Thursday, June 30, 2022

Small Home Improvement Project - Another New Flowerbed & Renovating Some Old Ones


When I first moved into my home in January of 1995 our entire yard was seriously overplanted and so crowded with overgrowth that you could not walk from the frontyard to the backyard.  The only way to access the backyard at that time was through the house.  I spent the first few years removing so many scrubby trees, shrubs and plants that were planted way too close to one another.  In fact, where the new flowerbed is now used to be home to an oak tree, a birch tree, a spruce tree plus half a dozen junipers.  Way too much stuff in such a small space.


Ta da!

For a good long time this was just an area to park our car and our trash and recycle bins.  Not much excitement going on.  Since we moved the fence and then gave the entire driveway a refresh I decided it was also a good time to add back some curb appeal.  As you can well imagine the soil was pretty poor so I hauled six buckets of our homemade compost from the backyard and got it all turned into the ground.  Then I left it to settle overnight and gave it another good turning the next day.  I am amazed at how quickly adding this compost transforms the soil.  Just a few days and it's like magic.


These are from my neighbor and they get little white flowers

A trip to Home Depot with a gift card provided a new shrub and a few perennials.  My next door neighbor provided me with some sedums.  I bordered the bed with rocks I had in our backyard as well as a few that I'd dug out of the ground while turning the soil.  I think I'd like to add some daylilies here too.  The finishing touch was to add some bark mulch.  All in all, I think it turned out pretty good and is exactly what this area needed.


This was the area under our pear tree

I've been working my way from the curb to the backyard and I've finally made it into the backyard.  As I've been working on the frontyard I've been pushing stuff into the backyard and making decisions with regard to my project woodpile.  I decided to abandon some of those projects and make things a bit easier on myself so I offered up some of my woodpile on Facebook.  It went fast.


This is how it looks now

I redid one of the flowerbeds next to our back deck on each side of the steps and reinstalled some pavers in front of those steps.  The flowerbed along the side of the house now curves around the corner to the back of the house and meets one of the flowerbeds by the deck making it much more cohesive. My daughter bought me a burning bush to plant in there and as it grows it will offer a shield for the ugly utility box on the back of the house.  While I was at it I also refreshed the gravel in front of the steps and even gave the drain under the downspout a bit of a facelift.


The flowerbed from the frontyard now connects to this little one in the backyard

Close up of the drain area

The next project on my list was to renovate the flowerbed where our pear tree grows.  This fall I will be pruning that tree and next spring I plan to invest in some blueberry bushes and possibly some strawberry plants to put around the base of the tree.  For now I am just getting it ready for planting so I cleaned out the area, added compost and turned the soil.  Then I bordered it with more rocks I picked up from Facebook Marketplace.  I added a shrub to one end of the where it borders the frontyard.  Once it is complete I think it will be very nice.


And the newly reinstalled pavers with fresh gravel

I have a lot more little projects to work on in both the front and backyard, a few things I want to do to the exterior of the house and there will likely be more gravel collecting in my future, but I've managed to finish the bulk of my project list already.  I'm rather surprised by that to be quite honest. It seems like it has gone rather quickly.  The best part though is whenever I look out my windows or step outside I am very pleased with what I see.  For the first time in my life I have a home with a beautiful yard.  The yard of my dreams!  This is so exciting!


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Things I Still Do To Save $$


With prices rising on a daily basis it is more important than ever to save money everywhere we can.  I thought I'd share some of the ways I'm saving money every day.



In order to stay on budget I still plan my meals based on items I already have on hand.  We only eat two meals a day.  The majority of my grocery shopping is solely what I find on sale or markdown.  I shop with a list I make after checking the weekly sales ads.  I know my prices at each of the stores I shop at and routinely use digital and paper coupons to pair with sales items.  I make sure to minimize food waste by not over purchasing perishable items, over cooking and eating leftovers.  I frequently make low cost meals and serve a soup meal at least once a week.  I stick to my monthly budget.



I drive a lot less.  When I do drive I plan my route to maximize efficiency and make the most of each trip.  I stick to a monthly gas budget and purchase my fuel at the best price with a gas station fuel rewards card which shaves an additional 3¢ a gallon off in order to get the most fuel I can for my money.  I am willing to walk or use my bike for short trips that don't require using a vehicle.  My daughter and I will often run errands together too so we only need to use one car.


Home Heating & Cooling 

I keep the thermostat set at 68° in our home in winter.  We only use a lower wattage electric fireplace and infrared heater at the beginning and end of winter and push of the higher watt main heating as long as possible.  We also wear sock and slipper and dress in layers so we can be comfortable in a cooler home.  In spring and fall we are able to keep the house cool by opening windows in the mornings and late evening for fresh air.  I have window A/C units that we install in the upstairs bedrooms in July and August, our hottest months.  Just running the A/C in the upper level is enough to keep our entire house cool as the downstairs stays quite nice on its own.  Similarly, we only use the heat downstairs allowing heat to rise on its own to the upper level during the colder months.


Clothing & Shoes 

Secondhand, sales and off season clearance is the way we acquire whatever we need when it comes to clothes, coats, shoes, boots, hats and gloves.  I could not tell you the last time I purchased something new and paid full price for it.  I also keep a fairly minimal wardrobe and typically just replace items as they wear out.  When my children were younger I happily accepted hand me downs too.


Laundry & Housekeeping 

I have a high efficiency front load washer and dryer set.  I only run the washer once it is full.  I purchase laundry detergent on sale and with coupons or make my own.  I stopped using liquid fabric softener and now use white distilled vinegar in the wash.  We do use dryer sheets and reuse them for multiple loads before tossing them out.  I also hang about 50% of our laundry to air dry.


I use minimal cleaning supplies for keeping house.  Dishwashing detergent, Comet or bleach, and Fabuloso for most of my cleaning works really well.  I have a dishwasher that I rarely use, but when we do I only run it when it is full.  Mostly, I prefer to hand wash our dishes and typically I only do dishes once a day, sometimes twice.  I'm also very conscientious about how much water I'm running and I always use rags instead of paper towels.


Hair, Hygiene & Manicures 

We do haircuts, manicures and pedicures at home.  We don't shower or bathe every day and we are very conscientious about our water use when we do.  We are careful not to overuse shampoo, conditioner or soap finding a little seems to go a long way.  I purchase inexpensive products and often dilute them with water as they tend to be very thick and diluting them doesn't seem to have any adverse effect on their performance while making them go much further.  We use store brand products most of the time which I buy on sale and with coupons as often as possible.  I don't use make up, neither does my daughter, or dye my hair.  More expensive items like perfume, shower gels, body creams and lotions are typically received as gifts.



We make our own entertainment.  Playing games, cards or putting together a jigsaw puzzle is still fun for us.  We also have a Wii and a Sega Genesis as well as some computer games we can play.  I like to do crossword puzzles and can get a book from the dollar store or print them online.  We seldom go out for meals and rarely go to the movies or concerts.  There are plenty of free activities available in our city such as car shows, art exhibits, museum or zoo days, free music venues, nature walks and hiking, floating the river, etc.  I gave up all subscription streaming services and we cut cable a good long time ago.  There are plenty of free viewing options we access with our Roku as well as online.  We also borrow DVDs and books from our public library.  Potlucks, BBQs and inviting friends over for dinner is still a favorite activity of ours.


Do you have any money saving tips you'd like to share?  How are some new ways you've been saving money?



Thursday, June 23, 2022

Garden & Compost UpdateI


Our garden is doing pretty well considering our weather hasn't been the most cooperative.  We've had a lot of moisture and cool temperatures with just a few days of warm summer weather.  I'm not complaining one bit as we were looking at drought conditions this year prior to all the moisture we've been getting this past two months.


I have new garden plans in mind for next year

Everything we planted is growing, just slowly and that will have to be okay.  My tomatoes, beans and peas seem to be doing the best.  Radishes too.  The peppers, cucumbers, squashes and pumpkins are all small and not much action there.  I'll happily take what I can get.


New stuff I'm composting now

My compost on the other hand has been amazing.  In six weeks I was able to fill up one side of our bin with various items - flattened cardboard from Amazon, cereal boxes, shredded paper, mulched leaves, bunny manure mixed with wood pellets, coffee grounds, eggs shells, banana peels and other kitchen scraps.  I turned it every few days, added water a couple times when it got dry, Mother Nature watered it quite a bit, and then let it do its thing.  As I've been working on the garden as well as all of my flowerbeds I've been able to haul out buckets of compost and amend the soil.


That is some gorgeous compost!

I've got loads of earthworms in dirt that was hard, dry and compact.  My new plants are flourishing.  Instead of throwing all of that stuff into the landfill I'm able to make beautiful compost and give it back to the earth reaping the benefits of that labor.  I love this so much!


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Small Home Improvement Project - Driveway Refresh


I mentioned before I'm doing a complete re-landscaping of my home from the curb at the street all the way to the backyard fence line.  Curb appeal has been lacking around here and since that is the first thing you see when you pull up to my house I really wanted to work on that.


The gravel was a bit thin

And the weeds were having a heyday

When I first moved into my house in 1995 there was an overplanted narrow grass strip beside our long driveway.  Once I had cleaned out all of the bedraggled plants, shrubs and trees the grass strip looked terrible.  Plus, it served no useful purpose.  I felt this area would make for better parking instead of wasting water to try to keep the grass strip green.  I remove the grass and laid down weed barrier and gravel.


Some remnants from our recent projects and more weeds

At the time I did this I wasn't making much money and didn't have a lot of knowledge on this kind of stuff, but I did my best.  I couldn't afford a truckload of gravel but bagged gravel at the time was affordable so I bought some weed barrier (wrong kind for a parking area) and as many bags of gravel I could and got started.  For several paydays after I'd buy more bags of gravel and keep at it.


Let's get this party started!

Initially, it looked good and functioned just fine.  Over time, as the gravel thinned in spots, I'd add more gravel and then eventually life got in the way and I stopped.  In more recent years the weeds began to take over in a battle I seemed to be losing no matter how many I pulled up.  It look awful and it embarrassed me.  Well, I'm not embarrassed anymore.


And now, no weeds, no bald spots

A much nicer space for parking and our bins

After the girl and I hauled in the three truckloads of gravel I took a day off and then I got busy.  I worked in the early morning hours while it was nice and cool outside and cleaned up all of the gravel and degraded weed barrier.  I also cleaned up all of the weeds.  Then I installed lawn edging all the way along the property line from where the fence stopped to the sidewalk replacing the rotten timbers that I put in originally.  The lawn edging I used was some of what I had removed from the front yard so it cost me nothing to do and it sure looked a whole lot better than those old timbers.


No shame here.  Those old timbers will be cut up and used for firewood

I still have some gravel left

Once the prep work was done I laid down a nice thick layer of gravel all the way up along the driveway and over to the property line.  I even have gravel where there never was any.  I moved our trash and recycle bins to a new spot and even though we extended our front yard out further when we moved our fence, we still have plenty of parking space for two vehicles if we need it.  It looks neat, tidy, clean and finished.  Exactly what I was after.  But wait, there's more.  I'm adding a new flowerbed out there too.  Yes, there is still room for some landscaping in front of the house and I am super excited about that.  Be sure to check back and see what I do.




Thursday, June 16, 2022

FREE Gravel. Or Was It?...


One of the ways I knew I could save quite a bit of money on my landscape project was to see what I could get for FREE or for a really low price off of Facebook Marketplace.  For quite a while I have been scoping out gravel and rocks for our yard and the parking area next to our driveway.  A lot of people have been offering up the opportunity to clean out the gravel they no longer want from yards and bedding areas and haul it off, but others have been cleaning it up themselves and offering it in piles on their sidewalks and driveways.


From her yard to my yard

Since I am in the process of rehabbing my poor body the prospect of cleaning up someone's yard for them wasn't an option for me.  Hauling off gravel in a pile is quite a job itself so I knew I wanted to be patient and wait for the right opportunity and on Monday it presented itself.


The dog poop shovel got to come along 😁

The timing was right, I had just completed the grassy section of our yard and was ready to move onto the next project which requires a fair bit of gravel.  A very nice lady had a pile of gravel on her patio and needed someone to haul it off for her so I contacted her and we made arrangements.  It was also my daughter's day off from work and she offered to help making it even better.


This is the first two loads and I left the third one in the truck

We spent the better part of the day removing the gravel from this patio.  I laid a tarp out in the bed of my truck and we loaded up five gallon buckets to wheel in a garden wagon out of her tiny little backyard to the alley behind her house and dumped them into the truck.  It took us three trips to get it all, there was a lot, and it was hard work, but I was doing it and feeling pretty darn good in the process.  Getting this much gravel for our projects was very fortunate as having a load delivered to my house would have been a huge chunk out of my budget and half the bill was for delivery due to the high cost of fuel right now.  I was feeling very blessed.


When we arrived for the last load the homeowner came out and insisted on giving me a twenty dollar bill to pay for our gas.  I was stunned and although I told her that was not necessary she gave it to me anyway saying we had done her a huge favor taking the gravel and that she was incredibly relieved to not have to deal with it herself.  Not at all what we were expecting but I graciously accepted her gift and thanked her for allowing us to have the gravel.


Feeling very blessed these days

I have more time and energy right now than I do money so being resourceful and getting the gravel this way couldn't have worked out any better.  The weather was cool and cloudy all day too which made our task even better.  We helped someone out, she was super nice, and in return she helped me plus I made twenty bucks in the process.  It was better than FREE!  I was also able to test myself physically and I'm really happy with how well I seem to be doing with all of this physical labor.  The next morning I was a little stiff and sore, had quite a few happy little bruises on my legs, but all in all I felt pretty great.  And boy did I sleep good that night.  Now to figure out which of the two projects to take on next.  You'll just have to wait and see, but I think I know which one I'll be working on next.



Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Small Home Improvement Project - Grass!


Finally!  We have a lawn again.  I was super excited once I got done installing the faux grass I had ordered from Home Depot back in May.  It arrived just in time for the Memorial Day weekend, however so did the rain.  Prior to its arrival however I had to prep the ground which included grading the area to make it flat, smooth and slope in the right direction for water runoff.  I did it all by hand with a hoe and a garden rake over a period of several days while I waited for the grass to arrive.


I graded the lawn and got it prepped

And we moved a fence adding a new flowerbed

This past Saturday I got outside and rolled it out on the ground and got it installed.  I used plastic lawn spikes to secure it into place along the edges and down the center.  Then I trimmed it with a utility knife.  I took my time and it was really surprisingly easy.


I also finished the new flowerbed

As I've mentioned before we have a lot of shade in our yard which has been problematic with growing grass.  Poor soil has been the other issue as well as our hot dry summers which always burn it up in July and August.  I admit, I'm no landscaper, not at all, but when it comes to lawns I fail heartily.


I transplanted some vincas to the back along the fence
I added two new perennials too and a couple bags of bark mulch

It even feels nice to lay on

Faux grass made a lot of sense to me and is something I've wanted to do for a very long time.  Now that I have it I am absolutely thrilled.  I no longer have to fertilize, patch bald spots, mow or water.  Saving time, money and water is the bonus to having this grass which is very popular in Nevada and Arizona.  Plus, it look really nice.  I love it!  Yay!


Thursday, June 9, 2022

Small Home Improvement Project - Moving A Fence


It has been a good long while since I tore down the original cedar fence and completely rebuilt it.  I have been consistently maintaining this fence ever since because I don't want to have to do that again.  It was a huge job and with lumber prices the way they are it would cost a fortune to do it now.  We have a big Sycamore tree in our yard and it is gorgeous.  It wasn't that big when I first moved in, but over the years it has grown a lot.  I work hard to keep it pruned and healthy so we can keep it.  Because of my efforts it has grown to the point of pushing over the fence that ran alongside of it.  Time to move the fence.


Demo and putting in "new" post and rails

My youngest was kind enough to five me a hand one day and we removed the fence, dug a hole, planted a new fence post and rebuilt the fence using the original wood.  The new configuration meant adding a new section of fencing that we didn't have wood for.  I was prepared to buy the lumber we needed but first I headed to the backyard to scrounge my woodpile to see what I already had.  I had the stiles but no wood for the pickets we needed.  Or did I?


A new flowerbed with loads of potential

We ended up removing the slats of wood from our compost bin to fill in what we needed and this worked perfectly because they were weathered and matched the original fencing.  I don't mind replacing the ones I scabbed off of the compost bin with new wood and not having them match, but I really didn't want new lumber standing out like a sore thumb, especially as this is our main entrance to our home.  The compost bin saved the day and my pocket on this project.  We finished up the "new fence" with $0 out of pocket!


And a new entry into our yard
I'm thinking of adding a light to the post by the gate

The big tree is now part of our front yard instead of stuck out in the driveway and we all agree that is really how it should've been all along.  I got busy turning over the soil which was horrible to say the least.  The compost bin saved the day once again as I hauled eight buckets of compost over and amended this dirt adding nutrients and gobs of happy fat earthworms.  Next up will be to get it planted and looking as beautiful as our other flowerbeds.  It is coming along folks!


Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Have You Shown Up Too Late To The Party?


Recently I've had a lot of emails lately from readers that are nervous about the current state of our economy, in particular the rising cost of fuel and groceries.  Our cost of living at the moment is staggering and for those that are on fixed incomes or haven't seen a pay raise in a good long time are worried and rightfully so.  When the pandemic first started in 2020 and people began to panic shopping and clearing shelves it was a wakeup call for a lot of us.  For others it just seemed like a temporary situation and no cause for alarm.  But as time has progressed things have not improved.  It has steadily become worse.


Some of my readers have told me they wished they had started a stockpile a couple years ago when I first mentioned it.  Now they fear it is too late.  It isn't.  If you haven't begun to stockpile and prepare for whatever the future has in store for us, I encourage you to start right now.  It is never too late to try to do whatever you can to put yourself in a better position in life.


I have written dozens of posts about prepping, financial preparedness, raising chickens and gardening (attempting), thrifty and all that it entails.  Use this blog as your resource library and take from it what you will.  And of course email me with your questions and concerns.  I'm happy to help however I can, even if it is simply to encourage you.  It is not too late.  Start right now.  Let's party on!



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