Sunday, June 18, 2017

Garden Gatherings, A Bit of Disappointment & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  That's a basket of this morning's garden gatherings.  There are cucumbers, eggs, yellow squash, blueberries, yellow transparent apples, and tromboncino squash.   I also harvested lettuce, basil, parsley, blackberries, raspberries and mulberries last week.  The carrots were weeded.  I enjoyed a free Kindle book from amazon, and have ordered several more free Kindle books.  Three books were borrowed from the library, including this one about Beatrix Potter, which I'm enjoying.  At the grocery store, I purchased two bags of dog food on sale, and frozen organic waffles on sale (rarely bought, but J has recently commented about not knowing what to have for breakfast several times, so I thought this would make for a nice change).  I made a broccoli salad with some I harvested, and red grapes we were gifted.

This was the smallest bouquet provided for the celebration.  I thought it was so lovely and cheerful.  The discount grocery store moved and reopened the first of May, and I made it by there for the first time.  They didn't have the usual amount of groceries, but said they're getting more in.  I purchased a pretty set of new linen & cotton sheets for half of what they sell for at Target.  I bought a few more things, including Annie's organic cookies for $1.20, artichoke hearts for .50, and a couple of metal plant stands with casters ($5 for both).  Produce and cheese were bought at Aldi's.  We took a friend to a new local restaurant for his birthday.  There were several extra tortillas, so I brought them home and added them to the pups dinner.

While in town for work, I ran other errands, and brought a reusable water bottle and snacks.  For our celebration, J bought a large plastic planter to put the beer and ice in.  Though I'm not all that fond of plastic, I decided to plant nasturtium and zinnia seeds in it.  It's placed beside where I drive in, so I'm hoping it will bring cheer each time I arrive home.  There have been some sharings about finding your tribe here recently.  I realized when pondering how wonderful it felt to be surrounded by so many good people at the celebration, that that's exactly what it felt like... like I was with my tribe.  What a wonderful thing that is.

The day after the celebration, J & I were invited to spend the day at a nearby lake with friends.  There was a long, relaxing boat ride, along with a boat picnic. It was the perfect way to wind down after all the festivities.  Tractor Supply is offering a rewards program.  I signed up, and have two of three purchases towards a reward.  Swagbucks goals were made almost every day.  With cucumbers coming in, it's time for asian cucumbers again.  I brought some to the lake, and made more for us at home late in the week.  We sure do love them.

Well, the eight eggs under the broody hen were a bust.  Over the past week or so, she's thrown 5 of the 8 eggs out of the nest.  I checked 3 of them, and there were no chicks.  Today is day 24, so we'll be removing her from the broody area.  This is the first time I've had this experience, and the only theory I can come up with is the hens that laid in that particular nest box were some of the less "popular girls" that the roosters didn't breed with.  With three roosters, you'd think they would get them all, but maybe not.  If you've got any other theories, I'd love to hear them.  At least we've got blueberries and other garden goodness to help soften the blow.  We're pondering if we'll let one of the other broody Buff Orpingtons sit on another round.  I hope you have a great week, friends!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Awaiting the Chicks Arrival, A New Trellis & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  We've gotten some nice rain here, which is helping the garden grow.  I opened windows when cool, and closed up when it warmed up, to minimize a/c use.  Ceiling fans and a small plug in fan also help.  My online shops continue to have occasional sales.  Though I keep the income from my soap shop, the income from our metal and furniture shop goes towards our vacation fund.  It is what we used for all our spending money in Italy, and there is some remaining to go towards our next vacation.  This is a rewarding way to use income from our joint efforts.  I purchased some needed birthday cards at the dollar store.  We're anticipating peeps coming from the broody area, with chicks expected to arrive any day.  

Instead of stopping on the way home from the funeral for something to eat, I prepared a simple meal when we got home.  I had brought cheese, crackers, apples and nuts from home to snack on during the day.  On Monday, I finished sewing the celebration napkins, cut the loose threads, hand washed them with homemade soap gel, then dried them in the dryer, as it was a rainy day.  One more pressing, and they were ready.  I canned a quart of elderberry juice in 2015, which I heated this week, and added organic sugar to sweeten it, for use in smoothies and such.  At the time I canned it, it didn't occur to me that the alcohol draws out the medicinal properties, so the juice won't be as potent as the tinctures I make, but I expect it will have some benefits, and be tasty too.

I enjoy trying new recipes.  One I tried last week was a garlicky chard and chickpea dish, using a large bag of our chard and garlic.  Both it and the new cucumber avocado recipe I tried were just OK, but every now and then, you find a winner.  I harvested dill, mulberries, blackberries, raspberries, parsley, broccoli, our first cucumber and yellow squash..  On the way to collect eggs, I gathered wild lettuce to give to the chickens, and some mock strawberries.  I also gave them some raisins from a jar that got buggy, one of the occasional down sides of buying them at the discount grocery store.  This time of year, I boil eggs two or three times a week.  The pups get one every morning, and we eat some too.  The usual hummingbird food, kefir, yogurt and bird suet were made.

before decorating
There were a few frugal aspects to our wedding celebration.  The venue I chose, a historic gatekeepers house, was inexpensive to rent ($100).  It's a sweet little house, built in 1888, which still has wavy glass in some of the window panes. The desserts were done by a B&B that I supply soap to, and we are bartering for these.  They create some pretty awesome food, most of which is local.  We provided all our beverages.  A good friend's sister came through with almost everything needed to set up and decorate, as she had it from her son's marriage in May.  Both sisters helped me set up.  I was able to get gorgeous bouquets from a local grower, with herbs and wildflowers mixed in.  Much more my style than what is offered at a florist, at a great price.  Once we figured out our table arrangement, I was able to cut some of our flowers, adding a small jelly jar of flowers to each of the individual tables.  Help was offered by other good people as well.  I can't imagine a more wonderful celebration than was had.  I'm blessed to have a wonderful group of people in my life.

On a cool morning. I  baked bread with a pack of zucchini I pulled from the freezer, along with our eggs and homemade vanilla.  Another day, I pulled our lima beans and okra from the freezer, and had them for dinner along with rice.  The freezer is still quite full, but I'll keep working at it.  I used the last of last year's potatoes in a potato salad, and used our tomatoes, basil and oregano in pasta sauce.  J designed an trellis/arbor to hold our tromboncino squash in the garden, and we set that up.  We had put up a small fence around a small service area of the homestead, which includes the compost, a week or so ago.  The fence was taller than we wanted, and what was cut off was used for the top part of the new trellis.  We also worked on setting up tomato cages around the larger plants.  The Japanese beetles have arrived.  I collect them in a jar of water, and give them to the chickens.  Though I never caught up, several hours were spent weeding the garden.  Fresh straw was put in the chicken's nest boxes, and a wheelbarrow full of poopy straw added to the compost pile.  Wishing you a great week, friends.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Antique Wardrobe Redo & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Now that things are beginning to return to normal, I've gotten back to working on the antique wardrobe.  Since working on it last, the laminate of the lower panel on the other side started buckling.  As I did with the first one, I removed it, sanded and primed it per J's instruction.  I cleaned up the entire body of it, which was quite dirty, and began painting it with antique white chalk paint.  I'll be glad when it's finished, so I have somewhere to put my sewing supplies.   J has been waiting for me to strip two vintage porch posts for the front of the house, so I'll be able to start on that project next.

In addition to store bought chicken and vegetarian bbq chicken for Memorial Day, I made deviled eggs, asian slaw, and pasta salad from pantry items and our eggs, cabbage and basil.  I made the year's first lavender lemonade with our lavender.  We went to Lowe's that morning, and I bought landscape blocks on sale (19% off) with their credit card for another 5% discount, which I'll pay off when due.  Another night, pasta was made with our tomatoes, garlic and herbs.  Mulberries, a few raspberries and blackberries have been gathered, some enjoyed in a smoothie one morning, others frozen.

When planning the upcoming wedding celebration, the caterer told me renting napkins would cost $1 per napkin.  I thought that seemed quite expensive, so began looking for an alternative.  Though I preferred a reusable napkin, I did check out prices for pretty paper napkins, and the ones I liked were also quite expensive.  I checked etsy and ebay, and found no good deals, and didn't think I could find enough alike (44) at a thrift store.  The one new fabric I liked came from the UK, and shipping made it crazy expensive.  Thinking outside the box, I ended up buying two antique linen table runners, which were not all that much more than the rented ones would have been.  I did have some guilt and a slight bit of anxiety when I began cutting them up, but now I will have napkins and eventually cleaning rags for years to come.

I froze the lambs quarter I harvested, which gave me a side dish for six meals.  Hummingbird food, yogurt and kefir were made, and eggs boiled.  Our hen is still sitting.  In a week, I'll begin listening for little peeps.  The first yellow squash is about 2" long.  There are quite a few small cucumbers, and several tomatoes too.  Anticipation!  We're headed to an out of town funeral this morning.  Wishing you a most wonderful week!

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Honeymoon in Italy and Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  I'm starting to get back in the gardening groove.  Last week, I harvested raspberries, lettuce, peas, mulberries, chives and dill.  I weeded around the lettuce, eggplant and several other spots.  We got a pick up truck load of mulch, a lantana and several cockscomb for a new small area near the porch, as well as homestead verbena, marigolds, and portulaca.  All but the marigolds were planted and the mulch spread between rain showers the same day.  We haven't decided where we'd like the marigolds just yet.  I also picked up a pack of globe thistles at Big Lots, and planted the rhizomes too.  They are not a true thistle.  We have enough of those already!

For our trip, I borrowed library books for the Kindle, and read a couple of free amazon Kindle books, including one on frugal living.  I bought a bouquet for $3.99 from Aldi's  to enjoy, and cut flowers from the yard for another vase.  When we returned, there were enough peas to make a batch of fresh pea soup with them and our herbs.  A large basket each of lambs quarter and swiss chard were harvested.  I washed plastic bags for reuse.  Lambs quarter, lettuce gone to flower, mock strawberries and mulberries were given to the chickens.

I made yogurt and kefir.  We've had a hen that has been broody off and on for several weeks.  We moved her into a little private broody area, where she has her own small yard when she gets off the eggs.  It's been 6 days, she's still sitting, and we're hoping she continues to.  J got creative with the two young roosters, who had been in the broody area.  He set up our large dog crate for them, under the eaves, and placed some old windows to cover most of the sides for when it rains.  They have a large yard to be in during the day.   We'd like to take them to the flock swap at Tractor Supply to find them a new home, but we have an out of town family gathering the day of the next one in June.  They may be with us a while longer.

I did laundry with homemade laundry soap and soap gel. One day, the wool items were hung indoors, and the rest dried in the dryer due to rain, and another day, both loads were hung outdoors.  We've gotten a significant amount of rain since we've been home.  The plants are jumping.  There were numerous tomato volunteers, which were transplanted.  J planted seeds for spaghetti squash, okra and lima beans.  I went through ebates and used a 25% off coupon to make a photo book of our wedding day and honeymoon.  I want to have this to share at our celebration in a few weeks.

Our wedding had some frugal elements.  I asked J to choose the dress I'd wear, and he chose an Ann Taylor dress I'd bought at a thrift store a few years ago.  It needed to be taken in, and I paid to have it altered, as I didn't feel skilled enough to work with the silk dress and separate lining.  A local woman I'd spoken to about flowers backed out a week or two before the wedding, so I had to scramble.  I ended up going to a local florist, buying the stems, and putting together my bouquet, which I supplemented with a few of our flowers.  Though I do enjoy flower arranging, I was trying to cut down on the details I'd be responsible for this particular day.  It all worked out.  I made J's boutonniere with elements I gathered from our land.

A friend shared a youtube video with me on bow making, and I made two large bows using wired burlap ribbon bought at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon, and tulle that I bought a large bolt of for I believe $2.99 at a thrift store years ago.  I'd been intimidated by making bows, but it was surprisingly easy.  The same friend hosted and officiated our wedding on the front porch of her gallery, which is a beautiful historic home.  She had an assortment of dream catchers, which we hung from hooks along the porch.  We bought Prosecco, sparkling lemonades, fruit, cheese, marcona almonds and chocolate to enjoy after the wedding.  We kept it small, and there were only 7 in attendance, in addition to our officiant and us.   A close friend who is a photographer took photos.  After our munchies, we headed to a lovely restaurant in Greensboro, to meet up with more friends and family for dinner.

A trip to Italy had been on my bucket list, and when J suggested it for our honeymoon, how could I turn that down?!  One pretty special day was meeting and sharing a meal with a second cousin and his family.  I'm only sorry my Mom had not been able to go.  We had begun talking about going together, but she became sick before we were able to do it.  She was on my mind so much of the trip, and I enjoyed pistachio gelato and savoiardi cookies (both favorites of hers) thinking of her.  Though not frugal, one of the reasons I live simply is so that I can enjoy experiences like this.  Having these memories means so much more than things ever could.

If you have a few minutes, this TED talk by Caroline Myss on health and healing is worth a listen.

Monday, May 22, 2017

We're Back

Hello friends!  We arrived home from our honeymoon early this morning.  Today will be a day of catching up on laundry, opening mail and easing back into homestead life.  The soap shop and SoulSeeds shop have reopened.  It was a grand adventure, and it's good to be back!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fresh Pea Soup, A Spring Treasure

Hello, friends.  I wanted to pop in to let you know about this lovely fresh pea soup.  It's been the first time in several years that we've gotten enough of a pea harvest to make soup.  When I was reminded of how good it was, I wanted to share it with you.  This recipe is from the original The Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook, one I've had for many years.

Cream of Fresh Green Pea Soup

1 tbs butter                                                      
1 cup minced onion                                    
1/2 tsp salt                                                  
2 cups fresh, raw, sweet peas                      
1 1/2 cups water or stock
1 cup milk or half and half  
freshly ground black pepper
Fresh herbs: basil, dill, thyme, tarragon, parsley, chives

In a saucepan, cook the onions with salt in butter until the onions are soft.

Separately steam the peas until they are bright green and just tender.

Add steamed peas and stock or water to sauteed onions.  Cover and simmer about 10 minutes.

Puree 1/3 to 1/2 of the soup in a blender or food processor; return puree to saucepan.  Add milk or cream.  Don't cook any further, unless you are not serving immediately.  Then heat carefully just before serving.  Snip in desired amounts of fresh herbs.  Scissors make this fun and easy.

My favorite herbs for this soup are dill and chive, which work perfectly this time of year.  The chives have overwintered and are growing well, and dill volunteers are usually coming on strong.  To me, the fresh herbs really make the soup.  If you have enough peas harvested to make this in one day, that's best.  But if like me, you need to shell some here and there and save them up until you have 2 cups, that's also good.  The earliest ones get a little starchier, but the soup is still amazingly good.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017