Seems like all I ever do is work on clearing out the clutter in this house and trying to keep up with the yard

I know it’s snowing in some parts still – I keep the a/c on 72 year round (still keep the costs down to about $150 even in the 95+ degree weather we have in the summer (it’s been 89 lately). What this means is I seem to live in a jungle with mowing every 5 days to keep up, not to mention all the other bits of yard work that go with that.

With this in mind, I have made a concerted effort to get some social time in – but it has to be darned close to free. Here in our area, there is a huge musical presence and lots of small town festivals. I go to one of the local open mic nights at a restaurant here on Tuesdays and order a club soda for the evening. Each musician plays 3 songs and this goes on for about 5 hours. It’s great. I’m on the southwest gulf coast of FL so have the opportunity every Mother’s Day to take a free cruise with a local boat tour company. Did a sunset tour around the harbor this time. I did a 7 hour trip to a key south of us that takes about 2.5 hours each way, then spend 2 hours at the restaurant on this key – it’s a privately owned key only accessible by boat. Next year I’m going to another key that is part of the state park system and also only accessible by boat. Takes about 2.5 hours each way, plus 3 hours on the island. Should be a nice trip.

This month, we have the Hibiscus Festival coming up, the Key Lime Festival, a great band playing at the open air rooftop bar of a local hotel and it’s great to kickback in the lounge chairs by the pool or any of the great outdoor sectionals they have – again, a club soda goes a long way. There’s a place called Fishermen’s Village that has timeshares on the 2nd floor, while the first houses shops and restaurants. I guess you might think of it as a board walk, of sorts, but all on land and it ends with a restaurant on the water. They have an open patio area, under cover, in the center and have bands play 5 – 9 on weekends. That is great as there’s resin patio furniture and you simply take your bottle of water and hang out. If you get there before 5, you can explore the resort shops which is always fun.

Heading to Yogurt Mountain on Sunday to get 6 oz of frozen yogurt free. Brunch earlier in the day at son’s house. Thursday nights at a local riverfront park consists of acoustical musicians setting up in the gazebo, pavilion and on the grass, playing. Again, just the general public coming to play and/or to simply listen. Started about 10 years ago with a group of 7 friends and has grown. During winter season when snowbirds are here, we see as many as 5k there.

So I am working on an entertainment budget of $25 a month and am doing at least 2 activities each week – as many as 5. This is allowing me to divert more money to pay down credit cards. And, fortunately, we live in an area where 7 miles south or north and I can do everything I possible could want to – if I expanded that, I would have a lot more opportunities. However, I am limiting my 2003 paid for Camry (yay – that was a milestone accomplished last fall) to ONE tank of gas per month – since the first of the year, I’ve met this goal, even with taking a 140 mile round trip each month.

Other than that, I took the ‘nudging’ from whomever said we could all plant a pot of our veggie of choice and set up 5 gallon pots with soil and planted seeds obtained from wintersown.org including turnips, celery, banana peppers and tomatoes. I had two separate orders – one was a mix of flowers and some veggies, while the tomato order was separate – choose 6 varieties, 4 alternates – they sent me all 10 choices. These were gained for the cost of the envelope/paper/stamp plus another SASE envelope using two stamps each. I saved some of those thumb-sized yellow/red/orange pepper seeds, dried and planted those. Scrounged up some old seed packets and figured if they grew, great – no cost. About half did so I have watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers and squash. I have cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, yellow grape tomatoes as well.

Never grown veggies so this is a challenge. It’s miserably hot here already so I’m playing by ear. I did some research and ordered some neem oil and mixed with water and a drop of dish soap – hope this works – supposed to deal with leafminers which seems to be my only issue as of now, aphids and a couple other things, I believe, while not harming beneficial insects such as lady bugs. I hope this works well. Takes a week or so, as I understand it.

And, after hearing of Jan’s grapes, instead of tossing out the old portable gazebo frame when the top finally gave way (cheaper to replace the whole unit than just the canvas top, unfortunately), I moved it to the corner of the yard, put chicken wire on the top and a couple levels of landscaping timber around the base of the frame. This has been mulched in (so I plan on moving the watermelon and cantaloupe pots over here for crawling space, while the squash are going into the like-framed banana trees bed, while cucumber is going to the chain link fence along the back to climb). In each corner of the frame, I planted muscadine grapes. 1 vine has been there 3 yrs, the other 3 only two years. I have gazillions of little grapes everywhere. Now I have to figure out how to net them to keep the birds out.

So I took the challenge of growing veggies to see if that would cut my food costs noticeably. If things grow as I hope, I’ll have some extras – if so, I’ve already identified a food bank I can give them to as well as a new halfway house for homeless veterans where the soul purpose is to get the vets back on their financial feet.

These are my frugal plans for the summer, as things currently stand.