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.