Grass clippings

Voila!  It’s done!  The first mowing of the season is in the bag.  So to speak.  I left the grass clippings on the lawn for the first mow, so they will break down and reintegrate into the soil (hopefully) and make a stronger lawn in the process.  Bagging clippings makes a lawn look nice in the short term, but my parents never bagged theirs (probably because their lawns encompassed about an acre) so for the most part I don’t bag mine.  Of course my lawn is a mere fraction of the size, but then again I don’t have a place to put the bagged clippings, except for a small brush pile behind the garage.  And at the end of the season I have to find someone to haul it all away.  Which costs money.  Consequently, most of the clippings stay where they fall.  UNLESS it’s been many weeks and the accumulated debris would end up killing said lawn.  So there’s many factors to consider.

Having the day off and getting the lawn mowed early also gave me time to think about what to do with the garage this year.  Most years I get out the mower and the rototiller, use the latter once or twice and the mower every week or twice a week (depending on the weather) and then in the fall have to figure out a way for everything to fit in the garage again so the car can reside as well over the winter.  It ends up being a major chore, simply because it’s a one-car garage and there’s so many other things that need to fit in there as well.  Having a garden shed would come in handy, but although I’ve suggested it many times, it’s never seemed to garnered much enthusiasm from the opposite end of the marriage.

Needless to say, cleaning out the garage and getting rid of all the stuff that has been accumulating over the past twenty years is a goal for this year.  Just have to do it on a day when it’s not quite so hot.  Heat tends to suck at my ability to get things accomplished.  But then again, days when it’s below freezing does that too.  So it’s a matter of scheduling.

Finally, there’s still planting to do.  Memorial Day is coming up, and like most years, I get the holiday off.  So there will be time for that.

Borrowing against the end

I had a little trouble coming up with a suitable title for this entry.  “Borrowing against the future” didn’t make a lot of sense, as you’ll soon find out, so I went with the other ‘side’ for lack of a better term.  You’ll see why as I get further in.

I’ve been paying into a life insurance policy since about 1995.  At that time I’d been working with my last previous employer for about 2 years and for whatever reason they contracted with the company Mass Mutual and sent in a rep to talk to all the employees about life insurance.  Specifically about buying a whole life policy that would have the payments taken monthly out of our paychecks.  Certainly it seemed at the time a harmless venture, the policy wasn’t going to be used for at least 40 years (or more hopefully) and as long as I kept up the payments, I wouldn’t have to be concerned that there was going to be a lapse and I’d lose the policy entirely.  So I, like many of my co-workers, signed on.

Going ahead fifteen years, when the company got into financial straits, they decided to part ways with Mass Mutual and everyone that still had a policy got a letter in the mail saying that if they wanted to continue their relationship, the payments were no longer going to be deducted monthly from our pay, that we had to come to some sort of arrangement with MM to have the payments come from our personal checking accounts or some other method of payment.  So I went with a quarterly which wasn’t terribly inconvenient and continued paying into the policy religiously.  At some point, I apparently took a loan against the policy for about $800, but never paid it back.  Every quarter I’d get a statement in the mail, letting me know the current payment was being deducted from my checking account and on the back it informed me that a paltry sum was being added onto the loan I’d taken out many years ago.  The loan interest was merely 3.5% per year, so the interest was never very large on what remained.

Over the last ten years, I’ve been incurring credit card debt.  And like so many people I’ve been interested in getting out of that debt and have been attempting to use the ‘baby-steps’ method created by a guy named Dave Ramsey many years ago.  The only problem is, I haven’t been able to curb my spending enough to stop using the damned cards that caused the debt, and many of them have such crushing interest rates that the amount I’ve been plowing in for the last couple of years is always offset by the interest that is added on at the end of the month.  So (for example) if I pay the minimum on all cards and then the rest of the amount I’ve set aside on the one card with the largest interest rate, the interest on all the smaller cards adds up again and negates that balloon payment on the largest one.  I just don’t seem to get ahead.  If anything, for the last six months or so, I’ve been backtracking incrementally.  And when you’re in hock for 5 figures, that adds up over time.

So, getting back to the insurance policy, I hit on an idea.  Even though I’d started paying off the loan again, the amount of payments I’d made into the policy was fairly substantial.  Considering I’m currently paying about 5 times what I’d be paying in interest on a loan against my life insurance policy, it made sense to max out the loan possibility and pay off almost all of the credit card debt at once.  I’d end up with about $1800 on the lowest rate card, and I could have that paid off in about 2 1/2 months.  At that point, so as not to decimate my good credit score, I’d start cancelling the larger interest rate cards I have, and just keep the lower ones.  Then I could be paying the money I’d set aside for CC debt into the life insurance policy and make damn sure I didn’t get into hock again.

So that’s what I did.  It took about a week for Mass Mutual to send me a check, and another week for my credit union to clear it.  As of this morning, I’m going to be setting my plan into motion.  I just have to make sure not to get into any miscues in the meantime.  Fingers, toes and eyes crossed.

More Counter Space

As long as we’ve had this house, it’s had insufficient counter space. Granted it’s a house that was built in the first half of the 19th century, and it has too little of almost everything from a 20th, or 21st century POV.

Even so, it has what one might call a ‘galley kitchen’, though it does make me wonder what the original kitchen looked like back in the day.  Considering sometime in the mid 20th century a previous owner took it upon themselves to redo it in wood paneling, a drop ceiling and 60s era appliances (all of which have been replaced except the now non-working double wall oven) and at the same time (I think) repurposed a closet into a bathroom, walling off what might have been part of the closet into a pseudo-pantry.

But getting back to the issue at hand.  The lack of suitable counter space.  Of course, I don’t make very good use of what little space I do have, a lot of it is taken up by appliances and assorted junk.  When it comes time to use things like the air fryer and Kitchen-Aid mixer, I have to finagle room for them, near the too few outlets (another issue).

Basically, I’ve been seriously considering either buying or making my own portable kitchen island/cart.  I’ve been watching woodworking videos on YouTube for several weeks, and been itching about maybe getting some tools of my own (not new) and make use of my seriously eroded, but not entirely dissipated high school shop skills.  Too, my Dad was pretty handy with woodworking as well as other skills, and he taught me a good deal about how to manipulate hardwoods, softwoods, and the like.  He did leave me his own power tools, but they’re pretty old by now, like on the scale of 40-50 years as of this writing.

One thing a kitchen cart/portable island would need is a cutting surface, and there’s a ready-made one in storage, though it would have to be cut down a bit for this purpose.  When ‘Christabel’s mother passed away, we ended up selling her family home as it was going to be too much for just the two of us to look after.  A nine-bedroom house with an attached motel just wasn’t going to work out for us, so we bit the bullet and divested ourselves of it, but there were some items that she just couldn’t part with.  One of them was the 8-foot butcher block in the kitchen.  Rather than moving the entire thing, we removed the legs and just transported the top to storage.  As I recalled, it weighed probably about 200 lbs, or at least 100.  It’s a pretty big chunk of wood.  And it’s been sitting in storage now for over 20 years.

Although akin to my previous interest in leather crafting, this just might be a ‘pie in the sky’ momentary interest.  It might just be easier to clean off the counters we have and spend the time that I have not going anywhere due to the current coronavirus situation rearranging the items in the kitchen, culling things we don’t use, and reclaiming space that isn’t being used sufficiently.  Time will tell what happens ultimately.