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Friday, October 20, 2017

The Winter Garden is Proving to be Worth the Effort

I’ve been harvesting out of our winter garden as much as I can as the meals go along.  Yesterday morning I harvested a few carrots, a kohlrabi, and a rutabaga.  The roots I chopped up for breakfast, and the kohlrabi and rutabaga greens went into the fridge. I would have cooked them last night, but Steve was brewing yesterday after his work day was over. This usually means he doesn’t finish until 6:30 or 7:00 PM and because he’s taking up my burners, an oven dinner is usually the ticket.  Instead of cooking greens on the stove, I pulled a frozen pan of leftover eggplant parmigiana out of the freezer and served it with a salad.  The eggplants came from the garden, but the lettuce for the salad came from the store; my lettuces are not ready yet.  So this morning we had the greens. Not everything in the garden is ready yet, and some things are still quite small; I’m hoping that by harvesting and making more room for things, the garden will keep up with my needs. 

Autumn flowers
Usually by the end of the billing period of our most used credit card, I am champing at the bit to get to the grocery store to start the next month’s burden on the card. I’m out of fresh vegetables by that time, and there are other various things that come up.  We put nearly everything on our master card in order to take advantage of that two percent cash back deal, and it makes us money as long as we pay it off in full every month, which I do. But lately, it's been getting a lot harder to do that. Managing our finances has been truly difficult this year (almost as difficult as managing the garden), what with medical bills that keep rolling in after my many lab tests this summer. That, and infrastructure investments we made in the garden have certainly made things interesting, for lack of a better adjective. I am still bound and determined to bring us in at or under budget this year, but after looking at what we have left in the budget to spend and we what we have left to spend it on, I told Steve that we have to introduce and adhere to our own austerity measures. I have two months' worth of budget left and three calendar months over which to stretch it, plain and simple. And I’m not a coupon clipper; Steve and I don’t (I can’t, for one) eat that kind of food. I’m not exactly worried about starving- we still have most of half of a very large grass fed steer in the freezer after all- but I am trying to reign in our trips to the grocery store, because that’s where we tend to spend the most money. I really need to bring our monthly credit card bill down under $1000 every month- if I could do that, we’d probably be in good shape. It’s not impossible; looking back over the records I see that I’ve done it three times this year already, but that was in the beginning of the year when it's easier to accomplish. Usually by June the expenditures pick up starting with the annual house and vehicle insurance premiums, and it doesn't seem to stop until the end of the year. This year's timing on the large bills got all boogered up when someone stole our previous credit card number; getting all our auto-paid stuff back up and running took several attempts to get right. May the fleas of a thousand camels plague this individual for life.

The billing cut off for the MasterCard is the thirteenth of the month, and as I’d mentioned before, I’m usually out the next day putting groceries back on it, at minimum.  Here it is the 20th of the month, and I’ve still to do that. Not that we haven’t used the card, though.  Tuesday we took advantage of my senior discount at Coastal Farm and Ranch and bought the girls a feather formula feed to see if it will help them put feathers on faster (the last bag the store had was broken and although most of it was still there, I asked for a fifty percent discount on it and got it, so nearly forty pounds of feed was only $8.50! Ask for the deal!), and a new maul handle so Steve can get back to splitting the enormous deodar cedar we got from the neighbors. I’ve also purchased PVC clips for the hoop house (more on that on a different post), paid a monthly insurance premium, and paid a portion of several medical bills. A word on that last item: at least in the US, as long as you’re paying something and on time, a creditor can’t report you to the credit reporting agencies.  And as long as they don’t charge me a finance charge, and so far, nobody has, I’ll continue to make partial payments until the bills are gone. I am still putting them on the MC in order to rake in as much cash as I can with it, because we always pay it off every month so that we’re not hit with a finance charge.  But some of these lab bills are ridiculous, even after our medical insurance company has had their way with them, and paying the whole bill at once is just not feasible. So they get partial payments because that’s what works for me right now.  

Honestly, it feels kind of funny to finally be behaving with money as though we don’t have it.  I was never this careful with money when I had a job.  We have savings, of course, but the dictum has always been to save it, not spend it, and that’s still the challenge. Last year when the fence blew down and it took several thousand dollars to fix it (I’ll never do that again), we thankfully had plenty in our savings account to cover it, but I haven’t recovered the account from that time and we don’t have that cushion anymore.  September’s MC bill was rather large because of house and vehicle insurance premiums that arrived on the same bill due to the aforementioned timing issues, so I had to rob savings to help pay it off. Now, I’ll just be able to pay this month’s bills off the first of next month, but I may have to get money from our brokerage account, which is where much of our money is, just to be able to pay the property taxes next month when they come due, and for which I can take a three percent discount if I pay it off all at once.  Do you think I’ll do that? I’m gonna try. Steve will get paid again mid-month and I may be able to squeak by in time (I can’t for the life of me remember when they’re due- only that the county mails the statement to us in November), but that will leave a little less money for the next credit card payments in December, so I really, really, really need to bring the total spend for each of these last months of 2017 down as much as possible.

So far, my first winter garden really seems to be helping with that. I might be out of veg by the first of December, but if it keeps me out of the store until then, it might still be okay.
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