Friday, April 24, 2009

The Reason I ALWAYS have Dirt under my Fingernails

We've FINALLY started our farm project in our lovely neighbor Joyce's yard...Yippe Yahoo! We have been digging and building boxes and amending soil for days now. We are still a bit behind in posting the results but check out (some of) the progress as we turn this unused back yard into a dream garden (at least in my mind anyway:)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Making Jam...

...successfully (a first)

I haven't made really good jam in....well...ever. I did make a plum paste several years ago, but that ended up being thrown away, and I've never even tried making strawberry jam. My past efforts have made me a bit skittish about the possibility of ruining perfectly good fruit, so I was quite tickled that it actually worked!
(amazing what happens when you follow directions :)
It set up well (which I was worried about) AND tastes great (and I don't even like strawberry jam) I even managed to get a discount on the strawberries because they were a day old and getting smushy (perfect for making jam). I ended up with 8 jars of jam and 2 bags of frozen fruit (future smoothies) for $10....yeah!

ps. Happy Earth Day

Monday, April 20, 2009

Strawberry season is here....Yippee Yahoo! 
 Someday I would like to be able to say that we grew these ourselves.  For now I can at least say that they were harvested 3 blocks from our house.

Brad came home for Spring break and helped himself to the bounty....and we're thinking of naming this kitty 'Polly' because of his shoulder-sitting habit.  

Sunday, April 19, 2009

They Grow up so Fast

Chickens, not kids.  Here's Sonny, our little wanna-be Hawk, posing for her photo. 

Sebastian (aka, the dog) looks far too interested in the birds.

Left to right...Fredo (she's the other half of the 'Mafia brothers', so named because she and Sonny were the dark colored girls )Cash Avery is the other tall hen and the 2 little Brahma females are Kayne and Doc Holiday.  This is what you get when you ask your kids and their freinds to help name the GIRLS.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wine Shop in Annapolis

...thanks for sending this John!

Our Legacy?

To dispel any fears about our lovely daughters 'ruined social life' I offer these photos.   Annies friends were over last weekend to name the newest chicks (we added 4 more but gave away 2 of the first set to get more variety....we now have 8 total).

I think it's safe to say that her friends were OK with our newfound 'wierdness'.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Plenty of good reasons.... stop buying bottled water.

By 2030 the United Nations estimates two-thirds of the world will lack access to clean drinking water. Tapped will illustrate the impact of the global water crisis on America and what we can do as individuals to enact change sooner rather than later. Tapped examines the role of the bottled water industry and its effects on our health, climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil.

And  on a lighter note...we found a good stainless steel water bottle at a local gift shop for $14. We now have 5 of them, and no longer buy any bottled water.  Since we were spending at least $25/month on water (our kids drink a LOT :)  it didn't take long to recoup our investement and start saving money...yea!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pantry Replacement Item #3

This may be the best, most frugal green thing I have ever kidding. I LOVE saving money with very little effort (is it any wonder our son wants a career that will pay him to sit around playing video games?)

This months pantry replacement item is ...Laundry Soap! And just so you know, we actually started using this about 2 months ago but I wanted to make sure it worked before passing along the info. It takes about an hour of your time and some containers; I bought a 3 gallon water jug to hold the finished product....along with an empty fruit juice bottle for the day-to-day use.

Here are the 3 ingredients...unless you count water. For a more detailed picotrial see what Lacy has going at Razor family farms (which is where I found this little gem).

I bar Fels-Napa soap...........................$1.07/bar
3/4 cup Borax.......................................$3.00/box
3/4cup natural wahing soda................$2.48/box

All three I found at WinCo for a total spent of $6.55, which turns out to be less than 70cents per GALLON of homemade soap (!!!). I also went ahead and picked up 5 more bars of the soap as obviously the boxes of borax and soda will last for a few recipes. We have a front-loader washing machine and have to use HE detergent, but this will substitute for HE detergent. For regular machines, and general info, the Simple dollar blog has a good cost comparison and does a test against Tide for cleaning effectiveness (his recipe has slightly different ratios but the same ingredients). I will say that I fully expected to give up some cleaning ability at this price, but so far that has not been an issue.

Grate soap in food processer or by hand (see previous comment on my attraction to very little effort). Melt in large pan with 2 cups water, gradually adding 4 more cups stirring pretty much constantly. I use a wisk to get it smoother.

Measure and mix together the washing soda and Borax....add to melted soap mixture. Stir until dissolved, remove from heat.
Add one quart hot water to the bottom of large container, I used a five gallon bucket. Pour in soapy mixture and add another gallon tap water. Stir. This is where you can either stop and let cool or thin to get less concentrated. Since the useage at this point is 1/4 cup per load, I usually add more water so that the final product is used at a rate of 1/2 cup per load (my kids just naturally add more to the machine, so this works for us). If you decide to dilute it, just add efuf to double the final product....I stuck a ruler down into the soap and added that much more (something like eight inches) water. Stir and let cool.

After cooling, stir again (it will get thicker as it cools and seperate) and pour into containers. The soap doesn't suds up like regular detergent does and needs to be shaken every time you use it, but well worth the little extra trouble for all the money you'll save :)

For more info on HE machines see the accompanying article here. And check out some other recipes for stain removal etc. on Down to Earth.

EDITED INFO - - - - We live in an area with hard water and have found that adding 1/4cup salt to the recipe helped counteract the minerals in the water. Also, when I refill the smaller containers I add 1/4 baking soda each time.

If I have a load that is particularly dirty, I add 1/4cup hydrogen peroxide in with the detergent (per load).

And lastly (it seemed simple at first, what can I's still cheaper than TIDE :) we use vinegar as a rinsing agent - goes in wherever you put the fabric softener.

Monday, April 6, 2009

An Announcement (alternate title...EEK!)

Despite our valiant efforts and endless protestations, son Sam (Sam of the 4.o GPA,  Sam the engineering student, Sam the "maybe I'll go to Med school, Mom") has decided to join ......the Army.  Yes, the actual U.S.Army....the one with real guns.

 Though we are immensely proud of him and are sure he will do well in any endeavor he embarks upon, we are obviously hesitant in endorsing a career that will most definitely include days where people will be shooting at him. Sam has signed up for Ranger School which will follow Basic training and Airborne school. Total training time will be 7 months before being assigned a duty station (so the current Mr. President has exactly 9 months to get our butts out of the Middle East). 

He leaves for Fort Benning, Georgia on the 26th of May (unless he is the victim of a debilitating, tho non-life threatening, 'incident' in the meantime - see Steve or Maureen for details on how you can precipitate said 'incident' and monetary payoffs :) We are planning to fly out for his Ranger graduation sometime in January, donations will be gladly accepted.

Seriously, and by far most importantly, we would like to ask you all to keep Sam in your prayers.  Pray for safety, wisdom, strength, safety (did I mention safety?) and the special 'don't change my sweet child' prayer....thanks all!

While you are at it, say a prayer for his mom (aka me) who is finding it difficult getting to sleep at night and he hasn't even left town yet!

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

March Garden Total

Oranges      -    5 lbs.
Broccoli        -   4 lbs.
  Spinach       -     4 lbs.
Peas             -   2 lbs.
 Snap Peas   -    1 lb.
Lettuce        -  2 lbs.
       Pecans         -   4 lbs.     

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Orange Juice Again!

More freinds who don't pick their fruit....more orange juice for us!  Good thing 'cause we are drinking at least a bottle a day (to be more precise...Sam is drinking a bottle a day :)