Thinking Spring – Peepers and Peeps!

Thinking Spring – Peepers and Peeps!

… the mushroom soil has been delivered!

As we growled about Punxsutawney Phil and springing ahead this weekend with the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, we also celebrated the signs of spring on this week’s Sunday Snacks with Sam and Ellie!

Peeps (Chicks) of many colors

Photo by Michael Anfang on Unsplash

Sam talks about her love of purchasing spring peeps – yes, she loves seeds and plants, too. But there’s just something about the fluffy butts of peeps that causes her family to want to tie her hands when she visits Tractor Supply.  Ellie, on the other hand, shares the anticipation of the first sounds of the peepers – the cheery music of those little tree frogs.

We discuss moving from winter to spring – what we love and what we won’t miss. We’ll debate spring trimming and pruning, and even the joys of having your children discover they love your gardening hobby almost as much as you do!

DISCLAIMER: Ellie made an incorrect statement re: trimming in the fall or winter vs spring. She shares the following: My memory is not exactly accurate. In western NY State Spring comes later than Maryland and usually fast. Most of the farms had acres of grapes and fruit trees. That’s why they often started trimming and pruning earlier.

If you want to enjoy reading along while you watch the video, CLICK HERE for the pdf file. (It will open in a new tab). In the meantime, enjoy a snack with us!

Peepers Announce Spring Is Here

Oh yeah, and speaking of those peepers, have a listen. These tiny little tree frogs are absolutely delightful. Along with fireflies in summer… well, just love the music and beauty of Mother Nature!

Between us, we have over 100-years of experience – and Sam’s only 39 40!

If you enjoy our life hacks and simple common sense approaches to sustainability and everyday life, please spread the word. Visit and like our youtube channel and our Facebook page. And sign up for our newsletter  – the form’s on the HOME page.


What Does Sustainability Mean To YOU!

What Does Sustainability Mean To YOU!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been noticing that our food prices are starting to go ​up at the grocery store.

I am Sam ​Groff ​of Beyond TP and Milk. I’m ready to chat with you about some of the serious things about why Ellie and I created ​​Beyond TP and MIlk.​ ​So our original venture was the idea that during the pandemic, a lot of people were confused about what was going on and started buying up all the TP​ and milk and panicking.

There’s a lot of other ways to be prepared. And you know, one of mine is in my fluffy butts ​(chickens). ​They’re so much fun. Yes, they are cute and cuddly and fun and amazing. And some people would ​view them as pets.
I view them as a resource. They are a sustainable food source for myself and my family. Each chicken for multiple years will give me​ eggs​, and they’re amazing layers.​ ​I’ve got a bunch of different breeds that are here on our little property. And we have ones that are really, really good with our kids.
So they have a coop, which is the big green thing. And then they have a massive run. Now, again, chickens aren’t for everybody, not everybody has a whole lot of space, but for us, that was a sustainable easy way for us to be able to take care of things.
Now, am I the best chicken farmer? Probably not. There’s so much more​ ​I’m still learning. Like in the last year I pulled all of my old CDs that we weren’t using anymore and I put them out thinking that would be ​a fun playtoy ​for them.​ ​​We always hear that chickens need to be entertained​.
​B​ut ​an added bonus was by putting these up ​has actually help​ed us keep predators away​. The flash in the nighttime and during ​the day ​from the sun distracts the predators and keeps them away.
So that’s the beauty of the simplicity of sustainability and utilizing the resources that you have on hand and finding out how to make the best out of them.
So ​with Beyond TP and Milk, and with chickens, one of the simple tasks that we’ve done is try to make our yard sustainable for our chickens.​ ​Now, mind you, when we moved here, this backyard was entirely full of trees. ​That means our whole backyard is super​ lumpy. We’re missing chunks of ground because of roots riding out from the bottom and under the ground.​ ​But that means that our ground is super duper fertile. ​We have a lot of extra nutrients and things available to us in our soil, but it doesn’t look the prettiest for most people.
So that’s why we’ve mulched around the chicken coop and around the shed. But that mulch​,​ remember​,​ it was free.​ I told you about that.

​The second thing is ​it’s ​adding a layer of soil and nutrients as it decomposes into our backyard, into our landscape.​ ​Now, the neat part about what we did with this mulch is that it’s not just the mulch. ​We have straw in here.

​In the wintertime, what we do ​is around the base of our chicken coop, we have it open so that the girls can get in and out underneath there. ​They have extra living quarters where like, you know, their chickens. We want them to have as much freedom and free reign as possible. But with that ​it’s also ventilated all summer. So it helps keep the coop cooler. But in the winter ​when ​it gets cold​, we completely surround the base of our coop with straw bales.

Now that’s a two-fold exercise. What it does is it’s a windbreak, but in the springtime, what we use it for is to create a layer of ​soil for ourselves.​ ​So weput the straw underneath the wood chips and the girls then start mixing it all up because the​y’re chickens​.​ ​They ​love to scratch​.​​ That scratching, that mixing brings us a new layer of nutrients ​to the soil. It gives the chickens entertainment. It adds to the healthy ecosystem and sustainability of our yard. And it gives us an easy babysitter for the chickens when they’re out and about in the yard, because we do like to let them free reign when we’re out here working​.​
hand holding fresh eggs with chickens grazing in the yard in the background​S​o sustainability and worrying about the food chain is only going to get you so far until you actually start putting it in action.My husband and I started doing this and putting these things in action slowly, not everything’s going to happen overnight. That’s the biggest thing I can stress to you​.​ ​Try one small thing at a time​. ​We tried the straw bales underneath the chicken coop two years ago.​ ​It worked amazing.
We did it again this year​. ​The year that we did it the first time​,​ we put the straw directly into our garden beds and we made lasagna gardening. It was on your beds, whatever you want to call them. And that was effective. So now it’s every year, how do we sustain that sort of stuff to bring it about so that our land, our property is helping us continue to maintain our stuff. Well, everybody​,​ have a good one.
Again, th​is is Sam ​Groff ​signing off for ​Beyond TP and Milk. ​E​njoy one small step in sustainability because I’m telling you right now, we are on the verge of seeing things that we haven’t seen in a long time ​in this country with pricing. We gotta be starting to really come full circle and take care of it in our own homes. All right. 
Have a good one, everybody. Bye.
Between us, we have over 100-years of experience and Sam’s only 39! If you enjoy our life hacks and simple common sense approaches to sustainability and everyday life, please spread the word.
Strawberries and the Power of ONE

Strawberries and the Power of ONE

So why am I coming at you from the ground?

I’m sitting on the ground inside my berry patch. Um, so why am I down here? I’ll show you.
During the height of the pandemic. I bought 40 – and I repeat 40 -strawberry plants. They were bare root strawberry plants and let’s be realistic, only one of them survived! One.
Now I have two 12-foot long sections of my garden that are two feet wide full of strawberries from ONE plant that survived.
Am I the best strawberry gardener? No, evidently I couldn’t keep 40 plants alive, and they were bare roots, strawberry plants, but one survived.
And now I’ve got a plethora of strawberries, to the point that I actually shared them with other people. So what does that have to do with sustainability and Beyond TP and Milk?
Handful of delicious red strawberries
Well, here it is. What I’ve done now with my strawberries is I thinned them out and I’ve now separated them into two full garden beds from ONE plant.
I let the ONE plant take over last year, send runners out everywhere. It looked like a hot disaster nodule in this spring when everything was still like, just waking up, and pretty cold. My husband and I spent an entire day breaking up this bed that was full of strawberries.
So the strawberries are an amazing source of just awesomeness for us and our family. Our kids love them. We love them. And you know, we’re not gonna probably jam as much or do any of those kinds of things with it, but we do eat them like crazy.
What makes this sustainable isn’t necessarily that I have lots and lots of strawberries and strawberry plants from one plant.  What makes us sustainable is that I was able to then share this with other people. I had so many strawberry plants when we spread them apart that I was able to give them to two other families who now have deck boxes and put them in their garden at their house.

And that ONE plant will become even more prolific and in sustainability and looking at just the reality of how our environment and how the political scene is, and how everything is going on with our economy, we need to start really thinking about ​the people around us.

Now, mind you, I live in a community with a lot of people who are much older than me.​ ​So instead of trying to ​barter with them, what we have done is just built-in goodwill.​ We give away a good portion of our produce that we don’t eat?

We save, we store it. We do all the things that we need for our family for full sustainability for our household.But​ ​we also share our bounty and we share our wealth and our abundance and in doing so, we’ve gotten it back 10 fold in just the three years of living here.

So when you think about sustainability and you think about everything with the pandemic and things like that, and you hear the term ​’​prepper​’​ and homesteader​, think of it​ n​ot necessarily in those context​s. ​Think of it more as you’re building community, when you start really stepping outside of your box and you realize, okay, I want a sense of preparedness.​ ​I want a sense of being safe.
You can’t do everything for yourself. You can try​, but you’re going to​ burnout​. ​But if you build a community of people around you that you support and that support you tenfold, you’ve got a wealth of abundance that you never even knew you had.
And I can say that ​hands down from truthful experiences, just living here in my own neighborhood and sharing eggs with people.
And my husband was at work before the pandemic even happened. And our pipe burst. And I didn’t know where the shutoff valve was in our house, but I knew my neighbors did because they had been in our house before​ ​we had even owned it.
So I sent my kids to get my neighbor. He came over and helped me find the shut-off valve. ​He actually started helping us with the piping, not because he had to, but because he was kind and what we were able to do then was just get brand new pipe and fix it​. And all was good in the world.

But all that came from saying​ hello

…and giving a smile and a dozen eggs that I had an abundance of that anyway, at the time.
So when you think about sustainability, don’t just think about what you can do. Think about what you can do to maximize yourself through your community. And you’ll be surprised at what you’ll get. It’s just like my strawberries. ​ONE little strawberry​ became​ this whole garden.
Enjoy yourself. Bye-bye.
Between us, we have over 100-years of experience and Sam’s only 39! If you enjoy our life hacks and simple common sense approaches to sustainability and everyday life, please spread the word. 
Peas, Please

Peas, Please

Peas are amazing

…easy crop to grow and you don’t even need a trellis.

How do I know you don’t need a trellis?
This is the first year in umteen years of gardening that I’ve ever been able to trellis my peas. Now, when I say umpteen years, my husband and I had a garden up at our community garden for four years. And now we live here – this is our third year. We’ve had peas every year and every year we have never successfully trellised our peas.
First time ever trellising peas. Now, look, this is a really simple trellis system. It has three stakes. If you had bamboo sticks, you could use those, um, and some wire to hold it up. That’s all it is. We are not fancy people. When it comes to this kind of stuff, we just want simple and easy.
The funny part of trellising is that sometimes your peas do not want to listen to you. Specifically, they’re like … kids! (Watch the video.) This pea is like, so determined to hang on to this little garlic! (rather than the beautiful trellis right behind it)
As soon as the peas are done, we have the cukes that were started by our neighbor. They will then trellis up like nobody’s business!

So as you’re gardening, think about how you can maximize space.

This season I’m going to get a huge, massive yield out of it. And just by being able to put the cukes there, following the peas, it’ll actually put different types of nutrients in the ground.
So what do you plan with your space? You know, you really want to think about your garden. But don’t let the “thinking part” hold you back. Sometimes failing epically, like we did for almost six years, is worth the journey.
Take it (p)easy, everybody 🙂
Between us, we have over 100-years of experience and Sam’s only 39! If you enjoy our life hacks and simple common sense approaches to sustainability and everyday life, please spread the word. 
Grape Babies and Sustainability Fun

Grape Babies and Sustainability Fun

Let’s talk grapes!

I love a good grape. Never really grew grapes ever in my life until we moved into this house, I was like, this is something I want to do. I’ve always wanted to have a beautiful grape arbor and just think, think Italian Villa. I always wanted to have that little space and I thought it would always be so cool.

So my husband puts up with my shenanigans. And here we have it this year. It’s finally done. So it’s connected to our chicken coop. And as you can see, the grapes are happily growing on it. We use the tires not to keep in soil or anything. We use the tires entirely to keep our chickens out.
Now, when the grapes got put in, I bought them off-season. I know they’re purple. That’s all I know.
Whoa! I haven’t seen these before. Look, I think there’ll be grapes. We’ve never had grapes before. This would be our first year with fruit. So I’ll definitely have to keep you along for the journey!
So Beyond TP and Milk is so much about sustainability and living a life that you could control. I can go to the store and buy grapes, but think about all the wildfires that have ravaged the west coast, what happens? Grape prices go through the roof.
My son loves grapes. So we’ll try to grow some. I don’t know. I’ve never grown it. And yeah, it’s taken some time effort, and a little bit of learning, but now I didn’t even know these (buds) were here yesterday. This is so amazing.
Our trellis was a pretty simple task. It has a cinderblock base so that the wood wouldn’t be directly in the soil. It’s got pressure-treated posts and one massive pressure-treated T joint, regular 2x4s on the outside and a pressure treated 8′ in the center
So sustainability comes from a lot of ideas. You decide what it means in your life. You want to embrace it. It is more than just how much I can be prepared. It can also be about having fun. You want to have grapes? Want an Italian villa? Embrace it. Have fun with it. But enjoy the process!
Between us, we have over 100-years of experience, and Sam’s only 39! If you enjoy our life hacks and simple common sense approaches to sustainability and everyday life, please spread the word.
Mutant Chard and Joy

Mutant Chard and Joy

What we're calling - our Mutant Chard!How old do you think this plant is?

It’s over a year old – yep, chard from last year. It’s in its second year of life. Heck. How does that happen?
I’ll tell you a little story. So for those of you who raise animals, you obviously know how to cull a herd. That’s normal. And people who have gardened before, know that you thin out your seeds or starts and things like that as you’re growing your plants.
Now you bring my husband into the mix. So it was super exciting. The neat part about this plant species is that it lived through the entire winter, which has been one of our coldest, in our compost bin! It sat there all winter and it was fine.
My husband pulled it out this spring when he was turning over the compost. He’s like, “Oh this thing has new roots and new shoots coming out of it.” Mind you, see the base of this coffee mug. That is the size of the massive center root of this plant. So to humor him, he’s like, oh, I’m going to plant it.

So now we have our Mutant Chard.

This probably means the plant is going to get tough. It’s going to be harder to eat, a lot more chewy, not the best flavor. But it’s his little pet in the garden and it’s super fun. He has a hard time letting go of this growth of freshness. You know, like a lot of us, we have had a massive amount of upheaval with the pandemic. So why take away the joy of the Mutant Chard when it just brings a little bit of happiness?
So what makes you happy? Like, think about it, Sustainability isn’t just about things and putting together your garden and having food on hand and stuff like that. It’s about a lifestyle.
I choose this lifestyle. It makes us happy as a family, you know, it makes our life richer. What makes your life richer? What can you do right now to make joy to your life?
Between us, we have over 100-years of experience, and Sam’s only 39! If you enjoy our life hacks and simple common sense approaches to sustainability and everyday life, please spread the word.