Monday, April 30, 2012

We’re Leaving On A Jet Plane!

Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.  ~Seneca

Every year on our anniversary, Todd and I like to get away, and this year is no different.  Right now, as you read this, Todd and I are on our way to Las Vegas, NV and the Grand Canyon for our 5th Wedding Anniversary! 

Over the years, we have visited:

Honeymoon: Alaskan Cruise (in-credible!)
1st Anniversary: Gatlinburg, TN
2nd Anniversary: Lancaster, PA
3rd Anniversary:  Washington, DC & Chesapeake Beach, MD
4th Anniversary: Beverly, WV

One reason we pinch pennies throughout the year is so that we are able to take vacations each and every year.  I grew up in a family that took a vacation practically every year.  If it wasn’t to a new place to learn and explore, we went camping at Cook’s Forrest in Pennsylvania.  I think I have influenced Todd over the years to take at least one vacation, whether it was 8 hours away from home or 3 hours away from home!  Thus far, he has yet to complain!

This year is a “big one” for us!  This will be the first time Todd has been to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon (I have been to both once with my family).  We will be away for 9 days total, and I am exhausted just thinking about it.  The first two days, we will be staying in Las Vegas and exploring all the fun things to do and see (for free!) in the area. We will then make the trek to the Hoover Dam, along with a few other stops on the way to the Grand Canyon. 

We are then staying at the Grand Canyon for a full week.  We are planning on many scenic views and memorable hikes through parts of the Grand Canyon.  And on the actual date of our anniversary, we will be rafting down the Colorado River.  I cannot think of anything more exciting to do with my hubby on such a momentous occasion!

Later this week, I will repost an article I wrote for Financial Excellence back in February about how we save money on travel.  Even though we are spending the money to fly on this trip, we will be implementing many of the tips listed in this article while we are half-way across the country.

Just as fair warning, you may be inundated with photos and stories when we get back.

Bon Voyage!

Do you and your other half get away every year to celebrate your marriage?

If you are interested in pictures from Vegas and the Grand Canyon, please follow us on FaceBook!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Recycled Chicken Bedding

Over the past year, we have learned a lot about raising chickens.  As always, we were trying to find ways to cut costs while raising these little cluckers and we have a few things we have done to help keep the costs to raising the chickens to a minimum.

We only spend money on the chicken food and what I call “fillers.”  Every 3-4 months, we buy a 50 lb bag of layer feed (approximately $14), 50 lb bag of rolled oats ($9.99) and a 50 lb bag of cracked corn ($7.99). 

From everything I’ve read, chickens are supposed to eat oyster shells, but at $5.00+/bag for just 2 lbs, we have opted against it.  Instead, we save all of the egg shells we use and crush them up to add to their chicken feed to ensure they are getting enough calcium and creating those big beautiful brown eggs!

Our chicken coop is a double-decker.  Originally, it was a chicken tractor, but in the winter, hubby built a floor on the bottom of the coop that can be opened from the bottom for easy cleanup, and built it on a pedestal using scrap wood he already had in the garage.  There is the roost up top where the chickens sleep and lay their eggs, as well as a lower part where their food and water is located. 

Since we brought the chicks home at 2-3 days old, we have been using recycled shredded paper that I get from work.  It is perfect, because it is easy to clean up, and I can get it in abundance!

On the bottom of the chicken coop*, I originally used old newspaper ads and junk mail to line the floor.  When hubby and I went away for a week in October, I had the brilliant idea to put old leaves in the bottom of the coop.  The chickens loved it!  When I found out how much they liked the leaves, I was raking leaves like crazy to last throughout the entire year!  When I clean the bottom of the coop (every month), I just put the leaves in the garden as compost. 

We have spent no money on straw or hay for the chickens, and they seem to enjoy the setup we have for them. 

All said, we are currently spending a little less than $2.50/dozen for our eggs.  I have a spreadsheet that tracks how many eggs the chickens lay and all of the expenses (minus the cost of the chicken coop). 

Do you use recycled goods for your chickens? 

*Our chickens are free-range chickens.  They don’t spend a lot of time in their coop other than to sleep, eat and lay their eggs.  They are outside about 14 hours a day picking bugs from the yard!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Canning Strawberry Jam in December

The week before Christmas (2011), I was in the kitchen canning strawberry jam!  Yes, you read correctly: strawberries.  That delicious fruit that starts producing in the spring. 

The reason I had waited so long to start making my jam is because I procrastinated was mortified that I’d screw up making jam as Christmas gifts!  I had heard so many horror stories about runny, yucky tasting jam, and I was not ready to take on the burden of being disappointed.

There is a local pick-your-own  strawberry patch just a few miles from our home.  I picked a lot of strawberries for the main purpose of canning them as gifts for Christmas What I learned last year is that if you don’t want to can throughout the whole season, you can puree fruits in a blender and freeze them for a later date to start canning!  I also did this with blueberries I picked from another pick-your-own orchard.

I honestly believe that the reason I like canning so much is because I wasn’t doing it from May through November.  It was great to make applesauce and apple pie in a jar in October, and then putting everything away until December. 

If your zone is in strawberry season and you would like to learn (visually) how to can, I will be posting a vlog in the next few months teaching you how to do so.  It truly is very easy, and it can be done with less than $50 in equipment!  Until then, pick your berries, puree them in a blender or food processor and stick them in the freezer.  They will taste just as good as they did fresh!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The No 'Poo Experiment: 2 Month Progress Report

have been practicing the No ‘Poo method for over two months now, and have only used “regular” shampoo once in that time.  When I used regular shampoo, I hated the results.  While rinsing the shampoo out of my hair, my hair felt like straw, not to mention it was a tangled mess when I went to go blow dry my hair!

A few weeks back, I decided I was going to go back to shampoo, even though I didn’t like the results.  My scalp had been itchy and I was getting horrible dandruff for some reason with the No ‘Poo method.  When the time came to wash my hair two days later, I thought about how awful my hair felt when I used shampoo that one time during my experiment.  I could not bring myself to washing my hair with regular shampoo.

I got in the shower and washed my hair with the baking soda mixture I normally use (2 Tbsp baking soda with 2 Tbsp hot water).  When I got out and dried my hair with a blow dryer, I decided to forgo the hairspray. (Yes, I had been using hairspray this entire time – but not nearly as much as I had in the past.)  Low and behold, my scalp didn’t itch!!  Within a week, the dandruff was gone!  I think the hair spray was leaving a residue on my scalp, which made it itchy and created dandruff. 

Now, I just wash my hair, dry it with the dryer and go about my business.

Clean Hair Before No 'Poo Experiment

2 Months Into Experiment: No 'Poo or Spray!

Not much of a difference, eh?

Let me tell you, it is so much more soft and tangle-free since I’ve gone without hairspray.  And somehow, my hair seems fuller than ever!  I am officially ‘Poo and hairspray free and I love it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

When To Get a Fuel Efficient Beater (Vehicle)

At one point, Todd had a very fuel efficient little beater car that we named Squirt while we owned a gas-guzzler van for moving and getting supplies for projects at our new home. We got the car because we knew it would save on gasoline and it was much more efficient.

While driving to work last week, I saw a small little beater car for sale, with “58MPG” written on the windshield. It was visually nicer than Squirt ever was, and after paying $53 for gas for the first time since he’s owned his 2008 Kia Rondo, we have decided to determine whether or not it is “worthwhile” to purchase a small, fuel-efficient beater for Todd to drive to and from work.

Instead of doing everything by hand, I put in the information into this website (Edmunds) that will tell me how much we would save in gas by getting the new beater.

$0 (Paid Off)
MPG (highway)
Avg. Cost for Gas per gallon

As you can see, we would save $92 in gas per month if he were to get the beater. That being said, it would take 16 months to break even on gas prices alone. This does not include the additional cost of insurance, registration and upkeep on the beater.

The question is: Should we get a beater?
For us, it doesn’t make sense to purchase another vehicle, even at 58MPG. Our goal is to drive our vehicles until they will no longer run! In the whole scheme of things, $92/month is not going to kill us. If anything, it will make us drive my car more (at 42-45MPG) when we run around on the weekends or on trips. We are also being much more careful about where we drive and how to combine trips as much as possible now that gas is nearly $4.00/gallon.

Have you thought about trading in your vehicle to get something more fuel efficient now that gas is nearing (and in some places, over!) $4.00/gallon?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Edible Landscape: La Maison de Merde

Last week, I gave you a tour of our personal residence and all of the fruits we have growing as well as the plants we will be planting this season.  This week, I will show you La Maison de Merde.  Translation: The Crap House.


We bought the house next door to our home when it went up for sale as a foreclosure. Actually, when we put in our offer, the realtor laughed in my ear over the phone telling me I’ve lost my mind.  I told him that when he can get down to the specific price we were looking to pay for the house, to call me.  A month and a half later, he called me and told me he couldn’t believe that the house had been discounted so deeply.  In the end, we paid $7,900 for this house, but it wasn’t the house we wanted: it was the property.

The truth of the matter is that this house is in fact a piece of crap.  It is uninhabitable and has been falling apart since we purchased it in late 2009.  There are foundation issues along with holes in the roof and many wild animals living in the attic.  I have yet to be able to go into this house by myself alone – it is that creepy inside.  We have plans of tearing it down and putting up a small workshop for Todd one of these years. Until then, we will patiently wait and save up the cash for the demolition and new structure (a steel building) in the next 3-5 years.

This is the back yard of La Maison de Merde.  Even though the fence has seen better days, the fenced in back yard has really come in handy over the last 2 ½ years!  It has kept a pot bellied pig, a puppy, and chickens from roaming around our neighborhood.  Between the house and the shed is where I hang my clothesline to dry our clothes when the weather is nice.

The round circle is where our “old” garden has been over the past two years.  With trees surrounding the back yard, the amount of sunshine the garden gets is dissipating with each passing year, so we decided to move the garden to a different area.  I planted spinach and onions in this area for this season. There are asparagus starters that I planted last fall that will remain in this garden.  Otherwise, the garden will remain dormant this growing season.  I am considering planting “cold weather crops” in this garden in future years.

Picture of side yard
Picture taken summer 2011
This is where we planted the Bing & Rainier cherry trees (below)

Side yard from the street
Picture taken summer 2011

The side yard of “The Crap House” is full of beautiful trees.  I have a book out from the library on how to determine what each tree is.  Hopefully, I will be able to find a couple of trees to be able to tap in the spring of next year for syrup!

Rainier Cherry Tree
(planted just this week)

I purchased 2 Rainier cherry trees and one Bing cherry tree to plant in the front yard of the house next door.  I decided to plant in this area because it is far away from our house!  I know how bad it is when birds get to the cherries and defecate all over, which is why the trees will be planted in this area.

In our straw bale garden this year, we will be planting jalapenos, pie pumpkins, tomatoes, green peppers, zukes, cukes, green beans, brussels and peas in this area.  There are 20 bales of straw in total, and everything except the pie pumpkins, zukes and onions will be grown in the straw bales.  This is an experiment for us, so we will see how well it works!

So there you have it.

This is our garden over an acre of land.  We have a lot of room to expand, especially once La Maison de Merde is torn down, but for now, this is more than enough (work) for us.

Related Posts:

Edible Landscape: Primary Residence

Feel free to link up telling us about your garden!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Green Zone: Ants be Gone!

With spring here, and the warmer weather coming, we all know what we can expect (other than mosquito's): ants!  Luckily, we don’t generally have a problem with ants at the house except for by the dog’s food dish, but a friend of mine has given me a great way to kill ants without chemicals.  The way to get rid of ants is to sprinkle the area with (raw) grits!  The ants will eat the grits and it will swell in their belly and kill them.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The cost of Gardening (March)

We have had such great weather here in the Midwest (NorthEast Ohio) that we have been able to work on the garden without having to worry about the weather.  It has been wonderful!!!

In early March, Todd built the trellis' to put in our new red raspberry patch.  Also, in early March, we started our jalapeno seeds.  One packet of seeds was enough to fill a complete flat of little starters. We had two packets of seeds!!  That is alot of jalapenos!

Jalapeno seeds at the end of March

This is what our main garden area looked like at the end of March.  We bought some "super soil" to build mounds on the ground to plant zucchini, onions, spaghetti squash and pie pumpkin.  We have not yet planted anything in the staw bales.

Garden Area

The costs of gardening in March include:

  • Stakes for the beans in the garden (4 x $3.69 = $14.76)
  • Super Soil ($44.00)
  • Miracle Grow ($10.98)
Total for March*: $69.74
Total cost up to March for the garden: $95.29
Total cost this year for the garden: $165.03

I noticed at the end of the month something that I have been waiting to grow in the "root garden."  Let's see if you can guess what they are:

Asparagus!  I planted asparagus in the "old garden" in October, not knowing if they would make it because it was so late in the season.  When I went back to the "old garden" the last week of March, I found about 20 spears of asparagus!  Yay!

We have been keeping busy getting ready for planting season next month.  I cant wait!

How is your garden coming along?

*We have been adding alot of fruits to our property this year, that are not included in these numbers.  The garden numbers are just what we grow in the vegetable garden.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Edible Landscape: Primary Residence

Last week,  I wrote about our yard and how we are trying to make it so that we can generate most of our produce from our property.  In this post, I will show you pictures of our primary residence and the steps we have taken over the last 4 years and the steps we plan on taking in upcoming years to make this land as productive as possible.

Front of the house.

This is a picture of our primary residence which is half an acre. As you can see, it is not very colorful this time of year.  I love when the leaves start to form on the trees and everything bursts with colors of spring.   We have a nice sized front yard, but the majority of our property is to the side of our home and very dense with trees. 

Picture from the edge of our property to our home.

Picture of our side property - we own to the bush in the side yard.
These are our new red raspberry patches. 

In the side yard,  a little closer to the road, there are two pear trees. We purchased these trees along with a dwarf plum at a large discount in June 2010.

Pear Trees
This is a picture of our teeny tiny back yard. We have never really done much back here, but I’ve got big plans for this area. I received 6 blueberry startings a few weeks back that are now planted in this area. I also plan on putting in blackberry bushes and strawberries in the area.   My new moto is: If it’s got sun, decent soil and room to grow, use it!

Teeny Tiny Backyard

6 Blueberries Planted!

A new addition has arrived last week that I absolutely love: our new arbor!  On this arbor, we will be planting 4 concord grape vines (on their way in the mail as I type this).  I have wanted to grow concord grapes since we moved in, but this year it is actually happening!  Concord grapes bring up great memories of my childhood when my mom, dad and I would eat bags full of concord grapes, never getting enough of them.  They aren’t as readily available here in Ohio as they were in New York and Pennsylvania, but that will (hopefully) all be changing in the next 2-3 years when we have our very own source of them in the front yard! 


Close to our mailbox in the front yard, we planted a dwarf plum tree that we bought on clearance from Home Depot two years ago at 75% off.  We have been patiently waiting for fruit to start producing on this tree.  One reason we have this tree here in the front yard is because it is decorative, but the added bonus is that it will hopefully start producing fruit for us!

Dwarf Plum

Where are all of our vegetables going to be planted?
Next week, I will show you the other ½ acre lot we own next door.

Please feel free to link up to this post with pictures of your yard or container garden.  I’d love to see it!

This post is linked up to Homestead Revival's Barn Hop!