Lots of accomplishments and a busy week

I’ll start off with what I am still surprised by… I was chosen as the teacher of the year for our building! I’m very proud of this! I’m going to do my best to represent my school well on the county level and spread a little green teacher love!

This week I was officially announced as a master gardener! It takes a lot of time, but I enjoy it!

We have been busy around this place!

At school the kids are getting so much better at composting! They are the ones that tell each other what goes into the bin. But now I need to figure out how to get the unopened/uneaten food to the places that can use them! (Not in the garbage) Look at all if that waste:

I’ve got some ideas, but need approval and to make sure that it can all be kept in the fridge until it goes to a place that needs it. I’ll figure it out!

Last night I made some more honey lollipops and I will be taking pictures next time to share that process! They are easy and delicious!

I also have been reminding the teen quite often about needing to wash his face. Teens! So, I decided that he would appreciate some Star Wars scrubbies. And he does!

And for dinner this evening I made some pierogies. I followed the recipe for the shell and used leftover mashed potatoes for the insides (plus onions and bacon pieces). https://eatingeuropean.com/authentic-polish-pierogi-potatoes-cheese/

And this is how many 1/2 of the recipe made:

And now for the rest of my evening!

I hope that you all are getting some things accomplished this week! Keep blooming!

Snowy weekend activities

Over the weekend we had a little snow storm come through. It amounted to about 4-5 inches of snow. Lucky for my Mr., I enjoy getting a little workout shoveling snow!

The chickens enjoyed pecking at the snow, and the coop looked beautiful surrounded by the snow!

I enjoyed checking in on the bees. If you push your ear up to the hive, they sound like a soft hum. It’s a beautiful sound!

Before the snowstorm, I was able to pick up some wood chips locally and clean up the coop. It looks so much better! (And still does!)

I have also been working hard on the chicken quilt squares! 18 finished so far!

We enjoyed our extra day off today, due to the weather. And, I hope that you all are enjoying these winter days! Keep blooming friends! 🌱❤️

The bees are still alive! (And weekend work!)

Weekends are always a mix of relaxing, spending time with family and getting things done! So when it’s a beautiful weekend in January, I have to get things accomplished!

First up are those honey bees! Both hives appear to be thriving. They were out, since the temperature was around 50 degrees and they can break cluster to go to the bathroom and get a drink! (And forage too!)

While I was outside I checked on the chickens and the garlic growing in the garden. And all were enjoying the gorgeous day!

I also spent around 30 minutes on Friday giving my Izzy dog a haircut, nail trimming and bath. She needed it! I figure we save around $30 every time that I clip her, and we have had the same clippers since our last dog! They definitely have paid for themselves!

Two of my students bought me plants for Christmas, so I repotted the the Norfolk tree and put the frosty fern in a terrarium to help keep the humidity where the plant likes it.

And I’m letting you in on another plant that I’m trying to regrow: ginger! I bought this chunk for 75 cents at the market (grocery store is what everyone else calls it!) and I’m hoping to get it growing well and have some to harvest in the fall. But, I guess we will see!

I hope everyone have the perfect weekend for you! Have a great week and keep blooming!

Becoming debt free!

Oh goodness, I’m blogging about money. So taboo for some reason! But, here goes!

Remember how last year we focused on not spending? We did a good job of keeping our debt snowball rolling. Well, rewind back to March of 2015, I would have laughed if you told me that I could be anywhere near debt free (including our mortgage!) by 2020. But we did the best first step of sitting down and writing out our bills and where our money went back then. So basically before this time, we paid our bills in a timely manner. But, we didn’t have a whole lot extra and made minimal payments.

We found out how much those quick trips to dollar general or a “run” into the grocery store were really costing us. We saw how much money we spent on eating out and buying soda. It was crazy! So, we starting slowly working on our debt. We paid off our car. Then, we worked on both of our orthodontics. Next up was paying off the truck.

This year, we are going to be attempting to pay off the rest of the loan for our solar panels and we will be doing extra patents to hopefully pay off the house.

So now on with the how. We did the smart thing of when we pay off one debt, we put that amount onto the next debt to pay it off sooner. And then on to the next. And last will be the mortgage. We will also:

Keep crafting and putting the money that we make towards our debts

Continue to pack our lunches and have no problem with eating leftovers.

Make our own snacks and avoid visiting the grocery store to pick up extras. (And make our own meals too!)

We will keep gardening and saving money by saving our own seeds.

We will keep growing our own food to save a few bucks in the summer. Plus preserve the rest for decent food in the winter.

We will keep composting and feeding extras to our chickens to give us extra food for the garden and yummy eggs for us!

We will also try to buy second hand when possible. Plus, fixing, mending and upcycling when possible.

So, do you have goals when it comes to your finances? If not, pull out those bills, take a deep breath and find out where your money is going!

And if you do have some goals, or other ways of saving, please share!

New Year Goals 2019!

Happy New Year! Every year I try to set a dozen goals and give monthly updates to keep myself accountable! (And because I love sharing our journey!) Throughout the year when I think about what I would like to accomplish, I make a running list. Some ideas get put into the future file. Some go into the never ever file and others make the cut! And without further ado, our 2019 goals:

1. Sew my first quilt– I have been wanting to try a new craft for quite a while. I wanted to take on a bigger project, and I wanted to make something for us. It’s going to be a chicken quilt and I found a great pattern online Here .And since I was super intimidated, I tried out a practice one. Even though it is far from perfect, I think that I’ve got this! I think!

2. Keep doing good for our community. I loved being able to help organize an Earth day clean up and donating to our local mission rescue. I plan on helping our community by organizing a clean up group and doing monthly street clean ups.

3. Can and save money on our groceries. We didn’t do a great job of canning our garden goodies last winter. I want to can more jellies, green beans salsa and other deliciousness!

Catsup!

4. Use that camper some more! Last year we remodeled and fixed up the camper and traveled to Yellowstone and back. It was a great trip and we have another family camping trip to plan in 2019!

The Badlands

5. Compost!! We are going to continue composting every Wednesday at school and greening up school in general! I’m hoping to have a school wide composting day on Earth Day! And, we are hoping to help our neighbors compost. Maybe we can compost 1,000 lbs again!

6.Little free library/seed sharing- We got a free cabinet that we are going to turn into a little free library with seed give away in it. My sister loved to read and I feel like it would be nice to build one in her memory. We are hoping to have it built and do a ribbon cutting in the Spring.

A local little free library we visited!

7. Grow some new plants: This year we are hoping to grow ground cherries better. Plus, grow blue pumpkins, corn and more gourds!

8. Yard to garden our bottom yard. We doubled the size of the garden last year and produced lots of extra food. This year, we want to take out our huge swing set that hasn’t been used in such a long time and start getting rid of grass. A little bit at a time!

9. Keep reducing trash! We produced almost 6 bags of garbage last year. This year we are trying for only 5! So, monthly I am going try to make my own package free version of foods that we love that unfortunately comes in wrappers.

10. Create a Monarch waystation and tagging supplies-Last year we made a wildlife habitat area and we will continue to add to it! So we will add plenty of nectar and milkweed for monarchs to lay their eggs on. Last year we loved looking through the milkweed for caterpillars and raising them to become adults. It was so much fun! So this year, we would like to tag them and see if any of ours make their way to Mexico!

11. Teach the teen life skills– the boy is growing up way too fast. He will be in high school next year. I want him to be ready to be an independent adult when he decides to leave the nest many years from now! We will be working on something new every month. Examples: sewing on a button, cooking meals, using tools appropriately, changing a tire, properly ironing and folding clothes. And weirdly enough, my brother bought this book for him for Christmas:

And if you are local, you can feel free to bring your kid over if you think it is a skill that your teen needs to learn too!

12. Keep track of $ from gardening– I’d love to eventually break even on all of our gardening! So this year we will see if we earn more than we spend on all of our efforts! Maybe?!

So, there are our big plans! We hope that we will be able to accomplish them all! And we also hope that you all do too! Keep blooming friends!

End of the year 2018 goals!

Setting goals for the past 3 years has helped keep me focused and motivated. I love being able to look back at what we have been able to accomplish in a short period of time! Here are our 2017 goals, and the link for our 2016 goals .

Now on to the goals:

✔️1. Expand the garden- it happened! In 2018 we almost doubled the size of the garden, made lots of trellises and grew lots of food! It was a wonderful treat to see our hard work pay off!

✔️2. Fix the camper- Since we bought a second hand camper that needed a good bit of work, and we are pretty handy, we were able to go on a trip of a lifetime for not a ton of money! We were able to camp comfortably and not eat out too much!

✔️3.Travel out west-  We did it and enjoyed every single stop! We visited 3 of the 5 Great Lakes, camped on Lake Erie. Then camped at the top of the lower peninsula of Michigan. Drove through the upper peninsula and saw our very first moose! Camped in Minnesota and swam in the coldest pool ever! Camped in my favorite place, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where we saw bison and prairie dogs for the first time! And hiked so many trails! Next up was Yellowstone! The geysers were so different than we expected and we loved seeing all kinds of wildlife, including grizzly bears at a distance and an elk right beside our truck! After that was Mount Rushmore, the pickers place in Iowa and lots of miles! Great experience!

✔️4. Create a certified wildlife habitat- There was grass patch in front of the garage that was begging to be returned to nature, and we did it! We raised monarchs, watched hummingbirds visit our yard and saw beautiful blooms instead of just grass! Read about how much we loved it Here!

✔️5. Reduce garbage- Last year we made 7 bags of garbage and we want to make less than 6 bags this year. Number 6 is still in the can, so I think we can call this a success!

✔️6. Volunteer/Donate/Do Good Every month- This goal has been my favorite this year! I have enjoyed spreading the good! We have donated food to a local mission, dressed as both the grinch and Santa, donated labor and time through the master gardeners program, started a composting program at school, composted for our friends/family/neighbors, decorated the town with holiday decor and many more things! It wasn’t always fun, but giving does great things for your soul!

✔️7. Repurpose, remake, mend, repair-  I have fixed clothes, instead of buying new. We have turned old doors new again for our garden and revived our camper! We were able to collect over 1,000 pounds of old food and turn it into garden food, and compost/feed to the chickens 183 pumpkins! And my favorite upcycle surprise was the broadfork made by the Mr!

✔️8. Paw Paw trees- Our 2 little trees are now dormant! I’m hoping that they come back next year! So, we did grow a couple little tiny trees from seed!

✖️9. Build a pizza oven-  we decided not to do this quite yet! We are thinking about how we want to use the space where the oven was going to go.

✔️10. Grow different produce- We have grow so many different plants! Huge gourds/tiny gourds, different melons and glass gem corn! I am hoping to give another big try to ground cherries!

✔️11. Continue tracking the solar panels- 2018 was the year of rain. It rained way too much, and the sun was not out nearly enough! But, power was produced and the bill has been consistently low!

✔️12. Work on garden cart sales- We have sold at craft shows, and had several produce sales here this year! The neighbors seemed to enjoy the source of produce and I enjoyed sharing my extras!

So, 11/12 goals completed is a success to me! I believe that we have our 12 main goals for next year set! And, goal setting is my most favorite thing to do every December!

Are you thinking about next year yet? Anything that you think we should give a try to?

Keep blooming friends!!

Reflecting on our garden on this short, cold day

Over the Spring and Summer, we grow so much around here! I loved sharing about how much we enjoyed the wildlife habitat area that we created: Here and I thought I’d do a garden review as well!

If you look behind me, my 2017 garden wasn’t huge. It was pretty small, but I learned so much in there! Especially how to build soil when you have basically all clay!

So, in the Spring we decided to basically double the size of the garden, which meant lots more fencing! (We have a huge population of deer!)

After putting up a lot of t posts, thank you again Mr!, we also installed some doors that we repurposed!

And, we cut down a trailer load of bamboo from a friend’s house and turned them into trellises to promote the bees to fly over your head, if you are in the garden. (That worked beautifully!)

And now the garden came right up to the chicken run! That was beneficial for when I found veggies that were too far gone for us, I could just toss them over to the chickens! And, they would sit right by that fence when I was picking Japanese beetles off of my green beans and would eat every one I gave them!

After all of the trellises were made, we pulled some weeds, but decided to just put down a deeper mulch and that really cut back on the weeds. We put any grass clippings that we had, plus begged for other clippings and they smothered out most of the weeds.

I made a thick mulch walkway that lasted the whole season, and kept visitors from compacting soil or stepping on veggies!

And in the pictures below, you can see how much all of the grass clippings and mulch helped to keep the weeds away! (they decomposed so quickly! I was shocked by that!) But no bare soil seemed to keep the plants happier!

Overall, for a first year garden on most of that soil, I’m pretty impressed with how well everything grew, especially since it rained almost every single day! I have even more plans for the 2019 garden!

So, what are you all planning on growing next year? Any different varieties? I need to organize my seeds better to find out what all I have!

The strange statement that I always get: Your poor husband!

You read that title correctly! I get told the same very strange statement all of the time! “Your Poor Husband!!” This is usually in response to me telling people what we do a little differently at home! Here are a few examples:

  • You don’t go out to eat?!?! Your poor family! But when we do go out, it’s like a nice surprise! When things are rare, they are that much more special! Plus, we put all that extra money saved towards being able to go on trips and spend more time together! So, definitely not poor Mr!
  • You can’t just throw everything away?! Your wife gets upset when she finds recycling in the garbage?! Well, I’d rather things like plastic bottles not come in the house, but if they do, just recycle them. And yes, I am usually the one that takes the recycling to our center! So, not poor Mr! I take care of it!
  • You help your wife till the garden and put in the fencing?! It’s true! He does and it is a lot if work! But, I do an equal amount of work, and I share all of those delicious fruits and veggies with him! So, not poor Mr!

  • You have to help your wife pick up pumpkins and other compostables?! He does help me pick up about half of them! And I’m very thankful for his help! All of those will become plant food which equals more produce for our bellies! So, not poor Mr!

  • You really have to compost all that food stuff at your house?! Yes, same as above! Our food scraps equal soil amendments, which equal more food for our family! Not poor Mr!

  • You really have to help out when it comes to canning?! He is the best at helping me use the pressure canner! And everyone knows he eats too, right?! So, delicious food in the winter! Nope, not poor Mr!

  • You just don’t go out and buy new things all of the time?! Oh this one!! I do not tell him what he can and can’t buy. We are a team and together we are trying to become debt free! He has helped to fix lots around here and is ridiculously handy!! So, not poor either of us!

  • You are the beekeeper?! I figured your husband did all of the beekeeping?! But you do help your wife? Poor you! It’s the strangest look that I get when I say that I’m the one who keeps bees. Weird. But yes, he helps me spin honey and carry super heavy honey filled boxes. He also eats the honey and eats baked goods made from that honey! If you tasted our honey, you wouldn’t think poor Mr!

We are a dynamic duo! While I know that I am very driven to make the world a greener place, I would never make someone do anything that is out of their comfort zone. He is totally on board with our journey and often chuckles when I start a sentence with “hey, I have an idea…”

You don’t stay married these days for 15 years when you are not moving along life in the same path! Thank you Mr. for helping my dreams come true and for always embracing my crazy ideas! You are the best of the best!

No Spend Year November Update

It turns out that not spending money blows people’s minds. They have no idea how staying home, making meals here and avoiding purchases would be possible. But, here we are, chilling out the house, shopping thrift stores and very rarely eating out. Recently I had to go to Kohl’s to buy my long legged 13 year old dress pants and we both did not enjoy shopping. It was foreign to us, but I had a gift card to use on those pants! And, they cost us $0 using that gift card!

So, we have been spending some money on our crafting. I’ve been using what I already have, but also creating new things like our honey suckers. It allows us to give lots of Christmas presents that are homemade and make money on the extras! I can use some of that earned money on the few gifts that we are purchasing!

Other than spending lots of time crafting, I have also been composting pumpkins like it’s my job! Why?! Because this will become garden food for the gardens and will help us produce lots of food! So, that’s well worth our time!

I unfortunately ripped a huge hole in my favorite jeans when picking up pumpkins. I’m going to do my best to find a pair second hand, but at least I have a second backup pair. And, I’m going to try to fix my original pair!

And checkout this awesome vest that was on the free table at school! I love finds like this:

Although the picture below looks like I eat alone, that never happens. I just took the picture before anyone joined me! But anyway, packing a lunch saves a ton of money! Plus, I swear leftovers taste better the next day!

This year for Christmas we are focusing on spending time with people instead of overspending. I love that my parents and brother don’t have to stress about buying gifts for each other. We get the kids something practical and spend more time together!

And, we decided to not buy wrapping paper and have been using my parent’s newspaper instead! And it can even be recycled afterwards!

We are slowly paying off our solar panel loan and our mortgage might just be paid off in less than 2 years! I can’t even imagine being debt free by 40, but it might just happen!

Do you have some financial goals? We started with paying off small debts and working that debt snowball towards our larger debts. Don’t let a setback make you give up! Keep pushing forward!

The results are in for the summer compost service!

This summer I really wanted to learn more about composting, in order to be able to be more knowledgeable for our school program. Also, I wanted my son to learn more about real work ethic! So, a neighborhood composting service was created!

We started by finding people who were willing to save their compostables and then we found lots of free buckets!

They needed lots of scrubbing, but they got a second life!

We started with almost 10 customers and most needed some information on what could go in the bucket! So, the boy gave information sheets in the first bucket.

The buckets were lined with newspaper for easier cleaning and to add some browns to the large amount of greens that we collected. We picked up the buckets weekly and returned a clean bucket. We also weighed the buckets to keep track of the amount we collected.

As we got more buckets, we were able to just exchange the buckets

We picked up a few and lost a few customers over the summer, but he managed to continue without complaining once!

We primarily used the compost tumbler and that turned out the compost the fastest. But, we also had a bin over by the chicken area that they loved digging through.

Compost tumbler
Chicken area compost bin

We were also able to snag around 100 pounds of coffee grounds from a local coffee shop! We saw on Facebook that they had plenty to share.

Coffee grounds!

The compost started to accumulate and we are looking forward to having a lot of garden food for next season!

So eventually we made it a goal to collect 1,000 pounds before the break in our program for the winter. And guess what…

We actually hit our goal! I’m proud of our boy for working so hard, and appreciate all of his customers willingness to give! I was so impressed with his knowledge and hearing him show confidence when talking to his customers. I can proudly say he knows more about composting than most adults! And his mom’s love for this beautiful planet is rubbing off on him! 💙💚

So, will we do it again next summer? I think so, as long as people are still interested!

November Goals Update 2018

Hello to the last month of the year! November was filled with lots of good deeds, celebrating Thanksgiving with family, collecting compostables and working on homemade presents!

Now on to the goals:

1. Expand the garden- ✅it happened! It has been cleaned out and now I am working on making lots of compost to feed the soil! I loved the layout of it this year!

2. Fix the camper- ✅We fixed up our camper and loved using it on a trip of a lifetime! I catch myself thinking about the fun that we had this summer often!

3.Travel out west- ✅ We did it and enjoyed every single stop! I loved hiking the trails and still think about how we packed a lunch, went on a long hike and then ate our lunch while watching buffalo and wild horses in the distance! 🌏💚

**and we have ideas on where to travel in 2019**

4. Create a certified wildlife habitat ✅ There was grass patch in front of the garage that was begging to be returned to nature. So, we did! Read about how much we loved it herehttps://littlellewellynhomestead.com/2018/11/11/so-whats-so-great-about-our-certified-wildlife-habitat/

5. Reduce garbage- Last year we made 7 bags of garbage and we want to make less than 6 bags this year. We are up to 5, but the Mr. didn’t take a picture!

6. Volunteer/Donate/Do Good Every month- I enjoyed playing in a fundraiser basketball game, dressed as the grinch for our Christmas tree lighting and helped to decorate the town. And, we did a street cleaning on a nice day too! (This goal has been my favorite this year! I have enjoyed spreading the good!)

7. Repurpose, remake, mend, repair-  Just yesterday I got to see what my husband has been working on! He turned some scrap metal into a broad fork! I have been wanting one of these for a long time! He is amazing!

8. Paw Paw trees- Our 2 little trees are now dormant! I’m hoping that they come back next year!

9. Build a pizza oven- ❎ we are not doing this one this year. We are trying to figure out how we are going to change up the backyard next year! (We have an interesting plan for next year!)

10. Grow different produce- ✅We have grow so many different plants! Huge gourds, different melons and glass gem corn! I am hoping to give another big try to ground cherries!

11. Continue tracking the solar panels- November brought about a foot of snow all at once. That left our panels covered and producing no power for about 1 week! And it rained a lot too! However, we still had no bill this month!

12. Work on garden cart sales- We will be at a craft show next weekend and I’m looking forward to taking some of the crayon wallets that I made! (plus everything else!)

We really enjoy setting goals, even when they all aren’t achieved!

Are you thinking about next year yet? Anything that you think we should give a try to? I only keep a running list when ideas pop into my head on my phone! (It has 35 ideas! 😳)

Keep blooming friends!!

Thanksgiving break And composting

Thanksgiving was a nice break so far! Prior to the break, I’m still trying to volunteer around here as much as I can. I was able to decorate  many businesses with student-made artwork thanks to the wonderful teachers who I work with!

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Mittens in the library

I was also asked to play in a fundraiser basketball game against the Harlem Wizards, and of course I did! It was such a fun night and those fellows are entertainers!

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Yeah, we lost by a lot! 

Then, when I found out that the town needed a grinch for the Christmas tree lighting, I said absolutely! It was fun playing a character for the evening!

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My favorite fellow and myself! 

Our pumpkin gathering is going pretty well! We have been chopping pumpkins, feeding them to chickens and composting so many! We are up to 97 so far!

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Slowly breaking down 

To add to all of the pumpkins, we have to add a lot of browns! Leaves don’t break down well whole, so I throw them in a trash can and weed whack them into tiny bits! A whole bag becomes not too much!

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Bag of leaves 
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The same leaves all chopped up! 

The school composting has been going well too! We have diverted a little more than 16 pounds of food from the landfill!

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Our school compost 

I’m going to get some more pumpkins taken care of today, since it’s decent weather here! Hoping that you had a nice Thanksgiving!