Sunday, April 29, 2018

Late April in the Garden & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, swagbucks points were redeemed for a $25 amazon gift card, and purchases were made through ebates for $1 cash back, and swagbucks for $5.78.  I was asked to shop sit three days at a gallery where my soaps are carried.  I'm happy to add a new job to my repertoire, as I stopped filling in at one of my jobs the first of the year.   The job I let go of was fairly physical demanding; shop sitting will serve me much better as I age into my sixties.  We're getting some nice rain, helping to settle in the new plants, and the seeds to sprout.  I noticed beet seeds sprouting on Monday, and carrots later in the week.  We found spinach seeds up on Sunday. 

Seeds were saved from Meyer lemons.   I set them aside when I made a cake, froze most for pectin and kept the biggest ones to try and sprout.  I did this with regular lemons a couple of years ago, with good results.  They were in a bowl on my counter for a couple of days before I got around to reminding myself how to prepare them.  Well, all the instructions said not to let them dry out.  Oops!  I decided to try the ones in the bowl, and a few that I'd frozen, figuring it was worth 5 or 10 minutes of my time.  I'm hoping for the best, though know that the likelihood is slim.  If none sprout, I'll buy another one the next time I see them, and not let the seeds dry out next time.

Most every day, I stop by the roses and pick off and stomp tent caterpillars.  J has been removing them from the apple trees on a regular basis as well.  I finished one library book, then requested and started Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher, which I'm enjoying.  I walked with the pups for exercise.  An omelet was made using just picked dandelion, violet and nettle leaves.  The usual composting, saving vegi bits for broth, shredding paper and washing plastic bags for reuse was done.  Yogurt, hummingbird food and bird suet were made.  In the suet, I used the leftover skins and seeds from canning tomatoes and berries last year, which were dehydrated for this use.

Clumps of thrift and homestead verbena were transplanted.  I made cream of asparagus soup with a mixture of our asparagus and some that were gifted to me.  I haven't had enough asparagus to make this the past couple of years, and was delighted to be able to make it now.  I planted another flat of seeds, mostly flowers this time, and planted seeds of several different marigolds and sunflowers in the ground, and zinnias and nasturtiums in pots.  Another day, I planted several herb and flower seeds.  Half a dozen eggs were boiled for us and the pups.  I heated a pan of summer squash casserole I'd previously frozen.  Tomato rice loaf was made, which used our garlic, homemade bread crumbs and a few of our cherry tomatoes I'd frozen.  A vegi version of my grandmother's stuffing was made, which used our parsley and sage.

Knowing I'd be working the next 3 days, and getting home around 6, then needing to do evening homestead chores, I did more than the usual cooking Wednesday afternoon.  First, I made butternut squash crumble, which has a note I wrote on the recipe "time consuming but good"; then came spanakopita, and working with phyllo dough for the first time ever, using several bags of frozen lambs quarter in place of spinach.  J requested some of our lima beans to round out the meal, so they were prepared.  There were phyllo sheets left, so I found a recipe for apple strudel, using apple pie filling, and used a jar I'd canned.  That still didn't use up all of the roll of phyllo dough.  My tendency was to compost it, being it would be days before I had any serious cooking time again, but J wrapped and put it in the freezer.  If you've got suggestions or recipes for using phyllo dough, please share.  J hilled up the potatoes while I was at work yesterday, and planted sweet potato slips and spaghetti squash.  Today, he planted cucumber and summer squash seeds.  We've had lovely spring weather the past few days.  I saw a forecast of 86 for later in the week.  Please say it isn't so.   Wishing you a lovely week as we ease on into May.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Flowers, a Fair & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, I added some additions to the leftover crowder peas... carrots, onions, corn and red pepper to make a version of succotash.  I also added a splash of herb vinegar.  It was very good.  I made a berry vinaigrette using homemade berry syrup.  I took advantage of a 20% off sale to stock up on oral care products and to try a body care product.  There are now eggplant and sweet pepper seedlings up, in addition to several varieties of tomatoes.  Putting them in a protected outdoor space during the day has helped them become sturdier plants.  This is the metal pot from the rummage sale.  Isn't it a beaut?

Laundry was done with homemade soap, and hung on the line.  For a lunch and a breakfast, smoothies were enjoyed which included homemade yogurt and our mulberries.  In between two days in the 60's, we had an 81 degree day.  I decided to make a seven layer dip for dinner, which included some of the recanned jars of olives.  Lilac plants, running cedar and a clump of daffodil bulbs were gifted to me by a friend.  J & I got those planted.  It's become a tradition for a friend and I to go to the annual Herb Society plant sale, which happened last week.  I came home with less than in years past, but still had a large basket full to plant, including spilanthes, lady's mantle, bleeding heart, a bright pink salvia, gotu kola, valerian, and a lemon verbena to replace the one that got weed whacked last year.

velvet ribbon & pillowcases from rummage sale
While I was at the plant sale, J purchased a pickup truck full of wood mulch, and got it spread.  We've since heard of a place to get a dump truck full for a great price, and have plans to do that.  You can never have enough mulch, though we may need a troop of young men to help us spread it :o).  A couple of weeks ago, I began noticing one of the Ameraucana hens becoming broody, which was a nice surprise.  After watching her several days, and gingerly putting new eggs under her chest... she's pretty fierce...we decided to try her in the broody area.  So, on Monday, while J held her, I transferred 11 eggs to the broody nest, and she has been sitting on them since.  If all goes well, we'll be hearing little cheeps in a couple of weeks.

Our granddaughter spent the night with us this weekend, before we went to a nearby children's fair.  There were troops of children's dances from all over the world... so cute in their elaborate costumes.  In addition to face painting and a man making balloon animals, there were tables of crafts for the kids.  She was able to decorate a tote bag, a foam butterfly and a visor, and make a shaker and a crepe paper flower.  I introduced her to mango and smoothies, and she learned she likes both.   She collected eggs, and helped harvest parsley and oregano for dinner.  The sweet bouquet above was created by her.  Wishing you a most beautiful week!

Monday, April 16, 2018

A Little Canning, A Natural Dye Experiment & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  As the wood stove won't be in use much longer, I decided to take advantage of that free source of heat.  A quart of homegrown dried crowder peas was put on the wood stove top, along with 3 gallon bags of vegetable scraps for stock.  Another pot of water for canning was heated too.  Later in the week, the forecast was for 80, but on Monday it was a rainy morning with a high of 50, so I decided to do some canning while the heat would be more appreciated.  The #10 can of black olives I got in Asheville was recanned, giving me 16 half pint jars to add to the shelf.

While watching the canner, I prepped dinner.  There was enough butternut squash for two crumbles, so I froze half for a future meal.  As I prepped, I added the vegi bits to the broth pot on the wood stove... squash skins and ends, mushroom and garlic ends, asparagus bottoms and herb stems.  I had frozen some homegrown thyme and parsley, and used that in the crumble.  During the night, I realized I'd forgotten to add reishi mushroom to the broth, which I love for all it's benefits, so did that.  The broth was canned the next day, adding 5 1/2 pints to the pantry.  I reused the water the canning rings were boiled in to boil eggs once it cooled. 

I recently noticed the large rhubarb was putting forth a bloom.  I've never had one grow large enough to do that, so I'm pretty excited about it.  I did some research and found I need to cut it: "The flower head that comes up from rhubarb plants should be removed immediately when you first observe it... to maintain and ensure the highest quality and maximum yield from your rhubarb garden, it is important that the plants not be allowed to go to seed."  Good to know.   I did cut it, and saved some stem and the tender part of the stalk to do something with.  

I forgot to mention I left two books in the little free library, when I dropped off a soap delivery last week.  I didn't see any books that interested me, so didn't pick up any.  After turning a lotion bottle upside down, there was still quite a bit left in the bottle.  I added some water, and was able to use the rest of it.  I enjoyed season 2 of Victoria on Netflix, and the movie Breathe through Amazon Prime.  Laundry was done with homemade soap, and hung on the line.  I made an apple pie from filling canned in January.  Asparagus was harvested several days.  I've been working on my pumice stones at Whynot Pottery.  Most were put in the kiln on Friday, and fired over the weekend.  I've been told they came out wonderfully, and can't wait to see them.

dyed with cedar rust fungus, no mordant
On one of my walks, I noticed the bright orange gel of cedar rust fungus.  When I picked some up, it turned my hands slightly orange, so I thought it was worth a dye experiment.  The initial attempt with just the fungus didn't impart much color, after boiling and overnight soaking.  By the next morning, the sunlight had bleached any color from the fabric.  I found only a couple of mentions online of dyeing with this, one with wool, and the other silk.  I used a piece of cotton, one of flannel, and scrap of beige silk.

dyed with cedar rust fungus and iron
The next day, I added some iron water I'd made by soaking metal shavings, around 1/4 cup to the pot, and soaked the fabric in it overnight.  The colors were deeper this time, and they had not faded any when I took them off the line in the evening.  I intend to try another round with alum, but haven't had time to do it yet.

wild iris
We had a big gardening weekend.  We're working towards a no till garden, but the weeds had already gotten away from us, so J tilled just the top inch or two to disturb the weeds.  He prepared areas for carrots, beets, lettuce, arugula and spinach, and I planted them.  I cleaned up a couple of beds, weeding and pruning back dead winter stalks.  One is an area with herbs, rhubarb, and woad, a dye plant.  I intend to plant the area with more dye plants this year.  I transplanted the wintersown safflower, one I intend to use for dyeing into a larger container.  I did the same with wild mignonette, and Hopi red amaranth, two more dye plants.  The hollyhocks seemed large enough to plant, and I tried three spots, hoping at least one will make them happy.  I also planted the phacelia in a bed near the garden, hoping it will bring beauty and lots of pollinators.  The peas got strings to climb upon on Saturday.  We noticed the tops had been chewed by rabbits, and on Sunday, J said more of the tops were gone.  At this rate, there will be no peas.  We're pondering what to do to make a barrier.

wild cherry
We've enjoyed fringe trees and viburnum along the path on this land, and have intended to move some closer to the house to enjoy for some time.  We finally did that on Sunday, and got them in the ground just before a big thunderstorm rolled in.  We only took a small amount.  Most of both was left in the wild.  We also got a few ferns from a spot that J had pushed up last fall, and some plants that look like a small sunflower.  We're hoping the rain will settle everything in nicely.  So far, the only seeds recently started in the house that have germinated are Indigo Blue Berry tomatoes.  It's a start. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Buttons, Blooms & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  Our trip out of town was lovely.  It was wonderful spending time with friends while enjoying a delicious lunch.  I made no purchases other than food and drink, brought home leftovers, and in walking along the river at a winery, found branches loaded with usnea on the ground.  I was able to harvest this gift, and began a jar of tincture with it this week.  The wild iris, redbud and coral honeysuckle have begun blooming here.

A good deal of mending was done this week- pants, shirts, a laundry bag, pajama pants, 5 sweaters & 2 pairs of J's work pants.  I thought I was actually caught up, but then remembered this was only the overflow.  The original mending was in a covered basket, so I still have to work on that.  After delivering soap to a gallery, I stopped at a nearby thrift store, and found vintage plates $2.50 ea. (online from $19 - $22 ea.), frame .50, white shirt for plant dyeing $3, fabric .50, and copper pot from Ireland $15.  I then headed to Harris Teeter.  Some of the bargains found were organic beans 10/$10, and the cheapest organic butter I've found lately @ $5.49.  I'm almost out of butter, so bought 2, and hope to find a better sale soon.  A batch of pasta sauce was made with our tomatoes, summer squash, and herbs.  Asparagus was harvested several days.  Though they are not as plentiful as they were at their peak a few years ago, they are beginning to prosper again.  Instead of enough for one or two meals, as in recent years, we should have enough for several meals.  We do love asparagus.

Last week, I shared a dozen eggs with 3 people.  I've been enjoying eggs with wild greens and asparagus for breakfast, and the pups get an egg a day.  I wandered and gathered a leaf or two of dandelion, dock, violet leaves and flowers, then scrambled them for a beautiful and delicious breakfast.  I started seeds for chard, tomatoes, eggplant and sweet peppers in a number of varieties.  I heard a hummingbird one day, put out a second feeder, and saw the first one on Saturday.  I made a batch of hummus, and saved the lemon seeds for pectin.  I've been saving wool sweaters and scarves to felt, and got around to putting them through a round in the washer and dryer.  Before felting two of the sweaters, I removed the buttons.  One set is abalone, and the other set J says are pewter.

I attended a rummage sale with my sister, which supports our local arts guild, and found a number of treasures.  My iron was dropped and broken last week, and I found a like new one with retractable cord for $5 (listed $55.95 online).  A favorite find was a large copper and brass pot for $16, which was the most expensive item by far.  A large pottery pot with plant was gotten for $5.  A set of 4 new jelly jars for $1 (retail $9.25).  Two fine sets of pillowcases, large pieces of cotton lawn fabric, hand blown glass, wooden spoon, wood fired pottery bowl $1, and a length of velvet ribbon .50, were also purchased.  There are always a group of free boxes at the rummage sale.  I plundered through, and found what appeared to be some handkerchiefs and napkins in a ziploc bag, and grabbed that on the way out.  Once I got it home, I realized there was also a baby pillow cover and what I think is a christening gown in beautiful shape.  I hope to take photos of some of these in the coming week, and share a new dye experiment.  Wishing you a most lovely week!