I’m fine,just busy

I made a deal with a friend that I will start blogging here daily. She says I can’t just write a post about having electric and internet shut off notices and then be quiet for days after. I need to at least post a thing. Anything. “Even if it’s a stupid inspirational quote or to say how much the latest season of Arrow is not going as well as you’d like!”

Ok,so the good news is – I have electricity and Internet. I was just really busy trying to get my 80,000 lbs of tomatoes canned and winterizing the house. Winter is coming. I’m not happy about it but I’m dealing.

This is typical of what I’m pulling out of the garden every day now. I can’t even tell you how many herbs I’ve been able to harvest. It’s been too much to keep track of. I’m set for herbs for the rest of the winter, both culinary and medicinal. I still transplanted some into pots to keep inside for the winter. It helps to brighten my mood during the winter just to see them and smell them. And obviously it’s just awesome to be able to cook with fresh herbs all year long.

I forgot how water intensive canning is and ending up having to freeze a lot because of our water shortage here. I officially have no more room in the freezer, especially now that there’s ¼ deer in there (Thanks, Bruce). I saw a chest freezer(working) offered on Freecycle this morning but couldn’t arrange a truck to go get it. I think we’re going to need another freezer. Husbeast will hopefully get a deer of his own soon and I still have  more coming out of the garden.

I am honestly amazed that I come across people in the comments on Facebook who claim they work a full time job plus still “grow all their own food”. Either they’re lying or they don’t eat much. I’m working at home part time and not growing anywhere near ALL our food requirements. It’s really time consuming and a lot of work, especially when you throw in family life with kids.
(Psst: I think they’re lying or at least exaggerating profusely)

But anyway…that’s the gist of what’s been happening here. I’m fine!

Other good things that happened this past week/weekend:

  • My daughter came home from college for the long weekend.
  • I scored 2 bags & a box of clothes for the 6 yr old on Freecycle. The woman offering said they were “nothing special but good condition”. They turned out to all be really nice…and they’re all fall/winter clothes. Usually this time of year, the clothes offered are summer as people clear out for fall/winter
  • I took a huge garbage bag of clothes to our food pantry’s exchange closet. It always feels good to get rid of stuff. I brought home two nice and heavy blankets.
  • we went to the Mall to get things that daughter needs at college. Stopped in at Old Navy on a whim to browse their clearance rack. Found a pair of shoes for kidlet (this kid and shoes is a whole story in itself) that was marked $8.99. Got to the register and they rang up as 97¢. They were $1.01 with tax. I can’t even find beat up second hand shoes at the thrift store for that.
  • Other college-daughter (the one who lives at home) started a new job.

The bad news on that last bullet point is that now we won’t get SNAP after this month. Grr.



Chop your way to a solid core


I absolutely just ripped that title from a men’s health mag but I’m seriously considering also making it the title of a Craiglist help wanted post.

People pay a lot of money for fitness programs and personal trainers,right? Why not save money and just come get a workout at my house splitting firewood? Plus, you get to leave feeling good that you’ve done something to help someone out.

I can spin this.

So far we have split and stacked about one face cord. I just want it all split and stacked so I can see how much wood we actually have. It’s hard to tell right now.

The bounty of tomatoes and pumpkins coming out of the garden makes it easier to not stay mad at everything. Today’s tomato harvest was 2 colanders worth (scientific measurement) . It’s been hard for me to give everything a measurement and value like I intended . Maybe with the tomatoes I’ll measure by the product I end up canning, whether it be sauce or salsa or whole tomatoes. I would say pumpkins the size of these would be about $4-5 each around here. This bunch will be canned.

It’s 3p.m. as I’m writing this. No word yet on the car. Our food pantry is this evening so if we don’t get the car back within the next couple of hours, we’ll miss that. It’s the last one of the month so that will be a bummer.

We also have a school event tomorrow for one kid that he really wanted us to go to. We’ll cross our fingers and everything else that we at least get the car back tomorrow so we can make that. We missed out on a lot of school events during the time we were a car-free family. I try to make it to everything now if it’s at all possible.

This thing tomorrow evening is also a dish to pass (side dish or dessert). I predict whatever I end up making will have either tomatoes or pumpkins. I’m glad I have them to work with. Something else that has stopped me from going to things like potlucks in the past was truly not being able to take anything. Add that to the list of “The Many Ways Being Poor Can Make You Feel Like Crap”.






grocery shopping




View from inside our no-longer-dead car, on the way to the grocery store

YES, we have our old wheels back. It was a simple fix (but may be temporary). The uhaul we rented ended up being $260-ish. It was less expensive than a car rental still and if we hadn’t rented it, the husbeast would have missed  days of work. So, it was more than we could afford but we couldn’t afford not to. I hate making stupid decisions like that.
Yep, rent is late.

Yesterday was our SNAP day,too. We spent $157 of our $221. Hopefully I can make a lot of it stretch. I predict lots of creative pantry anarchy happening this month.

After putting the store-groceries away, I pulled these out of the garden.img_0395 Grocery gardening is the best.

We’re still dealing with a drought here. The USDA declared our county a natural disaster due to crop loss on farms here. Needless to say, gardening was hard,too.I have a lot of tomatoes but they’ve taken forever to ripen. This is the 1st decent bunch. I’ve harvested 8 pumpkins already,though. Things are a little backwards out there in the garden.



new food stamp amount: $221/month for a family of 5

We reapplied for food stamps at the end of May and finally got a decision this week. We were denied but then also approved in the same decision. Because I’m self-employed, they said the amount I made in May put us over the qualifying limit by $87 but then averaged the past 3 months of my income as a guideline of what I might typically make and that put us under the limit.

The other thing that changed is they do not include our twins on our SNAP case because they are full time college students who are not employed at least 20 hours a week yet. So, we’re on paper a family of five but I’m still buying groceries for a family of seven.

I’m confused about some of the rules for when someone is going to college. I was told by one person that if the twins are working at least 20 hrs/week this summer ,then they can be included on our SNAP case but then someone else told me that yes, BUT their income will also count as household income and that would probably put us over the qualifying limit. I’m guessing the latter is how that actually works.

Anyway, as it stands now we were approved finally and our amount will be $221 a month. That’s just short of 2 weeks of groceries for us. The USDA “Thrifty Family Meal Plan” guidelines say we should be spending about $970 for our family size per month but my food budget has been about half that for the past 6 months, sometimes even lower. It’s totally impossible without going to the food pantry every other week.

On the gardening front, things are slow but happening. We’re in a drought-like spell. I have no hose hookup at this house and I’m watering the garden by hauling jugs from inside the house. It takes forever and it’s not the same as a good soaking rain. Fortunately we know people who know how to do things and a friend is going to put a hose hookup in for us soon. This sounds like a much easier solution than my daughter’s suggestion of building an aqueduct or elaborate irrigation system.

So, adding to my $88 worth of rhubarb, I now have chives and chive infused vinegar.
15 oz dried chives-$28 (I arrived at this price by looking at the bulk spice prices at 2 local markets plus what’s available online)
16 oz of chive infused vinegar – $10
several bundles of fresh chives -$8

My husbeast has been fishing a lot lately,too. Having terrible luck catching anything worth keeping but this week another fisherman gave him a nice bass he didn’t feel like cleaning. That was a nice free dinner. I have no idea what a whole bass costs. A 12 oz package of sea bass is $23 where we usually shop but this isn’t exactly sea bass.
I need to remember to add the cost of his fishing and hunting license into my food production expenses tally. So far without that figured in, I’ve spent $120 on seeds,tools,and other gardening things.
I need to keep better track of time spent in the garden. Once I have a good idea of this,I’ll start putting a monetary value to that time,too. Two separate rates – migrant farm worker wage and living wage.






how i’m measuring garden successes

While weighing my rhubarb haul the other day, I started to think earnestly about what the best way is to measure success in the garden. I was weighing the rhubarb mainly out of curiosity. At the grocery stores here,  fresh rhubarb is currently around  $4/lb. I was just wondering what the dollar value of my rhubarb would be.( $80 so far, in case you were wondering,too)

Weighing what comes out of the garden seems to be the most used method for measuring food production success. We see it all the time on homesteading blogs and articles. “This family grew 2,000 lbs of food in their backyard!”. Totally an actual headline. But here’s what I’m thinking…is that really as impressive as it sounds? I mean, does that weight have pumpkins and tomatoes happening in it or is it a lot of  romaine lettuce and snap peas?

My rhubarb is valuable dollar wise and rhubarb is awesome to have. I have lots of plans for it but my family isn’t going to subsist on rhubarb alone. Spinach,though…. that’s something we eat a lot of. Spinach leaves are light. 8 oz costs around $3 here. It’s more expensive than rhubarb and more practically valuable for us but it’s never going to add a whole lot to any weight total. If I manage to grow even 5 lbs of spinach, that’s worth a confetti and streamers celebration to me.



Potatoes. We eat a lot of them,too. I decided not to grow a large amount of potatoes this year though because I can buy them pretty inexpensively from my favorite local produce vendor. Less than $10 for a 20 lb bag. If I was measuring my success by pounds, I could use the weight of potatoes on my side.

Weighing the garden harvest for just the sheer weight total feels disingenuous to me. The entire reason I am personally growing food is to alleviate the financial costs of feeding my family. It makes more sense for me to put dollar amounts on this. That’s weird for me because I hate equating dollars with value & success but here it will make sense.

I think stating the weight of garden wealth is also somewhat of a slap in the face to those who are growing with obstacles. Like very limited land or just balcony or patio space. Growing 12 oz of herbs might be a huge success, even if it’s not hefty. For that matter, everything we manage to grow can be a very huge deal.



rhubarb bonanza

I probably mentioned this already but the town historian tells us that years ago before the property we’re living at became neglected, this house had the best vegetable garden around for miles. She pointed out to this overgrown field near the pond as the former site. It’s so hard to believe looking at it now. When we moved in it was nothing but goldenrod and stupid scrubby bushes & prickers. Now that it’s spring and the field is renewing I’m finding few signs of what it formerly was.I’ll find a clump of daffodils or lillies coming up among dried stalks left behind by the goldenrod.

Monday I stumbled upon a beautiful row of rhubarb. A perfect row, a long ago gardener as it’s architect.


I started harvesting what was ready. I filled a clothes basket full.


Now I’m at the full on chopping stage, freezing and preserving most of it but looking forward to strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert tonight and apple-rhubarb muffins for the boys’ school snacks. My grandmother used to make rhubarb syrup that I loved. I’ll can some of that.
There’s plenty to share,too.



My multi-tasking media today:
::watching:: The Family. I started watching a few days ago, then found out yesterday it’s been cancelled but I’m in too deep now. Damn, Andrew McCarthy is great-creepy in this.
::podcast:: Season 2 of Serial. The general reaction from most people has been “meh. It’s not as good as season 1” but I’m into it so far.
::music:: Painted Shut, Hop Along