A blog about family, food and fun!

Tag: fun

The Importance of Walking in the Wood With Kids

The Importance of Walking in the Wood With Kids

Since being laid off I have been trying to spend time with family and friends. My Dad is nearing retirement and has some free time as well so I have been trying to get the kids out to see him on the family property out […]

Pumpkin Farms and Pumpkin Carving!

Pumpkin Farms and Pumpkin Carving!

In honor of Halloween I thought I would post some pictures from our pumpkin farm visit and pumpkin carving extravaganza. We have been going to the pumpkin farm with the same group of friends for the last five years and our kids love this tradition! […]

Indoor Seed Starting Resources

Indoor Seed Starting Resources

Indoor Seed Starting Time

 

It is that time of year again when I start to think about what seeds I need to start indoors. This is our third year gardening at our house and the second year for us starting seeds indoors. Last year we started tomatoes, ground cherries, spaghetti squash, sunflowers, cucumbers, zucchini, louffa, gourds, pumpkins and watermelons. Our biggest successes were our squash plants and the beans we direct sowed into the ground. This year we have decided to just buy our tomatoes and ground cherries from the store since we put a lot of effort into growing not so healthy plants last year.

 

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Seed Starting Indoors
Seed Starts 2017

 

Seed Starting Basics

 

When starting seeds indoors there are some basic rules and tools you will need. First off you need seeds (of course), pots, a shovel, soil and a grow light. There are many different types of pots you can use from plastic cups to toilet paper rolls and when you are first starting out it is best to try out a couple of different kinds and see what works best for you. Last year we used red plastic solo cups since we had a bunch lying around but ultimately biodegradable pots such as these here are better for the environment. You can also buy one of these seed starting kits to use as well:

 

Some people also use warming mats but we start our seeds inside the laundry/furnace room which is very warm and we haven’t needed a warming mat. Our grow lights also came from Amazon and you can find many different types that work but we bought one very similar to this one:

 

We buy our soil from Costco and mix it with this seed starting mix. Our seeds come from a mish mash of places. This year we have a bunch left over from previous years, seeds I saved from our vegetables and some an easy grow seed set from my mother-in-law for Christmas that has a few varieties that we were missing but if I were to order seeds I would from Seed Savers Exchange. They have a mission to grow heirloom varieties and have a program in place to help their members propagate and grow rare varieties of seeds to preserve plants that might otherwise be lost. I am a huge fan of them and my favorite time of year is when their catalog comes in the mail. It gets me super excited for spring!

 

The basic rules for starting seeds indoors are to:

  1. Start them at the right time according to the package (You can find your first frost date here)
  2. Make sure they are getting the right amount of warmth and light according to the package
  3. Water from below to prevent mildew forming on the leaves
  4. Don’t forget about them until they are root bound (I may have some experience with this)
  5. Harden your seedlings off gradually outdoors before planting in the ground
  6. Be gentle when transplanting them to avoid damaging the roots.

 

Seed starting is a skill that takes practice so don’t be discouraged if your first few tries are not successful! Even expert gardeners have trouble with particular batches of seeds or if the weather decides not to cooperate! I am a firm believer in practicing something until you figure out a way to make it work so my best advice for starting out is to pick a few easy to start plants such as zucchini, pumpkins, lettuce, radishes or peas and see if they work. You can always go to the garden store later to grab a few pre-started plants if you seeds don’t work out.

 

seed starts
Seed starts in the garden

 

Here are some excellent resources for your seed starting adventures!

 

Homestead Bloggers Seed Starting Resource Page

A large list of seed starting resources.

 

The Rustic Elk “8 Vegetables you Should Start Indoors”

This is a great list of vegetables that do well when started indoors and tips for growing them.

 

Dans Bois “Indoor Seed Starting Setup”

This is a great how-to for setting up your lighting system to maximize seed health.

 

Farm Fit Living “Tips for Growing Vegetable Transplants from Seed”

A great article breaking down into detail how to start your seeds.

 

Feathers in the Woods “How to Pre-germinate Seeds”

A great piece about how to pre-germinate your seeds prior to planting them for optimal health.

 

Gardening Advice.net “Tips for Starting Gardening Seeds”

This article talks about the different ways to start your seeds.

 

Better Hens and Gardens “Homemade Seed Starting Soil Mixes”

Thinking of mixing you own soil? This is a great resource.

 

Farming my Backyard “How to Make Newspaper Pots and Save Money Starting Seeds”

Use these instructions to make eco-friendly newspaper pots to start your seeds in.

 

The Reid Homestead “A Complete List of all the Seed Starting Equipment you Need to Successfully Plant Seeds Indoors” 

A comprehensive list of what you will need for seed starting.

 

Exotic Gardening “Tomato Seed Starting Tips” 

How to start tomatoes successfully.

 

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 4

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 4

We are entering our final days of the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge and it has been a great refresher for us to get back into our frugal habits. I am finally caught up on all of the emails and they really made us think […]

How we Avoid Birthday Present Overgiftingitus

How we Avoid Birthday Present Overgiftingitus

When my oldest daughter turned one many years ago she was inundated with so many gifts they filled a small kiddie pool. She was the first grand kid on my side and her dad has a large family plus being the first child of our […]

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 3: Reducing our Clothing Spending

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 3: Reducing our Clothing Spending

Hello and welcome to the third installment of our A New Beginning in Budgeting Series! Our first installment was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 1: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer” and our second was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our Grocery Spending“.

 

For part three of our budgeting series I wanted to talk about our clothing habits. This is a topic I have been thinking about quite a bit over the last year. We have been trying to reduce our monthly spending outflow and our ecological footprint and as I was looking at our numbers I realized we spend a lot of money on clothes. It got me thinking.  Back in the day people did not have a lot of outfits to choose from and clothes were bought based on durability. Now it seems as if my kids have enough clothes to last a long time without having to do laundry and a lot of the time the clothes will break before my kids outgrow them. You know it is a problem when you finally get around to doing laundry and their clothes physically do not fit in their dresser drawers.

 

When we started having more kids we started receiving many more clothes for them then we will ever need. One relative in particular is known for hitting up sales at Babies R Us and bringing over gigantic bags full of clothes in either the wrong size or season after being told the kids do not need anything at all and to contribute to their college savings instead. This same relative is pretty offended if I return said clothing and put the money into college savings myself and loves to see the clothes on the children when they randomly come over. It is maddening to say the least. I have been getting more forceful in my insistence that the kids do not need clothes, especially random outfits that may or may not fit and the clothes buying has been greatly reduced but I think that has more to do with the break in holidays over the summer rather than a conscious effort. Birthday/Christmas season is upon us so we will see how well my efforts have worked.

 

Sorting clothes for a consignment sale.

 

One day last fall I reached an epiphany. I was sorting items for the upcoming consignment sale and I was looking at all of the clothes people had bought when our younger daughter was born. I had a whole gigantic box of just summer stuff from her first and second summer, most of it barely worn. None of my friends had wanted any of it because they apparently suffer from the same overabundance of clothing as I do and most of it was too girly to pass on to my son.  I asked myself why did we have so many clothes in the first place? Why are the kids not re-wearing clothes more often? Why are we buying new clothing instead of used? Why are we buying clothing in the first place when everyone has an abundance and can easily pass between families?

 

So I decided to take the plunge and join our local Buy Nothing group. Let me tell you, it was eye opening. Everyone in the group was sharing household items, especially kids clothes! Aha! Now I had a way to pass on clothes and receive some as well. I started commenting on threads for clothes in my kids size ranges and was able to score some great items including all of my son’s fleece pjs for last year (that still fit him so far this fall) and most of my daughter’s summer clothes.

 

Clothes ready to be given away to another Buy Nothing member.

So far getting our clothes from Buy Nothing has saved us hundreds of dollars. We can’t get everything from there but I search the local thrift stores and consignment sales to find what I can’t get at buy nothing and if I still can’t find what I need I will go to a regular store during a huge sale (Labor Day etc). The key is to be looking a size ahead and having enough room to store items for a little bit. I have a re-purposed laundry basket in my daughter’s room and a large tote for my son full of clothes in the next couple of sizes up. When my kids grow into the size I have stored I sort through them, have my kids try items on (just like if I was buying them at the store) and re-gift items that don’t work out. Some of my kids’ favorite clothing items have come from our Buy Nothing group.

 

We have had less luck finding adult clothes through our Buy Nothing group but that doesn’t mean that your particular group won’t have a good variety of clothes being passed around! I found some great Eddie Baur shirts through my group and gave away my maternity clothes as well so the possibility is out there. Our group in particular seems to be mostly kid clothes. Thrift stores can have some great finds as well as shopping the end of season sales for higher end retailers.  My husband and I tend to wear our clothes for a really long time so buying quality items is key to making them last. We love shopping the Nordstrom Rack sales and have found some super stellar bargains on shirts, pants and sweaters.

 

Overall being much more conscious of what we actually need clothing wise and getting as much used as possible has drastically cut down on our clothing spending.  I am also trying to get the kids to wear their clothes multiple times if they are not dirty with mixed success. My husband and I are pretty good at this but the kids throw stuff in the laundry basket at the drop of a hat! So far we have been able to get them to wear their pajamas 2 or 3 times in a row and sometimes we can get them to wear a shirt the next day if they only wore it for a little bit but it is still a work in progress. We have always reused our towels for a few washes but that is something you can try out in your house to reduce your laundry as well.  Luckily our house has the heating vents right under the towel racks in the bathrooms so our towels are nice and dry after a few hours of the furnace being on but in the past I would place them on top of the dryer while it was running to get them to dry quicker during our PNW wet winters. I am also experimenting with hanging our clothes to dry in the laundry room but our house has high humidity so things are not drying as quickly as they should be to prevent mildew on our clothes. I am hoping that with the cooler temperatures and our furnace being on more it will heat up our laundry room pretty well and we will be able to dry at least our lighter weight shirts and pants this winter on the clothesline. So far we have cut out at least two loads of laundry a week which is a total win in my book! We are still doing a lot of laundry but I am not forced to do laundry every day like before and can just focus on it a couple of days out of the week. Yay!

 

How are you looking at your clothing choices to reduce spending and waste?

 

Dried Banana Chips

Dried Banana Chips

One of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest snacks I make my kids is dried banana chips. My son absolutely loves them! We buy a couple of bunches of bananas at Costco for $1.39, slice them up and put them into the dehydrator and at the […]

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Baking chocolate chip cookies with the kids is one of my favorite family activities. When we had to go dairy and gluten free I was a little upset but I found a way to make chocolate chip cookies with some easy substitutions. Back when we […]

Blueberry Picking 2017

Blueberry Picking 2017

We have had a super busy summer and I was really bummed that we missed the July blueberry picking season. Our bushes are only a couple of years old and don’t produce anywhere near enough berries for us to freeze. They were eagerly eaten every day by the kids with very few to spare. I was super excited to hear from another mom at gymnastics that there was a local U-pick farm that still had blueberries! We cancelled our plans to try an easy hike with the kids and headed out to pick as many blueberries as we could manage.

 

 

The farm we went to was super close and I am really glad I found it because the blueberries were delicious! My blueberry hating husband even liked them and actually ate a few. The kids of course ate themselves silly and enjoyed every moment of it!

 

 

We grabbed a couple of smaller buckets and one gigantic 5 gallon bucket to consolidate our berries into. It was a pretty hot day and we were worried about the kids overheating so we picked at lightening speed. Luckily blueberries are much easier to pick than raspberries or strawberries because you do not have to be super careful about placing them into your container.  I just placed my bucket underneath a large blueberry covered branch and let them fall into the bucket as I massaged them off of the branches.  It took us less than an hour to fill our five gallon bucket with over 20 pounds of blueberries!

 

 

The biggest issue we had was the fear of losing one or both of the kids.  The bushes were overgrown and touching each other in many places so you could not see down the rows at all.  We split up with one kid each and made the kids wear their hats for both eye protection and visibility.  I highly advise buying your kids neon hats and jackets so you can easily pick them out in a crowd of people or when you are outside with them.  It was really easy to keep track of my son’s bright orange Tigger hat even when I couldn’t see the rest of him.

 

 

I don’t remember what type of blueberry we picked but they were not organic (which I found out later on). Next time we will try and find an organic blueberry farm to pick from or I will see if the farm we went to has some that are organic.  There were tons of them on the bushes though and we did not have to walk very far to pick all that we needed.

 

 

We did however come home with two half flats of berries and I am super excited to eat them this winter!

 

 

 

I immediately started freezing our berries in batches on a cookie sheet.  We froze about three gallons total and I still have a half flat left.  We have made blueberry jam in the past but we typically do not eat enough of it so we decided not to this year.  We also have tons of raspberry jam which will be plenty of jam for us!

 

 

All week we have been eating blueberries on our cereal and our ice cream and the kids and I absolutely love it! We haven’t decided what to do with the rest of the berries yet and we may try to dry some of them in the dehydrator but I am really hoping my husband will make his famous blueberry peach pie!

 

Did you pick blueberries this year? What are some of the ways you prepared them?

 

 

Garden Update July 28, 2017

Garden Update July 28, 2017

Summer is upon us and the vegetable garden is in full swing. My pumpkins have taken over the garden space and the spaghetti squash is not far behind it.  The kids and I are harvesting berries, green beans and squash every other day.  I have […]