Monday, June 27, 2016

June Doings & Frugal Accomplishments

ironweed
Sadly we lost our ailing rooster this week.  The rest of the flock, including the 3 new chicks look healthy, thank goodness.  Last week, I harvested parsley & basil.  On a day when I wasn't feeling well, I watched a documentary and a couple of episodes of Call the Midwife on youtube, while working on my quilt.  I used homemade bread crumbs in a pasta dish.  Hand picked japanese beetles daily  & fed them & greens to the chickens.  Made a sweet potato pie from our potatoes.  It did seem a little odd to be making one this time of year, but we enjoyed it just as much.  I found a tomato volunteer, which J transplanted in the garden.  I collected eggs from the hens and used cloth napkins with meals.  I'm joining in with The Prudent Homemaker's Frugal Accomplishments today.

soapwort
To keep the house cooler on hot days, I closed the blinds and door on the south side of the house.  After trying the new Harris Teeter a second time (the first time they charged full price for sale items I had bought), I was once again less than impressed.  The cashier forgot to ring up my $10 off $50 coupon, so I had to go to customer service.  That wasn't too bad, but when I got home, I realized the almond milk I had bought had a use by date of Nov. of  '15, and this store wasn't even open in November of  '15!  After letting them know of my displeasure, I was given a $10 credit on my VIC card, which will go towards my next purchase.  When I received a survey from the company I buy supplements from, I let them know that I much preferred the shipping they used prior to the past several months, which got orders here typically in 2 days vs 6 or so.  Because of that, they have upgraded my account to always use Fedex shipping for my orders, instead of being turned over to USPS Smartpost.  I guess sometimes it pays to complain :o).


I found this yellow flowering plant down near the creek, which I've not seen before.  If you know what it is, I'd love to know.  I believe it may be some type of hypericum, but I haven't found anything like it yet online.  The leaves are smooth ovals, & do not show spots when held up the the sun, as I had been taught, so I'm not sure.  I've been hanging on to a free Tofutti coupon for a long time.  We were headed to a family gathering, with a Whole Foods a block away, so we used it when buying groceries there.  I've begun gathering the first ripe blueberries, along with wild blackberries, & rare raspberries & mulberries.  I used our garlic when making hummus.  We've had some very hot days (mid 90's), so I gave the chickens some frozen corn "muffins" to cool & amuse them, and froze another batch.  I made an herb tea using red clover, nettles, spearmint & red raspberry leaf harvested here, & planted 3 varieties of beans in the patches where the previous beans didn't come up.  Our garden spigot had a significant leak, which J felt was finally beyond repair,& he and I replaced it.  In between helping with that job, I weeded around a fig bush, cut away a mulberry seedling & some milkweed that were keeping sun from it & pulled up horse nettle & wild blackberry that had come up around it.  I'm hoping that will mean more figs in the future.  We have 5 fig trees, but a total of only 3 figs so far this year.  Three of the fig trees have become fairly shaded by various other plants, which doesn't help.

loving the various colors in this bachelor button mix
Laundry was hung on the line, after washing it with homemade laundry soap & soap gel.  I trimmed the dogs nails at home.  Guinness is a sweetie, & lets me trim all of his.  After much cajoling, McNibs let me trim his 4 longest nails, which I consider an accomplishment.  Though he is very food oriented, even treats don't help in this instance if he doesn't want to do it.  I gave both dogs a bath using my Sirius dog soap, which includes a number of essential oils for fleas and ticks.  There was a huge auction nearby over the weekend.  It was so large they had two auctioneers working in different parts of the estate.  J & I looked around, but ended up leaving in an hour without bidding on anything.


I did a clean out of the crispers in my fridge, which seriously needed some love and attention.  Some broccoli was steamed, a mix of spinach and lambs quarters was steamed & frozen for future meals;  zucchini, peppers and leeks were grilled, an elderly beet and apple were turned into apple beet salad, & I'm embarrassed to say some cranberries which were soft but not moldy were given to the chickens, who enjoyed them immensely.  I fully intended to freeze them at some point, but didn't.  The one thing wasted was a small bag of  arugula I had harvested some time back, & it went into the compost crock.  I sprayed a liquid fertilizer on the wine grapes, & also picked off japanese beetles while I was attending to them.  A late frost damaged a lot of our fruit, so I don't think we'll be making wine this year, but there's always next year to look forward to for our first batch.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Happy Summer Solstice & Frugal Accomplishments


Last week, at the discount grocery, they had all food for 1/2 off their usual price.  I was concerned they were phasing out food, but was told they just wanted to move out all that was there to make room for newer items.  Phew!  There were also sunglasses for $1/pair.  I'm a bit rough on them, as they generally live in my car, so I got 2 pairs.  I also found a Himalayan salt lamp for $9.50 (list price is 34.99).  The salt lamps emit negative ions, which is said to have several health benefits.   The lamp will be a nice nightlight in the new room, and could also be used if I were to do massage work in the room.  At the grocery store, I found organic vegetarian beans and black beans in the markdown area for .80 ea.


My stepmom came to help me begin finishing up all the loose threads on my quilt.  The next day, we took a road trip to J's old house, and I worked on the quilt while going down the road.  I picked basil, kale, lambs quarter & chard from the garden, & prepared meals with all but the lambs quarter.  Once or twice a day, I've collected japanese beetles, and given them to the chickens. After someone suggested putting a lure in the chicken pen, bringing the beetles directly to them without the need to gather the beetles, I ordered some, and placed it in the chicken pen.  After 2 days, I've not seen any near the lure, & have continued to pick many off the plants... bummer.  Squash bugs are also causing challenges in the garden.  J read about using sticky traps by the squash plants, so he placed those around both summer and winter squash.


Out of 6 eggs mama hen had been sitting on, we ended up with 3 new chicks.  A 4th chick hatched, but had health issues and didn't make it through the first night.  Mama hen left the nest with the 6th egg still on it, & we never figured out what happened to the 5th egg, which we did find broken, but no chick.  Perhaps it was an unfertilized egg.  We're happy to have the 3 new chicks, and the two that are a bit older, to add some young birds to the flock.  Of course, we're hoping most if not all are hens rather than roos, but time will tell.  Our second rooster is still doing poorly, despite getting special foods & attention daily and being separated from the rest of the flock so he's not picked on.


I bought a bag of red onions at Aldi's, & dehydrated them.  I don't use them often, and this works well when a recipe calls for them.  I will say it was a fragrant and eye-burning event for a couple of days! Did the usual composting, washing plastic bags for reuse, doing laundry with homemade soap & hanging it on the line, making kefir, yogurt, & hummingbird food.  I planted crowder peas & more sunflower seeds, as the first ones either didn't come up or got eaten.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments.


After a night in the mid 50's, I took advantage of the cool morning air and baked sweet potatoes.  I got out to the garden early, and weeded the beet bed.  J joined me & helped me finish up that bed, then we weeded dill, onions, basil & eggplant.  He also watered using the irrigation pump from the pond.  After that, we're in pretty good shape in the garden.  It's probably too much to hope the food plants will out grow most of the weeds that come up from here, but I'll hope anyway.  There are now small tomatoes on several of the non-cherry tomatoes, and a few small peppers.  The bean beetles have been munching on the eggplant, but I think they'll do OK in spite of it.  J harvested the garlic & planted okra in its place.  I fertilized all the house plants and a number of other plants with nettle tea.  I wish you a most happy summer solstice!


Monday, June 13, 2016

No Shortage of Critters


Hello, friends!  It's turned hot here, with temps in the mid to upper 90's over the weekend.  On days like these, I do as many outdoor chores as possible early in the day, then move indoors.  The garden is growing well.  There are tiny tomatoes on two of our plants.  Our peanut experiment seems to be working very well so far, though the deer have already been munching them.  J did a lot of work in the heat, hoeing weeds and cleaning the garden perimeters with mower and tractor.  He grew up doing a lot of farm work in the heat, but it's still tough on a body.


There are no shortage of interesting critters around the homestead.  There are still lots of little toads jumping around, though instead of the hundreds I would see in a day, now there are a few dozen.  I've seen two leopard frogs the past week.  We were expecting chicks to hatch this coming Wednesday, but lo and behold, we found one that had hatched Sunday morning, & another later in the day.  Sorry for the not terribly clear photo.  It's quite dim in that area of the coop.


This weekend, I took part in a pre-Fathers Day show at a local microbrewery.  I thought it was fitting to add a few sprigs of hop vine when cutting a bouquet for the event.

hoppy bouquet
I've been doing all the usual frugal activities... composting, cooking mostly from the garden and pantry, hanging laundry on the line, making yogurt, kefir & suet.  I'm enjoying these long days of almost summer, and hope you are too.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A View From The Porch


As there have been a few questions about the new porch, I thought I would share a bit.  We sided the addition with rough sawn pine from a local sawyer, to match the rest of the house.  It's somewhat of a tradition in the South to paint porch ceilings "haint blue".  I did choose blue for the ceiling, though the shade was another name.  The porch posts still need to be sealed, likely with linseed oil.  I like vintage metal chairs, and would like to find one of the vintage metal gliders, or possibly an old church pew to add for seating.


We moved a small round table to the porch one recent night and enjoyed dinner on the porch, which was lovely.  In my first house, there was a room that was originally a porch, which I used as a meditation space.  I pulled up the ugly carpet and painted the concrete floor blue, then sponged clouds on it.  I was pleased with the results, and am thinking about doing the same with the porch ceiling at some point.   It would be a little tricky with all the divisions in this ceiling, so I'm pondering it.


Here's a view of our new walkway from the porch.  The walkway does help a great deal, but there is still a lot of mud getting tracked onto the porch, from all the other areas we regularly wander around the homestead.  It's been a very wet spring in our area.  But the new grass is coming up, and we're researching various possibilities for stepping stones to use on the other paths.  The plantings in the shade garden are still fairly small, but are coming along.  So there you have it, friends, the latest with the porch project.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Little Princes & Frugal Accomplishments



Last week, I applied rock dust to the raspberries, some strawberries & two figs.  Harvested a handful of raspberries every day, and the first few wild blackberries.  Transplanted some native plants that had ended up in the middle of a path after some earthwork.  J grilled on Memorial Day.  He cooked pork loin for himself & M, baked potatoes, corn on the cob & vegetable kabobs.  I made a marinade for portabella mushrooms for myself, and harvested mint for  homemade ice cream.  We also used our eggs and homemade vanilla in making the ice cream.  After a week, I tried the kombucha I was trying to revive.  It was still weak, but when I tried it again at 11 days, it tasted just right.  I'm happy that was a success.  I took a bag of last years zucchini out of the freezer and made bread with it.  Took 2 bags of french toast out of the freezer for J's breakfast.  Weeded a bit in the asparagus and beet beds.  While weeding around our largest fig, I found 2 fruits on the tree I hadn't known were there, and am hoping we'll have many more!  I'm joining in with the Frugal Accomplishments community.


I brought my water bottle while working in town.  While there, I dropped off my pressure canner lid at the cooperative extension office, for them to do a free gauge check.  Picked up a cardboard box to put in a garden path.  Used my own bags at the grocery store, saving .20. I stopped by a thrift store to look for 2 things.  I didn't find either, but got a hooded vest for .99. The eggplant I started from seed didn't do very well, so I bought some more while in town, & planted them with J.  Applied nettle tea fertilizer to some recent transplants.  Rooster #2 has been looking poorly, with his comb rather pale. When I noticed his tail feathers drooping, I separated him from the flock and he seems a bit better.  I've added some poultry boost supplement to his scratch, gave him some of the nutritious chick food, and he has been eating the greens I bring him.  He seems a bit off balance.  I've always felt fairly helpless in figuring out what to do when a chicken appears sick.  Most of the time, it's not easy to distinguish what their problem is, at least to me.  Though I've researched online, it's still not clear.  I may try a natural wormer product.


I cut a red, white & blue bouquet for Memorial Day.  Our Buff hen that was broody is no longer... hooray!   As I write this, mama hen has been sitting on eggs 12 days, & the two little chicks are growing and healthy.  I gathered red clover blossoms for drying, & chocolate mint.  I am trying a recipe I saw to make extract with it, so it is sitting and percolating on the pantry shelf.  I think many years ago I tried baking with it, which was unimpressive.  Otherwise, I've only added some of the fresh leaves to coffee grounds, which I enjoy.  I typically drink that as cold coffee in the warm months.  Made suet for the birds.  I've been enjoying reading library books, especially Little Princes.  J watched a couple of free movies on Amazon prime, but I didn't care for either, so read instead.


We were able to use some bricks, broken cinder blocks & rocks that were already here for a project, keeping us from having to buy anything and cleaning up too.  I finished stripping the paint off the final porch post.  J put it in place the next day.  Oh happy day!  I do have some furniture pieces I want to strip, now that I've gotten my feet wet, but I'm going to take a break first.  I fertilized all the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, squash, potatoes & onions with a new to us product.  If it works well, I'll share more about it.  I harvested nettles for drying.  Much of it has gone to flower, so I had to search for some younger plants to harvest.  Some of our winter greens from last year volunteered in the onion patch, so I harvested those while weeding for the chickens.


I made a kale salad to bring to our friends house for dinner.  I brought an order of soap there, & traded the soap plus a few dollars for a pottery bowl.  I really love using handmade items for my food and beverages, and had recently broken my favorite bowl.  J & I  replanted cucumbers, summer squash & lima beans where they didn't come up, or died.  I transplanted seedlings of dill and carrot to the garden, and transplanted Long keeper tomatoes, asters & sweet marjoram into larger pots.  Shortly before heading to Denver, I won a giveaway on Lesley's blog, and a package filled with her paper lovelies awaited me when I returned home.  Do check her site out if you have a moment.  I finished sewing my quilt binding.  All that's left is to remove all the threads.  I'm hoping to finish that this month, and will share the quilt once I do.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Late May Blooms & Frugal Accomplishments


There have been many things blooming here this week.  I'm joining in with Brandy's Frugal Accomplishments.  Last week, I spread some cardboard in the garden paths.  Moved a plant that wasn't thriving to a sunnier spot.  Planted the borage and cosmos seedlings I started 5 weeks ago.  Moved all the house plants outside to their summer location.  Prepared tomato rice loaf with our tomatoes and celery, along with our okra from the freezer.  Baked more sweet potatoes, as it looked to be the coolest day & night in the forecast, reaching only the mid 60's, which was lovely.  I worked on stripping the paint off the last porch post.  Washed laundry with homemade laundry soap & soap gel, & used homemade soap in the bathroom and kitchen.


I planted Long Keeper tomato seeds, a variety we'd recently read about and wanted to try.  Also planted calendula seeds.  Weeded a bit in the onion and dill beds.  I baked 3 more large sweet potatoes, and again made a pie with some of the leftovers.  Our Meyer lemon appears to have 3 little lemons!  I contacted my newspaper, as I did not receive the Sunday paper, as well as a Sunday paper several weeks ago.  I will get a credit for both, as well as last Sundays paper delivered.  Watered the recently planted seedlings with rainwater.  J got the ceiling of our porch primed and painted, & the fixtures hung.  He worked on sheetrock in a few areas in the room, and I helped sand a small area.  Reused a box to ship an online order.   I found this box turtle near our shed.


Did a light cleaning of the chicken coop, and pulled an armful of spearmint, which I spread in the coop.  J recently bought a paper shredder, after reading about others who use shredded paper in their nest boxes.  He's been wanting to get away from having to buy or barter for hay, so we will soon try the paper.  We've read pros and cons, and decided it was worth a try.  We've had another couple of hens go broody.  After the first had been broody a couple of days, we tried sitting her on eggs in the private nesting area. She was having none of that, however, & promptly went outside.  The second hen had been sitting 2 or 3 days, so I moved her to the private nest, & she sat right on those eggs, 6 of them. She was still there at dusk, so we're hoping there will be another round of chicks in a few weeks.  I hope so, because J seems to think the 2 current chicks are starting to look an awful lot like roosters.


A friend I hadn't seen in over 30 years came for a visit.  I cut flowers for the house, and shared sweet potatoes, kale, an aloe seedling & a bit of chard for her to try.  I prepared a quiche & kale salad for lunch, with sweet potato pie for dessert.  She helped J & I shell peanuts.  We are trying to grow Red Valencia peanuts for the first time this year. J ordered a lb. of seed, and we planted 500 hills! More than we had planned on, but they supposedly last a good long time in the shell, so if they do well, maybe it's something we can plant every few years.  We've got beans, cucumbers and squash coming up.  The hen has been doing a splendid job sitting the past several days.  I've been taking the other silly broody hen, who never has an egg under her, outdoors to the side of the chicken yard we're not using at present, so she can't get back into the nest.  Once I've made sure she's gotten some food and exercise, I let her back in with the others.  She just makes a beeline back to her empty nest, silly girl.


I pulled an onion to use in broccoli salad.  Pulled weeds for the chickens.  Went by the discount grocery, but only got 4 items.  I was sad to see some very high prices, and almost no organic products.  I hope it will get better, but it's possible that the heirs to the store have different ideas than the original owner, which would be a shame.  Harvested red clover blossoms, some mint & red raspberry leaves, & made an infusion with these & dried nettles.  This made a tasty drink.  Harvested kale, chard, spinach & arugula.  Made pasta sauce with our tomatoes and herbs. Made Brandy's Spanish rice with onions I had dehydrated & bean burritos using olives I had recanned.  J & I planted a dwarf pomegranate and several turks cap starts.  We also created cages using fence wire, & I placed them in the garden around tomatoes, peppers, basil, tomatillos and an eggplant.  I applied rock dust to the tomatoes, eggplant, blueberries, plum trees, cherry trees, rhubarb (I hope to be harvesting some next year!) & a few other assorted plants.  Wishing you a Memorial Day spent doing whatever makes you happy.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Kombucha Restart & Frugal Accomplishments


I'm joining in with The Prudent Homemaker's Frugal Accomplishments, who had a little one last week, and didn't even miss a post.  Last week, I pulled weeds for the chickens.  Made chard gratin with our fresh and frozen chard & homemade bread crumbs.  There was about 1/2 cup of leftover lambs quarter & spaghetti squash, which I added to the chard dish.  Harvested several spilanthes flowers, which I'm drying for tincture.  Planted several types of sunflowers in a new garden area that is along the road; hoping it will look cheerful to those who drive past.  Made my Swagbucks goal, and cashed in points for an Amazon gift card.  Bought a couple of items needed for my massage and soap businesses; went through ebates for 3% off & used a $20 off coupon on my order.


During my trip to CO, I read my first Kindle book, one I had bought on composting.  One of the ideas it gave was to place pulled weeds directly around fruit trees, allowing them to break down in place, rather than going through the compost bin first.  I've started trying this.  Anything that saves a step sounds good, & it will also save room in my compost bin, which is nearly full now.  I won't do this with anything that has gone to seed, as I want the weeds to enrich the soil but not proliferate.  I made soup with our canned summer squash and tomatoes, & celery and basil I had frozen.  I've been mindful to work on clearing out the freezer for the upcoming summer harvest.  I found some muffins while in the freezer, so took those out too. We'll have those for breakfast and snacks.


My experiment to use dried berry seeds & pulp left over from last years canning is one of my better successes.  I've been using it in each batch of bird suet I make, and have been pondering other ways to use it, as it won't be long before berries will be here again.  I mixed it into the chicks food, and plan on adding it to the pups food.  Such good antioxidants for everyone, and no need to waste any of it.  I reglued a pair of slippers and sneakers.  Worked on revitalizing my kombucha, which sat on the shelf ignored all winter.  It still smelled & looked good, so I thought it was worth trying.  There was lots of scoby after so many months.  Part of it was cut up & given to the chickens; the rest was chopped up and added to the compost bin.  The extra kombucha liquid was added to the chicken waterer with just a bit added to the little chicks waterer.

 soup & avocado toast while minding the shop
I baked golden scallop squash from the freezer, made The Prudent Homemaker's black bean burgers using our eggs & homemade bread crumbs, & roasted our canned green beans and thyme.  I often finish at Hospice too late to make it to the farmer's market, but lucked out this week, & was able to buy pesticide-free lettuce and strawberries.  Also bought asparagus from friends, & shared a dozen eggs with them.  Made a bean soup in the crock pot.  The soup had been given to me as a canning jar gift.  It's rainy and likely the coolest day until the fall (high of 60).  Baked a pie with left over sweet potatoes, our eggs & homemade vanilla.  J got all the cabinet knobs put up in the new room and pantry.  I made yogurt & kefir. Gave the chickens the top bits of strawberries and some mock strawberries.  Saved all the little trimmings of soap as I cleaned the bars up for wrapping.  They'll be turned into soap gel when I have enough.

first layer of wrap on an order of small soaps
 Worked on sewing my quilt binding, getting two more sides finished. Now I just need to finish the side where I started.  Cut flowers for the house.  Gave the pups eggs and homemade kefir with their dinners.  I brought leftovers for lunch 2 days while working away from home, shop sitting for a pottery.  I used my time well while there.  After I finish doing what needs done, & in between customers, I work on things I often don't get to at home.  This week, I wrapped lots of soap, sewed the quilt binding, & worked on wool dryer balls.  This posts photos were all taken on a shop sitting day.  Weeded several areas in the garden, & put them in the paths to discourage more weeds.  Transplanted several plants growing wild on this land to the area along the new walk, including yellow stargrass, ferns, and small's ragwort.  Roasted our potatoes and herbs. Have you done anything lately to save time or resources?