Memorial Day Goals

Memorial Day snuck up on me this year. What? Three day weekend? I will gladly take one of those!

The weekend looks wet and cool, then next week promises sunshine and warmer night temperatures…perfect for my garden goal of tucking in 50+ tomato plants! This year I saved seeds from our three favorite varieties (Old German, Milano and Sun Sugar) and every single seed I planted has now grown into a beautiful strong plant. We transport them from the deck to the living room every day and they are now ready to plant outside. I plan to tear out the last of the chard and kale plants (all are bolted…perfect for chicken treats and harvesting seed!), put down a thick layer of compost and broadfork it all in.

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We also have a massive pile (if you can even call it a pile…more of a mountain) of sticks and branches that need to be chipped. If we can get the chipper started that would be a great thing to tackle this weekend. Some of the larger sticks may get repurposed thanks to this inspiring fence idea.

Matt is finishing up the hardwood floors in the expanded kitchen and then it will be on to finish coating the drywall, adding texture and building cabinets. Time to pick up the tool library table saw!

This three day weekend is going to fly.

Fundamental Orchardist

When Matt and I got married, I learned that my new last name meant “orchardist” in French. How cool is that?

Even cooler, I have been bit by the orchard bug and am embracing this title as part of my identity. Earlier this spring we placed our first fruit tree order. A few apples, a pear, mulberry and peach. Somewhat unique varieties but our choices were made though quite virgin eyes.

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Planting these trees brought me more joy that I could have fathomed they would. I grew up with my dad’s collection of fruit trees, but was never that interested. Now I am hooked. Last week three more trees joined out orchard and I am counting down the days until we (someday) buy the land next door and have more space to plant. I have a list of old, rare heirloom apple trees that I want to plant and eat.

So far on our homestead we have:

Apple:

  • Spartan
  • Northern Spy
  • Honeycrisp
  • Enterprise

 

Pear:

  • Ubileen
  • Red Sensation Bartlett

 

Peach:

  • Reliance

 

 

Aligning Priorities: YNAB Review

Three years ago when buying our house and property, we had a wish list of what it would have; ideally:

  • 5-10 acres
  • 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
  • house that needed work but not MAJOR work
  • good sunshine to garden
  • sustainable distance for commuting to the city (ie: North end of the island)
  • house with character
  • smaller to medium sized
  • and most importantly, something we could afford and ultimately support on just one income

This final criteria ended up being our #1 priority, which in turn meant we had to sacrifice some other ideal aspects. All in all we bought a great little house that we do love, and for the past 17 months, we have been owning it on one income. Not a small feat in the greater Seattle area.

We were fortunate to not carry any student debt, and our single car is paid off. On top of that, both Matt and I had always been good savers. In our single days we both had saved up for a house and that significantly helped with our down payment.

Matt has always left the “money business” to me. I do our taxes, pay the bills, organize savings and retirement accounts. Honestly I enjoy all of it except the retirement piece. I would rather just let someone else handle it but struggle with the right balance of engagement and dealing with fees (a topic for another day). For savings, I had put together an elaborate structure of 10+ savings accounts that my weekly paycheck would automatically fund: house, travel, medical, emergency, car etc. Whether it was $5 or $100, it was a “self funding” system that helped us save.

While these buckets of money were helpful for saving, they were not very useful when it came to spending. Since we do use credit cards (but never carry a balance) I was always shuffling money around between accounts and sometime ran into problems. I knew I was “borrowing” funds without really replacing them when bills came around, but always felt like it was still ok.

This spring I read some reviews of a new approach called YNAB (You Need A Budget) and was intrigued to try it. My thrifty side hates paying extra for things so paying for a software program was not really something I was jazzed about. After all, I had some free tracking software through my credit union that I liked, and did diligently track every dollar we had spent. It was useful and I could see where our money was going.

But it did not give me a clear picture of where our money WOULD GO in the future. I watched some webinars and read a bunch about YNAB and decided to give it a go. Couldn’t hurt right?

First off, it was hard to learn a new system. I did not find it all that intuitive and felt like the program was not step-by-step enough for what I was looking for in HOW to consolidate my accounts. It was a leap of faith and a bunch of emails to tech support before I finally consolidated my savings accounts into just savings and checking and really started to use the budget.

What do I think?

#1: it has forced me to be more honest with our spending. I realize that I have been “behind” our credit spending and although we carry no balance, I do shuffle money monthly more than I thought, so our “automatic savings” was not a true picture of what we were saving. It was saved, then transferred to cover expenses. Ie: very short term saving that was not really meeting our needs.

#2: I did not have clear savings goals or spending goals in the past. At the end of the month I would report to Matt, hey we spent less on food this month! Go us! But that really was not helpful. What is more helpful is saying hey, we are in the middle of a massive remodel and need to make sure that $5,500 of those “house “ dollars are available for refinishing our floors (our only hired out portion of this job). It always sounded like those dollars where there in that savings account, but they were mixed in with everything else so they tended to slide around and probably were being “counted” towards multiple things (like the random $20-$50 Home Depot runs…those add up!) With YNAB I have $5,500 for hardwood floors and the rest of the house budget is in a different category. All the same dollars are there but they have jobs in the future so are not to be touched….unless we specify it! It is pretty empowering…and eye opening. Sometimes you learn you have more than you thought, other times it is actually less. But now we KNOW.

#3: I need more practice. 5 weeks in and I am still honestly trying to reconcile where dollars REALLY are, and what they are REALLY needing to do. YNAB support has been so helpful in helping me untangle what I thought was a pretty clear system I had going. Really, my general buckets were not very helpful at directing what our dollars needed to do for us.

#4: bottom line: I like YNAB. I am not loving it yet but that is likely because I am still adjusting. The credit card syncing has taken some serious brain power to get straight for me. Thank goodness for responsive email help! I do greatly appreciate how flexible the system is, and how it is just clear. It is a serious wake-up call on not tricking myself. It is very honest, very real, and VERY helpful.

Now those long term goals? Buying the property next door? Future kids college funds? They have a line item and will actually be goals that we can work towards, and the dollars won’t be shuffled to cover hardwood floors.

You can sign up for a free trial yourself at their website.

DIY Bean Trellis

The planting area of our garden has doubled in size this year, and thanks to a winter of cover crop, the soil is also improving! We are going gangbusters with our favorite crops: kale, beans and tomatoes. We are growing other things too, but much of our plot is filled with these three.

We grow an awesome runner bean that my parents brought back from Spain. A sort of Romano bean; it grown 10-12 inches long and 1-1.5 inches wide. You eat the whole thing and it has a sweet, tender pod. Perfect quickly steamed with butter or just raw off the vine!

Last year we grew two 8 foot rows of these beans and had enough to eat and freeze, but rationed them over the winter. We saved seeds and this year have 4 20-foot rows! That required a lot of trellis, and this year we pulled out all the stops.

Salvaged rebar from an old fence on the property (score!), bamboo from our clump, and lots and lots of hand tied twine made a beautiful piece of art that will support our (hopefully!) bumper crop this year! Some of the pieces were curved or bent from their prior life, so it just adds to the character. They look like something out of Dr. Seuss! Last year our trellis was made only of bamboo and twine and started to sag towards the end of the season. Also, late summer winds made it fall over with all the weight of beans. Rebar should be a very solid solution!

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Two rows are planted, the next two will be put in the ground in a few more weeks to spread out the harvest.

The Good Season

As time passes, we find ourselves moving through seasons. Season with weather, seasons with the garden, and with family and friends. When we decided to move from the mainland out to Vashon Island friends and family were one of the hardest aspects of the change. We knew that there would be some relationships that would continue to grow even with a ferry separating us, but others we knew would fade and disappear. It was hard to predict which would be which, but we knew that they would not all last.

It has been a challenge these nearly three years to not have a community on the island. Now, we do have a great community that we feel a part of, but we did not have OUR tribe. Our little collection of friends that would stop by for dinner or just call on a whim. It has been lonely. I get a good dose of my girlfriends because we make a point to meet for lunch or coffee in the city during our working lives, but home was just me and Matt. Thank goodness we like that! But something was still missing.

This spring has been the start of a new season though. All of a sudden we are in the middle of three couples, making plans, hanging out, cooking, sharing and inspiring each other. All of us are young, no kids, passionate about the island, growing things and being real. It is so refreshing. No competition, no negativity, just honest to goodness enjoyment of life. Best part? We are all only 10 minutes apart at the most. Perk of island life!

On Saturday evening Dennis and Ali came over for a BBQ and backyard fire. We gave them bean seeds and they brought us soil. Matt and Dennis made plans to play Magic. Ali and I talked about living out of boxes. Sunday morning Justin and Hannah stopped by just to see how our projects were going, and invited us to the beach. We spent an hour laying in the sun, chatting about plants and gardens and went for a quick swim.

It feels so good. SO GOOD. This feeling of finding our tribe has been a long time coming.

We are riding this wave. It gives us more energy to work on the house and garden, both of which are coming along well. Hardwood floors are wrapping up. Next is finishing the cove ceiling. Then building cabinets and a tile entry mat. The garden is growing. 50+ tomatoes starts from seed, cabbage, kale, chard, beans, potatoes, flowers and a collection of new fruit trees are all starting to show signs of life. I am selling seaglass mobiles like crazy leading up to Mother’s Day.

Lots and lots of abundance, we are feeling so thankful.

Seeds and a Plan

Spring has turned to a spurt of summer (86 degrees in April!?) and our projects are full speed ahead. The garden has been my territory this year. Turning over last winter’s cover crop and leveling soil, breaking new ground, moving plants, and planting seeds have taken over my life the past two weeks. It looks great. Two rows of raspberries create a beautiful border along the fence line, a new fig tree (from Matt’s grandpa’s yard) is in the northwest corner surrounded by calendula and row after row of squash, beans and potatoes are going to pop up any day. We have tomato, beet, cabbage and basil sprouted on the deck waiting for the right moment to go in the ground. This week I had another success: 3 chestnut trees popped up from my fall planting!

Indoors is a flurry of activity too. Matt is making final coats on the cove ceiling (a project that has proved to be a lot more drying time than anticipated!), progress on the hardwood floors and a to-do list that is a mile long. This week we decided that a plan might help, so I popped into project manager mode and made us a project schedule, linking steps in order of when they need to happen. This way we only think about the “now” steps, knowing that the “later” steps are thought about, just in the queue. That was helpful. On the to-do list now? Order tile for the entry, take out exiting wood floors in entry, install the removed pieces in the kitchen, then on to cabinet construction!

April Updates

The sunshine and warm weather has arrived! The 70 degree weekend was glorious and full. Friday night we spent the night at my in-laws and then drove out to Enumclaw to pick up our slate blackboard slabs (future kitchen counters!). We got 14 slabs (so so cool!!!) salvaged from an old school and are thrilled to report that all 14 made it back to the island intact.

I spent the rest of the day weeding and working in the garden. Sunday was a repeat of that, evidenced by a fresh new plot created for a bed of potatoes. I also planted our saved tomato seeds from last year. Matt plugged away inside the house with all the windows and doors open; music blasting. We are on the final stretch of wall/ceiling repair completing the curved plaster edges. So many skills to learn! It looks great.

We topped off the weekend with dinner in the backyard with friends. Grilled pork and pineapple skewers, coconut rice and fresh sauted chard from the garden. Cheers.