Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Great Depression Story

Blessings Darlings!

Times were tough back in the Depression.  They were especially tough if your father was an alcoholic who had been fired from his job as an insurance salesman and your mother was abusive, and you were still in high school.

This was the situation my Mother In Law was in. 

As a result, they somehow ended up on some rural farmland during the Depression.  I don't know if they owned the land, how much land there was, or where in Illinois the land was.  It was not located 'in town', or walking distance from the high school.

They made it thru', obviously, or she'd not have married and had a son that I ended up marrying. 

They grew stuff and had a farm stand.  I suppose they grew all sorts of things - but what she says got them by were two main crops:  Sorghum, which was pressed for sweetener; and Kentucky Wonder pole beans.  Perhaps these were their 'cash crops', while most other things they grew they consumed and sold only extras.

But while what they raised 'got them by', they didn't provide enough for her to go to high school.  She left home (moved out permanently? during the school year? During the school week only?) to live with the widow who ran the general store in town, working for her after school, to get thru' high school.  That way she could get to school by walking and earned enough cash to pay for books/supplies and clothes and such.

This year, the first growing season after my Mother In Law has passed on, I'm going to grow my first Kentucky Wonder beans, in her honor.

Frondly, Fern

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spring seeds

Blessings Darlings!

Yesterday I spent in the garden - today we have sleet and cold rain.  Pretty typical!

In today's part of "Quest for Vegetable Seeds", I was able to get to two different 'Dollar Stores'.  One I knew had seeds in (the Spawn had checked the day before, and reported 1 - they were in and 2 - they were 3 packets for a dollar) and one that I figured would have them as well.  Checking store #2 first turned out to be a good idea, as the seeds there were 4 packets for a dollar.  I got all the seeds they had that I wanted, then headed to the other store for anything else I could find.

So, for the sum of $6.50, I have two types of lettuce, three varieties of peppers, two types of summer squash, two types of hard/winter squash (sure wish any of 'em had had hubbard, but no), two types of radishes, two types of peas, cabbage, beets, turnips, cucumbers, beefsteak tomatoes, pole beans, and carrots.

I already have stevia, rosemary, oregano, thyme, ginger, turmeric, some green onions, one or two plants of Jerusalem artichokes, basil, purple sweet potatoes, lettuce, and turnips growing in the house for the winter.

I'll need some potatoes, some bulk beans, more onion sets, spinach seeds, etc.  I'd love to find peppers to make my own Paprika - I'd even be willing to smoke them. 

How's your garden planning going?

Frondly, Fern

Monday, February 25, 2013

The First Aches of Spring

Blessings Darlings!

I started working in the garden today.  I have to move fast so I can get early spring crops in, well, in early spring.  I didn't finished putting mulch down to smother the grass last fall, so I have to do it now.  Also, at least part of the garden should be covered in plastic so the earth can warm faster to be ready for the spring crops.

Seeds are on sale, for 50 cents a package, at Aldi this week.  I'll also see if they are available at a dollar store type place around here for less. 

What I started doing today was covering more of the garden with a layer of news paper topped with dead grass today.  The grass doesn't blow away in our wind, while the news papers DO blow away if not covered.  I used up one full 'book box (1.5 cubic feet) of news paper.  I used the grass that had grown up at the fence line last year, and had died back over winter - thus saving me having to use the little bit of pricey straw/hay that I still have. 

With what I got done today, about 2/3 of the garden is covered.  The remaining 1/3, of course, is where the grass is tallest and it takes more news papers and heavier amounts of dead grass/hay/straw to cover it.  The 2/3 done also needs some spots dealt with where grasses have managed to push thru' the news papers.

Where does a cheapie like me get news papers?  Most of mine are free - I got a free subscription to the Wall Street Journal!  We also do subscribe to one news paper, for local food ads and coupons.

I didn't work in the garden ALL that long, since I only used up that one box of news papers.  But, holy cow, am I every achy!  My legs say I was doing a lot of stooping, my shoulders and arms are talking about me 'harvesting' the dead grasses by hand.

But it has to be done - it's about 2 weeks 'till potatoes can be planted, and spinach and turnips and beets and such should be going in soon as well.

Good eats!

Frondly, Fern

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Blessings Darlings!

Have you noticed that the 'end of money' EOM keeps coming earlier and earlier compared to the "end of month" EOM?  Here, where we're supposed to get 2 paychecks a month, we've only gotten 2 1/3 since November 1.  That's ONE THIRD of our usual/budgeted for income for the last 3 1/2 months.  We're hurting.  Our emergency fund is dry.  We're running really really late in paying some bills.  We've even taken withdrawals from the Chubby Hubby's IRA!

Normally, this would be mitigated at least as far as our grocery money by our son paying 1/4 of his income for buying groceries, but his hours have been cut drastically at work.  Partly because they cut every one's hours, partly because the restaurant he works for has had a cut in customers due to Lent, partly because even before Lent the 'labor costs' at the restaurant were higher than they wanted. They can't cut cooks, they can't cut salaried management, servers get paid less than hosts so cutting them isn't as 'useful (tho' they HAVE sent them home as well), so the Host gets sent home and management seats customers and handles the cash register.

AND - our electric provider estimates our bill most months.  The last bill was estimated, and we paid about half of it.  But they estimated LOW, even by normal usage standards - and the month was COLD COLD COLD so our electric usage for heat was HIGH HIGH HIGH.  We're going to get slapped by a particularly high electric bill next month, on top of what we already owe them.

So, here it's all about trying to stretch what we already have as far as we can.  Car tires are a bit over-filled to increase MPG.  My afternoons are spent sitting under blankets on the couch - not watching TV, but sewing patches on pants in a 60 degree house.  The water supplies to the two toilets that run on have been shut off.  My lunches have been featuring soup and small potatoes/sweet potatoes, leftover veggies, and small sprinkles of cheese, and the Chubby Hubby's lunches are the same soup plus half a sandwich of cheap lunch meat (on home-made bread). The only meat bought each month that isn't 'reduced for quick sale' is one 10 pound bag of chicken leg quarters for $7.90 total. 

One good thing - the Chubby Hubby has finally started to do some needed household repairs, which help make things more efficient around here.  Like - the cold water filter into the washer is now fixed!  I no longer have to carry buckets of cold water from the kitchen to the laundry room to wash clothes.  Because you KNOW I'm not using hot water for my laundry and rinses!  He also spliced a new plug on to the old iron, so it works for ALL of us.  For the past few months I was the only one who could bend the cord 'just so', which allowed some broken wires ends to meet.  He used a cord we had salvaged off something else, years ago, to replace the old plug, so it only cost him time/effort. 

This next weekend we'll be working on the running-on toilets.  I'm hoping we won't have to buy parts for them, just clean calcium and rust deposits off the inside of the tanks and flappers. 

The Spawn has even stopped buying his occasional fast food, instead coming home and eating instead.  I may have to keep some pizza dough half-baked baked, or make him some bagels, so he can whip up home-made pizza fast.

What things are you doing to keep from having to spend money?  Share your ideas here or ....

Have I mentioned that I started a Frugal group on Facebook?  You can join that and share your ideas there, too!  It's at

Frondly, Fern

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Healthy Eating

Blessings Darlings!

So it's noon, and so far I've eaten the way .... sigh .... the way I feel I should be eating all the time.  Brunch was one small left over cubed baked potato, leftover home-canned green beans, diced onion and red pepper, all topped with a sprinkling of shredded mozzarella, nuked to heat it/melt the cheese.

Cheap, filling, two servings of veggies.  I dunno if I can count the tater as a veggie or not - it's certainly not a grain!  So I'm on my way trying to get 9 servings of fruits/veggies for the day.


Frondly, Fern

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dang Entropy!

Blessings Darlings!

We use our toaster oven a heck of a lot.  Altho' it is not at all insulated, we figure that by heating the smaller space for small baking jobs we save energy and money.

No, I've not measured the electric use, I'm making a total SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) here.

About a week ago the toaster oven stopped being reliable.  We started having to hold one of the dials in place for it to work.  As the week went on, even holding the dang dial in place wasn't always working.  That is, it NEVER worked for me, but WOULD work for the chubby hubby.  Which seemed almost fair - we had just fixed a problem with the iron (a loose connection within the plug) that only behaved if I arranged the cord, but not if anyone else plugged it in).

An appliance that I use a lot that doesn't work for me is NOT acceptable.  An appliance that requires my husband to hold a dial in place to make his toast, meaning he can't scramble his eggs while the toast toasts, didn't work for him, either.  So today he worked on a DIY repair of it.

You'd think it wouldn't be too hard - maybe the dial had to be removed and some gunk cleaned from under it or something.  But noooooooooooooo.  The dial won't come off.  Trying to take the beast apart to get at it from inside failed - the thing is a miserable design, a rats nest that requires that you take apart multiple not LOGICALLY related interwoven parts to get to any other part.  After 2 hours he gave up.  Dammit, this one isn't even over 6 years old!

I'm going to buy a new toaster oven.  I'm debating between a no-name one at Walmart for about $25 and a Black and Decker at Target for about $40, but I'll also look at the Sunday ad inserts before deciding.

Anyone have recommendations on what brands you like ... or hate?

Frondly, Fern

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hoping for Mud Season

Blessings, Darlings!

I mentioned "mud season" in last week's Imbolc post.  For those of you with lawns rather than pasture areas, let me explain this a bit.  Mud is what you get when you combine pastures with animals (especially hooved animals) with rain.  Mud season is when you have a spring with normal rains.

Unfortunately, most of the US (and a goodly part of the rest of the world) hasn't been having normal mud seasons.  The serious drought continues across the US. Worldwide, humans used more wheat than we harvested (and in the the US, most of the wheat is winter wheat, which relies on spring rains, rather than winter wheat which relies on summer rains).

While the area I'm in isn't having a current drought problem, my area isn't the breadbasket of the nation/world.  That blighted area of the Great Plains IS that breadbasket.  This has been going on for almost a year, and the weather pattern does not seem to be changing at all.

Rains.  Long and slow and renewing.  We needs it.

Frondly, Fern

Friday, February 8, 2013


Blessings Darlings!

Being as I'm even more of a hermit than my friend Suz is, I don't get out  much.  But today I found myself driving off to the Big City on business, and I ran smack dab into Imbolg. 

At first it was a subtle thing.  The bare trees of winter no longer seemed as harsh.  Their outlines had softened with the faint beginnings of swollen buds.

Then came the official in-my-face sign:  LAMBS!  Very young lambs, already rather coated in the signs of Mud Season.

As I've mentioned before, I don't personally celebrate the High Days based on either the calender or astrological timing, I do it by local herding and agricultural signs.  These are the signs of Imbolg in my area.

So, it's official.  Imbolg has arrived.  Bridget - come in, come in, and welcome!

Frondly, Fern

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Good News!

Blessings Darlings!

We just got off the phone with the State of West Virginia .... and discovered if the only employees of a business are the owners they don't have to pay unemployment insurance. 


Instead of having yet another bill we're late on, we don't have a bill at all.  We assumed we had made a mistake, and that we were going to be found out and in BIG TROUBLE.  But ... no mistake.  No trouble.


Frondly, Fern

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Cup of Tea

Blessings Darlings!

My Mother was one of eight children.  Her parents, and about half of her siblings, were immigrants to the US.  They did well, but let's face it - raising eight children takes a chunk of money, especially when 5 of them are hungry boys (trust me, the girls were taught to not take seconds unless the boys had eaten their fill).

Forward several decades.  Friday night, Shabbos dinner, in the suburbs.  One of Mom's sisters and 4 of her brothers (and their assorted still-living-at-home family members) are at our place for dinner. Everyone has eaten, the table cleared of dinner and now dessert plates, coffee/tea cups, and dessert have replaced the potatoes and brisket.  A few people have coffee with their dessert, but most have tea. 

How many tea bags get used?

Wait for it ... wait for it ....

At most, two tea bags are used.  Usually just one.

Because everyone STILL barely dunks the tea bag in their hot water long enough to color the water, then passes it to someone else who wants tea.

Now, I love me some tea, and prefer it a bit on the strong side.  But with money tight, strong tea is not something I get to have now.  I need to make that package of 100 Earl Grey tea bags I got for Yule last a year.  So I'm doing the barely dunking thing, and now using each bag for 3 cups of hot tea.

I'll be making up a batch of copycat Constant Comment tea soon, too, since I LOVE that for iced tea.  OTOH, I drink that far more in summer than in winter.

Remember, tea is full of healthy flavonoids and such, so are almost health food.

Frondly, Fern

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


 Blessings Darlings!  This is the conclusion of the story of what we've been up to.


Mother In Law did well for a while with rehab and such.  Then ... things started to go south.  And she broke the same bone again.  She had VERY severe osteoporosis - she'd spent most of the past 5 years seated.  Very little walking, no exercise.  Her bones were pretty much like chalk.  So right below the metal plates, the bone broke again. 

Back to the hospital.  Back to deciding on surgery.  Again, yes on surgery because it was the best way to prevent bed sores and pain.  But she was exceedingly bruised, and the blood thinners were complicating everything.  Surgery was being scheduled and then delayed daily, waiting for the blood thinners to leave her system.

Unfortunately, she kept sinking while awaiting surgery.  Chelsea kept visiting, and gave us reports.  In early January she was barely conscious, then she was not conscious. It was pretty clear that she'd be passing the weekend of January 4th, but like many people .... at some level she knew when family was around her and she felt it was rude to leave when she had visitors.  On January 5, as Chelsea and her boyfriend were on the road back home after spending most of the weekend with her, she passed away.


Well, there isn't much to say about that.  It's rough.


So, it's about 3.5 weeks after Norma died.  We are still waiting for the death certificate, so we can cancel the Medicaid contact, and officially tell Social Security and give Chelsea the death benefit (she covered the cremation expenses) (and, what a shock, her boyfriend wants us to NOT tell SS so her checks will keep coming - no, of course we're not going to participate in fraud), and so we can file the life insurance policy, and file the will.  The H is executor of the estate.  But we'll need to contact yet another lawyer at random for that. 

Oh, at least the lawyer for the guardianship returned most of the money we gave him, only charging for the initial meeting .... which was plenty pricey, if you ask me.  Tho' I know you didn't ask me.

We were lucky - we all had a good idea what my MIL would have wanted during most of this.  She had a living will.  She had talked at length to Chelsea about funeral stuff, and CH and I agreed on what Chelsea remembered. 

The boyfriend is .... expecting the family to help him pay for the house expenses.  We fully expect to pay off the roofer for the new roof, and to pay taxes on the house, but legally the bf is required to keep the house up and pay all living-related bills.  Again, we don't know if he can afford to.  Our focus is to do what is right, and let him do as he will.


At any rate, this is what I've been up to while I've been away.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Good stuff, & Legal stuff

Blessings, Darlings!  Here's part 2 of "What has Fern & Family been up to, since she clearly wasn't HERE".


Here, we have the POA/medical that was missing, but no medical folks really cared.  It was enough that my husband was closest kin, and that she was clearly suffering from advanced Alzheimer's.  The guardianship was .... well, we'd given the lawyer cash but not signed the agreement yet. 

But what about paying her bills, medical and otherwise, if the medigap insurance wasn't reinstated?  Would the house have to be sold to get down to medicare asset levels?  The bank wouldn't give us info on her account balances and CDs until we had guardianship.

And .... a few years back, well into her dementia, she had changed her will, so that her boyfriend gets to stay in the house until his death. Which we're not sure he'll be able to afford to keep up.  Did the lawyer know she had dementia? Who knows?

Did she change who gets her life insurance?  Dunno that, either.


During all of this, there was one immensely bright spot.  Bob and I got in contact with our niece, Chelsea (Bob's sister's daughter).  She lives about 100 miles from my MIL (unlike our east-coast to mid-west distance) and is smart and knowledgeable and had experience in guardianship issues, and has friends who are lawyers and know lawyers in the state my MIL was in.  AND she's a foodie.  She and her boyfriend and the CH got together in my MIL's city to work together on all the issues and go thru' my MIL's papers.

Getting back in touch with her again was a wonderful thing.  We should have done it years ago.

Also, H managed to get the medigap insurance thru' her pension reinstated, after the boyfriend and we paid the back-do amount.  Not only that, but it was reinstated back to the time it was cancelled, so all broken hip related costs would be covered.  But this was cleared up after she'd been moved to the other nursing home.

Stay tuned for the next urgent but anything but exciting episode!

Frondly, Fern

Friday, February 1, 2013

Remember Me? Summary, Part 1

Blessings, Darlings!  Remember Me?

It's been a while, hasn't it?  Let me give you a quick summary of what I've been up to since the middle of November.  BTW - this 'quick summary' is going to take several blog posts.....

Around noon on Saturday, November 17, 2012, we got a call from my Mother In Law's live-in boyfriend called, saying "You better get here quick, she doesn't have long."  Uh ... what?  Turned out she had fallen in the kitchen and couldn't get up.  He and a neighbor had moved her to her bed .... where she was agitated and fallen out of it, too.  I insisted that he call an ambulance (which he was against calling, on the grounds that they couldn't afford the bill.  Never mind Medicare and co-insurance ... but more on the co-insurance later).  I won that battle, the ambulance was called and they took her to the hospital. 


My MIL being 92, no one should be surprised that the issue was a broken hip.  So the Hubby, as next of kin to his very confused Alzheimer's-stricken mother, had to decide what treatment path to follow.  Bed rest until ... healed? Surgery?  Would it require a hip replacement?  The surgeon didn't exactly burn up the lines getting in touch with us with details on what surgery would be required...   While we waiting for more details of the surgical options, I looked up probable outcomes.  None of them were good.  Huge likelihood of death (from infection from bedsores or other complications) if no surgery, huge likelihood of death (from general decline and other complications) if surgery.  But her level of pain would be reduced if the bone was surgically repaired.  So, we chose surgery, which fortunately would NOT include hip replacement.

Very few will be surprised that by that age, she was already on an assortment of medicine ... one of which was a blood thinner.  By the end of surgery (which was several days after the hip broke) she had needed several pints of blood and, due to the fall, was a bruised mess. 

Worse that that, going under anesthesia had made her Alzheimer's FAR FAR worse.  For a while she didn't know her name.  I don't know if she ever even remembered her boyfriend's name (she certainly recognized his face) or remembered the H at all.

Now .... where to go for 'rehab' after the hospital stay would end?  Only two places in her small city would take Medicare patients with Alzheimer's and dementia.  We picked the one with a slightly lower death rate of patients .... but after she got there we discovered that Medicare only covers 21 days.  After that she'd need to rely on medigap insurance or apply for Medicaid. 

But her boyfriend had fucked up payments on the Medigap insurance.  Hubby started to work on seeing if that could be fixed, we researched what was involved with getting her on Medicaid.  Oh, and guess what - the rehab place didn't have any available Medicaid beds, so at day 20 she was switched to the other rehab center, anyway.  Because we didn't know if the insurance thing would be resolved in her favor or not.

Oh, wait - I left another thing out.  We couldn't find the POA (power of attorney) giving Bob authorization to make medical decisions for his mother.  And there was no POA giving him authority over her finances.  We needed that to file for medicaid for her, and should have had that to work on the medigap insurance issues.  So we contacted an attorney chosen almost at random, and paid HIM almost $4K.

During all this, the H flew out there to try to go thru' all her insurance paperwork and such.  During THAT her boyfriend was ... shall we say uncooperative.  So much so that CH moved from staying at his Mom's house (not at ALL her in BF's name) into a hotel, and renting a car.  As if just getting emergency air tickets to her small city wasn't expensive enough.  With all this, our credit card was damn near maxed out.  And with the CH not working .... it's not like we get paid vacations or medical leave, this being our own business and no money comes in if he doesn't work .... our finances went even more to hell.

Oh, and the BF insists that my husband left the paperwork 'a mess, and took lots of stuff'.  In fact, he made copies and gave EVERYTHING back .... and is a Virgo -  organization is his middle name.  He HATES messes, no way he left a mess.

So, that's part 1 of what we've been up to.  Stay tuned for more!

Frondly, Fern