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Archive for July, 2012

When you don't have money, pay in string beans

July 30th, 2012 at 11:39 am

You may have read in my earlier posts that I discovered a largish hornets' nest hanging from a tree next to my driveway. It's in what I'd consider a fairly high traffic location, just three feet off the ground and next to grass I need to mow. If a passenger opened a car door into the shrub on that side, disaster would ensue.

I am leery of trying to spray the nest myself. For one thing, I don't know anyone who has goggles I could borrow and having already been stung twice in as many weeks, I just don't relish getting anywhere near that hive.

After a brief search online, I did go so far as to email contact a Connecticut man who apparently earns a living from collecting hornets/bees and other stingers from homeowners in distress. The best part about it is that he uses NO toxic chemicals AND, while the stingers do lose their lives, their venom is used by medical labs for research.

I received a callback this morning from the man's wife, who described what he would do and his fee, $200. I thanked her for taking the time to call me but explained that I could not afford that fee. She offered a discount that would bring it down to $150. I told her that was a generous discount but explained my employment situation. She then encouraged me to make an offer of a "tip" of $20 or $50 and, because he was going to be in my town tomorrow, perhaps he would be willing to do it. (He lives a good hour away.) I said I would be thrilled if he would do it for $25, and I also offered a surplus of green string beans from my garden to "sweeten the pot." Smile

She called me back later to confirm that he would do it tomorrow. I consider it a pretty good deal. (Doesn't help with my yellow jackets in the ground issue, but if I'm back from driving J. tomorrow when the bee man arrives, I will ask him about that.

My instructions are to 1. leave a white towel or rag where the nest is to help him locate it easily and 2. leave an extension cord plugged into my garage. (He uses some sort of vacuum device.)

I forgot to ask what happens with whatever hornets happen to be outside the nest when he vaccuums them up. Everything I've read about it is that you're supposed to kill the nest when all inhabitants are inside, at night.

Anyway, what this little scenario tells me is that times are tough these days for everyone. I imagine that doing away with rogue hornets and bees is not a big money-maker, but because he was willing to be flexible on price (in a really big way), we both benefit.

At first, when his wife said he was going to be in my town tomorrow, it sounded like the kind of thing someone tells you to pressure you into making a quick decision. I tested her by asking of the street address they were going to before me and she did give me the address, one which they wouldn't likely have known about had they not actually been going there. (It's called, "The Old Road.")

Maybe the guy is a beekeeper and enjoys working with these insects. At least by helping me out with my hive, he gets gas money to pay for the trip down here and then he can keep what he makes for the other customer free and clear.

Got stung

July 29th, 2012 at 05:23 pm

A day after my Craig's List buyer got stung by paper wasps/hornets, I also got stung today.

However, the wasp nest is in the front yard, by the driveway. I got stung today in the backyard, as I was mowing the lawn. It was the same area where I got stung maybe 2 weeks ago.

Bothtimes I got stung, I carefullly, cautiously looked for a yellow jacket ground nest, but saw no insect activity and assumed it was just a "stray" yellow jacket (or whatever) that was grazing in the grass and which I must've run over.

But twice in the same area has me thinking there must be a nest in the ground that I just can't see. The only way you can spot it is to watch for any kind of flying insects in the grass and try to catch where they're coming from.

When I was stung today, I was so freaked out I yelled "Owwaargh!" and then I let go the mower and RAN, stumbling and falling into a wire fence I had just lifted off a birch tree seedling so I could mow around it. Luckily, I wasn't further hurt.

I took some Benadryl right away but it's still quite red and swollen, near my knee. It's amazing how hot it is to the touch.

I guess at the least I will have to wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when I mow back there. I need to find the ground nest or I'll just keep going over it. Not sure I want to leave the whole area unmowed for the rest of the season.

I also wondered if the insects that have stung me twice could be from the hornet nest in the front yard. If there are as many hornets as they say there are (hundreds) living in a nest like that, I guess they could be combing my entire yard.

Anyway, I planted the three hypertufa pots that have cured and will do pix tomorrow.

Also picked an English cucumber, stringbeans and 2 zucchini, as well as some collard leaves which I blanched and froze.

I continued work pulling out pachysandra roots from the front of the house and have been sawing away at the stubs of the shrubs I cut, hoping they won't sprout leaves.

Craig's Lister stung by hornets in my driveway

July 28th, 2012 at 10:12 am

Well, the good news is I sold an old teak cabinet for $50 today. I never had so much response to a Craig's listing before. Maybe 8 or 9 responses. Perhaps I underpriced it, but I really just wanted to get rid of it. It was the top half of a hutch I got after my grandmother passed away. (I'd given away the bottom half, which looked very dated, to a neighbor who wanted it for storage.) I had painted it because I disliked the dark wood, but it was really just too big for my small rooms here, and I'm in the midst of a declutter binge.

I was happy, and I think Grandma would be happy, to see it go to the young couple that showed up, recently married. He is from Sweden.

The bad news is, as they carried the cabinet down my front lawn to the driveway, they brushed into a large viburnum in the front lawn. Unbeknownst to me, there is a good-sized hornet nest hanging hidden in the leaves, and she got stung several times.

She said she isn't allergic. I offered her some benadryl but she turned it down and said she was ok. They didn't seem to think it a big deal and said it was their fault cus they really jostled the hive and they were swarming all over the place. I'm a little worried becus I know from experience that even one sting, at least for me, swells up for at least several days.

I sure hope I'm not "liable" for anything should she pursue medical treatment, or be urged to do so by others.

Now I have the dilemma of what to do about that hive. It's just slightly smaller than a football. I believe you're supposed to wait til nearly dark and all the hornets are in the hive, and then spray them after adequately suiting up for protection.

My preference would be to wait til a hard frost kills them in October, but that's 3 months from now, and I mow in that area. In fact, I just mowed through there yesterday! I could give them wider berth and perhaps I'd be ok. Nowt hat i know it's there, I'm really surprised (and grateful) that I didn't get stung when I mowed there. I got stung once this year already.

Sweet reward...

July 27th, 2012 at 07:02 am

Drove J. to work this a.m. as per the routine and he's already paid me for my first week of driving him...$200 cash. Smile

I'm really appreciative of that since 2 other streams of income have dried up for much of July. That would be the loss of the publishing job, which is permanent, of course, and then temporary suspension of unemployment benefits.

It's possible I get the held up unemployment checks released before month's end, but I don't think it will amount to much anyway since I had to report some freelance income. I may or may not get the severance paycheck from the publishing job if the prez follows through and mails it out promptly. (He wrote back to me yesterday after I inquired about it and he apologized about simply forgetting to cut the check.) He put it in writing that he would do so, so I'm not too worried that I won't get it.

Last night we had, as they say in Boston, a "wicked bad" thunderstorm. It moved through quickly, though. Today is again just as muggy and uncomfortable as yesterday.

I find my energy and productivity level are directly tied to my personal (physical) comfort level, and that in turn is directly connected with the weather. It would be different if I had air conditioning here, but I do not, so when the weather gets super humid/hot, I don't get much done, indoors or out. I get like that in the winter, too. I keep the house so cool that I don't do much, and that kind of inactivity for half the year is not a good thing.

Summer is my personal "prime time" since I mow the lawn 2 or 3 times a week, do a great deal of other yeardwork, am busy harvesting and preserving food for winter use and doing a bunch of other things. But I need to keep my activity level up in winter so I don't get that seemingly inevitable weight gain.

For the month of July, I had higher than usual expenses, as I had to pay car insurance and borough insurance. I also spent an extra $800 or so due to paying off the mortgage, and the first of two annual installments on my property taxes, $3300, will be due in August. However, August will also be the first month when I won't have to make a mortgage payment.

Yesterday I picked a bunch of collard leaves, blanched them and then froze them. There is nothing so satisfying as being able to grow your food during the warm weather months of plenty and then preserving them for the cold days of winter. I also saved and froze the water I used to blanch the collards, since they are homegrown and I can use it as a soup base to capture those nutrients otherwise lost.

Like the proverbial ant, it makes me feel more secure after having filled up my oil tank (to get me through the first half of winter) and a freezer full of homegrown produce.

Me thinks I will blanch some string beans today. I keep checking the soybeans, but I don't think they are ready. It is possible I won't have a crop at all and that the reason they are so small is due to insufficient water.

I will be planting a fall crop of lettuce in early August.

What's your magic number?

July 26th, 2012 at 12:40 pm

A number of years ago, I determined that my retirement savings goal was $1.2 million. That's the amount I calculated I needed to live comfortably in retirement and enjoy my various retirement hobbies after using several different retirement calculators. (Actually, I never met a retirement calculator I didn't like! Whenever I come across a new one, I try it!)

I came across a good article about saving your way to a million dollars here: http://money.cnn.com//2012/07/20/pf/savings-budget-millionaire.moneymag/index.htm?section=money_pf&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fmoney_pf+%28Personal+Finance%29&utm_content=My+Yahoo

I'd be curious to know:

1. Do you have a retirement savings goal?
2. If you do, how much is it?
3. How much of your retirement goal have you achieved, at (roughly) what age?

A little unscientific poll!

Low-Key Thursday

July 26th, 2012 at 10:20 am

Not much going on with me today.

I'm still adjusting to my new routine of driving J. to work in the a.m., picking him up at 5 and then molding my own routine around that.

I am certainly getting to know a lot about him, his family, work background, even how much money he makes, what the jail experience was like. He is the talkative type, while I don't like to go into a lot about my personal life until i get to know someone better. I assume he doesn't mind that.

Tomorrow will be the eagerly awaited "payday" of $200 for this first week of driving.

I am now in the soaking stage with my various hyptertufa pots. After the 3-week curing process, during which time they need to dry, slowly, you then soak them in a container of water for 3 days, to leach out the alkilinity that could harm plants.

I will post photos once this is done and they are finally planted with succulents. It has been a trial and error process, to be sure. I did have 2 pots crumble as I handled them, something I'd read about could happen online.

Yesterday was a nice weather day so I got a lot done.

Did a load of laundry and hung it out to dry. Picked some collard greens, blanched them and then froze them for winter stews.

I worked more on my front foundation bed where I cut down 3 overgrown mountain laurels and an unknown shrub. There's also thickly grown pachysandra in there so that will take the most time to dig out all those roots. I'm wearing a mask now because I've found small pieces of the old asbestos shingles that were removed from my house last summer and I don't want to breathe any possible dust in that settled in the soil/pachysandra.

I think it will be too back-breaking to try to dig out the roots of the shrubs, so I will try cutting them down further to as close to ground level as I can and hope they slowly die. Maybe cover them with a black pastic bag to block sunlight so new shoots don't form.

Then I will have a go at the pachysandra roots with a shovel. I see some cracks where an ugly basement window well, made of concrete, has cracked where it meets the foundation. This should be repaired before I do any planting. I may try to do it myself.

I'm a little concerned becus i haven't received my 2 weeks of severance pay and the note i sent the payroll person on Tuesday has gone unanswered. I hope she wasn't unaware that the prez of company told me he'd pay me severance, but what was I to do? He'd said it was to be mailed, and I should have had it by Saturday since checks were cut last Thursday.

If I don't have it in today's mail, I will send an email to the president.

I also haven't heard back from BP. I sent an email to them about a $10 gift card I won from their forum that was not accepted at a local BP station.

I guess I will wait until tomorrow to bill my real estate client for the brochure I wrote. Had sent it last Friday, didn't hear from them til i inquired yesterday, and she just said it'd been crazy since J. returned from vacation, so they hadn't really looked at it yet. My bill really needs to be $462. I hope that doesn't surprise them, as it's a bit higher than my typical PR or magazine article, but i spent quite a bit of time on it....but i would feel better if they let me know they love it before i send them the bill!

Still working on charging up my Amex Premier card, to earn the $250 in gift card rewards. I haven't gotten the first month's statement yet, but I've charged up over $380. Need to get to $2,000 charged in 3 months time. I still have left over grocery gift cards from a prior rewards card, but have been charging grocery purchases so I can apply it to this card. The older gift cards can be spent later.

Haven't heard about the PR job I interviewed twice for. Making me nervous and discouraged. I applied for another few jobs this a.m. but decided yesterday to turn down another one-time job, doing a voice recording for an Indian guy who wrote a sixth grade science book for his daughter and wanted someone with an American accent to record it like a book on tape. And I thought the Japanese were crazy focused on education. I had expressed interest in this a few weeks ago when i saw the ad, but it was just a one-time thing for $60 and he lives about an hour a way. I'd have to meet with him to get the book and some special software he had that would allow me to record my voice. It sounded a little complicated for just $60, especially with all the driving i'm doing now, i'd like to conserve my car if I can. But I suggested to him that he try posting a flyer in the local library. He had said he wanted to find someone local and I was the most local who responded to his ad. the libary would ensure that, plus anyone there you could assume was a reader.

Hot as Hades Again

July 24th, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Another blistering hot day, but it's bearable because it will be only for today, and then back again to more seasonable 80s and lower humidity.

I've begun driving J. to and from work, as described in earlier posts. I have not yet made my mind up about him. He may be one of those people who knows how to ingratiate himself to others, for various reasons.

Invariably, when you're driving with someone, you do get to talking, and I imagine if I continue driving him I will get to know him pretty well. (I remember how well I got to know my neighbor Stephen a few years back when we decided to carpool together one summer.)

Yesterday he started talking about how he was trying to get his kids to eat healthy and so on and this impressed me, because while he's well-spoken, he does have a bit of a blue collar edge to him. Maybe it's the many colorful tattoos up and down his arms. But it was only much later that I realized he must've seen the sticker on my passenger side window that says "The Future is Organic." So he already knew this was something that was important to me. So I wondered if he was just...manipulating my impressions of him.

He also broached another conversation, after learning that I have 2 cats, by saying that vets can be so expensive. Oh, yes, I said, that's for sure. Then he said, even for euthanasia. I said, yes, I know, it is. Well, I didn't know what he was leading up to, a disclosure that when the family's last cat got sick, he never took it to the vet. They let it suffer and ultimately die at home, albeit, after letting the kids say their goodbyes. Then he buried it in the backyard.

I'm sorry, but this strikes me as cruel and inhumane. If you adopt an animal, you also take on the responsiblity to care for its wellbeing its entire life. He decided he didn't want to spend the money.

I withheld my opinion because this was, after all, the first day of this "job" and I certainly need the money.

so now he's talking and saying he wants to get a new kitten, but the shelters he's applied to turned him down because he said it would be an outdoor cat and shelters feel (and rightly so) the out of doors are largely unsafe for cats due to traffic, stray dogs, coyotes, etc.

So he said if you know anyone who's giving away free kittens, let me know. Yeah, right. On top of that, he lives in an apartment above a real estate office on an extremely busy secondary highway. His entry door is literally 6 feet away from the edge of this highway. All stores, gas stations and asphalt. Hardly the place for a small cat or kitten. I pointed this out to him and he oh yeah, the cat would have to be an indoor cat for quite a while. I'm not sure if that meant he would eventually let it outside or if he might move or something.

The heat has prevented me from doing further work on my front of house landscaping but I did manage to haul away everything I cut and drag them down to woodsy peiphery of property where I commonly dump tree branches.

This morning, after dropping J. off at work, I returned home to wait for a scheduled phone call/hearing with Dept of Labor about my being fired from the publishing job. It seemed to go okay and I'm pretty sure there won't be a problem continuing to get my remaining unemployment benefits although it could still be another week or so before they resume.

After that, I ran to the library so I could use their fax to send a form to the unemployment office. I had to pay $1.50 to send one page on the fax!! DOL says they don't accept email due to virus concerns. Well, how about entering the 21st century and getting some anti-virus software. I mean, aren't fax machines largely obsolete anyway?

After that, I went to the landfill and from there on to Unilver to drop off the final questionnaire for a shampoo/conditioner product study for which I'll eventually receive $60.

After that I hit Shop Rite, which was having a sale on California grapes, plums and broccoli, all for .99/pound. Also got some postage stamps there, which saved me a trip to a post office on the way home.

This afternoon after I drop off J. at home, i'll hit Walgreen's on my way home where I can get a $3 gallon of milk. I'm trying to reduce my driving still further now that I'm driving him to what amounts to 2 hours a day, which seems like so much. Just hope my old car can stand up to it.

it's all local driving, but it does add up. He lives and works right off the same road, and I live between where he lives, and where he works. But if you include my driving to his place (15 minutes east), then to his work (25 minutes west) and then back to my home (10 minutes east) that comes to about 50 minutes of actual driving, 2x a day. Timewise, it's more like 60 minutes of time 2x a day due to my needing to arrive at least 5 minutes early for each pickup.

At my next oil change, I'll have the mechanic also check all fluids, the air filter, battery, brakes, belts, air pressure and anything else he thinks could "go."

This past month I made four separate batches of hypertufa planters in various shapes and sizes. All have been curing in the garage, and when I think of it, I spritz them with water to facilitate a "slow" cure, which results on strong, more durable pots. So my first batch is about done curing after 3 weeks time. It's now time to put them outside and keep them filled with fresh water for at least 3 days, to leach out lime that could harm plants. After that, they will be ready to plant! can't wait to see what they look like.