Greens are in!

Hello everybody! After weeks of unseasonably cold and damp weather, I have finally had the chance to plant my greens! I chose a lettuce mix, spinach, and kale.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been buying flowers and planters, and any supplies I need to start a garden on my balcony. My parents have been working on the garden beds on their property. Seedlings are growing, and almost ready for transplant. I took my old raised bed planter and put it on my balcony.

It’s my first time planting greens in the container on my balcony. Until now, I’ve only grown them in the Aerogarden. I hope they will do well. My balcony gets morning shade and afternoon sun, so hopefully they will get enough sunshine. And I’ve read that they do better in cooler weather, but it’s going to hit 90 degrees next week (VERY unseasonably warm for Missouri at this time of year).

I also want to try growing potatoes on my balcony, but I have no idea how to do that. And my parents and I wanted to plant berry bushes this year. We were unable to find blackberry, raspberry, and blueberry plants, so that will have to wait until next year.

My aerogarden light is currently providing light for the seedlings. When that is done, I plan to use the aerogarden to grow herbs this summer. I ordered some pods with lavender, chamomile, and mint this morning.

Because the cost of food is so high right now, I am trying very hard to reduce food waste and preserve food any way that I can. I already have a water bath canner, and a vacuum sealer. I have been reading and watching YouTube videos about dehydrating, and it looks like a great way to preserve the yield from the garden. So, when my tax refund hits my bank account, I plan to get a small dehydrator, a pressure canner, and a few books about preserving food.

That’s all for now. Until next time, happy gardening!

Canning Blueberries

About a week ago, I was scrolling through Facebook, and saw an ad from my local produce stand.  They had many great deals on lots of produce, including cases of blueberries.  I jumped on it, and scored 12 6oz packs of blueberries for $7!

Now that I had scored the blueberries, I couldn’t decide exactly what to do with them? Should I freeze some? Keep some in the fridge? I recently bought some more canning supplies from Walmart, and over the last week, I cleaned everything, while deciding what to do.

I eventually decided to do “berries for baking” as recommended in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving that I had purchased a couple of years ago. It doesn’t have any sugar or anything else in it, so I can use it for just about any recipe. I grabbed 6 of my new pint size jars, and began measuring the blueberries. To my surprise, I discovered that I had more than enough, so now I’ve got to decide what to do with the extra berries!

I finally had time to do it today. I thought it would be fast and easy. It wasn’t. This was the first time I was going to try canning using my own stove, the strawberry jam that I canned last month was done at my parents house. Heating up the canner and sterilizing the jars took FOREVER on my small and old stove, probably because the canner is bigger than the large burner.

After it finally started boiling and the jars had been sterilized, I started filling them with the hot blueberries. There wasn’t enough juice to fill all 6 jars up to a 1/2 inch head space as required, so I topped them off with simmering water as suggested in the book.

After filling them correctly, I wiped each rim with vinegar, placed the lids, and screwed the bands to what I thought was “fingertip tight”. I guess I could have tightened them a little bit more, because air bubbles came out when I lowered the jars into the water. I asked about this in Facebook group and was told it’s normal.

So I processed the jars for 15 minutes as instructed. I had to turn the temperature down quite a bit during that time because this is an electric stove. If you’ve ever had an electric stove, you know how easy it is to burn food, and how difficult it is to regulate the temperature LOL.

So after 15 minutes, I turned off the stove, let the jars sit inside the canner for 5 minutes, and then placed them on the counter. To my dismay, all of the rings were loose, and I haven’t heard one ping yet. And there’s a film all over the jars, which was caused by the minerals in my unfiltered city water.

I’ll know in the morning if they have successfully sealed or not. Goodnight everyone!

Going back to the gym!

I hadn’t been to the gym, or done any exercise in quite some time due to the pandemic and other demands of my life. Earlier this month, I decided to renew my membership. I like to exercise outside in the summer, so I chose the quarterly membership, so it would expire in May.

Health and fitness is important to me. I plan to go to the gym at least twice a week. I’m also going to start using protein shakes after my workouts.

The featured image of the elliptical machine I used yesterday. It’s my longest session to date. Hopefully, I will begin to improve my health and get stronger soon!

Deciding what to plant this year

Choices, choices, too many choices! And some impatience, too. It’s only January, and I am already dreaming about my garden for this year.

I want to grow and preserve more of my own food this year. But, I live in an apartment, and my balcony gets morning shade and afternoon sun. The vegetables that I like to eat (tomatoes, peas, corn, etc.) require “full sun”, so I think I will try to grow some lettuce and other leafy greens in containers here.

My parents also want to expand their garden. They will let me have some space, and their property gets “full sun”, so I think I will plant tomatoes and other vegetables there.

I’m also planning on decorating my balcony this year. Last year, I didn’t think much about my balcony. I had been living with a broken window and a mouse infestation for months, so I really didn’t want to stay here. I tried looking for a house, but I couldn’t find anything that I liked and could afford due to the hot market.

But my apartment building was sold, and the new owners have made many repairs and improvements. My windows have been replaced, and the mouse infestation has been handled. And my rent didn’t increase (yay!) So I think I will be staying here for a while, and I want to beautify my balcony. I’m thinking of getting flower boxes and hanging them on the railing. I’m going to get some outdoor furniture too, and hopefully my balcony will become a decent place to relax.

Now I know it’s only January, but I am already thinking of how to start my seedlings indoors, even though I haven’t yet decided exactly what to plant this year. I’ll probably have to wait until March, but I was very tempted to buy supplies today LOL. I think I can put them on the window sills in my bedroom, but I might need to get a grow light and a heat mat too. I’m eager to try growing from seed for two reasons. One, growing my own plants from seed costs a lot less than buying plants from the store, and I can save the extra seeds for future use. Two, I just haven’t done it in a while LOL.

I’m also trying to live a more natural lifestyle. I’ve started a compost bin on my balcony. It’s taking a while to fill it, and it will be very slow to decompose, but it’s not going to waste. I’m also trying to make simple cleaning products instead of buying chemicals from the store.

I’ve also been watching lots of YouTube videos about gardening, homesteading, canning, etc. I’ll write another post about my favorite YouTube channels later.

May your gardens be bountiful and may you all live long and prosper!

Spending the day cooking, baking, and canning!

Yesterday was a great and productive day! Though it didn’t start out as such. Last week, my parents and I agreed that I would come over on Saturday and spend the day baking and cooking lots of things. I wanted to try canning too.

So I started getting ready in the morning. I was just about to put on my makeup and fix my hair, and the power went out. No big deal. I continued to gather all of the ingredients and stuff that I would need for what I wanted to do.

I loaded everything into the car, put Sherlock in the car, and turned the key. The “low tire pressure” warning came up. The front left tire had gone flat. And the weather was getting worse.

My parents picked me up and took me to their house. The day continued as planned. I made soup in the Crockpot, which we ate for dinner, and brownies for dessert.

I also made a loaf of whole wheat bread. Making bread is time-consuming, but I save so much money by making my own. I use King Arthur Flour’s recipe every time. It turned out great. I gave half of it to my parents.

And I finally got the chance to try home canning for the first time. I chose a recipe for strawberry jam from Ball’s Guide to Preserving. I thought it would be easy, because I have made strawberry jam before.

It wasn’t as easy as I thought. It took forever to bring the water in the canner up to the proper temperature. And the handles of the canning rack fell into the water. One jar was difficult to remove because it had tipped slightly during the process. But, the jars were successfully sealed. I forgot to remove the froth before filling the jars with the jam, so hopefully it doesn’t effect the quality and safety of the food.

Overall, it was a great day. I look forward to doing more cooking, baking, and canning in the future. Bon App├ętit!

Earning money on the side

With the price of food and gas going up this past year, I realized that I needed to earn more money. I probably could’ve got a different job, but I like my employer, and “job jumping” doesn’t look good on a resume. So I decided to look for a side job.

I wanted to find a side job that I actually like doing, so gigs like DoorDash were completely out of the question. I studied film and video production in college, and I have many years of experience shooting and editing videos. Wedding videos are among my favorites. Shooting them was very stressful, but I often cry when editing them.

In June 2021, an acquaintance I made a few years ago contacted me and asked if I could edit some wedding videos for her. I jumped at the chance. While I don’t have any projects now, I hope to get more this year.

The money I earned went right to my savings account, and most of it stayed there. I am trying very hard to keep it there, despite the inflation and high winter electric bills. Hopefully I will be able to continue saving for emergencies and other goals, such as a down payment on a house.

If you’re looking for ways to earn more money, I suggest you find something that you like to do and try to make it a side gig. Then, you will look forward to the opportunity. I can’t imagine ever enjoying something like DoorDash, Uber, etc.

It’s been a while…

Hi everybody! I can’t believe it’s been several months since my last post! Anyway, here’s a short summary of what I’ve been up to since 2020.

I started this blog in 2020 with the intention of documenting my journey through the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, it didn’t go like I had hoped because I am bad at following through with things. But it’s not all bad.

When I started this blog, I was living with my parents at their home 10 miles south of town, and working part-time while looking for a full-time job. Sometime in 2020, I signed up with a local employment agency, and they found me a “temp to hire” position in August 2020. And I also found an affordable apartment in town at the same time. Yay!

But living alone and working full-time has made it difficult to do things that I want to do. My canner, which I bought in 2020, has been sitting on a shelf since I got it. I haven’t been able to learn astronomy or astrophotography because I now live in town, and the view at night is terrible. And I haven’t been able to garden simply because I live in an apartment that gets very little sunlight, even in summer.

On top of all of that, inflation and a tax increase have driven up the cost of food here. Cost of living seems to have gone up so much, that I have to try to save up money for literally anything that is not a monthly expense. So I have to tighten my belt and really work on my budget, and actually stick to it.

But, I am not going to let any of this get me down. I still have the same goals as before. I’m going to start a garden this year, whether it be a container garden on my balcony, at my parent’s house, or at the community garden. I’ve already started a compost bin, but it’s going slowly because I don’t have much to add to it each week.

I’m also going to start canning and vacuum sealing this year. I am tired of paying high prices at the grocery store, especially for meat and produce. I’ve also noticed some shortages at the grocery storeI already have a vacuum sealer, and I love it. Preserving food will help reduce waste, keep the expenses down, and reduce my dependence on the grocery store.

And I am really going to work on my budget and try to stick with it. I have several financial goals, including homeownership, and sticking to a budget will help me meet them. My parents bought a piece of land inside a community with several lakes, and I hope to buy it from them and build a house on it someday.

As for the pandemic, I am lucky. No one I know has died from it. But it has caused some problems. I had planned to visit my brother and his girlfriend for New Year’s weekend. But a couple days before, I developed a runny nose and a cough, probably caused by the cool and wet weather we had for several days after Christmas. I tried my best to find a rapid test to no avail. I didn’t think much of it, so I drove several hours and checked in to my hotel as planned. My brother came to the hotel with food and video games, and everything was great for about 5 minutes. Then I coughed. And before I knew it, all plans for that weekend were canceled, and I was going home a day early.

This pandemic has got everyone so terrified of catching the virus, that no one can cough without everyone assuming it’s COVID-19. We ended up getting into an argument about the pandemic and vaccines. Both of us ended up crying in sadness and frustration, he left, and I spent NYE crying in a hotel room.

That’s all for now. Happy New Year!

The things I do to save money

Washing clothes by hand

I really want to buy a house within the next few years. To accomplish that goal, I need to save as much money as I can, and pay off debt as soon as possible. One way I’m doing that, is doing laundry by myself whenever possible.

There is a laundromat in town, but it is dirty, and a single load costs at least $4.25 to wash and dry. That can add up quickly. Washing my shirts by hand is pretty easy to do. I bought a plastic tub with a drain opening so I don’t have to use the kitchen sink. I’ll still wash large items like towels, sheets, and blankets at the laundromat when necessary.

Drying clothes on my balcony

To dry them, I’m using a drying rack I bought on Amazon, and taking advantage of the long Missouri summers.

This is just one thing I’m doing to save money. It’s going pretty well so far.

Indoor gardening with the Aerogarden

Sprout model of Aerogarden, with tomatoes.

About 13 months ago, Sherlock and I moved out of my parent’s house, and into a small apartment in town. Unfortunately, that meant I had to give up my garden space. I want to have a huge garden someday, but it will have to wait until I am able to buy a home. I wish I could have a large indoor garden this winter, but just don’t have any space for it.

My parents gave me a small Aerogarden for Christmas. An Aerogarden is a hydroponic system. It’s very easy to use and doesn’t make a mess. Just insert the pods, fill it with water, plug it in, and watch the plants grow!

I was growing lettuce, but I decided to plant tomatoes after the lettuce died. These plants were planted about a week ago, and are looking good so far. I eat a lot of small tomatoes, so these will help keep the food expenses down while I pay off debt and save money!

Starting a stockpile

Hello everybody! It’s been such a long time since I’ve shared anything here. I promise I’ll write more about what I’ve been doing for the last year later.

Anyway, with everything that’s been happening in the world over the last 18 months or so, I’ve decided to start stockpiling food and other essentials. I know I’m late to the game, but better late than never.

FoodSaver VS1110

To help start my stockpile of frozen foods, and to help save money and reduce waste, I bought a gently used vacuum sealer. I’ve used mostly for meat that I buy and divide up. I also used it to store some strawberries in the fridge, and they definitely lasted longer than they would have in their plastic box. And the bags and rolls can be reused, which helps reduce plastic waste. It seems to be working great so far.

I’ve also started to buy one or two canned or dry foods every time I go grocery shopping. I may end up using those when I am just too tired or busy to cook, but I won’t be tempted to get fast food, and that will help me save money.

I plan to add a lot more to my stockpile over the next few months, including dog food for Sherlock, and other items.

Given everything that’s happened over the last 18 months, and the fact that we’re dealing with shortages and supply chain issues, I think it’s very important to prepare for the unexpected. Nevermind the “global catastrophes” that some preppers think will happen, it’s very possible where I live to be snowed in for a few days if a blizzard hits LOL.

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