mooretrees journal

Where are you and where are you going?
ertyu
Posts: 1511
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:31 am

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by ertyu »

Just 7 yrs? we're getting away too easily :lol:

mooretrees
Posts: 409
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by mooretrees »

New year reflections on last year (and the early part of this year).

With such a strange year in the books, I found myself and my small family mostly with a positive situation and some major improvements primarily due to covid causing some shakeups in my habits and work situations. I was able to experiment with a reduced work schedule and mostly survive the decrease in pay alright. The decrease in hours let me see clearly that full time work was unhealthy for me, so once an opportunity came for part time work, I jumped on it. It helps to have a husband who doesn't care too much about money, though if he could have 8 more motorcycles that would work for him.

Increase in skills and savings:
I gained some major skills in gardening, which really isn't saying much as I was fairly crappy to begin with. However, I do have two harvests under my belt and seem to be holding steady with an interest to learn more. I've got small plans to increase my garden at home and help several friends with their gardens, either by helping build raised beds, start and give them seeds, or just as a catalyst.

I took up foraging and fermenting this year, both were really fun and lost cost hobbies. I've made sauerkraut, fermented garlic, apple and pear vinegar (both extremely delicious) and yogurt. We have a lot of acorns that I haven't started cracking, so that remains a question of whether I'll repeat collecting them this year.

This past year was the first year without student debt or car loans, and our savings reflects it. We have quite a bit (to me) in savings right now in pre and post tax vehicles. It's a weird feeling to see such high numbers in our savings accounts. I refinanced our mortgage and locked in a very decent rate of 2.75%. I equivocated about refinancing vs selling, and took the 'safe' route of keeping the house as a backup. I will have to learn a lot about becoming a landlord this year.

Health:
We haven't had covid, despite not being 100% vigilant about contact with people. We delayed sending our son to preschool which helped with not getting sick. I'm one dose away from being fully vaccinated. We don't have a schedule for when DH will get his vaccine so my immunity can only go so far. I think that once I'm vaccinated I'll be comfortable being around others who are also fully vaccinated. I'll still limit this as I don't want to pass anything on to my DH, but it will take away some of the guilt I've felt when walking or skiing with someone without wearing a mask.

Since going part time, I've done a good job of working out, though it's too soon to say it's an ingrained habit. I've started the Lean P90X workout and am thinking I'll transition to the Classic version once I'm finished. However, if I get too annoyed with that Tony Horton guy I'll have to switch it up. I've also been tracking money and feel the urgency of part time hours to keep this up.

Climate change/Peak Oil:
I'm driving myself and DH crazy thinking about these two subjects. He's such a patient person! I've gone from ignoring/denial to full acceptance and trying to quickly change our ways. I'm trying to track miles driven monthly to fine tune our carbon footprint. I've told my extended family I'm not flying again, though since I've usually only flown once a year that's not a big shift. I'm contemplating vegetarianism, which really didn't please DH. However, I think I could easily reduce all meat and once our beef from our farmer friend is finished, commit to not eating beef again. I've run some carbon foot print calculators and it's really hard to trust the numbers as some areas I'm really guessing. The numbers aren't good and I'll post one here soon so I have a reference point as I improve. Some questions to investigate: are all beef cattle the same? For example, the steer that my friend raised and butchered locally, would that have the same carbon foot print as a CAFO steer? Am I deluding myself by researching this? Clearly, all beef will off gas methane, so likely it is best to avoid 100%.

DH gave me some beeswax and wicks and the Humanure Handbook for xmas. We made our first set of hand dipped candles and two small mason jar candles. It was fun and satisfying. They had to set for 24 hrs before we can burn so tonight will be the first look see. They aren't the prettiest. While we've spent some money on this little hobby, it's something I could see turning into a small little business. Especially if we could get raw beeswax and do the filtering ourselves. I've got one friend who is an experienced beekeeper so I might be able to apprentice myself to her in the near future. The candles won't cause a huge reduction in our electricity use, but they will help. And, in a true web o' goals approach, they will improve our lives with their beauty. Since we've installed a much smaller fridge I've realized I hate the noise of any fridge. Like HATE them. Since we mostly live in our living room and kitchen, that noise is ever present. This might not come off wrong, but I feel slightly on the Asperger spectrum with regards to noise. I hope that isn't too insensitive to write! I am very sensitive and distracted by all noise and I can see turning off the fridge in the near future just to save my sanity more than to save money.

The future:

Currently I'm in week two of my part time schedule. It is fantastic. I have energy once I'm off work to play with my kiddo, work out, clean house and general life stuff. DH can spend more time of the school bus and have shorter parenting days. 10 hours with a toddler will try anyone's patience. I am surprised to find I'm not dreading going into work and sometimes looking forward to it. I feel more motivated to work when I'm there as I have less time to get my duties completed. This schedule feels like a more realistic answer to life/work balance.

School bus:
My hopes of living in the school bus by Easter seem much too optimistic now. While DH continues to plug away at it, he is not obsessed with making progress and so we have dinners together and he usually gets a late start on my days off. This means that our family life is great, but progress is slow. We're seriously considering buying RV windows for the raised roof section. This would take a big project off his plate and help with getting the roof raise finished. Building on the interior can't really start until the roof raise is finished and the roof itself is confirmed to be water tight.

Isolation:
So far, one consistent reality I've found with sharing my attempts to save money or live more lightly on the earth have generally been met with concern and lack of support or encouragement. I know that this generally reflects that people feel challenged by my changes but it does affect me. Going forward, I'm going to attempt to be very selective about what I share with people, skewing it to what I perceive they can handle. I do like getting support and am quite a social creature, so this feels important to deal with in a strategic way.

Goals for this year:
Provide some measurable portion of our food, through gardening or foraging
Get living in the school bus!
Get comfortable living with smaller paychecks---decouple from work income more.

AxelHeyst
Posts: 433
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2020 4:55 pm
Location: The Mountains, USA

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

You’ll be interested in The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith. It speaks to some of your questions. As you can imagine, it’s controversial, and some people (the vegan mafia??) have said she’s full of it. The short version:
.cafo meat shouldn’t exist, it’s awful for all of the reasons.
.grass fed / naturally ranged / etc animals are (or can be when done right) carbon *positive*. It has to do with the soil.
.no one talks about the environmental impact of the monoculture agricultural practices that feed vegetarians. Plow a field, kill an ecosystem. (Plowing a field to grow feed for animals is worse, which is what people are talking about when they say meat is carbon intensive).
.she’s somewhat unfairly comparing the best meat practices with status quo ag practices. But do you think the wheat in your pasta came from a permaculture farm? Even if organic, it’s from a huge mono crop situation, which she goes in some detail about how and why it’s unsustainable in the long term.

I am just giving some cliff notes, I have much more research to do myself before I consider myself “convinced” one way or the other. On my to do list. I’m certainly not versed enough to debate with anyone. Just pointing out a resource. For what it’s worth I was vegetarian for four years.

ETA: "Grass, Soil, Hope" by Courtney White is along the same lines, but less... emotional? Less potentially controversially written? Keith was a vegan for 20 years so her about-face is viewed as traitorous by some militant vegans.

mooretrees
Posts: 409
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by mooretrees »

Thanks @AH for the book suggestions! I was a vegetarian for six plus years a decade or so ago but have certainly enjoyed meat for many years now. Also makes it pretty easy to eat in any situation. I got pretty tired of Portland folks and their stringent dietary restrictions while I lived there. Will look into those books!

Western Red Cedar
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Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2020 2:15 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

@MT - Congratulations on the successful year. All of the stories here about transitioning to part-time or quitting completely are very inspiring!

I'd also recommend Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for some context on food production and climate change. I read it over the summer and it was one of my favorite books of 2020. I suspect it would fit in really well with your interests in gardening, family, and food preservation. It includes interesting perspectives/writing from her two daughters about their year-long local food experiment. Very readable and informative.

It basically comes to the same conclusions that @AH mentions above, and provides a lot of additional reference material if you want to dig deeper.

One of the drawbacks to a lot of the research and discussions about food and climate change is that it primarily focuses on industrial models - whether meat or produce.

mooretrees
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Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by mooretrees »

@WRC, I have read that book some years ago, but I agree that a reread would be useful with my new focus on food and local eating. Great suggestion!

Western Red Cedar
Posts: 162
Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2020 2:15 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

@MT - I think it's probably worth a reread if it's been a while considering your interests in climate change and food. I expect your husband will be happy because it provides some fairly decent justification for eating meat. (I think you mentioned a while back he's a hunter, which I think is another good option that probably hits on a lot of the web of goals.)

Here are some of my notes from the book:

This was an exceptional read. I’ve been very interested in permaculture and the slow food movement lately, and this provided insights to the benefits and challenges of eating locally. It is packed with advice on practical things like how to make your own cheese, seasonal recipes, managing animals, and preserving your harvest.

The book documents a year in the Kingsolver family as they try to only eat what they grow, harvest, or forage themselves; or anything produced within 50 miles of their home. Their move from Tucson to North Carolina in the Appalachian Mountains provides a perfect opportunity for the experiment. It is Barbara Kingsolver’s mission to not only provide a healthier diet to her family, but one that doesn’t result in the environmental destruction that shadows the current industrial model.

Each chapter explores a month, and what that means for the local food scene and their efforts to eat locally. The book does a great job of integrating a relatable memoir with practical advice on moving toward this path, and research on the environmental impacts of industrial agriculture.

classical_Liberal
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Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:05 am

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by classical_Liberal »

From the other thread
mooretrees wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 10:33 pm
The one area of the string drawing from the original blog post I struggle with is investing. [snip] To date I haven't put any energy into researching how to solve this problem and am more focused on reducing my carbon footprint on my small level.
There's nothing wrong with investing locally or in yourself! This is something I'd rather do, but have to learn better ways to do it. Why dump your money into index funds, or learn how to invest in large cap companies with whom you mostly philosophically disagree, when you can invest in building a local mill business?

This requires a different mindset and more active "work" than the traditional FIRE investing route, but I think it's just as learnable as P/B' or P/E's, or macroeconomic trends. I think holding on to your house as a rental is a good start to this, as long as you've done your research and are fairly confident you wont lose money.

Maybe we can learn together :P

Western Red Cedar
Posts: 162
Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2020 2:15 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

I'm really glad that @CL posted this in response to your comment in the other thread. I think your bus project actually represents a great, non-traditional approach to investing that fits in with your own web of goals. Once complete, it allows you to turn your home into a cash-flowing investment property. Real estate investments can be quite lucrative while also building or supporting communities. Of course, there are potential downsides and liabilities, as many landlords found out in 2020.

The build also likely allowed your husband to develop some new skills which may create some fun and lucrative opportunities down the road.

mooretrees
Posts: 409
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by mooretrees »

@c_L, @WRC, thanks for the thoughts, as always.

I'm not certain I've really done a very hearty cost benefit analysis that keeping our house is the best financial move. However, I've done a bit of talking with other landlords and the general location of our home is very attractive to a lot of folks-close to three schools and the college. With the refinance, I think we can easily rent it out for at least $1000 if not more. I will be paying attention to how long the next administration pushes out the rental protections. I have a coworker who suffered through a bad tenant and couldn't kick him out because of the federal protection even while he had plenty of money to get high every day. She finally got him to move out recently. I'd like not to experience that!

I have thought of experimenting with micro loans to local farmers or farmers market businesses. For $2k or less and a very modest interest rate. I'm taking it slowly with that idea as it scares me a little. Also, my farmer friend when I talked to her about it thought a micro loan with $15k, which I'm not prepared to do at all!

While I do feel some frustration with the pace of the bus build, I agree with you WRC, it is the solution to housing that is most in alignment with our goals. DH is gaining significant welding skills and with more carpentry ahead of us, I'm sure he'll improve there too. The one upside to the slower pace is that we are evolving our ideas of what we actually might 'need' in the school bus. It is fun to experiment with living with candles and living without a fridge and do some test runs before actually committing to that way forever. Next up is for me to build a dry toilet and start getting used to that. And start talking to local wheat farmers and bakers!

A funny thing happened at my friends bakery the other day. One of the owners asked if we would like to start hauling away their compost. I think I said yes, for bread. I think there was a forum guy (pedal to pedal?) who had or started a bike composting business? It's a fun idea and maybe will turn out to be nothing or our next small business idea. That and selling hand dipped candles at the market. Too many ideas!!!

Western Red Cedar
Posts: 162
Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2020 2:15 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

mooretrees wrote:
Thu Jan 14, 2021 8:07 pm
While I do feel some frustration with the pace of the bus build, I agree with you WRC, it is the solution to housing that is most in alignment with our goals. DH is gaining significant welding skills and with more carpentry ahead of us, I'm sure he'll improve there too. The one upside to the slower pace is that we are evolving our ideas of what we actually might 'need' in the school bus.
I was actually thinking that the bus build may be the solution to both your housing and investing goals. Probably a few others as well.

I also have pretty strong cognitive dissonance with investing in stocks. It's something I came to terms with a few years ago, but before I was thinking about these things through an ERE framework. If I was starting over again I'd probably focus more on real estate. It's something I discuss with my family who don't like big banks or the stock market. Communities really need responsible landlords, investors, and small-scale developers who want to make a profit while simultaneously building a stronger community. There are risks with this path, as you mention above, but that is true with any investment.

You are in a great position to move into a bus at some point this year, and that frees up the largest asset you have, which can start providing income for you immediately. Even if the returns don't look as promising as the stock market, it provides a good foundation moving forward with a diversified income stream. Part-time work, rental income, random income from DW, and more as opportunities emerge. I also suspect that most real estate within an Oregon UGB will continue to appreciate.

You may decide a few years down the road that living in the bus isn't working anymore, in which case the house is a great option to fall back into.

mooretrees
Posts: 409
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: mooretrees journal

Post by mooretrees »

@WRC, I wish I had written all of what you just said! Yes, yes and yes. The house is the backup plan for if we outgrow or stop wanting to live in the bus, and with a young child that's a real possibility. And yes, real estate is much more palatable than learning the stock market, economics and so on. However, I am still interacting with the stock market through my 401k. So I still should learn more, someday.

One dangerous aspect to how much I'm worried about peak oil/climate change is that I might overcorrect/overreact to it and abandon all financial connection with the current economy. I'm trying to reign in my deep fears about the future and find a middle ground. Like what Jacob wrote about here:https://earlyretirementextreme.com/the- ... treme.html. Not that I think I'm smart enough to do it his way, but fumbling my way to my own conservative and safe way. We'll see. The longer I'm on this forum, the more humbled I feel about my ability to predict the future.

The last way the school bus is exciting is that it gives us the chance to try out semi-rural living and see how it suits us.

Got Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on hold!

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