Monday, August 13, 2018

Summer Moments & Frugal Accomplishments



Hello, friends.  I hope this finds you well, and enjoying these midsummer days, or winter, if you're in other parts of the world.  Our garden wonder of the week is the tromboncino squash, which is going gangbusters. I've shared several, and have been cooking with it almost every day, using it in "zucchini" bread twice,  pasta sauce, a dish with tomatoes and corn, and zucchini tots for the first time, which we liked.  I wanted to report back on the winter squash ice cream mentioned last week.  It was rather bland, tasting mostly like the pumpkin spices.  I would like to try it again with a more mature squash, as I bet it would give it more flavor.  It wasn't bad necessarily, just not as flavorful as I'd hoped.


I picked concord grapes & juiced and canned them.  I may make them into jam at another time.   The skins and seeds were dehydrated for bird suet.  I offered concord grapes to a friend.  After a good visit, she left with grapes, a variety of squash, and pears, and I was gifted several things for myself and my granddaughter.  I filled out requests for free dog and cat food.  We enjoyed our first watermelon.  It was the best one we've had this year.  The chickens enjoyed pecking the rinds.  While in town for work, I picked up a few things at the grocery store, & used my own bags, saving .15; also stopped by the library, and asked about zoo passes.  I received a free pass for 2, and plan on taking my granddaughter next week, which is a nice savings.


Well, at this point, both J & I have both been rained on in the outdoor shower.  Though there was no rain when we started our showers, by the end we got rained on.  Thankfully, they were just light rains.  I'm happy to report though J has shared the shower with a snake at one point, I have only shared it with bugs :o).  We were using the outdoor shower again because we hired someone to finish the sheetrock in the bathroom redo.  Because J did more of the sheetrock work than he had thought when he first gave us the quote, he knocked $50 off the original price.  I gave him a couple of bars of soap, as he and his wife use and love them, which may not have hurt the final cost either.  We lost power Weds. evening during a thunderstorm for about 3 hours.  We'd already had dinner, and ended up just going to bed.  J has been painting and doing trim work, and it won't be long before the project is done.  Being J is a metal fabricator, I asked if he could create a basin out of copper, to go with the sink.  We had extra pieces of the granite we used for the sink counter, and he suggested we use some of it for the piece at the shower floor, then use some of the same granite used in the shower around the sink, so both areas would have some of each, tying them together.  I think I reported when I bought the granite that it was purchased at less than 10% of list price through ebay.  It's still a construction zone around here, but we're getting there.


One day, I harvested basil, made a double batch of pesto, and froze it.  I continue to harvest marigolds, with plans to dye the bottom sheet for our bed cover.  Swagbucks points were redeemed for a $25 amazon gift card.  We enjoyed an evening out with friends, and some delightful wine paid for with gift cards.  This new to us wine was delicious, helps support veterans, and our price was several dollars cheaper than the listed price, all bonuses in my book.  We picked up an inexpensive meal to have on the outdoor porch, enjoyed the wine, and were serenaded with free music.  A lovely summer's eve, for sure.  A fellow chicken lover friend gifted me the Fresh Eggs Daily book.  Reading it, I was reminded how good herbs are to use in the coop.   I cut back lemon balm, catnip, oregano and chocolate mint.  These were put in nest boxes and scattered on the floor.  We'll have our granddaughter a few days, and enjoy some summer fun.  Plans include time at the Kid Zone of our local zoo, which includes several water features, home grown watermelon, and homemade ice cream.  Summer will be dwindling before we know it.  We plan to enjoy it while it lasts.  Wishing you a most enjoyable week!


Monday, August 6, 2018

Mushroom Weather & Frugal Accomplishments


Hello, friends.  Hot, rainy days have made it perfect mushroom weather.  There seem to be so many varieties everywhere.  I recently joined a fb mushroom group in our state, hoping to learn more, especially about which are edible.  Though I've taken a class, I don't feel confident enough to risk it.  Before heading to town one day, I cut up a banana along with our pawpaws and blueberries, for a snack for J & I.  While stopping to return a few things at the hardware store, I checked the marked down plants, and brought home 4 red thyme plants for .25 each.  We planted them in the bed next to the porch, hoping they'll be happy enough to crawl over the rocks, and mingle with the creeping jenny.  Another day, we planted lettuce and broccoli seeds, and replanted chard.  For some reason, I'm having a hard time growing chard this year.  The spring lettuce that had bolted was given to the chickens, with a few plants left for seed.  When planting the lettuce, I noticed both packets were a few years old.  Reading something reminded me that oak leaf lettuce does well in both the heat and the cool, so I ordered both a red and a green variety of it.  I used hay a neighbor gave us to mulch mullein and other plants in a bed near the pond.


Like the pickles, we still have lots of canned summer squash on the shelves, so I am not planning on canning any this year.  I've tried it frozen and dehydrated, and am not fond of either, so we'll eat what we can fresh, and share it with the critters and anyone who wants some.  We shared some with one of J's customers one day, and his business partner and some friends other days.  Our friends gifted J a couple of pieces of their pottery, saying J didn't charge them enough for work he did.  A new batch of throat spray was made, using colloidal silver and essential oils.  For a dinner, I made a dish using summer squash and kalamata olives, one using collards we froze last fall, and cut up cucumbers and tomatoes.  Though the collards look beautiful, like the day they were frozen (we just put a pile of whole leaves with stems in a paper grocery bag, fold it up and tape it), they are getting rather tough.  We've planted some in the fall garden, so with any luck, will be eating them fresh by late September.


After delivering soap to a B&B, I went by two thrift stores.  I bought a shirt at one for $3, and at the other, resisted a gorgeous handmade pottery bowl that would have been a lovely dog dish, but much too expensive at $18.50.  Both stores had been totally rearranged since the last time I was in, and there didn't seem to be near as many good bargains.  I stopped by a market and bought 6/$1 ears of local corn.  It's the second time I've been to this fairly new market, and the owner has encouraged me to try my soaps there.  I'm not sure I want to add another consignment spot, but she may be interested in buying them outright, so I'm considering it.  I received a lovely note in the mail, along with some food gifts from friends I recently helped.  A few days ago, I read of a group that does gleaning of farms in this state, and I signed up to be a volunteer.   I used to do more volunteering when I lived in the city.  It's a bit more difficult living so far from anything now.  I love the idea of the gleaning group, which helps feed the hungry.  Having some knowledge of harvesting produce makes it seem like a good fit.  Being I live in a rural area, I'm hopeful some opportunities will arise that are not too far away.

some of the harvest
I purchased what I hope is the last few things for our bathroom redo, and paid for a portion of it with a gift card.  I got all the potatoes put away and crunched the numbers, and it appears we harvested over 50# of potatoes!  And we still have a small patch left to harvest.  That's much better than we thought.  I got an email invite to Pinecone Research, but like last time, when I put in my info, it said my demographics weren't needed.  It was worth a try.  I received a dollar in the mail from Nielsen, which made me laugh, as we're not television watchers.  They called some years back, and I had to tell them we did not watch TV, but they did have me fill out a diary with the few movies we watched. This time, they followed up with a phone survey, and will be sending "enough for a cup of coffee" as a thank you.  M treated J & I to dinner, as thanks for taking him to the restaurant.  Occasionally, when the local farmers bring their equipment here for J to fix, there are visitors that come along, such as the time there was a bird's nest.  Not long ago, he found a chipmunk in some equipment, which promptly ran under a tarp in front of the shop.  We've been seeing it around the bird feeders, but it moves so quick, it's been tough to get a good photo.  This one's the best I've been able to do.  There were several that lived here before the cats showed up years back.  Now that we're down to one cat, maybe it will have a chance to prosper.  I love to see them, and hope so. 

the elusive chipmunk
On a walk one morning, the sole of one of my muck boots separated from the rest.  I kept walking, picked it up on the way back, and repaired it when I got home. It's a good thing it was fixable, because the next day, I planned to clean the chicken coop, and you definitely want muck boots to do that.  When I cleaned the coop, I brought in a large, interesting limb that had fallen in their yard for extra roosting space.  J plans to add some roosts, but until then, I'm hoping this will help.  I spent some time going through things, and putting things away.  It always feels better when I take the time to do that. J harvested most of the winter squash.  Between all the rain and squash borers, vines were dying and some were starting to rot, so it seemed the time.  We weighed them as we brought them in, and ended up with over 100# of winter squash, with the largest cushaw weighing close to 14 lbs!   The two largest cheese wheel pumpkins had begun to rot, so they were cut up and boiled.  We used 2 1/2 cups of it to make ice cream.  Years ago, I had saved this recipe (scroll to bottom), and thought it was the perfect time to try it out.  It calls for a different winter squash, but I interchange them in other recipes, so why not this one?  I had to make up some pumpkin spice, but that was quick and easy.  J's grilling our potatoes with herbs, okra and summer squash for dinner.  I'm thinking it's a perfect summer homestead dinner. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

It's All About the Garden & Frugal Accomplishments


Hello, friends.  Last week, I prepared cucumbers and squash every chance I could.  For one dinner, I made a squash/tomato/corn dish with leftover beans & rice, and asian cucumbers.  I took the same cucumber and squash dishes to a gathering later in the week.  I requested a book from the library.  Eggs were boiled for the pups.  As my cold was still hanging on, I continued to eat a good amount of garlic in eggs and hummus.  One of the things in the fridge I cleaned out for friends was a bottle of Kick*ss Immune Support, so I've also been taking that as well.  While catching up on ironing, just 6 pieces, I found two pieces that needed small areas of mending, so I guess next up is mending.  A bag of pumpkin was defrosted, and used in brownies.


From the garden, I'm gathering cucumbers, tromboncino squash, and okra.  My husband went to pick up an order I had placed online from the hardware store, but they had no record of it.  They apparently had a glitch on their website, and I received an email saying they'll be sending me a $5 gift card for the inconvenience.  Thankfully, the order was for one item, unlike recent others for multiple items, so it was easy enough for him to just go get the item.  The $5 will more than make up for the 2% I was to get back from ebates.  We're opening windows on cool nights, and closing them as the day heats up.  This year, I started tomato seeds from a homestead friend, which I believe are called Blue Berries.  Their shoulders start out blue.  I'm curious to find out what they taste like.


While in town for work, I stopped at the salvage store, and found a few good deals... organic chickpeas .50/can, organic juices $1, black olives .50, natural almonds .50/6 oz.  I stopped by the bank and picked up the $100 gift card I won.  Tractor Supply sent a 10% off coupon, so I used that when buying chicken feed, dog treats, and a bag of dogfood that was on clearance.  I made a salad with the last of our lettuce to go along with leftover spaghetti for dinner.  The pups got chopped cucumber each night, and I've been cutting up small apples and pears with brown spots for them.  Not much fruit once I cut away the bad spots, but at least they're getting a few pieces in with their cucumber and kibble.  The chickens are getting cucumbers every day too, as long as we have more than we can use.  This time of year, it's all about the garden... harvesting, weeding, watering, thinning, cooking and preserving... repeat....


I finally got around to roasting the peanuts we grew a couple of summers ago, and recently shelled.  There was only about a cup of nuts, but it made lovely peanut butter, which I enjoyed on crackers.  I weeded and thinned the carrot bed some more.   Weeds went to the chickens and I added the thinned carrots to the broth bag.  There are now 4 gallon bags of vegi scraps, so it soon will be time to make broth.  Though the cucumbers are slowing down, there are still plenty, so I canned a second batch of sweet pickle relish, which used up a bag of red pepper slices I froze last summer.  Elderberries were harvested and cleaned, which filled the remainder of the 1/2 gallon jar of tincture I started last week.  Another day, I picked more and began a second jar.  Removing elderberries from the stems is a rather time consuming chore.  Sitting on the porch with the pups, which reduces the berry stains in the house at the same time, and watching the birds at the feeders helps pass the time.   Elderberry leaves and stems have cyanide-inducing glycosides in them, so you want to remove as much as possible.  The berries do as well, but cooking them makes them safe to use, which I do once I strain it and add honey.  If you're interested in elderberry, I suggest you look into some of the online research.  The first few (purple) green beans were gathered, as well as lima beans.

At week's start, there were 8 peaches remaining, none of them close to ripe.  By Wednesday, all that was left were pits on the ground.  So, out of dozens, we will not have one peach this year.  I'm a good sharer, and believe myself to be compassionate, but this definitely crosses the line.  Now we've begun seeing the squirrels move on to eating our plums.  Besides all the acorns and hickory nuts in the forest, there are lots of sunflower seeds below the feeders they can easily eat.  An occasional piece of fruit is fine too, just not every.single.fruit on several trees.  Grrrr.  We cleaned up the gardens so much, there was not much lamb's quarter this year to harvest.  I'd been gathering it little by little.  Thank goodness it keeps very well in the crisper.  I finally had enough to blanche and freeze 2 cups, which will be enough for one recipe.  Our plan is to dedicate an area for lamb's quarter; just have to decide where that is.  I had bought mushrooms that were marked down on Tuesday.  They looked great, but I knew I needed to use them quick.  J asked for mushroom gravy, which I'd never made.   I'm so glad he asked.  We really enjoyed it over jasmine rice, with cucumbers, our first yellow tomatoes & olives on the side.  The only changes I made was subbing butter for the margarine, and I had no marjoram.  Yum!  We enjoyed the leftovers with our first caprese salad of the year.


Our new shower was ready to use on Thursday.  After taking an outdoor shower earlier in the day to wash my hair, I took another in the shower that night before bed.  Both were lovely.  I'll try to take a photo to share next week.  I gathered marigolds and dyer's coreopsis for future dye pots.  On Friday, three loads of laundry were done with homemade soap, and hung on the line.  I'm glad I got them in before supper, as we had an unexpected rain shower.  That worked out great, because just a little earlier, J worked up a spot, and we planted two varieties of kale.  Now the seeds are watered in nicely.  Eggplant doesn't last very well once it's picked.  So, when I picked 2 on Saturday, adding to the 2 already in the crisper, I decided to make Pasta Norma.  That was only half of the eggplant needed, so I used some in the freezer from last year for the remainder; perfect, as it was already cubed up.  Yogurt and hummingbird food were made, and the usual washing of plastic bags for reuse, adding fruit & vegi scraps to the compost or vegi broth bag, and shredding paper.  The birds are enjoying the blueberries, and the harvest is dwindling.  I may get one more picking, then leave the rest for the birds.  The concord grapes are starting to ripen now, so they'll be up next.  I see grape jelly in my future.  Have a wonderful week, friends!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Summer of Squash & Frugal Accomplishments


While watering the pond garden, J noticed a different reptile, this broad-headed skink.  Apparently they spend most of their time in the treetops, and the males have orange red heads which fade after mating season.  A dinner was made from our fruit, herbs and vegetables... fried apples, stir fried broccoli, and potato salad.  I was thinking, sometimes cooking during the summer feels like damage control, using up what most needs using while you can.  Cucumbers, tromboncino squash and eggs were given to friends during the week.  A batch of blueberry lime jam was made, some of which I plan to use as gifts.  It was made using lemon seed pectin, and appears to have set up nicely, so I'll be trying that again.  Sometimes I just stand a watch the variety of pollinators on the mountain mint (above).  The second dye experiment, this time with trumpet vine (below) instead of virginia creeper, yielded no more color, which is to say very little.  I'm going to research to remind myself how many marigolds it takes to use as dye, and if I have enough, will try that next.  If you've been following here a very long time, you may remember the first marigold experiment


I made some bathroom redo purchases at Lowes during a 10% off sale, using my cc (5%), and got another 4% through ebates, for 19% savings.  Plus, I qualified for a free Google home mini with my purchase, which will be shipped to me.  I didn't know what it was, but my understanding is it is similar to an Echo, which a friend gifted me last Christmas and I still don't have up and running.  I need to remedy that.  I'll likely save the mini for a gift.  J took a sledge hammer to the tub on Tuesday, so outdoor showers are the only option for a while.  The only challenge I see is if it's raining.  Right now, I'm enjoying taking a shower with bird song and moon light.  I received a phone call from my bank, telling me that during their transition week when they changed hands in April, I won a $100 gift card from the giveaways!  I did make sure I entered daily that week.  What a lovely surprise!


I tried a new recipe for summer squash, zucchini rice gratin, and a new cucumber recipe with dill and lemon.  We both liked the zucchini dish, though it messed up a huge amount of things to be washed, and took quite a while to make.  J liked the cucumber dish, but I didn't love it.  My sister took vacation time this week, and we met for breakfast one morning, then visited two thrift stores.  I made 4 purchases, but my favorite find was a vintage set of dishes I plan to use in the fall.  Everything was half price, so 8 pieces were $5.  Several pieces have interesting cracks that don't go all the way through and one is chipped.  They look quite old, though there is no makers mark.  I think they'll go nicely with the other vintage brown dishes I bought not long ago, and plan to use them for our hayride dinner in the fall.  I gifted my sister cucumbers, tromboncino squash, and blueberries.  This tanager's colors seem a cross between a male and female, but I expect it's a juvenile.


I received a refund on the incorrect card reader I purchased.  For a dinner, I cooked a mix of our frozen lima beans and butter peas, frozen okra, and gifted brown rice.  It removed four bags from the freezer, making more room for this year's harvest.  There was one gifted zucchini remaining, which I didn't want to waste.  Now that our summer squash is coming in, and the gifted one was a baseball bat of a squash, I decided to cut it up and add it to the broth bag.  No waste, and we can enjoy our lovely, tender squash without guilt.  Several things were decluttered, and added to the give away box.  I ended up with only one parsley plant producing anything, and another that just isn't growing, so I picked one up while getting home supplies, which had 4 plants in one cell.  I watered it when we got home, promptly forgot about it a couple of days, and got the 4 plants in the ground on Friday.


Making a quick visit to see a friend before running some errands, I arrived just in time to see a swallowtail butterfly she'd been assisting since caterpillar stage fly to some lantana to finish drying it's wings, then fly off to a hopefully long and happy life.  I also learned about spicebush caterpillars, and have been keeping my eyes open for them.  I'd been a little under the weather, and trying to figure out what to have for lunch, decided to make hummus with lots of garlic and lemon, both good for what ails you.  I cut up carrots, celery and our ever present cucumbers to enjoy it with, which I did.  For dinner, I used our squash, herbs & cherry tomatoes (frozen last year) to make my Mom's zucchini soup.  I added a good amount of garlic and onions in it, upping the medicinal value.


I brought the first basket full of potatoes in to store in the basement, but then realized I needed to clean the area, as some squash had molded there and left some residue last winter.  I ended up sweeping the entire basement, and wiping down the area where the potatoes are going with water and a few drops of tea tree oil.  A bit longer task than I intended, but it looks and smells great now.  After a very dry past several weeks, we received a couple inches of rain Saturday night.  On Sunday, I gathered over 8# of tromboncino squash, and more than 26# of spaghetti squash.  If I'd known there were that many spaghetti squash, I'd have brought the wheelbarrow instead of my largest basket.  I'm going to have to find some new recipes for them, as there's only one I use now.  We're not fond of the usual faux spaghetti dish, but I'm sure I can find other ways we'll think they're yummy. 

tromboncino squash
Still on a garlic binge, trying to knock out my cold, I made us a dish my grandmother, Mama Rosie, called Popeye cream eggs for breakfast.  It's scrambled eggs with fresh garlic and tomato.  I used our first tiny ripe tomato, along with store bought, and eggs from our girls.  J requested it, and I was happy to oblige.  He's been working very hard on the bathroom redo.  Adding the garlic to the herbs I'd been taking seems to be working, as I'm feeling almost back to normal today.  I was happy to see four nice sized cheese wheel pumpkins, several butternut squash, some humongous cushaw squash, and some pretty large Hopi Grey squash after gathering the spaghetti squash.  We plant things in that garden that don't need constant attention, so I don't visit there as often.  Looks like I'm going to have to get creative with winter squash ideas too.  Our fall seeds are beginning to germinate.  The only seeds we should have left to plant are kale and lettuce. 


The way things are shaping up with the bathroom project, it looks like we'll have an indoor shower again in a few days.  Here are a couple of views from the shower.  The only window that you can see from the shower is in our bedroom, and it has a large stained glass window sitting in it, so it feels quite safe.  I love the enameled soap dish I found for the shower.  I was looking for something that would hold up well outdoors.  I considered pottery, but living in the woods, limbs fall on a regular basis, so this seemed a better choice.  I thought the color seemed perfect for a shower in the woods.  Well, that's the latest on the homestead.  Many wishes for a lovely week.


Monday, July 16, 2018

What We're Eating, What We're Not & Frugal Accomplishments



Hello friends.  Knowing the week ahead would be busy, I harvested and prepped lettuce for salads for the week.  After not harvesting blueberries a couple of days, I picked 1 1/4 lbs, though I could see the birds and critters had been enjoying them too.  I canned a few small jars of jam with them, and dried the skins that were removed for bird suet.  After having a working weekend, and knowing what the week ahead looked like,on Monday afternoon, I decided to spend a little time on natural dyeing.  For the first time, I used a mordant (alum) on the materials prior to dyeing, and gathered and simmered a dye pot of virginia creeper.  I've read it gives a peach or salmon dye.  I'm going to try cutting and boiling a larger batch, as the first gave almost no color.  I did put fabrics in the dye pot, wondering if the mordant would help, but not surprisingly, they all just look sort of dingy.   If I do get a good result, I'll be sure to share.  I added warm up water to the washer, used homemade laundry soap, and hung it on the line.  I wrote swagbucks customer support regarding a purchase that was not credited, and received the credit, several weeks earlier than I would have (you usually see it "pending" for a few weeks).  It was only for $2 and change, but it all adds up.  J returned a can of paint that wasn't needed.


After working in town, I stopped by the library and picked up a book.  The squirrels have been a real challenge here lately.  Three times during the week, I found one in the bird feeder attached to the kitchen window!  I was hoping with changing to the Squirrel Buster feeders, they'd pretty much stay in the woods, eating the masses of acorns and hickory nuts there.  But, it didn't happen.  They've been eating our immature apples and pears.  On Wednesday, I noticed our fullest peach tree was down by half.  On Thursday, while I was at work, J saw a squirrel eating a peach, and every single peach was off that tree (several dozen).  At that point, he took matters into his own hands, and I can't say I blame him.  I was really looking forward to those peaches.  There are a dozen or so left on another tree, that we'll get if we're lucky.  There are still plenty of squirrels, so I don't know.  The Japanese beetles have been munching our apples and pears.  At least half our apples are decimated.  They got our first and only nectarine too.  But hey, there are some good things.  We're still getting plenty of cucumbers, a few summer squash, and we got two beautiful eggplant this week.  Our first tomato is starting to color up.  We've picked the first 5 okra.  I'm trying to keep looking on the bright side.


I brought lunch, my water bottle and snacks for each of the days I worked shop sitting.  Though there are customers that come and go, there are always several hours that I have free. I brought the guy's bookkeeping and some of my tax stuff to work on, soaps to wrap, and went through a good amount of my ever full inbox.  I also brought several things to read.  I packed up the drain we bought in the wrong size to return.  As I hadn't been able to pick blueberries the days I worked, I did that Sunday morning, and gathered over 2 lbs.  I also picked several small apples that were ripe, though some had spots from the Japanese beetles.  I've been trying to remember to eat some blueberries every day.  On Sunday, J harvested the rest of our potatoes, cultivated, then planted seeds of cabbage, broccoli, collards, winter salad blend, rutabagas, chard and turnips.  The potato harvest was more than we expected, which was nice.  Once they're ready to store, I'll try to remember to weigh them.  Things are really dry here again, so J's been watering some every day.


On Friday evening, J integrated the chicks into the rest of the flock.  All seems to be going well on that front.  Our sick rooster is perking up some and is more interested in food, so we believe he's starting to heal.  We're happy about that.  We enjoyed cantaloupe, and brought the rinds out for the chickens, which were mightily enjoyed.  Of course, they're getting cucumbers every day too.  It's a rule that everybody on the homestead has to eat some cucumber every day :o).  Well, I look forward to catching up some around the homestead this week, and also to spending a little time with my sister later in the week.  Hope your week is a good one, friends!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Crunchy From Way Back & Frugal Accomplishments


Hello, friends.  Last week, I spray painted the two lamp shades with frosted paint.  J hung them, and I again have working shades in my studio.  J created a new item for our online shop. I took photos and created the listing.  My ebay items didn't sell, so I dropped the price and relisted them.  Laundry was done with homemade soap, and hung on the line.  I met my initial swagbucks goal several days, and made a purchase through them for our bathroom redo, earning 4% back.  The item was marked half price, for damage to the package and possible scratches, but the item arrived in perfect condition.  I'm happy about that.  A library book was renewed online the day it was due, saving fees.  Walks with the pups were taken twice a day, getting exercise, relaxation, and keeping my weight close to where I'd like it to be.  A summer tanager sang to us from a tree one day. 



On the Fourth, we dug all the potatoes whose tops had died back.  J was disappointed with the harvest, but I was pretty happy.  I'll weigh it, but it looks like there are at least 20#, which is what we planted.  There's about 1/3 of the patch left to harvest, plus another patch planted from the tiniest of the potatoes we grew last year.  We'll harvest them before long, as the fire ants will enjoy the most of them if we don't.  Less than ideal, but at least we've got some homegrown potatoes to enjoy, even if we won't have any for winter storage.  J grilled, and I prepped some of the potatoes with our herbs.  He and M enjoyed baby back ribs that had been marked down from $19 to $4 and change for the 4th.  Our lettuce and cucumbers went into a salad, and store bought corn on the grill was enjoyed as well.  I considered making one of the flag desserts I saw during the week, as we had homegrown blueberries, as well as strawberries, cherries and watermelon.  I picked up a bag of vegan marshmallows on markdown at the local natural food store too, but in the end, we were all too stuffed.  Here's a pic of the outdoor shower.  That's one of our cisterns in the background. 


When J was going to town, I asked him to stop by Tractor Supply for animal food, and gave him a 10% off coupon to use that came in the mail. Now we're stocked up with dog, cat, chicken and bird food.  I sold a dozen eggs to a friend, and sent some cucumbers with her.  I also gave the mail carrier and a neighbor cucumbers.  The dogs, chickens and we are eating them every day, in some form.  Another day, we gave our hair dresser and J's business partner cucumbers.  I realized though I have plenty of dill pickles and dill relish on the shelf, I could use some sweet pickle relish.  This can be used in Thousand Island dressing, which has been my favorite for years.  In fact, in the afternoons when I got home in high school, my favorite snack for some time was a salad with fresh made Thousand Island.  I wasn't a vegetarian at that point, but apparently I had some crunchy leanings, to prefer a salad as an after school snack :o).  This week, I made up a batch of the relish, and for a brief window of time, had one cucumber remaining in the crisper, until that days pickings, which added another 21.  They're certainly bountiful!


On another day, I made potato salad with more of the potatoes that got cut during harvest, which also used our parsley.  On Friday, J & I went to hear live music, and took a neighbor along.  There was nothing frugal about it, but I consider music one of life's pleasures, and worth the cost.   Here's one of my favorites of his songs, which does have a frugal theme, though sadly he did not sing it that night.  On Saturday, I tried a new soup recipe, which included a gifted large zucchini, our first tromboncino, our basil, potatoes,  parsley and a jar of homemade broth.  The soup is called Burden soup, related to the burden you feel to use up large zucchinis.  I'll be making it again.  I made a salad using our lettuce and cucumber, plus store bought items to go along, and cut up and sweetened strawberries that needed to be eaten for dessert.  The coming week looks to be a busy one, with 4 days of working away from home.  I was glad to get through a pile of magazines.  Some will be going to the free basket at the library, and a couple were saved for a friend.  I also whittled down a pile of papers at the computer.  The pile is not gone, but it's smaller.   Sadly, one of our roosters suddenly became unwell.  We've isolated him, and been giving him all the natural remedies we have, hoping he'll come around.  The cooler temps on Saturday allowed us to turn off the a/c and open windows.  It's been too long, and the fresh air is delightful.


With the cooler temps, we were able to enjoy a pond sit one evening, and observed a bird catching insects at the pond.  It hovered at times, and we believe it to be a flycatcher.  Some dear friends have retired and are moving to Hawaii.  The wife is already there, and on Sunday I helped the husband by cleaning what was left in the kitchen and pantry. As he's leaving in two days, he told me to clean everything out of the fridge and cabinets.  I brought home a car full, including 2 lbs of butter, maple syrup, frozen meat and seafood, oils and balsamic vinegar and lots more, most of it organic.  He offered me their toaster, TV and DVD player.  I left the microwave, but our toaster, TV and DVD player are all having challenges, so they were most welcome.  There are also some lovely pottery bowls and mugs, and assorted kitchen items that came home with me.  I boxed up the rest, and he'll take it to a place at the local dump called the swap shop, where it will be free for the taking.  Someone will be happy to get that microwave.  When I arrived there, I heard a sound I couldn't quite identify, and began looking for a large bird in the trees.  It turns out they have two juvenile male turkeys they feed.  They were quite amusing.  Before I left, I noticed columbine and rose campion with lots of dried seed heads.  I gathered some of each, and hope they'll do well, bringing sweet memories of friends.


I sent a dozen eggs home with our neighbor.  Each time he grinds mixed grains for his cows, he offers us some for the chickens. J helps him often, to keep all his equipment running.  One day last week he dropped everything to go meet the neighbor in a field, then came home and quickly fabricated a piece to get him up and running again.  It's nice to be in a community where neighbors look out for each other.  It's been a long day.  I expect I'm forgetting things, but that'll do for now.  I hope your week brings you all manner of seasonal pleasures. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Crepes for Dinner & Breakfast and Frugal Accomplishments



Hello, friends.  Well, I was wrong again, about there being woolly aphids on the roses and raspberries.  It's actually flatid planthoppers, and this time I'm sure of it.   I suppose that's why the insecticidal soap doesn't seem to be doing much.  I've noticed them before, but apparently never ID'd them correctly.  I'm glad the third time's a charm.  Though the article says they don't cause much damage, it does seem as though they're harming the plants, with the branches beyond them drying up, even the wild ones I see on my walks. That doesn't seem negligible to me.  After several weeks of no rain, we had a lovely overnight rain, and everything perked up.  Since then, it's turned hot and dry again. 


I made a Lowe's purchase for our online business with my cc, for 5% off, and will pay it off immediately.  I found a marked down Heritage raspberry for $8 while there, and purchased it.  All the others were marked $15 (1/2 price), but this was the nicest of the bunch, so I'm pretty happy.  With the above mentioned planthoppers, I've barely gotten any raspberries so far.  J & I planted this one in another location, shortly before a rain.  I spent an hour one morning harvesting all the blueberries and blackberries I could find, which netted me about 1/2 cup.  It's a good thing I enjoy this lifestyle, and also that there are grocery stores, and we're not having to live off of what we can harvest!  It is the beginning of the season here, so I'm hopeful for a better harvest.  On the other hand, I can and do collect dozens of Japanese beetles in an hour.  Oh, the life of a gardener.


I listed several items on ebay.  Our three surviving olives were mulched, and beets were weeded.  The stencils arrived, so I etched both of the light shades, only to realize the etching is not enough of a barrier for the bulbs, as it still is quite glaring.  I chose tree stencils, being the lights have metal that looks like branches as supports.  My next plan is to purchase frosted glass spray paint to cover the insides of the shades.  J doesn't think it will wash off like the original paint did.  Fingers crossed.  One night, he requested a pasta salad, which included one of our cucumbers, recanned olives, and our basil and oregano.  I took advantage of a 40% off sale, and bought 5 gifts for 3 people.  I suppose that means I've begun my Christmas shopping.  On Friday, I harvested lettuce, cucumbers, blackberries and blueberries.  I weeded the carrot bed, filled a bucket of weeds for the chickens, and gathered lambs quarter for us.  Cucumbers are a good cool treat for the chickens when the days get hot.  I cut them in half, and place them in their yard.  J suggested I try freezing them, which I did after halving them.  They seem to enjoy pecking at them and getting the cold bits.  I'd intended to harvest all my lavender before the beach trip, but only got around to one plant.  Though the other two's flowers were a bit past their prime when I harvested them, they still smell lovely.


After removing the lambs quarter leaves from the stems, I added the stems to the broth bag.  It hadn't occurred to me until recently to do this.  I gathered some thyme to dry for winter use.  Salad were made with our lettuce and cucumbers.  Eggplant parmesan was made with eggplant slices I froze last year.  That's the first time I tried freezing slices, and I must say we thought it was delicious, so I'll be doing it again, provided there's freezer room.  There were two cool nights, when we were able to open windows.  I've mentioned that we built an outdoor shower, as we won't have one when we get to that stage of the bathroom redo.  I tried it out this week, and loved it.  The first time, it was at night, almost dark.  I'd hung solar twinkly lights around it, which we already had.  Looking up into the trees, and seeing lightning bugs flicker nearby was pretty magical.  The next time was during the day.  Looking up through the trees to see the blue sky with puffy white clouds, and hearing the birdsong was also pretty special.


I've used the toaster oven to bake a couple of times this week, to cut down on heat in the house.  There have been a couple of frugal fails.  I had one last large pumpkin in storage that was gifted to us.  As the gardener who gave it isn't organic, I was saving it for a hot day for the chickens,like right about now.  Well, I waited too long, so into the compost it went.  The Olympus camera I've used the entire time I've had my online soap shop (10+ years) was a used one gifted to me by M.  It still works great, but it's not supported by Windows 10, so I've been having all sorts of wonky things happening, lately closing the page when I try to download pics.  After some research, I contacted the company, who told me one fix is to use a photo card reader.  Heeding the tech guru of the house, I purchased a reader, which turns out to be the wrong one.  I tried cancelling my order, but couldn't in time.  I've purchased the correct one, which should be here 4 days before the wrong one, so there's that at least.  I have at least 30 photos on the camera to download, including some of the outdoor shower, but we'll have to make do with some other recent photos. 


We haven't quite gotten back into our milk buying groove since the beach, and we're running low.  I made up some powdered milk to mix with liquid milk to make yogurt.  Last week, I saw mention of Brandy's mushroom & cheese crepes.  Having some baby bella mushrooms that I needed to finish using up, I decided to make crepes for dinner on Saturday.  I mixed up powdered milk for the crepes, used our eggs, and gathered oregano, parsley and thyme to add to the mushrooms and cheese.  They were good, though the crepes were a bit thick.  I left out the remaining batter Saturday night, after researching that is often how the French do it.  We had a small amount of ricotta and some sour cream that needed using.  I added vanilla and a small amount of honey to each, spread that on the crepes, then added our blueberries and blackberries for Sunday breakfast.  J liked the ricotta ones best, and I thought they were both good.  I added some milk to the batter, and the crepes were much thinner, and just right.  I can see how it would be a great way to use up leftovers.  You could even add different bits of leftovers to each one, if you just had small amounts.  I think I may add crepes to our repertoire. 


My pantry always has various concoctions "working" in jars.  I strained two jars of vanilla.  One was good as is, and I added three vanilla beans to the other jar and put it back on the shelf.  I also strained two jars of citrus cleaning vinegar, and a small batch of yellow dock and dandelion root tincture to add to the medicine cabinet.  It has been very hot and humid, and I am feeling very thankful for a/c each time I come back in from my outdoor ventures.  Sending many good wishes for a lovely week and 4th of July holiday!