Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tarp Blue

Ghetto Slip & Slide just add dish soap and a helmet.
 The lovely view out of my up stairs bathroom window. On a bright & sunny day the tarp blue glow, smoothing and shall I dare say tranquil reflects off the walls of my bath ... yeah what a load of  ... this is the twin of my house which sits about 12 feet away with it's newly tarpped roof.
Apparently a bank owned home can be tarpped without repercussions.
No certified love letters speaking of fines & confinement in the big house. Oh no sweet salutations from the code man for those people.
Poor bastards.

For me a common homeowner I just work two jobs and continue to interview roofers. Hopefully I'll have til late October to earn enough.

Wouldn't a tarp camouflaged roof be the bomb baby ?

I'm gonna need a helmet.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Thursday, June 21, 2012

French Connection

Checking out the Make  Magazine website for an outrageously awesome gardening idea for those of us who are spacial challenged. A design team from Paris, yeah as in France, came up with a tilt in tilt out window box holder thingy. I could so see just about all of a couples fancy salad green supplied with one or two of these holders utilizing succession planting.
If you haven't ever been on Make's site or picked up a copy of the very thick mag that plays more like a book I encourage you to do so. Usually I hang under the Home Garden section although I do enjoy checking out the electronic hacks even if it projects are way over my head.

I see a DIY project in hubbies future, lol. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ye of Little Faith

I really need to put my faith in God much more than I do.
Despite this Springs wild weather & late season wet snow fall we have Peaches on the trees.

The first pic is the tree closest to the garage which produces smaller Peaches as well as a smaller harvest.
Hopefully all that will change this year. We were told by the next door neighbor who is facing foreclosure that the bank will have ownership next month. I plan to lobby hard on having the 150 year old Maple that blocks out the sunshine, cut down. I'll be using phrases like litigation, damage to our many quality tools and possessions in housed in our garage when a limb decides to come crashing down.

In the meantime the Mylar mirror I've been erecting has been working out well all things considered.

Second pic shows what some sun light can do for a tree. Would you believe that there is only a distance of  8 feet between the two ?
Apparently 8 feet can mean all the difference whether it's shade or the Berlin Wall.

Mylar Garden Mirror on the garage wall ...

Bigger than a golf ball smaller than a tennis ball.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sabbatical Ends

Heads up this blog is still active, just a bit slow as of late.

I've been working six days a week (cue the Beatles Classic) which has been a great blessing because the borrowed time we've been living on has come to an end. The roof which needed replacing when I bought our old house 13 years ago, has finally sprung a leak.
So for now the electrical will have to wait while I come up with all those dead presidents to keep the rain & all too soon snow off our heads.                        

Last week the gods realized I had a steady paycheck & broke my laptop. Yeah that's right it was the gods who were also responsible for a few other unexpected bills that watered down the roof fund.
Such is life.

It times like these that I am glad we live well below our means; cheap rent, cheap tastes, no car note. I know that in the prepping movement everyone prepares for the "Big One" but for us it's more of being able to weather all the little ones.
Having the skills to live comfortable on almost next to nothing is what I'm talking about.

Sunday my day off I canned up 14 jelly jars of Strawberry Rhubarb Jam. Both were left overs that were gifted by a gf who worked the food bank last Friday. And so the 2012 canning season begins !

I also got a portion of the garden planted which made me feel better about the sad state of my city lot. Section after section of weed and no it's not that  cash crop just Gill-over-ground, Plantain, Rye Grass, Feverfew, Buttercup, along with a perennial Primerose Sundrop that has taken over like a bad case of poverty.

My grand plans were to thin the landscape plants like a boot camp barber, pot up, then barter or sell but that will have to wait for next Spring. What little time I have will be devoted to filling the pantry shelves. The majority of the mason jars are empty due to my lazy efforts last year.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I Made the Buffalo Paper

and no it wasn't the Police blotter ... I had a phone interview with Tim Graham, a staff reporter for The Buffalo News both an online & hard copy newspaper. He wanted the low down from real life local preppers . 

Actually acknowledging to myself that I am a prepper has never been easy. 
I along with most of America has always thought of preppers as a gun toting fringe group hold up in the boonies. Cast members from the remake of Deliverance ... cue the banjos. 
Because to me in my mind the way I live my life wasn't prepping ... it was being prepared & being ghetto fugal ghetto Amish ... cue the boom box. 
As much as I'd like to say that I feel the need to use non-electric tools because I am green to the core or I worry about EMP issues the real truth is I'm cheap. In the past the cheaper I could be the less I needed to work outside the home when my babies were small. Now, well it's about hard economic times & saving for our old age.

I really didn't didn't expect to make the final cut of the article because to tell you the truth I was expecting a sensational over the top piece about the local preparedness movement here in Western New York ala Nat Geo's Doomsday Preppers. I had hopes that the subsection of preppers who prepare for lifes trails & tribulations like hubby's recent & ongoing unemployment wouldn't be excluded. 

I was pleasantly surprised ! Thank you Tim.

Here's the link - I'm mentioned under the heading Canned Goods not Zombies 

Some old homes have bats we have TP & old fans
The toilet paper was free thanks to Swagbucks which had $5 YaySave gift cards last month. Unforgivably the gc are no more which is a real heart break 'cause they were cheaper than the $5 Amazon gift cards. I bought the max allowed in March & April which was a total of ten = $50. Last year Swagbucks had the premium membership a $19.99 (free shipping & extra discount) value so I bought that with my swagbucks points. So yeah I got free Charmin no cost shipping. In fact the 4 roll Charmin packs also got me swagbucks so it was a double win win.

Now if I could only get Woods, to sell that finger tip slicing fan ! He said no, you never know when you'll have to slice up zombies with it.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cheaper Than Dirt

Last week I got an email from Casey, whoever he or she may be, passing along a widget for a site that did a post on making a raised garden bed for $50. 
Five Zero. 
Fifty Washingtons. 
One third of a month of groceries.
Half a yard can buy allot in my world so I kinda was put out that this site was holding out their example as a cost effective fugal gardening method. It's a cool looking graphic that breaks down the cost of constructing a garden bed from scratch. 
I'd be impressed if it didn't cost so much.

Think of this as just a box spring.
This is a bed Woodsrunner built me four years ago out of old fence material I had saved from the but-ugly fence that surrounded my city lot. I didn't save much of that old fence but it's been enough so far. Woodsrunner had odds & ends (screws) laying around his workshop. I think we did actually spend some greenbacks on dirt but knowing myself I'd lay even money down that it wasn't more than $5 for bagged topsoil. 

Bed Me Baby
This year Hubby added a second frame or as I like to say a mattress to the box spring using a few more of those old fence boards tucked up in the rafters of his man cave. Only this time he was outta hardware so he came up with a tight MacGyver move ...

Metal Biscuits 
Those shinny circles are aluminium lids & bottoms from assorted nut cans used to join the fence boards. He's a good man to steal from his scrap metal stash - estimated cost/scrap metal value < 1¢

Like before I'll fill this level up with bunny poop, compost materials, egg shells, wood ash, alternating with bagged top soil that I scored last Autumn for a buck a bag. If you click on this blog post  the second pic is of this exact same bed using the direct compost method. Slick way to say no middle man a.k.a. no compost bin.

On a side note I love my free mulch courtesy of the city who had tree stumps ground the next street over last month. Thank you to hubby for snagging a few cart fulls.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, April 22, 2012


On Friday I was pedaling around my part of the city in what else - pedal pushers & a tank top, wind in my hair, smile on my face. Life was good, very good I had one paycheck in my pocket and only two days to go to my only day off for the week on my second job.
I even got a bit of a burn on my forearms.
Life was good as pedaled my way to the next neighborhood for my last shift of the day.

That was Friday.

Today we dug out the snow shovels that I had placed behind the garage just two days ago. Today we stood in the kitchen looking out the window @ the back yard ... speechless.
I have a pang of guilt in the pit of my stomach. If I hadn't put away the shovels that late unusually hot April Friday, this sleet/snow fall wouldn't be happening now.
I apologize.
I know better.
I have no idea what I was thinking. I wouldn't have taken down storm windows nor put up snow parkas in favor of light jackets & flip flops.
I am soo sorry!

There's nothing to say.
There's nothing to do.
Or is there ?

My area is slated to have under 10" much more than plastic tarps can fend off. The plan for the cold frames is to just go old school & scrape off the accumulated flakes. The fruit trees ... I plan to shake. Yeah just shake them. Shake the wet snow off so the branches won't be weighted down & snap.
No snapping allowed.

Woods has vowed to snap a pic of me standing sentry in our urban orchard shaking trees.

On the home front we have a bit of cured firewood for tonight & Monday night. If the grid goes down due to tree branches on power lines we also have the back up of a small heater powered by propane along with a small supply but I don't see us really needing it. Instead we can just have the wood stove lit for a few hours to heat soap stone bed warmers then turn in for the night.

If this were really the dead of Winter then we'd break out the two person tents to sleep in. It's easier to body heat a small tent than a whole bedroom.

We also have that old standby, a two burner Coleman Camping Stove for cooking and heating water for hot water bottles. Don't underestimate the benefits of curling up with even a small source of warmth when your cold. There's also our supply of oil lamps which we've been putting into practice as of late, along with flash lights & solar garden lights.

The majority of our food is shelf stable no need for refrigeration. What food items that are frozen would be pressure canned for long term shelf life on the Coleman Camp Stove.

We are to use a popular term, prepared ... for the most part minus the garden & orchard pretty well set for this coming Nor'easter that's headed our way.
Are you ?

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Acting Squirrely

Frost Variety Peach Tree #1 
For the most part it has been any where from a hard frost to mild frost conditions most nights here on the urban homestead. These trees, wedding gifts from me to Woodsrunner, have been tenacious in the face of Winter's last hooray.
Every morning as I look out the back kitchen window the sight of them both bring a smile to my face. My Peach Orchard in the ghetto.

When I bought these trees I had hopes of our children playing underneath them. Now going on six years of marriage sans babies Woodsrunner, parents my children as if they are his own. No pitter patter of little Dutch feet playing underneath.
My hopes is that one day my ... our grandchildren will be asking when they can pick a peach fresh off the tree.

Frost Variety Peach Tree #2 & the mylar backdrop
The mylar garden mirror I installed last June has held up really good. The panels that show creases are potato chip bags, the ones without are mylar food storage bags.

Ever since our mini heat wave last month which sparked orchards including mine to sprout weeks a head of schedule I've been scrambling like a squirrel before Winter gathering nuts.
A really frenzied squirrel with empty pockets and pantry shelves to fill.
I'm pretty confident that our personal Peach orchard will pull through, however I think local Cherry orchards have been hard hit. Whatever Cherries make it to market will be beyond my economic reach.

Besides canning up Cherry Pie filling I also can jelly jars of Almond Cherries in lite syrup for Woodsrunner. Cherries are a good homeopathic anti-gout remedy to have in the house. They also are awesome on buckwheat pancakes.

I ordered Traverse Bay Fruit Co. Dried Cherries, 4-Pound Box on Amazon for $24.33 or 38¢ per oz (subscribe & save pricing free shipping) with a portion of this month's earnings from Swagbucks.

I figure instead of pie I'll make Woods Cherry Chocolate Whole Wheat Cake.
Yeah I know it's different when your walking the healthier side of the street.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Murphy's Law

Every Nightingale needs a lamp & coffee grinder 

If you have been a long time reader of my blog then you "heard" me mention how I try not to let the gods know I have dead presidents (federal tax return) least the hot water heater starts peeing like a drunk behind the dumpster of the corner club or the car needs a new battery.

Wait for it ... the car did need a new battery because of a short in the wiring. Woods fixed that but we lost the clock & radio.
No hardship there because in this pinch we just use my solar emergency weather radio  on the dash.

Next came a bearing job rod thingy followed by a wheel alignment followed by car insurance note. The money order went out to the great insurance fund in the sky. Our only chariot has been sitting idle in the driveway, transportation needs fulfilled by bicycle, shoe leather express, or carro de publica. No problema it's Spring and we need to burn off the Winter fat.

Then the mother of all creature comforts only overshadowed by indoor plumbing, broke.
In one tenth of a millisecond by the flip of a switch we lost power in roughly 70% of our house. One moment we were all sitting in my new old parlor watching the telly then we weren't. Woodrunner had gotten up to snag a snack from the kitchen and on flipping the switch set into motion yet another M. L. E. (Murphy's Law event) this Spring.

The second story of MOH (my old house) went black along with two of the first floor rooms; the living room & downstairs bedroom. NP, we are preppers we just pulled out some battery operated L.E.D. lanterns then ran an electrical cord to the t.v. Finished watching the movie because it was due back @ the library the next day. By the third day of no power we went old school pulling out Wood's oil lamps.
The upside is that none of the vital outlets that supply the Westinghouse or chest freezer were affected. Oh yeah wait for it ... $3 savings on the electrical bill so far.

So the plan for now is to take a chill pill yeah I wrote it, take a few to regroup. We're working the  bartering angle for electrical work. So far no takers.

No hurry.
We have heat & plenty of lamps; battery, solar, & oil.
Most importantly I have a means to grind & brew coffee.
I might even invite Mr. Murphy in for a cup.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cow in the Cupboard

Free milk without buying the cow

When I think of a traditional homestead my pop culture inspired imagination often pictures dairy cows on lush green pastures contained within a perfectly picturesque white rail fence, Elsie the Borden Jersey Cow comes to mind.
Sweet smiling with her daisy chain necklace, the symbol of perfect dairy products.

But for those of us who don't have lush green pastures to keep a big doe eyed milker for our personal dairy there is always the more convenient alternative - non-fat powdered milk. Before you wrinkle your nose and mentally make whatever gag like remark that always represents forced Brussels sprouts consumption there are a few advantages of having a cow in the cupboard at your beck & call.

There's is the convenience factor which just can't be appreciated enough least there's a blizzard to remind you that you really don't want to make a midnight milk run.

I use non-fat milk for cooking and baking which frees up fresh milk for drinking, a cost savings. Then there's the added bonus of decreasing the calorie and fat content of a recipe by replacing the regular milk. I also use it to make Greek style yogurt.

I got a good deal on 8 pounds of non-fat milk in month on special offers on Amazon for $39.73 which qualified for free shipping. And as my other swagbucks rewards, this milk is free.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, April 1, 2012

No Fruit 4 You

Free Strawberry bed started from 3 orginal plants bought 11 years ago
3 or 4 days ago our freakishly warm early Spring turned on us. First a very chilly night like a wing man who has forgotten that it's all about moi, then more like a spurred lover giving us a hard frost. Yesterday it was all about a disgruntled wife who has realized that her fun loving grass is greener on the other side of the fence husband, was planning on moving along solo.

Yesterday I awoke to a blanket of wet snow less than an inch which brought us up short.
It really wasn't a great surprise since we all knew that the beach party weather of  last week was a freak of nature, "Little girl you want some eye candy"?

The Strawberries I'm not so much worried about because they have the resiliency of a child who grew up in a broken home. Short daylight hours & heavy foot traffic that doesn't always stay on the walk, this bed just keeps on surviving.

No warmth felt from the stacked stone cellar
As you can see Woodsrunner, has been busy putting in next year and the year after firewood. Every few days he works on splitting a round. 
The early warm Spring not to mention a relatively warm Winter meant that we had just gotten away with enough of wood to keep us warm. Currently we are burning windfall gleaned off the city's hell strips or gifted from neighbor's yards. Annie a few houses over actually thought enough to box & toss a tarp over the pile she gave us. I get allot of looks as I pull the garden cart behind me walking around the hood. 
NP, free heat can smooth over any of the hurt feelings I might have.

No signs of frost damage perhaps being an antique variety is the key.
This tree a Sops of Wine from Miller's Nursery in Canandaigua, New York. It has yet to give us fruit I have despite this recent cold snap. The fact that there's no blossoms may be the saving grace.

Climbing Pink Rose originally planted over a hundred years ago.
Pink Rose Bush seems to be very hardy. 
My neighbor behind me LaShonda, had tossed it over the fence in my direction when she heard me hanging laundry last Summer. Just as the root ball went up in the air clearing the peak of the garage she gave me a shout out. I'm glad she didn't see me hit the dirt. She kept half replanted that along a fence line. I potted this half up until I can afford to make a trellis for under the kitchen window. I think that a view of pale pink roses @ the kitchen sink will compliment my gray & white kitchen. 

Looking a little like Sanford & Son despite the new layer of mulch

Earlier this morning when I looked out the kitchen window @ my two Peach trees all I could hear was the voice of the actor who played the Soup Nazi in the classic Seinfield episode, "No fruit for you ... NO FRUIT FOR YOUUUUU"! 

My plan was to go down to the furniture store and snag some plastic wrapping outta the dumpsters then wrap my precious Peach trees. Yeah I know ... but have you ever had a sweet juicy Peach rip from a tree grown in your own backyard. Then don't judge me ...

All I can hope for is that my Peach trees Frost variety will survive & produce because locally the fruit orchards were hard hit. I didn't can as much fruit as I should have, poor planning on my part. If I had then this glitch in food production could be easily rode out until 2013 or even 2014 harvest. 

Now I need to come up with an alternate plan to put fruit in on the family menu.
  1. Schedule time to go foraging for wild berries I slacked last year.
  2. Scope out new opportunities a.k.a. make contact for gleaning of any available urban fruit.
  3. Increase garden fruit plantings such as melons to provide fresh fruit then all tree fruit can be preserved. 
  4. Consider stocking commercially caned fruit (although expensive since we would need low sugar/no sugar).

~~ pelenaka ~~

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Save With YaySave

My 1st order from YaySave was over a year ago. I ordered dish washing liquid, Ivory Soap for laundry soap making, and hand sanitizer. Since then I've ordered a few more times - free shipping & fast service on quality products.
This past Saturday, I bought Charmin Ultra Strong tp - double rolls 2 ply 12 pack for $10.25. A good deal so I bought three packages, you can never have enough TP. The third only ended up costing me 25¢ or a total of $1.73 per double roll for the whole lot. 

I had a $5 credit from a previous order on YaySave which I took full advantage of on this order. Then I subtracted the upcoming $5 Amazon gift card that I'll redeem with a portion of the 500 swagbucks that was a promotional offer on YaySave this past week, (with a $20 purchase). 

Then on Sunday I remembered that my Mom would soon be needing a tissue run so I ordered her the Puffs special. Then I remembered that my very athletic teenage daughter has sneakers that can get up and walk on their own. I ordered her a can of Lysol disinfectant spray. That order also qualified me for another 500 Swag bucks. My 1000 Swag Bucks were deposited in my swagbucks account on Tuesday! 


Wednesday my order from YaySave was delivered to my door. Not bad @ all ... free shipping ... $10 worth of Amazon gift cards earned (+ an extra 100 swagbucks) all in 4 days from start to finish!

This week's YaySave's promotional offers are earn 100 Swag Bucks on Aveeno, Boon, and Olay products. I'm a Premium member ($19.99 for a full year) so I get free shipping, along with weekly special deals
YaySave also has a certified section where products are always a minimum of 25% less than other online competitors who's prices are also posted directly on YaySave's site- makes for easy comparison shopping. Each week the site focuses on a new brand as their bonus offering @ great price. 

Good customer service, fast (free shipping for premium members), and all the convenience of shopping in my pajamas for great deals on products that we use. 

YaySave also has a great referral program. If any of your referrals go premium you receive a sawbucks ($10) not to be confused with swagbucks, lol. But the real moolah making deal is that you can earn up to a C note ($100) per referral by collecting on every purchase. 

Even if you decide not to sign up under me using my referral link I still promise to share with you special E-codes for extra YaySave deals. Because after all, it's all about saving those green backs on products you really use.

Login or sign up with YaySave then to to "my accounts ". 
Your 1st special E-code for $2 is 94166d017e4caa0c922af359883ee4ef Good til this Sunday the 25th. 

Stack the $2 E-code credit you just got with this weeks promo Spend $50 get $15 in YaySave Credit = $17 in totally free products. Stack those extra savings when you buy any products on YaySave that earn you swagbucks. Use swagbucks to earn paypal cards to pay for your Yaysave purchases.
Seventeen smackeroos without clipping coupons or throwing on street clothes to go shopping.

While you're @ it stop by this weeks giveaway enter via fb or email for their double C note a $200 valued baby product

Might be your lucky day, after all you just got $2.

~~ pelenaka ~~

P.S. - check out YaySave's twitter feed for another great code worth 50 cents, every penny counts. 

Cold Frame = Hot Love

Yeah, that's right when your a homesteader be it urban or rural it's gifts of cold frames and the like that tells you your man loves you. 
Loves you Hot.

This is the second cold frame Woodsrunner has built me. After 5+ years of marriage originating on yahoo singles (no he wasn't a online serial killer), he apparently loves me even more than when he built the first cold frame

Baby has Wood

Hubby's newest design makes the center height twice as high to accommodate marigolds (bug control) and  taller greens such as Swiss Chard. PVC pipe & wood was all scavenged from past projects around the urban homestead.

Early Spring Beige 

In place waiting on upholstery plastic to be stapled down. Red Onions made it through our mostly balmy Winter. So did the carrots which were some of the sweetest, most delicate tasting I have ever had.

Good haul ... if I was Tom Thumb. Neglected to use an object (like a quarter) for size reference but lets just say that rinsing them off greatly decreased the harvest.

Broccoli or rather 6 month old Broccoli starts but I did keep them alive through a warm Winter.
Surviving & flourishing are two vastly different concepts. Consider us starved if we had had to depend on the garden for total Winter nourishment.

It's been in the high 70s to record breaking 80 degrees as of late but I'm sure that there is one last howrah from Old Man Winter still yet to come. Maybe I'll still get to try out my new cold frame.

A hunk hunk burning love ...

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Free Canning Jars - Blessings on the Curb

Bit of elbow grease makes for a new opportunity for food preservation. 

I scored 5 boxes of tall Ball Quilted Jelly Jars last week the day before my street was scheduled for trash pick up. The boxes were piled up in front of a neighbor's house along with glassware, books, and some clothing. Neighbor who I had only really waved to on my travels was purging her father's apartment contents due to his recent death. She was on her front porch taking a smoke so I was able to ask if she didn't mind me rummaging around the huge pile on the hell strip. That's when she told me he had died of complications due to diabetes.

I offered my condolences and thanks for the jars and for the first time we chatted a bit. She mentioned how she always saw me riding around the neighborhood. Then spoke about how much in the past she enjoyed riding. I gave her my card and told her to call sometime we could go for a ride. She didn't seem too enthusiastic perhaps when I drop off a few filled jelly jars I can nudge her to go for a short ride.
When your ready I told her as I pedaled away with the jars bungee corded to my bike rack. She gave a wave with the hand that held her Indian Pride cig and gently rocked on the porch swing.

Two of the 12 packs boxes were filled with what was peaches in heavy syrup and perhaps pureed pears.
No labeling but I wasn't planning on eating the contents anyways, it was all about the glass.

Two boxes worth went to my bbgf (barter buddy girlfriend) as an early Mother's Day gift. The other 3 twelve packs down to the cellar. I need to do some serious canning this year especially since I slacked off last year.

I get allot of stares when I haul cargo home on my bike, not so much when I'm just out & about. It always pays to have the means to carry stuffs on a bike. Being street level usually results in good opportunities and the chance to make new friends.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fugal Package for Homemade Gifts

Store with the bail off & bottle upside down. 

If your a greenie or short on cash here's a packaging idea that works great & only costs a nickel.
We buy these wire & bail bottles back from the neighborhood redemption place which although not as fun is cheaper than purchasing them filled from the corner store.

Good soak in boiling hot soapy water then a bit of elbow grease scrubbing the labels off with an old toothbrush.

Fill with homemade apple cider vinegar, secure the cap, add label. These work well for flavored extracts, oils, & vinegar. I could even see these holding homemade lotions. There is the obvious of course ... homemade beer or wine.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Free Amazon Kindle Books

Amazon recommended these free kindle books to me today ... oh how they know me so well.  I haven't had a chance yet to read any of them but in case there's only a 24 hour window of opportunity (read free) I wanted to share.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Gardening - never enough points of view.

Green Living - this catch phrase makes me lol.

Turning the Unemployment Tide 

Just in case that interview is group affair.

4 reviews 5 stars - got my attention.


Hopefully I'll learn something new.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Foreclosure Next Door

3rd in a series of the perfect storm (foreclosures) surrounding my urban homestead.


Foreclosure due to Illness/Poor decisions - I'd been expecting the foreclosure of my neighbor's home since October when he had casually mentioned his bank note hadn't been paid in months. He had apparently missed the financial boat sometime within the 15+ years of home ownership to refinance @ a lower rate. Years later after smoking two packs a day for forever he came down with the big C, surviving isn't always the half of it. It is also surviving the cost of cancer. 
Without a steady paycheck burdened with a McMansion sized mortgage note, fed up with responsibilities of ownership he choose not to find a solution. Just as he choose not to have his roof replaced, or his furnace fixed, or gutters hung in times of plenty. Repairs now to the twin far out weigh it's current value. 

My neighbor's choices in life are now resting on my front stoop and my heart. My worry is that the twin can become a rental. Secondly, the value of my home has over night sunk even farther down the real estate rabbit hole. 

I had on the occasion of my marriage to Woodsrunner, made a promise - that with the last child out of high school we would move to the country (yes I would blog through that transition & no it wouldn't be a 100% happy move for me). Now not unlike a million other homeowners while not exactly upside down on my note, I have no pipe dreams of being able to sell. And I don't mean sell for a profit (no profit no raw land), I mean just selling to break even. 

The twin to my 1902 two story farmhouse built on a stacked stone foundation with a hand dug cellar in the balloon frame method is @ the widest point 13' from my own home. 
The floor plans is exactly the same with a few exceptions from remodels on both. The twin has had an additional toilet installed downstairs in what was originally a walk in kitchen closet that was then blocked off & door rerouted. My twin had a wall & doorway removed converting the downstairs bedroom into a dinning room. Not the smartest move, downgrading a home from three to two bedrooms. 

The most visible difference between the twins is exterior. 
For most who aren't gardeners the difference is house color. 
For others it's the porch designs. 
Neighbor's twin has two driveways a sweet deal where on-street parking can be the norm. 
But for me who has lived with spacial confinements and lack of life giving sun shine the biggest difference between the twins is MORE dirt for one twin, not enough for the other.

The other twin sits on a double lot, a full 60' x 90'. 
It also sits off to the right on that lot giving that extra 35' of lawn all day sunshine. An extra 420 inches. 

I covet my neighbor's lot.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Accessorizing the Hearth

I've been collecting stove parts for years before we actually installed our stove. The Jotul that we use now isn't even my first.
I had a Vermont Castings on the porch for a few years that I had bought second hand then eventually resold once my then fiance now husband finally convinced me that wasn't the stove for my house. 
In the mean time I continued to be a collector of all things wood stove related.

Advertised as a mostly complete stove accessory but is it ?
I found this on ebay, @ that time I had no clue how I would ever afford to install a stove but I knew I needed this. I just really really needed this.
I also knew that it had become a one of a kind piece. I bit the bullet and bought it for my as yet un-acquired wood stove for around $50. Then stored it the attic of my house for the next ten years only to be forgotten time & time again until a few days ago.

Clearly it's a ?
Demmler Bros. Pittsburg, Pa. Patented Apr. 20, 1869. Rare to find one with the adjustable stove collar, spine, and adjustable stops. Trivets & stops are cast iron. The spine is metal. Could use a good rub down with stove polish not to mention the Jotul. 

Placed in front of the chimney pipe for photo opp. 
An antique chimney shelf, what every box style stove needs.
After husband made the final placement behind the stove pipe he used a 7" stainless steel hose clamp from the plumbing supply to fasten it around the pipe. 
He promised to keep an eye out of another fastening option in black.

Off grid coffee cup warmer.
The trivets become good & warm never hot despite almost touching the stove pipe. Besides keeping my cup warm the trivets are great for warming mittens and stoppenfloppers.

Forget towel warmers the ultimate in luxurious comfort is a heated stopenflopper.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Free Firewood Isn't Free

Someone on a forum this past month reminded me that when I say we have free firewood it really isn't free. 
There's the cost of tools unless you inherited them. 
Maintenance on tools like axes, chain saws, manual cross cut saws, ect. 
There's also the tools that you need to preform the maintenance on your firewood making tools.
Add in gas & oil for a mechanical chain saw. 
Then of course there's the cost of traveling to the source & carting the wood back. Along with the cost of the equipment used to transport ... ect. ect. ect.

So no I wasn't being totally truthful when I post that we have free firewood but this is just about as good as it gets. 

Witness to the construction of a neighborhood.

Hundred year old Maple located in the hell strip was finally after eight years of complaining, pleading, and yes even cursing trimmed.

This tree is actually in front of my neighbor's home (to the left if looking out front door), but if it had split that trunk would have bounced off his home & landed in our driveway crushing our only horse or worse my front stoop.
I think the deciding factor for the city to have it trimmed was that my neighbor's home is in foreclosure.
Bank owned properties are as much of a hassle for local governments as they are for a neighborhood. Banks/mortgage companies can be very lazy about maintaining a property especially ones that they won't ever see any return on.

Race is on to get the logs cut & stacked out of view from the street.

For the cost of a few dozen cookies the tree trimmers were putty in my hands .... actually our driveway was closer then were they had their trucks street parked. If the tree had been Oak there be no way they would have let us glean but we're thankful for the Maple.

Legally I only own half of the drive but since notice of his impending eviction the neighbor has been agreeable to not using the area to park his truck (he has a second drive on the other side) when we've need the extra space.

Log rolled back this little piggy didn't run fast enough home. 

Sometimes you have to factor in a higher cost of keeping the home fire burning.
Thank you my husband you are a good man ... and patient.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Filling a Sweet Tooth With Whole Grains

Another example of my New Years Resolution #2 - Eat more healthy as if $ was no object.
My mother's B-day is tomorrow so I wanted to practice baking her as well as us a healthy cake.

Mi Mama, like so many of her countryman suffers from diabetes as well as high cholesterol. She's actually very good about her diet on her own but won't cook with whole grains due to her one & only attempt @ cooking brown rice with nasty results. After that there was no talking her into a second try.
She grew up with white rice learning @ a young age to cook a pot of arrozo con costillas on an open fire. She use to tell me that as important as having the right ratio of water to rice was to make sure that all three of your rocks that were needed to keep the pot level in the hot coals. When they traveled to another area of the island she always remembered to bring her rocks. Pretty smart for a seven year old girl.

Last week when she came for dinner I made arroz de gandules con pollo subbing in brown rice on the wood stove. Much easier than the open fires of her early childhood. Everyone including Mama, thought it was good but lacked that thick layer of pagao in the bottom.
Later during dinner Mama volunteered that maybe half breeds can't make pagao as she spooned a second helping on to her plate. My mother's skill of manipulation would make a Jewish Grandmother envious. 

An added stipulation to this birthday cake baking is I'm beyond broke (what else is new), so I needed a recipe that didn't require any bought ingredients. Well @ least a recipe I could manipulate (yes I am my mother's daughter in so many ways).

I got this free kindle book thanks to a heads up by Pam6, 
Healthy Whole Grains Dessert Recipes, Easy and Delicious Whole Grain Desserts last week. I was in need of a whole grain dessert cook book to fill that deprived void that we've been experiencing since our change in diet to whole gains. This has been a perfect fit for my pantry shelves.

I found a few Lemons in the fridge & sliced bananas in the freezer. Both left overs from the food bank I volunteer @. Hubby put in the time with the grain mill to grind up fresh Soft Winter Wheat I just bought last month with Swagbucks. I subbed in carob powder (had) instead of chocolate, powdered eggs instead of fresh, real butter instead of olive oil because I'm out of extra light, and nut milk for homemade Greek Yogurt because the yogurt maker has been slacking. Knock off brand of Splenda for any sugar needed. to make this recipe more diabetic friendly.

Other than a few substitutions mentioned for Mama's cake even the peanut gallery who doesn't suffer from the sugar is enjoying having sweets in the house again. 
I gave this book 5 stars on my Amazon review and although I was able to score the kindle version for free I would purchase this again ... guilt free.

One of the many hats my Kindle wears is being a Techno-Amish Cookbook 

There's no follow up pic because in my rush to put out coffee & dessert for unexpected guests yesterday evening I forgot. Cake baked up well in the stove top oven giving the house a wonderful smell.

Feliz Campleanos Mi Mama!

~~ pelenaka ~~

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Foreclosure in my Backyard

2nd in the series of the perfect storm (foreclosures) surrounding my urban homestead.

Foreclosure due to death/fraud - 
One of the memories my children have of when we first moved to our urban homestead is of the secrete whole in the fence which allowed them to cut through the neighbor's yard behind us (actually off to the right) down her driveway & on to the street. From there they would walk the city sidewalk to the corner, hang a right walk a dozen or so yards to a major intersection where a school crossing guard would greet them.   
They could accomplish the same route with a few more steps but it lacked the same ambiance as wiggling their bodies between an old chain link fence post and an even older garage. 

Have to admit that squeezing through the opening mindful of the roses & bramble was endearing. Only once on my way to shoot the breeze on her front porch did I get hung up. And yes, I could have easily just walked around the corner, past the garage to her house. 

The wonderful woman who lived in the house behinds (& off to the right) moved away a year later. Her husband received a promotion & relocation with in the prison system to an area where she had family. Children missed the invites over for cookie baking. I missed the pleasant conversations.
Secretly I hoped she wouldn't be able to sell this house with it's unique placement of the only bathroom years after it's completion. Owner builds, thick. strong and sound often don't have the best lay outs. You can always tell when a husband didn't heed his wife's constructive criticism.  

# 9 sold to an elderly couple from the sun shine state with a phoo-phoo dog in tow. He was in his late eighties the epitome of the word spry. More than once he would call over to me from his spot on the roof over the laundry room converted from a back porch that once held firewood and an ice box. 
You can't do that I would plead. I'm a nurse so if you fall I'd have to come help. I'm busy hanging laundry ... Maybe I need a naughty nurse he would yell back. 
This is why your wife dislikes me I always answered. 
An old sailor who had more children then even he knew about. Those that visited asked for funds but instead got a trail of international curse words throw @ them.  Those were the times that I hung laundry on my own without the help of little fingers handing me cloths pins.

Interesting the topics that are heard over backyard fences huh?  

In the Spring he planted a Cheery tree dead center of his little yard.  The sailor paid my 8 year old son a dollar to dig the whole good & deep. After finding broken china, a bit of a beer bottle, and clay title he would have done the job for free. For the next week it was all I could do to keep him from digging up our yard. 

"Aren't you concerned about that Cherry not getting enough sun? " I asked as I looked directly up into my next door neighbor's massive Maple tree that resembles a head of broccoli. That tree straddles four yards and two roofs. 

"Sweetheart, it don't matter", traces of Bronx accent @ the end of every sentence. 
"It's not like I'll live to see a harvest".

After the funeral the wife with her itty -bitty barking dog that mandated a gate made out of scraps to close the hole in the fence, felt a Cadillac would ease the pain of her sailor's departure. Bought with the proceeds of a reverse mortgage. Now with a new ride she was rarely home.
The Cherry tree just a year after it's planting despite the shade & lack of care gave enough to make a small pie. The neighborhood cats are in charge of the security detail

One day the widow just didn't come home. 

A year no two went by ... the Cherry tree thrived. 
The code man came & went. 
By now I was thankful that the Blackberry Bramble had overtaken the hole providing cover for my homesteading activities. In Winter he stands by his car never brave enough to trudge to the back of the lot. 

Then hollow pounding  of a process server every once in a while would ring out between the garage & our shed. Occasionally I'd hear a Hello ... Hello?  
I'd yell back a hello spoken like Julia Child. 

Eventually one spilled the beans to the neighbor on the right of the retro green painted house. The reverse mortgage company finally realized that the Grandma who reminded us all of Tweedy Bird's owner, had duped them. They didn't due their due diligence like so many in the mortgage housing scandal.
It was wrong of us to be proud of Con-artist Granny, but we were. 

No, we didn't know where she was but she enjoys her Bingo, check the halls start first with the Catholics then move on the the Elks. If she's not there check the Falls.
Yes, her husband is @ Forrest Lawn we attended the wake. 
No I doubt any of his children know her whereabouts. 

I could drop a dime if you want, have a card? 

~~ pelenaka ~~

P.S. - unlike the mortgage company that may or may not have acquired the house across the street from us, this one is good about property maintenance. Which is why when the crew shows up we always remind them about Pepe LaPew
The house is now on the market for a third of it's assessed value needing a new main roof (previous owner replaced roof over the converted porch).


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Homestead Valentine Gift

In my younger days I always expected the more traditional Valentine's Day gifts from a beau. Roses, candy, a good meal more if it was a serious relationship. I was a different senorita then ... I wouldn't have appreciated the man I am married to now.

Soap Stone bed warmer with a metal spring handle,
Take me to Bed ... I Will Keep You Warm.

We ran across this soap stone bed warmer on our last trip to our favorite mercantile but @ the time I was way too short on cash to snatch it up. Woods, being the ever observant homesteader mate that he is later went back. Of course there was a reason why he was discouraging when I asked him to buy the stone then.

The stone is heated on a trivet on the stove just enough but not so hot that I can't handle it. Depending on whether I'm just chilling in the living room then I wrap the stone in a towel to rest my cold toes on.
Bedtime application - start @ the head of the bed lying the stone down on both top & bottom sheets but underneath blankets. Slowly make your way down to the foot of the bed. Wrap the stone in a thick towel & place it under all the covers with you.
Quickly climb into bed & enjoy.

Food Warmer - Heat to almost hot, place stone on a thickly folded towel placed on table. Place pot of food on stone to maintain warm temps.

Summer use - chill stone well, place on thickly folded towel on table. Place cold salads such as potato on top to help maintain cold temps. Or use in a cooler as an ice pack.

This technique could also be used for personal cooling comfort either placing a stone behind you in the small of your back or simply kicking off sandals & placing bare feet on a hot Summer day.

Thank you my husband I love my stone.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chang up @ Alice

I got this email from about some recent changes they have made to their website.

  • Change # 1 -  Orders ship free @ $40. 
  • Change # 2 - Anything under $40 has a $6.99 shipping fee.
  • Change # 3 - Orders over $75 will be discounted 5% and free shipping. 
Currently gift cards are discounted in the swagstore so if you have enough swagbucks to buy three $25 gift cards then the $75 + 5% off & free shipping would be the way to go.

If you use my my referral link I get 3% of your purchases for a year.
You get a $10 sign up bonus when you buy $50 or more of groceries.
Use gift cards bought with Swagbucks and everything is free.

Currently there's a good deal on 20 Mule Team Borax 76 oz. box for $3.54 (75¢ off coupon automatically). Borax is a great green all purpose cleaner and a key ingredient for homemade laundry soap. Keep forever once in a water proof container. I keep mine in a plastic shortening container (Aldis brand).

~~ pelenaka ~~