Roku or Make Do

Emergency preppers are often faced with a dilemma now and again.  Spending our money to prepare on what may happen or spending our money on what is happening now.  A recent small windfall activated immediate mental agony over what action to take to convert this worthless fiat currency into something that will have instant value.  Let me give you a brief history of our “entertainment” system:

Many years ago, sometime in the 90’s, we purchased an ultra-modern 42 inch t.v. that weighs approximately 400 lbs.  To add to our listening pleasure, we also eventually purchased a home theater system consisting of a receiver and five speakers (very LARGE speakers).  We already possessed a VCR deck and added a DVD player once they came down in price.  It took me literally days to figure out how to hook up every system and still have working cable.  The wire and cable mess in the back of the t.v. was a nightmare.  When we purchased our newest location six years ago, I was careful to label each cable and wire before we moved the system.  Still, it took me literally days to get it re-hooked back up.  Then, broadcasting switched from analog to digital transmissions.  Okay, I had cable, it wasn’t going to affect me.  However, when I was waiting for disibility and cut my budget to the bone, we dropped cable and purchased a digital converter and antenna.  Somehow, no matter how we hook everything up, we still cannot get the VCR to play anymore.  Since most of our VHS tapes have been replaced by DVD’s, this wasn’t the end of the world.  Now we get Netflix movies to make up for the deficit.  We also watch streaming instant movies on the computer, but that is difficult to do with more than one person and you really have to watch as many streaming movies as you can in order to get your money’s worth while you are waiting for your next shipment in the mail.  So here we are and here is my dilemma.  Netflix is changing their accounts so we will have to pay for streaming movies or mailed movies separately.  I can’t afford both and since they will eventually change over to all streaming, I need to upgrade my technology as cheaply as possible.  Can’t afford to buy a new HDTV, or a blueray DVD player and all new DVD’s so a new streaming system may be our savior.

After browsing around the internet and discovering what devices will and won’t work for our purposes (we do not own any gaming systems or Wii), I decided on the updated version of the old Roku which was originally made just for streaming Netflix movies, but which can also be used to stream Hulu movies and tv shows, Amazon movies to rent and other entertainment options.  Many reviews claim that the system is simple to hook up and use even if you have an old t.v. system like mine.  I was so excited, I jumped right to the order page and pushed the button.  Soon, we would all be able to sit around the t.v. and watch streaming TEOTWAWKI entertainment at will.  Utopia!

Instantly, I was sick to my stomach.  What had I done!  What if the lights go out.  All that money could have been used to purchase board games and Future Essentials snacks which have a shelf life of 15+ years.  I could have purchased more propane cannisters for my Mr Heater to keep toasty when it gets cold and more lantern oil to see the games we could be playing together as a family unit (all two of us).

I did regret my decision, but what is done, is done.  Will it be worth it even for a short  period of time since the Aztec Calendar will supposedly end on October 28, 2011 more than a year before the Mayan Calendar?  Maybe.  It depends on if it is going to take days or weeks to get it hooked up without losing any of my other components.

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Bonding with the Mortgage Company

We left you last month with our brave heroine winning the shootout in the 7th District Court (see Order in the Court).   The attorney in the black hat and ivory handled briefcase demanded $5,000 from the heroine to cover the evil mortgage company’s legal fees in the event that her case is lost at trial.  But since she was poor, the judge (its not clear whether or not he is a hanging judge) came to the rescue and ordered that the amount be covered by a surety bond in which our girl would only have to pay approximately 10%.  She was left hanging on the cliff of anxiety for 30 days until the attorney in the white hat found a bonding agent, a humble man wearing a green shade and sleeve garters from a local insurance company.  He assisted in the application process to determine whether the heroine was in possession of enough assets to be approved by the bonding company or whether she would need a co-signer (oh, where, oh, where would she find one of those!)  The application was submitted and after a very short breath-holding time, she was informed that she was not only approved, but that the bonding company was only requesting a $100 premium, not the $500 premium that her attorney had indicated.  Victory!  The bond was issued and signed and she took it home to await further instructions from her hero in the white hat.

One would think that this would be the happy ending to the story, but… no!  When I returned home there was a message on the answering machine from the guy at the insurance company.  I called his office, but he wasn’t at his desk.  There was a knock at the door as I hung up the phone.  It was him!  It turns out that he issued the wrong kind of bond (I had wondered about his hesitancy to issue a bond – I thought it was because of my financial situation).  Instead of the Replevins Bond that I held in my hand, he felt it MIGHT need to be an Injunction Bond.  He wasn’t sure as this was a first time experience for his company (and my attorney and the court in the county in which I reside).  He snatched the first bond out of my hand and returned to his office to research the issue at hand.  At the very end of the day, he called to say he had resubmitted my original application to see if I could be approved for an Injunction Bond.  At the end of the NEXT day, Wednesday, he called to say that he had not received approval yet.  The deadline to have it posted at the courthouse was Thursday.  Oh, agony, oh, stress.  Thursday morning, the nice insurance man calls with good and bad news.  The new bond application had been approved and they were still only asking for $100.  However, the bond company, based in South Dakota, mailed the bond.

Part three of this serial adventure brings us to a very panicked phone call to my attorney to ask if he would be able to extend the deadline or if he will be visiting me in jail.  Gasp!  He quickly called the judge who told him to call the opposing attorney and get permission from THEM and was finally granted an additional 7 days extension.  On Monday morning, the insurance man called to say he received the bond and I just needed to come in and sign it.  Being reliant on transportation, I was unable to pick it up until afternoon, then called my attorney to find out what to do with it.  The person answering his phone did not know and explained that NObody knew as this was a new situation.  She called back later in the day to say that I just needed to take it to the courthouse and post it in the civil department, NOT the bonds department with the warning to be sure to get a receipt to fax to my attorney so he can get a copy immediately to the opposing attorney.  If anything else needed to be done, they would find out after that.

Tuesday (the new deadline is Thursday), finds us in the courthouse in the afternoon when I could get a ride.  Following is a loose transcript of events:

There was no civil department window.  At the bonds window:

Me:  “Hello, I need to post this civil bond.”

Clerk: “Okay, let me look up the warrant.  What’s the name?”

Me:  “Christine Rodriguez, but there is no warrant, it’s not that kind of bond.  It’s a civil bond for foreclosure.”

Clerk: “Oh, you’ll need to take it to the Court Records window.  That’s where they post the civil bonds.”

Me:  “Thank you.”  I step five steps over to the right to the Court Records and stand in line for 20 minutes.  Finally, it’s my turn:

Me:  “Hello, I need to post this bond.”

Clerk:  “Oh, you’ll need to take it over to the bonds window.”

Me:  “No, they just sent me over here.  It’s a civil bond for foreclosure.”

Clerk: “Oh, well let me find the warrant.”

Me:  “There is no warrant.  It’s not that kind of bond.  It’s for foreclosure.”

Clerk:  “Oh, there’s a warrant.  There’s always a warrant for a bond.”

Me:  “No, this is different.  It’s not that kind of bond.  This is a new kind of bond and it doesn’t require a warrant.”

Clerk:  “There has to be a warrant.  We can’t post a bond without one.”

Me:  “There is no warrant.”

Clerk:  “Let me ask someone else.”

To cut to the chase, the bond was passed to three other clerks.  Finally, one clerk in the BONDS department took it and said for the fifth time, “This is a different kind of bond.  We’ve never had one like this.  Let me check to see if the bonding company is even legitimate.”  She took the bond to the back of the room behind a cubicle for about 20 minutes while I sweated it out in front of the protective glass.  Finally, she returns and declares, “Okay, it’s been posted.  You’re all set.”

Me:  “My attorney said to be sure to get a receipt.”

Clerk:  “There is no receipt.”

Me:  “My attorney said we absolutely had to have a receipt.”

Clerk:  “There is no receipt because no cash was exchanged.”

Me:  “Can I get a printout from the computer showing it’s been posted?”

Clerk:  “No, we don’t do that.  What do you need it for?”

Me:  “My attorney said we needed it for his records and to send proof to the opposing attorney that the bond was posted.”

Clerk:  “There is no receipt or print out.  Tell your attorney he can look in the repository and see that it has been posted.”

Me:  “Okay.”

I called my attorney when I returned home to tell him that I could not get a receipt.  The person answering the phone said that was weird.  My county does things differently than everywhere else she said.  I told her I wasn’t surprised considering how this event has unfolded thus far.  She said she would let the attorney know and hoped it would be okay since the deadline is Thursday.  I hope so, too.

Walk on the Wild Side

Is it time to take another giant step toward self sufficiency?  A great addition to your emergency preps, 72 hour kit, 3 day to two week bag and go food supply is a longer term food storage plan.  Some organizations suggest that you may want to store about three months worth of food at home in case the just-in-time supply system breaks down.  This supply would consist of regular canned and boxed goods that your family is used to eating on a regular basis.  Three months can be a lot of food to store for a family so I learned how to use coupons to get them fast and cheap.  It has been an ongoing project.  Maybe eventually a one to five year food storage plan can be put in place.  This would be even more expensive since it would require purchasing dehydrated or freeze dried foods along with bulk items in buckets.  And where would we put it?  Learning vegetable gardening, preserving and seed saving was the logical next step in order to extend a food supply beyond storage which will not last forever and would be difficult to replenish during hard times.  It’s a wonderful skill set to own even if you never have to use it in a survival scenario.  A satisfying hobby.

Emergency Preps or Survivalism?  Another segment to add to these preps and skill sets is something that many preppers have never thought of, but most survivalist types include in their repertoire of knowledge.  It’s actually a very natural transition.  Always an active, outdoors child used to a variety of activites including hiking, camping, and fishing, the interest carried over into my adulthood.  In my 20’s and 30’s in particular, the out of doors experience drew me out of hibernation (I tend to be reclusive) and into the wilds, even if it was just a short adventure near to home.  I began to carry various field guides with me on these little adventures, books with pictures and information telling me about birds, insects, animals, tracks, reptiles and wild plants.  Jotting down notes, locations and drawing little sketches became routine.  Soon I had chosen my area of special interest and felt there was a very practical application for the things I had learned.

Ever thought of doing your grocery “shopping” outdoors?  There is no shortage of hunters and fisherman in my neck of the woods, and if ever a disaster hit, they would know where to “shop” for protein for their families, probably overlooking the obvious (and trampling over) the wild garden of goodies that’s free for the taking and is not a moving target.  Wild edible, medicinal and useful plants abound in every ecological zone and in every season.  The Native Americans knew about them, the pioneers and mountain men learned about them and once settlements were built, food and supplies began to be shipped in, they were all but forgotten.  Many of these plants are considered to be the weeds growing in your yard.  Every year when my husband wanted to spray herbicides to make his job a little easier, I reminded him that we may need those weeds to keep us alive.

Set your sights beyond your cupboard shelves and take a walk.  Look in empty lots, nearby fields, parks, greenways and picnic spots to start educating your family about what’s available in your area.  Get familiar with the names and uses of each plant and if you feel adventurous, start experimenting with preparing and eating or using these plants in your every day meal routines.  You’ll be amazed at what you’ve been missing!

A Prescription for Disaster

Stocking up on prescription meds can be lifesaving.

If there’s anything I don’t want to be out of during an emergency situation, it would be my prescriptions.  First of all, I would have an extremely difficult time getting to the store for a last ditch run on groceries, batteries and all that stuff that empties off the shelves in a red hot flash during an impending disaster.  Finding time to stand in line at the prescription counter would be unlikely.  Since my 72 hour kit is in place with the recommended supplies of food, water, heat, light, shelter, etc., the next logical thing would be the items that would prolong my life – my prescription medications.  I once went for a couple of days without them to see what would happen.  I was feeling very ill by the middle of the first day.  I can’t imagine what it might be like for someone with diabetes or other immediate life threatening condition.

What I had to do was stock up on the meds so I would have enough to last until I could get more no matter what the emergency may bring.  Some people explain this plan to their doctor and ask for an additional month of medication to squirrel away.  My doctor declined claiming he didn’t feel comfortable doing that.  At the time, I was working and had insurance that covered a percentage of my meds.  I ran my plan by the pharmacist and he said I could either pay cash for my medications and get more than a month’s worth at a time, or I could call up to five days ahead of the refill date and each month set aside the five pills.  I chose the second option.  Six months later, I had 30 days worth saved up.  If you use this method, be sure to rotate your stash and use the oldest first so they stay fresh and potent and don’t expire.  I now keep five days worth in my 72 hour kit, five in my comprehensive medical kit, five in my emergency car kit, five in my purse and five in my extended two week emergency bag.  I should have medications available for any contingency.  The meds need to be stored in the original prescription bottles so they remain legal to carry around.  I also keep a couple of sets of prescription receipts in my wallet and kit in case I am able to get refills during a difficult time.  Once, when I went to the emergency room, my family found the receipts and told the doctors what medications I was taking.  This helped speed up my treatment.

Sometimes the emergency situation is economic.  I always ask my doctor to prescribe generic medications which are cheaper.  When I retired with a disability, my income stopped abruptly and I didn’t know when I was going to get another check from disability or some other source.  I was glad for the few months of medications I had stocked up.  The doctor’s helped by giving me samples, but they would only do it for a couple of months.  After doing a little research, I also found that many of the pharmaceutical companies have an indigent program for free medications.  I used this method until my disability checks kicked in.

Other stuff I like to keep plenty of in stock are over the counter medications like aspirin, ibuprofin, tylenol, antidiahrreal medicine, allergy meds, cold and cough medicines, vitamins and a variety of stuff for stomach ailment.   I use coupons and buy them on sale.  Whenever friends or family make a trip to Mexico, I ask them to pick up antibiotics so I have a nice variety in stock in case I get ill and a doctor isn’t available to prescribe them for me and my family.  You don’t need a prescription in Mexico and they are way cheaper.  Before I was able to get antibiotics from Mexico, I ordered a small selection from a veterinary website.  Animals take the same medications we do, but I bought a Physicians Desk Reference, a book called Where There Is No Doctor and some others that help with dosage.  Pain killers are also a handy item in an emergency.  I don’t like keeping a ton of them around because they can be dangerous for children or a target for theft.  But, if my dentist or doctor prescribes them, I don’t throw away the leftovers and if they will give me refills, I will get them.  I keep them in the original presciption bottles and put some in my emergency and medical kits.  Again, I rotate them as often as I can, but have thrown away expired pain killers as they would be useless without the potency.

Where There Is No Doctor - a handy reference.

Disease tends to run rampant after every major disaster.  Some people consider immunizations to be more dangerous than helpful, or they don’t trust the pharmaceutical companies or government to make them safe.  My opinion is that if I didn’t get any other immunization, I would at least get a tetanus vaccination.  It will probably save my life someday.  Everyone in my family is current on all available immunizations for their age and needs.

I do not advocate taking any medication without a doctor’s advice, self-medicating or treating your family members without a doctor’s prescription, nor do I ever intend to share antibiotics or medications with others.  The prescription medications and antibiotics that I have stockpiled in case of emergency are just that.  To be used ONLY in case of an emergency situation when a doctor cannot be available.  Misuse of these items would be a prescription for disaster.  I sincerely hope that my time and efforts are a complete waste of time and money and I never have the opportunity to use them.

The Big One

What pushes your buttons?  What makes you take action?  What gets you thinking ahead – preparing for a possibility.  For some, it’s a simple worry like – my little boy has a new skateboard.  I better buy some extra bandaids.  Hope he doesn’t break a bone.  Will our insurance cover it?  For some, this is about as far as they can stretch the possibilities of imagination.  For others, like Jules Verne, imagination seems to break the barriers of time and space.  As it turns out, it seems that whatever you can imagine, can come true.  For others, a stretch of the imagination is as natural as a stretch of the muscles before exercise.  I am one of these.  I believe that anything can happen.  Not necessarily when somebody says it will, but eventually.  The fact of the matter is, we never know.  People have been preparing for the unknown since the beginning of mankind.  What if it rains?  We’ll find a cave or shelter.  What if the winter is long and cold?  We’ll store some extra wood.  What if?

Current economic numbers show that unemployment now stands at a whopping 9.2%  How long will the government extend benefits?  When will jobs be returning to our cities?   And, whatever the cause, the climate is changing.  As of July 1, 2011, The National Climatic Data Center, released the new normals for U.S. temperatures and precipitation.  Until now, they have remained the same since the 1930’s.  Are you ready for chronic extreme weather?  Although, the USGS maintains that earthquakes are not more frequent or larger than usual, there is more potential for damage and disaster due to more and larger population centers in earthquake prone areas such as, Japan, Haiti, Christchurch, Indonesia and Chili. Imagine, if you will what would happen to the American machine if one of these mega-quakes hit California or the New Madrid area which may have the potential of dividing the U.S. and literally stopping the flow of supplies to the city in which you reside.  Like Katrina, the Gulf Oil Spill, and more recently the tornado in Joplin, MO, any large disaster affects everyone even if it only means a rise in fuel prices in your area.

Tornado damage in Joplin, MO
What constitutes THE BIG ONE for you?  Whether it’s the possibility of a skinned knee, unemployment and foreclosure, a natural disaster wiping out your farm, a nuclear WWIII, or Planet X pulling earth out of orbit or causing a major pole shift and killing off 2/3 of the Earth’s population, what will get you to think ahead and make the appropriate plans and preparations for you, your family, friends or neighbors?

Diet and Exercise – A Catch 22 for the Disabled

A couple of years ago, my doctor told me I would be dead by 60 if I didn’t lose weight immediately.  My blood pressure was constantly at stroke level due to stress, my heart was enlarged which caused me to experience angina and atrial fibrillation, had severe sleep apnea, am insulin resistant and was borderline diabetic.  He referred me to a Lap-Band Clinic which I qualified for on five counts, but did not have insurance coverage or, at the time, $10,000 cash up front.  I told him I would diet.  He said it was too late for that, but what else could I do.  Shortly after that, I applied for disability and still do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare and do not have the now $15,000 fee to pay for surgery.  Now I suffer from congestive heart failure and have been hospitalized for respiratory failure, possible pulmonary embolism and am supposed to be on oxygen 24-7 (however, I do not have insurance coverage for the treatment).

There must be about 27 diet books and half dozen diet programs, CD’s, etc. in my collection now.  Like a lot of people, I make a New Year resolution every January to lose weight and exercise more.  This year it was Nutrisystem.  I had some extra money left over from my disability back pay and agonized over how to spend it wisely.  Health is always at the top of my list these days, since I am way short of that commodity.  Although the NS website is extremely helpful with tons of support, it did not work for me.  When I started, I decided that I would have to be dedicated for at least three months in order to get true and accurate results.  Right off the bat, I lost the initial 10 lbs. of water weight.  That was the first month.  I only lost an additional 2 lbs. per month thereafter, which for me at 200 lbs over my average weight was unacceptable, plus WAY too expensive to continue with these results.

What I liked about Nutrisystem was the precooked and packaged meals that came right to my door.  It is difficult for me to cook and shop since I am unable to stand for long periods of time due to osteoarthritis in my knees and scoliosis which has caused painful sciatic problems in my back.  Of course, the extra weight does not help.  Many of the meals were downright tasty, especially the frozen ones, and there is a lot of variety.  I also loved the forums where I could discuss my progress (or lack thereof) with other people in my situation.  The folks who were physically challenged seemed to be having the worst results.  We were unable to move around or exercise enough to boost our metabolism.  If we cut calories or meals in order to get past the stall, we ended up with even less of a metabolism and often even gained more weight.  Even with the diuretic I take daily for hypertension and edema, I was unable to lose more than the initial water weight and remained bloated and swollen.

Doctor’s advice?  Get more active which is difficult and painful carrying this much fat and water weight, not to mention the severe lack of oxygen when I take more than 20 steps.  More doctor’s advice?  Diet and take meds.  I protest, “But, Doctor, the diet doesn’t work if I can’t exercise and I can’t exercise because I need to lose weight and the meds make me tired, listless and lower my metabolism!”  Doctor says, “Hm.  Catch-22.  Get Lap-Band surgery.”  Seriously?

Preparing to Get Ready to Prepare

Have you checked out the news lately?  Earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, volcanoes, tsunamis, oil spills, hurricanes, mudslides, sinkholes, livestock and crop killing drought, record wildfires.  Wow.  That’s just today!  Whoever’s orchestrating this show really knows how to make a person sit on the edge of their seat.  What’s scary is, other than the tsunamis and hurricanes, any of this stuff could happen where I live.  And this isn’t even a new show.  It’s all reruns and they happen month after month.

So years ago I decided to take action.  I  thought I better heed the advice of the prolific plethora of disaster oriented commercials and websites such as The American Red Cross, FEMA and a multitude of other emergency preparedness gurus.  I bookmarked them all on my computer.  There, I was ready.   All that info available at the touch of a button… unless there was a power outage.  Okay, so then I printed off the information and loaded them in a binder.  Now I would know exactly what to do to prepare when an emergency happened… if I could find the binder and had time to read through all the information AND take action.  Unlikely.  Fast forward to the present after a few minor bumps in the road of life got my attention.  I was definately ready to get prepared or prepared to get ready.  Um.  You’re right.  I am a slow learner.  A late bloomer.  Not too quick off the mark.  Well, you get the idea.

You guessed it.  I finally actually read the material, put together 72 hour kits for each family member, made a plan of action and discussed it with them, stocked up at least two months of food and supplies at home (thank you super coupon shopping networks), compiled emergency car kits for each vehicle and a comprehensive first aid kit.  And don’t forget the pets.  We even trained the cat to take cover during an air raid.  When my son plays the siren in this link, http://free-loops.com/1461-air-raid-siren-1.html, Baby runs for cover under a chair or table and stays there until we say, “All clear, Baby.”  Now we’re all set.

Baby, relaxed and confident that she's ready for any disaster situation.

Unfortunately, my body is not as prepared as my mind.  Walking around my sister’s little homestead the other day, we watched as a storm cell bore down on us and I wondered what would happen if a tornado dropped out of the middle of the dark vortex.  I would be able to move about as fast as Tim Conway doing the Old Man Shuffle (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQqXESf5wJc&feature=list_related&playnext=1&list=PL7FF907D60677887B).  Have to work on that.  I bookmarked a website…

Pecking Order

There is currently a huge movement in the U.S.  More and more urbanites are becoming backyard chicken farmers (see http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2011/June/Backyard-Chickens-All-the-Rage-in-the-Big-Apple/).  Whether it is a fad, economics, healthy eating or an animal hobby, there are more and more people adding chickens to their list of necessities.  I had been wanting to own a small flock for a long time and finally got the chance when I purchased my 1/3 acre home replete with lawns, garden space, patio, sheds and a variety of fruit and nut trees.

Our 90 year old home had recently been remodeled, but the yard had been fallow for over five years.  After the guys raked up the two foot deep debris littering the entire yard and mowed the knee high grass and weeds, we discovered that whole entire armies of every kind of bug you can think of had made our yard its habitat.  And without the protective cover, they went on the move.  There wasn’t enough bug spray in Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware or Walmart combined to kill all the bugs – and some of them were beneficials which we would need when we got the gardens going.  Time for organic methods.

My sister brought over her old 5′ x 6′ coop and after building a shaky chicken wire run, we bought two bantams, Archie and Edith.  Bantams are the best bug eaters in the world next to anteaters.  They started gobbling up the bugs and within a couple of weeks, the ground in our yard was no longer “moving”.  Chickens are so entertaining to watch, that we decided we needed more and bought a banty hen named Big Mama, and her three daughters.  We soon learned that there is an unkind pecking order with chickens and even though Big Mama and the girls were the newest, they were also the biggest and eldest.  They picked on poor Edith.  The neighbors picked on Archie when he started crowing (all day and all night – worse than a barking dog) and animal control informed me of the city ordinances.  I could have up to five registered hens, but no roosters.  Archie got relocated and Edith died of a broken heart.  After that experience, we were more careful about housing the chickens together too soon.  Now we have a 10′ x 10′ coop with a 10′ x 10′ dog kennel chicken yard and currently have 7 regular laying hens (Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds) and one pretty little bantam, Winnie, who all provide us (and friends and neighbors) with two and half dozen eggs weekly.

Benefits of owning a personal flock of chickens:

  • No waste.  After recycling the approved items with the city, and feeding all food scraps to the chickens, we only have one bag of trash to dispose of each week.
  • Compost.  If you are a gardener or landscaper, you can fully appreciate the advantage of owning chickens.  The chicken yard is the compost bin.  We throw in all food scraps, weeds, grass, soiled straw from the coop and rabbit pen, windblown fruits and vegetables and the chickens eat it, scratch it, and add fresh manure which is dug out twice a year, “cooked” for another year and put on all plants and trees.
  • Insect, weed, and vermin eradication.  Chickens will eat most all bugs, spiders, centipedes, scorpions and small vermin like mice and voles.  They also eat huge quantities of weeds and if contained in a “tractor” will completely clear a spot of ground in hours.
  • Food.  Home grown eggs are not less expensive than store bought, but are more safe and nutritional (see http://handcraftedcoops.com/home-raised-eggs-offer-superior-nutrition ).  At least I know what my chickens are eating and that they are happy and healthy.  Also, if you’re not squeamish and your chickens aren’t pets, you will have a source of organic poultry for your freezer.  However, most city ordinances prohibit any kind of animal butchering.  You may have to seek out a local butcher or farmer to do the dirty deed.

Other eggcellent reasons can be found on this site, http://www.goodfoodworld.com/2011/05/a-dozen-reasons-to-have-urban-chickens/.

What will happen to my chickens if I lose my home?  No problem.  The coop is portable and they will either go with me or find a new home at my sister’s homestead or my son’s horse farm.  I can visit them any time.  Think you might want to venture forth into the backyard poultry craze?  Try http://www.backyardchickens.com/ for more information.

Survival of the Unfittest

There have been a lot of inquiries asking how I survived financially during the waiting period after applying for disability. Fortunately, I documented everything and kept great notes because the medications I was on pretty much wiped out my short term memory. While barely able to function, I still understood how important it would be to my future and the future of my youngest son still in college and living at home to make the right decisions.

There is a five month to two year waiting period for SSDI in my state during which time there is no income while you are unable to work. Even if you qualify for unemployment, you cannot apply unless you are able to work. What really helped us out was the accidental timing. I had become more and more ill while working and finally felt I needed to take some leave to try to recover. It became apparent closer to the end of the 12 week family leave from November through February, that I would never be able to return to this job and probably never work again. That decision was extremely difficult as I always felt I would work until the day I died. How were we going to make it?

I started a notebook and listed all of my assets and bills. First, we did the obvious and dropped unnecessary services like cable, sold extra items around the house, and used coupons, discounts and sales with every shopping trip. It was tax time so the hefty return I expected would be a huge advantage. After retiring in February and applying for both state retirement disability and social security disability and hiring a disability attorney to speed things up, there was a good chunk of money in my final paycheck which I recieved in March. We had Care Credit (a medical credit card), and three other credit cards with limits from $500 to $1,200 which all had $0 to very low balances as I always kept up on my payments. We would need all of our cash and credit cards for monthly bills. In April, I applied for Food Stamps and Medicaid and switched as many of my medical appointments to a sliding scale fee based clinic. If you look online, there are many pharmaceutical companies that will send you free prescriptions if you qualify based on income. Zero income qualifies. That took care of the immediate and short term financial situation.

Long term, I needed to concentrate on my mortgage, the largest monthly payment that could not be paid by most of the methods listed above. At least not indefinately. Of course, the first thing I did was communicate my concerns to my mortgage lender. They were not sympathetic and could think of no other alternative than to pay in full each month and every month or go into foreclosure. Nice. The loan officer at my bank who gave me the original mortgage tried his best to refinance my current loan, but said my interest rates were already as low as they could get and even after paying five years of principal, the economy had reduced the value of my home so there was no equity and I would have had to pay an additional $3,000 down on another loan with payments only minutely smaller than my current one. Next. After calling a half dozen mortgage assitance agencies, they said I had done all that I could do and there was nothing they could offer to help out.

By this time in July, I was accepted for state disability and started receiving monthly payments plus back pay to the day I applied. I called my mortgage company back and offered to make partial payments to cover principal and interest each month until I was accepted for disability. I sent a partial payment to show good intent. They kept it, but didn’t count it as a payment. They said they wouldn’t accept partial payments and I wasn’t eligible for mortgage forebearance unless I had an income of at least $1,000 a month which I did not. At this point, I stopped making mortgage payments and started doing research on how I could stay in my home as it would be a hardship to move while disabled.

Just as my cash stash was tapped out and the credit cards maxxed, I was approved for SSDI and payments began in December with back pay and medicaid coverage to last January. I paid off the credit card bills with the back pay and sent the medicaid number to all my pharmacists, physicians, etc. and received refunds for services received during that time. More bill catch up and here I am with a disability income approximately the same as my working income without insurance or benefits.

The fight for my home continues as documented in previous blogs, but I have confidence that it will work out in the end. If you know someone who needs to be on disability, but doesn’t think they can make it financially during the long waiting period, please refer them to http://www.thedisabilitydigest.com. It is the best resource out there.

Order in the Court!

Attorney’s office called yesterday afternoon to ask me to attend the Temporary Injunction Hearing this morning (which was actually scheduled on June 7th) so I was a wreck last night.  Apologies to all for listening to my clonazepam induced ramblings and thanks to all who attended to me.  I am grateful to have so many friends who care.  Let’s see if I can make this short and sweet.  The hearing was AWESOME!  Short transcript to follow (my lame layman version).

Shortly after my attorney and I talked on Monday, an attorney for my bank filed an appearance.  They are NOT objecting to a preliminary injunction.  That means they don’t have a problem with me staying in the home for now.  They did want some bond money each month.  Our objective at this point was to convince them of how poor I am.  No problemo.  I typed out a budget sheet for my attorney.

At the hearing, the judge read the Idaho Code pertaining to the situation and couldn’t find a way around the bond issue.  He asked the mortgage attorney what they were thinking of in terms of a bond.  Their attorney stated that they, of course, wanted the full past due amount and regular payements of $736 a month.  My attorney objected stating that the bank holds the property in collateral and they forced me to pay for mortgage protection insurance that would pay them in full  in case of default on the debt. He said that they were doubly covered and are not losing anything if I don’t pay a bond.  He stated his interpretation of the Code saying that it was entirely up to the court to decide.

The mortgage attorney then asked for a $9,000 bond.  My attorney objects again.  He tells the court what my financial situation consists of, reminds the judge that the bond is at the discretion of the court and states that the mortgage is protected by insurance, that they hold the property itself and therefore, a bond is a third security.  The mortgage attorney claims that their company will be damaged in the difficult economic times if they don’t retain a bond.  The judge reminds the mortgage attorney that they did not object to the injunction and therefore the Plaintiff will more that likely prevail, so why must they insist on a bond?

The mortgage attorney holds his position and insists on $9,000 and $730 a month bond which is standard due to a low down payment, claiming they need security, if for nothing else but legal fees.  The judge agrees that according to Idaho Code, there must be some bond and asks the mortgage attorney if they object to a surety bond.  The mortgage attorney agrees and the judge set the surety bond at $5,000 (no additional monthly payment) due and payable within 30 days.  The judge asks the attorneys how long the bond will hold as there was no deadline in the Code.  The mortgage attorney stated that it has been taking them about 12 months to build a case.  Court was adjourned.

Recap:  My attorney explained to me that I will get to stay in my home for another year at least, that I need to pay $500 (10% of bond) to a surety bond agency which he will find for me, that he will continue to fight for the title free and clear, but at the very least can negotiate for the lowest possible mortgage payment if that is what we have to settle for.  This means that the battle is half won!  One year with no mortgage payment, another year with a $500 payment.  Why aren’t more people fighting foreclosure!  Would you?