Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Adventures in Natural Dyeing with Plants

Good morning, friends.  I wanted to share my natural dyeing experiments with you.  From the class I took in July, there are the above two pieces dyed with sunflower seeds.  If you look close, you can see where the weed whacker chewed up the shirt on the left side.  I'm thinking I'll patch it with some other pieces of naturally dyed fabric.

And (L to R) coreopsis x 2, North Carolina red clay, and a dog fennel experiment.

The above are pieces I dyed with onion skins we grew.  They were a yellow type onion, with deep rust skins.  There was still so much color left in the skins, I dried them to use again.   All of the photos in this post are of cotton fabrics.  In the links below, there are also silk and wool fabrics, in more vibrant colors.

I continue to gather dye stuffs as I come across them... oak galls, lichen, juniper berries, hickory husks.  Here's a link to one of my earliest experiments, using goldenrod and poke berries, from 2011.  Here's another link with my experiment with marigolds that same year.  As you can see, I've not done a great deal, but what I've ended up with has got me excited to do more experimenting.  Be well, friends.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Creating & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  On Monday, the rain from tropical storm Irma arrived.  It stayed in the low 60's all day, so I decided to can.  First canned was tromboncino squash.  While it was in the canner, I started the eggplant, which is salted and covered with water before being boiled and canned.  These helped warm the house up, then I added a few ingredients and baked leftover pasta for dinner, which warmed the house a bit more.  I froze bags of okra, and finished filling a gallon bag of vegi scraps with squash and eggplant ends, which will be turned into broth.  I submitted codes to receive points on Purina pet perks.  We've been able to mostly keep our a/c off, running it one cycle in the evening most days, to decrease the humidity as much as the heat, then opening up the house before bedtime.

After helping J place firewood pieces in the bucket of the tractor for him to move, I picked up lots of juniper with berries, which I'm gathering for a dyeing experiment.  Unfortunately, one of the trees we cut down came down along one side of the juniper, so it lost several limbs.  The tree cut down was one leaning towards the house, and when we cut it, found it had a weak root on the side opposite the house, which meant that it would have fallen in the direction of the house.  So, I suppose a few limbs on the juniper tree is worth having that risk taken care of.  We put aside the smaller limbs to chip in the future.  With Irma turning more westerly, we only received an inch of rain, and no major wind.  So thankful for the rain we got.

The first kale of the season was gathered, and a kale salad was enjoyed.  After working in town, I borrowed books from the library, and stopped by Staples for some great back to school prices... packs of erasers for .75, composition books for $1, packs of glue sticks for $1, and 2 packing tapes with dispensers for $4.  I was first charged $12.99 for the tape, but looked at the receipt and when I questioned it, got $9 and change back.  It's a good idea to make sure there are no mistakes on charges, but I don't always think to check.  I did not buy any groceries, as we bought groceries while in Greensboro on Sunday.  I brought my stainless water bottle and a snack.  For dinner, I used one of our pears in a pear blue cheese salad, and used our eggs in deviled eggs.

After spotting this Eastern Painted Turtle on my way back from the chicken pen, I gathered my laundry basket and headed to the clothesline, where I saw a Great Blue Heron at the pond.  The dogs took off running towards it at the same time, so I didn't have time to snap a photo.  I found we still had quite a few cabbage and broccoli plants that had been overrun in the pond garden.  I weeded around them, so we'll see how they do.  The sweet potatoes are also in that garden, and a weedy mess, though J has trimmed the weeds with the weed eater several times.  Maybe I'll get to that in the coming week.  Laundry was done with homemade soap, and hung on the line.  I made a new Provencal tomato recipe, which was just OK.  I continue to see hummingbirds at the feeders, which seems later than usual?  Perhaps I've stopped filling the feeders too soon in past years, or maybe I've forgotten.  I had in my head it was closer to Labor Day when I stopped seeing them.

On Thursday, I focused on my bodycare business. I made a batch of Lavender soap, then did photo shoots for shaving mugs, shaving brushes and my newest soap,  At The Forest's Edge.  Photos can always be better, but they're fine for today.   I got the long handled tool my Mom bought me some years ago, and harvested all the pears I could reach.  Though none of the chard seeds have germinated in the garden so far, I noticed one self-seeded chard, which I'll transplant into a bed  No, I won't, as J mowed it :o(.  Another day, I noticed a lettuce plant in the walkway, and transplanted it into a bed.  So, there's that at least!  For dinner, we had ravioli using our garlic, and a salad using our tomatoes and cucumber.

While, picking lima beans, I ran into a saddleback moth caterpillar.  Ouch!  They're quite interesting looking, but pack a bit of a sting.  On Friday, J went to the coast to do some deep sea fishing with his brother.  I had dinner with my sister, picked up a few things at the co-op, and gave myself a facial scrub and mask when I got home.  On Saturday, I started two dye pots, one with eucalyptus leaves and another with sunflower seed hulls.  The eucalyptus pot appears to be imparting a light peach color, and light gray on one of the pieces in the sunflower pot.  I'll check them again tomorrow.  I realized I've not shared my previous dye experiments, so I took some photos and will put up another post with them in the coming week.  An embroidered piece I created some time ago finally got placed in a hoop and listed in my shop.  The transition of seasons has got me feeling creative.  Have you had any creative moments lately?

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Royal Treatment & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope you and your loved ones have remained safe through these very challenging times.  If recent events or other reasons have you looking for ways to make the most of what you have, you may want to check out The Prudent Homemaker's site.  There is great information there, as well as many helpful comments from readers.  Last week, I cut a bouquet to enjoy in the house.  After working in town, I ran errands and filled up my car for 8 cents less per gallon than the station closer to home. At Walgreens, I got almonds and cashews on sale, and $2 off 2 Hallmark cards.  From the garden, I harvested tomatoes, eggplant, okra, pawpaws, cucumbers, the last plums, pears, butter peas, and lima beans.  For dinner one night, I sauteed one of our onions in olive oil and cooked fresh lima beans, served with basmati rice and asian cucumbers.  I made a new recipe for pawpaw pineapple bread, which used our eggs.  The recipe called for self-rising flour, which I don't keep, so I made my own (for each cup of flour, add 1 1/2 tsp baking powder & 1/4 tsp salt).  I sent some cake home with J's son.

I shared okra with one of our neighbors, as well as pawpaws, which he was excited about.  He's going to try growing some from the seeds.  I froze celery that needed using.   One of J's clients gifted us two pumpkins that have a lot of character.  They'll be perfect for fall decorating, and then will be eaten.  My co-op recently had organic graham crackers on sale, and I enjoyed some as I did when I was a kid, with a bit of butter and homemade jam on them.  I'm sure others have eaten them this way, but I've never known of anyone.  It was just something my Mom and I liked.  I had a frugal fail, and forgot about the milk while while making yogurt, and it boiled a while.  There was a carton of shelf stable milk that needed using, so I used that for the second round, and kept a closer eye on it that time.  It is runnier than the usual, but the pups eat most of it, and don't seem to mind a bit.

On my walks, I pick up wild grapes I find on the ground.  I've also started picking up the fruits from sourgum trees.  Both are given to the chickens to supplement their diet.  Lima beans were frozen in meal sized bags.  I continued ignoring the repeated requests to renew my Country Living magazine subscription, which is good until Oct. 2018.  Twice in the past, without researching it enough, I renewed far too early.  They begin hounding me 18 months before my subscription expires.  Do they do that to everyone?  I have been a subscriber since the 1980's, and love the magazine, but it amazes me how wasteful they've become, sending out numerous letters, in addition to multiple emails.  I refuse to renew magazines online, as I want to decide if and when to renew, rather than give them the power to do it automatically from here to eternity.  I'm a bit odd, in that I really dislike the phone as a general rule, and I find nowhere to email them, to ask them to stop wasting their money.  So, their letters will continue to go in the trash.

It's looking like we'll have some impact from Hurricane Irma, so we're looking at our preparations.  J checked  the generator and found an issue with the charger.  I'm glad that was found and fixed well in advance.  Though our cistern was filled half way with the last rain, we're holding onto that water until after the storm, as it's easier to pump water from the cistern than our 500 ft. well.  So, in the meantime, we're dealing with the stinky and staining well water.  But, in light of what others are going through, I'm grateful to have it.  A good part of a day was spent sewing, which added a few therapy pillows to the shop.  They are filled with rice and lavender flowers, and can be heated or chilled to bring comfort to those spots that need soothing.  I'm grateful for some sales in my soap shop.

J & I were spoiled royally this weekend.  Though I told my family we didn't need a thing for our wedding, they thought of something very special to do for us, and gave us a getaway night at a very posh hotel in Greensboro.  When we heard the National Folk Festival was going to be there this weekend, we decided that was the perfect time to be in Greensboro.  After checking in on Saturday, we met my brother and his wife at the festival.  There were several stages going at once, with all sorts of world music and dance.  We heard Tibetan throat singing, Chicago blues, Ethiopian jazz, and bluegrass before heading back to the hotel for dinner in the courtyard.  The original plan was to return to the festival on Sunday, but with Hurricane Irma heading in this direction, we decided to return home and take care of some preparations, including taking some trees that were leaning or dying down that were close to the house.  But we thoroughly enjoyed our royal treatment, including champagne and other delectables sent to the room, and a scrumptious breakfast buffet.  Thinking frugally, we brought home all the delectables we hadn't eaten, including two beautiful ribbons they were tied with, and a large sprig of rosemary.  We enjoyed the last of the champagne before checking out, and brought home the complementary magazine and book of short stories.  It's something we'd likely never do for ourselves, but it was a delightful treat.  Wherever you are, friends, I wish you a week of safety, comfort and many blessings.

Monday, September 4, 2017

September Blooms & Frugal Accomplishments

abuzz with pollinators
Hello friends.  My heart has been with all the people affected by Hurricane Harvey.  May they find comfort and hope in the coming days.   For last week's frugal accomplishments, my Mom's zucchini soup was made with our squash, tomatoes, basil, onions and garlic.  I made vegi sloppy joe's (some from the discount grocery .50) one night,  with our okra as a side, and a salad which used used our tomato and cucumber.  Another night, I made a very frugal dinner of Polish  cabbage, shared by Jane.  She decided to stop blogging, but I keep hoping she'll begin again.  I crushed a large pan of egg shells, and added them to the compost bin.  Laundry was done with homemade soap, and hung on the line.  I redeemed a $15 amazon gift card with swagbucks points.

I've decided to try going gray again.  I was mostly gray from my mid 30's to mid 40's, though I expect it's about 100% now.  J says he doesn't care, so I colored with a lighter brown this week.  It's a little odd looking. and may be even odder when I try blonde next go round.  I thought it might work as the ends fade some, but I may have to cut a bit off before all is said and done.  Fun adventures with hair!  The days and nights have been cooling off, so a/c has been turned off more often, and windows open as much as possible.  I continue to pick okra, and freeze several meals worth weekly.  Chard, lettuce, and arugula seeds were replanted for the fall garden.  Swagbucks had not credited me for a gift purchase I made through them in July.  After going back and forth with them, I received the credit.  I made my initial swagbucks goal daily, and my secondary goal several days.

We have another broody hen.  I was thinking it was getting a little late, but J wanted to try again, so I put her in the broody area on 10 eggs.  I learned something this week.  I'd always thought once an egg got cool, it was no longer viable to hatch.  Well, come to find out you can keep eggs a couple of weeks before trying to incubate them.  Who knew?!  So, I saved up eggs for 3 days until I had 10.   Maybe the third time will be the charm in this case.  I'd been waiting for cooler temps and rain, and getting it, finally trimmed the lemon and avocado trees I started from seed.  They'll be easier to fit in the house over winter, and I hope they'll put out some side branches.  I don't expect to ever get avocados, but lemons would be lovely some day.

For dinner, a batch of Pasta Norma was made with our herbs and vegi's.  I planted more seeds for beets, hollyhocks, bachelor buttons, rumex, and black eyed susan.  Another 6 pints of tomato juice were canned.  When inspecting the jars for canning, I found one with a chip on the rim, so I tied a piece of twine on it to alert me to use it for dry goods, a vase, etc., anything besides canning.  I got an order for soap from one of the B&B's.  J's business partner offered to drop it off for me, as he lives 10 minutes from the B&B.  Though he said he wouldn't take anything, I put one of the new bars of soap in with the others for him.  This will save me an hour and a half round trip driving, and I usually "thrift my way home", so that money in addition to gas money will be saved.  Now that the new soap is ready, I've got to decide on a name, so I can get them wrapped and offered  in the shop.

This weekend, as part of my birthday celebration, J took me wherever I wanted to go on Saturday.  We went to a local shop I'd been wanting to check out, a farmer's market, botanical garden, bakery (for a small snack in lieu of lunch), thrift shops and a crepe place for late lunch/dinner.  Other than the gas, it was a pretty inexpensive day.  I found very little I needed, though I did buy a couple of chive plants for $1 ea (mine succumbed to the drought), and 2 black-eyed susans and a homestead verbena, each at 40% off.  I found two white shirts for dyeing and a ravioli maker at the thrift shops.  J, however, found two nice wool suit jackets, a couple pairs of cargo shorts, and six pairs of work pants, including a pair that are fireproof (helpful with welding, plasma cutting & such) and two pairs with tags still on.  We had a most enjoyable day together. On Sunday, my siblings and I met for dinner, which is always a fun time.

Wonderful rain arrived, almost 3/4".  Enough was collected that we'll be able to switch from the well water back to rain water, and hopefully, it will last us until the next rain.  Two very lovely bags of organic, shade grown coffee beans arrived from our new friend at the Smithsonian, as thanks for the pawpaws we shared with him.    We're very much enjoying the Ethiopian beans currently.  Wishing a lovely Labor Day holiday to my friends in the U.S.!

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Tomato with Heart & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Our area was in 94 or 95% totality during the eclipse.  The guys and I donned welding helmets off & on to view it.  Though the light looked odd, I was surprised it remained light.  The rooster started crowing, and Guinness cried for his evening walk during the odd light.  The crescent shapes were viewable for some time, especially noticeable under the trees (for pics, see the last post).  I heard of three areas that had rain during the peak.  I'm glad we were able to view it, though we sure could use some rain.  In between going outside for the eclipse, I was able to can 6 pints of tomato juice.  I made potato salad, asian cucumbers, and tried a new recipe for zucchini fries one night, all with garden vegi's.  The zucchini recipe was not a keeper, but you never know until you try.  The zucchini (tromboncino) was dredged in flour, egg & bread crumbs.  The leftover egg & a bit of flour was cooked up for the pups dinner, & the bread crumbs and flour went to the chickens.  Zucchini ends and some potato skins went into the broth bag in the freezer.  The pups also got a small, odd shaped cucumber and some tromboncino that had seen better days.

I learned from a friend that the current Verizon rewards program is being phased out.  The account is in J's name, and I've never kept up with the rewards, but knew he did not use them.  I was told there is much less to choose from now, but was able to get a $5 coupon for one of our favorite local restaurants.  We have to use it in 2 weeks, but I think we can do that.  I looked at magazines, but they were more than I wanted to pay, even with the discount, so I opted to use the rest of the points to enter sweepstakes for overseas trips.  At least there's a chance of winning, rather than the points just expiring.  I went through ebates to buy a used pattern for scrubs.  I haven't sewn any clothes yet, and am hoping that will be a relatively easy first project.  I also went through ebates to buy a book that will be a Christmas present.  Eggs were boiled for the pups, and the water used on outdoor plants.  I'm joining in with The Prudent Homemaker today.

Another green striped cushaw squash was harvested, along with lima beans, butter peas, figs, pawpaws, hazelnuts, yellow squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, okra, apples, pears, plums, eggplant and sweet red peppers.  The significant rain we hoped for turned out to be 1/8", so we're still really hurting for rain.  We ran out of rain water for the house, so J switched us back to well water until cisterns are replenished.  Here come the stains :(.  Enough purslane and basil were harvested to make a double batch of pesto.  Because of the dryness, there's only a little of this and that coming in.  A good variety, just not much of anything.  The majority of tomatoes I'm harvesting are golf ball size, so most of those are being juiced, and the pulp dehydrated to use in bird suet.  After saving up figs for many days, I was able to make another batch of fig honey jam.

Of the fall seeds I planted, the kale have come up nicely, and some of the collards.  J bought cabbage and collard seedlings, which we planted in the garden.  I cut up and froze 4 red bell peppers, which is probably plenty for the coming year.  Peppers are something I like in small doses, and the only way I consistently use them is in Rhonda's crustless quiche, and in pumpkin soup.  A story Rhonda shared this weekend about a garden initiative for refugees is brilliant, I think.  It seems good in so many ways... poor, unused land being turned into healthy gardens,  people having meaningful work and building community, being able to pass on their knowledge to another generation, etc.  Can you tell I love this idea?!  I cut the tomato at the beginning of the post for caprese salad, and found the heart inside.  Love is all around us.  Many wishes for a wonderful week.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Nature's Art From The Eclipse

Were you able to see the eclipse?  Our area was at 94% totality.  The guys and I wore welding helmets to view it, which protect your eyes the same as the glasses.

I loved all the little crescent moon shadows that were under every tree.

I was in and out of the house to view it, working on canning tomato juice while in the house.  I saw someone post a photo inside their house of the crescents, and wished I'd thought to look beneath the solatube for them.

Nature is always full of surprises. when I take the time to notice.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sharing Pawpaws & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I'm happy to be joining in with The Prudent Homemaker today.  Last week, I made a peach cake with our peaches, and dehydrated the skins and bits for bird suet.  I harvested purslane and basil, and made purslane pistachio pesto, along with a caprese salad.  We had it with pasta, though it's very good with the farro risotto recipe she shares as well.  Another night, I made eggplant parmesan with garden vegi's and herbs, as well as a pawpaw cake, which we enjoyed and were able to share.   An interesting thing happened related to pawpaws last week.  Friends of ours met a man looking for pawpaws, who does research work on bird habitat for the Smithsonian Institute.  They gave us his contact info, and he came out this weekend.  Of course, this morning was the first in two weeks that there were no pawpaws to gather on the ground.  Thankfully, I had kept some harvested the past couple of days, and we were able to coax another 4 down to share.  He roasts coffee as a side gig, and said he'll send us some as thanks for the pawpaws.  I love good coffee, so that sounds like a win-win exchange!

J's laptop went black recently, and he purchased a new one at Staples, requesting they transfer data from the old to the new laptop.  It took 6 days longer than promised, and a bit of back and forth, but they ended up giving us coupons for $20 off future purchases for our trouble.  I received an ebates check for $5 and change.  Wanting to propagate our raspberries and hazelnuts, I tip layered several branches of each, hoping they'll all root to increase our berry and hazelnut harvest.  I gathered and cleaned seeds from red chard, calendula, wood betony, and black eyed susan.  Almost 13 lbs. of pawpaws were prepped for the freezer one evening.  There aren't a great deal of lima beans or butter peas coming in yet, so I combined the two, and we had them with basmati rice, asian cucumbers, and sliced tomatoes for dinner one night.  Garden vegi's, eggs and pawpaws were shared with a friend  who had gotten us front row tickets to see Lyle Lovett in a lovely old theatre.  I was about 8 ft. from Lyle and His Large Band!  He brought in a local choir to help on several songs, which was wonderful.  It was not frugal, but worth every penny, and an evening I will long remember.

After working in town last week, I picked up a few things at Aldi's, including .79 avocados and my favorite seeded, organic bread.  I also stopped at Lowe's and got a couple of things on the mark down rack- 12 oz of organic espresso coffee for $3.50 and 4 everything bagels for $1.20.  Bean and pea shells, onion and tomato ends, and a package of last year's okra was added to the broth bag in the freezer.  Eggs were boiled for the pups and us, and the water was used to water plants.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow and tromboncino squash, eggplant, okra, butter peas, figs, pawpaws, a peach I had missed and hazelnuts were gathered.  I weeded several areas in the garden, and gave the chickens small and split tomatoes several days.  I cleared around one of the figs that had things grown up around it. Yogurt, kefir and hummingbird food were made, and scraps were composted.  Okra was frozen in meal size packages.  Laundry was done with homemade soap and soap gel, and hung on the line, and homemade soap and deodorant were used.

After dark one night, we put the 11 week old chicks in with the rest of the flock.  They seem to be making a good transition, with little notice from the older hens.  My shop had a couple of sales last week, as well as one sale in J & I's shop.  I've been brainstorming things to add to my shop, mostly items I've made before, and intend to bring back as time allows.  I picked a bouquet of flowers to enjoy.  Lowe's was having a sale on landscaping block, and we were able to edge three more flower beds with block this weekend.  We used two gift cards, and J's military discount to reduce our out of pocket expense.  I told anyone who asked that we only needed well wishes for our wedding, but we still received some gift cards, as well as several handmade items.  All were very much appreciated and will be gratefully used.  We also purchased 5 good sized hostas from the half price clearance rack at Lowes, 3 different varieties, and divided two of those, to give us 7 new plants to help fill in our shade garden.  The autumn clematis is blooming, with a most delightful fragrance.  Wishing you a week of hope and peace.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A New Soap, Pawpaws, & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope your week was a good one.  I recently took an online survey for a food co-op I've been a member of for years, and received a 10% coupon as thanks, which I used last week while I was in that town for an appointment.  Laundry was done with homemade laundry soap, and hung on the line.  The cell phone charged in my car when I was out and about.  Yogurt, kefir, hummingbird food, and suet for the birds were made.  I harvested another round of elderberries, and plan to leave the remainder for the birds.  I began another quart of medicinal tincture with the berries, which should have our supplies pretty good going into cold and flu season.  I sat on the porch while we were getting a soft rain, and removed them from the stem, which was a peaceful chore.  I'm delighted to have some figs this year.  Saving them up for a few days, I had a pound, and made enough fig and honey jam to just fill three 4 oz jars.  I'd been reading how nice it is with cheese, which sounds lovely, and something I look forward to trying.

Last week, I harvested cucumbers. tomatoes, eggplant, okra, apples, peaches, hazelnuts, and J brought in three green striped cushaw squash.  I picked all but two peaches, and those were gone the next day, I expect to our resident squirrels.  That's OK. I've asked J for a squirrel buster bird feeder for my birthday, which I'm hoping will decrease the number of them hanging around our home.  A friend has one, and says it works wonderfully to keep them out of the birdseed.  There are acorns and hickory nuts galore here, so it won't hurt them not to eat the sunflower seeds.  I made one sale on ebay.  It was not what I hoped for, but it's a sale.  For one dinner, I made a tomato pie with our tomatoes, basil, chives, and homemade bread crumbs, with asian cucumbers as one of the sides. For some time now, I've been using twinkly lights and a battery operated candle that was my Mom's for dinner, instead of the hanging fixture with multiple bulbs.  It's a calm, pleasant way to enjoy our meal, and saves money as well..

While in town for work, I decided to check in the local thrift stores, mostly for white clothes and sheets to dye.  I did find a lovely white flannel sheet and two tops to dye, but I'm most excited about a natural linen skirt I found at Goodwill.  It had been taken in (to a 22" waist!), and looking at it, I thought I could wear it when taken out, and was happy to find that I can.  I love the style of it, as well as it being linen.  In my walks in the woods gathering lichens and other dye stuffs, I'd been pondering a new soap.  I created it this week, with essential oils of various woods (pine, fir, cedar) and oakmoss.  When the pot of lichens simmered while dyeing a shirt, the aroma was a heavenly earthy, woodsy scent.  I decided to strain the liquid (rainwater and lichen "juice") and use some as my soap water.  In researching, I found this lichen has been shown to be a strong antibacterial in at least one study.  As far as I know, it's not been used in soap before, and I'm not sure if the antibacterial properties remain after the soapmaking process, but I'm excited to try it.  It smells quite lovely.  I'll be pondering names for the soap over the weeks it's curing.

pawpaws- one of three trees!
We had many volunteer tomatoes this year, transplanted most of them, and gave a few away.  The majority happened to be cherry and small tomatoes.  We've been enjoying the cherry tomatoes in a bowl on the table for snacks and during dinner, but I thought another good way to use them would be to turn them into tomato juice.  That was a fairly easy canning session, with the hardest part cutting open each of the small tomatoes.  They were simmered til soft, run through a food mill, reheated and put in jars.  These will be perfect to add to a summer squash pasta sauce I make, as it's a bit dry otherwise.  The skin and seeds that were left in the food mill were dehydrated, which will be used for bird suet.  This is a banner year for pawpaws.   I've rather lost my taste for them in smoothies, which is pretty much the only way they've been used in recent years.  There are several interesting recipes I've pinned on a Pinterest board, and hopefully, I can find a way to use them.  I wasn't crazy about the pawpaw bread I made in the past, and am looking for other ideas.  If I find any good recipes, I'll share them here.  I've offered some to our local microbrewery, after seeing folks who are using them in various beers, and they'd like to try some in a batch.

Before rain on Saturday, J & I planted seedlings of collards, cabbage and broccoli I had started.  I also planted seeds of beets, kale, arugula, two types of lettuces and swiss chards.   Paper from our shredder was spread around several fruit trees, and the remainder added to our compost bin.  I helped J chip and shred some brush from an area he is clearing, and we spread it at the garden fence.  On Sunday, I spent an hour and a half prepping 5 lbs of pawpaws for the freezer.  I then went out to do chicken chores, and lo and behold, there were 7 more pawpaws on the ground.  Oh well, they will have to wait for another day.  I harvested a basket full of dog fennel, which was then boiled for dyeing.  I haven't found much information on this plant, and in the initial soaking, it only imparted a bit of green where the fabric was touching the fronds.  I'm leaving it to soak overnight, and then will probably try adding ammonia, which was given as an option, to see if more color comes through.  I researched a bit on hickory nuts and hazelnuts, but don't find a lot of information on those either.  In any case, I'm having fun experimenting with various dye stuffs.  Tonight I made pasta sauce using our tromboncino squash, tomatoes, basil and rosemary.  A favorite summer recipe shared by a friend.  Wishing you all that you hope for in the coming week.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

This and That & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope your week was a good one, with whatever makes it so for you.  Last week, I strained jars of apple cider vinegar, and added the apples to the compost bin.  I think I've left the apples in too long when I've made it in the past, and hope this does the trick to make good vinegar.  I'm following at least one of the recipes I've seen, so we'll see how it goes.  I found this caterpillar of the Eastern Black Swallowtail on some parsley, which made me happy.

I've been researching, gathering and making in the natural dyeing realm.  I harvested some of the woad seeds, and let others fall to propagate new ones.  I've gathered oak galls and lichen on my walks.  I've learned oak galls are a good mordant for plant fibers such as cotton.  Lichen has been a traditional dye plant for Scotland tweeds.  Lichens can take decades to grow, so I am only gathering downed limbs that are covered with what I believe is mostly parmotrema, and pieces of cladonia aka reindoor moss that I find already uprooted by critters.  I gather the pieces that are already crispy, and either leave or relocate to a nearby more conducive spot any that are still moist.  There is a delight and reverence as I gather these gifts from the natural world.  I prepared an iron mordant by soaking used nails in a water and vinegar mixture.  This is used as an after mordant, and a good use for recycled jars.

I walked every day with the pups for exercise.  This week, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, basil, okra, summer squash, apples, peaches, and our first figs of the year were harvested.  With cooler, temps, we've been able to open up the house most nights.  The past few weeks, I've used the toaster oven in place of the gas oven whenever possible to cut down on the heat put into our home.  I colored my hair at home.  I made my initial daily swagbucks goal each day, and redeemed points for a $25 amazon gift card.  I canned summer squash, and made Pasta Norma for dinner, which used our eggplant, onions, garlic, tomatoes and herbs.  It's funny, but as it was often one of the few if not only vegetarian options, I tried Pasta Norma at two restaurants while in Italy, and both times J and I agreed mine was better.   I suppose having home grown vegi's and herbs helps.  Canning water was used on outdoor plants and in bird baths.  J also uses the dehumidifier water to water outdoor plants.  It is still terribly dry here, and we try to keep things watered as well as possible.

I've come to realize I should not can jams, jellies or butters in pint jars, unless they are going to be gifts.  The two of us just don't eat them often enough to keep from going bad once they're open.  A half pint jelly jar is a better size for us.  Two or three weeks ago, I opened a pint of apple butter, made before my epiphany, and there was still a bit more than half left.  Rather than watch it get moldy, I found a recipe for Apple Butter Bars.  In addition to our apple butter, it used our fresh apples, an egg, home ground wheat (I subbed half the flour with this), and homemade vanilla.  I almost never use icing on cakes, and left it off of this recipe.  We enjoyed it for dessert and breakfast.  I gratefully accepted three large boxes of canning jars of assorted sizes, which included a few rings.

For the first time, I canned apple pie filling.  Our apples were quite small, and many had been chewed on by hornets and wasps due to the dryness here, so prepping them was rather time consuming.  I'm hoping a slice of pie once it turns cooler will make it all worth while.  My first attempt at using UltraGel was a bit of an adventure, but I've researched a bit, and will try doing something different next time.  I had followed directions for Cleargel in the recipe, but learned this product is an instant version.  I listened to free Pandora while I worked.  Two more jars of apple cider vinegar were started with the cores and peelings.  One night, I made a frittata using our potatoes and eggs.  Another night was caprese salad using our tomatoes and basil.  Tomatoes and garlic went into a tomato rice loaf another night.  I wanted to use up a little bit of leftover peas, so added that to the loaf as well.

Today's garden harvest was a little of this and that... some okra, two apples, pawpaws, the first of the lima beans and some volunteer butter peas.  On my way to check the figs, I noticed there were several hazelnuts on the ground, so those got gathered too.  They're small and I think a bit early, probably due to lack of rain, but I hope that will be remedied tonight and tomorrow, and maybe again this week.  There are cherry tomatoes to harvest too, and maybe some larger ones.  For now, there are hazelnuts to dehusk, and beans to shell.  We grilled tonight, with okra, summer squash, asian cucumbers, brats for the guys, a neighbor bringing roasted potatoes.  I was hoping for ice cream, but ended up making a cobbler with our peaches.  Wishing you peace and good things this week!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Simple Summer Meals & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I'm delighted to report that after more than a month with no rain, high temps and hot breezes, we received rain of .2" Friday night and early Saturday.  We dearly need more, but it's a start.  Everything was in a fairly critical state on this land, with large cracks in the earth in places, so we are thankful for the blessing of rain.  The little bouquet was cut from the homestead.  I'm joining with The Prudent Homemaker today.

On Monday, I received a call asking me to work the rest of the week at one of my occasional jobs. After working Tuesday to Friday mornings, I ran many errands while in town.  I brought my water bottle and a snack each day.  The thrift store that supports the local SPCA is only open Fri's and Sat's, and on Friday, I went by there.  I found 2 large embroidery/quilting hoops for .25 & .50, 4 frames for .25 ea, and another frame for .10.  There was also a pretty wicker trash can for $3 and what I think is a cherry pitter for .25.  I'm hoping we'll have some cherries to pit next year.  Some nice treasures for just $5 & change.  On Monday, I cleaned, researched, photographed and figured shipping on 6 ebay items.  After a break, I'm getting back to trying to sell some friend's antiques.  They were listed on Tuesday.  I'm really hoping all the work put into it will be paid back with good sales, but so far, it's looking doubtful.  Things seem to have shifted on ebay since I began selling for them, and I'm not sure if there's anything I can do.  I think I'll try increasing from 5 to 7 day auctions, to see if that helps.  If I find similar items online, I do make sure my starting price is lower, unless what I see is in significantly worse shape than my item.  All suggestions welcomed.

One night, I made pasta sauce with homegrown tomatoes, tromboncino squash, onion and herbs.  The next night, with what was leftover, I heated some homemade crescent rolls from the freezer.  Another night we had vegi BLT's & asian cucumbers.  Meals in the summer tend to be simpler here, even more so when they're working days.  When I got in from work on Friday, I pulled 3.5 gallon bags of vegi bits from the freezer, and made broth, which I let simmer most of the evening.  I like a good, rich broth, and added pieces of reishi mushroom for it's goodness.  I always intend to do this, and am glad I remembered this time.  Once it cooled,  it was put in the fridge overnight, and on Saturday, I reheated and canned it, getting 7 pints for the pantry.  Last week, I harvested cucumbers, yellow and tromboncino squash, eggplant, tomatoes, okra, apples, peaches, and herbs.

One a walk with the pups one evening, I found this feather.  The best I can determine, it's a tail feather from a chuck will's widow.  Neither J nor I had ever heard of this bird.  It's a good thing to learn more about the spot where you live.  If any bird lovers identify this differently, please share.  The hens have been sharing lots of eggs, which we and the pups have been enjoying.  J scrambled some and had them with sliced tomatoes one morning, and I had a couple poached.  Garden vegetables, jams and eggs were shared with several friends this week.

The Ameraucana chicks are doing well.  I've been making their feed, according to what I've read, and giving them various fruit, vegi & grain treats.  They're 9 weeks old now, so in just another week or so, we will likely try introducing them to the rest of the flock.  I mended a sweater, and did a slight alteration on a blouse.  I don't know if it's because I'm older, or if it's today's fashions, but I seem to end up with things that show some cleavage, which I'm not especially wanting to do. To remedy that, I've put a few stitches an inch or so higher on shirts and a dress, to be more modest and comfortable to wear.  We were gifted a cantaloupe.  Melons didn't get planted here this year, so we especially enjoyed it.  This morning, I harvested elderberries from one patch, and removed the stems.  I'm heading to the other patch, then all will go into a batch of tincture.  We're having gloriously cooler temperatures and low humidity.  I enjoyed coffee at the pond this morning, and intend to enjoy time outdoors today.  Enjoy your day however you spend it!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Free Roosters, Thrifted Treasures & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope this finds you well.  It seems these days most everyone I know is having challenges, whether illness, things breaking down or other challenges.  I do believe the planets affect us.  I'm not sure if this might be contributing, but whatever it is, I hope it soon passes, and hope challenges have not visited you.  I'm happy to be joining in with The Prudent Homemaker today.

Last week, I harvested cucumbers, yellow squash, tomatoes, tromboncino squash, blueberries, eggplant, okra, apples, basil, oregano and chives.  I started seeds for broccoli and cabbage from seeds we had on hand.  I gathered eggs from the chickens, and gave them holey chard in return.  Eggs were boiled for the pups.  One evening, an exuberant McNibs knocked the egg basket out of my hand, which cracked the eggs.  Thankfully, there were only two eggs, and I gave the pups those for supper.  I did a good clean out of the chicken coop, which was much needed, and gathered sprigs of spearmint and oregano to put in the nest boxes and on the floor.  These not only make it smell better, but may also repel insects.  I used a coupon code for $30 off our supplement order, as well as going through ebates for additional cash back, and used a 35% coupon code for a book I plan to give as a gift.  I bought another gift through swagbucks, for cash back.  I bought seeds on sale, and used an additional 10% coupon code.

The day McNibs had a run in with the skunk, I mentioned I left to attend a class.  It turns out the class was canceled, but I never received the message, so they are giving me $50 off my next class.  I was interested in another class they're having in August, and need to take 25 hours worth of classes for my massage license renewal, so this works out well.  I already receive a 10% discount on classes as an alumni, and will save the additional $50 after that.  After making bean burritos for dinner one night, I had leftover refried beans.  I don't know why it hasn't occurred to me before, but I realized it would be easy to turn the beans into vegi burgers.  I researched online, then added an egg, bread crumbs, dehydrated onions, flax seed, hemp seed, chili powder, garlic powder and cumin.  They were delicious, and a good use of leftovers.

J's business partner called about some 7 week old Ameraucana chicks that were in a nearby feed and seed, so the next day on his way home, he bought 4.  There was one Russian Orloff that I was excited about after reading about them being such hardy birds, but J is pretty sure that it was a rooster and left it there, and it may explain why it was the last one left.  We surely don't need another rooster.  I'm still trying to find homes for our extra two.  Would you like one or both?  They're a bit over a year old, handsome and docile.  They just really need their own flock of hens.  I cut a watermelon one hot day, and gave the rind to the chickens.  I made soap gel by mixing homemade soap trimmings with water in the blender.  I use watered down gel in a dispenser at the bathroom sink, and add it to laundry loads.

  The nettle tea fertilizer I made several weeks ago was applied to our peppers, rutabagas and dwarf pomegranates.  We've not had any luck in the past with rutabagas, and I'm excited to have a good amount of them this year, with bulbs forming already.  If we have enough to store over the winter, I'll need to research the homestead equivalent of the waxing done to the ones in the grocery store.  Cabbage moths have found them, so I've hand picked the worms a couple of times.  I emptied water cups and bottles into the dog's water bowl, and watered plants with egg boiling and other assorted water.  With the summer heat upon us, our electric bill jumped $50 since last month.  I should say this is not all our home, as both M's trailer and J's shop are on the same bill.  We've been using fans to move around the air conditioned air, which we turned up a degree, and I'm closing blinds and doors against the sun as it moves.  This weekend is the hottest so far, and we've already lost some plants to the drought.  We do some watering, but there's nothing like a good rain.  I hope we see some soon.

thrifted treasures
After making a soap delivery to a B&B 45 minutes away, I stopped at 4 thrift stores on the drive home.  My main goal was to find white clothes that I can experiment with dyeing with plants, and I found 4 shirts.  I also hoped to find a white sheet, which I didn't do, but I found a pretty, small cloth.  I'm always on the lookout for sturdy baskets, and found 2 for the garden, and a laundry basket from $2.50 to $4.00.  I found a vintage, well made embroidery hoop for .50, and a small, thick mat for $1 to use in the bathroom.  There was a frugal fail at the Habitat store, where I found a $2.50 basket and two .25 candles.  I was overcharged $2, but decided not to go back and just consider it a donation.  Pasta salad was made one night, using our tomatoes, cucumbers, basil & oregano.  Another night, I made a tomato pie using our tomatoes, basil & chives, along with asian cucumbers.  I couldn't think of what else to serve.  J requested hummus, so I mixed up a batch using our garlic, plus pantry items.

Wanting to stay indoors as much as possible on an especially hot day, I worked on mending and ironing.  I sewed a button on a shirt, mended a small hole in a shirt,  removed long strings from the sleeves of a linen shirt and reworked the neckline, turned a pair of pants into shorts, and shortened the straps of a thrifted silk nightgown.  Some time ago, M cut plywood boards to fit on our pantry shelves.  I suggested to J that it would be a good day to spend time in the (basement) pantry, being so hot, and we moved lots of jars to put the wood down, then put the jars back.  The shelves were the type with metal wire every inch or so, not very stable for glass jars and bottles.  We were able to cover the majority of shelves, and have a piece of particle board left over from another project that we'll cut to use on the remaining shelves.  J & I gathered the little onions that are on the tops of our walking onions, and plan to start another bed with them.  A container of caponata was found in the freezer from last year's eggplant, which I served with leftover tomato pie and asian cucumbers.  Are you enjoying the bounty of seasonal produce?