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Another Winter Vanquished!

Well my gardening plans got turned on their head on Saturday.  Just as I got started, my landlord, his son and his brother pulled up in a couple of trucks.  I had run into my landlord’s brother the day before and had mentioned that we were almost out of firewood.  It was just a casual comment as they are not responsible for our firewood – we buy that from a local wood supplier.  Nevertheless, these wonderful people showed up with chainsaws and axes and turned a large downed tree on our property into wood to keep the house warm.  I am extremely grateful!  What a kind-hearted family I rent from. 

While two of them chopped and sawed, the third (my landlord) cleaned out the storage shed on the side of the house.  I had asked him if I could rearrange some of the items in it so that I’d have a little work space.  He got right to it and cleared the whole thing out!  I now have a fantastic work bench to use and lots of storage space. 

I’m really excited about this because I have a bunch of furniture projects I’d like to finish this summer.  I got rid of most of my ‘projects’ when I moved last year, but I did keep a few things that I really liked.  For one, I have a large sideboard that I’d like to strip and stain.  I’ve had it for over 10 years and have been using it as is, with it’s yellow paint, gold trim, and brown top.  It’s solid oak and will look so much better without paint!  And this shed is large enough for me to keep it there and out of the rain as I work on it.  It will be a project that will take me many days I’m sure.

While the men worked (oh how I could use this kind of strength and energy around more often!), I finally got back to my garden.  I reclaimed one bed from the weeds and turned the soil and planted a few lavender bread poppy seeds.  I’ve wanted to plant these for a couple of years now and am not sure if the seeds are still viable.  Still, I thought I’d give them a try.

I next started working on the back bed.  I got part way through, but that’s it.  I managed to clear the weeds and dead matter away from things sprouting, but still need to finish clipping and turning over soil.  Perhaps tomorrow. 

After the wood chopping and shed clearing was done, the men left and I packed up and drove to my parents’ house.  Before I left, I discovered that my wallet was missing.  What a pain!  I’ve searched everywhere and am now trying to replace the contents.  It must be in my house somewhere, but it’s been nearly a week so I have been forced to replace my bank cards. 

It was interesting trying to exist just on the few dollars I had for the week.  Yesterday I tried to go to the bank but they were closed when I got there. I still had to run a few errands, and had to calculate everything – including tax – down to the penny.  I only had about $17, and had to get gas, food items and a few other odds and ends.  I weighed every item and forwent things I really didn’t need.  At the end I had enough left over to buy two fish for my pond! ($1.20)  I am going to put in about 20 more, but I wanted to see how these two fared first. 

What a good exercise to have a limited amount of cash in my hands that I had to prioritize and dole out carefully.  I need to start living like this all the time: setting a strict budget, taking out a fixed amount of cash, and living on it.  It’s far too easy to just spend, spend, spend, especially with overdraft protection and credit cards.  I killed myself to clear these last year, and am keeping them both at zero.  But  I can’t believe how quickly I’ve reverted to casual consumption since having a little extra money at the end of each month (for the first time in years!).  Even though I’m only shopping in second hand stores and only spending about $25-30 a week on things I ‘need’ such as new(to me) clothes, that still adds up. 

The only thing that seems to keep my spending in check is not having any money to spend.  I really want to start putting money aside for a downpayment on a farm, so hopefully that will encourage me to be more thrifty when I have cash to spare.  It’s hard to think that tucking away $20 here and there will lead to a mortage downpayment, but that’s all I can do right now.  And it will add up.

After yesterday’s aborted attempt to get a bank card, I came home and got busy in the kitchen.  I’ve been so swamped with end-of-term work that I haven’t done any cooking in ages.  Fortunately I had a huge store in my freezer and pantry.  Now I’ve eaten that almost completely down.  This was the plan and for a change, I’ve got the store levels about right.  I finished the last of my frozen meals on Tuesday, just one day short of the end of my London based work.  Not bad!

I still have some frozen veggies in my freezer: about 6 cups of corn, 8 cups of leeks, 4 cups of brussel sprouts, 4 cups of blueberries and 8 cups of chopped red peppers.  I’ll use all of this up in the next three weeks.  I am also going to finish eating any meat in my freezer as well.  I don’t have much left – just a little lamb and perhaps some beef stew.  Oh, and I have several jars of frozen stewed fruit, roasted tomato sauce, maple syrup and chicken soup stock.  Other than that, my freezer is quite empty.  Ideally I’ll clean it out completely in May.

Yesterday I made a beef stew and a leek, apple & sweet potato soup. I also made yogurt (I bought milk as part of my $17), thawed the last of my frozen pumpkin to bake with tonight, and started feeding my sourdough starter to make bread on the weekend.  It felt great this morning to pack my lunch with all this yummy, freshly made food!  I still have a very hectic few days left as I grade final exams, and it will be good to have these meals ready and waiting.

I have hardly had to buy any food for the last couple of months.   Yesterday I put in a large order with Rick Cornellison and am excited about the fresh greens he’s now offering, as well as some heritage, free range pork and a few other items to round out my now very empty pantry.  My goal is to eat everything down by the first of May.  I will be traveling for most of the month of May, and when I get back I’ll be into a whole new season of locally grown, fresh food.  That’s only 3 weeks away.  I can’t wait!!

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