Monday, July 27, 2015

Artful Squash and Frugal Accomplishments

corot noir grapes
I'm joining in with The Prudent Homemaker's Frugal Accomplishments today.  Last week, I made blueberry jam, and dehydrated the pulp for bird suet.  I froze several bags of tromboncino squash. With freezer space at a premium, I needed to make some room.  In addition to taking out spaghetti sauce, which I added to a pasta dish , I removed 3 bags of vegi trimmings, and canned a gallon of broth.  The pasta dish used our tomatoes, tromboncino squash, basil, rosemary and onion.  I grated and froze several bags of zucchini, and removed one bag from last year to make zucchini bread.  I had cornmeal  I had already ground, and did not have any wheat ground, so I substituted the cornmeal for the ww flour portion of the zucchini bread.  On occasion, I find the prettiest designs in squash.  I find beauty is all around me, if I take the time to look.

artful tromboncino squash 
I listed several things on ebay.  Shared cucumbers with neighbors, and with men that were working here.  I made fresh mint ice cream using our mint and eggs.  So good!  The pups got boiled eggs, chopped basil, grated cucumber and cabbage core, a tomato a worm got into, and tromboncino added to their dinner on various nights.  Used homemade soap and deodorant, and did hand washing with homemade soap gel.  I saved canning water and watered plants with it.  Hand picked Japanese beetles and fed them to the chickens.

Harvested blueberries, a few raspberries, zucchini & tromboncino squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, & rosemary.  Made asian cucumbers.   I placed a bowl of cherry tomatoes on the table, and we snack on them through the day.  The zinnias I planted last weekend were jumping up, which inspired me to plant the rest of the packet.  I'm hoping for lots of late summer cheerful colors.  I made yogurt and kefir, harvested and dehydrated carrots.

Joe Pye weed
I was early to meet my sister, and went by Salvation Army.  I found a cast iron woodstove humidifier.  The cheapest one I saw online was $30 for a used one, and I got this one for $2.50.  Yay!  It was perfect timing, as the Japanese cast iron teapot I had been using on the woodstove for the last 10 years pretty much disintegrated this spring.

I sometimes shop sit for one of the potteries, and they have blueberries that they offered to me to pick.  In between customers,  I picked a quart.  J & M have been asking for blueberry ice cream.  I must admit, I wasn't so sure about that one.  I found a recipe to make, which used one quart of blueberries.  This is the recipe I used.  It was good.

milkweed tussock moth
Passing by, I noticed caterpillars on the milkweed. With some research, I learned they are milkweed tussock moths.   Shared more cucumbers and squash with a neighbor.  Harvested elderberries and added them to a tincture jar that was already brewing.  Goodness, can July be almost over?  I hope yours has been a good one.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Planting for Fall and Frugal Accomplishments

Merry Monday, everyone!  If you've been here before, you've probably guessed I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.  I cut a bouquet of zinnias, bee balm and ironweed for the house.  made yogurt & kefir, canned dill pickles, and harvested and dehydrated lambs quarter.  I usually freeze the lambs quarter, but with freezer space at a premium, I want to see how I like using them dried.  I've been enjoying handfuls of blueberries in fruit salad or on my cereal at breakfast.  I picked up a few things at the discount grocery, including 2 bottles of organic rose hip oil for $2 ea.  The oil nourishes skin, hair and nails.

I harvested cucumbers, blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, dill, basil, zucchini, and tromboncino squash.  One of the tomatoes had an interesting bullseye pattern on it.  Not sure what might have caused that.  Our yellow crookneck squash didn't germinate, but we had planted some of my Mom's zucchini seeds, and were happily surprised to find they are Gold Rush zucchini, so there's still a colorful combination of squash.  I shared cucumbers with a friend, and neighbors.

I helped J pound in rebar stakes for most of the tomato cages, so a strong wind won't knock them over.  I gathered seeds of columbine and money plant, and am letting some carrots go to seed.  We planted rutabaga, carrots, beets, lacinato and Red Russian kale, and broccoli for the fall garden, and another round of cucumbers.  I harvested mint a couple of times.  The first time was for mint tea, and the other was for fresh mint ice cream, perfect for a day with a heat index above 100.

I prepared a homegrown breakfast, which my Italian grandmother called Popeye cream eggs.  The story goes that some of us grandkids were not too keen on eating it, so she renamed it, and being we were into Popeye, we all ate it without problem.  You saute some garlic in olive oil, add diced tomato and salt, then beaten eggs and heat until done.  Eat with buttered toast.  Yum!  I purchased bulk Pomona's pectin, due to a comment on The Prudent Homemaker.  I had not realized that it was sold in bulk, and that it lasts indefinitely if kept dry.

I bought the batting for my quilt online, going through ebates, and using a 20% first time purchase code.  I also purchased some batik fabric from the site.  It was on sale, with additional 20% off, and got me up to the free shipping minimum.   I hope to make shorts with the material, modeled on batik shorts which I purchase at a local show.  This vendor sells clothing, created in Africa, only at shows, and I remember the shorts run somewhere in the mid $30's, so if I can create them or something similar, that will be a significant savings.  I haven't ever attempted to copy a piece of clothing, but I've seen tutorials, and will see what I can do.  I spent time with a few good friends on a nearby lake.  We watched the sun set and then the moon lower in the sky while out on the boat, stopping in a cove to eat our dinner.  There is little that relaxes me more than being on the water.  We saw quite a few osprey and herons, and a threesome of raccoons along the shore.  Sweet summer days.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Gratitude and Frugal Accomplishments

at the pond
I'm thankful to be joining in with the Frugal Accomplishments community today.  I canned dill relish, oven canned 15# quinoa, and dehydrated carrots.  I borrowed season 2 of Call The Midwife from the library.  I canned dill pickles, and made homemade pickling spices, enough for 2 canning sessions.  Oven canned 12# jasmine rice.  Cut up a pineapple and started a batch of pineapple vinegar.

As a soapmaker, I end up with lots of little scraps of soap, which I keep in mason jars.  This week, I added water to the scraps and made soap gel in the blender.  I generally add some gel to each load of laundry, do my hand washing with it, and keep some in a dispenser at the bathroom sink.  For a ladies homesteading potluck, I brought asian cucumbers.  There were so many wonderful dishes at the potluck, and great conversation and sharing.  If you are interested in homestead-type endeavors, and learning and sharing with other women, you may like to check out the Ladies Homestead Gathering.

blue tailed skink on our front step
I weeded the potato bed, and other spots as I came across them in the garden.  Harvested cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, tromboncino squash, blueberries, blackberries, swiss chard, and apples.  I made kefir, yogurt  and kombucha, and gave the extra scoby to the chickens.  The pups got grated broccoli and cauliflower stems, cucumbers and fallen apples with their dinner.  They also got a boiled egg a couple of nights.  I emptied a water bottle into the birdbath.

I've been researching some staples I want to stock up on, finding the best deals on organic sugar, walnuts, toilet paper, & canning supplies.  Recent suggestions from a number of various sources about the need to stock up have me believing it seems a prudent thing to do at this time.  As grocery prices tend to go up, I figure the worst that can happen is I will save money on the groceries we typically use.  I made bread crumbs from bread ends, and crushed a pan of eggshells to add to our compost bin.  The chickens got a watermelon rind, a small amount of leftover spaghetti, and lots of Japanese beetles.  Shared some basil trimmings with friends who had no luck with theirs.  Once the canner water cooled down, I watered plants with it.

Something one of the commenters said on The Prudent Homemaker last week struck a chord with me.  She noticed that everyone taking part in the frugal community there had a positive attitude.  Though they may have lost a job, lost a spouse through death or divorce, or had some other major setback, each was doing what they could with what they had to make their lives better.  That surely takes you further than moaning and groaning about circumstances.  Then I saw this quote via Elizabeth Gilbert- "Gratitude turns what we have into enough."  That sums it up perfectly, to my way of thinking.  Some see living frugally as being cheap or miserly, but the way I see it, making the best use of our resources and being grateful for all we have is the wisest way to live.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Repurposed Olive Oil Tin and Frugal Accomplishments

Carolina wren
I'm happy to be joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.  At Aldi's, I purchased produce, cheese, and a can of organic "salad beans" @ .89.  I've not liked any of the bean salads I've tried in the past, but the can contains only garbanzo, pinto and kidney beans with sea salt.  I think they would also be fine to add to soup or serve over rice.  I also tried their organic strawberry rhubarb frozen pops.  Really good! I went back and got more pops and beans, and a watermelon.  A Carolina wren has raised a brood of little ones in a birdhouse J created from an olive oil tin a few years back.  A number of birds have checked out the tin, but this is the first one I've seen set up house in it.  It's right out our front kitchen windows, which makes it easy to keep an eye on.

self heal
I thinned our beets, and canned my first batch of pickled beets.  I planned to can 7 pints, then switch over to sliced (non-pickled) beets, and it worked out to be exactly 7 pints.  That saved me having to work with both the water bath and the pressure canner in one day.  Next round, I'll can sliced beets with the pressure canner.  The beet greens all had lots of holes in them, so the chickens got those.  I've been looking at recipes for homemade mayonnaise.  We like using mayo made with something other than soy oil, usually safflower or canola, but I also saw one that used light olive oil.  If you've ever tried making your own mayonnaise, I'd love it if you'd share your experience.

black and blue salvia, bee balm
I harvested cucumbers, tomatoes, blueberries, blackberries.  I made Asian cucumbers, and canned dill pickle relish, using some red pepper frozen from last year's garden.  I hand picked Japanese beetles several times, and fed them to the chickens.  At the discount grocery store, I got several boxes of Emergen-C, pasta, and other odds and ends.  My favorite deal was a 15 lb. box of organic quinoa for $10.  Sale price is usually about $4/lb around here!  I plan to dry can the quinoa to add to the pantry.

We visited friends on Friday, and I brought Asian cucumbers and a jar of dill relish for the cookout.  I harvested tromboncino squash, and made a pasta dish with the squash, our tomatoes, basil and rosemary for the 4th, along with a caprese salad using our tomatoes and basil.  I stayed home this 4th, pondering thoughts of my Mom.  Last 4th was a few days before my Mom passed, and the last time she spoke to me.  I'm trusting the holidays will get easier with time.

12 apostles lily
The pups got grated squash or cucumber, and chopped purslane at various meals. I made yogurt and kefir, and weeded & thinned the carrots. All the carrot greens and end bits were frozen for broth.  I canned a batch of mixed berry syrup.  I'm dehydrating the seeds and pulp for bird suet.  The time of year when I begin to get overwhelmed with all the produce needing attention has arrived.  Remaining grateful for the bounty and doing what I can each day will help me get through, I believe.  

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer Flora and Frugal Accomplishments

bee balm
I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments.  I cut a bouquet for the house, and went through ebates to purchase a whole house water filter.  Our extremely hard water is an ongoing challenge. We're going to try a sediment filter, to see if it will help.  We do use rainwater when we can, but we don't yet have enough storage to last more than a couple weeks or so, before having to go back on well water.  That's another work in progress.  I forgot to write about it last post, but on my evening walk with the pups on the summer solstice, a young king snake was in my path.  The following day, there was a green snake in front of the house.  I was taken aback because I had almost stepped on it before seeing it.  I researched in my animal book, which told me Snake is about transmutation and the power of creation.  I am pondering that.  Before finishing up this post tonight, I saw another small black snake in the path when I walked with the pups.

echinacea, bee balm, soapwort, tansy, daylily, zinnia
Made kefir and kombucha.  It has been unusually hot (upper 90's) here the past few weeks, so we have been using the A/C every day.  The weather finally broke, and we have been able to open up at night the past couple of days.  I keep the blinds and doors closed on the side the sun is shining throughout the day, and run a fan when it seems uncomfortably warm to keep the thermostat at a higher setting.  Harvested parsley for potato salad.  I've made Swagbucks goals several days.  Taken my water bottle any time I leave the house.  My vehicle came with a trial period of Sirius radio.  I enjoyed it at times while driving, which I don't do that much. When the trial ended, I looked at the cost, which is not cheap.  Hearing about others who had a huge hassle in cancelling it convinced me I didn't need it.  M researched what it would take to get my Pandora stations from my phone to play through the car speakers.  All it took was a $4.95 cable, and I've got good tunes to listen to in the car.  That makes me happy!

roselle hibiscus
I picked purslane and basil and made pesto with it and our garlic.  I used the last of the nettle tea fertilizer on some tomatoes and eggplant that were looking poorly, then harvested another 5 gal bucket of nettles and started a new batch of tea.  Stinky stuff when it's fermenting, but good for the plants.  I purchased a Roselle hibiscus, which I've read about on some of the Australian blogs.  It has so many good uses... food, drink, medicine, fiber.  It is not hardy here, so I will try getting cuttings in the fall.  Does anyone have experience with Roselle?  J helped me plant it before we got a nice rain.

Tried something new with leftover mac & cheese.  I mixed it with  a can of vegetarian chili, to make chili mac.  I harvested our first cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots and used some in a salad.  Boiled our eggs and made egg salad, first for us and again for a family gathering.  The "girls" are being generous these days.  I listed 11 items on ebay.  All but one item is for some friends I agreed to help.  This endeavor has not lived up to my expectations.  For a number of hours of work each month, I end up making less than $20.  Live and learn.

butterfly bush
I picked up a book at the library, and have been enjoying the first few episodes of Call The Midwife.  I picked and made Asian cucumbers.  I chopped purslane and cucumber for the pups dinner, and brought cantaloupe rind and seeds to the chickens.  I dug one of the purslane from the garden, which has yellow flowers and is related to portulaca, and planted it in a window box which already had creeping jenny in it.  Some things enjoyed on the web this week:

-I learned I could listen to Smithsonian Folkways radio
-many of the images here and here
-breakfast ideas from Dr. Oz.  I thought the frittata looked especially good.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Garlic & Potato Harvest and Frugal Accomplishments

Joining in with Brandy for last week's Frugal Accomplishments.  I made yogurt and kefir.  Picked blackberries and mulberries.  Got books and movies from the library.  I made good progress on my quilt at my stepmoms.  It is 1 1/2 hours of driving each way, but I figure the gas is no more than having a private tutor for the day would cost :o)  I really enjoy her company, and there's no figure you can put on that.  I went through my closet, moved around the summer and winter clothes, and put a pile aside for the thrift store.  Most of the pile was uniforms.  I retired from nursing several years ago, and only do massage 2 or 3 days a month, so it was beyond time to purge.  I'm saving apricot seeds from organic apricots bought at Trader Joes.  I'll try planting these.

SO and I harvested our garlic and most of our potatoes.  The garlic was placed in my new carport to dry.  One end of the potato row looked like it was still growing, so we left those for a bit longer.  I harvested a handful of chocolate mint, which I put in with coffee grounds to make iced coffee.  Harvested lambs quarter, and M readied them for me to freeze.  Froze 2 bags.  I harvested a large basket of Kentucky Colonel spearmint.  I made a simple syrup with this, to use in mint tea or mint lemonade.  Harvested purslane and basil for pesto.  Made pesto with these and our garlic, which we all liked.  I'm happy to find a good use for the purslane, as it's so weedy in the garden.  Another recipe for a salad I tried some time ago was not very good.

Did laundry with homemade soap, and hung it on the line.  I found our tub leaking quite a bit from the faucet while SO was not home, so collected water in a bowl and added it to the washer while doing laundry, filled the dog bowl and used it to steam the lambs quarter.  We finally got some much needed rain, somewhere around 2 inches in the past few days.  Our rain gauge has sprung a slow leak.  Ours registered around 1 1/2 inches, but our neighbor across the road said we got 2 inches, before the last rain.  The same neighbor gave us 2 cucumbers, and I prepared Asian cucumbers with them.  Our first cucumber is almost ready to pick.  SO bush hogged a piece of our land that I used to pick blackberries on.  I will see if they are still there, or if too much has grown up around them.

I found some new, double pane arched windows on Craigslist at a good price, and purchased them for my workspace.  I dehydrated all but 3 heads of last years garlic.  I've been intending to do this for several years, and am happy to finally have done it.  There was still a good amount that needed to be composted, but there's a nice jar of garlic ready to be powdered.  I've gotten Krups coffee grinders at the thrift store when I see them.  The one we're using now has a cracked lid, which will be demoted to the garlic grinder, and another in better condition will become the coffee grinder.  I've started noticing fruit flies, which is typical during the warmer months here, and put vinegar with water in a jar with a drop of soap.  This has significantly cut their numbers.  Eggs are abundant these days.  I've made egg salad, and cut one up for the pups to add to their dinner.   I read a tip I'd not seen before, about making homemade pectin with lemon seeds.  I'm definitely going to try that.  Happy Summer!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Rain Glorious Rain

Houseplants in their summer quarters
We had the first good rain in a couple of months last night.  The houseplants and other living things are all breathing a sigh of relief.  The rainwater cistern is full, and the pond level has risen.  We finally got all the pieces hooked up last week, and began using the pond for irrigation.

The Buff Orpington chicks are 8 weeks old now.  This week, we began letting them out into the larger yard.  The rest of the flock and they can check each other out for a bit, and in a couple more weeks or so, we'll likely integrate them.  Whatever you do this weekend, I hope you enjoy your days!