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Archive for July, 2015

The Food Distribution

July 23rd, 2015 at 09:28 am

I blogged a week or so ago how my daughter and another Jr. High FFA member raised some chickens to distribute at a local food pantry. The distribution was this last Saturday.

It was one of those life lesson events, not just for the kids, but also for the adults.

The food pantry runs from 10 - 11, the third Saturday of the month. We arrived at about 9:15 to get our station set up. Not surprisingly there was already a line. Some were faces I recognized, other I did not. Two were girls with whom I went to high school. I recognized one guy from the sex offenders list.

To paraphrase a quote that I've seen here on SA, and have heard elsewhere - rich people plan for tomorrow, poor people plan for today. Or, when your belly is full you have many problems, when your belly is empty you have only one.

Some of the customers appeared to feel entitled, the majority were grateful, or just kind of blank.

Just prior to the beginning of the distribution one of the lead volunteers asked my wife if she would like a box prepared for us. She declined, and was a little confused. The lead volunteer explained that volunteers have the first shot at food boxes. I eventually figured out that about 1/3 of the volunteers at the distribution would otherwise have been waiting in line. I suppose their personal pride demands that they "pay" for their food by volunteering. But, I suppose the also don't want to get shorted out of anything if the pantry runs out of an item. So, they get first shot at the boxes.

It was really hot and humid here on Saturday. The number of customers was down. It was probably too hot for some of the older customers to get out. At the end of the distribution one of the volunteers did deliver two boxes.

Next month the kids will distribute pork. I can't attend because I will be taking DS2 to a medical specialist appointment.

We're still not sure how we will get the pork processed. The head volunteer suggested that we get it all ground into bulk sausage in one-pound packages. Her thinking is that one pound packages are easier to distribute, and customers won't fight over different cuts. DW thinks its a shame to grind quality cuts into sausage. I think a good compromise would be to cut the loins into chops, package the chops into packages of two, and have everything else ground into sausage. We'll see.

The distribution was very worthwhile. I was reminded, as I should be once in a while, that I really do have a good life. After all, one of my worries is - how are we going to process some pork, and not - how am I going to find food to eat tonight.

An Opportunity

July 21st, 2015 at 10:56 am

Most of you know that we adopted two boys, both of whom fall into the autism spectrum. They've been getting ABA treatment most of the time for the past 1.5 years. ABA is "Applied Behavioral Analysis", which is the gold standard in autism treatment. We started out with our local community mental health, which is 25 miles away. About 10 months ago, a local ABA treatment facility (6 miles away) opened up. We were able to get DS1 started in January, and DS2 about a month ago.

The CMH option was free - both boys are Medicaid eligible since they were adopted from foster care. The "costs" were the time and expense of driving them 25 miles, and the quality of treatment was inferior to the local clinic. Plus, DS1 aged out of Medicaid ABA when he turned 6 last year. Although the policy has changed since then, and he would be covered through age 18 now.

The local clinic is covered by my insurance. But, there is a $20 co-pay - each visit. We did not do our due diligence, and we were not aware of the $20 co-pay until recently. We did get a bill about a month ago. We called the billing service, and asked that they submit the bill to DS1's Medicaid coverage. We've not heard back about that, but we have since found out that on our own that Medicaid will not cover the co-pay. So, now with both boys enrolled, we owe the local clinic about $3,000.

Last week DW and I had a meeting with the tow directors of the ABA center. They asked us if we would consider pulling DS2 out of his special ed. preschool program, and start him 35 hours a week at with the ABA program. He's 5, so not yet at mandatory school age. During the conversation, DW and I brought up the possibility of doing the same thing with DS1 - pull him out of his special ed. program, declare that he would be home schooled, and enroll him 35 hours a week in ABA treatment.

The benefits of ABA are clear, and undeniable. The benefits of the special ed. program, not so much. ABA offers one-on-one interaction with a specialist trained in working with autistic kids. The special ed. program might include kids with Downs Syndrome, and other conditions. DS1 is (usually) quiet, and will melt into the back ground. DW and I have both observed the special ed. class room, and we both noticed the teacher and her assistants would sort of let DS1 alone, and attend to the other children. The squeaky wheel gets the grease! The ABA techs force interaction from the child. ABA is clearly doing more good for both boys, and the local clinic is clearly superior to the community mental health option.

And, I suppose it follows that it would be the more expensive option.

We verified that it is our responsibility to pay the $20 co-pay (whether they are getting 20 hours of service over 5 days or 35 hours of service over 5 days, $20 per boy per visit) while we were researching the reality of pulling them out of school.

So, we owe $3,000 for prior treatment, and we will owe for any future treatment.

It comes out to about $12,000 per year.

The boys need this treatment. It improves their lives. It improves our lives. It improves our daughters lives.

But, it's going to be expensive.

There is a possibility. There is another supplemental medical coverage that both received when they were adopted. We've not had to use it yet, because all of their medical expenses have been covered through my private insurance or Medicaid or a combination of both. This supplemental coverage covers anything that is not covered by insurance or Medicaid, as long as the condition was present prior to adoption. Their autism was present prior to the adoptions.

DS2 is probably all set. DS1 is not. We dropped that supplemental coverage for him a couple months ago.

Why would we do that???

The state of Michigan offers a monthly $220 autism supplement. He was not eligible for the autism supplement if he was enrolled in the other supplemental medical coverage. Our thinking was "We've had this supplemental coverage for three years. We've not used it once. Monthly payments of $220 will almost certainly come out ahead, right?"

I guess not.

DW is now figuring out how to get DS2's supplemental coverage to cover the $20 co-pay, and is figuring out how to stop the $220 monthly autism supplement, and how to get DS1 back on to the supplemental coverage.

I'm fairly confident that at some point in the not so distant future that both boys will be covered, and we won't have to pay the $12,000 per year.

I also know that we do owe the $3,000 for previous treatment. And, prior experience tells us it will be three, four, or five months before both boys are covered by the supplemental medical coverage. So, we'll owe for treatment for at least one boy during that time.

But, we are pulling them out of their special ed. programs, and starting 35 hours weekly of ABA for each boy. That was the best decision.

Meating the Need

July 10th, 2015 at 08:00 am

As many of you know, my oldest daughter is in FFA. She and her friends (and parents) met with their chapter advisor last fall, and filled out an FFA "Food for All" grant application. The grant was funded for $2,500.

The idea behind the grant is that FFA kids use the money to buy inputs to raise food - either vegetable or meat. Our local chapter used the funds to produce meat, and named the project "Meating the Need".

DD1 and one of her friends just finished raising 80 broiler chickens. They were processed yesterday, and delivered to our local food pantry. That's about 400 pounds of meat.

The community is getting involved as well. A local feed mill supplied about 75% of the feed for the chickens. The local Rotary and Gavel clubs have donated some money, one of the Gavel club members donated two of his own hogs for the project.

My brother-in-law donated a cow. That meat was all ground into hamburger, and donated to the food bank.

When we bought fair pigs in April, we bought one extra pig that will be processed with the other two donated pigs.

Our state Pork Producers association donated 100 meat thermometers that will be handed out during food distribution. The grant and donations will pay for aluminum roasting pans that will be distributed at the food pantry.

The kids are also producing a video that will be shown during distribution that will help the clients better understand safe food storage and preparation techniques, and the kids will all be there during distribution.

This project is particularly timely, as our local grocery store closed last September. Indeed, our community meets the definition of a Food Desert. The clients that use the food pantry can least afford to travel to the closest grocery stores.

Truck Payoff and Barn

July 9th, 2015 at 07:55 am

I blogged yesterday about how my fuel oil budget plan bill was cut from $220 per month to $95 per month. First of all - snafu - we use #2 fuel oil, which is diesel fuel without the red dye that (at least in Michigan) means that its taxed. That is, our fuel oil is not dyed, and not taxed. Road diesel is dyed, and taxed, but otherwise it's the same stuff. Yes, #2 heating oil is expensive, but that was the furnace that was in our house when we moved into it. The cap price used to calculate my budget payment was $299/gal.

Anyway, that reduction in payment adds another $125 to my monthly cash flow. I'm going to use that money to pay off my truck early. To make a long story short, when we bought our van last December, rather than make a big down payment on the van, we made a substantial payment on my truck. The way my credit union does it, when you make a big payment, they extend the due date. So, when we bought the van, I owed something like $4,000 on the truck. We paid about $3,000 toward the truck (and some down on the van, too). So, the next month rather than having a payment due in January, the CU extended my due date to I think this next November.

I've been paying about $50 each month on the truck since then. My current balance on the truck is right around $250. Using the extra cash flow from the reduction in heating bill, I will pay the truck off in September, four months early. After that, I'll make bigger payments on the van, at least until the end of this heating fuel cycle.

Now, back to the barn. I've been talking about renovating the old hog barn. There is another barn on the property. That barn is where the cows were kept. The cow barn is in a great deal of disrepair, and has basically been abandoned. doingitallwrong left a link to a buyer of old barn wood in a comment on my blog a couple days ago. I checked the site out. The buyer is about 90 miles from my place. He requests an estimate of board feet, and sizes of boards, etc. plus my bid on price.

So, what I'm thinking is cannibalize the abandoned barn, and use those funds to improve the smaller barn.

One problem is that we don't own either barn. My dad does. When we took ownership of the property, we got the house plus one acre. Neither barn sits on that acre. I'm sure that my dad would be OK with us selling the barn wood, and using the funds to improve the other one, especially if I do all the leg work to sell the lumber. But, it is a decision that we will have to talk to him about.

Fuel Oil Budget Plan

July 8th, 2015 at 07:55 am

I looked back into my archived blog posts, and I see that I blogged about this same topic one year ago yesterday. Except this year, it's the exact opposite issue.

Two years ago we went on to our heating fuel oil company's budget plan. A year ago ended our first cycle. June is the settle up month, and the specifics of the new year's plan are set up in July.

Our initial year (July 2103 - May 2014) plan was $220 per month. We ended that year with a $400 credit, but they wanted to increase our monthly payment to $250. I called, and complained, and they set our payment back to $220.

We got our new plan letter in the mail yesterday. This past year we finished with a $857 credit, and our new calculated payment is $95 per month. Doing the math, it should work out to be about even, it just seems like a big drop. It also seems to be very different than last year's calculation.

I understand that there is an El Niño developing, and this winter may be warmer than usual. Which is OK by me for a bunch of reasons. So, we could end up with another credit, even with the lower payment.

But, I'll pay attention to our monthly statements, and if we need to adjust our payments up near the end of the cycle, I'll do that. Because the last thing I want is a big settle up next June.

Independence Day Ramblings

July 6th, 2015 at 11:52 am

This may read like I'm complaining, or pointing fingers. I'm not really trying to do either of those. It's more like curiosity about life choices...

To start things off on completely positive note, we had a great holiday. One of DW's friends has a nearby beach house, and we spent a lot of Friday there. My small town has its annual village festival over the Fourth. Our girls were in the parade representing the Historical Society. And, we spent a lot of the rest of the weekend at DW's parent's place. So it was a fairly low-spend holiday weekend, in addition to being fun!

It's our time at my in-law's that brings me back to the beginning of my post.

My in-laws own a 160 cow dairy. Many, many years ago they bought a neighboring farm, and kept the small house as a rental. The current tenant began living there either shortly before or shortly after we got married, so about 20 years. I don't think he's paid rent in 15 years. He's a mason. He lays concrete when he's working. Sometime about 15 years ago, he was laid off for most of a summer. That's around the same time my father-in-law was starting to slow down physically. My father-in-law turns 84 this week. So the tenant started mowing the lawn, and doing other yard work. He does a very good job. No one ever has to ask him to do a thing. He starts mowing in April, and through October, not a blade of grass is out of place.

And, we're not just talking about a postage stamp yard. The mowed area includes all the lawn around the house, plus the barn yard, plus my brother-in-law's yard across the road, plus his own rental house, plus a camp next door to the farm that my other brother-in-law bought several years ago plus the tenant's rental. The tenant mows probably 30 acres of lawn, in exchange for rent.

The tenant has had a Fourth of July party at his house each year for a few years now. About four years ago, Michigan lifted the ban on citizens buying large-scale fire works. The tenant has gotten into the habit of putting on a fire works display that would rival many of the near by small-village shows.

My in-laws have, again, been vey happy with how he has maintained the grass. As far as that goes, he has, other than not paying rent, been a model tenant. He does all his own repairs, and has asked for nothing from them as far as improvements, etc.

But, it just boggles my mind how he can spend heaven only knows how much money each July on these fire works.

In the end, I think everyone is happy, although my mother-in-law does shake her head a little and mutter under her breath about the fire works. The rental house sits right next to the milking cow barn, and the fire works can startle the cows.

They could be collecting somewhere around $10,000 in rent each year. And nobody really asked him to mow all the lawns quite as frequently as he does. So, I think he comes out ahead with the mowing.

But, everyone seems to be happy. Except for a couple days in July.

Net Worth Update, and Cleaning Person

July 2nd, 2015 at 11:11 am

My net worth took a small hit this month. I'm guessing that's the same for most people who track it on a monthly basis? I haven't been paying attention to the DJIA, or markets in general.

We have a cleaning person come to our house every other Monday. It's been two years, and we are on our second person. She started last July. Our first cleaning person moved away almost exactly one year after she started.

When our first person started, she charges us $15 per hour, and she provided the cleaning supplies. We had her clean for 3 hours each visit. On her one-year anniversary, we gave her a raise. That visit she left a note that she would be moving away. So, we found another person.

This new person grew up down the road from me. She graduated a year ahead of me. She quoted us $13 per hour, and we provide the cleaning supplies. It didn't take long for us to realize that it cost us much less to provide supplies than to pay $15 per hour.

Now that she's been with us a year, it's time to give her a raise. The cheapskate in me says that the raise should be $1 per hour, which is more than 7%, which is more than the raise (on a percentage basis) that I got this year.

The compassionate person in me says that after a year, she should be paid at least where we started our previous cleaning person out two years ago.

The newer person does a fine job cleaning. She's always been flexible if a Monday doesn't work for us. She'll find time to re-schedule us. She's lived in the area her whole life, and I know there's not a lot of extra cash in her household. A also assume that she'd be very happy with the $1 per hour raise, but even happier with a $2 per hour raise.

The previous person also did a fine job. She worked cleaning houses in a larger town, and she had a couple tricks to make the hose look a little "sparkly" when she was done. There was a scent that she sprayed before she left, that made you know as soon as you walked in the door that she had been there. She did things like shine up the dining room furniture. Those things were nice, but they didn't get the house cleaner. Our newer person does a good, basic deep clean.

So, what we could do is give the $1 per hour raise, and a nice Christmas gift. That's probably what we'll do.