Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Plain Jane's Helpful Tips for Surviving a Bad Economy--Tip #1

Looking back at this past year, it was pretty rough. As I mentioned in my previous post, with the economy going as badly as it did, we had to learn new habits and do things differently than we ever had to before in order to keep afloat. This got me thinking--I bet if I thought hard enough and got creative, I could come up with some really great ideas for saving money (or at least not spending too much money) during these hard times.....

Tip #1: Don't Buy Windshield Wiper Fluid!
Here in Idaho, during the winter months your car can get extremely dirty. Melted snow mixed with sand put down on the roadways can coat your car and make you look like you've been out off-roading in the desert.
Yesterday as I was driving home from work the late afternoon sun was glaring onto my windshield and making it hard to see with all of the grime that had built up from the morning drive to work. I pulled on the lever to spray windshield wiper fluid & get the wipers in motion....
All I got was a whining noise and dry wipers smearing the dirt across the windshield.
Oh great....
As I was hurdling along the freeway, trying to squint through the hazy glass, I noticed that the snow had melted and the cars were all kicking up copious amounts of fresh water off their back tires. An idea started forming. I looked around and quickly found the biggest jacked-up 4x4 truck on the freeway and jockeyed for position behind it.
(Now this is where it gets tricky...) To pull this off correctly, you need to get close enough to receive the spray from the donor vehicle in front of you without getting close enough to be considered tailgating or put yourself in danger. As soon as the spray hit my windshield I immediately threw the wiper lever into high gear, greedily swiping the water back & forth across the glass. Success!! A sparkly clean windshield and clear vision!
Obviously this won't work all the time--it can only work when there is rain or melted snow on the freeway or roadways. But in a pinch and with the right conditions, you could cut back on your windshield fluid use by at least half!

You can thank me later...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Can It Really Be Six Months Away?

I took this picture at the end of the evening on Christmas. A boy....his dog.....Christmas tree lights twinkling in the background...makes me a little sad.
I know, strange reaction to such a sweet holiday-spirit type picture. But what makes me a little sad is realizing this is the last time I'll be seeing this Christmas-y scene with my son as a "child". Six months from now he'll be turning 18. That big, magical number that says "that's not your child he's a man." (Or at least considered an "adult". I think it takes more than an age to make a man, although I don't doubt my son will seize the opportunity with gusto and prove himself worthy of the title in no time.)
At this point, we're fretting about grades and panicking about whether that cap & gown we ordered for him will actually be used at the end of May. Not that he's not a bright fact, he's very bright and extremely intelligent. It's just that he picks & chooses what he wants to act intelligently about. Such as a lot of teenagers do. I've recently heard him rattle off information about economics, spending & investing with remarkable knowledge. But ask him the answer to one of his geometry problems and you get a blank stare. He can pick up any music beat after hearing just a few bars, tapping them out on whatever surface is available. But ask him if he turned in his government class assignment and you get a shrug. We opened up his first checking account for him at our credit union as a Christmas gift and I was intrigued to watch him studiously reading over the terms and conditions of the account Christmas morning after opening the box.
If we can just get through these next five months of school okay, then I have no problem seeing him striking out as a new adult. But I can still admit that it will make me a little sad. Because it means he won't be my little boy any more....
Collin showing off his dog, shortly after getting him from the Humane Society.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cleaning House--New Links!

It's been awhile....a lot has been going on. Those of you who are close to me know what we've been dealing with for the past several months. My husband had difficulty finding a job when he first moved out here and although he found one in the spring, the work was on & off and he was laid off a couple of times. Because of the work not being steady, he was ineligible for unemployment. Now this latest time he was laid off for the whole winter. He looked for other work and just recently was hired on at a place that makes Bike Lids. During this whole thing, my own hours at work had been dropped down to 4 days a week and still have not gone back to full time. I know, it sounds like a sob story...but it's our story and it's been a rough year.

So.....I'm cleaning house and getting rid of stuff I no longer need/use. I'll be either listing stuff here in the blog itself or putting them in the new links I have on the right side of the page. (Go ahead...check them out!) If you're local and interested in any of these things, just contact me either here or through the listings and we can see about meeting up somewhere so you can buy them. If you're not local and are interested, please still contact me (again through here or the listings) and we can see about making arrangements of some kind. I have Paypal so you can always pay that way & pay for it to be mailed to you.

I'm not trying to turn my blog into some kind of money maker...I still plan on getting off my mental butt and getting back to posting my stories, updates & thoughts. But in times like these, when we're all doing a little worse for wear, we do what we have to do to get the bills caught up. If I have no use for these things, why not let someone else buy them who can get good use out of them, right? Right.

Thanks for listening.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Zucchini Ghost....

About a month ago, when my garden was starting to die down, I pulled a large overgrown zucchini from it and set it aside. I didn't throw it away, didn't cut it open & cook it, just let it sit. I had a plan for that zucchini....

Years ago I remember seeing an article in a magazine about zucchini ghosts at Halloween. Basically you carve an over-sized zucchini like you would a pumpkin. Well yesterday came & went and I managed to forget all about my zucchini ghost, despite the fact that the zucchini had been sitting on our counter for weeks. (Maybe that's why? I got used to it sitting there and treated it like part of the furniture...)

So this morning as I was cleaning the kitchen, I saw that zucchini sitting there and recalled my forgotten plans. Rather than just toss the poor vegetable, I pulled out the pumpkin carving kit and got to work. (A day late, but better late than never, right?)

First I cut off the "bottom" of the zucchini--the bigger end.

Then I use a long handled spoon to start scooping out the insides, just like a pumpkin.

This is my arm up to almost the elbow in the zucchini....I wonder if this is what it's like to help birth a cow? Ick.....

Here's what it should like like when you get it all cleaned out. You don't want to set fire to your zucchini ghost when you're done...

I started carving the eyes into the zucchini with the cutting tool from the pumpkin carving kit.

The eyes after they've been carved.

Here's the finished zucchini ghost! Light your tealight candle and place the zucchini over it....

And there's your zucchini ghost! I'm imagining a whole porch full of these. :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I Hate Traffic...

At my old job, I had a wonderful fifteen to twenty minute drive to and from the office every day. I left my house, drove down the street, turned and drove the rest of the way down that one road. It was a road that went past lots of pastures, farms, corn, cows, horses, sheep, get the picture. Every day I saw the same houses, same herds of cattle, same little ponies growing up into horses. It was awesome and I did it for nine years.

But now I have a new job. I've been there for a little over seven months and the drive is killing me. On a good day it takes about half an hour. On a bad day....well, I think it once took me an hour and a half to get to work. I'm driving the southern Idaho version of the L.A. freeways. Okay, I admit it's only one freeway and a connector. But still, we have traffic jams, accidents, motorcycle cops and all the same things that make big city freeways suck. Now add to this the fact that our freeway has had construction going on for I don't know how many months now. Not a good combination.

I am normally a pretty passive driver, if I am in a nice passive environment like my sweet little road into my old work. (Worst I had to deal with was a farmer on a slow tractor or someone slid off the road in the snow.) But put me in this bumper to bumper defensive driving nightmare and I don't do so well. Today was just one example of the daily incidents I have to endure...

I had just gotten off the connector onto the regular freeway and got into the fast lane to get past the slow merging folks. I was going along at a good clip. Not speeding, mind you, just a healthy 70 in a 65--nothing to sniff at. I was at least going faster than the lane next to me, which is the whole idea of the fast lane. Soon I saw a fast approaching car zoom up behind me and start riding my bumper. Since I was already going faster than the lane next to me and was not only doing the speed limit, but going over it, I decided to stay put. Immediately the woman driving starting flailing her arms around, smacking her palm on the steering wheel and throwing her hands up in the universal gesture for "what the heck?" Although my lip reading isn't it's best, I'm pretty sure "heck" doesn't start with an F.

This continued on for a little bit, with her continuing to ride my bumper, all the while flailing about like she was about to take off into flight. At her first opportunity she darted out from behind me into the lane to our right and started maneuvering around like an Indy 500 driver jockeying for position. I continued on in my lane while watching her jump from lane to lane, gaining a few precious car lengths ahead of me but never making it back to the fast lane. This was about the time the lane she was in slowed down considerably because of the construction-induced merging further up the freeway. Since I drive this route at least five days out of every week, I knew this would be happening, hence the reason I stayed in my fast lane.

Now as I said before, I am a pretty passive driver. I try not to give in to road rage or the silly games that people play on the road to piss other drivers off. So I handled the situation with grace and class......okay.....maybe not. But I did feel a deep satisfaction down in my gut as I grinned from ear to ear and gave her a happy wave as I sailed right past her crawling car in the other lane.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Storing Up For Winter....

I think that all of us have come to realize that times are not what they used to be. Jobs are more scarce, the economy is crap and prices on things like fresh produce will probably go up this winter when they're not readily in season. This is one of the reasons we decided to plant our garden. Unfortunately it hasn't gone as well as we had hoped, with our corn getting corn smut (I swear it's real, I didn't make it up!), our tomatoes getting blossom end rot and a recent infestation of squash bugs. So although I'm working on saving the tomatoes, zucchini and pumpkin and they may be salvageable, the corn is dead. (That scene in Oklahoma keeps rolling over in my mind...."Poor Jud is deeeeeeaaaaaaad..." Only I hear it as "Our corn is dead." I'm weird that way.)

That's all the more reason why I wanted to start freezing as much of the fresh vegetables as possible. I tried to think of how I would use them and froze them accordingly. For instance, the zucchini I would primarily use in zucchini bread (I'd love at Christmas-time to be able to give beautifully wrapped loaves of yummy zucchini bread to friends). And carrots would either be shredded and used in said zucchini bread or sliced up & put into stews or simmered all day in a crock pot with a roast. Mmmmmmmmmm.....

So that's why I spent several hours yesterday harvesting (sounds so much better than "picking"), washing, peeling, slicing, blanching and freezing carrots. You should see my orange-tinted finger nails... But the end result was worth it. Fourteen cups of sliced carrots and two cups of small whole baby carrots tucked away into our freezer, waiting to be pulled out and cooked on a cold winter day or any other time between now and next summer. Then after the carrots, just for good measure I did the same thing (minus the peeling & slicing of course) to the green beans I had picked from the garden. It was a small amount of green beans, just enough for a side dish with one meal--my husband commented, "That's not going to get us very far." But this was just one harvesting. Green beans grow constantly and as you pick the mature ones, they continually reproduce. So each time I harvest a new batch I'll prepare it & pop it in the freezer.

Here's a little tip, thanks to my mom. (Hi Mom!) A couple of weeks ago I had spent the good part of an afternoon shredding zucchini and carrots for that zucchini bread I was talking about. I knew I was going to be using it zucchini bread and would need to measure out one cup of each for the mix. Not knowing if zucchini & carrots could be frozen together, I called my mom and asked her. She suggested freezing the shredded vegetables in muffin tins (did you know they measure exactly 1/2 cup each?) and then popping those into freezer bags. What an awesome idea! And it worked great! (Thanks Mom!)

I can't help but feel a little smug over knowing I've got things stored away in my freezer so that any time I need a side dish or an addition to a stew I can just pull it out and use it. I keep thinking of all the trips to the grocery store when I can skip past the produce section, knowing I have my own private little produce section waiting at home in my freezer. Things haven't gotten bad enough (yet) in our world that this is an absolute necessity. I can only imagine back in the pioneer days when food harvested during the summer and fall had to sustain a whole family throughout winter. I can imagine long hours out in the fields (no tiny gardens for the pioneers!) in fall, looking for those last remnants of the veggies that are going to nourish your family when you're snowed in and can't get to town. (Sorry, I appear to be channeling my inner Laura Ingalls....) But there is definite satisfaction in knowing we will save money during these tough times by storing up our own food. And just wait until we get our pork and beef in the freezer...I'll be over the moon. :)

Sunday, August 9, 2009


A couple of weekends ago I picked cucumbers and ended up with about 3/4 of a 5 gallon bucket. Only one thing can be done when you end up with that much....start pickling! I claimed a whole day to be "The Great Pickle Day" and planned to spend all day working on it. My mother had sent me a bread & butter pickle recipe and I couldn't wait to use it. Here's a basic run down of how it went...
First of course, I washed all of the cucumbers & set them out on a rack to dry. The recipe calls for about 6 pounds of cucumbers.

When the cucumbers were dry, I sliced them up. (The recipe was called "cross-cut pickle slices" so I went with that. And I've only ever eaten bread & butter pickles in slices so I wanted to go with something I knew.) But you could slice them however you wanted, or I'm sure if they were very tiny you could pickle them whole.

Next I sliced up enough onions to make 1 1/2 cups and peeled 2 large garlic cloves. Those went into the pot with the sliced cucumbers.

Then I added 1/3 cup of pickling salt & mixed it all together to coat all of the cucumbers. The recipe then calls for covering this mixture with approximately 2 trays of cubed or crushed ice and letting it sit for 3 hours. When the 3 hours was over, I removed the remaining ice, drained the pot and took out the 2 garlic cloves.

Before I started with the next step of preparing the pickles, I wanted to start heating my pint jars. This can be done in a water bath, but since I already had a lot of stuff happening on top of my stove, I went with a recommendation I got from our local extension office. I put the jars on a cookie sheet and heated them in a 180 degree oven. I had already sanitized the jars & lids in the dishwasher so this was an acceptable way to get the jars heated without getting them wet again and taking up more space on top of my stove. DON'T leave out this step though, however you decide to do it!! If the jars are not heated before you put the hot pickle mixture in, they can crack or shatter.

So then I got back to my was time to add the flavor! I combined 4 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of Turmeric, 1 1/2 teaspoons of celery seed, 2 tablespoons of mustard seed and 3 cups of white vinegar. This was heated just to boiling and then I added the cucumber slices & onion to the pot and heated for about 5 minutes.

This hot pickle mixture was then ladled into the hot pint jars, one at at time, keeping the other jars in the oven until I was ready to use the next one to ensure they were kept hot. I loosely packed the hot pickles into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of room on top. (Again, a very important step. Headspace must be left at the top of each jar--and each type of recipe has it's own measurement--to make sure it will seal properly in the end.) After wiping the tops to remove any liquid and removing air bubbles (oops, another important step--remove the air bubbles!! DO IT!!), put a lid and ring on each jar and seal tightly.

Next, each jar was set into the hot water bath for 5 minutes. (The time is not started until the water starts boiling again after all jars are in the water.) Here's another important part--the jars must have 1 - 2 inches of water above them for them to process properly and get a good seal.

When the jars are done processing, wipe them down to remove any residue and remove the jars to a cooling rack.

This was where my paranoia set in...I tightened any loose rings and stood there staring at my jars, wondering if they were processed right. What if I didn't do it right and anyone who eats them gets terribly sick? How do I know if they processed properly?
I was in the middle of processing my 7th jar of pickles (my canning pot only holds 6) when I heard it. A soft little metallic-like "pop" from the direction of my pickle jars. I quickly turned my head, like I thought I would catch something actually happening. No, nothing going on over there. I went back to processing that last jar when I heard it again..."pop"....This time I decided to investigate a little further and went to check out my jars. What if they were cracking or something? That's when I noticed two of the lids were just slightly different in appearance than the others. (Yes, "One of these things is not like the other" from Sesame Street actually sang it's way through my head for a moment.)
I went to my computer, logging in to the wealth of information on the internet, searching for a hint of what was going on. Aha! Remember that "headspace" I mentioned earlier? This was the reason for it! When the pickles start to cool, it forms a vacuum seal which causes the lid to pull down & flatten, hence the "pop" I was hearing. I was so excited to know I had done it right and wasn't going to kill my family with botulism.

After your jars have cooled for about 24 hours, you can test the seal. (The canning book I have doesn't recommend testing a seal until at least 24 hours after just to be safe but I've heard other say they test them sooner.)
"The best method for testing a seal is to press the center of the lid to determine if it is concave; then remove the band and gently try to life the lid off with your fingertips. If the center does not flex up and down and you cannot lift the lid off, the lid has a good vacuum seal."

That was over a week ago and this weekend I opened one of the jars and tried some bread and butter pickles. Wow, they're really good! My son tried them and agreed, which really means something since teenagers are some of the pickiest eaters on the planet...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

They're Always Our Babies...

Our kids--even when they're grown & too big to hold and don't hardly fit on the couch or the bed--are always our babies.....especially when they're sleeping. No matter what they do when they're awake, or how crazy they drive us, it seems that when they're lying there sleeping (just like when they're babies) they look so innocent & sweet. You want to sit down & cuddle them (even know you KNOW that would never be allowed if they were awake.) I wonder if I'll still be feeling this way when HE'S 41 and I'm 65......Does that ever go away?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

August Already? Time for an Update!!

Well, August is upon us today and with the beginning of a new month the guilt sets in that I haven't been keeping up on my blog again. I may have to do like my niece Jenna and do a long update post to get you all (and by "all" I mean those 2 or 3 readers out there) updated...

As of today's date, we are down to one pig, Brillo.

Collin & Trevor did an awesome job at the Canyon County Fair. Collin's pig Wallace won 4th in his class for Market and Trevor's pig Spunky got 2nd in his class for Market. The next day was Showmanship, which judges the kids on how well they show their pigs and how much control they have over them. Neither one of them placed in that part of it...we discovered just how unpredictable & stubborn pigs can be.

Overall though they were great and it was good to see them really pitching in and helping out their other club members when it came time for things like cleaning pens, feeding & watering and washing the pigs.

The morning of the first day of the fair, when we were loading up the pigs, the boys reiterated (as they had done for months previously) how much they hated the pigs and they didn't ever want to do this again. However, by the end of the first day at the fair, Collin was already talking about his plans for next year. It's amazing how just being at the fair and participating in the events can really encourage them to keep doing it. They made some good friends (or became better friends with the ones they already met through 4H) and had a great time hanging around with the rest of their club members during off hours at the fair.


Mixed feelings about the garden...on one hand some of it is growing by leaps & bounds. On the other hand, we're having trouble with other parts of it. We had a very hot spell the last couple of weeks and although we've done our best to keep it sufficiently watered, the corn seems to be drying out. Also some of the cucumber plants have gotten some kind of wilt or something. But I'm hoping to keep it from spreading to the rest of them. Of course, the zucchini is growing wild and we can hardly keep up with keeping all of it picked. Some of those little suckers hide under the big leaves and we don't find them until they've grown to monster zucchini proportion. I'm thrilled that our watermelon is doing well...the other night my husband counted all of the watermelon fruit currently growing and there are 22. Yes....22. We're keeping a close watch on the pumpkin patch, hoping to see the small pumpkins start swelling & ripening in time for Halloween. We have about 2 1/2 months until people will want pumpkins for the Halloween season.

Some people have asked us why we planted such a big garden...after all, there are only four of us in our family and the boys don't eat much in the way of some of the vegetables we're growing. But my husband and I decided before we planted the garden that we wanted to have enough to share. We want to share with our friends who have all helped us in their own ways over the past year. And whatever we have in abundance after we have shared with our friends we plan on sharing with a local food bank.

When I was a single mom, back when my son was just a toddler, we belonged to a church that had a food bank program. As a single mom, I was asked if I wanted to participate and I'm so glad I said yes. I would take Collin with me to the food bank and we would walk through the room with our grocery bags, picking out the fresh veggies & fruits (along with canned & boxed goods) that came from local farmers in the Camarillo area. This is my way of giving back what was given to my son & I when we needed it most. I only hope that I can help others as much as they helped us.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Evolution of a Garden...

Tonight when I went out for my nightly perusal of our garden, I was amazed at how much it has changed in just over a month or so. The plants are seeming to explode in size overnight. Some of our rows didn't grow as we had planned--either the birds got the seeds or, well...all I can think of is that the birds got the seeds. But I'm still happy at how the rows have turned out for the most part.

I was going to just post a current picture but I think it's much more of a visual effect if I start at the beginning...
This is the garden on 5/18/09. We had just gotten done with some major planting of seeds. Pretty much all dirt with nothing even thinking of sprouting yet.

This is our garden on 6/7/09, just one month ago today. The corn was coming along, the cucumbers & beans were sprouting, but there was still a LOT of dirt.

Forward to 6/26/09 and things are definitely looking different! My son Collin built a "fence" for me for the cucumbers and everything is really taking off.

And here we are today! First photo is standing in the middle looking left. Second photo is looking right. Corn is above knee-high, most of the tomato plants are in cages, the broccoli is FINALLY starting to form in the middle, zucchini is going nuts and watermelon is sprawling out. (There's more than that growing but you get the idea...)

Every day I'm excited to go out into the garden and see what else I find growing. I'm finding vegetables peeking out from under leaves and vines everywhere. Sometimes I find something that looks like it's been growing for awhile and I like to think it hid there for awhile just to surprise me when I least expect it.
I'll keep you posted...

Friday, June 12, 2009

That's a Lot of Bacon!

Remember this post back in March? Those three cute little piggies we got for the boys to raise for 4H? Just for reference, here they were back in the beginning of April:

Well they've grown just a little...Here is a picture I took just about a week or so ago:
We haven't been able to weigh them and I'm so bad at guessing things like weights and measurements that I'm not going to even attempt to say how big they are. All I know is they pack a lot of power behind them if you get in the way of their food.

Speaking of weighing them, we made an attempt several weeks ago to do this. We were supposed to load up the pigs and take them to a butcher to have them weighed. The whole 4H group showed up but to our dismay the butcher didn't make it so no one could get in to get them weighed. This was unfortunate because it was a very hot day and we don't have an actual livestock trailer.

Whenever we have to transport the pigs, we have to use Randy's cargo trailer. We tried our best to make the pigs comfortable (pigs don't do well in heat at ALL) by opening the vent on top of the trailer and buying several blocks of ice to keep inside the trailer with them to keep them as cooled down as possible.

After the failed attempt at weigh in, Randy & the boys arrived back at home and Randy backed the trailer up to the pig pen area. We opened up the back doors of the trailer and this was the first thing we saw:

I love how he had his butt propped up on the ice block. It did kind of scare us though because he wouldn't move at all and Randy had to kind of shove him out the trailer and he basically just fell on the ground and didn't move at first. We thought for sure we had killed him. But after a short moment he got up on his feet and ran into the pen, so all was well.

Actually, looking at this picture now, it is an even better example of how big the pigs have gotten because you can see Randy's legs in the background for comparison and can see that the pigs body lays across more than half (probably about 3/4) of the trailer width. I told you they were getting big....

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tis the Season.....

...for planting & growing!

This morning I started off "prettying up the place". Randy had volunteered for security detail at a speaking engagement a couple of weeks ago and at the end of the night they gave him a bunch of the plants they had used to decorate. Yesterday I remembered that Randy had brought a large planting pot with him when he moved out here so we got some potting soil and first thing today I got it planted with some of those plants we had. When I was done we still had quite a few left so I decided to put them out in the front flower beds to add some color. I believe that in this zone these plants are considered annuals so they won't come back next year--but for now they add a nice splash to the beds and our front porch. The colors are all red, white and blue so when Fourth of July comes around we'll look very patriotic, lol.

Our garden is really finally taking off, after a few false starts. But I'm pretty happy with how it's turning out. You can't really tell in this picture but almost everything is up & growing. The five rows on the right are all corn which is growing the fastest. Throughout the rest of the garden is garlic, spinach, peppers, broccoli, green beans, cucumbers, watermelon, zucchini, carrots, leaf lettuce and iceberg lettuce. (I may be forgetting something...) We ended up not having enough room for the pumpkins so we had to spend today tilling 4 more rows for them. (You can see Randy starting that to the left of the garden in the picture.) We managed to get them all planted before the rain started this afternoon. The rain we've gotten lately has been a great help because it's cut back on the watering we've had to do this week. I'll keep you all updated on the garden progress as time goes by...

Friday, May 15, 2009

And It Just Keeps Coming...

Have you ever been woken up at 4:45 a.m. by someone pounding on your door & ringing the doorbell? It's not fun. That happened to us this morning and when my husband went to check on who it was, there was a cop standing at our door. That's enough to give anyone a heart attack in the wee hours of the morning.
It turns out someone's horses got loose (two of them) and the police assumed that since we had a pasture with an open gate, they belonged to us. The truth is no, we don't own any horses (which we told the policeman) and we only keep the gate open because my husband parks his truck behind the house. But even after we told the officer that they weren't ours, they just said, "Well we put them in your pasture and secured your gate. You'll probably be getting a call from someone later." Then he promptly left. Um......they're NOT our horses!
So later this morning, once the sun had come up, we made the unfortunate discovery that these horses had trampled through our garden. Yeah, the one I'm having trouble with anyway. Those few precious tomato & pepper plants that survived have now been trampled under horse hooves. Really? Is there anything else fate would like to do to our garden?

On an up-note, we got a call from our neighbor last night--the neighbor who we've been getting the pig feed from and who arranged for us to get these pigs. He said that if we sell the pigs now, we'd lose our shirts so he made a deal with us. He is going to supply us with our pig feed at no cost for now and then when the pigs are sold and we receive our checks, we can pay him back for the feed then. I'm so glad we have nice neighbors! I think people are really pulling through & rallying with their neighbors during these tough times. Like bringing over tamales for no reason like our next door neighbors did the other night or what Hobie is doing by working with us so we can keep the pigs. This is why I love where we live.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?....(not so well actually.)

Okay I don't know how my sister does it... She has had a really awesome garden for years now and from what I understand they're expanding and planting even more gardens. They plan to sell a lot of what they grow at their local farmer's market in West Virginia. I've done small gardens before but have usually bought plants & planted them directly to the garden. This year I wanted to save money so we bought all seeds and I started some of them indoors to give them a head start. This past weekend we transplanted all of the plants grown indoors. But soon after we planted them we had a late frost warning two nights in a row. I ran to the store and got some plastic cups to put over them for protection and just today took them off to see how they did. Yeah...not so great. I lost all but 2 or 3 of my pepper plants and only about 1/5 of our tomato plants made it. Oh and the onions I planted also didn't make it either. It's SO disappointing because now we have to start over from scratch. It's already the middle of May and my huge garden hardly has anything in it. I honestly feel like giving up. We wanted so badly to have a big garden so we could give back to friends & the community (through a local foodbank) and now it looks like we may not even have enough just for us!

Then to make matters worse, today my husband made the decision to start looking for someone to buy our pigs. These were the pigs we bought at the urging of a friend so the boys could do a 4H project and sell them for profit at the end. The problem is you don't see any of the profit until the end of summer. It's only May and we've already spent about $250 per pig (including purchase cost, food, etc.) You see these are "show pigs" so we've been told we can't just feed them slop. If we could, we'd be doing okay. But these pigs have to be fed grain and believe me they eat a LOT. The problem is that with me only working 4 days a week now and Randy still not being able to find a job, how are we supposed to feed pigs with expensive feed?

I don't know, it's just incredibly frustrating to have everything falling apart like this. No garden, no pigs, no jobs.... I've been trying so hard lately to think of something I can do for extra money right now. I mentioned before about the talents of my mom & sister. I watch shows where people have started their own businesses with just their God given talents. I just feel like I don't have anything I can do that is worth making extra money. It's kind of depressing actually. This is supposed to be the start of a "better life" for me and instead with all of the economy problems and things that keep happening, it just seems like things are getting worse instead. I'm sure my ex will call it karma or something. If anyone has any good suggestions, I'd love to hear them...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

It's Mother's Day...

As usual, it's been way too long since I wrote anything on here. As I'm sitting here at my computer this morning, with some quiet time of reflection to myself, (Randy is asleep, Collin is at his dad's as usual and Trevor stayed the night at a friend's) I felt inspired to write some things down. (I'll warn you, this may be more of a "serious" post today...)

My mom:
As I look back over the years, I can't help but compare my life to my mom's. In fact, my ex-husband, in one of his moments of nastiness, tried to "insult" me by saying that I was "just like my mom" and had "followed her path". He said it because I decided to divorce him right around the time Collin was 15 years old. My own mother divorced my father when I was just a few months from turning 15. So I suppose some people may agree with him and say I'm following my mother's pattern. When I think of him saying that, I smile. I mean it's not like I said, "Hey this is the time my mom divorced my dad, it's high time I got cracking and got in step with the plan!" Things just happen in life, that's all.
But the reason I smile is because I think my mom is a very strong woman and has been through a lot in her life. I WISH I was more like my mom. She says what she wants and doesn't worry about what other people think, like I do. She is so incredibly talented too. She makes the most beautiful quilts. The other day I got out a book she had given me on quilting and tried to read through it. But to my brain it was like reading a foreign magazine. And the fact that quilting is so math-oriented is way too much for my non-mathematical mind. When I was growing up she was always trying something new... She sewed, made cakes, painted, gardened, made leaded glass creations and even learned how to do body work on a 1966 Mustang (my first car)! I've tried to learn different things too, but the difference with my mom is she was good at everything she did. She'd learn something and then attack it with full gusto. I try new things and when they don't turn out right I just give up, the failed attempts either thrown away or tucked away in some closet somewhere out of sight.
All I can hope is that someday I'll find my niche like my mom and be even more like her. A talented, smart, strong woman.

On being a mom:
It's kind of tough to write on Mother's Day when my own son isn't living at home right now. I won't go into the personal details because they're just too...well...personal. But those of you who are close to me know about it so I don't need to explain. The toughest part in this is that you try so hard to always do the right thing and even when you do what you believe is right others don't see it the same as you. Everyone keeps telling me that he will get over it eventually and as an adult will most likely look back and realize I had good reasons for everything I have done. But right now it's difficult to sit back and be patient and wait for that time. I spent time yesterday with some friends, one of them who is currently a single parent of a 4 year old boy. Watching the interaction between them brought back SO many memories of times together with Collin and I'll admit it was a little hard. I want that boy back who thinks the world of me; who wants to be around me all the time; who shares private jokes with me that only the two of us get. I guess for now I'd settle for him just wanting to be live here again...

Whew, okay...let's shake that off now and get a little humor back into this thing!

Here is a link to a great entry the other day on Cake Wrecks: Multiple Choices for Mom
(The cakes my mom made were WAY better than that) ;)