Monday, June 21, 2021

Happy Summer

Hello, friends.  Last week, J's business partner gifted us a bag of summer squash he grew.  The yellow squash were picked a bit late, so I cut out the large seeds in the middle, and added it to the broth bag.  No waste.  It was lovely to have the squash now, as our tromboncinos are still pretty small, and our yellow squash is taking it's time growing.  Basil and oregano were harvested for a saute using the squash.  I cut more oregano than I needed for the recipe, so dried the remainder.   I earned $12 in rewards at FL, and got .79 avocados & dogfood on sale for $6 off x 3.  When I asked J to level our refrigerator, he found the coils were pretty dirty.  Only the front ones could be reached with the vacuum, after removing the front panel, so he got his air compressor, and blew the rest off.  It inspired him to change the filters on our air returns too.  Hopefully, these things will now run more efficiently and cheaply.  

J harvested our onions, and worked on creating a swale in the garden, which he's been wanting to do.  There's one corner that stays too wet, and he wanted to remedy that, which he finished before we got a nice rain.  On Sunday, I noticed the first tomato just beginning to ripen.  It can't happen too soon.  The dogs were bathed in the outdoor shower.  We had a couple of cool mornings in the 50's.  On one, the ironing was caught up.  On the other, I cleaned the chicken coop.  I usually do it much earlier in the spring, but my hands were raw for so long, I didn't think that was wise, even with gloves.  Thankfully, they're 90% better, though were not very happy after the dog bathing. I should have worn gloves for that too.  Lesson learned.  

I've enjoyed harvesting blackberries and raspberries.  I also harvested basil and rosemary for pasta sauce, which used our tomatoes, onion and squash from the pantry.  A bouquet of gardenias and another mixed bouquet were cut for enjoying in the house.  I went through Swagbucks for 4% back on a purchase.  On another purchase, I found a $10 off coupon code to use.  Both purchases were items needed for our little side business.  Our electric bill went up $40 this month, not unusual when we go from wood heat to a/c, even though we open up each night.  I virtually attended our annual electric co-op meeting, and found out they're going to be raising rates later this year.  It's been 5 years, so I suppose I can't complain.  Two books were requested from the library.  I won a cookbook from a giveaway on a blog I follow.  

As suspected, M caught a deer nibbling on our thornless blackberry on his webcam.  He also caught a cardinal, which I'm sure was looking for, if not nibbling on the berries.  We're going to try a cage around it, with some netting.  Just about every day, I'm noticing more plants that are deer browsed, which is pretty concerning.  I suppose I've been very lucky, but in my 25 years here, they've stayed away from the gardens and orchard, until they munched the peanuts and sweet potatoes in the pond garden last year.  This year, they're even braver, coming up to the main garden and orchard. A neighbor told J he's seen them often this year out by the road.  It's wooded between the road and our garden area, so we had no idea.  Our main garden fence is only 4' tall, and I can tell they've been in there already.  It looks like we'll have to do something, if we're going to keep growing food as planned.  I'm not really sure what they might eat, though the beans are a concern.  There's a whole bevy of things that want to eat our food, that's for sure.  Many wishes you have a most lovely first week of summer!

Monday, June 14, 2021

Old Friends & Our Garlic Harvest

Hello, friends.  The first of our berries are ripening.  Something chewed on the first blackberry the day after I saw it almost ripe, then the next day, ate all that were larger, ripe or not, a dozen or more.  It looks like deer have been browsing it, and looks like they've snacked on the raspberries nearby too.  M set up his webcam there, to see if we could catch the thief.  On a happy note, they haven't yet found the raspberries by our outdoor shower, so I've managed to harvest some of those.  When I walked across the dam on Sunday, I saw the wild blackberries there had started ripening.  I ended up using my shirt to hold them, as there were more than I could hold in my hands.  The black and raspberries were used in a fruit salad with dinner.  Several of the swiss chard have sprouted.  I harvested flowers and made a bouquet for the house.  The pea plants were pulled up, and given to the chickens, along with bolted lettuce and wild lettuce.  We've had a good bit of clouds and some rain, so the house plants were moved off the porch, to their summer quarters.  A photo shoot was done for the new pumice stones and shaving brushes.  I want to get some more photos of single ones, but for now, they're listed in the shop.  

Several tomato stems broke off when I trained them into the cages, were put in water, and have rooted.  The kiwi were getting rambunctious, since their winter pruning, twining their way up into the blueberries and an apple tree, so I pruned them again.  I think this may be the year we'll pull them all out.  They've been here at least 8 years, and we've got nary a fruit.  They've barely bloomed, and missed it entirely some years, including this year.  We may just be a bit beyond their zone here.  A friend who bought hers when I did, and lives less than a hour away, has some luck with them, but she also lives on a lake, so her microclimate may be more conducive.  I'll review their needs, and ponder if they might be happier elsewhere on this property, before we yank them out.  I'd surely love to produce and enjoy some homegrown kiwi, but some times you just have to throw in the towel. 

Thyme, spearmint and lemon balm were harvested and dried, for culinary use, tea, and soap making.  Bird suet was made.  Broccoli and radishes were harvested.  While at Hallmark, I took advantage of a  B3 G1 free coupon.  While getting groceries last week at the store which overcharged me $10 last month, I wasn't charged correctly on some produce, which made my total $5 less.  I received 5% off on the total, as it was senior's day.  I bought food items online, using a 15% off coupon, mostly GF, and went through Swagbucks for 4% back.  I received $10 credit on amazon, for buying from a small business.  I spent a lovely Saturday with friends at a nearby lake.  A high school friend who now lives in FL was visiting our friend's lake house.  We were treated to a long boat ride.  Spending time with lifelong friends is one of life's true treasures.  I'm sorry about the blurry photo of the heron, but I was afraid I'd scare it if I moved closer.  

Shortly after our friend, M, made us a rack to hold the garlic this weekend, J harvested it.  The rack runs the length of the carport, was mostly built with scrap and recycled lumber, and works so much better than the twine "hammock" we'd been using to hold them to dry.  We had a great harvest, with many large heads.  Just last week, I used the last of our powdered garlic, and we've had to buy a half dozen heads after last years harvest ran out a few weeks ago.  Not too shabby.  I made our favorite black bean burger recipe, tweaking two of the ingredients for my current diet, with happy results.  I also made the Medical Medium Italian potato salad, and was pleased, which was a little surprising, as I'm kind of funny about my potato salad.  The kalamata olives certainly didn't hurt, and I was able to harvest our basil and parsley to use in it.  The annual hand picking of Japanese beetles has commenced, with the chickens receiving the bounty.  They also got the rind and seeds from a honeydew melon.  Wandering through the garden on Sunday at dusk, I dispatched several squash bugs, and saw the first tromboncino and cucumber fruits.  Wishing you a lovely week.

Monday, June 7, 2021

A Couple of Plant Based Recipes to Share

Hello, friends.  The temperatures have gotten more seasonal here, with highs mostly in the 80's.  I finally switched out the winter quilt for the summer bed cover.  After dropping a friend off at the VA one day, I shopped at Trader Joe's and a natural food co-op in Chapel Hill.  And dang if I didn't realize I'd been charged an extra $7.99 after getting home.  The store is an hour & 1/2 from me.  There must be a lesson in this, as it keeps happening.  I suppose the lesson is to not be in such a hurry that I skip reviewing the receipt before leaving the store, but I just want to get home, you know?  Not to mention, it usually feels like they're rushing to get to the next one behind me.  Ah well, I do trust it all works out in the end.  

After shopping for groceries, I stopped at a garden store, and purchased three roselle/rosella hibiscus, which is edible and medicinal.  I also bought one tickseed, which is a dye plant, and got all in the ground the next day, after creating a small flower bed.  Rocks were gathered to edge it.  I made hummingbird food, canned broth, and the stovetop was cleaned with homemade thieves vinegar and baking soda.  I planted calendula and nasturtium seeds & transplanted woad and dyer's coreopsis, and put all houseplants out on the porch to acclimate to brighter sunlight.  This week, they'll be moved to their summer quarters.  Onions, parsley, celery, asparagus, broccoli, oregano were harvested, and lambs quarter was foraged twice.  Enough lambs quarter was blanched and frozen for three meals.  I used a portion of my amazon credit to watch Far From the Tree, which I really enjoyed.  A friend gifted me a large limb, chock full of usnea.  A new jar of tincture was started with it.  

I tried a new recipe for lentil shepherd's pie, made a double batch of anzac cookies, and froze most of them.  We both liked the shepherd's pie, but I realized afterwards that the ketchup contains vinegar, which is not allowed on my protocol.  Goodness, it can be a challenge some days, but the eczema is healing, so I'm sticking with it.  There's a medical medium ketchup recipe I need to try.  I made bean burritos for the first time since we haven't been eating dairy, with plant versions of sour cream and cheddar.  We both agreed the sour cream didn't taste like much.  I thought the shredded cheddar was OK, but J did not.  Of course, I've been eating plant based cheese off and on for a couple of years.  Sadly, I didn't think to check the cheddar ingredients, and it had turmeric in it, which put J in a bad state for several hours.  So, it looks like there will be no homemade burritos in our near future.  I did find tortillas made with almond flour, which I thought were good.  I know I can make GF tortillas, but on many days, adding that to the rest of my dinner chores seems a little overwhelming.  I made Mexican quinoa to go with them, which used our onion and a jar of our canned tomatoes.  

When J checked on the status online for our a/c unit on order since October, he found they had cancelled it without even letting us know.  Thankfully, he has since been promised one from a company he's done business with for years, for somewhere between $200-$300 more, on Monday.  With the scarcity of items these days, we'll take it.  Though I lived here without a/c before for ten years, I learned central NC is a bit too hot and humid for me to want to do it again.  We got some much needed rain, and the asparagus in the new bed is starting to sprout.  There were over 20 sprouts up on Sunday.  While in town to get groceries on Friday, I picked up two books at the library, and dropped one off.  I purchased some more of the $2.99/# cherries, which is the cheapest I've seen.  The only other ones I've seen were $6.99/#.  The recipe for the plant based broccoli mac & cheese mentioned last week was requested, so here it is.  Have a wonderful week, friends.

Broccoli Mac & Cheese- Medical Medium


12 oz elbow shaped GF pasta

2 c cashews

2 tbs lemon juice

2 cloves garlic

1 large date

1 1/2 c water

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp chili powder

3 c broccoli, lightly steamed


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare pasta according to directions on package.  In a blender, combine cashews, lemon juice, garlic, date, sea salt, and chili powder.  Blend while streaming in water until smooth.  Stir together pasta and sauce until well mixed.  Add in broccoli and stir to combine.  Pour pasta into an 8x8 inch baking pan, and bake for 15 mins. until just beginning to turn golden brown on the edges.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 31, 2021

Homestead Projects & The Garden

Hello, friends.  Last week, while heading to the grocery store, I noticed two stations had $2.99 gas.  Across from my last stop was a station with $2.77 gas.  Filling up there saved $1.80.  Lettuce, radishes, the last few asparagus, and broccoli were harvested.  We kept the a/c off, with days in the upper 80's, until the day the house reached 79 before cooking dinner.  On those evenings, it was turned on for a bit.  J is keeping our old system limping along until our new one hopefully arrives.  We only run it for a little while in the evenings when needed, and open up at night.  On Sunday, we saw they backed up the ship date another week, which is how it's been going since October.  We're going to start seriously looking for an alternative unit.  After a meeting with someone in town an hour and a half away, I picked up 9 pairs of workpants for $10 for J, which he had found on FB Marketplace.  They're the good cargo type work pants that he likes.  It couldn't come at a better time, as his are all falling apart, have weld holes in them, etc.  I received another $1.50 digital credit from amazon, making a $7 total credit.  There are a few shows with charges I'd like to see on my Prime list, so I'll likely use it towards some of them.   

The asparagus J ordered came in.  I gathered any soil I could find in empty pots to reuse, which we mixed with peat moss and native soil.  This mixture made up the mounds the asparagus crowns were planted on.  The inoculated biochar was scattered through the bed, mycorrhizae and organic fertilizer was placed on the mounds before the crowns, then native soil covered them.  Once they send up shoots, the remaining soil will be filled level with the top of the bed.  I made a batch of homemade toothpaste.  Last summer, I infused a jar of coconut oil with chocolate mint, and another with rose petals.  I used a mixture of these, in place of plain coconut oil, and left out the essential oils.  A batch of yogurt was made, and laundry was hung on the line.  An onion was harvested.  J picked up a gallon of milk, as they were out of half gallons.  We're only buying it to make yogurt for the pups these days, with both of us off dairy, so I froze the remainder.  We have quite a few plants with little tomatoes, which is always exciting.  As J finished creating orders, I cleaned and powder coated them.  That and packing them kept me busy several days.  With metal prices rising significantly, we had to raise our prices, but we thankfully continue to get new orders.  We are grateful. 

Some work was done on the workshop.  I painted the trim molding earlier in the week.  J found some crown molding left over from the house build, so we decided to use that as well.  It was pretty dirty, so I scrubbed it all well.  When I was building the house, my SIL worked for a molding company, and I was able to get all the molding I needed for free.  All of it was considered imperfect, but many had just minor scuffs.  Other pieces just had to be cut down.  That was a real blessing, and now we're blessed again.  J put the crown molding up, all the vertical trim, and made a frame around the exhaust fan.  It feels good to be making progress again.  The garden and other projects kept us from it recently.  One of the projects was a two vehicle carport J found on a FB Marketplace estate sale, at half the price of new.  It's now up, and holding his two personal vehicles.  His work truck sits out in the weather.  About twice a year, I refresh the yogurt with new starter.  As the local stores only carry organic plain yogurt in quarts, I froze the remainder in cubes, and will add a cube to a batch every so often.

With Saturday and Sunday's nights in the 40's, and a high in the mid 60's, I decided Sunday was the perfect day to process the last of the winter squash in storage.  The butternut squash and hubbard squash were diced, steamed, then pureed.  The spaghetti squash were baked.  There were 2 1/3 squash that had to be composted, but they'll still feed us, by adding fertility to the soil.  When I finished with the squash, the end bits and skins filled up a second gallon bag of veggie bits, so I went ahead and simmered it all for broth.  That will make a bit more room in the freezer.  Some of the cooked hubbard squash was kept out, to make a pumpkin bread.  I was able to use pumpkin spice mix that I made up earlier in the year.  For dinner, I made a plant based broccoli mac & "cheese", which I loved and J liked, so that's another recipe I can add to our repertoire.  I was able to use our broccoli in the dish, and found my favorite GF pasta so far.  Speaking of broccoli,  J & I hand picked many caterpillars off the broccoli and cabbage over the weekend, both imported cabbageworm and zebra caterpillars.  The chickens were happy to get an extra large helping of protein.  The pups got chopped broccoli stems and dandelion greens.  I guess we're all eating well on the homestead.  Wishing you a most enjoyable Memorial Day.  

Monday, May 24, 2021

A Little Visitor & Life Around the Homestead

Hello, friends.  Last week, I harvested peas, asparagus, lettuce, a small amount of spinach, and radishes.  Catbrier tips and lambs quarter were foraged for salads.  A nice bunch of oregano was harvested, and dried.  We've enjoyed many salads with our lettuce.  I agreed to hold off shipping an amazon order, for a $1.50 credit, making my current digital credit $5.50.  A pan of egg shells were crushed, and added to the compost bin.  Bread ends were processed into bread crumbs.  Two volunteer tomatoes found near the compost were potted up.  I recently bought a flat of strawberries from a local farm.  We enjoyed some fresh, and some in salads, but weren't going to eat them in time, so I froze the remainder.  The chickens enjoyed the tops that were cut off.  My niece inspired me to start a batch of sprouts.  It'd been a while since I'd started any.  

After grocery shopping in town, I stopped in to see friends.  I was gifted a beautiful, vintage hooked wool rug she couldn't use.  I'd been wanting a pottery cruet for olive oil, and when I picked one out in their shop, I was gifted with it.  I'd really intended to support their business, and felt rather bad about that, though I did bring eggs and basil plants to share.  Laundry was hung on the line.  A full shredder bin was added to the compost bin.  I picked up a library book, and dropped one off.  While there, I donated a book I recently bought, as I knew I wouldn't read it again.  They were happy to have it.  Vegetable soup was made from canned garden produce and fresh vegetables.  I'm doing a good job of eating up the leftovers.  Summer and winter clothes were swapped out.   I decided to make a vegan pesto, and gathered nettles, purslane, basil, and a few lambs quarter for the greens.  The nettles were blanched first, to lose their sting.  It wasn't as good as the cheese version, but it was pretty good, while we're not eating cheese.  

J cleaned out the woodstove, hopefully for the last time this season.  I sifted the ashes, left the ashes themselves for him to put on some of the potatoes, and then pulverized the pieces of char.  It's a simpler version of biochar.  Next, I'll be inoculating it with several things... likely comfrey tea, mycorrhizae, and urine.  That's what we have, and all are mentioned as good things to use.  It's said that if not inoculated, it acts like a sponge, absorbing nutrients until it reaches equilibrium with the soil.  If inoculated, it accelerates mycorrhizal growth, and creates healthier, stronger, more nutrient dense plants.  That all sounds good to me.  I continue drinking celery juice every morning.  I believe I previously mentioned I purchased a new juicer, which I'm loving.  It's this one, which is so easy to disassemble and clean, and so quiet compared to my old one.  It's actually $9 less than when I purchased mine.  The $45 coupon makes it $80.99 at present.   

Parsley was harvested for a cauliflower dish, and our oregano and garlic were used in a mushroom dish.  J pulled up stumps with his tractor, then excavated a spot for the 100 asparagus plants that he bought last week.  The soil in this new spot is pretty bad, so we're brainstorming what we can use to build the soil.  It's a pretty large area.  A neighbor, one of the only ones who doesn't spray with Grazon, is checking to see if he has any spoiled hay we can have.  While it was still cool Sunday morning, we added several tarps full of leaves.  Knowing bought manure and compost can also have Grazon in it, we're going to skip those.   As manure and compost are generally sourced from local and regional materials, and the vast majority of farmers use Grazon around here, it doesn't seem a safe choice.  We're not aware of any way to be sure it doesn't contain it, and J has read accounts of others who have had this happen.  Our food is too precious to risk it, so we'll be creative in coming up with other materials.  Wishing you a lovely and bountiful week.

Monday, May 17, 2021

New Recipes & Staying Cool


Hello, friends.  A potter friend recently made this tile for me.  Isn't it lovely?  Her address tiles are popular, and each one is unique, based on your interests.  Last week was unseasonably cold, with some nights in the low 40's.  The woodstove was fired up again, the latest we ever remember.  I took advantage of it one of the days, and simmered a gallon of vegi scraps on the woodstove for broth, then froze it as cubes, to use in various recipes.  We hope we're done needing the woodstove for good this season.  Soon I'll start working on getting the houseplants out to their summer quarters.  Homegrown aloe was used in smoothies.  I harvested asparagus, onions, peas, a little spinach and lettuce.  Eggs were gathered, and yogurt was made.

I thought I would share that the eczema protocol I'm doing is from Medical Medium.  If you've not heard of him, he's gotten great acclaim for helping tens of thousands of people.  His recommendations are unconventional, but apparently they work, based on the dozens of stories and before and after photos I've seen people share on his IG page.  Many sharers had been seen by multiple conventional physicians for numerous challenges, without getting any better, and came to him as a last resort, with excellent results.  I made another batch of his Anzac cookies, which I think are yummy.  It's been quite interesting learning a new way of eating.

After a soap delivery, I went by Hallmark, and used a $5 reward and a free card coupon.  I then headed to Harris Teeter, and got mad at myself when I got home, as they had overcharged me $10 on a tin of olive oil, by not giving me the sale price.  I only go by there once a month, after an appointment, but believe I'll have to see customer service next month about it.  The cashier did ring up my organic oranges as conventional, which made up some of the difference.  I received a gifted aloe plant, when I made the soap delivery.  The garden is growing well.  Last week, J hilled the potatoes, planted eggplant from the cold frame, replanted cucumber seeds in spots, cut garlic scapes, and more.  The garden is looking better than ever.  I really ought to take a pic to share.  

After painting orders, I replanted a flower bed that had only one seed germinate. This time, old-fashioned flower mix, a cut flower mix and borage seeds were planted.  J tilled the bed for me.  I'm hoping to have higher germination with a better prepared bed.  Stinging nettles were harvested, and a glycerite was started.  Laundry was hung on the line.  For dinner, I sauteed spinach, and tried a recipe for blackened roasted cauliflower steaks.  J didn't love it.  I may make it again with less or no cayenne,  which was in the blackened spice mix.  In it, I was able to use our oregano, thyme, and garlic powder.  Looks like we're jumping from cool to hot, with temps 90 and above in the forecast.  The a/c unit J ordered in October still hasn't arrived, with the ship date constantly moved back.  He'll try to make our old one limp along until the new one hopefully arrives.  Right now, they're saying early June, though we're not counting on it.  Stay comfortably cool or warm, wherever you are.  

Monday, May 10, 2021

Nature on the Homestead

Hello, friends.  Last week, while hanging laundry, I enjoyed watching a bluebird gather nesting material by the pond.  The natural world brings me such joy.  A friend was sent a get well card from my stash.  Celery, onions and parsley were harvested for soup.  Our garden celery is more leaves than stem, so I like it best in soups. The soup also used our garlic powder, broth and dried oregano.  I've finally turned the corner towards healing on my eczema, and decided to do some long overdue weeding.  What I learned is I need to wear gloves, which I often don't think of, as it set off a histamine reaction, making those areas very itchy, which has been one of my battles with this.  I'm living and learning on this journey.  I'm so very thankful it's beginning to get better.  A frog kept me company while I weeded.  

The stovetop was cleaned with baking soda and homemade thieves vinegar.  Several areas were prepared, and flower seeds planted, including bachelor buttons, forget me nots, red safflower (a dye plant), and a mix of old fashioned flowers.  A purchase was made through Swagbucks, for 6% back, and with a 15% off coupon.  These were mostly GF items.  The prices were already less there than most, so it was nice to get additional grocery savings, especially these days.  Lemon balm was harvested, and a jar of glycerite was started.  The forecast has been very changeable, with significantly more rain than forecasted.  It should help give all the plants a good start.  Several receipts were entered on Swagbucks for cash back.  

I've enjoyed reading a library book and a free Kindle book.  Yogurt and suet were made.  In the suet, I'm continuing to use dehydrated tomato skins and bits, and the seeds and bits left after making berry jams.  Homemade garlic powder was used in several recipes.  We had our 4th anniversary last week.  I'm happy the two new recipes I tried that day were good.  One was broccoli & cheese potato.  This was plant based cheese, made from potato, carrot and spices, to resemble nacho cheese.  I'll lower the cayenne a bit next time, but we liked it.  The other was quinoa black bean chili from Daisy, one of her allergy-friendly recipes.  I transplanted parsley and cilantro into the garden.  Peas and lettuce were harvested. J & I went to dinner in Chapel Hill the night after our anniversary, to celebrate.  There was nothing frugal about it, but it sure was enjoyable to have a nice meal out.  I made a diet exception for the night, and enjoyed some wine, which was most lovely.  

Four loads of laundry were hung on the line.  I went grocery shopping, and got avocados for .79, mangoes for .49, and marked down portabella pieces, which I cooked right away.  I picked up two small bottles of olive oil at a good price, and got .15 back for using my own bags.  My daughter had a beautiful bouquet delivered to me for Mother's Day.  Over the weekend, I painted orders, and gave the workshop walls and ceiling another sanding.  J worked on boxing in the eaves, and I helped minimally with that.  I went to harvest a few carrots, and found the lovely surprise of an eastern black swallowtail caterpillar on one.  May your week be full of good surprises.