Wednesday, June 24, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 6/15 - 6/21

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
* I weeded the garden bed in the rain one day. Why have I not been doing this all along? All I had to do was grab the entire above-ground part of the plant and give a gentle tug and the entire root system came up. I got two whole beds weeded in about 15 minutes (these were pretty bad too).
* Fed the bunnies weeds.
* Harvested about 8 cups of greens from various beds in the garden.
* Harvested another ten garlic scapes.
* Harvested 10 small, but worthwhile radishes. This is the first year that they have reliably bulbed up. They are small, but I'm thrilled. I think it's all the ash and coffee grounds we've been working in.
* Planted more radishes in the empty spaces in the garden.

Trucker's first time having Bojangles. Yes, I'm aware of how
bad this is. It is also very good. And rare.
* My grocery spending was $24 for the week; $10 at Kroger, $14 at Aldi. Milk was on clearance for $.99. I got a bag of 10 clementines for $.99 at Kroger's manager's special cart. I bought two bags of tortilla chips ($1.19 each) in prep for making taco dip later this week. $.99/8 oz container of grape tomatoes. $.99/celery. I spent $2 on a dozen eggs which I found outrageous. As egg prices increase, I may just plan ahead and buy them for $2.50-3.00/dozen from backyard chicken keepers out by my parents' house. The one splurge was two packages of cinnamon rolls from the bakery. My uncle drove out to fix our car for us when we couldn't get it to him. We wanted to say "Thank you" with a little something sweet. Cinnamon roll 4-packs were BOGO from the bakery, so I grabbed Trucker a little treat as well.
* Took out the 2 lb pork shoulder from the freezer and made BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. I seared the shoulder on the stovetop until nice and brown, then tossed into the slow cooker on high for 4 hours. The meat was easily shredded and I added BBQ sauce, jalapenos, onions and garlic. I saved some of the shredded meat for other meals.
* I made grown-up slushies one evening. Packet of Kool-aid, some sugar and a cup of hot water. Dissolve sugar and kool-aid and then let cool. Blend with ice cubes and vodka until slushy.
* For snacks, we had popcorn. I made plain popcorn for Trucker and caramel corn for me.
* We made layered taco dip. We used two cans of refried beans, the last little bit of homemade sour cream, the rest of the pulled pork (unseasoned), the last bit of some jalapeno sour cream dip, loads of lettuce from the garden, pickled peppers, grape tomatoes, black olives, a little cheddar cheese, garlic scapes (since I had a surplus of those, but didn't have any bulb onions to add). We nibble on it for a few days, then the leftovers get mixed

Food Preservation:
* I frozen another pound of mulberries for winter. I freeze them loose on a cookie sheet, then dump them into a large freezer bag. This way, I'll be able to remove just what I need instead of having a huge clump of berries.

David Ramirez
* We went on one cheap coffee date.
* We took a spur of the moment, wild adventure. We found out that a musician we both love was going to be playing two states away (6 hours each way). We decided to go for it. We packed snacks, thermos and travel mugs of coffee, and lots of CDs. We headed out at 6 in the morning. We took lots of photos along the way, talked and sang with the radio. We stopped in an adorable little town and checked out a thrift store (I bought a pair of really nice shorts for $4 from the clearance rack. I only have one pair of shorts that still fits) and a book store (the bargain basement had $.50 hardcovers and $.25 paperbacks; I bought 2 cookbooks and 2 science books, one of which was on my wishlist). We got to the city and visited a couple thrift stores. We didn't get much, as the prices were much higher than any in our city. We walked around a fun neighborhood and talked then went to the concert. It was a free concert at a cute little bar. I found out that they had happy hour specials leading up to the concert so we made sure we got there at the end of Happy Hour so we could save a bit. I got a $4 whisky sour and Trucker got the BOGO craft beers (they let him have his second later in the evening), so it was $9+ tip. We did make sure to get some good, regional food ($13; by good, I mean Bojangles). All told, the entire trip, minus purchases for resale, cost $75. We had a blast. I love to travel, and day-trips are a great way to satisfy my wanderlust without huge cost.

* I've been running in the rain a lot. Nothing feels better than rainy day runs.

* My uncle fixed our car (details below) instead of taking it to a shop: $45 instead of hundreds.

Waste Reduction:
* Made stock from pork bones and corn cobs I'd had in the freezer.
* When I was on a walk one day, I found a wood pile where someone had throw a disassembled porch swing away. I found several pieces that I liked, so I carried them home. I'll use them to make jewelry boards for the bedroom. They were all chipped up with red and yellow paint which will work perfectly with the muted olive color in the bedroom.

* I worked overtime each day I worked, for a total of 1.25 hours.
* I packed my lunch each day.
* Trucker brought home day-old baked goods.

* Went picking a few days. Slow pickings lately.
* Listed more items on the store. Getting traffic, but slower this week.

* Continue to focus on getting enough water every day.
* I run most days. Every day I go for a walk, at least a short one, but usually a few a day. One day I walked 3.5 miles to go to the library. I carried a load of wood home halfway.

* My water kefir died. Family concerns kept me occupied for a couple of weeks and I completely forgot about it. I tried to revive it to no avail.

* My uncle came out to fix the car since we couldn't get it to him. When we told him what was wrong with it, he knew we couldn't get it out to him so he immediately decided to come out to us. He said he had to take care of family. He and his girlfriend came out and we had a few beers while he worked on the car. It only took him a little while to fix. He charged us $30, but we gave him $40. I also sent him home with a 4-pack of cinnamon rolls and a big jar of apple chips.
* While I was out in the front garden, a neighbor and her son stopped by to introduce themselves and ask about my garden. We sat and talked for awhile. They were lovely. She used to garden, but doesn't anymore. She invited me over for coffee. I'll make sure to bring her some salad fixins from the garden. There are several people on the block I want to share produce with, so I may need to plant some more lettuce!
How was your week?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 6/8 - 6/14

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
* I harvested another 3 lbs of mulberries from the feral trees. I continue to harvest my tiny trees by nibbling ripe berries while I'm working in the garden.
* There was one nice morning before a week-plus long rain, so I went to the garden. I planted a container of borage, a package of kohlrabi seeds in between rows of peppers, 3 tomato plants (no more cages, so I'll let them crawl), yard long beans around some tomato cages, 3 rows of early blood turnip beets, 2 rows of albino beets, 2 rows of Early Wonder beets, 1 row Danvers carrots, 1 row Red Cored Chantennay carrots, 1 container of basil (heavily planted; I'll thin for super flavorful microgreens), basil around some pepper plants, 1 package Deer Tongue lettuce, 1 package Drunken Woman lettuce, 1 package Thai Oakleaf lettuce, 1/2 large package of Oakleaf lettuce. All of the lettuces were just scattered in an area.
* Hazel-ra is not eating her pellets or drinking nearly as much water as the other buns. I'm going to watch her. If she doesn't straighten up within a month, I'll cull and get another doe. However, if she grows well on the greens only diet she seems to have put herself on, I'll keep her. Wouldn't be a bad thing to have bunnies that grow well on a foraged diet. Frank continues to devour his greens with gusto and resort to pellets as necessary. Nurse Ratched (what I named the mean bunny that clawed my neck, chest and stomach) loves her pellets, but also loves her greens. She grows like crazy, so if her babies also grow as quickly as she does, I am okay with the extra pellets.
* Foraged weeds for the bunnies. I weeded a garden bed and tossed all of the good weeds into a pile to feed to the rabbits. I figured if I had to weed the bed, I may as well consider it harvesting. Makes it mentally more fulfilling. LOL

* I made leftovers quiche for dinner one evening. I made a quick pie dough. I tossed in some leftovers and items that needed to be used up: 3 breakfast sausage links, sliced, 2 small sweet peppers, a few stalks of kale, a small squash, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 3 garlic scapes, eggs (past expiration, but still good), a heaping spoonful of creme fraiche (which is getting dangerously close to sour cream) and topped with the last of a bag of mozzarella cheese. Baked until the eggs were set. Delicious! We ate half for dinner one night and had half leftover for later in the week.
* I baked my first ever mulberry pie using 4 cups of mulberries that were getting kinda soggy. It was the best tasting pie I've ever made.
* I bought some manager's special meat: a 1.5 lb pork loin for $3.50 and a pound of ground chuck for $3. It all went into the freezer for later.
* Made pancakes and sausages for breakfast one morning. I prefer to make buttermilk pancakes, but we had some manager's special milk starting to get a tad sour, so I used that instead.

Food Preservation:
* I froze 2 pounds of mulberries for winter.

* Coffee date at a local spot. No discount for using our travel mugs, but we still avoided waste.
* I went to my parents for dinner with them and my sister one evening.
* A couple of our friends invited us to go hang out at a free art festival downtown with them. We packed a lunch and drinks so we didn't buy anything while we were there (last year we didn't plan ahead and we spent $50 on drinks and horrible food). The food I brought was the leftover quiche, a salad (3/4 of the greens from the garden), a slice of mulberry pie, $.09/package crackers, and lemonade. Super yummy and saved us a lot of money. We had a blast, took funny photos and had good talks.
* Trucker and I went to the Bob Evans Homestead to explore for the day. It was a bit of a drive, but we loved it. There was a log-cabin town to explore, lots of animals, a sorgum mill, a gristmill, a coal mine (that we couldn't go into), a Bob Evans museum and a Civil War Museum. I packed a picnic that we ate at the log-cabin village. It was wonderful, as exploring with Trucker always is.
* I went to a family reunion this weekend. It was a potluck. I brought a 1.5 gallon jar of apple chips. People loved them and I ended up sending a couple people home with the extras.  It was wonderful to get to see everyone, talk and laugh together.

* I've just been enjoying life. I've been taking walks at night when the air is perfect and you can see the stars. I've been wondering at the bug-life in the garden while I work the beds. I've been cuddling my bunnies. I've been watching things germinate. All of nature is a wonder and I love immersing myself in it as close to constantly as possible.
* While we walked around the Bob Evans Homestead, I enjoyed cuddling the animals. I took photos of wild plants.
* The weather has been erratic lately. It'll be perfectly sunny and lovely, then a wicked storm comes in. That has meant some awesome cloud photos.

* I bought a new-to-me dress at the thrift store. Some of my favorite dresses are a little big now, so I am starting to weed out the closet. This dress was a gorgeous rich blue with black feathers and a cutout in the back. It cost $4.
* Curb shopped a work table with a bad top and a solid base. I'm thinking of using it to make a butcher's block for the kitchen. I saw it on the curb while on my run one day. I decided to come back on my way out of town for the reunion and scoop it up. When I got there, it wouldn't fit in the car. So I picked it up (while wearing heels and a sundress) and walked 1/2 mile home. Dropped it off, took off my heels and ran 1/2 mile back to the car and went on my way. I'm definitely the neighborhood eccentric.

Waste Reduction:
* Used our travel mugs when going out for coffee to eliminate the need to use a paper cup, plastic lid and cardboard sleeve.
* I've composted lots of weird things.
* I used some apples that were getting a little on the mushy side to make applesauce.

* Worked 15 minutes over one day and 45 minutes over the other day I worked.
* I voluntarily worked a production Saturday for time and a half for 8 hours.
* We both packed lunches every day to avoid buying out. I've started packing extra because factory work burns a lot of calories, and I didn't want to yield my will to the vending machine on last break. When I would bring the lighter lunches I used to bring at other jobs, I would be weak by the last quarter of the day. I now bring enough to have tiny snacks (a few apple chips, dipped in peanut butter or two large crackers) on breaks as well as lunch. Now I don't have as many issues towards the end of the work day.
* Trucker brought home goodies from his job.
* Trucker picked up an extra day at his job.
* I talked with my farmer friend about helping out at farmer's markets again this year. Last year we had an arrangement where I would stop by for 15-20 minutes to help out and give the worker a break, and they paid me in food. I told him I could do the same thing this year, or could work whole shifts as my regular job doesn't have any production Saturdays scheduled for the rest of the summer.

* I called the bank and discussed mortgage options for 5 years out based on my new career trajectory. The loan officer also let me know of a couple of options that I didn't know about that may help this process speed along, if we chose that that's what we want.
* Worked an entire morning on my online store. Made a couple more good sales, so I'm starting to get excited.
* Went scouting for more kitchenwares to sell. Now that I'm not working in kitchens anymore, turns out I miss it. Selling kitchenwares allows me to have a bit of  fun playing with fun baking and cooking supplies without having to work in the food industry.
* While at work, I've been brainstorming on a couple of writing projects I'd like to work on. When break comes, I jot the ideas down on a notebook.

*I'm going on near-daily walks. It's been really hot, so I have been going late in the night when it's cool.
* Ran 4 days, 35-45 minutes each time. I am able to run longer than I used to. I'm still not at a point where I could run a longer race or anything, but I'm thrilled with my progress. When I first started running (I'm embarrassed to say), I could only run by two houses before I was winded. But I kept at it anyway, and can now run a mile without a walk break (I was able to last summer, but got sick and wasn't able to run for 2 months before winter, and lost most of my conditioning).
* We walked A LOT with our friends for the festival. We walked all the way back to the car a few neighborhoods away. Halfway there, it started to rain, so I ran the rest of the way to the car (yes, I know that you get just as wet when running as when walking, but it was stopping some of the time). I got in probably a mile of running.
* At work they sent around a memo about staying hydrated. They said that for factory work in the height of summer, one should drink up to 1 cup of water per half hour of work. When I use the drinking fountains, I maybe get 2 cups a day (guessing). I bought a water bottle at a thrift store for $.50. It had ounces marked on it and holds 4 cups of water. I make sure I drink two bottles' worth each shift. Having the ounces marked on it lets me know instantly if I'm on track. If I haven't drank my two cups before break, I chug it until I have. Since I got it, I've been getting 8-9 cups a day in. I will increase this as it gets hotter, but for now, I feel wonderful. I haven't been feeling as weak or fatigued, so it's helping my work and my mood.

* Trucker's car died. We had the battery checked for free at Advanced Auto, but it was fine.  We called my cousin to see when we can get him to look at it.

* My mom sent me home after dinner with some apples that were about to turn. She was going to compost them, but wanted to know if I could use them up before they went bad. I made applesauce.
* A few readers commented on various sites last week giving me tips and ideas for tackling my poison ivy problem. You are all incredible! Thank you so much! I'm ready to go tackle the problem in a couple weeks when I have a vacation from work (so that if I get a rash, it has time to fade before I go back! LOL), and I'm feeling much better now that I've gotten such great advice. You're the best!

How was your week?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Summertime Food Scrounging

I don't know if it's some leftover primal urge leftover from our hunter gather days, whether it's the excuse of getting out into the sun, or maybe just a bit of wild desperation for nature after a long, cold Ohio winter has kept me under lock and key for months. For whatever reason, when the days are getting warm, I get to food scrounging.

Over winter, I eat a lot of foods that I put up over the previous warm season. Smoothies are made of frozen berries foraged in the neighborhood. Work snacks are crabapple candy, delicious sweet-sour treats of dehydrated "waste" fruit. Soups are made of a handful of this dehydrated goody and that bag of frozen greens and that ham bone that's been waiting in the freezer for a chance to shine. By the time June comes along, the pantry is a little more bare, the selection a bit more paltry. So out I go to restock the larder and prepare again for the cold days that will come.

Anyone who follows this page knows that I have two primary ways to cut my grocery spending: gardening and salvage grocery shopping. Both are fantastic ways to trim back the budget. Gardening requires little money, but lots and lots of time. Salvage grocery shopping takes little more time than regular grocery shopping, but still takes a fair amount of money. So while foraging doesn't make up a large percentage of the yearly calories, it is a worthwhile pursuit. It takes little time, compared to a full season of gardening, and it takes absolutely no money. It also adds lots of variety to the diet that would otherwise be impossible. Wild foods are very nutritious and can be delicious.

Starting out in early spring, but still viable in early summer, is foraging for wild greens. They are best early, and by this time of year (June) are a bit bitter. However, even now, they're worthwhile, especially if the bitter greens are going into a robust dish with lots of garlic and cream. Dandelion greens are the best green to get started with simply because everyone knows what dandelion looks like. You don't have to worry about accidentally poisoning your family (provided you pick from a yard you know is unsprayed). Harvest those dandelion leaves when they are tiny and haven't flowered yet for the tastiest treat. Once they flower, they are tougher and more bitter, so you'll want to use them in cooked dishes, rather than fresh salads.
Creasy greens with a baby bud in the center.

I also harvest creasy greens. These are a southern favorite that should be a northern favorite too. I love them steamed or tossed into a stir fry. Once they send up a flower stalk, stop harvesting the leaves, but then, oh then, you get the stalks. They look like mini broccoli stalks and taste like a wilder broccoli. Trucker loves broccoli, but I've never been able to grow it in my garden. This year I only harvested enough for us to eat fresh, but next year I plan to freezer in meal-sized portions for winter.

Research the wild greens that grow in your area, sample them and harvest bucketloads of the ones you like. To preserve them, simply steam them until they wilt, then cool and pack into freezer bags. Depending on family size, you can pack 1, 2 or 4 cups into each bag. Freeze flat for maximum storage in the freezer. Pull out a bag at a time to reheat as a steamed vegetable, add to omelets/frittata/quiche/souffle, or mix into a dip, similar to spinach dip but with free greens. Creasy green flower buds can be steamed or boiled a couple minutes, then dunked into an ice bath before packing in freezer bags.

Dandelion flowers can be fried for perfect fritters or the petals added to fresh salads. If you want to fill your larder with them, think of dandelion wine, dandelion jelly or dandelion syrup.

Edible flowers (Violets, Grape Hyacinths) add pretty color
to salads. Candied violets are great for cake decorating.
If you live in morel country, then it is the best foraging to be done. Nothing, absolutely nothing compares to a morel. If you have good huntin' ground, eat as many as you can fresh, as this is the best way to enjoy them. If you are really lucky and get a huge harvest, you can dehydrate them to use in winter. I once saw dried morels for sale for $230/lb.

Violets are edible and prolific, at least in my garden beds. You can eat the flowers or leaves in salads, or you could steam and freeze the greens. The flowers can be added to tea blends, mixed into sugar for a floral note for teas, or candied for decorating desserts.

Then it's berry season. For me, that means mulberries. When I was a kid, my grandma used to take me out mulberry picking. We'd pick bushes of them. After a long day of picking, Grandpa would come home and we'd all sit down to bowls of mulberries with milk. It's still my favorite way to eat them, but I do preserve some for winter. There are two main types of mulberries: red (which ripen to almost black) and white (which start lime green and fade to white when ripe). Then there are hybrids which can be pink or white with purple frosting. I prefer red berries to all other kinds due to the taste, but the other kinds don't stain the hands as badly. To harvest, you can pick them by hand, but it is labor intensive and wasteful. When mulberries are fully ripe, they fall off the tree at the drop of a hat, so if you pick one berry, five more fall to the ground. Instead, lay down a sheet or a blanket you don't care about. Gently shake the branches over the sheet. The perfectly ripe berries will fall onto the sheet. just grab the corners to pile the berries together, then bag up. This makes harvesting a breeze and you can get a whole tree harvested in twenty minutes. You can also harvest wild blackberries or raspberries if they grow in your area. These taste fantastic and you'll love them more than anything sold in stores. I freeze them on cookie sheets; one frozen solid, they are packed into freezer bags to dump a little at a time into smoothies or to eat as a chilly snack later on in summer.

Plantain seeds air drying on a cookie sheet.
Broad-leaved plantain is an edible green, but also provides some healthy seeds. When the stalks are mature and the tips of each seed is starting to turn slightly brown, I harvest them by the handfuls. I strip the seeds from the stalk by gripping near the top and pulling back to the base while holding it over a big bowl to catch the falling seeds. I don't worry about the immature seeds at the top. It doesn't add up to a lot, but it is nutrient rich and provides good variety. I use them in teas for respiratory problems sometimes, but often, I just crush some seeds into any baked goods/pizza crusts I'm making for extra fiber. It provides nominal cost benefits, but good nutrition. It also is nice, relaxing work for a warm evening with a beer on the patio, so I continue to do it.

Any and all surplus greens from the garden, and some wild greens are preserved into green powder. This bitter-as-heck powder has nothing going for it, flavor-wise, but is a healthy addition to the diet. I use greens with bad texture, like the full-sized greens on a radish bulb, carrot greens or tough dandelion greens. I dehydrate them until they are bone dry, then crumble them by hand or in the blender until they are a course powder. This powder is a nutritional powerhouse, and is an easy addition to meatloaf, casseroles, green smoothies, even brownies, anything that could use a little more veg. I try to limit its use to dishes with strong flavors to mask the bitterness. In winter, even that bitterness is welcome when there is such a limit to veg.

Crabapples waiting to be processed.
All season long, I keep an eye out for feral fruit trees. I know of countless crab apple trees, several apple trees, and 3 pear trees. All of these trees litter the sidewalks of hapless homeowners who don't connect the rotting fruit on ground with the self-sufficient thoughtfulness of previous owners. Since they don't want to bother with it, I help them out. Since I'm harvesting the stuff, they don't have to clean off their sidewalk. It's a public service, really. For apples and crabapples, taste them occasionally. Once they taste good, harvest. For pears, I tend to wait until I see the first pear on the ground, then harvest the tree clean. These apples and pears might not be the tastiest, but can be used creatively. Juice them with other apples, pears or other fruits. Add them to applesauce. Bake with them. Dehydrate them into chips. Blend with other, more tasty fruit and dehydrate into fruit leathers. If there aren't too many bug holes, they will even store in the frig for months.

Crabapple candy ready to go into the dehydrators.
Crabapples are a special thing. They take effort to use, due to their small size, but they are fantastic. They add great zing to apple juice, cider or sauce. The bright red ones in particular add fantastic color to a basic sauce. I add them to apple crisp for a bit of color. My favorite, albeit labor-intensive way to use crabapples is to make crabapple candy. I cut each crabapple into halves or quarters, then pop out any seeds. I toss in sugar until it is coated well. I load them onto dehydrator trays and dry until leathery. These candies are delicious, and while not a health food, go a long way to reduce consumption of scary store-bought candy. I think they are like a chewier sour patch kid.

Many herbal teas can be put up from foraged weeds. Use a dehydrator for quick drying to minimize flavor loss. If you don't have a dehydrator, use a low oven or hang in a cool dry place. Pineapple weed (related to Chamomile) is my favorite wild tea. It has a lovely exotic tropical floral taste and scent. You can also dry violets, dandelion leaves, mints, dead nettles, clover blossoms, strawberry leaves, or many more. Dandelion roots can make a mock coffee that's to die for.
By the end of the summer, I like to have scores of different wild foods put up for later. It makes winter much more enjoyable to pop open some jar of summery goodness and remember that spring will come again.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 6/1 - 6/7

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
The front yard containers each have a tomato plant
with nasturtium and lettuces filling in the extra space.
* Fed the bunnies lots of weeds to stretch their pellets and improve our self-reliance. We do give them free access to pellets. One bunny chows down on the pellets, but the other two prefer the greens and will eat pellets when they are hungry, but don't have greens available.
* Harvested garlic scapes. I specifically plant a lot of hardneck garlic because it gives a scape about a month before you harvest the bulbs. This gives an earlier garlicky harvest when last year's supply is running short.
* Harvested 10 cups of greens, mainly kale with some lettuce.
* Weeded a garden bed one evening. Saw the first lightening bug of the year.
* Harvested 2.5 pounds of mulberries from trees in the neighborhood.
Volunteer mustard with a bunch of weeds
* Planted the shade garden to extra tomato, pepper and squash seeds. This area is kinda a lost cause so far as formal gardening goes, but I hate to let it go. I just toss surplus seeds that otherwise would be wasted and hope for the best. Last year that was a lot of tomatoes, peppers and greens. The mustard went to seed and has self sown through part of the bed this year. Yay for free mustard greens!
* Planted half a garden bed to White cucumbers and Homemade Pickle cucumbers.

* I found crackers on sale at the grocery store for $.36 (down from $3.60). I also got those little packages of yogurt smoothies for kids for $.39/4 pack. I wouldn't usually buy those items, but they were clearance-priced at such a good price that it was worthwhile. These will go into my work lunches.
* We found ground beef on manager's special for $3/lb so I bought a pound (if there'd been more at that price, I would have frozen some).
* We had some corn on the cob that I used to make fried corn. Fried it in bacon fat with pickled jalapenos. Served with some chili lime seasoning and creme fraiche. Delicious. It's a favorite side dish here.

* We walked 3 miles (round trip) to get ice cream cones. Cheap, fun date.
* Friday was National Donut Day. We stopped by Krispy Kreme Donuts for a free donut. Freebie date!
* Cheap coffee date with our travel mugs for reduced waste and cost.
* My friend came over for drinks and talking one evening. We had a blast, as we always do. I served mulberries for our snack. Mine were with creme fraiche (homemade). She is vegan, so creme fraiche was out. Fortunately, I had some soy creamer that I'd gotten on clearance, so I used that with her berries.

* We went on a 2 mile walk at one of our favorite parks.
* We walked around the reservoir one afternoon and ate a picnic lunch. We got up close and personal with a Great Heron.

* We signed up for the summer reading program at the library. If we complete 12 hours of reading, we get two entries into a raffle and a coupon sheet. The coupon sheet is for free food items at different restaurants and for free or BOGO entrance into local activities. We always do more than that much reading, so it's definitely worth signing up.
* Trucker was driving my car to work one day and noticed that the gas stations were all raising their prices. Then he drove by one location that hadn't yet, so he filled up at $.20 cheaper, saving $3.

Waste Reduction:
* The night before Trucker closed at work (and would be bringing home more baked goods), we still had some sweets left over: 3 muffins, a cookie and a scone. I crumbled them all up. I'm planning on making bread crumb cookies sometime soon, so this will come in handy.
* I used up the last of two jars of pickles and one of pickled peppers. I dumped dehydrated peppers into two containers, and dehydrated green beans in the other. The veggies rehydrate in the brine, making them taste like pickles, even though they aren't pickled and don't have that perfect crunch.

* I worked 1.5 hours overtime this week.
* I packed my lunch each day at work.
* Trucker brought home a big bag of goodies: bagels, a few cookies and some scones.

* I went for frequent walks and runs.

* I discovered why I always break out really bad every single summer, all season long. The entire yard is poison ivy. I haven't mowed the back yard for a bit and it is carpeted in poison. I actually don't know what to do about it. I don't want to use anything that will kill surrounding plants (thus preventing food production) or kill insects (thus killing my friendly bees and preventing me getting hives next year). I may have to resort to covering up, slathering vasoline over all exposed body parts and pulling it all up by the roots. Maybe if I tackle it several times the next couple of years, it will be better later? Sheesh. Anyone with experience getting rid of major infestations of poison ivy and sumac is more than welcome to share your secrets.

* I gave the neighbor a half pound of mulberries that I foraged.
* I sent my friend home with some seeds that I wasn't going to use. I had way too many, and she is getting her feet wet with food production at her new home. I'm so excited for her to be starting a garden! I also sent her home with some baked goods from Trucker's job, as we always have extras.
* Had a few chances to share gardening resources with people who were interested. I always love helping people get involved in growing their own food!

UPDATE 6/15/15:
* I got a couple of great responses from you wonderful people on how to deal with the poison ivy.
Nancy Tinney said: I moved into a new house with a VERY well-established poison ivy patch. tried commercial and home-made sprays, and the stuff just laughed at me. So i spent many days dressed in long pants and long sleeves and gloves, pulling the stuff out of the ground--some of the roots were 30 feet long! I used those shoes and clothes for that purpose only, and washed the clothes in hot water after every session, after showering of course. After the first summer, i just had to go on "poison ivy patrol" every couple of weeks to pull up the new shoots. If you leave even one hair-fine root in the ground, a new shoot can grow from it. Even after it's gone, if a bird's been eating the berries and happens to poop while flying over your yard, guess what will grow there? It takes constant vigilance, but after you get rid of most of it, the vigilance isn't a heavy burden.
* M Mccarthy shared: Perhaps you could layer newspapers ( many layers and keep them damp) over the whole area and kill off everything, then replant grass seed or whatever next spring.

Thank you both so much! I'm going to try to tackle it in the coming weeks.

How was your week?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 5/25 - 5/31

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
This is a Serrano pepper plant that I overwintered.
It put on loads of new growth and now that it has been
transplanted, it is going wild.

* I planted more tomatoes, peppers, beans, lettuce and radishes. I have in total: 15 tomato plants, 11 pepper plants, a small section of scarlet runner beans, one long row of appaloosa beans, one long row of jacob's cattle beans, a section of Blue Lake Bush Beans, 80~ heads of garlic, lots of carrots, radishes, beets and swiss chard.
This is Hazel-ra, the more calm, docile doe. She's taken a
shining to Trucker. She climbs the front of the cage when
he walks up with fresh greens.
* Another day I planted: two containers by the front driveway. Each had a tomato plant in the middle (one Mortgage Lifter, the other Matt's Wild Cherry), I had some volunteer lettuces from last year, so I kept those in. I planted nasturtiums and filled in the gaps with lettuce. By the tree in the front yard, I planted chives. By the front door, I planted basil: regular, burgundy and cinnamon. I planted two window boxes in mint: one orange mint, the other chocolate. I didn't plant mint in ground to keep it from going wild.
* I harvested several small, overwintered parsnips (nothing to write home about), a small carrot and 4 small, but decently sized radishes. I planted more things in the spaces they vacated.
* Continue to add compost and rabbit poo to the beds.
* To prevent bugs, I need to cover the rabbit poo while it's in the trays. I've been grabbing a handful of wood ash from the firepit each day and sprinkling it over the trays. No more bugs. The wood ash is also good for the garden beds, so it is a perfect thing to add. As we continue to cut grass this season, I'll let it dry a couple days, then rake and pile it near the rabbit hutches to use. In winter, I'll try to have more leaves available to use. If I run out, the plan is to shred newspaper.
This doe, still unnamed, is fiesty. She clawed me up pretty
bad when I tried to handle her. Her quick growth will
hopefully make up for her lack of social graces.
* I brought home my does. I found a local farm (a little over an hour away) that was selling pure-bred New Zealand rabbits. I bought two, each from a different mother to be able to keep as much genetic diversity in play as possible. Both litters were kindled on the same day. I got first choice on the rabbits, and I think I chose well. I chose the largest doe of all of them; she's huge. The other I chose was in the largest half of the does, and she was one of the most docile. I'm going to have to do a major amount of cuddling with the other doe to calm her down a bit so it's easier to work with her. Both of the girls are a lot more uptight than Frank (the buck), which makes sense. I bought the does from a farmer, whereas Frank came from a backyard situation and was probably cuddled by a lot of kids. I'm very excited to get started on this new venture.
* I harvest weeds daily to feed to the rabbits. Frank is now eating a huge amount of dark greens. I'm starting the girls out with a lower level and I'll build them up like I did for Frank. This will save me a lot of money on food while increasing my self-sufficiency.

* We had a couple leftover stuffed peppers from last week, so one day I heated those up, added some salsa and sour cream to moisten them. I made a couple of quesadillas. Satisfactory lunch and super frugal.
* I made pop tarts one morning for breakfast. I made Smores (marshmallow creme, crumbled graham crackers, chocolate chips and sprinkled with smoked sugar for a bit of campfire) and orange curd. The orange curd pop tarts were wonderful, perfect for me, although Trucker thought they needed a little something more. They were very understated, but I liked that. I don't think most people would love it as much as I do, but that's okay. I re-rolled my scraps to make more pop tarts that weren't quite as good, but were still decent.
* I made homemade pizza. We had run out of pepperoni, so I tried using a tiny bit of salvage-grocer beef jerky ($.50/worth). While I wouldn't do this on a regular basis, it wasn't too bad. I also added black olives and pickled jalapenos.

* Went on a couple of cheap coffee dates.
* We went to a free concert at a local theatre. We stopped at their turn-of-the-century style bar for a cocktail. The drinks were a bit pricey (for us), but in all, we spent $18 for a couple drinks and a concert, making it a cheap date.
* I got to spend a whole evening with one of my dearest friends. We visited her father (see below), went out to eat at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican place ($6 for perfect al pastor tacos), walked around a Half Price Books (I didn't buy anything) and then hung out at my place and talked.

* I make sure I go outside every day. Since I'm not working so much anymore, I am really enjoying getting the chance to be outside. I'd forgotten how pretty the sky is!

* I bought new underthings on clearance using a coupon for an additional 30% off.

Waste Reduction:
* Composted weird things.

* I worked over a half hour on the one day I worked this week.
* I packed a lunch of leftovers for the day I worked.
* Trucker brought home a 5 gallon bucket of coffee grounds for my garden.
* Trucker brought home a bag of goodies from his job.

* I continue to go out exercising at least once a day, sometimes 2-3 times. These are shorter bursts, 15-30 minutes usually, but are adding up to a fair amount of exercise.

* Because of the holiday, I wasn't able to work my Monday shift, so I lost out on some pay.
* Family emergency.

* My neighbor saw me working out in the garden and brought me some perennials he had divided from his garden.
* I mowed the neighbor's lawn. She is ill and currently lives across the neighborhood with family. The grass had grown to be 3 feet tall and it's obvious no one is there. It's had some issues because it looks so painfully vacant, so I decided to take care of the yard so it looked a little less abandoned.
* My friend and I went to visit her father, who is a gardener. He shared some great tips with me. He sent me home with a huge bag of lettuce, kale and spinach and a bag of heirloom lettuce seeds.
How was your week?
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