Archive for March, 2014

HOW MUCH Per Chick?

I was at the feed store this week idly looking at the chicks. I thought I might pick up 10 or 20 from a new breed just to see how they would do. I could have hatched some out with the incubator, but I’ve been juuuuuuust a little busy. Besides, with SwampMan recovering from his knee surgery and SwampDaughter incubating another granddaughter due sometime between the end of May and mid-June, I just didn’t really feel I had the time to deal with chicks.

I looked at the price of the chicks. $3.00 per chick. WHAT? “THREE DOLLARS per chick?” I questioned. Yep. Apparently there is a big demand for chicks from people that think the country is going to hell in a hurry and they damn sure better have some means of feeding themselves. Well, I ain’t gonna argue THAT point, but damn. DOUBLE damn.

The next morning as I was cooking breakfast, I hesitated before breaking eggs into the frying pan. Oh my. Each fertile egg was potentially worth $3.00 as a chick. Why, just the eggs for breakfast would be worth $12.00. That isn’t even COUNTING the fine smoked sausage from a farm up in Georgia that we pay $9.00 per lb. for because it is WORTH it.

I reckon I better drag the incubator into the house and put some eggs inside it so at least I’ll feel like I’m getting my money’s worth out of ’em. Hens have a finite time of being productive, and it takes about six months from egg to layer. I’ll need to hatch out @ 80 to 90 chicks just to make sure I have 40 hens but will I have time to get them done and transitioned outside the brooder before baby arrives?

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Two Weeks After Knee Replacement

SwampMan has survived another week after knee replacement surgery. He got his staples out Wednesday. His range of motion immediately increased to 110 after the staples were removed. He continues on a long-acting pain med at night, and may (but not always) needs a 5-mg dose of oxycodone @ 4 a.m. because he cannot lay still in bed at night. My new rule is that I will be awakened to carry his crap around and/or make a sandwich as he changes sleeping places ONE TIME ONLY. He’s on his own after that. Otherwise, I would be awakened every hour to carry pillows, blankets, ice pack, CPAP machine, etc. to whichever area he thinks he would be more comfortable.

Except for the night dose, he’s off pain meds. He says he’ll start weaning the evening dose(s) effective tonight because he’s tired of being a zombie. He’s been doing a lot of sleeping in the day and wandering at night, and he’s got to get his days and nights back to normal again before he returns from work a week from Monday.

The physical therapy is going much better this time than last time. He forgot to get his walker this afternoon, and was walking around the house without walker or cane and appeared to be perfectly stable and pain free. He was actually surprised when I reminded him about using a cane or walker.

We drove about 20 miles to get a camel rider sandwich this afternoon, and he did fine, but is not ready to go out to his favorite restaurant quite yet. (He was still using his walker at 6 weeks postoperatively last time due to his bad left knee.)

Right after the boys went home after spring break, little Zoe came down with the flu. She stayed with us through Friday. She was always worried about Papa’s booboo knee and, even though she was ill herself, kept a close eye on her papa and brought him toys and blankets to make sure he felt better. We were glad that she had been vaccinated so that may have ameliorated the worst effects. The boys (knock on wood) and Mommy haven’t gotten ill at all.

Zoe can also spend the entire day playing quietly by herself with a bag of assorted toys without demanding attention or a playmate. How nice is that?

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SwampMan One Week Status Post Left Knee Replacement

SwampMan is one week status post left knee replacement this week. His surgery went well, but was longer than previously due to his left knee being more worn and unstable than the right knee. Curiously, in the two and a half months between knee surgeries, the surgical procedure completely changed, as did the postoperative medications. No femoral nerve block this time. No postoperative blood thinner injections, just aspirin. The IV was discontinued more quickly after surgery. The pain control medications were different.

Poor SwampMan was spewing his guts out for about 36 hours after his surgery this time despite (oral) anti-nausea medication. He was also throwing up his (oral) pain medications, and his pain was, er, considerable. The vomiting stopped (but not the nausea or dizziness) when his pain was under better control. Regardless, he couldn’t stand or walk for a couple days after surgery and on his third day, when he was supposed to be discharged, he barely made it across his tiny hospital room in a walker. He would turn diaphoretic (sweaty) and gray in color. His urine was scanty and dark in color, indicating dehydration. His surgeon said he needed to stay another night which made ME happy. He was discharged on a handful of prescriptions for pain the next day.

So, here we are. The boys have been here all week for spring break. The youngest, Dylan, has been a big help to his Papa, staying and taking care of him while Jacob and I run to the grocery store or pharmacy. SwampMan could get dressed by himself and in and out of the shower by himself much earlier this time, for he isn’t dependent upon an unstable knee to support his operative knee, even though the right knee is still in the healing process. He has walked across the room using only his cane for support which has elicited identical “STOP THAT!” reactions from both me and the physical therapist.

SwampMan still has some issues with nausea and dizziness probably caused by his medications. I’m starting him on an OxyContin taper, and he’s able to go a bit longer between oxycodone pills. The nausea and dizziness is not the only reason for the taper. When I asked him if he was asleep because, although he was sitting up in his chair, his eyes were closed, he answered me that he was not asleep. He was deleting files in his head.

“Uh, deleting files in your head?” I asked, genuinely stumped. “What’s that all about?”

“The computer, or maybe it’s the television, is putting thoughts into my head. I have to delete them!” he told me. A little later, he was yelling “STOP! STOP IT RIGHT NOW!” from his chair. I ran in to see what was wrong this time, expecting that the boys were being all rowdy.

“Okay, why are you yelling at me?”

“I’m not yelling at YOU. I’m yelling at the person behind my chair pushing it forward, and I want them to STOP!”

His chair is sitting against a wall so that he can’t get back too far and be unable to bring it forward. That’s how he wanted it positioned.

“Okay!” I answered. “That must be very annoying!” in that noncommittal tone of voice that the host of Coast to Coast uses with his more batshit crazy guests. And I walked away.

Later, SwampMan asked me about the episode to see if it really happened. “Why didn’t you argue with me?” he asked.

“Because it does absolutely no good to argue with crazy people. They can’t be convinced they’re wrong and, in fact, they’re so sure that they’re right that I begin to wonder if I’m the crazy one. Best to just walk away.”

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Left Knee Replacement Now for SwampMan

SwampMan will be undergoing surgery again tomorrow, so I’m in my usual presurgical freakout mode. I’m running around trying to get things done that must be done, but doing a little bit here, and a little bit there and “Ohmygawd, I forgot about THAT!” and running off to do something else. The net result, of course, that nothing is being done. Well, halfassedly, a lot is being done, but nothing is being completed.

SwampMan is coming home to complete chaos every day. There are holes in the lawn where I tried to transplant trees from where I do not want them to where I do, but the damn holes are filled with water because the lawn is still waterlogged, and it rains again tomorrow. I’ll be walking out there to feed the chickens one night, step in a disguised hole, and break my leg. And drown. Unless I knock myself out, like I nearly did last night by turning around and hitting an eye-level chicken roost with my eye. I knocked my glasses off into the mud, and I have an eyelid and side of my face that is scraped and purplish. So I could hit a chicken roost with my eye and drown tomorrow, or break my leg and drown tomorrow, so maybe I shouldn’t worry about SwampMan’s surgery much because I won’t be alive anyway.

“So, Swampie!” you may say. “Why dincha plant them there trees in the fall?” I’ve been freakin’ trying, that’s why! Just as soon as the water almost disappears from the top of the ground, it freakin’ rains AGAIN. Well, at least I didn’t have to hardly buy hay this year, so the rain was a blessing. I’ll not complain again. Until tomorrow.

Since it is a nice day today, the washer and clothesline are full of clothes. The carpet is about to be shampooed while it is dry and warm (it is supposed to go from dry and warm and temps in the 80s today to cold, blustery and highs in the 50s). Maybe that will be enough.

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“People’s Trust” Insurance Company

The house insurance annual renewal came in by mail a few weeks ago. The amount had dropped to about $1,800 per year after several uneventful hurricane seasons. Since we hadn’t so much as lost a shingle during those eventful hurricane seasons, we were pretty danged unhappy that our annual insurance premium jumped from $500 a year to over $2,500 per year to pay for the mansions that had sprung up along the coast replacing the previous beach shacks. That, along with the annual property taxes, meant we were paying the cost to replace the structure of the house @ every ten years.

One by one, the insurance companies that covered our homeowner’s insurance (hello, STATE FARM!) left the northeast Florida market even though we’d had no insurance losses. Maybe they all moved in order to cover dwellings in the midwest prior to the large tornado outbreaks. Maybe they then moved to cover the northeast prior to Sandy. I can only hope.

We had just switched insurance companies again last year when yet another company decided to stop covering Florida and move someplace safer, like providing coverage along the San Andreas fault. Our independent insurance agent found this company and we were fairly happy with it, although the premiums were higher than what we liked, but they provided good coverage. SwampMan ripped open the envelope. “$1,800.00!” he cried in anguish. “I ain’t payin’ it. You were supposed to find a better insurance company!”

“We went through this two years ago. There is no better insurance company.”

“What about all that mail that I put on your desk from People’s Trust Insurance Company? Why haven’t you called them?”

“Because anything that has a name like People’s Trust means that they’re in the business of screwing people!” I opined.

“Well, call them tomorrow. And get reduced insurance coverage!”

So, I called them the next day without very high expectations. I was directed to a perky young man. “Hi, we’re looking for a quote on house insurance. We live in a masonry house, and there’s not much that could go wrong with it that we couldn’t fix for $50,000. What’s the lowest rate we could get?” He looked up our house, and told us that they could do $200,000 of coverage with $20,000 for contents, $20,000 for other outbuildings, and $20,000 for loss of use. The deductible was $2,500 and an additional 3% of damage for hurricanes. Our “outbuildings” consist of three largish barns, a small concrete block separate building, and a small frame building.

I was somewhat less than impressed. I didn’t know exactly what our present coverage was, but I knew our present house coverage was @ $300,000, and the contents and outbuilding coverage was far higher than offered by this insurance company.

“Most people don’t need more than $20,000 for contents. Do you have anything more valuable than that?” he asked. Steeeeeerike one. Well, there are my spinning wheels, looms, and wool-processing equipment that I got back in the pre-Obama era when I was making way more money. The wool picker alone would cost $600.00 to replace new. The extra fine drum carder costs $600.00. Then I have hand carders, viking combs, a floor loom and a tabletop loom, two spinning wheels, and assorted accessories. There’s probably $10,000 replacement-cost of wool hobby equipment just in that one room. Could I get the used equipment from, say, Craigslist to replace it? I don’t know but, considering this is Florida, probably NOT. We could probably build most of it, though. Maybe.

Then there are my wood carving tools. The Pfeil gouges, an entire toolbox full of Swiss and German tools. The AMT tools. The Japanese saws. Then there’s my cooking stuff. The pressure cooker. The pressure canners. Are appliances contents or part of the structure of the house, like the built in dishwasher and the double oven which costs over $2,000 to replace? WHAT about my painting tools? The HVLP sprayer? SwampMan’s CNC machine? Well, maybe the insurance premium would be low enough to justify the risk.

“Yeah, we could probably repair everything for that amount!” Except for the outbuildings. And replacing the contents. But SwampMan wanted the lowest possible insurance bill this year.

“Oh, you wouldn’t have to repair it. We send a crew out to do that!” said the helpful young man. Steeeeerike two.

“You send a crew? My husband is a building contractor. You KNOW both of us would be watching the construction crew like hawks and saying “No, sunshine, I don’t THINK so!” whenever we saw them using inferior materials or practices.”

“Oh, our crews only use the very best of materials and they’re very skilled!” Riiiiiight. We build ABOVE code for our own house. The code is minimum standard. They would be following code. If we needed help, we’d rather hire people whose work we know, and purchase our own materials, not rely on some itinerant crew patched together by an insurance company using materials from God knows where who may or may not know their ass from a hole in the ground. In the event of a big disaster like a hurricane or tornado, how long would we have to wait for the crew to arrive to fix the damage?

“So, what’s the premium?”

“Only $1,300 something a year.” Steeeerike three and yer OUT!

He wanted my Email address to send the quote. I gave it to him so that I’d have something to show SwampMan as to how I was right about the name of the company. My Email address is the old one I used to have for the farm in Georgia. “You have a farm?” queried the young man.

“Not really. I used to raise sheep. Now I just have a small hobby flock for the wool and to pay the taxes.” He promised to send the quote out soon.

A few days later, SwampMan asked if I’d EVER gotten around to contacting the insurance company as he’d requested. “Yeah, yeah I did. They offered $200,000 for the house, and $20,000 for the contents.”

“Great. That means the premium is really low, right?”

“A little under $1,400. I don’t remember exactly.”

He took out our existing insurance policy, comparing each detail. “Our insurance policy doesn’t cost much more, and the coverage is far superior”, he observed. “I think we’ll stick with that.”

“Well, they do send out their own construction company and materials to fix any damage!” I offered helpfully.

“Oh, HELL, no!” said SwampMan. “We’ll DEFINITELY stick with our existing coverage!”

“Well, that’s good. They sent another Email cancelling their offer of a policy because we have commercial sheep.”

“Do what?”

“Apparently the sheep may rush out and attack visitors.”

“The sheep?”

“Yeah.”

“The same sheep that run and hide in the far pasture when our grandkids go out to play?”

“Yep. Stealthy as well as vicious.”

“The sheep that only you can get near?”

“They the ones.”

“So, what are the sheep supposed to do? Gum them? Do these people know that sheep only have bottom teeth for tearing off grass, not human flesh?”

“Apparently not.”

“Maybe they’re afraid that they’ll rush up as a flock, jump on visitors, and smother them with their fleeces?”

“Beats me.”

“How do they feel about dogs?”

“They didn’t ask.”

“So we can have a pack of rabid pit bulls and get house insurance, but we can have no sheep?

“Looks like, but there may be something against rabid pit bulls in the fine print that I did not read because I didn’t care for the coverage.”

“Well, screw ’em.”

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*Sniffle* Bye Bye, KC!

KC of Pixie Place II joined me for lunch at a restaurant that we both know and like. She arrived with one of the kayaks strapped to the top of the truck for the trip back to Pensacola. She and Duffy are having a grand time hiking and enjoying the gulf coast. Did I mention that she is moving there? *sigh*

We were planning on meeting for breakfast because KC had a long drive ahead of her, but I told SwampMan that we were meeting for lunch instead because she had to wait for help to load the kayak.

SwampMan gave me a bunch of questions he wanted me to ask KC about the kayak, and fishing, and creeks, etc. SwampMan, once his knees are all robotical, wishes to do things like kayaking and hiking again. Dang. I remember one of his questions now that I did not ask. He wanted to know the difference between kayaking and canoeing. He used to be a scoutmaster and took boy scouts out canoeing. They dumped the canoe pretty frequently. I would never go canoeing with him.

I told him that he should come along and ask his own questions about kayaks on account of I was never going to remember them. (I did remember the fishing question, right, KC?) He told me that he wouldn’t be able to hear us in the babble of a restaurant filled with the after church crowd on Sunday. That remark would give you the impression that when KC and I meet, we sit quietly whispering across the table while we demurely eat our entrees.

“Hearing us would NOT be a problem!” I assured him. We are not at all reserved about sharing our opinions. The cooks could probably hear our opinions over the sound of deep fryers, timers, and bells. We must not be too offensive, though, because people stop by our table and tell us how much they enjoy watching us because we seem to be having such a good time. “Come on, you’ll hear us just fine.”

“I would have to put clothes on, and I just don’t want to!” came the real reason. Well, he had a point. The restaurant has a pretty relaxed dress code but they might ask him to leave if he just showed up in drawers on Sunday. Monday might be okay, though.

Well, KC and I had a fun, but short (for us) meeting. She got on the road @ 1:00 p.m. following my directions (God help her) for a shortcut to I-10. My directions consisted of “Go straight at the light for about 20 miles. When you reach Baldwin, turn right. Go a little way, not too far, and turn left. There should be a sign for I-10 where you turn.” After she was gone for awhile, I started worrying. I hadn’t actually gone to I-10 from that way for awhile. WAS there a sign for I-10? Well, there SHOULD be, but I dunno. I used to just follow the trucks under the assumption that truck drivers know where they’re going. Yes, I know that I’m the only person in the US of A that does NOT have a smart phone with a GPS.

She found I-10 just fine, though.

And now that she’s gone and is out house hunting, I think of all the things that I wanted to say that we tell everybody that asks our opinion about buying a house because we used to be in the construction business. Most people don’t ask us, of course (grin). They really don’t want to hear our honest opinions about the two-story house with the roof built for shedding snow in a New England winter that’s built in a low spot on a barrier island. The granite countertops are really nice, though.

Since she’s buying a house on the gulf coast, try to buy a masonry house, not a wood frame, because hurricanes hit there with far greater frequency than here. Don’t buy a house with a steeply-pitched roof because those have more of a tendency to lose shingles/roof during a hurricane. Those steep roofs are more expensive to re-shingle, too. Don’t rely on real estate agents to tell you whether you’re buying in a flood zone; check the maps on file in the county offices. Particularly check the flood zones* depending on the hurricane category. What can be a safe area in a Category 1 hurricane and a Category 3 hurricane, for example, is very different.

A house constructed in the late 90s onward by a national builder was probably built largely with illegal labor. The outside might be pretty. It passed inspection. The walls probably aren’t plumb. I’d check. I’d also be worried about what I COULDN’T see. Check for number and location of electrical outlets. Unscrew electrical outlet plates and look at wiring. Go up into the attic and check out the insulation and the rafters. Bring a screwdriver (for electrical outlets) and for poking exposed wood looking for rot/termite damage. Go on the roof and look for cracked shingles and uneven sheeting. Turn the water on in the shower, a couple sinks and flush the toilet at the same time. Check the water heater. Ask to see prior utility bills, if available. Ask about annual taxes and insurance. Insurance, particularly flood insurance, is going to be hiked WAAAAAY up this year, and it could bite you in the butt to the point that your insurance payment could be greater than or equal to your mortgage. Taxes could be lower than what you would pay because of senior citizen, homestead exemption, or long-term homeowner status.

One of my pet peeves is house flippers that come in, make cosmetic changes, jack the price way up, but don’t address structural issues. Most people are impressed by fancy tiling in the shower, trendy countertops, and new appliances. We want to make sure that the house is structurally sound.

Jacking up and fixing foundation problems is EXPENSIVE. Repairing/rewiring electrical is EXPENSIVE. Repairing plumbing is EXPENSIVE. Replacing the roof including the sheeting and maybe the trusses is EXPENSIVE. Repairing mold damage is EXPENSIVE. Repairing termite damage is EXPENSIVE. Putting in new appliances one at a time? Not so much.

In equally structurally sound houses, of course, I’d take the one with the new appliances cuz I ain’t no fool.

But KC is no fool, either, so she already knows all this stuff.

*We are such fanatics about things like flood zones that we checked them when we bought our house in the Sonoran desert in Arizona. We passed on a wood-framed house in a 100-year flood plain and bought a masonry house on higher ground. We weighed the danger of earthquake damage versus wind damage, and decided to go with the masonry house. The wooden-framed house in the 100-year flood plain was washed away when the Gila river, which resembled a creek to us, flooded waaaaay beyond flood stage the next year.

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