Bonsai is a Japanese artform that originates from the ancient Chinese practice of potting trees. Although it is an art that has existed for centuries, bonsai needn’t be inaccessible to the average person looking for a new household hobby.
To successfully grow and care for a bonsai, all you need are a few tools and a lot of patience. In this article, we’ll cover bonsai basics to help you get started in this craft. Keep in mind, however, that there are thousands of resources and communities to help you out along the way.
To buy or to cultivate?
The two most common ways to start a bonsai tree are to buy a pre-cultivated tree online or at a greenhouse, or to cultivate one yourself with seeds or cuttings. Many beginners elect to buy a pre-cultivated tree to decide if they enjoy the hobby before devoting years to cultivating a tree from seed. If you enjoy caring for plants and think you’re up to the challenge, starting from seed or cuttings could be more rewarding.
A third option is to collect a tree from nature that has been stunted by natural conditions. These types of trees are called yamadori and can be difficult to collect because their roots may be in a precarious location. Also keep in mind that it is illegal to remove plants from some parks and forests.
How to shape your tree
Once you obtain a bonsai your work has only just begun. The real challenge of bonsai is caring for and shaping your tree. That means clipping off growth, repotting, watering, moving it indoors and outdoors, and shaping/training its branches to grow a certain way.
Every tree is different and will require different care. An important thing to remember about bonsai is that many of them will need to be brought outside to mimic their natural conditions. Trees survive winters because they have prepared for it through the process of dormancy. By bringing your tree outdoors, it will keep its internal clock on time to prepare for winter. In this way, cold-climate bonsai trees can handle the harsh temperatures and weather that comes with the winter time.
Aside from subjecting it to different temperatures and weather, your bonsai will also need to be pruned and wired. Pruning thick branches that grow high up on your tree will help you maintain the natural look of its larger counterparts out in nature. Similarly, wiring helps you transform your tiny tree to look fully-grown and weathered.
Just like other plants, your tree will need water, sunlight, and fertilizer. The amount of each will depend on the type of the tree, so you’ll want to do that research before you ever buy, cultivate, or collect a bonsai to make sure you can adequately care for the tree in your area.
- "How long have you been in business?" One of your top priorities is to avoid fly-by-night operations that are in business today, and nowhere to be found, next week. Longevity in business is usually a sign that the contractor is conscientious about customer satisfaction, that they care about doing good quality work, and that they're in compliance with the legal requirements of running a contracting business. It's certainly not a guarantee of any of those things, but it's a good starting point in evaluating their qualifications.
- "Would you provide me with some recent customer references -- preferably ones who had the same type of work done as what I'm planning." If the contractor balks at this, then they may have something to hide -- like a trail of dissatisfied customers or a just a lack of customers. The ideal scenario, of course, is to get a contractor recommendation from a trusted family member, a friend, or a neighbor. When that isn't possible, a brief telephone conversation with a couple current or past customers of a contractor you're considering can provide a lot of insights into key factors like timeliness, professionalism, the quality of their work, whether they leave their work site clean, and their level of customer service and communication. By the way, one online source for neighbor recommendations is a social networking site called Nextdoor.com.
- "What type of insurance do you have?" If they're not current on their personal liability insurance, Workers' Compensation, and property damage insurance coverage, then you could potentially be liable for any injuries and damage that take place on your property during the project. However, reputable contracting companies recognize the importance of carrying the necessary types of contractor insurance, and they make it their business to keep those policies current and up to date. As a side note, it's also wise to find out if there will be any subcontractors working on the job, and if they also have the required licenses and insurance coverage. Asking for copies of insurance certificates is generally the only way to make sure the needed coverage is in place.
As the workforce changes and a growing number of companies seek out contractors and freelancers, many Americans find themselves in a gray area when it comes to their income. They may put in full-time hours, but on their taxes they work for themselves.
Mortgage lenders are cautious about who they lend to. They want to make sure you are a low-risk investment who has reliable, predictable income to ensure that they’ll earn money off of your loan.
This can sometimes make it difficult for freelancers, contract workers, or the self-employed. Not only might your taxes be unconventional, but your income could vary depending on the time of the year and the amount of business you receive.
It’s easy to see why many people would be anxious about applying for a mortgage under these circumstances. However, if you’re self-employed, there’s no need to worry. You can still get approved for a mortgage at a fair interest rate--you just need to do a bit of work to provide the right documents to your lender.
In this article, we’ll show you what documents and proof of income you’ll likely need and how to present it to a lender to make the process run as smoothly as possible to get you approved for your mortgage. Here’s what you need to do.
Organize your records
Before applying for a mortgage, it’s a good idea to take a look at your record-keeping process. As a self-employed worker, you’re probably already used to tracking your own income. However, this will help the lender analyze your income easier and move the process along more quickly.
Having a master spreadsheet of your dated invoices, paid amounts, and the names of your clients is a good place to start. You’ll also want detailed, easy to read information for your previous employers, landlords, references, and any other information you think will be pertinent.
Next, gather your tax documents for the last three to five years. As a self-employed worker, you likely file a Schedule C (Form 1040) and a Schedule SE. Make sure you have copies of these forms.
Dealing with deductions
Many self-employed workers write off business expenses in their tax returns. Travel expenses, internet, and other costs associated with doing business are all ways to save by reducing your taxable income. Doing so can save you money, but it can also reduce your net income which is what lenders will see when you provide them with your information.
If you’re hoping to get approved for a bigger loan, one solution is to plan your taxes in the year prior to applying for a mortgage. Make fewer deductions than you normally would to increase your net income.
Be ready to clarify
When a mortgage lender is reviewing your information, make sure you are open and available to provide any information that can be helpful to them in considering your application. Being prompt and accurate with your responses will signal to your lender that you are willing to work with them.