Thursday, December 31, 2015

December 31st- Check those Gift Cards

Whew, we are just coming off of Christmas and some of us may have gotten gift cards. According to Gift Card Granny Over $40 BILLION gift card balances went unused from 2005- 2011. That's a lot!

Today I want you to search and see what gift cards you have. Make a list and make a notation about what you might need or want to get with those gift cards. I'm not telling you not to buy anything fun with your gift cards, but it is important that you just look and see what you have and see if you want to make any purchases with them. We don't want to lose that money!

As of right now I only have $43.xx in a gift card from The Limited. This is from a return I did from there about 6 months ago. I have it in my wallet and if I need a gift or perhaps they have a nice sale I'll know it's there. I doubt I use it this January though as I won't be stepping foot in a mall or shopping online. But I know it's there!

I also have $28 in Extra Care Bucks from CVS. Some expire January 4th, but the majority expire January 16th and 25th. I'll need to make sure I make wise decisions and purchase some things we may need from there as to not lose my extra care bucks.

What gift cards do you have? Do you have needs already projected that these cards may help with?

What if you don't want to use the gift card? Maybe it's for a store not close to you or not your style? I've had luck before selling them to and getting payment in paypal for the unwanted card. It's not for full face value, but I've found them to be fair and useful. I've used them twice and have been pleased....

What about you? Did you come up with any cards you have forgotten about? Any thing like Register Rewards ( from Walgreens) Coupons from places like grocery stores or CVS that you need to use before they expire?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What is included in the NO SPEND JANUARY?

Yesterday I posted about my plan on a No Spend January:

To many of you, some of the items I am forgoing may already be a part of what you are already doing. But to me, I wanted to really focus in on what we could work on this month. I need to make us more accountable.

We don't have cable, haven't had any sort of directTv or satellite in over 3 years I would say. We have a Roku player and Netflix and Hulu as well as Amazon prime. Not having cable saves us a lot!!

What can we spend money on in January?
Normal bills ( like electricity, water, phone bill, internet, car insurance etc.)
Groceries ( although I want to use up my pantry and buy as little as possible)
Gas ( my husband and I both work outside the home and although my drive is less than 8 miles one way, his is more like 28 miles one way, so gas is something we'll spend money on).

What are we NOT going to spend money on in January?
Eating out ( NONE AT ALL)
Things like coffee treats or drinks at work
Clothing, shoes or socks for any of us
hair cuts for any of us ( the little boy just had one and I can trim up my husband's if need be)
Really anything other than necessities

There are a few things that I literally just cancelled for January,so that money will be going towards my debt payout I'm hoping for in January ( $380.xx) on January 1st. The things I cancelled included:
1.Hulu ( It was only about $9.99 a month, but we found we rarely watched it and didn't need it, so good bye)
2. Gwynnie Bee  $35.00 ( This is a clothing subscription service that I .
actually loved, it would send nice clothes in the mail, then you could wear them and either send them back or buy them to keep. I've been doing this almost a year, and have built up several nice outfits, and just wanted to cancel this monthly cost
3. Birchbox- $10 a month ( This is a beauty samples subscription service and again, I loved it, but have too many beauty samples as it is, and wanted to cut it out).

So On January 1st, I'll be paying the $55 to my smallest debt.

What are some things you could get rid of for no spend January?
Another type of cable or satellite?
downgrading some features on your cell phone?
Maybe cancelling your home phone ( we have a Magic Jack only because we don't get cell service were we live)
any monthly subscription services
Maybe vowing to work through your freezers/pantries for your groceries instead of shopping for new?
Committing to using the shampoo, toothpaste, etc. etc. that you have on hand instead of buying more?

What are some other things you might could give up?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

No Spend January!!

C'mon, I know someone is with me on this. 

Despite my best homesteading frugal efforts, we have slipped slowly back into a bit more consumerist lifestyle that I would  like. I have reviewed our finances and found that there was certainly some frivolous spending that could have been avoided this past year. So, I would like to try to do a no spend January! I've seen other bloggers do it and have wanted to but have never thought there was a good month, but I think January 2016 is it!

Why do I want to do a no spend January?
1) to put a little extra money towards our debt. We don't have a ton of debt, but have more than I want ( any is more than I want) and would like to try to put a little bit extra towards our balances this month. Our smallest debt has a balance of $380.77. I want that GONE in January.

2) We have too much stuff! The kids have too many clothes, I have too many clothes, hubby has too many clothes, and other things like books, toys, smell good items etc.

3) With the Spring and Summer gardening seasons coming up I need to use up some of our pantry and freezer inventory from last year. What good is putting up all this delicious food if it just looks pretty on the shelf?

4) We haven't really had a winter yet, and I'm thinking January and February may be bad, so it'll be nice to just stay in and not spend as much time shopping for items we don't need. A nice book in the living room with a fluffy blanket sounds like a nice vacation to me!

5) I've really been slacking on my blogging. I seem to not have much to say, although I know I do have some interesting stuff to say.... so this will help guide me in some topics this coming month.

I plan on writing a bit about
the guidelines for my no spend January
some frugal recipes
ways I am using my canned goods
book reviews
fun things to do with the kids
my progress on paying off the smallest debt I mentioned above ( balance of $380.xx)
Some free sites I use to make money online
A more comprehensive list of goals for my No Spend January
and more.

I would love having some friends that would like to blog about this with me, or just follow me along. I think it's going to be fun guys! Who is in??

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The gift my daughter gave me

I've got three kiddos, we try to teach them what they need to know about being loving and sharing and generous and all that jazz. I try to practice what I preach. Sometimes I wonder though if my kids are really grasping the concepts.

Last night was our annual Ladies' Fellowship at church. Not only that buy it was my oldest daughter's birthday, she turned 10! She was very excited about the event, as they normally draw names and give out really nice gifts.

Last night was no different, there was wonderful food, beautiful decorations and the names of all the girls ( under 17 ) went into one bowl and then for the adults into another.

My daughter won a beautiful snowman. It had little lights on it that sparkled, a cute little hat. It was fun. She was excited. At the end of the program I noticed my daughter was by a little girl ( about 6 years old)that was crying. Not a fit type crying, but a few small tears. She was sad that she didn't win a prize. My beautiful, sweet, amazingly wonderful daughter didn't think twice before she handed over her prize and wrapped the little girls arms around it. The mother of course tried to make her take it back, but she didn't.

I. Was. So. Proud.

So, sometimes we wonder if our kids get it, if they have that servant's heart, that caring spirit, but just give them the opportunity and they will amaze you. Thanks Liv for the beautiful gift you gave your momma this year, without even knowing I was watching. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Wilder Days 2015 ( As in Laura Ingalls)

I am sure if you have followed my blog for very long you know that I am slightly obsessed with all things Little House on the prairie. I've written about visiting Laura Ingall's adult home ( where she and Almonzo lived as had their family, and where she wrote the little house books.) Well, this year we took it to an all knew obsessive level and attended Wilder Days. This happens in September in Mansfield, MO. This is about a 4-5 hour drive for us, so we drove up Friday night to be ready for the Saturday Festivities. There are so many things going on. The first of which you can see above is in the city square of Mansfield , which is charming to start with. They have a bust of Laura, and during Wilder Days have tons of exhibits, vendors, a pageant for Laura and Almonzo look alikes, kid games. I mean really just a day of good ole' fun.


Then there is a car show. I really have never been into cars, but found this to be fun to look at. Lots of good stuff! My husband and kids loved it of course, which made it all the more fun.


Then there were things going on at her homeadstead. Below is a picture of me and the two oldest. Yes they have on bonnets. The tour this day only provided access into the up stairs guest room where Carrie and Mary and even her parents would stay when they visited. I love her house.

 Then there was a parade! Just look at the downtown little shops. It was a small parade but! I mean just really took me back to what I would expect a parade was maybe 3-40 years ago.

 This is the old Bank of Mansfield. Just a beautiful building.

 Then back at the homestead there was the Fiddle Off. Yes that's right a fiddle off. They started with little bitty guys maybe 4-5 years old then went up to what I would call professionals. They each played I think 3 songs, then at the end of the afternoon the top ones came back and played a few more. They gave away quite a few prizes to the winners. This was held on the grounds of Laura's home. We had a quilt we sat on and the kids could play in the field with other little Laura enthusiasts and it was just a magical day.

 If you get a chance to go to this weekend, I would recommend it. They have an RV park in Mansfield as well as one Inn ( with like 5 rooms). We stayed in nearby Ava, MO. which was about 15 miles away. We are making plans to go back next year. Yes, it was that much fun.





Saturday, November 28, 2015

Book Review: A Foxfire Christmas

I really like Christmas. Not so much the plastic Santa type stuff, but a good ole' fashioned Christmas. Anyhow, the latest book I read is called " Foxfire Christmas" Edited by Eliot Wigginton. It's wonderful. First of all it's a super easy read, I read it in no time at all, then gave it to my 9 year old daughter who also read it in a span of just a day or so. We both loved it. It's really about a group of high schoolers in Rabun County ( Appalachian Mountains- North Carolina) that interviewed old timey residence about their Christmas experiences.

There is a section about making their own decorations, about their typical menu, their "serenading" ( a form of caroling) and about gifts and Santa. Yes the classic apples and oranges and nuts and peppermint stick. Every once in a while a father would whittle a toy or the mom would make a fabric scrap dress or something similar. The book talks about the overall excitement of the day, and really many didn't get a toy, but loved the food, fellowship and family.

It was a light read, but one that I couldn't put down. I found myself smiling when recalling simpler days and some really insightful Christmas cheer.

I'm sure you could find it at your local library, I found mine though on Amazon for less than $5- shipped! I'm glad I went ahead and bought it though because I see us reading it again and again.

I hope the holidays are shaping up nicely for you all,

Happy Homesteading y'all!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What's happening around the homestead?

Oh my goodness, with school starting ( which also means back to work for me) I just haven't been doing well keeping up with the blog. So what's been happening on the homestead lately?

We are still getting muscadines, grapes, pears and peppers.

I have in kale and mustard greens. That is probably going to be the extent of the fall garden this year, with the exception of some turnips perhaps.

Getting one goat ready for show, as well as some of the chickens and rabbits.
Getting between 14-16 eggs a day.

They are getting the animals ready for fair ( which is next week) and are also showing some of our peppers, muscadines, pears, eggs and some of their artwork and photography in the fair. We are all pretty excited.

I'm working on my PhD, I'm not sure that I have mentioned that, but it is certainly in full swing so not as much time for pleasure reading now. But I am in the midst of three good books.
Blessing the Hands that Feed us by Vicki Robin ( expect a review soon)
Laura Ingalls Wilder Pioneer Girl - The Annotated Autobiography by Pamela Smith (editor)
Playing for Pizza by John Grisham ( because I love him and had somehow missed this book).

Utilizing the eggs in a lot of dishes lately, that is helpful in keeping our food costs low (and local). I have been stocking up on some canned goods for the winter also, things like canned corn, green beans and soups. These are all things my family likes and even though we aren't in the NorthEast where winters are brutal, most of our winter storm damage is from ice, and we can be out of electricity and out of commission driving for days on end, based on where we live in the country. So I like to keep the pantry a little fatter in the winter months than normal. 

What has been keeping you busy this fall around the homestead?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Of Chickens and Pears...

Just wanted to update you all on our chickens. And I just added pears in there also, because they are about ready to start chowing down on.

So we have 8 adult chickens, of various breeds. My daughters will show some in the fair. The hens are giving us about 6 eggs a day. Thanks girls!

The little ones are heritage bantam breeds and we may try to start selling some eggs for folks to hatch. Or we probably won't, but they are super fun to play with. They have a small run that we can move around, with an enclosed roost and nesting boxes, but then during the day when we are home we let them out to free range. Chickens are fun. If you are thinking, should I get chickens? I would say YES!

You do need to have a place for them, and they need to be free from predators, but honestly a few hens don't even take that much feed. They love watermelon rinds and greens and things like that also.

We have two large pear trees on our property. Every year they bless us with beautiful fruit. I normally can some preserves and pie filling, and we just eat a lot of fresh pears. I also make cobblers and crumbles and sweet bread ( oh my) . They look to be on par to deliver again.

 What's going on in your neck of the woods? Are you seeing the signs of Fall? ( To me pears signify the approaching Fall season).

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What's going on around the homestead?

It's HOT here. Like many days over 100 degrees, plus our humidity.

We still have some peppers. Not as many as we seem to normally do, but plenty.

Tomatoes are slowing down. I've put up quite a bit of pasta sauce, pizza sauce and salsa, but again, not as much as we seem to normally have. Lots of little guys still, but the bigger ones are dying.

Still getting squash. Plenty for a mess for supper, and some to share. I love squash. I just sautee it in a skillet with olive oil with a little onion. Look at those beautiful squash flowers.

Now to my pride and joy. My muscadines and grapes. These will be ready within the week.
We have the normal white ones, and then we have purple Concord Grapes, which are perfect for jelly. All of them are really great for jelly, and I try to put up as much as I can. It seems to be a little later this year coming on, and since I start back to work soon, I'll stay busy. But maybe I can get some in before school starts back.

 They are huge! And so sweet. They do have a seed in them, and the white ones skins are a bit tough, but the purple are just perfect.

The muscadines and grapes just do well for us. We live in Zone 7, and just look at these. So they are in a funny L shape. The right of the picture, then it stretches way back and goes across the entire back of the photo. We always have tons and tons. I put up jelly and juice, others buy them from us to make wine. We don't drink, but apparently nothing beats muscadine wine?

I'm wishing you all a happy harvest and hopefully you are staying cool!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Our goat saga

Not really a Saga I suppose. But a somewhat sad story, with an ending that could have turned out much worse.

We have 4 goats. Three Nigerian Dwarves and 1 Spanish Boer. The Boer is a show goat my daughter *was* going to show at this year's fair.
 This isn't the best picture, but shows three of the four goats. The black ones are sisters and the brown and white one, we've had for about 4 years now. Clifford.

We live out in the country. We have one tiny little fluffy dog that stays inside. No outside dogs. Two Saturday mornings ago, we wake up to a crazy racket. Dogs barking, the goats were making whatever noise it is they make. It was just about daylight. My husband and I run outside and find two large dogs running from our property. We go check on the goats and find two injured. One ( the little showgoat Lizzie) quite injured. She was crying like a baby, bloody and overall just pitiful. The other one just acted like his leg hurt and wouldn't walk, and had a few small knicks on him.

 ( Cupcake)

So over the last two weeks I have given antibiotic shots, cleaned the wounds twice a day, given them topical antibiotic, and for the first week we put an umbrella over Lizzie because it was so hot and she couldn't walk to get shade.

You might not can tell by this picture but they have about 3 brushed acres fenced in. There is a small shelter they normally sleep under, but we added the dog pen with the barrels for Lizzie , because if the dogs were to come back there is no way she could protect herself.  We also added another row of barbed wire around the top.

So, the good news is that Lizzie is recovering. She can now stand up to pee (YAY!!) and can walk a few steps at a time to get into better positions, go to bed etc. The vet said nothing was broken or dislocated and she was likely just sore from having her legs and tail pulled on by the dogs.

So we set up a game cam and saw the dogs again the next night. They didn't bother the goats this time. I have no idea who the dogs belong to, and have asked around and no one seems to know. But maybe someone did know because it's been about 10 days with no sign of the. Crossing my fingers.

Lizzie may not be able to be shown this year. But we all learned a lot through this, we love our pets. We took turns giving her shots, sitting with her, petting her, holding the water bucket up to her mouth to drink. Positioning the umbrella so this silly goat would have shade. Rubbing her down with a cool rag. No, perhaps my daughter isn't going to show her this year, but in my book she has learned a lot about life, about living on a farm..

Happy Homesteading Y'all!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Get those summer memories into something memorable!

This post may contain affiliate links.

I'm terrible at getting my photos developed. I love taking pictures and have all of my photos arranged nicely in little folders on my computer, but I am really awful about getting them developed and into a usable form for my family, so I can display them nicely.

Cue Shutterfly!

50 free prints

Sign up to get 50 free prints. Put those prints into a nice little photo album, let your kids decorate a scrapbook or choose a few for a nice picture frame.

I also have made them into photo books. We have a goal to visit all 50 states before the kids graduate and on each photo book I put the year and the states we visited.

Shutterfly Photo Books 300x600   I know you won't be disappointed, I just urge you to get all those fantastic pictures that are on your computer and get them out there for the world to see. We only have one more week left before school starts, and that's what I'm doing. I'm making a photo calendar for my parents for their Christmas present, I'm getting some updated prints of the kids for my office desk at work, as well as some new pictures for my husband.

Happy Homesteading Y'all! 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Garden Still going strong!

So it's hot here! I mean really hot. And while the cucumbers, blackberries and blueberries are about finished, we still have lots of life left in our garden. Below is our cantaloupe patch. These are huge. I mean ginormous! And we've had a few already and they are quite good. We just eat these. I don't put them up or freeze them or anything. Sometimes if we have any that I've cut and are pretty ripe, I'll throw them in my smoothie bucket, but for the most part we just devour them.

Our watermelons are growing well too. Here is a pretty one camouflaged in the vine, but you can tell it's beautiful, and will just be wonderful. We have 3 different kinds planted and I expect at least 30 good melons. We'll eat them a lot, share them and maybe even trade a few.
Below are my famous muscadine vines. They run in kind of a weird L shape along the perimeter of the main garden. They are huge. I mean honestly we have way too many, but we aren't going to cut them down. Some along the back there are concord grapes, but most are muscadines ( which to you non-southerners are just a type of grapes)

 Here is kind of the under shot side of the trellis. If you look close you can see the green fruit just waiting to ripen. Lots of sweet juice and jelly in my future....

 I'm getting a few tomatoes. I've made one batch of hot salsa, and we are eating 1-2 everyday, but for the most part they are still coming on and are green. I expect many more tomatoes and hopefully lots more salsa, ketchup, pasta sauce, pizza sauce etc in my future.

These are the little tommy toes that we just snack on. And put them on salads and such. Good stuff.

We also are getting okra, corn, squash, zucchini, eggplant, purple hull peas, lima beans, green beans, new potatoes and peppers and cucumbers still. We are getting about 6 eggs a day as well from our chickens, so we are pretty much good on eggs. We are in the height ( and the heat) of the season and I'm proud to be able to grow our food and cook good food for my family!

What do you all have going on? Outlook for your garden pretty good?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Puttin' up Peppers!

It's getting hot in here!

It's not quite time for my famous pepper relish yet , but we do have a ton of these hot banana peppers. I only planted 4 plants this year, but just this morning I picked a 5 gallon bucket full! I have about a third to my dad and brothers to eat and kept a few for use to snack on. I also know that we'll have more in a few days. Anyways, I prefer the sweet ones, but will eat the hot ones occasionally, but my husband, father, father in law and brothers love the hot pepper rings.

 Just for reference, these are what they look like. Just imagine a 5 gallon bucket of them! So I pickled them of course.

 I just washed and dried them really well, then prepared my jars and rings. The mixture I use is just 2 parts water 6 parts white vinegar, maybe a tablespoon pickling salt, and some garlic.

 These aren't super bright. They are kind of a dull color to start with, but they will eat just the same! So what do we eat them on? Home made pizza, sandwiches, salads, tacos, beans, by themselves, really all winter the men can find something to eat them on.

 So I also planted some little tabasco peppers and they are beginning to make. I went ahead and pickled some to use as pepper sauce, used mainly on greens and with cornbread, at least around here. I then thought to myself, I bet I could get one of those cute little jars like pepper sauce ACTUALLY comes in. And with a quick search I found some on Amazon. I had some credits from my Swagbucks, Bing and Gift Hulk, and I have Amazon prime, so I ordered them, have free two day shipping and they cost me nothing out of pocket. I'll let you know when they get here and will show you how they work.
I'm sure I'll have more peppers I'll be putting up as well. Don't forget to check out my 2015 canning totals here.
What are you all up to in your kitchen during this hot summer?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Add some color to your homestead!

I think we all like a little color don't we? I always try to plant some wildflowers and other flowers in a really no nonsense fashion each year in our garden. By that I mean we till up a row and I just spread the seeds. Nothing fancy, I normally don't keep them weeded once they get a few inches tall etc. It's really there for several reasons:
1: Beautiful right?
2: Butterflies and Bees like them ( good for pollination too)
3: The kids like to pick them

Here is a butterfly I caught this morning enjoying the flowers.

 Here is kind of a view from the front of the row, you can see that they are not in any order or fashion. Just nice and lovely. They honestly don't take much work at all. I planted $11 worth of seeds this year.

 And with my $11 worth of seeds I get countless bouquets. I'm talking a lot. The kids normally pick a nice bouquet for our house and my mom about every third day. I also keep some vases in the bedroom and our guest bath as well, which they keep fresh. The kiddos have also given bouquets to neighbors and my grandma when we visit her in the nursing home. We've taken them as hostess type gifts as well when we have been invited to dinners or parties. They are always appreciated.

 And while I don't plant them for the money savings ( I probably wouldn't buy them at the store anyways) a nice bouquet like this from a supermarket would cost $15-$18 EASY. So I have already made our money back probably 50 fold.
So next time you are doing your garden plans, include a row ( or two!) of some nice flowers you can cut for bouquets. They really do brighten up the homesteading!