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Monday, August 17, 2015

A DAY IN THE LIFE

Hello dear friends!  Sorry about the delay in posting.  In spite of it being the quintessential summer's day with blue skies and a gentle wind, the internet kept skipping in and out.  After reentering my passwords  several times, I became frustrated with the whole thing and just gave up.  Technology is a thorn in my side.

So here's a bouquet of brown-eyed-Susans as an apology.

A DAY IN OUR LIFE

I think sometimes it may seem that I romanticize my life.  To be sure, not everything is always rosy as some may think.  For instance,  in the past couple of months  we have spent over one-third of our yearly income on unexpected repairs.  When we retired, we thought we would mitigate these costs by buying a top-of-the-line new furnace and a new car, but fortune had other ideas, and the furnace required a major repair when it was hit by a power surge and the car is a lemon that requires the wheel bearings to be replaced  every few months.  Our savings are dwindling quickly.  Fortunately we had a savings account set up for the unexpected.  Just didn't expect so much "unexpected"  all at once! Ha! So for us, gardening and canning is not just a nice little hobby, it's the insurance that keeps the wolves from the door.  But I'm not complaining, in spite of it all, I'd rather live like this than have a big fat paycheck.  There is such serenity and delight in each new day, it surely offsets any inconveniences that we may encounter from lack of funds.

So I thought I'd show you what a typical day for us entails.  Ran awoke early and dug the remainder of the potato patch before the heat became too unbearable. 
We ended up with about 150 pounds of potatoes this year.  Not bad for a small plot.  Then the potatoes were sorted through and washed, the smallish ones and those that were pierced by the fork were set aside to be canned another day.

I had a quick wash up and made the trip to the post office.  When I returned I had  this
and this
waiting for me to can.  The tomatoes are producing about a bushel a day now.  Today I started canning at 9:30 AM and didn't finish until 6:30 PM.  At the end of the day we had 15 pints of chili and 16 jars of ketchup canned up. Yesterday I canned 8 pints of spaghetti sauce.


A whole tableful of food.  By the way, those orange things in the graniteware bowl are Turkish eggplants.  Aren't they pretty?

While the chili was in the pressure canner, Ran washed and seeded the peppers and I diced them.  I have a new device called a Vidalia  Chop Wizard, that is a tiki-tacky seen-on-TV device, but it really makes it a quick chore to dice up veggies for canning; can't wait to use it for relish.  The peppers went into the dehydrator.

While I was busy in the kitchen, Ran took advantage of the hot and windy day to wash some more of our heavier rugs.  It felt like a clothes dryer outside so they dried fast.
By 7:00 PM we finally sat down to a meal of corn on the cob (the first of the season from our garden) and fresh tomatoes.  No finer meal could be served to a king.

In between the busyness,  I stepped outside to feel the breeze and to observe the little Ruby Crowned Kinglet  that has taken over the back yard.  She really does rule the roost.  We all tip-toe around her lest she get annoyed and flee.  For such a teeny tiny bird, she has such bravery ; she gets right up to the stray cats and squawks to keep them away from her nest.  Such a courageous little mother!    And that is a typical August day for two pauper retirees. Perfect!

FORAGING

We are drying raspberry and sage leaves.  When combined and made into a tea they make a good astringent  for sore throats and  gums.  I never get canker sores but it probably works for them also.

CRAFTING

Whenever I go to garage sales, I always pick up quirky little things to re-purpose.  This is a wind chime that I call "An Ode to Wm. Rogers Silverplate" :
All the pieces were picked up for  a quarter or less, except for the teapot, which I bought for a few dollars at an estate sale (it had a dent).  The crystals were from an old chandelier and I used some beads from a broken necklace and some old earrings.  I need to find a better place to hang it, somewhere that catches the sun.  It's  really big, about five feet tall.  I used fishing line to tie it all together.  It's very snickety as we like to call off-beat quirky things.  Snickety is my style.  Too-cheerful  and conventional things make me uncomfortable! I don't even like certain flowers because they are too perfect looking.

THRIFTING

Lest you think we are dull boys with all work and no play, on Friday we ventured out on the annual garage sale trail that runs along the coast of Lake Huron.   We found mostly practical things, like knitting needles in sizes I didn't have, an awl for Ran's leather working, and a extra extra large black wool coat that I plan on making into a Maggie Bonanomi-type quilt this winter.  Most of our finds cost under a dollar; our one big splurge being this tin wahstub that cost $20:
 It has such a pretty shape. I love beautiful tools.  You should see my gardening tools that I've amassed over the years.  My motto is, "beauty costs the same as ugly when thrifting".  It just feels better to use a vintage trowel with a beautifully turned wooden handle rather than a plastic one.  It's those type of little things that make everyday magical.

RECIPE FROM THE GARDEN

We packed a lunch to bring along while out on our "hunt".  I wanted to have bring some peach cobbler along but didn't want to deal with forks and dishes, so I came up with this recipe for Peach Cobbler Bars, using a crumble recipe and my peach cobbler filling.

Peach Cobbler Bars

Peach Filling

3 C. peaches, peeled and diced
1/2 C. sugar
1/4 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

Cobbler

1 1/2 C. flour
1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
a pinch of salt and nutmeg
1/2 C, butter, softened
1 egg

Combine the filling ingredients and set aside.
Combine the dry ingredients  for the crumble.
Cut in the butter until soft crumbs form.  Stir in the egg.
Pat half of the cobbler mixture into a lightly greased  8" pan.
Top with the peach mixture.
Crumble the rest of the cobbler mixture over the top of the peaches.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until the cobbler starts to turn a light brown and the peaches begin to bubble.
THRIFTY THING WE DID THIS WEEK

Harvested the rest of the potatoes and broccoli.
Harvested peppers, tomatoes, and corn.
Dried peppers, raspberry leaves and sage.
Made a wind chime from "found" objects.
Canned 8 pints of spaghetti sauce, 15 pints of chili, and 16 jars of ketchup.
Bought some tools at garage sales.
Brought our own brown bag lunch on our roadtrip.
Washed more rugs, the washtub method way.
Ate almost exclusively from the garden.
Hung the laundry on the line.
Started knitting a scarf from my yarn stash.

Well that's it for this week.  Hope you all have the loveliest week ahead of you filled with joy and delight!

Jane















DELAY

There will be a delay in posting this week, perhaps tomorrow.  The internet has been on the fritz all day.   Hopefully it will stay on long enough to get this posted!  Have a happy!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

WINDFALL

Hello dear friends!  Can you believe we are already one week into August?  Hope this week has been a cooler one for you.  We finally are having some nice temperatures.  If you close your eyes and face north, you can almost imagine it is autumn.

CANNING

This time of year is a busy one at Sweet Briar Cottage.  This week I canned 13 pints of beans, 20 quarter-pints of jalapenos,  7 half-pints of maple-vanilla-peach jam and 8 quarts of peaches.


There's nothing like jars of peaches in the pantry to say "home".  By the way, I saw a jar of  Amish canned peaches in the store the other day - $6!  I'd have to be pretty desperate for a jar of peaches  to pay that price!  Altogether, my peaches cost about $1.50 a quart, and they are all-organic and  non-gmo.  That's why it's good to learn to can.

We also started a crock of sauerkraut.  The directions for making it are here.  We didn't grow our own cabbage because we can buy a ten pound head for $1.40 at a local vegetable stand.  Two heads are all the cabbage we need and it costs about the same as a packet of seeds.  Takes up less space in the garden also.  Which reminds me, someone asked why I don't raise chickens.  Our village  has an ordinance against it, but it just isn't cost effective for us.  By the time you buy the feed and house a small flock, and they don't lay too much during our harsh winters, those eggs are getting expensive.  It helps that I can buy free-range  ones just outside of the village limits for $2 a dozen.  We use less than a dozen a month.  You always have to weigh the benefits when being thrifty. Of course, chickens do give the place atmosphere, so if they ever change the ordinance, neighbor Tom has offered to split the costs with us.

GARDENING

In the garden, we are harvesting our first tomatoes!   If you have ever tasted an heirloom variety picked fresh from the garden, still warm from the sun, you will understand why the tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable.  So wonderful!   So sweet! Every year I fret over them.  Will they ripen before the first frost?   This has been such a strange year; we are already digging potatoes, but the corn is still puny and I'm not sure  the pumpkins will ripen this year before a heavy frost.  I don't ever remember things growing so tall, either.  The hollyhocks have to be at least ten feet tall, and the sunflowers too.  The lilies come up to my shoulders and we have to beat back the black-eyed Susans.  On the other hand the corn is floundering and the Concord grapes are just hard little green pebbles.  Gardening!   It's always feast or famine, that's why it's so important to preserve what you can; you never know when you'll get more!

SAVING SEEDS

 We save most of the seeds from our garden, as many are rare heirloom varieties.  It helps keep the costs of gardening down.  This week we are collecting the seeds from our tomatoes.  Each year we select the earliest, most perfect, sweetest,  meatiest ones; traits we are trying to breed into them   The textbook way to save tomato seeds is to cut open the tomato, scoop out the seeds, place in a jar of water, stirring a couple times a day, let the pulp ferment at room temperature for a couple day, the seeds drop to the bottom, pour off the pulp, repeat this procedure until the seeds are clean, spread the seeds on a paper towel to dry.  However, I've found it is easier to put the seeds in a fine mesh sieve and wash the pulp off under running cold water, then just plop the seeds onto a porcelain plate to dry, scrape them off the plate when they are dry and store.



Our dear friend, Mary, gave us a bunch of ferns from her garden.
Which we planted on the north side of our shed.  An instant garden!   Georgie likes to pretend he is an ancient canine, living in the wild among them.
Silly dog!  But I do understand, every time I can, sew or light an oil lamp; I feel an ancient pull connecting me to my ancestors.  It gives me peace.  One of the best things you can do for your soul, is to turn off all the technology and reconnect to the earth and the natural rhythms of life.  There's scientific proof that WiFi and electrical lines interfere with a good nights sleep and others that having your bare feet touch the bare earth is beneficial to your health.  Who knows?  Maybe we all need to return to our primeval  roots.

"Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still they say. Watch and listen.  You are the result of the love of thousands."
~ Linda Hogan, Native American Writer~

HOUSEKEEPING

One old-fashioned thing we are doing this week, is cleaning  all our room-sized rugs.  Just like the old washerwomen  of days past, we fill tubs (modern-day storage bins work also) with soapy water, throw in the rugs and stomp on them with our feet, like we are making wine.  In another tub, we rinse them.  Then we lay them over clothes lines, bushes and this make-do (two sawhorses and the garden table) for our very heavy braided wool rug.

A few days in the hot sun, and they are dry.  You'd burn out the motor of your washing machine with these old rugs , they are so heavy, and for what it costs to dry clean them, you might as well throw them out and begin anew.  Make sure you use cold water so the dyes do not bleed.  You have to make hay while the sun shines!  So much to do in summer.

RECIPE FROM THE GARDEN

One thing we don't do during the summer, is to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  One of our favorite summertime meals is  Panzanella,  or Italian tomato and bread salad.  Most of the ingredients can be found right in the garden, so it's thrifty too.  And it's vegan!


Panzanella

1/2 C. olive oil
two cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
1 loaf of a hard crusty bread (like French) cut into cubes
5 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. black pepper
4 lbs. ripe tomatoes, cut into 1" cubes
2 C. chopped bell peppers
1 small red onion
1 C. basil leaves, torn into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk together 3 tbsp. olive oil, 1 clove garlic, salt, paprika, and red pepper.  Toss bread cubes in mixture.
Spread cubes evenly on a cookie sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until cubes are crisp.  Let cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, remaining 5 tbsp. olive oil, remaining clove of garlic and black pepper.
Add remaining ingredients.  Add bread cubes.  Toss to coat. Serve immediately.

BTW, check the reduced-for quick-sale  shelf of your grocer's bakery for good, cheap bread for this salad.  Since you are toasting it, it doesn't need to be fresh.


Pure bliss!

Most of our meals this week have consisted of freshly dug potatoes, (either roasted or boiled and served with fresh dill and a dab of butter) just picked tomatoes, green beans from the garden and some berries for dessert.  Life is good!

WINDFALL

The recent storm has gifted us with some treasures.  There were lots of branches to be gathered for firewood and smaller ones that I am collecting for a Colonial-style stick fence for our garden,  If a person put some effort into it, I'm sure they could gather enough wood to see them through several weeks of heating the house by woodstove.

Another windfall were these plums.
A branch must have broken off the neighbor's tree during the storm and they didn't bother to pick the fruit off the branch before hauling it to the street.  All in all, there were about three pounds of fruit, free for the picking.  Not a blemish on them!  Should make several jars of plum butter. 


CRAFTING


I've been seeing a lot of these knitted ruched scarves on Pinterest lately (don't you just love Pinterest?) and I wanted to knit one up.  I found the pattern  in this knitting book  on loan from the library. I used an inexpensive Lion Brand wool in mustard and the pattern really knitted up quickly.  Hint:  I really dislike casting on large amount of stitches (this pattern was over 300) I count and recount but the numbers always come out different each time.  I found that if I place a marker every 50 stitches, it is easier to count the cast-ons. 
.
"To me a lady is not frilly, flouncy, flippant, frivolous, or fluff-brained, but she is gentle, she is gracious, she is godly, and she is giving.  You and I have the gift of femininity ....the more womanly we are, the more manly men will be and the more God is glorified.  Be women, be only women, be real women in obedience to God."
~Elisabeth Elliot~

GO OUTSIDE
My son and daughter-in-law brought the grandbabies for a visit.  That's a picture of son Erik and grandson Felix above, eating ice cream at our favorite parlor, a Victorian general store.  We also spent some time at the beach.  A fun activity for grandparents to play with the grandchildren is buried treasure.  Bring a couple handfuls of change  along.  Encourage the grandkids to look for buried treasure by digging in the sand.  Every once in a while, distract them from the digging and throw some of the change in the hole.  The little ones get quite a kick out of it.  We used to do this with granddaughter Tatianna, but now she is too big to fall for the trick.  Only works for the little ones.  Enjoy them while you can, they grow up so quickly!


THRIFTY THINGS WE DID THIS WEEK

Canned peaches, jam, jalapenos and beans.

Saved tomato, hollyhock, spinach, dill and mustard green seeds.

Collected windfall branches and plums.

Harvested tomatoes, summer squash, peppers, beans and herbs from the garden.

Washed our area rugs rather than dry-cleaning them.

Knitted a scarf from a free pattern.

Got more free compost from the village.







Monday, August 3, 2015

STORMY WEATHER

Hello dear friends!   Hope you had a pleasant week!  First, I'd like to thank you all for your kind encouragement  in my last post.  I truly do appreciate it.  Just want to let you know that it meant a lot to me.

STORMY WEATHER

I had just finished canning potatoes and Ran had just bottled the last of his strawberry-rhubarb wine when the skies got as dark as coal..  Within minutes the electricity went out.  I swear they have a switch at the electrical plant and as soon as we have a storm, they cut the main switch. Anyway, to make a long story short, we were without electricity for the past eighteen hours, which I loved, but others, such as Jamie, were not as thrilled.  It's amazing what you can get done without the distraction of the internet and phones.  Almost completed a scarf I was knitting.  Hopefully it turned out nice, knitting by kerosene lamps, while very quaint and romantic, does have its drawbacks.  But the main lesson to be drawn from this, is be prepared.  Keep some flashlights handy, and have the makings for something to eat that doesn't require heating.  Oh!  And a deck of cards is always nice.  Beats twiddling your thumbs.


CANNING

This week I canned green beans, pickled peppers (good on sandwiches) and potatoes.  I want to encourage everyone to can, particularly pressure canning.  It's nothing to fear.  It won't explode like in the movies, they have release valves on them.  If you follow the directions precisely, you won't get food poisoning.  I like the  All-American pressure canner because it doesn't have a gasket and they are very well built.  I believe that pressure canning is easier than making jams and pickles in a boiling water bath.   Jams are so fussy with all that skimming of foam and the jelling is sometimes iffy.  But  most vegetables have just to be cleaned, placed in a sterilized jar with a little salt, boiling water poured over them and sealed.  Not a lot of fuss at all.  The general directions for pressure canning are:

Step 1:  Fill the canner with the amount of water required in the manual. (Different canners vary)
Step 2:  Fill the canner with the jars of prepared food.
Step 3:  Put the lid on, tightening the screws alternately.
Step 4:  Vent the steam for 10 minutes.
Step 5: Place the weight on the vent.
Step 6:  Begin timing the process once the weight begins to rock and rattle and the pressure gauge registers 10 pounds (might need 15 pounds of pressure if you live in higher elevations)
Step 7: Adjust the heat so the pressure keeps steady.  All canners have a sweet spot for this.  On my stove it is the 6 mark on the knob.
Step 8:  When you have processed the jars for the time required, remove the canner from the heat.
Step 9:  Allow the pressure to return to zero pounds of pressure. Remove the weight from the vent.
Step 10:  Unscrew the nuts alternately. Open the canner lid away from your face.  Remove the jars.

Sometimes I wish I had a Youtube channel to demonstrate how easy it is, but I'm sure there are already plenty out there.  Use your computer to learn new skills, whether it be canning, knitting,, or how to play the guitar, there's wonderful videos out there.

GARDENING

My New Dawn roses have come back from the dead!

This spring I had to prune them back almost to the ground, after the second dreadful winter in a row. I didn't have much hope for them.  But they are coming back with a vengeance.  Only they are training themselves to grow on the south side of the privet, where they will be protected from the wind off the lake.  They are telling me, "None of this training us up the trellis business, Miss!"   One of the secrets to a bountiful flower garden is to take a  laissez-faire  approach to gardening.  Just let the flowers be what they want to be; if the roses are happier climbing up the bushes, so be it!  If hollyhocks reseed themselves in the iris patch, let them be.  You'd be surprised at the unexpected beauty that will come your way.  But then I am a fan of cottage gardens, those formal ones hold little interest to me.  I call it the Disney effect, when they try to make designs with different colored flowers and have so many annuals.  I like a more natural approach.

PRUNING

This past week we did our light summer pruning.  This is just a light pruning as opposed to the heavier winter/early spring pruning.  The goal is to trim away any weak or broken branches or any branches that cross over each other. You want to prune any densely  limbed younger trees to allow light to reach the inner branches.  This creates sturdier fruiting branches in younger trees. In mature trees trees this  improves fruit size.  Also the  more sparsely branched trees improves the air circulation, reducing the risk of fungus.  Remember this is supposed to be just a little trimming not a  haircut; leave the serious branch removal for the dormant season.

HAVE FUN!

This week there were festivals galore in our area.  We attended the Pointe Aux Barques lighthouse  150th anniversary.

 There were storytellers, musicians, food tents, vendors and you could climb to the top of the tower.
There even was a very small Civil War re-enactment.
My point being, that every area has sources of entertainment.   You don't have to spend bales of money taking your children to those amusement parks, which shall remain unnamed, to give your children  happy memories.  It's a sad commentary on today's society that people equate spending money with having a good time.  When my grown children get together and reminisce about happy times, they speak of camping, or reading under the tree, or the time we stayed up all night watching the meteor shower (BTW, the next meteor shower is the Perseids shower on August 12th).  Never once do the mention the expensive trip we took one summer when we had a windfall.  As an adult, I actually prefer armchair travel, as many times I have traveled to places that looked so enticing in the brochures only to be disappointed.  As Emily Dickinson said,"There is no frigate like a book to take us to lands away ..."  And the advantage is that I can time travel, too!  I have some lovely books on New England by Samuel Chamberlain, that I can imagine myself right into, a world sadly, that is no more.

SAVING MONEY

I read a lot of blogs on thrift, and one thing that strikes me is how many write about buying things.  Sure they got a great discount on whatever it was they were buying, but the still spent money. An old-fashioned concept that you don't hear very often these days is the easiest way to save money is not to spend any.  Of course it doesn't make for a very interesting blog; we didn't drive anywhere so we didn't buy gas, we didn't eat out, we didn't use any coupons because we didn't buy anything, etc.

FORAGING

This week I gathered some mullien leaves to dry. The Foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains Blog has a great post on it.  Also gathering raspberry leaves and sage for medicinal purposes.  I'll write more about that later, as I'm in a crunch for time, as I have to get ready to go to the dentist. 


THRIFTY THING WE DID THIS WEEK

Canned green beans, potaoes and peppers.

Grated and froze summer squash.

Harvested brocolli, summer squash, potatoes, onions, pepper and green beans.

Collected the seeds from hollyhocks and mustard greens.

Gathered and dried mullien  and raspberry leaves.

Bottled up some strawberry-rhubarb wine.

 Began knitting a scarf from the yarn stash.

Bartered some work for a bag of oats.

Got a truckload of compost for free from the village.

Sorry for the abbreviated post this week. Between the electricity going out and the stupid dentist appointment, time is short.  Will try to make it up to you next week!  Have a lovely week!

Jane








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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