Monday, March 30, 2015

Blooms, Bones and Frugal Accomplishments

pear blossoms
The blossoms of spring have begun.  I'm joining in with Brandy's Frugal Accomplishments today.  At the discount grocery store, I found .50 cans of organic diced tomatoes, sunflower seeds for the birds - $6 for around 20 lbs.  A few days earlier, I had picked up a 6 lb bag for $7 at Big Lots because I was out, so was very happy to find this.   My favorite buy was rice.  They had a buy one, get 1 free sale.  Most of it was white rice, with a few small bags of brown rice, but I found 5# of basmati rice, & 5# of jasmine rice.  Both were $4, making it .40/lb.  Both had sell by dates in 2016, and no bugs :o). I dry canned the rice.

hyacinth and daffodils
I made hummingbird food, yogurt and kefir.  I must have been mistaken about hearing hummingbirds, as I've not yet seen any.  Perhaps they were wasps buzzing by my head?   I did laundry using homemade soap, and hung it on the line.  I made breadcrumbs from bread heels and crushed eggshells to put in the garden or compost.  Started a batch of cleaning vinegar with mandarin peels.  Made a winter salad using our greens and garlic to bring to a dinner we were invited to.

I cut the eyes from store bought potatoes I was cooking, to grow.  When J was growing up, they grew their potatoes this way.  I cut just a little potato flesh with the eye, & dry the pieces a bit before planting.  J also did this with the organic seed potatoes, and I'll be cooking those today.  I have read that they use antisprouting chemicals on non-organic potatoes, so this only works if you're using organic or homegrown potatoes.  The commercial ones won't sprout eyes.  I looked for and used an Essential Depot coupon code (10%), to buy the lye I use in my soaps.

I trimmed both pups nails.  Guinness is always cooperative, and let me trim all of his, with treats given after each foot.  McNibs has always been a challenge.  I asked them to trim his nails when he was sedated for his happy tail bandaging.  He's let me trim 2 nails once since then, and this time, he let me trim his two front feet.  Not perfect, but progress, and frugal.

I started more wintersown seeds outdoors- marigolds, zinnias, columbine and tithonia.  I also found a packet of sweet peas.  I recently read they are only good for a year, and these were older than that, but I went ahead and planted them by a couple of trellises.  My tithonia and scented night stock are coming up!  I made suet for the birds.

We ate green beans and applesauce I had canned.  I used our garlic and thyme in the green bean dish.  Still trying to eat from the freezer-  cooked 2 bags of our okra, and made Fig Sherry bread from our figs.  Made crescent rolls using ww flour I ground for part of the flour.  I made tomato rice loaf with our tomatoes, garlic, breadcrumbs and celery.

Here's McNibs stopping by to say hello.  The bone is made by West Paw Design, and is the longest lasting bone he's chewed on to date.  This is their Hurley bone.  I had bought him their Bumi Tug toy for Christmas, also for tough chewers, but it didn't last 48 hours.  Their policy is to replace any toy one time, so I tried the Hurley at their suggestion.  He's had this one for weeks.  One end does have a little damage, but it's still intact, which is impressive.  Most of the toys I've bought him, for "tough chewers", don't last a day.  I would recommend these dog toys.  They're BPA and phthalate-free too.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Happy Spring and Frugal Accomplishments

Happy Spring!  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.  The forced forsythia bloomed this year! I cut the branches, left them on the porch until they began to open, then brought them indoors.
I planted pineapple tomato seeds indoors and wintersowed (later than usual) calendula, night scented stock, and mexican sunflowers. Planted spinach seed in the hoop house bed.

pineapple vinegar
I baked the cookie dough remaining in the fridge from the thank you cookies- ww chocolate chip & sesame cookies, making the guys here happy.  I cut up a pineapple and started pineapple vinegar.  I made yogurt, kefir and a double batch of granola.

Frugal Fail-- sadly, I found quite a bit of produce going bad in the root cellar.  A large pot full of squash and sweet potatoes went to the compost, good portions of some sweet potatoes got cooked for the pups, and chickens got a soft pumpkin.  I made a Butternut Bisque soup with part of the last 3 butternut squash, homemade broth and our carrots,  & "pumpkin" pie custard from the rest of the butternut and the last delicata squashes and our eggs.  Good scraps went into the freezer bag for broth.  There are still 3 Hopi Grey squash, lots of sweet potatoes and 3 or 4 apples.  The root cellar is built into the hillside and is underground except for the front wall.  It stays cool but not too cold all winter.  I don't believe it gets enough air flow, which causes things to mold.  Considering it's spring, I can't really complain, as it kept the vegi's pretty well for months.

mended scrub pants and hair scrunchies
I washed laundry in homemade soap and hung one days laundry on the line (the other day it went into the dryer due to threatening rain).  Requested two books from the library.  Mended two sweaters, and a pair of scrub pants and made my first two hair scrunchies using fabric I cut from too long scrub pants made with a batik fabric (love batik!).

Sold an item on ebay, and brought in another couple items from storage to photograph and list when I have time.  I added items to the boxes being donated to Goodwill, which happens almost every week but I forget to mention.

Used homegrown calendula to decorate a custom batch of soap.  Made crowder peas and corn with peas we grew.  Been doing well with eating up leftovers.  I brought lunch, snacks and water to work the days I worked away from home.

On Sunday, I raked up leaves, which J put around fruit trees.  We're trying some new things this year, recommended in this book.  We're hoping to have more and nicer fruit with these changes.  He's already put nematodes around the trees, which helps with a number of pests, and Neem oil is on the way.  I spied the first asparagus spears of the year, which makes me very happy!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Heritage Wheat, Bluebirds and Frugal Accomplishments

It's time again to join in with Frugal Accomplishments.  If you're looking for encouragement on living frugally, you may want to check out The Prudent Homemaker's website.  In addition to the weekly Frugal Accomplishments posts, there are sections on gardening, cooking, shopping for less, home schooling, sewing and more.  There's a great community of people who share there, and a wonderful amount of information on the website.

I baked a quiche with our peppers and garlic.  Made a pasta dish using eggplant I canned, and our garlic and herbs.  Steamed asparagus I had frozen last year, then we had the leftovers in an omelet.  Hopefully, there will soon be fresh asparagus coming up.  There were still some cranberries in the crisper.  The few moldy ones went into the compost, the chickens got the soft ones, and I cut up the good ones for the pups.  The chickens always love them, but I was surprised the pups ate all theirs up too.  Not the original intended purpose, but not wasted either.  Another night, the pups got a grated gnarly carrot from the garden.

I ground wheat and corn, and made kefir and yogurt.  We bought a 50# bag of Red Fife wheat, a variety of heritage wheat which has a lower gluten content than most modern wheat, making it easier to digest. We were lucky to be able to taste baked goods made with this wheat, thanks to a baker in Chapel Hill.  It was our favorite of the heritage wheat we tasted, with a wonderful, nutty flavor.  I dry canned most of the wheat, and saved around 10# for a patch we hope to plant here.

 I baked 2 types of cookies, and brownies, and brought two plates to the car dealership for the fellows who assisted me when my car wouldn't start last week.  I used our eggs, and whole wheat flour I ground for a portion of the flour.  We've had some warm days and nights , when no heat was needed, and windows were opened to let in fresh air.  I cashed in Swagbuck points a for a Whole Foods card.  Among other things, I bought 3 lbs of organic butter, as it's the cheapest I've found in months, at $4.79/lb.  I used up lots of butter baking the thank you goodies.  Unfortunately, I did not print out the code Whole Foods needed, so I'll have to use my gift card another time.

I planted a variety of lettuce seeds in our hoop house, and 3 parsley plants.  J planted broccoli and cabbage plants I had purchased.  Some years we do better growing things from seeds, some years not.  We immediately put row cover over the cabbage and broccoli, as cabbage worms have been a real problem here the past few years.  Hoping that will do the trick.  The tomato seedlings continue to grow, but so far, I've not seen an eggplant or pepper germinate.  Our seed potatoes arrived, but the ground is very wet, so they'll have to wait until it dries out a bit.

papa bluebird
mama bluebird
On Sunday, I noticed bluebirds at the house in the backyard.  At first, I thought they were setting up house, but watching them convinced me there are babies in there.  It's the perfect spot for me to watch as I sit at the computer.  I made up another batch of suet to entice them to stick around. Wishing you a Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Return of Light and Frugal Accomplishments

Once again, I'm joining in with The Prudent Homemaker's Frugal Accomplishments.  Last week, I made Waldorf salad with a mix of store bought and root cellar apples, using celery from our hoophouse.  Some jars of crowder peas did not seal, so I made bean dip using our garlic and for a portion of the olives, finished up some olive bruschetta topping in the fridge.  Composted fruit and vegi scraps, and saved egg shells which I dry and crush, to either add to the compost or the garden.  Made yogurt and kefir, a pasta dish using homemade bread crumbs, and collards and rice using our collards and homemade broth.  Made brownies with our eggs.

rhubarb is up
I worked on my taxes several long days, and they are ready to take to the accountant this week...yippee!  Picked up a few things at Walgreens, and got their 20% senior (still feels strange, but 55+) discount.  Picked up a book at the library, and requested one from another branch.  Used a $1.50 coupon for the organic bread I buy.  I bought another #10 can of sliced olives at the discount store, to can in smaller batches, and picked up 3 cans of organic fire roasted tomatoes while there.  I stopped at the natural grocery shop a few doors away, and got a 10% discount on the few things I picked up, for showing a card I bought to support a local school group.  While running errands, I came out of Walgreens to find a totally dead car.  No warning, no lights left on, just dead. SO was working several towns away, and suggested I call the dealership where I bought the car in January.  Sure enough, they sent someone to jumpstart my battery, only to find there was a loose cable. I immediately drove to the car parts store a few blocks away, and had them check the car.  The battery is in great condition, and he tightened the cable, as the first man had no tools and only hand-tightened it.  A frugal ending, for sure.  I am pondering how to show my appreciation to the dealership... baked goods and a thank you card, I believe.  I am also pondering getting AAA, which I had some years back, but canceled during the "poor as churchmice years".

 I raked leaves off a couple of flower beds.  A day or two later, the first hellabore bloomed! Continue to make toilet tissue tube and dryer lint fire starters.  I've not been hanging clothes on the line much lately, due to cold and wet weather, so have more dryer lint than usual.  I also save candle ends and drips of wax to use as fire starters as well.

A few years ago, I was given a case of sample boxes of beautiful linen stationery papers, which contain different colored papers.  The larger sheets have been used for printing my shaving instructions for the old fashioned shaving sets sold in my shop.  There are shorter, fancy edged sheets, and it recently occurred to me that I could cut those up to use for the thank you notes I include in my online sales, so I did that.  Planted seeds of eggplant, several varieties of tomatoes and peppers, and lots of tomatoes are up.  The return of light and life are apparent.  Yesterday, I watched a bat fly over our garden for several minutes, a hummingbird buzzed me twice, and a bird landed in my hair... I know spring is near when the birds begin landing in my hair :o).  I quickly made up some hummingbird food and hung the feeder.  Though it seems early, hopefully I'll soon be rewarded with a sighting.  I opened several windows to let fresh air through the house, and we enjoyed our first "pond sit" of 2015.  There's a bit of a sigh of relief with being able to enjoy the outdoors once again.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

My Not Quite Frugal Accomplishments

So, this is when I'll be sharing some of my recent less than frugal ways.  First is a new to me Kia Soul.  I really like the idea of my soul in a body in a Soul :o) (as I don't watch TV, my sister had to inform me about the chipmunks  :o).  Vehicles are not my area of expertise, but J assured me it was a smart purchase, and I did not go in debt to purchase it.  That's it peeking from behind the bird feeder. It suits me.

Onto the second thing.  We enjoy wine and beer, though I do attempt to buy what's on sale or a good value.  I usually purchase local beer for myself, and sometimes find very nice wines at Aldi's.  I like good organic coffee, too, also on sale if possible.  As a member of a natural food co-op, I get a 5% discount (10% a few times a year), as well as members specials.  The challenge is I now live an hour away, so I generally only shop there when I am already there for another reason.  I shopped there quite a bit last year, as it was only a mile or so from many of my Mom's appointments.  When I go, I shop the specials, bulk bins, and organic produce, which is more extensive than the local offerings.

I recently bought linen bath towels.  I don't know about you, but I have favorites- from what I choose to drink water, tea, or coffee in (each a different vessel),  an antique soup spoon or fork, to a pretty plate.  These things I use most every day typically have some handmade element to them, or some history.  It makes me happy to use them.  Though it wasn't handmade, and I really don't know about it's history, my favorite towel was a well made, floral towel I purchased second hand.  When it was available, that was the towel I grabbed for the past 10 years or so.  You can probably imagine it was getting a bit tired.  The linen towels I purchased have been on my wish list.  I gifted them to myself, while supporting a small artisan business, and figure I will enjoy them for the next ten years.

For a number of years, Dearfoam booties were my winter slippers. They were warm and comfortable on wood floors.  In good shape through the first winter, I usually stretched them through a second winter, though the cushioned part would be getting pretty thin, and not as warm or comfortable at that point.  I decided to try felted natural wool slippers.  No, they're not very frugal, but I'm expecting them to hold up for quite some time.  In the end, they may be a better deal than buying cheaper, cheaply made slippers, and I know I'm supporting another handmade, small business.

I've mentioned mending cashmere sweaters.  I've bought them over the years, but always second hand, ranging from $2.50 to 5.00 each.  I wear them away from home as long as possible, even with mended areas if not very noticeable.  When they get to a certain point, they become homestead wear, and I mend them until they basically fall apart.  They are my standard daily wear during the winter months, often with a vest.  Warm, soft and cozy, I think they're a simple pleasure.  Though I consider the sweaters a frugal pleasure, I must admit my cashmere and alpaca winter socks are not.  I do try to find the best deals on cashmere socks, which are typically a blend, and I've gotten several pairs as gifts.  I love them because they're thin but warm.  I buy the alpaca socks from a lovely local woman who raises alpacas, and I'm happy to support her farm.  These socks are amazing... perfectly thick and the warmest socks I've ever owned.  Life's too short to go through it with cold feet, I think!

Well, I'm thinking that's probably enough sharing of my not always frugal ways.  Not many months ago, these purchases would not have even been  a consideration, but due to life's circumstances, I am blessed at this point in my life to be debt free.  I am mindful of the purchases I do make, and endeavor to bring things into my life that are both beautiful and useful, and that support good.  That's it in a nutshell.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Pressure Canning Adventures and Frugal Accomplishments

Today, I'm joining in with Brandy's Frugal Accomplishments.  I cooked sweet potatoes, okra & tomato rice loaf with our tomatoes, onions & garlic.  We've had more ice and snow this past week, so I made pots of warm apple juice simmered with a bit of cinnamon stick and cloves to sip on through the day.  I bought more mandarins and started a new batch of cleaning vinegar with the peels.

While canning crowder peas that we had grown, I had my first pressure canner incident.  A mix of metal lids and Tattler lids were used, same as a day earlier.  But, on this day, when I removed a jar with a Tattler lid and put my hand on it to tighten the ring, the lid blew off, spewing peas and hot liquid far and wide.  If you're not familiar with the reusable Tattler lids, you use them a bit differently than the traditional metal lids.  Before canning, you tighten the rings, then back off 1/4 turn.  When you remove them from the canner, you immediately fully tighten the rings.  It's possible I backed the ring off a little too much, but being it was so much looser than the others, I wonder if it didn't rock itself loose in the canning process.  I'm giving serious consideration to only using the Tattler lids with water bath canning from here on out.

I dried rose petals from my valentines bouquet, made suet for the birds, made yogurt and kefir.  I cashed in Swagbucks for two $5 Amazon gift cards, and made my daily goal several days.

I've been lighting the table with candlelight most evenings the past few weeks, for cheer and to add some light.  Shopped at the discount grocery, and got bits of this and that... olives, organic tomato paste, organic honey, organic raisins, unsulphured molasses, catfood.  Found a bag of Nutrish dogfood with only a slight amount missing for about 1/2 price on the discount rack in the grocery store.

rufous sided towhee
Made pizza with homemade crust, our garlic and herbs, and some of the recently canned olives.  Also used some of the olives in a salad.  I finished the last of the mending- another pillowcase & cashmere sweater. I turned a pair of pants with a hole in the knee into shorts.

Made cinnamon apple bread with tired apples in the root cellar, our eggs, and whole wheat flour I ground.  I'm still working on using up what's in the freezer, and made a batch of Split Pea & Barley soup, using split peas and celery that were in the freezer, our carrots, garlic, thyme, homemade broth.  I had not made this soup in a few years, and when I found the recipe, I saw it was in my Mom's writing.  The barley was some I had gotten from her pantry, so her love & energy was in this soup in a couple of ways.  I made crescent rolls to go with it, using the last of the wheat flour I had ground and one egg.  I cooked up one of our winter squashes & made Walnut Raisin "Pumpkin" bread using our eggs and homemade vanilla.

the stained glass looks different with snow behind them
I've been thinking that because of what I share here, you might think I am always very frugal, but that's not the case.  I share those things joining in with the Frugal Accomplishments posts, but I have my share of less than frugal moments too.  I'm thinking of a post soon to tell you of some of my recent not exactly frugal accomplishments.