Friday, August 29, 2008

Small changes that you can make starting today that are FREE or nearly FREE and still save the environment

Stop using paper towels (if you have them, use them up and then buy or make (instructions to follow) kitchen rags)
Stop using paper napkins (see above)
Go on an unplugging rampage – unplug the energy vampires around your house that just sit and do nothing most of the time
Make lentils and rice for dinner (recipe to follow)
Turn off the TV
Go without make-up for one day a week
Wear your jeans one extra day before washing
Stop (and seriously I mean STOP) buying individually packaged water and soft drinks
Add water to your shampoo, conditioner, body soap, dish soap, liquid laundry soap – you know you use too much anyways so what harm is a little water going to do?
Don't run to the store for that one thing – just make do without it today
Skip showering every once in awhile
If it's yellow let it mellow (I know that seems gross, but if you pee twice a night it is ok to let the first one sit until the next time)
Turn off the A/C in your car, roll the window down and feel the breeze
Turn off the A/C in your home if it isn't 95* + out (we do not use A/C unless the temperature gauge reads triple digits)
Stop sprinkling your plants a little every day – if you want to save water then you must water deeply, less often (LINK) <--click link for 100 ways to save water
Stop patronizing restaurants that send take-out home in Styrofoam – better yet, eat at home more – it saves you money
Find a sunny spot in your yard and plant a garden – it's fall in the US right now – plant fall crops (see my posts on fall gardening)

Most of these things cost little to no money, or just plain save you money. They also do not require a major lifestyle change, but they are a great place to start if you are trying to find a way to go green but are not ready to buy a Prius, install Solar panels, or forswear the car.

Quick and easy paper towel substitutes
– the easy way is to buy a big bundle of white shop rags at Target ($3). We wash them until they are either too stained, or too worn out to keep using. If you are a more DIY kind of person then grab that old ratty bath towel that you keep meaning to throw out and cut it into washcloth sized squares – serge or hem the edges, or just let 'em unravel. I do this all the time and we NEVER buy paper towels. If something is so gross that you think you MUST use a paper towel, just find the oldest rattiest rag, use it and toss it. If it's a cotton rag, you can actually compost it. But that's purely your choice. I sometimes pick up nice towels at yard sales for a quarter. I know this sounds creepy but wash them well and they're fine. They're great to repurpose into kitchen rags.

Paper napkin substitutes are easy too, use the rags from above, or buy some muslin at a fabric store – cut into squares and hem. Buy them at a yard sale, estate sale, thrift shop – whatever, just promise me that next time you go to use a paper towel or paper napkin that you think about this post, and remember just how easy, cheap, or even free it would have been to take one small step to save the environment.

Lentils & Rice recipe -
Quantities are based on family size (we ate lunch and dinner from the following recipe)
1# Puy Lentils (French Green)
1 ½ cups dry rice (make in rice cooker or stove – whichever way you usually make rice)
1 medium onion
Garlic to taste
Cumin powder to taste (2 TBSPs)
Garam Masala to taste (2 TBSPs)
Plain Yogurt
Salt
1 qt Chicken Broth

I started the rice in the rice cooker which takes 45 minutes.
Then I placed the washed, sorted lentils in a pot with the broth, onion, garlic, and spices.
Bring lentils to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover.

When the rice is done (45 mins – 1 hour) the lentils should be done.
Serve in bowls layering lentils on top of rice with a big dollop of yogurt on top.
I like mine with lots of salt ;)
It's delicious, healthy, low fat, and CHEAP – oh and better yet no cow polluted the environment or died to feed you. We are eating like this 3x a week. I hope our waistlines, health and pocketbooks will show the results soon.

Just take a couple steps today
– limit a trip, turn off a light, skip the take-out. It adds up.

You don't have to ride a bike to love the earth.

I know it would be grand and all, but sometimes it just isn't practical.

Best,
Heather

Update on "Ways to Save Money"

Ways to Save Money

* Conserve water Working on this, will install a cistern by Spring
* Drive less by limiting and combining trips Done!! Doing!!
* Convert to all CFLs Not yet, but nearly there
* Hang clothes to dry I hang about 15% of our laundry. Trying to get better!
* Grow a vegetable garden Done! I am also planting a HUGE fall/winter garden right now
* Hold a HUGE yard sale this summer On hold for now. Just listing things on Craigslist.
* Investigate installing low e window film to help insulate our house w/o replacing the windows Probably a no go...this is more for sun I believe.
* Eat vegetarian more often Just started doing this - 3 dinners a week!!
* Limit processed food purchases - healthier and cheaper Ongoing
* Make coffee at home Ongoing. The last time I was at Starbucks was in June-ish.
* Insulate the living room crawl space Done, to the tune of $703.81.
* Cover windows with plastic for winter Found a brand new window for the living room on Craigslist. Yay. Plastic will go up on the other windows in October.
* Sew thick curtains for winter Some done, more needed
* Install woodstove insert (natural gas prices are rising!) Maybe not this year, we're running out of money
* Reuse items that I usually would toss Ongoing
* Sew Ongoing, but need to do more of this
* Shop with coupons Hmm probably cancel this one, as most of what we are shopping for has no coupons
* Spend less at Christmas by making gifts Working on this
* Stop eating out - except date night Ongoing
* Turn off lights in empty rooms Ongoing
* Watch less TV (saves power) Easy, ongoing :)
* Unplug items we are not using Trying!! This is not very easy!!
* Insulate the waterheater TBD
* Investigate installing a tankless waterheater Probably not this year
* Buy foods with less packaging - bulk items are great Ongoing
* Use less air conditioning Used it once in the house this summer (107*)
* Give our old clothes new life by turning them into new things... www.craftster.org See sewing note above

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My car costs me $1020.48 per month!

I am annoyed that it took me this long to figure it out - but I had to figure in the payment, gas, upkeep and insurance...amazing that I never have done this before.

Watch this space for future updates as I decide what the fate of the money-pit car is.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Food Not Lawns (part 2) & Fall Veggies (part 2)

Today something interesting happened - I went to the local garden shop to pick up some light organic soil blend for seed starting and the gentleman who was checking us out asked what we were planting. I told him how my 17 year old son and I had reclaimed some no man's land on the side of the driveway by building a raised rock bed. I also told him how we were tearing out our front flower beds to plant a winter veggie garden instead.

He stopped checking and looked at me sadly. I was very puzzled. He then said, "It's a sad, sad world that we live in that people are forced to do drastic things like this."

I said, "Oh it's good fun and I can't wait to eat from it!"

He was kind of a bummer on my day. I guess in a way he's right, but you know the old saying about Lemons and Lemonade? That's what I am doing. Besides who needs all these thirsty flowers and grasses? I'd rather use the water on something that is good to eat.

I planted Swiss Chard and Parsley in a mixed planting in our new driveway bed.

My 17 yr old son removed all the overgrown perennials that I had grown from seed in a bed by the road (never ever plant Shasta Daisies unless you REALLY want to have them in abundance). He also dug a bunch of sod which is now lying around my garden thinking about composting for me.

Tomorrow I will add some composted horse poo/sawdust to the newly dug bed (I have only 10 or 12 wheelbarrows full left)...and then plant my Kale and lettuce blends.

I am also doing my winter flower pots with Kale, Swiss Chard, and Arugula. It should be fun.

I'm really digging this 4 Season Gardening.

More tomorrow...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Here's what a truly organic garden looks like

I thought I would post some pictures of my garden (veggie and flower) so you can see what no pesticides and no chemical fertilizers look like.

I water the veggies once a week for 3 hours. The flowers get watered every couple of days, but the flowerbed was just planted in July so it needs time to become established.

That said - here we go -

The first picture is our new front walkway with our new landscaping. The rich black soil is merely composted horse manure and sawdust.

New Front Walkway garden


Next up are the Yellow Brandywine tomatoes...nothing, not downpours nor deer can stop these heirloom tomatoes!

Yellow Brandywine Tomatoes

Every year we have mystery squash of some sort. This year are some strange looking pumpkin type devices. It's like Christmas...with err squash...

Mystery Volunteer Pumpkin

Our neighbor dug a hole in our yard to get to his water meter. He never filled it in so we did with some nice dirt from an old Swiss Chard bed (died 4 YEARS AGO!!)...I guess seeds last that long exposed to the elements...I have never watered nor placed any poo around these lovely plants. I am however, planting more Swiss Chard there now and will start caring for it.

Water Meter Swiss Chard

Ahhh, the next item in my garden line-up is not a plant at all, but a little sweetheart who loves to touch and taste (nearly) everything in my garden. I couldn't let him do that if I used nasty chemicals.

Dima

MMMM Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes...'nuff said.

Cherry Tomatoes

This pile of plants are 4 Lemon Cucumbers. They are crazy big and producing a ripe cucumber every day now. We had a late spring so this is very exciting.

Lemon Cucumber Giganticus

I hope you enjoyed a little peek into our world.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Composting is for sissies

I have been reading a book written in 1955; but its message is very timely. It is called "How to have a Green Thumb without an Aching back" by Ruth Stout. It's really hard to find...in fact I bought mine at a yard sale about 15 or 16 years ago for a dime.

In the book, Ruth talks about buying a 55 acre farm with her husband in the early 1930s. She tackles a huge space for a garden and basically wears herself to a frazzle every day trying to keep up.

I have read this book many times and still seem to glean new knowledge from it.

I have clung to my compost pile for years...and it's never really finished, nor have I gotten anything from it...I just keep piling garden and veggie scraps in.

We have some resident Raccoons and they knocked my compost bin flat last night. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last...and strangely enough I just finished Ruth Stout's book again...

So today, instead of dumping the contents of my bowl on top that disaster of a pile, I lifted the straw mulch that covers my garden and poured the contents underneath. Then I tucked the mulch back into place and voila it was perfect.

I am no longer going to make a compost pile. I am going to 'layer compost' on the spot in my garden from now on.

If you lack straw, you can use shredded leaves, or mulch, or even some topsoil. Just scratch the soil enough to have a place to put your compost items and cover with something. Worse comes to worse...tuck under the edges of the Zucchini.

Apparently RS mulched this way for 12 years before she wrote that book...and she seemed pretty happy with it.

Oh and did I mention - she stopped tilling, weeding, fertilizing, and using any pesticides when she started mulching.

The only fertilizer I use is organic (horse poo etc), and no chemicals EVER enter my garden - and we practiced the no till method this year. Our mulch needs to be thicker because I have had a few weeds, but not many!!

So, yeah, composting is for sissies. Do it layer style :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

HURRY ~ HURRY ~ HURRY

Everywhere I look everyone is in a hurry. The cars speed down the highway, rushing to work, to the gym, to the grocery store, rushing to the gas station because they use so much gas rushing around that they have to fill up more often. They rush to work with a cell phone to their ear, and a wireless laptop in their bag. They rush through dinner so they can watch their fave TV shows. Or they watch and eat. Come vacation time, they log in to their work emails from wherever they are (which is usually home because they do not have the energy to travel). They usually also have a Blackberry and they answer emails mid-meal while dining out with their wife/ husband/ family whatever.
All this rushing buys us bigger TVs, shinier cars, newer shoes, and iPods, and cellphones and and and and and and and and...
I'm worn out just thinking about this life we lead.
We rush so much, that we also are dependent on others to cook, clean, and care for us. Those things that 30 - 40 years ago were the norm like eating at home and stay at home moms are gone. In its place we have kids that go to daycare, Pizzawhatevah delivering a heart attack in a box while we rush down the road to hell.

As a nation, and as humans we need to slow down and just BREATHE.

Nothing good will come of driving like a maniac on the highway just to get to work 2 minutes earlier. Seriously, in 20 years who cares that on Wednesday, August 20th you were 2 minutes late to work. You're alive. It's the heady days of summer where everything just feels right...why do you need to go 80? Why do you need to mutter under your breath if the person at the light in front of you doesn't gun it. Do you really need to ride their bumpers? What will it get you? Maybe a higher insurance bill!

This is a letter to myself, as much as it is to anyone who is reading.

Downshift
Downsize
Downslow

SLOW DOWN

Fall Garden #1

I’ve been thinking about my fall garden since oh, February or something! My friend Melinda over at One Green Generation had a great post today that inspired me to write this little post a few weeks ahead of schedule.

Here in the mild Pacific Northwest (zone 8+) we have rain and wind to contend with rather than freezing temps for the most part. Once in awhile it freezes hard here, and sometimes it snows, but mostly it just rains and rains and rains.

What I’d like to do is just cover my entire garden before the end of September! I’ve been daydreaming about building a huge hoop house over the whole thing. I am sure it could be done, but I am not sure I want to spend that much money – and I am doubly not sure I want to go all out on my first real try at extending my garden through winter.

In the past I have stapled plastic sheeting to our fence and draped it over a couple of boards to cover my tomatoes and peppers. It worked great until December when a huge windstorm hit. Everything was torn to shreds including the plants! They were ripening happily under the plastic roof up until that point. Granted no new fruit formed and the ripening process was slow, but it was a start! I think as I get more serious about extending our harvests that speeding up the ripening process will come to the forefront.

I have read about creative ways to heat your greenhouse – everything from housing a certain amount of rabbits per X amount of square feet, to laying black plastic on the floors and placing dark colored items (stone, painted milk jugs full of water etc) all around the inside where they can radiate the heat that they collected all day. The book “Four Season Harvest” that I mentioned in an earlier blog post has a great graph explaining the interior versus exterior temperatures in a greenhouse environment. It doesn’t take much to grow Swiss Chard, Kale and the like under plastic according to the book.

In the past, in zone 8 Oregon, I have successfully grown Kale, Swiss Chard, Broccolini (Broccoli Rabe) and Carrots in a single raised bed with no cover. It was incessantly rained on and frosted over a couple of times and still everything grew like mad. It not too much time we had a HUGE crop on our hands. The Rabe was amazing. The only drawbacks were the huge amount of slugs that ate everything in sight.

These crops were direct seeded into a sandy loam, composted chicken manure and wood product organic blend from our local wood products place. The owner called it magic dirt when I bought it. He was right. I did a side by side test of two pots of sky blue Lobelia – one in potting soil and one in the magic dirt. The magic dirt Lobelia was bigger, brighter in color, and had more blooms than the potting soil Lobelia. I wish now that I had taken pictures to show you, but it will be easy to recreate next year.

Back to the crops –

We direct seeded them in this raised bed (8” x 6’ x 24’) in mid September. We watered sometimes and forgot to water sometimes, but Mother Nature helped us out by watering for us too. We got busy, and stopped looking at the bed altogether for about 3 months. When suddenly one day I noticed the contents of the bed were getting tall – and I thought hmm the weeds have taken over. So I moseyed on down there and to my surprise there were very few weeds and TONS of veggies! I pulled a couple of carrots up, and they were tiny but so so orange. I wiped it off and gingerly took a bite…the flavor was crispy sweet and amazing. Needless to say, I walked back to the house with my hands full of baby carrots! We ate from that unloved winter bed until Spring and the slugs had their way with it the next year. Imagine what would have happened had I given it a little care?

Later I priced organic Carrots, Kale, Swiss Chard and the Rabe. ALL of it was 3$ - 4$ a pound/ bunch. We got at least 100 misc pounds/ bunches from that bed. Which if you are a finance whiz means my return on investment was HUGE!!! Now if only my 401K could do so well hehe.

My challenge to you is, if I can get these results being lazy – why can’t you?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Homemade Popcorn

I've just recently rediscovered homemade popcorn.
I grew up with it and kind of hated it because it was a sign of being poor in my eyes...
That said, I'd forgotten how good it was.
I bought a 1/2# at Whole Foods the other day and made some from memory in a pan on my stove. It turned out alright, but I just found a recipe online that looks great. I will still use olive oil because that's all we have in the house.
I challenge you to discover for yourself how amazing homemade popcorn can be.
Oh and I should mention, it's about a thousand times healthier than microwave popcorn.
I'm not sure about the carbon footprint, but it seems like making popcorn on the stove would use a lot less energy that popcorn in a premade bag.
Seriously...go buy some popcorn kernels and make it.
You will thank me.
Cheers :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

100 Things to De-Clutter my life (Inspired by Dave Bruno)

So I've been reading Dave Bruno's blog about living with only 100 Things.
I can't quite see myself getting there, so I am making my own '100 Thing' challenge.
Mine is simpler, but still very hard...I'm getting rid of '100 Things'.
Groups of items count as 1.
Each item will be disposed of in the most environmentally friendly manner, whether it is Freecycle, recycle, selling etc...

Here goes...

  1. Screener DVDs
  2. Boxes of VHS
  3. Old Computer Monitors in the garage
  4. Old CD Players in the garage - at least 2, maybe 3
  5. Bags of clothes
  6. Large box of glass bottles w/ lids (uhm…)
  7. Twin Mattress in garage
  8. Pile of scrap wood in the yard <-- DONE - given to a theatre group for set building
  9. Baby items (swing, clothes, carseat, toys etc)
  10. Unwanted books (at least 50)
  11. Bag of hardened cement that has sat around for 2 years
  12. Broken Dolly
  13. 2 sets of weird Mexican bells that I have hauled all over *sigh*
  14. Box of random office junk d├ęcor
  15. Bottles of old condiments in the fridge
  16. Bottles of old spices & sauces in the spice cupboard
  17. Old not so yummy noodles in the kitchen drawers <-- DONE, composted
  18. Grapevine wreaths in garage
  19. 2 wooden Swan thingys in the garage
  20. Broken cement chunks from pulling fence posts (about 6)
  21. Old Computer parts & towers in garage
  22. 3 cookbooks from previous occupant - not sure why I kept them
  23. Box of horse tack in garage (minus saddle ;o))
  24. Broken VCR
  25. Old TV in bedroom
  26. Ugly white bathroom cabinet
  27. Random, unnecessary DVDs
  28. Old digital camera - works great (+cords!)
  29. Old mop that was replaced by Swiffer
  30. Curtain rod from previous occupant - UGLY
  31. Random unused linens from Linen Closet
  32. Old leaky hose
  33. Misc. plastic plant pots
  34. Broken PS2
  35. Old broken bouncy horse toy

Ok that's 35. I have 65 more to go. My life and my home are over-cluttered so this is very exciting to me.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I would convert to CFLs but I still have incandescent bulbs left...

According to Wikipedia the average household can save 30$ per bulb over the lifetime of a CFL by making the switch. Wikipedia also goes on to say that CFLs save 2000 times their weight in greenhouse gases.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the costs of swapping bulbs...

Cost

While the purchase price of an integrated CFL is typically 3 to 10 times greater than that of an equivalent incandescent lamp, the extended lifetime (fewer lamps to replace and reduced labor) and lower energy use will compensate for the higher initial cost in many applications.[21] A US article stated "A household that invested $90 in changing 30 fixtures to CFLs would save $440 to $1,500 over the five-year life of the bulbs, depending on your cost of electricity. Look at your utility bill and imagine a 12% discount to estimate the savings."[22]



I've been puzzling over how to make the change to 100% CFLs while I still have incandescent bulbs left. The frugalista in me won't stand for throwing anything away that cost money - but the greenista in me is struggling with the electricity bill and our carbon footprint.

Hence my brilliant idea!!
I've been collecting things for a charity (medical items, toiletries, household items etc) for awhile now and I think I have landed upon a perfect solution to my quandry.

I can give my bulbs away to the charity to be used at their offices or their clients homes. I know this seems bad, and it feels a little bit like cheating, but that way I can make my start at home asap w/o throwing perfectly good bulbs away. I can also help my favorite charity (who couldn't afford CFLs if they wanted to - heck I can barely afford them but it's the right thing to do).

So if you are reading this - tell me your thoughts - am I doing the right thing? Or is this just shifting my problem elsewhere? *sigh*

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Food not lawns (part one of many I am guessing...)

I have a flowerbed that runs the entire width of my property minus the two car wide driveway. It's about 6 feet wide and full of weeds and Shasta Daisies.
I like the Daisies but they take a lot of water and other than a few bouquets I get very little from that bed.
I have been pondering the food not lawns movement and wanting to join in.
I have planted mint on the edge of a flowerbed in the back yard and placed a big feisty Artichoke in a flowerbed too. It's a start, but I am ready to take it to the next level.
I am going to rip out the Daisies and weeds and spread some of my precious horse poo on the beds..(I'll tell the horse poo story later...it involves an entire driveway full of poo and a mad fiance - it was a hoot).
So anyways, once the bed is cleaned up and mulched with poo, I am going to plant a winter garden right out there in front of my house. For all the neighbors and house hunters who always drive down our road to see.
I'll get a pile of Swiss Chard, Kale, Peas etc from it, and they'll get a lesson in landscaping.
;o)
I'll shoot before and after pics so you can see why this must be done.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

'Slug Tossing' by Meg DesCamp

I borrowed 'Slug Tossing' by Meg DesCamp yesterday from our local library. I read it from cover to cover last night. It's almost like sitting and listening to your best girlfriend describe how she became gardener. I highly recommend reading this book if you are a somewhat reluctant gardener, because you will see that anyone - and I do mean anyone can learn to grow things.

Worldcat


Slug Tossing and Other Adventures of a Reluctant Gardener
Author: Meg DesCamp
Publisher Sasquatch Books ©1998
ISBN: 1570610444 9781570610448

Click here for the reviews.

Everyone loved it!!

'Round Soup' - your toddler will eat it!!

This is perfect for that picky toddler in your life…a fun soup where all the visible ingredients are round! You can substitute any number of round food items for the ones listed below as long as they taste good together and are round.

2 qts organic chicken broth
1 pkg turkey meatballs (Trader Joes)
2 small handfuls of round noodles (wagon wheel maybe?)
1 small sliced organic zucchini
1 small sliced organic carrot (thoroughly scrubbed)

Combine ingredients and heat until noodles are fully cooked (approx. 30 mins on med/low).

Make sure to exploit the ‘roundness’ to get your wee one to eat it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why packing a lunch for work saves gas


I’ve recently had an epiphany about a gas vampire in my life that I didn’t realize was even there.

The ‘quick run to the blah-blah restaurant for take-out lunch because I forgot to or was too lazy to pack a lunch yet again’ vampire.

In every other way in my life I have reduced my gas consumption! I can’t believe that this one was just hiding there in plain sight.

My car gets just around 22 mpg, but in the city it’s closer to 21 mpg. So for the sake of argument I am going to use 21 mpg as my benchmark.

At 19 cents a mile in town and 18.13 cents a mile on the highway – a quick trip out can add up over time.

In town lunches = 2 miles round trip or .38 a day or $1.90 a week.
Next town up the highway lunch = 12 miles round trip or $2.18 per day or $10.88 a week.
If I go home for lunch every day (I used to do this) = 20 miles round trip or $3.63 per day or $18.13 per week.

If you take into account how much buying lunch out costs ($5 - $7 here) and then factor in the cost of gas to go get it you are looking at a serious cash outlay every month for something that could easily and cheaply be packed at home.

Now that I have identified the gas vampire in my life, it’s time to kill him. Err tomorrow that is, since yet again I did not pack a lunch for work today!!! *sigh*

I guess putting a dollar amount to it will really help me…see top :)
Cheers






Monday, August 4, 2008

Energy Consumption Thoughts







I’ve wanted to put a clothesline in for ages, but I’ve never really given it enough thought to figure out how it would work in our yard.
Most of our trees are just not suitable for stretching a clothesline between so I am in a quandary!

I do, however, wash my dark work clothes in cold and hang them on plastic hangers to dry (inside the house). I do this year ‘round and have been doing it for years and years!

Yesterday I had a mixed load of my dark work clothes, A’s socks, the baby’s dark clothes and a couple of my middle son’s t-shirts. I washed it all in cold and then when I was going to sort half to the dryer and hang the other half, I decided to hang it all instead.

Granted there are a bunch of plastic hangers scattered through a few closets and on the laundry room clothes rod, but I felt very virtuous not running the dryer.

The one thing I hate to line dry is towels. I hate how crunchy they feel.

I love line dried sheets though! MMMM they smell so good when you crawl in between them.

I just found this clothes drying rack from Gaiam. It looks like it is out of stock though! Darn!

This rack would be ideal to use in my yard since I can’t seem to figure out the tree thing.

I wonder how much energy I will save by washing a couple more loads a week in cold AND hanging more out to dry?


I’m sure it will be noticeable on our electric bill. I hope so.

My Natural Gas usage and my PGE Electric usage is at the top of this sheet (I can't figure out how to move it down here ugh).
I'm hoping to compare these again in a few months and see a noticable difference!!









Sunday, August 3, 2008

Thrifty Christmas idea for little girl

I don't have any daughters, but if I did this is what I would make her for her 3rd or 4th Christmas...

A dress up treasure chest.


Ingredients -

Old prom gowns, wedding dresses, lace, tulle, costume jewelry etc.

Instructions -

Tear apart the dresses and remake them into elastic waist fairy skirts, veils, capes etc.

Use the costume jewelry to enhance the clothes, or string beads onto strong cords to make necklaces. Be careful of choking hazards though!! Use common sense about the items you are using, and the child whom it is for.

There is a no sew fairy tutu pattern here - it's so easy that anyone can do it.

To make this gift really memorable, include a tiara and a wand. Pack it into a nifty box that looks like a treasure chest (even a spray painted cardboard box with a separate lid would work) and watch a little girl's eyes light up when she opens her gift!

Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman

If you are interested in extending the harvest season of your garden, I highly recommend reading the book 'Four Season Harvest' by Eliot Coleman. It's really well written and very engaging. He and his wife traveled to France and the books talks a lot about how the French extend their growing seasons. He applies their knowledge to his American garden and voila!! He has food, fresh from his garden 365 days a year.
Here is what I am doing to extend our harvest...
~Installing a mini hoop to cover my 6 tomato plants. A simple cover in Oregon can extend the harvest until December if all goes well. Our tomatoes need protection from rain and wind more than frost for the most part.
~Creating a raised bed with horse poo as the bottom layer of soil (warmth as it decomposes) to grow Broccolini, Kale, Carrots and Swiss Chard in.
~Planting pots with Mesculen salad blend, Swiss Chard, Arugula etc. Where some people might put a pot of Pansies by their front door, I'm going to have a pot of Bright Lights Swiss Chard. I'm all for edible landscaping.
~Locating a permanent spot for garlic and planting a ton. We will not have fresh garlic until next spring but the wait will be worth it!
~Starting Artichoke seeds, planting them out in the garden, waiting a year to see if we get Artichokes.
I plan on starting the Arugula and Mesculen pots at staggered times so my harvests will continue.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Impulse purchase at Lowe's today

Well sorta an impulse purchase...I have been thinking about buying a chainsaw for ages to cut up a big pile of shrubbery into burnable chunks.

I was in Lowe's today and they had a little 14" electric chainsaw for $44. It works great. I played lumberjane today and made firewood! What a hoot.

The baby cried the entire time though. Not sure if it was the noise, or if he thought something was going to happen to mommy. I had daddy take him inside while I finished a couple of little logs. My oldest son came over and cut down some more shrubbery for me. He's definitely much stronger than I. What took him 15 minutes would have taken me an hour! GRR!!

We're having a guy come next week to give a quote on installing a woodstove into our fireplace opening. I'm excited to have a fire in the house again. It's been about 3 years since the inspector told us not to use the chimney due to a huge crack in it. So having it repaired (if we can afford it) and putting the insert in is going to save so much money in the long run! NW Natural Gas and their 35% rate hike this winter can kiss my patootey! We're going back to basics and burning wood.

Our house is old and poorly insulated and we have so much trouble keeping it above 65* in the winter. No matter how high the thermostat is. It also costs us $220 - $270/ month just for the gas bill, this doesn't include the $120 - $150 for electricity! I'm completely done spending so much on utilities. If something doesn't change this winter, we are all going to huddle in one room with an electric heater. Bah!

Anyways my plans to keep the house warm are:

Insulate the UNINSULATED crawl space under the living room. The floor is positively icy in winter.

Install low e film on the picture window in the living room (and both sliders).

Put plastic film over same window & sliders.

Make insulated curtains for all the windows in the house.

Have the furnace cleaned and inspected.

Install a woodstove insert and use it faithfully.

Flip the switch on the ceiling fan to the winter setting (whatever that is...I know it's supposed to be opposite the summer setting, but since I do not know what the summer setting is, I am in trouble!).

Insulate the hot water heater if we cannot afford to replace it with a tankless.

Install new front door. Important! Needs to be done, no matter what.

Buy rugs for the hardwood bedroom floors. BRRR.

That is all that I can think of for now.

xoxo

I want chickens!

Our local city ordinance allows us to have chickens or ducks, so long as our neighbors do not complain.
Back in my stay at home mom days I used to have 60 chickens and about 8 ducks. I miss those eggs! I also loved being able to take the apple cores, carrot peels etc out to the girls and have it turned into lovely poo for my garden.
I'm trying to broach the subject with the fiance mainly because I have to sweet talk him into building the coop.
I've been reading all sorts of articles and blogs online about urban homesteading and off the grid living while still inside city limits.
A local farm has month old Rhode Island Red hens for 5$ each. And I think we could have eggs as early as November with any luck at all.
The hens would cost 20$ (for 4), the coop would be about 50$ (we already have some wood in the garage), add in feeders and waterers and we will be out about 100$ to start. If eggs are 2.50$/dozen for normal free range non organics, and 3.50$/dozen for the organics - it wouldn't take long at all until the chickens pay for themselves. Plus this would enable us to eat less meat more easily.
Wish me luck on talking the fiance into a few hens.

Water Conservation

We have a 1/3 acre lot in the city limits. We have a lot of trees and landscaping, as well as a large vegetable garden. Our water bill runs about 55$+/mo in the summer which is terrible! I also always feel bad when I water the lawn, so I rarely do.

Since we live in Oregon, and we have abundant rainfall I have been thinking about a cistern. I've done tons of research online and have found other people in Oregon who have done the same thing. Apparently 1" of rain on a 1500 sf roof can equal about 500 gallons of water. I'm going to start doing some calculations to see how much water we really need to keep the entire 1/3 acre bright green all summer long. Then if we add a cistern or two, maybe we can limit our consumption from the area well and instead use something that is free for the taking.

Recently I watched these 2 movies that were about water and what the lack of water can do to your life. They are a story told in 2 parts, part one is Jean de Florette. Part two is Manon of the Spring. They're pretty tragic as stories go, but watching them did get me on the cistern track...

We're planning on putting new gutters in when we do our roof this fall, so I'm hoping that we can get city approval to add a cistern at the same time. We have the perfect area along the side of the house. It's completely obstructed from the street and will not take up any space that we currently use.

I've also been reading a lot about greywater. I sure hate wasting 55 gallons of water for every laundry load when my lawn right outside the laundry room is dry as a bone. More on that later as I make the switch to non-toxic laundry soap and get the pipe in. I think the city may veto that one, but since it will just run out the laundry room window part of the year, what they don't know won't hurt them. Especially since I will only use environmentally friendly laundry soap. What's the harm?

If anyone knows where there is a website that shows how to calculate water usage/ needs for landscaping and gardens please let me know where I can find it!! :)

I'll find some good cistern and greywater links and come back and post them.

In the meantime, happy Saturday to you!

Adieu Starbucks

My New Year's Resolution this year was to give up my secret lover, Starbucks.
I have done so well at not going there that I may singlehandedly be responsible for their store closures hehe.
I used to spend 5$+ a day every workday there. We also went twice a weekend with the bigger boys and usually bought pastries etc. We would average about 25$ a weekend there.
My fiance A also went every day before work. His coffee was over 5$.
Since we have stopped going we have saved about 2300$ just in 2008 alone.
Here's how I came up with the number - 31 weeks x 75$ a week = 2325$. I have gone to Starbucks 3 times this year and I know A has gone a couple of times too. Other than that we have made coffee at home with local Stumptown beans in our French Press.
We obviously still have cost incurred from the beans and half and half, but it's nowhere near the Starbucks #. We make coffee every day at home for about 15$ a week, this takes into account that my 17 year old son has now become an avid coffee drinker. Can you imagine how much our Starbucks bill would be if all 3 of us were going every day?

It was good while it lasted Starbucks, but we're through!

Cupboard Scavenger Hunt

Every time I enter my kitchen to cook, I think about what I already have in the pantry, freezer or fridge. I mentally put things together to see if they work. Sometimes my creations are awful, as my fiance A will tell you about the Hamburger Soup from last week. It was so bad.

Most often though, my creations turn out really good.
If I have an ingredient that is in danger of spoiling, I try to cook around it.
Say I have Kale and it's going to wilt if it doesn't get cooked today. I'll make Kale Risotto for dinner, which is a hit around our place.

The basic ingredients are Arborio Rice, Kale, Garlic, Chicken Broth and Parmesan.

We have 4 dozen eggs right now, so I am going to make omelets for dinner and maybe some potato salad with my Yukon Gold potatoes that I just dug from the garden.

By eating lower in the food chain, we're increasing our health as well as our wallet.

Cheers

Friday, August 1, 2008

What did I do today to save money?

Nothing! In fact I spent too much GRR.
I took the day off of work to drive out to see my Grandma who is in the hospital. Since my parents live near her, and my dad is sick, I rolled two trips into one.
I drove about 75 miles today (at 22 mpg x 3.99/gal AGH). I also treated my mom to lunch which was about 20$.

But a few days ago I made a couple of trips to Rite Aid that make up for this a little bit.

Rite Aid has this 'Single Check Rebate" program that lets you enter your receipts online and you get reimbursed for certain items. Either in full or in part.

I bought 1 ea Garnier Fructis shampoo/ conditioner @ $2.99 each (with a 1$ coupon off of each). Rite Aid is reimbursing me $5.98. I paid $3.98. It feels naughty. Hehe.

On my next trip to Rite Aid, I bought 3 One Touch Glucose monitors that were regularly $84.99 each, but were on sale for $19.99 each. I had $20 off each coupons, so they paid me .01 each to buy them. I turn around and donate them to charity. I also get a tax deduction.

I also bought 4 tubes of Crest toothpaste that have a $10 SCR (Single Check Rebate) on them. They were $15.96 for 4, I had 4/ $1 off coupons so after the SCR I paid $1.96 for 4 7.6 oz tubes of toothpaste.

They also had Softsoap handsoap pumps on sale for .99 ea, I used .35 off coupons so they were .64 each.

They had the same deal on 3 pack Irish Spring bars, but they were all out.

I've resolved to never pay for shampoo or conditioner again. With Rite Aid SCR, I don't think I will ever have to.

What did you do today to save money?

Accidentally Frugal

In the last year, things have really changed for me financially.
Mostly due to the 1000$/mo daycare bill that I now have! Thanks to the little bundle of joy that arrived in July 2007. The same bundle that is sitting on the floor tearing up a Red Plum coupon insert and hopefully not eating it...

So where I & the fiance used to run off for dinner all the time, and the girls at Nordstrom knew me by sight...we now have quiet dinners in, and yard sales.

This has been a tough adjustment for me and I am still struggling to get my finances under control.

There are also other mitigating factors like the fact that I want to be a stay at home mom. I also want to live in the country. I also want that new Prada purse that I saw on www.bagborroworsteal.com. And am currently drooling over a 50" Panasonic 1080p HDTV. SIGH!!

When you factor in that I drive a Saab that gets 22 mpg on a good day. And live in a house that needs a new roof, doors, windows, carpet, furnace, kitchen, bathroom...ahh face it...my house needs a new house! I have a lot of scheming to do if I am going to do anything I want to...and be able to pay NW Natural Gas this winter.

This is where my blog comes in. I figure that by writing things down that it will make it easier to live up to them. I'll also have witnesses (you, dear reader). Hehe.

I have a list of things that I am doing to save money. Hopefully some of these will help you too. If I missed anything, let me know!

Cheers,
Heather