Monday, August 30, 2021

Late Summer Days

Hello, friends.  I'm sending prayers that those in Louisiana, Alabama and Florida are safe, as I'm writing this Sunday night.  This storm coming on the anniversary of Katrina makes my heart heavy.  It seems there are so many things, coming at us from so many angles, it can be tough to find the bright side some days.  A happy note is last week, I saw a new to me bird at the feeder, a hooded warbler, which is not uncommon here, apparently.  It always cheers me to see more diversity on this land.  

The figs, yellow squash and yard long beans are coming in well.  One day, I made fig jam and fig sherry bread, which J requested.  For a dinner, I made yellow squash soup, and pulled homemade bread from the freezer to go with it.  On Tuesday I had a slower day, which allowed me to pick up and put away things, and give some attention to things that often get missed.  One of the things I did was pull everything off the day bed, and clean and polish it.  The next day, I dehydrated lambs quarter, plus a chanterelle I found on a walk, and wrapped soap.  With days mostly in the 90's, I did the majority of my outdoor chores early, then enjoyed being in the house.  

I made zucchini orzo with the last of the tromboncino, and an apple beet salad.  The asparagus sent up some late spears after last week's rain, so I harvested a few in spots that had plenty of other spears to feed the roots.  I harvested concord grapes, and made juice with them.  The pond garden became a jungle this year, and the butternut squash did poorly.  Several vines died, and a few small, immature squash were harvested.  The sweet potatoes are also in this garden, so our expectations are not high for them.  While out and about, I went by the discount grocery, and got organic and natural peanut butter 2/$1, organic beans .60, organic soup .40, glow sticks 2/$1.  Our basement is also our storm shelter, and I thought we'd appreciate having those sources of light, if we ever had to spend much time there.  While at the store, I was told they're phasing out food, to become a hunting and fishing shop, which saddens me.  J bought pork chops at the local, small grocery store for $1.68/#, which he says is a very good price for here.  

On the way home from visiting my sister, I had a hankering for pesto, so I gathered basil and purslane when I got home, and we had it with GF pasta and sliced tomatoes for dinner.  I needed to order paint for our small business.  When I began checking out, I saw a banner for $25 off, for just a few more dollars than I was spending.  By adding one more to my cart, I got almost 2 free, which was a nice bonus.  While cutting the grapes, I cut the tip off a finger of my gloves.  I mended it with super glue.  I have small hands, and the gloves were longer than my fingers, so this should work just fine.  One of the hot evenings, I mended a napkin, a pair of shorts, 2 reusable grocery bags, 5 pairs of J's work pants, and redid an uncomfortable neckline on one of my homestead shirts.  J brought me this bouquet of local sunflowers on Sunday.  He went to pick up two more bales of organic hay, and the man also sells sunflowers.  J created a vacuum chamber to "can" our dry goods, which worked wonderfully.  We were having issues with our old method, and this seems to work a lot better so far.  

I noticed the tendril of one of the watermelons had dried several days ago, so I harvested it Sunday.  I may have jumped the gun, as the patch that was on the ground looks more creamy than yellow.  I guess we'll find out.  Neither of us feels very confident in telling when a watermelon is ready.  This coming week, I'm looking forward to seeing Paperhand Puppet Intervention, which we're taking our GD to see.  I've seen a few of their puppets at various local events, but have never been to one of their shows.  It's at a lovely, old outdoor theater in the woods on the UNC campus.  After the next few days in the 90's, we're supposed to cool down some.  I'm surely looking forward to that.   J cooked potatoes, squash, eggplant and chicken on the grill.  I've been gathering vegan ice cream recipes, and made the first one, Vanilla Maple.   I subbed almond milk for the oat milk, and sadly, it tasted more of almonds than vanilla or maple, and not much of that.  I put some of my amaretto pear preserves on top, which helped.  Stay safe and well this week, friends.    

Monday, August 23, 2021

Flowers & A Feather

Hello, friends.  A downy woodpecker feather was noticed near the bird feeders.  The next day, I saw one of these woodpeckers on the feeder.  Just this summer, it was brought to my attention that it is a crime to have most bird feathers in your possession.  I've brought them home for years, to decorate wreaths, windowsills and vases, and never knew.  I can understand the logic behind it, though picking up a random feather seems innocent enough.  The juicer I've been using daily for a little over 3 months has started acting up and showing signs of wear.  I wrote the company, asking about replacement parts.  With recent experiences with customer service, I didn't expect much.  I was pleasantly surprised, and there are two parts on the way to me for free.  The chicken coop was cleaned, and mint was harvested and placed in nesting boxes and on the floor.

One night, I pulled out corn on the cob I'd frozen, to go with a yellow squash and kalamata dish, steamed cauliflower and sliced tomatoes, which was a dinner requested by J.   A couple of days last week, dock seeds were gathered to dry and grind for flour.  I've started doing some Christmas shopping, though I've only been given a few ideas so far.  Most often, family members give ideas from Amazon and other online shops, and with hearing about the port closures, I want to get a jump on it.  I'd put one of the presents in an online cart, but didn't purchase it, as it was late one night.  The next day, I received a 10% off coupon, and purchased it.  I've gotten an idea of something I can make my husband, as one of his gifts.  Black eyed pea salad was made for lunches, but our home canned crowder peas were used.  Pasta Norma was made with our eggplant, tomatoes, onion and herbs, with a green salad with figs, pecans and beauty berries.  Though it's not strictly wild, the birds planted the beauty berry I harvested from, and it grows along the walking path. Any time I can get some extra nutrition from wild foods is a plus.  Another night a green salad was made with cherries, pecans and figs.  I made a Medical Medium-friendly "vinaigrette" from the last of a jar of fruit sweetened black currant jelly and lemon juice.  It was surprisingly good.

The mesh bags from oranges have been saved, and put at the outdoor spigot, for washing buckets, chicken waterers and such.  For a dinner side, I roasted yellow squash with maple syrup and butter.  Three jars of herbal glycerites were strained and bottled.   We're having a hard time growing bell peppers this year, as they're being chewed on before ripening.  I found several that had fallen off, cut away the good bits, and dried them.  Pasta salad was made with our cucumber, tomatoes and herbs, plus black olives.  The figs are bountiful.  I had seen a photo of a fig clafouti that someone had made, and decided to make one, but the recipe I used was not a keeper.  Well, J likes it, and is eating it, so that's good.  When I called to order metal for our home goods business, I was told they would not be getting any more metal until some time in November, due to supply chain challenges.  Our business continues to do well, and it would really hurt us to run out of metal.  I placed a much larger than usual order, and pray good sales continue.  The pups were bathed with homemade dog soap.

It's finally starting to cool off at night, so we can open up for at least part of the night, before closing in the morning.  I linked through Swagbucks for a purchase, and hadn't received cash back, so contacted them, and quickly received it.  I also wrote them again about another purchase, in which they hadn't responded in the promised 30 days, and am waiting to hear back.  Our volunteer watermelon has several melons on it.  One was an odd shape, so I cut it open for the chickens, and found out they're yellow.  More basil than was needed for a recipe was picked, and I chopped the remainder, put it in an ice cube tray with water, and froze it.  I prefer freezing to drying basil, as it has a taste much closer to fresh.  A new recipe was tried for gnocchi with tomato broth, which used our tomatoes, basil, garlic, onion and broth.  The recipe called for straining out the vegetables before serving in the broth, but I couldn't see a good reason to do that, so didn't.  It was very good.  The refrigerator is filling up with figs, so I see jam making in my near future.  Wishing you a bountiful and blessed week.

Monday, August 16, 2021

August Garden Harvest

Hello, friends.  The organic oats I recently ordered came in, and my husband picked them up on Monday.  Golden Paste was made for the pups.  Tromboncino squash and beans were shared with a friend.  We were gifted cucumbers, and shared beans with two more friends.  Another two rounds of elderberries were gathered and dried.  The week has been very hot, with lots of highs in the 90's, and very humid.  After the morning walk, and chicken and garden tasks, I devoted the majority of two days to number crunching and paperwork, enjoying being in the a/c.  I was woefully behind on paperwork for SoulSeeds and my checking account.  Now it's all caught up, as well as bookkeeping for J's business.  That feels like a big relief. 


While in town to get groceries, I stopped to check out the food at Marshall's, and got raw honey, olives and a lb. of walnuts.  At Aldi's, I bought avocados for .69, some pecans and other groceries at the usual prices.  I stopped at the library to return The Four Winds, and picked up The Paris Library.  Gas was .10 less than locally, which saved .75.  I then headed to visit with my sister, who is healing well.  While there, I borrowed an extra fitbit she had.  Several years ago, a friend who had a fitbit walked with me, and calculated his steps were around 3 miles.  Well, it turns out it's less than that, at just over 1.5 miles, so my two daily walks are only 2 or so miles, instead of the 4 I thought they were.  I wore it most of the day, and when I took it off, it registered 6.4 miles on just an average day around the homestead.  A full shredder bin was added to the compost.  

Noticing spikes of dock seeds, I harvested several, with the intention of cleaning and using them in baking at some point.  With rain in the forecast, I planted the marked down marigolds and blanket flower.  Except for one in the window box at the SoulSeeds shop, I planted the rest around cucumbers, squash and eggplant, as it supposedly helps them grow.  From the garden, tomatoes, beans, yellow squash, a pepper and eggplant were harvested.  Apples, hazelnuts, figs and pears are also being gathered as I see them.  Our new freezer is set up.  I brought all the food from the outside refrigerator/freezer inside, and unplugged it.  I used baskets I already had to organize the freezer.  Another round of potatoes that needed using were steamed, and two jars of beans that didn't seal were made into garlicky green beans.

We'd gotten so dry here, I noticed wasps, ants and yellow jackets fighting on the beans, I suppose for the moisture.  Interestingly, I didn't notice anyone bothering the bumblebees.  I spied a large praying mantis on them one day.  Laundry was hung on the line two days.  Warm up water and dehumidifier water were used to water plants and for flushing.  One night, I made a dish which used jasmine rice with our canned butter beans.  This, with sliced tomatoes, was good on a hot night.  As I'm finishing up this post Sunday night, we're getting a heavy rain, which we're so thankful for.  There wasn't much sleep last night, due to one of the pups and some other reasons, so I'm pretty fuzzy and think I'll end here.  I'm sending thoughts for a peaceful week for the world and you, friends.  Be well.

Monday, August 9, 2021

A Hint Of Fall

Hello, friends.  After an appointment in town, I picked up an order for J at Tractor Supply, stopped by the vision center to check on his glasses order, then stopped for groceries.  There were no fantastic sales, but I got avocados for .89 and cans of organic pinto beans for .99.  On the way home, I stopped at a local orchard for peaches.  I've tried several from the stores, and they've all been awful this year, because they pick them so early.  They were pricy, but I'm hoping they'll be worth it.  (Update: they were good peaches, hooray).  From the garden, I harvested tomatoes, a pepper, tromboncino squash, an eggplant, and a cucumber.  

I weeded all the eggplant in the main garden.  Lately, I've been adding at least two items to the thrift store box every week.  There will be more than usual this week, as I'm going through the clothes we have for our granddaughter, and she's pretty much outgrown everything.  I'm slowly but surely decluttering.  J bought 200 canning lids online, which came during the week.  Though we were already good for this year, you never know what the coming year will hold.  I'm seeing so many posts and videos about food shortages, it's concerning.  Please make sure you have a stocked pantry, rotate food and replace it as you use it.  We're surely living in interesting times.  We're getting low on rolled oats, so I ordered a 50# bag from the co-op we often shop at.  

Though I'd asked J to plant just enough beans for fresh eating this year, I'm harvesting more than a meal's worth daily, which is several times too many.   I guess I'll soon be adding to the number of jars already on the shelf.  That's not a terrible problem to have, but I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and exhausted this week.  There hasn't been a lot of sleep, due to one of the pups, in addition to feeling stressed.  This too shall pass.  Elderberries were harvested again.  I found some lovely heads in the chicken yard.  We've been letting elderberry and mulberry volunteers grow in the chicken yards, and this is the first harvest of these elderberries.

A bag of winter squash cubes was pulled from the freezer, for soapmaking.  With fall approaching, it was time to make a batch of Pumpkin Chai.  There was still plenty of squash left, so I made a double batch of dog treats, and Jackie Clay's Minnesota Harvest Bars with the rest.  The recipe is in her book, Growing & Canning Your Own Food.   A pint jar of tomatoes that didn't seal and tomato juice from canning were used in pasta sauce, with our herbs and onions.  Another day, tomatoes were canned.  I reprocessed a jar that didn't seal, and canned tomato juice, along with catching up on the tomatoes that needed canning.  The following day, I canned 7 jars of yard long beans, a mix of quarts and 20 oz jars with straight sides, which work well for beans.

A small tromboncino was used in a dish with quinoa, avocado and our onion.  My favorite tomato, cucumber and black olive salad went with it.  A frugal fail this week was with an order we recently had.  There was miscommunication between the customer and I, and though she was equally at fault, I took the burden of the blame, and we'll lose any profit.  Having a happy customer is worth a lot, though.  We've never gotten anything other than the best (5 star) review in our shop, and I don't want that to change if I can help it.  I've been trying to return some items we had gotten the wrong size of.  The first email I sent was in May, following the instructions they gave for returns.  As I had not had a reply to any of my emails, I did a review on them last week, giving them one star.  They quickly responded, and I got an email response a few hours later, along with a return label.

We received some much needed rain, as we haven't had a good rain for weeks.  We got 3/4", which all soaked in.  I was hoping it would replenish our creek, but I'm thankful to get what we did.  The plants are obviously happier.  For a dinner, pasta sauce was made with our tomatoes, squash, garlic, onions, rosemary and basil.  On a day the guys were working in VA, I decided to have a self-care day.  I gave myself a pedicure, cut a bouquet, and did some spiritual work.  The garden and animal chores were done, but otherwise, I focused on myself, which recharged me a bit.  Beans were shared with friends, who came to pick up our sofa to reupholster.   Lots of orders were washed, in preparation for powder coating them.  Included is the first stand we are shipping to Australia.  It's pretty exciting to be sending our work around this beautiful world.   Wishing you a week of peace and prosperity.

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.