Saturday, December 22, 2012

A New Old Tradition (and S'mores!)

An era ended and a new one began on 12-21-12 according to some interpretations of the Mayan Calendar. We're all still  here so I'm going with that. A new tradition started in our family which rings in a new era for Tortuga Flats Farm.

The mid-winter Solstice celebration has been around as far back as history is recorded. Cultures all over the world celebrated the darkest time of winter. Neolithic farmers were fearful that the sun and their crops might not return. Fire played a part in symbolically bringing back the warm sunny days. Romans decorated their homes with evergreen plants and had various celebrations to lift the spirits during the long winter months. Celtic traditions are many for winter and the Solstice. Native Americans had Solstice traditions. It was a time to reflect on the past year and hope for the new. Sprinkled in all these traditions across the globe were Shaman gift givers, Santas in various forms, holly, ivy, bells and all the other things we associate with Christmas.

As farmers, we decided to start our own traditions for this season. Our first Solstice included a meal with much of our own produce, a fire and reflection (and of course s'mores!) and the exchanging of gifts. I doubt the ancient neolithic farmers had s'mores but after all that reflection, chocolate and marshmallows were in order. On Christmas Eve we will have another big dinner and continue to give thanks. Christmas morning we will empty our stockings and see what Santa brought us. We'll then go south and visit the rest of our family.

We had a great time with our first Solstice. We decided it could evolve and include others in our celebration. Next year, we will for sure have one new person, my granddaughter! She won't be able to add verbally to the fire circle, but her presence will add to our richness.

If you'd like to see some more of our Solstice celebration pictures, you can go to my personal Facebook page where I've posted other shots. Click on photos and then go to the Solstice album.

And if you haven't yet "liked" my author page on Facebook, I welcome you to do so. Would love to see you there.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

From Head to Dirty Floors

My first prairie blog stated:

You'll hear all about our trials and misfires and what works. Maybe my glimpse into retiring with nothing in the bank but love will inspire (or scare) others in the same boat. Keep the bucket handy for bailing. Oh by the way, the retiring part is my husband. I will still be toiling away at my writing career, which is in its infancy - but I work hard!

Looking forward to more sunsets
Now, we're nearing the year mark, and I thought it'd be good to take inventory on what I discovered - financially speaking first. Maybe these money saving discoveries would work for you too. A little disclaimer here on senior discounts. I'm lucky that Frank is always able to get them but there are places that go as young as 55 for discounts. You have to ask.

Hair. Funny, my head comes first, but I've always said finding a good hairdresser is harder than finding a good doctor. After paying around $150 a visit for the last few years, I had to make some changes.
Result: Beauty school hair style $6.00 plus tip
          Drugstore hair dye $8.00
Downside: My color is not streaked and multi-shaded like I prefer but I don't look ugly either - I can live with that.

Will the Verde overflow its beginning this year?
Entertainment. This encompasses a lot.
Result: Senior movie discounts - you can't beat $5 movies
           Ask for your senior discount at restaurants. Nearly every eating establishment has some sort of senior discount. Hey a free drink is worth it!
           Hotels often have senior discounts too. Ask. If you're not a senior, then travel on the cheap days. Example: During the week, Laughlin, NV has hotels that charge $10-$20 a night compared to $45-$75 on the weekends.
           Parks, both state and federal have a couple of ways to save. Seniors get discounted lifetime passes. For $10 we get into any federal park. If you're not a senior, check on yearly passes which are much cheaper than paying for each trip.
           Wherever you go, ask if discounts are available. Often, they aren't advertised. 
Downside: None from our point of view.

Result: We all look for the cheapest stations. Up here it's Maverick or Costco. Another way to get cents off is to trade at a supermarket that gives points. Safeway and Frys in Arizona do and have their own stations.
Downside: The store stations are not plentiful so you have to plan your gas filling trips.

Charge card benefits.
Result: We charge most things and accumulate points. We now have two airline tickets. On my other card I had enough points for a couple of Christmas presents.
Downside: None for us because we pay them off entirely each month. So please take caution if you choose to live this way. Don't charge what you can't pay off.

Christie, Lance, Gabby, Xena
Sharing expenses.
Result: We couldn't do what we're doing if we didn't cohabitate with my son and daughter-in-law. It's working for us so far. Financially it's a win-win.
Downside: I don't always get my way! We have to agree on what big expenditures come first, and there is compromise.

I can't do a point by point on all the other aspects of how our experiment is working. I think we've barely scratched the surface. Next year won't be like this year - the farm is expanding, a baby is coming and other milestones are expected. But here are a few observations after the first year:

I've lowered my standards on neatness, others have improved.

Frank keeps asking me what part of retirement don't I understand.
Gabby, Rusty, Xena

Rusty is so much happier with a larger pack and someone always around.

Two cooks in the house makes me happy (since one of them isn't me).

I have to be careful to command myself to write and not get caught up in ALL the farm and household activities.

Shopping is not an activity anymore.

I love eating what we grow.

"Going into town" is a real thing and not just a line off Little House on the Prairie.

So much for my wrap up. Now I'll gather my thoughts on the upcoming year and what we intend to do with it. Hint: we have a tractor! I'll be a grandma!