The Price We Pay

Today, we had to make a trip to Tyler (about 30 minutes to our north) in the morning, so we decided to head on over to the IHOP for some breakfast.  I had already decided I wanted nothing with eggs, since there is absolutely no flavor in store bought eggs when compared to those we have here on the farm, so then I cracked open the menu and nearly passed out.  I solemnly swear I remember the 2 egg breakfast (used to be the cheapest thing) being  between 3-4 dollars.  It was almost 7 bucks!!! NOTHING was under 6.99, with one exception being 3 pancakes for 5.50!  My God!  It’s no wonder people go broke when they eat out all of the time.  I can go to my local cafe of choice and get coffee and an egg, toast, and meat for about 3 bucks.  I immediately lost my appetite and Jason didn’t want to order anything at all, so I decided to split a Rooty Tooty Fresh N’ Fruity breakfast with him for 6.99.  Our bill came to 14 bucks!!!!  FOURTEEN DOLLARS FOR BREAKFAST….ACK!!!  Well, I did not realize that the coffee was TWO WHOLE DOLLARS a cup, either.  Geez!  While this may not sound like much to some, being the Frugal McDougals that we have become, it was rather astronomical for a meal that I think should probably not be any more than ten bucks at the MOST.  I was looking around me, and the place was busy.  In the booth next to us, there was a woman and a young boy and I can guarantee you that they didn’t get out of there for any less than 25 dollars, judging by the items on their plate.  Jason was just commenting to me how IHOP’s breakfast is absolutely no comparison to what we cook here.

  If you do not cook your own meals, there’s never a better time to start than now, may I add.  Even if you aren’t a great cook, the Good Lord did provide us with Crock Pots, which could turn ordinary shoe leather into tenderloin, I am fairly certain.  I have been doing a LOT of baking/cooking lately, since I read about a cooking method called once a month cooking.  Essentially, you set a date, and cook/prepare a month’s worth of food. I did start small, making only breakfasts for the moment, because that is the meal that we are usually in a rush with.  I made muffins, pancakes, and breakfast burritos, all of which were frozen and can be ready to eat after a minute in the microwave.  I have been lurking on this site:  Once A Month Moms, which I find to be informative and FREE, and they have monthly menus in spreadsheet format.  Anyway, it’s something to think about!  I can tell you that this month, we spent about 80 dollars on eating out, which is more than I should have spent.  I hope to cut that way back with my prepared meals.

On my anti-debt kick, I would just like to say that it is not the easiest thing to try and stick to a budget, BY ANY MEANS.  I totaled up this month and found that I had spent WAAAAAY too much on Halloween crap that I don’t really need and WAAAAAY too much on clothes (I only buy at Goodwill, but still….) and miscellaneous crap.  It is a little heartwrenching to see that I overspent my month by about 75 bucks with money that I didn’t HAVE to spend.  I think the best thing/punishment is to tighten up my belt for next month (and the next, and the next) and make a vow to myself to not buy junk I do not need.  Christmas is coming up soon, too, and we have already decided that the grandparents can do the toy gifts.  My kids have too much, as do most kids, and in fact, I will be paring down their toy department really soon.  I either read or heard something the other day talking about children, and I can only paraphrase, but it was something about how it is not about the things that we give to them, but rather the time that we share with them that is the most important thing.  Kids are only kids for so long, after all.  We don’t have very much time to spend with them when they are small!  So, rather than go out and buy 500 dollars worth of junk for Christmas, I am looking forward to spending time with my family. As a side note, I simply don’t have the funds for all of that useless stuff anyway!  May I also say that since we have become the Frugal family, I do shop at Goodwill for my clothes (happily, they have GREAT music in there!), I do not choose whole dinners @ restaurants (almost always eat a la carte), and I avoid WalMart like the plague, or, H1N1, if you will.  I knew I had won over Jason with my frugalness when:  he hid a Chicken Express receipt from me because he figured I’d gripe at him about the price, and, one day when we went to Chili’s he refused to order anything because he said it was all too expensive.  I was a nice wife, though, and gave him my salad! Needless to say, we have not been back to Chili’s, and if he’s been back to Chicken Express, he must’ve figured out a better way to rid himself of the receipt!

So, we are coming into a new month tomorrow, my budget slate is clean, and I promise to do better!  I try to envision myself in two or three years when I will have the majority of my debts paid….that is always a great stimulus for me to stick with my plan. NO MORE PAYMENTS!!!  There is never a better time to start paying off debts than today! 

In farm life, we did stop by a feed store today to get some winter veggies (cabbages/onions/cauliflower), and the guy at the counter had the personality of a potted plant, I swear.  I am Chatty Cathy, just trying to strike up conversation about my chickens and my garden and I got shot down like three times.  He kind of acknowledged my presence and that was about it.  Very irritating to a Libran woman.  He must’ve been a Virgo. (sorry to Matt) I dunno.  I guess I was too intimidating!

And, nothing much else.  I am trying to come up with a good farm name so I can begin to think about marketing my jelly/produce/eggs.  I want to start designing labels, too.  Or, at least give it some preliminary thought. 

Well, off to bed for me!

Just around the corner…

Wow, and to think last time I wrote to y’all, days were in the 100 degree mark and HUMID.  Today, it’s misty and 72 degrees!  So, now we know fall is just around the corner.  This is my other favorite time of year, other than spring.  I always love the transitional times of the year the most.  The leaves are now beginning to turn; the sassafras is putting on its flame red foliage.  We should have a beautiful autumn this year for two reasons; we have received over a week of rain, and the fall’s first cool front is due next week, which is atypically early for us.  I’m excited!  Well, I may not be so excited when we are experiencing an extremely cold winter, but for now…

We have had a LOT going on in the past month, mainly illnesses in my little farm family.  Our youngest developed mesenteric lymphadenitis after a bout with gastroenteritis, and I have been on and off ill with a cold (flu? allergies?) for over a week now.  I do have much more energy now,  but I think that with all of this rain, I am reacting to the mold levels.  In other news, we adopted 2 kittens, a brother and a sister, about 3 weeks ago.  They are brother and sister, named Mr. Bobo and Ashley.  Aren’t kittens just about the cutest thing to watch?  Fran loves to chase them down and chew on their heads, but it’s all in good jest.

We also bought 2 white Plymouth Rock hens and we were graciously given 4 18 month old Leghorn hens, who are still laying big, white eggs.  I am planning on buying some MORE chickens very soon.  I also want to get some more Cayuga ducks.  The duck eggs are WONDERFUL.  I know most people balk at the mention of eating duck eggs, but I am telling you that the flavor and richness are unsurpassed by chicken eggs.  They do not taste “eggy”; it is a very complex and delicious taste.  Of course, our chicken eggs are also delicious.  There is NO comparison between ‘grocery store’ eggs and eggs from hens that are allowed a more natural diet.  I have the pictures to prove it!  Unfortunately, my camera is angry with my computer and refuses to share pictures with it, but I will get them on here ASAP. 

The newest additions are 4 guineas that I picked up at the feed store (and one that was hand-delivered…thanks, Rachel!). They are so funny to watch when they see a bug.  I told Jason it was like watching a pit bull in a chick suit.  They are extremely focused on movement and I have the feeling when I let them in my garden in a few weeks that they will do a great job of snapping up my pests. 

Well, Jason finally finished a log splitter that he built out of spare parts at his shop.  We already have about a 3/4 of a cord of wood from a fallen hickory in our woods.  It sure makes short work of chopping wood!  I can’t wait for more of our fireplace cookin’! 

I can’t believe we have already been here almost a year.  I can’t imagine being anywhere else!  Still a LOT to do here…but we’re whipping things into shape slowly.  The kitchen garden is ever-expanding and Jason finished several of the raised beds.  Now I just need to fill them with compost.  It’s also time for me to plant my winter garden.  I did plant some winter squash, beans, and cucumbers. I am still harvesting lots of okra, tomatoes (Brandywines from spring), and tons of cherry tomatoes.  Oh, and I do finally have peppers, lol.  I didn’t do so great with my peppers this year.  I’m not sure what happened there, but with the cooler temps and tons of rain, they are finally ‘makin'”.

I have also been putting up LOTS of muscadine and scuppernong grape jelly.  We picked 32 pounds of muscadines at a farm, and I am slowly working on turning them into delicious jelly!  I hope that soon myself and my MIL will get together (with our new food processors….NO MORE CHOPPING) and put up some more tomatoes/tomato products.  You just can’t beat homegrown flavor…no doubt about it! I also got a lot of figs last month, and I’m planning on doing a strawberry-fig jam.  I do have to wonder how many people in my age group can things?  Hmmmm….I’m willing to  bet not many.  What a shame.  Here’s a great LINK for making muscadine jelly, juice, or jam.

Today’s favorite thing:

Well, I am still on a budgeting kick!  I had to update my ‘cash flow’ form last night and wanted to share this form with you.  The idea is that NO dollar is unaccounted for.  It is fairly self-explanatory, but it is also great to have the book, Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, which is currently on sale for under 10 dollars.  Download this FORM.  It is in PDF format.  I use this form every month, and I also use 2 envelopes.  One holds my receipts for anything that comes out of my checking account, and one holds receipts for anything that I pay cash for (that is NOT deducted out of my checking account).  So, at the end of the month, I have a paper trail, and also keep up with where my cash goes.  I NEVER have to ask myself, “Where did my money go?” because I KNOW.  It is so liberating, trust me. This is a system that works wonders for me.  I have been doing this since May 18th of this year.  If you are in debt, I URGE (and beg and plead for) you to try this system and find freedom for yourself!!!!

Well, that is all that I have for today, plus my entire right arm is aching for some reason!   :0)

Summer Swelters on…

Wow, I’m a really bad blogkeeper!  Been over a month now.  Well you can’t expect much when school’s out, lol.  I’ve learned a lot over the past few months.  Allow me to share with you:


Always, always, always, with no fail, label your plants.   I thought I could remember what I had put in the ground.  HA!  I planted green beans, cream peas, and pintos.  So, one day, after things were lookin’ about ready to pick, I thought it was time to pick me some peas.  So, I waited till the pods looked a little dry and got my friend and his son to help us ‘shell some peas’.  I did not realize my mistake until about 2 weeks later when my REAL peas matured.  We had actually picked PINTOS and had the worst time trying to shell the little boogers because they weren’t ready yet!  I thought those were funny looking peas!  Now I know!

Keep out the chickens.  In my rose-colored little pea brain, I imagined some kind of idyllic symbiotic relationship between my chickens and my garden.  The chickens would remove all the pests while simultaneously fertilizing my garden with their nitrogen-rich poo.  I had about 30 – 2mo. old chickens loose in my garden.  At first, all was bliss.  Then, over time, I noticed they were eating my cherry tomatoes.  No big deal, I thought…I give most of ’em away anyway.  THEN  they started eating my big tomatoes.  That definitely put a hitch in my giddy-up.  Now, I work hard on my ‘maters and I’ll be danged if some stupid chicken is going to eat my meal (I still like chickens, mind you, I was just really upset with them.  I really don’t think they’re stupid.) Then, I found that my squash had been slowly but cluckingly methodically picked on.  THEN, they poo’ed all over my porch.  But not just the porch.  The chairs, my blankets, my tables, and to top it off, trampled my moonvine and my poor, poor Christmas cactus. Now I was really hot.  OUT, OUT, OUT!!!  I screamed as I snatched them up.  Anyway, now they’re safe in their own coop, and no more poop for me to contend with!

God praise canned green beans!  You would think they’d be easy to grow.  Apparently, this year at least, not so.  I know this because not only did my lovely, lush vines only produce 8 measley pods, but my mother harvested her bumper crop of 4 pods, and her friend reaped 3.  God Bless the Jolly Green Giant.

Hoss and Fran taking a nap

Hoss and Fran taking a nap


Goats:  After several months of budgeting, I found that having 12 goats costs me approximately: $25 a month in hay, and $29.24 a month in feed.  Not including their wormer, which, by the way, is quite pricey at $80 a bottle!  Fortunately, though, it lasts a LONG time.  We are planning on selling 8 goats, so I figure I can quarter my costs.  $15 a month isn’t bad for having some brush trimming!

Poultry:  It costs me about $43.75/mo. to feed my chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys.  Now, the geese and ducks don’t do anything besides honk, quack, and crap, but I really do like my geese.  The turkeys are endearing except for the fact that they lay on my plants and would eat a 50# sack of corn in one sitting if I let them.  Plus, now they’re too big to butcher.  Now what?  The chickens are the most useful so far, as they are giving us copious quantities of lovely brown eggs.  I think I will always have some chickens till the day I die! They also love to eat lots of grasshoppers and i haven’t seen hardly any around lately.

In General:  While free livestock is appealing, the reality is that you have to feed ’em, house ’em and clean up after ’em.  You really have to ask yourself if it’s all worth the cost and effort.  As far as my geese go, they love to eat grass, which I think it hilarious and they honk when they see someone they don’t recognize, which I also think is hilarious.  They are definitely more ‘pet’ to me than useful livestock.  The ducks quack and crap.  I hope that will change and eventually I’ll get my 100 eggs a year out of them.  Maybe next spring.  The goats are very useful for eating brush.  You will be very amazed at how clean they leave a wooded plot behind.  However, twelve is too many for me at the moment.  The turkeys are very interesting, but gobble down food at a phenomenal rate.  Granted, I do have a breed which is very large, so I am not sure how the ‘heritage’ breeds would do, but I can tell you that these guys totally chow down.  Bottom line is that my chickens and goats are, so far, the most useful livestock that I own.


For the past 3 months, we have been budgeting.  I’m bringing this up because I feel budgeting is very important to everyone, and especially for farm folks so we can assess our profit to loss ratio.  I have learned that I just can’t currently sustain as much livestock as I thought I could, and that’s ok.  Actually, it’s a weight off of my shoulders to sell off some of my flock, not just financially, but also mentally!  After a major talk with myself, I decided to whittle down to bare minimum, and really throw most of my efforts into my gardening.  After all, so far, it seems to me that my garden has paid off more than any of my livestock (except, perhaps, my laying hens), and it is SOOOOO much less effort for me to ‘keep up’.  Sure, it’s work, too, but I don’t have to worm my plants, or chase after them, or clean up plant poo.  So, I’ll always have a garden.  The other thing I like about vegetable/fruit gardening is that you can sell the produce, sell something you’ve created with the produce, like baked goods or canned goods, or even just sell seeds. Anyway, I think it’s a win/win situation all around. 

So, with budgeting in mind, for a very, very small initial fee, I can have a great big, gorgeous garden for pennies on the dollar.  So, plants are in, new livestock is out for now.  And that’s the farm report for this time!

My favorite thing for the moment:  Ever listen to talk radio?  I didn’t either until a few months ago when my favorite oldies station morphed into a talk radio station.  That’s when I discovered Dave Ramsey.  After I had listened to his no-nonsense style for about a week or so, I bought his book, The Total Money Makeover.  So, I am currently on Step #2, which is the Debt Snowball.  I have never done a real budget before, and before this April, budgeting was very hard because of the way our business was set up.  Now that we get ACTUAL, REAL PAYCHECKS (lol), I can budget.  I did my first budget in May, and thought, my God, no wonder we’re always broke!  I have faithfully stuck to my budget sheet (which I print out monthly from and I have never, ever had this much money left over at the end of the month.  I even amazed myself!  We have paid off about 6 of our debts already and are slaving away to pay off our next debt.  I even have enough now, saved up, to pay for our house taxes for this year.  I have NEVER had that happen!  You can do it, too!  I like Dave because it’s not some weird scam, and he seems to be very down-to-earth about things, and seems to have good ol’ common sense.  One day, I’m going to call the Dave Ramsey show and scream, “WE’RE DEBT FREEEEEE!!!!”  Just you wait and see!