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Sunday, August 21, 2022


 Hello dear friends!  Well, we've been busy here at the old Zempel boarding house, the garden is finally producing, and every day is filled with preserving and cooking. Been putting in twelve-hour days in the kitchen.  People like to romanticize the cottage lifestyle, but it's a lot of work.  Really, it is a lot easier to just grab a bag of frozen vegetables from the store's freezer section, than it is to pick, wash and prepare them from a garden.  And lately I have been wondering if I was just starting out at canning, if it would be worth it; jars run about a dollar each and the cheapest lids are running about 30cents each so just with those two items you have $1.30 into those jars, plus if you were to buy your vegetables at a fruit stand or farmer's market, there's that money too.  I think it would be more cost effective for the time being (and just for this time) to just look for a good sale and stock up on canned goods. The big caveat being, if you were just starting out at canning, but for me it makes sense because I've been canning for almost half a century, and we garden from saved seeds, basically all I have to pay for is lids.  When I started canning wayyyyy back in the 1970s, no one was canning.  Women's lib was in its heyday, and anything that had to do with a woman being "chained" to the kitchen was considered unfashionable. Which was a wonderful boon for me!  People were all too happy to give me all those old canning jars.  It didn't hurt that I looked about twelve years old although I was nineteen.  Many a time I would visit with an elderly neighbor and tell them that I was canning and the next thing to happen they would look astounded that "that little girl knows how to can!  Edna! We have a bunch of old canning jars down in the basement, don't we?" And the next thing you know I had an entire carload of jars. People were just happy to get rid of them.  

Vegetables aren't the only things we grow.  Here's a picture of a bouquet picked from the "meadow" that we started last year:

I'm really enjoying it, because no matter how many flowers I grow in my flower gardens, I hate to pick them, less the garden looks sparse, but I have no compunction about picking from the meadow.  In the spring I was disappointed to discover that is consisted almost entirely of asters, but once I yanked them out, the pretty wildflowers started to emerge.  Sorry about the quality of the photo, my camera has a scratch on the lens, it seems. And I am not a photographer. 


Every once in a great while, I replace my canning and pickling spices.  Not wanting to waste them, I asked Ran to plant the mustard seeds in the garden to see what would develop.  Although they were probably eons old, within days we had the loveliest row of mustard greens coming up. Now I'm eyeing the bags of green peas (organic) that have been sitting in my soup pantry.  Will definitely give them a try this coming spring. During the winter months we sprout seeds for our "greens" rather than buy store lettuce and such, we discovered that organic black lentils, which are a fraction of the price of those sprouting mixtures, worked dandy for sprouting.  Oh!  And you all the know the Bible verse about the "faith of a mustard seed"? Well, nothing will make that verse come more alive than planting a row of them.  I think it could be a good lesson for children (and maybe a few adults, too).


Almost everything reminds me of a Bible verse lately, I guess it is the way God speaks to me.  I'll see an old man driving down the road in convertible and I'll think of "when I was a child", when the president announced that there wasn't any inflation, I thought of "a loaf of bread for a day's wages, but do not touch the wine or the oil".  Although I no longer belong to the church I grew up in, it did prepare me.  I am so blessed to have that upbringing.  It seems to me a lot of people are anchorless these days.  


Some dear person, requested the recipe for the orange rosemary marmalade that I had mentioned in the comments in the last post:  The recipe comes from The Herbal Pantry by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead:

Rosemary Orange Marmalade

5 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 C. boiling water

4-5 oranges

3 C. sugar

3 oz. liquid pectin

Steep 1 sprig of rosemary in the boiling water for 3o minutes; discard the herb sprig.  Peel the zest from the oranges, removing as little pith as possible; julienne thinly and place in saucepan with water to cover. Simmer, covered, about 1/2 hour or until tender. Drain and reserve.

With a sharp knife free the orange sections from their membranes.  Seed the oranges and dice coarsely, then transfer to a non-aluminum saucepan with the rosemary infusion and the sugar and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring frequently, for 35 minutes.  Add the pectin and boil for exactly 1 minute. Place a sprig of rosemary in each of 4 half-pint jars and pour the marmalade over them. Seal.  


I read or heard somewhere, that with the economy being what it is, people are turning to the dollar stores as their main source of groceries.  While there may be some healthy items at these stores, most of it is cheap processed foods that you could probably buy just as cheaply at your regular grocers, except for dried beans, $1/ pound is about the cheapest I can find, unless they are the reduced-for-quick-sale rack.  Here's a list of things that you can find a regular grocery store, that usually cost $1 or less, that would be far healthier: a pound of carrots, cabbage runs about 69 cents a pound, cans of tuna, a pound of regular oatmeal, a bag of onions, rice, pinto beans, most canned vegetables are still less than $1, potatoes, split peas, and check out the day-old bread rack.  The point being, you have to shop wisely these days, and pay close attention to the sizes of packaging (shrinkflation).  You really need to take your time and poke around.  The other day I was in Walmart and needed some salsa, I found some in cans on the bottom shelf for 98 cents a 16 oz can, half the price or less than the jarred salsas displayed at eye level. 


I'm always recommending people keep actual books or print out things from the internet that they want to keep.  You never know when the internet is going to go down and you'll need that information.  Or when your favorite blogger or Youtuber is going to shut down and all that information will be lost. Ha! Not to mention, what if we really do plunge into that deep depression that they are always predicting, and you cannot afford internet or smartphone fees?  No, it is good to have real honest to goodness books. Some basic titles on gardening, canning, a good basic cookbook, herbology, foraging, home repair, basic medical, sewing and mending, bushcraft and some nice ones just for entertainment.  I would include a Bible and an older book of US history (pre-political correctness).  The good thing is that most of these books can be found quite inexpensively at thrift stores and used, on-line. Here's a list of some of my favorites:

The New Self-Sufficient Gardener by John Seymour

Jackie Clay's Canning Book

Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar

The Boy's Own Handbook

Betty Crocker's Kitchen Gardens by Mary Mason Campbell

Gold Medal Century of Success Cookbook

The Farm Journal Cookbook

Historical Documents by the Harvard Classics

And I prefer the New English Translation of the Bible rather than old King James 

Well, that's a start, maybe every post I should give a book recommendation?  Anyways, I've prattled on long enough, off to get some work done.  Hope you all have a terrific week!



Sunday, August 7, 2022

July Came and Went!

 Hello dear friends!  Is it just me or does the time seem to be passing more quickly?  Hope you are all doing well and that you are enjoying your summer.  Several times I attempted to get a post out, but instead had to attend to gardens and preserving.  With this terrible drought I am amazed at how well the garden is doing.  Jamie and Ran spend about an hour every day watering it, but there is nothing like good old ozone-filled God-given rain for a garden.  Still, there are plenty of things flourishing.  We finally just had to pull the cucumbers and yellow squashes because I ran out of ideas for what to do with them.  There's only so many jars of relish and pickles a family can eat in a year!  And we had our favorite Summer Squash Casserole at least once a week for the last six weeks, and although we love it, we had enough for this year, thank you very much.  We also dehydrated plenty for soups this winter and made fritters and pizza casserole.  I am a firm believer in using what God has provided for us.   Remember that universal tuna or bean patty recipe I wrote about a few posts back?  Well, we discovered you can use it to make a patty from shredded cabbage also.  Today I am working at making and canning a batch of my Oven-Roasted Spaghetti Sauce ,as Ran picked a half a bushel of tomatoes this morning. Yesterday, I spent the entire day canning beets.  What a job and mess beets make!  When I can mine, I add a tablespoon of vinegar and a tablespoon of sugar to the jars, then pressure can as usual.  We love borscht and eat it about once a week during the winter, it's so good for you, so we go through a lot of beets.  And look at our onion harvest!

The smaller onions on the top tarp to the right are the ones we started from sets and the rest are from seed.  That's a garlic on the bottom right.  Ran discovered the secret to growing large onions this year.  During the first month of planting, fertilize with high nitrogen fertilizer (40-0-0) then for the rest of the season use 12-12-12 fertilizer.  And water, water, water.  We also make our own fertilizer simply by putting our grass-clippings (obviously nontreated) in a barrel and fill it with water.  This makes a very concentrated fertilizer that you need to dilute 10 to 1, the longer it sits the more you have to dilute it. Warning, hold your nose when you dip into it!


Life is funny, I had been thinking about getting a new braided rug for our dining room, but was reluctant to do so, a good wool rug is so pricey.  The very day, I decided to just do it, I went for a walk and found this one in the neighbor's garbage! 

It was the perfect colors for that room too! We carried it home and spent a good day scrubbing it, then hung it over sawhorses to dry.  The weather even cooperated in the process, as the temperatures were in the 90s, and it was very dry with high winds.  It virtually was like a dryer outside and only took a few days to dry.  See the mustard-colored Hitchcock chairs?   Always wanted some.  One day I just happened to stop by the Habitat for Humanity thrift store and there they were.  For $30!  And I got a senior citizen's discount to boot!  And they are Heywood Wakefield as an added bonus.

Only a few days later, Jamie was out for his daily walk when another neighbor was putting this light fixture out to the curb for the garbage man to take.

Just my primmy style!  And I needed a light in that very dark corner.  Couldn't have been more perfect!

Our garbage pick-up day is Monday and early in the morning Ran takes a ride around town and looks for usable wood for woodworking projects. He made me this pretty little cupboard from wood people were throwing out.

It's amazing the things people throw out.  And I don't feel the least embarrassed about admitting that, yes, I pick through the neighbor's garbage. Ha!  I'm on friendly terms with some ladies that run a food pantry and wouldn't believe the food people reject.  You'd think if you were dire enough need to get free food through a charity, you wouldn't be so particular, but people are.  It is mainly fruits and vegetables.  They offer me some, rather than throw it out and you should see the lovely jams, breads and desserts, I've made from the rejects. People really are spoiled in this country.  I hope that times never get as truly bad as the economists are predicting, because I don't think a lot of people will be able to cope. How many times have I written about eating beans or some other budget saving way to only read comments about "my husband expect meat three times a day" or "my children won't eat", or "I only eat organic" or any other such reason?  I tell you it gets tiresome.  One of the reasons I quit blogging so often.  I dare say, if you are starving, a banana with brown spots on it or a misshapen apple is going to look pretty good to you! Take it from, I've been there!


Every time I go to the Amish scratch-and-dent store I look to see if they have any dried fruits.  Dried fruits last forever if stored properly in a jar in a cool dark place.  They are just handy things to have on the pantry shelf and a handful of raisins or cranberries in your morning oatmeal can take the place of some or all of the sugar. So, here's an easy recipe that I got from the Good Old Days magazine about thirty years ago, when they used to have lots of stories about the Great Depression:

Radio Pudding


3/4 C. brown sugar

2C. boiling water

2 Tablespoons margarine (or butter)

into a 9 X 13 baking pan

Mix together:

3/4 C. sugar

1. C. flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 C. milk

1 C. raisins

Pour over the brown sugar/boiling water mixture.  Do not stir the two together.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired or affordable.


My dear friend Matty, is reorganizing her garden and wanted to know how our is planned out, so here goes:

The working garden starts at this green fence, that regular readers have seen often in my posts.

 To the left are the compost bins, and two large rhubarb plants.  Directly behind it the herb garden that about 8 feet by 8 feet.  We also put trees and bushes inside there until they get big enough to brave the orchard and fend for themselves.

To the right we have two cold frames and in this narrow strip of land that's about 8 feet X 60 feet we have a strawberry patch, some early lettuces, spinach and herbs, along with perennials that are later transplanted into the flower gardens.  There are three of our heirloom and most favorite apple trees planted to the right of that.

Behind the herb garden there is the main fenced-in garden which is around 30 X 40 feet.  On the north side of the garden there are several grapevines and blackberries bushes planted along the fence.

This is a view looking westward toward the garden.  Directly behind the main garden we have an asparagus bed and then another plot about twice the size of the main garden.  In this plot we have a raspberry patch.  Here is also where we plant our potatoes, squashes and corns, things that take up a lot of space. BTW, these pictures were taken early in summer, just never got around to posting them.

This isn't a very good picture, but we have a bit of lawn, then an orchard with pear, peach, plum and apple trees.  There's also a very large hazelnut tree (?) bush.  And a bit of and that is just tilled without any perimeters for another type of squash.  On the right I have a plot of meadow land with native grasses and flowers.  And in front of the orchard area, we grow elderberry bushes (that the deer eat down to nubs every year). And that is how this family of three adults lives very well on a little 1/2-acre plot of land, supplemented with fish from nearby Lake Huron.

Well, my spaghetti sauce has roasted while I wrote this post.  Now I have to can it!  Which reminds me, that my dear friend Regina, reminded me about dehydrating the skins that are left over from canning tomatoes.  I've done that in the past, but the powder from grinding them is always sticky, so I abandoned the practice, but she suggested adding salt to powder and using it to flavor soups.  What a smart idea!  I sure have made some wonderful friends through this blog.  So anyway, this has been a very long post, so from the old Zempel Boarding House, I hope you all have a lovely week!