Monday, June 30, 2014

Learning the basics of economics

The girls are working.

They have jobs as housekeepers for some friends who own a motel. Four or five days a week, they drive into town (Older Daughter now has her driver's license! She passed her driver's test with flying colors!), work, and then come home. Both are pleased to be earning money and are intelligently divvying their income between savings and spending. Older Daughter is the primary housekeeper, and when there are too many rooms for her to handle on her own, she "hires" Younger Daughter to assist. Younger Daughter also works as a groundskeeper for some neighbors when they're away traveling.

On the days they use the car, we charge Older Daughter $4 for gas (about how much it costs for each round trip into town). We are also requiring her to pay $50/month for her car insurance, which is tacked onto ours (insurance costs are low in Idaho). Such is Real Life.

Nonetheless the girls are earning money, and are having a lot of fun deciding what to do with it. Older Daughter is saving up for a car. Younger Daughter is socking away a lot of her earnings, also with the notion of a car in the distant future.

We opened up checking accounts for both kids so they can start learning the intricacies of handling their income -- the mechanics of deposits, withdrawals, debit card use, online banking, balancing a checkbook, etc.

With the (cough) "power" of a debit card to make online purchases, both kids spent a bit of money at first, primarily ordering books they've wanted. They're learning to set aside a certain amount of "play" money and not go beyond that amount without considering whether the purchase is really worth it.

I found it interesting that after a couple of fun days in town when the girls went to the grocery store and bought their lunches, they quickly realized how easy it is to fritter away their paycheck on unnecessary and temporary pleasures (such as deli food). Now every morning they diligently pack a lunch to bring with them.

I'm proud that our girls are developing a reputation for being hard workers. I'm also pleased that they're discovering, through their own efforts, the basics of Real Life economics.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Getting pierced

Last Monday Younger Daughter did something momentous: she got her ears pierced.

We required both our girls to wait until they were sixteen before deciding on this. Older Daughter was actually a couple of weeks short of sixteen when she got her ears pierced, but that was because their grandparents were up visiting and wanted to see the procedure.

Younger Daughter vacillated a bit about whether to get her ears pierced or not, but as her 16th birthday came and went, she decided firmly in favor. So off we went to Claire's, a bling store.

We had a fairly long wait because there were a surprising number of people ahead of us, getting their ears pierced. Two or three younger children (in the seven or eight-year-old range), a couple of young women, and one older man with a graying pony tail (well why not?).

I noticed this stuffed teddy bear underneath the "hot seat" for younger kids to clutch during the procedure. One of the littlest girls having her ears pierced declined the bear. "I'm not about to get shown up by a kid," muttered Younger Daughter, getting a bit nervous as the wait lengthened.

Younger Daughter chose her posts: a set of pearls.

Finally it was her turn. She listened as the young woman doing the piercing explained the procedure.

Her lobes were cleaned and prepped...

...and then the piercer made little dots to show where the piercing would happen.

After examining the dots for evenness and spacing, the piercer wasn't satisfied with one of them, so she wiped the lobe clean and replaced the dot. When she was satisfied, she gave Younger Daughter a mirror to see if the dots were where she wanted them. When it was all a "go," on came the actual piercing! First one side...

...then the other. I was impressed by the level of cleanliness the piercer maintained -- gloves, sterile posts, sterile piercing gun. (Better than when I got my ears pierced back in 1983!).

Younger Daughter said the procedure hurt a LOT less than she thought it would -- and was very pleased with the results.

The young woman showed Younger Daughter how to clean her ears, how to twirl and move the earrings, etc.

The results are classy and lovely. Another step toward young womanhood!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Attack of the killer chickens

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the barn pitching hay when one of the hens darted forward at something. Whatever it was must have disappeared since she stared intently for a moment or two, then walked away.

A few minutes later another hen darted forward... and this time she snatched up what looked like a mole.

She proceeded to bash the poor little thing against the ground, then pecked at it viciously.

In moments it was quite dead... and then she ate it.

Chickens are far more carnivorous than we give them credit for. We all know they eat grubs and worms and other things they find. But a small mammal? That one surprised me.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Getting a REAL education

Recently my older brother and I have been exchanging emails on the cost and/or benefit of a college education. My brother has a bachelor's and a master's degree in engineering, and worked as an engineer for decades -- the "golden era" of engineering, he's now calling it.

"Worked" -- as in, past tense -- is the key word here. It seems older and more experienced engineers are no longer wanted in the marketplace. After dodging the layoffs for years, my brother finally got the pink slip about a year ago, along with nearly the entire rest of the senior engineering staff at his company. The trend in Silicon Valley, he reports, is to fire older staff and hire cheap imported engineers from other countries. Now he is forcibly retired. I say "forcibly" because he's spent the last 12 months interviewing for different jobs, and no one is biting despite his vast qualifications.

While my brother is somewhat bitter over this practice of laying off senior engineers, he has one extraordinary piece of good fortune in his favor: he saw the handwriting on the wall twenty years ago. He knew he could be laid off at any time. Therefore he spent his productive years purchasing properties, promptly paying off the mortgages, and staying out of every other kind of debt. Now he has income from renting out the three houses he purchased and paid off. This is his retirement strategy.

My brother is fortunate that he got his college degrees at a time when college was expensive, but not nearly as inflated as now. According to this article, the cost of higher education has surged more than five hundred percent since 1985. I'm beginning to think it's an enormous blessing-in-disguise that our girls have been priced out of the college market.

My brother just sent me a link to this article, which outlines how a student who majors in film could easily emerge with up to $182,000 in student loan debt. "This is too much borrowing!" chides the author. "You can’t repay that kind of debt on a film major’s starting salary, and you can’t get rid of student loans in bankruptcy."

All this is a lead-up to an outstanding article I recently read on SurvivalBlog entitled Getting A Real Education– Why Becoming Self-Sufficient Is Better Than Going To College. As far as I'm concerned, every word of this article is pure gold for young people just starting their adult life.

The premise of the article is that instead of spending four years of time and oodles of money acquiring a dubious college degree in a field that may not be hiring, young people should spend the next four years acquiring a work ethic and job skills, squirreling away money, and making intelligent long-term purchases.

Some quoted highlights:

[I]t is better to learn to become self-sufficient rather than spend your precious time and money going to college, at least for now. In fact, if you follow this alternate path of education, in order to be best prepared for the new reality, in four years time you will be well on the way to financial independence; you’ll also be healthier, have a nest-egg to invest, and have well-developed multiple skills. You will be at least a decade ahead of your high school pals who went directly to college.

Here’s what you should be doing during the next four years, to be better prepared to meet the emerging “New Realty”:

• Learn to find or create a job to earn money,
• Negotiate a place to live until you can move into your own home,
• Plan how to invest the money you are saving,
• Learn to grow food,
• Learn to buy real estate, and
• Develop multiple means of income. (I will explain this later on.)

The goal of accomplishing the list above is to:

• Work and save as much as you can,
• Find a property you can purchase with some of your savings to own it free and clear,
• Learn to garden or provide other legitimate means to drastically reduce your grocery costs,
• Develop your property to its highest and best purpose, which will enable you to be financially free,

Having accomplished all this, you will have learned multiple skills and the means to provide yourself and others with food and shelter. This will give you more choices, and allow you to become financially free, while you are still able to enjoy it.

The best way to accomplish all of this is to think of it as your “real education” and to commit to working your plan for four years as if you were attending college, only this is your practical education. Without a real commitment to accomplishing each step of the plan, you won’t reap the benefits it will deliver. So resolve right now to commit to the process.

At the end of your real education you will:

• Be living in a home that you own free and clear, eliminating major housing costs,

• Be able to save more money by growing your own food,
• Be healthier, because you’ve been eating healthier food instead of the GMO’d food sold in the grocery stores,
• Be able to have a nest-egg to invest,
• Be in a position to help others, financially and materially,
• Possess the real skills needed to successfully meet the challenges of an uncertain future, and
• Ultimately have more choices and greater control over your life!

This is definitely an article I'm printing out in its entirety in hopes our girls will take it to heart. In this day and age, it makes far more sense than studying something stooopid in college such as Gender Studies or Peace and Social Justice.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Opportunity for writers

Dear readers -- If any of you have thought about writing, this might be your chance. I was contacted by Lisa Barthuly with Molly Green Magazine concerning some writing opportunities as follows:

If you have a heart for HOMEsteading, HOMEkeeping, HOMEschooling, and HOMEindustry, then Molly Green Magazine is looking for you! Come join our team of magazine, blogging, and social media writers, and share your love of all things HOME with thousands of like-minded readers.

We are seeking writers to join our writing team at Molly Green Magazine. Molly Green is all about HOME life: Homekeeping, Homestead life, Preparedness, Homeschooling, Home Industry and so on. We are busy re-launching our website, and e-newsletter –- gearing up to get everything in gear for a July launch –- as the latest issue of the magazine comes out. Right now we are building a team of writers to make Molly Green the premiere publication in its niche.

Not only has the design of the magazine changed, but so has our entire vision. For the remainder of the year we will be branching out even more, including a newly-designed website that features member sites for selling homemade products (featuring our members), and also social media avenues for members to talk and connect with each other.

If you are interested in this endeavor, please send us an email, sharing about you, your homestead, your interests, and how you can contribute to our new adventure.

We look forward to discussing this role with you.

Thank you,
Lisa Barthuly


I spoke with Lisa yesterday and will become a regular contributor. I hope some others might join them as well!

Monday, June 23, 2014

First calf of the year

About a week ago, I looked at Polly's backside and decided she was so broad in the beam that giving birth was imminent.

So to her annoyance, we tucked her into the corral, which has access to the barn for shelter.

She wasn't overly pleased by this, but whenever possible we prefer calves to be born close to home (rather than down in the woods or somewhere in the pasture), since we usually have to either dehorn or castrate a young calf within a few days of birth. Plus it safeguards the baby against predators.

We tucked Petunia, Polly's yearling calf, in the corral with her for company. The animals settled in.

Polly complained a lot when we scooted the rest of herd out of the woods and down to the pasture. Wait for me! I wanna go too!

Days went by and we began to wonder if we should just let Polly and Petunia down with the rest of the critters. But then yesterday morning around 5:15 am I checked in and this is what I saw:

I noted the amniotic sac but didn't see the tiny hooves poking out inside the sac, so I thought I had more time than I did.

I went into the house for ten minutes -- ten minutes tops! -- and when I came back out, this is what I saw.

Delighted as I was with such a quick and uneventful birth, I soon noticed something was wrong. Polly was ignoring the calf. She wasn't licking it at all, not even a bit.

Licking is important for newborns for three reasons: it cleans them, it stimulates their circulation, and it familiarizes the mother with the calf's unique scent. But Polly was having none of it.

This surprised me, since she did such a wonderful job with Petunia, her first calf.

She wasn't acting hostile, just... indifferent.

This concerned me enough that I dug some first-day colostrum out of the freezer (from last year when Matilda was unable to nurse Amy) and defrosted it, just in case I needed to bottle feed.

Meanwhile, I saw a tiny scrotum. A bull calf.

Indifferent mama or not, this little boy was determined. Within a few minutes he staggered to his feet...

...which lasted about ten seconds before he crashed.

Concerned that he wasn't getting cleaned off, I got some rags and wiped him down a bit.

Meanwhile Polly ate breakfast with an apparent complete lack of interest that she had a new baby.

Ah... but this little bull calf had more strength of character than I was giving him credit for. He struggled once more to his feet...

...and stumbled with great determination straight for Polly. He wanted breakfast, indifferent mama or no! (By the way, doesn't it look like Polly is an emaciated skeleton? I assure you she's not. That's just the way Jerseys are built -- all skin, bones, and udder.)

Despite Polly's continuing indifference, he persisted. Calves take a little while to get the hang of things, and this tiny boy spent a lot of time gumming Polly in various places.

He even tried Petunia, who would have none of it.

So he tried mama again.

Polly still acted aloof, but thankfully not hostile.

So near and yet so far!

I think I got a clue as to why Polly was behaving as she was. She hadn't yet passed the placenta, and she was in acute discomfort as a result, with cramps and contractions. She her arched back? That's a contraction.

Last year, our cow Victoria did the same thing when she birthed Rosy: acted skittish and restless until she delivered the placenta. Then she settled right down.

We went to church, and by the time we got back the little fellow was dry and looking seriously adorable.

Polly had passed the afterbirth and was much more relaxed and attentive.

And my goodness the calf had turned into a vigorous nurser! Making up for lost time!

Then, when his little belly was full of warm colostrum, he drowsed in the sun.

So all is peaceful in the barnyard once again.

We named the calf Chuck. As in roast.