Sunday, March 29, 2015

How well we fared with this freeze

Well the verdict is in.  The freeze got my peach trees.  Nothing I could do about that.  It is a wait and see if the trees were far enough along in leafing out that they can still produce anything.  But I'm used to not getting peaches.  If nothing else I will strive to keep a spraying schedule to get whatever bugs them gone for next  year.

The blueberries seem okay for now.  We did cover them last night and they did look better than anything else.  I figure we lost some on the outside branches  or what was against the tarp covering them.  I do think we will have something this year though.

The herbs all fared well under a layer of pine straw.  A few leaves were affected; mainly any that were outside of the protection of the straw.

I lost my last Zucchini plant and one of the yellow squash plants.  The ones who survived were covered with a mason jar and pine straw.  The ones I lost, the wind had blown the pine straw off the jar that covered it leaving it exposed and less likely to hold in warmth.

So now that I have assessed the damage I am ready to move ahead with future gardening plans.  I will replant the squash I lost, and what I get fruit wise is in Gods hands.  My indoor seedlings are growing like crazy and in a couple of weeks they will be joining the rest of the garden crew outside.  Then the gardening will be in full swing.

Oh, our broody hen is sitting on four eggs. We have the lighted box all ready if she gets up, but in the mean time, we could have 4 little ones in the near future.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Interesting Point

First and foremost, I have to say, yesterday marked the second pay period where my entire check went to other things.  In other words, we lived off of just Dh paycheck.  The last paycheck was used to pay off the car. WooHOO!  This paycheck is socked away in savings to go toward the repair of Dh truck or the purchase of a second car.  Plan "A" is to repair the truck.

Being in "Debt Free" mode, Dh and I were pleased to be able to see a Dave Ramsey video at church the other day.  Our Pastor was discussing stewardship; using our Time, Talent and Treasure for God.  Interesting series I must say.  Anyway, the treasure part of the series was last Sunday.  One would think this would be a sermon on tithing.  It wasn't.  Instead it was a biblical look at how to properly manage money. I bring all of this up to talk about an important point Dave Ramsey made in this video.   He said when you use cash, as opposed to a credit or debit card, you feel the "pain" of the expense.  In other words you have an immediate concept of how much you're spending.  As a result you will spend less when using cash.

Now I do budget.  I will set aside things like grocery and gas money in the checking account, but I never withdraw the money to just use cash for these expenses.  That is until recently. Now I'm rethinking that.  Well at least the grocery money part.  Gas is easier to get with a debit card, I just make sure to deduct it from the account and the budget once used.  Grocery money is trickier.

We had an extra paycheck in January and while that's great, it throws off my day to get groceries.  As a result instead of grocery money this check, I needed to get grocery money on the 10th.  So last (as in 2 weeks ago)paycheck I budgeted $100 to carry us over.  $50 of this $100 was in cash.  This last 50.  It makes for a good comparison. As a need arose we used that $100 to get us to the 10th.   The last 50 was the most careful though because it was cash.  I have to say Dave was right.  Each time I purchased items I needed with the cash money, I was extremely cognizant of how much I was spending and how much I had left over.  It made me rethink purchases, and prioritize others.  It also made me buckle down and make at home what I could.   So far so good.  I have $6 left over. (smile).   BUT!  We really have no immediate needs.  Today is baking day again.  Bread, Granola, Ranch Dressing, and even doggie treats are on my list.  A wonderful side advantage of this would be to see if this discipline pays off with an even lower grocery bill.  Would that not be awesome?!  So on the 10th, my first stop is to withdraw that cash and use that alone for groceries.

Many hours later......

So here are the fruits of my labor: From top to bottom we have potato chips (to go with lunch), Ranch dressing and bread, and doggie treats.  I also made two batches of Granola,  but forgot to get a pic.  My bad.

This is what the girls looked like while I worked on their treats:

Needless to say the treats are a big hit.  Jesse's pic is a bit blurry because she kept moving back and forth, but you get the jest.  So all in all a good day.    A penny saved is a penny earned!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Results:

Well it is as I feared.  I started the beans too early.  Beginning of Feb is too early for starting these seeds indoors.  They grow to far and too fast.  I had to put them outside before they were ready.  I went out this afternoon to tent the plants for the up coming cold snap, and found the plants, while still alive, are not happy campers.  Tented or not, these guys wouldn't survive the upcoming cold snap.  So next year, while I will still start seeds indoors, I will start them around the beginning of March instead of the beginning of Feb.  It was worth the learning experience to sacrifice a few seeds.  I will grab some more at the store and plant as normal this year.  The squash seems to have fared a little better.  I lost one or two which is common with transplanting squash.  They tend to be temperamental and don't like their roots messed with.  My tomatoes plants are happily growing along.  I have been hardening them off outside periodically.  In about 2 weeks I will place them outside.  Everything else is coming along nicely.  I will cover the herbs and squash with pine straw to help them weather the cold snap on the way.  My blueberry bushes, mistakenly thinking winter is over, are covered with blooms which are now open.  This cold snap could hurt them.  My plan is to turn my focus to my blueberry bushes.  I possible will tent plastic over them and/or keep a fan blowing on the plants overnight to keep them from freezing.  We will see.  Once again I will pull out the heated boxes my dad made to heat the blueberry bushes from the ground up.  One box for each set of three bushes.

These boxes have been so amazingly versatile (thank you Daddy). I have used them as seed starters, blueberry bush warmers, a brooding box, and, in a week or so, and incubator.  One of our hens is brooding.  Once these eggs hatch and she leaves the nest, we will grab up the unhatched eggs and place them in the box with pine shavings, a thermometer, and a bowl of water to help with humidity.  We bought a piece of Plexiglas, cut to fit the top of the box, to cover the box and hold in the heat.  This is our makeshift incubator.  The second box will be a brooding box for each chick as it hatches.  Now what we are going to do with all of these chicks is another story entirely.  We have no idea.  We weren't expecting a hen to brood this early and we didn't realize we would not be able to get the eggs out from underneath her.  So we are in thought process as to what to do over the next couple of weeks.  The Lord giveth and He just keeps ON giving don't He?

So there you have it.  My update from the homestead.  Anyone else have their garden up and coming.  Share!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Nuthin to do but wait.

So back in the first part of February, feeling the gardening monster creeping up, I started an experiment to see if starting my green bean and squash seeds early would help with controlling pests; i.e squash bugs, and bean beetles.  I had no idea green bean plants would grow as tall and as fast as these did.  As a result I had no choice but to go ahead and put them in the ground.  The squash seems to have fared well.  I put them in a few days ago, and covered them with straw.  Yesterday I took the straw off and they seemed OK.  The bean plants are too tall for that, so I have a plan for when the temps get too close to the border for beans.  I will tent some plastic over the row until the nearly freezing temps are gone.  We should get those temps, according to the weather man, this coming Friday and Sat.  Winters last gasp(I hope).  One thing I do know is to start my bean seeds indoors next year around the end of Feb or beginning of March.  Beginning of Feb might be a little too early (ya think?).  So I wait to see how they will do this year.

Everything else is doing fine.  Spinach, Beets, Tomatoes, and herbs are growing well.  My blueberry bushes are covered in blooms as are my peach trees.  I did manage to spray them this year before the buds opened.  One the blooms fall and the leaves are out, I will start a spray routine again..  Peaches are one fruit that seem impossible to not spray.  My blueberry and blackberry bushes are really effortless with the exception of picking them.

On the inside of the Homestead, we are still living on just one check.  Still moving forward so far in getting things paid off or fixed.  The car is paid off, which is a glorious feeling.  We are hopeful to have the truck in the shop sooner rather than later.  Not sure how long these hours at work are going to last.  I'm hopeful they last long enough for us to get the truck in the shop by the end of May.  After that I can go back to 20 hours a week with no problem.  We just want to get that truck fixed, but we are realistic too in that if we can't get the truck fixed, we can use that money toward the purchase of another vehicle.  Without a car payment.  That's the kicker.  We are too close.

So since we still are working towards these goals, I am really trying hard to not spend if I don't have too.  I am making sure I am using up the things in the fridge that need using up soon.  I had some yogurt(plain) that was needing to be used this morning and so I made low fat chocolate muffins and a batch of freezer bisuits.  Here are the recipes:

Freezer Biscuits (compliments of

6 cups Self Rising flour (you can use All purpose, just add 3 TBS Baking Powder and 3 tsp Salt)
1 cup shortening
2 cups milk(I used half yogurt and half milk)

Cut shortening into the flour then add the milk.  Stir just until mixed, then dump out on the counter and knead it into a ball of dough.  Cut out your biscuits and lay them out on a cookie sheet.  Place in the freezer.  Once frozen, store in a container.  Use as you need them.  To use take out the biscuits you need and lay them on a cookie sheet.  Bake in a 450 oven 10-15 min or until golden.  Good biscuits.

Low Fat Chocolate Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg
2/3 cup yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix all dry ingredients together until well incorporated.  Add the yogurt, egg, milk, and vanilla.  I use a whisk to mix it all together.  Pour into a muffin pan.  Bake 350 oven for 20 min.  Makes 12.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

One down and One to go

I am happy to say Dh and I were able to pay off our car loan yesterday 5 mths early.  OH FORGET JUST HAPPY!  WEEEEEEEEEE!

 That leaves us with one credit card.  We haven't have debt this small since we were first married.  You would think our focus would be that credit card, but it can't be yet.  We pay about 25% over the minimum each month right now.  We will continue to do that because we have things taking precedence over that card.  After taxes are paid ( cause even though DH worked full time as just an LPN and I worked 20 hrs a week in registration the govt thinks we are in the top 10% of wage earners and therefore socked us good), our focus will turn to saving to repair Dh truck.  We hope to have it in the shop end of May.  Once the truck is fixed and we are back to a two car family, our focus will turn to this credit card.  The way we are accomplishing this is by budgeting only my husbands paycheck and living off of that.  That allows my paycheck to be used for debt payoff and saving for big things.  Sounds easy, but it does have its draw backs.  I have to live, i.e, cook, garden, bake, etc, like I am a full time stay at home mom.  Working 32 hours a week is going to make that difficult, but worth it in the long run.   Since it is a rainy day in my neck of the woods, my plan is to bake items to use in the next week or so.  Breads and cookies and maybe granola are on the list for today.  We may have to go out today so all of the items will be mixed this morning and baked tonight.

Can I please just throw in this little plea?  If you currently have no debt, keep it that way.  If you have debt, stop adding to it and pay it off.  My husband makes about 37,000 a year.  Out of that comes taxes (thank you very much), Health insurance, and Health Savings account. He brings home about 2200 a month.  It is amazing to me that we are able to make all of our bills and then some(tithing, savings,etc) on that small amount.  Because we no longer have massive debt!  Society doesn't have to buy into the philosophy of both parents having to work.  It is possible to be a one income family.  How bad do you want it.  What are you willing to sacrifice?  I have had people comment that we are so fortunate that I only work part time.  Fortune has nothing to do with it.  We chose to do without all the bells and whistles.  We don't have the latest gadgets, or great and lofty cable packages.  We eat out at a restaurant rarely.   Movies at the theater are events.  I shop at thrift stores or clearance, etc or sew.  I cut mine and my sons hair.  My point is we have given up a lot of things to have this ability.  I tell people we chose poverty.  But in the end I feel like we are blessed.  I miss nothing.  I know not all situations are like ours.  I know there are single parents, wives who work to provide income when their husband can't, or situations where there have to be two incomes.  But if debt is holding back that dream of a one income family, that is fixable.  That you can change.  Not by necessarily finding a better job.  That can help, but if the problem isn't fixed at 30,000, it won't be fixed at 50,000.  It will just be a bigger problem.   No, you change your circumstances by working hard at paying it off and then keeping it off.  Once that is paid off you can say in  the words of William Wallace (okay if I have to tell you who he was we have problems.  Think Braveheart)


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ohhh Yay!

Yesterday was a glorious 62 degrees in my fair city.  Where was I?  Why outside of course!  We are beginning to get the garden season under way.  Gardening is much like a train in that it starts off really slow, gains momentum and then barrels down the tracks.  We are at the take off, slow as it is.  Right we are uncovering the garden from its winter nap.  The black plastic, what stayed where it was supposed to, did its job and underneath we have weed free dirt that tills easily and, once tilled, feels all velvety soft.  Some of the raised beds weren't covered over the winter, so yesterday part of the day was spent pulling what weeds grew there.  It wasn't too hard to do.  The advantage of a raised bed is that it isn't walked on so the dirt never packs down.  The weeds just pulled out roots and all.

The verdict is in on what herbs survived the winter.  My Oregano, Mint, Lemon Balm, Lemon Thyme, German Thyme,  and Chives all survived.  I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to see the Chives had made it.  I thought they were an annual, but apparently they are a perennial.  They snuggled down in the pine straw and seemed quite happy when I found them yesterday.  The only thing I lost was the Rosemary.  She is my problem child.  I have re-planted it from seeds.  We will see how it does.  Rosemary is what they call a tender perennial in that it will come back each year, but only if conditions are favorable.  Some of the temps we received this year were rather unfavorable for my little Rosemary.  I have planted Basil, Parsley, Cilantro, and Sage in seed pots, along with the Rosemary.  If they take, the only ones that are perennial are the Sage and Rosemary.  The Parsley is a Biennial in that it can become a perennial if conditions are good.  I had Parsley come back one year when the winter was normal for us, but the past two years have had times of extreme cold and snow for this area so I lost my Parsley.

Other seeds I have started are Tomatoes (Beef Steak and Roma), Bell Peppers, Green onions, Yellow Squash, Zucchini Squash, Bush Beans(Green Beans), and Strawberries.  The green onions are cool in that when they are ready to harvest, you can just cut them off at ground level and they will re grow!  People familiar with our area might raise an eyebrow at the thought that I started Bean seeds this early, but there is a method to my madness.  Each year I have to contend with Mexican Bean Beatles.  Those little buggers (pardon the pun) can eat a plant down in no time.  Spraying helps some, but not to much.  However, they usually take a while to find my house.  I'm starting about 20 plants as an experiment to see if starting the plants early, planting them bigger, but earlier in the season, will help with my bean harvest over all.  Once I plant them into the ground around the middle of April, my plan is to cover each with a Mason Jar to protect them a little while longer (both from surprise cold, or Beatles).  I will still direct sow more plants, but these are a trial run.  If this works, you better believe I will be starting all of them early.  Plants that so far have emerged are Basil, Beef Steak Tomatoes, Onions, and the bush beans.  Outside I have Spinach and Beets that have broken through.  They were direct sowed a few weeks ago.

So there you have it, my plans.  It is a slow start of getting ready, starting seeds, pruning trees, fertilizing bushes.  Then there will be a lull because everything is just growing.  Then the craziness starts of picking, and canning.  But it is exciting to be starting!