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No Spending Today--Garden Talk

May 31st, 2022 at 02:36 am

Last night about two hours before sunset, I got my plants in.  DH grabbed one of the wrong types of tomatoes.  I wanted two Early Girls and a Roma, but he got one Early Beefsteak.  I don't buy beefsteak tomatoes because they always take so long to produce here.  Same reason I don't buy Brandywines.  I've tried them once or twice and they basically start turning red in October, so they take up a lot of garden space with little production.  But I've never seen an early beefsteak before so hopefully it will produce earlier in the season.

I wish I had more space to grow tomatoes, but with the way everything is going so slowly, I'm not even sure we'll get green beans in on time.  I got my peppers in, then planted basil in what will be the understory of the other plants.  I put the blue Veronica and the Red Rock Yarrow in front of the cosmos.  I don't know how big the Veronica will get, but I know the Cosmos will get taller than the yarrow, and if the Veronica gets bigger than that I will have to transplant it elsewhere.  I have enough space for one more flower to fit in, it just has to be one that deer hate, like the others I've done so far.

After that I planted my green and yellow zucchinis.  I planted them at the distance of their mature size.  Too often in the past I've crowded them because the space is so big and it looks naked until the zucchini grows, but crowded plants slows down production and sometimes will block sunlight to the plants that weren't as big as some of the others.  So this year I am giving them room and making sure they are far enough from the cucumbers that they don't block the light to them.  That was a big problem last year.  Even after a lifetime of gardening, I still find myself learning things.

I had to look up when to harvest garlic, since my garlic stalks are so tall.  I found out that each leaf represents the outside paper for the bulb, so if there are ten leaves there will be ten layers of paper to protect all the cloves inside.  I've never had great luck with garlic in the past, but I planted it at the right time in the fall and it has done beautifully, growing like it was in an Alaskan summer with 20 hours of sunlight a day.

My onions are coming along nicely, too.  They are not quite ready to start bulbing, but I see a little swelling near the bottom of the stock, so maybe another week or two.  And I think the bunching onions will be ready to start harvesting pretty soon. 

Oh, and another fun fact I found out.  Elephant garlic isn't true garlic.  It's actually a leek.  Isn't that weird?  Because it bulbs like garlic and tastes like garlic, but it isn't garlic.  I think that is kind of cool.  Just one of those facts you stumble upon when searching for other aspects of garlic.

We didn't get the zucchini cages made yesterday as DH went down hard last night with the head cold.  He's not doing the greatest today, but he slept all night.  He said he will manhandle the fencing wire over to where I need it and he'll help me form the curves, but that may not be until tomorrow.  I am hoping for tonight, but I am not going to push him as I know how bad the first two days of this cold can be.  And even though I am somewhat better, I still fell asleep for 3 hours in the middle of the day, so I am leaving it up to him.

I do have to at least water.  Even though the soil was very moist when I planted, and the plants were wet from being watered at the nursery and store, I would like to get a good drenching on everything.  We've had light sprinkles, but as my grandfather always told my mother, a farmer can't count on the rain to water deep enough.

The drip hoses I ordered arrived in the mail on Saturday, so each bed will now have a 50 foot hose in it, which is enough to go down, cross the back, go back up, and then across the front and then I will attach a hose to it to go to the faucet, which has a four way hose splitter.  That way I can do the three 22 foot long beds and then set up a sprinkler for the strawberries.  We will run a hose from the other side of the house to set up a sprinkler for the potatoes.  The blackberries already have a drip hose on them and uses the hose from the back of the house as well.  So we should be set for watering with as little difficulty as possible.

Freezer Saga--An Update--And Food Security

April 25th, 2022 at 05:17 am

Well, the freezer that was supposed to arrive in May has now been pushed off until the end of June.  But they do have some of another brand with the same size coming in this week.  It has a similar layout with the 21 cubic foot capacity.  We went in to look at the smaller version and decided to go ahead and switch to it.  So on Thursday we will be getting our new freezer. 

We have been without an upright since July and I wasn't sure we would ever get one, especially in time for harvest season.  We will finally be able to stock up on chicken and get a whole hog.  Mostly what I want from a hog is a lot of sausage, bacon, shanks, ribs, chops, and steaks.  I don't need any roasts or hams.  Then if I have room I will see if I can get a fall lamb.

We are really going for food security this year, where we don't have to rely on the grocery stores as much as possible.  I'm growing extra zucchini so I can freeze it and a ton of green beans, carrots, potatoes, celery, turnips, and parsnips for canning so we can have veggies through the year.  We'll be buying peaches and pears for canning as well off a farm.   I'll also be installing some low tunnels in the fall to keep the harvest going as long as possible.  I've grown peppers and lettuce and spinach into November before this way.

I still have a lot of work to do.  We'll be renting a sod cutter soon so that we can clear up some more garden space without having to do as much work getting the mat of weeds and grass out of the way.  It'll make it a lot easier on everyone.

We started work on the third 22 foot long garden bed.  A lot of weeding and leveling had to be done, but the bottom layer of cinder blocks has been laid to the halfway point.  DH is going to try to work on it a little at a time after work.  The bottom layer is always the most difficult.  Once the bottom layer is in place, we put down the weed barrier, and then the next two layers go on very easily since it is just a question of putting the adhesive layer down and then putting the blocks in place.  After the second layer goes down it has to dry for 24 hours and then the third layer can be put on and dry for 24 hours.

Once that is done we can work on pruning the giant rose bush down to about a foot high and put all those trimmings in the bottom of the raised bed.  Then the rose bush can be transplanted to the front yard and we can dig out the weed tree that has been impossible to kill.  We'll also be cutting down another tree and the wood will go in the bottom of future raised beds.  It's kind a cross between hugelkutur beds and lasagna style beds, since compost and manure and hay and cardboard will go in as well, before the four way garden soil fills the top foot.

I have a woman coming next week to dig out almost all of the raspberries and in exchange she will give me a couple bags of rabbit manure, some tomato and pepper plants, and some calendula starts.  I do like bartering when I can.  It saves me a lot of money.

I got the rest of the onions planted.  These ones are Walla Walla sweet onions.  They will have to be chopped and frozen as they don't keep long like the non-sweet yellows and reds I planted a week or so ago.  I up potted the tarragon, parsley and oregano in one pot, but will have to divide them up into their own pots in about a week or so if the new bed doesn't get finished.  I just needed them out of the four inch pots as they were just starting to get root bound.  I did locate some larger pots in the garage.  The oregano will need a big one, but the parsley and tarragon should be just fine in 8 inch pots.

I've been able to do quite a bit more than I thought I would.  I am getting stronger every day and a lot of the physical therapy has been designed to strengthen the muscles I need for gardening.  I may never be able to do weight bearing exercise again, but I have been walking without my cane and my son and I are going to try to take an actual walk tomorrow and see how I do.  One of the local parks has a flat loop to walk, I can't do hills without pain, so we would never be too far from the van if I had to go back.

Next on my agenda for the garden will be to weed out the strawberries.  This will be the last year for this set of strawberries.  I know what I want to get next year and will probably pre-order them in December or January.  They ship at time to plant so I need to get the jump on other people to get the variety I want, which alway sells out so early.  It is a much sweeter berry than the ones we currently have.  I'll likely pot up what we have now next year and sell them or exchange them for plants I want.

My goal is to eventually have the entire backyard and the little side yard devoted to growing as much of our own food as possible.  It's a lofty goal, and it might take five years to do it, but I know we will get there.

 

 

Another Step Towards Food Security in a Time of Shortages

April 4th, 2022 at 03:34 am

It was dry and overcast yesterday, so worked on the garden, filling a 22 foot by 3 foot raised garden bed with rotted manure and soil.  I can't do any weight bearing exercise, so I was in charge of raking the dirt out after DH and DS dumped it in, plus breaking up clumps in the manure.  This stuff has been composted for 3 years, so it wasn't gross or anything and anyway, I wore gloves.

So we now have two beds the same size ready to go, although one of them has 8 feet of garlic in it that I planted in November.  It's come up very well and I can't believe how huge around the stem is on the elephant garlic.  I will be planting onions in the rest of that bed.  The per pound cost of onions has gotten ridiculous and the selection is kind of gross sometimes.  I am planting mostly keeping onions, but I will plant some sweet onions to cut up and freeze.  I want to do some shallots this year and of course some bunching onions.

With the bed we just finished I will be planting carrots, parsnips, turnips, and radishes.  I can can all of these things, but I will just have the radishes for eating, not for canning.  I don't know if I like pickled radishes or not, so I am going to try making one pint and if I do, then I will make more, but I don't think I will.

We have 1 1/4 pallets of cinderblocks left, enough to make one more raised bed of the same length, so on the next sunny or at least dry day we will be weed eating the area down to dirt and then covering it with a tarp until the next time DH can get to it to start making the next bed.  I plan on growing zucchini, kohlrabi, chard, cabbage, cucucmbers, and herbs, in that bed.

I looked at the deck today and all the plastic boards are the same length and they seem to be tongue and groove.  This will be great material for raised beds, plus we can reuse the support beams and posts as well.  I can't see how they were attached to the supports though, there are no nails or screws, so I am wondering if they were attached on the underside.  DS will have to look underneath to determine it when it is time to take the deck apart.  I don't think DH is capable of crawling under there anymore.

So those beds will be built where we had the potatoes last year, which is a 16 by 20 foot area. I am planning to transfer the strawberries into one of those beds, because where they were last year led to a lot of scorching of the plants in mid-July through August when we were having temps in the 90's and when it wasn't it was in the high 80's.  But it didn't kill them.  Which reminds me, I have to get a couple more room air conditioners before summer.

I'd like to also plant asparagus in that bed so it can pull double duty, but I think it will have to wait for next year.  The two grow well together since one has a deep root system and the other has a very shallow root system.  That area gets afternoon shade so will get a break from the sun for about 4 hours before it comes back around the giant cedar tree in the neighbor's yard and gets sun for a couple more hours.

As for the other bed, I am thinking tomatoes and peppers since it will be far less shaded than the first bed.  

We are putting potatoes in next to the yet to be built third cinderblock bed.  It is a 22 foot by 16 foot area, so a bit more space than the other and it will get more sun.  Eventually that area will get three more cinderblcok 22 x 3 foot beds, and we will just plant potatoes in raised beds in the future.  We have plenty of potatoes that we planted last year that have sprouted that we will be planting, but I also got 4 new types of seed potatoes that will ship when it is time to plant, so soon.

I wanted to try some fingerlings, get more Kennebecs, a different red, and German butterballs.  The last ones are supposed to do really well here and are very yellow inside, more so than Yukon golds.  I couldn't get them to try last year as they were sold out.  This year I was smart and ordered in December.  Everything I got is supposed to be long keepers.

I am hoping with better sun placement, we will get a higher yield this year.  And if I like the new varieties, that I will have enough of them to replant with next year, especially the German butterballs, because buying seed potatoes to have them shipped is expensive.  And the ones available locally are not the ones I want to grow and don't even necessarily do well here.

We plan on digging out and giving away some mature raspberry plants.  We have one person that eats them so we will leave a three foot area and get rid of the rest.  We can put up posts and trellis green beans there.  It'll only be the one row but since it is pole beans it will produce and produce.  Some will be green and some will be purple.

Once the deck is torn down, we will be moving the huge climbing rose bush, that used to climb the apple tree before it was cut down, into the front yard where the deck was and dig out a weed tree, then we can build another raised bed row that is 20 x 16 feet.  And if we get a stump grinder to take out the old apple tree stump at least enough so we can level the dirt, and tear down the old chicken coop,  I want to get a 10 x 12 foot plexiglass green house and we can put in two beds inside it for growing sweet potatoes and tomatoes in the future.

That probably won't happen this year, but it is on the agenda, as is tearing down the rabbit shed and planting fruit trees.  I want two more Italian prune plum trees, a Bing cherry tree and a Ranier cherry tree.  I don't know if those ones cross fertilize or not, but there are plenty of flowering cherry trees in the neighborhood.  I also want a good apple tree.  Maybe Opal apples or Tsuguras.  And maybe even a cold hearty nectarine and a pair of male and female cold hardy kiwis.  We won't let anything get huge, we need to be able to pick them easily, so will keep them pruned to a reasonable height.  And I need to get a huckleberry bush from a new supplier.

The dead, rootless sticks Tennessee Wholesale Nursery sent me last year never did anything and they refused to honor their warranty when I told them well before the year mark, and they said to just wait and see, then refused to give me my money back when I did just that.  Never do business with these losers.  I am getting a one gallon plant in a pot shipped to me from a reputable nursery.  I would like two but since one plant is $37, I may have to wait until next year to buy a second one.

So that's the plan.  It may be a three year plan or maybe a five year plan even, but we will do what we can this year, so we can grow and preserve as much food as possible and be far less dependent on the supply chain.  

Freezer Issues and Hog/Chicken Fund

October 18th, 2021 at 12:11 am

I don't know if I've talked about the freezer debacle or not, but the freezer we bought last December broke down in late July and we have been put through the wringer with Frigidaire ever since, trying to get them to honor their warranty.  For a long while it just felt like they were trying to run out the warranty.  Plus no one in town fixes Frigidaires anymore unless you've bought it from them.  We didn't buy it from any of those places.  We would have, but no one other than Home Depot had freezers when we bought it due to shortages.

Well, I felt from the beginning that the door didn't match up right, but at least the freezer was working, even if the light kept coming on saying it wasn't at temp, but it was still at freezing so we dealt with it.  Then in July thing started thawing out and it started running all the time and then it sounded like an airplane was taking off every couple of hours, which definitely sounded like the motor or a belt to me, so I unplugged it.  So we managed to split what was in it between our small chest freezer, our one fridge freezer, and two shelves and the door of Mom's freezer, and whatever we would eat for the next few days went into the fridge to finish thawing out.

And that started the hours on the phone trying to get it sorted.  First it took a month to find someone who would repair it for us under warranty and they were in Seattle.  So twice Frigidaire sent them a repair order for the model number of our Freezer, but with the word refrigerator on it.  So because those didn't match, they repair company rejected it.  Of course it took a week for them to receive the order, a week for them to reject it, and a week for us to try to resolve the problem with Frigidaire.  So that's six weeks.  Then we finally escalated it to someone higher up and she completely erased everything that was in the computer under our names and restarted from scratch.  She made sure everything lined up, model number matched freezer, sent it off to the repair place and...one week later, they recieved the work order and it said our model number and...refrigerator.

So the repair shop is saying they don't match again and they can't fix it until it does.  So back to Frigidaire and talked to the same woman and she escatled it higher and that someone went and yelled at the repair shop that it was on their end this time and to pull their heads out and fix this.  So we finally got a person scheduled and they came out on Monday.  And I was right.  The door wasn't hung properly and the gasket was irregular and not fitting right.  And the motor had burnt up most of the way and it was a good thing I unplugged it when I did.

So now it is going to take a while for the parts and they will be back on November 4th with a new freezer door and a new motor and hopefully then we will be back up and running with a little over a month of warranty left.  So while they didn't quite run out the warranty, it was close.  I mean, we still would have gotten it fixed as they started the ticket before it expired, but this took forever and I am quite frustrated by the sheer idiocy of the whole mess.  I am also frustrated over how much we had to do, instead of Frigidaire just calling them the first time and getting the mistake corrected, we had to do all the work of calling back and forth between the two places.

But I won't believe it is over until the freezer runs again.

On the bright side, the lady who raises pigs, pushed our butcher date out until November 12th instead of October 12th, which should give us enough time to see whether the repaired freezer is working.  She said if we have to we can push out to the December 12th date.  She sends hogs to butcher every month and what isn't bought by regular people is sold to stores.  And we can keep pushing it if it turns out the repairs don't work and we end up buying a new freezer, even if that means the end of next summer or something after we save up again.  She's very good to work with.

I hope we can get it for the 11/12 butcher date, though.  I will feel a lot better with both a steer and a hog in the freezers and I can work on buying organic chicken for whatever space is left.

I had $175 left in the grocery envelope due to having to not buy any beef anymore, so I added that to the Hog/Chicken Fund.

$1013.00 Starting Balance

+_175.00 Amount Added

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

$1188.00 New Balance

And once we have all of the pork and chicken in the freezer I will start saving up for both a lamb and the next steer with leftover grocery money.  It will be nice not to have to go down the meat section at the grocery store anymore.  Doing it this way really works for us.  We have better quality meat at lower than grocery store prices, especially beef.  $4.50 a pound for grassfed ribeye steak is looking very good right now.

I am also thinking about buying some emu steaks.  We've had ostrich, but never emu.  They are supposed to taste very similar, but emu is half the price of ostritch.  We like ostritch but don't consider it affordable.  We've found a place that ships it, but with shipping delays they say it could be partially thawed by the time it arrives, since they are way across the country and freezer packs or dry ice only last so long.  I'm hoping to find some place closer.  We do have an emu farm in Oregon, but all they seem to sell is the oil, not the meat.  It's hard to internet search it when these two places seem to have all the results lead back to them.

If I do order I want to make a smaller order to make sure we all like it.  Smaller orders are harder because they thaw out faster.  Larger orders have a lot of frozen meat to help keep the bulk of it frozen longer.  We'll see.  I think that's for something down the road, maybe when the shipping gets back to normal.  We will see.

 

Garden Work

June 2nd, 2021 at 09:58 pm

We finished building the second 21 foot long raised bed on the weekend and worked on getting it filled up on Monday.  We let it settle and my intention was to plant it on Tuesday, but it was 86 degrees for most of the day.  It finally cooled off enough to be outside around 8:30.  DS and I transplanted the onions out of the totes I was growing them in.  I gave them a deep watering and will water again tonight.  We did get the rest of the blackberries planted, too.

By the time we were done moving the onions the sun was almost down, so I didn't get to plant any seeds.  It is hot again today, but not nearly as awful, so I will go out after dinner and plant seeds for carrots, radishes, parsnips, broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi.  I am only going to do one row of cauliflower.  Last year was the first time I was able to successfully grow it and I'm still a little hesitant to plant more after years of failures.  Since I only have the two beds for now, I'd rather not risk much.

DH isn't going to have time to work on the third bed for probably a couple of weeks.  He's got a lot of overtime planned.  The next paycheck should be a very good one.  I can plant more broccoli and perhaps cauliflower then for the freezer.  And I'll sow more carrots for canning.

We've been picking strawberries for a week now.  There hasn't been much, enough for everyone to have one every other day, but a lot are ripening.  They are very good berries.

I still have to plant the sweet potatoes.  I got a 90 day variety called Beuregard.  I have the slips in water in a window.  I am going to grow them in big round totes, with trellising for the vines to grow up.  I'll put the totes on black plastic, because I don't want the runners escaping out of the tote and going into the ground.  The whole point of growing this way is to avoid digging in the ground.  We'll set the totes up where the fourth bed will go.  That way we can build the bed around it and next year have a fourth one ready to go.  As well as a fifth and sixth one.

Next year we'll really be able to grow a lot of food.  This year it will mostly be eating fresh from the garden with some to can and freeze, but not enough.  Still, it should lower food costs July through April and that money can go to save for pork and chicken bulk purchases.  And I should have harvestable lettuce in a couple of weeks and radishes in 3 to 4.  It will be nice when I can just cut the grocery budget in half for most of the summer.

Emergency Fund Update and Beef Fund Almost Met

May 14th, 2021 at 05:43 pm

$15,880.55 Starting Balance

+__,244.67 Amount Added

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

$16,125.22 New Balance

That means I have $6,107.64 left to save to hit 6 months of expenses, which is my next goal.  That will put the EF at $22,232.86.  I'd like to make that by year's end, but I think it is going to be closer to February unless DH gets quite a bit of overtime or a really good Christmas bonus.

Ultimately, though, I have a goal of 6 month's take home pay, not just 6 month's expenses.  That would be a little over $36,000, which is an additional $13,767.14.  That's likely take an additional 18 months, so around 2 years and 2 months from now I should hit that, barring OT or raises.  Raises are unlikely as they have a wage freeze going on at DH's work.  He hasn't gotten one in over 2 years.  Normally this is a place that gives yearly merit raises, but Covid hit hard.  It could be another year before they unfreeze wages.  They have started to rehire some of the people that were laid off, so that is promising.

I am $31 short of the highest estimate on the beef costs, based on a 750 to 850 pound hanging weight.  With the $2000 I had set aside previously added to the money I've been scrimping out of the grocery budget I am almost there.  I need $3638 total and after the $179 I saved out of the last grocery envelope, I am at $3607.  And from my experience, farmer's always estimate high, but the hanging weight actually tends to be lower.  So it is more likely it will be closer to 750 pounds than 850 pounds.  I've also reserved my beef.  I am getting a whole with a butcher date of either late July or early August (he's got two dates for two different sets of steers).

Planning for April

March 20th, 2021 at 11:28 pm

I just spent about a half an hour setting up April's budget spreadsheet.  It is a 3 paycheck month which means there will be some extra money and I wanted to make sure I had everything allotted for.  I'll be using the extra to put $400 into the Clothing Fund, $400 into the Gift/Christmas Fund, and $546.87 into the Emergency Fund.  The rest will be grocery, medical, household, gas money, and allowances.

The first paycheck in May will be on the 14th and no bills are due until the 21st, so I get to shift some things that were previously coming out of the last paycheck of the month to the first paycheck of the month.  My budget is a living document, constantly shifting, since I budget for the month but we get paid every two weeks.

DH did manage to get his hours in this week even though things were not up and running until Friday.  I don't remember if I mentioned it here or not, but his work got hacked and infected so they couldn't be online for many days.  He did what he could at home and saving to his hard drive, but last week had to take a vacation day.  This week he didn't.

Since it is working now, he is working the weekend and is authorized for ten hours of OT this week, which will be nice on the next paycheck.  If I did the math right it should be around $1017 extra.  But I might not have it quite right due to taxes.  Anyway, we will pay for 3 fishing and shellfish licenses and with what is left at least half of that will hit the Emergency Fund and then half will go into the Beef Fund, which should put us at enough to buy a full grassfed beef and start saving towards a pasture raised lamb.  Not sure about pork.  It hasn't set well with me this year unless it was bacon, ham, pepperoni, or sausage.

I finally got my new social security card last month so I can now get my fishing license this year.  It's a mess, because when I first got a license in the 90's they wrote down the social security number wrong.  So when I went to apply for a license two years ago I couldn't get one without my social security card which I had misplaced somewhere in the house years ago.

I wasn't doing that great that year so just decided to deal with it before the next season.  Well, that was 2020 and social security was closed for a good portion of 2020.  You just couldn't apply for a new card.  Then I finally applied for a card at the end of summer when they reopened and waited the six weeks and it never came.  Turned out they never sent it.  But they closed down again for some particularly bad covid weeks.  And of course once it was working, you can't apply during non business hours, which is so bizarre, so I didn't think about it at the right time of day.  Once I could apply again and remembered at the right time of day, I did and the card finally came in February.  So now I can get the darn fishing license.  What a pain that has been, just because some person transposed one digit on my 90's application.

I want to fill the mini-freezer with spot prawns, crab, salmon, trout, and cod.  With 3 of us fishing that should happen a lot faster.  At least if stuff goes as well as usual.  The guy who takes us out on the boat is DH's boss.  I am going to have him teach me how to gut a fish.  It's a skill I would like to learn.  He always does it, but I want to know in case we ever go fishing without him in the future.  That and how to remove the gills.  I've watched videos, but I think in person is always better.  DS said he will teach me how to fillet.  I've filleted chicken breast off the bone, but never fish.  DH isn't good at it, so I will definitely take DS up on his offer.

Planning out my Yearly Food Needs to Lower the Grocery Budget

February 10th, 2021 at 04:13 am

Every year I make up a food preservation plan, which is an overarching pantry plan, really.  I keep the previous year's plans so I can see what I planned before, what I actually achieved, and what I might want to do more or less of.  This includes a canning plan, a dehydrating plan, a freezer plan, and a long-term staples plan.  It's really quite in depth and when I make them up, I feel like I've got a really good handle on things for the coming year.

This year I will need to fill 1,316 jars, 626 quart jars, 28 pint and a half jars, 573 pint jars, and 89 pint and a half jars.  I have around 750 reusable canning lids, but will need to buy more and maybe some metal ones if I can find them.  I prefer metal ones for waterbath canning, but reusable for pressure canning.  They are supposed to be back in stock now, but there was huge shortage during 2020 due to people growing and canning a lot more food because they were worried about food shortages.  I think I have enough jars, but if I need to, I can store the culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, and teas I grow in take out soup containers or spaghetti sauce jars.

Knowing how much I want to do, helps me to plan how much of what I am going to plant in the garden, how much freezer space I will need, and how many mylar bags and food grade buckets I need to have on hand, and of course the aforementioned jars and lids.

All of this, if I can achieve it, should cut our grocery spending by half.  That is assuming a good growing season and a good harvest year.  It is worth it to me even though it is a lot of work.  When you have to eat gluten free and you don't want a ton of processed food in your diet, and you prefer organic, you have to find other ways of doing things so you can actually afford all that.

In my case, it turns me into a prepper, at least with food.  Not a crazy one, mind you, but like what our grandparents and great grandparents did, because they had to.  I will be most comfortable, especially in these days of pandemic, to have a year's supply on hand.  That is my ultimate goal.  We have been building it back since the year we had to use it almost all up when DH was unemployed for 10 months.

Anyway, if you would like to see my 2021 Food Preservation Plan I made a video of it. 

Text is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iDcIjsSbTI and Link is
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iDcIjsSbTI  Maybe it will be helpful to anyone else who wants to build their own plan.  Mine is for a family of four adults.

 

Putting Food Up and Searching for a Freezer

December 3rd, 2020 at 06:37 am

Yesterday Mom and I did a bunch of canning.  I did the peeling and chopping while she ran the canner.  I did 20 pounds of potatoes and then the carrots were 12 pounds.  I ended up with 14 quarts of Yukon gold potatoes and 23 pints of carrots.  This is a good time of year to do both as the deer carrots are available readily and cheap and of course the potatoes tend to be on sale through the holidays.  So it is definitley eating sale priced (or home grown) food all year when I can do this.  It saves us money in the long run.

I was sore and exhausted today and slept in until eleven and then just stayed in bed until 3.  Once I finally dragged myself out of bed I was still sore, but semi-functional.  It'll probably be a week before I can anything else, but they sure do look pretty on the shelf.  And it is peace of mind, beause it means we won't have to venture into stores at all for the next few months if things get really, really bad again.  We might, especially if there is a really good sale, but we don't have to.

This evening we went to look at freezers at Lowe's but the one they said they had online they did not have in the store.  Of course you had to go to the store to buy it, you couldn't just get it online, it was an in store only sale.  We will check another place tomorrow night, an actual local appliance store.  I have $900 saved and if I have to borrow a couple hundred from the propane grill envelope, I will.  It's not like we'll be making that purchase before spring, probably anyway.

We did stock up on some OTC medicines and I bought a new cane, but that came out of the medical fund.  We also picked up a prescription.

Then when we came home I washed up all the jars of food I canned yesterday to take off any sticky residue.  Sometimes the jars will siphon during the canning process and you don't want to put them in storage that way.  DS dried all the jars as I washed them and that was a great help.  Then I labelled them all and he put them away for me.  So most of the day was unproductive, but not all of it.  I'm sure I will feel more functional tomorrow.

Got Some More Potatoes Dug

October 11th, 2020 at 06:19 am

We harvested two more rows of potatoes and got 22.6 pounds of mostly gold potatoes. Organic gold potatoes go for $1.79 a pound right now, so that is $39.38 worth of potatoes. Two rows took 9 seed potatoes cut in thirds. There were about five reds in there. The golds were a lot bigger than the reds were last harvest.

We have 7 more rows to do and I am hoping we will be able to get a couple more rows dug tomorrow. It depends on the weather. It takes 15 pounds to do a canner load of potatoes. Technically it is two pounds per quart, but by the time you peel everything and cut away any spots you've lost about a pound, so I always plan 15 pounds.

These rows got more water than the initial 3 rows, so I think that is why we got so much more from them. As we continue to go on they got even more water, due to sprinkler reach. Next year I am going to make sure I have a sprinkler directly in our potato patch. It needs to be watered at least once, if not twice a week, and more evenly.

I am just really happy I did so well on Trader Joe potatoes and not even seed potatoes. Next year we will get seed potatoes for sure, though. I am not playing any late garden games. It will be ready early no matter what the excuses are from the men folk about weeding and preparing the ground. If I can do it with my chronic diseases, then they can do it without having any of them and work right by my side. To be fair, DS did help in the beginning, but I had to bribe him, so there's that.

We still may be having food shortages next year, so we will be more prepared than ever as we go through 2021. It might be worse than this year and I am determined to keep my family fed if this virus continues keeping so much of the economy closed.

Getting Ready for My Sister to Move in

October 9th, 2020 at 11:28 pm

My plan for the weekend is to get the rest of the potatoes dug, so I can get them curing for 3 weeks so we can bag them up and store them in the basement. We also need to move the piano from the great room to the living room. My sister will be moving into the great room soon. She's not going to have an easy time of living here. There won't be any privacy for her and Mom is already making things difficult, not wanting to give up an inch more of space than she has to. She's always been kind of stingy with space, like that. It took us years to actually have full use of the cabinets in our own kitchen.

Mom is a bit of a pack rat. She holds onto things well past when she should. She still has a lot of my dad's clothes and he's been dead for years. She's also been hanging onto my Dad's dresser. Not because she needs it, it is empty, but because it was his. It takes up a lot of space, though. I get that it holds sentimental value, I suppose, but its been like 10 years. She won't let anyone refurbish it and use it, either. It's a nice, solid wood dresser, but it is very dark. We would have liked to have stripped it and done a nice pine colored varnish or a pretty paint or something and actually used it, but she's a little irrational about that idea. Bringing it into this century would make it useful.

She also needs to get rid of some books that were Dad's, but won't. He read a lot of westerns. Mom doesn't read westerns and no one else does either. Mom doesn't really read much at all. She still has all of her books from college, which she went to in the 60's. I don't even have all my books from college. I kept the history book. She says she'll never read any of them again, but she doesn't want to give them away.

She also has a bunch of dresses from the 80's she doesn't want to part with. Like ten of them. She'd have to lose 100 pounds to wear them again, which is never going to happen, the woman lives on carbs and won't touch most vegetables, but she is keeping them because she might lose the weight. At 81, I don't see that as happening. And yet she goes on to complain that she doesn't have enough space in her closet. She has two closets, plus one in the upstairs full of useless clothes.

She's said over and over she doesn't want to leave a bunch of stuff in the house for us to have to deal with when she dies, but then she holds onto it with a vice grip. It's weird and maybe a mental issue. I figure there will just be a lot we have to deal with when the time comes.

There has not been much going on in the financial realm for me this week. It's been 7 days since the last time I spent any money. I've been working on the pantry, or rather, on filling it. There was a great sale last Friday on chuck roast, so I canned 10 quarts of chuck roast and 2 pints of chuck roast. And I helped Mom with 9 pints of chuck roast for herself. Meat takes a long time, so there is a lot of baby-sitting the canner involved. It's about half an hour waiting for it to vent, 10 minutes venting time, 5 to pressurize, 90 cooking time, and then a half hour to come down from pressure, and 10 minutes with the lid cracked to equalize to room temperature before taking them out. A regular canner will hold 7 quarts or 8 wide mouth pints or 9 narrow mouth pints. So it was a lot of work and wait time. And that doesn't even include the amount of time to cut all the meat up.

There is a new sale on chuck roast at a different store this week, so I will break my no spend streak and pick up some more roasts. Depending on the limit, I'd like to get at least 4 for a canner load, or 8 if they will let me for a double canner load. Fred Meyer didn't have any limits, but Safeway usually does. Right now I have sixteen jars on the shelf, but I would like to double that before winter hits. I also want to do at least another 14 jars of chicken.

Today, however, I have to do tomatoes. I cut them up last night, so all I need to do today is heat them, fill the jars, and get on with it. Tomatoes are quick in the pressure canner, just 25 minutes for pints (plus all the wait time at the beginning), so they are not a several hour process.

I also think I have enough green beans for 4 pints, so will hopefully get that done tomorrow. There might be enough still in the garden to pick more. We have gotten nowhere near a frost yet and they will keep producing right up until. If we are lucky we will have a late frost. Generally it is on Halloween, but there have been years we didn't get one until Thanksgiving. The tomatoes have slowed way down, though, because the nights have been in the 50's and they don't like that. I am tempted to just go strip them and let them ripen in the house, so I can be done with that part of the garden.

It has definitely turned into sweater weather here. Long pants and socks, too. So far we have not turned on the heater or the heated blankets, but I have added a second blanket to the bed. It is also getting to the point where I have to wear my hair down and not up or the back of my neck and shoulders is goosebumpy. The leaves are turning and we have some really pretty yellow ones going on right now. The red and orange ones usually take longer to show. The roses are still blooming, though. It is very pretty. Stew weather is here. I think that's what I'll make for dinner tonight.

Very Busy Canning Food

September 30th, 2020 at 04:34 am

It's been a busy last couple of weeks. In that time we have installed a 16 foot handicapped ramp, gotten a new mattress for my son, visited an orchard, and I have been super busy canning. I now have 95 quarts of regular cut green beans on my shelves. My goal is 104, so I am just 9 shy. That gives us two quarts of green beans to eat per week for the entire year. I am thrilled to meet that goal.

I have also put up 6 quarts of chicken thighs, 3 quarts of chuck roast, 1 pint and a half jar of chuck roast, and then 8 pint and a half jars, 1 quart, and 3 pints of chicken bone broth. I like to have the broth in different sizes based on what I am making. If I am doing enchilada sauce or penne in the Instant pot I need 3 cups (pint and a half) of broth. If I am making soup I need two quarts, if someone just wants to drink broth they can open a pint jar. So I always can a variety of broth.

It is time to pick the green beans again and I am hoping for enough to get my nine jars. I also need to pick tomatoes. I think I will have enough tomatoes to double stack the big canner. I will be doing diced tomatoes in pints and green beans in quarts.

We still have to dig up potatoes. We have only done the 3 rows so far. Then we had smoke, then we had rain, and now my son is sick, so it has been hard to get it done. Hopefully he will start feeling better in the next few days. I'd like to get some potatoes canned. 104 jars to be exact. Canned potatoes are great for beef stew, chicken stew, curry, and making fried potatoes.

I am hoping there will be a good chuck roast sale and another good chicken sale coming up. I haven't had a chance to look at the ads yet. I'd like to get a lot more of those canned. I feel an urgency to be prepared for the upcoming cold/flu/Covid season in case we get locked down again. If we shut down I just want to be able to stay home. Which reminds me, I need to start a new batch of lettuce in the Aerogarden, then we don't even have to go out for greens. The chard at least should overwinter.

The cucumbers are done, but we are still getting strawberries (everbearing) and raspberries. The garden has done well this year, despite the deer and the rabbits. Not to thrilled with the raccoons eating some of the corn, though.

Well, back to the grind. The canner should be down from pressure by now.

Orchard Visit and Harvesting in the Garden

September 21st, 2020 at 06:39 am

The air quality is back to normal here as of yesterday and thank goodness. We still have the new air purifier going because the house still feels a little smokey, even after cleaning the duct work and the furnace filters (has a cooling function, but not air conditioning). It is working really well. We got a Japanese made Zigma, which can do 1580 square feet. It's very quiet and it is doing its job well. After 3 days, I think we will be able to turn it off tomorrow.

Yesterday we went out to a U-pick apple orchard, but we didn't actually U-pick. The apples we wanted that are ripe right now were Tsugaru and those ones are 3/4 of a mile from the parking lot. Honeycrisp was also available for U-pick and those ones are a 1/2 mile walk. Now they do have a tractor train, but because of social distancing they only fill every other car and only one family group per car. The line to wait would have been an hour.

Instead we paid the extra 10 cents a pound and walked out with 11.7 pounds of Tsugarus (my favorite apple) for fresh eating for us and 7 pounds for Mom. I spent $33.17 and Mom spent $20 even. She didn't go, we just got them for her. I did break my gluten free thing for the fresh apple cider doughnuts. They weren't as good as I remembered and I'm swollen today, so that wasn't worth it.

We picked corn and beans today and yesterday. We got 31 ears, five of which we gave to Mom. There was probably a canner load of green beans. I'll be canning tomorrow. Tomatoes, too, since I have a ton of ripe ones in the house. Raccoons had gotten into the corn, because some of the stalks were pulled back and partially eaten. There isn't any more mature corn out there and I don't know if we'll get the rest or not as it may be too hard to keep the raccoons out now that they have found it.

We'll be eating corn this week quite a bit and I'll freeze a few ears. I don't know if I want to bother with corn next year. I know my mom does, she wants more than we planted this year, but she didn't really help with the garden much this year at all. Maybe two hours total of helping to weed and get stuff in the ground.

Preparing the ground for corn is not on my priority list and is a job that requires my son and I to do most of the work. He is likely to have a job next spring and I don't want to do it myself. I'd rather give it to things that will last all winter, like potatoes, carrots, onions, and green beans (canned). We never plant enough corn to can it and if we did we wouldn't be able to plant anything else. Mom is really good at planning work for other people to do.

We had to buy a hand rail for the inside steps where we are going to be putting a ramp. They are so expensive, it is ridiculous. But trying to design one was driving DH insane so I just said to go ahead and order one. It will be easy to install and it will be done. That was $335.71.

As to things that are completely irrelevant to my life and finances, I finally got around to watching the first episode of the new season of Dancing with the Stars on Hulu, my one reality show. My favorite pairings are Nev Shulman and Jenna, Justina Machado and Sasha, and Jennie Mai and Brandon. Justina's personality is so much fun and she moves really, really well. Nev seemed like a natural. I thought Vernon (the football player) and Peta Murgatroyd had a very good chemistry and balance between them and he had some natural grace..

The basketball player was, as they usually are, awkward on the dance floor, and too, too tall for a natural posture with his dance partner. They had the best costumes, though. The ice skater, Johnny Weir was a natural, but I always feel skaters have an unfair advantage. He's a little untrusting of having a partner since he is a singles skater. You can see it and feel it, but once that has passed I think he has a real chance to win. The others were good but didn't stand out to me.

There was a lot of good potential with most pairings, but the cat lady needs to go. She got the lowest score so she likely will. It was weird not having a real audience and to see the judges so far apart from each other. I was very pleased to see Britt had made it out of the troupe and into being a pro. I've noticed her in the troupe the last few years and was hoping she'd get the promotion at some point. Her smile always seemed the biggest, she was the most energetic and enthusiastic, and I don't think I've ever seen a black female pro in competition on this show before, just males like Brandon and Keo, both two of my favorite dancers.

I wish Whitney and Lindsay were still on, but they are both Australian so may have had issues with travel like Len, who isn't judging, but will pop on via satellite a few times, it looks like. I am still ticked that Tom Bergeron is gone, but I haven't liked a female host since Brooke so I wasn't sorry to see Erin go. Tyra Banks does not seem at ease with the role of host, a little like she is trying too hard to be liked. I hope she settles down into a more comfortable rapport with everyone. It might have been a lack of audience. She just seemed really nervous. Hopefully she will get over that in the next couple of weeks.

It was a great episode, though, and a nice bit of escapism. I am surprised they let them make it though, with the Covid restrictions, because no one is wearing masks and the partners can't social distance from each other obviously. It's nice to see it, though.

Sore Knee is Getting Sorer

September 4th, 2020 at 05:10 am

I canned 10 more quarts of green beans yesterday, bringing the total count to 29. A deer got in the garden and ate a lot of the middle sections of beans and I am not sure if that part will grow back now that we've fixed the fence. It has caused a rush of growth at the top as the plants try to make up for the loss of leaves, so maybe it'll just get really full of beans up there where the stupid dear can't reach. It doesn't eat the vines, thankfully, so the plants are still alive.

I may have to buy some beans if I want to have enough canned for the year. I had really hoped not to have that happen, but I want to can 104 jars. I should have been able to with what I planted. I sure wish I could put that deer in my freezer to make up for what it has stolen from me. I am just glad they don't like tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. Maybe someone will trade me beans for cucumbers.

My knee was so bad today I didn't do anything but stay in bed and keep it elevated. I was pretty wiped out from snapping beans and canning them yesterday anyway. It doesn't seem like it should, but when when you've got two autoimmune diseases, it takes its tole on your body. Tomorrow is payday and shopping day, so I am glad I took the day to rest. I think I will have to use the ride on carts, though. I try not to unless I absolutely have to, but I'm not sure my knee can handle one store, even with the shopping cart for support.

I'll be through my antibiotics by Monday and they should let me come in for an in person visit on Tuesday at that point. If I can just get the fluid drained and maybe a cortisone shot I think I can manage. Unless I did tear something. If it gets any worse over the weekend, I'll just go to the hospital. Our out of pocket max is met, so it won't cost us anything to do that.

We've gained over $500 in the stock market in six days. It's been a crazy week.

This and That

August 29th, 2020 at 11:29 pm

I spent 4 hours yesterday snapping beans. DS helped me during the last hour. All of that resulted in 12 quarts of green beans, bringing the total I have canned so far to 19 quarts. I need to go out and pick some more today, but likely won't snap and can them until tomorrow. My hands need a break. I need to pick tomatoes today, too, and maybe see about getting some of the herbs in and drying. The carrots might be ready to pull and I need to do a test dig on the potatoes that were planted the earliest.

All I really want to do today is veg out in front of Hulu watching ER. I forgot to take my blood pressure medicine yesterday until bedtime, not the ideal time to take it, but I took it then. I feel very hungover, but at least the fluid is leaving my body. I swelled up pretty bad. I thought it was just from all the repetitive motion of snapping the beans, but no. I think I need to start setting reminders, because I forget to take it at least once a week.

My weight loss continues. I am down 11.8 pounds and have 1.9 pounds to go to finish my dietbet. I have 11 days to go. I think I will crush this if I don't do anything stupid with food between now and then. I don't think DH will win his. He is only at 48% of goal, but at least he is losing something. Other than quitting pop, I'm not sure what he is doing. I don't think he is exercising at all. I mean, I'm not, either, other than gardening, but I am controlling my diet.

Yesterday was my mom's birthday. She is 81. It was pretty low-key as she wasn't up for anything. She did get calls from some of her grandkids, an email from one of them, and of course my kids saw her in person. She forgot it was her birthday for most of the day anyway. My eldest sister came over. I don't know if my middle sister called her or not. I didn't ask. She usually sends a card, but she's in the process of moving so I don't know if she remembered to this year or not.

I'm debating on what to make for dinner tonight. Maybe we'll barbecue some burgers and sweet onions, patty pan squash, corn on the cob and have some fresh cucumbers. That is a pretty easy dinner. If DH is too tired to drag out the BBQ than we will just do it on the griddle inside. I really am in the mood for burgers, just not takeout burgers. I'm avoiding wheat, so gluten free buns or no buns is the deal.

So far we only ate out once this week. My goal for next week is to not eat out at all. But once was sure better than four times. I am really tired of wasting money on restaurant food. I just need to have the energy to make it happen at home. DS said he'd step up to the plate more, so hopefully he actually will.

I need to try to make it to the grocery store tomorrow. Chicken and chuck roast are on sale and even with limits, they take the same amount of time to can, so between the two I can get enough meat for a canner load. DH will cut up the roasts and I will do the chicken. We'll get it done.