I have had a garden for many years. When I went back to work after having my kids, it was no longer a priority. Last year we didn’t even plant a single thing. This year we are keeping it small. Very small. We planted a few carrots, 3 lettuce plants, some spinach, and we plan to put out 2 pepper plants, 3 tomato, 1 squash and 1 zucchini. We also have 4 rows of corn planned. And a green bean tee-pee, I am really excited to try that out.

We are not yet composting, so we didn’t want to have too many plants. This should be enough to get us through harvest without having to buy any of this at the store. We should also have some to put up for later. I know it’s not much but our goal this year was to get the basics of preservation and not to go too big. One year we had way too much and it just over whelmed me.

So what do you think? What do you all plant in your gardens?


Valentine’s Day Gifts

After Christmas my husband and I had a serious talk about gift buying for one another. He suggested, and I agreed, that from now on we would not buy each other gifts unless they were something we really needed, or something that would be useful for our future life. SO I started small. Valentine’s Day is a day we usually exchange little gifts, candies, etc. I bought my husband a Watt Meter.

This one to be exact. He took it out and immediately started playing with it without reading the instructions. Silly boy and his new toy. Then he took it down stairs to the basement to plug the washing machine up to it. Since we won’t be moving the fridge until we get some time to clean it out and all the stuff in front of it he just couldn’t wait to start using it. We shall see if the spec sheets match up to actual usage, and it will help us better determine what we need to get that appliance running on solar power only.

I got discount chocolates today, because he knows I still want chocolates, and I will appreciate his saving money.

So what did everyone else get for Valentine’s Day?

Taking Stock

Last month I saw this cool idea on making homemade soup stock from leftover scraps of vegetables. This sounded like something I wanted to do. So we saved all the potato peels, and pepper guts, and broccoli stems, and spare carrots, and the last of a bag of celery sticks. It takes us about 2 weeks to get enough to fill a gallon Ziploc bag. I keep it in the freezer until it’s full. All this would have been just tossed in the trash before I started dreaming of our little off grid life. Now I take that stuff that would’ve been trash and turn it into gold simply by adding water. My first batch had quite a few onions in it, so it has loads of onion flavor. This time we did not save any onion scraps.

I like doing this in the slow cooker for a few reasons. The biggest is because I do not have to keep an eye on it because the water will not boil away. You could do this in a pot on the stove, or over an open fire. 

To preserve this I will strain it twice. First through a colander, and then through a mesh strainer. You could also use cheese cloth. Then I will chill it in the fridge over night, or for a day, or until I can get to it. Last it will go into a freezer bag lined loaf pan. I like the loaf pan because it is the perfect size for us, and I can stack the little bricks in my freezer. I hope to start canning this year, but until then my freezer is a terrific tool and I will use all the tools I have available to me. 

So I ask you, what are your tips and tricks for your trash?

Okay now what?

We have been on our cash only budget for a while now. We survived Christmas without adding more debt (that is the key not adding more debt to your existing debt). So We started thinking about those other needs. We tend to start with things that we know will be difficult for us. We have had a garden for many years so we know a little about growing our own food. Of course we didn’t grow enough to sustain us, or preserve any, or even worry about it too much because it was just there to give us produce while it was still growing. So we are practicing skills we will use later, while we are still here in our 9-5 life.

The item on the list that we are most worried about is power.

We plan on using Solar, but are open to other ideas as well. I would prefer to be grid-tied with a battery backup, but my husband wants to be truly off grid. So we have decided that we should play with solar power a little at our current location.

Our plan is simple:

Buy a Watt Meter, and track the daily usage of our second fridge. Then, we will purchase a battery, or batteries, to be able to power the fridge off a solar panel full time for a year. We do not plan on using a lot of electricity, but want to be sure that we understand and appreciate how much it takes and how much we need.

This is the panel kit we plan to purchase in the next year to test our solar ability.

We worry most about power because in our timeline our 3 smallest children will be teenagers when we move off grid. Our older 2 will be adults, so they didn’t figure into power usage.

So, what are, or were, your biggest worries going into this journey? Where are you in your journey? Do you have any advice on this area? Have you used the panel/kit we plan on buying? Tell us about it in the comments, PLEASE.

The road so far…

That title feels a bit too “Supernatural” but it’s a good jumping off point.

When I was kid my teachers stressed the big 6 questions “Who, What, Where, When, Why and How” whenever I was writing anything. So, that’s what I have for you.

Who: My husband, myself, and our 3 children

What: Want to move to a piece of property that we will own.

Where: West Virginia- near a top preforming VA hospital.

When: Sometime in the next 6-8 years

(Here is where it gets complicated)

Why: Because we do not want to work for the rest of our lives. We want more time to enjoy our family. We want to take care of ourselves.

How: Uh… Yes, How? I am still working on this one.

I suppose I started with our finances because of my job I am hyper-focused on money. We have a terrific debt reduction plan. I used the site below to calculate our debts, and how we could pay them down.

Then I went a step further and found ways to cut spending out and find more money each month.

This takes some time, and some research on your debts. I did not follow their suggestion and pay off the balances in the order of lowest balance to highest, because then I am paying more interest. I chose to order it by highest interest rate to lowest interest rate.

We also have a very strict cash budget that I came up with here:

Let me note that I have not been paid, or endorsed or otherwise affiliated with Crown Ministries. I just used their website, and I liked it. You can use any one you like, or figure it out on your own. Whatever works. The point was to get out of debt as soon as possible.

Next I had to figure out what we would need to execute this idea. Land, Shelter, Water, Food, Power, Medical (insurance and treatment), Money, Money, and more Money.As I was about to find out going to a self sustained life is expensive!

So there you have it. The big 6.