Sunday, July 30, 2017

Simple Summer Meals & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I'm delighted to report that after more than a month with no rain, high temps and hot breezes, we received rain of .2" Friday night and early Saturday.  We dearly need more, but it's a start.  Everything was in a fairly critical state on this land, with large cracks in the earth in places, so we are thankful for the blessing of rain.  The little bouquet was cut from the homestead.  I'm joining with The Prudent Homemaker today.

On Monday, I received a call asking me to work the rest of the week at one of my occasional jobs. After working Tuesday to Friday mornings, I ran many errands while in town.  I brought my water bottle and a snack each day.  The thrift store that supports the local SPCA is only open Fri's and Sat's, and on Friday, I went by there.  I found 2 large embroidery/quilting hoops for .25 & .50, 4 frames for .25 ea, and another frame for .10.  There was also a pretty wicker trash can for $3 and what I think is a cherry pitter for .25.  I'm hoping we'll have some cherries to pit next year.  Some nice treasures for just $5 & change.  On Monday, I cleaned, researched, photographed and figured shipping on 6 ebay items.  After a break, I'm getting back to trying to sell some friend's antiques.  They were listed on Tuesday.  I'm really hoping all the work put into it will be paid back with good sales, but so far, it's looking doubtful.  Things seem to have shifted on ebay since I began selling for them, and I'm not sure if there's anything I can do.  I think I'll try increasing from 5 to 7 day auctions, to see if that helps.  If I find similar items online, I do make sure my starting price is lower, unless what I see is in significantly worse shape than my item.  All suggestions welcomed.

One night, I made pasta sauce with homegrown tomatoes, tromboncino squash, onion and herbs.  The next night, with what was leftover, I heated some homemade crescent rolls from the freezer.  Another night we had vegi BLT's & asian cucumbers.  Meals in the summer tend to be simpler here, even more so when they're working days.  When I got in from work on Friday, I pulled 3.5 gallon bags of vegi bits from the freezer, and made broth, which I let simmer most of the evening.  I like a good, rich broth, and added pieces of reishi mushroom for it's goodness.  I always intend to do this, and am glad I remembered this time.  Once it cooled,  it was put in the fridge overnight, and on Saturday, I reheated and canned it, getting 7 pints for the pantry.  Last week, I harvested cucumbers, yellow and tromboncino squash, eggplant, tomatoes, okra, apples, peaches, and herbs.

One a walk with the pups one evening, I found this feather.  The best I can determine, it's a tail feather from a chuck will's widow.  Neither J nor I had ever heard of this bird.  It's a good thing to learn more about the spot where you live.  If any bird lovers identify this differently, please share.  The hens have been sharing lots of eggs, which we and the pups have been enjoying.  J scrambled some and had them with sliced tomatoes one morning, and I had a couple poached.  Garden vegetables, jams and eggs were shared with several friends this week.

The Ameraucana chicks are doing well.  I've been making their feed, according to what I've read, and giving them various fruit, vegi & grain treats.  They're 9 weeks old now, so in just another week or so, we will likely try introducing them to the rest of the flock.  I mended a sweater, and did a slight alteration on a blouse.  I don't know if it's because I'm older, or if it's today's fashions, but I seem to end up with things that show some cleavage, which I'm not especially wanting to do. To remedy that, I've put a few stitches an inch or so higher on shirts and a dress, to be more modest and comfortable to wear.  We were gifted a cantaloupe.  Melons didn't get planted here this year, so we especially enjoyed it.  This morning, I harvested elderberries from one patch, and removed the stems.  I'm heading to the other patch, then all will go into a batch of tincture.  We're having gloriously cooler temperatures and low humidity.  I enjoyed coffee at the pond this morning, and intend to enjoy time outdoors today.  Enjoy your day however you spend it!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Free Roosters, Thrifted Treasures & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope this finds you well.  It seems these days most everyone I know is having challenges, whether illness, things breaking down or other challenges.  I do believe the planets affect us.  I'm not sure if this might be contributing, but whatever it is, I hope it soon passes, and hope challenges have not visited you.  I'm happy to be joining in with The Prudent Homemaker today.

Last week, I harvested cucumbers, yellow squash, tomatoes, tromboncino squash, blueberries, eggplant, okra, apples, basil, oregano and chives.  I started seeds for broccoli and cabbage from seeds we had on hand.  I gathered eggs from the chickens, and gave them holey chard in return.  Eggs were boiled for the pups.  One evening, an exuberant McNibs knocked the egg basket out of my hand, which cracked the eggs.  Thankfully, there were only two eggs, and I gave the pups those for supper.  I did a good clean out of the chicken coop, which was much needed, and gathered sprigs of spearmint and oregano to put in the nest boxes and on the floor.  These not only make it smell better, but may also repel insects.  I used a coupon code for $30 off our supplement order, as well as going through ebates for additional cash back, and used a 35% coupon code for a book I plan to give as a gift.  I bought another gift through swagbucks, for cash back.  I bought seeds on sale, and used an additional 10% coupon code.

The day McNibs had a run in with the skunk, I mentioned I left to attend a class.  It turns out the class was canceled, but I never received the message, so they are giving me $50 off my next class.  I was interested in another class they're having in August, and need to take 25 hours worth of classes for my massage license renewal, so this works out well.  I already receive a 10% discount on classes as an alumni, and will save the additional $50 after that.  After making bean burritos for dinner one night, I had leftover refried beans.  I don't know why it hasn't occurred to me before, but I realized it would be easy to turn the beans into vegi burgers.  I researched online, then added an egg, bread crumbs, dehydrated onions, flax seed, hemp seed, chili powder, garlic powder and cumin.  They were delicious, and a good use of leftovers.

J's business partner called about some 7 week old Ameraucana chicks that were in a nearby feed and seed, so the next day on his way home, he bought 4.  There was one Russian Orloff that I was excited about after reading about them being such hardy birds, but J is pretty sure that it was a rooster and left it there, and it may explain why it was the last one left.  We surely don't need another rooster.  I'm still trying to find homes for our extra two.  Would you like one or both?  They're a bit over a year old, handsome and docile.  They just really need their own flock of hens.  I cut a watermelon one hot day, and gave the rind to the chickens.  I made soap gel by mixing homemade soap trimmings with water in the blender.  I use watered down gel in a dispenser at the bathroom sink, and add it to laundry loads.

  The nettle tea fertilizer I made several weeks ago was applied to our peppers, rutabagas and dwarf pomegranates.  We've not had any luck in the past with rutabagas, and I'm excited to have a good amount of them this year, with bulbs forming already.  If we have enough to store over the winter, I'll need to research the homestead equivalent of the waxing done to the ones in the grocery store.  Cabbage moths have found them, so I've hand picked the worms a couple of times.  I emptied water cups and bottles into the dog's water bowl, and watered plants with egg boiling and other assorted water.  With the summer heat upon us, our electric bill jumped $50 since last month.  I should say this is not all our home, as both M's trailer and J's shop are on the same bill.  We've been using fans to move around the air conditioned air, which we turned up a degree, and I'm closing blinds and doors against the sun as it moves.  This weekend is the hottest so far, and we've already lost some plants to the drought.  We do some watering, but there's nothing like a good rain.  I hope we see some soon.

thrifted treasures
After making a soap delivery to a B&B 45 minutes away, I stopped at 4 thrift stores on the drive home.  My main goal was to find white clothes that I can experiment with dyeing with plants, and I found 4 shirts.  I also hoped to find a white sheet, which I didn't do, but I found a pretty, small cloth.  I'm always on the lookout for sturdy baskets, and found 2 for the garden, and a laundry basket from $2.50 to $4.00.  I found a vintage, well made embroidery hoop for .50, and a small, thick mat for $1 to use in the bathroom.  There was a frugal fail at the Habitat store, where I found a $2.50 basket and two .25 candles.  I was overcharged $2, but decided not to go back and just consider it a donation.  Pasta salad was made one night, using our tomatoes, cucumbers, basil & oregano.  Another night, I made a tomato pie using our tomatoes, basil & chives, along with asian cucumbers.  I couldn't think of what else to serve.  J requested hummus, so I mixed up a batch using our garlic, plus pantry items.

Wanting to stay indoors as much as possible on an especially hot day, I worked on mending and ironing.  I sewed a button on a shirt, mended a small hole in a shirt,  removed long strings from the sleeves of a linen shirt and reworked the neckline, turned a pair of pants into shorts, and shortened the straps of a thrifted silk nightgown.  Some time ago, M cut plywood boards to fit on our pantry shelves.  I suggested to J that it would be a good day to spend time in the (basement) pantry, being so hot, and we moved lots of jars to put the wood down, then put the jars back.  The shelves were the type with metal wire every inch or so, not very stable for glass jars and bottles.  We were able to cover the majority of shelves, and have a piece of particle board left over from another project that we'll cut to use on the remaining shelves.  J & I gathered the little onions that are on the tops of our walking onions, and plan to start another bed with them.  A container of caponata was found in the freezer from last year's eggplant, which I served with leftover tomato pie and asian cucumbers.  Are you enjoying the bounty of seasonal produce?

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Skunk, Summer Squash & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I'm joining in with The Prudent Homemaker today.  Last week, I canned summer squash and eggplant.  I saved the vegi ends in the broth bag, watered plants with canning water, and refilled bird baths. Another day, I canned pickled beets and lavender blueberry jam.  The jam is good, but next time, I'll try more lavender.  I added the lower suggested amount to be on the safe side, but it was barely noticeable.  I colored my hair at home.  We had to attend an out of town funeral, and then stopped for a late lunch on the drive home.  Between that and the heat (a heat index of 103), we didn't want much for dinner, so I made a caprese salad with our garden produce, and we finished up leftover asian cucumbers.  Laundry was done with homemade soap and hung on the line.

On one of our morning walks, McNibs had a run in with a skunk.  He had disappeared for a few minutes, then came running to me drooling, after he'd obviously been for a good dunk in the creek.  When we got back home, I held him outdoors while J poured a soapy water and vinegar mix on him.  It helped a little bit.  I had a class to attend, so had to quickly clean up and go.  When I returned, McNibs had a bath in the tub, with two homemade soaps, Sirius dog soap and the odor busting Kitchen Thyme soap.  These helped some more.  I've since washed his face with baby shampoo and more of the Kitchen Thyme, and each time it's a little better. That stuff is persistent!  I suggested that we throw some of our tomatoes in the blender, but J thought vinegar would do as well.  I'm thinking I may still try some, to get the last of it off.  I think he's learned his lesson, as he wisely seems to be staying away from the area.    I'm hoping for no repeat performances.

Lawn equipment and I are not the best of friends at the moment.   This summer, I've lost my only eucalyptus and lemon verbena to overzealous mowing and weeding by the guys.  Last week, I took a shirt with me to a natural dye class, and left it there as suggested to continue dyeing overnight.  It fell off the porch of the center while drying, and someone actually weed whacked it!  I haven't seen it yet, but am told it has grass stains and is torn.  The shirt is one I wore on my honeymoon, so it has a little sentimental value.  They say things come in threes, so I'm hoping that's the end of that story.  On a positive note, the instructor gave us some dried coreopsis to take home for dyeing.  Last week, I paid bills online, saving stamps, and made my swagbucks goal several days.   With these hot days, I get up early, so I can take a good walk in with the pups, then get some outdoor chores done before it gets too hot.  J can work in any kind of heat or cold, but it makes me feel bad, so I do all I can in the cooler mornings or evenings, then mostly stay busy indoors.

I went through my closet, and filled 2 large boxes for donation.  I pretty much followed the thinking of keeping only what you love, which was easier than I expected,  I suppose because it was time to let things go.  I got a shoe organizer to help neaten the floor, and it feels so much better in there.  Space to breathe is always a good thing.  The heat index has been over a hundred several days this past week.  One evening, I prepped ice cream which used our peaches, eggs and homemade vanilla, and handed it off to J to do the freezing part.  I subbed whole milk for half and half, in addition to the heavy cream, and added a splash of almond extract.  It was fantastic, and really hit the spot these sweltering evenings.  The skins and buggy bits cut away were put in the dehydrator, which I'll use when making bird suet.

heart shaped beet
In eating down the freezer, I found a couple of bags of blueberries from last year.  I canned those, along with fresh ones, to put another 5 quarts of blueberries on the pantry shelf.  I plan to use these for cobblers.  A pan of dried bread ends was turned into bread crumbs in the blender.  Though J prefers the cheapest whole wheat bread on the store shelf, I buy good organic seeded bread for myself.  I like that the bread crumbs have additional seeds and grains, which add nutrition to the dish they're used in.  The chickens get the cheap bread ends.  They apparently have the same taste as J, and don't seem to mind a bit :o).  I recently noticed our snake plant blooming.  J has had it for many years, and never saw it bloom, so that's pretty neat.  I read that being pot bound encourages them to bloom, though I repotted it this spring.  I started 4 varieties of collards that we already had seed for.

Our broccoli is trying to flower in this heat, so I cut off what I could, less than a cup, and blanched and froze it.  It will be a nice addition to fried rice or a stir fry.  I harvested eggplant, and prepped it with our garlic, oregano, thyme and basil for the grill.  I also prepped yellow and tromboncino squash for the grill, and added a little basil to it as well.  To round out that dinner, I sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, which was enough on a hot day.  Canning water was used to water plants on the porch and in the yard.  I did a little weeding around the broccoli, and around the eggplant.  The okra have some small pods formed, and the green beans have little beans forming.  I have to admit I'm not looking forward to picking either of these, as both take a bit of time.  Also, we still have okra from last year in the freezer, and quite a few quarts of green beans in the pantry.  They won't be wasted, but I don't think I'll enjoy the picking.  For a family gathering, I brought a bowl of cherry tomatoes, herb tea, and a side dish which used our yellow squash, oregano and onion.  What are you harvesting?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Somewhat Pitiful Week of Homestead Life & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  This photo is our entire wheat harvest.  After threshing and winnowing, we ended up with a pound of wheat berries.  A mighty expensive pound at that.  J bought 30 lbs of wheat to plant for somewhere in the neighborhood of $60, of which we planted 25 lbs.  You can figure the math on that experiment.  If you factor in the initial batch of heirloom wheat we bought to plant, which was more reasonably priced but somehow got fed to the chickens, it's a mighty sad story.  While we're on sad stories, the raccoons totally demolished our corn crop.  On Tuesday evening, I showed the corn to my family, and by Friday morning when J went to check on it, it was decimated.  While we're on a roll here, our oldest red hen had been looking poorly, and passed away one night.  We'd been expecting it, but it's still sad to lose one.  Our potato crop seems to be falling in line with the rest of this trend, but we've harvested 1/4 of the crop so far, so I'll reserve judgement for now, and report back later.

It's surely been an interesting adventure this year with the our feathered friends.  We had both good and bad in that realm this week.  The bad was a black rat snake who got into the coop, and ate, kicked out of the nest, or cracked every egg that was under the broody hen.  So, she's back with the rest of the flock, and there will be no chicks July 17th.  The good bit is a pair of cardinals who made a nest in the winterberry next to the driveway, at the edge of the orchard.  I'm close by every day, picking blueberries, gathering fallen apples and such, so it will be fun to view.  I'm happy to be joining in with The Prudent Homemaker today.

It's always a pleasure to eat what we have grown on this land.  Right now, it's squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, herbs and blueberries eaten fresh.  I've been asked how much of our food we grow.  Though it's hard to tell, the last time I was asked, I said I guessed around 50%.  It may just seem that way, being we also have a stocked pantry, but it's not too rare to have a meal totally from here, except for salt and olive oil.  I know it would be possible to figure out, but it would take a lot of record keeping, and there's enough of that already, with all of the small income streams on this homestead.  My siblings and their families came out for the 4th of July.  Everyone brought a dish, and besides the store bought meat, buns, beverages and corn we provided, we shared dill pickles and dill relish canned last year, fresh sliced tomatoes, and mint ice cream which used our mint and egg yolks.  I also made herb tea, which was a hit.  We shared cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and pickles to be taken home.  Even so, I put up a canner full of summer squash the next day.  Not as many soap seconds went away as I'd hoped, but about half found new homes.

I've given blueberry lime jam as gifts, and had a request for more, so I canned a batch with our blueberries one day.  A rebate for the pups flea and tick medicine was filled out and mailed in.  We've continued to get orders in our online shop.  After J fabricates the orders, I clean, paint, then pack them for shipping, so very grateful for the sales that continue to trickle in.  Recycled items are used as much as possible for packing materials.  There was leftover grilled corn from the 4th, and I used it in the first recipe shared in this post.  I sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, and "roasted" okra in the wok to go with it.  I hadn't thought about okra lately, but we need to eat down what's frozen, because it won't be long before we'll have it fresh again.  Once garden produce starts to come into the house, the fruit flies show up.  I made a couple of traps with jelly jars, vinegar, water, a little dish soap, and a paper funnel.  It's the first time trying the funnel, and I'm curious if it will do better than an open bowl.

I gave the chickens bolted lettuce, watermelon rinds, remains of corn cobs and the cut away bits of apples used in making cider.  In addition to the first quart jar, I've filled a gallon jar this week for vinegar.  Both jars smell like they're fermenting, and I hope both do well.    Besides using fallen apples, I'm using the not quite ripe ones the Japanese beetles are feasting on.  After shaking them off, I cut away the eaten bits and add them to the cider.  It's a good thing I have a bright outlook on life, or it could get downright depressing at times.  Finding a use for the less than perfect parts of this life helps a bit.  I did the usual composting, washing plastic bags for reuse, saving eggs shells to crush and put on the garden, paper and cardboard shredding.  I used half and half that was starting to turn for kefir.  I crushed the pan of egg shells, and added it to the compost bin.

On a brighter note, we do have some lovely heirloom green striped cushaw squash.  Yellow squash, tromboncino squash and cucumbers are going gangbusters.  We've had our first good blueberry crop this year.  There are silver linings in every cloud.  We've had some rain, so we're not having to water the gardens very often.  It cooled back down into the 60's last night, so we were able to open the house up and should be able to again tonight.  We've got lots of good things to eat, even if it's not sweet corn.  The wind was rocking and rolling before a thunderstorm last evening, and when I walked this morning, there were gifts of usnea.  Tonight I'm making pasta sauce with fresh picked tomatoes and herbs, our onions and garlic.  Add a glass of wine.  Life is good.    

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Unintended Sharing & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  A couple of weeks ago, when checking on the wheat, I noticed many of the seed heads missing, somewhere around 25%.  I asked J to look at it, and we determined the local deer population were having themselves a buffet.  The wheat was still too green to harvest, so we bided our time.  By the time it was dry enough to harvest last week, they had eaten at least 75% of the seed heads.  We'll have to figure something out for next year, and try again.  In the meantime, we still need to thresh it by hand.  I'm hoping for seed to replant next year, and flour enough for a pizza or two.  As I believe I've said before, growing your own food is not for the faint of heart!  I'm happy to be joining in with The Prudent Homemaker today.

half of our unthreshed red fife wheat
I discovered one of our broody hens sitting on three eggs, so moved her and the eggs to the broody area.  Later the same day, I found another warm egg to add, and the next day two more, so she is sitting on six eggs.  We'll see how it goes this time around.  J harvested our first tomato, which was just under 2 lbs!  I sliced it up along with some cucumber for dinner.  I harvested cucumbers, yellow squash, blueberries.  J & I put up a trellis for the lima beans.  The fruit on one of our peach trees were turning color, so we were keeping an eye on them.  One day, we noticed that there were about half as many peaches as there had been... pesky squirrels... so we harvested them, though they have a bit of ripening to do yet.  We're thinking there's entirely too much unintended sharing going on around here.  I harvested some apples from our earliest apple tree, and continue to gather the falls.  The first batch of apple cider vinegar smells like it's fermenting, which is the first step in turning to vinegar.  I'd say that's a good sign, and started another jar of vinegar with more of the apples and some honey.

I made kefir and yogurt, hummingbird food, and cobbler using our blueberries and a few blackberries.  One night for dinner, I sauteed our chard and garlic, made asian cucumbers and heated a package of Brandy's black bean burgers.  Another night, I made broccoli fried rice with our eggs, broccoli and garlic, and heated a package of homemade egg rolls from the freezer.  I finished the wardrobe, and put away all my fabric and sewing supplies.  I love all the different shapes and sizes of the drawers, which makes it easy to store many things.  In going through things as I put them away, I pulled a few to donate to the thrift store.  I enjoyed listening to free Pandora as I was working.   J saw yesterday that all the little Carolina wrens were gone from the nest.  We hope they fledged, instead of something getting them.

I received 2 free samples of dogfood in the mail, along with a coupon for a free 8-pack.  Though not as natural as what I usually purchase, they will get used. Swagbucks goals were made most days.  Laundry was washed with homemade laundry soap and soap gel, and dried on the line.  Homemade soap was used in the bathroom and shower.  I'd built up a supply of soap end pieces and soap six months old that I'd pulled from store shelves, which I'm letting friends and family choose from to take home.  Most nights were cool enough to open the house up, then close back up in the morning.  Vegi bits were saved in the freezer bag for broth, and other bits composted.  Paper and cardboard was run through the shredder, and a large bag of shredded paper brought home from one of my occasional jobs, to put around several fruit trees.  

We had house guests the past couple of days.  I cut several bouquets for the house before they arrived.  Due to several different diet restrictions, it was decided to get dinners from a restaurant.  I made a new kale salad for lunch one day, which I served along with cherries, and organic salsa and chips.  To go along with dinner one night, I served asian cucumbers (bet you could have guessed that :o), and made whipped cream to go over homegrown blueberries for dessert.  We picked another tomato.  I enjoyed some on an egg sandwich this morning, and J ate the rest for lunch.  We've eaten a few cherry tomatoes out of hand.  We'll be hosting a 4th of July cook out here.  I'm especially looking forward to the homemade mint ice cream.  Wishing a lovely holiday to all my friends in the states!