Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Road Trip with My Sweet Sis

When our Mom passed away, my sister and I promised ourselves we would take a sister trip in the not too distant future.  Well, the week has arrived, and I am so excited to be able to spend time with my sweet Sis.  Today, we are heading to a lovely inn in Virginia, close to art galleries, the Blueridge Parkway, wineries and other fun places.  See you soon!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Frugal and Repurposed

As it's Monday, I suppose you know I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments.  I transplanted the tomato seedlings into bigger pots, bought 4 larger tomato plants, swiss chard & basil with a gift certificate a dear friend gave me.   These were all planted in the garden.  The tomato seedlings I'm growing are still pretty small, so this should give us tomatoes quite a bit sooner.  I walk with the pups for exercise most days.  If there is a light misting rain, I typically walk, but if it is a harder rain or an especially raw feeling day, I tend to skip it.  Some bargains found at the discount grocery store were 25# sunflower seeds, organic apple juice, organic crushed tomatoes, 3 liter tins of olive oil, and novena candles.

I canned the second #10 can of olives, & got 16 half pints.  One jar didn't seal, so I made pizza using them, our garlic, mushrooms I canned, & frozen red peppers.  We had another cold spell, with nights in the 40's, so I cooked up the last winter squash and canned the olives to add some heat to the house.  Switched from cool weather to warm weather clothes and sheets.  No air conditioning or woodstove were used.  On one morning, J ran our heat pump to take the chill off.

Made quiche with our eggs, peppers and garlic, along with store bought ingredients.  Made a green bean dish with our beans, garlic and thyme.  Made tomato rice loaf, using our tomatoes, garlic and celery.  Vegetable scraps went into the broth bag or the compost.  Used our oregano and chives in a potato dish.  Made Brandy's black bean burgers.  Fixed ravioli with our garlic, and made a vinaigrette using muscadine syrup I had canned.  Frugal Fail: with the last winter squash, I tried a new recipe, a soup with coconut milk & garam masala spice.  I had to come up with plan B, as we both tasted it and said "yuck!"  Good thing I had some leftovers and a fresh out of the oven Fig Sherry bread... still trying to empty the freezer.

J transplanted a large portion of our asparagus patch last year, as bermuda grass and mint had overrun it, and he wanted to get all perennials out of the garden, so he could till as needed.  The asparagus has really been set back by the move.  There are very few spears large enough to harvest, as they're putting energy back into the root system.  I did harvest two spears from what's left of the original bed.  These plants still need to be moved, when we have time.

I've been collecting canisters for several months, and got to work on them this weekend, turning them into compost crocks.  The holes are drilled in the lids, they were washed & measured as to what they will hold.  Once I've fit them with carbon filters, taken photos, and calculated shipping, they'll be listed in my shop.  Are you planning on growing any edibles this year?

The clematis have started blooming, as well as a few others.  Once the rain lets up, I'll be getting photos of those to share with you.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments and a Quick Trip

National Museum of Art
Last week, J & I visited Washington, DC.  I did not purchase anything other than food and metro tickets.  We stayed in an apartment belonging to a family member of an in law.  I paid for a nice dinner in thanks for the accommodations.  Food there is quite pricey, but we brought everything for our breakfasts and snacks, and not having to pay for lodging saved money.  All the Smithsonian museums we visited were free.  We walked 20 miles in 2 1/2 days (J's daughter wore a pedometer)!  I'm joining in today with Brandy's Frugal Accomplishments.

Just a few weeks ago, I shared my canning adventures with a failed Tattler lid.  Last week, I saw they have changed their lids due to this very thing.  Bravo!  Follow the Tattler link for more info on this. 

money plant
Fed tomato, lettuce and spinach seedlings with diluted fish fertilizer.  I typically use fresh basil, but it's too early for that, so instead I used oregano in a pasta salad, as well as some of the black olives I canned.  Weeded the asparagus.  Renewed a library book online, to insure I would not be overdue.

cherry blossoms

apple blossoms
The ants found my hummingbird feeder.  When I tried filling the ant moat with water, it leaked badly, having weathered and cracked over the years.  I repaired it with epoxy.  I cleaned up a flower bed along the driveway, and hauled 7 wheelbarrows from it, leaves and such, into the woods.

wild violets

blueberry blossoms & a butterfly
Did laundry using homemade laundry soap, and hung all but one load on the line.  Went to the Cooperative Extension's plant sale this weekend, and bought a horseradish, Fanny's fall aster, culinary sage (I seem to kill these on a regular basis), mountain mint, and sweet woodruff.  The plants were $2 and $3 each, except $5 for the horseradish.  All of these, as well as wintersown plants - zinnias, tithonia (orange torch and yellow torch), and night scented stock were planted.  There's a good chance of rain the next three days, and no frost in the 10-day forecast, so I'm hoping that was a good decision.  The tithonia seeds came from the Hospice my Dad was at.  They had bountiful flower gardens there, and yes, I did snitch a few flower heads, so I would have a good memory from his time there.  The money plant earlier in the post came from my Mom's house.  I hope they will both thrive here.  I feel that's one of the sweetest things about gardening... the memories that various plants conjure up, of friends and loved ones.  Beets and potatoes are coming up in the garden.  With the rain, I hope to soon see carrots up too.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter

Happy Easter & Happy Passover, friends! We're off to Washington, DC, while a couple of friends mind the homestead.  We'll be spending our days visiting the Smithsonian, and hopefully the cherry blossom festival.  May you have a most enjoyable holiday, however you choose to spend it.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Blooms, Bones and Frugal Accomplishments

pear blossoms
The blossoms of spring have begun.  I'm joining in with Brandy's Frugal Accomplishments today.  At the discount grocery store, I found .50 cans of organic diced tomatoes, sunflower seeds for the birds - $6 for around 20 lbs.  A few days earlier, I had picked up a 6 lb bag for $7 at Big Lots because I was out, so was very happy to find this.   My favorite buy was rice.  They had a buy one, get 1 free sale.  Most of it was white rice, with a few small bags of brown rice, but I found 5# of basmati rice, & 5# of jasmine rice.  Both were $4, making it .40/lb.  Both had sell by dates in 2016, and no bugs :o). I dry canned the rice.

hyacinth and daffodils
I made hummingbird food, yogurt and kefir.  I must have been mistaken about hearing hummingbirds, as I've not yet seen any.  Perhaps they were wasps buzzing by my head?   I did laundry using homemade soap, and hung it on the line.  I made breadcrumbs from bread heels and crushed eggshells to put in the garden or compost.  Started a batch of cleaning vinegar with mandarin peels.  Made a winter salad using our greens and garlic to bring to a dinner we were invited to.

I cut the eyes from store bought potatoes I was cooking, to grow.  When J was growing up, they grew their potatoes this way.  I cut just a little potato flesh with the eye, & dry the pieces a bit before planting.  J also did this with the organic seed potatoes, and I'll be cooking those today.  I have read that they use antisprouting chemicals on non-organic potatoes, so this only works if you're using organic or homegrown potatoes.  The commercial ones won't sprout eyes.  I looked for and used an Essential Depot coupon code (10%), to buy the lye I use in my soaps.

I trimmed both pups nails.  Guinness is always cooperative, and let me trim all of his, with treats given after each foot.  McNibs has always been a challenge.  I asked them to trim his nails when he was sedated for his happy tail bandaging.  He's let me trim 2 nails once since then, and this time, he let me trim his two front feet.  Not perfect, but progress, and frugal.

I started more wintersown seeds outdoors- marigolds, zinnias, columbine and tithonia.  I also found a packet of sweet peas.  I recently read they are only good for a year, and these were older than that, but I went ahead and planted them by a couple of trellises.  My tithonia and scented night stock are coming up!  I made suet for the birds.

We ate green beans and applesauce I had canned.  I used our garlic and thyme in the green bean dish.  Still trying to eat from the freezer-  cooked 2 bags of our okra, and made Fig Sherry bread from our figs.  Made crescent rolls using ww flour I ground for part of the flour.  I made tomato rice loaf with our tomatoes, garlic, breadcrumbs and celery.

Here's McNibs stopping by to say hello.  The bone is made by West Paw Design, and is the longest lasting bone he's chewed on to date.  This is their Hurley bone.  I had bought him their Bumi Tug toy for Christmas, also for tough chewers, but it didn't last 48 hours.  Their policy is to replace any toy one time, so I tried the Hurley at their suggestion.  He's had this one for weeks.  One end does have a little damage, but it's still intact, which is impressive.  Most of the toys I've bought him, for "tough chewers", don't last a day.  I would recommend these dog toys.  They're BPA and phthalate-free too.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Happy Spring and Frugal Accomplishments

Happy Spring!  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.  The forced forsythia bloomed this year! I cut the branches, left them on the porch until they began to open, then brought them indoors.
I planted pineapple tomato seeds indoors and wintersowed (later than usual) calendula, night scented stock, and mexican sunflowers. Planted spinach seed in the hoop house bed.

pineapple vinegar
I baked the cookie dough remaining in the fridge from the thank you cookies- ww chocolate chip & sesame cookies, making the guys here happy.  I cut up a pineapple and started pineapple vinegar.  I made yogurt, kefir and a double batch of granola.

Frugal Fail-- sadly, I found quite a bit of produce going bad in the root cellar.  A large pot full of squash and sweet potatoes went to the compost, good portions of some sweet potatoes got cooked for the pups, and chickens got a soft pumpkin.  I made a Butternut Bisque soup with part of the last 3 butternut squash, homemade broth and our carrots,  & "pumpkin" pie custard from the rest of the butternut and the last delicata squashes and our eggs.  Good scraps went into the freezer bag for broth.  There are still 3 Hopi Grey squash, lots of sweet potatoes and 3 or 4 apples.  The root cellar is built into the hillside and is underground except for the front wall.  It stays cool but not too cold all winter.  I don't believe it gets enough air flow, which causes things to mold.  Considering it's spring, I can't really complain, as it kept the vegi's pretty well for months.

mended scrub pants and hair scrunchies
I washed laundry in homemade soap and hung one days laundry on the line (the other day it went into the dryer due to threatening rain).  Requested two books from the library.  Mended two sweaters, and a pair of scrub pants and made my first two hair scrunchies using fabric I cut from too long scrub pants made with a batik fabric (love batik!).

Sold an item on ebay, and brought in another couple items from storage to photograph and list when I have time.  I added items to the boxes being donated to Goodwill, which happens almost every week but I forget to mention.

Used homegrown calendula to decorate a custom batch of soap.  Made crowder peas and corn with peas we grew.  Been doing well with eating up leftovers.  I brought lunch, snacks and water to work the days I worked away from home.

On Sunday, I raked up leaves, which J put around fruit trees.  We're trying some new things this year, recommended in this book.  We're hoping to have more and nicer fruit with these changes.  He's already put nematodes around the trees, which helps with a number of pests, and Neem oil is on the way.  I spied the first asparagus spears of the year, which makes me very happy!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Heritage Wheat, Bluebirds and Frugal Accomplishments

It's time again to join in with Frugal Accomplishments.  If you're looking for encouragement on living frugally, you may want to check out The Prudent Homemaker's website.  In addition to the weekly Frugal Accomplishments posts, there are sections on gardening, cooking, shopping for less, home schooling, sewing and more.  There's a great community of people who share there, and a wonderful amount of information on the website.

I baked a quiche with our peppers and garlic.  Made a pasta dish using eggplant I canned, and our garlic and herbs.  Steamed asparagus I had frozen last year, then we had the leftovers in an omelet.  Hopefully, there will soon be fresh asparagus coming up.  There were still some cranberries in the crisper.  The few moldy ones went into the compost, the chickens got the soft ones, and I cut up the good ones for the pups.  The chickens always love them, but I was surprised the pups ate all theirs up too.  Not the original intended purpose, but not wasted either.  Another night, the pups got a grated gnarly carrot from the garden.

I ground wheat and corn, and made kefir and yogurt.  We bought a 50# bag of Red Fife wheat, a variety of heritage wheat which has a lower gluten content than most modern wheat, making it easier to digest. We were lucky to be able to taste baked goods made with this wheat, thanks to a baker in Chapel Hill.  It was our favorite of the heritage wheat we tasted, with a wonderful, nutty flavor.  I dry canned most of the wheat, and saved around 10# for a patch we hope to plant here.

 I baked 2 types of cookies, and brownies, and brought two plates to the car dealership for the fellows who assisted me when my car wouldn't start last week.  I used our eggs, and whole wheat flour I ground for a portion of the flour.  We've had some warm days and nights , when no heat was needed, and windows were opened to let in fresh air.  I cashed in Swagbuck points a for a Whole Foods card.  Among other things, I bought 3 lbs of organic butter, as it's the cheapest I've found in months, at $4.79/lb.  I used up lots of butter baking the thank you goodies.  Unfortunately, I did not print out the code Whole Foods needed, so I'll have to use my gift card another time.

I planted a variety of lettuce seeds in our hoop house, and 3 parsley plants.  J planted broccoli and cabbage plants I had purchased.  Some years we do better growing things from seeds, some years not.  We immediately put row cover over the cabbage and broccoli, as cabbage worms have been a real problem here the past few years.  Hoping that will do the trick.  The tomato seedlings continue to grow, but so far, I've not seen an eggplant or pepper germinate.  Our seed potatoes arrived, but the ground is very wet, so they'll have to wait until it dries out a bit.

papa bluebird
mama bluebird
On Sunday, I noticed bluebirds at the house in the backyard.  At first, I thought they were setting up house, but watching them convinced me there are babies in there.  It's the perfect spot for me to watch as I sit at the computer.  I made up another batch of suet to entice them to stick around. Wishing you a Happy St. Patrick's Day.