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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

Text is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Farming_Game and Link is
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:

Text is http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html and Link is
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.