Can Shopping At TJ Maxx Save Money?

Do you shop at TJ Maxx for anything? Every so often I go in there to look for some clothing or towels or something cause it is a fast in and out. Well most of the time.

Yesterday I was on the hunt for a rain jacket for my son. Why the heck don’t stores have raincoats anymore? Yeah they have those fold up, squish up in a little bag ponchos but an actual men’s raincoat. Ha! Nope had to get one on Amazon.

BUT….what I DID find at the store was pretty awesome! Do you ever look at the food section at TJ Maxx? Did you realize they have good organic snacks, coffees, dried foods etc? Whoa here is just a small section –


Then I saw the C-L-E-A-R-A-N-C-E section – wow, just wow! I was in heaven.


I got organic cocoa nibs for $4/8 oz pkg.


Goji Berries for $5/5 oz. Organic

12 oz. Amaranth $2.50

Granola – can’t remember price and the best deal?

7 oz pkg of organic, non gmo Raw Maca powder for $9.50!!! Normally this is around $40 per pound


So even though I did not need to spend any money, I got things I will eat and use for more than 70%off. Celebrate, celebrate…dance to the music!!

Thought you would get a kick out of that. 😉



NEW Herbal CSA!

Bella Vista Farm is excited to offer a quarterly share in our new Herbal CSA.

Here are the basics of a CSA if you are unsure of what it is.

While we will not be offering fresh produce and meat, we will be offering a quarterly basket of Herbal Remedies and Fresh Herbs that relate to the season in which it is purchased.

For example, a winter share might include: Elderberry Syrup, Echinacea tincture, Winter Immune Tea, Reusable Heat Pack, Infused Honey, Sugar Scrubs and a Lip Remedy for Chapped Lips.

Our Herbal CSA provides sustainable, healthy, locally produced plant medicines made by with the skill, knowledge, intention and love of your herbalist.

Our products are handcrafted with herbs that we grow, harvest from the wild or from a trusted ethically grown source, with the intention of using as many locally-sourced herbs as possible.

With each basket, you will receive 6 products that may include tinctures, tea blends, salves, lotions, sprays, fresh or dried herbs, infused honey and vinegars with an herbal information sheet showing each product and how to use it as well as recipes. Sometimes we will include a special surprise. 🙂 Each yearly share purchase includes one free $30 class of your choosing.

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Summer basket may include insect repellent, jewelweed salve, calendula tincture, sunflower rose lotion, lip balm and a 1.5 oz tea blend.


This CSA will be limited to 25 people. 2015 Baskets will be distributed in April/June/September/December

If you’d like to support grassroots herbalism consider joining Bella Vista Farm’s CSA today!

Yearly total cost $240. You will receive one basket each quarter for a total of 4 baskets. This is in one payment. If you need a payment plan, contact me by email:

To purchase your share use this link to paypal.

Thank you to friends that cheered me on during this start up process, getting an idea to a launch – you know who you are 😉


A Trip to The International Market

Today was rainy, blah and the kid was home from school for Spring Break so I decided to take a trip to the Buford Hwy Farmer’s Market. Of course it took the old “will ya buy me lunch at the market?” Sometimes when you go out with a teen, you either get silence because they decided to take a nap or you get a really fun conversation. Well I got the really good conversation. 🙂

The trip took about 35 minutes to drive in the yucky, dreary, misty rain. I only had about twelve items on the list (mainly rose water, real rose water) to get at the international market, the market I only get to go to about once every two months BUT can you really only get just those TWELVE items?! HECK NO!!!!!!

I believe there were approximately 30 items in the cart including lunch – sushi and shrimp wraps in rice paper. The store was soooooo empty midday on a Tuesday, it was fabulous!

mkt veg

Just for fun, I took some pictures, just in case you’ve never been. 🙂 Also if you only thought there were five varieties of butter, think again  there was butter from every corner of the world and all countries in between!


How about cheeses? –

mkt butter

This beautiful loaf of rye was calling my name, “Anne-Marie come take me home, you must get me sliced too!!!!” Yep it came home and boy oh boy, one of the most delicious rye breads with a super sourdoughy taste and chewy crust.

mkt rye

It is the loaf on the left, all crackly and giant! So stinking delicious!!!!

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I ATE 3 slices already 🙂

And how many kinds of kimchi do you need? how about like 37?

how many kimchi varieties can there be???
how many kimchi varieties can there be???

The beautiful fruit and veggie section is to die for!

And some random aisles. JUST because!


Fancy rice!
Fancy rice!

OK so these soups are not REAL FOOD friendly but the kid REALLY loves them 🙂

super spicy "fancy" ramen soups
super spicy “fancy” ramen soups

AND Turkish Delight – we all decided is quite, well icky to be nice – anyone want them???

mkt turk

mkt turk2

Hope your day was amazing!


What Does Community Mean To You?

When you think of the word – Community, what comes to mind?

A neighborhood?

A place to hang out?

A group of people?

As defined in Webster’s, here are ALL the definitions!!! Just bear with me a minute. 🙂

: a group of people who live in the same area (such as a city, town, or neighborhood)

: a group of people who have the same interests, religion, race, etc.

: a group of nations

:  a unified body of individuals: as

a :  statecommonwealth

b :  the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly :  the area itself <the problems of a largecommunity>

c :  an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location

d :  a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society <a communityof retired persons>

e :  a group linked by a common policy

f :  a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests <the international community>

g :  a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society <the academiccommunity>

:  society at large
a :  joint ownership or participation <community of goods>

b :  common character :  likeness <community of interests>

c :  social activity :  fellowship

d :  a social state or condition

Ok so we have enough definitions and examples, don’t ya think? Community to me is my family,
My cute family!
My cute family!
Doggie community
Doggie community
Chicken community - sharing the bounty!
Chicken community – sharing the bounty!
my friends, my coworkers at the Farmer’s Market and of course, my Ladies Homestead gals.
No matter what you call your group, your peeps, you do things with and for each other  and share or contribute to build relationships.
Without community, we are just one lonely soul thinking we can do it all by our self with no help from others. Sad but true for some. Community makes us stronger!
You frequently hear me talk about bartering at the market and with friends and know that I LOVE this. I would be so on board with a no money barter only society but I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon, if so I am ready. 🙂
My market community – I had one loaf of bread left at the market this week and Hal from Foster-Brady Farm next door to me had some veggies left. I gave  him the loaf and he shared with me a bunch of stuff!!! So sweet! He did not want to go home with it so I happily obliged. I got a bag – big bag of broccoli, three 8-ball squash and some kale and lettuce. Sharing equals happiness!!
I purchased the cabbage , beets and dog treats
I purchased the cabbage , beets and dog treats
While packing up, Gail had some flowers left so she gave me some lilies and echinacea.
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So what did I do with all that broccoli?
We ate some that night then today I cut it all up and put the florets in ziplocs and now what to do with all those stems???? I just can’t see throwing them out, maybe soup.
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PS The color came out weird in the stalks pic, they are all green!!! Hahaha…
Here are a couple ideas I should try!

Broccoli Stalk Soup


Broccoli Hushpuppies

broccoli hushpuppies
OR Holy Moly !!
Broccoli Stem Pesto
Broccoli Stem Pesto
Enjoy your day today and share with me what community means to you. 😀

Visiting the Amish & Trip to the North

Happy Day after Mother’s Day to all moms out there. 🙂

Phew it has been a whirlwind of a month so far with our trip to New York, homeschooling year coming to the end, Herb Certification class this year – each month and two busy Farmer’s Markets this week!!!

I wanted to recap my trip with you all and follow up on the last post, so enjoy!

Jonathan and I made our drive up to upstate New York to visit our Gram who has Stage 4 cancer – 😦 .Gram is the coolest woman I know and it was so awesome to get to go up and visit with her for a few days – LOVE her and her strong spirit!

Well since we had traveled 800+ miles, we decided to take a few detours on the way home. 1st stop – Lancaster, PA for some good Amish foods!!! BUT before we made it there I accidentally went through a toll booth that was for the EZ Pass people – yikes. I was freaking out because there was no way to go back and some crazy dude was behind me honking his horn. When I got to the next toll, I apologized to the toll attendant and he said “oh well, too late you will get a ticket in the mail but you can send a note explaining what happened to avoid the fines”. Sigh…. ok back to the good stuff –

If you have never gone to Lancaster, you truly are missing out on a cultural experience that is so breathtaking and delightful. The kid did not want to go to the “commercial Amish”, he wanted the backroads Amish area so off we drove in search of a stand we visited two years ago. Yeah we got a bit lost in the search but oh my, what we did see was well, just beautiful. Here ya go!!!

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Amish buggy on the horizon
Amish buggy on the horizon

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AND then we FOUND the store!!!!

My child has a fabulous sense of pics 147 (1024x576)phone pics 145 (1024x576)

Oh and those delicious pies – yummmmmmmmyyyyyyy!


Jonathan said something I thought was pretty cute coming from a kid who likes to stay indoors on the computer – he said ” you know mom, I bet it is kind of cool to grow up Amish if you never experienced all the technology that we have now” Hmmmm.

Next stop, Polyface Farm in Swoope, Va. Have you ever been to Polyface? This is the second visit for me. Polyface Farm is owned by the Salatin family – famous author, Joel Salatin who wrote numerous farming books that are anything but ordinary and used by many as “how to” books.  I have read – You Can Farm, Folks This Ain’t Normal, The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer,  and my newest read – Family Friendly Farming Here’s a link for the farm – Polyface Farm.

This is no traditional farm as far as big, sterile farm types go, it is a normal just like you and I got, kinda farm. Totally LOVE!!! Let the pics do the talking –

AM polyface

Bunnies in the tractor
Bunnies in the tractor


Jonathan and the medium piggies
Jonathan and the medium piggies


Hoop houses all over the farm
Hoop houses all over the farm
Rakken house - chickens and rabbits cohabitating!!!
Rakken house – chickens and rabbits cohabitating!!!

The hens live in this house, but they go out in the moveable eggmobile too. The older rabbits are in here and their poop goes to the floor and the chickens scratch it in to make extra good fertilizer.

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LOOK at that grass for the sheep!!


Another view
Another view


Awesome weeds of course!!!!
Awesome weeds of course!!!!
Cool junk pile to fix fences and stuff :)
Cool junk pile to fix fences and stuff 🙂

I know I am weird…but all of us homesteaders have a pile of sorts to recycle and keep using.

And a couple of other random shots –


Last but not least my new book and the chicken I bought from the farm store – roasted at home!

Barter or Buy?

I was just thinking of how many things I have bartered for this year instead of paying cash. In the old, old days people bartered for EVERYTHING.

trading post

What is a Barter System?

A barter system is an old method of exchange. This system has been used for centuries and long before money was invented. People exchanged services and goods for other services and goods in return. Today, bartering has made a comeback using techniques that are more sophisticated to aid in trading; for instance, the Internet. In ancient times, this system involved people in the same area, however today bartering is global. The value of bartering items can be negotiated with the other party. Bartering doesn’t involve money which is one of the advantages. You can buy items by exchanging an item you have but no longer want or need. Generally, trading in this manner is done through Online auctions and swap markets.

Do you know where the term “buck” for a dollar came from? During the 17th and 18th century, colonists traded beaver pelts and deer skins for tobacco, corn, nails, etc…

barter piccute barter

Bartering clubs started up in the US during the Great Depression when money was scare and then a resurgance of clubs in the 1980’s where 100’s of clubs started up while we were all in that almost never ending recession. Over the past few years bartering again picked up and spread like hot cakes but there are STILL people that would not even think for a minute about trading something for something. “Oh goodness, the horror…uugghhh why would anyone want to do barter. I’ll just go BUY it!!!” Well I say “go right ahead, buy it!” and snicker that I was able to score a couple steaks for baking up some fresh bread.

barter 2

Do you have a talent or service to offer? Or do you bake, cook, garden, make crafty stuff, can homemade produce? Are you good at cutting lawns, chopping trees, cleaning houses, cut hair? If you answered YES to any of these, then you can barter too! If you don’t do any of the above, maybe you have a bunch of kitchen pots, pans, electronics, etc..that you no longer use but are in really good condition? Well trade those! I belong to a couple of groups locally that barter but you could also find some online groups with Craigs list or Ebay. For now, I will still with people I know but maybe in the future I will venture out. 🙂

Thinking back throughout the year, with money being tighter than ever, I feel very blessed for what I got through my bartering efforts and couponing. Here’s a list of goodies from 2013!

Mostly traded for homemade bread that I baked or herbal remedies:

5-6lbs pork chops

4 lbs water buffalo

Whole chicken

cube steaks, ground beef

lots of mushrooms!

many lotions and soaps

hand knitted socks

lots and lots of kale and other greens


pizelle cookies

liver dog jerky


coconut oil

pounds and pounds of sweet potatoes and regular potatoes

pumpkins, squash – all kinds

fresh herbs – bunches and bunches

radishes, peas, eggplants, green beans, onions

muscadines, berries – quarts

a glass pendant

tomatoes galore(since mine did not do well this year)

seeds, okra

plastic bottles for lip balms, salves, lotions


canned items

knitted purse

36 ears of corn

glass bread pans, cooling racks

pampered chef clips, pictures


bouquets and bouquets of fresh flowers

dog treats

money off a conferences traded for volunteer hours

medicinal herbs

syrups, jellies,

drink mixes, fresh ground coffee.

Peach jam, pickles, pineapple sage jelly, 4 books and a crochet purse!
Peach jam, pickles, pineapple sage jelly, 4 books and a crochet purse!

I think that is all I can remember!!!! OK so how did you do this year? Any good trades???

For 2014 I will log in EVERYTHING I barter for to see how well I can do. I need to cut my grocery and household costs even more. Can I cut my budget in half? What ya think? C’mon if Mavis from One Hundred Dollars A Month can do it then so can I. Wish me luck!

Enjoy the rest of 2013 😀




Weekly Bartering Update

Summer may be over but we still have 5 or 6 weeks left at the Grayson Farmers Market – yay! The Monroe market only has one more week, so sad! 😦

What will I do about bartering once the markets are over? Guess I will have to be creative in ideas!

Here is what I got for the week – oh and I ran out of coconut Oil on Friday and my great friend Christina picked some up and delivered it to market Saturday in exchange for her bread order – AWESOME!

Organic extra virgin coconut oil scored at Sam's club for only $16 - yeehaa!
Organic extra virgin coconut oil scored at Sam’s club for only $16 – yeehaa!


Shiitake mushrooms, apples, kale...
Shiitake mushrooms, apples, kale…


Shiitakes for cinnamon buns, kale for a root beer, apples for a cinnamon bread, chocolate pizzelle cookies for sourdough and the biscotti and liver jerky for dogs FREE! The liver jerky was made by Carla, the dog treat lady, and the liver came from my cows – cool.

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Sweet potatoes and chestnuts for a bug off spray.

FREE basil from Whipporwill Farms
FREE basil from Whipporwill Farms


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Last but not least blackeye peas and breakfast radishes for a bread. Supposedly there is a good recipe for hummus using blackeye peas, anybody hear of it?


That’s all folks!



Fig Wine and Chicken Tomatoes

Weird title huh? I figured I would add two posts together today! I made Fig Wine, or should I say I am m-a-k-i-n-g fig wine, I hope. 🙂

My friend Kim gave me a BUNCH of figs over the past few weeks and some went into jam, preserves, the freezer, my belly, to others and in fig bars. But I had like 35 more pounds, holy crap!!!! So what to do? Make wine, of course! I have been wanting to make wine for years so I had my opportunity and had already purchased some supplies in hopes of making muscadine wine. If you wish to make wine or beer and you live in GA, go visit Evan at Blockader Home Brew Supplies in Athens. Evan is soooo very helpful and knowledgeable.

Got my recipe and learned that the more fruit you have, the better the wine! And boy did I have a lot of fruit.

ridiculous amount of chopped figs!
ridiculous amount of chopped figs!

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Here is what you need:

a sanitized bucket with a tight fitting lid(I used a 5 gallon) AND an airlock – a couple bucks

fruit – close to 5 gal

water about 1-2 gallons depending on the space in the bucket

sugar – I used 3 1/2lbs

1 tsp. citric acid and I used a sliced lemon

1 tsp. yeast nutrient

5 camden tablets crushed

pectin enzymes(can’t remember how much but it is on the pkg)

1 pkg. of Red Star Montrachet wine yeast

Collect all fruit and juice into the sanitized bucket. If using whole fruit, place it in a nylon mesh bag(purchased at wine supply), so you can strain it out later without too much mess.

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Start with a couple quarts of warm water in the bucket and add the enzymes, nutrients, sugar, acid and sulfites(camden tablets) – you do need this to keep bacteria away! NO YEAST YET!!!! Add more water if it is not full. Now I almost forgot this part – You need a hydrometer to measure the sugar and alcohol content and I need instructions on how to use it. hehehe! Stick the hydrometer into the wine must and it has to be able to be submerged enough so it can bob up and down(float) then you can read it. The numbers need to be between 1.085 and 1.110. If it is not there then add more sugar until it is. It was explained to me like this: If your 1st reading is too low then the yeast eats all the sugar, your alcohol percent will be very low. Hope that helps.

Drill a hole in the lid and install air lock. Place lid on fermenting bucket. Let sit for up to 24 hours for the sulfites to sterilize the juice. After the 24 hours have passed, most of the sulfites have degassed and its safe to add your yeast. Do that and replace lid with airlock.

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*****After I took this picture, I closed the bag up as per instructions from Evan, and reclosed the lid*********

Remove the solid fruit 1-2 weeks into fermentation, leaving it longer may extract too much tannins into your wine. Simply remove bag with all the fruit pulp and let fermentation continue.

When fermentation slows down, siphon(“rack”) the wine into the second fermenter, preferably a glass or PET plastic carboy. If there is an excessive amount of headroom in the carboy, top up the wine with more juice, water or even other wine.

Let this second fermentation continue for as long as it takes for the yeast to drop out, the wine to clear up, and the flavors to mellow out. It’s during this time you may want to add additional acids or tannins to adjust the flavor of the wine.

If you want to sweeten your wine, add a stabilizer(such as potassium sorbate) and add however much sugar you want to sweeten the wine. If not skip the sugar, add the potassium sorbate, and bottle the wine into vessels of your choice.

*****Above recipe from Blockader Homebrew Supply*****

OK so I am only at the point of opening my bucket to take out the bag of fruit – it is day 9, I may wait until day 11. Wish me luck on it!!!


On to the “Chicken Tomatoes“, oh you thought it was a recipe, didn’t ya?

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Nope! My chickens planted this tomato plant when the pen was in front of the chicken house and I gave them bunches of tomatoes to eat. 🙂

Look at this BIG, juicy tomato!

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This is my most beautiful tomato plant of the year! Of course it grew AFTER the giant rainy season! Maybe I should let them do the planting for all of my veggies.

Have a beautiful day today!


Shared on Wildcrafting Wednesday!!!

Sweet Bartering and Mushroom Update

The past week and a half had some sweet scores in the bartering department! I forgot to mention last week that I got a bunch of shiitake mushrooms for carrot pineapple bread and THEN…my shiitake mushrooms started to show up on the logs that I innoculated earlier this year. Look at my logs!


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I cut all that were ready –

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We fried them up with butter and garlic- yum, yum, yum.

Ok back to bartering. Today was FABULOUS at the farmer’s market. I sold out of bread AND traded for some goods.

Red Noodle Beans, Butternut Squash and Eggplant
Red Noodle Beans, Butternut Squash and Eggplant

Veggie for a loaf of bread.

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A beautiful glass pendant for a bread and a root beer.

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2 quarts of muscadines for a bread

and this for FREE!!!!

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Thai Basil, Genovese Basil and Thyme – drying now as I write.

That is all for now – have a great night,


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