Monday, August 29, 2016

A Simple Summer Meal & Frugal Accomplishments

I am joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.  Last week, J & I picked all the field peas that were ready Sunday evening, and then shelled them on Monday. He's an old hand at shelling, and very quick at it.  It's nice relaxing work, sitting and talking while shelling beans on the porch.  I cleaned, researched, took photos of and listed 3 new items on ebay, plus a few reruns.  I've had sales of shaving soaps, a shaving set and a pub table in my online shops the past couple of weeks.  I harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, lima beans, red noodle beans, pears, pawpaws, yellow squash, plums, & hazelnuts.  Used cooled down water from canning to water a number of plants outdoors.  I needed to buy paint for the pub table, and using Swagbucks and my credit card saved 7%.  Needing to restock supplements, I used a 20% off coupon code along with saving 4% through ebates for my purchase.  I had frugal fails on some leftovers... some went to the chickens and some were composted.  There was not a lot of anything, just a few bites of this and that, but I still don't like to waste. I cut a bouquet for the house, which I used in some photo shoots for my shop before placing it on the kitchen table.

J shelling beans
I ran errands while working in town.  When I picked up an order at Lowes, I looked in the plant markdown area, and found 2 purple & 1 pink speedwell/veronica for $1 ea, and a large mixed planter with blue lobelia, red verbena, and peach calibrachoa for $5.  Besides enjoying the colorful planter of annuals for the next couple of months, I placed them in an area where I'm hoping they will reseed and come up next year.  I planted the 3 speedwell with compost.  I prepared half of the field peas for dinner with rice one night, then blanched and froze the remainder.  I dropped the sugar lid on the counter, where it broke, so then I mended it.   Then J broke an antique bowl & I broke a pottery bowl, neither of which could be mended :o(.  There must have been some pretty destructive energy swirling around the universe that day.

The orchid I bought myself Valentines Day wasn't happy in the store bought pot, so I transplanted it to one of the orchid pots with air vents on the side.  Hopefully, it will be happier now.  I fertilized all orchids with orchid food I found at the discount grocery. I don't have a lot of luck with orchids reblooming, so I'm hoping this will help give me some lovely blooms.  I did laundry with homemade laundry soap, and hung it on the line.  As usual, I used homemade soap and deodorant.

One night, dinner was sliced tomatoes, asian cucumbers and potato salad, made with our homegrown vegetables and parsley.  A simple summer meal, but so good.  I harvest and shell lima beans and butter peas most days.  There are 25 hours of continuing ed I need to take to keep up my massage license.  As a portion of that, I picked a sound healing class that I took last week.  It was a wonderful group and an excellent class.  I'd forgotten how much joy it brings to make music with a group, and it inspired me to bring my basket of percussion instruments from storage back to the house.  I did bring my water bottle each day, but the class was attached to a cafe that served organic and local foods, so for lunch I chose to support them and simplify things for myself.  How have you been enjoying these late August days?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Preserving Food & Frugal Accomplishments

Last week, I cashed in Swagbucks for a $25 gift certificate.  I used our squash and onion in a quinoa dish.  Made salsa with our tomatillos, tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, & peppers a neighbor had given us.  From the freezer, I cooked corn we had grown and Brandy's black bean burgers to go along with the salsa and chips.  Enjoyed a few breakfasts of pawpaw, banana and homemade yogurt.  I made yogurt, kefir and hummingbird food.  Harvested tomatoes, tomatillos, red noodle beans, cucumbers, summer squash, onions, plums, hazelnuts, one pear, and pawpaws.  Something has been eating many of our fall seedlings in the garden as they germinate, so I planted cabbage and three types of collard seeds in pots.  They're coming up nicely.  I gathered some of the winter salad mix and cherry tomatoes for the chickens, and baked a loaf of bread using the last of the wheat I had ground.  Picked elderberries, and froze a quart after removing the stems.  I'm joining in with The Prudent Homemaker's Frugal Accomplishments.

I went to the discount grocery store & found 4-packs of organic applesauce for .50 and 1 liter cold pressed olive oil for $4; also sunflower seeds for the birds at less than half price of what the grocery store charges.  Bought a few groceries at Aldi's, including organic produce and organic popsicles.  I got our electric bill, and was discouraged to find it was $46 more than last month.  We've not been able to open the house up for weeks, due to the heat and humidity, so I'm sure the increase is due to the a/c.  Cooler temperatures are coming, so I'm hoping the next bill will show a significant decrease.  I composted, recycled and shredded all paper and cardboard which I add to the compost bin.  Weeded around the beans, onions, tomatoes and flower beds.

I ground the dehydrated tomato skins, & ended up with close to 3 cups.  J & his business partner were heading out to bring a load of metal salvage to the salvage yard, & asked me to go along.  They know I love a good treasure :o).  I bought 3 vintage metal chairs and a lovely plant stand for $6 ea and a hanging metal planter for $2.  The plant stand and one chair needed a little work, which J had done within an hour. One chair needs a good wire brushing before painting.  I intend to paint them all and use them on the porch.  I picked up a couple of mornings opening up & doing housekeeping at Hospice.  This is only in the administrative building, as the Hospice House has it's own housekeeping staff.  One of the days I was already going to be there to do massage, so no extra gas was used.  J has been working hard on cutting and splitting firewood for the winter.  He's always on the look out for dead trees on our land, and found three close together recently, which are now cut, split & stacked.  I paid our property tax, getting the early discounted rate.

As a soapmaker, I have to be thinking ahead, as my cold process soap cures for at least three weeks before wrapping.  I used some vibrantly orange home canned pumpkin to make my autumn soap, Pumpkin Chai. The house is smelling like yummy fall spices.  I cut a bouquet for the house.  I saved seed for zinnias, pineapple tomato and a branching sunflower I've forgotten the name of.  J & I canned up 17 pints of salsa.  Our sweet peppers didn't do this year, and I found a marked down package at the store to use for the salsa.  We've got lots of hot peppers, which we used in the salsa and have been dehydrating the rest.  I made a pasta dish using our tromboncino squash, tomatoes & herbs.  The sauce was pretty dry, so I added a pint of canned tomato broth and some of the dehydrated tomato skins, which turned out really well.  I canned spicy dill pickles, eggplant, and carrots.  It's the first time I've canned carrots.  Last year, I dehydrated some, but I want to see how we like them canned.  I froze a bag of lambs quarter and beet greens.

After a rain shower, there was a rainbow peeking out from behind the trees.  It's supposed to be ushering in cooler temperatures, which hopefully means I'll be able to open up the house tonight or tomorrow night.  Oh happy day!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Tastes of Summer & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I'm joining in with the Frugal Accomplishments community today.  Last week,  I picked elderberries, and froze them for possible jam. Once I strain all the elderberry tincture, I'll decide if that will be enough for the year.  If so, this picking will become jam.  I'm harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers & squash, a few tomatillos, peppers & eggplant, and pulled the first of the beets.  Small amounts of lambs quarters are being picked.  Some of the lima beans and butter peas are drying on the vine, so I'm picking and shelling those as I see them.  Pawpaws are ripening, and I'm gathering those as they fall.  I've dried tomato skins from 4 canner loads of tomatoes... not sure how many pounds that was.  I think I'll try using some before I dry any more.  If you've ever used any, I'd love to hear how you used them and your impression.

I occasionally help out at one of the local pottery shops.  The top photo shows the beauty outside I was able to gather, and the photo above shows a bit of the beauty I'm surrounded by in the shop.  It's a lovely place to spend the day.  I brought leftovers for lunch, snacks and my water bottle each day.  I received a check from ebates for cash back from purchases.  We've got lots of cherry tomatoes this year.  Besides eating them fresh, I've used some in recipes & added some to canning jars, but most days I pick a couple dozen for the chickens.  McNibs begs for some, so he gets some too!  I canned eggplant and summer squash.  Harvested a dozen carrots.  Carrot tops, and end bits from squash and eggplant went into the broth bag in the freezer.  I've picked 16 of our tiny plums.  This is the first year they've fruited, and there's not much to do anything with, so I'm pondering what to do with them.  Maybe I'll freeze them, and once they're all collected, perhaps there will be enough for a small batch of jam.

Because of comments I read on The Prudent Homemaker, I checked out a couple of shows on youtube.  The first was Extreme Cheapskates.  I should not have expected anything from the title, but thought it could be interesting.  I watched it long enough to see a couple share a Q-tip, a toothbrush, and floss... just.ewwww.  Thankfully, the other show was better.  It's called Great Depression Cooking, and I believe the secondary title is Clara's Kitchen.  An amusing 95 year old woman recollects recipes from the Depression era.  I colored my hair at home.

J & I joined my brother & SIL for a concert.  We saw Ray Lamontagne at an outdoor amphitheater.  The concert started 1 1/2 hrs late, we got rained on twice, and the music was very loud with several intense jams, rather than the mellow tunes we like Ray for.  All in all, a disappointment of a show.  Thankfully, we enjoyed a most lovely and very intimate (the small room held less than 40 people) concert with Chris Trapper in Raleigh a few weeks ago to balance it out.  His talent and heartfelt music made the evening pure joy.  Do see him if you get the chance.  I harvested enough basil to make a double batch of pesto and some caprese salad.  What summer tastes are you enjoying?

Monday, August 8, 2016

August on the Homestead & Frugal Accomplishments

Last week, I strained and bottled up several quarts of citrus cleaning vinegar.   I changed my mind about the corn, and determined that the raccoons were not going to eat the rest of it, so one night at almost dark, I harvested everything that was edible and froze enough for 3 more meals.  There are just a handful of immature ears left, which I will share with them.  I picked some more beans, blanched and froze them.  We're having some interesting surprises with our beans this year.  Some saved seed we thought were regular lima beans are looking more like butter peas.  The seed may have crossed with butter peas we had also grown.  Also, J bought what he thought were green bean seeds.  They're starting to produce, and what they actually are are yard long or red noodle beans.  I've started collecting recipes.   If you've grown them before, or just cooked with them, I'd welcome any tasty suggestions besides pickles.

It's always a good thing to see the majority of our dinner plate consisting of home grown food.  One night there was a caprese salad, summer squash dish, asian cucumbers and swiss chard.  The next night, I made a tomato pie to go along with the leftovers.  We're enjoying tomatoes and cucumbers almost every night.  I canned tomatoes, summer squash and dill pickles.  The summer squash ends were added to the broth bag in the freezer.  McNibs usually begs for cucumber, so he often gets the end bits, and occasionally Guinness will eat some too.  With the week's second batch of tomatoes, I tried something new I'd read about.  Instead of composting the tomato skins, I put them into the dehydrator.  Once ground, the tomato powder is said to be good in eggs, soups & stews.  It takes a lot of skins to end up with much, but it doesn't take much to add some flavor.

I gathered basil, parsley and oregano and made pasta sauce with our fresh tomatoes and garlic.  I finished rewrapping all the soaps that were involved in the laundry hose challenge last month, and am happy about that.  Most of the packing materials I used to ship an order from my online shop and two ebay sales were reused.  Kefir, yogurt & hummingbird food were made.  I planted a celery bottom in the cold frame, and it quickly put forth new growth.  This year, many things have required 3 plantings to get a crop.  The fall garden was no exception, and it appears we now have rutabagas, cabbage, winter salad mix, collards and broccoli up.

Am I the only one who didn't know about John Moreland?!  Thanks to Ben Hewitt, I've now remedied that.  Do yourself a favor, and give him a listen.  Ben has been sharing some favorite music on his blog.  The real intensive stretch of gardening is almost here.   I've been able to harvest cucumbers, squash & tomatoes in about a half hour.  That's if I don't weed, trim yellowed tomato limbs, bring cracked tomatoes to the chickens, & other assorted garden chores.  But soon there will be okra, and more beans, both of which are much more time consuming to harvest.  And then there's the matter of what to do with all that produce once it's in the house.  A good problem to have, but a bit of a race for the next couple of months.  It's a pleasure to be joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

These Hot Summer Days & Frugal Accomplishments

Last week, I harvested dill for seed & seasoning, elderberries which were then crushed & added to a batch of tincture, the last of the Corot Noir grapes, which I froze, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, cucumbers.  I canned a batch of tomatoes.  As the first of the corn was just about ripe, the raccoons helped themselves to those ears.  The next day, we picked any that were getting close, so we'd be sure to get some.  We had 8 small ears for dinner, & I froze the rest in meal size portions.  The raccoons have visited several times since, so it appears that one picking will be all we get.  We ate a squash casserole two nights, and I froze the remainder, enough for two more meals.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

I canned kosher dill pickles, harvested basil, made a double batch of pesto and froze it, and started another jar of elderberry tincture.  I made yogurt and kefir, and shared tomatoes and a cucumber with a friend.  On the day after our thermometer registered 101, I found one of the little chicks dead in the coop.  She was in her usual night time spot, and I wonder if the heat just didn't do her in.  I've had older chickens die during very hot days, but this is the first chick.  Once the nights get warm, we leave the coop door open to their enclosed yard so they have a cross flow of air.  I'm sad about that sweet chick.  I'm not sure what else I can do other than bring cold treats and ice water during the day.  Their yard has a lot of shade, but it's just so dang hot.  Now there is an older hen that is struggling.  She usually sits next to the water, & has been drinking.  I'm giving her probiotics & extra nutrition, in case it's something in addition to the heat... yogurt, kefir, some of the sauerkraut, crushed nettles, shiso & kelp.  Thankfully, the forecast shows the coming days are cooling off a little bit.

Most of the eggplant I harvested went into a dinner of Pasta Norma.  For this meal, I used our fresh tomatoes and herbs.  It's been six weeks, so I tried the batch of chocolate mint extract that was brewing.  It didn't taste like much, so I strained out the leaves, and added more fresh leaves of chocolate mint.  We'll see what that does. I made a batch of kombucha, and chopped up the extra scoby for the chickens .  They loved that.  What was left of the last batch of kombucha went on the compost.  J & I tied all the tomato cages together with twine, to make them less likely to fall with wind or under heavy weight.  There are also tall rebar stakes in every other cage.  I began tying up tomato branches that escaped the cages, so they won't break when heavy with fruit.  There's not much to do with the ones that come out the top and fall over, but I can tie the lower ones.  The cages we make are 4' tall, but most tomatoes grow taller.

I got the toaster oven out of the pantry, and have used it a few times to warm items, rather than using the oven.  I tried the sauerkraut.  It's getting a nice tangy flavor, so I'd say that experiment was a success.  I'm going to move it to the root cellar, and just keep a jar in the fridge for current use.  I listed items on ebay, and made swagbucks goals most days.  It's been nice to have time to do some "piddling" around the house.  I've taken care of paperwork, saved seeds from flower heads, swept, and did hand washing.  I gathered magazines that will be shared at the library and with the homestead group.  Stay cool these hot summer days!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Eggplant Caponata & Frugal Accomplishments

I was saddened to see our local feed & seed is going out of business.  We've gotten lots of our seeds there, many plants, organic fertilizer & amendments, and chicks & chick feed.  I'm sure it's tough to make it in these times, but I will miss them.  I stopped in to get seeds, not knowing until I drove up about the closing.  The seeds were 1/2 off.  I got organic fertilizer at 25% off, and plants for $1.  The plants included stevia, 2 Provence lavender, marigolds, and 2 Jewels of Opar.  The Jewels of Opar are new to me, & I was pleased to find while researching that it blooms from June to frost, readily reseeds, is a good pollinator plant & is edible.  I think they're quite lovely to look at too.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

My sister & spent a day together, making the rounds of a few thrift stores.  My main goal was to find pillows that I could sew covers for, & I found two 16" & two 18" pillows for $6.50.  I'm always on the lookout for cashmere, & scored 3 sweaters and a scarf for $1- $2 a piece. I also found a cute summer blouse, a fleece vest for winter, & 2 flannel pillow cases for .49 ea.   I harvested cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, raspberries, tomatoes, basil, oregano, blueberries.  Hand picked japanese beetles & fed them to the chickens, along with greens. Did lots of weeding in the garden.

I harvested the first of the year's elderberries, and began a jar of tincture.  I harvested eggplant with the thoughts of canning them, but then decided to make a batch of my Mom's caponata.  She always tripled the recipe & I did too.  I only measured the seasonings; most of the ingredients were added by sight.  It freezes well, and is especially nice eaten with a good loaf of Italian bread.  Here's the recipe:

1 eggplant (I used 4 smaller asian eggplants for each eggplant), cut in cubes
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup tomato sauce or a little tomato paste ( I used fresh cherry tomatoes, did not use the water & added 2 or 3 tbs tomato paste for a triple recipe)
1 tbs wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of dried oregano or some fresh
1/4 cup water (see note above)
A variety of olives to taste, pitted (around 1/3- 1/2 cup)- I used a mix of black, kalamata & cracked green olives this time.  Use what you have.

Saute eggplant & celery in olive oil for 10 minutes.  Add onion & garlic and saute another 5 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients & simmer covered for 5-10 minutes.  Add more sugar, salt or vinegar to taste if desired.  Some also add peppers or capers.  Enjoy!

This is the table I painted last week.  I'm glad I took the class when I did, as it's already gone up $6 and now requires another basic chalk paint class as a prerequisite that costs $99, so taking it at the right time saved me $105.  I bought supplies to do the pieces I have in mind, with a 10% student discount.  A neighbor I had taken a mushroom class with years ago came by.  She was interested in wild foods, so we did a little weed walk around the garden.  She tasted lambs quarter & purslane, & went home with a few cucumbers.  I planted all my dollar plants from the feed & seed, & watered them in with a bit of nettle tea.  Squished a number of squash bugs.  It's been very hot, so I've been bringing a wash pan of ice water to the chickens each afternoon, along with cool treats like cucumbers & cut up pineapple.  A friend gifted me with cantaloupe rind & berries she had made jelly with to give to the chickens.  They loved it.

This is McNibs asking me "are you ready to walk yet"?  I pulled all but the two smallest cabbages, put one in the crisper, & made my first batch of sauerkraut with the rest.  I canned dill pickle relish with our cucumbers.  After picking the first of our lima beans, I blanched and froze them, & plan to add to the bag as they come in.  If enough come in at one time for a meal, we'll have some fresh.   J & I went out to the garden Sunday morning to find our bean trellis twine had snapped from the weight.  He says that's all they ever used in their garden when he was growing up, & this never happened.  We expect the quality of present day twine has diminished.  We replaced the top row with a metal wire & pulled it all back into place.  J created a teepee for the tromboncino squash, & after seeing signs of squash borers in our summer squash, worked on those areas & killed the eggs he saw.  We're not sure if it's rabbits or deer, but something chewed off all the sunflowers I planted in the newest garden.  That's the life of a gardener.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The July Garden & Frugal Accomplishments

I hope summer is treating you well, friends.  I'm happy to be joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.  Last week, I colored my hair at home.  I harvested cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, basil for pesto, blueberries, a few raspberries, & kale.  Picked up 2 pots of caladiums for the shade garden.  I was able to divide them into 6 plants when planting.  We've had some very hot and humid days, but on days when it cools down enough at night, we open the house up for fresh air and save on electricity.  I took the water collected in the dehumidifier and watered plants.   Grated a few of the smallest carrots & a couple that something had chewed on for the pups dinner.  Papers that had a blank back side were saved for scrap paper.  Greens and japanese beetles were picked and fed to the chickens.

I made hummingbird food, yogurt, kefir, and kombucha. After an appointment in the town where my food co-op is (I live an hour away now), I bought groceries including several sale items & received a 10% discount for owner appreciation month.  I also found a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread on markdown.  I delivered soap to a B&B that has a little book swap library set up outside, and donated 6 books while there.  I looked through the books, but didn't find any I was interested in reading.  Ran into a nearby thrift store, & got some pretty floral fabric to use in wrapping my Garden soap.  I requested 2 library books from another library in our system.

At the show I did a few weeks ago, another vendor spoke to me about chalk paint.  The thought of a durable finish with little to no prep work intrigued me, so I took a class this week.  I painted a table that we got from Joseph's storage shed a few weeks ago, in Old White paint, which I then distressed.  For my first time painting a piece of furniture, I'm pretty pleased.  There are two larger tables we got from storage at the same time, which I want to paint for the porch, & possibly a rocker.  Then there is a large wardrobe that will be used for storage in the new room.  I was a little intimidated by this piece, but after getting my feet wet with this class, I'm feeling more confidant than I can do it justice.  I'll try to take a photo of the table this week.

mountain mint is a good pollinator plant
I'll admit it, I've been petting bumblebees again.  What can I say?  It makes me smile.  I've also been talking and singing to the frogs who live next to our porch.  We've put plastic down in preparation for gravel there.  It's holding water, so they decided it was the perfect spot.  Sometimes I'll see six little heads poking up out of the water.  That makes me smile too.  I'll be happy once I don't see the plastic, but it will make me a little sad too.  I suppose I'll just have to mosey down to the pond to visit them.

We're growing our first Armenian cucumbers, which apparently are not a cucumber at all, but a melon.  The pros are they're prolific, early bearing, have small seeds & withstand high temperatures.  The cons are they're quite susceptible to cucumber mosaic virus and powdery mildew, & will pass it on to other cucumbers.  I wish we'd known that before planting them next to our other varieties of cucumbers :o(.  We're enjoying them so far, and are hoping they remain healthy.  I expect I'll soon be canning pickles.  I thinned the plum trees.  It's always hard to thin fruit, especially in a year when there is not a lot to begin with.  I made tzatziki sauce to go with falafel.

darn June bugs
I shopped at the discount grocery store.  Some good finds were a new quart Weck canning jar for $2, and 24 oz. of organic whole flax seed for $2 (good til 2018 & $7 savings over Amazon price).  I decided to begin harvesting the wine grapes.  The bunches are almost all ripe, & the June bugs continue munching on them, so it was time.  There are not enough for wine, so I will probably juice them.  I had tried a tip we read online, which said to mix 1/2 c molasses into a 1/2 gal water. & place in a milk jug near the June bugs to trap them. It didn't work.  There are lots of little eggplant now, & I found out that several touching the ground were getting eaten, probably by pill bugs.  I harvested those with holes in them, and a couple that were still intact but touching the ground.   Also harvested the first summer squash, a golden zucchini, which were planted from some of my Mom's seeds.  A friend gifted us some lovely peaches.  I've been buying a few here & there, when I run across organic ones, but the prices have been fairly outrageous.  I expect the frost that did ours in hurt the orchards too.  So that's what I can remember from the week.  Are you growing anything for food, medicine or beauty?