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Archive for March, 2015

Garden plan for the year

March 25th, 2015 at 02:59 pm

The snow is finally (I hope) gone for good and I've spent the last few days working in the garden and getting ready for spring planting. I'm so excited another growing season is beginning.

This year I hope to reach near-maximum production. I have about 1000 sq feet dedicated to fruits and veggies, and I've been experimenting with season extension to extend the number of months we can pull fresh food out of the garden.

I do have a new goal this year. I want to feed my family, yes, but I also want to grow enough to provide fresh fruits, veggies, and canned goods to my mother, and another family (dear friends on a shoestring budget who have three adult and three kid mouths to feed). This friend came over not too long ago and was stressed out trying to reduce her grocery bill. She spends $900/month for six people, which is actually pretty good, but she needs the money other places.

They do grow a few of their own fresh veggies, but don't have the time or experience to can. I figure if I show up once a month with a giant bag of produce and homemade jam, ice cream, pasta sauce, etc., it will be well received.

I also want to grow and donate to the food bank again. The local food pantry would jump up and down with excitement when I brought in fresh produce from the garden. I had no idea how much they needed it.

So, growing food around here comes with a few expenses. Big ones.

First, I ordered $400 worth of compost, to top off all the beds and to have some on reserve throughout the season. ( I need to refresh the compost between plantings) I just can't seem to make enough of my own compost, but am hoping to refine my composting systems so that I don't have to keep ordering so much of it every year. I'm adding more and bigger compost areas so I can not only process our household scraps but also more of our own yard waste (and faster) into usable compost.

And, I've spent about $50 out of pocket on seeds, soil, and plants so far.

I'm about to add another $50 to that for transplants for things I don't grow from seeds, and another $100 or so on fruit trees. We have four apple trees and are adding two sour cherries and possibly a peach or plum.

I'm also growing brussel sprouts for a friend who really likes them. I'm giving him three transplants I've grown, and I'm going to plant three of my own to see if they do anything. I'm planning to give the other 18 seedlings away or trade them.

We did all right with trades last year. We traded our extras for things that we would have had to spend money on. I like bartering and trading a lot. I just wish I could think of a way to expand the network of people I have to trade with.

Here is a pic of our garden in full swing last July. Pardon the weeds!

4o just gets better

March 24th, 2015 at 03:19 pm

I posted about how awesome my 40th birthday weekend was. It just seems to be getting better. My bff from New Orleans flew up this weekend to surprise me. We had ladies nights out with my friends for three nights in a row and we all had a blast together.

It's like it refueled my happiness bank for the rest of my real life. I've felt bogged down by the never-ending work and caregiving with all work and no play, so it was nice to have two weekends in a row where I could do what I wanted with my friends and not have to be mom all the time.

On the work front, I am so happy I put in notice at my job. It's just getting worse, harder and more frustrating for no more pay, due to internal changes at the organization. I got into an argument with my editor yesterday. She made me bump a story last week because of a scheduling issue, and said this week would work just fine. So I start working on it for this week (I had to really scramble to find a replacement last week), and then she tells me there's still a conflict and we can't run it until next week, so I need to find yet another replacement for this week.

Its a nightmare. It is very difficult to find last minute replacements, and all the other stories I have lined up, the people just aren't ready yet. I almost quit yesterday, but I want to leave on good terms. I just can't wait for it to be over. I have five more weeks.

Sorry for the rant.

I have been thinking about things I can do to save the family more money once I'm on the other side of this job and no longer getting the checks. I think we overall already do a good job economizing, but I suppose we could do better. It's just the low-hanging and obvious fruits have already been picked.

My first thought is to scale back on the kids birthdays. We have parties for them, and the price adds up, even if it's jut putting out a lot of food for a bunch of friends and letting them run around the backyard. OUr 6 (soon 7) year old begged us to have a laser tag party for him and we gave in. I'm regretting it. It was $200 for the laser tag place, plus he wanted a 'real' birthday cake instead of homemade, and that was $50. I'm embarrassed to say how much it's costing! I don't think we had any idea when we said yes. This is the last one. From now on, they can invite friends over for pizza and playtime.

Otherwise, I'm looking for more ways to save and be happier and have a more streamlined daily life.

I'm open to ideas, if you have any!

So this is 40?

March 17th, 2015 at 06:44 am

Yes. I turned 40 March 13. And it was awesome.

My best friend in California who I haven't seen in 5 years flew out to surprise me, my friends had a big party for me, and my mom and sister paid someone to put giant fake buzzards and tombstones in my yard. There was also a grim reaper on my birthday cake. I always secretly wanted the cheesy cakes and tombstone stuff when I made the big 4-0 and I got it!

And, then there is real life. I put my notice in at my freelance gig last week, and thought I'd be nervous, but it turns out making the decision was the hardest part. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me, and it's also made me feel like my 40s will be what I actually imagined my 30s would be like-- the decade of finally accomplishing many of the things I set out to do with my life. If this feeling is what a mid-life crisis is, I'll take it!

Okay okay, I admit I have spent the last year or so giving a lot of thought to what I wanted the next part of my life to be. I did this in part to so that turning 40 would be positive, rather than a "holy crap" I need to do something different, now, before it's too late.

So, what am I going to do with myself? Well, take care of the kids like I always do. But, I've been working on my first novel for five years and it's finally finally finally in it's final revision. I hope to send it out this summer, so the rejection letters can start rolling in.

While my novel is out there getting rejected, I have plans for three more, plus some short stories. I'm amped. I always set out to be a writer, so I ended up in journalism. I've worked at newspapers and magazines. It was great experience, yes, and I'm happy I did it, but I never intended to take that route. I had always planned to write books, and now, I'm going to do it.

I'm blessed that we're savers and we aren't going to miss any meals while I finally pursue the dream. I don't know. Something about turning 40 made me look at my life, my job, my habits and think "Do I want to spend the next 10 years doing what I did the last 10 years?"

The answer was no, so now I've entered a new phase. Let's hope it works out!

Oh, and in financial news, I put a freelance check for $500 into my IRA for 2015. Ever since we've decided to stick to a weekly budget, we have more money in the bank. It's been worth it.

Gave notice at my job today

March 9th, 2015 at 05:35 pm

Well, as planned, I gave my official notice that I was quitting my weekly deadline freelance commitment.

My editors were of course, bummed out and sad, but understood that the money is not great and that it might not make sense for me. The main editor was gracious enough to ask how much of a raise I'd need to stay, but then immediately in the next sentence said it didn't matter because he could try but he probably couldn't get it for me anyway because the newspaper is broke.

So yeah. It kind of made me feel worse. You spend 6 years busting your hump to turn these articles in every week, at much stress in your own life and when you say you quit, it's like "oh well, we'd like to help you but sorry."

Grrrr. Not that I expected any different. I still have six more weeks before my time is officially up, which is $900. I also have a $300 project due this week and a $300 project due next month.

Besides that, it was the first beautiful spring day. It was nice to be able to go outside in the sunshine.

I also got a surprise visit from a good friend who was in the neighborhood interviewing for a new job, and just popped in. That made my day much nicer. It's easy to forget how much just having someone to talk to and joke around with can make like better.

Decision made. I'm quitting

March 5th, 2015 at 02:19 pm

Some of you were gracious enough to comment on my recent post about my job dilemma. Basically, I freelance and after taxes make nothing. I work in journalism, but it's becoming harder and harder every year to make a living doing that.

I've taken your advice, and done a lot of soul searching, and I'm quitting my freelance gig for the newspaper. The pay is terrible and hasn't gone up in six years, and I spend a fortune on childcare to free up the time to do the work. It's also become clear I will not be returning to full-time work in the field, due to lay offs and industry problems.

It's time for me to take some time and think of ways that I can more substantially and meaningfully support my family in both financial and emotional terms. Let the soul searching begin.

And thanks to all of you for your candid advice. I think the extra voices gave me the courage to look to something new.

I'm over winter, so I'm spring cleaning.

March 1st, 2015 at 12:02 pm

We're snowed in again today, under six new inches of snow. Gah. I'm so over winter! It's impossible to make plans. We've had a half dozen snow days, the kids were supposed to spend the night at grandma's last night so Dh and I could have a date, but that didn't happen because the storm was coming.

I have spring fever. I can't wait to throw open the doors, steam clean the carpet, be able to start walking the kids to school again, and generally begin living outdoors again.

In the meantime, I'm trying to keep the house as clean as I can (a challenge, since I'm busy and hate cleaning) to reduce the stress of all of us being cooped up.

Today, I cleaned, organized and scrubbed the refrigerator. I also prepped my salad for the week. I also cleaned out the deep freeze. I found more expired freezer burned stuff than I care to admit. Not as bad as it could have been, but still. I put a dry erase magnet board on the outside ot he deep freeze and wrote down everything I put back in there. At least then I'll know just by looking what's there and where it is (Now I have like with like in little baskets. )

I planned this week's meals based on what we had in there.
-baked steak
-seafood pasta alfredo
-the kids want a grilled cheese night, which is fine with me because it's so cheap!
-baked turkey with cranberries
-baked chicken breasts

I also put in our meat order with the local farmer, now that I knew exactly what I already had in the deep freeze. We order from them about five times a year. The meat is so high quality--far and above fro the grocery store-- and it is amazingly affordable. It costs the same or less than traditional meat at the store, on average, and I know these animals live a very nice life until their last day.

DH took our youngest sledding at the park. The oldest is hanging out with me playing legos while I fold laundry and bake cookies. It's a generally low key day!

Update: After all that and baking cookies for the kids, I decided to clean out the utility part of the basement. It's swept and organized, with a box of things for the thrift store. I also organized all the wrapping paper, bags, and bows so it's much more manageable and takes up less room.
Now, to rest!