Simplifying Meals and the Budget (So You Want to Be a Homesteader #19)

I am learning a lot this summer.  I am learning to simplify my meal plan, my shopping list, and my budget in order to save time, energy, and a whole lot of money that will be used for other things.

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Making cookies is super easy and keeps Pa from buying packaged.

My meals are usually pretty elaborate affairs.  I would always have a long menu plan filled with delicious looking recipes from magazines and cookbooks.  Great if I happen to have all of those ingredients (not usually), and if I happen to want that particular meal on the night allotted.  No?  Then we were out at a restaurant.

When do you think restaurants skyrocketed in price?  It seems like overnight but yet, a few years later, I am still shocked that $40-$60 is the average ticket for two of us!  We noticed how we feel, the extra weight gain, the heartburn and pinned it down to when we go out.  I generally serve much smaller portions and the food is fresh and additive free at home.  We also took a look at the average we were spending on restaurants in a month.  Lord, have mercy.  That is money that could certainly be used elsewhere.

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Eggs, a little milk, chopped spinach and chives, sprinkle of cheese, salt and pepper.  Bake at 350 degrees until a knife comes out clean.  About 20 minutes.

I have found a few ways to make meals super easy.  First, choose a side or a main.  What do I have in the freezer?  Do I feel like wild rice?  What is growing in the garden?  Basically, what do I have?  Chicken, rice, frozen peas, carrots….I can make a homemade cream of celery sauce (milk, flour, salt, celery…you don’t need to buy those cans of cream soup), and fresh salad from the garden.  I plan that the day before so I can defrost as needed.  Things don’t get wasted, nothing languishes in the back of the fridge, and we eat clean and simply.  If I am short one ingredient, I go get it.

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I plan Doug’s lunch the day before as well.  Leftovers?  Sandwiches?  Do I need to make bread?

Hot cereal or homemade yogurt and granola start the day.

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By taking out elaborate and processed foods, I have saved time, money, and a lot of stress.

Now for simplifying the budget; this is important!  I needed to glean through and find lots of money.  Wedding, down payments….I have my reasons.  We usually do the envelope system.  I have $200 allotted for groceries for the week.  I would take two weeks worth of money and go to the store with my elaborate lists and spend the amount.  Until I noticed that I have tons of staples, frozen foods, and vegetables growing in the garden.  I was spending the money just to spend the money!  So instead I only get what I need.  A short list at the end of the weeks of things like flour, yeast, coffee, etc.  We are saving $400 a month on groceries.

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So then I’m on a roll, ’cause Mama wants a bigger farm.  Where else am I spending just to spend?  Well, let’s just say I am busy spending only what I absolutely need to.  No dwindling “extra” money in envelopes and using the dreaded budget buster- the debit card.  I am saving an average of $800 a month!

Try it!  Don’t use credit cards.  Rarely use the debit card.  Pull out a hundred bucks and make it last as looooong as possible.  Use what you have.  Cook simply with what you have.  Try to sell some things and earn a little more and see how quickly things add up.

Simple=Peace of Mind

Before You Give to a Charity (really helping those in need)

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‘Tis the time of year for charities.  To give to those less fortunate.  To share some of our blessings.

We often gave money to organizations that helped the homeless.  Then we became homeless ourselves after losing our rented farm.  We opted not to go on welfare, but rather to work very hard to get jobs and get back on our feet.  About this time two years ago we were out of money and hungry.  You can only eat so many dollar burritos from Taco Bell with found change.  We looked into getting a food basket from a local charity that distributed them.  I didn’t have a coat, I was freezing.  We were really struggling and not a single organization could or would help us.  They gave everything to the “poorest” in the county.  Well, you couldn’t have been poorer than us at that moment.  You have to work pretty dang hard to be the poorest in the county.  You have to get on welfare and food stamps, and you can’t try to find work or you would lose your pay out every month.  No thanks.

Then we have the homeless organizations that we gave to.  Those are intended to serve the perfectly able folks with signs-who make more money than anyone I know- on the corners of busy streets.  We did a farmer’s market for years in a park that was popular with the homeless.  They stole, took drugs in the park, excitedly went and got free food from the food kitchen, and had no desire to change their lives.  Or they wouldn’t be homeless anymore.  It was a lifestyle they chose.  They were the first to admit it.  And that really surprised us.

Now, this all sounds a little harsh, but let me be clear, there are people out there that need your help.  They just don’t have cardboard signs and are working hard to try and make it.  They are the elderly on your block who would love company and a meal with someone.  It’s the single mom who can’t afford new coats for her swiftly growing children.  It’s the friend at work whose wife is sick and they need help with meals and cleaning the house but would never ask.  There are people all around you who could use a bit of charity and mercy and help.

Only a few cents goes to the people large charities serve.  If you were to just look around you could have a much more powerful impact, make a personal connection, and strengthen the community you are in.  I will forever be grateful to my old neighbors who showed up at my shop with a box of home canned food, squash, a winter coat, and a hug.

Before you write a check to a big charity, look around and see if anyone near you could use a little holiday help.  We all need a little help here and there.

(Thank you to all of our friends that pitched in back then with money, a place to stay, a dinner, and hugs.  We never imagined we would have been in that situation.  Amazing how much can change in such a short time. We are really grateful for all we have now.)

 

The Job to Make a Dream

After our farm dream temporarily came to a halt (which ended up being a very good thing as gigantic windmills were installed across the street looming over the farm, the propane tank accidentally blew up, and the distance and dream were just not quite right…hind sight…a very good thing indeed.  Sometimes we have to be assisted out of the wrong path and placed in the right path rather forcefully) Doug dutifully went back to work as I opened the shop so that we could get back on our feet.  There were no IT jobs to be had at the time and the company that returned his call and interviewed him was at a large corporate coffee shop.  He had experience working at our local coffee shop and it seemed a perfect job for him.  However living on just a bit over minimum wage was proving to be frustrating for the work involved.  He wasn’t happy.

A few weeks ago my cousin was rounding up our old pool team to start in the spring and Doug got on the phone with one of those friends, who I believe Doug has known since birth as their dads have played cards together for some odd fifty years.  He owns an IT company.  He has been wanting Doug to work for him forever but we couldn’t get a hold of him last year and he didn’t know what had happened with us, and the timing just wasn’t right.  Doug promised his company six months.  It is now six months, his notice is in, and Doug will be working back in the field he really knows and thrives in.

He will be making a decent wage and the dream of buying our own farm (the size of said farm…urban or rural is still questionable) is back in motion…save, save, save.  I love watching this saga unfold.

 

Once a Farmgirl, Always a Farmgirl

Limbo.  A basement studio apartment graciously rented to us by our friend.  A shop trying to pick up steam.  A man working so hard.  What do we do now?

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We have always had plans.  Dreams.  Goals.  I need a homestead.  I don’t mind if it’s in town or not.  A goat, some chickens, a gardened front yard.  Clothes flicking in the wind on a clothes line.  The windows steamy from canning tomatoes.  Doug’s goal is financial security.  Once and for all.  When we spoke our wedding vows, for richer for poorer, we thought we’d get both!  Done with the poorer, he says.  His dream, his goal, his manifesting is security and to pay a light bill without wondering how to pay for groceries.  Mine is to do the same but in a little homestead.  With lace curtains in the windows, cats by the fire, fresh rolls baking in the oven.  Home sweet home.

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Homestead, here we come.

To Thine Own Self Be True (a recognition of oneself when starting over)

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I am Yeopim Indian and Cherokee proud, and Scottish and English and Irish loud, along with Dutch and Black French and possibly more.  And from them all my genetic disposition lays.  In my hair, in my eyes, in my innate knowledge and intuition, in my sense of adventure and in my search for home do I find glimpses of all those that came before.  All my ancestors, all in me.  But I alone have my spirit.  My true self.  That has been here before.

And in mindful analysis and decompression of the physical frame as each day becomes a bit more mundane the layers of thought and peers wash aside as the essence of being comes forth in glints of light.

“Why do you fear being wealthy?”  “Why do you believe you do not deserve riches?” I am asked.

Struck, I wonder, is this true?  Should I be rich in homes with heightened ceilings and possessions galore?  Is that what my life’s work is for?  I would like to have enough-though that maybe less than many, more than some.  Seeds to grow into food for mind and strength and chickens here and there.  A rambling adobe with rooms for art and friends, for laughter, for cooking, for light, and memory.

Enough to visit new places at whim, for inspiration and to meet people and culture new.  But to watch a sunset from my own porch swing would be as sweet a riches as I could dream.

Sommelier?  I cannot drink more than one glass of wine!  Food industry?  I can’t stay up past nine!  A city plot, cement gardens, and lack of birds, no deer around, no late owl heard?

Impossible.

Homesteader, homemaker, home dreamer am I.  Making a home under the Great Mystery’s sky.

My job is to raise grandchildren when so blessed to have them near.  To teach them herbs, and trees, and birds, and through the wind the Creator heard.  To show them things that schools do not know.

To help those that seek my help, in physical or spiritual need should they ask, to find the right herbs and prayers and songs.

Silence and nature are my friends as the early dawn and the night sky guide my days all year long.

Ending an Era to Make Dreams Come True (full time farmer and The Homesteading School at Pumpkin Hollow Farm)

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I write a lot about following dreams, taking chances, and working to bring goals to fruition.  It never fails to amaze me how when you start walking toward your dream, the doors naturally open and some close.  The universe conspires to bring everything into alignment, or “Everything works together for the good of those who love Him.” Romans 8:28.  I am sure there are passages and sayings such as these in every culture and in many circles.  It is a fact that if you so desire something and start putting it out there that you want that goal, you will achieve it.  Passions are put in our hearts for a reason and I view them as a guide map of where my journey ought to go.

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Five years ago when Doug left his city job with the comfy pay and benefits and I closed my dance company so that we could go peddle Echinacea at markets with three children at home, it was scary.  How many bottles of medicine would we have to sell to survive?  But we took that leap of faith.  A shop came available.  The money appeared.  The customers came.  The shop closed.  The customers doubled.  For six total years we have had the great pleasure of meeting and helping literally thousands of people.  We have learned and dreamed and succeeded.  And now the few we have whispered to our crazy idea wonder why we would close a perfectly good business that brings in a good amount of income.

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I teach.  It’s what I do.  I stayed in at recess in second grade to teach younger kids how to read.  I taught modeling while I was a model.  I taught acting classes.  I taught dance classes.  I teach herbal classes.  I teach homesteading classes.  I want to teach and farm full time.  Well, with this lifestyle when I say full time I mean enough to get the bills paid and then spend some time in a hammock or writing!

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I have a strong passion for teaching people how to empower themselves with plant medicines.  To not be fearful of diseases in the news.  To not be afraid of broken wrists or high fevers.  Knowledge that was lost must be found and redistributed!  I want to teach all about herbalism.  If there is an underlying worry that the student will become my competition then I cannot be a proper teacher.  If I have to keep all of my tried and true recipes top secret then what good am I doing?  By closing my Apothecary I will be a far more effective teacher.  I also lowered the price of my classes.  I combined the additional Master’s class into the Certified Class for the price of the latter.  A much more comprehensive course at a reasonable price.  Our school is superior to many of the others.  I know this because I have had interns from other schools who knew nothing about practical uses of herbalism.  But I lowered my price to make it more accessible.

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I have a strong passion for homesteading.  I love the freedom of it.  I love having the option to go watch the sunset, then come in and make supper, after I play with the goats, and plant a few more kale seeds.  I love that we can live on a small enough number that it is somewhat easy to get the bills paid and still have plenty of time to be together and play and enjoy our farm.  I love teaching homesteading classes.  Because the second you teach someone how to can, you open up a whole new world of affordable, healthy eating.  If someone can make their own soap, they eliminate the need to purchase expensive soaps and do not need to worry about skin conditions and irritation.  Teach someone how to farm, and they don’t need to depend on the grocery store so much.  Teach someone how to do any of the skills I offer classes for and they save money and are more easily able to attain their goals.

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I have a strong passion for farming.  The soil on my fingers, caterpillars slinking by, birds singing, bees on the flowers near, providing food for myself and others.  I love the animals.  I love this life.

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In the summer I am often too busy to really enjoy any of it.  We do farmer’s markets all week, we make a year’s worth of medicines, we answer phone calls and emails, we fill product, we ship, we wild craft and harvest enough for the year, we preserve all of our own food.  Now we will be getting most of our own wood.  We have a larger space to farm.  We have more animals.  When do I have time to really pursue farming and teaching when I am so busy with the Apothecary and basic homesteading?

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Something had to go and it wasn’t the chickens!  So, June 1st I am closing my Apothecary.  I’ll still be around to help people in a pinch.  I can still work on a sprained ankle or have some salve on hand.  But the retail side will be gone.  I am going to really promote my classes, which will be the make or break of this crazy idea, and I will farm with all my heart and spirit and physical ability.  Doug by my side.

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And when you put something out there, listen.  As the wheels of the goal start turning and coming into being you will be able to feel if you are on the right path by how much resistance comes your way.  Yesterday, a gal that runs a market in Elizabeth asked me to come each week and teach a small class or demonstration and promote my school.  For free.  I had the best talk with my intern from last year who resides in New York.  He’s coming out for two months this summer to help us get this thing in full swing.  I’m on fire, folks!  I am so excited.

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One always thinks of the worst case scenarios which hardly ever come up.  What if we need to make more money? (get a part time job or sell something else)  What if a storm wipes out the gardens?  After any storm in life we get up and start over knowing that only good can come out of difficulty.  But life is short and dreams are big, so we may as well start following them now.  I have no doubt that come summer this blog will be reflecting that dream come true.

Now, it’s your turn, dear reader.  Write out that dream or goal, no matter how big or small.  Details, people!  Get it all out.  Now, are you really ready for it to come true?  You wouldn’t want to block your own goal!  Now, place it in the responses so that the wheel can start turning.  It’s going to be an exciting year!

How Much Does it Cost to Have a Farm Animal?

We knew how much it cost to buy the farm animals.  Approximately two or three dollars per chick.  $200 per alpaca (that was a smoking deal).  $200 for the pair of adorable goats to be bartered for herbal medicine.  (Another great deal.  We should be able to sell Katrina’s babies for $200-$300 each!)

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What we didn’t know and couldn’t seem to get answers to was how much is it to raise these guys?  How much to feed them?  Twenty dollars a month?  Two hundred dollars a month?  I needed to know if I would have to return the farm animals after three weeks if we couldn’t afford it.  I keep a good budget (it could certainly be better) and I save up money for months in advance because our main income is earned during the summer.  So, if some farm kid is going to eat us out of house and farm, Lord, I need to know about it!

Look who wanted in this morning!

I have gathered the numbers for all of you out there wanting to get a few cute farm animals yourself.

Introducing Ferdinand!

Alpacas are surprisingly affordable.  The upfront cost can make you choke (count on $300 for a fiber boy up to $20,000 for a prized breeding girl) but once you get the little guys they don’t cost much.  We’re talking one bale of hay between the both of them.  Around $13 a month.  With pine shavings and the pellets that have their minerals in it takes us to twenty.  So, each fiber boy costs $10 a month.  It’s a good thing they don’t cost much to feed because any animal that is that fluffy and cute should allow me to go snuggle with it.  No can do.  They don’t come near me.  Sad.

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Goats eat a tad more, but not much. They love to eat.  We got a pregnant mama here.  They don’t need the grain. (I was told at church yesterday by Jill.  We spoil them a tad too much perhaps.)  So with pine shavings, this makes the girls about the same.  $10 a piece per month.  We’ll give some sweet feed in a few months when we are milking Katrina, so that will raise it up slightly.  Jill gave us a good start on minerals.  So, when we do have to purchase minerals and the sweet feed, we may be looking at $15 a piece per month.  I have Nigerian Dwarves, so a larger breed would probably eat more.

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The chickens….wouldn’t you expect them to be the cheapest?  They are giving us eggs to pay for their room and board.  We feed organic feed.  It’s not that much more than the GMO stuff.  They have been going through much more lately because of the cold and lack of forage (and lack of things to do, in my opinion).  $36 dollar a month plus pine shavings which will take us to roughly $40 a month.  At the two to three eggs a day from fifteen hens and their useless (but good looking) husband, that makes each dozen of eggs cost $6 a piece.  No profit.  But, we do have to consider that we don’t buy eggs either.  So, I am okay with that cost.

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The greyhound costs $20 a month and eight cats cost $60 a month.  So, in the end, the cats are the ones eating us out of house and farm.  They better get back to mousing!

Of course these costs don’t take into consideration veterinarian costs.  But, we rarely to never use a vet.  We are herbalists and teach people how to treat their own animals.  Not much we can’t help take care of.  So, that saves us a tremendous amount of money having that knowledge.  We did pay $75 for the people we got Natale from to geld him.  Looks like the bratty Ferdinand may have to go that route too, we’ll see.  But, just having a cat can place you at risk for having a huge vet bill in an emergency, so I don’t count vet costs because that would come out of an emergency fund.

It is nice though, to see a general cost of feed and housing.  A house is much more of a home with a rooster and a goat, don’t you think?  Now, how much does it cost to have a sheep….

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