Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Our Brand New Pergola

Mike has been working crazy hours lately at his new job and in his few hours of down-time he managed to build this pergola in our front yard. All for under $80- and this is despite buying the wood from an overpriced local place since we don't have a car to use to transport wood from cheaper places.

Mike wanted to do a pergola for the entire yard, front and back, but it wasn't something that particularly appealed to me (since I didn't really grow up with them the way he did), until I saw what the one in the front looks like and it makes me really happy.

Eventually (when Mike has a few minutes breathing room) he'll be building another one in the backyard, probably even bigger than this one.

Cheap and Compact Hydroponic Garden Options

I found hydroponics to be fascinating from the first time I heard about it. As someone interested in DIY and self-sufficiency, I have wanted to grow my own food for a long time but until recently lived in a place with no yard. Hydroponic gardening would have been very helpful to me in my previous apartment, and hopefully this post by M, a mother of 3 from the  Philippines will help those of you who would like to garden but don't have the space.

Gone are the days of only being able to grow things if you have the right resources, such as space and access to good soil. Today, hydroponics gardening has made home growing a veritable reality for every one of us, whether for commercial purposes or for our own hobbies. So if you have always wanted to prove to yourself that you can grow something - even if you have never had a green thumb - now is your chance to do so.

What is Hydroponics
In the simplest terms, hydroponics is the growing of plants without soil. What it instead uses is mineral nutrient solutions, which are fed to the plants along with water. As a result, you can grow anything in virtually any medium, even on sand or gravel.

There are different forms of hydroponic gardening, and these are:

  • Aeroponic System. One of the most advanced forms of hydroponics gardening, the aeroponic system uses air as the primary growing medium. In this system, the roots of the plants hang in the air - which are misted with a nutrient solution every few seconds.
  • Drip System. In a drip system, a timer will control a pump which will deliver water and the Growth Technology nutrient solution to the plants by virtue of a network of elevated water jets. And then a recovery system will collect the excess solution back to the reservoir. The pH level of this reservoir should be constantly monitored to ensure that it is right for the healthy growth of the plants.
  • Ebb and Flow System. Also called flood and drain, an ebb and flow system temporarily floods the grow tray with the nutrient solution before draining it back. A water pump that is run by a timer controls these mechanisms.
  • NFT System. This is the first thing that comes to people’s mind when hydroponics is mentioned. The Nutrient Film Technique system continually pumps the Growth Technology nutrient solution into the growing tray, where the roots are suspended. The excess solution travels back down the system to the reservoir. What makes this amazing is that there is no timer that automates the process, but it requires constant maintenance of the pump and the electrical system to ensure constant operation.
  • Water Culture. In a water culture, the roots of the plants are immersed in the water, which contains the nutrient solution that is necessary for growth. It comes with an air pump that helps facilitate oxygenation of the water, which will allow the plants to breathe. It is necessary to note that it does not work well for most plants, except for lettuce.
  • Wicks System. The Wicks system is the simplest hydroponics gardening system. By virtue of its name, the nutrient solution is taken to the growing tray through wicks. There are various growing mediums for this type of hydroponics, including coco and perlite.

Whichever particular form appeals more to you, hydroponics gardening is considered to be more advantageous than growing on ordinary soil. First, you do not need a lot of space to be able to make it work. So if you live in a residential building that does not have a backyard, you can get away with growing some vegetables along, say, your windowsill. Even closets are used for this purpose!

You also get to save on water, as well as time. In terms of resource management alone, this is great news. Furthermore, there is no weeding to be done, especially if you are keeping your plants away from the worst of the environmental conditions. There are also less chances for pests. And finally, everything can be under your control, provided that necessary maintenance is carried out when it needs to be carried out.

Some of these forms of hydroponics, however, fetch quite a pretty penny. Aeroponics, in particular, can get very, very expensive. Even the simplest of these forms, if they incorporate a lot of accessories and technologies, can get cumbersome on the pockets.

So if you do not have a lot of budget but you still have a lot of hopes in growing your own plants, what can you do? Consider these cheap and compact hydroponic garden options that are all less than a hundred dollars each.

Hydroponic Garden Options For Less Than $100
Home Aquaponics Garden. This hydroponics kit is perfect for those who want to combine two hobbies: growing plants and having a pet fish! In this model, a fish tank comes equipped with a small hydroponics system, where waste from the fish is converted into fertilizer for the plants. Back to the Roots offers one of these for only $60.

Water Farm. The Water Farm from General Hydroponics comes with a two-gallon planter that is filled with clay pebbles, a four-gallon reservoir and an air pump. The pump transports water and the nutrient solution in this drip hydroponics system. It can also be customized to fit your needs. The WaterFarm Module, for example, allows you to create a multiple unit system with the right accessories. The kit is available for around $50.

Click & Grow. If you are looking for something even more space-smart and a tad techie, Click&Grow is perfect for you. Known as an “electronic smartpot”, this kit is designed with Smart Soil, which reportedly releases nutrients in sync with the life cycle of the plant, provides breathing room even when it is wet, and self-manages its pH balance. In addition, it has specialized sensors that monitor garden vitals like light and water to keep the plants in optimal health. This kit is priced at $80, including the starter plant cartridge.

What about DIY hydroponics systems?
If you want to create your own hydroponics system, there are a variety of ways that you can do so - and they can range from basic to complex. Similarly, going DIY does not automatically mean that you will save up on money and time. In fact, certain systems require daily (and frequent!) monitoring and management so that the plants are ensured to be in good condition.



Monday, September 18, 2017

Sending (Most of) My Kids to School... Again

Happy Rose after her second day of school
I talk about homeschooling a lot. In person but especially here on my blog. I've written about why I homeschool, how I homeschool, what unschooling is, how it works, corrected misconceptions about unschooling and homeschooling. In short, other than frugality and gluten free, homeschooling is one of those things I'm most well known for...
So imagine people's surprise when they heard that starting September 1 of this school year, I only have one kid being homeschooled - my other three are in school. I've gotten a lot of shocked reactions and questions from friends in person and on Facebook about my decision to send kids to school, and while others are telling me I don't owe anyone explanations, as someone who is pretty vocal about the unconventional schooling choices I've made I can understand people wanting to know what made me change my mind so I don't mind sharing.

6 Ways to Save on Household Expenses

This blog post was written by a reader.

Having your own home and paying for the utilities can be super expensive. Paying bills every month can be a daunting task, plus sometimes it just gets too difficult on the budget. However though, there are things that you can do at home to lessen your expenses. We are giving you six tips, so read on if you want to find out what we have got up our sleeves.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Recent Frugal Accomplishments

First off, I wanted to send out warm thoughts to everyone who lost loved ones on 9/11, as well as everyone who has been affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Additionally, I wanted to apologize for not having posted here recently- lots of things going on in my life that have made it feel very insane and hectic and different- more on that in another post... but unfortunately blogging had to go on the back burner... And instead of just being one week's worth of frugality, this is 2 weeks' worth of frugal accomplishments (as I'd meant to post it yesterday)...

So here's what frugal things our family has done recently:

Frugal Food:
Free Food, Foraging and Gardening:
I foraged a bunch of passion fruit.
Just one of my many harvests- swiss chard, sea beet, beet leaves, amaranth, squash blossoms, purslane, and cherry tomatoes

Monday, August 28, 2017

Our New Practically Free Dishwasher!

Dish washing has been the bane of my existence pretty much since I moved out of my childhood home. There we always, always, always washed dishes with a dishwasher- the only dishes that needed to be hand washed were some pots. Moving out and needing to wash the dishes added so much stress to my life and it has been so hard to always be on top of the dish washing. 
For years I've wanted a dish washer, but in our first two apartments there simply was no room. 

When we designed our kitchen layout in our new home, the one that we bought, we were told that one of the cabinets specifically was made removable and the exact size of the standard dishwasher, and it was right next to the sink so that it would be easy to get water there. Additionally, they made sure to install an electrical outlet in the cabinet under the sink to make it dishwasher friendly...

But spending money on a dishwasher? Much as I wanted one for years, it wasn't a priority monetarily... so we just didn't. And I'll admit... we ended up using a lot of disposable dishes, because sanity is important...

Yesterday, though, I got a call from someone that they were giving away a dishwasher and some other kitchen appliances, and if Mike would help them with a bit of the moving, we could have the dishwasher. It wasn't a new dishwasher, and it wasn't beautiful, but it was free, and arrived at our home yesterday.

What To Look For In A Meal Delivery Service For A Natural Living Family

Sanity is important to me. When I started this blog, it was just about frugality at the expense of everyone else... because sometimes you have no choice. Gradually, as our financial situation improved and our life circumstances changed, I've mellowed out and don't necessarily live an extremely frugal lifestyle. Sometimes I do extremely frugal things, but I'm all for finding the right balance that allows you to be sane, as long as you can afford it. 
For some extremely busy people, eating out and/or buying takeout is what they need to maintain a healthy state of mind, but that can get very pricey and/or usually it involves a compromise on healthy eating. Meal delivery services work as a compromise between the two, delivering the necessary ingredients to your door along with specific instructions so that you can make healthy, homemade meals without too much effort.

If you are a natural minded family and want to get a meal delivery service, here are some factors you might want to consider before choosing which company you want to go with.  This post was brought to you by Sun Basket, a meal delivery service specifically designed for the natural living and environmentally conscious folk, and fits all the criteria listed below.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Today's Frugal Produce Shopping Trip

After yesterday's post about my shopping trip, I have to say that despite my reassurance that we do have produce at home and we will manage in that department, I was feeling guilty about the lack of fruit and variety of produce, and I'm sure some people reading the post were thinking that it didn't seem like enough produce...

So today there was a local sale that often had good prices for produce, so I went to check them out.
I spent $14.80 and got all this, which, to be honest, is not as much produce as I'd get for the amount in the open air market, but I'm working with my limitations here and this is much less than I would have paid for the same produce at the cheap grocery store that I shopped at yesterday.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Latest Frugal Grocery Shoppping Trip

The past few weeks I've had a hard time doing grocery shopping frugally- I've been very busy with a lot of things, so have done lots of short cuts that save me time but cost me more money, and that continued onto our family's vacation this past week, where I didn't want to be spending so much time in the kitchen cooking. On top of that, the fact that my arm is in pain means that I can't go to the open air market and bring back my super cheap produce, because even with my super strong wagon I need two arms to be able to take it all home. In short, our grocery bills this month have already been higher than I'd like them to be for the month ($570 is what I prefer to be my upper limit), and there are still 9 days left this month... so I decided to do a challenge and do as minimal grocery shopping as possible to keep it under $715 for the month. My house is set up relatively well enough to do that, there are just certain groceries I still need, but the rest I can probably make do with what's at home and what I forage.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Our Frugal Summer Beach Trip (and What We Foraged) and an Update on My Arm

My daughter, Rose, enjoying herself at the beach
I'm sorry I didn't post recently, or update on what's going on in my life...

From this past Monday until yesterday, Sunday, my family and I went on a trip to a beach town, a (long) bus ride away from where we lived. It is an annual tradition by now, and we've figured out how to do it frugally.

We stay at an apartment belonging to a relative and within a few minute's walk from the beach, and try to hit up the beach as often as we can- frugal entertainment at its finest.

In addition to the beach, we try to take the kids to the splash pad, also a short walk away from where we stay, not to mention free and fun.

While I had to run an errand one day, my husband took the kids to Ikea, where they window shopped, and he bought them super cheap ice cream.

We looked at the city's municipality's website and heard about a free clown festival happening one of the evenings we were there, so we took our kids and got to enjoy so many different performances, all sorts of different clowns, some jugglers, some mimes, some tightrope walkers, and some comedians. The kids and I all enjoyed ourselves. Even better was the fact that a good friend was vacationing in the same place and we got our families together at the clown festival, in addition to my getting together with her another evening.

I also enjoyed a walk on the beach and the promenade with yet another friend in the area- along the walk we foraged some plants together, and identified some others.

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