23 May 2016

Jack of all trades or homesteader?

Yesterday I gave my neighbor a small pot of delphiniums that I had grown this spring. She was so suprised and called me a jack of all trades. At the time I laughed and said 'not really', but then I went home and really starting thinking about it. 

I’m a homesteader which at it’s core is to be a jack of all trades. So you learn to do what is needed in each season as it’s needed. 
I grow my own vegetables, fruits, herbs and I nourish my sense of beautiy with homegrown, usually perennial, flowers. 
She gives me excess bulbs or overgrowth from her garden all the time. (She’s been living here for over 20 years and has the most beautiful yard!) So, when I grew flowers this year, from seed I decided to pot one up and give it to her. Maybe she was suprised that I grew it from seed, or that I thought of her, I’m not really sure. But the thing that stuck with me is that as a homesteader you learn so many more skills than you would being a commercial farmer of, say only corn or soy. 
Your washer is broken? Well, you could call someone to look at it or you could go get a how to repair washers or a plumbing book from the library or look it up online and do it yourself. I can’t see paying someone to come out and fix it when I have all the tools and resources to fix it myself. As a married couple, DH and I split up the tasks based on what we like to do around the homestead, and of course what we have time for also. He likes to tinker so he usually fixes the washer and those things. Just last week he moved our washer drain hose from the draining into the utility sink to going directly into the drain line. Once he had the right tools and parts it was easy. He also does the electrical, which I wouldn’t touch anyways, and has plans to move our gutter system soon so that the ice slick won’t be right on the walkway in the winter and we will be able to utilize some rain barrels in the summertime. He helps me engineer new buildings and with getting them up. He does so much around here and I don’t get to brag on him very often, but he is really a crucial member of our homestead. Especially since it’s just the two of us right now. 
I on the other hand like to garden for, as I said above, vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers and I’m really into the perennial vegetable garden right now. (I’ll do another post on that later.) 
I also do most of the cooking, baking and cleaning. Not that he doesn’t help, but I usually have the time to complete these chores. 
I like to sew and quilt to ensure the warmth of my family and I do a fair bet of mending on our clothing so that we can get the most use out of it. 
I really love raising animals and getting new animals or birthing new ones on the homestead is the highlight of my day. I try to give them the best lives that I can so that when the day comes that they die, I know they lived well. 
I also am the one butchering our animals. DH is slightly interested in this and will watch or hold something, like a knife or a bowl, for me. But, he’s not going to go doing it all on his own anytime soon I don’t think. He did assist with deer and hog skinning and cleaning when we were at my Mom’s house in SC. He is more fascinated by the larger animals that the small ones that I am doing right now. 
Homesteading, by it’s very nature is to be a jack of all trades. And I’m so glad that I read fast and absorb the knowledge of my forefathers so that I can continue on in the human tradition of caring for my family as much as I can on the homestead. 

20 May 2016

New boots.

Its almost spring here in Minnesota!!

That means its time for me to get my spring capsule wardrobe out. 
In the fall I talked about buying some grey boots. I ordered them (all the way from England.) and they were too tight. I was irritated, to say the least. I sent them back trying to get an exchange but I had to pay to send them to them and then they wanted me to pay to ship the next size to me. Umm... No. By this time I'm in for too much money. They refunded my money(except for the money I spent sending them back.) 
So, I had been looking for another pair of boots. I decided if I bought grey I would be the grey woman. Too much! 
I went to take my black malibrans to the fluevog store so they could take them to the specialty cobbler. And to have my purse cleaned. When I went to pick them up I looked at what they had available. I kinda wanted some mint shoes but they didnt have any. I saw these brown boots and tried them on. They were a bit snug, but the guy at the store said that they loose up a lot after a few wears. (He was right.) 
Since I was looking for a pair of boots that were above my ankles, did not have zippers up the sides and were leather. Do you know how hard that is to find?? Really hard...

I got 3 different colors of laces when I bought them. The aqua/mint matches my purse. Its in my spring capsule as well. Im not sure how often I am going to remember to switch the laces though. I wore them with the mint laces first and I just changed them to the light brown ones for the rest of spring. 

Well what do you think of my addittions to my capsule? Do you do a capsule? Leave a comment to your blog if you do, Id love to see it!

*Update*-I bought these in March 2016. When I polished them they got a little bit darker, but I still really love them. I have put them away fro the season because I'm barefoot most of the time in the summer. 

06 May 2016

Zero Waste Month #2-April

Goal #1-Switch every family member over to using reusable bags

Goal Obtained.

(I have stopped using the plastic bags in small garbage cans around the house. I've taken most of the cans away as well. DH still wants the one in the bathroom. I need to address this soon. He is also  addicted to cotton swabs and I don't know what to do with them. Are they compostable? Should they be? I rarely use these at all and since I buy them in the 500 count package and he uses 2 each time he showers that's 30X2=60 a month X 12 months= 240 a year. So a box should last him almost 2 years. Should I worry about this at all? The packaging is recyclable in my area and the paper insert is compostable. Yet, I feel bad for sending all those little swabs to the landfill.)

I'm composting all the tissue paper. I was putting it down the toilet, but after a talk with DH on how they might be ruining our septic tank, I stopped.

Goal #2- Stop using the plastic bags in the produce section.

Goal Obtained. 

*Side Note* I'm REALLY annoyed when I see people putting their bananas in a plastic bag. Do they not realize that it comes in a carrying case?

Goal #3 Stop junk from coming into the house

I started using the paper karma app. But, it only let me do so many requests before I had to sign up for something to keep requesting. So, I uninstalled that. I am now calling each company (as Be a Johnson suggests in her book-Zero Waste Home.) and it's going pretty well so far. 
I was bummed that I got a paper copy of the town yellow pages this month though. Not sure what to do with it yet...
This is a tough one because I can't seem to get OTHER people to stop sending me things. 

Goal #4 Compost all paper that does come into the house.

Goal Obtained. All paper (mostly junk mail) that came into the house has been shredded and added to the compost pile. 

(include a picture of the compost pile here)

Goal #5 Shop at the Co-op in town for bulk items

Goal Obtained.  I also found that my local grocery store has a small bulk area for nuts, oats and some candies. I've used this a few times, although I'm staying away from the wrapped candies. 

Goal #6 Switch to "ReUsies" instead of plastic storage bags. 

Goal Obtained.

I'm using the plastic reuses for the opened cheese (sadly in plastic...) and for taking things to work (for DH)
The freezer we are putting things in jars or glass containers. I have a couple ice cream freezer things I bought and I put soup in these sometimes also. (Overtime DH sees them he thinks they have chili in them since I did that the first time...Weird-o)

What are we going to use in the freezer now? New goal #12?

Goal #7 Stop using disposable head razors.

No Change.
Still using my epilator though.

Goal #8 Get more serious about composting.

Goal Obtained.

I probably could have marked this one as obtained last month, but I wanted to keep tabs on my compost things for one more month to make sure that it had really stuck to compost those other things and get them out there. Things that most people don't think about that I'm composting are hair (mine and the pets), nail clippings (again, mine and the pets), paper from the butchers (I talked to them and there is no plastic on it-only paper. I make sure to rinse it out real good so there is no blood or meat scraps on it when I send it out to the compost pile though.), shredded paper, and paper seed packets. And the tissues I mentioned above.

I'm considering composting the cat poop as well in a separate space. new goal #13?

 Goal #9 Switch to using handkerchiefs instead of tissue.

No Change.
I am composting the tissues I am using. Still have 5 4 boxes left.

Goal #10 Stop my trash service.

Still not feasible yet.
This may never be feasible for use because I cannot find a drop off recycle place in our area.

Lots of boxes went to be recycled this month because I ordered bee hives. But I requested recyclable packaging and they actually put all paper in the box, no plastic at all. I'm considering saving it for wrapping paper to get one more use out of it before it gets recycled.
Our usual bag of recycling went out as well and one bag of trash, that wasn't even all the way full! I'm feeling excited about it. :)
The waste from the shop was a little disheartening though. A big trashcan full of random stuff to go. I tried to sort through it, but not much of it was recyclable. Although, this took 4 months to fill, so I should feel pretty good about that though.
The second recycle day was just one bag of stuff. After I got rid of the things that were hanging around it felt lighter and easier to deal with here.

I am thinking about going from the large trash can to a smaller one. It's taking us a month (or more) to fill up a big bag for the trash. Nothing in it stinks since all of that is being composted now, so it could sit there I suppose.

Goal #11 Make our own bread from scratch. 

DH's bread!! I'm trying to do sourdough as well. 
I only bought 2 bags of bread this month from the store.
I started up a sourdough starter this month. Hopefully I can keep it going. I have to look for some more recipes for things. I have a good muffin recipe I got from a friend.  Do you have any you would like to share?

Goal #12 Replace freezer bags with jars.

This is a small thing, but I just have to remember to do it. I do have a few freezer bags left in the house and I need to do something with them. But, now that I'm not using them I don't know what to do with them...

Goal #13 Compost cat poop in a separate area

Most of my trash is cat poop. I was putting the cat poop in plastic bags and taking it to the trashcan. When I started getting serious about zero waste I was doing pretty well with just 2 bags of trash a month and 4 grocery bags of cat poo. Now I'm down to 1 bag of trash a month and 4 bags of cat poo. If I could compost that I'd not have to worry about the trash can that often. 

I am working on switching my kitties to a compostable litter. I am keeping it in an old cat litter bucket, with a lid to contain the smell.  The plan is to take that out into the big yard and dig a hole and let it compost in one area at a time. Maybe I can amend the soil with all the cat poo. I just can't put it around things that we are going to eat so it just go out into the front yard that is mostly sand. It doesn't grow too much out there anyways. It needs all the help it can get! 

03 May 2016

Buy Nothing Month Review

At the start of April I posted about how we are trying to pay off our mortgage faster.

Chronicle of how the days went for us. It seems like we spend money every day, or discuss future purchases anyways. We need to be more discerning in how we are spending our money. This may be funny to read or just monotonous to you. Either way, I'm trying to be accountable here.

1. We started out on a Friday. DH was off work and he had been discussing an auction online (not eBay) that he was interested in bidding on in March. He made his bids in March and if he wins then we will pick them up and pay for them. We will see how that goes, but it's all stuff that would have been really expensive to buy new anyways. He put in the max bids that we were willing to pay at the end of March. We also tried to make sure that each of us knew the rules for this month of no spending. We decided that money on gift cards held would not count since that money was already spent.(I have about $70 for HD) We both have $105 of spending money, but once that is gone there is no more. (Also, I'm in the hole with my spending already but about $110, so I really shouldn't spend anything at all anyways. But, I do have a few things I know I will spend $5 on this month for quilting meetings.)

2. Today some friends came over to visit and help up put up the garage door openers I bought for DH at a garage sale last year. It was so kind of him to offer to help. The friend is an electrician and I do NOT do anything with electrical work on the farm. (I'm scared of it and I've been shocked too many times already now.) He also offered us some shelving that they are discarding from his work-for FREE!! Awesome...now we just have to watch those auction bids to see how many we are going to end up with. It's a good thing we have 2 garages I guess.

3. Today is Sunday. We don't usually have problems with spending money on Sundays. So, it was nice and restful for us. Or so I thought... until I asked DH what he was struggling with. He said he was making a to-do list and a lot of the things on the list need supplies to finish the jobs. He wants to finish these things, but doesn't want to spend the money. So, I guess it's safe to say I had a relaxing day...

4. DH talked about changing the plumbing situation in the laundry room. He said it would only cost $15. But, it's working fine right now so... I vetoed this for this month. I think he is keeping a list of all the things he wants to do in May and June now. LOL. We also talked about what we are doing for the chicken run we are building. We have some materials that we are going to use. I may not finish it this month, but we will get a good start on it.

5. Auction was checked and we are only winning about $45 worth of things now. We lost all the bids on the shelving. YAY!! (Isn't that weird to say we are happy to have lost it??) That doesn't seem so bad. I wanted to go to lunch with the Bible study ladies, but I resisted the urge and came back home to have lunch with my DH. We had leftover soup and I used up some pieces of veggies that went into a lovely salad. :)
Then I went to the co-op and bought groceries(on budget), went to pick up my rotary cutter and bought $20 of fabric, spent $12 on bee supplies and $2.50 at the bee meeting on raffles. I'd call the second half of this day a fail. But, Im going on. Tomorrow is a new day. Money spent-$34.50

6. Today I was dreaming of buying silicone hair ties. The ones I'm using stretch out so fast it seems. But, I use them multiple times a day, just about every day. What's the life of a hair tie anyways??
I went to pick up my chicks at the post office. We went to the gym and watched disc 3 of season 5 of  walking dead on DVD on loan from the library.

7. Worked on decluttering and sewing. I didn't spend any money today.

8. Worked inside since it snowed. I didn't spend any money today. I had a sewing snow day.

9. I bought cat and dog food (necessary and on budget) and some groceries for us, also on budget. I did get the chicken dinner deal at cub. I opted for the larger one so we could eat more out of it than just once. Their fried chicken is just SO good. It's kind of a treat for us since we can't (won't) go out and this is still technically grocery money. (Little bit more trash that I wanted with this though...)

10. Bought nothing. DH had to work a 12hr shift again, so I went to church and spent time at my neighbors house just chatting. It was a good day.

11. Laundry day. It's so nice out that I put my clothes on the line, therefore using less electrical power and saving money in the process. Did you know that your dryer is probably the most energy using thing in your house?

12.Took homemade lemon poppy seed bread to my ladies bible study. They loved it. No money spent.

13. I did a lot of gardening today. I also went to HD and took some things back that I didn't need for the entry way re-do. I picked up some things, but I used my store credit card. Officially I spent no money. In fact I still have money on that store credit card.

14. I tilled up more of the garden. I planted my honey berry plants, bleeding heat, some of my flower seeds for the bees, lettuce, cabbage and some onions. I did a lot of work, but I was satisfied with everything and that I got plants and didn't spend any (more) money on them. I had a beer(It was already in the fridge.) and just relaxed over looking my homestead.

15. It was a friend's birthday so we went out to eat. I spent $12. Then she wanted to go garage sale hopping and to a few antique stores. In most of the stores I would pick something up that I wanted to have and carry it around for awhile. Then I reminded myself that I wasn't trying to spend money and I would put it back. I faltered when I saw a mirror that I wanted for my entry way re-do. I did not buy it, but I took a picture and came home to show my DH. He was not impressed with the fact that I wanted to buy it, but he was that I didn't. I did get a $10 baby gate for our dogs at a garage sale.
Money spent: $22

16.I did more work in the garden today. I planted what was left of what I didn't get to on Thursday. Went over to my neighbor's house and talked with her for a few hours. We both had an enjoyable time. No money spent at all. :)

17.Went to church today. The sermon was about generosity. Funny that. Here I am doing a no spending month and we are learning about how God loves a cheerful giver. I try to be a cheerful giver, but sometimes I'm not. Hey-I'm not perfect. But, I want to be able to give more of my time, talents and money with a glad heart.

18.Today  I worked around the homestead on things that have needed doing for awhile. I'm finding that as I spend less money I have more time to devote to projects that I've already got going. I'm really enjoying that aspect of it! I went to a friends to help her with installing her bees. It was fun. We talked for awhile at her place and she plans to come over tomorrow to watch me open my hive.

19.Went to Ladies's bible study and then to lunch with some friends. They wanted to go shopping after, but I didn't buy anything except some batteries for the dogs collar and that was on the budgeted items list. Then another friend came over and we opened my bee hives. WE walked around the homestead and she looked at all the things I've been doing. We talked for a good long time as well. I had a wonderful day, and only spent money on lunch out.  Money spent: $12

20.Today was DH's birthday!! I had bought his presents months previous and so I didn't need to spend money on that. I reused some gift bags and paper to wrap them so no trash and no spend there. I made him a fancy biscuit sandwich for breakfast and he went to sleep. (He had just got done with night shift so when he got up we went out!!) We went out to celebrate DH's birthday at our favorite Indian Restaurant and then to a bar that does Karaoke. We went there to do karaoke, but we bought a few beers. Money spent: $45.

21.We stayed home and ate our leftovers and moved trees and planted the trees that I ordered in March. It was a beautiful day and I was busy planning and watching the weather.

22.Again stayed home and planted things...Mostly the strawberry plants that I ordered.

23. Today was tough. I went to the grocery store to get the cake and the food for the party? Does this count for buy nothing? I knew I would be doing this, so...I tried to plan accordingly. I'm going to be angry when we look back on the month and realized we've spent more in April than other months...

24. HA HA!! Fooled him... I made DH think that Wednesday was his only birthday celebration. I threw a surprise birthday get together for him after church on Sunday. Time spent with friends is really the best birthday/anniversary celebrations in our opinion. So, he really enjoyed this!
He was so touched that so many people showed up. If you were one of them-THANK YOU!!

25. I still had strawberry plants to plant, but it rained really hard all day and was a bit cold. So, I stayed in a sewed a dress. Then I went to ladies Pinterest party at church and then to book club.Money spent:$10

26. Went to the last Ladies Bible study group, we had a brunch. It was nice. I went out with some ladies shopping. It was fun. I did spent some money, but it was for things that were previously discussed with DH. So, it was budgeted. I didn't think that I would even go out to get these things, but since some of my friends wanted to check out the new hobby lobby I figured they might have some things there that I could use. We re did the entry way in our house. I'm still looking for a few pieces to put in there and I will be doing a separate post about it later.

27. Didn't do much today, it rained so I sewed a lot.

28.I spent $35 at the quilt store. They have a "birthday sale" and I won a gift card. It had to be used that day. I got $100 or more worth of fabric, but I was a little disappointed in myself today. And I was SO close to the end. Money Spent:$35

29. Did regular chores and we had 3 baby bunnies arrive today!!

30.We stayed home and planted more things in the yard and gardens. It was the most enjoyable day! We talked about how we felt moving forward into May and things that we noticed that we needed/wanted to buy. We planned a big trip to Home Depot.

All totaled up I spent $158.50. I know you're probably thinking WOW, that's a lot of money. But, it's not too bad for me. I usually spend that much with one shopping trip to Home Depot. (They get SO much of our money right now...) This will come out of my personal money. I got $105 this month so I'm over by $53.50. So, I just can't spend as much in May on personal things. I plan to be busy with my garden and all the new life that is coming, or has come already, to our homestead.

Thanks for keeping me accountable in this month of 'No Spend.' I know it's not a true no spend month, because I did spend money, but it has taught me quite a lot about myself. Mostly, I've learned to think more about what I think I want or need in my life to be happy. We require so little to be truly content in our lives. Our basic needs are met and we need nothing else in our lives.

Have you done a 'No Spend' month? How did it go? Would you consider doing one? I'd love to hear about it if you decide to do one.

Here is another blog about it to get you started if you are interested.