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Archive for June, 2012

Money Left Over

June 30th, 2012 at 06:33 pm

We went to the ranch this afternoon and purchased our beef and pork. They were having a sale on the pork chops, which made me happy. I had $60 left of my beef money so that will go into the freezer fund.

While we were down there we saw a sign for organic strawberries at a farm stand so I stopped and got 2 half flats for $12 each. I will be making jelly with that. I was excited because it is super hard to find a good source of organic strawberries around here. You can get a pint or a quart at the store, but anything bigger than that is not organic. Raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, yes, but not strawberries which get sprayed a ton. For my fellow NW Washingtonians, they come from Fir Island in Skagit County.

Of course all the other berries all grow in our yard so I know they are organic and don't need to track down a source. Now I have one I'll go back next year. When we move I will be planting strawberries. I thought about planting them here, but waited too long. I could probably still get a hold of some everbearing, but I find the Junebearing ones taste better to me.

I also added $8.59 to the coin jar. The eight ones went into the freezer fund envelope and on Monday I will deposit everything in that, along with whatever ones DH has left before he leaves. I also dumped all the coins out of DH's wallet and added that to the coin jar, $3.11. I am not adding leftover change and ones to the emergency fund again until I hit my freezer fund goal, which is $900. That should cover tax as well.

DS Update and the Upcoming Fruit Harvest

June 29th, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Or maybe it's just been the roughest week in a while. DS is finally improving with the concussion, but he has also been diagnosed with forward head posture which was aggravated by, but not caused by, the same thing that caused the concussion. His head isn't seated properly on the neck. It can cause many of the things we have been seeing in DS including a decreased lung capacity (by 30%) making it difficult for him to have any stamina while running in PE. It pinches the brain stem and can cause irritibility, sleep problems, quickness to anger, digestive issues, etc. It is treatable though.

He has to do these special treatments that are going to cost $2500, $500 a month. Treatment may run longer, but that is the full cost even if it goes on all year. I have made the first payment, so just 4 more months worth to come up with. We probably won't be reimbursed for this from insurance since it is an out of network doctor and it is alternative medicine, but it's not like there is an in network doctor that isn't too far away to drive to this often. Because there is one though, it looks unlikely they'll let us have it. If I hadn't seen the improvement already I'd be very wary of the whole thing, but it really is helping. He has to wear a one pound weight band on his head as well for 20 minutes every morning and night to help correct it.

We will not be able to get a half a sustainable, organic beef in December like we were planning because of this expense, but we should be able to get one in the spring. We will still be able to buy some each month out of our grocery budget though as we've been doing. Tomorrow we are going to the ranch to buy some beef and pork. My plans are for 4 beef chuck roasts, 12 pounds of hamburger, 2 pounds of bacon, 1 package of sausages and 8 pork chops.

I am not going to buy anymore of their chickens though. They are only 3.5 pounds which makes the pieces very small, and I prefer to have a 4 to 5 pound chicken so I can have some leftovers for making another meal. Well, I had a bit of leftovers (one back portion and one leg), but not nearly enough to make another meal for four with. And they aren't nearly as flavorful as the beef and pork. I am going to try one of the local chickens that they have for sale at Terra Organica (they are bigger) and if I like the flavor, I will purchase several from the farm. I have the money for the chickens set aside.

We had the last ranch chicken for dinner tonight. I cut it up successfully by myself without Mom hovering by. I've got it down now and I think I can do it with no problems from now on. I think I will invest in a pair of poultry sheers though. It would make cutting between the back and the breast easier. Mine are buried somewhere in storage and weren't the best pair anyway, so a really good new one is in my future. Maybe that'll be my Christmas present this year. We also had potatoes from the garden, lettuce from the window boxes, and some organic nectarines.

When I was out in the garden today I noticed the raspberries are ripening. In a week I should be able to make jam. There might even be some for picking tomorrow. I also checked out our blueberry bushes (which are now taller than me) and they are so loaded with green berries, I know there's going to be a lot of picking this August. I think we will probably get at least 5 gallons per bush and I might be estimating on the low side, so lots for the freezer and plenty for jelly.

The Italian prune tree is loaded this year. Last year we didn't have too much as there was a bad windstorm at the wrong time of year and most of the blossoms got knocked off before pollination. This year will make up for it. There will be plenty for canning. The blackberries are also loaded with blossoms and I think I will get enough to make a batch or two of jam this August.

I'm going to get a couple of flats of strawberries tomorrow, too, so I can make jelly this week. I'll be making grape jelly (from pure grape juice) while I am at it. Might as well only get the kitchen hot and sweaty once.

The grapes are doing pretty well this year. I saw some blossoms. If they produce, it will be the first year they have. There may be a few bunches for eating, but I doubt there will be enough for jelly. Still, if there is, I will make some. It is hard to find good-tasting organic grapes that are reasonably priced.

The compost bin is off to a really good start. Adding in the chicken bedding is going to make it really fertile. DS loves to take the vegetable and fruit scraps out to the bin. It might be a boy thing, but he likes to see the stuff break down and rot. It seems to be his favorite chore and it is one he can do right now as opposed to mowing the lawn. He can't operate machinery until four weeks post concussion.

Today was payday. I haven't done a payday post in forever, but I have been keeping all of my spreadsheets updated and my checkbook balanced. All the bills are paid until the middle of July so it's going to be pretty much automatic pilot on that until the next payday in two weeks.

We did get accepted for the 0% for a year Chase VISA card I talked about a while back. We have received the cards but are still waiting for them to do the transfer from the BoA card. The next payment isn't due until the 21st so I am hoping they will do it before then. It has been pending for a while now. Banks sure can move fast when they want to, when it benefits them, but they sure drag their feet when you want them to move quickly.

Eating from the Garden

June 26th, 2012 at 01:36 pm

I harvested more lettuce today from the table top garden. We are eating it almost every day. We are not harvesting every day. I like to let the plants rest about 4 days between pickings. I picked about 12 dollars worth of organic lettuce leaves. That brings me down to needing to harvest $43.06 worth of produce from my garden to break even versus what I have spent so far.

My brandywine tomatoes are doing pretty well despite the rain. There are about 12 tomatoes now with the diameter of a quarter, there are still several blossoms, and there are a few tiny, tiny fruits as well. There are blooms on three of the other plants. Two of the smaller plants show no blooms yet. They have a shorter amount of time in which to mature. Hopefully they will. We need some really hot days to get some size on those plants.

The slugs are eating the cauliflower plants. I don't know if they will make it. I am thinking about putting down a pan or two of organic beer as slug bait. My mother just wants to use poison slug bait and I want it to remain organic so that's a no go since it is my garden. I may need to go out at dusk with a bowl of sea salt and just salt the slugs as I see them. At least if it stops raining. The slugs are leaving the kohlrabi alone. They are both brassicas, so I don't know why they aren't going after them, as well, but I'm grateful.

Today was supposed to be sunny. This is why I never trust the ten day forecast.

Meal Planning May Be a Bit Topsy Turvy

June 25th, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Well, I haven't posted my meal plan for this week even though I made one and a good thing, too. I've had to redo it. The circuit the stove is on shorted out today. That whole area needs to be rewired it's so old. Hopefully that will happen tomorrow evening if Mom's handyman can make it over, but it may not so we need to cook things that can be made on the electric griddle, the Foreman grill, the crockpot, the Belgian waffle maker, in the microwave or the deep fat fryer. While it's nice to have those options, it does make things a bit more difficult to plan for.

Anyway, today's meal ended up being:
Pork chops (on the grill)
French fries (in the deep fat fryer, had planned fried potatoes on the stove top)
Salad
Cherries

The rest of the week goes as follows:

Tuesday--
Belgian waffles
Ham made on the griddle
Leftover broccoli and cauliflower
Strawberries or cherries

Wednesday--
Had planned on bacon cheeseburgers but I can't make buns until the oven is fixed so if not:
Picnic ham made in the crockpot
Sweet potato tater tots (was planning on baking in the oven, so will make in the fryer if necessary)
Coleslaw
Bananas or cherries

Thursday--
Should have the oven back by then so:
Bacon Cheeseburgers
Pineapple or nectarines
Green beans

Friday--
Toasted ham and cheese sandwiches on homemade bread
Salad
Strawberries or nectarines

Saturday--
Homemade pizza
Cole slaw
Leftover fruit from the week

Sunday--
Pot roast
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Broccoli/Cauliflower
Leftover fruit from the week

I may have to make adjustments depending on the stove, but hopefully this will work. I can make bread in the bread machine for the toasted cheese sandwiches on the griddle if necessary, just need the oven for buns. We've gotten so spoiled with the taste of homemade bread and buns I think we'd rather go without than buy storebought now.

DS, Homemade Yogurt, Gardening, and Board Games

June 24th, 2012 at 12:07 pm

DS woke up without a full headache for the first time since Thursday. He said it still kind of throbs in the spot he was hit and he feels pressure in his head, but the overall ache is gone. That is a relief. He says it hurts to think though. He really can't concentrate well. Not enough to read a book. He still has moments where he is unresponsive, where he'll zone out for ten to fifteen seconds at a time and you can say his name and he won't hear it, but then he snaps out of it. I'm still worried about that.

I made yogurt yesterday in the crockpot and it was a success. The first time I made it it didn't turn out. I think this was because I used a crockpot with a lid that didn't fit well enough. It was the lid that came with the crockpot, but it is one where if it doesn't sit exactly right on the crock there is a gap of 1/4 inch and I think too much heat got out the first time. Or one of the kids looked in it and didn't seat it right or something. Also, I think I messed up one of the steps.

It is currently firming up in the fridge. It's a little sloshy when it first goes in, but it is supposed to thicken up. DH and DD both thought it smelled good. I thought it smelled like yogurt (not a big fan unless it is frozen and flavored). I had enough to fill two quart jars plus have half a cup leftover. You need a half a cup to culture the next batch so that works out perfectly.



It is good for 7 to 10 days. I probably won't make it when DH isn't home because even only doing the half batch recipe, which I did, would make too much for just the kids to eat, I think. Unless I did make some into frozen yogurt. I have freezer pop molds and I can mix it with fruit in the blender. Or for that matter it could go into fruit smoothies along with whatever bananas we are using up as a base. So maybe I will make it when he's not here. We'll see.

We got the compost bin moved after Mom finally dug up the irises. The chickens moved right in and dug up the dirt and so it's ready to be planted. I have some more fencing to keep them out once the broccoli is transplanted. I think I'd like to pick up a few more kohlrabi plugs since some of them were pulled up too many times to make it. And I want plenty of kohlrabi.

It's been raining something fierce and I hope it doesn't ruin my tomatoes. The brandywines already have little green tomatoes about the size of a marble on them and tomatoes hate to be wet. The other plants had blooms on them two days ago, I don't know if they are starting to turn to actual fruit yet or not. As I said, it's been pouring. Today is cool and sunny though, so I will be out there working shortly. We may have to rig up some plastic sheeting to protect the tomatoes if it is going to be as rainy all summer as the last few weeks have been.

We have been playing a lot of board games and card games the last couple of days as that is something DS is allowed to do. The nice thing about that is it is free entertainment since we already own the games. So far we have played Ticket to Ride, Cranium (with his sister doing any of the ones that have to be acted out), Yugioh (not me, but I watched them duel), Crazy Eights, Hearts, Wahoo, and The Farming Game.

The Farming Game http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Farming_Game is a Washington State based game. The places on it are all small farming towns, it has the Yakima River, Rattlesnake Ridge, Toppenish, the Cascades, Sunnyside, Wapato, Satus, Harrah, Rosa, etc. It's really cool and fun. It teaches economics very well.

What I like about it (and a major way it differs from Monopoly) is that you start out with $5000 from the bank, but you also start out with a $5000 bank note you have to pay back. You can buy livestock or crops or farm equipment with money you earn or with 20% down and the rest in bank notes. You have to have an option to buy card for whatever thing it is you want to buy.

Bank notes sometimes have interest charged on them if you land on the correct square or get a Farmer's Fate card that says so. When you harvest crops and get your profit, you then have to take an operating expense card. You do get $5000 every year when you pass Christmas Vacation (like Go), or $6000 if you land on it from your side job. The game was made in 1979 so the money reflects that, but still.

The kids had to learn that you don't want to borrow too heavily from the bank because when that 10% interest hits it can be hard. Also you don't want to buy too much that you don't have enough cash available to pay any debts that come througout the year. The first time my son had to pay interest he made it his business to pay off his banknote as soon as he could. That's the sort of thing I like to see in him. We had to help him do some of the thinking, though with his head still being a little out of it for complex thought.

I think this is one of the best games out there for a kid to learn about money and borrowing. It also shows that a lot can go wrong with farming and how prices for crops can often just be luck. It is still available for sale. I think our copy is actually from 1979, the year it was introduced (it was originally my Grandmother's).

It's a long game though. We set it aside after an hour and a half with plans to return to it later today. The first person to amass $250,000 wins. That could seriously take a while.

DS Has a Concussion

June 23rd, 2012 at 06:52 pm

I haven't been blogging for the past few days because my son got a concussion on Thursday at school. He was hit in the head from behind twice by another student and the school, particularly the principal, has been a nightmare to deal with. There was a lot of gross negligence on their part. He sat in the office for an hour before we were even called and no one bothered to check his head (which had a bump) or him for signs of concussion, though he was clearly exhibiting them. Once we had medical proof from the doctor in hand and gave it to him he has ceased communications with us. Honestly I think he is trying to cover his butt at this point.

We contact the superintendent of schools on Monday. I am just glad the school year is now over. DS will likely be homeschooled this fall. At least that is his decision at the moment. We told him he can wait until the end of August to decide, though. I won't send him back into that environment unless there has been some real changes in attitude and behavior by the administration.

Swagbucks

June 20th, 2012 at 07:48 am

I am thinking that I am going to try to get enough Swagbucks saved up to get the $300 Apple gift card. Since DD's Mac Book for college (she is just finishing her sophomore year of high school) will likely cost $1000, and I am saving $100 a month for it. It would be nice to be able to get $300 knocked off the price just by doing this. I just wish the points per value ratio wasn't so high. The amazon or other electronic store ones use far less points for gift certificates but she doesn't want a PC based laptop. She wants to be able to do a lot of photo and video editing.

Speaking of photo editing, does anyone know of a good free program for that that actually comes with instructions on how to use it. I've tried using Gimp but it is fairly unhelpful in the instructions department. I don't need anything fancy. I just want to be able to shrink photos to smaller sizes than what my camera produces so that they don't take over my entire LJ page. I will eventually be getting something like Photo Shop, but right now I am looking for something that is as friendly as say Open Office.

I Hope This Turns Out

June 19th, 2012 at 06:32 pm

I have finally gotten around to making yogurt for the first time. I have been planning to make it for a month now. It was on the agenda more times than I can count, but it didn't get made. I kept thinking it was too much hands on time. Then I discovered an eveneasier way to make it. I decided to go with the easier crockpot method. I have read of numerous people having success with this method and if there is one thing I believe in, it's my crockpot. And this seems like a very full proof method.

I am using the recipe found here: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-...

I bought a half flat of local strawberries today. They are not organic, but they are from a sustainable, local berry farm that does not spray. I will use some of it for flavoring in the yogurt. DH's favorite kind of yogurt is strawberry so he will be happy. We will also use a bit of honey or sugar if it needs it.

I like the fact that I will about halve the cost of buying yogurt. If DH liked it just plain it would probably bring it to 1/3 of the cost, but when you are adding organic fruit it brings it back up. Still it is cheaper. I will report in on the results after we have tried it.

Chicken Wire is Up, the Garden Earns its Keep, and Cut DS's Hair

June 18th, 2012 at 08:02 pm

I came back from my appointment this afternoon and my mother had put chicken wire up on my garden fencing. I didn't even have to go buy any, because she had some left over. Some days my mother is awesome. LOL And the chickens didn't jump it, or if they did, they didn't dig anything up. I think Queen is still a bit disgruntled though. She thinks she can go anywhere and do anything (hence the name) and is a bit put out that she's not allowed in that particular playground anymore. Though I do think the cantaloupe made up for it somewhat. Big Grin

I harvested a bunch of lettuce leaves this afternoon. I think I lost one lettuce plant. It's hard to tell, but I think there might be some tiny leaves coming up from the center so it might still come back for me. It got partially uprooted somehow. My guess is that it happened during Saturday's major rainstorm and I just did not notice. I think I have enough lettuce for the next four days, which should be about when it needs to be picked again. I love leaf lettuce. In the right climate it can go all summer.

I'd say I've now harvested at least $10 worth of lettuce. I've spent $59.08 on gardening this year, so I've now just to harvest another $49.08 worth of produce to break even. I may buy a packet of lettuce seeds though if it gets hot and this stuff bolts. So far I seem to be getting 3 sunny days to 4 rainy cool days in a week this growing season though, and we have it where it only gets morning sun and afternoon shade, so it's possible it won't bolt. You just never know with cool season crops around here.

I cut DS's hair tonight. I think that clippers has paid for itself 100 times over. We've had it for many years now. I always cut DS's hair or DH's hair (unless he does it himself because he gets too impatient for me to find the time. During the school year I usually give DS a 3/4 inch haircut with whitewalls around the ears, but since we are going into summer this haircut is a 1/2 inch one. That is what I generally give DH all the time. He likes his a bit shorter. DS generally likes his a little longer, but he gets too hot in the summer for that. It looks very handsome on him either way. His sister can't stop rubbing his head though. It's all soft and fuzzy now. We put his hair in the compost bin. He laughed about that.

On occasion I will trim DD's bangs or her ends, but she is more finicky about her hair now that she is in high school and mostly only lets me do that in the summer. I used to cut it all the time when she was little. Sometimes I'd be snipping a stray bit here and there for days afterwards to even it out, but generally I did a pretty good job of it towards the end. The trick (besides having good haircutting scissors) is to put the hair up and only cut one layer at a time. Otherwise it is just going to be a jagged mess. When I have bangs I cut those to, but most of the time my hair is grown out and I don't bother with it. I just put it in a ponytail. I get it cut maybe once a year, sometimes twice.

I forgot to mention in the earlier post today about Food Rescue that I also brought some honey back to liquid form. I simply put the glass honey jar in a container of very hot water and the partially crystalized stuff on top returned to liquid form. I will have to do it again the next time I need honey I am sure, but it doesn't take very long, maybe 20 minutes and since I rarely use more than 2 tbsp at a time it works fine.

I really need to do a payday entry. I did all my bills on Friday and updated my spreadsheet and even balanced my checkbook, but I haven't gotten around to pulling together a post about it. Maybe because I'm just so tired and it's fun writing about the other things that I do, but sometimes the financial housekeeping just makes me yawn.

Food Rescue

June 18th, 2012 at 10:40 am

Every three days or so, I go through my fridge with an eye towards what needs using up and what is going to go bad soon if it isn't eaten. Today I had some strawberries that weren't going to make it much longer so I took off the stems, cut them up and put sugar on them. The sugar helps to preserve them for a few days longer and helps inhibit mold.

I also noticed I had half an onion and some cilantro that won't make it much longer. I checked to see if I had a lime. I did. Since I just so happened to buy tomatoes and I only need one for the planned club sandwiches this week, I decided to chop it all up, squeeze on some lime, and have some freshly prepared salsa. I had some leftover green chile peppers the last time I opened a can and froze them in an ice cube tray. I rooted around in the freezer until I found it and thawed one cube's worth to throw in the salsa to give it a little bit more of a kick. DS likes to eat chips and salsa as an after school snack.

My daughter has been eating shredded cabbage in her lunch at school. She goes on jags. But I have a bunch all cut up that she is not going to get to so I made coleslaw with it. Since I don't like carrots in my cole slaw, my recipe is very simple and just using cabbage (green or red, whatever I have). I made a dressing that is 1/2 cup canola oil, half cup mayonaisse and about 2 tbsp of honey. This is sufficient for a pound of cole slaw. The dressing helps to preserve the cabbage for a few more days. We (or at least I) will be eating coleslaw with dinner tonight.

I had a couple of slices of bread left from last week's baking and so I tore it up and put it into a baggy for stuffing. Thanksgiving is coming up in five months and I figure it's time to start saving up bread for stuffing since we always make ours from scratch. Since there is almost never any bread leftover when I bake it, I figure five months is enough time to gather what will be needed. In a pinch I can always just bake a loaf for it, but I prefer to not have to do that.

While I was at it, I pulled all the meat off some chicken I baked this weekend and put the bones in my stock bag. DS will be eating it in quesadillas for his school lunches this week and DD might take some as well with her cabbage.

I finally finished off the mixed greens I had last bought before my lettuce was going strong, so now I am on just our own lettuce, hopefully for the rest of the summer.

I did find a cantaloupe that is going to have to go to the chickens. Somehow it got buried in the fruit drawer (I never put things like that there, someone else must have put it away) and it is kind of shrivelled and unappealing, but it will appeal to the birds just fine. Especially the seeds. I was sad to see it not get used by humans, but at least it is not wasted. The chickens will eat all the seeds and all the fruit right down to the rind. Then the rind goes in the compost. I do like to give the chickens a treat now and then and cantaloupe is their favorite. Still, I wish I'd known it was there sooner because it is one of my favorites, too. Can't win them all, but I'm getting much better at it when it comes to food waste.

Coin Jar Update

June 18th, 2012 at 12:14 am

I cleaned out my purse today and added it to the coin jar along with a quarter and a penny I found. I put in a total of $1.33 in change. Every little bit gets me closer to that freezer.

Meal Planning for the Week

June 17th, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Monday--
Toasted ham and cheese sandwiches (on homemade bread)
Muir Glen organic chicken noodles soup (DS and I)
Tomato Basil Bisque (DD and I forget what brand)
Cole slaw
Cherries

Tuesday--
Homemade pizza with pepperoni, ground beef, an orange bell pepper that needs using up, onions, and ham
Salad
Pineapple

Wednesday--
Club sandwiches (bacon, roast beef, cheddar cheese, tomato, lettuce from the garden, and choice of mayo, mustard, or plain) on homeamde bread
Cole slaw
Leftover fruit

Thursday--
Spaghetti and Meatballs (will be using my own saved bread crumbs from my own baked bread)
Homemade garlic bread
Cole slaw and green beans
Strawberries and bananas

Friday--
Pork chops
Fried potatoes from the garden
broccoli/cauliflower
Leftover fruit salad

Saturday--
Bacon cheeseburgers
Homemade French Fries
Salad
Leftover fruit

Sunday--
Pot roast
Mashed potatoes from the garden
Leftover broccoli and cauliflower, leftover green beans
Bananas and apples

Done a Lot Lately

June 17th, 2012 at 10:01 pm

It's been a very busy weekend for me, hence me being quieter than usual here. My daughter and I went down to Burlington yesterday and I picked up some more glass Pyrex dishes with the BPA free lids. I'm really wanting to phase out my plastic usage as much as I possibly can. We also went to another kitchen store and I picked up another Hamilton Beach professional loaf pan. I had bought one last time we were down there and loved it so much that I wanted to get another one the next time we went, so I did. These pans are incredibly good. I don't have to grease them at all. The bread just slides right out, no sticking.

We spent a lot of time at the Cascade Mall looking for a neon green t-shirt for my daughter. Nothing. I did find two nightgowns though to replace some pretty worn and holey summer nightgowns that I have had for probably over ten years. I got a lovely green one and a pretty red one in the same style and they were on sale. I so rarely shop for myself that it pleases me greatly when I can get something useful that will last for several years when it is on sale.

I also got a new pair of slip-on sandals. Surprisingly, they are by Nike. I haven't worn anything by Nike since 7nth grade when the ball of my foot became too wide to wear anything they made. It was a little weird for me to pay that much for a pair of shoes, but they were so well-cushioned and comfortable that I decided it was worth the splurge. I have been looking for a good pair of these for ages.

I used to have ones made by Van's but my son lost them when he was goofing around wearing my shoes and I haven't been happy with anything I've tried on since. I know that I will be able to wear them for years. I really love them, except I wish they did not have the silver swoosh on the tops. Otherwise they are solid black. I am not really a brand person when it comes to clothing, my favorite brand of jeans is WalMart leggings, so I find the swoosh very ostentatious. But I will put up with it for the comfort.

Anyway, that is how I spent my monthly allowance this time. 2 nightgowns, 1 pair of sandals, and some Pyrex. Woo hoo. I am so practical. But all of these things make me happy so that is okay.

We never did find DD a neon shirt there, but we found one today locally at a place called Instinct, which is new to our mall. They had a shirt and a pair of shorts in exactly the color she wanted and they were on sale, too. Woo hoo. I love that.

I also bought DS his first pair of brand name shoes that were not soccer cleats. It was far more than I have ever spent on a pair of shoes for him, but nothing fits him. We tried five different shoe stores. Surprisingly, he ended up with Nikes. He has issues with how shoes grip his ankles and the way he can spread his toes in the toe box and he actually found three pairs of Nikes that fit. And he has enough room in them to grow so he should be able to wear them for a good chunk of the 7nth grade.

DS has never been brand conscious and has happily worn plain (but brightly colored) sweat pants, Kmart swishies, and Goodwill, handed down, and garage sale t-shirts and polos for years. If it had been a thing of "I want Nikes and only Nikes," I would have snapped him right out of that, or made him save up his allowance and aluminum can money for it, but they truly were the only things that fit. We weather proofed them as soon as we got home as I want them to last and remain nice for as long as possible.

I don't know if I mentioned or not, but I did put up some wire fencing (from the old house) around the garden, since Queen was digging stuff up. I also put down straw around the plants to help hide that pretty brown dirt that the silly chicken likes to dig up. I need to buy some chicken wire to keep her out of there, as the fencing isn't enough and she can sort of slip between it.. I will use zip ties to attach it to the wire fencing.

I still need to get the broccoli and dill into the ground. Waiting on Mom to dig up those irises still.

I made 2 loaves of bread today instead of one. DH comes home on Wednesday so I figured there wasn't much point in making only one loaf. He eats a lot of bread so I make more when I know he will be around. I have decided to use one cup of whole wheat flour in my recipe. It takes 4.5 cups of flour. It makes the bread a little heartier without sacrificing the lightness of it.

I make a very easy dinner tomorrow night using some of the bread. But that belongs in my meal planning post.

Grocery Shopping, Talk of Stock, Soapmaking, and Gardening

June 16th, 2012 at 01:32 am

I think I was out from 11:30 to 2:30 today. It was hot, the car gets even hotter, and I forgot to take a water bottle with me. Plus I kept forgetting to put up my sunshade whenever I parked.

I did my big run to the Food Co-op. I got my freshly ground peanut butter so I will make peanut butter cookies tomorrow. I didn't get the Camano Island eggs this time. Instead I got some from Misty Meadows, which is an even more local farm (same county). http://www.mistymeadowsfarm.com/eggs.html.

They do have a few stores in the greater Seattle area that they provide eggs for. I will report in on them when I have eaten some tomorrow. They are more expensive than the Camano Island eggs, but I figure our new hens will be laying in about four to six weeks and that's not too long to pay a little more for eggs if they are as good as everyone raves about.

Of course I got several other items, including Muir Glen Chicken Noodle soup. This is the only chicken noodle soup DS will eat other than homemade or Campbell's (which has so much stuff in it that I don't want him having/and or he is allergic to). now when he is sick he can have that if I don't have enough stuff on hand to make stock.

----------------

Speaking of stock I have been keeping two bags in the freezer lately. One is of chicken bones that I have picked the meat from and one is of things like onion and garlic skins, onion tops, carrot peels, celery leaves, etc. From what I have been reading there is actually a lot of flavor in those things that you would normally discard and you can use them to make your stock instead of using actual vegetables that you then throw away. We shall see. If it doesn't have the flavor it should I will just throw in the appropriate vegetables. Either way what is left after cooking will either go on the compost or to the chickens.

Another thing that I read is that you need the bones of four or five chickens (or at least two turkeys) to make really good stock. There just isn't enough there on one chicken carcass to get the really good meaty flavor. I've always had to highly season my stock in the past and think this might be the reason why. So I am saving all of the bones from the chicken I make. Well, not what we eat directly off of, but whatever is left over and I pick all the meat off.

I also read that for really good beef stock you need at least five pounds of beef bones and you need to roast them first. Well, I guess I knew that they should be roasted, but not that you needed that many to make a good stock. I am really learning a lot from some of these books I got from the library.

--------------

I am thinking about possibly making some homemade soap. When we get our beef, I am going to ask for some of the suet (the fat around the kidneys) for making tallow. I mean, I am paying for the whole thing (or half of the thing) so that should include the suet as well. You can get the organ meats if you ask for them, so I imagine the suet shouldn't be too hard for them to throw in. If not, oh well. You can make soap from vegetable oils instead of animal fat, so that is another course I could take. I have reserved the book Smart Soapmaking at the library and it should be arriving at my branch early next week.

------------------

I am also hoping that Joel Salatin's book Folks, This Ain't Normal will come in soon. I am third on the hold list, the library has 5 copies, and three of them are overdue. The other two are due on the 21st and 22nd. I hate it when people keep books out past their due date, especially new books that they know other people are waiting to read. Joel is a big advocate of pasture raised, humanely raised, organic livestock. He is the guy that the author of Omnivore's Dilemma visited and he runs Polyface Farms, which is featured in the documentary Food, Inc.

------------------

One of the chickens (Queen) dug up some of the plants in the vegetable garden. Fortunately I saw them and got them back into the ground in time. I then mulched around all the plants with straw, hoping that if we hide the dirt it won't tempt them to scratch in it so much. I also put up some white wire fencing from the old house to hopefully mark it as off limits. They could go through it though, so I am also going to get some rodent wire mesh and some zip ties and attach it to the fencing. A determined chicken could fly over it, but would probably have a hard time getting back out and would think twice before doing it again. Hopefully that won't cost too much.



The chicken was very indignant, as you can see in the photo, when I told her off and picked her up and stuck her back in the fenced area. She wouldn't even look at me. But then later when she got out again and I was sitting on the porch swing (which is not on the porch) she came over and snuggled my feet, so I think she's forgiven me.

More Planting, Leftover Management, and Cutting Up a Whole Chicken

June 14th, 2012 at 07:26 pm

I finished planting the long strip of garden today. I put in the pickling cucumbers around the poppies, since we'll be pulling the poppies after they bloom. The cukes are tiny now but they will expand to fill the space. I also put in three hills of burpless cucumbers further down. In the photo below they are where the two trellises and the smaller stake are at. The large stake is for the pole beans. I will probably find a couple more stakes for that since there are six plants there.



I got the other three tomato plants in the ground and now all six have cages. Mom had a bunch of cages left over from several years ago. I put in the purple basil and the tri-color sage in front of the tomatoes and by the other herbs. Then I put in 14 cauliflower plants. They were supposed to be six packs, but each one had an extra little one in them. I don't know if they'll take or not, but I consider them a bonus anyway. They are in the middle row in front of the cucumbers and beans and all the way down. The first row of plants that are more closely spaced are the 24 plugs of kohlrabi. It is one of my favorite vegetables and part of the brassica family.

The only thing I haven't planted is the broccoli. They aren't overgrowing their pots yet and Mom has decided she is going to pull up her irises, take out the weeds and divide them, then replant them elsewhere so then we can move the compost over to where they were and plant the broccoli between the tomatoes and the compost bin. I'd prefer to just plant them where the irises were and work in some good compost first, but Mom is being Mom and once she gets an idea into her head it's hard to change her mind.

The three older hens came up to keep me company, but they kept heading back over to the old garage pad where the Crown Vic is parked. There are lots of tasty weeds that grow up through the cracked pad and lots of bugs that make their home there.



While I was working the wind kept bringing the heady, sweet scent of roses from our rose tree. Okay, technically it's an apple tree, but the roses have grown up into it so much you can hardly tell where one ends and the other begins.



The ducks and chickens like to shelter under this tree and in it (note the bird in the crotch) during the heat of the day. We keep it muddy there and they really enjoy it. They also like to hide under there when I take pictures.



They spend most of the day, however, on the greener side of this fence where they have plenty of room to roam, but are still fenced in as they are too young to know not to wander out of our yard or the neighbor's yard. (She likes them to come over and fertilize her garden! Not to mention the extra eggs that will be coming her way when the chicks start laying in about six more weeks.)



All in all, it was a very productive day and I am looking forward to a good harvest towards the end of the summer. I sure hope it all comes to fruition and that the weather will be good for growing.

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Meal planning has been working very well this week. And leftover management has been incredible since they put a microwave in the cafeteria for the students on Monday. DS has been taking quesadillas made with leftover chicken or potroast and the containers are coming back either empty or mostly empty. He's actually eating! And I don't feel horrible if he wastes another sandwich made with expensive additive free deli meat. And when he doesn't eat it all, he has been eating it for a late evening snack after tae kwon do. He's always hungry after tae kwon do.

I haven't wasted anything this week and we have all been very happily eating up whatever leftover vegetables there are from the previous day at the current day's dinner. It's nice not to have to make side dishes every single day, just to reheat them. I think the switch to organic veggies all the time is what is making them so appealing. They just taste better.

I do want to get some more Pyrex containers with BPA-free lids. I particularly want to get the 4 cup and 6 cup sizes. It is just so nice to be able to clearly see what is in the fridge and to also be able to heat things up in the same dishes without worrying about discoloration or leaching and without making extra dishes to then clean.

I am in the process of reading American Wasteland by Jonathon Bloom, who also runs the blog www.wastedfood.com. It is very eye-opening and it is reaffirming my commitment to try to stop food waste in this house and to grow and eat our own food as much as we can.

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I made chicken from the ranch tonight. I had Mom talk me through cutting it up and she showed me where to look for the joints to cut through. I had done it before when I was fourteen and she taught me how, but it had been so long since I'd done it, I just couldn't really remember. I had read about it in the copy of The Cook's Illustrated Complete Poultry Cookbook, but it helped to have her going over it with me. I think I can do it next time on my own. Buying whole chickens is definitely in my future.

We fried it and it made a huge difference. It was much better than the one we roasted, although I still don't find it to be as stunning as I expected after eating their beef and pork. After dinner I picked the meat off the remaining breast and back pieces to make DS's quesadillas with. I put those bones into my soup stock bag. And I set aside the one thigh that was left to be eaten whole for my lunch tomorrow. Being as it is a 3.5 pound chicken there isn't enough to make enchiladas, too. I'd need a 4 pound chicken for that, I think.

I also finished off the last broken half of a peanut butter cookie and all the crumbs in the cookie jar with my dinner tonight. I will probably make more tomorrow after I go to the Food Co-op and get more freshly ground peanut butter. I still have probably enough left for one batch, but I wanted to wash out the jar and let it dry overnight. The crumbs were just as tasty as a full, whole cookie, despite what my kids might think.

Making a Deposit to the Freezer/Beef Fund

June 14th, 2012 at 10:19 am

Oh, my gosh, I apologize for all the typos in my last entry. I was writing it last night as I was drifting off to sleep, and clearly that does not bode well for my ability to type or spell. It's all edited now. 12 mistakes, though! Yikes! Must remember to post a little further away from bedtime when I'm that exhausted.

I had enough coins to roll one each of dimes, nickles, quarters, and pennies. I also had $29 in ones, and $30.56 left over from the June visit to the ranch. So that is a total of $77.06. I have decided not to add to the EF with my coin jar money for now and to instead put that money into the freezer fund.

$100.00 Beginning FF Balance
$+77.06 Deposit Added
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$177.06 Ending Freezer Fund Balance

$622.94 to go. I will be making another deposit to the freezer fund tomorrow, which is payday, of $100. Originally I had decided on the 17.4 cubic foot freezer, but I decided to go ahead with the 19.7 cubic foot freezer, which is big enough to hold an entire beef plus a couple of 25 pound sacks of flour. Although we will likely only get half a beef this time, we will be able to afford a whole beef next year, so having the extra space will be better.

We do also have our small chest freezer that is 5.0 cubic feet, which will probably be empty by the time we do get the beef. I'm in the process of using up everything in it and have it down to 2/3 full, so if we've underestimated the space needed we will have that space as well, not to mention the under fridge freezer.

We will probably have a November or December delivery date for our beef. We can choose it and that will give us enough time to save up for it. I will make the $300 deposit next time we go down to the ranch, which will be at the end of this month.

Not Much to Report Today

June 13th, 2012 at 11:48 pm

I cleaned out my purse and found $6.63 (and only $1 of that was a bill), so that went into my coin jar. It looks like I have enough to roll pennies and quarters and possibly dimes. I know nickles are close but I don't think I added enough to hit it.

I will figure it out tomorrow. I have over $30 in ones so it's time to make a deposit regardless.

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Spending today--I stopped at Haggen to get cauliflower and broccoli. They just happened to have a one gallon pot full of pole bean sprouts and some regular cucumbers for eating not pickling, so I will have quite the variety there.

I also bought a pineapple while I was there. I should have bought milk, too, but I forgot. There's enough left for DS to have breakfast. I don't drink milk in the morning and neither does DD. We just have it at dinner and drink water the rest of the time.

I spent $18.05 there. For the plants alone I spent $5.98.

So $53.06 was my previous total on garden stuff.

$53.06
+_5.98
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$59.08 total spent on gardening this year

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After that I stopped by Youngstocks and got fresh Rainier cherries and some corn on the cob. I spent $11.93 there for four ears of corn (.50 each) and the rest on the cherries. I will not buy anymore fruit now until this all gets eaten and so does some of the stuff I have from before I bought all this friut yesterday and today.

That was all of the spending I did today.

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My son had his orchestra concert tonight. It was really good. They've improved a lot, which is more than I can say for the 7nth graders, but it was mostly a good concert.

More Garden Stuff

June 12th, 2012 at 03:22 pm

I had to make two stops to find all of the plants I wanted. Well, I say all. I still didn't find any pole beans. Well, actually I did, but they were so ratty looking I didn't even think my green thumb could nurse them back to health. I ended up getting some bush bean seeds instead. I prefer pole beans because you can grow them up instead of out, but at this rate I'll deal.

We (I brought Mom along as she wanted to get some things, too) went to Joe's Garden first. I got:

$6.00 24 kohlrabi plugs
$2.98 12 cauliflower plants
$3.98 large tri-color sage
$2.78 large purple basil
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$15.74 total spent at Joe's

They didn't have any cucumbers or broccoli so we stopped at Terra Organica. They don't have six pack pots, they have 4 pack pots. Things are a little more expensive there, too, because it's not just pesticide free but also organic. I got:

$1.59 4 pk standard green broccoli
$1.59 4 pk Romanesco broccoli
$1.59 4 pk purple sprouting broccoli
$2.99 1 roma tomato
$2.99 1 Striped Roman tomato
$2.99 1 some other tomato I forget but it's purple
$1.59 1 pickling cucumber
$1.59 1 pickling cucumber of a different variety
$1.59 1 English cucumber
$2.39 1 pack of regular and 1 pack of purple beans
$1.19 1 pack of bunching onions
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22.09


$15.74
+22.09
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$37.83 spent today on gardening
+15.23 spent previously this season
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$53.06 total spent for the garden

I am pretty sure I won't need to buy any more plants and I know I will more than make up for the cost of that with what I produce. Organic produce is expensive so I'm sure I'll make up the cost of it within the first week of good harvesting. The lettuce has actually already paid for itself. I've had at least ten 2 cup salads from it. A large container of organic greens is $5 and I paid $3.98 for my 12 lettuces. I only need to harvest another $49.08 worth of veggies to break even.

I may need to get some twine and possibly some more stakes or tomato cages, but I need to take a run out to the old house to look for them as I am sure we have them there unless the neighbors walked off with them (wouldn't be the first time, since no one lives there currently). I am planning on going out there tomorrow to mow the lawn if the weather holds so I can look then.

Errands

June 12th, 2012 at 10:46 am

Gas prices are going back down here though the range is still pretty ridiculous. It is $3.89 per gallon at Costco and $4.59 a gallon nearer my home. I decided that with a 70 cents (!!!!) per gallon difference it was worth it to go over to Costco today. I went right after I dropped DS off at school. There was still a wait, but it was closer to ten minutes instead of a half an hour. It amazes me how many people let their cars run the entire time they are waiting in line. It was 63 degrees so no one needed their air conditioning or heater on, but over half the cars were running while waiting.

I also went to the credit union. They had misapplied the last prepayment on principle for the mortgage to the regular payment so I had to get that straightened out. It's still showing online as wrong, but I have a printout of it as right so hopefully the online one will catch up in a day or two. I should have caught this a week ago, but at least I still caught it this month.

I got $100 out of savings. I will replace it on Friday. I want to go get some plant starts today, but I didn't want to run my checkbook all the way down to zero. I know I have the account balanced, but I just prefer to keep a little money in there until payday in case I did the math wrong somewhere. I am always paranoid about that. Although if it did for some reason go under, my CU automatically transfers money from savings for a $1 fee. Still, I'd rather save myself the fee.

I also need to go to the library and turn in some books. It's more or less on the way to Joe's so that shouldn't be too difficult. As long as the five minute drop off parking spaces are available I will drop them off. I don't want to pay a quarter just to turn in books. And I can't just park in the handicapped spots which don't require money in the meter and do it anymore, as my permit expired at the end of May. I don't think I will try to get it renewed, either as I am walking almost normally now. Unless I start hurting again, I think I can do without it.

Credit Score Jumped

June 12th, 2012 at 08:41 am

We have a credit monitoring service we use. We've had too many instances of medical bills going to the wrong address or otherwise going astray in the past several years to not keep a sharp eye on things. And now especially while we are preparing to buy a house in the next year or so, it feels worthwhile for us to have it for that extra piece of mind. I don't want to walk in there when it's time to go for a mortgage loan and have them say there is something we didn't know about that will prevent us from getting one. Maybe I'm a little paranoid, but it's worth it for my piece of mind.

Regardless, our credit score just took a major jump up to 790 from 777 as the credit bureau finally caught up to where we're actually at (well, not quite, it's still reporting higher amounts in 3 categories than we actually have, but it's a lot closer now). I'm sure this has to do with our debt to income ratio now being below 45% by about 2%.

I think this is the first time it's ever been above 780 before, though for most of my adult married life it's been at least 750 or above, even during the worst debt load. I am hopeful that when we pay off the BoA VISA I might actually see it jump to 800. I'd love to have it be in the 800's when we are ready to get a new house and mortgage.

Plants in the Ground

June 11th, 2012 at 08:20 pm

I spent the morning at the doctor's office having my eye checked out. I have an infection of an eyelid gland, which explains why it is triple the size of the other one. I had to go to two different pharmacies to get both the antibiotic pills and the steroid/antibiotic eye drops. Well, I did if I wanted to start treatment today and it was hurting enough I didn't want to delay another day when I waited all weekend as it was. The drops are already helping. The swelling has gone down a little bit and the pain has gone down a lot. I spent a total of $20.39 on prescriptions.

This evening I got my plants out of their pots and into the ground. It seems like an awful lot of work for only having planted 7 things, but I still feel a good deal of satisfaction.

Here is a shot of the garden after it was weeded:



The entire area was covered in weeds and potato volunteers on Saturday.

Here are the three tomato plants and basil, oregano, and thyme:



The tall plants are the double pink poppies. One is about to open and bloom, maybe tomorrow or the next day.

The green thing, which you can see better in the first photo, is my compost bin. The white thing down by the chimney is a rain barrel that collects water off the roof via the drainpipe.

This is the zucchini, planted clear down by the rain barrel. It will sprawl into something huge in a few weeks' time so we gave it a lot of space off by itself.



Here are my window boxes full of green romaine and red sails leaf lettuces. These ones you can pick the outermost leaves of and they will continue to grow. I've been picking them about every other day.



And last, but not least, this perfect bit of loveliness is growing in the front yard next to the deck.



I hope to make it over to Joe's Garden tomorrow to buy some more starts. If I don't go tomorrow I probably won't make it until Friday. So far I have spent $15.23 on the garden. That includes some seed packets I have not planted yet. As long as we have a decent summer, that should pay me back within the first week of the tomato harvest. Even with more output for starts, I will still drastically cut my produce bill this summer.

Meal Planning

June 10th, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Those potatoes I dug yesterday were so delcious tonight. Sweet and fresh and about as tasty as potato can be. We had them mashed with gravy with our potroast, green beans, cloverleaf rolls, and salad (fresh picked from the window boxes right before dinner). Anyway, I boiled up enough potatoes to save some out for dinner tomorrow and those ones will be fried.

Monday--
Pork chops
Broccoli/cauliflower
Fried potatoes
corn
grapes (except DS) and cantaloupe

Tuesday--
Spaghetti
Meatballs
Salad or coleslaw depending on how much cabbage is left
Garlic toast

Wednesday--
Tropical Island Chicken Stir-fry (has lots of veggies)
Cantaloupe

Thursday--
Club sandwiches (homemade bread toasted, lettuce, tomato (if I can find an organic ripe one) ham, turkey, cheddar)
Sweet potato fries

Friday--
Homemade pizza (ground beef, bell peppers, onions, pepperoni)
Salad

Saturday--
Oven Fried Chicken
Steamed baby potatoes
Broccoli/Cauliflower
Fruit

Sunday--
Pot roast
corn on the cob
green beans
cloverleaf rolls
fruit

I may swap out the club sandwiches if I don't find a good tomato for breakfast food (ham and turkey are frozen anyway), likely Belgian waffles with strawberries, sausages, and sliced cucumbers (yes, I know, but I have to serve a vegetable at dinner time).

Anyway, that's the plan. I need to make one shopping trip this week to buy a gallon of milk, strawberries, corn on the cob, bananas and a tomato. Everything else is on hand.

I made a loaf of bread tonight. I found a recipe for a single loaf instead of making two loaves since it is so hard to go through two loaves of bread when DH is away. It smells good. Hopefully it will be good, too.

Productive Day Plus Free Organic Potatoes

June 9th, 2012 at 11:36 pm

I got a lot done today. I did clear off and clean off the counter on the other side of the sink like I'd planned so all of my counter space is now cleaned and organized. I have found all of the pieces to my Mr. Coffee Ice Tea Maker and DS has requested iced tea tomorrow. I did not get to the kitchen counter, but I did get to the garden.

I did far more in the garden than planned. The rain finally stopped at about 4 today and by 7 it was all dry outside so the kids and I went out to weed enough space next to the compost bin (did I mention it's set up now? I'm too excited about having one again!) to transplant three tomato plants, 3 herbs, and what turns out to be two zucchini in my one plant pot.

We ended up clearing a lot more than that and then Mom came out and worked for a half an hour and we ended up clearing a space that is about four to five feet wide by forty feet long. Two of the older chickens helped (i.e. got in the way and ate all the spiders, bugs, and worms we uncovered). I wish they could actually do the weeding, too. They certainly dig and kick the dirt around enough and you have to watch out not to get a mouthful. Ask me how I know.

We dumped all the weeds and greens into the main chicken enclosure and the flock will eat most of them happily over the next few days.

We pulled up a bunch of volunteer potato plants. I was surprised at how many of them had potatoes growing on them. We ended up harvesting about 7 pounds worth. I was going to go make a special trip to Trader Joe's tomorrow so I could buy some organic potatoes, but now I don't have to and I have enough for at least three meals. And it's my favorite price--free!

I won't buy non-organic potatoes anymore. Not after I read about how they are grown and the poison they spray on them to kill the bugs. Humans aren't even allowed to go into the fields after they are sprayed for a ridiculous number of days because it is so dangerous. I can't remember if it was 10 days or 2 weeks. And then when they are harvested the potatoes have to sit in a shed for a year before the government deems them "safe enough" to eat. No thank you. That is one vegetable that I am not going to take chances on again.

We have plenty of volunteer potatoes coming up in the main chicken enclosure, too. Those ones have been nicely fertilized with chicken manure hay that was cleaned out of the coop, so we will get a healthy amount of them, I'm sure.

Now there is so much space that I am going to go ahead and plant green beans, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, English cucumbers, pickling cucumbers as well as three more tomato plants. I will go to Joe's Garden http://www.joesgardens.com/ to get most of it. they grow everything without pesticides there. I have seeds for beans and green onions.

We left in some flowers as I believe in interplanting flowers with vegetables. There were some double pink poppies that will bloom in about a week. They volunteer all over the place and look like this when blooming:



There were also some orange flowers that volunteered as well. I am not sure what they are but they look like this:



I think it's going to be a very nice garden when it is done. I just hope I don't hurt tomorrow and that it is also a nice day for planting. I'll try to remember to snap some before and after photos.

Late Spring Cleaning

June 9th, 2012 at 12:16 am

We've been so overwhelmed by life in general lately that some of the chores have been falling by the wayside. To that end I decided this week to take back my house. Sunday I cleaned out the freezer, tossed all the stuff that was freezer burned or looked yucky and was past the use by date I'd marked on the container. Admittedly this started as something that we needed to do to store the beef, chicken and pork we'd brought back from the ranch.

On Sunday I cleaned out all of laundry baskets, put everything away and stacked them neatly together. I also finally got caught up on all the laundry in the house at the time.

On Monday I cleaned out the refrigerator and scrubbed out all the gunky stuff that had collected at the bottom.

On Tuesday I cleaned the bathroom.

On Wednesday I cleaned out the microwave because it was taking longer and longer to heat things. It might be going out, or it might be that layer of stuff that splatters against the top because no one but me ever uses a cover on their food.

On Thursday I scrubbed out the sink and then rearranged the cupboards.

On Friday I cleaned out the massive pile of bags and empty boxes that were in the corner to the left of the microwave, scrubbed the countertops down and then moved the microwave into the corner but at an angle so there is space behind it and on both sides. I thought it might be blocking the fans the way it was before, which could also have accounted for slower cooking.

I took the bread machine, which I only use for making the dough, and moved it next to the sink, just at the end of the cupboards so that I can now close all my doors. I also moved the toaster over next to the microwave. And I also put the pint size canning jars in a box next to the breach machine so they were off the kitchen table.

Tomorrow I will tackle the counter on the other side of the sink and the kitchen table, which has become a catch all of late. We've been eating up at Mom's table, but I would like to have ours back again. I also hope to get my new herbs, zucchini, and tomato plants planted. The weather let up this evening and hopefully it will be nice tomorrow, too.


Need to Find Another Source for This

June 8th, 2012 at 10:58 am

This being sustainable, humanely raised, pasture-raised, organic chicken. I had the first chicken we bought from the ranch yesterday and I was underwhelmed. It was good enough, but not spectacular. And it was kind of small. I do have two more to eat and I will prepare them differently, probably frying and rotisserie style. I don't really think it's the fact that I roasted it though. I didn't find their eggs to be all that great either. Maybe that's because I've eaten eggs from our chickens for so long, but the Camano Island eggs are as good as, if not better than, the eggs our chickens lay (when they aren't hiding them) and are far superior to the ranch eggs.

The ranch eggs tasted pretty much the same way as the ones from the store that are cage free, but not pasture-raised. I find this odd because these are definitely pasture-raised eggs, I saw them out in the pasture, but they are supplemented with grain (not soy, not corn) and maybe it's too much of that and not enough of the other? So maybe that's why the chicken isn't as good as I expected it to be based on the incredible flavor of the pork and the beef I've bought from them.

There are a lot more places that pasture-raise chickens as opposed to beef or pork in my county, so I will look for some chickens closer to home. One place I want to check out in person is the In Pastures Green farm in Ferndale. They follow all of the methods I most want in my food and they are about a ten minute drive away. And they are also substantially less per pound, $4.10 as opposed to $5.95. Also their chickens tend to be 4 to 5 pounds as opposed to the 3 to 3.5 pound average at the other place, so one bird will go a lot further, providing 3 to 4 meals instead of 2.

Based on their website and pictures, I think they actually come the closest to raising the chickens exactly like in the book I read, even having gone to train with the same person the author visited in The Omnivore's Dilemma. They also process right there on the farm. They have farm hours tomorrow so I think if the weather isn't too nasty (it's been raining for days), I'll pack up the kids and we'll go see. I really like visiting the places where we get our food from.

They do have ducks, too, so they may have duck eggs, but as of the last update about the ducks, they hadn't started laying, but the date on that was a while ago. I would love to get my hands on some more duck eggs between now and when ours start laying. The Food Co-op hasn't had them again on the more recent trips I've made and I used the last one on Tuesday. They are the best for baking cookies and rolls. Probably cakes, too, but I haven't tried that.

Two of our ducks seem to have paired up so we are pretty sure we have at least one female and will have some eggs eventually. I am hoping the non-paired two are both female as well.

They do require a $10 deposit per chicken if you are going to order them, which helps prevent no-shows. (They slaughter 3 times a year, it looks like). Which is about half the price per bird. So the overall cost seems like it would be $205 for ten 5 lb chickens. Again, it seems pricey compared to conventional chicken, but if you have ten birds and can get 4 meals from each bird, you've got a per meal cost of $5.12 for protein (based on a family of 4 to 5). Even if you could only get 3 meals from each chicken it would still work out to $6.83 per meal. That's pretty good for this type of meat.

I am thinking, also, that since they have you picking up the chickens on slaughter day, that means they don't freeze them, which means I could bring them home and cut up most of them and repackage them so that I could have all legs, all thighs, all breast, all backs, wings, and necks in their own packages if I wanted to. It'd be a bit of work, but I think worthwhile.

And I don't have to order 10. I could start with less. I'll have to think on it.

I Am Actually Under Budget on Food

June 7th, 2012 at 11:02 am

A few months ago I upped my grocery budget to $800. I figured that switching over completely to pasture-raised, organic protein and sustainably raised organic produce was going to really hit us hard and that there was no way I could manage at $600 a month. Well, guess what? I just added up all my grocery receipts for the month. I am under the original $600 budget!

$269.44 on beef, chicken, and pork (including duck)
__40.92 on organic milk
___7.00 on organic peanut butter
__15.96 on organic cheese
__21.95 on organic pizza toppings
__80.42 on organic vegetables
__12.73 on organic flour
__42.49 on organic fruit
__20.00 on organic, pasture-raised duck/chicken eggs
+_37.00 on organic butter (bought in bulk)
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$595.83

Okay, it's only $4.17 under, but I was struggling to hit that before switching. I think it helps that I am no longer buying any bread products, but making all of our bread. It also helps that the meat we are getting is much more filling so we are eating less of it. Actually that's true for the fruits and vegetables as well and the homemade bread, so everything lasts longer.

Another thing that helps is the meal planning, of course. Even if I don't stick to it every day, I have a list of pinch hitter meals. What are pinch hitter meals? Something I can get on the table fast when the other meal plan falls through.

Things that fall into the pinch hitter category:

Angel hair pasta in tomato sauce, ground beef, green beans from a can, fruit.

Boneless skinless chicken thighs cooked on the George Foreman grill, leftover vegetables or quickly boiled broccoli/cauliflower (only if it's been pre-cut up on another day), canned corn, bread.

Chili or soup (previously homemade or canned), club sandwiches, fruit.

Fish and chips in the deep fat fryer (not the best for health, but once in a while is fine). I do keep a box of codfish filets (with the fewest additives I can find) and a couple bags of Alexias organic French fries or sweet potato fries in the freezer. When I have time I will make fish and chips from scratch, but this is for a time crunch day. I'll usually skip the veg on this day because it is filling.

So it definitely helps to have the meal plan, but it also helps to have a backup meal plan list as well of things that are on hand. And of course, leftover management. That is always key.

I think I will leave the $800 budget in place for now. This month could have been a fluke. But any extra money will go first into the freezer fund and then into the beef fund. Well, first to the $300 deposit we need to put down to claim a half a beef for later slaughter, and then to the freezer fund.

I Am Rolling My Eyes at Myself Again Today

June 6th, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I don't think that I even paid the slightest bit of attention to the schedule this week when I made up the meal plan. Monday was an airport day and we didn't even end up eating until almost 8 p.m. Yesterday and today DS had tae kwon do so planning elaborate food for those days just doesn't make sense. He has belt testing tomorrow at the inconvenient time of 5:30 to 6:30, which is our usual meal time. When he goes to classes he goes to the 6:50 class so that works out great with our schedule, but testing never does.

Tonight I just ended up making spaghetti, ground beef, fruit and salad, because I did not want to babysit food for a long period of time. I did make buns and cloverleaf rolls (same dough) today though, so I can make burgers tomorrow.

I guess the important point is I have a bunch of meal ideas ready and I have the food to implement them, so I don't have to run out and get what I need, it's all here. And no matter how tempting it might be to go to Boomer's and get burgers tomorrow, mine will taste better (although it's close with them and their mostly from scratch food, my buns and flavors still beat theirs, but their patties are great) and be less expensive even with pastured beef and pork in the mix.

So Friday will get to be chicken. It's still not quite thawed all the way through. Next time I want to make it on a Wednesday I will take it out on a Sunday morning when I put the roast in the crockpot. I am really looking forward to eating this chicken on Friday. We haven't had their chicken yet at all, but between the amazing beef and the incredible pork, I'm pretty sure the chicken will be impressive as well.

One thing I'm worried about is whether or not we'll make it through all the bread this week. DS managed to lose 3 teeth this week, his last ones, thankfully, but he can't chew through the meat sandwiches right now. DD isn't eating bread much as she went on the same controlled-carb eating plan as me in the last two days and bread is not what she reaches for the one time a day she can have high carbs. It's fruit or corn or potatoes and milk. Mom had claimed she was going to eat it, but then she got annoyed with herself because she wouldn't stop eating it, so now she's gone back to eating the tasteless storebought stuff that doesn't tempt her to eat it. *shakes head* A little self-control around the good-tasting bread would be enough, you know?

DS did want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich tonight, so at least 2 more slices of bread are gone and everyone had a cloverleaf roll. I made six buns for hamburgers even though I will only be making four hamburgers. I know my mother and she will filch a bun before I get to making the burgers. The fifth one is just back up.

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If nothing else it will contribute to the ducks' diet. Two of the ducks seem to have paired up, so we figure they are a boy and a girl. Not sure if the other two are both girls or both boys or one of each and just behind the curve of Patches and Inigo Montoya. I hope this means we'll have duck eggs. I used the last of the ones I bought at the food co-op in the buns and rolls I made today I really do think they make a superior baked good.

One of the chickens was making a noise slightly reminiscent of a rooster learning to crow. I hope not. If there is a rooster we are not allowed to keep one in the city limits and we will have to take him to a farm like we did with one of the first set.

---------------------------

I went to the Food Co-op to buy flour. Between pizza, rolls, and bread I will use about 12 to 13 cup a week. I picked up an 8 pound bag, but I think DH and I will definitely go down to the flour mill and see about getting a 50 pound bag because I am going through it pretty fast on the weeks Chris is home and reasonably fast otherwise.

I also bought some more organic, sustainably raised plant starts there, one basil, one oregano, one thyme, (all three of which I want to dry as I use them in all of my Italian sauces. I also bought a yellow zucchini start and 2 organic heirloom tomato plants. One is a good Italian Roma so that'll make good sauce or paste and the other is an early producer called Moscowitz.

I also picked up 2 dozen of the Camano Island pasture-raised eggs. Two of our hens have been hiding their nesting areas so only one is leaving eggs where we can find them. No way can anyone have enough with one egg a day. These eggs are just as good as theirs though. And the youngsters aren't quite old enough to be laying yet. Maybe by summer's end. Then we'll be giving them away.

I also stopped and got a gallon of Organic Valley milk at Haggen. Just one, though. I am still going to try to find a place that has the holstein homogenized glass bottled milk from local cows. I know it exists.

Such a Fluffbrain Today

June 5th, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Note to self: When you put bacon cheeseburgers on the meal plan, you need to make sure you remember to actually make buns that morning.

Yeah, I forgot that and I didn't want to run and buy them from the store. Now that I have gotten into the swing of making bread and rolls again, I don't particularly want to eat the other stuff anymore. So I will make buns tomorrow and we will have bacon cheeseburgers tomorrow and I will bump everything on the meal plan by a day. Except Sunday, which will still be potroast. Saturday's meal can move to Monday or something.

This is just as well as I don't think the chicken will be thawed by tomorrow night anyway and I prefer to thaw things in the fridge instead of in the micro. I mean I'll use the micro if I need to, but I just prefer the other way, because sometimes the micro will cook the edges and the center will still be frozen and that's just a pain to deal with.

We had Thursday's corn and Wednesday's broccoli so I will have to rearrange things a bit but that is no big deal. Oh, and we had pork chops from the ranch for the protein. Oh, my gosh, I have never tasted such good pork chops in my life. I think this farm is the best thing that ever happened to us foodwise.

Tomorrow I will also make up one of my lunchtime low carb meatloaves. I usually make those twice a week so I don't have to think at lunch, I can just heat and eat. Sometimes I will only make one a week as I can get sick of it (though I rarely do and a few days off from it and I'm back to eating it). I usually add something green (cucumbers, celery) or salad greens.

I harvested the first greens from my window box garden today. I absolutely love fresh greens and these are so pretty and vibrant.



Of course this not so little guy was hanging out in the front garden.



Fortunately he was nowhere near my lettuce up on the deck. I don't think he'd be quite that brave with so many other tender plants to eat further away from human habitation.

I've got lots of blossoms on my organic heirloom brandywine tomato plant. I hope that bodes well for a good harvest.

I Won't Be Doing Business with Wayfair Again

June 5th, 2012 at 08:54 am

So we ordered that combo boxsprings frame from Wayfair. We ordered it next day air shipping. They sent it ground anyway, despite us paying the extra for it so it would get here early enough for DH to put it together before he left for Alaska yesterday. That should have had the bed arriving last Thursday or Friday. (We ordered it, by the way, May 25th. It took them until May 31st to process and ship it. Even with the holiday, we ordered it on a Friday and they did not ship it until the 31st, a Thursday of the following week. Their website showed one in Bremerton but they ended up shipping it from Sacramento, instead.

It didn't show up until around 12:30 on Monday. It doesn't look like the picture of what we ordered and in fact the frame on the box has a different name on it than the frame we actually ordered. Though it is heavy duty and has the higher rating. So DH managed to get it put together just before he got on the airplane yesterday, but that was incredibly inconvenient. We are going to try this frame because it has like a 2 month money back guarantee. It was comfortable last night.

But I am still waiting for Wayfair to credit us back the extra shipping we paid for and did not get. They claimed they would as soon as we discovered their error, which was the day we got the shipping notification and the paperwork did not match ours. That was May 31. That credit should have shown up by now because they claimed they would do it promptly. I am really annoyed with the whole process and they have lost all future business from us.

Meal Planning for the Week

June 5th, 2012 at 12:38 am

It's a bit late, but better late than never, right?

Monday--Pizza, various fruit that needed eating, salad, milk

Tuesday--Bacon cheeseburgers with sweet potato tater tots and coleslaw, strawberries

Wednesday--Fried chicken (from the farm), bananas that need to get eaten, leftover coleslaw, broccoli/cauliflower, milk

Thursday--Chicken Ravioli Bake, corn on the cob, cantaloupe, milk

Friday--Steaks, potatoes fried in bacon grease saved from earlier in the week, sauteed green beans

Saturday--Baked potato soup, roasted turkey legs, and salad. Whatever fruit is left and also any leftover veggies if we have them.

Sunday--Beef chuck pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, strawberries.

I need to start coming up with lunch menus in a couple of weeks as well, once school lets out. I am thinking along the lines of taco salad or chicken salad or boneless skinless chicken with cheddar melted on top and finger veggies, like cucumbers, celery, radishes, etc. Hopefully the kohlrabi will be available by then, too. I love that stuff and it is so good for you.


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