Monday, March 28, 2016

Gifts of the Maple & Frugal Accomplishments

gifts of the maple
Once again, I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.  The maples are dropping their seed clusters, which I think are beautiful.  Last week during a cold snap, I gathered the remainder of our homegrown winter squash and canned them.  There were also 2 remaining spaghetti squash, which I baked, prepared enough for one meal, then froze enough for 2 more meals. I kept out enough tromboncino squash to make a pie.  This is the first one we allowed to ripen, usually eating them as a summer type squash.  I let it mature to save the seeds, which are drying on a baking sheet. While making the pie I tasted it, and it was quite bland.  It was fine as a pie, but I will plan to let one ripen only when I want seeds, and use tastier winter squashes for my pies.  In the future, I may use the ripened tromboncino squash to make dog treats.  I'm sure the pups will love it.  The squash skins all went into vegi broth bags.  Having several gallon bags full, making broth will soon need to be on my to do list.  I did laundry with homemade soap and hung it on the line.

tromboncino squash
I cleaned, photographed, researched 4 items, and listed them on ebay.  The friend who I am helping with these vintage and antique items gave me permission to do what I chose with the items that don't sell.  I've decided to donate the items I've been holding to the local arts guild rummage sale, which is coming up.  As she's an artist herself, I know she would approve.  That will also make it easier to access the remaining boxes of items.  I baked some of our sweet potatoes.  There are still quite a few, so I need to be baking and dehydrating them in the coming weeks.  Borrowed books from the library.  Made suet for the birds.  I believe this will be the last batch, then I'll replace the suet feeders with hummingbird feeders.  I forgot to mention I worked several hours hand stitching the binding on my quilt last week.

blueberry blossoms
I've been looking for some new quinoa recipes to try, and made one with black beans and corn which used my broth and garlic.  We both thought the recipe was a keeper.  One of the women in my homestead group works in the horticulture dept. of a local school, and let me know about their plant sale.  I went and got a good sized Rosseyanka persimmon ($10), which sounded lovely, 3 blueberries of varieties different from the ones we have ($4 ea), including a Pink Lemonade, and 33 tomato seedlings (.25 ea!) of several varieties.  Between my seeding failures and our construction project, we're behind the curve on this year's garden.  Now we have a better chance of tomatoes this year, if nothing else.  I trimmed my hair, and added the trimmings to the compost crock.

I made a pot of vegetable soup, using our tomatoes and tomato broth, garlic, squash and okra in addition to store bought onion, cabbage, carrot and the leftover quinoa, black beans and corn.  I cleaned up all the flower beds out by the road.  They could use more work, but they're much better than they were.  I still need to work on the original herb bed, which is overgrown with lemon balm and soapwort. There's a nice patch of oregano in it, and a few leeks, but not much else anymore.  J serviced the push mower, and after he used the riding mower, I went behind him to clean up spots it wouldn't reach.  In Friday's post, I spoke of planting our early spring garden, as well as various flower seeds.  I glued my sneakers where the sole was coming loose.  After the day in the garden, they were quite dusty, so I washed them, causing my repair to partially came undone.  Guess I need to get the glue gun out again :o).

can't have too many blueberry blossoms!
I washed freezer bags for reuse.  Made yogurt and kefir.  When the days are warm, we try to sit at our pond in the evening before dinner.  It's often the only time we allow ourselves to just sit and relax.  It's been my habit to join J in having a beer then.  I decided to get seltzer water, which is cheaper than beer, and 0 calories, but still feels a bit more special than a glass of plain water.  I threw some of the gifted millet in the alternate chicken yard, as I read that some people grow a crop of millet for their chickens.  It's raining, and hopefully the millet will come up with the oats I already sowed.  Walked with the pups every day for exercise.  If you celebrate Easter, I do hope yours was lovely.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Planting the Early Spring Garden & Biochar

plant sale plants
We got our early spring garden planted on Good Friday.  J tilled the gardens, and we planted yellow onion sets and seeds, potatoes (bought Kennebecs & some of last years Pontiac Reds and Yukon Golds), 2 varieties of beets and carrots, swiss chard, arugula, dill, 3 varieties of lettuce, & kale.  Flower beds were seeded with marigolds, bachelor buttons, celosia, and forget-me-nots.  I'm hoping to have a riot of color greet us along the path to the house.

In the beds we planted potatoes, we first added biochar.  We experimented with biochar a couple of years ago, and were impressed by how well our potatoes did.  Not only were the yields greater where we added it, but it deterred the asian needle ants and sowbugs that tend to want to eat them.

view atop the tractor before tilling in biochar

Biochar has many benefits.  It conserves moisture,  beneficial microbes colonize  and multiply in the char, and it sequesters carbon.  To learn more, follow either of the above links.
after tilling
We also planted three new blueberries and a Rosseyanka persimmon  from a local plant sale in the orchard.  The tomatoes will wait a few more weeks until the danger of frost has passed.  We've used Wall O' Waters for early planting some years, which work really well.   But we haven't used them in 2 or 3 years, and they tend to spring leaks over time and need to be replaced, or sleeves bought for the leaky sections if not too many.  We're not sure we'll get to dealing with that this spring.  It's an unusual gardening year here, but at least we're pretty sure to have tomatoes, which is a definite plus. We missed our window of opportunity with garden peas, and will have to mulch the potatoes more than usual due to late planting, but at least they're in.  How about you?  Have you done any planting?

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Awakening of Spring and Frugal Accomplishments

pear blossoms
I'm joining in with Brandy's Frugal Accomplishments.  Last week, I did laundry with homemade soap and hung it on the line to dry.  Made kefir and yogurt.  I brought kefir grains to share at our Ladies Homestead Gathering meeting, and also seeds of orlaya, kale, collards, basil, okra and Hopi Grey squash.  There was a talk on tea from Carriage House Tea, and we each received a sample to take home.  I cleaned and weeded 3 flower beds along the drive, and gathered chickweed for the chickens and pups. Saved 4 Ice Brix freezer gel bags that came with something J ordered, & put them in the freezer to reuse.  I tried a method of pre-sprouting seeds I had read about, but it's not working well.  I believe the challenge is instead of reusing a plastic cupcake holder as she did, I'm using a cardboard egg carton.  Even with misting them several times a day, the paper towels holding the seeds keep drying out.  Next time, I may try lining the carton with plastic.


Wednesday was the anniversary of the day Guinness came to live with us.  In honor of that I suppose, he found some good stinky stuff to get into.  I washed him down with my Sirius dog shampoo bar as soon as he came in the door, and I caught a whiff of him.  That dog just loves him some stinky stuff!  I continue to work on stripping the paint off the posts.  I purchased rennet and enzymes for cheese making & am waiting for my order to arrive.  I've made ricotta before, but want to try some other simple cheeses.  We've had some temperatures in the 80's.  On those days, I opened blinds only enough for the house plants to get light, & kept the south facing door closed until the evening, to keep the house cooler.   I found a four leaf clover in the yard, and gave it to J for luck on a day that was challenging. Interestingly, it did seem that things turned for the better after that.

I found a volunteer grape hyacinth in the lawn, and transplanted it.  Cut up some fruit for breakfast, and added a spoon of homemade yogurt to the top, along with a sprinkling of homemade granola.  After spending several hundred dollars on our riding mower the past few years, which was a used mower given to us, J decided to purchase a new one.  I checked on ebates, & they were giving better than usual points for this store, so he decided to join, saving almost $60 on this purchase, & I'll get a referral fee.  In cleaning up a sedum bed, there were several stalks I pulled out that had a few leaves still attached to the bottom.  I transplanted these in a few places.  I raked the leaves off of two flower beds, which we will put in the garden.  Emptied water bottles and tumblers into the wood stove humidifier. I won't be able to do that much longer, as the days of wood fires will soon be coming to a close.

I prepared pasta with our tomatoes, garlic & herbs.  Chopped the parsley and oregano stems for the pups dinner.  Tore up toilet paper tubes, and added them to the compost crock.  Brought meals, water and tea when I worked away from home.  I'm still enjoying blooms on the orchid that I bought at Aldi's just before Valentines Day.  Though I can't say it was frugal for me, I gathered wild flowers  and plant sprigs to display at a pottery gallery I was working at.  I placed the vase where they greeted customers as they came in the door, and they cheered me while I was there.  Borrowed a book from the library.  I found a couple of cracked eggs this week, which I gave to the pups.  I'm not sure if it has to do with a hen that has been broody, but it seems so.  She has been moving around to different nest boxes.  We've never finished the area we intended for this purpose. Once we do, her only choice will be to sit on the eggs in her nest.

I made lentil soup, using one of our potatoes and homemade broth.  Went through ebates for cash back on purchases for our porch project.  Made my Swagbucks goal a couple of days.  It's been more difficult to make goal since the first of the year, so most days I only do the basics, and sometimes a few searches.  I typically check there and on ebates whenever I'm making an online purchase, and go with whoever is offering the better deal.  The one friend I referred to Swagbucks got his own computer a few months ago, and I've not gotten a referral point since.  Go figure.  Our third blight resistant pear arrived, and J & I planted it.  One side of the chicken yard had sprouted a good amount of oats, so I let them into that side, and resowed the other side in oats.  Walked with pups every day.  J took us out for a lovely dinner for the anniversary of our first date.  I brought home leftovers, & brought them for lunch when I worked.

peach blossoms
When I picked up an order at Lowe's, I questioned if a portion of the order which looked like one item was the 2 items I ordered, & was told yes.  Not surprisingly, when I got home, J said it was not all of it, so I went back to the store when I was in town working to get the remaining item.  I then had to reorder the same items due to a change in construction plans, and they tried to pull the same thing again.  Got to stay vigilant.  I made omelets with our eggs and asparagus.  This was last year's asparagus, but they're already poking up this year, so I'll begin harvesting some tomorrow.  I made my grandmother's Irish soda bread with one of our eggs, which seemed fitting this week of St. Patrick's Day.  I hope yours has been a good one.  Happy Spring, friends!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Blooms Shrooms & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Are there signs of spring yet where you are?  The past few days have been warm here, encouraging many things to bloom.  I'm happy to be joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.  Last week, I weeded the asparagus bed and a bit in the flower beds.  I did laundry with homemade soap and dried it on the line.  The kale hadn't done much over the winter, but with warmer days, it's finally growing.  I was able to make my favorite kale salad using our kale, and apple beet salad with our beets.  I use walnuts in place of pine nuts in the kale salad, and any tender kale, not just lacinato or dinosaur kale.  Roasted our potatoes and herbs.

The first batch of soap is drying in the new room!  J installed the stained glass transom window in the room.  We wanted a working transom window.  There had to be some changes made to our original plan, but a creative solution was found.  I received some coupons for a new Harris Teeter store.  When I found myself delivering soap nearby, I decided to shop there on the way home, and used a $10 off $50 coupon.  I found a natural brand of dogfood not available locally, which was less expensive, as well as pretzels, mangos and organic kiwis & applesauce on sale, all appreciated as I whittle my weight down a bit.

Our little mushroom farm is taking off.  The photo was taken day 3.  On day 5, J harvested a few, which I used in a quiche, and also used our eggs, red pepper, parsley, onions & garlic.  The chickens have been getting a mix of the gifted grains. and I started another round of wheat berries sprouting for them.  I added clementine and lemon peels to a batch of citrus vinegar, and onion, carrot and artichoke bits to the broth bag.  After picking up my taxes, I purchased 12 wool & cashmere sweaters for $20 at a thrift store nearby; some for me, some for J, some for felting projects & I may try to sell one or two on ebay.  It was my first time there, and they have all clothes and accessories 1/2 off every Monday.  It's about an hour away, but when I'm in the area,  I will keep that in mind.

J & M have begun working on the new porch, and I've begun stripping the paint off the salvaged posts with Citristrip.  With our house being natural, unpainted wood, these will blend in best stripped down to the wood, though I'm pondering leaving little bits of the white paint here and there.  I like that look, so will see what I think when I get to that point.  Finished watching Victorian Bakery, and began watching Victorian Pharmacy online.

At the discount grocery store, I bought kalamata olives for $2/jar, several bags of quinoa @ 1.33/lb.  Aldi's sale price for quinoa has been $4/lb., so I was happy to find these.  Also, 100% pomegranate juice for $1/bottle and whole grain pasta for .75 ea., as well as a few other items.  This store has gradually been filling shelves with new "cheap s--- from China"; small electronics, appliances and such. I asked if they were going to be phasing out the food, but she assured me they are not, which is a relief.  Not only do I enjoy the bargains, but also the hunt for them.  I feel I've accomplished something when I bring home bags of groceries for half or less of what they'd be in the grocery store.  What have you done to save this week?

Monday, March 7, 2016

March Blooms, Mushroom Farming & Frugal Accomplishments

The first crocuses, grape hyacinths and snowbells have begun blooming.  It always brings cheer and hope to see flowers blooming when it's still cold and blustery, don't you think?  The current version of our hoop house has no way to walk in it when closed up, so it's been difficult to see much.  With some warmer days, I had opened it up.  I harvested a good handful of broccoli that was trying to go to flower, and was happy to find the celery I thought had died doing very well.  I baked a cobbler with our canned peaches.  I took advantage of senior day at Walgreens, and bought several greeting cards I'll be needing for 20% off.  I try to keep an eye out for cards at thrift stores, and get some at Dollar General & Big Lots,  but Walgreens selection is a bit nicer.

Last week, I went through ebates for a purchase for our addition project, saving close to $8.  I researched something J said he'd like for his birthday. Instead of getting it from the catalog he gave me, I found it elsewhere for $13.50 less.  I made yogurt and kefir, and boiled eggs for the pups.  Once it cooled, I used the egg boiling water for house plants.  Did laundry with homemade soap, and hung it on the line to dry.  Lettuce seeds have finally started sprouting.  I did sow the oldest seeds, which I generally try to do, and it appears their germination rate is not very high.  Mended where the sole was coming away from my slippers.  Grated cauliflower leaves and core for the pups.  One of the eggs had a shell that was paper thin on one end, which broke on the way to the house.  I gave that one plus another to the pups.

I sold a couple of items on ebay.  Pulled chickweed for the chickens on the way to collect eggs.  Gave them some of the free grains every day, and started a batch of wheat berries for sprouting.  I was meeting my sister for dinner in Greensboro, and scheduled bringing my taxes while there.  There were a couple of hours before we met, so I went to Whole Foods.  I only had a few things on my list, which included checking butter prices.  They had organic butter 2/$5, so I bought 9 lbs!  I've been keeping my eye out for a sale for quite some time.  I never saw a sale over the holidays, and have been paying $5.79/lb., so I was very happy to be able to stock up.  I also went to 2 thrift stores in the area, and bought only a wool vest for J for $1.

I'd been pondering various pieces that could be used for sleeping in the new room, leaning towards Murphy beds or a daybed.  I found a freestanding Murphy bed locally, with gorgeous carved woodwork, but it unfortunately was missing all its innards.  J searched and found a daybed.  We drove to Bassett, Virginia one evening to pick it up.  It could use some love, but I think it looks like it belongs here.   The woman was handling her Mom's estate, who recently died at 96.  This woman graduated from my high school one year ahead of me (the 50-something woman, not the 96 year old :o).  It is surely a small world, friends.  J even found a nice cushion for it, which arrived quickly and seems quite comfortable.  Let the pajama parties begin :o).  We still have a few jobs to do before the room is finished, but we're getting closer all the time.

While J was perusing the Amazon pantry goods, he came across this oyster mushroom kit.  Mushroom growing has been on our "list" for a few years, so we're sticking our toe in with this kit.  I'm quite sure I've eaten oyster mushrooms as part of a bought mix of wild mushrooms, and in pasta dishes at restaurants, but I don't really know what they taste like on their own.  I've read they're mild, and expect to love them.  I'll be sure to share a photo if we get mushrooms.  I'm happy to be joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.