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!

🙂

Pear Butter Recipe

Yummy Pear Butter Recipe

When the pears show up in lugs in the grocery store, it signals to me that Autumn is coming near!

Pear Butter Recipe

Besides eating as many pears as we’re able, I always can fresh pears.  We enjoy having them in the winter with comfort food type meals.

After I have canned all the pears I want for the winter, the rest are designated for  Pear Butter.  I love pear butter and will flatly state that it’s far better than apple butter.  Just to prove it, I will share my Pear Butter Recipe!

Pear Butter Recipe

Wash, slice and cut out stem and seeds from the pears.

Put into large pot and cook in a small amount of water.  (I use whatever left-over syrup I have from canning the pears)

Cook until mushy and then put through a sieve to get the pulp.  Throw the skins into the compost.

To each cup of pulp, but 1/2 cup sugar.  Add some cinnamon to taste and some pumpkin pie spice (because…why not?)  Cook until thick.  Can the butter according to safe guidelines.  http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html

This recipe is great on toast, waffles, ice cream or straight from the jar!

Hope you enjoy!

BENEFITS:

  • The joy of canning 🙂
  • Making a fruit butter without preservatives
  • Making enough to have extra for gift giving
  • Enjoying the wonderful taste of pear butter in the middle of winter

Most fruit butters are $5.00 per pint.  A lug of pear is $10.00, plus about $3.00 for sugar will give you about 14 pints of butter!

MONEY SAVED: $57.00!!!

🙂

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!!!

🙂

Mouth-Watering Meatballs

The Secret to Delicious Meatballs

I finally learned the secret of delicious meatballs!  I have the recipe and directions!!

Meatballs are a very versatile item to have in the freezer.  They can be tossed into casseroles, made into Italian meatballs subs, or my favorite…Sweet and Sour Meatballs!!

Best of all, I finally learned how to make tender, juicy meatballs with a recipe that’s large enough to have lots left over for another meal (or two)!

My recipe is very basic, but you can add whatever spices you want to change the flavor according to how you are going to use them.  Love how meatballs are so versatile!

Baked Meatball Recipe

3 pounds ground beef

2 eggs

1 – 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (your own of course)

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped onions or onion powder (optional)

Mouth-Watering Meatballs

Mouth-Watering Meatballs

Mix all ingredients by hand until mixed well.  Gently form balls about 1″ across.  Place on a jelly roll pan that has been lined with aluminum foil.  Bake for about 1/2 hour.  Test to make sure they are done.  That’s it!!

Mouth-Watering Meatballs

Forming loosely packed meatballs keeps them tender and baking them makes them juicy!  They will melt in your mouth!

Whatever is left after your meal can be taken off the aluminum foil and placed directly on the jelly roll pan and popped into the freezer.

Mouth-Watering Meatballs

The meatballs will freeze separately and you can transfer them to a freezer bag and take as many as you need the next time you want meatballs!  Easy peasy!

BENEFITS:

  • Homemade meatballs that you can season as you like
  • Easy meals that are waiting in the freezer
  • Saving money

Bags of ready to eat meatballs average $20.00 for three pounds.  On sale, I can buy hamburger for $1.99 / pound, plus a little extra for bread crumbs, eggs and onions.  If we eat a meatball meal once a month, that’s a savings of about $17.50 per month, x 12 months = $210.00 annually.

MONEY SAVED:  $210.00!!

🙂

oxeye-daisies

Saving Oxeye Daisy Seeds

I spent part of my morning harvesting spent heads from my Oxeye Daisies.

It was a beautiful morning.

Heidi was laying in the shaded grass, listening to the birds singing, reveling in the light, sweet smelling breeze as it blew across her and standing at attention whenever the sudden movements of a rabbit were within her line of vision.

I was doing much the same, as I was sitting on the front steps, picking through daisies, plucking the petals off the flowers and stripping the leaves from the stems.  The thought of the thousands of seeds I was gathering was mind boggling and I couldn’t help but be excited by the possibility of all those future plants!  It’s very empowering to know you can take seeds to produce more plants and when you’re frugally-minded, it’s also empowering to know how much money you can be saving!

To the best of my knowledge, these daisies are Leucanthemum vulgare, which are field daisies and naturalizing perennials.  In fact, they are invasive.  I started out with one small plant and this is what I have now.

oxeye-daisies

They are even growing in the grass!

oxeye-daisies

After stripping the leaves and petals from the flowers, this is what I end up with.

oxeye-daisies

I then hang these bundles upside down in a paper bag and wait for them to dry out.  When they are completely dry, all I’ll have to do is give the bag a pretty good shake and I’ll have the seeds gathered in the bottom of the bag!

BENEFITS:

  • Gathering free seeds from Mother Nature’s bounty
  • Keeping a variety of flower in existance
  • Enjoying nature as you harvest
  • Having seeds to share, sell, and grow

I’m not sure how to quantify the savings (or possible earnings) created by all these seeds, but seed packets are at least $2.50 per packet of 500 seeds and quarts of daisies can cost as much as $10.00 per quart.  I am going to go with a moderate estimate and say I would save/earn $300.00 from all these seeds!

MONEY SAVED/EARNED $300.00!!!

🙂

homemade-bread

In Search of the Perfect Loaf of Bread

(Post written by my daughter, Amanda)

I’ve been starting to crave good, crusty bread. Grocery store bread tends to be filled with preservatives to keep it shelf stable for as long as possible, and I try to avoid unnecessary food additives. I could buy organic bakery bread, but that breaks the bank at $5 or more a loaf in our city. So, I seem to be left with only one good option – make it myself!

A lot of people, myself included, are at first intimidated by the idea of making bread. Having to “proof” your yeast, knowing when it has “doubled” in size, etc. can seem like a lot. However, after quite a few attempts with very few issues I can attest to the fact that it isn’t rocket science (and I would know, my husband is an astrophysicist.)

homemade-bread

The most important thing I can recommend is finding a good recipe that works for you. I personally recommend this one, from food.com: http://www.food.com/recipe/crusty-french-bread-101476 The recipe is simple enough to make two nice loaves without any difficulty (hopefully) and basic enough that you can easily fiddle around with different washes and baking options to make your ideal loaf.

A few more things to note:

Proofing your yeast simply means making sure your yeast is still alive. Always be sure to test your warm water on your wrist, much like testing milk for a baby. If it’s too hot for your skin, it could kill the yeast. If the yeast is active you’ll hear a quiet fizzy noise, like soda, coming from the bowl and the water will look a bit frothy.

Washes can drastically change the appearance and outer texture of your loaves. An egg yolk mixture makes the darkest crust. Egg whites give a nice bit of sheen and a slightly darker crust than no wash. Spraying water on the crust will make it crustier.

By far the best way to get a nice crusty, “proper” bread texture is to put a pan of boiling water on the rack below your bread while baking. I tried this on my latest batch and the results were fantastic!

A note on kneading – I am a cheater! I’m fortunate enough to have been able to buy a Kitchenaid with a bread hook, which makes kneading infinitely easier. If you don’t have a mixer that can knead for you, make it a family affair! Everyone can take turns and children LOVE to get their hands dirty in baking.

My last recommendation would be to keep notes on your variations. Write down washes, temperature, whether you used the boiling water pan, etc. so you won’t forget how you achieved your perfect loaf.

Happy baking!

BENEFITS:

  • Home baking is always better than store bought
  • Smell of fresh bread in the house
  • Satisfaction of learning a new skill

$5 or more for an organic bakery loaf
My batch of two loaves: About 50 cents per loaf

MONEY SAVED!!  $4.50 per loaf or $234.00 per year!

🙂

Sharing Plants

Sharing Plants and Saving Money

If you’ve had perennials for any length of time, you know that dividing them helps them stay healthy and grow vigorously.  Plus, you get extras to transplant, sell or share!

I always love getting mature plants from people.  Mature plants from divisions are more fun than what you can get in the greenhouses, because there is always a story that goes with them!  I love hearing how old plants are, where they came from and how they got to where they are today.

Sharing Plants

I have also found that people who sell or give away their extra plants are also willing to give a little growing advice along with them!

Last fall, I divided some irises that I originally dug from the homestead where I grew up.  I’ve been growing them for over 20 years and they have followed us where ever we’ve have gone.  Those Irises have grown in Minnesota, North Dakota, and soon some of them will be growing in Iowa!

Sharing Plants and Saving Money

Mom, me and the Irises!

As you can see, the irises have been growing for many years!

I have the opportunity now, to share some of my Iris plants with my daughter!  She’ll be getting some of the Irises that her grandmother grew, plus some Day Lilies that I got from a friend about 15 years ago.

BENEFITS:

  • Established plants that have a history of growing well
  • Enjoying the company of other gardeners
  • Passing along plants from the family
  • Growing tips come with the plants
  • In this case, the plants are free!

Large buckets of plants are usually $15.00 + and I’m giving my daughter 6 buckets of a variety of large, healthy plants that are homegrown and mother approved. 😉  She’s saving lots of money!

MONEY SAVED $90.00!!

🙂

Make Your Own Fish Fertilizer

How to Make Fish Fertilizer

Fish fertilizer is fairly easy to make.

There are 6 steps, ranging from easy to queasy, but in the end, you will  have a super food that your plants will LOVE!

Make Your Own Fish Fertilizer

Here are the steps:

  1. Dig some worms, then grab your fishing rod and a bucket with a tight fitting lid. If you don’t fish, find someone who does and ask for their left-over fish guts.  Yes, they will look at you like you’re crazy, but carry on and skip to step 4.
  2. When you get to your favorite lake, put some lake water in your bucket, catch 3 or 4 fish (Sunfish work well in our area) and add them to the water in your bucket.  If you catch some weeds, like I usually do, put those in too.
  3. Enjoy the rest of the day fishing, listening to the birds and feeling the sun and breeze on your face.
  4. Go home with your fish bucket.
  5. Here comes the queasy part…grab a hatchet and chop up your fish.  I take the fish out of the bucket place them on the ground, near my compost heap and chop away.  Once you get past the first fish, the rest won’t seem so bad…..until you get splashed with fish guts.  Might want to wear goggles.  I’m just saying.
  6. Shovel your chopped fish back into your bucket.

Now we’re ready for the Fish Fertilizer Recipe

  • Lake water (about a gallon)
  • 3 or 4 fresh chopped fish
  • Browns…leaves, dead grass, sawdust (enough to soak up the water)
  • Molasses…about 1 cup (helps the mix ferment and keeps the stink down)
  • Epsom Salt…2 tablespoons to add some magnesium
  • Let it ferment for about 1 month, stirring or shaking the mix every 3 days.
  • After a month, it will be ready to use as a tea.
  • To make a tea, put 1 part fertilizer to 5-6 parts water in a bucket or watering can.  Let this set for about a week, stirring every day.  When you are ready to apply the fish fertilizer tea, water your plants a bit first, (just in case the tea is a little too strong) and then apply the fertilizer to the base of your plants.

After that, just set back and watch your plants grow!

BENEFITS:

  • Day spent fishing
  • Saving money
  • Making your own instead of buying
  • Self-sufficiency achievement points

You’ll be glad you went fishing in order to Make Your Own Fish Fertilizer and you’ll have saved a lot of money!  32 ounces of fish fertilizer sells for about $15.00.  You’ll have a gallon (128 ounces) for the cost of a cup of molasses and some Epsom salt!

Money Saved $59.50!

🙂

Be On The Lookout For Free Stuff!

Every year our city has a Clean-Up Week, where you can throw out almost anything you want and the city will pick it up for free.

“Berm Shopping” has become popular because of all this amazing stuff sitting on the berms, waiting to be picked up by the city.  If you drive around picking up this “trash” on the boulevard, you can get some amazing free stuff and all for the price of some gas.  (People also post free items on Craigslist and Facebook groups, so there are useful things being given away all the time!)

We like to hunt for discarded items we can recycle, re-purpose or re-use.  It’s a great way of getting useful items and keeping things out of the landfill!  I want to share some of my finds with you and I’ll show you a tally at the end of what these items would have cost me new!

Look for Free Stuff

 

We actually got a pair of these mid century metal lawn chairs.  Vintage lawn chairs  are selling for about $85.00 each.  $170.00

Look for Free Stuff

I am re-purposing this antique school desk as a planting table.  A simple planting table sells for about $100.00 and antique desks sell for around $50.00, so let’s say we saved $75.00.

Look for Free Stuff

A vintage door.  I’ve seen people re-purpose these into benches.  That would be a fun project!  Vintage doors sell for about $50.00.

Look for Free Stuff

Piano guts!  I have a few ideas for re-purposing this.  I would say the salvageable materials here are worth $100.00

Look for Free Stuff

Terra Cotta flower pot liners.  These come in handy for plants, bird feeders, etc.  Saved about $8.00.

Look for Free Stuff

Screen windows!  Invaluable for drying herbs and seed saving.  I would value these at $10.00 each and I had 4.  $40.00!

Look for Free Stuff

5 old windows!  I can make cold frames with those!  Windows are expensive, but I’m going to stay on the cheap side and say $50.00 each, so $250.00!

BENEFITS:

  • Keeping items out of the landfill
  • Getting usable items for free
  • Gathering free materials that can be up-cycled into items you can sell
  • Having fun hunting for things

I hope I peaked your interest in free stuff and that you didn’t mind the tour of my messy garage!   Now for the grand total!!   Drum roll…..

MONEY SAVED $693.00!!!!

🙂

1956 Ball Blue Book Jams and Jellies

Ball Blue Book 1956 Jam and Jelly Recipes

Old recipes are things of beauty.

Looking through old recipes books is a lot like reading pages of history.  Recipes are a history of our tastes and habits as they change through the years, as well as a history of our economic and social changes.  Think of the differences in cookbooks from the 1930s, compared to now!

My hubby bought me a bunch of old recipe books at the thrift store and I found a home canning book to be especially wonderful!

I’m excited to share these recipes and found some of them to be quite curious, like Tomato Butter.  I’ve never heard of it!  Does it sound good to you?  Would you eat it?

Some others that sound fun are….Apple-Pineapple-Coconut Conserve, Gooseberry Conserve, Quince Honey, Elderberry Jam, Prickly Pear Marmalade, Bar-le-Duc, Ground Cherry Preserves and Maraschino Cherries!

Every winter, I enjoy jams that I’ve made the previous summer, and I’m definitely going to have to make some of these.  What better way to spend a crisp, winter morning than by sipping coffee, looking out over the snow covered gardens and daydreaming about spring, while eating homemade jam on toast?  Cozy!

These recipes are from the Ball Blue Book Home Canning of Freezing Recipes and Methods, 1956.  Please note that not all the recipes mention a hot water bath for preserving.  Please use safe and up to date home canning methods.

Hope you find a new favorite!

1956 Ball Blue Book Jams and Jellies

1956 Ball Blue Book Jams and Jellies

1956 Ball Blue Book Jams and Jellies

1956 Ball Blue Book Jams and Jellies

1956 Ball Blue Book Jams and Jellies

1956 Ball Blue Book Jams and Jellies

1956 Ball Blue Book Jams and Jellies

1956 Ball Blue Book Jams and Jellies

1956 Ball Blue Book Jams and Jellies

1956 Ball Blue Book Jams and Jellies