Friday, August 20, 2010

Oh Deer

I've said before that we live in a small rural town in IL.. how rural? Well I've been trying to get a picture.. and will continue, but the other day when my husband went out to pick tomato's in our garden, that has a chest high fence around it. he came very close to a 6 point buck. In the garden... we've seen a few things knocked around in a path and the fence looked like it had been messed with.. well it seems the deer like where we've been digging out dirt between two types of corn and staying in there... then jumping over the fence to get back out... It makes me smile to know we are giving comfort to such a grand animal.. Even if a few things get squashed. Poor Corey though his sweet corn is being knocked over... I'll get pic's up of the "deer trails" in our garden ASAP!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday morning 6am wonderings..

So I've been up to my normal blog reading this morning. I subscribe to many frugal living and Homesteading blogs that I draw great inspiration and laughs from.. The problem is I get inspiration and my husband ends up on the perspiration end of things :)

This one blog I read was talking about how older things were built to last and newer things aren't.. she also talked about the skill set most people have today versus way back when...

Think about it.. in and old house most everything could be repaired and the people living in the house could do the repairs.. why? Because they were shown how.. and then did it themselves...

In this day and age there's TV, computers, game systems you name it.. so when our kids are kids are they learning the necessary skills for day to day life survival on their own?

Will they be able to fix it themselves or pay like crazy and hope someone fixes it the right way for them?

Corey and I hope we are passing on the necessary skills for our kids, and this "House that Harper Built " (more on that another time) has been a good learning tool.

To have to replace things that he "repaired " because they weren't done right, we have in turn been teaching our kids how to do things like, put in a sub floor, put in laminate wood flooring, take down drop ceilings, install drywall and toilets, sinks ect..  

We have done all the work ourselves, most of the skills Corey and I had been taught at one time or another.. (I can't thank my dad enough for the skill set he taught me!)  the other stuff I have gleaned info off the Internet.

I know I am an oddity around the family. I think I have amazed my father in law.. he always asks my husband "who's helping you?" Cher, is, she knows how to do all of this... hmm

The joke in his family is his dad buys power tools he wants for his wife on anniversary's and mother's day. I've already told my husband and father in law.. that's fine but I'll be the one using them.. and coming up with ways to use them... I don't think I'll be getting any power tools for anniversaries from my hubby :(

I guess where all this is going is.. before you pick up the phone... can you do it yourself even if you have to do a little reading? The other thing is.. turn off the electronics and tell your kids to hand you the socket wrench.. when they ask why show them... encourage your kids and yourself to learn a new skill every month.. do it together if you can.. this is what being frugal is all about.. doing things yourself the way they used to be done...  Not zoning out killing zombies on the TV.. what???

Now I'm off to dehull popcorn, work in the gardens, hopefully process tomatoes and finish our composting bin thingy Corey came up with at 10 pm last night and next Monday I should be mudding and taping the bathroom :) 

Spend time with your kids and teach them something.. they are our Life's simple Blessings!!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tomatoes have blown up!

I wish I would have had the forethought to take pictures of all the tomatoes littering our kitchen... or the ones still on the vines outside almost ripe... My question is why does it seem they blow up on the worst and hottest days of the summer?

I've decided next year to plant a set of plants every few days instead of all at once... I'm wondering if I plant one of each type of tomato and pepper and then 4 days later do it again if I could in turn make waves of produce instead of a huge wave that I can't climb out of?

I've lost about a basketful of Tomatoes this year either to bugs or to harvesting them and being unable to use them.. there were a few times we didn't have jars and just couldn't afford them or I was extremely busy...

At least I was able to talk Corey into trying to compost again... The last time we tried it wasn't very organized and lets just say it's now a very well producing weed pile :(

Between this and the worm bin I hope we can compost and not waste as much as we had been.

Yesterday I taught my nine year old daughter how to wield a knife like a pro.. at first I had her going slow but she picked up the pace and we were able to finely chop up 2 1/2 gallons of chopped tomato..

I had hoped to process salsa today but with an asthma attack last night saw the need to take Colton in today for a check up. With the Dr. being over an hour away we wasted much of the day.
So tomorrow after a visit with my mom and grandparents I hope to process a few batches...

So with another 30 tomatoes staring at me in my kitchen I'm ready to call a truce with the Tomato Craze and spend time with the kids instead... if one rots over night it will go in the compost.. I shouldn't get upset that I missed just one.... time for kid time!

Will continue next week posting on frugal wedding's and ideas that we used... also more on this years harvest and savings.. we also have the Can recycle bin, and my hopes of a big outdoor worm bin... (I'm sure my husband is driving down the road cringing right now.. knowing that I'm on my favorite blogs getting ideas... "it's only a few cinder blocks and a big hole and a pvc pipe honey and we've been offered 100 cinder blocks for free if we can go to town...."  at least now he won't fall asleep while working night shift :)  See being frugal has it's advantages.. and having an ox for a husband makes it even better!

See simple blessings are every where :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Before I go on to the rest of the wedding I want to put a little bug in your ear.

If your a couple who has been together for a while you may very well have all the dishes in the world you need... and other such things that people give at weddings..

Instead why not ask family with gifting parts of your wedding?

A friend of ours suggested it one day. She asked us what do you really need for your wedding?
My answer at that time was the cake.  I had tried making one myself which turned out great but with everything else I was doing I was worried about time. She and her other half took care of our cake as a wedding presant.

My grandparents helped with the photography and the dinner.

And my praents paid for the DJ

There were other bits of help along the way...

But with all this help we made the cost as low as possiable on everything and as more post go up you'll see how!

The Photographer

Photography is important to any wedding.. and yes those beautiful pic's of those special moments will stay with us forever..... but.... think before you get a photographer... do you like those staged photos where everyone looks like they have a stick behind them??

I sure didn't, Corey and I wanted fun and carefree, someone who would understand and get into our theme who would make it about us and not everyone else...

The other issue we wanted to tackle was the cost... Do you know that photographers will charge you loads and then not even give you the negatives??? We looked at a friends picture's.. they were all staged... they were on a dvd but password protected so they couldn't copy them... they spent over $2,000 just on the photography not to mention the photos.... Um nope we couldn't afford that...

What we could afford was a guy who took the pictures (free engagement photos) and gave us the disk.. yep all the negatives... and you guessed it under $1,000

If you live in Central IL. Please check Tim out, he is an awesome fun loving guy and his pictures speak volumes... just check these pic's out...

Tim found a close by place that was so much fun between the wedding and the reception.
His ideas were endless and all fun and all with us in mind...
The funny thing is this would be something we'd do on our own at home LOL

Corey and I

The ham of the night Colty

My favorite on from after the wedding!

Tim took the time to get to know us, I hope your photographer does the same! Check out the small guys, honestly they do some of the best work out there!

or Tim Brya Photography on facebook!

The dress

Ah the dress, the most important thing to a girl on her wedding day and I was no diffrent... :)
Except I was diffrent. You see between Corey and myself we have 4 kids... not what I would consider a good case for wearing white... however, had I wanted to wear white I would have... I just didn't want to.

With a Western Wedding theme... since we live in the country and my hubby is an ex boots and jeans just fit us!

My dream dress was a deniem dress with a train that I could put up when it was time for the reception. But it had to be pretty and I love the corset backs on the dresses now.

I checked with every store imaginable and was laughed at many times.. though a few offered to have the dress died blue.. I wanted deniem...

And my budget for the dress itself.. was $500.00
Here's what I found.

I did pay $100 for alterations also.
You can find this dress and many more at

They carry old fashioned dresses and deniem dresses... for less then the big wedding stores.. with a little imagination and someone who can do alterations it can be your perfect dress to.

The Alterations I had done... Shorten the dress, and put corset stays in the back so the back tied up instead of zipping up.

This dress is being reused by my close friend. I'll post a pick after the end of Augast. She fell in love with it also.. so now she has something borrowed, and blue :) 

Frugal wedding

Okay, it's hot outside.. which means I can't be outside.. going stir crazy.. so with not wanting to think about weather the heat will cause a harvest issue... and in light of my soon to be one year anniversary.. and my oldest on a wedding kick. I decided to do a few post on a frugal wedding.

Frugal wedding sounds kinda like a joke right?? I've seen the budgets for our friends and about feinted.
Honest our $7,000 orginal budget sounded modest by far.. now what if i told you it cost Corey and I less then half of that..

Your thinking.. it wasn't very pretty, she settled on a dress she didn't like... it wasn't tailored to them... or their parents paid for everything... uh nope.

I will be including links for things I think are important so follow along and I hope you pick up a few ideas to help lower your cost.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Rain Barrels How to :)

Sunday was a great day, had a wonderful visit with family who admired our newly installed rain barrel....
They were even more impressed that it only cost us $5.00 out of pocket.. granted we were gifted with a few items and had the others laying around. If you can get the barrel used it should still only cost you $20.00 at the very most.. ( I love $20 and under money saving projects :)

It was very easy to complete and took Corey and I about 15 minutes.. that included wading through the mess in the garage to find necessary things.

What you need...
  • A barrel.. we used a barell that had stored windshield wiper fluid from a lube place. It's a big Blue barrel:) This was given to us.
  • A jig saw
  • A saw able to cut through metal down spout
  • A flex able tube
  • A spout that will attach to our hose and turn on and off.
  • screws
  • caulk
  • Pencil
  • spade bit and drill
Basically you need to get your barell and find out where you want to set it. Because there was a walk in our way we moved ours off to the side instead of directly under the down spout.

Make sure to rinse your barell out if there was any chemicals in them before. Ours had held wiper fluid so we made sure to rinse it.

Take your flex pipe and gauge where you need to cut on the downspout to reach your barrel. Remember this should be higher then the top of your barell.

Cut your down spout using the saw. Attach pipe with 2 screws.

Take flex tube, put the end on the barrel where you want it and trace around the bottom of it. Take jig saw and cut out hole... Make sure you make the whole tight.

Take the flex pipe and put through hole. Caulk around.

Next take your spigot and find the matching spade bit. Cut hole for spigot, lay a bead of caulk around spigot and put through hole. Screw on. The caulk should flow out around it to form a seal.

There is your rain barel :)

Please let us know how this works for you and if you have any ideas to make it better. We are always open to suggestions!

Our total cost was for the spigot, we had the flex pipe originally at the end of the downspout to direct water away from the walk way. We are planning on building a total of 6 of these to help water our gardens outside.
Happy Water Gathering!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Smoked Tomato Sauce/ soup

Okay a quick post...

Do you have ton's of Tomatos and don't know what to do with them? Don't really want to heat up the house right now cooking,  then canning them?  Are you grilling outside? If so check this out....

What you need:
Cookie pan or broiler pan
thin racks, cookie or even the ones from your toaster oven
Small grill proof bowl
Smokeing wood if you have any
Green Peppers
Balsomic vinegar (if you want a little bite)
Freezer containers or bags

Take cookie sheets or deeper pans that will fit on your grill, also a small grill safe bowl or glass container.
Line cookie sheet/pan with foil and place a cookie rack on top.

Take tomatos and core (remove top stem and any other green part) then cut an X across the top but not all the way down. Place these cut side down on your rack. If you want you can dip them in olive oil and favorite spices.. or sprinkle salt and pepper over them. Fill your rack and make sure the tomatoes are touching.

slice peppers into big pieces, cut onions into rings and peel garlic. Place these in the bowl with a little salt and fill with  water (this adds to the sauce and keeps them from burning... you may have to refil this while they are cooking if you notice its low)

Now on your left over hot coals or gas.. place pans and bowl on grill racks... Add wet wood for smoking if you have it. and a little more charcoal if you need it.. just not to much. Close grill

Check grill every 10 minutes or so until Tomato skins are coming off or turning brown/ black.. Peppers and onions should be well cooked and soft.

Remove from grill

(Hint: If you have either a pan or tray bigger then what you put on the grill, line it with an old towel and place hot pans on it to take inside)

Process all Tomatos, onions, peppers and garlic in a food processor or blender.. add some balsomic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and any non burnt drippings in the pans.

Place cooled sauce in freezer safe contaners/bags

And there you go and awesome smelling/tasteing sauce  or soup! It's easy and fun.. and won't heat up the house. My kids love helping with it! And best of all now you have a way to use all those Tomatos and those coals that are still hot and dying down!

Today's blessings for us:
  • Kisses and loves from Ozzie the dog :)
  • A special delivery of Sweet Corn from a family in town. 3 1/2 dozen. (we cut off the corn on 2 dozen and froze in freezer bags. The others are for tomorrow :)
  • Figured out where the outside compost will be going
  • Talked about the front yard and decided the grass will be leaving it :)
  • Colty promised to pick up a toy before he even got it out :)
What a day! Can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring.. and eat grilled chicken with this sauce and cheese on it!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Today's small blessing's

I called the blog small blessings for so many reasons. My main reason was that since we started our new way of thinking and of life, Corey and I have been very blessed in so many ways.. but there are still tough days... those days I encourage my husband to find the blessings that are hidden in them. Can you find the little blessings hidden in your day?

My small blessing today...
  • While taking pictures of things for the blog I had a butterfly land on my favorite purple Rose's.. Colty noticed and had a big grin!
  • Watching my son yell to his dad one more hug! and then him closing the car door with a hug smile on his face.
  • Seeing our elderly neighbor sitting on the stool in the garage watching the kids.
  • Colty helping with the worm compost
  • an unexpected visit from a friend and her daughter... finding out once again that I'm not alone in my struggles with a child who has ADHD.
  • Katie letting the dogs loose and Rose who was supposed to be helping find the dogs found a baby toad and handed it to me...
  • Finding out my in laws will be coming out Sunday... where as before that rarely happened.
  • time curled up watching a movie with Kyera

Life is full of little blessings even on a bad day.. I hope you are able to find yours!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Worm Composting 101 :)

Okay... sounds nuts right?? I sure thought so until I did a LOT of reading up on it...  There are many sites dedicated to it.. but with everything on the Internet it needs to be taken with a grain of salt... use your imagination and things you know when you read these. You can look under "Worm Composting" "Worm Tea" And  "Vermiculture"

There is no exact science to this, it's different for everyone because you have to do it the way that's right for you. One funny tidbit from our family before I go more into this. We started our worm compost in April as a family project while my husband was over the road. In May he had to go into his grandmother's crawl space to change furnace filter's and found a "Worm Ranch" that had been his uncles over 30 years ago.

So even though it may not be well know it has been around for years!

It's really pretty simple and you can make one from things you may already have lying around... or purchase for under $20.. You don't have to have one of the $100 systems that are our there. My system can be added to at any time for $5.00 or less :)

Our worm "bins"

We started our worm composting with $20 and a little knowledge from the web.

To build a worm composting system. You need. At least 3 plastic tubs of any size.. they just have to be the same size as each other, the more worms you want, the bigger the tubs you need. Also, Use colored bins, they help keep out the light which will help your worms be more active and keep the moisture from evaporating as fast.

Rubbermaid bin

You need 2 Drill bits. One that is a little bigger around then your worms, the other can be a small one for air holes... make sure it's not big enough for your worms to go through because they will try.

Non color print newspaper.. unless you know for sure that they use soybean based inks instead of the normal colored inks that can be toxic.

Dirt. Can be any untreated dirt from outside, though do check for bugs, and other life before adding it.

A piece of card board that is about as big as your tub, that will fit in and is not colored.

Some thing for risers... this can be clean cat food cans or wood pieces that are laying around

A place that is cooler and protected to keep your worm bin

And don't forget you need worms!  From what I have read it's better not to use your normal everyday worms if your wishing to make a lot of compost and or good compost. I recommend Red Worms. I have heard you can use Night Crawlers but those are so big! Can you imagine how big your bins and holes would need to be?

You can by worms online by the pound, but we bought ours one container at a time from the fishing department at a store and from our local tackle shop. We used them for fishing and what ever was let were put into our bins :) I love double duty things!

So once you have everything together it's pretty easy.

First take all of your bins, and wash them out really good.

Next, Take your big drill bit and drill holes in the bottom's of 2 bins... DON"T PUSH ON THE DRILL!  This will crack the tub and make it useless. Let the drill bit do the work.

Bottom of bin

The next step is to take the smaller bit and drill holes around the top of the side's and on one lid.
once again let the bit do the work :)

Next shred up your newspaper and get it wet.. When you remove it from the water squeeze it out a little, then loosen it up and put inside your bin.. you want it kind of Airy.

Add your dirt and your worms.

Paper's and dirt

Then wet your card board and place it on top..

To feed your worms remove card board and pull back a little of the paper, put in your veggie and fruit scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds or washed out, and ground up egg shells. Then recover with Newspaper.
(If you don't cover the food scrapes up, you can end up with lots of buggies and icky smells! Every time you feed them put it in a different spot in the bin. You'll see things in all sorts of stages of decompose.

Place lid with holes on a riser in the container without holes.
Place double stacked tubs on riser where you are keeping your worms.

Now after the worms have been eating for a while and most of the dirt has turned into worm casting.. there may still be newspaper left. Add another bin with paper and dirt but no card board. Place riser in it and then put your already working worm bin over it. Then only feed the new bin. Your worms will start to migrate through the holes down to this bin. After they have you can go through your top bin and remove stragglers and you have worm compost. Perfect for making work tea or fertilizing any of your plants!

A few things to note.
Worms are ornery.. they will go in search of other places and may end up in your bottom nonholed bin used for catching water and worm castings that come out. So check this bin regularly.

Don't be upset if you see mushrooms or little tiny bugs.. your building a miniature ecosystem.

It takes our worms 4 months to make a tub of compost because we only have about 30 worms right now. The more worms the more compost.

It is a huge surprise and so cool the first time you look in your bin and see baby worms! They are so tiny, but it goes to show you really have a little world in your big one :)

This is a fun thing to do with your kids and can be kept in a cool closet or some where else cool. In our house we have ours in the kitchen where our broken dishwasher used to be. :)

Worm bins together.

 And don't forget this is a great way to teach your kids how to take care of something, about ecosystems and about composting. Not to mention it's really fun!

My 3 year old and the "wormmies"

 Have a wonderful day, and if you have any questions feel free to ask. I'll answer what I can :)
Remember to count life's small blessings... they add up fast!



Okay, so just a small intro before I really get into this. My husband, I and our 3 kids and 2 dogs live in rural IL.  I can walk a circle around our little town in less then 15 minutes.. :) There is a bank, a post office and a gas station.. that's it.

We sit on a corner on 3 lots... so we do have a bit of a yard :)
The house we bought 2 years ago was "redone" by a man who had no clue what he was doing.
We've slowly begun the process of reworking the house. Between this and the economy and job losses, we have decided it's necessary for us to think about survival.. actually not just survival but thriving.. on our own.

We also worry about food safety, the chemicals in most foods and about just how safe our food supply really is.. are we obese because we eat butter and sugar or is it because of the chemicals in and on our food.. preservatives.. what are they preserving? Why weren't people way back obese?

We have found many simple ways to not only save but to adjust our lives... before we buy something we ask these questions...
1) can we make this.. better and for less?
2) do we really need this?
3) Can we grow this?
4) What will we do with it if it breaks?
5) Is it better to buy cheaper.. or will it break right away? would it be better to pay a bit more?

Before we throw anything out we ask?
Can I make anything out of this?
Can it be recycled?
Can it be given to someone who needs it?

The one thing I have learned to never turn down is old towels.:)
So I hope this will be a place to find recipes, ideas, directions and what not on doing things frugally, old fashioned ways of life put into today's world. I hope like us you learn that life's small blessings are often the best things in our lives!

Look for posts about our home made worm farm, home made Rain barrel's and more coming up! :)