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Cash needs and income considerations

July 19th, 2024 at 12:36 am

This is to be the last year of enforced frugality since I intend to ensure my health insurance remains moderately priced. To do that, I have to limit my overall income to around $37K for the year (even tho I start Medicare next month), and for the YTD ending in June, I only grossed about $12,000 in taxable income for the 1st 6 months of the year(!) if my numbers are correct. That would be my monthly annuity and some dividends/cap gains from 3 of my mutual funds. Plus I also got some decently sized state and federal tax refunds earlier in the year so that was used for living expenses and kept in my checking account.

I haven't had to do any IRA distributions so far this year, but the 2nd half of the year would likely require a cash infusion.  I hadn't planned on doing any home improvements this year, besides the heat pump hot water heater I did in January, since taking more distributions would boost my reportable income. But then after getting a garage door repair that put some holes in my garage ceiling, I knew I wanted to have that ceiling retaped and spackled. It's been an eyesore for years and needs attention, and those holes will allow entry for mice if I don't cover them.

So to cover this upcoming expense, I transferred most of what remained in an online money market acount so it would have no impact on my reportable income for the year. I think I'm paying $1600 for the garage ceiling redo.

I have been avoiding unnecessary purchases, but my checking account will eventually dwindle, so what I would like to do is direct my $12K IRA 5-year CD, which is maturing in September, to my checking account as a distribution when it's mature.  I had wanted to do this in the prior 5-year CD term when it matured and was still with State Farm Bank, but trying to get the paperwork from Vanguard in a timely manner to do a transfer just didn't happen and I ran out of time, so I was stuck with ANOTHER 5-year term, and then State Farm became US Bank, or at least my CD became theirs.

I figure taking the distribution directly in my checking account will be much easier as I won't have to rely on Vanguard to do anything. So the $12k will be more than enough to cover my living expenses for the remainder of 2024 and still keep my income very low for the year. At least I think so. I just need to get thru August and another 2 weeks in September with about $4500 remaining in my checking account after paying for the garage ceiling and car/home insurance. It could be close.  I also went ahead and stopped auto distributions of those Vanguard dividends/cap gains funds to my checking, becus that could push me a little beyond the income I want to be at, and it's hard to control income when each distribution is a different amount. So if I need more $$ toward year's end, I could do a small IRA distribution.

 

Monday musings

July 15th, 2024 at 02:44 pm

So I'm eating my morning breakfast cereal today, as I always do, when, after 3 or 4 spoonfuls of deliciousness, I look down at the bowl to see what looked like an earwig resting at the top rim of the bowl, on the inside. Like it had just crawled out after being submerged in soy milk.

EWWWW.

I had to dump it. It just grossed me out. Since the blueberries came from a frozen bag and I'm pretty sure it didn't come from the half gallon of soy milk, it must've crawled into to 1 of the 2 glass cereal canisters I keep on the countertop (mason-type jars), OR the bag of raisins OR the glass jar of walnuts. I checked each to be sure there weren't others.

I very recently decided to divest myself of a lot of unframed art my mother had created. To sell it, I would have to frame it, and many of these people were quite large (like 2 x 3 feet), making framing not only very expensive but also very heavy and unwieldy.

So I decided to gift close to a dozen pieces on my Buy Nothing group (where you can just acquire just about anything, from a canoe to a set of dishes to yes, a work of art).

I wasn't sure there would be much interest in my mother's modern/abstract art, but I have been gratified to see how much interest and appreciation there has been. Much of my mother's work sat in storage in a spare bedroom for the past 8 years. I only have so much wall space. I have sold some of her work and donated other pieces, too, but I am gifting the unframed stuff. The room is by no means cleaned out, but I still felt a great sense of lightness having taken some concrete steps to do something with the art. Better they go to people who can enjoy and display them than sit gathering dust in my spare bedroom.

I do feel pangs of regret parting with some of it and it's definitely got me thinking more about my mother. I also wonder if I'm going to regret doing this later.  I think she would understand, but still, I do feel a certain sense of loss and dare I say, guilt, in giving these away.

The other thing I tackled yesterday after thinking about it all year was herbicide treatment  to kill tree of heaven saplings that popped up all over the property after I tried cutting them down several years in a row. This is one of a handful of invasive plants that MUST be treated with herbicide. It's also a host plant to the spotted lantern fly.

I had to mix the herbicide with an oil (for better adhesion), then add food dye so I can keep track of which saplings I've treated. There are probably a few dozen here. (I'm also keeping a written list with the date, since you need to wait 30 days for it to die before cutting it down.) Cutting it down before it's dead will stimulate it to spread even more.  Anyway, I knew I had just one day (yesterday) to get started on this before the heat wave returns for most of the week. I waited til 4 pm but it was still hot as heck, and you have to wear long pants, socks, long sleeves, and mask. Because I had to clear all the vegetation surrounding the tree of heaven, including poison ivy (most all located in the brushy perimeter of the property), I was only able to treat 3 saplings in 2 hours.

The optimal window for doing this treatment is between mid-July and September, when the plant is sending sugars/carbohydrates down to its roots. If you do it another time, it won't be effective.

I'm getting too old to have to do this kind of thing. Which is the reason I've also been thinking in recent weeks (again) that I should sell this place and move to a condo. The challenge now is the really tight real estate market. My greatest preference would be to remain in my hometown here, but it never had a lot of condos, and with this market, even fewer listings.

My second choice would be a particular complex in neighboring town (where my dad lives now) but it only has about 90 units and there aren't usually more than a handful on the market at any one time. I also like the units in the much larger complex (several thousand!) nearby it, but there are 2 problems with that complex: the garages are detached and a bit of a walk to your unit, so not so nice if you're carrying groceries or it's raining, and 2) the common charges are quite high, like $700 to $800/month, due to the extensive landscaped grounds. It's like a small village unto itself. The units at the small complex that I like has attached garages and look very much like single family homes, each unit with its own yard and very private back deck or patio, usually fronting woods.

I've even been looking for updated ranches on small lots in my hometown, but not much of those, either. I won't buy a fixer upper at this stage of my life. My worst fear is that my home would likely sell fairly quickly, but then I'd feel pressured to buy something I wasn't really in love with, or feel pressured to buy when there simply weren't many choices. I don't plan to move again, so it needs to be a great fit.

So thoughts of moving sometime in the next few years are part of what's driving my divestiture of art work. I've been very slowly decluttering household items, and have made a list of maintenance/repairs that I feel should be done before I put anything on the market. I am hoping that I could wait out the tight inventory market and that things will improve in a year or two, but I don't really know.

I've done some cost comparisons of certain expenses like property taxes, lawncare, snow removal, monthly condo charges, etc. Even though my favorite condo in neighboring town includes TV and Internet in what its common charges cover, I still would be paying roughly $4,000 more a year to live in a smaller condo than here in my freestanding home. And that's before factoring in senior tax credits for my hometown. (There are both state and local senior tax credit programs, but even the more generous town program in this neighboring town has an income limit of just $53,400; my current town has a more generous income limit.)  Probably becus I really do live pretty frugally here, still shoveling my own snow, which I know I can't do forever. And I don't pay any monthly fees for TV.

I just have been realizing that, not only is the care and maintenance of this property something I'm not doing a very good job at (and likely never will), but it also takes up an inordinate amount of my time when, increasingly, I'd rather be doing something else, plus it's become a source of anxiety knowing stuff needs to be done but I'm not doing it, often due to tick season or extreme heat making it very difficult. My feelings were different when I bought this place at age 36, when I embraced all the yard work and enjoyed it.  Sigh.

 

My credit score, Medicare and what have you....

July 10th, 2024 at 01:26 pm

I think this is about as near perfect a credit score as I've ever had: 100% on-time payments, a 33-year credit card payment history and well over $100K in available credit while only utilizing 1%.



Once I paid off my mortgage in 2012, I didn't think a credit score would be that important to me anymore since I didn't see myself needing it to buy another home or car. But, you never know. I plan to purchase a new vehicle next year; it's unlikely Toyota would see a need to offer 0% or 1% financing, but you never know....

Last night around 7 pm I saw a bobcat passing through my back yard. Not the first time, but the first time since September 2022. I do have a litter of 5 baby skunks with a burrow in my yard but disappointinly have not seen them since they made their first appearance a week or so ago when I was weeding. The are the cutest things. When they are this young, they all "walk as one."

Girls night out last weekend at the vineyard was cancelled due to the weather. We're now setting our sights on an International Festival in nearby small city that is mostly centered on live music and ethnic foods.

Dad and I went to lunch at a certain restaurant near him. The bill was $90 before tip. I think that's the last time we go there. It's good, but actually sometimes hit or miss, and there are other restaurants I like better. It's just so darn convenient.

I'm all set with Medicare and my Medigap plan, have my ID cards and am ready to go. But I was very disappointed to learn that Medicare does not cover standard physicals with the usual bloodwork. I like that extra level of reassurance that all is well each year. Medicare covers so-called "wellness visits," which mainly consist of cognition questions (!), a review of recommended vaccinations and going over your medical history.

In fact, no one told me about this, I just "realized" it on my own. So I had to scramble to to cancel a longstanding September physical and was able to squeeze it in this wee, this being the last month I have standard insurance. I'm getting the bloodwork for it done today.

One thing I want to do is find a new dentist. Since that's not covered by my traditional Medicare, I will pay out of pocket regardless, but the dentist in a neighboring town retired a year or more ago, and I'm not sure I want to continue with his successors. She gave me such a hard time about not wanting to do dental x-rays and said I would need to sign a "waiver," which seemed like scare tactics to me. It will be easier to find a dentist right here in town, anyway.

One interesting thing about my Medicare premiums is that they bill you on a quarterly basis. I just paid the first one. They let you pay for free with a credit card, so I figured I might as well get some rewards points for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn't think I'd ever need to worry abo

Heat wave

June 19th, 2024 at 08:52 pm

Looks like most of the eastern half of the country is in the same boat. It was 99 when I got in my car mid-afternoon to go to the gym, wondering if I was crazy for wanting to stick to my schedule. Happy to report, they had the AC on (low), so I was able to complete my usual routine: about a half-hour on the machines and a half-hour on the treadmill.

My garage door opener started acting up recently and I had someone out here to fix it. He recommended a few more fixes to lengthen its lifespan, and he was supposed to return today, but was running very late due to the extreme heat, so we rescheduled for tomorrow morning.

Aside from my gym outing, I've been hunkering down indoors with the AC on at 76, which is really the warmest setting I can tolerate upstairs; downstairs, it feels comfortable. The shades are drawn on all the windows except the north side, and when I do leave the house, I've been exiting thru the basement and out through the garage to avoid letting a whole lot of hot air in through the front door.

I had also done some grocery shopping a day before the heat wave got going on Tuesday, so I am mostly all set with food. Soon, I'll have to go outside again to water my vegetable garden and potted plants. I hope they are not fried. I water them daily but the raised beds dry out very quickly. I'll also put out a second water bath for the birds and refill the feeder, which is hanging from a mulberry tree that's attracting lots of avian interest now that its berries are ripening.

So far, my veggie garden is pretty modest compared to previous years. I had been having a great "Yugoslavian Red Lettuce" harvest leading up to the heat wave, and then I began picking more assuming the heat would cause them to bolt. I have 2 cucumber plants and 2 yellow squash, but I planted them from seed in the wrong medium and so half of them are pretty anemic looking; the fertilizer I added later has helped. I also have 3 cherry tomato plants which are doing pretty well, and string beans only recently germinated. I was trying to avoid the overcrowding I usually have in the raised beds to the extent that I had trouble walking around in there. I hope I have some decent harvests nonetheless.

I took my father to his first physical therapy session. He's been there before (was it last year?) but more recently wrenched his lower back and was experiencing a lot of pain. Much of his problem stems from his very sedentary lifestyle, but he's getting on in years so I don't know how much you can reasonably expect someone like him to do. But he at least needs to do the exercises he does in therapy at home, when he's not there, and that's been an uphill battle. On top of that he only wants to go once a week, so I really don't know what progress we can make. Medicare approved it in an open-ended way, with no fixed number of visits, as long as both he and the trainer feel he's making progress.

Right now he's got a $15 co-pay for each session. He told me he wants to go to physical therapy once a week for the rest of his life, and is willing to pay out of pocket for it. So once he exhausts whatever number of sessions Mediare is willing to pay for, hopefully the PT place will allow him to continue on a pay as you go basis.

 

 

Everything's getting more expensive

June 17th, 2024 at 12:25 pm

What the hey. This site is just not monitored, and as a result is flooded with spammers, like the automotive manufacturing post.

I hope everyone had a good Father's Day, and hugs to those who cannot celebrate with their fathers. As I've gotten older, I realized how time with loved ones is fleeting. Most years now, there's a little dread associated with Mother's Day, and someday not in the distant future, Father's Day will feel the same way. Not to sound morbid, but it's one downside to getting older that no one ever warned me about.

I hadn't planned anything in advance with my father as I wasn't sure if he was spending time with his son or other daughter. This is how it goes in a family affected by divorce, remarriage and new families; it's hard to merge all together when you didn't really grow up together (and live in different states). At the same time, I didn't want Dad to be alone, so I did talk to him the day before to discover he had no plans. (His son had come up to see him a few days earlier.) So we went to a restaurant I didn't think would be busy because it's pretty much diner food, and I was right. The food was just okay, but we sat outside in perfect weather and enjoyed some good conversation.

On the way home, as I often do, I pulled over by a large pond (sometimes it's just some quiet wooded area or open space) and we continued talking in the parked car with the windows down. I often read things to him from my phone as Dad can't see well. He loves history, so I found a chronology of interesting articles about each of our American presidents, starting with George Washington. Yesterday we finished with Lincoln, so we are making our way through the list. We've been talking a lot about slavery, John Brown, Harriet Tubman.

I find that these seminal events and historical figures are much more meaningful to me when put in the context of my own family history. I've done a lot of genealogy work. My own great-grandparents were born around the same time as the American Civil War, all coming from poverty-stricken regions like the former East Germany, Northern Ireland and Galicia in Austria-Hungary, all coming to America in search of better economic opportunities. Just understanding that in the same timeframe, black people in America were still abused and treated as chattel, even after the war ended, what would otherwise seem like ancient history hard to fathom really comes alive.

It can be hard coming up with activities and experiences I can share with my father, given his physical disabilities. Eating out at a nice restaurant and going for drives are really the main ways we spend time together.

I had plans to join friends at a local vineyard for a casual, outdoor meetup with wine and good conversation this past weekend, but the woman organizing it cancelled it due to some predicted storminess. (It's been rescheduled in 2 weeks' time.) Instead, the 4 of us got together for dinner the following night, when the weather was again picture perfect. We met at a Nepalese restaurant I'd been to with my father twice. The food was great, the service excellent and prices reasonable. We will all meet up again at the vineyard with possibly more women from the online women's group we all came from.

Next weekend I'll be taking another friend out for a belated birthday breakfast.

I continue to be active with my 3 volunteer groups. Our next litter cleanup with the one group is in a shoreline town an hour-and-a-half drive from me, so I've decided to make a day of it and squeeze in one or two other activities/things to do on the drive home since the litter cleanups only take 2 hours.

Bills, bills, bills. I should be getting my hefty property tax bill any day now. It's the 1st of 2 annual payments, each about $3,500. Then my car and homeowners insurance will be coming up for renewal in another month. I've held off renewing my umbrella policy because I suspect I'll want to have my agent shop around for better prices on the car/auto, and they're all linked together. My car needs a bit of maintenance, a few hundred dollars worth, which the guy said could wait til my next oil change at summer's end. So I've deferred that. The guy who mows my lawn raised his prices again, effective July 1. Which irks me, since he raised his prices last year. I doubt I could find anyone cheaper so I'm just gonna have to bite the bullet.

Somehow I have gotten through the first half of the year solely on my annuity and dividends from 3 of my Vanguard funds. I didn't think this would be enough, but none of my one off big bills like the ones mentioned above occurred durning the 1st half of the year. I will likely have to take a distribution to pay the property taxes.

Next year, I plan to buy a new vehicle to replace my 11-year-old Honda. I will need to withdraw about $30K either from traditional IRA accounts, which will be taxed as income, or from a taxable brokerage account, which is not (right?) So I guess funding the car purchase with taxable monies is the way to go. Keeping track of how differenet types of savings/withdrawals are taxed can be confusing.

 

An unwelcome visitor and a surprise retirement benefit

May 29th, 2024 at 03:06 pm

It seems we are in instant summer already. And with that, I found an incredibly tiny nymph tick on my calf. I don't think it was engorged but it was attached. I am mailing it to our state ag experiment station where they test ticks for free. It's a miracle I even found it, but I've been wearing a knee brace on my left leg after bruising a tendon at the gym, so as I was taking this tight-fitting brace off, I saw the tick on my leg just below it. The brace, I think, kept it from moving upward, so it decided to just chomp down right there.

I have so many freckles, moles and what have you on my body I shudder to think of whether I otherwise would have found this tick in time. Really makes me want to just skip gardening the entire season. The best time to do this sort of work is early spring, like March-April, before the foliage comes out, and that window has passed.

I've been getting a variety of mail from the Social Security Administration of late due to my switch to Medicare in a few months. Everything is in place, including my Medigap plan with Cigna.

But the notice I got today was quite interesting. It informed that I may have retirement benefits due me from a former employer, and indicated I should get in touch with them if I wished to apply for them.

This was a very interesting job I had with an employer, an insurance trade group. The job was unique in several respects, one of them being that following a group interview, it was the only time in my life I was offered the job on the spot, by the director. It was also the only time in my life I ever got a job where I sent my resume blind, without knowing if they had any openings. It really seemed like it was meant to be! Sadly, I was only with the group for about 2 years before a series of big, unexpected changes happened.

First, the director of the organization announced his surprise retirement just 6 months later, at the age of 56, precipitating a national search for his replacement. I was very disappointed to see him go, as I considered him my advocate and supporter. When he offered me the job, in front of a group of several other people, his 2nd in command protested, saying they should look at more people, but the director overruled him. It was a little awkward to hear that exchange, but I was glad to get the job.

Ultimately a retired major general was hired. I worked with him a short time, and liked him, but he became ill and passed away just a few years after a decision was made for the employer to merge with a sister organization and relocate to the midwest. I was offered a job out there and even flew out to meet my counterpart there, but the whole thing concerning the job was quite vague and I didn't want to upend my life should the job change into something else.

I don't recall anything about a retirement plan, but this was back around 1990 when I was in my early 30s, so maybe I just wasn't paying attention to something seemingly in the distant future. What I don't understand is why the company wouldn't have contacted me sooner, but then, I didn't live at my current address at that time. It wouldn't have been hard to find me by doing an online search, but apparently they don't do that. (This was also the case, I learned, when handling my mother's estate....only by checking the state's unclaimed properties did I discover some refunds due me, although in that case, the assisted living facility DID have my current address and other contact info, but for reasons unknown, chose to report these funds to the state instead of just picking up the phone to call me.)

Getting back to my old employer....The benefit, as indicated on the SSA form I received, is a life annuity paid annually and the estimated amount is $853! I would find it hard to believe this would be a recurring payment since I only worked there 2 years, but there is a different code to use if it's a single payment of a lump sum. I would be tickled if it was recurring. It wouldn't be life-changing but hey! It could still make a difference.

Anyway, I called the employer and got the HR email, to whom I've since sent an inquiry, so am hoping to learn more soon.

 

Sunday stuff

May 13th, 2024 at 12:42 am

Today was one of those days I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do. The sun was in and out, but mostly it was overcast, which nixed the idea of yard work as it was kind of on the chilly side without the sun's rays.

I have a press release to write for one of my volunteer gigs, but I just wasn't wanting to focus on that. Instead, I tidied up a bit (housework always comes last around here), did some laundry and took a late afternoon walk, and then a friend of mine offered me some of her pineapple coconut cake left over from Mother's Day, and so I walked over there and caught up with her for about an hour before walking back home with the cake in hand. (I brought her some lentil soup I coincidentally made today also.)

I bought a 40 lb bag of sunflower seed and put my bird feeder back up a few days ago. I just hope it doesn't attract any bears. They are frequently seen passing thru yards in my town, or marauding bird feeders, but that is nearly always in the heavily wooded north side of town. There was only one time a bear entered my area. I guess it was 3 years ago, and that bear wound up getting shot by a trigger-happy, off-duty detective who claimed he shot it in self-defense. (That's why he went back in the house from his deck to get his gun and go back outside to shoot it. Self-defense? I don't think so, and a lot of people were very angry about it, especially since it orphaned her 2 cubs, who were rounded up and taken to a facility.)

Anyway, being in the center of town south of the interstate makes it somewhat less likely bears would venture into this area. You don't want to have feeders up if they do come around, as it will encourage them to remain the area and lose their fear of people.

 

Monday meanderings

May 6th, 2024 at 02:48 pm

Yesterday was a rainy day so I was able to apply a special nutritional treatment to the drip line uner the canopy of my giant hemlock, which has been ailing for a while with the wooly adelgid.  You're supposed to apply it right before a rain. I hope it helps. I have plenty of the stuff to last all summer in treatments spread 2 weeks apart. I feel guilty that until last summer, I had mostly ignored the plight of this tree, but I definitely would not want it to die. I believe last summer's treatment killed the wooly adelgid and I do see new growth on the tree. Crossing my fingers.

The other day I was working out in the yard, as I often do, this time near the road trying to clear out and plant an area extending from my mailbox down about 50 feet. It is all woodsy on my side of the road and my house is set back a good 100 to 150 feet, depending on where you're standing. I noticed my neighbor across the street emerge from her backyard awkwardly carrying a large tree limb with her teenage daughter. They crossed their yard, then the road, and were headed to my wooded area fronting the road.

I called out hello and said please don't dump that in my woods. She pretended not to realize it was my property and asked how far down my property extended. It extends the whole way to the corner, I told her, so they carried the tree limb back and dumped it near a small brook on their side. Which I guess they should have done in the first place. It amazed me that I should even have to say this to a neighbor.

Super annoying to have neighbors with no concept of what it means to live in a community. They have always done their own thing, from their neurotic, barking dogs to the fireworks they force others to listen to, to the unbagged trash they put out that always ends up on my side.

At some point I realized the painful tendon below my left knee had become chronic, so I've lowered the weight I'm lifting at the gym, started wearing a heat pad at night and am wearing a brace this morning. It can be frustrating as you get older not to be able to do as much physically as you once did, but it's important to recognize when your body says stop.

I also started taking a few free-with-membership exercise classes at the senior center. The tai chi didn't work well as shifting my weight from one leg to the other and doing some gentle lunges was very hard on my knees, so then I tried a chair yoga class for general stretching, which was better. This week I'll try chair pilates and see if i like that any better.

I submitted my application for enrollment in Parts A and B of Medicare last week, and this week I'll be working with an insurance agent to select my Medigap (Plan N, Cigna) and Part D plans. I pretty much know what I want but just want to study the plans a bit more. The agent talked me out of high deductible Plan G because, she said, they increase that deductible by a few hundred dollars every year, making it harder to get any covered benefits. Something I may not have thought of if I hadn't worked with an agent.

Last Friday I took my father on a second historic barn driving tour, this time in the southern section of my hometown. I would pull over when possible and read a brief description of the barns from a website that has inventoried all the historic barns in the state, with their addresses.

After that I decided to bring him to a new-to-me Himalayan restaurant in town, and we both really liked it a lot, so we will be returning there.

Saturday I participated in a litter cleanup at a beach about 40 minutes from here.

Yesterday I descaled my electric tea kettle, did a load of laundry and some other general tidying up around here. It is gradually brightening now and soon I'll be headed to the gym and then to a friend's to exchange some plants: a pot of my gazania daisies for her mayapples, which I'll dig up as she injured her foot. They like shade, so I'd like to put them under a large mountain laurel in back. Someone from my garden group is gifting wild geranium (cranesbill), so will be picking that up on Wednesday.

I planted some yellow squash and cucumbers from seeds, on a heat mat, and 5 of the 7 have germinated. I will give the extras to dad; with his vision problems, he can't see the seeds well enough to plant himself, but I'll give him the seedlings to plant instead. Conveniently, I can open the bathroom window where they are growing and put them out to get full sun on the roof over my garage, then bring them in for the chilly overnights. The gentle breeze of <10 mph will also help strengthen the stems of each seedling so they don't flop over in the slightest breeze. I plan to plant them in my raised beds by Mother's Day. I'm also trying to germinate some cardinal flower after having stratified the seeds in the freezer and fridge. I may have less luck there. Doing the same with monkey flower and ironweed.

Thursday thoughts

April 18th, 2024 at 10:01 pm

I am getting a very eye-opening look at dental costs in retirement by taking my father around on his appointments.

He recently had two root canals, both of which required 2 or maybe even 3 trips to the dentist, and that was several thousand dollars. I thought we were finally back to the "routine" trips where we alternate between his regular dentist and his periodontist every 3 months, but today, the periodontist said they wanted to do another scaling, to the tune of $1,740.

Dad wants to put it off. He said he'll likely die with a wonderful set of teeth. At 91, there are things he doesn't like doing, and he only brushes once daily without flossing. I don't think these big looming expenses will make much difference in his dental hygiene.

Kind of a similar thing with the physical therapy he finished maybe 6 months ago. He's found that, not keeping up the exercises he learned there has led to the return of pain in his leg, and he wants to return to PT by self-paying, but I learned today he'll likely have to ask his doctor for it and either be accepted or denied by Medicare before he can choose to self-pay. I urged him to try to do some...any of the exercises he could, but that won't likely happen.

Today after the periodontist we had a lovely lunch at a favorite restaurant...

We both got the chicken piccata...probably the best I've ever had.

The chocolate souffle with pistachio ice cream was also very good.

And after that I drove to an open space area where we sat in the woods by a trout stream and I read dad a story about President Tyler from my phone. Dad loves history. We are reading all about the US Presidents (in sequential order) each time I come to visit. and we are up to the 11th president.

This is where we sat on a rainy, cold Thursday to talk about the presidents.

Next weekend I'll be taking him to his local library where they'll have a program on what was going on in his town during the Civil War. Should be interesting.

Now that I've got my $650 rebate for the heat pump water heater, I've become interested in a new state program that involves a whole house battery.  You can get them installed in your basement with or without solar panels on the roof. The utility company pays you twice a month or so for the entire 10-year warranty of the batteries, as payment for using this power during periods of high usage, mostly in the summer. They won't take energy from your batteries 2 days prior to a forecast storm, so that you have it should you experience an outage. In that case, the batteries would provide up to 18 additional hours of power, depending on what you want them to power. For me, the main thing would be the furnace, hot water heater and fridge; afer that, my Eco "power station" that I bought a few years back would provide another day of power for just my fridge/freezer.

The state is trying to use this program to build up to 10 megawatts of reserve power to more evenly regulate power supply; once they get a certain number of homeowners who cumulatively add up to 10 megawatts, they will go to the next phase where they pay the next group of homeowners a little less money, and so on, so the first tier is the one that pays the most. I'd like to do it this year, but if I'm to continue keeping my 2024 income modest, in order to remain eligible for a healthcare subsidy, I'll have to wait til next year; hopefully they'll still be working to build the first tier.

Generally speaking the state seeks to get more homeowners to upgrade appliances to electrical power supplies, which are cleaner than fossil fuels like gas or oil. I am very happy with my heat pump hot water heater and couldn't believe how much it reduced my monthly electrictiy bill.

I did a litter cleanup with a few other women from my women's group at a Tibetan monastery nearby. The grounds were very pretty and they treated us to a moma (Tibetan dumpling) lunch.

This weekend there's a beach cleanup about 45 minutes away that I'll be attending.

Energy-efficient appliance rebate nightmare

April 12th, 2024 at 11:37 pm

Today I learned a valuable lesson: to be very, very careful when deciding to purchase new, energy-efficient appliances that come with a state-offered rebate. Namely, MAKE SURE your plumber is in the state program network of qualified installers, and also print out that rebate form ahead of time to get every single bit of information requested on it, preferably before installation. Or better yet, find a plumber who can offer you the "instant rebate" and take it off the price of installation right then and there.

The appliance in question is a heat pump water heater, which I like very much. It's working seamlessley and is saving me quite a lot on my electric bill.

So my state offers a $650 rebate, which is on top of the $1,115 federal tax credit you get. But the program is run by a 3rd party company located in Massachusetts. I had submitted my rebate form in January by snail mail because the yellow (3rd copy) receipt I got from my plumber was very faint and hard to read, so I made a special trip to Staples to make a better copy.

They discourage you from calling before 3 months is up, so I waited about that long before calling them this week about the status of the rebate, and they claimed they never got the application. Fortunately, I'd made copies of the form but I had to reenter all of it on their online system, but then I kept getting emails from them saying I was missing this, or I was missing that.  Then they'd send another email about something else and  had to deal with it again.

I mean, they requested information that didn't even appear on the original rebate form (!), so why are they asking for it now? They asked for info that even my plumber didn't know (the AFUE), for the old equipment, which he removed and disposed of, so I had to call the company that bought out Sears and the rep said there WAS NO AFUE number for electric hot water heaters.

They wouldn't accept the recieipt from my plumber because it didn't say "Paid in Full," it just said "Paid Ck #301." At this point, I didn't want to have to involve my plumber and I imagined it would be near impossible to get their attention for a nonpaying matter.  So I asked the rebate company if they would accept a cancelled check from my bank, and they said no. Who doesen't accept a cancelled check? That's a pretty bonafide proof of payment.

Another stumbling block, per the company, was that my plumber was not in their "network." My plumber's wife said her husband had been unaware that he had to be part of this "network" in order for me to qualify for the rebate, and so not only did they provide me a Paid in Full recept for payment, but they had also begun the process of joining the network, but apparently it was quite involved and they gave up.

In the meantime, I spent the past 2 days trying to supply this firm everything they asked for, as mentioned above, but I'd become so frustrated by their over-zealousness.

So yesterday I had a Zoom board meeting with the nonprofit group I volunteer for, and we had a few minutes to wait for others to join the call, and since I had just gotten off another stressful call with the rebate company, I started to vent about what I'd been going through. One of the board members on the call, J., spoke up. I knew he was a retired former state represenative, but what I didn't know was that he was the architect of the state rebate program that I was complaining about! He told me the name of a state senator to contact to cut thru the red tape. I mean, talk about serendipity!   I was actually getting ready to contact the senator but first I  composed a lengthy letter complaining about their process and told them it this wasn't resolved soon I would go ahead and contact not only the senator, but our state DEP and PURA (regulatory agency) as well.

As it turned out, I didn't have to do any of that. I heard from my plumber's wife tonight; when they realized how difficult joining the network would be, they reached out to their supplier and the supplier paid the $650 to the plumber, who in turn will send me a check for the same amount this weekend.

I won't now contact the senator, but I think I will follow through and contact DEEP and PURA to tell them what an uphill battle applying for this rebate was. I can't be the only one stymied by this process, and I feel sad that people are incenticized to upgrade to a more energy-efficient appliance by the rebate, only to find it nearly impossible to comply with every requirement. I am very pro-energy efficiency/pro-environment, and I think programs like this one are so valuable and helpful to residents wanting to do the right thing, IF they are well-managed.

In other news, I'm doing a litter cleanup at a nearby Nepalese monastery tomorrow. They'll be serving us a complementary Nepalese dumpling lunch, which I'm looking forward to. I recruited 3 other women from a Facebook over 50 women's group to join me.

I have my first case of poison ivy, just a single little spot on my right hand. It isn't usually that bad this time of year because the leaves have not yet come out, but I  must've touched the twiggy vertical vine thing that emerges from the ground, of which I saw many while working in the yard during the eclipse.

Did anyone feel the East Coast earthquake???

April 5th, 2024 at 02:40 pm

Wow, I just experienced my first earthquake, confirmed by a bunch of other people on Facebook in my hometown. Apparently it was centered in Lebanon, NJ, registering 4.8.

It lasted about 10 seconds max here. The house was shuddering/shaking, but there was no wind, so earthquake came to mind.

This may be commonplace where you live, but it's a first for me!

 

Easter plans

March 30th, 2024 at 11:40 pm

Dad had no plans for Easter, but I already knew that cooking for him is impractical because I'd need to start something in the oven, go pick him up (30 minutes, there and back at least) and then return home, get him up the stairs with his walker, finish cooking dinner, and then bring him back home. It was just too much, and right when I felt I could finally sit down and relax after dessert last time, Dad announced he was ready to go home.

This year I'm trying something different. It allows us to spend some quality time together on a  holiday but without all the extra work of cooking. I'm taking dad on a driving tour of historic barns in the area. There's an interesting website that catalogs all the barns in the state. I searched the town where he lives, and 76 barns came up. We obviously won't get to all of them, but I picked the most interesting ones that had a written history, painstakingly mapped them all out on a map and decided we could probably check out 9 of them. It's just something for us to do together, and I often wrack my brains for how to entertain him, but he can't see or walk well, and I'm not a big fan of driving. So this is local enough for me to handle, and if we find a Starbucks or restaurant that's open without need of reservations, maybe we'll pop in.

I am pretty much done with my massive burning bush. I worked on it all winter, cutting branches with my pruner saw, but I could only do so much. A friend in town then came over twice with her "mini" chainsaw and did quite a bit more. Then, today, she returned with her husband, who wielded a full-size chainsaw to cut the burning bush to about a 2 foot high stump, which I promptly painted with an herbicide. Hopefully I won't get a lot of regrowth.

I made 3 trips to the transfer station today with my trunk filled with cut-up branches from the burning bush. No bigger than 4 feet long, cus that's what fits. Very time-consuming, but most of the lower branches have been hauled, and much of what remains are the cut-up trunks, which will be heavier to carry across my lawn but quicker to load in my trunk. It's a process. Luckily I'm fairly methodical about things like this and eventually, it gets done.

I'm actually glad to be wrapping up with it as I still have a very narrow window of time to work some more on pulling smaller burning bush out of the soft ground, as well as wineberry and multiflora rose. Once things leaf out, it's much harder to get in these brushy areas without risking contact with ticks, but the poison ivy is also coming up, but not let leafed out. (It's still toxic.)

I am behind the eight ball a bit on spring veggie planting, which I would have liked to start indoors. Then I discovered I have no more peat pots, so they are on order and I should have next week.

I also belatedly realized I needed to stratify the ironweed seeds I collected last fall before I plant them. It's a gorgeou plant and butterfly magnet. So the seeds are in the fridge now for at least a month.

 

Building a different kind of life

March 17th, 2024 at 11:29 pm

PSA: A while back I was informed that my account here had been hacked, so consider this as a good time to change and strengthen your password.

Not too long ago, I'd been contemplating scouting around for a 4th volunteer opportunity, but now, like a race horse settling into a comfortable gallop, I am finding more things to do with the two groups I'm involved with, so I'll just pace myself and see how things progress.

This week I'm helping the founder of the litter group staff a table at a vendor fair at a local VA, and this weekend is our 2nd cleanup event of the season, at a reservoir in a rural town. I wrote a story about the history of that reservoir to help promote the cleanup in the newsletter, and I'm now basically in charge of FB social media; so far, I've been finding it fairly easy to post once a day, culling interesting litter articles I find and writing my own little synopsis for them or otherwise calling attention to "microplastics" in the ocean and the problem with polar fleece. I would honestly like to take over the newsletter too, only because writing/communications is what I've done all my life and I just enjoy it.

At the other group, things are percolating also. After writing the first grant, we paused as my colleague nixed the next grant we were set to move on after realizing our nonprofit partner would not like seeking $$ from this particular utility company, which had cut down their trees by mistake, and things have gotten contentious.

I am quite enjoying getting more and more involved. It's nice to feel wanted, and that the work you do is highly valued and appreciated.  This has definitely taken the place of paid work for me.  I've volunteered, in very limited fashions, over my working career, but never really dug in the way I am doing now. Both groups are small and pretty new, so they could use all the help they can get.

Really, if I had to sum up my retirement thus far, I could say it centers around 3 things: 1) my volunteer work, 2) my exercise activities and 3) dad. I truly wish I had more family to spend time with, but being unmarried and without kids, I don't.  Dad doesn't care about holidays. It doesn't make sense to make an elaborate meal for 2 people, especially when I'd have to drive and fetch him and bring him back, then cook, then bring him home again. I tried that a few times and it was pretty exhausting. Easter will be tough because I'll be thinking how everyone in the world, practically, is spending quality time with loved ones.

Done, done and done

February 26th, 2024 at 03:57 pm

I'm feeling pretty productive in 2024 since I've managed to do all the major home improvements I planned for the year in the first 2 months of the year. Usually I wait til fair weather, but replacement of my electric hot water heater with an energy-efficient heat pump water heater could have been done anytime. It seems to be working fine, and all the things another plumber had told me about, as he tried to talk me out of it, failed to materialize. Like a much colder basement (it's held steady at 55 F) and the noise (I barely notice it).

And the fringe benefit of the heat pump water heater is that it naturally dehumidifies the air, so I no longer need to use my dehumidifier unit, which did an inadequate job. Could save me some money, since the dehumidifer ran all the time in warmer months.

Then I had my mason over a few weeks ago to do a refacade of a second crumbling wall. He was also to close up the crack where I "thought" the milk snake had gotten through, but it wasn't really a crack at all, just a gap between a piece of lumber and the wall, so truth be told, I'm not certain "how" the snake got in. A bit unsettling. Maybe one of the same entry points where mice were getting in? Those were also sealed up, so cross fingers, no more critters in the basement. I had just ONE mouse caught inside this winter.

The sole purpose of that vertical plank of plywood was so that the laundry sink in that corner could be attached to the plywood attached to the wall. My mason removed it all and refastened it without it. Looks much better now.

Today, I have tree cutters here to do some much-needed pruning of a dogwood tree, a mulberry tree and a crabapple. They will be back to do a dying apple tree, which I'm not trying to save, so I told them to just leave a 10- or 12-foot snag for wildlife but otherwise cut down the tree.

In April, they will come back again to do the huge burning bush; I cut 3/4 of the branches but I don't have a chain saw, which will be needed to cut the roughly 20" diameter trunk, after which I'll have to paint herbicide so it doesn't resprout. They will also do soil injections for a giant hemlock with wooly adelgid issues. These guys have great prices compared to what I've paid in the past. Like less than half of what a much larger company was quoting me.

One of the guys here now was actually using a battery-powered chainsaw, which amazed me due to the diameter of some of the stuff they were cutting and it gave me more confidence about buying a "mini" battery-powered chainsaw which I've been thinking about for smaller limbs. I was looking at a 6" blade. I hate the noise and having to deal with gasoline and oil for the regular ones, but I could manage this.

Activity with the groups I volunteer for is heating up. The president of one of them unexpectedly resigned for personal reasons, so we're having an emergency meeting later this week.

At a recent meeting of my other group, I volunteered to write a grant application to Cornell that would allow us to do a big project we've been planning on. It was my first-ever grant proposal, but the chair seems very, very pleased with it. Due date is Mar. 1 so we just have some final touches to apply. Now she wants me to apply for another grant from NY Botanical Garden as a backup in case we don't get the first grant.

 

 

Taxes done; now I can relax

February 9th, 2024 at 03:39 pm

Ahh. Deep sigh of reief. Both federal and state taxes are done.

Yes, I do them myself; every time I hire a CPA (like the year before last), mistakes are found. I prefer the control of reading IRS instructions and doing them myself. Despite my trepidations, it actually wasn't that bad. Partly because I was a W-2 employee last year so that in itself eliminated two or three separate forms. 

I usually use last year's form as a guide, but I had a few new income sources this year for the first time, plus a federal energy credit for installing a heat pump water heater. It turned out to be not that difficult. Smile I'm getting sizable refunds from both state and federal. I know, perhaps not ideal, but my employment and income situation has been so changeable for the past few years that estimating income was not always easy.

If you've ever scoured your state's unclaimed property website, here's a tip: don't do it once and assume you're done. Check again in a few years. Things pop up. That's what happened to me. i have checked not just under my name, but also my father's, since he doesn't use a computer, and I found a significant item listed under his name. I'll be collecting the documents needed to process the claim next time I see him. I think he'll be pleasantly surprised.

All winter I've been taking advantage of warmish days (above freezing) to continue cutting down branches of a HUGE burning bush (really a tree) in my yard. I then have to drag the branches about 100 feet to the driveway, where I cut up the branches so they fit in my trunk.  Once the trunk is filled, I go to the transfer station to dump them. I've made good progress, but will need to hire a tree guy to cut the main trunk near the ground. As soon as he does that, I'll need to paint with an herbicide so it doesn't resprout. My idea is that I would lower the bill I'll be paying...one would hope. Plus, it gave me something physical to do over the winter. I'll be working on it today and tomorrow.

Here it is in winter, many years ago now...

I also went through my jewelry and have an appointment with a local jeweler to hopefully sell them some unwanted gold, silver and a small diamond. I did this before but somehow still found a few things I really don't need. I have plenty of costume jewelery that looks just as nice, and the real stuff just mostly sits there. Better to liquidate it and put it toward something more useful. I don't entirely trust jewelers though. Some of the gold is 14K, some 18K. I'm going to make sure I've identified which is which and to check current prices online so I have some idea of the going rate. Anyway, this is something I've been wanting to do for a while.

Am hoping my mason will be here Monday as we tentatively agreed to do some important basement work. Also anxious to have tree guys over to do some much needed pruning, and it needs to be done soon, before dormancy breaks. Finally, I found a single mouse in a trap this winter so mouse exclusion person is to come back looking for anything she may have missed, or a new hole.  Just one mouse is a huge improvement over past years, when I recall catching mice in the 20-something range, in the basement.

2024 will be my last year of comparative frugality. Next year I have the planned new vehicle purchase and will just generally loosen the spending reins a bit, to lower future RMDs and just enjoy my hard-earned retirement as well. I need to settle into a routine with IRA withdrawals which I really haven't started on a recurring basis.

Socially, I've met 3 women through a group I joined online...one of them lives across the street from me (!) and for 20 years, she had never said hello! They all were quite nice; one even offered to give me an old tablet she wasn't using for my father, since you can enlarge the font on it and perhaps he could learn to use it.

So now that I've met each once (1 for lunch, 1 for brunch and 1 for afternoon tea), I feel I should reach out and suggest another get-together. One of them traveled abroad shortly after our visit, but she has since returned home. I really am just waiting for decent walking weather and also just a settling down of things to do around here, and getting the taxes out of the way was at the top of my list. Once I get my home improvement stuff at least scheduled, hopefully within the next 2 weeks, I'll feel free to schedule the fun stuff.

That's pretty  much all that's new in Patient Saver's world. I'm happy to report dad has taken a real liking to some borscht he had at a really nice restaurant we sometimes go to for lunch. No doubt we will be returning there soon.

 

Another unexpected fork in the road

January 22nd, 2024 at 09:57 pm

Well, it's official. I'm without a job, it seems. I suspected my job could be in jeopardy when the person I report to asked me to stop writing, "for the time being." 

That was back in mid-December, and I figured I'd give it til after the holidays to resolve, but when I still hadn't heard back from her, I sent her a note. I had already informed the agency that pays me but they seemed pretty lax in getting back to me and I'd been in limbo long enough. So yes, she was very nice about it, but I'm out of a job now.

Now I'm faced with a few choices: 1) Call it a day and retire now. 2) Look for another p/t job 3) Look for f/t work and file for unemployment benefits, which wouldn't be available to me if I only wanted to work p/t.

I think I'm going to call it a day. But it still feels SCARY!

I went ahead and changed my reinvested dividends and cap gains  on 2 remaining big funds to be diverted directly to my checking account. I called the brokerage and was told that since these are individual taxable accounts, they don't withdraw taxes when they do the transfer so I would have to pay taxes at tax time, but as Dido told me, I would only pay taxes on the gain.  Wondering if I would need to make quarterly tax payments to ensure I don't get a tax penalty for late payment.

So I now have several traditional IRA funds from 1 brokerage and 2 taxable funds from the other diverting dividends and cap gains to my checking account, which, based on a look at my 2023 cap gains/dividends, should yield me about $17,000. I vaguely remembered that when I set up the traditional IRA funds, I only had 10% withheld in taxes, when I really should have 12% withheld. I was on hold for over 40 minutes waiting to talk to a rep as i don't see the place where you can change the tax withholding amount. And, I probably also withheld only 10% from my annuity, which will be too low, so looking to increase that also.

My net annuity proceeds for the year should come to $11,184 and there's a family $5,000 Xmas gift in December, so my 2024 annual (mostly) net income should be about $33,000, so I'll plan on taking traditional IRA distributions amounting to about $15,000 to bring my annual income up to about $48,000 (taxable income, which is minus the $5,000 gift, will be about $43,000), still comfortably within the 12% tax bracket.

Some of those funds will be used to pay for various home improvements, like the recent replacement of my 10-year-old electric hot water heater with an uber-energy efficient heat pump hot water heater ($3,000+). Next up will be some masonry work on my basement walls, including repairing a large crack where a snake came through when we had massive rain here ($3,850).

When I take that $15K in traditional IRA distributions, I think I will try to time 1 or 2 large transfers on a good market day and put in either a brokerage money market account OR my  online money market savings account that's  currently earning 4.35%. From there, I could do perhaps monthly or quarterly transfers to my checking account (which earns 0% interest) as needed. Wondering if they can automate that for me.

In 2025, I'll allow myself higher income, maybe around $50 or $55k.

Until I get a certain routine set up with withdrawal income streams, this is going to feel very wonky. My taxes this winter could be difficult for me to handle with all the changes, and next year, too. Just different line items to complete for annuity and ira distributions etc etc. but head is still swimming with newfound tax obssession. I really want to simplify things as much as possible.

I've pretty much decided to defer a new vehicle purchase to 2025.

 

 

A Look at My 2023 Income

January 2nd, 2024 at 09:37 pm

As I transition into retirement, my income sources are shifting away from reliance on work. While my p/t job still accounts for 31% of total income, so, too, do dividends (from just 3 funds) and a small, one-time IRA distribution. My annuity contributes another 23%; it will be a bit more next year as I did not start getting annuity payments until February 2023.

Credit card rewards are still nice to pursue as they earned me $532.

That's it in a nutshell; 2024 will bring even bigger changes as I'll retire fully in August and begin the Great Spend-down of traditional IRAs.

 

A Breakdown of My 2023 Expenses

January 2nd, 2024 at 08:46 pm

My total expenses for the year were $42,851, about $800 less than last year, so I count that as a win.

A closer look at my top expenses reveals, however, that in only one category, my cat, my expenses stayed roughly the same as last year;  7 other top expenses rose by as much as 94% (maintenance). Surprisingly, there was also one category, electricity, that dropped by 1% compared to last year. That must be attributable to my turning the lights off all the time since I'm still on the same 3-year contract I locked in 2 years ago at a very good rate. My spending on lawn and garden increased by 54% (mower raised his prices) and car upkeep (10-yr-old car) by 41%.

Top 11 expenses:

Property taxes: $6942
Kitchen upgrade: $5582 (cabinet paint job, new sink/faucet)
Food: $5203
Oil tank replacement: $4300
Lawn and garden: $2658
Maintenance: $2,644
Cat: $1897
Heating oil/cleaning: $1476
Household: $1401
Car upkeep: $1015
Electricity: $1008

I also have 8 "mid-tier" expenses, and the story there is prices rose in most categories, the most marked being the 62% increase in dining out. That's probably a result of both rising restaurant prices as well as the fact that I treated family a few times to some very nice meals out. Notably, the $690 I spent on gas for the car this year was a 15% drop from last year. My prices for car insurance ($645) and homeowners insurnce ($615) saw only modest increases from last year, which is again a surprise.

I have another 8 "low-tier" expenses that aren't really mentioning.

Looking ahead to 2024 and some confusing income and tax questions

December 23rd, 2023 at 05:31 pm

My friend and neighbor came over this morning to drop off a Christmas present and some cookies she baked. I gave her my present earlier, not knowing if I would see  her again before Christmas, but forgot to put the second half of my gift in the bag, so while she was here, she let me slip it in her pocket. Smile Wonder if she'll peek.

I have not done much Christmas decorating this year, but I did put out this over-the-top, festive tablecloth my Slovakian grandmother made in 1975. Nothing brings me back to Christmases past like this tablecloth. Many a Christmas dinner was enjoyed on it. How she kept it clean, I have no idea. It is not very durable and is made of felt, with lots of beads and sequins, yet somehow I've been able to keep it all these years.

This time of year always flies by after so many weeks of warmup. Before you know it, it will be New Year's, then tax time...ugh.

I am thankful I am not traveling...anywhere...for Christmas. It always seems like such chaos at the airports, and on the roads.

I'm eager to think about what 2024 holds in store for me. It's an important year, as I'll be picking out a Medicare plan next summer and quitting my p/t writing job so I will become fully retired...wow! That's going to be a big change....meaning, spending down my traditional IRAs for living expenses between age 65 and 69. At 69 and a few months (determined to be the most opportune time to begin) I'll start getting Social Security.

It's another big milestone that will make spending down personal savings unnecessary, but I guess I'll continue to do so, converting the distributions into taxable savings that I'll reinvest, since at age 73 I'll need to start making Required Minimum Distributions as a percentage of my total IRAs.

One thing I haven't really figured out is how, exactly to structure my IRA withdrawals at 65. I recall my mother had her savings with T. Rowe Price, and they made it easy to do RMDs by taking proportionate amounts from all of her funds so that she she could preserve her asset allocation; the balances on each fund was reduced by a little instead of being sold off entirely.

But say I want an income of about $40,000, or $3,333 a month. It doesn't sound like much, but I still have about $1,000 gross coming in monthly from my annuity, so $51K a year is plenty. Should I just have Vanguard make monthly auto deposits to my checking account, proportionately, or is there a better way to do it?

Also, if I take $40,000 a year in traditional IRA income annually from age 65 to 69 (and maybe longer), then I'll have reduced my total traditional IRA monies by about $160,000 so that at 73, my RMDs will be lower, also possibly keeping me in a lower tax bracket.

I don't need that much income with my annuity, and in fact, the less I take from personal savings (taxable distributions) now, the more I get back in property tax credits in my town. I guess that's not as important as reducing RMDs, but it is a generous tax credit; you can make as much as $70,000 and still qualify for $920 off your property taxes. If you made under $45,000, you are eligible for $2,900 off your taxes, and there are a few tiers in between.

I always wanted to take advantage of this program (and a less generous state tax credit), but perhaps $2,900 a year is not all that important in the grand scheme of things.

One final question in my mind is how I should go about buying a new car/SUV. My Honda is 10 years old, at this point, with just 101,000 miles, so I could certainly hold onto it longer, but truth be told I knew within a year of buying it that it didn't really suit my needs. I'm ready to buy a  new vehicle as soon as this month (!), or I could wait another year or so.

What I'm wondering about is how to come up with the roughly $25,000 (after trade-in) for purchase. (I like to avoid car loans.) If I take it out of traditional IRAs, that's taxable income, and so in addition to my local property tax credit, higher taxable income also might affect my Obamacare premium amounts, which might be one reason to wait til age 65 when I'm on Medicare.

It looks like Toyota's current finance rate is 4.99%. I suppose I could withdraw from my Roth IRAs, which is not taxable income, but not sure if that's advisable since I had wanted to use Roth IRA monies to "top off" traditional IRA withdrawals to avoid bumping up into a higher tax bracket. It just would give me greater flexibility.

 

Prices down, prices up

December 4th, 2023 at 10:30 pm

I was surprised to discover that Netflix offers a very cheap option, if you're willing to deal with ads. I mean, it's actually cheaper than Hulu, which I had, so I decided to drop the Hulu, where it's difficult to find interesting shows, and reacquaint myself with Netflix.

I got a ton of recommendations for feel-good type TV/movies from one of my hygge groups so I think I'm set for a good 6 months, but if you have any shows you absolutely loved, please let me know. I started watching The Crown last night. And, actually, the interruption by ads was really minimal.

The level in my oil tank finally dropped to the halfway point, allowing me to order heating oil today, while prices are a bit better than they were since last I checked prices in mid-November. They'll only go higher from here when the cold weather really hits us, so now's the time. I couldn't order earlier because when I had a new oil tank installed this past summer, they had to dump the bottom part due to sludge so I lost one-quarter tank rather quickly but had to wait since most oil companies around here require a 100-gallon minimum order. Usually, I top off the tank in late summer, when prices are cheapest, and then don't have to order again til early February.

I am in the final hour of a 24-hour fast, and feel pretty good. I like to keep busy and active during a fast so I don't sit around with time to dwell on hunger, so I worked out at the gym this morning and spent over an hour cutting up burning bush branches I cut down a while ago so they'll fit in the trunk of my car for transport to the transfer station. I don't really feel extreme hunger, which is good.

Tomorrow is back to physical therapy with dad; after tomorrow, he has just 2 more sessions to go. I have 2 doctors' appointments of my own on Wednesday, then more PT for dad on Thursday.

With just one more month left in the year, I'm trying to be lean with the spending so I can whittle away some more at my year-end expenses, which right now are roughly $7,000 in the red. For the past few months my income exceeded expenses and would like to continue that streak for one more month (although I will be ordering roughly $400 worth of heating oil, which is an atypical expense).

Next week there will be a tree at the community center where seniors in need can hang their personal wish list for gifts. I have not done this before (didn't know about it) but would like to "adopt" a senior or two and buy them what they need. We also have a fund in town where you can do the same with whole families, but since I myself am a family of one, I feel more comfortable buying for another individual.

 

December Doings

December 1st, 2023 at 11:18 pm

It's official. I'm now an elected board member of a new statewide environmental group I got involved with last summer. We've had a few monthly zoom meetings since then, so I've really only met the founder of the group in person, at a beach cleanup, but we're planning an in-person holiday get-together at a restaurant owned by one of the board members.

I'm trying to decide if I should look to get involved in another group in town. There's another environmental group I was involved with for the past year to a fair degree, but they seem to be taking a hiatus for the winter and we haven't had any meetings. I'm thinking maybe of joining one of the garden clubs. There are 3 in town and I already belong to one of them but it's mostly online during winter; in summer there are garden tours of members' homes and guided walks for foraging and stuff like that.

Today, I finished writing a story assignment early, which  like to do just to get it out of the way, especially during this time of year. I have another one due Dec. 20 so I will want to get started researching that one the week after next.

I think I have a leak from my dishwasher somewhere. I rarely use it, but the past month or so I have been running it every other day, and I'd begun to smell a mildewy smell. For now, I've just stopped using it, and the odor has disappeared, but I suppose at some point I'll have to call a plumber? I hate calling them as they are so freaking expensive. Maybe I could try an appliance repair person.

Today I ran down to Aldi's for a few things. I am always impressed with how much I can get for a relatively small amount, like $40. At the more mainstream supermarkets, I am shocked by how expensive everything has gotten. I shop pretty much everywhere as there are certain things I can only find at certain stores, etc.

I'm pretty much done with my Christmas shopping.  I already had my cousin's gift shipped directly to him, and I gave my other cousin her gifts when I saw her Thanksgiving. I have a gift for a friend, and my father yells at me every year when i bring up the subject as he doesn't want me to spend any money on him. I may just put together a basket of good food items as he can't browse a supermarket anymore and get what he wants, and relies on my sister to do his grocery shopping. Unfortunately, much of what he craves is not good for his health, and my sister's careful protocol has greatly reduced his sugar and fat intake, to the point where he is now pre-diabetic, not diabetic.

I've done a little decorating around the house, but have not yet dragged down the big tree from the attic, and may not as it's a pain to do, plus hanging all the ornaments. If my cousin ends up visiting right after the holiday, I may be inspired to decorate more.

My father has just 3 more physical therapy visits. I don't mind driving him, though at the same time it sucks up a lot of my free time and I'm looking forward to recapturing some of that. Of course, right after physical therapy ends, we have a return trip to his endodontist and a return to the low vision clinic. Hopefully we'll wrap up all of it before the snow flies.

I had some time the other day to explore the medicare.gov site and spent several hours reading about my options and the many different plans. I already knew I wanted to go with traditional Medicare and a Medigap policy. The Advantage plans are enticing due to their low cost and all the extras thrown in, but from everything I've read, they work well until you really need them, like with a surgery or major illness. Also from what I understand, if you went with a cheap Advantage plan early on but later wanted to switch to traditional Medicare, they would look at your medical history, pre-existing conditions and all that, and maybe charge you accordingly. And maybe decline to accept you. So I went ahead and even picked out my Medigap plan (Plan G, with Cigna) and my drug plan (Wellcare), and at least for this year, my monthly cost would be $395, which feels doable, although prices will rise each year.

I still have another 8 months, but it's nice to feel prepared. When we get closer to my 65th birthday, I'll check in with an insurance agent just to ensure my choices make sense for me.

 

 

A productive day

November 17th, 2023 at 10:25 pm

It was a very productive day here. It was also the likely last day it hit 61 degrees for quite some time, so I decided in advance to get as much outdoor work done as possible. I wound up:

* Mowing front and back, not completely, but the parts where the grass has gotten long since my mower's last mowing, which I guess was in October. In the process, I chopped up a bunch of leaves with my mulching blade.

* I also blew clean all the leaves on the driveway; they tend to get trapped at the top, which is surrounded by stone walls on 3 sides. No doubt I'll accumulate more later.

* I cleaned up leaves off the back patio, just so it's tidy moving into winter.

* I spoke to my neighbor about his missing indoor cat. I heard meows yesterday afternoon while doing yard work and told  him where I thought it might be. They didn't find it, but walked around my yard just in case. I sure hope they find Ninja. It will turn much colder tomorrow, by about 20 degrees.

* This past summer I hired a very nice young woman to exclude mice from my basement; she checked the whole exterior foundation and then plugged up 13 pretty small holes. Amazingly, I have not had any mice this year, and I checked my records from last year, which indicate I caught my first one last Oct. 16, so I think I would have caught some by now, especially since I've had the heat on.

I vowed to send her flowers if she succeeded in excluding mice, so today, instead of flowers, I decided to send a gift basket of wine, cheese and crackers. Hope she likes it. Cost a small fortune, but I do believe her work is worth its weight in gold. When I think that Fox Pest Control wanted something like $1200 for a season's worth of bait and poison, um, no thanks. Much prefer the permanent solution that doesn't rely on poison. She knows something is coming as I knew it's a small business and there's no one sitting around answering phones, so I needed her personal address to send the basket to. Smile

Today I also had an electrician over to replace the old and very basic ceiling fan that's been in my kitchen. It's been working fine for many years, but I decided to replace it because, since the fan has no lights (I thought they were ugly at the time I shopped ceiling fans 20 years ago), my kitchen has been on the dark side, most especially in winter.

I was amazed at the new styles, and like the much smaller footprint. I'm very happy with it; i picked out this one as it matches my bamboo shades.

I also squeezed in my 3rd workout at the gym for the week. All told, today's activities have me closing in on 13,000 steps, per FitBit. Smile

I decided to get my RSV vaccine (first time). I don't recall hearing much about RSV in the past, or the vaccine, but decided to move forward with it, so I have it scheduled for tomorrow at Walgreens, where I got my 100% painless COVID shot. Next year, I'll be "eligible" to receive my first ever pneumonia shot.

While I'm out that way, I'm also going to fill up the gas tank at BJs for my Thanksgiving travel. I'll be picking up Dad and traveling about an hour to meet my cousin at a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse that's equidistant from where she lives also. Neither of us likes driving at night, so it's going to be a very early Thanksgiving dinner, more like lunch, but hey. I definitely miss home cooking and the leftovers, but our group is too small for that and we both have animals at home that preclude an overnight visit.

On the way home from filling up the gas tank tomorrow, I'll stop at the VNA consignment shop and see what they've got, just for hoo-hahs. I also need to wrap my cousin's Christmas presents this weekend so I can give to her when I see her at Thanksgiving and save a fortune on shipping.

We're about halfway through my father's 15 physical therapy sessions. (I'm driving him twice a week.) I'm not sure he's noticed any improvements yet, except he commented the other day that he's sleeping much better, and I'm quite sure it's because he's spending less time watching TV in bed. I try to encourage him as much as possible to keep up the exercises on his own in between sessions with the physical therapist.

Next week, due to the holiday, I chose to schedule just one PT session, and on the same day, it's back to to endodonist to do part 1 of 2 for his second crown/root canal after he had 2 cracked teeth in quick succession. I'll be really glad when all these medical appointments are done, although the PT is okay twice a week. I'm getting into the groove of it now.

 

Random thoughts

November 1st, 2023 at 12:13 am

The tadpole rescue continues.

Several dozen appeared in my father's rain barrel earlier in the summer. I have sunk a bucket in there to capture a few at a time....the tricky little things dive to the bottom when they see the shadow looming....and carry them 200 feet to a small brook that feeds into a pond on my sister's property. They don't seem to have increased in size at all, and I feel we are running out of time as they have nothing to eat in the rain barrel and we've had a few frosts already. I don't know for sure how they'll do where I'm releasing them, but it's got to be better than the rain barrel. It's quite muddy, a very shallow brook with a small current, so i would think they could bury themselves in mud? I don't know if tadpoles overwinter that way.

Yesterday I saw an interesting meal delivery service on my Facebook feed and decided to give it a try. What intrigued me, plant-based eater that I am, is that all their recipes are based on Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen foods you should be eating. They had reasonable prices; most dishes were $9 each. The food does not arrive frozen...it's actually freeze-dried, and you rehydrate it with a cup of water, wait 10 minutes and then it's done.

I WANT to love it, but of course it will come down to how good does it taste. It's a monthly subscription you can cancel any time.

My BJs membership expired today, and while I like shopping there, i dislike the $55 membership fee. So during the past month, I stocked up on a few items I use a lot of , so I may not even notice the lack of BJs in my life for several months. If I rejoin later, like 3 months from now, that would reduce my annual membership costs by 25%. Also, if I wait long enough, I may be able to be treated as a "new" member and use one of those half-price membership offers I always see.

I caught up with Dido last weekend at our rendevous in PA, a roughly equidistant drive for both of us. We got our bearings at the coffee shop, then wandered through downtown and some outlying residential streets, and then had a nice lunch on the porch of an old inn. (Not the one shown below!)

J

Just a pretty little inn....

Comfort food at its best! Meatballs and ricotta. Smile

We both tried the tomato soup.

A local business getting in the spirit....

Autumnal street scene

The coffee shop where we met.

The busy life of Patient Saver

October 22nd, 2023 at 09:18 pm

(Above, winterberry)

I've been extremely busy as of late, one big reason being escorting dad to all of his doc and dentist appointments. It's like a little mini job on the side. This week I'll be with him 3 days as he has started physical therapy, plus he has a dentist appointment for another cracked tooth. He has a lot of muscle atrophy as all he does is watch TV. He's become very frail, and the goal of PT is to help him gain more balance (to ward off falls), strength and flexibility, and even ease back pain. I'm not sure how much to expect from 15 sessions for a 90-year-old, but we shall see.

This has been made possible by the VA, which dad could have enrolled in decades ago, but only recently decided he wanted to. I was dreading all the paperwork, but it wasn't that big a deal. 

I must say we are both very impressed with the VA. They are very prompt in calling us/me for appointments and followup and it's all entirely free for dad as he is legally blind. We spent over 3 hours at their low vision clinic abuot an hour away from here and he's going to get new closeup glasses, new sunglasses and new distance glasses as well as a rechargeable LED table lamp that he can move around to different locations as needed and then just return to its charging base. There's someone coming this week to do an in-home assessment. Dad served in the navy as a diver doing rescue/recovery operations. I also have had several conversations with my VA liaison there whose job it is to facilitate delivery of services and just generally smooth the way should I encounter any hiccups. It's just, overall, a great service, far more than he has gotten from Medicare.

In the meantime, I made sure we both got our covid shots and flu shots, and he had a root canal done. (I was a little nervous about the vaccines as dad is not crazy about them and I was afraid he would give me a hard time, but he didn't say a peep....I think becus he knows I might hesitate to take him out to lunch and other outings this winter if he wasn't vaccinated.)

Went to a flea market this morning with my neighbor and though I wanted to spend $20 on a cute set of 6 vintage juice glasses from I guess the 40s, in a carton-type container with a pretty matching dish towel, I resisted. The price was right but I have plenty of dishware/glassware and have very limited room. My neighbor, on the other hand, sprung for $85 for an old round window he wanted to put in his bathroom.

(Above is a sweet birch on my property.)

This Friday I'm meeting up with Dido at a midway meeting point, about 1.50 hr drive for both of us, in a cutesy little town where I'm sure we'll do lunch, the museum if it's open and just have fun catching up. On Saturday I'll be spending the night with Archie, my other neighbor's dog, while she travels to Vermont to see family. Should be interesting. She was desperate to go, so I agreed.

Everything else is on autopilot. I continue my very p/t writing job for the university. I dropped a single large weaving made by my mother for an upcoming art show at local gallery. I priced it to sell, but who knows....

It's going to be a great weather week, so in between driving my father all around, I hope to squeeze in some time yard work time as I have a chore list.

I've been getting hooked on gree chai tea. I've long been on a quest to switch from drinking both black and green tea to green tea exclusively. I can do this in summer when I drink ice tea, but the green tea is too bland for me to drink hot; the green chai is great, though, so maybe once I drink down my current inventory of Harney & Sons, I can drink only green (for the health benefits, plus the much lower caffeine levels mean I can drink late in the day, which I can't do with the black or it will keep me up at night).

Mums below....the petals are pinkish when still closed up, but look just like daisies once opened.

The harvest

September 26th, 2023 at 04:58 pm

I like to track my harvested produce from my 3 small raised beds each year. I can't find last year's tally so as to compare this year to then, but oh well: I know in general my harvest was down this year, for whatever reason(s).

Cucumber: I started out with 2 cucumber plants. One died due to lack of water 1 day too long: mia culpa. Still, I got 7 cucumbers from the remaining plant for a total of 78 ounces.

Tomatoes: I had mostly cherry tomatoes as the chipmunks are less inclined to go after them. I think I had 4 plants. I had a total of 360 cherry tomatoes and 7 larger tomatoes totalling 43.6 oz.

Zucchini: I had one plant bearing just 5 zucchini, or 47 oz.

Asparagus bean: i grew them, but didn't always eat them. Guess I don't really like them.

Delicata squash: First year growing these, and I prefer them to other squash since you don't have to peel them and they're easier to cut up. I had I think 2 plants and got 16 squashes out of them, or 11.6 lbs' worth.

Eggplant: Just 1 plant overtaken by morning glories: 2 eggplants totally 1.5 lbs.

Stringbeans. 27.6 ounces

Snow peas: I have a fall crop going but from spring I harvested nearly 3 lbs.

That's all she wrote.

I've been super busy managing my father's many doc and dentist appointments. Tomorrow he has part 2 of a root canal started a month ago; then the day after that, we're headed to the VA for his first visit. Next week, we head for a different VA location for their 3-hour low vision clinic. Oh happy joy. They offered me this spot after I initially booked a visit a few days before Christmas. I figured this was better.

Next up, will try to schedule flu and covid shots for both of us. So far, CVS does not seem to have much supply available. I did at least  order my new supply of free covid test kits.

I wrapped up my latest story this morning, which means the paycheck will follow in about a week. Only about 23 more stories to do over the coming year and then I retire for good. In the meantime, I enjoy the paycheck, but doing the writing just feels like a chore, with deadlines.

Cheesedoodles!

September 16th, 2023 at 11:33 pm

Last week my father and I met a cousin and her husband who were out this way visiting from Ohio. It's the first time we've ever met! We had a  nice dinner, my treat. My father said he would pay me back, that I shouldn't pay, but they are not really his relatives; she is the grand-daughter of my maternal grandfather's brother. I figured they had enough expenses to deal with related to the trip out here.

Today I was SUPPOSED to do a litter pickup as part of the Ocean Conservancy's annual effort each fall to clean up beaches. There are actually other groups getting involved, too.

But there was a small accident. Meaning, on Friday afternoon, I was taking advantage of the cooler weather to do some much needed yardwork. I decided to cut down a small tree. (I planted a ton of things when I first moved here, and now they all matured and are pretty large, crowding my yard. It was a scraggly looking nannyberry.)

There were about 5 fairly thin trunks about 3/4" in diameter, but they were tall, maybe 10 feet high. I was almost done with the job with just 2 trunks left to cut when a branch I was cutting with my very sharp pruning saw fell straight down, which I wasn't anticipating, and it fell on top of the saw, pushing it right into the wrist of my free hand.

I had to stop what I was doing as it was bleeding a fair amount and initially wouldn't stop bleeding. I rinsed the 4 puncture wounds out, doused with peroxoide and bandaged up. At first I figured i could still do the litter pickup today, but soon my hand began swelling and became exceedingly tender. The slightest movement became very painful.

I was just a tad worried about the deepest of the 4 punctures. Who knows, maybe it could take a few stitches. I made an appointment at the local urgent care place and was there at noon today, where a nice PA took care of me. He was confident it would heal up within a week, which is a good thing as I started thinking of all the things coming up on my schedule where a second hand would be useful.

Today, I think there has already been some improvement, just based on the painfullness of certain motions yesterday compared to today. I will have to thank my new PCP, who brought up getting a tetanus booster at my physical 2 weeks ago, and promptly had a nurse administer that. I hadn't had that shot since I was a child.

So while I chose not to join the litter pickup, I did wind up doing a few things here at home, like vacuuming out my car, some watering of my gardens and also some laundry.

I've discovered a new food product at BJs that I absolutely love. OK, it's a processed snack food. I'm an ultra-healthy eater but do indulge every now and then becus I figure with the piles of fruits/veggies/nuts/legumes/whole grains/seeds etc I consume, an occasional treat is ok.

Do you remember eating cheesedoodles as a child? I do. They were not one of my favorites, compared to chocolate candy bars, but just ok. Well, there's a reincarnation of cheesedoodles called Annie's Organic Cheddar Smiles, and they are soooooo delicious. I still eat them in moderation lest I exceed my daily sodium intake, but the 1.3 oz I enjoyed tonight fills up a small bowl. Smile

I have a story to write for my job but I've been procrastinating about it. In fact, this post is part of that procrastination. I really have to attend to this tomorrow.

I am traveling to NJ on Monday for a simple medical procedure; wish it were closer but oh well. I hope to visit the NY state organc farm stand this week, an hour's drive north, becus they have had the most delicious apples in past years.

There's quite a bit of things still flowering in my yard.

Asters in front of giant hemlock:

 

The blue mistflower is quite lovely, the jack in the pulpit is sporting bright red berries and the autumn joy sedum is on full display. Also plenty of bright orange cosmos, which will last til frost.

 

 

Small victories

September 4th, 2023 at 07:23 pm

Hope everyone had a nice Labor Day weekend.

I started off the long weekend by unexpectedly deciding to tackle a long-neglected home project: finishing the paint job on my tool shed. I painted 3 sides about 3 years ago now, but the fourth side is very difficult to do because there's a slope and a large shrub I don't want to cut.

I decided that with summer coming to a close soon and the beautiful low-humidity day we were having that I should try to do this now. I wasn't even sure if I had any paint left, but I checked in the basement, and I had plenty.

It was a ton of work just wrestling with ladders where the multi-stemmed clethra grows, but I threaded long sections of rope along the top and bottom of a large tarp, which I then threw behind the shrub, then tied in front to pull it away from the shed enough where I could get in there to paint. It was a real pain in the bazooka.

Thank god I don't have to gaze upon the unpainted last section of the shed anymore. It was a real eyesore! After doing the unpainted section, I slapped on a 2nd coat on just that one side, since I knew it needed it.

That's about the most remarkable event of my holiday weekend.

The heat and humidity have returned for the next 4 days or so. I had my annual physical last week with a new doctor who seemed ok. All my blood work was good except my cholesterol was a bit high at 206; I knew what caused that and am pretty sure I can correct it. I mistakenly bought some full fat plain yogurt and didn't have time to return it so I consumed it, gradually.

I'm doing a beach litter cleanup with a friend next weekend. Can't think of a better reason to go to the beach, especially since summer crowds will have thinned out.

 

Late summer activities

August 25th, 2023 at 12:31 am

Each day, each week, is a bit different than the last...love that! Variety is the spice of life and all that.

Today I totally procrastinated about getting started on my next story assignment.

Earlier this summer, I acquired a pair of old garden urns from my Buy Nothing group.

I imagined I might not get around to rejuvenating them til next spring, but somehow I found some spare time and wound up having a great experience repainting them using some very inexpensive acrylic paint from Michael's craft store. The paint had little smell, went on smoothly without dripping, cleaned up easily with water and was just all around easy to work with. It only came in 5 colors, and I took a chance and chose the blue, not sure if it was just a bit too strong, but I'm really happy with how well it contrasts with the red flowers. I think it would also pair well with lime green or yellow. The color makes me think of the Mediterranean.

I was less enthralled  with the clear top coat spray I used to seal it and give it a nice, high gloss finish. It stunk to high heaven, and I imagine it killed billions of my brain cells, despite my wearing a mask (not a KN95 but a real mask with filters). I chose to take a deep breath and not breathe while I quickly sprayed one side of the urn inside a large cardboard box, then sprayed upside down for a few seconds more so as not to clog the nozzle. Then I'd run out, gulp some air, and wait 30 minutes for it to dry so I could rotate the urn and do the next side.

I just have to finish the top coat on the 2nd urn now, and I have so much leftover paint (I bought a quart), I'm looking for other things to paint. Smile

Talking about procrastination, I finally stopped doing that and mailed off an application for VA benefits for my father. Now he could have done this 30 years ago but only now feels like he must do this. Anyway, that's done.

I have plans to meet a new-to-me cousin and her husband, along with my father, for dinner in about two-and-a-half weeks, in the town my father lives in. They are traveling east from Ohio to meet us, and also an old high school friend of hers whose son just happens to live quite close to where my father lives. I only discovered the existence of this cousin sometime in the last 8 years, when I was doing ancestry research. She's the granddaughter of my grandfather's brother. It will be quite exciting to explore common memories despite the years that have passed. I only met her father once that I remember, but even as a kid he struck me as very funny and upbeat. He was a taxi driver in the Bronx and collected piles of foreign coins from his cab fares, which he doled out to my mother, sister and I. It's not worth anything, but it's interesting to look at from time to time. I may have given them to another cousin for her grandkids, I'm really not sure at this point.

My father has a large rain barrel near the stair sleading to his apartment, and we discovered many tadpoles in there, at least 35. No idea how they got there, but someone told me a tree frog could climb the barrel. After lunch a few days ago, we stopped at the pet store and I bought some goldfish flakes; don't think there's much else to eat in there.

 

Stuff going on....

August 10th, 2023 at 07:00 pm

I got a lot accomplished today and still have a good part of the day left. This morning, I:

1. Worked out at the gym.
2. Stopped at the dollar store for 2 items which I refuse to overpay for at Big Y.
3. Went to Home Depot and purchased a window well cover for a basement window (found a toad stuck in there once already) and a small bag of grass seed.
4. Stopped at Big Y for just a few groceries.
5. Filled up the gas tank at BJs.
6. When I got home, since I'd spent several days digging out an ugly, overgrown and invasive shrub (spirea), I decided I wanted to plant it now with grass seed, because we have rain in the forecast every other day for the next 5 days or so, and the area, an oval shape about 15' across, is too far from the house for my garden hose to reach.

The shrub had become an eyesore because there was invasive trumpet vine growing up the middle of it. Trumpet vine is all over my front yard; the only way to control is to mow over it, and I'll never be able to dig it up because it has these thick underground roots going all over the place.

I not only seeded it, but threw hay on top to keep the birds from eating all of it, then fenced it with temporary plastic fencing to keep the deer from walking around on it and also let the lawnmower guy know not to ride over it. I wanted to get it all done before the rain began, and as I was returning to the garage with my assorted tools, it began to sprinkle. Perfect timing!!

All in all, I'm feeling pooped.

I am halfway through with my current story for the university. It's due early next week. I mentioned to my contact there that I noticed that only 3 or 4 stories of the 10 I've written so far  have been published on the site, and that I hoped there was nothing I was doing to prolong the review process unnecessarily. She told me no, the review process is truly arduous and that I'm doing "beautifully," so not to worry. She's very easy to work with. But anyway, this is my next priority for later today or tomorrow.

The native plant garden I started last year is doing very well. The only plants I spent money on were the native dwarf honeysuckle and the buttonbush. A friend of mine gave me a bunch of hyssop (bee magnets), a snakeroot (?), mountain mint and some black eyed susies while someone else gave me pussy willow. I had cosmos seeds and others, so threw them in there, too. I also planted Joe Pye Weed, so now I have 3 stands of it in the yard. I garden whenever the weather cooperates, and I let it go for many weeks during our hot weather spell. Everything needs attention.

I had a really  nice time of 4 consecutive days celebrating my birthday with family and friends. Breakfast at my favorite local spot, lunch at another in-town spot, dinner at a friend's and a special birthday cake I took home and had another friend over my place for lunch. My cousin's birthday present for me was guess what? Plants! A dwarf butterfly bush (ok, not native) and 2 nodding onions with very pretty pale pink round blooms.

Shown above is Joe Pye Weed, hyssop and purple coneflower.

In the veggie garden, the star this year would have to be my squashes, particularly the delicata squash which is growing gangbusters. The tomatoes, while producing, have been a disappointment due to a mildew disease and just aren't producting that much compared to prior years. I had some snow peas and lettuce early on (a lot, actually), as well as stringbeans. The kale was kind of a bust and my 2 cuke plants died. The asparagus bean (aka, yardlong bean) is also doing QUITE well and growing over my arbor. The beans do indeed approach a yard long, believe it or not. This is my 3rd time growing it but the prior 2 years got next to nothing (or nothing) because they require a very early start indoors using a heat mat or they won't germinate.

 

Fun news that has nothing to do with money

July 30th, 2023 at 12:09 am

Just as I type, the strong rain has begun after building for some time. After that passes, we'll have truly "seasonal" weather conditions in the low 80s and low humidity, which I'm really looking forward to. Need to catch up on the yard work and pull as much mile-a-minute vine as I can before it starts to flower, form berries and then multiply some more.

I have not been active with genealogy work for several years now, only because Ancestry subscriptions are not cheap and I feel that when I do sign up, I need to devote as much time as possible to it to "get my money's worth."

So there are 2 cousins I discovered on Ancestry prior to COVID whom I conversed with. One of them, in Ohio, texted me tonight and proposed we (she and her husband, me and my father) get together with them in September when they are planning a trip east to visit a childhood friend of hers from Florida who will be visiting her son in a town pretty close to mine. Serendipity.

I'm doing a local garden tour tomorrow with a friend.  And her husband and daughter.

I invited another, more distant friend over for lunch next week, knowing the weather will be good and it's one of the alternate weeks when I don't have to work. We have talked about it a few times. It's an opportunity to deepen a friendship.

Next week is my birthday, so my friend and neighbor S. is 1) taking me out to breakfast at 8 am at a cafe I've kept suggesting to him, and 2) he's going to give me 2 hours of his time to do anything I want that morning, as a birthday present. I often ask him for help with things around here, usually involving his chainsaw to cut down a tree, or running to dump brush at the landfill with his pickup, and stuff like that. So for me, this is like the perfect gift. I'm going to think carefully about what I'd like but I'm pretty sure it will involve trees.

I did very recently get quotes from 2 tree companies for pruning some smaller fruit trees around here, and becus the prices were so high, I decided to spend $100 on a new pole pruner so I could probably handle the smaller ones and heck, I'd pay for the cost of the pruner doing just a few of the trees myself.

I would have tried it out already, but you need to unbolt the bolt so you can pull the blade at the end of the pole into the upright position, then reattach the bolt and tighten. Problem is, I can't get it off. It's on really tight. So that's the 1st thing S. can do. Smile

I will still have the pros do the pruning, though not til this winter, on the apple, crabapple, mulberry and dogwood. I'm going to tackle an overgrown rhododendron growing over some stairs (so it's not possible to reach the dead stuff using a ladder), along with an inkberry holly that blocks my view of the front yard (too close to the front entry).

Spend, spend, spend. No shortage of ways for me to spend my money. Still waiting for Ms. Mouse to return to exclude them after doing an "inspection."

Since next week I'll be just ONE YEAR away from Medicare, I'm thinking of other biggish life events that will coincide with that birthday. Namely, that is the time I plan to completely stop working.

(I've tossed it around a few times. In some ways, I'd like to keep my hand in it, doing some kind of freelance writing, but ultimately decided I really didn't want any more holds on my time. I can always return to it if I have a change of heart.) I've been downsizing my job now for the past 6 years, starting when I went p/t when i was doing editing at the pharma agency before COVID.

(Yes, my time references all seem to relate to either "before COVID" or "after COVID.")

Come to think of it, next summer would also be a good time to restart my Ancestry membership with my newfound time.

 

 


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