Renting a Cottage is Better Than Owning One - Here's Why...

Tuesday, July 22
by Robin and Ed



We are mourning a loss this summer. Our favourite rental cottage - one we've been going to since our daughter was 6 months old - was sold to a new owner. Will they rent it? We don't know. It was a good run of years and we've lost count of how many summers we've spent anywhere from a full week to a few days there. Family, friends and pets have got to enjoy the beauty of Whitestone Lake and the joys of renting a cottage.


But, while we're a bit sad - we think our next rental outside Old Quebec City will help us get over it quite nicely.


Owning a cottage or vacation property is a savings goal for many. We can also admit to being tempted. But our years of cottage renting have shown us that there are many rewards - both financial and lifestyle – that can be realized by not buying a cottage.


For your consideration: our list of reasons why it is so much better to rent a cottage than to own one.

Unbundle Yourself: Part 4 - VOIP for Phone and cutting off our Bell Bill completely

Wednesday, July 9
By Ed.




After watching our landline bill from Bell (Basic phone service, no calling features, unlimited Long Distance Calling in Canada and the US) go up steadily for several months, we have been spurred to action.

As Robin said last week, "Why -the bleep- are we paying $67/month so companies can call us all day long to try and sell things?"

So, today I began a summer-long experiment to fully remove Bell from our lives. It isn't as easy as you might guess - most Internet connections require a basic phone hook-up for access - but we are giving it the old college try. Read on to see how we're getting started.

We're telling Ma Bell, "let's try taking a break", but we fully intend - like anyone who ever says that - to dump her expensive a$$.



Make Beer at Home: Part 5 - Simple Tweaks to make better beer

Tuesday, May 27
By Ed





Several months have gone by since I've written our How to Make Beer at Home Series beer and I've used the time to:

  • Try things
  • Drink the resulting beer
  • Try more things
  • Feed the resulting beer to friends and coworkers 
  • And so on. 

I've learned a few things (through reading, talking to people and, of course, trial and error). I've got some simple, easy and relatively inexpensive ideas to share and most importantly, I got to drink beer and call it research. I hope you enjoy reading about the fruits of my labours as much as I did writing about them.


Choosing Vegetable Plants with Kids (Our Square Foot Garden in the Driveway - Year 2!)

Sunday, May 18
by Robin



This post was first published in the Spring of 2013.  
Today seemed like a good time to revist this post, 
while our hands are dirty again planting with the kids!


We've finally come to the most important part of our Growing Food in our Driveway experiment.  Planting!  We've got a few reasons why we're devoting driveway space to veggies (we shared some here).  What we didn't mention in that first post was another why: kiddos!


Spend about 4 minutes talking with other parents and food will come up.  A common lament is the lack of variety our little people find acceptable.  A close second is the turning up of noses at lots of veggies.  As a Registered Dietitian, with a focus on the littlest of humans, I can tell you, these common complaints about kids is oh-so-frustratingly normal.  One, among many, strategies to include more fresh produce in our kids diets is to involve them in growing.


Our main partner in deciding what to plant in our square foot gardens was our daughter, age 9.  She loves all fruits and has a few veggie favourites, but we'd like to push her envelope a bit to accepting some new green foods.  (Our son, age 6, is pretty indifferent to our driveway garden experiment.  And that's OK.  He doesn't need much encouragement re: vegetables, he's been a veggie fan from birth.)


Spoiler alert: we've already had success in the trying new foods dept. and we're only in week 3 of putting plants and seeds in!  Hoo-rah!


Today's post we're sharing the dirt on what we planted and how we chose them.





After we built the raised box gardens and filled them with soiless-soil - we were ready for the truly fun part: planting!


While we are new to raised gardens and square foot gardening, we've been gardening for over a decade.  In the past, we've made all kinds of mistakes around choosing our garden plants.  If we do our job with this post, we can highlight for you the successes and warn you off the downfalls that we've had in the past.


Here's our keys:

1. Plant what you actually eat.

Sounds like a no-brainer, eh?  Well, it took us a few years of gardening before we went.  "Hey - wouldn't this be more rewarding if we planted stuff we actually eat vs. stuff we thought sounded cool as we roamed through the garden centre?"


2.  What would you like to put away? 

We've talked before about canning.  Every single year we make jars and jars of our home preserved salsa.  It is easier than you think to can at home.  Our salsa recipe, at risk of sounding arrogant, is the bee knees.  We tend to plant our gardens with a focus on the ingredients of this salsa.  (And our amazing zucchini relish - which we have enough of from last year, so we're not planting for this in 2013.)




3.  Learn what works to plant together - and what doesn't. 
Another learned the hard way lesson.  In an early garden we planted sweet corn.  Yum - sweet delicious peaches and cream corn on the cob.  What says summer freshness more than that?  Oh, but don't forget about decorating - let's plant some Indian corn - the rich autumn coloured kernels will make beautiful decorations.


Never ever do this!  That year we had ugly brown and yellow bitter corn cobs - after the two types cross-pollinated and created a hideous inedible offspring.  A bit of research will save you lots of disappointment.



Square Foot Gardens Need Squares 
(and we don't just mean the authors of this blog...wocka wocka)




We chose to keep our squares simple and organic looking.  We used twine and nails to create them.


We were busy savoring the fun of watching the kids hammer in the nails and didn't take the charming "kids-pitching-in-on-the-summer-day" shot that better bloggers would.


Another choice to involve the kids and keep things cheap and cheerful - we used cedar shims and a Sharpie to make our planter markers.  Our daughter wrote all the names and drew a little sketch for the plants.  (Not pictured: the "Green Onion" marker who's drawing looks a bit like bathroom wall graffiti i.e. franks and beans, if you catch my drift.)





Our Final Planting Plan:


Here's how we selected what would go into our 32 squares (i.e. two 4'X4' boxes = 32 squares)
  • Our daughter and I chose the plants.  We drew a sketch of what would go where.
  • We looked up how many plants belonged in each square.  We followed the advice of the blog, My Square Foot Garden This blog has become our go-to resource.
  • We decided to plant 4 weeks worth of peas.  Our kids get more excited about a bag of fresh peas-in-the-pod than is anywhere near normal.  We love that, so we staggered the planting by 1 week for each of four squares.



Below is our final planting plan.  You'll find the veggie we chose and the number we planted below the name.


Box One:



Carrot
16

Carrot
16

Mixed Greens
4+

Mixed Greens
4+

Carrot
16
Pumpkins
1
Spinach
9
Peas
(week 1)
9
Peas
(Week 2)
9
Peas
(week 3)
9
Peas
(week 4)
9
cherry tomatoes
1
Cherry tomatoes
1
Cherry tomatoes
1
cherry tomatoes
1




Box Two:



Celery
1

Green onions
16

Green onions
16
Cucumbers
2
Jalapeno peppers
1
Squash
1
Jalapeno peppers
1
Red peppers
1
Red peppers
1
Red peppers
1

Roma tomatoes
1

Roma tomatoes
1

Roma tomatoes
1

Roma tomatoes
1



We also planted two empty urns.  One has Cilantro - and a pepper plant.  The other has Basil - and another pepper plant.  This is not some savvy Companion Planting scheme - it's merely we had leftover pepper plants and stuck them in there.



Together we put the seeds and plants into their new homes.  This took almost no time - maybe 20 minutes.  Perfect for kiddo attention spans.


Impressed with our daughter's serenely focused watering technique?  It lasted until just after this shot, when she realized it looked like she was "a boy peeing!" and then danced around "boy-peeing" on the all the plants.



Our most recent success:
"Yum!  Spinach, it's so smooth and tasty!  I can't wait for more to grow." 

~ Our 9 year old daughter, who's never let spinach past her lips before this garden.  Yeah!


Did you plant a vegetable garden this year?  What did you plant?



Linking up to:
http://www.livingwellspendingless.com/2014/05/22/thrifty-thursday-week-61/

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