Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gardening to Save Money

Back when I was 20, my husband and I bought our first house. I tried my hand at gardening and quickly decided it was way too much work and didn't seem to save us much of anything. The seeds we bought and extra money we spent on the water bill seemed to cancel out any produce we harvested from that garden.

Not to mention the fact that I spent several dollars on Seven dust that year. The moment that I spotted a creepy looking green worm (a tomato worm) near my plants, I turned to my grandfather for advice. He recommended  Seven dust from the local hardware store. It worked. I never saw a green worm again. It also dismayed my husband. "That defeats the purpose of growing your own," he said.

Little did I know, he was right. Statistics show that home gardeners who use pesticides typically over-apply them. Making homegrown produce more polluted with pesticides than those purchased at the grocery store. I didn't know that then, but I do now.

Years went by and I didn't garden. Honestly, I was too busy. Now that I'm 40-something, I have a bit more free time and I've been gardening several years. I'm still not sure it saves me money. It is more of a hobby. I rarely go to the grocery store now. Most of our food comes from our yard, goats, chickens, or trees. We had some significant start-up cost putting up fence for the goats, building a coop for the chickens. Now, we have only maintenance cost, which is basically feed and water. Let's say watering the animals adds an additional $5.00 to our bill each month. Our feed bill is generally $20 per month. The animals cost $25 a month.

I spend an extra $15 a month watering the garden each summer. ($45 per year) and I pay $15 for seeds each spring. The garden costs $60 per year.

If we aren't eating something we grew at home, we eat out. We go out to eat 2-3 times each week. That costs us roughly $40 -60 per week. I'd guess we spend an extra $20 a week on food from a store. That totals $80 per week.

If you add all that together, you will see I spend just over $100 per week on the "farm" and food for 3 people. I'm not sure how that compares to what other people spend, but that is how it works out.

I put a lot of time and labor into my backyard garden these days, as well as caring for my goats and chickens. I don't do it to save money, because I'm not sure it does. Buying seeds, paying for water, feed, etc. plus the loss of time adds up. I garden for fun. I enjoy it. Some people play basketball, others golf, I grow things. I try to conquer a new type of vegetable each year.

Happy gardening!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

2011 Vegetable Garden - How Many Zucchini and Tomato Plants Do I Need?

squash, cucumbers, zucchini
I planted 6 tomato plants this year. One came up volunteer, so that's a total of 7. From those plants, I harvested 12 bags of tomatoes. I typically add them to fried potatoes or to spaghetti sauce. I purchase organic jars of spaghetti sauce and a bag of organic tomatoes from my garden stretches it twice as far. I could use up one bag of tomatoes a week, so 52 bags wouldn't be too much to put up each growing season. I certainly could've done with a lot more tomatoes. Next year, I hope to plant 28 tomato plants.
frozen zucchini
We're not quite through with the growing season yet. So I might get another bag or two of tomatoes out of the garden.

I had 3 thriving zucchini plants and from those I've got about 28 bags of zucchini. That was enough for me, and I also made 12 cans of sweet zucchini relish. If I'd had one more zucchini plant, I'd have had plenty to share with family. Next year, I hope to grow at least 4 zucchini.

This year, I also grew ornamental gourds and I have a ton of those. They're pretty but they're really not very functional. I don't have any purpose for them and the vines took up a lot of garden space that could have been used to grow something else. Note to self - Don't grow ornamental gourds again.

Next year, I hope to have at least 1 pepper plant. I've never had a lot of luck with peppers, but I should try again. I just bought organic peppers at the grocery store today. $5.85 for 2 green peppers and $6.50 for two red peppers. Ridiculous!

Using a Kid's Pool to Water the Garden

Each year, I reuse water from our kiddy pool to water the garden. At the beginning of the gardening season, I set up to my children's pool by the garden so that it might be easier to transport the water.

I was hearing complaints from other gardeners that the growing season had been too dry. Their garden's had dried up, but mine was thriving.

Later, we decided to actually use our pool and I moved to the pool closer to the house and clean it. As soon as I did that, my garden suffered. I think I accidentally discovered a great way to keep the garden healthy. Our gardens slopes downward. I placed the pool at the top of the slope. Each time it rain it just got that much more water and definitely benefit in our garden.

I didn't have to water this year until I moved the swimming pool. After moving the pool the garden looked terrible. Time to put it back!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Identifying Vines in the Garden and Using Zucchini

My grandfather taught me to plant straight rows of seeds and mark the end of each row with a stick. Tacked to that stick should be the seed envelope for identifying the row.

Twenty years later, I'm still not planting straight rows and it is a bit of a surprise what each vine will produce. You see, I save all my seeds from this year's produce to grow next years produce.

I wish I could say that I label the dried seeds in an organized fashion, but I do not. I jumble my dried seeds together.

While I do plant the seeds in rows, they rarely stay confined. Vines like pumpkins, cucumbers, and zucchini sprawl all over the garden bed. This year I took photos of the leaves of each vine. Learning to identify the leaves, certainly cuts down on the mystery! 

Here are some pumpkin leaves above and on the right. They've just started to bloom at the beginning of July, so I hope they will have some pumpkins ready for me in October.

Zucchini is my favorite type of squash. It is hearty and thrives when my other vines have taken all the summer heat they can handle. It grows taller than a cucumber and doesn't sprawl around the garden quite so much. On the left are the zucchini leaves as it grows. They are bigger and greener than cucumber leaves.

Friends often ask what I do with zucchini. My favorite way to eat it is fried with potatoes. Below is a photo of last nights dinner. I fry it in real butter (never margarine). I also add other vegetables such as corn, onions and tomatoes.  Here is the full recipe I typed out for a friend:

Fried Zucchini (and other vegetables)

  • Melt 1/2 a stick of real butter in the bottom of a pan. 
  • Take it off the heat while I slice the vegetables. (I use a food processor to do the slicing.) 
  • Slice 4 medium pototoes, 2 medium zucchini and half an onion. 
  • Cover it and let it cook on medium low heat until the potatoes are tender. 
  • Uncover and add the quartered tomatoes. 
  • Cook it another 5 minutes uncovered. (If you add the tomatoes to soon they cook down into nothing.) 
  • I also throw in seasoning at this point. Dried sage, sea salt and garlic powder are 3 of my favorites.
frozen zucchini slices
I can easily save enough zucchini each summer to have fried zucchini and potatoes all year long. I just slice it in the food processor and put it in the bags. That's it! You do not have to add anything and it doesn't turn brown. It is slightly soggier than fresh zucchini after being thawed, but I am frying it, so I simply leave the lid off the frying pan a little longer to cook the sogginess out of the zucchini.

You can also shred zucchini before freezing it. This comes in quite handy for making zucchini bread.
I also use zucchini to can sweet pickle relish. I use the relish all year long in tuna, pasta, potato and bean salad. I never have to buy sweet relish. The relish I make from zucchini tastes just like cucumber relish. Delicious!

Here is the recipe for Canning Zucchini Relish. It uses organic bell pepper, organic zucchini, apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar. No high-fructose corn syrup. (Gross!)

A friend also shared a tasty recipe for:
Zucchini Milano
2 T. Oleo
1/4 c. green pepper
4 c. Zucchini (1/4 slices)
1 c. Shredded cheddar
1/4 C. chopped onion
1/2 tsp. oregano
8 oz. tomato sauce
Salt, pepper & a little sugar to taste

  • Saute onion & pepper in butter until tender
  • Add squash, cover & cook about 15 minutes on low
  • Add tomato sauce and spices
  • Fold in cheese
  • Stir

But, enough about zucchini. I have one more vine that I haven't shown you from this year's garden. It's on the right and it is a gourd vine. The leaves have milky white veins running through them.  

I believe I bought these seeds this year in order to make things (bird's nests, canteens, etc) from the dried gourds. 

Have you ever made anything from a gourd?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Zucchini and Cucumber Pickle Canning Recipes and Pickling Facts

I've been busy harvesting zucchini and cooking it. My favorite way to eat it is fried with potatoes and onions. Sometimes I throw in fish fillets for a full meal. Zucchini is so easy to grow, we usually can't keep up with it simply by eating it regularly. What we can't eat up, I pickle. I keep a collection of my favorite pickling recipes here:

5 Pickle Canning Recipes and Pickling Facts

Zucchini pickle just like a cucumber. This week I am making sweet relish that will last ALL YEAR!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mulberries, June 5th 2011

I was watching for the first of the mulberries to fall from our tree this year, so that I might record the date. I've decided not to try to harvest them, as I have plenty of jam already.

They fell on June 5th, 2011 here in Kansas. The birds are absolutely loving them! So are the goats!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Check out my green zazzle products!

I've been playing with the Zazzle custom products tool and using some of my green photos to make products. I've made sunflower stickers, petunia stamps, and tshirts all from my photos or creative whims! I hope you enjoy these green products. Stop by and shop!

Do you Zazzle?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Water Conservation

Most people concerned with the environment eventually consider water conservation. How can you use less water in the toilet, bathing and cleaning dishes? How about the garden? Grey water is one way that you can reuse water from bathing, showering, or washing dishes and laundry to water your garden. A grey water system can be set up in your home to automatically route the water where you need it.

A poor man's grey water system might involve transporting bath, laundry or swimming pool water to the garden via a pump and hose, or a bucket. I am partial to setting up my children's inflatable swimming pool near the garden and then draining it in the garden at the end of the day.

If you are concerned with using less water, rather than reusing water, join the debate: "Which uses less, a bath or a shower?"

Saturday, May 28, 2011

★ 30 Ways to Live Green Without Spending a Penny ★

Do you get tired of marketing hype? I know I do. If you have committed yourself to a greener lifestyle, don't make the mistake of thinking that you are free from pressure to spend needlessly. While living green DOES often mean taking the simpler, more frugal path, it's unfortunate that there is still plenty of hype geared at convincing you that you need to buy products to be green. Learn to shun their ideas and check out the list of 30 ways you can be greener, more eco-friendly and environmentally conscious today without opening you wallet, or digging in your pocket for change!

★ 30 Ways to Live Green Without Spending a Penny ★

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring has Sprung

Today was the first day in Kansas that the weather was beautiful, in the 70's, the sun was shining and the wind wasn't blowing us away. It was truly a perfect day to be outside. I mowed for the first time this spring. Cleaned up the garden beds and added some natural fertilizer. The farmers were burning nearby so the air was a little smoky, but gardening season has officially begun.

We put in a pear and a cherry tree this year. They are doing well. Now, if I can just keep the goats from eating them up!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Canning Recipes

Each summer I can food as a way to preserve the harvest throughout the winter. I have maintained a collection of my favorite canning recipes on another website. Today, I am sharing it here. Most of my recipes are for fruit and squash canning, because they are done in a water bath canner. I have a pressure canner, handed down to me from my grandmother, but I haven't used it. I may pressure can goats milk soon, we will see. Anyway, I hope you enjoy my tried and true water bath canning recipes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Making Tincture from Herbs

One way to preserve herbs for winter months is to make them into tincture. A tincture is extraction of a plants properties into alcohol for the purpose of medicine. In fact it is the traditional method of making medicine. Long before they had asprin, they had willow bark, from which asprin was originally made. Long before they had milk of magnesia, the had magnesium, which was used fro treating ailments. Using nature for medicine is a time honored tradition as natural as using nature for food.

Read more about "Making Tincture for Medicine from Herbs."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Making Natural and Organic Personal Care Products

You can make natural and organic personal care products, such as lip glosses, conditioners for your hair, skin masks and moisturizers that are free from the chemicals and allergens that exist today in commercial cosmetics. Most of the ingredients needed to make these products are in your kitchen right now. Treat yourself to a personal spa day and pamper yourself a little, visit: 
Natural Beauty Recipes

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Winter, Seeds, and Garden Dreams

Winter has arrived and rather than planting and growing, we are quietly making plans for next years garden and browsing seed catalogs. Hope that this holiday season finds you enjoying your bountiful harvest! Check back next spring to see what's happening at the Forager's Harvest.

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