Monday, April 25, 2016

A Rare Bird & Frugal Accomplishments

Atamasco lilies
On Monday, J's business partner needed the day off, so we were able to finish the ductwork under the house.  J had to fabricate another piece of ductwork from the recycled steel.  I don't know how much we saved by doing the work ourselves, though I'm sure it's quite a bit.  I'm very glad it's done!  Today (Tuesday), the workmen are coming to lay the walkway.  I can already tell it's going to make a big difference, with just the forms up.  The forecast is for 88 today (Tuesday), so I'd say we got the ductwork finished just in time.  I opened up the house in the am, and got the temp down to 72, & partially closed the south facing blinds.  I'll do my best not to run the AC, but it's nice to know I can. The wild Atamasco lilies bloomed this week.

I prepared swiss chard, and chopped the stems for the pups.  Cooked artichokes and put the bits in the broth bag.  Dug volunteers of mulberry and elderberry to share with my homestead group, and came home with cuttings of thornless blackberry and curly willow, and seeded pots of 6 herbs and flowers.  I cooked broccoli and shredded the stems for the pups.  Gathered weeds and mock strawberries for the chickens.  Worked on stripping the porch posts.  I cashed in Swagbucks for a $25 gift card.  This year, I've decided to keep making suet for a while longer.  Many birds seem to be eating it, and I wonder if they may be feeding little ones.  A hummingbird came to the window today, looking inside, and when I checked, the feeder was empty.  Ha!  I promptly warmed some food and filled the feeder.

Knowing we were barely getting any asparagus this year, a friend gifted me with some of hers... nearly 2 lbs of purple asparagus.  Yum!  Our neighbor bought a tractor trailer to store his hay, only to find it full of stuff when he got it home.  He called family and friends to come pick through it, and "please take some home".  I got an old Peter Pan jar to use for storage, an Anne of Green Gables book, and a large map of European Commerce & Industry 1360-1453 such as would have been used in a classroom.  Not sure what I'll do with the map, but it's pretty fascinating to look at.  I assembled my steam mop, and gave it a try in the bathroom while deep cleaning it.  The mop is a wonderful thing!  I can't believe I didn't know they existed until recently.

summer tanager
I made a healthy carrot salad with homemade yogurt.  Cut up a fresh pineapple and chopped the core for the pups.  Though our lettuce barely germinated, we've got nice patches of carrots, swiss chard, kale & spinach in the garden.  We had some good rain, and collected the first of it in the new to us tank.  Planted all the plants from the plant sale, except basil.  The asters are coming up from seeds planted at the homestead meeting.  We removed the eggs from mama hens box on Saturday, and on Sunday she took her chicks outdoors for the first time.  I'm glad I kept the suet up, as we had a new bird coming to the suet feeder the past 3 days. I believe it's a a summer tanager, which I've never seen here before.  We did not use heat or AC at all last week.

Blue star amsonia
I transplanted 18 strawberries into two strawberry pots I had.  They've sat empty since the first time I tried using them, which didn't go too well.  I planted various herbs in them that time, and am hoping the strawberries do better for me.   I sold two items on ebay.  Fed a grub to the chickens.  Made yogurt and kefir.  Dressed our salad with homemade berry vinaigrette.   J & M got all the siding put up on the porch side of the house, & I purchased paint for the porch ceiling using a card for a 5% discount.   I'm joining with Frugal Accomplishments today.  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

New Chicks, Chick Food & Frugal Accomplishments

On Tuesday evening,  our first chick hatched!  It's been a number of years since any chicks hatched here, and I'm not sure I'd ever seen one only partially hatched before.  I was surprised how much noise it was making already at that point.  I had already made up a batch of chick food. I based it on the instructions in Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living, a book that is unmatched for the amount of information contained on homestead living.  Here's what I used:

scant 1 cup whole corn
1 cup wheat berries
1 cup whole oats
1/2 cup mixed nettles & lambs quarter dried last year
1 tsp powdered kelp
1 tbs powdered milk
1 tbs clay
pinch of salt

I ground the grains and crushed the herbs, picking out stem pieces, added the remaining ingredients and mixed it up.  I like knowing the grains are not genetically modified, and that several of the ingredients came from here.  I'll bring them bugs as I find them, and probably decrease the dried herbs as I bring them fresh.  I made soup using our leeks and vegi broth.  Leek and mushroom bits went in the broth bag.  The recipe called for quick-cooking brown rice, which I don't buy, so I used quinoa instead, which worked fine.

Though I'd intended to wait until we stopped heating with wood for the season, I began a bit of spring cleaning.  I worked on the kitchen island, which tends to collect papers...  my to-do lists, coupons, and other generally useful information.   All the bed linens were washed, including pad and pillow covers, dried on the line, and put back on the bed.  I put up the hummingbird feeder last week, and they showed up this week.  The bluebirds have little ones, and can be seen bringing food to them.    I also saw a tufted titmouse go into one of the bird houses at the edge of the garden.  I attended a wonderful annual plant sale with a friend, sponsored by the NC Herb Society.  The prices were reasonable, and there will be additions to food, medicine and beauty here.  I shared a sprig of Kentucky Colonel mint with a worker who was here and expressed excitement about his plans to begin growing herbs this year. He'd been talking with one of the vendors at the farmer's market, and was planning to buy herbs from her.  I pondered giving him several other herbs, but didn't want to diminish the sales of the woman at the farmers market.  I made sure to give him a warning about mint, and he said he had just the place for it.

I continue to work on stripping the porch posts.  I'd been pondering why it was taking so long, & realized being they're round, I can only do 1/4 at a time, and each section takes 3 or 4 times to get all the paint off, so a total of 12-16 goes to do each post.  It's my first time stripping paint, and I'm using a citrus based stripper, both of which probably also slow me down.  I cut a bouquet of lilacs for the house.  Entered info for Purina cat chow points, which should eventually get me a free bag.  Combined a coupon with a sale for the pup's food, for $5 off.  The sale goes on another couple of weeks, so I will get another bag with a coupon next week.  Picked up some things at the discount grocery, including kalamata olives for $2, organic cereal $2, organic cannelini beans .50, artichoke hearts .50, dried blueberries and tart cherries for $1/bag, Bobs Red Mill flaked coconut for $2, boxed whole milk for $1 (good til November).  Though I prefer buying local milk, I like to keep some of these on hand to save a trip to the grocery store & for bad weather. I also bought 20# bags of black oil sunflower seeds for $5 ea. for the birds, & 7# Iams cat food for $7.  The bags were all taped, but appeared full or near full.

 wild onions
I finished weeding the original herb bed.  J dug up leeks that were in it, and we both pulled wild onions from it.  I cleaned the wild onions and added them to the broth bag.  I ground a pan of dry bread for bread crumbs, and froze it.  The chick is 3 days old as I type this, and mama hen is still sitting on the other 4 eggs, but no sign yet if they are viable.  J & I regularly check mama and chick.  The chick appears healthy, but I noticed mama shivering, so made up a batch of oats, warm milk, nettles, kelp, yogurt, kefir and bread.  Boy, did she love that!  She stopped shivering right after eating.  I figured she has probably not taken in enough calories lately to stay warm, so this warm & nutritious meal helped. I put a bit more in there in the late afternoon, and we added a heat lamp.  On Saturday, we found one of the eggs outside the nest box.  We can only assume mama hen put it out on purpose.  So, that leaves 3.  The chick is active, & eating and drinking well.  I made up another batch of nourishing oats, which they both ate.

first chick
J & I spent most of Saturday in our crawl space.  First, we covered the entire crawl space in plastic, which will make it a bit nicer to work there, as well as decrease the humidity.  Then we began on the duct work for the new room.  J made the return air plenum from steel that was recycled from the original solar hot water heater on the roof, which was second hand and never worked all that well.  I'm happy we could use the steel for this project.  I cooked garbanzo beans using our onions.  Pulled various "weeds" for the chickens.  I'm making a new leek soup as I finish up this post, which also uses our garlic, broth & oregano, along with carrots, red pepper flakes & paprika.  I'm making a quiche with our eggs, garlic, sweet red pepper & parsley to go along with it, and a pear & blue cheese salad with homemade vinaigrette.  Soup has been a help in getting my weight down, and I have some most days.  It's filling, nutritious and tasty.  Our second chick hatched this afternoon!  What have you been cooking or planting recently?  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Blooms, a Broody Hen & Frugal Accomplishments

As another week begins, I'm happy to be joining in with Frugal Accomplishments.  After preserving all our winter squash, there were 2 pumpkins left on the shelf, bought for our hayride last year, and used with our own squash as decoration.  One of the pumpkins was a white one.  Unfortunately, it began to rot, but before putting it in the compost, I gathered some of the seeds.  I have no idea what variety it is, or if it is a hybrid, but figure it might be fun to have a vine of white pumpkins for our decorations each year.  If the seed doesn't grow true or if is not a tasty variety, it will still be good food for the chickens and pups.  I made hummingbird food, and put out one feeder.   I haven't seen any yet, though there have been reports of local sightings.

J made some changes to the area in the chicken coop intended for broody or sick chickens.  After putting her eggs in the new nest box, I moved the broody hen there.  She moved one of the eggs to her liking and sat back down on the eggs, looking quite content.  That went much easier than anticipated.  This is a totally private area, which I've read they prefer, and I guess there's the proof.  Did laundry with homemade soap, and hung it on the line.  Went through swagbucks, and paid with my credit card, for a 7% discount on fittings for our rainwater collection system.  Cut asparagus a few days, though I only got a few each time.  There are quite a few slender spears from the new plants,  so over the next few years, our harvest will hopefully increase.  I roasted asparagus for dinner one night.

I gathered flowering tips of broccoli, and wild cat brier tips to add to our salad.  Cat brier has a mild lemony taste, which the ants also like, so I give the tips a look before plucking to see if they are ant free.  Used our garlic when roasting brussels sprouts, baked our sweet potatoes, and used fresh oregano in a mushroom dish.  Made potato leek soup with our vegetables, broth and herbs.  Went through ebates for a purchase and used a coupon code to get a free item.  Harvested kale twice, and made a kale salad.  Mended one of the dog bed covers, whose zipper had come loose during washing.  I also mended one of our outdoor nylon banners.  It was my first time attempting to mend one of these, & it isn't pretty, so I'm not sure I'll bother doing that again.  I crushed a pan of egg shells and added them to the compost bin.

We've all been eating our share of eggs lately, as we have them in abundance.  Thankful for that, and the fact that our broody hen is doing a fantastic job sitting on those eggs, since she got her private spot.  This week, we could have chicks, or maybe not.   But if not, I'm betting on next time.  I added lemon and grapefruit peels to a jar of citrus vinegar.  Watered all the house plants, and added the brown leaves to the compost crock.  The last roselle cutting I started in the fall died :o(.  I did collect a few seeds, but was hoping to have at least one plant to start with this spring.  Our meyer lemon and key lime trees arrived.  The lemon looks happy, but the lime lost all but one leave.  I put them outside every day with our tomato seedlings.

We had freezing forecasts a couple of nights, so J & I went around wrapping and covering everything we could.  One small peach tree lost all its peaches, and our kiwis died back, but other than a few leaves most other plants seemed to make it OK.  I repaired my massage chair, which I use for massage work at Hospice, and also repaired my slippers, sneakers, a vintage photo that was losing its back, and a scarf pin.  Made omelets with our eggs and asparagus.  Did a small amount of weeding in the orchard.  Weeded young lambs quarter plants from a flower bed, and picked a few cabbage worms off the kale, and gave both to the chickens.   What did you do to save money or resources last week?

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Birthday and Frugal Accomplishments

Merry Monday, friends!  I'm happy to be joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.  Last week, I took 6 gallon bags of frozen vegetable scraps, simmered and cooked them down, and canned another 8 pints of broth for the pantry.  I'm working on eating down the sweet potatoes, and baked some larger ones for us, boiled the smallest ones for the pups, and dehydrated 2 batches of medium sized ones for pup treats.  We didn't use wood heat several days.  The morning of cooking broth and sweet potatoes brought the thermostat up from 71 to 75.   I opened windows when the temperature allowed, to bring in fresh air.  Boiled eggs for us and the pups.  Harvested asparagus.   Asparagus and sweet potato ends went into a broth bag.  Our broody hen moved from the nest she'd been sitting on for a week to an empty nest. :o(  Another broody hen sat on that nest for a bit, but when I went back in the evening, no one was on it, so I moved the original broody hen back on it.  The eggs may not be viable, but as they're not edible after a week of sitting, I figured it was worth a shot.  We've found her in other nests boxes a few times now, and just put her back on the original nest.  The eggs have been warm when I've moved her, so I'm still a little hopeful.  I hope you understand I am not bothering her when she is off the nest a bit eating and drinking, but once she gets back on the nest, and chooses to sit on an empty nest, I figure she can use a little guidance on the matter, being a first time Mom :o).

I mended a dress, 2 sweaters, a laundry bag, a pillow & a tote bag.  Made a frittata with the potatoes we cut eyes from (to plant) and our eggs.  I pulled a wild onion in the asparagus bed, and added it to the frittata.  Added a few more things from my closet to put in the donate box.  Polished my white Birkenstocks, which I've had since my nursing days and now use for massage work.  Tore toilet paper tubes and added them to the compost crock.  I planted seeds for 6 varieties of tomatoes, 3 peppers, 2 eggplant and a purple tomatillo, and many are up.  Worked on stripping the porch posts.  Cooked the last rutabaga in the crisper, and warmed leftover potatoes to go with it.  When Guinness came back in the house terribly stinky, I decided baths were in order for both dogs, using homemade dog soap and a bit of nail trimming too.  I washed their bed covers & collars along with their bath towels with homemade laundry soap, and hung them on the line. Making a batch of dog soap is next on my list.

I purchased all cabinet knobs for the new room 50% off at Hobby Lobby, as well as ribbon 50% off to wrap my online shaving set sales.  I had been using a large roll of ribbon bought at a thrift store a couple of years ago, which I'm sad to see end.  I keep my eye out for masculine looking ribbon at thrift stores, but it's not easy to come by.  Went through ebates to make a purchase on Amazon, and through swagbucks to make a purchase at Lowes.  I bought organic strawberries on sale, and used a trick I learned to keep them fresh. Make a 10% vinegar to water solution and soak the strawberries several minutes.  Remove and dry them fully, keeping them separated, then put in a container in the fridge.  They were perfect a week later, definitely the best method I've tried so far.  It's supposed to kill any mold spores on the berries.  Saved the skin from grapefruits and clementines, and started a new batch of cleaning vinegar.

I gathered dandelions to make either a salve or this lotion bar.  If I gather enough dandelions, I hope to make both.  Made a smoothie using homemade yogurt, homegrown raspberries and nettles, and store bought frozen banana and mango.  I purchased a desk lamp for the new room through ebates and with a $5 Staples reward.  Requested several books from the library.  There have recently been 2 books I could not finish reading, which is pretty rare for me. I just couldn't make myself with these.

Raffaldini Vineyards & Winery

I made German chocolate brownies from scratch for J's birthday.  I also took him out of town for a overnight trip, where we met friends and celebrated at some NC wineries.  Not very frugal, but I did bring some food from home to have a picnic lunch.  I didn't realize it until after the fact, but my last post was the 600th!  Though I really enjoy joining in with the Frugal Accomplishments community, and how it keeps me feeling accountable to frugal endeavors, I've been pondering what this space is about otherwise.  I really don't have any answers yet, but am giving it some consideration.  J & I went to a conference, and I brought water and food for us for the day.