Monday, April 25, 2022

Sweet Spring Days

Hello, friends.  Last week, we had a little over two inches of rain, which made all the newly transplanted plants look happy.   I found that one raised bed held lots of little kale volunteers, which is lovely.  As has happened for the past several years, large black ants decided they'd like to make a nursery in the birdseed barrel.  Though I'd initially tried putting sprigs of mint in the barrel, and rubbing it along the top edge, that wasn't strong enough, but peppermint essential oil works like a charm every time.  With all the reports about fertilizer, my husband found organic fertilizer online which was less than the one we normally use, and ordered enough to do us for a year or two.  Hopefully, it will feed our garden well.  I used a $20 off $50 offer, on food and supplements.  

I read an interesting post on the history of polio.  Some colder days had the woodstove going again, so two pots of veggie scraps were simmered on it for broth, then canned, again using mostly reused lids, and all sealed.  Shredded tromboncino was pulled from the freezer for an orzo dish, and maitake mushroom was pulled for mushroom gravy over rice for my lunches.  Our garlic was used in both dishes.  I harvested parsley, oregano, thyme, lettuce, mizuna and asparagus.  I saw a post on stuffed artichokes, which gave me a hankering for them, and I already had two large artichokes in the fridge.  Though I couldn't make them with Romano cheese, like my grandmother and mother did, I did a little research, and came up with a winning combination, using GF bread crumbs, lemon zest, garlic, lemon juice, fresh parsley, and chopped green olives.  A bit of work, but so good.

The annual NC Herb Society plant sale returned this year.  It's a tradition for a friend and I to go, so off we went.  She's an herbalist, and got many more plants than I, but I came home with Northern sea oats, stevia, black hollyhock, Mexican marigold, mullein, thyme and Victoria blue sage.  While perusing the tables, I looked up a number of the plants online.   The sea oats were listed for $39.59 a container online, and I bought five starts for $4.  If they all survive and thrive, that's quite a savings.  Laundry was dried on the line.  I'm reading The Last Bookshop in London, from the library.  I used the last of our largest potatoes for home fries, made black bean burgers, and salad with our lettuce.  The extra burgers were frozen for future meals.  I pulled another bag of pesto from the freezer, and we enjoyed pasta with salad another night.  Last year's garlic was fading, so I dehydrated most of it, and made garlic powder.

I wonder if you might have any strawberry suggestions for me.  The plants appear to be thriving, and are spreading.  There are many blooms, many plants, with a wide variety of pollinators on them, but I never get berries.  It often looks like there is the beginning of a berry, but they never get any farther than that.  I wondered first if it was birds or slugs, but I should still see some berries.  I've tried fertilizing them, and not fertilizing them, with no difference.  I've had them long enough that I don't remember the variety, and they were moved where they are from another spot.  I understand that a plant will only produce once, and then you encourage a runner.  There are many runners, though I don't detach them from the original plant.  Is that the problem?  I've watched hummingbirds at the feeder, and heard the summer tanagers song here and on walks this past week, making me appreciate these sweet spring days.  Wishing you a bountiful week.

Monday, April 18, 2022

A Nice Tax Surprise

Hello, friends.  As we're still working on eating down the freezers, I pulled spaghetti squash and lambs quarter, to have with leftovers one dinner, and pulled strawberries to have in my oatmeal.   J is thinking there's a good chance two of our four "pullet" chicks are roosters, from the way they're growing.  Lord, I hope not!  We've got three more roosters than we need already.  Temperatures warmed, so we were able to do without a fire for several days.  I paid off my Lowe's CC when it came, to avoid any interest.  When we recently had our taxes done, we found out we were eligible for a credit for our solar system, 26% of the total, which was a wonderful surprise!  Our accountant is worth every penny, and she charges less than most.

After delivering an order, I stopped at Hallmark, using several coupons, which brought the $13.54 total down to $4.97 for 11 cards.  I then stopped and picked up swiss chard plants, which I can't seem to grow lately.  They were $3.99 a pot, but I picked some that had multiples, getting 8 plants from 4 containers.  Still not cheap, but I really want to have it growing in my garden this year, and these were fairly large, healthy ones.  I wanted basil too, but I can usually grow them, so did not buy any and planted seeds the next day, which I picked up at Dollar Tree for .25.  I also planted the cilantro and chard seedlings, using a mix of compost and our chicken litter.  I transplanted black eyed susan and dyer's coreopsis that had grown outside the beds, planted wintersown marigolds in the ground, and transplanted wintersown parsley, lettuce and cilantro in pots to let them have more space to grow.  

For a dinner, I fried our potatoes with peppers and onion, used our sprouts in a salad, and our broth and garlic in sauteed spinach.   I've been going round and round with Co. Living magazine for months, with them saying my subscription is expired, though I have another year on it.  After multiple tries with their customer service and getting nowhere, I reported them to the BBB, attaching proof of the Feb. '23 expiration date, shown on all the magazines & correspondence they send.  After six weeks, I got a response, denying my claim, so I refused their response, and attached a copy of the posted check from last year, which extended it to Feb. '23, and somehow didn't get mentioned in their denial.  I get so aggravated with poor service such as this, but I'm staying with it.  The worst part is they did this to me once before, and I stopped subscribing for several years, but really love the magazine, so gave them another try.  I am not impressed.

A friend who gifted me elephant's ear last year mentioned she'd like some comfrey.  I dug up five plants, and dropped them off after picking up a book I'd requested at the library nearby.  The new to me drill press was used for the first time, to drill holes in lids, which are destined to become compost crocks.  It went off without a hitch, which is wonderful, as on J's large drill press, I had around a 10% crack rate.  Mine is much easier to use as well.  J did lots of prep work in the garden, tilling up some areas, then making hills for more lettuce, and two long rows of sweet potatoes.  He'll be planting them soon.  The peas have started flowering, so hopefully the first of the peas won't be far behind.  If you celebrate Easter, Passover or Ramadan, I hope your celebration was a lovely one.

Monday, April 11, 2022

April Days

Hello, friends.  Last week, I listened to podcasts while packing orders.  Business cards were ordered, using a 15% off code.  I forgot to mention that the batch of  alfalfa sprouts did well last week.  I'm not getting many, but I expect it's because the seeds are getting old.  This week, I finished another batch, and started another.  I'll use these seeds up first, and get more.  We enjoyed the first batch in a salad.  I stopped and picked up books requested at the library.  J picked up some tomato and cilantro plants while getting chicken feed.   My watering can developed a small crack, and I used epoxy to repair it.  

We've been working on emptying out the outdoor freezer.  Much of what was taken out was okra from 2016-2018, the year J became allergic to it.  I've eaten it a few times, but it's difficult to use things he can't eat, so that was a frugal fail on my part.  It did all get composted, and the ziploc bags were washed for reuse.  A bag of pawpaw from that freezer was used in oatmeal, and a bag of butter beans were used in a dinner.  I made vegetable soup using leftover beans, pasta sauce, rice, and spinach, jars of our canned tomatoes, broth, tomato juice and cabbage, our garlic and frozen shredded squash.  It was quite tasty.  It did get me thinking about the possibility of needing to make soup more often, if current reports of the food supply come to pass.  The pomegranates were pruned, and a little weeding was done, mostly pulling out invasive honeysuckle vines.  One of the ear pieces on my headphones came undone.  J repaired the hardware portion of it, and I added super glue to secure it.

Laundry was dried on the line.  As I was hanging out the laundry, I pondered using the dryer more, now that our electricity is free, and I may, to a small extent, but I enjoy hanging laundry on the line, it smells wonderful, and I've read a number of times that the items last longer than in the dryer.   So, it makes sense to hold on to that habit.  I made home fries to go with a veggie burger for me, and chik patties for J.  I harvested asparagus and lettuce, and gathered greens for the pups and the chickens.  Our potatoes are coming up nicely, with the majority of plants up now.  We're still saving eyes for any spots that don't come up.  J took scrap metal to the salvage yard, with prices up quite a bit, and made a nice profit.

My sister and I spent a day together, doing some thrifting and having lunch.  We stopped by the Tractor Supply, and looked at their plants, but they seemed high, at $4.99, where J paid $2.75 a 4-pack.  Neither of us bought any plants.  I did buy a metal feeding bowl, and have started an experiment in soaking chicken feed, as others have said it cuts down on the amount they eat.  If it works, that would seem to be a good thing, especially these days.  It doesn't sound as if there are any unfavorable effects, but we'll see.  At the thrift and consignment stores, I found a cute $2 summer dress, a thick flannel shirt, which J requested, and two canisters I'll turn into compost crocks.  The carrot patch planted in the fall was weeded.  I've started a library book I'm finding fascinating, Underland by Robert Macfarlane.

Saturday was cold and windy, so it seemed a good day to bake some sweet potatoes.  While the oven was on, I baked a double batch of pecan sandies, then made MM roasted brussels sprouts... so good.  I opened a jar of our canned crowder peas to round out the meal, cooked with onion and our garlic.  Earlier in the day, I sanded and stained the countertop where my drill press will sit.  I wanted to seal the wood, as I spray soapy water as part of the drilling process on the compost crocks.  J went through our tomato seeds, planted a half dozen varieties in our truck tool box greenhouse, and I planted three  varieties, our oldest seeds, in peat pots.  He also planted peppers and eggplant in the toolbox.  On Sunday, I roasted our asparagus, and made mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy for dinner.  It's a good feeling to be using our produce in so many of our dinners.  Two coats of sealer were applied to the shop countertop, so I should be good to go on Monday.   Wishing you a peaceful and productive week. 

Monday, April 4, 2022

New Chicks & A Birthday

Hello, friends.  The Medical Medium says oatmeal is a neutral food until you add fruit, which turns it into a health-supporting meal.  I always add raisins, and depending on what's available, pawpaw, figs, berries, or banana.  Anthony William, aka Medical Medium, says raisins are more powerful for your health than goji berries, which have been touted as a superfood.  Raisins are always in my pantry, and other fruits are added as available.  Three more tomato sprouts were planted, and three wintersown lettuce.  My co-op gave 25% off your entire purchase to celebrate it's 46th anniversary.  Though it's close to an hour away, I took advantage of it, and picked up mostly produce, but also a couple of goodies for J's birthday.

For J's birthday, I made German Chocolate brownies.  We took a little road trip, which included a picnic at Pilot Mt. State Park, and a tasting and dinner at a winery.  There was also an Amish store, which disappointingly had very high prices.  So I could join in on the festivities, I made a MM spice cake with cashew frosting for myself.  For a dinner, I made our mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, roasted asparagus, and a green salad with pear, dried cherries and pecans, and homemade salad dressing.  Another dinner was pasta with our tomatoes, garlic, summer squash and basil in the sauce.  Breakfast scrambles included our asparagus and lamb's quarter.  Laundry was dried on the line.  I used some more of the thrifted tulle to make a cover for a raised bed with a cabbage and several kale.  The feed and seed got in Blue Australorp pullets, and J picked up 4 on his way home.  It's fun to have little chicks again.  They're staying in a box in the house until it warms up.  

Some years ago, I was excited to find a volunteer autumn clematis underneath one of the pear trees.  It flowered so prettily, we moved it front and center, in the area in front of our shed.  That wasn't the best decision, as it turned out to be a thug, sending up shoots throughout the bed, and out into the lawn.  I'd had enough of pulling up its progeny, so J dug it out, and we planted a Chestnut crabapple in its place.  My brother and SIL had given us the crabapple for Christmas, and it arrived last week.  It's a beautiful, healthy sapling, and we hope it will thrive there.  We did our best to pull all the roots of the autumn clematis, and plan to mulch the bed, though I won't be surprised to be pulling it up for a while yet.  Sunday was a beautiful day, with some nice breezes.  I cleaned out a flower bed, then cleaned the chicken coop.  A mixture of spearmint, catnip and southernwood were gathered for the nest boxes and as strewing herbs in the coop.  It's definitely more pleasant in there now.  Happy April, friends.