Friday, November 11, 2011

A New (Blog) Home

I've moved the blog to Mini-Hearthstead. All the archives will be moved there over time, and this site deleted, so please update your bookmarks. All new posts are at the new site.

Thank you!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Independance Day Challenge, 2 October 2011

The past week or two I've been focusing on getting the house neatened up - back to where 'clean' is easy to maintain & piles don't breed when I blink. Yule is coming, school has started, and the days are getting shorter. Everyone is enjoying the fall & winter recipes I've started making again. Next up, getting warmer clothes out. All I have right now is shorts!

1. Gardening: Nothing, just keeping things watered.

2. Waste not (preparations): nothing.

3. Want not (manage your stores): Refreshing my stash in Ravelry, so that I can use it as a reminder of what I have & where. Applying a bit more logic to storage locations as I go, and frogging projects I know I'll never finish.

4. Build community: Met a new neighbor.

5. Eat the food: I'm actually planning meals lately - always a challenge for me. I found a recipe for the ground elk so one day soon we'll have elk meatball sandwiches. Part of the focus has been to eat out the fridge/freezer - both are extremely full. I want to make pumpkin pie, and can't, because there's no room in the fridge for it! Three people can't eat the entire pie in one sitting, after all.

6. Crafting: Did a few stash-busting projects, and will restart another hibernating project here shortly.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Independance Day Update - 18 Sept. 2011

It's been a quiet weekend, rainy and pleasant. I've caught up on some of my reading as I wait for new books to come in. Fall is sneaking in slowly, and I'm starting to pull out clothes and linens for the cooler weather. Mostly because I want to; 60-70'f isn't really cold except that it's cooling off from 90'f and it's damp. And I really want it to be closer to 50'f. Yes, my favorite seasons are fall and winter.

1. Gardening: Checked the sweet potatoes on the balcony. The ones I've kind of ignored all year. All the originals are still edible, and I pulled a fingerling-sized new one. The rest are still in the pots to give them more time to grow. Still - SUCCESS! I can grow sweet potatoes on our shady balcony! With more attention, I should get a reasonable harvest next year.

2. Waste not (preparations): nada

3. Want not (manage your stores): zip

4. Build community: zilch

5. Eat the food: Shepherd's pie, apple pie, spaghetti. Nice warm favorite foods. Yum.

6. Crafting: Making Sweetie a basic-but-warm wool hat. He needs it in the rain/drizzle we've had the last couple of days.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Independence Day Challenge: 5 Sept. 2011

It now looks like both Katia and Lee will miss us, which works for me! We are still ready, if a bit shorter on cat food. I'll get more end of this week.

1. Gardening:
**Pulled up the tomatoes (all done, except the Sungold. VERY happy with that variety!) & bell peppers (all done). Pulled carrots, which really could have used more time in the ground but they had to be pulled per our schedule. The pink-eye peas are attempting to grow but the deer have other ideas.
**On the balcony, I bought some impatiens and planted them so there is something pretty to look at. They'll last till first frost, then I'll plant pansies and start planning for spring. The sweet potatoes are still growing well and the herbs are thinking about forgiving me after this summer's neglect. They are not happy.

2. Waste not (preparations):
**Scanning family photos and some documents onto the portable hard drive. In case of hurricane evacuation, we can grab the hard drive and the control journal and be able to reconstruct a lot of things. We'll still loose a lot, but at least we won't loose as much.
**We're working on re-assembling the Singer 66 I have - we had to break down the table; now we are working on replacing the destroyed parts and re-assembling it.
**Bikes have been assessed; we need fenders and possibly chain guards for winter (rainy season) riding. Also need to see about ponchos or other ways to keep the legs dry.

3. Want not (manage your stores):Canned 18 pints of venison stew, using our carrots & onions. This gets the venison out of the freezer, where it laid in wait to fall on you as you opened the door. Also it used about half the carrots we harvested.

4. Build community: giving a friend the info for a farmer that offers beef in bulk that's grass-finished.

5. Eat the food: Yes. I've stayed on budget for food except what I spent on fast food; better planning on my end will take care of that. Hurricane season, and that last close call, are giving me incentive to eat out of the freezer. Tomorrow, venison roast in the crock pot =) Leftover will revisit as a potpie. I miss fall & winter's foods; can someone get the weather to cooperate?

6. Crafting: Spinning my Icelandic fleece, and today I'm washing the fleece I bought last month. I'm still working on the Dragon stocking when I get larger chunks of time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Independance Day - 30 August 2011

Hurricane Irene went past us on Saturday. We didn't even lose power. Why would it? We were prepared =) Which is just as well, since Katia might visit next week.

Many of my neighbors seem to think that electricity, either from the grid or from their generator, is a requirement. Our plan of attack is to live without electric, and so we use oil lamps instead of flashlights, solar-heated camp showers, and a camp stove for cooking. Also, we have the setup items for a sawdust toilet, which saves some water. You could also use the water from washing dishes or laundry to flush.


I'm modifying my version of this checklist again - I do so little gardening that I'm changing it to one item rather than 3. So far, the nice shady patio seems to do best growing leaves & sweet potatoes.

1. Gardening: Cleaned up the balcony, removed dead plants, starting thinking about what to plant over the winter.

2. Waste not (preparations): Bought more lamp oil, more Coleman fuel, and another oil lamp. The new lamp leaks so I will be exchanging it, but otherwise we're quite happy with it. We are staying prepared for hurricanes for the rest of the season.

3. Want not (manage your stores): Water: We have 9 days of water, and I may get more. The store-bought water is kept until about 6 months before its expiration and then we drink it and buy fresh. So far, this is all fresh. I'd like to make up some camping-type foods, as well, that I can have ready if we do lose power for a few days.

4. Build community: Nothing. I hibernated, as a rest from (comparatively) large amounts of seeing the very large extended family.

5. Eat the food: Yes. I can't remember what I've cooked most times, but we are eating out of the pantry!

6. Crafting: I re-started a cross-stitch project - a dragon stocking. Can we hope it's done this year?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Independance Day Challenge 13 August 2011

I haven't been posting as regularly for a small host of reasons. I've made two trips to New England this summer, the car died and hasn't yet been replaced, and I feel like I've gone full-tilt for two months now. Today is a rest day, so I'm puttering about doing various things in between bouts of computer games. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer!

1. Plant something: Nothing. Lack of access to garden: 10 miles = 1 hour by bus.

2. Harvest something: A bit of tomatoes and bell peppers. The tomatoes are nearly done, same with the cucumbers. We won't grow cantaloupe again unless it's in the backyard - we've grown it, just to remove all the overripe ones! We just couldn't harvest them in a timely manner. The pink-eye peas are doing very well with the neglect they're getting, though.

3. Preserved something: I can't remember when we made things, but we made sweet relish, and I'm aiming for more pickles and to dry sweet bells and tomato paste today.

4. Waste not (preparations): Getting in better shape by riding my bike. Also, up north I found a food mill with 3 sieve-pieces for $18 and an older enamel tea kettle, that I brought home.

5. Want not (manage your stores): Does catching up on cleaning count?

6. Build community: nothing.

7. Eat the food: Enjoying venison given to us by a friend.

8. Crafting: Almost done spinning singles with the SeaGlass fiber I bought in New Hampshire last year, and getting closer to done with spinning singles with the Icelandic as well. I am attempting to work on my lace gloves but the are a challenge! Also, I'm crocheting seat pads for our kitchen chairs. It's a brainless project, which is nice.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Independance Day Challenge 1 August 2011

Our garden doesn't look like much right now, with half of it ripped out and the rest looking tired! We need to see about getting some fall plants started soon.

1. Plant something: pink-eye peas. Prepped a few more areas for the next round, as well.

2. Harvest something: cantaloupe, cucumbers, sweet bell peppers, tomatoes, last of the green beans, chard, first of the carrots.

3. Preserved something: Canned up some tomatoes - 4 pints diced, 2 pints of 'tomato drippings' to use in winter broths.

4. Waste not (preparations): Not sure if this falls here, but for a while our main mode of transportation will be bicycles & the bus. Interesting to get groceries this way =)

5. Want not (manage your stores): Better organization (an ongoing challenge!)

6. Build community: I talked to someone about canning food while at the grocery store - she seems more willing to try it now, said it doesn't sound as hard as she thought. Yay!

7. Eat the food: Homemade lo mein with fresh veggies from the garden (peppers, chard, green beans, carrots). Snacking on cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, and cabbage stored in the fridge since harvest (still good as new)

8. Crafting: Working on the Twin-Leaf gloves; had to restart them in a yarn better suited to the pattern.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Catching up

I'm back! Sorry about the long break; I knew I'd be gone a few days over the holiday to visit family but wasn't expecting to get swamped when I got back.

1. Plant something:
Nothing recently.

2. Harvest something: Zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, green beans, cucumbers, Tangerine tomatoes, Sungold cherry tomatoes, beets, turnips & swiss chard.

3. Preserved something: Dried green beans, sweet bell peppers, zucchini and squash chips. Canned 24 pints yellow squash. More is waiting to be done, we just need time! We did get 4 more trays of pint jars because we were out.

4. Waste not (preparations): nothing.

5. Want not (manage your stores): Looking for bare spots so we know what we should put up for winter.

6. Build community: Talking with others at the community garden.

7. Eat the food: Yellow squash. Endless snackings of cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. Green beans.

8. Crafting: The 'Cold Shoulders' shawl is pretty much done; I just need to add the button to close it with. I've re-started my Twin Leaf fingerless gloves in a different yarn that is better suited to the pattern.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Zucchini Bat

This is what happens when you don't keep up with them. We were there last Thursday; then the car broke down and we didn't get there again until tonight. The 16-inch-long, 3 1/2lb 'bat' was the same size as the smaller one 5 days ago. These are off the same plant.

Also, just for fun I've added a page called "Harvest 2011." I'm keeping track of the harvest, plus the prices (commercial and organic) with a running total at the top. It's interesting to see the numbers, and know we'll benefit all year from the garden. Anything not eaten fresh will be put up for winter - that's why we have a 40-foot row of tomatoes!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Harvest Note

Our garden is just getting started with production. We've lost a few tomatoes to worms, and had a few things not come up. There are still bare spots in there. I didn't pay for all of the seeds and seedlings, but we have put $100 or so into the garden for trellising, mulch, and the like.

Today, I decided to weigh our current harvest - what we haven't eaten yet, and harvested this week. I'm also listing what these items cost locally. Our food is organic; prices listed are commercially grown and then Organic.
  • 2 heads Cabbage (3lbs):
    • $.69/lb = $2.07
    • Organic:$1.69/lb = $5.07
  • 14 oz Turnip Greens:
    • $.99/lb = $0.86
    • Organic not available
  • 7lb 14oz Yellow Squash:
    • $1.99/lb = $15.67
    • Organic: $2.99/lb= $23.55
  • 3lb Zucchini:
    • $1.99/lb = $5.97
    • Organic:$3.50/lb = $10.50
  • 9 Cucumbers (5 3/4lb):
    • $.79 each = $7.11
    • Organic: $1.69 each = $15.21
  • 12 oz Tomatoes:
    • $2.99/lb = $2.25.
    • Organic: $4.99/lb = $3.75
  • 11oz SunGold cherry tomatoes:
    • $.30/oz = $3.30
    • Organic not available

Total Commercial Value= $37.23

Total Organic Value = $58.08, not including cherry tomatoes and turnip greens.

Looking at the price ratios (commercial vs. organic), it looks like Organic cherry tomatoes would be $.49/oz, so $4.90 for our harvest. Turnip greens tend to run half the price of collard greens, which they do offer organic, so half that price would be $1.25/lb = $1.09, bringing the total for Organics to $64.07.

$64 in food, plus what we've already eaten. And we're just getting started. Nice!

Prices for this post came from the online section of Harris Teeter stores in Virginia.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ripping a Seam - Skirt Modification

I made a skirt following these instructions - mostly. Instead of linen, I used cotton eyelet fabric with a lining of plain white cotton (since you could see through the eyelet, even where it was solid!). So instead of flipping the waistband over to form the channel for the ribbon tie, I sewed the plain cotton to the eyelet (front sides together), flipped the plain cotton to the inside of the skirt, and added two small grommet holes for the ribbon to come through. I then sewed the two layers together again about an inch below the first seam, forming the ribbon channel.

This all worked great, till I put it on.

I take long strides. Too long for the way I had made the skirt. So, I need to add a slit to the back of the skirt, where the seam in the 'tube' is. That's what I'm showing here.

1. Decide how long you want the slit to be. I made mine about 6 inches long. Using a fabric pencil or tailor's chalk to mark the length on the fabric. Don't worry, it will wash out.

2. Rip out the existing seam up to the mark you made. You'll need a seam ripper - they are inexpensive, and are sold at any fabric store.
Use the seam ripper to pick out one or two stitches, then pull them apart with your fingers. After about a half-inch to an inch is loose, you should be able to see the stitches much better and can use the seam ripper to pull them out easily. Be careful not to rip the fabric! In this picture, you can see two stitches on the seam ripper, one right behind the red knob.
Ripping the Seam
2. Iron out the wrinkles and folds.

3. Iron in the folds that you want. This will make hemming easier.
  • Fold once, 1/4" to 1/8" towards the wrong side of the fabric. Iron.
  • Fold again, the same way. Iron.
4. Re-enforce the end of the seam you just ripped open, so that it won't rip farther. I did this by sewing over the last half an inch, turning the fabric, and re-sewing what I'd just gone over. I made sure to lock the stitches both where I started and when I finished.
  • Lock stitches by sewing 3 or 4 stitches, and (1)sewing backwards over them, and then sewing forward again; or (2) lifting the pressure foot and moving the fabric so the needle is once again over the place you started sewing. Option 2 works on sewing machines that don't sew backwards, like mine.
  • Turn the fabric by making sure the needle was through the fabric, lift the pressure foot, then turn the fabric and put the foot back down. Once the foot is back down you can start sewing again. This is great for sharp corners, as well.
5. Hem the edges of the slit.
  • Looking at the wrong side of the fabric, hold the ironed folds so that they are flat on one side of the seam. Line this up with the sewing needle, starting at the bottom of the skirt, so that you're sewing towards the waist of the skirt.
  • Sew the hem in place, at the fold farther from the edge. You can see what I mean about the hem in the picture below.
  • Don't forget to lock your stitches!
  • Repeat on the other side.
Sewing the Hem

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Our Garden - Pictures!

Photos from 6/20:

South-east corner, above. Left to right: Chard, butternut squash on trellis, green beans, snacking tomatoes, onions.

Northeast corner, above. Left to right: Tomatoes, onions, carrots behind the onions, cucumbers, cabbage behind them; fresh tilled spot with beets behind.

North-west corner, above. Left to right: Various peppers , a zucchini in between bare spots, a bare 1/3 row in front of the carrots, then the canning tomatoes.

Snacking tomatoes - we have one each of Sungold, Tangerine, Sugar Baby, German Striped, and another red slicing tomato. These are just for eating fresh; the canning tomatoes are Big Bog to be pressure-canned this year. Everything is organic! The mulches are straw and wood chip; pine mulch is next. This is a learning year =)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chicken notes

My friend has chickens - two breeds right now: Rhode Island Reds and Delawares, as well as the Bourbon Red turkeys. The links have nice information about the breeds but don't mention the sounds. Did you know the Rhode Island Reds cluck/chirp and almost sound like they're purring? While the Delawares squawk and are much louder! They're also twice as big.

The turkeys - they make a bit of noise but to me it was no problem. And they gobble back at you, which is kinda fun =)

I think they breed for white 'dark meat' on some birds - I've seen birds I know were pastured, and the 'dark meat' was as pale as the breasts. For those of us who like dark meat - on the Delawares and the Bourbon Reds, it's a nice red color. See? I don't know about the Rhode Island Reds, though.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Independance Days - 19 June 2011

1. Plant something: Put stalks of spearmint in a pot to root & start me a new plant - just have to keep it watered! The empty places in the garden are tilled and will be planted later in the week.

2. Harvest something: Zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, cucumbers, Tangerine tomatoes, Sungold cherry tomatoes, cabbage, baby turnips & greens.

3. Preserved something: nothing left to preserve yet; we're eating it all!

4. Waste not (preparations): nothing.

5. Want not (manage your stores): nothing.

6. Build community: Spent a day at farmer-friends, giving her a day off and learning from her. I know how to cure the onions, and how to tell if the cabbage is ready to harvest or not.

7. Eat the food: Turnip greens, yellow squash. Eating a lot of melons right now but they're all from the store right. Sliced cucumbers are a favorite snack & we've gotten the first ones from the garden!

8. Crafting: I finished the Gir hat, and started a 'Cold Shoulders' shawl. I also made lace-fabric fingerless gloves to go with daughter's formal gown, and lace-fabric 'sheers' for her window. No, she's not 'girly,' but black-and-red curtains always look nice =)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day of Surprises

Saturday was like Yule for me!

I had a major find at the thrift store, of something I have been wanting, and it's even more helpful than I had hoped. According to various internet sources, it's an Accordion Sewing Box from the 1950's:

1950's Accordion Sewing Box, Closed

1950's Accordion Sewing Box, Open
All we need to do is replace the 'pull handles' it used to have on the side. We've already bought brass drawer handles for it.

Also, my Blue Mountain handcards came in the mail today:
Blue Mountain Fiber Combs

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Independance Day - 5 June 2010

Just a quick update today - we've got a day full of thunderstorms and much-needed rain. Nice soaking rain in there with the downpours, which is good. We did get more wood mulch for the garden, plus the trellises we need. They'd be put in today, but it was raining at dawn, so we'll do that as soon as the weather lets us!

1. Plant something: Nothing this week.

2. Harvest something: Endive. Note to self: deal with freshly harvested food THAT NIGHT. Do not allow to rot on kitchen counter.

3. Preserved something: Nothing this week.

4. Waste not (preparations): Nothing this week.

5. Want not (manage your stores): Better organization of house. I cleaned all the things on Saturday - enough that I had sore muscles afterwards!

6. Build community: nothing.

7. Eat the food: yes =) Nothing special, no new foods/recipes.

8. Crafting: Lots of sewing, working on Grr hat. I'm on my last two started-and-stalled sewing projects!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Indepedance Days - 22 May 2011

The garden is well-started. We need to put up the trellising for the squashes & cucumbers, and when the plants are tall enough we'll get another bale of straw for mulch. It comes with wheat seeds, but the weeds (wheat seedlings) will at least be easier to pull from damp ground, and since we're still hauling our water up there it's worth it to shade the soil and keep the moisture longer. We're still under moderate drought here, according to the US Drought Monitor.

I've also been focusing on the house. I've felt for awhile that it was getting out of control - drifts of stuff piling up in corners or around furniture. It's aggravating for me when it does this, so I've been going through, straightening up and putting things away. Almost nothing ever gets put back exactly where it came from, so when I dust (by moving the items and wiping down the shelf) it's amazing how much less goes back on the shelf and how much neater things are. And I've made some good progress on piles that had to be dealt with rather than put away. Very satisfying to accomplish this.

1. Plant something: I don't think we planted anything this week, actually. I need to check the garden and see what we have left for room to plant more.

2. Harvest something: The turnip thinnings.

3. Preserved something: Just the strawberries, so far.

4. Waste not (preparations): Nothing this week.

5. Want not (manage your stores): Organizing the pantry and just the house in general.

6. Build community: Finding & buying from the local lady with the strawberries.

7. Eat the food: Turnip greens. Ponsett -yes, everyone else spells in pancit, and you can use really really thin rice noodles from the Asian section of the store. Yummy & very easy.

8. Crafting: Sewing - I've done half the sewing pile I had, and finished all the pillowcases. Lots of this stuff has essentially been sewing seams where needed.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Getting the Garden Started

Note: Original post was attempted on April 18. I wanted to add pictures. I just got the pictures in the computer. Please forgive the delay, and enjoy the post, yes?

We're starting with this:
Blank Slate

The first day, we went out and edged the plot, raked it well, and removed any weeds or roots we found. The second day, we weeded and then hoed and raked the beds - removing weeds and then chopping any roots we missed. We're calling it 'preventive weeding' - anything that we get now, is less weeding we do later! Since we go in the evening, anything on the top after Day 1 or Day spent the day withering in the sun - it's mid-70's here both days.

We got compliments while we were working - and I found it neat that a younger couple might do the preventive weeding after seeing us do it, while the older couple with the plot next to ours commented they'd done it yesterday.

Day 3 we planted what we have and watered it. We'll keep going back nightly to water and weed to keep up on things. I still have to order herbs, and find potatoes to plant. (note: never found them, too late in my area)

A good start:
Just Planted

Thursday, May 19, 2011

First Harvests

From the garden: A mix of turnip and chard seedlings from thinning our plantings today. Very yummy when we steamed them for dinner!

From the balcony, a scented bouquet. Clockwise, from top left is rosemary, lemon balm (in the 'center'). cilantro, chives, orange mint, and basil. All the herbs were dried for later.

Strawberry season is in full swing, but I don't have pictures because they don't last long enough! Strawberry shortcake desserts, and we have put up 3 dozen half-pints of jams plus dried some as well. And I'll likely put up more - very yummy!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Independance Days - 15 May 2011

We've been going to the garden about every other night, keeping it weeded and watered. So far all the seeds are coming up fine!

1. Plant something: Cantaloupe, green beans.

2. Harvest something: Herbs from the patio. Strawberries at the pick-your-own farm.

3. Preserved something: Dried the herbs, made strawberry jam.

4. Waste not (preparations): Not really much in this area right now.

5. Want not (manage your stores): Getting together what we'll need to put up the garden's bounty.

6. Build community: Being friendly at the community garden. I'm delighted to see the diversity there!

7. Eat the food: Strawberry shortcake!

8. Crafting: Working on the Grr hat, and on my lacy fingerless gloves.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Teaching Myself to Sew....

from books and what I remember of a long-ago 8th grade home ec. class. I remembered to lock my stitches and how to sew a hem. That was about it.

I've made a couple of t-shirts, and even adjusted the pattern. That wasn't hard because it had a line saying "add length here" which is what I needed! The one I chose also has three choices for collars and sleeve lengths - which makes it very flexible. The shirts I've made are comfortable and look good. None have sleeves yet, because when I tried to add them I found out they won't fit me without adjusting the pattern. While I do have a book that tells me how to do it, I haven't been that brave yet!

I've also modified pillow cases, made a couple from an extra sheet, and done some basic repairs. If it's fixable and not something I'll be heartbroken to loose, I'll try fixing it and count it no-loss if it doesn't work. So far, so good!

Have you tried to teach yourself something new?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Independance Day 2 May 2011

The community garden seems to be getting a great response - They started with 20 plots; now there are 78 plots tilled and most of them have something going on. We've got about half of ours in the ground. More seed to plant still, and I want to get a bale or two of straw to mulch with.

1. Plant something: Lots of things! Still more going in, and I need to get seeds and straw for mulch.

2. Harvest something: nothing yet.

3. Preserved something: nothing yet.

4. Waste not (preparations): Making sure we finish eating the leftovers.

5. Want not (manage your stores): Re-made my custom shopping list and used that this month. I'm less likely to forget stuff we need.

6. Build community: Meeting the other folk at the community garden.

7. Eat the food: Yes. LOL still can't remember what we've eaten, other than trying a recipe for lo mien last night. It came out pretty good!

8. Crafting: Finished the commission blanket. Next up is my fingerless gloves.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A New Garden

Our town finally has a community garden. Newly tilled and fenced, but no water on site. We have a plot, 18x40 feet, facing south. I called my farmer friend for help and we planned what would go where. Since we keep the plot till Nov. 30, we'll have a second round going in when the first round comes out. I'm told that the fall garden will be even better than the summer garden!

Right now, I have about 20 feet of space for herbs. We're growing a double row of green beans, 2 hills of zucchini, 3 of yellow squash, a row of mixed tomatoes, a row of white potatoes, plus carrots, cukes, cantaloupe, butternut squash, onions, and several other things. A fair bit will end up in the pantry - tomatoes, winter squash, onions, potatoes, the herbs and so on. Some of the herbs were chosen for eating fresh - savory doesn't store well, same with chervil, and I'd like to try those. And of course, there are tomatoes, cukes and Ambrosia cantaloupe for eating fresh!

I'm growing both hybrid and heirloom varieties this year. Since I cannot save seed this year and need the best production for putting food up, it's a good compromise.

Hybrids are "plants produced by impregnating the pistil of one species with the pollen of another" (source: - you can create hybrids in your back yard. GMO is what I try to avoid; those are the ones that are "modified using genetic engineering techniques" (source: Wikipedia) - not something you can do in the backyard! I wanted to clarify that as there is sometimes confusion between to two terms.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Farmer's Market as Training

I use the Farmer's market as training. All this fresh, local food. I don't even have to grow it. But, how on earth do you cook some of these things? Eggplant? - well, purple is a cool color, but, um, ya - weird food. Zucchini? No idea.

So, I buy a couple here and there of the different things. An eggplant in the fridge until I'm no longer afraid to cook the weird thing. Squash, over and over, till I'm forced to learn new things it can do. Keep the tomato drippings - if they came off tomatoes that yummy, they should be good for something! - Ah, yes, broth for winter's soups.

After doing this for two years, I know not to plant eggplant in our sunny garden, since we don't eat it yet. Summer squash will get planted, and I'll learn more ways to cook and store it. Sungold tomatoes? German Striped slicers? Yum! Cabbage, too, so that I can put up homemade sauerkraut - it's the only kind I can eat. Green beans get a double row, because they'll end up dried or canned in the pantry.

Right now? It's Egg Season (spring). I have 5 dozen eggs in the fridge - yes, five! - so I'm training on how to serve them all! And quiche would be good but isn't on the menu (because of the dairy in it). Hmm... Perhaps I ought to start baking...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Indepedance Day - 17 April 2011

We get a sunny garden this year! We have a plot at the new community garden, and will be growing food there to put up for the winter.

1. Plant something: Nothing this week. There are, however, trays of plants on the patio that need planting.

2. Harvest something: Nothing.

3. Preserved something: Diced bread for stuffing.

4. Waste not (preparations): Planning the sunny garden and what we should put up for next winter. Writing down ideas for the fall garden, because we will keep the garden plot until Nov. 30.

5. Want not (manage your stores): Re-organized the second pantry so I can find the food =)

6. Build community: My farmer friend helped my plan my sunny garden. I'm helping her when she needs me, too.

7. Eat the food: Is it bad I can't remember what I'm cooking lately? But I am cooking, from scratch and from the pantry.

8. Crafting: Working on the commission blanket.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Independance Day - 10 April 2011

After I get home from work and take care of the evening routine, I really only have time to work on one project if I still want to relax before going to bed at a decent hour. Makes sense, seems obvious.... but it wasn't.

1. Plant something: nothing this week. I did buy seedling plants of chives, cilantro, basil, and a patio cherry tomato which will get planted sometime this week.

2. Harvest something: a turkey egg at a friend's farm, brought in and put in the incubator. She's trying to get a breeding flock of Bourbon Red turkeys started from the pairs she has now.

3. Preserved something: Nothing this week.

4. Waste not (preparations): Nothing this week.

5. Want not (manage your stores): Nothing this week.

6. Build community: Spent the day helping my friend with her farm yesterday, soaking up information.

7. Eat the food: Usual cooking at home daily (all the meals).

8. Crafting: A bit of spinning and crochet.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Meat Pot Pie - Leftover friendly!

I had to find a dairy-free version for our family. This is a very leftover-friendly meal! It’s popular, and flexible - I’ll happily put in leftover veggies. Leftover greens are good, too; you can also add turnips or parsnips. The meat is usually leftovers, and the broth is homemade.

Also, if you make too much filling, freeze it in 3 to 4-cup amounts (a quart canning jar of broth with meat or veggies; with both it’s too much) and that’s the right amount.

Pot Pie Recipe

Makes one 9” pie. Can be modified, of course, to make smaller ones.

2 pie crusts
4 Tbsp butter or olive oil
2 cups shredded chicken
2 cups chicken broth
about 2 cups of mixed veggies/leftovers
(OR 2 carrots, diced; 2 small potatoes, diced; and 1/3 cup peas)
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1/3 cup flour
1 Tbsp poultry seasoning

1) In large saucepan, melt butter (or heat oil). Add celery, garlic, & onion and cook until they start to soften. Add flour, and cook for another minute for the flour to begin to brown.

2) Add broth, a bit at a time, stirring as you go. Add veggies (except peas) and continue cooking as sauce thickens. Add more flour if needed.

3) Remove from heat and add chicken, peas, and poultry seasoning.

4) Put bottom crust in pie pan. Pour in filling, add top crust. Flute edges and cut steam vents.

5) Bake @ 350F for one hour. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Poultry Seasoning Recipe:

makes about 1/2 cup

2 tsp ground sage
1 1/2 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp ground marjoram
3/4 tsp ground rosemary
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Mix well. Store in glass jar, out of the sunlight.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ahead of the Bean

For years, I was unwilling to buy dry beans. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with them, or how to incorporate them into my schedule. I finally decided they were inexpensive enough that I could afford to destroy the food on accident.

It never happened (destroying food, I mean). It's easy to use them. I decide dinner one day in advance anyway; if I make it two days then I have time to soak the beans. Or I can soak extra beans and freeze them, then when I need them it's thaw-and-cook. So now on Taco Night we have homemade refried beans instead of the brand-name canned stuff. I'm still learning the recipe but I have the beans soaked, in the freezer and waiting for me. The home-soaked beans have a better texture than canned ones, as well.

To soak beans for a recipe that calls for canned beans, use about 1 cup of dried beans and remember that they'll need to cook a little longer than the canned beans. Keep an eye on how soft they are to adjust the time, or cook them a little in advance before adding to the recipe (see cooking directions below).

To be 'ahead of the bean,' I will soak a bag of beans starting on Friday, with a change of water on Saturday. The water from the soakings can be re-used for watering plants, if desired. On Sunday I put the beans in fresh water on the stove and cook until they mash easily against the side of the pot with a fork. Not smooshy-soft but with a bit of resistance before they mash. They are then cooled and packed into pint jars with water to cover (remember that 1" to 2" of space at the top). Then label, date, and freeze. I use pint jars for this because one jar is enough to make the refried beans or to add to soups & stews.

Cost-wise, most dried beans run about $1 a pound here. Canned beans run about $1.50 a can, and that bag of dried beans will make two to three cans worth of beans. So that $1 bag of beans is equivalent to $4.50 worth of canned beans. Plus, I've never seen cranberry beans or many other delicious varieties available canned.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Independance Days - 3 April 2011

1. Plant something: The last of the beets are finally in the ground.

2. Harvest something: nothing, but the Swiss chard looks delicious...

3. Preserved something: Nothing this week. We've been eating out of the freezer rather than filling it.

4. Waste not (preparations): Improved management of finances, working on decluttering again.

5. Want not (manage your stores): Noting what we're eating and what we're not to help me plan what to put up over the summer. I see piles of tomatoes in my future...

6. Build community: Telling folks that our city finally has a community garden. Yes, I have an application in and am waiting to hear back from them.

7. Eat the food: tacos, endless sweet tea, yellow rice served with chickpeas.

8. Crafting: A bit of spinning, a bit of work on the commission blanket.
Drop Spindle and fiber by Zebisis
Spindle by Zebisis Designs

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Freezing & Utilizing Leftovers

Our only freezer space is the freezer on top of the refrigerator. Just to make life fun, the fridge is the however-old one of questionable maintenance that came with the apartment. Dependable, not too much of an energy hog, but still not exactly top of the line. Things do get freezer burn if we're not careful. There's also the option for avalanches if stacking isn't done well! I thought it would be useful to post an overview of what has worked for us when it comes to utilizing our freezer. I'm also including ideas on how to stretch leftovers, so that not-quite-enough becomes plenty for all.

I'm gradually using more glass than plastic when storing food. With glass, it's extra important to leave space a the at the top of each jar to allow for the expansion of the food as it freezes. I always leave at least one inch, preferably two inches, at the top. When I haven't allowed enough space, I've often thawed the food so I can throw out the jar because the bottom broke off! In those instances, I throw out the food too, just to be safe. I don't want to take chances with glass shards.

Quart jars hold 3 cups/24 ounces, which is two to three servings depending on the food. Pint jars hold 2 cups/16 ounces. I will re-use commercial glass jars for this, or I use my regular canning jars. Be careful with the commercial jars as I've found them to be a bit less sturdy than the canning jars. I cool off the food in the fridge, and then transfer it to the freezer.

Keep in mind that some foods will soften due to being frozen. I believe this includes pasta and beans. Detailed information on freezing foods can be found here.


Leftovers are frozen by serving amounts whenever possible. Don't forget to label and date the packages, and to keep them rotated. Not everyone needs to be able to identify frozen broths by color, even if I had to learn the hard way!

Single Servings:
Some leftovers are intended as single-servings, often for me to take to work for lunch. For these, I will set the food up ready-to-eat: Leftover chicken with the stuffing and veggies in the same dish, either side-by-side or stacked; spaghetti with sauce on top and perhaps cheese; etc. Essentially thaw-and-serve. I can take the food out at bedtime, put in the fridge overnight, and then take it to work with me for lunch the next day. I do not refrigerate it at work as it is still slightly frozen and will finish thawing in the morning, while it also cools my drink. I've done this with rice dishes, spaghetti, meats, and veggies - just about anything. Often I pack the food with a pat of butter on top as the extra moisture while reheating seems to help. Then again, I like butter on just about anything, so your mileage may vary on that one.

Multiple Servings:
When there are enough leftovers for a second meal, I will often freeze it in Quart canning jars. For the three of us, one quart jar with an added side (say, soup with garlic bread or a salad) is enough for one meal. For two of us, just the quart jar is enough. For a larger family, or unexpected company, you can adjust from there. Plan on two quart jars for dinner for four, and add sides to feed five or more.

Planning on three people, and your parents stop by? Salads and bread for everyone, and add pasta to the soup while it heats. You could also add a can of veggies to stretch it; I keep canned carrots and potatoes on hand for this reason. They need heating rather than cooking, so they'll cook at the same speed as the rest of the soup.

To freeze soups, I add 2 cups of solids and then pour in the broth until the jar is full (1" to 2" below the top). The jar is labeled with the contents and date, and frozen. Meats are often shredded or diced, then packed gently into jars and frozen. Veggies are frozen in the juices they cooked in, or in vegetable broth or water depending on what I have. I make sure the water covers the veggies so that they'll be in the best shape when they come back out.

Soup can be used for planned-overs by using it as the base for a potpie. Follow the directions for the potpie with these substitutions: drain the broth of your soup into a measuring cup, and add water if needed to get the amount of broth needed for the soup. Use where the recipe calls for broth. Add the solids from your soup when the recipe calls for the veggies, keeping in mind that it may not need quite as much cooking time since your veggies are already cooked. If there is meat in your soup, you will not need to add meat to the pie filling. Follow the other directions as given. This turns two or three servings of soup into six to eight filling servings of potpie!

Planning a From-Scratch Pantry

Canned Apples 2009
By which I mean a pantry stocked (to whatever extent) with food you can use to make homemade meals, snacks, and deserts. I’ll also discuss planning what you need to can and dry for your pantry.

Getting Started
  • Track current usage
    What are you eating? Is it from scratch? If not, do you have a recipe? What ingredients do you need?
  • Frequently made recipes
    What do you like to eat? You should keep ingredients for a batch or two of family favorites in the pantry. I'd keep enough for 2 of each meal, in case you don't get to the store to restock before you want it again.

  • Create a sample one-month menu/ grocery list.

    Example: pet supplies. I know we need about 18lbs cat food, 2 14-lb bags of litter, and about 4 bags of treats. I can get everything in one trip – and since it’s to the large pet store, that makes it a time-saver as well. This will last two months (sometimes more) for our two cats.

    Example: Vegetables. During winter, I like to serve a can of veggies with dinner. So, 5 nights x 14oz cans = (5 nights x 30 weeks) in pints (16oz each) = 150 pints of assorted veggies, add 10% for extra coverage - 145. I’ll take that and round it off so that I run full batches of 8 pints – so, 144 pints of assorted vegetables is what I’ll need, if I can everything myself. Note that this doesn't allow for fresh veggies, which is always preferred. I'm still learning how to estimate what we need, so the first few times/years it will be a learning process.

    Example: I’ve had to change from getting groceries weekly, to monthly. I knew the change was coming and kept track of what we use each week, and used that to estimate what we’ll need for the month. I mentioned the cat supplies and veggies above; I also know that I like serve meals in a pattern – two nights are leftovers, one night based on beef, one night meatless, three or four nights based on chicken. Times that by four and I know what to buy for the month. When sales come I do make exceptions and stock up as much as our small freezer will let me.

  • Expand the list to cover 12 months, allowing for seasonal variations - lighter foods in summer's heat, more soups and savory meals to fight back winter's cold.

  • Make your own convenience foods.

    Example: I cook much more chili in the winter. I have other recipes I only make in winter, or fall, because they suit the weather. Chili is easy to make; a few rounds of 7 quarts each should be plenty for the winter. I like chili-mac for lunches sometimes, so I may also can some half-pints for that. This is also something where I can make a canner full, and then make more when that runs out.

    Example: Healthy quick meals can be prepped by making and canning soups, chilis, and meatballs. Home-canned meat can be used as a basis for quick meals, and increase your use of local pastured beef – for me, this is seasonal, with spring being the hardest time to get any. Also, if your freezer is full you could can the sale meats.
Drying Foods
  • Benefits: Food dried in season retains nutrients and flavor throughout the winter, and takes up a fraction of the storage space. This is especially nice when you have limited storage space. Some foods also take less of your time to store this way.

    Tomatoes and greens can be rinsed, patted dry, and sliced quickly before placing in the dehydrator. Then, you just take out the dried food when it's ready.

  • Soups (as well as other recipes) can be made ahead in dried form, rehydrated & cooked. I have at least two recipes I’m going to try –I will dehydrate all ingredients, package them together, and see how they come out after simply putting the dry mix in the slow-cooker with water or broth. If it works (I believe it will), I‘ll have wonderful, homemade, dinners for the times I forget to thaw food or plan ahead. Those are the days where I’m drinking my coffee before work and go “Eek! What are we eating tonight?” Dump things in slow cooker, add broth or water, turn on. Come home, stir well, serve. That sounds nice, yes? You can also look for "Gift in a Jar" or "Dinner in a Jar" type recipes, and use these the same way.

  • Unique candies – candied and dried fruits & fruit leathers. We made candied watermelon rinds one summer. Delicious!

Candied Watermelon Rind 2009

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Independace Days 27 March 2011

Earlier this week, it was trying to hit 70'f.

Today, it's trying to snow.


1. Plant something: Beets.

2. Harvest something: Nothing.

3. Preserved something: Freezing of leftovers, for later.

4. Waste not (preparations): Getting together a list of what we need to go camping. Also looking for seeds for the patio - greens in our summer heat can be a challenge.

5. Want not (manage your stores): Trimming the magazine cache, and reading. I have too many read-me book piles. Again.

6. Build community: nothing yet.

7. Eat the food: Tried homemade Stovetop-copycat stuffing; almost worked and will re-attempt shortly. Winter Bean soup. Tonight, brussels sprouts and sausage. Easy to cook, delicious, not cheap - probably $8 for the pan, and the two of us finish it - maybe 4 servings? We consider it a treat; it's perfect for this weather.

8. Crafting: Working on the commission blanket, my fingerless gloves, and spinning.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Planned-overs is what I call it when I make too much food one night, so that I can turn it into something else for another night's dinner. Right now, I have chicken broth, salsa, leftover soups, summer-fresh diced tomatoes, and cooked beans in the freezer waiting for us. If I take them out tonight they'll be ready for tomorrow.

Roast chicken is a good illustration of this: I cook the chicken in my oval slow-cooker. That night, I remove all the meat, then add more water to the crock and make sure all the bones are covered. I set it to cook on low for 10 hours and leave it until I get home from work the next day - it will automatically go on the warm setting until I turn it off, so it will still be warm. I pour the broth through a strainer and into a large container and discard what gets caught by the strainer. The broth is put in the fridge for 24 hours to chill. I skim the fat from the top, and freeze the broth. Often I'll freeze a quart canning jar with 2 cups meat and 2 cups broth, label it, and it will be the base for chicken soup or pot pie later on. My "leftovers" become, quite frequently, two to three other meals which may generate their own leftovers (potpie lasts two nights, here; it's very filling).

Roast beef is much the same way. Cook a roast in the slowcooker, with enough water to cover, and it will make dinner with a delicious, meaty broth that can serve as the base for wonderful stews and potpies. Cook the broth with lentils, barley, carrots, and sauteed onions and it's a wonderful, easy meal. Don't leave out the spices when you cook the meats; just keep them in mind when you decide what to use the broth for so that the flavors will complement each other, or blend - not fight.

Dry beans can be made ahead - soak, cook, and then freeze in 2 cup amounts (the same as a store-bought can) and you get better quality food that's nearly as easy for half the price.

Spaghetti sauce or chili can be made in large batches and frozen in 3-cup portions - dinner for two, or serve over rice or pasta for three. Add a fresh salad and you'll enjoy the compliments without the work.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monthly Meal Planning - Options Version

Here is my version of meal planning: I plan monthly, and choose what we're eating a day or two or three in advance. It allows for whimsy and cravings in a planned menu, and that is key to its success for us.

This is how I do it:

I make a list of the recipes we like so that I don't forget any of them, or have my cookbook nearby.

On a sheet of paper, I make a chart - 7 days by 5 weeks. Each week, two days say "Leftovers." I try to schedule one day with chicken, one with red meat, and one or two meatless meals. The remaining day or two is "planned overs" (leftovers that you have plans for when you make them). I list five weeks instead of four, because some months do look like they're five weeks, and also it gives us a couple extra dinner options. Good for company visits, or if we just don't want something on the menu.

The nice part: Each weekend, get a piece of paper to write down the week's meals on. Look at the menu, and keep in mind the weather forecast. Decide what you want to eat that week, write it on the week's menu, and check it off the monthly menu. Keep in mind that anything more than two days out is flexible.

It might go like this:

"Well, it's warmer this week but Thursday looks chilly and rainy; let's have Winter Bean soup to fight off the chill. Monday we'll have roast chicken. I'll make stock from the bones to use for the bean soup, and freeze the leftover meat. Tuesday we'll have Yellow Rice & Beans, Wednesday will be leftovers. Friday we can have spaghetti or sausage grinders, and then eat those leftovers Saturday. Sunday we'll have pot pie made from the meat & more of the stock we froze from Monday's chicken. "

Monday: Roast Chicken. Shred & Freeze leftover meat; make broth from carcass.
Tuesday: Yellow Rice & Beans
Wednesday: Leftovers - oops, very busy day; ate on the run, froze the leftovers instead...
Thursday: Winter Bean Soup using homemade stock
Friday: Sausage grinders or spaghetti
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Chicken Pot Pie, made from Monday's planned-overs.

I have had the "eek! food run!" days several times. I'm now convincing the slow-cooker that it needs to cook dinner for us more often.

Portions are guesstimated at 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of meat or starch, or about 8 ounces (1 cup) of anything else. I like to serve the meat with veggies & a starch, or two veggies. Starches could be pasta, grains, rice, stuffing, rolls, garlic bread and so on. During the summer, veggie choices will vary depending on what's at the farmer's market. Portions can have built-in cushions - if you make extra rice, you can add it to soup or stir-fry another night; leftover veggies or meats can be saved for soup or stock; a lunch can be packed up and frozen for another day.

At the beginning of the month, I make sure we have everything on hand to make the meals I've listed. You can do this as often as you get paid; our budget is set up for the big grocery trip once a month, and weekly trips for milk & perishables. Once a week is about the most I want to go - I find I spend too much money if I'm constantly getting 'just one thing.'

Once I'm home from shopping, I'll do any prep that's needed. I chop & freeze any bread that wasn't finished to use later for stuffing, croutons, and so on (still learning this one!). I make sure the freezer contents won't fall on you when you open the door. Then - I get a cold drink and curl up with a book until it's time to start dinner.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Planting

We prepped the balcony for planting today. The seeds will actually go in on Tuesday, which according to our local planting calendar is a better day for that.

North Side of Garden, medium picEast view of garden

We swept, hung the manger planters, and re-arranged the furniture. The lowest level of pots (black & grey) will be sweet potatoes - I've started a sweet potato in water to grow my slips, since I only need two or three. The two pots above the black pot have herbs in them: Orange mint above and lemon balm below. The one on the grey pot will be planted with collards, as will be another 12" pot near the rosemary. The planters will be planted with cold-tolerant beets, spinach, and a lettuce mix.

overwintered Swiss Chard 'Ruby Red' The Swiss Chard was planted last spring and survived our winter just fine. I'll add more to this pot, and start adding leaves from them to my spring salads, too.

Lemon Balm:
Lemon Balem

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Independance Day - 20 March 2011

1. Plant something: Something should be planted this afternoon. We hung the planters and re-arranged the balcony a bit. I've got a sweet potato in water to grow slips - I really only need two or three, so too small of an amount to order. They'll be great though; sweet potato vines spilling out over the pots and around things. Lots of kitty hiding places, too.

2. Harvest something: nothing, but at least the planters are ready!

3. Preserved something: Soaked way too m any chickpeas, put about half in the freezer for later. Some went to a night's dinner, the rest will go into chickpea & carrot salad (new recipe!).

4. Waste not (preparations): All preparations right now are focused on "budget" and "use monthly meal plan." Why does no one ever mention that if you make a list of about 25-30 meals, and just choose off the list the night before, it works just as well as a more structured meal plan? You know, the kind that doesn't work in this house?

5. Want not (manage your stores): Switched the house over to "Summer." Changed out sheets, blankets, and clothes. Donated half a dozen tops I won't wear any more and gave myself a wonderful excuse to knit up some sweaters for myself for next winter =) Also, I'm happy to note that the new storage unit configuration is working well - I can still find and easily get to the things I need, without exhuming the entire unit. Much better!

6. Build community: ah the quiet....

7. Eat the food: Cooking was a bit better this week. I forgot to do my monthly meal planner and it has completely messed me up this month.

8. Crafting: The first part of the commission blanket is finished. While I wait for the rest of the yarn to come in, I'm working on my fingerless gloves and I've picked up yarn for another pair of projects, as well. Also, I'm making a point of spinning for a least a few minutes every night.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Independance Day Challenge 6 March 2011

I'm in a bit of a hibernating mood. Not wanting lots of outside contact or to do much; hot chocolate, a book, and a rainy afternoon sound wonderful.

1. Plant something: Nothing. Wanted to put up planters, so of course it's pouring rain out. (Sunday)

2. Harvest something/ 3. Preserved something: too early still...

4. Waste not (preparations): Paid off one credit card in full.

5. Want not (manage your stores): Realized we ran out of veggies, and bought mostly seasonal fresh veggies (squashes, root veggies) and not so much of the commercially canned stuff.

6. Build community: Nothing.

7. Eat the food: Would you believe I can't remember what I've cooked this week? The only thing I remember is that a supply of diced root veggies can be added to soup, and the rest of it roasted - half hour's work, two or three night's dinners. Cool.

8. Crafting: Working on the commission blanket, and on writing my recipes down so they can go in the binder. Next up is the finance's cross-stitch stocking that I'm making. I think I'm about half-done with it, but it won't get finished if I never pick it up to work on it...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Independence Day Challenge 28 Feb 2011

1. Plant something: Nothing. Still need to hang the new planters. I'll direct-sow then. This weekend?

2. Harvest something & 3. Preserved something: nothing =)

4. Waste not (preparations): Prepped dried pinto beans (now cooked & in freezer) so that they're ready the next time we want refried beans.

5. Want not (manage your stores): We did fairly well with not eating out much, and not making many just-one-thing trips to the grocer. The monthly 'options list' version of a menu works for us. Yay!

6. Build community: Checked on a new local meat source (beef/pork). Getting local chevon (goat meat) again would be nice, too. Heck, having a goat would be nice (milk!), but I don't think they'd stay on the balcony...

7. Eat the food: Cooking from scratch, finding recipes that use what we have. Winter Bean Soup was very good; I used a pinch of anise seed for the fennel. I've really got to learn to put up more veggies; dried greens and tomato slices do not a meal make....

8. Crafting: More spinning =)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Independance Day 20 February 2011

In the garden: I've decided not to order any garden seeds this year. I have local organic sweet potatoes and want to learn how to grow slips from them, because I know they will do well on the patio. We have seeds for greens and some root veggies. I want to get the manger planters hung and use those for lettuce, radish, chard, and beets as soon as I can direct-seed. The two biggest pots will get the sweet potatoes; the others we'll try the collards and/or broccoli. And we already have all the seeds for this, so no need to order more.

Preserved something: Nothing, other than usual freezing of leftovers.

Waste not (preparations): I'm staying up with the finances (keeping up the budget, not spending money we don't have). Not the usual, but all I've really done this week.

Want not (manage your stores): We've been maintaining (mostly) the written inventory for the second pantry. We've finished the home-canned diced tomatoes already - I was expecting to run out early, since I knew we didn't get enough put up. Also, we finished putting up the items that came back from off-site storage. I've neatened up my fiber storage and cleaned off the sewing machine.

Build community: I have been home all week; was very sick the first few days but fine by Friday. I didn't want to get anyone sick!

Eat the food: Peanut butter cookies. Chili, tacos, dirty rice. Nice normal foods, but we've managed to not buy anything except milk, cereal, and cup-o-soup since the big shopping trip at the first of the month. Yay! Success!

Crafting: Still working on the commission blanket. In better news, DFH bought me a new spindle for Valentines Day. The box came with two spindles and a bit of roving which I've already spun up. Yay! The spindle is great =)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Independance Day Challenge - 8 February 2010

It's been a quiet week. We're still putting away the last of the items that were in storage. They are in cardboard boxes, and I won't put those in a unit that's had water damage 3 times in a year or so. I bought them my 'standard' plastic bins. As much as I try to avoid plastic, for this I haven't been able to.

Plant something/Harvest something:
Nothing. I'm watching to see what freezes and what survives on the patio, does that count?

Preserved something: The freezer is filling - homemade broths, mostly. This is the time of year when I get over-stocked on broths that we spend all summer nibbling away at. It tends to run out in late summer.

Waste not (preparations): During tonight's power outage (all 2 hours or so) I taught DFH and DD how to use the oil lamp, and realized that I ought to have more non-electric light sources 'to hand' instead of 'in the top of the closet.' I'm also going to keep an eye out for a silver or silverplate platter to hang on the wall behind the 'candle shelf' to reflect more light into our main living area.

Want not (manage your stores): Mostly keeping up with the inventory system we set up. Working on better organization in all areas - the attached storage has standardized, clear bins with clip-on lids now, and a basic description ("Home Decor," "Yule Decor," "Blankets," etc.) is taped inside of it (on the narrow end) so that we can read it from outside the bin without having to move them. The desk area has been straightened and has better storage. I'm working on getting the recipe cards onto paper sheets, and into the recipe binder I was given for Yule.

Build community: nothing, still focused on home.

Eat the food:
Learning to cook beans and rice more. Both to be frugal, and to play with food - I mean, to learn new recipes! Yea, that's it. Learn new recipes.

Crafting: I made mesh bags with tulle I found at the thrift ages ago, and used the bags to wash the alpaca fleece I bought last December at a farmer's market. One is drying, the other is still soaking out dirt. They liked their dust baths, yup! Also still working on that commission blanket.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Avoiding Auto Debt

Over the years, one thing that has helped keep our finances afloat is the lack of a car payment. I haven't had one since 2000 or so, and going back to about 1995 I can see where that payment or the lack of one has made the difference between being independent, or needing help to get by. Since we live in a car-centric area, living without one is difficult - not impossible, but difficult.

My last three cars have all been paid cash; the last two were bought from people I knew. They were about $1000 each - if they were under that, I quickly paid the difference in repairs! The one I'm driving now, I got a deal on (a sympathetic co-worker sold it to me) and paid $700. Followed two weeks later by replacing the timing belt and a couple other items, to the tune another couple hundred. Normal maintenance, just without warning. I don't mind; I'm getting decent cars and driving them till they're ready to be junked. At that point, I get the next one and sell the old one to the junkyard for $100 or so.

Dear Fiance recently mentioned that the current car is getting up there in mileage (142,000+), and perhaps I ought to start thinking about needing another one so as not to be caught off-guard. I agreed this would be a good idea - I don't remember any car lasting much more than 200,000 miles miles, at least that I've owned. So I checked the local paper. Twice. There was nothing listed under $1500, and all of those were 120,000 + mileage. Not what I was expecting! So I pulled up Kelly Blue Book, and compared prices first to an advertised car (they were asking full Blue Book price for fair condition) and then to my car. Mind you, I have never priced it before. The price on the one I have is comparable to what's currently being offered in the paper. Because of some minor damage (all cosmetic), my car is actually a better deal than what I could replace it with right now.

So, I've reassessed. We do still need to save towards the next car - but $2000 instead of $1000. The car I have will continue getting good care, and I'm going to go ahead and fix some of the annoying items as I can - reglue the headliner, and get the AC fixed. I haven't had working AC in a car since I had a car payment, but the summers are just getting too hot for me and I don't want to deal with it anymore. Since this car has 142,000 miles on it, and I average 7,000 miles a year or less, the car has about 8 years left before it hits 200,000 miles with my current driving habits. If my driving habits change, I'll have to adjust the plan accordingly. And every year or so I should start pricing my car, and seeing what's available in the area for replacements so that I can increase the replacement fund when it becomes necessary. I have no guarantee this car will last to 200,000 miles, but taking good care of it will certainly increase the chances!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Independance Day - 1 February 2011

The weekend was busy, and I didn't have time to look at the blog. We're out of the rented storage unit but still have to properly put everything where it belongs, rather than chucking it in a convenient corner.

Plant something/Harvest something:
Nothing yet. Planting can start in March; right now I need to plan.

Preserved something: Freezing leftovers before they can go bad. I'm going to have a couple nights where this means dinner just needs thawed =)

Waste not (preparations): Preparations right now are all financial - balancing the budget and the checkbook, reducing debt as fast as we can.

Want not (manage your stores): Maintaining the inventory for the second pantry.

Build community: Spreading the word about a new local CSA.

Eat the food: Eating out of the pantry and finding new beans & rice meals to try. The menu planning experiment continues! Last month, it was successful 3 weeks out of 4.

Crafting: Still working on the commission blanket.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Independance Day - 23 January 2010

The seed catalogs are here. I need to see what seed I have, and what I'd like. And where I'm going to plant it!

Waste not: making an effort to use leftovers. Learning to better use our open-face fireplace (ya know, the kind they say not to use because it's so inefficient? that kind.)

Want not: Sorting through stored items, and doing the mental planning to re-arrange the way items are stored around the house.

Build community: I've been hibernating. Which, granted, isn't that far from usual. I like my cave.

Eat the food: Chicken pot pie. Using a planned menu to select dinner from. Trying new recipes.

Crafting: I'm working on a blanket on commission. Not something I'll do much of but the money will be nice.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Independance Days January 11, 2011

Plant/Harvest/Preserve something: nothing

Waste not (preparations): I found good flannel at the local thrift and also a sturdy picnic/project basket with a lid. They've got a good stock right now of winter coats (wool trench coat, $15!), comforters, and blankets. They said they've been selling slow despite the cold temps locally.

Want not (manage your stores): I'm learning to cook with dried beans. It really is easier than it sounds, not much more pre-planning than we're already doing.

Build community: Hoping that My Farmer will start a CSA; I'll be able to cut down actual farm market trips in mid-summer's noon heat, since I mostly buy from her already.

Eat the food:I'm playing more of those games called "rubber meat" and "leftover surprise" - sometime it's the same game, like when last night's roast beef and the night before's greens meet in tonight's beef & veggie stew. Tomorrow: Pot pie!

For January, I planned meals for the month (not the order, just XX many options) and used what was on hand as much as I could. So far, so good - this has always been a challenge for me.

Crafting: My break is over. I'm working on a commissioned crochet blanket, then on to my fingerless gloves and cowl before making us all earflap hats. If, of course, I don't change the que order again.....

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Independance Days - January 2, 2011

Happy New Year, everyone!

Plant/Harvest/Preserve something: Nothing.

Waste not: Lots of leftovers for lunch & dinner.

Want not: The home is insulated as best we can. I've started a new budget, using a new spreadsheet. So far, so good!

Build community: Still not much, still hibernating.

Eat the food: I made a menu for the month, and bought groceries based off that. Hopefully that means I won't be making frequent stops at the grocer this month. We're also learning to cook with dried beans rather than store-canned.

Crafting: I've been sewing. The repair pile has been taken care of, and the car pillows I'm making are about half done. Those are for long trips in the car, made of scraps (an old pillow cut in half, remnants of cotton 'decor' fabric). Sturdy enough for the abuse they'll get, and easy to clean.