Hello dear friends! Hope you all are doing well. May has arrived, and with it, the daffodils!
The Cottage Garden, one of my favorite books for garden inspiration. Unfortunately, between the guys stacking wood on them and Georgie napping on them all summer long, they haven't had much of a chance. But maybe some day! Isn't the sky a pretty blue?
We had our first batch of asparagus for lunch today.
How to Roast Asparagus
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. spread you stalk on a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil (be stingy with it, it doesn't take much) . Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes until the stalk are tender.
"Happiness is making the most of what you have and riches is making the most of what you've got."
~Rosamunde Pilcher, The Shell Seekers~
In the spirit of making the most of what I got, I baked some Rhubarb muffins today. One of the principles of a simple thrifty lifestyle is to use what you have and be grateful for it. No use longing for some exotic imported fruit when there's plenty of rhubarb in your own garden! (Now if I could only learn to love black currants!)
2 C. diced rhubarb
1 1/4 C. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 C. buttermilk
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 C. chopped nuts (optional)
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and brown sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla until just combined (batter will be lumpy) . Stir in the rhubarb and nuts. Divide batter between 8 greased muffin tins. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
I wasn't expecting to like these muffins as much as I did. After all, I usually like to combine strawberries with my rhubarb, and in truth it is the strawberries you are mostly what I enjoy tasting, but these were really quite lovely.
Speaking of lovely things, I was the winner of my dear friend Rainey's giveaway. A sweet little embroidered heart.
On Friday the annual M-15 garage sale trail was held. We left at 7:00 AM and didn't arrive back home until 6:00 in the evening. We packed our lunch and a thermos of water and the only costs besides the goodies we picked up was $16 for gas. Where else can three people have so much fun for $16?! Here's a picture of some of the treasures we found:
A cute little zinc bucket that I plan to plant white geraniums in and place on a bench next to the door. Some really nice enameled pieces with measurements in grams and ounces that we will use for making soap. The pieces were made in Austria. The Austrians and Germans make the nicest enamelware! Also found a cute prim basket for fifty cents and an adorable small yelloware bowl. The old quilt came out of "free" box, it has some holes and stains, but I plan to make a runner and pillows with it. An old marmalade crock to hold spoons on the sideboard and a nice smallish cast iron Dutch oven. I want to do more campfire cooking this summer, so we have been on the lookout for cast iron pieces. This one isn't too bad, it had just a tiny bit of rust that came off when I washed it with a scrub pad, but if you find rustier pieces, don't be afraid to by them. Here's how to revive old cast iron:
How to Restore Old Cast Iron Pots and Pans
With sandpaper, sand the rusted spots until you get down to raw metal. If you have a really rusty piece, you can use one of those attachments that fit on your drill. Wash and dry your piece well. Coat the piece inside and out with a thick coat of shortening. It's essential that you get the shortening into all the pores of the metal. Next, make a good roaring fire in you firepit (some people do this step in a hot 450 degree or hotter oven, but the pans get really smoky so do that at your own peril and make sure you put something under it to catch the fat or you will have a fire). Throw the pot in the fire and let it get all smokey (it might even start to catch on fire, that's ok) After it stops smoking, remove from the fire. Let it cool. Clean out the ashes with a pot scrubber. Wash and dry well. Pour some vegetable oil on a rag or paper towel and coat the surfaces before storing.
Cast iron is a good investment. It wears like, well, iron! I have a frying pan that came from my grandparent's that is almost ninety years old, (one of the things that they rescued from the farmhouse when it burnt down in the 1920s) that I've used almost every day of my married life and it will probably be working long after I'm gone. The more you use cast iron, the better it gets. Some people say you shouldn't wash it, but I do. Just make sure it's good and dry before putting it away.
How To Use Paint
I love old things! I guess you could say that my decorating style is primitive/Early American. The more chipped up and weathered looking the more I love it. Here's a picture of an old piece of junk that we found at a garage sale, that we made look even junkier! Ha!
My photography doesn't do it justice, but it is the nicest country cream color. You'd be surprised at how many colors besides white went into the mixture! By the way, one of the rites of spring is to replace all the lampshades with these vintage bird ones. All garage sale finds.
Make The Most of What You Got
Patchwork is one of the coziest things in the world. This week I made this little patchwork pillow for the living room, from scraps in the good old scrapbag.
Last summer Ran and Jamie built a little guest/storage cottage. It's a basic little box shape building. So we wanted to gussy it up a bit.
One day, I spotted an old house with cute little overhang, so we took pictures and Ran copied it. Really don't care for the orange door but Ran loves it, so I plan to plant tiger lilies at the foundation to tie it into the landscape. An inn around the corner has tiger lilies and Shasta daisies planted by the entrance and it makes a really sweet plant grouping. Always keep your eyes peeled for new and inexpensive ways to add your own touch to your home. If your are fortunate enough to have a home, enjoy it!
"But a wife's ministry of mercy reaches outside her own doors. Every true home is an influence of beauty in the community where it stands."
~ J.R. Miller~
Let's Get Serious
I got so mad the other day. I was reading a very popular blog, and the lady was ridiculing people for being prepared. Basically, she said we had been all fooled by Y2K and the Inca December 21st prophecies, so we should just stop preparing for disasters. Obviously, this woman has never taken an economics course or she would know that not everything is fine and dandy in the world. But I have lots of friends that figure that if the stock market is fine, the economy is too. So I thought I'd write a brief history of money, what it means to us and what we can do about it.
Back in the ancient days, men bartered for what they wanted. But this became problematic, because what if what you wanted the other person didn't want to barter with you for? So man devised little tokens out of metals, such as bronze, silver and gold and traded these for things. Which was a good thing because an ounce of gold is an ounce of gold no matter where you go. Then came the middle ages and people started to travel to pilgrimages. Lugging around all the heavy metal was burdensome and besides the poor travelers kept getting robbed. So, some say it was the Knights Templar, that figured out that people could store there their metal money at their fortresses and they would give them paper vouchers that stated they had so much gold and silver stored there. The creation of the first paper money. Then they got really clever and discovered that people were trading the paper money and leaving their gold at their fortresses. So they figured they could just print more vouchers and make loans and use other peoples money. Now the printed money wasn't as valuable because the gold and silver backing it wasn't as plentiful. But no one noticed because never did all the gold and silver holders ask for theirs back at the same time. Today's banks only have on hand about 20% of the money they loan out. That is why when things get a little scary, banks call a holiday, which is anything but a holiday, and close down for a week or two. When they reopen, the people discover that their money is worth a lot less than before the holiday. This happened recently in Cypress.
Anyway, soon bankers discovered that they didn't really have to have anything to back their money. People just accepted their little vouchers as real money. This is called fiat currency. Fiat means "let it be so" as in the king decrees that little piece of paper is worth ten dollars, so it is. I like to call it "faith based" money. The value is based upon the faith the people have in it.
This takes us to 1971 when Pres. Richard Nixon declared that we would stop backing the dollar with gold. No, folks, there is no gold in Fort Knox backing your money. The following year Henry Kissinger, concerned that our money's value would plunge like an anvil being thrown off the Empire State building, brokered a deal with oil producing nations (OPEC) that in exchange for us being their allies and protectors, they would never sell any oil to other nations without using American dollars. Pretty clever of old Henry. This is called the petro dollar. And from then on out, every nation that wants to buy oil from the Middle East has to exchange their money for the American dollar to pay for the oil. It keeps the U.S. dollar strong but is pretty darn annoying to other nations.
Other nations have tried to break free of the petro dollar but it hasn't been to healthy for their leaders. In 2000 Sadam Hussien tried to buy oil with the Euro, but the following year the Bush administration declared war on the Wacky Iraqi. So there's your answer to why we went to war with Iraq when the 9-11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. Qaddafi of Libya tried also, and the next thing you know we are warring with them. Coincidence? I think not. Whose next? Let's see? Russia ring a bell? Ever wonder why we seem to get involved in one conflict after the other?
But the powers that be are losing their fight. In recent history India and China have tried to broker deals for oil for gold. The U.S. is losing its prestigious petro dollar status. And when it goes, the dollar goes. The canary in the coal mine is the lower gas prices we have been experiencing lately. Those that think it's wonderful, fail to see the big picture. The Saudis are intentionally keeping the oil prices low to drive any other avenues out of business. Sort of like when Wal-Mart comes into a town. First, they sell things at lower prices until all the mom and pop businesses go out of business, then once they no longer have any competition, they raise the prices. Once the other companies go out of business what do you think is going to happen to the price of a gallon of gasoline? But here's a problem, sources say that the Saudi oil is drying up and that they are pumping more water than oil. And that a good majority of the derivatives market is pegged to oil. Derivatives are just bets on stock. Those bets are riding on the price of oil being realistic and the current oil prices are not realistic.
And then there's QE1 and QE2 and QE infinity. QE stands for quantitative easing and basically means that the Federal Reserve (which isn't federal by the way, is as a matter of fact a private banking collective that prints money and sells it back to the U.S. ) is printing money and we all know the more money in circulation the less valuable it becomes. The more rare something is the more valuable it is, and the U.S. dollar isn't rare. Has anyone seen the picture of the big bales of American currency on the docks? Inflation is currency deflation.
Besides, can we really say the economy is doing well when we have 50 million citizens on food stamps? And that 1 in 4 households has no one earning a paycheck? Did you know that if we all paid 100% income tax, we could not pay for our future liabilities? There are 420 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities. Holey smokes!
When the petro dollar goes, the U.S. will plunge into a depression that makes the Great Depression look like a day at the kiddie pool. When, I don't know, but I do not that all the Feds efforts to kick start the economy is having little effect. It might be next month, it might be ten years, but it's going to happen. So what can we do about it?
1. Learn to be as self-sufficient as possible.
2. If you have a flower garden dig it up and start a vegetable garden. Along with inflation, the droughts in California are going to have a major impact on your grocery bill.
3. Form alliances with neighbors, friends and family. Maybe you can't do it all, but together we can.
4. Learn the skills now, while you can afford books and lessons.
5. Yes, stock the pantry. Let people make jokes about beans and rice. It's filling cheap food.
6. Most importantly, don't let fear dog you. If you take care of your little corner of the world, and the person in the next corner does the same, we can have a big ripple effect. As Ghandi said "Be the change that you wish to see in the world"
Lest you think I'm some kind of conspiracy nut, here's what the Bible says on the subject:
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against His anointed.
Now, if you have stuck with me or skipped over the money part, here's a list of some of our thrifty activities this week:
Cut Jamie's hair.
Harvested asparagus and rhubarb from the garden.
Made a pillow from fabric scraps.
Hung the laundry on the line.
Bought some essentials at the garage sales (a grater, knitting needles, a Pyrex casserole) for pennies on the dollar.
Painted a piece of furniture with paint I already had.
Reclaimed a cast iron Dutch oven ($4 at a garage sale).
Bought hearing aid batteries in bulk from Amazon.
Cut some daffodils for floral arrangements.
Studied campfire cooking by watching YouTube videos.
Packed a lunch and brought a thermos of water for our road trip.