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Archive for March, 2009

yummy supper

March 26th, 2009 at 06:43 pm

I went out on a limb the other day and tried something I had never tried before. It might be pretty pedestrian for the rest of you, but I was mighty pleased with how it came out.

In a crockpot, I mixed a can of black beans, a can of corn, a small can of mushrooms and a small jar of salsa. I didn't drain any of this, just dumped it all in the crockpot. I mixed it and then added 4 frozen chicken breasts and let it cook on low for 8 hours. When we got home that night, I took the chicken out and shredded it (just took two forks and tore it apart into small pieces) and mixed it back in the crockpot. I cooked some rice (4 servings) and added that to the crockpot and mixed everything up. It turned out kind of soupy, so we ate it in a bowl. I added some sour cream on top of mine, and some shredded cheese. It was very good! We both had two bowls and were stuffed full.

I put the crock pot bowl (I have the kind where the bowl and the heating element are separated, which I would recommend to anyone! Easier to clean) in the refrigerator, and took it out the next night for supper. The rice had soaked up most of the water, so I put it in a pot and added a can of chicken broth and some more salsa and heated it up on the stove. Yummy the second time, too!

So, a cheap, easy meal with enough left over for another full meal (for two). Try it!

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Good news on the ambulance ride from over 3 years ago. I had gone skiing in Feb 2007 and blew out my knee. I had to go on an ambulance 34 miles into Denver. If we had had a car, we could have driven in, but we had gone out on a bus, so we didn't have a car. Anyway, the ambulance had been submitting the claim to BCBS for two years now and they had been denying it. They said I used an out of network ambulance company. The kicker is, BCBS doesn't have any ambulance companies in network in Denver. Bastards. Whenever I bring this up, and ask, "So, when I am on my back on a mountain screaming in pain, am I supposed to call you and see what ambulance I am supposed to use? And what would have you told me?" And then I hang up. Again, bastards.

Anyway, I finally got the bill at the beginning of Feb 2009 (a few days after I got laid off). $1285. What bad timing! I called them and told them I was laid off and even with my salary last year we had lost money on the farm and my AGI was only $18,000 last year. She sent me a "financial aid packet" and I filled it out, but lots of it didn't apply. I finally wrote an explanation and copied my 1040 and lay off letter and sent it back. They are going to only make me pay half. So, we have to scrounge up $642.50 somehow this month. But, that's better than the full amount.

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Finally got the phones switched to Nex-tech. That is going to save us about $25 a month, and it only took about 15 minutes to sell the two phones on the local website. Sold them both for $45. Maybe could have made more, but hey, they are out of here.

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Blizzard is coming tomorrow. We spent the day putting fence around an area we used last year that blocks the wind pretty well. We lined up some bales to help block the wind even more. I hope we don't lose any calves. My dad called yesterday to say we should have 6" of snow and 45 mph winds. He then said he once lost 15 out of 30 calves because they froze to death one year, so I've been in a scared mood for a few days now. I hope it doesn't turn out too bad.

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My mom called about a job in Salina...but it is a secretary's job. Should I apply to that? I am not a secretary. Of course, I could be a secretary, but I'm not. Ugh. I've been so discouraged lately on the job front. I got paid today and I have two more paychecks (so another month) and then the severance pay. I don't know if I should wait it out a bit or take anything. I feel like I shouldn't take something if I know that as soon as something better comes along I am going to bail, but maybe that is what I should do.

My MIL said I should balance checkbooks and pay bills for the little old ladies in town. She said people would pay for a service like that, but I don't know how to get started. I already balance our 4 checkbooks and pay bills for us, and I have a pretty good system set up so I never miss a bill, so I know adding some others wouldn't be a problem. I wonder about the liability of it, though.

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I worked on DH's grandma's computer the other day. It was taking forever to start and forever to shut down. I did a virus scan on it, and nothing. I then started shutting down some of the Dell help things, and that seemed to make a difference. I didn't want to go too far because she wasn't there to tell me what she used and what she didn't, but now I know I can pretty much disable all of it. She paid me $10. Feel kind of funny for taking money for helping family.

Dear Congressman Moran

March 19th, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Congressman Moran,
I just saw that you voted for the 90% tax on the AIG bonuses. Shame on you. The bonuses were lawful, and the stimulus package guaranteed that they could be paid. I was completely against the stimulus package, but I am for following the law. The law said the bonuses were legal, so the AIG employees should not be punished.

You do not have the right to abuse your legislative power by singling out individuals for punishment. You do not have the power to pass ex post facto laws. This is unconstitutional! What were you thinking? I would like to know why you would vote for this unconscionable power grab. As your constituent, please email me and try to explain your vote.

cptacek

Saved a little life

March 13th, 2009 at 10:52 pm

Well, yesterday DH and I had an interesting day. We had a cow that looked like it was going to calve soon because it was off by itself and just looking kind of "squirrely", i.e., not comfortable, getting up and down, and wanting to run off when we came around.

Around 6:30 p.m., the feet started presenting, which meant she should have the calf in an hour or two. We were making her nervous, so we retreated to back by the barn and kind of watched her through the brush. She would push, turn around real fast to see if the calf was out, and then push again. She finally did give birth, and we immediately heard her start bellowing and making a fuss. It didn't sound good. We hopped on the 4-wheeler and raced down to where she was.

Usually, the first thing the cow does is start licking the calf and smelling it, and maybe nudging it with their nose. This cow was butting the calf over and over again with her forehead. At first, it was just little nudges, but then she progressed to the point where we thought she would kill it. DH went over by her and tried to stop her when it got rough, but wanted her to try to lick it so she would claim it. She just wouldn't do it. She would lick maybe once or twice, and then start head butting it again, usually when the calf would start to stand up. The final straw was when she tried to smash it between her head and the ground. We immediately chased her off and grabbed the calf and put it on the 4-wheeler.

We left the pasture on the 4-wheeler and went to get the pickup. We put the calf in the back of the pickup and drove back out. We wanted her to follow us back to the barn, but she would only go as far as she knew the calf had been. It was like she knew she had a calf, but the thing we had wasn't it, and she didn't know where hers was. So, we took it back to the barn. I made up half a bottle of colostrum (special milk that has more vitamins in it to give a new born a better start) and DH put some straw in the pen. The little calf ate most of the bottle, and we left it in the pen for the night.

DH talked to his dad and I talked to my dad about this, because we had never had anything like this happen before. His dad said he had had one like that before but he hadn't caught it in time, and the poor thing died. My dad said he had one like that this year for the first time, and he had to do the same thing...take it away and feed it. But he said that he put the cow into a chute a couple of times a day and had the calf suck for a few days and the cow eventually calmed down and they are doing fine now. So, that is the plan.

Last night around 3:30 a.m., we went out again to check to make sure no other cow needed help, and give the calf another half-bottle of colostrum. The calf ate the milk just fine, she seemed warm enough, and so we left her alone for the rest of the night.

DH went back out around 9:00 this morning, and the cow had come up as close to the barn as it could get. It was like she finally knew where her baby was. So, DH opened the gate and she came in. DH let the calf out, and the cow didn't attack, but the calf didn't know what to do...it never tried to nurse. And they kind of stayed on opposite ends of the pen. He separated them again, and when I went out after lunch we set up the chute (yes, we didn't have it set up yet...) and put the cow in.

We milked her a bit and put it in a bottle to help get the calf sucking. I milked a little less than a pint, and I just have to say...if i had to milk a cow to get milk to drink, I would drink a LOT less milk! Just a pint made my forearms tired, but I got it! My first time to ever milk - like seriously milk. I had been there when someone was milking and they let me try, so I squeezed a few drops out, but this was a lot more than that. (Excuse me while I pat myself on the back.) Got the calf to eat a little of the bottle, and then transferred her over to the cow. After quite a few tries, she eventually got it. The cow was calm but trying to look back at what has happening.

When we let the cow out again, they retreated to opposite ends of the pen again.

Tonight we put her in the chute again, and the calf did better. We didn't have to show her how to latch on this time, but we did have to keep pushing her towards the cow.

When we let them out this time, the calf finally seemed to know who momma was (she thought DH or I was momma for a while) and she started following the cow all over the pen, and the cow hasn't made an aggressive move towards the cow all day. We have them penned up together tonight, and if we see the little calf nurse tomorrow by itself without us helping, we are going to consider them reconciled.

Changing life insurance companies

March 11th, 2009 at 12:53 pm

We got a phone call the other day from our Farm Bureau guy about the life insurance. We are currently paying $86.22 for a $50,000 term life policy + $50,000 whole life policy. The whole life policy is worth about $1300 now if we surrender it. This is the guy who almost talked us into dramatically upping to a variable universal life insurance policy. In fact, we signed the papers, but I pulled back the next day:
http://www.savingadvice.com/forums/investing-banking/35137-did-i-make-big-mistake-vul.html

Well, he must have somehow found out we were looking at a different life insurance policy, because he was pressuring us again. I told him, "I want a quote for a $300,000 policy. We found one for $50 a month, can you beat that? If not, we are switching" He said he could find a $300,000 policy for 15 years for about $50, but for 30 years it would be more like $80. But, there would be a discount on our other insurance (5% a year). I told him to give us some estimates and I'd have to figure out if the 5% a year balanced out in our favor.

The one we found through Prudential was $300,000 for 30 years for $50ish a month, so it might have been close, but I just got a phone call today that said that DH qualified for a discounted rate, and it would be $30ish a month for 30 years! Saving us over $50 a month for triple the coverage.

The process of switching has been a real pain in the patootie, but worth it.

changing cell phone companies

March 10th, 2009 at 01:14 pm

We just got a flyer in the mail offering to switch to Nex-Tech Wireless. They are affiliated with Sprint, but are the more "rural" option. They offered 2 lines for $49.99 (plus taxes and fees, of course), 3000 minutes and 1000 text messages a month, and "nights and weekends" starting at 6:00 p.m. They are also going to pay us $200 per phone that we switch so we can cancel our current phones.

Currently, we are paying $59.99 for one phone, $9.99 for an additional phone, and $5.99 for unlimited text messages, so $75.97 plus taxes and fees.

Also, other people around here LOVE the Nex-Tech coverage...it follows you through hill and dale, over the river and through the woods...ok, no woods here, but anyway, people are happy about the coverage. Alltel can be, um, spotty.

So, next time we go to Russell, we'll be switching. Saving $25 a month and getting better coverage! Yeah!

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Well, I figured out what to spend the rest of the refund on: farm stuff. What else, right? We got distillers grain for the cows (about $1300) and we are going to buy enough mineral to last all summer and fall (another $1200-$1300). DH also wants to buy another water pump for the well because the one we are using is his dad's and we need to give it back to him. We also need a head gate so we can work our cows and also help them give birth if they need it right there instead of having to load them up and take them to the neighbor. The head gate might be like $1000 (we are looking at one a neighbor has, and we don't know how proud he is of it yet) and the water pump would be $500-$600? It is so never ending.

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Got the bulls tested yesterday to make sure their semen is good. They will go out to cows in May, so it is a little early, but the vet had a special where they test them, treat them for lice and flies, and vaccinate them, all for $35 a piece. They called it Bull-O-Rama and they had seed stock sellers with booths there, and provided lunch. A yummy green bean and dumpling soup in bread bowls. So good, I had two bowls! We took 5 bulls in (4 of ours and one for a neighbor). They were all good, ready to breed this summer. You may be wondering how they get the semen? Well, maybe you aren't wondering. If you want to know, highlight the next portion. They put a probe into their rectum and it has a slight electric buzz to it, which apparently, the bulls like, because it makes them ejaculate. The vet has a cup on the end of a pvc pipe that he put a plastic sleeve in (it looks like a condom) and he catches the ejaculate. He then puts it under a microscope to see if there is sperm moving.

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Having to send back some ear tags...we ordered them online and we wanted the calf tags. We ordered medium, but those are for sheep and pigs, not calves. We opened one package, and they wont' take those back, but we can return 3 others and trade them for the larges. Plus another $3 a piece. But at least we don't have to eat them! Have to get that to the post office today.

teaching?

March 7th, 2009 at 09:19 pm

My brother put something silly into my head tonight, and I can't seem to shake it. He said I should become the high school math teacher at his school because the one that is there now is just a long term sub and she isn't that good (that's putting it mildly, in fact). I have a master's in math, and I actually did all the classes to get my teaching degree except student teach my senior year in undergrad. I decided I didn't want to have to put up with whiney kids, and I had to choose between one math class I needed and student teaching, and I chose Real Analysis.

I have helped 5 sisters through math class (high school and college level) over the phone, and they say I explain it very well and they get it when I explain how to do it. But, of course, that is one-on-one, not to a group of 15 kids. (The school is very small, so there would probably be at most 15 kids in each class.) I know Kansas has a program where you can become a teacher and take some classes on the side until you get your teaching certificate, so I don't know if I would do that or contact my old college to see if my old credits would still be valid. I also was a TA in college, and my kids seemed to get it, and they did like me. Of course, that seems like ages ago.

Problem, though, is if I leave the IT world, my skills will go stale. But, if I am a teacher, I could coach and I would have summers off to help DH on the farm. Salary would be low for what I was used to, but actually pretty good for the immediate vicinity, although I can't find the salary schedules. Oh, I don't know. Probably a stupid idea.

It's been awhile

March 5th, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Well, I just realized the last time I blogged was Jan 31. A lot has happened in the past month.

I got laid off on Feb 9. Because there were 2300 people laid off the Friday before (I got laid off on Monday because I didn't work on Fridays) we are technically still employed for 2 months...we just don't have to show up. I will get paid my normal salary until April, with my last normal paycheck on April 23. The next week, April 30, we will get our severance pay. I'll get 4 weeks of severance pay (the minimum they were giving, although I'd been there 8 years. I had hoped for 8 weeks) and 3 weeks of vacation that I hadn't used.

We sold calves on Feb 10, and really got a good price for them. We had 42 of our own to sell and 27 that we had with Dad (so only get 1/3 of them). The calves looked great. DH had been feeding them grain, hay and distillers grain (which has lots of protein) and they looked slick! We had a pen of 9 that averaged 833 pounds, and in my humble opinion, were the best looking ones in the whole sale. We had some very big, good looking heifers and steers, and the owner of the sale barn even stopped the sale to point out how good they looked. That added a few dollars to the price per hundred! Even though we had to truck them about 50 miles (instead of going to the sale barn 15 miles away) it was so worth it.

That money came in just in time. From that, we paid the swather payment ($12,318), the cattle loan ($6070) and the line of credit ($12,827). We paid for the protein tubs ($400), the Coop bill ($1554) and sent $1150 to the credit card.

We were denied our cattle loan from the bank I have been using. We thought the lay off was coming, and had hoped to get this loan done before that happened, but we got denied. Instead, we went to the bank DH has used all his life, and even though I am laid off, we still got the loan. So, the week after the layoff, we bought 41 more cows and 19 more heifers. That means we are up to 123 cows that were VERY pregnant. We consolidated all of our farm loans into one loan with this bank, and dropped our interest rate from 7.75% to 6.5%. We also changed the loan payments from one in April, one in October and one in November to only one bigger one in February.

That means our big payments this coming year are:
$9,900 in June (land)
$2,500 in August (land)
$9,900 in December (land)
$25,000 in February 2010 (cattle, tractor, baler, etc)
$12,318 in March 2010 (swather)

We got our taxes done and don't have to pay any income taxes. That means we are getting back $13,399 in federal and $4,485 for state. I know, I know, that is horrible. I had no idea we would have so much depreciation and expenses. It turns out my plan would have worked this year, to transfer money from the IRA to a Roth IRA and not have to pay any income tax on it...the perfect plan had I thought of it in 2008, not in January 2009. This year, I am so going to do that, if it take $5000 a year to get it moved over.

I am going to save $12,400 of the refund for the next two big payments, which leaves $5484. I don't know what to do with that. Save it, because my paychecks end in two months? Pay the credit card and use the card later if I can't find a job? Still deciding on that.

Speaking of credit cards, the one I have been concentrating on is down to $7173 at 9.24%. I transferred $2000 from the highest rate card (13.24%) to a 0% interest card (that is the limit), and have another at 9.99%. I have called them every couple of weeks to see if they can drop the rate, and they say no. But I have one card that is offering 11.24%, no balance transfer fee, and I have a $22000 limit, and the 9.99% card is offering either 1% interest for 6 months or 6% interest for 2 years on transfers, but I only have $4000 of room on that card. My plan is to transfer all of the 9.99% card to the 11.24% card and then, once that is complete, transfer all the 13.24% card to the 6% card. Lots of gyrations, but worth it.

Still plugging away at the $7173 card. I just decided, right now, to transfer another $200 that was left over from the calf check (which puts me down to $52 in that account, but we shouldn't be using that account for anything. Leaving the buffer there in case DH forgets) I also just balanced my gas-and-food checkbook and have $218.68 left over from last pay period that needs to go on it. I would do it now, but the website is down.

The week after I got laid off, I got the bill for my skiing accident two years ago. $1200 ish. I called the ambulance company and asked if they would settle for anything less and that I had just gotten laid off. They sent me paperwork to fill out and I'm going to send in my 1040 as well as what they requested so they can see that we only had $18,000 in AGI last year.

So what have I been doing for the past month? Helping cows calve. To quote Prissy in Gone With the Wind, "Ah doan know nuthin' 'bout bringin' babies" but let me tell you, I'm learning. I have learned that looking across the pasture at a cow with her tail up does not necessarily mean she is in labor. It could mean she is pooping. But, if she holds it out at a funny angle and gets up and down repeatedly and is away from other cows, it means the baby is coming. We have been giving them a few hours at that point, and most of them have the calves within an hour without our help. We have had two we have had to help. One was last Sunday. The calves are supposed to come out front feet first, with the head resting on the upper arms, like Superman flying. But this calf had one foot sticking out the back and the head and other foot down in the cow's abdomen with the head twisted. DH had to push the calf back in and get the bottom leg back up and the head twisted back around, and we finally got it out. Poor thing had died before it was born, though. We had a calf that I had been bottle feeding (because it's mother didn't have enough milk for it), so we went and got that calf and got the scent of the dead calf on it and put it up to the mother and the mother thought it was hers. So, I don't have to bottle feed that calf any more because it has a new mom now.

The second one we have had to help was tonight. I had noticed it away from the herd around 3:30 and by 7:00 it hadn't had it yet, so we got it in and in the chute and DH reached in to see what was going on. It was coming backwards...the back feet were in the birth canal. So, he started pulling, and the only problem was that the cow would push, the feet would come out, but then it would slip back in and she couldn't make any progress. So, he really just had to hold the feet so it wouldn't slip back in and she did the rest of the work. The calf was born alive and tried to get up about a minute after it was born. It should be fine. Kind of icky right then (all slimy and wet), but they are so cute the next day.

We are putting ear tags in them right away and moving them to different pastures within a few days. That way we can keep track of the ones that have not calved yet and give them extra attention. The oldest cows and the heifers are in a pasture where DH can feed them extra protein, and the middle aged cows are in a different pasture where they get the kind of standard amount of protein. So, after a few days, we go catch the calves with a 4-wheeler and a trailer, DH holds the calves, I drive, and the cow follows. Works pretty well, except we have a few cows that we won't try that with, or she will end up on the trailer with DH!

So, I have been very busy helping DH. But, I know I have to find another job. That is frustrating. As I've said before, nothing around here. I got an offer for $17 an hour, (before I was making $45), and had another interview that I didn't get. I don't know what I am going to do, but I have to get something. I love being around here and around DH all the time, but that just won't work money wise.

Oh shoot, I was going to call a cousin of mine tonight that has a dairy to see if he has any baby calves for sale. I think I am going to buy about 10 calves to bottle feed. If we bottle feed them for about a month (morning and night), we can then put them on "milk pellets" and then grain, and in about 6 months, sell them at around 500 pounds. If I don't get a job for a month, I will have them on grain and DH can handle that (he said I can do it, but the bottle feeding will be my responsibility). If I get a job right away, we can just sell them. I'll try to remember to call him tomorrow.

Last thing, our puppy got hurt a few weeks ago. He fell out of the back of the pickup and broke his leg. The vet told us he needed surgery to put a pin in, and for $1000 he would do the surgery, the recovery, and then after a month take the pin back out. That is lots of money I swore I would never pay for a dog, but we did it. He has been at the vet's for over a week now, and we saw him today. Everyone at the vet loves him, and whenever anyone goes in the room he is in, his tail wags and wags. I got to walk him for a few minutes today. The pin goes out his leg and out his rump, and it is really weird. The skin and muscles are not tight around the pin, so it looks like he has a hole in his butt cheek. They said they will evaluate him on Saturday and we might be able to bring him home, but he won't be able to do anything except stay in the back room and lay down. Only go outside to "evacuate" (i.e., relieve himself). After a month, the pin comes out, and a few weeks after that, he should be able to start running.

I'll try to keep the blogging thing up more, but man, this farming thing is exhausting! I also think I haven't blogged because I was embarrassed about being laid off. But, that is water under the bridge, now, and I can't feel bad about it. Just get back up on my feet and move forward!