Monday, February 27, 2017

Blooms, Biochar & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  Like much of the country, we've been having unseasonable weather.  There have been days without any heat, windows opened wide, and peaches and pears beginning to blossom.  It's supposed to get down to 31 tonight, though, and I fear we'll have a repeat of last year before spring is here, with little fruit to survive.  Last year, it was lows in the 20's that killed everything.  I'm hoping we won't get lower than 30, and all will be well.  It's been breezy and downright windy at times, which has helped in finding several more tufts of usnea to add to the tincture jar.  For the past several weeks, I've been lighting a candle when we eat dinner.  Between it and the twinkly lights in the room, it's enough light without using the fixture over the table.  I'm happy to be joining in with Brandy's Frugal Accomplishments today.

Eggs were boiled, and the shells saved for compost.  Bread ends are drying in a pan for bread crumbs.  Sweet potato pie and sweet potato pound cake were made using leftover sweet potatoes, homemade vanilla, and our eggs.  I'd been intending to make up a batch of egg rolls, and did so this week.  The handwritten recipe I'd been using for years was in a large pile of recipes.  Not wanting to search, I tried a new one, which wasn't quite as good.  I substituted a few leaves of kale and collards, and a small amount of broccoli for the broccoli slaw called for, and used our eggs in fried rice.  I froze two bags of egg rolls for future meals.  Yogurt, kefir and suet were made.  Jars of jasmine rice, pecans and coconut flour were vacuum sealed.

Last weekend, we fired up the biochar.  Once J placed the inner barrel of small sticks and twigs in the larger barrel, we quickly filled up the space between with larger sticks and put the lid on.  We no longer had the original chimney, and used a couple of clay tiles instead, which worked well with a bit of sand placed around the bottom to create a seal.  The biochar was spread in the garden, in the area where we'll be growing potatoes.  J & I have worked on the antique wardrobe.  He removed the loose laminate from one side, sprayed it with glue spray and weighed it down. A couple of areas still bubbled, so I put watered down wood glue in with a syringe and weighed it down again.  It's not perfect, but lots better.  I've been applying wood filler to all the cracks, and sanding it.  I'm hoping the wood filler drying now is the last round, and I can move on once I sand that.

I caught up on my mending, which included shorts, a coat, sweater, pants and a cloth I use to cover my kefir.  Of course, shortly after I did, I noticed more spots on a throw rug I repaired recently becoming unraveled.  It's a vintage rug, and I've decided it doesn't need to be the rug at the door we come in and out most often.  Once I mend it, I'll figure out a better place for it.  Dinner one night included some of the last of our potatoes in storage, and our canned carrots.  At the discount grocery, I found Ball wide mouth plastic lids for .25 ea.  These are helpful when I open a jar of canned pickles, or other wide mouth jar from the pantry.  I got more dried blueberries @ $1 a bag.  They had small 4# bags of black oil sunflower seed this time, instead of the large bags.  I didn't ask first, and ended up paying $20/20 lbs, not a great deal.

This fine fellow was facing the door when I came out to feed the cats one morning.  The spring peepers have begun singing.  I purchased items to service the lawn mower through ebates, & used my credit card, saving 7.5%.  For the first time in years, I had my hair professionally colored, prompted by a video I saw of the back of my head which ahem, showed my lack of expertise in this area :o).  She wanted to buy 3 bars of my soap, so that was taken off my bill.  I have to admit coloring my hair every 3 or so weeks is not something I enjoy.  Supposedly this color will last quite a bit longer than the ammonia free stuff I've been using.  We'll see if that's the case.  I ponder letting my gray grow out again, but for now, this works.  Our garlic and garden peas are coming along nicely.  I've cut three spears of asparagus from a small volunteer patch that came up under one of the pear trees.

J warmed pancakes he had made and frozen a couple of weeks ago in the oven (they were too large to fit in the toaster), and while the oven was still warm, I thought to throw in the two biggest sweet potatoes to bake.  I put a pot of mixed homegrown beans on the wood stove, and another pot of small sweet potatoes for the pups.  I started on my taxes this week.  It's a fairly complicated task when there are multiple (albeit small) income streams and expenses related to each one.  I made notes last year, which I hope will help me to gather all the information in a more timely manner this year.  Houseplants were watered with rainwater.  The roses from my valentine came in a red mason jar, so I'll add that to my canning jars.  I assume you can use the colored ones as any other canning jar, but I'd better make sure.  Please do share if you know.

Well rotted chicken poop and straw was used to feed the fruit trees, rhubarb, horseradish and olives.   I used shredded paper in the chicken nest boxes.  The wardrobe still needs work.  Places in the laminate keep popping up, and new cracks develop, I suppose from being outdoors (on our porch), with temperature and humidity fluctuations.  I'll keep trying, but at some point, I may decide that it's good enough, and paint it.  Various bits and vegi ends went into the broth bag in the freezer.   A small amount of winter greens made it through the single digits, and were picked and made into a winter salad.  I watched a video on youtube, and have been enjoying a book borrowed from the library.  I hope you have a wonderful week, friends!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Garden Plans, Blooms & Frugal Accomplishments

.50 jar Grandma Wheatons Old Fashioned Receipts
Hello, friends.  I forgot to mention we planted garden peas last weekend, the first planting of the year.  I harvested the spilanthes blooms, which filled a pint jar, and began a batch of medicinal tincture.   The six spilanthes plants were trimmed and repotted, and it looks like at least some should make it.  I mended a throw rug with carpet thread and needle.  Sloppy joes were prepared one night, using sauce and two partial packages of "meat" that had been frozen.  That felt like a small accomplishment, to use up three packages in the freezer, making just a bit more room.  I brought home half of my Valentines entree, and had it for dinner the next night.  The sweet potatoes were sorted through.  Some went directly to the compost, small ones were given to the pups after the bad bits were cut out, and two huge ones (one weighed 2 lbs 12 oz) were peeled & steamed in 1" slices, because I didn't want to run the oven as long as it would have taken them to bake.  We live without a microwave.  Peelings went into the broth bag in the freezer. I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

Yogurt and kefir were made.  As usual, the pups got a spoon of yogurt with their breakfast, and kefir at night.  Half a dozen eggs were boiled, and fed to the pups over several days.  I made cookies on Valentines Day... ww chocolate chip & GF peanut butter.  J had clients visiting in his shop, so they got the first round, then I took a plate to Hospice to share with my massage clients.  I also made up little bags of homemade soaps and shower tabs for several people at my bank and Hospice, as a small token of appreciation.  I dropped off three boxes at Goodwill that had been collecting decluttering items.  Thankfully, we received just under a half inch of rain, which was sorely needed.  I'm not sure what exactly I'm doing wrong with my moringa, but it's died back again.  It typically reaches about a foot, then starts looking poorly.  I hope it will send up another shoot again.  Because my great nephew loved the wood tractor I gave him soon after he was born, it was requested I get him another wood toy for his 1st birthday.  I returned to Raven Pottery & Craft Gallery, and  fell in love with this truck.  I thought it needed some "logs" in the bed.  I love that with care, it's possible this toy may be around a good long time, maybe even passed on to another generation.

J & I made our list of what we're growing in the garden this year, and the dates we need to start tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and possibly cucumbers.  It's helpful to me to have things written down as a reminder, or they often don't get done.  Lists work really well for me.  I don't go by a list every day, but it definitely helps me stay on track with things.  J made a plan of where the plantings will go in the gardens this year.  I made swagbucks goals several days.  I've added a morning walk, to the evening one.  I gained a few pounds during the darkest days of winter.  Eating denser foods and being less active does that to me these last few years.  I'm determined to lose what I gained, plus a few more pounds.  I took homemade fire cider after feeling a slight sore throat, and it quickly went away.  I've been very impressed with how well fire cider has worked each time I've used it.  I highly recommend it.  There are variations on the recipe (here's one), so just use what you have and what appeals to you.

Another small tuft of usnea was found in my wanderings, and added to the jar of tincture.  Laundry was done with homemade soap and gel, and hung on the clothesline.  The guys finished working on a biodiesel plant, which is soon heading to Bad Axe, MI.  That's them above preparing it for shipping.  The rhubarb has begun poking up.  I expect it will need to grow more this year, before I'm able to harvest any, but I'm happy to see it.  The snowbells have begun blooming.  I didn't know about them until a few years ago, then fell in love with them.  J told me they were getting ready to head to lunch on Friday.  Cleaning the fridge was on my to do list, and I'd just gotten all of the top shelf set out on the table, when he came back into the house to say they'd changed their mind, and were eating here.  A quick clean of the shelf and bottles wiped, with a few things past their prime kept out, and all was put back in.  Perhaps doing it one shelf  a day will work better than doing it all at once anyway, if I can just keep it up.  I don't enjoy the process, but the end result is a good thing.

The pups went for their annual well visit.  Both were at their perfect weight.  Guinness has a bit of a hip issue, and the vet wanted him a bit leaner to make it easier on that hip.  He's on a glucosamine chondroitin supplement, but I'm glad his weight is ideal too.  At one point around the end of his treatment for happy tail, McNibs decided he was not going to cooperate at the vet. True to form, he did not yesterday.  He's such a powerful dog, with an equally powerful jaw, you don't want to mess with him if he doesn't want you to.  I like to think it would never happen, but just the possibility of him biting someone is enough to give pause. I'm going to bring him by for visits, to see if they can rebuild his trust with lots of love and treats for a while.  BTW, a muzzle was tried by the vet last year.  Not only did he get it off, but it escalated his agitation and he fishtailed his powerful self all around so they couldn't do what they needed anyway.  So, lots of love, calmness, and treats is the new plan.  Hopefully, the sweet, silly boy I see at home will decide they're friends again there too.

While walking to the mailbox one day, I noticed a bright pop of red.  One of the anemone hollandia's had bloomed, then got frostbit, so it was hanging over.  Not to waste such a cheery bit of color this time of year, I cut it and brought it in the house to enjoy.  I planted a dozen containers of wintersown medicinal, herb, pollinator, & dye plants.  The ones I planted were eyebright, woad, columbine, 2 types of milkweed, lovage, echinacea, rosella, and one plant I'm not sure about.  It's a nubby seedpod I got somewhere, which I believe may be a kousa dogwood.  Don't know why I didn't label it, but there you go.  I cleaned another shelf in the fridge.  Just one more shelf, the crispers and the door (ugh!) to go.  Eggs were boiled, with 6 made into deviled eggs and a couple given to the pups.

As Tuesday is my usual day in town, and the day I run errands, I skipped the grocery store this week.  I had just enough time after Hospice work to get home and get ready for dinner out with my Valentine.  J picked up 1/2 gal. of milk, but otherwise we've been eating out of the pantry this week.  I suppose you could say our grocery money was spent on dinner, and a lovely one it was.  With warmer temps, I uncovered and weeded around the lettuce, chard, and celery.  Pasta Norma was made for dinner, using our tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, oregano, parsley, basil and chives.  Today has been a flurry of activity...  doing the biochar burn, sealing jars, repairing the wardrobe and siphoning and bottling the mead.  I'm thinking this post is long enough.  It's officially a new week, so I'll share these things in another post.  Be well, friends!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Treasures of Home

So, this arrived today!  It is one of Hazel's creations.  I had told myself when I got three of her lovely cloths, that would be enough. But, then I saw this one and fell in love.  My photo doesn't do it justice  (you may click on it to enlarge and see the lovely details). the  She named it "The Treasures of Home".  Isn't it a joyful and magical piece?  Wishing you a weekend of treasures, joy & magic!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentines Day

Wishing you a day filled with love for yourself, and some to share!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Five Six Pick up Sticks & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  Last week, I checked on the cabbage and broccoli in the pond garden.  The cabbage are still too small to harvest, but there was one small stalk of broccoli that I was able to harvest.  I borrowed two books and movies from the library.  Laundry was washed with homemade soap and hung on the line.  I used my own bags at the grocery store, getting a .05 credit for each.  I made kefir, yogurt and suet for the birds.  I was invited to a women's Valentines party, and won two prizes at bingo, both candy, with one in a sweet little Pyrex bowl w/ lid.  A woman who was there works in horticulture at one of the local high schools.  She offered me spilanthes plants, which she needed to get rid of to make room for spring planting.  After the party, I picked up a large bucket of plants.  They were blooming, so I will harvest and make tincture with the blooms, then hope to plant them once the weather warms, if I'm able to keep them alive.  They're pretty leggy already, but maybe if I trim them back, it'll help.  I picked chickweed for the chickens on the way to collect eggs most days.

In addition to my work at Hospice, I worked another 3 days at my occasional jobs last week.  While in town, I ran errands.  At Aldi's, I bought organic naval oranges, organic bread and checked out their organic grape tomatoes.  They had no tomato smell, so I passed.  I've learned if it doesn't smell like a tomato, it's not going to taste like one either.  I did purchase some at Lowe's, the first I've bought since last summer, due to our Long keeper tomatoes keeping us stocked.  With temps of 22 forecast, I cut daffodils, afraid they would be harmed.  So, into the house they went to be enjoyed.  While out, I also cut a few branches of forsythia to force.  I've had so-so luck doing this in the past, so we'll see what happens.  We did not need to use wood heat two nights with lows in the mid 50's.

Our butternut squash had been neglected in storage, and some were starting to go bad, so I cut off those spots and cooked them.   The first day, I made soup which was OK, but I don't really care to make it again.  I made crescent rolls to go with the soup, using the last of the home ground wheat.   The next night, there was a squash crumble, which used our parsley, thyme, garlic & oyster mushrooms we grew and dried.  It was more time consuming than I want to spend regularly on a side dish, but very tasty.  We both agreed we'd like it again.  I saved seed from the butternut squash.  I've been collecting green stamps at Lowe's, and the cashier gave me an additional 14 that were not wanted by other customers, which was kind of her.  The promotion ends today, so I need to decide what I'll use them for.  

At a thrift store, I purchased a vintage pint canning jar w/ bail .50, two shirts .50 & .75,  piece of muslin .50, never used ribbon .10 ea.  I found organic butter at Harris Teeter BOGO at $5.99, so $3/lb.  It's been $6.49 in our local store for many months, so this was a great deal.  I bought both salted boxes they had, & now wish I'd also bought the two unsalted they had.  The dandelions have begun blooming.  Here are some ideas for using them, if they're blooming where you are too.  I noticed the forsythia branches I cut earlier this week are blooming this morning.  It's a cheerful sight, along with the daffodils.  Our youngest hen laid her first egg.  Isn't it cute as a button?

This weekend, I spent more time outside than I have in months.  Besides hanging laundry on the line on Saturday, J & I cleaned up the garden, I dug up, divided and transplanted leeks, and J did the same with Twelve Apostle lilies (we ended up with 35 from 4!).  J tamped down the twigs in the barrel for biochar, and when he was shredding and applying leaves to the garden, I collected several more buckets of twigs.  I'm hoping there are enough twigs to seal the barrel up, and I can begin working on filling the space between inner & outer barrels with larger sticks.  I've been gathering those too, and already have a good sized pile that I need to break up.  In the garden, we removed all the cages, and cleaned up the pole bean debris and burned it.  We also piled up the okra stalks, which we'll burn next.

On Sunday, J tamped the biochar sticks down for the last time.  It was filled the remainder of the way, and the lid put on.  Unfortunately, the ring that closes it has gone missing, so we'll have to buy something before we can move on to the next step.  It's been several years since we made the last batch of biochar, and we expect we were overzealous in cleaning up before making a trip to the metal salvage yard one time.  Then, J pruned the European grapes, concord grapes, kiwi and pawpaws while I moved all the prunings to piles.  Five... six... pick up sticks fills like what I've been doing all weekend.  I hope yours was a good one however you spent it.  I'm happy to be joining in with Frugal Accomplishments.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Blooms & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  If you knew me, you'd know I can be kind of goofy on occasion.  I had one of those moments recently while making yogurt.  When I checked the yogurt after several hours, and it was still sloshing around like plain old milk, I realized I forgot to add the dollop of yogurt.  Oops!  I added it then, and it set up fine.  Silly me.  I made Brandy's chard soup and crescent rolls one night, and pasta with our tomatoes, garlic and herbs another night.  Our egg and lettuce was enjoyed in a sandwich one morning.  A frittata with our eggs and potatoes was made another night.  The first bouquet of the year was cut, and the last amaryllis and forced hibiscus sent up blooms.  Simple and sweet pleasures.  I'm joining in with The Prudent Homemaker today.

I ran errands while in town for Hospice massage work.  When I first began doing Hospice massage, I worked with patients in the palliative care unit of the hospital, as well as working with Hospice employees.  The funds dried up for patient care, and though I did a lot of volunteer massage in the past, I also feel the need to value my time and efforts, not to mention pay the bills.  To everything there is a balance.  Last week, I began seeing a family member of a Hospice patient, whom one of the pastors referred to me.  Though the employees absolutely need it, I'm glad to also be doing some work again with those walking that path.  Having both parents in Hospice care before they passed gives me some common ground with their experience.  I hope I can make just a little difference.

I took advantage of a day in the upper 60's, and began pruning.  Besides the butterfly bushes, I worked on apples, plums, peaches, a pear, fig, blueberries and a cherry.  There is more to prune, but it's a good start.  I stuck cut branches of fig, blueberries and plums in the ground at the edge of the woods to see if any might make it.  This doesn't give them the same chance that proper propagation does, but it's easy, and if it works, it's a nice bonus.  Several items were sold on ebay.  I added bits of this and that to the compost, and shredded paper and cardboard.  For a breakfast, I made a smoothie with homemade yogurt, a frozen banana and homegrown fruit... peaches, mixed berries & pawpaw.

My sweet sister and I went to an indoor yard sale, which parents of children who went to a private school put on to raise funds.  I found a well made wicker laundry basket for $5, 2 nice shirts for $2 ea, makeup/travel bag for .25, and 10 terracotta pot risers for $3. We also went to a thrift store I'd heard about, and I found a canister to make a compost crock from for $5 and a good sized pottery plant pot for $4.  I'd been looking for floral wine glasses, which my sister requested for her birthday, and I found 4/$4, which I gifted her along with her other presents.  At the discount grocery store, I got 3L tins of olive oil for $10, 25# organic jasmine rice for $25 ($70.93 on amazon), 20# sunflower seeds for $5 and other deals.  J & I enjoyed dinner and music with two other couples.  There was no cover for the music, though we each made a donation, and J used a $40 gift card towards our meal.  We don't often do much socially, and it was a fun night.  Today I've put a pot of beans to cook on the woodstove, mixed up a batch of whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, and made asian slaw to take to a gathering.  Wishing you a week of things that bring happiness!