Thursday, July 25, 2013

Old versus New Beehives

Beehives from the early 1800s
The picture above is an example of how people kept bees before the discovery of "bee space" and removable frames by Lorenzo Langstroth in 1852. The hives were simply hollowed out logs with small openings in the bottom. It is illegal now in the US to keep bees in logs or skeps. The hives must have removable frames, which not only is a less invasive method but also a way for state inspectors to quickly check hives for possible disease. The picture below is of one of my hives. I keep this hive in the driveway :)
Modern beehive

Sunday, July 21, 2013

To Coupon or not to Coupon

I recently read an article about a man who identified himself as an “extreme couponer.” He spends several hours per week clipping coupons and finding sales. Oftentimes, he buys items that he will not use himself but gives away instead. According to the article, he makes enough money to buy the items directly, but couponing is a fun hobby for him. The comment section of that article was particularly interesting and many of the comments berated his frugal behavior. Many of the comments suggested that he would save more money by getting a part-time minimum wage job for the hours he spends saving money. I think many of the remarks were rooted in jealousy because someone on the planet is not working at a job they hate in order to buy more stuff they do not need. As long as someone is enjoying their short time here on Earth, instead of slaving away and being miserable, there will always be people who will try to tear them down. Now I’m going off on a tangent…

So, do I clip coupons? Yes. I started last year after noticing how many coupons were being thrown away at the breakfast restaurant I worked at. I noticed most of the coupons were for items I use and pay full price for, so I started collecting the coupons and used them to create a stockpile of things like razors, toilet paper, paper towels, soap, shampoo, laundry detergent and other cleaning products. My goal was to save up enough items to not have to buy any of those products for at least three months in 2013. My goal was not only successful, but I didn’t have to purchase any of those daily items for nearly six months. I ran out of paper towels at the end of June. I still have enough soap and razors to last for an additional three months. My goal for 2014 is to purchase enough everyday items for the entire year. I found out the less time I spend shopping at big box stores the fewer things I want. It’s an amazing feeling to not have to shop for everyday items on a regular basis.

I tallied how much money I saved from newspaper inserts in 2012 and it totaled $152.41. I did purchase a few newspapers, but even that amount was less than $20 which leaves $132.41 in savings. Naysayers would say that if I wouldn't have purchased those products in the first place, then I would have already saved that money. I guess I could completely stop shaving my legs and not use soap or shampoo, but then I would probably lose my job. I suppose I could also start using the bathroom outside and use grape leaves instead of toilet paper. There are always ways to stop spending so much money, but I do enjoy many modern conveniences such as indoor plumbing J      

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Follow Your Passion...

Just don’t quit your day job!

This concept of following your dreams is a relatively new idea when compared to the history of humankind. The vast majority of the people in the past did not have time to think about what they would rather be doing, but instead life was a daily struggle for survival. What did people do in the past? They plowed fields, tended animals, built their own house, kept the hearth fire going, baked bread and had a lot of children. An individual had to be averagely good at a lot of different jobs in order to survive. Nowadays, most people have the view that they have to be great at one particular job and just do that job for the rest of their life. Not only does society tell us we are only supposed to do one job, but also we should love our one and only job or what is commonly called a “passion.”

It has recently become a bit of an obsession of mine to read sad stories about people who decided to follow their passion only to wind up as indentured servants to student loan debt. I’m not sure why I like to read their stories. I do feel sorry for those people and would help if they were a family member. I graduated without student loan debt. It took me a long time to finish and I did have to cash out a $2,500 retirement account, but I have no debts. Student loan debt is one of the very few debts that cannot be discharged through bankruptcy and Social Security can even be garnished to repay it. My dad used to have a phrase about not paying for a dead horse. I have found his view to be very useful because if I buy something on credit that I’m not living in, driving around or using on a daily basis, then it is essentially a dead horse.

Who is the best salesman? A man who believes in the product he is selling. Universities are essentially businesses where all of the salespeople really believe in the product they are selling. All of the professors bought into the idea that they only way to succeed is to obtain a degree. In fact, all of the educators you have ever met have the same mindset because all of them went down the same path and it worked for them… sort of. Most of the professors I met and got to know a little are drowning in student loan debt. Some of them get to do interesting research and maybe that is worth the trade-off of being in debt and having limited time to spend with family.  

I worked with a former professor at the casino who had a PhD in ancient languages and was still paying off his student loans at the age of sixty. He had given a few lectures at Stanford and also co-authored a textbook, but he had not been tenured and had no retirement, so he was essentially destitute. Today, while working in the restaurant, I met a man who I also used to work with at the casino, and he told me about a mutual acquaintance who has finished a PhD in Biology but cannot find a job in his field. I know the man fairly well because I would see him around campus and knew he was working at the university teaching a few lab classes. It was very disheartening to hear how even with advanced degrees in a hard-science he still is not able to find a job in what he likes to do.

Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? Here is my advice… don’t quit your day job. Most of the people I know and admire have very average jobs with strong hobbies. My beekeeping mentor works in a factory but is one of the most passionate beekeepers I know. Another man I know drives a semi-truck and he fixes Harleys in his spare time. The woman who works in the local toffee shop creates beautiful paintings that she sells at art galleries and shows all over the southeast, and she is also one of the top pool players in the country. I work as a waitress but I’m also a beekeeper, a gardener, a clay animal maker, a lifelong learner and sometimes I even find time to write for all of my dear readers on this silly blog J     

Monday, July 8, 2013

Max Patch Paradise

Max Patch

I went hiking in an area called Max Patch last week. It is located in the Pisgah National Forest on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Max Patch is a high mountain bald with a unique ecosystem. The park service does maintain the area with regular mowing, though. The only way to drive to the bald is on a windy one-lane gravel road for about 10 miles. By taking a left out of the parking lot, the gravel road leads to Asheville and right leads to Newport. If you have a fear of gravel roads, the only other way to get to the area is by hiking. The Appalachian Trail goes over the bald. A few months ago, the area was vandalized by idiots driving ATV’s and four-wheelers all over the area. Whoever did it created deep muddy ruts in the grass.

Max Patch Bald

I hiked for a couple of hours and had such a powerful feeling of freedom and gratitude. Max Patch is my personal image of paradise. I was silently singing to myself “What a Wonderful World” the entire time I was there.  It is so amazing to be a part of the world and experience life. I meet miserable people every day and I often wonder if they would just pay attention and look around, they would see life as amazing too.