The Pantry

We’re keeping the pantry in our 1910 duplex. I debated on whether to rip out the pantry and put in a powder room or try to restore the pantry.

After canning for a couple of summers I see the value in having a pantry. My plan is to scrape off the 100 years of ugly and hope for the best.

Here’s what I am starting with:

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Wish me luck!

A tough row to hoe

I am taking back my yard one small patch at a time. I decided that I wanted to put my vegetable garden where flower beds had once been since this area is where the sun shines most of the day.

Unfortunately, these beds are infested with clusters of feral perennial bulbs that almost completely cover the ground. They only way I could get rid of them was to rip the top 3 inches of soil off of the ground. I know I am losing valuable top soil so I am dumping the bulbs/soil into my compost pile. I hope that I can recoup the nutrients next year when the bulbs and soil break down into compost.

Speaking of the compost pile, this turned out to be a fail, at least for this spring. I had too much brown and not enough green. specifically I had several bales of straw and hay and a very thin layer of grass trimmings then on top of that a thick layer of leaves. It’s still so heavy and compact that I can’t even turn it.

I invested in some compost starter and will hope for better results next year.

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I now have 3 rows of vegetables, about 15 tomato plants, 5 of kale and 2/3 of a row of zucchini and summer squash.

photo_1Then on the other side of the compost heap I planted two kinds of beans, green and burgundy. I am going to train them on some sections of fence that was removed when the roof was replaced on the house last fall.

I also bought a half share of Food Field’s CSA program. My plan is to teach myself how to can the surplus, very optimistic (foolhardy) on my part but that’s just how I roll.

Planted some lavender and Brown Eyed Susan flowers.

Planted some lavender and Brown Eyed Susan flowers.

In the front yard we now have swans. I planted some lavender and brown eyed susans. I’ll also put some sunflowers in the front yard. The clover really took hold and is filling in the front yard nicely.

Hello neglected blog, I’ll try to do better in 2013 ;)

The past three years have been a blur of moving, renovating and moving again. It’s taken me a while to find my forever home but now that I am here I can start some projects that have just been a vague dream until now:

1) Get a Ham Radio technicians license. I am very interested in packet radio as an alternative source of internet connectivity.

2) Learn Spanish. At least enough to understand and communicate with my Spanish speaking neighbors.

3) Learn how to equip my house with off grid power.

4) Start a female-centric hack*her*space. I can’t believe I am the only middle aged female nerd in the world. We need a central hub to unite and take over the world, mwhaaahaaahaaa!

5) Grow as much food as possible, preserve and share as necessary. I have potentially 2 kitchens and a huge ass back yard so this could be very do-able.

If I complete just two or three of the above this year I will be very happy.

Hello Detroit!

A lot has happened since my last blog post. I gave up on the idea of renovating the feral house in the North End of Detroit because I just couldn’t make the numbers work.

That’s the problem with most of the foreclosed, abandoned houses that I have considered buying. My budget window was 20K. I needed to be able to buy a house that could be made livable with whatever was left from the purchase of the house.

I looked at many houses in Hamtramck, all of them were in worse shape than the Hamtramck house I now live in. There is a critical mass of problems that make it impossible to buy and renovate. I could handle scrapped plumbing and electrical, but not if the roof needed immediate repair and the furnace and radiators were stolen.

The reason I decided to sell my current house is that it’s just too small to live and work in. Maybe if we had a garage or a full basement or a finished attic we could deal with it, but the house is just physically too small for us. So I really wanted a bigger place, off street parking and/or a garage were also at the top of my wish list.

We looked at houses for what seemed forever, but was really only 6 weeks or so. Finally after our long search we found a house that was huge and in decent enough shape that we could purchase it and have enough money left over to get it move in ready. My definition of move in ready includes at least one working toilet and shower, running water and heat. After spending a tiny fortune in plumbing and electrical we can finally move into our new place this weekend.

The new house is brick faced, block duplex. There are two units completely separate all the way to the basement and through the attic. Perfect for tenants, except I hope to never have to rent out the other unit. We are moving into the less damaged of the two units and when our savings build up again we will tackle renovating the second unit.

Our unit miraculously had a working furnace and forced air heat system. The water heater was gone but other than that it was not that bad. We even had working electricity but I think we will need to have some electrical work done as there aren’t enough outlets on the first and second floor. Fortunately, the attic was most recently wired and has plenty of circuits. This is where I will be working out of. I’ll find out soon enough when I turn on the air conditioner this summer whether or not I spoke to soon about the electricity.

Right now I am waiting for Comcast to show up and install my broadband. They were scheduled to show up between 1 pm and 5 pm, it’s 4:51, so I am not to hopeful that they will be here. I’m going back down stairs if their is a “sorry we missed you” note on the door I will not be happy.

New Office View

Pennies from heaven?

My neighbor at my new house put me in touch with a person to help me clear out the house.

Today he cleared out the basement which in addition to old rusty appliances had at least 3 rat holes.

This is just the first phase of the cleanup. I needed to get the basement cleared out so that I could get an electrician in there to get the lights on in the new house.

The house has been empty for at least 8 years, there is extensive water damage to the walls and ceilings. Most of the possessions of the former owners are still in the house.

Scrappers have removed the radiators and bathroom tub. All of the clothes and furniture were still there basically in the same place Mrs. Franklin left them when she was taken ill and moved to a nursing home.

I got quite a shock when I was looking through the dining room for salvageable items and found the cremains of Mr. Franklin. Shock quickly turned to sadness as I realized that Mrs. Franklin never had the chance to have Mr. Franklin’s remains properly dealt with.

I will be scattering Mr. Franklin’s ashes at Belle Isle this weekend.

From the possesions that remained in the house, even in their weather damage condition, it was obvious that the Franklins lived a good life. They owned their house and had rental property in Detroit at one time.

The foreclosure that I bought the house through was a Fannie Mae loan (reverse loan or refinancing) that Mrs. Franklin secured sometime in 2004. She got $40,000 for the house. I am glad that she (or more likely her family) was able to take some money out of the house and put it towards her care in the nursing home.

So it wasn’t like the Franklin’s lost the house while they still needed to live in it. I feel like there is no bad karma surrounding my taking the house over. This feeling was reinforced today when I found cash amongst the debris that I was shoveling up in the kitchen.

First I found a $50 dollar bill, then I found a $20 and a $5. I take it as a sign from the Franklin’s that they approve of my living there and making sure that Mr. Franklin’s remains have been respectfully disposed of.

It is especially curious that I found the money even though the house was already combed through by scrappers.

I used the $50 as part of the payment for the work I had done today. I’m keeping the other money to frame along with the pictures I found of the Franklins.

Now, if this was a sign from above and the angels are listening, I have a favor to ask. Please put in a good word for my dear brother in law Bobby.

Rest in peace Mr. Franklin

In Memory of Mr. Arthur Franklin
DOB: Unknown – Died 11/07/2002

Mrs. Virginia and Mr. Arthur Franklin

May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.May the sun shine warm upon your face. May the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, May the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand.

Interesting Times

I was a child of the 60′s, literally, born on Christmas of 1960. I guess that’s why I didn’t think that the civil rights movement or the women’s liberation movement or the end of the Vietnam war were unusual. I believed that societal injustice would eventually be dealt with by society. I don’t think I am alone in this belief.

This is not an excuse, but an explanation for why we have slept so long while the top 1% robbed us of everything.

But we have hit rock bottom and there’s nothing left to take from us. Maybe that’s how it had to be before we could visualize change. It had to come to the mainstream population losing their jobs, their homes, their health care, their retirement savings to see that the “powers that be” are not working for us.

We are all going through a hard transition from a life of excess due to false credit generated wealth to a time when we have to live within our means in a sustainable way.

I like to think that I have been through the worst of this transition in my own life. In July of 2008 I bought my first home in Metro Boston for what I thought was an awesome deal. My inexperience in real estate saw the $250K price tag of a house that was $300K only a few months before as a once in a life time opportunity. In October of 2008 I learned it was not.

The banks knew what was coming though since they sold my mortgage to Wells Fargo before the first mortgage bill hit my mailbox. Then in August of 2009, I left my soul sucking, sanity draining job to work as a contractor. I made the same money but didn’t have access to health care (I paid for Aetna health insurance, but I found it didn’t cover anything, because I had a pre-existing condition). Being a type 2 diabetic this was not a good thing.

I went into survival mode and tried find someplace where I could get affordable housing and pay for my medical care and medicines. I am very fortunate that I can work remotely and that I found an employer (my brother, thanks Bro’!) who took me on full time.

I am not ashamed to say that I walked away from my house in Massachusetts. The bank took it back in a short sale and when you tally up everything I paid in my first 18 months of ‘home ownership’,(down payment, mortgage payments,loan origination fees, interest payments) and what they sold the house for, they broke even. The bank never loses, just us saps who pay the mortgages do.

I bought a foreclosed house in Hamtramck with what little savings I had plus what I could pry out of my retirement fund.

I am still in a precarious situation, I’m trying to sell my house in Hamtramck to finance the renovation of a larger home in Detroit. I could lose my job anytime, and I’m not getting any younger. But you know what, that’s life and I just have to take it as it comes and be happy. I am a lot happier in Detroit than I ever was in Massachusetts.

But I don’t have to be happy about what’s happening in our country. I am mad and I’ll stay mad until things change for the rest of us.

My utopia would be to not worry about having health care. Health insurance isn’t health care. With Insurance you pay every month and then have to beg for them to pay for your care when you really need it.

We need to get manufacturing and industry back into our country so we can all have jobs. The Financial Industry is a farce. Financial “products” are useless except to scam people out of their hard earned money.

I can’t go to Wall St. and protest, but I think what I have done to change my life to live within my means is probably an even larger protest. I said fuck you to the banks when I bought a foreclosed house with cash. I employed people to fix my house, and I am doing it again with a larger house. When I have to stop working, I will at least have someplace to live and maybe even have property to rent out so that I can have enough income to pay my living expenses.

My idea of a successful life is to have something left over after I die to pass on to my family. Or at least not leave any outstanding bills.