How to Tie Up Blackberries


When we moved into this new house, we were delighted to find berry bushes growing in the garden.  They are a blackberry of some sort, probably Marion berries, according to the old owner’s daughter.  They were growing up against the fence, and clearly had not been trimmed for a while.  Since there were quite a few chopped off pieces on the ground on the neighbor’s side of the fence, we concluded that he probably did not care to have them growing through to his side.  Also, we could not access the back side of the berries.  So, we decided to move them a couple of feet out away from the fence.


We started by digging up clumps of new, fresh vines.  They were a nice bright green color, and we left the old, gray-brown ones to be taken away.  We tried to make sure there was a nice clump of roots on each one we kept, and some even had a new bud growing.  Rob, Lovana and myself all had plenty of turns digging.  Once a good start was dug up, we planted it in the dirt and laid the vines out away from where we were working.  What we did not want or need, we put in the yard debris can.  We anticipate that the roots of the old vines will send out new shoots and we will need to kill them, but it sure looks great now.


A week or two passed, with plenty of rain to keep them alive.  Rob went up to my sister’s farm and grabbed a few fence posts we had stored there, and got some wire.  Today was nice and he pounded those fence posts into the ground and strung the wire between the posts.  He put several posts in the row, about 5 feet apart, and strung a low wire and a higher one.


Then Patsy and I tied them up with baling twine.  We tied each group of berries up to the lower and higher wire, and whenever the vines were long, tied them into a circle, using the wires to support them.  Next spring, they will fill out and make a nice barrier between us and the neighbor, be where we want them, and easy to pick.img_3455

It looks amazing!  As we were doing that, Rob was over on the left pounding in a few more posts for some raspberry plants I dug up at my old house.  My aunt kindly kept them all summer under her automatic sprinklers.  I got 6 good root “clumps” from my pot.


He strung wires for them, too, and I planted them.  They are really small after a summer crammed into a pot, but we will see how they do.  I have high hopes.

We both felt really good about getting these jobs done.   I don’t think I’ll harvest much next summer, but in a couple of years………YUM!  (The berries in the background are a project for another day–they are everbearing raspberries that were here–I need to trim and tie them up, and Rob needs to put in a better wire and maybe some more posts.  They don’t have as much flavor as my old berries, so I am super happy some of mine survived.)  It was great to get a nice day on a day we did not need to work.



Saving Money -October 16, 2016


I found the cutest “bug” recipe on Taste of–it’s called “Mounds of Bugs” and made a great project for Jake.


I really wanted to do this project with him, but did not want to break the bank.  I bought 1 bag of Mounds mini candy bars, and did not use them all.  I bought a few Six-let candies and M and M candies from the bulk section at Win-Co, instead of bags of each.  Instead of the curved pretzels called for in the recipe, I used some stick pretzels I had already instead of buying the curved ones called for in the recipe.


Ja’Ana and Alissa spent Thursday afternoon making caramel corn for the 4H bake sale.  Patsy, J and A all went to the event on Saturday, and helped sell the baked goods from many clubbers around the county.  While they were there, they made Chex Muddy Buddies to help the wonderful smells to fill the hall, then sold the Muddy Buddies.  The money helps buy ribbons and other supplies during the fair, and some other great uses.  I felt great about our contribution.  Everything the girls took sold, and they were able to raise almost $60 just on what they brought.  I don’t know how much was made, but I was told it can top $1,000 and sometimes reach $2,000.  I was amazed.  It was a great start to our 4H year.  They worked hard in the wind and the rain, and I treated them to the $5 lunch at Dairy Queen afterwards.  I don’t know why, but our family usually gravitates to DQ for casual special occasions.  I think it must be the ice cream–we love it!

I finally went shopping.  I spent a bunch, but stayed in budget.  I’m really stocked up on lunch supplies, veggies, etc.  Now that Rob is working, we run out of lunch meat sooner than before.  That’s a great reason to have to buy more!  Even though school lunches aren’t very expensive, we save money each time he packs one instead of buying one.

I took the cousins and my kids to the YMCA to swim on Friday, as no one had school.  The director of membership had graciously let us put the cousins on our account when we signed up because Rob told him they were with us so much, so all the kids got in with the membership.  Alissa brought a friend, and I was fully prepared to pay for her, but they said she could be our guest that day.  Wow!  They had fun!  I did too.  It was fun to use my old van to its full potential.

When Jake was trying to negotiate his way to McD’s, I ran into Safeway and bought granola bars and Capri Suns for the kids to eat and not “starve to death” before we went to my house,  saving a bundle.  I figured that with 8 people, it would be between $45 and $60 to eat lunch that way.  I am happy to report that they all survived until they got to my house and ate!

We have been sleeping on a pair of old sheets since the move.  The same pair.  And it ripped in 2 places because it is so old.  BUT, we knew we had more in the shop.  AND, we knew we had seen them.   We could not find them and became stubborn and would not go buy more.  Just because.  So, we were sleeping in torn sheets.  Pretty sad.  Rob spent a couple of hours going through bins this afternoon and….drum roll, please….he found them!  So, it’s sleeping in the lap of luxury tonight.

Our electric bill is much, much lower than it was at our old house, probably due to the reduction in size.

Our camper has been repaired, under warranty, and we now have a new air conditioner. Despite a huge rain/wind storm, Rob was able to move it back to my sister’s farm before it got too windy.

We’ve built a fire a few times, now.  I’m looking at another rainy, cozy week here this week.  Bring on the homeschool. It’s time to teach those girls how to make soup and they are going to cut out their aprons.  It will be a great week.






Basil Pesto


The other day, I made pesto from the last bits of basil in the garden.  I do it a little differently than some others do.  This recipe started from Taste of Home’s Basil Salmon Recipe, but I’ve changed it up quite a bit.  For one thing, we don’t use pine nuts.   We like more parmesan cheese.  I’ve even tried cutting down the amount of oil used, but that one did not work.  It takes it all.

Here’s what I do:

4-1/2 cups basil leaves

10 Tablespoons olive oil

5 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons lemon juice

6 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Place all ingredients in food processor.  Pulse until it is all incorporated together.  Taste.  Add more salt, pepper, cheese, etc. that you want, to taste.  Freeze in an ice cube tray.  Once frozen, pop the frozen cubes into a zip-top bag and keep in freezer until ready to use.  Makes 1 ice cube tray full.


We use it on fish and chicken, in salad dressings and dips, and pasta the most.  Ja’Ana and I love it!


Cousins by Love


These two have been fast friends since they came into each other’s lives.  Alissa came to live with her mom and dad when she was a very tiny baby.  Rob and I got the privilege of spending many, many days and nights with her as she grew up.  When she was about 14-15 months old, I agreed to watch her and her 2 older sisters while their parents went to Mexico for a week.  Little did I know……

We had applied to adopt again and had  been waiting about a year for our new child/children.  We were open to a single child, or a sibling group.  Since they are supposed to choose 3 appropriate people for each child or group, we had been to “committee” a couple of times already, and someone else was chosen to be their parents, not us.  Ouch.  But, that’s how it works.  We got another chance to possibly be selected for Lovana, who happened to have a younger sister who may or may not be freed for adoption soon, and were asked if we wanted to take the risk.  Of course, we said yes, and our file was presented.  We were denied on the basis that we were not black and the children were.  Our caseworker was livid!  That was not only unfair, it is illegal.  It is a federal mandate that no child could be denied a home based on race.  Because it was so wrong, they took it back to committee and to the top of the state.  We were successful the second time.  Guess what week was chosen for transition week?  You got it!  The same week I had agreed to watch the 3 nieces.


It was a long, exciting week.  I was extremely busy, to put it mildly, with 2 toddlers (one of whom did not know me at all), a very shy 5 year old who turned 6 the day after we got her moved in, my 2 special needs boys, my autistic niece, my other niece, and my other, older children.  (Probably 2 out of the 3 as I believe the oldest was away at college by then-  I can’t remember)  It is a blur, but there were 9 or 10.  There were lots of visits going back and forth to get the girls acquainted with our family, and had been for a week before, but this was the week to do an over nighter, then have them stay a couple of nights, then have them move in.  It was Easter week, and we were hosting, and Lovana’s birthday was on Easter that year.  We had no control over the timing.  I was not sure I was going to survive, and certainly relied on the Lord’s strength.  I have rarely felt such relief as I did that Easter Sunday morning when I had them all lined up on the back pew, dressed in their finest new Easter clothes, on time for church to start!  I bought an ice cream cake (so rare most of my kids had never had one), and the family all pitched in with the dinner.  It turned out great, even though you are never supposed to overwhelm the new child with a lot of family too soon.   Or move them when it’s right around their birthday, or some other huge anniversary.

In the end, something beautiful came out of that chaos.  Something happened I could have never foretold.   Ja’Ana and Alissa took ahold of each other’s hands and held on.  At an age where children don’t usually play together, they were inseparable.  They became best buds and have gone camping, to plays, parks, amusement parks, Disneyland, the Redwoods, the beach, and mission trips together. Through the years, they’ve hit a few growing bumps in their relationship, but through it all, have remained bonded for life.  Years ago, they dubbed themselves “the twins separated at birth” even though they were 6 months apart and really didn’t resemble each other very much:)


Now they are forging a new path together.  No, it’s not golf with their science experiment, although they did seem to be trying that today, too.  They are embarking on a grand adventure of learning together.  The homeschool class at my house doubled this week, as we gladly welcomed Alissa to our party.  Because, when those 2 get together, it often turns into a party.  Alissa’s mom and I have some really fun stuff lined out for them this year, and I’m here to say we are off to an excellent start.  Today was very fun and educational.  Their Auntie Rosalie surprised them with gift cards to McDonald’s, which were burning a hole in their pockets.  So we went there on the way to the pond.  They gathered pond water for an upcoming experiment, and that is just the beginning.



May they always stay so close.



Saving Money–October 11, 2016


There are things in the garden that I plan to pick this week.  I’m especially excited about the boc choi.   I enjoy it in stir-fry and chicken soup.  I think I’ll make both, as my sister brought some from the farm garden as well.  It has been pouring rain, but I think we have a couple of dry days now, so hopefully, I can carve out enough daylight hours to get out to the garden for a bit.

My sister also brought potatoes, onions, squash, and other produce from the garden.  It’s coming to an end with all the rain, but we sure have harvested a lot this summer.

We have been crazy busy around here.  On Saturday, Rob rounded up a couple of friends and we got the freezers moved.  I cannot tell you how nice it is to have my food all in one place!  We spent most of the day moving them, and organizing the food.  Now I know what I have to work with.


He immediately thawed and barbecued a turkey.  We found we still had 4 of the ones he raised last year.  We were only remembering 2, so it was a nice surprise.  Now I’ve got turkey bits for casseroles and sandwiches, and broth.  Some I will use right away, and some will be frozen.  I also will take turkey on Sunday for family Sunday dinner.

We also found a lot of steak, so enjoyed a nice dinner with friends on Sunday night and feasted on steak. It was so good to see them and since Rob barbecued, it was an easy mess-free dinner.  We cooked green beans and baked potatoes and my friend brought dessert.   It took me a little bit to figure out how exactly I was going to navigate the new house with company, as it was the first time, but we figured it out, everyone had a seat to sit on, and we had a blast catching up with our friends.  And…..there’s still more steak.  Every fall, we buy beef from a farmer and we did not use as much this summer as usual because we had difficulty accessing it.  Clearly, when we did, we grabbed hamburger:)  The new beef will be coming, and so we need to use the old up.  I don’t feel sorry for us!

I’ve been packing lunches for both Patsy and Rob.  I took one with J and I when we went to my dr. appointment on Friday as well.  Not only is this frugal, but I seem to get so sick when I eat fast food anymore, that it’s just better all around for me. (You never know if a little wheat got in there, and I react so much to it) I was able to combine errands that day, since it was all the way up in Portland.

We continue to go to the YMCA and exercise.  The girls are getting into their dance classes.  I still have a little more dance wear to buy for Patsy, but will probably order it on-line.  The items I bought at Walmart on clearance for only $2-7 are working  fine and have not fallen apart yet.  (I wondered for $2-3 shirts and shorts)  Patsy has basically grown out of her swim suit, but I am having her wear those nylon shorts over it right now and will continue to scour the internet for a good price for a new one.

I am keeping busy with homeschool.  My niece, Alissa, is joining Ja’Ana in homeschool and that is going well.  Her parents will be taking on some subjects and I will do others.

Rob really likes the people he is working with at his new job.  The kids are pretty hard to handle, so he’s on a big learning curve.  Yesterday, for instance, he got punched multiple times, stomped on, and punched in the face, hard.  The little guy he was specifically hired for really struggles, and Rob is finding out that he may be moved to another school where they can help him better.  Rob would need to move, too.  He isn’t super excited as he just got started at this school, but that is how it works here.  We will see what happens.  Today is the first day where he will go to the kid’s house and ride the bus to school with him.  We are super glad he has the job, and hopefully, it will smooth out as everyone gets into routines.

Good News!


Time for Rob to hang up his barbecue tools and paint brushes, at least until the weekends! He was called late yesterday and he got a job!  He started today.  It was pretty crazy, as there was no orientation, no training yet, he just plunged right in.  He was thrilled to get started, but nervous.  This is a complete change from his previous job.  Complete.  He spent quite a bit of time wondering exactly what he was supposed to be doing.

So, 80 job applications, 10 interviews and………..that’s what it took!  On Friday, after the latest interview, the vice principal called and said they had a strong interest in him, but that the HR department had a problem with him having worked in one place so long previously.  So, we just didn’t know what to expect all weekend.  Rob responded by hurrying up and finishing the canning cupboards “just in case.”  Good thing he did:)

He will be working as an assistant in a special needs classroom.  He will be working primarily with one certain child, assisting him so he get through his day.  He has 6.25 hours of work per day.  When the child is sick, he will have to go home, too.  He will not work during the summers.  So, those things mean we will have to continue to be very creative with our money.  Still, we think we can make it, when combined with the other job.

On the other hand, he will have insurance for all of us.  He will have a retirement plan for the first time, ever.  His other job had none.  At our age, any retirement piling up will certainly be better than none.   He will have the school holidays off to spend with the family.  He will have the summers off so we can volunteer at camp again if we want to or go on mission trips, or maybe both.  We can go camping and he can assist me in watching our niece and nephew while they are off for the summer as well.  If we need for him to, he can pick up another summer job of some sort.  Also, they put him into the sub pool so that if the child is sick, he can possible sub that day in a different area and not lose wages that day.  And, his foot is in the door.  Later, there are positions with longer hours and he could try for one of those if we need more hours.  The way these jobs work is that he has to re-apply each year, because the needs change.  After 3 years, I guess he can keep the job, if it exists, without re-applying each time.  OR, they can move him around as they wish if his existing job vanishes.  Complicated, but one step at a time!  Although that part is not going to be fun, once he has his foot in the door, we’ve been told it’s much, much easier to get re-hired than it was to get hired in the first place.

Like I told him, “you only have to do the first day once.”  He made it through the first day of many good days to follow.   I am very happy for him.



Saving Money–Week Ending October 2, 2016

Rob and the big girls went up to the farm and raided the garden.  They were very successful.  Besides what you see, they got some green onions, apples and boc choi.  I served salad, cut up cantaloupe, made pesto from the leaves of the basil (not the flowers or stems), and hamburgers with tomatoes and lettuce.  I made sweet and sour sauce with a pepper and threw the boc choi in and served it on rice.  Lovana made a quinoa salad with another one.


I cooked some millet that had been sitting on the shelf.  I made a millet-crusted chicken pot pie.  I started with a recipe from a cookbook, but changed it to use what I had.  It turned out terrific!


The electrician finished up his wiring for new plug-ins in the shop.  Rob then got to work finishing up the shelves for the canning.  We spent time yesterday and today putting the canned jars on the shelf.  He had one done last week and we have been using the jars that came to light like crazy.  Now we have even more choices.  Now, call me crazy if you will, but I KNOW I have more canned whole tomatoes, but they are MIA!  So, I expect a box or two to show up somewhere unexpected as we continue to unpack and organize.


Patsy and Jake enjoyed making cookies from a cookie mix that came to light when I  unpacked my food boxes.  I worked extra hours this week because my niece was sick.  Now Ja’Ana has it.  Hope no one else gets it!

We joined the YMCA.  Because we are earning so little right now, we were given an extremely reduced monthly rate.  We had several motivations, but one reason we joined was so that I could get into the pool.  I have had a problem with my foot since July and have not been able to walk on the treadmill as I usually do.  This has been adversely affecting my health.  (I’m diabetic and my sugars soar without exercise) Rob spent an entire day researching options (the Y and others), talking to the Y about finances, signing up, etc.  We are extremely grateful that they gave us such a low rate and we have already worked out twice.

Another super big blessing to us is that Ja’Ana can take dance classes there, also at a greatly reduced rate with the scholarship we were given.  It means a great deal to her to take dance, and we had really though we would be unable to allow her to sign up anywhere this year, due to finances.  So, we are all really happy for her.  On Tuesday, she will take her 4th class, because they are trying to place her in the correct class.  So, she just keeps getting to go to different classes for free until they decide which is right for her.  (We don’t feel sorry for her:)

Patsy was able to join a cheerleading class at her school on Wednesdays, for a nominal fee, so she’s happy, too.

As of Friday, Rob has put in about 80 applications.  He has had about 10 interviews.  The one he had on Friday called him and said they have high interest in him, but it was up to the HR department, who “has a problem with people who worked only one place for so long before this.”  What????  Huh?????  So, we are waiting to see what happens on Monday.  If it’s more references they need, he can certainly furnish more, but he did only work one place for the last 18 years.  He will give a call tomorrow and offer more references if they want them.  So, it’s in the Lord’s hands, as it always has been.  In the meanwhile, he has another interview Tuesday, and keeps applying.  He also got invited to the orientation for substitutes, which is not until October 11.  That is probably the way he will end up getting hired, but who knows?  At least he keeps making it to interviews and I know he will get a job before long.  And, at least it’s not boring around here–always something going on to keep us busy until that day.