Mar 092017
 


March is here, and it’s bringing you the chance to get a $5 bonus from Swagbucks! Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, or PayPal cash.

There is no need to download a tool bar or tracking software onto your computer.  Instead, you can earn SB by doing things you might already be doing through other web sites.  Last month I earned 38 SB from searching the web, 182 SB by watching videos on my phone, and 491 SB by looking through special offers (including searching for insurance).

I have found that setting specific goals helps me earn more online.  Knowing I will be needing specific books in the fall, or am wanting to try growing a dwarf pear tree, allows me to plan ahead.  Instead of working toward an ambiguous goal, which is like running a race that never ends, I can see the finish line. As my high school coach used to say, “Run through the finish line.”

To help you reach your goals even quicker, Swagbucks is offering a $5 bonus for new users!

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a $5 bonus! Here’s how:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before 4/1/17. You’ll get a $3 (300 SB) bonus for it!

3. If you spend at least $25 through Swagbucks Shop* you’ll get another $2 (200 SB) bonus on top of the cash back you’ll get from shopping. If you have some shopping to do online, just go to Swagbucks first and visit the store through them. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but you’ll get SB points for every dollar you spend (on top of the bonus)!

That’s it. It’s super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I’ve earned 1256 SB last month.  This amount translates into a little over $12 toward school supplies for next year, flower bulbs for our new yard (once we have one), a bird bath for the new front yard (again, once we have one), or other items on my goals list.

*You must receive your shopping SB before May 1st

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for helping support this blog.

Mar 082017
 

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you click on them and purchase something I will receive a small portion, at no extra charge to you.  Thank you for helping support this blog.

Living in Reality with smokey border

The most important conclusion I came to, though, was this – those things take time.  Time each day/week to be a good steward of what we are given.  Time to grow and mature, to produce fruits of our labor. (from Part 1)

George was very disappointed that we were not going to be able to get a cow and a horse.  I tired to explain it to him, to no avail.  Finally I asked him, “Would you rather have a cow, or get to see Grandma?  You can’t have both.”  He decided we could take the cow with us when we went to visit.  You have to love the simplicity of young minds.

Then I started to wonder, how it was that I grew up in an area where having those things (several acres of land, living away from town, etc.) were normal, yet people still seemed to have a great life.  That is when I came to a few other realizations.

  1. The area I grew up in contained mostly families whose relatives also lived there.  Several generations of them in fact.  Most of my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents live/d in that county.  I can take you to 4 or 5 different cemeteries, some so old they no longer bury people there, and show you distant relatives who are buried there.  I grew up going to Grandma’s for Sunday dinner after church.  In other words, family was close by.  You did not need to travel to see them.  We live hours away from family; traveling for days at each holiday is our normal.
  2. People did not move often.  And if they did move, it might mean moving 10 miles away.  Not states away. With each move, it means starting over again.  Starting over takes time and work, as well as adjusting to new microclimates or growing zones.
  3. It was not uncommon of people would drive 30 minutes – 1+ hour one way for work.  I am not talking through traffic driving, but country driving where 1 minute = about 1 mile. It would take you at least more than 30 minutes to drive across the county on the main state road, which was probably the only straight road in the county. These miles usually took them past stores, gas stations, etc, which they would stop at on the way home. Our reality is that the kids go to bed early, 7-7:30.  If they miss this for 2 nights in a row, the next day is shot.  We can not keep them up late in order to see Dad after work if we want to have any sort of calm home life.
  4. Everyone understood “working in the yard” really might take you all day Saturday.  Especially after the kids’ morning sports activities or the afternoon ball game. Or the Saturday morning trip to town to “haul trash”, go to the bank, and do other errands. There are also no HOAs.  If you miss a week of mowing, or your car has been sitting for too long in one spot in your yard, no one is going to say much.  Well, your mom or grandmother might … :)
  5. People did not go to museums, unless they made a full day of it, driving the 1-1.5 to get there.  However, it was usually a special event, not a common event. Yet, they would go play in the creek, go hunting, swimming in an actual lake, watch the river flood each spring, listen to the band at the local restaurant/festival, hear about how “grandpa grew up down there”, etc.  It may not be in a building, but we were exposed to various enrichment activities.
  6. A farmer’s market was not a part of the culture.  They tried.  It never quite took off.  However, I know who makes maple syrup, who has honey bees, who grows Christmas trees, who has apple for sale at the local volunteer firemen’s spring event, who to go to for quilting your quilt top, where an old farmstead used to be but now is a large plot of daffodils each spring, etc.  

In general, life is different there.  The pace is different.  Time is on a different speed.  That is not a good or bad thing, it just is. 

(Honestly, if I had not married my husband, I would have gone back there to live.  That was my plan till the end of college, after all. I love him more than my plans, though. Hence I am not blogging from there.)

In case I am giving a picture that is not a full one, let me give the disclaimer: not everyone there ‘lives in the country’.  There are town folks, too. Or people like my one set of grandparents who lived about 10 minutes outside of town on a small farm, down a small county road which had no lines or shoulders. Yet about 90% of the county was a rural setting.

And that is not where we are living right now.

We live in a place that is 80-90% urban/suburban; a place where subdivisions vastly out rank farms. Due to recent population growth, there are still small farms sprinkled throughout town and a lot of people who did not grow up around here.

Where we are living is most likely not the place we will be in 10, 15, 20 years.

Unless we have a million dollars, are willing to be in a school district which can not necessarily address some of the needs George has, or want to see my husband less than we already do, our housing options are not the same as where I grew up.

This also goes to show why I am not in a rush to fulfill that dream of 40 acres and maple syrup right now.  If I were to invest 10 years of my time and labor, I may not be here to see the result of that work.

As a side note, time is all relative.  When we first were married, I was used to “tree time”, where 60 years is fast and 80-100 is when things finally start moving.  My husband thought 6 months was fast and 5 was super long.  It took us a while to get our clocks aligned. Even now, I feel like he is on fast time and I am on slow time.

That does not mean I have to give up everything.  Only that it will look different.

diy closet system

… to be continued.

 

 

Mar 072017
 

“Success With Container Gardening is a free PDF guide available exclusively on Craftsy, featuring 17 pages packed with tutorials, tips and tricks from expert gardener Meredith Skyer.”

This 17 page guide to container gardening is currently free.  This price may not last forever, so take advantage of it while it is here.

Mar 052017
 

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you purchase something I will receive a small portion, at no extra charge to you.  Thank you for helping support this blog.

Living in Reality with smokey border

I have been doing a lot of thinking and contemplating as of late.  While I have not come to a lot of conclusions, I have begun to realized that some of the things I desire in life do not line up with reality at this present time.

That is hard to accept.

I want it all, and I want it now!

Or, at least, that is how it seems I am supposed to be feeling and acting.

How I am feeling is … unsure.  There have been a lot of changes over the past year which have left me feeling out of sorts.

(As I look back through posts, it seems I have left out a lot of things which happened during this past year, in addition to my husband’s new job and our move – finishing up a home addition and remodel that took 2 years; my husband finishing up his MBA, while also working full time; a foster child coming and going; the kids’ official ADHD diagnoses; the passing of someone from my past and the loss of a friend’s child; plus more I have forgotten about.)

The current decision in front of us has to do with finding a more permanent housing situation.  Currently we are renting, allowing us time to get to know the area.  While we could stay here past our lease, it would mean extra money each month going toward rent.  This is not a bad situation in the short term, though not something we want to continue in the long term.

So, how do I adjust my desires of a home (perceived or real) with the reality of life at this time?

Desires

I would LOVE to have 40 acres with trees to make maple syrup and invest in timber, fields for the kids to run through, space for chickens and bees and dogs, and area to dedicate to an orchard, and room to put in a large (~1 acre) raised bed garden.  I greatly desire a house with a front porch (like our last home) where we can sit on the porch swing at night, watching the sun set and the kids play in the yard.

A kitchen with an island to mix up yummy creations with the kids would also be great. As would a basement and a whole house fan, for those days when it is too nice to rely on processed air to keep you cool.

A external wood stove to heat with and solar panels to help lower the cost of energy would also make it on my list. As would a cat to help with the small critters I would preferably not have around the place.

child shredding zucchini in kitchen

Reality
  • I grew up in the country, where mowing the grass took an hour or two on the riding lawn mower, and that was for a yard which was only an acre or two in size. We currently do not own a riding lawn mower.  Yes, we could purchase one.  Also, using our current push mower on a smaller yard might take just as long.
  • Dad used the tractor and brush hog to clear the brush away from the edges once a year or so.  We have neither of those pieces of equipment.
  • My parents ended up blocking the whole house fan (we called it an “attic fan”) because it was a source of heat loss in the winter.
  • My husband is allergic to cats. We could have an outdoor cat, though there is no guarantee it would stay around our place.
  • My husband’s allergies also make him sensitive to something as simple as a burning candle.  Hence any wood stove for heating would have to be an external unit.  Not a bad thing, but yet an extra cost if it is not already installed.
  • While I own chain saw chaps, we do not own a chain saw. So, again, another purchase or having to buy already split wood from someone.
  • We do not live near family. If we had chickens and dogs, let alone other animals, we would not be able to travel as much.  Whether it would be to see family or take a weekend away, we would have to find someone to come take care of our animals.
  • A basement, while a nice feature, does not work well in the area where we currently live.  It seems to have something to do with the soils and wet basements in the older homes leading to mold.  I have yet to see a house with a basement in the town where we currently live. Though, there is an abundance of storm shelters, as severe storms are a part of life.
  • I have lived the past 6 years without a kitchen island.  The kids still have learned to cook and bake.  It is not a necessity.

The most important conclusion I came to, though, was this – those things take time.  Time each day/week to be a good steward of what we are given.  Time to grow and mature, to produce fruits of our labor.

40 acres is not a part of our reality at this time.  Perhaps a smaller piece of land, but not 40 acres.

… to be continued

5-love-languages-of-children

 

 

Mar 032017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

Growing Through Reading

The coffee is already made, Jack is still asleep, George is off to school … sounds like the perfect time to catch up on some reading.  Sounds like the perfect time, but it is not.  Alas, we have an appointment over the lunch hour, so must spend time on other activities this morning.

Jack tried to convince me, yesterday, this meant we had no time for school today.  He tried. And failed.  Much to his disappointment.  “This is one benefit of home schooling, Jack.  We can make it work with whatever our day brings.”

I highly doubt he sees this as very  high on his list of reasons he likes being schooled at home.

Before I had a Kindle I was able to read ebooks on my computer.  If you are wanting to do the same, go here to download the free application.

After spending years gardening in various ways, assuming I knew it all, I have come to realized the error of my ways.  I have wasted money and time trying to recreate the wheel.  Yes, the lessons stuck, but so does the memory of frustration and disappointment when things were not working.

Spending a few hours reading about other’s experiences gardening, their lessons learned, both good and bad, can pay off in big ways.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel.

Here are three books, all with high ranking reviews, which seems to fit the motto – “learn from those who have gone before you.”

Compact Farms: 15 Proven Plans for Market Farms on 5 Acres or Less; Includes Detailed Farm Layouts for Productivity and Efficiency has 4.3 stars and is currently a #1 Best Seller.  The reviews, both in print versions and ebook versions, mention the great photos and plans laid out in the book.

“Small is beautiful, and these 15 real farm plans show that small-scale farmers can have big-time success. Compact Farms is an illustrated guide for anyone dreaming of starting, expanding, or perfecting a profitable farming enterprise on five acres or less.”

Straw Bale Gardens Complete: Breakthrough Vegetable Gardening Method – All-New Information On: Urban & Small Spaces, Organics, Saving Water – Make Your Own Bales With or Without Straw has 710 reviews and rated at 4.7 stars.  I have not personally gardened this way, but have seen a good friend of mine use this method with success.  

I can see where this method would be useful in overcoming various challenges – slugs, wet areas, limited water supply, poor soils, etc.  It is one method of gardening I plan to research more and possibly may utilize this year.

Though it says it is for “tight urban settings” at least one reviewer used it on a larger rural garden where the soils were extremely poor, and reaped great results.

“Straw Bale Gardens Complete contains all of the original information that has set the gardening world on fire. But it also goes much deeper, with nearly 50 pages of all-new advice and photos on subjects such as growing in a tight urban setting, making your straw bale garden completely organic, and using new fertilizers and conditioning products.”

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd Edition: Discover Ed’s High-Yield W-O-R-D System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil has a rating of 4.8 stars and 508 reviews.  

This sounds like a great overall reference book for your garden.  The author is from Vermont and has a large (2,000 sq ft) garden.

“Everything you loved about the first edition of The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible is still here: friendly, accessible language; full-color photography; comprehensive vegetable specific information in the A-to-Z section; ahead-of-its-time commitment to organic methods; and much more.”

Tip: Don’t forget you can sign up for Swagbucks to earn free gift cards to use on deals on Amazon.

Feb 282017
 

 

Regular turning of your compost pile is one of those garden jobs that often is forgotten.  Turning your pile over does several things:

  1. Mixes the new items you have added to your pile with your older items.
  2. Allows air to get to items that may previously have not had it.
  3. Discourages pesky insects (gnats, flies, mosquitoes, etc.) from gathering and laying eggs by covering food scraps not yet decomposed. This is only an issue if your pile is near where people will be, and therefore they will be pesky.
  4. Speeds up the decomposition of your pile.  In other words, you will have compost that you can use faster.  (This is my favorite reason.)

If you are in a cooler climate, or just a down right cold area, you may have to wait till a warmer day. This is especially true if your pile is under snow or otherwise unable to be worked.

Feb 272017
 

mason jars

After spending all the time canning produce from your garden or elsewhere, the last thing you want to happen is to have jar go bad and not realize it till you “smell something funky” when you go to your pantry.

Take a few minutes to look over the jars you have.

Are they all still sealed?

Do any need to be wiped down?  If so, do it now before you forget.

If any have gone bad, dump the contents and sanitize the jars.  Check for chips before storing them till they are needed again.

Feb 132017
 

Chickens in Pen 2

I am continuing to go through draft posts, things I had started and not finished.  While this is a few year old, the topic is as relevant today as it was then … well, except I do not live in the same area any more … I may have to make contentions with others and start my own Farm Market Swap this year.

Last week my friend sent me an inviataion for this year’s Farm Market Swap.  Now to come up with ideas of what to take.

Last year I was not sure what to expect, so I took several of most things I canned.  Of course I left what we needed to make it through this year.  Turns out I took way too much.  Guess to much is better than not enough.

This year I decided to not take as much stuff.  Instead I will take a bit of two or three things.  To keep it interesting for everyone I am looking for things that are a bit more unusual.

Here are some ideas I have come across:

Chocolate Cherry Sauce (she talks about how this is not a low acid)

Chocolate Raspberry Sauce

Blackberry Syrup

*********************************************************

In the end I made Blackberry Syrup.  I made so much we are still using it on pancakes and waffles.  That is, we are using it once I remember to get out a new jar when the current one is empty.

The Chocolate Raspberry Sauce is something I tried, but chose not to take.  It came out too thick and not raspberry enough for my tastes.

blackberry bushes bloom

When we moved, the idea of doing anything like this seemed like an impossible feat.  What has happened this past week, though, has changed my thinking on this.

Friday, Jack and I joined a group of home schoolers for a party.  While the kids were playing, we mom began talking.

As it turns out, not only have we been blessed to live in an area with other CM home schoolers, but also ladies who like to garden, sew, cook, raise animals ….  by the fall, I think I may be ready to try something like this with these women.  Of course, others are always invited.  The more the merrier.

 

Have you attended something like this before?  What were your experiences?

Feb 092017
 

This post contains affiliate links.  Prices are constantly changing, but these were the prices when I first found them.

Growing Through Reading

Here are 3 ebook deals happening right now, all for under $3 each, to help satisfy your gardening desires. Or maybe to help you begin a new project or learn something new.  Just like plants, our brains and souls need stimulation and nourishment in order to grow.  Reading does this in so many way – fiction or non-fiction, electronically or on paper, in your main language or one you are trying to learn – reading not only  helps you learn new things (or take you to far away places), it also helps your brain grow and strengthen.

While I would love for you to spend hours reading through old post on this site, here are 4 books I think you would prefer. (While these are also available in paper versions for a bit more, the links below are to the ebook versions.)

Square Foot Gardening with Kids: Learn Together: – Gardening basics – Science and math – Water conservation – Self-sufficiency – Healthy eating (All New Square Foot Gardening)

” In Square Foot Gardening with Kids, Mel reveals all of the tips, tricks, and fun projects he has used over the decades in one of his most cherished pursuits: teaching youngsters to build and grow their own kid-sized SFGs.”

Square Foot Gardening was one of the pivoting influences to get me into using raised beds.  While I still mix several various methods in my gardening, it is easy to see the influences this has had.


Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency: DIY Projects to Get Your Self-Reliant Lifestyle Started

Inside are 25 various projects, ones that you do not necessarily need a lot of room for, but which could benefit you.  Personally, I think the cider press looked very useful, something I wish I had done 5 years ago. Now that I have more free brain cells to use, this looks like a good project to do with the kids. (They love to work and build with wood.)

If I am going to grow herbs, it would be nice to be able to dry them … and I am going to need a new compost bin, no matter which home we move into (none seems to have one) ….


Gardening for the Homebrewer: Grow and Process Plants for Making Beer, Wine, Gruit, Cider, Perry, and More

“Learn how to grow, dry, and store fresh hops. Or go off the beaten path and grow everything you need for your first gruit, cider, perry, or fruit wine. Have just a balcony or a windowsill? No problem! A variety of plant recommendations will suit gardeners of all types, even ones with limited space.”

When I was younger, I would admire the shelves of jars, filled with these interesting round things floating on top of liquid.  Later on I realized they were grapes.  Still later (okay, a few decades) I realized that perhaps she was making wine.  Growing up in a fairly teetotaler household, that was the last thing on my mind. 😉

I also had an uncle (same side of the family) who would often brew his own drinks.  I was in awe of how he knew to even do that.  Then I came across books like this one and realized how he knew what to do.  While some of the knowledge was passed down from one generation to the next, or local culture, other bits came from books like this.

Please enjoy responsibly.

Feb 062017
 


Adventures In Gardening yellow flower

This post contains an affiliate links and my honest experience with this particular product.

Taking chances is something gardening is all about.  It is what makes it an adventure.  Even if you never try a new technique or plant, you are taking a chance.  Gardening is not for the faint of heart.  Whenever you plant a flower, spread seeds, add a tree to your yard … you take a chance on the weather cooperating, the soil providing nutrients, deer not eating your plants … well, you get the idea.

During the 2014 spring season, I decided to take a chance on a new gardening product, Roll Out Flowers.  This particular product may not have been new to everyone else, but it was something I had not tried before.  I had heard of making plantable paper with seeds, of using damp paper towels to help spread small seeds evenly in areas, but never had I purchased such a product.  However, the kids were excited to try this and see the results.
front flower bed sunflower packet

The concept was simple, roll out the product and water.  In a given amount of times, flowers were supposed to appear.

As we lived in a place with almost constant breezes or gusts of wind, I added a bit of mulch to the top, helping hold it in place.  Later, more was added as the sun would quickly dry out the material otherwise.

I was tempted to bury it under a thin layer of mulch, but wanted to follow the directions as stated.

front flower bed may 6 2014

front flower bed 2 may 6 2014

The kids were so excited to see what would happen, checking every day to see if there were any new seeds.  Unfortunately, this method did not work for use.  Whether it was due to old seeds (I bought it during the off season) or the sun drying it out too much,  nothing sprouted from this material.  Eventually it was removed from the flower bed and replaced with other traditional seeds.

I have tried the same method with other products, and other flower types, with some success.

Have you tried this product or similar?  What results did you end up getting?