Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sprouting Wheat for Bread

Who knew there was so much to learn about making bread? I surely didn't but isn't that the way with just about everything? The more you learn about a subject, the more you realize you don't know very much at all. That's what has happened with bread making. I first studied about the development of gluten and the role of salt, flour, oil, water, and eggs in bread making.

I thought I knew quite a bit, since after all I've been making bread since I was a kid but my white breads rose to a whole new level of flavor and textures using basically the same ingredients. I could make light and airy, chewy, or dense. But white bread leaves me feeling guilty. I know there aren't many nutrients in it and the carbs send your glycemic levels skyrocketing. So then I studied different grains and the changes you should make with each due to their unique characteristics.

I like wheat bread but there just seems to be something missing in comparison to the levels my white bread had reached.

Then there was the nagging reminder that I'd promised my doctore that I'd start to eat Ezekial bread. Like that's available in the middle of nowhere, so I went searching on the Internet for a recipe. Most just didn't seem like much more than a knock off to the truth. Later I found out this was the case. Yes, they added bean flour and other good things but they had still missed the point. Ezekial bread according to what I understand from my doctor was suppose to have as a base sprout flour.

The recipes shortcuted this step which skips the huge nutrient boost which is the whole point of making the bread in the first place.

The bread starts with the sprouting of grain or grains. Though I guess you can incorporate the sprouts mashed, I kind of liked the idea of drying the sprouts and then grinding them into a flour. This of course means I have to sprout, dehydrate, and then grind. Why go to all this bother? The numbers sold me, 28% more Thamine (B1); 315% more riboflavin (B2); 66% more niacin (B3); 65% more pantothenic acid (B5); 111% more biotin, 278% more folic acid; 33% more vitamin C. Wow!!, and another site had the numbers even higher along with percentages for other nutrients also. Sprouting other grains does the same thing, the nutrient base increases  dramatically. 

Why, sprouting your grains activates food enzymes and neutralizes antinutrient enzymes like phytic acid which binds minerals, preventing your bodies ability to fully absorb nutrients. In other words, you may be eating nutrient rich whole grains but your body isn't getting much out of them.  

I haven't checked but I'd bet that doesn't hold true for the calories too. Nope, I'm sure I'm absorbing every single one of those. LOL

And not only are you getting far more nutrients and your body is able to absorb them more fully, but there are fewer starches and a lower glycemic level also. More protein is released also. Does this mean the gluten develops more easily? Do I need to knead the bread as long as you traditionally do with whole grain bread? Does the yeast amount per cup change? I haven't a clue.There are still plenty of questions to be answered. Yet, when all this is answered and a tasty loaf is worked out, I'll know that I'm getting the most out of my calories and I won't feel so guilty eating bread.

Yes, it is true, baking will diminish the nutrient levels some since heat will kill off some of them but since the bread will be starting out at a much higher level, you are still getting far more than with a simple whole wheat flour loaf.  Besides, what you get your body can absorb.
So here I go... Step one in this experiment is sprouting the wheat which is reported to take two to three days. I'm do mine in a canning jar. A loose woven cheese cloth for the top allows the water to pass in and out easily but not the grain. Don't use your more expensive cheese making cloth. Go buy some of the cheap kind at the hardwear store or grocery store. Cut a piece larger than the top circumference of your jar.

Then screw on the jars lid without the solid center. Pour water into the jar covering your wheat by a couple inches. I poured water in and out to rinse my wheat before covering the grains to soak over night or 12 hours. Tomorrow, I will drain the water off the grain and rinse the wheat three times, morning, noon, and night. Four times is even better.  
Since I was sprouting, I started another jar of a variety of sprouts suitable for salads and sandwiches. They've been sitting in my refrigertor for quite some time. I hope they are still good. They should be since they were kept cold. I've sprouted these kind of seeds many times in the past. That means sprouting grains shouldn't be any big deal. Yup, another adventure has begun so stay tuned and watch how it turns out.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Vacation

I feel like I've got a whirlwind by the tail. Get hubby on the plane, get hubby off the plane then get the three of us on the plane. Struggle with computer issues and work on starting another home business. Yes, folks, I don't have enough to do. LOL

But meanwhile, here we are in San Antonio, Texas. Yup, it's knife show time again, only this time it's January, not August and STiLL it's warm, shirt sleeve weather. Somehow that just isn't right. How can it be winter and no coat, no snow, no cold cold wind. In fact, we were sweating, sorry glowing yesterday as Toni and I hiked around the missions.   
It was wonderful to experience it once more through our daughter's eyes and learn new things we missed the last trip. The first thing you as you walk in the buildings is how small the indians where in the area in the 1700's. I'm only 5ft. 7in. but the wood on the top of many of the doors brushed the hair on my head.
Yet, in the chapels the vaulted ceilings towered far above. The second thing you notice is the vivid colors that the historic Texas culture loves.

And though we re having a wonderful time, I ache for the quiet of home, bread dough rolling beneath my fingers, and yaks grunting a greeting at the corrals. Yup, there is no place like home.

I appreciate your patience as we struggle through Murphy's visit and this hectic time where I've not been able to blog on schedule as usual. Yes, Murphy is still with us. We sent back the tower and in the need for a computer right away bought a laptop. She is really nice except she is a bit moody, sometimes she shuts down and reboots on a whim while I'm surfing the web. Nope, I didn't ask her to, she just does it out of the blue. 

And with our daughter along, I'm learning to use this new gadget along with a education into social media and it's place in business. The first area is to bring Kirk's knife business up to date so look for him on Facebook. We are downloading photos and next we will show his adventures at the knife show here in San Antonio but for now we are going off to meet him for lunch. 

So stay tune, I'll be back home soon and aching to grind wheat and grains for bread, sprout seeds for sandwiches, and I'm going to try growing some wheat grass and add it into a nutritional breakfast drink. I'm also going to add some of those dried and powdered vegetables to noodles and I'm going to..... Yes, the grass doesn't grow much under my feet just as soon as I light back home to Wyoming, home sweet home.

Yup, for fun I had my hand scanned to see my level of good guys in my cells. I did pretty good but there is room for improvement. Wheat grass is one of the areas I'm going to try. It's high in Vitamin C and I'm hoping goes well with berries in a smoothy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Apparently, He's Here To Stay

 Have you lost a rooster? He's at my place. Don't know where he came from but he's decided to stay. I don't think he's leaving either. He's fallen in love.

No, not with Goldy, the Buff Orpington hen, here who belongs to the neighbors and comes over to flirt and share a meal. Nope, he's fallen in love with our oldest doe, Chicory.  He sleeps with her and he roosts on her back when the ground is too cold for his feet. I know this because I've occasionally  seen poo on her back. He hasn't even paid the chicken in the coop any never mind. Nope, he has set his eyes on tall, dark, and sweet Chicory.

You might think I would be shocked but I've been around the barn too many times and have seen the darnedest things. Animals can have the funniest relationships. We once had a poor sheep that's wool was always soaked from our steer that about licked her to death. No, not literally but he tore down so much fence trying to get to her that we finally just gave in and put her in his pen. The poor wooly thing looked always as if she was having a bad wooly day. Her wool pressed over this way and that like a teenage boy just up from a long nap. The feelings weren't mutual either. I swear she rolled her eyes every time he stuck out his tongue to give her a wet slimy kiss. But what choice did she have? She couldn't run away on her stubby little legs and she couldn't out wrestle something that weighed over a 900 pounds more than she did. Nope, tolerance was the only way to go.   

I wasn't going to name the Barred Rock rooster but the a couple days ago the name Sherman popped into my head. He was probably tired of being called rooster and I'm sure he send me the message telepathically, " My name is Sherman." Don't laugh, I swear the animals talk to me. I'd just wish they would keep the negative comments to themselves.

I don't mind Sherman, he follows me in and out of the milking shed and cocks his reddish eye at me, sending me the clear messages that he'd sure like a little something for the rumbling in his stomach. Other than that and a visit with the hoard of barn cats that show up every time I arrive, he pretty much hangs out in the does' pen. How can you not love a rooster like that?
 And if you are wondering why I put the bright fuchsia pink rag on the fence. It's to remind me that ooooops a daisy hurts. Yup, see that patch of ice lurking under the snow to the right of the rag? It's as smooth as glass and impossible to maneuver, especially when your hands are carrying a bucket of water and with feed. So forgetful here, decided that if she can't remember all on her own despite biffing it a few times, then she needed a little reminder. It's worked like a charm. So please be kind, and if you see this flag, leave it. My backside is feeling a whole lot better now with out testing the hardness of the ground on a regular basis.

Monday, January 23, 2012

My Choice of Drink

 It's hard to beat this as a refreshing drink. Yes, Celestial Seasonings has out a herbal ice tea that is sweetened with Stevia, a grass like plant that is far sweeter than sugar, it does not mess with your blood sugars, and has not calories.

Why Celestial Seasonings? Well, it tastes great, they are conscientious about their product and the factory is near our daughter. I've had several tours and I've known the company for quite some time.

And many of you know me, yup, I stock up once a year and load down my cart. Buying direct from the factory gives me a great selection and a great price. Exacty how inexpensive I was going to tell you but I've lost the sales receipt just this past week. Don't you hate when that happens? Anyway, Miss Butterfingers here does know that the sweentened herbal infusions they call tea are $3 and something and the regular herbal infusions packages are $2 and something.
A great savings from the store and the factory will ship me whatever I needed, if I just give them a call. I like to just pay them a visit but who knows, my daughter may not always live just 20 minutes away.

When you figure there are 20 tea bags in a package and it takes 2 of the sweetened kind to make a quart of drink, that's cheap. I think they recommend a bit more but two is enough to invoke a pleasant light flavor. 

Staying hydrated is crucial for everyone but especially for me. I don't produce the anti-diarectic hormone ADH. It kicks in when you don't drink and to keep you from becoming dehydrated this hormone causes you to retain the fluids you have already drank.  So little Miss No Producer has to chug down three quarts a day of fluids along with the hormone in pill form, and I need a little more than water to get it done. Yet, I don't want calories that is in juice and I don't drink coffee or tea. Yes, I do occasionally put a little juice in a quart jar with lots and lots of water but fluffy here doesn't need the added sugar or calories. That makes iced herbal infusions a wonderful choice.

As for the Stevia sweetener, my mind isn't made up as to just what I think about it. The flavor isn't quite to my liking but it doesn't mess with my blood sugars and it is natural, being a grass like plant that is sweet, really sweet. I'm not ready to go out and make cookies or anything with it, even if I could afford that much, but I've found a strength that I like in herbal infusions.  We've tried two different kinds so far.

I just place two tea bags per quart of boiling water and let it steep until the water has cooled to warm. Then I put it in the refrigerator. In order to get my at least three quarts of liquids per day, I fill three quarts of liquid the night before or early that morning. Measuring is the only sure way to get it all down.

If you think this isn't a big deal for you, check out the Mayo Clinic site, you will see that they recommend at least two liters of fluids for the average female and three for men, each and every day. Forget that 6 to 8 glasses thing, it isn't but half enough. With 75% of Americans chronically dehydrated, that shows that most of us aren't getting the fluids our bodies need to function properly.

Yes, soda pop counts as a fluid but it lowers your oxygen levels by 25%. Wow, imagine if you are a smoker and a soda pop drinker? Your body is really struggling to function.

This doesn't mean I don't occasionally have a soda pop but a 12 pack will last Kirk and I several months sharing it with the grand kids.

So If you, like me, need something none calorie, but with a little flavor and vitamins to keep you drinking enough fluids each day, try herbal teas iced with a little sweetener --or without. They are a win, win deal, no calorie, vitamin based, and low cost. It doesn't have to be Celestial Seasonings. They are just a handy and wise choice for me.
And in the evening, if you like a warm relaxing cup try either a roobious or acai berry base. They are both great anti-oxidants.
With all the pollutants in our food, water, and air, the body can use all the help it can get.  So drink up.

Friday, January 20, 2012

With the gardening catalogues stacking up in the mailbox, my mind has turned to spring and it won't be long, okay, another month or so but that's not long, before I need to start plants for the garden. I'm also looking into growing wheat grass to put into fruit smoothers as a health booster. It would be inexpensive and high in highly digestable Vitamin C. 

So when I spied the book The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible by Edward C. Smith at the local library, I picked it up. I love his, The Vegetable Gardener's Bible book and own it. With this book his angle is towards container gardening but though I'm not planning on doing much of that, still, I do have herbs in pots  and I start plants for my garden in pots so I figured the book might have something for me.

It did. Somehow I've missed realizing just how important water is to a plant. Yes, they will die without it but when I saw the list.
1. Plants are mostly water.
2. Plants need water for photosythesis.'
3. Plant's nutrients pass through water.
4. Plants need water for transpiration. (Transporation is kind of like leaves perspiring but as the water seeps through the leaves outward, the process is drawing water up through the roots.)

Just how important hit home and I thought of the times I'd let a pot or the garden go dry. Letting a plant go dry will drop your fruit or vegetable production down the road to harvest or its not getting enough water. No water, no food, no processing of light, or anything else.  I'm going to try and do better in the future.

That is why for garden vegetables, it is eccential to have them in a self-watering container if you are container gardenging. Summer squash when full grown drinks a gallon of water a day. Not so much of a problem in a garden but a container, you'd have a hard time keeping up. Even with a self-watering one you'd have to be sure and keep the resevoir full. I know, I use to care for a neighbor's patio garden on her back deck. It was all in self-watering containers and I filled them at least twice a day and sometimes three times   when it was really hot.

Most vegetables are like summer squash, they need a self-watering container to reach their full potential, unless they are in a well watered garden that is. That means a traditional pot doesn't work too well and as for my garden plot, it has reminded me how important it is to not let it go dry.

There are a few things that do better in traditional pots. One is most herbs. The stress of lots of water and then not so much increases the flavor in the leaves.  Nice to know I'm doing something right even if it isn't on purpose.

Another biggy I learned was that dried leaves on a plant should be left alone. Don't let my grandmother hear that. She'd say he was a big fat lier. But he makes sence. Brown, ugly leaves may not have photosynthesis happening or water being processed through them but they do have stored nutrients. These nutrients the plant recycles and reuses. When the leaf falls, it is a signal that the plant is done with it and you can remove it at this time.

This book may not give my house enough light so that I can grow plants in the windows or maybe for the fourth time of trying to grow lettuce in the house I might fail AGAIN, but I've learned a bit more on the road to success.

Edison says that you have failed only if you have quit tryigng. All the rest is just lessons on the road to success. I've not failed in growing lettuce because I figure I just haven't the right kind of seed, the right kind of pot, the right kind of light set up for my situation. Someday, I'm going to grow lushous lettuce indoors.

Meanwhile, I'm going to take the tidbits I've learned from this book and incorporate it into starting vegetables in pots in the house. Instead of watering from the top, after the plant is up in size a bit, I'm going to try and set up some kind of water resevoir underneath a series of pots and see what happens. I know a few vegetable plants don't like to get their roots too wet. Too much water does cause a problem with their ability to breathe through their roots. The plant literally drowns. This is a common problem in our all clay soils.
And those plants who like it drying, I'm going to remind myself just who they are by reading my gardening notes along with adding notes I've taken from this book.

I'd recommend taking a glance at this informational book, The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible, and see where it takes you in your gardening persuits.

Murphy Came to Visit

Murphy has been visiting me. In fact, he's camping out. You know, Murphy's Law, what can go wrong, will go wrong. The latest being that while I was typing out a post at the library, the Internet crashed. Yup, he's follows me everywhere. 

All I can figure is that I must of picked him up by accident when I traveled three hours to shop for a computer, the place where I couldn't find what I needed. 

They did assist me into ordering a computer on line from their sister company.  Five days later, tall dark and handsome arrived, the special forces type. But less than twenty-four hours later, I was ready to ship him out again because he might of been able to leap tall buildings with a single bound, and was handier than a Swiss Army knife but he was rude. Yup, rude, he wouldn't speak to the monitor, any monitor, didn't matter how new or good looking she was, he was closed lipped.

So thinking I was the problem he was so... shy, I called my computer doctor, the tech support company, and finally the sales company itself. 

I listened to so much elevator music, I had all the notes memorized. I was disconnected or transferred to the wrong department more times than not and it ended up that I wasn't the cause and the UPS has tall dark and handsome now. 

I'm computerless and this afternoon, I get to start the process all over again. Got any advice on how to kick Murphy out? He can't stay. Not that I want him in your house but he has been here far too long and I've become quite emotional. The tears are threatening to fall. Nope, don't look at me wrong, don't raise your voice, because it might just start a flood.  The dam on my emotions is about to burst and I'm not even the emotional type.

If a computer wasn't so.. eccential in this household, I'd stop, take a break, but I can't, we NEED it.

Murphy has taught me one lesson though and that is we need a back up. After the dust has settle over this computer deal, we had better look for a laptop besides the desk top, to fill in and help with the overflow. To think that I remember before computers and now they are a integral part of our lives.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Help Wanted

Last week my mom (Holly, the brilliant author of this blog) had to hang out a new sign:
Help Wanted
You see the computer just up and quit, no warning. Well, it might be more accurate to say that it blew up. Either way it left a very important blogging position to be filled, and living in a little town in the middle of nowhere the job applicants were a little sparse. She finally found the perfect computer with all of the right qualifications, but he is going to need a bit of time to relocate. So, Holly will be back, better than ever, soon.

Best wishes,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Salad in a Jar

You really should try this, salad in a jar. The lettuce stays fresh days longer. In fact, to test it I took a bag of lettuce that a few of the leaves were wilting in and choice the better leaves, put them in a quart canning jar and back into the refrigerator it went. Amazingly, two weeks later the lettuce still looked good.  
Not that the nutrients were still there but since we live in a very rural area, this kind of thing is really handy. Some roughage such as this is better than none.

What I've started to do is put salad and the fixings into quart and pint jars. That way we have just enough for a meal or a side-dish. The other lettuce being undisturbed. This also helps us to eat more salad since it is ready to go into hubbies lunch box or into a bowl for me.

Cherry or grape tomatoes can be added to this treat. I'm not so sure how well sliced tomatoes would do. They don't keep so well normally. I guess I'll have to give them a try by placing some in a 1/2 pint jar and watch to see what happens. So if you haven't tried this trick yet, go for it. I think you'll be pleased. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tomato Bisque, a Quick Meal

I have a few quick and easy meals that are made from the food storage I have on hand. It's for those emergencies that arise and I need a quick and hearty meal. It happens more often than not when my hubby is home and we get caught up in the Gettin Dones and we don't want to stop to fix a larger meal. 

Tomato Bisque, my way, is just such a meal. I came up with it all on my own. To see just how far off from the beaten path I was, I checked the Internet out as I was writing this blog. My conclusion from just glancing at the other recipes is some are using bay leaves and thyme and theirs takes longer and my is more home-made. To each their own.

I can my own garden rich stewed tomatoes and so I grabbed a couple pints off my food storage shelf with the intention that this soup would feed Kirk and I for a couple meals. Into the saucepan  went the stewed tomatoes with the stove turned on to simmer.
As the tomatoes heated up, I put in the blender some celery, onion, and carrots, then chopped them up fine with just a touch of water so they didn't sit on the bottom of the blender looking stupid, wondering what I wanted them to do. When chopped, I dumped the whole thing, water and all into the tomatoes and turned up the heat to cook them.

The choice to use the blender is so that the vegetables will be finely chopped and cook faster, speeding up the fixing time. Also so they meld better with the tomatoes, adding depth, not a distinct flavor of their own. Sweet bell pepper is also good to add but it changes the flavor quite a bit unless you add just a small slice or two. Yellow, sweet, bell peppers are the mildest in flavor, great in salads and the perfect choice if you want to add pepper.  

I like my veggies to have a slight crunch to off set the creamy texture of the soup. With this as my goal, it doesn't take long for the vegetables to cook to this stage.

Then I got out my canned chicken breast. Yes, I home can mine. I'm down to just three jars and so I'll be looking for sales and picking up some more to can. There is only a few months of the year I'm not freezing, drying, or canning food. I like Winter best for canning since the added warmth in the kitchen is welcome, where as in the Summer it creates a miserable sauna. So in January and February, after the holidays, I can chicken, pumpkin, and dried beans.
Sorry, I side track easily. I drain the water off of the canned chicken breasts into the boiling tomatoes and veggies. This is your chicken broth to which I add just a teaspoon of chicken bullion. I never use canned broth from the store, a money saver. 

Then a touch of garlic, salt, and black pepper is added, all this to taste of course. And if I have some basil growing, which at the moment I don't but will start some next week, I chop a little of it and wait to add until the end. Meanwhile, I've added just a tiny pinch of dried basil. (Fresh herbs should always be added last.)

If I don't have fresh, then I use a couple small pinches of dried basil which needs to be added much sooner for the flavor to permeate throughout the soup. If possible, add fresh for it changes the flavor quite dramatically and is so... much better. But one must make due with what one has, especially when you live in the toolies as we say. Which mean far from the convenience of shopping.

But during the time the soup is heating, I'm making fixings for toasted cheese and chicken sandwiches. With the chicken I drained from the jar, I add some chopped celery and dill pickles. Plus, some mayonnaise and a sprinkling of celery salt.  

I placed this chicken mixture on buttered rye bread with some slices of Jarlsberg cheese, a Swiss type with lots of flavor, and toast on the sandwich grill, the buttered side of the bread out. 
  YUM!!, a hearty meal in under thirty minutes. We are well satisfied and ready to work once more.
When the vegetables are done, then I add cream. You can add milk, half and half, or whatever is in the refrigertor. Heat, and thicken with a little cornstarch or flour.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's those variable bills that really mess up your budget and cause you to steal from Paul to pay Peter and pretty soon neither one of them has any money. Never heard of that saying? Well, it means taking money from your food bill or your car payment to pay off your insurance payment or vise-versa. Pretty soon, you are in the hole financially and don't know how to get out. Often it means your credit card is run up and you can't pay off your balance every month.

It's not that we plan on failing financially, we just fail to plan efficiently. I'm not saying we can plan for everything but we can ease many of the bumps in the road, if we are in financial shape to weather them.

I have a friend who puts aside money each month for hunting, Christmas, summer vacation, etc. and she has a bank account for each of these categories. A separate bank account isn't necessary but, for her, it made it easier to watch the accounts grow and motivated her to save. They had six children and one modest income making unexpected expenditures expected.

It might be a good idea to set up a savings account to pay into for those 3-month, 6 month- or yearly bills you know are on their way but can't seem to remember them all and exactly how much and when they are due. Next, you need to record them on a sheet of paper under the months they are due.  

This is a separate sheet from your monthly budget. Don't have one of those either, well we'll get to that in another post.

The monthly budget part I managed pretty well for years but it wasn't until I started controlling the intermittent bills that I finally got a grip on our finances. Since this time of year it's out will the old bills and in with the new 2012 bills, I thought we'd start with looking at those bills you are about to throw away. For now pull out those bills that come every 3 - 6 or every 12 months, that really have a tendency to twist your money into a bind. 

The first thing I did, years ago, to get them under control was to ask as many of my providers as were willing to send me monthly bills instead. This cost me $12 dollars more in service charges a year for each insurance bill but it was worth it in aiding me in getting these intermittent bills under control. This step was a good start but not the end. 

Eventually, I changed back to six months with my insurance bills and even turned some of my three month and six month bills into yearly bills.

I was doing really well and then I grew laxed. This Christmas I was given a wake-up call. Several of these intermittent bills came due in December and to add to this were several medical bills and a large vehicle repair bill heaped on top of the financial strains of Christmas. 

Yes, I was able to pull off Christmas and pay my bills because of past obedience to budgeting, not because I'd been a good girl lately. The next such financial episode will put us in a mess so repentance is in order.

I'm returning to the tried and true method of keeping these now and then bills in check.

I just finished taking a piece of paper and writing down every month of the year, the bill and its amount, the due date and if applicable the amount of time this cost covers.The following example has fictitious numbers and dates but gives you an idea of what I'm talking about.

Pickup Insurance - (Jan 1 → May1)  ($275)
Life Insurance - (January 1) $700
Car Taxes - January 20th $60.00
Garbage - Jan 1 → March1) ($99.00)

 Continue until you have done all `12 months of the year. Include those months you don't have any extra payments. You can then see that these are those months to get ahead.

Next, I tallied the total expenditures for each of the months of the year.  This is always an eye opener to give me a good view of just how difficult some months are to make all the expected payments.

We include in this, a budget for hay which includes gas and also tires for a vehicle or some other expected large expense a vehicle will need such as change the fuel pump at 100,000 miles type of thing. This also is a good reminder to get it done. This paper is where you would add vacation or hunting expenses etc. The less surprises on your budget, the better.

This plan helps us to know if a bill will be coming due at the first of the month and we know then that we have to pay it the month before in order to get it there on time. 

This  bill information for each month is transferred over to the monthly budget sheet for which we have a sheet for every month of the year. Car insurance is written in pencil in the Fixed Expenses category for that month since it is a fairly fixed amount and it reminds me to look for this bill in the mail and pay it. I'll talk about the monthly budget another time.  

This plan has several benefits even though the amount of the bill you get for your insurance is a little more than what you planned on, it is still only a few more dollars to come up with, not an unwanted surprise in the mail. "Oh yeah, I've got to pay this this month. Wonder where the money will come from?" Been there many a time.

This plan also allows you to keep tabs on the variation in your bills such as insurance which varies a little from six months to six months but if you see an unusually high spike, you can visit the service provider for an explanation. I can't remember all of my bill amounts and I'd never know the difference unless it was really high like when we had electricity at the corrals. We only used it at kidding and lambing time when the kids had 4-H stock and a little in the chicken coop. When we received a bill for $800.00 dollars, I phone up the electric company and said, " I don't think my girls, the chickens, could possibly be running up such a high electric bill. They aren't that scared of the dark." The representative laughed and agreed to checked it out. This was off the monthly budget sheet but still the principle is the same. 

After listing all the bills under each month due, I then tally up the total costs for each month and the entire cost for the year, divided by 12, which is the number of months of the year. This amount is your monthly bill to be paid to savings. This levels out your budget and insures that the money will be there when the bills come due.

I still did this sheet even though I had my insurance bills coming monthly for there are a few bills that can't be paid by the month. This gave me a total of insurance costs for the year, a good motivator to keep the costs down. 

Why did I switch from monthly to six months and a year? It's only one bill I have the possible chance of being late on and being late means no insurance, a scary thought. You know insurance companies aren't going to pay if they don't have to. This more sporadic payment schedule also saves money, service charges, checks, time, stamps, and stress every month.

To get started,  you will have to divide by the number of months you have to save up the money not by 12 months for the whole year because you don't have a whole year. It might be tough, I know, I've been there, but squirrel away as much as you can, disciplining yourself to save more and more. I write out a check to my savings account each month and just consider this another bill.

When possible, I pay the 3 month, six month, or yearly bill, which ever it is, without dipping into the savings account set aside to draw from. That puts extra money towards emergency savings. You know those unexpected bills like the pickup repair and medical costs. Yeah, you know they are going to come, you just don't know when but your vehicle won't run smoothly forever and someone, especially if you have a family of someones, is going to get sick. And yes, I do have a medical savings program that is directly taken out of my husband's pay check, but it never covers all of our costs.

Knowing what you have is a good start to managing it.

Take Control

The sun has set on 2011 and I'm sitting once more on the bed sorting papers just as I was sitting January of 2010. This year though I've decided on a few changes. I'm taking control. It will be my theme for 2012. I'm going to do an inventory of what I have, what I need, and what I need to do. Plus, goals to better manage all facets of our lives, including our finances, our nutrition, our gift giving, the organization of our belongings, and in general our lives. 

I've had years where I felt our finances were in control and we were gaining. I've had times where I knew just what we had and where it was. I've done much better with the quality of our diets, and planned better for the gifts we give for birthdays and Christmas. I definitely couldn't say that in 2011.

Will this all be accomplished in one year? Probably not, but steps in the right direction are a whole lot better than wondering in a circle in a stupor. I know, that's where I'm at.

As I take control, I'm going to bring you along with me sharing what I know, what I'm going to try, and hopefully, you'll have a few suggestions for me along the way. We are in this world together, it behooves us to help each other. The world wide muddle mess we are all in, is because too many people thought only of themselves instead of reaching out a hand to lift up. And by that I don't mean a hand out which leaves people little better off than where they already are. 
So come along with me, let's add a little sunshine to our future. I'll teach you what I know and you can teach me.

Today, as I'm sorting through all those personal files of papers, sorting out where we are and where we want to be, I'll show you a few management techniques that are tried and true.

I allowed life to get in the way the last couple years. I've felt like we were drifting downward. Our finances, though not in bad shape, aren't quite as healthy as they use to be. Part of the problem is, I'm using a Debit card due to the fact that most of our county businesses won't take checks and I've got to work out a good way of tracking that.

I know the online banking deal is kind of cool but it leaves gaps. Some businesses don't send in your bill to your account for days, and there are those few checks I write for bills out of state. Not to mention the credit card that we pay off each month but still -- I'm not exactly sure where I sit from day to day financially. Kind of unnerving when your funds are limited.

Compound this with the fact that when I do go shopping, I take a truck. It's one of the signs I live in the boondocks and though there are a few small local business, it still leaves a large gap in fulfilling my shopping list. To me, time is money and I'm not going to waste my limited time, and gas money, running back and forth to go shopping, something I don't particularly like to do anyway. Okay, I confess, I do love fabric stores, kitchen stores, and yarn stores. Two of which we don't even have around here and the kitchen store is quite small so you know how often they are a temptation. 

This means my truck bed has a hefty pile of livestock feed in it, along with other things like oil for the car etc. and the back seat of the truck has groceries with other odds and ends squashed in. This equates to hundreds of dollars spent in one shopping trip. Over two hundred at the feed store alone as I try to only go there every two months. In the long run, it saves us money because I don't and probably you don't go to the store and come out with only what's on your list. Come on confess, there are those super bargains you didn't know about and plan for, and if you've the money for it, it's a good thing to pick up.  

This lifestyle does pose a problem though, so I'm working on some tracking plans. Another area is that dratted health insurance company. My word, if they can confuse you into spending your money and not theirs, they'll do it. So I've a few ideas for keeping more of MY money in MY pocket. Don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful I have insurance, they can just be a pain. 

 So I'm going back to a a few tried and true programs from the past  along with a few new ideas to deal with present changes.

I'll bring you along with me and maybe together we can take better control of our lives.

My next blog, hopefully today, will be on the first steps to setting up a budget. It's, looking at your past expenses and variable expense.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dolly Quilt From Scraps

 Well, the dolly quilt is done. The one I made with scraps of fabric left over from our youngest grand daughter's dress, that I'd made her for Christmas, along with some scrap fabric stashed away from other projects done years past. 
 I thought I had the top of the doll quilt finished yesterday before my hubby came home from work, but then he pointed out a mistake. Yup, in my rush to get done and make supper, I oopsed. See it?

I tried to tell Kirk it was like the Navajo rugs where they purposely put in an error to allow the evil spirits a way to depart. He gave me a, I'm not buying it look. I thought, oh well, I tried and grinned, even though I knew I was going to rip it out and fix it the minutes he pointed out the mistake. Not that I'm a perfectionist but one can't leave this large of a boo, boo.

What tickled me most about the project was the backing, batting, and the bias tape around the edges were all from supplies I already had, meaning, I didn't have to spend any money this week to make this little quilt.  That's one of my goals for this year, to use more of the supplies I have on hand to create gifts for the family.
 With a dress, this project bag ,and now a dolly quilt, I've exhausted the fabric. There are no more scraps left big enough to do anything with.

This is why when I buy fabric and I don't have the pattern with me to guide me on how much fabric to buy, I just guess a ball park figure that is a big too much. No problem, for I'll use every little scrap sooner or later.

The reason I didn't get into my Rubbermaid containers of fabric to make the little girl's dresses for Christmas is because that room they are stored in is a disaster. One of my definite To Do things this winter, sorting and assessing just what I have in all those bins downstairs. It was one of these such bins, one easy to get to, that I found the other scraps of fabric to finish this quilt. 
 Now I've got to figure out some diapers for this dolly all by tomorrow night, for tomorrow is our youngest grand daughter's birthday. She's turning three.

I know just what fabric to use for the diapers, some white scraps of fabric left over from a tablecloth I shortened for church. It is heavy weight and I think will make lovely diapers. It never did get put away so it was easy to find.

I wondered what I was going to do with those scraps but I knew time would tell and it did. There will be plenty of tablecloth scraps left over for another project in the future. I wonder what it will be?

I think this little quilt and diapers will make our grand daughter smile and postpone my panic in not having her three-year-old nap blanket done in time for her birthday.

A bonus from searching for more scrap fabric for the doll quilt is I ran across some fabrics I think I'll use to make her nap quilt out of.

Yep, having a little fabric tucked away can be a very good thing.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Livestock Plans

Getting a turn at the computer has become ridiculous over the holidays. It's one of the reasons you haven't heard as much from me.

But whoo hoo, today I have it all to myself and not only can I blog but I've those long lists to make for the New Year. Some call them resolutions but I don't really like that word. It is derived from the root word resolute, to stand firm in purpose and belief. A little two inflexible for me especially since time tables is one area people are so resolute on.  
I've determined that time tables are more for the city folks than the country folks. Living a more natural lifestyle means you may wake up and as the day progresses the weather, a sick animal, a newly tore up fence line from the livestock, equipment breaking down, and the like really determine what's going to get done that day.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't plan, for if you don't, you aren't heading in any one direction and you'll soon have a muddled mess. It just means that your plans might not get done in the  manner you wanted or when you wanted. 

For example, I was going to build a little chicken coop out of a heavy wood equipment box from Kirk's mine two years ago. Yeah, that didn't happen. The grand kids came and lived with us a year and ... and... and...  got in the way. I still wanted and needed that chicken coop though. And maybe the wait was good because we ended up with some some left over styrofoam insulation from the residing of our house so it is now insulated and a few two by four scraps we could use. 

With the grand kids back with their mom, the opportunity opened up to begin so I added some plywood, a few more two by fours and the project was finally off the ground. It took months to complete with all of life's interruptions but finally in September the coop was done. The grand kids thinking it was the bestest playhouse. Next, I purchased some metal fence panels for the run when we bought some panels to rebuild the goat's gates. 

Then I discovered we had used all the metal T-posts to build the yaks pen. Right after that, the truck broke down and due to unusual circumstances, it was broke down until last week. Yup, we did without it from October to now. Lots of plans didn't get accomplished because of not having a truck. The ground is now froze and T-posts aren't penetrating so it will be spring now before the small chicken coop project will be complete. A project that would only take a few days at most has take a few years. It seems to be the story of our life, so I've learned to just keep forging ahead, someday I'll get there.

Knowing you don't get ahead without a plan, I'm making up my To DO barn list today. The one that hubby and I will sit down and go over making goals for this year rearranging the list into priorities. Goals that might or might not be accomplished due to finances and life's interruptions. Yet, I'm not discouraged for any project done off this list is cause to celebrate. It's one more step forward.
This is my list.

1. Buy new hay feeders for the yak pen, doe goat pen, and the buck goat pen.

2. Build a shade shed for the yaks. (They don't need protection from the cold in the winter but they do need shade from the hot sun in the summer.) They borrowed my mares shed last summer making her do without.
3. Build a new chicken run on the largest coop. The old one has patched holes.

4. Replace tin on the back side of the small tin goat shed.

5. Replace five sheets of plywood on the goat milking shed.

6. Clean pens

7. Paint shed - I do this every year as they are so... old the paint peels off with the help of the goats rubbing on them.

8. Re-tin the end of the hay shed.

9. Re-fence the kid goat's pen, I tore the old fence down last summer.

10. Build chicken run for the newly completed, small chicken coop. 
11. Re-build the hay feeder in the beef pen.

12. Replace a few fence panels in the beef pen.

Will all of this get accomplished this summer, hardly. The large chicken coop run has been put off two years now and I have the materials to do the job so it moves up the list in priority. I have some tin so the small tin jobs will likely get done. As for the rest, we'll have to decided just what hits the top of the most needed.
But the list making doesn't stop there for the livestock, for if you don't have a plan for your stock, you aren't getting ahead. Here's my goals for my stock this year.

1. Purchase a doeling with a heavy milking line and a heritage for an awesome udder to complete our small herd. 
2. Have our goats linear appraised to help us assess our breeding goals. Linear appraisal is where your goals are scored against the what is considered the perfect goat. You can then see what areas your animals are strong in and where there needs to be improvement.

3. Put kid goats up for sell within a few weeks of their birth instead of waiting until they are several months old, getting a jump on the market.

3. Raise two pigs to put in the freezer come winter. One for us and the other divided amongst the family.
4. Breed Jasmine and Gracie, our yak heifers, to a selected yak bull from another ranch.

5. Buy a steer, or preferably, a yak to put in the freezer next winter.
6. Incubate one batch of chicks. 

Yup, I love this time of year for I'm organizing, finishing off indoor projects I haven't completed in past years, and looking forward with hope for a wonderful and productive new year.