Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Mission Accomplished

Our annual craft sale has come and gone and I am left with a feeling of "where did the last month go?"

It was a much better turn out this year; in fact it got so busy that people couldn't get through to our booth. In the end I made about the exact same amount as I did last year but for some reason felt disappointed. So tonight I am reminding myself that although I had hoped to make more money, I did accomplish several things:

• I learned how to bind a quilt and managed to bind 3 by hand (1 throw size and 2 baby)
• a lady offered to buy the throw sized quilt, which I had on display (I had already given it to my friend whose mom had passed away)
• the first set of pallet board signs sold out (I made a second set of 5 at the last minute so have some inventory for next year)

I did not have a craft table thinking that it would make me rich :) a friend and I enjoy doing crafts and the busy work helps us get over the hump of the seasonal change. We had a great visit and I was overjoyed to see old friends come out to support a local event. My kids got their picture with Santa and I believe they will remember forever the suspenseful few moments while Santa searched for their names on the naughty/nice list!

The afternoon portion of the craft sale slowed down and I didn't make the profit that initially seemed possible. But all of my other goals were met. I learned how to do the binding on my quilts and was offered a fair price for one although I could not accept. I was commissioned by a friend (and paid in advance) to sew a baby quilt, and I've already got it started. 

I used some power tools while Husband is away working and reminded myself that I am more capable than I believe. I used to be so independent but having small kids and someone to ask has made me soft. All in all, I had a day out and some great social time and felt very supported by people that matter. That in itself is an accomplishment :)

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Busy Days

For anyone holding down a real job, it might seem crazy to put hours of time and energy into making crafts to sell for mere dollars at a sale. I like to create things and my kids are independent enough now that I can spend a bit of time sewing while they play or colour. Most of it, though, I do at night. I had a very productive few days and I hope to sell at least half of what I've made. The weather is supposed to be better this year (last year it was cold with a wicked wind). 

I'm feeling a bit tired of it all, really, but I have enjoyed the sense of urgency (briefly). Now I'd like to go back to sewing because I want to :) How is your weekend shaping up?

Monday, 2 November 2015


Isn't it funny how quiet and still a snowy morning can be?

 This quiet, the expectant silence waiting for the sleep that winter will bring...this I seek in my heart and mind. For the first time in perhaps ever, at least since I was a child, I look forward to the methodical pace of winter. Wood hauled in, ashes hauled out. Plow snow, shovel snow. Play in snow. Sleigh ride. Hunker down. Rest. Sew. Read. Snuggle my boys and savour savour this precious window in their childhood. For if there is one age I remember, and one season, it is the excitement of snow and decorating cookies and making cinnamon buns and waiting for the bus to drop off my brothers so we could eat our homemade treats that we had made for them. And I do remember the quiet. I played with my not-a-barbie doll in a cardboard box that I had made into a doll house and the dramas of her glamorous life were acted out in my mind where only I could hear. That Christmas Santa delivered a doll house, a real house, for my not-a-barbie and I don't believe there's been a gift so special since. The wall paper in her bathroom matched the wall paper in ours, her bedroom carpet the white plush shag of our discarded bathroom mat. She was like a movie star.

There are no more jobs calling me outside. Every year my interest in the garden wanes before I have completed all my jobs and now there is snow on the ground and I can give myself permission to focus my attention indoors. Rooms that need cleaned top to bottom and things that need sorted and tidied and oh so many things to sew. 

Quiet. The quiet pace of our lives slows still more for this season. But my boys will continue to grow. I will tire of the repetition of my daily routine by February and I will drag myself to spring with gritted teeth and big plans for the yard. This I know. This year I enter winter without dreading the length and severity of it. I know that we will make it through. We will be productive, in our way, and we will greet spring with the joy that we now welcome winter. I am ready. Bring it.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

2015 Tally of Preserves

It has long been my goal to keep better records of what I grow (always too busy planting to keep track of what gets planted) and what I harvest (weighing what I bring in from the garden sounds simple until I am rushing out to pick greens and supper is late, blah, blah, blah). Maybe next year I will be more organized and keep a better record, but for this year I have concentrated on an overall tally of what I was able to preserve through canning and freezing.

I thought that I would include this spring's maple syrup, our first ever. Because it was a novelty to most of our friends we gave away several tiny taste-test size jars and had a couple of half-pints for the kids to have on pancakes and for me to use in bread. I saved 2 quarts in hopes that the weather will cooperate and we can do maple taffy in the snow at each of our son's birthday parties (January and March). Last year we had tobogganing and horse-drawn sleigh rides for both and the weather was nice. I hope we are as lucky this year :)

I was lucky to be invited to pick fruit with a friend in a lovely yard this summer. There we picked enough plums for good eating plus a bit of plum sauce (seriously, removing the pits was so time-consuming!).

My boys enjoyed pitting cherries, though, and were a great help. The wild saskatoons were wonderful this year and we discovered just how many grow right here in our yard.

My garden was a dismal failure by some standards. We had a drought until July and the scorching heat and my inconsistent watering did not enable much that I planted to germinate. Some things came later and I was surprised how much lettuce I ended up with. Pumpkins continued to bloom until frost without ever producing fruit larger than a golf ball--terribly disappointing because I successfully started the plants from seed! If anyone has pointers on growing pumpkins I would appreciate some advice!

Like most years, though, what my garden lacked was supplemented by the generosity of my mom and neighbours. A friend's mom gave me half a box of apples which I split with my mom and made apple pie filling with. I was given cucumbers and still managed to make enough pickles for our winter eating. My aunt gave us carrots and I saved enough to make a treat jar of pickled carrots for Husband to enjoy over the Christmas holidays. In many ways the scarcity of the pickles makes us savour them more and it is always a shame to throw out uneaten ones when you have gone to so much work.
Every year I plan to grow more tomatoes and more peppers for even more salsa, but like the pickles it is a shame to see it go to waste. So this year I have concentrated more on slow roasting and freezing for sauce and know that the salsa I have made for ourselves and as gifts will be all the more special because there is less of it.

So here it is, a tally of what I have "put up" from my garden, yard, and generous gifts from others:

2015 Preserves

2 qt saskatoon pie filling
2 x ziploc freezer bag of berries
2 qt rhubarb/saskatoon "fruit" for our elderly neighbour
3 qt cherries "fruit"
3 qt cherry pie filling
2 qt apple pie filling

2 pints pickled beets
1 quart dilly beans
5 pints hot chili chutney
3 1/2 pints raspberry jam
3 pints million dollar relish
5 1/2 quarts bread and butter pickles
2 qt + 1 pint sweet heat salsa plus 7 half pints of sweet heat salsa for gifts
4 qt hot salsa
6 qt canned whole tomatoes
1 qt dilled carrots
2 qt dill pickles
5 ziploc freezer bags of roasted tomatoes (so far). Tomatoes still ripening in the basement

1 laundry basket of potatoes minus what we ate fresh from the garden. Red potatoes were scabby but large, white potatoes were excellent.

Perhaps most exciting in this year's food production were the two apples that our 2 year old honeycrisp apple tree produced. The fruit was huge, crisp and juicy, and although there were only two apples we watched them grow and shared them as a family. We are very hopeful that the tree will provide us with plenty of beautiful apples in years to come.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Some Months are Just Like That...

SIGH. My 3 year old has a cough and it's been keeping us both up at night. I feel tired and dare I say a little grumpy! It's funny how the best laid plans, gone unfulfilled, can later trip me up and make things harder to see, my budget plan for October didn't make it past "go" and I have felt like it is impossible to post about budgets and frugality when I am having such a hard time living it. I feel a real responsibility to be accountable for what I say in my blog. If I say I am going to reduce grocery spending then it is on my mind all the time. If groceries come in higher than the budget it is not the end of the world but I do feel a tremendous amount of anxiety that I am not fulfilling the goals that I have laid out here in this space (even though they are really only for my own motivation). As a result I have avoided the subject, ceased to blog, and feel like a frugal failure. I have decided to list what "went wrong" this month and some ideas to try for November (tomorrow already!?)

  • I was all set to get groceries using cash, according to My Plan. I had withdrawn $700 for the month, which was to include dog and cat food and some items for a winter stockpile of food. First trip out I got extra flour and coffee, both at reduced prices but bringing my grocery total to higher than I intended. The real strike-out, though, was forgetting to pay in cash and using the MasterCard out of habit. Same things week number 2! Apparently, old habits are hard to break...
  • So now I am packing around a wad of cash, which I can't seem to remember to spend. But Husband, oh Husband the MasterCard is going up and the cash is going down, do you see where this story is headed?
  • Husband's family is in Newfoundland, all the way across this big country. We send our Christmas packages with a truck-driving friend who happened through town this month. Enter Christmas shopping, and an educational toy party, and now you have some extra spending that was bound to happen sometime but certainly adds to my sense of failure. 
  • Did I mention that we got a barn?
I suppose in the interest of a balanced argument I could add that by spending too much on groceries one week I received our Halloween candy as the free gift (we live on a secluded road and never get trick-or-treaters so where do you think that chocolate is going to end up?). The other free gift that I received was a lovely 7 piece appetizer serving set which will be donated as part of my gift to a woman and her children fleeing family violence. Every year I do up Christmas gifts for a family at the women's shelter. I found one of our Halloween costumes at the thrift store that supports the same shelter. It was $6 rather than $30-40 had I purchased it new. It ended up being too short for my rather tall 3 year old, so my mom added a "belt" of extra material to the waistline of the costume from material she had on hand. Frugal and fantastic? Aye! The 5 year old didn't seem concerned about having a costume for his kindergarten party so I didn't either, but as it approached I remembered last year's paper-hand-drawn-batman symbol scotch taped to a black t-shirt and I began to worry that I would look like the uncaring mother that didn't bother to try....this school gig is mostly about keeping up appearances in so many ways, and I am surprised when I get sucked in. As much as I would like to dress my kids in things we have around the house it seems that store bought is the trend, and I gladly accepted a friend's offer to lend us a power rangers outfit that her kids weren't using. I fashioned a mask from a Superman mask and cape that we had and voila, Halloween for less than $10!

Husband does the pumpkin carving 'round these parts. Not bad, eh? 

October used to be a month that I counted on to help us get ahead...there are 5 Fridays in October which, for us, means 5 paydays. I used to sit and look at our accounts and always put the extra paycheck either into savings or against whatever payment had the highest interest. This year it felt like October brought unforeseen spending rather than extra income, but I have to admit that some months are just like that. I have most of the cash to spend on next month's groceries and I need to try harder to stick to my plan. But I realize that the pressure I've been putting on myself regarding the budget is unnecessary and not helpful at all. I don't need to go around with rocks in my stomach because things didn't go according to plan this month. I spent more on groceries than I had planned but we have extra pet food for winter and food for ourselves. I am letting it go so that I can turn a new page with a new month beginning tomorrow. Onward and upward, yo!

This picture has nothing to do with the post, but aren't my kids cute?!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

So We Got a Barn!

Today we had a very special delivery: the barn we ordered awhile ago arrived and I LOVE it!

This plan has been in the works for a couple months--initially we hadn't planned on a barn for another year or two but suddenly we were pricing out our options and the next thing I knew we ordered it! 

The cost of the pre-built, delivered barn was not much more than the cost of the materials had we opted to buy a package and build it ourselves. Husband and I don't have much building experience so we missed out on a chance to learn a great deal. But building it ourselves would mean he would have to take unpaid time off work. Whatever we saved on the cost of having it built would have been lost. So we ordered it from the same Hutterite colony that built our shed, and I couldn't be happier :)

My mom and dad came and helped us frame up the footing and two of my brothers were here when the concrete was poured. It feels good to know that help is nearby when we need it. We have a few more things to do to get it ready for our four sheep to spend the winter in, and there are still a few jobs left in the yard. It was a beautiful day today and I do so love looking at my little red barn out my kitchen window. I know that having the barn (although it wasn't imperative that we get one this year) is another step towards the lifestyle I want for my kids. I'd like them to grow up with some chores, some animals to tend to, some responsibility. In the meantime I feel a great enthusiasm to start making a bit of money to help pay for it. More on those plans soon! 

Did you do anything exciting this weekend?

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Carving Out the Time

Lately I am realizing that living a simple life takes time. All my priorities take time and patience; they require the attention span to see things through to the end. I confess, sometimes I flounder from one task to the next, and I've even wondered if it wouldn't be more "simple" to bring home that take-out meal, hire out some yard work, buy it rather than grow it, and for heaven's sake stop the laborious pastimes of preserving and making do.

If only it were so easy. When I bake my own bread I prefer to start in the morning and then work the raising/baking into the flow of other tasks during the day. On a really productive day we can be working outdoors while there are still things being accomplished inside, like bread raising or laundry washing. Yes it would be easier to dry clothes in the dryer when hanging them outdoors requires lugging them down a flight of stairs, but if I don't show my kids that it can be done they might grow up believing that it can't be done. And I don't like the thought of an entire generation of people that has never tasted home baked goods or worn crinkly drawers, I just don't.

Despite my best efforts today I got my buns started at 3:30 only to realize that we are invited to the farm for supper and waiting for the buns will make us late. Oh well, we will be late and bring buns. I have begun my (second) annual flurry of Christmas crafts to sell mid-November at a small local sale. I enjoy the sense of accomplishment but the disaster of felt and thread and beads and do-dads in my living room is making me a bit OCD right now. I really must get some sense of order restored. But, you see, it all takes time.

I could get my decorations at Walmart possibly for less than it costs me to make them, once I factor in my time. But I like the idea of a handmade item. Every year I buy some pottery from a local artist. She prices her things very reasonably and I now have 4 of her pieces--I like the idea of a neighbour or local person looking upon their Christmas tree to see a variety of the things I have built over the years. Every year I give some away and it brings me joy to see my work in the homes of my loved ones. It takes time, but it is worth the time.

I feel rushed right now. I no sooner complete a task than another rears its head or, worse, I must complete a task or two to even begin the job that needs the most attention. It's the impending threat of a snowfall that is here to stay...things need done outside but the house is driving me into my hibernation/mission of downsizing and decluttering. These walls need washed, the floors, the windows, the shelves have collected strange assortments of toys and sunglasses and things that just don't belong. More tomatoes are ready and I've been given some overripe apples--blessings, they are, I am so grateful to have plenty of food, but on I rush. It's making me feel pulled in every direction.

There is nothing like walking in the door from a playdate and having a child vomit in the porch to help one really prioritize the jobs for the day. Suddenly it is okay to concentrate on laundry and organizing the crafts and subduing the dust bunnies. There is nothing wrong with getting some indoor jobs done while a little boy rests on the couch. We can even work in some stories and a quiet game, and the world will keep on spinning. There is only so much time in a day but I have been reminded that the two reasons I live my simple life the way that I do--baking, gardening, building and reusing and making do--those two reasons sometimes need me to settle for just being mommy and leaving all the other job titles for tomorrow.

I've been wanting to do a mid-month update on some budgeting stuff and I need to figure out how to do the GST for Husband's company (EGADS! Me and numbers, it's just such a dreadful combination) in a way it adds to the sense that I will never be caught up and I will never have the time to do the things that I want. But I must carve out some time. I've whittled away at the number of blogs I read--even realizing one that I followed for years was actually bringing me down. It's important to reevaluate and really spend your time as though it was your money. Quality over quantity. With that, my boys await. I leave you with some birds and stars--I hope you are enjoying your weekend!
perhaps some day I'll figure out how to rotate these pictures. But not today; I haven't the time!