Monday, May 23, 2016

Kombucha Restart & Frugal Accomplishments

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

Local Wildlife & Frugal Accomplishments

 Recently, on my way up the driveway to take care of some soap business. I saw a rabbit to the left, a squirrel to the right, and a cardinal in a forsythia bush.  For a moment, it felt like Disney :o).  On a walk with the pups, I saw an eastern red spotted newt.   I finally spotted the female summer tanager around the bird feeders.  My little soap business has been keeping me busy lately, for which I am very grateful. Our Meyer lemon has begun blooming, and smells delightful.  I gathered kale and chard, & made a kale salad, chopping stems and a few leaves for the pups.  Sold one item on ebay.  Received cash back from ebates.  Made my swagbucks goal several days.  Shared eggs, sweet potatoes and soap with a visitor.  Shared soap with our postman as a thank you.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments.

I gathered all my soap scraps and made soap gel.  You can easily use recyled jars for this purpose.  One of the jars above is a repurposed pickled beet jar, & another is a mayonnaise jar.  Washed laundry with homemade soap & soap gel.  I finished stripping the 3rd porch post; just one more to go.  Made pasta using our tomatoes, summer squash and herbs.  Made yogurt, kefir & hummingbird food. I've been enjoying reading two library books.  Added bread ends to a pan to dry for bread crumbs, composted vegi scraps and added egg shells to a pan to crush and add to compost.  We had a healthy crop of lambs quarter in the garden.  I harvested them before J tilled the area, and ended up with almost 14 cups of blanched greens for the freezer.  Weeded a few additional areas.  I gave a bucket of lambs quarter trimmings to the chickens, then applied the rest of the weeds around the base of fruit trees and medicinal plants.  There are a multitude of tiny toads, no bigger than 1/4" jumping around the homestead.  We'd noticed thousands of tadpoles in the pond earlier this spring.  They're grown and exploring land now.  It's pretty wild.

tiny toad
Our vacation was not particularly frugal, though J did get a great deal on our tickets.  We ate out most meals while in CO, and I was surprised how many healthy choices there were.  Even in the airport, I was able to get an organic kale salad that contained a small amount of freekeh, which I'd heard of but had never tried.  Our last full day in CO, we made the rounds of a few thrift stores.  I left the first one empty handed, but got a pair of pants, a nice wallet, a pretty white shirt I intend to dye & 2 fleece vests.  I was really hoping to find some vests, as my favorite one's zipper bit the dust a few weeks ago, and I pretty much wear them all winter to keep my core warm.  My favorite was a thrifted one purchased several years ago, so I didn't mind replacing it.  The store was having their senior discount day as well, for 25% off.  All of the thrift stores here consider seniors 65, so I was delighted to see them giving discounts for 55 and above.  I froze milk before our trip, which we're now using, and we're eating from the pantry and freezer until my usual day in town.  The chicks are doing well.  They're pretty much on the move if they're awake, but here are a few photos.

I made a quiche using our eggs, red pepper & parsley.  Made a spaghetti squash & lambs quarter dish using our vegi's, & this Leeks Parmesan recipe with our leeks, which was yummy.  After a night in the mid 40's, I baked several of our sweet potatoes to warm the house a bit, & boiled eggs for the pups.  J said he had seen fireflies shortly before our trip to CO.  I paid attention while driving home from the airport in Raleigh, and never saw any, until we arrived at the end of the road which faces our land.  There we were greeted by many fireflies all along the front of our property.  Perhaps they were happy to see us, or as I like to think, this land is just a little bit magical.  Have a great week, friends!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

An Excellent Adventure ~ Colorado

I'm back home, after spending time in Colorado with family.  We ate really well, did a good amount of walking, and visited some lovely places.

I especially enjoyed seeing all the different flora and fauna.

We enjoyed a wonderful visit and a lovely Indian meal prepared by an old friend who had spent some time in India.

We saw large banks of snow while driving in Estes Park, and hail in another spot, a bit different from the 80's we were having back home.

I didn't think to take my camera when we explored Red Rocks.  J's daughter & SIL were our wonderful hosts for an excellent adventure.  I'm always thankful to return to our little piece of paradise.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Plants, Seeds & Frugal Accomplishments

Last week, I made a frittata which used our eggs and leftover asparagus.  Made hummingbird food.  I forgot to mention last week, but I purchased our siding at a local sawmill, and J & I picked it up ourselves, saving the cost of delivery as well as only having to handle it the one time it's moving from the trailer onto the house, instead of moving it off the sawyers trailer too.  Made a cauliflower salad, and grated the core and leaves for the pups.  Shopped at Aldi's, & bought a few produce items... avocados @ .49, pineapple @ 1.19, organic carrots @ .79.  When I looked to remind myself how much the organic bananas were, I saw that I hadn't been charged, so 2# free bananas.  I used to fret about these things, until I realized I'm as often overcharged as undercharged.  Just a few weeks ago, I bought four packs of organic applesauce at Harris Teeter because they were on sale.  When I got home, I realized they had not given me the sale price.  So, these days I take the less stressful route, and just feel like it all works out in the end.

large vintage peanut butter jar holding dried nettles
I made a new quinoa dish, using my broth and pantry items.  Used a $3 coupon for dogfood.  Made my swagbucks goal most days.  Did laundry with homemade laundry soap and dried it on the line.  Worked on the porch posts.  Made yogurt and kefir.  Mended a bedspread.  Hopefully, it will last until I finish my quilt.  I got the summer sheets from storage, and put a set on the bed.  Nights have been in the 50's & 60's, and I'm ready for crisp sheets.  Shopped at the discount grocery, & got just a few things... pasta @ .75 ea, natural peanut butter @ $2, hair color @ $4.  I had bought a hair color there that was missing one of the tubes and could not be used.  I remembered to bring it in, so they gave me a box in exchange.  J & I planted all our tomato, pepper, eggplant, tomatillo & basil seedlings in the garden.  We also planted our sweet potato slips.

Though we valiantly tried covering all our peach trees two recent freezing nights, it appears we still lost all the peaches this year :o(.  On a happier note, the tiny horseradish I thought was a goner is putting up new growth, and it appears we may have our first cherries.  Even if there is only a handful, I know we will enjoy them.  The humidity has steadily been rising.  We finally broke down and turned on the AC, on a night we were sitting down to dinner and it was 81 degrees indoors.  We just used it as needed a couple of evenings, then opened up the house overnight to cool.   Put 3 branches of thornless blackberries given to me in moist soil in pots after putting rootone on the ends.  Cut the curly willow given to me in 6" pieces & have them rooting in water in the shade.  There is already quite a bit of root and bud growth on them.

allium mediterranean bells
I bought 3 foxglove and 8 dusty miller for the shade garden along the walk, and planted them.  Also bought a rosemary, as my oldest one has been doing poorly with our wet early spring, and planted it.   None of the local feed and seed stores have had lettuce seedlings when we've checked, so we may do without this year, as the ones I planted (twice) didn't germinate.  There are quite a few seeds coming up that I planted during our homestead meeting... borage, sweet marjoram, aster & cosmos so far.    Donated several handmade items to a fundraiser for a local woman with serious health problems.  Divided a hosta in 3, and planted them in the new shade garden.  Transplanted blue plumbago & baptisia, both of which had been overrun by iris.

I organized all our seeds.  I had read of the idea to use photo albums with plastic sleeves to hold the seeds, & found 2 of them at the thrift store.  I used one for vegetables & the other for herb and flower seeds.  As sometimes happens with ideas I read about, it didn't work as well as I hoped.  The thickness of the seed packs is so much thicker than photos,  the album splays out making it unable to close.  Still, it's better than all of them stuck in tins.  Only corn, beans & squash seeds remain in the tins, as they're too bulky to fit anywhere else.  The seeds are easier to see in the albums, so there's that.

I planted seeds in the ground, including several types of zinnias, marigolds, phlox, nasturtiums, lovage and forget me nots.  I planted black eyed susan vine & rosella seeds in pots.  Harvested 3 spears of asparagus, & used one with our eggs in an omelet. Started a batch of stinging nettle fertilizer, adding some weeds to the mix.  Did a small amount of weeding in the flower beds and garden.  Made pasta with our tomatoes & herbs.  Added herb stems to the broth bag.  Harvested some arugula to add to our salad.

I'm happy to be joining in with Frugal Accomplishments, & would love to hear what you've been up to.  

A few things I enjoyed this week:

This song, while wrapping soap
This post, which I expect is going to make me add reading the Newbery winners to my bucket list
I can't wait to see this
Turning barren land into a sanctuary.  Do watch the 8 minute documentary if you can
A friend shared this artist, the daughter of Chris Whitley

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Rare Bird & Frugal Accomplishments

Atamasco lilies
On Monday, J's business partner needed the day off, so we were able to finish the ductwork under the house.  J had to fabricate another piece of ductwork from the recycled steel.  I don't know how much we saved by doing the work ourselves, though I'm sure it's quite a bit.  I'm very glad it's done!  Today (Tuesday), the workmen are coming to lay the walkway.  I can already tell it's going to make a big difference, with just the forms up.  The forecast is for 88 today (Tuesday), so I'd say we got the ductwork finished just in time.  I opened up the house in the am, and got the temp down to 72, & partially closed the south facing blinds.  I'll do my best not to run the AC, but it's nice to know I can. The wild Atamasco lilies bloomed this week.

I prepared swiss chard, and chopped the stems for the pups.  Cooked artichokes and put the bits in the broth bag.  Dug volunteers of mulberry and elderberry to share with my homestead group, and came home with cuttings of thornless blackberry and curly willow, and seeded pots of 6 herbs and flowers.  I cooked broccoli and shredded the stems for the pups.  Gathered weeds and mock strawberries for the chickens.  Worked on stripping the porch posts.  I cashed in Swagbucks for a $25 gift card.  This year, I've decided to keep making suet for a while longer.  Many birds seem to be eating it, and I wonder if they may be feeding little ones.  A hummingbird came to the window today, looking inside, and when I checked, the feeder was empty.  Ha!  I promptly warmed some food and filled the feeder.

Knowing we were barely getting any asparagus this year, a friend gifted me with some of hers... nearly 2 lbs of purple asparagus.  Yum!  Our neighbor bought a tractor trailer to store his hay, only to find it full of stuff when he got it home.  He called family and friends to come pick through it, and "please take some home".  I got an old Peter Pan jar to use for storage, an Anne of Green Gables book, and a large map of European Commerce & Industry 1360-1453 such as would have been used in a classroom.  Not sure what I'll do with the map, but it's pretty fascinating to look at.  I assembled my steam mop, and gave it a try in the bathroom while deep cleaning it.  The mop is a wonderful thing!  I can't believe I didn't know they existed until recently.

summer tanager
I made a healthy carrot salad with homemade yogurt.  Cut up a fresh pineapple and chopped the core for the pups.  Though our lettuce barely germinated, we've got nice patches of carrots, swiss chard, kale & spinach in the garden.  We had some good rain, and collected the first of it in the new to us tank.  Planted all the plants from the plant sale, except basil.  The asters are coming up from seeds planted at the homestead meeting.  We removed the eggs from mama hens box on Saturday, and on Sunday she took her chicks outdoors for the first time.  I'm glad I kept the suet up, as we had a new bird coming to the suet feeder the past 3 days. I believe it's a a summer tanager, which I've never seen here before.  We did not use heat or AC at all last week.

Blue star amsonia
I transplanted 18 strawberries into two strawberry pots I had.  They've sat empty since the first time I tried using them, which didn't go too well.  I planted various herbs in them that time, and am hoping the strawberries do better for me.   I sold two items on ebay.  Fed a grub to the chickens.  Made yogurt and kefir.  Dressed our salad with homemade berry vinaigrette.   J & M got all the siding put up on the porch side of the house, & I purchased paint for the porch ceiling using a card for a 5% discount.   I'm joining with Frugal Accomplishments today.  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

New Chicks, Chick Food & Frugal Accomplishments

On Tuesday evening,  our first chick hatched!  It's been a number of years since any chicks hatched here, and I'm not sure I'd ever seen one only partially hatched before.  I was surprised how much noise it was making already at that point.  I had already made up a batch of chick food. I based it on the instructions in Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living, a book that is unmatched for the amount of information contained on homestead living.  Here's what I used:

scant 1 cup whole corn
1 cup wheat berries
1 cup whole oats
1/2 cup mixed nettles & lambs quarter dried last year
1 tsp powdered kelp
1 tbs powdered milk
1 tbs clay
pinch of salt

I ground the grains and crushed the herbs, picking out stem pieces, added the remaining ingredients and mixed it up.  I like knowing the grains are not genetically modified, and that several of the ingredients came from here.  I'll bring them bugs as I find them, and probably decrease the dried herbs as I bring them fresh.  I made soup using our leeks and vegi broth.  Leek and mushroom bits went in the broth bag.  The recipe called for quick-cooking brown rice, which I don't buy, so I used quinoa instead, which worked fine.

Though I'd intended to wait until we stopped heating with wood for the season, I began a bit of spring cleaning.  I worked on the kitchen island, which tends to collect papers...  my to-do lists, coupons, and other generally useful information.   All the bed linens were washed, including pad and pillow covers, dried on the line, and put back on the bed.  I put up the hummingbird feeder last week, and they showed up this week.  The bluebirds have little ones, and can be seen bringing food to them.    I also saw a tufted titmouse go into one of the bird houses at the edge of the garden.  I attended a wonderful annual plant sale with a friend, sponsored by the NC Herb Society.  The prices were reasonable, and there will be additions to food, medicine and beauty here.  I shared a sprig of Kentucky Colonel mint with a worker who was here and expressed excitement about his plans to begin growing herbs this year. He'd been talking with one of the vendors at the farmer's market, and was planning to buy herbs from her.  I pondered giving him several other herbs, but didn't want to diminish the sales of the woman at the farmers market.  I made sure to give him a warning about mint, and he said he had just the place for it.

I continue to work on stripping the porch posts.  I'd been pondering why it was taking so long, & realized being they're round, I can only do 1/4 at a time, and each section takes 3 or 4 times to get all the paint off, so a total of 12-16 goes to do each post.  It's my first time stripping paint, and I'm using a citrus based stripper, both of which probably also slow me down.  I cut a bouquet of lilacs for the house.  Entered info for Purina cat chow points, which should eventually get me a free bag.  Combined a coupon with a sale for the pup's food, for $5 off.  The sale goes on another couple of weeks, so I will get another bag with a coupon next week.  Picked up some things at the discount grocery, including kalamata olives for $2, organic cereal $2, organic cannelini beans .50, artichoke hearts .50, dried blueberries and tart cherries for $1/bag, Bobs Red Mill flaked coconut for $2, boxed whole milk for $1 (good til November).  Though I prefer buying local milk, I like to keep some of these on hand to save a trip to the grocery store & for bad weather. I also bought 20# bags of black oil sunflower seeds for $5 ea. for the birds, & 7# Iams cat food for $7.  The bags were all taped, but appeared full or near full.

 wild onions
I finished weeding the original herb bed.  J dug up leeks that were in it, and we both pulled wild onions from it.  I cleaned the wild onions and added them to the broth bag.  I ground a pan of dry bread for bread crumbs, and froze it.  The chick is 3 days old as I type this, and mama hen is still sitting on the other 4 eggs, but no sign yet if they are viable.  J & I regularly check mama and chick.  The chick appears healthy, but I noticed mama shivering, so made up a batch of oats, warm milk, nettles, kelp, yogurt, kefir and bread.  Boy, did she love that!  She stopped shivering right after eating.  I figured she has probably not taken in enough calories lately to stay warm, so this warm & nutritious meal helped. I put a bit more in there in the late afternoon, and we added a heat lamp.  On Saturday, we found one of the eggs outside the nest box.  We can only assume mama hen put it out on purpose.  So, that leaves 3.  The chick is active, & eating and drinking well.  I made up another batch of nourishing oats, which they both ate.

first chick
J & I spent most of Saturday in our crawl space.  First, we covered the entire crawl space in plastic, which will make it a bit nicer to work there, as well as decrease the humidity.  Then we began on the duct work for the new room.  J made the return air plenum from steel that was recycled from the original solar hot water heater on the roof, which was second hand and never worked all that well.  I'm happy we could use the steel for this project.  I cooked garbanzo beans using our onions.  Pulled various "weeds" for the chickens.  I'm making a new leek soup as I finish up this post, which also uses our garlic, broth & oregano, along with carrots, red pepper flakes & paprika.  I'm making a quiche with our eggs, garlic, sweet red pepper & parsley to go along with it, and a pear & blue cheese salad with homemade vinaigrette.  Soup has been a help in getting my weight down, and I have some most days.  It's filling, nutritious and tasty.  Our second chick hatched this afternoon!  What have you been cooking or planting recently?  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Blooms, a Broody Hen & Frugal Accomplishments

As another week begins, I'm happy to be joining in with Frugal Accomplishments.  After preserving all our winter squash, there were 2 pumpkins left on the shelf, bought for our hayride last year, and used with our own squash as decoration.  One of the pumpkins was a white one.  Unfortunately, it began to rot, but before putting it in the compost, I gathered some of the seeds.  I have no idea what variety it is, or if it is a hybrid, but figure it might be fun to have a vine of white pumpkins for our decorations each year.  If the seed doesn't grow true or if is not a tasty variety, it will still be good food for the chickens and pups.  I made hummingbird food, and put out one feeder.   I haven't seen any yet, though there have been reports of local sightings.

J made some changes to the area in the chicken coop intended for broody or sick chickens.  After putting her eggs in the new nest box, I moved the broody hen there.  She moved one of the eggs to her liking and sat back down on the eggs, looking quite content.  That went much easier than anticipated.  This is a totally private area, which I've read they prefer, and I guess there's the proof.  Did laundry with homemade soap, and hung it on the line.  Went through swagbucks, and paid with my credit card, for a 7% discount on fittings for our rainwater collection system.  Cut asparagus a few days, though I only got a few each time.  There are quite a few slender spears from the new plants,  so over the next few years, our harvest will hopefully increase.  I roasted asparagus for dinner one night.

I gathered flowering tips of broccoli, and wild cat brier tips to add to our salad.  Cat brier has a mild lemony taste, which the ants also like, so I give the tips a look before plucking to see if they are ant free.  Used our garlic when roasting brussels sprouts, baked our sweet potatoes, and used fresh oregano in a mushroom dish.  Made potato leek soup with our vegetables, broth and herbs.  Went through ebates for a purchase and used a coupon code to get a free item.  Harvested kale twice, and made a kale salad.  Mended one of the dog bed covers, whose zipper had come loose during washing.  I also mended one of our outdoor nylon banners.  It was my first time attempting to mend one of these, & it isn't pretty, so I'm not sure I'll bother doing that again.  I crushed a pan of egg shells and added them to the compost bin.

We've all been eating our share of eggs lately, as we have them in abundance.  Thankful for that, and the fact that our broody hen is doing a fantastic job sitting on those eggs, since she got her private spot.  This week, we could have chicks, or maybe not.   But if not, I'm betting on next time.  I added lemon and grapefruit peels to a jar of citrus vinegar.  Watered all the house plants, and added the brown leaves to the compost crock.  The last roselle cutting I started in the fall died :o(.  I did collect a few seeds, but was hoping to have at least one plant to start with this spring.  Our meyer lemon and key lime trees arrived.  The lemon looks happy, but the lime lost all but one leave.  I put them outside every day with our tomato seedlings.

We had freezing forecasts a couple of nights, so J & I went around wrapping and covering everything we could.  One small peach tree lost all its peaches, and our kiwis died back, but other than a few leaves most other plants seemed to make it OK.  I repaired my massage chair, which I use for massage work at Hospice, and also repaired my slippers, sneakers, a vintage photo that was losing its back, and a scarf pin.  Made omelets with our eggs and asparagus.  Did a small amount of weeding in the orchard.  Weeded young lambs quarter plants from a flower bed, and picked a few cabbage worms off the kale, and gave both to the chickens.   What did you do to save money or resources last week?