Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Chicks, School Supplies, and Spreadsheets

Well, what’s happened since last week’s entry? Not a whole lot, to be honest, but stuff is moving forward, which is what really matters.

The chickens are getting big. (Roughly the same size as an American football.) The roosters aren’t big enough to turn into fried chicken, chicken pot pie, or king ranch casserole, but they’re getting there.

Our little garden is starting to come up. The head gardener – Middle Bro – is doing most of the work because he enjoys playing in the dirt. The rest of us contribute, sure, but he does the majority of the work. The rest of us help, sure, but we all have our own strengths and preferences. Middle Bro can play in the dirt all he wants, with help when he wants or needs it, and the rest of us will focus on stuff that he doesn’t care to do, like cook or research projects and ideas.

Middle Bro recently came home with a fig tree. The sapling’s spent the last few weeks taking root in the ground and growing slowly, but surely. Fig trees, by the way, need lots and lots of sunlight, in case you’re dreaming of having your very-own figs right in your yard. You can find more information at

Future plans include peach and apple trees, because both can do very well in our part of Texas. And, of course, we all love these fruits. Right now, the nursery where Middle Bro does most of his shopping is waiting for a shipment. I don’t know what’s going on with that, because that’s Middle Bro’s thing, but I’m looking forward to more trees.

In an effort to be more organized re: food stashes, I created an Excel spreadsheet that will help us figure out what we have (and lack). Oh, sure, we know what we have, and we know that we need more, but we didn’t have anything written down until recently. My family and I aren’t overly organized as far as the paperwork side of things goes, but we’re trying to change that.

The computer version gets updated as often as possible, but we’re relying mostly on the hard copies that I’ve printed out so far. You never know when your computer or electricity will go down, after all, making all those files worthless. (Backing up data on a regular basis isn’t a bad idea, either.)

If you don’t have Microsoft Office, you can get Open Office for free (legally, even). That’s a pretty-good office suite, actually. It’s compatible with Microsoft’s version, and has the benefit of open-source support (meaning, basically, that anyone who wants to change something can do so – you aren’t stuck with one guy’s or team’s idea of what the software “should” be like). I don’t use it because MS Office was free with my PC, and already installed, so I didn’t see the point in bothering. In the past, though, with other computers, OO has been good stuff.

Speaking of stashes: School supplies go on sale soon. A package of notebook paper is typically about a buck fifty here: during sales, the same item can cost as little as ten cents. Two-pocket folders with brads, which are fantastic for storing information that you print from the Internet, cost us about a dime each during the sales (versus about a buck apiece the rest of the year). We also save money on the markers and other writing instruments we use around here.
Last year, Mom spent something like twenty bucks on notebook paper and spiral-bound notebooks. We still have some left over, and will be replenishing the stockpile like we do every year. We use lots of paper for school, Bible study, and making shopping lists, among other things, so we go through more than enough to save a decent wad of cash by stocking up during the sales.

You might not use all that much notebook paper, but what about pens and pencils? Are you looking for a good backpack to serve as a bug-out or get-home bag? Have you been printing out interesting and useful information that you find online, which is really eating up your printer-paper stash? All of these things, and more, go on sale shortly before the kids go back to school. Here in Texas, we even have a “tax-free weekend,” during which we don’t pay sales taxes on qualifying supplies. You might save only a few bucks here and there, but that cash will certainly add some more rice, flour, or sugar to the food stash.

Oh, and as far as storing notebook paper goes: heat isn’t good. The thin, plastic wrapper tends to shrink up, leaving you with curled paper. It’s still usable, of course, but it’s a pain in the butt. We learned this the hard way because, one year, we didn’t really think about where we put the storage container full of paper and notebooks. Our bad.

NEWS FLASH: I was about to finish up this entry, but there’s some breaking news that we all need to know about:

Michael Jackson is still dead.

When the media will stop kissing his butt is beyond me, but I’m fairly certain that there are more important things to discuss right now. Let’s talk about the cap-and-trade bill, perhaps, or the violence in Iran re: their recent election.

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“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
-George OrwellAnimal Farm