Sunday, April 24, 2005

Making food and firewood...

Went ahead and planted the garden this morning. It's not quite as big as I wanted to have, but I was running out of time (I should've started much earlier) and just got plain tired of digging. Tried to use a borrowed tiller, but the sod has been in place so long that the tiller didn't do a thing.

We've got a friend who is letting plant more stuff at her place, so I don't need a big garden here. Even though I wanted to. But that's okay, better to start off small, I'll work into more garden here next year.

The next step that I'll be writing about is reducing our reliance upon utilities. Part of doing that is using a woodstove for heat. I'll talk more about it later, but we cut down a couple of ash trees so I wanted to write about that now.

There were several small ones coming up out of an old concrete foundation that were blocking the sun to my neighbor's garden and he'd asked if could cut them down. I'll be wanting to put in a shed on top of that pad sometime soon, so I said yes. While I was helping him knock those out, I pointed out the big ash tree that was blocking the sun to my garden and asked if he'd help me cut that one down someday. He said sure, why not do it now? I said, okay. So we cut that one down too.

I was surprised that it came down so easy. I was sure we'd have to knock out some of the upper branches before bringing the whole thing down. But my neighbor was sure we could get it to land right, so we just went at it.

There are several other trees that we can cut down when the time comes.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Once-A-Month Grocery Shopping

Once-A-Month Grocery Shopping

"I have discovered that grocery shopping once a month is one major way of saving money. Particularly in combination with other activities, monthly shopping can save a heap of money.

This was a gradual process for me. When I decided to make the move, I was shopping weekly because I had a very small freezer. Now I have a good-sized chest freezer. I started by dropping back to visiting the supermarket once every two weeks. Even though I allowed a budget of double what I had previously spent each week, I found that I seldom needed to spend that much. Shopping less often certainly reduced the impulse purchases. It seemed relatively easy to work out how much of each item I needed to last me two weeks. Some things were already packaged in quantities that would last me longer so I wasn't buying every item each shopping trip."

This is where we're at now. We were going to the supermarket at least once a week, usually two or three times a week. When we moved to the homestead, we immediately went to shopping once every two weeks.

And now we're taking the next step. Our next shopping day is one week from tomorrow. On that day, we will buy three weeks of groceries. Then two weeks from that day we will purchase another three weeks of groceries. That way, we'll have a one month supply at that point.

I figured it would be easier on the wallet to transition to once-a-month shopping in two steps instead of one big step.

P.S. - The Dollar Stretcher is a good online zine, with lots of tips for saving money. Some things of their's I like, others not so much; but check it out while you're there.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Mixes in a jar. Best brownie recipe and more

Bear writes: In step one, we discussed cancelling the trash service. One of the things that change when you cancel the trash service is that you learn to reuse most of the items you used to throw away. Well my wife, Noel, has taken this to heart by reusing mayonnaise-type jars to store dry mixes in. Dry mixes are good things in and of themselves as well. So I'll let her tell you all about it! So without further ado, I introduce my wonderful wife.

For those who like the conveniences of mixes like I do, don't think that you can't have them if you buy in bulk or stop buying prepackaged foods. The ideas for making your own mixes are unlimited. This weekend, I started putting away some dry mixes. It was just a start, but it got my juices flowing on all the kinds of things I could make ahead of time. I like to use mayonnaise jars or canning jars because they are easy to store and you can see at a glance what is inside. One of the things I made was some pudding mixes. Now when I want to make it all I need to do is just add the wet ingredients like milk or eggs. I made several jars up of pancake mix. Same thing for them. I just measured out the flour, sugar... I dumped it all in a jar. I figured when I get ready to make it that I'll just dump it in a bowl and mix it together then, before adding the wet ingredients. I made up several pancake mixes in just a few minutes. Other things I plan to make mixes of are: beverage mixes such as cocoa, spiced tea, flavored coffee, and also cake, cookie, and brownie mixes. For these I layer them in nicely so that if I need a quick gift for giving, it's all ready. There is also spaghetti, chili, and taco seasonings. The possibilities are just endless! What I like to do is either write on the jar what to add to each jar and just make refills using the same jar or attach a paper recipe to each jar with instructions on how to make.

My favorite link to share on making your own mixes
is here.

My favorite brownie mix can be found here.

A simple google search of "make your own mixes" brings up plenty of results. Have fun looking!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Camp fires and barn owls...

We got around to putting some old bricks in a circle for a fire ring last night.  So we  gathered up some wood and got ourselves a little fire going.

It was nice. The weather yesterday was much cooler than it had been, so the fire felt good. We sat there till dark enjoying the fire.

After awhile, we heard some owls off in the distance. You'd hear one of them screech, then the other would make a sharp staccato chirping noise. Well soon they were flying right over head. You could just make out their white underbellies and wings in the darkness. Silently flapping their way about.

Sreeeeeeech then chirp chirp chirp chirp.

I don't know if they were mating or fighting or what, but it was neat to watch.

Saturday, April 9, 2005

More thoughts on self-reliance. Television...

After I finished writing "The first step," I started thinking that maybe I should've made cancelling television service the first step.

So I've been pondering that this afternoon and I've decided that cancelling television service isn't really a step on the path. Because, I believe, if you are still paying someone to pump that crap into your home, you are not ready to even think about the first step.

Granted, there are a few programs on that I like to watch. But they become fewer and fewer each year, and even the ones I do enjoy are just about ruined by the commercials. And I sure will not pay for that when I can get it for free.

If you have to have television, get an antenna. You'd be surprised how good the reception is. I live more than 60 miles from the nearest stations and many times I get them clearer off the air than when I had cable.

The path to self-reliance. Step 2: Make your own food.

Step two on the path to self-reliance and independence is making your own food. This step is actually four-fold.

If you've taken step one, you know how difficult that step is to take when you're purchasing your food from the grocery store. By nature, almost everything in that store has to come prepackaged. And it is generally packed in small quantities. And what you have left are a lot of empty packages that you have to do something with.

The solution is simple: Stop buying your food from the grocery store!

Here are the four folds of this step: Veggies, bread, meats and what I refer to as the dairy category (milk, eggs and butter).

First off, make a garden. If you've got any amount of dirt that you can take a shovel to and dig up for a garden, do it. It doesn't matter if it's 5-feet-by-5-feet or an acre, just do it (but smaller is better your first time). You don't need a tiller, get yourself a shovel, a digging fork, a hoe and a garden rake (not a lawn rake). And buy the best you can afford (Lehman's sells some very good garden tools for not much). If you don't have the land, you have two options. Get a handful of those large plant pots and grow something in them. Or you can work for one of your local market gardeners in exchange for fresh produce. Noel and I do all three!

Secondly, learn to bake. The slabs of white glue they sell in the stores barely qualifies as bread anyway, and the stuff you'll make will be a thousand times more healthy (not to mention more tasty). You can buy wheat berries (unground wheat will need a grinder, we were blessed to find a small one at the Salvation Army for a few bucks but will soon be getting a bigger one) by the bucket for a small amount of money and they will keep for a very long time if stored properly. There is nothing better than coming home to the smell of Noel's fresh homemade bread. And you can make anything your heart desires. Noel has recently made home-made cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, hotdog and hamburger buns and even her own pita bread.

Third, get yourself a hunting and fishing license along with a $10 fishing pole and reel and a $80 20 gauge shotgun and go fishing and hunting.

Some folks will wonder why I put the hunting/fishing step before owning livestock. The answer is simple. Folks who have not made the most important step on the path to independence may not be able to keep livestock, but they can still go hunting and fishing.

Lastly, dairy. I don't advocate someone who has never owned livestock to just run out and purchase some. Start out by finding someone who sells their surplus dairy stuff. You haven't tasted milk, butter or eggs till you've had them fresh from the farm. Get to know the folks that you buy from, they'll teach you more than any book ever will. And we'll tackle owning livestock in a future step down our path.

The path to self-reliance. Step 1: Cancel the trash service.

This is a guest post written by Bear.

Step one on the path to self-reliance and independence is cancelling the trash service.

If you continue using a garbage collection service, it will be difficult for you to realize the impact of what you are throwing away.

My entire way of thinking changed when I cancelled the trash pickup. Because suddenly I had to deal with any garbage that my wife and I produced. The nearest landfill is about 60 miles away and we currently do not have a working pickup truck, so hauling our own trash off was not an option (not that we wanted to do that anyway).

Do a simple excercise yourself, the next time you go grocery shopping. When you're at the register, look at all the food you've purchased, and see what kind of packaging your items are in. Then think about how much extra you're paying to buy those foods in their fancy packages. Now think about how you're going to go home, use the product, and then pay someone else to haul the package away. You're paying for the packaging, only to turn around and pay someone else to discard it! To me, that is an extraordinarily stupid way to spend my hard-earned money.

The first thing that will change is that, unless there is no alternative which is rare, you will not purchase anything in disposable packaging or that was meant to be used once then thrown out.

The second thing that will change is that if an item can be used again in any manner, it does.

The third thing that will change is that you will realize that all that left-over food stuff that you've been throwing away is a valuable resource that can be composted into the best possible thing you can put on your garden.

We're still working on this ourselves. But we've reduced our garbage to almost nil.

We've managed to do this because we have quit buying almost any prepackaged goods. We are blessed to have a bulk foods store in our county where we can go get most of our dry food stuffs in large quantities with little packaging, or with packaging we can bring back and get refilled.

Since we did not have a garden last year we still have empty vegetable cans and some plastic containers (ketchup bottles, etc) that we have to deal with. These we will be saving in bins, then taking to the recycle center when the bins are full. And this year, we will hopefully be able to put away all of the vegetables and things we'll need so we won't have to buy those items from the store any more either.

The path to self-reliance

The most important step on the path to self-reliance and independence is getting out of the city.

I say that this is the most important step for many reasons. Things are simply cheaper in the country. There aren't so many taxes. Utilities just aren't as expensive, generally speaking anyway.

I don't number this step because, while it is the most important, some folks just won't be able to do it right away, if ever. And there are steps that you can take while still in the city.

Plus, when you live out in the country and it's a five mile trip to get into town, you think twice before going to eat out or to see a movie (especially with gas prices going up like they are).

The second most important step is to get to know your neighbors. This applies in the city too, but especially in the country. Through our neighbors we have learned quite a bit. We found our source for eggs, milk and butter through one of our neighbors. Our neighbors have also helped us out a few times when we forgot something or just needed a hand. And we return the favors too, that's what neighbors are for.

Cell phone zippered pouches

Last week a friend asked me to sew her a cell phone holder that she wanted to give to a friend. So I took out my supplies and started to d...