Friday, February 27, 2009

Gardening fever

Today, I'm going to order some Jerusalem artichokes to plant and I'm sure that won't be the only thing. I have saved a lot of seed from last year, but there's always something else to try.

Every year my enthusiasm runs ahead of energy and time, and this year is no different I suppose... but this year, I'll get out there a little every day and keep up with it. This year, I'll get a few more canning jars and spend a few days just canning. This year... will probably be a rerun of last year and the year before.

Good intentions.

The results are usually pretty fair and there is garden produce enough to give away, but still. If I'd stay in control of the garden (or of myself, in reality), just think of the garden I could have!

Anyway... for today, I dream. My list gets longer and longer and I know very well that there isn't room for everything and some of it will hardly grow here. The list will have to be pared down again and again until I'm left with the basics: tomatoes, lettuce. Onions and squashes, beans, peppers...

Why don't I just start with those and call it good? Now, what would be the fun in that?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I hate to start everything I write with "in this economy," but what else can I do? So... "In this economy" we need to use all the tactics we can find to get the things we need without spending money. One way to do this is to barter.

Now, you don't need a bad economy to barter, but you may find others more willing to make deals if they're short on cash or if you have something they would like to have.

What that "something" is, can be a skill or technique or experience, or it can be food or "durable goods," or a service. That's just a way of saying that everything can be traded, given the right circumstances and people.

I have heard of people trading home canned goods for dental work; snow removal for fresh eggs, canning jars for hand knitted socks. We all have something that's valuable to someone else. Babysitting, dog walking, window washing, teaching skills and on and on... someone, somewhere needs it.

It may take a few tries to get started, but don't let that discourage you. I won't repeat everything I've written about it elsewhere, but I'll direct you to a couple of articles:

Wanna Trade? Barter Yourself to Financial Freedom

Seniors: Instead of Money, Barter

In the Community at Dollar Stretcher, there are a few threads about bartering that may open your eyes to the possibilities:

Bartering for Goods and Services

Gone to Bartering Yet?

If you haven't done it, there's no better time than right now.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mom's pie safe

Mom gave me her pie safe several years ago, but I never got it until she died because she was using it. My brothers brought it down a couple of weeks ago and I decided to put it in my kitchen. My kitchen is kind of small, so there wasn't room to get a picture of the whole thing in one shot.

I spent the better part of the weekend cleaning and repainting the inside. I will leave the outside, scars and all, to remind me of Mom. All of the corners were reinforced by Daddy to keep out the mice.

Most pie safes I've seen have had either punched tin doors or sides or vents covered with screen or punched tin. This one has had screen tacked over side holes.

The bottom shelves are for other storage, so don't have vents.

Since I don't bake nine pies at a time (which this would easily hold), I will use it for storing other kitchen essentials.

The frugal story... when I first thought of using it in the kitchen, I knew I'd have to do a lot of cleaning. I was at a Dollar Store and looked for Fantastik, which is my favorite heavy duty cleaner (I know... not green and not frugal!). They didn't have it, but they had another brand, so I bought it, thinking that it would work as well. It didn't. Not by a long shot.

So I went to the Fantastik web site (S.C. Johnson) and found a "contact us" link and emailed them. Well... they sent me a coupon for a free bottle!

And then, I wanted to paint the inside to make it more useable and first thought I would have to go and buy a quart of white paint, but I got to digging around and found a gallon of paint leftover from... at least 15 years ago. It was latex, so I put a little water in it, stirred and stirred and stirred some more and saved another few dollars on paint.

All in all, I spent a little over $3 for a bottle of cleaner - that didn't work!

P.S. The left drawer front is held on by duct tape along with some brass tacks. The drawer is long gone. I hope I can find someone to recreate it, but the challenge will be finding the right size wood. They plane wood different now than when this was made.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Kitchen machines

I was lazy today and made pudding from an instant mix instead of cooking it from scratch. Scratch is a little cheaper (although generic mix is pretty cheap!), but it's a lot better, and I suspect it's better for you. Well, not as bad, anyway.

I poured in the milk and added the mix, then reached for my handy dandy, sooper dooper, hand cranked old fashioned egg beater. They're not easy to find any more, but they're one of the best tools ever created for a kitchen. A good egg beater barely whines when you turn the handle. It's a finely tuned machine, perfectly balanced and intricately designed. Since it's manual, I can use it anywhere instead of reaching for an electric receptacle. It doesn't cost one penny to operate and what little exercise I got from it was good for me.

Multiply that times however many electric machines and makers you use and subtract the total. If you did the math right, you got less than nothing in exchange for using electricity and not using your own muscles.

Many kitchens have 5 or more electrical outlets for all the coffee makers, rice machines, electric knives, blenders, food processors, mixers, can openers, bread machines, electric teapots, toasters, toaster ovens, slow cookers, popcorn poppers, electric skillets, juicers... not to mention electric griddles and grills, electric woks, electric fondue pots, electric steamers and egg cookers and timers, hotplates, deep fryers, warming trays...

And then we wonder why our electric bills are so high.

(I realize there are those who are disabled who cannot do things otherwise and for those, I am glad electrical machines are available.)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Random thoughts on the economy

(I've been amiss in posting again... another bout with some health issues, but I'm here now!)

As the economy tightens (we're told) money is scarcer and harder to hold on to. Just a few things I've noticed lately: cost of natural gas has gone up, higher prices on some things in the grocery store, the price of gasoline is rising again. I don't have to tell you about the merry go round of people losing jobs, buying less, hurting businesses which lay off people or go out of business, causing job loss... and around it goes.

I don't know where it stops - or in the worst scenario, if it will stop this time. I do know that now, more than ever, all the little things we've learned over the last few years will help us get by. When pennies count for you, the entire economy takes a back seat to your own personal economy.

This may get a little political, but it's not intended to offend anyone. It's just common sense to me.

The fact is that capitalism works when people work and when there is a demand for goods, jobs are created, people are able to buy more and better goods, houses, cars, insurance and so on and a better merry go round experience is created.

Our infrastructure needs help, but why doesn't the government give a little slack so private business can do the work? Why do we have this problem in the first place? Because of government red tape, rules, regulations and laws. Hello? What is wrong with curing the problem instead of bandaiding the symptom?

Ok, enough of a rant for today. Gotta take my meds...