Thursday, December 31, 2009

groceries for under $200/month

The first year of our Urban Pantry Challenge has ended. Personally it was very enlightening. Like being struck with lightening and coming to the realization that I was living in a cloud, firmly believing that I spent on average $100 a month for groceries. Yeah, I know some peeps are delusional about their dress size I'm whacked about our grocery bill. Overall we did good.
I do have one point to get across when you live a challenge like this - it is a constant there is never any down time to NOT think about any opportunity to gather food.

In reviewing my posts I realized I neglected to account for the 1/4 side of beef that I bought in July. Here's da deal - the hanging weight of the cow was 530 lbs. at $1.30 per pound. My portion was $303.30 which includes all the butchering fees ect. for 132 lbs. of beef. The cow was 1/2 Pinzgaver and 1/2 Angus locally raised in near Arcade, New York. Mostly pasture raised on a small family farm. Hormone free although not organically certified.
My butchering list ranged from chuck, rump & shoulder roasts, to t-bone & sirloin steaks, porter house, and beef stew cuts. 50 lbs. of ground beef filled out the order. I asked for two large roasts 7 lbs. or more. One for bartering & one for a holiday family meal.

Next time I won't order ground beef since it is more advantageous to pay $1.30 per pound for a roast than hamburger cut. Locally roasts go for $3.99 per pound. Will scout out a bulk package deal on ground beef since it is by far our most used cut of beef.
Chicken & pork was bought when on sale & repackaged into meal sized portions.
This year we haven't had rabbit since I suspended breeding for the time being.
Venison was obtained last month. While this game meat isn't a fav amoung two of us it is a nice add on. Also venison jerky has a great barter value.
No fish which has a deeper meaning in that we didn't do enough fishing this past year. Sad. Very Very Sad.
Still working on the 100 plus pounds of Winter wheat that a bb brought over in '08. Same for the Rye bought in bulk in 2007. Salt, free from the butcher (sells BBQ lunches leftover from salt potatoes), baking powder bought in bulk. Spices/herbs either grown or bartered for or bought on sale. We generally bake & cook from scratch.
Locally milk has dropped to under $2 a gallon so we have stopped buying milk directly from the farmer @ a savings 50¢. Also by way of a church friend I am able to buy eggs for $3 a flat from time to time. Butter is bought through a co-op as an employee benefit. Kinda a friend has a friend who has a ... this supply is fragile.
As I've blogged about before the biggest return on our gardening effort has been the cold frame planted with salad greens saving us several hundred dollars a year. Now that it is deep Winter and the craving level for fresh greens is high the cold frame is sorely missed. Salad Fixings are back on the grocery list. Should be able to plant the frame in late February early March.
Big changes other than what I wrote about is that we have a veggie meal twice a week now & when I do cook meat it is smaller portions. Also we now have two vegetables for dinner instead of one.

Methods of obtaining & preserving groceries are;

  • bartering- toiletries, paper products, tuna
  • bulk, clearance, co-ops & loss leader sales, no frills stores such as Aldi, Restaurant Supply Stores, co-op with friends, employee only buying ops.
  • canning either free or low cost produce
  • freezing
  • foraging both in urban & rural settings
  • dehydrating
  • gardening
  • gleaning
  • hunting.
Total for 2008-2009 UPC was $1925.19 which averaged out to $160.43 per month.

Hmm, gotta be a way to trim this ?

~~ pelenaka ~~

P.S. a comment lead me to clarify a few points - we don't have small children so there is no speciality foods like chicken nuggets. To tell you the truth though I never really had that problem with my children. While I didn't let them starve I also wasn't their enabler. Green beans got eaten. Momma doesn't run a Dinner.
Other than cooking low fat (no frying) the only other dietary choices we follow are low carb/low sugar. Potatoes are no longer a staple.
There's no issue with gluten or nuts. Don't know what I'd do if there was.

On average everyone only eats 2 meals a day weekdays & Sunday (fellowship coffee after service is considered a lite brunch & Sunday dinner is @ 5 p.m. instead of our usual 6:30). Daughter's generally don't eat breakfast but will grab a glass a milk on the way out the door. Girls are in charge of packing their own lunch with leftovers. I usually have 4 cups of coffee & a slice of bread or small bowl of homemade yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast, 2 cups of coffee for midday & a snack, & then dinner. DH same.
Dinner is our big meal of the day.
Also should note that we eat several times a , month @ church for free. KP duty has it's perks! interesting blog - challenges of living on a food stamp buget without the benefit of bartering, foraging, or gleaning.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Changing up dealers

Lately I have been giving some serious thought to alternative energy suppliers . I had vaguely considered the concept before putting the matter on the back burner until recently, thanks to National Fuel, my local natural gas company. If they hadn’t changed out a perfectly functional meter then I wouldn’t have been forced into action. Well that's not entirely true. I'm sure I would have been spurred to action when my gas rates ate a hole in our finances. We all know how I go .
A few weeks ago there was a message left on our voicemail by National Fuel that the meter needed to be changed out, because the meter reader wasn’t able to record an accurate reading. It was @ that point where the rep from the gas company's voice started trailing off and she mumbled something about water in the dials. Then she mentioned that the meter was installed in 1976 so it was due.
Yeah, made me wonder too. I immediately assumed that our new meter would be a high tech digital version of the gray metal box that was installed. Perhaps National Fuel would install the meter that allows readings from the outside. Thus no more estimated bills because no one was home to let the meter reader in !
So I trek down to the cellar.

Cell & flashlight in hand. No canary.
There on the far foundation wall about two and half feet above the cement floor stood the meter as gray and metal as the day it was installed. No rust, no damage, no dampness, no obscured dials. Just a cobweb and a bit of mortar dust from the foundation on it's shinny gray body.
Ring ring …National Fuel Service Appointments this is Jane how may I help you?
GM Jane, I received a message that my meter needed to be changed out.
Thank you for calling let’s set up a time to do that. It only takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete the procedure. Anytime between …
Jane, ah I’m actually calling you from my cellar … standing in front of the meter. I gotta say that there’s no problem reading the dials. I could tell you the current read right now. This decision to update my meter isn’t due to the low amount of gas that we consume is it ?
Ah no, the reason given was that there was water in the dials. So let’s set up an appointment …
Any chance that the new meter is that type that can be read from the outside of my home Jane?
Ah no … so anytime between the hours for 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. …

LSS it took the guy about 17 minutes to change out my vintage 1976 meter with the updated version that stands a bit higher and more flush with the foundation wall.
Before he disconnected the old meter he had me run the furnace both before and after. He handled the water heater assuring me that he would set it back to the warm setting just above the vacation setting on the dial. He recorded the make and model of the heater along with the info on the furnace. He asked three times about my kitchen range. Gas or Electric ?

He didn’t notice any water in the dial compartment nor water inside either.

For the record the hot water heater circa 2000 is wrapped in an insulation blanket. The water temp is set @ 110. Not as hot as I'd prefer but the lower temp besides conserving gas discourages long showers. In the Summer the heater is lowered to the vacation setting. As I've written before on my posts we've always kept the thermostat down in the low 60's. During the day when I was home alone sleeping I kept it set @ 56 to 58. When the children came home from school then depending on how cold it was outside the thermostat is raised.
Now that our primary heating source is the wood stove the only time the furnace clicks on is when the stove is out like when we're not home. For those periods the furnace is set @ 48 degrees (enough to keep the pipes & family cat from freezing).

Now I have to educated myself on using an alternative natural gas supplier.
Any tips ? What exactly does one look for in an alternative utility supplier ?

Jet Blue is offering 3k bonus miles if I sigh up with an alternative supplier. would be nice to go see family in P.R. soon. Will have to read the fine print on that offer.

New bill came in @ $90 & some change. I'll dig out Dec. 2008 bill to compare.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

into practice

Hope everyone had a good simple Thanksgiving.
DD#3 and I spent the day preparing & then watching both the parade and then a dog show here @ home. DH and DD#2 went hunting. Later on we ate pie by the wood stove and toasted marsh mellows. No traveling, no crowds just us.

$20.52 on Monday at my local Aldi store. Besides purchasing coffee creamer and a few gallons of 2% milk I stocked up on their brand of all purpose flour. It was 15 cents a pound (75 cents / 5 lbs. bag) so I bought 40 lbs. Long term storage plans are to vacuum seal in mason jars.
Thinking I should go back and score another 60 pounds.

Food Budget has been going well the past few months mainly because of our well stocked pantry and the occasional great deal on advertised loss leaders at local stores.
I should clarify that in my definition a great loss leader is usually either meat or sugar a dirt cheap prices without a limitations.
Tops Super markets had Turkey for 29¢ per pound. We're not big on turkey so I didn't buy an extra. Stuffing was made from all that speciality bread that I dehydrated into croutons last Summer and vacuum sealed in jars. That bread was gifted by a friend since it was past it's prime. Vegetables from either pantry shelves or the freezer originally are the bounty of our gardening & gleaning efforts. We were blessed with adbunance of pie pumpkins from our church garden this fall. I have also been experimenting with regular pumpkins gathered from our neighbors who no longer had a need for them after their decorating value had expired.
These varieties have a bland taste so they need an extra bit of some thing some thing to spice the custard up. Maple flavoring has been a big hit so far.

Heads up to anyone who is near a Quality Market grocery store in Western New York. They're expected to close soon so be prepared as this is an excellent opp to score great deals. Aim for staples like baking supplies, canned goods, OTC meds, and items such as foil, freezer bags, and canning lids. Really anything that has a good shelf life like dish soap. Most will be hitting the meat which is okay but IMHO even if you freeze it only has a 6 mos. shelf life. But items like dish soap will hold out far longer. Consider alternative choices. It's been 4 years since I stocked up at a simular store closing (final days discounts of 70%) and to date we still have rice, bread flour, cleansers, and foil among other items.
Make it a point to visit the in store bakery to score deals on their bulk spices and flours such as caraway, poppy, bread flour.
Check expiration dates. Bring an extra person to cart sit as peeps do shop out of any cart perceived to be abandoned even if your only a few feet away. And if your flush with money they can push that 2nd or 3rd cart. Don't bring a purse or bag. You want to be stealth just a cell & method of payment in your pocket. Water bottle, gum, a few cough drops, tissues, tiny bottle of hand sanitizer if you can.
Don't be surprised if they won't take coupons just go with the flow.

This is the 1st time in our marriage that my husband has actively hunted.
While this can be a great way to supplement the family food stores it isn't for everyone. Myself included.
DH & DD#2 came home with venison after hunting on a friend's land last week. I'll let him tell you about his and my daughter's woods running on
his blog. All I need to know is that they came home with meat and a huge smile on their faces. A good time was had by all despite cold toes.

Their endeavors produced the following bounty; Sausage - 15 ½ pounds of Italian. $12.16 for 4 ½ pounds package of pork ground to order. Italian seasoning sausage packet was $2.69 bought at the mega mart. Total cost was 93¢ per pound. Patties were wrapped & frozen.
During down time this Winter I‘ll research sausage making then gather what we‘ll need for next year's hunting season. Besides Italian I’ll like to learn how to make pepperoni, summer, and bratwursts varieties. Also need to come up with a better source for pork.
Venison Roasts - tenderloin cuts from a yearling doe = 14 pounds butchered and bagged by DH.

Tuesday’s dinner prepared by my husband. Tenderloin medallion with mushrooms & onions. Sides were baked sweet potatoes and wild rice. The venison was melt in your mouth good. This coming from someone who dislikes game meat.

I finally rendered that 17 pounds of pig fat that has been on a freezer shelf since March on the wood stove. Worked out to five quarts for soap making. The lard isn't cooking quality so I'll make plain laundry soap. Good to have the freezer space.

I’ve been reading Native Harvests Recipes and Botanicals of the American Indian by Barrie Kavasch, 1979. Requested through my local library’s inter library loan program this copy came all the way from Niagara Falls. One aspect of this cookbook is that the author included botanical charts which list the plant, plant part used, usage either for food, technology, or medicine, and harvest time. Unfortunately the plant illustrations are few.
Two good books that compliment Native Harvests are the Peterson field guides; Edible Wild Plants and Medicinal Plants. Great color photos and clear illustrations.
Black Walnut trees can be tapped just like Maples for their sap. Hmm may have finally come up with a reason for that Walnut tree in the vacant lot behind my house.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Home Fires

This has been a project in the making for almost as long as I have owned this house.
Starting with buying a chimney cleaning brush on clearance in August of 2000. Then there was the bellows bought @ a tag sale four or five years ago. Last year was the class B double walled pipe, thru the wall kit, brackets, and braces.
Then in early October on our way to buy seconds @ an Apple farm in Leroy we stopped into a stove & fireplace dealership. LSS bought a floor model - Jotul F 602 CB. Heats 500 square feet so ruffly half of my home.
After ordering the rear heat shield I think I wrote a check for $800 something. I'll get back on the exact cost after all is said & done since, yeah you guessed it I'll be running a cost comparison. Wood heat vs. furnace.
Furnace hasn't been on since the stove got the heads up from the code man on Tuesday. Granted it has been slightly warmer than norm this month and I also keep that house on the cool side when it's just me during the day.
My brother did the tile work. He's a professional. As you can see it was worth every penny he does beautiful work. Between DH, myself (gofer), my brother, and nephew who actually climbed up on my 12 12 pitched roof the job got done.
As you can see I'm already utilizing the stove for cooking as well as proofing a few loaves of bread (extra large bowl). Far left is a two bed warmers made of soap stone that DH collected years ago. Cast iron tea pot back from China Lake N.A.S. when we had quarters with a fireplace.
Large trivets are actually plant stands from Martha.
Sad irons hmm gotta be from a steam show flea market.
Poker was a gift from a lady who was surprised that I knew what it was. She said it was in the cellar of her 1880's home.
So in honor of our new stove there is a new category - Hearth
~~ pelenaka ~~

Carpe diem

Seizing the day or rather opportunity is a vital part of homesteading be it urban or rural.
Not so much having the skill which enables you to take advantage of whatever opps comes your way, but rather having a means to acquire the knowledge along with the desire a.k.a elbow grease.
Could I make vinegar before this opp came ?
Did I have the desire ?
Not so much but this was an easy do. No special equipment and I already had the supplies.
Now what am I going to do with one and half gallons of Apple Cider Vinegar ?
Earlier this month as a member of PW I helped out with K.P. duty for November's monthly 20/30 club dinner for my church . While there the head cook & bottle washer was pouring out one of the jugs of cider left by the Kiwanis a week earlier from a pancake fundraising breakfast. Seams that the abandoned 14 gallons of cider was starting to turn hard.
What can I say. It physically pains me to see a resource go to waste. At the very least I could water my raised beds with it. Instead I decided to add to our pantry and perhaps use as possible gift giving. More the latter since I had forgotten to come up with this years Christmas gift back in June.
The jugs were bought @ a tag sale years ago by DH for future wine making adventures. He spent a dollar each for these half gallon clear ones. I used a discard sheer curtain that is 100% cotton instead of cheese cloth and rubber bands scavenged from pharmacy deliveries @ my old job to fashion debris barriers.
These will rest in the cellar under the stairs away from light for 8 weeks. Then I'll strain out whatever scum there is & re bottled in quart mason jars.
Of course this new windfall now means I have to find ways to use my homemade Apple Cider Vinegar. Not to mention learning how to tritrate (test for acidity) the vinegar.
Well, I have a 3 more weeks to gather the knowledge ... and the desire.
~~ pelenaka ~~
P.S. anyone out there asking what happened to the other gallons of cider that weren't poured down the drain or fashioned into vinegar ?
Yeah, say it with me ... Hard Cider.
Funny thing is that making hard cider wasn't even on mind until the rest of the kitchen crew all began recounting tales of fathers & grandfathers all brewing hard cider.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Where the money flows

I got a comment on my last post asking if I would enlighten my readers on the state of our finances and the methods that we use to cope.

Here's the low down on what it takes to pay the bills on our urban homestead.

Mortgage - $346.81 This includes insurance, property & school taxes, principal, and interest. Rents on comparable properties in my area run over $600. Needless to say it pays to buy less than what you can afford. I can't stress that enough.
For the first half of this year I was paying an extra $100 on the principal. For every hundred I threw on I knocked off $55.00 in interest owed. Even for just the short amount of time the mortgage was shortened by a year.

Electric - as I wrote about in an earlier post we have an ongoing battle with our electric company which boils down to the fact that they charge me more bringing me a kilowatt then the actual cost of the kilowatt. This month for example our bill was $50.15 up from $43.31. Of the $50.15 the first $38.16 was basic service (not including use age), delivery (anyone know what uniform da electric man wears?), delivery adjustment (what is that really?) tariff surcharge, & sales tax. We used 263 kWh this past billing cycle. Up from 220. Electric dehydrator was plugged in almost nonstop in August due to our crappy weather. I haven't used the solar dehydrator DH made us for the most part this Summer.
Also important to note is that the price of a kilowatt rose from $1.32 in 2008 to $1.51 in 2009.
Methods to conserve electricity; use of power strips, CF light bulbs, use of nonelectric appliances such as our ice box or an in closed porch in Winter, or simply don't flip the switch on. Instead our first choice when reaching for a tool is always the nonelectrical version.

Natural Gas - $24. The hot water heater has been set on vacation temp since last Spring which has meant cooler than preferred showers. Cooler Summer this year meant that the water temp coming directly out of the tap was quite cold. Currently the water heater is the only appliance running. However, it has dropped below freezing this past week which means that the house has had indoor temperatures of the high 50's. Have been resisting the urge to turn on the furnace.
Hot water heater is 8 years old so fairly energy efficient. If money was no object I'd change out the heater for a tankless one.
The furnace was installed 9 years ago. It's 85% efficient natural gas. Generally speaking we keep that house @ 60 degrees when the children are home even in January. Now my kids are teenagers who wear layers of clothing including hoodies and thick wool socks. When they were younger I keep the heat on 65.
When it's just me home alone then the thermostat is set back down to the mid fifties.

Our only other monthly debt is a home equity loan that runs $210 a month. I've had it paid off several times & no doubt it will be paid off once again only to be used again.
The last time was in 2000 when my current vechile died. I purchased a base model compact car, standard, no a/c for 7 grand new. Figure a third of the monthly equity loan is a car note.

Insurance is $340 a year which is paid out of our income tax refund. Maintenance runs around $200 a year. Gas is about $30 depending on traveling. MPG is 35 per gallon.
This is our 2nd year being a one car family. Initially it was difficult making the adjustment but the savings have been worth it. The shoe leather express (city sidewalks) makes a stop right in front our our house. I also have a bike with baskets as do my children. There are 2 $ stores and an Aldis within walking distance. DH changed jobs to be more local.

Clothing - other than buying two packages of socks & unders for myself & daughters that about covers it this year. Daughters and I worked @ a clothing swap this past September sponsored by our church were we were able to get over 100 articles of clothing. Many were new and very high end. I am glad not to be back to the time were my children were constantly out growing or wearing out clothing. Also purchased running shoes for DD#2 who runs cross country.

DD#3 scored soccer shin guards from a cousin. Thankfully neither daughter needed new cleats.
All sports uniforms were financed by fundraisers. We are blessed to live in a school district that has a great athletic program. Only one child still participates in music. She receives violin lessons through the school. Violin purchased used 2 years ago.

Huge budgeting tool has been to simply not go to places such as a mall or a mega store. Let's face it you can always find something that you want when your in Walmart.
A need is a need a want is a want.

Food - you'll have to just read through my blog posts as that is what I primarily write about.

Tithing - aim for
$20 a month and give about 20 to 30 hours of our time a month working wherever there is a need in our church. Currently I co-chair a garden, assist with food baskets to members of our congregation who are home bound, usher for funerals when needed, and various deacon duties.

Medical - without going into too much information it lets just say that we spend almost a mortgage payment on medical insurance and prescription meds.
Using a nettie pot has greatly helped not only our bottom line but our health. Usually at least once a year I come down with a sinus infection which quickly turns into a chest cold then leads into bronchitis or pneumonia. My last bout of pneumonia cost me over $80 after an office visit & a trip to the pharmacy. Thank you Dr. Oz for teaching me the way.

Entertainment - if it's free then it's on the on. Besides taking advantage of DVDs &Videos from our public library we attend area concerts, minor league baseball games, collage sports, and events sponsored by our city for youth. We also enjoy just hanging out at church. This weekend daughters are away at a youth retreat though church.

Calling it even it costs us a in the neighborhood of $1280 per month to live for the past 6 mos.
Winter heating will add about another $200 to $300 a month this Winter using natural gas.

Per the 2008 Federal Poverty Guidelines a family of 4 who lives below $21,200 qualifies as poor.

I don't feel poor.
Just broke.

~~ pelenaka ~~

P.S. 10/23/2009 - My bbgf who chased me down here @ the library since I'm san cell has informed me that I forgot to include the cost of our cell phone plan. It's around $80 for 2 phones. One is the house phone with our old land line #. The other is labeled the away phone. That phone is carted around by either DH or the girls when they go out either on errands or hunting. Daughters use it to let us know when they are done with practice or on their way home from an away game. I have timed their commutes from either school or practice fields both on foot & bike. If their late then I can call. Also there's the safety factor when there out.
Plus I didn't want anyone home without a phone. Kinda funny when you think of it as I went years without a phone when I was a young adult.
No text nor email on the plan.
It has been a bit of a learning curve for some of our F&F to remember to call us from either a Verizon cell or after 9. So far no issues with going over our minutes.
I go bum phone service off my Bro when I want to call my Abuela in P.R. or out state peeps who don't have Verizon & are in bed by nine. Also score phone time @ church. That comes in handy when I have to call say the electric company to discuss my recent rate hike.

There was some great questions posted in the comment section by a reader which I thought should be answered in this post.

Does living on your income cause any tension in the home?
For the most part no. There are times however when I would love to have extra for the little things. DD#3 was asked by her soccer coach to participate in an indoor soccer league - cost $75. She has emailed her father and put the word out to church family that she needs babysitting gigs.
I know DH would love to have the extra cash flow to do more local traveling, hunting/camping.

I was also asked about an urban homestead aspiration, ... something that is being saved for to improve the urban homestead?
That would our long drawn out process of installing a wood stove. Seriously I have been collecting items toward this aspiration for over 8 years now. There is the bush kit on clearance bought in 2001 so I can be my own chimney sweep. Then there's the tools like a coal shovel bought @ tag sales last year for a buck.
I'll be blogging about that soon.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bitter Lesson

Quick post as I'm sitting in a Starbucks cafe @ a Border's bookstore on the far side of Rochester.

Battery level on my lap top is @ 43%, despite all the trappings of wealth here there isn't an outlet to be had. Not to mention I have been milking this over priced cup of coffee long enough.

Garden update; Well add to the list of produce that is a bust this year - celery. It's bitter really really bitter or rather strong. Way way too strong. DH said I should have blanched it. I grew this variety before Summer Pascal didn't blanch it without an issue.

Besides the celery my pitiful Green Bell Peppers that have finally matured enough to pick are also extremely bitter. Same reason for both (our freaky Summer weather)?

Whatever the reason I'm still SOL as I finished off the last of my dehydrated celery 3 months ago. I was counting on this crop to last me for the next 2 years.

Really brings home the reality that was our ancestors not to long ago. If it wasn't grown or harvested then it didn't exist. As simple as that.

First it was a devastating tomato harvest, then a poor fruit crop, now my peppers & celery.

I'm out here in Pittsford snagging some semi free (spent $1.98 on coffee) WIFI after picking apples @ my brother's. Was only able to snag less than a bushel of yellow apples. I had plans to barter a bushel of apples to my bb for a bag of powdered milk in lieu of gas $. Unfortunately much like everyone I have spoken to his fruit harvest was also pitiful.

Really looking not to pay retail for fresh apples. We are completely out of home canned applesauce. Canning hasn't gone well to say the least. I have been scrambling to find free/cheap produce to can.

Slowly enjoying not having a land line. Monthly phone bill is down by $40.

Did receive a special offer from Verizon to reestablish the land line (w/DSL). It was a difference of all most $50. When I called on it I told them that if they had offered my that package to begin with then I would never had switched over. Reminded them I had been a customer for 10 years ... blah blah blah.

Jerks. I bet they only offer that package 3 mos. after the big switch.

Really really hate not having Internet access @ home. It bites big time which is why I haven't posted in a while. As soon as hunting & canning season die down we are gonna research wireless Internet plans again. The air card from Cricket really blew. Snail mail was quicker.

Since I'm new to this whole WIFI I find it very interesting how it can vary. Our local library is slow. The collage fast. Borders lighting fast.

Going back to our visit to Lehman's in August. Sorry about not posting the pics it took in their store. Unfortunately it cost $ to email the pics off the cell phone. Yeah I'm that broke so here's a quick take on what was interesting to me.

1) off all the grain grinder that were on display the best was their most expensive one a.k.a. over a grand. Ground grain with a touch of my pinkie.

2) The hand cranked washer commonly known as a James washer - flimsy.

3) I think that they hire young girls to wander the store in Amish attire. Seriously why would a couple of teenagers out in town for the afternoon wander around a store full of stuffs that they can find in their own home ?

Bought a huge lid for my backitup cast iron pan, a manual for my steam juicer, and a few bags of speciality popcorn @ the request of my daughters. If your in the neighborhood do visit.

K, getting the boot from a Starbucks drone.

I've worn out my welcome.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Best laid plans ...

of mice & men so goes the famous line written by John Steinbeck. This thought could very well apply to a good majority of gardeners and farmers in my area. Here in Western New York and from what I have read on many online gardening forums most of the northeast has suffered from both early & late season blight to both tomato and potato crops. It was an unusually cool and wet Summer for us which provided the perfect environment for blight.
Besides these two staples onions that normally didn't have a problem grown in low lying fields became too wet & rotted. Watch for a price hike for all 3.

For my own small space in the city the blight hit late but deep. 70 odd surviving San Marzano tomato plants that I had started from seed all came down with the blight just as the fruit was starting to ripen.
We have been using some for cooking but won't be canning any of it. This means that I am scrambling to find a frugal alternative healthy to home grown canned tomatoes. So far many of the local farms haven't had any paste tomatoes to speak of or their supply is spoken for pretty much before it's picked. I won't mention the cost.
I may just have to break down and actually buy canned toms.
Will also rework our Winter menu to substitute something else in place of tomatoes.
Any suggestions?

This is what blight looks likes from a distance. The plants turn brown and look as if they need water. Both stems & leaves have milk chocolate colored patches. This is the cold frame moved to it's new & final location last April.
After this pic was taken all the blighted plants were pulled then it was replanted with salad greens. Also moved some of the marigolds to this bed to help with bug control.

An example of blighted fruit. Top left hand corner is San Marzano Italian paste, on the right is an unknown beefsteak variety that sprouted up in the cold frame a volunteer.
This link is from Penn State Cooperative extension on why you shouldn't can blighted tomatoes.

Here's a pic of the tomatoes (new bed) in July before the blight hit. By August the plants had topped the trellis that DH built and were growing down the back side despite the lack of proper sunshine due to a neighbor's Maple tree. Over all the beds that I doubled digged & layered with organic matter did very well despite the poor growing conditions.

Need to find out if it's alright to use a tomato grown on a blight plant for it's seeds. I have saved one of the larger San Marzano's for next years crop. There is after all always next year.

~~ pelenaka ~~

P.S. I have 3 new bartering buds - two are a direct result of my primary bbgf who introduced me to them. One I traded a plastic office organizer drawer thingy & a pound of DH's garden onions for 3 jars of Ragu sauce & several packets of name brand tuna. The second bb ( barter buddy), traded me a dozen & half eggs home grown eggs for a future take on salad greens which will be ready in a month. The 3rd is a member of my church who I had spoken to early last Spring. Truthfully I really didn't get the impression from her that bartering was an idea that interested her. I was wrong. I bartered a 5 lbs. roast from the beef that was butchered last July, several melons from DH's garden, and 2 pounds of his onions, in return for Frutis conditioner 2 lg. , 2 each of Sunsilk shampoo & conditioner lg., 4 Stayfree maxi 18 count, 5 Stayfree Ultra thins 16 count packages. 1 Palmolive bottle of dish soap 20 onces. I will also come up with a few extra goodies for her since she wasn't really sure on what she wanted besides the roast. She is a very big coupon/rebate gal having figured out that whole CVS program.

Needless to say as God was watching out for me as I was on my last sanitary pad that morning. Yeah, I know TMI TMI.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Slate & Chalk

Just a freaking rant to post about today.
No soap box 'cause remember I'm unemployed so too broke to buy a box. Also it's a few days past garbage pick up otherwise I'd score a box outta some one's recycle bin. Please post your thoughts about my rave because I want to start a national movement or at least a local one. So here's my gripe.

What makes a public school teacher decide that only certain colors in regards to a binder/folder are acceptable for their class ? Why is it necessary to be color specific ? Can't any folder provided it has the required pockets & prongs no matter the color do? Can't the subject just be written on the top right hand corner like we did old school ?
What's with cloth book covers which retail for $4.99 ? Are these covers so much better than brown paper bags ?
Are teachers receiving a kick back from manufactures of school supplies ?

I mean think about it seriously, if there are 28 students all needing a cloth book cover that equals $139.72
Now x that amount by 6 classes = 168 students / 168 cloth book covers. Total of $838.32.
That's a bit of coin by anyone standard.

So here's my beef.
Took DD#3 out to buy 3 folders to complete her list of required school supplies. She needed three folders that were in the following colors; pale purple, light orange, and bright green. I kid you not.
So after going to not only the mega store & an office supply place we finally found them, sorta. The folder were in paper not plastic.
A few years ago I started purchasing their school folders in plastic which @ the end of the year could be washed in warm soapy water to remove the plain white address label on the top right hand corner. The label stated their name,grade, & subject.
So far my children have been using the same folders for 3 years.
So far so good right? Yeah, until this school year when my 8th grader put together her backpack for school & informed me we have an issue. We did have the right colors. Not to mention the two cloth book covers on her list.

So we spent like a total of $3.67 for 3 paper folders, 2 ten packs of pens.
No cloth covers. Instead I emailed the teacher informing her I was unemployed. Also that I found it personally offensive to encourage consumerism especially when that product isn't made in America. Practically asked her if she didn't believe in being green. Then I put a spin on the how a cloth cover stifles the creative juices by not encouraging mindless doodling on a simple brown paper book cover. Add something along the lines of please call if this is a problem and I hope this won't affect her grade in your class. Thought about adding that we could contact our house of worship for financial assistance but husband thought that was over kill. Besides we really wouldn't do that.
Now before anyone comments about how hard teaching is I have to say I agree. My brother teaches 6th grade in an inner city school. It's not about the profession it's about need vs. want.
I mean back in the day it was as simple as a slate & a piece of chalk.
I understand the calculus calculator. I even get needing a lap top in certain classes.
But a cloth book cover?

~~ pelenaka ~~

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Unexpected Flower Gardener

After our hike down to the Genesee River Gorge in the Maplewood section of Rochester my daughter & went over to High Falls to do the free self guided walking tour which showcases all the great old buildings like the Trolly Barn. While wandering around this historic neighborhood we met Jorge who was tending to his flower bed behind his salon on State Street across from Kodak's corporate office.
His flower garden is a foot wide and eighty feet long against an old brick factory building that borders an alley. Great use of space & composition.
We didn't discuss if he was a true guerrilla gardener since after all he was watering in broad daylight, instead he gave us the run down on his hood both past and the proposed future renovation plans for lofts.
On the corner of Factory and State had originally been a hotel now shops & apartments. One of it's most note able occupants was a gal named Bicycle Annie.
One has to smile, I mean you can't have a truly historic city within a city without a few advent guard characters right?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Day Tripper

This post really has nuttin really to do with urban homesteading skills unless you put this in the frugal catagory. Enjoying a short day trip on the fly without a ten spot. Total out lay was under $5 for parking & some snacks from Aldis on Lake Ave. Would have been cheaper if I had thought ahead & packed a lunch & treats.
Gas $ was donated by fellow deacon's to cover transportation.
An afternoon of wander lust with my daughter.

Last month DD#3 & I did a road trip into Rochester together to deliver fresh produce from our church garden to Cameron House which is sponsored by St. Andrews. Over 100 ears of sweet corn, the proverbial bushel of zucchini, half a bushel of Summer squash, almost a dozen Turban squash, five or six cukes, a few eggplants, and almost 5 cups of hot peppers to balance out the peck of almost ripe banana peppers. Oh & almost a dozen bell peppers. Not too lame despite our really cool & wet Summer this year.
Afterwards since we had time to spare but no spare cash to speak of so we did a little free sight seeing in the Maplewood section of Rochester, first visiting the Rose Garden on the corner of Driving Park & Lake Ave.

Much to the delight of my daughter who is a moderately skilled gardener in her own right despite the fact that she truly dislikes gardening got her own private tour from Paul, an employeee of the city of Rochester. How awesome would it be to be paid to tend Roses?
Once he understood that her only interest was in Roses that gave a scent they were off strolling from bed to bed pointing out Roses that had a faint spicy fragrance or a sweet Rose scent.
It was extremely nice of him to take time out of his lunch break.

Then we hiked the city maintained path to the middle falls of the Genesee River. Great views of the Middle Falls & the new Driving Park Bridge.

Climbed down off the path to actually put our feet in the water & have a rest on a fallen tree.
Down here in the gorge feeling the mist on your face it is hard to realize that up above your surrounded by a modern city.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

twitter without the bird

quick updates as I'm @ the library without my lap top using a pc paid for with my tax $. Stopped in to snag some free DVDs for movie night later this week. Our local Library has quite a selection of films all for free. Just need a library card.
DD#3 picked out the box set of Indiana Jones & a Denzel Washington movie, Inside Man which I had never heard about before. I love action thrillers with a good plot & this movie has Jody Foster & an English hottie Clive Owen. Hope he is as manly as he was in that King Arthur story a few years aback!
Sorry we have been without regular t.v. for 2 days because the new fangled antenna that goes with the new fangled converter box is broken. Hopefully DH will be able to fix that $60 antenna. As it is the 15 year old t.v. is starting to loose one of it's speakers.
No we don't have cable haven't in well almost 10 years. Yeah I know there are some peeps reading this blog who are lol about having a t.v. from the early 90's let alone not hanging on a wall. What can I say it's just not an issue for us. It's not our priority.

Back to homesteading type topics.
If you look over to the right side of my blog you will see that I have separate lists for various ways to preserve food for long term storage. Under the freezer section I have listed a zillion cups of shredded zucchini. K, think I can now take zukes off my need to have list!
Scored onions by way of a gleaning ops thru a church friend. Got enough to give Aunt Sally's a bushel for distribution to a local food bank. Gave a half bushel to my gfbb. Gave a peck to a church lady who in turn gave me a flat of nest run eggs (have no clue what that means exactly but they are fresh), and gave about 6 to my co chairwoman. Her & I run our church garden of which the food is donated to both Congregational members & various community food banks.
Plan is to slice the onions & dehydrate then vacuum seal them in pint mason jars.
Corn - so far have about 45 ears of corn from the hubby of the church lady who gifted me eggs. Seems my family has been adopted by them. Well actually she realizes that the main reason I have been volunteering so much with church projects is that I am now a SAHM. She & her DH are helping to keep my sabbatical a reality.
Good karma huh?
Fighting with my self not to just freeze the corn cob style. I should can it & keep that valuable freezer real estate vacant for other items that either can't be canned or we prefer frozen.
It's just that I really do dislike pressure canning. And corn has to be pressure canned.
K, have 3 minutes left on my allotted time on this very public pc.
Will work on downloading the few pics from Lehman's that I snapped.
Anyone wanna help slice onions?

08/20/09 - 0049
DH got an air card thru Cricket which enables me to be online in the privacy of my kitchen in my robe instead my local library. Convient it is but slow like dial up.

Nine pounds of onions are currently nestled in the dehydrator making my house smell like onion bread.
Will leave about 10 lbs. out in a crate down in the cellar. Another 20 lbs. use in pay it forwards namely the local food bank @ Aunt Sally's. They inturn used a portion of the gleaned onions to fill out their Senior Luncheon on Tuesdays. The rest went out for general disrabution.
May use 10 lbs. in a barter deal need shampoo/conditioner along with vinagar. Actually I could make a shampoo bar that would be rich enough not to need a conditioner for our hair. That would be the smart thing to do.
Then all that is needed would be t.p. & vinagar, lol. Maybe bleach. & powdered milk.
Spent $20.92 @ Aldis today. Bought; 2 containers of quick oats, box of corn flakes, 8 oz. of hard cheese, frozen can of pink lemonade requested by DD#3, brown sugar, can of black olives, grated parmesan cheese, & 2 bags of tortilla chips for nacho night later this week. Also bought Bananas on 50% discount - due to over ripness. There's 5 qts. of diced bananas in the freezer.
Oh forgot a gallon 2% milk for yogurt making. Haven't been getting raw milk from the dairy as the farmer's price is still @ $2.50 per gallon. The raw leche isn't organic just freasher & creamier, & a bit more expensive so I'm going with the more cost effective choice.
Last week grocery shopping @ Aldis was $15.11; bag of apples, gallon of milk, again 2 bags of torilla chips, 2 bricks of hard cheese, package of bologna, & canned mushrooms. Also canned black olives.
In the next week or two I will do a post on UPC with updates such as the side of beef that was bought last month. Surfice to say that I still haven't truely limited our grocery budget to the the $100 mark.
Reality sucks.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

on the road

I'm blogging from Erie, Pennsylvania @ Barns & Noble while my daughters use their b-day gift cards. We're on our way back to the New York coming from Cleveland so we stopped off here in Erie to take advantage of the tax free shopping. Go potty. Buy Gas. Sit in a/c 'cause my Aveo is air less.
Bought DD#2 running shoes @ Penny's using a promotion coupon for $10. I had promised it to my gfbb since I was told their Dad bought shoes in Houston for them. Don't ask what he bought but it wasn't what was needed. I'll offer here the next coupon that is mailed out. I get like 3 a month it seems. Quite a bit since I only shopped in a Penny's store 4 times last year. 3 shopping excursions were for running shoes. One was for me. I scored a $300 wool lawyers coat for $49. As hubby is fond of saying I really look like I could talk my way outta the big house in that coat.
Total spent was $39 for running sneakers. Now she's all set for her v.j. cross country.
Then we hit this book store so they both could use their gift cards. Again no tax here in PA.
Personally I wouldn't make the 3 hour drive here to shop since well I mostly barter for visit tag sales for our clothing needs. But it worked out since we were in the area.

So here I sit wishing that I had some great photos to share about our experience earlier @ Lehman's in Kiddron, Ohio. But alas I'm technically challenged.
The pics are on my cell phone. Wasn't planning on the side trip to Lehman's and didn't pack the digital camera. Anyone wanna email me directions on how to accomplish this task?
Daughter's have made their selections. Will post soon.

oh the road again ...

~~ pelenaka ~~
who has as a top ten topic #4-being married means you can sleep on long road trips.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

ugly broccoli

I got me some ugly broccoli. Despite my best attempts my Broccoli looks nuttin like the large green globes in mega mart's produce isle. I even fertilized them with a special tonic made from water seeped with eggshells, dehydrated banana skins, & Epsom salts.
It's cool 'cause the broccoli tastes great.
Like broccoli should. Tender.
Was able to gather 23 cups off my plantings when all the blanching was done. It's safely in the freezer vacuum sealed in bags.
Hopefully a second harvest later on as once you cut off the main heads side shoots of Broccoli grow. I write hopefully as here in Western New York it has been a very long Spring. Double the amount of rainfall to the tune of 16". We haven't broke 90 degrees yet.
Retail value is some where in the neighborhood of $20, minus the cost of seed. Not a bad return on my investment.

~~ pelenaka ~~

P.S. Green beans locally grown are selling for $1.49 per pound @ Tops Market this week. So far I gleaned 21 cups = 5 lbs = $7.45 worth of free Green Beans! No idea what the cost of frozen Green Beans will be in Febuary.
This year I want to keep a savings tally calculating the vale of food that I have foraged & gleaned.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

in the bag

Quick post using my local library's WIFI connection then it's back to preserving.

Long story short I have fired up the 2nd freezer, a small chest in preparation of the produce bounty that has been coming our way. Namely Green & Wax beans along with Broccoli.
Having a small chest freezer is different than a larger one as there is generally only one if any baskets to help organize contents. Ours has a small one.
My system has to organize the contents of the veggie freezer frugally.
Has to be basically idiot proof.
Must not use up valuable freezer space or restrict the operation/air flow of the freezer from doing it's job.
So as I'm bum side up with my head stuck in this chest freezer digging around it comes to me.
Organize the contents in plastic shopping bags.
Yeah say it with me ... duh!
Green Beans beige Tops bags.
Wax in bright yellow bags from Family Dollar.
Broccoli in white Wally World bags.
We don't have allot of plastic shopping bags because we normally use cloth bags. I'll have to ask fellow church members & neighbors for shopping bags.
Or another alternative is to make large draw string bags out of old sheets. Label near the opening for contents.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, July 26, 2009


What your looking @ is 50¢ worth of cucumber.
That is what I paid for one last week.
I have no patience. And apparently no sense.
There's 4 more cukes growing in this container & 7 more in the another so about $4.50 worth per our local mega mart. I paid $2.50 per 4 pack (remember when it was always a 6 pack?) so in a week or so I will have broke even. After that any other cukes that grow will be free. Lack of space was why I didn't start cucumbers from seed. If I had then after the first 3 all the rest would have been free, (seed packet was $1.59).
I have 2 more cucumber plants growing in elevated pots along with 4 more planted in a raised bed. Those 4 were a $1 on discount. If I get two cukes from them then I've broken even.
I know the pic reminds me of sumtin else too.
Get your mind outta the dirt & into the soil people.

As you can see the 2 drawf Apple trees are alive and well as are the Strawberries I planted as ground cover, (background). We have just started training the trees to talk French (espalier). So far they resemble an American walking the streets of Paris with a cheap translation dictionary.

Update on the Celery/Brussels Sprouts/San Marzano raised bed - despite the pitiful amount of sunshine equally due to a neighbor's tree and our very wet & cloudy Summer this year the first 2 groups of veggies are doing well, Celery & Brussels. The tomatoes are however lagging a bit behind the ones in the raised bed directly to the right. Those are almost taller than the trellis an estimated height of 4'. Two main differences between both raised beds are that the one on the right receives about an hour of stronger/brighter Sunlight than the bed on the left. And green beans which are a nitrogen fixing plant were planted in the same bed last year. If rotating green beans with tomatoes proves successful then it will be a no brainer as to what I am planting in that bed for the 2010 garden season.

About the looking glass. My plants are vain. Very very vain. Actually just trying my best to direct more Sunlight their way.

But doesn't the mirror make you wanna sing like Carly Simmon? Your soo vain, u thought this song was about you ...

Looking forward to this coming week it will be a mostly sunny with temperatures near normal. July here in Western New York has been one of the wettest with over 9 " of rain. Not to mention cool as in low 70's cool which isn't right when it's July.
Ask me how much laundry I will be doing this coming week. Think sheets & towels. Throw in some curtains too.
I also have a stash of food that needs to be canned. Up until now I have been stock piling all the harvested produce in the chest freezer until I have a significant amount to can. Reached that point when a friend's wife offered me pickings rights to her bed of Rhubarb. I have had my eye on canning up some Rhubarb juice. Maybe mixing in some Red Raspberry juice.
There's also 2 quarts of frozen chicken broth along with 3 quarts of roast beef au juice destined for the pressure canner. Can never have enough home canned broth on the pantry shelves come winter. The beef was scored during K.P. duty after a church dinner so that will work out to 10¢ a pint (cost of the canning lid).
Add to the canning list rendering beef fat & packaging into jars. Amazing what you find when you reorganize a freezer.
Pretty sure I owe someone somewhere a loaf of rye bread.
Then there's the 10 lbs. of soap I started making last year that needs to be rebatched, and put into molds. Seriously, when I make soap I make soap ... mostly because it's really not my favorite thing to do on a regular basis which is why I make a big batch. Not to mention I'm a little bit busy here.
Know your strengths.
Understand your weaknesses.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Saturday, July 18, 2009

steam juicer

This is my still.
This is my still making wild black raspberry juice.
J.J. (just joking) this is a Steam Juicer that DH bought me like about a zillion years ago @ a Good Will store for under $20. Normally retails for upwards of $130 new so I can't really say that it's a must but if you score one for a great price it's one piece of home preservation equipment that's nice to have. Otherwise the old school method of cheese cloth/white cotton pillow case to create a jelly bag works just as well.

I actually am only using it because my girl group (church not a song & dance act), is working on making jams & jelly's. So rather than having numerous jelly bags strung out all over the church kitchen I recalled that this contraption was in a corner of the cellar.
The reason I wrote still is that is what the gals all asked me when I set it on the stove during a PW work day. Apparently I look like the type of urban homesteader to have a still.
Even more droll since the average age of my gal pals is like 6o. Kinda makes ya wonder what they were up to in their youth huh?

Plan is to freeze what I collect until I have enough of a good size batch to create something. Really already have enough jelly from last year's canning season so I am thinking perhaps juice.
Which is what I really need allot of since daughter's cleared us out of all the previous years grape juice a total of 54 quarts plus 5 quarts found hidden which = 59 half gallons.

The Steam Juicer didn't come with a manual so I am winging it. Steamed the berries for 30 minutes to extract the juice. Need to see about either buying a copy of the manual or downloading a copy. I'm sure there is more to this "still" than I realize.

Here's the picking field err spot really. By spot I mean a tiny spot. Behind the garage where there is very little sun & I haven't fertilized.
Gotta love totally free & easy!
Update on Urban Pantry Challenge - All the produce that I have either frozen or dehydrated this week either gifted or from DH's garden.
Canned up 9 pts. of Almond flavored Cherries that came from the same canning factory as last year. Difference this is year that I bartered for a smaller amount with my bbgf. Still have canned cherries left from last year. Cherries came pitted. Traded a new granyware canning pot with rack & a jar lifter. My accessed value for the canning equipment was $20 although I had only paid under $5 @ an auction. Threw in a dozen Ball canning jars NIB that was gifted to me.
Sunday DH & I went to the local Mega Mart to pick up a few items since we both were craving grilled burgers. Ended up spending $54.48 for the following items; one cuke @ 50¢ (dumb on our part as in a week or so we will have cucumbers from our garden), four ears of Sweet Corn @ 30¢ each, one tomato on the vine 62¢ (refer to the foolishness of buying a cuke), boneless pork loin discounted to $1.99/lbs. bought 2 packages which totaled slightly over 17 lbs. Cost of pork was $32.90. Also bought a package of Italian Sausage $7.02, and ground beef patties that were discounted $12.24.
All the meat was repackaged in to family size servings. The pork loins worked out to be 6 packages. The Italian Sausages 3 meals. Ground beef patties 2 packages of 8 burgers each.
Within the next week I will be spending in the neighborhood of $300 on a 1/3 of a cow. This should be the last time I need to buy beef until next July.
Since it's just the two of us for the rest of the Summer I have been crock potting meals for later eating. Cooked one of the pork loins in White Wine, Garlic, Rosemary, (garlic & Rosemary both from garden). Combined with a garden salad & wax beans from DH's community garden allotment it was a nice dinner.
Few weeks ago an avid coupon shopper gave a seminar on couponing/rebating after church service. We exchanged emails to arrange possible bartering opps. This is a better alternative for me than dragging out to the store coupons in hand for the small percentage of items that I do buy.
The conversation went as follows -
I was wondering if you would be interested in bartering? Since my household runs on more of old fashioned methods couponing really doesn't work for me.
Oh, but it could. What items do you buy on a weekly basis?
Don't really shop weekly. What I buy is items like toilet paper, bleach, vinegar, really items that I can't make myself. Sugar is a biggy since I can. I was wondering if you might consider bartering. Gallon of bleach for a loaf of homemade bread? I bake rye or a half whole wheat loaf.
Well here's an offer for Domino Sugar 50¢ off if you buy 10 packets of Kool-Aid. Kool-Aid is on sale this week...
At that point I really hoped I had a good poker face on.
I stopped discussing my method of food preservation in times of bounty because this was a woman who fed her children colored sugar water. I was talking Apples & she was busy filing store receipts for later rebate use.
Don't get me wrong coupons work great. The concept would work magic for me if I could find coupons for items such as canning lids. Washing soda. All the items that I can't buy in a store brand/generic version. Hmm the only thing that jumps out @ me is washing soda. Beer. Primo coffee. And tp ofcourse. I'm not that much of a homesteader to make my own.
The other aspect is of course if my trading commodity costs me less than what I traded it for.
Can I bake a loaf of bread for less than the cost of a gallon of bleach?
Well I did score 100 lbs. of locally grown wheat of which I still have 2/3 left... and I still have 1/3 of a bushel of organic rye. Will need to barter for butter, dry milk, white flour, yeast, & salt too. If I'm savy enough we just may be eatting our bread for free.
Provided that the wood stove is installed this fall which will provide the means to bake.
Otherwise will have to factor in the electricity that my 1949 Hotpoint stove sucks down.
~~ pelenaka ~~

Friday, July 10, 2009

... we have you!

The first part of that phrase is Why prep when.
Closely followed by a smirk, or a shy smile or if that family member is confident enough an outright chuckle.
Then that display is met with a look of cold dead silence.

Sometime you are just tired of talking to a rock. It's not like I'm a major subscriber to the whole when the hits the fan scenerio, but the same skills that hard core preppers & survialist adhere to can help the bottom line on a modern days family's budget.
Not to mention natural disasters.
Economic downturns.
In the past I have offered assistance with helping close family to set up their own long term food storage system. I have offered up mason jars & canning equipment. A starter set if they choose to utilize home preserved food as part of their preps. I have emailed details on gleaning opps, meat buying coops, or various barter deals. Nothing short of droping by their door to deliver a basket of garden produce arouses them.

No pic on today's post. We are making
a few high tech changes around the urban homestead this Summer. One of which is switching over to a lap top from DH's 10 y.o. computer. Slow going due to a learning curve. Not as bad as being a techo virgin but enough to raise the frustration levels for us both. Besides switching systems we have also decided to turn off our home internet DSL leaving us so far with only a local library WIFI port which isn't 24/7/365.
For the Summer we are taking full advantage of our tax dollar supported library's internet port to pocket a bit over $40 a month. It's > a 10 minute walk via shoe leather express & if you count the fact that we also use the library's dime to charge the laptop there's a savings too.
In the meantime we'll scope out other WIFI options like occasionally visiting a coffee house or perhaps a barter deal with a neighbor who has wireless internet. Or scoring a great deal on an air card plan.
The 2nd big change for us or rather me is trading in my land line telephone for a cell. I had resisted because I was deeply emotionally attached to my phone number, one that has been almost 10 years in existence. That says allot for a person like me who has lived in no few than 23 homes. Seems that I was fussing for nuttin as now the telephone powers that be will let you keep your #. For now we are going with a cheapo cell plan. Savings of $ 20 and change per month.
So besides playing back the cost of the lap top ($840), the all most $70 a month will be channeled into the wood pile. That is to say to buy a 3 cords of quality firewood for Winter heating, cooking, clothes drying, & if do able utilize the wood stove as the primary method of heating water replacing the natural gas water heater. That would only leave us with only one utility bill a month the electric. Hopefully since we won't have to power the furnace blower that bill should be > than $50 per month instead of $70 ish.
Since it's off season for firewood now is the time to stock up. While I haven't given up on gleaning or bartering for cords of wood which in the past year has gotten to be more difficult, I still want to have a supply in. After those two budget items are paid off there is always paying back the cost of installing the wood stove ($ from 2008 income taxes). Then finally doubling up on our extra monthly mortgage principal payment.

Scored 5 half gallon bottles of lamp oil for $2.68 in of all places Target.
DD#3 treated herself to a bathing suit off the clearance rack which is why we were there instead of say Aunt Sally's. Both her & DD#2 will be gone for the remainder of the Summer to Houston to visit with their father. I'm missing them already but DH & I are looking forward to alone time.

Canned up 6 pints of Victorian Rhubarb BBQ Sauce. Rhubarb collected from the garden since early Spring, raisins that started out as grapes from a barter deal 2 years ago (dehydrated & vacuum sealed in a qt. mason jar). Tried a bit on pork loin that night very nice! This recipe is differently a do over. Estimated cost per pint is 30¢ which includes spices,vinegar,ect. , & cost of lid. As I wrote before my jars the majority of which were free have all been paid off after the first few years of canning by the savings of not paying retail for food.
Gifted 3 vintage Sunbeam stand mixers to a fellow homesteader in turn was gifted a dozen of her farm fresh eggs.
Now & perhaps tomorrow our area will finally experience
Summer temps & no rain so I need to stain our bedroom door, work on a plan to build an outdoor solar shower, & enjoy the Sunshine with my family.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Raised bed update

Update on the 3 foot deep raised bed that was layered with soil, bunny poop, ground egg shells, phosphorus, wood ash, and green matter. San Marzano Tomato plants have really taken off growing to 16". In light of this I replaced the stakes with an over head trellis system that DH built out of scraps. Not pictured is a white plastic corrugated panel placed behind the bed to reflect light. So far no issues with insects of mildew.
Funny I didn't notice my tighty whities or DH work socks hanging on the line when I snapped the pic.

So far so good on this raised bed which was layered like the previous one picture but has had a year to compost (huge worm population). Along the white PVC trellis is San Marzano Tomatoes which also have shot up to 14", curious that it wasn't more since the growing medium should be more advanced in nutrients. In the middle is Brussels Sprouts almost 20" tall. Foreground is Celery almost a foot tall and as you can see bushy. Hard to see the Marigolds among everything. No problems with weeds since this bed is soo densely planted. No problems with insects or mildew.

Check out the plastic birdbath I scored curb shopping ... can you see the cracks ? Gotta love clear packing tape.

It haven't canned up a thing not even Strawberries. We have only been harvesting a small amount from under the Apple trees and one of the Peach trees but not enough to preserve. After almost 8 years my primary bed has called it quits. Can't really complain as the average life of a strawberry bed is 5 years. Differently got my money's worth from the original 4 plants I bought. After the Peach harvest I'll prep for a future Strawberry bed under the Peach tree closest to the greenhouse. In the mean time I have been transplanting new Strawberries seedlings as I find them to a bed out in the front yard. We still have about a dozen pints of Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam that I can up last year to help tide us over until next June.

Can't say the same about the stewed whole tomatoes that I canned last year (16 qts.) and the year before that. All total we ate 28 quarts. Having these on the pantry shelf is allot like having fresh eggs in the ice box. With both you can conjure up a good meal.

Haven't had a chance to take inventory of either the home canned goods or our commercial stock, but per my DS who was home from Houston we had only one can of purred pumpkin left after I made him two pies. DD #3 also mentioned that we were out of Green Tomato Mincemeat pie filling, her favorite. She left me a note on the school calendar to remind me to spare green toms and barter for raisins so we could can up a few quarts.

Update on UPC: Since the garden has been producing green salad fixings and we aren't as home bound now (cabin fever makes you eat!) we have been staying closer to my goal of $100 a month on groceries. It will become more diffacult as our stash of commerical goods dindle since the majority of that food was purcased in 2006 or before our current economic recession.

Why oh why didn't I buy 3 cases of pumpkin pie filling instead of 2?

~~ pelenaka ~~