Saturday, February 28, 2015

Today is the day!

Yes, today is the day.  It is the day I get to start my garden seedlings.  Can spring be not to far off?  Yay!  During the month of January, I was convinced the "Winter we would tell our grand kids about"(Kurt Mellish, weather man for WSB Radio) was not to be.  Instead I dreamed of an early spring.  In fact Georgia's own General Beauregard (Ground Hog) told us we would have an early spring.  This year I believed it.  Then February arrived and got really cold, and stayed really cold.  Then the Ice storm arrived.   Then we got snow.  So yea, Winter made its return.   RATS!  But now the end is in sight.  This weekend is supposed to be cold and rainy.  Then Next week a mixture of cold and/or rain.  But then.....But then....But then next weekend will be sunny with highs in the upper 50's and lower 60's.  After this long drawn out weather report for north Georgia (You're welcome); my point is we are less than 6 weeks away from our last frost date and I GET TO PLANT MY SEEDS.  Spring is in view!  WOOHOO!

Just an aside here.  I have determined gardening is much like childbirth.  For some reason mothers forget about the pain, and work that comes with having a child.  This allows them for some reason to want and have another!  Much like that, Some how each January, I forget about the bugs, mosquitoes, weeds, dirt, sweat, etc that comes with gardening and gleefully anticipate the time when I can start it all over again.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!

Anyway, now that I can get my seeds planted, I need to have a way to have them grow well.  As I wrote before my "Greenhouse" was a dud.  Today is also the day I go out and take it apart and put the things away for now.  I have been looking for a better design for a greenhouse and so the clear vinyl will be stored away and used again once I am sure of my new design.  Definitely will post pics when I get it.  The PVC will once more be converted into something useful as in a bean trellis for my climbers this summer.  In the meantime I need to have a way to give my seedlings the best start possible.  The answer?  A grow light for starters.  The grow light is going to be used to supplement the sunlight that comes through the windows, which isn't ideal.  Once the seedlings have their second set of leaves, I will move them out to my shelves outside with the vinyl covering I made last year.

 That will allow them more light without exposing them directly to the outside environment til they are hardened off.  That's the plan anyway.  So for the next few weeks my dining room table will be taken over by a seemingly endless amount of baby plants just waiting for their day in the sun!.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

And of learning experiences (aka Dismal failures)

Okay, you guys can't be lead to believe everything I try on here is a success.  More often than not, they are, and I will update you on their success here.  But sometimes, there are my learning experiences otherwise know as my dismal failures.  Dismal is a strong word.  I mean I do learn something from these failures.  If you learn something then it isn't a total loss right?  I'm noticing many of my "learning experiences"  revolve around my desire to have a green house...cheaply.  Here is my first attempt

It looks great doesn't it?  Problem is it can't withstand a good gust of wind.  Found this out the hard way when it dumped everything out.  This design worked overall and once I anchored it to the deck, it worked much better.  Problem is without a heat source, it would lose heat quickly because of its location on the floor of the deck.  So it's useless overnight.  I like the concept if I can figure a way for it to hold heat better over night without the use of electricity.

So this year I decided to take the old PVC pipe left over from the old chicken run and remake it into a hoop house of sorts.  I thought if over ground, it would hold the heat from the day better.  Ideally, a hoop shape would have been better, but that would have meant buying whole PVC length.  That meant additional funds used and we really didn't have it.  So I used the left over and made the design more like a "A" frame shape.  The first time I did this, I used a rope I thought was much stronger than it was.  We had a day of large wind gusts and the hoop house ended up off the raised bed and flat onto the ground due to the rope snapping.  I went back out, got it back together and anchored it really well.  This went fine except we had another day of large wind gusts and , while it stayed where it was supposed to be, it pulled the clear vinyl away from the PVC frame in some areas.  I don't have time to redo this right now, and it would be pointless to do it right now anyway because we are getting to the point in our season where I would be planting cold weather stuff anyway.  Duh!  I am going to continue to re design this over the season and would like to have something to extend the gardening season on the other side (fall).  I believe the PVC idea is a dud.  What I want now is to make something out of wood with the clear vinyl sandwiched between the wood frame for security.  It is still a process.  I invested funds into the vinyl and so am not giving up on this.  

Speaking of the garden,  Strawberries are on the docket for planting this year.  I have the entire back raised area of the garden planted with blackberry bushes and a couple of blueberry bushes.  Strawberry plants will make good ground cover I think.  They would be planted in front of the bushes so sunlight shouldn't be an issue.  I love the idea of having that area designated a perennial fruit area.  Never have to worry about that area again. Well except for maintenance.   Here's hoping.  

My point to my greenhouse issue is this; no failure is a true failure if you learn something.  There will be a time when I have a greenhouse/cold frame for my gardening.  I can promise this one way or the other.  As long as I keep trying, I am ahead of the game.  This is a good rule of thumb to have for life in general.  Learn from your mistakes, and never give up.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Normalcy thy name is warmth!

So it seems while our northern friends received crazy amounts of snow, we folks down here in the great state of Georgia received ICE.
This first pic was in today's Gainesville Times down here in North Ga

Thanks for Fox 5 station we got this little taste

Good times were had by all as many lost power over night due to downed power lines and downed trees.  The roads weren't so bad by this morning.  The worst for us was having no power, aka no heat.  48 degrees is a wee bit chilly for a house.  We had three hurricane lamps burning this morning in the mancave / Kitchen area.  I hung up some heavy curtains over the archway door between the kitchen and dining room.  This closed off that end of the house leaving less square footage for the lamps to heat.  We have a Kerosene heater, but didn't get it out of the shed last night because we were caught by surprise.  Yes! Unlike last year where we were the veritable pit crew  of inclement weather preparedness, this year we slacked.  In our defense, we watched the news like hawks trying to gauge what joyous weather event awaited us, rain or ice.  We guessed wrong.  Fortunately we keep matches, flashlights, batteries, lamps, lamp oils, etc for just such an occasion.  In fact Dh had gone to the hardware store over the weekend to pick up a few things and we decided to replace the large flashlight we have "Just in Case".  Good thing.  It came in real handy.  The one thing we didn't do was get out the Kerosene heater.  Once we realized this was actually going to happen (cause you know had we been totally prepared it would  have all been rain right?), we jumped into EVERY BODY GET A SHOWER!  Not all at once mind you.  That would be weird!  I really quick boiled water for tea as well as heating our totally awesome old fashioned coffee thermos (you know the kind your dad would have taken to work in the 70's)for the coffee I then made.  This would ensure hot coffee for in the morning.  So Tea?  Check.  Coffee? Check.  Showers?  Check. Cleaned Kitchen? Check.   "Babe where are the matches?" Dh calls out. "Here in the kitchen drawer"  says I.  I get them out.  I then think to myself, "Okay, I made soups on Saturday, Breads on Sunday......I have no cookies!".   Seriously people.  No preparedness task is complete without cookies to keep you warm.  Yes, Yes, Cookies do keep you warm.  It is a scientific fact.  Seriously....calories you know...generate heat?  Uh...Never mind.  Anyway.  I get the chocolate chip cookies mixed, the oven preheated, they're on the cookie sheet and........Out goes the power.  On goes the lamps for a bit.  Fortunately it went out right before bed time.  We were able to add blankets to the beds to be snuggly warm over night.  We awoke to a meat locker for a home.  I managed eggs and biscuits on the grill.  We had coffee, and the hurricane lamps kept our home from freezing totally.  We still sat under blankets and shivered, and shivered, and shivered.  We called the power company and found our power wasn't slated to be restored til tomorrow at noon.  We had the option to sit and shiver, go to the shed and dig out the kerosene heater, or go out.  We went out.  We didn't care where as long as we had heat in the car.  We all went out for lunch and then some window shopping. By this time the roads were passable with the danger mainly in falling ice and trees.  We saw more snapped trees than I have ever seen before.  It was an amazing sight.  Another amazing sight were the power company trucks in our area.  Yay!  Within an hour of being home, we had power on and off.  Within a couple of hours we had the heat on.  Warmth never felt so good!

So here ends the saga of this years ice storm.  Not my most frugal moment mind you, but we spent time together as a family, we were warm most of the time, and we turned something inconvenient to our advantage.  So all in all not as bad as it could have been,

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Of love, family, men, and beans

So it's Valentines day morning and here I sit with my cup of coffee ready to impart some little snipit of info about our lives.  On the stove behind me bubbles 4 pans, each containing a different type of dried bean.  15 cups of dried beans in all which will make about 2-3 times that in bulk.  The plan is this; a very cold winter week is coming up, and so I want lots of soups.  I have my vegetarian son who will want some black bean burgers.  I also plan on taking soup to work each day for lunch, so a quick grab and go container will significantly cut down on lunch prep time.  On the list to make for today :  Chili, Taco soup, Spicy beef and beans soup, Vegetable soup, Hummus, and Black Bean Burgers.  The soups will be made with and without meat.   I also already have jambalaya in the crock pot for tonight's dinner.   I plan to make enough of everything so that I can have meals covered for most nights at home, as well as to take for lunch if someone wants to.  Probably just me.  I don't feel like this will be too arduous a task.  I mean it is soup after all.  Its not like I am standing and frying 3 whole chickens, 2 cookie sheets of biscuits, and all the trimmings for Sunday Dinner.  That was my mom.  Hmmmmm good times, Great Food!

But I digress.  I know this is not the eventful Valentines day society would have everyone believe is the norm.  Maybe I'm not normal.  It's a thought, but DH and I both feel like we don't need a day of the year to say "I love you".  I tell that to my husband, kids, parents, siblings, etc 365 days of the year.  I don't need chocolates, jewelry, or dinner out to know I am loved.  I know in little things my husband does like cranking the car up for me (uh back when we had two cars)so it would have a chance to defrost before I got in it, making the bed up, or making sure the car has gas, etc.  I know I am an easy date, but so is he.  It is the little things we both do for each other as well as our family that speak greater volumes than a dozen roses.  Don't get me wrong.  I love getting flowers, but they aren't the be all end all.  Plus DH and I share the same goal financially.  We want to get and stay out of debt.  As such we are both willing to forgo certain luxuries until that is accomplished.  You can better believe when we are out of debt there is already a trip planned for the two of us.  We are due for a trip to Ellijay again; or maybe another destination.  The fact is, our priorities are different now.  They may change in the future, but  for now our focus is being debt free.

So soups for today, and probably breads for tomorrow.

I do want to take this time to thank all of you who either follow or read this blog.  I know most of you are friends or relatives, but friend, relative or someone who just found my blog and stuck with me, I appreciate all of you.  I will also say to my Mom and Dad and the rest of my family, I love you all very much.

Happy Valentines Day!.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A little taste of spring. Gotta love it!

It is a wonderful 64 degrees here in the sunny south.  I have been out playing in the yard.  This weekend I got to transplant 9 black berry and 4 blueberry bushes into their new home, dug out my herb bed, and secured my "green house".   The "Green house"is really a kinda put together hoop house made from clear vinyl and the PVC from the old chicken run.  I actually put this together about a week ago, but neglected to use a strong enough rope to secure it soooooo when the wind started really blowing the other day, it blew it right off my raised bed.  So this time I have put it all back and seriously secured it.  Before doing that,  I planted beets, lettuce, spinach, and english peas.  We will see how it works. The herb bed seems to be doing well.  Everything has survived the winter, except maybe the rosemary.  That is a wait and see.  The roots seem fine, but the branches are brittle. Dh donned his "grandpas in retirement" hat and tilled up a good sized section of the garden for planting later in the spring.  Apparently having the garden covered during the fall and winter, as well has incorporating the spent hay and manure from the chicken coops, has made the dirt like velvet. We probably could have dug it up with only a shovel.  Have to say though, this was much faster.

Working 40 hours this past week as well as the next is making it a time crunch to get things made at home.  I did get my bread machine on Tuesday and have used it three times.  Twice to make a loaf of bread, and once for pizza crust.  I have to say it has been a God send to have.  This morning was one of the mornings I used it to make bread, along with 2 batches of granola for the up coming week.  I'm trying to stay ahead and have things ready when everyone is getting going during the week for either class or work.  So far so good.  Ooops, that reminds me.  I have to get in the kitchen again to make cookies for lunches.  Like we need cookies.  Ummmm yes, yes we do.

On the truck front, we are thinking we are going to be holding on to it and saving up to fix it.  We looked at truck prices, and even used ones are really more than we want to spend.  We really need a truck.  A friend at church gave us the number of a guy who will go over your vehicle and let you know if it is worth fixing.  We are going to give  him a go.  If everything else about the truck is in good shape, I think we are going to take the plunge and replace the motor.  It's a gamble.  One I hope that pays off in the end.

So there are my latest news reports.  How is everything in your neck of the woods?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Well that'll teach me to brag

Sooooo, remember when I said in my last post how my working more hours would allow us to pay off our car 5 months early and our 1 last credit card by the end of the year?  Yea......not so much any more.  Don't get me wrong,   We will make progress, but we have had a bit of a snafu.  Dh's truck is gone (sound of Taps playing here).  Alas little truck we hardly knew ye.  It left us Saturday on the way to Lowes to pick up some stuff.  A friend picked us up and brought us home.  We contacted a tow truck and sent it back to a mechanic.  So today we found out that truck has driven its last mile.  We are down to 1 car again.

This is where the rubber meets the road.  This is where paying off debt and staying out of debt gets hard.  It would be so easy to pay off our current loan 5 months early only to turn around and get another loan for yet another car.  Putting us back into debt.  Or....... we can pay off the current loan and continue to pay ourselves; putting back money to buy another car  If things go according to plan, we would have enough to get a reasonably priced car by the end of the year.  It means some inconvenience for a while, but the pay off would be awesome!  Well worth it I believe.  It also means we could still be ahead of the game paying off this last credit card.  It may affect our over all date to be debt free, but not by much.  All the best laid plans of mice and men......  We will see if this pans out.  Nothing is for certain.....except Jesus, but I am willing to give this a try.  Another challenge, and I loves me one of those.  

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Flexibility is not overrated!

So lately, and for the foreseeable future, I have been working 32 hours a week at my off home job.  The extra money has been nice I must say.  My concern is weather I will be able to keep up with a garden and such once the season starts.  But until then, I was pretty Okay with the hours.  Then I started missing the things I get to do working fewer hours; sewing, baking, gardening, etc.  As my wonderfully wise sister states, " those things are a part of what I am".  I couldn't have said it better myself.  I agreed with sis so much I went the other day to tell my boss that in 6 weeks I really wanted to go back to my part time hours since I knew the extended hours were only temporary.  Then she said the reason she needed to speak to me was to tell me she had received approval for my  hours to be 32 a week from now on.  Possibly eventually 40 a week (full time)if we keep growing.  So now caught between a rock and a hard place, I had a decision to make.  Dh said he was fine with any decision I would make.  He says, and I agree, there are benefits to both.  So I thought, and thought, and prayed, and thought.......get the picture?  Poor Dh has patiently been listening to me work this out for the last few days.  I realize I am blessed beyond measure.  In an economy where many can't find a job, or can't find a full time job, and here I am wondering about increasing my hours.  I must say getting totally out of debt before the year is out is an awesome incentive.  So armed with that incentive as well as the knowledge of things needing repair around the homestead, I  reached a decision yesterday.  I am going to work the extra hours, and whenever she needs me to work.   I can't give up on all of my homey things either, so I am streamlining the process.  I have to cut minutes and seconds off my time here.  I don't want the weekends to be a crazy catch up kind of day.  I plan to still garden, but smaller and smarter.  I will have blueberries and blackberries coming in regardless of what I work so that will stay the same.  The veggie garden, however, is a different story.  Things will be planted that we use the most of; i.e tomatoes, green beans, corn, sweet potatoes, lettuce and spinach. All of these items are easy to pick and put up, especially if I am only needing to freeze corn on the cobb.  Yum.   Bread will still be made, but I have ordered a programmable bread machine to make the dough.  Not a big fan of bread baked in a bread machine, but it is a nice convenience to be able to put the ingredients in the bread machine in the morning before work and let the machine do the dough.  I will come home, knead the dough a little more, let it rise and bake it on my own.  This will also help with Friday night pizza since I can put the pizza crust in the machine and have it ready for topping and baking when I get home.  The "Guys" are off from school on Friday and have been picking up the slack housekeeping wise.  Still not sure if my plans will work once gardening season is in full swing, but with everyone helping we have a fighting chance. The extra hours will allow us to rapidly get out of the rest of the debt we owe.  It isn't much, we will hopefully have our car paid off 5 months early, and our last credit card, hopefully buy the end of the year.  That only works if I can keep costs at home down.  We will see.