Friday, March 26, 2010

Potato boxes

Trying something new this year. I enjoy red potato's, but NEVER buy them in the stores (the price is crazy expensive in my budget). Last year, I grew red potato's for the first time, and they did pretty well. I learned a few things (cut up the potato's before planting, plant in potato boxes instead of hilling them) that I want to try out to see if I get more yield this year.

Because I cut the potato's into smaller pieces (go me!), there are so many of them, it won't all fit into the garden. Opps! So, we are planting them right outside the garden. I got my youngest son to help move dirt for me (thank you, sweetie!).

Worst part about this? As soon as fresh dirt is put down, the ducks come running over to dig in it looking for bugs and worms. Great. Two days after I took these pics, hubby made the potato boxes to surround the dirt (and to hold the dirt in that will be coming once the potatoes start growing). Thank you, dear!

I am using the old bedding from the duck pen over the potato's as well. Hoping that the manure helps the 'taters grow bigger. Fingers crossed that my potato's grow big and prolific this season!

The peas are poking up. I love to see them starting. And the romaine is off and running. I need to thin them out in the next few weeks. Hoping to let them get just a wee bit bigger so that the ducks can have a snack on the ones I thin. All a part of the plan (so I say....)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Blessings, you won't know if you don't ask

Medical bills, that's what I am talking about.

Hubby had surgery last Novemeber. We got the bills in December. Thousands of dollars, AFTER the insurance paid. Why do we pay for insurance month after month? I forget.....

I call the business office to set up payment arrangements, am told my only options are for a third company. They sell our debt to the company, the company then charges a percentage of interest for 2 years, but allows us to pay X dollars a month. This is the ONLY option that I am told about. So this is what I set up.

Fast forward two months, we have paid one month to the other company, but have set aside a large amount of cash. I go to the business office in person and ask if we can make a settlement for the remainder of the medical debt. I'm told that they will not do that, but that I can apply for hardship where they will reduce or erase the debt completely. WHAT?! Why didn't they tell me that in December? Oh, but I've already signed the papers to the other company. NOO!!! Hold it, the final papers haven't been signed (thank you, Jesus!), so they can halt selling my debt until I can fill out the hardship paperwork. WHEW.

Thank you, Lord, for having me go on that day to check on our debt. If we had made a second payment, it would have been irrevocable. The debt would have belonged to the third company and we couldn't have worked with the hospital. Thank you, Lord!

I fill out the paperwork. It felt very invasive. Three months worth of paystubs, three months worth of bank statements, our tax returns, etc, etc. Hubby HATED that we had to give so much information.

I took it back in two days later, turned it in. The lady in the business office looked it over quickly and told me that she thought 100% of our debt would be written off. Worst case would be 80% of the debt. Oh-kay. That would be lovely. But I am scared and anxious, so I will just wait and see. Hopeful, don't get me wrong, but I will wait.

I got the letter this week. The hospital wrote off 100% off the debt. This is over 2,500 worth of medical bills that we would have been paying off over the next two years. That we would have been paying INTEREST on.

I suppose the thing that frustrates me so badly is that I didn't know that they had a program to write off debt. To apply for hardship.

My advice to others? Please ask. Hospitals in particular. Ask the business office which programs they offer. It can't hurt to ask!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stupid dog, and stupid library

Hey teacher, the dog ate my homework. Okay, he ate my books.

Not once, but twice.

The first time, it was my fault. When we leave the house, we put the dogs in the bathroom so they don't get into mischief (as seen by what he did to the book!). I accidentally left a book next to the bathtub, and while I was gone, he used it as a chew toy. Irritate me! He will be TWO in a month, and it's been a while since he has chewed up something. Grrrr.... It was the FIRST time he had chewed up a book. Granted, he's eaten other things in the bathroom (toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrushes, etc), but a book?!

I took myself down to the library, showed them the book and paid to have it replaced. Since it is part of the county system, and I request a lot of books, it was from another library, so I write a check to the library that it originated from. No big deal, but I hate paying full price for a book when I know I can get a better deal on books that full retail.

Two weeks later, the dog does it again. Double GRRRR.... This time, I had the book up on a shelf, on top of a stack of towels. He had to WORK to get to this book. The dog was determined to eat this book. What in the world?! Is it the fiber? Does he hate me? WHY DO YOU EAT THEM?

Breathing, must keep breathing. It wasn't just the cover or the spine of the book this time. No, he shredded 25 pages from the middle of the book (which I hadn't even gotten to yet). Sadly, this means that I missed a major part of the plot. That right there is enough to make me want, we don't harm our animals, as much as we would like to.

Okay, I have to do something about this book. I don't want to pay full retail for it, because that is just crazy talk. I have a Barnes and Nobles membership (my youngest son loves a particular series that the library does not carry, so we buy the series, he reads it for several months, then we donate the books to the library. Win-win!). I buy the book there, get my discount, and take it to the library.

Now, I have gone this replacement book route in the past. Part of living in the same town for *cough, cough* nearly three decades means that you learn some things. But today, I learned that where this book originated, the Lake Oswego Public Library, they do not allow you to replace the book yourself. PLUS, they charge you a five dollar handling fee. EXCUSE ME?! This book is now going to cost me thirteen dollars to replace??!! I bought it myself for $7.19! Pities sake.

I am half tempted to cut off the library bar-code and put it on the replacement book, put some clear contact paper over the whole she-bang and drop it into the drop box and see if they even notice (except that is lying). It sooo feel like extortion to me.

Mmmph. I will wait until next Monday when I am a wee bit calmer, and then I will call the library and see if maybe we can find a middle ground on this issue. Because at the moment, I have a tic. And I am annoyed.

At the dog. And the Lake Oswego Library.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Electronics, part two

Perseverance and keeping your eyes open. It ain't over until it's OVER!!

Hubby brought home a USB cord for the printer to hook it from my laptop to the printer. Oh-kay. We already had one. Well, he got a longer one so I could use it from my chair rather than while next to the printer (visions of the dog racing past the cat, ripping the cord out and tearing the laptop off my lap. No thanks, I'll just sit on the floor to print stuff). That's okay, hunny, I don't print things an excessive length of time, and I can sit on the floor to do it.

This necessitates returning the cord to the store, I don't want to waste $30 in my closet because of laziness.

Then, while cruising the ad's last night, hub's just happens to look at Office Max and finds the EXACT same model printer on sale this week, for $50 less. Fifty bucks!! Hmmm, does the store we bought from price match? (Yes, for the record, I checked their price earlier and it was higher...ah, the frustration!) A call to the store, three transfers, and a transfer to a fax machine line. What in the world?! Meaning, we don't know if they price match or not. Good thing I already need to take a trip in for the USB cord.

Today, I trot myself down to the store, go to Customer Service and have my handy receipt and ad. Yes, they do price match. After returning the USB cord (which, at other times in my life, could very well have just ended up languishing in the closet "just in case we need it") and getting the price match, I ended up with a total of eighty dollars in my pocket. Not bad for a days work!

Lesson learned? Even after the purchase is made, it doesn't hurt to see if the item has gone on sale somewhere else, and if they price match where you bought it. Fifty bucks saved is fifty bucks. That is grocery money in my budget!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

This boot is made for walk'n

Isn't she stylish?!

That's my girl! Ms Chatty, sporting the latest in designer, veterinary duds. The turquoise boot. Whoo-hoo, work it, girlfriend!

Chatty has been hiding for a few days. Tucking herself under bushes, making herself scarce. I thought she was just getting broody. It IS spring, after all. And then I saw her walking around yesterday afternoon, limping. Oh, no! What did she get into? I caught her (when my ducks don't run away from me, I know there is a problem) and checked her out. She had a huge lump on one foot. Huge being a relative term, more like the size of a pea. Obviously bothering her.

I call the vet we use. They don't see ducks, but give me the number of another vet. They don't see ducks either, but they give me the number of a vet. You see where this is going? I end up calling MULTIPLE vets before finding one. (There are all these ad's of vets in the phone book with pictures in their ads of birds, and yet they don't see birds. Isn't that false advertising?!) I make an appointment for today.

Poor girl hasn't been handled this much EVER. Hasn't been in a car since the day I brought her home as a duckling. I think she is traumatized. From the sounds of it, it's like a calluses that is infected, since there is so much pressure there, it can't heal and got infected. The vet lanced it, and made her a "boot" to relieve the pressure for a few days to give it a chance to heal. That and antibiotics for seven days, twice a day (yea me! I get to catch a duck and force pills down her throat. Does it get any better?).

This also was an opportunity for me to pick the vet's brain about food (well, since I was THERE I should ask!) and bedding for the pen (replacing it with sand this weekend to spare their little tootsies from further trauma).

All this for eggs?! No....I'll admit it. They have officially moved to the realm of pets. OUTDOOR pets, but pets, nonetheless. Pets that I get eggs from, but pets.

Word from the vet: gravel is too hard on their webbed feet to use in their pen. I didn't want dirt or concrete (in our wet climate, it makes for mud and stink in the summer. Disgusting!). Her recommendation was several inches of sand, and then to use a leaf rake once a week to remove the droppings, and hose it down every few months. Replenish the sand as needed when it gets low. Plus, if the ducks do eat it, it should pass safely through their system. So, that's the word from the vet. Passing it on to other duck lovers out there!


Ah, the 21st century. Needing a home printer. But what to get?

We had a printer/scanner/photo-thingie. Number one: the HP model that we bought (several years ago) didn't produce nice photos. They were grainy and streaky. Not to mention, photos eat up A LOT of color ink. I learned that I was much happier going to a drug store for my photos. Since I have a digital camera, I can pick and choose only the photos I want, the quality turns out better, and I don't waste money on all that color ink on photos that are sub-par. Number two: those little ink cartridges don't hold much ink. We don't make a lot of copies/prints at home, but it seemed like we were ALWAYS running out of ink! And to refill the cartridge costs $12 to $15 dollars, to buy new is more than that. Do that a few times a year. OUCH.

I read on the Internet recently that it is more cost effective to get a laser printer. I was skeptical. But thought I would check it out.

Most new ink jet printers cost under $100 dollars. An inexpensive laser printer costs $170 dollars. Ink jet refills cost around $20 or more. And print off 100 pages (in my experience, it's less than that). The laser printer toner is $40 and runs 3,500 pagers. That means that the upfront cost will save you very quickly in saved toner costs!!

We went with the laser printer. Granted, it's only black and white, but we don't care about color. The model we got has a USB to plug into the computer, and is rated for small offices. It is Energy Star rated and goes into sleep mode after a minute when not in use (very nice!), so I don't have to think about turning it off and on all the time. Plus, it prints out FAST compared to the ink jet (the model we got is for offices---and yes, it was the best deal---so it prints fast).

I am doing a happy, happy, happy dance. Energy star rated, saving money over time on the toner. And I now have a printer at home that works. I can once again start printing coupons off the Internet at home. YES!!! Internet coupons, how I have missed you.....

And I did the leg work. Calls to stores, cruising stores on the 'net. Good times! Still, I love knowing I got a good deal. Love that!! Especially when hubby asks "Are you sure such-and-so store didn't have a better price on that model?" and I can pull up the store and model and show him, yes....we got a better deal! LOVE THAT!!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Garden is started

I know it seems early, but we have had unseasonably warm weather! We are in a La Nina pattern, and are running two to four weeks early this year in our weather pattern. Meaning, we are closer to the end of March weather-wise than the beginning of it.

We did have some frost early last week, but other than those two days of frost, it has been a few weeks of frost free days.

I asked at the feed store in Feb if they had potato starts. Nope, not until March. Today I went in, and they had some. So, I got my potato starts (red potato's, a treat). Hoping I can convince hubby to build some potato boxes to see if those produce more potato's. It's a process to convince him.....

In the garden today I got the peas planted, and romaine lettuce. It will be my first year for romaine lettuce. Typically, I go for normal old leaf lettuce, but decided to try romaine for a change of pace. Why not? My peas did poorly last year, not certain if it was the weather conditions or the type of pea that I chose, so I have my fingers crossed that this year will be better!

It is so odd to hear the frogs croaking and to see the trees coming into bloom this early. Sadly, I still feel cold all the time (I have no cause to whine, everyone in the Midwest and east can throw snow at me!), and crave sunshine.

Come on, sunshine!!