Sunday, April 27, 2014

Acreage Happenings

We have been quite busy here on our little acreage the last few weeks. Chad installed our clothesline over the weekend and last Monday he made my little raised garden bed.  Since we are on a limited budget I had to cut back on some of my original plans, but I am still getting to enjoy living in the country – just on a smaller scale. J

Here I am with my little garden. Chad did 99% of the work...about all I was able to do was rake.

I am only having a small garden this year to start out.  There were many different factors that played into it, but the main reasons are the cost, the wildlife, and my back pain. We would need to buy a tiller if we were to make a bigger garden, or rent one, but even to rent a tiller is expensive.  Another factor is the abundant wildlife that is in our area.  A big garden would have needed a deer fence, another added expense. Since we only plan on living here for a few years, spending that kind of money was not in the best interest of our budget since we are not sure if our next home will have room for a large garden, tiller, and deer fence. And finally, my back most likely could not take working in a big garden.  As much as I would like to say I would be fine, I have to be honest with myself and admit my limitations. Anything where I bend over makes me hurt pretty badly by the end of the day. Chad is busy with work and school this summer and I didn’t want him to worry about hoeing the garden, too.

So we decided to keep it simple and make a 4x8 raised bed with inexpensive concrete blocks.  This is also good because the soil here in Virginia is quite clayish so we were able to enhance the soil with manure and compost, which were both free. I also have two extra pots of tomatoes and herbs in a few more pots.  This space will be enough to grow the vegetables we eat the most of:  tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeƱos, and basil. All other vegetables will be bought at our farmer’s market that runs every Saturday through October. Next year we may add another 4x8 space so I can add a few more veggies.

All planted! I have marigolds and herbs planted around the outer edge and tomatoes, basil, bell pepper, and jalapeƱos planted within.

Here are my flower and herb pots. More basil, oregano and thyme. 

 The clothesline posts were found inexpensively on Craigslist and will pay for themselves in just a few months with the savings on electricity. I’m very excited for line dried clothes!

I also spent a few dollars to get some flower pots and one basket filled with flowers.  For those of you who know me, you know how this is really cutting back from the 12-15 planters I have had in past years!  I still would like to get some perennials for the front flower bed, but I am waiting, hoping I can find someone who will let me dig up their extras for free or a minimal cost. In the mean time a little bit of mulch keeps it looking neat and tidy.
I salvaged some iris from what was the old weed patch  flower bed.  I'm hoping I can nurse them back to health. Not sure what the flower is on the far left.  It has bright pink spike flowers in the fall.  I thought I would leave it and see if it looks better this year. I have dreams of roses, hydrangea, and clematis.......then I remember we are poor college students.

We decided to forgo chickens, too.  While I really love the idea of raising our own chickens for eggs, again, the start up and maintenance cost was prohibitive. Not only that, but we have several plans in the future to do some week long mission trips as well as other traveling.  Having chickens would mean I would need to find a “chicken sitter” to care for them while I am gone.  I already have to find someone to take care of Rem and Koda without worrying about the chickens, too. So I will continue to buy my eggs at the farmer’s market and support my local chicken farmer instead of raising them myself. J

So that is a little of what is happening around here.  I love spring and have been having such fun working in the yard watching Chad work in the yard. :-) After a busy day working watching, I lay in my hammock for awhile.

Then I felt bad for my poor, hard working husband who couldn't join me and just stood next to it, so we finished the evening on the front porch rocking chairs. :-) All kidding aside....I love my husband and appreciate all the work he does so I can have my little country life.

Have a great week, friends!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Health Update and April/May Health Goals

So I remembered I never gave a March health update at the beginning of the month.  March was a so-so month for me health-wise.  I indulged in wheat and dairy far more than I should have and paid for it with tummy issues throughout the month.  My exercise was good the first part of the month, but then dropped off dramatically during the second half with all the traveling I did.  I still kept up with walking Koda on most nice days, but we did have several rainy days where we did not walk.  I also tried a new vegetable and went on a hike which were part of my goals. So not a total failure, but I hope to do better this month!

April has been much better.  Koda and I have walked at least 30 minutes every day, and we went on a challenging 4 mile hike on Saturday.  I have not been doing my weight circuit this month though. My diet is wheat and dairy free 90% of the time, although I still indulge in occasional pizza, brownies, and candy.  I take this digestion enzyme before I eat wheat or dairy and it really seems to help me not have horrible IBS symptoms afterwards. (I still have some, but not like it used to be.)  I have found I can have a small amount of dairy without having any symptoms afterwards.  This is nice because now I am able to eat mashed potatoes with butter and milk, basil pesto with a small amount of Parmesan cheese, or M&M’s.  J

With all that being said I still lost another 4 pounds in the last 6 weeks, which I am very pleased with. That brings the total amount lost to 11 pounds since February 1st and 14 pounds since Christmas!  I’m not sure why because I have indulged in candy far too often.....

Last night Chad bought tickets to the Spring Seminary Banquet, also known as Sem Prom. J  It is a semi-formal event and I want to be able to fit back into this dress for the event.

So, I need to get with the program!  Although I can get into this dress, it is a bit snug and I want it to be comfortable to wear that evening.  I have decided to cut out candy for the next month. (I will still eat cake when we celebrate Naomi’s birthday this weekend when she is home though.)  I will also stay on my wheat and dairy free diet 90% of the time.

I have also decided to start a body weight circuit.  By that I mean no hand weights or barbells, but exercises using the weight of your body only. I did this back in 2008 when I was in the best shape of my life and had very good results with it.   I am joining a daily plank challenge that my former chiropractor back in Nebraska is putting on.  In addition to that I will do push-ups, tricep dips, squats, and stretching/yoga. Here is the circuit:

Warm up with gentle stretching and yoga 5-10 minutes, or warm up with a walk.

45 second plank – working up to a full minute
25 Squats
20 Push-ups
20 Plie Squats (you could substitute lunges here, but because of my back I do not do lunges)
15-20 Tricep Dips
25 Squats
Repeat at least 3 times
5-10 minutes of yoga and stretching or more if there is time.

I will do this circuit 4-5 times a week.  I will be doing a 45 second plank daily with the challenge I’m participating in. 

I will also continue to walk Koda at least 30 minutes every non-rainy day.  So hopefully in 4 weeks time my dress will fit a little better and my arms and legs will be toned up for summer!

Here are my April/May Goals!

1)      Walk Koda at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week
2)      Do a 45 second -1 minute plank every day
3)      Do body weight circuit at least 4 times a week
4)      No candy until after May 8th
5)      Go on 1 more challenging hike
6)      Drink a green smoothie 4 times a week
7)      Continue wheat and dairy free, 90% of the time

So what are your health goals for this month? How did you do last month?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

How I Sell on eBay

I am back with my series on the resources we used to sell things when we downsized. Today I will cover eBay.

 eBay was one of the first resources I ever used to sell things.  I started back in 2003, and for a few years even had a small eBay business where I sold for other people.  I feel I am fairly well versed in eBay.  I have made good money selling clothing we no longer wear, but also home school books, text books, and even yarn! I am only going to talk about things I have experience selling; so for those of you who would like more information on how to sell things other than what I talk about here, I would suggest you check out eBay's selling pages.  There is a wealth of information on their website that walks you through each step.

It all started back in 2003 when I was really into buying name brand clothes for my children as well as myself.  When my children outgrew their clothes or I decided I no longer wanted mine, I would sell them on eBay.  Name brand children’s items sell very, very well on eBay; provided that they are free of holes and stains.  I would almost always buy name brand clothing new, but on sale.  Many times when I would go to sell the items I would end up making a profit because I would sell them for more than I paid for them new.  This only applied to the name brand clothes that you get at high end department stores - Gap, Gymboree, and so on.  I would strategically put these items on eBay at the optimal time.  For instance, I would list my kids' previous years Christmas outfits the first week in November.  I would list their Easter outfits 4-8 weeks before Easter.  Summer clothes would be listed in mid-April and fall/winter clothes in late-August or September.  I would put these on auctions with a low starting price but also with a buy-it-now for a pretty high price. Sometimes the auctions would have a bidding frenzy the last hour where the items would sell for more than I bought them new!  If not, at least I would re-sell for a good amount making the total paid out of pocket for high end items relatively low.  I also sold lower end brands on eBay in lots; 5-10 items.  These also sold very well.

I also have used eBay over the years to sell my name brand used clothes.  Adult clothes do not sell as well as children’s, and for most items you are better off taking them to a consignment store, but there are a few adult items that sell well on eBay where you end up getting far more per item than if you sold it on consignment.  The adult items that sell well on eBay are:

  • Name Brand Handbags – These would be brands such as Coach, Dooney & Burke, Prada, Brighton, etc. These are ones usually found at higher end department stores.  These need to be gently used without stains or markings.

  • Women’s Name Brand Jeans - These would be jeans you would buy at higher-end department stores or The Buckle, etc. Brands would be Miss Me, Rock Revival, Joe Jeans, Paige Denim, to name a few.  They would also be a current style no more than a year or two old and in excellent condition.

  • Name Brand Shoes - Again, higher end and little wear is the best. Men’s work boots or cowboy boots also sell well with minimal wear. (But unlike women most men wear their shoes until they wear out.) J

Now I know many of my readers do not buy name brand clothing for themselves or their children. There are still many, many things you can sell!  Here are a few other things I have sold over the years

  • Books – These are not huge money makers, but if you can make a dollar or two on each book it really adds up.  Books are easy to list and ship too. I suggest listing most books at a fixed price buy-it-now.  If you home school, those books sell extremely well.  Especially if you list them in July or August. I have sold used home schooling textbooks for up to $20 per book before! During July I list these home school books on auctions and often get bidding frenzies that send the selling price way up.  Any other month I sell these at a fixed price listing.

  • Yarn/Craft/Scrap-booking Supplies– I once sold for a lady who had many boxes of yarn left over from years of knitting projects.  She thought she could get a few dollars on the old yarn. I was hesitant to sell these because I didn't think they would be worth the effort to list.  Now if you think about it, many people out there are working on projects and run out of yarn, only to find out the yard is retired and cannot be found in stores.  So they have a half finished baby blanket for their granddaughter and no yarn to be found! eBay is great for looking for or selling items that have been retired.  This is true for many craft items! I listed the yarn on eBay thinking I would maybe make $2-$3 on each skein of yarn.  I was wrong!  Some skeins sold for over $20 a piece!  By the time the lady had cleaned out her boxes of old yarn she had made several hundred dollars!  Like I said, craft items sell very well. These items are best listed on auction, but if you have a price in mind you want for it, use fixed listings and set buy-it-now price.

  • Lower End Children’s Clothing - Brands such as Old Navy, Target’s brand, and items bought at other department stores - sold in lots of 5-10 items. Make sure these are in excellent condition, free of stains or holes.  Make sure they are the same size.  Having a few coordinating outfits in the lot helps the sale, too. Again, list these items right before the season or holiday they are appropriate for, optimum sales!

  • Smaller Household Items – These may be items you thought you would use but never did.  Kitchen items from Pampered Chef or smaller items from other home-party places sell great!  I only sell lighter items on eBay and save heavier items for craigslist.

  • Smaller Antiques – If you feel comfortable in the value of your smaller antique eBay may be the place to sell it.

  • Smaller Electronics – Gaming systems in working order, games, and ipods; even phones sometimes can fetch a fairly good price.  Not everyone can afford to buy new, so your old item might be just in their price range!

Before I list anything on eBay I research my items I am going to sell.  I do a search on eBay seeing what the exact items are going for from other sellers.  I also try to find out what the item sold for new and price my items accordingly.

After the research I take pictures.  Use a good camera and take picture at many different angles.  This does not apply to books.  Usually I only take 1-2 pictures of books, but leave a detailed description.

Many people are confused on how to list, whether to use Buy-it-Now, auction, or both.  I used to list only on auction, but now I use a fixed price listing and have a Buy-it-Now price only.  Auctions are nice for those items that are in high demand as you are more likely to get a bidding frenzy. When you have things listed at a fixed price it may take a bit longer to sell, but when it does you know you will get the price you want for the item.

eBay allows 50 items to be listed per month without a listing fee. After the first 50 there is a small fee per item to list it.  This fee is charged whether the item sells or not.  (Certain categories are not eligible for free listing, but I have never ran into this being a problem. Check eBay for a detailed list, but I believe it is for cars and other high priced items.)  eBay charges a final value fee of 10% on your selling price, plus shipping.  So if you sell an item for $10 with $4 shipping your eBay fee would be $1.40.

Before you begin selling it is wise to have a PayPal account set up for accepting payments through eBay.  PayPal will also charge you a fee when people pay you, so be mindful of these fees when pricing your items.  But PayPal is worth having so people can pay you without having to mail a check.  PayPal takes care of processing debit and credit cards and e-checks.

So now you have done your homework, taken pictures, and set up your eBay and PayPal account.  It’s time to list your item!  Write a good title and detailed description. If you are unsure of how to do this, eBay has many good tips on writing good descriptions and titles on their selling page.  Try to get all the most important information in the title; like brand name, size, condition, etc. If you are selling clothes or handbags, measurements are nice to include in the description and also how you have cared for the item. (Example – This pair of jeans has a 30 inch waist, 8 inch rise, and 32 inch inseam.  These have been washed on cold and hung to dry.)  For books you can enter the ISBN number on eBay which will pull up the description of the book, the author, and copyright year.  Then you should only have to write about the condition of the book. Be honest about any flaws that the item may have.  Like I said last time, people still buy things with small flaws; you will just get a lower price.

Once your item sells, package them well and ship promptly. Invest in bubble wrap and craft paper for packing breakable items or to keep books from shifting around in a box.   Shipping through the USPS is what I have always used.  I ship media mail for books, textbooks, and learning materials; and use priority for everything else. If you have a heavier item, see if it will fit in a flat rate priority box to save you money.  The USPS also has free shipping boxes for priority mail, which saves you having to find a box or pay money to buy one.  I do buy shipping materials for mailing media mail which come out to about $0.35 per box.  I buy smaller boxes in packages of 25 and 10x15 bubble wrap mailers off of Amazon to ship my books in. If you plan to sell things regularly I also suggest buying a postal scale so you can weigh and print your own shipping label at home.  A scale can be picked up for $15 -$20 on eBay and when you weigh and print your own shipping labels at home it is cheaper than mailing from the post office.  It is a good idea to weigh your item before you list it so you know what the shipping cost will be. You can get a quote from  That way there are no surprises when you go to ship your items.  I have been burned a few times when I did not weigh my items before and they cost me a lot more to ship than expected!

Another thing I have done, especially with my fixed listings is provide free shipping.  I list my item at a higher buy-it-now but the cost of shipping is included in the selling price.  I also give people the option with my fixed price listings of sending me an offer. I will list my item at the highest price I can see getting for the item based on my research beforehand.  Sometimes people will buy it for that price, but sometimes people will shoot me a lower price, and then I can decide if I want to accept, decline, or counter.

So those are basically the tips I have.  It really isn't complicated, especially once you have done it a few times.  Start small, listing just 1 or 2 items to get the hang of it.  And if you have any questions feel free to shoot me an email.

Monday, April 7, 2014

March Update

So, March…..where did you go? Sorry for the lack of posting last month!  I am very much a routine person and when I get out of my routine it takes me weeks to get back into it! I also do not plan ahead very well and did not have posts written in advance.  Whoops!

So here are some of our highlights from the month of March!

1)      We were able to go to Northern Virginia a couple times and spend time with my brothers.  I really enjoy living only a few hours away from this part of my family! While visiting them we were able to go on a hike.

2)      Chad and I had a nice spring break.  We spent the week pretty laid back, doing yard work, going on dates and watching the 6 hour mini series Pride and Prejudice. (It takes a real man to enjoy watching Jane Austin!)

3)      Remy went on a 3 day deep sea fishing trip with 3 of my brothers.  Even though the first day was cancelled because of the weather, and the second day he was sea sick, it was all made up the last day when he reeled in a 500 pound blue fin tuna!  He will get a master angler award for it! Chad and I had a nice week being “empty nesters”.

 Remy reeling in the fish. I like how he is strapped in so the fish doesn't pull him off the boat!

4)      I was able to go visit Naomi and Nakoma in Tennessee for 3 days the latter part of the month.  While it was a trip to take care of some business, we were able to do some fun things.  Nakoma and I went to a little English tea house for “afternoon tea” and to see a movie.   Naomi and I had a nice afternoon shopping at TJ Maxx and getting Starbucks. I spent a few hours at Naomi’s dorm and met many of her friends.  I was also able to go out to dinner with Nakoma and her friend; we spent the evening afterwards walking the beautiful area downtown and getting coffee. It was a fun trip!
Beautiful Tennessee River

5)      Chad and I celebrated our 12th anniversary at the end of the month. It was pretty laid back and we went out for Indian food at a restaurant we had never tried. The years have gone by so quickly, and yet, sometimes it seems like we have been together forever. To read our love story click here.
One of my favorite pics from our recent family pictures. 

6)      I had a successful month with eBay sales!  It actually kept me quite busy as I had over 50 listings.  I was able to make enough money to fund my spring and summer wardrobe, buy some fun things for the house, put money in Chad and my date envelope, and save for Remy’s school books for fall. I still have about 20 listings left but it feels good to get rid of unnecessary stuff!

So those are some of the things that happened the month of March. It was a great month! April is shaping up to be good, too.  I’m looking forward to Easter in a few weeks, planting flowers, seeing Naomi and Nakoma, celebrating their 18th birthday, and possibly going on another hike.  Chad only has 5 weeks left this semester.  It is hard to believe that a whole school year is almost through for him.  Over the summer he plans to take 3 intensives which is a semester of class crammed into 1 week, as well as working, so he will be very busy.  We get to go to Baltimore for a weekend with his work in June and will also have a visit from his parents that month.  So I am sure the summer will go by quickly as well!  Have a great week, friends!