Real Life Math

Today, Ari’s math didn’t come from a book or a worksheet. Instead she budgeted for a shopping trip and made the purchases for our family! It was a busy afternoon; we planned to go to the library (free!) and then we needed to visit the farmer’s market, BJ’s, Michaels, the grocery store and a local farm store. Before we left we made a list of the items we needed and I estimated what I thought each cost. Then, we built some money into the budget because I inevitably forget a lot on the lists!

It started off well as she noticed a sign for $.05 off gas on Thursdays just as my tank was about to hit “empty”. She calculated it out and we saved $.42 due to her “eagle eyes”.

After our weekly visit to the library, we decided to go to Michael’s first.  This is the place we can spend the most money AND it was the furthest, so I decided to test Ari’s budget skills! She passed with flying colors, though I did insist we buy something on “one-day-only” sale.

BJ’s went just as well (darn, we forgot bananas from the list too), and we carried on to the farmer’s market. Our budgeting was a bit trickier here because some of the needed items were not what I regularly buy and I had to estimate. Ari kept us on track and as we figured out what we could spend to have enough for other items, she made sure we weren’t going overboard. I was not allowed to buy a second dozen eggs “just in case” or any shitake mushrooms that were a surprise (she hates mushrooms) and she reasoned with me that we needed to buy some milk and chicken, which I had forgotten on the list… sigh.

We worked in a bit of math with Abby too, as she was given $1 to spend and we informed her honey sticks (her favorite) were 4/$1 at the farmer’s market or 5/$1 at the farm store. She resisted the immediate temptation and saved her money for later.

Ari reasoned we needed to go to the grocery store next so we knew just how much we had left for the farm store, where we obtain our milk and meat. We ended up with enough left to buy our milk, chicken and some fruit with a tiny bit extra! As a thank you for a great job Ari and Abby were each given $2 to spend (black cherry soda and chocolate milk respectively) and adorably, they switched drinks halfway through the ride home.

Ari was really proud of herself for not only sticking to a budget but also not losing the money(!). I can’t imagine why I didn’t do this before and I’m pretty sure this will become our weekly ritual.

But I just remembered I forgot to get something we need at BJ’s 🙁

MENF Wrap-up: Overview

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA. This is my second year attending and I am hooked! If you haven’t heard of it, the fair is sponsored by Mother Earth News Magazine, my FAVORITE magazine hand’s down.  Please head over to visit because they have a huge number of online articles as resources. It is the first place I look for information! I discovered the magazine a few years ago when I picked up a few back issues from Freecycle.

Mother Earth News Fair logo

The fair has a wealth of information; hour-long sessions with experts and authors in that field and exhibitors for just about anything you would need to live sustainably. Here is the “about” for the fair from the website:

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS are fun-filled, family-oriented sustainable lifestyle events. FAIRS feature practical, hands-on demos and workshops:

  • Renewable energy
  • Small-scale agriculture
  • Livestock
  • Gardening
  • Green building
  • Green transportation
  • Natural health and more

We hand-select local and national exhibitors to bring you the best in:

  • Organic food and drink
  • Books and magazines
  • Tools and seeds
  • Green contractors
  • Handmade soaps
  • Animal fiber
  • Clothing and more

This year the fair was organized in 1.5 block increments; each block included one-hour session and a half-hour to travel and find a seat in the next session. This seems like it was a response to the problems last year where each session was 50 minutes and you only had ten minutes to travel. Both years the fair had more visitors than expected. I believe they were totally caught off-guard last year with the crowds. This year the fair was a bit more relaxed; neither the guests nor the speakers seemed to be as rushed. There was more time to visit the exhibitors. The only down side was that this year when I skipped a session for lunch with my family I felt like I really missed a lot and even though I only skipped two sessions on Saturday and one on Sunday I managed to visit all of the exhibitors at least once and many several times. This is good for the exhibitors but not so good for me! There were not too many things I could or needed to purchase and I felt like I had a lot of downtime.

Why do I love the fair? It is one of the few places I feel like I belong! I walked around eating my red pepper whole, like an apple, and I actually didn’t get too many “looks”. I don’t usually do this in public because it seems so odd to people that they stare and while I am pretty comfortable with myself, I eat them that way because they taste good not because I want attention! I can also go to most workshops and LEARN. At the basic workshops available around me I feel like I am advanced in a sea of beginners (not that I am all-knowing, but most workshops are for beginners and once you have read a lot and tried a lot you just need more than an overview and introduction). Finally, it reminds me of my goal of living sustainability. It is only too easy to get off-track and caught up in life at home and school once September begins. The MENF starts that sustainable fire burning again!

Here was my schedule for the weekend:

Saturday:

Beechnut Turkey and Oaknut Hogs(Cancelled) When Technology Fails: Self-reliance and surviving the long emergency

A Homesteader’s Hindsight: 20 great ideas and 20 not-so-great ideas

Lunch

Folks, This Ain’t Normal

Break

The Need Fire: How kindling community ignites a farm

Sunday:

The Traditional Home Dairy

Retooling for Tomorrow: Tools and technologies for the modern homestead

Lunch

Beginning Deer Hunting for Food

Food as Medicine: Healing chronic diseases

 

I will write up a summary of what I learned at each for those of you who didn’t get to go to the Fair. Perhaps I will see you there next year!

 

 

The Right Way to Spend

We all know we should “buy American”, “shop local” and “support environmentally–friendly businesses”, but knowing what to do doesn’t make doing it easy. Easy is going to the local Big Box store and buying what you need at that moment without thinking too much about it. But then if you’re like me, you feel guilty knowing there must have been a better product that supported local American jobs and did not use gallons of oil to transport.

Globe in a shopping cart

Finding the elusive local eco-business that makes the product you need is hard. Often these companies don’t have the budget to advertise all over and they rely on word-of-mouth to let people know their product and service is out there. So how do you find out about them? Continue reading “The Right Way to Spend”

George the Snake

As I was working in my vegetable garden the other day, I found a new “friend.”

George the Snake (2)

His name is George, and he is a juvenile black rat snake.

George the Snake (4)

He was hiding under our gutter downspout, and after a quick meet and greet with the girls, he was returned to back to where we found him.

George the Snake (1)

Black rat snakes are native to Maryland. They are harmless snakes and actually help to control the rodent population. If you find a snake skin around the yard or in your house, the chances are it is from a black rat snake. While George may not look like a typical solid black black rat snake, it is because he is still young. As he gets older his color will darken and the pattern will become less distinct.