Monday, December 29, 2014

Let's talk raised garden beds

Seed catalogs have been trickling in the mail lately and I am slowly getting the gardening bug...just a little. You see, until a year ago, we have always rented since moving south and I just couldnt bring myself to spending money on raised garden beds for a rental house that I knew we might not be at for more than a year or two.  I bought all our veggies and have joined a CSA the past few years to get local organic veggies.

With starting a super budgeted year, growing our own veggies will be a great way to lower our monthly grocery bill AND eat healthy!

We did not learn of exactly where our septic lines and leach bed (or whatever those reserve areas are called) until after we bought our house.  Unfortunately, we cannot plant trees or any deep rooted plants in most of our 0.88 acre. ARGH!  I have decided to build raised beds and they will have to go over those reserve fields (again, whatever they are called).  I will make them at least 12 inches tall and will grow plants that do not have deep roots or root plants that we will eat in these beds.  Root plants, such as potatoes, turnips, etc, will be grown elsewhere, maybe in pots along the deck...who knows?

So, about these raised beds...

I have been thinking of how I can make them.  I thought about buying them from a local maker who makes them pretty cheap.  I also thought about using some old bookshelves we have. Like this! found at

But then I discovered that since they are particle board, they probably will not last an entire season.

I have been scouring craigslist and our local Buy Sell Trade Facebook groups for all doors and dressers to use. These are pretty cool!
 Recycled dresser into raised garden bed by imad karrariphoto found at: old garage door panels for inexpensive, quick, raised garden beds. I bet you could spruce it up a bit by painting the outside a nice found at:
 I *may* go with those, but I think I have an even better idea!
WINE BOTTLES!!! Here is a few pics of ideas...
The county won't pick up our recycled glass so it stacks up in the garage... BINGO! Wine bottle raised beds. XOXOphoto found at:

love the use of old wine bottles
photo found at:

So?  Whatcha think?  I have already messaged a local wine bar to see what they do with their bottles and there is a craigslist ad that advertises empty wine bottles for pick up. 

Decisions, decisions.  I am REALLY trying not to spend hardly any money on this project!  I also have to figure out what to fill them with!  That is investigation for another day though.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dave Ramsey's 7 Babysteps

Ever watch the movie 'What about Bob'?   I LOVE that movie!

Of course I do. I am a psych nurse and love that kind of humor.  However, the concept of babysteps is one that I absolutely love and even tell my patients about.  So when I learned about Dave Ramsey and his 7 babysteps to get out of debt and build our family's wealth, I was all in.

I decided to post these 7 babysteps so that maybe another can be influenced to reduce their debt and build their wealth too.  Plus, it helps me be reminded of what I need to do to stay on track!

So, here they are straight from his website!

Dave's 7 Baby Steps

1.     $1000 to start an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is for those unexpected events in life that you can’t plan for: the loss of a job, an unexpected pregnancy, a faulty car transmission, and the list goes on and on. It’s not a matter of if these events will happen; it’s simply a matter of when they will happen.
This beginning emergency fund will keep life’s little Murphys from turning into new debt while you work off the old debt. If a real emergency happens, you can handle it with your emergency fund. No more borrowing. It’s time to break the cycle of debt!

2.   Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball

List your debts, excluding the house, in order, smallest to largest. The smallest balance should be your number one priority. Don’t worry about interest rates unless two debts have similar payoffs. If that’s the case, then list the higher interest rate debt first.
The point of the Debt Snowball is simply this: You need some quick wins in order to stay pumped up about getting out of debt! Paying off debt is not always about math. It’s about motivation. Personal finance is 20% head knowledge and 80% behavior. When you start knocking off the smaller debts, you will see results and you will stay motivated to dump your debt.

3.   3 to 6 months of expenses in savings

Once you complete the first two Baby Steps, you will have built serious momentum. But don’t start throwing all your “extra” money into investments quite yet. It’s time to build your full emergency fund. Ask yourself, “What would it take for me to live for three to six months if I lost my income?” Your answer to that question is how much you should save.
Use this money for emergencies only: incidents that would have a major impact on you and your family. Keep it in a money market account. Remember, this stash of money is not an investment; it is insurance you’re paying to yourself, a buffer between you and life.

4.   Invest 15% for retirement

When you reach this step, you’ll have no payments—except the house—and a fully funded emergency fund. Now it’s time to get serious about building wealth.
Dave suggests investing 15% of your household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement plans. Don’t invest more than that because the extra money will help you complete the next two steps: college savings and paying off your home early.
Why shouldn’t you invest less than 15%? Some people choose to invest a small amount, if anything, because they want to get a child through school or pay off the home in a hurry. But the kids’ degrees won’t feed you at retirement, and if you throw all your money into your mortgage at this point, you’ll end up having to sell the house and buy the book 72 Ways to Prepare Alpo and Love It. Bad plan.

5.   College funding  (considering our kids are almost out of the house, we may skip this step!)

By this point, you should have already started Baby Step 4—investing 15% of your income—before saving for college. Whether you are saving for you or your child to go to college, you need to start now.
In order to have enough money saved for college, you need to have a goal. Determine how much per month you should be saving at 12% interest in order to have enough for college. If you save at 12% and inflation is at 4%, then you are moving ahead of inflation at a net of 8% per year!

6.   Pay off home early

Now it’s time to begin chunking all of your extra money toward the mortgage. You are getting closer to realizing the dream of a life with no house payments.
As you attack this last debt, you will gain momentum much like you did back in the second step of the debt snowball. Remember, having absolutely no payments is totally within your reach!

7.   Build wealth and GIVE!

It’s time to build wealth and give like never before. Leave an inheritance for future generations, and bless others now with your excess. It's really the only way to live!
Golda Meir says, “You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” Vow to never hold your money so tightly that you never give any away. Hoarding money is not the way to wealth. Save for yourself, save for your family’s future, and be gracious enough to bless others. You can do all three at the same time.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Debt Reduction Begins Now!

I've been slightly obsessing about our debt lately and how I am tired of living paycheck to paycheck when there is no reason for it. I had heard about Dave Ramsey and decided to check him out. I lucked out and found a book of his at the thrift store and read it in a few days. I love his concept of baby steps! I signed up for a year use of his online budget tools and have begun to create a budget for us. It ain't easy that's for sure! I plan on snowballing us to living debt free!  It should be interesting to start up this homestead on a strict budget!

How am I going to lower our debt you ask?

Well, one way to limit our outgoing money is by lowering our food bill. I hope to get the garden beds made within the next few months to help defray the cost of our grocery bill. I also need to cook ahead since I noticed that we spend lots on takeout meals since we are either too busy or too lazy to cook some nights. Tonight, I am scouring the world wide web for some gluten free freezer meals. I want to try some once a month cooking so that we will stop the takeout.  I also need to create snacks. The boy likes his afterschool snacks!

Another way to keep money in the house is to lower our utility bills.  I had bought some low flow water faucet things and will be finally putting them on the faucets to try to lower our water bill. Our electric isn't too bad, but it can be better. I am going to brainstorm on ways to lower that bill too.

We don't have a landline but our cellphone bill is just too much. We will be telling our girls that they need to start paying for their phones. I mean, they are 22 & 20! It's about time they pay!

We got rid of cable years ago and use the internet. I am going to have the man look into how we can lower that bill.  We have netflix and already reduced it to just streaming.

The chicken feed is a big expense each month since I feed them organically. I need to get the fence up so they can walk around more and forage for bugs. I may turn my worm bin that isn't really being used into a meal worm bed to supplement their feed. I also saw a set up where they can scratch for grass but not dig it up because it is under a hardware cloth. I need to research that some more.

Lastly, for now, is to sell some items. We have too much stuff anyway and wont miss most of it if we sell it.

What do you do to lower debt?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hodgepodge? Yes, it is fitting.

I have been thinking a lot of this blog.  One concept I noticed is that each blog has some sort of overall theme. They may post on other topics occasionally but many times the other posts are linked to the overall theme.

So what is my overall theme?  That is what I have been thinking about.  Do I want it to be a foodie blog. Nah. I love food, but I am not really much of a cook. I am a wannabe cook though. I want to love to cook.

Do I want it to be one about debt?  Nope. Although that is a main theme in our life, that would be pretty boring for me to write totally on debt relief.

What about hunting or fishing?  Ok, that would be cool, but I do not know enough about these topics to devote a blog to these topics.

Hmm, gardening?  Beekeeping?  Organic living?  Mental health (I am a psych nurse, afterall)?  Chicken and ducks?  Family life?  All are interests of mine, but not really any that would keep me interested in blogging. 

So then I thought about the name of this blog. Hodgepodge. How fitting.  Yup, I am going to blog about a hodgepodge of topics.  I am interested in all of these and most I know little to nothing about them.  I think it will be fun. To share my learning as I learn and to share what I already know. 

Now, to design the blog.  This will be interesting. I am known as the virus in our family because of my lack of understanding of technology and the ability to take this lack of knowledge and unknowingly wreck havoc on the technology.  I have brought down our home network and have no idea how. I have broken printers without a clue.  I hope to take some time during this break between winter and spring semesters to learn blogging techniques.

How exciting!  I hope I can find time to blog during my busy last semester of grad school!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Anticipation and setting goals for 2015

Oh how I long to work on this blog!

Oh how I long to work on the homestead!

I have such dreams for both. Alas, my studies must come first.  BUT in less than 200 days, I shall graduate and then it will be partial steam ahead!  (I still have to take the boards to become a nurse practitioner so I will still be studying some).

So without further ado, here are my homesteading goals for 2015. (a partial list at least...I may add some before the end of the year!)

1.  Raise and process a batch of meat chickens. May update: Still want to do this...maybe in the fall.

2.  Fence in the yard to allow the chickens and ducks more run.  May update: No fence yet. Funds are low so this may be a piece by piece project.

3.  Pressure wash and treat the deck.  May update: Still in the works. I've been busy with finishing school but I am REALLY hoping to get this done asap!

4.  Get the garage cleaned out and organized.  May update:  Ahem...see above excuse.

5.  Build some raised garden beds...and actually garden in them!  May update: Oh how I wish I could say this has happened, but alas it has not. 

6.  Get fruit trees planted.  May update:  Nope, not yet.

7.  Get berry bushes and vines planted & grape vines planted. May update:  I wish....

8.  Learn about fishing and actually go at least once.  May update: Ok, so I have NOT learned...yet...but I have some guys at work willing to let me tag along to glean some knowledge from them. Hopefully it happens!

9.  Get the worm bin going again.  May update:  Again...not yet. 

10. Start learning about bees.  May update:  I had planned on attending the county's local beekeeping monthly meeting last week, but the RA decided to take over my body and I was too achy to go...maybe in June...

11. Increase our poultry population.  May update:  YAY!!! This is one I can say we have done!!1 Woohoo!!  So, our beloved male duck, Gonzo, was killed by our beagle boys a few months ago and we incubated some of his women's eggs and 13 of them hatched!! We gave away 10 of them and kept 3 of his offsping!  We also incubated some call ducks and had 3 hatch!  We kept all of them!  Yay!!

12. Learn how to put together this blog a little better.  May update:  This will happen...

Friday, September 26, 2014

Homestead hold up

A post that Shaye did recently on her blog, The Elliott Homestead, rang so true to me and it has been making me think about my own priorities. 

You see, I am a full time mom, a full time nurse, and currently a full time graduate student.  There is just not enough time to be a homesteader at this point.  Well, there is not enough time to be a blogging homesteader.

With that being typed, I must put the homestead on hold. At least the blogging portion, not that it ever really got started.  We still have the chickens and ducks and plan to get a couple more in the spring.  We may even add raised garden beds in the spring.  But I think that is all.  I would love to get 2 turkeys, but we shall see.  There will be no bees in the spring, like I desperately wanted.  There will be no grand raised garden beds that will provide us with all our produce.  There just is not time right now.

I must devote the next 8 months to my schooling, family, and work.  Like Shaye let the cloth diapers go, I am letting this project go...for now.  It shall not be forgotten.  I may even do a quick post here and there, but most likely not. 

So, ttfn, my friends...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Homestead failure??

For most the summer is halfway through. For us, the summer is about over. Marching band camp has started, my university will begin classes in 3 weeks and I am already receiving emails on deadlines and beginning of the semester items.

Where has the time gone?  The coops are still not complete, although complete enough for the birds to live in. The nesting boxes are "almost" done being built. The ducks still need a completed roof on their home.  So where did time go??  Has this homestead become a failure?

We have enjoyed family. We moved out our second child. We have relaxed. We probably have relaxed more than we should have, but hey, we did what we felt we needed to do.  Not going into too much detail, we needed these calm days of summer where netflix rules the room and the sound of snoring beagles comes in at second place in the competition of sound.

There is also the sound of birds. We had a nest of house sparrows hatch.  The chickens, although not earning their keep yet, are enjoying life. Unfortunately, the great deal of 7 birds for $5 has proved not to be a great deal. So far we have gotten rid of one rooster only to wake up the next morning to another one testing his vocal abilities. Then the following morning a second joined in. Oh well, I may as well learn how to cull them and make their new home my deep freezer.  The ducks have become the outside entertainment....and sex education provider. No eggs from them yet either, although it should be any day now according to what we have read. 

We still have not organized as much as we had hoped inside our new abode.  I did manage to organize the pantry after living here 6 months.  My screened porch, aka the bitch bunker, is coming along. The plants and trees have not been planted much to my dismay. Most are still alive so that is promising for a fall planting.  There was no garden planted, unless you count the 4 tomato plants the neighbor gave me that I placed into the ground on the side of the house. I think there are a few tiny tomatoes starting. The worms are doing okay. I give them scraps, and they are munching, slowly. 

The gnat and fly population seemed to do the best job this summer. :/   We did find the source of the kombucha scoby. Darn it!  At least the scoby was a free one. Apparently I did not have a tight enough seal around the coffee filter and the buggers decided that the scoby was the perfect breeding ground. Oh well.  The man and the boy did manage to create a yummy, to them, vinegar drink that they have been bottling.

Has this homestead become a failure?  Nah. It is just a slow, slow start.  I mean, heck, we did just move here in January. I had two major surgeries, finished up a full time grad school semester while working full time, what did I expect?  I am not the spry young 20-something that could pull allnighters and garden the day away. I am pushing 40, man. Not that I am old, I just know my boundaries and enjoy family and relaxing....maybe a little too much. It is okay. I am okay with that.  Fall is a new season.

I did get some things done! I got the birds and the worms. We know exactly how we want the yard now. We just need to put the plans in motion. All in good time, friends...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Things are a happening up in here!

The chicken coop (which I am debating on calling "coopa cabana" or "the best little hen house") is almost complete. The nesting boxes need to be installed and some little tweeks here and there need done, but otherwise, it is all built!  I need to get some pictures on here!

The duck house, aka "The Quack Shack", is also coming along. The ducks have been out in it for about a week now. The run area has yet to be started. We do have a routine with them though. Every morning, they get let out and they run toward the dogs (which they are in their own little penned up area in the yard). The dogs go crazy. The ducks proceed to run along the dogs' area which causes them to go crazy. They then waddle over to where their pool is waiting for them with fresh water. They get a container of food and they get the pool closed in with a little yard. The tarp goes over the top for shade. This is where they spend their day until we go out and gather them up for the night.

I decided that 3 dogs, a cat, 9 chickens, and 4 ducks were not enough for our growing homestead.  I spoke to the man and have ordered a WORM BIN!  It should be here by next week! As soon as it arrives, I will set it all up (yes, in the kitchen) and then head to the local tackle store and grab up some worms. They will be composting my kitchen scraps! Yay!!

I have yet to get the trees and fruit vines planted. This needs to get done soon! 

The fence needs built too. The pool needs to be put up. The fire pit needs established. The archery area needs developed. 

All in time, Jess.  All in time. (I need to keep remembering this phrase!)

I did manage to pick some organic strawberries last evening. They will be snacked on but many will be transformed into delicious jam.  I had wanted to do that today, but my plate is full so into the freezer they will go until I have the time. (stupid summer class!  haha)

I am already investigating getting meat chickens this fall.  I am also investigating getting bees next spring. Just investigating though. If I can accomplish those goals, great. If not, no worries, it will happen.

I am just so excited to transform this home into a functioning homestead that is as self sufficient as possible! 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Summer is here!

The weather is hot already. It has been in the 90s all week.  So of course the ac broke.

Of course it did.

So we turned it off and opened the windows and turn all the ceiling fans on and dealt with the heat. It was miserable. We are not quite used to the heat just yet.

And then the neighbor came over and turned on the air. It worked.  No clue why it suddenly worked, but it did. 

Of course it did.

And today it is only supposed to be 80 degrees and the air is still on. I refuse to touch it and make it a tad bit warmer in here.  I may break it..haha. That is okay. I have the beagle boys to keep me warm!

With summer comes my summer class which has started this week.  It will be okay though. Easy peasy...I hope.

With summer comes working overtime to pay up on bills and hopefully pay some off.

With summer comes organizing the house and yard. My favorite!

The chicken coop is just about complete. The duck house is still a work in progress.  The fencing is still just a is the firepit, and the archery range, and my bitch bunker (aka the screened in porch).

I have to keep telling myself, "all in time, Jess, all in time".  Baby steps.

I am going to get myself organized this week and next week things will start to get accomplished. 

So, ready for the ride with me? 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Liquid gold and tired arms

I scored some liquid gold....aka raw milk....for pet consumption only, of course  ;-)
One sweet gallon of the stuff.

The cream line.  Oh goodness, that cow produces some wonderful cream!

I decided to try making some raw butter with the cream.  I have done it before but only with heavy cream that I bought from the store.  I remember it being "fun" so I thought I would try it again.

It was fun! 

For maybe 15 minutes.  Then it was tiresome.  And annoying to those sitting around me.

Blurp.  Blurp.  Blurp.

"Look, it is working. It's working!!"  ("Yes mom, you are making butter. yay for you".)

I had to take a break. What a better way to break than to post about how tired my arms are and how excited I am to get this yummy milk to make butter with. 

Next time I will use the mixer.  It will work much quicker...and easier. 

I would show you a picture of my creation, but I have temporarily misplaced my camera and phone and I am too tired (and lazy) to look for them at the moment.  Yes butter making is THAT tiresome (and the fact that I have had 2 hrs of sleep in the past 24 hrs due to being a night shift worker coming off of her work week).

Trust me. this butter is beautiful.  The best butter ever.  I can picture all the wonderful healthy bacteria ready to join in my belly with all the other wonderful healthy bacteria and become superheros and fight the likes of bad bacteria and viruses.  Great visual I am having now thanks to sleep deprivation! 

Ok, enough of the love affair I am having with my first batch of raw butter. 

Until next time,

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Testing, testing. Regularly scheduled programming will resume shortly

Yup, I am in the last 10 days of spring semester which means papers, projects, and finals.

Fun Fun

As soon as this semester is complete, I will be focusing on the creation of the homestead. Promise!

I have berries and trees to plant. Wild berries to dig up from the back of the yard and replant along the side. A chicken coop to complete (almost done!). A duck house to complete. And runs or pens or whatever you call them to attach to each coop/house.  There is the fence to put up and even more things to accomplish! 

Oh I am actually looking forward to all of this! Plus I have the house to organize. You see, we moved into our new house back in January. I also started the semester in January, and had 2 back to back surgeries in that month too. Needless to say, I have been a busy girl!

So please, for those who actually have found this blog (thanks for reading!), stay tuned! There is more to this show!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Do you know how to design a blog?

So as you can tell by the very simple layout and template of this blog (unless you are reading this way after I got help), my knowledge is very limited when it comes to this stuff. 

By knowledge, I mean how to design a blog.

By limited, I mean other than typing and uploading pictures, I know almost nothing.

Are there any online programs out there that I can learn how to design and work my way through the blogging universe?  I would love to add more pictures and cool backgrounds and links, etc.

So, if you know of any resources out there that I can learn from (once this spring semester is over in grad school, that is), please share them with me in a comment below!!  I really want to learn!

Please and thank you!

the chicken coop & duck house

We have chickens. Ten to be exact.

We have ducks. Four of them!

They sometimes get along.

And they sometimes do not.

Hence, we need two separate homes for them.  So our first project on the homestead is to build some coops! We looked over a bazillion pictures of different coops. We wanted easy. We wanted cheap.

I found a coop that I liked that used pallets for the frame. I showed the man the pics and he agreed that it would not be that hard to make. 

The man borrowed a trailer from a friend and off he went to find some pallets. He and the boy took their spring break to get them started. Here are some pics of how they are coming along! I am so excited to get our lil creatures out of our spare bedroom and into their new homes!

There ya have it! The beginning of their new homes!  I will post again when they are complete...with enclosed runs!!  I am so excited!

Linked to  Homestead Barn Hop

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Where to start?!? My goals for the first year

I have so many ideas that I want to incorporate on to this homestead that I have a hard time figuring out what to do first! I figured I need to establish some goals to provide a direction for me.

It will be slow going for the first year. Ya see, I am a full time worker and until May, I am a full time grad student....besides being a mom, wife, etc.  Once May hits I go back to part time status in school. Whew!  I cannot wait!

So, here they are, in no particular order:

1. Put up the fence around the yard.
2. Plant trees in the front yard.
3. Plant berry vines, bushes, and grapes along one side of the yard.
4. Get chicken/duck coops and runs made.
5. Put rain barrels around the house and coops.
6. Get the firepit established!!
7. Set up archery range.
8. Get compost bin started.
9. Establish asparagus patch.
10. Build a pallet couch for the enclosed patio.
11. Find local sources for foods that I cannot or do not have time to grow/raise.

I am thinking I may add to this as needed, but for right now, this is what I got.  Now that I think about it, I should post goals for the blog also. I am a list person. Goals keep me accountable. Here are some goals I have for designing the blog.

1. Add pictures. (who doesnt like pictures?)
2. Create a page to link Jacob's blog (wanna know what that is about. Check it out here
3. Create a page for getting fit (I totally need to lose major poundage!)
4. Create a page for recipes that I like.
5. Create a page/list for blogs I follow.
6. Create a list of documentaries I LOVE (I am a documentary junkie, esp. food documentaries!) 
7. Create a list of food that I have canned, froze, dehydrated, etc each year.

Whew!  These are some lists!   Better get started soon! I will probably post infrequently at first as I am finishing up spring semester, but come May, watch out!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Welcome to Our Hodgepodge Homestead!

Hey, welcome to our place!

I have been dreaming of a homestead for quite some time and now I finally have one....kinda.  It is in the beginning stages. Very beginning. It also isn't what one would consider a homestead. We do not have acres of pasture and trees and such. We have just under an acre. We are in a neighborhood, but that neighborhood is outside of town. There is no HOA and the neighbors I have met (one being a friend I already had) seem pretty cool.  So, there ya have it. My dream is about to come true...notice I typed "My"?  Yeah, the man has no feelings whatsoever about this becoming a homestead. I think he smiles and nods and thinks I am crazy, but he is going along with it to make me happy. What a guy!

So come back every once in awhile to see how I am transforming this neighborhood house into a hodgepodge homestead!