Monday, October 24, 2016

Fall Harvests & Frugal Accomplishments

Early last week, we had a bit of Indian Summer, with days in the mid 80's.  There are many plants blooming that aren't usually at this time.  The okra loved it, and put on lots of new blooms.  Since the September rains, I noticed my toad lily putting on growth.  Today I noticed several blooms.   It must be happy where it's at, which is lovely, as I have not had the best of luck with them in the past.  I'm still harvesting small tomatoes, so on one of the warm days, I used some in a pasta salad & another day, I made a tomato cheese pie along with our okra and a salad from our first fall gathering of lettuce.  I also harvested dried lima beans, eggplant, okra, basil, oregano & garlic chives.  I walked with the pups for exercise, with Joseph joining us a few times.  I'm joining in with the Frugal Accomplishments community today.

toad lily

The hand washing and laundry were done with homemade laundry soap and hung on the line.  At our ladies homestead gathering last week, I shared how I make laundry soap, deodorant and wool dryer balls. It was a fun night, and everyone got to take home some laundry soap and a jar of deodorant.  I dug up an elderberry to share with a women who requested one.  I received a $5 off $15 coupon for Big Lots.  I had already planned on going there to pick up something, so J & I picked up a few more things and used the coupon.  Our local library has a basket for donated magazines that anyone may take, so I dropped off a pile that had been collecting in my car.  There were also 2 toner cartridges in my car that were dropped off at Staples for recycling and a credit.  When dropping off soaps at the local hardware store, I got black oil sunflower seeds for the birds, and it ended up being an even barter, so no money out of pocket.


With nights in the low 40's and 30's in the forecast, I brought in all the houseplants.  J & I harvested our sweet potatoes.  A few had rotted, some had been chewed on, but all in all it was a good harvest.  On the other hand, we also harvested our first crop of peanuts.  We knew it would be skimpy due to the drought and weeds, but they had also been eaten by something, and quite a few were resprouting, so we'll be lucky if we end up with a quart or so once shelled, though there were 6 long rows.  Our main goal was to add the plants back into the soil to enrich the garden, so getting to eat some will be a bonus.  I gave the chickens cherry tomatoes, dandelion leaves and holey swiss chard.

shop heater
We picked the last of the crowder peas and watermelons.  One melon that had already started turning brown on one end went straight to the chickens.  They may all end up as chicken feed, but we'll give them all a look & possibly a taste before deciding.  J tilled that garden when we were through, readying it for our first ever planting of heirloom wheat.  I'm excited about that!  I harvested more eggplant, and canned another 6 pints.  While watching the canner, I shelled all the dried crowder peas.  J shelled all the green ones, except for the smallest ones which he snapped.  We had the beans with basmati rice, and some of last year's sweet potatoes.

When J tilled up where the sweet potatoes had been, he found quite a few more potatoes.  Some had been chewed up by the tiller, so I cooked up the first of those for the pups tonight.  Sweet potatoes need to cure a month or more before their starches change to make them sweeter, so this seems the best use of the ones that won't last that long, but aren't yet good eating for us.  J got our winter clothes and sheets from the attic, and the first flannel sheets of the season are in use.  A gallon jar of green olives was given to J last week.  I need to read up on recanning them into smaller jars.  I expect it's similar to when I recanned the #10 cans of black olives, but want to be sure I'm following the recommended procedure.  I hope the coming week is a good one for you, friends!

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Hayride & Frugal Accomplishments

Last week, I harvested okra, tomatoes, basil, oregano, hazelnuts, the last two cucumbers, & gathered eggs.  I made pasta sauce with our canned tomatoes, garlic, onion and herbs.  Laundry was done with homemade laundry soap and hung on the line.  In the midst of fall cleaning, I made egg salad sandwiches one night for dinner, and used up a half cabbage to prepare asian slaw to go with it.

The dogs had made some lovely nose art creations on the doors, so I did a quick cleaning of those with my scrubber and squeegee set.   They'll soon make some more art, no doubt.  We had our annual hayride with family over the weekend.  Getting ready for that is the reason this will be a short update.  It's still quite warm, and the weather was beautiful if not what I think of as hayride weather.  Instead of hot apple cider, I chilled the apple juice.  I made soup using our canned tomatoes, herbs and garlic, as well as roasted broccoli.  For dessert, I made pumpkin pie cupcakes with our eggs and pumpkin, and homemade pumpkin pie spice.  Our guests brought sourdough & whole wheat bread, potato casserole, minestrone, cornbread, apple pie and wine to share.  A few of us sat on the porch and made music afterwards, with all sorts of percussion instruments.  It was a lot of fun.

Sage kitty accompanies the pups and I on our evening walks on a rare occasion.  She decided to come along this week.  I hope the week ahead is a good one for you!  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments.

Monday, October 10, 2016

There's Always Next Year & Frugal Accomplishments

The late September rain did wonders for our asian eggplant.  I picked a dozen one day, and used all but two in a dinner of Pasta Norma, using our garlic, onions and herbs.  The eggplant tops went into the broth bag.  I picked a basket of winter greens (a mix of turnips, mustards, etc), and made winter salad, chopped some greens for the pups dinner, & fed leaves with holes to the chickens.  Redeemed swagbucks points for a $25 Amazon gift card.  I began working with J on gluing the antique wardrobe back together.  We did one area first thing in the morning, another area in the evening, and will keep working on it until everything is properly back together.  I checked the Walgreens sales paper, & made a list of things needed.  I shopped there for the sale items, & found a few things on clearance, including a couple of items for my shoebox.  The remaining items were cards needed for upcoming special days.  All along, I thought I'd been getting 20% off their cards on senior day, but found out greeting cards are not included, so that's a frugal fail.  In the future, I'll try to get most cards at Dollar General.

Our Aldi's has closed for remodeling, and I'll miss it these next few weeks.  I took an online class needed for license renewal, which was a freebie given with a class I took in August.  Though smaller than they were during peak season, I continue to pick tomatoes.  Wanting to beat the rain from hurricane Matthew, I picked another basket of crowder peas, 2 watermelons and a cantaloupe.  I've spread the peas on a blanket on the floor to finish drying.  I harvested okra, and a few carrots, some of which were grated for the pups dinner.  There were only 2 eggs in the fridge when we returned from the coast, but as they've built back up, I've started giving one to the pups for breakfast.  J has seen a hawk flying low near the chicken pen a few times, which we assume is the one that got our chicken last week.  He shot nearby to discourage it from hanging around here.  On the way back from taking care of some business in town, I stopped by a local orchard looking for small pumpkins or gourds to decorate with.  I found a pretty gourd, but it was going to cost nearly $6 once they weighed it, so I left it there, and found out they had given away all their small gourds and pumpkins to customers a couple of weeks ago.  I'm sorry I missed that, but will try to remember to look for their announcement next year, as it seems they do that each year.  I did purchase a few apples, which are delicious.

interesting caterpillar
Before the rains arrived from hurricane Matthew, I did three loads of laundry and hung them on the line.  I'd been wanting to wash the pillow covers, bed pad and covers, and did that.  I harvested another dozen eggplant, which were canned, and all the beets that were of good size, which were roasted over the weekend.  J wants to pickle some hot peppers, so I harvested a basket of those as well.  There was another basket of red noodle beans picked, which take up lots of room in the fridge, so I canned another 6 quarts.  I realized the season was soon ending, so made a sharp cheddar sandwich with some of our tomatoes and basil for lunch one day. A few years back, someone introduced me to using basil instead of lettuce in cheese sandwiches, and I love it.  The basil is on its last legs, so better enjoy it while I can.  On that note, I also made a caprese salad for a dinner, along with our okra, and beans & rice from the pantry.  There were some too large noodle beans, so I shelled the beans out of those.  I froze enough okra for 6 meals.

Bags of frozen vegetable trimmings were threatening to take over my freezer.  When I pulled them out, I had 7 1/2 gallon bags saved up, so I put them on to simmer in between working on the eggplant.  I also did something a bit different this time.  Having a couple stalks of celery that needed using, a couple recently pulled carrots, & one of our onions, I made a mirepoix and added that in.  Two stock pots were needed for simmering this time, as I'd been saving vegi scraps since early spring, waiting for cooler days to make broth.  I'll be happy to have more jars of broth on the pantry shelf.  This was the first time I tried a double layer of pint jars. I read about it a while back, checked my canner manual, then ordered another rack so that I could do it.  It worked just fine.  One out of 13 jars did not seal, which sometimes happens.  I made zucchini soup yesterday, and used it then.  I found artichokes 5/$5 at the grocery store last week, and prepared them to have along with the soup, along with homemade bread I had frozen.  I did some online holiday shopping over the weekend, going through ebates or swagbucks for cash back, and researching best prices.  I finished shopping for one family member, finished most of it for two others, and bought supplies to make a handmade gift for another.

the wardrobe being glued and clamped
Here's a peek of the wardrobe I'm working on.  The recent days of rain from the hurricane slowed progress, but I hope to be back at it soon.  Our rain gauge had over 4" of rain in it yesterday morning.  My thoughts are on so many who are in flooded and damaged areas, those who still need safe haven and those who are working to clear roads, restore power and provide rescue from flooded areas.  Our forecast has the first nights in the 40's, so yesterday I brought in all the orchids, lemons, avocado and moringa.  The poor moringa was flung off the porch during the winds, both the pot and main stem broken.  It's been repotted and given lots of tlc, but I won't be surprised if it doesn't recover.  Oh well, the gardener in me says there's always next year.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Circle of Life & Frugal Accomplishments

Before vacation, I requested books from the library, and harvested butternut squash, okra & tomatoes.  I decided to make my first egg in a hole for breakfast, after reading about them & thought it was good.  After we got some rain, J & I planted cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli & collard seedlings that he bought.  Some of the lettuce, kale, turnip & either beet or chard seeds are up.  I pulled a peanut plant, and we both enjoyed them after they dried a day.  Even green, they were sweet and good.  Hopefully, the rain will help more of the peanuts to mature.  I made pasta salad twice using our cucumbers, tomatoes, basil & oregano.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

J & I planted a row of the collard seedlings I started.  We're trying to make sure we have lots of good, healthy plants going into fall.  I baked 2 loaves of apple, carrot, zucchini bread, which used our eggs, zucchini, & homemade vanilla, as well as 2 apples and an orange that needed using.    Once cooled, I put one loaf in the freezer.  I colored my hair at home.  After some much needed rain, I moved around some of the lettuce that had sprouted.  Several plants were together in clumps, so I spread them out a bit, and seeded another small area as well as another 6 swiss chard.  We had been regularly watering the gardens with both well and pond water the past few weeks, so now we can take a break for a time.

I harvested eggplant, tomatoes, okra, lima beans, tromboncino squash & gathered eggs.  Shelled a bowl of crowder peas.  I picked swiss chard leaves with holes & fed them to the chickens.  At Aldi's, I bought organic beans (pinto & garbanzo) for .79/can, avocados for .69, organic bananas .69/lb, red onions on sale .79/2 lbs, 3 bags of 25 mixed fall bulbs 2.49 ea., & organic red grapes 1.29/lb.  At Lowes, I found a can of organic refried beans on the mark down shelf for .79.  I made yogurt & kefir, and composted vegi scraps.  It's finally cooled enough to be able to go without A/C during the daytime most days and every night.  I dehydrated most of the red onions, and canned summer squash and eggplant.  I planted the remainder of collards I had grown from seed, and gave the seedlings that were left to a neighbor, then planted one of the bags of fall bulbs with red flowers in a couple of beds near the road.  I watered plants with the canning water.

During our trip to the coast, I noticed two people cleaning windows, and they both used squeegees.  The housekeeper at our motel used a spray bottle of window cleaner instead of a scrubber and water solution, but a man working on shop windows used a scrubber and squeegee.  Interesting the things you can notice when your focus changes.  On the way home, we stopped at a discount grocery store.  Prices weren't as good as they were a couple of years ago... this time, a 3L tin of olive oil was $18.99!.  I'm used to paying $8 to $12 at the discount stores.  But there was organic juice for less than 1/2 price, a 28 oz can of organic crushed tomatoes for .79, a box of No. 2 coffee filters for .99, and a couple bags of natural cats treats I'll save for Christmas.  When we got home, J started a couple loads of laundry & we hung them on the line.  I headed to the garden and picked a basket of okra.  The ones that are too big were cut open for the chickens, so they could eat the seeds.  I found a cucumber, a pear and grabbed a couple lima beans in passing, then headed to the pond garden, where I found 3 tomatoes and 3 butternut squash.  Some sort of worm really did a number on the swiss chard while we were gone.

The rain gauge had 4 3/4" of rain in it, which we had emptied before we left.  We knew there were several powerful storms that came through, which knocked out our phone and internet.  Thankfully, our provider sent someone out quickly, and we were soon up and running again.  Noodle beans were picked over the weekend, and crowder peas and cantaloupes were checked in the road garden.  Something beat us to one of the cantaloupes, and it was too damp to harvest crowder peas.  We visited our favorite thrift stores at the coast.  Finds were a cashmere sweater, embroidered handkerchief, 2 baskets, pair of suede Skechers, new nightgown, long sweater top to wear with leggings, new Aigner wallet & rust colored napkins for our upcoming hayride dinner, all for $25.

With the weather cooling, I'd been wanting to make scones.  I had in mind lemon blueberry with our frozen berries, but when I read the recipe, it called for dried blueberries.  I used craisins instead, and they turned out lovely.  I painted two porch tables with chalk paint.  Now that they're done, I'm looking at the wardrobe that was given to me some time ago.  It needed work then, and needs even more now.  I started by pulling all the drawers out, dusted it all, and pulled the laminate off the lowest drawer, as it was hanging loose in multiple pieces.  Much of the piece needs to be glued back together, but most of the joints are dovetailed and I believe all the pieces are there.  It's a beautiful piece.  I hope I can do it justice.

Last night, I woke to the sound of coyotes howling off in the distance.  Living on a homestead, you can't help but remain aware of the circle of life.  Yesterday, Joseph was heading up the driveway, on his way to buy some Bt to remedy the worms eating our swiss chard, when he noticed something amiss in the chicken yard.  A hawk had gotten one of our youngest chickens, and was feasting on it.  I knew hawks would grab a small chick and take it, but I didn't realize with bigger chickens, they would kill it and eat it in place.  This 16 week old chicken was a rooster, which explains why the big rooster did not protect it.  They will do their best to protect the hens in their flock, but usually not another rooster.  Of the 6 chicks born here this year, there are 3 left.  One had a deformity & didn't make it, another died during a heat wave, & now this one.  The other 16 week old chicken is the only hen out of the bunch.  I sure hope she makes it.

Friday, September 30, 2016

A High School Reunion & a Trip to the Coast

We arrived home today from our annual trip to the NC coast.  It was the perfect time of year.  The weather is still lovely (upper 70's to low 80's), and it's much less crowded, as well as cheaper than in the summer.  The motel we stay at has been run by the same family since 1953.  The kitchenette allows us to bring food from home.  We stay in a room on the third floor, where the balcony looks out on the water, & we can view the sunsets from just outside our door.

Being a dog-friendly property, there are always lots of pups around.  In earlier years, J & I brought Hickory with us.  These days, the pups stay home with a pet sitter, as we're not yet convinced that McNibs would do well if we went out and left him in the room.  I think Guinness would love it, but McNibs is still mischievous enough to be a concern.  I hope he'll mellow out and we'll be able to bring them both with us in the future.

a small piece of driftwood
We always find some washed up driftwood that we bring home for the pups, to share the scent and taste of the sea.  There was a storm with a waterspout, and two rainbows.  I did not catch any of that with my camera, but did catch the sky before the storm.

I always enjoy reading at the beach.  One book was finished and two others started.  I was determined to finish cleaning up the threads on my quilt, being it will soon be needed, and was all ready to celebrate finishing it.  Unfortunately, when I turned it over, I found quite a few more threads on the bottom.  Oh well, I'll just have to keep at it.  I'm sure the first few cool nights will be a major motivator to finish it up.

Just before we left for the beach, we attended my 40th high school reunion.  It was a delight to catch up with lots of people that I don't see otherwise, and make plans with some to connect again.  They were sweet, fun times, for sure.

It was wonderful to spend time at the sea. It's wonderful to be home again.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Happy Fall & Cleaning Windows Simply

a clean window at the kitchen sink
Happy Fall, friends!  Being there was interest in knowing how the new tools worked out in cleaning our windows, I thought I'd share what I did here.  Though it was not my first choice, I bought a ProGrip window cleaning kit.  There are tools out there that combine both the scrubber and the squeegee on the same head, which is what I wanted, and the two I looked at had good reviews.  But when I asked J about them, he nixed them both, saying neither was made well enough to last any time & they would not work well in general.  He chose the ProGrip kit..  He was maintenance supervisor in a few large facilities in previous years, and as my window washing skills were negligible, I went with his choice.  I also bought the 5 ft. adjustable pole and bucket that went with this kit.

As suggested by various people, I put a squirt of dish soap in the bucket, then added water.  I don't think it's terribly important what soap you use.  Brandy used Dawn, but I decided to use the natural dish soap I'm currently using.  It's Seventh Generation which I typically buy here.  I put a rag in my pocket to wipe the squeegee between passes, and changed it out as needed.  The first thing I noticed was the scrubber head was extremely difficult to take back off the pole.  I don't know if mine was unusually tight, or if that is typical of this design, but I ended up turning the scrubber head 90 degrees so it would not line up with the click lock button.  As long as it wasn't locked in place with the button, I could manage to pull the head off.   The squeegee head was easy to put on and take off.   I scrubbed both top and bottom of one window, before switching out to use the squeegee, which worked well.

This method did work quite well.  I did have to go over some spots with the squeegee more than once.  Once I elongated the pole to its full length, I forgot I could shorten it, and struggled working around some furniture when I was inside, so there was a bit of a learning curve there :o).  I could not clean the bottom of the top windows indoors, due to the locking mechanism in the way, so had to wipe this part of each window with my rag.  As the squeegee brought the water down to the bottom of the window, it made it easy to use this water to wipe in this area.  I loved that I only had to get on the ladder to clean 2 windows outdoors.   Even with the 5' pole, they were too far from the ground.  But otherwise, I could reach all with the pole, and it really was quicker and used less resources than my old paper towel and window cleaner method.  It also did a much better job of actually cleaning the windows without streaks and smudges.

I'd love to say it took only minutes to clean my windows, like others I'd read about, but it took quite a bit longer than that.  I didn't think to time it, but it was definitely a few hours.  I should explain that I did more than window cleaning.  If it were window cleaning alone, maybe it would be possible to do it in an hour or so, especially if you have one of the combination heads.  I imagine that would easily cut my time in half.  But screens were also taken down and cleaned, all the sills needed to be wiped down, & cobwebs removed.  Too, all the wood blinds were dusted and the slats wiped down with Murphy's oil soap and water.  It may be a testament to my housekeeping, or possibly heating with wood, or maybe living in the humid south, but dusting the blinds was not enough to get them clean.  Cleaning blinds is a chore I'm glad I don't have to do every week, that's for sure.  I cracked one slat, and broke another, during the process, & J repaired both with a bit of glue and balsa wood.  In taking down the blinds, the little plastic pieces that hold the wood valance up top in place inevitably broke.  As they are meant to have some give when you're putting up and taking down the valance, they could not just be glued and still work, so J found some of those pieces online for .79 ea, and ordered them.  That was definitely a frugal accomplishment.  When we'd searched for them previously, we couldn't find any.  It sure would be a shame to have to replace an entire blind due to a .79 plastic piece, so I'm delighted he was able to find them this time.  Especially since, ahem, a few more were broken this round.  I think that pretty much sums up my window cleaning adventures.  If you've got any tips or experiences to share, I'm all ears.  Brandy has asked that we save our frugal accomplishments posts until October 2nd, so I may take a break in posting until then.  Until then, be well!

Monday, September 19, 2016

The September Garden, Thrifted Treasure, & Frugal Accomplishments

The tomatoes, squash and cucumbers in the garden are winding down.  There are new cucumbers up, which J replanted, so we'll see if we have enough time to get some before frost.  Update- all but one cucumber seedling has been eaten :o(.  I noticed that 4 of the butternut squash were on vines that had died, so harvested them.  J harvested a second watermelon, which we enjoyed.   The others were small and teardrop shaped, which seems to happen often here, and they always rot when they're this shape.  I need to research what causes that again.  I made egg salad with our eggs.  After the late frost that got a lot of our fruit, it looked like we had about 6 apples.  A few weeks ago, we couldn't find any of them, and assumed a critter had gotten them all.  One day walking through the orchard, I noticed an apple on the ground.  It was small but perfect.  I surprised J with it, cutting it up to have with our dinner, and it tasted quite lovely.  Small blessings.

I accompanied J to the salvage yard, and bought a sweet metal pumpkin, as well as two pieces he's going to combine to create a birdbath for me.  I've got a concrete birdbath, as well as a very small metal one, and have plans for this new one, which I'll share in another post.  We then headed to a thrift store that was having a half price sale.  I bought several packages of wool yarn, a flannel pillowcase, a bag of assorted vintage buttons, fall themed tablecloth, silk Liberty of London scarf, floral painting, and an electronic connection that unfortunately does not quite fit what it was intended for.  All of this was $7 and change.  The feed & seed store had a .10/seed packet sale, and I bought 3 packets of marigolds (two types), which I thought showed great restraint :o).  We picked up a few things at Walgreens, & I had enough points to get $5 off my purchase.  One of the items I bought were pens from the clearance shelf.

floral painting from the thrift store, $3 including frame
Laundry was done with homemade soap and hung on the line.  I harvested two tomatoes and gathered eggs from the chickens.  We've eaten our leftovers, though I did forget my box of leftovers one night that J took us out to eat Mexican.  J vacuum sealed all the rice jars, as well as a few other odd ones I'd filled recently with lentils, unsweetened coconut & flax seed.  I shelled another round of crowder peas, and added the pods to the compost.  Three pairs of pants were hemmed, and a sweater, pair of jeans, cloth used to cover kefir & pajama bottoms mended.  While delivering soap to a B&B, I donated 6 books to their little library.  I froze okra.  I harvested four teardrop shaped watermelons, and gave them to the chickens over several days.  Though one of the the ends were rotting, the insides were still white with just a touch of pink.  I cut the ends off & cut them up.  The chickens loved them.

I watered plants several times with cooled down cooking or canning water, and canned 3 pints of eggplant.  I made a quiche using our eggs, zucchini, garlic, chard & parsley, and asian cucumbers on the side, along with risotto from the pantry.  Walked with the pups for exercise.   I have lost 13 lbs this spring and summer.  It doesn't take a lot of pounds to show on a just under 5 ft woman.  It crept up over the last year or two, and I'm happy to be getting back to a healthier weight.  We've been able to turn off the A/C and open the house most nights.   I composted vegi scraps, froze some for broth, & washed plastic bags for reuse.  We were in good shape this week, so I did not stop for groceries while in town for work, but  J picked up milk, bread & a bottle of wine.  I shredded paper and cardboard to add to the compost bin, and used rags to clean spills.  

I strained, sweetened and bottled elderberry syrup.  The dogs got our grated cucumbers, squash and carrots with their dinner, & I used our cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes & arugula in a salad.  The pups got boiled eggs a few days.  I made my Mom's zucchini soup with our squash, tomatoes, onions, garlic & herbs.  I'd been shelling the red noodle beans that got large & saving their beans.  I boiled the beans, and made a bean dip with our garlic to have on bread with the soup, and cooked our okra in the wok.  I spent a good part of the weekend working on windows, using my new tools.  Hooray for clean windows!  I believe I'll do a separate post about that.  I was up a good part of one night, and caught up on almost all of my ironing.  At the time, I thought that was all there was, but then remembered there were several things hanging that need ironing.  Oh well, they'll wait until next time.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

As you can see by these leaves, we desperately need rain.  As I type this, it is thundering and there is at least a hope of some rain reaching us.  Time to head out and do a rain dance!  Be well, friends.