Operation Stone Soup


Pretty sure I haven’t read that book since I was 5….but if memory serves, the theme is about making do (reads blurb….it’s about not being greedy too….interesting….can we send copies to every GOP presidential candidate for Christmas?).

We’re doing that and then some this week, and the learning that’s occurring as we go…well, that’s borderline shameful, because it brings to light how very much we/I piss away money when we’re not paying attention; but rather than self-flagellate, we’ll just stick with the learning experience mindset. Good? Good.

I consider social media’s “be thankful for something every day in November” thing to be rather cheese danish, but I can’t deny that I’m more grateful this year, when we have about the least we’ve had in ages. The perspective is so damn jarring, and it’ll definitely dictate how we move forward, both because of and in spite of our current poverty sitch.

When we grocery shop of late, the calculator comes out, because we have a very specific dollar amount to work with. Impulses and treats slip into the cart, and go right back out again. Convenience takes a backseat too…sure, I could grab that box of snacks, but if we need them badly enough, I can make something from scratch for cheaper. This reasoning is unintentionally two-fold, as I don’t actually have the time to make a lot from scratch lately, so we must not need them that badly. Waistline plateau safe. Well, as safe as it can be this week.

There will be Thanksgiving. Still not sure if family is going to visit, but they know it won’t be a huge feast. We found a turkey that was safe for our ethics and our wallet. I’ll make au gratin potatoes and bacon brussels sprouts, and maybe rolls. The requisite Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie is in progress, using Paula Deen’s recipe with Ashley English’s pie crust; Les loves that sucker. We won’t have nearly as many leftovers this year, but we’re definitely not hard-up.


I panicked hard last week. That’s the long and short of it. Having to cancel the Hickory Nut Gap Farm turkey really did feel a little like cancelling Thanksgiving. We have been going to them since we moved here. We order the bird ahead of time, get on their list, and the weekend before Thanksgiving, we drive out to Fairview to pick it up. It’s pricey, like $4.99 a lb or more, but you’re getting a bird that hung out in a pasture its whole shortish life and was well cared for; HNG is a really excellent farm and I haven’t had a complaint yet about their meats. Les is over the moon for their breakfast sausage.

The concept must be gaining significant popularity, because even though I cancelled, I got a call from them on Saturday night asking about us, because the fresh birds were already gone and they were down to their frozen stash. We were, ironically, at Whole Foods when they called, finding a suitable bird. Which was also an education, because we were originally looking at just breasts, because you think smaller size, smaller price tag; but at $4.59 a lb vs $2.69 a lb for a whole bird, I quickly turned to the smaller whole ones, since I’ll then stick the carcass on the stove for a day and make stock now. Man, I love homesteading.

Thing is, when poverty is dictating your choices, it doesn’t change your ethics. We could have saved a rather significant sum actually, if we’d gone to Ingles (our regular grocery store…perfectly nice outfit, but, well, you’ll see in a minute…). They’re running a deal this week: buy $25 worth of stuff and get 57 cents a pound on your turkey. Holy crap, you say, where do I get in line? But for 57 cents a pound, you’re getting a CAFO bird that was likely injected with sodium and gods-only-know what else, and that just ain’t how we roll anymore. I’m more than OK with that.

Image snitched from here.


I’m laying in bed last night, winding down from a second wind, when it hits me: no Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for me this year.

You guys can watch it, probably. But we gave up cable almost a year ago, and except for some growing pains, have never looked back. It’s MUCH cheaper this way. We have a couple of sticks (Amazon Fire™, Roku™), and between that and online streaming, we’re really not missing much.

I miss catching football on Sundays. Sure, we could go to a bar, but that usually requires dough we don’t have. And I liked watching awards shows, like the Tonys or Oscars, but it’s easy enough to troll those online the night of.

Les probably misses more “stuff,” because he liked shows on Nat Geo™, Destination America™, and the like (he’s a ghost hunter and Bigfoot enthusiast), but he’s learned to make do, discovered Youtube to fetch back up a lot of the shows he used to watch. So we’ve learned to cope without cable, NBD.

But I guess I’m finally growing up or something, because once that sunk in, the no Macy’s this year, I was like, oh well. Also NBD. Because something rather unprecedented in my adulthood also happened this week. I had to cancel Thanksgiving.

My favorite holiday. Love it more than Christmas (well, we celebrate Yule, but you get the idea). My folks didn’t celebrate it much at all when we were growing up, because they’d lived through the annual turkey, stuffing, and leftovers fest year after year and year and were quite sick of the concept. We’d do something different, filet sandwiches or lobster, or shrimp Benihana™-style. NEVER turkey. So as a kid, I didn’t miss what I’d never had, but once I got into baking, man; that holiday took on a whole new meaning. Les used to smoke the turkey, tasted amazing, but we’re not allowed to cook out in our current apartment, so we oven-bake now and I put on a feast, I experiment with side dishes, and the Macy’s plays in the background as I conduct my kitchen orchestra. I get real joy out of that day, and it’s only gotten better with the introduction of local turkeys and cold weather to the mix when we moved to the WNC.

But shit got very real this week. I was put on probation at work. A combination of upper management training an eagle eye on sites that were slipping through less-than perfect and me not being able to keep up with a significant increase in quality control standards the last couple of months, came to a head. It’s mostly me not hitting my marks, but it’s also me doing a job that really can’t sustain itself outside of the office. My management team is aces; they send me all the training materials and updates they can, and I get emails whenever there’s a team meeting, which highlight what was discussed. But too much falls through the cracks, the nuances of quality that get discussed beyond the highlights of those meetings, or in the halls on the way to the john, or the impromptu powwows that occur in the office when upper management gets a hair up its ass. I miss those, living not-in-Jax, and I can’t really think of a way to remedy that, but if it results in me being cut loose, you can bet they’re gonna hear about it in the exit interview.

So my pay is going to drop, because I had to cut my production level to the bare minimum, and I’m crawling through sites with a magnifying glass and a fine-tooth comb this week and next. If just one turkey slips through (heh, get it?), upper management can give me the ax, and no further consideration need occur. Such is the life of a contract worker, and I get where they’re coming from, even as the back of my mind is screaming “I’VE GIVEN YOU ASSHATS 16 YEARS!!!”

I’m scrambling, to put it lightly; whenever I’m not working, I’m looking for work, office jobs, freelance gigs, anything for stability. If I can get off probation, I may ask them to move me to copywriting, where the learning curve and quality demands aren’t quite so steep. My stress level skyrocketed with this development, but my focus is a laser beam. My number-one priority right now is keeping the roof over our heads and the wolf at the door, and any holidays that the calendar may say are about to occur are just gonna have to wait til the rent clears and I keep us in medical insurance for the coming year. Les is looking too, but his main potential source of income, short of bagging groceries, is relying on another party to get their proverbial shit together and give him what he needs to sell ads for the radio show he produces. Plus, his headaches dictate part-time work probably, until he can establish himself somewhere, prove himself; because he’s just been out of the workforce way too long.

We had invited people up for this year’s feast and are in the process of backing down from that; they’re free to come and visit, but we ain’t feeding anybody. I’ll probably be working straight through that day anyway. I really can’t give a damn if anyone’s nose gets bent out of joint; my focus is on feeding my immediate family.

So I was sitting on Facebook this morning, trying to come up with something pithy about our situation (“#Gluttony2015 canceled due to lack of funds. Waistline quietly weeping with relief.” or “No Macy’s this year??? Shit just got real!”). My sense of humor carries my online and offline personality, keeps my cynicism at bay sometimes while the rest of the world is losing its head. But I found all humor was on hold. I can share my sitch with the world or not, but it won’t change that I have a job to do and that’s my only concern right now.

Images snitched from web, here and here.


Renewal, and then life

So I woke up Monday, determined to figure out how to make working outside the house a reality.

Two hours of Internet trolling later, I came to a conclusion: freelancing is safer.

I have a couple of things going against me with regard to looking for work. I’ve spent 15 years pigeonholing myself rather nicely. I’m an excellent editor – give me a site where I know the platforms/software and you’ll get a clean-looking site in return. But I’m strong on proprietary software; I’m weak in several areas where this field is concerned…my design aptitude is actually minimal and my programming language knowledge is limited to HTML and enough CSS to get my face slapped. So even if the design firms in town were hiring, they wouldn’t be very impressed with me. Strike one.

Then there’s the fact that since they’re not hiring in my field up here, and since the Internet makes the job application process a black hole now … you apply for something, you get an automated response, and unless you’re PERFECT for the position, you a) call and bug them ad nauseum, b) never hear from them again, or c) you get another automated email several weeks later about how they’ve filled the position.

As a result, I was thinking I’d have to go the employment agency route. I’m too mid-level to be taken seriously by the companies that do executive recruiting, and there’s barely any of those in town either. So I started trolling the employment agencies in town (a weird amount of which are located waythefuckdown in Arden for some reason), and I came to a conclusion there too…they don’t pay enough. Most of the office jobs I was looking at, the ones where I had a chance of them thinking I could do the job with my varied work experience, were in the $10 to $12 an hour range. Even the ones with the promise of larger pay ranges or promoting from within didn’t make it worth the jump. I can’t start that low.

At my current job, when you crunch the numbers that way, I make about $15 an hour before taxes. So I wrestled with that a bit and deemed it a big reality check. The problem’s not my job; it’s our budget. Yes, it’s a royal bitch and a half feeding 2 people and 2 cats on that salary, but with some serious work it’s doable.

The bigger problem is going to be digging out of the hole I’ve put us in, but I’m going to make it work. I’m starting a new installment plan with the feds, and shopping for an actual CPA for filing next year’s taxes. I’ve already shopped for new medical insurance for both of us and trimmed those premiums nicely. We’re working on getting a handle on our eating out, or on pissing away money on junk food. I’m getting a handle on my purse and shoe purchases. That’s a weakness of mine, but thankfully I’ve figured out that buying cheap shoes doesn’t pay off in the long run if they’re just going to fall apart in a year, so I’ll save for the good stuff (oh Danskos, some day you’ll be mine!), and I’ll make do otherwise.

The homesteaders’ mantra is : Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without. We’ve already been doing that quite a bit, and it helps; but making it a lifestyle can make such a difference. Time to walk the talk!


A half hour after posting this, I received an email that I was being placed on probation for my quality at work. I’m working my ass off and it may not be enough. Life could dictate I end up in an office anyway, struggling to make ends meet even more. I’m already doing everything I can think of to please them, and it may not be enough. I ache from the lack of security.



The leaves are falling, and the way the wind blows around our building means they’re piling up by our front door, which is lovely to crunch through on my way to the mailbox. The jaunt down the driveway is my only exercise lately. Definitely this week, as I get a grip on work.

My quality dropped significantly enough for upper management to notice, but after some calibration, I’m back on track. For now. It’s becoming apparent just how much I’m prolonging the inevitable. Real work needs to happen again, and soon. We’re, let’s just say, thousands of dollars in debt, and the only way that’s getting remedied is with lots of work, and a better handle on our finances. Trimming our medical premiums and not eating out ain’t gonna cut it; some serious change is coming down the pike.




I haven’t been a frequent poster this year. So long as they keep their rates low, I’ll keep this blog where it is, because I hope to share my farm experiences here someday. While I’m in this in-between place, I don’t mind not having readers; but I admit ego makes me aspire to a readership. I get that that means interesting stories and more pictures, but for now, you’ve got an overworked freelancer and an iPhone 4C for pics, so ……


“And then for about 4 days out of every month, I’m unbearable.” ~ Roseanne

Cyclothymia and hormones do not mix well, and last week was a prime example of that. I was gum stuck to the bottom of someone’s shoe, and you don’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps when you’re there; you just kinda ride it out. Anyone who’s experienced depression understands this, and the rest of society can suck it. Also a prime example of why I don’t need to be working with people again any time soon.

But when you rally….oh, it’s exquisite! I’m a bit of an Energizer bunny and have trouble relaxing normally, so when I rally, it’s a chance to get! shit! done! Last night after work, I knocked out the dishes, started bone broth, put beans in to soak, and made cookies for the week. Today, the bone broth is still bubbling nicely, the beans are cooking for tonight’s quesadillas, and I’m thinking of grabbing a walk in a bit when I hop out to buy more lids (so I can pressure-can said broth tomorrow morning). My wheels are turning with how I can get a handle on our debt without killing myself with work. And always in the background is the dream, a little patch of land to work toward, to work on, to put up greenhouses and have some animals, to raise our own food. To be in debt the way we are and still live so richly….believe me, I know we’re lucky, and I’m damn sure going to do everything I can to maintain that.

I harvested spearmint, peppermint, and basil last weekend, and Hubs dried them, so we have extra jars of stuff around! Used some of the basil in the broth, and looking forward to trying the mints in tea. I need another greenhouse, maybe next check. We have comfrey, catnip, and arnica taking up space in the kitchen, because they wouldn’t fit in the one greenhouse we do have. The weather’s still a little too mild for my liking for early-November, but we’ve had our first hard freeze and the occasional night dipping into the 30s, so I’m grateful for the greenhouse cover for the other plants.

The first morning I unzipped that sucker and felt the warmth inside…oh, it was a wonder! I can’t wait to have the space for more!

Image snitched from here, because it’s been too rainy to get good pics here…..today’s excuse anyway….

What’s the harder thing?

For the last month or so, I’ve been struggling with whether or not to look for work outside of the house. I’m not making enough for us to live comfortably, and we’re sliding into some significant debt. Thankfully (or not), it’s focused mainly in one place (IRS), so once I get back on an installment plan with them, I’ll feel better; but it’s still a hole that’s going to take some doing for us to crawl out of.

Les is dipping his toes in the arena of selling ad space on the radio show he associate-produces for (on a volunteer basis), but I’m betting any royalties he acquires from that endeavor will be nice surprises, not a steady income. With that in mind, I’ve been nudging him to look for part-time work, and I’m starting to wonder if I need to do the same.

Actually, I was thinking I’d have to go looking for full-time work outside of the house, and that may still come to pass. We got our annual renewal letters from our medical insurance, and those fucktards raised our premiums so much, I was folding Dark Meadow Farm Publishing in my head that same day. But after percolating with that a couple of days, I jumped on Healthcare.gov and shopped, and found us both plans in line with what we need (and are used to) for significantly lower premiums, so I’ve relaxed a bit.

But the thought remains: am I prolonging the inevitable?

And the second thought: which would be harder for me – working outside of the home full-time, or trying to keep us afloat as a freelancer?

I can barely call myself a freelancer, as I have only the one gig. I’ve received interest from another publication here in town, but editing websites saps my creativity at the end of the day and doesn’t leave me with much for other endeavors. I need to do something about that. Having all our eggs in one basket ain’t a great way to stay afloat either.

I haven’t looked for work seriously in more than 15 years, and the game has definitely changed. Now you put in an application, get an auto-reply, and if you don’t do your research to figure out how to follow up on said application, you will never. hear. from. them. ever. ever. again. And it ain’t easy to figure out sometimes, who their human resource person is, or how to inquire without annoying someone. It’s become a don’t-call-us-we’ll-call-you situation; but not calling means you’re not engaged and don’t deserve a glance. Add to that a person who has social anxiety and is cyclothymic, and the process gets a little infuriating.

Oh, and did I mention there’s NOTHING in my wheelhouse in Asheville right now? OK, that’s not quite true, but I’ll touch on that in a minute.

Freelancing is supposed to be “the brave thing,” but for me, honestly, getting back out there would be much harder, at least initially, and that leaves me feeling like I’m taking the easy way out, trying to stick it out as a freelancer. Backwards, I know, but lord, dealing with people is hard for me. First impressions become me trying not to babble off on tangents to the point of sounding like word salad, and once I’m in somewhere, I resort to tunnel vision, focusing on work and becoming a drone so I don’t have to deal as much with people. My work ethic is a people-shield. Makes me a decent employee, but I’ll never be management material again. Really not sure how I pulled it off at the theater, considering I was barely getting a handle on my “condition” back then….must’ve been the shiny of my BA (fresh outta college, 1994), blinding them to my people skills.

As for my wheelhouse, I’m an editor first, and a copywriter second. But people want to see your writing skills before they’ll take a chance on you as an editor, so I have to strengthen my copywriting and dig deep to find some creativity to show people. But I’m realizing I should be expanding my repertoire too, because no company is going to take me seriously as a SEO/SEM person unless I have some street cred, like certificates from Google Analytics. I should also be expanding my abilities in Adobe Photoshop. These realizations make me feel like I’ve been sitting on my hands for 3 years, and to a certain point, I have. That’s going to change.

The other thing that’s going to change is our budget. It’s been practically nonexistent up until now; the money appears twice a month (magic!), the bills get paid, nothing gets saved. We still can’t save for the foreseeable future, because of our heavy IRS debt, but at least I can get a handle on what’s coming in, what’s going out, and where we’re pissing it away. No more payday eating out, that’s for damn sure; and as I adjust my time management where work is concerned, it will afford me more time to handle meals, so it’s not always falling to the Hubs. Yes, he’s not working right now and has the time to spare, but we also still have too many evenings where we’re baching it because we don’t have anything defrosted. Now that we’ve learned we like having decent food in the house, it’s time to make the effort to eat it!


It’s been forever since I’ve posted, but no one really reads this, so I’m less inclined to apologize. It’s just been one of those years. Have barely picked up knitting this year too.

If you’re lucky, life is good work; but admittedly, I’ve been letting it consume me a bit this year and the results are definitely a mixed bag. Our debt is significant, even more so now that I’ve talked to the IRS and straightened out a thing or two; but I’m actually relieved by that prospect because it renders a clarity to the situation, allowing me to see the whole board, so to speak, and take the necessary steps to remedy it, or at least stay in the good graces of the federal government.

But that means, realistically, that I need to be working in a real job again, in an office, with benefits. That hurts a little, as I’m not the most personable creature. Being out in the real world requires an effort, and a verbal filter, that I rarely possess fully. Plus, let’s face it, who wouldn’t love working in yoga pants sans bra every day? But we’ll never get our debt under control unless our incomes are steadier entities, so I think changes are going to occur employment-wise, in the coming months.


But today, it’s autumn. Middle of the afternoon, middle of October, and I’m outside working. There’s an excellent high breeze tossing the tree limbs around. The black walnuts have already shed their leaves, they start earlier than the others; but the fruit continues to fall. If you hear a thunk these days, it’s a black walnut falling. The other deciduous’s are confused. This weekend is probably peak for color finally in the lower elevations (3,000 to 5,000 above sea level), but the oaks in front of our apartment are still green, stubbornly holding on despite the elements. Just 2 weeks ago, we were deluged with that storm that nailed Columbia, SC, hard, and last night, we may have had our first frost. The trees are catching up, straining for the last bits of chlorophyll before dormancy. It feels like a short autumn, if we’re already getting frost warnings, but then I remember how we got snow on Halloween last year. I swear we’re doing this to ourselves, and every time someone from the right denies our role in climate change, I want to punch him in the throat.


It’s Saturday. A couple of dirt bikers are blowing off steam next door. Two houses up, someone’s mowing. And my nostrils sting with a whiff of wood smoke from somewhere, which just makes me want to go inside and make hot cocoa, pull out Farmer Boy, and bag work for the rest of the day. But I’m getting my version of overtime today, so I press on.


The garden this year was all herbs: peppermint, spearmint, arnica, catnip, basil, aloe, echinacea, marshmallow. I suck at thinning seedlings, so the catnip’s a bit of a miracle plant; it grew slowly, but now it’s thriving. We don’t harvest enough, but I’m determined to keep stuff alive through the winter. Brought in a couple last night that we’ll winterize this weekend, and the rest got covered in a mini-greenhouse I purchased last spring. I LOVE having that option this year, and look forward to measuring its success.

But I ache for the room to build raised beds. I used a mix of potting soil and compost in my containers this year, which I think certainly helped boost them to life when it was a 50/50 shot. But nothing beats putting down compost after a month or two of growth in the ground.