Weather has been less than optimal but we still got a lot done.

May 22, 2016

We got hail this week but most of the plants seemed to do all right despite the pounding. Most of my plants are somewhat protected in containers, so damage was minimal.  We are sort of behind the power curve on planting the garden but so far that is not a bad thing as the weather has been a bit wonky this year.  So far the plants  seem to be doing well and my focus has been adding in grass, making my pathways and a backyard that works for me and Mom.  Mom and I are doing a lot of basic yard maint. and cleaning up the grape vines has been a challenge this year since I let them get over grown along with the lilacs and a couple of or bushes. We got a lot of of the overgrown stuff cut back but we still have a lot of work to do on cutting back the grape vines.  I’m a little behind on putting the garden and it is rainy so rototilling the soil is just not on until the soil dries a bit. I’m adding a new bed to the front yard for edible flowers and annuls that just add a bit of color. The flower bed will be done in red landscape timbers to sort of fit the “craftsman home” effect.

True Value hardware is having a great sale for most of the things I need. I’m buying up Semi-gloss paint for the house as that makes the walls easy to clean and they have tarps on sale that will finish up protecting the wood pile from rain yet the tarps can be folded up to let the wood pile dry. The wood overhead cover is rotting and boards that support the roof are warping big time.  Two more tarps will cover the firewood and I can start cutting out the the bad roof over the wood pile.  I will be able to afford enough paint to cover most of the house with colors that work with a Craftsman type house.

I just bought a 10 gallon air compressor/oil type from Harbor Freight and a basic tool set up. This air compressor should be a large enough for most basic jobs around the house. I bought a small paint spray gun for paint but until I test it, I’m not sure about trusting it despite the reviews.

Mom always see what has not been done. I see how much we have got done.  Actually Mom gets down on herself for not doing more around the place. I think she is outstanding in her work cleaning up the grape vines and helping me trim up trees and bushes.  I suppose it goes back to her being a recovering Catholic.  It’s guilt imposed via childhood. I see the glass always full, It just might be full of air which is not helpful at times. I think we are doing great! The little “Casa de Chaos” got a new roof, a lot of work on the yard.  Hell we can run my washer without running a garden hose to the shower. We have grass for the dogs and great paths that are a pleasure to walk rather than uneven dirt that could twist an ankle of knee. I think we are doing pretty well over all.


Sod is finished Huzzah!

May 5, 2016

This is the before and after on the sod project. The rest of the grassy areas will be done with grass seed. One mistake I made with the grass seed was not keeping the ground wet. I’m now watering the grass seed areas daily and it has helped get the new grass areas started growing. I will be using landscape timbers as a border on the right and at the rock entry area at the back gate. The last job will be adding in more mulch on the right  and that should keep down the weeds and break down to add organic material to the dirt.

Mom did a great job on cleaning up the grape vines and the alley way. Now I can add the sedums, plant the sunflowers and add more mulch to keep down the weeds and hopefully the new plants will start choking out the weeds. Just killing or pulling weeds is not enough if you want to have good soil and growing spaces. You got to help mama nature by replacing the weeds with good plants.

Now that we have the backyard mostly finish mom and I can concentrate on the garden area.


I started laying out the sod

May 4, 2016

Laying out sod isn’t cheap but it seems to be a good choice for the small area I want grass for the doggies. The area I’m laying the sod is 30 feet by 12 feet so about 20 rolls of sod is enough to cover the area.  I laid out 12 rolls of sod today and another 8 rolls should finish up the job. The other areas along the borders I have planted grass seed and while slower, it is also a lot easier on the budget. Prepping/building up your soil is critical for both grass seed and sod along with keeping the ground, grass seed and sod damp so the grass can take hold and put down good roots.  The internet has great info about how to lay out sod as well as calculating the cost. You will get sod for about 30 cents per square foot and if you have poor soil figure about 30 cents per square foot to improve the soil. 65 -75 cents per square foot is a good guesstimate for the cost of sod but if you have time for growing grass from seed you can half that cost.  Of course if you buy sod in bulk you will probably get a better price.  If you have someone else install the sod you should double the price because of labor.  I think most people could handle laying sod as a DIY project and save some money at least if you want to sod a small area and not a whole yard.

For grass seed or sod you will need to prepare the soil.  A de-thatching rake is perfect for cutting into bare dirt to make it easier for the grass to put down roots.  Also a de-thatching rake is great for keeping a lawn healthy.  I’m adding a lot of top soil as well as some Steer manure/compost mix to augment the clay soil I have in the backyard. Mom’s chickens are doing a great job turning over the compost pile, but I’m still learning the best way to incorporate the compost in my yard work and building the soil. If you decide on sod, lay out the rolls off set sort of like tile so the “seams” of the sod are not all parallel or you will get gaps.  Plan your yard to make all yard work as easy and quick as possible while being inviting.  Using mulch and rock to block weeds, creating borders and paths ways will stop you from creating bad/dead areas in your lawn plus cut down on weeding or using a weed wacker around trees that may cut into the trunk and give an opening to bad bugs. While I’m cheating by adding sod for a quick lawn area I’m also looking at what the yard will look like in the future as well as how functional it is for ease of work.

A few things I noticed about laying out sod. The dogs love having the grassy area and have not done as much digging where I have planted grass seed in other areas. By adding mulch and now the sod we have several nice soft areas that are a pleasure to walk on and will help cushion falls. This is a great thing considering my handicap and works well for anyone with weak bones.  A big plus for me is I’m leveling my backyard and no longer fear twisting an ankle then falling down on hard soil or concrete paths. Mulch paths help retain water and healthy grass will help a lot blocking any weed growth.  Healthy plant growth really cuts down on the mud the dogs bring in. Last winter was a nightmare of mud because I had so much bare ground. Gosh if I had kids it would have ten times worse.

One last thing. If you have a clay soil don’t add sand for drainage as you will make a terrible concrete. Add organic material such as a wood mulch or compost. This is a slower method but after the mulch/compost breaks down over the winter you will have better soil for plants and or a garden.  Using sand for leveling if building a stone wall, deck or garden bed borders is okay. Building good soil can take years depending on your dirt.  Remember if you have lots of weeds your soil is probably missing something. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to experiment with solutions. The solutions may not work but at least you will have learned something practical and not just based on theory.

Don’t be afraid to screw up as that is how you learn. The school of hard knocks may seem a little expensive but it is still a lot cheaper than a college degree and you get to try out both theory and practical applications of your knowledge.

 


Getting bids, Doggie BOBs and local grocery store bought out.

February 19, 2016

I had to get a lead paint survey done for the roofing loan and the people that did the survey were very helpful suggesting cheap ways to mitigate any lead paint chips so my critters would not ingest lead. Casa de Chaos only has a a couple of potential bad spots and it will not affect the work I want to get done via the city loan. Getting bids and doing the research on good contractors takes a lot more effort than I had anticipated. Thank goodness for the internet and computers making emailing the “scope of work” from the city easy to copy and paste. Plus having client ratings for the electrical, plumbing and roofers I’m authorized to get bids on the jobs makes getting the first bids a bit easier to start.  A $10 grand limit loan seems like a lot of money, but anyone who has contracted construction jobs knows that $10 grand won’t get a lot of work done using contractors.

All you construction pros please don’t take that in a bad way. Most of you are professionals and take a lot of pride in your work. Making/repairing homes is hard work and takes time, energy and knowledge I don’t have. You should be paid well for that, I just have to limit the jobs to that little bit of money I can afford to pay.  One cool thing is I may help the city and a couple of local contractors “hook up” with the city doing this sort of repair jobs.  The gal running the program and the building inspector are looking for good contractors for this program.  Overall I think I got in with a good bunch at the City of Nampa as well as people that want work as well want to do a good-great job. This is a program that needs to work and so far the contractors I have contacted are more than willing to work with the city and give bids in order to get the work done. Hopefully everything will work out to everyone’s advantage. The city will get a list of good contractors, I get a low interest loan to take care of my older house’s structural/safety issues. While 100 years is not a lot of time. I like the idea of fixing up historical areas and using modern materials that reproduce an era.

From the water main fiasco I would recommend you ask to see all work permits from the city and refuse to pay the last bit of money to any contractor until the final inspection is done by the city code inspector.  I have no problem giving a contractor 1/3-1/2 of the money on a contract for materials once they get the permit and then paying the rest on city inspector’s okie dokie.  Sorry, construction guys the bad fly-by-night jerks make that a requirement for me. I can’t afford small claims court and the bad guys/ripoff artists will just set up business under a new name when sued. I have to say after getting job bids for my little project I have gained a lot of respect for general  contractors. Getting bids and lining up workers on a time line is not easy.

I’m building up the Doggie’s BOBs. I’m feeding Pedigree soft canned dog food but I’m adding Pedigree soft/wet food pouches to the doggie BOBs to save weight.  Changing any pet’s diet can cause stomach upset so it is best if you have at least a few days worth of their normal feed and a bit more to mix with the “new normal” feed if you have to bug out.  I have added brushes, combs and nail clippers along with some basic bandages and OTC meds to help keep the pets happy and healthy. Leashes and backup collars so the animals will not run off along with enough small kennels/carry boxes that will give the critters a safe place if I need to bug out. I added  a couple of  metal water bottles, I want to get a small Sawyer water filter just for the critters bug out bag.  I am still testing out a few ideas for water and food dishes. I’m looking for a compromise on weight, storage size and ease of cleaning.

Paul’s a local grocery store was just bought out by Albertson’s and I’m a little peeved. I try hard to support local business but I also know most grocery stores operate on razor thin profit margins.  I can’t really blame people going for the cheapest price when money is tight. But Paul’s was sort of like a poor man’s whole foods for buying local. Some good news, I saw a cashier from Paul’s in Nampa get hired by Albertson’s.  I know there will be some downsizing and consolidation but it is nice to know that Albertson’s is giving some of the workers from Paul’s a job.

Mom and and I must get out in the country and at best it will take the rest of 2016 just to get all the equipment and tools we need just to make the attempt of going country.  This is not our first rodeo, we know making a go in Owhyee county will take a lot of work. We are trying to get all of the tools on hand as cheaply as possible before we move. But with Mom’s divorce dragging out I suspect we will need to hang out here in the city for another 10-12 months.

Don’t worry about us as the Casa de Chaos is getting a new roof and a few electrical and plumbing jobs done.  Oh we may hate we that we are stuck here for a bit.  But I got the new hard side green house and a soft side on hand and ready to set up.  I’ll add a 300-500 gallon water tank next month.  While Mom is a bit frustrated about the divorce going into it’s 15th month.

I am working to get Casa de Chaos fixed up and set up for a perma-culture/food forest and ready for the real estate market.  Will it work? I don’t have a clue. but I know doing nothing, won’t work.  If you are  standing still, you are a target at best or tend to get run over at worse. As a wise person said ” Get busy living or get busy dying. Your choice!

 

 

 

 


HUD loan application looks good

January 13, 2016

The gal that helped me with the HUD paperwork said everything looked good.  My income level is low enough for a possible 0% and deferred payments until the home is sold.  I was surprised how quickly the people at the city moved to get all of the paperwork done.  Of course the paperwork will take time to work through the government system.  I suspect that it is difficult to find a low income person that needs major repairs done, but still has a good debt to income ratio and credit rating, it can be very expensive to be poor and in debt. Thankfully I have had time to learn how to live frugally and most of the improvements I have made save me money every month.  I still need to see the loan paperwork and read the fine print before I sign all the loan paperwork as there might be a government “poison pill” that makes the loan unacceptable.  Worse comes to worse, I’ll get a small signature loan from the credit union like I did for the fireplace.  The interest rate will be a lot higher but I won’t lose my house if my income gets cut.

I have been rethinking the idea of getting a used ATV this year. I could buy a used small yard tractor/mower for a lot lower cost and I could use around my house right away.  With the garden wagon attached to the lawn tractor we could move heavy loads but not invest as much cash upfront. Plus a small yard tractor would be useful on the “future farm” until we could afford the used ATV. I might be able to afford a small trailer and install a trailer hitch on the Kia for around a $1000.00 as a short term work around for buying the truck.  Plus it won’t hurt to have a trailer for the farm after I get the used pickup.  For the used 1/2 ton 4×4 pickup I am looking at a cost around $3500.00 for a dependable older vehicle.  It will take time to save up that much cash for the pickup, but once I have the truck I can put it to use right away hauling in rock, soil and other bulky items needed here at Casa de Chaos.

I need to keep adding more solar panels as they go on sale as well as adding some smaller panels and “power packs” that charge small electronics. Here at Casa de Chaos I have made a rule that things that need electrical power must not add to my power bill. So far Solar power seems to be the most practical backup electric power system for my budget.  I don’t think I can power the whole house but I should be able to keep a few lights on and power a small fridge and freezer along with a few small electronic items.

Last but not least I’m reworking the monthly budgets to have a monthly focus/goal. For example January seems to have a good sale on tools and I already got the rigid side greenhouse. February is shaping up for buying soil and planters for the green houses I will need to get the plants started. In March looks like getting the cistern/water tank will be the major purchase for the month.  April will be adding a few dwarf fruit trees and then May is planting the garden.

I consider myself a prepper, but I also seem to have a “homesteader” bent,  that needs to find a spot in the country.  This year I will be gathering the tools, skills and knowledge that will help me when I find a place in the country.  I have been blessed with having enough time to work and programs that have make things possible.  I want to make a small “food forest” on my city lot. Having Mom’s chicken house and run ha shown me how to raise birds.  I have made a lot of mistakes with my raised bed gardens but I have also learned a lot about raising plants. I have learned a lot about making minor repairs around the house and have been getting the right tools for the job.

I am an optimist, and I see how far I have come in the last few years. I’m in good shape on my preps and on most of my finances. I still have a bit of work to do but overall I’m very pleased with my progress.

 

 


Paperwork for the HUD loan collected

January 11, 2016

I got the last of the paperwork needed for the HUD loan finished up today. The loan repayment would be in the $85.00-$100.00 per month if I could not defer the loan until the house sold.  I’m a bit leery about deferring government loans as the compound interest keeps building, that can eat up any profits very quickly.  Since I have used my VA loan for this house, I need to sell at a little profit so I can make a 20% down payment via a conventional loan to eliminate any mortgage insurance cost. Worse case scenario on the loan is my payments for the house will be around $500.00 per month. I can afford that loan cost for housing and I’m about 33% monthly debt to income ratio. At best it will take 2-3 months for the paperwork to go through the bowels of government.  Perhaps in March-July I might have loan approval for fixing/replacing the roof.

I got good news on my credit score getting bumped up to 760 and above for any loans.  It has taken a few years since I got smacked to rock bottom financially speaking when I got disabled.  But I have repaired my credit rating without getting credit cards or going into a lot of debt. I got a small revolving credit account at Les Schwab and got a small personal loan via the Credit Union for the fireplace that I paid on time/paid off a little early. I’m living proof you can rebuild your credit rating without resorting to credit cards or expensive (high interest) loans. Speaking for myself, I suck at using credit cards as it is just to easy for me to rationalize using credit because I need something or it is on sale.  Well if you you can’t pay off the credit bill every month all of your “savings” will get eaten up in compounding interest payments.

Some folks are great at using credit cards. They pay the bill in full monthly before the interest kicks in, they gain all those “bonus points” and savings.  I’m just not that good, as the same idea of getting some thing on sale this month tends to put off paying off the card the next month. If you pay off your card monthly, I say more power to you because I know the credit card companies “hate”  you and would much rather have a credit card user like me that buy on sale and then pay the min. payment so the interest builds.  If you suck at using credit cards like me (rationalizing) buying on sale or making min. payments. I suggest you stay away from those cards.  A Visa or Master Card debit card will do most everything a credit card does, but without going into debt.  For me going to cash and not using a debit card while shopping made me save money.  I am pretty tight with my shopping money but there seems to be a big difference to me sliding a debit card or breaking a $20.00, $50.00 or $100.00 bill. Debit card spending does not feel quite real to me, but busting a $100.00 is very real and I get immediate feed back of what I have just spent.

I don’t think I am a “Juggernaut” but I can be very relentless in attaining a goal I have set for myself.  It may not happen quickly, heck I spent over 18 months waiting for the Kia mini-van to replace the PT cruiser. Over 3 years of planing for installing the wood fireplace. I’m not afraid to spend another year or two here at Casa de Chaos and getting thing fixed up to sell. If the bottom drops out of the real estate market again, at worse I will have a solid home/shelter and a pretty good setup for growing some food to augment my supplies and plenty of water after adding the greenhouses and water cisterns. Plan for the worse and hope for the best is my goal.

Sometimes the best plan is to just sit and not do anything and see how things shake out.

 


Working on loan paperwork, plumbing and a carpet cleaner

January 9, 2016

Things got off to a good start this Friday, first stop was Harbor Freight buying the green house.I was a little surprised that they only had four in stock for the sale. I am glad I got there early as I have missed out on several greenhouses “selling out” before I got to the store.  We now have two walk-in greenhouse though one of the “houses” is one of the cheap plastic over a metal frame type of greenhouse.  The two walk-in greenhouses should give us plenty of space to start plants for the garden this year. This will save us a lot of money compared to buying plant “starts” at the local farm store.

I need to add a four more heavy duty tomato/potato cages for my growing vertical experiment. These cages should also work for any garden out in the alkali/hard pan soil of Owyhee county.  Based on trying to grow stuff on Mom’s first place, it will much easier to start with raised bed gardens and then work the slow process of improving soil naturally.  One of the big reasons I need a pickup and ATV is to haul a lot of compost and mulch around any future homestead. Trying out a few hugel-culture raised beds could be a worthwhile experiment to direct water as well as add more growing spaces.

About the March time frame a 300-500 gallon cistern should be do able. I already have several rain barrels, though my water delivery system needs work.  Now theoretically a 1000-1200 square foot roof should “capture” nearly 3000 gallons of water per year based on average rainfall here in SW Idaho.  The problem is not lack of water, but getting water at the right time and having a way to store it safely until needed. Stagnant pools or ponds are a no-go because of insects breeding and West Nile virus in the area.  The only solution I see is a rain catchment system that can be closed to prevent any insect breeding. Especially since many of the properties I have looked share a well and drilling my own well would break my budget.

That is a start on the food and water problems my homestead will face. By starting small, making effective use of my city lot, I am gaining equipment and skills that will transfer to the new homestead.

I had to fix a leaking bathroom drain. I had installed a “modern” drain and plug, what was needed was old school plumbing.  I still don’t trust the concept of compression fittings, but so far so good. No leaks and I think the old fashion type drain and plug will be much easier to keep clean.

Mom’s Bissel carpet shampooer died but I was able to fix it.  The problem was the water pump stopped working, it seems the belts that move the beater bar also help pump the cleaning solution. Once we cleaned out all of the hair on the pulleys the belts attach the pump started working again.  It seems the hair allowed the belts to slip.  When things break I try and fix them. Since I can’t really break it more, I might as try to fix it. I can always throw it away if I can’t figure out how to fix it.