You’re Eating WHAT from the Lawn?! — A Quick Quiz

What are these four food found in my front lawn?

What are these 4 foods found in my front lawn?

Here’s the deal. Name as many as you can and offer at least one use for each.

Serious and silly answers are welcome.

As this will launch a series of adventures, if you have an actual recipe using any of the above as a main ingredient, please e-mail it to That way you can get credit and be a featured recipe in the neighborhood.

Go ahead, guess! I double dog dare you.

(Neighbor Nancy reties her apron and heads out to pick a zillion of “C” for an upcoming recipe.)

Note: 5/8/09 — Oh, I am very entertained!  Get your guesses in.  Answers will be in this Saturday morning edition of “Neighborly Advice.”   Tomorrow’s theme is “Neighborhood Gone Wild”

BTW, forgive the picture, it will not stop raining here.  Lighting is terrible.

Hint — the stem on “B” is square.


A Ton of Garden, A Tiny Space: Ideas for Space

Well, hello there. I hope you are well this evening.

Me? Oh, I’ve been cooking up some ideas.

I’m worried … about my friends and neighbors loosing their jobs.


Let’s not dwell on the negative. Let’s see what we can do to improve things. I’ll not have anyone going to bed hungry on my watch. Let’s get busy.

( Neighbor Nancy straightens her apron with resolve and heads to her potting table)

I encourage you to grow a little something. Sure, a lot of something would be great, but not always feasible.

Tonight, let’s focus on the sunny window of the apartment dweller.

For the apartment dweller:

1. Consider a community garden.

Check with your local church, library, school, etc. for information.

2. If a neighbor has some ground, offer them some of your harvest in return for using the space.

3. Ask you employer about planting any unused land around your workplace.

Point out that it would be less for a grounds keeper to worry over. Any sunny spot, even the grassy area between parking rows would work just fine.

4. Do a little container gardening in a sunny window.

With about 6 hours of good sunlight, you could try:

Alibi cucumbers are a good container cuke, growing to only 3 or 4 inches. A window box of leafy greens can provide a lot of nutrition in a small space. A single 12″ pot can grow a regular tomato or pepper plant or about seven prolific soybean ( edamame ) plants. Bush Delicata is a popular winter squash that was bred with the container gardener in mind. There are special compact container peppers, such as Mohawk or Apache Hot.

5. How about the rooftop? If it’s flat who could you ask for permission?

6. Consider “geurilla gardening”.

Okay, so this may be … well … tricky. The basic idea is that you plant public land — a nearby park perhaps. I have no advice on this. So, you’ll just have to check with your favorite search engine.

Start your adventure. Plant some food, whether for yourself or a neighbor. Dig in!

More sunny window links:

A Ton of Garden, a Tiny Space: Strawberries for the Apartment Dweller or Suburbanite —just what to grow them in

A Ton of Garden, a Tiny Space: Choosing the Right Strawberries for You — A little help choosing

Windowsill Herbs

What are you going to grow? And for whom?

The Really Important Frugal Links I Forgot to Mention — Sorry

Well, hello there, thanks for stopping by. Can I offer you a glass of home made strawberry lemonade?

There now that’s better.

So, in my attempt to bring you some frugal ideas and share some tips, I kept having the feeling I was forgetting something really important.

Today, while cruising around visiting my new friends, I figured it out. Basically, ’cause a friend bonked me on the head with it.

Check the coupon links on the side for the updated Sunday newspaper coupon links. Sorry for the delay.  I guess my brain fell out.

For more on never paying full price at the grocery store again try:

The French Toast Club

Thumbing Your Nose at the Dairy Aisle– Contemplating a Backyard Flock

Try growing your own with

The Fresh Chef — Adding Soft Fruit to the Garden

or perhaps you want to preserve that great deal you found…

Canning: Where to Start

Thanks for stopping by. A little later I will share tonight’s Waiting-for-Payday recipe. Join me.

The Fresh Chef: Adding Soft Fruit to the Garden

Adding fruit to your garden, can be surprisingly simple. Don’t worry. Even apartment dwellers can add fruit to their container gardens. And, frankly, I think fruits are a heck of a lot easier to grow than most vegetables. So dig around on the internet and let’s add some fruit.

Last year, through my own clerical error we planted 75 raspberries, 50 strawberries, 16 blueberry bushes, 9 currants, 6 gooseberries, 5 GOLDEN Rings! 4 elderberries and a partridge in a pear tree all in one week.

Okay there wasn’t a partridge in a pear tree… the mini orchard is this spring and it will be 4 ducks not a single partridge. What in tar-nation is a partridge, anyway?!

Sorry. (Ahem)

We planted like mad and even used work lights in the strawberry patch to plant after my husband got home from work at midnight.

Here’s a better way.

1. Know your hardiness zone.

Click here if your unsure.

2. Decide what you want.

Soft fruit:

Strawberries- click here for container gardeners

Cranberries-no bog needed

Lingonberry- no need to travel to “that Swedish store with the blue and yellow sign.” Make your own lingonberry jam .. or chutney to go with pork chops. Oh my!

Blueberries- high bush, like the ones in the store, low bush, sweeter like found in the wild

Huckleberries- close relative of the blueberry

Raspberries – a container post to come on these

Blackberries- there are some thornless choices, dig around

Elderberries – for the jam or winemaker

Gooseberries- thorny, thorny, thorny- delicious. You know how they tell you to plant nasty bushes under your windows to prevent break- ins? These are great. Oh, plus they prefer a little bit of shade.

Currants- oh, what I wouldn’t give for one of those little lemonade flavored white ones right now?!  Partial shade tolerant and very hardy.

Sea Buckthorn- hardy enough for zone 3-9. Super high in Vitamin C. Nobody is getting Scurvy with these around.

Aronias- another super high Vitamin C, super hardy choice

Serviceberries- allegedly taste like blueberries, never tried them. Another high in what? yes, Vitamin C. So when the trains stop shipping you your orange juice…

Goumis- okay, I have no idea what on earth that is except that I believe it is a more southern fruit

Blue Honeysuckle- zones 2-8. Yeah that’s pretty darn hardy.

3.Place your order soon.


I’ve had success with Pense Nursery — a family run farm with super prices, knowledgable and great service. But, they don’t have any of the odder choices.  They lovingly ship the healthiest plants I have ever seen.  This operation is small. Call in the evening to place your order, give them a chance to come in from the fields.  They offer more than is on their site so ASK.

Raintree Nursery– healthy plants, informative catalog plus they have all the fruits on the list and more. I have no clue about the service other than delivery because I never called

Nourse — just the basics, wonderful charts to help you choose, will pleasantly answer all my moronic questions. Someday, I will take a pilgrimage there.

Do you own research, but get your orders in.
Everybody is gardening this year.

4. Just remember to make sure you don’t have them all delivered at the same damn time.

So what do you want in your garden?

Honeybees, anyone?

How about Mason Bees for pollination?

Trimming the Fat-The Office Drain

This is one of the simplest ways to save money. It is one that is so obvious that it easily gets overlooked.

The evil office vending machine. Buh- bum!

Avoid it like the plague or … virus crazed zombies.

Over time, the saving really add up. If you spend just one dollar in a vending machine, every day that you are at work, in one year you will have spent … $260!

Now, do you spend just one dollar?

Wow, that much, eh? That is money that could have gone towards groceries, rent, car insurance. Oh, about a zillion more valuable places. And for what? The an unsatisfying bag of chips, a stale cookie, perhaps?

Let’s put that money towards something else.

Next time your grocery shopping, buy your favorite snack. Buy at least enough to last you ’til your next shopping trip.

Avoid the “snack” packaging. Instead, repack lower-cost-per-serving full-sized packages, preferably in reusable containers. Take them with you to stash until that nagging afternoon hour.

Nibble with pride, as you realize that you are chipping away at the amount of money that gets wasted.

Over time, the saving really add up.

If you would like to watch those savings grow, learn to track them here:

Trimming the Fat: part 3 —Sorting It All Out

What do you think is your biggest money leak?

Alternative Food Sources: Your Backyard Maple Tree

Hurray! it’s maple season, almost.

The whole maple syrup process is so easy that I always wonder why more people don’t give it a try.

Well, now is the time of year to consider adding it to your adventure. It has one of the most inexpensive start ups of any food related hobby. We spent $7 to get started. The result: a years worth of magnificent maple syrup. We don’t have to spend a dime this year, since we’ve already got the taps and tubes.

Super inexpensive start-up yields great rewards

Super inexpensive start-up yields great rewards

I am a lazy gardener. I count on the chickens to turn the compost heap and rid the tilled ground of weed seeds before I plant in the spring.

This lack of oomph is why home maple production is for me. Basically, you drill a hole, let the sap run into a container, dump the container into a pot, cook it waaaaaaay down, and … TaDa! Maple syrup

Here are the basic for when you have a spell of frozen nights and thawing days:

1. You can tap any maple tree with at least a 10 inch (25 cm) diameter or 31 inch ( 77 cm ) circumference. Ideally, a sugar maple is nicest, but any old maple tree will do. Well, okay, not a Japanese maple…though I forget why. All the other kinds seem fine.

2. Drill at an upward angle and gently hammer the tap in ’til secure.

3. Stick a piece of clear tubing from the tap to your container.

We found clear,potable water tubing at the local hardware store and just snipped the lengths we needed.

4. Let the sap run down to very thoroughly cleaned milk jugs.

5. When the jug is full of cold, clear sap it is time to cook it down.

My mother kept a pan of sap on her wood burning stove. Occasionally, she would skim the froth and add more sap. She never allows is to boil — just a light simmer to cook down the sap.

Each night she put it in the refrigerator ’til the next morning. When it finally reached a consistency she liked, she filtered it and poured it into sterile mason jars. The jars sealed themselves as they cooled.

If you are trying this project, you might enjoy the “Sugar Snow” chapter from “Little House in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It helps you to understand the basics. Or read it to your favorite little kid.

Here are two web sites that I found very helpful:

How to Tap Trees and Make Maple Syrup

Hobby Maple Syrup Production

Some thoughts:

  • Real maple syrup is nothing like the viscous maple flavored pancake syrup from the store. That has a corn syrup base. Maple syrup has a very thin consistency.
  • We never use thermometers or hydrometers. We use our eyes and tongue to test.
  • The trees that produce the sap that requires the least cooking down seem to be the ones that stand alone, like the one in the picture above.
  • Check your lines for frozen sap.
  • The jug that is on the sunniest side of the tree will produce the most sap and need to be emptied more frequently.
  • Put the lid on the jug to keep the yuckies out, but poke a little hole or two near the top for the air to escape as the sap fills the jug. It will slow down or even stop, if you don’t.
  • If you choose to cook it down over a wood fire outside, cover the pan with some kind of screen or the ashes will land in it.
  • We were very happy with the yield from 10 taps in 4 different trees.
  • All of this makes a great science fair project for little ones. Or perhaps, a good badge adventure for a Scout.
  • Don’t drool into the sap as your stir it. It smells so good! Be careful.
Published in: on February 15, 2009 at 7:29 pm  Comments (10)  
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The Backyard Flock–The Beginner’s Flock

It is generally accepted that brown egg layers are the best choice for beginners. It also seems that the brown egg layers tend to be dual purpose birds. Meat and eggs. Raise them for which ever you prefer or both.

Let’s check out some common breeds:

New Hampshire: friendly, docile, good backyard bird, make good mothers, not overly active. The happy healthy New Hampshire hen will lay about 140 egg a year

Plymouth Rock: friendly, docile,doesn’t mind being handled, good with kids The happy, healthy Plymouth Rock will lay about 160 eggs per year

Rhode Island Red: egg laying machines, great beginner bird, usually calm, not the greatest mothers. A happy, healthy Rhode Island Red will reward your care with 200+ eggs a year.

Orpington: Believe it or not, this breed is considered cuddly. When I asked around at the county fair. What is the best chicken for a beginner who is afraid of chickens? Every time it was the Orpington. Big, fluffy, so gentle they tend to get bullied by other breeds. While they aren’t laying machines, they will give you a very respectable 160 good-sized eggs.

Another thought: If you have little kids that will want to pet the chickens, Orpingtons might be your girls.

What’s in my backyard?

Auracana cross bred with some brown egg factory layer.

Why? My little boy was far more likely to do his chore of egg collecting, if the eggs were cool to look at. He told his class that he is the only kid in school that actually eats “green eggs and ham.”

We get 36 eggs ( twice what we hoped for ) every week from 6 girls. The egg shells range in color from blue green to khaki, since they are not pure bred. Some places call these pretty egg laying crossbreeds Easter Egg Layers–not a breed, more like a nifty mutt.

Since the ground is so covered with snow, today, my layers are playing in a wheel barrow filled with fresh compost. Goofy! I wish we had gotten them years ago.

Other Backyard Flock articles:

Chicks Checklist

Coop Considerations

The Egg Challenge: Store Bought Vs. The Backyard Flock

Contemplating a Backyard Flock

Choosing a breed

The White Egg Layers

Published in: on February 10, 2009 at 8:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Your Local Warehouse Book Sale-Heaven on Earth

Grand choruses of Handel’s Messiah sing in my head as I enter the warehouse book sale.

So it turns out that with a little search engine digging, you can find the distribution warehouses for various publishers. These warehouses are spread all over the country. Chances are there is at least one somewhere reasonably close to where you live.

Some are very organized. Others have huge, chaotic boxes filled with the full spectrum of topics.

Currently, my favorite is the Scholastic Warehouse Sale, ’cause I have a 6yr. trying develop his love for books. Last Xmas, Santa brought him a huge box filled with books. I suggested that Santa must have had a blast at the warehouse sale, too.

Once you get to your favorite publisher’s site, sign up for the sale and usually, there will be a printable coupon.

I know that Scholastic, for example, will actually allow you to sign up as a sale volunteer. Best part…you earn credits to spend at the sale. Four hours of volunteer work will trade for a nicely heavy box or two,filled with your choices of reading material, posters, weird little pencils, etc.

Also, the sale usually lasts an entire week, so everyone can find a time to go.


Published in: on February 7, 2009 at 9:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Trimming the Fat-Part 3: Sorting It All Out

Deep breath. This is probably the easiest step, so don’t give up now.

If you missed them, click here for part 1 & part 2 of our Trimming the Fat adventure.

Okay, moving on…

Look at some of the different household budget templates and decide which looks best to you.

The first one I ever used is from Kiplinger Just plug in your category totals. Done. It’s that simple.

Here are some choices from Google.

You might want to try a free online money management site like Mint. Very cool! There are others, too. Check with your favorite search engine. Read some reviews and make your choice.
The online money management sites are super easy. Sign up. Enter your accounts. Let the computer do the work. Just don’t forget to track your cash spending.

My computer, my ancient browser or perhaps, my lousy dial up service prevent me from using Ah, so sad. I ended up using the Kiplinger Budget worksheet to guide my own spread sheet design.

Oh, I break it down way more than they do.

Plus, I have pie charts. Nothin’ says overspending like a big hunk of pie chart.

Published in: on February 7, 2009 at 12:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Trimming the Fat-Part 2: Sifting Through the Spending

Make a pot of coffee, grab the receipts and your notes on spending for the week. Don’t worry about the bills, yet. Utilities, rent, mortgage… they are a post unto themselves.

We are gonna dig in and find that mis-spent money.

If you’re lost, start with Trimming the Fat. Then, join us back here for the this step.

Take a deep breath. Here we go:

Hold it! Read the warning.

Warning: If at any time you feel faint or violently ill. Step away, take a break, scream into a pillow, do some breathing exercises. But do come back to it. The sooner you deal with this stuff the sooner things will get easier. More money, less stress.

Okay, put on your crash helmet, ’cause here we go.

Sort your spending.

Next to each item you purchased, mark its category. Perhaps, something like the list below. Find what is easiest for you…what makes sense.

A. Groceries

B. Dining out

C. Transportation/Gas

D. Clothes (purchases, dry cleaning, coin op wash & dry)

E. Personal hygiene (hair cuts, manicures, etc.)

F. Entertainment ( books, magazines, movie rentals, shows)

G. Hobbies

H. Miscellaneous- this category usually hold a lot of little cut backs.

Make your own categories and add the ones I probably missed.

Don’t forget the little weird stuff like snacks from the vending machine, parking meters, cigarettes, that quick stop for gallon of milk or loaf of bread, the paper. All of it!

Now, I am going to go curse into a pillow and I’ll be back in a bit with Trimming the Fat- Step 3: Sorting It All Out. I actually like this step, because we will make a computer do the work. Very easy. Don’t worry. I’ll hold your hand the whole time.

Published in: on February 6, 2009 at 5:25 pm  Leave a Comment