Monday, July 16, 2018

What We're Eating, What We're Not & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  Knowing the week ahead would be busy, I harvested and prepped lettuce for salads for the week.  After not harvesting blueberries a couple of days, I picked 1 1/4 lbs, though I could see the birds and critters had been enjoying them too.  I canned a few small jars of jam with them, and dried the skins that were removed for bird suet.  After having a working weekend, and knowing what the week ahead looked like,on Monday afternoon, I decided to spend a little time on natural dyeing.  For the first time, I used a mordant (alum) on the materials prior to dyeing, and gathered and simmered a dye pot of virginia creeper.  I've read it gives a peach or salmon dye.  I'm going to try cutting and boiling a larger batch, as the first gave almost no color.  I did put fabrics in the dye pot, wondering if the mordant would help, but not surprisingly, they all just look sort of dingy.   If I do get a good result, I'll be sure to share.  I added warm up water to the washer, used homemade laundry soap, and hung it on the line.  I wrote swagbucks customer support regarding a purchase that was not credited, and received the credit, several weeks earlier than I would have (you usually see it "pending" for a few weeks).  It was only for $2 and change, but it all adds up.  J returned a can of paint that wasn't needed.

After working in town, I stopped by the library and picked up a book.  The squirrels have been a real challenge here lately.  Three times during the week, I found one in the bird feeder attached to the kitchen window!  I was hoping with changing to the Squirrel Buster feeders, they'd pretty much stay in the woods, eating the masses of acorns and hickory nuts there.  But, it didn't happen.  They've been eating our immature apples and pears.  On Wednesday, I noticed our fullest peach tree was down by half.  On Thursday, while I was at work, J saw a squirrel eating a peach, and every single peach was off that tree (several dozen).  At that point, he took matters into his own hands, and I can't say I blame him.  I was really looking forward to those peaches.  There are a dozen or so left on another tree, that we'll get if we're lucky.  There are still plenty of squirrels, so I don't know.  The Japanese beetles have been munching our apples and pears.  At least half our apples are decimated.  They got our first and only nectarine too.  But hey, there are some good things.  We're still getting plenty of cucumbers, a few summer squash, and we got two beautiful eggplant this week.  Our first tomato is starting to color up.  We've picked the first 5 okra.  I'm trying to keep looking on the bright side.

I brought lunch, my water bottle and snacks for each of the days I worked shop sitting.  Though there are customers that come and go, there are always several hours that I have free. I brought the guy's bookkeeping and some of my tax stuff to work on, soaps to wrap, and went through a good amount of my ever full inbox.  I also brought several things to read.  I packed up the drain we bought in the wrong size to return.  As I hadn't been able to pick blueberries the days I worked, I did that Sunday morning, and gathered over 2 lbs.  I also picked several small apples that were ripe, though some had spots from the Japanese beetles.  I've been trying to remember to eat some blueberries every day.  On Sunday, J harvested the rest of our potatoes, cultivated, then planted seeds of cabbage, broccoli, collards, winter salad blend, rutabagas, chard and turnips.  The potato harvest was more than we expected, which was nice.  Once they're ready to store, I'll try to remember to weigh them.  Things are really dry here again, so J's been watering some every day.

On Friday evening, J integrated the chicks into the rest of the flock.  All seems to be going well on that front.  Our sick rooster is perking up some and is more interested in food, so we believe he's starting to heal.  We're happy about that.  We enjoyed cantaloupe, and brought the rinds out for the chickens, which were mightily enjoyed.  Of course, they're getting cucumbers every day too.  It's a rule that everybody on the homestead has to eat some cucumber every day :o).  Well, I look forward to catching up some around the homestead this week, and also to spending a little time with my sister later in the week.  Hope your week is a good one, friends!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Crunchy From Way Back & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, I spray painted the two lamp shades with frosted paint.  J hung them, and I again have working shades in my studio.  J created a new item for our online shop. I took photos and created the listing.  My ebay items didn't sell, so I dropped the price and relisted them.  Laundry was done with homemade soap, and hung on the line.  I met my initial swagbucks goal several days, and made a purchase through them for our bathroom redo, earning 4% back.  The item was marked half price, for damage to the package and possible scratches, but the item arrived in perfect condition.  I'm happy about that.  A library book was renewed online the day it was due, saving fees.  Walks with the pups were taken twice a day, getting exercise, relaxation, and keeping my weight close to where I'd like it to be.  A summer tanager sang to us from a tree one day. 

On the Fourth, we dug all the potatoes whose tops had died back.  J was disappointed with the harvest, but I was pretty happy.  I'll weigh it, but it looks like there are at least 20#, which is what we planted.  There's about 1/3 of the patch left to harvest, plus another patch planted from the tiniest of the potatoes we grew last year.  We'll harvest them before long, as the fire ants will enjoy the most of them if we don't.  Less than ideal, but at least we've got some homegrown potatoes to enjoy, even if we won't have any for winter storage.  J grilled, and I prepped some of the potatoes with our herbs.  He and M enjoyed baby back ribs that had been marked down from $19 to $4 and change for the 4th.  Our lettuce and cucumbers went into a salad, and store bought corn on the grill was enjoyed as well.  I considered making one of the flag desserts I saw during the week, as we had homegrown blueberries, as well as strawberries, cherries and watermelon.  I picked up a bag of vegan marshmallows on markdown at the local natural food store too, but in the end, we were all too stuffed.  Here's a pic of the outdoor shower.  That's one of our cisterns in the background. 

When J was going to town, I asked him to stop by Tractor Supply for animal food, and gave him a 10% off coupon to use that came in the mail. Now we're stocked up with dog, cat, chicken and bird food.  I sold a dozen eggs to a friend, and sent some cucumbers with her.  I also gave the mail carrier and a neighbor cucumbers.  The dogs, chickens and we are eating them every day, in some form.  Another day, we gave our hair dresser and J's business partner cucumbers.  I realized though I have plenty of dill pickles and dill relish on the shelf, I could use some sweet pickle relish.  This can be used in Thousand Island dressing, which has been my favorite for years.  In fact, in the afternoons when I got home in high school, my favorite snack for some time was a salad with fresh made Thousand Island.  I wasn't a vegetarian at that point, but apparently I had some crunchy leanings, to prefer a salad as an after school snack :o).  This week, I made up a batch of the relish, and for a brief window of time, had one cucumber remaining in the crisper, until that days pickings, which added another 21.  They're certainly bountiful!

On another day, I made potato salad with more of the potatoes that got cut during harvest, which also used our parsley.  On Friday, J & I went to hear live music, and took a neighbor along.  There was nothing frugal about it, but I consider music one of life's pleasures, and worth the cost.   Here's one of my favorites of his songs, which does have a frugal theme, though sadly he did not sing it that night.  On Saturday, I tried a new soup recipe, which included a gifted large zucchini, our first tromboncino, our basil, potatoes,  parsley and a jar of homemade broth.  The soup is called Burden soup, related to the burden you feel to use up large zucchinis.  I'll be making it again.  I made a salad using our lettuce and cucumber, plus store bought items to go along, and cut up and sweetened strawberries that needed to be eaten for dessert.  The coming week looks to be a busy one, with 4 days of working away from home.  I was glad to get through a pile of magazines.  Some will be going to the free basket at the library, and a couple were saved for a friend.  I also whittled down a pile of papers at the computer.  The pile is not gone, but it's smaller.   Sadly, one of our roosters suddenly became unwell.  We've isolated him, and been giving him all the natural remedies we have, hoping he'll come around.  The cooler temps on Saturday allowed us to turn off the a/c and open windows.  It's been too long, and the fresh air is delightful.

With the cooler temps, we were able to enjoy a pond sit one evening, and observed a bird catching insects at the pond.  It hovered at times, and we believe it to be a flycatcher.  Some dear friends have retired and are moving to Hawaii.  The wife is already there, and on Sunday I helped the husband by cleaning what was left in the kitchen and pantry. As he's leaving in two days, he told me to clean everything out of the fridge and cabinets.  I brought home a car full, including 2 lbs of butter, maple syrup, frozen meat and seafood, oils and balsamic vinegar and lots more, most of it organic.  He offered me their toaster, TV and DVD player.  I left the microwave, but our toaster, TV and DVD player are all having challenges, so they were most welcome.  There are also some lovely pottery bowls and mugs, and assorted kitchen items that came home with me.  I boxed up the rest, and he'll take it to a place at the local dump called the swap shop, where it will be free for the taking.  Someone will be happy to get that microwave.  When I arrived there, I heard a sound I couldn't quite identify, and began looking for a large bird in the trees.  It turns out they have two juvenile male turkeys they feed.  They were quite amusing.  Before I left, I noticed columbine and rose campion with lots of dried seed heads.  I gathered some of each, and hope they'll do well, bringing sweet memories of friends.

I sent a dozen eggs home with our neighbor.  Each time he grinds mixed grains for his cows, he offers us some for the chickens. J helps him often, to keep all his equipment running.  One day last week he dropped everything to go meet the neighbor in a field, then came home and quickly fabricated a piece to get him up and running again.  It's nice to be in a community where neighbors look out for each other.  It's been a long day.  I expect I'm forgetting things, but that'll do for now.  I hope your week brings you all manner of seasonal pleasures. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Crepes for Dinner & Breakfast and Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Well, I was wrong again, about there being woolly aphids on the roses and raspberries.  It's actually flatid planthoppers, and this time I'm sure of it.   I suppose that's why the insecticidal soap doesn't seem to be doing much.  I've noticed them before, but apparently never ID'd them correctly.  I'm glad the third time's a charm.  Though the article says they don't cause much damage, it does seem as though they're harming the plants, with the branches beyond them drying up, even the wild ones I see on my walks. That doesn't seem negligible to me.  After several weeks of no rain, we had a lovely overnight rain, and everything perked up.  Since then, it's turned hot and dry again. 

I made a Lowe's purchase for our online business with my cc, for 5% off, and will pay it off immediately.  I found a marked down Heritage raspberry for $8 while there, and purchased it.  All the others were marked $15 (1/2 price), but this was the nicest of the bunch, so I'm pretty happy.  With the above mentioned planthoppers, I've barely gotten any raspberries so far.  J & I planted this one in another location, shortly before a rain.  I spent an hour one morning harvesting all the blueberries and blackberries I could find, which netted me about 1/2 cup.  It's a good thing I enjoy this lifestyle, and also that there are grocery stores, and we're not having to live off of what we can harvest!  It is the beginning of the season here, so I'm hopeful for a better harvest.  On the other hand, I can and do collect dozens of Japanese beetles in an hour.  Oh, the life of a gardener.

I listed several items on ebay.  Our three surviving olives were mulched, and beets were weeded.  The stencils arrived, so I etched both of the light shades, only to realize the etching is not enough of a barrier for the bulbs, as it still is quite glaring.  I chose tree stencils, being the lights have metal that looks like branches as supports.  My next plan is to purchase frosted glass spray paint to cover the insides of the shades.  J doesn't think it will wash off like the original paint did.  Fingers crossed.  One night, he requested a pasta salad, which included one of our cucumbers, recanned olives, and our basil and oregano.  I took advantage of a 40% off sale, and bought 5 gifts for 3 people.  I suppose that means I've begun my Christmas shopping.  On Friday, I harvested lettuce, cucumbers, blackberries and blueberries.  I weeded the carrot bed, filled a bucket of weeds for the chickens, and gathered lambs quarter for us.  Cucumbers are a good cool treat for the chickens when the days get hot.  I cut them in half, and place them in their yard.  J suggested I try freezing them, which I did after halving them.  They seem to enjoy pecking at them and getting the cold bits.  I'd intended to harvest all my lavender before the beach trip, but only got around to one plant.  Though the other two's flowers were a bit past their prime when I harvested them, they still smell lovely.

After removing the lambs quarter leaves from the stems, I added the stems to the broth bag.  It hadn't occurred to me until recently to do this.  I gathered some thyme to dry for winter use.  Salad were made with our lettuce and cucumbers.  Eggplant parmesan was made with eggplant slices I froze last year.  That's the first time I tried freezing slices, and I must say we thought it was delicious, so I'll be doing it again, provided there's freezer room.  There were two cool nights, when we were able to open windows.  I've mentioned that we built an outdoor shower, as we won't have one when we get to that stage of the bathroom redo.  I tried it out this week, and loved it.  The first time, it was at night, almost dark.  I'd hung solar twinkly lights around it, which we already had.  Looking up into the trees, and seeing lightning bugs flicker nearby was pretty magical.  The next time was during the day.  Looking up through the trees to see the blue sky with puffy white clouds, and hearing the birdsong was also pretty special.

I've used the toaster oven to bake a couple of times this week, to cut down on heat in the house.  There have been a couple of frugal fails.  I had one last large pumpkin in storage that was gifted to us.  As the gardener who gave it isn't organic, I was saving it for a hot day for the chickens,like right about now.  Well, I waited too long, so into the compost it went.  The Olympus camera I've used the entire time I've had my online soap shop (10+ years) was a used one gifted to me by M.  It still works great, but it's not supported by Windows 10, so I've been having all sorts of wonky things happening, lately closing the page when I try to download pics.  After some research, I contacted the company, who told me one fix is to use a photo card reader.  Heeding the tech guru of the house, I purchased a reader, which turns out to be the wrong one.  I tried cancelling my order, but couldn't in time.  I've purchased the correct one, which should be here 4 days before the wrong one, so there's that at least.  I have at least 30 photos on the camera to download, including some of the outdoor shower, but we'll have to make do with some other recent photos. 

We haven't quite gotten back into our milk buying groove since the beach, and we're running low.  I made up some powdered milk to mix with liquid milk to make yogurt.  Last week, I saw mention of Brandy's mushroom & cheese crepes.  Having some baby bella mushrooms that I needed to finish using up, I decided to make crepes for dinner on Saturday.  I mixed up powdered milk for the crepes, used our eggs, and gathered oregano, parsley and thyme to add to the mushrooms and cheese.  They were good, though the crepes were a bit thick.  I left out the remaining batter Saturday night, after researching that is often how the French do it.  We had a small amount of ricotta and some sour cream that needed using.  I added vanilla and a small amount of honey to each, spread that on the crepes, then added our blueberries and blackberries for Sunday breakfast.  J liked the ricotta ones best, and I thought they were both good.  I added some milk to the batter, and the crepes were much thinner, and just right.  I can see how it would be a great way to use up leftovers.  You could even add different bits of leftovers to each one, if you just had small amounts.  I think I may add crepes to our repertoire. 

My pantry always has various concoctions "working" in jars.  I strained two jars of vanilla.  One was good as is, and I added three vanilla beans to the other jar and put it back on the shelf.  I also strained two jars of citrus cleaning vinegar, and a small batch of yellow dock and dandelion root tincture to add to the medicine cabinet.  It has been very hot and humid, and I am feeling very thankful for a/c each time I come back in from my outdoor ventures.  Sending many good wishes for a lovely week and 4th of July holiday!