Monday, March 30, 2020

Some Canning, Pumpkin Soup & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope you are staying well.  Not surprisingly, our first case in the county was announced on Monday.  Last week, I canned half of the large pumpkin I had cut up.  With the baked half, I made chocolate chip squash brownies, the dogs got a little with several of their dinners, and I made a pumpkin soup I shared some years back.   There have been a few asparagus to harvest.  One dinner was winter salad, and vegetable soup made from dribs and drabs from the fridge and freezer, and our canned tomatoes.  I did attempt the banana peel bacon, but think I should not have put the marinade in the pan with the bananas, as the maple syrup made them start burning before they were done, so they never got crispy.  I'll try them one more time at a lower temp, and leave out adding the marinade to the pan.  While we still were having cool days, I recanned a #10 can of black olives, so now we have plenty for salads, pizza, omelets, etc, in much more manageable sizes.  There was one more bag of raw peanuts, so I brought them to a boil, and let them cook on the woodstove.  With the warmer days, they hadn't finished when we no longer needed the woodstove, so they were finished cooking on the stove.

For a breakfast, I enjoyed an omelet with asparagus and olives.  Last year's elderberry tincture was strained, local honey was added, and it was bottled.  Home grown sprouts were used in salads.  The collards bolted, and the plants were shared with the chickens throughout the week.  With unseasonably warm temps over the weekend of mid 80's, I harvested kale, swiss chard and lettuce before they became inedible.  Our state issued a stay at home order, beginning this coming Monday evening.  J convinced me to go out one more time for groceries, mostly produce.  With it being a transition time in the garden, there will be little available to harvest for the next month.  Though we can go to the grocery store, my preference would be to stay here and eat what we have on hand, even though I'll be longing for fresh foods before long.  With the warm days, the outdoor shower was turned back on, and I gave Guinness a bath.  He gets a little itchy, so in addition to giving him nettles twice a day, I want to see if baths help.

When you don't have a basket with you, you improvise.  I sowed flower and herb seeds in pots or various recycled mini "greenhouses", and planted swiss chard seeds in the garden.  There is a large amount of yard clean up that needs to happen.  I began with a few smaller herb and flower beds, and then got through half of  a large bed.  Bird suet and yogurt were made.  I may run out of sunflower seeds before the next month is out, but at least the birds will have suet.  The friends I shared eggs and veggies with last week gifted us back in spades.  One shared two beautiful pottery mugs and a gorgeous handmade kitchen knife; the other shared two types of local goat cheese, apples, and home grown frozen blueberries.  Once we have much garden produce again, I'll try to make it up to them.  Pasta was made for a dinner, using our tomatoes, summer squash and herbs.  A kale salad was made to have with the leftovers.  I'm finding helpful and practical inspiration for the current days on gDonna's blog.  I'm thankful for all the colorful flowers, to give us cheer during these challenging times.  May you and your loved ones remain well, and hopefully even thrive these coming days.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The First Spring Days & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope you are coping well during these stressful days.  Last week was pretty much a typical week for me, with massage work, soap deliveries, and grocery store runs.  The B&B where I delivered soap has curbside pickup at their cafe, and I bartered for food in place of payment, as I know they are struggling right now.  I intend to stay home going forward, and am looking forward to that.  We do not yet have a known case in our county, though I expect that will change in the coming days.  On our last run out to take care of a few things on Friday, J & I dropped packages off at a couple of friend's, with eggs, a pumpkin, sweet potatoes and collards, and a book for one, and turnips for the other.  It's always nice to share home grown goodies.  The chicks are growing well, and Mama hen has begun laying again. 

I ran across information about some more of the wild plants growing here.  I had not realized either had edible or medicinal uses. The first is purple dead nettle, which grows abundantly here.  In fact, I looked it up because a neighbor inquired if it had any uses, as she said it was everywhere there.  The other is forsythia, which is part of an anti-viral formula currently being studied in China, so it's a great time to learn about this plant.  As the biggest bush near the house has already finished blooming,  I wandered to see if any of the other bushes still have flowers, and found some on bushes near the road.  A new batch of alfalfa sprouts was started, and yogurt was made.   I started a batch of compost tea, which will be mixed with orange oil and molasses, and used as a drench for fire ant mounds in the garden.  We knew there was a mound next to one of our plums.  When J checked it this week, he found out they had killed the tree.  Sigh.  We've gotten our first two cuttings of asparagus, which made us very happy. 

The recently planted onion sets are sprouting.  J also ordered onion plants this week, as we learned you'll get the biggest onions from these.  Hummus was made for lunches, and another batch of lemon balm tea.  A few weeks ago, I placed an order of essential oils for soap making.  When I opened the package last week, they were all different from the ones I had ordered.  It turns out someone in Michigan received mine, but the company is having Fedex swap them for us.  I expect the companies selling essential oils are scrambling right now, with a significant increase in orders due to the current pandemic.  Our little home goods business is still plugging along.  J finished fabricating orders on Saturday.  I cleaned and powder coated them, then packed them up on Sunday.  We're always grateful for the business, but most especially now.  A customer asked us to make her stand out of steel rod instead of rebar, and it came out very nice.

A patch of lettuce was planted before rain.  Salad dressing was made.  There was some arugula which made it through the winter, and I asked J to save a couple of plants.  I've been harvesting leaves for our salads from them.  J worked on getting up piles of leaves with his electric blower.  He knew the leaf mulcher needed some work, and found out it needed a carburetor, which is on the way.  Hopefully, no strong winds will undo all his work in the meantime.  We intend to use the leaves in the garden.  I decided Sunday was a good time to tackle one of the humongous winter squash.  This time I decided to bake half for pies and brownies, and cube the other half for savory dishes.  Baking half significantly cut down on the processing time.  While the squash was baking, I threw in some sweet potatoes, to have with cabbage and noodles for dinner.

  How wonderful that so many free things are being shared through the internet right now... ebooks, audible books, museum tours, garden tours, TV stations (I've seen Acorn and Showtime) and music.  J & I watched a live concert Saturday night, and I happily made a donation.  Besides knowing that musicians are struggling right now, the music really lifted the weight of the world off my shoulders for a time, and I wanted to show my appreciation.   There are so many possibilities of things to do with my time in the coming days.  I believe I will just go with what calls to me.  How will you be spending your days this week?  Be well, friends. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

Little Purple Flowers & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Several varieties of little purple flowers are blooming, which I'm loving.  Apparently, banana peel bacon is a thing.  They say it's really, really good, so I may have to give it a try.  I do buy Morningstar bacon for BLT's and the occasional recipe, but it would be nice if I could make a version from ingredients I had at home. If you've tried it, I'd love to know.  I created and planted a new flower bed for pollinators near the garden.  A batch of yogurt was made.  Chickweed was gathered for the chickens, the pups and for our salads.  Pasta sauce was made using our tomatoes, basil, oregano and garlic.  J & I planted 16 cabbage plants and two black currants.  It felt so nice to be outdoors with my hands in the dirt on a sunny day.  More of the wintersown plants are sprouting nicely.  The rhubarb is growing, and two of the potatoes planted weeks ago are up.  J & I created a new bed for some of my dye plants, which I've covered with cardboard.  I've begun gathering bricks to edge it.  I'm using fire bricks that were given to us, so cost nothing. 

winter greens
J tilled the areas of the garden that are not in containers or raised beds, and planted potatoes and onions.  He also planted seeds for several varieties of tomatoes, eggplant and sweet peppers in the truck toolbox he turned into a mini greenhouse.  It worked really well last year, and makes for much less work than planting in seed starting containers, moving them indoors and outdoors daily, and watering daily or more.  Every year we learn something new about gardening.  We're talking about using more raised beds in the future, with some sort of walkways that won't allow weeds, trying to figure out how to cut down on labor as we age.  Several beds were harvested, to make room for new plantings.  A bed of winter greens was harvested, and collards that were in the tool box, which were shared with my sister.  The broccoli was pulled up.  After the initial harvest, and several harvests of side shoots, they were dwindling.  I still got just under 1/2 lb., enough for one meal.  Here is an interesting and timely article on the science of soap.  A concert and a trip to the mountains were canceled.  While I am sorry I won't be seeing the Downton Abbey exhibit, it will be a significant savings. 

Life is full of big and small changes at the moment, all over the planet.  I'm loving seeing all the wonderful ways people are coming together... a hotel in Ireland that is delivering free food to those who need it, neighbors coming out on their balconies all over Italy to share music and song, and to clap in gratitude for health care workers, people sharing their groceries in the US.  Maybe this crisis is to remind us we are all in this together, and that is what is going to be required to make it through this.  How wonderful we are rising to the challenge.  One thing we can do in the coming days is self care.  I'm going to try the recipe in the link for coffee body scrub.  I also made an easy DIY toothpaste, from a recipe posted in the waiting room of the holistic dentist I've been visiting.  To make it, mix:

1/4 cup organic coconut oil (I'm sure non-organic works fine, if that's what you have)
1 tsp baking soda
stevia (optional)
15-20 drops of essential oils (I used a mix of cinnamon & clove EO's, and IPSAB)

Store in a small jar.  Use a pea sized amount for brushing. 

With several warm days and nights, we went without heat for several days, and had windows open as much as possible.  J picked up a handful of things at the grocery store, but I didn't do any grocery shopping last week.  J decided to grill on Sunday.  Besides some "beast" for he and M, he grilled homegrown eggplant and okra from the freezer, potatoes that he cut the sprouts from, and I made a winter salad.  We were all happy campers.  The hyacinths have begun blooming.  Jars of thieves vinegar were bottled.  Bird suet was made.  I made iced tea from dehydrated lemon balm, lemon verbena and lemongrass I grew last summer.  Local honey was used for sweetener.  Lemon balm is a strong anti-viral, so I will try to keep this tea on hand in the coming days.  I dug a clump of lemon balm, and shared it with my sister, as well as eggs and a pumpkin.  We took a walk while we were together.  Lettuce was harvested from the garden, and eggs were collected.  All is well on the homestead.  Stay well, dear friends.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Making Almond Milk & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, I harvested broccoli.  I used it and the remaining store bought broccoli to make broccoli salad.  After working in town, I stopped at Walgreens for greeting cards and nuts, and got the 20% senior discount.  Our little chicks are doing well.  Soon, I'll try to get some pics.  I tried one day, but they were moving too fast to get any good ones.  The tulips are coming up in several places, and I noticed the coral honeysuckle making buds.  I've been wandering through the woods more while I can, before the ticks and poison ivy make it a bad choice.  I've gathered quite a few nice pieces of usnea, which were added to the tincture jar.  I did find out this week, while listening to an herbalist, that usnea would be helpful for coronavirus, so that's a plus.  The peaches are blooming way too early, but not unexpected after this warmer than usual winter.

While J was gone for work overnight, I had maitake mushrooms and okra for dinner, neither of which he can eat.  I made colcannon another night, and cooked it a bit more than the recipe called for, which worked better for J.  One of my sweet nieces brought roasted carrots to Christmas dinner.  I'm usually not a fan of cooked carrots, but these were wonderful.  I finally got around to making them, and they were delicious, with the caramelization bringing out the sweetness.  I plan to do a pan of roasted vegetables soon, and bought some parsnips for that purpose.  Homestead vegetable broth and garlic were used in peas, and ghee in noodles.  I crunched numbers for my soaps.  Even though essential oil prices can be fairly volatile, I have a better idea of what my current costs are.  I was able to get a halfway decent chick pic.  Aren't they sweet little fluff balls?

I read what I felt was a good article on things you can do to keep well by gDonna, in light of COVID-19.  Though I may not do things exactly the same, it got me to think about all the surfaces we handle in our home.  As we both had such a hard time earlier this year getting over respiratory illnesses, I decided to disinfect all the surfaces we touch in our home, as well as our cars.  Cutting down on any lingering germs seems to be a good thing.  And it was a great exercise in getting me to think about the many things we touch.  Two days later, I was still coming up with things I missed (ie: the printer).  I don't do a lot of disinfecting.  I've recently been better about the computer, after reading how germy they generally are, and I do disinfect the bathroom when I clean it, but that's about it.  I think I've mentioned before that this is the spray I use.

My first winter sown seeds are up, some calendula and phacelia, with some others beginning to push up seedlings.  An amazon movie was enjoyed free through prime.  I made some almond milk using the almond butter I made last week (1 tbs almond butter to 1c water.  Whir in the blender).  It worked really well, and went perfectly with some homemade granola a friend recently gifted me.  I used this tutorial for the almond butter and milk.  I've recently read how almonds are hard on bees and the environment.  It's my favorite plant based milk for cereal, but I may have to rethink that.  Home grown alfalfa sprouts were enjoyed in a sandwich and an omelet.  I made salads with baby romaine, cherries, cubed beets, toasted pecans and feta, and enjoyed it with berry vinaigrette.  I worked on several things for the upcoming show on Saturday, printing labels, wrapping soap, printing bags with my logo, etc.  Four orders were cleaned and powder coated on Sunday.  I'm ready to relax a bit tonight, so will end here, and wish you a very happy and healthy week.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Spring Signs & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I continue to look for treasures on my walks... dye stuffs, medicinal plants, and mushrooms.  One day, I found some pieces of parmotrema lichen, which I use in one of my soaps, and three small bits of usnea, which went into the current batch of tincture.  There was some leftover basmati rice that needed using.  For lunch one day, I heated it with a little ghee, and toasted some sesame seeds to go on top.  As J is a salt lover, I gave him specialty salts in his Christmas stocking several years running, such as a trio from the NC coast, and black Hawaiian salt.  At some point, I realized he prefers plain sea salt, so I have begun using them.  Right now, I'm using the Hawaiian salt, which was excellent on the basmati rice.  Several of our large sweet potatoes were baked one night, for dinner and leftovers.

When I checked on the sitting hen on Tuesday, I found one chick had hatched.  We've never had chicks this early in the year, but thankfully we have a couple of days in the 60's before it turns colder again.  A pan of crushed egg shells and bin of shredded paper and cardboard were added to the compost bin, along with kitchen scraps.  After attending a memorial service, I met a friend for lunch.  We headed to a thrift shop across the street. They are moving, so were having a 50% sale off everything, and 65% off clothes.  I  bought 1 fleece top and 2 cashmere sweaters for $1.40 ea., and an Egyptian cotton sheet for $1.25.  Batches of yogurt and suet were made.  J reminded me how long it had been since I'd made focaccia, which I used to make regularly.  It was all the rage at restaurants at one point, and then it wasn't, and I guess I forgot about it too.  So, I harvested rosemary, onions, and a little parsley, and made some with our home ground wheat and corn (for the pan).  It was delicious, and is a way for me to have something similar to pizza without all the cheese.  It won't be as long before I make it again.

On Wednesday's morning walk, the world was shrouded in fog.  I could hear peepers down at the creek, and the landscape had new patches of green.  The spiders had spun dozens of webs, all glistening with moisture.  Before the walk, I checked on mama hen, and found her off the nest.  It appears she hatched three or four eggs, but will have to wait to confirm over the next few days.  Four eggs didn't make the cut, all infertile, confirmed as I broke them at the foot of fruit trees.  I mended a pocket of my dress coat, while listening to a portion of a This American Life podcast on "delight".  On a blustery day, I made a pot of minestrone, which used our canned tomatoes and summer squash, and fresh herbs and swiss chard.  I made a sweet potato pie with leftovers, which J really enjoys.  So, it's confirmed that there are three sweet chicks, and all seem healthy and happy.  The hens are laying well.  We shared a dozen eggs with a neighbor, deviled eggs were made, and the pups got one most days.   A new broccoli salad recipe was made, which we really enjoyed.  I cut down on the onion and cranberries, but followed the recipe otherwise.  It's a keeper, and pretty too.  A couple of free movies were watched through amazon prime. I found four pennies and a nickel. 

I've been slowly working on deep cleaning things.  Last week, I worked on the washer and dryer, and the little closet they are in.  All was wiped down or vacuumed, and vinegar run through the washer.  I also tried cleaning the baked on gunk on the stovetop, with baking soda and vinegar, but it didn't do much.  My sweet husband cleaned the dishwasher, which makes me smile every time I open it.  My sister suggested vinegar when she was here recently, but it didn't do a thing for mine.  He used bleach, which we don't use often, but it did do the trick.  While J and I were in town, we ran into Big Lots, and used a $5 off $15 coupon.  Being mindful of the coronavirus, we are filling in some holes in our supplies.  I also picked up two books at the library I had requested.  Another jar of thieves vinegar was started, using home grown herbs, and peels from mandarins and cara cara oranges, which we're enjoying.  Autumn succotash was made, using our winter squash and thyme.  Laundry was hung on the line.  On Sunday, we took our granddaughter to brunch.  Her first time trying crepes, she declared it the best breakfast ever.  We then went to a nearby park.  I'm not sure how long it's been since I've been on a seesaw, swing or merry go round, but we had great fun, on a chilly but lovely winter day.  Wishing you a week of lovely days, whichever season you're in.