Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How to save hundreds with sewing.

I've been sewing since I was a very little girl. You see, my mother was the Martha Stewart of her time. Since I grew up doing what she did, I grew up knowing how to sew, knit, cook, garden and lots of other handy things.

Today I realized how much my sewing has helped me save money. We have a king sized bed with a nice mattress pad. The pad has a large elastic band that wraps around the bed. This pad had a 2-3 foot long rip in it, so it still attached to the bed, but kept ripping more and more. The unfortunate thing is it costs at least $100 to replace the thing. So today I sat down and sewed the rip and a few other rips in about 15 minutes.

Then Rich called. He's been gaining weight due to a medication change and very bad fast food habits. His work pants don't fit and its becoming a major issue. He had ordered some bigger pairs, but they are about $50 each. So I went into the closet and got the pants that almost fit. I took those up to my handy dandy sewing machine and took out the waist. The years I worked for a tailor really come in handy a lot. I was able to take out the waist enough for him to be able to wear these pants comfortably until he's able to hopefully take off some of this weight. The pants he ordered were cancelled and saved us another $100.

I've put on multiple patches for work saving $5 per patch. Since I've probably put on about 50 or so in our time together, that is lots of money. I've also altered clothes for the kids, hemmed pants and fixed a nasty gash in my $40 jeans( I didn't actually spend that). Since I'm a rather fluffy gal myself with a small waist and large rear end, it is hard to find pants that actually fit me. My only option is generally to find a pair that fits my rear and take in the waist. When I look at it, I have saved thousands over the years. Not bad.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Savings and shopping

I just got back from shopping. I got all of The Little Princess's stocking gifts at CVS and all the candy for the stockings for everyone. There was a nice surprise when I realized that my shampoo was on sale and I had coupons for lots of sale items.

Then it was off to Roche Bros for a few odds and ends. I've been trying to only buy fresh items and the few things that I need to add to my stockpile. So far that has meant only spending $200 this month. We're halfway through the month and I won't need to buy much else. I got lots of deals at RB's today as well and got to restock the supply of hot chocolate for less than it costs me to make it. The kids like it better as well. The rest was fruit, veggies, milk and bagels and cream cheese.

Today also brought my big box of craft supplies from Oriental Trading Co. It was all on sale and a good price, plus I got free shipping. In addition, I got cash back on Ebates. I'm loving getting things I need and getting cash back through them. It would be even better if I could get my curriculum from them as well. I had to buy some midyear additions from Rainbow Resource and although I got free shipping, I didn't get cash back.

The bread for the next 2 weeks is now in the oven. I also have the turkey carcass in the pot for more broth to be canned up. This time the turkey was drier than usual, but it still got eaten up anyway. I'm not really sure why it was dry this time, maybe it was the fact that it was a bigger bird. Tonight will be turkey pot pie with any meat I can get off the carcass, the broth and veggies from the garden. The crust will be made with the lard I rendered. It's a pretty inexpensive meal from things that most people throw away. My family loves it as well.

My parents sent out their Christmas letter last week. My mother decided to write it this year as my dad has a tendency to get a little morose some years. She decided to have a little fun talking about all the wierd things that I do. Things like the ever increasing garden and rendering my own lard. Things that wouldn't be so weird 100 years ago. Oh well, I enjoy it.

Now I'm off to help R get a bunch of computers into his truck. He's been incredibly busy so I got to learn how to rebuild a machine. I did the grunt work on 7 computers this weekend to help out. If I hadn't he probably wouldn't have slept for a few days. We also cleaned up and rearranged the attic workshop to make it much more functional. Its truly amazing what moving a table to a different place does to a room. I feel great for all that I'm able to do to help him. Of course the rest of the world thinks I do too much. Sometimes you just do what you have to do.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

This and That

Here we are well into December and I'm still not ready for winter. Winter doesn't seem to care. It went and sent snow this weekend and frigid temps. This all just makes me wish we lived someplace a little more temperate. I'd like a longer growing season and less snow and cold. Too bad I'm not getting those things. ::sigh::

I'm ready for my seed catalogs to come. It seems like everyone else has gotten lots more than me. All that has come so far has been Totally Tomatoes. That's nice, but I want MORE!! The seeds most be ogled and then lists must be made. Then the plans need to be played with. I must figure out how to use Excell or some other program to map things out. Mustn't waste paper! By the time Spring comes, I'll be ready to stop gardening before it has even begun. I should learn patience, but then there is that little voice at the back of my head. This year I'm very anxious to get my seeds ordered. There is lots of talk in the gardening world of seed shortages. Last years gardening was pretty poor for lots of us and seed savers were not immune. That is combined with a large increase in the number of people gardening. Between the two, we could have difficulty finding seeds later in the year.

Along the same lines, I'd really like to be able to save seed for coming years. Some things are easy, others not so much. I'm trying not to grow squashes from the same family, so that I can save seeds. The problem is that my neighbors' garden is very close to mine and their seed can cross with mine. The tomatoes shouldn't be too much of an issue. I grow too many pepper varieties to safely save those without intervention. Then I need to learn how to save seeds from the biennials like carrots, broccoli and cabbage.

I spoke to my Mother yesterday. She wrote the Christmas letter this year. Normally my Dad does it, but he tends to get a little gloomy at times and that doesn't make for a good letter. Apparently, she had a good time describing how nuts I was with all the things I do. I guess making and using lard is not a normal thing to do. Who knew? All the things that I'm trying to learn to do are not normal these days, but I sure wish they were. I think we'd all do much better if we went back to a more self sufficient lifestyle. What would happen if everyone stopped buying Hamburger Helper and started planting gardens and preserving their own food? If we stopped using overprocessed and chemical based yuck and went back to the basics. No more shortening or corn syrup.

I could go on and on about a world without all the convenience. Where people could actually create things instead of buying them. I'll stop there. It may be something that happens whether we like it or not.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Baking and being green

This morning I started to make chocolate chip cookies when the kids started talking about being green. This is apparently something they are pushing on Nickelodeon these days. I can't really complain about that. I explained to the kids that we already do lots of 'green' things and how they helped our earth. I also talked about things we could do to help even more. They don't really get it completely yet, but I figure the more they hear it, the better. There is at least an interest right now.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

MMMM Cow manure

It's reached that time of the year that I have to spread the poop. It's amazing how much you can get this time of year. There is a dairy farm a few miles down the road and they deliver 4.5 yards of manure for $75. I like my poop delivered right to my door. The guy was super nice. I actually stood out in the yard in the cold and dark and talked to him for a good 15 minutes. The poor guy, his family has been doing this for over 75 years and it just keeps getting harder and harder. What they get paid for 100 gallons of milk is a crime. One thing he did tell me is that the milk from Cumberland Farms or any other grocery store and Garelick all come from the same milk farms. There is one large Coop here in Ma. All the milk goes there and then is sold to various places, so don't pay more for Garelick, its the same as Joe's.

So today I went out and started to attack the mountain of poop. The little Princess came out in her pretty pink boots and helped me do some of it. The little Man wanted nothing to do with it. Toby(our lab) just wanted to eat it. I think that I got about 1/3 of it done, but that may be wishful thinking. My back started to ache and I have blisters on my hands. Pretty pathetic for only 30 minutes work. I really need to get the rest done in the next few days. The garden ought to be in pretty good shape for next year when I'm done. There is quite a bit of compost finishing up as well. That will get put in the holes when I put things out. I never seem to get enough compost. It's even worse this year since we had to cut down 4 trees on the property. The leaves really help out a lot as well.

The seed catalogs started coming the other day. It always gets me going. This year was overwhelming for me with the garden. I expanded so much that it made it hard for me to keep up with it. It also rained so much, that it was hard for me to get out and do what needed to be done. Then I would get overwhelmed with the size. The kicker was that I really didn't design it well. Next year it will be divided into sloped beds about 4x10. There will be walkways in between that will be covered with cardboard. This will make it easier for me to intensively plant, like I was used to. It will also make weeding easier and more compact.

When I started gardening I used a modified square foot plan. I had multiple 4x4 beds that were separated by paving bricks. I could go out and week 1 or 2 squares easily without getting overwhelmed. I also had very definite borders to grow things in. This will be the basis for next years garden as well. I will still have a much larger area, but it will hopefully be more manageable. It is now going to be well fertilized and looser soil as well. I'm always hopeful that we'll have a huge harvest. Of course, in September when I've canned up the 75th jar of tomatoes, I'll be cursing it all.

Its all a cycle and I love that cycle. I love planning all the wonderful things we'll have in the garden. I love planting the seeds in the winter and carefully keeping them growing in the basement. I love planting out the seedlings and seeds and watching them grow and grow. I love the anticipation of that first tomato. I love feeding my family food that I have grown and prepared and that I am absolutely certain is healthy. I love going to my basement in December and getting a jar of tomatoes and some carrots that have been preserved that summer. I love it all. Even when I'm exhausted and don't want to deal with it. I still love it. If you're going to have an addiction this is the one to have.

Next years plans will of course involve some expansion. I plan to plant at least 2 more fruit trees, probably apples. There is also the 6x6 area next to the garden with the broken down sod to deal with. That will probably be prepped and become either a strawberry patch, or my onion and garlic area. The back, where the trees came down has plans as well. Jose(my neighbor) has talked about building us a chicken coop. I'd really like a chicken tractor, but we'll figure it out. If we end up with a permanent coop, then it will go back there. If not, I'll plant some blueberry bushes back there to surround the whole area. The bushes I planted this year all died. They got way too much sun and couldn't handle it. Back there they will get partial sun and lots of water, so they should thrive. Of course, I have to clean the mess up back there first. My last area will be in the back between the houses, I want to plant an asparagus patch. Jose likes that idea as well, so we'll have to get some crowns planted.

Next year will also be the first year for the cold frames. Jose spent last summer making us some cold frames to split from windows they had just replaced. They will go around the perimeter of my garden. He just doesn't have the space on his side. I also get much better sun. There are 4 total. I think they are 2x6 ft. The plan is to plant them next summer to feed us next winter. We've been reading too much Elliot Coleman. I would love to someday be almost completely self sufficient in the fruit and vegetable arena. If we add in the eggs and meat from chickens, we're really be doing well!