Suburban Homesteading in Southwestern PA

By Stacy Artis


Be careful what you wish for.  Isn't that the old saying, because you just might get it?  Our cucumbers did not survive this year so I was hoping to find a good deal on some pickling cukes at one of the local farm markets.  The next thing I knew a family friend brought us two grocery bags full of cucumbers. We ate some of the larger ones, shared them with neighbors, treated the chooks to some (they love cukes) and I made crystal pickles out of the smaller ones.  Mom showed me how to can them this week and we put up 10 pints.  That in spite of having a fire the next to last night of the process.  Kind of embarrassing....but, on one of the evenings the syrup (which has 5lbs of sugar in it) boiled over on the stove.  Well, it was hot and we were getting ready to leave so I didn't clean it up right away.  Shame on me, I forgot about it the next day and when I put the syrup on to boil again the spilt stuff burst into flame when it got hot enough!  What a mess to clean up.  All that syrup charred to petrification, smoke black on the stove and all the salt I dumped on the fire to put it out.  Yuck!  Fortunately, there was no permanent damage to the stove and the pickles turned out fine.  Good thing, too, as our generous friend with the cucumbers just brought us four more bags!  So, let's see, there's crystal pickles and dill pickles and bread 'n butter pickles and garlic pickles and.....

Temperatures during the day have remained right around 80 degrees, but it is so humid.  Just right for nearly daily thunder storms.  The storms don't usually last long, but do dump an awful lot of rain.  Yesterday we received just under 2 inches in an hour.  It's been good for the weeds and they are growing at incredible rates again.  Happily, the peppers and tomatoes are doing just as well.  We started picking a few tomatoes this week.  Yellow cherries and some large yellows.  The reds are just starting to get some color.  Another couple of weeks and I will be seeing tomatoes in my dreams rather than cukes.

We went to a picnic at a friend's home this past Saturday.  They live in an old farmhouse out in the boonies.  There is a small pond where the kids caught frogs (and a small snapping turtle), paths for quad riding and of course all the animals.  The flower beds around the house were so pretty.  It's all new, but they've taken care to make it seem like it would have years ago.  There are a lot of old fashioned plants.  I brought home a bit of some of them and some shoots off the mock orange bush.  I planted that out front near the wisteria.  I hope it survives it's less than gentle uprooting and replanting.  Won't it be a show if it blooms along with the wisteria?  There was a heavy rain after supper and all the kids turned a hill in the yard into a big mud slide.  What a mess, but they sure had a good time!

I finally sent out our order for more chicks today.  We're getting them from Welp's rather than McMurray's.  The neighbor we are splitting the order with wants Bantam Silkies and McMurray won't have any more Bantams to ship until Spring.  They were also out of some of the others I wanted.  Welp's have everything we want.  The only problem is that they ship the Cornish X Rocks on a different day than all the others.  We don't want 50 chicks, so we decided to pass on the Rocks for now.  We'll get the Buff Orpingtons, Black Australorps and White Plymouth Rocks for now as they are all supposed to be larger birds and good for eggs or meat.  We'll get the Cornish X Rocks that Tim wants so badly in the Spring.  I can't wait.

Tim and I have been sorting through papers and getting things organized because after much thought and prayer, we've come to the conclusion that we have no choice but to file for chapter 13 bankruptcy.  That isn't where all your debt is erased, but rather where you pay your debts.  You just get to start over with them and payments are arranged by the court so that you can afford them.  We have been trying to dig out on our own for so long and it seems like once you get behind and are doing the whole "borrowing from Peter to pay Paul" routine it just snowballs.  Tim's new job has substantially added to our income and my job, while part-time, adds about $850 each month.  We are in a position to pay our bills and be okay.....if only we weren't so behind.  That is what chapter 13 is all about.  It kind of puts you back to day one with creditors and gets the bill collectors off your back. Sigh.  We hate that things got to this point.  It was a combination of our consumer attitudes and some bad business breaks for Tim.  At least we are on the right track now, which will help us get straightened out and then not get back into this situation again.  We have no intentions of slipping back into the old habits once we are out from under.

I'm hoping that sharing this will help even one person either avoid getting to this point or offer hope that you can get back to a better way of living.

I'm off to deal with the cukes.

Carpe diem!