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Sunday, May 3, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope you all are doing well.  May has arrived, and with it, the daffodils!
Each year we buy one hundred bulbs from the big box store and plant them in long furrows.  We are hoping that eventually they will spread and our entire orchard will be covered in them.  The lungwort (ugly name isn't it?) has also blossomed.
Poor baby was trapped under the woodpile, so I'm tickled pink that it has survived.  For years I have been trying to plant some pale yellow primroses with the lungwort, a combination  I saw in  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.
  I think the best way to eat asparagus is to roast it.

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!)
Rhubarb Muffins

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 egg
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.
It goes perfectly with all the zinc and tin that I collect.  Thank you Sweet Rainey! (The picture doesn't do it justice)

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!
Paint is a wonderful  inexpensive way to make your home your own.   Like I said, I like primitive, so I use a lot of milk paint colors and sand away for the worn old look, but if you like shabby chic or cottage style, white and pastel colored paint is all it takes to transform garage sale finds into treasures. We also mix all the paint colors for our walls, using paint we have on hand, the discounted mistinted ones from the hardware store, those we can find at estate sales and the Habitat For Humanity stores, and sometimes people will give us their old paint.  When you mix your own colors, make sure you make enough to do the job plus extra for touch-ups.  Start out lighter than you think you want, paint always dries darker.  If a color is too bright, you can dull it down by adding a touch of color that is opposite on the color wheel.  Once Ran came home with some paint that he said was sage green.  I took one look at it, and instantly thought of Kermit the Frog.  So we kept adding red to it, to calm it down. Eventually we ended up with a mystery color.  Everyone that saw it, thought it was a different color.  Some thought it was blue, others green and still others saw it as gray.  It was a really soothing color and went perfectly with the soft yellow draperies and the yellow pine floors and furniture.  I just loved it!  Too bad, we'll never be able to recreate it. Here's a picture of the walls in our bedroom that we "custom" mixed. 

 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.
I delight in using up the tiniest of scraps.  Of course, I never make anything bigger than pillows and runners because I like complicated patterns with a gazzillion pieces.

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.
~Psalms 2:1-2~

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.


  1. Beans and rice are good, filling and for me lasts several meals. Adding herbs, garlic, onion, and spices make a simple dish exotic.

    You got some wonderful goodies at the sale.

    The heart does fit right in to your home. I'm glad you like it.

    Love, hugs and prayers ~ FlowerLady (Rainey)

    1. Yes Rainey, and if I eat them with cornbread, I'm in Heaven! I love your heart, only wish I could have done a better job with photographing it. so everyone could see how pretty it is.
      Thank you for the prayers!

  2. Hi Jane! Well I am going to come back and re-read your extended newsletter today. ditto ditto...I agree. With all the swirl of new taxes coming at every level of the gov't, I think we should go back to bartering. like the old movie with Debbie Reynolds, "The Mating Game".

    I love that doorway, smart planting daffadils...I now have 2 purple asparagus..ha...Not quite a bite even. Yes, roasting any veggie tastes better. Esp. brussel sprouts! Amazing better taste with roasting. I'm going to look at that book now.
    That's what I like about your "newsletter" style...I can come back to the same post and read!

    1. I'm an old movie buff, Andrea, but I don't think I've seen that one. Will have to check it out.

      Well, two asparagus (I'll be glad when their growing season is over because I can't type "asparagus" or "rhubarb") are better than none. Probably won't keep the wolves from the door, though!


  3. Wow, those daffodils are amazing - what a great idea to plant a bunch every year. The M--15 sale sounds like my kind of venue. I so love getting good stuff for very little money. And I love old things, too. Our house is old, and I love vintage kitchenware. Your pillow is really lovely. Love the cottage entrance. I'd have painted it all orange. ;) Hope you're having a fabulous week!

    1. If you wait to the very last minute to plant your daffodils, you can buy a big bag of 100 bulbs for $15. About the same price as a bouquet from the florist. Now that's money well spent! The M-15 sale was fun, but in August there's an even better garage sale trail along the Lake Huron shoreline. Huron county has the best antiques. I'm always surprised at what we find. Shhh! Don't give my husband any ideas about the orange! LOL! I bet it would be pretty if the siding was painted a pale gold. But we got the paint for free so I have to work with the white.

  4. Jim and I are both of frugal country heritage. We have always needed to be frugal [some times more than others] and between us we have honed the skills to make and mend and repurpose so many necessities--and things for the home that while not strictly vital, are what make a home cozy and individual.
    We have always kept a well-stocked pantry--beginning years ago when we belonged to a food co-op. I think the key is in being realistic about what amount of staples will keep without going stale, rancid or wormy [!] and learning to cook interesting and healthy meals from what is on hand. Why aren't these skills taught in school--or are they?

    1. I think more importantly than having a well-stocked pantry is having the skills to stock it, if needed. I do know that fruits and vegetables will be more expensive this year, because of the drought in California, which supplies the country with about 60% of it's produce. So I intend to make hay while the sun shines and preserve as much as we can to last throughout the winter and early spring.

      No, they don't even have home-ec classes anymore. Now days it's "life skills" and it's all about how to manage your emotions, etc. instead of something practical. The public school system has become a joke. I started to notice that when my last son was going through high school. TEvery day they had "journal", which is just an opportunity for the school system to butt into the children's personal business. I told my son just to make stuff up, because they don't need to know what our family does in it's private times. And now they have "common core" mathematics, where 2+2 can equal any number that you want it to. My son was helping our granddaughter with her math and he said he never saw such a convoluted way to get an answer. It's as if they are making it difficult on purpose. A good book on the subject is The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America by Charlotte Iserbyt. Sorry, I can get in such a tizzy about this subject!

    2. All one has to do to realize the inadequacy of life skills in so many households is to spend time in the grocery aisles --particularly in the local Wal Mart [groan!]. Grocery carts full of packaged mixes, gallons on Mountain Dew, white bread, Little Debbies, etc--that is my particular tizzy! Not everyone has opportunity to raise a garden or to can and freeze--I understand that--but learning a healthier/more economical way of buying, cooking and eating requires only motivation--one needn't even invest in a cookbook--go on line! [I hope I don't sound patronizing about this!]
      Unearthing our summer bed linens this morning [think rummaging through rubbermade bins] I thought of one of my repurposing practices which you didn't mention, but wouldn't surprise me if you have done this: when bed sheets become worn, I make pillowcases from the sturdiest sections. We have a king sized bed which yields several cases from a fitted sheet and more from a flat sheet. Smaller sheets also work. Sometimes I make a 'cuff' for the pillowcase from a remnant in my fabric stash! I love having a closet shelf full of pillowcases--likely a rather odd trait.

    3. I know, I'm right beside you on that soapbox, Sharon! I was talking to my doctor the other day, and he said that people are living longer because they are healthier, and I begged to differ with him. Has he ever stood in line and noticed what was in other's carts? Sometimes I swear I'm the only customer in the produce aisle.

      That's a wonderful idea about making pillowcases from old sheets. When the boys were little we went through a lot of pillowcases, they always took them off the pillows and used them for gunnysacks outside. I love to repurpose things. Have you ever made a new binding for a blanket from your fabric scraps? I do that when they become worn and have to say, the effect is pretty cute. I even made a flannel petticoat from an old white flannel sheet. Like to wear petticoats and Irish knit sweaters in the evening in the winter. Very cozy!

  5. hello jane,
    how the weather in your country? todayis it sunny,but no rain....we need rain because our soil is to dry. i love the photos of your daffoldis,they are amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    i love old stuff too. i have a few white enamelware. your cushion is a dream.
    have a nice weekend,
    love and bear hugs,

    1. It's been pretty dry here, too, Regina. Yesterday it rained hard but only for a short while. The weather has been crazy. We started out the week needing a light winter coat, then it got too hot and we had to use the attic fan to cool the house down. Today it is chilly about 50 degrees and really foggy. We had to drive to the next town over and on the way back the fog was so thick we could hardly see the road in front of us. But that is weather by a lake. Over here we celebrate mothers this weekend. Have a happy Mother's Day!


  6. Loved this post Jane, I knew some of the history of money but not all of that information, I will definitely be sharing this post with the rest of the family. I think it is really important to teach the kids these things, especially as they are just becoming young adults and making their own financial decisions. I have always kept a pantry, I grew up on stories of how my great grandparents and grandparents made it through the depression and all the clever pantry recipes they had that would make a very simple meal feel really special. Great information! :)

    1. Thanks April! I hesitate to write anything like this, lest I be labeled an alarmist (or worst), but I figure I wouldn't be much of a friend or a Christian, for that matter, if I didn't warn people of what I see coming down the tracks. Oh, the things I would love to write, but won't! I think the national psyche knows what's going on too, hence the popularity of tiny house living, off-the-grid homes, and urban homesteading. Pay close attention to those lessons from your grandparents and great-grandparents, they might someday be the lifeline you need.

      Have you had your surgery yet? Hope it will be a swift recovery for you!