Monday, May 29, 2017

A Honeymoon in Italy and Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  I'm starting to get back in the gardening groove.  Last week, I harvested raspberries, lettuce, peas, mulberries, chives and dill.  I weeded around the lettuce, eggplant and several other spots.  We got a pick up truck load of mulch, a lantana and several cockscomb for a new small area near the porch, as well as homestead verbena, marigolds, and portulaca.  All but the marigolds were planted and the mulch spread between rain showers the same day.  We haven't decided where we'd like the marigolds just yet.  I also picked up a pack of globe thistles at Big Lots, and planted the rhizomes too.  They are not a true thistle.  We have enough of those already!

For our trip, I borrowed library books for the Kindle, and read a couple of free amazon Kindle books, including one on frugal living.  I bought a bouquet for $3.99 from Aldi's  to enjoy, and cut flowers from the yard for another vase.  When we returned, there were enough peas to make a batch of fresh pea soup with them and our herbs.  A large basket each of lambs quarter and swiss chard were harvested.  I washed plastic bags for reuse.  Lambs quarter, lettuce gone to flower, mock strawberries and mulberries were given to the chickens.

I made yogurt and kefir.  We've had a hen that has been broody off and on for several weeks.  We moved her into a little private broody area, where she has her own small yard when she gets off the eggs.  It's been 6 days, she's still sitting, and we're hoping she continues to.  J got creative with the two young roosters, who had been in the broody area.  He set up our large dog crate for them, under the eaves, and placed some old windows to cover most of the sides for when it rains.  They have a large yard to be in during the day.   We'd like to take them to the flock swap at Tractor Supply to find them a new home, but we have an out of town family gathering the day of the next one in June.  They may be with us a while longer.

I did laundry with homemade laundry soap and soap gel. One day, the wool items were hung indoors, and the rest dried in the dryer due to rain, and another day, both loads were hung outdoors.  We've gotten a significant amount of rain since we've been home.  The plants are jumping.  There were numerous tomato volunteers, which were transplanted.  J planted seeds for spaghetti squash, okra and lima beans.  I went through ebates and used a 25% off coupon to make a photo book of our wedding day and honeymoon.  I want to have this to share at our celebration in a few weeks.

Our wedding had some frugal elements.  I asked J to choose the dress I'd wear, and he chose an Ann Taylor dress I'd bought at a thrift store a few years ago.  It needed to be taken in, and I paid to have it altered, as I didn't feel skilled enough to work with the silk dress and separate lining.  A local woman I'd spoken to about flowers backed out a week or two before the wedding, so I had to scramble.  I ended up going to a local florist, buying the stems, and putting together my bouquet, which I supplemented with a few of our flowers.  Though I do enjoy flower arranging, I was trying to cut down on the details I'd be responsible for this particular day.  It all worked out.  I made J's boutonniere with elements I gathered from our land.

A friend shared a youtube video with me on bow making, and I made two large bows using wired burlap ribbon bought at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon, and tulle that I bought a large bolt of for I believe $2.99 at a thrift store years ago.  I'd been intimidated by making bows, but it was surprisingly easy.  The same friend hosted and officiated our wedding on the front porch of her gallery, which is a beautiful historic home.  She had an assortment of dream catchers, which we hung from hooks along the porch.  We bought Prosecco, sparkling lemonades, fruit, cheese, marcona almonds and chocolate to enjoy after the wedding.  We kept it small, and there were only 7 in attendance, in addition to our officiant and us.   A close friend who is a photographer took photos.  After our munchies, we headed to a lovely restaurant in Greensboro, to meet up with more friends and family for dinner.

A trip to Italy had been on my bucket list, and when J suggested it for our honeymoon, how could I turn that down?!  One pretty special day was meeting and sharing a meal with a second cousin and his family.  I'm only sorry my Mom had not been able to go.  We had begun talking about going together, but she became sick before we were able to do it.  She was on my mind so much of the trip, and I enjoyed pistachio gelato and savoiardi cookies (both favorites of hers) thinking of her.  Though not frugal, one of the reasons I live simply is so that I can enjoy experiences like this.  Having these memories means so much more than things ever could.

If you have a few minutes, this TED talk by Caroline Myss on health and healing is worth a listen.

Monday, May 22, 2017

We're Back

Hello friends!  We arrived home from our honeymoon early this morning.  Today will be a day of catching up on laundry, opening mail and easing back into homestead life.  The soap shop and SoulSeeds shop have reopened.  It was a grand adventure, and it's good to be back!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fresh Pea Soup, A Spring Treasure

Hello, friends.  I wanted to pop in to let you know about this lovely fresh pea soup.  It's been the first time in several years that we've gotten enough of a pea harvest to make soup.  When I was reminded of how good it was, I wanted to share it with you.  This recipe is from the original The Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook, one I've had for many years.

Cream of Fresh Green Pea Soup

1 tbs butter                                                      
1 cup minced onion                                    
1/2 tsp salt                                                  
2 cups fresh, raw, sweet peas                      
1 1/2 cups water or stock
1 cup milk or half and half  
freshly ground black pepper
Fresh herbs: basil, dill, thyme, tarragon, parsley, chives

In a saucepan, cook the onions with salt in butter until the onions are soft.

Separately steam the peas until they are bright green and just tender.

Add steamed peas and stock or water to sauteed onions.  Cover and simmer about 10 minutes.

Puree 1/3 to 1/2 of the soup in a blender or food processor; return puree to saucepan.  Add milk or cream.  Don't cook any further, unless you are not serving immediately.  Then heat carefully just before serving.  Snip in desired amounts of fresh herbs.  Scissors make this fun and easy.

My favorite herbs for this soup are dill and chive, which work perfectly this time of year.  The chives have overwintered and are growing well, and dill volunteers are usually coming on strong.  To me, the fresh herbs really make the soup.  If you have enough peas harvested to make this in one day, that's best.  But if like me, you need to shell some here and there and save them up until you have 2 cups, that's also good.  The earliest ones get a little starchier, but the soup is still amazingly good.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Monday, May 1, 2017

Plants and Plans and Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  I hope your week has been a good one.  Last week, I redeemed Swagbucks points for a $25 amazon gift card.  I'm cutting back on the time I spend on swagbucks; pretty much just doing the daily list, and purchases when they have the best cash back offer.  I made cabbage and egg noodles using our cabbage, and a lambs quarter and spaghetti squash side dish with our frozen vegi's.   At Aldi's, I was tempted by marked down bags of Easter chocolate for .10, but it was milk chocolate, and neither of us cares for it, so I passed.  Even at that price, it's not a bargain if you won't eat it.  I did purchase some nice cheeses, lemons, organic strawberries and wine while there.

A batch of suet was made for the birds.  I saw the summer tanagers back at the suet feeder, and am glad we will get to enjoy them again this year.  Lovely rain topped up our tanks for the first time in months, and has made all the plants happy.  After a dental appointment, I decided to do a quick check at a thrift store I passed.  I was so glad I did!  Not many weeks ago, I broke one of my vintage glass refrigerator dishes while placing leftovers in it.  Somehow, the dutch oven hit it just right, and it broke.  I had been looking for a replacement, but they all seemed to be $20 and up, and I was hoping not to pay that much.  I lucked out, and found a set of two Hazel Atlas criss cross pattern dishes with cobalt lids for $2 total!  They're perfect, with no chips.  I saw the large one on etsy for $40.  Beautiful and useful too; the perfect combination of a good treasure.

I donned my leather gloves, and harvested nettles.  I harvested nettle tops, and pickled them with apple cider vinegar and some of my homemade Herbamare-like mix.  I pulled nettle plants that came up around our 12 apostle lilies and a fig, and started a batch of nettle tea fertilizer in a 5 gallon bucket.  In a few days, that will be a quite an odiferous bucket!  But it's excellent fertilizer, so I suppose  it's worth the stink.  I harvested our first peas, around 2 dozen pods, and a few more another day.  Not enough to do much with, but I'm thinking I may use them as part of a stir fry.  Our chard is going to seed, and I harvested 3 large bags full.  Our lettuce is too, and it's already too bitter to use, so I am doling it out to the chickens, who love it nonetheless.

Chickadees and bluebirds and an as yet mystery bird have taken up residence in the three bird houses that are closest to the house.  J & I have seen them carrying insects into the houses.  I can't remember if I knew that hummingbirds feed off comfrey flowers.  I spied one on an evening wander through the orchard, which made me smile.   I'm grateful to continue getting some nice shop sales.  Yogurt and kefir were made, and fruit and vegi bits added to the compost crock.  Laundry was done with homemade soap and hung on the line.   Most of the volunteer dill we transplanted is thriving, as well as the echinacea we relocated.

Two bags of lambs quarter were blanched and frozen.  We sadly lost one of our red hens recently.  I caught her looking off into space one day.  She allowed me to pet her while she was in her reverie, which was unusual, and I wondered if something was going on with her.  There was nothing obvious I observed.  She appeared fine, but J found her dead that evening.  We're attempting to keep the two young roosters separated from the rest of the flock, but somehow the door between them keeps opening.   It is more peaceful while they're separated, but the low hen in the pecking order still is being abused by several other hens.  I do wish they would all get along.  We're still in plentiful eggs, and some are boiled for us and the pups 2 or 3 times a week.

Many of our garden seeds are sprouting.  There are cucumbers, summer and winter squash, and various greens up.  There are also lots of apples, some plums, peaches, blueberries, pears and pawpaws fruiting.  Our little general store a mile up the road was giving plants away when J went to get gas one day last week.  He brought home a jalapeno pepper, Big Rainbow tomato and Big Red tomato.  The Big Rainbow sounds especially interesting.  Most days, two 2 mile walks were taken with the pups, with J occasionally joining us.  I switched out my summer/winter clothes and sheets.  Several shirts were added to the thrift store box, and several cashmere sweaters will be given to a niece.  As much as I love them, one can only use so many sweaters.

I wanted to try a new chard recipe, and chose this one.   Besides our chard, the recipe used our homegrown garlic and red pepper flakes, and homemade breadcrumbs.  I followed instructions and used about 2/3 of the lemon/olive oil mix, which looked to be enough, but it was a bit dry, so next time I will try adding all of it.  We all thought it was pretty tasty.  I've read the tip to use lemon seeds in place of pectin.   I remembered to add them to a bag in the freezer to try this summer.  I still have plenty of chard to make something else this week.  J sprayed all our fruiting trees and shrubs with neem oil and other good things.  Little black beetles we've not seen before are chewing on our broccoli, so J used an organic spray on those plants.  We have some pretty large plans coming up.  I will check in here as I can, and I will see you on the other side with an update.  Be well, friends!