Monday, January 25, 2021

Better Days & Homestead Happenings

Hello, friends.  Last week, I canned mushrooms, which will add two half pints and six 4 oz jars to the pantry.  Homemade thousand island dressing was made.  I recently picked up a birthday card, 6 Valentine's cards in a pack, and Christmas gift tags (75% off) at Hallmark for about $13, and received $5 back through a Swagbucks promotion.  Suet was made for the birds, which used some of the dehydrated berry and tomato remains after canning last summer.  In the mood for comfort food, I made colcannon with some of our cabbage.  I'd eat it often, but J only likes it on a rare occasion, so I took advantage of him working out of town.  Another jar of the gifted jam was shared with a friend who stopped by.  I made tapioca, a favorite comfort food since I was a child, and enjoyed every bit of it.  

I made The Prudent Homemaker's taco soup for lunches, and pulled a package of maitake mushroom from the freezer to make gravy, which was used over jasmine rice.  A bag of cubed winter squash was pureed for dog treats.  Home ground wheat and the last of the chickpea flour were used in them.  I've been trying to use up last year's frozen winter squash before starting on the one's in storage, but I do need to begin using them soon.  A sweater, shirt and a pair of pants were mended.  I'm still using my old muck boots some, and repaired them once again with shoe goo.  A load of laundry was done, with the intention of hanging it on the line, and getting the previous day's laundry in.  The last time I had looked, there was 5% chance of rain, but it changed to 70%, and was sprinkling.  Oh well, my preference is to dry laundry on the line, but I'm very thankful to have a dryer as a back up plan.  As always, we collected rainwater for household and chicken use, and heated with wood.  My potter friends sent some new shaving mugs with J.  I took photos, and got them listed in the shop.  They've been good sellers for previous Valentine's Days, so here's hoping.

With J's return home on Friday, I tried two new dishes.  The first was a sweet & spicy cauliflower, which had 2 tsp of sriracha in it.  Wow, that warmed us up, but was just a bit too hot for our tastes.  I'll cut it back next time.  The next was a butternut squash mac & cheese, and for that, I pulled another bag of last year's winter squash from the freezer.  It also used homemade bread crumbs and our rosemary.  You really couldn't detect any squash taste, so that's a win in my book.  It made a big pan, so I froze a good bit of it.  We ran to town on Saturday, picking up a bundle of insulation, paint and sheetrock for the workshop project.  J got his 5% veterans discount on our purchase.  Then we ran to Tractor Supply, for chicken feed and sunflower seeds.  In the mood for pancakes on Sunday, I decided to use up some things.  Along with unbleached white flour, I used up the remainders of home ground corn and wheat.  Homemade buttermilk was used for the liquid, and our frozen blueberries.  They were denser than the usual pancakes, but that's not a bad thing on a day that started out in the low 20's.  I'll be heading out to powder coat orders, and that should stick to my ribs while I work.

When done cleaning up the kitchen after pancakes, the buttermilk was renewed, which just involves adding some milk and letting it sit on the counter.  I watched a free movie on amazon prime.  J got the insulation up when we got in on Saturday, and the sheetrock on the walls in the workshop while I was powder coating orders on Sunday.  We're heading to pick up cypress lumber for the porch floor on Monday, found for a good price on fb marketplace.  I prefer that over treated lumber.  For Sunday dinner, several of our sweet potatoes were baked, and succotash made, which included our lima beans and sweet onion.  For a green salad, vinaigrette was made with some of our mixed berry syrup.  I expect everyone knows who Amanda Gorman is at this point.  It gives me great hope to see the young people speaking out with wisdom and grace in these times.  I believe we are moving into better days, and though there will surely be rough patches along the way, I feel we'll look back to this past year as a turning point.  Wishing you a week of whatever brings you peace, comfort, joy.

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Light of a New Year

Hello, friends.  Last week, I made sweet potato pie with leftover sweet potatoes.  Lettuce was harvested for egg and avocado toast.  On Monday, J did some work at a distillery that sells food in their tasting room.  The sell by date was up on a number of their jams, and local specialty goat cheeses were dated the following day.  They filled a box up for him, which he brought home, and immediately shared some with his business partner, and some with a neighbor.  We tried the mango goat cheese before dinner, which was very nice.  He tried a dill and lemon pepper one later in the week, and I tried an onion and chive one, and we thought both were good.  They're nice treats for us.  Our beets were used in an apple beet salad.  My mending pile, and the ironing were caught up.  I sewed two hair scrunchies, using some of the plant-dyed fabric.  A load of laundry was hung on the line, but didn't fully dry, with possible rain forecast that night, so it was finished in the dryer.  I enjoyed walks with the pups when it wasn't raining.  Soapmaking oils were melted on the woodstove.  The man who recently gave a shout out on my shaving brush and the sample soap on his youtube channel, did another nice segment this week on my shaving soap, and I already sold one soap from it.    

Spaghetti squash and lambs quarter were pulled from the freezer for a side dish.  Winter squash and peanuts were pulled from the freezer for succotash, and thyme was harvested to go in it.  Our garlic was used in a brussels sprouts dish, and our blueberries were used in cranberry relish.  After picking a book up at the library, I got local milk in our small community store, and several greeting cards at Dollar General.  I've been going through things, mostly paperwork, as I can. A pile of papers were shredded, and others were organized.  Some books will be donated.  With all the shredding, another bin of shredded paper was added to the compost bin.  I found the seed starting schedule, and the peas saved from last year that I'll soon be planting.  Some of the small sweet potatoes were cooked on the woodstove for the pups.  Bean burritos were made for a simple meal one night.  The hens have upped their egg laying some.  I hope it lasts.  On a night J felt like having sausages and baked beans, I pulled frozen leftover broccoli in garlic sauce from the freezer, and made some jasmine rice.  

I had my first massage appointment since last March, which was lovely, then delivered soap to a gallery across the street.  I usually go to the thrift store after, but didn't this time, with the recent treasures I brought home.  On the way home, I shopped at Harris Teeter, picking up a favorite wine at $2 off, another bottle of wine for my sister that was on sale, and mushrooms for .99 ea.  I bought 4 packs, and intend to can them for future meals.  In one of the aisles, I happened to look up, and saw a Ball box on the top shelf.  Though I couldn't see anything in it, when I pulled it down, I found boxes of regular canning lids.  I bought 6 of them, at $2.99 ea., and left the remainder for someone else.  I'd recently been looking for lids without luck, and was very happy to find these.  It's hard to know how many I'll need each year, but I feel better having these.  There was some ricotta that needed to be finished, and a little bit of pasta sauce.  They were combined, and served over pasta, with a green salad.  The last of some homemade salad dressing was finished.  I redeemed 2200 Swagbucks for a $25 Lowes GC. 

We had an hour of intermittent mixed wintry precip on Saturday.  Nothing stuck, but it was nice to see a few snow flurries.  The stove was cleaned with baking soda and homemade thieves vinegar.  While I was powder coating orders, J put the final window in the new workshop, which he picked up for $25 through fb Marketplace, and worked on the door hardware.  I finally cooked the last of the chestnuts last week, and on Sunday, made a chestnut mousse with most of what remained.  Laundry was hung on the line, which dried quickly in the breeze.  I enjoyed watching several episodes of Victoria on amazon prime, as well as a few things on youtube.  I'm sending wishes and prayers for peace in the US this week, as well as the rest of the world.  May it be so.  

Sunday, January 10, 2021

January Goodness & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, there was some flat beer, after opening a crowler (32 oz) of local beer, and not drinking it in time.  I know, a bit of a tragedy.  After researching ways to use it, I mixed it with a little bit of ammonia, a can of old soda and water, and poured it over the compost, as an activator.  At least it was put to good use.  I pulled cubes of our winter squash from the freezer, and made butternut crumble, also using our onion, garlic and parsley.  I mixed half real butter and half plant "butter" in the crumble, to help use it up.  With recently harvested broccoli, I made broccoli, cashew, apple & pear salad.  Our cool space is sadly not cold enough for apples, and they've all gotten soft.  Most are being cut up for the pups dinners, and a few have gone to the chickens.  I could turn them into applesauce, but they're all quite small, and seems like just a bit too much work for what I'd get.  Loads of laundry were hung on the line a couple of days.  It was a cold chore, but they dried well.  

Two ripe bananas were frozen for smoothies or bread.  Pasta sauce was made with our canned tomatoes, oregano, parsley, basil, onions & garlic.  A batch of yogurt was made.  Lots of paperwork was done on Tuesday.  While gathering papers needed for paying sales tax and estimated taxes, I gathered a few items I'll need for the regular taxes.  It's a start.  Egg laying has slowed down greatly, normal for this time of year.  I'm lucky to get one a day at present.  My GD and I visited on facetime on her birthday.  Two free books were downloaded on the Kindle app, and two books were requested from the library.  I decided to head to a different Food Lion than the one I usually go to, which is the same distance.  I redeemed a $4 reward towards my purchases.  Across the street, I went to a thrift store, and picked up 4 cotton sheets and 6 pillowcases for $10.50.  A king sheet will be used for dyeing, and the remainder will be for home use.  Lots of our sheets have gotten holes this past year, so I was happy to find these.  We especially need flannel sheets.  No luck there, though I did find 3 flannel pillowcases.  I do love vintage linens.  Though they don't last as long as new, they're inexpensive, already soft, and I love to mix and match them.  My sister always jokes that she can always find me in linens, in a thrift store.  

Just across the parking lot is a consignment mall I've only been in maybe three times over the years.  I went by there, and found all sorts of treasures, including 2 pillowcases and a 1/2 gal. jar for $1 ea., a glass refrigerator dish $4, 2 plates from a pottery just up the road $7 ea., a large terra cotta planter $6, plates that match others I have for our annual hayride 4/$5, plus pottery orchid pots, a covered enamel pan, and canister to turn into a compost crock.  The most expensive item was an enamel laundry bin for $20, but it's so nice to have all the laundry things corralled and out of sight.  I can't remember the last time I had a haul like that, and look forward to putting everything to good use.   I harvested winter greens, and made a hearty winter salad, to go with cream of celery soup which used our onion and potato.  My husband ordered sweet potato sets for the spring.  He waited last year, and had trouble finding them.  We've had some good years and other not so good years in starting our own, so for now, we feel better about knowing we'll have some.   He also ordered onion plants.  Two books I'd requested were picked up at the library.  

Our a/c leak was never found by us or the repairman, so we've decided to get a new system that is a different type from the one we have, and the one J says we should have gotten to begin with, instead of throwing more money into this one.  J was able to get a business account with the company, and this saved us $1000 over the cheapest price we found previously on the unit.  Feeling very grateful about that.  We will use our stimulus funds toward the purchase.  I harvested parsley, for roasted carrots, and used our onions in black beans, and a vegi version of my Grandmother's stuffing.  Several sweet potatoes were baked, so there would be leftovers.  A year or more ago, I realized tight shoes were causing a small bunion.  I changed my shoes, which has gone a long way, but there is still occasional discomfort.  I mixed up essential oil blends I read about, which are supposed to help with any inflammation and discomfort.  Oh, the adventures of growing older.  Several nice tufts of usnea were found in my woods wanderings, and a new jar of tincture was started.  I'd intended to remove Christmas decorations from the tree, and leave birds nests, pinecones, mushrooms, etc. for a bit longer, but found it was so dry, I decided to take it down.  Though areas around us got dustings of snow on Friday, it missed us.  I'll keep hoping.  Here's to a week of January goodness.  

Monday, January 4, 2021

A Fresh New Year & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  While in our local small town, I checked into Dollar General, and got a roll of wrapping paper 1/2 off.  It's a nice large roll, so should last a good while.  More and more, I'm using pretty boxes and fabric wraps for J's presents, but still use wrapping paper for others.  While J was out of town working, I pulled okra and veggie patties from the freezer, to have with leftover sweet potato.  The credit card bill came in for our new workshop supplies, and I paid it immediately, so there would be no interest.  Laundry was hung on the line, and yogurt was made.  After washing one of J's merino wool sweaters, I noticed three small holes, and mended them with the darning feature on my sewing machine.  I love that feature!  I also mended the hems of a pair of around the house pants, while I was there.  I scrubbed the bamboo cutting board with baking soda and homemade thieves vinegar, to remove the onion smell.  It worked really well, and the fruit I cut no longer tastes like onion, a definite plus.  

On a raw, cold day, I gathered all of the jars of medicinal tinctures from this year, and strained and bottled them.  While pulling them out of the pantry, I also found the jar of mint honey I'd made, and have been enjoying a spoonful of it as a simple tea.  Our potatoes in storage are fading.  I had to compost a few, and made a pot of mashed potatoes.  J asked for mushroom gravy, so I tried it with one of the home canned jars of mushrooms, instead of fresh, and it turned out great.  That's good to know.   A full bin of shredded paper and cardboard were emptied into the compost bin.  Kale was harvested for a farro pilaf, which also used our onions, garlic and homemade broth.  The onion experiment this year, of braiding them as garlic is often done, has been a success.  I've been pulling the ones that start sprouting, and the braids have stayed together, probably because there was a strand of twine among them.  There have been just a few I've had to compost, but for the most part, I'm keeping up with them.  It seems to work better than having them all together in a basket, and I'd do them this way again.

The pilaf recipe I mentioned was surprisingly wasteful, the directions saying to cut up carrots, celery and a 1/2 onion to cook the pilaf in, along with a quart of broth (in this case, homemade).  It then instructs you to drain the pilaf when cooked, and discard the vegetables.  The recipe was from a well known magazine.  Of course, I wasn't going to waste perfectly good food, so kept it all, and used the broth and vegetables as a base for soup a couple of days later.  I'd been waiting for a good time to make a Vitacost purchase.  One morning, I received a code for 20% off vitamins and supplements, and went through swagbucks to get another 8% back.  That was definitely worth the wait.  The pocket calendar I bought for this year didn't come with a plastic sleeve.  It would never make it two years in my pocketbook, so I used some heavy plastic, and sewed one.  I was wanting a clear cover, but if the plastic doesn't hold up, I'll probably end up sewing a fabric cover.  J & I started a jigsaw puzzle on New Years Eve, which has been fun.  

For New Years Day, I decided to make Earth Goddess soap, an old favorite that I haven't made in 9 or so years.  It has a warm, earthy scent I just love.  Whenever I make a batch of soap, it requires pouring it into the mold quickly, when it's at that point.  This means there's always a bit of soap remaining in the pot, so instead of wasting it, or sending it down the drain, which is not so good for our septic system, I scrape it and often make little soap balls with it.  We use the soap balls at the bathroom sink, and I recently used some of the Earth Goddess ones.  Yup, soap is perfectly good to use for years, decades even.  I knew when I caught the scent that I wanted to make more, and it seemed a fitting endeavor for the first day of the New Year.  That the old soap still smells so nice this many years later is a testament, I believe, to the quality of natural essential oils used for scent.  I expect the years would not be as kind to manmade fragrance oils.  

More positive happenings on New Years day included shop orders, and the nicest message from a man who was so impressed with the quality of the shaving brush and soap sample his wife gave him from my shop, he featured them on his YouTube channel.  What a lovely surprise to receive such positive feedback and encouragement, just as this new year begins.  I intended to sew some masks months ago, but then was given three handmade masks by a friend, so never got around to it.  No more than I go out, three has been enough for me.  But, they've all been washed numerous times, and I don't know how much longer they'll hold up.  The first one I made was with some of my avocado dyed fabric.  The pattern was adult size, and was way too big for me, but fits J well.  I already had a kids pattern, so made it with the same fabric.  It fits me much better. I decided to make two more, this time using some of my eco-print fabric.  One of these will be going to my GD.  I still have to adjust the ear loops, and put the knots inside.  Next, I hope to make some hair scrunchies.  Over the weekend, I helped J pull wire for the new workshop, he installed the electric panel, finished putting up all the corner boards, and did the door trim.  All in all, a fine start to the new year.  May 2021 be kinder to us all.