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Showing posts from 2009

Crowdsourcing

Daily I scour hundreds of articles and several books that span many different subjects. I'm on the lookout for useful information on how to plan for the future and how any particular info might affect our future.

A fairly recent term is "crowdsourcing." That is, using the collaboration made possible by technology and the Internet, to amass a "crowd" of people to help solve a problem.

Crowdsourcing has tremendous potential for the frugal prosumer and solving many of the worlds problems. One of the goals of The Frugal Prosumer is to harness the power of crowdsourcing by having frugal prosumer gatherings and using the internet. To start a movement that gets us back to the basics and helping each other make this world a better place.

A major theme of our book The Frugal Prosumer Philosophy is balance. We talk about both good and bad changes that will come about and how we need to plan, prepare, and think through the implications of each new development that seems …

Social Security and Ponzi schemes

Why Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme - Jan. 7, 2009 From Money CNN

I always make an effort to read the opposite side of each argument. As a result in many cases I can win a argument on either side of an issue with most people. In my old age I'm not that interested in arguing any more. I'm more interested in discerning the truth. If one isn't interested in discovering truth so be it. I let them be.

Anyway I saw the title of this article from CNN Money. This is a respected source for financial information. I was wondering if I was going to be proven wrong and already thinking how I would have to change my view and what I wrote in by book about Social Security being the ultimate Ponzi scheme.

But this one takes the cake and they were really serious. I think.

Their argument is :
1st: They state: " in the case of Social Security, no one is being misled." It isn't a Ponzi scheme because by definition a Ponzi scheme is one in which a person is misled. Social Securit…

The 12 Months Of Default (Christmas Song)

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Not very funny but it is a clever way to teach the advantages of walking away from a house loan that has no equity and is underwater.



For many that are going to lose it all anyway sometimes the best option may be to make that decision sooner. I have done counseling for hundreds of bankruptcies and a very large percent who took this route (bankruptcy) to save their house just postponed the inevitable for a few more years. This made it worse for them in the long run.

True, the mental stress of walking away is hard, but the mental stress of years of trying not to walk away can be worse. Consult any bankruptcy attorney to explore your options.

Walking away from a house that is ruining you or is under water (you owe more than it's worth) can be a tough moral decision.

Some interesting things to think about?
What are the moral obligations:
Of a banker willing to lend money to someone who they knew could not afford the house?Of a banker lending money to someone not caring how overpriced the h…

One of the most used books in our house.

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Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types has been used so much in our house the pages are falling out.

The following quote is from our new book The Seven Pillars of The Frugal Prosumer. You can order it from our web site.

Understanding personality types is a powerful tool to knowing yourself and others. It helps us understand:
Who we will be attracted to and why.Who will be our best marriage partner and why.How to communicate to be understood and to understand others. How our children are wired and discovering the best way to raise them.What kind of job suits us best, our leadership style, and how to get along with coworkers and others.Our own preferred learning and teaching style.How to counsel and help others better.Over the centuries, the four personality types have been included in the writings of Greek mythology (around 800 BC), Plato in The Republic (around 380 BC), Aristotle (around 350 BC), the roman physician Galen (around 200AD), Paracelsus around (1550 AD), plus…

How to negotiate with debt collectors

Here is an article by one of my favorite financial writers. If you are in the position to pay off some of your debt or are thinking of helping someone pay off their debt. I.e. An adult child or parent.

Be sure and read this article first. (Click on link below)

Liz Pulliam Weston - How to negotiate with debt collectors; making a deal - MSN Money

Harvesting Windows, Bricks, and Decks!

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A pane in the deck? We have given titles to many of the things we do. Wild food foraging, feral fruit farming, grocery store foraging, garage sailing, Craigslist crawling, etc. But what do we call it when we harvest a hundred windows or a 600+ square foot deck? A pane in the deck? Sorry.

Again it’s about relationships. A friend called us to say they were replacing all the windows and screens in the eight story apartment complex they lived in. Aaannd.. they had permission to take all they wanted.

We finally stopped hauling at 200 windows. It was hard seeing dumpster load after dumpster load of good windows going to their doom. But out of respect for Mary and the “pretty factor” on the property, I let them go.

We now have a good number of cold frames ready for early spring planting. We also extended our fall veggies under the mini green houses I constructed.

Some parts of our land floods occasionally. Since it is futile to plant in that low area the reality of raised bed gardening has t…

What does “real” recycling look like?

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Recycled banana box filled with sawdust and carrots
Are you “doing” the politically correct current recycling fad of the day or are you really recycling? John believes in walking the walk here! Sometimes even I roll my eyes but here is his current recycling of recycling of recycling of recycling. This is how he recycles the sawdust left from his tree or pallet cutting. No landfill destination for that.

Note, he doesn’t just go around cutting trees up to get this precious by-product. Only ones that are threatening mans existence. Ever have a tree fall on your house when you were sleeping. Man they’re heavy.

Number one, he recycles the tree or discarded pallet to heat our home. For the “normal” recycler environmentalist this would be enough. No trucking fuel halfway across the world to heat your house. No adding more Co2 into the air (burning wood puts out the same carbon as when a tree dies and decomposes naturally). Local sustainable heating, good exercise, etc. etc. John however adds …

The Great Carrot Caper

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Thanks to Kris and a generous farmer we are in the midst of processing and distributing carrots to food pantries, friends, and others. What do you do with a literal ton of carrots? Six of us from our Free School harvested a ton in less than 2 hours. Many of the carrots were over one pound and several weighed in at close to three pounds.

The first thing we did is eat them raw. They’re deliciously sweet. We had a good laugh when one of the students opened his lunch box out in the field full of carrots to discover his mom had packed him....... carrot sticks.
When we got home Mitch helped me (John) use our rain water collecting bin and barrel two wash the carrots. We managed to get about 800 pounds washed.

We then cooked up a batch for an early thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday. Talk about fresh. Six hours from field to fork.

Next day we started out with a delicious glass of sweet carrot juice fresh from our juicer. That fortified me enough to “plow” through internet research on storing and pres…

Thankful

When you live a life with one foot off the grid and the other balancing precariously in entrepreneur land you can find yourself running a rather challenging yet exciting scooter on life’s road. The balancing act is sometimes more like a fumbling act. And you can be viewed more as the clown in the circus than the “professional” juggler. It may sound like complaining here but really I am just setting you up to see.

We have so many opportunities in this ride to crash.....but don’t. On this journey we have been so blessed. Unspoken needs have been met in very creative ways. We have witnessed and experienced the true friendship of others and that there are wonderful, kind people all around. We are thankful.

We are thankful for our home and all the many lessons in life we have had the opportunity to learn.

We are above all thankful for God. We have witnessed the reality of who He is, what He does and are excited about His ultimate plan. Come to think of it, didn’t we mention that life, rea…

Smart Living

The key to financial security and living free is living smart. It’s not about depriving yourself. It’s about being smarter about things you buy or do anyway every day. Smart living can mean the difference between living free and just struggling along in life.

In times of economic and political uncertainty, smart spending is even more important.
Smart living is about making good decisions when saying yes. It’s not always about spending less, but about getting more value from what you are already spending.

Something you can do today!
Get quality prescription glasses for as low as $20 at the following web sites.
Check out:
www.ZenniOptical.com
www.EyeBuyDirect.com
www.glassesUnlimited.com

Clark Howard my favorite financial radio talk show host has been getting his glasses online for years. I highly recommend listening to his radio show. Go to www.clarkhoward.com to find when he’s on your local radio station.

All Families are a Million Dollar Business

As I have stated many times in my books and workshops, a family is really a small business. Most families will bring in a million dollars or more in their life time.

Three important questions any business needs to ask are:
1. Is the business worth anything? In the business world this is called a balance sheet. The balance sheet tells you how much the business is worth (equity). Or in the case of an individual how wealthy they are. The formula for this is--- Assets - Liability= Equity. Assets are everything you own such as house, cars, recreation vehicles, savings, retirement money, cash, and anything else of value.

Liabilities are everything you owe on your house, car, credit cards, loans, etc.

Your Equity (or net worth) is how much money you would have if you cashed everything out and paid all your debts. This is calculated by subtracting all your liabilities from all your assets. This is what you have to show for your life and all your years of work.

2 Is the business making a profit…

We are Feral Fruit Farmers

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Most of us have heard the term feral cats. Domestic cats that have gone wild. Feral fruit is domestic fruit that is growing wild or unattended in people’s yards.

In my edible and medicinal herb walks I would call our finds wild fruit. I found most people were thinking that to get this wild food they would have to venture into the wilderness. The majority of my wild food foraging is around urban areas and by volume most of that is feral fruit.

Apples are the main feral fruit we collect. They are everywhere in our area. Anytime I’m out driving around I keep a watch for them. I have been doing this for 30 years and can spot an apple tree with or without apples from a long way off. It’s not unusual to collect a thousand pounds or more to make cider, jam, apple butter, dried apples, and to eat fresh. They are available from August to October depending on the variety. Last year I pressed over a hundred gallons of cider all from feral fruit.

I tell people they even have the organic seal of appr…

Money is Only Good for one Thing! Spending!

That is why we suggest that you look beyond money to find happiness, fulfillment and meaning in life.

We spend money in three time frames.

Present: The key to building wealth has always been the same. Spend less than you earn today. To do that without depriving yourself means that each and every day you must spend your money smarter.
Past: Is paying for things purchased in the past. In other words debt! Debt can be a great cause of stress. Is the original purchase worth it?
Future: Monetary saving and investing is not different from spending. It’s just deciding to spend in the future. If you save today, in your future “today” you will save more.

The power of cutting expenses is that it builds wealth and works in the past, present, and future time frame.

Cutting expenses or UnIncome as we like to call it has three distinct advantages over “earned income”:

A dollar saved is worth more than a dollar earned. You get to keep every penny of each unspent dollar. Unlike income it is not subject to t…

Fewer deaths during a recession

A Fortune Magazinearticle talks about a little known, but well documented truth, that death rates decline and healthy living habits improve in tough economic times.

The interesting thing is that following a Frugal Prosumer lifestyle reaps many of the same health benefits. There is less stress from a job, positive lifestyle changes, and more time to be healthy.
An important reason for this decline in death rates seems to be that people adopt smarter lifestyles and with those improvements you get a healthier nation. And it's even noticeable in the short period of a typical recession. Another reason seems to be that there is extra free time. Not having to go to a job or being underemployed means more time for exercise as well as more time for sleep, which improves health.
"A lesson for health-care reformers is that their focus, our system of insurance and care, isn't the root cause of America's high medical costs. The recent downturn in dead people is a reminder that th…

Confusing Financial Information

Many financial publications provide a confusing array of money advice that covers every possible scenario. This broad sweep makes the information close to useless because the average person has to make complicated decisions they feel ill-equipped to make.

Our goal is to show you some specific simple things you can do. If you really must get into the philosophy, engineering, theology, and many possible scenarios, John is more than delighted to discuss these with you. However, we strive to just get the gems out of him and avoid asking and thereby “getting him going”.

We do not want to restrict your freedom to choose with the information we provide. Although we give specific ideas,we do not recommend that you blindly follow all that we do without understanding it or customizing it to your particular situation. Our goal is to provide you with a framework for making a decision.

Generally we have found that people want a simple answer without all the ins and outs of why.
Too many people are so…

What is John Reading

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For those who want to have a better understanding of the pleasure of being a Do-It-Yourself Frugal Prosumer check out Matthew Crawford’s book Shop Class as Soulcraft.


The four Frugal Prosumer options to obtain this information are:
Read the free original essay that his book is based on.Read the book for free by checking it out from your library. If you can't find it there see if your library can get it through an interlibrary loan. To find out what libraries have it in your area or the world go to www.WorldCat.org
Buy it discounted at Amazon
Read for free how Trent at The Simple Dollar has made similar discoveries in his own life.For those who homeschool? It can help you understand how manual work is really academics in disguise.

What is John Reading

Check out the NY Times article on the dangers of Debit Card Fees.
I use debit cards but my Bank and Credit Union have assured me they will not charge me overdraft fees.

A series of articles at bargaineering.com on how to deal with debt collectors.

Tomato Time

I am totally happy these days as my tomatoes are turning red and I can now get going with dehydrating. There just isn’t anything more wonderful than a sweet little chunk of tomato in the winter when all you find is pretend ones in the stores.

It’s been a couple years since I made any. Last year was a no show year for tomatoes. This year I have huge ones.

So, the frugal prosumer tool of the day is one of my dehydrators. One of my six. I have acquired them very frugally by the way. They pay for themselves whatever the cost though.

I have learned with tomatoes that just when you think “that slice is way too thick”, that it’s just right. It seems that they measure in at a bit less than 1/2 inch thick. Slice them and put them on your trays but don’t let any of them get too cozy. Give them a little space. Some things aren’t that important to keep a distance but tomatoes are so juice laden that they can mold if the conditions aren’t right.

Put the temperature somewhere between 135 and 145. It is…

The Food Money Fast

A week ago we completed our two month “food money fast”. We fasted from spending any money at all on food items. We only told people if it meant we would have to lie to them if we were asked about buying something.

At first we were going to stock up for the venture. We determined that would be cheating. So we just proclaimed a certain day “the day” and whatever we had on hand was it. In the two months we ate from our pantry, freezer and garden.

I can’t even count the blessings that trickled in from unsuspecting friends and family. I always attribute that to them “listening” to God. I was out of eggs and my sister-in-law just happened to show up with excess. The latest incident that put a grin on me was the “creamer” thing. Now that is definitely not a necessity for life but it was a little treat I like in my tea and coffee. But I just figured I would rethink it when the time came to go off the fast. A friend walked in one day with boxes of it. He had an excess and thought of us.

There is…

And now for on the road begging. Seriously, you made need this skill someday. (by Ben)

Instructions:
Step1 Get some cardboard and a sharpie
Step2 Write on the cardboard “Hungry(or hungry and traveling)”
Step3 Go to a busy place
Step4 Hold sign and look sad
Step5 Get fed

I'm not kidding this works. People are much more willing to give you food than money. In my experience you will always get fed. Feel free to be more creative with your sign. Like "food for thought" with a little smiley face and an exclamation point.

The Notorious Hobo Dinner (by Ben)

The hobo dinner consists of potatoes whatever veggies and meat you want wrapped in tinfoil and cooked over the fire(and don't forget the soy sauce or whatever other seasonings you would like). This is a great meal for the hobo stove you've all made by now.

All you have to do is get some good coals burning, set the hobo dinner right inside the hobo stove, and let that baby cook . It should only take about 30 minutes maybe less. (I will probably end up making a video on how to do this).

"The Mother's" elaboration on the hobo dinner
Lay down a couple layers of tinfoil on the counter (this is an individual portion). Pull off some cabbage leaves and put a couple down first (they create a burn barrier around the food). Pile on your chopped up potatoes, onions, carrots and whatever along with chunks of meat if you're a carnivore . Plop a bit of butter on that and sprinkle with soy sauce and seasonings of choice. Cover that with another cabbage leaf . Fold up the the t…

Now Something about Food (by Ben)

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Let's start with rice being that it's the king of cheap. I personally can't get enough rice. And I've been eating it about 19 years for the majority of my meals. Why am I not sick of it you ask? Well let's take a look at the Japanese and how they do it. Here in America we use meat, fish, eggs, veggies and other things of the sort for the bulk of our meals, which in turn jacks up the cost of said meal. Although eggs are a fairly inexpensive source of protein.

In Asian countries (and most of the world actually) rice is used as the bulk of the meal. Meat and other things are more to flavor the rice so to say.

Now about Sushi. Contrary to popular opinion, sushi is fairly cheap to make. A California roll (avocado,cucumber, mock crab meat) which would normally cost between $6 to $7 a roll at a sushi bar costs under $1 to make yourself. Another cheap dish is a hand full of veggies with some soy sauce and you've got a healthy tasty meal on the cheap. With the small amoun…

A Little Something About Frugal Traveling

The two most important things to consider while traveling are food and sleep. With these two things sufficiently taken care of you will always be happy and full of energy. Without them you will become a useless fool in a living hell. So Let me give you a few of the easiest ways to accomplish one of the two. . . Sleeping.

The hands down easiest way to travel and sleep well is to have a vehicle you can sleep comfortably in. I.e station wagon, truck with cab, car with folding back seat, limo with cloaking device. With a vehicle to sleep in all you have to do is park at any hotel or street with a few cars on it and count the proverbial sheep.


One concern however is the possibility of being awakened at 5 in the morning (or whenever) by the police. Technically it’s illegal to sleep in your car or anywhere in public (another money making rule). The only time I've had trouble with this is when I slept in the front seat (which is a royal pain anyway). Even when the cops do come all they do…

Strange looking candle holder, or grill?

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So I said I would get back to you about a great/grill top thing for the hobo stove. Well here it is. I was in a thrift store in Colorado, saw these candle holders and thought why not. Like usual I was right and it fit. So all in all this hobo stove cost me $1 dollar to make and has already saved me over $20 in food cost. This is Just another example of how to think frugally. Ben

Lip Sumacin Good

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The other day we were meandering along checking out the wild edible situation right under everyone else’s noses. We came up with about 4 different varieties of apples, currants gone wild, raspberries, hops (didn’t eat those) and staghorn sumac. John picked off 5 bunches of the sumac for us to take home. The lemony tang was finger lickin good.

I knew that sumac was used for a drink likened to lemonade so I whipped out “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” by Euell Gibbons to see what he had to say.

I put the 5 clumps in a bowl and covered them with water. Then I mashed and pounded for 10 minutes with my potato masher. I strained it through several layers of cheese cloth as the man instructed and added about 1/3 cup of sugar and a little more to the juice. Oh no not another one of those talked up wild treats. It was very refreshing. So I can talk it up. Definitely lemony. It’s a keeper.

This is the time of year to be using it. If there is a heavy rain then wait a day to pick it as the rain was…

How Does This "Relate"?

The following is an entry from a guest blogger. As you will see, if you ever get our books, good relationships are extremely valuable to the frugal prosumer.

One night Joe, a farmer, was kicked by a cow while he was putting the milking machine on her. Joe fell over backwards. The injury was a nasty one! Extremely painful. Joe was sure he had dislocated his shoulder. He was faced with a couple of choices. Should he call 911 or should he call Russ, a friend, to take him to the ER? He decided to call Russ who said he would come right away and take him.
“But I’m only half done with the milking!” Joe exclaimed!
“I can call Owen,” Russ said.
Russ called Owen, a retired farmer he and Joe knew. (Russ had called Owen once before to ask if he would milk the cows because Joe had to be away at milking time. Owen and his son, Harry, had milked the cows at that time. That’s how it happened that Joe and Owen knew each other.)
Back to our story—
When Russ dialed Owen, the phone rang, but no one…

Driving Miss Dilly

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How many miles do you get out of your dehydrator? This is not a trick question. I think I have come up with a top of the line frugal prosumer dehydrator. At least for some things. I haven’t tried everything . . . yet.

First you take one car. Put a bunch of dill in a brown paper bag. Put the bag in the car and close the windows. Move car to a sunny place on your property.

I’d say the dill was crispy and ready for me to crumble the weed part of it in maybe less than a week. The seeds were ready too. This is not an exact science yet. All I know is it didn’t take long at all.

Leave it in the car when you go places. It smells wonderful. And as you can see I have some rose petals started. I just picked them and threw them in the shallow basket. The fragrances didn't mingle, so my rose is still a rose.

I have my doubts about doing tomatoes or anything that would need consistent heat till it was done. So unless you live in the land of eternal sun you may need to keep the electric dehydrator…

How to Make Money Riding Your Bike

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Not only does bike riding make me money it gives me time to think up great articles like this.

As I was riding to my editor’s today, I was wondering if it really was worth my time to bike instead of drive. So I did the math. Here are some of my thoughts from the half hour bike ride.

First of all, by car I only save 20 minutes on the 14 mile round trip. If you use the standard mileage rate of $0.55 per mile that means it would cost me $7.70 to drive that distance if I were a “normal person.” $7.70 for 20 minutes means $23.10 per hour. As a Frugal Prosumer my rate is more like $0.30 per mile so that means I would only be earning $12.60 an hour.

Now don’t use this as an excuse to go and buy a new expensive bike. Use it as an excuse to go buy a used expensive bike selling for cheap! Better yet get an old junky bike that is less likely to be stolen, takes less maintenance, and is harder to ride. Harder to ride means you’re getting more exercise.

Speaking of exercise! If we factor in the hour o…

"Can" you cook? More on the Hobo stove

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I think Ben did a great job on explaining the hobo stove concept. And while we were up north Wisconsin for a week we had a bunch of interested campers. John was Nature Center man for the week. He had a great assistant who helped keep his absent minded mind on track.

Pictured is the best little prosumer stove you ever want to light. It contains the fire as well as concentrates it for faster cooking or boiling.

Since we have started making and using the thing we can say there are as many variations on it as there are people that try their hand at making them. And there are sights you can get info on them too.

We had the camp cook saving the cans for us during the week. If you have one of those can triangle hole punchers they make tidy little holes all around the can. We punched a couple of holes at the top on opposite sides and make a coat hanger handle for moving it around. I even made a cattail reed handle. One camper took the part that was can opened off , put a coat hanger handle o…

So you want to make a hobo stove

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I have spent many days cooking over the hobo stove. So I know it works. And its so simple to make its ridiculous. Now one thing I want everybody to remember is that you can do what I do and it works, but every situation is different. So if you see something else that would work use it. The idea is to take these principals and mold them to your situation.


One thing I forgot to mention in the video is where to find these tin cans. Well I found mine in a ally. But they are most commonly found in dumpsters/piles behind restaurants. If unsure you can always go in and ask someone. They usually don't care.

Just a Travelin Man

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Just a little explanation on “why the videos?”. Well Benjamin (the curly leprechaun to the left here) is on an adventure along with his friend Luke and wanted to frugal prosumer it along the way. So we will be waiting on his video blogging and up to the minute reports. Um, well whatever minute he manages to remember to do.

The hammocks in that first video are ones we got when he and his father were into tree climbing. I mean really high in the tree climbing. They are designed to be stable enough that you don’t flip out of them at nose bleed altitudes that make any mother dizzy with fear.

The first day they got them they went way up in a tree in our back yard to camp out (up) for the night. It started to rain and they didn’t have tarps so I did what any cool calm mother would do.I chewed my nails till they landed safely on the ground. And of course it was all fun for them.
So stay tuned. I know I am. And hey Luke, couch surfing would be a great frugal prosumer topic.

You don't need a tree to hang a hammock

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I'm always looking for excuses to sleep outside in my hammock. But when all the trees are on the side of the fence you don't want to be on(mountain lion country) you have to come up with something else. So here's a simple way to think outside the box and not get eaten. Something else you might want to consider is a big knife and a friend that doesn't snore like a mountain lion.

The Picky Prosumer

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Prosumering has so many benefits. Healthy prosumering functions happily through great relationships. Anyway it is through a couple of those relationships that we were blessed. Blessed to pick as much as we wanted from a friend's cherry tree.

One key to being a functioning prosumer is to be able to drop what you're doing and heed the call of harvest when it comes for it waits for no one. Any farmer will tell you that. I think

So we scampered off to the tree with buckets and belts in hand. Not only was there a ladder already there but both times the weather was lovely. However your work has only begun with the picking don't you know. But we have "tools".

Pictured are some of our tools (all acquired used I might add). The one on the left leaves your cherries nicely whole without the pits and is pretty fast about it. The jar and the one on the right do one at a time but work well.That silver one is fast. If you don't care that your cherries are a bit mangled then …

Bucket Vegies

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Well, I guess some plants don't mind the blood rushing to their heads. Our experiment using the 5 gallon pail is coming along fine.

Now with the warm/hot rainless weather it needs to be watered every day. And that means more fertilizing too. The trick is to water it just enough so it covers all the roots and not so much that it drips through. And since our buckets are white you can see the water flowing down in there.

Speaking of fertilizer, we decided to prosume on that too. Oh sure, you can get a 16oz bottle of fish emulsion at your local fleet farm or nursery or wherever and dilute that to feed your babies. But why miss the face making throat gagging experience that comes with making your own.

Throw some fish heads and innards in one of those extra pails, fill with water and let it sit for a couple weeks (you don't want to forget to put the cover on, trust me). Dip some out and dilute that. Then if you can stand the smell, give your plants their steroid shots.

Now before you cr…

Don't Leaf Me Alone

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The “healing leaf", as John’s mom called it, is growing strong in this neck of the woods. Actually it grows just about everywhere man has put his foot. The plantain is a major ingredient in the salves I make.

Primarily plantain is used for all disorders of the respiratory organs. It is used for those with weak kidneys as well as treating eczema, liver and bladder disorders and the list goes on.
I have concentrated on the skin healing abilities of course and have used it for over 30 years now. And in the last few years I have been making salves and selling them and getting good reports.

Yesterday I went out and picked some to make my oil infusion today. If the plant is clean I don’t bother washing it, but these leaves had sand on them from one of the areas on our property. I gently washed them then put them in the salad spinner to get the left over sand and most of the water off.

I then lay them out on a cotton towel and let them dry overnight to get rid of a good amount of water…

The Meter Made Me Do It

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Even though I’ve been known to not want to know I do find knowing can save you money. Take for instance knowing how much it costs to run your toaster, refrigerator etc. Or knowing how much an average meal costs to make.

My Husband (the “why” boy) came across a wonderful gadget that measures kilowatt usage for any appliance. It is called the Kill A Watt. Our library here had one available to borrow. Now we have one of our own. He even started dreaming up a home school study unit using the thing.

So let’s make this practical. In our wild edible and medicinal blog I reported on how to infuse herbs with a crock-pot. So now I will tell you what amount of energy and cost that involved running the pot for 5 hours.

It is very simple to use the Kill A Watt meter. First plug the meter into the wall socket or an electric strip as you can see in the picture. Then plug your appliance into the meter. Operate the appliance as usual.

We are only concerned with two re…

How to Make Fresh Herb Tea

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When you think of tea what do you envision? A little bag with a string attached? A teaspoon of loose leaves dancing in a pot of boiled water? Chances are you will only be seeing a once fresh herb in its dried state.

When John serves up a pot of fresh picked nettle tea on his herb walks sometimes someone will say, “I thought you had to dry it first”. Nope. If it’s available it's even better fresh. That goes for mint leaves as well as other herbs. If it’s there use it. Dry the excess for those cold winter nights or days.
Here is how I make my tea:
Go out in the morning and cut a bunch of mint and nettles. I use the stems and leaves. The amount I figured on was enough to loosely fill a 1/2 gallon canning jar. I cut my herbs up as I put them in the jar. I think you get more out of them that way.Boil up some water. Pour it over the leaves to fill the jar.Just put the cap on but don’t screw it down.If you’re going to drink it hot then strain off the leaves and drink in about 15 minutes.Fo…

The Sucker Run Has Ended

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Sucker, rice, and apple cider (from last years harvest.)

Actually the run has been over for several weeks but here is the report for the year. We tried some new things this year. Usually I would just cooked the sucker fillets on the fire pit after being marinated in soy sauce. This year I decided to be a little less primitive and go to a little bit more work. I marinated them over night in soy sauce and vinegar (thinking the vinegar might dissolve some of the small bones but it didn't seem to make any difference.)

I dipped the chunked up fillets into a flour and spice mix. Then into a batter of eggs and milk. Then rolled them in bread crumbs. (I made these by drying some day old bread we get free from our baker friend on our wood burner.) Then fried them in our cast iron skillet in butter and corn oil. They were so good sometimes I had them with rice twice a day. Yes, they have some small "Y" bones but you learn how to avoid them.

Picture are two of our Free School student…

A Sappy Story

Once upon a time a friend gave me some pine salve to try. She said her daughter used it to help clear up the skin problem she had. Well ever since I set my eyes and nose on it I have wanted to make some.

I came across some places that had information on it and took what was worth keeping. So now I will attempt to concoct my own version of it.

First you start with a glob of pitch from a pine tree. As I looked expectantly to the tree in our yard I envisioned myself scaling the sappy thing in search for that pungent treasure.

In the meantime I had to get the doggy do up and out of the ways of unsuspecting shoes. As I attacked it with my shovel, I noticed it was a bit different looking. What had my dog been eating? I pocked it. It had a bit of a spring. I, well, smelled it and to my surprise it was a big chunk of pine pus.

One website suggested you infuse it in olive oil for a few weeks in a very warm location. Another said to put it in a crock pot with the oil on low for a few hours. I…

More Frugal Experimenting on the Johnston Homestead

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My mom got one of those topsy turvy tomato planters you see all over the place that grows the plant upside down. We got to thinking that maybe someone had figured how to “home-make” one. A friend googled it and came up with a plan.

We took a 5 gallon pail (acquired through a friend that owns a bakery) and cut a 2 1/2 inch hole in the bottom for the plant to go through.

In the ready made one there is a piece of foam to go around the stem of the plant. I had packing foam that we must have gotten a computer something in and used that. That’s the red thing in the picture. In the other bucket (picture down to the right here) we are experimenting with the black ground cloth instead of the foam.

So, we put the foam around the base of the stem, gently pushed the plant through the hole, filled the bucket up with some light compost and hung it up. Then we watered it.

We'll try to keep you posted on the results. Oh, and one place we hung them was rather windy so John stapled some clear plastic …

Prosuming on Down the Road

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Examples examples I love examples. So here is Ben being a fine example of a prosumer. Heading off to work with his gas saving "truck."

Not only is he going to save money on gas, he is going to be warming up for the job down the road (literally).

To start with, the kiddie trailer was purchased at a garage sale. So was the bike as a matter of fact. We have used this trailer for grocery shopping and any number of hauling adventures. Oh and the occasional child has taken a ride in it.

We suggest Ben tries hauling his surfboard someday. And yes there is good surfing on Lake Michigan. Real Men surf the lakes.

Finished Eye Cream

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So here is the finished Eye Cream. Next time I'll add a bit more lavender essential oil and this being spring heading into summer I will add extra beeswax. They do that with chocolate you know. More or less wax according to the season.

John headed out to his first edible plant walk of the season at Kohler-Andrea State Park. I loaded him up with the thermoses of hot water, cups and his favorite teapot. He makes nettle tea for the people to sample. It is a very easy tea to like. We try to have it every morning while we can.

The horsetail is getting bigger so I need to get gathering for future use. And I need to get some eye cream over to a neighbor who has been asking for it since last winter. And on and on...

Eye Cream Fixins

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Fresh horsetail drying

Let's continue the eye cream conversation. The recipe called for fresh horsetail. I am sure you will recognize it now. I harvested it in a more swampy area. Drying overnight gets rid of some of the water content before I infuse it.
Same with the violet leaves and flowers also pictured.

So tomorrow I will add this all to olive oil and infuse for about five hours in a little crock-pot.

More to follow on the progression of the eye cream.

Rhubarb Nectar

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It's rhubarb time again. And once again it is time to wow the friends and family with my getting to be famous nectar. Simple as pie. Wait a minute,I never thought pie was simple.

Anyway, get yourself 12 cups of chopped up rhubarb and put it in a pot with 2 1/2 quarts of water. Heat it up and cook the rhubarb 'till soft. Strain it through a fine mesh strainer (as pictured) . To the strained juice add a cup of honey and 2 cups of unsweetened orange juice. Chill and serve.

Oh and don't forget to secure the vault you will have to store it in as it is much desired by most and to fight for.

Solar Drying

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I was doing the wash today and thought I would write a bit on our prosumer laundering. Clothes that is. I realize that there are people that don't own a dryer and possibly never have. In our married years we only had access to one for a couple of those years.
We have a friend from the Czech Republic that says she doesn't know anyone who has one there. What a sad situation eh? (eh is Canadian for huh).

But I never thought that I just couldn't live without one. I have included a picture of my solar drier so you can get familiar with the construction of it. Two poles and laundry hanging rope to string between them.

To the right here is what I call "clippy things". This is one of the wonderful pieces of equipment we brought back from Japan with us. So weather conditions pose no problems for me on laundry day.

Dryers take a fair amount of energy and boot up the bill. So this is one thing you can save on by planning ahead and air drying. The added benefit of hanging things…

Wild Violets

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Ah Spring. Time for that sweet little beauty that claims a good part of our property. Not only is it gorgeous, it is tasty and medicinal and a great ingredient for an eye cream I make.

First the edibleness of it.It goes well in salads. By "it" I mean the leaves and the flowers. The leaves are mild, sweet and slightly peppery (as stated in Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants by Steve Brill).

The flowers and leaves are blood purifiers and detoxifiers. They contain rutin and vitamin C.

The neat thing about their properties is that they are really beneficial in the eye cream I make.They strengthen the capillaries on that delicate skin.

So whether you eat the violet or put it on your skin....it goes in. How wonderfully poetic.

Spring Garden

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Remember the empty 4x4 box? Well here it is with some tasty morsels John is munching on. This is Wisconsin, this is cold 'till July and about mid July the snow flies. Not really, but you will notice the glass panels leaning up against the box. Those go on at night and part of the day to warm the soil up. The squares to the right of the bunch of greens have four lettuce in each but they are little yet.

Also, during the day when we have the glass off we put the wire cages over them to protect from those nasty deer. Pretty creatures, but too assuming and piggish.But hey, I figure if we fatten them up....they should oblige us and fatten us up in turn.

To the left in the picture is the garlic I planted in the fall. And what you can't see are the trellises John just constructed for the peas to climb on that are about 4 inches high now. I could have started them even earlier.
Hope this gives you an idea on garden timing for some things.

Frugal! Is it the New Big Thing?

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It seems frugal is now hitting the big times and more and more people are jumping on the band wagon. Here are a some recent articles in the big name magazines. Check them out.

Business Week Oct 9th 2009
The cover of the Magazine is "The New Age of Frugality." Also has an interesting video on a family and how frugality made a big difference in their life.

Fortune Magazine April 20th 2009
Has an artilce titled "Thrifty is the new Frugal". Investment strategist Edward Kerschner talks about how consumers are switching from 'conspicuous' to 'conscious' consumption, according to

The New York Times March 9 2009
The New Frugality: No Passing Fad