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Sunday, July 26, 2015

SIGNS

Hello dear friends!  This week there have been signs everywhere to remind me what season I am in.  The Amish neighbor's hayfield, stacked so lovely tells me that summer is waning.
That's something you don't see every day!  Much more romantic than those big ugly round bales that the commercial farmers use.  And if that's not all, the late summer flowers; coneflowers, phlox and brown-eyed Susans, are beginning to bloom.
We harvested about fifty pounds of onions this week and more soon to come. Our stored onions last until late March or early April.  I explained how to root cellar vegetables here.  We also harvested garlic.

HOW TO BRAID GARLIC

Harvest your garlic when the stalks start to yellow and are falling over.  This year it was early.
Step 1:  Cut a piece of twine twice as long as you want your braid to be.
Step 2:  Place a clove of garlic in the center of the loop.  On top of the twine.
Step 3:  Bring the stalk to the back of the loop, behind the right side, back up and over that side and under the twine on the opposite side.  (Like making a figure eight).


Step 4:  Now repeat on the opposite side.
Step 5:  Continue alternating sides until you reach the length you desire. Pushing the stalks downward.
Step 6:  Hang in a cool dry place to allow the cloves to cure and the stalks turn brown.  You can trim the stalks once they are dry, if desired.
We also harvested some blueberries, but we won't have enough to freeze so we bought some locally at $3/ lb and froze them. When we were purchasing them, the clerk waiting on  us  wanted to know what we were going to do with them.  She  never heard of freezing them.  Can you believe it?  How far we have come from the agrarian society we used to be!  
I canned  blueberry-cranberry juice with some of the berries.  I had the cranberries in the freezer from last winter, that I purchased when they were on sale after the holidays.
HOW TO CAN CRANBERRY-BLUEBERRY JUICE

Wash and stem berries.
Put 2/3 C. cranberries and 1/3 C. blueberries into 1 quart sterilized  jars.
Add 3/4 C. sugar.
Fill jars with boiling water. leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
Place pre-simmered lids on jars. Adjust caps.
Process 15 minutes in boiling water bath.

To use, strain the berries and enjoy.  This juice is quite strong, so I usually add extra water, after opening.   The strained berries can  be used for baking. You  can use this recipe for straight cranberries also, just use 1 cup of cranberries instead of 2/3 C..  I also make grape juice this way, using 1 C. Concord grapes and 1/2 C. sugar.   Easy-peasy!

We also collected the seeds from our lupines and these pretty white hollyhocks: 

I think they look particularly winsome against the gray siding.  I have a spot scoped out right behind my Apothecary Rose for them.  Hopefully, they will be white when they bloom.  You never can tell with hand gathered seeds.

WHAAAAT?!!!

Ran and I were driving out in the country between home and Port Hope, when we spotted some crop circles.
There were two different fields of them, and I'm sure that the farmer is none to pleased with that.  One field is almost completely destroyed.  I would love to see what they look like from above.  What this is a sign of, I don't know!  

ANOTHER SIGN

Earlier this week, I thought I received a sign that I should stop blogging.  I'm very sensitive and some might say thin-skinned, when it comes to this blog.  I try to make it helpful and hopefully a little amusing at times, so when I lose a follower, it saddens me greatly. I'm always second guessing myself; did I do something wrong? Did I offend someone?  I would hate to think I did.  Losing a follower (I have so few, although I know many more read this blog regularly) was one sign, but I had several others.  But instead of having a knee jerk reaction and pulling my blog, as I have done in the past, I gave myself some time to contemplate what I should do.  I decided, since I have nothing to lose, I should throw caution to the wind and  write what I really think needs to be written, without worrying about whom I may offend, although I know once this is posted, I'll fret over it for the rest of the week!

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know that I am Christian, and that is what leads my life,  however, I have no desire to convert others, at least not in the traditional way. I figure you all are adults and have heard the Gospel, and have either rejected it or accepted it. Some of my best friends are non-believing New Age philosophizers. I also have Hindu, Muslims, agnostics, atheists, and even a witch, as friends and relatives.    When it comes to evangelizing, I follow the quote by Madeline L'Engle that is  ever-present on my sideboard:

"We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it."

I pray that one day they will come to the Lord, but I know judging and badgering them, is not going to make it happen. So I just try to set a good example of what I feel a follower of Christ should be; compassionate, generous, joyful and loving.  From time to time, I'll make a comment about my faith that sometimes leads to a discussion,sowing tiny mustard seeds of faith, but I don't hit them over the head with it. It wouldn't work anyway, sometimes I think the judgmental, overbearing, fire-and-brimstone types do more harm than good.  One thing  I do tell them, is that the day that you need to have a RFID chip inserted into your right hand or forehead to access your money, you will know that the Bible is true, as it was predicted over two thousand years ago.   Amazing Kreskin, or Sylvia Browne couldn't make a predication like that!

" He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead so that no one can buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of beast or the number of his name.  This calls for wisdom.  If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number.  His number is 666."
~Revelation 13 16-18 ~

We are already becoming a cashless society and  some countries, such as Sweden, are already moving away from paper money in lieu of government issued debit cards. It isn't such a stretch of the imagination to envision that one day people will readily accept an RFID chip inserted into their hand to eliminate the problems  of stolen debit cards and to make it easy to access financial and health information.  I've already seen advertisements for it. How hard would it be for the powers-that-shouldn't-be to just switch off access to, or erase the history of those that they deem dissidents? Think it would never happen?   You haven't read much history.  If you're interested in learning more about the Revelation of John or eschatology, John Shorey has written a book  that explains it in easy-to-understand language. Anyways, I'll step down from my pulpit now! Ha!

STILL MORE SIGNS

Well, there's  Martin Armstrong's "Cycles", the economists' Hindenburg Omen,  Mark Biltz's Blood Moon prophecy and Johnathon Cahn's Mystery of the Shemitah, to name a few of the many predicting financial collapse and war by this fall.  Some, such as Johnathon Cahn make very compelling arguments.  I guess we will soon find out if they are right.  Personally, I'd prefer to be in the ready just "in case" league, rather than be the proverbial ostrich with my head stuck in the sand league.  In this blog, I have many articles on canning and drying foods, how to garden, setting up a basic pantry and recipes for those staples. There's been tips on staying warm and conserving water. among many other practical and thrifty ideas (and some silly articles, too). There's many blogs that deal with other "hard times" issues, such as, herbal remedies and survival tools.  What I do, is copy the articles and make my own survival handbook.  Make sure you have a hard copy because if times get really rough, you might not have access to a computer, or who knows, it might be censored.  I also own many books that deal with subjects such as natural remedies, canning, trapping,  cooking and preparing wildlife, shelter building, etc.  Yes, I'm a prepper!  Personally, I've gone through too many hard times in my own life, not to be.  I'd rather be prepared and be made fun of, than be unprepared and a burden to someone else.

 Also, and perhaps more importantly, prepare yourself spiritually and mentally for what might come.  However you want to do it, get down to the essence of who you are, then the loss of a job, money, or home will not be such a shock.  Those things do not define you! I really did not mean for this post to be such a "doom and gloom" one, but what kind of friend would I be if I saw trouble coming towards you, and did not give warning?   I could have made veiled hints and daintily danced about the subject, but it's more important that you receive  the information, than it is that I don't look foolish.  But there is hope!  As Anne Frank wrote, ".....in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.". Get to know your neighbors, form a community of like-minded people.  Whatever you do, don't isolate yourself and fret and worry. Do what you can and have faith that it will all work out.

NOW FOR THE THRIFTY THINGS WE DID THIS WEEK (FINALLY!)

Harvested the last of the cauliflower and froze it.

Harvested summer squash and broccoli.

Picked blueberries from our garden.

Froze 5 lbs. of blueberries that we purchased at $3/lb.

Harvested some onions and the garlic.

Canned 13 quarts of cranberry-blueberry juice.

Parked the car and didn't drive it for the last couple of days.

Attended three estate sales for amusement.  Bought some neat toasting forks for the campfire for a quarter.

Bought several items of clothing from garage sales for the winter months.

Collected rainwater and used it to water the plants.

Hung the laundry on the line several times.

Ate from the pantry and the garden.

Slept in our shed/guest cottage to stay cool.  Nights are always cool here.

Well, that's it for this week!  I do treasure every comment.  Even you Mr. Spammer.  What you had to say was very interesting.  Maybe next time, if you can fit it in better to the subject at hand, I'll publish it!  Until the next time, may all your days be pleasant!

Jane





 

 





Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sweet Briar Cottage Journal: Simplicity

Hello dear friends!   Hope you are enjoying your summer!   Can you believe we are over halfway through July?   We're experiencing some scorching temperatures this week, well, at least scorching for us!    I have to remind myself to enjoy the summer, that it is a fleeting season and soon winter will be upon us once again.  So  I'll enjoy the sweat upon my brow and the sprawling greenness and stop longing for autumn.

IN THE GARDEN

 The Rugosa roses have winded their way up to the side of the house.
I love these little wild roses.  They never fail to grow, they're such dependable sweet bushes. My Evelyn roses are blooming too.
The camera lens kept steaming up, but you can see they make a lovely companion to the pale orange tiger lilies, that was just a happy accident.  I planted the tiger lilies there with the intention of transplanting them later, but never got around to it.  Sometime procrastinating has its benefits!

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.
~Elise Boulding~
  
SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE

One of the keys to living frugally is to simplify all the areas of your life.  Get down to the very basics of what defines you.

In lifestyles:  Learn to say "no"..  Limit your children's extracurricular activities.   Don't sacrifice home life for social life.

In the home:  Get rid of the clutter.  William Morris said," Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."   Get rid of all the rest.  When someone admires something in your home, give it to them.  Let the kids inherit your treasures while you're still alive. Donate to charities. I used to have so many books, that needed dusting often, but one day it dawned on me that I'll never re-read them, so why have them?  It was quite liberating to be rid of them.  Plus, I think the floorboards are thankful for the weight off their beams.  Do you really need dozens of vases or shelves of knickknacks?  How many sheet sets do you need?  Or towels?  Bring out the things that you love that are "too good" to use.  We use our good china, linen and real silverware everyday.  Although our paycheck would tell you otherwise, we live like royalty.

In cooking:  Seek out recipes that use basic pantry ingredients.  Don't make recipes that call of obscure spices and vegetables that you have to hunt down.  Instead keep the emphasis on the freshest ingredients.  Did you know that all those fancy sauces originated when chefs needed to cover the flavor of rancid meat and rotting vegetables back in the days before refrigeration?   One simple meal I make often is potpie.
It uses the vegetables and meat scraps from the previous meal.  Almost all nationalities have a version of the potpie; the Cornish have pasties,  Mexicans have empanadasthe Indians have samosas.  It's a universal thrifty idea!

In dress:   I always say just have five outfits for everyday, one for doing dirty work, one for exercising and one for dress up. Of course I don't follow my own rules! But I do limit my clothes to what I can fit in a small cupboard.  Periodically I go through my closet and give away whatever I don't like, doesn't fit or am just plain tired of, and replace it with something that I like better.   Establish your own style that fits your lifestyle.  If you garden and can all day, you don't need blazers and high heels.   But a  variety of pretty aprons is nice.   If a big date night for you is to attend the fish fry at the fire hall, you probably don't need evening wear.

CANNING

This week I canned cabbage and the baby carrots from thinning the rows. Canning means so much more to me than just keeping the wolves from the door.  First there's the quality; everything is picked fresh from our garden the day it is processed, it's all organic, and I never have to think about how many rat droppings per million  is in it.  But perhaps more importantly, it's an act of gratitude to my Creator, for blessing me with the abundance of the earth, in doing so, I do not squander those blessings.  I guess it is a kind of  token between me and Thee.  Each spring before I plant the first seed, I always ask that the Lord bless our garden that it may be fruitful and that we may be able to feed those that need it.   We always have a bountiful garden!

CRAFTS

I'm knitting wrist warmers from the yarn I reclaimed from a sweater that I wrote about last week.  I love how they look like ferns; I'm very into earthy looking clothes.  The pattern is a free one and can be found here.     

 

THRIFTY THINGS WE DID THIS WEEK

Canned cabbage and carrots.

Harvested carrots, cauliflower, and beets (which we gave away, we grow them for the greens).

Knitted a pair of wrist warmers from a free pattern.

Got free compost for our garden from the village.

Visited the Sanilac petroglyphs for free.

Our neighbor allowed us to pick her raspberries for free.  Picked three quarts and froze them.

Bought 25 lbs of King Arthur bread flour at the bulk food store for a lot less than it is at the King Arthur catalog.

Baked bread several times this week from scratch (we had guests).

Packed our own sandwiches when we were on a road trip, rather than buy lunch.

Well, that's it for this week.  Next week I hope to get back on track with a more informative post.  This week was busy with guests and just plain being wiped out by the heat.  My hat's off to all of you that live in the southern states.  I don't know how you do it!  Well, until next time!

Jane





 


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sweet Briar Cottage Journal: In The Good Old Summertime

Hello dear friends!   Hope your week went well for you!  We are finally getting our summer, a day late and a dollar short, but we'll take it!   There's so much excitement in our garden, as flowers are starting to bloom and vegetables are being harvested.  Everything is so tall this year!  The hollyhocks are well over six feet tall.  Here's the ones that we planted by our shed:
Don't they look like they belong  in a fairytale?  These were planted from free seeds that I gathered  from a neighbors house.  I love the old-fashioned cottage flowers the best.  Even the bee balm is towering over the hive!
We do our best to keep the bee population happy.  And here's the lilies behind the garage:
These are bulbs that I get at the 75% off sale at the end of the gardening season at the big box stores.  If you want to add value to your home, planting a flower garden will certainly do it.  And by starting flowers from seed, and buying discount bulbs and plants, it can be done quite frugally.  A neighbor remarked the other day that we have our own Paradise right here on earth, and we would have to agree!

Gardening is one of the things my husband and I like to do together.  He takes care of the vegetables and I do the flowers.  It's a happy marriage.  Speaking of marriage, we celebrated our thirty-seventh anniversary this week.  Ran made me this replica of a colonial bride's box to commemorate the occasion
More and more our home is becoming furnished in things that Ran builds.  I sew all the curtains, pillows, and tablecloths.  It's a very personal space.

SECRET TO A HAPPY  MARRIAGE

People have asked us what's the secret to a happy marriage and I always refer them to  this Bible verse:


  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

~1 Corinthians 13:4-7~

CRAFTS
Speaking of labors of love, I finally finished granddaughter Tatianna's  sweater.  When she  begged me to make a sweater like her favorite cartoon character, Mabel Pines from Gravity Falls, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  There isn't a pattern for it, so I had to design my own..  And I have to say, knitting that hot pink color gave me a headache! Ha!
Now that it's finally finished, I can go back to knitting something in a nice earthy color.  I'm unraveling a Merino wool sweater that I bought at the year end sale at our Thumb Industries Thrift Shop for seventeen cents (that's the sleeve).

HOW TO RECYCLE A KNIT SWEATER
First, only use sweaters of good quality wool.  Look at the seams and look for those that are sewn and not overlocked.  Crew necks work best because you can use both the front and the back.  Undo the seams and lay flat.  Cut straight across at just below the armholes for the front and back.  On the sleeves cut across at below the armhole. Starting from the top , unravel.  Have patience, sometimes it takes a few rows to get to the point where the sweater will unravel smoothly. Where else can you buy a skein of Merino wool for seventeen cents?

CANNING

Our butcher had a good deal on boneless, skinless chicken breasts this week,  $1.89/ lb.  So I canned up eight  pints.
When people ask me questions about canning I always refer them to Jackie Clay's blog . That woman is a canning wonder! 

ECONOMICS AND PREPPING

So have you been following what's been happening in Greece and China?  Did you now that the United States has a bigger debt to citizen ratio than Greece?  So why's  the U.S. dollar doing so well?  Because compared to other countries ours looks like the safest place to park your money.  Plus our markets are being artificially propped up by the Federal Reserve and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  But it won't last forever.  Liquidity is drying up and banks are starting to limit credit, particularly in Europe.  What does that mean to you?  Well, take a can of beans for example, before that can of beans reaches the store shelves, it goes through a series of credit transactions; the farmer, the elevator, the manufacturer, the trucker, the store employee, etc..  If one of those credit transactions freezes up, the food doesn't reach you.  So stock up now.  Besides, what does it hurt?  With the prices of groceries inflating, it's a good investment.  All of the economist are predicting a crash in the fall.  Historically that's when they happen.  I'd rather err on the side of caution than be a day late and a dollar short. Wouldn't you?

DON'T BUY IT, MAKE IT

OK. I admit it, I love potato chips.  Or I should say , I loved potato chips.  I hadn't eaten any for months, but I bought a small bag the other day and they were so salty and greasy, I  couldn't believe I ever liked them.   Plus they cost what? About three or four dollars for a bag.  That's a lot of money for ten ounces of potatoes!  So we figured out how to make our own healthier baked potato chips.

Homemade Baked Potato Chips

Slice the potatoes very thinly.  And immerse them in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes.  Rinse off the potatoes.  Throw the potatoes in a pan of boiling water.  Time them once the water begins to boil again.  Boil for 1 minute.  Throw the chips in a colander and rinse with cold water.  Pat dry with a towel.  Coat with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil until evenly coated.  Spread on a  parchment paper lined baking sheet, making sure they don't overlap.  Bake at 400 degrees until the chips start to brown.  Watch carefully, once they brown they brown really fast.  Remove from the oven.  Remove all the crispy ones and return the ones that need to bake a bit longer to the oven. Remove.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Tasted great and they were free, as we grow our own organic heirloom potatoes!

THRIFTY THING WE DID THIS WEEK

Harvested peas, broccoli, peppers, cauliflower, strawberries, and raspberries from the garden.

Dried cauliflower and broccoli

Canned 8 pints of chicken.

Unraveled a thrifted sweater for the yarn.

Finally found a cast iron pot with legs and a flat lid for our campfire cooking at a good price at an estate sale ($15).
Put it to use right away.  Fun and economical.

We had to travel to the big city to do some banking so to make the trip worthwhile we stopped in at a huge thrift store.  I bought 3 Ralph Lauren sweaters, a Ralph Lauren skirt, an Eileen Fisher sweater and a really cute vintage corduroy skirt for $13.  They were having a sale and several of the items were only 69 cents!  Have  most of my fall wardrobe now.  Which is good, I really got sick of my fall and winter clothes last year, when we had cold from September through mid-June.

I also bought a like new winter coat at a garage sale for $5.  I'm so tired of my gray one.  I've had it for several years.

We've been diverting our washing machine water to a bucket and using it to flush the toilet and water the flowers.  Also using the dishwater and the water left over in the canner.  Or water is so expensive here, mainly because the charge 5 times the water amount for the sewer, so by reusing the water, I hope to beat the system.  Especially when you consider that most of our water use comes from watering the garden which goes into the ground and doesn't even use the sewer.

Ate from the garden and a had  lot of meatless meals.

Plus all the usual things that you are probably tired of reading about!

Well, that's it for this week.   If you have a question or just want to say hello, please leave a comment.  Let me know what you are doing to make end meet.  I love learning new thrifty  ideas!  I also love to meet  like minded people.  I'd love to hear from you!

Later Tater!

Jane








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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sweet Briar Cottage Journal: The Path To Freedom

Hello dear friends!  Hope you all had a lovely holiday.  Our little village goes all out for the 4th, with a parade and fireworks.
We get a preview because the firetrucks line up on our street.
All in all it's a sweet old-fashioned celebration with lots of firetrucks and tractors.  And lots of candy being thrown.  It was so much fun to watch the little ones excitedly collecting bagfuls.  And oh! the people.  Thousands.  Where they come from, I'll never know.  And the weather was a perfect 75 degrees to boot!  I couldn't help but have bittersweet feelings toward Independence Day as we edge closer and closer to passing the Trans Pacific Partnership Bill (TPP, look it up), and not to mention adopting the United Nation's Agenda 21 we are losing our sovereignty.  Everyday we give up more and more freedoms.  America is not the America of my childhood and it certainly is not the country those that fought in the Revolutionary War envisioned. 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK


Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.
~Benjamin Franklin~

SELF  SUFFICIENCY

Self sufficiency is the only path to at least a semblance  of freedom in this country. Here's some steps to take to get you there:

1.  Take care of your health.  You can't do much if you are sick or weak.  You're at the will of uncaring insurance companies or worst yet, government agencies.  Many health woes, such as type II diabetes , high cholesterol and high blood pressure can be managed by diet and exercise.  Get rid of the junk food, eat more vegetables, preferably organic.  Exercise every day.  If you need to lose weight, lose it, before it develops into a bigger problem, not to mention the outrageous expense of medical bills. 

2.  Start a garden.   Large corporate farms, farm their land to death and deplete it of minerals.  They then try to supplement the lack thereof with  fertilizers.  Plus all the pesticides and GMO seeds might even be doing you more harm then not eating any vegetables at all.  I recently heard a doctor say that an organic potato chip is probably healthier than an apple grown on a company farm.  When you grow your own garden, you are in control of what goes into your body.  Plus it saves you a boatload of money  and it's  good exercise. 

3.  Learn important life skills.  When I went to primary school in the sixties, you were taught to sew, knit, and cook.  We also had 4-H and the Boys and Girls Scouts, where we learned animal husbandry, gun safety,  how to can, and many other skills that have fallen by the wayside.  In high school, we had classes in basic electrical skills, mechanics, wood shop and home economics.  By the time you graduated you could fend for yourself.  Schools now days don't prepare  children for adulthood, they are too focused on "journaling" and common core mathematics, where 2+2= whatever your little heart desires.  Get your kids out of public school if you can or at least monitor what they are learning.  There's thousand of  uploads on YouTube.  You can Google almost anything and find instructions.  Use the internet to your advantage.

4.  Get out of debt.  As long as you have debt, you are never really free.  You can cut years off your mortgage by making additional payments to the principle.  Mortgage loans take their cut of the interest first.  Get out that amortization chart that they give you at the closing.  See that the first year you probably didn't pay much on the principle?  When I had a new mortgage, I would add up the first year's principle which amounted to something under one hundred dollars and pay that in addition to the payment.  One year paid off!  Then I'd take the next year's and do that the next month.  Until that got too expensive then I'd do it by the monthly principle.  Any "found" money, such as rebates, tax refunds, birthday presents, etc. was also applied to the principle.  By doing this, I paid off the mortgage to this house in seven years.

If you have credit card debts, always pay more than the minimum balance, at least the minimum balance plus the interest, so that you don't fall even farther behind.  If you have more than one credit card, try to consolidate them.   If you can't do this, pay off the card with the highest interest first and pay the minimum + interest on the others.  When that card gets paid off, apply it to the next highest interest card.  Give up all luxuries, eat beans and rice until you are out of debt.  Trust me, the feeling of being free from the burden of debt is better than any movie, vacation, pedicure, or new shoes can every feel.

5.  Make new friends and maybe lose some old ones.  Just like a drug addict has to stop associating with enablers and other drug addicts, sometimes you have to let some friendships go.  I had a friend that was always ridiculing my self sufficient ways and worse yet, every time I was with her, I found myself spending money, just to avoid being labeled "cheap".  I finally had to face the fact that we were on different life paths and stopped seeing her.  On the other hand, I've met many new like-minded friends.  We share tools, experiences and help each other out.  It's good to have a support system!

6.  Most importantly, develop a spiritual life.   I'm a Christian and my faith tells me to "Come out of Babylon" and to "be in this world and not of it".  Turn off the TV.  Stop reading magazines that glorify materialism.  Just because the rest of the world is on a downward slide, doesn't mean you have to go along for the ride.  Read how honorable people lived in days gone by to find encouragement.

GARDENING

This week we harvested peas, strawberries and more cauliflower.  In our quest to find interesting ways to use our vegetables, I made this   recipe for Crispy Coconut Lime Baked Cauliflower Tacos.
My son Jamie loves coconut shrimp, but since the Fukushima  nuclear accident, I wouldn't touch shrimp with a ten foot Geiger counter.  Besides, I like the price of home-grown cauliflower a lot better.  It was pretty good.  The only change I'd make is to parboil the cauliflower next time (it was pretty chewy).  Also, I used homemade breadcrumbs instead of Panko breadcrumbs. 

We also made this unusual pizza with grilled peaches. No recipe, just an experiment that turned out wonderful. 
We have fun playing with our food.  Don't take it so seriously.  Try something new.
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CRAFTS

 We're finally getting some summer weather and I'm thinking about fall! I knitted this cowl from a free pattern.

Needed a rest from granddaughter Tatianna's Mabel Pines sweater.  All that pink was hurting my eyes!  The cowl had an interesting mesh pattern
Easy peasy, and quick.  I used Lion Brand bulky yarn.  Been studying how people stayed warm in the olden days.  They wore lots of shawls and wraps over their clothes.  Layers and layers is the key.  Hopefully we'll catch a break and maybe not have such a brutal winter this year.

UPDATE

We received  our electric bill the other day.  It was down 38% from last month and 38% lower than last June's bill.  All those things, such as, cutting the electricity to computers and only heating the water every other day is really paying off!

SOMETHING FUN

4th of July weekend is the weekend for garage sales around here.  Since we had to go to the bulk food store, we decided to make a day of it and take the long route along the lake and maybe find some sales.  We had a ball going down old country lanes and looking at old farmhouses, but there's one sale that stands out.  We spotted a sign and turned into what we thought was a driveway.  Well!  That driveway went on for about a half mile; up and down hills, curving one way or the other, all the time we were praying we wouldn't meet anyone  coming in the opposite direction on the one-lane road.  We finally reached a clearing and there stood the most unusual house of the most unusual pedigree we had ever seen(and we've seen some pretty odd ones). It looked like the builder couldn't decide on a style so he just used them all. There was a stone turret, another section had a mid-century vibe, and on top of it all was what looked like a lighthouse.  Very strange!  And all falling down.  We were intrigued enough to throw caution to the wind when a sign instructed us to enter.  Isn't this how horror stories begin?  The inside matched the outside, weirdly wonderful.  And there sat three old crones!  Really!  Three old ladies that matched their odd surroundings, each with strange looking dogs sitting on their laps.  The dog all had odd colored eyes or strange shaped heads.  None looked like anything you'd find at a dog show, that's for sure.  They had lots of gargoyles and hairless old dolls.  Creepy looking Victorian art.  It was better than Halloween!  Actually, I did find a beautiful, very heavy oil lamp.  But the experience was priceless!

THRIFTY THINGS WE DID THIS WEEK

Harvest cauliflower, peas, and strawberries from the garden.

Bought two large heads of cabbage (about 8 lbs. each) for 99 cents a head. Canned up 8 pints.  Will make sauerkraut out of the other. 
Baked banana bread from some bananas that were getting brown.

Ate mainly vegetables from the garden.

Stayed home for the holidays and did free things like people watch and visiting with neighbors.

Bought a large skein of yarn from an estate sale.  Enough wool for a shawl.  Only $3!

Used grey water to flush the toilets and water the flowers.

Hung the laundry on the line.

Knitted a cowl from a free pattern found on line.

Well that was a long one!  Hope I didn't bore you too much!  Hope you'll come back and see me next week. 

Jane












Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sweet Briar Cottage Journal: Strictly Thrifty

Hello dear friends!   Hope all is well in your corner of the world!  Have to say, this is one of the coolest summers ever, but boy! does it ever produce some beautiful big blooms.

GARDENING

In the garden we harvested cauliflower, kale, beets and strawberries.  We dried the beets and kale and ground them into our stealth health powder.  We used some in guacamole and no one even noticed the added nutrition. :)  I also canned the strawberries.
A simple way to can any type of fruit is to wash and remove the stems, cores (or pits) and skins if needed and slice into small pieces..  In a large non-metallic pot add 1/2 C. sugar for every quart of fruit.  Let stand covered until juice starts to collect in the bottom of the pan, about 2-4 hours.  Heat the fruit until the sugar dissolves and the liquid begins to boil.  Pack into clean sterilized  pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe the rims and place your lids and caps on.  Process in a water bath for 25 minutes. 

We mainly eat fruit desserts, so we use a lot of canned fruits in the winter and early spring.  Here's a simply crumble recipe that works with any of your canned fruit or fresh:

1 quart of fruit (berries, apples, peaches, pears, etc) cleaned, pitted, peeled and sliced
1/2 C. sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch (add an additional tablespoon if the fruit is really juicy)

Combine and place in a greased 8 inch pan.

For the topping:

Combine:
1 C. oatmeal
3 tbsp.  brown sugar
cut in 1/4 C. cold butter.  Sprinkle over the fruit and bake at 350 degrees for  30 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling. 
That's the basic recipe.  You can add spices or nuts.  Wherever you imagination wants to take you.


We also made faux Alfredo sauce with the cauliflower, by whirling some boiled cauliflower and about 1/2 C. of the cooking water   in a food processor until it was smooth.  Added some sauteed onions and lots of garlic.  I played with it a bit and added fresh oregano and basil (you could use dried also).  We topped ours with a bit of Parmesan cheese but if you're vegan it's not necessary.  I don't think it fooled anyone into thinking it was the real McCoy, but it certainly was a thrifty meal, direct from the garden.  And a lot less fattening!

CRAFTS

I made these cute little sun bonnets from this free pattern for our new granddaughter, Violet. The little flower sprigged one is made from a piece of vintage fabric that has violets on it.  The fancier embroidered one is made from some old linens that had holes and stains that I strategically cut around.  And the pink chambray one was made from a  shirt that I bought  when the thrift store was having a sale.  I think they make wonderful inexpensive baby gifts.  Don't you?  And the instructions were very easy to follow.    One dressmaker's secret is to make the lining a hair smaller than the outer garment.  This pulls the outer fabric inward and gives your sewing a professional look. Here's a picture of  little Violet (and I do mean little, just barely six  pounds) modeling one. She's so tiny that the newborn size is too big for her.
BTW, I didn't know I was going to be in the picture or I would have combed my hair and maybe put on some lipstick!  I hate getting my picture taken!

Isn't the internet amazing?  You can find so many free instructions on line.  I'll never buy a cookbook or a knitting pattern again.

THRIFTY DECORATING

I love to bring the green inside during the summer, but more  and more of my garden has been taken over by vegetables  so I no longer have a cutting garden and I can't bear to cut the flowers in the borders.  Besides I have  very limited table space for bouquets and the guys are likely to throw their hats or something else on them.  So I get my green "fix" by tying  bundles of herbs together and suspending them from twine in my windows.

I love the old-fashioned rustic look of them.  Plus they smell wonderful.

FORAGING

 Instead of lettuce, which is bolting and becoming bitter, we've been using purslane in our sandwiches.  We also gathered  and dried it.  We also picked a bunch of woad and dried it to use for dying.  I have a solution going right now.  More on that next week.

LOOK UP!

On June 30th around 9 p.m. Eastern standard time, you can see the star of Bethlehem, which hasn't been seen in our skies for two thousand years. I'll be watching, only it doesn't get dark here until around 10:30.  Hopefully, it will still be visible then.   Stargazing is one of our family's favorite (and cheapest) amusements.


GO OUT AND PLAY!

Speaking of amusements, I've noticed that when you send  children out to play  now days, they just stand around because they don't know what to do with themselves, so I thought every once in a while, I'd give some instructions on common schoolyard games we used to play in the "olden" days, when TV only had two channels  and phones were attached to the wall by a wire. 

Frisbee Golf

Pick an object  in the yard to be your goal.  Also choose something to be your "hazard"   like a hedge or  tree branch.  Each person takes turns throwing the Frisbees  toward the goal and going through the hazard.   The person that takes the fewest throws to reach the goal wins.

EXPERIMENTING

I mentioned in my previous post that Ran and I were experimenting to see how low we could get our natural gas and electric bill down to, by doing things like switching  off the hot water heater every other day and turning off and unplugging all the electrical appliances.  Well, we just got our natural gas bill and we only used $10 of gas for the past month.  The actual bill was $19 because the tack on so many taxes and fees, but we're happy with it.  Now we are experimenting with our water bill.  It isn't the water that is so expensive, it's the sewer fees, which is based on how much water you use.  So we are using "grey" water, such as the cold dishwater, and the water when I'm finished canning to flush the commode and to water our plants.  For me, this is fun, trying to see how far I can stretch a dollar. 


DON'T BUY IT, MAKE IT

I love the scent of lemons, so I made this simple recipe for a solid perfume.  If you're a soap maker, like I am, you'll probably have all the ingredients.   Love that it's all natural and  it's  very portable.  I would use less beeswax next time, though, it is rather hard.

THRIFTY THING WE DID THIS WEEK

Baked dill  bread from our own dill. (my husband made that knife, BTW.)
Harvested beets, cauliflower, strawberries, kale,woad, purslane, and a few onions and garlic.

Made three baby bonnets from material I already had.

Dehydrated beets, kale, woad and purslane.

Canned seven pints of strawberries.

Bought chicken thighs for 99 cents/ lb.  that I'll cook and freeze for casseroles.

Made several meals completely from the garden.

Bought several plants (sedums and lamb's ear) from a garage sale for $1 each.

Found the cutest antique pie stand for $3 at a garage sale.  I love prims!

For amusements we went for walks and visited with neighbors.

It's been so cool this year, we haven't had to use fans or air conditioners.

Salvaged some lace from old stained linens.

Hung the laundry on the line.

Generally, just stayed home and didn't  spend money!


Well, that's it for this week!  Hope  you have a lovely week!

Jane




Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sweet Briar Cottage Journal: In The Valley Of Love and Delight

                                       
Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
~Simple Gifts - Traditional Shaker Hymn~

 Hello dear friends!   Happy first day of summer!  Guess what I'm doing right now?  Waiting for my  granddaughter Violet to be born.  Our daughter-in-law is at the hospital tonight.  One of the greatest joys of my life is seeing what amazing fathers my sons have become.  I was very young when I had my first, just twenty, and I know I made a lot of mistakes along the way in rearing them, but I must have done something right to make them such caring and loving fathers
Another thing I am inordinately proud of is my beautiful foxglove growing in the herb garden!   Usually my foxgloves are puny and anemic looking but  this one I started from seeds I gathered on a walk is so robust, almost as tall as I am! 
Gardening
We made a discovery this year.  In our attempts to keep the groundhogs from eating our Cheddar cauliflower, Ran made a little enclosure for them out of old storm windows and chicken wire for the top.  Well!  That made a nice little hothouse for them and we harvested a nice big head today.
Look at that beauty!    The other cauliflowers that we planted in the garden haven't even formed a head yet. Now my mind is turning.  Maybe next year we can get a jump start on tomatoes.  What if I found enough old windows in the trash to line the entire inside of my garden fence?  Could I plant and harvest earlier?  Maybe I could use the idea to protect my finicky roses?  Who knows where this will end up. 
We also harvested some strawberries.  Tomorrow we will have some buttermilk pancakes with diced strawberries instead of our usual  blueberries. Yum! Store bought strawberries can not compete with  homegrown ones picked and eaten in the garden still warm from the sun.  If I have enough, I will probably can some in a light syrup.  I've sliced and dried them before.  The reconstitute nicely.  

Stealth Health

Speaking of drying food, we dried a bunch of spinach and kale this week. Once they are dry we grind them in an old coffee grinder and it makes a nice powder.  You can use the powder in soups, smoothies and stews,  but another way to use it, is to add it to meatloaf and meatballs.  This is what we call "stealth health"  because you may not like the taste of these veggies, but you never notice it in meatloaf and such.  Anything to add more nutrition!

A Fun Day

On Saturday we held a garage sale.   The weather was perfect and we had so much fun!  It seems that people just want to talk and talk.  I  think we all are becoming more isolated as a society.  People don't go outside and talk to their neighbors anymore, they sit inside and watch TV.  I really feel that TV has been one of the reasons for the downfall of society.  So, when people have a chance to have a conversation and a willing ear, well, they talk!  Everyone was so pleasant, except for one man who grumbled about the skimpy offerings (it was late and we had sold everything) and called our dog fat!   To go about with such a sour disposition all the time.  Well all you can do is laugh!  Every day you have the option of "taking joy"  or being unhappy.  Being unhappy and miserable won't change your circumstances but being joyful can!

We all are down here in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars
~Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan~

Most things were sold for a quarter, but we still managed to make a nice profit and at the end of the day all we had left were two small boxes of books and a bag of clothes for the Salvation Army drop box.   And people went away happy with getting a deal.  One lady said she looks forward to coming to our sale every year!  Oh dear!  I may have started a tradition.
A Thrifty Experiment

Well, I've prattled on and haven't really given you any thrifty tips. This one is way out there, and I don't think many of you will do it, but here it goes, anyway.  When we had our boiler problems, we noticed that our water stayed hot for three days, so we started thinking, what if we turned off the electrical switch to the boiler every other day? So that's what we did.  It's causing us to rethink how we use water.  I've retrained myself to turn the cold tap rather than the hot, when running water  to fill pots and for baking.  Also by being deliberately conscious of the amount of hot water we are using,  we broke the bad habits of letting the water run on full throttle when brushing our teeth and washing up.  Time will tell if we save on the electric and water bill.  But it proves that you can teach an old dog a new trick!

Natural Health

I just received an e-mail from our congresswoman that she is working on a bill to ban microbeads in facial scrubs.  The small "beads"  are just that, plastic beads, and they are too small to be filter out of our water system.  But they sure cause a lot of trouble with our eco-system. Who would have thunk it?!  So I'm experimenting with some natural scrubs that are biodegradeable.  Once I get one I like, I'll let you know.

Thrifty Things We Did This Week
We didn't do much this week because the garage sale  took up most of our time, but we did manage to harvest lettuce, beet greens, spinach, kale, strawberries and cauliflower from the garden.
Dry some herbs and kale.
Foraged purslane.
Baked bread
.
Watch some free movies on Xfinity's free weekend.

And as usual, hang the laundry and eat from the garden and pantry.

Sorry if there wasn't much information this week, garage sales are exhausting!  Hope everyone has a lovely week  and hope to see you the next!

Jane


Sunday, June 14, 2015

SWEET BRIAR COTTAGE JOURNAL: ODDS AND ENDS

Hello dear friends!  Hope you are enjoying your day!  It's been foggy here, but pleasant. Have to say, this cool weather is not bothering the garden any. The fruit trees are just loaded  and everything looks so lush.  Looks like it will be a bumper crop year!

With a Little Help From My Friends

We finally finished decorating our little guest shed.
This is a salvaged window that we bought at an auction.  I love old windows!   This entire project has been done as frugally as possible and we are thrilled with the results.  We  had a lot of help from friends.  The manager at the Farmer's Co-op helped us minimize costs and even lent us tools to shingle the roof.  A complete stranger lent us scaffolding for the roofing.  Ran's friends and former co-workers  at Rustoleum gave us all the paint and primer for the exterior.  And  a gentleman at an estate sale gave us free lumber that we used for the countertop  in the potting area.
We wanted to have a cozy cabin like feel and were wondering what to do with the walls, when we came up with the idea to use luan  that is used for underlayment on wood floors.  Ran cut strips of leftover wood to give it a board and batten look.  We used salvaged paint from the Habitat for Humanity re-use it center and leftover paint for the walls.  We had fun decorating it from attic treasures and thrifted finds.
Even the pretty quilt was a thrift store find.  The bed is built loft-style and there's room under there for lots of bins.   All in all, it was cheaper to build than one of the pre-fab jobbies. 
We are having fun spending time there.  Whenever we want to go on a vacation, we just have to go to our backyard.   Such a sweet serene little spot!

Foraging

This week we are foraging.  The field next to us is resplendent with red clover.  We use it for skin salves and only use it externally.   Others make a tea with it, but you have to be cautious because it mimics estrogen  (which is why I gave up on soy products) and is also a blood thinner.  But this is a good thing to know, in case the pudding does hit the fan, as many are predicting.  It's always good to  have a working knowledge of herbal remedies.

The other thing we are foraging is purslane.
Purslane has more omega-3 than fish.  And it's free!  You can use it in salads or make a pesto with it.  Or just eat it by itself.  It has a nice pleasant taste.

Patience Is A Virtue When It Comes To Gardening

I love lots of flowers, but let's face it, the prices at nurseries are getting outrageous, so I always start some perennials from seed each year. 
This is a tangle of yellow columbine (Ran says the look like fairy wings), poppies and foxglove that I started last year in my "trying out" garden located at the end  of the herb garden.  If I notice a pretty specimen while out for our daily walk, I   return to collect some of its seeds when  they form seedheads.  We have the prettiest hollyhocks that we collected at  a house down the lane.  I even have a yucca that we started this way.  It doesn't cost anything or harm the plants, so why not give it a try?

Another inexpensive way I furnish my garden is to buy plants from mail order sources.  Not the big-name companies but the little known ones that offer you really cheap small plants.  It might take an extra season for them to develop and bloom, but it's worth it to me in savings.

Don't Buy It Make It

This week we dried garlic and ground it into garlic powder.  I suggest that if you want to do this, it is best to do it outside, unless you really love the smell of garlic.  Also on schedule to be dried this week is spinach and kale, which can be dried in the car.  I wrote a very detailed post about drying vegetables  here.  Once the kale and spinach are dried, we grind them in an old coffee grinder that we keep for this purpose.    The powder is great to add to soups and stews, meatloaf mixtures, or to make smoothies.  Anything to add more nutrition.

Quote Of The Week

Better to be neat and tidy than tight and needy.
~common proverb~

By The Way 

With the recent news about the spread of bird flu and many birds being destroyed, it's a good thing to know all the  ways you can substitute other ingredients for eggs.  I keep a bag of flax seeds in the freezer for this purpose.

Pantry Recipe

The other day we bought a cupcake from a little girl running a cupcake/lemonade stand.  We usually eat fruit based desserts  from fruits from our garden, but it was so good, that I had to go home and bake a cake.   This is my go-to cake recipe.  Just the right size for our little family.  And too big, so we don't feel too  guilty.

Small Chocolate Cake

6 tbsp.  cocoa
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 C. hot water
1 C. flour
1 C. sugar
1/2 tsp.  baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C. shortening
1/4 C. milk or buttermilk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg

Combine the cocoa, oil and hot water until well blended.

Beat together sugar and shortening until fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Beat in chocolate mixture.

Beat in dry ingredients, adding milk alternately.  Pour batter into a well greased 8 inch square pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes  or until a cake tester comes out clean.
As always, sorry for the poor picture quality.  I am not a food stylist, that's for sure!  BTW, cocoa is a nice  pantry staple,  here's a post I wrote on the subject.

Thrifty Things We Did This Week

Harvested and ate lettuce, spinach, kale and beet greens from our garden.

Foraged red clover and purslane.

Dried garlic and made into garlic powder.

Dried kale and spinach.

Bought some t-shirts for wearing while gardening from a garage sale for 25 cents.

Canned more strawberry nectarine jam.

"Vacationed" at our little shed.

Cleaned out the attic in preparation for holding a garage sale.

Hung the laundry out on the line.

Ate from the garden and pantry.

Well that's it for this week!   Hope to hear from you soon!

Jane