Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer Flora and Frugal Accomplishments

bee balm
I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments.  I cut a bouquet for the house, and went through ebates to purchase a whole house water filter.  Our extremely hard water is an ongoing challenge. We're going to try a sediment filter, to see if it will help.  We do use rainwater when we can, but we don't yet have enough storage to last more than a couple weeks or so, before having to go back on well water.  That's another work in progress.  I forgot to write about it last post, but on my evening walk with the pups on the summer solstice, a young king snake was in my path.  The following day, there was a green snake in front of the house.  I was taken aback because I had almost stepped on it before seeing it.  I researched in my animal book, which told me Snake is about transmutation and the power of creation.  I am pondering that.  Before finishing up this post tonight, I saw another small black snake in the path when I walked with the pups.

echinacea, bee balm, soapwort, tansy, daylily, zinnia
Made kefir and kombucha.  It has been unusually hot (upper 90's) here the past few weeks, so we have been using the A/C every day.  The weather finally broke, and we have been able to open up at night the past couple of days.  I keep the blinds and doors closed on the side the sun is shining throughout the day, and run a fan when it seems uncomfortably warm to keep the thermostat at a higher setting.  Harvested parsley for potato salad.  I've made Swagbucks goals several days.  Taken my water bottle any time I leave the house.  My vehicle came with a trial period of Sirius radio.  I enjoyed it at times while driving, which I don't do that much. When the trial ended, I looked at the cost, which is not cheap.  Hearing about others who had a huge hassle in cancelling it convinced me I didn't need it.  M researched what it would take to get my Pandora stations from my phone to play through the car speakers.  All it took was a $4.95 cable, and I've got good tunes to listen to in the car.  That makes me happy!

roselle hibiscus
I picked purslane and basil and made pesto with it and our garlic.  I used the last of the nettle tea fertilizer on some tomatoes and eggplant that were looking poorly, then harvested another 5 gal bucket of nettles and started a new batch of tea.  Stinky stuff when it's fermenting, but good for the plants.  I purchased a Roselle hibiscus, which I've read about on some of the Australian blogs.  It has so many good uses... food, drink, medicine, fiber.  It is not hardy here, so I will try getting cuttings in the fall.  Does anyone have experience with Roselle?  J helped me plant it before we got a nice rain.

Tried something new with leftover mac & cheese.  I mixed it with  a can of vegetarian chili, to make chili mac.  I harvested our first cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots and used some in a salad.  Boiled our eggs and made egg salad, first for us and again for a family gathering.  The "girls" are being generous these days.  I listed 11 items on ebay.  All but one item is for some friends I agreed to help.  This endeavor has not lived up to my expectations.  For a number of hours of work each month, I end up making less than $20.  Live and learn.

butterfly bush
I picked up a book at the library, and have been enjoying the first few episodes of Call The Midwife.  I picked and made Asian cucumbers.  I chopped purslane and cucumber for the pups dinner, and brought cantaloupe rind and seeds to the chickens.  I dug one of the purslane from the garden, which has yellow flowers and is related to portulaca, and planted it in a window box which already had creeping jenny in it.  Some things enjoyed on the web this week:

-I learned I could listen to Smithsonian Folkways radio
-many of the images here and here
-breakfast ideas from Dr. Oz.  I thought the frittata looked especially good.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Garlic & Potato Harvest and Frugal Accomplishments

Joining in with Brandy for last week's Frugal Accomplishments.  I made yogurt and kefir.  Picked blackberries and mulberries.  Got books and movies from the library.  I made good progress on my quilt at my stepmoms.  It is 1 1/2 hours of driving each way, but I figure the gas is no more than having a private tutor for the day would cost :o)  I really enjoy her company, and there's no figure you can put on that.  I went through my closet, moved around the summer and winter clothes, and put a pile aside for the thrift store.  Most of the pile was uniforms.  I retired from nursing several years ago, and only do massage 2 or 3 days a month, so it was beyond time to purge.  I'm saving apricot seeds from organic apricots bought at Trader Joes.  I'll try planting these.

SO and I harvested our garlic and most of our potatoes.  The garlic was placed in my new carport to dry.  One end of the potato row looked like it was still growing, so we left those for a bit longer.  I harvested a handful of chocolate mint, which I put in with coffee grounds to make iced coffee.  Harvested lambs quarter, and M readied them for me to freeze.  Froze 2 bags.  I harvested a large basket of Kentucky Colonel spearmint.  I made a simple syrup with this, to use in mint tea or mint lemonade.  Harvested purslane and basil for pesto.  Made pesto with these and our garlic, which we all liked.  I'm happy to find a good use for the purslane, as it's so weedy in the garden.  Another recipe for a salad I tried some time ago was not very good.

Did laundry with homemade soap, and hung it on the line.  I found our tub leaking quite a bit from the faucet while SO was not home, so collected water in a bowl and added it to the washer while doing laundry, filled the dog bowl and used it to steam the lambs quarter.  We finally got some much needed rain, somewhere around 2 inches in the past few days.  Our rain gauge has sprung a slow leak.  Ours registered around 1 1/2 inches, but our neighbor across the road said we got 2 inches, before the last rain.  The same neighbor gave us 2 cucumbers, and I prepared Asian cucumbers with them.  Our first cucumber is almost ready to pick.  SO bush hogged a piece of our land that I used to pick blackberries on.  I will see if they are still there, or if too much has grown up around them.

I found some new, double pane arched windows on Craigslist at a good price, and purchased them for my workspace.  I dehydrated all but 3 heads of last years garlic.  I've been intending to do this for several years, and am happy to finally have done it.  There was still a good amount that needed to be composted, but there's a nice jar of garlic ready to be powdered.  I've gotten Krups coffee grinders at the thrift store when I see them.  The one we're using now has a cracked lid, which will be demoted to the garlic grinder, and another in better condition will become the coffee grinder.  I've started noticing fruit flies, which is typical during the warmer months here, and put vinegar with water in a jar with a drop of soap.  This has significantly cut their numbers.  Eggs are abundant these days.  I've made egg salad, and cut one up for the pups to add to their dinner.   I read a tip I'd not seen before, about making homemade pectin with lemon seeds.  I'm definitely going to try that.  Happy Summer!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Rain Glorious Rain

Houseplants in their summer quarters
We had the first good rain in a couple of months last night.  The houseplants and other living things are all breathing a sigh of relief.  The rainwater cistern is full, and the pond level has risen.  We finally got all the pieces hooked up last week, and began using the pond for irrigation.

The Buff Orpington chicks are 8 weeks old now.  This week, we began letting them out into the larger yard.  The rest of the flock and they can check each other out for a bit, and in a couple more weeks or so, we'll likely integrate them.  Whatever you do this weekend, I hope you enjoy your days!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Beets, Berries and Frugal Accomplishments

Last week's frugal accomplishments include harvesting beets, lambs quarter, blackberries, raspberries, chard.  I used my .10 fuel rewards for a fill up.   Made deviled eggs with our eggs, and roasted beets.  Separated the seeds from chaff of our winter greens, & saved them in a reused prescription bottle.  Charged my cell phone battery in the car whenever I was driving.

I made Brandy's Spanish rice, to go along with bean burritos.  Stopped at the discount grocery store.  I didn't get much this time, but got several 30 ct. boxes of Emergen-C for $2 ea.  We use these if we're outside sweating a lot, to replenish electrolytes, and during cold and flu season for immune support.  I also got a couple 28 oz cans of organic tomatoes for $1 ea.

Worked on my quilt.  Sprayed insecticidal soap on raspberries, as I found what I believe are woolly aphids on them, which was draining a lot of their energy.  Gave the last piece of honeydew to the chickens, who were delighted.  Not so frugal that we forgot about it, but happy it was eaten by someone.  I pulled wild lettuce almost everyday for the chickens.  Gave chickens the top bits of strawberries.

 Washed laundry in homemade soap & hung it on the line.  Used homemade deodorant and soap.  Made kefir and yogurt.  Harvested onions for broccoli salad and quinoa summer squash salad.  My niece had requested mint tea for her birthday, so I harvested a basket full of mint and made tea.  We were gifted several summer squash.  Ours are growing, but are not coming in quite yet, so they were most appreciated.

If you could use some frugal inspiration, check out what folks are doing at The Prudent Homemaker's Frugal Accomplishments.  What have you done to save money or resources this week?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Homemade Tomato Cages, Berry Syrup and Frugal Accomplishments

It's always a happy Monday when I can take part in Frugal Accomplishments.  I brought water and snacks with me on my work and errand day in town.  Stopped at Big Lots, and bought several bottles of organic pear juice and lemonade for 1.00 each.  J likes to drink juice, and I like to mix a glass of lemonade with beer on occasion during the warm months.  A coworker years ago taught me this concoction, which is called a shandy.  It tastes better than it sounds :o)  Picked up a few needed things at Walgreens on Senior Day and got the 20% discount.  Harvested parsley for potato salad.

Weeded lambs quarter in the garden and gave it to the chickens.  Harvested raspberries and a few thornless blackberries.  Went through ebates to purchase a couple of books on for my niece's birthday.  Gathered eggs from the chickens.  One egg was cracked, so I cooked that one up to add to the pups dinner.  Harvested parsley for a pasta dish, and chopped up a few of the less perfect leaves for the pups.  Harvested lambs quarter and froze enough for 2 meals.  I usually use it in this spaghetti squash dish.  Harvested chard and made chard gratin.  Tried a new recipe for crustless quiche, and used our eggs, frozen red pepper, garlic and leftover limas and corn.  It was surprisingly tasty.  Lots of feta cheese didn't hurt, I'm sure.
berry pulp for suet
I had 2 gallon bags of frozen vegi scraps for broth, simmered and canned them, and ended up with 7 pints.  Except for a small bag of blueberries I kept for smoothies, I cooked up the rest of the berries left in the freezer. They were a mix of blueberries, mulberries, blackberries, and even a few wild chokecherries and sparkleberries thrown in.  I took the pulp and seeds that were strained out through the jelly bag and dehydrated it for bird suet.  Up until last year, I had composted this, but then realized it would be a perfect addition to the suet.  I canned 5 half pints of mixed berry syrup, which  I like to use in a vinaigrette for a pear blue cheese salad.  The salad I typically make is lettuce, bits of pear, dried cranberries, pecans or walnuts, gorgonzola cheese and the dressing.  As I've got some berries coming in, I used the last of the frozen blueberries and some frozen figs to make a cobbler. A new combination to me, but we both liked it.

We've found that hog wire is the best thing to use for tomato cages.  It's a bit pricey up front, but they last for years and years.  We were in need of more, so SO brought home a roll of wire on Saturday.  I snipped 25 6 ft. lengths of wire, with a little help from SO on the top and bottom pieces, which were thicker, and he and M joined ends to make tomato cages, which I placed in the garden.  I watered parsley plants, a redbud, hollyhocks and lettuce with nettle tea fertilizer.  I gathered seeds from our winter salad patch (mix of kale, mustards, turnip and more), as well as our collard patch.  I haven't always been very good about saving seed, so I'm happy to have done so with these.  The collard plants still had green leaves, so I gave these to the chickens, who were very appreciative.  I've started cutting and sewing my quilt.  The photo above isn't very good, but that's when I was playing with it on a design board.

Monday, June 1, 2015

In The Garden & Frugal Accomplishments

I'm happy to join in with everyone taking part in Frugal Accomplishments today.  I cut a bouquet for the house, did all laundry with homemade soap and hung it on the line.  Harvested raspberries and mulberries.  Prepared ravioli with our garlic.  Weeded lambs quarter and purslane from the garden, and chopped them up for the raw portion of the pups dinner one night.  Other days, I weeded lambs quarter and wild lettuce, which I gave to the chickens.  Washed plastic bags for reuse.  J & I planted the last of our summer garden... okra, purple pole beans, crowder peas, a second round of cucumbers, summer and winter squash/pumpkins, tomatillos, sweet corn, and melons.  We're glad to have that behind us.  We finally got much needed rain, a little over half an inch.

waiting for a treat
Opened up windows as the temperatures allowed.  The humidity was very high, so this was usually late in the day, and then I closed up the house in the morning.  I sometimes run a small fan in the afternoon, and usually the A/C does not come on until late afternoon (set at 77).  Mended a shirt and a tote bag.  Harvested lambs quarter to freeze.  Moved the houseplants outdoors to their summer location.  Cleaned out the chicken coop, which went around the fruit trees, and put fresh hay in nest boxes.

milkweed; smells so sweet!
Thinned another apple tree, so the remaining fruits will hopefully be of good size. I was excited about plums on one of our new trees, but found each of them had signs of some sort of boring insect, so we pulled them all.  SO had sprayed all our fruit trees once already with a natural mixture, but had not been able to do the follow up spraying.  I'm sad about the plums, but hope next year will be better.  The winter did my stevia plant in, so I purchased another, and planted it.  I forgot to mention a couple of weeks ago that I took a pollinator class.  As part of the class, we were supposed to be given a couple of milkweed plants to take home.  We were actually given more like 3 dozen little seedlings, of two types of milkweed!  I also purchased 3 bronze fennel plants, which are another host plant for pollinators.  The fennel and milkweed seedlings were all planted.  We were given several cases of Ensure that had expired, and M poured two cans around each of the fruit trees.  This is an experiment, but SO is thinking the sugars, vitamins, minerals and probiotics will help provide nutrition and support a healthy microbial environment around the trees.

A couple of the women in our homestead group brought materials for a mason bee house for each of us to put together.  I had missed the meeting, as it was the anniversary of our first date (which is the day we celebrate), but they were kind enough to give one of the kits to me.  M put the house together and hung it near the pond a couple of weeks ago.  They are excellent pollinators as well.  One of the women who I attended the pollinator class with gave a presentation at our recent homestead gathering, and gave everyone a mountain mint plant, which also got planted.  Our winterberry plant is blooming, and it is always covered with pollinators when I walk by.  It's a lovely sight.

dry canned oats ready for the pantry
I listed 4 items on ebay.  Found organic corn, peas, and baked beans at Harris Teeter at 10 cans/$10, so I purchased several of each.  Made Brandy's black bean burgers.  Baked a "zucchini" bread using grated tromboncino I had frozen.  Made both the burgers and zucchini bread with our eggs, and the burgers with our garlic.  Harvested and cooked chard.  Opened a jar of pear vanilla sauce I had canned for a side dish one night.  Dry canned 50 lbs of oats.

I met my stepmom in Greensboro, to shop for fabric for my quilt top.  We found one fabric and thread at Joann's, and were able to use 40% and 50% off coupons there.  We found nothing at the second shop, but found the remaining three fabrics at the third shop, and I was able to buy those at 15% discount, thanks to her quilt guild membership.  They were generous to extend the discount to me.  I'm excited to work on this next week!