June Was a Month Of Schlepping

June is over and I’m honestly grateful. Here on the prairie, June is a month of schlepping. I’ll define schlepp here because although it’s a common Jersey word, people out here probably don’t know what it means.

Schlepp- To carry clumsily or with difficulty; To move slowly or laboriously; To go on an arduous journey. (Yiddish)

We homeschool. We also live in the middle of no where. You may recall that I have already discussed how out here, the schools are everything. My own theory is that because there are no other cultural institutions, there is just nothing else and therefore schools are thee defining cultural institution by default. A post office, school and a grocery store is really what makes a town out here. I mean I suppose that given that your other options are hanging out at the grocery store, the railroad tracks or the post office, the school seems appealing. Even though I belong to two different homeschool groups in the Front Range area, they are far and we hardly know any other homeschoolers out here. The two other homeschooling families I know live 25 and 35 miles away, respectively. There are hardly any other activities (besides school) for children to participate in out here. 

Out here, the local school calendars roughly run from the Assumption (August 15th for all you non-Catholics out there) to Memorial Day. While I one of the reasons that I originally homeschooled was to not arbitrarily plan my life around what some school board decides when the children should be off or in school, I find that I must do this anyway, as the schools finish in May and June is when they start the summer activities. These summer activities are wonderful in their own right, however, they are my children’s only chance to participate in these type of things. So it’s June or it’s nothing.

This was my son’s third year and my daughter’s second year playing tee-ball. While there is nothing wrong with tee-ball, it’s tee-ball or it’s nothing. There are no other sports for them to participate in. I really don’t know exactly how the tee-ball league is structured. I do know the tee-ball is through the towns, not the schools, but the players use the schools’ fields. The participating towns range from 60 miles away from my house one way to 40 miles away the other. The games are against the teams from the same town the same night, which is great at accommodating siblings. On a typical game night, for example, my daughter played her game at 5 p.m. and my son played his at 6 p.m. Tee-ball is pretty much the whole month of June. There was one practice in May and the tournament wrapped it all up the last Saturday in June.

My daughter's team won the tournament. She is wearing last year's shirt.

My daughter’s team won the tournament. She is wearing last year’s shirt.

My children also attended swimming lessons in Limon. While the program was great and professionally run, it is still about 25 miles away. These are the closest swimming lessons to us. I am extremely happy with them and so were my kids, but honestly, I’m glad they’re over.

Action shot of my son at swimming lessons...

Action shot of my son at swimming lessons…

My children are also attended Dance Camp, and, yes, I sent my son, too. While these ballet lessons are expensive (thank you to my kind in-laws for paying for them) I view them as a once in a lifetime opportunity. The ballet teacher grew up here in Lincoln County and teaches dance in Denver. She came back to hold camp. In my children’s lifetime, they have never before had an opportunity to attend professional ballet lessons in our area.


Dance recital.

And then there is Storytime… The very local library only had a summer story time for June. The librarian is extremely awesome and has thoroughly motivated my children to read, but again, it’s June or it’s nothing.
Additionally, the librarian in the next town has cranked up Storytime to twice per week in the park. Her Storytime is always fantastic year round, but we have made an increased effort to attend it for the summer because we’ve been in town anyway. She also tends to cater to the grade school kids more in the summer as opposed to just the preschoolers during the school year.

The librarian in the next town holds Storytime in the old one room schoolhouse that is part of the museum complex.

The librarian in the next town holds Storytime in the old one room schoolhouse that is part of the museum complex.

Oh, and I forgot lunch in the park! A wonderful charitable group seeks to bridge the gap on summer lunch and lunch during the school year. They recognize that children from low income families receive free school lunches and that these low income families may struggle to put food on the lunch table throughout the rest of the year. The result is lunch in the park, free to any child, no questions asked. We have joined the group for lunch quite a few times. It is wonderful for both the children and their parents to socialize with each other, not to mention the free lunch.

June was also an extremely busy month for my farmer husband Kevin who planted maybe 300 acres of millet and still worked his full time job.

We had also planted a huge garden which the grasshoppers now chomped down in its entirety. We had two out-of-state friends visit us separately. My dog ran into the street and got hit by a car and died. My cat that I had from the time I was single got sick and had to be put down. I also have new baby chicks that I’m taking care of- they’re now about a month old now.

This was George's last trip to the vet.

This was George’s last trip to the vet.

And then there is the usual- getting Vince to Chemo, going to Mass, buying groceries which are insanely far, etc.

I had a day on June 16th, for example, where we went to Limon (25 miles away) for swimming lessons, Storytime still in town, lunch in the park, back home because we forgot my daughter’s shorts, the pool in Hugo during a little down time, dance lessons, back home while they were in dance, back to Hugo to pick them up and then off to Stratton 60 miles away to play two tee-ball games. That was about 200 miles and a whole lot of wear and tear on all us. My wonderful husband took Vince to Chemo the next day just so we wouldn’t have to schlepp again.

So, yes, June was a month of schlepping, mainly because there are otherwise no local activities for my children to attend. These enrichment activities are blessings and are almost necessary to make my children well rounded and be able to interact with their local peers. However, I honestly couldn’t wait for June to be over so we can go back to our normal life of just about never leaving the house except for going to Mass, Chemo and Costco.


Posted in The Garden, Touring Eastern Colorado by with 2 comments.

Free Seed Starting Trays

snuffyI will make a confession here: free is my favorite price.

My farming dream includes my abundant garden where I grow organic heirloom vegetables.  I would grow all these vegetables from seed, seed that I have collected myself.  Of course right now this is just a dream, as I have failed and failed and failed with my garden.  I hope and pray that this year will be the year I will figure it all out.

One big key piece of the dream is to cultivate vegetable starter plants from seed.  There are basically three costly inputs to starting your own vegetable starter plants: seed, soil and seed starting trays.  (Of course there is water and sunshine, too, but I am referring to monetary input costs.)  Believe it or not, the most expensive “ingredient” is the seed starting tray.  Those seed starting trays will cost $1.00 or $2.00 each.

I am now going to share with you thee secret method to getting free seed starting trays…

1.  Go to the garden center section of a big box store, maybe Lowe’s, Home Depot, Wal-mart, etc.  Make sure it’s at the peak of the season.

2. Do the work for the garden center employees.  Consolidate trays of flower and vegetable starter plants.  You want to look for “holes” in the display trays and condense the trays to fill up some and empty others. Be mindful and respectful of the job that the employees have to do: make sure you only combine trays of the same type and price point and variety.  You are doing them a favor.  They are doing you a favor.

3. Ask permission of an employee to take the trays home.

stickynote2It’s that simple, really.

Here are a few other things to be aware of:
I have never received a “no”. Ever.
Some holder trays are better for seed starting than others.  It really just depends on the style used and there are probably hundreds of variables.
The big box stores throw these trays out anyway.  The trays do not have an inventory.  The grower purchases these trays by the truckload, so their cost for the trays is nominal.  They do not reuse these.
The “experts” will tell you to disinfect the trays with a solution of 10% bleach to kill any diseases present.
There’s probably a chemical residue on the trays because I can guarantee you that that grower bathed these starter plants in an assortment of chemical ick.
Isn’t it better to repurpose these trays rather than have them end up in a landfill?

You may also be wondering how I came up with my “system” for obtaining free seed starting trays… Once upon a time in Jersey a very long time ago, I used to manage garden centers.  I was Assistant Manager (and even Acting Store Manager briefly) of the now defunct Frank’s Nursery and Crafts.  I also ran the Garden Shop and Patio departments of a K-mart for an entire season.   I observed these trays being thrown out.  I threw them out myself as I consolidated the trays or delegated consolidating.  I managed the whole process of selling thousands of dollars worth of starter plants daily, ordering directly from the grower.  (Perhaps I should add that running garden centers was really the precursor to me becoming a farmer.  Perhaps that is a story I’ll share with you in the future.)

And of course, just because my kids are cute, I’m going to illustrate this….

Step One… Arrive at a Big Box Garden Center.

These "holes" are  what you want to look for...

Step two… These “holes” are what you want to look for… start consolidating here…

Again... look for "holes" in the display trays and then work on consolidating them.

Again… look for “holes” in the display trays and then work on consolidating them.

This is not a bad amount for April.  The garden center business peaks in May.

This is not a bad amount for April. The garden center business peaks in May.                       Step three…. Make sure you ask permission from store personnel before you take them home.


These are seed starting trays from two years ago.  My seeds never grew, but it wasn't because of the trays.

These are seed starting trays from two years ago. My seeds never grew, but it wasn’t because of the trays.

(Linked to The Barn Hop.)

Posted in Being a Good Environmental Stewards, Feeling Nostalgic, Laura's Cheapskate Secrets, The Garden and tagged , , by with no comments yet.