Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Disaster is inevitable. It isn’t a question of if but when. Are you ready? Each of us has the responsibility to prepare as much as possible. I have a week’s worth of food and water stored in my downstairs closet (I use and replace the items before they expire). Plus, I have food and litter for the cats. I have a responsibility to take care of them. They are utterly helpless since they don’t know how to hunt or turn on a faucet. Three days supply is the minimum but I prefer to have at least a week for four people since I may have guests staying at the time.

It is great to coordinate with your neighbors to take care of needs if quarantine would occur. Perhaps one neighbor could serve as the medical resource, another person as the mechanical resource, etcetera. I am fortunate to have two nurses, two “handy” persons, and a computer expert on my block. We know each other’s names and phone numbers. We support each other. It is better to get to know each other when there isn’t a stressful situation occurring. I made certain that I knew my neighbors when I lived in an apartment building, too.

It is important to have items ready for evacuation. I have a go-kit for myself and prepared one for the cats with a litter box, litter, pooper-scooper, plastic bags, food, water, and carrying case. I do need to obtain a foldable cage for them. A good source for information is the American Red Cross at or I also carry an emergency kit in the trunk of my car in case I should come upon an accident. Last year, I watched as a car was struck and flipped onto its roof. Thankfully, the driver wasn’t hurt badly but I had the first aid kit available.

Be ready at all times.
© 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010


As you are aware (if you have read previous blogs), I have been only partially employed since July 2009. I have been ardently seeking a full-time position and have supplemented my income with temporary jobs. I usually don’t qualify for unemployment benefits because I am working part-time.

I have drastically cut back expenses. I have delayed repairing my automobile, procuring new glasses, fixing plumbing and other items. I have reduced expenditures to the bare minimum but I still run a slight deficit each month. As a result of this situation, my savings-checking account declines a couple hundred dollars each month.

This old house is my home. It is nearly 100 years old and reminds me of a farmhouse. I have worked on many projects to fix, update, and paint the home during the past seven and a half years. I like it here. My cats like it here. This is my home, however, I actually own only a portion of the property (less than a third) and I owe about $113,000. It is a modest home on a small city lot. Nothing fancy.

I lost my full-time job in December 2002, two months after I purchased the home. I worked at temporary jobs for 14 months until I was able to locate another full-time job. However, I am much more anxious regarding the Great Recession because of the lack of open positions. I have never been late with a payment (thank you automatic withdrawal and frugality). Before my income dropped, I would submit an extra $100 per month toward the principle balance.

Last month I met with a loan adjustor specialist (loss mitigation) from the bank which serves as the processor for my loan. He assured me that it would be easy to refinance since I have never been late and am proactive. I met with a home ownership coordinator (nonprofit agency) and she assured me of the same. However, I just learned that I have been turned down for a renegotiation since I am in deficit each month. DUH! That is why I want to reconfigure my loan so that I am not in deficit. I do not want to be in default.

I met with the home ownership coordinator, again. I have redone my budget to show that I am not in deficit, though I know it isn’t completely honest. I have reapplied and hope to procure the modification so that I can stay in my home. Unfortunately, modification will hurt my credit rating for a while and that concerns me since so many employers review the job candidate’s credit rating. It is a vicious cycle. Sorry to vent but this is an incredibly frustrating process. I feel exposed and vulnerable.

Bank: Let me stay, please.
© 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010


What would I do if I won a million dollars, after taxes, I guess that I’d really have to procure 2.5 million so that I could bank one million. Mmm.

· $100,000 towards charity. I favor education since that can’t be taken away from the recipient. Half towards rural kids in the USA to attend college and half towards girls in income-restricted countries to receive at least a basic education (6th grade equivalent).
· $100,000 to establish an educational endowment fund for my nieces, nephews, and generations of their offspring. If they have already procured a college degree or certificate, $10,000 will go towards a Roth IRA in their name. If all members of our family expire, the funds will be equally divided between the charities.
· $100,000 towards my parent’s retirement. They did not save adequately while working.
· $100,000 for my sibling’s mental health. They need good counselors.
· $100,000 towards the education of my friend’s children.
· $110,000 to pay off my house.
· $90,000 to repair and rehabilitate my house.
· $100,000 towards my retirement.
· $100,000 for travel, I want to see more of the world.
· $100,000 for a rainy day. It always rains…
· All unused funds will go into the educational endowment fund.

Imagine - millions or billions!
© 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010


NOTE: Please read Anticipating Spring and Spring, Part II blogs beforehand.

Patience, persistence and a bit of luck will yield a great crop is the ninth step. Fertilize with half the amount needed for regular houseplants or it may burn the seedling. Be very careful to fertilize only every two or three weeks. Consider the seedling to be like a small human infant – too much too fast will harm it. You have to wait until the seedling grows large enough to transplant and that the outside conditions are warm enough. Soil temperature is what counts. A couple 80-degree days mean nothing if the soil is still 45 degrees. Let the soil warm and keep the plant inside.

The tenth step is letting the seedling “harden off” outside before you plant it. I place my seedlings on the unheated porch for about a week before I take them outside. The porch has windows so it warms up during the day and doesn’t drop below 50 on a late spring/early summer night. Depending upon the seedling, 50 or 60 degrees is the lowest it can stand. You don’t want to kill the plant after months of work. A couple days before I plant the seedling, I place it near the spot I will place it in the ground. It will become accustomed to the setting.

Finally, place the seedling into the ground. Don’t mess up the roots too much or they will break off. You should only disturb the roots if the seedling is “root bound” as in the roots are compacted in the container and have started weaving through each other like a mesh. Gently disturb the bottom half of the roots to fan them out a bit. Gently place the seedling into the soil and treat with care. With good weather, you’ll grow a fabulous crop.

Accurate information can be procured from the local Extension Service (in the US). You can contact your county representative to speak to a Master Gardner or link to their website. Many colleges have accurate information on-line and there are many books in the library. You should check with folks who live in your area. Oftentimes, they will have free or cheap classes to attend. Unless the local garden center is staffed by a horticulturalist, be wary of the advice they offer. It may be an opinion and not based in fact. I have taken classes and read a lot but a lot depends upon the humidity and angle of the sun. It is good to test your soil; too, it may show the need to add something to improve your crop. You can always buy small plants from the garden center if the seeds don’t grow adequately.

Grow Seeds Grow!
© 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Please read Anticipating Spring before this entry.

Read the directions of the seed packet and following them is the fifth step. New seed is more likely to germinate but I have been able to successfully use older seed by promptly sealing them into an old peanut butter container to keep out excess moisture. I also place them on the unheated porch for a portion of the winter so that they get a cold shock. You can use a refrigerator for the same affect but make certain that they are in an airtight container or they will dehydrate. Many seeds need the cold to get the command to germinate. Odd but true. I’m certain that a plant biology book explains why this occurs.

Use your sixth sense; actually use common sense as the sixth step. I place a layer of foil insulation on the table, a seedling heat mat, topped off by a seed tray where the planted containers warm. My house is kept at 50-58 degrees so the seedling heat mat is a requirement to coax the seeds to germinate. I have it on a timer so it comes on an hour before sunset and turns off an hour after sunrise. The tray is in the sunshine so it receives solar light during the day. If a lot of moisture has accumulated on the clear tray topper, I take it off so the soil and seeds don’t rot or steam. It is important to be moist but not wet and not too hot.

Once the seeds sprout, place them in a seed tray in the sunshine or under a florescent light for step number seven. Remember, the florescent light needs to be within a couple feet to be effective. I still use filtered water to give them a wee drink. Too much or too little water and the seedling will die. A little sip each day is better than a big drink each week. I rotate the plants as soon as they start bending towards the light. It is important that all sides of the seedling face the window in rotation. I call it “seed tending” and turn them every couple days.

Eighth Step: wind is good. I place a small fan on low and oscillation as soon as the seedlings rise about a half an inch tall. They need the breeze to grow strong. Otherwise, they won’t be strong enough to handle real wind nor strong enough to support large leaves or fruit/veggies. I have the fan on a timer during daytime hours, which also helps to ensure that the plants don’t get too hot in the direct sunlight. The seedlings closest to the fan dry out faster so I check them often.

© 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Yearning for the feel of soil in my hands, seedlings have sprouted in my house. Actually, I started the first batch of pansies in mid-January, peppers in February and herbs in March. They are located on the second floor of my house, out of the reach of curious cats that tip over, eat, and then throw up the plant material. Felines have their own pot of oat grass to consume. Starting from seed is so much cheaper than purchasing a small plant from a garden center. If you have the space and some time, you can grow your own seedlings easily. Here are some of my tips.

First Step: sterilize everything. I place old plant containers and all tools in the dishwasher and set them on the regular cycle with soap. Don’t include regular dishes or they may be covered by fine grit from the sand/soil. The grit will scratch glass. I reuse old seed starter and potting soil (not the soil you dig from the ground) since it is so expensive. Place about an inch of the soil in a 9 x 12 inch baking pan and cook in the oven at 250 degrees for an hour. Don’t attempt to speed up the process by cooking it at a higher temperature or it will burn. However, if the soil is wet the baking time will be longer. Be careful not to let the soil start smoking or it may start a fire. Most potting soil has some wood pulp, moss or organic material that may be combustible. You don’t want a fire in your kitchen. I usually bake something edible at the same time and the soil has never affected the taste of the food. Let the soil cool down to room temperature before you use it.

After the plant holders/containers (3.5 inches or 4 inches, usually in a square pot) have dried, marking them is the second step. I use liquid paper on the outer edge and give each holder a number with a permanent marker. I usually place them in a group of a dozen: examples A-1, A-2, through A-12 and start B-1 and continue. Third Step: place a couple layers of newspaper in the bottom of each container to block the holes but it will still permit excess water to exit. Put on a couple inches of the old soil. I top it off with another inch of new seed starting soil. It is easier for the seeds to start in the new stuff and they will be strong enough for the old soil, as they increase in size.

Fourth Step: use filtered water to moisten the soil. I like to douse the plant container the day before and let them soak in the water overnight. I use the 9 x 12 pan again so that a couple inches of water can be around the container. The seeds will be disturbed if you dump water on them from the top, especially since seed-starting soil is very loose. After the soil is moist, let the excess drain out. On the top of the soil, poke a small hole in the middle with your finger or the end of a pencil.

© 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


It is so belittling to register for unemployment weekly. I prefer to be on the other side of the fence, and provide assistance to others rather than to be a recipient. At least I am able to register on-line because the phone system takes a long time to navigate. I work part time so I don’t qualify most weeks. I only qualify if my schedule changes and I put in more hours one week rather than an even 20 hours each week. However, I am grateful for the funds – every penny helps since I have been in deficit since last July. My savings account is dwindling down.

I have held many jobs since turning 16 including mail-clerk, retail store clerk and all-around proletarian (aka entry-level jobs). There is nothing wrong with profit driven corporate businesses but is more acceptable when the wealth is distributed on an equitable basis. Some companies are to be applauded in their efforts to bring equity. We have all been impacted by the sin of greed, even if we did not practice it in our own life. The corporate executives need to get out in the field with their entry-level employees for an extended period (more than a site visit) and get a real grip on reality. Perhaps they wouldn’t reward themselves with a 10 million dollar paycheck while their lowest paid employee has to obtain food stamps to feed their family.

The program “Undercover Boss” is a good idea but the boss really needs to spend at least 40 hours in each job without a film crew present. It takes six months to learn a job but a week is better than a few hours. Otherwise, it is just an hour long commercial for the company trying to reduce public ire over corporate CEO compensation. I’ve met many executive staffers who consider themselves to be superior. I am rather cynical of “reality tv” unless the cameras are hidden and there is no fancy editing. Otherwise, it is just a staged show edited for emotional content.

A friend of mine used to work for a New York City investment firm. She is deeply concerned that several brokers have now taken over many large banks and other financial institutions, especially on Wall Street. This is due to the Type A – all for the moment – personality of the typical broker. I know a few folks who have worked in this capacity and I must agree. Many brokers are thoughtful but it is a concern when the short-term (less than a year) profit goals supersede the long-term future of investments. We will end up in a worse position than the Great Recession of 2008-10+. Regulations are required since you can’t trust greedy people to keep their money-addiction in control. The executives who cut jobs often write in a golden parachute for themselves and get a bonus for ruining people’s lives. They don’t have to grovel for unemployment checks each week and worry about a mortgage payment…

Greed “money addiction” & clueless corporate executive are bad.
© 2010