Sunday, June 25, 2017

Baby Birds, Unruly Squash & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  This month at our ladies homestead meeting, we made kimchi, a fermented cabbage, to which we also added carrots, garlic, and hot pepper. It's pretty potent stuff, but I like it on vegi dogs, and it has good probiotics for your belly.   Last week, I made this pesto with our basil, garlic and purslane.  If you're not familiar with purslane, it's full of good things, including omega 3's.  It grows wild in some places.  I planted ours from seed some years back, and it continues to volunteer in the garden, much to J's regret.  As rainy days were approaching, we harvested our garlic, and have it drying in the carport. We try to grow enough for the year.  Often we have to buy some after March or April.  The keeping quality goes down, as it puts out shoots, shrivels up and such, but this year we just did eke by with out buying any.  A minor success, but one that makes me happy.  I walked with the pups for exercise every day, most days twice.  I'm joining in with The Prudent Homemaker today.

J was given a couple of nonworking pieces of farm equipment last weekend.  In taking one apart, he found 5 baby Carolina wrens in a nest.  The farm where it was picked up was about 10 miles away, so needless to say, mama and papa wren were no longer around.  It just so happens that a pair of Carolina wrens decided last week that a window feeder at the kitchen window was a good place for a nest.  Though there were eggs in there already, J wanted to see if they would raise these little ones, and sure enough, they are flying in and out bringing food.  We hope they're keeping those eggs warm enough, so they'll be able to hatch out too once these three have fledged, but at least it's given these little ones a chance.  Update: the little birds have opened their eyes, and seem to be well.  I'm thankful for good foster bird parents.  I haven't had success so far in getting pics, but will share them if I do.

Swagbucks goals were met each day, and points redeemed for a $25 amazon gift card.  From the garden, cucumbers, yellow squash, blueberries, mulberries, wild blackberries, chard and lettuce were harvested.  We removed the last three eggs from the broody hen, none of which were viable. I had another thought about how that might have happened.  Though it seemed as though she was sitting all the time, maybe she was off the nest long enough for the eggs to get cold, then get back on them before I returned?   The two current broody hens either seem to have one or no egg under them, and the rest are cold in other nest boxes, so I've not tried them with another round of eggs yet.  When nights were cool enough, we turned off a/c and opened windows for fresh air.  I cleaned out the wild blackberries that had come up and were starting to take over the raspberry area, as well as virginia creeper and tree seedlings.   Next, I plan to fertilize the raspberries, and hope these steps will increase productivity.  

In working on eating down the freezer, I was delighted to find a bag of elderberries I froze and forgot about last year.  We had used the last of our tincture, so I'm happy to be able to start another batch now.  I finished the body of the antique wardrobe, and have started on the drawers.  I removed the laminate on the three largest, and gave them all a good cleaning.  Summer squash and asian cucumbers can be a bit unruly to store.  When they were threatening to take over the fridge, I canned up the squash, adding 4 quarts and a pint to the pantry.  I'd been picking up the apples that were dropping, and decided to try making vinegar.  It didn't work well in the past, but I think that may have been because they don't yet have enough sugar to ferment.  I read online about adding some honey, so I started a batch with that method.  We'll see how that goes.

I gathered flowers from the garden to enjoy in the house.  One night, I made my Mom's squash soup, using half of the first tromboncino, our garlic, home canned tomatoes and herbs.  Our lettuce and cucumber were used in several salads last week.  Another night, I made asian cucumbers with vegi sloppy Joe's and corn, which got 4 more things out of the freezer, as there were some partial packages.  While in the freezer, I found packages of frozen mint cubes, and frozen basil cubes.  As we have both of these coming in fresh again, I defrosted and composted these, to make more freezer room.  A package of frozen yellow squash was defrosted and given to the chickens, which they loved.  I found that I like canned yellow squash much better than frozen, both the taste and texture.  I prepared ravioli one night, and used our garlic.  The rain has made everything grow, including the weeds, so I've been weeding every spare minute.  Have a great week, friends!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Garden Gatherings, A Bit of Disappointment & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  That's a basket of this morning's garden gatherings.  There are cucumbers, eggs, yellow squash, blueberries, yellow transparent apples, and tromboncino squash.   I also harvested lettuce, basil, parsley, blackberries, raspberries and mulberries last week.  The carrots were weeded.  I enjoyed a free Kindle book from amazon, and have ordered several more free Kindle books.  Three books were borrowed from the library, including this one about Beatrix Potter, which I'm enjoying.  At the grocery store, I purchased two bags of dog food on sale, and frozen organic waffles on sale (rarely bought, but J has recently commented about not knowing what to have for breakfast several times, so I thought this would make for a nice change).  I made a broccoli salad with some I harvested, and red grapes we were gifted.

This was the smallest bouquet provided for the celebration.  I thought it was so lovely and cheerful.  The discount grocery store moved and reopened the first of May, and I made it by there for the first time.  They didn't have the usual amount of groceries, but said they're getting more in.  I purchased a pretty set of new linen & cotton sheets for half of what they sell for at Target.  I bought a few more things, including Annie's organic cookies for $1.20, artichoke hearts for .50, and a couple of metal plant stands with casters ($5 for both).  Produce and cheese were bought at Aldi's.  We took a friend to a new local restaurant for his birthday.  There were several extra tortillas, so I brought them home and added them to the pups dinner.

While in town for work, I ran other errands, and brought a reusable water bottle and snacks.  For our celebration, J bought a large plastic planter to put the beer and ice in.  Though I'm not all that fond of plastic, I decided to plant nasturtium and zinnia seeds in it.  It's placed beside where I drive in, so I'm hoping it will bring cheer each time I arrive home.  There have been some sharings about finding your tribe here recently.  I realized when pondering how wonderful it felt to be surrounded by so many good people at the celebration, that that's exactly what it felt like... like I was with my tribe.  What a wonderful thing that is.

The day after the celebration, J & I were invited to spend the day at a nearby lake with friends.  There was a long, relaxing boat ride, along with a boat picnic. It was the perfect way to wind down after all the festivities.  Tractor Supply is offering a rewards program.  I signed up, and have two of three purchases towards a reward.  Swagbucks goals were made almost every day.  With cucumbers coming in, it's time for asian cucumbers again.  I brought some to the lake, and made more for us at home late in the week.  We sure do love them.

Well, the eight eggs under the broody hen were a bust.  Over the past week or so, she's thrown 5 of the 8 eggs out of the nest.  I checked 3 of them, and there were no chicks.  Today is day 24, so we'll be removing her from the broody area.  This is the first time I've had this experience, and the only theory I can come up with is the hens that laid in that particular nest box were some of the less "popular girls" that the roosters didn't breed with.  With three roosters, you'd think they would get them all, but maybe not.  If you've got any other theories, I'd love to hear them.  At least we've got blueberries and other garden goodness to help soften the blow.  We're pondering if we'll let one of the other broody Buff Orpingtons sit on another round.  I hope you have a great week, friends!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Awaiting the Chicks Arrival, A New Trellis & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  We've gotten some nice rain here, which is helping the garden grow.  I opened windows when cool, and closed up when it warmed up, to minimize a/c use.  Ceiling fans and a small plug in fan also help.  My online shops continue to have occasional sales.  Though I keep the income from my soap shop, the income from our metal and furniture shop goes towards our vacation fund.  It is what we used for all our spending money in Italy, and there is some remaining to go towards our next vacation.  This is a rewarding way to use income from our joint efforts.  I purchased some needed birthday cards at the dollar store.  We're anticipating peeps coming from the broody area, with chicks expected to arrive any day.  

Instead of stopping on the way home from the funeral for something to eat, I prepared a simple meal when we got home.  I had brought cheese, crackers, apples and nuts from home to snack on during the day.  On Monday, I finished sewing the celebration napkins, cut the loose threads, hand washed them with homemade soap gel, then dried them in the dryer, as it was a rainy day.  One more pressing, and they were ready.  I canned a quart of elderberry juice in 2015, which I heated this week, and added organic sugar to sweeten it, for use in smoothies and such.  At the time I canned it, it didn't occur to me that the alcohol draws out the medicinal properties, so the juice won't be as potent as the tinctures I make, but I expect it will have some benefits, and be tasty too.

I enjoy trying new recipes.  One I tried last week was a garlicky chard and chickpea dish, using a large bag of our chard and garlic.  Both it and the new cucumber avocado recipe I tried were just OK, but every now and then, you find a winner.  I harvested dill, mulberries, blackberries, raspberries, parsley, broccoli, our first cucumber and yellow squash..  On the way to collect eggs, I gathered wild lettuce to give to the chickens, and some mock strawberries.  I also gave them some raisins from a jar that got buggy, one of the occasional down sides of buying them at the discount grocery store.  This time of year, I boil eggs two or three times a week.  The pups get one every morning, and we eat some too.  The usual hummingbird food, kefir, yogurt and bird suet were made.

before decorating
There were a few frugal aspects to our wedding celebration.  The venue I chose, a historic gatekeepers house, was inexpensive to rent ($100).  It's a sweet little house, built in 1888, which still has wavy glass in some of the window panes. The desserts were done by a B&B that I supply soap to, and we are bartering for these.  They create some pretty awesome food, most of which is local.  We provided all our beverages.  A good friend's sister came through with almost everything needed to set up and decorate, as she had it from her son's marriage in May.  Both sisters helped me set up.  I was able to get gorgeous bouquets from a local grower, with herbs and wildflowers mixed in.  Much more my style than what is offered at a florist, at a great price.  Once we figured out our table arrangement, I was able to cut some of our flowers, adding a small jelly jar of flowers to each of the individual tables.  Help was offered by other good people as well.  I can't imagine a more wonderful celebration than was had.  I'm blessed to have a wonderful group of people in my life.

On a cool morning. I  baked bread with a pack of zucchini I pulled from the freezer, along with our eggs and homemade vanilla.  Another day, I pulled our lima beans and okra from the freezer, and had them for dinner along with rice.  The freezer is still quite full, but I'll keep working at it.  I used the last of last year's potatoes in a potato salad, and used our tomatoes, basil and oregano in pasta sauce.  J designed an trellis/arbor to hold our tromboncino squash in the garden, and we set that up.  We had put up a small fence around a small service area of the homestead, which includes the compost, a week or so ago.  The fence was taller than we wanted, and what was cut off was used for the top part of the new trellis.  We also worked on setting up tomato cages around the larger plants.  The Japanese beetles have arrived.  I collect them in a jar of water, and give them to the chickens.  Though I never caught up, several hours were spent weeding the garden.  Fresh straw was put in the chicken's nest boxes, and a wheelbarrow full of poopy straw added to the compost pile.  Wishing you a great week, friends.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Antique Wardrobe Redo & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Now that things are beginning to return to normal, I've gotten back to working on the antique wardrobe.  Since working on it last, the laminate of the lower panel on the other side started buckling.  As I did with the first one, I removed it, sanded and primed it per J's instruction.  I cleaned up the entire body of it, which was quite dirty, and began painting it with antique white chalk paint.  I'll be glad when it's finished, so I have somewhere to put my sewing supplies.   J has been waiting for me to strip two vintage porch posts for the front of the house, so I'll be able to start on that project next.

In addition to store bought chicken and vegetarian bbq chicken for Memorial Day, I made deviled eggs, asian slaw, and pasta salad from pantry items and our eggs, cabbage and basil.  I made the year's first lavender lemonade with our lavender.  We went to Lowe's that morning, and I bought landscape blocks on sale (19% off) with their credit card for another 5% discount, which I'll pay off when due.  Another night, pasta was made with our tomatoes, garlic and herbs.  Mulberries, a few raspberries and blackberries have been gathered, some enjoyed in a smoothie one morning, others frozen.

When planning the upcoming wedding celebration, the caterer told me renting napkins would cost $1 per napkin.  I thought that seemed quite expensive, so began looking for an alternative.  Though I preferred a reusable napkin, I did check out prices for pretty paper napkins, and the ones I liked were also quite expensive.  I checked etsy and ebay, and found no good deals, and didn't think I could find enough alike (44) at a thrift store.  The one new fabric I liked came from the UK, and shipping made it crazy expensive.  Thinking outside the box, I ended up buying two antique linen table runners, which were not all that much more than the rented ones would have been.  I did have some guilt and a slight bit of anxiety when I began cutting them up, but now I will have napkins and eventually cleaning rags for years to come.

I froze the lambs quarter I harvested, which gave me a side dish for six meals.  Hummingbird food, yogurt and kefir were made, and eggs boiled.  Our hen is still sitting.  In a week, I'll begin listening for little peeps.  The first yellow squash is about 2" long.  There are quite a few small cucumbers, and several tomatoes too.  Anticipation!  We're headed to an out of town funeral this morning.  Wishing you a most wonderful week!