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Monday, November 19, 2018

California Burning



I've a daughter and her family who live out in California. She's a couple hours from the fire, but the smoke has been devastating. Schools and businesses are closed due to bad air quality. The problem is widespread.

Of course, conditions are much worse where the fires are actually burning. We won't know for some time how terrible it truly is. The number of confirmed dead is bad and going up all the time. What worries me is the huge number of people who are unaccounted for. Most people have no idea how fast fire can travel.

As a former firefighter he whole situation stirs up strong feelings. I have a lot of empathy for those fire boots on the ground, and the people who've lost everything. The fires are in the news now. All too soon the world will move on and the people in California will still be dealing with the repercussions of the disaster.

Thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers.

Maybe some real world physical assistance too.

-Sixbears

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Van and Medical days



First the good news. We finally sold the van. Actually, my lovely wife is the one who really sold it. I'd given up after dealing with too many idiots. Some people are not cut out for sales. My lovely wife took over. It was a Facebook ad that finally did it.

We didn't get anywhere near what we originally asked, but it was time to let it go. On the bright side, we got more than salvage rates, so that's good. My vehicle insurance is due at the end of the month and it'll be cheaper with the van off it.

Mainly, I get a much needed winter parking space back. I've had to park the car in a steep part of my summer driveway. It's my summer driveway as it's pretty tough to get out of it when there's snow or ice on the ground. There's just enough hill to make it nasty, plus there's a wall for cars to fall off of. It's happened.

As for my leg issues -they aren't getting much better. On the plus side, they aren't infected. However, they aren't healing because my legs have swelled up. Apparently, I'm retaining way too much water. Hopefully diuretics will do the job. The leg doctor happened to notice some other medical issues. He set me up at the hospital to be checked out. Well, there were lab tests and x-rays. I don't really want to get into exactly what's on.

In fact, I have more appointments on Monday to find out what's happening. Right now I'm not super worried, but it's one more thing to deal with.

-Sixbears

Friday, November 16, 2018

The good snow



We have good snow cover and this current storm will give us at least another six inches. I'm actually pretty relieved to have some early snow.

Why is that? Regular readers may remember all the fun I had with my water line from the well. In the end I went with plan B. The supply line is buried too shallow for our climate, but not it's also covered with two inch thick high density foam insulation panels. Having snow on top of unfrozen ground provides a lot of additional insulation.

Most people don't realize how good insulation snow is. Think about it though. What's insulation? Usually it's a material that traps air pockets. Snow has a lot of air trapped between the crystals.

There's a reason the people of the north lived in igloos. You would not think that being in a house of snow is all that warm. It's not T-shirt warm, but it's a huge improvement over outside conditions. When it's forty below with the wind blowing, being out of the wind in a 30 degree shelter is a big step up.

Some years ago a friend and myself went on a snowshoeing adventure. We decided to build an igloo to test it out. It was a fair amount of work, but it was comfortable. We did make one major mistake. The weather was pretty nasty out so we decided to cook breakfast in the igloo. Pro tip: don't fry bacon in an igloo. The camp stove put out enough heat to melt the roof causing water to drip into the hot grease. The cooking was quickly moved outside.

People tend to think of snow as a being a killer, but it can be put to good use.

-Sixbears

Thursday, November 15, 2018

I've got nothing



I've got nothing for temperature that is. It's zero this morning. Yesterday was a tad warmer at eleven, but the forty mile an hour winds more than made up for it. I spent a fair amount of time yesterday digging out. We got about eight to ten inches of heavy wet snow the day before.

Another eight inches of snow is predicted to hit us in the next storm. Lovely fall we are having.

In other news, I've decided to go back to the doctor for a follow up. It's weird, the leg infection doesn't look as bad, but it hurts more. In fact, it hurts badly enough that it's really cutting into my sleep. As soon as the clinic opens I'm going to call and see when they can get to me.

The vast majority of the time I've been able to take care of my own medical issues. Sometimes you need the professionals. It's too bad our medical/industrial/insurance industry is so messed up. On one end we have plenty of people in need. On the other hand we have a lot of dedicated medical professionals wanting to help. It's the stuff in the middle that's a mess.

A good number of my friends are dealing with medical issues right now. I guess I'm just at that age. One of the guys has what's supposed to be good insurance. He went back to work after retirement just for the medical insurance. Now he needs a life saving operation and the insurance company is giving him a hard time. All the doctors agree he needs the operation and that it'll work. Crucial medical decisions are not made by doctors, but by insurance companies.

Anyway, enough of that. Must be the pain talking. Just annoyed that I've stuff to do and not well enough to get it all done. Hope everyone has a good day. I'll have a coffee, get moving, and my attitude will improve.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Slow Heal



My leg infection is taking its own sweet time to clear up. If it doesn't show faster improvement in a couple days, the doctor will hear from me again. Right now they itch like crazy. Of course, they weren't bad all day long. It's only when I'm trying to sleep that they act up.

I've been pretty good about following doctor's orders, with one exception. He recommended I do more walking and I haven't been. In my defense when it's raining buckets at 37 degrees it's not nice walking weather. When the rain stopped my lovely wife and were in a hurry finish outside chores. To top it all off, we just received about a foot of snow.

To be fair there's still time for the wounds to heal within the time period the doctor expected. Two years ago, with a similar infection, they didn't seem to be healing. Then over the period of a couple days they cleared right up. Here's hoping.

Having no insurance, the cost is of no small concern too. So far I've received three out of five expected bills. My guess is that my current expensive is about $1100. As bad as that is, that's not much more than insurance would have cost me for one month, but with a $6000 deductible. Even worse, paying out of pocket, they give me a 40% discount. Our medical insurance system is messed up.

I've a credit card with no balance on it. The card is offering a 12 month no interest period. It might be a good idea to put some of my medical expenses on that card. That way some bills could be put off until after Christmas.

At any rate, I'm staying on top of this and will follow through until completely healed. Once the ibuprofen kicks in I'm going back to bed for more sleep.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Moving to the country



So there's this family who've moved out to the country. They are living the dream. Unfortunately, they are somewhat underfunded and have no idea what they are doing.

When I say underfunded, I mean they don't have furniture. Now that might be romantic for a young couple starting out, but this is a large family of ten. Having basic things like beds might be nice.

They also are having difficulty with their well and septic. Their house has a well and septic system rated for four people, not ten. Not only that, they don't know that there are many things you don't flush down a septic system. In fact, they have no idea that a septic system is a living system with little creatures breaking down waste. When they started having problems, they flushed down gallons of bleach, thinking that would make things better. Turns out killing all those little hard working creatures only makes things worse.

I've no idea how they are going to deal with winter. They may not even own a snow shovel.

Dreams turn into nightmares.

Now I can truly understand wanting to live in the country, but you need some knowledge and skills. That's especially true if you can't just write checks to solve problems.

They may have been much better off moving to a town of about ten thousand people or so. Big city problems are avoided, but some basic services can be had. That family of ten would have benefited greatly with things like town water, sewer, and other services. Small town living can be a pretty decent compromise.

-Sixbears

Monday, November 12, 2018

Who does the finances?



Home finances are a big deal. A couple really should have some idea how money is going to be managed before getting married. Money is one of the major things couples argue about. One of the things my lovely wife and I discovered soon after we met was our similar philosophical approach to money. Neither of us have ever been too focused on it. Money is not a big motivator in our lives. That's good in some ways but bad in others.

Someone has to make sure the bills are paid.

At first we tried to manage the fiances together. That only worked for a little while. At one point we ended up paying some bills twice and other bills not at all. That's when we figured out that one of us had to take the lead on that.

Over the decades of our marriage that's a job we've both done. Sometimes it made sense for me to do it. Other times my lovely wife took the lead. When I got injured at work, she handled the day to day financial business. Frankly, I was too messed up to do even that basic a task. Years later, I returned the favor when she was dealing with health issues.

Since then I've pretty much been stuck with the job. However, my lovely wife and I communicate about where the money is going. Should something happen to me, all the accounts and bills are written down in a notebook. That includes on-line logins. Should something happen to me, she should be able to sort things out. However, I probably should write down exactly how I do things -bill schedules, priorities, due dates, and that sort of thing.

Currently, we are dealing with more medical bills than normal. We'd been in the process of paying down debt, but those medical bills have set us back a bit. By this point in my life I'd planned on being debt free, but life happens. At some point you've got to figure out what's worth your time and energy and what to let go. It's whatever works for you. The decisions my lovely wife and I make are not decisions most other folks would make. The main thing is not have any secrets about money and to be working towards the same goals.

-Sixbears

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Moving Forward



It was a weird storm last night. The temperature hovered around the freezing mark. Snowfall varied by micro climate We received about 2 inches of wet icy snow. Twenty miles north, they were buried. Ten miles to the west, they had just rain. It was a difficult one for the weather service to predict.

Much to my surprise utilities stayed up at my house while going down all around me. Usually we are the first to lose power, phone and Internet.

Great, while writing this blog, the Internet went down for about five minutes. Sometimes the universe laughs at you.

Anyway . . .

Still on the mend. While my leg infection is starting to look a lot better, it still hurts a fair bit. It's not too bad during the day when I have things to distract me. It's at night when it bothers me. Sleep gets interrupted a lot. About the only thing I can do then is to get up for a couple hours and take some ibuprofen. My schedule is pretty messed up.

The van still hasn't sold. Maybe I'm too honest to be a sales person. I'm getting sick and tired of dealing with stupid people. That being said, I'm pretty sure it'll be gone in the next week or so.

Looking forward to our next adventure, whatever that may be. It is a good feeling to have all the gear ready to go for some off-grid camping. We could be out of the house and on the road in short order. That thought makes me happy. Eventually we'll have another, larger, sailboat. You can't drive to the Bahamas.

-Sixbears



Saturday, November 10, 2018

Snow and Slush



We are getting a lovely mix of snow and rain. I've heard predictions of six inches, but with a caution that it all depends on the rain/snow ratio. Here in the mountains it might get nasty. Fortunately, I really don't have a pressing need to be anywhere.

Friday I was able to take care of some last minute outside work. Some things were brought under cover and I hauled in more firewood. The house batteries for my solar electric system are charged up. There's a pretty fair chance the grid will go down at some point. Even more likely will be the loss of Internet connection. For some reason that appears to be more fragile than the grid. It might be one of those days to sit next to the woodstove with a good book.

The nasty weather really makes me long for life on a sailboat somewhere in the Bahamas. That's a trip that keeps getting put off. My lovely wife and I are reduced to watching Youtube videos of other sailors. It's not the same.

Right now all we can do is to arrange our finances to make it all possible. The new medical bills coming in are a set back, but maybe not as bad as feared. Time will tell.

If you don't hear from me in a day or two, it's probably just my Internet going down so don't be concerned.

-Sixbears

Friday, November 9, 2018

Small Town Life and the World



I went to a potluck dinner for local small business people. It's the first time in a while since I've felt well enough to go out and socialize. It was great to see people again. There was a pretty good turn out.

One of the guys, a new resident to the area, happened to notice that some of us were related. He asked how many of us were. It turned out that just under half of the people there were related to me in some way. That's life in a small town.

My family on my father's side live mostly in one town still, with a few in neighboring towns. That gives me deep roots in local community life.

On my mother's side, I'm about the only one left anywhere near the old home town. There's a strong grouping at the other end of the state, but the rest are scattered all over. My lovely wife's family is also scattered across the country. About the only family left in her home town are in the graveyard.

My lovely wife and I have three daughters. One is local. Another lives in a neighboring state. Our youngest lives clear across the country. All of them have passports and have traveled to different countries.

For me, it's the best of both worlds. I know what it's like to have roots in an area. I also know what it's like in other parts of the country and the world. I've my tribe of family and friends close to me, where we are around to support each other. Through the rest of my family, I know what it's like to be a citizen of the world. That's good too, as it expands my knowledge and influences my views.

There are different ways of dealing with people from other regions and cultures. You can fear them because they are not like your people, or you may find the differences interesting. My attitude has always been the second part. Don't knock it, that's how I ended up with a lovely wife from a different state with a different religion from my own. Our 40th anniversary is next month, so I must still find her interesting.

Roots are good. There is a strength there. Being exposed to the rest of the world is also good. Everyone on this blue marble in space is trying to find the best ways to live. Some do a better job of it than others, for various reasons. Why not adopt best life practices from those who are living a happier life? Personally, I think it's a blessing that the world is more connected and communication is easier.

-Sixbears

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Getting out there



I was out on the woods yesterday, helping a buddy retrieve a game camera. It wasn't that far out, but at least I was doing something. Since my ingrown toenail was fixed it's a lot less painful to walk. That's even with my legs still bandaged up. I was super careful not to bang them up on anything as the skin's pretty fragile right now.

Last winter we did a lot of camping. It's surprising how much walking you do in the course of a day -without even trying. Just the trips to the restroom and walking the dog is probably enough to stay in shape. Add in some nature trails and walks along the beach and it really adds up.

It's going to take a little more effort to get my walking in at home. The last doctor I saw recommended that I purchase a fitness tracker like a Fitbit. The brand name ones are expensive and there's no telling if it's going to work for me. However, I was willing to purchase a cheap knock off for a lot less money. There's always the opportunity to upgrade later if it's something that does the job.

Big fat guys like myself really need to get exercise to stay healthy. While exercise is good for taking off a few pounds, it's more important for me to be in better condition.

By the way the only critter his game camera caught was a squirrel. Guess we'll have to go set it up somewhere else. That's another hike in the woods, so it's all good.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

My voting experience



So my lovely wife and I get to the polls and walk right in. I'm greeted by a worker who directs me to the second table as I'm already registered. Actually, we visit for a bit. He and I were firefighters together for 17 years, so it's not like we are strangers.

When we get to the table, it's his wife who's checking Id's. She's known my lovely wife and I for at least 30 years. However, thanks to new voter fraud laws, she has to check our Ids. Whatever. We get our ballots and step into our booths.

Our town uses paper ballots. After voting we drop them in a machine that scans the votes. That's fine with me, as the physical paper ballots still exist and can easily be hand counted. I'm a big fan of paper ballots. It doesn't take a genius to physically count real physical ballots. Maybe it makes the results a bit too late to make the evening news, but at least the count can be trusted.

On the way out my lovely wife makes a side trip to buy some cookies from school kids doing a fund raiser. I go and hang out with my former coworker for a bit. Afterwards we go home for coffee and cookies, our democratic duty done.

Now I realize your voting experience may vary. Living in a small town makes it a pretty laid back experience for me. That does not detract from the importance of the act. People fought and died so I could have the right to vote. The least I can do is show up and do my part.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Medical update, progress!



For those of you who've been following my blogging about my leg issues, here's an update.

The new doctor seems to know his stuff. It was nice to hear that he's seen my problem a thousand times before and had a treatment plan. Long story short, I should be better in a week or two.

While I was there I got him to deal with a hugely painful ingrown toenail. That toenail problem has been limiting my ability to walk. Walking is one of the things I need to do more of to help my legs heal. I was hesitant to get it fixed. My mother had the same issue years ago. The doctors botched it up and she had painful issues with her feet for the rest of her life. I made my concerns clear to the doctor. He did a really good job. I'll soon be able to get back into hiking around.

Things are looking up. The treatments in the doctor's office have lessened the pain quite a bit.

Had I seen the exact same doctor in the wound clinic the exact same procedure would have cost at least $1000 more. That was according to the doctor. The hospital adds that on for using their facility. Had I insurance, that's what would have happened. The procedure would have actually cost me more due to deductibles. What a messed up system.

I am grateful that the lady at the wound clinic was able to figure out the cheaper alternative for me. There are good people doing their best in a broken system.

-Sixbears

Monday, November 5, 2018

Don't Vote



Please, everybody just stay home. Don't vote.

I, however, will vote. If I'm the only one voting, it'll be all my decision. I'm comfortable with that. If you are not comfortable with that, maybe you really should vote.

Some years ago my sister-in-law and I were having a rather heated political discussion. We happened to be far apart on the issues. At one point I happen to ask her if she voted.

“No,” she said.

“Well,” said I, “I voted, so I guess your opinion really doesn't matter.”

The next election she not only voted, she worked as a volunteer for her candidate. My sister-in-law made a point to tell me how involved she was during that election.

It can be said that I'm a real inspiration to get out the vote. Most people really don't want to leave it up to me.

-Sixbears

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Last Day on the Lake



I was waiting for my leg to get better before hauling the sailboat out of the lake. Yes, it's early November and it was still in the water. Just goes to show that I'm not getting well fast enough. Not only that, my doctor didn't want me wading around in the lake with an open leg infection.

Friday my lovely wife prepped the boat. She took the sails down, cleaned out the scupper, and pumped the bilge. She also froze her legs doing it. That lake water was cold.

Saturday my daughter and her husband came to “help” load the boat on the trailer. Actually, they did 99% of the work. All I did was direct operations at the boat ramp. Never got my toes damp.

Afterwards we had a really nice late lunch. Before heading to the boat ramp I'd filled the oven of the woodstove with chicken and potatoes. It was really nice to come inside to a toasty warm kitchen and a nicely cooked meal.

We'd finished dinner and were enjoying our coffees. Suddenly, the clouds rolled in, the wind came up and it started to rain hard. Not long after we had a mix of snow and 60 mph gusts. I'm am really grateful for the help. Feels good to have the boat on the trailer and parked in my driveway.

-Sixbears

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Medical Maze



Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. First a little background: I really hate dealing with doctors, but dealing with insurances and medical billing is even worse.

There is good news about my leg infection. It has not settled in my bones. Had it done so, it would have been a real bear to treat.

Okay, fine. Then I was referred to a wound clinic about 35 minutes away. No big deal. When you live in the sticks you expect to drive somewhere for services.

The person at the clinic had all my paperwork and asked a few medical questions. Then she mentioned that it said I was self-pay. Once that was confirmed my call was transferred to the billing department. She was not too happy to discover I had no insurance. Then it got even more interesting. My income is just a tad too high for their sliding scale payments. We talked some time but eventually she realized that not only did I not have insurance, I did not qualify for any state or Federal programs. In fact, even tax credits are useless to me as I don't pay income tax.

She told me the treatment was “expensive.” Well how expensive? I asked. Expensive she said. That's not exactly a number. She wouldn't even give me a ballpark figure. Then she said she'd call the clinic and get back to me.

Time goes by.

The clinic calls and offers a solution. The same doctor from the clinic has hours in another practice about an hour away from me. It's supposed to cost less that way. The only number I could get out of the person is that I need a $55 copay to get in the door. How much additional to that? Nobody could tell me. Oh well. Guess I drive over early Monday morning and find out about treatment and payments.

In the mean time, lab test bills have started coming in. Still waiting for the doctor's visit bill and the x-ray bill.

Good thing it's only money -money I don't have too much of, but if so it goes.

-Sixbears

Friday, November 2, 2018

Mission Critical



It's been pretty tough being less than 100% physically. It occurred to me that there's a lot of stuff around the house that I'm responsible for. A goodly number of jobs have been pushed into some ill defined future. My efforts have been concentrated on the things that must get done. Mostly, those are things that need doing before hard winter sets in. Here in the North Country, that could happen at any time.

Fortunately, I've family members who'll be helping with some last minute things. It's a big relief to me. They'll be able to clear up the last of the mission critical projects.

My doctor expressed concern that my leg infection has yet to clear. In fact, it's still pretty darn painful. On the bright side, my x-rays show that there's no infection in the bones. That's a huge relief as it's quite difficult to deal with such infections Right now I'm waiting to get into a wound clinic for further treatment.

Hopefully, they'll be able to set me to rights soon. There are a lot of house projects that, while not critical, should be done.

-Sixbears

Thursday, November 1, 2018

More Stored Food Tests



This past month was pretty expensive. To cut down on costs, we dipped into the food storage at the end of the month. That's one of the reasons we have food storage.

It's good to eat from stored food now and then. There's a big difference between thinking you know how it'll go and actually finding out by doing.

I discovered a few things. The big one was the lack of eggs. Eggs are great for breakfast, but really critical for a lot of cooking. Let's just say I was pretty disappointed at how my muffins fell apart. My next food test will be with dehydrated eggs. Powdered eggs used to be horrible. The last few times I tried them they were edible. That's saying a lot for someone who's gotten used to local eggs from the farmer down the road.

When looking for dehydrated eggs I discovered some powered butter. In the past I haven't even tried to store butter, making do with various oils and shortenings. Canned butter, depending on who canned it, is sometimes pretty decent. This powdered stuff, however, is new to me. Results will be posted in a future blog.

That being said, today I picked up two dozen cage free eggs and three pounds of fresh butter. It might be some time before the stored stuff gets tested.

In other news, I'm following up with some lingering health issues. Tomorrow it's off for an x-ray of a painful ankle. Later it will be a trip to the wound clinic to see why my leg infection is so slow to heal. At the end of the month there's yet another appointment for another minor yet annoying issue. I don't mind getting older, but I sure hate feeling older.

-Sixbears