So, what’s so great about our certified wildlife habitat?!

One of my favorite projects this summer was turning a patch of grass that we were annoyed to cut into a wildlife habitat. I envisioned bees, butterflies and birds flying around and beautiful flowers. And it was exactly as I imagined!

Here are some quick reasons why I absolutely loved this space last summer!

1. It was so beautiful when the flowers were blooming! I had no clue there were so many species of moths, butterflies and bees here!

2. It looked so much better than just the plain grass that was there before! When we built the garage, most of the topsoil was scraped away from that area. Now, from heavy mulching, the topsoil is increasing! And, my picture from last spring was pretty close to what we did!

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Before 
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After

3. We got way too excited when we saw native bees in the area and especially when they were using our upcycled pollinator hotel!

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Part of the pollinator hotel 
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A native bee on a teddy bear sunflower 

4 I have had people ask why I went to the trouble of certifying it and not just create it for free. That’s a great question! But here is what I have noticed, so many people have stopped and asked me about the sign. Questioned what the area was for. Or, who it benefits. The sign catches attention and creates conversation! We usually talk about everything that I’m mentioning on here! It spreads a great message!

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I still love the reused bamboo pole! 

5. And my most favorite part, that I didn’t even know would happen was raising monarchs! I loved finding tiny caterpillars on the milkweed and bringing them inside! I loved all three of us hunkered over milkweed plants screaming “I found one!!” As we pulled the leaf off of the plant to assure the safety of the caterpillar! We released close to 20 this year!

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A tiny baby! 
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Chewing on swamp milkweed 
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From caterpillar to chrysalis 
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The send off! 

So, where or what are the plans for next year in this area?! Well, I am planning on planting even more milkweed! (I saved lots of seeds!) I would love to actually get into tagging them before releasing them.

I also want to have more host plants for the swallowtail, like parsley and dill in this area. I’m hoping to get some native coral honeysuckle for around the archway to bring in more hummingbirds and add more nectar sources.

So, I’d highly recommend taking a patch of unused area and giving nature a helping hand. It was more than rewarding!

No Spend Year October Update

October was another month of working on our finances and we are also focusing on paying off those solar panels!

A few things that we sprung for were eating out once during a day off together. That was nice!! Turns out you really enjoy those experiences when they are more rare! And I found a nice pair of work pants at a thrift store for $1! Such a great deal!

We try to save where we can. As a gardener, learning how to save seeds is a way to save a ton of money for the next growing season. I have been saving everything that I can and I’m going to only have to buy a minimal amount of seeds for the next growing season!

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Some of the flower seeds that I saved

We also save about $15 a month by not having a trash service. We have only produced 4 bags this year, so that means I would have been paying almost $40 for each bag to be thrown away. Instead I have the option to drop them off myself for next to nothing.

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Less trash, more money

We also have been working on our crafting/Blacksmithing and making a few bucks on our creations. It’s nice to have hobbies that pay you back!

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Our craft display 

Another great way to save some money is to be a fixer! I know people throw out a lot, instead of just fixing it! The arm on our couch just needed a needle and thread!

Right now we are also shopping around for new insurance and comparing prices. When we are both driving paid off vehicles and have luckily not been in accidents in a while, it seems like we are paying a crazy premium!

Next up is trying to take it easy on our finances while the holiday season is upon us! We already have some ideas for family members, but I still wish that we could just enjoy spending time together! I just can’t stand buying literally junk. Ugh! (Not for my kid, other family members!)

Does anyone have some insight on how to avoid buying so much ridiculousness during the holidays? Thanks for any ideas!

 

October Goals Update 2018

Adios October! And oh my goodness there are only 2 more months this year! However, I feel like we have made the most out of 2018! So, we are ready for November!

1. Expand the garden- ✅it happened! It has been cleaned out and the chickens and ducks have been enjoying getting to run through it! I loved the layout of it this year!

Our October Garden

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!

Picnicking in Yellowstone!

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! 🌏💚

Old faithful!

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! Everything has slowly died off, but I have saved so many seeds for next year! I’m hoping to add more native plants!

Milkweed that I saved from a lawnmower!
Seeds that I will be using next year!

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 4, so I think we have a good chance of making it!

6. Volunteer/Donate/Do Good Every month- I gave away an old Halloween costume and spent tons of time working on our composting program for school. Between phone calls, meetings and emails I have a lot of time wrapped up in it!

7. Repurpose, remake, mend, repair-  This month I participated in a seed swap to give out our seeds that we have a lot of and make room for new varieties! Oh, and the Mr. fixed my phone case that I accidentally broke. Yay for a resourceful spouse!

8. Paw Paw trees- Our 2 little trees are looking great! They were repotted and put outside to get used to the weather. They are starting to lose their leaves now! They are preparing for winter!

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 just enjoyed some kale and broccoli from our garden just last week!

11. Continue tracking the solar panels- October was also a rainy month, but we still produced enough power to keep our bill at the $5 connection rate!

12. Work on garden cart sales- We sold our Blacksmithing and sewn crafts at a local craft show and had a great weekend!

I am pretty proud of the steps that we are making towards achieving our goals! And, I have a list of close to 30 different goals that are on the chopping block for 2019!

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

Keep blooming friends! 🌱

Composting at school

The time has finally come! It was not a well loved idea throughout our county, but change is hard. (Especially if you have not composted yourself before!) I know that we need to teach these youngsters how to compost and be less wasteful, and I’m proud to say that there were many learning moments!

First up was setting up the bin! The location had already been suggested by our composting guru/consultant. I just had to put the bin in place and stake it down. The county that I live in waste management actually donated 2 of these bins to our school!

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Set up and ready in the new location! 

Then, I put some newspaper down to keep the grass from growing in there, a few leaves that were right beside the bin and next up were some leaves. It was topped off with a touch of compost from my bin to get it started!

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All ready to start composting! 

On Wednesday’s lunch shift I went down to the cafeteria to sort out our third grade’s leftover lunches. And here is what we noticed:

1. Kids took straws even if they had no intention of using them. (And extra straws!)

2. They take stacks of napkins, instead of just 1!

3. Some kids didn’t even touch their whole lunch! As in nothing at all!

But with all of that said, we composted 5.44 pounds of compostable materials!  Then, I added the sawdust to keep any smell from developing.

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Our first pile added to the compost! 

Next up, I put the buckets next to my car to clean out and bring in more saw dust to start the whole process over again on Wednesday next week!

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Our compost buckets ready to be washed! 

Overall, the process went well. The student compost volunteers did such a great job of telling the other students what can be composted, and the cafeteria staff have been so kind to allow us to come into their space and start something new!

It is awesome to see kids get so excited about composting and reducing their waste! We definitely need to teach them young! 🌎💚♻️

Greening up the school!

This has been a pretty great week at school! In case you are just stopping by, I am a third grade teacher and teach all of the regular curriculum and squeeze in Earth friendly lessons along the way.

Last year we were able to start a cereal bowl recycling program and recycled a grand total of around 500. More teachers have jumped on board and now we are recycling more!

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So far 446! (Since August!)

We have had a paper recycling program going on since I started teaching at the school that I teach at. However, last year we only had one out of many cans recycled due to contamination. So, this year we changed up the program, added more guidelines and it is going so much better! After sorting through it, I only had to pull out a few crayons, glue sticks and gross tissues.

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Almost 90 pounds! 

Last year I started begging about wanting to do some composting at school. I was told no, but persisted. Then I started a neighborhood composting program with my son this summer to learn more and practice mixing the browns and greens. Then, revisited it with my principal and composting guru and now we will be having waste free Wednesdays with our grade level. I can not even tell you how happy my green heart is!

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One of our new compost bins! 

Speaking of composting, we are up over 900 pounds here with our neighborhood program and have a goal of 1,000 pounds before we go on winter break. I hope that it happens!

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Getting closer! 

And lastly, we finally had to take out the trash. This is only bag 4 for the whole year! We might just reach our goal!

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Bag 4 for the year

So, pretty great progress this week! I have so many ideas that I want to do in the future! I love the feeling of hard work paying off and being given the chance to prove that I can do something! Here’s to teaching some 8 year olds how important this Earth is!

Busy but back!

We have been crafting and Blacksmithing every hour of the day that we have had available for weeks to prepare for a craft show. It’s the main one that we do, so we wanted to have a decent selection!

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Our little bit of everything! 

We almost sold out of the different forged items that the Mr. made!

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All kinds of handles! 
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Railroad spike pulls 
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Business card holder
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Park bench business card holders 

And I managed to make a few different items this time too!

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Luffa soap 
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Beeswax lipbalm 
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Crocheted cotton dishcloths 

We also sold some of our homegrown goodness!

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Birdhouse gourds and glass gem corn 

And if you are looking to win some of the seeds from plants that we loved growing this year, head over to the homestead Facebook page and take a chance!

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Giving away on Facebook until the end of the month! 

This weekend is dedicated to finishing up our son’s Halloween costume! Hopefully he will be the best looking 5’ 6 inch jawa!

Keep blooming friends! 🌱💚🌸

No Spend September Update

This no spend year has been much harder on the Mr., instead of myself. He’s is the spender and I am the saver. I was so proud of him for not buying me expensive stuff for my birthday! He even reused a gift bag that I had saved! ❤️

As a gift, I got a grab bag of seeds, compost thermometer and a new pair of sanuks, since mine were getting holes. (Btw, MIgardener has these grab bags for only $10!) Phenomenal deal!

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30 seed packs picked at random! 💚

I also decorated the house for Fall with what I grew. Everything is from the garden and I spent a whopping nothing!

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Our beautiful glass gem corn!

I have also been saving lots of seeds, so that I don’t have to buy more next year! So far I have put up several types of beans, dill, cosmos, ground cherries and I’m working on fermenting cucamelon seeds.

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Cosmos seeds
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We saved the Paw Paw seeds from our hike

Speaking of hike, we enjoyed going out to a local trail. We stopped at a comic book store that my boy loves along the way. So, it was a great family day!

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Beautiful hike

I also enjoyed raising some monarchs that were on the milkweed! It was free to do and so much fun! The whole family enjoyed searching for the tiny caterpillars on our plants!

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One of our handraised beauties

We were able to start paying more on the house since I am back to work and are planning on becoming debt free in less than 5 years, pending health and staying accident free! Keep pushing on and thinking twice before buying those wants!

Does anyone else have some tips for saving more? Please share in the commmebts! 😊

September Goals Update 2018

Hello October! September was pretty good to us! I mean, it was my birthday this month! And I got seeds and a compost thermometer (along with other great things!) We were able to still harvest some fruits and veggies and the flowers keep blooming too! So, here’s how the goals are going:

1. Expand the garden- ✅it happened! Everything is slowing down and harvests are becoming few and far between. But, we still have some yumminess coming out of our garden!

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Garden in September 

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!

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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! 🌏💚

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Natural bridge in Yellowstone 
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Buffalo in North Dakota 

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! There is still so much blooming! And my favorite part is that I have been able to raise and release monarchs because of the milkweed planted! Plus I’m saving seeds for next year and to share!

5. Reduce garbage- Last year we made 7 bags of garbage and we want to make less than 6 bags this year. Still only 3 bags!

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Love that photo bomber! 

6. Volunteer/Donate/Do Good Every month- I didn’t do a grand gesture last month. We shared produce and started looking at sites for a community garden that I’d like to help with. We also attended the town meeting and asked about a good location.

7. Repurpose, remake, mend, repair-  This month I had the Mr. help to paint them ends of some silverware (to help them not be left at home) to put in the faculty room to deter people from using disposables. It’s working so far!

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Reuse! 

8. Paw Paw trees- Our 2 little trees are looking great! They were repotted and put outside to get used to the weather.

We went hiking and found some paw paws to try! They were good!

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Paw paw! 

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!

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Glass gem corn on the door
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Gourds galore! 

11. Continue tracking the solar panels- September was a rainy month, but we still produced enough power to keep our bill at the $5 connection rate!

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Not bad considering it rained nearly everyday! 

12. Work on garden cart sales- We mainly sold honey in September and we are looking forward to a big craft show this month!

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Honey! 

I am pretty proud of the steps that we are making towards achieving our goals! And, I have a list of 20 different goals that are on the chopping block for 2019! Are you thinking about next year already? Anything that you think we should give a try to?

Keep blooming friends! 🌱

A plan that actually worked!

Last year right around this time of the year, I had an interesting idea. It was to expand the garden to go out around the bee area and attach in to the chicken run. I even posted this:

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My 2017 dream! 

Last Fall my mister was awesome and tilled that area and I planted some different cover crops. The old fence was taken down and I started planning for spring! When it finally arrived, we put up t posts, fencing, lots of mulch and weed paper around the perimeter. It was at that point that I thought that I may have overcommitted!

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The garden door and no fence

Once all of the fencing was installed, we had to fill it all again, made a mulched walkway, trellis around the beeyard side and planted the seedlings!

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A very young garden! 

And even after a long trip out west, and the wettest summer in forever, the garden seemed to be thriving!

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An early season garden 

The trellises held the pole beans well, and the chickens loved that I would toss Japanese beetles to them!

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Trellises full of beans and gourds 

And then today, exactly what I had dreamed and hoped would happen last year worked out! While cleaning out the garden, I just opened up the door to the chicken area and they helped clean the garden with me! No more dragging everything from the chicken run for them to check it out. It was well worth of the work!

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Chickens checking around the gourds 
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They also cleaned up under the trellis! 

They spent so much of the day in there scratching around, eating pesky bugs and enjoying digging under the corn stalks! It was all worth the hard work!

I always wonder if I’m crazy for not wanting to move, but then moments like today happens! Keep blooming friends (even when you are pretty sure that you are in over your head!)

We found Paw Paws!!

One of our goals here is to get Paw Paw trees growing. Last year we cold stratified seeds from October into the new year. Then, after being planted for quite a while, a couple seeds sprouted!

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Paw paw seed
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First leaves 
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Tiny tree! 

Obviously, it’s going to be quite some time before we get a paw paw grown here! Therefore, we went out paw paw hunting! I knew what the leaves looked like online, so that’s what we looked for first. They have a very large, almost tropical looking leaf:

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Several Paw Paw trees

Then, we were able to spot the fruit. It is definitely more of a wild looking edible:

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2 Paw Paws
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Several fruits

After a few shakes, we had a couple Paw Paws to try:

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An interesting fruit with huge seeds! 

So, how was it?!? My husband and I liked it. Our son, not so much. It had a creamy consistency with a somewhat tropical flavor. I thought it tasted like a melon/banana/ and something else we couldn’t describe.

We are now even more excited about getting our own fruit from our trees now! If you have tasted one before, how would you describe the taste?

 

Honey, compost and outdoor school

This week was a busy one! All week I drove to the next county over to go to outdoor school and experience it with students from our school. We had a great week, despite the rain and muddiness! The hikes were my favorite part!

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The sun did manage to shine one day! 

When I got home, we spent one whole evening spinning and filtering some honey from our hives. It turned out a beautiful dark color and has a delicious taste!

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Beautiful capped honey! 
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Slowly filtering! 

Since it seems like the only weather we have anymore is rain, compost pickups are always rainy. I’m so lucky to have a great worker who doesn’t complain about getting rained on during pickups! Look how many pounds we have collected so far:

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Over 800 pounds so far! 

Even though that weather was not ideal, I was able to find a few sunshine rays that allowed me to release a few butterflies this week! 1 boy and 1 girl so far!

When  I was rushing out of the house earlier this week and I found this lone leaf in the driveway:

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❤️

I feel like the Earth was sending me some love back! We are pretty committed to each other! 😆

Wherever you are, whatever you do, try to bloom where you’re planted! 🌱❤️

No Spend August Update

How in the world have I not gotten around to updating about our no spend year? Well, the main reason is that it has just started to become a norm for us. And, I can officially say that we made it through the summer without dipping into the savings. That’s a first! Getting a paycheck was sooo nice!

Since the school year started, we really didn’t buy much for the beginning of the year. The only things that the boy needed for school were a new pair of shoes (which we do splurge for since that is all that he actually cares about), and a binder. As for me, I only bought a new pair of sandals, because mine completely broke! However, I had a gift card and got a great deal!

In August, we went on an end of the summer getaway. We took the camper and the pups and headed to the Chesapeake Bay to enjoy a beautiful weekend. We used our KOA rewards card (from our camping trip this summer) and saved some money and packed all of our own meals. So, lots of savings!

Camping at the bay

We have also been harvesting lots more from the garden. The boy and I have had way too much salsa in the past month, but we still had more last night! I know that technically it doesn’t save us money, if I calculate in how much time and effort I put into it. However, since I love gardening, that also gives me a free workout and yummy food!

Haul from the garden

Another way that we save money is finding things around here that we enjoy doing that don’t involve leaving the house. Have I mentioned before that I don’t really like going out in public? It’s not the people, it’s just that I have talked all day to little people and I just want to stay home and relax. So, one thing that I have loved doing here lately is raising the monarch caterpillars that are on my milkweed. I collect the little caterpillars and feed them and keep them safe until they come out of their chrysalis and then release them to nature. It is fun for me! Heck, I even have the rest of my family looking for the tiny creatures.

Handsome male monarch

The composting service that we provide for 12 families has been a nice addition to the food for the chickens. They love the extra fruits and veggies and also kicking around in the compost looking for bugs. Double win!

Squash for the chickens

The garden produced so many tomatoes this year! I have sold some, given some away, chopped them for salsa and this weekend I have canned a lot of them for ketchup and pizza sauce. They will give us some delicious fresh food in the winter!

Ketchup from our tomatoes!

I was also able to put up some zucchini for future zucchini cake this winter and took a few pie pumpkins that we grew and turned them into a yummy pumpkin pie. The boys said that it was delicious.

Homemade pumpkin pie!

It’s so weird how you just get used to not really spending money. I won’t lie and say that we haven’t had any take out this year, but it has been a very rare occurrence! My husband and I have been packing a lot more for lunch and eating up the leftovers more often. So, that cuts back on waste more too. This year of saving has made us realize how wasteful that we can be.

I really am hoping that we can continue to find more ways to save, and would love to hear what else that you all do! Any tips that we can try in September?

Keep blooming friends!