Archive for November, 2009

How we got here

November 28, 2009

My wife and I did not start out in our marriage desiring to live out in the country. Early in our marriage we even seriously contemplated buying a condo in a high rise. We liked the idea of being urban, walking to shows or what have you. But something changed in the past five years that we’ve been together.

I think the first step was the realization very early in our marriage that we needed to get out of debt. We were 23, had two car loans, student loans, credit card debt and a store credit card or two. All total, our debt was a staggering $83,000. Now, some would argue that most of that was student loan debt, and that “doesn’t count”, and that next far biggest part was car payments, and you just “always have those.” It would have been easy to rationalize that we weren’t in too bad of a shape, and we were making good money, so it wasn’t a problem.

But we felt like it was a problem.

What caused our realization? We were definitely inspired by Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover, but we were headed in that direction. We started reading that book because I found it while looking for books on debt reduction. The realization looking at our student loan statements that the loans were for 30 year terms was a wake-up call–we had not been alive yet for 30 years. I couldn’t picture making payments on my education for that long.

So we made some drastic changes. We sold one of our cars, and replaced it with a 10 year old model. One payment and a chunk of debt gone. We posted our running debt total on our fridge so that every time we got something to eat would see the numbers. We made a budget every month with mid-month “budget meetings” where we would check up on our monthly progress. I had a job change that had a shorter commute, so we sold the other newer car and replaced it with a 20 year old model. (all Volkswagens, though.)

And, slowly but surely, we made serious progress. We started summer of 2005 and in October 2008, we were officially debt free.

And now, a year later, we are homeowners. Through out our debt reduction time, we realized that living on a busy street in south Minneapolis was not where we wanted to be. We had great friends and a wonderful church, but we both realized we would like something simpler. Something quieter. Something…slower. We wanted to be able to grow our own food and know where it came from. My wife has got a green thumb and dreamed of a larger plot than the little 4-foot square in our backyard.

We started lightly looking for places last Thanksgiving. We rolled our former monthly debt payments into our online savings account and started a down payment.

And, lo and behold, here we are. Oh, yeah, there was the whole having a baby thing, too. That was in there somewhere.

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Outside time

November 15, 2009

It’s a gray, overcast day, somewhere in the upper 40’s. The air is damp, it “feels” like fall. Living out here doesn’t smell like it did on Portland Ave.

With our new little baby most of my days recently have been inside. It’s wonderful to go outside for a few minutes, just for a quick walk and to fill the bird feeder. It reminds me that this is truly where we want to be–I feel like our land is our own little slice of paradise.

We have some friends coming over soon and some cleaning to do.

There are many questions that need to be answered, bills and money situations to figure out, health insurance questions, a garden plot that needs to be tilled, and so on. But this is one of those moments where it all fades away and I’m simply incredibly grateful.

The Truck Saga (pt. 3)

November 14, 2009

[This is part 3. Parts one and two complete the story].

So our “new” truck was home, safely, and out of commission. I spent some time trying to figure out what was wrong, a process involving phone calls to knowledgeable folk, and purchasing a Haynes manual at O’Reilly Auto Parts. I also got books from the library, and spent several hours in the barn on the dirt floor poking around trying to figure what was wrong.

All signs seemed to point to a bad clutch. Which is unfortunate, I knew that a new clutch is expensive. The most frustrating part of the whole thing is in the back of my mind I felt like I should have known. I’m not an auto-care expert, or even a moderately qualified mechanic, but I’ve driven a car with a bad clutch before, and the truck didn’t feel like that at all.

I learned that you can still drive a vehicle with no clutch…you start it in first (make sure you’re not in the path of anything), and the starter pulls you along until things kick in. Then, just keep driving and work the gear shift when you get to a bit higher RPMs…you’ll be able to slide into 2nd with some finesse and some luck.

After my various attempts with nothing to show for it, we decided to take it to a local repair shop out in the country not more than 4 miles away.

My wife followed me in the Jetta, and we were off, slowly, taking back country roads, I tried to never come to a complete stop, there was no real way to get going other than to stall out and restart the truck.

Finally, after sweating and swearing and the fervent half prayers that come with driving a vehicle you are not confident in up and down hills, we were climbing a last hill near the repair place…and the truck died. Sputter, cough, chokesputter, stop.

Tried to start, it turned over, then nothing.

After 20 minutes of trying to start, rolling backwards, cursing, being terrified as other cars crested the hill, I gave up. We put the emergency flashers on (which I have found by this time, it’s on the steering column, a tiny broken nub on my truck.), and drove over to the repair place.

Now this is a small country repair shop, the owner taught me in Sunday School years ago. We explained the situation, and we headed the mile over in the shop-owner’s early 2000’s Jimmy.

He took a quick look at the truck, figured it was the fuel pump, and we started to head back. In the meantime my very pregnant wife headed home for a bathroom break.

The process of getting the truck over the shop involved some backing up in neutral, coasting down the hill a bit, pulling into a nearby driveway and performing the most awkward Y-turn ever executed.

But eventually we got there.

Our baby arrived!

November 4, 2009

She’s a week old today.

I’m sleepy.