Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Clotheslines are awesome!

I have found that I get a lot of satisfaction from saving money. It is almost a game I play with myself. Is it cheaper to buy a certain item online or to buy it local? Can I make it cheaper than I can buy it? Do I really need 244 rolls of toilet paper just to save 3 cents a roll?

There are a lot of things to buy out there. The newest gadgets to make our lives easier, the shiniest cell phone that will do everything but cook dinner, Eco-friendly...well, just about everything. But do we really need all that stuff?

For me and mine, we are just thinking differently about things like spending money. Granted, we still have bills to pay and sudden expenses, like the school trip to Dallas and Boy Scout camp. But for normal everyday spending, we find other (less expensive) ways to get by.

The clothesline is my favorite. Wow! I was shocked really at just how much you can save with 2 poles and some string. August 2007, I started hanging out my clothes because the dryer was on the fritz. I could not wash clothes fast enough to keep the line full. They dried too fast. When I got the electric bill, I was amazed. We cut 25% off of our bill. The AC didn't have to work as hard and we weren't using the energy from the dryer. I hung out clothes all winter. Granted, it took a lot longer for them to dry when it is cold and when it was below freezing, I had to use the dryer. But here in Arkansas, we only had about 20 days that actually stayed below freezing all winter so it wasn't that bad. We averaged about 25% below last year's usage all winter.

Now for the really cool part. My bill for March/April was half--Yes I said HALF--of what it was last year. Needless to say, I will continue to use the clothesline to dry my clothes.

I will continue to find ways to cut back on our bills. My thinking on this is to think about how things were done 50-75 years ago. Clotheslines are just the beginning. This will be fun!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The New Solar

I have a friend that is interested in solar power for his house. He did a lot of research on it back in the early '90's but decided that it was more expensive than he could afford at the time, so he kinda just let it go.

I have been doing a lot of research on it myself in the last year or so and was actually surprised by the quality of products being produced these days. The technology has advanced to the point where it is almost a viable option for some applications and the price is getting a lot more reasonable as well.

I knew that he was interested in it, so I sent him some of the pages that I found about the emerging tech of PV energy. He didn't understand most of it since when he did his research, it was still just very basic. I explained about the grid tie systems available now and that the panels were a lot smaller, lighter, and more efficient. He was becoming interested again.

But he has a problem. He will not adjust is standard of living in the slightest to make the switch. He refuses to give up his air conditioning set at 75 all summer or the need for more efficient appliances. He thinks that he just can't live without his massive water cooled computer with the 4 fans that is running 24/7 or all of his electronic toys.

I tried to explain to him that I cut our electric bill by 25% just by changing to CFLs and using a clothesline to dry our clothes. Not interested. Too much hassle. Personally, I think the real reason is that he lives in a neighborhood with a strict homeowners association. And he doesn't want to be different and get fined for it.

It is bad enough that he has the "neighbor from hell" that complains about his dogs and his boat in the driveway, and his truck on the street, or whatever, but he has the only house on the street without a sodded yard, so they complain about that too. Any thing to be knitpicky about.

He always wants the newest and biggest and best of everything he buys. But he will not give up anything to have it. To me, that is just plain crazy. 25% off of a $300 electric bill just for putting up 2 sticks and some string and changing a few lightbulbs. I guess having "stuff" is more important to him than saving money and the environment.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tax Day

Well, it has happened again. The Federal Government in all of it's radiant glory has set aside this day every year to rape and pillage the citizens of this country.

Taxes are a part of the price we pay for our freedom in this nation. And our tax money is put into an account somewhere so the Senators and Representatives that we elect can decide just how and where to spend it, for our own good of course. Things like the Robert Byrd Memorial Highway,library, rest stop, train station, museum, intersection, etc; scientific studies to prove or disprove the "5 second rule", $800 toilet seats and hammers, and of course to pay the thousands of people who have to generate the millions of pages of paper daily on Capital Hill.

The amount of money that is wasted on a daily basis in DC is just staggering. Every bill that is voted on has had so much pork attached to it that I am surprised that it doesn't squeal when the Prez tries to sign it.

And it isn't just one side of the aisle that loads up on the special interests. I have decided that there can never be a good politician. Good people don't want to be dropped into that viper's nest and everyone else is on the take. That whole thing about "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" is just too true. And I think it actually starts before they are even sworn into office. I personally think that the lobbyists throw a party for all of the freshmen congressmen the night before the ceremony and tell them how things really work in this country.

Now don't get me wrong, I love this country and the things it stands for. We have the ability to live up to our personal potential that people from all over the world envy. Some even hate us for our freedoms. But in the last 40 years or so, we have gotten away from the good things that America stands for.

We have an income tax that is anywhere from 6 to 20% of our adjusted gross income, we have a sales tax of between 5 and 12% of the purchase price of anything we buy(in come cases that includes groceries), most states have property tax(personal and real estate) that varies wildly by state but lets say it is a moderate 2%, some states (about half of them I think) have a state income tax that runs 1-5% or so of your income, then there are all of the fees for licenses for bloody well everything. My all time favorite is the one where you have to count last years tax refund as income for this year. Needless to say, we are taxed to death so congress can vote themselves a raise every year.

If the founding fathers could look at the current tax code and all of the different layers of tax and regulation that are imposed upon us, they would be appalled. We pay a higher percentage of tax today than we did when we threw the Boston Tea Party. And we did it to ourselves by wanting the government to give us everything so we wouldn't have to work for it ourselves.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Raw Milk

I have been reading up lately on the pros and cons of raw milk. It seems there is a great deal of conflicting information out there on the subject and, being who I am, I have to throw my two cents in.

Raw milk is cow squeezin's that have not been treated with heat, subjected to homogenization, or have anything added to it. It is literally, well, raw. All of the commercially produced milk is pasteurized within an inch of it's life, stirred until it is practically beaten to keep the cream from separating, and has added vitamins to replace those destroyed by the above mentioned treatments. Those processes kill harmful bacteria and help to keep the milk fresher longer on the store shelves. Those same processes also happen to destroy a good number of amino acids, lipids, and naturally occurring enzymes.

All of that being said, raw milk has had nothing done to it except being put into containers. Straight from the cow, so to speak. It has the exact same nutritional components that are necessary to feed a baby, well a baby cow anyway. It has naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, proteins, lipids, amino acids, etc, that mammals need to survive. I have even read studies that indicate that raw milk can reverse the progression of childhood asthma and digestive disorders.

Now, don't get me wrong, but aren't we supposed to be eating foods that have all of these natural enzymes and lipids and stuff in them as a part of a healthier lifestyle? Then why in the world is the Federal government going out of it's way to try to shut down small dairies that sell raw milk to consumers?

My guess is that the big business that is dairy farming does not want the general consumer to believe that raw milk is actually healthier for them that the product they over process, hormone inject, and and over-vaccinate. After all, if the general consumer starts to realize that the milk they bring home from their local Mega-Mart is not as healthy as something they could get for just about the same money at the farm down the road, Big Dairy will lose money. Can't have that, now can we?

There are some things to keep in mind about raw milk. It doesn't have an expiration date listed as two weeks from now plainly on the bottle. The reason for that is most of the time, you will have consumed it long before it will go south on you. Store bought milk has to have that expiration date so the minimum wage guy that works in the cooler of your favorite grocery store will know when he has to pull that bottle off of the shelf. Is it bad milk? Not really. Since it has been all but sterilized by heat treating and who-knows-what-else, that is just the date that the government mandates the stores must sell it by. There is no telling just how long it has been since that milk was removed from the cow anyway. What you might think is fresh milk could actually be a couple of weeks old. Raw milk will keep a good long time as long as it is kept cold.

Raw milk will also have a separation problem. The cream, which is actually the butterfat, will float to the top of the container just like any other suspended fat. This could be good or bad, depending on how you want to look at it. When I was growing up, we had raw milk. We swapped eggs for it. I thought for a long time that milk came in a pickle jar. Before we could dip out milk for our morning cereal( yes, with a ladle), you had to shake it up. That was just the way it was. Or if we wanted to make ice cream, we got an extra gallon and let it sit for a day or two in the fridge and scooped the cream off of the top. We made ice cream, butter, whipped cream, whatever we needed at the time with the cream from our pickle jar. Every now and then, we had to pick a cow hair out of the jar, but you know what, none of us ever got sick from it.

I think the Raw vs. Pasteurized debate just simply comes down to big business lobbies. People in Europe don't panic if their milk isn't pasteurized. They actually prefer that it isn't. And you don't see them dying in droves from E.Coli or salmonella. Odds are that that special imported French cheese that you pay $20 a ounce for is not made with pasteurized milk. And you know the holes in the Swiss and gruyere cheese is actually made by bacteria breathing. And, shock of shock!, blue cheese is mouldy! Geesh, get a grip.

All the government has to do to panic people away from eating something is to tell them what is actually in it. We used cow manure in the garden. Did we ever get sick from it? Nope. We had to wash the chicken poo off of the eggs when we brought them in. Did we get sick? Nope. We actually butchered our own meat in the winter and left it hanging in the shop overnight to chill. No Salmonella there either.

I think the government has tied itself so tightly to big business that it simply can't tell us the truth about food anymore. Small farms and personal gardens are way healthier that buying all of your food.

After all, people lived for thousands of years without preservatives and added vitamins, and lived healthier lives for it.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Babies cost a fortune?

Living is a never ending cycle of things you think you have to buy. The problem is that we really don't NEED these things as much as we WANT them. Advertisers have convinced us that we cannot have a baby without a crib, changing table, diaper genie, baby monitor, stacks of disposable diapers, formula, bibs, special spoons and bottles, assorted baby medicines for teething, diaper rash, gas, special pacifiers that won't twist their teeth, teething rings, etc ad nauseum.

My kids got by without a lot of these thing simply because we didn't have the money to buy them. We didn't have a changing table, I changed diapers on the couch or the floor with a towel under them. A diaper genie was a waste of time so I had a diaper pail with a lid. Same thing but very low tech. No baby monitor either, we just left the door open a little so we could hear her if she woke up. I wanted to breast feed, but due to medical considerations at the time with my daughter, it wasn't possible so we did have the formula to deal with. I did breast feed my son at least until I went back to work. Then he was on formula too. No special spoons or pacifiers or bottle nipples, or any of that sort of thing. Their clothes were washed with the rest of the laundry in the same detergent. I didn't go for all of the special creams and salves designed for smearing over the diaper area. I used ointment only when there was a rash, and that wasn't very often. I think I only bought 1 package of Pullups. It is amazing how fast you can potty train a child when they wear the thick undies and plastic pants. I think I got them house broken in about two weeks, before their 3rd birthday.

All of the things you think you need are designed to separate you from your money. Literally Millions of babies survived without them in the past so we did too. And you know what? My children suffered no ill effects from the experience. Wow! Raising children the old fashioned way won't cause them to be abnormal, or less happy than if I buy the latest and greatest gadget for them.

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