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!