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Medicare While Working

Posted by JE Jones on Jan-31-2013

Today, I have another guest article By Ross Blair, CEO of PlanPrescriber on using your Medicare while working.

As more people work past age 65, the eligibility age for Medicare, more people will need to navigate an increasingly complex web of employer and Medicare coverage. The decisions they make today could have costly, long-term implications.

A recent survey of caregivers conducted by eHealth, the parent company of PlanPrescriber.com, found that 80 percent of baby boomers expect to be working after their 65th birthday. Many will have health insurance through their employer. But this group must also consider how Medicare impacts their coverage and their choices. The same survey found that many baby boomers do not understand basic parts of how the Medicare program actually works. Certain parts of Medicare coverage are only guaranteed when you first become eligible for the program – even if you are working.

When you turn 65 and continue to work, you have some decisions to make about employer coverage vs. Medicare. To help you avoid costly mistakes, we have compiled a list of five things to keep in mind.

1. Understand the basics of how Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) works and be aware of some cost-sharing gaps. Original Medicare is a great benefit that covers core services. For example, when you are admitted into a medical facility, like a hospital or skilled nursing facility, Medicare Part A typically pays for your care. If you see a doctor or specialist in an outpatient setting, like a doctor’s office or rehab center, Part B typically pays for your care. But, Original Medicare benefits have some gaps. Neither Part A nor Part B will pay 100 percent of all your costs, and neither Part A nor Part B covers prescription drugs.

Parts A and B have their own separate deductibles, and Part A’s deductible typically resets 60 days after you are discharged from a hospital or skilled nursing facility. After you reach your Part B deductible, there is cost-sharing “coinsurance” wherein Medicare pays a percentage of every bill (typically 20 percent to 45 percent). And Parts A and B may have additional cost-sharing for other services or for care that extends past a set number of days. These gaps are typically what prompt a person to stay with their employer-based coverage as long as possible, or to seek supplemental coverage.

2. How does your employer-based insurance work with Part A? Most of us are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A when we turn 65, even if we have employer-based insurance. The way Part A works with your employer’s plan will depend on the size of the company where you work.

In most cases, if you work for a company with fewer than 20 employees, Medicare will become the primary payer of your hospitalization costs. Your employer’s insurer becomes the secondary payer and covers gaps in coverage. If you work for a larger company, the company’s insurer typically remains as the primary payer.

Most people become eligible for Part A (hospital insurance) at age 65, and most people do not pay a monthly premium for Part A. Even with employer-based coverage, Part A can help pay for costs not covered by your employer’s plan.

3. How does your employer-based insurance work with Part B? Those with employer-based insurance can wait until they lose that insurance to enroll in Part B. Part B has a premium – most people pay a standard premium amount, which is $104.90 a month in 2013. If you have private insurance through another source, like an employer or union, there is no reason to pay that $104.90 until you have to.

But there are some caveats. You typically must enroll in Part B within eight months of losing the job that gave you health insurance or within eight months of losing the health insurance from that job, whichever comes first. Waiting longer than eight months creates a gap in your coverage, and any gap in coverage of Part B benefits can be penalized, permanently. It’s a good idea to talk to your employer health benefits administrator or a licensed agent who can clearly explain your options to you.

4. How do Part A and Part B work with COBRA? COBRA provides certain former employees and spouses the right to temporarily continue health coverage at group rates. However, it’s expensive, so people who qualify for Medicare often decline costly COBRA and switch to Medicare. But if your spouse is not 65 and therefore not eligible for Medicare, COBRA may be their best option.

Here is where it gets tricky. By law, a person can stay on COBRA for 18 months. But if you’re eligible for Medicare, you only have eight months to sign up for Part B after your employment, or employer-based health insurance, comes to an end. Even if you’re on COBRA.

If you are on COBRA, do not wait until your COBRA ends to enroll in Part B. If you do not enroll in Part B during that eight-month period, you will incur a 10 percent Part B premium penalty for every 12-month period that you were not enrolled. If you miss the first enrollment window, you will need to wait until Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (Oct. 15 through Dec. 7) to sign up for Part B. And your coverage will not begin until Jan. 1 of the following year.

5. If you want to supplement your Medicare coverage, know the deadlines. There are a couple ways to help fill the “cost-sharing” gaps in Original Medicare, including Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans.

People can enroll in Medicare Advantage (also called Medicare Part C plans) as an alternative to Original Medicare. These plans allow a person to receive their Part A and Part B benefits, as well as Part D in most cases, from a private insurance company through a single consolidated plan. While Medicare Advantage plans can and often do have some of the same cost-sharing (deductibles, copayments and coinsurance) associated with Original Medicare, they cap your out-of-pocket expenses at $6,700 or less, depending on the plan.

According to eHealth’s 2013 Medicare Advantage Plan Landscape Data Summary, the average Medicare Advantage plan costs $60 a month on top of what one pays for Original Medicare; and the average cap on out-of-pocket costs for 2013 is about $4,500. By comparison, Original Medicare has no such cap on out-of-pocket expenses.

Remember, you’ll typically be signed up for Part A automatically when you turn 65. When you stop working and lose your employer-based plan, you have eight months to enroll in Part B. And you have three months to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) after you’ve signed up for Medicare Part B.

Medicare Supplement plans (also called Medigap plans) are offered as a supplement to Original Medicare, not as an alternative like the Medicare Advantage plans. In most states a person can enroll in one of 10 standardized Medicare Supplements plans, which must all provide the same core benefits, regardless of which insurer offers them. Plans typically do not include a prescription drug benefit, but the most comprehensive Supplement plans often cover virtually all of a person’s Part A and Part B out-of-pocket costs.

The Open Enrollment Period for Medigap policies (supplement insurance) starts the first month a beneficiary is both 65 and enrolled in Part B, and it lasts for six months. As long as you have coverage through your employer, you typically won’t need Part B or a Medicare Supplement plan. Once you sign up for Part B, you don’t want to miss the Medigap Open Enrollment Period.

Outside of your initial Medigap Open Enrollment Period, your application for a Medigap plan could be declined if you have a pre-existing condition. Or if your health condition is covered, your premium may be higher. Some Medigap plans may require you to pay premiums but wait a few months before they’ll cover any expenses.

For many baby boomers, becoming eligible for Medicare means access to more affordable health care. When you are working after age 65, you have more options. Taking the time to understand all your options will help you select the coverage that is best for you.

Ross Blair is President and CEO of PlanPrescriber, Inc. (www.PlanPrescriber.com ), a leading provider of comparison tools and educational materials for Medicare-related insurance products.


What would you do for $600?

Posted by JE Jones on Nov-14-2012

Today I have another guest post about Medicare benefits by Ross Blair, CEO of PlanPrescriber. One of today’s topics is how to save money on prescription medications.

It’s amazing what some people will do for $600. For that much money, you could take a weekend jaunt to the mountains, make several trips to the grocery store or go visit the grandkids.

What’s even more amazing is what some people will not do for $600. In 2010 the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 90 percent of people don’t change their Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage each year. If they had done it last year, they might have saved over $600.

When PlanPrescriber.com reviewed people’s drug utilization and selection process during last year’s Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, we found that the average person would have saved $654 on a prescription drug plan and $605 on a Medicare Advantage plan by switching to a plan that better fit their particular prescription needs.

Why don’t more people on Medicare review their drug coverage?

It’s difficult to speculate as to why more Medicare beneficiaries don’t review their drug coverage each year. The prospect of saving $600 should be appealing to the average senior, especially when you consider that the median income for people in this age group was $19,167 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The perceived time commitment involved may dissuade some people from reviewing their options. According to an Opinion Research survey sponsored by PlanPrescriber, over half (59 percent) of seniors on a Medicare prescription drug plan expected it would take more than 30 minutes to review their drug coverage. About one in five (19 percent) expected the process to take them over an hour. What they may not realize is that spending 30 minutes to an hour to review and select coverage could save them hundreds of dollars.

These beliefs may have arisen from the fact that the majority of seniors (89 percent) had no plans to use the Internet to help them review their drug coverage. The number isn’t surprising when you consider that Internet usage is not a way of life for many older Americans. But, in fact, websites like PlanPrescriber.com and Medicare.gov are designed specifically to make the plan comparison process simpler, quicker and easier. After inputting their ZIP code, people can compare plans side-by-side with just a few clicks.

Like last year, the Annual Enrollment Period is closing earlier than usual, running through Dec. 7. Though Medicare beneficiaries have eight weeks to select their coverage, last year 42 percent of people waited until the last nine days to apply. However, this is not a decision you want to rush or put off until the last minute. Last year federal officials extended the Dec. 7 deadline by three days for certain people because of an influx of last-minute sign-ups. You can avoid the rush this year by starting to compare plans now.

What makes the review process necessary?

Medicare Part D plans do not cover every drug available, and when your drug is not covered by your plan, you may pay full price for that drug out of your own pocket. What’s more, even Medicare Part D plans that do cover the same drugs don’t always cover them at the same price. That means that a drug that costs you $50 on one plan may cost you $75 on another.

Not only will different plans cover different drugs and often at different costs, but each drug plan also has different monthly premiums. The costs and coverage details of individual drug plans can change from year to year. That’s why it’s so important for Medicare enrollees to review their drug coverage options every year during the Annual Enrollment Period.

How can people on Medicare save money on prescription drugs in 2013?

1. Pick the right drug plan. People who review their Medicare prescription drug plan during the Annual Enrollment Period have the potential to save money by making sure their plan gives them the best price for their drugs.

2. Go generic when possible. Some very popular drugs, like Lipitor, went generic in 2012. You can use this year’s Medicare Annual Enrollment Period to find a plan that covers the generic alternative to your branded drugs and make the switch. If you use PlanPrescriber.com’s drug plan comparison tool, it can tell you whether your drugs are available in generic form. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before making a switch to a generic.

3. Comparison shop for pharmacies. Pharmacies can, and often do, charge different prices for prescription drugs. Even pharmacies in the same chain may have a slightly different price for the same prescriptions. Websites like PlanPrescriber.com and Medicare.gov will show the drug plan’s price, but it’s not a bad idea to call the pharmacy in your area to confirm pricing.

4. Try mail-order drugs. Typically when you order drugs in the mail, you get a 90-day supply instead of the 30-day supply you get from a local pharmacy. This, and other factors, may save consumers about 35 percent, on average, over what they would pay for drugs they buy at the local pharmacy, according to PubMed.gov.

Ross Blair is President and CEO of PlanPrescriber, Inc. , a leading provider of comparison tools and educational materials for Medicare-related insurance products.




The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has neither reviewed nor endorsed the information provided by PlanPrescriber.


Basic Causes of Poor Eyesight Due to Age

Posted by JE Jones on Nov-1-2012

Much like bones, hearing, and physical strength deteriorate with age, so do the eyes.

Glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts – the list goes on for those approaching and exceeding the age of 60. However, it isn’t quite as black and white as declaring all of these diseases as strictly age-related – also like with hearing and physical strength, much of it depends on lifestyle variables and nutrient consumption.

The Cause

Age-related eye diseases are naturally-occurring phenomena, building as the years go by. By age 40, the lenses inside of the eyes harden to a point where presbyopia develops, making close-up focusing difficult. As the body ages further, it becomes increasingly vulnerable to disease, but may not be quite as “sudden” as some people describe it as being. Because these impacts snowball through the years, it is virtually impossible to detect a disease without careful monitoring – there is no “aha!” moment to be found upon turning 60 or 65, meaning that updates with your eye doctor are crucial to maintaining eye health and vision quality. Deposits accumulate in the eyes over decades, blood vessels enlarge, and intraocular pressure amps up as we go through decades of daily life, oblivious to the looming effects to be experienced in old age.

The Effects

  • Cataracts. Perhaps the most prevalent effect of age-related eye disease is cataracts, caused by denaturation of proteins in the crystalline lens within the eye – sometimes as a result of trauma. Mayo Clinic estimates cataracts appear in just about half of all Americans 65 and older. By 2020, the number of Americans with cataracts is expected to hit an all-time high of 30 million. Cataracts are generally treated or cured with insertion of multifocal lens implants and intraocular lenses that restore vision. In the meantime, cataracts can be warded off through consumption of vitamins A, C and E, all of which are antioxidants that work well in combination with UV ray-blocking sunglasses.

  • Macular Degeneration. Occurring in two million people, 10 percent of who are age 66 to 74, macular degeneration can easily go unnoticed without being carefully monitored by a doctor, caused by abnormal growth of blood vessels and resulting in blindness if left untreated. The risk of contracting the disease can be decreased upon long-term consumption of antioxidants like Beta-Carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, zinc and lutein. Supplements are especially advisable for those over the age of 60.
  • Dry Macular Degeneration. Drusen, an extra-cellular deposit that becomes more common as we age, ultimately leading to the degeneration of rod and cone cells that make eyesight functional. About 90 percent of all macular  degeneration cases are dry.
  • Wet. By comparison, wet macular degeneration occurs in roughly 10 percent of all cases, resulting from leakage of blood and protein, damaging the macula and causing vision loss.
  • Glaucoma. Described as the “thief of the night,” glaucoma can go completely unnoticed until it hits an advanced stage. This is largely because of an increase in intraocular pressure that, under normal circumstances, irrigates the eye and replenishes cells. However, increase in this pressure, over a long period of time can damage the optic nerve and affect peripheral and central vision. Nourishment can be provided to the optic nerve through intake of Vitamin A, C and E, as well as bilberries and fish oil.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy. This disease is especially prevalent among people who have had diabetes for more than a decade – nearly 80 percent of those people, in fact. An accumulation of blood sugar hemorrhages the blood vessels in the eye, making them more fragile and likely to block nutrients from being properly distributed in the retina. The result is blurred vision and, if left untreated, blindness. This is commonly treated through surgery, and best prevented and regulated by being conscious of your blood sugar levels.

The Cure for Eye Problems

The take away: be proactive. It’s true that by the time you’ve reached the age of 60, little can be done to prevent the onset of diseases like cataracts and glaucoma, but it’s never too late to start making lifestyle and diet changes to build a defense against the aforementioned conditions. A healthy diet and regular visits to your optometrist can go a long way in keeping your eyes healthy and your vision near-perfect through your golden years.

About Author

This article was contributed by Rachael from ReplaceMyContacts.com, a retailer of contact lenses online. Find popular products such as Biofinity Toric, Acuvue Oasys for Astigmatism , and many more when you visit our site.



Sun Oven Recipes – Vegetarian Burritos

Posted by JE Jones on Oct-23-2012

Since I got my Sun Oven, I’ve been cooking just about everything in it. Yesterday I tried one of my favorite vegetarian recipes for burritos.

My husband and I eat vegetarian dishes about 4 times a week, sometimes more. It saves on the cost of purchasing meat, besides the fact that meat, especially beef, can raise your cholesterol levels. My husband’s cholesterol

Vegetarian Mexican Burrito Mix

dropped a whopping 100 points by cutting out the meat. Whether or not you eat meat is a personal decision and many things come into it so I leave that up to each person to decide. On a personal note, however, I have to say, when I ate vegetarian strictly for 4 months, I lost 9 lbs, without doing anything else differently.

Vegetarian Burrito Recipe for the Sun Oven

Mexican dishes are pretty easy to make into vegetarian recipes and you don’t really even miss the meat. Beans, rice, tomato sauce and seasoning can be combined in many ways. When I make this recipe, I save the leftovers and make it the base of a delicious soup in a day, adding whatever veggies I have on hand.


3/4 c uncooked brown rice

1 can whole tomatoes blended in your blender. (The reason I purchase whole tomatoes is that I’ve read they use the highest quality, least blemished tomatoes for the whole tomatoes)

1 and 1/2 c water

1 cup frozen corn (I used some of my Thrive freeze-dried corn in this recipe)

1 can black beans

3/4 large green pepper, chopped

1/2 medium onion, chopped

Mexican seasoning to taste

You can cook anything in a Sun Oven!


To make in a Sun Oven, simply combine all the above ingredients in your enamel pot. Preheat the Sun Oven and put the pot into it, covered. My recipe was finished in about 3 and a half hours, but the wonderful thing about the Sun Oven is that your food won’t burn so this is one you could put into it in the morning and have for dinner at night.

To serve, we use corn tortillas. You can add guacamole, sour cream and cheese if you like. Instead of sour cream, I buy plain yogurt and drain the water off to make Greek yogurt and we use that as it’s healthier than sour cream and the taste is fine unless you’re a real sour cream aficionado.

Directions to make Greek Yogurt

Want to save money on Greek yogurt? Set up a colander or strainer over a bowl. Line with paper towels. Spoon plain yogurt into the paper towels and let the water drain out.

Make your own Green Yogurt

You can set it in the frig for a couple hours or longer. When all the water is out of the yogurt, spoon it into a container and you have Greek yogurt at about half the price.



Exercise grows in importance as we age and today I have a guest post on the great exercises for women over 50.

Great Outdoor and Indoor Exercises for Women over 50!

If you are someone who was already active before turning 50 years of age, you may be at an advantage to others.  Even if you did not exercise on a regular basis beforehand, it is never too late to establish an exercise routine.  Women who are over 50 years of age can help tame the approaching symptoms of menopause.  Exercise also helps to reduce any chance of heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and above all, it helps to control weight and melt away belly fat.  Regardless of what the weather brings out, it is imperative that you find exercises to complete throughout the year.

Three Basic Exercises for Your Health

Hip Raises – Begin by lying on your back.  Bend your knees, but keep your feet flat on the floor.  Press your lower back down to the floor.  Lift one leg at a time and bring it into your chest.  Even though it is best to lift one leg at a time, you can do both if you choose.  Straighten your legs and flex your feet.  Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your hips and buttocks off the floor.  Lower yourself slowly.  Complete eight repetitions to start.

Triceps Extension – As you are standing upright, bend over with dumbbells in hand to begin the exercise.    Extend the dumbbell backward behind you.  Remain bent over until your arms are fully extended.  Return to your starting position.  Continue to do three sets of eight reps to start.

McGill Curl-up – Begin by lying on your back with one leg straight on the floor and the other one bent.  Position your hands underneath your lower back for bracing your body.  Brace your abdominals and curl your body against the brace.  Make sure that you only raise your upper shoulders and head off the floor.  Complete four to six reps and then switch legs to do another set. 

Move Inside for a Controlled Workout

When the weather starts turning cooler outside, you can incorporate home gym equipment into your routine.  Treadmillsand elliptical are two amazing machines to keep your body moving when the cold weather sets in around your area.  Spending 20-30 minutes per session three to four days per week is an excellent method for keeping your muscles and joints moving.  If you allow yourself to sit back and do nothing throughout the cooler months, it will only cause your joints and muscles to stiffen up and become sore. 

It’s Never too Late to Exercise

Regardless of what exercises you plan to use as part of your routine, the main thing to remember is that you need to stay active.  Just because the weather turns cold it doesn’t mean you should sit back and ignore your routine.  Instead, try incorporating different exercises to keep you going throughout the year.

Jim Rollince is a member of the creating writing department of Gym Source. He enjoys writing about Fitness, Nutrition, and many other related topics.


Indoor composting might sound like a good idea but who needs the smell and the mess! If you have a home garden, you probably know that composting will save you money. Sure you can purchase compost in a bag to add to

All Seasons Indoor Composting Kit

your gardening soil but by making your own, you can make use of all the food scraps you’re currently tossing into the land fill, plus you can also save your leaves and grass clippings instead of bagging them up for the trashmen.

I wanted to start a compost pile so I researched several methods. That’s when I came across the All Seasons Indoor Composter Kit, which I ordered through Amazon.com. The All Seasons Indoor Composter consists of a five gallon bucket with an airtight lid and a spicket at the bottom for draining out the compost tea, which you can dilute and use as you go along. This particular indoor composter also came with a bag of Bokashi probiotics, which helps with breakdown and fermentation of the compost. This fermentation process is done without oxygen and it promised no smell or mess to deal with.

I started putting all my food scraps into it, along with coffee grounds, junk mail and other tidbits. I’ve been very impressed with the lack of smell, which of course was essential if I was going to compost indoors.I was also amazed at how much less trash I was throwing away. We already recycle but a large portion of our weekly trash appeared to be cuttings from veggies and other food. I belong to an organic food coop and we drink green smoothies daily, plus I also culture many veggies, so there are always plenty of veggie scraps.

We are starting our first fall garden with raised beds. This first time, we didn’t have our own compost or dirt so we had to buy bags of it to fill the beds. Our hope is that by next spring, we will have our own nutritious, black compost made from our own food scraps, shredded junk mail and grass clippings. Why send all these things to the land fill when they can help us grow delicious, organic veggies?

I’d never heard of Bokashi before either. Bokashi can also be ordered separately if you want to make your own indoor composter with a 5 gallon bucket and a tight-fitting lid. Bokashi helps with the following:

  • eliminating soil-borne pathogens
  • promoting germination, flowering, fruiting and ripening in plants when you use it in your garden
  • improving the physical, chemical and biological environments in your garden
  • increasing effectiveness of your composted organic materials when used as fertilizers

All you have to do is sprinkle some Bokashi into the bottom of the bucket and start adding your waste materials. Every 2-3 inches, you sprinkle a little more on top. The bucket I got came with a masher so I can mash down the food and remove trapped air. Once the bucket is filled, you can leave the food in there for two additional weeks and have great compost. Some of the reviewers said you still have to “finish” the compost outside so I’ll see how mine is doing after two weeks of sitting in the bucket.

In two weeks, I will post a photo of the compost and see if I need to do anything more to finish it.

Have you ever tried Bokashi or an indoor composting system?


Sun Oven – Cooking with Solar Energy

Posted by JE Jones on Oct-9-2012

I have to say, I’m addicted to my Sun Oven! Have you ever thought about using solar to cook meals, bake bread and muffins or dehydrate food? I would never have guessed how easy it could be.

Cooking with a Sun Oven is easy

If your power went out for a significant length of time, have you thought about what you would eat? Is your electric bill out of sight and you are looking for ways to trim it and save money? Recently my husband and I went to a Self Reliance Expo and one of the talks was on the Global Sun Oven.

This handy solar powered oven is useful if your power goes off but you can also use it for any of your daily cooking and baking, plus you can use the sun oven as a dehydrator or to pasteurize water. Many in the audience were already using their sun ovens for all their home cooking. After seeing all that it could do, we decided to order a Global Sun Oven which is also available on Amazon.

Here in Texas, we have a high proportion of sunny days but the Sun Oven will work in winter as well. As long as the day is bright, you can cook in it, no matter what the outdoor temperature is.

Why Should You Use a Sun Oven?

If you’re worried about the climbing cost of electricity, the sun oven can save you money. Not only do you save the cost of using your stove, but cooking some a roast, for instance, in your stove, also heats up the house, which uses more air conditioning to cool it down again.

Temperatures get up to 350 to 400 degrees so you can easily cook anything you would cook in a stove.

Nothing ever burns in a sun oven. Put more than one thing into your Sun Oven, say stew and cornbread and both are done at the same time and never burn. Put your dinner into the Sun Oven in the morning and when you return home at night, it’s all done.

Anything you can cook, steam or bake using your regular stove can also be prepared using a sun oven. Your food never dries out either.

Easy to move. The Sun Oven by Global Sun Oven packs up into a small suitcase type size which is light and easy to handle.

There is a leg in the back of the Sun Oven so you can change the angle of the inner box to directly face the sun.

Corn bread and stew cooked together in my Sun Oven

How to Use a Sun Oven

Enamel pots like these are recommended for the Sun Oven

All you have to do to use your sun oven is to face it directly toward the sun. Make sure the shadows on each side are even. It should be repositioned every so often to take advantage of the strongest rays. If you are going to be gone all day, position the sun oven where the rays will be strongest in mid day.

Place the sun oven in the sun and tighten down the glass door to pre-heat and then add your food. That’s all there is to it. When it gets later in the day, I have to reposition my oven about every 30 minutes.

We purchased an aluminum folding table to put our Sun Oven on also, which we can take camping as well. When you’re finished with cooking for the day, simply wipe out the oven and clean the reflectors and glass with something like Windex.

All parts of the Global Sun Oven are made in the USA except for the thermometer, which is something I really like.

I’ve made a chicken and veggie dinner, stews, chili, bread and cornbread so far in my sun oven so far. I can see I may need a second one so I can use it as a dehydrator. Dehydrating takes many hours, which will tie up my oven for the day.

Check to see if a Self-Reliance Expo is coming to a city near you.




Are HOA’s Out of Touch?

Posted by JE Jones on Oct-4-2012

One of my reader’s comments about wanting to grow his own veggies made me think of a friend of mine who is in a battle with her Homeowner’s Association.My friend is a nutritionist and

I turned this flower bed into a veggie spot

grows almost all of her own food – or she knows where it comes from. She eats no meat and her grains and veggies are from well-researched sources. She turned her front yard into a veggie garden with lettuce, Swiss chard and spinach mixing with herbs.

Until recently her only complaint with the HOA is that they authorized pesticide and herbicide spraying of the grass in front of her house between the sidewalk and street. Every time they came by, she had to run out there and tell them to bypass her front yard because she had food growing there. Well, a couple of months ago, the HOA caught up with her unconventional front yard. They told her a front yard had to be 90% grass and 10% “other plants.” They gave her so many weeks to transform it back to the conventional look. Because of this, she is going to sell her house and look for something without an HOA.

My husband and I recently went to a Self-Reliance Expo and the organizers said everyone should take out their lawn and plant a vegetable garden. Growing your own food is one of the basics of preparedness and self-reliance. Sometimes, though, this idea can be tough if you have a Homeowner’s Association to contend with.

My daughter got her degree in architecture and as part of the degree, she took sustainability classes. She learned that while many people are pushing for a re-definition of what a front yard “should” look like, it is an uphill battle with neighbors and developers who want what they are used to – grass and a couple trees and maybe a few shrubs.

My kitten wins the battle with the kitchen towel.

Here in Texas, the grass all turns brown in the summer because of the intense heat. The summer before last, grass and trees just died in many yards because we got no rain. If we were able to dispense with a grass yard, which takes lots of water to keep alive, there are dozens of native Texas plants which thrive in that heat with very little water. When water is such a valuable resource and is expensive to boot, to me it makes sense to plant the Texas native plants. Texas SmartScape.com offers literally dozens of choices for landscaping with native plants.

We don’t have an HOA in our neighborhood but I think the neighbors would protest if we removed our grass and went native. Rather than fight that battle, we keep our gardening efforts to our back yard. Lucky for us, we have a fairly sizable back yard.Yesterday, in fact, I turned a flower bed in the back yard into a vegetable patch which is pictured at the top right. The rocks and pieces of wood are in there for now to keep our cats out. Once the plants get bigger, I can remove those.

Whenever we have looked for a new home, we have avoided the ones with an HOA. These organizations have their uses I’m sure but who wants to check with a governing body before you can paint your house or fly the American flag? In fact, there are entire websites devoted to HOA Horror Stories.

In other news, I am having a very hard time keeping my kitten from stealing the dishtowel which usually hangs on the oven door. He loves to make a flying leap at it, bring it down and roll around with it like he’s having a kitty fight. I keep replacing it out of habit but I need to learn to just put it on the counter until he grows out of it-lol

If you’re interested in Self-Reliance topics, check out Self-Reliance Expo.com and see if one of their events is coming to a town near you.

Do you live in a home governed by a Homeowner’s Association? What’s your opinion?


Joan’s Boomer Blog – An Update

Posted by JE Jones on Oct-3-2012

A few months ago, I had decided to say goodbye to Joan’s Boomer Blog and turn to other projects. One reason I did that was, sadly to say, because I had not performed the needed updates to WordPress, which left my blog terribly out of date and the fix was much too technical for me. After a while, I found that I missed writing on my boomer blog so I decided to bite the bullet and hire someone to update everything for me.

Our 4×8 raised bed with pvc pipe and bird netting

I have a friend who gets quite a bit of freelance work from elance.com so I posted my job there and within an hour I had over a dozen bids. I hired someone names Fog Tower because in his bid, he laid out a good plan of action and seemed very professional. He had all 5 star reviews from others he’d worked for too.

Within 24 hours my site was updated and ready to go – so thanks Fog Tower!

I’ve come back with new ideas for things I want to write about. My husband and I had been considering selling our home and buying a smaller one but decided instead to refinance and stay in this home. We want to buid a more self-sufficient lifestyle, which included a lot of raised bed gardens, rain barrels, and some solar power. Here we have a quarter acre lot, which is big enough for all those things.

A couple of months ago, my husband and I went to a Self-Reliance Expo and learned so much about being preparedness and doing things for ourselves. We bought a Sun Oven (I’ll be writing more about this later on) and last month we put in our first fall garden and a rain barrel. I’ll be updating readers on several projects like these and writing more about how to be self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency not only saves money but it gives you control over your situation when you know you can feed yourself, provide your own power and water for emergencies.

So, in future articles, I’m still going to write about healthy aging and health news of interest to boomers, new ways to follow your passions and enjoy retirement and other topics I’ve written about in the past but I’m also going to add new topics for helping boomers save money and become more self-sufficient.

As always, I’d love to hear from readers about your experiences or ideas.

Joan’s Boomer Blog is happy to be back!



Since I am trying to be self-sufficient on a quarter of acre of ground, I was very interested to read Potatoes on Rooftops by Hadley Dyer. The sub-title is Farming in the Concrete Jungle and the aim of this book is to teach

children about farming and growing food even if they live in a city of millions of people.  Most children who live in an urban setting probably think all food comes from the grocery store and if they see any gardening efforts at all, it’s  limited to a few pots of flowers on a window sill. However, there is also a growing trend toward getting rid of all that grass in the backyard and planting a vegetable garden or even raising some chickens, or even putting in rooftop gardens to grow delicious veggies.

I agree with the premise of this book that there is a “good food revolution” happening in our country. People are becoming more aware of making healthy food choices. Every time we turn on the TV, we see reports of salmonella in spinach or news about In and Out Burger purchasing one/third of their meat from a slaughter house which kills downer, or sick cows. In the news we see soda disappearing from schools because of childhood obesity and it is being replaced with a salad bar. Even fast food chains like McDonald’s is now posting nutritional information about the foods they serve. Artificial ingredients in packaged foods, pesticides in vegetables and antibiotics in our meat supply all raise awareness of the need for healthy food choices. Teaching kids about healthy food is a must in today’s world and Hadley Dyer’s book is a great place to start.

Many schools now offer garden projects to help teach children where food comes from. Children can experience the joy of watching a seed sprout and grow into a plant which bears fruits that can be eaten.

Have you heard of “food miles?” A food mile is a measurement of how far your food has to travel from its source to the grocery store or supermarket. According to research, fruits and veggies can lose 30-50% of their nutritional content in 5 to 10 days that it might take them to reach your shopping cart. The only way to insure the highest quality nutrition is to buy food as locally as possible and what could be more local than picking it from your own rooftop garden?

Potatoes on Rooftops covers this sort of information in a short, easy to grasp simplicity, with lots of photos and artwork which would keep children interested. The book is packed with information too. For instance, Japan is a country with 10 mega-cities in a very small area and Japan must import 60% of its food. In contrast, Ghana grows 90% of the food eaten by its citizens and much of it comes from backyard gardens and gardens in the open spaces in the cities.

Besides gardening, Dyer’s book also covers raising chickens in the city. When I lived on 3 acres of land in Oregon, I had a dozen chickens and nothing beats farm fresh eggs from chickens which are free range. Give them some flax-seed to eat and you get omega 3 packed eggs too. Many cities allow 3-4 chickens in a backyard. Potatoes on Rooftops also introduces the difference between factory farmed fish and beef and fish that is wild caught and grass-fed beef.

Composting, building green houses or cold frames, solar power, rain barrels and water harvesting. I could see this book being a classroom guide for a project lasting the entire school year. The information could later be taken out into the community to create community garden projects.

Gardens can sprout up anywhere. In many empty spaces now, you might find a community garden but gardening can also take place in big plastic buckets or bins too. This book is full of ideas about not only what can be done but what is being done to combat hunger in our ever-growing cities. For many reasons, political, economic or weather related disasters, gardening is a skill which might one day save your child’s life and at the very least a love of gardening and growing things can become a passion and hobby that lasts throughout a lifetime.

Fast-paced, light in tone and lots of great photos will keep kids interested in this unique gardening book. I think it’s an important book which introduces children to ideas about what is happening to our food supply and what they can do about it, no matter what their age might be.

Just think-this might be one way to get your kids to eat their green beans!

You can order Potatoes on Rooftops: Farming in the City through Amazon.com. It was published on September 1, 2012 by Annick Press.

I would like to thank Annick Press for the complimentary copy of this book for review.