Sunday, March 26, 2017

Eating From The Garden, Pantry and Freezer & Frugal Accomplishments



Hello friends.  Joseph helped me by holding the hen while I got the chicken apron on, and so far so good.  She's so traumatized by the two young roosters that she is still not venturing out of the nest often.  When she does, those dang roosters chase her, and run her right back to the nest.  I guess she's the low hen in the pecking order, and I'm not sure what can be done about that.  Update:  the apron stayed on for 3 days, but she got it off this evening.  She was getting braver, coming out for greens, but several of them were pecking her terribly today, so we separated her from the flock.  She has a wound in her side where she'd been pecked, which  I packed full of neosporin, and added chicken electrolytes to her water.  I think we need less roosters...   Isn't that a sweet nest above?  I found it in one of the nandina's.  I was surprised to see they'd incorporated plastic into it.


Our ladies homestead gathering this month was on seed starting.  Members who had plants to share brought those too.  I brought home some baby hellebores, a large clump of Lemon Ball sedum, and a pink mum seedling.  In my flat, seeds were planted for medicinal yarrow, zinnias, cutting celery, money plant, rosella and lovage.  In my wintersown seeds, the only ones that have germinated are still one of the milkweeds.  My moringa has still not resprouted, though one of the women at the meeting told me hers resprouted after six months!  I won't give up just yet then.  Laundry was washed with homemade soap and dried on the line.  A large pan of egg shells were crushed and added to the compost, along with kitchen scraps.


A dinner of vegetable soup, crescent rolls and a pear blue cheese salad was enjoyed one night.  The soup included our tomatoes, okra, lima beans, carrots, squash and garlic.  Home ground wheat was used as part of the flour in the rolls, and our lettuce and homemade vinaigrette were in the salad.  Besides taking the lima beans out of the freezer, I took out grated zucchini to make bread.  That leaves just a little more room in the freezer.  Our lettuce was used in a green salad another night, along with store bought items.  A frozen pack of our okra was cooked another night, and eggs boiled for egg salad and the pups meals.  Yogurt and kefir were made.


J's business partner gifted us some kale, so with that and our own, I made a kale salad.  On a cold day, I baked sweet potatoes, boiled small ones for the pups, and baked 2 loaves of zucchini, carrot, apple bread.  I took one of the loaves when I visited my SIL.  Something is doing a number on our chard.  Whatever it is is eating the roots, so I go out and find plants all wilted, and I can pull them up without the least bit of resistance.  There are holes dug around them too.  One day, I found 7 chard eaten!  Other days, one or two.  I went ahead and harvested any leaves of good size, to get them while the getting was good.  By the way, that's the $2.50 basket I scored at the thrift store last week.  It's hard to tell, but the basket is 17" long, a great size for harvesting vegi's.


When the refurbished computer tower arrived, the optical drive did not work.  It took 10 days to get it sorted out, and a new one to arrive.  Yesterday, I deleted any unnecessary documents and photos.  Today, J transferred everything I wanted to keep from the old hard drive to the new.   We're still moving things and figuring out some of the details, but I think it's going to work fine.  Sorry for the less than stellar pics of the chicken apron.  She did not want to come out of the nest box, and we still have a heat lamp for a light in the coop.  If I get a better pic at some point, I'll be sure to share it.


There are some big plans in the works, which I'll be sharing in the upcoming weeks.  I have still not managed to get any vegetable seeds started in the house, so we may have to purchase a lot of our plants this year.  I'm telling myself one can only do what they can do, and not beating myself up.  We do, however, have spinach seeds up in the garden.  We've got rain in the forecast, and hopefully that will help them all to germinate.  Be well, friends.  Have you planted anything yet this year? I'm happy to be joining in with Frugal Accomplishments.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Trials of a Chicken Apron & Frugal Accomplishments


Hello friends.  Last week, I had some sleepless nights.  Not entire nights, but several hours a night.  I decided to sew a chicken apron one night for one of our hens, to protect her from the abusing roosters, repurposing some heavy flannel.  Here's one tutorial.  I made one a few years ago, but was not sure where those notes were, so I used another online tutorial which used velcro and elastic.  It didn't stay on her, so I found some larger elastic and sewed it on with more velcro the next night.  That hasn't worked either, so I put it on her and watched to see how it's coming off.  It seemed that the velcro just wasn't holding, and that makes sense, because the last one I made did not use velcro, and I never had a problem with it coming off.  I tried the velcro because I knew it would be easier to put it on.  So I then sewed over the velcro, and couldn't get it on her :o(.  I'll see if J will help me, but it may be I need to start over with that part.  I hope once the wardrobe is refinished, and I have a place for all my sewing stuff, that I'll better know where things are, and can keep up with my notes.


Ben Hewitt, whose writing I love, shared this blogger, who is now also on my blogroll.  It'd be worth your time to check both of these men out when you have a few moments.  Will doesn't write often or much, but what is there is lovely.  We needed some large, rather odd shaped boxes to ship some shop orders, and I'd used up the ones I'd gathered free.  I found some used ones online, saving about a dollar a box.  Bubble wrap was reused from some I'd saved from items shipped here, and free cardboard egg trays from one of the potters were used.  Eggs were boiled for the pups.  Various greens were picked for the chickens each day.  I saved the buttons from the flannel shirt used for the chicken apron.


After delivering soap to a B&B that's a 45 minute drive, I thrifted my way back home.  I found several treasures, including a sweet rabbit .25, festive birthday ribbon .25, pillow for the porch which matches one I had 1.00, lovely Irish linen shirt for me & a merino wool sweater for J for 1.00 each.  I also purchased some sort of frame that I'm still trying to figure out.  I was hoping it was for rug hooking, but it may be for needlework.  It's the type that you can roll as you are working the cloth.  I may take it to a woman at a local shop, who I believe would know.  I found a very well made garden basket for $2.50, a large canister that I will turn into a compost crock for my shop , and a lovely piece of cloth that matches the paint in my studio, which I'll probably use for pillows.  I pulled a couple of less sturdy baskets from my collection, and put them in the box for donations.


I had a last minute request to work one of my occasional jobs, which put me close to the thrift shop that supports the SPCA on a day they're open.  I found a pair of Dickey's work pants in J's size for $1.50, three shirts for me from .25 to .75 ea, a couple of candles that look like corn .25 (I'll save these for decoration for our fall hayride), 3 packs of ribbon .10 ea., and my biggest purchase, a large flower frog for $5.  It's an old rectangular one, maybe an antique.  I've wanted a frog for some time, but they're usually quite a bit more than I want to spend.  They had a round one too that I considered, but I restrained myself.


J & I celebrated 10 years together over the weekend.  We enjoyed dinner, music and friends, and we both brought home leftovers.  The music was free at a local microbrewery.  I took my taxes in to be done by the same person that has been doing J's, and our discussion before dropping them off has me convinced I did the right thing.  She asked me many questions which my last tax preparer never did.  She really seems to know her stuff, which of course is why you pay someone to do them in the first place.  Even better, she charges almost half less than the previous preparer.  A double win!  Wishing you a lovely first week of spring!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day


Hello friends!  From our house to yours, Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Monday, March 13, 2017

A Snowy Sunday & Frugal Accomplishments



Hello, friends.  I wanted to say many years ago, I was given permission by the owners to be on the hay fields and access road I wrote about in the last post, a privilege I don't take lightly, and treat with the highest respect.  That said, it's onward to frugal doings.  On our thrift store foray in Asheville, I bought a fleece vest for $3.99, and vintage linen dresser scarf/table runner with lace edging for .41.  The runner was at a Goodwill clearance center, one of those places where you pay by weight, and is in excellent shape.  I've slowly been gathering white linens, looking forward to when I experiment more with dyeing with plants and other natural materials.  Pet Perks points were redeemed for a free bag of natural cat food.  I enjoyed two movies at home; Sully via Netflix, and The Dressmaker via Amazon Prime.  I knew Sully would be intense, and sure enough, it was a couple of hours before my adrenaline rush faded so that I could sleep.    The Dressmaker had several dark moments I could have done without.  I'm aware of the dark side of human nature, but don't choose to dwell on it for entertainment.  Overall, it was a decent movie.

gourd chicken
At the discount grocery store, I purchased organic peanut butter @$3/jar ( the co-op I belong to has it on sale for $5.69), organic castile soap 1 gal/$12 ($54 online), organic sugar $2/2# (best online price I found is $2.41), a can of organic jackfruit to try $1.50 ($3.42 on amazon).  Jackfruit is supposed to be the latest, greatest meat alternative. I'll probably try making sloppy joes with it, and will report back.   Harris Teeter had organic butter BOGO, which ended up $3.15/lb.  I stocked up, buying 8, and froze them.  They also had their brand of roasted almonds on sale 2/$8, and I tried one, but they're not as good as Blue Diamond brand, so I'm glad I didn't get the second one.  I also got 5/$4 organic canned beans.  J & I planted the potatoes, and spinach.  I'm especially excited about a new to us potato, Purple Viking.  It's won all sorts of taste tests, is drought resistant, a good yielder, and is good for all uses.  I harvested parsley, boiled the Purple Vikings after J cut off the eyes to plant, and made potato salad.  Delicious!  We also planted German Butterball potatoes, which are also supposed to be high yielding.  I'll be making a potato soup with them.   A few more of the wintersown milkweed seeds have sprouted, but so far, that's all.  I took advantage of a 50% off sale at West Paw, to buy a couple of Hurley toys for McNibs, which I'll put back until needed.  One end of the one I gave him for Christmas is beginning to dwindle, but these are the best toys I've found yet for him.

just a bit out of sync :o)
I washed laundry with homemade soap and dried it on the clothesline.  Several items were needed on amazon, and I took advantage of their $15 off $100 code.  I harvested a large amount of lettuce, some arugula and chickweed, and we enjoyed them in salads.  I boiled eggs, made yogurt and kefir.  Homemade deodorant and herbal hair vinegar were used.  I first bought a hair vinegar product on a markdown rack.  It helps preserve hair color longer, and now I just make my own, using homegrown lavender, rosemary and apple cider vinegar.  I worked a few more hours on my taxes, and have them ready to be prepared.  Phew!  That's always a big weight off my shoulders.  I made more notes for next year.  This was the easiest year yet, and I expect the notes will help make it that much better next year.  Don't get me wrong, with multiple small streams of income and accompanying expenses, it's still rather complicated, but anything that helps me gather the information more smoothly and quickly has got to be a good thing.  I've been making a coconut oil and essential oil blend for J's TMJ, and made another batch.  The recipe I use is 4 drops each of peppermint, lavender and frankincense EO's to 1 tsp coconut oil.  It seems to help.


I  made my Swagbucks goal several days, and redeemed points for a $25 amazon gift card.  I've been harvesting two or three asparagus spears at a time, and finally had enough to serve for dinner one night.  I'm not sure if it was all the walking in Asheville that reset my metabolism, but I'm finally beginning to lose weight.  Hooray!  A large amount of chard was harvested, which I steamed for dinner one night.   We enjoyed the leftovers another night.  I noticed a bluebird looking in one of the birdhouses, and hope they'll decide to nest there.  When J went to buy spinach seeds at a local small business, he was offered last year's seed packs at .25 each, and bought several.  I planted it more heavily than recommended, in case the germination rate is lower.  We often use seeds more than one year, so I'm not too worried, and saw that Margaret compiled a list, which showed a great deal of variation among the experts.  I boiled small sweet potatoes for the pups, and am using those and chopped chard stems to supplement their dinner kibble, along with kefir.

peas in the snow
We got a dusting of snow, enough to make things pretty.  In a couple of hours, the sun came out, and it quickly melted.  Last week, I read something about community that got me thinking.  I'm an introvert and fairly solitary by nature.  Though I enjoy people, I'm also quite content with my own company.  I suppose it may be the easy way out, as life and people, myself most definitely included, are messy and wounded, making relationships hard work.  J's nature is pretty much the same, so that works.  I can be hard on myself,  and I've been pondering these thoughts:

“We struggle from the absence of our village and then we blame our symptoms on what we believe is our own lack…thereby ensuring the village we need can never appear.” (Tad Hargrave)   

The individualism that manifests as self-blame — that feeling of not being enough, for ourselves or anyone, better off alone, beating ourselves up along the way.


“We internalize our problems and feel like we’re failing for not being the whole village for ourselves and others. But, what if we looked at all of our troubles – and the troubles of others – as yet one more chance for the village to reconstitute itself again? What if each of our lonely struggles wasn’t in the way of redemption, but the doorway towards it?
What if the key was our willingness to admit that it’s all been too much for us alone?"
If these thoughts intrigue you too, here's the rest of the article. Though I knew neither well, I met both of the young men mentioned, one at a talk given by Stephen Jenkinson.  I believe this group and Stephen are doing some powerful and much needed work, helping us to remember a healthier way of being and being together.  



I'm happy to be joining in with Brandy's Frugal Accomplishments.  Be well, friends.  I hope you have an enjoyable week!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Morning's Walk


Hello, friends!  I hope you've been doing well. I thought I'd share this morning's walk, and a bit about the road trip today. My sister, niece and I stayed at a lovely B&B in Asheville.  We ate very well, though much richer and sweeter than our typical daily fare.  I've mentioned before one of my favorite restaurants in the area, which they loved too.  Another I'd been wanting to try was a hit as well.


Our first morning, we visited the Western NC farmer's market, which may have been the highlight of the trip.  Though there was not a lot of fresh produce to be had, there was an amazing amount of other offerings.  Canned and dried items, spices, coffee, peanut butter, and a selection of art and crafts among them.  I purchased locally roasted coffee, brazil nuts (of course not local, but J's favorite), and a small chicken made from a gourd.  We then visited thrift and consignment shops, before heading downtown, where we had "lunch" at the French Broad chocolate lounge.  They were out of my first choice for hot chocolate, flavored with rose, cardamom & pistachio, so I chose one with maple and smoked salt.  I wanted to try something I wouldn't likely make at home.  Yum!


We then headed out to explore downtown, visiting shops and enjoying many street musicians along the way.  My niece's fitbit showed that we walked just over 5 miles that day.  One of our favorite shops was Mast General Store.  I'd been to the original in Valle Crucis, but it was my first visit to this one.  I purchased healthy treats for the pups and a rag rug there.  On our last morning, after being fortified by another lovely breakfast, we headed for home.  Our plans for stopping at a couple of thrift stores recommended online went south, driving by one that was large and highly rated, but traffic prevented an easy return to, then stopping at another that was little more than a glorified junk hole.  Oh well, we have great memories and more than a few treasures to get us by until our next road trip.


I've mentioned before how grateful I am to have acres of hay field behind our land, and a long access road that stays locked unless they're working the land.  Up until recently, I hadn't taken advantage of the road very often, but I've been enjoying walking it these quiet mornings.


One of the things I most enjoy about walking is seeing what is new each day.  Which blooms, birds, rocks, lichen and other things of interest are noticed along the way.


The pups are loving these longer walks too.  I'm glad to have them as walking companions.  I hope you enjoy the day!


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Return of the Ladybugs & Frugal Accomplishments


Hello, friends.  I wanted to post this before heading out for a little road trip with my sister and niece.   If I take any worthwhile pics, I'll be sure to share. I had a frugal fail last week, forgetting about the green stamps I'd accumulated from the grocery store.  They were only good for a few days before expiring, which is what happened.  I didn't spend any additional money because of the stamps, but it irks me I didn't get a free knife or two with them.  I did find 4 Tom's deodorants on the mark down rack for $2.95. It was the exact one J had been using, & when I called him to check, he said to buy all they had, which I did.  They also had 3# bags of onions on sale 2/$4, and I bought 2.


It looks like it will be another week before the part we need for the riding lawnmower will arrive, so I mowed the garden with the push mower, mostly to help keep the dreaded winter bittercress from spreading.  I noticed some sedum remaining in a bed J had dug up and moved recently, and transplanted it to a spot we'll be able to enjoy from the porch.  Kefir and yogurt were made.  Produce scraps, shredded paper and cardboard were added to the compost.  I thought to ask for a Most Benevolent Outcome in finding usnea on my walk one morning, and found the largest piece yet.  I realize it may be too woo-woo and a bit of a stretch for some, but I'm sharing it here because MBO's have worked well for me over the past few years.  If you're interested in MBO's, learn more here.   There are other versions of benevolent prayers out there as well, if you care to search.  You may be pleasantly surprised if you do try it.


Oils for a batch of For The Love of Rose soap were melted on the wood stove.  Vegetable soup included homegrown onions, garlic, corn, okra, squash, potatoes and homemade broth, plus some store/pantry items.  I cut another few spears of asparagus, and enjoyed home grown lettuce on a sandwich and in salads.  One of the milkweeds wins first up in the wintersown seeds.  Only one seedling is up, but it's a start.  It's just as well, because we've got two nights forecast in the low to mid 20's this weekend.  That will surely do all the peach blossoms in, and I expect the blueberries too... again.  I'm hoping there might be a few blooms that were later in opening, and we'll still get a few of each.  Oh, the joys of gardening.  Once more, I'm thankful we're not surviving on what we can grow here.


Expecting a friend to visit, I used left over sweet potatoes to make a sweet potato pound cake, which also used homemade vanilla and our eggs.  Her plans changed, so we ended up having it for ourselves.  I make it with a few changes to the recipe, using organic unbleached flour and Spectrum organic vegetable shortening.  We like it without the marmalade or condensed milk topping.  For the first time since plumbing the house for rainwater, last week we added some well water to the cistern, worried about the low water level.  Happily, a few days later, we got over half an inch of rain, which added 1000 gals. to the cistern.  Two celery ends were planted to regrow in a bed with the lettuce.  I was happy to have a couple of good sales in one of my online shops.

lettuce, chard, arugula
It's been fun to see the anole lizards moving around the homestead again.  I borrowed two books from the library, and did my daily Duolingo lessons online.  One of the books from the library is the winner of the latest Newbery  Medal.  It's The Girl Who Drank the Moon, which I learned about from April.  The other book is Inside The Victorian Home, a Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England.  It sounds like it might be interesting, but maybe not.  I'll find out soon enough.  I had never upgraded to Windows 10 on my PC, and things are beginning to fail as support is withdrawn.  J suggested it would be smarter to buy another tower, which would have the latest Windows, rather than just buy Windows 10, and he found a refurbished tower for close to the same price.  I bought it, partially paid for with a $25 credit from Swagbucks.  I apparently deleted an email with the one day offer that Amazon did for $8.63 off $50 without reading it, so that was a bit of a frugal fail.

potato beds
I continue walking morning and evening, and for longer distances whenever possible, though so far, it doesn't seem to be making much difference in my weight.    Though far from perfect, I feel I do pretty well with watching what I eat, but I obviously need to do more, as I do want to shed some pounds.  Before purchasing a requested gift, I was delighted to find a 20% off coupon code, in addition to 3% off with Swagbucks.  Laundry was done with homemade soap.  Taxes were worked on a bit more.  I think that sums up the week pretty well.  Wishing you a weekend of whatever makes you happiest!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Blooms, Biochar & Frugal Accomplishments


Hello friends.  Like much of the country, we've been having unseasonable weather.  There have been days without any heat, windows opened wide, and peaches and pears beginning to blossom.  It's supposed to get down to 31 tonight, though, and I fear we'll have a repeat of last year before spring is here, with little fruit to survive.  Last year, it was lows in the 20's that killed everything.  I'm hoping we won't get lower than 30, and all will be well.  It's been breezy and downright windy at times, which has helped in finding several more tufts of usnea to add to the tincture jar.  For the past several weeks, I've been lighting a candle when we eat dinner.  Between it and the twinkly lights in the room, it's enough light without using the fixture over the table.  I'm happy to be joining in with Brandy's Frugal Accomplishments today.

usnea
Eggs were boiled, and the shells saved for compost.  Bread ends are drying in a pan for bread crumbs.  Sweet potato pie and sweet potato pound cake were made using leftover sweet potatoes, homemade vanilla, and our eggs.  I'd been intending to make up a batch of egg rolls, and did so this week.  The handwritten recipe I'd been using for years was in a large pile of recipes.  Not wanting to search, I tried a new one, which wasn't quite as good.  I substituted a few leaves of kale and collards, and a small amount of broccoli for the broccoli slaw called for, and used our eggs in fried rice.  I froze two bags of egg rolls for future meals.  Yogurt, kefir and suet were made.  Jars of jasmine rice, pecans and coconut flour were vacuum sealed.



Last weekend, we fired up the biochar.  Once J placed the inner barrel of small sticks and twigs in the larger barrel, we quickly filled up the space between with larger sticks and put the lid on.  We no longer had the original chimney, and used a couple of clay tiles instead, which worked well with a bit of sand placed around the bottom to create a seal.  The biochar was spread in the garden, in the area where we'll be growing potatoes.  J & I have worked on the antique wardrobe.  He removed the loose laminate from one side, sprayed it with glue spray and weighed it down. A couple of areas still bubbled, so I put watered down wood glue in with a syringe and weighed it down again.  It's not perfect, but lots better.  I've been applying wood filler to all the cracks, and sanding it.  I'm hoping the wood filler drying now is the last round, and I can move on once I sand that.


I caught up on my mending, which included shorts, a coat, sweater, pants and a cloth I use to cover my kefir.  Of course, shortly after I did, I noticed more spots on a throw rug I repaired recently becoming unraveled.  It's a vintage rug, and I've decided it doesn't need to be the rug at the door we come in and out most often.  Once I mend it, I'll figure out a better place for it.  Dinner one night included some of the last of our potatoes in storage, and our canned carrots.  At the discount grocery, I found Ball wide mouth plastic lids for .25 ea.  These are helpful when I open a jar of canned pickles, or other wide mouth jar from the pantry.  I got more dried blueberries @ $1 a bag.  They had small 4# bags of black oil sunflower seed this time, instead of the large bags.  I didn't ask first, and ended up paying $20/20 lbs, not a great deal.


This fine fellow was facing the door when I came out to feed the cats one morning.  The spring peepers have begun singing.  I purchased items to service the lawn mower through ebates, & used my credit card, saving 7.5%.  For the first time in years, I had my hair professionally colored, prompted by a video I saw of the back of my head which ahem, showed my lack of expertise in this area :o).  She wanted to buy 3 bars of my soap, so that was taken off my bill.  I have to admit coloring my hair every 3 or so weeks is not something I enjoy.  Supposedly this color will last quite a bit longer than the ammonia free stuff I've been using.  We'll see if that's the case.  I ponder letting my gray grow out again, but for now, this works.  Our garlic and garden peas are coming along nicely.  I've cut three spears of asparagus from a small volunteer patch that came up under one of the pear trees.


J warmed pancakes he had made and frozen a couple of weeks ago in the oven (they were too large to fit in the toaster), and while the oven was still warm, I thought to throw in the two biggest sweet potatoes to bake.  I put a pot of mixed homegrown beans on the wood stove, and another pot of small sweet potatoes for the pups.  I started on my taxes this week.  It's a fairly complicated task when there are multiple (albeit small) income streams and expenses related to each one.  I made notes last year, which I hope will help me to gather all the information in a more timely manner this year.  Houseplants were watered with rainwater.  The roses from my valentine came in a red mason jar, so I'll add that to my canning jars.  I assume you can use the colored ones as any other canning jar, but I'd better make sure.  Please do share if you know.


Well rotted chicken poop and straw was used to feed the fruit trees, rhubarb, horseradish and olives.   I used shredded paper in the chicken nest boxes.  The wardrobe still needs work.  Places in the laminate keep popping up, and new cracks develop, I suppose from being outdoors (on our porch), with temperature and humidity fluctuations.  I'll keep trying, but at some point, I may decide that it's good enough, and paint it.  Various bits and vegi ends went into the broth bag in the freezer.   A small amount of winter greens made it through the single digits, and were picked and made into a winter salad.  I watched a video on youtube, and have been enjoying a book borrowed from the library.  I hope you have a wonderful week, friends!