Monday, April 24, 2017

Hopeful Things

Hello, friends.  Last week was one of planting, soap making and crossing things off my to do list.  The list is ever changing, of course, but it felt good to cross some things off it that had been there for a while.  I visited an annual plant sale with a friend, and brought home medicinal, edible, and culinary plants which J & I got in the ground on Saturday, in perfect timing for some lovely days of rain.  This friend and her husband grow beautiful purple asparagus.  I bought 3 pounds, steamed one, and made soup with the other two, enjoying both immensely.  I am cutting an occasional stalk of our asparagus, but leaving most to replenish the roots for next year.

I am thankful my shop continues to get some small sales.  The usual kefir, yogurt and suet were made, vegetable bits added to the broth bag in the freezer, and scraps composted.  Swagbucks and ebates were used for purchases, for cash back.  Long walks with the pups are being enjoyed, twice a day whenever possible.

The girls have been generous with their eggs, which have been used in various manners, from deviled to boiled to omelets to fried, as well as included in recipes.  Wild lettuce and chickweed have been given to them in thanks, as well as the remains of grapefruit halves.  

The hope is the rains will fill our tanks, and encourage the garden seeds to sprout.  A number of the tomato seeds have already sprouted.  Eggplant had too, but the farm cats rather decimated them with their digging.  Hopefully, more will come.  There are tiny apples, peaches and plums to marvel at.  Spring brings such promise with it.  Wishing you some hopeful things, whichever season you may be in.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Wishes & Frugal Accomplishments

Happy Easter and Passover, friends!  This week has felt like spring.  The birds have been active, the flowers blooming, and days have been mild.  Some nice breezes quickly dried the laundry on the line.  J & I tried something new with our tomatoes this year.  As I hadn't gotten around to planting seeds indoors, and it appears we've had our last frost, J planted a patch of seeds in the garden.  If they come up well, we will separate and plant them.  We'll probably supplement them with some store bought plants, to have earlier tomatoes. * We did; see below.  

My free Naturals cat food arrived, courtesy of Purina pet perks.  Yogurt and kefir were made, and eggs boiled for us and the pups.  I found a lovely bit on planting a garden at The Herb Shed, and tracked it down to here.  A quinoa broccoli bake was made using our eggs, with our asparagus alongside.  Leftovers were served with our okra, and oriental cabbage slaw made using our cabbage and onion.  J had asked for ice cream if at a good price, and when I looked for it, was sad to find they have discontinued this natural line of ice cream.  It's the only one we've been buying.  They do carry a couple of organic ones, but I just can't justify paying that.  I have bought it once or twice on sale, but even that's a stretch.  I told J I guessed we needed to make all our ice cream this summer 😊.

J & I vacuum sealed a bulk order of organic unbleached white flour in half gallon jars.  I used our canned squash & tomatoes, onion and herbs in a pasta dish.  Earlier in the year, J had ordered 5 mixed berry plants.  They arrived, and were set out in our new berry area.  The dog food I buy was on sale for $4 off, so I bought two.  Pups were given chopped cauliflower and collard stems, and the good parts of a soft apple.  Various wild greens were picked for the chickens.  I made an herbal salt mix, using our herbs, similar to Herbamare.  Mid-week, J & I heard the first hummingbirds.  I quickly made hummer food, and set up a feeder, but it wasn't until Saturday morning that I saw one at the feeder.  I'm delighted to see them back.  I noticed a blue bird going into one of the houses.  I'm not sure if there's a nest, or if it was just a look-see.

The summer garden has mostly been planted.  Joseph did the bulk of the manual labor.  I planted many of the seeds and plants.  Asian eggplant, basil, sweet pepper and a few tomato plants were bought.  J also planted a small patch of eggplant seed, which we'll transplant if they do anything.  We also planted seeds of sweet corn, 3 types of winter squash and summer squash, 3 types of lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, onions, beets, kale, and arugula.  J watered them in well, and we have a good chance of rain the next several days.  I weeded several flower beds, and gave the weeds to the chickens.  Another large bag of lambs quarter was harvested.  I had a stop next to a local thrift store, went in and found another $5 sewing treasure.  This one was a bag filled with vintage scissors, pin cushions, tracing paper, sewing book from 1958 (my birth year, which I thought was kind of cool), hooks and eyes, bobbins, thread and more.

For Easter dinner, I prepared deviled eggs, corn on the cob, roasted beets, and roasted potatoes.  Our plans to grill had to change when J found a Carolina wren nest with babies inside the grill.  Thank goodness he looked before he lit it.  I thanked the angels mightily when he told me.  The eggs, corn, beets and oregano came from our homestead.   I was able to cross a few loose ends off my list this weekend, and made progress on more.  After a few incidences of working on the wardrobe, only to find more buckled laminate when I checked it the next time, I decided that piece of laminate was too far gone, and removed it not long ago.  I finally got the glue removed, sanded it, and applied a light coat of primer to that area.  J suggested I do that, as he felt the chalk paint would not adhere as well to the area where the laminate was removed.  Chalk paint covers a multitude of sins, so I don't believe the primer will be noticed.  I'm glad to be a bit closer to getting it painted.

I dried a batch of our sweet potatoes for pup treats.  We have enough sweet potatoes for a couple more bakings, which seems just right with the temperatures warming up.  I like to cook enough for a meal and leftovers when I bake them.  In the winter, I often use those leftovers for a pie or pound cake, but that's not possible in my diet at present.  Regardless, the sweet potatoes are mighty tasty just as they are.  We had beautiful weather the whole week, and I've really enjoyed it.  Lots of flowers are blooming.  I've been soaking the foot that had minor surgery with epsom salts per the Dr's recommendation.  I researched and found out roses appreciate magnesium, and have fed the solution to all of them.  Our wounded hen is all healed up, and has been incorporated back into the flock.  We're pondering what to do with those two young roosters.  We had separated them when we let the hen back in, but the door was left open by mistake so they were all back together this morning.   Would you like to give a rooster or two a new home?   Wishing you a lovely week ahead!

Monday, April 10, 2017

My Favorite Wild Edible & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  There was some lovely rain last week, which should help all the transplants settle in.  I made a large batch of laundry soap, using my grated soap for one of the ingredients.  I steamed a large bag of our chard.  It never ceases to surprise me how much it cooks down.  After working in town, I went by Walgreens on their 20% off day, buying neosporin (buy 2 , get 1 free), packing tape (buy 1, get 1 for 1/2 price), & greeting cards.  At the grocery store, I used a $3 coupon for dogfood, used a $2 off beer deal, and got dog treats and wine on sale.  I used my own shopping bags for a discount.

My bank, which was recently bought, will print out deposit slips for you if you're in the bank, but charge if you order some to be mailed to you.  It makes no sense to me, but I requested the free ones.  A good rain allowed us to collect several hundred gallons of water.  I made yogurt, kefir, and suet for the birds.  I made a Dr's appointment for an infected toe that was not getting better despite my best efforts.  The appointment wasn't cheap, but I did get a 55% discount as a self-payer, and they told me I could have a pen from their large stash at the checkout counter, a small frugality.  Afterwards, I picked up produce... grape tomatoes, cauliflower, cucumbers, and bread, cheese, apple juice, sparkling pink lemonade & wine at Aldi's.  Most of these were organic.

On a cooler, very windy day, I baked our sweet potatoes, and prepared a cabbage & egg noodle dish that was shared by Jane.  J & I both agree it's a keeper.  I had made a similar dish a few months ago, but now that we've had this one, it will be the go to dish.  Comfort food at it's best, which was needed, as I had a minor procedure on my toe that day and needed a bit of comfort.  The cabbage was the last of some store bought and the first of what we planted in the fall.  Unfortunately, J found two cabbage heads that had split and sent up a stalk already.  I had covered them with row cover during warm February days, when I saw cabbage moths checking them out.  But, out of sight also means they can get missed.  Oh well, I'm happy we got the three heads we did.

There have been some serious winds recently, which gave me the gift of several more tufts of usnea to add to the tincture bottle.  Each time I add some,  I cross out the old date and add the new one, to be sure it "works" six weeks.  If this keeps up, I may need a new scrap of paper, as the old one is getting pretty filled up. A dear friend and I went to a rummage sale, which supports the local arts guild.  Treasures found included a covered basket, wool rug, container of 21 assorted quality threads, piece of pacific cloth, pillowcases, scrap of embroidered material, immersion blender and pantry moth trap, all for $22.  There were several boxes of free items, in which I found 2 jelly jars and a pint canning jar.  Though I've donated items, I hadn't been to this sale in several years.  It's a good one.

Our sea buckthorn trees arrived.  J planted them along the pond, and also transplanted two peach seedlings that had volunteered near some older trees.  I suspect the squirrels had some part in the peach pits left there, but at least there is a benefit.  I use sea buckthorn oil as a soap ingredient for it's skin benefits, and hope to someday be able to use home grown.  We strung up twine for our pea plants.  Some of them are starting to bloom.  There was a major mishap with my homestead meeting seedlings, which fell to the floor after watering.  I salvaged and transplanted all I thought might possibly live.  I think several money plants will make it, maybe a couple of cutting celery, and I'm not sure about anything else.  A double batch of coronation cauliflower was made for a family gathering, and a green salad which used some of our lettuce as well as lettuce we were given.

I harvested a large basket of lambs quarter, and researched some new recipes for it (scroll to bottom of linked page for recipe links).  I've said before that it's my favorite wild food, and it consistently provides well for us every year.  You have to love an edible plant that shows up without any assistance.  J dug up several plum offshoots, and planted them in several spots.  We were happy to see that we do indeed have some peaches, and it appears we'll have about half of our blueberry crop.  We had light frost this weekend, but that's the last in the forecast at present.  Our wounded hen is doing well, with feathers filling back in and her wound healing nicely.  A couple of japanese beetle larva were dug up during our plum moving, and I brought them to her, the extra protein helpful for wound healing.  J tilled some garden areas, and we discussed where plants will go this year.

While walking with the pups, I nibbled on sheep sorrel and cat briar tips.  Both have fresh, spring tastes with the sorrel being quite tart.  I'll be covering two mornings at one of my occasional jobs this week.  I'm quite behind on gardening chores this year, and spring cleaning has gone by the wayside, but there have been other things to attend to, and I'm trying hard to be kind to myself.   I hope you are being good to yourselves, my friends!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Early Spring on the Homestead & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, I purchased some needed things through ebates, for cash back.  I made my Swagbucks goal most days.  Our little online shop continues to have good sales, which is lovely.  More spears of asparagus were harvested, with the ends added to the broth bag.  We've not used the wood stove much, and on a cool morning, I decided to bake the last two spaghetti squash, and some sweet potatoes.  I pulled a couple bags of lambs quarter from the freezer, and made a dish with it and some of the spaghetti squash.  The rest of the squash was frozen, and the skins and bits were added to the broth bag.  Laundry was done with homemade soap and soap gel.  Rain was threatening, so it was dried in the dryer, and the lint added to a TP roll for a fire starter.

The guys had a large biodiesel plant leave last week, and I took photos for their fb page and website.  I weeded around some of the perennial plants.  Picked up organic apples and oranges, and non-organic grapefruit at Aldi's, as well as bread, wine, and almonds.  Eggs were collected, and boiled for us and the pups several times.  Chickweed was gathered for the chickens.  I got some free Kindle books on amazon, prepared a quinoa and broccoli entree using our eggs, and downloaded a free weight loss app to my phone to keep track of calories and exercise.  I'm surely hungry at times, but it's keeping me accountable, and the weight is coming off.  Hooray for that!  Windows were opened for fresh air most days, and wood heat only needed  a couple of nights.

I forgot to mention I bought several needed clothing items on good sales last week (25%-40% off).  Just about each morning and evening, I've been walking 2 miles with the pups.  Sometimes J joins us in the evenings.  One morning, I set out, and it started to rain, so I headed back home.  Oh well, you do what you can, right?  One of the local potters has a friend with a diner who keeps her in lots and lots of 1 foot square egg trays.  She shares them with anyone who wants them.  They're perfect for shipping breakable items.  I went by and picked up several dozen, bought a couple of small items in her shop and let her pick one of my soaps as a thank you.  Shipping supplies can really add up, so I appreciated her sharing.

Sunday was mostly spent outdoors.   I cleaned up a couple of metal items for shop orders, then painted them.  J was working in the garden, dismantling some beds that didn't work well for us, and burning a pile of limbs.  Earlier, he had cut down a dead birch tree, and most of the limbs were from that.  While gathering them up for the burn pile, we found lots of usnea!  I'd say we doubled the amount that was "working" in the tincture jar already.  I felt like we hit the jackpot.  We transplanted several things J dug up in the garden... asparagus, strawberries, and milkweed.  Plants from the homestead meeting are in the ground... a mum, baby hellebores and a lemon ball sedum that we divided and planted in the new area near our porch.  Though I haven't totally given up on the moringa from last year, I decided to get another, which came as a huge root from a seller in the NC mountains.  There were also 2 small roots.  All of them got potted up and watered.  I'm hoping they'll do well.

I've harvested more asparagus, and we will soon have enough for a meal.  The transplanted bed of asparagus has sent up quite a few shoots, and our hopes are that the leaf mulch will assist them in being happier.  We're leaving almost all of them to grow and put energy back into the crowns for next year.  Several clumps of wild lettuce were pulled up and fed to the chickens.  I prepared a pasta dish, which used our canned tomatoes and summer squash, frozen basil and fresh rosemary.  J had a birthday, and I made him German chocolate brownies, which I've made once before.  They're yummy, and much easier than a layer cake.  I used our eggs and homemade vanilla in the recipe.  That sums up the week pretty well.  I'm happy to be joining Frugal Accomplishments.  Wishing you a lovely week!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Eating From The Garden, Pantry and Freezer & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  Joseph helped me by holding the hen while I got the chicken apron on, and so far so good.  She's so traumatized by the two young roosters that she is still not venturing out of the nest often.  When she does, those dang roosters chase her, and run her right back to the nest.  I guess she's the low hen in the pecking order, and I'm not sure what can be done about that.  Update:  the apron stayed on for 3 days, but she got it off this evening.  She was getting braver, coming out for greens, but several of them were pecking her terribly today, so we separated her from the flock.  She has a wound in her side where she'd been pecked, which  I packed full of neosporin, and added chicken electrolytes to her water.  I think we need less roosters...   Isn't that a sweet nest above?  I found it in one of the nandina's.  I was surprised to see they'd incorporated plastic into it.

Our ladies homestead gathering this month was on seed starting.  Members who had plants to share brought those too.  I brought home some baby hellebores, a large clump of Lemon Ball sedum, and a pink mum seedling.  In my flat, seeds were planted for medicinal yarrow, zinnias, cutting celery, money plant, rosella and lovage.  In my wintersown seeds, the only ones that have germinated are still one of the milkweeds.  My moringa has still not resprouted, though one of the women at the meeting told me hers resprouted after six months!  I won't give up just yet then.  Laundry was washed with homemade soap and dried on the line.  A large pan of egg shells were crushed and added to the compost, along with kitchen scraps.

A dinner of vegetable soup, crescent rolls and a pear blue cheese salad was enjoyed one night.  The soup included our tomatoes, okra, lima beans, carrots, squash and garlic.  Home ground wheat was used as part of the flour in the rolls, and our lettuce and homemade vinaigrette were in the salad.  Besides taking the lima beans out of the freezer, I took out grated zucchini to make bread.  That leaves just a little more room in the freezer.  Our lettuce was used in a green salad another night, along with store bought items.  A frozen pack of our okra was cooked another night, and eggs boiled for egg salad and the pups meals.  Yogurt and kefir were made.

J's business partner gifted us some kale, so with that and our own, I made a kale salad.  On a cold day, I baked sweet potatoes, boiled small ones for the pups, and baked 2 loaves of zucchini, carrot, apple bread.  I took one of the loaves when I visited my SIL.  Something is doing a number on our chard.  Whatever it is is eating the roots, so I go out and find plants all wilted, and I can pull them up without the least bit of resistance.  There are holes dug around them too.  One day, I found 7 chard eaten!  Other days, one or two.  I went ahead and harvested any leaves of good size, to get them while the getting was good.  By the way, that's the $2.50 basket I scored at the thrift store last week.  It's hard to tell, but the basket is 17" long, a great size for harvesting vegi's.

When the refurbished computer tower arrived, the optical drive did not work.  It took 10 days to get it sorted out, and a new one to arrive.  Yesterday, I deleted any unnecessary documents and photos.  Today, J transferred everything I wanted to keep from the old hard drive to the new.   We're still moving things and figuring out some of the details, but I think it's going to work fine.  Sorry for the less than stellar pics of the chicken apron.  She did not want to come out of the nest box, and we still have a heat lamp for a light in the coop.  If I get a better pic at some point, I'll be sure to share it.

There are some big plans in the works, which I'll be sharing in the upcoming weeks.  I have still not managed to get any vegetable seeds started in the house, so we may have to purchase a lot of our plants this year.  I'm telling myself one can only do what they can do, and not beating myself up.  We do, however, have spinach seeds up in the garden.  We've got rain in the forecast, and hopefully that will help them all to germinate.  Be well, friends.  Have you planted anything yet this year? I'm happy to be joining in with Frugal Accomplishments.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Trials of a Chicken Apron & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  Last week, I had some sleepless nights.  Not entire nights, but several hours a night.  I decided to sew a chicken apron one night for one of our hens, to protect her from the abusing roosters, repurposing some heavy flannel.  Here's one tutorial.  I made one a few years ago, but was not sure where those notes were, so I used another online tutorial which used velcro and elastic.  It didn't stay on her, so I found some larger elastic and sewed it on with more velcro the next night.  That hasn't worked either, so I put it on her and watched to see how it's coming off.  It seemed that the velcro just wasn't holding, and that makes sense, because the last one I made did not use velcro, and I never had a problem with it coming off.  I tried the velcro because I knew it would be easier to put it on.  So I then sewed over the velcro, and couldn't get it on her :o(.  I'll see if J will help me, but it may be I need to start over with that part.  I hope once the wardrobe is refinished, and I have a place for all my sewing stuff, that I'll better know where things are, and can keep up with my notes.

Ben Hewitt, whose writing I love, shared this blogger, who is now also on my blogroll.  It'd be worth your time to check both of these men out when you have a few moments.  Will doesn't write often or much, but what is there is lovely.  We needed some large, rather odd shaped boxes to ship some shop orders, and I'd used up the ones I'd gathered free.  I found some used ones online, saving about a dollar a box.  Bubble wrap was reused from some I'd saved from items shipped here, and free cardboard egg trays from one of the potters were used.  Eggs were boiled for the pups.  Various greens were picked for the chickens each day.  I saved the buttons from the flannel shirt used for the chicken apron.

After delivering soap to a B&B that's a 45 minute drive, I thrifted my way back home.  I found several treasures, including a sweet rabbit .25, festive birthday ribbon .25, pillow for the porch which matches one I had 1.00, lovely Irish linen shirt for me & a merino wool sweater for J for 1.00 each.  I also purchased some sort of frame that I'm still trying to figure out.  I was hoping it was for rug hooking, but it may be for needlework.  It's the type that you can roll as you are working the cloth.  I may take it to a woman at a local shop, who I believe would know.  I found a very well made garden basket for $2.50, a large canister that I will turn into a compost crock for my shop , and a lovely piece of cloth that matches the paint in my studio, which I'll probably use for pillows.  I pulled a couple of less sturdy baskets from my collection, and put them in the box for donations.

I had a last minute request to work one of my occasional jobs, which put me close to the thrift shop that supports the SPCA on a day they're open.  I found a pair of Dickey's work pants in J's size for $1.50, three shirts for me from .25 to .75 ea, a couple of candles that look like corn .25 (I'll save these for decoration for our fall hayride), 3 packs of ribbon .10 ea., and my biggest purchase, a large flower frog for $5.  It's an old rectangular one, maybe an antique.  I've wanted a frog for some time, but they're usually quite a bit more than I want to spend.  They had a round one too that I considered, but I restrained myself.

J & I celebrated 10 years together over the weekend.  We enjoyed dinner, music and friends, and we both brought home leftovers.  The music was free at a local microbrewery.  I took my taxes in to be done by the same person that has been doing J's, and our discussion before dropping them off has me convinced I did the right thing.  She asked me many questions which my last tax preparer never did.  She really seems to know her stuff, which of course is why you pay someone to do them in the first place.  Even better, she charges almost half less than the previous preparer.  A double win!  Wishing you a lovely first week of spring!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Hello friends!  From our house to yours, Happy St. Patrick's Day!