Monday, May 28, 2018

The Love of Birds & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Looking out the kitchen window one morning, I saw this.  I decided the birds were sending back some love to me.  Last week, kale and lettuce were harvested, and salads made with both.  For the lettuce salad, I gathered tips of wild cat brier to add.  I rearranged my closet seasonally, and added a shirt I hadn't worn to the giveaway box.  There is about one and a half feet beyond the door of the closets that is difficult to get to.  I swap out the off season clothes to go in that area, making the current clothes easy to get to.  I made hummus for a gathering from pantry items, and we enjoyed the leftovers.  A pack of okra was pulled from the freezer for dinner.  Joseph called me to the garden one day, to look at a snake, and after researching, we determined it to be this one.  It's been a bit of a snaky year here, including some new to us ones.

 The amaryllis did bloom.  Isn't it a vibrant color?  I was pleased with myself for taking down ceiling light shades to clean, a task I've needed to do for some time in the studio.  That lasted about a minute, at which point the color on the shades started sloughing off in the sink, with only water and my hand lightly rubbing them.  J says the color was spray painted on to the clear glass. These were not especially cheap lights.  I looked and found that I ordered them on overstock 2 1/2 years ago, and they had a 1 year warranty.  I did go back and change my review of them at overstock, as they are still selling them.  Now I have to get the remainder of the paint off, then decide what to do.  I'm pondering etching them, but need to research how toxic the solution is.  Sheesh!  If you've got any ideas, please share.

I read an article on how to best wash produce to remove pesticides, with some of the latest research.  I grow food organically, and buy organic as much as possible, but do buy conventional produce too, so good to know.  I strung twine to help the hummingbird vine climb the new trellis.   The first mulberries and raspberries were harvested, though the birds are not wanting to share many.  The wintersown amaranth seedlings were very spindly, so I direct seeded this and another type in the pond garden as well.  I also shelled peanuts we grew two years ago, and planted the biggest seeds in a couple of small patches in the pond garden.  I hope the deer will not bother them quite as much in this garden.   The last of our sweet potatoes were cooked, small ones for us, and the smallest ones for the pups.

I picked up a few items at the grocery store.  Their rewards card reader wasn't working, so they were giving 15% off (update: that's what the cashier said, but when I checked my receipt, it was 6%... still nice) the entire order, which was a lovely surprise.  There was a nice patch of lambs quarter in the pond garden.  J was wanting to weed there, which encouraged me to harvest them first.  I got around 2 gallons worth of the upper tips, while enjoying pleasant morning temps in the garden.  I made a dilute mixture of fish emulsion, and fed the tomato and other seedlings.  The first deployment of the game camera was a short one, as I got a late start.  The camera card is not one we have a port for, so I took it to the library to view, and found several episodes of a deer happily munching in our road garden.  We decided not to plant there this spring, being they previously decimated our peanut and crowder peas there.  It's the farthest garden from the house, and we haven't figured what we could plant that deer wouldn't eat, that also needed little attention.  The camera was deployed for the next 3 week session, this time at the edge of the woods near the pond.

The chicks are doing well, and growing.  I planted another round of lettuce, and transplanted 6 lambs ear that had volunteered in the grass beyond a bed's border.   I expect the lettuce will bolt quickly, but hopefully we'll get a few salads from it first.  The beet bed was weeded, and the weeds brought to the chickens.  Some of the seedlings I started were puny, and not thriving, so I decided they'd be better off in the ground.  These included red and golden orach, calendula,  marigolds, tithonia and swiss chard.  J planted all the tomato seedlings that were of good size in the garden.  I transplanted all the remaining  tomatoes, peppers and eggplant from trays into pots, and watered them with diluted fish emulsion.  An order of jewelweed and pussy willow plants arrived last week.  After resting in the shade a few days, we planted them.  I have fond memories of pussy willows, as we had one at my childhood home.  I hope they'll do well.

We attended a celebration of life last Sunday. The man that had passed was a wonderful gardener, and we walked around admiring his gardens, including some rustic cedar arbors.  J was inspired, and built one for the start of the path to the house last week.  With his shop just across the driveway, I like that it seems to be a transition from public to private space.  I've ordered a dutchman's pipe vine to climb the arbor, which is a host plant for swallowtail butterflies.  I try to set out plants and seeds just before rainy days, and being we've had a few of those, gardening has been a priority the past week.  I did get a couple of spring cleaning chores accomplished.  The wood stove was blacked, and the hearth bricks were scrubbed.  Because the original plan was for the wood stove and the wood cook stove to be back to back on the hearth, it measures about 4' x 8'.  An island now lives where the cook stove once did, but the large brick hearth remains.  I have swept and vacuumed the hearth, but this is the first time I've scrubbed the bricks.  They surely look a lot better.  Now if I can just get the rest of the spring cleaning done before the garden really kicks in, I'll be a happy camper.

Broccoli, peas and asparagus were harvested.  With the effects of the tropical storm headed this way, Memorial Day was forecast to be a rainy one here.  So on Sunday, J grilled some things, including green beans I had canned.  I seasoned them with onions and garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey and thyme.  It's the first time we tried grilling canned green beans, and we thought they were tasty, if just a bit softer than fresh.  Whether rain or shine where you are, wishing you a lovely Memorial Day.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Life on the Homestead & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I always keep my eye out for a good butter sale.  I almost passed it by, as the price was still about $6.50 for a lb of organic butter.  But then, I noticed a "special today" sticker on the butter, and it was marked  $3.18, which is great for organic butter here these days.  The best buy date was in two more days, so I bought all 7, and froze them when I got home.  We should be good on butter for a while now.  J had gotten a coupon for free dog food in the mail (7 small trays of wet food for small dogs).  It's not a natural brand, and something I wouldn't normally buy, but I was happy to pick it up for free, and add it to our stored food for the pups.  We've enjoyed several salads with our lettuce.  A dinner of broccoli fried rice used our eggs and broccoli.

Asparagus, rosemary, oregano and peas were harvested.  I sold a dozen eggs, and transplanted two volunteer swiss chard plants in the garden.  J transplanted several volunteer dill plants.  I ordered a few things on amazon, most of it supplies for our online shop, which will get 4% back.  I also used a .75 reward on the purchase.  The house plants were all finally brought outside for the warm months. Now I really need to get serious about spring cleaning.  As soon as I put the last one in a large stand J made to hold them, it began raining, so all the dishes and tiles that were below the plants, and plant stands, were put on the porch floor to move another time. 

My first daily swagbucks goal was made several days.  I continue to walk with the pups, most days  we walk twice for about 4 miles total.  J was accepted recently into VA healthcare, and had his first visit last week.  Though we're both in pretty good shape, he hadn't seen a Dr. in several years, and we're very thankful he can have some things checked.  I harvested red clover blossoms to dry for medicine.  I snipped nettles, dandelion and violet leaves, and enjoyed them in an omelet.  I made another batch of chick food, using wheat I ground, ground corn from a neighbor, dried nettles and lambs quarter grown here, and dried milk and kelp from the pantry.  Wild lettuce, plantain, mock strawberries and dandelion greens were gathered for the chickens.  My daughter in spirit gifted me a hummingbird feeder for Mother's Day.  J and I had created a new flower bed for hummingbird vine last weekend, and the supports seemed a perfect spot to put the feeder.

The Hospice where I do massage regularly has silent auctions to raise money for various causes.  I bid on a beautiful quilted bed cover recently, and found out I won it for $5 last week!  The woman who takes care of my schedule will bid for me if I let her know to.  I told her to bid to $20, but nobody bid after me.  I've been looking for a summer weight bed cover, as one we bought online in the fall for this is too heavy.  This one will be perfect.  I'm pondering sewing a sheet on the back, in part to protect it, as it's just one thin layer.  I'm tickled to have won it.  A few weeks ago, I received a letter stating that I was receiving $300 less of my tax refund, as their records differed from mine.  It turns out because I paid estimated taxes as a single woman, but then married last year, that money had not been applied properly.  I had my tax person call, because a phone call to the IRS is something I'll gladly pay for, and I should be getting the $300 within the next two weeks.

Windows have been opened when it's cool enough, usually bedtime to mid morning.  During the day, I close up, and use a fan if needed.  When J comes in in the evening, he's usually ready for some A/C after working in the heat all day, so we run it a little while to cool things off and lower the humidity.  I planted an amaryllis outside I had bought during the winter.  I was surprised to see one I had planted outside from another year looks almost ready to bloom, which will be a first. The wintersown mignonette and amaranth were planted.  A friend and I went to a rummage sale at the local cooperative extension office, and I purchased cleome and creeping moss sedum, and a new pack of Wall O Waters for $1.  Afterwards, we went to the discount grocery.  We both found a few items, but it's sadly becoming more furniture and stuff, and the food is dwindling.  She gifted me jigsaw puzzles and a chicken tote bag.  While out, I also purchased parsley, and all of these were planted on Saturday, in between rain showers.

 dance of the walking onions
Sadly, while I was out on Friday, one of our hens died.  She'd been doing poorly for a couple of weeks. I'd isolated her, given her electrolytes and yogurt, and had a remedy ordered that arrived a day too late.  Then on Saturday, J found our little, weak chick dead.  The way she looked, he thought her internal organs never properly developed.  Sad days on the homestead.  The other chicks and chickens all are looking good, so we'll hope that there will be no more sickness or losses this year.

female kiwi w/ possible tiny kiwi fruits
There is quite a bit of fruit doing well at the moment.  Lots of apples, blueberries, pawpaws, some peaches, raspberries and plums, mulberries, and our male kiwi is blooming for the first time!  It doesn't have as many blooms as the female, but hopefully enough to help pollinate a good amount of fruit.  We've been waiting many years for kiwis.  We enjoyed sitting on our porch one evening, watching all the birds at and around the feeders.  We observed a chickadee taking suet back to one of the bird houses, and another feeding 5 others on a nearby tree.  We assumed they were the little ones, though they all looked about the same size.

Yogurt and suet for the birds was made.  Not long ago, I did training for a course called Candid Critters, where our local library has joined with the Smithsonian to find out more about wildlife populations.  Last week, I picked up a camera at the library, and have set it up on our land for the first deployment. In late May, I'll move it to another location, and download any photos it took.  So, the update on the honeysuckle lemonade is that it's OK.  There's not any noticeable difference with the honeysuckle in it.  Perhaps there is with different honeysuckles.  Because of the extra work and time, I'll stick to regular and lavender lemonade from now on. Unless, of course, another type catches my eye :o).  Wishing you good things to drink and eat this week.

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Few New Animals on the Homestead & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week was our first anniversary. We enjoyed a lovely dinner out on Saturday, paid for with a gift card we'd been given.  Our actual anniversary was on Monday.  I had saved and frozen a piece of cake from our wedding celebration, cut a bouquet for us to enjoy, and made ravioli for dinner, per J's request.  As it was our paper anniversary, we bought each other a book.  It was a lovely day.  To add to the celebration, our first chicks hatched on Monday, and a few were added on Tuesday for a total of 7.  The last chick to hatch was very weak, so I warmed and nurtured her/him for a couple of days, and it's back in with the flock and doing well.  Besides electrolytes I bought at the feed & seed, I gave it some of my watered down yogurt, and little bits of grain.  We were very doubtful at first, and are happy it made a good recovery, with just a little TLC.  On Saturday, she brought them outdoors for the first time, where they're learning to scratch.

I changed out summer and winter linens and clothes.  It felt good to pack away the flannel sheets, and have nice, crisp cotton linens again.  J has been shredding leaves, and using them as mulch in the pond garden and asparagus bed.  I've been picking up the sticks remaining from the leaf piles for the next round of biochar, and have come a good way towards filling the barrel.  I harvested asparagus, broccoli, lettuce and kale.  A few salads were enjoyed, the kale was used in a kale salad, and the broccoli in a broccoli quinoa bake.  As I was already using the oven, I tried a new recipe for potatoes gratin.  It was very good, but took several times longer to prepare than promised in the recipe.  I think I'll try a simpler version next time.  Temps in the 90's have got me thinking of lemonade.  While searching for the lavender lemonade recipe, I came across one for honeysuckle lemonade, and decided to try that.  You begin by making a cordial, and I've got that mixed up.  If it's good, it will be nice to alternate between it, regular lemonade and lavender lemonade.  If you follow the cordial link, there are several other yummy sounding ways she gives to use it.

How wonderful it is to learn more about the beings that share this land with me.  There were two I had never seen or at least noticed before last week.   On a walk one evening, I came across a tiny snake with a yellow ring, and learned it is this one.  While at the kitchen sink another day, I saw a striped bird near the feeders.  While gathering honeysuckle for the recipe above, I spotted a much larger thrush in the garden.  I'm not sure if I'm seeing immature and mature ones, or different thrushes.  I found a sweet little nest on the ground near the pond one day, and a little blue egg on the ground another.  I did not see other eggs or a nest where I found the egg.  We'd had a thunderstorm the night before, with some good gusts of wind, and I suspect it may have been blown from the nest.  I'm sorry for the mama and baby, but I will treasure this gift from nature.  The female summer tanager has gotten braver this year, and perches on the suet feeder, just like the male.

Hummingbird food, yogurt, and chick food was made, after wheat was ground.  A purchase was made using a 20% off code.  By going through swagbucks, and paying with my cc (which I'll pay in full), I received 3% off another purchase.   I received an ebates check for $5.38.  Not very much, but it all adds up.   I've just barely begun spring cleaning, now that we're finally done with the wood stove.  I cleaned a few small areas, and wiped down the kitchen cabinets.  There is much more to do, but it's a start.  One thing that's been on my to do list for a while is wiping down the vintage posts we used for the front porch with linseed oil.  I was able to cross that off my list, and also patched a small area with wood putty on one that had some rot.  On Sunday, I caught up with all that was in the original mending basket.  Well, everything I could mend with the sewing machine, and I also sewed a button on. There is still a nightgown to alter, and an iron on patch to apply.  Happy for progress.

I did photo shoots for my new pumice stones, and created new listings for them in my online shop.  A ceramic canister I purchased recently was turned into a compost crock, photos done, and it was listed as well.  I hope to do the same with ebay items in the coming week.  Tomato seedlings that were large enough were transplanted into pots.  Most everything in the garden is growing well.  We've had to do some watering, but that's often the case.  It does look like voles may have already gotten into our potato patch, as J found a few wilted plants.  They sure are a challenge.  Deviled eggs were made with our hens eggs.  Honeysuckle and fringe trees are blooming, adding sweet scents to our days.  Wishing you whatever brings sweetness to your days this week. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

A New Bird, Blooms & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Things have really warmed up here, and the plants are jumping.  I mulched and watered the peas and a lettuce, kale & celery bed.  Last week, I harvested asparagus, oregano, parsley, lettuce, and some wild greens for a salad... cat brier tips, violet and dandelion leaves, and a little chickweed, which is quickly fading.  I harvested stinging nettles.  Pesto was made with some, with frozen basil added for flavor, and enjoyed with pasta for dinner.  The remaining pesto was frozen.  I also sauteed some with garlic and olive oil, which was lovely.  I shared orlaya seeds with a neighbor who stopped by, when she commented on the flowers, and cut a bouquet to enjoy in the house. 

I redeemed $20 in Walgreens rewards, plus got 20% off on Senior Day, when I was in town for work.  In another town for a dentist appointment, I stopped at a couple of thrift shops.  In one of the stores, I got a couple of pants for work for Joseph at 50% off, making them $1 each. I also got myself a pair of sneakers and shoes for the homestead, at $3 each.  I know some have an ewww reaction to buying shoes at the thrift store, but I have more of a problem paying full price for good sneakers and shoes, when they'll be used around the homestead.  I've been wearing the last pair of thrifted sneakers at least two years, and have glued them a time or two.  They're good and worn out at this point, so new ones are a treat.

I stopped at a grocery store while in that town for a dental appointment, and was happy to find a good amount of organic produce.   I purchased several items, including pears, celery and a cucumber (.89 vs something crazy like 3.00 at our usual store).  Last week, I listened to a podcast on organic farming while doing chores.  Though I think about buying organic, in terms of our health and the planet's, I was reminded what a difference it makes in farm workers lives.  Many are sickened by using and living in close proximity to the toxic chemicals that are used in conventional farming.  I realize not everyone has the extra funds to buy organic, even when sale priced, as they're barely scraping by as is.  I feel blessed that I've been able to pay off all debts, and usually have the means to pay for organic, something I feel strongly about, as well as the land to grow much of my own food.   I do look for grocery bargains, and get them as much as possible.  Eating seasonal foods is helpful in that regard.  Hopefully, we're moving towards a time when harmful agricultural chemicals are no longer used.

Windows were opened up in the cool morning hours, and closed as it began heating up.  So far, no A/C has been used, with temps reaching into the upper 80's.  After using the juice in a recipe, I zested an organic lemon and froze it.   The Meyer lemon seeds did not sprout, so I'll try again.  Yogurt and suet for the birds were made.  A large amount of rotted wood chips were delivered, as payment for a job J did for someone 6 months ago.  J is applying it in the garden for mulch, where it will break down into lovely soil.  I only know a handful of bird songs, and had recently been hearing one I'd not noticed before.  I learned it is a wood thrush.  Their numbers are declining due to loss of habitat, and cowbirds stealing their nests, so I'm especially thankful to be enjoying their lovely songs.  I was delighted to see one not far from our feeders!

We're enjoying asparagus steamed, in omelets and grilled.  Too soon, they'll be gone.  A friend asked if she could buy a dozen eggs, which is the first time I've sold any.  That was a nice thing to happen.  Besides grilling asparagus, J also cooked potatoes I'd prepared with our herbs on the grill.  The peas have started making pods.  I can hear tapping sounds under the hen that is sitting.  We're hoping for chicks tomorrow.  There are so many plants blooming and sprouting now, things are looking and feeling like spring around here.  Wishing you a week full of good things!