What I have Learned about Modern Homesteading

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Over the years I had done things like going and doing U-Pick fruit and berries as well as picking berries from the backyard garden, as well as making jam and canning fruit.

The most consistent “homesteading” experience I had was two summers ago, when I was able to get eight batches of jam made from the raspberries I picked from the backyard.

The other day, I had gone for a walk a couple hours after breakfast, so I was able to sit a bit between breakfast and going for a walk. From about noon until a little after 7 o’clock pm, I had only sat down brief spurts to eat dinner while making jam. I had gone for a walk, picked raspberries once I got home, watered the raspberries once I picked the ripe ones, showered, put a load of laundry in the washer, started dinner, switched the laundry, started jam, continued eating dinner, finished up jam, got the laundry from the dryer, folded it, and by then it was 7 pm.

Then I got thinking about how much more work goes into having a farm / homestead this time of year. My walk would have likely been replaced by more gardening, cooking / making three meals a day, feeding animals, collecting eggs, casing after kids, trips into town, loads of laundry, and so much more. It is a busy life, and I do want that kind of life, to be busy providing healthy food for myself and my family. I want to spend more time outside, breathing, fresh country air, being tired at the end of the day from a good day’s work.

I wanted another one really bad

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I fell in love with the wild blueberry crumble recipe, it is so good, and so easy to make. I wanted more, so I made another one.

I had gone to Trader Joe’s on Thursday, and picked up several things, including a 2lbs container of blueberries, and a bag of organic lemons. I was shocked at how inexpensive the blueberries and lemons were at Trader Joe’s. I got the 2 pound container of blueberries for like $5.99, which was less than the price of a single pound at Safeway. I got a whole bag of lemons for like $2.99 which was a deal. I also picked up four bags of basmati rice for $2.99 a bag.

While I do like the fact that there are so many grocery stores within a close proximity to where I live, it is definitely overwhelming, and I would trade it for only having one grocery store in town, to be away from the insanity that is city living.

Of late, I haven’t been going out more than I absolutely have to, not really because of the pandemic, but because of how crazy it is here, and this lifestyle isn’t for me. I definitely do better / less anxiety with a more rural and slower pace of life with fewer people and more time spent at home. Moving to Alaska is still the dream / goal that I am working towards.

It’s my time to make some Changes!

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There have been changes I have wanted to make, and give a try. Now that I have been starting to change things up and make changes, and since I am at home for a bit, I might as make the changes and just throw myself into it.

This furlough, for me has been the tipping point, that it time to get things done, and make changes that will put me in a better place to find a new job and move. I have been ready to move for years, but I feel that my debt has been holding me back. Beings that I am furloughed, and collecting unemployment, with the CARES act in place, it is helping me to pay down, and possibly pay off my credit card debt. If I can get that paid off, then I would be left with just my student loans. If I could get my credit cards paid off and start saving money, I would be happy.

The longer this pandemic wears on, and things keep more and more restrictive, the stronger the desire grows to move someplace with a better coat if living, and where I can be more self reliant. Just going to the grocery store these days is a zoo with new rules and regulations every time you go, it is insanity. All the restrictions really haven’t helped my anxiety, and going out makes me anxious more than it did before this.

Even though the holiday season ended in December, and had a few months between then and being furloughed, I still felt exhausted and not like myself, I had no energy or anything. I started taking vitamins and such not long before I was furloughed, and since I have been furloughed I have been able to be in a routine that is more natural for my body, and really start eating better food, I am slowly starting to feel better. I am trying to make choices now to live a healthier more productive life. I am ready to put the city life and money chasing lifestyle behind me.

I am trying to get back to the roots of my blog, and simple homemaking. I am trying to learn how to budget, and live frugally, and that I don’t need a lot of things, or more clothes / shoes than I wear on a regular basis / clothes that aren’t my “go to’s” that I style in different ways. I am not a fan of eating out, or doing things where there are a lot of people.

I was an idealistic, listening to society on the whole needing a career that materialized young adult who was still in college when the recession of 2008 occurred. I graduated college in 2010, and couldn’t find a job for over a year. The past decade I have learned a lot about myself, including but not limited to; I miss having my own space to do with what I wanted, I enjoy working in the earth, and watching things grow then reaping the harvest, I prefer eating home cooked food, and making homemade food.

Bottle Drop

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If you live here in the US, your pop (soda) cans & bottles have bottle deposits listed on them for some states.

Here in Oregon, we are one of the states that has bottle deposits that we have to pay on certain types of cans, plastic bottles and glass bottles. Our state has a $0.10 bottle deposit per bottle.

The bottles that have these bottle deposits on them are pop (soda/soda pop/coke) cans and bottles, beer cans and bottles, hard cider cans and bottles, Kombucha cans and bottles, single use water bottles, and that kind of thing.

From the time the bottle deposits were started until more recently (like the last year or two) many of the grocery stores had and have bottle return areas. Over time, many of them became quite dirty, smelly and gross. Quite often, when the machines were working you had to contend with street people who collected cans for the money. Returning cans and bottles has always been a less than desirable task. At least in the part of the city I am from, as well as the other nice areas, a lot of people put their cans and bottles out in the regular recycling, because the 5 or 10 cents wasn’t/ isn’t a big deal to them. Up until the last couple years we never really saw the amount of street people come through digging through people’s recycling the night before and early morning of Garbage day. Now it’s crazy. It makes me a bit unsettled, because they are out quite often at the same time I have to leave for work, which is before the sun is up and most people are awake (before 4:30 in the morning). While I know most would leave me alone, it’s hard to tell who would give me issues and who wouldn’t, so it’s unsettling. There was one instance that made me become almost hyper vigilant, on Monday mornings (garbage day on the other side of the road just up from my house) and Friday Mornings (our garbage day). There was one of these people standing in the corner just up from where I live, with his bike leaned against the stop sign, staring at me. I walked to my car fast and got in, and locked my doors. While it did work out OK, it just unnerved me a lot, and made me feel even less safe here than I already did.

That brings me to what I started this post about to begin with. Within the last two or three years, we have had several bottle drop / redemption locations open up here in the city. All the major cities here in Oregon have at least one. Outside of the Portland Metro area, they can be found in at least: Salem, Albany, Corvallis, Eugene, Roseburg, Medford, Klamath Falls, Bend and Hermiston. These are the ones that I know of.

I know at one point they were talking about closing down the individual grocery store self serve bottle machines (the dirty, nasty gross ones, where you have to deal with the homeless street people), and just having the bottle redemption centers, but that has yet to fully materialize.

I finally bit the bullet after the new year and set up a bottle drop account, and went in, got my card and bags. I was surprised to see that they also have self serve machines, which is nice to see. These centers are also kept surprisingly clean. Much cleaner than I have ever seen the ones at the grocery stores here in Portland, the one at the grocery store I went to, in the small town I lived in while in college was kept way cleaner. Though that small town didn’t have the homeless / street people problems that the bigger cities do.

Over the last month, I finally filled my first green bottle drop bag, with cider bottles I have been collecting over the past year or so, as well as pop cans, and San Pellegrino cans from last year. I finally had enough to fill a bag, and took it in.

Since I am still learning the process there was a fair amount to figure out, but I got it figured out, and I am set for a bit. The whole green bag system, definitely does make it easier in the long run. Boxes of bags have 10 bags, and cost $2.00 per box that is debited to your account, and each bag costs $0.40 to process, which is also debited from your account. There is also a limit of 15 full green bags that you can take back during a 90 day period, which isn’t really an issue for someone like me, and my family. There is also a daily amount you can take back through the self service, which is like 350 or 360 cans or bottles per day. Though the daily self services amount rules have been in place pretty much since the bottle deposit / returns have been in existence, or at least as long as I can remember so that is nothing new. While there are some other rules for the bottle drops, as far as how much, how often and frequency within that time period, exist and are available on their website, it is pretty reasonable for the average person.

Getting everything figured out in the beginning and the idea of everything you have to do to get started with the program was a little bit like “is it really worth it?” But now that I have gotten my account set up, gotten my first roll of bags and gone through the process of taking my first bag back, it’s not that difficult or daunting.

I wanted to get things set up an squared away while I still have a bottle drop like 10 minutes from my house. I know I am going to be moving away at some point, and unless I move out of state, I wanted at least this to be taken care of, so all I have to do is update my address and stuff in the system. Depending on where I end up moving in Oregon, I would be making fewer trips to a town or city that has a bottle drop, and now I am at a point where I have everything thing I need to make it so that I would only have to go to one of these towns every few months (which I would be doing anyway, to go do some stock up shopping).

Here in Oregon, the cost to have the bottle drop place process the green bags, is the same as the refund value of 4 cans or bottle, and if you figure the cost of a box of bags divided by the number of bags, is the same as two cans or bottles per bag, you are really only giving them or “losing” 6 cans or bottles per bag, which isn’t bad. I’d just as soon pay the $0.60 total per bag, and save myself the time and hassle of the serve and having them do it. About the only time it’s not quite as cost effective is if you have more 2 liter bottles than anything else (as they take up more room than the average 12 – 20 ounce cans and bottles). When you can fit more than 50 cans and bottles in a bag, it’s totally worth it to not do it yourself, especially when you can drop it off as part of running errands, and you still get most of your money back.

More to consider

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I have been considering ways to cut expenses, and what I can live without. I have also been greatly contemplating ways to work on saving money, and whether what I am spending money on will help me get to my end game, or hold me back a bit from it.

The life I am working toward and feel called to live is more one of simplicity, away from the city life, where I can raise a family of my own, as well as do more to live off the land, and be much less reliant on having to go to town and to the grocery store for food. I am also interested in cottage businesses, and being able to be sustainable from where I live, and that is more unconventional to how I was raised.

I realize that there are those who thrive in the city, and for whom the city is home, and can’t imagine having to grow and raise their own food. That’s fine, and I am not here to shame anyone for how they live their lives. I have just been disillusioned by living in the city and being dependent on grocery stores, when I can taste the difference between home grown / fresh from a local farm and home canned versus store bought. I also love doing it myself. I get a satisfaction at the end of a day from making homemade jam, or the end of a long day canning, or made a home cooked meal with fresh ingredients.

Now that I have far fewer hours at work, and also haven’t felt well for a while, I want to get to a place of better health, and working hard for the life that I know is right for me. I would much rather go to bed tired at the end of a long day knowing that the hard work I put in that day had a greater good than just earning a little money.

As far as cottage businesses go, the things that have been on my mind have been to sell some of the socks I make (that I don’t keep for myself), as well as handmade soap and candles. I definitely want to learn how to make handmade soap and handmade candles.

I also want to purchase American made when possible (like lodge cast iron skillets), when I need to purchase items.

I can live without having Smith Teamaker tea on a regular basis when Stash tea is plenty good enough, and a fraction of the price. I also don’t need to be shopping at work. I have spent more than enough money at work over the roughly 20 months I have been with the company.

Since the season ended, I am back off coffee. I have also made the decision to not drink alcohol any longer, as well as staying away from soda.

Giving up alcohol is not based on any moral sway, it is based on the fact of cost, and the fact that I am not really a fan of the flavor.

It’s the little things that help make it a home

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A couple of the few upsides / advantages / bonuses of working where I do, and the shift I work, is getting to see a lot of the new stuff as it comes in, and helping set it. So that means I get to see a lot of the new stuff first, and am able to pretty much get what I want. Having my employee discount definitely helps me save a little bit of money on the things I do want and get.

Even though I am trying not spend as much at work, which is sometimes hard (though it’s a bit easier now that the season is over), at least I am still able to get and use the $10 shoppers rewards when I earn them and the free coffee for every six bags purchased. So that does help a bit when there are things I do want.

This year, our spring transition has a lot of furniture and home decor for our post Christmas set. It seems to have gone a bit easier than the two sets we had last year.

The other day, I happened to have the cart full of the stuff that went on one of the empty fixtures, which was several vases and plenty of fake plants and succulents.

As I was working, I actually really liked one that I had put together, so I had picked it up. I had a base at home that I decided would be great for the two bunches I wanted.

This is what I had come up with, and I really liked it. My mom also really liked it, and wanted to steal mine, and I was like “no way Jose, even if I let you “borrow” it, I may never get it back. If you want one, you gotta get your own”. So she gave me money, and I got her one of her own.

It’s ever so slightly different from mine (not counting the base), that I can tell them apart, but yet have the same feel.

I love little things like these that help make a house and a room feel way more homey.

That is definitely one thing that I want to do again and more of when I have a home of my own. I did a bit of it in the last apartment I had in college, but as it was a rental and I was a poor college student (I didn’t have a job then), I couldn’t afford much in the way of decorations, but I did what I could. Over the years, as I have had jobs, and found stuff that I like, I have picked it up and been putting it away for when I have a place of my own again.

Simple and Homemade

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I have been trying to enjoy the few days off in a row that I have had. I was asked to go in on my day off yesterday (which is a normal occurrence this time of year), but turned it down, as I am already scheduled to work 4 days in a row this week.

Yesterday, I was able to get quite a bit done around the house. I got a couple loads of laundry done, as well as making dinner. I made chicken penne, with a mix of whole wheat noodles and black bean penne noodles.

I also baked the reindeer sugar cookies we picked up at the grocery store.

I definitely miss being on my own, having to budget, living frugally, and living a simpler life. I have finally come to the point where I know what I want to be doing, and how I want to be living. I have realized that it’s time to be looking to move away from where I currently am, to an area with a better cost of living. I don’t really mind not having a lot of money, and making due with less. I am also the kind of person who wants and needs to do more for myself and my future family, such as gardening and canning. Homemade, homegrown and home canned food is better than store bought.

Wasting Food and Money Saving Apps

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Over the years, seeing how much food, we, in the industrialized world waste, is very disheartening. It is disheartening, because there are children in this country who don’t have enough to eat. It is also a waste of money, and other resources.

I work in a retail store where we have a food department, that we call “Gourmet”, and I have seen so much product from that department expire and have to be thrown out because it’s past is best by / sell by date. While there are some cases when the food looks like it’s gone bad (primarily the chorizo and some other packaged meats), or it’s something that is better left unchanced, so yeah, write that off and toss it. Other things, like in my case today, bags of whole bean coffee, that had best by dates of the 5th and 6th of this month, and are still completely sealed in their bags, they are still good.

Even though we couldn’t sell them to the customers, I was able to purchase a few, and my parents will use them up. I had sent a picture to my mom this morning of what I had pulled, as kind of a “the amount these are worth at retail value would cover two of my shifts” text, and she asked me if I could pick up a few at a discount. My manager said yes (we have special discount stickers for food that is getting close to their expiration, but I was allowed to use a few for these bags that were a few days past their best by dates). Due to being an employee (not the same liability as a regular customer), and the type of product it was (whole bean coffee still sealed in its bag), it was one of those, “at least it’s all not a loss” situations.

Over the last few years I have tried several money saving apps. Quite honestly, the ones that are beneficial for someone like me, are the store apps for the stores I frequent, like Safeway and Fred Meyer (Carr’s and Kroger in other parts of the country). I have tried fetch, drop, and Ibotta. While I still use Ibotta, I only really use it when I shop at where I work, since there is quite often a 2% back deal. When the day comes that I no longer work, where I work, 2% won’t be worth going shopping at where I currently work any more. I use it, because it’s 2% in addition / after the fact of getting my employee discount and any other percentage off sales that are going on in store. When I no longer have an employee discount, the likelihood that I would shop at any location of the company I work for, would likely go back to the way it was before I began working for the company, which was rarely. Having an employee discount, and on occasion a $10 shopper reward coupon (one of the two coupons we are allowed to use) as well as any in store non coupon based percentage off sale we could use too, has made it so I could pick up a few things in terms of decorations (especially Christmas and Easter decorations), at a reasonable price. Ok, I was talking about “money saving apps”, before I went off on my tangent. So, yeah, once I eventually find a different job, and leave the company I am with, the likelihood I will continue using Ibotta will be slim to none. While there are deals for places like Fred Meyer, most of them are for things I can’t or don’t use, with my food sensitivities and lifestyle. I had been using Ibotta, the first time, under an old phone number, and I had forgotten which one it was so I couldn’t remember my points once I had gotten enough. It had taken me over three years to get to that $20. I started a new ibotta, with my current phone number about six months ago. I am now almost to $15, and more than 95% of that is from shopping at work.

These apps may be great if you do a lot of shopping at the places they will let you earn point for shopping at, but for me, I don’t shop a lot at most of these places. If I do shop at some of these places, it’s not often enough to earn rewards through most of these apps. In addition to that, I really am trying to be more frugal, additionally, I eventually want to move someplace that doesn’t have a lot of these stores, and live a simpler, more frugal life.

I am still going through my closet, and trying to reduce the amount of clothes I have, since I still have a lot that I don’t wear, and I have my favorites that I wear way more than anything else. There are some things that I will be keeping that I don’t wear as often, as they are more for special occasions (or church clothes, and for weddings and funerals etc).

I am / have been doing some spending on myself during this season, since I am working some extra hours, I am still single, don’t have a family of my own to feed, and I am still living in the city. Besides my favorite tea, what I am ordering specifically for myself,bare for accessorizing the clothes I am keeping, and taking them from two half season outfits (late spring & early fall) and making them wearable for three seasons, by having warmer accessories for the cooler temps. Most of what I am picking up at work, are decorations for my future home, so while I am buying them because I like them, I hope they will help bring joy and festivity to my family and anyone who comes to visit.

Gluten Free Vegan Pumpkin Muffins!!

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I have been wanting to be doing some more baking, and get back into Homemaking again. Beings that it is autumn, I have been wanting to make some Pumpkin Muffins.

These pumpkin muffins, are gluten free and vegan. While I am not vegan, I am dairy free, and have had issues with eggs, so when I make stuff for myself, I definitely need to avoid dairy and try to avoid eggs. I also try to limit the amount of gluten that I eat.

Over the last couple of years, I have been seriously considering what I am doing, and how it hasn’t been working out here for nearly a decade. I have also been contemplating what I am supposed to be doing with my life. When I realized I wasn’t supposed to be a teacher, I have never really had normal career aspirations, all i have wanted to do is be a wife and mother. I have wanted to cook, bake and can. The older I have gotten, the more my desires, interests, and lifestyle choices have changed. I realized long ago, that the city life is not for me.

The idea of being solely reliant on others for my food, and not knowing where all my food comes from. I prefer the idea of growing a garden, and raising / hunting / fishing my own meat, or get it from local sources where i know how it was raised. I also love being outdoors, working the earth, a slower pace of life. At this point, I don’t want to live completely off grid, but do want to live a more sustainable and self sufficient life. I am the kind of person who would rather be busy working hard, taking care of house and home, and family, and having less of a need for and time spent using modern technology like phones, and computers.

I love knitting and making hand knit items. So I am able to make some of my own clothing items.

I am definitely looking at moving someplace else, that is more conservative, and where the laws are more favorable for Homesteading, hunting, homeschooling, and more favorable to living a life where the government doesn’t listen to the vocal minority. Some of my issues with the big city life, it’s always on the go, it’s such a fast paced, consumer driven. The commute time, it takes 30 minutes to get to work at 4:30 in the morning, and 45 minutes to get home, and my job is 12 miles away. Crappy / completely inconsiderate / high sense of self entitlement (ie, its all about me, and I can do whatever I want, the rules don’t apply to me, neighbors be damned), and just plain rude neighbors can happen anywhere. In the city they are a stones throw away and living right on top of you, so between dealing with the revolving door of college kids in the party house catty corner to us (that has been such for over 20 years), the neighbor across the street is is the epitome of self absorbed/ it’s all about me / I’m better than anyone else Millennial across the street who runs his business illegally out of his home, not to mention paying over $6000 in property taxes… and having experienced small town life in a more rural area for myself, I have had enough of the city. While I was in college, I learned one of the biggest things I could have about myself, I am a small town / country girl, who needs elbow room and room to breathe. There is so much more to life than the rat race of the city. Sh*tty neighbors can happen anywhere, to me, when their house is more than just across the city street from you, you have more options for dealing with them that aren’t illegal, immoral and doesn’t actually physically hurt any living being.

When I was younger, I wouldn’t have thought much about having to leave for work, by 4:30 in the morning. The homeless / street people / people who rummage through your recycling bins the night you put them out before garbage day, has made me really uneasy. I live in what was a good / highly desirable area, but I no longer really feel that safe. I feel like I am always having to watch my back. Downtown is a no go zone, and it’s a public health hazard, In the time I have been at my current job, just about every time I go to work, I see homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks of the shopping area, not far from where I live. There was one morning, as I was heading out to go to work, between 4:15 and 4:30 in the morning, it was garbage day for those living on the other side of the main (yet not super busy at this part of it) road, and there was a homeless / street person with their bicycle leaning against the stop sign, staring at me. That definitely made me feel unsafe. I definitely made him aware that I knew he was there, without saying anything. Our city government, has done nothing to deal with the homeless situation, the hands of our law enforcement officers are tied in dealing with any situation (whether it’s the homeless or protesters) leaving them ineffective and a joke. Having seen this city go from one that was fairly liberal, but was more live and let live, and the city that wasn’t as horribly run, to a city that is no place to live unless your a liberal hippy, who wants to coexist with the homeless and drug addicts. I have also been the subject of discrimination from the liberal left, here, because I don’t believe what they believe, and choose to live my life differently.

All of this, plus learning what I have about myself, has brought me to the point where it is time for me to move on, find a place that on the whole, is more aligned with my values, and with the way I choose to live my life, and make a life for myself. I realized long ago, that while living in this city, I am just existing. I am making the conscious decision to look for a job else where, in a place that is more aligned with my values, and stop just existing and wasting the life I have been given.

Setting Up a Budget

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Creating, and sticking to a budget can be a challenge when you (and by you, and really mean “I”) work inconsistent hours paycheck to paycheck and have had periods of unemployment.

Now that I have hit the six month mark at my job, having made it through the crazy holiday season and got kept on afterward. I still have a job, even though the hours are inconsistent and at times really doesn’t seem worth it to run the gas out there for as few hours as I am getting.

This has made me start thinking long and hard about my own future, and what is right for me. Staying in the city, in a state that has more Government overreach and regulations than it should, is not really an option anymore.

It’s time for me to really start looking for new opportunities, and saving as much money as I can, while I am working, in order to go explore the areas that I feel would suit me and the life I want to live.

Being able to budget now, and determine what are necessities and what are not, will definitely help.

The current trend of young adults becoming homesteaders, or full time RVing is on the rise. My desire to be a homesteader on some level, that doesn’t include Urban Homesteading, has been ever increasing as I have watched the country and economy change dramatically in the years I have been an adult. Being able to provide for my family in as natural means as possible is important to me. I have no desire to be any kind of “doomsday prepper”, I do want to be able to have life carry on as close to “normal” as possible. I want to have a garden, and be able to can and freeze food, and be a part of a relationship where one of us (ideally the him in the relationship), goes hunting, and fishing (that’s an equal opportunity activity), and all around just way less reliant on the grocery store for things we can grow and procure on our own. There are certain things I really don’t want to give up, like running water, a power source of some sort (whether it be grid power, solar power, generator, wind, hydro power or some combination), indoor toilets, and a washing machine. That being said I am all on board with cloth diapers, and other alternatives that would make the lifestyle I want to live possible.

All that being said, I want to live a “simpler” life away from the rat race of the city, where everything costs money, and “fun” / “entertainment” costs money. Life does cost money yes. On the same token, there is nothing wrong with going for a nature walk & having a picnic, or a family baking and movie day, or exploring the property. All of those are a lot less expensive than going to the movies or going bowling, and it’s about finding the joy and then fun in the simpler things.

I am trying to start saving money now, and be better about spending money so I can make the life I want for myself happen. It’s time to trim off the excess and entertain myself the way I did in college – cooking / baking, reading books, going for walks, knitting etc. I want to be able to have to money to buy fresh produce from farmers markets, that I wasn’t able to, or just didn’t grow, as well as being able to get food to can each summer. Having internet, at least fast enough to be able to post regular blog posts is important, as well as amazon orders (especially if I am a bit more remote, and a town / city with more than a small grocery store is a ways away).