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!