Monday, September 15, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

The sofa table is our most recent custom order from my etsy SoulSeeds shop.  This one shipped today, and is on its way to Wisconsin.  I have been inspired by The Prudent Homemaker blog, and the comments that are written.  So, this week I'm joining in with her usual Monday post.  Her blog is one of those I always find a treat to visit.  I hope it inspires you too!

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

Doing laundry with homemade detergent and hanging it on the line

Freezing corn & peppers from the garden, patty pan squash from a neighbor, and lambs quarter, which grows wild here

Making a pie with pumpkin from the garden, using eggs from our chickens

Buying a new "second" T-shirt for J for $1 at a thrift shop, much needed as a work shirt

Bathing the dog with homemade dog soap

Planting a free parsley plant from my Mom's

Planting kale and winter salad seeds in the cold frame for our winter garden

Harvesting and eating squash, tomato, potatoes, basil, rosemary and garlic from the garden

Harvesting pears and apples, which I plan to sauce

Harvesting red raspberries, eggplant and chard from the garden

Borrowing books and movies from the library

Canning a large batch of  broth from vegetable trimmings, which I save in the freezer

Harvesting sweet potatoes and sunflowers from the garden

Tried signing up for Pinecone Research, though they were not accepting my demographics at present

Had the A/C off most days and nights

Harvesting rainwater, and watering plants with the dehumidifier condensation

Monday, September 8, 2014

Grilled Peaches, Patty Pans and Pumpkin Chai Soap

Hello, friends!  There have been a lot of gardening related activities going on around the homestead.  Sweet potatoes have been dug, and are drying.  We got several football-sized ones in this year's batch.  The ants had found some of them, so it's good we dug them when we did.  I cooked up some that had gotten cut up during harvesting, and the dogs enjoyed them last night.  It takes a month or so for the sugars to change, and make them nice and sweet, so we'll wait a bit to enjoy them.

The sunflowers on my table were a birthday surprise.  Sunflowers are one of the most cheerful flowers, don't you think?  J harvested sunflowers in our garden, and the heads are drying for winter use for us and the birds.  Some of the heads that had fallen over and were being eaten by the wildlife went to the chickens.  They didn't seem terribly interested, until I began removing the seeds from the heads, then you can bet they were pretty excited.

I tried something new with the okra this year. We're growing both red and green varieties.  The green okra grows so tall that I can no longer reach it.  For the past 2 or 3 weeks, I was bending over the stalks to get to the okra, but they were getting too tall for even this, plus it was really making my neck sore, straining upward for many minutes each day.  I decided I'd try pruning them this weekend.  Quite a few plants had side shoots with buds already, so I'm sure they'll be fine.  We'll see how the others fare.  We are getting some much needed rain today, which ought to encourage them to grow.

A neighbor gifted us with a large amount of patty pan squashes.  Unfortunately, many were wormy, and many were picked too large, having big, tough seeds.  Not being one to waste food, I did manage to cut nice rounds out of the top portions, which have no seeds, for freezing.  The sides were cut away and put in the vegetable broth bag I keep in my freezer, adding to it until there's enough to make a nice batch of broth.  The middle pieces with all the big seeds went to the chickens, and other bits went to the compost.

Try as I might, I could not get a clear photo of the Pumpkin Chai soap this morning.  I'm going to chalk it up to very dim light, rather than stinky photographic skills :o).  Once I finish this post, I'll be moving the Pumpkin Chai soap to the drying rack, and starting a batch of Kitchen Thyme soap.

We tried the second grilled peach recipe I had been wanting to try this weekend.  I bought big, beautiful, organic peaches, but unfortunately they didn't have much taste.  I'd like to try the recipe again with some really good peaches, and see what that's like.  We thought they were decent, but not wonderful.  Here's what I did:

Grilled Peaches with Honey, Balsamic and Cambozola

Cut peaches in halves, remove the pit, and place on foil cut side up

Add several bits of Cambozola cheese in the indentation where the pit was

Drizzle with honey, then balsamic vinegar

Grill until soft (5-10 minutes or so)

The original recipe is on Pinterest.  If you'll click on my Pinterest link in the sidebar, and go to my Yummy Eats board, you'll find it there.  The two things I did differently were using Cambozola rather than Gorgonzola, because it needed to be used.  And, the recipe called for grilling the peaches cut side down, then turning over and filling with cheese and drizzling while on the grill.  J felt this was pretty much guaranteed to be an ugly mess, and I had to agree, so our peaches stayed upright the entire time, were put on foil, and I added all the ingredients before grilling.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hum Along, so you Don't Get Bored

I trust everyone had a nice Labor Day weekend.  On Sunday, my sister had the family for dinner, and it was lovely. She gifted me with the handpainted hummingbird feeder above.  I did try to get a better photo, but either the hummers didn't come around, or they drank from the opposite side of the feeder, so this one taken through the window will have to do.  Can you see the hummer just to the right of the feeder?

I canned pumpkin and winter squash yesterday.  Quite a few were picked early due to dying vines or borers. The squash with borers wouldn't keep, so had to be canned.  We'll have to do a better job next year, covering them with row cover to keep the moth away from our squash.  They seem to be more of a problem every year, bothering our cucumbers, summer squash and now winter squash and canteloupes.  The chickens are getting all the worms and ruined melons, and the compost gets all the cut away bits and skin, so nothing is wasted.  Dog baths and soapmaking are on my to do list.  What's on your to do list this week?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Late Summer Days

The late summer bounty is upon us.  Several of the winter squash vines were dying, so we harvested the squash from them yesterday.  We're going to have plenty of winter squash and pumpkin to eat, that's for sure.  It also reminded me that it's time to make a batch of Pumpkin Chai soap.  The house always smells so good when it's curing.  I think it's the perfect warm and cozy Autumn soap.

While canning tomatoes today, I noticed this heart-shaped one.  I didn't notice until I had already blanched it, or I would have set it aside, and surprised J with it for dinner tonight.  After canning, several meals of okra were frozen, and a couple of bags of pawpaw pulp.  For lunch, I had a smoothie using a couple of our peaches, the last of our blueberries, pawpaw, and homemade yogurt.  Only two peaches are left.  J grilled some last night, but he talked me into doing a sweet version, rather than the savory version I really wanted to try using Gorgonzola, honey and balsamic vinegar.  I hope to try that recipe before the summer is over.  Neither of us was impressed with the version I did make, using butter and brown sugar.

The weather has been beautiful.  J & I went to the zoo yesterday, which we hadn't done in several years.   We wandered all over the Africa side, which he had never seen.

ring-tailed lemurs

 I hung a couple loads of laundry on the line today, and have enjoyed having the windows open since last night.  I am loving these days!

autumn clematis

Monday, August 18, 2014

Just Peachy

Little by little, the peaches are being eaten.  I haven't done anything major with them.  We've had a few fruit salads, which have included our peaches, the first pawpaws of the year, and whatever else was available... blueberries, pear, etc.  This afternoon, I have some peaches soaking in Fair Game Beverage Co.'s Ferris, and look forward to having them for dessert tonight.  I'm also looking forward to trying some grilled peaches, something I've never tried.  I've seen and saved several recipes that sound promising.

The dear souls at Hospice gifted me with this lovely stained glass piece, by Amy Keith Barney, when I returned after my Mom's passing.  Isn't it lovely?  The little metal chickadee above it is one I bought at Brightside Gallery for my Mom this past spring. She often called me her "little chickadee".  It makes me happy to see these together.  

Joseph spied a male Eastern box turtle on the path to the tractor shed, so of course I had to grab my camera.  I'm happy to see him here, as their numbers are dwindling.  I love his coloration.

The sunflower patch is looking good.  I love to see their cheery faces when I pass by.  Our hopes are that the birds and other critters will leave enough seed for us to save for winter bird feeding, and some for us too. I've been doing a bit of canning. Yesterday, I dry canned 50 lbs of grits, and 45 lbs of oats.  Today I canned quarts and pints of tomatoes.   I hope you're enjoying these late summer days.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Summer's Harvest

Peaches and pears have been showing up in odd places around the homestead, often half eaten.  Though the squirrels have been giving us a run for the money, we've managed to save some of the peaches.  We had to pick them before good and ripe, or none would have been left.  But, they're ripening nicely on the counter.  Now, what to do with them, that's the question.

Recent rains have sprouted all sorts of mushrooms.

I was recently cleaning up the brown leaves in the houseplants on their long outdoor bench, and realized there was a little nest with eggs in it.  There are bird feeders nearby, so I had not noticed the little bird that flew off.  A few minutes later, I slowly snuck up on the nest to snap a picture, and mama bird had not returned.  I've looked from a distance since, and she is sitting on the nest.  The eggs look like they may be chickadees.

I've canned up Blueberry-Lime jam from Ball's Blue Book.  I got a great deal on a bag of limes, so this seemed a good recipe to try.  The limes were not organic, so I did not use the zest, but the jam is good!

There are Black Swallowtail caterpillars on the dill in the garden.

When my hands are purple, you know it's likely elderberry harvesting season.  I've got a quart of the lovely tincture brewing.  Our oldest variety of apple has been harvested, though it's name escapes me at the moment.  It seems it originated around the 1200's from the Romans, but that might be incorrect.  Approximately 15 of the homely but tasty apples were picked.  Lamb's quarter continues to be harvested for freezing.  Shiso is next on the list, for drying.  It's a great herb to give to the pups when they've eaten something that's a bit rough on their digestive tract.  With all the woods here, and hunting season not too far off, it comes in handy.  Tomatoes, squash, okra and cucumbers are producing nicely.  That's recent life on the homestead.  Be well, friends.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Finding My Way

Blueberry season has arrived.  During the month long drought, they began looking quite shriveled, but most have recovered with the recent rains. You can still see some shriveling if you look closely at the photo.  I had doubts that we would get any at all, the way they were looking, so am happy for each one I pick.  I hope to be putting up some blueberry jam in the coming days.

Apples are also coming along nicely.  Our earliest apple, a Yellow Transparent, gave us 3 apples this year.  It's somewhat shaded, between the New Earth shop and their heater, so anything we can get off it is good.  Other apples look to be doing well.  For whatever reason, they all seem much less bug-ridden than most years.  We don't use pesticides here, and it's a rare year that we manage to apply horticultural oil during the small window of opportunity.  Though it's doubtful any will be very large, we'll take perfect, little apples any day.

The frogs at the pond serenade us nightly.  I've been surprised by how many frogs it actually supports.  When we walk the perimeter, there are countless splashes as they jump in.  The dragonflies put on a show for us, when we sit for a spell in the evenings.

nest of a tufted titmouse
I greatly appreciate all your kind words and support, in response to my last post.  I am slowly beginning to find my way again.

Over the past few months, my Mom's partner, Frank, and I had many hours to talk.  One of the stories he told me prompted me to title that last post Wild Blue Yonder.  One of my Mom's earliest jobs was at Mitchel Air Force Base Hospital on Long Island.  He told me of how she & he would find each other through the house, each singing a line from Wild Blue Yonder, as they went.  Love that.  And lest you think she got the worst of the face masks with that pig nose, she really had a "thing" for pigs for a while there.  Be well friends, and enjoy these summer days.