Dresser Take Two

I bought this pair of dressers from Craig's list for $180. It's in great condition and has nice metal drawer slides. The wood tone don't fit the look of the girl's room so it's on to a dresser makeover.

Here is the inspiration piece. What I liked was that the color make the dresser pop. It added a punch of color to the room without having to go over board with a whole wall of bright color. There will be enough pink in the room so I'm going to go with an accent color of green to pull the look together.

Here is what I did.

Before the paint job

During the paint job

It really didn't take me long at all to prime and paint the dresser. I was very happy with how easy the project really was. I would show you more photos of the project, but this is just one step in our daughters' room makeover. But shh.. The rest is a birthday surprise! You will have to wait until after September 15th to see the completed project.

Join us for more great project ideas on:
Tackle it Tuesday
DIY Thursday

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Who is Mrs. Not the Jet Set?

What a great question! It seems like a simply answer would do, but really, I'm a complicated person. Just ask the Mister. I'm a Gemini by birth and the twins in one person is so true in my life.

I grew up in the Midwest on our family's farm. Growing up in the middle of corn fields with out friends close by, you learn a lot. How to work, be creative, go without, live simply and most importantly that God and family are the most important things in this world and the next.

Those same values have always stuck with me. The Mr. and I are high school sweethearts. After finishing college in our home state we decided to take a leap of faith and move to Austin, Texas. We enjoyed 5 great years in Austin and even started our family there. Then it was time to move closer to family. That is when we ended up in SW Michigan in a small town on Lake Michigan. Three years later we are still here and enjoying it.

I've done about everything. I've been a working mom, working at home mom, and now a stay at home mom. I've done all sorts of volunteer work from mission work in Haiti to teaching Financial Peace University at our local church. I've traveled all over the USA, but I love staying home too. I have more hobbies then one could count, but I can't sit still so I guess they keep me out of trouble. My true loves (besides God and my family) is gardening and sewing.

I love gardening for several reasons. First, I feel like I'm being a true steward of God's creation. He gave us this beautiful earth for us to take care of. If we take care of it correctly we will have everything we need. So I feel like if I'm doing my best to garden organically and allow nature to do it's thing, I'm doing what God wanted us to do. The second reason is that it is a way for me to provide the healthiest food for my family and the environment. There is no question about were our food came from.

Sewing has always been close to my heart. My dear grandmother taught me how to sew when I was little. I wanted to learn so bad, but my mom would not teach me because she was afraid I would hurt myself (I'm a lefty). So off to grandma's house I went. Every summer I would spend time at her house learning to sew and working on 4-H sewing projects. When ever I sew an item I'm proud of I think of my grandma. It also gives me the creative outlet that I need. If I'm stressed I always reach for a sewing project. The sound of the sewing machine helps me to forget my worries.

Just to add to the complicated person that I am. I'm also a very thrifty person AND an environmentalist. My five year old is already haggling at garage sales and then crying when we drive by an area where they are cutting down live trees. I can tell she spends a lot of time with me. LOL

As complicated as I am, I really do strive for simplicity in life. Living the "Less is More" life style. Well, I don't want to bore you with more talk about me. Just take a look at our posts to see who I am. I don't hold back much other then our "real" names!

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Not the Link Love and Post # 400!

Last week, we took part in 4 carnivals:

Maybe even more important...

Yesterday's post on our chicken coop was post number 400!

We were also featured on MSN's SmartSpending Blog for our post on rescuing the laundry from the curse of the purple crayon. Thanks, Karen!

Here are our favorite posts from around the blogosphere:

What a week - Thanks for reading!

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Suburban Backyard Chicken Coop

A while back, we announced out new additions here at the NtJS ranch - 4 large breed hens. (In our township, 4 is the limit to qualify as "pets" - 5 or more constitutes livestock) Well, for some time now, the Mrs has been after me to write a post about how we designed and built our chicken coop. At first, I resisted, but we've gotten so many compliments from friends and interest in it that I had to give in.

Now, I can't claim to of really known what I was doing, and there are certainly some things I would do differently on the next one. But, overall it turned out pretty hot - for a chicken coop.

First, we started with - you guessed it - research. God bless the internet. The Mrs. came up with several coop designs that she liked for one reason or another. Here are the ones that were the most influential to our final design.

Next, I had to put pen to paper, and start sorting out the dimensions. Chickens In Your Backyard has been our main reference manual for all things chicken including coop dimensions. First, I laid out the floor plan. Each chicken needs 2 square feet floor space. I gave them that, plus a little extra. 4 chickens can share one nesting box, so that was simple enough. Then came the roost. Each hen needs nine inches of roost, I doubled that just to give them some room to move around.

For us, this is what made the most sense - sort of a chicken split-level. It took a bit of planning, discussing, and revising to get to where we ended up.
The roost is two feet off the coop floor with the nesting box below (see dashed line). Food and water are hanging containers.

Finally, with dimensioned drawings in hand, I could start rounding up materials. Some we had left over from other projects. We were also fortunate enough to score some building materials at a couple garage sales. The Mrs had her heart set on having large picture windows for the chicks. The Habitat ReStore provided a couple old storm windows that were darn near perfect in size. But the pre-owned goodness didn't end there. The Mrs spied another nice little addition - a doggie-door. We'll show you that one later.

At this point I was out of excuses - I had to start construction. From here I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.

I knew I needed the base to be very solid and integral to the overall structure. Also, It needed to be mobile, so the cedar 4x4s worked our perfect for skids - strong, beefy, and naturally rot resistant. The main supports are treated pine 4x4s.

Sides up, the floor ties the two halves together. Who says sustainable flooring was just for humans? Our Marmoleum samples and scraps (from the bathroom remodel) make for quite the attractive floor.

Before too much else gets in the way, the roost and nesting box goes in. The Mrs wanted a tray that could be pulled out for cleaning.

Fresh from a garage sale - you sir, are about to become chicken coop. This outdoor sign was already weather-proofed. Perfect material for walls as it is likely that we'll wash it out once a year.

Walls, vents, doors. Trimmed in treated 1x4 pine. The roof, well, I kinda winged it. So far, so good. The chicken door and access ramp we the last details. The sticks were a nice touch that I like to think the chickens totally appreciate.

Moving the coop into place was a bit of an afterthought. The coup weighs a ton, but the farm boy in me had a plan. All else fails, hook it to the tractor!

Windows in-place last. Done? Not so fast.... Vinyl siding a la Menards bargain bin.

A few added amenities (food, water, and bedding) and we're in service. Yes, I mounted the sign-board upside-down on purpose - gotta keep them chickens dumb.

So coming out the other side of this project, here's a few key lessons.

Things I'd do differently:
  • It's a tad overbuilt. Lack of detailed planning and carpentry skills really. Only issue is that it made it pretty darn heavy.
  • Wheels. There just wasn't time, but it seemed like it wouldn't be too far fetched to devise a way to put this guy on wheels to move into place or between locations. Would be neat to build one on an old wagon gear.
  • I had hoped to incorporate an integrated feeder. Again, no time to solve.
  • It may be a bit picky, but the front vents should have been aligned with the front window. Hindsight, ya know.

Things were super-pleased with:
  • The storm windows provide lots of light and visibility. Also, they came with screens so we can keep them open and vent via the breeze.
  • The chickens took to the roost almost immediately, and 90% of the poo ends up in the pull-out tray. That tray then goes straight to the compost.
  • The siding had shocked everyone. But it really finishes it off, and was so easy.
  • The doggie-door access to the nesting box saved a ton of construction time and effort and works without fail.
  • And one more thing....
... the front access door for cleaning out the coop and refilling the food and water.....
is also the entire front wall. Nowhere to hide, nowhere to run.

A few more shots of the finished product.

Overall, it's really not a bad project. With a few power tools (drill, miter saw, circular saw) and a few specialized tools (square, spirit level, tin snips), you can pull this off. With all the scrap materials, the total cost came out to $110. A lot of which was pine lumber and hardware.

Clearly I'm no expert, but what questions do you have?

For more DIY projects or to share your own, join us on:
Tackle it Tuesdays
Frugal Fridays

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Seasonal Recipe: Peaches

This post is a little heavy on the photos so please forgive me in advance if you really just came here looking for the peach syrup recipe. I really enjoy peaches and use them as the main ingredient in our smoothies. I also have a favorite canning recipe that is a peach syrup. It makes for a wonderful gift since it can top off pancakes, french toast, waffles or ice cream. I have yet to have someone turn me down (or turn their nose up) when I offer them a jar of peach syrup.

As I'm sure you have gathered I use a lot of peaches during the season. I am able to buy "Market Ready" peaches that have only about 24 hours left of peak freshness time for $0.50 a pound. The peaches are still in perfect condition and I'm paying less then the u-pick price. The catch you ask? I have 24 hours to freeze, can or eat all that I buy. With a little planning before buying that is not a problem.

The peach syrup recipe I'm sharing today is actually a water bath canning recipe. If you would like to try the recipe but not can it then follow the directions through add the vanilla then you can cool the syrup and use (it will stay good in the fridge for about a week).

On to the recipe!

Peach Syrup
5 cups of pureed peaches
2 cups sugar
5 t. Fruit Fresh
2 t. vanilla

Combine puree, sugar and Fruit Fresh in a pot. Bring to a boil then let simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Pour into hot jars and process for 20 minutes in a water bath canner.

Variations: There are three ways you can easily vary this recipe. You can not add vanilla, substitute honey for sugar or use 2T. of lemon juice instead of Fruit Fresh.

One of the many ways we enjoy this yummy syrup is on top of vanilla ice cream with homemade granola sprinkled on top. Truly a divine peaches' n cream dish.

How do you dish up your peaches?

Would you like to check out more tasty recipes or share your own? Join us on:
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Crock Pot Wednesday
Food Roots
Fight Back Friday
Food on Fridays

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Affordable Summer Fun Ideas

Did you have a fun yet affordable summer?

We sure did! Our summer was spent at the beach, playgrounds, story hours, free concerts, free festivals, and playing in our own yard. It will be a summer to remember but not because of the damage done to our wallets!

I love to see what others have been doing for fun this summer. Over at Simple Mom she shared her list of indoor activities for the really hot (or wet) days. For a list 30 everyday summer pleasures check out On Simplicity.

I want to know what kind of affordable fun YOUR family had this summer. Leave us a link to your own post about affordable summer fun. I can't wait to see all of your great ideas. Maybe I can even squeeze a few more activities in before school starts in two weeks.

Affordable Summer Fun
Please include the name of your blog along with the post title.

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A Week of (Almost all)Free Fun

The summer is almost over and with a tight budget this year there was no formal vacation. With school right around the corner I was starting to feel guilty about not giving the girls a "real" vacation. So in a last stitch, guilt ridden, effort I tried to save summer break last week without breaking our bank. I guess you could call it a "staycation" but without hubby taking time off it was really just a week of almost completely free fun all within an hours drive of home.

Here is the breakdown of the week.

Monday: Feeling guilty while folding laundry I devised a plan of affordable action.

Tuesday: I coordinated with a friend to take our kids to an neighboring towns playground that is "new and different" for them. We packed a picnic lunch and carpooled there and back. The kids had a great time and so did us moms.

Wednesday: We stuck to our usual routine of spending our morning at the library for story hour and crafts followed by a brown bag lunch concert with friends at the local band shell.

Thursday: After dragging the kids to a few garage sales in the morning we headed straight to the beach. We enjoyed several hours of jumping waves and playing in the sand. Everyone went home tired including mom.

Friday: The National Blueberry Festival is held in a neighboring town which happened to be this same weekend. Of course we had to take our blueberry monster (aka baby daughter) to it. Us girls had a blast watching the pie eating contest, sampling blueberries in every form and watching a professional chief make yummy blueberry everything.

Saturday: Saturday was the best day. I was able to get free tickets to the World Pulse Festival which was held about 40 minutes from where we live. This all day, 5 band, Christian music festival was a wonderful way for my 5 year old and I to have a mother-daughter day before school starts. We rocked our hearts out while praising the Lord. I was even brave enough to put her on my shoulders and wade our way through the sea of teens to get to the front of the stage not once, but THREE times. She loved every minute of the day.

Sunday: After a fun but exhausting week we ended the fun with a late afternoon swim at a friend's pool the kids enjoyed the water and us moms enjoyed the Mr.'s homemade/ grown salsa with my friend's homemade margaritas. It was a great way to end the week.

It was a wonderful week of fun for the kids (and me). We enjoyed our time together and it really didn't cost us much. The only extra cost was the parking and food at the festival on Saturday. I spent $60 total for: parking ($20), food and water ($20) and t-shirts ($20). Not bad since the tickets were free.

Did you have a fun yet affordable summer? Tomorrow I'll have a post just for YOU. I would love for you to share with others your affordable summer fun. I'll have a place to link back to your own posts about affordable summer fun.

Join us tomorrow for more affordable fun ideas!

Making Lunch Special @ Feels Like Home

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Price My Space: Bathroom

I'm excited to join Price My Space this week! Why am I so excited? Because I LOVE our new bathroom. We completed our major bathroom renovation earlier this year and everyday I feel so good inside when I step into our labor of love. If you have not seen the before photos you should really check them out to see the before and after shots.

Without further ado let me introduce you to my favorite room. Our bathroom.

Our bathroom might be small on size but not on style. Our Kohler Escale sink was $272.66 from faucetdirect.com. It really brings a modern touch to the space along with the vessel faucet set at an angle which was purchased from overstock.com for $110.99. We wanted to keep the clean lines of a modern look but still have our little kids be able to see themselves in the mirror. To accomplish that we had a local glass and mirror store cut us two mirrors with chrome J channels to make it look like the shelf is floating on one solid mirror. The mirror and channel came to $68.74. We used FreshAire paint from Home Depot which was $38 a gallon. It only took one gallon for our tiny bathroom.

The reason we had to gut our bathroom and start over was because of the tile tub surround leaking. We wanted nothing to do with tile in the tub after that experience. What we ended up doing was a solid cultured granite made here in the USA. It came to a total of $1256 including the three floating shelves for our bath items. The tub spout etc came was bought from faucetdirect.com for $242.73 and the tub itself was $401.74. I love taking tubs now in our super deep tub (Archer from Kohler). It is the perfect soaking tub.

The flooring is
Marmoleum. I can't find the receipt for it at the moment and I don't want to guess the cost. We didn't need that big of a piece and found that the cost was very reasonable. It is an excellent "green" product that I would recommend to anyone redoing a floor.

Some of the finishing touches in the room include our custom vinyl lettering for $21.35. I love having that be my first real thought of the morning when I get out of an awaking shower. It helps me start my day with a can do (cause I'm not alone) attitude. All of the bathroom hooks and towel bars came from West Elm and totaled $122. Our floating shelves were from Pottery Barn and included the spice jars for $119.20.

We filled the jars with sand and shells from our local beach for free. The tile was purchased from Lowes for apx. $170 including everything it took to lay it.

The best part of the room is something that you can not see. The best part is knowing that WE did it ourselves. It might have taken a few months, but we did the work. We didn't hire the work done. Instead we learned first hand the ins and outs of a major bathroom remodeling project.

Thanks for joining us for Price My Space! I hope that you enjoyed our bathroom tour.

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Seasonal Recipes: Blueberries

Our youngest daughter is affectionately nicknamed "The Blueberry Monster". So as you can imagine, we go through a lot of blueberries at our house. This year I froze 30 lbs of berries. We will see if it lasts a full year. Last years supply ran out fast. We use our berries in lots of things from pancakes to smoothies. Just this year a friend gave me a new recipe for blueberry ice cream. It was an instant family favorite.

We used fresh cream from raw milk. Using the real fresh stuff helps with the flavor and texture. This ice cream was the richest and best tasting ice cream I have ever had in my life. The best part was that the kids loved it because of purple color.

Here is the rich creamy recipe.

Blueberry Ice Cream

3 cups blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbls. lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half

In heavy 2 qt. saucepan heat blueberries, water and sugar to boiling. Stir for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Add lemon juice and chill until cold (or overnight). Add creams and place in ice cream maker.

Yes, it was just that easy. I would suggest serving it in small dishes with only one small to medium sized scoop. It reminds me of french dessert. It is so rich that you only need a small amount.

What are you favorite blueberry recipes?

To see more great recipes and share your own, join us at:
Food Roots
Food Renagade
Life As Mom
Foodie Friday

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Carnivals / Festivals

This week we took part in 3 carnivals / festivals. As usual, there's loads of great content - and the other blogger's posts are pretty good too! Be sure to check them out.

Festival of Frugality
- Carrie at It's Frugal Being Green brings the frugality this week and features our post on salvaging the laundry after the attack of the purple crayon.

Carnival of Personal Finance - Our favorite French finance blog, Almost Frugal, gives us a language lesson as well as an Editor's Pick for our post on Roth IRAs.

Carnival of the Green - Victoria Klein gives us the green goodness this week including our review of Fresh the movie.

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You might also like...

We're trying something new. You'll quickly notice the added links at the end of posts we have 3 images with links to related posts.

At the moment:

  1. The linked posts are not necessarily related
  2. The links are showing up at the end of posts and between posts
We're working to resolve the coding issues - please bare with us. In the meantime, give the links a go.

Update:: The fine folks at LinkWithin corrected the issue, and their crawler has now parsed our site, so the widget is top notch now. Enjoy!


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7 Ways Your FICO Score Does Not Control Your Life

Occasionally, as a personal finance enthusiast, I'll read a blog post or two that make me realize that blogs are really just a digital form of water-cooler talk. I read one the other day about how gosh-darn important FICO scores are to every aspect of your life.

I hate FICO scores.

Let me rephrase that.

I hate posts about FICO scores.

That's a tad more accurate. But why? I'm glad you asked. My issue is not due to my own negative experience with FICO scores. Not because of the inappropriate ways they are abused by various industries. No. My issue is that 99% of the information you'll find about FICO scores falls into one of 3 buckets:

  1. Lies
  2. Myths
  3. Half-truths
What's the difference? Lies are when you know the truth and say otherwise. Myths are when you don't know the truth, but for some reason you're still talking. Half-truths are when you fall jut short of lying by giving enough information to still be misleading. Without judging my fellow bloggers, writers and commenters, let's look at the other side of some of this mis-information floating around.
  1. Your FICO score can affect your ability to get a job. Absolutely dead wrong. This is a sure sign that whoever you're talking to doesn't know the difference between a credit score and a credit report. Some employers will request to check your credit report - a detailed list of your financial reputation mostly focused on debt repayment and timeliness with bills. This is typically done when the job entails some sort of financial responsibility, which gives them every right to want to know how you handle your own finances. Now maybe there is some niche industry that can somehow gain value from assessing candidates by reviewing credit scores. I don't know who it would be. If an employer wants to review your credit score as opposed to a credit report, then turn and walk out the door - they are idiots.
  2. Your FICO score affects your ability to buy a house. Wrong again, though it may limit who you can work with. Before the days of automated underwriting, lenders used to do this magical thing now known as manual underwriting. Some lenders will not offer this service for home loans as they are far too lazy to go through the process. If you have a low score or no score at all, then according to FHA guidelines, you can override the automated system by proving that you have payed your landlord and other bills on-time or early over the past 12 months - 24 months is even better. They will also look at things like your employment, income, and assets. Three things not necessarily considered in automated underwriting. BTW - it was that fun-loving Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae that championed auto-underwriting. What does that tell you?
  3. Your FICO score affects your ability to rent an apartment. Yes and no. There are many apartment communities that do not allow the management staff to use their brains. They are reduced to submitting a leasee's information for a credit check and not even getting back the score, but rather letter grade based on the score. (You're going to start to notice a trend here, but these sorts of things should tell you a lot about who you are dealing with.) Often times, these are the apartment communities that look more like a resort than a home. There are no shortage of landlords out there who are more interested in the person they are renting to than a three digit number.
  4. Your FICO score affects your insurance. At some point in the 1990's, insurance companies conducted studies that associated FICO scores with the likelihood of filing a claim. This would fall under the heading of 'Non-Traditional FICO score uses'. In fact, Consumer Reports has found that the insurance industry has "no standards, little disclosure" when it comes to insurance scoring. Consumers Union has been urging legislators to ban it's use for years, and you should do the same.
  5. Your FICO score affects your ability to get utilities. Ummm.... yeah. A bad FICO score could mean you have a poor history of paying bills on time. Thus, your local water utility may require a higher deposit, but you can still get service. Cable and cell phone providers may turn you down altogether. But then again, you don't need cable or cell phone and if for one reason you think you do, then maybe that's a good motivator for you to clean up your act.
  6. Your FICO score affects your ability to open a bank account. We're almost crossing the line into fear-mongering here. It has been reported that Citibank runs in-depth credit checks before granting a request for a checking account. Funny - they are strict about checking accounts that contain your money, but require little more than a pulse to issue a credit card (and even that may be optional)?! So what is your first hint that you shouldn't be doing business with Citi? Or for that matter, any of the other mega banks?
  7. Your FICO score can affect your personal relationships. I'm no dating expert, but I've never heard of anyone requesting a credit check before a date. Facebook friend requests? Nope. LinkedIn contacts? Nope. Now don't get me wrong, if you are in a serious relationship and considering marriage, money and finances are a subject that you need to discuss and be in agreement on. Even still, your current financial behavior should be more important than a score. And if you start to sense that money is more important than the mate, then it is definitely time to move on.
So did you see the trend? Those that place a high value on a credit score are not using their brains. They are not people that you want to do business with. You don't want to live in their apartments, work for their company, have money in their bank, and you don't want to date them. Many people fail to realize that the way of the FICO is in fact not the only way. In several areas, it is the default way, and many times if there is a semi-intelligent manager around, you can be considered as a person - rather than a number. Remember - your FICO score does not consider:
  • your income
  • your assets
  • your investments
And if you still have questions, see our post on the difference between credit scores and credit reports.

Take charge of your life. Your FICO score only determines your life if you let it.

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Fresh Eats

The best ways to save money on food is to grow your own. Hands down, it's the best way. I know you can clip coupons and get hamburger helper and boxed brownie mix for pennies, however there is a hidden cost to those food items. You and your children's health. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that if you eat on healthy foods you never get sick, but you will be healthier and your odds of getting serious health issues like cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes does greatly decline.

So why is eating your own home grown food so beneficial? I'm glad you asked. Here is a list of ways you "Save".

  • You save on gym membership fees and the cost of buying a home gym since you are getting your exercise in the garden.
  • You save gas since you are not driving to the store or farmers market as much.
  • The cost of food (seed, etc) is cheaper then the store produce.
  • It saves the planet by not polluting the air with carbon imissions from tractors and semis.
  • If you use organic methods you will save our precious water supply and soil by adding fewer toxins into our water supply.
  • You save on health costs by eating healthy.
  • You save your life by adding more healthy days onto your life span.
  • You save your kids lives by teaching them where their food comes from and educating them on how to cook healthy food.
  • You save your friends and family by setting a good example for them to follow.
  • Save your neighbors money by selling them your extra produce.
  • If that's not enough, you also get a good tan, free highlights and killer thighs for no added cost!
As you can see the list could go on and on. The impact that one home gardener has on their health, wallet, environment, and those around them is endless.

Here is just one of the healthy garden fresh meals we had last week. Grilled mozzarella and tomatoes sandwiches using a homemade Italian herb loaf, corn on the cob and fried zucchini.

Why do you garden? Have you been eating garden fresh meals lately?

To see more great recipe ideas join us on Food on Fridays.

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FAQs for Backyard Chickens

Raising chickens in our backyard has been a great experience. The kids love them and love taking care of them. They'll follow our 18-month old around when she isn't looking. And they're fun to watch.

There have also been several surprises along the way. We were quite surprised at how quickly our dogs accepted them into "their domain" (the backyard). We were surprised by how positively our neighbors reacted when they found out that we had them. The most surprising thing has been the questions. It seems like everybody is interested in the chickens and/or has questions.

So let's cover off on a few of these, shall we?

  1. So how many eggs do you get? We get this question all the time. Right now - none. Chickens, like any other animal, have to be 'of age' to produce eggs. Once they're ready to lay, they'll produce 4-7 eggs per week, per chicken. Your mileage may vary depending upon the breed and conditions.
  2. So how do you keep from ending up with a bunch of little chicks instead of the eggs? This is one of my favorites. Didn't mother talk to you about the birds and the bees? You see, it takes a mommy chicken and a daddy chicken to make little chickens. We have only hens - no roosters. If the eggs don't get fertilized, then you don't end up with babies, just eggs.
  3. How do you get them into he coop at night? Actually, its pretty easy - we just leave the door open. Since they know it's their home and that they have a place to roost inside, they file in each night around 8pm. All we have to do is close the door behind them to keep preditors out.
  4. What do they eat? Whatever they want! Since they spend their days out in the backyard (fenced in for the doogs), they eat what ever they can find. Bugs, grass, weeds. We also have a feeder inside the coup and will also put out some scratch, oyster shells, or scraps out for them.
  5. Don't they fly away? Yes and no. They can technically fly, just not like the birds in the sky. They have been roosting out the fence gate lately and have flown out of the backyard on 2 or 3 occasions. We need to clip their wings, which will keep them from flying too high.
  6. Aren't they messy? Not really. No messier than they dogs when it comes to droppings. Most of the feathers end up in the coop. Other than that, you don't really notice them. The coop doesn't smell terribly since we built in so much ventillation.
  7. Don't you need a rooster? It's fun to let folks try to guess which of the four is the rooster. None! No, roosters needed. In fact hens produce eggs just like women do. The difference is that chicken eggs are fertilized after they are laid, not before. No rooster, means no fertilized eggs.
  8. What do you neighbors think? That was actually quite funny. On the same Saturday afternoon, both neighboors came over to aske what I was building. When I told them it was a chicken coop, not only were the supportive, but they also asked when e were going to get them. We'd had them for 3 weeks.
  9. Aren't they loud? Different breeds behave differently, kinda like our neighbors! Ours happen to be known for being neighborhood-friendly as they don't make much noise. And again, no rooster crowing.
  10. How do you know what color the eggs will be? Different breeds lay different colors. Ours happen to lay various colors - blue, green and brown to be specific.
Now, with those out of the way, what questions do you have about chickens?

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To Convert or Not To Convert: Roth IRAs

A while back, we had mentioned that we were reassessing our investments and had discovered some... [ahem] irregularities. We're getting that taken care of as well as getting our Baby steps back in line - retirement savings first, then college funding (note the updated disclosures).

While doing so, our investing adviser (one of Dave's ELPs) suggested that we convert our traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs. This was something that I hadn't previously considered, but then I guess that's why you have investment advisers. Before meeting back with him, I did some research and found some surprising things.

First, for those that don't know - Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA - what's the difference? Both are considered 'tax-advantaged' retirement arangements. Both allow you to control the investments. But there are some important differences.

Traditional IRAs are funded by pre-tax contributions, meaning the money gets pull from your paycheck before Uncle Sam gets his cut. This is good in the sense that your investing isn't hampered by the government's greed. But at some point you'll have to pay taxes on that money if your are going to take it home. That point is retirement. When you take distribution, you will be taxed on the contributions AND the growth.

Roth IRAs are funded by after-tax dollars, meaning the money can only be deposited after you've paid taxes on it. This is bad in the sense that you'll likely have ~25% less to invest with. But this is awesome in the sense that you've already paid your taxes, and when you retire, all that growth is tax-free. That's kind of a big deal.

So it's fairly obvious why you would want to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA - tax-free growth. We're money ahead if we never add another dime to it. But not so fast, to get there, there's some bumps in the road to get there.

  • First and foremost, converting from a Traditional IRA to a Roth, as far as the government is concerned, means that you are bringing the money home. Thus, taxes ar due.

  • There is two options to pay those taxes - with funds from the investment or with money from outside the investment. The concensus seems to be that if you can't pay the taxes from outside the investment, then you shouldn't do the conversion.

  • To help with the taxes a bit, in 2010 you can spread that tax burden across 2010, 2011, and 2012. Not only does that spread out the tax payment, but also the income. That can help you from jumping to the next tax bracket if you were close before.
So needless to say - we gotta make an appointment with our tax guy to make sure all out ducks are in a row. Other than that, we're ready to do the deal. In the meantime, we're getting all the funds invested with a little different strategy. But that's another post.

Do you have a Traditional IRA? Have you considered converting it to a Roth?

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Farming for the Future

I grew up on a family farm. Unless you were raised on a farm it is hard to explain what it is like to be a farm kid. You learn so much about life and gain a true since of responsibility from a very young age. I would not trade it in for the world. However, it was not always easy. Thankfully there are groups like Farm Aid that help support farmers in need and help to get laws passed that protect farms not big corporations.

When I saw that they were doing a photo contest I knew I had the perfect picture to share with the world. This is a photo I took of my father and two daughters. They are having a blast riding with their papa and you can see the wind turbines working hard in the background. Please take a few minutes and visit the Farm Aid website. I'd love it if you voted for us, but really, I would just like you to support farmers by voting. Thanks!

Farming for the Future

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Crayon + Diapers= ?

One Purple Crayon + One Full Laundry Load of Diapers= One Stressed Mama

Oh Yes, it happened at our house. Somehow our 18 month old put a purple crayon in the diaper pail with the dirty diapers. I somehow didn't notice it. The crayon not only made it through the washer but also the dryer with the diapers. This is not the first time crayons ended up in the dryer. Several years ago our oldest daughter stuffed her pockets full of crayons. When she did it I looked up lots of things to try to remove the wax and dye from her clothing. Nothing really worked. This prior history had me really stressed.

This time things are different. I have a wonderful group of mom's over at DiaperSwappers who are a wealth of knowledge. And have kids like mine. LOL

In a thread about removing crayon stains from March K8second0 stated that she had used one cup of baking soda to remove crayon from her diapers and it had been successful in removing the stains.

I was so frazeled that I forgot to take before photos of the diapers. Here is what they looked like after the first round of baking soda. the stains are less then half the size and amount of wax that they were before the wash in baking soda. I've since washed them again in baking soda and it is almost completely gone. I needed to use them right away but after this next washing I'll take more photos. I really is just some purple dye left on them. The wax is completely gone.

Thanks for saving my diapers k8secondo and DiaperSwappers!

This post was included in Works for Me Wednesday.

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A Cut Above The Rest

I really just wanted to show off some of the flowers from my yard but I felt like I need to write something with it so it doesn't look like I'm being a show off. So this is what I came up with.

6 Reasons Garden Bouquets are a Cut Above the Rest
  1. They are somewhat free.
  2. They are a lot better for the environment then store bought flowers.
  3. They give you bragging rights.
  4. They beautify your landscaping before you cut them.
  5. They help you get your kids involved with nature and thinking of others (if used as a gift).
  6. They build your self esteem and lift your spirits.

Why do you think Garden Flowers are a Cut Above the Rest?

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