Home » Lessons From Butterberry Farm

The True Queen of Frugal

>9 May 2008
 
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I went to a local Farmer’s Market last weekend for the first time, just to browse and see what local farmers had to sell. While I was there, I began talking with a kind woman who was probably in her late 30’s and sitting behind a table with eggs and handmade soap for sale. She had introduced herself to me as Addy. I told her I was really interested in finding a dairy farmer who I could buy milk from.

Addy said, “Well… I have a milk cow. I’m just not allowed to sell the milk here since I’m not inspected or licensed and all that stuff. I bought the cow years ago because I have five kids, and I had to feed the whole bunch of them!” Excited at possibly finding a lead, I said, “Really?! Well, if you were to sell some, how much would you sell it for?” She told me that she actually does have a couple of people who buy it from her, and she sells to them for $4-$5 per gallon. Whew! A little too much for me! I thought (not knowing then what a good deal that actually is for fresh milk). I said, “Oh, okay.” I asked for her name and number, just in case, and then went on my way.

I kept thinking about her all day long, about how I’d really like to get some milk from her. Just not at that price. Then it occurred to me to work out a trade! But, what do I have to offer? After pondering it for a while, I decided I was going to offer to teach her about drug store couponing, so that she could get her toiletries for close to nothing in exchange for a gallon of milk every couple of weeks. I was very excited at the idea. Surely she would be interested in saving money on shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste and stuff!

The next day I gave her a call. After reminding her who I was, I very enthusiastically offered, “I was wondering if you might be interested in bartering!” There was curiosity in Addy’s voice as she replied, “Sure! Whatcha got?” I shared with her my idea to teach her about couponing. When I was finished explaining she was silent for a moment, then said, “Well, I kinda have a system that I use. I only go shopping twice a year, once in January, and once in June. Each trip I spend $150 on stuff that I need to last me for the next six months.”

My jaw hit the floor. Did she just say $150 for 6 months?!

Suddenly forgetting my great plan in the interest of this new information, I gasped, “Oh my goodness! Are you serious?!” She went on detailing how she figured out how much flour, laundry soap, everything, that her family uses in 6 months, and budgets on that for her trip. She said she makes her own soap (a head to toe, hair and all, bar!), laundry detergent, dish soap, etc. As I listened in awe I finally said to her, “I need to be learning from you!”

In my astonishment I became filled with questions, and asked her tons of them, to which she graciously gave her answers. Toward the end of the conversation she told me that she is having to dry her milk cow up right now because it’s going to calve. But she offered me some blueberry bushes if I wanted them. Now, I had no idea what I would do with blueberry bushes, but I wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity to see what other advice I could glean from this woman! I made plans to visit her a couple days later.

Now, I could go on and on about my 3 hour visit with this amazing Christian woman and her incredible family, but for the sake of time I will just list the things that I learned from her during that first visit about how she saves her family money…

They live in a humble single wide trailer, on 3 acres of land. All paid off.

They drive an older model van; completely paid for as well.

They have a garden, and raise all of their own vegetables.

They have tons of different fruit trees, bushes and plants; and several nut trees as well.

For meat, they raise their own cows, chickens, rabbits, pigs, a turkey (for Thanksgiving) and hunt for deer. Their first cows were a gift from some dairy farmer friends of theirs. It costs $.34/lb to butcher beef any way you want it.

They keep the rabbit fur to make mittens and other things.

She freezes, cans, or jellies all of the food that they produce.

She gets her milk from her cow, and makes her own dairy products, including some cheeses, yogurt, ice cream, and butter, among other things.

She never bought baby food.

They get their eggs from their chickens.

She doesn’t own a dryer. She line dries everything. And she only washes on Mondays (unless the weather says otherwise).

She buys her flour and grains straight from the mill. She says they are fresh, and much cheaper.

They have well water of course.

She only turns on the air conditioner three months out of the year: June, July and August.

For a heating system, they have a Water Stove. First I’d ever heard of one! It’s like a huge outdoor wood burning stove. It has coils inside that hold tons of water. There are two pipes which come out of it; one goes into the house, through a radiator, and heats the home. The other goes to the plumbing and supplies the home with hot water for dishes, laundry and baths. People bring them lumber and boxes for her to burn all the time.

No internet. No cable TV.

She makes a menu and plans 3 full meals a day. She said a typical meal would be: BBQ deer meat, green beans, potatoes, and a fresh apple pie. All made from scratch.

She buys all of her spices and cooking needs from an Amish store. She said they are much cheaper. For instance, a whole cup of cinnamon would cost just about $1.00. You buy by weight.

She bakes goods for about a week in Fall to sell at the Fair for her shopping money.

Her and her daughters collect cans whenever they find them, to recycle for about 10 cents apiece.

She uses herbs for medicinal needs. She showed me a few growing in her yard, for teething babies, and bee stings.

If they feel like having a Frosty from Wendy’s, they make one at home themselves. Though, they do treat themselves with a rare splurge of going out to eat occasionally.

She even recently purchased an old wood cookstove for cooking on. She hasn’t begun using it, and is still learning about how to heat it properly and such, but she is very excited about the idea, and having it available if she does ever need it.

As I left there, I realized just how ignorant I still really am about how to live frugally. This woman truly is an example of the Proverbs 31 woman we all should strive to be. I am filled with even more questions now, and I can’t wait for my next visit with this wonderful family.

What surprised me the most about Mrs. Addy was how she answered my question, “How did you learn all of this… from your Mother?” She said, “Oh, no. My mother fed me Pop Tarts and Spaghetti O’s growing up. I decided when I was 29 that I was going to get a milk cow and make my own milk, and it started from there.” She began asking around about how to do certain things, and found that the very elderly, 80-90 year old women at a nearby nursing home could tell her the neatest things. And she has just learned along the way.

What an inspiration! I honestly didn’t know people still knew how to do these things. I thought I was doing great clipping coupons and shopping sales, but I now realize there’s so much more to frugal living! I am so excited about what more I have to learn from this incredible woman and her family from Butterberry Farm!

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35 Comments »

  • mommaof10 said:

    We would love to be so self-sufficient someday. We are working on getting there ourselves with a cow and her steer-calf, chickens and milk and meat goats. From personal experience, I know that having animals do have a cost involved.

    With only 3 acres, she must be spending money to feed and care for those animals. For a real cost analysis, that cost, which is going up by leaps and bounds with the ethanol issues, must be figured into what she’s spending to care for her family.

    The offset to that cost is the health benefits to raising and eating you’ve grown.

    I’d love to learn from her too!

    Laralee
    http://www.PlymouthRockRanch.com
    Recording the Faithfulness and Provision of God for Future Generations

  • Traci said:

    Awesome story (and writing!) thank you for sharing this with us!!
    -Traci

  • Melissa said:

    What an amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing! What an awesome family! I would love to hear more. I wish I could go visit!

  • audra said:

    I am amazed by people like this- I have a couple of neighbors who could almost rival her. I wish I had that determination- my computer however will be staying hooked up, my frosty’s will be from Wendys, but I now just might attempt making my own bread.

  • Kansas Mom said:

    My husband and I are saving for a little farm and intend to grow most of our own food and raise some animals, too. (The milk cow will probably come a few years after we move.) I doubt we’ll ever be as amazing as this family you’ve described, but we are collecting quite a library of self-sustaining farm books. We joke that we’ll be the ones who thrive if the federal government ever collapses because we’ll have all the information we need to make our own soap, medicines, foods, etc! (Not that we’re hoping anything bad happens to the federal government, of course.)

    Also, the milk she’s selling is probably whole milk, which I’ve heard from some families dilutes very well for drinking and baking. You might be able to make your gallon stretch quite a bit farther than ones from the store.

  • Shari Ellen said:

    It sounds like the way people used to live in the older days. I love the idea of it, but it sounds like oh so much work. The radiator heating system sounds very interesting. We have water filled heating pipes running through our house, but they are heated with oil.

  • Jessica said:

    That is amazing. What an inspiration on how to truly be a Proverbs 31 woman.

    My family started our first garden this year (you can see pics in my blog) and I am really excited for things to start being ripe.

    I have thought about buying a whole cow for butchuring from the school 4h, but havent quite done the math on it yet.

    Can’t wait to hear more!

  • cindy said:

    I hope you do share more of what you learn from her. I found it fascinating to read. Especially to hear how she did not grow up with this knowledge but just knew she wanted to head in that direction. VERY NEAT!

  • Susan said:

    I grew up on a farm. We did some of the very same things. My grandmother came from the Azores…so she knew lots of stuff from there. We canned and baked…I sure miss growing up that way. I wish I could do that now. I will say this…I have scaled back alot lately. I make my own biscuits and freeze them. I make broth/stock. I try to grow my own veggies…sometimes they don’t make it.

    You need to let that lady know she needs to write a book. I would LOVE to buy it!!!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Susan

  • Marianne said:

    All I can say is … wow!

    I love the idea of self-sustainability. I think we’ve lost touch with that side of our American heritage.

    Unless sustaining green grass in the ‘burbs counts (guilty!).

    Please post more! You should interview her for a series here!

  • rachel said:

    I would love to live like that and raise my children to appreciate the simple things of life. I do many things like from-scratch cooking, but I’m also losing some things that I learned growing up amish. Like butchering chickens and gardening. I really really want goats and chickens, but not while living in a development. Maybe someday…

  • Christine said:

    Wow-Just Wow!

  • Heather said:

    WOW! I want to meet her, too! That is what I want for us!!! We are on our way, just not nearly that far….. We do have chickens, pigs, cows and a garden….. I spend WAY more than that on groceries.. What an inspiration!!!!
    Thank you for sharing this!
    Heather

  • Becky said:

    I don’t mean to be a downer :-) I just wanted to point out some expenses this lady may have in taking care of these animals. Cows and chickens have grocery bills too and unless you have alot of pasture and hayfields and/or access to cheap grain and hay it’s cheaper to buy eggs, meat and milk than to raise your own. I speak from personal experience :-)

  • Laura @ Laura Williams’ Musings said:

    WOW! WOW! WOW!

    And I thought I was doing good on a budget of $500 a month for 9 people!

  • Denise said:

    Wow! How interesting! I too could have read on and on! That is awesome!

  • Angela said:

    Totally off topic–people in the Portland, OR area would LOVE to pay $4-5 for a gallon for raw milk. We have to pay upwards of $10/gallon plus a 45-60 minute drive to pick it up. You’re lookin’ at a bargin!

  • Stacey said:

    VERY inspiring! Sounds like a very “rich” woman to me.

  • Amy said:

    Wow! That is the most amazing story ever. I can’t imagine only shopping twice a year for that many people, but that sounds wonderful to me :)

  • Heather said:

    Thanks for sharing this, I really enjoyed reading it. What a wonderful example of living a simple and frugal life. I’m feeling really spoiled right now with my “city ways” and all the “convenience products” I buy.

  • Kara S said:

    For those who sound “down,” Mrs. A. is probably recouping the costs of keeping the dairy cow as well as her other animals at $4-5 for a gallon of raw milk. We sell our raw milk for $3 gallon and that easily pays for the grain for two dairy cows and 30+ chickens (a 100 lb bag of grain in our area is $12; during the summer 100# will last about 2 months, winter about 1 month or less). Plus we sell chicken eggs. The extra money is then rolled over to purchase fuel for the tractors to make hay and for seeds for the gardens. We plant enough for three households (9 people) in our family to eat year round (frozen or canned for wintertime) and then any extra is sold at the local farmers market or to neighbors/friends. The concept of having a small farm is wonderful and provides us with delicious food all year. However it isn’t for the faint of heart since it takes many hours to plant, harvest and prepare as well as milk the cow, collect the eggs etc. Also as a side note, while Mrs A may spend only $150 every 6 months, she’s probably spending around $300 to have a cow butchered depending on the size of the cow. With a family of 6 or 7, they may butcher once or twice a year, again depending on the cow size. So, yes, there are hidden costs to farming, but you also know exactly where your food came from.

  • Melissa said:

    Unbelievable! What a blessing it must have been to run into her!!

    Will you continue to share what you learn with us?

    Many Blessings,
    M.

  • Allison said:

    Wow. That is very amazing. Personally, I couldn’t imagine living like that, but I have SO MUCH respect for people that do. That is truly amazing! And what a way to help the earth, that’s for sure :)

  • monica said:

    Wow, and I think I am being frugal when I ge a box of cereal for $1! I guess I don’t really know that much about being frugal after all:0)

  • Suzville said:

    What a fun story! If I had met this woman, I’d be sticking to her like glue! I don’t know if I could ever do all of that, but I sure would love to do as much as possible.

    When I was a kid, we lived on an acre and raised rabbits, chickens, and goats. I and my sister hated goat milk, but we didn’t use the goats for meat. I helped to clean the butchered rabbits and chickens – that was quite a childhood!

    Raising dairy cows and chickens for eggs top my list of what I’d really love to do.

  • The Happy Housewife said:

    Kendra-
    That is just amazing. I really admire her attitude and resourcefulness. Thanks for sharing your experience!
    Toni

  • Karen said:

    It wouldn’t be hard to plant the fruit trees in the city, just get a dwarf tree. We are getting ready to have our first harvest from our apricot tree. We used to have an apple tree and the harvest from that was incredible. More than we could handle, but it was an awesome experience. We moved and I still miss it. Blackberries can be free for picking and so can other fruits if you ask around. Some people will allow you to pick in exchange for some of the finished product ie, jam or jelly or pie filling.

  • Kieva said:

    Wow she is doing exactly what I am attempting to do. We have the 2 1/2 acres and a fixer up double wide that cost half the mortgage payment of a small house in the city with a small back yard. We got our chickens and three guineas. And dug our 25 by 40 foot plot. Bought 3 raspberry, 3 blackberry, and two fig plants for $16 dollars on sale at Walmart. Normally they were $8.98 each. I am looking into milk goats right now. Plan to get 2 females and one male. Purebred so that I can sell off the kids for a decent price to help pay for the keep of the parents. Looking into raising rabbits for meat.

    You can start anyway. I started by getting a book called The Self-sufficient life and How to Live it by John Seymour. I saw a section on how to make butter. So my husband got me a butter churn from the 1900’s, two butter paddles and a butter mold for Christmas. I went to Walmart got a pint of heavy whipping cream. Opened the book up when I got home and started churning. My son loves to make butter. I have been on fire since.

    Here is a really good example of how quickly you can learn this stuff. I bought a bale of oat hay to mulch my garlic three years ago(didn’t realize it had seeds it)but I let those grow. Harvested it and saved it for next year. Every year I threw the seed out in the garden somewhere to grow always around the time I mulched the garlic. I grew that bit because it reminded me of the country home I was planning for. Didn’t take much effort. Now I live in the country and had about a pound of oats I planted for my chickens next year (from a hand full). The seed will be saved one more year but the hay will be used. After that I will have enough to feed to them a bit and plant for the next year. The moral here being it doesn’t take much effort to learn this stuff but a little here and there grows into a lot quickly.

    Look into how much you are paying to work. I cut my mortgage by $700 dollars but got more land to live off of. By quitting my job in a year I will be saving $800 a month on day care, who knows how much on gas and alot on eating out because we work too much. In the end I save OVER half my monthly pay check by staying at home. Plus this year of setting up the property to supply us with all fruit, vegetables and herbs we need, plus chicken, eggs, milk, butter, cheese and add to that hunting and fishing, wood from the property for heating and cutting down on one cell phone, less milage on my car and less car repairs. This will make up for most if not all of the rest of my pay I will be loosing. And my husband will be working and I will be doing most of that. But that is because I like doing that! We can get by on one pay check.

    It pays to stay at home with good planning. The house may not be fancy ( who am I to complain at least I am not living in a tent!) and you may buy clothes at a thrift store but my health will be better from home cooked meals and hard work. I won’t worry too much about the failing economy. And the family is more likely to stick together due to dependency on each other. The best part of having little money and living closer to the land is it makes you more dependent on God.

    Sorry to ramble but I love this topic. I could go on and on. It’s exciting to see that to follow God really does make life less stressful and more fun!

    I remembered in the Bible when buying the new house where Jesus says to leave everything and follow him. And for the wife to look well into the way of the household. To work with your hands, to get up before dawn and lay down last. To teach your children diligently in the way of the Lord. For the wife to make things to sell and help the husband with the income. This life requires that. And that brings me closer to God. Set yourself up so that you have to be what God wants you to be.

    Sure would like to meet this lady. I will be checking in on this site quite often to see what else she can teach me.

    Your sister in Christ,

    Kieva

  • Mrs. Q said:

    We live in the city, smack dab in the middle, so no livestock allowed. I wanted to start raising chickens for eggs but when I called the police station to ask, they said no. Sigh. But this lady is an inspiration to find other ways to be more frugal. I look forward to your next post on her and her penny-pinching ways!

  • MelissaD said:

    Oh how I wish there was a family like their’s that lived around me! What an inspiration!

  • Carmen at Old House Kitchen said:

    Truly an inspiration!

  • Ashlee Logan said:

    So, I’m interested in this CVS couponing. Have you written a blog about that?

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Ashlee,

    My old blog was dedicated to pretty much just couponing. But I haven’t written about the whole drug store deals thing here. If you wanna know how to do it, check out Moneysavingmom.com, especially read her CVS 101 post. You can do the same things with Rite Aid, and Walgreens. If you still don’t quite get it, email me personally and I’ll be happy to answer any additional questions :) DO try to start doing it!!

  • Ashlee Logan said:

    Thanks! I will! :)

  • Elisabeth said:

    I loved reading this. It is quite amazing and very inspiring. $150 for 6 months. Wow. I’m reading a book called Small-Plot, High-Yield Gardening and it says that you can grow $7,486 worth of produce in a 3,000sq. ft. garden (according to 2009 market value) That’s a big savings.

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