Sunday, January 29, 2017

New Buds, A Road Trip & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I so enjoy when I'm able to prepare a meal from mostly homegrown items, which I was able to do last week, using our potatoes in colcannon, these green beans,  and our canned carrots with butter and honey.  The potatoes had begun sprouting, so I cut the areas around the eyes off for planting next month.  We already have seed potatoes, but are saving the eyes to add to those. You can't have enough potatoes, I'm thinking, and it will soon be time to plant them.  Laundry was done with homemade soap.  Several loads were hung on the line, and another dried in the dryer due to the chance of rain that evening. Dryer lint was put in toilet paper tubes for fire starters, and a little candle wax dripped at the ends.  I pondered as I did this that a lot of folks may find it over the top in terms of frugalness, but to me it's just a part of being grateful for everything and trying to waste as little as possible.  Making something to cut down on the struggle when trying to warm the house and the fire is being uncooperative, and keeping a few more things out of the landfill makes sense to me.  I wonder if any of you that heat with wood do this, or if you feel it's extreme frugalness?  It won't change what I do, and I already know I'm a bit odd :o).  I'm just curious.

A good portion of a day was spent cleaning, researching, taking photos of and listing 4 (antique/vintage) items on ebay.  I found all the boxes to calculate shipping in my reuse pile, as well as packing materials.  Three of the items were lead crystal, and in cleaning them I realized all had chips.  It can get discouraging, but they were all still lovely pieces, so I'm hoping for the best.  I enjoyed listening to music on Pandora while cooking and working around the house.  Each evening, I took an Italian lesson through Duolingo.  I found a quarter in a parking lot.  Ever since my folks passed, I keep all my "pennies from heaven" together.  It's very nice to find quarters too.  Some day I'll figure out something special to do with my heavenly bounty.

I froze leftover black bean burgers, enough for two dinners, and froze Spanish rice.  A half dozen eggs were boiled.  I weeded around one of the pear trees, where bermuda grass had taken hold.  I know it will come back until I can get all the pieces out, but it's a start.  I walked with the pups for exercise most evenings.  Now that I've got another coffee grinder, I relegated the one that's been held together with electrical tape to be the garlic & hot pepper grinder.  Remembering how pungent the hot peppers were when they were dehydrating, I decided to do that task outdoors, which really wasn't necessary.  I think most if not all of the essential oils dissipate when they're drying, so there was only a slight pepper scent in the air.  It was a little messy, with that broken grinder lid allowing some powder to escape, so I'm still glad I did it outside.  I'm happy to have that task finished.  We have enough garlic powder and red pepper flakes to last us a while.

I've been working on getting some things relisted in my shop, some variations of things that needed photos taken and a new description written.  I baked our sweet potatoes, and prepared our collards with rice to go with it.  Tiny sweet potatoes were boiled for the pups.  I'm not sure why, but there has been more waste with the sweet potatoes this year.  I found quite a few that had shriveled up, which I had to compost.  We stored them exactly the same way last year, and I still had sweet potatoes in perfect shape from the year before when we dug these in October.  That's a reality about growing and preserving food. There are going to be variations from year to year.  It's not for the faint-hearted, I tell you.  The scotch broom has begun blooming, and there are flower buds on the daffodils and a hellebore.

I read about a cranberry pomegranate compote, and having both fruits that needed using, I made it and we enjoyed it over yogurt.  I had also bought fresh currants recently, as I'd never tasted any but dried.  After using some in a salad, which was just OK, I decided to make another compote adding the remaining currants in.  We enjoyed both versions.  The recipe is in the book Yogurt Culture, which I was able to google and access online.  The guys have a wood fired boiler for their shop heat.  It smokes a bit when they crank it up first thing.  When I looked out, I thought the combination of the woodsmoke and sunrise was pretty.

I ran into a thrift shop under new management while running other errands.  Thankfully it was much cleaner and nicer than the last time I was in, and I purchased a sweet handpainted tray I plan to use when I next need to do a soap photo shoot.  I decided to go ahead and start the usnea tincture, and just add to it if I should find any more.  I'd read it's best to use fresh, and it had already been sitting a few days, so that seemed the best choice.  I figure even a small amount of usnea tincture is better than none at all.

J has an elderly aunt that is fading, so we spent 6 hours on the road yesterday to visit with her. I brought clementines and water, but we were hoping for a hot meal while there.  The restaurant we hoped to eat at was not open for lunch, so we went into a grocery store and bought hummus and chips, and some cheese curds which I'd heard about but had never tried.  Lots of J's family came by while we were there, so it was a bit of a reunion.  It always surprises me how tiring a day traveling can be. and I'm moving rather slowly today.  It looks like several of my ebay items will sell today, so I've been getting them packed up well, as they're all breakable.  I've got plans to make Brandy's chard soup tonight, and maybe some crescent rolls.  Then I hope to get a bit of time to relax.  I hope your weekend has been a good one.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A New Cozy Corner & Frugal Things

Hello, friends.  I do best if I keep track of my week as I go, but I did not do that this week, so I'm going to wing it.  There was the usual collecting of rainwater, heating with firewood, using homemade soaps, hanging laundry on the line, and making yogurt, kefir and bird suet.  Our lettuce was used in several salads.  Our oregano was used in salad dressing, along with pantry items.  I made Brandy's black bean burgers and Spanish rice.  Along with pantry items, our eggs and garlic were used in the burgers, and our tomatoes and dehydrated onions were used in the rice.  One morning, I made scones with leftover sweet potatoes.   Eggs were boiled and enjoyed.  J has been having some TMJ issues, so I've needed to prepare foods that don't require much chewing for dinner.

I scheduled a trip to town to meet with someone based on the hours he said he was available.  I'd already run a couple of errands by the time I called to tell him I was on my way, and was told he'd changed his schedule, so I made the best of it, and finished the other errands I had planned.  I stopped by a thrift store that supports the local animal shelter.  They're only open Fridays & Saturdays, and I'm rarely in town those days, so I wanted to make sure I stopped there.  I found some treasures, including a .50 shirt for me & $1 Champion sweatshirt for J, a sweet little .50 ceramic bird,  $1 Braun coffee grinder that looks almost new, and a cloth stripper for rug hooking for $8.

In researching the cloth stripper, it appears it was made in the 1940's.  It has 2 blades, both cutting thinner strips than the one I bought used years ago.  I found some similar online that are selling for a lot more than $8, but I think I'll keep it a while and see if I might not use it.  Coincidentally, I've been working on a hooked rug the past week or so, the first project done in my new recliner.  It's my first rug, one that I started at least 12 years ago!  I'm quite close to being finished with the hooking part, and then will need to sew the binding and such to finish it.  I walked into a local shop this week, to inquire about classes for rug hooking.  It's been so long since I took a class, I thought it would be helpful in finishing it, as well as remembering all the details of why you do what you do.  The shopkeeper said though she does do classes, if I really wanted to learn, to just bring my rug by and spend some time with her, as the classes are apparently more about gossip and eating, with people who already know the craft.  Hooked rugs are another thing I've been inspired by recently.  Perhaps the universe is encouraging me in this endeavor.  Here's one maker whose work has inspired me.  Follow links in her sidebar for others, if you're so inclined.

The discount grocery store is just up the street from the thrift store, and I found some good bargains there.  They had some unusual things this time, including coconut aminos, cranberry concentrate, dried shiitake mushrooms, Beekman dressing, 4 lbs basmati rice, 10 lbs of organic sugar, ecoscraps plant food, & other groceries.  The mushrooms are $5.46 on amazon, and I got them for .75.  The cranberry concentrate is $25.93 on amazon, bought for $5.50.  The organic coconut aminos go for $9.99 on amazon, bought for $2.  Most of what I got was around 1/2 off usual price, but I got some better than usual deals this week.  I found out they are now getting shipments from amazon.  Apparently, items that are sent back or not claimed are sold this way.  It should make things quite interesting there.

J & I vacuum sealed the rice, sugar, lentils, sesame seeds and cacao nibs bought at the salvage store.  I ground wheat, and used part of the flour in crescent rolls, as well as our egg.  Our garlic and leeks were used in lentil soup.  Friends visited, bearing guacamole.  When they left, I sent them on their way with a dozen eggs.  Greens were picked for the chickens several days.  While breaking up sticks recently for biochar, I noticed several of the sticks had usnea growing on them.  I've seen it here on occasion, but have never harvested it.  It is pretty powerful medicine, so instead of letting it go into the barrel to be burned, I've begun collecting it in a basket.  I've only got 8 or 9 small tufts, but I'll keep my eyes open for more.  I want to leave any that is on a live branch, and just gather what is on fallen limbs.  At least that's the plan.  Wishing you a good week ahead!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Snow Day & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  I hope you've been staying warm (or cool if in the southern hemisphere).  With the recent single digit temperatures, I've been baking more.  One day it was Carrot Apple Zucchini bread, other days I baked sweet potatoes, and another day it was crusty bread in a Dutch oven.  Even with a heater set up under the house, our water froze up on the coldest night.  J added a heat lamp, which thankfully got it running again in short order.   I sure do love and greatly appreciate hot running water.  Not wanting to go back to using well water in the house, we have to be mindful of how much rainwater we use, so to leave it dripping all night wasn't an option.  Using the broccoli I cut last week, plus our eggs, garlic, green onion, leftover peas and pantry items, I made fried rice for dinner one night.  I went through ebates for a small purchase, & used a 12% coupon to purchase a recliner on overstock for my studio.  I realized a recliner next to a window would be the most comfortable way to do the stitching I'm wanting to do, and it will be a lovely spot for reading too.  We took a walk in the snow last weekend, and I thought I'd share some pics today.

I've continued to add citrus peels to vinegar for cleaning vinegar, and have a full quart steeping now.  We had filled up lots of bowls, buckets and bottles with water, in case of freezing water or a power outage.  Once the temperatures warmed up, I began using the water for all the house plants, filling the humidifier on the woodstove & filling the pups water bowl.  We are working on using up the last of our Longkeeper tomatoes that were picked green in the fall.  One morning, I made scrambled eggs with several and our garlic.  The tomatoes are not pretty or as good as summer fresh, but not half bad for January.  On a cold day, I caught up on my ironing, while watching a TED talk, and a couple episodes of the Great British Christmas Bake Off to amuse me.  Ironing is not my favorite chore.  I noticed there were ahem... quite a few summer linens in the bunch.

last of the tomatoes
At the grocery store, sale items bought were catfood, beer, wine & organic frozen corn and peas (2/$4).  I picked up a couple of artichokes too, which have been staying at 2/$3.  The snowman I embroidered last week had some holes in the fabric on the back, which were mended while listening to President Obama's farewell address.  Though he wasn't perfect (and who is?), I believe he & Michelle are good and decent souls, and I will surely miss them.  I finally got around to making a batch of granola, and definitely need to get back into doing that, as I really like it.  One night, I enjoyed dinner with a friend at a new farm to table restaurant.  The food and service were good, and I picked up a couple Arkansas Black apples, a few cookies for J, and some local goat cheese in the market there.  I hope they will do well.  When one grows and eats a lot of your own food, you appreciate good, fresh food.  I also think supporting local food (& businesses) is an important piece of the puzzle.

That's a photo of my frugal niger thistle feeder.  I never could get it to focus on the feeder instead of the tree, but hopefully you can tell it's just a lid in the bottom of a stocking, with a skewer through it.  I spoke about needing to add some pieces of rag on either side of the skewer to keep the seed from just falling out through the holes that enlarged.  That seems to be working pretty well.  The feeder was very busy on the cold, snowy days.  I was happy to redeem points for my first bag of free Purina Naturals catfood.   J needed a few things from Lowe's for a project, so I purchased them through ebates, which gave 2.5% cash back, and using his credit card reduced it another 5%.  Once the days warmed to above freezing, I uncovered the lettuce, and found that most of the green lettuce had froze and rotted, but most of the red lettuce survived.  I'm happy to still have lettuce, and picked some for the coming week.  I've continued to pick up sticks for biochar, and now have a 55 gal. barrel filled.  The next step is to pack down the sticks.  This involves tamping it with a 2 x 4, and J will do that.  Hopefully, it won't take the level too far down.  Then I'll start filling the outer, larger barrel.  I've already started collecting some limbs for that.  That's a pretty good summary of the week and frugal goings on around the homestead.  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

He Had Stars in His Eyes & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope you're staying warm.  Last week, I baked a spaghetti squash, and froze enough for 3 meals after using some in a dish with frozen lambs quarter, then steamed some of our frozen corn on the cob, which was so good!  I ran errands while working in town, charged my cell phone while driving, and folded & reused a piece of scrap paper to make a grocery list.  Only a few items were purchased at the grocery store, including dog food and wine on sale.  Before covering up the greens against the cold temps and predicted snow, I harvested a large amount of chard, some carrots, and a few leaves each of kale and collards.  The pups got some holey collard leaves and grated carrots in their dinner.  J & I made our first batch of mead, using this recipe.  It wasn't terribly frugal, what with using an organic orange and local honey, but I hope it's tasty.  It should be ready to taste by Valentines Day.  I'd love to hear if you've ever made mead before.

A large part of the work J & his business partner do is related to green energy, from hydro power to biodiesel projects.  Vegetable glycerin is a byproduct of making fuel from vegetable oils.  The guys swear by my biodiesel glycerin soap when they're cleaning up after shop work.  They'd used the last of the soap I'd made, and since J was able to get some glycerin recently, I made a new batch of soap.  They don't want any scent added, so it is the most economical soap I make.  One night when I couldn't sleep, I wrapped soap.  Another night, I embroidered a new face on a snowman a dear friend gave me some years ago.  The original face was drawn on with marker, which had bled, so I cut fabric from a good piece of old curtain I was given, and sewed a new face on, which I then embroidered.  I also finished a couple of books on those nights of little sleep.

For breakfasts, I made an egg sandwich with our egg and lettuce, and fried eggs another morning.  For lunch and snacking, I made hummus with our garlic and pantry items, and for a dinner lentil soup with our carrots and pantry items.  Chickweed was picked on the way to collect eggs.  I put down more straw in their coop, in light of the single digits coming, and picked an armful of spearmint, adding it to their nest boxes for it's insect repelling and aroma enhancing benefits.  One of the nightgowns J gifted me for Christmas was longer than I care for, so I cut and hemmed it a shorter length, saving the cut off length of fabric.  Next I mended a clothes hamper liner.   One of my goals is to make at least some of my nightgowns, and I'd love to begin that this year.  A couple of years ago, we experimented with adding biochar to the garden, & it seemed to have very positive benefits on our potato crop.  As we have the means to make biochar, I have begun collecting twigs when I walk around the homestead, adding them to a bucket for this purpose.  It's one of those things we've been meaning to do, and having the materials to create it readily on hand will help make that happen.

Laundry was done with homemade laundry soap and soap gel.  Two loads were hung on the line to dry, and two were dried in the dryer as the chance of precipitation went up.  I'm thankful to have the option.  I wanted to be caught up with laundry before the winter storm arrived, in the event of a power outage.  I put all my saved soap scraps with water in the blender, and made soap gel.  Generally I pour a dollop in with laundry, and use it in a soap dispenser at the bathroom sink.  J & I were gifted solar lights, and placed 4 of them along the flower bed leading to the carport.  I paid the propane bill within 10 days, getting a small discount.  The Call The Midwife Christmas special, free through online PBS, was a joy to watch.  Continuing to work on eating down the freezer, I heated frozen peas and a squash casserole & we finished leftovers with this.

Stars in his eyes
Other weather related chores included cutting small heads of broccoli, which wouldn't have fared well with the single digit temps.  I'm hoping the plants themselves will do well under the blanket of snow.  There are a number of windows we've gathered over the years, and I placed them around the enclosed chicken coop area where the food and water is located.  It does look a bit tacky, but isn't visible from the road, and does well in keeping the area warmer and dryer during snowy times.  In the spring, I'll move them away from the chicken wire again, to allow in breezes.   I harvested oregano and parsley, and decided to harvest some leeks too, thinking potato leek soup would be yummy, which also used our potatoes and carrots.  Along with the soup, I made a pear blue cheese salad with our lettuce.  I'm wondering how the lettuce is doing under the snow in the cold frame, hoping it's insulating it enough to keep it alive.   If you could use some frugal encouragement to meet your goals for this month or year,  there are lots of good folks to join at The Prudent Homemaker community.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Fresh New Year & Frugal Things

Each weekday morning recently, the sounds of a logging operation begin piercing the air about 6:45, clearing a large tract of land about 1/2 mile from us.  It makes me sad to see so many trees come down, and they are chipping these, which makes it seem even worse.  Our best guess is it will be a large cow field, common around here, but maybe it will be replanted in pines.  Time will tell.  The land here doesn't perk well, which means it is unlikely to be a subdivision, a small bit of consolation.  Some day, water and sewer may make it this far out into the county, but thankfully not just yet.  On the homestead, I shredded paper and cardboard, and added it to the compost bin.  I used our potatoes in colcannon.  The hens have begun laying well again.  Several days I got 5 eggs, another day 6, up from an average of 2 lately.  They got treats of greens, sweet potato bits and soft apples in return.

another version of the snowman
Our printer needed a new imaging drum, as well as a couple of toner cartridges.  J checked the cost vs a new printer, but it was cheaper to do the fix.  Going through swagbucks for 2% cash back, and another 2% by using my rewards card helped a little.  A crocheted alpaca shawl of mine had a large snag, so I asked a friend who is an excellent crocheter what to do.  After it was cut and knotted, I wove back in the yarn ends, as well as weaving in a smaller snag.  Then, I sewed a button on a sweater.  Lemons, clementines, avocados, cheddar cheese and organic apple cider vinegar were picked up at Aldi's.  Soap oils were melted on the woodstove.  Water from various things was used in the woodstove humidifier and to water plants.  As usual, homemade soap was used in the kitchen, bathroom & laundry, we heated the house with wood, collected rain water & laundry was hung on the line.

There have been several stitchers that have inspired me this year, including this one.   I love these sweet handstories cloths that hang in my studio.  It makes me happy to look at them.  One of my goals for 2017 is to try my hand at some small hand stitched cloths.  One night for dinner, I prepared a quiche using our eggs, garlic, red peppers, and parsley plus pantry items.  With it, our lettuce was used in a salad and okra cooked in the wok.  Yogurt, kefir & suet for the birds was made.  The little niger thistle feeder needed a bit of tweaking, as the skewer I used for the birds to land on was being knocked out of the feeder.  I ripped a rag in strips, & wound it on either side of the feeder, to help hold the skewer in place.  So far, it seems to be working.  I'm joining in with The Prudent Homemaker today.

There's a consignment shop in the little town nearby, owned by a woman who was suddenly widowed last year.  I try to get by there a few times a year, and buy some things.  This time, I found 2 canisters which I'll turn into compost crocks for my shop.  I'd just been talking about looking for cast iron Christmas stocking hooks, and found one there.  Though I don't have a mantle, I have a deep, high window I plan to use them in.  I also found 4 bright orange metal plates, which I think will be good for eating outdoors.  She and I are kindred spirits, enjoying many of the same things, so we have great conversations.  She's of the same mind as far as wasting things and frugality, and this time we talked about different ways to make rugs, which gave me some good ideas.  On New Years Eve, I mended a fabric gift bag & a tote bag.  I asked J to show me how to service my sewing machine, so I could keep it in good working order, & added a cleaning kit to my wish list on amazon for the next time I place an order.  I see there are online tutorials and videos too, so I may also check out some of those.

Our gas oven has been making an odd noise on occasion recently, & J worked on cleaning the workings of it this morning.  While he had the entire bottom and racks out, I cleaned them up.  Thinking the best, I put in a large spaghetti squash & 5 of our sweet potatoes.  The sweet potatoes were for our dinner, plus future meals.  The spaghetti squash was planned for meals this coming week and to freeze.  The oven is still making a noise, so J says we need a new gas valve.  Oh well, I think we'll have enough to eat with our crowder peas & corn, and collards.  We worked together to do a deep cleaning in our bedroom today, moving furniture, wiping down walls & dusting everything.  It feels good to start a new year with a clean & neat room.  I'm looking forward to the year ahead, and all the possibilities for creativity and goodness.  Happy New Year, friends!