Monday, July 25, 2016

Cutting Costs in a Custom Build

This is the current state of our dining room table. Oh, the fun of building a house!

Our cost-to-build estimate for our new house went over budget of what the new house appraised for--by quite a bit. So, we are finding ourselves having to cut or change things in order to find more cost savings.

We knew with our budget we certainly wouldn't be building our "dream home" but we are still hoping to include a lot of nice custom features. As we analyze the cost-to-build numbers with our builder, we are making changes and cuts to save some cash so that we can invest in the few things that we absolutely don't want to compromise on  (which is mostly me putting up a big fight on things like windows, ceiling height, and the fireplace). Building a house can cause a lot of arguments with your spouse, so choose your battles wisely!

Below is a list of some of the things we are doing to save on costs:

1. Lower grade flooring in some rooms. Carpet for all bedrooms and upstairs loft, linoleum in the laundry room. Save nicer hardwoods for great room, dining room, kitchen and entry hall.

2. DIY open shelving instead of upper cabinets in the kitchen.

3. Stock/inexpensive bath vanities in the children's and guest baths

4. Inexpensive tile in bathrooms (and for Kitchen backsplash)

5. Minimizing the complexity of the roofline

6. Minimizing corners of the exterior of the house

7. Simple interior moldings and woodwork, no crown molding

8. Composite interior doors instead of solid wood. Save solid wood for front door and French doors.

9. Wood decking floor for the screened-in porch instead of tongue-and-grove flooring

10. No cabinets in laundry room (we will build our own in later)

11. DIY shelves in pantry

12. Reuse of our current refrigerator, washer and dryer

13. Doing all of the landscaping work ourselves

14. Painting all the interior walls one color to start, no complicated paint designs

15. Finding light fixtures that are on clearance or repurposed from Craigslist or Ebay

16. Finding cheap salvaged brick to use for foundation, fireplace and chimney

For those of you with experience in house-building, can you add anything else to this list? 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Impressive Garlic Harvest

HOLY GARLIC BULBS! This was one awesome harvest of some HUGE heads of garlic (at least for us).

In addition to planting our usual little plot of garlic in one of our raised beds, we also planted a sizable patch out at our new property (beside our new neighbor's garden). All of the seed we got from our local feed store which sells garden supplies as well. We were pleasantly surprised when we pulled up some enormous heads of soft neck garlic with a smaller amount of the hard neck variety.

hard neck garlic
I've been using it as "green garlic" ever since we harvested but currently we are letting it cure until it is thoroughly dried out and will not mold or rot. To cure, we let the garlic sit on tarps for a while until we had the time to hang it up on our screened in porch to dry for at least a few weeks.

garlic curing

We plan to make garlic braids to give away and to sell and I hope to preserve a good amount of this delicious stuff by pickling and making a garlic powder and spice mix. In the past we have supplied our garlic needs for almost a full year by using what we have grown in our garden.

Nothing like having homegrown garlic hanging on your screened porch!

Additionally, we are going to try our hand at making "black garlic"--so stay tuned for an upcoming post on this antioxidant-rich gourmet delicacy.

The size of the cloves in the large bulbs are nice and big!

We will definitely be planning more garlic in the fall--it might just be our best bet for an easy cash crop :)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Small Batch Pickled Beets

This is the first year we have ever been able to grow beets that actually developed a root!

I had to thin them out quite a bit along the way, so although I didn't end up with a ton, I still had enough to make one jar of pickled beets and have two or three batches left for regular cooking.

I just love pickled beets. It's one of my favorite types of pickled vegetables for sure and beets are so healthy for you I like to enjoy them any way possible.

I used a recipe from the TV show A Chef's Life, found on their website here. It was featured on the "beet" episode but instead of processing my beet jars I just stuck them inside the refrigerator instead since it was such a small batch and I knew I would eat them soon anyway.

One of the interesting things I remember them talking about was how important it was for flavor purposes to leave the beet greens on the roots when cooking them before canning the beets.

Beets cooking in the water with greens still on

Here is what you will need, taken directly from the website:

3 pounds beets
3 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 cloves
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon chili flakes
3 star anise

Place washed, skin-on beets in the bottom of 6 quart or larger pot. Cover the beets with water by 2 inches, and bring them up to a boil. Boil, covered for 20 minutes. Check to see if they are done by sliding a knife into the center. The beet should give just a little resistance. If the they are not done, continue cooking just until they are. Drain off the water and set the beets aside to cool.Once they are cool enough to handle, peel and slice the beets into 1/2 inch rounds. Position the rounds in wide-mouth canning jars. If you have rounds that are too wide to fit, cut them into half-moons, or quarters, or whatever you have to do to get them in there.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a non-reactive, 3 quart saucepan and bring it up to a boil. Carefully pour the brine over the beets, making sure the beets are completely submerged in the liquid. At this point you could refrigerate the beets for up to 3 months without processing in a hot water bath. If you’d like to store them at room temperature and keep them longer, follow the directions on (pg. 00) and process the jars for 5 minutes. 

the brine for the beets

What is your favorite way to cook and eat beets?