Monday, June 28, 2010

Who doesn't love ice cream?

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Winners Drink Milk! is giving away a Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker Stand Mixer Attachment today.  Yummy!

Miller Mondays, Hiatus

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This week I am taking a break from Miller Mondays and 48 Days to the Work you Love.

No offense to Dan Miller, he's still one of my favorites.

I spent all weekend being all sinus-y and drippy.  I have a wastebasket full of tissues to prove it.  Most of the weekend I was sitting on the couch trying not to suffocate in my own slop.  (Isn't that a wonderful image?)

Needless to say, I am pretty worthless at the moment. 

We will return to our normal programming schedule next week.  Same bat-time, same bat-channel.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Make your own... Laundry detergent!

I decided this week that I would try my hand at making my own laundry detergent.  I have a small mountain of laundry from the "Move the Stuff in the Garage to the Basement" project, and we were about out of detergent anyway.  So, I figured, what the heck?

I got this recipe from my friend Kim, who in turn got it from the Duggar Family website.  (Remember them?  They're the people with 8 million kids on that TLC show?  Can you imagine the laundry in that house?  Makes my mountain look very insignificant...  Seriously though, if they want 8 million kids, more power to them.)

So I made a trip to Rural King to collect the necessary ingredients, and got rolling!

First, take a bar of Fels-Naptha soap...

(Next time remember to take the picture before I get started.) ...and grate it up.  I just used a regular cheese grater.

Admire your finely grated pile of soap, and remember that it is not cheddar cheese.  Please do not eat.

Heat 4 cups of water in a saucepan, and add the grated soap.

Stir constantly(-ish) until the soap is melted.

{As a side note, I added the whole pile of soap at once, and ended up with gloppy hunks of partly melted soap.

It all melted eventually, but it took longer than I thought it would.  Next time, I would only add small amounts of the grated soap at a time.}

Take a clean 5-gallon bucket, and fill it about half-full of tap water.  Grab your other ingredients:

...add 1/2 cup of Borax and 1 cup of Super Washing Soda to the bucket.  Stir to dissolve the powder.
Then add the melted soap-soup to the bucket.

Stir it all together, and fill the bucket the rest of the way with tap water.  (Be a little careful here, as the soap gets sudsy!)

Cover your bucket, and let it sit overnight to thicken.

The next day...

Take off the cover and stir your soap.  Don't think about what it looks like...

...just stir it up really really well.  The jelly-like soap will un-gel, and become more liquidy again, I promise.

This is actually double-strength detergent now.  Using whatever dispensing container you want (I used the last recently emptied store-bought detergent bottle), fill your container with 50% new detergent and 50% tap water.  Shake well before each use, as the concoction will gel again in the new container.

For a top-loading washer, use 5/8 cup of detergent per load.

For a front-loading washer, use 1/4 cup of detergent per load.

If you like scented detergents, you can add a few drops of essential oil to your detergent (10-15 drops for every 2 gallons).  I would recommend adding fragrance to your smaller "working" bottles, not to the 5 gallons of stock!

I was able to buy all the supplies for this batch of detergent, including a new 5-gallon bucket, for less than $17.  For TEN GALLONS of detergent.  I have plenty of Borax and Washing Soda left over, so if I ever run out of detergent, all I will need to buy is a $2 bar of Fels-Naptha soap.  Remarkable!

I have used this so far on some musty-smelling towels from the garage yesterday, and some "business casual" clothes this morning.  So far, no complaints!

Printable recipe card:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's WHAT time?

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I seem to be saying this more frequently lately.  Does anyone else feel like the days are getting shorter?  I mean, not just because the summer solstice was on Monday, but because there's actually less time in the day than there used to be?

It seems like more and more I'll be working on a spreadsheet for my research, or reading a book, or working in the kitchen, or working on my blog, or reading a paper, or running errands, or moving endless boxes of stuff from the garage to the basement, or whatever I'm doing, and all of a sudden I look at the clock.  "Really?  How did it get to be that time already?  Last I knew, it was three hours ago!"

Anyone else?  At all?  Or is it just me.  I feel like I am busy busy busy, but when I look back at the end of the day (or week), it doesn't seem like all that much got accomplished.

I do know that at least my husband feels the same way.  He's started getting up at 5:30 every morning to go work in the garden, or the barn, or the hayfield.  He says it's the only way he's ever going to get caught up!  (By the way, he hasn't been "caught up" since I've known him.)

And here I am, out applying for part-time jobs, while thinking about trying to get another project off the ground.  Have I gone insane?

Anybody else having this issue?  What has worked for you?  Do you get up early, or stay up late?  Or have you just reconciled to the fact that "everything" will never get done, and whatever you can do is a bonus?  I'm up for tips here!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The basement is finished!

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Well, sort of.

Last we knew, the basement had been flooded,

all the stuff had been taken to the garage,

and the basement had dried out.

We were working on cleaning and scraping the walls of the basement so we could repaint.

I am happy to report that we have finished!

We washed and scraped and washed and scraped and washed again.  Somewhere in there we sprayed everything down with bleach.  We also washed and painted the floor.  And here is what we finally got!

The walls and floor are clean and beautiful.

We built lots of shelves so all the stuff from the garage could be nicely stored in the basement.

Well, it's getting there...

The most important thing is that all the stuff got taken out of the garage, including the two tractors that were hiding in the back!

And now, that garage fits not just one...

Not just two...

But three vehicles!  Including my husband's long bed, extended cab pick up!

Now we're talking!

If only the basement would sort and organize itself...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Miller Mondays: Nuts and Bolts, Part 1

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Welcome back to Miller Mondays!  We have been discussing material from the book 48 Days to the Work You Love, byDan Miller.

The next section, Nuts and Bolts, deals with writing your resume, identifying the companies you would like to work for, getting and performing on the interview, and negotiating salary.  This section gets into lots of details, so I thought I would break it up into two parts.  This week we'll go over resume writing and a company search.

The main points for this week are:

1.  Having a clear personal understanding and focus is 85% of the process.

2.  The resume is a sales tool for where you are going.

3.  The creative job search strategy is your most powerful tool to get the job you want.

A resume should not be the tool that gets you the job.  Your resume should be the tool that makes the company want to interview you.  The resume is selling you, but is only giving enough information that people want to learn more about you.  The way you structure your resume and the information you choose to include will position you for landing the interviews you want.

This 85% number keeps coming up.  Remember when we said that 85% of the reasons for success were due to personal characteristics and skills?  Remember last week when we worked on identifying these skills?  Now is one of the times when they come into play.

Most resumes only get 30-40 seconds of time.  You need to use yours to make an impression.  A generic objective statement at the top of the page is not the way to do this.  Consider starting your resume with a skills summary.  Transferable skills are the basic units of whatever career you choose.  Transferable skills are learned in one job/career, in one context, but can easily be transferred to another context and even career.  Good with organization?  Have some computer skills?  Learn how to do accounting?  Have you been a teacher or a trainer?  Use these skills to market yourself into the position you want next.
Don't particularly like the careers you have had in the past?  Looking for a change?  What transferable skills have you developed in your previous jobs that can carry over to other career paths?  Be creative here - there is lots of room for change!

Many jobs are never advertised at all.  Any job that is advertised is seen by hundreds of people (possibly tens of thousands if it's posted on the internet).  How can you compete with these numbers?  Did you know that the best jobs often aren't advertised at all?  So how can you go about finding the 87% of jobs that are never advertised?

First, identify 30-40 target companies that you would like to work with.  Use your own criteria.  Close to home, size of company, lots of travel, type of business, etc.

Once you have these companies identified, send a letter of introduction.  This letter should be addressed to a specific person, not just to the Human Resources Department.  Most receptionists will give out the names of the people who do hiring; many times this information can be found on the internet.  Use this letter to introduce yourself and start name recognition.  Tell them that you will be sending a resume in the next few days.

Send a cover letter and resume, addressed to the same person.  Do not end your letter with a generic phrase like, "I am looking forward to hearing from you regarding an opportunity with your company."  Instead, give them a specific date when you will call for a follow-up discussion (4-5 days after sending the resume).  This takes the need for initiative off the company, and places it on you.

Then, don't forget to call!  Call on the day you said you would call.  Remind them that you sent a resume a few days ago.  Tell them that you are very interested in what their company does, and you feel your skills would be an asset.  Ask when you can come in to speak to them.  This step builds on the name recognition we started with the introductory letter, and gives you top-of-mind positioning, compared to the people who simply sent resumes with no follow-up phone call.

According to Dan, if you only send cover letters and resumes, you will need to send out 254 resumes to gave a statistical chance of getting any job offer.  If you add a follow-up phone call to the cover letter and resume, you only need to send 15 resumes to get a job offer.  Remember, your resume is a tool to sell you; the goal of the resume is to get you the interview, not to land you the job.

Next week - preparing for the interview and negotiating salary.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What's that smell?

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Sunday night John and I went out to the barn to feed the cows, the dogs, and the cats.  We also had to separate out the heifers from the cows, so we were in the barn longer than normal, getting gates moved so we had a place to put the heifers.

I fed the cats, and then turned around to help (well, to watch, really) John move the gates.  All of a sudden the cows stopped eating and left the barn lot.  There was still corn left, so this was pretty strange.
Before we fed, John shut another gate to keep them in the barn lot, so we thought they were just pissed about being locked in.

The cats weren't eating either, but this is not so strange.  Usually they want some attention while we're in the barn.  So we didn't think much of this.

Then I turned around and saw...

... a skunk eating out of the cats' dish.  Now I realize this picture is grainy, but surely you can tell that is a skunk and not a cat?  It's dark in that corner of the barn, and frankly, I wasn't getting any closer.

(Okay, to be honest?  I did try to get closer.  But the skunk turned and ran away.  So no more pictures.)

Great.  A skunk.  We've seen it around our property before, but not quite like this.  The sightings have been more like "Hey, did you see that skunk run off the driveway?"  Now what do we do?  I do not want a skunk in the barn.  I would rather have pigs in the barn.  (Yes, I realize what I just said.)

Fast forward to Monday night.  John had some 4H kids over to learn showmanship, and they were all out in the barn.  Who should come, perhaps to learn how to show the sheep?

Momma skunk came to visit.  This time she brought her 4 babies along for the road trip.

That's right, I said FOUR skunk babies.  We are not having 5 skunks running around our barn.  (And we are not having five pigs to take their place.  Just to put that out there.)

Anyone have any bright ideas on how to get rid of the stinkers?  We're up for options!

I guess the good news is that we still have running water, so if we do get sprayed, we can at least shower...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Miller Mondays: Planning my work around the life I want!

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Today, our main points are:

1.  The more we know about ourselves, the more confidence we can have about proper direction.

2.  The only way we can handle change is to know what is changeless about ourselves.

3.  A personality profile is important.  Personality profiles look at your behavior, not at your abilities.

Remember when we said in the first Miller Monday section that 85% of the reasons people are considered for advancements and opportunities is because of their personal skills?  85% of the process of having the confidence to find proper direction in your life and work is also because of these personal skills.  Well, now it's time to figure out what those skills are.

Dan begins this section with a series of questions such as:

In what kind of settings are you most comfortable?

How do you respond to management?  How would you manage other people?

Are you better working with people, things, or ideas?

Your answers to these, and other similar questions will help you define the kinds of work that you are best suited for.  Remember, you need to incorporate your skills and abilities, personality tendencies, and values, dreams and passions into the work that fits your life.

While skills and abilities are necessary components to work you love, just because you have the skills to do a particular job, that does not mean that job is the best fit for you.  Skills and abilities can be developed in new areas!

Your personality tendencies should speak louder than your skills and abilities.  Recognizing how you work best (regardless of the task), the environments you are most comfortable in, and how you relate to other people will help you to narrow down your search for the best working situation.  Dan includes a short version of the DISC personality profile to work through.  You choose from lists of personality characteristics that best describe you.  Based on the number of characteristics you choose from each category, you can be fit into one of four primary categories:  Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness, and Compliance.  (I have 13 Dominance characteristics, and 10 Compliance characteristics - these are seemingly opposite styles, so I am not sure what to make of this just yet.)

Finally, review your values, dreams, and passions.  What is enjoyable to you?  If money was not an issue, what would you do for "work?"  When do you find time flying by?  What do you enjoy doing, but have been told that it is impractical for a career?  We are often under the impression that "growing up" means taking a job that pays the bills, but that we don't enjoy.  Dan challenges this paradigm.  What if your dreams and passions could be turned into income?  What do you want people to remember about you when you are gone?

Make lists of your skills and abilities, personality tendencies, and your values, dreams, and passions.  How do they fit together?  Can you see a pattern?  Is there work that comes to mind that would fit all these lists?  Think outside of the box!

Next week, Section 4:  Nuts & Bolts.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Last we saw, we were left with a broken one of these

and the guys had gone off on a search of a new one.

So here's the story.

This contraption is called a two pipe deep well jet kit.

The shiny silver part screws off and then it all looks like this

And this is what is inside that shiny silver thing:

Looks boring, yes?  Turns out that disc-thing in the middle is very important.  I'm not sure exactly what happens, but I'm assured that this disc-thing forms a tight seal to keep water in the pipes.  When the well pump turns on in the house, it generates negative pressure inside the pipes, which pulls the disc-thing up, breaks the seal, and more water is sucked into the pipes.  

When we took our shiny silver thing all the way apart (which you are not supposed to be able to do), it looked like this:

Okay, so first it comes apart, which it is not supposed to do, and then the pieces inside are broken!  The two smaller pieces are supposed to be stuck together, something like this:

But because ours was broken, it sat inside the shiny silver part like this:

Hmm.  No seal, so the water doesn't stay inside the pipes.  No water in the pipes means nothing to pull against, and the pump can't generate that negative pressure it needs to pull more water in.  So no water for me.  All because of a stinkin' brass shiny thing!

The guys put the new two pipe deep well jet pump back on our pipes, and repeated yesterday's action to put the pipes back in the well (lower the first set, put a new join between the deepest section and the next, hold in the air to dry for 10 minutes, lower the longer pipes into the well, put on a new join...  you get the picture).  This got finished around 8:30pm on Tuesday night.  Then we had to wait for two hours before we could start trying to prime the pump.  Something about drying glue...

So at 10:30pm Tuesday we headed to the basement armed with a few 5-gallon buckets of water.  We had 90 feet of pipe in the well and about 30 feet of pipe between the well and the well pump.  Did I mention this is a two pipe well?  So really there was twice that amount of pipe.  All full of air.  Sort of feels like we are back at the start, yes?

We opened the prime valve and off we went...  dumped a bunch of water in the pipes, got splashed as air came bubbling out, turned on the pump and crossed our fingers!  Almost immediately, we were greeted with this on the pressure gauge:

Okay, so 15 psi is way better than 0 psi, but it's not as good as 60 psi!  We stayed down here for an hour, priming and filling and waiting and filling and priming.  We played with valves, we dumped water all over the floor.

And finally...

At 11:30 pm Tuesday night...

Hooray!  We have water!  And water pressure!

I ran upstairs, bounced down the hall, and flushed the toilet.  Just because I could.  I never thought a flushing toilet would be my favorite sound.  But it is.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

90 feet of pipe

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We got very little accomplished on the well project on Monday.  The friends who have the equipment for well pipe extraction are farmers, and are behind in their farming.  John took most of Monday off work to help them get caught up on their farming projects, so they could come help us on Tuesday.

Hello?  Remember me?  I'm your well!  I've been torturing you for days with no water!  Ha ha!

But, never fear!  Roy to the rescue!  Roy brought his big backhoe over on Tuesday morning, and then the fun really started...

Roy also brought Cecil, who cracks me up.  It was entertaining, if nothing else.

The guys are hatching a plan...  This makes me nervous...

They maneuvered the backhoe into position over our well, and lifted this giant steel A-frame high up into the air.  They attached two pulleys to the tip of the A-frame, and this is what they will use to pull the pipes out of the well.

John jumped down in the hole, and tied the ropes from the first pulley to the pipes.

Then he cut the line that goes into the house...

...and made a big mess.

Cecil is helping make sure everything is set up right...

...and off we go!

And up...

And up...

So here's the trick.  We only have about 20 feet of clearance between the top of the well and the top of the A-frame.  Twenty feet into the pipe-lifting extravaganza, there was no end in sight.  So John tied the second pulley (good thing it was there!) to the pipe just above the well, and cut the pipe just above the knots (so the pipes didn't fall down into the well, never to be seen again).  Roy took the first 20 feet of pipe over to the lawn, and I pulled up the second set.  Repeat as needed.

Here are 80 of the 90 feet of pipe that was in the well.  Now it is on the lawn.

(By the way, the car in the picture is for sale.  Her name is Janice.  Anyone interested?  We'll cut you a good deal!)

Ninety feet down in the well, we found this.  This is the broken part.  I don't know what it is called, other than "that damn broken thing!"  I'm not even exactly sure what this piece is supposed to do, but I do know that it wasn't doing its job.  At all.  And it made me grumpy.

Then Cecil went home, and Roy and John went on an adventure to try to find another one of these thingies.  It took hours.

Just look at this 97-foot deep well.  It looks so innocent.  You can even see the water glinting up from its depths.  It is taunting me.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Finding the well

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11:15 am Sunday

Sunday morning, John's Uncle Paul came over to help us dig.  So we tried again, and dug a new hole.  Two shovels are better than one!  We picked this spot by running a wire through the pipes from the inside of the house.  The wire hit a "wall," and we marked this spot on the wire.  Took the wire outside, measured from the back of the house straight out into the backyard, and started digging.  Again.

The ground was ridiculously hard, so John busted out the almost-brand-new pick for the project.

The hole got pretty deep, so they switched to a post-hole digger to help with the job.

1:30 pm Sunday

Huh.  This hole looks deep.  And empty.  No well here...

4:15 pm Sunday

By this time, Paul had to leave for work.  John's cousin Sexy Sam and our friend Derek came to help.  That's John and Sam digging.  Derek is drinking a beer.

7:40 pm Sunday

Since we had no luck yet, we went back to re-measure the wire in the line.

While John was playing with the wire, Sam and Derek realized that they could hear the wire rattling in the pipes.

Apparently, the farther underground your head, the better the sound.

8:50 pm Sunday

A bit later, Paul came back, with his trusty locator.  This snazzy device is made for finding things that don't want to be found.  (Why didn't we get this earlier?)  You stick a wire through the end of the pipe you can find.  (Check.)  Then you run a current through the wire.  Above ground, you wave this yellow contraption around, and it beeps when it locates the current.  The beeping changes volume and pitch based on where it is in relation to the current.

8:55 pm Sunday

With a combination of high-tech locating, and low-tech rattling, the guys picked another spot.  And dug into the night.

Wait!  What's that?!  At the bottom of the hole!?  Is that the well?!

Yay!  It is the well!  Well, almost, anyway.  There's part of a bucket turned upside down over the well.

And now, at 9:26 pm central time, Sunday night, I would like to introduce you to...   Our well!

Hmmm.  Now that we've found it, I wonder what's wrong with it?

Part 1:  The well, teaser
Part 2:  Finding the well, witching water
Part 3:  Finding the well, for real this time
Part 4:  Down in the well...  90 feet down, to be exact
Part 5:  Whee!  Water again!  Success!
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