September
20 - 2007

August Wrap-up: Garden, net worth up, and savings

I know, it’s almost the end of September, but I missed a week or so of life this month being sick. So here is the update on all things cheap & eco for the month of August.

August was a whirlwind month. It was by far the busiest ever in the almost eight-year history of my writing and editing business, and Mr. Cheap and Little Cheap both went back to school.

In addition, it’s harvest time. We made some jams in the spring, but in August and the first weekend of September I made:

  • 6 quarts of dill pickles
  • 4 pints of corn relish
  • 4 pints of bread and butter pickles
  • 3 quarts of curry pickles
  • 9 pints of crushed tomatoes
  • 4 half-pints of yellow pear tomato preserves
  • 5.5 pints of grape jelly
  • and 6 quarts of grape juice.

We calculate that we probably eat about 60 pints of crushed tomatoes a year, maybe more. Next year I’d love to grow more Better Boy tomatoes and fewer yellow pears so we can fulfill that goal ourselves.

Net Worth Update

In the last month, our net worth went up by 19 percent. This is the change I anticipated, with some inherited savings bonds coming of age. We’re now up 7.9 percent over when I started tracking in March.

The GREAT news: I used part of the windfall to pay off the rest of our credit card balance. This means that starting next month, I’ll be using anything extra to start paying off our car loan. My goal will have us paying the car off 15 months early. Then we’ll move on to the second mortgage and student loans.

What else did I do with the windfall? I had planned to buy some furniture, but I find that I just can’t do it. I can’t find the right thing, but we have working furniture, so I’m going to keep an eye on Craigslist for the dining set of my dreams (used). I used a little bit to buy my spinning wheel, and the rest is in savings. Mr. Cheap strongly believes I should pay myself back what I used to pay off the AmEx (by replenishing the amount in savings), and I promised to do so in 2008.

In the Garden

The garden continues to flourish. With plenty of heat AND rain, this has been a banner year for gardening in Colorado.

  • I counted 14 butternut squash, most of them ginormous, turning various shades of tan in the garden. If we have a couple more nice weeks, they’ll all be ripe. (The average frost date is around the second week of October here in Denver.)
  • We’ve picked one watermelon – alas, a little unripe, but still good. Two more have made it to adulthood, but they’re just softball-sized.
  • Cucumbers. Oh, cucumbers. I have canned 27 quarts of various kinds of pickles: Quick dills, fermented dills, bread-and-butter pickles and something called curry pickles from my Kerr Canning Book. The bread and butter are delicious; haven’t tried the curry ones yet. I had to throw out a batch of dills because they were nasty (these were the ones that smelled like chicken soup). I also sold cucumbers at our yard sale — people snapped them up at 40 cents each — and we sent Little Cheap to all her summer sleepovers bearing cucumbers. I’m going to estimate our 14 plants grew 50 pounds of cucumbers or more. I’m truly sick of cucumbers, and now that they have powdery mildew, I think I’ll take the vines out this weekend.
  • We grew four types of tomatoes.
    Better Boy has been great. We have four plants in, I believe, and in addition to eating all we want to eat, I’ve put up 14 pints of crushed tomatoes (about 30 pounds of tomatoes?), combined with yellow pear tomatoes. We haven’t been crazy about the yellow pears’ flavor, and of course we have three of those plants (that’s about 2.5 plants too many).
    We also have one Juliet tomato that has been phenomenal. It has grown as many tomatoes as about three other plants (just yesterday, I picked 36 tomatoes, not counting the half-dozen I threw out because the worms got to them). This has been a mixed blessing, in that I have to crawl around prying the tomato branches out of the grass to find the tomatoes, but we’ve made one batch of sauce that we just ate and another batch of three pints for the freezer.
    The San Marzano tried valiantly, but it lives in the topsy-turvy planter and it got so wilty every day that we basically threw in the towel last month.
  • The Brussels Sprouts are lovely tall plants … with sprouts about 1/4″ in diameter. I’m sure they’re much too crowded.
  • We have some great beets and carrots we’re eating little by little, and collard greens. We have about 6 meal-size servings of pesto in the freezer, a lot of little red chilis drying, and we’ve used our own jalapenos and dill for pickles and salsa.

It’s been fun … and now I am exhausted.

Plastic

We avoided 47 plastic bags in August.

Money

Doing frugal or green stuff saved $468.88 in August.

  • $276.30 was grocery savings
  • $166.45 was saving money on things we purchased, getting things for free — a free table and mirror (which Mr. Cheap immediately rehabbed into exactly what we wanted for our dining room), a push broom at an estate sale, buying used soccer cleats, riding boots and snow pants for Little Cheap — and pursuing the price correction at Target for the electric kettle.
  • Washing in cold and line drying saved an estimated $12.45.

Other Resources

  • We saved 163 gallons of water in August. This is totally a rough estimate, based on avoiding three flushes daily, because I’ve been too busy to keep track of the actual lack of flushing, Navy showers, etc.
  • I was pleased to see that our electricity use dropped to 63 percent of what it had been the previous two months (I’m really not sure why it had been so high — unless our swamp cooler is sucking up more energy than we had imagined! The evaporative cooler was out of commission for part of August and then it was cool enough that we really weren’t using it). This is a relief, as this problem was keeping me up nights.
  • Our natural gas bill was exactly the same as last month, up just slightly from June. Honestly, I suspect the extra might be from canning.

Waste

We threw out about 69 pounds of garbage, although I think about 40 pounds was food from our freezer that died (or rather, temporarily went unconscious) when I tried to use it with a Green Plug.

We filled our recycling trolley a total of 1.4 times during the month. I think some of my cutbacks may be kicking in — I have canceled 11 catalogs and 2 magazine, as well as mailings from 3 big credit card companies and my subscription to one local newspaper.

We donated nothing, as we were getting ready for a yard sale, and we Freecycled 16 pounds (a frozen turkey!).

Phew! By this time next month, most of the garden will be dead, and this update will be so much shorter.

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