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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.


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~

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).

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?


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!


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?


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!


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!




  1. What lovely flowers! I've never seen hollyhocks that tall, and yes, they do look like they belong in a fairytale. Wow, $15 dollars is a great price for your pot! We paid a bit more for mine, but I love it and like to bake chicken in it this time of year so the kitchen stays cool. Love the thrifted yarn, too, and your prep ideas are all great. Great post.
    Have a great week!

    1. Hello! Everything is amazingly tall this year, even the corn! Hopefully it will have nice cobs and isn't just all stalks. Yeah, it's nice not to heat the kitchen up. And I think it's fun too. Always loved history and I love the feeling of comradeship with our ancestors when I cook over a fire. I have an old reflector oven that I use for chicken. Best chicken ever! Thanks for leaving a comment. Have a lovely week!


  2. Dear Jane ~ Your flowers are amazing!

    Happy 37th Anniversary! I love the box Ran made for you.


    1. Thanks Rainey! The flowers are really amazing this year, the cooler weather certainly hasn't hurt them. I think I'll plant more hollyhocks by the side entrance. Reminds me of those storybook illustrations.

  3. Happy Anniversary! We have ours next week. (36 years). Boy we are close on things..ha!
    Your flowers look so fresh and pretty! It definitely looks like a cottage garden. I have been seeing bees around my garden which is unusual. I still think it is from an overturned bee truck on I-95 that we had last year. Thousands escaped and they claimed they would all die w/out the queen bee...but right after I started noticing bees.

    Your turtleneck sweater looks so pretty! Your granddaughter has the prettiest name. That is a name you'd see from my Grandma's homeland of Croatia.

    You must have healthy soil...those lilies are really full and tall! and the pretty. Some day I will plant a multi-colored lily garden!

    Your merino wool sweater is looking perfect!

    I hope we don't become a Greece until I finish paying out to my daughter's college...I would hate to lose our savings! I am worried about our savings staying ours! You never know. (Not to mention our retirement savings in CD's)

    1. Hi Andrea! We do have a lot of things in common. So much fun!

      Just say a truckload of bees today. Wonder where the guy was taking them? Doesn't seem to be the season for moving bees. But then I don't know much about beekeeping.

      Lily bulbs are always the plants that are on sale at the end of the season around here. No choice of colors but they all go together. I think it's best to grow them in large masses. More of an impact.

      I'm worried about hyper-inflation. Maybe you can pay your daughter's tuition early? I've heard rumors that the government wants to take over private pensions. We'll all join arms and march into the poorhouse together. Ha! One word for retirement, diversify. Oh! and become as self-sufficient as possible. If the stock market doesn't drop like a stone, when I turn 59 1/2, I want to take my Roth IRA and buy some land and build a small farm. Whatever the outcome, we will just have to trust in the Lord.


  4. Hi again! I guess farms buy bees! This accident had 20 million bees! They were going from Florida to Maine! When my oldest daughter went to this college in 1998, they DID take tuition up front for 4 years, at the going rate for that year which is quite a savings. I did call last year to see if they still had that offering, but they don't! We don't have a pension. But our company did match our savings and we put them in CD's. I never believed in stock. I learned to not play the stock market unless you wouldn't mind losing it! True...we just have to trust God. If we get poor, that is the best for our souls! Andrea

    1. 20 million bees! I wouldn't have wanted to be around when that accident occurred!

      I don't think I could have afforded to pay for 4 years upfront anyhow when the boys were in college. One year we paid $60,000 in college costs. Those were some lean years!

      My husband has a pension from both Dow Chemical and Rustoleum. We were lucky to get in on the tail end of the pension plans. I don't think any businesses offer them anymore. They were also very good at matching 401K contributions.It hardly made a difference in our take home pay to contribute since it lowered our tax burden, so we thought "why not". I always tell my husband not to be too upset if we lose it all, because it really was just monopoly money anyway.

      If being poor is good for the soul, I guess I shouldn't fear the Pearly Gates! Ha!


  5. Happy anniversary Jane, and many more happy years together. Thanks again for sharing all your handy thrifting tips. It's such a good feeling when you harvest your own crops. I planted some seeds from a butternut squash that we ate and now have little green plants in the veg patch.I also put in some onions and potatoes that were beginning to sprout in the vegetable basket...they are both about to flower. I do hope they fruit, that would be the best thing. I plan to save all the seeds I can from the garden this year and plant more herbs for teas like chamomile next year.
    Happy days in your lovely garden.

    1. Thanks Debby! Isn't it fun to grow your own, especially when the seeds are free? For years we've been harvesting pumpkins and squash from our compost pile. There's some potatoes in there too. We always save some potatoes for seed for the next year. They're a fancy heirloom variety and I saw some selling at the store for $8 a pound. Just about fainted. We're potato millionaires! We grow a couple hundred pounds a year..

      We save all our seeds, except for carrots. The growing season is too short here. We've developed some lovely tomatoes that have cross bred over the years.

      Chamomile spreads like wildfire here. I had to dig all of mine up. Even now we find it growing in the cracks in sidewalks and anywhere there's a speck of dirt.

      You'll find once you start an herb garden, little volunteer seedlings pop up easily. We've started many of our friends' herb gardens that way. Everyone always ask if we are "sure" when we give them a big box of herb plants. Little do they know, that they are doing us a favor by taking them! I guess the secret is to be a lazy gardener and not be too diligent in weeding, Ha!

      Have fun in your garden!


  6. I am envious of your new fall wardrobe--haven't found any 'goodies' at our thrift stores lately. One of these days I will try home made potato chips--when I can locate the roll of parchment paper.

  7. It's always feast or famine with thrift stores, Sharon!

    Well; the potato chips were a fun experiment. But it's back to dieting :( Maybe I need to misplace the parchment paper!

  8. Happy Anniversary dear lady. May Our Lord bless you with many more :0)

  9. dear jane,
    happy anniversary!!!!
    the little chest which your husband made for you is a dream. your husband is very talented.
    your flowers are so the hollyhocks. my hollyhocks are died.
    the sweater for your granddaughter is amazing!!
    gratulations to your new fall wardrobe.....i love ralph husband have a few shirts of ralph lauren.thanks for all the thrifty tips.
    i wish you and your husband a wonderful weekend,
    love and hugs regina
    ps we have another heat wave

    1. Thanks Regina! Sorry about the delay in replying, we had guests this weekend. We're having a heat wave too. All the heat and humidity is really making the weeds grow. I don't know how people that live in the southern states can endure summer. It brings out the mosquitoes, too. Has me longing for autumn. Hope you have a lovely (and cooler) week!


  10. Hi Jane! I really can't remember how I first found your blog, but I love visiting here. Perhaps someday you could add a "follow by e-mail" feature, as I would love to become an official follower. By the way, I live in south Mississippi, and the summers here are long and brutal, indeed! I am most certainly looking forward to Autumn...the most wonderful time of the year for me. Blessings to you ~ Marsha

    1. Hi Marsha! I'll have to look into the "follow" button, I admit I'm not very technologically savvy. We've already had a preview of Autumn but now it's heating up again. Just in time for school starting. It always happens. Thank you for stopping by, hopefully, this week I'll post something new, been so busy canning.