Monday, April 27, 2020

Using What's On Hand & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  I hope you've been healthy and happy.  Last week, I made hummus, sweet potato cake, a broccoli quinoa dish, and roasted veggies.  I got side tracked looking for a recipe, and scorched the quinoa.  Once it cooled, I took it to the chickens, who greatly enjoyed it.  Food never gets wasted around here.  It either goes to the pups, the compost, or the chickens.  I harvested asparagus, rosemary, lemon balm, and collected eggs.  After making zucchini tots, there was still 1/2 the grated zucchini remaining, so I made two loaves of apple carrot zucchini bread, and froze one.  I'm still working on using up the last of the kale, and made two kale salads.  It's not the most tender, but fiber is a good thing, right?  I'm picking out the toughest leaves, and chopping them up for the pups dinners.  Two items were mended with the glue gun.  Laundry was hung on the line.  I finished watching the 1940's House, and was sad to see it end. 

I'd been wanting to make a card to send to my GD.  For the first time since school days, I played with water colors, and though it's not terribly artistic, at least it's cheerful.  I used washi tape to attach the pieces.  More sweet potatoes were dehydrated for pup treats.  I planted money plants, calendula and borage I had started from seed.  I made granola last week, and a new batch of almond butter.  The last batch of almond butter went bad before I used much of it.  I only want granola a day or two a week, and was trying to make my own almond milk, because the store bought always went bad before I used it.  I found it interesting how store bought almond butter can sit on the shelf for months, but  homemade almond butter that was refrigerated went bad in a few weeks.  Can't quite figure that one out.  This time, I made 1/2 batch of almond butter, which used 1/2 c almonds.  I'm hoping not to have any waste with this batch.  The guys ate hummus and sandwiches here for lunches this week, so on Friday, J got pizza from the restaurant they're trying to support, which we enjoyed for dinner and lunches.  I haven't minded cooking during this stay at home time, but I'll admit it was nice to have a break.

As a soapmaker, I gather lot of soap scraps.  I scrape out the last of what's in the soap pot and let it dry, and get all the bits from when I unmold soap and cut soap.  Last week, I whirred the scraps in the blender with water, and ended up with five and a half quarts of liquid soap.  This is what I use at the bathroom sink.  J prefers bar soap at the sink, but I use the liquid, so it's not wasted.  I used to add some to loads of laundry too, until I read that soap is not ideal for washing machines.  This will do me for quite some time, or perhaps I'll be sharing some.  I had a bit of a disappointment with the ghee I made recently.  In the tutorial I linked to, she mentions having a jar that's been on the shelf for 8 years, which she believes is fine.  When I got to the last of the jar I made, about the last half inch, it began growing mold.  It was great until the very bottom, which is nice, but the mold surprised me.  I may try putting it in two pint jars next time, to see if the decreased amount of opening and dipping into the jar makes a difference.  In the meantime, I'm using some I bought at Aldi's, as I've been using lots of our butter with all the cooking and baking lately.  A batch of yogurt was made.  While there was a 20% off sale, I bought two bones for the pups.  They are for aggressive chewers, which can be hard to find, and which McNibs needs if they're to last any time. 

I'm learning an appreciation for spoken word, through the work of IN-Q.  If you'd like to check him out, here's one-  The Only Reason We're Alive.  J was hard at work this weekend, pulling up new garden beds, and planting more peanuts, lots of winter squash and the largest of our tomato seedlings.  I harvested the first few peas.  Orders were painted on Saturday, and packed for shipping on Sunday.  I took pics of and listed several things on ebay.  Several days, I took a few minutes to practice guitar with free online lessons.  The last toothpaste I bought was a lovely combination of rose, cacao and mint.  The roses are blooming profusely right now, so in thinking how I might use them, I decided to infuse a quart of petals into coconut oil for future toothpaste.  I'm thinking I may do the same with chocolate mint, and if I'm lucky, be able to make toothpaste with a similar flavor.  I facetimed with a favorite coworker I had not spoken to in over 20 years, which was lovely.  Dog nose art was cleaned off the storm doors.  While I had the tools out, I cleaned two repurposed storm doors that are part of the chicken coop.  One of them has bothered me every time I drove in and out our drive for some time, so it's nice to have that task done.  Cat brier tips were gathered to use with the little bit of lettuce we had for salads.  Our governor extended our shelter at home until May 8th, which is probably wise.  I'm enjoying having all this time at home.  How about you?

Monday, April 20, 2020

Canning, Mending & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope you are staying healthy and happy.  Last week, a pan of crushed egg shells and a bin full of shredded paper and cardboard was added to the compost bin.  Cool temperatures returned, so I took advantage, and cut up the last of the pumpkins.  Most were cubed and frozen for savory dishes, and one was baked.  With some of the cubed, I made squash and onion galette, and make kale salad and a dish with yard long beans I'd previously canned, so it was a mostly homestead dinner.  Though the galette recipe called for butternut squash, and it was what I used the last time, it was just as tasty with pumpkin.  Seeds were saved from a cheese wheel pumpkin.  A batch of suet was made.  I'm seeing hummingbird(s) pretty much daily, and on Wednesday, the male summer tanager returned to the suet feeder.  Eggs were boiled for the pups.  I'd seen mention of keeping sour cream going, and had almost finished what I had, so I tried it.  I didn't have cream as is recommended, so used half and half, and let it sit at room temperature as directed for a day.  As expected, it doesn't seem as thick.  It smells good, but is not very sour.  I'd had the sour cream starter I used for a number of weeks, so perhaps the culture was not very strong.  I did check to make sure it was cultured.  It was Trader Joe's, and did not have any weird ingredients in it.  Next time, I'll try making some sooner. 

The day after all the pumpkin skins and bits had been added to the broth bags, I canned a batch of broth, clearing four large bags of scraps from the freezer, and adding 12 pints of vegetable broth to the pantry.  All the cooked vegetables were put in the compost bin.  With some of the baked pumpkin, I made Jackie Clay's Minnesota Harvest Bars, which are sweetened only with dates, and was good.  The recipe came from her book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food, which I highly recommend.  In addition to directions on how to preserve many foods, there are a good amount of recipes on how to use your preserved foods.  I use this book often.  While I was baking the pumpkin, I also baked our four largest sweet potatoes, to make good use of the oven.  The next night, we had sweet potatoes, a homegrown spaghetti squash and lambs quarter dish, and leftover kale salad.  Only one of our cucumbers had sprouted, or was eaten, so J replanted more, and replanted tromboncino squash, as none had come up.  The peanuts he ordered came, so he planted them in the main garden.  Hopefully, they'll do better than they did in the pond garden, when the deer ate them.

This is the handmade knife friend's gave me recently. Isn't it lovely?  Checks needed to be deposited for J's business, so I went through the drive through, my big adventure last week.  I made Brandy's Taco soup for lunches.  It is one of my favorite soups, and so quick and easy to make.  Many arugula volunteered near the overwintered plants.  J pulled up the bolted cabbage plants, and gave them to the chickens.  The pollinators have been enjoying the flowers for several weeks, but he needed to till that garden and get it ready to plant.  I printed out a free kitty puppet on cardstock, and will send it with a note to my granddaughter.  With a mix of homegrown and store bought broccoli, I made fried rice, which also used our eggs and onions.  Eggs were gathered, and asparagus harvested most days.  Yogurt was made.  J planted sweet corn, which came from Jackie Clay' s Seed Treasures, which arrived last week.  They're having a busier than usual year, as other seed companies are, but still have seed to sell for many things, the last I heard.  J had a day of working in town on Friday.  I gave him a list, and he was able to purchase everything except organic cream, which I'm not sure that store carries anyway.

I rummaged through the freezer one evening, and found grated zucchini, with which I made zucchini tots.  This also used our egg, garlic, oregano and parsley.  I also found lots of pesto in the freezer, so we had some the next night, with a salad which used the last of our garden lettuce.  I planted all of my wintersown dye plants in the new bed we made for them.  On a cool, rainy morning, I caught up on ironing while watching The 1940's House on youtube, a reenactment of the period.  It's been interesting to see the two women of the house deal with rationing.  The elder had never baked a cake in her life, and the younger had only fed her family with take out and frozen foods.  They initially felt sorry for themselves, but are now coming around, which has made it enjoyable to watch.  I did a bit of stitching on the the tote bag holes, using scraps of fabric I dyed with goldenrod a few years ago.  I've been using up the last of the store bought toothpaste in the mornings, and cut the tube open to finish using it up.  Zinnia seeds were planted, as well as a few pecans I had picked up under a tree this winter.  Not many lettuce or carrots came up, so I planted more of each.  J decided he wanted to try planting celery, which neither of us has grown before.  I think it may take a longer season than we have, but we'll give it a shot. 

A new batch of alfalfa sprouts was made, for salads and sandwiches.  Thanks to a commenter on The Prudent Homemaker who mentioned Fender was offering free guitar lessons right now, both J and I signed up.  J bought a guitar some years ago, but never learned to play it, and it's something I've wanted to learn for years.  Now to make time to do it.  I did the first few lessons, tuning the guitar and picking the strings, so some progress.  The past couple of years, a dove with a stump leg has been hanging around the feeders.  There's no knowing if it was congenital, or due to a run in with a cat or bullet, but it manages quite well getting around without a foot.  Another online concert was enjoyed Saturday night.  More lemon balm was harvested and dried for tea.  I've had two lovely pollinator houses made by a local artist for a couple of years, living in a window of my studio.  I finally asked J to hang them on the side of the shed near the main garden.  Hopefully, they'll bring more pollinators to the garden.  I learned some more information about dyeing with avocados.  One of the ideas was freezing instead of drying the skins and pits, so I will be trying that, though I still have a stash of dried. 

I've been searching for the summer slippers I like for a number years, and have been unable to find them.  I've tried a couple of pairs of similar ones.  Neither has held up as well.  The sole of one on my favorite old pair started crumbling, so I got a piece of leather I bought at the thrift store last year for I believe $1, and made new soles.  I don't know how well they'll hold up, but thought it was worth a try.  If you happen to know of somewhere I can buy similar slippers... velvet with embroidery, I would very much appreciate hearing.  I've seen occasional dragons and peacocks in bright blue and red satin-type material (not my style), but nothing feminine in a soft color of velvet in size 5.  After I hot glued the soles on, I ran over the soles with the iron, to help move the glue around a bit and hopefully get them to stick well.  Last year, I picked up two fairly large handmade wrought iron pieces at a thrift store, and finally figured out they would be great as trellises.  J and I put them in with the peas, as the sticks I originally used were not holding up too well.  That's all the homestead news I can think of.  Take care, friends. 

Monday, April 13, 2020

Weeds, Seeds & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  There's been lots of weeding going on here.  Occasionally I pull up wild garlic aka wild onion with the weeds.  Though I have used them in the past when I ran out of onions, by the time you clean all the papery skin off, you're left with not much for your trouble.  I've been adding them whole to the broth bag in the freezer, which is easier, and they're not wasted.  Another possibility is to throw them whole into a soup or stew for flavoring, then fish them out when it's done.  This could help you stretch store bought onions or garlic if needed.  With the warm days, the chickweed is finishing up, but now there are cat brier tips to munch on, and wild sorrel.  I add them to salads, sometimes chop a few for the pups, and just snack on them as I'm walking or working in the yard.  Violet flowers are another wild plant I like to munch on.  They're also pretty added to salads.  The guys have been eating lunch here, other than a day every week or two, when they get take out to support a local business.  I make hummus for them once a week, and enjoy some too.

Another round of pots were sown with seeds, this time all flowers.  I also planted bachelor buttons in a flower bed, and a few holly hocks.   A dozen eggs were shared with a couple of friends.  The one that picked them up passes by the other on the way home, so she dropped off the second friend's eggs. When J dug up a clump of grass at the edge of an iris bed, several rhizomes came up with it.  I separated them from the grass, and offered the iris to J's business partner.  Peppers and one variety of tomato seeds were replanted, which hadn't done well.  The others are all looking good.  Lettuce was harvested, probably the last of the winter lettuce, as they're getting bitter.  We got a couple of lovely unexpected showers, perfect to help our seeds germinate.  Laundry was hung on the line.  The Hopi Dye sunflowers I winter sowed on Feb. 27 were looking healthy and sturdy, so I transplanted them into the ground Thursday evening.  Hopefully, they'll bring us cheer, as well as dye materials.

There were 2 cans of black cherries that needed using.  I made this recipe on Friday.  It strayed from my recommended diet, but hey, these are unusual times.  Another large bed is weeded.  Now it's on to some others.  For years, I've read that it's not healthy for our bodies to be bombarded with EMF's from electronics 24/7.  With the virus, J finally agreed we should be shutting off the tower each night, to keep our immunity as strong as possible.  Though I'm not sure it will be significant, an added bonus is less electricity use.  The welder we use for our orders went on the fritz.  The first set of parts we ordered didn't repair it.  The second set ended up being back ordered for weeks, so we ended up purchasing a new welder.  We'd been using the shop's welder, and this new one will be dedicated to our orders, so it should last a long time.  We're so thankful for the orders that keep rolling in.  Now it's catch up time.  I powder coated eight orders on Saturday, and two more on Sunday.

I almost stayed home all week, but J needed me to run to the bank for his business on Friday.  I filled up while I was out, at $1.35 a gallon!  A significant frost happened on Friday night.  All the tender plants had been covered up with shredded leaves.  One of the squash and a potato became uncovered, and got bit, along with the tops of our kiwi vines, and the largest fig.  That should be the last frost we need to worry about this spring.  The hummingbirds I've seen must just be travelling through, as our usual ones are not at the feeder yet.  I always associate them showing up on Easter, and saw a pair of them at the feeder Easter morning.  I made biscuits for Easter breakfast, which we enjoyed with our eggs.  With all the greens the chickens have been getting with garden and yard clean up, the yolks are almost orange.  Half of our orders were packed up on Sunday.  I'll finish the rest on Monday.  J requested cabbage and noodles for dinner, an easy, comforting meal.    The rain is moving in Sunday evening, and possible severe weather.  I've been enjoying live concerts online during the week, including Bocelli on Easter.  The three library books I got before they closed were read, so I started on a free Kindle book.  Wishing you a healthy and happy week ahead!

Monday, April 6, 2020

The Spring Garden & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  How are you doing during this stay at home time?  Are you enjoying the time to catch up on your to do list, to relax and spend time, virtually or real, with loved ones?  Have you read some books, planted something, or gotten creative?  I'm enjoying the time here.  I do still find myself having to go out, which I'd prefer not to do.  This week, I placed an order for an item we needed for one of our home goods customers, expecting it could be shipped.  Well, it was only available to pick up in store.  J had to go to town, to pick up a part for one of his customers, so the plan was he would get it, until I read that the person who purchased it had to show up with their ID, which meant I needed to go.  It turns out they didn't ask for ID, but I wore a mask and didn't touch anything besides my order.  I also took my overflowing recyclables to the dump, and made a bank deposit, but neither of those was risky.  Hopefully, I can stay put this week.

My last visit to Trader Joe's, a number of weeks ago, I purchased a spray of pussy willows.  They, along with lilacs and mimosas were at my childhood home, and all these plants are special to me.  I intended to try to root several of the pussy willows.  By the time I did, their life force was ebbing.  One still had a green stem, so I put it in a pot with rooting hormone, and am hoping for the best.  As a member of the willow family, I thought they might root on their own in water, but that wasn't the case.  Perhaps because they had catkins on them?  A few spears of asparagus were harvested, and laundry was hung on the line.  Popcorn was made in the wok for snacks.  J planted cucumber and tromboncino seeds, and I planted carrot and beet seeds, which could have already been planted, but we didn't have an area prepared before now.  One of the varieties of carrots was a free packet of Cosmic Purple carrots. That should be fun!  While I was awake one night, I mended a nightgown and a free Vera Bradley tote.  The tote was part of the December building clean out.  I added fabric to the tattered straps, and intend to do a bit of mending with embroidery to two spots on the bag. 

For J's birthday, he requested pizza, so I made a double batch of dough, parbaked and froze one for future use.  On the pizza, I used our red and green pepper and garlic, some of the recanned olives, and mushrooms.  I gathered oregano for the sauce.  He'd been telling me about a nut cake his grandmother made, which he loved as a kid.  I asked his aunt for a recipe, which was basically adding a mixture of nuts to a yellow cake mix.  I found a recipe for yellow cake, and chopped walnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds and a few pistachios to add to it.  J declared it a success, though it did not come out of the bundt pan in one piece.  Oh well, at least there was no one to see it but us.  He uses a nose rub from The Honest Co., which was almost out, so I researched and made some for one of his gifts, along with a homestead-related book, and the one gift he had asked for.  Strange days to have a birthday, but I decorated with balloons and birthday swags, and picked colorful papers to wrap his gifts. J planted red noodle beans, and created a bed for the tomatoes, one for sunflowers and other plants, and another we're going to try peanuts in.

I planted two celery ends in the garden, and fertilized the peas, potatoes, rhubarb, garlic and some strawberries with old chicken manure.  Then I cleaned out the chicken coop, the first time since the fall that I removed everything, as I use the deep litter method through the cold months. Three wheelbarrows were hauled out, and added to the manure pile.  Fresh mint was pulled from areas it was encroaching around the garden edge, and added to the nest boxes and floor.  Lemon balm was gathered, and dried for tea.  I am enjoying using my homemade toothpaste, and am really liking the flavor.  A dish with our sweet potatoes was made, using sorghum and sesame seeds.  I was in the mood for baked pancakes, aka dutch babies Sunday morning.  I don't eat them often, and they hit the spot.  One of my goals during these days is to spend some additional time in spiritual pursuits.  I've managed two or three days a week, which is less than daily, but more than it had been, so that's a plus.

Many swallowtails are fluttering around, and several were on one of the plum trees.  I saw our first hummingbird at the feeder Sunday morning.  A new plant dye experiment was begun, using avocado pits.  So far, it looks very unimpressive.  The directions said to add 5-8 avocado pits, which would turn the water deep red.  So far, I've added 22 pits, with some color to show for it, but not deep red.  Well, I suppose that's why it's an experiment.  It needs to sit overnight, then the fabric can be added.  Maybe the sitting will intensify the color.  I'll report back on progress.  The peas are blooming, potatoes are sprouting, and there are tiny peaches and nectarines on the trees.  I have high hopes for this year's garden.  What interests are you pursuing these days?