Monday, March 28, 2011

Garden Update March 28

The garden is finally starting to take off.  We finally got some much needed rain yesterday and overnight last night.  Prior to that it was really really dry.  We brought everything along with sprinklers, but there is nothing like rain water.  My Dad told me one time that 1/2 inch of sprinkler water was equal to 1/4 inch of rain.  Not sure if that's an old farmers adage or what, but it seems to be true!

The potatoes are doing exceptionally well.  The watermellons and squash are also looking good.  We did have one casualty as we had to replant all of our corn.  Most of the seed rotted in the ground.  It certainly wasn't because of too much water.  The seed was some left over silver queen that I had saved from 2009.  This tells me that I A. didn't store properly or B. 3 years is about the life for saving silver queen seed.  I had also saved some from last year which is what we replanted.  We also went in and filled some gaps where some snapbeans didn't come up.  With yesterday's rain, both should have optimal chances for germinating very nicely.

We hope to plant cucumbers and tomatoes and peppers this week.  I am glad that we waited because a wind storm late last week would have totally decimated the tomato plants.  I'm looking forward to getting those started.  We have had puny cucumber crops over the last two years and I have been reading about some ways to remedy that.

The electric fence is still humming along.  Surprisingly it is still on the same battery that we started with 2 weeks ago.  Still no sign of Bambi.  Nothing so much as tracks around the perimeter.  Once everything gets up good I'm sure they will be enticed.  The supermegafence2011 is ready for them.

After a slow start we're looking good.  It's almost time to start cutting grass too.  Busy spring and summer weekends ahead.

Y'all take it easy,


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Deciding on an Automobile

We just paid off my wife's car!  This is the first time since we've been married that we have not had at least one car payment.  The feeling is liberating.  This seems like an appropriate time to bang out a blog regarding how I decide on an automobile.  My friend Sally (not That Girl) offered this suggestion a month or so ago in terms of "How to decide when you're ready to go from a normal car to a Mom/Dad-mobile and how to accept it."  Thanks for the suggestion Sally!

I should offer my disclaimer again today....... this is what works best for me and my family.  You might think I'm crazy and something else might work best for you.  Nothing personal, just my .02.  At the end of the day it's your money!  Spend it like you want!  Several questions come to mind when I think of this great American pastime of purchasing an automobile:

1. What do I need? - My needs for a car now are much different now than they were 8 years ago.  My perspective on life is of course a lot different too!  Now I have a family and two car seats take up a considerable amount of space.  I want decent fuel mileage, but I still want to pull a trailer occasionally.  Mamma Bear has no need to do anything, but get good gas mileage and transport the kiddos part of the time.  It's easy to get caught up in trends and what's considered cool.  Been there, done that.  That costs too much money.  Can't let myself fall into that trap again.  Brand loyalty used to be important to me.  Not so much any more.  I'm a Chevrolet man.  I drive a Jeep Cherokee.  Wife drives a Toyota Camry.  Favorite NASCAR driver started in a Ford and now drives a Dodge.  I'm diverse if nothing else.

2. Can I afford it?  Ouch.  Sometimes this means financing, sometimes not.  I've financed 4 automobiles.  Hope to never do it again, but sometimes that is the only option for folks.  It certainly was for us when we were younger.  I think that I've purchased my last new car.  Never say never, but my plan is to buy used from here on out.  If we can be disciplined enough to save what we have been paying then that should not be an issue.  So what about leasing?  If someone drives few miles and will only keep a car two years it might be a good proposition.  For us....not so much.  We put a ton of miles on cars and I do pretty much all of the service and maintenance.  Bottom line....don't bury yourself financially for a mode of transportation.  The long term determent just isn't worth the short term gratification.

3. Will the cost of maintenance and care be reasonable?  One of the main reasons we bought the Camry is because the oil filter, drain plug and air filter were easily accessible.  I recently found that doing a brake job was pretty easy too.  I do pretty much all of the maintenance on the car and so far it's been manageable.  There are no obscure parts that aren't available.  Same thing on my Jeep.  If you need brakes, a pcv valve or an O2 sensor, you can get it this afternoon.  No waiting on some parts for that better-German-engineering to be shipped.  The life of a car is maintenance.  Gotta do it if you want it to last.  It's an expense, but it shouldn't be a money pit.

4. Can I accomplish the above with a car that I actually like?  In late 2004 We bought a Jeep Grand Cherokee.  When our first son came along it seemed like we had made the perfect decision!  You have to have an SUV if you have kids right?  STOP IT!  I remember well riding in such classics as a Ford Grenada, Dodge Omni and even a Chevrolet Celebrity as a family when I was a kid.  We even took a vacation with me and my sister under a camper top in the back of an S10 truck (that was fun by the way)  Why didn't all families have K-5 Blazers and Ford Broncos back then?  Because we didn't need them, that's why.  Sure, there was the station wagon, but were there as many of those on the road as there are SUV's now?  At about 6 months old my wife decided that my son was too heavy to lift into the back of that Cherokee.  We went shopping and bought a Toyota Camry.  So far in our young lives, it has been the best car we've ever purchased as far as the balance of utility, price and practicality.  Mamma, Daddy, two kids and luggage fit tight, but they fit.

So I put the ball back in Sally's court (tennis reference for you there darling)...... what is a Mom/Dad-mobile?  Is it a minivan?  Is is a Ford Excursion or Chevrolet Suburban?  I don't think it has to be either.  A sporty 4-door sedan with a spacious trunk can serve you well.  (A two-door served 4 of us when I was a kid!)  The smart money is on taking what you have and making it work.  My advice....don't spend a lot because the leather is just going to end up with juice, Cheezit crumbs and vomit all over it anyway.  Save your money and buy something cool when the little one leaves the house.  Think of it as a reward ;)

Y'all take it easy,


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Being a Tightwad

The is the second in what I call my "Being Series."  The first was Being a Father.  The third will be Being a Renaissance Man.  Should have that one buttoned up in the next week or so.

I'm all about saving a dollar.  Some call me cheap and tight.  I call myself frugal.  I honestly have no interest in racking up a bunch of debt that I will have to face midlife.  That's the point at which I should be getting in a Corvette and heading west to Route 66.

I do a variety of things to save money.  Some things are small like using coupons and watching sales.  Other things are more involved like switching to CFLs and unplugging certain electronic devices when they aren't in use.  Our family lives comfortably, but by no means do we live extravagantly.

I'm a big fan of reusing stuff.  That's not because I'm some rabid environmentalist, rather because it saves loads of cash.  I pretty much built an entire electric fence for my garden with free items.  I compost for fertilizer in the garden.  The garden is probably a slight net loss when compared to buying food.  I enjoy that though... and it really does taste better.  I reuse paper towels if they aren't too dirty.  I wear pants twice without washing them if they aren't dirty.  Burnt motor oil is used for other lubrication.  We eat a lot of deer meat.  I hardly ever use paper anymore.  I take advantage of as much free entertainment as possible.

The biggest area in which I save is by doing without.  My clothes are not fancy and I always buy on sale.....preferably clearance ;)  (NOTE:  I do not skimp on shoes.  My feet have to last me for the rest of my life so I always by top quality shoes.  I still shop the prices, but I will not buy cheap shoes.)  I drive a 7 year old car.  My tractor is as old as my Dad.  We don't travel a lot.  We don't eat out a lot.  I do admit that we  probably over did it on our home.  We're not suffering because of the mortgage or anything, but it's more house than we really need.  I often think that we should have built half as much house on twice as much land.  That said, we do love it and have no plans to sell any time soon :)

So why do I do all of this?

I do it so that I can spend the money on things I really want.  Electricity, food, clothes, interest payments.....those aren't really things that I want.  To be honest I'm not really sure what it is that I want.  I want my wife to be comfortable and I want my kids to become good men.  I do want to have that Vette wide open on The Mother Road one day, but beyond that I'm not really sure.  I guess that's what the idea of "Back 'er Down" is really about for me.  I'm not chasing money any more, and I'm comfortable with that.  As a result I somehow feel like I need to save it to compensate.

I'm a work in progress.  That's the one thing that I know for sure ;)

Y'all take it easy,


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

I got a stylish blogger award.  Really!  LOL!  I suspect that the real motive of this is more about helping other bloggers to network and gain readership.  That's cool too ;)  It's a nice exercise and it's pretty cool to be recognized.

I have been seeing this travel through many of the blogs that I read.  Never thought that I would be included!  I appreciate Phelan over at A Homesteading Neophyte for bestowing this great honor on me and my little section of the blogosphere!  Check out that blog.  Phelan is real and keeps it real!

I'll play along with the rules and regs for the game.  The first duty is to tell readers seven things about me that they might not already know.  I'm not a very complex guy, but here it goes:

1. I have been trying to stop biting my fingernails for 10 years.  Can't break the habit.
2. I do NOT wear jeans.  Don't like them at all.
3. I only took one math class in college and I barely passed it. (I excelled in everything else though)
4. I find quantum physics fascinating even though I don't really understand it.
5. I once had a cat named Pete.
6. At one time I had a diecast replica of every stock car that Kurt Busch ran in NASCAR competition.
7. I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior in January of 2005 after rushing home from the Wilmington Island Wal-Mart when my wife called to tell me we had visitors from the Church at our house.

The second rule is that I am to bestow this award on 15 writers that I enjoy reading.  Many of the blogs that I read have already won the Stylish Blogger Award so I will pass the honor on to some that have not received it as far as I know.  I can't come up with 15, so you get 12 instead. 

All of these folks are talented writers who give good information in an enjoyable format.  Check 'em out!

Y'all take it easy,


Monday, March 14, 2011

Garden Update March 14

Well, we finally got the garden off and running.  A few weeks ago I mentioned that we planted potatoes and prepped the soil.  This past weekend we got seeds in the ground!  Snap bean, corn, watermellon and squash seeds are all nice and snug in the soil soaking up the heat from the recent 80 degree days.  We had a nice rain on Thursday so it made the soil really nice for planting.  We rotated everything this year and almost doubled the amount of corn we planted.  A quick check of the potatoes showed that they are doing well.  The eyes have developed healthy roots a couple of inches long at this point.  They should peek through in the next couple of weeks.  The sugarcane is coming up like gangbusters!  Our stubble from last year came along first and then the new row started breaking the ground a few days later.  I'm interested to compare the new patch, which is in a much lower spot, to the stubble from last year.  Still have no clue as to what I'm going to do with the sugarcane....

It looks like the danger for frost is all but gone.  Anything could happen but the long range forecast looks pretty solid right now.  Still a bit chilly for a couple of things though.  In a couple of weeks we will set tomato plants and plant cucumber seed.  It will also be time to plant in the barrels at that point too.  I decided on heirloom tomatoes and peppers for the barrels this year.  I may experiment with a cucumber plant in the barrel too just to see what happens.  Only other thing to do is to start shopping for a pressure cooker.  I'm going "all in" for canning this year.

The installation of the electric fence was my most satisfying accomplishment over the weekend.  She's all set up and ready to zap deer, dogs or small children that get too close to the garden.  Thanks again to those who donated their unwanted junk to make my fence a reality.  I have not seen any tracks yet.  My guess is that I will come out one morning in a few weeks to see the entire fence torn down after Bambi freaks out and gets tangled up in it.  If that's the case it will have done its job ;)

Y'all take it easy,


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Refurbishing a Tractor Part 1

I love being able to work on projects with other people's money!  The tractor to the left is a Ford NAA that belongs to the Kiwanis Club of Statesboro.  She has lived a good life at the local fairgrounds, but she's been just about used up.  She lived outside in the elements for more than 10 years.  The worst stress is that she is a "community tractor."  That's my own fancy term for a tractor that is used by a variety of people who have a variety of experience on a piece this old.  Luckily this is one of the most bulletproof tractors ever built, so she handled it gracefully.

After talking with club leadership, I decided to take on the project of sprucing her up a little bit.  I am glad that they decided to keep this tractor as opposed to buying a new one because a big part of our Fair is agricultural heritage.  This Ford is from a generation of tractors which completely revolutionized farming.  I was given a budget of $1,000 for the project, but of course any amount under that would be better ;)  I think we should be just fine with that number.  So here I sit with a tractor to refurbish, $1,000 to do it, another opportunity to "Back 'er Down" with my Father and an opportunity for my boys to get a taste of this family tradition. God has blessed me in a mighty way!  What a wonderful opportunity!

Despite the image presented by the 8 zip ties and 5 pieces of bailing wire that were holding various things together, she's pretty solid.  A big money saver is that the tires are all good.  The fronts are a pretty worn, but they are safe and hold air.  The back tires are excellent.  That is a good thing because that would have taken half of the budget right away.  After taking the sheet metal off and performing a quick initial degreasing we began to look at what needed to be done.  The list included:

oil change (simple, but sooooo important.  It was BADLY needed too, lol)
secure gas tank (one bolt was holding the tank in place.  There were supposed to be four!)
carburetor rebuild (carb looked good.  Needed a rebuild in the worst way, but it was solid)
plugs and wires (no new crap....old school copper)
distributor cap, points, condenser, rotor (common maintenance on these old gals)
coil (has been converted from a 6 to 12 volt electrical system.  This saved a lot of cash)
fan belt (the old one was fully extended and was rubbing the exhaust pipe!)
electrical system rewiring (was actually not too bad.  Just needed to be a little safer)
new exhaust system (totally shot!  tailpipe held on with bailing wire)
clean air inlet and replace hoses (at least 1 inch of goo in the bottom of the air cleaner)
sediment bowl screen and gasket (leaking gas, but that's pretty common on these old tractors)

This was the initial needs list and I am pleased to say that we are now done with that portion!  We cranked it up Thursday night and she ran like a champ!  I expected much more oil blow-by considering the wear and age, but it was actually not too bad.  The tractor is very very mechanically sound.  We ran into a little snag with the throttle linkage that we're working through.  wouldn't be as much fun if we didn't have a challenge though ;)

Next up will be a more detailed cleaning and we will start to sand and prep for paint.  We will also remount a strobe light (insurance requirement) and add a rear utility light.  She had no grille at all, just an exposed radiator.  We'll take care of that as well.  There is a list of other various aesthetic odds and ends as well.  Most of that will be done after painting.

I committed that I would work backwards on this project, spending the money to get it running good and safe first.  Beauty would come with whatever money is left.  As it sits the tractor runs great and we've spent $475. We should have no problem making budget.  That's good because every penny we save is one more that can be used for the Fair, which in turn generates more money for needs in our community.  I'll give another update when we get into paint and beautification.

I'm very excited about this project.  This will be the first Ford that my Father and I have done.  Over the years we have done many, many John Deeres and even and hand full of Farmalls.  Working on this Ford is new and interesting and another opportunity to learn and experience something new.  I'm all about that.

Y'all take it easy,


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Easing into Spring and upcoming blog topics

It's been a busy last couple of weeks!  I've traveled a lot with work lately, which put me behind at the office, which put me behind at home, which all together stressed me out a little.  I spent some time in the evenings getting caught up.  I tend to do a lot better when I don't have so many projects in process at one time.  Today it's off to Atlanta for an event....not really a bad thing.  I get to take in a Hawks game with some fellow alumni and friends.  I'll be on the road quite a bit this Spring, but I still love waking up every morning and going to work.

Spring has sprung in Southeast GA.  I still feel like there might be another heavy frost, but what the heck, I'm going to plant some snapbeans, corn and watermellons next Saturday.  We planted potatoes about a week and a half ago.  They've obviously not broken through the soil yet, but after digging up a sample they seem to be doing well so far.  Today we'e getting some much needed rain, so I would expect them to be peeking through in ten days or so.  Our sugarcane is popping out like mad!  The stubble from last year and the new planting from last year's harvest are both about 6 inches out of the soil already.  If we have a freeze at this point we may lose all of the cane.

I started a new tractor refurbishing project last week.  As usual, my Dad is taking the lead.  Every time we get into one of these projects I learn something new.  He's a walking talking encyclopedia.  The latest project is a Ford NAA that we are working on for the local Kiwanis Club of which I am a member.  I am pleased that the club decided to keep the old tractor as opposed to buying a new one.  Our fair is about agricultural heritage and I feel that it's only proper to have old tractors working on the grounds.  This tractor will be used during the actual fair week too.  It's days of hard work are behind it.  It's new life is a nice leisurely task of hauling off trash during fair week, a suitable retirement job for such an ag icon as the NAA.  After years of restoring John Deere and a few Farmall tractors, this will be our first Ford.  I'm looking forward to it.

The talk of the tractor lends a nice segway into talking about some upcoming blog topics.  I recently hit a little bout of writers block.  I didn't really have anything to write about or I thought what I did have wouldn't really be of interest.  I was in a little bit of a funk.  I put a call out for suggestions and I got some beauties!  The first will be a series documenting the the Ford tractor project.  I figure that will be about a three or four part series including some of the neat things we found, the interesting engineering that was holding the old girl together and some pics of before, during and after the project.  Other topics to be on the lookout for are: Today's Cartoons, Deciding on a Parental Automobile, How Much is Enough?, Being a Renaissance Man and Picking to Save Money.  Of course I'll be documenting the garden over the season as well.  Hope you'll take a peek as I bang these blogs out over the next month or so.  If you're reading this and have ideas, please share them!

Y'all take it easy,