught up on payments until October.

I'll max out my FSA election next year, so from a cash flow stand point this shouldn't hurt too much.

Hopefully we can stagger it so that DD2 doesn't start with her braces until DD1 is out of them!

Some random things

June 4th, 2015 at 01:09 pm

My busy spring season is over at work, so I can get back to my infrequent blog updates.

Our 19th wedding anniversary was Monday. I gave DW a flowering cherry tree for our yard. It's the same type of flowering cherry that so famously grows in Washington D.C. She gave me a Garmin Vivofit that counts my steps, and calories burned. I've set my daily goal at 10,000 steps, and have hit my goal each of the past two days. I'm 40% toward my goal today.


I was listening to the radio while driving the other day. There was an ad for one of those Payday Loan/Quick Cash places. The ad highlighted a promo they are running that includes - A $200 LOAN THAT COSTS YOU NOTHING! THAT'S ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! except the $0.45 processing fee that the state requires us to charge. The ad piqued my curiosity, so I ran a calculation. I figured that a $0.45 charge on a $200 loan was about equivalent to a 2.7% APR. That's not a bad interest rate. That's slightly less than what we're paying on our van loan. But, it seems a far cry from A LOAN THAT COSTS YOU ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!


I ran a calculation on our own vehicle loans. We have two loans spread across two vehicles, and the amount of the loans divided by the KBB values of the vehicles is 0.40, or we own 60% of our vehicles. Not bad, not great either. My truck will be fully paid off in December, then we'll start throwing some extra toward the Van.


I applied for a job with the USDA Farm Service agency. I'm not particularly looking, but it seemed like an opportunity that I couldn't pass by. The Federal government works on a vastly different time scale than nearly any other entity I can think of. I first heard about the possibility of the job being posted in early February. It's hard to remember, but I think it was posted in early March, and applications were due around the third week of March. I applied, and waited. And waited. It seems like it was a full month later that I received word that my application earned me an interview. It had been so long since I had applied that when I received the email, I was sure that it was a "Thanks, but no thanks" message. As it turned out, applications are ranked into one of three categories, and my application was ranked in the highest category. About a week after I learned that I would get an interview, I received an email from the state office that my interview would be 11:00 AM Thursday, May 22. Another three or four week wait. But, that gave me some time to prep. I also got busy with work, so that took my mind off things for a while, too. Fortunately, The day before the interview was a rain day, so that gave me one day for some serious preparation. The interview was in East Lansing, which I've driven to many, many times, so I was really comfortable with how much time I would need. I printed out directions, and a Google Earth satellite view, because I wasn't very familiar with the part of town where the state office is. I'm glad I left myself 20 extra minutes, because I spent 10 of them looking for the office, even with the printed direction, and satellite view.

The interview went really well. I felt very good during and afterward. I was interviewed by four people - the state FSA director, the director of the program that I'd be working for, the local supervisor, and an HR person. I learned that I was one of five candidates. I asked how long I could expect to wait to learn if I was the successful candidate, and the state director told me 10 days. Today is day 14, or business day 9. If I don't hear anything tomorrow, I won't be concerned or disappointed. Yet. It is the Federal government, and they do work on a vastly different time scale than nearly any other entity I can think of.

The job posting did include a range in salary. The highest salary is about $3,000 per year more than I make right now. So, if I'm offered the job, and if I take the job, I wouldn't be taking it for a big pay bump. A federal job, if nothing else, is a secure job. But, it would be more about a change in scenery, and different challenge from where I am. I'd just really like to hear something soon.

I have an uncle who works for the FAA, and he wasn't the least bit surprised when I outlined the timeframe for him.

If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading.