Category Archives: Gardening

More Getting Ready for Retirement: Food & Home Improvement

There are things I definitely agree with in Aslett’s book, Make Your House Do the Housework. And things I don’t.

One of the main things I do agree with him is that the easiest way to make something easy to clean/not require cleaning at all, is to change the overall system/design of something to that end. He has some favorites:

  • Vinyl (which we won’t use because I’m allergic or sensitive to many kinds of plastics and petroleum products). I don’t disagree with him about the stuff being easy to clean but I don’t want easy to clean and makes me sick at the same time!
  • Medium tones in colors, as very light or very dark show stains and spots more easily.
  • Built-ins. Built-ins take away areas to clean (or should) as they frequently go from floor to ceiling. Last week I found someone making a “built-in” from Ikea bookcases and they left a 4-6″ gap at the top, so you have a weird looking top and an impossible to clean horizontal surface? I don’t know what’s up with that? Built-ins are just that, built in. And if they go up over my head, they’re going to go to the ceiling, not almost!
  • Suspended Furniture. Wall mounted tables, chairs mounted to the front of a counter, etc. All make the single biggest horizontal surface in a home, the floor, easier to clean.
  • Water filtration removing things like iron which cause staining.
  • Reduction of surfaces, like using mirrored glass doors instead of louvers.

Okay, I mostly agree with him. I’d love a whole-house vac, but there’s no way thats possible in our solid-wall log home, forget it. That means at least 2 pieces of clutter/tools, vacuums. Of course, being us, we have 3. [We had 5 — I’m doing better, don’t get on me about this!]

DH has one for the workshop. I have a small portable I can and do carry around. Finally, I have an upright for the large rugs. We use all of them, every week. The workshop one DH has can be connected to tools to clean as he goes. MUCH better than before, I’ll put up with the extra piece to store! Not to mention that it’s much stronger than the other 2 vacs, so if I have something really filthy I borrow it . . . . And he made it a place to be put away, so it isn’t part of the floating clutter. That’s 2 of the 3. The upright doesn’t really have a put away place, and it needs one. It IS a part of the floating clutter. . .

I need a list! (I’ll add to this as I come up with other items.)

FLOATING CLUTTER (Cull, find a place to put it away, and/or use them)

  • Upright vac
  • All 3 rakes
  • Empty kindling bins

Proud of myself! Just figured out a spring/summer use for these: taking leaves to the dump! I have been reluctant to bag up leaves, because I couldn’t figure a way to do it without getting my face right in it.

My neat-nick neighbors put their leaves down a slope on the edge of their yard or put them in a trash barrel and haul them to the dump. They have trucks. We don’t. Putting leaves in barrels isn’t a solution here!

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Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

I’ve had a cold for a month now. The idea of using the kindling bins for hauling the leaves to the dump means that 1) they now have an out of season use which is much better than storing them empty 2) I won’t need to use bags to haul leaves to the dump, which means we won’t need to buy them and 3) I can get leaves prepped to go to the dump without getting my face near them.

WIN!!!

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Fruit & Herb Lists

I made up those as well, this morning rather than yesterday. One of my issues with doing things like this is that I tend to make melanges, stews, goulashes, etc. of whatever is to hand, rather than to a recipe. That means that I don’t save many pieces of specific recipes, I want things I can then mangle or change to suit us.

There are “zipper” songs where you include wording to suit whatever you’d like. These are sort of zipper recipes: I can go in many directions with them.

berries

smoothie/Rodale p 267

melons

berry-melon ice/Rodale 271

peaches

cobbler/Rodale 284

Here’s the herb/spice list

anise seeds

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

basil, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

bay leaves

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

chervil, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

chives, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

cumin seeds

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

dill, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

dill

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

dill

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

dill

Dill Cabbage Soup/Rodale 74

fennel seeds

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

garlic

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

garlic

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

marjoram

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

parsley, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

oregano

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

paprika

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

rosemary

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

sage

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

scallions

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

thyme

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

And I’ll add my normal recipes, like: HM garlic salt, onion salt, salt substitute and chive butter. Some of which I have recipes for, some I don’t.

 

Going Back and Not

This past week found me working on pieces I haven’t worked on in a year or so: my might be a novel and the buying used stuff website.

Both are things that I hope to sell someday, so I guess I’m feeling like I need to make some $. Both are pieces I have a lot of time and energy into (the website data is 45 pages, for example).

Both got stalled last year. Okay, both are on my queue again, now.

Other things which have been dropped recently:

  • Food plan & food waste tracking – not so much dropped as forestalled. The farm food glut starts the end of this month . . . .
  • The cleaning plan – also not dropped as set aside because of the cold.
  • The absolutely final house purge. Also not dropped, but before the flea market last month I had gotten to all the pieces which were easily accessible here. So a major movement of boxes o’ stuff needs to happen. I have cleared off a bookcase in my office, almost entirely. But the other counters, etc. are heaped high with uncategorized stuff. There’s a crafters “maker space” (a commercial one) in the nearby college town. My idea is to take some of the materials there and USE them or donate or SELL them? We’ll see.

So, things haven’t stopped entirely, but yes, they slowed down a lot. The first major goal was met, that is we did the flea market in April. We donated a lot of the unsold merchandise to a thrift shop on our way out of town. There was a hole in the storage unit. There still is, although I’ve taken 1 load of new flea market gleans to the storage (and I have the beginnings of another).

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The next flea market is the beginning of next month.

Hopefully, I will NOT stay sick the entire month, like I have the past month, so this will be much easier!

I have dropped the following:

Early planting of the vegetable garden. Some of it should have been planted last month. Some of it should be seeded RIGHT NOW. I’m not because I feel wretched. Too bad!

What has been planned for this month is to scheudule the chimney sweep coming and  also replacing the chimney’s cap. That will do us for another year for that.

Do NOT Keep Up with the Joneses

We have one neighbor who has 3 kids. The kids are grown and have left home, but show up periodically to help Mom and Dad do things around the house, build a deck and rebuilding their entry stairs most recently.

These people have a house which always looks great. Except that they spend all their spare time, both of them,  working on their home: weeding, mowing, planting, fertilizing, washing their cars. Their home is really nice.

At various times, I have adopted the attitude that I wanted our home to be as neat and tidy as theirs. Except I can’t. DH mows the lawn and occasionally helps me bag leaves, but the yard work is up to me. DH keeps his workshop up and will do day-to-day maintenance: dishwashing, laundry, catbox, etc. but the rest is up to me. I do not have 3 kids and their significant others or siblings or parents all of which my neatnik neighbors do. And all of whom come and help.

So there’s no way. As a pie in the sky standard? Yep, that’s fine. But I was doing yard work today and our yard is still largely unraked. The bulb bed is raked out, but only about 1/2 the leaves have made it to the dump. (The neatnik neighbors have a hill they can put leaves down; we don’t.) About 40% or less of our yard is raked. Less than 1/2 those leaves have been bagged up and taken to the dump. I had a cold, DH has one. It was pouring rain, etc. It will get done, but it gets done slowly here.

Makes me want to plant a lot more pine trees and get rid of some of the oaks! I have made the lawn smaller, put gravel in the walkways, so that it doesn’t have to be replaced so often. The bulb bed has mulch in it to help keep the weeds down, and I’m slowly but surely replacing the regular lawn with no mow grass.

But I am aging faster than the lower maintenance yard is taking hold. I need to do things more quickly. One thing we’ve talked about for a while and hopefully will do this year is gravel the driveway. That will make keeping the weeds out of it easier AND will help keep the dust down, which will keep the house cleaner.

We’ve already agreed we’ll paint the kitchen this year. It’s a lot of work, same process as painting the living room 3 years ago: lightly sand the wood walls, seal the knots, caulk, primer, sand, primer, sand, primer touch up, and paint.

We’ll probably paint the laundry room at the same time; it’s tiny and it’s wallboard, easy peasy compared to the varnished log walls!

The living room needs some touch up and the baseboards painted. We finally agreed on the baseboard paint last fall, and we’ll use it throughout the house.

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Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

My office needs to be cleared out and painted too. But that will be easier than the kitchen because that room isn’t used all the time.

The attic clean out needs to be finished. We’ve agreed we’re going to put in knee walls and finish the space. I imagine this will probably be the unfinished piece this year. We have to clear out a huge space to do this, because everything has to come out of the attic. There’s nowhere to put the stuff in the house now, so it can’t happen yet.

More Food Musings

Because of the frugal food analysis, I also got down the seed box.

I got discouraged with our veggie garden a couple of years ago, I planted 4 tomato plants (at a cost of $8 each for mid-size, organic, yellow tomato plants) and something ate two of the plants down to the ground. We got 4  fully ripe tomatoes from the other 2 plants and about 4 smaller green ones before the season ended. Tomatoes for $4 each just didn’t seem worth the effort, right?

So last year I just let the garden go. We had a wonderful crop of weeds.

I remembered what I wanted from my garden tonight, even with the farm food, and that is grow things I can’t really get enough variety or quantity from the farm: greens, beans and not red tomatoes.

So I started looking at seeds at my favorite supplier and got down the seed box. Which, because I haven’t planted a garden in two years of any size was chock-a-block full of seeds, some as far back as 2010! I put 52 seed packets in the trash can with seeds in them and 2 empty packets, which I’d kept for some reason.

garden bed

(Image isn’t mine but from images.google.com .)

No seeds in the box are from last year, most are from 2016. This means I’ll spend weeks testing seeds and more will get trashed. But that’s good because it will make me do another cull BEFORE I order seed! (I thought I’d culled the box last year when I moved it. Apparently not, I just put the lid on the box and put it away untouched.)

So, today I took 2 bags of books to the dump’s swap shop and tossed 52 seed packets.

We have been working hard on figuring out what’s next for the house: what we want and how to do it. One thing we decided we wanted is prohibitively expensive, unless DH builds it and even then it’s not cheap. That got tabled and we decided he should work more on the other projects. The big DIY project uses jigging and the company which sells that has a sale or two each year. We decided to try and buy the jigs on sale and maybe that’s it this year and tackle the project itself, materials and hardware, next year.

Things are selling at the antique store, which is really nice, since I only have 3 more weeks in that booth! On the other hand, I don’t think anything has sold in the new book booth, but I need to redo things a bit before that will happen I guess?

 

Weird Ways to Save $, Mostly in the Garden

I’m always looking for ways to implement my 3 basic ideas to save $ (use less, find a cheaper subsititute, or do without), here’s a few.

  • Manila Envelopes: Seem to fail most often on the T-shaped clasp. Use one side at a time instead of both. When one fails/breaks off, use the other.
  • Lawn:  1) Deliberately let a part of the lawn go to moss, if it wants to do that. Will you win a house beautiful contest? No, but moss usually stays green without fertilizer and doesn’t need to be mowed. 2) Fill in bare spots with a no-mow grass seed mix. 3) Deliberately let the edges of the lawn (or a patch) go to seed and collect the seed to use on any bare spots. 4) Change part of the lawn to something else, a patio or path, using stone, pavers, mulch, etc.
  • Plants: Get more plants by getting out of the way and letting them do what they want! For something like forsythia, put a rock on the middle of an outer branch and it will grow roots where the branch hits the ground. Two bushes for the price of one! (It’s called layering.) Divide bulbs and plant both bulbs slightly farther apart. Works with day lillies, daffs, etc. Or, let the plant go to seed. We have an edge of “cup of gold” day lilies lining part of our drive. Most of these were grown from seed, obtained from the one plant I bought or other landscaping. We have a layer of bracken (ferns) along the top of a stone retaining wall. Cost? Nothing. I layer leaves of the bracken where I want the ferns to be the next year and there they grow!
  • Fertilizer/Mulch: 1) Compost your grass clippings and use the compost. 2) Make use of your community’s leaf pile/shrubbery pile for compost or as a source for items to compost. 3) Find a farm who will sell you soiled straw or composted manure. Not so easy in the city, but pretty easy where we live. I have found chicken farms who would let you haul off their soiled straw for free, folks who raise beefalo who would deliver it in small area, etc. 4) Use your coffee grounds or spent tea.
  • Trellising: Find ways to reuse what you have. At one point, the bean trellis here was made from 2 paperback spinners, a TV antenna, and various card rack bits, because it was what we had to hand.

I hope there’s at least one thing in there you haven’t thought of yet!

Using What You Have & What Works

We have a large lot with a lot of trees. The trees dump a lot of pine cones, acorns and oak leaves on the property. Clean up requires much work, and a large volume of space to gather the leaves, cones, acorns, and compost same or haul them to the town’s leaf  or brush pile.

Because I am on a “clean up” jag, I’ve been working on the yard. I have no panic attack issues (that I know of) with the garden.

We only have 2 plastic trash barrels. They’re too big to go into my car. I have a few smaller metal trash cans, but they too would likely have to be put on their sides, and would probably leak leaves, etc. into my car. The better idea seems to be to bag up the leaves and take them to the dump that way. The leaf paper bags work, but are expensive and wasteful.

Because I’m not all that tall, hauling trash barrels and/or full leaf bags gets to be comic for everyone other than me, as the bags are nearly my size. They’re difficult to deal with, full.

Accordingly, we went looking for easier ways to haul the assorted leaves, twigs, etc.  DH brought home one of these:large concrete tub

It’s a concrete mixing tub. After using it a while, it cracked on the corner, so he bought another. It also cracked on the corner, but both are still usable, so we use them, cracks and all!

Last fall, we bit the bullet and bought a package of reusuable plastic bags. These are also made for construction. They’re called “Demo Bags” and we bought them with the idea that we’d use them over & over, for yard waste. So far that works!

The bags fit over the ends of the tubs. It’s not a loose fit, but it’s do-able.

I can push the contents of the tub right into the bag. This was completely unexpected, and welcome — it makes the job much easier!

The bags are big enough for me, especially with my “iffy” elbow that I don’t fill them, but put 1-3 tubs of leaves in them, about 1/2 the bag’s worth. I can then lift them without a problem.

I have a place to put away the tubs, but don’t have one for the previously used bags, yet. That’s the only glitch about this “system”. I’m using what we already had (the tubs), getting the yard cleaned up fairly efficiently, and I’ve cut down the amount of money spent on single-use supplies.

Definitely a win!

(The used bags are being stored right next to where the tubs are stored when they’re empty. Hurrah!)