Sunday, December 4, 2016

Seasonal Pleasures & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  The unusual seed pods in the arrangement gifted to me last month opened to reveal fluff similar to milkweeds.  This helped me identify it as gomphocarpus physocarpa.  I saved the seed, and will try growing it.  I believe the monarchs can use all the help we can give them.  There were also zinnias in the bouquet, & what I believe are dahlias, which I've not grown before.  I saved the seeds of those too.  I didn't know until this blogger posted about it a few years ago that you could save seed from zinnia flowers in bouquets.  Until then, I'd only saved seed from flowers that had dried on the plant.  How wonderful to get a local bouquet with lots of seed to save too.  A gift that keeps on giving :o).

Last week, I started two amaryllis bulbs, which should bring cheer during the short, dark days of winter.  I gathered cedar and pine greenery, winterberry and pinecones for seasonal decorating.  If I search a bit more, I should be able to find some holly with berries that the birds haven't eaten yet.  The door wreath is transitioning from an autumn to a winter one.  I've tucked in a few pine cones and cedar greenery, & will add other treasures as I see them.  J & I watched our first free Amazon Prime movie, The Christmas Candle.  We enjoyed a salad with our lettuce and a boiled egg along with soup one night.  Another night, I served a tomato rice loaf, which used our tomatoes, garlic & homemade bread crumbs, & made our swiss chard and okra to go with it.  I worked a day at one of my occasional jobs, which will be the last until some days right around Christmas.  My check from another occasional job was ready, which I picked up this week.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments.

Bryant House
The Handmade Holiday show happened yesterday, and was a most enjoyable day.  Many friendly faces came by, lots of soap and a few more creations found new homes.  I was gifted a pottery mug & dried lemongrass, and purchased several beautiful, handmade presents for those on my list.  Today J & I visited a couple of historic houses dressed up for the holidays with friends, then returned here for a simple meal.  Our friends brought homemade soup and bread, and our lettuce went into a salad, and eggs into apple squares.  It's been a lovely weekend all around.  We're getting a lovely rain, which will help to refill our rainwater stores.  I look forward to a slower paced week ahead, writing holiday cards, and maybe doing a bit of wrapping.  Wishing you a week of seasonal pleasures!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Handmade Holiday & Frugal Accomplishments

I hope all my U.S. friends had a most lovely Thanksgiving.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.  Though we've had some hard frosts already, the clematis surprised us with this lovely bloom.  Last week, I received my annual capital credit check from the electric co-op, always welcome this time of year.  I've been to customer service at the grocery store twice in the last 10 days, due to being overcharged several dollars each time, & received my money back.   Instead of going to the stores on Black Friday, I went to the discount grocery when I finished work, which is about a mile away.  One good deal was a 3# bag of nyjer seed for $2.  My old feeder was torn, so I watched a youtube video on how to make one from a piece of stocking, a lid & a stick.  I also found half price Christmas ribbon (.99-1.22),  a roll of sterile absorbent cotton (.50) for our emergency supplies( $4.29 at Walgreens!), & 2 sweet porcelain Cordon Bleu mini loaf pans for less than half online sale price @ $2 ea.  I'm thinking they would make a lovely little gift with some homemade jam and bread.

After Thanksgiving with family, I requested the turkey carcass, which still had lots of meat on it.  Though I've been a vegetarian many years, I have a really hard time seeing it thrown away, so I bring it home for the pups.  I brought a large pot to put it in, than added water when I got home and put it on the woodstove to simmer overnight.  I added some of the older spring carrots from the garden, oregano, & some celery.  I gave the happy pups some on their kibble for a few meals, & pressure canned the remainder, 14 pints of broth and meat.  While cleaning up the kitchen from canning, I pondered why I choose to do this.  Because I have a great deal of respect for all life, it makes perfect sense that I would want to make the most out of the life this being gave up.  So, I guess it's not so crazy after all.

Last week, I finished embroidering a Christmas gift for my niece.  I dry canned dried milk in jars, harvested collards from the garden, & emptied water bottles and glasses into the humidifier on the woodstove.  I made tapioca using our egg and homemade vanilla one night, & used the same to make a ricotta pie another night.  Organic celery is pricy, and I never seem to use it up in time, so I blanched and froze most of it.  I planted the celery bottoms in the garden a few weeks ago, & they're sending up new growth.  Long on our to do list, Joseph & I planted our wheat field with heritage Red Fife.  This is our first planting and was done without the use of machinery.  We broadcast it by hand, then J raked it in.  It's been extremely dry here, but we have a good chance of rain in a few days that we hope comes to pass.  The wheat will be ready next summer, and harvest will be fairly labor intensive if all goes well.  I'll keep you posted.

This coming Saturday is the annual Lark Artists Handmade Holiday show.  I asked J to cut a slice of wood for me,  bought metal clothesline & J made little shepherds hooks to hold my recycled wool dusters for display.  Some of the cedar slab cracked off, but I think it will work fine anyway.  By the way, the little woodstove is an electric one I use for supplemental heat when needed in my studio.  J began gluing areas of laminate on the wardrobe that are buckling.  I hope to have that done soon, and be able to begin painting it.  This afternoon, I glued a second round.  On chilly days, I've been putting apple juice on the woodstove, adding a cinnamon stick and cloves, and enjoying hot cider through the day.  A simple seasonal pleasure.

This was the first year I'd planted caladiums.  It was a bit late, but I dug up the bulbs I could find, to overwinter in the house.  My moringa is growing, but seems to droop before the other plants do, so I transplanted it to a larger pot, & hope the greater amount of soil will stay damp longer and it will be happier.  Maybe it's my caretaking, but it seems a bit more finicky than most other plants, either drooping or branches turning yellow on a fairly regular basis.  I really hope to figure out how to have a thriving moringa, as it seems to be a good plant to have around.  I've enjoyed our lettuce on sandwiches this week, and made Brandy's Tuscan Tomato Bread soup tonight, using our tomatoes, garlic & herbs.  This week will be filled with soap wrapping and other preparations for the show.  I hope your week is an enjoyable one!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Firsts and Lasts & Frugal Accomplishments

Last week, I cut up one of the watermelons & gave it to the chickens.  Though it was pink, it hadn't ripened enough to have much flavor.  They loved it though.  I picked chickweed & greens and gave them those other days.  Laundry was done with homemade laundry soap and hung on the line.  The pups were given some of our dehydrated sweet potatoes for treats.  I decided to try picking one more round of lima beans, even though we've had frost.  There were a couple of cups once I was done shelling them, and I cooked them up for our dinner as I didn't think they'd keep well.  With them, I cooked our okra in the wok, & made cornbread.  Though we didn't grow the corn or wheat, I ground them both, and used our eggs.  A mostly homegrown meal is always good, and it was delicious.

The first pumpkin pie of the season was made.  A dear friend gifted me the felted pumpkin when we met for lunch recently.  I went by Aldi's last week, & they did seem to have more groceries, though the organic produce section was pretty disappointing.  I recently read where the company is moving to carry more natural and organic items, but they only had tomatoes, bananas, Gala apples & avocados.  I'm hoping it will expand.  I did pick up .99 pomegranates while there.  After working in town, I knew I'd be passing by one of the shoebox drop off sites, so took advantage and dropped mine off.  I requested books from the library, & picked them up while there.  I tasted the fermented cranberry relish started last week.  Though I expect it does have some good probiotics, I doubt I'll be making that again.  The fresh version is much nicer to my palate.

I had just the right amount from the final picking of eggplant to make Pasta Norma, which also used several of our tomatoes and herbs.  Our lettuce and tomatoes went into a salad to go along with it.  I made yogurt, kefir & kombucha.  The grocery store was out of gallons of our whole milk this week, so I got 1/2 gal. of the store brand.  There wasn't enough left to make yogurt, so I made a batch with dried milk.  The pups don't seem to mind a bit.  The chickens were given some cut up scoby.  I worked the local pottery festival 2 days, & brought food and water.  There was hot water available for workers, and I brought tea and a mug.  I enjoyed a free cup of beer from a local microbrewery at the Gala on Friday.  When I got home on Saturday, I was ready for a warm, comforting meal, and made colcannon with our potatoes, and beans from our pantry.  

Here's a peek at a recent project the guys have been working on.  Once it's done, I'll tell you more about it.  We're headed out today. First, to a gathering & closing ceremony for my massage alma mater, then to dinner & a concert in Raleigh.  It's going to be a cold one.  Stay warm, friends!  I'm joining with Frugal Accomplishments.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Monster Greens, Zombies & Frugal Accomplishments


Hello, friends.  Since I was here last, I picked the last of the summer garden when a frost was threatening, harvesting eggplant, okra, swiss chard, tomatoes, basil and lots of lima beans from the main garden.  J got home before dark & helped me pick the last tomatoes in the pond garden.  I covered lettuce and chard with a protective cover, and froze the basil with olive oil in an ice cube tray for future meals.  The following night, we shelled all the limas, and I froze enough beans for 6 meals.  After delivering soap one day, I shopped at a nearby thrift store, & found a nice area rug for $5, then went to Harris Teeter, stocking up on some things I don't have locally, as well as sale items.  I used a $10 off $50 coupon and $20 in gift cards that HT sent me, saving $30 on the total.  I'm happy to be joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

I don't know if you can get a sense of the true size from this photo, but these mustard greens are an impressive 2 ft. long.  I cut 6 leaves to make a "mess" for J.  We've not had any that grew to this size before.  They're not my favorite green, but he always enjoys them.  I redeemed Swagbucks points for an amazon gift card, and made tomato rice loaf using our tomatoes, garlic, onion and homemade bread crumbs, and steamed our chard to go along with it.  We've been enjoying the herb butter my friend gifted me on bread many nights.  It's so good, I'm thinking about making some myself.  I went through ebates to buy a Christmas present.  Our first fall kale salad was made for dinner one night, &  I cooked some of our red potatoes with a rutabaga to go along with it.

The first killing frost was in the forecast, so J & I picked the last of the dill, covered the lettuce, & dug the last of the potatoes, which were volunteers from ones we missed this summer.  I will miss the flowers, but really do enjoy the change of seasons too.  Our chicken coop has hardware cloth rather than glass over the window.  We stapled a feed bag on the outside, which we'll lift up on all but the coldest days for cross ventilation, then secure it each night.  Our Aldi's will have it's grand reopening next week, but had a soft opening this week.  It looked as though there were no more groceries, just wider aisles.  I hope they're still getting stocked up, & that will change.  After another errand, we stopped at the local microbrewery.  They were giving a $10 voucher to veterans for the pizzeria next door. J used the voucher for a dinner of calzones, which we enjoyed along with good beer & some good conversation.  While there, I purchased some beer to make soap with, something I've been intending to do since they opened.  I chose their Potter's Clay brew, added in a bit of local Seagrove clay for exfoliation, and some homegrown hops.  We enjoyed leftover calzone another couple of nights.  

I tried a new fresh cranberry recipe.  It's fermented, using whey that I strained from my homemade yogurt, which should provide some good probiotics.  I hope it's as good as it is pretty.  We'll know in a few days.  We didn't have as much garlic planted as usual, and planted some more that arrived this week.  It's a Sicilian variety, which we've not tried before.  I used our potatoes and parsley in a potato soup.  A pan of bread ends I'd been drying were made into bread crumbs and frozen.  The bumblebees have been sluggish from the cold.  I've taken the opportunity to pet a few while I can :o).  I made my first ever herb butter, & froze it for gift giving.

This is a tea infuser that my stepdaughter gifted me a while back.  How can you not be cheered by a mug with a yellow submarine floating in it :o)?  The chai tea came from this local shop.  Last week, I colored my hair at home.  Paid bills online, saving stamps.  I gathered mature red noodle beans, and shelled them for seed.  The upcoming week will be a busy one, as I'll be working at two of my occasional jobs; one of them will have me working off & on until the end of the year.  It's been a tough week for many folks.  My friend M shared this song, which provided some levity & seemed appropriate for this week.  Did you know yesterday was World Kindness Day?  Each of us has enormous power to make a difference.  Be well, friends.  Let's all work together to create the kinder world we envision.

Monday, November 7, 2016

November Visitors & Frugal Accomplishments

While going through my posts looking for something recently, I realized the first post on this blog was Nov. 4, 2008, the day President Obama was elected.  Here we are back at election week.  I voted early, and am curious about what the future will bring.  Last week, I made a batch of Fire Cider which used our garlic, onion & peppers.  The first batch I made was last fall, & I really didn't know if I'd like it, but I do.  It seems to knock out the beginnings of a cold when I take it before bed.  Good stuff.  This batch is slightly different than last year's, as I use what I have on hand.  I gave both pups a bath with homemade dog soap & cut nails.  McNibs let me cut 5 nails.  I was attempting to cut the 6th when he pulled his nail away.  Afraid I could hurt him, I decided to be happy with that for the day.  Lots of praises and treats were given.  Then, figuring it was the last day of the year in the 80's, I decided it was the perfect day to pick green lima beans and sit on the porch while shelling them.  Enjoying it while I can.

I harvested tomatoes, eggplant, hot peppers,okra, basil, oregano, dried lima beans and butter peas from the garden.  Made lentil soup from pantry items and our onions, and open face tomato cheese sandwiches with our tomatoes and oregano.  I ran all errands while in town for work.  At the grocery store, I used $1 coupon for cat food, got 3 jars of olives at closeout price & organic garbanzo beans for .60 on the markdown shelf.   Bought 3 items for my shoebox with a Walgreens 20% discount, shopped at the discount grocery store and found organic raisins for $2/15 oz., a box of natural candy canes for .75, dried blueberries $1/3.5 oz ($12.99 on Amazon!), large rolls of wrapping paper for $1, a canister for $4 (which I'll turn into a compost crock for my shop), & natural peanut butter & tahini @ $2/jar.  I did some online Christmas shopping, going through ebates for cash back, & used a coupon code combined with a sale to order some more garlic to plant, as we ended up having less than usual this year to plant.

Our garlic was used in a stir fry.  We've lost quite a bit of our garlic already, as the area we're keeping it in has too high humidity for it.  We didn't realize it at first, and have remedied that by running the dehumidifier.  It's a challenge, as the potatoes like higher humidity.  Some people have different zones to keep their produce, but we haven't figured out how to manage that just yet.  I harvested the first of the collards and made my favorite collards and rice dish, & baked our sweet potatoes to go along with it.  A dear friend visited after going to the farmer's market, and gifted me lots of apples... 4 different types, a spaghetti squash, herb butter and a beautiful bouquet. The bouquet has tuberose in it, which has the house smelling amazing.  I ground several cups of Red Fife wheat for baking, and tried a new roasted eggplant recipe.  The consensus was it's a keeper.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.  Have a great week, friends!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Late Bloomers & Frugal Accomplishments

As we are heating with wood some days, while making batches of soap this week, I melted the oils on the top of the woodstove rather than use the gas stove.  Another batch of tiller chewed sweet potatoes were boiled for the pups, which added heat and humidity one cool morning.  While going through my summer clothes, three homesteading shirts were added to the rag bag, and another three shirts were put in a giveaway box which will go to the thrift shop when full.  If clothes aren't comfortable or I'm just not wearing them, I'm better about passing them along these days.  Wouldn't it be lovely to have only things that you love to wear?  I'm thinking that's a worthy goal.  I spoke about the moringa tree that was tossed off the porch during the winds from hurricane Matthew.  This week, I was delighted to see a new stem growing.

On a recent night, J spontaneously took us on a date night.  The meal was not frugal, but my leftovers were brought home and enjoyed for lunch one day.  Our Lowes grocery store has started a green stamp program, with the rewards being kitchen knives, shears, sharpener & cutting board.  The promotion goes through mid-February.  Buying only what was on my list, I'm already half way to one of the knives.  In reordering a supplement, I went through ebates & used a promo code to get 14% off.  I made a pasta sauce with our fresh tomatoes, herbs, onions & garlic.   I decided to cut some more parsley and add it to some I already have frozen.  It's growing nicely in this weather.  It's reasonably hardy, but won't grow once it gets very cold.   Some Christmas presents were bought online, going through ebates first for cash back.

When I was getting ready to eat a lunch of leftovers on one of these lovely plates, I remembered I hadn't shared them here.  They were a gift given recently in thanks for wood shared with a local potter for their kiln.  Aren't they perfect homestead plates?  For a dinner with friends last week, I made a dish using our tomatoes, basil & garlic, one with our green beans, garlic, thyme & onions, and another with our greens & garlic.  Though I hadn't planned it that way, there was no shortage of garlic in the meal!  We should all be protected from colds for a few days :o).  I ground wheat and used some in popovers.  Oregano was harvested for drying, and eggs were gathered.  I cut open 2 watermelons, & gave most to the chickens.  We met friends for music at a winery, & brought our own food (cheese, crackers, fruit, & roasted almonds) instead of buying food there.  I made whole wheat chocolate chip cookies for our dessert.  With the forecast of days in the 70's and 80's this week, and lows in the 50's, I expect to be enjoying all the late blooming flowers just a bit longer.  Enjoy the week, friends!  Happy Halloween!


Heated with wood on days needing heat, & used the woodstove to melt oils for soapmaking

Asked for restaurant leftovers (& remembered to take and eat them :o)

Made yogurt & kefir

Gave the birds homemade suet

Repurposed old clothes into rags

Harvested from the garden: okra, tomatoes, basil, oregano, parsley, dried limas

Used homemade laundry soap & dried on the clothesline; used homemade soap and deodorant

Composted vegi scraps, shredded paper and cardboard, washed plastic bags for reuse

Ground wheat for flour

Used our vegetables & herbs for a dinner with friends

Reused the back side of papers for scratch paper

Made Swagbucks goal each day & did free Duolingo lessons daily

Electric bill lowered by $60 this month since we stopped using A/C.  Yay!

Went through ebates to purchase Christmas gifts; requested & received combined shipping from an ebay seller, saving $7.

Made chocolate chip cookies using home ground wheat, our eggs and homemade vanilla.