Working Towards Goals

Rose
Rose from the rosebush in front of my house.

Learning

I’ve been wanting to learn to sew for a very long time. I didn’t take Home Ec in high school, and I’ve been hoping to find a way to learn. I found the website of a local lady who teaches beginning sewing in her home. I just happened to come upon a sale on Amazon for a Singer sewing machine that was a whopping $100 off normal price. I had some savings I had been holding onto for something special. I decided to buy the sewing machine, and I should get it by Monday of next week.

I wrote the instructor, and asked about classes. We decided that I would start taking classes next Wednesday morning. I will take 2 hour classes each Wednesday for a month. I’m so looking forward to it. I’m always seeing things I’d like to make.

I feel like learning a new skill like this could help me in a lot of ways. I can repair our clothes, and make all kinds of things. I’ve already saved some patterns online to work on once I learn and practice.

Budgeting

I sort of let the budget slide off the rails around Christmas, and I’ve never picked back up to follow a sensible budget. The biggest thing we spend money on is food and eating out. It’s now time to tighten the pursestrings, and get things whipped back into shape. Before Christmas I was sticking to a $350/mo groceries. I’m going to try to make as many of the convenience type foods as possible. Also I’m working at becoming a more proficient cook. I’ve been looking for new things to try all the time. Variety makes it less likely that we will go out to eat. I also want to make sure I have leftovers or things for BJ to take for lunch at work. 

As much as I’ve studied frugality and thriftiness over the years, I would’ve though I’d be an expert at it by now. Still, I somehow always find myself wanting this and that. I’m not exactly a compulsive shopper, but occasionally I’m a careless shopper. I’m hoping that I can change that for the better as I learn more about self-sufficiency.

Blackberry blooms
Blackberry bush that appeared in my front flowerbed.

Working on Self-sufficiency

There’s enough information out there online about self-sufficiency to make your head spin. There are so many things to learn that you have to pick and choose which skills are most appealing to you. Also something I have a hard time doing is to stop reading about it, and actually get out there and do it.

Sandwich loaves

Undeterred by my last semi fail at grinding my own wheat, and making a loaf of bread, I found a new recipe and tried again. My goal was to get a loaf of bread that made slices that BJ would be able to use to make sandwiches for work. I found an interesting recipe online so I decided to try it. This time I used the hard white wheat berries instead of the red. I also watched a video of a lady grinding her wheat in a Vitamix dry container like I own. She said that it really works best to only grind up 1 cup at a time, and turn it all the way to high then let it run for one full minute. I needed 6 1/2 cups of flour for this recipe so it took a little while to grind it all up. I would dump each cupful of ground flour into a mesh sieve that would filter out the bigger chunks of wheat that didn’t get ground up properly. In this recipe I used 4 teaspoons of yeast, 1/3 cup of coconut oil, and 1/3 cup of honey. I let my mixer do the kneading for me, and it turned out beautifully. I made two loaves, and they are the perfect size for sandwiches! BJ sliced one loaf up for me, and I’m going to vacuum seal the other loaf for later use.

Another thing I like to do is save all the scraps from my vegetable cuttings. I put onion skins and pieces, the ends of zucchini, and random scraps of whatever vegetable I’ve been cutting up into a gallon Ziplock bag. It stays in the freezer until I have enough to fill my crockpot. While I was working on my bread, I filled my crockpot up with the frozen pieces, and then covered them with water and a dash of salt. I set it on low for 9 hours, and let it do it’s magic. When it’s done, I get canning jars, a canning jar funnel, and a fine mesh sieve to get just the liquid into the jars. By doing this I’m making my very own vegetable stock that can be used for lots of things like cooking rice or beans in. I put them all in the fridge for now, but I plan on putting two of them in the freezer for future use. I ended up with three quart-sized jars full of stock.

Homemade vegetable broth

It’s simply a blessing to be learning skills that are useful to our home and budget. I will continue reading books, blogs, and magazines on the topics that will help me build my skills.

 

 

Miscellany

The Beauty of Nature

Relaxing
Relaxing at Madison County Nature Trail

BJ and I have been making treks up Green Mountain to the Madison County Nature Trail for many years. It is a wonderful spot to view nature and relax. Once you enter the park, you really don’t have any cell phone signal, although I have seen some people using their phones there. There is a 1.5 mile nature trail that you can walk along. I am not in good enough shape yet to do it, but I have walked it in the past. I hope to be able to do it again this year as I build up my stamina.

If you go during the day in the middle of the week, you will find it almost empty. You will sometimes see cars, but no one at the entrance and pavilion of the park. A lot of people go there to walk the trail. I like to sit at the pavilion in a wooden rocking chair, looking out over the manmade lake and seeing the covered walking bridge.

This week, BJ and I decided to make a trip up there on a Friday afternoon after he got off work. There were a few people milling around. There was a large family having a picnic and doing some fishing in the lake, there were some people dressed in prom dresses and tuxes having their pictures taken. Overall the park was quiet, and the weather was gorgeous. Sunny, and not too hot with a slight breeze. We decided to walk along the trail to the covered bridge.

MCNT
Water feature near the start of the trail.

BJ was of course fascinated by the lake and the fish he could see in it. I was busy looking at the plant life, and there is plenty of it to be seen. I’m including some pictures of some of the plants we saw. My mom helped me identify some of these.

Yellow Wild Azaleas
Yellow Wild Azalea Tree
Pink Wild Azaleas
Pink Wild Azalea Tree

We walked across the covered bridge while BJ looked out every window opening to catch glimpses of the fish below in the lake. We walked back toward the entrance, and BJ almost stepped on a poisonous snake.

Wild Red Magnolia
Wild Red Magnolia

It was an Earth Day treat to go visit the trail.


Weight Loss and Exercise

A major issue for most of my life has been my weight. I have yo-yo’d up and down over the years. I got a gastric bypass in 2008, and because I wasn’t truly ready for the surgery, I gained the 90lbs that I lost back over the course of several years. I’ve never been really good at sticking with exercise. I have joined a couple of gyms in the past. I joined a gym at the local Wellness Center back in 2014. I decided to hit the gym hard, and work as fast and as hard as I could. In the end, I ended up injuring my left foot badly enough that in June of 2015 I had to have foot surgery.

I felt discouraged, but I’ve never given up hope that I can get to a healthy weight. In January of 2015 I joined Weight Watchers to start the process of losing weight. As of today I am down 74 pounds. I stopped WW a few months ago, because $20/mo was just too much to pay for something I already know how to do. I downloaded the app “MyFitnessPal” on my iPhone, and I’ve been tracking calories ever since.

I’ve recently started exercising again. I’m starting out slow with walking and doing some yoga. I am keeping a record of my steps on my phone.

Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup
Swiss Chard and Lentil Soup with mashed baked potatoes.

Although I don’t always eat healthy, I do try to most of the time. It is possible to be a vegetarian, and still not eat as healthy as you are supposed to.

Life at Home

Whos Up There
Whatcha doin up there?

Garden

It’s getting closer every day to the time when I can plant all the seeds I’ve acquired. We’re in the process of fertilizing the straw bale gardens. It has about 5 days left until we can put our soil on the top. You can technically plant transplants or plants that are already growing into the straw bale. You just make a bit of a hole in the soil and straw. I prefer to start with seeds, because they are cheaper to start with. If you would like to learn more about straw bale gardening, I recommend Straw Bale Gardening by Joel Karsten. Amazon has an updated version of the book that was published in February 2015. I have an older version, but it is still relevant. In the book you follow a 12 day process of alternating amounts of fertilizer on one day, and then watering another day. I’m hoping they do really well this year. Dirt In Flowerbed We finally were able to get fill dirt to add to our flower/herb garden. BJ went to get a pickup truck bed full of the dirt. He brought his truck into the backyard, and we shoveled dirt out of the truck into the middle of the flowerbed. Yesterday, BJ added compost and vermiculite to the dirt. It is supposed to rain soon, but as soon as the dirt is a little dryer I’ll start putting dirt into the holes of the cinder blocks. It won’t be long before I’m able to start planting all my seeds. I’m so excited. Now if I could just deal with that pesky pollen!

BJ’s “Honey Do” list keeps growing, poor guy! I decided I’d like a bench to sit outside and enjoy the yard. He can get pallets basically for free from work, so I’m looking up plans of different benches and chairs made from pallets. I’ve already told him that I’d like a greenhouse in the back yard, and he wants to build a small storage building to store the mowers and garden implements in.

Denver Stretching


 

Reading

I have a ridiculous amount of books to read, but I always seem to be acquiring more. I found a larger local used bookstore that has a pretty good selection, but their prices are a little higher than I’d like to pay. My favorite spot to get used books is the “Friends of the Public Library” bookstore. They have a lot of cool books in a small space, and the prices are amazing. I also buy a ton of ebooks on Amazon for my Kindle app. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be able to read all the books that I’ve downloaded. I have a bunch of different wish lists on Amazon, but I have a physical book list, and a Kindle book list.

Due to the migraines I had been having, I was having a very hard time with concentration. The headaches are almost gone now, so I’m able to focus much more easily. I found a book at the library bookstore that was on my Kindle wish list. Online it is $20 for a new book, and the digital addition is $13.49. I found this book for the outrageous price of $1.00. I have started reading it, and I’m enjoying it so far.

The book is called Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes, if you’d like to check it out on Amazon just click here. So far the book seems to focus not on homemaking as a duty of non-working women staying home and slaving away in servitude of a husband. This book highlights that homemaking is something for everyone single, married, male, female, young, or old. The main idea is that over the last couple generations, we have lost many of the essential skills to be as self-sufficiency. As I read thru the book I will update on my feelings of what I’m reading.

Book

The book is inspiring me to work harder at having a self-sufficient lifestyle. It’s amazing how much money BJ and I have wasted on non-essential items. I want to maximize our savings budget, and learn things that are useful. I’m seriously considering taking a beginner’s sewing class. I have been wanting to learn to sew for years.


 

My Self-sufficient Trials and Errors

When teaching ourselves new tasks realizing there is a high probably of failure is something that I’ve struggled with. I’m working to learn more and more every day. I absolutely love to learn, and there’s so many chances to learn every single day.

I had a trial and error with baking some bread this week. I bought a dry grinding container for my blender that breaks down wheat berries. I had gotten a bag of both hard red wheat berries, and hard white wheat berries. I had been hesitant to take the plunge to grind the wheat and make bread with it. The blender ground up the hard red wheat berries beautifully, my only problem is I didn’t feel how ground up it was until I had already started using it. I think next time I’ll make sure it’s ground finer.

Grinding Flour I let the yeast rest in hot sugar water for 15 minutes, and then I poured in half of the flour. My second mistake was that I didn’t allow the flour to be incorporated enough. Next time I’ll mix it longer. Then I put in the other half of the wheat in the mixer. It never seemed to have the consistency of my prior bread doughs. Perhaps the gluten wasn’t being properly stretched. I probably should have let that mix longer as well. I turned it out onto a floured board and kneaded it a little. I let it rise for an hour in an oiled bowl. I could actually hear it making a crackling sound as it was rising. At the end of the rise I was supposed to punch down the dough, knead it a little and turn it out onto a floured board. I cut the dough in half, and put each loaf in my silicone bread pans. I let them rise for another 30 minutes, and then I stuck them in the oven. I always cut a slice off the end off one of the loaves to test it out. It was just ok, it didn’t taste as good and didn’t seem to be too dense.

Bread Dough
Bread Rising

I’m ok with there being some trial and error as long as I’m learning.

As I try to master the art of homemaking, I will be updating here.

 

 

I Haven’t Forgotten

 

Rose
Rose from our front flowerbed

I really haven’t forgotten about the blog. I’ve just neglected it. We’ve had a whirlwind of activity around here in the past few weeks. There have been many changes in our family’s lives in both scary and exciting ways. My father-in-law had a massive heart attack, and after several scary days of waiting, his body healed enough for the doctors to put a stent in an artery that was 99% occluded. He is on the mend, but he has two more arteries that need stents. Those will be done after more healing occurs.


 

Princess

Princess2

When I was 18-years old, I moved into BJ’s parent’s home. I lived in the basement. One Saturday I came home, and there was a little fluffball of a puppy. BJ had gotten this sweet little dog for me from the local flea market. We named her Princess, and she was so much fun. She slept in the bed with me at night while she was little. When BJ and I moved into an apartment in 2000, I had to leave Princess with BJ’s parents. Before long they moved further out into the country and Princess had plenty of room to run and play. She was so fast and smart. She was part border collie, and part jack russell. She would run beside your car as you drove up the long driveway, and she could keep up with us while we were going as fast as 25mph. She lived a very long and happy life. She always recognized us when we came to visit my in-laws, and would try to “talk” to us with little noises. As she aged she finally lost her sight to cataracts and appeared to have lost her hearing. A couple weeks ago we went to my in-law’s house, and I noticed I didn’t see her sitting in her normal spot by the kitchen door. My mother-in-law didn’t want me to know, but Princess was missing. Apparently she wandered off, perhaps to cross the rainbow bridge on her own. It is so hard to believe after so many years that I won’t see that sweet pup when I go to my in-law’s. She was one of the first major gifts BJ got for me, and it was like the end of a chapter or our lives to realize she is now gone forever. We searched for her in the dark, and the family had searched the day before. She will forever hold a piece of my heart as my Princess, the thing BJ calls me each night as we say goodnight.

Princess
Princess a few months ago with a coat my mother-in-law got her.

 

Plants and Spring

Bluebells
Bluebell flowers BJ got me.

Spring has now made it’s appearance after a rather mild winter. All the seeds I’ve been looking at for months, are close to being ready to plant. We should be getting a truck bed full of dirt soon to fill the large cinderblock flowerbed. That will be filled with different flower seeds. I’m ready to fill the holes of the cinder blocks with herbs. We have started this year’s straw bales. You prepare them for 12 days before putting down a layer of soil on top, and then you are ready to plant your vegetable seeds. I had originally wanted to do 10 bales, but the bales are slightly expensive so we decided on 8. To prevent the avalanche of straw during the middle of the growing season like last year, BJ cut up some wooden pallets, and held them in place with pieces of rebar.

Straw Bales 2016

There will be T-posts on each end, and several levels of wire strung across to each T-post to use as a trellis. We’re also planning on putting something on the ends of the straw bales. Side of Straw Bales

I will be growing some things in buckets too. This past weekend I planted dahlia bulbs in medium size flower pots. I stuck them on either side of the patio paver walkway near the main flowerbed. I repotted some plants I had in the kitchen. BJ had gotten me a couple of beautiful pots that I used.

I put my jade an aloe in the pots, and I had another pot with an overgrown mother-in-law tongue that had a lot of dead leaves. I dumped it out, and sorted out the green growth, and then centered it in the pot.


Moving Forward

As long as I can remember in my life I have always looked towards the future, and what my plans and goals are. It catapulted me thru college so quickly that I had a master’s degree in nursing by the time I was 23. Many things in my life have changed over the years, just like they do in everyone’s lives. I am looking at life in a different way than what I had planned for years. Although things will be very different than what I had envisioned before, I’m still hopeful. On April 4th, BJ and I celebrated the 18th anniversary of us becoming a couple. It has been wonderful having him in my life, and the vision of us spending our lives together remains the same. Our ability to grow and change together as time goes on keeps us strong.

My thoughts about my personal future is that I’ll be taking time to learn many things and devoting time to my health. I will be studying things that will improve our self-sufficiency like gardening, sewing, herbalism, homemaking, and maximizing our finances. There are many things I am interested in, and of course there isn’t time for everything, but I’m dedicated to doing the most that I can. Like the quote in my craft room says, “Bloom where you are planted”. I want to make the most of each day ahead of BJ and I both.

 

Catching Up

Purple

The weekend after I visited my mom I spent mostly hanging out in the craft room. I was feeling a little down, so Saturday night BJ took me to Big Spring Park to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful night.

Gorgeous Night

This park is always pretty, but that night it was especially magical looking. The spring is full of koi fish, some are absolutely huge. There are lots of ducks to feed. We walked some so I could get a little exercise. I stopped to take in how pretty the city looks at night.

Big Spring Park 1

Night Out


The week started out with BJ working closing shifts. I went for a walk in the neighborhood Monday afternoon. I had gone to get acupuncture and then some groceries. I hung out in my craft room listening to music.

Tuesday night we found out that my father-in-law had had a massive heart attack. I had actually been the one to talk him into going to the hospital. He thought it was just heartburn. I had missed a few days earlier and his family doctor also thought it was something like heartburn.

Wednesday morning we found out how serious my father-in-law’s heart attack had been, and we drove to see him in the ICU. It was a very scary time with a lot of worried family members. Since I have a medical background I did a some translation of what the doctor and nurses were saying to the family. We stayed at the ICU waiting room with the family until the last visiting hours. We came home to let Joey out and to feed Denver.

Thursday morning the rain was pouring. A few days earlier I had noticed a spot on the ceiling of my craft room that looked like it had some water damage. BJ went into the attic, and didn’t see any signs of a leak. He figures that the rain at another time had blown under the soffit. While he was up in the attic he found a box of wedding momentos that I had been looking for. I’m so excited, because some of the things in there will be used in my shadowbox displaying some items from our wedding.

Tiara Later in the day we went back to see BJ’s dad. We got to see our nephews that live part of the time in Boston. One of my nephews I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. We didn’t stay too long because the weather was going to get bad. I have a phobia of tornadoes, and as we were leaving the hospital the tornado sirens started sounding. I found the radar on my phone, and then pulled up a live stream from television of the weather. It was just north of us as we travelled home. The sky was so ominous looking. We finally made it home safely, and I was feeling less anxious.

Friday morning BJ went fishing with my stepdad, and I worked on some product reviews. I began having a headache, so I fell asleep a couple of times in my recliner. In the afternoon my dad came to visit. I stayed home while BJ went to visit his dad who had been moved to a regular room, because he was slowly improving. My dad and I went out to eat, and I had some vegetarian chili with cornbread, and my dad had a different kind of chili.Doggie BookendsI had requested that my dad bring these doggie bookends from my grandmother’s house to me. I don’t know exactly how old they are, but I know for sure that there are pictures from the 50’s of them in my grandmother’s house. I’m so excited to be able to use them in my craft room. I’ve always loved them. My bookcase is full, so this will hold books on top of a plastic shelving unit. I have too many books.

Saturday my dad went to buy us breakfast. I’m not supposed to be eating anything processed, but I do good the majority of the time. I had an egg and cheese biscuit. BJ woke up after some well deserved sleep. After eating and hanging out a little while he went to go buy a few of the straw bales for this year’s garden. We had originally planned on doing 10 bales, but due to costs and the fact that we have other projects going, we decided on doing 8 bales this year instead. We had 5 bales last year. I’m going to be growing some things in buckets and flower pots, plus we’ll have the big “H” shaped flowerbed of cinderblock. All the holes will be filled with edible herbs and maybe some vegetables.

We went to Jason’s Deli for lunch. We all ended up eating salads. When I started acupuncture the Dr told me to cut out as much oil as possible. I asked his staff what kind of dressing to put on my salads, because I usually put high fat ranch on them. They told me to use honey mustard instead. I found out that I really like the taste of it on a salad. I have made a couple this week using soy “chicken” strips that I cooked from frozen in a skillet.

Big Salad

My dad stayed for a while in the afternoon with us. He loves his grand-doggies and he took this picture of Denver getting one of his natural beef stick treats.

Happy Denver

 

We went out for a little dinner at Which Wich and drove thru downtown before heading home. BJ mostly watched basketball on tv while I looked at things online. I was sleepy by 8:30. So I went ahead and went to bed.