Monday, August 27, 2018

Natural Dyeing, Fall Soap & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  As I really needed the freezer room last week, I took out 5 gallon bags of vegi scraps, simmered them several hours, then canned the broth, which added 9 pints to my pantry shelf.  A free dog food sample I requested arrived in the mail. I harvested tomatoes, okra, green beans, lima beans, cantaloupe, tromboncino squash, eggplant, a red pepper, basil, chives, oregano, pawpaws, apples, pears and plums.  The garden harvest, food preserving and cooking are taking up the majority of my days.  That's August for you.  The hens are slowing down on egg production, but we still have more than enough.

Pumpkin Chai soap
There are two seasonal soaps I make.  This week, I made Pumpkin Chai, which will be ready to help usher in the Fall.  I use pumpkin or winter squash grown in our organic garden as one of the ingredients.  Pumpkin is said to soothe skin, contains enzymes that help dissolve old, dry skin cells, and can help with damage caused by free radicals.  Though the recipe remains the same, I do play with the presentation from year to year.  I've done layers and swirls in the past, and do believe this year's is the prettiest yet.

Another two ice cube trays of pawpaw pulp was frozen.  I made the first, and possibly only, tomato pie of the summer, and made this squash dish to use the last of the yellow squash.  Before it gets colder, I decided to enjoy another outdoor shower.  This time, I shared it with a snail. :o)  J made the teak bench for our shower.  He sealed it with linseed oil and beeswax that we had on hand.  I bought the teak on ebay, and the cost was about 25% of what they were selling for online.  This one fits our shower perfectly.

On Thursday, I canned the small fruits.  First came tiny plums. I'd originally tried saving them up for a few days to do something with, but in a couple of days, they went bad.  I gathered about a quart of them, and decided to make plum sauce.  Though I made plain sauce, just plums and sugar, I'd like to use it in asian dishes. I'll probably open a jar and add vinegar, peppers and the other ingredients, and keep it in the fridge to use.  If I can any more of them, I may go ahead and make the seasoned plum sauce, but I knew I had more canning to do that day, and wanted to keep it simple.  Though most of the large tomatoes are rotting from all the rain, there are lots of small and cherry tomatoes.  I decided to turn those into juice.  I did the plums and the tomatoes the same way, cooking them until soft, putting them through the food mill, then reheating and putting in jars.  The tomato skins were dried in the dehydrator, then ground into powder to add to dishes that need flavor.  I thought they looked like festive confetti.

With the leftover tomato pie, I pulled last year's okra from the freezer... we have fresh, but really need to finish last year's.  I also used our tromboncino & tomatoes in a side dish.   I've been harvesting and shelling dried lima beans every few days.  Eggs and tomatoes were used in a breakfast dish.  Yogurt and hummingbird food was made, and eggs were boiled.  Laundry was done on a lovely day with low temps and humidity, and hung on the line.  With the lower temps, baking is again on my mind.  One of the things I've been hankering for is ww chocolate chip cookies, so I ground enough wheat for these and another recipe or two.  Though I've provided a link before, I had a hard time finding it, so I'm going to copy and share the recipe, to make it easy.  I first found it via Diary of a Locavore:


This recipe, from Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain, has become my go-to. It's about as healthy, straight-forward, and delicious as chocolate-chip cookies can get.

3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 pound cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips, such as Ghiradelli's 60% Cacao

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two baking sheets, or line them with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk well.

Combine the butter and sugars in another mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until they are just blended, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then mix in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the chocolate and stir until just incorporated.

Form the dough into balls—I make mine a little bit larger than golf balls. Arrange the balls evenly on the baking sheets, leaving about 2-3 inches between each one. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the cookies are evenly dark golden brown. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool, and repeat the process with any remaining dough.

Note: These cookies are best eaten within a day or two of baking. I like to make a big batch of dough, bake off about a third, and keep the rest in the refrigerator to bake over the next week or two.

marigold dyed sheet
We enjoyed the cookies, and a dinner of Pasta Norma.  Another round of concord grapes was harvested, and 3 more quarts of juice was canned.  The skins and seeds went into the dehydrator, to use in bird suet.  Lambs quarter was gathered and frozen.  A new pawpaw recipe was tried.  If it's a good one, I'll share next post.  Some dye experiments happened this week.

A while back, I'd collected pine bark, which had been soaking in water for several weeks, as recommended.  Sadly, it didn't impart any color on a pair of leggings, except for a couple of dingy looking places.  Happily, I also tried dyeing with marigolds, and it did color the sheet I plan to use as the bottom of the summer bed cover I won at Hospice a pretty yellow.  I'd been keeping all the hazelnut husks, and thought I'd try them next in the dye pot.  After 30 minutes of simmering, there was almost no color in the water, so I added all the hickory nut husks I had saved.  After another hour or so, there was color, though not as much as expected.  I decided to take it off the heat, and let is sit, to see if it deepens.  Most of the online & book research I do on natural dyeing with plants I have on hand turn up nothing or very little, so I will just have to experiment, and see what shows up.  I guess that kind of sums of my philosophy of life too.  Have a great week, friends!

Monday, August 20, 2018

More Mushroom Adventures & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  Last week, we had a lovely visit with our granddaughter.  She and I spent a couple of hours in the Kids Zone at the zoo, using free passes, then ventured out to visit the polar bears and a playground there.  At home, there were walks, garden harvesting, shelling beans, reading, and she hand sewed and finished a cat stuffy while I attended to my mending pile and helped as needed.  She seemed to enjoy the sewing, and was proud of her finished kitty.  We each got to pick a raspberry, the first ones in a while, and enjoyed the treat.  J fabricated her a metal unicorn while she looked on, and she was pretty excited about that.

Okra and fresh lima beans from the garden were blanched and frozen, 4 servings of each.  Previous years, I put a cup or two of pawpaw pulp in a bag for freezing, but it was hard to cut a chunk off for a smoothie.  In the past, I've broken a knife tip, trying to cut into it.  This year, I decided to freeze the pulp in ice cube trays, so I can just grab some cubes, and throw them in the blender.  That worked splendidly.  A new recipe which used our cherry tomatoes, basil, and pepper was made to use in a pasta sauce.  Once I realized how few tomatoes it used, I upped it quite a bit.  We enjoyed the meal, but will need to do something else with all the other cherry tomatoes soon. I suspect I may be canning them next week.

The asian eggplant are doing well.  I was not using them often enough, and decided to slice, roast and freeze 10 of them for future eggplant parmesan, as we really enjoyed that several months ago.  The next few I pick, I plan to use in Pasta Norma.  The tomatoes are colorful this year with the usual red, as well as yellow, and the Indigo Blue Berries, which look much like cherries.  So far, I'm not impressed with the blue berries taste , but I want to give them a fair chance, when it's not been raining so much.  I couldn't get any more takers on the concord grapes, so I harvested another round, and got a bit over 3 qts of juice.  I may make jam with them in the future, but for now, it's preserved and on the shelf.  There are still quite a few out there.  A caprese salad was enjoyed one night.  I requested two books from the library, to pick up on my next work day in town.

Mushrooms still abound in these woods, and along the paths.  After reading about locally found cinnabar chanterelle in the mushroom fb group I joined, I spotted what appeared to be the same mushrooms in a few spots.  I left most of them, but gathered 6 to try.  They're a small mushroom, so it wouldn't be much more than a taste, but it's always smart to start with small amounts anyway.  The ones I found seem to have all the correct characteristics... the color, the vase shape, somewhat frilly edges, false gills that fork and come down the stem, growing in soil in hardwood forest this time of year.  Here's a little more info, if you're interested.  I also saw a number of Lactarius indigo mushrooms while I wandered.  I may just be ready to try those soon too.  I was hoping the blue latex they exude would be good for dyeing, but research says they are not a good dye plant.  Update:  I sauteed the chanterelle mushrooms in butter.  The taste was so mild, they pretty much just tasted like butter, which is not a bad thing.  I ate them all (J refused), and am still here to tell the tale, with no ill effects 48+ hours later.  I noticed many more patches of them, and it's raining again, so I think I'll be harvesting more in the future.  Please do not decide to eat any mushrooms based on what I say here.  Do significant research, take a class, &/or learn from a pro before you make this decision, as it can truly have dire consequences.

On Saturday, we attended a family reunion of J's, which required a 2 1/2 hr drive each way.  I had picked all the dried lima beans on the vines on Friday, and brought those along in the car, and shelled them on the way.  I also finished reading the Fresh Eggs Daily book in the car, which had a lot of great information that I'll be using.  We had planned to stop for dinner on the way home, but as it was earlier than expected, we decided to instead stop at a brewery J had worked to create, and enjoy a beer, then came home and had a salad with a frozen organic pizza, clearing a bit more room in the freezer.  It was a simple, inexpensive date we both enjoyed.  We still have lots of squash, and I should have made a squash dish to share at the reunion, but honestly, I was needing a break, so we made up a green bean dish instead, and brought several squash to share with an aunt.  We also brought okra to share, but no one was interested, so it came back home with us.  I accepted an assortment of canning jars, some with lids and rings.  Still working on clearing out the freezer, I defrosted a pumpkin/squash bread that J is enjoying.

The cabbage and kale beds came up very skimpily, so we reseeded those.  No chard came up at all, so that was also reseeded.  Collards and rutabagas came up in patches, and they were transplanted out at proper distances.  New carrot and lettuce beds were planted.  A cantaloupe, nice sized potato we had missed, a couple spaghetti squash and two winter squash were harvested after the seeding and transplanting.  We had the cantaloupe for lunch, and were happy it was one with good flavor.  I grated and froze 6 bags of tromboncino squash, for both sweet and savory dishes.  More tromboncino squash, along with our tomatoes and herbs were used in my Mom's zucchini soup for dinner.  During the week, I harvested tomatoes, squash, green beans, lima beans, okra, pawpaws, hazelnuts, plums, lambs quarter, basil, oregano and parsley.  Oh, and the mushrooms of course.  Wishing you a bountiful week, friends.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Summer Moments & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope this finds you well, and enjoying these midsummer days, or winter, if you're in other parts of the world.  Our garden wonder of the week is the tromboncino squash, which is going gangbusters. I've shared several, and have been cooking with it almost every day, using it in "zucchini" bread twice,  pasta sauce, a dish with tomatoes and corn, and zucchini tots for the first time, which we liked.  I wanted to report back on the winter squash ice cream mentioned last week.  It was rather bland, tasting mostly like the pumpkin spices.  I would like to try it again with a more mature squash, as I bet it would give it more flavor.  It wasn't bad necessarily, just not as flavorful as I'd hoped.

I picked concord grapes & juiced and canned them.  I may make them into jam at another time.   The skins and seeds were dehydrated for bird suet.  I offered concord grapes to a friend.  After a good visit, she left with grapes, a variety of squash, and pears, and I was gifted several things for myself and my granddaughter.  I filled out requests for free dog and cat food.  We enjoyed our first watermelon.  It was the best one we've had this year.  The chickens enjoyed pecking the rinds.  While in town for work, I picked up a few things at the grocery store, & used my own bags, saving .15; also stopped by the library, and asked about zoo passes.  I received a free pass for 2, and plan on taking my granddaughter next week, which is a nice savings.

Well, at this point, both J & I have both been rained on in the outdoor shower.  Though there was no rain when we started our showers, by the end we got rained on.  Thankfully, they were just light rains.  I'm happy to report though J has shared the shower with a snake at one point, I have only shared it with bugs :o).  We were using the outdoor shower again because we hired someone to finish the sheetrock in the bathroom redo.  Because J did more of the sheetrock work than he had thought when he first gave us the quote, he knocked $50 off the original price.  I gave him a couple of bars of soap, as he and his wife use and love them, which may not have hurt the final cost either.  We lost power Weds. evening during a thunderstorm for about 3 hours.  We'd already had dinner, and ended up just going to bed.  J has been painting and doing trim work, and it won't be long before the project is done.  Being J is a metal fabricator, I asked if he could create a basin out of copper, to go with the sink.  We had extra pieces of the granite we used for the sink counter, and he suggested we use some of it for the piece at the shower floor, then use some of the same granite used in the shower around the sink, so both areas would have some of each, tying them together.  I think I reported when I bought the granite that it was purchased at less than 10% of list price through ebay.  It's still a construction zone around here, but we're getting there.

One day, I harvested basil, made a double batch of pesto, and froze it.  I continue to harvest marigolds, with plans to dye the bottom sheet for our bed cover.  Swagbucks points were redeemed for a $25 amazon gift card.  We enjoyed an evening out with friends, and some delightful wine paid for with gift cards.  This new to us wine was delicious, helps support veterans, and our price was several dollars cheaper than the listed price, all bonuses in my book.  We picked up an inexpensive meal to have on the outdoor porch, enjoyed the wine, and were serenaded with free music.  A lovely summer's eve, for sure.  A fellow chicken lover friend gifted me the Fresh Eggs Daily book.  Reading it, I was reminded how good herbs are to use in the coop.   I cut back lemon balm, catnip, oregano and chocolate mint.  These were put in nest boxes and scattered on the floor.  We'll have our granddaughter a few days, and enjoy some summer fun.  Plans include time at the Kid Zone of our local zoo, which includes several water features, home grown watermelon, and homemade ice cream.  Summer will be dwindling before we know it.  We plan to enjoy it while it lasts.  Wishing you a most enjoyable week!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Mushroom Weather & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Hot, rainy days have made it perfect mushroom weather.  There seem to be so many varieties everywhere.  I recently joined a fb mushroom group in our state, hoping to learn more, especially about which are edible.  Though I've taken a class, I don't feel confident enough to risk it.  Before heading to town one day, I cut up a banana along with our pawpaws and blueberries, for a snack for J & I.  While stopping to return a few things at the hardware store, I checked the marked down plants, and brought home 4 red thyme plants for .25 each.  We planted them in the bed next to the porch, hoping they'll be happy enough to crawl over the rocks, and mingle with the creeping jenny.  Another day, we planted lettuce and broccoli seeds, and replanted chard.  For some reason, I'm having a hard time growing chard this year.  The spring lettuce that had bolted was given to the chickens, with a few plants left for seed.  When planting the lettuce, I noticed both packets were a few years old.  Reading something reminded me that oak leaf lettuce does well in both the heat and the cool, so I ordered both a red and a green variety of it.  I used hay a neighbor gave us to mulch mullein and other plants in a bed near the pond.

Like the pickles, we still have lots of canned summer squash on the shelves, so I am not planning on canning any this year.  I've tried it frozen and dehydrated, and am not fond of either, so we'll eat what we can fresh, and share it with the critters and anyone who wants some.  We shared some with one of J's customers one day, and his business partner and some friends other days.  Our friends gifted J a couple of pieces of their pottery, saying J didn't charge them enough for work he did.  A new batch of throat spray was made, using colloidal silver and essential oils.  For a dinner, I made a dish using summer squash and kalamata olives, one using collards we froze last fall, and cut up cucumbers and tomatoes.  Though the collards look beautiful, like the day they were frozen (we just put a pile of whole leaves with stems in a paper grocery bag, fold it up and tape it), they are getting rather tough.  We've planted some in the fall garden, so with any luck, will be eating them fresh by late September.

After delivering soap to a B&B, I went by two thrift stores.  I bought a shirt at one for $3, and at the other, resisted a gorgeous handmade pottery bowl that would have been a lovely dog dish, but much too expensive at $18.50.  Both stores had been totally rearranged since the last time I was in, and there didn't seem to be near as many good bargains.  I stopped by a market and bought 6/$1 ears of local corn.  It's the second time I've been to this fairly new market, and the owner has encouraged me to try my soaps there.  I'm not sure I want to add another consignment spot, but she may be interested in buying them outright, so I'm considering it.  I received a lovely note in the mail, along with some food gifts from friends I recently helped.  A few days ago, I read of a group that does gleaning of farms in this state, and I signed up to be a volunteer.   I used to do more volunteering when I lived in the city.  It's a bit more difficult living so far from anything now.  I love the idea of the gleaning group, which helps feed the hungry.  Having some knowledge of harvesting produce makes it seem like a good fit.  Being I live in a rural area, I'm hopeful some opportunities will arise that are not too far away.

some of the harvest
I purchased what I hope is the last few things for our bathroom redo, and paid for a portion of it with a gift card.  I got all the potatoes put away and crunched the numbers, and it appears we harvested over 50# of potatoes!  And we still have a small patch left to harvest.  That's much better than we thought.  I got an email invite to Pinecone Research, but like last time, when I put in my info, it said my demographics weren't needed.  It was worth a try.  I received a dollar in the mail from Nielsen, which made me laugh, as we're not television watchers.  They called some years back, and I had to tell them we did not watch TV, but they did have me fill out a diary with the few movies we watched. This time, they followed up with a phone survey, and will be sending "enough for a cup of coffee" as a thank you.  M treated J & I to dinner, as thanks for taking him to the restaurant.  Occasionally, when the local farmers bring their equipment here for J to fix, there are visitors that come along, such as the time there was a bird's nest.  Not long ago, he found a chipmunk in some equipment, which promptly ran under a tarp in front of the shop.  We've been seeing it around the bird feeders, but it moves so quick, it's been tough to get a good photo.  This one's the best I've been able to do.  There were several that lived here before the cats showed up years back.  Now that we're down to one cat, maybe it will have a chance to prosper.  I love to see them, and hope so. 

the elusive chipmunk
On a walk one morning, the sole of one of my muck boots separated from the rest.  I kept walking, picked it up on the way back, and repaired it when I got home. It's a good thing it was fixable, because the next day, I planned to clean the chicken coop, and you definitely want muck boots to do that.  When I cleaned the coop, I brought in a large, interesting limb that had fallen in their yard for extra roosting space.  J plans to add some roosts, but until then, I'm hoping this will help.  I spent some time going through things, and putting things away.  It always feels better when I take the time to do that. J harvested most of the winter squash.  Between all the rain and squash borers, vines were dying and some were starting to rot, so it seemed the time.  We weighed them as we brought them in, and ended up with over 100# of winter squash, with the largest cushaw weighing close to 14 lbs!   The two largest cheese wheel pumpkins had begun to rot, so they were cut up and boiled.  We used 2 1/2 cups of it to make ice cream.  Years ago, I had saved this recipe (scroll to bottom), and thought it was the perfect time to try it out.  It calls for a different winter squash, but I interchange them in other recipes, so why not this one?  I had to make up some pumpkin spice, but that was quick and easy.  J's grilling our potatoes with herbs, okra and summer squash for dinner.  I'm thinking it's a perfect summer homestead dinner.