Sunday, March 29, 2009

Generating Bartering Opps

3/31/09 - This picture has to do with bartering in a round about way. It's my most recent bartering example. Bare with me we have to cross the street and head over a few blocks toward the corner store before we get to the destination.
The day before I snapped this pic my bbgf gave a shout out that she had some donated food.
It's food that makes it's way outta a mega mart then down to a church org before ending up with another person who then sends what's left toward my bbgf. By then it's pretty well expired and more than spoiled. What you see here is fancy Batard Bread that was just soft enough not to need a saw to slice it. After a few days in the dehydrator I ended up with two half gallon mason jars of dried bread suitable for stuffing. Should go well with Sunday dinner baked chicken.
Also dehydrated was a quarts worth of parsley from the same score as the donated bread. I vacuum sealed that up in a mason jar to go back to my bbgf. She is pressed for time what with having a zillion children & that she home schools.
So here's the short cut - since she cut me in on this score my barter was labor/skill/equipment (dehydrated parsley packaged for long term storage).

Below is my orginal post ...

On my last post a frequent visitor Patrice Farmer, asked about how I found my bb or barter buddy as we call ourselves. While my most frequent and reliable partner in bartering was found by a chance conversation while I was inspecting a piano she was freecycling I have since worked out a simple system to grown my own personal bartering network. A combination of old fashioned techniques coupled with modern aged cutting edge sophistication practiced in the urban environment.

Yeah, just ask baby.
Simple huh?
No? Actually it isn't as for every 10 people that I approach with a bartering prop only usually 3 or 4 are interested - of that percentage 1 pans out maybe. But that one can often lead to more as they tell a friend who tells a friend that they traded sugar for fresh eggs or one set of skills for another.
Here's a no none sense direct conversation to start you off in a face to face scenario.
"I do allot of trading or bartering with many people in the community. Coworkers, neighbors, people like us. If you interested here's one of my cards perhaps we could do some business".
If your doing a ftf hand out one of those pre made index cards listing items that you have to offer and the items that you need with your contact info.
Keep these handy as you never know when a bartering opp passes before you.

Get your word out on the net. The more you advertise ...
Craig's list has a bartering section post a want and give.
Yahoo groups - if your area doesn't have one consider starting a local bartering group for your city.
Church bulletins - if the Pastor's not keen on it ask if you can leave a few index cards.
Home schoolers - these peeps already think outside the box and tend to be your target audience in that they are eco friendly frugal parents who value a good score. Think about all that school curriculum that they have to buy.

Create your own bartering opps event such as a clothes bartering party. Instead of selling cosmetics or plastic dishes bring all your unused clothes and a snack to pass and trade until you can't trade any more. Reserve a room @ your local community center and open it up to everyone you know.
Belong to a Mommies group? Booster club? Civic org?
Trade outgrown children's clothes, maternity ware, toys, really endless. Take this concept and run with it. Items such as sport gear, gardening items, & office attire.

Hopefully in our current economic climate more people will consider bartering with more than a passing interest.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

not 'ur grams tissue box

Busy putting my home inorder in ancipation of spring arriving soon.
Last week I came across a stash of plastic canvas bought last Summer @ a nearby street sale, no the street wasn't for sale just a group of neighbors who staged a massive street long tag sale. Now that I have all this free time on my hands I finally got around to converting these to useful food preservation tools.
I scored each plastic canvas for a dime. If your unable to catch a good find don't forget that some of the major chain craft stores offer coupons. Pick a canvas with a small patterned mesh since you'll want these screens to dehydrate items such as herbs & diced celery.
Directions : Take the 1 mesh screen that comes with your dehydrator and use it as a pattern to trace and cut more screen using plastic canvas. Instead of using a marker to trace the circle I pined a screen using clothes pins as my guide. If your screen less from the get go then you'll have to trace a pattern using one of the dehydrator trays. Trim to fit.

I've been trying to work up a barter deal for ingredients to make gourmet brown mustard. Thought I would kick off this year's canning season early using a recipe from Ball Complete Book of Home Preservering page 274, Oktoberfest Beer Mustard. I can already taste this on a white hot !
I found a bottle of beer in the cellar but am still short on brown mustard seed.

UPC update: Third straight month that I've been wrong.
This month the main reasons have & will be due to pork. Last week my bbgf (barter buddy/girlfriend) was shopping @ the local mega market & came across a loss leader sale on pork. The catch was that the pork was packaged in "family packs" of 10 pounds each having a varied assortment of chops & bone in roasts. Long story short after calling me and getting no answer she made an executive decision & bought me a "family pack" too. There was added stress since these were the last two on the shelf coupled with the fact that $ is tight I am on sabbatical after all.
$26 over budget for pork @ $1.38 per pound.
In the next few days I'll be spending $108.50 for half of a half pig that will be butchered this coming week. Same bbgf was cut in on this deal unexpectedly when someone else backed out.
If our math is good should work out to $1.40 per pound (really need to generate more savings to offset this expense).
These two deals got me to thinking about creating opportunities to take advantage of food opps.
Here's what I have come up with - giving a gift card to that one person who thinks & shops as I do (that being my bbgf) so when they're in the right place @ the right time they can snag me a deal too without a cash flow issue.
I'll ask her if she wants me to hold a gift card for her in the same way.

~~ pelenaka ~~

P.S. 3/26/09 My share of the pork came to $128 after all was said & done with the cost of the pig, butchering, & wrapping. So far there's 25 pounds of pork neatly tucked in my freezer.
Along with 17 pounds 5 oz. of pig fat. Anyone besides me see a post on rendering lard in my future?
Everything from Polish & Italian sauage, Chops, Loin Roast, Shoulder steak, & Spare Ribs.
Works out to $5.12 per pound as of right now.
Not sure if the lard was figured into my cost share.
Baccon and hams as being smoked so it will be interesting to see what my share will be of those and the over all final tally.
This pork along with the last purchase that my bbgf scored should with planning last a year other than needing an occassional slab of baccon now & then.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Urban June

My front yard early Spring (disregard the date stamp on the pic need to reset the camera).
Not very big huh? No joke when I say urban. House sits a bit over 15 ' from the street so take away almost 6' for the common areas (sidewalk & that strip of grass sandwiched between the street & sidewalk) and this is what is left.
In previous Summers I grew Eggplant hidden in amongst the flowers. This year besides that I'm gonna try for heirloom carrots planted in the holes of those cinder blocks.
Giving some thought to putting the wrought iron fence into action. How obvious would green beans growing on it be to someone strolling by?
Each year I give serious consideration to widing the raised bed and decreasing the lawn portion of the front yard. But then my son wouldn't have a spot to sit & visit with the passing girls in the hood. And I wouldn't be able to watch.
In the upper right corner off shoots of a 8 y.o. Strawberry bed will be planted so then that bed can be dug up, composted & replanted in a year or so. Tan color is bunny poop & wood shavings from the Giant Chinchillas. Need to locate some green compost fixings to layer in before the top coat of soil is thrown on.
Time to start the seeds.

Update on the UPC:
This is the 3rd straight month and like with anything practice makes perfect, well almost. While we haven't gone too far over the allotted $100 we haven't been under either. This is the month to accomplish our goal since the filled pantry shelves are emptying fast. My hope is that by next month the cold frames will producing giving us fresh garden salads.
Both the Rye & Winter Wheat are holding out well. I'm baking on average 6 loaves of bread each week.
So far we haven't run out of any one item that I canned but are low on everything across the board. We have just about run out of the green beans & broccoli (frozen) from last year's garden having spaced out their consumption this Winter.
Gone is the supply of squash (bartered) as is the supply of gleaned potatoes.
Extremely low on what is left of the 1/3 of a cow (frozen) that was purchased last fall.
Saturday we are planning on going fishing. Hope is that with 5 lines in the water we will come home with something.
Rabbit is gone. I don't breed during the Winter so a supply won't be put up until late next Summer. Still need to find a supply for Chicken & pork in bulk.
A brother has invited us to come fishing on his boat this Summer in the Finger Lakes region. Apparently he normally just throws his catch back but has been inspired recently by the down turned economy to rethink his hobby. In any case we will be taking advantage of local fishing opportunities in nearby county & state parks.
Besides kicking up the garden a few notches I really need to work on more gleaning opps or rather budget in the time to take advantage of what is here. So far I have been putting out the word both through church contacts and with postings on local yahoo groups.
Lately I suppose that like my brother people in general are more receptive to concepts like gleaning and bartering.
Here's a breakdown of what so far we've spent on groceries;
3/06 I was near Warsaw, New York and stopped in to a Mennonite store called Lantz's Bulk Foods. Bought $17.83 - vital wheat gluten @ $3.09 per pound, unground 9 grain mix @ $1.89 per pound, & Cream of Wheat or as we say in Puerto Rico Farina @ 69¢ per pound.
The 9 grain was something I had wanted to try for a while since we started grinding our own flour. For us it was nuttin special so it won't be a do over.
$12 on raw milk so far this month.
$26.50 @ Aldi's yesterday. Items like White Sugar, mayo, raw carrots (should have gleaned more), canned tuna, canned mushrooms, and black olives. The last two items are for topping on homemade pizza tonight. Oh forgot the T.P. is included.
Need to start seeds, so I can fill jars, so I can ...
Here's some news on the urban home front. I'm on sabbatical or as the tax man says unemployed by choice.
For the time I'm gonna be playing a version of urban June in this modern day two income culture of materialism. Hubby's gonna bring home the bacon I'm gonna work on gleaning firewood to fry it up in the pan.
~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Trail & Error backed up by chores has been my main homesteading gig since I last posted.

Pictured is my version of Rye Bread baked in a humongous cast iron skillet that was a part of my Husband's dowry. Yeah I am a bit of a homesteader ho. Flash a few time honored multifunctional 'steader tools under my nose & I melt. It weighs about 10 lbs. and is a foot & half across. Makes great corn bread when feeding a crowd and a sweet untraceable security protection device, a.k.a. The Backitup.
I have been on a real bread baking kick lately partially fueled by our Urban Pantry Challenge and also in hopes of generating a source of income later on. In my never ending quest to prove that I'm right er I mean to prove that it is still possible to live on a $100 a month grocery budget I am trimming the fat so to speak when it comes to bread baking. No more store bought white flour used in our daily bread. Strictly 100% whole grain ground in our kitchen (Lord knows we gotta put that 2 bills mill to work) . Hence the Rye Bread made with organic Rye berries & local Winter Wheat berries that were bartered for.
Second reason is to perfect my skills as a bread baker with an eye toward generating an economic opportunity next Winter. Just as easy to bake up a few extra loaves of freshly baked homemade bread to sell or barter with. Extra bread might be enough to offset the cost of all my baking. Long range goal is to eventually bake on the wood stove that is being installed this Spring using an antique stove top oven.
Rye Bread didn't raise like I had hoped. On the dense side but still very moist. Wasn't half bad when coupled with liverwurst, onion, & mustard for a hearty lunch.
Latest library lend is a nice cookbook, The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book A Guide to Whole - Grain Breadmaking by Laurel Robertson.
So far a good read with quite a few recipes I plan on making.

Hmm, wonder if a wooden dough trough made by my wonderfully creative husband would improve my bread making abilities?

Besides showing you that our vintage 1940's Westinghouse fridge needs a new paint job & that my lone crisper drawer needs a wipe out here is what's left of a barter deal a few weeks back. Organic grapefruit, tangerines, and oranges bartered for a few pounds of freshly ground organic rye flour. 3 heads or garlic were also had. February's UPC went over budget to the tune of almost $50. Of that fifty $16 of it was spent @ our local restaurant supply store were we bought a gallon each of Black Strap Molasses (bread making) & Vegetable oil. Case of butter was also purchased for $27. Rest of that fifty was spent on fresh salad fixings and a few odds & ends. Less than January's challenge but still not the $100 grocery limit that my husband mocks.

Down to a 1/3 of the canned/jarred food & slightly more than half of our cache of home canned produce has been used so far. Down to the last few pounds of gleaned potatoes. Need to work up a bartering deal on taters if possible. Defrost the upright freezer and inventory the contents.

Need to work up a new battle plan. Heat cold frames, grow salad greens, eat like a tree hugger. But how to heat a cold frame without spending $ on man made fuels or use a ton of horse manure ?

107 year old red oak factory made medallion previously covered in a numerous layers of paint. Left upper corner of the bedroom door. An electric heat gun & a paint scrapper followed by a pricey chemical paint stripper and me wielding an old toothbrush.

Clockwise. Counter clockwise. Wax on. Wax off. Mumble curses under my breath.

Blurry pic due to standing on a ladder while holding a paintbrush lathered up with paint stripper in my mouth. Yeah I know. Oh should write that it's a metal ladder to boot. After the door jam, two bottom floor mouldings & the window jams are stripped, sanded, & stained then it's just repaint the ceiling and hang drapes.

Perhaps a stint in rehab from huffing stripper.

~~ pelenaka ~~