Sunday, September 14, 2008

Penny for Your Thoughts?

So, I did mention that I might get another post up today and here it is. This one is a shameless post as an entry for a contest sponsored by
and . Not an entry of my writing skills, thank goodness, but for a random drawing, and we all know how much I like "Free"!

I remember once being somewhere - I can't really remember details but work with me here - with my two darling, little cherubs. Maybe it was in the car. Maybe it was in the kitchen. Who knows. At any rate, I remeber they were about 7 and 8 - or 8 and 9 - years old and, on this particular day, Baby Girl asked me, "Are we poor?"

I was really taken aback by this simple query and had to think a moment before answering.

It's not that I didn't know if we were poor or not. We weren't. At least not by Third World standards. Heck, we weren't really even poor by Super Power Nation standards. I mean, we had a roof over our heads. We had four walls around us. We certainly had enough food for our bellies. We had vehicles and jobs and access to health care.


I could kind of see where the question came from.

Scrambling for buckets when the rain came was a regular kind of thing. Learning to layer not only the clothes on your body but also the blankets on your bed was the modus operandi from November to March. And when you come out of school at the end of the day, and your mom is waiting in the line of cars with all the other moms, except your mom is the only mom laying on the ground under the car wiring the muffler back on...well, one shouldn't be too surprised at a question like this.

Their friends, at least as far as my children were aware, did not live like this.

And so began the years long process of teaching our children the difference between being poor and being in over one's head. Or living on the edge. Or thumbing your nose at convention.

Or whatever way you happen to want to spin it.

Because, let's be honest, it can go any way you prefer.

They were now becoming aware of the consequeces of life choices on a much bigger scale.

We had to teach them that we lived the way we did because we chose to do it. That there were certain things we were willing to sacrifice in order to have others. That there were certain things we were willing to sacrifice because they were incidental, and it wasn't really much of a sacrifice after all. And most importantly, if need be, we were willing to walk away from all of it saying, "At least we gave it a shot."

Sure, they had to learn the value of money. They learned how it can hurt when you don't have enough. They learned how having it can make things somewhat easier, but also how it can't solve all problems. How it might get you some of the things you want but that not everything can be bought.

I've seen them experience the easy come easy go, the not so easy come yet still easy go, the not so easy come and I'm really having a hard time letting it go, and the I've busted my butt for this and just try to pry it from my fingers lessons of money. We talked about investing and credit and debt and interest and saving and spending and lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

They had some things but not everything. They joined some activities but not every one they wanted to join. They got to go to some places but not others. They learned that everyone - moms, dads, and kids - are all affected by money.

It's all part of the game.

But more importantly, they learned that money is a tool, a means to and end. They had to learn that there is value in so many things - material things, work, play, freedom, health, land, happiness, knowledge, independence, everything.

How much of my freedom am I willing to sacrifice for the almighty dollar? Would I rather have that extra day of overtime or would I be happier spending it with a friend? What if I buy this item from this store? How will affect someone else? How will it affect me? Would I be better off if I could make/grow/knit/cook/etc. it myself? How might what I choose to do or not do today affect what I may or may not be able to do tomorrow? What is more important to me?

These are the kinds of lessons I wanted them to learn. I think if you know how to answer questions like these, the answers to the money ones fall more easily into place. They are hard questions when you really sit down and try to answer them honestly. We humans are so skilled at rationalizing our shorfalls and blunders.

But I was a little nervous about whether or not we did the right thing. Maybe a small house in town would have been better. Maybe it would have freed up more time and money for other things. Maybe we really screwed it all up after all.

I was always a little afraid that my children would grow up, leave home, and never look back. I thought they might have had their fill of wacky parents with misplaced priorities, living in a drafty old house, in one of those spots in America that time just kind of forgot. I thought maybe they would like to high tail it out of Dodge and say "So long" to the old farm... I certainly wouldn't blame them if they did - they are young and the world is their oyster.

Yet oddly enough, they both have said that they would like to see a bit of the world but are considering coming back to this area when they want to settle down. There has even been mention of living on the farm.

So maybe we're doing alright after all. Who's to say? They may get out into the world and love the change and never come back to the area, but at least they are aware of and open to other options.

Thinking back, I can't honestly say that I ever set out awith the intention of teaching my children anything specific about Money. Rather, I hope that I taught them - and still teach them - that money is just one of the many, many variables that affects a life, but certainly not what defines it.

What really defines a life is how many goats you own.


That's right. Whatever.

I know I'm a bad blogger. At least I've taken the first step and admitted the problem.

But...whatever. is the (seasonal?) update from the funny farm.

When we last met, I told you about ... what. Let me go check. Oh, the kids (human) and the kids (caprine). Well, all kids are doing fine and dandy. Except the one that died and, fortunately, that one was of the caprine variety.

Yes, we lost another goat. Again, I think, to parasites. So, going against all I had hoped for, we broke out the chemical wormers and dosed everyone up. And then gave vaccines. Which, you wouldn't think it would be, but it was a pretty exciting thing what with the possibility that at any given moment after you give the vaccine the goat could get all bug-eyed, stick out its tongue and go into anaphylactic shock. And DIE.

Luckily, that didn't happen. But, I have to say, we are all getting quite the education with these critters. "We" meaning pretty much eveyone within a 10 mile radius of our farm. The people at my dog vet office found the whole goat-going-into-shock thing quite interesting when I called them and begged for epinephrine to have on hand(to counter the possible shock).

Here's the real crazy thing. A friend of a friend of ours just got some goats, and the friend in between called me and was asking for some helpful advice. After my initial reaction of "Why in God's name did they ever get goats?", I was actually able to give her a lot of good pointers. It sure surprised the heck out of me.

Regarding the other kids...

Sonny Boy is in full swing with his second year of college now, although he is still living at home since he is going to one of the local campuses of PSU. Right now he is trying to raise a VW Jetta from the dead. It involves a new engine, some sticks and mud, and strange chanting ceremonies that go long into the night. It is taking up the better part of the summer but, you know, it keeps him out of trouble.

Well, almost. There was that little incident with The Law when he evaded a police officer by riding his dirt bike through a golf course. He did manage to get away but due to the fact that the police officer kind of recognized his bike, and that sonny boy has a bit of a guilty conscience, he turned himself in after negotiating a fine.

That's my boy!

At least he's not hanging out with Republicans.

Baby Girl is in Scotland right now. Yes, that's right. She is spending her first semester of school there. I am insanely jealous, particularly when she emails and tells me things like her one friend's parents have a time share on some island off of Spain and they are thinking of spending a week there at the end of Ocotber. Oh, and since they only have class 4 days a week, they are thinking of taking a long weekend trip to Norway.

She also emailed me a picture of her in a pub, holding a big pint glass of Guinness. Because, you know, she is of leagal drinking age there. So there's that to think about.

But, all in all, both are doing swimmingly well and I couldn't be a more proud mom.

Speaking of proud moms, I thought one of our chickens had become Fox Chow earlier in the summer. They are completely free range, sometimes not coming home for a few days. As long as they have the car back before I have to go to work I don't really mind. But after a couple of weeks doing a head count and always coming up one short, I thought we had indeed lost one for good.

Then one day, Sonny Boy came and asked me where all the peeps came from. My initial reaction was to think that my mother had horded away some marshmallow Peeps from Easter and was now dropping them off, in the perfect state of stale, for hubby. She always deposits her care packages on my kitchen table (which I can never get to the point of Empty!), so I asked him if they were there. He told me that, no, they were outside.

I looked at him wondering why my mother would leave the Peeps outside. Were they on the hood of my car? The grill?

Me: Outside?
SB: Yeah.
Me: ...
SB: ...
Me: Where?
SB: Near the saw mill.
Me: ...
SB: ...
Me: Peeps.
SB: Yeah, peeps.
Me: Like, Peeps peeps?
SB: Like chicken peeps.
Me: ?!!

Sure enough the prodigal chicken - the one I had given up for lost - returned with 10 peeps! 10! All of a sudden the chicken population on our farm had doubled. So that was pretty neat.

And, yes, I said saw mill. Because, wouldn't you know, now we have a saw mill. It arrived sometime, I think, in April and was set aside and covered until such time as we would actually have time to do anything with it. It was immediately forgotten about until that fateful day when I was tracking down the smell of "something dead" and followed said smell to the saw mill.

It could have been any number of creatures - chicken, cat, groundhog - who knows. At least all of the dogs, goats and horses were accounted for. I was so not looking forward to lifting the piece of rubber we had covering it to find out what poor thing went under there to die, and looking even less forward to having to drag the thing out and dispose of it Properly, Properly being Somewhere Where We Can't Smell It. But, someone had to be brave and, since hubby was being brave in his own way (story to follow), it was left to me to do the exhumation.

Imagine my surprise and relief when I found the stink was not that of a dead animal slowly roasting under the saw mill, but merely an abandoned clutch of eggs left by a hen that finally realized if the chicks are going to smell that bad, she didn't want them anyway.

You can also probably imagine my surprise when I learned that, even if you are as careful as can be when removing eggs full of potentially deadly stink, it doesn't matter. Because they explode. That's right. I guess they were full of enough ... I don't know... Dead Chick Gas that the slightest little movement made them go "Pop!"

And boy did they stink.

All I could think was "It's a shame I don't have any mortal enemies right now." And then I thoguht, "I have to make sure I get rid of them before Sonny Boy finds these." Not because he has any mortal enemies, but because I never quite recovered from the time he put an M-80 in a pile of dog poop and lit it. It's a hard thing to forget.

So I just mentally pinched my nose, loaded the eggs in a wheelbarrow, took them to the end of our driveway which is located in that place called Somewhere Where We Can't Smell It, and tossed them into the woods.

Now, I did mention that hubby was busy elsewhere, and that elsewhere happened to be... the roof! Yes, folks. After a Long Time, we are doing roof work on the house again. And this time it doesn't involve hand-me-down pool covers. No, this time it is bonafide roof work involving building trusses, milling molding, buying sailboat windows and everything. Because when we do a roof, we go all out.

To make a months long story mercifully short, we decided it was reasonably possible that we could fix the northern most peaked roof of our house this summer. The inevitable fly in the ointment came when we also had to figure out just how we were going to deal with the small flat roof that kind of connected into this one. Like so...


After quite a few days (and beers) of assessing the situation, we decided what the hell we'll make it a peaked roof.


The sucky thing about roofing is that it tends to take copious amounts of time and money, neither or which we have much of to begin with, let alone at the same time.

But, after many weeks (and beers), we have gone from this ...


... to this ...


Pretty darn impressive no matter how you slice it.

I know. I lost you all at sailboat window, didn't I? Well, as it turns out, all of the rest of the peaks on our house have circle windows in them. As it also turns out, circle windows cost about 5 trillion dollars. So, thinking it would be a bit extravagant to buy a window that cost as much as a Fannie Mae bailout, we started seeing what our other options would be. As it turns out, the most affordable circle windows that you don't build yourself happen to be sailboat ones. So, there you go.

Which pretty much brings us to today. Well, in a very summarizing kind of way, at least. We did add another goat to the herd which involved a long trip home from West Virginia but, really, you've all been through this before with me so I don't really have to go into it, do I?

And of course there were all the other things we all do with our summers - attending composting workshops, breaking into our cousin's house to see if he is still alive, geting a rug loom - you know, the usual stuff. But you've all done that before so I don't want to bore you with those stories.

So, here we are at today and I think you are all caught up for the most part. I am now going to wrap this up and head out to put some fence up. And drink more beers. There is a possibility that I might try to get another post in today in a shameless attempt at winning a contest but I don't know how likely that really is. So, I'll either see you later or laaaaaater.

Peace out.