Blog: My Little Farm in Town

Living a rich country life in a small Midwestern town.

Showing 3 posts from March 2011 for this blog.
First "Garage" Sales of the Year!
Monday, March 07, 2011

I went to my first two “garage” sales of the year on February 26! The date is important because every year my sisters and I have an informal competition as to who will be the first to attend a “sale.” (I know that I am late writing about them, but a lot has been going on!) One sale was took place in our town’s senior center and was sponsored by a local mom’s group. The other was a 10-family sale held in a church basement in a neighboring town.

Don’t you just love a sale where everything is 25 cents unless marked otherwise? I found my first Christmas present of the year—the rather alarming frog sconce—and a NEW 6-liter, stainless steel pressure cooker someone bought from QVC and then never used. (I’ve come to the conclusion that we Americans are a bit weird about pressure cookers. We like the idea of them, but we are scared to death to use them. I’ve noticed on the web that other countries have whole shops of nothing but pressure cookers, but outside of the Presto brand, they are as scant as hen’s teeth here.) I could have gotten the pressure cooker for 25 cents because it wasn’t marked otherwise, but I would have felt guilty every time I looked at it. The woman checking me out charged me $2 instead!

I also found a hot plate in mint condition for $2 (another item I can cross off my Master List—still haven’t found a Vitamix yet)!  It will come in handy when my husband takes the cooktop area apart to tile the counter and retile the backsplash. I figure if I could get along without an oven for 6+ months, I can do without a cooktop for a while, too. My pressure cookers will come in handy then!

Most of the things I found were useful things I am using to replace stuff that is worn out. The stout Chinese basket will hold my stationary and letter writing supplies; the soap dish will replace a chipped one that has seen better days; and the diskette labels are just handy. The baby stuff will go to my daughter in law. The candle holder is something I didn’t need but just wanted. The mini-beanies are from a FREE box and will go to missionaries.

I think that ONCE AGAIN I am the first in my immediate family to have gone to and purchased items at a garage sale (two actually!). I don’t want to hear any SNARKY comments girls (Who’s the woman?—Who’s the Woman?!) about whether these can actually be considered “garage” sales, because they were held indoors and in public buildings! No nitpicking or sour grapes—you can always try again (futilely, I’m sure) to be FIRST next year! Begonia


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Frugal Family Fun: Mitchell Park Conservatory (The Domes) Milwaukee
Saturday, March 05, 2011

We visited Mitchell Park Conservatory (The Domes) in Milwaukee this past weekend (  It wasn’t a totally frugal outing forus because we are not local. We had the additional expense of gas and a meal eaten out.  However, many cities have conservatories or public gardens that are wonderful thrifty destinations for family outings.  

Our visit to the domes was perfect for this time of year because it was an indoor activity that felt like an outdoor activity. It was a sunny day so the temperatures inside the domes were perfect for giving the impression that we had escaped to somewhere warm and sunny! Mitchell Park Conservatory consists of three distinct domes linked by a large lobby. There is a tropical dome with water and some huge palms and other specimen trees. There were places to sit and the sound of water and the smell of tropical blooms and fruit. It felt good to sweat again!  Click on the following link for a two minute tour:

Another of the three domes is a desert habitat. This dome was my favorite. I loved the architectural quality of all the plants. I liked all the textures and the alien feel of the place. It is totally different from anything I experience at any time of the year in the Midwest. I think that is the essence of any vacation or getaway—that feeling of being somewhere totally different from your ordinary life. The desert dome also was worth the modest entrance fee.

The third dome is used for changing seasonal displays. We were able to take in the a train show there while we were there ( . This dome is also set up for other programming, such as music and light shows ( .  The train displays spilled out into the lobby. The setups were very fun and detailed. The more you looked, the more you would see. The Lego train layout inside the display dome was especially impressive, and it was only a quarter of its total size!

After visiting the domes, I had the feeling that I had been away for a weekend rather than a few hours. That feeling of compressed time is a sure sign that you’ve gotten the most from your time away from the ordinary. Begonia


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Sprouting: Cheaper than Lettuce!
Wednesday, March 02, 2011

I about had a stroke last night in the produce section of our local grocery store—right in front of the iceberg lettuce! The heads were small and misshapen and almost $3 each. The romaine lettuce was almost $8 for three heads in a plastic zip top bag. I turned to my daughter and said, “NO WAY!”

This is the time of the year when we really get serious about sprouting. We use sprouts to replace some of the lettuce in salad and as a substitute for it on sandwiches and in roll ups.

Sprouting has many advantages:

·         Sprouting seed costs very little per ounce for the amount of food that it turns into within a few days of germination. (You can be eating sprouts in as little as 3-7 days.)

·         It is one of your best fresh/live food values. (I bought raw organic hulless sunflower seed yesterday for 74 cents a pound, and it only takes two tablespoons per sprouting tray.)

·         Sprouts are full of vitamins and minerals.

·         Food just doesn’t come any fresher or more local.

·         The seed stores well and doesn’t take up much space. All you need is a clean container and a dark, dry, cool pantry or kitchen cabinet to store them.

My mom started sprouting alfalfa seeds in the 1970s. She used Mason jars with screen lids and used the resulting sprouts in salads. She also experimented with other mixtures of seed. She would soak the seeds in warm water in the jar for a while and then drain away the water through the mesh lid. Every day afterward, she would rinse the seeds in the morning and evening. After they germinated, the rinsing would carry away the hulls. Eventually, she would have a jar full of tangled sprouts. She kept the sprouting jars on their sides under the kitchen sink during this process.

There are many more complex contraptions today for sprouting, and they can be quite expensive. The jar and screen lid method is still one of the cheapest around. I’ve tried various styles of sprouting and have settled on a couple that are quick, easy, and meet my family’s needs.

I use a stacked siphon sprouter (Bioset Kitchen Salad Garden) most of the time. This sprouter works well for small as well as large seeds.   It has a top tray with a siphon that drops water down into the next tray and so on through three trays and finally into a bottom reservoir. When all the water has drained to this bottom tray, I empty it and that is it. I make it part of my morning and evening routine and always keep the sprouter out on my kitchen counter next to the radio. (If you pack the sprouter away, you probably won’t get it out and use it.)

I also have a simple tray-style sprouter in which the rinse water drops straight through that works better for sunflower seeds and larger seeds. I find I have to rinse more often with this sprouter so the sprouts don’t dry out.

Johnny’s Seed ( ) sells the Bioset sprouter and a selection of sprouting seeds. Many other seed companies sell sprouting seeds and sprouters, including Jung ( ), Thompson & Morgan ( ), and R.H. Shumway ( ) to name only a few.  Thompson & Morgan and Johnny’s have the widest selection of sprouting seed, but R.H. Shumway has some of the lowest prices. I have also bought sprouting seed at bulk and natural food stores. The advantage of these stores is that you don’t have to pay postage!

Give sprouting a try. At the price of lettuce and other fresh vegetables right now, you could buy a sprouter and some seed for the price of one trip the grocery store produce section! Begonia


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