Monday, October 3, 2022

Hulless Pumpkin Seeds & a New Spaghetti Squash Recipe

Last week, I roasted our first hulless pumpkin seeds, after processing the pumpkin and two spaghetti squash that weren't going to store well.  I made pumpkin bread with the puree.  The pumpkin seeds were fantastic!  I believe it was the Naked Bear variety.  I know the others are Lady Godiva pumpkins, and look forward to trying them.  Several more of last year's sweet potatoes were found in a stash I'd forgotten about.  A few trays of these sweet potatoes were dehydrated for pup treats, and I planted three that had sprouted in a pot, to see if I can coax them into supplying some winter greens for me.  I harvested tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, a few green beans, the last of the cow peas, tromboncino, one pear, two pawpaws and a cucuzza squash.  There were bronze muscadine grapes ready on a vine we'd planted some years ago, and I gathered 20.  Not many, but I'm happy to gather any fruit this year that the critters haven't already gotten.  I also nabbed two of the wild purple muscadines.  Squash were shared, as well as a bar of my Pumpkin Chai soap.  Receipts were downloaded for Swagbucks points.

I shelled butter beans while watching a movie, and while listening to a podcast another day.  J shelled all the cow peas.   After an appointment, I shopped at Harris Teeter, and received the 5% senior discount.  I bought a pineapple for $1.99, 4 packs of organic black beans and garbanzo beans for .50 off, organic peanut butter for $1 off, and asparagus for 1.99/#.  At Food Lion, I got dogfood for $6 off ea., and brussels sprouts for $2.59.  The dogfood and beans have certainly gone up, but at least there are some savings getting them on sale.  At Hallmark, I picked up my free card, while buying a pack of Thanksgiving cards.  I had a $5 off $20 coupon, but decided the holiday cards were more than I wanted to spend, so didn't use it.  At a thrift store, I picked up a cotton sheet, pillowcase and book of Native Plants of the Southeast for $1 total.  I passed by a feed & seed store, and stopped and bought lettuce seedlings, to replace the ones deer had chewed off.  We covered them with some hog wire, and row cover, to hopefully keep them safe.  Vegetable soup was made after pulling a "soup fixings" container from the freezer.  I add to these containers when I have little dribs and drabs of meals leftover, not enough to really do anything with.  It turned out quite good, and also used our canned tomatoes and carrots, onions, garlic and cabbage.

I think I mentioned a few weeks ago my MIL had given me her commercial sewing machine.  As there is really nowhere for it in our home, we are going to bump out a small room at the porch edge, and will use the existing floor and ceiling.  The two windows that will come out when we open up the wall will be used, and we'll get one more window, and possibly a small one for the third wall.  J pulled out two of the porch posts, and framed the room out.  So it begins.  Kale and rosemary were harvested for a new spaghetti squash recipe we both enjoyed.  Good thing, as we harvested quite a few of them this year, and the only recipe we'd liked in the past used butter and cream, which we can't have.  I'd tried making it with plant based versions of each, but it wasn't wonderful.  I've got another new sp. squash recipe from the same website to try as well. There was some strong wind from Ian, and almost 3 inches of rain, with lots of sticks and limbs down, and one tree down in the woods.  Our neighborhood lost power, some of the 6200 homes in our area, but with our solar, we weren't affected.  Power had mostly been restored the next morning, other than a few small patches of homes.  Golden paste was made for the pups. 

a view through the screen

The last hummingbirds I saw were on Tuesday.  Hopefully, they made it safely past the storm.  I used the toaster oven to warm bread, so free power from solar, instead of using the main propane oven.  Warm up water in the shower was saved for flushing, and water glasses were emptied into the humidifier on the woodstove.  Having read all the library books I had, I began reading a book received free on Amazon Prime on my Kindle.  I continue making chicken mash using chopped banana peels, grated cucuzza squash, often chopped tomatoes with cracks or holes, pears that I gather with bad spots, etc.  They always come running when they see me with the bucket.  I can't remember if I mentioned, but the Blue Australorps are now laying.  I'm working on using up bread that's in the freezer, heating it for J whenever soup is for dinner.  I baked the first of this year's sweet potatoes.  They were good, but if cured a bit longer, will be better.  On my walk Sunday morning, I watched a hawk, and heard a pileated woodpecker and bluejay calling.  Being amongst nature refreshes my soul.  Have a good week, everyone!

Monday, September 26, 2022

A Coastal Getaway

Our view

Hello, friends.  Last week, J & I took our long awaited trip to the NC coast.  Before we left, I froze figs, green beans, eggplant and tomatoes, and J planted the beets I started from seed.  Hopefully, they're large enough to not get eaten, unlike the ones I started in the ground.  I've begun saving seeds from the purple podded pole beans.  We brought food from home with us, and I made hummus to take for my lunches, to have with our sweet peppers and cucumbers.  I requested several books from the library, and took two with me on vacation.  Dinners brought from home included rice and butter beans with sauteed tromboncino, fried potatoes, peppers and onions with salad, and pesto and pasta with salad.

Though I love our little room and kitchenette at the beach, the kitchen has just the bare basics.  Being a vegan, gardener, and homesteader, I spend a lot of my life chopping vegetables, and a knife that isn't much better than a butter knife makes me a little crazy.  I laughed, thinking we are "those people", who bring our knives with us on vacation.  We brought a 5 gallon bucket of lima beans, and another of field peas with us to the beach.  We shelled the lima beans the evening we arrived, and enjoyed some for dinner that night, with rice and squash.  I got another laugh wondering what our housekeeper would think of our trash can filled with bean shellings.  Bet they don't see that too often!  We both did a lot of reading, on the beach and the balcony.

We shelled the peas another evening, and occasionally lost one down between the balcony floorboard cracks.  There were men sitting outside on the floor below, and we wondered if they even noticed.  Their talking never seemed to skip a beat, so hopefully not.  We did our usual thrifting one day.  J found lots of work clothes, which he sorely needed... pants, warm vests, and thick flannel shirts.  We took a day trip to New Bern, the original NC capitol, and enjoyed touring Tryon Palace and gardens, the original governor's home.  There are things we weren't able to see that day, and would love to go back.  I didn't think to take photos in the palace, and all of these are in the Kitchen building.  I have an affinity for old historic sites, and really enjoyed touring it.  We also thrifted there, and I had better luck, finding some canisters to turn into compost crocks, a lovely set of handmade cards, and a large zippered bag of cross stitch fabrics for $5.99.  I purchased a pattern for a gift some months ago, and needed fabric for it, so I should be covered, and may end up selling some fabric to recoup my cost.

We had planned to eat dinner out three nights, but with the meals being disappointing, not to mention much more expensive this year, we decided to skip the third night.  There was enough left to make another meal of potatoes, peppers and onions, and salad.  After we got home, I did a cursory pick of the garden, and found quite a few Black Swallowtail caterpillars on the parsley.  J did a last picking of the peas, and disced them in over the weekend.  He also began tilling in the sweet potato vines, and came up with a great idea for the winter.  I've been using sweet potato leaves in my morning smoothie, as they're such a mild green.  He suggested I try potting one to overwinter in the house, and harvest from it.  While I won't have the quantity I have now, I'll be glad to have some fresh, mild greens to harvest over the winter, and will definitely try it.    

After getting home on Friday, I made an easy pasta meal, using our herbs and veggies.  On Saturday, I made lentil soup, which used some of the carrots I canned this summer.  A new eggplant recipe was tried on Sunday, which included tomatoes and chickpeas, and we liked.  While we were gone, I won a T shirt from an Instagram giveaway, and may use it as a gift.  With night time temps dipping into the 40's, I switched out the summer & winter linens.  The bed was stripped, and the mattress cover and pillow covers were washed along with the sheets, and all was dried on the line.  The winter quilt was aired on the line before replacing the summer one.  Though it's washed in the spring, it gets a bit musty smelling while being stored over the summer.  The mattress cover was coming apart in places, and was mended.  It's organic cotton filled with wool, and was rather pricy, so I want to keep it going as long as I can.  That's all I'm remembering at the moment.  Happy Fall, everyone!

Monday, September 19, 2022

Making Use of Our Homegrown Produce

Hello, friends.  Though there's still plenty to do, the garden is showing signs of slowing down.  Last week, I prepped and froze pawpaws, and froze tomatoes.  I made onion powder from dehydrated onions, and dried another round in the dehydrator.  Early one morning, there was a box turtle hanging out in front of J's shop.  They had the prettiest shell markings.  I'm always cheered to see them visit us.  I harvested squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, butter beans, cowpeas, eggplant, peppers, pawpaws, and green beans.  

I made a small batch of cowboy candy with the gifted hot peppers, using a Jackie Clay recipe.  There were quite a few ghost peppers in the bunch, which got both J & I coughing.  Hopefully, they didn't make the cowboy candy unbearably hot.  I guess it depends on who's eating it.  Though I've shared it here before, I thought it was worth mentioning Disappearing Zucchini Orzo again, in case any of you still have plenty of squash to use up, as we do.  I use at least 2# of squash per recipe, use GF orzo, leave out the cheese, use homegrown herbs, and substitute tromboncino for zucchini.  It is tastier with the cheese, but we do what we must, and it's still pretty good.  Sweet potato slices were dehydrated for the pups, which finally used up all of last year's potatoes.

I harvested the first of the mature tromboncino, as their vines had died, and plan to use them grated for dog and chicken food.  Two of the mature cucuzza squash were harvested, and I've begun feeding the dogs and chickens with one of them.  Still having plenty of jars of canned green beans, I froze some this time, and also froze more figs and tomatoes.  I shared squash with J's two coworkers twice.  Honeydew and watermelon were enjoyed as late summer treats.  Some were shared as well.  We'll be enjoying these last precious days of summer, until the Fall equinox this coming Thursday.  There are 40's in the forecast the following day, to bring in cozy Fall days.  I hope you're well, friends.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Plenty of Pollinators


Hello, friends.  Last week, we were given a small bag of hot peppers, which I hope to make into cowboy candy.  I need to review the recipe, to see if there are enough.  Otherwise, I plan to dry them.  At least one of the recipients last year really liked the cowboy candy.  I prepped pawpaws, and got close to 4 more lbs of pulp.  J gave me a dehydrator for my birthday, and I've dried cherry tomatoes so far.  I mentioned last post that I had bought another GF bread to try.  Darn it if it's not another fail, because I didn't read the label at the store.  Though it's GF, it has vinegar, canola oil and corn in it, none of which I can have.  The good news is someone nearby wanted it, as well as the Pamela's pancake & baking mix I got after a recommendation, but then realized it has buttermilk in it, and had already put it in jars and cut up the bag.  I'm very glad these will be used.  They were both quite expensive, with the bread at $7.99 and the baking mix somewhere in the mid $20's.  The stores where they were purchased are 45 minutes away, so passing them on is preferable.  

A line from Emma's A simple living journey, "To disagree respectfully seems to be a diminishing art form" brought to mind what I noticed during the pandemic.  It helped give clarity that those I want in my tribe are the ones who are kind and respectful to all, regardless of differing beliefs. I understand that it's likely fear which made people behave the way they did, but I believe our actions are always a choice.  I'm very blessed to know many kind and loving individuals.  It's the kind, loving acts that will change the planet.  Shine your light, dear friends.  It's needed now more than ever.

I used our potatoes mashed with mushroom gravy, and made fried sweet potato rounds another night.  Stewed tomatoes were canned.  Tomato sauce was canned for the first time another day.  To use up some of the onions, I made maple onion jam, said to be good on burgers and other meats, grilled cheese, and on charcuterie boards.  This was put in my gift cupboard.  I blanched and froze lambs quarter and cowpeas.  Squash with onions, garlic and tomatoes was made for dinner.  J dug the sweet potatoes.  We harvested more large ones than we ever have, with one weighing over 9# 11 oz.  They'll be good for pies, which J loves.  I tried Stacy's tomato tip  with three of our tomatoes, all different varieties.  It will be interesting to see how it turns out.  

J found a carboy for winemaking on FB Market, which was near my sister, so I was able to visit, and brought her more garden produce.  The carboy has a carrying handle, and was less than half the price of a new one.  Afterwards, I stopped for some groceries.  I held off getting cat food at one store for $19.99, and was happy to find it here for $17.69.  I was hoping to find vegetable shortening for less, but it was $7.99!, so I'll keep looking.  Aldi used to carry it as it got close to the holidays, but who knows if they will this year.  Though I should have checked the receipt before I left the store, I didn't until after I arrived home, and found several errors.  Amazingly, it ended up in my favor.  The last few I've found were not, so I suppose it all evens out.  A $5 reward went towards the purchase, and I earned another $3 reward.  Swagbucks points were redeemed for a $25 gift card.

Deer are grazing on the thornless blackberries we planted this spring, and are jumping the garden fence to graze on the sweet potato leaves.  The sweet potato leaves are fine, now that J has dug them.  Though I've been using them in smoothies, I'll share.  The blackberries, however, have had all the leaves stripped from them, which can impact their developing root systems.  He's threatening to harvest one or more deer, if this keeps up.   They've also walked in our fall plantings, which is less than ideal.  I made a batch of golden paste for the pups.  The latest planting of chard, carrots and winter greens are coming up.  The carrots are thin, but I'll take whatever we get.  The late planting of potatoes are finally showing some progress, with two of them growing leaves.  It has been an interesting gardening year, and I won't mind when it's behind us, so I can give my attention to some other things that have been neglected as of late.  I requested several books from the library that have been on my list.  Wishing you a most lovely week.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Late Summer Days

Hello friends, and happy September.  Last week, I planted lettuce and beets.  I had used pieces of roofing tin to cover the most recent round of carrots I planted, but found it got too hot, and dried the soil out, so I replaced it with cardboard.  I've seen just a few germinate, but every time I check, there are dozens of pill bugs and ants on the bed, so I don't have very high hopes that this round will go any better than the previous two plantings.  The beets are coming up nicely, as I started them in a pot.  Less than ideal, but this is round three for them too.  I started a batch of cat's claw glycerite.  Pawpaws, squash, cucumbers, watermelon, green beans and figs were shared with neighbors and others.  I  dehydrated more onions and cherry tomatoes.  At this point, many of the tomatoes are cracked, pecked, or partially eaten, so I started freezing them, to keep our kitchen less of a science experiment than it already is.  It may affect the flavor, but that's the best I can do this year, until I have a chance to preserve them.  

Medical Medium plant based caprese salad

For one dinner, I made apple beet salad, potato and green bean salad, and sliced tomatoes, all homegrown except for the apple.  I made an online food purchase using a 15% off coupon, and went through Swagbucks for an additional 4% cash back.  I prepped and froze 6+ lbs of pawpaw pulp.  We're looking into using it to make wine.  I gave the dogs baths in our outdoor shower with homemade soap.  Laundry was dried on the line.  We harvested cucumbers, cucuzza and tromboncino squash, tomatoes, cowpeas, green beans, sweet potato and buckwheat leaves for smoothies, apples, pears, some volunteer ground cherries, melons, figs, eggplant, lambs quarter and purslane.  For the first time ever, I gave up on harvesting something that's still producing.  The cucuzza have been very generous, and I typically harvest 2 or 3 a day.  One or less is enough for most recipes.  We've shared around 20 with others at this point, and some in the fridge have started going bad.  I had the realization that I really prefer tromboncino, so I will continue to harvest those as we need them.  The mature cucuzza may end up as winter feed for the chickens.  J got the fall seedlings planted, some store bought and others I started.  There are collards, cabbage, broccoli and kale. He also seeded some mixed winter greens.

I explored our library website, and found out we now have the Libby app and Hoopla, which should greatly expand our e-book possibilities.  Eggplant was canned, and a triple batch of pesto was made.  The potatoes I planted for a late harvest were all a fail.  I only saw one that appeared to be making a stem, and there were a multitude of ants around it, so it never did anything.  There was a big oops moment for me this week, when I realized the bread I'd been using recently, the one I said was the only GF bread that didn't feel like I was eating a sponge, turns out not to be GF.  I know the first time I bought it, it had a GF shelf label, and amazingly, I never checked the ingredient list, which is unlike me.  No wonder it was so much better, lol.  When we were out for the day, I picked up an actual GF bread from the same brand, so we'll see how it is this week.  While I was harvesting the garden one morning, keeping me company was a hummingbird sipping nectar from the morning glories.  It was my birthday, and felt like a lovely thing, after finding that the Wordle word of the day was "inter", lol.  We had a little day trip, visiting Museum of the Cape Fear, which included a tour of the Victorian era house on site, which was free, though we made a donation.  We were a bit early for our restaurant, and stopped at two antique stores, but didn't find a thing we needed.  It was nice to get a little break, as we'll both be hard at work again on Labor Day.  I hope you've managed some down time, or will on Monday.  Blessings to you, friends.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Garden Abundance

Hello, friends.  I hope your August has been going well.  Last week, I cut up our figs and pawpaws to use in fruit salad, and added beauty berries gathered on a walk to top it, adding nutrition and a little color.  Sweet potato pieces were fried.  Our cucumbers, pepper and tomatoes were used in a salad.  A book was returned to the library, and more were picked up.  When my sister was here learning to can, I gave her garden produce to take home.  She brought me a lovely homegrown bouquet.  My stepmom was visiting NC, and my sister, brother, SIL and I met her for lunch.  I brought produce to my SIL, and brought jars of tomatoes and tomato juice to my sister, which she had helped can.  While in Greensboro, I shopped at my co-op.  They had a sale on Southern Exposure Seed Exchange seeds for $2 ea., so I got three lettuce and a sweet pepper we haven't tried.  Pawpaws were prepped and frozen in 1/2 c amounts in muffin tins.  

To use some of the bounty, fig bread and zucchini bread were made, the latter with tromboncino.  I blanched and froze some cowpeas, enough for three meals.  Figs were used in a green salad, with beauty berries sprinkled on top.  I gave the zucchini chips another try, hand cutting them thicker this time.  Two trays were prepared, just to try them, and the dehydrator was otherwise filled with onions.  You may remember some time ago I braided onions.  They're doing great, but that was only about half of them, and the round J dug a bit later sat on the drying rack for weeks, which didn't do them any favors.  Several of them, particularly white ones, had started to rot, so I salvaged what I could, and dried it for onion powder.  The latest squash chips ended up being too thick.  I plan to try at least once more.  Another round of pawpaws were prepped and frozen.  A local farm with a CSA had told us they wanted to buy some, but did not in the end, so I'm freezing them for future smoothies.  I redeemed Swagbucks points for a $25 gift card. 


Between the tromboncino and cucuzza, the squash has gotten out of control.  I still have many canned quarts on the shelf, and early in the season, I canned up some pints.  I decided to make Burden soup with some, which uses up 2.2# at a go.  Still only a dent, but every bit helps.  On Friday, we gave away many squash.  Hooray!  I froze all the tomatoes, and will make tomato paste when there are enough to make it worth my while.  Laundry was dried on the line.  Some weeks back, I mentioned how much fun we had dancing at a gathering.  When we saw a local Inn was having a 70's dance party this past weekend, we decided to do it again.  We had a fun evening, the costumes were fantastic, and we were well taken care of for breakfast, despite all our quirky food challenges.  Garden produce was shared with our pet sitter when we arrived home.  Shortly before we left, J harvested most of the winter squash and pumpkins.  J harvested the last three cabbage.  One was used for dinner, and our yellow squash, onion and garlic in another dish.  Though not in the forecast, we received some lovely rain Sunday afternoon.  Wishing all in the US a happy Labor Day weekend!

Monday, August 22, 2022

Alternatives to Chicken Feed & A New Jam

Hello, friends.  Last week, I harvested several sprigs of rosemary, and made some rosemary lemonade, which was nice and refreshing.  On Monday, figs and pawpaws most needed attention, so I canned vanilla fig preserves, then pawpaw butter.  These were set aside for gifts, though I did have a small amount of the fig preserves left, and enjoyed it's goodness on toast.  Daily goals were made on Swagbucks each day.  Several cucuzza squash were grated, and frozen in 1/2 cup pucks in a muffin tin, to use in recipes over the winter.  My Mom's zucchini soup was made with our cucuzza, tomatoes, onion, garlic and herbs.  Squash has been cooked in many forms... in a dish with quinoa and lime, in my Mom's soup, and sauteed with onions.  Water from rinsing vegetables and from canning were used to water plants.  My gift cupboard is filling up nicely.  There have been two more batches added since this pic was taken, including Cantaloupe Vanilla Jam by Food in Jars, which Staci kindly shared with me.  It's really delicious.  

Our Dixie Lee & Iron and Clay cowpeas had been dehydrated so far.  I wanted to freeze some fresh, and blanched and froze four bags.  They'll cook more quickly, and I generally prefer the flavor over dried beans.  Two quarts of figs were chopped and frozen.  We lost the cantaloupe fight.  All the ones in the house had soft spots, and some had started growing mold.  I tackled them, and saved maybe half of the melon, gave the seeds to the chickens, and composted the rest.  Though I'm not sure what we'll do with all of it, it's chopped and in bags in the fridge, joining the already chopped melons in there.  Most years we've had no luck growing them.  Feast or famine.  I've been listening to lots of podcasts and videos while doing chores, particularly during the time I'm in the kitchen dealing with the harvest.  A favorite is Three Rivers Homestead.  I believe I've mentioned the chicks we bought as supposedly Rhode Island Red pullets are Modern Game Bantams.  We're now sure that the one on the left is a rooster, as he's been crowing away.  Sheesh.  They're such fast movers, this is the best pic I could get.

Knowing I won't have all the fresh produce coming in to use for chicken mash during the cold months, I've been gathering some things to use to supplement their diet, as I've been doing this summer.   J had two large bags of cereal he no longer wants, being he can't have milk (& doesn't care for plant milk), so I've saved them to crush up as part of their mash.  When he organized our seeds, he brought me a basket of corn cobs we had saved for seed.  As we're not planning on growing corn any longer, and I can't eat it on my current lifestyle, I'll grind the corn for the chickens.  I've also found homemade bread crumbs in the freezer, from pre-GF days, so they will also be used.  We've left a couple vines of tromboncino to ripen into winter squash for them, and quite a few are already huge and turning color.  Much of the year, I can also bring them various greens, and I'm thinking of collecting some of the numerous seed heads of dock on the homestead.  I feel better knowing if there are supply chain issues, or the price of their feed becomes too much to bear, I have a number of foods to give them to at least stretch any bought food.

In the garden, we harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, tromboncino and cucuzza squash, figs, apples, pears, plums, cowpeas, carrots, basil, parsley, thyme, cantaloupe, honeydew, and pawpaws.  I tried making "zucchini chips" with cucuzza for the first time.  They tasted nice, with salt, dill and lemon juice.  A mandoline was recommended for cutting, but they were paper thin once dehydrated, and stuck to the trays.  Though I do have stainless mesh to go in the trays when needed, my experience has been that very thin items stick just the same.  I'm disappointed, as I was really hoping to be able to provide my own snacks for a time, instead of buying them.  I may try hand cutting them thicker, but the mandoline sure did make quick work of it.  If you've made them before, I welcome suggestions.  For purchases for my business, I used a 15% off code, and went through Rakuten for 10% back.

A few more flower seeds were found at Dollar Tree, to use in my Garden sets, but when putting them away, I noticed 4/6 packets were from '21.  They only charged me .10 a packet, so I can't really complain, but that was something I never thought to look for.  I have been hearing about people buying expired food in these times, so I guess it pays to look at everything.  Sweet potato leaves were harvested to have in my morning smoothies.  It's a super easy way to get in more leafy greens, and is not even noticeable.  On the way to the library, I dropped off cucumbers and squash to a friend.  Magazines were dropped off at the library's free basket, when dropping off a book.    Leftover small steamed potatoes were fried with our onion and sweet pepper.  With a little smoked paprika and garlic powder, they were yummy, and all homegrown, except for the oil and spices.  It's a great way to use up the smaller potatoes, and I want to remember to make more of these during the winter.  

I woke up very early one morning, and made hummingbird food and golden paste for the pups, then packed orders and wrapped soap until J woke up.  I made my Fall soap last week, Pumpkin Chai, so it's curing on the shelf, and should be ready to wrap Labor Day weekend.  We had J's family reunion to go to on Saturday.  I made GF pawpaw oat bars, a vegan broccoli mac & cheese, and brought a big salad for myself.   My niece and sister have both recently expressed interest in learning to can, which really excites me.  My sister is coming today to learn to can tomatoes, and has asked for some canning supplies for Christmas.  I love sharing this simple lifestyle with others.  We have a fun date night coming up this week.  May your week contain many good things.  

Monday, August 15, 2022

Eating From the Garden & Putting Food By

Hello, friends.  Last week, a small bouquet was cut, to enjoy in the house.  I dehydrated tomato tops, which will be turned into powder, once more are collected.  I harvested basil, and made pesto.  Sweet potato and a few buckwheat leaves were gathered, and added to smoothies.  I harvested spilanthes, lemon verbena, thyme and stevia, and dried them.  From the garden, we harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, yellow, cucuzza and tromboncino squash, butternut and other winter squash, green beans, cantaloupe, honeydew, apples, figs, and pawpaws.  Apple Cinnamon Zucchini muffins were made with tromboncino.  I made them GF and vegan, and they turned out well.  A bread end was dried for bread crumbs.

Twice the past week, I saw mention of making cabbage steaks.  Having our cabbage that needed to be used, I tried it for dinner one night.  We thought it was pretty good, though I'm sure real butter would make it better.  Another new dish was tried, using our eggplant, tomatoes, broth, basil and garlic.  I'll be making it again.  While the cabbage was baking, sweet potatoes were added to the oven.  By deferring shipping on some amazon items, I've got $4.50 in digital credit, which will be used for either books or movies.  After a soap delivery, I went by Dollar Tree, and picked up parchment paper, scissors, wax paper, gift wrap, tissues, and a few more packets of seeds for my Garden sets.   I was happy I'd purchased scissors, as my kitchen & garden pair broke at the handle over the weekend. 

Are you aware of the difference in ingredients the major food corporations put in US foods vs the UK's?  Just another reason to grow as much of your food as possible, and cook from scratch.  I canned another round of tomato paste, ending up with another pint.  Though we've been having cantaloupe pretty much every day, and have shared some, we still weren't keeping up.  I researched, and tried dehydrating some, and made salted cantaloupe jam, which is actually pretty good.  We're not so sure about the dehydrated melon, or how we'd use it.  Our garlic, rosemary and homemade broth were used in soup.  As I can't have mayonnaise, (no eggs or vinegar), I needed to figure out how I could have a tomato sandwich.  Mashed avocado on one slice of GF bread works well, and some basil and salt added makes it yummy.

August has always felt like damage control around here, taking care of the produce that most needs attention on any given day.  Eggplant and squash needed using, so I tried a new recipe for cucuzza squash, which also used our tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs, and made eggplant in plum sauce, using our garlic, herbs, and plum sauce made previously from our plums.  All laundry was dried on the line.  Just about every day, we're picking cow peas, and shelling them.  I cut our first honeydew, and it was sadly a long way from being ripe.  J found one cracked another day, which was ripe.  It's hard to find that happy medium.  I cut a watermelon that was found chewed off the vine, a lovely yellow one, which was thankfully nice and ripe.  

Dear friends invited us to their lake house, for some very needed down time on Sunday.  Once we got all the things done on the homestead, we headed in that direction to spend time with old friends, eat well, and soak up the sunshine.  Cucumber salad and cantaloupes were brought to share.  Now, we can get back to it, with a refreshed spirit.  We're having a rainy morning, which I'm delighting in, rare as they are these days.  Wishing you a most lovely week, friends.

Monday, August 8, 2022

All About the Harvest

Hello, friends.  Last week was all about the harvest.  Tomatoes were cooked down for paste, which was my first time making it.  They simmered most of the day, as we don't grow paste tomatoes.  They ended up reducing from 18 pints down to 1 pint, plus a pint of tomato juice.  I then canned our carrots, which added six half pints to the pantry.  Four pans of figs were halved and frozen, and some were added to a smoothie, with banana and pineapple.  With leftover pasta, I made a salad and opened jar of caponata canned last summer.  Wheat and GF rolls were warmed for the caponata. I went through Rakuten for 10% back on an order, while the site had a 20% off sale.  Swagbucks is usually better, but this time, they were less than Rakuten, at only 6%.  I cooked using the toaster oven a couple of times, using solar power instead of propane with the regular oven.

For a dinner, I made a pasta dish that used tromboncino, plus our onion, garlic and oregano.  I made a loaf of fig bread for J, using our eggs and figs.  Cucumbers were shared with our mail carrier, J's business partner, and friends, and tromboncino with friends.  The cantaloupes have started ripening, and the first honeydew was harvested.  While he was nearby, I asked J to return books to the library.  I dug around the recently planted potatoes to check on them, and found the slightest bit of growth on one, one had rotted, and the others hadn't done a thing.  I uncovered most of the soil off them, and as they hopefully grow, I'll replace the soil.  It was another very dry week, but thankfully on Saturday night, we got some good rain.  So very thankful for it.  Warm up water and water from washing lettuce was used to water plants.  

I cut up all the apples that had fallen on their own, or with the squirrel's help.  Though I have an apple peeler/slicer, it doesn't do well with fruit that isn't round or is soft, and they were pretty small as well, so it was a labor of love.  Though I never like to waste anything, it seems especially important this year.   I ended up with two gallon bags of slices.  Being it was dinnertime when I got to that point, I froze them, and will can them another day.  The squirrels have pretty much eaten all the hazelnuts, though the nuts were a long way from being ripe.  After an appointment, I found two canisters at a thrift store, of which at least one will be made into a compost crock.  The other is a handmade pottery piece, and I may keep it, though I haven't decided yet.  I received the 5% senior discount at the grocery store.  

A potato and green bean salad was made on a day in the mid-90's with high humidity.  Neither of us wanted much more, so I made a green salad using our figs, and sliced some tomatoes to have with it.  When I filled up my car, I was very happy to see it had been 20 days since my last fill up.  All laundry was dried on the line.  I gathered seeds from the mizuna.  Though it wasn't my favorite, the chickens liked it just fine.  I've also gathered marigold seed heads.  The latest pest in the garden are leaf footed bugs on the tomatoes, which mostly just damage them cosmetically, though they can also cause tomatoes to drop.  The June bugs are eating a large amount of our figs.  Thankfully, there is plenty to go around this year.  J has sprayed with pyganic, an organic insecticide, to hopefully, cut down on their numbers next year.  Being surrounded by hay fields, their preferred habitat for laying eggs, it's challenging.  

J tilled in the patch of buckwheat.  We were both sorry to, as there were so many pollinators enjoying it, but the purpose of planting it was to build the soil.  We were a little late, as there were already some seeds, so it's possible we'll have another round of it before frost, which will be just fine.  We enjoyed a night out with friends, for dinner and a concert.  The band are local folks that we've enjoyed seeing several times, pre-Covid, and tickets were reasonably priced.  I was excited to find the restaurant, as it was vegan, but found out the following day they were closing.  I'm glad I got to enjoy it.  A dish was made using our squash, tomatoes and onion.  J harvested watermelon, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, Iron & Clay cowpeas and lots of cantaloupes.  I planted several more potatoes, in hopes of a harvest before frost.  I'll probably leave it at that, as I expect I'm pretty much at the end of my window of opportunity.  I hope you're finding ways to put some food by, whether homegrown or purchased.

Monday, August 1, 2022

New Recipes & Homestead Challenges

Hello, friends.  Our buckwheat plots are buzzing with many pollinators, a lovely sight to see.  Last week, I found a recipe for vegan GF zucchini bread, and made a loaf with the tromboncino squash.  I picked it because it had many 5 star reviews, and it didn't disappoint.  I'll definitely make it again.  I finally found a GF loaf bread I liked.  I'd been unable to find one that was recommended, but saw Rudy's Sourdough in the freezer at Harris Teeter.  It's the first one that doesn't feel like I'm eating a sponge, and tastes good too.  I'm happy about that!  I harvested carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, tromboncino, eggplant, a beet, yellow squash, blueberries, apples, figs and pears.  I planted a third variety of collards J wanted.

In a green salad, I used our figs and blueberries, and toasted some pecans.  I use honey and lemon juice for my dressing.  I requested books that were all at other libraries in the county to be picked up at my local branch.  A new baked dish was made, using our yellow squash, tromboncino and tomatoes.  It was good, but we agreed to try adding onion next time.  I added onion to the leftovers, and we thought it improved it nicely.  I made a vegan form of parmesan cheese, which is surprisingly good.  Not cheese exactly, but very salty and savory.  Tomatoes and tomato juice were canned.

Upon researching, we've decided we've got Modern English Game Bantams.  Interestingly, they have different legs... one has green and the other has yellow legs, as well as different coloration of feathers, so they're apparently not even the same breed.  We incorporated them into the main flock last week, and they're settling in well.  I was worried about them being so small, but they're fast, so can move out of the way quickly when it's needed.  It's the first time in a couple of years that we've had everyone in one coop, which cuts down on my chore time a bit.  I foraged chanterelle mushrooms and lambs quarter, and used the chanterelles, tomato, lambs quarter, and onion in a veggie scramble.  I cleaned my cutting board with lemon peels, after using it for lemon water.  

our first, and only aronia berries

There was a good article on using tromboncino as animal feed.  We'll try growing some out this year for that purpose.  We think there are much better tasting winter squash, but we'll grow them for the chickens winter mash.  I crushed a pan of egg shells, and placed them around the pepper, eggplant, and tomato plants.   It looks like that's allowing the peppers to grow to maturity.  Tomato plants that grew outside the cage while I wasn't looking were tied up with garden twine, as well as the staked eggplants.  A new eggplant recipe was tried, which was OK, but not a keeper.  I printed a few more to try.  Figs were harvested, halved, and frozen. 


I picked up honey I bartered my time for, and tried to buy a lidded jar there, to replace my broken sugar jar, but she kindly gifted it to me.  I shared cucumbers and tromboncino squash with her.  Though it wasn't a need, I found a lovely simple natural linen dress marked down at Marshall's for $20.  It's the sort of piece one can layer over different pieces.  I picked up books at the library.  At the grocery store, I found our dogfood on sale for $7.30 off per bag, and lemons for $2 off per bag, and got two of both.  None of our cabbage sprouted, so J replanted it, as well as more carrots and beets, and a few more collards.  A lovely fern had come up along our walking path.  Not wanting to mow it, I transplanted it to the shade garden.  

There were challenges on the homestead last week.  There was an abundant harvest, a nice increase in sales in my soap shop, as well as several sales in our metal home goods shop, all good.  The bad included the squirrels finding our hazelnuts, which was just a matter of time.  They also ate every last one of our peaches.  I checked them a couple of days earlier, and they were still hard as rocks, but by Saturday, the peaches were all gone, and they continue stealing the apples and pears.  Our pond lettuce experiment was a fail.  The lettuce never germinated, and the set up got under our floating dock, so when J went to check on it, the styrofoam cracked under his weight.  He used the neighbor's backhoe to remove a stump, so he could more easily mow around a persimmon, and in the process, lost track of and demolished the persimmon.  Oops!  The June bugs have been eating a large amount of our figs as they ripen.  While helping me pick figs on the tallest branches, J got stung by a wasp, to which he's allergic.  Thankfully, no epipen was needed, though his hand was painful, and now itchy and swollen..  Ah well, life is always interesting on the homestead.  Here's to a bit more ease in the coming week.  

Monday, July 25, 2022

The Summer Garden & Cucuzza Squash

Hello, friends.  How have you been doing these July days?  Last week, I planted seeds of beets, cabbage, kale, broccoli, and collards.  The beets were direct sown, and were Detroit Dark Red and Cylindra.  The others were started in pots, and were Russian Red, Premier, and Dwarf Siberian kale, Early Jersey Wakefield and a mystery cabbage, Green Glaze and Vates collards, and Green Goliath broccoli.  The lettuce planted in the pond last weekend was Salad Bowl and Dark Red Lollo Rossa.  I received free packs of sample HP papers, thanks to someone sharing on The Prudent Homemaker.  While using a $3 off $20 produce coupon, I found organic peaches for $2.49/2# (usually $3.99), and found cherries at another store for $3.99/#.  Some of the peaches were frozen for future smoothies.  We've had some nice, large tomatoes, including this whopper that weighed 1# 11 oz.

I decided to plant a few more potatoes, using ones that had worked their way above the ground before harvesting, and had started to grow little leaves, as well as ones starting to sprout.  I'm doing this as I come across them when gathering for dinner.  I wish I'd thought of it before we covered them up in their storage spot, but I saw mention where there was still time to get a harvest, even if only small potatoes.  We love potatoes, and more can only be a good thing.  Water from washing lettuce was used to water plants.  A bin of shredded paper was emptied into the compost.  The pups were bathed in the outdoor shower with homemade dog soap.  Their beds were washed, and dried on the line.  I sold a set of antique dishes for my friends on ebay.  There have been lots of apple and pear drops, so I've been gathering many of them.  Some of the damaged apples have been chopped for the pups and chickens.  I'm thinking of making a batch of applesauce with them.  No sign yet of the pond lettuce germinating, but soon I hope.  

Eggplant, stewed tomatoes and tomato juice were canned last week.  I made soap using the stove for the first time this year.  Sales have been slow, so I hadn't made any since April, when the woodstove was still going occasionally.  Thankfully, sales are picking up a bit.  Last week, I harvested cucumbers, yellow squash, eggplant, tromboncino, tomatoes, basil, blueberries, and green beans.  I went through Swagbucks for a purchase, which will give me $5 cash back, used a $12 reward, and will get another 10% back in rewards.  I mended a small hole in the watering can with epoxy.  The carrots and beets have started coming up, and quite a few kale, collards and broccoli are up, as well as another cucumber.  The first two chanterelles were gathered, and used in a veggie scramble.

The first two cucuzza squash were harvested.  I checked in with my Sicilian family, and they recommended making pasta with tenerumi and cucuzza.  I watched the video as well on YT, and found out, traditionally the beans inside larger green beans would have been used, but this was changed to black eyed peas in the US, in this particular recipe at least.  I found one large green bean with five beans inside today, so I threw it in, along with the homegrown canned peas.  I figured out what was making holes in our peppers, and causing them to drop off... slugs.  We have a bottle of beer we were given that we don't care for, so it will be used as slug bait.  I may also crush egg shells, and place them around the plant.  I'd love to harvest some peppers.  We're grateful for the good rain we had last week, and are hoping for more this week.    Wishing you a lovely week.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Summer Canning & A Lettuce Experiment

Hello, friends.  Last week, I canned yellow squash and tomatoes.  Instead of the usual raw pack canning of tomatoes, I tried stewing them for the first time, and canned the juice separately.  I'm thinking stewed should made a nicer sauce.  The time and effort seemed to be approximately the same, but I liked not having to deal with the steaming pot to remove skins, and then the ice bath afterwards.  The recipe I used left the skins on, so I did too.  I've done that with cherry tomatoes used in canning, and they were fine.  Another day, I blanched and froze lambs quarter.  Cucumbers, tomatoes, yellow squash, tromboncino, eggplant, blueberries, a very few blackberries, parsley, oregano, basil, the first green beans and lambs quarter were harvested.  At Aldi, I bought a pineapple for $1.49, which is the cheapest I've seen in a long time.  I keep looking for the .99 pineapples I  read about people finding, but never see any in this area.  If I did, I'd try canning them, as they're doing.  J was given a large bag of local sweet corn, and froze most of it, after enjoying several ears.

I met my sister for a thrifting day, and found a dress to wear to the 70's disco dance party we're going to in August.  It's polyester, with a 70's looking pattern, and flared sleeves.  J had sent me a link for an outfit online, but it was $50, and I refuse to pay that to wear for one night.  The dress should have been $2, but I think ended up being $4 at the thrift store, still a great savings.  I also found J a fleece work vest, which was either $2 or $4, and a scarf for the dance outfit for $1.  We stopped by a produce stand, and I picked up a cantaloupe for $3.  Not a great deal, but cheaper than the stores have been here.  I shared cucumbers with my sister.  After I dropped her back at her car, I shopped at Food Lion, where I found someone had left coupons in the cart, including one for $3 off  $20.

We got rid of our two "extra" roosters, after J listed them online.  A woman and her small son came to pick them up, and though we didn't ask directly, we believe they will be additions to their farm nearby.  Though, in these times, I couldn't begrudge anyone wanting to put food by, I'm hoping they're living their best lives, with a flock of their own.  As the weeks go by, the littlest "RI Red" chicks are appearing to be bantams or some other small breed.  They're definitely not RI Reds.  We lost one of our Americauna hens last week.  She was just sitting near the door to their yard when I went out in the morning, and when I went to check on her a little while later, she was already gone, though she didn't appear to be struggling to breathe or any other signs.  I knew when she let me pet her that she must be pretty sick.  I continue soaking scratch grains overnight for the chickens, and giving them a mixture of banana peels, and whatever else I have that day.  Lately it's been chopped figs, grated cucumber, sometimes chopped tomatoes that have been pecked on by birds.  The day I canned tomatoes, they got all the seeds I had strained out for juice.  J glued one of the legs on the recently thrifted gateleg table, and I stained a small block he had replaced on it.  

Cole slaw was made with our cabbage and carrots, and J had the other cabbage half with potatoes one night.  I dehydrated the cut off tomato tops from canning for suet, and a few mushrooms that needed to be used, to add to the soup mix.  I planted the ends of one celery, and four lettuce in the garden.  Like last year, it doesn't look as though the celery is doing anything, but one lettuce appears to be growing slightly so far.  We have lots of melons and winter squash growing on the vines.  I keep finding various seedlings eaten off.  This week, it was lettuce and nasturtium.  In place of the nasturtium, I transplanted wintersown portulaca.   For the lettuce, we did a project we've been talking about for some time, which is making holes in a large piece of styrofoam for the pots, and floating the pots in our pond.  It supposedly keeps the lettuce cool enough to be happy during the summer, and the water has enough nutrients in it to help them thrive.  I planted four pots to start.  If they do well, we plan to add more.   

I made a peach cobbler for J, with some of the peaches a neighbor gave him, and some flour that needs using, as I'm GF now.  I started another MM cleanse this week, so it seemed a good time to do that.  For the cleanse, I've been able to use kale, tomatoes, herbs, garlic and cucumber from the garden in meals.  We've been able to open up at night, to take advantage of the fresh and cooler air, and got a small amount of rain.  I cleaned the chicken coop, and cut spearmint and southernwood sprigs to place in the coop and nest boxes.  While braiding onions on the porch with the pups, I saw a green snake fall from the roof.  It took me a minute to realize an anole lizard had it in it's mouth.  They battled for two or three minutes before the anole let the snake go.  I figure the snake had probably gone after the anole, and he was having no part of it!  Nature is something to behold.  

We had guests on Sunday.  They appreciated the photos of the garden I shared on social media, and asked if they could come out.  I was gifted a piece of a new to me herb, called papalo.  It's sometimes compared to cilantro, and has a strong scent and taste.  I've got it in water, to see if it will grow roots.  I was also given a bag of worm castings, an excellent gift for a gardener.  Cucumbers and tomatoes were shared.  J sowed carrot seeds.  I did a little bit of weed eating before the battery died.  By the time it was charged, I was onto other things.  J and I do Wordle and the spelling bee it links to pretty much every day, and compare.  As we do the free version of spelling bee, it cuts us off at some point, so I sometimes also do a free version called Free Bee, which does not cut you off.  It's the little things.  Be well, friends.