Category Archives: Gardening

August Grocery Check-In

July sucked financially. The car repair, the medical expenses, the other stuff. It was too much. I had to borrow to cover most of those “extras” and now I have to pay that back, which isn’t making this month any easier. And car insurance is due.

With all that happy news in mind, why not look at the month?

  1. Maintain the grocery costs at the July goal level.
  2. Continue making bread once per week plus more as needed.
  3. Add small smoothies to meals at least once per week. They’ll basically be treated as drinkable sides that make use of produce sales.
  4. Get the fall garden planned and planted before it’s too late.
  5. Rough out an early spring garden bed so I can be ready to go with those first, early veggie plants.

Where I stand:

  1. Not sure. I’m hungry enough to feel like I’m on par or below. Should probably check it out.
  2. Right on target with this one.
  3. Yep, yep, yep. At least every couple of days. I’ve been focusing on fruit smoothies, but am hoping to incorporate some veggies without too much trauma.
  4. I roughed out a 2’X2′ patch that is pretty much ready for seeding. I’m hoping to get that done this week. I’d like to get another patch or two going if possible.
  5. Not yet. Focusing on getting set to grow now before getting set to grow later.

Well, that’s it for now. I’m babysitting for a friend tomorrow which means getting up before dawn. Gonna try to sleep.

August Grocery Goals

During July, I managed to trim 16% off of my food bill. Obviously, it is not enough. I still have to get down to a maximum of 50% of what I have been spending. Or find another job, but my employment search has had such pathetic returns that I’m focusing on the thing I can change.

Regular bread baking has been a great benefit. Sandwiches are economical and, frankly, nice to have during the summer. Toast with honey and peanut butter is a delightfully easy breakfast.

I was able to pull potatoes yesterday. That was awesome. They’ll be scrubbed, chopped and roasted with dinner tomorrow. I was such a complete failure at gardening this year that I barely got anything planted and most of what was planted died. I did manage to get some strong looking potato plants for which I am grateful. Poking around yesterday generated enough decent sized tubers for tomorrow’s dinner. With luck, I’ll be able to dig enough to help with grocery costs this month.

For August, I’m not going to try to make a cut. 16% was significant and tight. My goal right now is to maintain that. Figure out what I did right in July and try to recreate that for this month. In September, I’ll shoot for a lower number.

So, for August, the goals are:

  1. Maintain the grocery costs at the July goal level.
  2. Continue making bread once per week plus more as needed.
  3. Add small smoothies to meals at least once per week. They’ll basically be treated as drinkable sides that make use of produce sales.
  4. Get the fall garden planned and planted before it’s too late.
  5. Rough out an early spring garden bed so I can be ready to go with those first, early veggie plants.

Wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

Just Four More Days

This month will be over in four days and I kinda can’t wait. I want to set aside the budget audit, the June series of fights with the ex, the yet again disappointing returns on my job search efforts, and everything else that has weighed me down this month. I want the June 2014 chapter to be completed and the July 2014 chapter to begin.

June was heavily scheduled, much more so than I liked. There was a school’s out rush of things to do and the pace was a little much for me. We literally had one day where I was off and didn’t had a bunch of stuff to drag the kids around for. I was going to catch up on mowing and weeding that day, but there was a lengthy downpour shortly after I finished mowing so the weeding never got started. Although, it was kind of nice to go inside and just sit for a while. I need that from time to time. More than once a month, definitely.

As I look toward July, I find that I am simply looking forward to July. We don’t have an aggressive schedule and we are looking forward to spending time together on my days off. I have some sewing and crafting projects for the kids that I’m really excited about. My work schedule looks to be relatively stable, which really lends itself to better eating and sleeping habits. I’m entering the month without anything past due on my utilities. And, very comfortingly, the month should begin with some fantastic grocery store sales that I can take advantage of.

My goals for now include:

  • Cut 16% from what we’ve been spending on groceries. I’d like to cut it all the way down to budget, but that’s an unrealistic change to make in one month. I’m switching to cash for grocery purchases to make sure this happens. Trips to the store won’t be based on what’s in the bank, only what’s in the budget.
  • Make the breakfast muffin recipe twice each week, once as muffins and once as coffee cakes.
  • Make bread twice each week. I’ve only been doing this once a week, but I have found a good recipe that the kids are loving and they are gobbling it up.
  • Add more soups to meals. They really are a great way to get more veggies into the kids, they are reasonably priced to make, and I just finished cooking up a big batch of chicken stock.
  • Get a fall garden planned and planted. I did so poorly this spring that we’ve got very little to show for it. Thankfully, it’s not too late and we could still end up with some fall produce if I use my time wisely.
  • Take two recreation days. I want two days with the kids where we just do something fun. Two days this month that we spend out of the house, without worrying about our problems or what we can’t afford to do.

Yeah, I’m looking forward to July.

Why I Don’t Hate Weeds

I like to maintain a fairly neat lawn and I work on balancing my gardening style with aesthetics. Okay, I want to maintain a fairly neat lawn and balance my gardening style with aesthetics. It does not seem to be happening so far this year. Despite that, I want to come out in defense of a few maligned plants, aka weeds. My truth is:

They (Usually) Aren’t Hurting Anyone

Okay, so I do chop and pull anything that can cause pain or discomfort. I’m looking at you, Burdock and Thistle! However, most weeds are just sitting there, chilling. They can’t really be accused of harming the soil or lawn. They’re just there, doing their own thing, right alongside your grass.

They Tell You What’s up with Your Lawn

Clover, dandelion and plantains everywhere? You may just have some really compacted soil. You could also be running low in available nitrogen and calcium while holding onto plenty of potassium. Knotweed is alerting you to acidic soil (Hello, blueberry lovers!) and ground ivy wants you to know that things just aren’t draining very well.

They Can Help Repair Soil Problems

Clover doesn’t just tell you that your soil may be deficient in nitrogen, it actually sucks nitrogen out of thin air and deposits it into the soil when the plant decomposes. So you can mow and leave adequate slow release fertilizer behind without cost or any of those pesky runoff issues. Dandelions may tell you that your soil is lacking in available calcium, but they are masters at getting it. A single serving of dandelion leaves contains 10% of your daily calcium requirement. You don’t have to eat them if you don’t want to, though. Yank them out (their roots have already wiggled their way deep, breaking up compacted soil) and compost them.  Wanna do some lazy vegetable gardening? Skip the composting and mulch your tomatoes with freshly clipped dandelion leaves.

Biodiversity Isn’t Just a Farm Thing

Nearly everyone knows about the dangers of monocropping in large farms. Consider this on a smaller scale. Clover feeds grass as it decomposes, effectively eliminating the need for chemical fertilizer. It also attracts bees, who get to work pollinating food crops and producing honey. Wild mustard attracts ladybugs which devour plant killing aphids and serve as food for dragonflies and birds.

All in all, weeds are just plants. Dandelion arrived in North America thanks to European settlers who cultivated it for consumption and is making a comeback in salads, jellies and artisan wine. Purslane was once an American staple. Amaranth was a staple crop for the Aztecs. It seems that one generation’s weed is another’s food. With climate change looming on the horizon, some of today’s hardier “weeds” might just be tomorrow’s staples.