Monday, September 28, 2020

A Coastal Getaway & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week,  J & I had our annual trip to the coast.  I brought food for all our breakfasts, all but one lunch and half of our dinners.  We did pick up a handful of items at the store when we arrived, to supplement.  The first few days were chilly and quite windy, so a lot of reading was done, and of course we thrifted while there.  J found 6 pairs of work pants, including several brand new ones, and some great shirts, including a like new Woolrich flannel, as well as a beer making kit.  I found a skirt, two dresses, two shirts, a cashmere sweater ($2.99), and five canisters to turn into compost crocks.  The skirt was silk and linen, and one of the shirts was 100% linen.  I think they were $3 ea.  I also got a few sewing supplies, and three cotton sheets.  We'll use one, and the other two are for dyeing projects.  I returned to a pet store where I'd gotten the pups Gorilla chews last year.  They were a big hit, the chews were significantly less than amazon, I expect due to shipping costs, and I was able to support a local business.  They lasted many months, which is saying something with McNibs, so I was happy to find them again.  Next door to the shop was an antique store, where I found a glass refrigerator dish for $10.  I've almost replaced all my plastic food storage dishes now.

We just love our little getaway, which sits in the maritime forest.  That's the view outside our door, with the ocean beyond, and there's an ocean view from our balcony.  After we got home, I picked 25 figs, 5 eggplant, and a few other odds and ends.  I'd asked J for sweetfern plants for my birthday, which came while we were gone.  Over the weekend, we got them in the ground, along with plants we heeled in in the spring, which were oregon grape, buttonbush, false indigo and a service berry.  We also moved a black currant and wild indigo which weren't happy, and transplanted a couple of hazelnut volunteers.  Hopefully, they'll all settle in well.  I found some more wild muscadines, and gathered them.  Some more eggplant, winter squash, tromboncino, figs, pears, a few tomatoes, and cucumbers were gathered, as well as the first of the black eyed peas.  Most of the fall garden is coming along nicely, but only one of the three varieties of lettuce germinated, in two different places.  None of the seeds were very old, so it's surprising.  That's gardening for you.  You just have to be grateful for the successes.  Two batches of cotton cloth were scoured and hung on the line, for future dye projects.  J caught up our laundry, after vacation, and hung it on the line.  Wild hickory nuts have been gathered on my wanderings.

In researching plantain seed, I learned it's related to psyllium, and has a laxative effect.  That's not needed in our household, so I'll probably feed it to the chickens over time.  I did end up finding a few dock seed heads, gathered them on a foggy morning, and hung them on a line under the porch, to dry a bit more, with a plan to grind them and try them as flour at some point.  Eggs were boiled for the pups.  For a dinner, I made focaccia, which used our rosemary.  I made some infused garlic oil to go on it, and added oil cured olives.  I gathered lettuce for a salad, added our cucumber, and a tomato we bought at an organic market at the beach.  I had two half lemons in the fridge, and leftover garlic oil, so decided to make salad dressing, with some added sour cream, mayonnaise, salt and pepper, loosely based on a recipe online.  It turned out pretty good, and used a few things that might have been wasted.  We've got two olive trees hanging on, from a start of 10 or so.  We decided to put large stones on the north side of them, for some protection from the cold and wind.  J moved the first stone with his tractor, and placed it.  Several of the Meyer lemon seeds sprouted, so I'll need to get them in soil soon.  I hope you're staying well, and enjoying these first few days of autumn as much as I am.  

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Last Days of Summer & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  After the morning walk on Monday, gathering what there was to be gathered, and packing orders, I harvested some more dye plants... sumac berries, tansy buttons, and poke berries.  I also harvested rushes at the pond, day flowers, orange morning glory, and smartweed.  Five bundles were prepped and steamed.  This time, after folding up the fabric, I used a hammer on it, as I was taught in a class I took a few years ago.  The results were a mix, with some pieces more colorful than others.  One of the pieces was one I had dyed with lichens previously, and it barely took on any new color.  But other pieces, ones previously dyed with onion skins and goldenrod, had some nice markings.  I'm having fun experimenting.  While I was looking for dye plants, I noticed our muscadine had several grape clusters, and they were ripe.  The vine was off my radar, as we've only gotten two or three grapes off it before this year, and it's not a place I usually walk this time of year.  I was happy to find them, filled my pockets, then came back with a basket.  Later that day, I noticed some nice wild purple ones, on my way to the mailbox, and harvested those too.  

A friend came by, our first visit in many months, and we had a nice, safe visit while pond sitting, until a black snake came moseying towards the pond, heading straight towards her.  Life in the country!  Pawpaws were shared with her, and homestead magazines.  She gifted me a bag of beautiful linens, including some from Germany.  Figs were chopped and frozen.  Squash was grated and frozen, and a squash shared with J's business partner.  I strained the rose and chocolate mint infused in coconut oil, and used some of both in a new batch of toothpaste.  I also added essential oils of peppermint and rose, and Ipsab.  I'm liking it.  A load of laundry was hung on the line.  A batch of golden paste was made for the pups.  Before our honeymoon to Italy, we'd read that bathroom facilities could be primitive in places.  We didn't find that to be the case where we traveled, but I'd bought a purse sized container of Poo-pourri to take along.  I was happy to find out this week that I could refill this container from a large one.

I'll soon be taking another road trip.  Part of my preparations are always making sure food doesn't go to waste.  I'd been saving a bag of fresh butter beans in the fridge.  Since J pulled up the vines, I went ahead and blanched and froze what I had.  The first butter peas were harvested, and the fresh ones were blanched and frozen; a pan of dried ones were shelled.  Somehow I'd forgotten that one or both of the lemons I started from seed were Meyer lemons.  I realized it while looking through the blog, trying to figure out exactly how I did it.   Before that, I saw some recently at the grocery store, and bought them.  They were zested, the juice saved, and a dozen seeds prepped for growing.  I only ended up with 1 1/4 lbs. of grapes, and wasn't sure what I was going to do with them, so I skinned and seeded them, and froze the skins and juice separately.  I canned another batch of pears for gifts; this time was pear port compote.  Sometimes the garden produce makes me laugh.

The pups were both given baths in the outdoor shower, using my handmade dog soap.  McNibs hadn't "agreed" to one this year yet, so this time I insisted.  One of the hospice nurses who was one of my massage clients contacted me last week, to buy some soap.  That was a lovely surprise.  I cleaned out the chicken coop, using the handy dandy new clean out door, and boy, did that make things easier for me.  Dog fennel was harvested, to add to the nest boxes, and for the floor under the roosts.  I got the garlic chive I was recently gifted in the ground on a rainy day.  A batch of yogurt was made.  While catching up on ironing, I enjoyed some simple living and homestead videos.  I used the last of our cabbage and our potatoes in colcannon.  J changed the oil and rotated the tires on my car.  Then my battery died, so it was replaced.  I made hummingbird food.

On Friday, sweet peppers were chopped and frozen.  All the eggplant was cut in slices, baked and frozen, for future eggplant parmesan.  Two winter squash were cut in cubes, and frozen.  One had a crack and the other was chewed on, so they wouldn't have stored well.  One of our pears was used in a green salad, with pear vinaigrette.  Leftovers were turned into fritters.  Some of our silly hens have not quite gotten used to the new nest boxes yet.  I've found eggs under the ramp into the coop, and one silly hen laid an egg from the roost.  Needless to say, it was smashed to smithereens.  At least the eggs seem to be picking up a bit again.  There were 5 a couple of days last week, up from the usual 2, or 3 on a good day.  I've brought them all sorts of goodies.. squash innards, a small cantaloupe that hadn't quite ripened, pepper seeds, wild grapes and greens.  A breakfast scramble was made, using our eggs, tomatoes, peppers, squash and lamb's quarter.

J noticed there were nights in the 40's, in the upcoming forecast.  We brought all the tender house plants indoors; the orchids, lemons, avocado, aloes, snake plant, jade plant, and corn plant.  It seems quite a bit earlier than usual.  A plus is we've got about half of that job done now.  The next morning, I found an anole on the bathroom wall.  She must have come in with the snake plant.  I got a large vase, J managed to get her in it, and transferred her outside.  I gave him a standing ovation :o).  A side of one of the dog beds was coming undone, and I mended it with heavy duty thread.  I recently saw a post about using dock seed for flour.  I didn't find any dock seed, maybe because I harvest so many of the leaves for the chickens, but I was able to harvest a good amount of plantain seed.  I'm thinking I'll research it while it dries a bit.  I believe I can substitute it, but if not, I'll use it to supplement the chickens feed.  While out of town, J & I stopped at a discount grocery we were passing by.  Unfortunately, there was very little food, though plenty of other stuff.  We picked up three items, and quickly were on our way.  The weather is turning cooler, just in time for the first days of fall.  Wishing you a lovely week, friends.

Monday, September 14, 2020

September Days & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  One day recently, during a pond sit, J & I were discussing all the wild dog fennel on the homestead, and wishing there was a use for it.  I did a bit of research, and found it can be used as an insect repellent, and well as a dye plant.  I gathered some, and put it in the hen's nest boxes.  It's soft and feathery, so I thought they might like it.  It turns out they do, or at least don't mind it, as they're laying eggs on it.  It also has a history of being used as a strewing herb, so I plan to use it in the chicken coop in that manner, both for insect control and aromatherapy.  How wonderful to find uses for something that is abundant here.  On Tuesday, I decided to take a day off from canning, and play with plant dyes.  It's very dry here, and I gathered what goldenrod I could find, but it wasn't a lot.  I've got fabric in it as I type, but it is not the brilliant yellow it was the last time I dyed with it.  I'm hoping the forecasted rain will encourage more to bloom.  

Next, I did my first experiment with eco-printing, and gathered dyer's coreopsis, beauty berry, dyer's chamomile, poke berry, raspberries that had dried on the vine, dog fennel, black-eyed susan, and a few sparkleberries, the majority of them still being green.  I decided to use the avocado-dyed cotton from my last dyeing adventure as the fabric.  J contributed pieces of stainless pipe to wrap the bundles on.  I hope it turns out well, as I have an idea for small gifts for the holidays using the fabric.  Several books were requested from the library.  I just finished reading The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, which was a very interesting read, based on a family that had a genetic mutation which made their skin blue.  From the garden, I harvested noodle beans, apples, pears, pawpaws, peppers.  Laundry was hung on the line to dry.  

For a dinner, we had our butter beans with jasmine rice, and asian cukes.  Both the goldenrod dye bath, and the eco-printing were underwhelming.  The dye bath only had maybe the slightest hint of yellow, unlike the last time.  There's a large patch that should soon be blooming, so I plan to try again with more plant material.  The eco-printing pieces are not bad, but had no definite flower or leaf shapes, which surprised me.  One of the bundles was too close to the water, and the colors were washed out.  A little more research is in order before I attempt it again.  I was excited to realize that some of the flowers in my birthday bouquet were safflowers, and look forward to trying them in my next attempt.  There are also sprigs of eucalyptus, also a dye plant.  With more pears that had ripened, I made a double batch of Amaretto pear preserves.  After cooking, I couldn't really discern the Amaretto, so think next time I would skip that expensive ingredient, and just use the optional almond extract.  Another jar of fruit scrap vinegar was started with the skins and bits. 

More dog fennel was added to the nest boxes.  That should help cut down on our hay use, as long as it lasts.  J dug post holes, and cemented in the posts for the two gates in our pond garden.   One day, I pulled nine tomato hornworms from the cherry tomato plants, which were given to the chickens.  I had just enough eggplant to make Pasta Norma, which also used our garlic, onions, basil, oregano and chives.  Last week, I worked at a gallery two days, the first time since February.  One of the mornings, not far from home, I passed a man on a cart, being pulled by mules.  Though I do enjoy a good adventure in the city, I'm awfully glad to live somewhere that has a slow enough pace to allow for mules and carts.  The roads here are hilly and curvy too, but rural enough to make it possible.  The second work day, I made several stops, to a thrift store, Food Lion, and a brand new Dollar Tree along the route.  The Dollar Tree was a disappointment, but I found a few things at the thrift store, including clay saucers for .15 ea., and a vase from a local potter which would have been over $100, for $3.  I realized when I got it home, it had a crack that leaked.  I can use it as a vase if I keep the water level no more than half full, but think I may use it as a utensil holder instead.  There were a few deals at FL, including the pup's dog food at $3 off a bag.  

The owners of the gallery had told me things had been slow, and they were.  I had no customers the first day, and made good use of my time wrapping soap, shelling 4 gallons of lima beans, and mending a sweater.   When I got in the second evening, I gathered pawpaws and figs.  Many of our greens seeds are up.  Almost all of the seedlings I started burned up, so J picked up more cabbage, broccoli, collards and kale starts, and planted them on Saturday.  Two more trays of figs were dried.  J picked up library books for me when he was nearby.   On Sunday, I powder coated orders, and put things away that were neglected my work days.  In the evening, I helped J set up our new chicken watering system, which will be much cleaner than the present system.  We're getting close to being done with the chicken renovations.  While I was at work, J pulled all the bean plants, which had been decimated by bean beetles and other pests.  The eggplant is doing well since the rain, and a couple were harvested over the weekend.  Hummingbird food and yogurt were made.  I used our last tomato of good size to make caprese salad., with sauteed squash, asian cukes and pinto beans.  It's been so heartbreaking to read of the fires out west.  They've been in my prayers.  Stay safe, friends.  

Monday, September 7, 2020

A Little Adventure & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  After garden and chicken chores, Monday was spent packing up orders.  Some friends came out in the evening, and picked up a large batch of pawpaws.  It's wonderful to know folks who can use them, and who are excited to have them.  After that, I began packing for a short adventure.  My SIL and I had to cancel our March plans to visit the Downton Abbey exhibit at Biltmore, due to Covid.  They reopened the exhibit a couple of months ago, and we headed to see it before it closes on Labor Day.  Biltmore is doing all they can to make it a safe event.  We stayed at an airbnb.  We brought breakfast things, and did a variety of take out, delivery, and eating on restaurant patios for the rest of the meals.  We ate very well.  It was so nice to eat something other than my own cooking.  On the way home, we stopped at a large antique barn with 75 vendor booths.  I purchased an old large Ball jar with bail and glass lid, in perfect condition for $8.  Though we were taking some risk, we felt with masks and social distancing, our trip wasn't much different than grocery shopping.  It was lovely to have a good adventure.  While there, my SIL gave me such a lovely gift, a photo book from the boxes of photos that were at my Mom's house.  

On Monday, J moved the three youngest chickens to the other yard.  The blind rooster usually has full run of this yard, but he's confined to a small yard while these other roosters are there, to keep him safe.  That evening, J created a roofed area and roost for the roosters.  We still don't know who laid the fairy eggs, but have decided the questionable chicken has got to be either a rooster or some strange cross, judging by it's behavior.  Four roosters were just way too much testosterone for our poor hens.  It's amazing how peaceful that side seems since the transition.  The garden didn't get picked while I was gone, so I had some catching up to do.  The noodle beans that got large were shelled, and seeds saved.  I harvested more of the winter squash, as well as noodle beans, cucumbers, pears, apples, a tomato and several cherry tomatoes, figs and pawpaws.  J harvested our last watermelon, besides one with a rotted end that went to the chickens.

The night I got home, I made pasta sauce using our squash, tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil and rosemary.  The next day, I looked for some different recipes for pawpaws.  The only way we've really liked them is fresh so far.  I found a recipe for pawpaw butter that sounded different, so I tried it and tweaked it to our liking.  I'm going to try making a batch soon for gifts.  I celebrated another trip around the sun last week.  I often requested baked ziti from my Mom for a birthday dinner, so I decided to make a half recipe, which we enjoyed with bread and a salad.  A beautiful bouquet from my daughter was delivered.  Laundry was done, and hung on the line.  A bin of shredded paper and cardboard was added to the compost bin.  For a breakfast, I used our figs and pawpaws in a fruit salad.  A friend gave me a canning jar.  I enjoyed our outdoor shower twice this week.  The hinge on J's laptop broke. He ordered the part, and though it was finicky, repaired it himself.

                                            Spikenard berries

J worked on cleaning up the main garden on Saturday, pulling up the tomatoes, and weed whacking.  On Sunday, he prepped the barrel containers and raised beds.  He had bought some collard and cabbage plants last week, to supplement our seedlings.  We planted those, along with our cabbage, collard, rutabaga and broccoli seedlings.  We also planted seeds of mixed greens, lettuce, and kale.  I harvested the last of the beets, and weeded the carrot bed.  We already have swiss chard, and plan to prep the areas and plant carrot and beet seeds on Labor Day.  A batch of golden paste was made for the pups.  I've been enjoying fresh figs several ways, but there are more than I can keep up with.  I decided to dry them, for a cookie called cucidati my Sicilian grandmother made.  I also made a salad with fresh figs, feta, greens and toasted walnuts, with leftover pear vinaigrette to dress it.  With this, J grilled squash and potatoes I prepped with our herbs, onion and garlic.  That was an enjoyable, mostly from the homestead meal.  The weather has turned lovely, and we're again able to open windows at night.  Wishing you a week of sweet late summer days.