Friday, August 22, 2014

I'm not dead yet... and an honesty check about finances.

Alright, my header reads that we live on $17,500 a year and I'm not changing that right now (yet?), because, well, that's how this started and how we could still be doing it.

Here's the rub, though: Hubbin wrecked his truck this last winter, and we bought a new, more fuel efficient car, which came with a car payment that bumped our annual budget up to $21,500.

Oddly enough, there was a negative change in our insurance cost ($5 less a month, WHAT?). The data geek in me now wants to know the algorithms that go into that calculation, when a 10 y/o full size truck with minimal insurance costs more than a new, full coverage insured tiny little bump in the road.

So obviously, it's not fuel efficient enough to offset the loan we took out for it, and trust me when I tell you that that was totally part of the 2 month long discussion here at Pinch Manor. It gets somewhere above 35 mpg on average, though, so I'll put that out there for our little zippy thing. It will be cheaper over the long haul than a used truck (other option we discussed) would have been, so we did still make the frugal choice. Because you know what else comes in blue and is a much sexier car, albeit without the cargo space? Convertible Mustangs:

Shamelessly stolen from this page:

Deep, longing SIGH.

I am a little ashamed to admit that the deciding factor as to whether we would just use the insurance payout (uninsured driver rider, thank you ever so much, if you don't have that insurance rider, do it, do it now!) and buy another used vehicle, or if we would use it as a down payment and get something new, was the colour of the car we got.

It came in my blue. I am a bad person and a shameless spendthrift. Did I mention it's a pretty, pretty blue that matches a lot of my wardrobe? A girl's gotta colour coordinate, don'tch know?

Our two vehicles, minutes after we signed on the dotted line.  Wonder what they are talking about?

The thing we can't decide is, did the van have a baby or is it dating a midget? 

(If you are thinking about flaming me about that one, I'm talking about an inanimate object, not a person, grow a sense of humour, or buy one, I hear they are on sale this month at most local retailers)

So there it is, we broke budget because we took out a car loan. I'm not changing the header, because this is the only change to the budget and frankly, we could have done without it if we had to; or kept the payments significantly lower by putting a larger down payment up or changing the terms of the loan around a bit. Purely a luxury item that ended an argument. If we hadn't had the room in the budget, from pinching and saving and generally living below our means, this picture would have been of a used vehicle, bought from a private seller for under $3,500, which was the budget we had agreed on for a used car. 

Did I mention it's MY blue? Which is weird, because it's the car the hubbin drives most of the time :D

But seriously, I totally admit that I saw this car in a parking lot, went and got the hubbin and asked him why I don't have one of those. Yeah, I'm that kind of high maintenance.

That's one of the reasons why we live frugally, so we can look at each other, ask that question, walk into a dealership and fix that problem we are having. 

And because we could both work minimum wage jobs and be fine. Which is how this whole thing sort of started, with someone telling me how it's not possible to live on the current minimum wage of $7.50 an hour (two almost full time (38 hrs) incomes, after taxes: $23,700, so that's what we had to stay below to prove it can be done, that, and groceries for no more than $1/meal, because that's less than food stamps would be for us). Best way to get me to do something: Tell me it can't be done.

There is another blog post brewing somewhere in my brain about closing that challenge (because I have proved the point to MY satisfaction and that's really all that counts at this point) and just focusing more on sustainability and crunchyness (did I just type that?), without going too granola (YUCK) and shifting the frugal aspect more toward the economics of what is my time worth. It's a journey and there is a change of direction brewing. It's all good :D

K, that's all I got for now, back under my rock for a while, because the garden is coming in nicely, and I am doing a lot of this (hint, it's about Lacto fermentation)

Happy Pinching :D

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Blogging, Life and Gardening. Also, Priorities!

Alrighty then, it's been a while. 

I'm baaaaaack. Maybe. 

This post brought to you by my (very) occasional contributions to Lehmans, here's the link.

I'll put my original further down, because this post is actually about my realization how freaking awesome my editor is. 

When I submit something, I send it as a draft, with the understanding and expectation that things will be changed. And by that I mean the kind of change between the Lord of the Rings book and the movies. That's what I'm expecting when I send stuff over. 

What I get is something much, much better. 

When I see my contributions on the Lehman's Blog, I have caught myself thinking 'hey, that person sounds sort of like me, only better and funnier and she's writing about this thing I have done and that looks almost like my a bit further, check the tag line...hey, that's my article. AWESOME'. 

That's what a good editor does. They take the original voice and they amplify it and make it clearer, without distorting it. I have that editor. And she rocks :D

Here's what I originally wrote for the article linked above, make your own decisions:

May 19, 2014

For us this year so far has served as a reminder that we are not in charge of our garden and how things will work out.

Despite months of planning, re-arranging, re-planning and, let’s call it, dreaming about the perfection that will be this years garden, we are now officially 3 weeks behind, we have harvested a grand total of three (you read that right, 3) radishes, and they were minuscule, because everything is either languishing or bolting to seed before setting full roots.

Bolting Radishes

The peppers and tomatoes went in on May 19, 2014, the latest I have ever planted anything, and it’s because I didn't want the poor little plantiwuzels (totally a word) to freeze in the ground, but I had to get them in, because they were starting to not like being in pods. 

And don’t even get me started on the sunflowers just poking their little leaves out, because those are the support system for the cucumbers, so those JUST got seeded out. Slackers all around me. I NEED cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, fresh from the vine, for my continued happiness. Does Nature not understand my needs here? And no, buying them is not the same, I have been forever ruined for hothouse produce. Starting to get scurvy here and rapidly going through my last little stores of pickles from last year, this is completely unacceptable. Where do I lodge a complaint? Just kidding, this is actually what makes gardening fun, having to adjust and go with how things run, not really having control. And there is a core deep happiness and sense of thankfulness and accomplishment when I pull one of the canned jars from last year or the year before off the shelf. That is something that no one could ever have explained to me, that sense of ‘YEAH, we did this, despite torrential rains, despite season-long droughts, despite insect invasions that had me picking bugs for days. Nothing quite like it :D
Potatoes, lettuce, peas, carrots and radishes, cucumbers vining their way up an ornamental trellis: PRETTY. Delicious. Win-win.

I do plan my garden to basically give me a 2 week break in the middle of summer, because we go on vacation, completely non-negotiable and we are not in charge of when that happens. Having everything come into fruit just as one leaves for two weeks is frustrating at best and definitely heartbreaking, so after doing that for a few years I started checking the days to harvest and planning the garden around those dates. Apparently I learn by pain association <wink>. And note, that’s me planning, not how things actually work out, because never fear, nothing will go as planned :D

With this years spring showing me whose boss I will definitely have to do some serious juggling and shifting of plant dates and even some re-arranging of where things will be planted, because the radishes that were supposed to be gone by now are still in situ where some of the peppers were planned, so those guys have to move and that will create a ripple effect in my plan, because they have to go where the corn was scheduled to go, which will have to be bumped by a few weeks (thank goodness for long growing seasons), which means the beans will be bumped along with them. To give a concrete example of one that didn't work out for me: The buckwheat I put in as early as I could only poked their little baby leave up a little bit before they all drowned (and were immediately replaced by dandelions, grump).

The carrots are clinging to life with a ferociousness I never thought I’d see in a humble carrot, because they have now been drowned, parched, nearly frozen and munched on by slugs, the letti (lettuces? Oh, if only I’d paid better attention in English vocab) is pathetically small, but at least they haven’t drowned (I was worried there for a few days) and they are being little troopers about not bolting (see above about the slackweasel radishes), so I am actually really impressed with those little guys, can’t wait to eat them :D

Carrots, trust me

On to further happy news: Despite being broiled, frozen and drowned ourselves and see-sawing between fanning ourselves and lighting fires in the fireplace to warm up the house, the garden is ready. Broadforked and augmented with compost, weeded,  desluggified (it’s a word, trust me), because those little suckers will actually drink cheap beer (no, I’m not letting them drown in home brew), sprinkled with crushed eggshells and diatomaceous earth and now it’s all about the weather forecast. So here’s hoping that it’s accurate and I didn't just plant almost 200 seedlings, only to have them all die in a late frost. Pray with me :D

June 15, 2014
Done at last, done at last, goodness gracious, we are done at last.
With the spring/summer planting.
A whole month behind schedule.
My schedule that is, because as we all know, *I* am not in charge and there is simply nothing I can do about that and it’s sort of glorious, isn’t it?

Here’s where we are as of today:
Carrots(Dragon, and I simply can’t wait to see them in all their red glory :D)  going strong and being all bushy and looking inviting. Make you just want to nibble, don’t they? Grow, grow, we want to eat you!

Carrots, told you to trust me

Little Potato cucumbers, these guys are being sprinkled with diatomaceous earth regularly, so that nothing nibbles on them when I’m not looking (as are all the other plants, that’s the little whitish specks you see in all of my pics)

Three head lettuce, this is one of the last ones around, because we ate the rest already and only left a few to go ahead and bolt, so we can seed save them for the fall planting. And they are kind of pretty when they bloom, so I get double duty out of the deal. Can’t complain about that, now, can ya?

It is for that reason that I plant a lot of lettuce in the front of my house, where one would expect to see flower beds. I know that I get strange looks when I am out there, harvesting lettuce and herbs for dinner with a big ole colander, but I just can’t bring myself to waste all that space on things I can’t eat.

Note to self: Don’t plant corn in the front flower beds, it doesn’t look right.

Lazy Housewife beans, also pretty and can vine their way up an ornamental trellis. Or, as in this case, be in the garden and be purely functional. That is something that is on the list, pretty trellises for the garden, it just hasn’t happened yet. It just so happens that the beans really don’t care what they climb. I’ve used sunflowers, corn, sticks, a discarded porch swing frame, the side support of my clothes line, you name it, beans will climb it. Hooray.

The only limiting factor for me is what I want to have to look at in my yard all summer, so I strive for pretty. That garden is supposed to feed more than just our bellies, after all :D

Last, but definitely not least: Black Cherry Tomatoes.

 I’m informed by a reliable source that these are delicious and candylike (me, I am that source, I had them last year) and will not make it into the house. And since the hubbin flat out refuses to eat raw tomatoes of any kind, they will be mine, all mine. And there are 11 plants, so maybe, just maybe I will be able to dehydrate some or can them for the winter, because these things are sooooo jummy,  and dehydrated they are like tomato raisins (tomaisins?). I would show you a picture, but there aren’t any, because I used up all my self-control to put a handful into the dehydrator, there was none left for taking pics before devouring them.

I have limits. A lot of them. I embrace them and when it comes to delicious, homegrown foods without preservatives (OK, salt in some cases), I see no reason to restrain myself.

That’s all I have for now.
Happy Pinching.

P.S.: Tomatoes LOVE used coffee grounds, and eggshells, so don’t throw those out. And the coffee grounds and eggshells also act as a deterrent to some pests, so there’s another win-win.