The New Lawn

Ever since I bought my much loved reel mower, I’ve been on a search for a new lawn. Frankly, ours is full of weeds and grasses with thick seed stalks that the poor mower can’t cut. In the last 5 years, we have tried 4 times to grow grass in our front yard and are always thwarted by the weather. It’s either too rainy or too dry or too hot here in the summer and our yard looks like this by fall:


Dead as door nail. Gross.  No matter how pretty it was last fall and in the spring, that stuff isn’t dormant, it’s dead. 

Of course, I absolutely refuse to use chemical fertilizers and weed killers and I know there has to be a better solution. Enter our faithful clover patch:

This clover patch moved in the spring after we did 5 years ago. Notice the nice black soil underneath. It started with this:

The clover withered after sustained 98 degree highs and almost no rain for the last 10 weeks. After a single thunderstorm it was back. 

The goal is to plant the clover with fescue to crowd out all the less savory plants and rebuild the topsoil. I won’t need much seed. And $30 got me enough to do the whole yard 4 times over ( which is fine because I will spread it again come spring.)

Clover grows great here. In fact, despite the brutal temperatures and lack of rain, we sprouted 2 more large patches of wild clover this summer. 

My little mower cuts it just fine. Even the flower heads. And I would do almost anything to get rid of those awful seed stalks in the yard. Keeping a “neat” appearance is an HOA requirement and those blasted stalks are definitely in violation. 

Bonus: the clover stays green here 9 months out of the year or more so when my neighbors’ yards are yucky brown, ours will still be pretty. 

I’m crossing my fingers this works. I’ll keep you updated!

Let’s get another round…of budgets

I have a new coworker who is in his first job out of college. With super sweet parents who are paying his college loans and cellphone and car insurance, his expenses are minimal. So, when one of our insurance agents approached him about purchasing life insurance, I agreed that it was a great idea. Being young and healthy now helps him lock in reasonable rates on permanent insurance and gets the expense into his budget early in life. 

Except, he didn’t have a budget. 

My mouth dropped open and I just stared at him. He’s a smart guy and took the hint to lay out all his expenses on paper so he could evaluate the real expenses in his life. You know, the ones you completely forget about like oil changes and gaming memberships? I reminded him about the things he wasn’t paying: cellphone, car insurance, renter’s insurance and deductions from his paycheck like health insurance, disability insurance, and 401k that he wasn’t eligible for yet.

It was his turn for a jaw-drop. He looked at me and said “I have no money.”  

I just smiled, because I had been there, and told him that entry level professional pay doesn’t stretch far even in a major southern city with 4 roommates. I told him that budgets aren’t just for people like me who are desperate to turn their financial life around, but are a tool to stay financially healthy from the start. I also told him the purpose of that life insurance policy was to leave money for his heirs…ones he didn’t have. I suggested he rethink the $500000 worth he was just sold at a premium of $300/month. 

I went home that night and made him a priority list of savings, insurance and investments based on his situation. Here’s what I came up with:

  • General savings of 3 months income
  • Medical savings in an HSA that covers the out of pocket maximum on the policy
  • Disability insurance 
  • Renter’s insurance

From here, I suggested a balance of life insurance and retirement savings. The policy he was sold left no room in his budget for retirement savings which on the grand scale of things is pretty morbid. This strategy assumed he would die an early death and wouldn’t need money for his golden years. I don’t know about you, but spending my retirement on government assistance with a boat load of life insurance sounds sad. 

The next morning I gave him my little sheet of paper explaining the why behind each priority. I’m pretty sure he disregarded the renter’s insurance, but did tell me he was changing the life policy. 

I feel so lucky to have helped him on his way. He told me I should be a financial planner. I laughed my head off. If only everyone had such straightforward circumstances, that might be a great idea. For now, I’ll stick to my day job. 

*This post is a real life example of why I think everyone needs to budget and manage risks in their life and is not intended to be financial, investment or tax advice of any kind. I made these suggestions to my coworker as a concerned friend only. 

This Worm Farming Thing

This Worm Farming Thing

So about 3 weeks ago I told you guys about my new red wigglers. I thought getting the moisture ratio and feeding ratio right was going to be hard. I was so dead wrong!  Easiest pets ever. Seriously. And I don’t have the ideal bin. It’s clear. Apparently I didn’t put nearly enough holes in it because condensation builds up if I leave the lid on. No biggie though because these little guys stay right in when I take the lid off-for a week. Yes, I had an open worm bin under my desk for a week and the dogs didn’t try to eat from the bin nor did any of the worms try to run away. 

I’ve only fed my worms twice since getting them settled in. First they had a smorgasbord of sliced tomatoes and coffee and part of my catnip that I accidentally clipped with the water hose. Today they got a bruised up sliced apple, coffee and some more paper. 

I repurposed a Corningware casserole dish that has a lid as my kitchen scrap pot. It works really well to keep the fruit flies away and it’s conveniently dishwasher safe. Feeding today was super easy. Use hand shovel to push shredded paper to the side, flip over contents of dish. I had lined the bottom with newspaper before adding the food so I didn’t even have to recover the feeding zone! 

The dirt at the bottom of the bin looks heavenly. It smells like the deep forest and I can’t wait to spread it on my plants!

They’re being camera shy!

As you can see, they haven’t been big fans of the catnip and it’s been taking forever to wilt. It sat out on the porch for several days and then when I put it in the dish it perked up like it was growing! I may end up pulling it out if it decides to grow in there. 

Sneaky lazy gardening

Sneaky lazy gardening

Let me tell you the story of how my water hose leaks at the sprayer. Seems like no matter what type of rubber gasket I stick in there, the thing still finds a way to drop water!  Today, I finally found a practical application for that problem!

While there are various irrigation systems on the market, I’m too cheap to buy and too lazy to install any of them. Plus, my plants are scattered in a dozen pots throughout my yard and I’m sure the HOA would be none to thrilled for me to rig up something that wasn’t a professional sprinkler system. But thanks to my drippy hose nozzle, I have a single-plant drip emitter!  It’s stupid simple, but I only though of it yesterday when I put the hose down after spraying a squash bug colony off my zuchini plants and seeing all that useful water run off my driveway. So I picked up the nozzle and set it in my tomato pot while I checked on my roses. Well, the roses were being munched on by some Japanese beetles!  So while I addressed that problem, my tomato got nice and damp. When I came back, I moved it to my zuchini pot. Today, it’s sitting on the lip of my salad barrel with hopes that it will revive the poor lettuces that didn’t bolt in last week’s heat. 

So there you have it, my super cheap, super lazy watering system. 

DIY Deodorant: Round 2

A few months ago, I shared my attempt at homemade deodorant. Well I can say it worked pretty great during the spring. But now that temps are creeping into the triple digits, I need something stronger to get me through the day. Badly. To get me through the last bit of my first tube of homemade deodorant, I concocted a blend of essential oils and fractionated coconut oil and witch hazel. I just rolled that on after I wasn’t feeling so fresh anymore. Thing was, the damage was already done and I really needed to prevent the funk altogether. So I altered my recipe. I included more dry ingredients and more essential oils with antibacterial properties. A lot more!

New recipe:

1/2 cup each organic virgin coconut oil & cocoa butter

1/8 cup each baking soda & organic arrowroot powder (told you I’d do better next time!)

10 drops each tea tree oil and Rocky Mountain Oils Purify blend (smells yummy too!)

Update: after trying this one for a week, I still needed to reapply with temperatures in the 90s. So until fall comes, I’m back to my commercial deodorant unless I want to hold my arms above my head every time I walk outside. I’m going to keep playing with the recipe, and hopefully I’ll come up with something that can stand the heat torture test soon!

Worms!

As a child, worms fascinated me. As an adult, being removed from nature, they kinda grossed me out. But as I try to get back to my roots and start growing my own food and saving money, I needed to find a way to get quality compost or fertilizer to keep my plants healthy-for cheap! Enter the Red Wiggler! Tiny little red worms that will turn my coffee & tea & leftover veggies into compost. And they do it fast. Like 3 weeks fast. I like fast results for a small investment. 

Today I bought a pound of Red Wrigglers. I’ve saved up some vegetable scraps and a couple cardboard boxes and bought some plastic bins. Now I’m the proud owner of a worm farm! With any luck, I’ll have some great compost to add to my plants in a few weeks. Of course, I’ll keep you updated!

My Momma’s Sweet Tea

Nothing is better on a hot sticky Southern summer day than an ice cold glass of sweet tea.  It’s just part of Southern culture. I love tea, truly, but you will never ever find me ordering it at a restaurant. Why?  I was spoiled by my Momma’s secret recipe. It’s exceedingly rare to find any place that makes decent tea in comparison. It’s always bitter and watered down…yuck!  Today, I’m teaching you the secret to smooth, sweet delicious tea. 

What’s in tea anyway?

As it turns out, there is only one plant that grows the leaves for black, white and green tea: Camellia sinesis. Guess who’s getting one of these bad boys soon? Yeah, that’d be me. Some places won’t ship to South Carolina though. Maybe it’s considered invasive here, but these pretty flowering shrubs won’t have a chance to get that big with the amount of tea we go through! Here’s a picture curtesy of Wikipedia 

Basically you pick the leaves and what you do with them after determines what flavor you get! I love a multipurpose plant. 

For sweet tea, you want black tea. If you don’t have a Camellia sinesis in your yard, Lipton or Luzianne will do. Lipton is my favorite because I get consistent taste, but I’ve also gone with the super cheap grocery store brand on occasion. 

Remember that my biggest complaints are watered down taste and bitterness. I fix the watered down taste by over boiling my tea bags. The bitterness is fixed by…baking soda. Yup, I said all that to tell you to put a pinch of baking soda in your tea pot. 

My tea making goes like this: fill quart pot halfway with water and plop on stove with burner set to high. Toss in a pinch of baking soda and a tea bag (2 if you have the small ones). Set lid on top but do not walk away! The baking soda makes the tea bubbly when it starts boiling and it has a tendency to overflow. Add 1-2 cups sugar to a gallon pitcher. When pot has been at a boil for a good minute or two, turn off heat and let sit until the bubbles stop. In about 5 minutes you will have a black liquid the color of soy sauce. Pour the hot tea into the pitcher of sugar, squeezing the tea bags out with a spoon and stir to dissolve the sugar (or Splenda or Sweet & Low). Add cold water (and maybe some ice if you want to serve right away) until the pitcher is full, stirring along the way. Fill a glass with ice, pour and enjoy!  You’ll notice this liquid is much much darker than what is served at restaurants even when poured over ice. No more watered down tea for you! Just delicious, sweet heaven in a glass.