Monday, March 2, 2015

Pressure Canning Adventures and Frugal Accomplishments

Today, I'm joining in with Brandy's Frugal Accomplishments.  I cooked sweet potatoes, okra & tomato rice loaf with our tomatoes, onions & garlic.  We've had more ice and snow this past week, so I made pots of warm apple juice simmered with a bit of cinnamon stick and cloves to sip on through the day.  I bought more mandarins and started a new batch of cleaning vinegar with the peels.

While canning crowder peas that we had grown, I had my first pressure canner incident.  A mix of metal lids and Tattler lids were used, same as a day earlier.  But, on this day, when I removed a jar with a Tattler lid and put my hand on it to tighten the ring, the lid blew off, spewing peas and hot liquid far and wide.  If you're not familiar with the reusable Tattler lids, you use them a bit differently than the traditional metal lids.  Before canning, you tighten the rings, then back off 1/4 turn.  When you remove them from the canner, you immediately fully tighten the rings.  It's possible I backed the ring off a little too much, but being it was so much looser than the others, I wonder if it didn't rock itself loose in the canning process.  I'm giving serious consideration to only using the Tattler lids with water bath canning from here on out.

I dried rose petals from my valentines bouquet, made suet for the birds, made yogurt and kefir.  I cashed in Swagbucks for two $5 Amazon gift cards, and made my daily goal several days.

I've been lighting the table with candlelight most evenings the past few weeks, for cheer and to add some light.  Shopped at the discount grocery, and got bits of this and that... olives, organic tomato paste, organic honey, organic raisins, unsulphured molasses, catfood.  Found a bag of Nutrish dogfood with only a slight amount missing for about 1/2 price on the discount rack in the grocery store.

rufous sided towhee
Made pizza with homemade crust, our garlic and herbs, and some of the recently canned olives.  Also used some of the olives in a salad.  I finished the last of the mending- another pillowcase & cashmere sweater. I turned a pair of pants with a hole in the knee into shorts.

Made cinnamon apple bread with tired apples in the root cellar, our eggs, and whole wheat flour I ground.  I'm still working on using up what's in the freezer, and made a batch of Split Pea & Barley soup, using split peas and celery that were in the freezer, our carrots, garlic, thyme, homemade broth.  I had not made this soup in a few years, and when I found the recipe, I saw it was in my Mom's writing.  The barley was some I had gotten from her pantry, so her love & energy was in this soup in a couple of ways.  I made crescent rolls to go with it, using the last of the wheat flour I had ground and one egg.  I cooked up one of our winter squashes & made Walnut Raisin "Pumpkin" bread using our eggs and homemade vanilla.

the stained glass looks different with snow behind them
I've been thinking that because of what I share here, you might think I am always very frugal, but that's not the case.  I share those things joining in with the Frugal Accomplishments posts, but I have my share of less than frugal moments too.  I'm thinking of a post soon to tell you of some of my recent not exactly frugal accomplishments.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Staying Warm and Frugal Accomplishments

the 4 in front are the barred rocks we got early January
As in much of the country, last week was a cold, snowy, icy one. I'm joining in with The Prudent Homemaker's weekly Frugal Accomplishments.  Other than a quick run out last Sunday for canning jars, I stayed home all week.  I made herb tea for the chickens with dried nettles and chickweed, as mentioned on Heather's fb page, but they were not terribly appreciative, so I then put the nettles on top of the bread soaked in warm milk I had been giving them, which they adore. I also gave them sunflower seeds we grew, extra nutrition and calories to help warm them.  The chicks integrated into the flock very well, and are growing.  SO warmed bricks on our woodstove, and put them in a large clay pot in the coop (out of their usual path), right at dusk several nights, to supplement the heat lamp (we added a 2nd lamp on the nights in the single digits).  I did bring one of the chicks in to warm a bit by the woodstove on the coldest day.  She looked to be struggling (shivering), but in a half hours time, was happily preening her feathers.  They all made it through well otherwise.

Before the very cold temps in the single digits, I harvested all the remaining carrots from the garden, which ended up being just under 2 lbs.

blueberry breakfast cake, before cinnamon sugar topping 
Ate all meals at home, including broccoli fried rice with our eggs and garlic, roasted butternut squash, pumpkin soup w rosemary (squash, pumpkin & rosemary grown here), pasta with sauce using our tomatoes, oregano, basil, onions and garlic, & salad using our arugula.  Also made lentil soup using our carrots, and whole wheat popovers with wheat I ground, blueberry breakfast cake with our blueberries, eggs and homemade vanilla.

It seemed fitting to do all the heat-creating chores I could manage, so I recanned a #10 can of olives- got nineteen 4 oz jars and seven half pint jars. I also took 2 gallon bags of vegetable trimmings from the freezer, and canned vegetable broth: got 7 pints and 2 half pints.  I enjoyed watching the Manor House series while catching up on my ironing, which ahem, took the entire series.  In my defense, half were vintage linens of all sorts I had been given last year.  I felt right at home watching the downstairs servants of Manor House do similar daily chores.  I also caught up on all but 2 pieces of mending- several pairs SO's work pants, several cashmere sweaters, an ornament and a pillowcase.   The handwork was done while keeping an eye on the pressure canner.  I do love the darning feature of my sewing machine to mend pillowcases and cashmere sweaters.

waiting for a spot at the feeder
I made yogurt & kefir.  I tasted the kombucha, which still tasted weak but pleasant, and tasted the kimchi, which I'm not sure about, but don't think I'm going to love.   I think it's as much the smell as anything.  I like cabbage, carrots and garlic... just not sure about the combination fermented.  However, I baked these chocolate chip cookies with home ground wheat.  These absolutely make my taste buds happy!

I watched several episodes of Coal House online.  I believe this is the grimmest of the series I've seen of reenacted time periods. This takes place in a coal mining town in Wales in the 1920's.  These series do make me very aware of just how blessed I am to live in these times and conditions.  Interestingly, a movie that had been on my Netflix queue arrived, Pride, which was also a story partly about a coal mining community in Wales.  A different time and a different story, but I was thankful to have this background before watching it.  I was happy to see the rhubarb, parsley and collards all seemed to have made it through the bitter cold OK.  Though they are out in the open, they all  seemed to be happier than the greens under the hoop house.  Gardening is always interesting!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Kombucha, Kimchi and Frugal Accomplishments

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Valentines Day.  My man got me organic red roses, so I could use the petals in my soaps.  He is so thoughtful, and I'm sure they weren't very frugal.  Once again, I'm joining in with The Prudent Homemaker's Frugal Accomplishments.  Last week, I made yogurt & kefir.  At our Ladies Homestead Gathering, we made kimchi & were given kombucha starter.  I'm a little dubious about the kimchi, and have not yet mustered the courage to try it.  I find the aroma a bit challenging, and welcome any suggestions to get over that hurdle, and how to best use it.  Years ago, I made kombucha for a time, but it seems there are lots of additions people use now... herbs, fruit juices, spices, and I look forward to trying some of these.

I made suet for the birds, and kept a pot of water on the woodstove to add to the chicken waterer and the birdbath.  It's turned quite cold for North Carolina, with some single digit lows, and a forecast of wintry precipitation expected on Monday through Tuesday morning.  We'll be fine, whatever comes our way.  We both feel blessed being self-employed, which means we can stay right here, unlike the years we were expected to travel in less than safe conditions for our employers.  Besides not having to venture out onto the roads, we are happy to be able to keep an eye on all the animals and keep the woodstove fed.  The upcoming forecast calls for snow, sleet and freezing rain at the moment.  Our most common winter precipitation is some sort of ice, rather than snow, which is difficult to drive on, and our rural roads are rarely salted.  Warm up water was used in the teapot (for humidity) on the woodstove, and to water plants.

Several batches of soap were wrapped.  My soap shelf is full again, and I delivered some to one of the local shopkeepers.  I've been mulling over a new soap to create.  I shopped at the discount grocery & purchased 8 Annie's organic mac & cheese @ .40 ea., organic black beans .40/can, and organic Pomegranate juice $2.  I made Brandy's black bean burgers, and used homegrown sweet potatoes and collards, as well as homemade vegetable broth.

garlic patch, next to greens

The leeks and garlic are coming along nicely, and one of the rhubarb plants has poked up.  I hope I have enough to experiment on some recipes this year.  This week, I need to decide which plants I'll be starting first, and make that happen soon.  

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Fitting Frame and Frugal Accomplishments

the  lovely .25 frame I mentioned in last weeks post
Joining in with The Prudent Homemaker's Frugal Accomplishments.  The new to me frame is wood and either burlap or canvas.  I think it's a great fit for Deb's photo.  Laundry was washed with homemade laundry soap and hung on the line; I used homemade soap at both sinks and in the shower, and homemade deodorant.  The first dehydrator full of sweet potatoes is finished, and the pups love them.  Here's round two.

I shopped at the discount grocery store, and got food for all the animals... birds, pups and cats, as well as organic coffee beans (Java Love, dated July '15), and various other things I've already forgotten.  I stopped by the Habitat store, and found a couple of lovely handmade pottery drinking vessels (I'm keeping one and gave one to a friend), and a handmade glass bowl with swirls of cobalt blue, each for $2.  I believe the bowl will go into my gift stash....  somehow after removing the price tag, the sweet little bowl has just disappeared :o(.  I do hope it will show up again.

I needed ink toner cartridges, and bought them when Swagbucks was giving extra points for Staples purchases.  I will also get Staples reward points for this.  The track lighting that is my main task lighting in the kitchen needed replacing, though it was only 5 years old, and not very inexpensive to begin with.  We'd babied it, replaced parts from a lesser used light, and bought another light for replacement parts on Craigslist last spring.  One of the lights died again last week, so I purchased a new light, and will get Swagbucks for the purchase.  I made my Swagbucks goal most days.


I made Brandy's Spanish rice recipe and bean burritos over the weekend. Dehydrated onions and home canned salsa were used in the meal.  Also made french toast from homemade pumpkin bread and our eggs.  A walk around the homestead revealed several flowers with buds.  I sifted compost, and we put it around the 4 apple trees purchased in the fall.  That's all I can remember for now.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Winter Light and Frugal Accomplishments

I'm enjoying the increasing winter light this week, and joining in with Brandy's Frugal Accomplishments.  I bought 2 cases of organic pinto beans @ .79/can and 10 cans organic tomato paste @ .55/can at Aldi's, also lots of produce including cauliflower, onions, lemons, organic grape tomatoes, kale, & mandarins.  I've also been treating myself to fresh flowers, 3.99 at Aldi's, to provide some color and cheer during these dreary winter days.

At the discount grocery, they were installing new shelving, so it was challenging to move around.  I did purchase olives and pasta while there.  Started a new batch of cleaning vinegar with the mandarin peels.  I cooked with several items that were in the freezer; slowly cleaning it out.

I used homemade laundry soap and hung laundry on the line; used homemade soap at sinks and in the shower.  Ate collards, sweet potatoes, garlic, carrots, oregano, okra and parsley from the garden.  Tried a new quinoa recipe, but I didn't like it enough to make it again.  I filled the dehydrator with cut sweet potatoes, for dog treats.  I made my first batch of natural antibacterial spray, using essential oils, filtered rainwater and colloidal silver.  With all the colds, flu and more going around, I'm doing what I can to keep us healthy.

Made a batch of suet for the birds.  I found a .25 frame at a new consignment store, which is just the thing for a lovely photo I purchased from a friend in December.  Swagbucks increased my daily goal, so I did not make it every day, but still did several days.  I've started saving toilet paper rolls, filling them with the little bit of lint I've had, and dripping wax from the candles over the lint when I blow them out.  These are for fire starters.

Have you noticed the days lengthening? Though I do enjoy the change of the seasons, the return of the sun always cheers me.  Our little chicks are now 11 weeks old, and doing well.  Over the weekend, we opened the door to their little yard, so they could wander into the larger yard, which joins up at a fence with the other chicken yard, where all the mature chickens are spending their days at present.  It's good for them to be able to see each other a bit, before trying to integrate them.  Inside the coop, they're able to hear each other, but a wall prevents them from seeing each other.  But soon....

Joseph & I enjoyed a lovely dinner with friends at a new, local restaurant.  Though this was not planned to be a frugal night, they gifted us the meal!  We arrived early, and were seated.  I texted them when I hadn't seen them 15 minutes after our reservation.  It turns out they were seated on the other side of the restaurant.  I had heard the restaurant was still working out some glitches, and that proved to be the case.  But, the food and wine were lovely, as well as the company of good friends.  It gave us a good laugh!

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Pantry Round Two and Frugal Accomplishments

Amaryllis Red Lion
I've not done a good job at keeping up with my Frugal Accomplishments the past week, and this is what I can remember.  I made 2 loaves of pumpkin bread from pumpkin/winter squash I canned, which used some eggs and home ground whole wheat flour in them.  Made avocado salad dressing using homegrown garlic and homemade yogurt.  Used fresh parsley in potato salad.  Made homemade bread.  Made home canned green beans with garlic.

pantry before
I washed laundry with homemade soap, and hung it on the line, though I did have to finish off some in the dryer, with rain threatening that night.  I shared garlic and sweet potatoes from the garden with friends.  I shopped at the discount grocery store, and found bargains on olives, organic diced tomatoes, pet food and more.  I made my daily Swagbucks goals, and cashed out another amazon gift card.

pantry after- forgot the angle of the first photo... oops

I finished cleaning and organizing the other side of the pantry.  Some things were consolidated, some were thrown out, and others composted.  All traces of a little mouse visitor are gone.  I'm thankful to be done with that, and moving on to the next thing that is calling for attention.  So many possibilities to choose from, but I'm leaning towards washing down the bathroom walls next.  Likely, some good music will be needed for that job. Have a great week, friends!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pantry Love

the pantry before

Today, I'm joining in with Down To Earth blog, with the pantry challenge.  When I was building my house, I drew my plans in a notebook.  One of the items in those plans was a large pantry. I knew I would be growing and preserving food, and doing lots of from scratch cooking.  A lot happens on this side of the pantry.  It contains the dishwasher, spices,  all the medicinal tinctures, kefir, and cleaning vinegar that are "working", & the recycling.  The extra egg cartons and baskets also live here, which I grab almost every day in the warmer months, as I head to the garden or chicken coop. It was in serious need of love and attention.
the pantry after

If I could do it over, I would plan for narrower shelves.  The other side of the pantry contains the cans, bottles and jars of food.  At 24" deep, it's too deep to be useful, and the things toward the back become forgotten about.  All but the top shelf of the other side still need cleaning and organizing, and I'll be back working on that today.