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Helen's Mulberry Lane Farm Journal

A Horrible, No Good, Terrible Week. And It Is Only Wednesday.

This has been a horrible, no good, terrible week, and the week isn't over yet. It is only Wednesday. Sigh.

After an very busy Friday and Saturday on the farm, both in the store and in the garden, we had Matthew's graduation service on Saturday afternoon and his Graduation Open House on Sunday afternoon, both events a 45 minute drive for us. All those things were great but exhausting!

After Sunday lunch at home, 'Beka, Gerald and myself (the boys were at Matthew's, and very happy to be there!) had to roll out the frost covers for eighteen 150 foot rows of strawberries because there was a "chance" of patchy frost Sunday night. Of course, just my luck the patchy frost would end up in my strawberry patch!

Several trips like these were taken to the barn
to pick up all the containers that store the covers.

Three pack horses at work.
I know you only see two but I took a quick moment
to take a picture and then got back to work.

We rolled the covers out in the garden beside the strawberry rows before heading out to the open house. When we got back from the open house, in the evening, we had to then cover all the strawberry plants. After we did that Gerald had his medical infusion treatment which takes three hours. To say we were tired was an understatement. And so went our "Day of Rest".

This shows just one of the two
sections that were covered.

Monday morning, when I got to my desk, I had two messages on my phone. Bad news. My father had a heart attack on Sunday night and was in critical condition. He has apparently also had a stroke. He remains in the hospital and isn't doing great. He will be ninety-one in November. He lives in Canada, making it impossible for me to take a quick trip there. All my family was gathered around his bedside, except me. Terrible heart pains for me, let me tell you. Monday was a blur of emotional turmoil mixed with exhaustion.

My parent's 60th wedding anniversary, Canada, Oct 2008.
Back row left to right:
My brother Rob, me, my brother John, and my brother Dan
Front row left to right:
My mother, my father and my sister Lucy.

This morning, Wednesday, a customer at my market store told me that many of my "Mulberry Lane Farm" signs at the various roads had been damaged. Turns out some vandals ran over one sign and put their foot through another. They took several of my "Open" signs. My large six foot "asparagus" sign was also taken. Bad news for the business as this is my main way of advertising. We have no police in our little town, so nobody to watch out for young punks out looking for "fun." I had no customers Wednesday afternoon until we could figure out how to get our signs back up and running. I placed an order with my sign maker; $225.00 worth of signs were lost.

This is what the signs
used to look like.

This is what the signs now look like.

Don't go home yet. I'm not finished. Round three coming right up!

Last night, Tuesday night, our son Matthew called and told us that his car blew up. Literally. Matthew and Esther and baby are on a three week vacation before he starts his Master's Degree. (He just graduated with his Bachelors from the U of I; more coming on that another day.) Anyway, they were getting ready to take a little fishing trip and they stopped at WalMart to get a life preserver for the baby. When they came out of WalMart ten minutes later their Nissan X-Terra was surrounded by fire engines and police cars and their car was on fire! The engine literally blew up and burned up.

This photo shows the parking sticker and the cross that were hanging from the rear view mirror. Both were melted through at the top and fell to the floor of the vehicle, along with the rear view mirror. That is how hot it got inside the car. The cross and parking sticker would have melted completed if they hadn't burned just at the top and fell to the floor.

The firemen broke the car windows and grabbed Matthew's camera and the baby car seat. The camera was saved, but the car seat needs to be replaced.

Now, that shatters your sense of security about getting into another car, right off! The world suddenly feels unsafe and you feel pretty vulnerable!

They were pretty shaken up by all of this but are so grateful that no one was injured and that Esther was not in the car with the baby! So are we. This situation could have been WAY worse.

Thank you Jerry and Sarah Hughes for rescuing Matt and Esther and bringing them home and giving them use of your vehicle to begin the car search. Don't you love Christianity in action?!

Matthew has no car insurance for this kind of thing so this is a loss of at least $3,000 not including all the upkeep that Matthew has done on this car, as well as the usual goverment (i.e. expensive) paperwork for registrations, etc. He has taken very good care of his car; new tires, etc. Oh dear. These are times when we lean heavily on trusting that God knows best. I always say, "It is just stupid money. Cars can be replaced, but people cannot."

So now Matthew and Esther are without a vehicle and being students you can imagine they have little money to replace their car. But, we know God will provide. He always does.

This morning Matthew asked me to tell him everything I know about buying a used vehicle. I wrote a quick article on the topic and got Rachel in on this as well, since she did quite a bit of research when they purchased their used car last year.

Notice the word used, not new. Buying new has never been an option for us, but even if we had the money to do so, we would never buy a new car off of a lot. The minute you drive the car off the lot you have lost one third of its value.

We also would never buy a used car from a car lot. Too many middle people which translates to more money than the car is worth. And I don't like having my arm twisted by strong salesman.

So we have always purchased directly from the buyer.

Plan on taking several days, minimum, to make this purchase. Probably more like a week. It took me two weeks to purchase my GMC Savanna van. Don’t panic, even if the car is a desperate need. Try to borrow a vehicle in the mean time to take the edge off the panic. Take your time. This is a big purchase and you want to wait until the right car shows up.

Figure out what your needs as far as a car is concerned. Start a small binder notebook with a page for each car you are considering.

How many seats?

Do you want a hitch?

V8, V6, V4? We like the V8s because the engine runs forever. Since we drive our cars into the ground and then to the junk yard, having a good strong engine is important to us. The body might be hanging on for dear life, but as long as it is driveable and safe, we drive it. We usually drive our vehicles for about 15 years and they are usually ten years old when we buy them.

My self-image has nothing to do with the clothes I wear, the house I live in or the car I drive. And I think all teenagers should start out driving old cars. It keeps them humble and if they crash the doors up (they will), it isn't too much of a loss.

SUV? Mid-size? Large size? Gas is not an issue with us because we stay home so much, so we don’t worry about that. We are more concerned about safety issues than spending a few extra pennies on gas. If we ever get hit by another vehicle, there is more protection in a large vehicle. The most common cause of death is car accident. Our lives our worth the extra for gas, we think.

The best source for used cars is your local Craig’s List, though we start telling everyone we know that we are looking for a used car.

Narrow your search on Craig’s List to car to “by owner”, not “by dealer”. Your best deal is with an owner because you can bargain them down and there is no middle person which jacks the car price up. You can set Craig’s List to show the pictures in the listing, without clicking on the actual listing. Very helpful. You can also set your price range.

Don't buy more than you can afford, but try to buy up to the highest cost car you can afford. This is because you want this new-to-you used car to last as long as possible. The newer the car the longer it will last, usually. It is very time consuming to do the car search and the paperwork like transferring titles and new license plates, etc. adds up to several hundreds of dollars.

Start by looking at all the cars that are for sale to get an idea of what is out there. Then narrow it down to the type of vehicle you are looking for.

The time consuming part is watching and waiting until the right car shows up. Once one does, check the Kelly Blue Book price KBB against the price they are asking.

Start filling out your page in your notebook.

If the price is way out of the ball park, then I put that car on the “maybe” list. It if is way under the KBB book price, one has to wonder why. But those people should be called because sometimes people just want to clear a car out and they don’t really care to get every dime out of the sale. But that is rare. If the seller is asking very similar to the KBB price, don't expect them to lower their price much. If they are asking the blue book price, they did their research and know they are asking a fair price.

Next is calling the person and learn everything you can on the phone. Many cars are eliminated just by talking to the people on the phone. And be wary of anyway who doesn’t like you asking questions about VIN etc. You can get a feeling on the phone if people are trouble, and just forget dealing with these types. Trust me, they aren’t worth it. You will waste buckets of time.

Here are some good questions to ask people:

Why are they selling?
What are the tires like? How much tread left?
Has the car had regular oil changes?
How many miles on it?
What is the body like?
Has the car ever been in an accident?
Has the tranny ever been replaced?
How clean is the car?
Do you have the title?
Ask for the VIN number (then research the VIN online). Link.
How many owners has the car had?
What doesn’t work on the car? Windows? Radios? Doors? A/C? Heat?
What is the absolute bottom line price you will take?

If you are VERY interested and the seller says he has other higher offers, that doesn't mean you're out of luck. In our experience, the seller will sell to the first person who shows up with the cash, even if your offer is a few hundred lower than somebody else's. Several thousand dollars in bills is hard for most people to resist when it is right in front of their noses. :)

Once you have gotten to the point where the car passes all of your tests, it is time to make an appointment to go see the car. I would recommend seeing several cars before you make your mind up.

If you are interested in a car, waste no time in getting there to check it out. In this economy Craig's List cars have about a four hour window before they are gone. On the other hand, trust God that if the car sells before you have a chance to see it, then God doesn't want you to have it. Period. Isn't it wonderful that we can trust God in all these things?

The seller said on the phone, "There are two or three small dime size pieces of rust and a quarter size ding on left back panel." Are we talking American money here?

Take the car for a test drive, both in town and on the highway. When you test drive, check everything. Don't make the mistake of not checking the air conditioning in the winter or the heat in the summer. Run both for a good couple of minutes to make sure there aren't problems with either. If you can, get the car up to 60+ mph when you test drive. Some issues do not make themselves known when you are going 20 or 30 in a residential area.

Look at the car in daylight.

Check for rust all around the car. Check for quick paint jobs over rust.

Check the tires.

Check the odometer.

Get under the car and check for leaking fluids and under carriage rust. Just because the body of the car doesn't have visible rust doesn't mean the under carriage isn't a mess.

Take your time on checking everything out to your satisfaction. If the seller is antsy and pushy, beware.

Was the person honest on the phone compared to the car you are now seeing? Most people fudge some, but if it appears that they fudged a lot, be wary. Be wary of bad neighborhoods. I would just cancel the appointment if I felt uncomfortable with the neighborhood and just drive by and forget it.

It is a good idea to have someone check the car out if you are unsure, or at least talk to someone on the phone about it. Try not to get emotionally attached to the car. It is just a hunk of metal and a servant to get you from point A to point B. If another opinion says, "Don't touch it with a ten foot pole", then move on.

Once you are ready to make the purchase, don’t be afraid to start bargaining down low. Talk out loud about everything that is wrong with the car and what you don’t like about it. Just like as if you are talking to yourself. :)

Cash talks. You already know the blue book value. Don’t be afraid to start $1,000 below that. But expect to pay a little under the blue book price. Some will state up front that they won’t lower their price, but most will, some.

Have a Bill of Sale with you to be filled out by the seller, and of course, the title transferred to you. On the Bill of Sale, have them write their driver’s license and phone number, address, etc.

You have a certain number of days to get it registered and do the paperwork etc. Plan on several hundred dollars for all the paperwork.

Once you get home, take a baseball bat and ding in one of the side doors. That way you won't get mad at your teenager when he dings the other side door driving by the gas pumps.

Just kidding.

Happy shopping!

P.S. I just went out to bring the trash to the dumpster and got a whiff of these lilacs on the way. These flowers just make me so happy!

My "Mother's Day" lilacs. Thanks Aardsma Five!

Not to mention this gorgeous sight! Now that makes me giddy!

Strawberries coming the first three weeks in June.
The crop is looking fantastic!

And my Lily of the Valley flowers which remind me of my home in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. These also bring to mind Jesus, my "Lily of the Valley, my Bright and Morning Star!" who carries me through the hard times.

Beauty God made for us to enjoy!

And this proud moment for Gerald and myself!
Congrats Matthew and Esther!
Bachelor of Science, University of Illinois, May 2013.


P.S. Thanks Rachel (Aardsma) Contreras for adding to and editing this journal post!

Coming Next! Who Knows?


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