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Friday, October 30, 2009

When I Retire...

Skepticism runs deep in my psyche along with a mistrust of the often touted ‘expert opinion’. I also dig my heels in when I feel I am being sold something with scare tactics-as in do this OR ELSE.

I put money aside every paycheck into my 401K, I save into our emergency fund (and now house fund) money market account, I put extra toward the principle of our mortgage (which translates as ‘death-grip’ BTW). But I have a tip about this hot new investment that I plan to give a whirl-MYSELF!

Last year’s financial crisis was something of a revelation for me. Watching my carefully gathered funds just vanish made me feel helpless, just totally powerless. It was soon after that I reduced my 401K deduction drastically. Instead of putting money in a precarious house of cards, I wanted to invest in my own house-my own homestead-my own ‘retirement’. Yes, my taxable income is higher, but I feel it is a small price to pay for honoring that inner-voice.

I have made the decision to look at retirement in a whole different light. For many, retirement is the tantalizing carrot dangling just out of reach, waiting as a reward for 40 years of unrewarding work. 'When I retire I will be able to enjoy my life.' 'When I retire I can really get into my hobbies.' I don’t have any intention of waiting.

My investment in our future is starting now, while I am still healthy and strong. My husband and I can still break ground, install fencing, and start an orchard; if I wait until 65 that will not happen. I do not plan to retire to The Village in Florida, or play a lot of golf, or go on cruises when I am old. I foresee myself working part-time until I am physically unable (I do love my career when I can find balance!). I see myself helping to raise my (great?) grandchildren.

Compound interest is a wonderful thing and don’t get me wrong-I will continue to save and invest. But I am going to ‘diversify my portfolio’ just a little!

Twenty years down the road-worst case scenario: my 401K retirement nest egg may dry up and blow away, the FDIC may not be able to keep up with banking collapses, food and fuel prices may skyrocket. But with acreage owned, goats in the shed and potatoes in the clamp, I can feed myself. With a wood plot and a passive solar design I can stay warm. With solar panels I can pump water. You get the idea. I may not be saving for the future but I sure as hell am investing in my future.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


The driveway

Yesterday was fun -tromping around in the mud, imagining the possibilities...but i am also scared sh@t-less! It's time to put my money where my mouth is-literally. The 20 acres passed the perc test -marginal- but a pass. So once I have the county's paperwork in hand (next week) we will take the plunge. I have butterflies! I am getting out of my comfort zone. Am I really going to follow my dreams and take responsibility for creating my own life vision? Yes, yes I am.
Time to start thinking about floor plans and farm layout. And of course continuing to save, save, save!


Further thought on this subject...I have bundled all my anxiety about making fundamental changes into this land purchase. Buying and building -not such a big deal, moving family to the sticks -still not such a big deal, selling my share of the clinic and (while still working part-time) and turning away from a high cash flow lifestyle -well that is where things get a little dicey! The journey starts with a single step and we are taking a very sane approach to this. The point is happiness, security and sustainability. When we find our 'happy spot' we will know it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One 'Door' Closes...

The fixer-upper is off the table. The trustee for the estate decided he could not sell it for the low price he offered. That's okay. I am at peace and am in a state of openness to what might happen. That sounds really new-age dippy but there it is. Tomorrow I meet the soil test man and the backhoe at the 20 acres of field which butts up against my dad's woods. If the soil will perk test for a septic system then we wiil buy it. If it doesn't and a holding tank is our only option then we will not. Period. (there is another parcel of land for sale 1/2 mile down the road) (with a woods) (in the preferred school district-no 'school choice' and meeting the bus on the corner-only 50 yards, but still). I am excited about building our own 'ARK'. Passive solar, wood heat, water collection systems, off grid (maybe).
I'll let you know what happens tomorrow -if I have time before scooting off to work!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Extreme Gardening

Extreme, as in extremely late! The combination of schedule, wet weather and long distance gardening has resulted in a very neglected garden. I haven't been back since my last collection of produce around the first hard frost. Yesterday was clear, we were available and winter will be upon us soon. Time to git er done! I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by the size of the job and the two inches of snow which had fallen overnight! But the sun eventually peeked out, we had the first snow ball fight of the year and I had some helpers as you can see! I removed cartloads of slimy tomato plants, swiss chard (note to self- still looking good after repeated freezes), corn stalks, a couple of forgotten mouse chewed turnips and other large vegetation. The girls loved swinging the machete and jumping on the few squishy pumpkins, they also had a short game of batting practice with some immature squash! It was muddy, cold work. (Second note to self- pull this stuff out before it gets slimy--gross) I was unsure about how to go about putting the garden 'to bed' for the winter. Although this is a temporary garden for me-hopefully I will use it only one more year before having my own (!!!)- I wanted to try a no till method. I have 6 beds of 3x15 feet in addition to a 2 foot bed all along the outside fence, then three larger areas where I planted potatoes, winter squash and tomatoes this year. I did not plan to till the 6 beds- I wanted to treat them like permanent beds. What I did this fall was to pull out the large woody plant material, spread a 6-10 inch layer of mowed leaves/grass over the bed and turned it into the soil with a fork, about 6 inches deep. My rationale was to incorporated the organic matter into the deeper layers of soil and give the worms some time this fall and again next spring time to work on it. The soil in this part of the county in very clay-like. I did manage to get 4/6 beds handled in this way. I will try to get back out again to put more leaves on the other two but NOT turn it in- maybe I will not notice a difference and won't have to work so hard! :) Three of six done! The tomato waste yard-makes me very sad, but think of all those heirloom volunteers next year!

Tom spent a good long time in the woods recharging his batteries, scouting a location for his deer stand. He was happy about the snow fall and was able to track several groups of deer-his tally was 2 grouse, 6 wood cocks, and 5 deer sighted-pretty good for one morning! Then we had some time to play too-the girls headed to the slough to play in puddles. (I just sat on a rock-too tired to move!) They created paths and made snowballs to float in the water, oops water goes over the tops of boots! Thank goodness I know these girls and have extras packed for the ride home! Snow ball incoming!! This video makes me the end you will clearly hear my 7 year old say 'Oh Shit', cracks me up every time.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wanting and Waiting...My 'marshmallow' test

Have you heard of the famous marshmallow test? First performed by Walter Mischel at Stanford University in the 1960's, the marshmallow test was a measure of delayed gratification for 4 year olds. The children were told they could have this marshmallow NOW or wait and receive 2. The kids who were successful in waiting employed specific strategies-playing with the marshmallow or otherwise pretending it was something other than an ooey gooey yummy treat. The kids who could wait not only got a second marshmallow but, on average, an extra 210 points on their SAT scores. I have been using a similiar technique to deal with the waiting and the wanting which goes along with this land/farm purchase.

The four noble truths of Buddism teaches that craving and attachments are the root of human suffering and disquiet. If you can end craving, you can bring yourself to a quiet, peaceful place. This is what I have been working on. Rather than let myself become embroiled in the wanting and all the tension that stirs up, I am letting it go. The right solution will come if I don't push too hard and 'surrender to the stream'. A little new-age I know, but it's working for me.

Thanks for all the support by the way, it took all day yesterday -reading, painting, and puttering to get back to normal (or as close as I can get anyway!). When I put days like that into my 'Your Money or Your Life' hourly wage determination, things look a little different!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The past two work days have been bad. Everything is sick, everybody loves their pet-but has limited funds-what can you do for me that won't cost alot...hmmm I have two choices really 1) guess (my crystal ball solution) 2) the 2 cent lead flavored cure (my super sensitive spouses solution). I have put three animals to sleep in the past 24 hours. The sobbing owner kind, the 'tell me i am doing the right thing' kind, the home euthanasia with the single mom and her two kids crying as i listen for the last heart beatkind. i am really just out of answers, out of solutions, just dry and shriveled up inside. I really don't think i can do this job much longer without loosing the compassion and empathy which is what makes it all worth while.

bad bad bad.

don't worry too much -i'll be better after i have had a chance to paint and do some yoga.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Just a mix of stuff today-nothing coherent. The cabbage is sitting quietly in their jars--no overflow or weird smells, which leaves me wondering-is it too cold, is it fermenting at all? IDK but Wednesday is day ten and I am supposed to process and store the kraut then. We'll see.
I made some of our stored winter squash last night for supper (split in half, scooped out, and baked w/ a little water on a cookie sheet) Yuck! Even I -the squash lover,thought it had the consistency of snot. This was a Sweet Meat from Baker's. Somebody tell me...will a winter squash which is not quite mature have this texture. It's outside was still streaked with green and the center cavity was not yet 'fiberous'. Hopefully that was the problem!
I spent some time working on crafts for an Alternative Holiday Market our local UU church puts on the weekend after thanksgiving. I started making primitive signs last winter and thought it was a lot of fun. This will be a market test for me. Will people pay money for these things-is it a viable hobby/business/tax deduction. I decided I would donate all proceeds minus paint costs to The Women's Community, a local non profit which supports women who have been victims of domestic abuse. It just felt right. This hobby is not about money but about healing (me and now others!) and balance.
Erin is out sick from school today-I am so happy we can be home for her. We decided to not vaccinate our girls for H1N1-the health dept. was running a free clinic at their school. I just didn't feel right about it. We don't routinely do seasonal influenza either. I hope this decision doesn't turn around and bite us in the ass.
We have not heard anything about the fixer-upper. He offered us a low price and when I bit, he changed his mind. I told him the place was just not worth the higher price to us, for the low price we could afford to fix it to meet our desires. He is playing us pure and simple and that is not a game I will play. I am at a place where I have my 'wanting' in check. It's a house and some land-nothing more, very rational, very cut and dried. His deadline was this Sunday and he has not called, so I will make the call today.
I have a post about guilt and loosing a pet on HWW today.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Something Simmering in the Kitchen...

...and it's not the soup! It was ME. This weekend I realized I was getting resentful about spending so much time in the kitchen; making bread, cooking healthy food, doing dishes by hand, packing kids lunches and wrapping up the food storage. I was getting pissy about my self imposed kitchen duty. So I'm done-kinda, sorta. The garden is done, the girls can make their own sandwiches and put in the freezer Sunday afternoon, next pay period I will get the broken dishwasher replaced, and I will stop trying to be Martha Stewart in the kitchen (until I think it is fun again). It started out as a lot of fun but I began putting more and more pressure on myself, somewhere alot the way it became not fun and just something I should do-those damn shoulds get me every time. I remembered that the purpose for slowing down my work schedule is to ENJOY the things I have- not add more to my plate. (take the power, Kris)
Once the weather co-operates and stops raining I will get my garden put to bed, lay that project aside and turn inward to the home, my relationships, and ART. I have neglected my creativity for a long time and I can hear it calling to me (with a little outside help-thank you).

This is what I want to get back to:

Property update: we are trying to purchase the fixer-upper for a price that WILL allow us to fix it up and not necessitate two full-time working parents! The fellow who offered us the low, low price is apparently not the final decision maker and he is now waffling. I nicely and politely (we will be neighbors either way) to knock it off and give us a purchase price by this weekend or we will buy the open field! (I really don't want that, but I won't let him know !!)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Homemade Kraut

I have been trying to figure out what to do with these cabbages I brought in from the garden two weeks family (who are not big veggie eaters) was eaten several batches of cabbage soup, fried cabbage, and boiled dinner. They are on the verge of a cabbage revolt. I have these two heads sitting in my basement cold room. I have been wanting to make sauerkraut but not motivated enough to make the set-up I have seen various places on the web. My Nov/Dec issue of Countryside had a solution. Pack sterilized quart jars with shredded cabbage, add 1tsp vinegar, 1tsp salt and 1tsp sugar and cover with boiling water. Place sterilized lids and rings on jars-DO NOT TIGHTEN RINGS. Place jars in a shallow container to catch the fermentation overflow in a 60-70 degree location for 10 days. After 10 days has elapsed, remove lids, wash and re sterilize. Wipe jar tops, replace lids, hand tighten and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

I found one medium cabbage filled 5 quart jars. I will let you know how they turn out in a few weeks. Now one more cabbage to go...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

...Or Door No. 2

I'd love to see her make it through another 80 years

To continue my previous topic, choice number 2 is a real fixer-upper. 10 acres with 30 yr old house, 50x90ft metal pole shed in okay shape, barn which needs a new roof ASAP and some structural work (est $18,000), garage type wooden building which looked rough to me (but our builder friend said actually seemed pretty sound), mature apple trees and raspberry bushes, established gardens, well probably not code ($7,000), original hand dug well which will need to be filled ( $$??), and septic system which will need to be replaced, thanks to a new county (state?) law ($15,000). The interior of the house will need to be gutted (it's icky, really). Despite all this we are considering it. The asking price is the same as the 20 acres of vacant farm field (which would also need a well and septic). God help me but this is the one I am leaning toward.
It is also right next to Dad's place, the previously mentioned 20 is directly behind this 10. We will eventually want more than 10 acres, but this is where having a family member right across the fence who has more than they want to care for comes in very handy. We are having visions of some type of cooperative family farm. Raising pasture meat chickens and turkeys.

South end of house (white) and stand alone screen porch (summer kitchen?)

Pole building- in better shape than most things on the property but also holds alot of misc crap from 20+ years of hard use.

The garage type building-the 'lean to' ends are really leaning aren't they?

Behind Door No. 1...

Looking from Dad's woods to choice #1

For anyone new to this site here is our of four in NC Wisconsin. Two daughters ages 7 and 11, public school education with no plans to change that-the girls are creative, happy and healthy. We are both working professionals-my husband is Materials Manager for the engineering division of a company which makes (among other things) control panels for hydroelectric projects (think Hoover Dam)-as much job security as you can find these days. I am a small animal veterinarian- partner in our group of two small practices, I am working part time right now, pulling myself back from the slippery slope of career burnout. We are looking for something simpler, something more meaningful. I am nervous about peak oil, collapse of our economy, etc, etc. We have had some small experiences with growing our own food-chickens, rabbits and garden and have found it very rewarding. I want to spend time with my girls- I let strangers care for them through daycare and after school programs for too long, I do not want to look back and regret it.
We are looking at two different pieces of property. They are both adjacent to my fathers retirement farm, about 30 minutes from our current suburban home. He has 40 acres, a mix of meadow and slough and woods. He wishes for my sister and I to inherit this property eventually and short term he wants to 'share' or lease some of his acreage with us. We have been camping out there for three summers. It has given us a glimpse of what is possible and I am so thankful to have had that confidence builder available to me. However, we do not want to wait until we retire to create our farm. We want to do the work now while we are strong, and raise our children learning where their food comes from. I suspect this may be a life skill more important than a bachelor's degree. There will be no retirement for us just a shedding of our outside careers.

Shot last week toward to rear of the 20

This is choice number one: 20 acres of southward sloping farm field, no road frontage to speak of just a 20ft x 1000 ft lane back to the 20. The site is only 500 feet wide but 1/4 (?) mile long. We build an off grid solar powered home 1100 square feet, no immediate plans for outbuildings but over next few years would build a workshop for DH and a small barn/shed for me and the girls (horse, goat?, pig?).
Pro's- new construction, built how we wish, off grid (or $12,000 to run power back there) sounds very cool, very green in theory until we hit the third week of cloudy winter weather and have to run the back up generator to take a shower, can't even see a neighbor from back here.
Con's- start from scratch-no trees, just thick slippery clay soil, expensive-even without considering the PV required -because we really have no idea at this point what we will need, adjacent 100+ acres of farm field -large tractor traffic spring planting/plowing, spraying god knows what, harvesting, then fall spraying liquid cow shit. The driveway to tractors/trucks use is right next to our lane running back.

This procession of trucks and stink happens every spring and fall. Because of the narrow width, our proposed building site will be within 200ft of this.

Overall my concerns are cost-one of my considerations is to not spend a huge amount of money- i want us to have the option of being a single income family. But I sure love being hidden back here and going off grid.

I'll post the second option tomorrow-we are winterizing the camper today aand i will have pictures of what's behind door no.2 then!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I am talking about How We Decide on Homemakers Who Work. Do you have some unresolved decisions-this might help!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Apple Pie!

My 11 yr old daughter has discovered how to bake. I don't buy sweets (because I will eat them ALL) but she has discovered a defect in my sugar avoidance defenses. If she bakes it-more than likely she will get to eat some (if she eats her vegetables!). Sunday she decided to make an apple pie. She pulled out the Good Housekeepers Complete Cookbook and just made it-no help except for the peeling/slicing of apples. It was delicious! We ate is still warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream...heaven. Now if I could only convince her to have the same enthusiasm for veggies. THANK YOU ERIN!

Saturday, October 3, 2009


The dream went like this...our staff being questioned by a panel, they are sitting in judgement. One of our employees says 'well ONE of our vets IS very good...' she then turns to me and says 'Dr Kris-you are very special too.' Geesh, feeling a little inadequate am I? I have been feeling out of place at work, like our clinic is headed in a direction I personaly do not want to go. We have some fairly new DVM's woking for us--super smart, very organized, current on all the new drugs and treatment protocols. But lacking in something-empathy? Experience? maybe lacking in nothing --just me wanting to feel like I have something to offer. I feel more and more like we are acting like MD's, ordering tests to be sure we cannot be accused of not practicing up to the 'standard of care', lots of Cover Your Ass. I AM burned out, I am not excited about learning new stuff right now. I need to get past this apathy.
I have been thinking alot about studying to become a certified (?) herbalist-is there some body who certifies herbalists? I guess I will find out.
I have been thinking alot about TEOTWAWKI, how will we heal ourselves when/if big pharma is not available or too expensive for most people - let alone pets. I love the idea of being able to combine things i enjoy. Growing things, creating a beautiful fertile space and helping people through caring for their animals.. Corney -possibly, okay very! This winter I am going to research my top 10 9or so) herbs to grow for healing (for myself and my family) if I enjoy it and make progress on learning in a none structured way -then i will allow my self to make the herbal DVM a goal instead of a daydream.

Thyme flowers

Friday, October 2, 2009

Eye Candy

Pretty aren't they?? Monday night it got down to 24 degrees at the farm. It caught me by surprise-even though it really shouldn't have. End of September is pretty good for here. My tomatoes were just starting to produce, but no amount of covering was going to get them through 24 degrees. I was off work yesterday so I went out to collect what I could and lament all those pretty red fruits on the vine...
I came home with 2 huge cabbages (one had split in the cold) a handful of orange tomatoes which didn't seem to be affected by the freeze (hmm...), some dried beans and these beautiful winter squash.
I had a really hard time deciding which varieties to plant. I was shopping at Baker Creek Heirloom seeds and I had 90 varieties to choose from (90!) I was like a kid in a candy store. I eventually settled on three- Iran, Red Kuri, and Sweet Meat. I also picked a french pumpkin which was supposed to be flattened with alot of ribbing. My selection process was a little vague-I wanted something different than the acorn or spaghetti squash our family was accustomed to, it had to be aesthetically pleasing, yummy and (hopefully) a good keeper.
I had very good germination rates and amazing (take over the garden) growth of the vines, lots of flowers but not as many mature squash as I was expecting. Now that I think about it...I did pick some Red Kuri for my family, and let another family member go pick what she wanted, so I really can't complain :D

This is the Red Kuri-it is small and very yummy-I have prepared it once by peeling and cubing it, then roasting with a brushing of maple syrup.

Sweet Meat- I haven't tried this one yet but I love the sea foam green color

This is supposed to be Iran variety, the color is not as described in the catalog but the shape and size are right-maybe they just didn't have time to mature or our cold and dry summer affected them.