Monday, February 24, 2020

A Little Snow, Cashew Gravy & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, I applied to be an election official, and by the next morning, had my training scheduled.  Sadly, they were hoping I could work March 3rd, but I already had commitments, so will have to wait until the next election.  I finally finished getting my taxes ready to take to our accountant.  It seems there are many of us who are doing multiple things for income streams.  It sure does make it complex, with all the paperwork that entails.  Every year, I figure out one or two things that can make gathering it a bit easier.   The streams include massage, soap making, some of the bookkeeping/data entry for J's business, our home goods business, and ebay sales.  The soap making, includes my online shop, several galleries, a B&B account, shows, various in person sales to keep track of, plus several people who supply me things to pair with the soaps.  That's a lot of numbers to gather and crunch.  Combine that with the other streams, and it makes it quite a bear.  But then again, being your own boss makes it all worthwhile.  Working from home most days, and being able to decide what to do with each of my days is immeasurable, even if my income is significantly less than it once was.

While in town last week, good deals found were avocados and cans of organic beans, both .89 ea. at Aldi's.  Another day, J & I ran a few errands and stopped to pick up a few things at Dollar General.  They had sweet sets of 8 pencils in their Valentines markdown.  I got several packs for .30 ea., which I plan to use in Operation shoebox boxes or something similar.  I didn't make any boxes last year, because I wasn't prepared, but keeping it in mind and stocking up when I find good deals will hopefully help me do it this year.  A batch of almond butter was made, after soaking the almonds over night.  Suet for the birds was made.  A movie was enjoyed on amazon, one via netflix, and two episodes of Washington.

I tried a new, sugar free recipe, for Minnesota Harvest Bars, which I found in my copy of Jackie Clay's Growing and Canning Your Own Food.  She does recommend sprinkling them with powdered sugar, which I left off.  They're barely sweet, with dates being one of the main ingredients.  I also tried eating them with a little yacon syrup and sorghum, and thought each were good.  The yacon syrup has an especially low glycemic index.  The sorghum's index is slightly below honey, making these a slightly better choice for healthy blood sugar levels, though they should still be eaten in small amounts.  Our eggs and home grown squash were used in the recipe.  The squash that wasn't used in the recipe was frozen.

We had a lovely snow on Thursday, two inches or so, which has mostly melted.  On Saturday, orders were cleaned and powder coated.  Earlier in the week, I had made quiche, which used up leftover asparagus, frozen peppers and recanned olives.  With the leftover quiche, I steamed cauliflower, and made cashew gravy, a recipe I've been making since the 80's.  I only make it about once a year, and freeze the leftovers.  J prefers his cauliflower plain, which leaves it all for me.  The recipe comes from a well loved copy of Laurel's Kitchen.

Cashew Gravy

1/2 c ground cashew nuts                                    1/4 onion, chopped
3 tbs whole wheat flour                                       2 c vegetable broth or water
2 tbs oil                                                                1/4 c chopped parsley
1 tsp salt (see notes below)

Saute onions in oil until soft.  Stir in flour and cashew nut meal (I grind it in the coffee grinder) and cook for three minutes, stirring all the time.  Add the stock and salt and stir to blend all the ingredients.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer until thick.  Add the parsley.  Makes an ample 2 c of gravy.

I have always used raw cashews for this.  If you try roasted/salted, it will most likely not need salt.  Even with raw cashews, I find 1/2 tsp. to be enough salt.  I've only used the gravy on cauliflower, as she suggests, but expect it would be good on many vegetables.  I like to mix up our green salads.  With the salads over the weekend, I added cubed beets, toasted pecans, a little feta, and chopped cherries to spring mix greens.  With some homemade berry vinaigrette, it was so delicious, I made it the next night, just changing the cheese.  A red amaryllis I bought in December is blooming all at once.  A dozen eggs were shared, and I bottled some thieves cleaning vinegar for a friend.  Though I had a lot of orders to pack on Sunday, I made it outdoors as often as I could in between.  It was a beautiful day, and I noticed the first grape hyacinths up.  J & I went through our seeds, food and other supplies, figuring out what we need to replenish.  Wishing you hopeful signs of spring this week.

Monday, February 17, 2020

February Critters & Frugal Accomplishments

Though not the pic I was going for, isn't that the cutest fluffy butt?

Hello, friends.  Last week, I planted a celery end in the lettuce bed.  They do better in the warmer months here, but it's worth a try, as warm as the winter has been.  I redeemed $2 off purchases in both produce and groceries at Food Lion, and got a free organic salad dressing with purchase of their spring mix.  Parsley was harvested for potato salad on a warm day (about 70 degrees).  Swiss chard was harvested, as well as onions to add to black beans.  I brought home leftovers from my Valentine's dinner with J.  This was the first month of using my cash back credit card.  I put two dental bills on it, and a few meals, got over $8 cash back, and paid it off immediately.  Frozen blueberries from last year's garden were enjoyed in my oatmeal.  I spent many hours working on my taxes, and can see the end in sight.  A load of laundry was hung on the line.

I made a pot of taco soup, which has to be the easiest soup ever, and yummy.  It used home canned tomatoes, corn I froze last summer, dehydrated home grown garlic and onions, and some of the olives I recanned.  I had a small amount of leftover black beans and tomato sauce that I threw into the soup, to use them up.  I signed up to get 3 free credits on the History Channel, so we could watch Washington.  When we tried to watch it Sunday, it didn't seem available, though it showed I had 3 credits available.  We're really out of the loop with this technology, but are thinking it's possible we can't watch it live because we don't have paid TV, but can watch it afterwards on our Roku TV.  I hope so.  I paid utility bills online, saving stamps.  The Healthshare I belong to sent a letter of apology earlier in the year, for such poor customer service, with a promise to do better this year.  Last week, I received a couple of emails with signs of progress being made on some reimbursements I am due.  It is a significant amount for me, if they actually follow through, and I'm hopeful.  I called for info about being an election official, and intend to apply. 

Several items I plan to sell on ebay were researched, to get an idea of appropriate prices.  I drilled holes in two canister lids, and fitted them with carbon filters, making them compost crocks, which I listed in my shop.  J harvested turnips, and prepared them the way he loves, with bacon.  Orders were cleaned and powder coated.  J & I cleaned up some of the massive amounts of sticks and limbs in the yard, and burned them.  He had cut up the pine that fell into our garden the morning after the storm, and we cleaned up all the limbs from it.  I pruned plum trees and butterfly bushes.  I started cutting up one of the massive mystery/crossed winter squash, and a couple of hours later was getting a blister.  J rescued me, and cut up the last few pieces.  I roasted some of it, and pulled our lima beans from the freezer to have, along with basmati rice.  I had hoped to get some seeds planted last week.  I didn't, but there's always next week.  Wishing you a most peaceful week.

Monday, February 10, 2020

February Blooms & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, I ran errands after working in town.  At the grocery store, I found several things on mark down, including organic button mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, good quality olive oil and organic honey.  I also found a new dog food, at about the same price as what I usually get, but which contains no animal meal and higher protein/lower carbs, a more natural diet for dogs, so I was happy about that.  After I got home, I weeded the rhubarb and asparagus beds, and transplanted several strawberry plants that had grown beyond their bed.  This is in a sunnier spot closer to the house, so I'm hoping we get some berries this year.  J pruned grapes, kiwi, and more fruit trees, planted red potatoes, and treated several areas of fire ants with orange oil and dried molasses.

Sometimes I have to choose between doing laundry on sunny days or rainy days.  My preference is to be able to hang it outdoors, but when our rainwater tanks are full, and it's still raining, it seems a shame to waste the water.  So, I decided to do a couple of loads on a rainy day last week.  Wool socks and sweaters were hung around the house.  The daffodils and forsythia have begun blooming.  One day, I canned the marked down button mushrooms, adding four 1/2 pints and a 4 oz. jar to the pantry. I like using these on pizza, when I haven't got any fresh ones in the house.  We're making progress on the jigsaw puzzle.  On the days I'm home, I often stop by it a few times a day to add some pieces, but my favorite times are when J & I work on it together.  Paper and cardboard were shredded, vegetable bits added to the broth bag, and other fruit and vegetable bits to the compost crock.  A batch of yogurt was made.  One of our Ameraucana hens has been broody, so we put her in the broody area, which also holds our near blind rooster these days.  She's sitting on 8 eggs, and all is going well so far.  I sewed a button on a shirt.

Much of NC had severe weather Thursday evening and night, which included lots of rain and high winds.  Many roads were impassable, due to high water and trees down.  We had a tree come down in an area of the garden where nothing is currently planted.  I worked the following day at one of my occasional jobs, and brought water, lunch and snacks.  I checked online for road closures before I left, and tried a different route, which also ended up being closed.  Thankfully, the third route was the charm.  Several things were accomplished during the down time between customers, including soap wrapping, a bit of bookkeeping, and some research.  Over the weekend, I gathered kale for a salad, pruned several things in the orchard, and drilled holes in canister lids to turn into compost crocks.  The hellebores have begun blooming.  The movie Sweet Land was enjoyed on amazon prime.  It looks like most if not all of the peas are up.  I changed out the straw in the nesting boxes, and brought the chickens greens.  Wishing you much love and happiness this week of Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Midwinter Days & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  This is round two from the $1 amaryllis M gave me, much appreciated on these winter days.  Last week, yogurt and suet was made.  I didn't have quite enough milk for the yogurt, so mixed up a small amount of powdered milk to make up the difference.  Orders were cleaned, painted and packed for shipping.  A few months ago, I learned about the site Find A Spring, while listening to a podcast on water.  You can search for springs in your area, or wherever you might be travelling.  I found one nearby, which a friend already knew of, and we took off on a spring adventure.  The spring is located on church land.  I filled several large jars with spring water.  Unfortunately, the towels I had placed between the jars didn't quite protect them, and one broke on the way home.  There was a water test posted that was done just last month, and all looked good.  I've been mixing it with our filtered rainwater to drink.  Before heading home, we stopped at a couple of thrift stores.  I found a brown plate to add to my fall collection for $1.  Winter greens were harvested, and a winter salad made.

Mt. Vernon Spring
Another batch of sweet potatoes was cut up and put in the dehydrator for pup treats.  Another jar of Thieves cleaning vinegar was made, with homegrown lavender and rosemary.  I used fresh rosemary, as it does fine here through the winter, so I never dry any.  With concerns about the Wuhan virus, I figure it doesn't hurt to have additional germ-busting cleaner around.  I've read that the blend does work on viruses as well as bacteria.  The actual essential oils would be more powerful than the vinegar, but if nothing else, the cleaner smells delicious.  I ground another several cups of wheat.  Several years ago, Joseph converted my grinder to electric.  While using it, I was remembering the days I did it by hand.  I can tell you we didn't have as much wheat ground then!  It takes 10+ passes through the grinder to make a rustic flour, not as fine as store bought, but it works for me.  It takes around a half hour to do it these days.  Back in the day, it took me hours, with plenty of breaks.  I enjoyed a free movie on amazon prime.  This snowman is another thing I leave out after the holidays.  There are many possible variations, which amuses us in the window.

In October, I had mixed up some spearmint and honey for herb tea on the recommendation of Susun Weed.  I got around to trying some today, and will be making that again.  It was lovely.  I strained and bottled a few herbal tinctures started last year, jars of nettles and usnea.  Though small, I've gathered some usnea on my wanderings the past few weeks, which will eventually fill the tincture jar.  I worked on organizing and cleaning the pantry.  For a dinner, I baked our sweet potatoes, which we had with rice and mushroom gravy.  Late last year, Daisy wrote about an interesting antique mall less than two hours from here.  Last week, I picked a friend up, and we took a little road trip there.  I found a couple of kitchen utensils, a large silver plated ladle and tongs.  Before we went, I found a discount variety store nearby, where we headed after lunch.  It was a disappointment, though I did pick up a couple of cans of organic chickpeas at .69, natural peanut butter at $1.50, and whole grain pasta (dated 2022... crushed boxes) for .75/lb, so not a total loss.  A requested library book was picked up on the way home, and a few groceries as well, which cost slightly over $30 for the week, including dog food on sale and 4 avocados at .50 ea..  My friend does needle felting, and gifted me this chicken to add to the collection.  Doesn't he have personality?

A bin of shredded paper was emptied into the compost.  On a dreary rainy day, I caught up on paperwork, working on my business bookkeeping, J's business expenses and bill paying, and my personal finances.  Not my favorite thing to do, but it seemed a good day to get it done.  For a half hour or so, there were large, pretty snowflakes mixed in with the rain.  There are at least two dozen peas up now.  A pumpkin pie was made with a jar of home canned pumpkin, our eggs, and pantry items.  Baking it helped warm our home, and it made our bellies happy.  Some of the pumpkin water moistened the pups dinner.  The rest of it watered two plants.  For several days, I gave small amounts of the milk solids strained from the ghee with the pups dinners.  They're hoping I make ghee on a regular basis :o).   I made a pasta dish I don't often make, spaghetti with olives and bread crumbs.  For the green olives, I opened a large tin I had gifted J last Christmas.  I think it's such a pretty tin, I plan to use it for a plant.

Some coffee grounds were used to fertilize two house plants.  My siblings and I met our stepmom at a restaurant, to wish her happy adventures on her move to CA.  What appealed most to me were side dishes, so that's what I ordered.  It was cheaper than an entree, and was delicious.  I stopped at Tractor Supply to get food for the cat, dogs and chickens, and used a 15% off coupon.  I also picked up a few things at Aldi's.  No fantastic sales, just the usual good prices.  The oils to make a batch of Skin Bliss soap were melted on the woodstove.  A fresh batch of natural throat spray was made, which uses colloidal silver and essential oils.  This time, I made 8 oz., by multiplying all ingredients by 8.  It still works very well for my sore throats.  J worked on pruning the fruit trees and kiwis.  We've got some warm days coming up, so I hope to manage some yard and garden chores in between other commitments.  Wishing you a lovely week!