January 2019 Goals Update

Dear January and all 499 days in the month, you lasted forever! And it has been so stinking cold and snowy! But, this weather makes me appreciate future warmer days. I’m really hoping that the bees pull through this coldness! And on to our goals:

1. Sew my first quilt– The craft that I wanted to try was making my first quilt. The finished quilt will be 54 chickens in all. I’m finished 27 already!

2. Keep doing good for our community. This month my biggest accomplishment was that I officially became a master gardener. I did just shy of 50 hours of community service to get this name badge! I will be going to the town meeting this week to see how we can do another town wide clean up day.

3. Can and save money on our groceries. We didn’t do a great job of canning our garden goodies last winter, but we are enjoying our home canned salsa! (With homemade tortilla chips)

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! (Still figuring out where we will be going!)

5. Compost!! Composting at school is still going well and we have diverted around 70 pounds of food waste from the landfill. We are still composting our own food waste here at home. We need to figure out how to be more efficient with composting next summer. Driving house to house was a little too much!

Our little vermicompost

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. (We haven’t started building it yet!)

A second library that 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! Add ginger to that list!

Regrowing ginger!

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. I’m hoping to turn this area into more food production with trees, bushes and understory plants.

9. Keep reducing our trash We are still on bag 1! We are going try to make our own package free version of foods that we love that unfortunately comes in wrappers. I tried to make my own belvitas, but they were not great. But I did make some delicious pierogi and we haven’t bought microwaveable popcorn! That pampered chef popper is loved by my teen!

10. Create a Monarch waystation and tagging supplies-Last year we made a wildlife habitat area and we will continue to add to it! We started cold stratifying a lot of milkweed seeds to start in the Spring!

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! In January the boy learned to properly load and unload the dishwasher and how to do laundry. Next month shall be something else!

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?! (Nothing going on here yet!)

This month I have been working hard on my teacher of the year paperwork and I feel like that’s where a majority of my time went. But, when your peers nominate you, of course you do your best work. I’m very proud of this life I’m leading and the lessons I teach along the way! So, February will hopefully be more productive and I’ll get a lot more accomplished around here!

And how are your goals rolling along?! Keep blooming (even on those gross weather days) friends!

DIY bee candy recipe

Yesterday it was a warmer winter day, so I checked in on the bees. They look pretty good, but had devoured their candy I left in there.

Since it’s only January, I decided to give them some extra food! So, last night I decided to make more candy to slip into the hives today.

Before winter set in, I put the spacers on the top of the hives to make room for bee candy. The Mr. made them by ripping down some old barn wood he already had.

Gather up your ingredients. You’ll need sugar, water, vinegar, a pot (I use an old one), pie pan or metal container to pour it in and a candy thermometer.

Start off by mixing in the sugar and water into the pot. It’s a 4:1 ratio of sugar to water. To fill up one pie pan, I use 4 cups of sugar to 1 cup of water. Pour in a tiny amount of vinegar. Just a little splash.

Stir and stir until it starts to come to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, put the lid on and let it boil for 3 minutes (it will be clear at this point!)

After 3 minutes, take off the lid and put in the candy thermometer and wait until the temperature gets up to 234 degrees F.

Once it reaches the temperature mentioned above (234 degrees), take it off of the heat and allow it to cool to 200 degrees F.

Once it gets close to 200 degrees, whisk it well and pour it into a cheap pie tin. It hardens quickly, so pour quickly. (I keep a spatula close by to scrap the quickly hardening candy with!)

Allow the patties to cool completely before putting them into the hive. (In the picture above I lined the pie pan with parchment paper, but it’s not necessary.)

You can double the recipe, if needed.

Recipe for 1 pie pan bee candy:

1. Gather sugar, vinegar, water, pot and candy thermometer.

2. Mix 4 cups sugar to 1 cup water and a splash of vinegar.

3. Mix continuously until it comes to a boil.

4. Cover the pot and allow to boil for 3 minutes.

5. Take off the lid and put in the candy thermometer and continue to let it heat up to 234 degrees F.

6. Then pull the pot off of the heat and allow the candy to cool to 200 degrees.

7. Whisk the liquid candy and pour quickly into the pan.

8. Allow it to cool completely before placing in the hive.

I have used this recipe for years and the bees seem to like it! And future me, you will be thanking me for finally putting this in a place where it won’t get lost!

Enjoy and happy beekeeping! If you have hives, I hope your bees are doing ok too!

🐝❤️

It’s a freezing out there, so I craft weekend!

Over the weekend the temps dipped around zero and just walking outside was painful! Add snow that turned into compacted ice, and even getting to the chickens is a pain. So, lots of inside activities are going on!

First up is my first quilt ever! I’m making the little chickens in groups of 9 and do an assembly line when making these! (And I had to fit in my chicken pin cushion too!)

And now I am up to 27 chickens (the sewn quilted variety!)

And a cold weather miracle started happening… the chickens started laying eggs again! I don’t put an heat lamps or lights in their coop, so I let it up to them to start laying whenever they’d like. And I only had to buy one carton of eggs this winter, so not too horrible!

Since everything has been so cold, not a lot of anything plant related has been going on. But, I am trying to get a real Christmas cactus to grow roots. I am also trying to regrow a pineapple from the top and grow some ginger from store bought. And the ginger is starting to grow some little buds!

They aren’t huge buds, but they are growing! If it continues growing, it will become a deck plant this summer!

And I started prepping the milkweed seeds for growing this year. They need to cold stratify for about a month. So, into a damp coffee filter and then into a container followed by the fridge they go. They will go into the soil around the end of February!

And I won’t lie, I also enjoyed relaxing on the couch with the pups! I started working on the paperwork to compete for teacher of the year and needed to relax a bit afterwards!

And that’s pretty much how the weekend worked out! And now to work a few more days until the next weekend!

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!