Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Football... :Maybe a bit irreverant: ...

Today is the day! The Nebraska Cornhuskers will show us what they're made of when they play Arizona tonite in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. The Huskers beat Kansas State to get the honor (?) of getting beat by Texas the following week. One of my cousins from Kansas (a K-State grad) was especially nasty prior to the NU/KSU game but was strangely quiet after we beat them. Jealousy is an ugly emotion! My son-in-law is a Texas fan (something wrong with that!). My daughter is still looking for a "House Divided" shirt (NU & Texas).

Tonight we will gather with friends in front of a big screen TV and pay homage to our beloved Huskers. Food will be brought as a sacrifice to THE BIG RED (I'm bringing my "famous" chicken wings). A baptism of sorts will be held as beer & other adult beverages are drunk. And we'll bring our foam brick with GO BIG RED written on it that we throw at the TV when the refs make a bad call. We're pretty sure that every ref in the Big 12 hates the Huskers! Blast!

The Huskers made a great comeback with Coach Bo Pelini & his staff. I guess BO does know football! This should be a fun game to watch! Last year the Huskers played in the Gator Bowl. Who knows? Maybe next year we can get to one of the "good" bowl games. Did you know there are something like 34 bowl games?

Seems like everyone wants their name splashed across the screen & on shirts & hats. Brut Sun Bowl, Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Outback Bowl, Capital One Bowl...the list goes on. Do you remember the bit Larry the Cable Guy did about Nascar sponsors?? Who wouldn't want to wear a shirt with KOTEX BOWL in big letters across the chest?

At any rate... GO BIG RED!!!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Healthcare Reform?

I posted this back in February but thought in light of all the fuss about healthcare reform I would post this again!

My husband found this little article in the February 1947 edition of The Reader's Digest. I thought it was very interesting & worth passing along - considering this article was written more than 60 years ago! Almost Prophetic!

Michael Wright in Better Homes & Gardens

This is how it is in Britain. The doctor got back to his office just at two o'clock. "How many?" he said to his nurse.
Casually, he put on his white jacket and poked his head into the waiting room where the 40 patients sat. "Will those of you troubled with headache please stand," he said.
Six stood. The doctor took identical printed prescriptions out of his desk and handed one to each of the six and dismissed them.
Then he said, "Will those of you troubled with a cough please stand." Another group got up, and again he handed them printed prescriptions and dismissed them.
The others he took one by one into his private office for a few minutes. Two hours later the office was empty, the 40 patients gone. This was an average of three minutes to a patient.
And that, Dr. Edward H. Ochsner of Chicago testified at the recent Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill hearings in Washington, is how it is with socialized medicine in Britain.
In Germany, where they also had a compulsory system, some doctors did even better - 30 to 40 patients in one hour.
This is how most doctors believe it will be here in America if our own womb-to-tomb compulsory health scheme becomes law.

Something to think about........

Do Unto Others

The BIBLE says we are to do unto others as we would have others do unto us! And as ye have done to the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Twenty-five years ago, in the fall and winter of 1984, I lived in Corona (Queens), New York. I was married and had a baby. The marriage was not good. The husband was rarely home (he was working, he said), leaving me alone with the baby in that horrible apartment in the basement of a house with no phone, no car, no money, no friends. The entrance to the apartment was thru a "cellar door" at the bottom of crumbling cement stairs. Shortly after we moved into the dungeon I decided that I could not stay in this dark, depressing, dingy basement day after day and I ventured out with the baby in a stroller. We would walk, at first, just around the block - then two blocks, then three. One day we happened across a small storefront - a deli. It was chilly & I basically stopped there to warm up a bit. The store owner, Lola, was a friendly black lady who welcomed me into her shop & gave me a bit of a break - playing with the baby, rocking the baby, and talking to me. She fed me, never asking for payment as she knew I had no money - but would say, "Honey, don't you worry about it, just bring me some money when you get it." Walking to Miss Lola's deli became a daily routine. We got to know each other - mostly she got to know me as I was always whining about being "deserted" and "neglected". Once it began snowing my visits to Miss Lola's shop became few & far between. I missed being able to talk with her. One afternoon, late in the day - two weeks before Christmas - there was a knock on my door. I opened the door to an older black gentleman who resembled Morgan Freeman, dressed in a black three-piece suit, complete with hat - holding a large box filled with groceries. He told me that Miss Lola told him she thought I could use it! I was, needless to say, reduced to tears! I was overwhelmed by the kindness of people I barely knew. Two weeks later the baby & I were on a plane back to the midwest.

I tell you all that to tell you this.

We have a friend, Hal, who helped get our woodstove up & running. By most people's standards, has nothing. He is building a yurt-type home from recycled & reclaimed lumber, trees he's cut & hand-peeled himself, rock he's collected & stacked for a chimney. He has been living in a stripped down RV, heating it with a woodstove, bathing in the creek. He doesn't have a driver's license so he is dependent on others to pick him up to go places. By now the creek is frozen - no more baths. He's moved into the unfinished home he's built - the small woodstove can barely keep it warm (he said he woke up a couple mornings to 25 degrees inside!). His pantry doesn't seem to have much in it; his dog was so thin I could see her ribs. I told Jerry about my experience in New York and we decided that we would repay the kindness I had received by extending the same kindness to Hal. We have given him leftover building materials that were taking up space in our storage unit, brought him gas for his generator, shared food from our own pantry and bought his dog a couple bags of dogfood. He is so grateful for what he has - which is not much - and believes that everything he does have is a blessing from God.

Being able to bless him with our abundance has blessed us tremendously. Hal was the recipient of our Christmas giving this year! We are fortunate to know him & have learned so much from him. We pray that God will richly bless him in the New Year.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Living life off the grid... little inconveniences

Living off the grid!! We talked about it, planned for it, built it, and are living it. As so many of the people we know in our neck of the woods, we have embraced living off the grid. There are LOTS of perks to this lifestyle: no utility bills being one of the biggest, the satisfaction of being somewhat self-sufficient, the beauty of nature & wildlife, not having neighbors so close we can hear their toilet flush.

Some folks we know have a romanticized idea of what living off the grid means. Communing with nature, beautiful sunrises & sunsets, growing a garden, etc. What they don't realize is how much work goes into living off the grid!!

We don't have a well nor do we have a cistern. Neither do we have any kind of indoor plumbing! We have 55 gallon barrels that we haul our water in along with a couple 5 gallon water cans & gallon jugs. Water is subject to freezing in these temperatures. In a previous post I mentioned chopping ice in one water barrel to get to the water! Water is heated on the propane stove or woodstove. Either of these options depends upon whether or not we have an abundance of propane or wood!

After doing dishes the water is drained into a 5 gallon bucket which is then recycled by using it to water flowers & garden plants. During winter months the grey water goes into a 55 gallon barrel to be used at a later date.

We don't have a water heater - except for the stoves. Our kitchen stove is propane - but we cannot yet afford to have a big tank delivered let alone filled, so we use a small propane tank like the ones one would use on a BBQ grill. Once we get a larger propane tank we plan to get an on-demand water heater. A "bread box" water heater is also an option.

We are currently using a "camp" toilet. A composting toilet is on the list of things to buy in the coming year. We had a couple large pits dug - one for a septic system - but again, the cost was pretty prohibitive. Luckily we have other alternatives for disposing of black water.

We don't have a shower... we go to the community center to tend to our personal hygiene. Once we get the propane & indoor plumbing situation remedied a shower will be high on the list of things to do!

We have a 2 acre lot that is heavily treed with dead-standing aspen & pine... but it's about 25 miles away. The exercise & fresh air we get when we go out to cut wood is certainly good for us... but it takes nearly an entire day to go out, cut the wood into 5 foot pieces, load it on the trailer, haul it back to the cabin, then cut & stack it. Again - great exercise - but certainly not as easy as flipping a switch for heat!

We have a generator for back up power - if, for instance, the sun doesn't shine enough to charge our batteries.

Our lot is very rocky and very sandy. Our only attempts at gardening has been in large pots. We have a sneaking suspicion that the ground is hard enough that it would probably destroy a roto-tiller. As mentioned in another post, we'd like to build onto the cabin a garden room with raised beds, rain barrels & maybe a small garden pond (Jerry likes fish!).

Wildlife is always a concern - especially if one has pets or small livestock. We've been visited by bear and mountain lion (or bobcat - not sure which). Porcupine & badgers live nearby. Deer and elk are garden hazards. Guns are optional, but sometimes can be a very necessary part of wilderness living.

The things I've listed are just a few of what call "little inconveniences" of living off the grid. But lots of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears also go into an off the grid lifestyle. Any other folks out there who live off the grid or would like to? I'd love to hear about your experiences!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Recycling Christmas

The theme is still Christmas... hopefully this will be the last time I post about Christmas. This year - living in two homes in two states - I did not decorate for Christmas. Well, that's not entirely true. At the cabin there is a pinon tree less than five feet from the front deck and on Thanksgiving morning in 20 degree weather (the sun was shining & the wind was NOT blowing for a change) I decorated the lower five feet of the tree while still in my pajamas! My boxes of decorations were at the house in Nebraska - along with my skinny Christmas tree. Even tho' we were at the Nebraska house four days before Christmas I decided I wasn't decorating the tree, hanging lights, getting out Mr. & Mrs. Santa or even hanging a wreath! The house here is completely unadorned for the holiday.

Today we went to WalMart to pick up groceries. Customer service was packed with people returning or exchanging things I can only presume they had either purchased or received for Christmas. Wrong size. Wrong color. What was the person thinking who bought this! I was thankful that I was not in line as I tend to get a bit testy when I'm not "next" in line!

My biggest gripe about Christmas is that SO many have made Christmas about giving and getting gifts... not about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. I know, I know! Giving & getting gifts is not a new development - I just find it distressing when I see how many gifts people buy, the money that is spent, the interest that accumulates on the credit cards. For the past few years Jerry & I have not purchased many Christmas gifts. We have seven kids between us, six of whom have spouses or significant others AND fourteen (14) grandkids - not to mention our siblings & parents! The first year we didn't buy Christmas gifts for them we felt a twinge of guilt - but oh! the money we saved! Our kids are old enough to understand our reasoning & we've always been a family who relishes in the time we get to spend together since there are lots of family gatherings that not everyone can attend due to jobs. Our family gatherings are usually spent eating, playing cards or board games, eating some more, watching football, then eating the leftovers. We don't need gifts when we have the gift of time & fellowship.

We have friends who buy tons of gifts & spend loads of money on those gifts. We visited those friends before Christmas - gifts piled three or four high all around the tree and spilling out into the area that should be reserved for walking! We were also the recipients of their gifting...lovely gifts all of them but there was no need for them to spend the money they did.

Last year our group of friends had a frugal Christmas! We regifted items that we'd received (wrong color / wrong size / what was the person thinking who bought this). It was fun and frugal!! The year before I asked my sister-in-law what she would like for Christmas - listing a few things that I was going to otherwise give to Goodwill - and gave her some things she needed & she was quite happy with them! Our kids have also received such "gifts". Things they can use, things I no longer need - all in good condition just no longer needed!

This Christmas, the best gift I received was simply the feeling that I helped make a difference in someone else's Christmas by helping my church family deliver Christmas gift boxes (food for Christmas dinner) and caroling at area assisted living & nursing homes. I was blessed beyond measure!

So... is this wrong? Am I just being cheap? Or is this possibly something others wished they had the moxie to do? We recycle glass, paper, aluminum cans... why not "recycle" gifts that were not to our liking? Look in the back of your closets, in the attic and basement. See what gifts you've stashed away that are gathering dust. No more Black Friday... no more day after Christmas shopping.

I dare you!

It's CHRISTmas Morning!!!!

This morning I woke up early, made a pot of coffee, popped a PopTart in the toaster, let Skeeter out... er, at least I tried to. There was a huge drift in front of the door to the backyard which made it impossible to open so he had to go out the front door. By the time Skeeter went out & came back in my PopTart was done...not exactly the kind of Christmas morning breakfasts I've been used to (mom's Swedish pancakes). I poured a steaming cup & sat down to have a little one-on-one time with God.

The snow is beautiful... not as beautiful as it is at our place in the mountains. One thing I noticed when it snowed at the cabin - especially at night - was that the reflection of the moon made the snow sparkle like the ground was scattered with diamonds! You just don't get that kind of eye-candy in the city with all the street lights. Jerry is outside shoveling the sidewalk... something he doesn't have to do at the cabin and doesn't miss doing! I don't know how much snow there is in the yard - looks like more than a foot - it's deep enough that Skeeter's belly drags in the snow - and he's a BIG dog! And it's still snowing.

Yes, it's CHRISTmas morning... but without kids here, it's another morning. I opened my laptop, signed on to my email, Facebook and my blog, then flipped on the television hoping for something inspiring for CHRISTmas morning. What I found was someone talking about the Twelve Days of Christmas. Here's a link that will enlighten you as to what that song is REALLY about!

I should call my daughter in North Carolina & find out what the little girls thought of their Christmas gifts. My boys will be here in a few hours to open a couple gifts then we're having Christmas dinner at the home of friends. I suppose I should let Skeeter back in and get ready for our day!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry CHRISTmas from the Cabin!!!!

Merry CHRISTmas everyone.

We've been busy at the cabin... not as busy as we should be - we have lots of 8" aspen tongue & groove & drywall that's begging to be put up in the living room. I'm not sure why we didn't finish it. Now it's COLD & the generator doesn't really want to run in below freezing temperatures but we have to run the generator so we can use the power tools.

We've taken a "vacation" from the cabin - coming back to Nebraska to spend Christmas & New Years with our family & friends. Strangely enough, since we arrived here on Monday night, the weather at the cabin is nicer than it is here.

WATER: As I probably mentioned at some point, we haul our water in 55 gallon barrels. As you can well imagine - the water has frozen. We also get water from an artesian well that's along the highway - collected in one and five gallon jugs. I use the water in the one gallon jugs for cooking/making hot drinks and the water from the 5 gallon jugs for washing dishes. Dishwater has to be heated up on the stove and is currently drained out of the sink into a 5 gallon bucket... and the gray water is then recycled, used for plants & such. Anyway, a couple weeks ago we had run out of water from the artesian well and there were dishes that needed to be washed. What's a girl to do? I took my 4-cup measuring cup, the big tea kettle & a stew pot out to the barrel and with hatchet in hand, started hacking away at the ice in one barrel. By the time I was done I had a hole about 10 inches across and 6 inches deep, 2 inches of ice chips on top... but I DID reach water. Icy water! I scooped water & ice out of the barrel with the measuring cup into the tea kettle & stew pot, put them on the stove to heat & decided to fill another pot for good measure. It's not the way I'd prefer to get water, but one does what one must!

WEATHER: We've been fortunate to have "decent" weather so far this winter. What does that mean? Well, I guess it means even though the overnight temperatures are below freezing and sometimes just below zero, but our woodstove keeps things pretty warm. We don't have an adjustable damper so the damper is either open or closed. We've learned to wear layers and have several blankets & quilts on our bed. We normally get the temperature between 60 - 65 degrees before we go to bed. We then take turns (whoever happens to wake up first) going downstairs to put more wood on the fire. I usually wake up when my nose gets cold! Most mornings the temperature inside is between 40-45 degrees. I know a lot of people would not think that acceptable, but quite frankly, we like sleeping in cooler temperatures & we don't find it so bad. Lower than 40 degrees - we don't like so much!

WIND: Typically the wind comes from the southwest where we live. Our cabin is built on piers and there is currently no skirting around the bottom of the cabin so the wind blows underneath the cabin. The floor is not yet insulated, nor does it have carpet yet so the floors are VERY cold and the cold seems to fill the space. I'm not sure what the wind velocity (is that right?) is but it sounds like it's about 50 mph most of the time. Because the cabin is two stories (Jerry says it's a story & a half) and stands just above the tops of the pinon trees, the wind hits the south and west sides of the cabin with full force. It's a bit un-nerving because it has a tendency to make the cabin shake a bit. We had a couple days where the wind blew like that - all day and all night. A little bit goes a long way! After listening to the wind howl and pound the cabin for hours one starts to get a bit nervous, crabby, antsy, and a lot of other things. My philosophy is that the wind is just one of many nuances of the Valley and we should embrace it - literally! Even if the wind doesn't blow 24/7, we really need to consider harnessing the power that it would generate.

WOOD: We've gone thru quite a bit of wood. We've discovered that the wood that is split burns much quicker than wood that has not been split. Unfortunately, we have quite a bit of split wood. We also have discovered that pinon burns HOTTER than pine or aspen. We're hoping to get a cord of pinon delivered after the first of the year.

WILDLIFE: With elk & deer season over, we've noticed an abundance of deer on the roads and in the sagebrush. We've only seen a few deer on our place. Jerry thinks that Skeeter is keeping them at bay. Skeeter IS a really good early warning system when there's "bad guys" (deer, rabbit, etc.) outside. Twice in the past month he has warned us late at night (okay, it gets dark at 4:30 & by 6:00 it's pitch black outside) that there's something outside. Both times we found the tell-tale signs of who our visitor was. The first was a bear - about 100 yards from our front door; the second was most likely a mountain lion or maybe a bobcat - about 100 feet from our front door. One neighbor told us that someone up the road had lost a dog to a mountain lion so we should be very aware if we have to go out after dark!

The cabin is home! It's where my heart is, where I feel alive, where I feel close to God. I'm looking forward to spring and getting more projects done - the list is long!

My prayer for you is that God will richly bless you this Christmas season and throughout the New Year.