Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Frugal Halloween

October 31st has arrived, and it is rapidly becoming one of the more expensive holidays.  According to the National Retailer's Federation, a total of $8 billion will be spent on Halloween 2012, which comes out to a few cents under $80 per person.  Folks, that is a lot of cash for a holiday about candy and costumes!  Since the day is already here, frugal ideas may be a bit late.  But here is how our frugal house embraces this spooky day.


  1. Costumes bought at Savers -- simple cat and bunny ears are easy to outfit kiddos who also need warm winter coats as the temperature dip lower.  I spent less than $5 for Jaguar ears and tail as well as bunny ears.  After the holiday they will be found in the dress up basket, which is kept in our living room.  Lots and lots of use will be had by our kids and friends who visit.
  2. Order on-line.  I caved this year.  After the above listed buys my kids begged to have a separate outfit for the Halloween parade at church.  Thanks to Amazon Prime, I ordered a Pirate Outfit (Melissa & Doug) and an owl costume.  Total spend, $45.  No shipping, purchased at 4am on a weekend when I had insomnia, and no impulse buys tossed into the cart.  Again, both of these will get us some use this next year as part of dress-up play.
  3. Hand out small boxes of raisins, pencils, markers, stickers, or bulk candy.  Most can be found for very little cost, and if there are any left over, they make for easy reuse.
  4. Mark-up pumpkins instead of carving.  This allows you to roast the pumpkin once the holiday passes. The "meat" is far less expensive than canned pumpkin, and the shell can be added to your compost bin.
  5. Decorate with  items you can add to the compost bin (hay, Indian corn, mums, pumpkins).  Most likely it will serve as a decoration through Thanksgiving, then toss it in the compost and you'll maximize the expense by turning it into organic garden material!
I hope you had a fun Halloween, and that it did not break the budget!

They are only going to be 4 and 2 once in this life....so I splurged and ordered exactly what they requested.  Thanks to Amazon Prime my shopping did not require me to drive a car, avoided impulse buys, or there was no shipping cost.  It was the easiest purchase....and I have to say, worth every penny.  Oh so cute in this Frugal Mama's eyes.  Making costumes is not in the picture for me; no sewing machine, no ability to sew; and not a lot of spare time to do something homemade.  Frugal does not have to be extreme, just a wise expenditure of time and money.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

From Fall Leaves to Spring Flower Beds - Frugal Mulch

This past Sunday I was granted two solid hours to work in the yard while my husband ran to the library with our young children in the jogger.  The sun was out, and I had enough energy to rake the leaves.  Unlike my neighbors, you will not find ours in a mound at the curb.  Instead they are piled on the lawn....the very part of the lawn I wish to see converted to a flower bed.  Once they were piled high, I sprayed them with the hose to discourage them from floating away in the wind.  Over the next few months they will begin to decompose. And next Spring we'll add mulch and maybe some dirt to the mix.  And voila, with no real cost we'll have a flower bed for perennials instead of lawn that has to be mowed.


If anyone has done this before, I'd love some tips.  One small section has cardboard under the leaves; it is where I planted ten tulip bulbs.  My hope is the cardboard will protect them this winter from hungry critters, but then breakdown over the winter months.  If this works, I will be expanding the flower bed next Fall!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Frugal Response to Field Mice Seeking Shelter

Fall in Madison, Wisconsin means Badger football games down the road, trees exploding in bursts of brilliant color, migrating cranes feeding at neighborhood parks, and critters scoping out a winter home.  The last of these is my least favorite.  Since moving into our home we have had a few little critters sneak into our garage.  In the past I ignored it -- that 's life and there are many other things higher on my radar screen.  And then this year a field mouse decided the glove compartment of my Honda Civic made for an excellent winter nest.  And with that, the mouse crossed the line.

First, the nesting material was removed.  And then again -- it is one persistent little critter.  Second, the shop vacuum was used to tackle the buffet my children had created on the floor and backseat.  Third, a mandate was issued from mom and dad -- no more snacking in the car!  Fourth, $225 was spent to have a professional close the gaps between the ground and the garage door (it was smiling....a wooden door that warped upward).  Fifth, we purged clutter from the garage to minimize future nesting material (sadly our leaf blower was relocated to the curb after it became the backup nesting location -- the discovery of which is one of the most comedic moments of my nearly 7 year marriage).  And sixth, fabric softener was placed in the glove box as well as the front and rear floor of the car.  According to the garage door technician (he seemed to have seen this situation many times before), the sheets repel the mice as effectively as moth balls, but without the horrible stink.

Yes, we spent some money.  But this was far less expensive than the risk of the mouse gnawing through the wiring of a car.  My surprise lesson from this was the use of fabric sheets to encourage mice to winter in another location, hopefully the shed in our backyard!

Did I miss a frugal mouse trick you've used?  Please post a comment and share with other frugal folks.  Thanks for reading!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Frugal Fall Living

Yesterday Fall-like weather returned to the Madison area.  Just as I was finishing up a day and a half of continuing legal education, the rain clouds moved in, the wind churned, and the temperatures began a downward descent from the upper 70s enjoyed by those not stuck in a hotel conference room learning about tax legislation in 2012!

Upon returning home mid-day, I resumed my other profession, Mama and Keeper of the Frugal Home.  Our normal routine had been thrown off this week due to the conference, pushing our weekly Trader Joe's run from Wednesday AM to Thursday PM.  Thankfully my 4 and 2 year old were up for the adventure.  We stocked up on our favorite TJ staples, handed over our payment in cash, and returned home.  For the past few months I have been operating mainly with cash, and feel very connected to exactly how much I spend on groceries.  I find I think twice before tossing in two of something on sale, etc.

Once home we decided to embrace the cooler weather by playing in the kitchen.  Spending time in the kitchen with a 4 and 2 year old can be....stressful.  However, once you've done it a number of times it is easier.  Plus, I feel it is vital to a frugal home.  First, it cuts way down on our purchases of processed food.  Second, it reduces fast food from take-out or delis.  And third, in the long-term it will generate two more individuals who will one day know the basics of meal preparation.

Our first experiment turned out to be a dud.  My son was requesting chocolate cake, and I attempted to modify the recipe to make it healthier.  Lots of almond meal, flax meal, and unsweetened coco.  Sadly I missed the mark and will not share the recipe with you.  Very dry, too dense, and a bit too much backing powder.  Oh well, it was fun.  The second endeavor turned out well, and was a repeat performance -- roasting pie pumpkins.  There were two on the counter, and they are now in my freezer.  I've written about this a lot, mainly because I roast and use them a lot.  Offering a mild taste and a whopping dose of vitamins and fiber, I try to incorporate them as much as possible.  And I do not buy canned pumpkin -- I roast and freeze my own.  Sadly my calendar tells me there are only two weeks left for our local farmers' market.  The pressure is on to freeze just a few more...to get us through until next Fall.

Too make the roasting as frugal as possible I put the first pumpkin on the lower rack, and placed an acorn squash on the top rack.  It, along with rice and sausage and avacado made for a tasty dinner.  As soon as the first hour was up, I put in the second pumpkin.  This allowed me to maximize an already warmed oven.  And once it was done my kids were tucked in bed so I was able to leave the oven door open...enjoying a bit of the heat dwindling in the kitchen.

And that is a glimpse into the day of a self-described frugalista.  My methods do not focus on buying as much stuff as possible for as little money as possible.  Efficiency with time and money are key concepts for me.  I feel quality far outweighs quantity.  It is not the stereotypical frugal life (I saw a news article about an extreme saver who opts for a jar instead of a toilet!), but it works for us.  As the year comes to an end we are still working on our savings goals.  And frugal choices will be essential as we work to meet our goals.

Thanks for reading, enjoy the weekend, and feel free to share your thoughts on frugal living.  What works, what doesn't, why should we care.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Printer Upgrade Saves Money

At the end of the summer I spent a little time chatting with the young man who had been my office assistant for the past two years.  As he prepared to move to Minnesota for law school, I took a few minutes to tap into his knowledge about my office.  What one change can I make to reduce costs?  His response was immediate -- buy a new printer!

So I did.  My modest part-time legal practice is now home to a printer that cost $500.  But I can clearly see how the savings will grow:
  1. I have gone from an ink jet to a laser printer.  We were spending approximately $100 a month on ink, the new cartridge generates 8,000 pages and will last close to a year...total cost, $180;
  2. Time.  The printer is much faster, reducing the amount of time my administrative assistant spends working on a matter; and 
  3. Flexible options -- duplex, draft quality print, etc.  All of these allow me to eek out as much ink as possible from the far less expensive toner
And the savings did not stop there.  With a functional but no longer needed printer sitting in my closet, I posted a message on Linked In seeking a needy non-profit that might benefit from a donation.  To my surprise I was offered a little bit of cash for the printer by a women who has just launched her own consulting firm.  This printer will receive a second life, bring in a small amount of extra cash, re-connect me with another women business owner, and free up closet space when she comes to pick it up.

If you operate a small business, or if like us, your run your home like a business, make sure you take time every now and then to gather useful information from others in the organization.  What you  learn may save money in the long run!

Image credit:  www.sxc.hu - free image

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Back From the Brink -- Living Frugal in Madison, Wisconsin

Want to live frugally?  If that means spending very little money and or resources, then a sure fire way to achieve that is to come down with the stomach virus that worked its way through our home last week.  But, it is not recommended!

Sniffles and colds are common for me; I work with the public and am raising two young children.  Illnesses that knock me off my feet, causing me to sleep a day away (literally) are not common for me.  But the recent illness helped me reboot our hectic little life, and re-appreciate some of the little things in life that are frugal.

  • soup and crackers can constitute a meal;
  • board games on the living room rug with young children make a wonderful, and low cost way to spend an afternoon;
  • washing, sorting, and folding laundry can be great entertainment for small children -- especially when they are compensated for their efforts;
  • raincoats, boots, an umbrella and a walk around the block is an easy way to reconnect with nature even though the weather is not picture perfect; and
  • one tea bag can be used for several cups of soothing drink over the course of an afternoon.
Finally I am back into the flow of my normal life, and will have a little more time to share my thoughts and strategies on being frugal.  To close this post I am sharing a photo from a friend on Facebook....it is from Nellies' Barn Sale.  Little bits of inspiration here and there help me stay on the frugal course.  That board game I referenced was Chutes and Ladders, which I bought for $1.99 at Savers.  I predict years of family fun for the cost of a few hundred pennies.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ways to Reuse Cooked Oatmeal

My four year old son loves oatmeal.  Loves it!  He downs at least two bowls each morning.  But no matter how well I anticipate his or his father's consumption, it seems that there are always a few clumps left in the pan.  Being fugal, I put them in tupperware and stash them in the fridge.  With a little water they heat up okay, but I wondered, what else could I do with this?

Thanks to the brilliance of Google, I had an answer within 10 seconds.  I found a website called WhatCanIMakeWithIt.com.  And sure enough, there were several ideas for cooked oatmeal.  Beyond the obvious of reheat it, there were:

  • toss it into smoothies;
  • add it to baked goods (brownies, breads, pancakes)
  • freeze it; and
  • add spices and bake it into bars.
The first two appeal to me, both being relatively easy to work into meals I already prepare on a regular basis.  My goal is to sneak them into my two year old's smoothies.  Oatmeal is a wonderful food, but one she rejects.  In fact, unless it is a dairy product (cheese, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese) it is difficult to get her to eat anything else.  Watch for a progress report in the near future.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Frugally Minded

We are entering the week before one our three annual parties we throw for friends.  There is one in the summer for Opera in the Park, another celebrating Fall in Wisconsin, and a third for International Pi Day (as in math pi, 3.14) which we throw in March.  Just before our last party my husband and I had a brief discussion about purchasing a fridge for the basement.  It went something like this:

Him:  Wow, this fridge (the kitchen one) is packed.  There is no room to add the beer, soda and water.

Me:  Just toss them in the coolers and add the ice.

Him:  What?  That will take a long time to cool down.  His actual response had way more science in it than I remember, but you get the idea.

Me:  Hmmmm, let's pull this out, move this, put some in the freezer, more in the garage freezer.  Now I know  why people have a fridge in the basement.  Do you think we should get one?

Him:  We could, it would cost a few hundred bucks, and we try and have people over more often than before.

Me:  Yes, but I hate spending money.  A few hundred bucks turns into: time and energy spent shopping; increased electrical use; storing the thing for the occasional times we'll use it; if we move, we'll have to pay to have it moved; and I can think of several other ways I could spend a few hundred bucks.   I know, let's just make sure we empty out this fridge as much as possible the week before a party.  We'll use up food, make space, and save money.

Him: Agreed.

And that is how a frugal couple avoids buying a second fridge.  The cost wouldn't break our budget, but the fact that we hesitate about a purchase, analyze it, and think how we can accomplish the same goal without an extra outlay of cash is key to living frugal.  And so in the week ahead we'll be focused on finishing off leftovers and turning produce into immediate meals or ones for the freezer.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Frugal Fall Decorations


Fall is one of my favorite times of year.  The bursts of bold colors juxtaposed against gray or brilliant blue skies.  And yet, no matter how much I love mums and outdoor fall decorations, I am still frugal.  Above is one of four mums I have in our front yard.  I splurged and bought 3 for $25 from a local store (Brennans) near our home.  The fourth was a birthday gift (keep that in mind if you are ever in need of an idea for a Fall baby).  Bright sun, water most days, and they are simply amazing.  A ceramic pumpkin and a green hanging plant (again from Brennan) round out the shot.  During the rest of the year the ceramic pumpkin can be found in my holiday closed down in the basement.

Loving the color on the front steps, I decided to add some more.  And this was the result.



$12 for the straw, $20 for the pumpkins, $4 for the Indian corn.....and I can't remember the price of the other gourds.  My plan is for this to brighten up the front of our house until the day after Thanksgiving.  And then every last bit will be dumped into our compost bin.  From the mums to the gourds to the straw to the pumpkins......it will all get a second chance.  Compost that will enrich our yard for seasons to come.  Now in my mind, that is frugal.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Frugal Tip -- Roast Pumpkins and Skip Canned


On any given weekend in October you are likely to find me roasting pumpkins.  Yes, the orange orbs that many only associate with decorations are a stable in my kitchen.  In fact the pumpkin is a type of squash, and recently given the title "super food" because of the nutrients and fiber in contains.  My preference is to purchase pie pumpkins.  They usually cost around $1 or $1.50 and yield 2 or 3 freeze portions, far less expensive than canned pumpkin. Pie pumpkins are smaller and have a more intense flavoring.  As you see in the photo, I cut them in half, scoop out the sides, and roast at 350 degrees for about 1 hour (add water to the pan, about an inch or so high).  After they have cooled, the inside meat is frozen.

For the last two years my favorite recipe for the pumpkin was a bread, but this year I have stumbled upon a new favorite -- Coco Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies.  Imagine a scone and a muffin mix, a slight taste of pumpkin combined with unsweetened coco.  Two batches were gone in record time.  Here is the recipe with notations on how I made mine gluten free (yes, sadly it seems that my body prefers non-gluten foods):

First mix

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1 cup pumpkin
Then mix
  • 1 cup flour (or for gluten free use 1 cup Bob's Red Mill gluten free baking mix, plus 1/2 teaspoon xanthm gum)
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup flax meal
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons unsweetened coco (I use Ghiradelli)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Combine dry ingredients into wet, mix well.  Drop on cookie sheet (I use an ice cream scoop).  Bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.  If you want to omit the pumpkin and replace it with dried fruits or other mashed up fruits or veggies, it will work just as well.  My first attempt to modify this (it had used figs and dates) was a huge hit at the table.  I ate one, and then two more.


Please leave a comment if you give this recipe a try and or modification.  Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Frugal Fundraiser!

Hello Dear Reader,

Today's post is about my decision to once again participate in the America Heart Association's Annual Heart Walk.  My love of this event stems from several areas.  Most importantly the fact that but for pacemaker technology, my mother would have died in the summer of 2008, a few weeks before my first child was born.  Because of research and technology, she is alive today, and my children know their grandmother.

A second reason is that there is NO entrance fee for the event.  None.  You can show up and walk.  This is the only event I solicit funds for, no others.  On-line donations can still be made, and every penny counts.  If you are inclined, please support my effort to help others.  And I will be drawing the name of one donor to whom I will give a bottle of red wine....it's heart healthy!

If you cannot make a financial donation, take care of your own heart by trying this wonderfully simple and heart healthy recipe I've blogged about in the past.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

Melinda


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Frugal Heating Tips

Fall has arrived, and with it the return of the furnace.  Here are a few tips on how to keep heating costs low, freeing up more dollars for savings or other expenditures:

  1. Set the thermostat for 5 degrees below your current setting.  We have ours at 62 when we are home, and when we are gone, we set it for 60 degrees;
  2. Maximize free heat from nature....throw open those drapes and curtains and let the sun shine in;
  3. Locate drafts and block them.  Stuff a long tube sock with rice or beans, tie closed, and place along the bottom of a door.  Use caution when buying pricey window sealer kits; will you really save that much money?;
  4. Don't heat your basement if you don't live there.  We close the vents to our ranch house basement.  As a result we are heating half the space.  And I keep a small space heater in my basement office; why heat the entire area when a small box at my fee dose the job;
  5. Schedule a tune-up for your furnace -- an efficient and clean furnace will save you money;
  6. Dress for the winter weather when indoors -- pack away shorts and t-shirts, and pull out heavy socks, fleece and winter quilts; and
  7. Don't run the fireplace in the dead of winter.....it simply lets the warm are inside escape via the chimney.  Fall and Spring are ideal times to fire up a fireplace, take the chill out of the air, but not cause your furnace to work overtime.
How about you?  Any frugal thoughts on how to make the most of the winter heating season?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Home Warranty Insurance Renewal

As November creeps into the not so distant future, we found a renewal form in the mail last week.  For $425 we can renew the home warranty insurance policy that came with our house.  Please note, we bought the house in 2010, and this would be our second renewal.  So far we've saved more than $425 each year.  So, with very little discussion, I wrote the check and sent in the slip.

For a frugal couples that is not a big fan of insurances, we like this one for a few reasons:

  • our furnace and air conditioner are beyond their life expectancy.  Replacements are coming, we just don't know when;
  • it covers all appliances, electrical, and mechanical components of our home.  And when we look around we see a lot of things than could go any time (radon pump, water softener, dishwasher, leaky faucet); and
  • scheduling the repair is all too easy.  I call the insurance company, they patch me through to a vendor, an appointment is made, and that 's it.  We have an $85 co-pay and the rest is covered.  The ease of finding a reliable repair person is worth $425 in my mind.  In the past we've struggled to find people who will 1) show up, 2) do quality work, and 3) be trusted.  Every time we've used the home warranty folks I have asked the repair person for their card because I was impressed.
So, there you have it.  We've laid out the cost of a nice weekend getaway for a home warranty.  The point that pushed us into the renewal camp was the ease with which repairs occur.  Life is chaotic with two small kids, two careers pushing two businesses forward.  Time spent trying to get someone to fix the faucet is wasted if we get a less than great company.

Agree, disagree?  Share your thoughts.  I know my brand of frugal is not the typical one written about today.  I am not a total do-it-yourselfer.  I prefer to focus on time with my husband and children, practicing law, and the few household tasks I enjoy (cooking and yard work).  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Life at 62 Degrees -- It's a Frugal Home

Image credit:  www.sxc.hu - free image

If you read yesterday's post, you know that cooler fall weather has finally arrived here in Madison, Wisconsin.  Chit chat among friends and neighbors centers on the fact that we've had to turn the heat on already!  Here is a typical exchange when the discussion turns to me:

Me:  yes, when the inside temperature falls below 62 degrees the furnace kicks in....can you believe the extreme from the hot summer to now?  

Other person:  did you say 62 degrees, you mean 68, right?

Me: No, we have it set for 62 degrees.

Other person: how can you stand to live in the cool of a home?

Me: At first it was hard, but I've come to like it.  A few things make it easier.  For example, our feet have socks and a house slipper on most of the time.  Small space heaters on the bathroom counters for easy use when needed.  We wear fleece inside.  Winter pajamas have been pulled out of storage.  We actually notice the change in season because of this and delight in pulling out the Smart Wool Socks.  Plus, it saves us hundreds of dollars over the course of the winter!

Other person: hmmmm, maybe we'd take it down to 66 degrees!  And then I think the make a mental note not to accept an invitation to our home until summer returns to Wisconsin!

If frugal living is on your agenda, I challenge you to push the thermostat lower than your normal.  When doing so, make sure you make other adjustments.  It will make the change far easier. Warm socks, layers, open the drapes for daylight sun (and heat), put an extra blanket or quilt on the bed.  If you can find some joy in these habits, it will make living at a cooler temperature easier, and even enjoyable.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Frugal Living: Embracing the Cold, Dry Weather

Image credit:  www.sxc.hu - free image

Seasons have shifted here in Wisconsin.  Gone are the warm (really warm this past year) and humid days of summer.  As the leaves delight us with an explosion of golden hues the temperatures have fallen.  And now we have a much drier environment, especially within our home.  And with the return to our "dry season" we also have a return to using the laundry drying rack.

Yes, that is correct.  We do not use in all year.  During the warm and humid days of summer I rely completely on my dryer.  Hanging laundry outside to dry is not a good fit for a home whose inhabitants have seasonal allergies (a tip I got long ago for my allergist).  But it would be inefficient for me to use the drying rack in the summer.  Why would I add to more moisture to our basement when the dehumidifier is running more often than not.  The dryer is far more efficient.

In this frugal minded house we are giving the dryer a bit of a rest, reserving it for a few loads a week.  The rest of the time our drying rack is getting a workout as is the pole hanging from the rafters (thank to the previous owner who installed it).  Clothes dry quickly.  Moisture is added to an already dry home.  And less energy is consumed.  It's a win win.

As you embrace a frugal life, remember to adjust to reflect the seasons.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Frugal Living & Adios to the Lawn

No, I did not kill off my entire lawn.  But today I did take out one chunk.  In less than an hour I put down cardboard, which I had stocked piled in the garage for the law few months (the purchase of a seat cushion for our bay window had the added bonus of large pieces).  It was weighted down with a few rocks I stole from other places in the garden.



Next I dumped 10 bags of cedar mulch.  After raking it out, I dosed the spot with water from the hose.  And it is my sincere hope that we never have to mow this patch of yard again!







The plan I hatched while reading issues of Birds & Blooms goes like this.  Over the fall and winter the cardboard and mulch will break down, creating a lovely little flower bed.  I skipped the addition of compost because amazing flowers in the curbside bed are not my goal, just a place where I can transplant a few hostas and maybe a day lily or two.














Next up will be the area in our lawn that is very hard to mow, and seems ideal to turn into a haven for feathered friends.  Now that my cardboard supply is nearly exhausted, I think I'll opt for a layer of compost and then mulch. For this job I am going to order some, in bulk.  And hopefully I can get them to dump it right in the yard.  That means I'll simply have to rake it out.


And I have a big thank you to a dear longtime friend.  She hung out with my kids while I completed this job. Since we live on a very busy street, 4 and 2 year old assistants were a bit too much for this frugal mama.  They can help in the back yard, which is fenced.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Entropy and Yard Work

www.sxc.hu - free image

A few weeks ago my husband was returning home from his daily run and chatted with our new neighbors.  They, like my husband, are scientists.  My husband commented on the other man's yard work, to which the man replied "just taming the chaos, for now".  Ah yes, good old entropy.  Both men are aware and accepting of the universe's natural path to disorder.  Especially in the yard.

It appears that the wealthy of 17th Century England and France were the beginning of the modern lawn.  Apparently only those with wealth could afford the human labor to tend to the yard.  Over time machines and chemicals decreased costs and aloud the lawn to spread into the lives of the middle class.  And so you have it, the middle class spending large chunks of the weekend cutting, trimming, hauling, etc.

I,like many, love a reason to get outside and "work in the yard".  This fall I have discovered that it is a great activity with the kids.  They shovel leaves, water flower beds, pull weeds.  It is great fun for all of us.  But that entropy thing keeps cropping up.  Yards tend toward chaos.  Hours of work can be undone with gusts of wind or the perfect blend of rain and sun......didn't we just cut the grass?

As we move through fall into winter, my plan is to kill some of that 17th Century English and French inspired lawn.  In its place we we put down the foundation for a yard that works with entropy, not against it.  First I will put down cardboard covered with a layer of mulch.  Next Spring I will add more mulch and compost before planting native plants (I love the idea in the above link of planting chamomile and or thyme).  Plants that require minimal watering will find a home here!  There are no photos to share at the moment, but I will post as this evolves.

My first order of business is to track down mulch; the cardboard is stock piled in our garage.  I know bulk is more frugal, but I don't have the time or means to haul it around the yard too easily.  Time for creative juices to flow, and I'd love suggestions.

How about you?  Do you work with or against entropy in the yard?