Blueberries Planted!

Greetings SNH’ers,

Today, I had a nice bit of cool weather and planted some of the blueberries that I received for Christmas. Sams club had a great deal on some whiskey barrel look-alike planters. Berries are one of the best “smarter not harder” things you can plant because the cost of berries in the grocery store are very high. Blueberries and Blackberries can bring between 4 and 6 dollars a pint!

The first step was to plant them with some basic soil, add some manure and acidifier since blueberries enjoy a slightly acidic soil. I then added a top layer of planting/potting mix with some decent drainage. Lastly, we used an organic fertilizer to keep the plants fed for a bit.

Great Looking Planters
Soil Mix with acidifier
Blueberry Plants adapted for middle Florida
2 Potted Blueberries next to a young Orange Tree!

If you are in the southern part of the US, it’s time to start making your spring planting plans. I am planning to plant tomatoes in starter pots with the kids as a way to push some extra funds into their 529 plans. I’ll do a post when we get those going!

4 days to Christmas Update

Happy Christmas SNH’ers,

It has been a pretty crazy couple of weeks, thus my lack of posting. Let’s run down the list:

* I suffered a severe back injury that laid me up for several days and had to go to the emergency room!

* Little SNH’ers got sick before the Christmas holiday.

* Christmas school events were attended.

* Santa’s lap was attended by the youngest SNH lady.

* Lots of good home cooking was done – chili information below.

* Cabbage ended up getting a leaf miner and will likely die out completely unless it is treated and tended.

* Grow bag seems to have 2x growth versus standard plastic planters.

* I had an injury to my foot, rather, an attack of psuedogout. It swelled my right foot to double the standard size and needed some quick treatment. I am currently on the mend, but will likely take about 5 days to be really walk-able again per the fine staff at the walk in clinic.

The Garden has had some interesting items happen to it. First, Little SNH’er #2 planted a cabbage for a school scholarship progress. The winner was to submit the cabbage for a chance at a $1000 scholarship. Unfortunately, it has secumbed to leaf miner and the growth is very slow. Likely not a winner. Here is a picture of the leafy pathways it has made through the plant:

I have battled with leaf miners before when living in Florida about 15 years ago. They can be treated effectively with organic solutions, but can damage plants to a point that they cannot recover. With my foot being out of commission, it may have gone too long. I plan to get some this weekend to try.

The grow bag with the turnips are outgrowing the plastic bins with Parris Island Romain and Beets. I think the water regulation (soil drainage) of the grow bags is far superior to that of the plastic bins producing a better environment for soil consistency in a container garden. I removed the water retainer in the beets to allow more water to flow out of the container in hopes it will regulate better. I have never done will with beets.

Baby organic gmo free Turnips in grow bag

It really is time to get my metered gardening solution up and running. I have 1 more major component to order, a vegetronix VH400 meter (https://www.vegetronix.com/Products/VH400/). It is in my scientific and engineering opinion, the best option for long term soil metering. It uses TDR to read moisture vs corrosive annodes as are most of the low cost solutions. TDR ignores the salt content (a big issue in coastal Florida where I am at) as well as maintains a long lifespan sitting in the soil.

I made a great chili and seem to be honing in on a style that I really like. I apologize, but I put beans in mine. Here goes the latest version:

  • 1 lb micro cubed steak
  • 2 serrano peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapenos finely chopped
  • 1 poblano finely chopped
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 white onion finely chopped
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 1-4 cups water depending on how soupy you like.
  1. Saute the onions, peppers and cubed beef together until brown and creating a lovely “spicy” scent through the house.
  2. Add your favorite chili spices. With this recipe, the peppers do a pretty good job, but some paprika, 2 tbsp of generic chili powder, 2 tbs salt work well.
  3. Add in your tomato sauce and beans and simmer on low for about 2 hrs.
  4. Serve with sour cream and cornbread.
Cutting of Peppers
Saute Peppers and Onions
Finish Cooking before adding tomato sauce.
Simmer and Enjoy.

Have a blessed Christmas, praise Jesus.

Mr. SNH.

Speed up your meals and get more free time

                I was realizing today how much more time we have during lunch breaks if we use what we have in the fridge for a quick meal.  For example, this weekend I used a crockpot for some delicious adobe style chicken which fed the family a great dinner on Sunday.  On the flip side, we were left with about a pound of chicken in leftovers.  I simply wrapped those in a tortilla for a quick lunch yesterday and wrapped 2 up for a late-night dinner tonight.  The amount of time saved by having such a quick meal was great!  I got to spend more time with my 4 year old at lunch after she returned from preschool and I got to spend some extra family time with the kids this evening by opting for a delayed burrito wrap with the leftovers after the little SNHers were in bed.

                The savings is two-fold too!  Not only do we gain the time, but also save on our food costs.  We are nearly at crisis level with how much food we (Americans) throw out in the trash each year.  According to this article (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-why-americans-throw-out-165-billion-in-food-every-year-2016-07-22) we waste about 40% of our food!  That is simply astonishing considering how much we pay for that food.  In my household, our food budget is about 30% of our monthly spending.

                The more we eat our leftovers, the more we do for our food system, our time and our wallets!  Have a good night.

Go green with Geothermal!

Greetings SNH’ers,

‘Going Green’ seems to be a topic on a lot of minds lately. I have always been fond of using the available energy we have to maximize the comfort in our homes and maximize the long term dollar in our pocket. This is the geothermal heating and cooling article!

There has been a lot of focus on Solar lately as groups like Enphase build smart charge controllers for your panels, solar panel costs are coming down, installation is getting easier and there are many tax-advantaged incentives for installing solar in your home.

I don’t often see much regarding tapping into the huge thermodynamic heat bath we have sitting right under our houses! Most geothermal heat pumps for homes have nearly double the lifespan of modern heating and cooling equipment according to many manufacturers, but it also takes significantly less power to operate a geothermal heat pump than it does to run other traditional heating like forced air with an electric heat pump or an electric baseboard system.

Geothermal installation may be suited better to new buildings as piping must run either vertically or extend horizontally from the base of your home into the heat battery of the earth. Older homes may require additional costs to retrofit as additional work in the slab may be necessary. The heating and cooling potential for your specific climate does change, but all areas across the United States see a benefit. According to Energyhomes.org, the payback period is between 2 and 10 years. A system that requires vertical duct-work deep beneath your home will have more labor associated than a system installed with a horizontal trench.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_exchange_geothermal_heat_pump

So if you are interested in learning more, I would check out energyhomes.org and talk to a local supplier of geothermal installations. Not only will you have a system that uses 40-60% less energy than a traditional HVAC solution, it also helps you sleep better night knowing you made a change that has a lower environmental impact in terms of fossil fuel generation from the electric company and it will give you money back in your wallet to put towards your retirement!

You can watch a great video here:

https://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/00000144-0a29-d3cb-a96c-7b2d99240000

Have a good night!

Low Hanging Fruit

If you ever looked at the detailed economics of growing a few plants for their harvest, you might want to be careful about your purchase. With the Florida move now complete, I thought it would be great to get in on the March strawberry haul and grow about 10 plants myself. The Florida strawberry season sets plants in October and harvests between February and March, so it was a perfect time to get a quote. At $2.95 per plant at the local garden center I started to think about the average haul from each plant. Usually, it is about a pint or so.

Locally, the in season Florida strawberries usually host prices between $1.50 and $2.50 per pint when in season. At $2.95 a plant, I can’t justify buying the plant for the potential yield. While I love gardening for the excitement of great quality fruits and vegetables, I like to ensure that it is worth my dollar. It really is disappointing. Unfortunately, in Florida, the strawberry is grown as an annual and dies out fully during the summer months, so I really can’t re-populate through division or suckers. If anybody is out there who knows a bit more on this or other resources in the space coast for local varieties that are under the threshold per plant, please leave a comment as I would like to get the cost under control to make it worth growing strawberries. The 3 little snhers can’t get enough of them.

Micro Monthly Costs

Have you ever looked at your bank balance every month and wondered where all the money went?

Good Afternoon SNH’ers,

Have you ever looked at your bank balance every month and wondered where all the money went? You know you make enough to cover your monthly costs, even have enough to save for your emergency fund and retirement, but somehow, you still end up with no play money at the end of the month.

We started noticing micro costs, you know, the kind of subscription services, daily trips to the convenience or coffee store and that dollar app that you get charged for every month to send you new cat videos. Yep, adding those up really put a dent in your monthly and yearly savings.

Today, I thought I would pass on a few recommendations for smarter ways to handle those monthly creepers.

  1. Try to use apps that are “buy once cry once” so you don’t have recurring monthly costs to use them.
  2. Use computer software that is run solely on your pc. Sorry Microsoft, for daily office use, open office and libre office are excellent alternatives.
  3. You really don’t need to buy that 20oz mountain dew before work. If you buy it at the grocery store, you’ll save about 60% of the cost. Don’t get it in the refrigerated section by the checkout counter, get it on the isle…in the 6 pack. Better yet, use a thermos and buy 2 liters.
  4. Review your monthly subscribers once in a while. Why use both Amazon and Pandora at the same time. I bet you don’t need both.
  5. If you have a cell phone plan and a very close relative, see if you can jump on their plan for a few more dollars in your pocket. Also, check to see if you employer has a cellular discount with any of the vendors.

That’s it for tonight. Be sure to like and share with your friends.

Mr. SNH

Goals…

Since this blog is not particularly focused on just the primary topics, I thought I would also write out some goals. Really, I think everybody should evaluate their goals periodically to keep themselves driven. Having a set of defined goals is one habit of highly successful people.

Short Term Goals (1 year or less)

  • Finish down payment savings for home purchase.
  • Assist my little SNH’ers more with schoolwork and be a more encouraging Mr. SNH’er.
  • Go on a real date with Mrs. SNH, the time is too far in between.
  • Increase 1% of salary going to 401k.
  • Take Cocoa the wonder dog for more walks because..truth is.. I need it more than she does.
  • Increase my position and influence at my full time real life work job!
  • Maintain at least 1 post per week on SNH.
  • Start video interviews with members of my new community on the space coast for the SNH website.
  • Successfully start a Tropic Sweet, Golden Dorsett and Anna apple trees on the East Coast of Florida. Yes, I want apples in middle Florida.

Long Term Goals (1-30 years out)

  • Save / Plan for a vacation home where seasons exist. Sorry Florida.
  • Continue to develop my software/hardware idea to help people grow more food for themselves.
  • Find ways to be more philanthropic.
  • Catch a Salmon! It eluded me for the years that I lived in the most beautiful state in the United states, but I am still chasing it.
  • Be able to grow at least 1/3 of our fruit/vegetable need for our family of 5.

Keeping more money by cutting costs at home.

Greetings SNH’ers, a while back when Mrs. SNH and I really needed to clamp down on our expenses after the short sale of our house. We examined the day to day activities that we did and what they were costing us. One of the biggest costs was paying for “traditional” cable tv service. It was running us about $80 per month for a service that provided us with many channels that we just didn’t watch. Doing the math, over the course of a 2 year contract with cableco, that nets us about $1920 out of our pocket. I decided to purchase a low cost antenna for local news and take advantage of the services offered inside of a Roku streaming unit.

We now pay about $160/year in add-ons and have netflix/amazon and some shared content with relatives. Talk about savings! We have now been a cord cutting family for at least 6 years. While I do occasionally miss the Gold Rush show on discovery, the sheer quantity of apps for the roku as well as the savings more than make up for it.

If you’re interested in finding out more about putting up an antenna, check out the following website: https://www.fcc.gov/media/engineering/dtvmaps to get a brief idea which channels are available with a decent antenna. We currently get about 12 reliable channels which include ABC, NBC, FOX and PBS.

As for Roku, here is a sampling of some of the apps we use on a regular basis:

  • Amazon Music
  • Amazon Video
  • Netflix
  • Starz
  • Vudu
  • Pluto TV
  • Sling
  • NewsOn
  • and the roku channel itself.
  • Have a great evening.

The high cost of Blue Apron, just go to the grocery store!

Greetings SNH’ers

I was listening to a millennial rave about how much money they are saving when using Blue Apron to cook their meals. Having gone through a revelation in cooking with my family (1 gluten free child, 1 vegetarian) in recent years, we really had to start analyzing our eating habits and how much impact it had on our budgets. We no longer eat out like we used to and we also started to cook “real food“.

The Blue Apron does have some great meal ideas, but the reality is that these meals are extremely expensive at the estimated $9.99 per serving. These meals are largely dinners and after looking at our budget for the family on a monthly basis, we are at about $3 for our dinners and $7.50 per person per day.

Here is an average family Friday night meal. 2 pizzas serves us pretty well with little waste. Now, these days, we may make a gluten free crust, but you’ll get the idea with this info-graphic.

As you can see, the $1.69 per person for this recipe is an excellent way to suggest you roll your own with your local grocery store and forget the boxed meal services. At 9.99 per serving, they are 6 times more expensive. They are costing you massive amounts of money that could otherwise be put into your IRA or other investment vehicle!

I am not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy those meals, just don’t do it as part of your regular meal plan for the week unless it brings you a certain satisfaction that you can’t get by heading to the grocery store and sourcing the ingredients yourself. They do often have unique ingredients and flavors that you may not stock in your pantry. I find however, that as you cook more, your pantry grows with many of the items that are used in those recipes.