Monday, August 31, 2020

Pears, Caterpillars & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, I made green salads using our pears, and made pear vinaigrette for them.  A batch of chanterelle mushrooms was sauteed in ghee and frozen.  I harvested cucumbers, red noodle beans, a few tomatoes and pole beans, an eggplant, pawpaws, pears, figs, apples, peppers and hazelnuts.  I found a watermelon that had started rotting on one end.  When I cut into it,  it was a yellow melon.  Though not fantastic, the heart tasted pretty good, so I saved that for us, and gave the rest to the chickens.  I'm gathering pear recipes, and decided to use some of the bounty as gifts.  I made two batches of low-sugar cranberry pear jam, which perfectly used up all the ripe pears at that time.  I started a jar of fruit scrap vinegar with the skins and cores.  The vinegar I've made in the past has been weak.  This recipe is a bit different, so I'm hoping for better results.  A meals worth of lambs quarter was blanched and frozen.

I invited M to dinner one night, and his request was for whatever was fresh, so I made a green bean casserole, sauteed squash with sweet onion and basil, and caprese salad.  The apples are piling up, so I decided to work with some of the smallest ones, many with bad spots.  All that could went through the apple peeler/corer, but many had to be hand peeled.  With this batch, I decided the easiest thing would be to steam them in the Mehu Liisa, to get any juice, then put them through the strainer for applesauce.  There wasn't a lot of juice, only 1/2 pint.  I'll decide next time, if I want to skip that step.  I canned the juice and eight 4 oz. jars of applesauce.  They weren't the best quality apples, and rather bland, so I added lemon juice and honey to perk it up.  I brought the leavings out to the chickens, who scarfed them up.  I shelled some noodle beans for seed, and have them drying in a pan.  

Laundry was hung on the line.  Two items were hand washed, and hung on the line.  After delivering soap, I made quick runs to two nearby thrift stores, and a food co-op in that town.  I didn't get much, but found a rug and a pretty divided file folder for $1 ea., and got a handful of groceries.  After grabbing some lunch at home, I headed to our local community.  I bartered soap for a replacement pump for my soap dispenser, and was given a pot of Korean chives.   Noodle beans and cucumbers were shared with her, as well as another friend, who also was given pawpaws.  It's always nice to share the bounty.  I saw many black swallowtail caterpillars on the celery, and a few more on the carrots.  With over thirty milkweed plants, I only saw two monarch caterpillars.  I hope there will be more.

J has been hard at work on the chicken coop addition and renovation.  By Saturday, he had put in the new nest boxes, and torn out the old.  A new roosting pole was in place. It's taking shape very nicely, and should make collecting eggs and clean up much easier.  The girls are taking to it just fine.  Chanterelles and lambs quarter were foraged.  Orders were powder coated on Sunday.  A watermelon was cut up, and the rinds given to the chickens.  A batch of Pumpkin Chai soap was made, using some homegrown pumpkin.  It's beginning to smell like autumn around here, though we've still got temps in the 90's some days this coming week.  Summer hasn't left us yet.    Enjoy these days, friends.  

Monday, August 24, 2020

August Days & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  On Monday, J's business partner took the day off, which meant the shop wasn't off limits.  I painted orders, then drilled holes in a canister lid, which I turned into a compost crock for my shop.  That night's dinner was mostly from our garden, with caprese salad, asian cucumbers, and a squash dish with tomatoes, sweet onion and corn.  We've now gotten three fairy eggs.  I'm still thinking it's the one chick that hatched out this spring, but I've not seen her in the nest box, so am not totally sure.  This chick also shows rooster behavior, so we're rather confused.  I made a soap delivery, and figs were offered to me.  Most of the ones he picked were so underripe, they were hard.  I'm doubting they'll be good to eat, but I have them all on a platter to see if they'll ripen.  Whatever doesn't will probably go to the chickens.  Our local little grocery store had corn 3/.99.  While not a fantastic price, the corn was excellent, so I got 9 ears to freeze.  Before I got around to freezing the corn, I decided to use three ears in a corn zucchini chowder, which was very good.  The weather has cooled enough that we are able to open windows most nights, which makes us both happy.  

I made a veggie BLT with our tomato, but didn't have any lettuce, so subbed basil instead.  There was another nice flush of chanterelles this week.   I decided to make a pasta dish using some and our parsley, and it was delicious.  Another night, I made pizza using the chanterelles, our oregano, onion, peppers, tomatoes, along with olives and garlic.  I've had a sick hen for a couple of weeks.  Nursing chickens is hard for me, as they never seem to have the exact symptoms of anything, so it's always a guessing game.  I did a number of things to try and help her, but sadly, I found her dead on Saturday.  You're always close to the circle of life on a homestead.  My computer has been acting up, so I took it to town to be worked on.  When I arrived, the owner had run out to pick up parts, and would be gone about an hour and a half longer.  There are two thrift stores nearby that I hadn't been to this year, so I headed that way.  I found a number of treasures, including 4 shirts, a cardigan, merino sweater, three fleece vests and a pair of sneakers for around the homestead.  Both stores required masks and people mostly social distanced.  It did my heart good to do some thrifting!  Everything was washed, and dried on the line for two days.

Eggs were boiled for us and the pups.  I made egg salad for us, and used two of our apples in a salad.  More winter squash were gathered, as their vines had died.  All the squash this year are smaller than average, but there are enough of them that we'll still have plenty.  This bunch weighed in at over 11# of squash.  On Friday, I canned more tomato juice, and some jars that didn't seal the first time.  Everything was canned 25 minutes, as that was the highest time.  The tomato juice was the lowest, at 15 minutes, but it won't hurt it at 25 minutes, except possibly a slight loss in nutrition.  All the jars sealed this time.  I've been using a mishmash of lids, from various places.  I don't know if the lids were the problem with sealing, but I'm glad this round was a success.  I was happy to see bluebirds enjoying one of the bird baths.  Many figs have been enjoyed fresh.  I also made two loaves of fig bread with sherry, one to enjoy now, and one to freeze.  Oregano and lemon balm were gathered and dried.  On Friday morning, I noticed all the gifted figs sitting in a platter at room temp had turned into a science experiment.  Oh well, it will make good compost.

The migrating hummingbirds have arrived.   There are often four fighting it out at the feeder.  I hung a second feeder, so they can all get their fill before they head on their long journey.  The ants decided the inner rim of the bird food barrel was a good place for a nursery, as they did last summer.  I learned then that peppermint essential oil works to move them, so rubbed some anywhere they weren't on the rim, then put the soaked pad in the barrel.  The next day, they were gone.  J started on the chicken coop renovation.  It will enlarge the coop, keep the roosts in one area, and the nest boxes in another, which will help keep the eggs cleaner.  I will also have egg access from outside the coop, which is how the first coop on this land was set up.  That's a really nice feature, especially nice on mucky days.  I enjoyed watching a squirrel devour a large mushroom near our porch.  The purchased corn was blanched and frozen.  I made hummus for lunch on Saturday, and cut up our cucumbers and peppers to enjoy it with.  Our pawpaws are just beginning to come in.  I enjoyed one in a fruit salad, and another in a smoothie.  Our figs were used in both as well.

On Sunday, J found a hornworm on a tomato plant.  When we started looking, we found lots of them, 9 in all I believe.  The chickens enjoyed them for a snack.  I finally got to cleaning and winnowing the greens seeds we'd saved.  First was a mix of kale and turnip seeds.  Next was what J thinks was collard seeds.  We both need to work on labeling things.  That's the turmeric in the right side of the photo.  I fertilized the pomegranates, olives, cherry tree, and a few other random things.  Earlier in the week, I harvested two potato plants whose tops had died.  There weren't a lot of potatoes, but a few more than what were planted, which is a plus.  We staked and tied up all our eggplant and a little volunteer tomato.  For dinner, I made pasta sauce with our eggplant, tomatoes, tromboncino, basil and rosemary.  At the weekend's start, we were all caught up with orders, and grateful to have time to work on some of our chores and projects.  Of course,  we're also grateful for the orders we received over the weekend.  It's all good, and always keeps life interesting.  Wishing you an interesting and abundant week, friends.

Monday, August 17, 2020

A Proper Summer & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope you've had a good week.  Last week, I went through Swagbucks for 6% back on a purchase of business cards.  I drove a friend to an appointment.  While waiting in my car, I read one of my free Kindle books.  He is given $60 by the VA for travel (it's 1.5 hrs each way), and he passed that on to me.  Just last week, someone asked my favorite melon, and I replied honeydew, though they are rare to find in this area.  On the way home, I stopped at a co-op on the route, and they had honeydew melons!  Though not cheap at $4.99, I bought one, and it was delicious.  I saved seeds, which we can hopefully get to grow here.  We have melon challenges here, with watermelons in particular ending up a teardrop shape, and rotting.  We'll keep building up the soil, and hoping.  With our beets and one of our apples, I made apple beet salad.  I used our noodle beans, red onion and thyme in a roasted bean dish.  Our asian cucumbers and sliced tomato rounded out the menu. 

I boiled eggs for the pups.  J cut up a watermelon, and gave the chickens the rinds.  A bin of shredded paper and cardboard were added to the compost bin.  Dried lemon verbena, oregano and thyme were added to jars.  More chanterelle mushrooms were harvested.  Those that weren't eaten were dried.  Garden harvests last week included tromboncino squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, noodle beans, lima beans, apples, pears, figs, hazelnuts, basil, chives, and spaghetti squash.  I canned tomato juice, tromboncino squash, and tomatoes.  With the latest recommendations being 85-90 minutes, depending on who you read, to water bath tomatoes, I have been pressure canning them instead, at 25 mins. per quart.  The tomato skins were dehydrated, along with some extra chives.  The extra tomato juice from canning tomatoes was strained and saved in the fridge.  I used homegrown dried mint in a batch of peppermint, rosemary and eucalyptus soap.  A small amount of lemon balm was harvested and dried for teas.  

Our tomatoes, cucumber, basil and oregano were used in a pasta salad, along with black and green olives and hemp seed.  A tomato pie was made, with our tomatoes and herbs.   The pups were given chopped veggies with their dinners, whatever needed using.  It varied from cucumbers, beans that are a bit mature, tomatoes, carrots with wireworm damage, and squash.  I cut back on their kibble a little when they get their veggies.  While J was in our local community, he picked up a library book for me, saving me the trip.  I mailed a check for deposit, as we weren't sure when we'd be in town again.  It's worked well several times while we've been in lockdown.  On Friday, I went through our winter squash patch.  There were several dead vines, and I ended up harvesting 14 squash of different varieties.  Batches of yogurt and hummingbird food were made.

Fritters were made with leftover squash and green beans, and frozen corn. Our pears are abundant this year.  I used one in broccoli salad.  Most are the cooking type, so they'll be put in storage until I can figure out what to do with them.  I picked a basket full most days.  I'm thinking of dehydrating some of them for snacks.  There was a gift I needed to deliver, for a friend's son's wedding.  While there, we went on a glorious boat ride.  The day started cloudy, but ended up being gorgeous, and much cooler than it's been.  There's something so soothing about being at the water.  Perhaps it's in my genes.  My Dad was a Navy man, and I grew up on Long Island.  My paternal grandmother lived on a tiny Irish island, and my Italian maternal grandparents and Irish grandfather all lived close to the sea before emigrating.  All I know is it feels like a proper summer, now that I've had a boat ride.  

Monday, August 10, 2020

Small Visitors & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Monday morning, before the rains of Isaias arrived, I picked the garden.  In addition to the vegetables, I cut a good amount of basil to freeze for winter use.  As the weather was cooling off, I thought it would be a good day to can, and canned summer squash first, then noodle beans.  I strained the stevia extract I made on Saturday.  It's not as sweet as store bought, but it doesn't take much, so I will just add more drops as needed.  While the canner was going, I went through a pile of magazines.  Some will be shared with a friend; the rest will be brought to the library to share when they open again.  After supper, I chopped the basil, put it in ice cube trays and covered with water.  When I need some this winter, I can just add a cube or two to the pot.  Thyme was harvested, and dried for winter use.  We ended up getting between 2 1/4 & 2 1/2" of rain from Isaias, and temps lowered to the upper 80's for a few days.  Both are welcome.  Last week, I found a fairy egg, which has me believing one of the spring chicks is a hen, which I'd been thinking.  Even though she is a huge hen, she doesn't have quite the comb that the boys do.  Hooray for that.  Now, what to do with those two boys.  

I read about a challenge, called "Every Little Bit Counts", the idea being to put something up every day, even if it's just drying a few greens for smoothies.  This year especially, it seems wise.  Are you doing anything different, as far as preserving foods this year?  Along with walnuts, I enjoyed our blueberries and first figs in oatmeal twice.  Two meals worth of butter beans were blanched and frozen.  I weeded and thinned the carrots, and used the thinnings with ghee, local honey and basil for a dinner.  A friend mentioned eggplant and potatoes not long ago, which I'd never had.  I found a recipe for eggplant, potatoes & tomatoes, which was good, but took a good hour of prep time for me, rather than the promised 20 minutes.  I'll look for a new recipe.  I was looking forward to a few bunches of concord grapes this year.  They'd begun ripening, and when I went out one morning, I saw many missing grapes.  McNibs has been eating them where they fall underneath the plants (I know dogs are not to eat grapes, but he does it every year, and it doesn't seem to harm him), so it may have been him that actually plucked them off the plants, as when I went out that evening after canning all day, most of the rest were gone, so that pretty much rules out a possum or raccoon.  The grapes are next to a patch of elderberries, which the birds love to hang out in, so maybe they were at least partly to blame.  Oh well, there's always next year. 

A goal was to have at least 52 quarts of tomatoes on the shelf by end of summer, one for each week of the coming year.  I just barely achieved that on Wednesday.  We've had years when there was little to none to put up, only some for fresh eating, so if I can put even more up, I'll be thankful.  Quite a few of the tomato plants are dead or dying, and none set fruit recently, with temps in the 90's.  I'm hoping now that it's cooling off, some of the plants will get a second wind.  We have to keep McNibs out of the garden, or he will help himself to tomatoes too.  Guinness comes in with me each morning when I'm picking, and both get a cherry tomato.  We've got several little melons on the vine, and one that's 8" long.  A pan of egg shells was crushed, and added to the compost bin.  When we picked our first round of corn, there were quite a few tiny ears, 2-3" long.  We didn't want to mess with them for fresh eating, but the Seneca Sunrise corn we're growing is also said to make nutty, sweet cornmeal.  I pulled and shucked those ears, and they're finishing drying in the house.  

I went to town on Friday, picked up a book at the library, ran a few errands and got groceries.  More jasmine rice and black beans were bought at Aldi's, helping us stock up a bit more.  I decided to run into Marshall's for the first time this year.  Besides getting some more of the honey I've enjoyed from there, I bought a few little things for J and the pups for Christmas, my first holiday shopping.  As rarely as I'm going into anything but grocery stores, I thought I should get these items while there.  I also found a lovely rose colored linen shirt on clearance there for $10.  I found yeast at Food Lion, with a few other items, and got a $5 reward off my purchase.  Daisy recently spoke about a watermelon experiment she tried, to keep it fresh longer.  I tried it too, and it works really well.  The garden is slowing down.  The summer squash plants are dying, except for the tromboncino.  The noodle beans and cucumbers are still going strong, and I'm harvesting a few apples, figs and the first hazelnuts.

There are nine lettuce growing, from the seeds I planted a few weeks ago.  I sowed more seeds.  The peppers are finally beginning to ripen.  I juiced 6 quarts of small and cherry tomatoes, which I plan to can early next week.  I recanned several jars that didn't seal the first time.  Two tomatoes didn't seal again.  I should have thrown away the lids the first time, I suppose.  One jar was used in pasta sauce for a dinner.  I plan to use the other in soup.  I harvested basil and oregano to use in our sauce.  Elderberries were gathered and cleaned, and another pint of tincture was started.  I'll probably leave the rest for the birds.  Laundry was hung on the line to dry.  I went through Brandy's website for an amazon purchase, and through swagbucks for 2% back for a couple of items for the business.  A bouquet was gathered for the house.  

There were several little visitors last week.  The tiny, green moth was rescued from the bathroom.  Just about every day, I see a praying mantis on one of the butterfly bushes, while I'm checking for Japanese beetles.  Thankfully, their numbers are dwindling.  We shared cucumbers, beans and a tomato with our son.  I added a shirt to the donate pile.  Last week, I had major issues with my computer.  It took many hours to fix, but it seems to be working OK now.  Our new gas oven isn't adjusted properly.  The last time I tried to use it, there were flames shooting up.  Folks from the gas company are coming out to work on it.  2020 has surely been an interesting year so far.  Be well, and have a lovely week.   

Monday, August 3, 2020

Even the Bees Make Pots & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope your July was as good as it could be, in these interesting times.  Last week, I harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, tromboncino squash, red noodle and pole beans, apples, lima beans, eggplant, carrots, beets, and lambs quarter.  I canned tomatoes twice, juiced cherry tomatoes, and dehydrated tomato skins for bird suet.  Hopi dye sunflower seedheads, dyer's coreopsis, black eyed susan and dyer's chamomile flowers were gathered for future dyeing adventures.  I gathered lactarius indigo mushrooms.  It's said they get buggy quickly, which I found was the case.  I saved the good bits to dry and composted the rest.  I gathered chanterelles several days, and dried any that didn't make it into a breakfast scramble.

After an appointment, I headed to a nearby thrift store,  I didn't find any of the things I was looking for, but did spend .75 for two napkins and a greeting card.  I then headed to Food Lion, where the pup's dogfood was still $3 off, and seedless watermelons were $3.99.  I caught a $3 overcharge on some local honey, which they corrected.  Meals this week included asian cucumbers, zucchini frittata, zucchini tots, garlicky green beans, and sauteed squash with sweet onion and basil.  I redeemed swagbucks for a $25 amazon gift card.  While in the garden this week, hummingbirds and a praying mantis kept me company while I picked. 

Not frugal for us, but after a number of inquiries about our old stove, which J listed for $50, he ended up giving it to a man that showed up.  Laundry was hung on the line.  Beet, carrot and flower beds were weeded.  I blanched and froze one meal of lambs quarters and two of lima/butter beans.  I found a branch from our oldest pear with lots of pears on the ground, we assume from squirrel activity.  It's getting close to when they begin to ripen, so I gathered up the good ones.  Lima beans were harvested again.  After cleaning and powder coating orders on Saturday, I made hummus and cut up cucumbers for our lunch.  While in the garden one day, I noticed these pots made by some sort of bee on the tromboncino trellis.  How cool, and perfect for the pottery community I live in.  Update: a friend shared info on the potter wasp.  

More elderberries were harvested, which finished filling a jar of tincture.  I also harvested lemon verbena, which is drying for tea, and stevia. In the past, I've dried stevia, but this year, I'm trying an extract.  I tried a new recipe, for Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil.  It sounded like summer to me, and fit the bill.  On an evening walk, I was happy to notice honeybees working wild sumac flowers along our path.  I'm amazed at how quickly our new oven pre-heats.  It takes maybe three minutes, and used to take 40 minutes or so.  Hard to imagine.  We knew our oven was on it's way out for a while.  This will save so much time and gas!  Much of the oregano is flowering, but I was able to harvest enough to fill a pie tin, which is drying for winter use.  J harvested some of our second round of corn.  The Japanese beetles have been eating the silks, so I was afraid it wouldn't amount to much, but they were mostly filled out.  We enjoyed it with some sliced tomatoes, and the leftover pasta.  Homemade ice cream is on the menu too; toasted almond this time.  Ah, summer days.  Wishing you a week of seasonal pleasures, friends.