Friday, August 14, 2009

Trials and Triumphs

Being on the verge of loosing everything is a humbling place to be! How do we do it? How do we keep from loosing hope and not give in to despair? Well, a lot of prayer and faith that God will do what He says He will do:

"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?"
Matthew 6:26

We have been blessed by so many people that allowed God to use them and listened to God when He laid it on their hearts to bless us. It has been amazing to see the Body of Christ encircle us and love on us.

During this time God has shown us that we each have unique gifts and this has been an opportunity to exercise those gifts.

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1 Peter 4:10

We have also learned a lot about prayer!

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
Ephesians 6:18

I still have days where I feel downright picked on! I just want to stomp my feet and cry. I want to turn the air conditioner on without worrying about the bill, I want to buy my kids new shoes without having to plan months in advance and hope for a good deal at the Goodwill, I want a pedicure but then I remember that if I needed a pedicure God would provide and when the kids truly need shoes he will provide that too and even if we had a high paying job would I really want to crank up the air conditoner and have a $400 a month electric bill? Nah, not really and truthfully if I had $20 for a pedicure I think I would use it to bless someone else because you know what? We have been there and though $20 may not seem like much it might be exactly what someone else was praying for!

The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?
Psalm 27:1

'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

In you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
Psalm 25:1

How do you make ends meet?

I never thought it could happen to us but here we are, 8 months and still unemployed. He was laid off Jan. 5th. The day he got back from Christmas vacation he was called into the office and they rang in the New Year by dissolving his department.

How do you do it? How are you making it? I get asked that a lot.

Are we making it? Yes we are! We haven't been kicked out of our house yet, we haven't had the utilities turned off yet, the phone gets turned off every other month or so but that isn't vital to our existence although sometimes it feels like it!

No matter how much we cut back we still need cash. We haven't figured out how to live without it! There are utilities, prescriptions, gas for the car that drives my man around looking for jobs, insurance, property tax, etc. So how do we do it?

Farm Girl's Amazon store and Ebay is one way. I have been going through the house and making hard choices about what we REALLY need and what is just fluff. We had a lot of fluff! I am also listing things for friends that don't really have the time or inclination to sit for hours editing photos, researching prices and creating listings. They provide the merchandise, I do the leg work and they pay me a portion of the profits.

Freshly baked bread sells well and is popular with friends and neighbors. I also make jelly, chutney and preserves. I can all summer in preparation for the November craft fair season. I take jellies, fresh baked breads, cookies, fudge, and fresh eggs. All of my items are priced under $5 so I sell a lot of them.

I sell eggs from our chickens too but after buying chicken food we pretty much break even. At least we get our eggs free and they also provide meat and nice compost!

I do a little sewing here and there and I have been asked to teach classes on canning and preserving, gardening, cooking from scratch and other homemaking skills.

We have yard sales every couple months. Anytime someone I know is getting rid of something I ask if they mind if I take it and if it is okay to put it in a yard sale. I would never sell something someone gave me without asking them first and offering them the money I receive from it. Most people just tell me to keep it. I appreciate having more 'stuff' at my yard sales because it draws more crowds. I don't mind selling for other people at my yard sales as long as they have a set price in mind so they aren't disappointed if I go too low.

I keep my eyes open for rare books when I go to yard sales, goodwill or half price books. I try to keep up to date on what books fetch a good price in home school circles and then keep my eyes peeled. I have purchased books for $1 or $2 at goodwill and turned around and sold them online for $40-$50. Doesn't happen often but when it does it's great!

I coupon when I shop but I only use coupons on items that are already on sale for a good price and I try to only use coupons on things we really need and use. A lot of coupons are for convenience foods or junk food. I cook from scratch and try to stay away from junk food. I don't mind making a cobbler or homemade cookies but that is a far cry from Twinkies or florescent colored sugary goo. I have been known to buy a box of pop tarts occasionally and some easy meal starter mix to have on hand for the kids or the man to make if I am not able to.

I used to subscribe to Grocery Game and it was great. I don't subscribe anymore because after several months I got the hang of it. It is more time consuming to do it myself instead of downloading their easy list but doing it myself saves me $20 every 12 weeks. They have a 4 week trial that costs $1 so I would say try it and learn all you can. Before you sign up for the 4 week trial collect as many coupons from the Sunday paper as you can so you have a good collection. When they provide a list with the weekly sale they tell you which coupon to use on that product and the coupon called for may be one from a few weeks before. So it helps to have several weeks worth of coupons BEFORE your 4 week clock starts ticking.

Those are just a few things I do. What do you do to make ends meet?

Check out YouTube for some thrifty videos.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

DIY Powdered Laundry Detergent

This is a popular recipe found on several websites.

Powdered Laundry Detergent

2 cupsFels Naptha Soap
1 cup Washing Soda 
1 cup
* Mix well and store in an airtight plastic container.
* Use 2 tablespoons per full load.

I do not like the way Zote or Fels Naptha smell. I mean I really DO NOT like them. Both have a very strong perfume smell that really bothers my sinuses so I use my homemade soap. My soap is just a plain basic bar made with lard and coconut oil. No scent, nothing special. I have also used Kirk's Castile for Hard water with good results. I found it at my local grocery store years ago but haven't seen it in a while. I have read that you can use Ivory or Sunlight bar soap too. I haven't tried them.

I have a high efficiency front loading washer and this detergent works great because it doesn't suds up. I use more than two tablespoons in my wash though. I use closer to 1/4 cup but your results may very. A lot depends on the hardness of your water and the soap you use and how dirty your clothes are!

I get a box of Oxy-clean like stuff at the Dollar Tree and mix that in with my batch of detergent for a little extra oomph. I quadruple my recipe because I figure if I am going to make I might as well make it last! I use the cheese grater attachment for my food processor to grate the soap. It is easier to grate several bars at once and store in a container you can scoop from. I use the #10 cans with lids that you might buy coffee in. I have one for grated soap, one for borax and one for washing soda. Much easier than trying to pour the borax or washing soda out of the boxes. When I quadruple it I use one box of the oxy stuff. I think it is about 2 cups.

I splurge on a big bottle of fabric softener. I didn't used to use fabric softener back when we dried our clothes in the dryer but now that I hang them I do like using the softener. The clothes come our pretty stiff on the line but it is much nicer with a little softener added to rinse. I only use about a tablespoon so the softener lasts for a long time. I have tried using the vinegar rinse instead but for line drying it just comes out too stiff. I don't use softener on whites or towels, I use vinegar. I like my towels kinda stiff, it's like a loofah! I don't use it on the white because they tough the sensitive parts and I am always worried the softener might irritate those parts.

Cost wise I figured out that it cost me about .05 a load even when using the oxy stuff from the dollar store. The HUGE of fabric softener cost $13 and has lasted me 6 months so far and is still half full. I have no idea how many loads I do in 6 months but I would say the cost is pennies a load. I have been using the homemade stuff for over a year now and it works great. I feel that the clothes are clean, they don't seem to be dingy and they seem to be wearing well.

There are recipes for liquid laundry detergent and I used to make it but the powdered is so much easier and I can whip it up in no time at all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This one's for the ladies!

Ok guys, you have been warned.

Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads

I'm on this quest to figure out how to do it myself or do without. This one isn't a new one for me. I had a cloth diaper making business about 10 years ago and I made diapers, nursing pads and mama pads. I have used them myself for years. They are easy to make and can be made out of old t-shirts, old flannel shirts, sheets or towels. I would guess that every woman out there could make enough for herself and any other women in the house without having to buy a thing. Ok, you do need a sewing machine. I know they could be made by hand but a machine makes the job quicker and easier.

I will draw the line at posting pictures of my own personal collection here but here is a link with great instructions on how to make your own.

Make Your Own Pads

Here is another How To

Before you say NO WAY just think about it. Add up what you spend on feminine hygiene products and multiply that by how many cycles you have a year. Now multiply that by as many as 30 years! I'm just saying...

Another thought, suppose you become that 1 in 10 on food stamps or your household is counted as one of the unemployed. Imagine your monthly income being cut in half or more. Every penny counts in order to keep the lights on and the roof over your head. Where will you cut costs?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cherry Berry Jelly

This is a new fave for the kids. After pitting 25lbs or so of cherries I just couldn't bare to throw away all the pits with little bits of cherry still clinging to them. That was a lot of work and it seemed a shame to not make more out of what was left. I simmered the pits for about an hour until most the flesh fell off and I had a pan of dark cherry-ish liquid. I strained out the pits (and still couldn't stand to throw them away!) and poured the liquid through a Norpro Jelly Strainer and Bag I added enough berry juice to make 6 cups then followed the directions on the pectin box for making jelly. It turned out super yummy!

Oh, and the pits were dried well in the dehydrator. I will use some of them for heating pads and let the boys use the rest as sling shot ammunition.

Sprouts: Gardening on Your Window Sill

Alfalfa Tea for the Garden

Alfalfa Tea - a definition

The information posted here on my blog was found at Dave's Garden. Dave's a great resource for all things garden and then some. Consider joining, it is a very good investment!

Dry alfalfa is a good slow-release source of nitrogen, but since you will be "digesting" it by letting it ferment in water, the resulting tea is a soluble, fast-acting nitrogen source.

Also, by making alfalfa (or manure) tea, you don't have to worry about weed seeds sprouting from the fertilizer.

In addition to nitrogen, alfalfa supplies enzymes and trace elements that are not present in chemical nitrogen fertilizers.

The Mix:
Choose a garbage bin or barrel with no leaks and a tight fitting lid. Position it in an out of the way place - you don't want to have to move it once it's full. For a full size garbage bin (20 gallons) add 16 cups of alfalfa pellets or alfalfa meal (4 cups to every 5 gallons or 22 litres of water)

Add 1 - 2 cups of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate crystals) (or one quarter to half a cup to 5 gallons) Optionally, add two tablespoons of Iron Chelate
Fill with water, put on a tight lid to prevent mosquitos from breeding in your "swamp"
Let stand for one week until it bubbles with fermentation. Your nose will tell you that it's ready.

Using it:

Apply alfalfa tea once per month in the spring and summer, especially after the first flush of flowers, to encourage repeat blooming. You can reduce or eliminate the Epsom salts in later batches.

Stop applying it in the fall, when you want the plants to start hardening off for the winter, and don't want to encourage soft new growth.

Put on some old clothes - you're going to get splashed, and you don't want to be socializing with anyone while wearing the alfalfa tea!

Scoop off the liquid with a bucket and apply.

Pour a gallon of tea per rose around the base of the plant; more for large climbers, less for potted roses and minis.

Soak small potted roses in a bucket of tea for 15 minutes each.

When you have scooped off most of the liquid, you will be left with a thick goop of alfalfa in the garbage bin. There are two ways to treat this:

Method A: You can add another quarter-cup of epsom salts, fill the garbage can one third of the way up again, and stir the mix briskly so that the alfalfa is suspended in the water. This slurry can be applied to your roses immediately. Choose the roses in the back of your beds for this tea, where the greenish brown puddle of alfalfa slurry won't be too visible.

Method B: Add the full dose of Epsom salts, refill to the top with water and let sit for another week. Use the liquid, and then bury the alfalfa dregs into your compost pile (by this time they will be pretty smelly)

Another Recipe:


10 CUPS ALFALFA PELLETS (obtained from feed stores)

Add the pellets to the trash can. Fill trash can with water. Stir. Cover trash can tightly with lid. For the next three days stir "tea" several times a day in order to dissolve the pellets. Keep covered. On the third day add epsom salts and fish emulsion. It is ready to use on any vegetable, plant, tree or bush.

When all the "tea" is used, there will be enough pellet residue in the bottom of the trash can that you again fill the trash can with water and make more "tea".

Check out comments for a list of all the good stuff in alfalfa tea.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Save those jars!

I have the jar adapter for my foodsaver so I can use mason jars but I am finding that I would rather save the mason/canning jars for actually canning. Those jars add up and are more precious than gold around here! Save your canning jars for canning and use the jars from store bought foods for vacuum sealing.

The sound starts off a little wonky on this video so turn it down if you are using headphones.

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