Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Can't Have the House and the Money

After visiting my property last week, I've been going in mental circles again.  I suppose it is good to review my options just in case I don't come to the same conclusions.  It's the middle of a scorching summer.  I can't do much except think.  I can't expect to go out to my property with all of the work that needs to be done and not want to run away screaming.  I reviewed my budget spreadsheet and tried to whittle away at it so that I can stay in this house where all of the infrastructure already exists.  The only problem is that my retirement money is in this house.  There is no way for me to keep living in the house and get the money at the same time.  I considered a roommate (not going to happen), living in a tiny house in the backyard and renting out the house (yard isn't big enough), buying another house (no more rentals!), but it just won't work.  I need to just stick with my plan and not worry about the mess out at my property because my focus right now is paying off my mortgage, not improving my property.  It's just so hard to wait.  It doesn't help that it is 80F in my house because I only have a evaporative cooler.  It makes me cranky and impatient and I start to think about buying air conditioning but I would need around $6,000 and in a few weeks I won't need A/C so I need to just not think about it.  And no more recreational shopping (dumpster diving is ok).  The only thing I should be ordering are free seeds through the seed library, which I did and they should be at the library tomorrow for pickup.  I love the seed library!  I get to pretend I am buying seeds and then grow some food.  So, I will try to be patient and stick to the plan and not think about all the work that needs to be done because it isn't time for that yet.    

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dumpster Diving with my Boss

On days that my boss flies out of town, he gives me gas money to pick him up from his apartment in the morning since I live closest to him.  Once I forgot to pick him up.  I got all the way to work and wondered where my boss was...oops!  This time I set my alarm for 6am and made it out of the house early.  As I pulled up I noticed that the dumpster was full of what looked like the possessions of a previous tenant.  Right on top were 2 big fiberglass pots, the kind I have been wanting quite a while now.  I even walked around Big Lots with 2 pots in my cart once but ended up putting them back because they were only half as big as I wanted and I just couldn't spent $20/each.

These wonderful dumpster pots were just the right size.  Only problem was, my boss was waiting outside for me.  Now, he's an understanding boss and he values frugality so when I asked him if he thought I could take them he said he didn't see why not.  We dumped out the dirt and I strapped them in the back of my truck.  I was thrilled with my prizes.  I tried really hard not to look at the other things in the dumpster.  The thought of good stuff going to the dump seems like such a waste but that was not the time nor place to do any in-depth digging.  Later, I looked up the price of similar pots from Home Depot.  I found some for $60.  Wow, I just pulled $120 from the dumpster.  My boss calls me 'trash digger' now but it was worth it to save them from the trash.

On my lunchtime walk, I picked up a semi-truck mud flap that had been on the side of the road for a few days.  I saw it there earlier but didn't pick it up because I couldn't think of a use for it.  Well, after work I was headed out to my property so I decided to use it to mark the entrance of my driveway.  Now instead of telling people to turn at the first thing that kind of looks like a driveway, I can tell them to turn at the mud flap.  It has a reflective strip along the top too so I can see it at night.  It goes perfectly with the rest of my trailer trash decor, and I do mean that literally since I have a trailer and trash.  Soon, when the temperature goes back to the 70's, I'll have to go pick up all that trash but not this week.  Wednesday is supposed to be 110F.  I have a few more months before I start on chores out there.

I did pick up my baker's rack that was in my shed  It will be at least 3 years until I move out to my property so I might as well use my things instead of just storing them.  I'm glad I brought it to my house because I was able to organize my gardening gear and it looks much neater.  Next step, fill those pots with dirt and plant more seeds!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Local Surprises

Here's a first for me.  Before today I had never been out to eat at a truck stop in my own town.  I heard good things about Omar's Hi Way Chef Restaurant, so when my sister came through town tonight, I suggested we try it out.  She likes to visit unique places and this place didn't disappoint.

I stole my sister's photo.
They serve breakfast, Mexican, Italian, American, and plenty of desserts including their famous DDHAP (deep dish hot apple pie) as seen on the Food Network.  I went in thinking that I would just get the apple pie but the smells wafting out the door made me want real food.  I ordered the chicken alfredo and my sister got some sort of Mexican breakfast plate.  The portions were huge and I brought home enough for lunch for the next two days.  I couldn't even think about dessert, unfortunately.  We will have to go back another time and maybe we can attack a DDHAP between the two of us.  If I don't eat all day I might be up for the challenge.  I should warn anyone who visits me.  We will be going out to eat at a truck stop!   

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Doing the Rain Dance

Laundry done, week of meals made, floor swept, everyone clean and fed, now I want to relax.  Too bad I have to go to work tomorrow.  It didn't rain until late this evening but I finally got to see how my drainage trenches worked.

Not bad, but the water was getting a bit too close to the shed.  I'll have to do some more digging.  I started digging deeper trenches on the other side of the yard but it was hot and the ground was still hard this morning.  After I get all of this digging done, I get to do the fun part, filling it with mulch so that I don't fall in the trenches anymore.  The dogs think that all of this digging is fascinating and they have been doing some digging of their own, usually not in the right places.

What else did I do this weekend?  I went to visit my mother and helped her get her computer back on the internet.  I think the storms messed with the connection.  I brought some extra seeds too.  We planted tomatoes, green beans, and squash.  Tucson has 2 growing seasons for summer: pre-monsoon and post-monsoon.  I'm hoping my post-monsoon garden does better than pre-.  The tomatoes and green beans did well but not much else.  The corn was a big flop and it is on sale for 6 for a dollar of something cheap like that.  I don't think I will bother with corn next year.  Next year I will grow sunflowers for shade instead of corn.  At least I'll get a pretty flower.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

New Arrival

Things have been really busy around here and it is my own fault.  After a mix up with prescriptions for my puppies, then not hearing anything back, I went to another vet.  Turns out it was a waste of time because he gave the puppy amoxicillin and most of the illnesses that come out of the local pound are resistant to it.  Luckily, they didn't charge me for the office visit but I did pay $20 for drugs I can't use plus I had to take a few hours off work.  Yesterday, I got an appointment with the vet at the pound (more time off work) and she gave me a stronger antibiotic (at least it is free) so I am hopeful that my puppy will get better soon.  I also made a steam room for him tonight for a half an hour.  I should have done that a week ago but I kept forgetting and wasn't sure how I was going to do it.  I tried using my vaporizor but it was too slow so I just turned on the hot shower.  More expensive but much easier.  Plus, I used the water for a bath for me later on.

While I was at the pound I saw the cutest little terrier that looked very similar to my dog.  She needed a foster home for 3-4 weeks because she was recovering from surgery for a broken pelvis after having been hit by a car.  So guess who went home with me?

Hello there.

Why is he staring at me?
 She will get adopted in no time once she gets her staples out.  In the meantime, I have one sick puppy, 3 puppies transitioning to puppy-mush (very messy), and now this little girl who has to stay in a play pen while I am at work because she can't get out the dog door and my big dog would run her over.  This means getting up earlier to feed everyone, clean up, and dole out medicine.  And in the evening I do it again plus a load of dog laundry.  But it is only for a few weeks so I think I can manage.  I didn't need to watch all that tv anyway.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summer Rains and Garden Stuff

That was a busy weekend of cleaning, working in the yard and watching Doctor Who.  My nephew was watching Doctor Who while he was here and I got hooked.  I did 5 loads of laundry including all the bed sheets and the puppy towels.  My house got a few sprinkles of rain on Thursday and Friday and then got pounded on Saturday.  I was watching my trees bend in the wind and hoping they didn't snap.  Luckily, I didn't have any damage but I could hear a neighbor doing a lot of hammering after the storm so I am assuming his wooden fence fell down.  I did have some surprising indoor flooding when the wind, rain and hail was hitting the east side of the house.  2 of the windows on that side were not caulked well and the living room had water creeping across the tile.  I was in the middle of making my dinner when I saw the water and ran around grabbing towels to soak it up before it reached any wooden furniture.  In one of the bedrooms the carpet was wet under the window.  I put a towel along the windowsill and that was all.  The carpet was dry a few hours later.  Today I chipped away the old caulk and put some new caulk down.  Now I need it to rain again to see if I did a good job.

The backyard was a pond for a few minutes until it soaked in.  It gave me a chance to see where the water flows and today I was out there digging ditches to direct the water to my trees and garden.  I planted beans, corn, sunflowers, squash, watermelon, and devil's claw along the wall and patio.  Hopefully, something will come up.

When I finish the ditches I will line them with cardboard and fill them with wood chips to create a sponge and to deter the weeds.  I learned that from a permaculture book I read last month.  It's finally time to put some of that knowledge to the test.

I also had enough time this long weekend to look in some of my old boxes.  Soap collection, Cabbage Patch Preemie, camp cookware still in box.

Sure, I took them out and looked at them, but did I donate them or list them for sale?  No.  Not yet.  I did start a give-away pile and threw out some things.  I was able to get rid of one box.  That's not a lot but I didn't stay in that room very long because the dust was causing my nose to run like a faucet.  An allergy pill and more Doctor Who and I was back to normal.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Money Goals for My Financial Freedom Day

I made some money goals for my houses and 401k while I am paying off my mortgage.  The house values are from so they aren't exactly real.  The house down the street sold for only $120,000 last December.  I doubt I could get $150,000 for my house right now but it is encouraging to see that Zillow thinks it is worth that much and it is nice to see home values rising.

My timeline to reach these goals is 3 years.  If I pay off my mortgage before 3 years I can add more to my 401k but unless the stock market drops again my 401k will probably reach its goal without extra help.  Maybe I should make my goal total $500,000 just so it is a nice even number.  Can I quit my job and pursue other interests with $500,000 in savings?  I think I can if I keep my housing costs low and don't get too crazy with my hobbies.  It would be ideal if one of those hobbies brought in some income but I want to have enough money so that I don't have to be dependent on bringing in more income.

In other news, I decided to invest part of my savings in a fairly aggressive Vanguard mutual fund.  I might use it to pay off my mortgage faster in a year or two or I might leave it in the mutual fund.  It was languishing in a savings account and I thought I would risk it and see if I could do better.  Now I will try not to check it everyday and worry about dips in the stock market (but it is up $95 already!).  Patience and perseverance.  I will reach my goals, preferably before I am too old or infirmed to enjoy life.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Chubby Puppies and a Short Week

Countdown to a three day weekend!  My nephew is here until Wednesday and then I will put the house back in order as in clean up his room, inventory the uneaten teenager food, and clean.  The forecast says rain for Friday and possibly all weekend.  After 106 all week, rain and 98 degrees will be very welcome.  I plan to get out there with my shovel and dig some basins so that the rainwater will water my trees.  I've read up on desert permaculture and soon I can put that education in to action.  I also bought some mulch for the basins.  I've decided not to fill my yard with rock, at least, not all of it.  The area by the RV gate will have rock and the rest will be plants and wood chip paths.  I'll work on it little by little and see how the dogs like it.

My little sick puppy is doing better.  He's the black one in the picture.  His sisters are so much bigger than he is.  I'm still giving him extra formula but I don't know how much milk he is able to get with his sisters blocking his way.  Hopefully, he is getting enough because I am not taking him to work with me tomorrow.

I decided that the donations to the pound will come out of my credit card rewards.  Usually, I buy Kohl gift cards with my Chase rewards to give as gifts but this time I will use the money for puppies instead.  I ordered puppy and kitten formula, disposable medical gowns, and puppy supplements.  Next time I take the puppies in to see the vet I won't be empty handed. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Puppy Update

Just when I started thinking that my foster puppies made it out of the pound without getting sick, one of them got sick.  Last night I noticed that one puppy wasn't nursing.  In the morning, he was out of the dog house and sleeping on momma dog's bed.  Attempts to get him to nurse this morning were unsuccessful so I wrapped him in a blanket, grabbed some puppy formula and a syringe and brought him to work with me.  I'm really lucky to have a job where I can bring animals to work.  That is one perk that I really appreciate.  

I sent an email off to the foster coordinator at the pound and she said I could bring him in that afternoon.  Usually the vet has surgeries on Wednesdays but the schedule was changed.  I worked through lunch and then snuck out early.  The vet was really nice and gave me 2 antibiotics and some fluids for the puppy.  She is a new vet at the pound and her tiny office is basically a 15'x15' store room in the back of the pound.  I was looking around and trying to see what could improve the situation.  Basically, they need a new building.  They already have the original block main building, 2 mobile buildings, and a circus tent for the overflow of dogs.  When I got home I looked at their website and read that there is a bond on the next ballot for a new building.  I will definitely be voting yes for that.  In the mean time, I think I'll donate to their medication fund.  The vet mentioned that they are almost out of a few medications because it is the end of the fiscal year and they can't order more until the next year.  How difficult it must be to work at a place with so much need and so little monetary support.

I must remember times like this when I want to jump in and help.  I can't retire early AND give all of my money away.  I need to plan my giving too.  And I need to remember that not all problems are best solved by throwing money at them.  Volunteering time is even more valuable than money sometimes and that is why I have foster puppies.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Hibernation

A day off, yay!  Sinus headache, no!  At least I have plenty of time for naps.  I got up at 6:30 today, fed the dogs, watered the garden, ate breakfast, started some chicken bones simmering on the stove, folded my laundry from the night before, started a slow drip on the trees, and went back to bed at 8.  After my morning nap, I checked email, moved the water to a new tree, stripped the bed and started a load of laundry.  I feel like I have accomplished something and I still have time to be lazy.

I would like to be planting more seeds in the yard but it is hot and it will be hotter this week, 107 they say, so anything that I start now will need extra water.  The monsoon rains are going to start in 2-3 weeks so I might as well wait for them to water the ground for me.  The seed packets that I ordered through our seed library came in and I planted some Devil's Claw wild flowers in the front yard.  I have been carefully watering them every day and 2 came up but yesterday one of them had been bitten in half by something, probably a bird.  I hate that.  I mean if they are going to bite it they should eat it not just bite it in half and leave it.  Now I only have one sprout but I have 5 more seeds so I planted them and hopefully I will get at least one adult plant.  I would like to be able to return some seeds to the seed library and keep some seeds for next year but that won't happen if they keep getting eaten.

Last Thursday, I took the day off to take my nephew on an educational day trip.  I gave him the choice of some of the local attractions and he chose the Titan Missile Museum.  I had never been there so it was interesting to see it.  I guess it is the last complete missile silo from the era of the Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis.  The other silos have been dismantled.  It only took around 26 months to build it.  Too bad other projects can't get that same focus and attention.

After that we had lunch and I bought him some gifts for his birthday.  I think that fulfills my birthday duties for this year.  Tomorrow we are going to the movies with his friend.  The kids will be seeing Godzilla and I don't know what the "mom's" will be seeing.  I looked at the choices and there isn't anything that I am dying to see.  Maybe Jersey Boys.  Too bad the Adam Sandler movie Blended looks like a typical Sandler movie.  I'm sure I will see that one on Netflix really soon.

I will continue to hide indoors until around 7pm when the sun has gone down.  Then the garden will get watered again, the quail will get their pool refilled and watermelon and lettuce snacks and I will try to convince momma dog that it is ok to leave her puppies for a minute to go use the bathroom outside.  So far, all 4 puppies are fat and squeaky so that is good.  She is a very good momma dog and I don't hear any sneezing so maybe they escaped the pound without catching anything.  Doggy colds at this young age are usually deadly.  I'm excited to see what they look like when their eyes open.  Right now they still look like rats.  I'm sure they will get cuter.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mortgage Progress for June 2014

Another big $1,500 toward the principle!  That brings the total down to $56,973.  Only 3 years and 4 months to go, or less if I can keep up this pace.  I don't know if I can though because this month is a big spending month.  My nephew is visiting and I enrolled him in video game camp next week where they are supposed to learn about making video games.  I suppose it is semi-educational.  Also, his birthday is also coming up so I believe a shopping trip for gifts is in order.

I am also trying dog fostering again.  (I can see you frowning, Mother!)  Someone asked me specifically to foster a mom and 1 week old puppies as a foster for the pound.  In 7 weeks they go back to the pound since the puppies will be old enough to get adopted.  I said that this is the only way I would foster if I ever fostered again.  I don't want to spend my Saturdays trying to get dogs adopted at the pet store.  And fostering for a rescue that required puppies to be 14 weeks old before adoption was too hard.  When puppies get over 8 weeks old they are very hard to contain and very destructive.  I still haven't repaired all of the puppy damage around my house from the last group.

When I got to the pound to pick up my momma dog and puppies, they only had 4 puppies instead of 6.  It turns out that 2 puppies got accidentally washed down the drain when the inmates were cleaning the kennels.  Is that the most horrible thing ever?  That is just too sad.  I am glad that I got the 4 remaining puppies out of the pound and I hope they all continue to thrive.  There are just so many diseases that they can catch there.  I don't know how any puppies survive the pound at all.

Anyway, momma dog and puppies are snuggled in to a doghouse that I brought in to the laundry area.  I hope they aren't too much trouble.  I'd like to continue to help the pound dogs and fostering directly with the pound could be an easier way to do it.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Another Bill Mystery Solved

I was eager to get this delinquent property tax problem fixed so I brought all of my evidence with me to work on Friday.  The bank hadn't even sent the cancelled check information but I wanted to find out if I was going to have to go down to the office or if I could email my findings.

First, I got the receptionist or whatever she was.  I don't want to call her unfriendly but she sounded over-worked and weary and it was only 9:15am.  I was prepared to be polite and patient but our conversation went something like this:

Me:  Hello, I received a notice in the mail that I have delinquent property taxes from 2004 but...
Her:  What is the state code.
Me: 10034523
Her:  It will take a moment while I look that up....  Yes, that is correct.  The property taxes were not paid.
Me:  Well, I'm pretty sure I paid them and...
Her:  Hold on a moment.
Me:  ....
Her:  Now, what was the issue?
Me:  I have evidence that I paid the taxes and I would like to know where to send it?
Her:  Just a moment, the phones are ringing.
Me:  ....
Her:  You want to do what?
Me:  I want to know where to send the evidence that I paid these taxes.
Her:  That would be Administration.  I'll transfer you.
Me:  (Oh please let them be more helpful.)

The next lady to get on the phone was initially skeptical of my claim and told me that I would need a copy of the cancelled check but then she looked it up in her computer and she found some sort of record of my  check being cashed.  She said the magic words, "I believe you."  And I wanted to hug her through the phone.  She said she needed to look through the old records in the back room and someone would get back to me today.  A few hours later, I got a call from a fellow who told me that they found that my check had been applied to something else (I'm still not sure what) and now it has been applied correctly to my 2004 mobile home property tax.  I am thrilled that it was straightened out and I didn't have to go down there or pay more money.  Later on I got the copy of my cancelled check from the bank.  It is nice to know that my bank will do that for me.

So, that is fixed.  I wonder if I should be worried about whatever the check used to be applied to.  Do I have a new delinquent debt floating around out there now?  I definitely need to keep better track of my property tax receipts.  Moving from house to house is not good for my record-keeping and getting brightly colored letters from the sheriff department telling me that my property is going to be sold for back taxes is no way to start a weekend.