My Container Garden: The Season is Over

This spring, frustrated by the lack of any good growing space in our yard, we decided to give a container garden a try.  We bought up a whole bunch of pots to put everything in, got some good potting soil, and planted away.  Once we were done, we planted a couple pots of tomatoes, a couple pots of cucumbers, a longish pot of green beans, a pot of green peppers, a longish pot of carrots, two pots of onions, and two large pots of potatoes.

Last weekend, with the low temperatures in the forecast dipping below the 32 degree mark, we decided it was a good time to pull up the root vegetables, and pick anything that was ripe.  Considering the few silly things we did, and the terribly hot summer we had, I think we did O.K.

Container Garden Harvest

In the picture, you can see some of what we pulled up last weekend. I wasn’t quick enough on the camera trigger to get pictures of the carrots or peppers before they got taken into the house. Also not pictured are any of the cucumbers, beans, or tomatoes we’ve harvested throughout the summer, or any of 10 or so potatoes that we pulled out from the bottom of the potato bag in August.

Overall, I’d have to say that I was slightly disappointed with the harvest.  None of the onions grew to very good size.  What cucumbers we did harvest were all seeds and no flesh.  The heat really played havoc on most of the plants in the containers.  There were several weeks where the plants really needed to be watered every night, but we were either gone, or didn’t get home in time to do it.  I also made the mistake of planting a few too many plants in some of the containers, and I think they got crowded which stunted their growth.

The quality of what we got, however, was pretty good.  Fresh potatoes taste nothing like what you get from the store, they’re so buttery and sweet.  The onions, while small, were very good as well.  My wife made a salsa with some of the tomatoes and onions, and it was very, very good.

I’ve already got a pretty good mental list of the things that I’ll be changing next year.

  • We get such a short growing season here, that I either need to start the seeds much earlier in the house, or just spend the money and buy greenhouse plants when it’s time to plant.
  • I’ll have to be careful to reduce the number of plants in the pots as well, to cut back on the crowding issue we had.
  • I’m also thinking about building a few planters attached to the deck so I don’t have to buy any more pots.  Of course, I could try and find some second hand pots as well.
  • The soil we use may have to change a bit as well.  The stuff we bought this year, while good potting soil, just didn’t seem to keep it’s consistency very well.  Part of that may have been the need for more watering.
  • I’ll be changing the mix of plants that I plant as well.  The cucumbers didn’t seem to take to containers all that well, so I might cut those in half.  I’d also like to add a few more tomato plants, and a few more varieties of peppers.  We only planted green peppers this year, but I’d like to try some jalapeno, and maybe another variety of hot pepper.

How did your garden turn out this year?  Do you plant in a garden or in containers?


I Feel So Small

Occasionally, I feel so very small.  I’ll try and explain. (Also, excuse me a bit, as this is only vaguely about money and finance, but please read to the end.)

I recently attended the Financial Bloggers Conference.  It’s a conference of people, like me, who run and write (or just write) blogs that are finance related.  Mostly, we write about personal finance.  Whether it’s by design or not, each of the FINCONs I’ve been to have had a very distinct “feel” to them.  The first had an emphasis (at least in my perception) of building the blog, and ways in which we can monetize our blogs to make them self-sustainable.  This year, the theme, as I perceived it, was all about voice.

Perhaps that can be attributed to Adam Baker (of Man Vs. Debt) and his opening keynote.  Throughout the speech, he spoke about defining the why.  Writing for the why.  Living out the why.  What is the why?  It’s the purpose.  It isn’t the product, and it certainly isn’t the site.  It’s the reason that we write what we write.  It’s the reason that we come back night after night to write articles for our sites.

For me, the “why” of Beating Broke is to share the knowledge I have.  It’s to share the knowledge I learn.  It’s to have an outlet that allows me to reach a few people and, hopefully, help them make their financial lives better.  I write articles about finance to make your financial life better.

During Adam’s keynote, I realized that I was surrounded by 450 or so other writers.  Each with their own unique voice, talents, and experiences.  The realization of that, and the realization of how many people there are out there that don’t even use the internet makes me feel so small.  I’m such a tiny, tiny, drop in a sea of information.

Later, I sat in on a panel of some of the pioneers in the financial blogging community.  During that panel, they spoke about how the community has grown, and how much the community’s influence has grown.  Another keynote speaker, Liz Weston, spoke about how our influence is growing.  She touched on how what we do, sharing information online, has become more and more accepted and acknowledged as a source of information.  Again, surrounded by the community of bloggers that I am a part of, I felt so small.

If you’re reading this, it’s because you have become a part of the Beating Broke community.  It’s a small community in the middle of a much larger community.  But, it’s a community with one overarching “why”.  We exist to make financial lives better.  We do it by making our financial lives better and then sharing that with others.

So, today, I’m going to ask you to share.  Share the community with someone else today.  Invite someone else into the community.  You’ve got plenty of options on how you do that.  With all the social media available, it’s becoming pretty easy.  Send an email, write a tweet, share on Facebook, or any number of other ways to share.  But, share.  We become better by helping others become better.

Share your favorite blog, blog post, or any bit of information today.  Invite them into the community.

And, finally, if you’re a part of the community, I want to help make your financial life better.  If you’ve got questions, please feel free to ask them.  Leave a comment below.  Or use the contact form to send me a note.  I’ll do whatever I can to get you an answer.

img credit:C! on Flickr

Long Term Care: Are you Prepared?

When we are young, our parents take care of us.  From the time we are mere babes, they wash us, feed us, clothe us, and give us the love and nurturing that we need to grow up into adults.  Even as young adults, our parents are often right there to help us get back up if we fall down.

As our parents age, there may become a time where we have to return those favors, and care for them.  For many, this will likely mean an independent living arrangement of some sort that may eventually become a full nursing home situation.  Not only can that transition be a very expensive one, but it can also be a very emotional one.  While I’m not sure that there is any way to prepare for the emotional toll caring for your parents brings, you can prepare for the financial toll it brings.  We’re financially minded folks, after all, and believe in preparation for all financial burdens.

If you’ve ever become a parent, you likely remember the months leading up to the first childs’ birth.  Baby showers, shopping trips, and plenty of DIY crib and nursery work. People come out of the woodwork to give you things that “every baby needs” or to give you advice on how to deal with “fussy babies.”  All of that serves one real purpose.  To prepare us for the coming of a dependent child.  But, we don’t have any elderly showers.  And we don’t usually know even a month or two in advance to do any shopping or DIY projects when our parents are suddenly in our care.  In most cases, we can’t be totally prepared.  But, there’s no reason that we should be totally caught off-guard.

How do you prepare for the long term care of a parent?

In a way, it’s not that much different from preparing for any life changing event.  There are certain things that we can do ahead of time to try and make any necessary transitions as easy as possible.

Know the possible costs.

There are plenty of ways to find the costs.  Personally, I’d start with something like the tool below.  The costs are going to vary some based on your city and whether you plan on having your parents live in a facility or in your home, but you can get a really close estimate from something like that.

If you think that your parents will need you sooner rather than later, you’ll likely want as accurate of an estimate as possible.  Do your research on the facilities in your area, and then call a few of them to get an idea of how much it the costs will be.

Knowing the costs of long term care aren’t the only concern, however.  Knowing your parents financial situation, and how they feel about the options they may have is something that you need to be concerned about.  For instance, my dad has always said that when it comes time for him to move into a nursing home, he’d rather we just drove him out into the mountains and shot him.  That’s an extreme example. A true one, but extreme just the same.  But, if you really care about your parents, and want what’s best for them, that has to include what their wishes are as well.

Your parents financial situation can sometimes be a touchy subject as well.   It’s something you’ll need to know, though.  Someone has to pay for the care, and if your parents aren’t financially stable enough to do so, it’s up to you and any siblings to figure it out.  Know what your parents finances look like ahead of time.  If there’s any question about whether your parents are getting close to needing care, get involved and get it figured out.

I’m not an expert on the subject.  But, as my parents age, and as my friends’ parents age, it’s a topic that is increasingly coming up in my social circles.  I do know enough to know that it can get complicated.  I’ve seen it get complicated.  I’d love to hear from any of you out there who have been through this process and have stories to share with us.  Sometimes that’s the best way to learn about something.  So, share your stories in the comments below!