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04 April 2013

Planning a Small Garden

I live in the City. I LOVE living in the City.  I am close to the library, an art museum, a children’s museum and a science museum, 10 or more theatres and there are tons of festivals year round.
The one thing I miss about living out in the Country is the wide open spaces, never more so than when I am trying to plan a clean garden.  The anxious side of me worries about contamination from my neighbors gas powered mowers, passerbyers and dogs. Not to give the wrong impression. I am a dog person. I grew up with dogs. I however NEVER EVER walked my dog on someone else’s property for them to “do their business”. I don’t understand the concept. Even a courteous dog owner who carries around little baggies and scoops up after their dog baffles me.  One cannot clean up after pee. Sure pee can be harmless, but I don’t know whether the dog is fed commercial dog food or a clean variety. 
Sure I should rinse my produce before eating eat, but that should be to wash off any dirt that has clung to it, not to clean someone else’s dog pee off my strawberries.  And yes I know even out in the country I risk animal pee on my plants, but they don’t parade that fact out in front of me.
I worry about contamination from my neighbors using gas powered lawn mowers. I haven’t used a gas powered lawn mower in more than 8 years (until last year when Greeneryet took $250 out of our joint account to buy a gas powered lawn mower, because I didn’t mow the lawn often enough for him and he didn’t like the look of the push reel mowed lawn, and then he only used that gas contraption once and never mowed again……).
I worry about lead from flaking houses in the neighborhood.
I can only do the best I can do, and that means finally planting my small garden that I have wanted to plant for the last 12 springs.  One spring I even went so far as to start seeds, but I didn’t get the ground prepared in time and my seedlings withered and died.
This year I am planting.  I will be digging out my seeds this weekend and listing out what I have and what I do not have. I have grand designs (an apple, pear tree fence in the front and a cottage shack with chickens in the back), but I simply have to start somewhere.
I won’t be growing zucchini or summer squash. For starters they are not a favorite and they require a lot of space. I am taking suggestions on good plants that produce in small spaces and even companion planting ideas.  What do you suggest for a Black Thumb gardener just starting out?

03 April 2013

Silence is Golden

When I started this year I had $16500 in credit card debts.  As of this moment in time I have $14000 in credit card debt (all on one singular card).  That means that in three months, January, February and March I paid down $2,500 in credit card debt which is only $500 short of my original goal of paying $1000 a month to my credit card debt.  I was starting to feel just a little bit discouraged.
I have been in a high anxiety stasis this first quarter of the year. Work right now is super stressful. We had one attorney leave the office and another employee falling apart and unable to do her job. In addition we had two files go to trial and scheduled for back to back trials this month. If the office were functioning according to plan this would have been a busy and stressful first quarter, but being short an attorney for 6 weeks and in all reality a staffer since last November it was a lot of late hours for me.  I didn’t get to take my planned vacation with my girls for February break and this week is Spring Break and again I cannot take time to be with my girls.
When my anxiety levels are high, I have a difficult time sleeping which in turn feeds my anxiety.  The office is slowly getting back to normal. We have a new associate and a new staffer so I know the workload can be distributed but we still have back to back trials coming up.  When I am anxious my mind settles on my finances. 
I started this blog almost 4 years ago in an effort to track my path to financial freedom through a greener lifestyle. I have hit some road blocks along the way (primarily in the form of Greeneryet) but I have made some progress. However, I was feeling like the attempt to eradicate my debt was consuming my life and I wasn’t getting anywhere.
Truth be told I was not doing a good job eradicating my debt, I was holding steady. The other side of that path is that while I had been holding steady on my debt I was also learning my pitfalls and moving in a direction where paying down my debt was possible.  This past Christmas was my first Christmas where I did not add to my Credit card debt in order to pay for the holiday. I did quite a bit of pre-shopping to spread the cost and I cut back heavily on gifts.
I did the same this past Easter.  My girls baskets have always been more about the others than about Candy.  We get our candy locally (and I love it).  The girls get jellybeans, a large hollow chocolate item, small white chocolate item, small orange chocolate item, some peeps and some cream eggs.  Then they get something Art related.  When they were little they got sidewalk chalks and cheap water colors or markers or crayons or colored pencils. As they have gotten older it has progressed to nicer Art supplies (also purchased from a local shop – American made when possible).  This year GreenTween got watercolors and a watercolor pad while GreenTeen received Copic Markers and a Copic Paper. They also typically receive a toy.  In years past it might have been the Easter Barbie and/or a jump rope, sand toys, bubbles etc. This year they each received a Bunny Nubbin from my friend and local crafter KiraArts.
Because it was a possibility that I would also have my nieces Easter morning I ran out and got basket supplies for them (candy and bunny nubbins).  This was an additional $50 in supplies that I ended up not needing. The girls still got their Bunny Nubbins but the Candy bulked up Greeneryet’s basket.  My focus with Easter was always on fun outdoor items and art supplies. Now that the girls are older they still get art supplies but they will also start getting things like personal hygiene items  (which is the turn their Christmas Stockings are taking as well).
I went well off track in February and March, and part of that was simply the stress and hours at work.  I am working to get back on track and know that if I want to put more money toward debt I have to cut my already low ($100/week for a family of four adults) grocery budget.  They way to do that is to
1               1)      MENU PLAN  - and then stick to it
2               2)      Use all the food supplies I purchase without letting them go bad
3               3)      GROW my OWN
Unlike many I won’t count Grow My Own as free (there is a cost in seeds and other supplies) but I believe I can save a considerable amount by growing my own.
For this first year I am focusing on:
Peas – shell and snow
Herbs – rosemary, mint, basil, oregano and cilantro (will start indoor plants late in the season)
I have a bunch of seeds I have been collecting so I will see what comes up and what produces what. My goal will be to eat as much out of the garden fresh as possible.  My family doesn’t care for frozen or canned produce so my goal will be to eat as much as we can and give away the rest.
I do hope to plant some late season crops (Brussel Sprouts and several variety of squash as well as creating a cold frame to grow greens through the winter) but the focus is going to be feeding ourselves out of the garden for the growing season.
To that end I picked up organic starter so we can seed start this weekend. Last weekend I did some weeding and plan to continue on that path each weekend until the beds are ready. 

I know this year will be all about the learning curve and I won’t get frustrated if we don’t get tons out of our garden this spring/summer, but I will do my best to use as much of what we do get as I can.  Then I can use the grocery funds to purchase ethical meats (to stock the freezer) and other pantry items that will keep.

How have you been doing?

16 February 2013

Good News Bad News

I am still feeling under the weather, but I think I am coming out the other side. The last two weeks at work have been rough. Long days on top of not feeling 100%.  I need to find some meals that I can just pop in the oven and have ready in under 30 minutes.  Before the girls went GF that would be tortellini soup. However, right now the girls cannot have tortellini, so that is out.  Not to say when I am exhausted and didn't plan ahead that we don't eat gluteny food (because truth be told we do), it is just I don't want to put it in my cupboard as an option.

Food waste and food storage is on my mind lately. I made a batch of beef stock (using three prime rib sections that were in the freezer). It smelled heavenly and had quite a bit of meat in it. However I was starting to feel under the weather on Sunday so by the time the stock was cooked I was too tired to strain and ladle, so instead I put a lid on it and put it on the front porch (temperature between 30 and 40 degrees) figuring I would take care of it after work on Monday. Well Monday was a 14 hour work day, followed by getting both girls (barely) to the dojo and still not feeling 100%.   By Wednesday I gave in and admitted I was sick. I was too sick to be cooking for other people. So the soup stock still sits in my fridge. At this point it is no good and I'll need to drain the liquid down the sink and toss the rest. 

Greeneryet can be a wonderful cook, however it requires (1) him wanting to cook and (2) my being able to afford the recipe he wants to cook.  You see he says make a plan and I'll cook it, but I come home to (1) I didn't feel like cooking today, (2) I didn't know how to cook with the chicken thighs you picked up because really I only like chicken breasts (which btw have 0 flavor and are not nearly as good as thighs) or (3) you didn't get anything out so I figured dinner would just magically appear between 5:30 and 7:00 pm when you get home...

Normally I would use my crockpot, but even with the crockpot meals cannot be left cooking for 14 hours. To top it off our crock pot is 10 years old and the heat is getting hot (even when set to warm) and hotter even than when using the high heat setting. 

Soups are typically a go to (and fast meal). Take whatever I have (plus stock) throw in the crock pot and cook all day.  The issue I am having lately is that I have not been making (or like this week when made not storing properly) stock and I really don't like store bought (even organic). 

I need to grocery shop we are on February break and I have 3 teenage girls to feed all week (well one is a tween but appetite wise it doesn't matter).  So I need to pick up a pound of organic turkey and tell them that is what they have for the week. I guess I also need GF rolls, but with the big W closing for demolition (6 weeks before they open their newest mega store) I don't have much access to GF rolls in the area.  

I really need to find a GF Bread LOAF recipe that doesn't use gums or rice flour. If I can find a loaf I LOVE I would make 2 every weekend (because I have 2 loaf pans) and freeze one for French Toast. French Toast is really the only breakfast bread I like. I am not a fan of waffles, however the GF pumpkin pancakes I made the other day were delish.

It has been suggested that I pick up a frozen GF pizza, but I read the label and I just couldn't do it. I have a couple of GF pizza dough recipes that I would like to try out. 

Meals this week - 
white bean, sausage, potato and kale soup
Minestrone Soup (using up the veggies on hand)
Chili (might need pumpkins and tomato puree)
I have 2 packages of chicken thighs and 4 packages of ground beef. 

I am going out of town with the girls starting Wednesday night so I just need meals for Sun-Tues and of course to leave food behind for Greeneryet. I was thinking of leaving him a box of pasta and some bread and he can go from there. 

The good news is before my trip this week I have shredded all of my credit cards.  I have asked for a replacement debit card that does not have the visa logo on it, so I cannot use it that way anymore.  While I am keeping the Dojo card open, I don't need the physical card for anything. The Amazing Card is more than half paid off and once completely paid off will remain open but unused (all future cards will be shredded upon receipt), and the Gold card is slowly being paid off. Each $5000 that I pay off on the card I am asking for the limit to be reduced by that much. And will leave it as a $5000 card.  Once paid off I will close it. 

I have decided that IF we get a tax refund this year (I know people who typically do that are not getting them this year), I would like to use it to purchase a Vitamix, a Tablet and a new crockpot. I am fully aware of the dangers of spending money before I have it, but I have good reasons for purchasing the items listed above. 

The vitamix is a super blender that will allow me to make smooth soups and my own nut milks along with smooth breakfast smoothies. I love my green smoothies but I really want them to be smooth.  

The tablet will replace the dying laptop that I am using right now.

Well I do love my crockpot but the one I have is dying. 

Anything left after those three purchases (two big ticket items) I will throw at my debt. 

My Green is Frugal To Do List

  • Sunday Cooking Days
  • Saturday Park Days
  • Bake My Own Bread
  • Set Up Sewing Space
  • Upcycle Craft Space
  • Space for Scrapbooks
  • Rear Yard
  • Lasagna Beds
  • Clear the Clutter
  • Spend More Time w Family/Friends w/o Money
  • Eliminate Debts
  • Recycling Station on the Front Porch
  • Waste Less
  • Unplug and Turn Off Entertainment Center Every Night
  • Cloth Wipies
  • Use Hankies instead of Tissues
  • Move to Cloth instead of Paper Towels - DONE! Thanks to GreenerYet!

2012 (2011) (2010) Christmas To Do List

  • Ornaments from the girls to lots of peoples :)
  • Dad: Seeds for the garden
  • Mums: Seeds for the garden
  • SMIL: Headrest Couch Covers
  • Joe: Jets Fleece Tie Blanket
  • Billy: Homemade Goodies (pinksters); fleece tie blanket
  • FIL: Basket of Homemade Goodies
  • SFIL: ?
  • MIL: Scrapbook from Trip Out West
  • DH: Green and Black Scarf
  • A: Art Caddy; Quilt (Celestial);
  • S: Pressed Flowers Book; Button Tree Quilt;

My Wish List

  • Small Square Glass Containers
  • Glass Casserole Pans
  • Solar Oven
  • Cast Iron Pans
  • Wide Mouth Canning Jars in 1/2 pint and pint sizes
  • Pressure Canner
  • Water Bath Canner