DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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1 April 2014

Taking care of home

Hanno has an appointment with a rheumatoid specialist in early May and in the meantime he's trying to get back into his normal routine that has been interrupted by pain so many times in the past months. He's on a mission to catch up with a few home maintenance projects and so took advantage of the soaking rain on the weekend to pressure clean the old picket fence out front.  There is a strip of pine trees over the road so sunlight doesn't hit the front fence much during the winter months. Over the years that has caused a lot of discolouring in the wood which was put into sharp contrast when we put up that new side fence. That didn't worry me but Hanno didn't like it. He's very happy now that the fence is clean and it's all matching again.



When the fenced was clean and dry again, Hanno attached a new letter box.

 This is the lichen that grows here in the fresh clean air.


A few weeks ago, just before the rain started he cleaned out one of our water tanks. We live at the edge of a forest so we have usually got pretty clean air here. Nevertheless, dust and leaves settle on the roof and that gets swept into the tanks when the rain starts falling. After a while it builds up a sediment that settles in the bottom of the tanks.  The only way of cleaning it out properly is to disconnect the whole system and hose the tanks out. We're thinking about getting a third large tank now. It will sit on the eastern side of the house, collect rain from the front of the house and be used on the front garden. We are still talking it over, whether we'd get full use of it, and whether it would make up for the cost of buying it.

We're also discussing the future of mowing the lawn here. Mowing with the self-propelled mower is getting too much for Hanno now. Although he never wanted a ride-on mower in the past, now he does. My preference is to get a handy man in to do the mowing for us. We can still manage the gardens, but the summer mowing in particular causes a problem now.

Over the years the home maintenance done by Hanno in our house and yard have saved us a lot of money by keeping systems operating and looking good. It's a similar thing to cleaning and organising the interior of the house. Everything we have here has been bought with money we worked hard for. I'm sure it's the same at your place. Looking after what we own helps keep everything going for as long as possible and that's good for us and the environment.  Who does your outdoor home maintenance and mowing? If you've already gone from doing the mowing yourself to some other way of getting it done, please tell me what you did and how that went.


38 comments:

  1. When I had a full time job and long commute, I paid someone to mow my lawn (1.25 acres). That way when I DID have time at home, I could spend it on other chores and still have a bit of social life. When I lost my job I could not afford to have someone mow my lawn. With all that lawn and my gimpy ankle, a push mower was out of the question. Neither could I afford, or even WANT, a large lawn tractor/mower. So I researched and found my best buy was a used Snapper riding mower. Pro - it is small and un-intimidating (simple enough that even I can do most repairs, oil changes, belts, etc.). It can even haul a small wagon. Con - only a 28" wide cut. But that wasn't much of a con, after all. Without a job (now I call myself 'retired'), taking a couple hours mowing is not a big deal. And, like last year, when I fell sick, I still pay to have my lawn mowed, but only when absolutely necessary. I feel very empowered by owning/maintaining my little mower and being able to tote things in a wagon has been a real help in the gardens. I feel I made a very good investment and would not hesitate to do it again. Sure my riding mower looks like a toy compared to 'real' lawn tractors, but if you're not comfortable and feel secure on what you have, then you won't use it to it's fullest. I've gotten more than lawn mowing with my Snapper. I've got independence. Good luck with your lawn decision.

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  2. Hi Rhonda,
    Our next door neighbour cuts the grass on our one acre block with his ride on mower. We pay him $100 and he just does it whenever he notices that it needs mowing. It works out more economical for us as we don't have to buy and maintain a mower, and it suits our retired neighbour to have an odd job to do.

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  3. We don't have a front lawn as it is all garden but my husband bought some guinea pigs a few years ago and they were great lawn mowers and kept the lawn down out the back. i miss them now as a dog got into the yard and killed them a couple of months ago. They were very cute and loved eating the grass.

    I hope Hanno is improving, Rhonda. Have a great day.

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  4. I can understand Hanno wanting a ride on mower rather than paying someone else to do it. It is Hanno's job and it's his territory. It would make him feel useful and it gives him purpose. Our neighbor is 85 and he isn't well. He has been mowing his lawn with a ride on but that is now exhausting for him too. My boys now mow his yard for him but he has found it really hard admitting he can no longer do it and letting go of his job. I hope Hanno finds relief from the arthritis. xxoo

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  5. Also, my hubby recently bought a second hand ride on mower. He contacted the mower shop and asked if they sold second hand ride ons. One in really good condition had come in that morning. xxoo

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  6. Tony would love a ride-on mower too but there is nowhere to ride it. Glad you got a jump on those maintenance jobs Hanno, they always stay on your mind don't they.

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  7. Morning Rhonda....I do as much of my maintenance as I can, but as I have a very high Queenslander, there's a lot of jobs I won't do, so I either hire someone local with a small business....I quite like doing this, it keeps money in the community and supports a local person trying to make a go. I have a handyman/carpenter, who I've been using for a while...he built my chook pen and has done other building/maintenance type work, and now he'll come do small things just to help me out.....clean the paths, or move heavy things. I mind his dog if he can't take him to a job, so we barter a bit. A friend, who's a young single mum comes and mows my lawn and I pay her, this gives her a few extra dollars to see her through when she's broke .....and I have a push mower for a quick touch up between 'big' mows. I'm very fortunate with my neighbours.....one mows the verges for me when he mows his place, and another elderly neighbour's son will come and trim trees etc because I look in on his dad, shop for him sometimes or take him meals. Plus people from the Community Garden I belong are always willing to lend a hand and I trade in some way, give them eggs or seedlings or cuttings, or sew or knit for them. I feel privileged to live in a neighbourhood where we all look out for each other. Thanks for your commiseration yesterday over my lost veggies, I am calmer now and no-one ended up dished up for dinner.

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  8. I do the mowing on a small ride on as Chris is away most of the week. I quite enjoy it but the thing I dislike is the whipper snipping....that is what I would pay someone to do.... I can understand Hanno wanting a ride on they are so useful for carting things around too as Kris mentions above...I have a small trailer and cart straw and manure, tools animal feed etc around in it. I would encourage you to rethink the ride on Rhonda, it means Hanno would be outside where he likes to be and still achieving purposeful work...also it is a lovely feeling of completion when the lawn looks nice and tidy again.....

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  9. Financially at $100 a mow, the mower would have paid for itself in 20 or 30 mows........

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    Replies
    1. Perhaps the initial cost, but maybe not the spare parts and servicing / maintenance required.

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  10. You and Hanno are doing such an amazing job! I wish I would live close by and could ask you all my questions and in return mow your lawn.
    I wish you two best of luck!

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  11. My partner works as a handyman/builder and he does a lot of work in our community for people who can't do a particular job for whatever reason. Sometimes the work comes and goes depending on circumstances and seasons and that's OK. He works for friends, neighbours and people we don't know yet. Sometimes people pay him to work alongside them to make the job go quicker or to learn a skill. It all helps build and sustain bonds in our already interconnected community. That said, when he can't do the lawns any more or if he had a big lawn, he would love a ride on mower!

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  12. Hi Rhonda,

    when I became a single parent many years ago I managed my huge lawn myself. But at a certain point I began to get really burnt out - the garden, house, business, kids were plenty without adding mowing and edge cutting. It is brilliant having someone come to do it, and the man who works for me is also happy to do a run to the tip/recycling centre or do the gutters at a reasonable cost. I imagine my now 11 year old son will take over the job in the future. It is quite a big cost in my budget, but on the other hand wearing yourself into the ground and having to miss work (as a self-employed person) is not a sensible option.

    I've also had very reasonably priced help from a teenaged neighbor - eg when I had a lot of work on and couldn't get a big load of wood stacked. He also built my chook run and his parents deserve a medal - even at 13 he was highly skilled, hardworking and reliable. So a teenager may be a cheaper option (but if you want commitment and a good job of course you have to pay a fair price)

    Have a great day all,

    Madeleine.x

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  13. I would like to hire an older man that likes to mow and weed some. There are very few if any around anymore. I miss working with one person who does not mind his work. Instead I have to have a crew come in. They work fast and are out of here fast clipping a lil bark from trees etc. the latest crew is the best I have had. They also charge again as much as one kind worker.

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  14. I have been doing all my own lawns for the farm stay and have always love the contemplative aspect of looking after our yard. . I am finding now that maintaining all the gardens and the house , plus the farmstay on top of mowing was getting physcially and mentally exhausting. So I decided to take a couple more farmstay bookings a month and got a mowing man. It means that my time is spent on meaningful things and I am employing a local person as well. It was a really hard decision because I like doing things myself, but it was the right decision for my health.

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  15. Rhonda,

    We have a rider mower because we mow two acres, but we have a walk behind for close places. The rider is used for: hauling feed, moving hay, picking up sticks and other debris in the yard, moving mulch, cleaning up gravel from the drive when it is kicked out of place, moving plants, harvesting pumpkins and squash so they can be easily moved to the house, moving firewood, spreading ashes, carrying water, cleaning the hen house... I could go on and on! We find it very useful and time saving for us as we both work full-time and have to work efficiently to get our chores done. Even when we are retired, we will keep our riding mower because it is so useful. We found it used and the Mister can maintain it. That saves a lot of money and keeps us productive. Good luck with a tough choice!

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  16. wow that picket fence looks awesome
    hope hanno is feeling better soon, i gave up tomatoes & potatoes to keep my rheumatoid under control
    i get someone in to whippersnip for me & i mostly do the mowing around the house if it's not too long need to mow now but still too wet

    selina from kilkivan qld

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  17. Because of our health problems, my hubby and I have hired someone to do the lawn mowing. It has taken us a few years to find someone reliable. The man we discovered last year has been wonderful. He cleans up all of the beds in spring, trims the plants, edges the beds and mulches it all at a decent price. Then he charges $30 per cutting (usually twice a week in spring and once a week in summer). Since neither of us can weed the garden anymore, he does the weeding every other week for an additional $5 if needed. While $60 a week may seem high...in our area it is actually very cheap! Hubby and I know that in a few years we are going to have to move to a house where the yard work is done for us because once he retires even a "cheap" yard service will be out of our budget. Unfortunately there are no kids of the right age in our development.

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  18. We do all our own property maintenance and I do the mowing. We have 4 1/4 acres (2 are fenced pasture) and I mow about 1 3/4 acres. We have a riding mower. My husband does all the other work, and our children all help too. As I age I will likely turn over the mowing to my younger children, but for now I do like it very much. A chance to listen to music or speakers, think my own thoughts, etc. We all work on the gardens, and the children help with the chickens and the horses.

    I hope Hanno gets well soon. I hear that a few tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar a day in water or juice really helps with arthritis.

    Blessing to you both
    Deanna

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  19. Wishing Hanno some healing and relief and both of you patience and understanding at reaching a win-win situation.

    Solutions that I have seen work:
    -have your own or "rent" sheep - need garden area fenced.
    -tie a horse in the yard . Our horses -free range- are our lawnmowers
    -moveable chicken run- hope to get one soon
    -expand the planted areas- we now let our sweet potatoes and squash/pumpkin run, rather than having lawn to mow. I have also seen some areas planted to herbs and colorful plants like rainbow swiss chard.
    - My mother hired out yard maintenance jobs to a neighbor family when the mowing, leaf raking, snow removal, etc was needed (no contract), paid for the inputs (fuel, oil, etc) and paid for labor through bartering goods from the garden and home or services.
    -My stepfather graduated to a riding mower in his later years when his joints needed to be better cared for; it was definitely a win-win situation. He enjoyed it, had pride in his work, had something to look forward to and felt his value in contributing to "expenditure replacement" in the home. When he first started doing it, he would load his little tractor onto a small trailer and mow for others in the area who needed the services. He enjoyed helping others. He also got used mowers that he kept in good working order because he had good mechanical skills and enjoyed using them.

    Best wishes in charting the way forward.

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  20. I can remember when my Mum bought her first ride on mower. I was around 12 or 13 and I can tell you mowing the lawn was just about the only job we kids volunteered to do! I still find it enjoyable riding around with headphones on and a cold drink in the cup holder. I used to wear my bikini when I was younger (wouldn't dare do that now!) and it was so satisfying. It was also the first time we women of the house could mow the lawns as the previous mower was a huge beast of a thing only Dad could handle. It was quite liberating.

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  21. I got a thing called a husband. It does a great job of the lawns but is very high maintenance :) The best mowers were my daughter's free-range guinea pigs - they really kept the grass down and, unlike a husband, very low maintenance. However, you have much more land than I do.

    Love, love, love your blog!
    Lesley

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  22. You don't want to be paying somebody to mow your grass for you so here's yet another suggestion, and something I would do had I got a lawn as big as yours, and that is turn it into a wildflower meadow. By that I mean turn a part of it into a wildflower meadow, i.e. the centre part, and then all around the outsides just have a yard or so strip mowed so that you can walk around, and maybe a couple of mowed 'pathways' through the middle for walking through. Just think what a ball the grandchildren would have with it, especially when it grew taller! And of course it's great for all those wildlife and insects to pollinate your veggies.

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  23. We had lawns front and back when we moved here many years ago. Gradually, my husband got fed up of mowing and didn't want to pay someone to do something he could but no longer enjoyed doing. Gradually over the years, the front lawn got smaller and smaller, until it evolved into a flower gravel garden.

    Then over the next few years as the back productive garden got re-vamped, more and more lawn disappeared. Now we have none, problem solved. We both love lawns, particularly that lovely smell when being cut, but all our neighbours have them so we can still smell that unique smell. We have many area's in the back for production but a simple gravel square in the middle for line drying washing etc.

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  24. Another thought Rhonda.... I have been seriously considering getting a couple of sheep because the goats only eat bushes and delicately take the tops of the guinea grass.....

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  25. I got bumped..... To finish, I thought that the wool and manure would be a bonus and in line with permaculture principles.......

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  26. We used to let our chickens free range across our whole yard, and during that time we didn't have to mow the lawn at all. But we decided to keep them penned at the side of the yard so that our small kids could play on the lawn area without tracking chicken poo everywhere, and the chickens were getting pretty crafty with our vegetable netting!

    Since then we need to mow in summer. Our petrol mower recently gave up the ghost and we've just replaced it with a corded electric mower. Wow, that thing is so easy to push! And my husband can mow at 6 am when it is still lovely and cool and there is no noise inside the house. I've been very pleased with it.

    We will keep the lawn until the kids are older (2 and 4 at the moment). If we didn't have kids, chances are we'd have converted most of it to mulch and plantings by now. We've massively reduced the lawn area from when we first moved in with our vegetable beds, and just landscaping paths and so on.

    In my dream home, I'd have a meadow that isn't mown at all so I could sit on the back verandah smelling the sunshine and listening to the thrum of the bees. Not in Sydney suburbia, though! :)

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  27. Hi Rhonda, you have a neighbor with a teenage boy I'm sure he would appreciate some extra pocket money from mowing your lawns. Also can you help, for months now we have been infested by ants, thousands of them. I have wasted hours and hours of my life cleaning tHem out of our home. I know it's terribly dry here in Melbourne and they are coming in looking for water but seriously, I'm sick of them. The other day was three hours to get rid of them all as they were all through the pantry and all my cupboards. I have all my food in containers and nothing is left out, I have cleaned with vinegar as they aren't meant to like that, unfortunately no one told these ants that. My hubby is wanting to get a pest control person in as it's got so bad, not something I want to do but I'm running out of options.

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    Replies
    1. Brenda, go to the hardware store and buy a bottle of 100% neem oil. You'll have to track the ants back to the nest. When you find that, pour a couple of litres of boiling water in, wait a couple of hours, do it again. Then make up a bucket of water with neem oil added according to the dosage on the bottle, pour that into the nest. Then make up a tea tree oil spray (about half a teaspoon of TT oil into about a cup of water) and spray that along the trails the ants had been using, especially the entry points into the house. Watch the nest every day and if you see activity, repeat the above. Good luck.

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    2. We used to have that problem when we lived in Florida. I put a jar lid of water on the outside window sills where they seemed to be coming in and they stopped the invasion.

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  28. Rhonda - FYI - I just wrote a rather long comment in Firefox, and when I clicked 'Preview' it just disappeared - no prompt for the 'prove you're not a robot' or anything. I tried in Chrome, and it seems to be fine, but I've always used Firefox before.

    The gist of the first round was that we mow a fair bit of land, using a small tractor we've had almost since we moved here. It is getting crochety, but as long as it continues to work, hubby will continue to mow. We are nearing retirement, and daughter will graduate from college in 2 years and we don't know where we will all end up. We might stay here, but maybe not. We would not replace the tractor unless we could get one at a really good price - probably used.

    We had someone bushhog this land (8 acres total but a bit less than 5 mowable due to woods, stream, house, etc.) when we first bought it, but it was too expensive to do weekly, and didn't discourage the thistle. Also, given your property, and the way you use it, Hanno probably wants to keep it more trimmed. I'd say look for a good deal on a rider, then he can mow when you feel it needs it. One alternative might be if you have good relations with a close-by neighbor that has an appropriate machine, would be to 'rent' it as needed, but you'd have to arrange fairly free access (key to shed?) to make that work. If it is a neighbor with limited time but a smallish property, maybe Hanno could mow (ride) that one as well, to pay for your use.

    OK, I'm going to hit Publish and see what happens. Nope, tried again in Firefox, same thing. Using Chrome.

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  29. I've always been the lawn mower at my house. I love it----immediate satisfaction----like Hanno and the fence.

    Several years ago we bought a Neuton walk behind mower. It's electric with a rechargeable battery. The battery does wear out and have to be changed but lasts for around 7 years. The mower itself is very light and easily maneuverable. There is no exhaust and it's very quiet. The only maintenance required is sharpening the blades. The charge lasts for around 45 minutes and with that amount I can do the whole yard with two charges.

    I love it and it's made mowing easier and more pleasant for me since it is so much lighter not having to breathe in that exhaust is wonderful.

    Victoria in Indiana

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  30. Daniel and Luca share the mowing here. Strangers driving past might be shocked to see an 11 year old (though he was 9 when he first started) on our ride on mower but he does it while Daniel whipper snips. The whipper snipping is the more time consuming job at our place and the whole thing takes up most of the weekend. It can be really demanding and is a time and physically consuming struggle in summer when it's hot and the grass grows like mad. The ride on mowers often need maintenance costs too and usually cost a couple of grand. You would need to weigh up these financial costs (and the physical costs) against the cost of getting it mowed. Perhaps you can get a few quotes and then make a decision. I'm not sure if I've helped with all this rambling on!

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  31. Hi Rhonda,

    I love reading your blog, its very inspiring for me as I'm 26 and just starting out my own simple life with my daughter on our very first (tiny) house. Obviously, because I'm on my own and only work part-time, I do most of the maintenance/ building at my place on my own, due to limited funds.
    However I'm lucky in the my parents and my brother all live within an hour of my house and are happy to help me with the larger tasks.
    My friends and family often comment:
    "why don't you buy this, it would make it easier for you"; or "why dont you pay someone to do that, it'll be faster"
    I always answer with "I have lots of time and no money, so I have nothing to lose by doing it myself and everything to gain".
    I'm currently halfway through building a picket fence along my front boundary, my dad has been showing me what to do and doing the skilled tasks himself, and I have been doing most of the physical labour. Its hard and tiring, but its rewarding and I'm learning a lot. Until last year, I'd never mowed a lawn because I'd never lived anywhere with one. Now I love putting around on the Ride On (I have 3000m2).
    I'm hoping to make it to one of your talks this year, I also live in the sunshine coast hinterland, so if I do, I'll introduce myself.

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  32. Hi Rhonda, I've been mowing my 2 acres of grass (lawn would be an exaggeration!) for 12 years now. Its fun on the ride-on and I love the breeze in my hair! One comment I would make about buying a ride-on mower is to make sure it has comfortable suspension for the seat, otherwise it can be a bit uncomfortable. My block is reasonably sloped and I think this makes it more difficult, would be easier on a flat block.

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  33. Depending on how much the cost would be and how often it would have to be done I can tell you that maintaining a riding mower seems to be never ending. It would also depend on whether Hanno can do repairs to the mower himself. This year so far we have only spent about $30 to get the mower going for summer again but 2 years ago it was $700 in repairs. Last year it was about $150. We have had this mower for 4 years and bought it used. The one before was bought new and died after only 2 seasons of use and we felt that it was not worth repairing. If we did not have such a large property that comes with a high price to have it done then I think not even having the thing would be cheaper. It does not seem to matter what brand or age of mower, they are a challenge to keep going.

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  34. I would work out the cost of the ride on mower, (including guesstimates for maintenance and fuel) as opposed to having someone do it. Additionally would Hanno be able to use the ride on mower everywhere or would you still require a push lawn mower in some areas - will Hanno be able to do those areas or will you need to call someone in to do those areas anyway? a ride on mower sounds like a great idea, as long as it is the right idea financially. If you do have areas that a push on mower would not get to - could you try alternate landscaping rather than grass?

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  35. In summer, Rob keeps the area around our property very short with a lawn mower to keep snakes away. He weeded by hand for the first three years and now it is well under control. No pesticides! I'm very thankful for his consistent hard work in such an unruly bush yard. My mum works hard in the yard like Hanno and when she suffers a painful gout episode she pays a friend to mow. It's hard these changing times but it is good to prepare both mentally and financially.

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