Monday, January 16, 2017

Snow Day & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  I hope you've been staying warm (or cool if in the southern hemisphere).  With the recent single digit temperatures, I've been baking more.  One day it was Carrot Apple Zucchini bread, other days I baked sweet potatoes, and another day it was crusty bread in a Dutch oven.  Even with a heater set up under the house, our water froze up on the coldest night.  J added a heat lamp, which thankfully got it running again in short order.   I sure do love and greatly appreciate hot running water.  Not wanting to go back to using well water in the house, we have to be mindful of how much rainwater we use, so to leave it dripping all night wasn't an option.  Using the broccoli I cut last week, plus our eggs, garlic, green onion, leftover peas and pantry items, I made fried rice for dinner one night.  I went through ebates for a small purchase, & used a 12% coupon to purchase a recliner on overstock for my studio.  I realized a recliner next to a window would be the most comfortable way to do the stitching I'm wanting to do, and it will be a lovely spot for reading too.  We took a walk in the snow last weekend, and I thought I'd share some pics today.

I've continued to add citrus peels to vinegar for cleaning vinegar, and have a full quart steeping now.  We had filled up lots of bowls, buckets and bottles with water, in case of freezing water or a power outage.  Once the temperatures warmed up, I began using the water for all the house plants, filling the humidifier on the woodstove & filling the pups water bowl.  We are working on using up the last of our Longkeeper tomatoes that were picked green in the fall.  One morning, I made scrambled eggs with several and our garlic.  The tomatoes are not pretty or as good as summer fresh, but not half bad for January.  On a cold day, I caught up on my ironing, while watching a TED talk, and a couple episodes of the Great British Christmas Bake Off to amuse me.  Ironing is not my favorite chore.  I noticed there were ahem... quite a few summer linens in the bunch.

last of the tomatoes
At the grocery store, sale items bought were catfood, beer, wine & organic frozen corn and peas (2/$4).  I picked up a couple of artichokes too, which have been staying at 2/$3.  The snowman I embroidered last week had some holes in the fabric on the back, which were mended while listening to President Obama's farewell address.  Though he wasn't perfect (and who is?), I believe he & Michelle are good and decent souls, and I will surely miss them.  I finally got around to making a batch of granola, and definitely need to get back into doing that, as I really like it.  One night, I enjoyed dinner with a friend at a new farm to table restaurant.  The food and service were good, and I picked up a couple Arkansas Black apples, a few cookies for J, and some local goat cheese in the market there.  I hope they will do well.  When one grows and eats a lot of your own food, you appreciate good, fresh food.  I also think supporting local food (& businesses) is an important piece of the puzzle.

That's a photo of my frugal niger thistle feeder.  I never could get it to focus on the feeder instead of the tree, but hopefully you can tell it's just a lid in the bottom of a stocking, with a skewer through it.  I spoke about needing to add some pieces of rag on either side of the skewer to keep the seed from just falling out through the holes that enlarged.  That seems to be working pretty well.  The feeder was very busy on the cold, snowy days.  I was happy to redeem points for my first bag of free Purina Naturals catfood.   J needed a few things from Lowe's for a project, so I purchased them through ebates, which gave 2.5% cash back, and using his credit card reduced it another 5%.  Once the days warmed to above freezing, I uncovered the lettuce, and found that most of the green lettuce had froze and rotted, but most of the red lettuce survived.  I'm happy to still have lettuce, and picked some for the coming week.  I've continued to pick up sticks for biochar, and now have a 55 gal. barrel filled.  The next step is to pack down the sticks.  This involves tamping it with a 2 x 4, and J will do that.  Hopefully, it won't take the level too far down.  Then I'll start filling the outer, larger barrel.  I've already started collecting some limbs for that.  That's a pretty good summary of the week and frugal goings on around the homestead.  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

He Had Stars in His Eyes & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope you're staying warm.  Last week, I baked a spaghetti squash, and froze enough for 3 meals after using some in a dish with frozen lambs quarter, then steamed some of our frozen corn on the cob, which was so good!  I ran errands while working in town, charged my cell phone while driving, and folded & reused a piece of scrap paper to make a grocery list.  Only a few items were purchased at the grocery store, including dog food and wine on sale.  Before covering up the greens against the cold temps and predicted snow, I harvested a large amount of chard, some carrots, and a few leaves each of kale and collards.  The pups got some holey collard leaves and grated carrots in their dinner.  J & I made our first batch of mead, using this recipe.  It wasn't terribly frugal, what with using an organic orange and local honey, but I hope it's tasty.  It should be ready to taste by Valentines Day.  I'd love to hear if you've ever made mead before.

A large part of the work J & his business partner do is related to green energy, from hydro power to biodiesel projects.  Vegetable glycerin is a byproduct of making fuel from vegetable oils.  The guys swear by my biodiesel glycerin soap when they're cleaning up after shop work.  They'd used the last of the soap I'd made, and since J was able to get some glycerin recently, I made a new batch of soap.  They don't want any scent added, so it is the most economical soap I make.  One night when I couldn't sleep, I wrapped soap.  Another night, I embroidered a new face on a snowman a dear friend gave me some years ago.  The original face was drawn on with marker, which had bled, so I cut fabric from a good piece of old curtain I was given, and sewed a new face on, which I then embroidered.  I also finished a couple of books on those nights of little sleep.

For breakfasts, I made an egg sandwich with our egg and lettuce, and fried eggs another morning.  For lunch and snacking, I made hummus with our garlic and pantry items, and for a dinner lentil soup with our carrots and pantry items.  Chickweed was picked on the way to collect eggs.  I put down more straw in their coop, in light of the single digits coming, and picked an armful of spearmint, adding it to their nest boxes for it's insect repelling and aroma enhancing benefits.  One of the nightgowns J gifted me for Christmas was longer than I care for, so I cut and hemmed it a shorter length, saving the cut off length of fabric.  Next I mended a clothes hamper liner.   One of my goals is to make at least some of my nightgowns, and I'd love to begin that this year.  A couple of years ago, we experimented with adding biochar to the garden, & it seemed to have very positive benefits on our potato crop.  As we have the means to make biochar, I have begun collecting twigs when I walk around the homestead, adding them to a bucket for this purpose.  It's one of those things we've been meaning to do, and having the materials to create it readily on hand will help make that happen.

Laundry was done with homemade laundry soap and soap gel.  Two loads were hung on the line to dry, and two were dried in the dryer as the chance of precipitation went up.  I'm thankful to have the option.  I wanted to be caught up with laundry before the winter storm arrived, in the event of a power outage.  I put all my saved soap scraps with water in the blender, and made soap gel.  Generally I pour a dollop in with laundry, and use it in a soap dispenser at the bathroom sink.  J & I were gifted solar lights, and placed 4 of them along the flower bed leading to the carport.  I paid the propane bill within 10 days, getting a small discount.  The Call The Midwife Christmas special, free through online PBS, was a joy to watch.  Continuing to work on eating down the freezer, I heated frozen peas and a squash casserole & we finished leftovers with this.

Stars in his eyes
Other weather related chores included cutting small heads of broccoli, which wouldn't have fared well with the single digit temps.  I'm hoping the plants themselves will do well under the blanket of snow.  There are a number of windows we've gathered over the years, and I placed them around the enclosed chicken coop area where the food and water is located.  It does look a bit tacky, but isn't visible from the road, and does well in keeping the area warmer and dryer during snowy times.  In the spring, I'll move them away from the chicken wire again, to allow in breezes.   I harvested oregano and parsley, and decided to harvest some leeks too, thinking potato leek soup would be yummy, which also used our potatoes and carrots.  Along with the soup, I made a pear blue cheese salad with our lettuce.  I'm wondering how the lettuce is doing under the snow in the cold frame, hoping it's insulating it enough to keep it alive.   If you could use some frugal encouragement to meet your goals for this month or year,  there are lots of good folks to join at The Prudent Homemaker community.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Fresh New Year & Frugal Things

Each weekday morning recently, the sounds of a logging operation begin piercing the air about 6:45, clearing a large tract of land about 1/2 mile from us.  It makes me sad to see so many trees come down, and they are chipping these, which makes it seem even worse.  Our best guess is it will be a large cow field, common around here, but maybe it will be replanted in pines.  Time will tell.  The land here doesn't perk well, which means it is unlikely to be a subdivision, a small bit of consolation.  Some day, water and sewer may make it this far out into the county, but thankfully not just yet.  On the homestead, I shredded paper and cardboard, and added it to the compost bin.  I used our potatoes in colcannon.  The hens have begun laying well again.  Several days I got 5 eggs, another day 6, up from an average of 2 lately.  They got treats of greens, sweet potato bits and soft apples in return.

another version of the snowman
Our printer needed a new imaging drum, as well as a couple of toner cartridges.  J checked the cost vs a new printer, but it was cheaper to do the fix.  Going through swagbucks for 2% cash back, and another 2% by using my rewards card helped a little.  A crocheted alpaca shawl of mine had a large snag, so I asked a friend who is an excellent crocheter what to do.  After it was cut and knotted, I wove back in the yarn ends, as well as weaving in a smaller snag.  Then, I sewed a button on a sweater.  Lemons, clementines, avocados, cheddar cheese and organic apple cider vinegar were picked up at Aldi's.  Soap oils were melted on the woodstove.  Water from various things was used in the woodstove humidifier and to water plants.  As usual, homemade soap was used in the kitchen, bathroom & laundry, we heated the house with wood, collected rain water & laundry was hung on the line.

There have been several stitchers that have inspired me this year, including this one.   I love these sweet handstories cloths that hang in my studio.  It makes me happy to look at them.  One of my goals for 2017 is to try my hand at some small hand stitched cloths.  One night for dinner, I prepared a quiche using our eggs, garlic, red peppers, and parsley plus pantry items.  With it, our lettuce was used in a salad and okra cooked in the wok.  Yogurt, kefir & suet for the birds was made.  The little niger thistle feeder needed a bit of tweaking, as the skewer I used for the birds to land on was being knocked out of the feeder.  I ripped a rag in strips, & wound it on either side of the feeder, to help hold the skewer in place.  So far, it seems to be working.  I'm joining in with The Prudent Homemaker today.

There's a consignment shop in the little town nearby, owned by a woman who was suddenly widowed last year.  I try to get by there a few times a year, and buy some things.  This time, I found 2 canisters which I'll turn into compost crocks for my shop.  I'd just been talking about looking for cast iron Christmas stocking hooks, and found one there.  Though I don't have a mantle, I have a deep, high window I plan to use them in.  I also found 4 bright orange metal plates, which I think will be good for eating outdoors.  She and I are kindred spirits, enjoying many of the same things, so we have great conversations.  She's of the same mind as far as wasting things and frugality, and this time we talked about different ways to make rugs, which gave me some good ideas.  On New Years Eve, I mended a fabric gift bag & a tote bag.  I asked J to show me how to service my sewing machine, so I could keep it in good working order, & added a cleaning kit to my wish list on amazon for the next time I place an order.  I see there are online tutorials and videos too, so I may also check out some of those.

Our gas oven has been making an odd noise on occasion recently, & J worked on cleaning the workings of it this morning.  While he had the entire bottom and racks out, I cleaned them up.  Thinking the best, I put in a large spaghetti squash & 5 of our sweet potatoes.  The sweet potatoes were for our dinner, plus future meals.  The spaghetti squash was planned for meals this coming week and to freeze.  The oven is still making a noise, so J says we need a new gas valve.  Oh well, I think we'll have enough to eat with our crowder peas & corn, and collards.  We worked together to do a deep cleaning in our bedroom today, moving furniture, wiping down walls & dusting everything.  It feels good to start a new year with a clean & neat room.  I'm looking forward to the year ahead, and all the possibilities for creativity and goodness.  Happy New Year, friends!

Monday, December 26, 2016

The First Days of Winter

Last week, we had our ladies homestead Christmas gathering, with a cookie exchange, present exchange and potluck.  All our presents were homemade. I received lotion and healing salve, and brought chocolate mint extract, shower tabs, and lemon dill butter.  Afterwards, I shopped at Lowe's, and got artichokes for $1.50 ea., brussels sprouts on sale, a favorite wine at less than 1/2 price, and collected stamps towards kitchen knives.  I also picked up some cans of local gourmet peanuts that were on sale, to use as gifts for some of the menfolk.  J bought postage online to send a package, which ended up being almost $43!  I told him to void it, and bought it through Paypal for $13 and change.  I'm not sure what program he's using, but I sure like mine better!  I walked with the pups, & some days J, for exercise, and made vegetable soup, which used our tomatoes, corn, potatoes, okra, squash, & frozen beans.

window feeder
On one of the warmer days (upper 40's & sunny), I washed 2 loads of laundry with homemade laundry soap and soap gel, then hung them on the line.  I gathered greens to give to the chickens when I collected eggs, which seems a fair trade.   While gathering the greens, I noticed 3 of our broccoli plants were forming heads.  I'm happy about that.  I prepared our chard for dinner, along with beans from the pantry, and cornbread which used corn I ground, our egg, kefir plus pantry items.  I redeemed swagbucks for an amazon gift card, and got a photo print through Walgreens for 25% off.  Wrapped some items that were in my generic gift box for a nephew's girlfriend for Christmas.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

Someone gifted this build a snowman to J a few years ago, and we've been having fun changing it around for each other.  J put air in my tires, using the air compressor in his shop.  I wandered the woods one day, and gathered a few more natural bits and pieces for the door wreath, mostly privet and cat brier berries.  Part of my occasional job's duties include some housekeeping.  While emptying trash cans from some of the office cubicles, I noticed some pretty gift ribbons on top, so put those aside and used them in my wrapping.  I received a gift card for Lowes hardware from my supervisor.  We were invited to a birthday lunch at a restaurant, and found out when it was over that our meals were covered.  The night before, we were taken to dinner by a friend, and both of us brought home enough leftovers for another meal.

I often drop magazines off at the local library, as they have a basket to pass them on to anyone who comes in.  The last time I was there, I noticed an Italian phrase book and dictionary.  I've been practicing Italian on duolingo for several months, so was happy to find this in the basket.  We invited a neighbor who recently separated from his wife for dinner on Christmas Eve.  J cooked pork ribs and chicken, and we had our sweet potatoes and our canned green beans in a dish which also used our garlic and thyme.  Though it wasn't as leisurely as some years, we had a Christmas walk with the pups.  After the family gathering, we drove to see lights that a friend had told us about, which was free and fun.  I feel very blessed this holiday season, and hope you've had good people to spend time with, good things to eat, and activities that bring you joy!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Traditions Old and New & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  I hope you've enjoyed a bit of holiday cheer in some manner this past week.  I made a new lentil soup recipe that was in a book borrowed from the library, which was not very much different but even better than my usual recipe.  I tried making shower tabs, the ones that open up nose and lungs.  The recipe still needs tweaking, as even with menthol crystals and several different essential oils in them, they are not strong enough for my liking.  A trip to Aldi's provided mandarins, grapefruit and organic oranges.

After touching on some of my struggles in the last post, I read this from Ben Hewitt, which made me fall in love with his writing all over again:

"Life is uncertain. It is fraught and messy and beautiful and hard and I suppose the best thing we can do through it all is try to remain  compassionate and curious. We’re are going to fail at this, over and over and over. With our kids, with our partners, with our friends. With ourselves.

But failure too is good and important because it is also an inescapable truth. You can try all you want to avoid it, and indeed, this is what we are taught to do. So yeah, go ahead and try to avoid. But know this: You’re going to fail."     If you'd like to read the rest of his post, follow this link. 

There have been shop orders sent out across the country.  It makes me happy to know my offerings will have a small part in celebrations.  We picked out our tree over the weekend, and decorated it.  The last couple of years, we bought a tree from the big hardware store, once they marked them 50% off.  J reminded me how dry last year's tree was, as those trees are not kept in water.  He opted to buy one elsewhere from folks who set up from the NC mountains.  I bought their trees several years, but then lost track of them when they moved to a spot outside the mall.  I had to smile, realizing how long it's been since I've shopped at the mall, never knowing they were there until someone mentioned it this year.  Though the tree itself wasn't frugal, it was cut 2 days earlier, so fragrant and in water, and now that I'm back on their mailing list, I will get a card for a free wreath next year.  

The hospice where I work regularly has silent auctions for various causes.  Last week, I saw an antique ironstone bowl and plate that I bid ($2) on and won.  I thought the bowl would be perfect for forcing bulbs, and put hyacinth bulbs in it.  It's there in the first photo if you look close.  Two types of cookies were baked last week, one old favorite, and another new one that I ended up overcooking as they seemed very wet.  The good thing is I love a crispy cookie, and think they're just fine.  They're probably not ones to be shared, but cookies don't last too long around here.  I requested a couple of children's Christmas books from the library, and bought another for very little on ebay.  Another blogger shared her love of the book and it's illustrations this time of year.  

There are several ornaments that always bring sweet memories.  In addition to those, one of my favorite parts of decorating the tree is tucking in all the little nests I've found on this land through the years.  As I find almost all of them on the ground in the off season, I consider them little gifts from nature.  I hope traditions new and old bring you a smile.  Wishing you sweet memories and moments this coming week!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Adventures of Lady Mary ~ A Giveaway

The purple finches have arrived, their color welcome at the feeders.  In these days of shortening light, I suppose it is natural to become introspective.  But boy, it's been exhausting this year!   I believe we sign on for particular lessons to master in life, and one of mine is surely communication.  There have been things I wished I hadn't said, things I wished I had said sooner, much second guessing and ruminating.  Though I've worked to make things right, it was a bit of a rough road for a few days.

I believe things are beginning to shift, and I am looking forward to the lengthening days.  On that note, I'd like to offer a giveaway to honor the Winter solstice, and the returning of the light.  A friend and purveyor of fine teas has just released her book The Adventures of Lady Mary, an action-packed, swashbuckling adventure.

There is magical fantasy, cleverness and wit, bravery, geography, some smart tea information, and many lovely illustrations.  The book is geared towards children, but is written to be enjoyable for adults as well.  To enter, just leave a comment.  If you're a tea drinker, & would like to share your favorite, even better, but any comment will qualify.  I'll close the giveaway at midnight on Dec. 20, and a winner will randomly be picked and announced on the 21st.

** Giveaway Update- J picked the name from a bowl, & Angie is the winner!  Happy Solstice, friends!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Holiday Cheer, A Quilt & Frugal Accomplishments

osage orange & berry decoration at Shaw House
Hello, friends.  Last week, I made a vegetarian version of my grandmother's stuffing, which included our egg and parsley, and prepared our fresh lima beans I had frozen in the summer, along with roasted brussels sprouts.  I do love brussels sprouts, as well as my grandmother's stuffing.  I guess technically it should be called dressing, as I didn't stuff anything with it.  I did laundry with homemade laundry soap & soap gel.  Before the first hard frost, I had cut stems of okra left to grow large for decorating.  I added some of those to the door wreath, after noticing at the historic Bryant House, they used okra and cotton in their holiday decorating.  I've always wanted to try growing cotton.  Maybe 2017 will be the year.  I treated the chickens to some leftover Chinese food J hadn't quite finished, and the grapefruit halves that I had for breakfast.  They don't care for oranges, but pick the grapefruit innards clean.

antique pots at Shaw House, including Jugtown pottery
While in town after work, I shopped at Walgreens, & got several good deals.  It was their 20% off senior day (savings over $7), I used a promo code for 1/2 off a photo print,  replaced a set of twinkly lights which had died this past week with a BOGO free offer, and received $5 to use towards a future purchase. At the grocery store, I found baby bella mushrooms on sale, a bottle of a favorite wine on sale for less than 1/2 price, & used a $4 coupon for dogfood.  I've been working again on my quilt, sewing in the loose threads, & began writing my holiday cards.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

downy woodpecker
Due to illness, I got some more hours at my occasional job this week, then ran a few more errands.  I borrowed books from the library, picked up stocking items & presents for the pups at Big Lots & Marshalls,  chicken treats (mealworms with oregano) at Southern States, 4 tank tops that I'll wear as camisoles for .49 ea. at the Salvation Army, a white top I will add to the things I plan to dye & another top for $1.99 ea.  Our tomatoes, garlic and herbs went in to a pasta sauce.  Yogurt & kefir were made.  With the coldest temps so far coming, I harvested lettuce, collards, kale & swiss chard, then covered up what I could.  Sweet potatoes were baked, & collards and rice served along side, which also uses homemade broth.

Both J & I woke up feeling badly one night.  Feeling some better by morning, but still a bit under the weather, I took the day at a slower pace.  I didn't feel up to vacuuming the house, but instead swept the floors.  I read a bit of A Traveller in Time, which was shared by this kindred spirit, & managed to finally finish my quilt, good timing to keep us warm these cold nights.  I ventured out to gather eggs, walk to the mailbox, & bring the chickens some of their mealworm treat. The treat was intended to be a Christmas present, but as it had gotten down to 19 with possibly colder temps coming, I decided they could use a few extra calories.  As I dole them out a handful or two at a time, there should still be some left for Christmas.  Ha... do any of you get your chickens a Christmas present?  A small pumpkin bought for decoration for the hayride was given to the chickens another day.

A current favorite salad is our lettuce with pomegranate seeds, feta cheese & toasted pecans, dressed with a vinaigrette made using our berry syrup.  With this, I cooked artichokes bought on sale, & had one along with our boiled potatoes.  J prepared our turnips, & also had those.  One night, J & I took turns reading aloud a Christmas story shared here.  We've had intentions of passing long winter nights doing this for several winters, but as our choice of reading material doesn't often converge, this is the first time we've done it.  I opened a bottle of port, which we'd both found out we liked on Thanksgiving.  Sitting near the woodstove, reading & enjoying a little port made for an enjoyable time.  Holiday baking has begun.  So far, I've made sesame & peanut butter cookies.  I colored my hair at home, & used homemade soap.  Water tumblers were emptied into the humidifier on the woodstove.  

J & I enjoyed some local Christmas events with our granddaughter.  First, we visited 3 historic house-museums (all on the same site) that were decorated for the holidays.  There was cider & cookies, a woman playing dulcimer, one spinning wool, & another doing silhouettes.  I wasn't quite sure if a 6 yr. old would enjoy these things, but she readily sat for a silhouette, enjoyed the refreshments, & told me (unprompted) that she really enjoyed seeing "those old houses".  The houses are open free of charge, with boxes for donations.  We hedged our bets and planned something afterwards that we were pretty sure would please, a carriage ride with Santa, & as you can see, it was a hit.  The day wasn't especially frugal, but hopefully it created memories, which is worth much more than a toy that will soon be forgotten.  Wishing you a week of good cheer!