Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Resourceful Gift Giving

It's that time of year when we are looking for the perfect holiday gifts for our family and friends.  Listed below are a few guidelines I try to follow to make gift-giving meaningful and resourceful.

Give gifts of experience rather than stuff:

  • Tickets to an event such as a concert, sporting event, etc.
  • Gift Certificates for a massage, pedicure, or spa
  • Gift certificate to a local restaurant
  • Admission to the ice rink, zoo, aquarium, art museum, play or a movie.
  • Paid lessons for music, yoga, dancing, cooking classes, etc.

Thoughtful gift purchasing:
  • Durability: look at what the product is made of (plastic vs. metal vs. wood)
  • Origin: Is the item made in the USA?
  • Practicality: How many candles and snow globes does a person really need?  Give something they could use.
  • Wear: Not everything has to be purchased brand-new

Handmade Gifts (Made by you or someone else):
  • Art
  • Pottery
  • Sewing
  • Baked, canned or pickled gifts
  • Homemade Soap

Wrapping Gifts:
  • Reuse gift bags, ribbons, and bows from previous years
  • Reuse holiday boxes that are already printed with decorations and don't need wrapping paper. 
  • Put your gift in a reusable cloth bag to encourage others to use cloth bags when they go shopping.

Canning Shelves and 2012 Harvest

Considering this was our first summer at our new home and we didn't realize how different gardening here was in regards to climate and pests, we still preserved a lot after fresh eating and giving away to friends.  As always, we grew everything from seed; and this year the only produce we purchased was peaches which cost $50.00.  In the picture you see a snapshot of what I canned this year, but listed below is the more thorough list.  Obviously we need somewhere to put all of these jars so Jon built a really sturdy shelf to hold everything.  

Applesauce: 21 quarts
Apple Cider: 19 quarts
Beans: 39 quarts
Beets: 6 pints
Carrots: 30 quarts
Okra (pickled): 3 quarts, 10 pints
Okra (with Tomatoes): 6 quarts, 4 pints
Okra (for frying): 3 quarts
Peaches: 19 quarts
Peach Pie Filling: 5 pints
Pickles (Dill): 11 quarts, 41 pints
Pickles (Bread & Butter): 13 pints
Squash & Orange Jam: 7 half-pints
Pumpkin & Orange Spiced Jam: 2 pints, 7 half-pints
Tomatoes: 9 quarts (a lot went into the freezer)

Butternuts: 19
Pie Pumpkins: 22
Acorn Squash: 22
We originally wanted to use large logs from our woods for the 4 corner posts of the shelf, but we discovered termites in one log after we chiseled out the holes.  We didn't want to risk the other 3 logs being infested with termites so we looked for 4x4s at the lumberyard to only discover that only treated 4x4s were sold locally.  We certainly don't want treated lumber next to our food and in our basement so we went to plan C and put two, untreated 2x4s together for each post. 

 To cut out the holes, we used a jigsaw.

It was a good feeling when the holes lined up because there were a lot of holes and consequently a lot of error involved.

Stepping back to look at progress...

The skeleton shelf is now complete!  Measurements (in inches): 96w x 81h x 26d

Two of the shelves were made with pallets that we salvaged from a free wood pile.  This wasn't necessary, but since we have the tools, we decided to put the boards through the planer to make them smooth and the same thickness. 

We designed this structure so it can be easily disassembled.  The boards for the shelves aren't attached but they are sturdy enough that they won't slip off the support boards.

We still have a wine rack to build for last year's mead, maple syrup to tap, and future honey to extract!  These shelves will be filled soon!

Update: Within 3 years I ran out of space!  Each shelf holds about 150 jars.

Pirate Birthday Party

Being a parent of one child, I understand how fast a child grows up and how I only get to experience the milestones one time.  For instance, Paul just celebrated his 4th birthday and to make it special and memorable we made it pirate-themed!  Paul has been building pirate ships with Legos for about 6 months now and is really into pirates, treasure, and cannons.

Jon and I try to keep things simple around here and birthday parties are no exception.  It's easy to fall prey to all of the disposable decorations and fancy store-bought cakes; but in our house, we find ways to make the day memorable and fun without all the waste and extra spending.

For the treasure hunt, I made a map out of a piece of scrap curtain lining fabric.  The fabric was dyed to give it a more worn look by soaking it in a bucket of hulled walnuts.  Black tea can also give a similar effect.  With crayons, I made a map with a dotted line leading the way to the treasure; landmarks such as the house, barn, and chickens were included.  To finish the map, I burnt the edges to give it a more authentic look with jagged and curled edges.

Our birthday gift to Paul was a treasure chest.  I found the building plans in a book that a friend lent me.  The chest was filled with chocolate gold coins, party favors, and a few gifts from friends.

This treasure chest is unique because to open it, you have to pull out the handles that lock the lid onto the bottom.  There are no hinges.  I purchased the handles from a flea market.

The treasure chest was hidden behind this log along with a pirate flag.  This log has been Paul's "pirate ship" all summer.  This is where his imagination goes wild and cannons and masts materialize out of branches and bark.  We have spent hours up in the woods playing at Paul's pirate ship and having picnics. 

Paul requested a pirate ship cake for his birthday.  It was a little difficult to make but the end result was priceless. Paul helped with the cannons (chocolate-covered pretzel rods) and building the plank (it's on the other side of the cake and it was also made with pretzels).  Paul kept turning the cookie sheet around and around to look at every detail.  The masts were chopsticks with construction paper masts. 

Treat bags included homemade pirate patches, chocolate coins, and Halloween stickers.

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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