Monday, August 2, 2021

The Latest in the Potato Saga & A Cute Camper


Hello, friends.  With a good chance of rain in the forecast starting Monday evening, and while the morning was still reasonably cool, I filled a 55 gal. barrel with the recently bought hay for the chicken coop.  I then worked on the potatoes, sorting them into small, medium and large piles, pulling any that needed eating soon, and a few that went into the compost.  They were then covered up with fresh pine straw.  Hopefully, the only other attention they'll need now is to enjoy eating them over the coming months.  Before the rain, I planted the gifted milkweed, and gathered lemon balm to start a jar of glycerite.  

Well, it turned out the rain was a bust. It went all around us, and we got only a sprinkle.  The first yard long beans were picked, and they've been producing well since.  After meeting my niece for lunch, I stopped by the library, then got some groceries.  I also stopped at Lowe's, and got two 4-packs of marigolds for .50 ea. and a blanket flower for $1 on the clearance racks.  I plan to plant most if not all around the workshop.  Filling up in town saved .10/gal.  Another batch of tomatoes was canned up on Thursday, adding 6 qts and a pint to the pantry.  All the excess tomato juice was saved in the fridge.  I rearranged some things in the pantry to make room for the jars of tomatoes.  The chard seedlings, nasturtiums and elephant ears were fed with comfrey tea.  My toothpaste tube was cut open, to use up the last of it.  

We had several days in the 90's, so dinners were simple.  I made hummus one day, a green bean & potato salad with lemon juice subbed for vinegar, and a blueberry/blackberry pie, which used up the last of our fresh berries.  I didn't get to freeze any berries this year, but we sure did enjoy those pies.  Another night I had leftovers, and J wanted egg salad sandwiches with sliced tomatoes.  There weren't as many as the usual amount of elderberries this year, and the birds had gotten a large portion of them.  I harvested what I could, and dried them.  Also harvested were tomatoes, a cucumber, a pepper, apples, lambs quarter and yard long beans.  

I started reading The Four Winds, one of my library books.  One night, I made garlicky green beans and potato salad with our beans, potatoes, garlic and parsley.  A salad with our tomatoes went with it.  J did some earthwork in the garden, and found a good sized renegade potato.  A tromboncino and garlic was used in zucchini orzo.  We enjoyed our sliced tomatoes with it, as we did several nights during the week.  I purchased three books of Forever stamps, in anticipation of the price increase, and also got 2 for J's business. I picked a second small round of elderberries, and have them drying in the dehydrator.  

On Sunday, J fixed himself chicken and noodles, so I took the opportunity to not cook, and enjoyed two tomato & basil sandwiches for dinner.  They were lovely.  I'd had a stressful day, dealing with a challenging customer, so this was a welcome break.  We had a pretty special order come in over the weekend, our first from Australia.  So far, our only out of the country orders have been to Canada, so we're pretty excited about this one.  This cute little camper is parked here for the guys to work on.  It makes me smile.   Wishing you a week that brings some smiles, friends.  

Monday, July 26, 2021

A Bird ID & Our Potato Disaster

Hello, friends.  Last week, I canned blueberries in a very light honey syrup, with plans to use them for pies.  Three of the Tattler lids didn't seal on the tomatoes canned the day before, and I had just enough room to add them to the canner to reprocess them.  It worked great to take the blueberries out at 20 minutes, and leave the tomatoes in for another 25, and they all sealed this time.  I went through Swagbucks for a Vitacost purchase for 4% back, and used coupon codes for 20% off of most things.  Our first eggplant was harvested.  A saute was made with a tromboncino squash, a yellow squash we were gifted, tomatoes, and foraged chanterelles, with fresh basil and oregano.  In one of the mushroom classes I took, the instructor felt the old man of the woods mushroom's taste benefited from drying, so that's what I did with one I foraged.  Daily hand picking is barely making a dent in the Japanese beetle population.  They've started eating things we've never seen them on before, including comfrey, with it's prickly leaves, and basil flowers.  Sheesh.  

Can you find the 3 critters?

There were frugal fails last week.  Because my car was in the shop, I missed the Big Lots 20% off sale.  I've been keeping a list for when they had one of their sales, and guess it will have to keep until the next time.  A significantly greater fail was our potatoes.  When I went to gather potatoes one evening, I found many of them rotting.  Because we had so many this year, instead of having them in single layers as we have in the past, they were piled up.  We believe that was our error.  Boy, was that a nasty, stinking mess!  I sorted through all I could handle that evening, threw many into the compost, and used a pile of them for mashed potatoes that needed parts cut away.   J threw some more lime on them until we could do something else, and put an old dog lot around them, to keep McNibs away.  Another day, I went through them again, and gathered all the small potatoes to can.  Another 2/3 of a 5 gallon bucket were composted, and another batch were cut and salvaged, and used in a stir fry for dinner.  I'd say we lost 20-25% .  Lesson learned.  If you didn't see the post, this is how we store them when we have a large harvest.  

It appears that we should have a bountiful fig crop this year, despite the first round being frozen by a late frost.  One of my go to salads at the moment is a sliced cucumber and tomatoes, with black olives.  After our spring lettuce was gone, I was regularly buying the clamshells of spring mix for our salads.  Besides the lettuce lasting no time before becoming slimy, I realized how much plastic I was generating with those clamshells.  The natural co-op carries leaf lettuce, but it's 45 minutes away.  Any time either of us are in that town, we pick some up.  Aldi's and Food Lion only carry the clamshells of organic lettuce.  The other store, which I rarely shop at, sometimes has organic leaf lettuce, but not always.  Hence the cucumber, tomato, olive salads.  Apple beet salad and fruit salads occasionally make it on the menu too.  As soon as there's time to prepare a garden area, I plan to plant more lettuce seeds, as well as some of the fall crops.  Thanks to Julie Zickefoose, I'm delighted to know that the sweet birdsong I've heard at first light is an Eastern Wood Pewee.  I have her Saving Jemima book, which I'm waiting to enjoy on our beach trip.

The harvested eggplant, potatoes I'd steamed earlier in the day, sweet peppers, onions and garlic were sauteed together.  On Friday, I canned the small potatoes, which filled up the canner (18 pts), except for 3 potatoes, which I enjoyed as part of a late lunch.  A pan of egg shells was crushed, and bread crumbs were made from the failed GF loaf I made, plus a couple bread ends.  I gathered a bouquet for a visit to my sister, who was under the weather, and brought eggs and tomatoes to share.  J voted thumbs down on radish pods I'd collected from the garden.  I was glad I put them on the side, instead of in his salad.   He finished covering the asparagus patch with the final layer of soil.  We've been needing mulch, and it occurred to me someone may be offering organic hay on either Craigslist, or fb marketplace.  Sure enough, he found some not too far away, and brought home a round bale.  He partially mulched the asparagus with it, on a very hot afternoon. 

There were 9 orders to wash and powder coat on Saturday, which had me hustling.  Packing them will take another day.  Another round of tomatoes was canned on Sunday, this time 11 qts.  The man J got the hay from gifted him 6 heirloom tomatoes, and a milkweed I don't have.  When I researched it,  it's not a recommended milkweed to grow due to bloom time, but there are varying opinions out there, and we do have many native milkweed plants here, so I think it will be OK.  It's an annual in this zone, so I can always choose to not save seed.  It has a very pretty flower.   I harvested tromboncino, cucumbers, tomatoes, a yellow squash, basil, oregano and lambs quarter.  Both squash are still growing very slowly, but we're usually able to have one meal a week using them.  J had tried replacing a part in the freezer that died, but it didn't fix it, so he offered it for free.  Within minutes, he had someone who wanted it, and it was gone within a couple of hours.  I was quite happy to have it off our porch.  These peak days of summer have me hitting the ground running each day, but it feels good to be harvesting and putting food by.  Wishing you a most abundant week, friends.  

Monday, July 19, 2021

Creepy Crawlies & Preserving the Harvest


Hello, friends.  One night on the way to closing up the chickens last week, J saw an interesting caterpillar on the elderberry, which he brought me back to see.  It turns out it's the caterpillar of the Saturniid Moth, the largest of the North American moths, which is pretty cool.  Daily, I hand-pick Japanese beetles, most often multiple times a day, and feed them to the chickens.  The beasts are eating our apples, as I can't reach many of them (warning: gross photo below).  Hopefully, they'll leave us some.  There were additional free cabinets besides the ones J put in my workshop.  I've been wanting some sort of cabinet in the chicken area, to keep oyster shell, treats like mealworms, and any medicines and supplements in.  He installed the other cabinets in there for me.  To use up the last of honey in a jar, I made a cup of tea in it, then poured it into a mug. 

Japanese beetles eating an apple

A canner full of tomatoes were canned midweek, adding 7 quarts to the pantry.  The pineapple tomatoes have been really large this year, with one weighing over 1# 9 oz.   A few chanterelles were found on walks during the week, and foraged.  A yellow squash and tromboncino were used in a saute, with basil, oregano and tomato.  Some kale was harvested, and mixed with lambs quarter, homemade broth and garlic for a side dish.  A pie was made, with mostly blueberries and a few blackberries.  I mended a sweater, a shirt and a nightgown.  I tried a new recipe for black eyed pea salad, which I learned about in an article on Juneteenth.  It was enjoyed for dinner and lunches.   An avocado caprese salad went with it for dinner.  When I wore a shirt I realized I didn't love, it was added to the donate box after washing.  Eggs were shared with J's business partner, who had shared cucumbers and a quart of honey with us. 


We had to drive over an hour to pick up a track J found on fb Marketplace.  He set it up to move our painted orders into the powder coat oven, so I won't need his assistance with this in the future.  Being able to paint orders any time I'd like will be a blessing, instead of having to do marathon weekend sessions when he's available to help move them into the oven.  When there's time, I always look for a discount grocery in any new town, and found one nearby where we picked up the track.  Unfortunately, it wasn't one that carried what we eat.  At least half of the store was frozen goods with lots of meat, snacky junk foods, and much of the rest was restaurant sized sauces, mixes and things.  I didn't see any organic items.  J did get two Grey Poupon mustards, but at $1 ea., I'm not sure that was much of a deal.   I stopped for gas on the way home, and filled up at $2.79/gal, which is .20 cheaper than the local stations, so that was nice.  At a baby shower I attended, I brought comfrey plants for one of the women, and was gifted some sweetgrass.  

I harvested a tromboncino squash, blueberries, a few blackberries, basil, oregano, and a cucumber, and spotted the first bloom of the yard long beans.  Our first eggplant is growing.  After agreeing to delay an amazon shipment, I received a digital credit.  A movie and a series episode were enjoyed free on amazon prime.  Two loads of laundry were hung on the line.  On Sunday, there were lots more tomatoes to can.  Several were given to our son, and 13 quarts were canned for the pantry.  Before the rain started, I planted the last of the celosia started from seed, and a tomato stem that had rooted.  On our evening walk, I gathered several chanterelles and an old man of the woods mushroom.  There was just enough of our broccoli to make broccoli mac & cheese.  J found our first ripe fig, and harvested it.  After several days of having the a/c on, it finally cooled off enough Sunday night where we could turn it off and open the house up.  We love the fresh air, not to mention the savings.  Wishing you a comfortable week, in whatever weather you find yourself in.

Monday, July 12, 2021

A Little Down Time

Hello, friends.  Last week, three chanterelles were foraged while on a walk, and enjoyed sauteed with button mushrooms.  I gathered eggs, and harvested tomatoes, a tromboncino, a yellow squash and a cucumber, as well as basil, oregano, and thyme.  The summer squash is really growing slowly this year.  A pint of tomatoes that hadn't sealed, and the leftover tomato juice from canning, along with fresh tomatoes and herbs, were used in pasta sauce.  Tromboncino squash was used in Disappearing Zucchini Orzo. (I use GF orzo and leave off the parmesan, to meet our current dietary needs). 

On Friday evening and Saturday, I was lucky to be able to spend time at a dear friend's lake house.  I brought eggs to share, and she shared money plant seeds.  It was a delightful and relaxing treat, which included a boat ride and time in the water.  Earlier in the week, I made two mostly blackberry pies, with a few raspberries and blueberries thrown in.  One was made with a ww crust for J, and one with a GF crust for me.  Both of us were pleased.  Laundry was hung on the line twice.  While on a morning walk, the pups and I happened upon this box turtle.  The pups both gave her a sniff, so I don't blame her for hiding.

The powder coat oven was moved into the new workshop, and I painted and "baked" the first two orders in there.  J has been looking out for base cabinets or something similar on fb Marketplace & Craigslist that would do for a work table for packing orders .  He found some free vintage cabinets less than an hour away.  Because they're vintage, they're solid wood, which means they'll hold up much better in the workshop space than particle board or plywood.  There's a small heater that I'll use occasionally in the winter, but it's otherwise a space that will be subject to temperature fluctuations and humidity.  He created a countertop from the extra wood flooring we had, which looks nice.  He and the gentleman he picked the cabinets up from were talking while he was there, and the man brought some work by for him on Sunday.  Some of the supplies are beginning to be moved into the workshop.  J listed and sold our old air handler and the nailer we bought to do the workshop floor on fb Marketplace.  It's been a busy but productive week.  Here's to a great week ahead.  Be well, friends.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Taters & Maters & Berries

Hello, friends.  One morning, after a good rain during the night, I looked out and saw this tree steaming in the sun.  It lasted for several minutes.  Last week, I made pesto with basil and purslane from the garden.  I painted the baseboard in the workshop, which was good to check off my to do list.  J trimmed the roots and stems off the garlic, and they were stored in the basement.  Groceries were bought at Food Lion and the natural food co-op after a soap delivery, but there are no exceptional sales to report.  I perused the little free book library at the B&B, and found one by an author J likes.  The B&B was recently sold.  I'd been worried that I may lose my gig of supplying them with soaps, but instead, gained a second B&B they also own.  That was a nice surprise.  A free trial of Sirius was enjoyed while driving.  I was offered three months free, without providing any payment information, so took them up on it.  

a portion of our potatoes
a portion of our potatoes

J dug our potatoes.  When we've had a large amount, as we do this year, we keep them in an unusual way, which we read about and which works well for us.  At the edge of the woods, under tree cover, we spread pine straw on the ground, lay the potatoes on top, sprinkle with agricultural lime, which keeps insects away and inhibits mold growth, then cover with more pine straw, and lastly roofing tin.  They've lasted well this way until March, much better than in our basement.  We just wash them well when we're going to use them.  In the meantime, we've been eating potatoes most days... steamed, grilled, in a saute, and potato salad, trying to use up the damaged ones.  On our morning walks, I saw wild turkeys a couple of mornings at the back field.  One morning, they left this calling card. 

I harvested blackberries, blueberries, lambs quarters, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, the first tromboncino, lavender, parsley and oregano. There are 5 small chard seedlings at the moment, which don't seem to be growing.  For some reason, I've had a challenge with chard this year, and planted four more seeds, which have started sprouting.  I'll give them all a dose of garden tea.  I finally changed summer and winter clothes in the closet, and decluttered 9 items.  It's a small closet, and half is rather hard to get to, so putting the current season to the front makes it easier.  My Lowe's cc balance was paid in full.  This way, I can take advantage of 5% off the purchase, but accrue no interest.  

One of our freezers failed.  Much of it went into the compost.  Some items that were still icy were salvaged, and crammed into our other freezers.  I salvaged a couple of small bags of chanterelles I had foraged last year, which had been sauteed in ghee.  I made a saute with them, added some leftover potatoes and fresh lambs quarter for lunch, which was very good.  The ghee isn't in my current diet (no dairy), but one has to make exceptions sometimes.  I was pretty sad about the homemade pizza, which hadn't been in there long, I guess just before I started the protocol.  I'd been making a double batch of pizza dough, and freezing one, but this time, I also added the sauce, so all I needed to do was add veggies.  Oh well.  I'm counting down the last two and a half weeks of the eczema protocol, and hope I can begin introducing a few things back into my diet.  

On the 4th, I canned the first round of tomatoes.  Since there weren't many, pints were canned for this round.  I ran out of those during the winter, and want to have more going into the coming winter.  One jar didn't seal, so was put in the fridge to be used this week.  I spent a good amount of time crawling around on the workshop floor last week, between taping it off three times to paint the baseboard and the final coat on the walls, then to seal the floor.  First, J & I got up all the paint splatters and caulk, and sanded black marks and such off.  Then I vacuumed and steam mopped it, before J put two coats of sealer on it.  We'll soon be able to move the powder coat oven in, and create the shipping and storage areas.  I'm looking forward to getting in there.  A watermelon was cut to enjoy, and a "clean" version of caprese salad was made, subbing avocado for the cheese, and lemon juice for the balsamic vinegar.  I'm thankful for the rain we received last week, and hope those in hot and dry areas are getting some relief.  Be well, friends.

Monday, June 28, 2021

A Thrifted Treasure & Putting Up the Harvest

Hello, friends.  I received a wonderful surprise last week.  All who attended the virtual meeting of our electric cooperative were entered in a drawing, and I won a $50 electric credit, which will go towards my next bill.  That's a welcome blessing.  I used a $10 credit on a purchase on Prime day.  I fertilized the cultivated blackberries, raspberries & blueberries with comfrey tea, as well as a number of other plants.  Golden paste was made for the pups.  I'd been wanting to do something for our Fedex guy, who we keep pretty busy picking up our orders.  I decided to make hummus, and gave him some with a bag of organic tortilla chips and a thank you note, a homemade version of the snacks I've seen people leave for their delivery people.   He'd said he'd never had hummus when I asked earlier, but would try it.  I hope he liked it.

I'm slowly decluttering as I come across things, and added seven things to the thrift store box.  While in town for groceries, I picked up two library books, including The Kitchen Front, which I've heard great things about.  I bought avocados for .49, a pineapple for $1.49, and picked up two bags of pecans after reading about the coming nut shortage.  I also made quick stops at two thrift stores.  Though I wasn't looking for a chair, when I spotted an antique banker's chair for $20, which was in great shape and still rolled very smoothly, I decided to take it home with me.  I may use it in the new workshop, but most likely, will put one of the studio chairs out there, and keep this one in the studio.  The dried lemon balm and spearmint were put in jars, and added to the pantry.  

The wild blackberries are coming in nicely.  Some years, we don't have rain at the critical time, and they just dry on the vine, but so far, we're getting adequate moisture.  I made a GF berry crostata, with our raspberries, blackberries and last year's frozen blueberries.   Honestly, I don't think I'd bother making another until I can use wheat flour and real butter again.  Another day, I canned blackberries in spiced brandy, with a few raspberries thrown in.   Another bucket of comfrey/nettle tea was made for the garden.  It was started a week or so ago, and had a bunch of banana peels added and some plantain.  The comfrey and nettles topped it up, and it will sit and work for a bit before being used as fertilizer.  A bouquet was cut for the house.  The first chanterelle of the year was harvested.  

I made my first loaf of GF bread, which was seriously unimpressive.  It actually didn't taste bad, but after baking it 30 mins longer than the recipe, it was still wet.   It wasn't ready in time to have with soup, as was planned.  J picked our first two ripe tomatoes.  I made vegetable soup, which used our canned tomatoes and squash, butter beans and cabbage, along with bought produce.  Saturday morning, J & I headed to the crawlspace, and hooked up all the ductwork for the new a/c system.  The a/c was working by the afternoon, just in time for hotter, more humid weather.  One of our neighbors came by, and brought us cucumbers, squash and a cabbage.  We enjoyed one of the cucumbers in a salad, along with one of our tomatoes.  A large bag of lambs quarter was frozen, which will be enough for 6 meals. Orders were cleaned and powder coated on Sunday.  Just as I was finishing up, a neighbor came and asked us over for homemade ice cream.  J & I were both sorry he had to tell him we're not eating dairy.  He showed up a few minutes later,  and asked if we'd come by for watermelon, which I thought was so kind of them.  They have a beautiful log cabin they made themselves from old tobacco barns, with a large porch overlooking a gorgeous creek with huge boulders, and 12 busy hummingbird feeders.  It was a most lovely way to spend a summer's evening.  Wishing you a week of seasonal pleasures of your own.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Happy Summer

Hello, friends.  Last week, J's business partner gifted us a bag of summer squash he grew.  The yellow squash were picked a bit late, so I cut out the large seeds in the middle, and added it to the broth bag.  No waste.  It was lovely to have the squash now, as our tromboncinos are still pretty small, and our yellow squash is taking it's time growing.  Basil and oregano were harvested for a saute using the squash.  I cut more oregano than I needed for the recipe, so dried the remainder.   I earned $12 in rewards at FL, and got .79 avocados & dogfood on sale for $6 off x 3.  When I asked J to level our refrigerator, he found the coils were pretty dirty.  Only the front ones could be reached with the vacuum, after removing the front panel, so he got his air compressor, and blew the rest off.  It inspired him to change the filters on our air returns too.  Hopefully, these things will now run more efficiently and cheaply.  

J harvested our onions, and worked on creating a swale in the garden, which he's been wanting to do.  There's one corner that stays too wet, and he wanted to remedy that, which he finished before we got a nice rain.  On Sunday, I noticed the first tomato just beginning to ripen.  It can't happen too soon.  The dogs were bathed in the outdoor shower.  We had a couple of cool mornings in the 50's.  On one, the ironing was caught up.  On the other, I cleaned the chicken coop.  I usually do it much earlier in the spring, but my hands were raw for so long, I didn't think that was wise, even with gloves.  Thankfully, they're 90% better, though were not very happy after the dog bathing. I should have worn gloves for that too.  Lesson learned.  

I've enjoyed harvesting blackberries and raspberries.  I also harvested basil and rosemary for pasta sauce, which used our tomatoes, onion and squash from the pantry.  A bouquet of gardenias and another mixed bouquet were cut for enjoying in the house.  I went through Swagbucks for 4% back on a purchase.  On another purchase, I found a $10 off coupon code to use.  Both purchases were items needed for our little side business.  Our electric bill went up $40 this month, not unusual when we go from wood heat to a/c, even though we open up each night.  I virtually attended our annual electric co-op meeting, and found out they're going to be raising rates later this year.  It's been 5 years, so I suppose I can't complain.  Two books were requested from the library.  I won a cookbook from a giveaway on a blog I follow.  

As suspected, M caught a deer nibbling on our thornless blackberry on his webcam.  He also caught a cardinal, which I'm sure was looking for, if not nibbling on the berries.  We're going to try a cage around it, with some netting.  Just about every day, I'm noticing more plants that are deer browsed, which is pretty concerning.  I suppose I've been very lucky, but in my 25 years here, they've stayed away from the gardens and orchard, until they munched the peanuts and sweet potatoes in the pond garden last year.  This year, they're even braver, coming up to the main garden and orchard. A neighbor told J he's seen them often this year out by the road.  It's wooded between the road and our garden area, so we had no idea.  Our main garden fence is only 4' tall, and I can tell they've been in there already.  It looks like we'll have to do something, if we're going to keep growing food as planned.  I'm not really sure what they might eat, though the beans are a concern.  There's a whole bevy of things that want to eat our food, that's for sure.  Many wishes you have a most lovely first week of summer!

Monday, June 14, 2021

Old Friends & Our Garlic Harvest

Hello, friends.  The first of our berries are ripening.  Something chewed on the first blackberry the day after I saw it almost ripe, then the next day, ate all that were larger, ripe or not, a dozen or more.  It looks like deer have been browsing it, and looks like they've snacked on the raspberries nearby too.  M set up his webcam there, to see if we could catch the thief.  On a happy note, they haven't yet found the raspberries by our outdoor shower, so I've managed to harvest some of those.  When I walked across the dam on Sunday, I saw the wild blackberries there had started ripening.  I ended up using my shirt to hold them, as there were more than I could hold in my hands.  The black and raspberries were used in a fruit salad with dinner.  Several of the swiss chard have sprouted.  I harvested flowers and made a bouquet for the house.  The pea plants were pulled up, and given to the chickens, along with bolted lettuce and wild lettuce.  We've had a good bit of clouds and some rain, so the house plants were moved off the porch, to their summer quarters.  A photo shoot was done for the new pumice stones and shaving brushes.  I want to get some more photos of single ones, but for now, they're listed in the shop.  

Several tomato stems broke off when I trained them into the cages, were put in water, and have rooted.  The kiwi were getting rambunctious, since their winter pruning, twining their way up into the blueberries and an apple tree, so I pruned them again.  I think this may be the year we'll pull them all out.  They've been here at least 8 years, and we've got nary a fruit.  They've barely bloomed, and missed it entirely some years, including this year.  We may just be a bit beyond their zone here.  A friend who bought hers when I did, and lives less than a hour away, has some luck with them, but she also lives on a lake, so her microclimate may be more conducive.  I'll review their needs, and ponder if they might be happier elsewhere on this property, before we yank them out.  I'd surely love to produce and enjoy some homegrown kiwi, but some times you just have to throw in the towel. 

Thyme, spearmint and lemon balm were harvested and dried, for culinary use, tea, and soap making.  Bird suet was made.  Broccoli and radishes were harvested.  While at Hallmark, I took advantage of a  B3 G1 free coupon.  While getting groceries last week at the store which overcharged me $10 last month, I wasn't charged correctly on some produce, which made my total $5 less.  I received 5% off on the total, as it was senior's day.  I bought food items online, using a 15% off coupon, mostly GF, and went through Swagbucks for 4% back.  I received $10 credit on amazon, for buying from a small business.  I spent a lovely Saturday with friends at a nearby lake.  A high school friend who now lives in FL was visiting our friend's lake house.  We were treated to a long boat ride.  Spending time with lifelong friends is one of life's true treasures.  I'm sorry about the blurry photo of the heron, but I was afraid I'd scare it if I moved closer.  

Shortly after our friend, M, made us a rack to hold the garlic this weekend, J harvested it.  The rack runs the length of the carport, was mostly built with scrap and recycled lumber, and works so much better than the twine "hammock" we'd been using to hold them to dry.  We had a great harvest, with many large heads.  Just last week, I used the last of our powdered garlic, and we've had to buy a half dozen heads after last years harvest ran out a few weeks ago.  Not too shabby.  I made our favorite black bean burger recipe, tweaking two of the ingredients for my current diet, with happy results.  I also made the Medical Medium Italian potato salad, and was pleased, which was a little surprising, as I'm kind of funny about my potato salad.  The kalamata olives certainly didn't hurt, and I was able to harvest our basil and parsley to use in it.  The annual hand picking of Japanese beetles has commenced, with the chickens receiving the bounty.  They also got the rind and seeds from a honeydew melon.  Wandering through the garden on Sunday at dusk, I dispatched several squash bugs, and saw the first tromboncino and cucumber fruits.  Wishing you a lovely week.

Monday, June 7, 2021

A Couple of Plant Based Recipes to Share

Hello, friends.  The temperatures have gotten more seasonal here, with highs mostly in the 80's.  I finally switched out the winter quilt for the summer bed cover.  After dropping a friend off at the VA one day, I shopped at Trader Joe's and a natural food co-op in Chapel Hill.  And dang if I didn't realize I'd been charged an extra $7.99 after getting home.  The store is an hour & 1/2 from me.  There must be a lesson in this, as it keeps happening.  I suppose the lesson is to not be in such a hurry that I skip reviewing the receipt before leaving the store, but I just want to get home, you know?  Not to mention, it usually feels like they're rushing to get to the next one behind me.  Ah well, I do trust it all works out in the end.  

After shopping for groceries, I stopped at a garden store, and purchased three roselle/rosella hibiscus, which is edible and medicinal.  I also bought one tickseed, which is a dye plant, and got all in the ground the next day, after creating a small flower bed.  Rocks were gathered to edge it.  I made hummingbird food, canned broth, and the stovetop was cleaned with homemade thieves vinegar and baking soda.  I planted calendula and nasturtium seeds & transplanted woad and dyer's coreopsis, and put all houseplants out on the porch to acclimate to brighter sunlight.  This week, they'll be moved to their summer quarters.  Onions, parsley, celery, asparagus, broccoli, oregano were harvested, and lambs quarter was foraged twice.  Enough lambs quarter was blanched and frozen for three meals.  I used a portion of my amazon credit to watch Far From the Tree, which I really enjoyed.  A friend gifted me a large limb, chock full of usnea.  A new jar of tincture was started with it.  

I tried a new recipe for lentil shepherd's pie, made a double batch of anzac cookies, and froze most of them.  We both liked the shepherd's pie, but I realized afterwards that the ketchup contains vinegar, which is not allowed on my protocol.  Goodness, it can be a challenge some days, but the eczema is healing, so I'm sticking with it.  There's a medical medium ketchup recipe I need to try.  I made bean burritos for the first time since we haven't been eating dairy, with plant versions of sour cream and cheddar.  We both agreed the sour cream didn't taste like much.  I thought the shredded cheddar was OK, but J did not.  Of course, I've been eating plant based cheese off and on for a couple of years.  Sadly, I didn't think to check the cheddar ingredients, and it had turmeric in it, which put J in a bad state for several hours.  So, it looks like there will be no homemade burritos in our near future.  I did find tortillas made with almond flour, which I thought were good.  I know I can make GF tortillas, but on many days, adding that to the rest of my dinner chores seems a little overwhelming.  I made Mexican quinoa to go with them, which used our onion and a jar of our canned tomatoes.  

When J checked on the status online for our a/c unit on order since October, he found they had cancelled it without even letting us know.  Thankfully, he has since been promised one from a company he's done business with for years, for somewhere between $200-$300 more, on Monday.  With the scarcity of items these days, we'll take it.  Though I lived here without a/c before for ten years, I learned central NC is a bit too hot and humid for me to want to do it again.  We got some much needed rain, and the asparagus in the new bed is starting to sprout.  There were over 20 sprouts up on Sunday.  While in town to get groceries on Friday, I picked up two books at the library, and dropped one off.  I purchased some more of the $2.99/# cherries, which is the cheapest I've seen.  The only other ones I've seen were $6.99/#.  The recipe for the plant based broccoli mac & cheese mentioned last week was requested, so here it is.  Have a wonderful week, friends.

Broccoli Mac & Cheese- Medical Medium


12 oz elbow shaped GF pasta

2 c cashews

2 tbs lemon juice

2 cloves garlic

1 large date

1 1/2 c water

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp chili powder

3 c broccoli, lightly steamed


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare pasta according to directions on package.  In a blender, combine cashews, lemon juice, garlic, date, sea salt, and chili powder.  Blend while streaming in water until smooth.  Stir together pasta and sauce until well mixed.  Add in broccoli and stir to combine.  Pour pasta into an 8x8 inch baking pan, and bake for 15 mins. until just beginning to turn golden brown on the edges.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 31, 2021

Homestead Projects & The Garden

Hello, friends.  Last week, while heading to the grocery store, I noticed two stations had $2.99 gas.  Across from my last stop was a station with $2.77 gas.  Filling up there saved $1.80.  Lettuce, radishes, the last few asparagus, and broccoli were harvested.  We kept the a/c off, with days in the upper 80's, until the day the house reached 79 before cooking dinner.  On those evenings, it was turned on for a bit.  J is keeping our old system limping along until our new one hopefully arrives.  We only run it for a little while in the evenings when needed, and open up at night.  On Sunday, we saw they backed up the ship date another week, which is how it's been going since October.  We're going to start seriously looking for an alternative unit.  After a meeting with someone in town an hour and a half away, I picked up 9 pairs of workpants for $10 for J, which he had found on FB Marketplace.  They're the good cargo type work pants that he likes.  It couldn't come at a better time, as his are all falling apart, have weld holes in them, etc.  I received another $1.50 digital credit from amazon, making a $7 total credit.  There are a few shows with charges I'd like to see on my Prime list, so I'll likely use it towards some of them.   

The asparagus J ordered came in.  I gathered any soil I could find in empty pots to reuse, which we mixed with peat moss and native soil.  This mixture made up the mounds the asparagus crowns were planted on.  The inoculated biochar was scattered through the bed, mycorrhizae and organic fertilizer was placed on the mounds before the crowns, then native soil covered them.  Once they send up shoots, the remaining soil will be filled level with the top of the bed.  I made a batch of homemade toothpaste.  Last summer, I infused a jar of coconut oil with chocolate mint, and another with rose petals.  I used a mixture of these, in place of plain coconut oil, and left out the essential oils.  A batch of yogurt was made, and laundry was hung on the line.  An onion was harvested.  J picked up a gallon of milk, as they were out of half gallons.  We're only buying it to make yogurt for the pups these days, with both of us off dairy, so I froze the remainder.  We have quite a few plants with little tomatoes, which is always exciting.  As J finished creating orders, I cleaned and powder coated them.  That and packing them kept me busy several days.  With metal prices rising significantly, we had to raise our prices, but we thankfully continue to get new orders.  We are grateful. 

Some work was done on the workshop.  I painted the trim molding earlier in the week.  J found some crown molding left over from the house build, so we decided to use that as well.  It was pretty dirty, so I scrubbed it all well.  When I was building the house, my SIL worked for a molding company, and I was able to get all the molding I needed for free.  All of it was considered imperfect, but many had just minor scuffs.  Other pieces just had to be cut down.  That was a real blessing, and now we're blessed again.  J put the crown molding up, all the vertical trim, and made a frame around the exhaust fan.  It feels good to be making progress again.  The garden and other projects kept us from it recently.  One of the projects was a two vehicle carport J found on a FB Marketplace estate sale, at half the price of new.  It's now up, and holding his two personal vehicles.  His work truck sits out in the weather.  About twice a year, I refresh the yogurt with new starter.  As the local stores only carry organic plain yogurt in quarts, I froze the remainder in cubes, and will add a cube to a batch every so often.

With Saturday and Sunday's nights in the 40's, and a high in the mid 60's, I decided Sunday was the perfect day to process the last of the winter squash in storage.  The butternut squash and hubbard squash were diced, steamed, then pureed.  The spaghetti squash were baked.  There were 2 1/3 squash that had to be composted, but they'll still feed us, by adding fertility to the soil.  When I finished with the squash, the end bits and skins filled up a second gallon bag of veggie bits, so I went ahead and simmered it all for broth.  That will make a bit more room in the freezer.  Some of the cooked hubbard squash was kept out, to make a pumpkin bread.  I was able to use pumpkin spice mix that I made up earlier in the year.  For dinner, I made a plant based broccoli mac & "cheese", which I loved and J liked, so that's another recipe I can add to our repertoire.  I was able to use our broccoli in the dish, and found my favorite GF pasta so far.  Speaking of broccoli,  J & I hand picked many caterpillars off the broccoli and cabbage over the weekend, both imported cabbageworm and zebra caterpillars.  The chickens were happy to get an extra large helping of protein.  The pups got chopped broccoli stems and dandelion greens.  I guess we're all eating well on the homestead.  Wishing you a most enjoyable Memorial Day.  

Monday, May 24, 2021

A Little Visitor & Life Around the Homestead

Hello, friends.  Last week, I harvested peas, asparagus, lettuce, a small amount of spinach, and radishes.  Catbrier tips and lambs quarter were foraged for salads.  A nice bunch of oregano was harvested, and dried.  We've enjoyed many salads with our lettuce.  I agreed to hold off shipping an amazon order, for a $1.50 credit, making my current digital credit $5.50.  A pan of egg shells were crushed, and added to the compost bin.  Bread ends were processed into bread crumbs.  Two volunteer tomatoes found near the compost were potted up.  I recently bought a flat of strawberries from a local farm.  We enjoyed some fresh, and some in salads, but weren't going to eat them in time, so I froze the remainder.  The chickens enjoyed the tops that were cut off.  My niece inspired me to start a batch of sprouts.  It'd been a while since I'd started any.  

After grocery shopping in town, I stopped in to see friends.  I was gifted a beautiful, vintage hooked wool rug she couldn't use.  I'd been wanting a pottery cruet for olive oil, and when I picked one out in their shop, I was gifted with it.  I'd really intended to support their business, and felt rather bad about that, though I did bring eggs and basil plants to share.  Laundry was hung on the line.  A full shredder bin was added to the compost bin.  I picked up a library book, and dropped one off.  While there, I donated a book I recently bought, as I knew I wouldn't read it again.  They were happy to have it.  Vegetable soup was made from canned garden produce and fresh vegetables.  I'm doing a good job of eating up the leftovers.  Summer and winter clothes were swapped out.   I decided to make a vegan pesto, and gathered nettles, purslane, basil, and a few lambs quarter for the greens.  The nettles were blanched first, to lose their sting.  It wasn't as good as the cheese version, but it was pretty good, while we're not eating cheese.  

J cleaned out the woodstove, hopefully for the last time this season.  I sifted the ashes, left the ashes themselves for him to put on some of the potatoes, and then pulverized the pieces of char.  It's a simpler version of biochar.  Next, I'll be inoculating it with several things... likely comfrey tea, mycorrhizae, and urine.  That's what we have, and all are mentioned as good things to use.  It's said that if not inoculated, it acts like a sponge, absorbing nutrients until it reaches equilibrium with the soil.  If inoculated, it accelerates mycorrhizal growth, and creates healthier, stronger, more nutrient dense plants.  That all sounds good to me.  I continue drinking celery juice every morning.  I believe I previously mentioned I purchased a new juicer, which I'm loving.  It's this one, which is so easy to disassemble and clean, and so quiet compared to my old one.  It's actually $9 less than when I purchased mine.  The $45 coupon makes it $80.99 at present.   

Parsley was harvested for a cauliflower dish, and our oregano and garlic were used in a mushroom dish.  J pulled up stumps with his tractor, then excavated a spot for the 100 asparagus plants that he bought last week.  The soil in this new spot is pretty bad, so we're brainstorming what we can use to build the soil.  It's a pretty large area.  A neighbor, one of the only ones who doesn't spray with Grazon, is checking to see if he has any spoiled hay we can have.  While it was still cool Sunday morning, we added several tarps full of leaves.  Knowing bought manure and compost can also have Grazon in it, we're going to skip those.   As manure and compost are generally sourced from local and regional materials, and the vast majority of farmers use Grazon around here, it doesn't seem a safe choice.  We're not aware of any way to be sure it doesn't contain it, and J has read accounts of others who have had this happen.  Our food is too precious to risk it, so we'll be creative in coming up with other materials.  Wishing you a lovely and bountiful week.

Monday, May 17, 2021

New Recipes & Staying Cool


Hello, friends.  A potter friend recently made this tile for me.  Isn't it lovely?  Her address tiles are popular, and each one is unique, based on your interests.  Last week was unseasonably cold, with some nights in the low 40's.  The woodstove was fired up again, the latest we ever remember.  I took advantage of it one of the days, and simmered a gallon of vegi scraps on the woodstove for broth, then froze it as cubes, to use in various recipes.  We hope we're done needing the woodstove for good this season.  Soon I'll start working on getting the houseplants out to their summer quarters.  Homegrown aloe was used in smoothies.  I harvested asparagus, onions, peas, a little spinach and lettuce.  Eggs were gathered, and yogurt was made.

I thought I would share that the eczema protocol I'm doing is from Medical Medium.  If you've not heard of him, he's gotten great acclaim for helping tens of thousands of people.  His recommendations are unconventional, but apparently they work, based on the dozens of stories and before and after photos I've seen people share on his IG page.  Many sharers had been seen by multiple conventional physicians for numerous challenges, without getting any better, and came to him as a last resort, with excellent results.  I made another batch of his Anzac cookies, which I think are yummy.  It's been quite interesting learning a new way of eating.

After a soap delivery, I went by Hallmark, and used a $5 reward and a free card coupon.  I then headed to Harris Teeter, and got mad at myself when I got home, as they had overcharged me $10 on a tin of olive oil, by not giving me the sale price.  I only go by there once a month, after an appointment, but believe I'll have to see customer service next month about it.  The cashier did ring up my organic oranges as conventional, which made up some of the difference.  I received a gifted aloe plant, when I made the soap delivery.  The garden is growing well.  Last week, J hilled the potatoes, planted eggplant from the cold frame, replanted cucumber seeds in spots, cut garlic scapes, and more.  The garden is looking better than ever.  I really ought to take a pic to share.  

After painting orders, I replanted a flower bed that had only one seed germinate. This time, old-fashioned flower mix, a cut flower mix and borage seeds were planted.  J tilled the bed for me.  I'm hoping to have higher germination with a better prepared bed.  Stinging nettles were harvested, and a glycerite was started.  Laundry was hung on the line.  For dinner, I sauteed spinach, and tried a recipe for blackened roasted cauliflower steaks.  J didn't love it.  I may make it again with less or no cayenne,  which was in the blackened spice mix.  In it, I was able to use our oregano, thyme, and garlic powder.  Looks like we're jumping from cool to hot, with temps 90 and above in the forecast.  The a/c unit J ordered in October still hasn't arrived, with the ship date constantly moved back.  He'll try to make our old one limp along until the new one hopefully arrives.  Right now, they're saying early June, though we're not counting on it.  Stay comfortably cool or warm, wherever you are.