Category Archives: Survival Economics

Penny Plus=Peace

Micawber PennyI’ve had a glitch in my accounts for awhile that I was finally able to fix, and once again I am balanced to the penny. Mr. Smith can tell you that there are two areas that can instantly turn my cranky – when my accounts are messed up and when my gadgets don’t work.

In the afterglow of account nirvana, I started thinking about how we often regard a penny as insignificant and yet how much joy hinges upon it. After bills are paid and groceries bought, if I am one penny short in my accounts I won’t be able to sleep knowing that the one cent shortfall could start an avalanche of overdraft. On the other hand, one penny surplus makes for sweet dreams. That’s why I always pick up a penny when I see it. Heads or tails, an extra penny is lucky.

I’m not the only one who thinks this. Mr. Wilkins Micawber, from Charles Dickens’s 1850 novel, David Copperfield, said it back then:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

Interesting side note, the best fiction is usually thinly veiled reality painted up in gloss, and Dickens had a reality for his Micawber character to tap. His own father was the inspiration, and was actually incarcerated in the King’s Bench Prison, a debtor’s prison, after failing to pay his debts.

Why Did the Okaloosa Chicken Cross?

imageCheck out this great cartoon my friend Robin Wiesneth made!

I’m still mad about the Okaloosa chicken ban based on opinion. To me, it represents some of the idiocy that happens when government starts over stepping their boundaries and start ruling (instead of representing) based on their opinions (which should be of “The People’s).

There are some crazy bans out there, and wheher you agree with any of them or not they are still matters of some official making a knee jerk decision without real research. Today it’s gay marriage, pit bulls, prayer in school and chickens.

Who knows what it might be tomorrow.

More Chicken Ban Business

Sent August 21, 2014. A letter from Nathan Boyles, the commissioner who thinks we are smart enough to care for a few chickens if we want to. I’m glad somebody up there has confidence in us!

Nathan Boyles

I thought it was a simple issue but by the time it was over, I felt a bit like I had been boiled and plucked. I was trying to repeal the rule in Okaloosa County that outlaws backyard chickens – even a single hen- in all residential districts, rural or not. In truth though, the issue isn’t really about chickens at all. It is about being true to core principals. That means ending government interference into our lives – and our backyards, unless our individual actions harm our neighbors. I assumed, wrongly, that with an all Republican “conservative” Commission the issue would be a homerun.I noted a government ad from 1918 – near the end of World War 1 – encouraging Americans to keep backyard chickens to boost the productivity and self-reliance of a nation at war. The ad featured two children building a backyard chicken coop. The children represented the same generation that would later become “The Greatest Generation.” Those children, raised in a time when self-reliance and duty to the greater good existed in harmony, would face down the greatest threat the world has ever known. And yet less then 100 years later, it is okay for government to outlaw a former virtue. One fellow Commissioner scoffed at me for connecting the right to keep a few laying hens in the backyard to the development of The Greatest Generation. But is it really so foolish to think that the values we teach our children impact the people they become and the society they form? I hope and pray we never need another Greatest Generation, but what if? My son is 2 years old. With a government that regulates more and more of our lives for our own safety and comfort will this generation be up to the task if called upon? There will always be determined individuals among us; there will always be warriors who rise to the challenge, however great. But when we begin to produce warriors in spite of our shared values and expectations and not because of them, how long can we endure as the leader of the free-world?

So really, it wasn’t about a few clucking chickens at all, it was about producing people with pluck – the engrained quality of courage and determination that defined The Greatest Generation. It was about limiting the regulation of our lives and fostering a sense of independence and responsibility while discouraging reliance on government to provide for us and regulate our neighborly relations. And yet, for today at least, we cling to the status quo. But don’t worry too much. The issue is not over and tomorrow is a new day. I’ll keep you updated on efforts to turn the tide.

A more complete update on Tuesday’s Commission meeting will follow later.

Nathan Boyles 2

Chicken Ban Smacks of Over-regulation

Chickens are PatrioticRecently, chickens were banned in Okaloosa County.

I’m pretty mad about the chicken ruling, not because I personally want to keep them, but because I object to being told I can’t without a good reason. 

In the past I had 30 hens in a backyard in Okaloosa County and my neighbor loved them. I supported the neighborhood with free food and they gave me their scraps for the birds, reducing the impact of waste in the landfill. The chickens kept the bug population down and there was no bad smells or noise problems (I got rid of the rooster).

I object because a house down the road from me has a crowd of dogs that bark like mad whenever I pass, upset my dog during our walks and the smell of dog feces wafting from their backyard is nauseating… but I can’t have chickens if I choose?

Chickens are simple, economical and ecologically friendly pets. I think the chicken ban should be over ruled and we should all be encouraged to keep a few, just like we were back in 1918.

Seems some of those that represent us are making decisions for us based on opinion. What happens when that opinion turns against something important to you?

Leftovers Get a Second Chance


Near death experience – these leftovers came back from my culinary morgue better than ever.

One of my worst bad habits in the kitchen is leftovers. Every night I make enough of something new to feed a football team. After dinner the leftovers usually go in the fridge, still in their original pot.

In a week, when I need the pot back, the leftovers often get tossed because no one wants to eat them.

Last night I decided to look at the leftovers. I put them all out on the counter: a bit of homemade pasta sauce, some fried rice, chipolte ranch dip, a quarter of a green pepper and a tube of pizza dough I bought by mistake.

I mixed everything up in the fried rice pot and added some shredded mozzarella cheese, layered it in a small casserole and covered it with the pizza dough. A sprinkle of garlic, cheddar cheese and oregano on the crust completed the experiment.

Twenty minutes in the oven at 350 and I pulled out my “best dinner ever” according to one son. The other judged it, “Mmmmmm… really good!” in between bites.

I saved time and money and got kudos? That’s inspiration enough to me to stop ignoring my leftovers. The best part was there were no leftovers of my leftovers to deal with.

Eat Your Dandelions

Frank Smith Dandelion Bar

dandelion heartI obviously love dandelions.

Carol C. sent me a message the other day asking me how a weed became my favorite flower. I will be glad to explain, and have my blog post done for the day 🙂

A long time ago when all my children were young, I ran a day car out of my home. I loved doing this and had a lot of fun with the kids. Every day before lunch we would take a walk to get some exercise and the six kids in my care became obsessed with picking flowers to bring me.

Unfortunately, this sweet gesture usually involved someone’s flower garden and I was having a hard time teaching them the difference between a wildflower in the play yard and a planted flower in someone’s garden.

a dandi 3One day I hit upon the idea of saying my favorite flower was the dandelion. They were easily distinguishable and no one would be complaining to have a group of flower pickers rid their yard of them. The idea worked like a charm and before I knew it I had armloads of dandelions and no more guilt over stolen posies.

Later, when I found out more about the dandelion, it really did become my favorite flower. Shining in the grass like golden coins, the humble little flower blesses everyone around whether they receive it or not. The dandelion isn’t kind only to those who love her, but to everyone, even those that seek to destroy her.

Besides all that, every part of the dandelion can be consumed and is healthy. You can have dandelion wine,  add the toasted roots to your coffee, eat the leaves as salad and the blossoms as fritters. I’ve never really eaten dandelions myself, but after coming across this great post on all the uses for this sweet flower, I just might try a dandelion salad to celebrate spring.

Thanks Carol C. for this post’s inspiration, and thank you Frank Smith for the amazing macro photos of dandelions 😀

Frank Smith Dandelion Bar2, isn’t.

I just finished my taxes and was asked if I’d like to check my credit score for free with  I’ve been assured by the commercials on TV that it’s absolutely free, unlike the other credit score companies that ask you to enter a credit card number. Everything was going fine until I reached this page.

Does not understand that by asking for my credit card number, they are just like those other credit score companies that ask for a credit card?

Hypocrisy, scam or both?

free credit score

My Porch Garden


Baby radishes, doing great on our enclosed porch.

Ever since I’ve moved to Florida my outdoor gardens have failed.  The squirrels get my tomatoes, the fungus gets my squash and the sandy, saline soil gets everything else.  I recently threw in the towel and retreated… indoors.

I had some shallow plastic sweater boxes I filled with soil and I planted in those on our enclosed back porch.  At night I have a grow light trained on them so they get plenty of grow time.  Our electricity has varying rates so it’s cheapest during the pm hours, perfect for the plants.  It’s my most successful garden since I moved to this state.

I have radishes, spinach and lettuce out on the porch.  I’m also propagating edible cactus to plant in the flower beds and Monday I’ll be putting in sunchokes.  Because sunchokes grow so high, thick and wild I am planting them in he virtually unused side of the house where the sun pours in all summer long and drives up the electricity bill.  The sunchokes will shade the windows, and be dinner in the fall.

Out in the yard I have found that used coolers make fantastic planters.  More radishes are ready to pull outside the door in one of those long coolers that was tossed for lack of a lid. I’ve got peppermint taking over the radishes so that when they’re gone, the cooler will be refilled with fresh, minty foliage.

I love gardening, when it works.

Fabulous Furniture Find

All this for $25!

All this for $25!

This new year I want to focus more on one of my favorite topics: How NOT to be a Starving Artist.

Things are better off for us now than ever, but with a bigger paycheck comes bigger expenses. Now we have car payments and insurance, work wardrobes and higher house costs.

We still, and probably always will, pinch our pennies hard enough to keep Abe squirming. Far from feeling deprived, saving money makes us feel empowered. Take our latest, greatest find, a dining room table, as an example.

We have been waiting awhile to find the perfect table. It had to be compact because we use a nook in the kitchen as a dining area. It had to be sturdy but not heavy, durable and above all, dirt cheap. Yesterday I found it at a new thrift store I was visiting.

The style is unique and, I think, very Art Nouveau.

The style is unique and, I think, very Art Nouveau.

It fit all our criteria: light hardwood with wide, comfortable chairs that will be easy to recover when they get too worn. The design is unique and the whole thing fits perfectly in our nook. Best part was the price. Originally marked $45, the attendant quickly offered to me for $25 simply because I hesitated over the price (which I thought was a great deal anyways). For another $5, plus tip, we had the whole thing delivered and set up by dinner.

We don’t see our $25 thrift shop table and chairs as a deprivation or a mark of being poor – instead we like to think of all the money we didn’t spend that can now be used on something more fun. Tonight that happens to be a bottle of wine to go with dinner.

Shopping in thrift shops for furniture is one way we live well on less.

Gourmet salad to-go Jar…

Salad Jar IdeaWhat is it about canning jars that make us crazy?

We package cookie and soup mixes in them and make solar lights in them. The latest, greatest jar creation that seems to be creating a buzz is a practical one I actually want to try – salad in a jar.

The idea is that you can make a salad in a jar, using a particular order of ingredients, and it will keep for a week. The implications are obvious… you could easily pop out five salads on a Sunday afternoon and have a cheap, healthy lunch all week.

I’m going to try it – cheap, healthy, easy and ecological… all my favorite criteria 🙂 I’m going to try it this weekend. Here’s how:

Shredded carrots
Cherry tomatoes
Sunflower seeds
Hard boiled eggs
Baby spinach

1) Arrange ingredients in a large mason jar
2) Store in fridge for up to a week
3) When ready to eat: shake jar, place on a plate, and eat!

You can make any arrangement you want… you can add red onion, cucumbers, radishes or peppers. Always remember to put the dressing at the bottom and the lettuce at the top—a MUST!