Decluttering Financial Records

If you have been listening to our podcast Farm Chatter over the past few weeks, you know we have been focused on ridding the house of clutter. (If you haven’t heard one yet, check out Episode 102-The Declutter Report.) One of those decluttering tasks was to purge old financial records.

Does anyone else have trouble throwing out bank statements?

Paid credit card statements?

Old utility bills?

How about the maintenance agreement on a product you no longer own? Ok, that one is easy.

But those old financial records are a different matter.

Set Up Your Own Rules

Use a rule that makes sense to you about your financial records.

Our general rule is to keep tax returns forever; paid bills, bank statements and tax supporting documents for 3 years. Other things like maintenance agreements, operating manuals, etc. are only necessary while we own the item.

Everything else found in the bottom of a box in the back of a closet can go.

Who knew so much paper could accumulate?

After the financial record purge, a 3 foot high mountain of paper was stacked in the floor. No one wants to just throw these in the landfill. What if a page with sensitive personal data blows across the road to someone’s house?

Out comes the shredder.

We discovered after about 20 minutes of constant use, the poor little cross cut shredder would overheat. It took about 3 days of on-again, off-again shredding to get through the pile. Now the 3 foot high mountain is a huge stack of trash bags full of teeny-tiny, itty-bitty pieces of paper.

Now what?

These could go to the landfill now without fear of personal data scattering to the winds. But we feel an obligation to recycle.

This paper is now getting a second life around the Farm. It can go directly into the compost pile but can also be used in other ways.

How about in the bottom of transplant pots for new little seedlings?

It can also be used as a soil additive in raised beds to help with water retention. A 2 foot by 8 foot raised bed may accommodate 2 or 3 gallons of shredded paper. Pro tip: add a little at a time and mix thoroughly through the soil. Wait a week, then add more if necessary.

What can you do?

—Even if you don’t have such a mountain of paper to shred, you can use what you have. You can always wad up newspaper in the bottom of a flower pot before adding soil and plants. This helps reduce the amount of soil needed, makes the pot lighter weight (especially useful when re-potting large plants) and assists with water retention.

—Always think about recycling whenever possible.

For more information or tips about things to do at your place, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Fall Garlic Planting

Hardneck Garlic Bulbs

Walk into any decent Italian restaurant and take a deep breath. That warm spicy aroma tingling your nose is quite likely garlic. The incomparable deep flavor makes Italian dishes renowned, but also enhances any number of other recipes.

You can bring this culinary delight into your own kitchen through bulbs of garlic purchased at a box store, often imported from China, but why do that when garlic is so easy to grow?

If you are interested in growing your own garlic, now is the time to order. It is somewhat counter-intuitive, but garlic is one of those plants designed to spend winter nestled in the cold earth. 

How to Choose Garlic

There are two basic types of garlic and a number of varieties within those types. Like any other plant, the specific varieties have different advantages in terms of flavor, storage, etc.

Hard Neck Garlic

These bulbs of garlic are different from the kind you normally find available in the store. The bulb forms a hard center stem that grows up through the bulb to support the leaves. When you open the bulb, there are typically 6 or 8 cloves of garlic around this center stem. The cloves are full and large. Varieties include Music, Bogatyr, and German Red.

Soft Neck Garlic

This garlic does not form the hard center stem. Softer leaves shoot out of the middle and many cloves form around this center. The outer cloves are reasonably sized with smaller ones near the center. Even the outer cloves do not attain the size of the hard neck types mentioned above. Varieties include Inchelium Red and Burgundy.

Soft neck garlic can be stored in braids by leaving the stems attached and braiding decoratively to hang.


After you receive your garlic bulbs, either through a mail order supplier or somewhere local, do not remove the papery outer cover. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place until ready to plant, then peel off the outer covering and separate the cloves, leaving each clove cloaked in its paper cover. 

Choose a sunny location that is well drained with rich soil.  You will need 6-8 inches of space per plant. Push each clove into the soil approximately 2 inches deep with the pointed end up. Cover with soil and mulch.

In Central Illinois, mid-October is a typical planting time, with harvest the following June.

If you have questions about planting garlic or any of the other crops grown at Five Feline Farm, you can contact us through social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) or email. In the meantime, be sure to check out our online Mercantile for other available products.

How To Remove Seeds

Do you like seeds in your jam?

I’ve only met one person who reported liking seeds in her jam. In fact she said “the more the better”. But most people seem to prefer seedless jam. The same is true for tomato sauce. No seeds.

How do you remove all those tiny seeds?

Blackberries, raspberries and tomatoes all have bothersome seeds. I have two different methods for removing seeds. The choice of which to use depends on the final product.  

For blackberry or raspberry jam, I use a Juice Mate.

Juice Mate

This hand cranked strainer has a spiral inside that pushes the berries through and squeezes it against a fine mesh strainer. It will remove almost all seeds of these berries. The resulting pulp and juice makes a fine seedless jam.  

The Juice Mate also works wonders for tomato juice. After washing, coring and quartering the tomatoes, the Juice Mate will remove seeds and skin.

Juice Mate showing screen

One downside to this system is the cleanup, but here’s a tip: take the screen outside and use the garden hose for the first rinse. The power of the hose blasts out the stuck seeds allowing for an easier wash back in the house.

What about tomato sauce?

When making tomato sauce, I want the meaty sections of the tomato intact and  an occasional seed is not as much of a concern. After removing the skin, I cut the tomatoes in half and drag out as much of the seed section as possible with a finger. Sometimes with juicier tomatoes simply squeezing the tomato half does the trick.  

If you have any tricks or tips for removing seeds, we would love to hear about it. Send us a message through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or an old-fashioned email.

Groundhogs in the Garden

Every garden has its pest and ours at this moment is groundhogs. If you don’t know what a groundhog is, think beaver with a short stubby furry tail. Groundhogs are a member of the rodent family. 

They get the hog part of their name honestly. They are hogs when it comes to munching on tender garden plants. Imagine how disheartening it is to go to the garden early in the morning and find the sweet potato leaves gnawed to the stem. Or bean plants nibbled down to the ground. 

We put up a very temporary and lightweight fencing to slow down entrance to the garden. That got us through about a month. Now the varmints are plowing right through that fence and it is time to get serious.

Many recommend shooting or trapping and relocating, but we are choosing other methods.


Our first line of attack is a healthy dose of cayenne pepper around their favorite munchies. 


Next we have installed whirly gigs and scarecrows to scare them away.


But the big guns is a wire mesh fence with solid wood frames all the way around the garden. Of course they may tunnel under, but they will find their holes full of cayenne. 

Fence under construction

2019 Battle of the Groundhogs is on!