The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Friday 28 February 2020

The Vicky Challenge 2020. Canning Butter by Vicky.

I cannot manage a Feather your Nest Friday post this week and only thanks to Vicky we have a Vicky Challenge post!

Andy has been really ill.  He was air lifted in the air ambulance with a perforated bowel.  So this was an emergency situation.  We really didn't know what was wrong at first and it was sudden and a shock.   He left in the air ambulance Monday and today (now Friday night) we are just home.  And he is doing well!   I don't know how many hours I was on the road this week but it was a lot. Six today alone!  So this is why I cannot even manage my Friday post and why I am behind on replies and correspondence so please accept my apologies.

I hope it was a better week for you!  We can report on our weeks and our Vicky Challenge savings all in one place.  I am so glad to be home and catch up with everyone.

Two weeks ago Vicky posted on the possibilities of Pressure Canning.  This is something I had not really considered.   When she said butter is one thing you are able to can I realised diary products canned would be very useful.   So Vicky very kindly canned some butter in order to make up a tutorial.  I hope this will be useful information to lots of you.   Our discussion two weeks ago was an introduction and I shared photos of commercially canned butter which is very expensive.  So canned butter is available and I believe was also part of rations for soldiers in war time.   In hard times I am imagining some stored butter would be such a luxury!
Over to Vicky...

Let's talk canning! 

This time we are canning butter. You will need to decide for yourself if this is something you will like to do because it isn't conventional, but there are many that do. My great grandmother and aunt and grandmother canned butter. It has not been tested mainly because of the availability of fresh butter. Some preppers, homesteaders and off - gridders can a year's supply of butter so let's look at a few things before you decide if this is for you or not. I have been doing research just to make sure of things and in my opinion the older generation may not have had the modern things we do, but they certainly were not stupid. 
The following is on the Red feather website:

There is no Expiration Date written in stone, because the shelf life depends largely on the storage conditions (temperature, humidity, altitude, sunlight/shade, etc.).  We do guarantee the shelf life for two years however, the actual shelf life of the butter will ultimately be determined by the storage conditions (temperature being the main factor) and the seal on the can remaining intact and therefore protecting the butter from the introduction of oxygen.  After this, one can expect some nutritional value loss, although it will be edible, provide fat and calories in an emergency, and still be perfectly safe to eat if the cans remain sealed. 
And here is one from Wisegeek:
Canned butter is real butter that is sealed in a can or Mason jar. Its history dates back to the late 1800s. The non-perishable nature of this product allows it to be stored and consumed in situations where regular butter could not be.
And another I read from a college that tests things said your not really canning butter, just storing it in mason jars. 
And the CDC has a few references about canning. 
Now for the science part. Butter has a pH of 6.1-6.8 which means it's acidic. Kind of surprising isn't it? 
Now to can:
I used 8 stick of salted butter which gave 5 half pints of canned. 

Wash your jars in hot water and make sure to dry them well, you don't want any water in the jars. 
Preheat oven to 250 degrees and place the jars on a baking sheet. Once the oven is up to temperature shut it off and put the jars in the oven. We are only keeping the jars warm and sterile. 

Wash lids and rings, drying well and lay on a clean towel to be ready for the jars of butter. And get the pressure canner water simmering so it's ready for the hot jars of butter.
Put your sticks of butter in a pan on low heat to melt. 

Once melted turn the heat up to medium and stirring often so it doesn't burn let the butter come to the start of a boil. When you see a few good bubbles pop shut the heat off and start filling your jars. Be sure to stir each time before filling the next jar because as we heat it the milk solids separate. You will see them in the bottom of the jar after it's filled and that's ok. After the jars are filled leaving a one inch headspace wipe the rims and put on the lids and rings. 

Put the jars in the pressure canner, put on the lid and let it vent for 10 minutes then put on the weight.

 We will be doing 10 pounds of pressure. As soon as the canner has built up the 10 pounds and your weight starts rocking shut it off and leave it. 

As soon as the pressure has released and you can safely remove the lid take the jars out and place wherever you want them to start cooling. 
This part is very important! You have to shake the jars every 15 minutes to keep the butter solids mixed in the liquids. So every 15 minutes shake, shake, shake. I used oven mitts until the jars were cool enough to handle without them. You can put them in the fridge when the jars are cool enough, but you really have to keep an eye on them and shake them every 5 minutes or so because the butter can harden pretty quick that way. So for me I just kept shaking them every 15 minutes and voila canned butter! 

Any questions you may have I will gladly answer and I will have additional information in the comment section as well.

Thank you Vicky!  The end result looks so good!   Last year there were butter shortages in many places plus massive price rises.  Imagine having your own canned butter in your pantry! 

Now I do not have much to report as my week is a blur!  BUT on Monday before all this happened I had been in the town and I did a big stock up.  I also looked for an ironing board as with my sewing of late suddenly I need to iron.  No I normally don't iron and didn't even have an iron or ironing board!  In town the cheapest ironing board was over $100.  So forget it.  For that I would want someone to do the ironing to be included.   But I got one from an op shop for $12 and it is a beauty!  Also it has a thick padded cover that is perfect.  So that was a saving right there of $88. 

How did you build up your home and save this week?  
If you have any questions for Vicky I know she will help you.

My dream for tomorrow is to sleep in then begin to catch up!  Have a lovely weekend! xxx

Saturday 22 February 2020

The Vicky Challenge, 2020. Saving on food when costs are skyrocketing.

Last year I wrote quite a bit about beating the rising cost of food.  Goodness, if I knew then what I know now!  We did have rising prices.  But since then we had continued drought then massive fires that went for several months.   Now last year looks rosy compared to the present time.  We had many shortages too and some things just unavailable due to being decimated by heat or fire.   Things have not become easier for households to budget for food.  I get a lot of comments on this subject in particular from families with young children.   They know their growing children will soon be eating much more and wondering how they will afford it.
Added to this we have Corona Virus and a mounting impact.  Last week we ordered pumps since we have rainwater tanks and almost all pumps in Australia come from China.  So we quickly ordered spares.  But there are many drugs and other things that could become a shortage problem.
Then the dairy industry has been in so much trouble and now overseas companies are buying some of the biggest dairy businesses.   World wide there have already been butter shortages and dramatic price rises there.   Next week Vicky will teach us how to can butter.  This was going to be today but she was half way through when her power went out!

At the bottom  I will link to some past posts that are helpful on this subject.  Laine taught me to approach grocery shopping and menu planning in an entirely different way.  The way she does things basically flipped how I shop!   Now I shop many different shops.   Not all in the same week but I check out a wide range of stores over a month.   I run a little book of lists so when I am in certain store I will check my list and remember what I need.

Now things vary from area to area but in general I have found ...

I can get toothpaste and laundry power cheaper in discount chemists than the supermarket.  Also often toothbrushes and other cleaning products.

The discount chemist sells prescriptions at around half of the cost of our old chemist.  In the first year this saved me over $600.  At the time I had it in my head that all prescriptions were priced the same.  WRONG!  If you have prescriptions ring around for the best prices.
Plastic and paper products are cheaper in the cheap store/$2 store.  I get most garbage bags, snap lock bags and so on in the cheap stores.  Also often shampoo, conditioner, cotton buds, soaps...
Whatever is on my list I look there first.

I do check the supermarket catalogues and write down any deals I want to get.  This week I will be in two towns on different days.  I will check each catalogue first and note anything on a huge deal.
This is worth doing however the very best specials are rarely in the catalogue!   The best specials will usually be clearance, markdowns and discontinued items.  You have to look for those.

Last week I had a really successful shop.  Before I left I had gone through the catalogues and there was not one single thing I considered a good deal.  It was GRIM!
I decided God is greater than a catalogue and went to town anyway.  I did what Laine does and I prayed over my trip.

The first store I went into had the best priced roasts I have seen in a couple of years so I grabbed several of those.
A lady was going along the shelves in the fruit and veggie department marking things down.  I got 2 bunches of asparagus,  a bag of avocados, a container or mushrooms and so many things that looked fine although I knew I would need to use them within a day or two.  Each were under $1 as opposed to the $11 a bunch asparagus I saw the other day!

The next supermarket had marked down bread, pizza bases and rolls, brie for $2 and so on.  Over all I had a great shop!   None of these things were in the catalogues.  You have to hunt.

Once I have shopped I consider what I have brought home, what I have in the garden, fridge, freezer and pantry and then I get planning.  What can I make from all this stuff?
Last week we ate a lot of asparagus, mushrooms and avocados!  I had some cream so one night I made a creamy mushroom sauce with a steak.  It was beautiful!   Those mushrooms were also a big mushroom, tomato (from the garden) bacon and eggs (from the chickens) brunch.

This week I have zucchinis.  Suddenly there are lots of zucchinis!  And eggs!  So I am planning zoodles and making zucchini slices for dinner and lunch.  I have noted that with the purchase of cream I can make a heap of meals.   The excess zucchini (after sharing some with the girls) will go into the freezer to be added to winter soups.  I love putting some food away for later!

Dad tells me the apples on the big old tree will be ready in a couple of weeks.  So I will start thinking of loads of things to make.  Apples are wonderful as they are so versatile.

The big apples in this photo are some of Dad's apples from last year.   This picture is the back of my car on one apple picking trip...

Now what free food we might have available to us will depend on a lot on our location.  I hear of my Queensland friends getting bags of mangoes and avocados!   But the thing is usually free food doesn't fall out of the sky.  The first thing I do anywhere is learn where the fruit trees are.   I let everyone know I will pick fruit and return with jam or a pie.  I can barter with  eggs too.  I don't mind knocking at a door if I see fruit going to waste and I don't mind stopping by the side of the road and picking from a road side tree.  

Markets can be fantastic and if I go I shop in the last half hour as vendors don't really want to take  left overs home and often reduce it greatly.
A lot of us can grow some things ourselves.  Vicky has her annual Victory Garden.  She grows just rows and rows of veggies.   During the world wars governments encouraged everyone to grow whatever they could.  Well],  we can still have a Victory Garden!   You can grow a surprising amount in a small space.  Also in a few pots!
If you have the space and could possibly have chickens this is one of the very best ways to improve your food security.  You don't just get eggs but also fertiliser for the garden.
Another idea from during the war and depression years is to form a club or group.  One person might have the space for chickens yet several people could help and set up a share programme.
I read that pig clubs were a thing during the depression.   A group would form and they would all save scraps and weeds etc to feed pigs kept at one persons farm.  The costs and work were shared and everyone then had a portion of meat at the end.

Similarly if you can grow or produce one thing you have something to barter with. My main barter item is eggs.  Sometimes parsley, spinach and Bay Leaves.  I want to increase my barter items.

There are whole sale and restaurant supplies, wholesale butchers, spice markets, co ops, food pantries and pick your own orchards.  We need to consider going outside of what we have always done.
One thing for sure... supermarkets are no longer the cheapest places to buy your food.   The convenience of shopping in one place comes at a price.  Just comparing the fruit and veggies to those at a little grocery shop out of the way might be a massive surprise.  This sometimes saved 3/4 the cost of a supermarket when I lived in Adelaide.

Not wasting food is a big saver.  It is not just what we pay for food but how far we make it go!
I think it has been gradual but I really re assessed what I cook.  I am just not going to buy one random ingredient to make a recipe if I think that I will use one spoon out of a jar (or whatever) and the rest will probably be wasted.  Nor will I buy some outrageously expensive ingredient.  I will probably just skip the recipe altogether.    When I make Pesto I completely ignore the recipe that says"pine nuts"
as they are so expensive here.   Almonds will do for a fraction of the cost.
We have to remember that many recipes are aimed at getting us to buy certain things.   Free recipes come out in magazines the supermarkets  give way.  Many of these are great but also they try and get us to buy things and are a form of advertising.
I have also lowered my expectations.  It is ok to have a toasted sandwich or omelette for dinner.   It is good to have something simple.  If I can make enough for lunch the next day then I do.    If I can make enough for a couple of dinners then I do!

Pizza, fried rice, soups, frittatas and impossible pies are my favourite meals that will use up all kinds of left overs. They are all yummy and use up that little bit of bacon and left over roast veggies and goodness knows what!

Use what you have.  If you have an ingredient and don't know what to do with it google for ideas.

Do not feel defeated or worried about grocery prices.   We just have to change out tactics and maybe our habits.  Maybe even by shopping for simple basic ingredients we will also be healthier.  Basic ingredients give you so many options.

Here are some past posts on this subject...

Laine's Menu Planning.   Sorry about the test size changing in this article!  But Laine sheds light on how she shops and menu plans and it is really good!

How to beat rising prices like Nana did.   This is from last year and a general post on simple ways to save.

How to make meat go further.   Nan knew how to make meat go a long way.... just as we need to know now.

The Money Saving Baking Day.

Never waste one slice of bread.   If you have a challenge of filling hungry tummies and making lunches etc this post is for you.

Take a jar o f jam.   There are a lot of saving tips here  and a few tricks!

Economical and yummy cake.  This is good if you have left over stone fruit of any kind.

Miracle Muffins.   These are savoury or sweet and will use up anything from bacon, corn, cheese, herbs... to fruit, cereal, dried fruit, jam, yoghurt... you name it.  These can be good for breakfast and filling lunch boxes.

Consider that many with young families are reading.  What are your tips for filling hungry kids after school, filling lunch boxes and teenagers when they go through that inhaling fridges full of food stage?
Right there I have one word. Pikelets.  Boy did we eat some pikelets when we were young.  And fried rice and toasted sandwiches!  All cheap yet I thought they were all heavenly!

Enjoy your weekend.  Use up what you have and be

Thursday 20 February 2020

Feather your Nest Friday, 21 February, 2020.

It has been a huge week!  I sound happy as I am home... but we had two nights away in Adelaide.  It was good in that we did so much in a short space of time.  I figured if I have to go then I will take the opportunity to do some stocking up and get appointments and so on out of the way for a good while.
Mainly I didn't want to leave and when I was there mainly I just wanted to come home!
I guess it is a good sign that I love it here so much I just want to hurry and get back!

Chloe came over to check on everything, feed everyone and water.   She said Eddie came running up to her but then when he got really close he stopped dead and looked at her in a "you're not my Mum" glare.  Then the calves came running and they did the same... they got close then stopped and wouldn't come any closer!   Maybe from a distance we look alike?  Well, they were not having any of it!  Another blonde in a cardigan is not enough to fool them!

When I got home I called Laffie and she ran over the hill so fast and galloped down to the fence.  I wish I had my phone to film that!  But last night I filmed a less excited version.  She is very good at coming when she is called.  I am going to post the video on Bluebirds Facebook page and The Tuesday Afternoon Club.  Not that it has anything to do with craft!

Some of the ways I got ahead this week were:

I did a big stock up shop at Aldi.  It has taken a while to break up the meat packs and divide them into meal portions and get them all in the freezer.  But this gets so many meals ready.  Some things at Aldi are so much cheaper than in the county towns.  I do plenty to support my local towns but sometimes you need to stock up and save!

I also added three roasts to the freezer that were a fantastic price.

I had so much op shop success.  On the day we arrived we went to two different op shops.  While Andy found books I found the cotton waffle weave fabric I have been wanting to make kitchen towels and cleaning cloths.  Also a box of bottles.  The next two days we went to another few op shops including a favourite one on the way home.  I got so much for the cottage!!  I have two beds,  two as new mattresses, kitchen crockery, implements, glassware, mugs and cups... pretty much everything.   I buy all white crockery so then everything matches.  But I made an exception for these cups and saucers as they go with the cottage nature theme so well...

I have a set of six and each one has different birds.  Imagine them on the cottage dark wooden table. 

 So one bedroom and the kitchen is stocked (except for a fridge) for about $200.   The beds are old wooden and lovely dark wood which kind of matches the dining set.  They were $20 each!  Also a fourth mattress protector so now the four cottage beds all have one.
What else did I get?  A dress I love in a favourite brand ($5) A brand new white bath sheet,  a set of pure cotton as new king size bed sheets, Elsa games and puzzles for the girls,  a 3 m length of pale blue cotton fabric.   As op shopping goes this was just about a personal best! Two rooms of the cottage are basically supplied now.

On my days at home I continued to sew a bit each day.  I made produce bags and keep lettuce, ham etc fresh in the fridge bags.  Some are for myself and some are for gifts.   I can't stop making these it seems!

The little chickens and lambs are so cheerful to me.

I made another set with calico and lovely little animal panels and braid I had in the cupboard..

I came home from the city having cleaned out Mum's pantry of stale cereals and so forth.  I brought it all home for the animals.   The chicken and ducks had the cereals.  Scout got half a hamburger I could not eat!  The calves, goat and lambs got serval packets of biscuits!  You know how they love biscuits!

In the garden I added a Bay Leaf tree, Rosemary and Broccoli. 

Preparedness wise we added a small fire proof safe.  After evacuating in the fires I realised if documents were kept in a safe this would be one less thing to worry about and wise anyway for the really important stuff.

Yesterday was spent unpacking, loads of washing the linens and fabrics I found.  In between I kept going to say hello to the animals.  Everyone has had their noses rubbed a hundred times!

So it was a wonderful week.  I really did get ahead in many ways and I feel the cottage project is going well.  We also have mild weather.  This has helped the garden and animals too.  Dad tells me that the apples on the big old tree should be ready in a couple of weeks.  I have many plans for them!

How did you build up your home this week!?
Tomorrow we have The Vicky Challenge so I will also see you then! xxx

I worked out how to add a video!   

Friday 14 February 2020

The Vicky Challenge. 2020. Pressure Canning. Seriously read this! It is not what you think!

This week our savings subject is Pressure Canning.   This one is a steep learning curve for me!
I took long enough to start Water Bath canning!  I have mentioned before that I found canning to be like soap making... I was intimidated because of things I had heard.  When I confronted my fears and tried soap making I was like pppfff! it was so stupid to have worried as it was so easy and fun.  The only serious danger is that you will develop an addiction to soap making.  (oops too late...)
Water bath canning was the same.  All my worries turned out to be basically ridiculous and it was fun to do and interestingly also addictive!
But Pressure Canning still remains in the "this is scary" category for me!
Actually it has been in the "this is scary and we might die" category! haha!

Talking to Vicky who has so much experience here has changed my mind.  You can win my interest if something will save me money, stock my pantry, keep necessities on hand in times of scarcity....  and Vicky gave me many examples.  Then one thing she said got me...

World wide the have been shortages and dramatic price increases in butter.  Vicky asked if I knew if you are able to can butter?  

I was already interested in this. Since freezing isn't always a long term safe option I had found canned butter online.   I even emailed a New Zealand company to try and find out where I could buy it but they never even replied.  I found several companies that make it but no where to buy it... and it was expensive.  But I think like soap, sugar, fabric.... in a downturn or crisis some canned butter would be worth more than gold!   You can also buy powdered butter but I think canned whole butter would be much nicer.

So over to Vicky ....

Let's Talk Canning! 
Last time we talked about water bath canning and the foods we are able to put up with that method. This time let's look at pressure canning. This method uses steam and weight and the pressure canners themselves vary some have a weight that rocks, some have gages and some are self regulating which I find the easiest. Water boils at around 212 degrees and steam is around temps of 240 and 250 degrees. The steam rises and the weight forces it back down to basically vacuum seal the jars. Pressure canning uses less water, but usually requires more processing time. The foods we pressure can are low acid which is why hotter temperatures are required to ensure that if any bacteria is present it cannot survive and enables a long shelf life. 
Things that we are able to add to the pantry by pressure canning are numerous and after the initial investment saves us a lot and helps reduce waste, saves freezer space, builds the pantry and is great for emergencies or power outages because you can just open and heat it quick or eat it right out of the jar. 

What do we pressure can? Carrots, potatoes, green beans, dry beans, meat and wild game,  soups, stews, veggie combinations for soups or stews, peas, corn and cubes of squashes or pumpkins and more. 
We can have a good variety in the pantry if we choose and know exactly what's in it and where it comes from. 

It can be a little scary the first time or two you pressure can, but it's really not that hard. 
I know many are afraid they will explode. That doesn't happen as often as you think. My husbands grandma did have one explode, but she admitted she had left it unattended. Pressure canning does require attention. 
And there a few things to remember like if you are canning ingredients like soup for example and if you have ingredients that could be water bathed, but ingredients that have to be pressure canned  as well you always pressure can. And we can get away with reusing jars from jars of mayo or whatever from the store, but do not put them in a pressure canner. There is a higher possibility they will explode under the pressure. 
And once you are confident in your canning and get past any fears that you will poison your family there are things you can as well. Like butter! Did I say butter? Oh yes I did! You can also can cheese and cream cheese.

 Just think if there are shortages, rising costs or you plan to go off the grid there is a way to have butter on hand or ghee if you prefer. 
Stay tuned! The next canning post will be on canning some butter. 

Thank you Vicky! You opened my eyes to a new possibility!  So I can't wait until next week.
As a result I am now reading up further and have decided I want to start with pressure canning.

I am reading this lovely blog The Iowa Housewife.  Look how good these carrots look! So I am planning carrots. And butter of course.  I very often see cream on good deals.  If I find these I am going to make my own butter then can it.  Ok wish me luck.... and help from Vicky who is actually canning butter this week especially to photograph the process to teach us step by step!  

Now for my challenge this week:

The cotton fabrics I got from the op shop saved me at least $50.
The mattress protectors each saved me around $20 and the ones that tuned out to be a pure wool filled quilt and a pure wool fleece underlay were both worth around $200 each even if I am conservative!  You bet I am counting these as savings as they will be put to use and upgrade woollen bedding supplies.  
I will say I saved $20 on pizzas I made and $10 on jars of pesto. 
I did all the usual stuff like cook at home and make lunches and so on.  Also I did my hair colour and trim.  
It is so satisfying to see savings adding up.  Much of my savings are being channelled into my cottage project which I consider an investment.   Other savings go towards adding to the pantry and preparedness.  Due to the current virus situation Andy and I ordered two new spare pumps for our water tanks.  This is because Australia gets almost all pumps from China and a shortage would be very bad for us.  So now we will be ahead with spares.  It pays to be very watchful!

How did you save this week?
If you have any tips or success stories on pressure canning please share.
Also if you have questions I am sure Vicky and others will be happy to help you! 
I am hoping this is an area that I can begin to use to stock up my pantry and also save freezer space. xxx

Feather your Nest Friday, 14th February, 2020.

As usual I am having internet troubles but I will see how I go!  It could mean rain is coming so that is ok!

This week we had a lovely visitor.  This Wallaby hung around the yard for a day and a night then moved on.

He was somewhat friendly. You can see him looking straight at me but he never hopped away.  Mum has had one in her garden too.  She gave him carrots!

Some of the ways I have built up my nest this week included:

I picked lots of fresh basil from the garden.  I also had fresh homegrown local garlic from a market.

Pesto is so easy to make and it is one of those things that are just all about glorious ingredients.  I am hoping to make another batch tomorrow.  We have warm but not hot weather and a little bit of humidity and things are growing like rockets!
I gave a jar of the Pesto to Lucy.  Scarlett is a big fan.
Lucy sent me a photo of the first meal she made with it.  I have to say her meal is a lot more photogenic than mine, so here is hers!

I also think I can tell you now that Lucy and Kato are expecting a baby mid year!   This is wonderful and we are all so excited.  As you can imagine! 

I made the girls cup cakes and Mum and I took our day trip to visit.  These are beautiful days.

This week I had luck at the op shop!  The thing I needed most was fabric. The ladies in this op shop know me now. I am defiantly a regular.  Because I have looked for bedding for lambs and puppies and all kinds of things they always ask me how everyone is going.  One time a lady helped me by taking me out the back and letting me loose to got through bags and bags of pet bedding.  That was when I found that some of the "pet bedding" was pure wool brand name quilts and underlays that were new!  Some of these were my best buys ever as I paid $5 each and when I got home I googled the brand and price and one of them alone was $880!  Needless to say ever since I have checked the pet bedding!    
Another day a lady helping me find pet bedding was asking so many questions about the lambs.  That day I had twin lambs in a basket in the car so I said come out and see them!  She came out and was so excited and amazed she went back inside and ALL the ladies came out to hold the lambs.  I feel this increased my popularity lol!  
Anyway... this week they asked me what was I after today? So I explained I am sewing everyday and  a bit held up because I have some lovely prints but not plain cottons for backing.  They then took me out the back room and said to feel free to go through boxes of fabrics!  I sat on the ground and went through the boxes.  I found lovely ginghams and plain cottons, just what I needed.  I needed up with about $12 full meters of pure cottons for under $10.   While at it I looked in linens... I found three mattress protectors and grabbed those.  These are to go on the beds in my cottage project.  Each week I have collected for this project.   I also grabbed (for $5) a larger mattress protector. 
Once home this turned out to be inside out... it was in a plastic cover and I had not spread it out... it turned out to be a pure wool thick double bed underlay.  The thick wool type that are usually several hundred dollars.  I don't think it had ever been taken out of the packaging!   Another also turned out to be mislabelled and is a pure wool quilt!   I estimate that one was worth a couple of hundred dollars also!   Sometimes I can't believe it! 
Oh, I also got Dad some bone handled knives and a set of pale blue flannelette sheets.   I was in the op shop so long but it was worth it!  
I got home to the farm at 5 pm and had to run around like mad to get the garden watered and everything done before I ran out of day!  

We started a lot of work on the cottage.  Oh my goodness I can't tell you the mess.  It had putrid rotting carpet, rusted out sinks, dead bees and bugs...  actually scary to be in there.  
For anyone new the cottage is a deserted little house not too far down the driveway from our farm house.  It once was what we would call a single mans cottage.  Or Jackaroo's quarters.  It is not glamorous or stone or anything ... it is just a little hut.  It has two small bedrooms.  It is not fancy at all and needs a lot of work. The inside is so bad there is no way I am showing anyone until I have improved it! 
But I decided it is my 2020 project.  The first year here we were flat out cleaning up around the house, planting gardens, improving fire safety,  getting chickens and making the house nice.  We had so much to do.  I thought the cottage, if neglected for a few more years, could reach the beyond saving stage.  To me that is a waste.   A cottage could be useful... it could generate an alternative income.  So I decided to do it up and make it into a farm/nature/country themed get away.   
It has some things going for it.  There is a lovely little front veranda and it looks out over a gorgeous view,  it is surrounded by beautiful trees and in a very peaceful spot.  I can work with this!

Dad asked me what I was doing with that cottage?  So I told him my plan. He said it was a very good idea and "you are always doing something!" haha!
Several of you have asked me to show it... hope you are not disappointed!  But when I am done you will think it is better!

In the garden (aside from picking the basil) I planted thyme,  capsicums, broccolini and harvested cherry tomatoes. 

My little bit of sewing everyday is getting me miles.  Amongst the things I made were Lettuce and fresh produce bags inspired by Bridget.

I always use cotton bags for hams, lettuces, greens... but I have been using old pillowcases... so now I have upgraded a bit.  Also I made some for gifts and am happy this is a gift that when folded up fits  in a card!  Bonus!  I am always on the look out for gifts I can make that I can post as a very small package or in a card. 

Then I went on to using up left over fabric and made produce bags. These ones are as light as air and to collect your produce from the supermarket.  This saves on so much plastic.  They also fold up so small to take with you... and that means they fit inside a regular card to post too!  

I was able to make seven.

Then I finished another cotton shopping bag. I am completing about one a week.  

Each day I have continued to fight on in the pantry!  I have cleaned, washed jars, filled and labelled, moved things around until it looks tidier, more organised and I have created space.  I have some empty self space I can fill and very happy! 

Now for an animal story.  Each day I go to collect the eggs.  As with everything I do Scout has to come too.  While I feed the chickens, collect eggs, fill water containers and so on Scout sits and watches.  Every single day the four ducks go over to talk to her. 

Scout doesn't bark at them. The chickens take no notice at all.  Just the ducks come over to Scout every single day!   The only animal Scout loves more than the ducks is Eddie.  She adores Eddie (the goat!) I will show some photos of the best friends when I can get them to sit still enough for a photo! I tell the girls these little stories. They love them. To me they are better than a book,  they are so sweet! 

Well, that is my week and it took me so long to post this as photos just didn't want to load. 
Tomorrow we have The Vicky Challenge and Vicky is writing another money saving post. Now this has inspired me and is something I have never done so I am learning too!

How did you save, get ahead and build up your pantry this week?  
I hope it was a good week for

Saturday 8 February 2020

The Vicky Challenge. Saving on gifts.

Welcome to the Vicky Challenge this week! Our subject is saving on gifts.  Gift giving can be a costly area.  Apart from the usual Birthdays and Christmas some years there will also be babies born and weddings and all kinds of unexpected occasions.   If you have children they might be invited to a number of parties and this can really add to the cost of presents.  Many families also give gifts to school teachers and others who help in some way during the year... it can be a lot of gifts!!

Do you notice expectations have become pretty high?  I am hearing of parents giving teachers extravagant gifts, hugely expensive gifts for childrens parties... and even those throwing the party giving expensive gifts to everyone who attends!!  Then over the top wedding gifts!   Some include the expectation of getting a passport, time off work and a trip half way around the world thrown in!
What about the "can you chip in to buy so and so a new Mercedes" type gifts?  Ok, I exaggerate but employees chipping in to buy the boss a large gift...  what on earth!?  I am all for thanking people are showing appreciation but I don't think a large gift is necessary.  I am more the type to bake a cake or give them a carton of eggs hahah!

When I read Laine's Letters she spoke about this. It has always stayed with me... she said it is more important to stay in our budget than to buy a gift.  She wrote how she had a couple of dollars that she could use for a present and what she did with it to come up with something lovely.   This is still true.
A teacher is going to appreciate a letter of thanks for all they did for your child than another mug anyway.  What about having the kids make a gift and a card and give it themselves?  This will also mean more to most teachers I think.

As far as the world goes we are already a bunch of weirdos for loving our homes and homemaking!  So we might as well include the way we give gifts!  I have had surprising success with giving some farm honey,  a bunch of fresh Bay leaves, some parleys from my garden and some eggs.

Here are some of my tips to keep the cost of gifts very reasonable:

Establish a present cupboard, shelf, box... somewhere to keep what you make on find.  It can help to keep a list of what you have stashed away and who it is for etc.
Always watch out for gift wrap on sales.  I have found lovely gift wrap in Aldi and also their cards are nice!  In the after Christmas sales buy next seasons wrap. If possible buy plain colours like red, green, silver... as these can be used for any occasion not just Christmas.
Make your own cards and tags.
But a huge roll of brown paper and string. This looks so stylish, is so cheap and can also be decorated so many different ways.  And it covers all occasions.
Keep tape on hand.
Torn up pretty fabrics and tulle or lace look lovely.  I never buy bows etc.  I have used flowers, herbs from the garden, gum leaves and gum nuts...

Watch the sales for sweet gifts. After the occasion sales are great. i.e. one year after Valentines Day I found heart shaped cake tins for 50c.  they had been $12 as they were pretty pink.  I made many gifts with those by pairing them up with sprinkles, a kitchen towel and other items.

Consider buying bulk packs of items and dividing them up for gifts.  Once I bought towel sets on a huge bargain. Each bundle had 2 towels, 2 hand towels and 2 face washers.   I split it all up, added crochet edges and homemade soaps and got 8 gifts this way.  So many things come in sets and are a good deal.

Start making things using what skills you have and supplies you have.  Sometimes right under our noses we have possibilities!  The last two weeks I made sachets from pretty scraps I have.    If you would like to join a make your own gifts challenge come join  The Tuesday Afternoon Club.
Very often my gifts are partly something I made with a small purchased item added.   An example is I might give a packet of homemade greeting cards and tie it up with a pretty pen.  Or I might give homemade jams and herbs from the garden and add a basket as part of the present or some wooden spoons or some other kitchen item.

I am going to share some inspiration from Kelley.  She is one of the thriftiest and most generous people I know.   Kelley is very frugal with her sewing and makes her Grand daughters the most beautiful little dresses... usually from a pretty sheet or other fabric she salvaged from something else. Kelley's work has been featured many times especially in The Christmas Challenge.

This is from a recent email Kelley sent me, which her permission:

I’ve been making cardboard horses from Ann Wood’s free pattern. 

These were all made from tissue box cardboard, buttons and crochet thread. The next ones I’ll make with wire on their leg joints so they can move. What a cheap toy for a young child!

Mama and baby.

I finished both yo-yo quilt throws for our guest bedrooms.

The vintage sheet baby quilt audition (below) is now sewn together and is in the quilting stage.  Even the quilt back is a beautiful, heavy, cotton Martha Stewart bed sheet, white with yellow pinstripes on it. Mama is putting yellow in Baby’s nursery, too.

I’ll send you a picture when it’s done. ☺️

My older daughter gave me some chambray, enough to make two of these little dresses just the one shown.  All cut out, and one is 90% done.

This is a Sleepyhead Doll I made using a free pattern. I give these for first birthdays and my grandbeauties love them.

I gave her a miramar (Micronesian band of flowers for her head) instead of a hairbow.

Young Eloise, 2, got a kitchen set for Christmas, so Granny made her some felt cookies to “bake up.”

Chocolate Chip
Sugar with Nonpareils
Caramel Stars with Pink Frosting
Blueberry Linzer 
Peanut Butter 

And some over easy eggs!

Thank you Kelley for allowing me to share!!  
All these gifts are just beautiful and melt my heart but they would all be inexpensive to make.    I hope you feel inspired and encouraged to keep the cost of gifts under control and not feel pressured to overspend.

My Vicky Challenge was very good.  I am recording my savings in my savings book.  Already me new week is started so well!  But I will have to report on that next week!  Some weeks are just bigger than others.  But it all adds up!  And each new way we learn to save is a help.    I have mentioned before how prices are rising incredibly here.  Tonights news was more bad news on this.  I laid my hands on a marked down loaf of bread yesterday....marked down was $4.54.  That was from the original $7.58.  Now this was not fancy bread it was basic!  I left it behind!  The Australian economy is taking hit after hit at the moment and it shows on the grocery shelves.

How do you save in the area of gift giving?  Is this a part of the budget you could revise?  If you have any wonderful ideas for frugal gifts please share them!  Also if you would like ideas please ask!
Being early in the year we have time to put into making gifts and watching out for opportunities.  My present cupboard is already building back up.   I am always on the look out and trying to find things I can make using what I have.  Now this is also fun and a challenge! xxx