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Friday, 29 March 2013

My Business Idea

Hi folks

Today I'm going to tell you about an idea that I had recently for a business, particularly as the idea arose out of the things I've been discovering through the course of this blog.  
My idea is to start a not-for-profit business designed to help low-income moms provide their kids with healthy food.  I picture a ten-acre plot of land subdivided into little 'crops' of vegetables such as green beans, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and squash.  The first year, the vegetables will be sold fresh in a roadside stand.  The second year, we'll get into canning.
The building will feature a childcare facility.  This is critical in that in order to be a source of additional income to low-income  moms, paying for childcare can't be a requirement.  The way it will work is this: as with any farm operation there is a certain amout of work to be done with each kind of vegetable, for example, weeding or transplanting seedlings.  The work to be done will be divided up into worklots, and as each person comes to do work, they will earn money based on how many work lots they complete.  I feel this system will enable people in need, particularly low income moms, since studies have shown that single mothers and their children are amongst the most disadvantaged in Canada, to come down for two or three hours and leave their children in a well-staffed daycare so that they can work for a few hours and take home a little money when they leave.
The additional advantage, of course, is that they can also take home a basket of healthy vegetables to feed to their family.
The reason I feel this type of business is important is because the way that Canadians currently purchase vegetables, well, stinks.  The vegetables and fruits we buy as 'fresh produce' in grocery stores have been shipped all over the world.  They've been chemically treated to withstand that long journey and still look 'pretty' to consumers, but they contain very little actual nutritional value.
With canned vegetables, it's even worse because of the preservatives that are added to prolong the shelf life of all that shipping.
As readers of Self Sufficiency will know, I am not a fan of carbon - emitting transport truck traffic that all this shipping entails, so my goal is to build a business that takes over the vegetable sourcing in my area.  I don't want to ship elsewhere, I just want to provide a local, healthy option for struggling families (and provide them with a place where they can earn a little extra income if things get tight without having to pay for childcare.)
This idea is in the beginning stages right now, but the working title I'm thinking of calling it is "Earth Mama."   Follow me as I document my journey towards making it a reality on my blog.

Garden Patch Update
Cabbage week 1
These are just-sprouted cabbage seeds, they'll be going in my garden as soon as the danger of frost has passed.

Calendula week 1
Calendula flowers, once dried, are an excellent addition to home-made balms and soothing lotions, as well as a co-habitating plant to grow with tomatoes to keep pests away.

Tomatoes week one
Check out how much these babies have grown in one week!:

Tomatoes week two - The secondary leaves are in and going strong!

Delphineums week one

Delphineums week two- The leaves are much bigger and new growth is arriving every day.

Sandwiches update:
Last week's total -          $438.77
Sandwiches savings -         32.25
Total -                                471.02

In addition, I attended an anniversary party in the family last weekend and took as a gift a batch of my homemade lotion, which I had prepared and poured into a glass candy dish with a lid that I purchased from a consignment shop.  The total I spent was under $2.  The couple seemed pleased with the gift, anyways as much so as if I'd have purchased a store-bought bath set, so I'm going to add another $25 to my savings column as I ordinarily would have spent at least that much, bringing my new total to


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Garden Patch Update

Welcome to Spring!
Ok, so I'm a little early, but surely by the time some of you read this it will be on or after March 21st, the first official day of Spring.  I'm ready to catch you up on some of the exciting things that are happening in my seed cups.
I'll begin with an update on my asparagras.  When I last posted on their progress, they looked like this:
There were five shoots (plus one 'volunteer' day phlox) in one pot.  Since then, I've transplanted all six seedlings into pots of their own.  I'm happy to report, since the move, they're all doing well.  Three of the five asparagras shoots have even put up a second stalk:
It's tough to see, but if you look at the base of the stem, you'll see a second, delicate pale green stalk beginning to emerge.  After I transplanted them I also moved them to the sunniest place in the house, a directly south-facing patio door, to maximize their light exposure without the use of electrical means. 
Next, the story of my tomato plants.  I began by calling up a gentlemen that I'm acquainted with to ask if he could spare some seeds.  I've had some of his in other years and they've done better for me in terms of yields than any nursery-raised tomato 'starter' plant I've ever purchased.  What this gentleman does is keep the seeds from the best specimens his tomato crop produces every year and so over the course of several years, he has arrived at a very high-quality strain of tomato seeds that are also naturally organic.  He told me he'd be quite happy to send me some seeds, and sure enough, they soon arrived.  He sent me seeds for tomatoes and for cherry tomatoes and told me to start them in moist soil in a plastic container on top of my fridge.  The best part was, they were free!
I followed his instructions, re-using an old 'clamshell' style strawberry container - since these are not even recyclable in some municipalities, I advocate not purchasing them.  However, I also feel that once purchased, even one additional use such as this one is better than discarding them after the initial fruit that they contain is gone.  I plan to wash these trays and keep them for next year since they did an excellent job of starting the seeds.  Once they started to sprout, in order to keep track of what kind of seeds were what, I transferred the regular tomato seelings into re-purposed yogurt cups.
Just look at how well they're doing now.  They're in full sun, in yogurt cups with holes cut into the bottom of them, sitting in glass baking dishes.  I water them from the bottom by pouring into the baking dish.  That way the tiny roots that are forming draw the water from the ground-up, which is the way nature intended.  Supposedly this process will strengthen the root development, although this is something that I read on the Internet so take it with a grain of salt.
I separately sowed the cherry tomato seedlings in old toilet-paper rolls.  I cut them in half, then stood them up in the baking dish and filled them up with soil.  Then I poked a hole down into the soil with my finger and plopped the sprouted seedlings into it. 
As you can see, it's not a perfect system.  Some soil leaks out every time I bottom-water them, but the cardboard itself is said to be an acceptably bio-degradeable-enough material that you can plant the cardboard directly into the garden once the plants have hardened off.  Again, this suggestion comes to me courtesy of the internet, so we'll have to play that one by ear.
Another seed variety I've started is my blue delphineums.  I purchased the initial plant two summers ago in the $1 bin of a garden centre shortly before it closed for the season.  I love the flowers so much that I've kept the seeds for two years now and started my own plants from them each year.  This is what they look like in bloom:
I think they're just the most startlingly beautiful shade of blue and I want to spread them around my whole backyard.  I've also found that they make excellent mother's day or housewarming gifts if someone takes possession of their new home at the right time of year.  As I said, I've kept the seeds, and this is what the ones I started about two weeks ago look like now:
You can see the first of the teeny-tiny secondary leaves have started to appear.  I'm having so much fun planning out my garden for this year and I just can't wait to see these beauties come into bloom.
In conclusion, while I'm getting some good results on the asparagras, tomato, delphineum, and phlox seedlings, nothing has come out of my strawberries.  (sigh!) 
All of the tiny plants above have cost me literally nothing to grow.  The containers are repurposed, the soil comes from a bag that was left behind by the previous owner of the house, and the light comes from the sun.  I've now also ordered additional seed packets from a seed catalogue, which should be arriving in the mail any time now.  They are: spinach, calendula flower (good for relaxation when used in DIY lotion recipes), red cabbage, peppers, lettuce, green onion, carrots, and some others.  I'll keep you updated on how these seeds develop once I recieve them, but for now, take care, and thanks for reading.

Sandwiches update
Last posted total -        $367.43
sandwiches savings          71.44
Total                             $438.77

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Aah, the Good Life

Hello folks, and welcome to this week's post.
It's late at night, and I'm sitting by myself.  I have just cracked a beer open to celebrate, because tonight, I finished the first draft of my novel.  It weighs in at 118,000 words, which is somewhat longer than the minimum 50,000 word requirement to qualify as a novel.  It's three hundred and fifty four pages of double-spaced, eleven-point-font, and I am uncomplicatedly proud, because it is proof of what one can accomplish if one sets aside the demands of the Rat Race (they aren't our demands, after all) to focus on what makes one happy.
In my case, it's writing, well that and giving the giant middle finger to entrenched elites.  Happily, I've been able to incorporate both in my novel.  I would never have been able to finish it by now if I hadn't have given up my job, and man, what a great time I've been having since I did.
It's bliss.  Living this way, with the freedom to do whatever it is that your heart wishes to do, is the true definition of joy.  I won't let it be said that I didn't put the work in.  I scrimped and I saved and I made my husband sometimes use no-name household cleaning products, but it was all worth it, because I was able to save enough money to buy myself the freedom of a year to set after my dreams, and what a liberating feeling it is to have done it.  Well, draft one, at any rate.
I remember, back in the days of heavy steel-toed boots and uncompromising adherence to schedules, how I used to walk down to my spot, the vacant land at the end of my road, and look up at the sky and think, if I could just finish my novel, I could quit this dang job and get on with my life. 
I remember, too, how the answer came back to me: Quit your job, and it will come.
It was a scary thing to contemplate, giving up the security of benefits and a regular paycheck.  But somehow, it was scarier not to think about it, to picture the long years of my future stretching out in front of me with nothing but the endless metal aisleways of that hulking factory to look forward to, well those and the five minutes of happiness a week when I opened my pay stub.
That same week a wise man named Joe said to me while we leaned over car roofs and scrubbed away at metal blemishes, he said "You know, the advantage of this type of job is that it gives you eight hours a day of uninterrupted thinking time.  You can solve whatever problem you have in that time if you just put your mind to it."
He was right.  It took me a year of studiously paying down debts and weaning myself off of the paycheck by taking as many leave of absence days off as I could.  I remember a conversation with a guy named Paul in the parts department where he asked about my time off requests, "How do you do it?" "I just stopped caring about money," I told him, and I realized in that moment that it was true.  I had come to the conclusion that if I wasn't working, I wouldn't need daycare, and if I didn't need daycare, I didn't need a job.
I've been free ever since, and that thought that popped into my mind has come true: if you quit, it will come, and it has.  I don't know if this novel will ever amount to anything.  All I know is that on my deathbed, when I look back at my life, I'll be able to say I went after my dreams.
Savings Update
Last week's total - $321.14
Savings this week - $46.29
Total thus far   --   $367.43