Monday, May 25, 2020

To Do Lists & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  With cloudy, cooler and rainy days in the forecast, I moved the house plants from the great room and bedroom out on the porch, and will move them onto the plant stand in the next day or two.  Some things were put in the ground that I started from seed, including nettle leaved mullein, and harlequin livingstone daisies.  I pulled a bag of our lima beans from the freezer, and we had them with mashed potatoes and broccoli salad.  Homemade blueberry pancakes were pulled from the freezer. I enjoyed them with jam for breakfast.  J's favorite way to eat peas is "peas and pastry", which he had as a kid.  I made them, along with roasted asparagus, a nice spring on the homestead meal.  My Mom's ricotta pie was made for dessert.  I'm enjoying roasting and baking while we still have some cool days.  I shelled the peas while watching youtube episodes of Deep South Homestead and Off Grid with Doug & Stacy.

Our first service berries
Each day, I've collected mock strawberries and greens for the chickens.  One day, I gave them a small amount of leftovers that were a little older than we'd like to eat.  M gave me a washable fabric mask he'd been given.  After a six pack of dental floss hadn't arrived five days after promised, I contacted the seller, who told me it seemed to be lost, to keep it if it showed up, and they refunded me.  Well, it did show up a couple of days later, so free dental floss!  Just before shelter at home started, I purchased paint for our bedroom and great room.  J began mudding the needed places on Tuesday, did more and primed some places on Wednesday.  Several days ago, he requested spaghetti with olives and bread crumbs, a dish my Mom shared with me, and I made that Wednesday, along with a kale salad, which used the last of our kale.  I finished moving all the house plants out to the porch, and planted stevia and all this winter's amaryllis in the ground.

While J was working on mudding, sanding and priming, I tackled a project that's been on my list for a while. While at the coast last September, I found a watercolor painting I liked for $5, and a wood frame for $5, which I preferred to the metal frame the painting was in.  To fit the other frame, though, I needed to trim the mat quite a bit.  My preference would have been to not cut the mat down, but having a nice piece of art for $10 won out.  Once the house painting is done, I'll play with a new arrangement for all the floral paintings.  It seems like I had just canned broth, but between the asparagus ends and pea pods, along with all the usual, I already had almost 3 gallons of vegi scraps.  With the cool, rainy days, I decided to can broth, and have another 9 1/2 pints to add to the pantry.  With all the garden we've planted, I expect to be canning plenty during the hot summer, so this is one less thing to can during the heat.  A bonus is a bit more room in the freezer.

I went through swagbucks for a purchase.  It was only for 1% cash back, but it all adds up.  The painting job was hard work, for both of us, but especially for J, working many hours up and down the ladder.  Every piece of furniture had to be moved away from the walls, or into another room.  And everything in the rooms had to be cleaned.  Some of it needed it anyway, but after getting covered with powder from sanding, it all did.  Ah well, it's a good spring cleaning, and will feel nice for a little while.  When we attempted to turn on the a/c, it did not come on.  Though it was warm (mid-80's outside), we mostly turned it on to help dry the paint.  J brought the dehumidifier up from the basement, and we also had a fan blowing.  It's been very humid, with rain most evening or nights.  Thankfully, the forecast is for temps in the 70's for a few days.  Hopefully, we can get the a/c fixed before it's really needed.

I gathered seeds, which were a mix of kale and turnips.  As difficult as it's been to buy seeds this year, I want to be mindful of saving what I can.  The first two tomato plants have blooms, which is one step closer to fruits.  With the kitchen being part of what we've been painting, meals had to be simple for a few days.  One day, we had egg salad sandwiches and waldorf salad.  Another day we had vegi "chik" patties with fries and baked beans.  On Sunday, I made pasta salad and a green salad, using up most of the beautiful local bibb lettuce.  I gathered a sprig of basil to go in the pasta salad.  I washed all the rugs I pulled out of the rooms that were being painted.  They were hung on the line to dry.  My spring allergies have really kicked in.  I'm thankful for homemade nettle tincture, which I take several times a day.  Of course, part of it may be all the dust in the house from mudding and sanding, but it helps me breathe easier in any case.

All of the house plants were moved on to the plant stand for the warmer months.  Well, all but the biggest plants, like lemons and avocado, which I'll probably needs J's help with.  They're happy on the porch for now.  We're getting a serious rain as I type this.  I did some weeding in the carrot patch this evening, but the mosquitoes convinced me to go back inside.  Photos were taken of two items for ebay.  Some peas were harvested, but it looks like they will soon be done.  Eggs were gathered, and more suet made for the birds.  They are going through it in record time.  Orders continue coming to both my online shops, and I feel blessed.  The governor said last week that massage therapists may return to work, with stipulations.  Many of the Hospice employees continue to work from home, so it may be a while before that resumes.  Wishing you a peaceful Memorial Day.

Monday, May 18, 2020

May Blooms & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Monday evening, we again covered everything up, due to a frost warning.  It didn't appear we got any, but it's worth it not to lose future food.  On an evening walk last week, I spotted a new to me frog.  It was sitting right on the path, and I was afraid the dogs might walk on it, so I picked it up and set it on a nearby tree branch.  The next morning, I found it happily sitting several feet away on the same tree.  For the first time, I redeemed cash back on a credit card, for $31.98.  I did pay off each bill early, and incurred no debt, so it was a good experiment.  A pan of dried bread ends was ground into bread crumbs and frozen.  I thinned all the fruit trees as far as I could reach with a ladder.  A new sweet potato recipe was tried while we still had a few.  It was good, a nice change, and beautiful to boot.

A code for $15 off courses for massage CEU's was used.  As we're still mostly sheltering at home in NC, the board is making an exception this year, letting us get all our hours online, which is several hundred dollars in savings from live classes.  It won't be the same as hands on learning, but I'm thankful they made this provision at this time.  I froze the last of a bottle of apple juice, for 2 future batches of granola, so I won't have to buy more just for 1/4 c of juice.  J asked me to freeze some of our eggs, instead of giving quite so many away.  He eats 4 scrambled for breakfast, so I froze 2 pucks of 4, and individual ones in a muffin tin.  With research, I learned that some salt (or sugar) helps keep the yolk more like fresh, which has a tendency to get rubbery.  I froze the first 4 whole, but then learned it's best to mix them first.  A batch of yogurt was made.

Weeks ago, I started four o'clocks with seeds shared by a friend.  They were big enough to be put in the ground, so I did that on a cloudy cool evening.  We got a little shower that night, which was perfect.  Another friend had given me zebra hollyhock seeds, which I planted last year.  This week, it started blooming.  J had an online Dr's appointment, which saved gas and risk.  We got the summer sheets down from the attic, now that the nights are in the 50's and above.  I created three more sheet sets.  With the linens all being second hand, some become threadbare and tear each year, so I enjoy mixing and matching, and putting new sets together.  My summer clothes were taken down too, and the clothes swapped out.  Sweet potato was grated for a few of the pups dinners.  I took the recyclables to the dump.

I've been keeping alfalfa sprouts in constant rotation, to supplement any lettuce we have.  All laundry was hung on the line.  We did get a surprise shower one night, but the laundry was dry the next afternoon.  I made two salad dressings.  I t looks like we are finally done with needing heat.  I've been opening windows every chance I get, but need to be closing up during the day soon.  Of the recently gifted foods, I've been using blueberries in my oatmeal, goat cheese in fritters and pasta sauce, and made a cobbler with the apples.  The pasta sauce used our fresh peas, and called for boursin cheese, which I made using our herbs and the goat cheese.  I enjoyed watching Call the Midwife online, and continue online guitar lessons and spiritual classes.

I'm starting to miss the discount grocery store, and the local thrift stores.  I expect the grocery store is open, but I've been shopping minimally, and not quite ready to venture there yet to look for bargains.  A batch of hummingbird food was made, as well as lemon iced tea (lemon balm, lemongrass, lemon verbena) with local honey.  Speaking of hummingbird food, in the last week or so, I've had a squirrel jump on and start sucking on the feeder like a bottle.  It's broken all the little spots where the hummingbirds can stand.  I am not happy about this.  We moved the feeder to a different spot, and I rigged up a way to pull it farther from any poles or trees.  The sad thing is I can no longer see the feeder at the kitchen sink, because of a tree in between.  I wouldn't have believed it without seeing it... several times.  Crazy squirrels.

walking onions
I believe I forgot to mention last week that we started up the solar hot water, now that the freezing temps are behind us.  I went through swagbucks for a needed business purchase, for 4% back, and went through The Prudent Homemaker's site to buy a birthday gift on amazon, so she will make a tiny commission.  Swagbucks were redeemed for a $25 gift card.  One of my local potter friends put up a post that she had veggies and plants to share.  I went by there and bought a beautiful bibb lettuce, and parsley, basil and echinacea plants.  Her prices are already very low (ie: $2 for a 4 pack), and she always seems to throw extras in.  This time, I got four free yellow pepper plants, a mystery butterfly plant, and an extra echinacea.  Everything I've gotten from her in the past was beautiful and healthy.  I'm so happy she is again sharing her bounty.  Bonus is she's only 8 mins away, which is close, when you live out in the boonies like we do.

Our first amaryllis is blooming.  The birds are really going through the suet, and another batch was made.  Instead of fritters, this time I made fried rice with leftovers and bits that needed using... chard stems, broccoli stems, leftover cauliflower, and a carrot.  It was good.  With a return to temps in the 80's, I open lots of windows in the morning, and close the house as it warms up.  Though it was 86 on Saturday, doing this kept the house cool enough where we did not have to turn on the a/c.  I'm hoping to keep it off as long as possible.  J planted the basil and peppers in the garden.  I sold an item on ebay.  The gifted milkweed were planted, as well as the nasturtiums I started from seed.  We worked on a bunch of orders over the weekend.  I'm looking forward to cooler temps and some rain this week.  Wishing you a most pleasant week.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Peas, Bees & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, though the kale is flowering, I was able to harvest enough tender leaves for one more salad, and then J pulled up all but three plants, and gave them to the chickens.  The remaining three are for seed saving.  I'm happy to report seven chard plants are up as I type this (update: 14 on Sunday!), and many little parsley too.  I made fritters to use up some leftovers; this time, black beans, asparagus, and autumn succotash.  Oregano was harvested for roasted potatoes.  Episodes of Call The Midwife were enjoyed, and another free Kindle book was read.  The hawthorn I planted years ago is finally big enough to flower.  The haws or berries support heart health, so it's a good plant to have around as we age.  It is susceptible to cedar rust, and we have many cedars, so I'll keep my fingers crossed.  The black currants have put forth new growth.  One in particular is looking happy.

I've been saving up peas for at least a week, so I could make Fresh Pea Soup, which is the main reason I grow peas.  It is so amazingly good.  I doubt we'll have enough asparagus to make soup, as I need 2#, so I'm glad I was able to make at least one of my favorite spring soups.  The chives and the dill in the basket were harvested for the soup.  I'm not getting a lot of anything right now.  There were 4 asparagus and 4 more eggs from the morning, but it all adds up.  The eggs are bountiful, and I do share those as I can.  While I shelled peas for the soup, I watched youtube videos from a girl in calico and fairyland cottage.  I made a loaf of bread.  There was no ww flour ground, so I mixed in some oats, cornmeal, and ground some flax to go with the unbleached flour.  It turned out well.  I ordered a pair of shoes at 75% off.  J has been transplanting all the volunteer tomato plants he sees in the garden.  I received a $50 check from my car insurance company, due to COVID-19.

Miner bees next to the pond.  If you look close, you can see several flying.
When I was at the dentist last week, I asked how many more teeth I had with amalgam.  It turned out there was just one more.  It happened to be next to the tooth he was working on, and he said he would do it for free.  That was a real savings, as they charge a $300 fee each time they remove mercury fillings, for all the fancy equipment they have to do it safely, and I expect a hazmat fee added in.  As a thank you, I sent several of my soaps to the dentist, as well as one to his assistant.  Hummingbird food was made.  As we've got more garden planted and less wild areas this year, I've begun collecting dandelion greens to add to the lambs quarter.  I have a goal to create a separate area for the lambs quarter.  It's such a tasty, nutritious and reliable wild food here.  Purslane is beginning to pop up.  I munched on some while working in the garden.

Our anniversary was Thursday.  I asked J what he'd like for dinner and dessert.  He decided that pulling some things from the freezer was a good idea, and I had to agree.   I made eggplant parmesan with our frozen eggplant slices, pasta, and apple carrot zucchini bread with our tromboncino squash.  Though the lettuce is bolting, I'm picking small amounts if it passes the taste test.  J sprayed the fruit trees with an organic spray.  Bird suet was made.  I'm still using the dehydrated canning leavings from last year, tomato skins and bits, and berry seeds and bits.  Here's the basic recipe I use.  I baked 5 of our sweet potatoes.  There are enough left for one more round, then that's it until the fall, when we'll hopefully have plenty harvested.  Saturday night was forecast to freeze, so we scrambled getting everything tender covered, with tarps, buckets, boxes, canning jars and anything else we could come up with.

Thankfully, the weather forecasters were wrong this time, and we skated by without a freeze.  We're grateful, as we sure have a lot of tender things planted at this point.  A batch of yogurt was made.  On Sunday, J & I put up twine for the beans.  It always reminds me of what I've seen of football practice, passing the ball of twine back and forth, over and under the horizontal strings.  While weeding the carrots, I was very excited to find two basil volunteers, which were transplanted to a raised bed.  Basil has been one of the challenging plants this year, with a couple of the seedlings dying, and the others just languishing at the same size.  I need to put fertilizing them on my to do list this week.  J has come up with plans for a structure to protect our corn from hungry critters, and for moving our original cold frame, which is now too shaded, to the lower end of the pond garden, and making it more user friendly for us.  A pan of egg shells was crushed and added to the compost bin. As our state was slightly easing restrictions Friday night, I went grocery shopping earlier in the day.  Like last time, I got all on my list except a couple of produce items.  All is well on the homestead.  I hope it's well where you are too.

Monday, May 4, 2020

May Days & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Merry May to you!  Last week, I harvested nettles, and began a quart of tincture.  Some paperwork was gone through, and shredded paper added to the compost bin.  All laundry was hung on the line.  Yogurt was made.  I was happy to see chard sprouts up, from the pots I recently seeded, though the chard I planted in the garden weeks ago still hasn't sprouted.   I do sometimes chop swiss chard stems in with the leaves when cooking, but I often end up picking around them because I really prefer the leaves.  I often chop the stems into the dogs dinner, or sometimes just compost them.  Not long ago, I saw a mention of a recipe just for them.  Though I couldn't find that one again, I found something better, 8 Ways to Use Swiss Chard Stalks.  There are a few I want to try.  I want to make good use of the plants without wasting a thing.  Maybe you do too?  I tried new recipes for chickpea curry and garlic naan that we both liked.  I had to switch up some of the seasonings due to J's allergies, but it worked well. 

I recently came across this dogwood canning jar, and as that's our state flower, I thought it was pretty special.  Last year, two people offered me canning jars, so it must have come from one of them.  I love it when I find an old or unusual one to use.  A new recipe for shortbread was tried.  This one incorporated our hazelnuts, so I first shelled 1/2 c of nuts.  Though I've never before met a shortbread I didn't like, this one was not a keeper, sad to say.  I worked on taking pics of some items for ebay.   Cat brier tips were foraged, and the first lambs quarter of the year too.  I harvested swiss chard, and added the lambs quarter and a few nettle tips to the dish for added nutrition.  Parsley was harvested for potato salad.  So far, I've not had luck getting parsley to germinate this year.  I heavily reseeded a third round, and hope to have success.  I separated beet seedlings which came up together, and had enough to fill in all the bare spots, and then some.  Peppers are another challenging plant this year, so I planted another round of three varieties.  Our peanuts are coming up nicely.

There was a pretty special moment with a coyote last week.  I know they're powerful animals, but this wasn't scary.  During our morning walk, the pups got to the end of our path, took off and began barking at the woods edge of the hay field..  When they were already a few yards away, a young coyote leaped up 5 yards in front of me in the tall grass, looked straight at me with surprise and a playful look, turned around and began leaping away from me across the hay field.  Thankfully, the pups and the coyote never crossed paths.  I imagine it found a nice spot for a nap, and the pups barking disturbed it.  The grass was tall enough that we never would have known it was there.  Perhaps my morning prayers for safety for all of us helped it turn out with the most benevolent of outcomes. 

I'm feeling very thankful to continue getting online orders.  Last week, customers let me know my soap and body care products were a part of birthday and Mother's Day celebrations.  It's a true honor to get to play a small part in loving celebrations.  I tried adding leftover sweet potato to my oatmeal for the first time, along with walnuts, and it was very good.  I'm happy to know of another way to use the leftovers.  The solitary bees are back at the pond's edge.  I finally used the last of the kale in a salad.  Four more items were listed on ebay.  Our eggs, sweet pepper and parsley were used to make quiche.  I went to the grocery store for the first time in three weeks.  No sales were found, but I was able to get all but a couple of things on my list, both produce items.  I gave myself a pedicure, and took the first outdoor shower of the year, as Sunday was in the mid 80's.  It was lovely.  Be well, friends.