Monday, December 26, 2022

Winter Harvest

Hello, friends.  I hope you had a most enjoyable holiday.    Last week, we harvested cabbage for colcannon, lettuce and chard, and thyme for tea.  I finished reading Love & Saffron, which I really enjoyed, and requested three more books from the library.  A pot of small sweet potatoes was simmered on the woodstove for the pups and chickens.  Another tromboncino was grated for the chicken's mash, which they get every day that I'm at home.  My two sewing machines were moved into the new sewing room, and J bought a small wall propane heater, as our wood heat doesn't reach there very well.  I've started looking for a piece of furniture for fabric storage.  At a dental cleaning, I received a "free" toothbrush and two samples of ozone gel.  My husband and I watched the Bocelli Christmas special, free (with ads) on YouTube; free Pandora holiday stations and the holiday stream on Folk Alley provided cheer.

pre-single digit garden cover up

I stopped at Hallmark after an appointment, and got $9 off my purchase, using coupons, and received a free card.  At Harris Teeter, I received the 5% senior discount, and picked up brussels sprouts for $2.99/#.  Not a great price, but better than the $3.99 I'd been seeing elsewhere.  I also got a large organic cucumber for $1.79, and canned organic beans on sale for $1 off/ 4 pk.  At Food Lion, I got three bunches of asparagus for $1.49/#, and froze two.  The quality was less than I'd hoped for, but that's not uncommon with produce these days.  Also purchased was honey on sale, and  .99 avocados.  J read there's a bumper crop of avocados, so hopefully the price will go down further.  I went by a favorite thrift store.  The sign said Christmas items were 1/2 off, but at the register I realized they were giving everyone half off, which was a nice surprise.  I bought a small gift, and two items for my online shop.

Vegetable soup was made, with several of our vegetables, and also used some of our dehydrated greens and soup mix (onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms).  J & I deeply harvested the winter garden before the single digit temps, and covered everything as well as possible.  None of it may make it, but we wanted to try.  We harvested many lbs. of of collards, more than a large black trash bag full, and blanched and froze 16 qts.  Also harvested was 5 oz of chard, equivalent to a regular clamshell of salad, 13 oz. of lettuce, around 2# of kale, some of which was frozen, a small amount of broccoli, and a few lbs. of mixed winter greens.  We did our best to not waste anything, and hope to be harvesting something on the other side of this frigid snap.  Three friends who often take our produce were out of town, and another didn't want any of it.  I went through Rakuten with 10% back, for a business purchase.  On Christmas day, J made himself a pork roast, and our turnips and greens with bacon.  I made a sweet potato, apple, cranberry bake with walnuts, and a cranberry quinoa salad with kale and walnuts.  I also roasted asparagus and made cookies.  We ate well.  May the remaining days of '22 go out quietly, and may '23 bring greater hope, peace and light to us all.  

Monday, December 19, 2022

Back on Solar

Hello, friends.  I hope you're finding some time to enjoy these days.  Our new American made inverter arrived, and Joseph had us up and running on solar again mid-week.  Hallelujah!  Last week, I pulled black bean burgers from the freezer for a dinner, along with home fries and salad.  A new recipe for a potato tomato bake was tried another night.  It was quite bland, so I'm pondering ways to jazz it up if I try it again.  Though I've rarely been finding good deals at the grocery store, I found several on Wednesday.   At the first stop, we picked up our dog food for $6 off.  On markdown, we found two cans of organic chickpeas for .42, bags of dried baby limas and navy beans for .57/#, and a package of cotton facial pads for .62.  J found some paper goods on sale, which his Mom requested he bring to a gathering there.  Getting the paper goods and the cotton pads meant we could skip the trip to Dollar Tree we'd planned.  Also on sale was asparagus for $1.49/#, mandarins for $2.99/3#, and roasted almond tins  2/$5.  At the next stop, I found tins of local peanuts on sale for gifts 2/$6, and marked down dried organic garbanzo beans for $1.97/#.  I recently looked for them at another store, where they were $6.99/#!  I'm so glad I waited, and got 8 bags for the pantry, which I'll can up when things slow down.  I heard a few days ago that there may be a shortage of them, which would be a real shame.  We love hummus, and I also use them in a lot of vegan dishes.  A frugal fail is I missed their $10 off $50 deal by a day, but this was the day we were in town.

A pot of large sweet potatoes was put on the woodstove, to boil for pies.  Books were requested from the library, and picked up when in town for groceries.  A local orchard had marked their Christmas trees 1/2 price.  All they had left were 8' and larger, so we got an 8' fraser fir for $44, and cut it down to fit our room.  There was too much on our plates to do it this week, but we'll decorate it next week.  I've enjoyed listening to Christmas music free on Pandora.  Amazon digital credits of $13 were used to buy a book that has been on my list, making my OOP $1.  For a lunch, I defrosted a container of soup I'd frozen.  I wrapped all the presents for my extended family, with the supplies on hand from previous years, including some bags and ribbons that were reused.  I'm pretty sure all of it was bought at after Christmas sales, and a few things at thrift stores.  The garbanzo beans were all placed in glass jars to store until canning.  We received a letter from our internet provider saying they were lowering our bill, which explains the credit on the last bill.  The bill is lowering $5/mo., at the same time they're increasing internet speed from 100 to 300.  I really appreciate belonging to this telephone cooperative, who provides our service.  It was most welcome to receive this message during these times.  Happy Holidays, friends!

Monday, December 12, 2022

Good Deeds

Hello, friends.  Last week, I cooked a bag of our frozen lima beans with onion and garlic, along with brown rice, and fried up some of our sweet potatoes.  A pot of smaller sweet potatoes was boiled for the critters.  Suet was made for the birds, and golden paste for the pups.  I finished up the toothpaste tube I had cut open, which lasted more than two weeks.  I forgot to mention last week, I used our last little tomato in a salad.  It's pretty nice to be eating our tomatoes until the end of November.  You may have heard about the county in NC that had a power outage, due to vandalism of two substations.  That county borders ours.  It was good to see all the businesses and churches that offered food, water, charging and warming stations, and shelter.

Isn't that a pretty moth, seen in the garden last week?  Lettuce and mixed winter greens were harvested for salads, and our small potatoes were steamed.  I tried a new MM friendly salad dressing, which I enjoyed.  When we received our telephone bill, there was a credit of $11.76 for internet service, lowering our bill.  We were one of the first in the area to get fiberoptic, as we were putting in our studio addition when they first started rolling it out.  We had to move the phone connection then, and were offered fiberoptic.  We're hoping the price has come down, as so many more are now connected to it.  In any case, it sure is nice to have a bill go down, rather than up, even if it's just this once.  I redeemed Swagbucks for a $25 gift card, which I'll be using for a gift, and received $6 in digital Amazon credits, for allowing slower shipping.  

J has been hard at work on the sewing room.  All the trim molding is up, and the painting finished.  Now that he's painted the new window trim outside, to match what we already had, I can wash the windows.  He's been pondering what to use as a threshold.  Like most of our house, it's a bit quirky, and we need a larger than usual threshold.  He brought two pieces of lumber we had on hand in the house to dry, but the first cracked, and the other warped.  He mentioned he had been looking for a threshold when customers came by his shop.  It turns out one of the men had a piece of dried white oak that he gave J, because at some point, J had given him a piece of metal, so his good deed came back to him at the perfect time.  Soapmaking oils were melted on the woodstove, to save propane.  A piece of my juicer was beginning to stick, so I followed J's advice to spray with a vinegar solution, followed by a soapy solution, and it moves perfectly smoothly now.  

Besides the usual Berkey stands to powder coat this week, there was an antique light we're refurbishing for a neighbor.  I think it's turning out nicely.  I gathered the few fall items I'd decorated with, took them to the attic, and brought down the gift wrapping supplies and mailbox bow.  The rest will have to wait until we're able to move the sewing machines into the new room, and straighten out the studio.  We hoped to find a tree, after meeting friends at a winery over the weekend, but there were none to be had in that town.  However, getting to visit with them did my heart good.  My sister and I visited a cidery Friday, and had a great time visiting as well.  The cidery had lost power in the outage mentioned above, so supporting them when they reopened felt good.  We made an unplanned stop at a thrift store we passed, but didn't find anything we needed there.  The coming week will be mainly focused on wrapping gifts, and planning and preparing food for the gatherings we'll be attending.  I hope your days are filled with people and things that bring you joy.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Late Autumn Days

Hello, friends.  I'm so thankful for the rain we received, which filled our tanks.  J worked out of town most of last week.  I hoped to get lots done, and worked on soapmaking and wrapping, cleaning the layer of sheetrock dust on everything in the studio (whew, was that a job!), and canning tomato sauce.  The tomato skins and bits remaining were dehydrated.  While he was gone, I cooked up some of our frozen okra, which he can no longer eat.  I harvested chard, and enjoyed having that.  For an online purchase, I went through Swagbucks for 8% back, with an additional 20% coupon code.  Joseph worked on finishing the interior of the sewing room when he got back.  He got the walls primed and painted, caulked nail holes, and put up trim molding.  

The solar saga is ongoing.  J decided to purchase another board for the inverter, to have as a backup, due to their unreliability so far.  The company promised to send a new board a couple of weeks ago, as part of their warranty agreement, but they've yet to send any shipping info.  The one Joseph bought arrived, we changed it out, and it worked....For.One.Hour.  He's done a huge amount of electrical work in various positions he's held over the years, and thinks it's likely an issue with sensors not communicating properly.  On a somewhat positive note, he did purchase a (much more expensive) U.S. made inverter, which we hope will arrive next week.  We're not sure what, if any, recourse we have with the company in China.  The inverter worked 8 months out of a 2 year warranty, with several outages before that that required resets.  With the multiple boards he's already changed out that didn't work, it's obvious it's not anything we can count on.  May the USA made one be all we hope for, or even better.  

I was blessed to have a customer purchase multiples of my Garden sets for gifts, and worked on wrapping the soap for them over the weekend.  I noticed gas had fallen to $2.99 while out, so I stopped and filled up.  While at the grocery store, I found one marked down raw honey.  Other than that, there was nothing I needed on sale, so I got the usual produce and a handful of other things.  I go through a fair amount of honey, having it every day in my lemon water, and using it in my salad dressing, so I'm always thankful to find some at a good price.  Saturday was drizzly, and I decided it was a good day to drink tea and write Christmas cards.  It's only a little over two weeks before winter begins, and the days begin growing longer again.  That's a day I always cherish.  I have some fun things to look forward to in the coming week, spending time with people I love.  May your week be filled with blessings of the season.

Monday, November 28, 2022


Hello, friends.  On Monday, I canned vegetable broth, adding another 14 pints to the pantry.  When the canner water cooled, I added it to the woodstove humidifier.  I enjoyed warm cups of tea, using homegrown herbs.  Chickweed was gathered, and added to a smoothie.  Kale, collards, and mixed greens were shared.  Laundry was dried on the line.  I've been shopping sales for gifts, and using coupon codes when available for purchases, which have further lowered prices as much as an additional 20%.  While prepping for Thanksgiving, pumpkin seeds were thrown in to roast, along with the cookies I was baking.  Fresh cranberry blueberry sauce, GF pecan sandies cookies, maple roasted brussels sprouts, and our lima beans, which J requested, were brought to share for Thanksgiving.  

I tried a recipe for lentil sloppy joes, which we both liked, though I'll decrease the heat factor next time.  We were blessed with 1 1/3" of rain Thursday night, so needed, as our tanks were getting very low again.  Once we sent the new video to the solar company, they said the board they sent was not good, and they'll send another.  Our confidence in this company is rapidly diminishing, and J is looking into getting another inverter from a US company.  It was a huge investment, to only last 8 months, and it's not looking terribly good that it will last for the long term.  It stinks, but that's reality.  J picked the company partly because of the great reviews, but he thinks many people may be using the inverter for a small backup system, not to power a home full time as we are.  Which could explain why it lasted no time before failing.

I did a little online Black Friday shopping.  A family member sent ideas for her family that day, and two of the items were 40+% off for Black Friday, so they were purchased.   I also placed a supplement order, for 23% off.  Spaghetti squash and lambs quarter were pulled from the freezer for a side dish.  Oils for soapmaking were melted on the woodstove.  I tried a new recipe for vegan sweet potato pie, using our potatoes, which was delicious.  Winter greens were harvested for a salad, and a jar of crowder peas was opened for dinner.  A bottle of nettle glycerite was strained and bottled.  We had an interesting issue happen last week, in that things that were supposed to suck were not doing so.  The motor on the house vacuum went out, quickly followed by the shop vac motor.  And the lawn vac motor went out too.  J made repairs, and got a new house vacuum (it was used when bought, and a new motor had been put in it once already), and in the process, used some of the good parts to repair others.  Thanks to a very handy guy, all is up and running again.  So many things to be thankful for every day.  Take care of yourself, friends.  

Monday, November 21, 2022

November Days

veggie scraps being turned into broth

Hello, friends.  I headed to the coast on Monday for a funeral, and listened to an audio book that I was able to change from an ebook on Kindle for free.  It was a gorgeous day, perfect for a long drive.  With the woodstove going again, another three gallon bags of veggie scraps were taken from the freezer, and simmered for broth.  I cut up and grated another two large cucuzza squash for the critters.  A toothpaste tube was cut, and it's already lasted close to a week more, with more to go.  I strained the first batch of broth, put it in the fridge, and started another pot of scraps on the woodstove.  Last week, I harvested parsley, rosemary, and collards.  I went through Rakuten for gift purchases for 2% and 2.5% back.

this Mickey mouse shadow caught my eye one day

We did get another 1/2" of rain early in the week.  The first real cold arrived, with lows in the low 20's.  We closed up all the chicken coop windows, except for leaving a small opening at the top of one for air flow.  I was able to purchase a label at home for a package heading to family in Italy, saving me a trip to the P.O..   I've been reading Lilac Girls from the library, which is a hard read at times, as it goes into details about experiments done in concentration camps.  I've known there were horrific experiments that went on, but would rather not know the details.  Before the coldest night, J and I gathered up everything we could find, and covered up all the plants in the fall garden, plus the olives and pomegranates.  There was kale that had a stalk too tall to fit under the cover, so J cut it off, and I tried a new recipe for wilted kale salad with apples and pecans.  The pups also got some chopped leaves in their dinner. 

this is apparently what made the shadow above

I turned some of our potatoes into fries, made black bean burgers, and harvested winter greens for a salad.  J and I watched the new Downton Abbey movie, free on Prime.  I would have loved to have seen it on the big screen, as we did the first movie, but we were too busy when it was playing locally.  We did enjoy watching it.  When I went by Harris Teeter after an appointment, the produce section was looking rather skimpy in what was offered.  I decided to head to Food Lion on Saturday, to get the things HT didn't have, or were too expensive.  I stopped at the Aldi across the street first, and was happy to get .99 cranberries, pomegranates for $1.89, which is the cheapest I've seen this year, and brussels sprouts for $2.29.  Food Lion had bags of mandarins for $2.99.  I went to a second Food Lion, because I wanted enough celery to not have to shop again before Thanksgiving.  They had enough celery, and I was delighted to see 3 bags of organic Pink Lady apples, which I had a $1.50 store coupon for, and haven't been in the first store in at least a month.  I also found $1 off raw honey on the clearance rack.


tomato rice loaf ingredients before combining

For a dinner, I made colcannon with our potatoes and cabbage.  It's one of my favorite comfort meals.  J is still going back and forth with the solar company in China.  It sounded as though they were trying to blow him off last week, and honestly, what could one do about a company in China?  But he persevered, letting them know how unhappy he was, and they asked us to take another video to send them.  Please send good thoughts for a positive outcome.  I've seen a few people using LED candles lately.  With being back on grid power, I decided to buy some I saw at Aldi, and so far, have been using one in the bathroom in the early mornings and evenings.  J spent Saturday blowing a large portion of our leaves into piles, which he'll pick up with the lawn vac.  For Sunday dinner, I made tomato rice loaf, using our onions, garlic, last grape tomatoes, and three small tomatoes.  Peas and pear sauce were sides.  While the oven was going, I baked lots of small sweet potatoes, some of which I plan to turn into pie.  We'll be enjoying the day with my sister and family for Thanksgiving.  I hope yours is peaceful, if you celebrate, with good food and company.  Take care, friends.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Going With the Flow & Sustainability Challenges on the Homestead

Hello, friends.  Last week, I earned $20 off with a promotion Food Lion is doing, and redeemed it the next visit.  I was excited to find that my library offers some streaming movies, and want to explore it further.  While checking for eggs one day, I found a snake in one of the nest boxes eating eggs.  I called J, who was on his way home.  When he got here, he bagged it up, and we relocated it, hopefully never to return.  I weeded and mulched several beds, which contain lots of lettuce, beets and chard.  We covered all the beds with lettuce and chard with row cover that is supposed to protect them several degrees.  J was able to barter with someone nearby.  She's finishing our sheetrock, and he's going to hang hers.  He found a good deal on lumber for the siding of the new sewing room, cheaper than we paid for the studio addition several years ago, and finished siding it.

I enjoyed herb tea with homegrown lemon balm, lemon verbena, spearmint and red clover.  Our frozen broccoli was used in a pad thai dish.  I emptied several pantry staples into canning jars to store.  All laundry was dried on the line.  Warm up water and water from washing greens was used for flushing or added to the humidifier on the woodstove.   When I saw a friend recently, she gave me several birthday presents, including 2 gorgeous thrifted cotton pillowcases and a floral sheet.  Seeing them while hanging them on the line, and taking them off gave me a smile.  I do love linens, especially older ones, which are often so soft.  

The soles of my my husband's work boots were in bad shape.  He bought a new pair, and when they arrived, he mailed his old pair to the company to be resoled.  He's been wanting a sweet potato pie, so I made one using the last frozen whole wheat crust just for him.  Even if it had been a GF crust, the recipe (Betty Crocker) has eggs and evaporated milk too, so I just need to find a good vegan pie recipe.  I finally got to cleaning the fridge, which has been on my to do list a very long time.  During the summer, I'd clean a shelf or two as I could, but never finished the entire thing at once.  That feels good to have done.  Boy, it was sticky!

While researching a trip to Charlotte with a friend, I found a restaurant chain called Flower Child, who have many vegan and gluten free choices.  We had lunch there, and it was delicious.  We had intended to visit a garden and bird sanctuary, but got rained out, so we ended up visiting several thrift stores.  I ended up with a cotton, still in package fitted sheet for $5  (priced $22), medium glass refrigerator dish with lid for $9, like new waffle iron for $15, shirts for J, and a large and super soft cashmere scarf for $3.50.  It was a fun day, and I look forward to visiting Wing Haven another day.

It was a bit of a challenging week, as far as sustainability goes on the homestead.  The big tanks that supply our household water ran out mid-week due to the drought.  Thankfully, J keeps a small backup tank for times such as this, which covered us the 36 or so hours before the rain started.   To make sure we'd be able to store as much rain as possible, I got up on the roof with J's electric leaf blower, and cleaned off a large amount of leaves, acorns and sticks, then did the gutters.  We were very thankful to get 1 3/4" of rain from Nicole, which filled our tanks halfway.  There's more rain in the forecast this week.  With any luck, our tanks will be filled further.  Then, the two solar boards arrived from China for the inverter.  J replaced them, and the power lasted about 10 minutes before crashing.  He tried it several more times with no success, making it obvious this isn't going to fix the problem.  He contacted the company again, to let them know.  We're back on grid power, hoping for a positive outcome and a quick return to solar.

At the grocery store, I was able to get frozen wild blueberries for $1 off, an avocado for .89, and organic red grapes for $2.49/#.  From the garden, I harvested winter greens, oregano, collards, rosemary, lettuce and chickweed.  On the most likely last day in the 70's, I cleaned the chicken coop.  Sunday was chilly, so I made a vegetable soup by sauteing  homegrown onions, garlic, carrots and cabbage, and adding jars of tomatoes, tomato sauce, summer squash and potatoes.  A store bought can of beans and stalk of celery were added, with a container of a small amount of leftovers from the freezer.  Some winter salad was included, and it made a tasty meal.  The week ahead had looked to be a calm one at home.  But now, an appointment has been moved to this week, and there's an out of town funeral to attend another day.  Ah well, it's good to breathe, and go with the flow.  Wishing you a good week!

Monday, November 7, 2022

Time To Play

Hello, friends.  Each morning, I've noticed bumblebees hanging out on the stevia flowers, where I assume they'd spent the night.  Last week, our weather continued to be dry, and laundry was dried on the line.  I cooked small sweet potatoes for the pups and chickens, and baked a few larger ones for us, to have with a winter salad and pinto beans.  We're eating the tomatoes and peppers as they ripen indoors.  My husband needed assistance at a job this week, this time at a home.  We were working under some large trees, and I noticed several small tufts of usnea, which I brought home, and added to the glycerite jar.  A batch of alfalfa sprouts was made.

The sweet peppers that aren't being eaten are being chopped and frozen.  My sister and I met one afternoon, a few towns away.  I made several stops on the way, and picked up three books at a library branch I'd not been to before.  I noticed gas @ 3.05, instead of the 3.29 near us, so stopped and filled up.  The same station was 3.09 when I went by on the way home.  My sister and I stopped at a Goodwill, and I found a canister to turn into a compost crock.  I made my "fast food" sauteed peppers, potatoes, garlic and onions for dinner, with asparagus and salad when I got home.  I was able to catch up on several small things on my to do list last week, which feels really nice.  Kale, lettuce, chickweed, rosemary, thyme, garlic chives and spearmint were harvested, along with several leaves from the potted sweet potato.


Still using up the last of the eggplant, I made a pasta sauce using most of them, along with our tomato juice, onions, garlic & herbs.  I found a package of blue cheese in the freezer, which neither of us can eat now, so I've been doling it out to the pups, who are in heaven.  We were able to open up the house several days, due to temps in the mid to upper 70's.  I rearranged the closet, so my winter clothes would be easier to reach.  I pulled several things to donate, including the majority of my scrubs, as I'm letting my massage license expire this year.  A local brewery sent an invite to all of the original backers, to view a production of Every Brilliant Thing for free Sunday night, so J & I had a date night, and enjoyed a beer while viewing the play.  We were glad we went.  A fun day is planned with a friend this coming week.  It's lovely to have a bit more time to relax and play again.  I hope you're finding some time to do the same.  

Monday, October 31, 2022

Fall Days

Hello, friends.  Last week, I received a payment from sold books, for $24.75.  I shelled what I thought was the remainder of the butter beans, but continue to find more of them, now that the leaves have died. I went to Big Lots to use a 25% off coupon, but found very little on my list, besides Christmas cards.  I forgot to mention before I planted my lettuce seedlings, I dug soil from the chicken yard that's been empty for a while, to amend the beds.  The lettuce was watered with comfrey tea.  I made a coconut cauliflower curry, which was in a book my SIL brought when she visited.  It will make it into our rotation, as we both enjoyed it, and it's another way to use our sweet potatoes.  The remaining coconut milk was frozen in an ice cube tray.  I was happy to hear that my SIL made her first pot of veggie broth, after seeing mine on the woodstove while here, and was pleased in how much richer her soup tasted.  My husband washed my car, after washing his, and I cleaned the interior, something I don't often prioritize on my to do list.  He also added air to the tires, after a low pressure light came on, with the compressor in their shop.

At Food Lion, our dogfood was on sale for $6 off, and the wild blueberries I need for my morning smoothies were $1 off.  I also earned a $5 reward towards the next purchase.  For some reason, our Naked Bear variety of pumpkins are not keeping well.  I regularly check on them, when I'm gathering ingredients for meals, and often find one or more going moldy.  I cut away all the bad spots, keep the good seeds to roast, and cook the flesh.  Winter greens were harvested for a salad, Burden soup was made with tromboncino, and pears were made into a pie.  Now that figs and tomatoes won't be included in the chicken mash, I've decided to use up some of the older jams on the shelf.  Though all are good, we typically reach for the berry jams, and odd ones like passion-lemon curd with vanilla from 2012 have not been getting eaten, so this seems a good way to cycle through the older ones, and still give the chickens a little of the fruit they love.  I'm also giving them a little of the older dried milk in storage, high in protein, which is helpful while they're molting.

Another three bags of veggie scraps were pulled from the freezer, and placed on the woodstove for broth.  That makes 10 gallon bags of scraps so far, with several more to go.  A small amount of kale was harvested, for juicing, and more that was frozen in pucks.  A tray of sweet peppers was frozen.  My current favorite homestead "fast food" is our canned potatoes with peppers and onions, so I'm happy to be putting some peppers up.  I rarely buy them, as they're usually so pricy.   Stopping for groceries after an appointment, I was able to get sales of frozen organic fruits and veggies for .49 off per bag, a 4 pack of beans for .50 off, and walnuts for $3.50 off.  I also stopped in to a Dollar Tree I passed, as I heard of three things of interest that someone online bought, but this one sadly had none of them.  An update on our solar system is the company is sending us a new board.  I'm sure we'll be on grid power a while longer, but am thankful they honored their warranty.

In the midst of all the beautiful fall colors, I was surprised to see this clematis blooming.   A batch of alfalfa sprouts were started.  Laundry was dried on the line.  I never think to mention it, but we always use cloth napkins for our meals.  A gift was purchased with part of a Swagbucks gift card, so nothing OOP.  On Sunday, I processed another canner full of veggie broth, to add to the pantry shelf.  I met a dear friend for dinner and a concert in the evening.  As this was in a college town, I was able to find a restaurant with a number of vegan and gluten free items, which was lovely.  Wishing a Happy Halloween to all who celebrate!

Monday, October 24, 2022

Garden Bounty

Hello, friends.  With lows in the 30's, our woodstove is back in action.  I pulled four bags of veggie scraps from the freezer, and placed them on the woodstove in a large pot to simmer.  I collected scraps all late spring and summer, so there are many more, but this is a start.  I'm back in my cold weather wardrobe, which usually consists of a camisole and cashmere sweater, with a flannel shirt or fleece vest, or both if needed, wool or alpaca socks.  Pants vary, but are often velour if I'm staying home.  Some years back, I inherited some clothes from an aunt, and there were two pairs of these pants, and I realized how comfortable they were.  They don't feel as sloppy as sweat pants to me, and I began looking for them in thrift stores, and usually find them with the activewear.  These outfits keep me warm indoors and out (plus coat and hat), and the layers are easy to take on and off.  

I strained and bottled cat's claw glycerite.  While watching videos one night, J & I shelled butter beans.  I did not make any purchases during Amazon Prime days.  Most of my family has not given me lists yet, and I've already gotten gifts for the two that have.  I swapped outdoor banners with Fall themed ones I already had.  Before our first frosts last week, I harvested green beans, tomatoes, eggplant, sweet peppers, a tiny cucumber, and a wheelbarrow full of mature cucuzza and tromboncino squash.  I gathered the last floral bouquet of the year, to enjoy in the house.  We're having inverter challenges with our solar system, so we are back on grid for now.  J has been conversing with the makers in China, as it's still under warranty, though it's a slow go, with us being day when they're night.  While doing what they asked, he found a burned out transistor on the power board.  We hope they'll be sending a board he can swap out, rather than asking us to ship the unit back to them.  Time will tell.  I blanched and froze three meals worth of butter beans, and grated a mature cucuzza squash for the chickens and pups, along with the cucumber I'd saved for seeds.  

The first batch of broth was strained, and I emptied the next three gallons of veggie scraps into a pot on the woodstove.  I refrigerated the first batch, and will can it all when the second is done.  Seeds that had been drying were packaged up... honeydew, cantaloupe, yellow watermelon and mizuna, and green bean seeds were placed in a pan to dry.  I cut the large cucumber we had saved for seed, and followed these directions.  We have lots of eggplant and tromboncino to do something with.  One dinner, I made an eggplant spread, and sauteed tromboncino using a recipe that's meant to be grilled.  It wasn't as good as when it's grilled, but I accomplished my mission of using some up.  I picked up requested books at the library.  While sitting at a long light, I noticed Food Lion had sent me a $10 off $50 coupon, which happened to be where I was headed.  When I got parked, the coupon was added to my account, and was received with my purchase.

For some reason, the red onions are sprouting in storage this year, though they were our best storing onion last year.  To make my way through them more quickly, I'm dehydrating the sprouting portion, and using the good parts of the onion in cooking.  While they were in the dehydrator, I added some celery and sweet potatoes for the pups.  There are lots of small and damaged sweet potatoes to use up.  I used some of the damaged ones for pup treats, and boiled small ones for chicken mash and the pup's dinner.  GF pecan sandies were baked, for my SIL's visit, and I shared cucuzza & tromboncino squash, and peppers with her.  I made us a lunch of potatoes, peppers and onions, and a salad, which mostly came from our garden.  She gifted me a plant based cookbook I look forward to exploring.  

I meant to dig up coleus before the first frost, but forgot.  They were a little worse for the wear, but still hanging on, so I dug a few up to hopefully overwinter in the house.  This last round of lettuce seedlings did not get eaten by bugs, like the last few.  They were still tiny, but I went ahead and put them in the ground the day before the first frost, and covered them up.  Most of them seem to be doing OK so far.  I canned up the veggie broth, and put one of the rings on wonky, so that jar didn't seal, but I was able to add 13 pints to the pantry shelves.  While we were having a long stretch of dry days, I filled up a barrel with hay, to have for the chickens over the winter.  Our sheds have a dogtrot between them, in which all manner of things gravitate.  M had his lathe and workshop in half of the dogtrot, and J got around to cleaning up some of that area over the weekend.  He also got the plywood sheeting and vapor barrier on my new sewing room.

Working towards using more of the produce, a pasta sauce was made with eggplant, our tomato sauce, onions, garlic and herbs.  Another night, Disappearing Zucchini Orzo was made, to use a couple pounds of tromboncino squash.  Mixed winter greens were harvested for salads, and some lettuce as well.  The grocery store has been out of my favorite Pink Lady apples, so I've been cutting up our small apples for snacks.  If there are any left, I plan to make applesauce.  I started another round of veggie broth on the woodstove, to be canned this week.  A pot of tiny sweet potatoes was put on the woodstove, for this week's chicken mash and the pup's dinners.  We're still having the most beautiful Fall days, of which I'm so grateful.  Wishing you a lovely week, friends.  

Monday, October 17, 2022

Bittersweet Days

Hello, friends.  The beautiful Fall days have continued, and I'm drinking them in.  Though the garden harvest is dwindling, I harvested carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, green beans, the last two pawpaws and butter beans.   I gathered basil and rosemary, and made herb salts for gifts.  We enjoyed Easy Skillet Ratatouille for a dinner, to use up some of the eggplant, squash, tomatoes and peppers, and it used our onions, garlic, thyme and basil as well.  Laundry was hung on the line.  I harvested the first mixed winter greens for a hearty winter salad, and tried a recipe for vegan feta cheese to use in the salad.  Though it didn't really taste like feta, it was tasty.  I froze about 2/3 of it for future use.  Sweet potatoes were fried to go with it.  One of the pawpaws was used in a smoothie with bananas and pineapple, and was yummy.

Another night, I made black bean burgers with fried potatoes, peppers and onions.  I've been enjoying watching Tudor Monastery Farm via Amazon Prime.  I planted milkweed, several amaryllis, northern sea oats, lantana, and globe amaranth.  I'd read the globe amaranth is a tender annual, but figured it couldn't hurt to try planting them in a protected spot.  I also placed the seedheads on the ground, to hopefully reseed.  I made my Mom's zucchini soup with our tromboncino, homemade broth, onions, garlic, tomatoes, basil and parsley, totally from the homestead, except for salt and olive oil.  I wanted to give a follow up on our kiwis.  Sadly, they never got any bigger than grape sized, and went from hard to soft and brown, so we never got to enjoy any.  It's possible the drought had something to do with it.

Two Christmas gifts were purchased with a gift card from Swagbucks rewards, so nothing out of pocket.  With the weather warmed up most of the week, we were able to go without any heat.  I redeemed Swagbucks points for another $25 GC.  Four books were sold through Sell My Books, for almost $25.  It's nice when decluttering makes a little money.  Several other books were brought to a little free library.  After making mushroom gravy to go with mashed potatoes, there were still mushrooms left that needed using, so I dehydrated them, along with some celery tops, onions and carrots.  They are starting another jar, to be used for soups.  We tried baking the first white sweet potatoes, which had very little flavor, just a hint of sweetness.  Hopefully, they'll get better with time.  

Dear Joseph had ironed clothes, shined his shoes, gotten a  haircut, and shaved, in preparation for a funeral of a classmate Saturday morning.  At bedtime Friday night, we started noticing the water pump running every few minutes, which generally only runs when we're using it.  When your house is plumbed with rainwater, every drop is precious, so he got up to check, and found a  leak under the house.  He turned off the water, and though I assured him I'd be OK on Saturday, he changed plans.  He grew up about 3 hours away, and classmates were gathering for a meal after the service, so he would have been gone a full day.  Never knowing what you'll find, he didn't want to wait until Sunday to begin the repair, knowing he may not be able to get what he needed on a Sunday.  He rarely makes plans away from the homestead, and I was sad he missed this.  Thankfully, it was a quick and easy fix.

Sweet potatoes

The sweet potatoes I planted in a pot have sprouted, and are looking good.  I hope I can keep them happy over the winter, to use as a greens source.  Purslane and chickweed were harvested, along with most of the basil.  A triple batch of pesto was made and frozen.  The chickweed went into a smoothie, along with sweet potato leaves from resprouted plants in the garden.  Guinness loves him some stinky, and got into something funky.  Thankfully, it was in the mid 70's on Saturday, and I was able to bathe him in the outdoor shower.  He is much more pleasant to be around.  I requested books from the library, and picked up the one that was ready.  There is frost in our forecast this coming week, and I'm enjoying all the flowers while they last.  It always feels a little bittersweet.  I hope you're able to enjoy these days, whatever season you're in.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Home Care

Hello, friends.  We've begun having fires in the woodstove again.  The pups have beds on either side of the hearth, and love to lay close.  A batch of bird suet was made, which included dried tomato skins and bits, and grape skins from canning.  Yeast-free vegan cashew parmesan was made with homegrown herbs.  So good!  I tried a new orzo recipe that used our eggplant, tomatoes, garlic and basil.  It was pretty good, but probably not worth the amount of work.  Another night, I used our tromboncino, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs in a pasta sauce.  Thursday was a beautiful day, which I got to spend with my sister, thrifting in a town we'd not been to before which is full of thrift stores.  We had a grand time.  Lunch didn't pan out as hoped, but I managed.  I eat a lot of fries when out, one of the few vegan, GF things I can find on most menus.  Not exactly the healthiest thing I could be eating, but at least it allows me to enjoy a meal out with someone.  Sadly, when I got home, I found that something, we believe a hawk, got one of our young hens.  Sigh.  Ever since we set up the teepee shelter in their yard a couple of years ago, we've not had any further losses, but the four Blue Australorps generally stay separate from the others, which may have made a difference in their vulnerability.  

J needed my help on a job this week, while his partner worked on another job, so I spent a day working with him a few towns over, on an Event Center that's being set up.  Friday was another gorgeous day, and I washed windows, happily getting that crossed off my list before bringing the rest of the house plants indoors.  The hog wire and row cover over the lettuce seems to be keeping it safe, though I do see signs of the deer in the garden.  They took bites out of an eggplant and a cucuzza squash, but then left them, so I assume they weren't to their liking.  We found a place an hour away that sells discounted Pella windows, and went to get two for the sewing room.  After we got back home, I brought all the house plants in, along with their dishes and stands, as a low in the upper 30's was forecast.  That evening, I also changed out the sheets to flannel ones.  The cold weather clothes were swapped out in placed of the summer ones.  The weather has been gorgeous, and I hung several loads of laundry on the line.  I'm very much looking forward to more of a homebody week.  Our home could really use a bit of love and attention.  Have a good one, friends!

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!