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Showing posts from 2016

Merry Christmas

First of all let us wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!!!  This week and month has been a roller coaster in many ways.  Spent most of last weekend working with headquarters to get the kids here for their school leave for the holidays. We finally got them here last Sunday.  Was a very busy week at work, just so much going on in country along with the normal business of the holidays and VIP Visitors.  We had the Army Chief of Staff and Sergeant Major of the Army visit this past week,  It is really nice having the kids back for the holidays this year.  We are really looking forward to being able to celebrate Christmas once we get to Mn, it has been so long since we have had a big Christmas.  Here is our version of the family Christmas picture, yes, everyone is still in PJs!! We had an offer on the house in Colorado a couple weeks ago, after some going back and forth we came to an agreement, not for as much as we would have liked but it was something we could live with, then this w

Well house is on the Market! Another Wood Turning Sale in the books!

Well a couple of weeks go we put the house in Colorado on the market, we have had some lookers so far but no offers yet!  I am sure we will get something soon however! We just had the roof on it replace after some hail damage during the latter part of the summer, it took this long just to be able to schedule the roofer, there was just that much damage in the springs this year.  Unfortunately they did not get the new gutters on before the snow hit this weekend so that will be delayed a few days at least. Held my second pen sale this past week at the Embassy, was not quite as strong as the one during the spring but still sold about 20 pens total and had a couple pre-orders for premium shaving hits so all in all a sucessfull sale.  If it is like last sale I will probably generate another 10 sales from it over the next month with follow ons. Other then that Terri goes back to Mn for a week after Thanksgiving and will try to get some of the work done on the floor in our living area

Looks like a little more pork then initially planned!

Well, planning for the homestead is slowly moving forward.  I was able to exchange a few emails with Walter Jeffries from Sugar Mountain Farm, up in Vermont .  It was a few posts on Walters blog that helped me initially work out what I wanted to do.  95% of the articles I have read about raising hogs on pasture were still predominantly using commercial feed for a majority of their feed.  The program Walter uses relies mostly on pasture with some supplementation of cast of dairy products such as whey from a local dairy or spent barley from a local brewery in addition to vegetables or fruit that they grew (hence why I planted all those fruit trees last year).  Walter is managing this for a herd of 200-400 pigs.   Initially I was looking at raising big black pigs, and I still might eventually but I think I will start off with some selected weaners from Walter first as his pigs have been bred with the ability to excel with forage/pasture in mind as well as hi

New Home Owners!

Well, been meaning to get this out since we got back from signing for the house but needless to say I am running behind!  We have had so many people ask why we are doing this now so I might as well try to explain.  Originally we were looking at building a house on the property we got from Terri’s parents but it was quickly obvious that if we did that it would be very difficult to get started on it before we got back.  Add to that it is an unimproved property so besides the long process of building we would have to get electric lines run and a well put in pretty much before anything else.  We are looking at getting back in the March time frame when the ground may still be frozen it could mean conceivably having to stay with Terri’s parents for six months or more while we build the house.  That is something we really did not want to do so it looked like buying would be the best option for now and we could take our time building our retirement house. Now the question was when.  Some

A little more then a month to closing on the house!

Well, been a while since the last post, so will try to get caught up!  I have been laid up with a pretty bad case of gout the past month so my mobility has been pretty limited, means I have not got much pen turning done lately!  But that is ok, I am sitting on a pretty good stock of inventory right now! This past week we got an email from our property manager in Colorado letting us know a couple weeks ago a major hail storm came through Colorado Springs causing some roof damage to the house there.  We had just got the insurance appraisal back, it will need a new roof and then BAM, another hail storm causing even more damage!  Just happy we had not had it fixed yet, or we would have to have paid the deductible twice!  That is an expense we do not need while waiting to close on the house in Mn.  The renters in the house in Colorado Springs are moving out in Mid Nov so we will be putting that house up for sale in the Sept time frame, about the same time we are schedule to close on

House search!

Wow, been a busy couple of weeks.  We had a couple of decisions to make about the homestead.  While our main goal of building a house on our 40 acres has not changed we needed to decide if we do it right away after retirement when we feel we need to rush it or of we be patient and wait a bit.    The more we looked at what we needed to do the more we realized that it would be very difficult to do most of it before we actually retired and that would have basically cost us the first year of retirement and it would have been very difficult to get started on the aspects of the homestead I was most looking forward to, the livestock.  At that point, after some feedback form the in-laws we decided to start looking for some properties with a house already on it that was relatively close to our property.  We soon found one about a mile from the property, it was a 3 bedroom, 1 bath with a great looking barn.  The house itself was pretty small but it did sit on 6 acres.  The issue, the house

Memorial Day Weekend

Well, another month is almost in the books.  This long weekend was much needed, alot of 10-12 hour days this past week or so.  I did have to go to the office for a little while over the weekend but was not for very long.  Other then that spent most of the weekend at home.  Did get some turning in over the weekend, the results of which is at the end of today's blog! Of the 100 plus trees we planted it looks like only 4 did not make it, 3 apple trees and a maple seedling so over all not a bad survival rate I do not think.  The nursery will replace the trees that did not make it, just do not have the ability to replant them this year.  We got the survey on the land completed so that is one more step closer!  It does not look like the neighbor will be selling any time soon so we have been looking at house plans but have not yet had anything that has really jumped out at us.  We are looking for something with three bedrooms and an open floor plan but also something simple. As soon a

A few lessons learned from my first pen sales.

Well have been back from Minnesota for a little over a week, two days after getting back I had my second sale.  Unlike the first one that was in the middle of the embassy this one was set up on a weekend during a community garage sale event where it was mostly the local national employees as the customers rather then the American employees of the embassy.  Between the two sales this is what I learned. 1.  Know your audience- For my first sale I did not have enough smaller pens, most of my pens were to big and heavy for the women customers which contribute 1/2 my customer base!   For my second sale my inventory was much to high end, as I mention below I did not have enough low end products for the type of audience I had and honestly I should have had much more of the low end even for the first sale. 2.  Schedule some time after the sale when you will be available to make the custom orders that are bound to come from a sale.  I really did not think I would have the orders I did after

Phase one complete!!

Well first a follow up on my last post, the Jordan Military Police did return my pens after a little more then a week of the Embassy acting on  my behalf and waiting for them to be turned in to their headquarters.  At the end of the day however I did get my pens back and we will chalk it up to some overzealous interpretations to their directions. I have not been on much the last couple weeks due to trying to get the first phase of my homestead plan completed!  The first phase of my plan was to get fruit, nut and berry trees and shrubs planted that would take a few years to start producing.  The purpose pf these trees are to produce food for the homestead, some to sell at farmers market,  to support wildlife and  to feed livestock. All total I ordered about 140 plants  Apple: Breakey 5-6'                          3 Apple: Centennial 11/16                    3  Apple: Chestnut 11/16                       3  Apple: Haralson 11/16                       3  Apple: Red Baron 11/16  

A Very Frustrating Trip

I wish I could say my trip back to the states was uneventful and smooth.  Unfortunately I can not say that.  I will start this entry by giving you a little back ground on the Jordanian/US relationship.  The United States has long been one of Jordan's biggest supporters and for the most part with good reason.  Jordan is one of the most stable counties in the region despite a huge influx of refugees spanning back for over 50 years.  To give you an idea of the refugee situation a Jordan Times article from December of 2015 lists about 1/3 of Jordan's total population being refugees.  The United States has agreed to  help  support the Jordanian Government with about $1 Billion dollars a year in Aid for three years that was agreed to in a non-binding memorandum of understanding signed between the President Obama Administration and the Government of Jordan in 2015 and in fact Congress stipulated that Jordan receive no less then $1.275 Billion in aid in FY 2016 (

Been a busy week!!

Well quite a bit to post so will break it up into 3 or 4 posts over the next couple of days!  The first big event last week was my sale at the Embassy.  Of course like always for me it was a total rush before hand, spent the last day before trying to build up a little more inventory in the non-pen department so made some cigar punches and bottle stoppers and a shaving kit.  When it was all said and done had about 100 items for sale which was right on track for what my goal was.  This is what my table looked like for the sale! Sales Table at the US Embassy, Amman Jordan Over all over the two days I sold about 27 items and took orders for a few more for a total of about 750 Jordanian Dinars or close to $1300.  About half of that was material costs or sales cost so over all not bad.  The sale itself was great but was not the sole primary goal, the main idea was to get my name out there for making these products so that people would come to me later with orders or requests.   For th

What a Week!!

Well this will be a busy week, I ended up taking today off on leave to pump out a few more items for my sale this week.  I will have over 100 items on sale from pens (a huge majority) to wooden handed shaving kits, bottle stoppers, cigar punches and coffee scoops.  Will have to wake up early tomorrow to try to get price tags on everything and pack it up. Below is a picture that I took of some of the items on sale that they are using for advertising. A good sale this week will give me a little more walking around money on leave so wish me well!! . After the sale I will be going back to work for two days before heading off on leave, flying out on Friday about two in the morning to get to Mn about 9 PM. Will spend the night in Fargo before heading out to the farm on Saturday.  From what Chris said my planting may get shoved back a few days due to cold weather, Chris says he thinks the ground is still frozen solid but we will see,  I did get an email back from one of the guys I em

Texas House Sold!

Well this week has been an adventure with alot of late nights!  We finally closed on selling the Texas house on Tuesday, it was supposed to have closed last week but the buyer did not have the money in yet.  So Wednesday called the father (only number we had) of the people who own the house next to our property in Minnesota to see if they were interested in selling. He was going to pass on the information to his daughter and soon in law but as of today we have not heard back so will probably give another call tomorrow to make sure they copied my number right but may hold off another week.   We heard rumors they were planning on selling this summer so we will keep the fingers crossed. Chris left to go back to Mn/ND this week, he got back just in time for a PT test!  I am looking forward to getting back there myself in a couple weeks.  Have so much to day when we get there!  Other then that been building inventory for my sale next week, up to about 60 items but wanted to be close to 90

Been a busy month!!

Well the last three weeks have been a roller coaster!  I had to make a no notice trip to Germany that took me out of town for a week, I had to  move my leave up a week and shorten for a week due to a some work requirements, I have been approved to host a booth for my wood working/pen making at the Embassy, we accepted a cash offer on the house in Texas and Chris has been here visiting! The leave change is one of the biggest frustrations because I had already purchased tickets to New Orleans and of course now I will miss that time frame and they are non-refundable tickets!  Not to mention with only three weeks in the states rather then four when it was already planned to be a working vacation will not leave much time to reschedule not to mention the price of the tickets have doubled! So does not look like I will be able to make it to Louisiana this trip.  On the flip side if any of the family or friends in Louisiana want to come up to Minnesota and see what we are up to and what our p

One step closer!

Well, we are getting closer and closer!  Today the house in Texas went back up for sale after a bunch of repairs.  My last property manager (Bill Dunker with Nita Selby Properties) really sucked, there was damage to the house from the last renters he did not tell me about or charge them for and when I sent him the pics he sent me showing the damage I was basically ignored so anyone in Corpus Christi selling or renting a house I would really recommend against using him!  After all is said and done cost me a few grand to get it properly ready to be sold.  So once that sells that is one step closer to retirement! Today I ordered about 150 trees and hedges for the retirement property, mostly different fruit and nut trees but also got some maple and willow trees.  About a three thousand dollar investment but it did make me pretty excited and just makes it all seem closer, we should be back in Mn in about 6 weeks to start the planting of them, have a pretty good idea in my head how I want

The Wood Turning Continues

Well, I have not been on here as much lately, this is in large part due to the arrival of my mini wood turning lathe.  Over the past two weeks I have been busy learning how and then turning pens on it.  So far I have produced about 30 pens which give me a pretty good starting stock in my new Etsy store.  This is a good spot for a plug for me shop! Right now it is pretty much only pens, however tomorrow my desk top band saw comes in that gives me a lot more options.  A couple weeks ago I came across two 3-4 foot long 4 inch wide olive wood logs.  Olive wood has such a beautiful heart wood grain.While I am in Jordan Olive wood from the Holy Land is what I want to work with most as I am pretty sure it will not be available in Minnesota!!  I am hoping to be able to turn a goblet or two and a couple bowls from these logs as well as a couple of handles for two of my carving tools. I am happy to have come up with this now before our trip in Ap

Looks like I will attempt to be a wood turner!

Well after we built the pen last week for Terri and talking to the Chief, we decided to invest in a lathe and all of the pen turning equipment involved to try and do it ourselves.  Not saying I will be seeming much but at least for now I will be playing with it.  The one good part about being where we are is the availability of good olive wood form the holy land to use, so I have put out a few feelers to find me some wood that I will be able maybe use next year (need to give it time to age and dry). I really love the look of olive wood, and with the closeness of the Holy Land most of the pen kits I bought to build have a religious theme such as Celtic crosses and the such.  I am hoping to be able to work on  goblets and beer tankards eventually, Chief says it is not to hard but I have only turned one pen so far and had alot of help with that!!!  Spent a good part of my holiday weekend watching you tube videos of all kinds of turning and the more I see it the more I think I can do it.

First attempt at wood working

Well, this weekend was a first for me, my first real attempt at wood working.   My boss at the office right now is an Air Force Chief Master Sergeant (for military folk, an Air Force E9).  Lately as an office  fund raiser he has been selling these custom wooden pens, he orders the pen sets and blocks of wood and basically uses a lathe to turn the wood into the shape of the pen he is making.  Each pen is unique to the wood and grain of the wood and they make some beautiful pens.  Below is one of his pens I purchased. This weekend he invited me over to give it a try myself, and I have to admit I may be hooked.  The first thing I had to do was pick out a pen set.  I really had to idea of how many different options there were!  At the end of the day I picked a gun metal cigar style twist pen.  Next thing I had to do was pick out a block of wood that would become my pen.  Most of the wood he had was darker colored wood but I wanted something lighter do I picked out a piece of "Spa