Sunday, September 30, 2007

Decorating simply, naturally and frugally

I'm not a real nut when it comes to decorating my home, but I enjoy nice touches as much as anyone.

This little fall bouquet is made up of "weeds" from my backyard, in a large coffee mug, as you can see. I like the way it turned out. It's made from grasses that were allowed to seed out, lavender seed heads and a few odds and ends.

Cost? Nothing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Frost Tonight

They're predicting the first frost of the season for us tonight. I picked a half bushel of green tomatoes and quit. I have almost that much in the house, ready to make juice or sauce. I've already made enough tomato sauce, but I'll make some more anyway and figure out some way to use it.

I picked the green peppers - what a bounty my one green pepper plant grew! There are a half dozen on the table right now and a few more small ones that I picked. I left the smallest on the plant just in case it doesn't frost. If the frost doesn't get them, they'll be good for dicing for the freezer. Some of the bigger ones will be halved and frozen for stuffed peppers.

The onion is still growing strong. I'm going to leave it and see what happens. There are three more acorn squash on the vine, not quite ready to pick. If the frost is hard at all, it will kill the vine, but the squash should be ok. The last of the potatoes are near the house so a frost shouldn't hurt them.

Throughout the summer, I froze plenty of green beans for the winter and have enough dried beans for three or four pots, which makes eight to ten meals. Not bad for a handful of beans that were so old I didn't want to cook them.

I'm feeling snug (or smug) and secure and rather frugal. Summer's been good, but I'm ready to move on.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Variation on a Theme: Candle Stove

Note: The pictures here are poor - no excuse. I didn't take the time to find the right lighting, I was more interested in the candle stove.

After discovering this Tea Time Candle Stove, I wanted to make one to see how well it would work, but of course, I'm too cheap to run out and buy tea lights and corks, so I scrounged around the house and came up with some alternatives. I'm pleased to report that the open candle stove worked very well. Here's how the experiment went:

Instead of using a hanger, I used a rack I already had, from a long gone electric skillet. I found a broken candle while rummaging for possible forgotten tea lights, so I cut that in lengths and used it. It was a cheap candle, so it burned faster than tea lights would have, but it was "free" from my stash.

I put the candles on a sheet of (used) aluminum and set the rack over them. Height is important, but not as much as I thought at first. Shorter candles seemed to cook as fast as taller ones. I did have trouble with cutting them too tall at first because when I set the pan over them the flame went out. I let them burn down a little then they were fine.

If you're familiar with campfire cooking, this is very similar. At first, I tried to keep adjusting the candles for the best heat, but since I had to remove the pan each time, I found it cooked faster when simply left it alone.

First, I tried boiling water. In about 10 minutes, it was simmering quite well, but never came to a full boil. Still, it was hot enough to make a cup of tea. Ramen noodles or pasta would have cooked in it and it would have cooked frozen vegetables or heated canned foods easily.

I raised the front of the aluminum foil to keep wax from getting on the range where my candle stove set, then thought that it might help concentrate the heat to lift the foil on every side, which I did. It seemed to help, but I'm not sure if it actually did or if it was wishful thinking on my part.

I thought the toughest test would be frying, so I put a couple of pieces of breakfast sausage into a small cast iron skillet. In a few minutes, it started sizzling. It seemed to take awhile to cook through, but maybe I was just hungry - I forgot to watch the clock on this part.

The proof is in my tummy - I had sausage, fried sauerkraut and tea for lunch. (That's my favorite mug, an Exxon Tony the Tiger advertising mug made by Fire King. It's "vintage, but I'm not sure exactly what years they were made.)

Notes: There will be lots of soot, so be aware of that. The candles can't burn cleanly under the circumstances. Use of a lid made all the difference in how quickly water came to a boil as well as how fast the sausage fried (from listening to the sound). I went through several matches before I learned what height of candle would keep burning. About a half inch from the rack seemed to be best.

Note to myself: Buy more candles!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kerosene and petroleum

I have this thing about lamps. Not electric lamps, but lamps that burn olive oil or wax or bear grease or the more modern "lamp oil." I own several of these oil burning lamps, some made when the oil was called "coal oil," and was the only light many houses had.

Coal oil has undergone changes through kerosene to lamp oil, but it's still basically liquid fuel. Coal oil was extracted from coal, while kerosene is a distillation of the new-at-the-time petroleum industry. Kerosene burned brighter and cleaner than coal oil, so it soon took the market. Later, kerosene was further refined, deodorized, made clear and renamed to lamp oil.

Ok, so that's our history lesson for the day.

I like to use the lamps now and then and it occurred to me that it might be wise to stock up a little on kerosene or lamp oil. I'm sure the price has gone up since I last bought it and I'm just as sure the price will continue going up.

I don't often stop to think of how much the oil industry has changed our lives. Many things are produced from petroleum that we take for granted. It would hurt if it were not so commonly available.

Plastics of all kinds, including the keyboard I'm typing on as well as 95% of the printer sitting here - everything from seat covers to writing pens and from dog dishes to thermostats... petroleum jelly and all the products made with it, and of course, gasoline and diesel and the roads we drive our vehicles on.

It may seem like a long leap from kerosene lamps to blacktop highways. Unfortunately, it's not. Anything having to do with petroleum is up for price increases, so if there's anything you can logically stock up on, it makes frugal sense right now.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Old Ways

It always amazes me how many people think like I do... or how I think like so many other people. It never seems like it until certain ideas come up, like enjoying "old ways" in reality and not just nostalgia. A thread at the Dollar Stretcher Community about using treadle sewing machines and another about Luddite tendencies helped spawn a new forum called Self Sufficient Living and then... the coolest new blog I've seen in a long time appears! It's from Lehman's, the nonelectric hardware store (that's really a lot more than that), and it covers a LOT of things. If you enjoy hands on living, you'll really like it. The blog is Lehman's Country Life - quite fitting. :)

Of course, I have an entry there, but that's beside the point. ;) I'm kidding. I do have an entry there, but I thoroughly enjoy reading the other entries and I think you will, too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Beautiful weather for frugal people

I'm loving this transitional weather between summer and winter. It's been cool enough to not need the air conditioner and warm enough to not need heat - a frugalite's dream. No comfort expenses and lots of simple pleasure. I've been wandering around outside on breaks and just soaking in the good feeling of early autumn.

It's too early to worry much about keeping warm this winter (although I have some things to do to batten down the hatches before then) and the garden isn't quite finished yet, so I don't have to clean it up and put it to sleep for the winter. It's just right to enjoy.

Besides wandering around outside, I've been writing a few more Wyoming memories and publishing them at, as well as working with the community at Dollar Stretcher and writing a few other things. Mostly I'm looking forward to more wonderful weather. (Like snow!)

The First House: Cleaning the Well

The First House: The Skunk in the Glass

Monday, September 10, 2007


I don't do much canning any more, because there's just one of me and I don't have that much of a garden, either... but when I used to put up a lot of food for the winter, it was always a challenge to find equipment at a good price. If you wind up paying too much for jars, canners, and canning toys like lid lifters and special tongs, canning your own food can cost you more than you can save.

I have an article on Dollar Stretcher about how to buy used canning equipment, so I won't go into it now, but watch your costs and don't forget to include the fuel it takes, either.

Because things used to save money in the past is not guarantee that they still do. Using a wood burning cookstove to cook all day may not cost much in real money, but keeping an electric or gas kitchen range going for hours does cost.

It's not always easy to back up and look at things the way they really are, but if you make the effort, you'll be dollars and cents ahead!

Saturday, September 8, 2007


I was thinking yesterday that there must be people who are into renaissance re-enactments, but don't know what a party line is. When we got our private line in, our bill didn't go down a bit. The question I had was, "Were we paying too much for the party line all that time?" A question with no answer, I guess.

Telephone communication has been one of those areas where it's very hard, if not impossible to save much money, until lately. With new technology, like VoIP, we are more in control of our communications expenses. With that and the popularity of cell phones, landline phones may very well be dinosaurs on their way to extinction.

Many people, especially young people, have opted to not even have a landline phone in their home. It isn't the "necessity" it was once seen as being.

Why, then, does the presence of a landline telephone have anything to do with your credit score? Inquiring minds want to know...


Thursday, September 6, 2007


Starting about this time of the year, if you live around farm country of any kind, you can sometimes gain a frugal coup by gleaning harvested fields.

We have gleaned potatoes, corn (which we fed to three huge turkeys - great Thanksgiving dinner that year!), onions, carrots and more. If you decide you want to glean, be sure and ask the farmer first. Some will let you, but some will not. Don't trespass without asking.

Also, if you live in farming country, keep your eyes open for produce spilled on the roads - especially side roads at corners where spills more frequently occur. I love to hop out and grab an onion or two when I see them, but it takes two people to do it right. The driver will pull up and stop, the passenger will jump out, grab the goodies and jump back in and the driver makes a getaway. Or something like that. :)

Spills will get you split or broken produce a lot of the time, but as long as it's fresh and you use it right away (dehydrate, can or freeze it), it's good food and it's free.

Is that extremely frugal, or just good sense?

"Frugal Subversive"

I've been tagged for this award:

Thank you very much. I'm proud to be subversive. ;)

I'll keep the rules of the meme and tag three more bloggers:

1. Dawn, at Frugal for Life - I love her attitude.

2. Terre, at Frugal, Single Mom. This is a newer blog but Terre's not new to blogging.

Well, ok. I tried. Who's going to be number three? And if I gave the award to someone who already has it, I apologize. I don't get around the blogging community as much as I'd like!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

More memories

I'm getting into the swing of things here! ;)

Maybe not.

Anyway, I just published three more articles about The First House.

The First House: A Real Swinger

The First House: Inside the House

The First House: Outside the House

All of those are fun, but the reality of it is that during those times and later, I learned to make do with whatever was available. Mom and Dad raised 8 kids on a ranch hand's salary and we never went hungry, never were cold or did without clothes. Mom was from a farm in Oklahoma and Daddy was from just over the border in Kansas. They both knew how to stretch a dollar and pinch a penny and then some.

Sure, we were poor, but we were happy and life was good.