I hate money. 

There are two things that inevitably seem to happen when you go from being flat broke to having disposable income. The first is that all the things you have been putting off paying are now getting paid.  I am including things needing repair/ replacing in this too because they wouldn’t be breaking if you had the money earlier to do the minor repairs on them before. 

For us this means paying all the medical bills for having the new baby on top of all the medical bills we owe from having baby girl, student loans, Replacing the jeep, Getting me a car, Paying for a doula for this birth, and all the smaller random things we owe that need to be paid. We had big plans for our tax return but, even though we were making payments on them, C’s student loans decided to take half of that. At least those are paid off now though. Then we had enough left over to finish paying what we owe for medical stuff, except the jeep broke and we had to spend half of that on getting a new car for C. Such is life. 

The second thing that happens though is the really bad thing. It’s the sudden relief that you aren’t struggling like you were so you can afford to splurge. That’s ok except $20 here, $30 there, $50 somewhere else, all of a sudden turns into “holy crap we just spent half of our phone payment” which is not ok. We try to have budget weekly, sometimes even bi-weekly budget talks but for some reason that doesn’t seem to help. I think the next step is going to have to be giving ourselves an allowance. Something like each of us having a $20 splurge allowance every 2 weeks, or putting aside entertainment money. Having a grocery money envelope, something like that to keep us from saying “oh there is $200 in the account right now, I’m cool to buy this thing, without considering that 1) we have a bill due or 2) we need to be putting aside every spare dollar for this build. 

Regardless, The budget we had worked out for march is completely shot to hell. We still owe over $1000 in medical bills which we aren’t going to have paid off before the baby is born, all of our other stuff we were going to pay off is now pushed back at least another month or two. The worst part is that we hve nothing in savings to start building the house with. I’m just a bit stressed out about all this. The baby is due in a few weeks, we are moving, almost nothing is packed because we have no boxes and I have no transportation to get any, I have no energy to clean the house, and of the long list of things that have to get done in march we have completed a grande total of 0. That is non of them. I am a bit stressed. Just a little. Everything on that list has to be completed by the time we move, at the end of this month, on top of all the things that I have to add in for April. I hate end of the month crap, and I especially hate money. 

First round of bacon done!

  I do have to admit, I was a bit worried that there would be something wrong with this first round of bacon. It was the first time curing anything ourselves and it just seemed too good to be true, and way too easy. 

We took the cured bellies out of the fridge after 7 days, cut the skins off (which was so much easier to do when they were cured), and smoked them. We don’t have a proper smoker yet so we smoked them on the lowest temperature we could on the grill (which was about 200 degrees)  for 4 hours. The above picture is how they turned out. We vacuum sealed and froze all but 1 slab, which is this weeks bacon. It was delicious!!  The best bacon I have ever had. 

We also prepared another 27 or so lbs of bellies which are currently curing in the fridge. In the end we will have done over 40lbs of bacon this year. Next year we will do more. 

One day we hope to be selling our bacon, among other food products.  It’s in our 5 year plan!  

Starting the planning

Yesterday we walked out on the property for the first time since we bought it.  We would have went out sooner, but the snow and all…

We went to do some blocking and planning.  It’s tough to work on floor plans for a house when you haven’t seen the property in months.  We took the kids out and let them roam free while we blocked out where we wanted the house to be and the garden.  They really enjoyed running around without much adult supervision, although the property is so open that its not like we would lose them.  They also dont run very fast yet.

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We placed markers where we plan on digging for the house.  We still have to go out and do actual measurements and real markings before we begin to excavate.  The best part is, we stood where the greenhouse windows will be and checked out the view .

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The hill to the left is where we will be putting in our garden, that way it’s not too long a walk from the greenhouse and we can look at it throughout the summer.  Isn’t that a beautiful view?

There is still so much to do before we can really enjoy it, but we are just going to take it one month at a time.

Month 1- March 2015.  our to do list:

1. get an address for the property

2. get a mailbox

3. start garden

4. finish the floorplans

Its a tall order but i think we can do it!

The joys of BACON!

A friend of mine works at a slaughter house (I guess that’s what it is).  Anyway, they buy, raise, and slaughter pigs.  She came to me a few weeks back and wanted to know if I wanted to learn how to cure bacon with her.  my response: “Heck ya I do!!”.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out so I only got 1 13lb belly to cure (which still only cost us $12).  We spent the morning curing our bellies with a salt, pepper, sugar, honey, and maple syrup mixture.  Then we put them in plastic bags and they are now curing on the fridge.  After 7 days i will slow cook them in the oven at 200 degrees for 90 minutes.  We don’t have a smoker so i wont be smoking them, but one of the things C plans on doing with the new house is building an outdoor smoker.  I was so impressed with how easy it was I decided to get a box of bellies and cure them with C next weekend.  That should give us enough bacon to last us almost the year.  The thing that makes me the happiest is knowing how much we saved by doing it ourselves.  Once we get the farm going we only plan on having one pig so i will most likely continue to buy 1-2 boxes of bellies a year to supplement the rest of the bacon we will eat.  She is also planning on doing some ham hocks in a few weeks but those take much much longer to cure.  That’s about a 1-2 year process, but i figure if i do 1-2 this year then next year we can have some country ham!  I am really enjoying learning to do all this on my own, and I really feel like we are on our way to the homesteading lifestyle we want.

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One of the things we are missing that we will need to get soon is a meat slicer.  right now we only have our somewhat sharp knife i bought about 7 years ago to slice the bacon with.  We are looking at getting a somewhat small one that runs about $160-$200.  I am so excited about the prospect of spending $60 for a years worth of bacon.  that’s insane.  and fantastic, and nitrate/ nitrite free.  Come Saturday morning we should know how these wonderful pieces of bacon turned out!

Car update

As of this past Thursday night we have a new truck!! 

Thanks to a friend of ours we were introduced to a financial plan through a major car dealership in the area. The plan is for people who have the means to buy a car but not the credit to be financed. They also report to the credit bureaus so it rebuilds your credit. There were two trucks on the lot. One was a ford f150, two door but has the cab that seats 3. So we can fit all 6 of I when the baby is born. It’s not a diesel which C is bummed about but it will work!  It was almost $2000 more than we were approved for but tey brought down the price so we could afford it. Car payments are $350 a month for 4 years which we can totally afford, although we are probably going to refinance in a year when C’s credit is better. It’s important to tell people your struggles because someone may have an answer you haven’t thought of or wouldn’t know about otherwise. If I hadn’t mentioned out problem to my church girlfriends we wouldn’t have a truck right now. Now to figure out a car for me!

Our purpose… Revised

I said in the beginning that our purpose was to break away from the cycle we were in and follow our dreams of living self sustainably on a homestead and without being tethered to the cycle of owing money to people. This is still our main purpose. We want to show people that life doesn’t have to be this hard. 

I look back at where we were four months ago when we started the project and I’m astounded at our success. We have come so far. From not knowing how we were going to pay the rent and feed ourselves to owning almost 11 acres of property and having extra income to be able to put aside money to build our house. That’s crazy!!!  When we first started I warned people that we were probably going to have to run a go fund me project to be able to build the house and I’m really questioning now whether we will have to. Our life is really good right now. 

That being said we have hit a hiccup, a major hiccup. One that could potentially put us not only back to where we were but even further back than that. I have to be completely truthful, I’m really scared. What I don’t want to do is have to ask my family for help. This is a two fold reason. First off, I don’t want to have to ask for help. This whole project is how we can do it ourselves.  Asking for help is not something that comes easily to either of us and we would rather not have to.  Secondly, and dont get me wrong I love my family, but I know the way my family thinks of me and I don’t want to feed that perception any more than I have to.  It’s not their fault either, I was always the super emotional needy one who couldn’t handle money.  I know that I hit a hiccup like this and they all shake their heads at my bad decision making skills. I do have to say I’ve grown a lot since I was that person, especially in the last 2 years, but it’s hard to change a 34 year image of someone. I’m also not like anyone in the family. I’m sure they all think this is a silly project, and that’s ok.  I disagree with some of their life choices too.  So the last thing I want to do is have another reason for them to think of me in this way still. although I have a feeling that will never change, but I really think I’ve come to terms with that. 

What I want to make sure you understand is that I’m not using this blog to ask people for help or to make people feel sorry for us. I want people to feel hopeful that despite the bad things that happen, because bad things WILL happen, that it’s ok and you can get through it.  I’m sorry if I haven’t made that perfectly clear.  

There is definitely something wrong with America

I don’t care what people say, it is HARD to pull yourself out of being poor, and the American system makes sure of it. 

Here is a great example: we spent almost 2 years with zero extra income. We made enough to pay our bills, but minimal food (until we went on food stamps for three month), and have gas most of the time.  When you have to collect all the lose change in the house to be able to pay for enough gas to get to work so you can try and bum $5 off a coworker to get you home and back in time for payday, that’s when you know you are poor.  I am still dealing with crap from my divorce which won’t be resolved until we are much more financially stable.  C, on the other hand, only had $3500 in student loans. We tried to work out a deal with them to get on a payment plan but the jerk he talked to last year told him that even with financial hardships he had to pay $200 a month. Well we didn’t have $200 a month so we just continued to let it go. As soon as C got a new job we went on a payment plan (which was somehow down to $76 a month, but we wet with the $200 that we were expecting) and then paid them off with the rest of our tax refund. 

Then the jeep broke.  We have no car. C has to have a truck or he will lose his job. He makes $40,000 a year now with no debt and we have more than enough extra income after this next paycheck to make a decent car payment but because of his student loan history nobody will give us a loan, not even with a co-signer. So now our only option is to buy whatever $300 junker we can find or beg family members to help us. I hate this. We are trying so hard to do this ourselves.   I am so tired of everything being hard. The system is set up to keep people down, and if you think it isn’t then you have never been poor. 

The silver lining of biodiesel

No matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, there really is one thing I can rely on.  The God works in mysterious ways.

As much as I wanted to get a car first, as much as I really wanted us to have 2 cars as soon as possible, things are working out the way they need to.  As I’m watching this weekend unfold I am realizing this fact.  Am i scared C wont be able to find a vehicle this weekend?  Yes, but he really has until wed to get one and we may actually have one.  We have a truck that the service department has to look at and possible fix some things on Monday if the truck we are looking at tomorrow doesn’t work out.

But that’s the small fish.  Here is the big fish:

If we had followed our original plan I would have been the next to get a car, probably at the end of the month and it would have been a jeep commander.  Why a jeep commander?  Because it can seat 6 and in the rare occasions after the baby is born when we have all of us riding in one car we need a 6 seater.  Of course I was having that fall on me even though it really isn’t the most earth friendly economical option.  About 4-6 months after getting the jeep C would have gotten the truck he is currently looking for, and I would have then realized my mistake and been stuck…

Why would I have made a mistake?  First off the truck gets about the same mileage as the commander, but possibly better.  Second, it fits six so we would have had 2 six seater vehicles for those rare occasions we need it. Third, and the real reason I would have been upset…The truck is a diesel.  Ever since college I have wanted a diesel vehicle so I can have it run on homemade biodiesel.  C wants that too apparently (because we share the same dream, duh).  So here we would have been with one biodiesel vehicle and me being jealous.  That’s a sad story.  It’s so super easy to make your own biodiesel too.  We plan on getting a diesel generator for the house for “just in case” emergencies and running that on biodiesel too.  To make biodiesel you convert used vegetable oil (usually from fast food places that would otherwise have to pay to have it disposed of) into biodiesel using one of these biodiesel fun filtration/ conversion kits.  The cost starts at about $1500 and goes up from there.  The one in the picture makes about 40 gallons per day for about $1 a gallon.  The most awesome part about it isn’t the saving money part, which is really nice.  It’s the fact that once we make the switch we will not be tied down to the oil industry at all.  We complain about these giant companies that have monopolies over our lives, we complain about the fracking destroying our environment and contaminating the land, yet we rejoice when gas is below $3 a gallon.  I feel like a giant hypocrite.  Unfortunately it’s nearly impossible to live in America without some sort of vehicle, unless you live on the east coast but even then it can be tough.  We are cutting our ties to big power, cutting our ties to the water company, and now as soon as we can we will be cutting ties to big oil.  Now if only there was a way to do this with cell phone companies and internet, but unfortunately we can’t make those ourselves.

Sooooooo… Here is the NEW plan (thanks God!).   C gets his truck.  I still need a second car in the next month, but he says he is working on that so i’ll trust him to figure that one out.  I guess i have to, although I also have to admit that i’m super jealous that he gets a car before I do, but such is life.  Anyway, as soon as we can get his credit up (which should happen fairly quickly now that he has no debt except for a car payment he makes every month), we are going to get me a diesel SUV type car.  I have been looking around and it looks like a jeep (I love jeeps) liberty will be the best way to go for us.  We will also need to refinance his truck at some point this year too, but we’ll cross that bridge after we have 2 reliable vehicles.  I have to say, as upset as I am that we STILL don’t have 2 vehicles I am happier about this plan, and far more excited about it, than I was about the original plan.  I guess things really do work out in God’s timing.

And here it goes again

We have been surviving on one car the past year.  Since C got his new job he has to take his jeep to work every day so i have been borrowing a friends car but for reasons i can’t say i can only drive it locally.  I can’t drive it anywhere but around town and very minimally, probably a total of about 5 miles a week because my disabled son has to get to and from therapy and the doctor.  Our plan has been to be able to buy a new car for me by the end of april and to trade in the jeep for a new truck for him by the end of May.  Right now I dont know what we are going to do.  I guess we can try to buy a new truck for him now but with no down payment and terrible credit i don’t see how that can happen.  If we don’t have a car C doesn’t have a job and if he doesn’t have a job we are back to having nothing.  i just can’t handle this right now.

Asking for help and advice!

So the next real step in this journey is to finalize the building plans.  To recap the project so far: we are building an in ground “earthship”, run on solar and wind power. It’s built maily with recycled materials too. I spoke with planning and zoning today, mainly because I do t want to end up being one of those couples that has a sad article written about them because they built this awesome off grid house that has to be torn down because they didn’t get approval for it. Apparently all we need is to get them to approve our house plans. Problem is they have to be professional house plans and those cost close to $7000 to do. If we have to do that we are looking at not even starting the project until after may if we are lucky. We need suggestions on how we can go about havin someone either help us with the building plans or to look them over after we have created them for a much cheaper price. We need as many suggestions as possible!  Thank you!