Net Worth – Q2 2014

Edit: added a NW using only liquid assets.

We didn’t have any major windfalls this quarter, so the progress will probably not be spectacular, but progress is progress.


  • Home (Estimated Market Value): 80,000 (Note: Zillow’s value is kind of nuts. Not going to use the Zestimate anymore.)
  • 401(k) combined: 63,637 (+2,945)
  • Cars combined: 2,500 (-500)
  • Cash Savings: 8,195 (+1,562)
  • Total: 154,332 (+6,007)


  • Home Mortgage: 105,620 @6.5% (-705)
  • Student Loan (Chief A): 3,396 @0.1% (-478)
  • Student Loan (Chief B): 11,946 @6.5% (-729)
  • Student Loan (Alchemist A): $2,784 @0.1% (-198)
  • Student Loan (Alchemist B): $26,283 @6.5% (-590)
  • Roof Loan: 10,900 (no interest before March 2015)
  • Total: 160,929 (-2701)

Net Worth: -$6,597 (QOQ +$8,708; YOY N/A)

Net Worth (liquid assets only): -$89,097 (QOQ +$7200)

An $8,000+ improvement in a quarter where my income was quite low and we received little in the way of windfalls and market performance was tepid is much more than I thought we’d have. This means our savings rate is at least 50% despite the interest carrying costs our debt incurs.

Savings Rate (gross income): 64%

Savings Rate (net income): 80%


Master Recipes: simple vanilla ice cream


If you have an ice cream maker (I have an older version of this Cuisinart machine), the most delicious ice cream you’ve ever tasted is 20 minutes away. This is one of the simplest possible recipes to make. I’ve gotten in the habit of putting the freezer bowl back in the freezer immediately after washing it. That way ice cream is always a short time away.

Yield: a little over 2 pints once frozen

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk, preferably whole
  • 1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
  • 1 tsp vanilla, or to taste
  1. Mix ingredients together in a measuring cup or bowl. Taste.
  2. Once satisfied, pour into the ice cream maker freezer bowl. Check consistency after 15-20 minutes.
  3. Enjoy now or freeze in a frost-proof airtight container (allow some headroom for additional expansion).

The texture once hard-frozen will be a little different than store-bought ice cream, sometimes a little chunkier, but I really like the simplicity of ingredients (no additives!) and lower sugar content. You can go much lower on sugar if desired, as the sugar is less important to the taste and texture than the high fat content.

I enjoyed what I couldn’t pack into two pint Mason jars with fresh strawberries:


Ice cream for elevensies, anyone?


So you CAN eat shelling peas whole


Might as well be a snow pea


I’d always read that you couldn’t eat the pods of shelling peas, so I thought they were literally inedible. Turns out that’s not the case. What makes snap peas different from shelling peas is a gene in the latter that makes vellum in the pod. The pod is still edible, but it’s very fibrous when mature. Apparently you can make a peapod soup by cooking and then straining/sieving it, but if you catch them young enough they taste just like snowpeas.

I remember from watching Tested’s tour of the Modernist Cuisine headquarters that pea vines could be used as a salad green, but apparently the whole plant Pisum sativum is edible. (Worth noting that the sweet pea, which is a different species, is not thoroughly edible.)

I just tested this out after reading this thread and it tastes just like a snow pea. I’m even more excited about our peas.

More importantly, I know what’s for dinner!

Garden Quest # 7 – June Photo Tour

This update is more about the pictures than the words. I think we’ve made good progress for a first-year garden with minimal outlay. The Alchemist and I were super geeked to see our first pea pods growing. They’re sneaky little bastards. One was nearly full-size, so we went ahead and sampled it. I am kicking myself for buying a shelling variety instead of a snap one, but those peas – all five of them – were incredible. So sweet and tender. Raw food dieters should really, really grow their own food. Maybe they’d actually convince more people than with sad supermarket produce.


Corn: With limited soil that’s in good growing condition, I nixed the corn. We got a terrible stand, with <40% germination, and I knew whatever lasted wouldn’t be enough to get pollination. Next year I may not even try.




Green beans seem happy and continue to push out new foliage. No blooms yet.


Lettuce: We have some butterhead seedlings sprouting. Not a great time of year, but this variety is supposed to be heat tolerant.


Peas: Aside from the variety snafu, which I’ll fix next year, I’m happy about the progress. The blooms are delicate and attractive. It’s also cool how the fruit emerges from the center of the flower before the petals even drop. I know my parents grew peas when I was little, but I never remember that detail.



Peppers: I gave up on my seed starts weeks ago, but I was at a local nursery and they had plants marked down on special. For $1 each, I thought I’d give them a shot. These are serranos hopefully destined for salsa.


There are tiny peppers already forming on both. Not sure if that’s a good sign or not.

Pumpkins: They seem happy.


Rhubarb: a couple stalks died back after transplant, but new growth is forming. It probably won’t be harvestable this year, but a dead-easy perennial edible is something everyone should covet.


Sunflowers: Meh. Not impressive so far. They’re supposed to be beneficial as an interplanted crop, so I’ll keep trying, but I’m surprised at how small they are.


Tomatoes: We’ve got a few different varieties going now. My seed starts seem happy. I just planted some store transplants (also bargain priced). No blooms yet on any of them.


These cherry tomatoes were started from seed in a western exposure window and were super leggy when I planted them. I don’t think a single one died, even though some of the transplants were litte more than sprouts with a few bare roots when I stuck them in the ground.

Store starts. Three Early Girls and two Old Germans.

Store starts. Three Early Girls and two Old Germans.

Turnips: no bulbs yet, but if the maturity is as fast as the seed packet (30 days), by next month I’ll have pulled them all.


Zucchini: Just getting going.


Not pictured:

  • Kohlrabi: sowed this recently and it hasn’t germinated yet.
  • Spinach: I have a few left. To be honest, my crop has been pathetic. Under 100g by weight. I thought greens were supposed to be easy!


I recently put together a small indoor seed starting area. I don’t have much to show for it yet, but here are a couple pictures.


That’s basil. Maybe.

Purple peacock broccoli. My direct sows never germinated, but these seem happy.

Purple peacock broccoli. My direct sows never germinated, but these seem happy.


Waiting for propagation.

Garden Quest #6 – Worm Hunting and Making Soil

Goblin Gamma, perhaps a stereotypical 4 year old boy, loves earthworms. I’m beginning to suspect he was a robin in a previous life, because not only does he love finding them in the garden, he has eyes like a hawk – spotting tiny, millimeters-long worms the instant I flip over new dirt.


Today I worked on the non-edible yard, edging the walks back. In many places the grass had grown over three inches. We also unearthed a long-buried flagstone path between the sidewalk and the street. It’s easy to knock the disutility of grass, but composted sod can make decent garden soil with patience.


Nearly every linear foot of overgrown sod turned up worms. Gamma helped me spot them, capture them, and put them to work in the productive garden. There’s a lot of rotting organic matter for them to feed on and unlock the nutrients for our plants. Some worms, like the one above, were so ensconced in the roots that we had to coax them out carefully to avoid ripping them in half. Most were quite small, but we did nab quite a monster, almost ten inches. He’s burrowing his way around what’s left of the spinach.


Poking a hole for the worm’s “home”

Give it a year and the rotted sod will be useful too. This bed is almost 100% derived from the last time I edged the walks, and look at the plants grow!


Green beans on the left two-thirds, cucumbers on the right.

I’m not saying this is the best garden dirt ever, but just a reminder that you can make usable dirt from what’s normally considered yard waste. I typically layer some of this material into my kitchen compost to keep the insects down and add a microbial boost. Between the rich organic matter in the food and the rotted sod, the finished product is a good planting base. The rest goes in an open yard waste pile to slowly break down and attract birds seeking nest material. Come fall, I’m going to nab a lot of the leaf piles from my street to get more carbon-rich material.

Soaking it in


Yesterday we explored a new lake in the area. The goblins and I had tons of fun swimming and doing silly beach stuff.

A friend of ours invited us to an outing of her homeschooling group. She’d told us about the lake a while back, but I figured this was a good excuse to justify the 75 minute drive (okay, 45 if I hadn’t gotten lost). I can see why she likes the area. Ottawa Lake is a section of the larger, somewhat piecemeal Kettle Moraine State Forest. Unlike most of the other sections, there’s less emphasis on hiking trails (though there are some), with most of the focus on the lake and the campground. If you’re there for camping and swimming, it’s hard to beat. The water is shallow, which means the lake warms up fast. Being a state park, there’s no annoying lifeguards constantly chastising you for being a good parent and (gasp!) letting your kids play.

The goblins enjoyed the activities, with Gamma particularly liking the homemade bubble wand project, but I’m not sure I feel a burning need to join a homeschool group. They socialize pretty well with random kids, and I personally prefer keeping trips as local and as low-key as possible. Outside of my friend, I didn’t particularly click with the parents present and mostly spent my time in the water with the kids – or without them.

I’ve come to realize just how cool a lot of insects are. Yesterday there were a lot of dragonflies doing their incredibly complex flight maneuvers around the swimming area. I spent a good portion of the day sitting or wading in the water, watching them move around. The goblins weren’t as good at spotting them, or as interested, but that’s okay. Then again, if I’d caught one, they’d have been fascinated.

We also saw a family of Canada geese with a really young gosling. Nearly all of the goslings I’ve seen are already near adult growth, whereas this one seemed a solid 3 or 4 weeks behind. I’m no biologist, but it was interesting to see a baby so much younger than the hatchlings we’ve seen. The parents swam back and forth outside of the buoyed swimming area with their baby between them a good 7-8 times while we were there.

It’s the patience to observe that, more than anything, I want my goblins to acquire. So much of modern life is rush, rush, rush. Follow the instructions. Build this, do that. Maybe we wouldn’t be in such a hurry to destroy the planet if we sat back and watched it grow.

Garden Quest #5 – Mid June 2014 update


No particular theme for this gardening update, but I thought progress deserved an update. The big highlight of this week was spotting the beautiful first blooms on our pea vines. I think I mistakenly bought a shelling pea variety (Ferry-Morse Alaska) instead of a sugar snap or snow pea, but hopefully we get at least some enjoyment out of them.

The only thing we’ve harvested so far has been our first sowing of spinach. The leaves are quite delicate and tasty – perfect in light early summer salads. Unfortunately, I didn’t get this variety (Burpee Double Choice Hybrid) in the ground early enough, so the first sowing is already trying to bolt and set seed despite the leaves barely hitting mature form. My second sowing is just now germinating. No idea if we’ll get much. I’ve been getting most of my spinach from the farmer’s market still, but I sowed a warm-weather variety yesterday. Reading more about spinach, a lot of gardeners seem to get best results with it as a fall crop.

Pumpkins, cucumbers, and green beans have all pretty much shed their baby leaves and are starting to add growth. No blooms on the beans yet but they are sizing up well. I planted a few more to fill in gaps yesterday.

Despite getting transplanted with tiny, tiny roots and enduring some cold nights our cherry tomatoes have shown little sign of shock. Maybe we’ll get something after all. I did give up on my Thai hot peppers.

Some of our late plantings are finally starting to sprout. Zucchini and turnips have definitely been spotted, and I think our sunflowers also just emerged. I planted a couple broccoli but it’s not the greatest time of year for correct maturation, so I’ll do a planting in July for fall. Ditto kohlrabi. Our sweet corn also just started to pop up. Hopefully I dedicated enough space to get correct pollination (~4 linear feet with four rows).

The only thing that’s totally MIA is basil (Burpee Summerlong). I’m trying again with indoor germination now. I’ll give it two weeks to start before ordering a different variety or resorting to starts at the farmer’s market.

The latest addition is a rhubarb plant transplanted from my parents’ garden. These crowns are themselves transplants from the family farm in MI – so they go back probably at least 70 years. I made a decent pie last night and the Alchemist and I have been quite enjoying NWEdible’s Rhubarb 75 cocktail based on a rhubarb simple syrup. It’s delicious.

Harvest to date:

  • Spinach: 61g
  • Rhubarb (from my parents’ garden): 6 cups worth of chopped stalks