HAPPY NEW YEAR!

My mother used to tell me that whatever someone does on New Year’s day is what one will be doing all year. In deference to that, I am writing in my blog today. I hope that will prompt me to write here more often!

As I was reading through many posts this morning as I do most mornings, I came across a statement by Gemma Alexander on Earth 911.com that said, “Broke is the new green.” Since I usually think of myself as frugal, I was at first slightly offended. The more I thought about that statement, however, the more sense it made. Because of the pandemic and then shortage of materials and then the prices of all goods, I think many people do think of themselves as broke. Most of the thoughts and ways I express ideas in this blog are to help people to live better on less money. The result is often healthier and better (green) for the Earth. For example, if we grow our own vegetables and fruit, the resulting produce is fresher than what we buy in the stores. It most likely has no pesticides on it. The food wasn’t grown by a big agriculture conglomerate with large carbon spewing equipment that travels back and forth across the field. The produce didn’t travel by truck over a long distance. The produce hasn’t been handled by countless people as it is placed in a store that uses a lot of electricity to light, refrigerate, and heat the building. So, not only are we getting tastier, healthier food, we are keeping pesticides out of the ecosystem, helping to prevent pollution into the atmosphere, hopefully encouraging stores to use renewable energy sources, and thereby lessening dollars going to big oil companies. AND we are keeping dollars in our pockets. That’s a big, BIG win in my mind any day of the year!

If we grow and cook our own food most or all of the time, that is many dollars kept in our pocket and a bunch of pollution not happening. Even if you can only grow in containers on the patio, that is food produced by your own hand and energy. If you are growing a larger amount in a garden or flower bed, not only are you saving money and pollution, you can let the gym membership go for the growing season and instead, exercise in your own yard in the fresh air and sun. More money saved!

Drying some or all of our laundry on a clothes line or drying rack saves money by not running the dryer, and saves the atmosphere by not using whatever produced the electricity or gas.

So, I guess “Broke is the new green!” I like that statement after all!

I wish all of you blessings, love, and good health in the new year. Peace.

MY WISH FOR THE FUTURE

After recently reading a post on “oldfashionmama”‘s blog, I started to think about how my childhood days are not that much different from the way she’s raising her family. I was born in 1943, so my childhood was in the 40’s and 50’s. I grew up on a mid-Missouri farm, the oldest of three children. By today’s standards, my family was poor, but we didn’t know we were poor because everyone around us was like us. Cell phones and television hadn’t been invented, so we didn’t compare ourselves to other ways of living. From my earliest days of memory, I was my dad’s shadow–“helping” him repair machinery, working with the livestock, sacking gunnysacks of seed, later driving farm equipment in the fields. I learned a great work ethic from all those activities.

Every Sunday morning, we went to church together at a small country church where my dad was, at different times, a deacon, elder, board member, song leader. I learned the love of God and the love for God in that little church with local friends and neighbors. Children learned to be respectful and quiet during services. We also learned how much the adults cared about us and each other.

I started school in a two-room school. By the time I reached 4th grade all the small districts reorganized and built the “new” grade school for all of us. Social life revolved around church and school. There were 18 members of my high school graduating class. Of those 18, 12 of us went on to colleges and universities.

My point of this story is, I grew up in a simpler, happier time. We worked harder because all the “modern” conveniences hadn’t reached us yet. Neighbors were farther apart in distance but closer together in relationship. We grew most of our own food and shared with others. Older cousins passed their clothes down to the three of us. Mother sewed and made (and later made over) most of our clothes. We worked and played in fresh air and sunshine. Clothes were dried in the same way with my sister and I often hanging them on the line as soon as we were tall enough to reach it.

We learned to solve problems with our creativity, ingenuity, and work. The way we lived was better for the environment (although we didn’t know that then). Society can’t go back to all those ways but what society can do is adopt those ways as much as possible. Love your children and teach them work ethic and responsibility at your side. Don’t be so wound up in following the latest fashions and trends. Slow down and appreciate what is in nature around you with your family. Do activities outside with your family in the fresh air and sunshine. Instill in your children a sense of pride and love, not based on what they have but on who they are. Learn and show your children how to be kinder to Earth.

We can either sit around and worry about the future of the world or we can love and enjoy what we have and, together, do things that help the Earth. Be kind to each other. Embrace our differences. Be kind to the Earth and atmosphere!

FIRST SNOW OF THE SEASON

It’s November 15 and I awoke to the first snow of the season in mid-Missouri. If you have followed me for a while, you know I am not a fan of winter. However, as snows go, this was the perfect snow. It was a wet snow so all the trees, fences, and powerlines were painted in white fluffy lines. The streets were still warm enough that they are just wet, so traffic was unaffected. In short, the exterior scenes are beautiful. A little over a week ago we had 80 degree days. Hard to adjust to Missouri weather!!

While the weather was still warm, I spent my days getting ready for winter. Jobs like covering the a/c and putting the spent flowers of the Bee and Butterfly Garden into the compost pile, picking the last of the brussels sprouts, and digging the garden were the ways I spent my days. I took a soil sample of the garden and sent it to a lab. The results show I only need to add nitrogen to the soil, so that will be done in the spring. I raise red-wiggler worms so their castings will be put to good use. My continued addition of grass clippings and mulch to make the soil less compacted will be an ongoing project. Eventually, I hope to have the soil conditioned so that I don’t have to dig it each year.

As you know, my yard and garden are my “happy place”, but that is shut down for the winter. I now have to find indoor projects to keep me constructively occupied during the cold days. One of my first projects is going to be crocheting warm hats for the homeless. I have a lot of leftover yard from previous projects. I will continue to sew dresses for girls in Kenya. After Christmas I am going to try to teach myself to grow micro-greens. I have to challenge myself in some positive way.

I have also spent time looking for ways to winterize my home. With the cost of utilities rising and my income being fixed, using less gas and electricity is a necessity. During the days, I keep the doors to the bedrooms closed and only heat the actual living space. At night I am turning the thermostat down to 65 degrees. The heat is set to only 68 – 70 during the days and I wear warmer clothing to keep comfortable. Last summer I had a storm door installed on the front door, so that should help keep the house warm. I am sure I will think of more ways to save as the winter progresses. I like to “think outside the box”. Problem solving keeps my brain active.

Depending on where ever you live, I hope you keep comfortable and safe. Think of creative ways to keep your home the way you like it. Until next time…

NEXT SEASON PLANS

September and October have flown by!! In September I was busy harvesting and preserving crops from the garden and then I got Covid! That put a stop to everything!

By the time I felt better, Mid-Missouri had experienced a hard freeze and my time was taken up with preparing the garden (including the water barrels) for winter. I also have been working to collect blankets and warm clothing for the homeless in a nearby city.

Honestly, I blinked twice and two months were gone!

I bought a soil test kit to test the soil in my garden, but the soil is too hard and dry from our drought to be able to dig soil to even six inches. The forecast is for one to two inches of rain tonight and tomorrow, so perhaps I will be able to test the soil after the rain. After I have the results of the soil test, I will spend some time looking for the best organic sources to help mend the soil. I don’t want chemicals of any kind used in the garden.

Now that my outdoor time will be limited by the cold winter weather, I am looking for things to occupy my time constructively for about 5 months. After the leaves fall from the trees, I will mow them up to make mulch to blanket the strawberries and other plants for the winter. I am thinking I may try my hand at growing micro greens under my grow light for fresh produce through the winter. I know I will also get out my yarn and start making warm winter hats for the homeless donations next year. None of these projects are nearly as rewarding to me as working in the garden, but seasons change and dictate different activities.

I hope you are having a wonderful fall!

MY HAPPY SPACE

It’s a beautiful day. There’s a feeling of fall in the air in Mid-Missouri! I love fall: the beautiful foliage, the crispness of the air, the ending days of harvest. There’s only one thing wrong with fall — winter is not far behind! So I approach fall with very mixed emotions.

Before I write more, I must apologize to my followers for being away from blogging so long. My laptop died and it took a while to replace it, partly because I was so busy with harvesting food from my garden.

My little garden has really done its duty. My grocery bills have been much lower because I planned my meals around what I was harvesting. And I have been able to preserve the overabundance for future meals. All these foods are without pesticides and chemicals!

As you may know from previous posts, my garden and yard is my happy place. When I am working out there I feel like I am playing, plus it’s great exercise for an senior lady. From walking behind my self-propelled mower, to putting the lawn clippings down as mulch in my garden, to watering and pulling weeds, to checking ripeness and harvesting the produce, it’s all an interesting experiment. The experiment continues as I preserve the produce for winter food. I feel happy, content, and close to Mother Nature as the experience was meant to be. I have frozen, canned, and/or dehydrated strawberries, peaches, peas, corn, onions, green beans, tomatoes, and will be adding sweet potatoes, carrots, and brussels sprouts to the pantry before frost. Not bad for a 50 ft. x 100 ft., partially shaded garden space. Lest you think that’s all I do, I am also active in my church, in a quilting group and in a Helping Hands group for volunteer activity, plus I hang my laundry on a line to dry to be kind to the Earth. My garden is still my happy place!

It is my goal to stay active as long as I can. Age is just a number! I am slower than I used to be but I believe if I stop being active I will loose the ability to be so. I just work slower but smarter!

While I am enjoying visiting with you again, I have tomatoes and beans waiting in the kitchen for attention, so I must get busy on them.

Where ever you are, whatever your situation, I hope you have, or create, a happy place with a positive vibe for yourself. Until next time, blessings to you all!

DROUGHT AND CONSERVATION

I knew last spring when I was complaining about the incessant rain that by the middle of summer I would be wishing for rain. It’s not quite the middle of summer and this area is having a drought. We were fortunate to have had one inch of rain last weekend, but conditions are dry enough that I needed to water the garden two days later. The good news is the rain falling on the roof was enough to fill the rain barrels again, so I now have free water to use on the garden.

We humans cannot control the rain so I believe we should value water as much as we value the air we breathe. In this geographical area water comes from deep wells. Just as many rivers in the western part of the United States are becoming very low or running dry, the underground water streams that feed the deep wells will eventually run out of water as well if the climate continues as it is predicted and if we keep consuming water at the current rate. It is, therefore, prudent to conserve water in our everyday lives. If a person is on a public water system, conserving water also saves on the water bill.

My hot water heater is on one end of the house and my shower is on the other. When I want to take a shower, I used to let the hot water faucet run until the hot water reached the shower. All that cool water just ran down the drain until warm water came out of the spigot. Now, I catch that cool water in a bucket and use it to water my plants, both flower and garden. I do the same, only with smaller buckets, at all the other faucets in my house. I can see a monetary difference in my bill. Next winter I will use the captured water for houseplants and to flush my toilet.

I am too old to try living off the grid, but I enjoy using my personal energy to save Earth’s resources to perhaps help keep the climate live-able for my grandchildren and great-grands.

Most of the actions I take to conserve Earth’s resources also save me money: I dry the laundry on the clothesline, water my garden by gravity flow from rain barrels, only grocery shop once a month, grow my own food and shop locally. I am checking into having a weatherization audit done (for free) to see if I can conserve energy that way. I turn off the TV and other appliances that I am not using. I organize my shopping so that everything is done in one trip. I buy used items, borrow or barter, whenever possible.

Apparently governments around the world in general are more interested in profits than the well-being of our planet. Therefore, it is incumbent for all of us to use as little of the Earth’s resources as possible. The frugal actions I take make my life better, more enjoyable, more sustainable. We all need to eat, we all need to keep our homes warm or cool, we all need to be able to commute from one place to another, but we can all be more thoughtful, conservative, and frugal as we do that. I challenge each of you to find ways to conserve Earth’s bounty in your daily lives. If this planet overheats, we are all doomed. Do what you can to keep our climate survivable. Hopefully, world leaders will take action before climate doom happens. In the meantime, do as much as possible in your own little corner of the world.

GARDEN ECOLOGY

I have been so excited about my garden lately that I have failed to write much about being ecological and frugal. While my garden is both of those things, I think I need to put more of an emphasis on the how it is both, and also what other things I am doing that meet those two criteria.

First lets look at what I am doing and experimenting with from an ecological point of view. I carved my food garden out of a corner of my lawn. Only grass has grown in that spot for years. If I had been younger, I would have dug the area with a spade. That would have been more ecologically sound than hiring a person with a small tractor to till the area which is what I resorted to doing. That step used fuel in both getting here and running the tiller in the garden area which is not good for the earth. Since making that step, however, I have really worked at practicing more earth friendly habits. I had to fence the garden to keep the hungry wildlife (mostly rabbits) from eating my food plants.

When I purchased my little home, the former residents left behind a fence of steel posts and panels from around their above-ground swimming pool. Those panels and posts have been used in many ways: to make a lattice for my blackberries, to fence an area for my dog, and the posts at the corners of my garden fence. That saved me money and used something that had already been manufactured and used before (recycled). I put chicken wire around the garden posts (much of which I had purchased earlier for another project).

The area where I live was once a large buffalo wallow, which means the land is flat and doesn’t drain from rain. So my goal became to grow food and build up the soil both with nutrients and height. The garden was planted late because I had to wait for the soil to dry. By the time the soil dried enough to work, grass had started growing back in my garden area. I put down a layer of recycled cardboard between the rows and have been putting grass clippings over the cardboard every time I mow. The mulch has held in the moisture as our weather has become drier, as well as is adding volume physically to the soil.

I raise red wiggler worms, feeding them kitchen waste, and their castings get added to the mulch and soil to build fertility and volume in the garden. Additionally, I spread my crushed eggshells and used coffee grounds over the garden which add fertility to the soil and keeps them out of the landfill.

I also bought two 50 gallon barrels, installed them on concrete blocks, and attached them to the house downspout to catch the rainwater from the roof. This rainwater is gravity fed to water the garden when the soil needs watering. The water still goes to the soil but is going where it is needed rather than just on the ground from the downspout.

I can often be found in the heat of the day searching the internet for more ideas on ways to improve my footprint on the earth. If you have additional ecologically friendly ideas that I can frugally adopt, please send them to me. All of our brains together are better than one!

Until next time, may you be blessed with peace …

WELL HELLOOOO, SUMMER!

As many of you know, I am an old lady that bought her small (832 sq. ft.) home May, 2021. This is the first home I have owned in a long time. Last fall I paid someone to till up a garden space from part of my lawn. This spring when I should have been planting seeds and setting out plants, we had an overabundance of rain so that my garden was very late getting planted. Then I battled grass that wanted to grow back in the space, so I put down cardboard between rows and have been covering that with grass clippings from my lawn mower. I am happy to report that I am finally getting some produce from my garden!

I have had several green salads from the lettuce. I have green onions large enough to eat. The tomatoes are blooming and have some little green tomatoes on the plants. The green beans have little beans on their plants. Beet plants have grown large enough that the birds are not covering them with the grass mulch when they scratch around looking for bugs. Sweet potato plants are growing well and the corn is starting to tassel. There’s hope for a good harvest after all.

It’s hard to imagine that after all that rain I am starting to have to water the garden now. But, never fear!! The rain barrels I put up to catch rainwater from the roof are full and I use a hose from the barrels to the garden and, with gravity flow, I am watering the garden without having to pay for city water!!

Blackberries are almost ready to pick and the gooseberry and rhubarb plants are growing nicely. I probably won’t get food from them until 2024, but ya can’t rush mother nature!

My point in saying all this is not to brag (although I feel like I am) but to actually say: If a 79 year old woman can do all this, you can, too! With food prices the way they are, every meal I can harvest from the garden is money saved. Don’t be afraid to try. Seed is not terribly expensive. If you don’t have space for a garden, grow food in containers on the patio or in front of a sunny window! Whatever we can do to help ourselves is a win in this economy. Additionally, what you grow tastes so much better and is more healthy that what you get in the store. Be adventurous! Try it. You might discover you like producing some of your own food!

Until next time, enjoy the time we have on Earth while it’s still inhabitable. Do what you can to buy as little as possible and take care of yourselves. Blessings!

Harvesting Food

I have gone from wishing the rain would leave for awhile to now having more to do in one day than I can get done. It’s a wonderful feeling!!

I am getting to harvest some food from my garden!! And it feels great! My raised bed of strawberries are producing big, fat, juicy, sweet berries! I am harvesting about a half gallon of the delicious, healthful berries per day. Of course I am eating as much as I can hold. The rest are being saved for next winter. I feel I am a little like a squirrel saving food for winter. I have also gone five miles out of town and bought 2 1/2 gallons of strawberries from an Amish lady. Most of the strawberries have been stored by freezing them, but I have also made freezer jam (which preserves the natural flavor of the berries better than regular jam) and strawberry leather by dehydrating a mixture of strawberry pulp and honey. I am always experimenting in some way, so I am going to try freezing some of the leather. Regular dry storage of leathers in a jar is supposed to keep for 2 months, so I am going to freeze some of the leathers to see if it will keep into winter. (I don’t see any reason that won’t work.)

I am also picking some snow peas as well. I am eating some of them in stir-fry and other recipes and some I am freezing.

The rest of my garden is starting to look like it may produce some food. We are still getting too much rain, and while my cardboard and grass clippings are building the soil, I am having problems with the birds scratching through the clippings and covering the new seedlings. I don’t know if the new beet plants will survive or not. As soon as the garden dries a little, I carefully uncover the little plants but I don’t know if that will be enough to save them.

I have two rows of corn that look like they have adjusted to all the rain. The kale never came up. I have the beets that are up and carrots and lettuce as well. The birds have snipped off some of the green beans and some of the tomatoes. I have placed some recycled cardboard cartons around the tomatoes and it looks like most of them are going to survive.

The row of green onions (that I had to replant) are looking promising and the brassicas that I covered with a hoop tunnel made from a sheer curtain are looking very healthy. A friend gave me a rhubarb plant from her garden today, so I will see if it will survive the moisture in my garden.

All in all, it is beginning to look like I will not be totally at the mercy of the grocery stores and trucking shortages next winter. I like feeling like I can take care of myself and I love knowing the food I produce will not have been sprayed with pesticides and will be at the peak of goodness when I consume it.

My rain barrels are nearly filled to the top so when the dry weather hits, I will be ready to water my plants without using city water.

As you can probably tell, my garden is my happy place. When I am working there, the troubles of the world just slip away! It’s a peaceful feeling and one that I wish everyone of you could experience! It rained again last night, so I will look for indoor projects this morning.

Until next time, peace and good gardening to you!

Lessons to Apply to Current Affairs

If there ever was a time to be as self-sufficient as possible, that time is now. With extreme shortages of baby formula, grocery store shelves often bare and inflation steadily climbing we need to do for ourselves as much as possible. My mother and grandmother made it through the Great Depression by buying locally and doing for themselves. Somewhere along the time from the Depression to now, easy convenience took over and most of those self-sufficiency skills have been lost or forgotten. Now is the time to relearn and reactivate those skills.

Being self-sufficient means using our own energy to replace the easy convenience we all have come to rely on. I am blessed at the age of 79 to have the good health and energy to do many things for myself. My garden in my backyard is finally growing well in spite of all the rain we have had this spring. Will I still have to buy some groceries? Yes. I can’t raise meat in town, but I am growing beans for plant protein, so I won’t need to buy as much meat and when I do buy meat it will be locally grown. Most of the foods that I don’t yet have the ability to grow, I will buy from a nearby Amish settlement to preserve for winter.

My “wise” advice is:

  1. Drive as little as possible to save money on gas. Combine all those errands into one trip. Plan out the errand trip so that you don’t go back and forth over the same areas more than once.
  2. Grow as much of your food as possible. If you don’t have a yard in which to plant a garden, grow food plants in containers.
  3. Visit Farmer’s Markets to get food. The produce you buy at Farmer’s Markets is fresher than what you get at the grocery store and it hasn’t taken a long fuel trip to get to you. And the money you spend is helping someone locally, perhaps your neighbor.
  4. Learn to buy necessities at second-hand shops. The set of dishes you buy second-hand has already been loved by someone else. Wash them, use them, love them again in your home. That saves the earth’s elements and energies from being used to recreate an item that has already been produced. The energy that was used once to create an item of clothing does not need to be used again for the same thing. Buy it second-hand. Give it another useful life.

The predictions are that inflation will continue, shortages of products will continue, and gas prices will continue to rise. All of us need to be as prepared as possible. Start looking at the ways people survived during the Great Depression. Many of the skills used during that time are applicable for use today.

As an aside, if you have 34 minutes to spare, watch “The Great Simplification” on YouTube. I found it very interesting. At the very least, it is thought provoking.

Have a pleasant Memorial Day. Love each other. Blessings to you all!