Harvesting Aloe Vera Gel

How to Harvest Aloe Vera Gel

As you may have noticed in my last post, I have an out of control Aloe Vera plant.

Saving Money on Light Fixtures

This grand old Aloe has healed our burns, amazed us by blooming and given us many pups over the years.  However, it has grown into a gnarly, top-heavy plant that isn’t doing as well as it should.

I did a little research and decided it was worth the risk to cut the top off, replant it and hope that it re-roots.  I asked my husband to move my aloe for me, and as he did, it toppled itself out of the pot and broke off a few leaves.  Definitely time to take action.

The first step was to cut off the bottom most leaves and peel off any excess to leave a smooth stem.  I placed it in a different pot and gave it a little TLC.  Here it is, severely pruned and hopefully ready for its regrowth!

Harvesting Aloe Vera Gel

The next step was to harvest all that wonderful gel!!

Harvesting Aloe Vera Gel

Get a nice, sharp knife and make cuts along the edges to remove all those sharp ridges.  After that, cut the leaves off the rounded side, then lay the leaf on the flat edge and fillet the gel.

Harvesting Aloe Vera Gel

Harvesting Aloe Vera Gel

I put all of this wonderful gel into a pint jar and placed it in the fridge.  I believe it can also be frozen.

Harvesting Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe Vera gel is relatively inexpensive, so I’m not counting the cost here.  However, I am grateful to have so much healing gel from an old family friend. 😉

🙂

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Garden Mailboxes, Re-Purposed Mailboxes

Garden Mailboxes

Old metal mailboxes hold up well under all kinds of conditions and have many outdoor uses, where you need storage that stays dry.

I use an old one on the corner of my garden, for holding my gardening hand tools, twine, gloves, and other little miscellany that I want to keep handy while I’m in the garden.  It’s not a new idea, but it’s a good one that bears repeating!

Garden Mailboxes, Re-Purposed Mailboxes

I also found an old wooden stand that was in really tough shape, but flipped upside down, holds my rakes and shovels as well!

Garden Mailboxes, Re-Purposed Mailboxes

The mailbox cost $4.00 at a thrift store and the stand I picked up for free during Clean-Up Week in our town.

Having tools handy during gardening saves a lot of steps, time and aggravation.

Hope you find this little time-saving tip helpful!

🙂

Investing in Seeds

Investing in Seeds

If you are like me, you impatiently wait for seed catalogs to arrive in the winter, and then eagerly immerse yourself in the colored photos of beautiful flowers and mouth-watering fruits and veggies.  (I also look at seeds online and I do my ordering online, but there’s just something so special about getting those catalogs!)

I browse all the seeds that interest me, including sales and clearance, loading up my virtual cart until it’s brimming.  Then I look at the total.  O_O

Sometimes, seeds can seem a little expensive.  However, I like to think of it in the long term.  If the seeds are not hybrid, I know I can save seeds from each planting and keep that initial “investment” going for years.  If we have some extra money, I’ll go ahead and order a few extra seeds.  I’ve used seeds that are 4 or 5 years old and gotten excellent crops, so I’m comfortable in getting ahead of myself and having a nice sized “stash”.

I also consider that starting my seeds and selling some plants can bring in extra money that can be “seed” money for the next year.  (Pun intended!)

Thinking of all the possibilities, seeds are really a bargain!

When I look at all my seeds, I see life; beautiful flowers, delicious veggies, nutrition for us and our animals, and the promise of food, in good times or bad.  🙂

Investing in Seeds

Investing in Seeds

Investing in Seeds

BENEFITS:

  • Inexpensive, nutritious food
  • Stockpile of potential food
  • Flower seeds that can be grown and sold
  • Veggie seedlings that can be sold or bartered
  • Saving lots of money on groceries

MONEY SAVED:   I’m not sure how to quantify the savings on this.  The cost of the initial pack of seeds goes down each year you save seeds and replant.  If you sell enough plants to cover the cost of buying more seeds, your cost can go down to zero.  It is a self-sustaining venture!

🙂

How to Freeze Horseradish

How to Freeze Horseradish

I LOVE horseradish.  🙂

I love the look of the plant, the smell of the root and especially the taste!  Every autumn I can hardly wait to dig up a big chunk of the root and prepare it for freezing.

When we bought our home, I noticed some huge, strange looking plants in the corner of the lot, but I wasn’t sure what they were.  As always, I asked my daughter, who identified them as horseradish.  It took me a while to get brave enough to dig some up and use it, but once I did, I was hooked!

I harvest the root in the fall, after frosts have damaged the leaves.  (Always leave enough of the root so it can continue to grow.)

All I do to prepare horseradish for freezing, is: scrub it, peel it, and grate it.   It sounds deceivingly easy.

How to Freeze Horseradish

How to Freeze Horseradish

How to Freeze Horseradish

If you have ever grated horseradish, you know that you would be wise to employ as gas mask.  I  took the reckless route, grating the root by hand, in several short intervals, coming back to it when my eyes weren’t watering profusely and I could see clearly again.  My final prize being a nice pile of horseradish for the winter and extremely clear sinuses!

Then I just spread it out on a cookie sheet and pop it in the freezer.  When it’s frozen, I transfer it to a freezer bag and put it back in the freezer.  It’s ready to use by the spoon-full, whenever I need it!

BENEFITS:

  • Having horseradish without preservatives
  • Raising your own
  • The “secret ingredient” in my potato salad

Jars of prepared horseradish are about $3.50 each and I have enough for about 3 jars worth.

MONEY SAVED:  $10.50

🙂

Garden Journal

Keeping a Garden Journal

The longer I garden, the more I believe in the importance of keeping a garden journal.

By keeping a garden journal, you not only keep financial track of what you’re growing, but you also keep track of your favorite seed companies,  favorite plant varieties, yields, planting times, etc.  It makes gardening just a little bit easier.

Garden Journal

I started out by using a composition notebook that I bought at a thrift store for 10 cents.  However, in anticipation of expanding, I am going to be moving my data to an Excel spreadsheet for easy access and the ability to make graphs.  (I’m a bit of a graph nerd)

Garden Journal Spreadsheet

I’ll be able to track every variety of plant each year, the days to maturity, the yield, and the costs.  Then, I should be able to extract each plant variety into a graph to see differences between years and if they are consistent performers, etc.

I like having a “Comments” section, because gardening has so many variables, it’s good to keep track of them.  I’ll make note of things like diseases, pests, weather, any difficulties with seedlings, and so on.

Gardening is a lot of trial and error, but by keeping tabs on what happens, as it happens, it takes away some of the guess work.

I hope this helps you and please feel free to comment about any additions you would make to a journal!

BENEFITS:

  • Tracking what works and what doesn’t
  • Remembering the varieties you like the best
  • Keeping track of costs
  • Having a lot of knowledge and experience at your fingertips
  • Being able to pass your knowledge along to others

🙂

Free Flower Garden Border

Free Flower Garden Border

As I was finishing work on a new flower garden, I decided I needed a border.  It couldn’t be just any border…it had to be an awesome border!  Most items I use in my back yard are natural, like wood and rocks, so I wanted to stay within that theme.

I looked through some decorative plates, that will soon be donated to a thrift store, (thinking that they are made of clay and clay is natural), but they just didn’t quite seem to fit.

Then, I went to the garage.  Voila!

Look for Free Stuff

In a previous post, Be On the Lookout for Free Stuff, I showed a photo of these Terra Cotta pot liners.  I had just enough to make a border, plus they fit with my natural (clay) theme!

Free Flower Garden Border Free Flower Garden Border

I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I think this looks adorable!  I have my vintage Irises up front, bordered by the Terra Cotta liners.  Both of them fit together well in my mind, because I remember both out on the farm when I was growing up.  Plus, it’s fitting to have flower pot liners bordering a flower garden!

Now, I have a personalized border that means something to me.  It makes me smile and reminds me of my mom and my childhood!  So much better than anything I could have gotten in a store!

BENEFITS:

  • Using something I found for free
  • Re-purposing items
  • Smiles and warm memories

MONEY SAVED: $10.00!

🙂

seed-saving-and-frugal-gardening

Seed Saving and Frugal Gardening

Seed saving is a frugal and empowering way to garden.

You plant a seed, care for it, watch it grow, enjoy your bounty and in the end, you are presented with more seeds, to start all over again.

You hold in your hands the circle of life!

Seed saving and frugal gardening

For the price of one packet of seeds, you can continue growing that variety for years to come, just by collecting and saving the seeds.  After the first year, I consider the seeds for each following year to be free because of the money I saved growing that veggie and not having to buy it in the store.  Between saved seeds, free seeds and seeds I find on sale, my veggie garden costs me next to nothing every year.  Plus, I can grow way more plants than I could afford to buy.

I have been saving peas and beans for years.  The peas and beans are eaten by us and put into my homemade dog food recipe Doggy Stew, so those free seeds are paying big dividends.

You may also have friends, family or neighbors who grow outstanding varieties you might like to try.  Trading seeds is an even cheaper way to garden!

Seed saving can also be done with flowers, of course.  I grow a TON of Zinnias every year from saved seeds.  I enjoy the bright, cheerful Zinnias and they attract lots of bees, that in turn, pollinate my veggies!  I also grow Geraniums and Petunias from seed.

Seed saving and frugal gardening

Seed saving and frugal gardening

Seed saving and frugal gardening

Some seeds need to be started indoors, prior to planting outside. Starting seedlings is a bit of trial and error, as anyone who has ever tried it, will know.  In spite of a few failures and disappointments, it is the most amazing feeling to collect tomatoes from a tomato plant that reaches up to your chin, and know that you started it from a tiny seed!  That feeling is worth a million bucks!

Speaking of tomato plants; they can be really expensive too.  I saved big money this year by starting mine from seed , plus I had extra plants to give away and sell.  So, I’m not just saving money, I’m also making money!

There are many good websites explaining how to collect various seeds, so I won’t go into that, but  if you are excited to try, start with something easy like Zinnias, beans or peas. Beans and peas are easy to collect seeds from; just let them dry on the plant.  When they are dry, crack open the pods and keep the seeds.  Zinnias are easy too.  Just cut the heads off the plant after they have lost their brightness and start to turn brown.  If they feel a little moist, lay them on a screen (like in the photo below) until they feel dry.  I keep mine in paper bags over the winter and come Spring, I break the heads apart and collect the seeds!

seed-saving-and-frugal-gardening

Take note:  Hybrid plants are a cross of two different varieties.  The seeds will not grow true to the parent.  Save Heirloom or standard seeds to get the same variety you started with.

I hope I’ve convinced you to try some seed saving.  I go a bit overboard with it, myself.  I find it hard to throw dead plants when I know there are seeds there, free for the taking.  I think to myself, “I can’t throw these, they will grow!”

Seed saving and frugal gardening

BENEFITS:

  • Saving lots of money
  • Learning a valuable skill
  • Creating varieties that grow the best in your area
  • Sharing seeds with others
  • Sharing plants you grow from your seeds

MONEY SAVED ANNUALLY:

$235.00!!!

🙂