Thursday, June 15, 2017

How Much Does a Garden Grow: May 2017

Finally! After a couple of months of nursing increasingly-enormous tomato plants and neither spending nor harvesting anything, the garden is back in business for May!

First, the expenditures. We are going back to basics around here; well, modern basics, that is. After several years of tilling our soil using a broadfork, we went back to using a mechanical rototiller. It kind of broke my heart, honestly, but apparently our clay soil is just too much for the poor plants to do any good without a good soil churning. We also added several bags of manure and sandy top soil to the garden to lighten things up, and so far, the plants are responding beautifully. However, the tiller rental and soil amendments set us back a bit, as did the purchase of a few plants I didn't grow from seed, so the challenge is on for the garden to really produce.

It really needs to produce, anyway. We depend on the garden to reduce our food bills across the year, and, in the past two years when we really, really could have used that boost, we didn't have it. I'm primed and ready to have a good year this year.

In May, the harvest officially began as well.  It's a little hard to brag, since May showed a total harvest of less than a half a pound of blueberries, worth about $2.85, but that was just the kickoff of the season.  You wait until June's totals come in!

So, we are entering my favorite month here in the garden. There is nothing that screams "possibility" quite so much as a June garden, and I am very hopeful that this year's garden will live up to its planned purpose as another "income" stream.  Fingers crossed, y'all!

Cumulative 2017 Totals:

Total Ounces Harvested: 10.5
Total Pounds Harvested: 0.65625
Total Value of Harvest: $5.15

Expenditures: (-$287.67)

Profit (Loss): (-$282.53)
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Monday, June 5, 2017

Of Coffee and Avocados

Most of my philosophy of sustainable living is based on controlling small things. I've told you to plant a single basil plant, eliminate buying cotton balls, and switch to at least one vegetarian meal a week, all to save money and resources. But today I'm going to tell you why that approach has to be taken in balance, and it all comes down to coffee and avocados.

Back in the day, I was part of a marketing research project for a company that I will not name, but which makes some of the best grocery-store-level ground coffee out there. The project sought to figure out why Generation X was eschewing coffee in favor of pop in the mornings as we became adults.

See, the crux of the problem was the generation ahead of us. After a youth spent going to Woodstock and a young adulthood spent at Studio 54 (or the equivalent, for both), they had settled into corporate jobs, and they needed to make some money. And those who sold coffee were getting pretty worried that the next generation was not adopting the all-American habit of a cup or six every morning.

To make a long story somewhat shorter, the findings of the project were that young adults basically needed their coffee to not taste like coffee. We preferred it to taste like hot chocolate or some other highly-flavored drink, and an entire industry of flavored creamers and "gourmet" coffee shops was born. We settled into needing our coffee every morning just like generations before us had done.

But, as the economy experienced inevitable ups and downs and the mortgage market got tough and we were having trouble getting promotions at work, some of that older generation had a brilliant idea: Perhaps we couldn't buy the houses and cars we wanted and fund our retirement plans like we wanted because we were drinking too many coffee-shop lattes. Just start bringing your own brew to work in a thermos, and you'll be just fine! Put that $3 or so you save every day into your IRA or toward your mortgage, and the American Dream is all yours.

I'm guilty of this too.  I give that kind of advice, and I will continue to tell you to make small changes because they allow you to take control of your life in a very tangible way. And I think I have about two coffee shop coffees a year, preferring the savings realized from my own percolator.

But, if you're struggling financially, chances are it isn't because of the coffee.

I say this because of an annoying trend I see in the media castigating Millennials for buying too much avocado toast and saying that they will never move out of their parents' houses because they are buying too many avocados.

Yeah, that's it. We have a generation that we've saddled with student loan debt the size of a mortgage. If they opt to freelance or be small business owners (as many do), they also pay a health insurance premium that is the size of a mortgage. And buying a house (and taking an actual mortgage) is no longer the guaranteed increase in value that it once was. All of these things are political and societal problems that are beyond the scope of this blog.

But I just wanted to say to all the Millennials:  Yes, absolutely watch the money you spend on little things. Restaurant meals add up, as do other small expenses. Take control where you can, because you have to handle that mountain of expenses so you can have a shot at a prosperous life. Heck, I'll even tell you to learn to make avocado toast at home so you don't spend the money for someone else to do it.

But don't ever feel guilty for liking a nutritious fruit and taking some pleasure in what you eat. If you are feeling the crunch, it probably isn't due to the avocados.
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