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Archive for February, 2024

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 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 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.