Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wordless Wednesday (almost)...Growing Seedlings

Celery seedlings planted March 6th

Celery seedling close up.

Tomato seedlings under grow lights

Buying meat...

Well, my pork from the local farmer has just about run out. I think I have one ham and a couple of bacon packs left. I called to place a new order, but they won't have any until later in May. So, I placed my name on the list.

I ran out of grass-fed ground beef from our last quarter of a cow long ago. I have been buying the best meat in the grocery store that I could afford. My biggest concern with meat is that animal tissue holds on to the most pesticides. It is far worse than fruits or vegetables. So, I want to get the best that I can.

The last two weeks I have purchased ground beef, but I have also been able to buy some "Buy today and save" meats that need to be frozen or used with in a day or two. I have saved quite a bit of money doing this. So, I have made it my new adventure to search for the clearance meats when I shop.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Our busy day at home...yesterday...

Finally, we had a day at home. Natalie agreed to take a day off from the barn. She did watch some instructional horse training videos. Figures, right? Teasingly, I told her it was her classroom day. LOL!

I made crockpot sloppy Joe's for dinner, and then I put together the bread dough. Here is the finished bread.

Brianna always wants to make cookies, so she whipped these up using a cake mix. They are very good by the way.

While we were baking, I set to work planting tomato seeds. I have 20 peat pellets of sauce tomatoes, and 17 peat pellets of my very favorite slicing tomato, Trophy. A friend of mine had asked me to grow some seedlings for her. I am certainly not planting 37 tomato plants. Although I have done close to that before.

I thought you might like to look at the grow light set up I have in my basement. The lights are courtesy of my friend, Amy. She no longer needed them. I am thrilled to have them.

These are the celery seeds that I planted over a month ago.

And, these are the pepper plants that I planted last week from seeds I saved from last year. I realized one thing about saving seeds. I should also save the seed packets so I remember the planting instructions. I was thrilled to have them germinate.

It was a busy day, but we accomplished a lot.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

At the barn...

Yesterday was Natalie's riding lesson. They are thrilled to be riding outside. It is so much better than the dusty arena. We are thankful for the arena in the winter, but riding outside is so much better. I was playing with the sports setting on my camera. In some of these pictures Natalie is actually cantering her horse, Serene. The shots came off very, very well. I am also including some updated pictures of the little filly, Autumn, who was born almost a month ago. She is not ours but belongs to another family who board their horses at the barn. She is in the round pen with her mom, Summer.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Carolyn's 4-H Projects...some, but not all...

Curriculum Planning for 2009-2010 is nearly complete...

I confess that by nature I am a planner. I like to know what I am doing in advance. I start planning my next school year in January of my current year. I look at curriculum. I read reviews. Then I walk away from it for a while. In a week or two, I come back, pick it up again, and plan some more. I do this until about March. By then I am ready to order, and the tax return has been deposited. So, what I am going to share with you now is the culmination of about 2-3 months of work.

Jonathan - 10th grade

History: History Odyssey Level 2 Middle Ages
Science: Biology class taught by a high school science teacher...taken outside of our home
Math: Teaching Textbooks Algebra 2
English: CLE English 1 and Writer's Jungle plus other books that I will give him through the year
Health: Total Health (He is required to have a half a credit of health)
Foreign Language: Tell Me More French

Natalie - 8th grade

History: History Odyssey Level 2 Middle Ages
Science: This is still up in the air. She could take the same bio class as Jonathan or do Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry
Math: CLE 600 and 700
English: CLE Language Arts 800 and Writer's Jungle
Reading: CLE Reading 800
Foreign Language: Tell Me More French

Carolyn - 5th grade

History: History Odyssey Level 2 Middle Ages
Science: Real Science 4 Kids: Level 1 Biology, Chemistry and Physics
Math: CLE 400 and 500
English: CLE 400 and Writer's Jungle
Reading: CLE 500 plus full length books
Spelling: All About Spelling Level 2 and 3

Brianna - 5th grade

History: History Odyssey Level 2 Middle Ages
Science: Real Science 4 Kids: Level 1 Biology, Chemistry and Physics
Math: CLE 300 and 400
English: CLE 300 and Writer's Jungle
Reading: CLE 400 and 500
Spelling All About Spelling Level 2 and 3

If you are interested in looking at any of these programs, I will include links to their websites.

CLE is Christian Light Education.
All About Spelling
Real Science 4 Kids
Writer's Jungle (Bravewriter)
History Odyssey

Also, as a disclaimer, I just wanted to mention that I did not actually buy Real Science 4 Kids from the publisher. It is crazy expensive. I found Amazon had the best price plus I found some items used.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Menu Planning...

I have been using a monthly menu planner since December of 2005. I file them in my notebook when the month is finished. At first it was very hard to get going on a monthly plan, but now that I have old plans to refer back to it is easier.

To get going with a blank meal planner, I put in our "standard" meals. We have homemade pizza every Friday. So, I write that right on the meal planner. We also have tacos every other Tuesday. That goes right now the planner. Now it doesn't look so blank. The family seems to like having these meals that they can depend on each week. I like it, too. From there I just fill in using foods that I have already prepared, meats that I have already purchased, and so on.

I print my meal calendars from Crystal Miller's Family Homestead. She uses the cutest graphics.

Happy planning...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Grocery shopping revisited...

A few weeks ago I wrote about my grocery budget, and how I was planning to use $20 of my $125 per week to stock up on food and supplies for my pantry. A dear friend of mine asked me a few good questions about how I approach shopping, menu planning, etc. I thought that perhaps I should share a bit of how I have approached grocery shopping in the past and how I do it now.

I am sure I have a larger budget than some and a smaller budget than others. Ultimately, we should all work within our means and be good stewards of what we have been given and the income that comes into our homes. We live on one income. My husband earns that money that comes into our home, and I manage our home and teach our children. That's how we have chosen to live our lives.

Now, back to groceries... I have tried many, many different strategies for grocery shopping. I have shopped every other week. I have shopped once a month. I have shopped weekly. I have shopped with a debit card. I have shopped with cash. Once upon a time, I even used a credit card. I have used coupons. I have skipped using coupons. I have shopped at one store, and I have shopped at several stores. When I had younger children and fewer children my budget was less. I confess that I have really struggled with staying within a budget. I have found a few things that help me stay on budget.

I think the most important shopping strategy that keeps me on budget is spending cash. Cash is scary. Cash means that I have to pay attention to everything I put in my cart even before I enter the store. I have to go in with a plan. I need meal plans and a grocery list and a calculator. I stop at the bank before I go to the store. I take the cash I need. Within one strip I can hit three stores. I don't always need to go to all three. Last week I did. Sometimes I go to Sam's Club, and I need to go a different direction. I do shop weekly now.

I guess that brings me to another point. I do shop at more than one store. I actually shop at about 5 different stores but not all in one week. I do look at the loss leaders in the weekly ads that come in the Sunday paper. If you don't get the paper, you can most likely look on-line and find your store's weekly ad. I also look at This helps me look at three of my stores at one time.

I include everything except pet food in my grocery budget. I buy paper towels, napkins, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent and the like plus food items with my grocery budget. I do buy some organic items. One item that is on my list every week is Stonyfield yogurt. It is a must for our family. In the winter I buy most of my produce at the grocery store, but in the spring, summer and fall I buy from the local farmer's market. I use my grocery money to shop at the farmer's market. I will tell you that I do not buy much meat at the store. We buy our beef and pork from a local farmer. So, meat is generally not part of my budget. I do buy chicken at the store because it is hard for me to get local chicken on a regular basis. This local meat is organic and grass-fed. I also buy spices, flour, oats, corn meal, cocoa powder, etc. from a local Mennonite-run bulk food store. I buy my flour, oats, wheat berries, etc. in 50# bags. The cost for these items does not come from my monthly budget. It comes from money we set aside from our tax return and gifts.

For the most part I do not use coupons. However, we just started getting the Sunday paper again, so I have started using some coupons. Of course, I do try to pair them with sale items. I also try to stay flexible on brands, so that I can make use of coupons. I only use coupons on items I buy regularly.

I do make my own bread on a fairly regular basis. I make tortillas at home. Bread items are one of the easiest items to make myself. I don't get totally hung up on this if I am having a crazy week. I will buy the best store bread that I can. I make my own granola most of the time. I really try not to spend a lot on boxed, cold cereals, but we do eat some of them each month. If a box is more than $2.00 I won't buy it. A dollar fifty would be even better. I think making these items from scratch does help the grocery budget. I try not to be a perfectionist about it, and this is sometimes hard for me. I do try to avoid buying a lot of pre-made, boxed or frozen type foods. There are many recipes around the Internet for homemade side dishes and such. The Hillbilly Housewife has a lot of great recipes.

When my children were babies we used cloth diapers and wipes. The only baby I used all disposables with was Natalie. Jonathan was only cloth diapered for about three months, but the twins wore cloth from the age of sixth months until they were potty trained. This really saved my grocery budget especially with twins. I almost always had two in diapers for several years. I think we saw a great savings from using cloth. Of course, I did have some moments in time when I used disposables on the girls. Sometimes life just got crazy. For the most part though they were cloth diapered. On a very personal note, we also make use of cloth personal pads. I am sure I have seen a great savings with this.

I hope this gives you a little glimpse into my grocery shopping strategies. Please ask questions if you have them. May you be blessed...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New to us show clothes...

Natalie got these field boots and jacket at a local tack sale. She bought them with her own money. We are almost ready for her first show season.