About SherryEllesson

Sherry Ellesson is a freelance writer and part-time homebuilder who lives and works in central Delaware. Originally from New England, she credits having been raised by hearty, self-sufficient people for her willingness to stay the course on the journey back to homesteading.

How To Make Your Own Window Quilts

Window QuiltEditor’s Note: This is one of the most popular posts in the history of our blog. Re-sharing the information – hopefully it helps you in 2018!

Instant insulation for (about) $20!

When I was little and my grandfather was building our home “up in the sticks” of rural Massachusetts, we lived in three rooms plus an enclosed porch while the second phase was being added onto the back. It would become another two bedrooms and a bathroom, but for one winter I recall, it was enclosed but not insulated or finished, so an army surplus blanket hung in the roughed-in doorway at one back corner of the kitchen. Continue reading

Making Old-Time Window Quilts

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Instant insulation for $20!

When I was little and my grandfather was building our home “up in the sticks” of rural Massachusetts, we lived in three rooms plus an enclosed porch while the second phase was being added onto the back. It would become another two bedrooms and a bathroom, but for one winter I recall, it was enclosed but not insulated or finished, so an army surplus blanket hung in the roughed-in doorway at one back corner of the kitchen. Continue reading

The Two-Paycheck Household (With One Wage Earner)

Editor’s Note: Country living isn’t always easy. Sherry Ellesson returns to our blog with an account of her past year, and some homespun philosophy that may help you through difficult times. We’re looking forward to hearing more from Sherry soon.

close up of Washington on dollar billHello, Lehman’s Friends – long time, no write!  In fact, I think it’s been more than a year since I contributed to the newsletter, and I’ve missed it.  In times past, I sent in ideas for curbing costs (that dollar bill fastened on the hot water faucet in the kitchen was an unusual one), edible landscaping, and even some fun with farm equipment; but last spring – in May, to be exact – I got a wake-up call that sobered even this eternal optimist. Continue reading

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Seeds and the Rite of Spring

Heirloom Bushy Cucumber Seeds from Lehman's

Heirloom Bushy Cucumber Seeds

Question:  What do saved yogurt cups, a kitty litter pan and plastic kitchen trash can liner bags have in common?

Answer:  They’re a frugal gardener’s way to get seeds started in any sunny window!

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, the seed catalogs, nursery stock lists and orchard supply magazines have started filling your mailbox.  Everything from heirloom seeds to herb specialties to antique rose offerings have been piling up on a table next to my wing-back chair near the fireplace; and hardly an evening goes by, when I don’t get out a pad of graph paper, and find myself imagining walking between row after row of healthy veggies, flowers and herbs waiting to be brought inside or just enjoyed in place for their fabulous color and fragrance…. Continue reading

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Ask and it is given…

As Spring melted into Summer this year, something curious happened:  I got to start doing something I love at my job. Up until May or so, I had been doing some tech writing, some end-user manuals, an occasional assist with test scripts and in general being wherever I was needed, whenever needed.  My job classification is still State Accountant; <shrug> who knew?  Then in what I can only describe as a flash of Divine guidance, I went to my boss and pointed out that the Training group was suffering from a case of revolving door-itis.  Many of the contract instructors were being offered more lucrative opportunities with private-sector projects, and were leaving just as we all got to know their names.

“I have a background in course development and technical instruction,”  I reasoned, and the project manager tipped his head to one side and said, “y’know, that’s actually a very good idea.”  Continue reading

Finishing What I Started

Editor’s Note: In the last edition of Lehman’s Front Porch Newsletter (April 9th), I used a quote from this article as the opening to my “editor’s notes.” If you thought I found that quote on my own, you’re dead wrong. In truth, I had just read the following article by Sherry, and I was so inspired by HER use of the famous quote that I “stole” it and used it before this article was even published. I hope as you read on, you’ll understand why I was so taken with this quote from Goethe – and I also hope Sherry can forgive me for my reckless fit of fancy… S.N.

Five years ago, I moved into a house that I was surprised to find passed final inspection because of how unfi87588391nished the inside was.  This was a house I had put my heart and soul into designing (an effort that took nearly two years), and then acted as General Contractor – something that should come with a warning label, “Do Not Try This While Working Full Time” – for nearly another year.  The interest-only construction loan was costing about a full mortgage payment each month, having been drawn to its limit, and ready or not, it was time.  For the first few weeks, I would look at the ragged edges of sheet rock around the windows and doors and smile, knowing I could do the simple forms of finish carpentry myself, having tried it at my former home in North Carolina. Continue reading

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Labor Day and Lemonade

If I had only one word to describe the end of summer it would 8027857be “rollercoaster.”  The good, the bad and the ridiculous all seemed to converge at my house, and as the Labor Day weekend drew the summer season to a close, I found I had a surprising capacity for enjoying even the less-than-great times that August-into-September brought.

Among the blessings that went above and beyond anything I could have imagined was when the same friend from work who had come and bush-hogged my land a couple of weeks ago, showed up with a friend of his who’s a skilled mechanic, and the two of them loaded up and took custody of my tractor.  It was hauled it off to the Barn of Generous, Skilled Mechanics, and returned a week later running like a top, with the only “invoice” a muttered estimate for parts alone, that I can cover with a bit under half the money in my Tractor Maintenance fund.

To paraphrase one of my favorite radio financial advisors who says that “goals are dreams that show up in work clothes,” sometimes angels show up in jeans and sweaty T-shirts. Continue reading

Thoughtful Living – A whole year

journalAs the summer comes and goes, it is difficult in a number of ways to believe it was twelve months ago (July 4th weekend) that I helped my roommate of several years move out into her new home, and set my sights on learning to make my way, on my own. I knew I was going to have to reexamine every habit, every assumption, if I were going to not only make ends meet but make the most of my solitude and independence. At the time, the burgeoning piles of boxes that moved in as storage spaces were emptied was daunting; but the clutter they caused was more than offset by the blessed quiet.

I had done my best, back in early July of ’08, to stockpile provisions, tighten up my cash flow to include money for household and vehicle Murphy-isms, and promised myself that I would not let the practical concerns of holding a home together keep me from my spiritual practice and creative growth. Have I been able to do that? Yes, for the most part, though of course there have been frustrations. Continue reading

Thoughtful Living Part VII – The Equinox: Equal Light and Darkness

I have rewritten this entry for my Lehman’s friends several times, never quite feeling as though I can convey what a mixture of emoti19041041on this Spring brings with it.  On the one hand, there is the purely joyful and timely:  the beginning of March, marked by the lionine ferocity of a major snow storm, Bluebirds waiting each morning for their ration of mealworms to make up for a food supply that is either blanketed in white or frozen solid; (as I write, one of those selfsame little balls of color sits at the corner of a back porch roof gable, enjoying the last warmth of a setting sun); the landscape tub by the front steps, cleaned of the remnants of last year’s tomato vine, revealing emerging tips of tulips I had forgotten were tucked into the soil at Summer’s end; the countdown on my calendar to a solid week I will take as vacation time to perform that age-old tradition, Spring Cleaning. Continue reading

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Year of Thoughtful Living, Part VI: On Taking Stock and Window Quilts Revisited

It’s been a busy few months since I wrote last, andphoto_7 I have some useful things to share; but before I start, let me say a sincere thanks to those folks who took the time to email me personally, asking when I’d be back on the Lehman’s newsletter. Your kind words and enthusiasm are more encouraging than I can express, and I can report that while silent, I have not been idle.

At right around January 4th (the 6-month mark of this journey) I took stock of how I was doing with my food, supplies and expenses. So far, I’m doing very well with canned goods, not quite as well but still pretty good with frozen things, passable in the personal care and household cleaners, but nearly back to the dreaded “S” word (shopping) for paper goods. I think I mentioned back in late summer that I surmised this might be the case, but I still feel pretty good about where that puts me with a target of going a year without many major shopping trips. One of the things I’ve done to increase my accountability will probably strike some as borderline OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, for those who still believe that folks like me “just have their quirks”). I’ve begun labeling the date I open almost everything so as to keep track of how long it takes me to go through it. Continue reading