Hunting

Well, we are on the lookout for a house. It is time we stopped renting and bought a place of our own. So, how do super frugal folk go about deciding to jump into 30 years of debt? Very carefully, and with lots of stress. So here is what we are looking for:

  • Someplace close to work. When we say close, we mean less than a 10 minute drive, and possibly close enough to walk.
  • Somewhere with ready access to nature. When you are homeschooling, a cramped house on a tiny city lot is not exactly conducive to continuing the effort. This would also allow for a much more open science curriculum.
  • Somewhere with a bit of space. We would love to raise some animals, specifically goats, rabbits and chickens. That type of living requires a little bit of space (I am thinking >0.5 acre).
  • Someplace for less than 100k. I am not making plans for my salary to increase, B should not *have* to work, and a low mortgage would provide for a flexible living standard. Like I said, super frugal.

The interesting thing is, we might be able to do it. The real estate market is dropping here, and everywhere you drive there are signs. It is a pretty good time for us to buy. The other circumstances that signal that our time is at hand is the sale of the house we are in. It has been a great place to live, and I am content with the time we have spent here. It has given our kids some roots, and opened them up to the joys of nature. It has connected them with their grandpa and his history. They will remember.

This was also the house we lived in for the first six months of married life, and the house that little A came home to after she was born almost 12 years ago. It makes me happy that my entire family has been here, to share this place with us.

Friendly blood

Over the years we have noticed several distinct values in our lives. There are the usual ones that have to do with a life of faith: honor God, love your neighbor. But then there are those that pertain to the way that we live: simplicity, integrity, peace, and equality. Maybe some of you recognize those values, maybe you don’t. Lately I have been very aware of the value we put on frugality, and decided to look it up on Wikipedia:

Frugality (also known as thrift or thriftiness), often confused with cheapness or miserliness, is a traditional value, life style, or belief system, in which individuals practice both restraint in the acquiring of and resourceful use of economic goods and services in order to achieve lasting and more fulfilling goals. In a money-based economy, frugality emphasizes economical use of money in meeting long term personal, familial, and communal desires.

That pretty much sums up our perspective on money. But the entry goes on:

Sometimes associated with the concept of frugality is a philosophy in which one does not trust, or is deeply wary of, “expert” knowledge, often from commercial markets or corporate cultures, claiming to know what is in the best economic, material, or spiritual interests of the individual.

There are many different spiritual communities that consider frugality a virtue or a spiritual discipline. The Religious Society of Friends and the Puritans are examples of such groups. The basic philosophy behind this is the idea that people ought to save money so that they have more available for others.

Hmm… That first part is scary-accurate. Religious Society of Friends… maybe I should look that up. I did, and found some very insightful material.

Unlike other groups that emerged within Christianity, the Religious Society of Friends has tended toward little hierarchical structure, and away from creeds.

Intriguing. Tell me more.

Many Quakers feel their faith does not fit within traditional Christian categories of Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, but is an expression of another way of experiencing God.

To make a long article short, most of the ways that I have come to understand my faith fit very well with the Quaker/Friends perspective, down to the “Testaments”:

  • * The Peace Testimony
  • * The Testimony of Equality
  • * The Testimony of Integrity
  • * The Testimony of Simplicity

Yes, I did spend most of my childhood in a Friends church, but it is an Evangelical Friends church, where none of these items were evident to me as a kid. Not that they were not values, but that the church was a normal Evangelical church, with normal services, and the occasional baptism and communion.

To find myself a grown man, holding values and views my fore bearers held before me, without overtly being passed down, is a strange and wonderful thing. There is a genetic trait that predisposes me to think or respond a certain way to God. Something that makes me eschew hierarchy. A sense that the truth must be told. A desire for simplicity in all things. A distaste for violence.

Ok, maybe it is not a genetic trait, but it is definitely *something* being passed down. Something that resists.

Words of the week:

Boondoggle:

In more recent times the term “Boondoggle” has come to refer to a
government or corporate project involving large numbers of people and
usually, heavy expenditure, where at some point the key operators have
realized that the project is never going to work, but are reluctant to
bring this to the attention of their superiors. Generally there is an
aspect of “going through the motions”, (for example, continuing
research and development), for as long as funds are available to keep
paying the researchers’ and executives’ salaries and so on. The
situation can be allowed to continue for what seem like unreasonably
long periods, as senior management are often reluctant to admit that
they allowed a failed project to go on for so long. In many cases, the
actual device itself may eventually work, but not well enough to ever
recoup its development costs.

An important aspect of the Boondoggle, as opposed to a project that
simply fails, is the eventual realization by its operators that it is
never going to work, long before it is finally shut down. This is not
the same thing as simply fraud, where the proponents know in advance
that their idea has no merit.

Fiasco:

A fiasco means multifaceted, extravagant and sad failures in pursuit
of an end that at least some had previously regarded as a chimera.

In ordinary American usage, a “fiasco” is some effort that went wrong.
In hindsight, it would appear to have been foolishly undertaken or
executed.

Holiday pastime

B won

Whenever we get together with Michigan family these days, we play games after dinner. Usually a game of Catan, followed by a game of Bohnanza. Every once in a while we throw in some Card-Head (a common game with a altered name to make it kid-friendly).

We are an interesting mix of competitive women and relaxed non-competitive men (with the exception of B’s parents who seem to be the reverse). This time the Center Shacks beat down the rest. It’s ok, we will give them plenty more chances to not lose.

Fixed and prime

A year after moving up to a digital SLR, I almost reluctantly added a lens to my repertoire. The kit zoom lens is fine and dandy, but is a little difficult to get good low/natural winter light pictures. After some research I determined that the best lens for the money that I wanted to spend was the Minolta AF 50mm fixed lens (also known as a prime lens). This little guy can F stop down (up?) to 1.7, and is very fast. The possible depth of field is awesome, and comes with great bokeh.

Here are a few natural/low light samples:
what?
This was taken with an f-stop of 2, a speed of 1/100 and an ISO of 400

bedtime routine
This was taken with an f-stop of 1.7, a speed of 2/5 and an ISO of 800

not available
This was taken with an f-stop of 1.7, a speed of 1/160 and an ISO of 100

All were taken using the ambient light, and the darkest one was by the light of our bedside lamp of 40 watts behind the bed curtain. I will admit that the anti-shake feature of the camera body comes in very handy for these low light shots.

This also makes a great portrait lens with it’s equivalent focal length of 75mm (50mm with a 1.5 multiplier for the smaller size of the sensor).

Portrait samples:
awww...  isn't she cute?
This was taken with an f-stop of 2, a shutter speed of 1/10 and an ISO of 200

She's cute too!
This was taken with an f-stop of 1.7, a shutter speed of 1/40 and an ISO of 400

Wha... how did he get in there?
This was taken with an f-stop of 1.7, a shutter speed of 1/160 and an ISO of 100

I can’t wait to see how this fares with more favorable weather, and magnificent sunsets…

By the way, I picked this lens up for a mere ~$30 on eBay.