Monday, September 30, 2019

How can someone earn $500 a month?

All right, dear readers, time to put on your collective thinking caps.

I have a cyber-friend who lives in a fairly remote part of the country. She and her husband are partially retired. She works three days a week in an administrative position, and has kept her job because of the health insurance. Her husband is 40 percent disabled and on Social Security.

Her employer may offer her a more full-time position, something she doesn't want at her age. In fact, she would like to quit altogether and work from home, and we started emailing back and forth about the subject.

One of her questions was the cost of health insurance. I told her about Christian Healthcare Ministries, which isn't insurance but is a very affordable healthcare sharing program.

If she quits her three-day-a-week job, she said she needs to bring in about $500/month. "I need to think way outside the box for a source of income," she wrote.

I asked about the skills she and her husband possess. "My husband already gives handgun shooting lessons," she replied. "He is also an excellent writer. I can preserve food, cook, I'm great with animals and gardening. I have just started painting stones to make garden plant markers. Rich is great at painting interiors, and we can both do basic handy man stuff."

So here's my request to all readers: Let's chime in and give my friend some ideas on how she and her husband can earn an extra $500/month. This is a topic of interest to anyone wanting to live a more remote lifestyle unconnected to any city employment, so let's hear 'em!

The Big Fizzle

Well after all the hoopla of the huge Freak September Blizzard, it turned into the Big Fizzle (at least where we are; perhaps things were hairier in the mountains).

Saturday was a day of miserable weather: cold unrelenting rain, a contrary north wind (our prevailing wind direction is from the southeast), and a rain/snow mix that didn't stick. The temperature never rose above 36F. It was most definitely indoor weather.

Everything was soggy and gloomy.

Interestingly, we had heavy bird activity all day long on the Virginia creeper in our front yard.

Robins, starlings, and red-shafted flickers all descended on (and often quarreled over) the berries from the Virginia creeper.

The robins also took advantage of the wet ground to gobble up worms. I just missed photographing this bird with a beak-ful.

In anticipation of freezing temperatures, we moved the tubs of potatoes, onions, and pears into the washroom. They can't stay stored in these tubs -- they'll rot because the plastic won't "breathe" -- but it's cool in the washroom and the produce can stay there over the next couple of weeks as I sort and process it.

Sunday morning we woke up to a bare inch of snow on the ground.

Darcy seemed surprised (and pleased) to see it.

It snowed most of the day, but nothing further accumulated since the ground was so wet. (These are rose hips.)

By late afternoon, everything had melted off except at higher elevations.

We have some nicer weather ahead of us, so it will give us a chance to finish harvesting the garden and buttoning things up for the winter.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Racing the weather

We've had a frantic week as we raced to batten things down before a dramatic change of weather moves in, including potentially snow. This is the weather report as of 3:30 Thursday afternoon, Sept. 27:

We've lived here in North Idaho for 16 years, and we've never had snow this early. It doesn't look like it will last, but nonetheless we had to get ready for it -- notably harvesting what we could in the garden. (Some things in the garden will have to wait.)

Accuweather describes this incoming storm as a "freak" September blizzard: "As of Friday, winter storm watches and warnings were in effect across portions of four states. Winter storm watches were issued for parts of Montana, and areas in Washington, Wyoming, Idaho and the mountainous terrain of Montana were placed under a winter storm warning. The snowstorm could reach 'historic' proportions, forecasters have warned, and will unleash heavy and wet snow, tropical-storm-force winds and bitter cold in the Northwest and southern Canada. The heavy and wet nature of the early-season snow will threaten to weigh down tree limbs that are still covered in changing foliage. ... Widespread power outages may occur amid the cold conditions accompanying the winter-like storm. ... Winds are likely to average 15-25 mph (25-40 km/h) with gusts to 40-50 mph (65-80 km/h). Stronger gusts and sustained winds are likely during the height of the storm over the mountains and through the passes."

In our location and elevation, predictions are three to six inches of snow.

So, given a week to prepare, we focused mostly on harvesting the garden and battening down outdoor items. We're fairly well prepped for everything else, especially since we currently have no livestock.

I started with the grapes. It was hard not to go crazy photographing the grapes before picking because they were so beautiful. I almost hated to destroy the tableau by harvesting them.

I started with the green Himrod grapes. I only have one Himrod vine (the other died, choked out by a single morning glory seed I had foolishly planted last year, then ripped out after it dominated the trellis).

The one remaining vine yielded lots and lots of grapes.

Total yield (once they were plucked off the stem): 12 lbs.

I turned about half these grapes into raisins (a future blog post).

Then I turned my attention to the Canadice grapes, of which I had two vines. These are truly beautiful grapes, drawing "Oooohs" of appreciation from visitors to the garden.

As I picked, I found myself with a little competition.

Final yield for Canadice grapes: 37 lbs., or 18.5 lbs. per vine.

I'm juicing these grapes. Again, that will be a future blog post.

With the grapes harvested, I turned my attention to other vulnerable crops.

Darcy had a grand time exploring while I harvested.

I picked every cantaloupe and watermelon, regardless of whether or not it was ripe.

I picked every last tomato, green or red (and, amazingly, forgot to get a photograph). I ended up with 112 lbs. of tomatoes.

I pulled every last onion, which were definitely ready to harvest.

Total for onions: 64 lbs.

On Thursday I picked the pear trees clean.

For this, of course, a fruit-picking basket on a pole was necessary.

Here too I had a bit of competition, but not much. This has been a remarkably wasp-free summer.

Total for pears: 135 lbs.

Just after picking the pears -- and while I was channeling the Magic Pear Fairy and delivering pears to neighbors -- we had a storm cell move over us which dropped the heaviest rain I've ever seen (no photos, since I was traveling). A pear recipient who used to live in Florida said the only time he's seen it rain this hard was during hurricanes.

By the time I got home, the storm was passing...

...and the garden emerged sparkling.

The view to the east showed dark clouds lit up by the western sun.

Lots of weather drama this week, that's for sure.

The final thing I wanted to get harvested before the weather changed was potatoes, which we did yesterday.

As with so many other crops this summer, the potatoes outdid themselves in abundance.

This is one tires' worth of harvest.

We found some optimistic new growth too.

Lots and lots of worms, always a good sign.

The potatoes weighed in at 160 lbs., or almost 23 lbs. per tire (I had seven tires planted).

I also had one tire of multiplier onions (often called potato onions), which I pulled.

I added them to the groaning wheelbarrow, and tottered back to the house with the load.

Much of the produce was piled on the side porch, and we even dragged out the large bathroom scale to weigh some things.

I've been passing out pears, green tomatoes, and watermelons to neighbors.

Then to top off our week, we're working on a large production run of tankards.

So yes, it's been a chaotic week.

As I post this, it's early Saturday morning. It's raining hard and very windy. There is a very little bit of wet snow mixed with the rain (the thermometer current reads 35F). The rain will change to snow later tonight. We're bracing for power outages as the snow falls on trees which have not yet shed their leaves. We'll see what the morning brings.