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Archive for July, 2012

Produce, Produce, Produce

July 31st, 2012 at 09:14 pm

I'm getting a little overwhelmed by trying to keep up with the fruit production right now. I picked a gallon of raspberries and 2 gallons of blueberries today. Actually, I probably picked at least another gallon of blueberries, but that went to the greedy chickens. I swear for every two handfuls I put in the bag I was throwing one to the chickens. With 12 chickens eating them it was a lot. I don't mind sharing, I just wish they could pick, too!

They are getting very friendly, coming right up to me and demanding berries. Some will even tap me on the foot with their beaks if they think it has been too long since I've dropped some berries for them, cheeky little birdies. I really should take out my camera when I pick because they get so close and I could get some great shots.

Anyway, I estimate I picked about $50 worth of berries today, not counting what I fed to the chickens. Everything is in the freezer. It's too hot in the house to process right now and picking is done either before eleven in the morning or after seven in the evening, when it is cool enough to do the work.

My biggest brandywine tomato is moving from orange to red now. It looks so good. I harvested a quart of green beans today, but I think that patch of beans is just about spent. Maybe another handful left that needs to size up a bit. I need to poke a few more seeds into the ground. There might be just enough time left to get a late harvest.

I have two kohlrabi the size of tennis balls and 2 about the size of golf balls. I think the two bigger ones should be ready in about a week. I am really looking forward to them as there is nothing like kohlrabi fresh from the garden. Some of the smaller ones are starting to swell now.

I'm not sure what's going to happen with the cauliflower. It got hot at the wrong time. I am going to tie the leaves over the small heads tomorrow, at least on the ones that the slugs have not eaten the leaves too far down on, to see if they will blanch. Cauliflower is not one of my favored veggies. I will eat it, but I only ever make it because DH and the kids like it, so if it doesn't survive, eh... The broccoli is coming along nicely though.

I harvested the last of the old lettuce today and pulled the plants. The chickens were happy to get those, too, the greedy guts.

The garden has paid for itself about three times over now, plus paid for all the canning supplies and sugar I have bought this summer. I am happy about that. I will be even happier when I start picking tomatoes.

I am thinking about getting some sweet corn to put up at the end of August. We did plant some, but just enough for fresh eating. I just need to decide between freezing or canning if I buy some. I would freeze if I had the freezer by then, but I don't know if I will. So it may be canning by default. It would be nice to buy local corn when it is 10/$10. I guess it will depend on how well my tomatoes do, because if they don't do well, I will spend my grocery money on organic tomatoes to put up.

I can at least buy good canned corn from TJ's at a decent price all year around, but I can't do that for tomatoes. And also, with the corn being killed in the middle of the nation from drought, there may be a higher demand for Washington state corn and I might not be able to get it so cheap, either. Well, a year without much corn won't kill me, if it comes to that. Now a year without potatoes, that would be hard. But those are growing in our garden just fine. I may not even have to buy potatoes at all from September to May if they are as productive as they look like they are going to be.

I don't think we are anywhere near being able to provide all of our produce needs for the year this year, but we'll have grown a good enough hunk of it to take a major bite out our grocery budget, which will make it easier to save up for the protein in bulk from sustainable sources. I would love to get my grocery budget down to $400 a month if averaged over the year, even if it means buying a large portion of it up front.

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I redeemed two $5 amazon gift cards from swagbucks today and will do the same tomorrow. I wish I had done it yesterday, so I could have gotten 4 this month. Oh, well. Live and learn.

For All You Swaggers Out There

July 31st, 2012 at 11:57 am

I have saved up enough Swagbucks to cash in for 4 $5 gift cards to Amazon. Can someone explain the process of redeeming them a little before I go do it? I've heard something about daily limits on how much you can redeem. Do they send you the gift cards in the mail or do they give you a gift card link in email?

And then I've heard about gift card numbers getting stolen so you need to put them in your amazon account right away so that doesn't happen. But I've never had to do that, so how does that work exactly? Is there a specific place you go in your account? I don't want to use them yet, I want to save them up. Also, how long do these gift cards last once you have them in your amazon account? I'd like to save them up for at least a year.

Best Laid Plans--No Eating Out Challenge Day 4

July 30th, 2012 at 10:01 pm

I ended up having to swap today's dinner with tomorrow's. The bread was starting to mold. How DH and DS did not notice this at breakfast or lunch I do not know, but I noticed it, so out it went to the compost bin. There were only six slices left, the perfect amount for dinner sandwiches for me and the kids (DH is on his way back to Alaska), but sadly it had to go. I think maybe the heat is making it not last as long as it did when it was cooler.

So we had spaghetti with plain tomato sauce and hamburger (I didn't feel like taking the time to do meatballs or my special sauce) and fresh berries from the yard. No garlic toast because of no good bread. I didn't even make a vegetable, but no one was complaining. We like simple spaghetti even if we like fancy spaghetti more. Part of my brain was saying just go out to eat. I wish that would go away, but it does crop up a lot when I am tired, which I am really tired today. Fortunately I had my challenge to fall back on and made it through day four of no eating out just fine.

I will make a loaf of bread in the morning and we will have our sandwiches for dinner tomorrow. I ended up buying a yellow bell pepper today when I picked up a gallon of milk, instead of a green one. They had no organic green ones and the red ones were not very uniformly ripe. The yellow ones were perfect. So I will have yellow bell pepper slices on my sandwich tomorrow and later this week on my pizza.

The nice thing about planning out my meals for the week is that I can switch them around in a pinch when something goes wrong, like moldy bread.

I think I may can blueberry jelly tomorrow. I have to pick the bushes tomorrow morning before the birds (not our chickens, but wild birds) get them. They are loaded and they are too much of a temptation to the sparrows and chickadees if left too long.

Today I picked some blackberries. I am working towards filling up another gallon size baggy in the freezer. So far there is just today's pint. There are still a lot of red and green berries on the canes so I know they will get there eventually, but it may be a week or two before I have enough to make more blackberry jam. By then I am hoping that the Himaylayan blackberries that grow wild behind my chiropractor's office (and don't get sprayed) will be ripe and ready to pick.

Other than picking a few berries it was a pretty lazy day. I just didn't have the gumption to do anything much. I hope I'm not coming down with a cold. My throat was a tinge scratchy this morning and yesterday morning, but got better as the day progressed. It could just be allergies. It's been about 12 weeks since I've had a bad cold and I'd just as soon keep up that record since I had such a horrific fall and winter with illness after illness.

I did spend a lot of time going over the absentee voter's ballot. We have a lot of folks this time I knew nothing about so I researched them to figure out who to vote for. I also put together a documentation packet to send higher up the school's food chain. We are still getting the runaround by the lower level administration in regards to my son's concussion that another student gave him second to last day of school, so we went higher up. Don't know if it'll do us any good at all, but I'd like to at least know we are being heard.

Financially, I added $2.65 to the coin jar. Not really a money day otherwise.

House Stuff

July 30th, 2012 at 02:48 am

I hate nights where I have insomnia. Or at least "not tired enough to fall asleep until it's really late-ia." We spent a good portion of today out at the house determining what we wanted to keep and what was going to be hauled to the dump of the stuff in the yard and shed. We locked up what we are going to keep and everything left is going to be junked. It's probably 4 pick up loads worth of stuff that will never be usable, like the 2 extremely heavy bags of solid concrete that got rained on. They used to be powder. Or the patio table umbrella that somehow managed to grow an entire layer of something green and fuzzy.

We ended up basically keeping very little. I'm not sure how we ever accumulated so much useless stuff. Having lived in 1000 square feet for the last two and a half years has given me a lot of irritation at our formerly cluttered life. And I am not looking forward to going through the stuff in storage, though that will be our next step, because the smaller the unit we can get into the less we will have to pay.

The guy who wants our car is going to put in $1000 worth of labor in fixing up the old house for it. We will buy the primer, but they have a bunch of leftover paint from other jobs that their boss just gives away after a house is done and that will be free. They already have all the equipment. They will tape and mud and fix some small holes (nail holes, when we changed out the thermostat and put it at the other end of the house) and paint the inside and when that is done we will have the carpets cleaned. The one guy says he has seen carpets in worse shape than ours come back great with professional cleaning so we're hoping we won't have to replace the rugs.

They are also going to take all of the junk we sorted out today to the dump and get the yard ready for sale. He's got a guy who wants to tear down the carport, which is falling down, for free, so he can have the wood. He'll also take all of the greenhouse demolition wood and the broken fencing away.

They want to paint the outside of the house, too, again with free paint from other jobs and they will spray it as they have that equipment.

The other guy is getting estimates on the broken window pane repair and on how much it will cost to replace the four doors and one door frame that need replacing. And also where we can get replacement sliding doors for the closets and how much.

And they want to do all the yard work needed to fix it up. They know we can't pay a lot because of my son's medical bills right now, but it sounds like as long as we pay for the supplies they can't provide, any additional labor costs can wait until the house is sold. I know the head guy is doing this because he really likes my mother, but I don't want to get too far beholden on a house we may not make much from at all.

I really would like to get moving on this and get it on the market, but I want to pay as we go, too, which may not be possible at a quick rate. But I think just getting the house painted is a step in the right direction.

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As for steps in a different direction, two of the houses that we have had our eyes on for a while both had substantial price drops. The one house, which is pretty much perfect except for the location (which is not a bad location, it's in our chosen school district, it just is not where exactly I want to be) dropped it's price today to $200,000. Which would be a really nice mortgage to have for a house with it's square footage and yard. The only thing I don't like is that I have noticed the neighbors are creeping their stuff.

They are parking one of their brokendown cars partially on that property and their junk is also creeping over. The house has been empty for a while and I don't really want to have neighbors who start taking over bits and pieces when you aren't looking. Plus there was so much clutter in their garage and the yard seemed trashed. All the other yards in the area seem fine, but I don't want bad neighbors. I've had them once and I will not knowingly buy a home next to them.

The other one which is a block outside our desired neighborhood and is only outside it because it is across from the freeway and the noise is loud, was $330,000 when it was taken off the market after a year several months ago, and it came back on the market at $300,000. It is a perfect house for us in a better area. Handicapped accessible, handicapped bathroom shower, a large yard for gardening, a big garage/shop. You can't really hear the freeway from the back yard and it's pretty quiet from inside the house, but it is very loud in the front. All of the bedrooms are in the back though and we've lived with road noise when we lived in the country next to a highway. But I still think it's going to drop more.

If our house had sold and we had the downpayment in hand we'd make an offer. It would be closer to $225,000 to start with, going up to $250,000. I can't say with the road noise it is ever going to sell for more than $275,000. Considering how long they've been trying to unload it, it's just been vastly overpriced. It's also on a dead end, not easy to give directions to, and behind a crematorium/funeral home so it can't sell like the same house picked up and moved to another location and they have to accept that. Once they do I think the price will fall again. When it does, I hope we can take advantage of it.

I told DH today though that I really want to have at least $30,000 in the emergency fund before we start saving for a downpayment. I don't want to go without it.

He said there might be a possibility of him working an extra week. They had fired two people in documentation (they were alternates) and have not rehired replacements even though it's been months and he's sort of been doing both his regular job and the job of the person who is gone. And the second job is falling behind because he has his hands full with his own job. So he may see an extra week of work. Which financially would be great. It would give us enough to pay off the last $1500 of DS's medical bills and still leave us with some money for the house renovations. But I remember how hard 3 weeks on were on everyone including him. And that was 3 on/3 off, not 3 on/1 off. Yes, the money might be nice, but we would muddle by without it to the new year when everything will get easy again. At least I hope so.

Meal Planning for the Week

July 29th, 2012 at 11:43 pm

I am going to try to do a few easier meals this week, I think. It's supposed to be hot all week and long and involved food is not something I really want to get into. I will use the crock pot at least twice. Oh, speaking of using the crock pot, I made up the applesauce and DH pronounced it very delicious. this is what I did:

5 apples, peeled, cored and segmented into eighths (I think they were pink lady or cameo, which are the only type I buy other than honeycrisp usually and they weren't honeycrisp)
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Put all ingredients in the crockpot on high for 6 hours. It was supposed to be 3 to 4 but I forgot about it. No harm done though. It made 2 12 ounce jars and one 8 ounce jar (or 3 half pints total, if I had been able to find more 8 ounce jars). Process in a water bath canner for 20 minutes to make it shelf stable. It is nice to have those apples out of my fridge produce drawer.

Anyway, planned dinners for the week:

Monday--
Club sandwiches
Homemade french fries from home grown potatoes
Cantaloupe
Cole slaw

Tuesday--
Spaghetti with homemade sauce
Meatballs
Homemade garlic toast
Salad

Wednesday--
Meatball sandwiches made with leftover meatballs, leftover sauce, and leftover garlic toast
Leftover cole slaw
Berries

Thursday--
Pork chops
Fried potatoes
Green beans
Berries

Friday--
Homemade pizza (made with leftover spaghetti sauce) and whatever toppings we have on hand, probably green peppers, onions, Canadian bacon and uncured pepperoni
Cantaloupe

Saturday--
Toasted ham and cheese sandwiches
Homemade chicken noodle soup (from a chicken roasted for lunches and then crock potted to make stock and then soup)
Cole slaw
Homemade french fries

Sunday--
Beef chuck roast made in the crockpot with carrots and potatoes
Green beans
Drop biscuits with homemade jam

No Eating Out Challenge Day 3

July 29th, 2012 at 03:49 pm

At least it's day 3 for me. It's probably day 2 for everyone else since I started the day I announced it. Anyway, I've done good so far, but today I was really tempted. I didn't give in to it, but I had a really strong urge to get half a Subway foot long club sandwich on their 9-grain honey oat bread. So I think I'm going to build a sandwich night into my meal plan this week.

One of the things I discovered about sub sandwiches is that I like them with cucumbers and green peppers on them. I discovered this at an open house that was serving Subway sandwiches this way, and ever since it's like I can't get enough of them. So I think tomorrow will be sandwich night. The only thing I'll need to buy will be a green pepper.

I have been wanting some simpler meals on these hot days, and I have plenty of excellent homemade bread so I think it will be a good idea for early in the week. Probably for tomorrow. Since tomorrow is airport day that does tend to make things easier. Otherwise DH ends up eating at the airport and the kids and I don't end up eating until 8 at night and that is no fun.

I didn't put a pot roast in again for Sunday dinner. I don't know what is up with me forgetting, but oh, well. It can sit in the freezer a while longer. I am making pizza for dinner instead. I've got the dough started in the bread machine. We have leftover homemade sausage, uncured pepperoni, and onions.

I have some leftover homemade spaghetti sauce that is enough to top the pizza and plenty of cheese. I will be using the cheese that is getting a little hard first. It will melt just fine but is a little weird for eating straight. I was going to use leftover meatballs from the spaghetti earlier in the week, but my new meatball recipe was so well-received the last of the meatballs were devoured yesterday. I will definitely be making those again.

I am thinking about making up a batch of applesauce in the crock pot. There are five apples that have been sitting in my fridge for a while and I am tired of them taking up space. I can do a small batch and water bath can them in half-pint jars. I won't even have to get out the big canner to do that, just do them in a large pot. Then they will not be taking up room in my fridge.

Preserving More Food

July 28th, 2012 at 03:49 pm

This morning was nice and cool and the perfect morning for making jam without heating the house up terribly. I used my new food mill on the apricots and the blackberries, but the blueberries just went into the blender.

The results of my 3 hours of labor.



I ended up with six half pints of apricot jam, a value of $48 (organic jam has gone up, I priced it last week), minus the cost of sugar and apricots, so a net value of $40.

I did 4 pints of blackberry jam for a value of $56. The blackberries were free, so the cost of the sugar was $2. So a net value of $54.

Last I did 8 half pints of blueberry jelly. Again the berries were free from the yard so it was the cost of the sugar, $2. So $64 minus $2, a net value of $62.

Altogether I spent $12 on ingredients and profited $158 by putting up this jam and jelly today. I will likely do at least one more batch of blackberry jam, one more batch of raspberry jam, and one more batch of blueberry jelly this summer and any other berries will be frozen. I think I'll have enough jam for the year. I may actually already have enough jam for the year, but some will be gifts.

And another look at my expanded stash. We have used up one jar of strawberry and are in the process of eating a second and also on the first jar of apricot jam, but there are two more rows added as well.



I can't wait until I can fill a shelf full of tomato products. Another month and a half for that.

Homemade Salsa

July 27th, 2012 at 09:52 pm

Today I made homemade salsa. It turned out really well. I did the usual thing that I do when I want to make something that I either haven't made in a really long time or have never made before. I looked at a bunch of recipes on the internet and then made up my own. I don't think I could follow a cooking recipe line for line if you paid me. Baking, yes. That's a whole other animal, but not cooking.

Anyway, I started with the juice from one lime and threw it in the blender.



And diced half a yellow onion and 2 really enormous cloves of garlic (probably 4 smaller cloves would do from a non-mutant head).



I chopped up about a cup's worth of fresh cilantro.



And then diced 2 jalapeno peppers.



I took about 1/8 tsp of the seeds from the peppers and discarded the rest. You can use them all or more than I did, but I was trying to make a salsa my kids would eat.

I took 2 cans of organic diced tomatoes including the juice and added it to everything else in the blender.



I didn't want to pay the prices for off season organic tomatoes at the store, but I imagine about 2 pounds of tomatoes would substitute for the 2 cans.

I added in 1 tsp of freshly ground sea salt and 1 tsp of freshly ground pepper and blended the whole mess on low, level 4, for about 20 seconds because I wanted to keep some chunkiness to it. Now is the time to taste it and adjust your salt, pepper, and jalapeno seeds to taste.

And the tasty end result:



This made a little over a quart of salsa. Next time I will cut the recipe in half and just make around a pint, but I will definitely make it again. It's worth it in freshness, flavor, and I saved about $2 over the cost of buying the same amount of jarred salsa. That cost will drop once my own tomatoes are ripe.

No Eating Out Challenge

July 27th, 2012 at 12:19 pm

I'm doing a no eating out challenge for the next two weeks. Does anyone want to join me? Our day in Seattle really knocked me for a loop physically. I ended up with a stomach ache for a day afterwards and that was just from two meals out that day. Plus it made my weight bounce up and it took until today for it to be back down to what it was the morning we went to Seattle. Yuck.

So no money will be spent on eating out for the next 14 days. And I will stick to my meal plans except for maybe rotating days depending on tiredness. If I'm exhausted it's easier to do toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, canned veggies, and homemade fries than it is to do chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and fresh cooked veggies.

I would love to have some support on this challenge and I know there are a couple of people who are struggling with not eating out right now, so come and join me and we'll cheer each other along.

Financial Housekeeping

July 26th, 2012 at 09:58 pm

I emptied my purse and DH's wallet of ones and change today and added $17.59 to the coin jar.

I updated my July budget spreadsheet and created my August spreadsheet. I entered in all of the medical spending for the month so far into the HSA tracking spreadsheet. Ouch.

I have a deposit of $48 ready to go into the Freezer Fund tomorrow from my coin jar savings. The Freezer Fund is currently at $409.68 so that will bring it to $457.68.

I did not make jam. It was too hot, even in the morning. I will see about making it tomorrow. I bought a food mill for $70. It has three different plates and is a high rated one. I think one and a half batches of jam will cover that. I am looking forward to not having to peel apricots. And having the seeds out of the blackberries or raspberries.

My English cucumbers finally have blossoms on them and my brandywine tomatoes are starting to turn a very pale shade of yellowy/orange.

Back into the Routine

July 25th, 2012 at 08:58 pm

So after our lovely day off yesterday, and it really was great despite the traffic mess, today it was back to routine after a good sleep in.

Today I baked bread:



These are by far my best loaves since I started baking bread again. A lot of the time they do not end up so nicely rounded on top, but I've been letting them do their second rise a bit longer and it seems to be helping with that. No more fallen (but still tasty) loaves.

My pepper plants are doing amazing. It's July and look at the size of this one already:



There are six fruits on this plant of decent size, though this is the biggest and there are tons more blossoms. I have never successfully grown bell peppers so I am thrilled at how well they are doing. It helps that most of the month has been pretty hot with only a few days of cooler temps.

I picked green beans today. I filled half a quart baggy. I don't think I will get much more off these plants, maybe the same again. They didn't get into the ground soon enough and sadly have stopped blossoming. But I've got more beans coming in a different area of the garden so that is okay. And at least the other bean plants are fixing nitrogen into the soil.

I filled a gallon size baggy with lettuce leaves and picked another pint of blackberries and two pints of blueberries. I need to pick raspberries badly. I think there is at least a gallon of berries in need of picking. I hope to get to them tomorrow. Of course I need to pick more blueberries, too, but there is only so much time in a day and I had a lot of laundry to do today and had an appointment that took me two hours, so didn't spend too much time outside.

The squash plants are coming along well, except for one, which I may need to move. The tomatoes are looking very nice and hopefully the weather will continue and I will get the harvest I am hoping for later this summer. Broccoli and cauliflower are coming along nicely and there is some gorgeous kohlrabi that might be ready in about a week. Looking forward to that a lot.

Tomorrow I am planning on making jam. I am making apricot jam, blackberry jam, and blueberry jam. I just hope it isn't too hot in the morning to do it. I won't do it during the heat of the day and if tomorrow is anything like tonight, doing it in the evening isn't an option either. We need to keep the house as cool as possible without air conditioning.

Yesterday was a Long Day--I Love Seattle...But...

July 25th, 2012 at 08:44 pm

We went to the Pacific Science Center to see the King Tut exhibit yesterday. It was fantastic and we had a great time...until we tried to leave. Seattle traffic was nasty on the way out. I was not pleased that Obama was in Bellevue. It screwed up being able to get back out of the city. I have never seen Seattle traffic this snarled before. It took 25 minutes to go .4 of a mile! And then another 15 minutes to go 3 blocks. And with all the one way streets, you can't get there from here, even with GPS.

I thought we'd never get out. Since we had bought our tickets well in advance of Obama scheduling his trip here, all it did was make me cranky. And I would have been just as cranky if it had been Romney screwing with traffic. I am an equal opportunity grump.

Also what is up with all those dedicated bus lanes? Can't they be dedicated bus lanes and carpool lanes? We had 5 people in the car. That's practically a bus! LOL No, I know, public transportation is big in Seattle and the buses need to stay as on time as possible. But...it's not like half the city stays out of them, anyway. They would go in them illegally and then try to shove into the lane that it was legal for cars to be in. Made me even more grumpy, because we were driving properly and they were cheating and people were letting them in anyway. When it takes six light changes to get across an intersection because only one car at a time can make it because of all the irresponsible scofflaws, it irritates me. DH even honked his horn once. DH never honks his horn.

And don't get me started on the crazy, jay-walking pedestrians who were trying to commit suicide by car. Or the motorcyclists who think they belong in the bicycle lanes. I may never complain about the crazy drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and bikers in my city again. I think next time we may just take the train. Save ourselves a lot of annoyance and not have to deal with the crazy people.

We ended up spending $200 of our vacation money, well within the allotted amount for the day. I even came home with some money. It goes back in the vacation fund so we will have it for our trip to the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma next month. Hopefully there will be no political visitors at that time! Because if there is one thing that gets to me more than Seattle traffic, it is Tacoma traffic!

Homeschooling Question

July 23rd, 2012 at 10:57 am

I know some of you on here homeschool. Does anyone know of a good 7nth grade pre-algebra math program other than Saxon? I like Saxon to a certain extent, but it is very repetitive and my son kind of balks at that. Preferrably one that does not cost an arm and a leg.

Also a grammar and writing program? I would like something that is very engaging. I've pretty much found what I will use for all the other subjects, but I'm waffling with whether or not I want to go with the Saxon program there. Again, if it's not too pricy that would be good. I have found a good free spelling program I am going to go with and it will double as vocabulary.

I'd prefer them to be secular or if they are religious based programs to be non-preachy and non-denominational. I don't want to have to pay extra attention to the curriculum to keep out things that don't quite match up with our religious beliefs.

I have found the history and science programs we are going to use so now it's just a matter of nailing down the other two.

Meal Planning for the Week

July 22nd, 2012 at 08:56 pm

So here's my meal plan for the week. Tuesday will be in Seattle. We are taking lunch in a cooler, but will have dinner out at the center house. Or whatever they are calling it nowadays. The money comes out of our saved vacation fund money.

Monday--
Fried chicken
Coleslaw
Corn on the cob
Nectarines

Tuesday--
Meal out (probably some kind of Asian stir-fry for me so I can be sure of veggies and who knows what for everyone else)

Wednesday--
Pork chops
Steamed new potatoes
Yellow summer squash/broccoli/cauliflower medley
Black cherries

Thursday--
Spaghetti
Meatballs (new recipe with ground pork and ground beef)
Fresh blueberries, blackberries and raspberries from the garden
Leftover cole slaw

Friday--
Homemade pizza topped with sausage (from the food co-op), bacon (from the farm), uncured pepperoni, onions, and green peppers
Salad from the garden

Saturday--
Bacon cheeseburgers
Homemade french fries
Leftover yellow summer squash/broccoli/cauliflower
Fresh berries from the garden and/or leftover cherries

Sunday--
Beef pot roast
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Green beans
Drop biscuits with homemade jam

Bits and Pieces--and Homemade Chicken/Turkey Noodle Soup

July 22nd, 2012 at 08:39 pm

We did some moving of stuff to storage today. We ended up emptying our 2nd unit at the one place. We got a bigger 2nd unit elsewhere for about $20 cheaper. I would like to change out our bigger unit, too, in time because we could save quite a bit on it at the new place. The only real difference between places is one is outside the city limits. So it's two miles further away, but that is worth it for that much less money. They also do not require extra insurance. Since our homeowners policy has a rider for storage items, this is a savings of $15 a month.

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The man who was supposed to come out and check the house for painting and estimate on the door repairs called to say his daughter had been hurt and rescheduled for Wednesday. *sighs* Will we ever get this done?

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I picked 2 pints of blackberries today. I have enough to make jam. Speaking of jam we finished off the first jar of strawberry jam and opened up the first jar of apricot jelly. It definitely is not jam like, but jelly like. It was so good. Everybody loves it. And it was perfect even without pectin.

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Those green onion bottoms that I planted have started sending up shoots. I count 3 so far. It worked!

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I did not make pot roast today as I had some food that needed using up so instead I made chicken/turkey noodle soup today for dinner. Well, yesterday before we went to the farm I threw 4 turkey legs and a bunch of chicken wings that were just starting to get freezer burn in the crockpot with 2 cups of water. I let it cook all day on low and last night I picked all the meat off the bones and returned it to the crockpot. I added all of the onion skins, carrot peels, garlic skins, bits of green onion that hadn't gone bad but no longer looked its best that I have saved in the freezer and the four chicken carcasses that I have saved in the freezer.

I chopped up half a bunch of fresh parsley, smashed five garlic cloves, chopped up one and a half onions (along with their skins), some celery leaves, and chopped two carrots. I added 1 tbsp of white peppercorns (what I had on hand) and 1 tsp of fresh sea salt. I filled up the crock to the top with water and let it go all night and until 5 o'clock tonight.

Then we put it through a collander, put the broth in a stock pot, and tossed the remains in the crock into the compost (we have a heavy duty rubbermaid plastic compost bin so the animals can't get into it. I usually don't compost bones but in this case I will). The broth was a rich brownish gold color (turkey makes it light brown).

I washed and peeled one onion and three carrots, saving the peels and skins in a new stock bag. I chopped them up and sauteed them in olive oil for about 15 minutes to make them soft. Meanwhile I boiled half a pound of egg noodles in the broth. After fifteen minutes I added the carrots and onions (I was out of celery or it would have been in there, too,) to the broth and then added 3 cups of the cooked chicken and turkey meat and let it warm through, about 3 minutes.

After that I adjusted the seasonings, adding about 1 tsp of black pepper, 1 tsp of sea salt, 1/4 tsp of ground celery seed, 1/4 tsp of onion powder, 1 tsp of thyme leaves and 1/4 tsp of garlic powder. We also added salt and pepper to taste at the table. Some of us like a bit more pepper than others of us.

I ended up with enough soup to feed the five of us 7 big bowlfuls (DH and DD had seconds) and I have a quart and a half leftover in the fridge. I think I am going to do up the rest of the chicken wings over the next couple of days. The bag was originally 10 pounds and there are about 7 pounds left so I think I will do it in two batches and make up more stock and then just pressure can the stock in pint jars so we have it on hand. I'd really like to do that. I had planned on it before but plans fell through. I would net about 8 pints of broth this way, I think, and that's about a canner level full.

Most of the things I put into the soup were foods that were looking worse for wear, too, especially the carrots and onions, but you couldn't even tell in the finished product. I'd say the expensive of it was in the fresh parsley and the meat itself.

Altogether the cost to me was about $6 for 5 quarts of soup. That's 10 pints, which is equivalent to ten cans of a big-noodled, chunky-style soup in the 16 ounce can. One with all organic ingredients is $2.99 at the cheapest place. So for an equivalent amount of organic soup I would have paid $29.90. That's a cost savings of $23.90. My son will eat a can of soup a day and he is happy to eat this instead.

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I also made two loaves of bread today. We ate over half a loaf with our soup with strawberry jam and apricot jelly. So very good. I will have to make more bread tomorrow. My neice is spending Monday night as we are taking her with us to the science center on Tuesday to see the King Tut exhibit as her birthday present. We will be taking sandwiches down with us so will need plenty of bread, but we will also be making French toast for breakfast that morning for her, DS, and DH. We will also have sausage and bacon and eggs and cucumber slices for those of us who low carb at breakfast. They can have jam if they want it on the French toast.

I am really looking forward to seeing the exhibit. I saw it when it came through when I was a little kid in the 1970's, but I really want to see it again as an adult. This is part of our "vacation" this summer, since we aren't having a real one.

Food Shopping

July 22nd, 2012 at 12:28 am

So we spent $253 on beef, pork, and whole chickens at www.skagitriverranch.com today. That is approximately a four week supply of protein, though we do get about another $50 worth of ham, seafood, ground sausage, cheese, milk, sour cream, chicken thighs and legs at the food co-op.

We also picked up $18 worth of flour and $50 worth of produce for the week at the food co-op, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi!!!!, cabbage, radishes, 4 nectarines, 1/2 pound of black cherries, onions, and some garlic. We have plenty of berries still. Oh, and I got about four more pounds of apricots to make jam with. The first kind I got were pence apricots. These ones are sundrop apricots. They were really inexpensive because they were in season. $1.29 a pound, and I spent $5.44 and they were part of that $50 of produce. They should make at least 6 or 7 pints of jam.

I need to buy another 25 pound bag of sugar. I am down to 25 pounds and I will go through that fast this week canning jams of apricots, blackberries and blueberries. Possibly even more raspberries.

I went down to the ranch with $300 and only spent $253, so the extra $47 is going into the Freezer Fund. I'll do an update on the Freezer Fund tomorrow. It's a couple updates behind. Now, to bed. It's already well past my bed time.

More Canning--A Savings of $76 for Doing it Myself

July 20th, 2012 at 01:14 pm

So last night and this morning I got quite a lot accomplished. This:



and this:



The first is apricot jam and I totally used the blender to liquify it (so it's probably more like jelly than jam. It is such a gorgeous color. I made this one without pectin. I really don't like working with pectin and much prefer doing it without if the fruit has enough natural pectin in it and this did. The recipe was supposed to make 4 pints but barely made 3. It is very labor intensive (until I get a food mill) because you have to peel the skins off, half and pit, then quarter each half and even with blanching for 2 minutes not all the skins want to come off. I ended up using a potato peeler. (The chickens, by the way, love apricot skins.) Next time I will make the kids help me.

I spent $5 for 2.5 pounds of organic pence apricots and used $4 worth of sugar, so $9 total for 3 pints. A half-pint jar of organic apricot preserves is $7, so $42 worth of jam for $9 or a savings of $33 over store-bought preserves.

Then I finally made raspberry jam. Much, much easier. I thawed the berries out in the microwave, which made a little juice, so it was easy for the blender to get going. I got 8 8 ounce containers (or 4 pints) of jam. I made them in smaller containers because I am going to give some away as gifts.

The raspberry jam is just the cost of the sugar, since the organic berries are free from the yard, so about $5 to make. 1 8 ounce container of raspberry organic jam runs at $6, so $48 worth of jam for $5 or a savings of $43. Not bad at all.

This is my home canned food stash so far minus the raspberry jam which is still cooling:



The yellow stuff up in the corner is my canned homemade mustard.

I also have 3.5 quarts of refrigerator pickles which are good until December and lots of frozen berries. Doing pretty well on that front. I will be making blueberry jelly and blackberry jam soon and then I'll have a real pallete of colors on the shelf.

I Don't Think a Restaurant Could Do it Better

July 19th, 2012 at 06:53 pm

Tonight's dinner was fantastic. I absolutely love it when a super easy meal comes together so superbly. Grilled pork chops, corn on the cob, drop biscuits with homemade jam, just a few blackberries from the garden and broccoli/cauliflower/yellow summer squash. And freshly squeezed lemonade from scratch. I had originally planned to make daikon medallions for the low carb veg, but the daikon was extraordinarily limp when I went shopping and I wasn't going to buy it when it was not firm and crisp. Fortunately there was plenty of broccoli and cauliflower on hand.

There was just so much flavor in the meal that everyone was more than satisfied and we just kept saying things like MMMmmm and that was good, etc., during the whole meal. Not bad for boiling a couple of things and throwing something else on the George Foreman grill. The most complicated thing was making the biscuits and that's just four ingredients. Takes me less than five minutes to mix it and drop them onto the cookie sheet.

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I picked two pints of blackberries today. In two or three more days I should have enough in the freezer to make jam.

DH has been home since midnight on Tuesday and let's just say the strawberry jam level is getting very low. The pint was almost full when he got home. To be fair he is not the only one eating it, but it is less than 1/4 full now. Good thing I have several more jars, but I need to make some other flavors quick before he plows through it all.

I still haven't made my apricot jam, but I plan to do that soon. Maybe tonight.

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I don't think I am going to get as many tomatoes as I had hoped for by the end of the season, but there is a sustainable farm that grows really good ones in my county and I think it might be well worth it to buy a couple of bushels from them if I need to.

A Little Money Out for Gardening

July 18th, 2012 at 09:15 pm

Since the heat wave was pretty hard on my lettuces and they are close to bolting and starting to taste a tiny bit bitter, I picked up some new lettuce starts from the food co-op. I spent $3 for 8 organic lettuce starts. They are really pretty. Instead of going with a red and a green this time I went with a green with red spots. Pretty, isn't it?



We've spent some time clearing some space for a late fall/winter garden. It will mostly be brassicas like cabbage, broccoli, and kale, but we also will be putting in garlic and onion sets in the fall. In doing so we pulled up some potato volunteers:



And we finally had some green beans ready for picking today. It was a massive crop:



But they were really getting too big to leave on the vine. I will probably just eat them raw.

And we found where Queen has been hiding her eggs. We gave them the sink/float test to make sure they were all okay. They are. I think she is broody.



Now that we've found her nest she won't lay there again. She'll find a new place. She's not going to be very happy when she finds them gone, but it's not like she can hatch them anyway. We have no rooster.

We got our last tomato plant and our pepper plant transplanted the other night and they seem to be thriving in their new locations. There are three fruits on the pepper plant and they are starting to size up and about ten fruits on the tomato plant. The squash and zucchini plants are thriving and flowering like crazy now. Two blossoms were open today and they were almost as big as my hands.

I'm going to poke some more green bean seeds into the soil and hope for the best. If we have a mild enough fall they'll grow and if not, it's only about 25 cents worth of seeds.

I still want to pick up more kohlrabi starts. They will go well into fall and it is one of my favorite low carb veggies for raw eating. I am starting to see some kohlrabi at the farm stand but it is so tiny. I think they are selling them more for the greens than the vegetable. The greens are okay, but I really like the vegetable part of it. They will size up in another couple weeks. I just hate waiting once I see it available.

I picked 3 pints of raspberries today and a pint of blueberries and a handful of blackberries. There will be a lot of blackberries in two days or so. I could have picked more blueberries today, but I was really tired. I think there is at least another pint ripe.

The Best Things in Life are Free

July 17th, 2012 at 04:35 pm

...but I won't be giving them to the birds and bees. I harvested another pint of blackberries today. I now have a pint and a half of them in the freezer and there are tons more that will be ripe in about two more days.

The raspberries will need picking tomorrow and I'll get at least 7 or 8 pints. The blueberries will also be ready for picking tomorrow and I should get about 2 pints.

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Speaking of things that are free, I signed up for the free store card at the place where we bought my son's very expensive but only shoes that would fit. Not everything in the store is expensive. There are quiet a few reasonably priced items. That card came in the mail today with six cards for free items. Of course the trick is that each free item is only good for a month, so they want to get you in the store once a month for six months. But you do not need to fall for that trick.

The first month is a free t-shirt, the second free shipping if you get something off their website (I'll skip that one), the third month is a free 3-pk of socks but only if you spend $25 that month. Well, that month is September in which I will be buying my daughter new shoes, so I can put up with that one not being "entirely" free. But she had wanted to buy shoes there anyway, so it works to my advantage.

Month four is a free pair of shoelaces, no strings attached (ha ha). Month 5 is a free shoe cleaner, again with a $25 purchase. I figure that one I can skip unless DH is needing shoes that month. But the last month, the one for December is a $20 gift card (with some exclusions).

At the very least I will get a free t-shirt and a free pair of shoelaces. Pretty good for making no purchases.

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The massage therapist who works on my leg on occasion so I can continue walking normally moved offices recently and had two really nice computer chairs she was getting rid of. I took them both. One to replace a ratty old chair my son has been using and the other I gave to my mother to use since her chair was falling apart.

I think I'm doing pretty well with the free business lately.

Meal Planning

July 16th, 2012 at 09:31 pm

I forgot to post my meal-planning for the week. Things got a little topsy-turvy anyway on Sunday because I forgot to put the roast in the crockpot so we ended up having roast chicken on Sunday and pot roast tonight. But I really ought to post the rest of my meal plan for the week because I find without the accountability it is far too easy to go "Screw it, let's go out." And I figure tomorrow especially since I will be canning all day I don't want to go without a plan. So...

Tuesday--
Bacon cheeseburgers
Homemade french fries
Coleslaw
Blackberries and blueberries

Wednesday--
Porkchops
Daikon Medallions
Corn on the cob
Drop biscuits with homemade apricot jam

Thursday--
Carne Asada (from this recipe: www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/carne_asada/ but I add a peeled, mashed kiwi to the marinade)
Mexican Rice (from this recipe: http://www.melskitchencafe.com/2011/05/mexican-rice.html
Coleslaw

Friday--
Oven baked chicken
Baked potatoes
Broccoli/Cauliflower
Drop biscuits wtih homemade strawberry jam

Saturday--
Nachos (tortilla chips, taco meat, cheese, salsa)
Salad
Cantaloupe

Sunday--
Beef chuck pot roast
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Green beans
Berries

Backyard Bonanza

July 15th, 2012 at 11:35 pm

I spent a good hour harvesting berries today. I am having to pick about every 2 days so that nothing goes to waste.

Today's bounty:



Yes, that's 7 pints of raspberries, 1 pint of blackberries, and 1 pint of blueberries with at least another 1/2 pint in the Ziploc baggy. And that doesn't show the half a pint of blackberries I picked and ate for my lone high carb of the day. And there are enough blackberries out there to fill another pint container, but I had filled up all of my containers and once I had them inside didn't want to go back out and pick anymore. I'll get them tomorrow. I will freeze what I pick tomorrow so I won't eat them all and will eventually have enough to make jam by saving them over the next week or so. Plus hopefully enough to freeze some extra for the year as well. It's a small stand of blackberries, about 4 feet wide by 8 feet long so it may not produce enough. The blackberries I picked today are for tomorrow's fresh eating. They are so delicious.

We were inventorying the freezers and we found about three gallons of blueberries (from our yard, so organic) from last year and some sugared strawberries (not organic) so I think I'll be making blueberry jam this week, too and Mom will be adding the frozen strawberries to her smoothies.

I wonder if there is something like freecycle (maybe tradecycle or something) where you could barter your fresh fruit you don't want more of, like extra raspberries for the fresh fruit you do want, like blackberries. Or maybe I could give away raspberry jam in exchange for fresh blackberries. I do intend to give away quite a bit of the raspberry jam I make anyway. If I can get enough blackberries I will make brambleberry jam, too, which I like an awful lot more than straight raspberries and that will help use some of them up.

I now have 1 full gallon of raspberries frozen, plus enough in another gallon baggy to make jam tomorrow. I was going to do it earlier in the week but it was just too hot. The weather has broken now, though.

We will not have to buy jam this year at all. We won't have to buy any berries for eating as we will have plenty frozen.

Yesterday we put in more romanesco broccoli on the cool side of the house, which we fenced because the chickens were trying to eat the greens before we even got them in the ground, some more yellow zucchini squash, some green pole beans that may or may not make it, but I can put some bean seeds in under their foliage to protect them from the chickens, and some green bunching onions. I have some new lettuce starts to plant in the windowboxes as those lettuces are bolting fast. The chickens will appreciate those when I pull them.

I have a large pepper plant and a large tomato plant that I rescued very cheaply from a store that was clearancing them. I think I am just going to cut the ends off the plastic pots, dig a bit down in the soil and sort of just set them in and put the dirt back around the bases. Root shocking them at this point might do more harm than good, especially since they have fruits of decent size on them.

I have broken even on what I've paid out for gardening this season if I include the fruits and pretty close even if I don't.

I am buying very little in the way of fruit at the grocery store. I did buy a Washington organic nectarine and some Washington organic pence apricots, but I will be canning apricot jam and one batch of that is enough. I have been tempted by the melons, especially the canteloupe and also the kiwis and pineapples. I hate buying outside of my foodshed but some things just don't grow in my state. Or not well. I swear I am going to buy a hardy kiwi first thing after we move and plant it, weather permitting.

Anyway, now that harvest is in full swing on the berries, I can cut about $100 out of my food budget that was going to buying fresh fruit and put it in the Freezer Fund instead. I know I will have enough berries to get me through a year by the time I am done. I know we will want other fruit throughout the year, oranges, bananas and lemons come to mind, but those will be supplemental fruits along with what I can (like Italian prunes and pears, and apple sauce). It should still cut by 3/4 my fruit portion of the food budget this year.

I would eventually like to get my fruit portion of the food budget to where we only have to buy 10% of it and the rest is all free from what we grow. I want to do that on a permanent basis, but I will have to start all over with berry canes and bushes. Oh, I can still harvest at Mom's, but I want to be self-sufficient in this area. I should probably take some cuttings now from her blueberry bushes and start rooting them. I can get a piece of willow bark or birch bark from the neighbor to make a rooting solution. Her blueberry bushes are 75 years old and are the best tasting ones out there, so I want to have those same types when we move again.

I will, however, order organic thornless blackberries from a catalogue. And plenty of them. I'm not sure I'll bother with more than transplanting a few canes of raspberries for DH. The kids don't like those ones enough to care. To them raspberries are only good for filling out smoothies when there isn't enough of the other things. And then of course I'll buy strawberry plants but that is all way in the future. I want to find out what type it is that the guy from Fir Island was growing. Those were the best I've tasted in a long time.

After my fruit is up to speed I want to start planting in sufficient quantities to get my veggies to where I can freeze and can a lot of them and root cellar the rest and make it last a year. I know that's a way's off. I don't have the soil for it here and I'd bring in good soil if needed when we move. If I am very lucky I will get my tomato supply up to where I need it with what I am growing. If not I will get a couple of bushels from one of the local organic farms. Much cheaper than buying organic sauce.

We'll see how it goes. All it takes is one more health crisis for me and my gardening goes right out the window. So let's hope that doesn't happen.

Coin Jar Update and Freezer Fund

July 14th, 2012 at 03:16 pm

I added $8.02 to the coin jar today. It's ultimate destination is the freezer fund.

I think the freezer under our fridge is either going out or either needs new...um...weather stripping. I forget the actual word for it, but the rubber that helps make it seal. Is that a gasket or something else? Anyway, lately whenever I open that up it's like being greeted with a little bit of snow.

It doesn't seem to be harming the food any, but I'm not sure if that is a repair you can make yourself or if you need to hire someone to come do it. I don't even remember where we bought the fridge. I'm thinking a local, family-owned place in Lynden, who does do house calls way, way, way faster than Sears, and I'm pretty sure I was boycotting Sears appliances by that time anyway because of getting repair people out to fix their stuff taking so long.

I think I'm going to stop putting money into the vacation fund starting next month and take that $100 a month and put it into the Freezer Fund instead. I have enough in the vacation fund now to pay for our planned trips to the science center, to the zoo, and to the county fair. I'm also going to stop contributing to the Mac Book fund for right now. DD knows that she won't be getting it until senior year anyway, so there will be enough time to make up for that.

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Went swimming again yesterday with the kids. Did 26 laps, or half a mile again. A little sore but not after last time. My clothes are getting pretty loose. I have some smaller shirts that I am going to have to break out soon because the formerly tight shirts are starting to swim on me. I don't want to buy new summer stuff, though. It'll be fall soon and I have some fall clothes that are smaller and will fit. Will probably have to buy 2 pairs of jeans though. All of my old Disneyland shirts are fitting now, no more snugness at all. I love that, because I had a lot of t-shirt souvenirs. And it means I shouldn't have to buy new shirts for a while. Maybe a nice blouse I can wear for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but not much else.

It's Been a Long Two Weeks

July 12th, 2012 at 07:20 pm

After having to come up with $500 unexpectedly for my son's medical treatment at the end of last month, it meant that after paying all bills we had $450 left to get through the next two weeks. Well, today is the last day of that two weeks. Tomorrow is payday. It was harder than I thought it would be, because I have gotten used to the ability to buy little things pretty much when we want them. Big things we save up for of course, but if I wanted to buy a bushel of organic apricots, normally I would have been able to just go and do that. If I wanted to go and purchase a couple extra garden stakes, I could do it. With that extra $500 missing from the budget, there was no way.

I had to really remember how we used to do things back when things were super tight, but fortunately it's not been that long ago. So we all did some belt-tightening and we've made it through. And with $49 still in the checking account, so clearly it's doable. The kids had a few cases of the "I wants" but I just kept reminding them of the medical bills. We don't believe in hiding the truth about finances from our kids. They are old enough to get it and we want them to live in the real world and not understand the truth about money, budgets and bills. This month I have budgeted for the extra medical and although it will still be a little tight, it won't be so much of a challenge as being blind-sided by it.

It has shown me though that there are places I could tighten the budget so we could pay off a little bit more or save a little bit more, so I think I am going to keep that in mind for the future.

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Tonight for dinner we had roast chicken. There was a lot left over (I got a five pound organic bird). We will be eating it for lunch for the next couple days in one form or another. I picked all the meat off the bones and I've finally got enough to make stock. So tonight before bed I am going to throw the chicken carcasses I have been saving in the freezer and all the onion skins and tops and bottoms, garlic skins, and carrot peels that I have been saving along with a whole fresh onion, some carrots that are getting to the end of their life, a bunch of celery leaves and the innermost stalks no one likes to eat, some crushed garlic, peppercorns, turmeric, marjoram, sage, sea salt, basil, thyme and parsley into the crockpot and cover it with water. I am going for some major flavor. I will let it cook on low overnight and in the morning I will have beautiful chicken stock.

Then I will strain it, pour it back into the crockpot, saute fresh carrots, onion, and celery and cook them until they are soft. I will add some of the chicken and then I will pour it all into quart jars and pressure can it. The recipe I saw recommended you put your chicken and vegetables into the jars first so that it fills them about 2/3 of the way and then add your hot broth. This way makes sure that the heat penetrates all the way to the center of the jar, very important in canning. I might do 2 pint jars of just broth, too.

We will then have homemade shelf-stable chicken soup and broth ready on the shelf. All I will have to do in the future will be to heat it, add some noodles if I want them, simmer until they are soft and there you go. Homemade, healthy, organic soup and you can bet it won't cost what it does in the store, especially when half the ingredients in the stock are things you would have thrown away or composted anyway.

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I picked three more pints of raspberries today, another quarter pint of blueberries and 10 blackberries. In a few more days I think the blueberries will be in serious business and another week and it will be the blackberries turn to explode.

And I'm pretty sure we're going to have grapes this year. I just am not sure when. Does anyone know when grapes get ripe in the Pacific Northwest? They are Concords.

Recipe: Tropical Chicken Stir-Fry

July 11th, 2012 at 10:24 am

Looking Forward wanted my recipe for this so here it is. I find stir-fries to be relatively frugal, especially since you can always add more veggies to stretch it if you need to.

Tropical Chicken Stir-Fry

Ingredients:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons minced onion (I use the white parts from green onions, but any onion is fine)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
4 large, fresh garlic cloves, minced (donít cheat and use the jarred stuff, itís worth using fresh)
1 inch fresh grated ginger (or 1 tsp ground)
1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound boneless skinless chicken (I use thighs) cut into strips

1 pound (or more) of stir-fry veggies of your choice. I usually use snow peas, carrots, celery, bok choi, broccoli and cauliflower.

Oil for cooking. I use peanut oil if I have it, but canola oil works, too. Olive oil changes the taste so I would not recommend it.

Directions:
To make marinade, mix the first 10 ingredients. Set aside 1/3 cup marinade. Place chicken strips in ziptop plastic bag or marinating dish and pour in marinade.

Cover chicken (if using dish) and refrigerate for most of the day or overnight, turning once or twice if you can to thoroughly coat chicken.

Discard used marinade. Heat oil in the bottom of a wok or large sautť pan. Stir-fry chicken on medium high until cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and add vegetables. Cook until vegetables are tender crisp. I usually cook the broccoli and cauliflower for about 2 minutes and then add the other veggies and cook another 3 minutes. Add the chicken back in and the reserved marinade. Cook until chicken is warmed through and marinade is hot.

Note: I usually use the juice from canned pineapple for the marinade. If you don't have canned pineapple or pineapple juice, but can get a hold of fresh, just add a half cup of small pineapple chunks in when you put the chicken and reserved marinade back in the pan for the same flavor.

My Day in Pictures

July 10th, 2012 at 07:45 pm

This is Patches (so named because of how his feathers came in). He of the wonky wing. You can see the dark green mottling on his neck here. The newbies are getting more and more used to me now and finally letting me get near enough to take some decent close ups.



I can't believe how much the cauliflower has grown in the last few days.



One of the brandywine tomatoes. This is the biggest.



The blackberries are not going to wait until the end of August. Most of them look like this, but I did see a couple that were black.



And...one of these things is not like the other.



Three more pints of raspberries and a quarter of a pint of the first blueberries.

In June I never thought summer would get here. It rained almost the whole month. July is making up for that for sure.


So This is Frugal

July 9th, 2012 at 06:48 pm

At least if it works, and if not, I'm not out anything. I remembered reading once that you can replant the bottoms of green onions if they have a root still on them. I use two to three batches of green onions a week between breakfast omelettes and low carb meatloaves I make for lunches so I always have that last half inch or so that goes into the soup stock bag in the freezer or the compost bin depending on the condition.

So I decided to try planting them in the garden. If they do grow I'll start to see them within a week. And if not, it'll help fertilize the soil by trench composting.

It would be nice if it works as I buy these a lot. I was dinking around online today and also saw that you can replant regular onion bottoms, too. A bit more to it than what I did with the green onion bottoms, but it can be done. I don't know if they grow into full onions if you just get the greens, but either way, it'd be worth it, so the next time I use a full-sized onion I am going to try it. I had planned on planting onion sets with my garlic bulbs this fall anyway, so this might just give me a head start.

Househunting

July 9th, 2012 at 10:10 am

Yesterday the kids and I went to look at an open house. It is about four blocks from my mother's house. It is 1611 square feet and a very nice house. 3 bedroom, 1.5 baths. It has a very large concrete pad patio in the back yard. I mean it is big enough to set up one of those giant swimming pools like they sell in Costco, a barbecue, a picnic table, and still have room on it. The back yard otherwise was a small strip of grass, about ten feet wide, a small storage shed and a line of scraggly cedar trees against the back fence. The grass strip got a lot of sun, though so would be a good spot for a vegetable garden.

The front yard was bigger and could easily accommodate blueberry bushes and an Itlalian prune tree and the empty front flowerbeds could accommodate strawberry plants. There is also a strip down the side of the house that could be a garden area as well.

The house is in an ideal neighborhood for us. It is in the right school districts. And it is going for $224,900 which is at the low end of our price range and we could actually make the payments right now before we sell the other house. It is a two or three block walk to the grocery store.

It has been completely remodeled, but was built in 1920 and has a lot of that old house charm, but with new windows, siding and roof. I did notice a week spot in the walk in closet upstairs. I noticed it because I walked across it, but other than that I did not notice anything wrong with the house. It was very clean and did not smell of animals despite having had a cat there formerly (it was in the online photos, but the house is empty now). The carpet was very comfortable to walk on in bare feet.

It had a nice kitchen for cooking, and neither stove or the dishwasher were next to the fridge (bad to have heat users next to a cold maker for electricity costs). Not as big as I'd like for storage space, but the laundry room was so large you could put a king size bed in it and still have space for the washer/dryer and a path to walk. So I think shelving in there would expand the pantry just fine and there is space for a chest freezer. We would have to keep our table pushed against the kitchen wall when we weren't using it or find a smaller table at Goodwill or something. There is no seperate dining area.

I don't know. I'm waffling because it doesn't have a garage. DH has always wanted shop space. Yet at the same time a garage makes things cost $40,000 more. There is not enough space to build a garage one day , either.

The master bedroom was as big as the one I am in now. The whole house felt very airy and open. Maybe that is because we are used to living in 1000 square feet right now. All things being equal, I think I could be happy there. I'd certainly be happy with a lower mortgage.

There is another house I want to look at, too. We've driven by it before but never seen the inside. It is $209,000, has more space, and a bigger yard with raised beds and room to build a shop. It also has an unfinished basement. It is in the right school districts, but is not as ideally located. Well, it is walking distance to the mall, but not really to any grocery store. And it's about 2 miles from my Mom's house so not really walking distance for the kids. Not that two miles is too far, but part of the walk would be on a busy five lane road.

It has hardwood floors and a bigger kitchen plus dining room. The only thing I would worry about is the basement flooding. It is very wet here nine months out of the year and basements in older homes flood a lot because inadequate drainage was put in when they were built. I grew up having to turn on the sump pump every time it rained too hard and that is not something we want to deal with at all. So I want to look at it for water damage.

The best choice is to just keep saving our money and work on getting our house on the market and not move forward too quickly, especially with DS's new medical expenses. But it is nice to know that there are options out there that we can afford right now if we needed to. I just don't think I'm quite ready to get serious. But it is nice to look.

Meal Planning for the Week

July 9th, 2012 at 09:42 am

We've made it through all of the potatoes we dug up when starting the garden, so I will have to stop by the store to buy those and corn on the cob today and I will need more milk around Thursday, otherwise I am set for food for the week. I do need to make buns and bread tonight for future meals this week, too. Anyway, here is my meal plan for the week. Doing this every week again is really helping me stick to my food budget while still purchasing mostly organic fruits and veggies, and pasture raised, sustainable protein.

Monday--
Pork chops
Corn on the cob
Broccoli/Cauliflower
Drop biscuits with homemade strawberry jam

Tuesday--
Bacon cheese burgers
Fried potatoes
Green beans
Cherries

Wednesday--
Spaghetti
Garlic cheese meatballs
Texas toast
Cherries

Thursday--
Roast chicken
Baked potatoes
Broccoli/cauliflower
Cloverleaf rolls with homemade strawberry jam

Friday--
Homemade Pizza with uncured pepperoni, homemade sausage, uncured Canadian bacon, onions and red bell peppers
Coleslaw
Cherries

Saturday--
Tropical Island Chicken Stir-fry

Sunday--
Beef chuck pot roast
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Green beans
Drop biscuits with homemade strawberry jam

Alternate meal in case I am too tired to do the planned meal--
Pancakes, ham, and scrambled eggs. I did this one day this past week instead of my planned meal because I was really tired. It was nice to have it as a backup plan and really easy to fix.

Today was a Scorcher

July 8th, 2012 at 09:38 pm

I don't watch the news, but I do realize the middle of the country is probably far hotter than us right now. However, it got up to 80 today, very hot for the rainy PNW coast. And the extended forecast shows more of the same for the next ten days. We are definitely going swimming tomorrow.

I decided not to make jam today after all and threw the raspberries in the freezer to wait for a cooler day. I really don't need to be heating the house up during the hottest part of the day. So hopefully I can make them in the cooler part of the morning tomorrow or the next day. This will be my cheapest batch of jam yet, with me only having to pay for sugar and pectin. Any further raspberries I pick will just be frozen for future use in smoothies or whatever. It will be nice to have free fruit in the freezer.

I noticed when I was out putting away the chickens and ducks tonight that there are a few ripe blueberries on the bushes. We rarely get ripe blueberries before August, but this heat wave is pushing everything forward, I guess. So where I thought I'd have almost a month before worrying about harvesting those, I think it's going to be closer to a week. I'll have to take a look at the blackberries, too. They may have moved up their production date as well.

Also while herding the ducks I saw that two of the younger apple trees that have never had fruit on them before are loaded down with apples. I usually don't have to go back that far, but they were in the furthest corner of the property. I knew the old one was full up, but these ones are Golden Delicious and Macintosh and we've been looking forward to those since they were planted as little more than sticks with a couple of buds on them five or six years ago.

I really wish I liked apple sauce or apple pie. I've never been one for cooked apples, though. I do like raw apple pie filling (just apples, cinnamon, and sugar) or apples with peanut butter, but mostly I like eating apples out of hand. I don't know if either of those are good keeping apples, but I should get a few weeks out of them at the very least. I will can sauce in pint jars and a couple of pies for DH though. The big jars at the store are too much for just him to finish and the little plastic cups of sauce taste nasty, plus they're plastic and we're trying to get away from that. And he and my mom both love apple pies so the least I can do this season is make one or two. Me, I'll take chocolate pie or key lime pie or even lemon meringue, but chocolate, lemons and limes don't grow free on trees here. Such a shame. Wink


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