<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Archive: September, 2012
 

Archive for September, 2012

Tomato Days

September 30th, 2012 at 09:27 pm

Yesterday was tomato day, as in I spent a good amount of it blanching, peeling, cutting up, and blending 25 pounds of tomatoes that had been sitting on my kitchen table for over a week. I put them in the crockpots. It filled the 8 quart to the top and then the 4 quart 3/4 of the way full. I left them to cook down on low for 24 hours and then just combined the two crocks together. I did not notice a difference in consitancy between this batch, where I peeled the skins off, and the last two batches when I didn't. What I did notice was it didn't take as long to cook down, closer to 24 hours than 36.

I currently have the 8 quart one full to the top. I bumped it up to high to make sure that it would boil. In about an hour I will put it all into jars and can them. I should have at least 15 to 16 pints if it doesn't cook down too much more in the next hour. That should put me up to half a year's supply of homemade and canned tomato sauce. I don't know if there will be any at the farmer's market next Saturday, but if there is I'd like to do at least one more batch. I've got a few ripening on the vine and whatever is ripe I always throw in with my farmer's market buys.

Once they are in the canner I can clean out the crock and start my pears cooking down for pear sauce and can that tonight. I wonder if pears will cook down faster than apples since they are a softer fruit? I will need to check the crock sooner to be on the safe side, I suppose. I'm not sure I'll get any of the baking done that I wanted to do this week, except for the cloverleaf rolls, but that's okay. My ear is completely pain free now, but I'm still kind of slacking in the energy department.

I would really like to can pear chunks as well if I have the time to do it this fall. I don't much care for the consitancy of canned peaches, but canned pears I enjoy much better and it'd be nice to have some on hand for when the pear season ends in December. And it's easier to find organic pears for a reasonable price, anyway. I'll have to buy more lemon juice. Between the tomato sauce and the pear sauce I will wipe out what I have on hand. Pears don't have enough natural pectin to not put it in. Tomatoes probably do, but all the recommendations suggest its safer to raise the acid content of them with lemon juice if you are using a water bath canner, which I am.

My chicken noodle soup that I made tastes even better today after sitting in the fridge. The flavors have just melded even more beautifully. I knew that happened with chili and stew, but I'd never had it happen with soup, usually because it's gone so fast. It's nice not to have to make lunch right now when I'm so busy with preserving, just pour out some soup and heat it up.

One of these days I really need to make up stock in my giant stock pot instead of the crockpot so I will have enough to can it. It doesn't seem worthwhile to get out the pressure canner to can two jars of stock, or three jars of chicken/turkey and vegetable soup minus the noodles. But I really want to have some on hand that I can just add noodles to it later on as I use it, so I'll have to get with that in another couple of weeks. I want to do it while organic carrots and organic celery are still in season. Organic onions and garlic are always cheap.

We'll need to roast and eat some whole chickens between now and then so I have the carcasses to work with and maybe some turkey thighs as well for the meat for the soup since I have some in the freezer. I have two whole chickens in the freezer, so we'll definitely have one of them for dinner one night this week.

I will have to stop at the farm stand tomorrow and pick up a cabbage and a lettuce. That should be all the produce I buy this week for my weekly menu planning. The rest will be from food on hand in the fridge, the garden, and the freezer or pantry.

Feeling Much Better

September 29th, 2012 at 01:49 am

No ear pain today and only a slightly sore throat when I swallow. That's a huge step in the direction of feeling better. Now if my nose will clear up I think I will start feeling like a human being again.

I switched things around in my menu planning and made the chicken noodle soup today, mostly because I hadn't baked the potatoes for baked potato soup and the other was easier. It turned out incredibly well. I made a couple of changes to my usual recipe, adding in some garlic powder and ground celery seed and it made it much more savory. I've finally got it to where I think it tastes better than my favorite restaurant bowl of soup, which makes me happy because I've been futzing around trying to do that for years. I think we'll skip the baked potato soup tomorrow and just have more of this. It is so delicious.

The tomatoes on the table are all ripe now so I will start the process to make them into sauce tomorrow, but not until after I make the pear sauce, which I should have done today, but didn't. I'll start it going early so that I can have the tomatoes in by 2 p.m., so they will done by 2 p.m. Sunday and canned in the afternoon. I'm going to blanch and peel this batch and see if that makes a difference in consistancy. It'll be nice to have my table back.

I've checked the 10 day forecast and only one day is scheduled to dip below 50 degrees at night, and that's just 49 so I think I'll be okay on my tomatoes still on the vine for a while yet. Days all look to be upper 60's. I was hoping for some nice days at 70 or above, but it looks like a no go. I can definitely feel fall in the air. Hopefully that won't change to winter any time soon.

The next time I go the the farm I am going to ask them if they have any soup bones for sale. I want to make a nice, rich beef broth as the base for beef stew. It's the next thing I want to master. Years ago Stagg used to make this fantastic beef stew, but then they ruined it by adding pearl onions and peas, and then they discontinued it altogether, at least in our area.

I put up with Dinty Moore for a while after that because they don't have chemicals in their stew, but then they changed it so that it had less beef and more carrots and potatoes, then they changed it again so that the consitancy of the beef was more mush than meat, and then they started shorting the carrots and putting in more and more potatoes all while the price steadily rose. Do they really think we don't notice these things? It's like when they keep the pizza box the same size and shrink the contents. Not that I buy frozen pizza anymore, but you get my point.

The last change put me off it altogether because I like my carrots to equal my potatoes in stew, so ever since I've tried to backwards engineer the original Stagg stew from memory, but so far no go. I think it may be in the base so that is what I'm working for. I did see beef marrow bones at the store but I'd really prefer to stick to the organic, grass fed, pasture-raised beef.

The one trick they cannot pull on us is that they can't make 1 pound of beef or 1 pound of carrots or 1 pound of potatoes be less than they appear to be. The price per pound is the price per pound. They can't sell you 10 ounces of ground beef in a 1 pound package like they try to do with those 14.5 ounce canned goods that used to be 16 ounces, though the cans are the same size. It's only the processed foods that they pull these tricks on. All the better reason to stay away from it, to my way of thinking.

Gift Card and Survey Money

September 28th, 2012 at 12:19 am

I had enough points today to cash out at Swagbucks for another $5 gift card for Amazon. I'm waiting for one to show up any day now and then this one will show up in a week. Right now I've got $25 in gift cards in the account and have received a total of $35 from them. I wish I hadn't let DS do the ordering when he ordered his book because he accidentally wiped out that first $10 of gift cards I was saving, but there's no use crying over spilled milk. It's building up again and it looks like I might be doing about $25 a month worth of gift cards from them. If anyone is interested in doing Swagbucks who is not signed up, there is a referal link in my sidebar. I spend maybe 10 minutes a day on them, so $25 a month feels like a decent return for it. This is all earmarked towards my daughter's MacBook fund.

I should be able to cash out at American Consumer Opinion Panel soon. It should have been today, but it's still sitting there pending. That will be a $14 check when it's finally available. I like them a lot compared to other companies, even if they don't have a referral system. They have good surveys, but it is hit or miss sometimes on whether or not I qualify. I tend to go through a month or two where I qualify for everything and then it'll be a dry spell where I qualify for nothing. Oh, well. Every little bit helps. It's earmarked for the freezer fund.

---------

Homeschool went great today. It's the smoothest day yet and we were able to get everything accomplished in four hours. I know not every day will go like this, but it goes a long way towards making me think we're going to be just fine.

----------

I feel a lot better today. My ear still hurts but it is now a dull ache instead of raw, open fire. And my throat only hurts when I swallow and not all the time. I am still coughing, but that's better, too. Now if I could get a full, good night of sleep I think I will be well and truly on my way to getting over this thing.

----------

We got 12 chicken eggs and 3 duck eggs today. That means every single female bird laid an egg today. I'm not sure that has ever happened before. Pretty cool. We gave my in-laws 3 dozen eggs yesterday and I will take a couple dozen in when I go to see the woman who works on my leg and the receptionist who works at the office there.

I think I'm going to have to make a quiche and a frittata and another meatloaf this week. These all make great lunches and breakfasts, something easy to warm up without stopping to cook while doing homeschool or for DD to take to school.

As soon as I feel good enough I am going to do some serious baking and use up some of the duck eggs. I'd like to make a batch of soft pretzels and a batch of cinnamon rolls for the freezer as well as saving out a few of each to eat now. I'll also make a batch of cloverleaf rolls to eat instead of bread, since it uses eggs and my bread doesn't.

I might even make some egg noodles. And a couple batches of peanut butter cookies, since I have two cups of natural fresh peanut butter in the fridge. But that's definitely next week. Maybe some of it on Sunday. We'll see. I just want a stockpile of baked goods in the freezer for when I get sick again. I've managed bread and pizza dough this week and that's it. Makes me feel like I'm slacking, but I'm not going to push myself when I feel so icky. Not worth it.

I Guess It Sort of Counts as Saving Money

September 27th, 2012 at 05:39 am

Well, I cancelled my dentist appointment for tomorrow. My ear still hurts too much and my throat as well, to sit through a cleaning and after having been on antibiotics for over a week with no progress, I'm sure this is a nasty virus. I didn't want to get them sick there, so I've saved or at least put off, the cost of a cleaning this month. I go three times a year due to some damage caused earlier in life and the third appointment is not covered. I've rescheduled to mid-October, which shifts the payment to a better month and hopefully that gives me enough time to get over this forsaken thing.

Oh, it is better than yesterday, though so hopefully that means I'm on the upswing. Yesterday was "oh my gosh, I think I'm going to die from this ear pain, will it never end," and today was "I think I'll live but I'm not going to enjoy it." LOL So a tiny bit of progress. At least I have my sense of humor back, right?

I have missed three weeks of seeing the woman who works on my leg due to her car accident, so that $90 a week has eased things a bit. She called me today and we've tentatively scheduled for Monday, but with the understanding that either one of us was likely to cancel depending on health or injury status. It was good to hear from her. She's become a dear friend over the last couple of years and we chat non-stop when we have a session.

----------

Homeschool has gone much, much better this week. We are getting through things better. Math and literature take more than the allotted time, but the other subjects go faster so it all evens out. Today we only put in a half an hour more than the required time and I can see that things are beginning to go more smoothly on DS's end as he gets into the swing of it. I am pretty sure neither one of us is going to go crazy now.

------------

The garden continues to chug along. Today I picked green beans, tomatoes, a kohlrabi, and some more prunes. The broccoli is getting bigger right on schedule and there are several tomatoes getting red and another kohlrabi that will be ready soon.

The pears on my table are now ripe so I will try to make and can the pear sauce tomorrow, though all I want to do is just bite into those lucsious things and eat them straight. Must resist. There will be more for that.

About half the tomatoes on the table are ripe, too. I hope the rest get there before I need to do something with the ones that already have because I don't want to make two small batches of sauce I want to make one big one.

---------

I am making chicken stock overnight in the crockpot. I've got 4 chicken carcasses and a bunch of vegetable peelings that I've been saving in the freezer as well as a fresh leek and some sad looking but still decent parsley and other herbs from the garden. In the morning there will be beautiful, delicious broth for mere pennies. I may end up doing chicken noodle soup tomorrow instead of pizza because of my throat. I have some diced, cooked chicken in the freezer I can throw in to make it pretty easy as well as some fresh veggies I can chop and let simmer all day tomorrow. If I have enough leftover stock I will can it, otherwise I will freeze it.

And I think that about covers it.

Househunting and Old House Update

September 25th, 2012 at 03:31 pm

While looking at house listings last week, we ran across two rather surprising options. One is a 1900 farm house, 4 bd, 2.5 bath, 1827 square feet on almost half an acre. Although it is two stories, the master is on the main floor. It also has low porches so not a lot of stairs. And a great, big, wide farm kitchen with lots of light. It's $229,000. I think it's so low because it is near the freeway. The house has special insulation so that you can't hear freeway noise inside the house. Freeway noise outside the house doesn't really bother us because we lived off a highway for ten years and there are plenty of trees towards that side of the property to mute it.

Then there was a 1959 rambler, also on almost 1/2 an acre. It's not as many square feet, 1453, but has a bigger garage and several outbuildings. It is fully fenced. It has a great kitchen, but definitely looks like the era it comes from. It is in a more out of the way location, but not so far as too make anything difficult. The only thing is that there is a fair amount of traffic and the driveway is sharp. Fortunately it is also big enough to turn around in and come out face first instead of trying to back out. Because of the slope it sits on (part flat, part hill) it might be difficult to mow, but it has a ton of established fruit trees on the slope so the land is productive, and we could get a pro in to mow if it was too hard to maintain. It is $235,000. There is also a McMansion for sale next to it for $800,000. Way out of our price range, but it's a pretty view to look at.

We've done drive-bys and these are definitely on our list of ones to visit if they are still there in a couple of months or if they happen to have an open house.

It is nice to see that there are houses in the low end of our price range with actual land. I'd far rather have a mortgage of $200,000 than $350,000. For the most part that has meant looking at houses on 1/4 acre or less, but knowing there are older, less expensive houses with almost 1/2 an acre to be found is nice. And there is no rush. There will be plenty of time to really look once the house sells. If it sells.

Two other options we have looked at before are still available. One is in the perfect location and is really nice, if a tad bit on the small size. Still big garage and a shop for storage so I can work with a smaller house in those cases. It is really nice and has just dropped from $250,000 to $243,500. I would have to take down a couple of trees that aren't too big to make any sort of a garden and it is a smaller lot than I want, but again, perfect, perfect location. I'd be doing a lot of container gardening. But there'd be no chance of keeping chickens. Rabbits, yes, but not enough open space for chickens.

The other is the first house by the freeway, the one with the perfect gourmet kitchen and large back yard, garage and shop. This one we've been inside. Plenty of space and manicured flower beds I would turn into a vegetable garden. Again, freeway noise in the front yard, funeral home/crematorium, memorial park, and elementary school nearby, but you can't hear any of the noises from any of those things in the back yard or the house and I'd spend no time in the front yard as it's tiny. It's sitting at $300,000 now, was at $315,000 for a year. It's quite large, one floor, and handicapped accessible. I think we could get them to come down on price if we were serious about it since it has been on the market well over a year, coming up on 18 months. It's a little further from the perfect location house, but still pretty close, within walking distance to both my mother's house and Trader Joe's and the high school.

We are still a few weeks out from putting our house on the market. The outside painting of the house, front and back porches, and shed is complete. Two interior rooms have been painted and next weekend they hope to finish with that. They also need to put up the new gutters and drainpipes, replace the broken window pane and paint the play structure, as well as paint the new porch overhang on the shed roof and put new roofing on the shed roof since it is two different colors from a previous repair after a major windstorm a few years back. The house looks pretty nice now, though I don't like the exterior color much.

Originally I asked for a pale blue with gray trim, this is sort of a beigy-green with white-gray trim. But I did okay it. The painter gets to keep any leftover paint from previous jobs and he had a bunch of this from one, so we got the outside paint free and I am not looking a gift horse in the mouth. If I had to live in it, that would be another thing entirely and I would have paid to tint the paint a different shade.

Once all the painting is done we will have someone come in and give an estimate on carpet cleaning and whether or not it's worth it to bother or just put in new carpet. I think we can keep all the carpet in the bedrooms, but the carpet in the living room and great room will have to be replaced. We'll see. Then once the carpets are done it will be ready to be sold.

Everyone seems to be agreed on $110,000 as a starting price (except DH and I). We want to see what a realtor says. House is assessed for taxes at $91,000. I am thinking more along the lines of $90,000 as a starting place.. I know how long houses sit out there if they are overpriced. We paid $65,000 and honestly I'd be happy to just get $10,000 above that at this point. It would give us $40,000 for a downpayment, pay the realtor, and pay off the remaining mortgage, and give us a little extra in the bank for all those unexpected expenses that crop up when buying a new house.

The Harvest Continues and the Adventures of Georgie

September 25th, 2012 at 04:38 am

The garden seems like it really ought to be slowing down. The days are in the high 60's to low 70's and the nights have been in the high 50's. Still, things continue to grow and some things are just coming into their own. We are eating as much from the garden as possible right now. I am buying no produce this week. It is nice to keep the grocery budget lower by making use of the bounty, but not have to skimp on what I feed my family.

I will need to get on a ladder to get the prunes off the higher branches this week. I've pretty much picked the lower branches clean. So far my plan to can has been thwarted by the fact that everything is getting devoured fresh. Ah, well. Maybe once I get those tall ones down.

Here is today's harvest:



The kohlrabi will be eaten at breakfast and lunch tomorrow. I'm pretty sure the prunes are probably gone, consumed to the kids. The green onions will be used tomorrow in a lunchtime low-carb meatloaf and the green beans will be in tomorrow's dinner.

Over half of my table is taken up with produce ripening. I will be making pear sauce in a few days with these:



And I hope that these will be done ripening by the weekend so they can go into the crockpots for sauce and then to be canned.



I am hoping to harvest this broccoli by the end of the week:



And in the patch on the far side of the house I see that the Romanesco is finally heading up. It'll probably take more than a week for these to start to be ready, but at least they finally are producing.



I've never eaten this type of broccoli before. It's an heirloom variety I guess and supposed to be very tasty. Let's hope so because I have quite a few of them planted.

I still have quite a few tomatoes coming on. I pulled the blossoms off several of the plants so they could focus on sizing up and ripening the remaining green tomatoes between now and cold weather. Anything that is a blossom now would have no chance to become anything before first frost so it makes no sense for the plant to split its energy.

This lovely pink rose is growing up through the center of the blackberry brambles. It is a gorgeous spot of color.



There were only five chicken eggs today and 1 duck egg. The days are getting shorter, which means they may not lay as much, but they may be hiding their eggs again, too, since most of them can get out now.

Georgie has managed to get herself up on the roof of the house several times now. She flies to the top of the tall gate and then from there flies to the roof. It is so funny to see her walking along up there. Of course by the time anyone can get a camera she is back down. No one else seems to be following her example, not even Curious, the hen that is Georgie's twin and was always the adventure leader up until now. But then they are both mischief makers or they wouldn't be named after an adventurous monkey, now would they?

Menu Planning

September 25th, 2012 at 12:18 am

My ear was still killing me yesterday so I didn't get around to making up a menu plan. It is a teensy bit better today. I'm hoping that means I am on the upswing.

This week's menu is made up with everything I need already on hand, either in the pantry/fridge/freezer or from the garden (lots of green beans and prunes, as you can see). Grocery shopping is the last thing I want to do right now with this cold.

Anyway, this week's menu plan is as follows:

Monday--
Pot roast
Stir-fried green beans
Italian prunes

Tuesday--
Chicken stir-fry with broccoli, celery, carrots, green beans
Italian prunes

Wednesday--
Roast chicken
Baked potatoes
Stir-fried green beans
Pears

Thursday--
Homemade pizza with homemade sausage, orange bell pepper, and yellow onions
Garlic bread
Cole slaw

Friday--
Baked potato soup
Italian prunes
Cole slaw

Sauturday--
Chicken noodle soup
Drop biscuits with homemade jam

Sunday--
Teriyaki beef
Egg fried rice
Stir-fried green beans

She Was a Good Car

September 23rd, 2012 at 06:56 pm

Well, with 147,530 miles on it, our 20 year old Crown Victoria has gone to its new home. After putting in $1000 worth of labor fixing up and painting our old house, it's gone to one of the workman who bartered that labor for it. It was a little sad seeing it being driven away, but also nice knowing it's gone to a good home with people who really needed a nice family car. And he knows how to pop the dent out that my mother gave it when she backed her truck into it with the tailgate down.



I think this is the only nice photo I have of it that doesn't have a family member in it. That was the first nice car we ever bought and only the second car I'd ever owned. It was a 1992 that we bought in 1998 for $13,000 with only 19,500 miles on it. It had been beautifully maintained and it purred like a kitten. It was one of the most comfortable riding cars I've ever owned. When we bought her they said she should get to 200,000 miles easy, possibly 250,000 on that engine. She was still beautiful.

We weren't driving it because it needed brake work and a new battery, so we've essentially been a one car family for quite some time, but now it's official. On Monday DH takes the little paper down to the courthouse to make it legal and then he goes to the insurance company to drop the insurance on it. It won't be much of a difference because it only had the most basic stuff on it as it was so old, but it will be a little less.

It kind of feels like the end of an era seeing it go, but I'm glad it went to be reused instead of recycled. It was in too nice of a physical shape for me to be happy with the idea of it going to a junk heap when with a little work on the brakes it is perfectly useable for several more years.

It will cost us $5 to transfer title, but that's an acceptable amount to us for the amount of work we got on the house for it.

Sick and School

September 22nd, 2012 at 08:30 pm

I feel like I have been sick with one thing after another since we came back from our mini-vacation to the Tacoma zoo a few weeks back. First it was food poisoning or a stomach virus that lasted for three weeks, then a head cold, then I was just getting better from that and came down with a sinus infection. Now in the middle of being treated for a sinus infection I've got this tremendous ear ache. I sent DH to the pharmacy to pick up some ear drops for me because it was hurting so bad. I think my eustation tube is blocked. I've tried to pop it to no avail.

Anyway DH got me Hylands homeopathic drops and they have eased the pain a great deal. I really like Hylands as a brand. We used their flavorless teething gel and teething tablets for our kids when they were little (and the gel I've used a couple of times myself when I bit my tongue, it's good stuff). I am able to eat now without it hurting so bad I want to give up food.

It's been a hard week to get through between that and homeschooling. I don't know what WAVA has done between now and when DD took 7nth grade through them, but the work seems a lot more advanced and to take a lot longer for DS to get through. Where DD would be done with her work in 3 to 4 hours, DS is taking more than the allotted 6 to get through it. The math is really difficult. I've been going through it with him. Well, it's not hard for him, it's just that there is so much of it and so much explanation. Last year at the middle school his homework was usually 5 or 6 problems and with WAVA there are 20 problems on top of the stuff he does online. I do not think this is the change from regular public school to online public homeschool.

The same thing is going on in literature. At the public school it's reading one chapter a day and answering a few questions. In the online school it's reading 4 chapters a day, answering several discussion questions, answering several multiple choice questions, and writing an essay question answer daily. I actually think he does more in the course of one day's assignment than he did for one week's worth of work before. This feels like high school level work to me and not middle school.

He's perfectly capable of it, don't get me wrong, but we haven't even gotten all of the books yet. We are only doing literature, math, science, art, and history. We haven't even gotten vocabulary or grammar yet. We're already clocking about 7 hours. Add in another 40 minutes of work...I just hope it eases up a bit. Otherwise I'm jumping ship and designing my own curriculum.

DH leaves on Monday, too, which means it will all fall on me. I really hope I will not go nuts. I really need to get well so I don't feel so overwhelmed by it all.

It was nice to hit the weekend and not have to do any school work. I had a chance to catch up on all the blogs I've missed this week. I had planned to go to the farmer's market to get tomatoes today and start more sauce going, but I'm not sure I have the energy. I might just send DH by himself. I don't think I should wait another week, because the weather has swung and there may not be tomatoes by then.

I Made More Applesauce

September 21st, 2012 at 09:14 pm

We have this really ancient apple tree in the backyard. It has Bramley apples on it, which are probably the sourest apples I've ever tasted. These are cooking apples, not eating apples. They do make a good applesauce, but you definitely have to adjust to taste. I thought I'd walk you through my process today, since making applesauce is one of the easiest things to make. You don't even have to can it if you think you can eat it up fast enough. But it's one of the simplest things to can, too.



Pick your apples (or pick them up if they are windfalls). For this batch I did as many as would fit in my eight quart crockpot, 14. Wash them well, particularly if you don't know where they came from. Peel them and cut them into pieces, cutting out the core. I end up with about six pieces. You can use one of those apple cutters that cores, but I've found that on oddly-shaped apples, or ones as large as Bramleys that it doesn't work well. It's faster just to cut them. Set aside your cores and peels. You should have a pretty large bowlful like this:



Fill the crock with your cut apples as you go. They'll discolor pretty fast but that doesn't matter as the cinnamon will make them brown anyway.



For sour apples start with a cup of sugar. You can adjust this later to taste if you need more. Sweet apples generally don't need sugar added at all.



Add the cinnamon. I use a TBSP.



I don't mix it around at this point, I just put the lid on and set it for four hours on low. After 2 hours I mix it up. The apples will be softening and it is easier to stir.

After 4 hours take a potato masher and mash the apples into sauce.



It'll be thick and goopy. Taste it and see if you need to add more sugar. We did to these super sour apples and ended up adding another 1 1/3 cups for a total of 2 and 2/3 cups. If there are still some hard apple pieces that can't get to mash you can let it go another hour or two until they do mash. If they all mash and you want it to be less chunky you can give it a quick spin in the blender. I just usually stir it after mashing it to get it to a better consistency.

Make sure your jars are hot and your lids and rings have been boiled for 10 minutes. Put sauce into jars making sure to run a knife through each jar to get rid of air bubbles. You want to have an inch of headspace from the top of the jar. Wipe the rim well to make sure there is no residue on it. Place on lids and tighten rings. Place in your boiling water bath canner and lower the rack down. Put on lid. Process for 15 minutes for half-pints or pints. Remove from the canner and place onto a towel on your counter and leave them alone for 24 hours. They will seal (usually in the first 30 minutes but it can take a big longer), sometimes even when you're taking them out.

I got 9 half-pint jars out of 14 apples. Your outcome will vary based on the size of your apples and the number. I've got 16 half-pints on the shelves now and 4 in the fridge. My shelves are looking nice.



I'll be making pear sauce later this week using the same method.

Now there are things you can do with that bowl of peels and cores. Making apple jelly comes to mind: http://voices.yahoo.com/how-homemade-apple-jelly-peels-cores... Or you can make homemade pectin (just search for pectin from apple cores and skins).

Now I didn't do either of those things because I didn't have time this week. I gave the cores to the chickens and put the skins in the compost (they don't like the skins of these apples), but at some future point I may try the apple jelly recipe and I'll let you know how it goes if I do.

I Learned Something New

September 21st, 2012 at 06:26 pm

In my quest to find foods locally or produce them myself, I've been wondering about things like spices. Most spices are fairly easy to grow, some a bit harder, and a few you really wonder about. The one that I've been thinking about the most is salt. I know you can evaporate and re-evaporate salt water, but my access to salt water is around the port. Not exactly the cleanest place in the world to get salt. So I looked around to see if we didn't have naturally occurring salt flats around here. We don't.

So then I started wondering about other sources off and on, but it wasn't really percolating in my mind too much. However, yesterday while DS and I were doing literature, we're reading My Side of the Mountain, the boy in it talked about using hickory limbs to make salt. So I did some research and it seems there are two methods of using hickory to make salt. In one you burn the limbs and use the ashes for salt and in the other you boil the roots and the salt crystalizes on the side of your bowl. I think I'd definitely prefer the second method.

It's not like I'm going to stop buying salt, but I do want to see if I can make it. Of course we don't have a hickory tree, but I am going to start looking around for one and see if I can't get a bit of root or branches to try it with. It seems like a nice exercise in frugality.

Woo Hoo

September 20th, 2012 at 03:46 am

I have broccoli! I know that is a silly thing to be excited about, but I really did not think it was ever going to produce heads and what do you know, it did. Or at least two of them have and I think the others canít be too far behind them. They have been taunting me for ages with big, lush leaves and were well past the 90 days it should have taken. Maybe the weird weather in July messed with it or something, but at least it looks like I am going to have a harvest.

I need to make some space in the freezer for some of it just in case each plant does actually produce. I planted an awful lot of it and Iíd like to have some in the freezer for December to June when itís expensive. Itís super cheap right now, even the organic, because itís in season summer to late fall, but once the price jacks up it will be nice to have some frozen the day it was picked broccoli for meals.

When I was out watering tonight, I spied 3 cucumbers growing, 2 slicers and 1 pickling. The 4th plant is a pickling cucumber that has never even flowered. It was nice to see some cukes because I adore them and there is nothing like them freshly picked. Iíve only gotten 1 cuke so far this summer so I was really happy to see them.

Iíve got some red tomatoes that need a couple more days on the vine and I picked another kohlrabi
today. I also filled the harvest basket with Italian prunes and picked a few more handfuls of green beans. This green bean teepee has the little plants that could, I tell you. It will be ready to pick again in two days.

Iíve had enough produce picked this week that I havenít had to buy anything from the grocery store except milk and pure maple syrup. And my mom gave us some lovely sweet corn that was delicious.

I am gearing up to do another major tomato sauce canning session this weekend. I am hoping to buy enough to finish our sauce needs for the year, but that may take another weekend as well.

Iíve nearly filled two big shelves with home canned food this summer and I hope to still do green beans, of which Iíd like to have 52 quarts, total. That might not be possible, but it sure would be nice not to have to worry about our major low carb vegetable for a whole year. Canned green beans have gotten quite expensive in the store, to the point where itís much cheaper to buy them fresh in season and do it myself. And it would sure make my future grocery budgets that much lower.

Iíd also like to do corn, but I can still get corn for .79 a can from Trader Joeís and itís a BPA free can liners so itís pretty low on the agenda. Plus, I havenít been able to source organic corn. Not that corn is on my list of things that should be organic. I just prefer them to be not GMO, and that can be pretty hard outside of places like TJís or food co-ops. One of these years Iíll start growing some heirloom Bantam corn, but thatís also pretty low on my list of priorities. I have potatoes for the starch gap so as much as we like corn, itís such a space hog and needy feeder that so far itís not been worth it to grow much of it.

We built a new duck den today. Mom and I recycled the box springs that broke (right after the warranty was up) from the new mattress set DH and I bought in January. We were able to expand their habitat quite a bit and they seem happier having more space. There were Bungie cords and zip ties involved, because we are women and donít believe in ďman toolsĒ like drills and screws unless we have to use them, but so far it seems very serviceable. And Iíve never met a raccoon that can undo a zip tie, while I have seen the results of one that managed to unscrew a screw. Part of the fence still needs repair, but hopefully that will come soon.

Mom managed to do a face plant at the end of the day, tripping over a windfall apple. She seems to be doing okay, though, but I imagine sheís going to be one big bruise in the morning. This is one of the reasons I am going to worry about her when we move out. She takes a lot of tumbles. She seems no worse for wear afterwards, but one of these days sheís going to break something. Well, once weíre going all I can do is make sure I check up on her every day so that I know sheís not laying out there helpless. And eldest sister might just move back in when we move out. Sheís 11 years older than me, on her own, and she gets lonely. I would feel better if she did come stay with Mom. Momís 73 now and she needs someone around, but I have two other sisters and I canít do it all myself forever.

Homeschooling Update

September 18th, 2012 at 11:21 pm

DS has finished all of his placement testing and he's been able to do all the introductory lessons that teach you how to get around the WAVA system and the live interface that he needs to use for an hour a week with the actual teacher. Mostly it was like before, but they have changed a few things since the last time he was homeschooled. He has also been able to start on history and math since those textbooks are available online. And the first art lesson was as well as the first science lesson, so we are at least able to get his hours in and do some work.

His books should arrive on Monday. They were shipped yesterday and it says 4-5 business days. Whether or not it actually will show up on time remains to be seen, but we are hopeful. I still think it would have been less work to make my own curriculum, and more fun, too, but he wanted to do this and it is free so we'll try it for at least the semester.

I still kind of feel like homeschooling him is going to be the death of me. He can just be so difficult to get to do anything when he decides he's not capable, even if he really is capable. He is brilliantly intelligent, with a genius level IQ, and probably the smartest person in our family, but he has always learned differently than the standard methods teach things, so he gets it in his head he is stupid because he can't always learn from that method of teaching. And he's impatient so doesn't always want to wait for me to find the method he needs. But once I do and once he gets it, there is no stopping him. There is just so much frustration in getting over that hump.

It is more stress than I really want to deal with, but I don't really have a choice. It's either homeschool or put him back into the middle school where he was assaulted, given a brain injury, and they didn't do a darn thing to help him, or put him into the middle school with a major drug problem, or put him into the midle school with a power-tripping principal that by all accounts is worse than the one we had to deal with, or put him into the one that would be 40 minutes of driving every day, which my leg still cannot handle. No thank you.

Spider Plant and Gardening Update

September 18th, 2012 at 03:44 am

Remember that itty bitty spider plant start my chiropractor gave me a few months ago?



Well, now it looks like this:



Not bad for free. Not bad at all. I am going to have to transplant it into a bigger pot soon. I am trying to find a ceramic one amongst all of my mother's old pots. I don't like cheap plastic in the house or terra cotta inside, either. If she doesn't have one I will look at Goodwill. I don't want to buy a new one if I don't have to. I think my free plant should have a free or second hand pot to grow up in.

Here is today's harvest basket:



There are about 30 Italian prunes, enough green beans for a meal, 2 tomatoes that were on dead vines so I went ahead and picked them to finish ripening inside, the last bell pepper because it looked like something was trying to eat it, and a kohlrabi. Still no sign of broccoli on the big, lush broccoli plants. I'm still hoping.

It was cold this morning, 45 degrees, but we had a high of 82 at 4 p.m. There are more tomatoes ripening. I am hopeful tonight won't fall below 50 as it is 8:30 and only at 60. If it gets too far below 50 too many nights the tomatoes will be done. The squashes are doing well, the zucchini is slowly producing and I've still only gotten one cucumber from four plants.

We figured out where the ducks were getting out and patched the hole in the fence. Thankfully it is not them flying out or the gate, though the gate still needs to be replaced with something more substantial. We got 11 chicken eggs and 2 duck eggs today. They are really trucking along well.

DD has a severe enough sinus infection that the doctor put her on antibiotics for three weeks. Now if I can just get her P.E. teacher to quite defying me on the orders to keep her inside and not make her go outside during 1st period this week when it's 45. They are supposed to be doing basketball and volleyball only, inside the gym only, but this guy got it in his head to go off syllabus and make them play softball. She has too many health problems for outdoor P.E. I am so tired of school employees not listening to us. It was bad enough when their errors caused my son to be badly injured last June, but if they give my daughter pneumonia on top of it I am done with them and she can homeschool, too.

Oh, and Snafu asked for an update the other day on DS. Although he has healed from the majority of the symptoms from his brain injury, he still has balance problems and some minor focus problems. He cannot yet balance on a bicycle. And he's still jumpy as heck if someone comes up behind him unexpectedly like the boy who attacked him did. But homeschool is going on pretty well now that WAVA finally got its act together and we could actually start it. He's really enjoying it so far.

Meal Planning

September 17th, 2012 at 10:03 am

Since I can't sleep, I figured I might as post the week's meal planning.

Monday--
Pizza (this was supposed to be Sunday, but we ended up having homemade bacon burgers with thick slices of onion instead, so good) with pepperoni, ham, red bell peppers, and yellow onions.
Cole slaw

Tuesday--
Roast chicken
Baked potatoes
Green beans
Watermelon

Wednesday--
Tacos
Italian prunes

Thursday--
Loaded baked potato soup
Fresh baked bread with butter and homemade jam
Green beans

Friday--
Bacon cheeseburgers
Homemade French fries
Salad
watermelon

Saturday--
Braided chili loaf
Galia Melon
Coleslaw

Sunday--
Pot roast
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Green beans
Whatever leftover fruit there is

The Great Escape

September 17th, 2012 at 01:15 am

The ducks have finally figured out how to get out of the enclosure. I think they have been taking lessons from Pipsqueak (who thinks she is a duck). They are learning to fly a bit. They aren't very good at it yet, and they may be a bit too heavy to get much height anyway.



I have had to chase them back where they belong a couple of times. If they just stay in the yard it is okay, but if they wander much further they might run up against some dogs. I'm not sure how they are getting out. If they are squeezing through the gate or if they are flying. No one has actually seen them do their Houidini act.

The chickens get out all the time, but they don't wander far. The older ones have trained the younger ones where to stay and also they keep a wary eye out for the neighbor dogs. And they can get back in on their own, but the ducks can't seem to figure out how to get back in, only out. It means keeping the windows open and my ears open, too. Hopefully I can convince Mom to raise the chicken wire higher on the fence and to fix the gate before the weather turns cold.

I have several tomatoes ripening right now and the raspberries are still plugging along. One blueberry bush is finally done. The other has a paltry amount still on it. I should have several kohlrabi ready in a couple more days. Today I picked enough green beans for dinner and there are more sizing up. I also picked enough Italian prunes for dinner. The are ripening a little slower with this 68 to 72 degree weather than they were with the higher temps so I may not be able to can any for a week yet. Of course we are fresh eating a few every day.

Tomorrow I am going to pick apples and make some more apple sauce and can it. I have enough jars to do ten 8 ouncers, so I will do 12 apples. I am doing a different variety this time that is not so tart. DH will be around when it's time to adjust the sugar content to what he likes, but he was really happy with the last batch. He could definitely tell it was made with different apples, but he has liked both so far.

All of my diced tomato pints sealed. I have still not had a canning lid fail to seal, so I guess all tha attention to making sure the rims are clean has paid off. I have them all up on my shelves now. I love looking at my canning stash. All the pretty colors make me happy.

Next Saturday I want to buy more tomatoes for making sauce and maybe some pears, too. DS still wants me to make pear sauce. We are going to go out this week and check on the progress on the house and I will check our tree out there and see if the pears are any good. The tree has not been watered all summer so they may just be wooden. But it does rain more up there so it's possible they got enough water that way. I will also check on the apple tree, though if I remember right it is usually ripe at the first of October.

Wow

September 16th, 2012 at 06:55 am

I just checked my blog stats and so far in half the month I've had as many hits as I usually get in a whole month. In a usual month I get between 40,000 and 45,000 hits, unless I get sick or go on a trip and don't post for a few days. Today I'm just at over 42,000. So who are all you new folks coming by to read me? Or to plow through the archives in a week or two. Introduce yourselves and stay a spell. And I'm curious where you're coming from...

I Don't Care if My Tomatoes Float

September 16th, 2012 at 03:40 am

Because really, if you're going to do the raw pack method you're going to get that. As long as you bubble your jars, no worries. And who wants to make it any harder than you have to by doing the hot pack method when it's 75 degrees out. Oh, yeah, guess what I did today?

I spent most of the afternoon and evening turning this:



...into this:



And I feel an extraordinary amount of satisfaction from it. That's a pretty good number of jars for five hours of work. 21 pints. My goal for the summer was 24 pints of diced tomatoes. I don't know if I'll do more diced or not. I'd need about four more pounds to do that. 3 more pints is probably not worth the effort of getting out the canner and going through the whole process. I think 21 is probably close enough to call it good.

I do need to do a lot more sauce though. I spent $57.25 on organic tomatoes at the farmer's market today and then threw in at least a pint's worth of my own tomatoes. Not bad for a year's supply.

I ended up with 2 pounds of waste just in skins and cores, but the chickens will be happy to eat that with their breakfast tomorrow. I was careful to keep any green bits out, which was probably an additional 2 ounces of waste. That's really not too bad starting with 28 pounds (only 1 of which was mine).

This was my first trip to this farmer's market. It was nice, but not enough shade when the sun is so blaringly hot. It was more blinding than anything. I found a couple of new small, local, organic farms that I will be patronizing in the future.

UGH

September 15th, 2012 at 04:05 am

I made a $300 error in my checkbook. I transposed a number. I found it today when I went to check my bank account to see the amount of the paycheck. Unfortunately the error meant that a couple of checks that went through yesterday weren't backed and the credit union did our privilege pay (overdraft protection good for 10 days to be paid back) twice, which is $13 plus a $2 fee for transferring .69 out of our savings account because if there is any money in the savings account they transfer it first, even if it is a stupid amount that won't cover anything. That is one thing I really hate. Anyway, so that's $28 of fees.

I feel like an idiot, but I'm trying not to be too hard on myself. Here I was thinking I had $92 in that account and I have been so on top of things. I am always so careful about balancing the checkbook and checking the account every other day. I know it's just an accident, but for crying out loud, my degree was in accounting, I know to check for transposed numbers. Thing was, I still couldn't figure it out. DH had to find the error for me. *sighs*

Well, it's sorted now and the checkbook has been rebalanced and life goes on. This is one of the few times I regret not having my EF at the same credit union as my checking, where they could have just transferred the money with the $2 fee. If I need to I'll take the money out of the vacation fund and the laptop fund. We still might be able to squeak by without, but since I am buying those tomatoes tomorrow it might be a little harder to just get by.

I'll try to get a budget post up tomorrow. I feel better when I do that, and not let it slip like I did for several months this year.

Looking for a Recipe

September 14th, 2012 at 12:03 am

Does anyone have a tried and true recipe for making chicken and dumpling soup? I want one that is completely from scratch, no "cream of something" soups, no prepared biscuit mix, no bouillion cubes or stock starter. It can either be starting with homemade stock (I have some in the freezer) or starting with chicken and making the stock. I just want something good and flavorful with no fake food ingredients. Something that could have been made a century ago on your average farm.

Conflicted

September 13th, 2012 at 09:10 pm

The woman who does the therapy on my leg was in a car accident this week. Not horribly serious, but she was rearended and it still hurt a lot. She was hoping to be good enough to come today, but she had to cancel. I feel really bad for her. She has come to be a great friend to me over the last couple of years and I credit her methods for allowing me to walk almost normally again. I really hope she will be okay.

Because she cancelled, the $90 that I normally pay for each 1.5 hour session won't be used. I budget this amount weekly, but in skipping a week of therapy I obviously won't be needing it for it's original purpose. I am debating what to do with it.

I could use it towards buying organic tomatoes for canning. I'd be able to purchase more than I planned on Saturday. Or I could put it in the freezer fund and be that much closer to buying a chest freezer. Either one of these things is an investment in the future food needs of my family, albeit one in a more long term manner than the other.

I should probably aim towards the tomatoes because we won't be buying a beef until June or July of next year and there is plenty of time to get the freezer fund up to snuff. At the same time, it sure would be nice to have the freezer purchased well before we need it. But the tomatoes won't be around for much longer and it really does save a good amount to buy them in season. Argh. This shouldn't be a difficult decision.

Well, No One's Perfect

September 13th, 2012 at 12:21 am

DH is home now and I totally caved on the no eating out thing. It was early dismissal at the high school and it already felt like a long day when we picked DD up at 11:15. After running a few errands we ended up getting pizza out. So NorthGeorgiaGal, you are not alone in not only eating out, but choosing pizza! We must totally be on the same wavelength. I don't feel as bad about it as I might. It's been about 4 weeks for me of no eating out and I plan to go the rest of the month without doing it again. I had to rearrange some money, and I'll pay it back on Friday. Progress, not perfection, right?

----------

WAVA finally has taken its head out of its backside and we should be able to get into the system within 24 hours. I'll believe it when I see it. If all goes well we could be doing lessons as early as Friday, but I am still not holding my breath.

------------

I harvested a pint of green beans, 2 strawberries, 4 blackberries, a handful raspberries, a half pint of blueberries and a half gallon bag of Italian prunes from the garden today. And there were 2 duck eggs and 9 chicken eggs.

-------------

I've been looking for ways of using beef heart, liver, and tongue for when we buy our beef. It seems silly to me to pay for an entire beef and then leave several pounds behind just because we've never eaten organ meat. I was thinking we could just have it ground and I could mix it with ground beef and pork to make sausages. But then it occurred to me that even if we don't like it, the chickens are omnivores and can eat any meat but chicken and they would eat the ground beef organs happily, so it wouldn't go to waste.

I am also planning to get the fat for rendering so we have it for cooking and maybe for soap and candle making, too. But at least for cooking. It would be nice not to have to buy cooking oil anymore, although I'd still have olive oil for some things.

I'm still trying to track down a farm that will sell a whole hog. Most places seem to just do $300 boxes of pork. I'd like a whole one or at least a half, and the fat to render into lard. That's still quite a ways off, even further off than the beef, so hopefully one will turn up by the time I need it.

-----------

This Saturday I hope to make it to the farmer's market so that I can buy the rest of the organic tomatoes I need to finish off our diced tomato needs for the year. I need 25 pounds of tomatoes to do 24 pints of diced. If I can get those put up next week then I'll see about making more sauce. The greater value for me though is in putting up diced ones.

I still have a ton of green tomatoes, but I just don't think I will have enough of them ripe before the first frost hits. Anything is possible, but it's just been a weird year for growing tomatoes. We've had the heat, but...I don't know. And now nights are around 50 and if they drop much lower than that we won't see a lot of these making it to red, at least not on the vine. It's too bad June was constant rainfall. I think that is half the problem. Still if we don't frost until mid to late October I might get enough to put up. We'll see.

Life Goes On

September 11th, 2012 at 03:08 pm

We seem to be getting into a good groove with homeschooling. It makes me hopeful that when we get our actual curriculum that things will go smoothly.

I think I am finally over the stomach virus that has plagued me off and on for the last month. At least I hope so. It's been exhausting.

DH comes home tonight at midnight. It'll be nice to have him here. Maybe he can figure out something for us to do for science while we are waiting on the curriculum to arrive.

DH was approached about a possible job promotion. Not officially or anything. More if the guy they offered it to doesn't take it, if he'd be interested in it. And then it would have to be run through channels to see if all the higher ups would approve. It's not something I'm holding my breath over. It would mean a gross raise of $3850, probably closer to $2850 after taxes or about $275 a month in take home pay. The extra would certainly be nice, but as slow moving as things usually go it could be a year or two down the road anyway.

Chances are that the guy they offered it to is going to take it anyway. But again, the idea that they would consider him for this position at all without him even applying for it and think he could do it, is good. It means they have faith in his abilities to take the next step up. We'll have to wait and see if anything comes of it, but as I said, I'm not holding my breath.

Day 3 No Soda and Menu Planning for the Week

September 11th, 2012 at 12:13 am

I think I am through the worst of the caffeine withdrawal although I did have to take a nap today after DS and I finished with homeschooling to deal with the headache and tiredness.

I forgot to post my menu plan for the week yesterday, so here it is.

Monday--
Pot roast (got moved from Sunday due to too many leftovers needing to be eaten)
Corn on the cob
Green beans
Italian prunes

Tuesday--
Roast chicken
Baked potatoes
Green Beans
Melon

Wednesday--
Beef and vegetable stir-fry
Italian prunes

Thursday--
Spaghetti
Meatballs
Garlic bread
Salad

Friday--
Meatball sandwiches
Cole slaw
Melon

Saturday--
Bacon cheeseburgers
Homemade French fries
Cole slaw
Italian prunes

Sunday--
Homemade Pizza
Cole slaw
Melon

Coin Jar Update

September 11th, 2012 at 12:05 am

I cleaned the change out of my purse today and added $2.66 to the coin jar. Eventual destination is the freezer fund.

Yesterday's Post Got Eaten

September 10th, 2012 at 02:56 pm

I wrote out a fairly long post yesterday, but as often happens when the formatting has been changed on the blogs, it got eaten when I hit post. I know it'll settle down again once all the bugs get worked out, but it's still frustrating to lose a post into cyberspace after not losing one for so long. I got complacent and didn't hit copy/save first.

As I recall I mentioned paying two more bills since I had the money left in the account, the phone bill for the old house of $44.87, and the internet bill for this house of $70.56. Usually these would come out of the next payday, but I figured if I let it sitting there I'd find some way to fritter it away between now and Friday.

I remember being quite annoyed at how full the envelopes from Comcast were. Three extra pages in each one just for their cable listing offerings. I don't get cable, I don't care to get cable and I don't need to see my bills stuffed full with the extra paper. Plus each envelope also had a full page on their Eco-billing. So ironic, Comcast. 4 unnecessary pages per envelope and you want me to think you care about saving paper? I don't think so. I'd go paperless with them, except their website crashes every time I go to use it. They won't combine the two bills in one envelope either since one is for the old house and one is for here, even though both are sent here for payment, which would actually save some paper.

I got the bill for the glasses. It cost $813.23. It is 90 days same as cash. We will pay $213.23 this month and $300 each for the next two months. The dental I finished paying off this month, so the $300 that had been going there will now be going to the glasses starting next month. Once the glasses are paid off I can then look into getting my teeth fixed.

I have enough in checking to cover my appointment on Thursday and $20 bucks left in my wallet for milk and crackers, the only two things on the grocery list I'll need before payday Friday. I am running it this close to deliberately. For one reason, if I don't have the cash to eat out, I won't be tempted, and if I don't have the cash to buy soda, I won't be tempted there either. Or as tempted. I am starting day 3 no soda and I think I am through the worst of the caffeine withdrawal.

Now that the stomach virus has finally settled down and gone away *knocks on wood* I am starting back on controlled carb eating. I feel better with more protein and lower carb veggies making up the bulk of my diet and I get sick far less often when I eat that way and have more energy. I basically have felt sick for the last month so I need the boost of eating better to get me back on track. And I've got some lovely veggies from the garden that need eating.

Speaking of eating I still need to sit down and make a menu plan, but since we didn't end up eating pot roast yesterday, that's on the agenda for supper tonight.

Today's Harvest

September 9th, 2012 at 01:27 am



I barely bought any produce this week. The garden is doing pretty well. It has paid for itself about six times over now. All I bought this week was lettuce and melon.

Today was the first day I had ripe Italian prunes. Another couple of days and there will be a lot more ripe. They are all purple now, just not completely and they are softening nicely. They are beautifully golden on the inside and very juicy. I think these are probably the best of the plums/prunes varieties out there. Definitely time for me to start washing jars in preparation for canning.

The everbearing strawberries continue to chug along. They may not produce much right now, but what they do are very sweet.

I am getting several tomatoes a week, but no really big flush ever happened. Considering how much heat we had this summer, it surprises me. We still may, fall is still a bit off and it's looking like we may have an Indian Summer anyway.

My bunching onions continue to do great and have supplied all my green onion needs for the last few weeks. I usually use two bunches a week, so that's pretty good.

The green beans have produced enough for 3 meals a week for the last few weeks, so that's nice, too. But again, surprisingly, no big flush. I am thinking that maybe the spot I gardened in was just not rich enough in the soil department despite Mom's reassurances. There will be some major ammending next year as I am composting quite a bit right now and the chicken manure will have had plenty of time to mellow but give good results.

I'm still not sure what's going on with the broccoli. Huge, lush leaves, but it never made heads. It looks healthy, it's gotten enough water, and all I can think of is that heat wave in July just really screwed with it.

The Hubbard squash is chugging along. So is the kohlrabi. I have one pepper left that is turning red. The lettuce isn't sure what it's doing. The potatoes are ready to dig at any time now. Just a matter of getting out there and doing it.

There were 2 duck eggs and 8 chicken eggs today so all seems well on that front. All in all, though I could be happier with some things, there's been enough food produced to make it worthwhile. And I know what to change for next year.

Ranch Day

September 9th, 2012 at 12:33 am



Today was our trip down to Skagit River Ranch to buy our organic, sustainably and humanely raised protein. Originally we were going down every four weeks, but it's spread out to about every six weeks now as we realized the amount of meat we were buying was lasting that long or a bit longer. Today I spent $290 there. For that amount I got 4 2.5 pound beef chuck roasts, 1 4.5 pound chicken, 18 pork chops (each pack of two chops averages 1.2 pounds), 3 packages of bacon, 4 1 lb packages of hamburger and 2 1 lb packages of ground pork.

I still have some bacon, hamburger, sausages, stir-fry beef, a chicken and a couple of steaks from previous trips, so it will definitely be a good six weeks before we go down again, I think. I think I probably could have waited another two weeks, but the kids and I just really needed to get out of the house today and away from the misbehaving nephews for a decent amount of time. Thankfully they go back home tomorrow.

I have decided we will likely not get a turkey from them this year. The smallest they are figuring on having is the 15 to 20 pounds range and I don't like to buy a turkey more than 12 pounds and that's hard enough to get used up even with my various recipes for soup, enchiladas, cacciatore, quesadillas, subs, turkey TV-style dinners, etc. And at $7.85 pound we're talking $118 for the minumum weight. I can get a good, organic, turkey locally for $50, so I can't justify the cost out of our current budget. Beef maybe, but turkey, no. No one likes it enough for that kind of cost and we are trying to do this sustainable thing without breaking the budget completely.

One of the things I am considering is maybe getting a larger turkey and asking the butcher to cut it in half and wrap each half and then maybe making one for Thanksgiving and the other for Christmas. It would be a way of not having so many leftovers all in one go and seems like perhaps a more economical solution than buying two 12 pound birds, since the meat to bone ratio is better on a larger bird. Either that or maybe we'll just have duck for Christmas. No, not one of our ducks! But a $20 organic duck would leave us with very little in the way of leftovers, plus provide a carcass for soup that will reasonably fit in the crockpot.

We have a duck in the freezer that we should try before the holiday and make sure we like it. Wouldn't want to ruin the holiday with a meat no one will enjoy. Another solution might just be two large chickens with all the trimmings. I'll have to think on it.

----------

I am making the attempt to get myself back off the soda. Even if the cola I am drinking does not have high fructose corn syrup in it, that doesn't make it good for me. I've felt tired ever since I started it up again. And it does get to be an expensive habit at 2 cans a day. So today is day one. So far I still really, really want it.

Feeling Much Better Today--Payday Stuff

September 7th, 2012 at 07:28 pm

I am starting to feel like my old self again today. What's more, the nephews seem to have had an attitude adjustment and are behaving better today, which makes my attitude far better as well. DS and I got through our homeschooling by eleven. I am thinking of buying a science program to hold us over until WAVA gets its act together, but I don't know if I want to have the expense. I am thinking I might be able to put something together from the library. Maybe pick something I know a lot about like coral reefs and make up a unit study on it.

After that I worked on the budget, paid bills, and entered everything into the spreadsheets. Here's what went out of today's payday:

$300.00 to pay back the Freezer Fund
_375.86 mortgage
__46.00 allowances for two weeks
_757.82 car payment (plus extra principal)
_300.00 dental (finally paid off crowns)
__10.59 medical DS
_100.00 propane fund
_100.00 property tax fund
_100.00 Mac Book fund
_100.00 vacation fund
__17.00 HoA dues fund
_300.00 Cash for sustainably raised meat purchase
_587.39 Fashion Bug (in full)
_100.00 Chase (no interest)
__64.30 BoA MC (in full)
__41.16 ADT security system monitoring
-------------
3300.12 money out

I've got a couple hundred dollars left in checking after this. It is earmarked for groceries.

Fashion Bug was a one time purchase of back to school clothes for my daughter and clothes for me. I haven't been shopping since I lost the 50 pounds so I ended up buying a few things while we were there. I paid this in full. The only reason I used the card was for the discount.

BoA MC was used because DH accidentally forgot the credit card he uses for day to day purchases one day and only had this one in his wallet. Normally there is no balance on this card. This was paid in full.

Chase is no interest for 18 months and we transferred a good chunk of what was on the BoA Visa onto it with the plan of paying off the BoA Visa while taking advantage of the Chase intro rate.

I went ahead and fully paid back the freezer fund from the money I borrowed from it last month to pay for medical, I think it was.

I took out $300 for our trip to the sustainable, organic farm tomorrow. I will be buying our month's supply of beef and pork. Any money left over will go into the freezer fund.

Still Dragging

September 7th, 2012 at 02:53 am

I am still really wiped out today. I am not sure why as I feel like I got enough sleep, but I just feel like a zombie.

My nephews are driving me crazy. Well, the younger one is the worst. He's being extremely disrespectful to my daughter. He also brought some video games with him that are rated M and are basically those games where you just murder people, including hookers and drug dealers. I told my son he couldn't be up there with them while they were playing those games. I am shocked that my sister is letting her kids even play those games considering how conservative she is about things.

My nephews also decided it would be fun to go lay down in the middle of the street after dark last night. It was still early, just dark. My son's no longer allowed to go outside with them unless my daughter or an adult is there. My son was pretty much freaking out when they did this last night, but he didn't tell me last night. He told me today. I kind of thought my twelve-year-old would be safe with them since they are 15 and 18, but clearly he is not.

I knew that my mother was going to invite them down and then basically ignore what they were doing and all this was going to fall on me to take care of them and my kids to entertain them. It's what she always does. I really did not want them here during the first week of school as it would make things really hard on us. I told her she should have invited them in the summer and when DH was home to help, but of course that would have inconvenienced my sister (who is supposed to be homeschooling the youngest right now). And heaven forbid we ever inconvenience my sister.

Well, I'm not taking up the slack this time. I am too tired and sick to deal with them so basically my kids and I are staying in our wing of the house and leaving them to their own devices. When they came down here whining about being hungry I told them to go tell their grandmother as she's in charge of them, not me. Or to *gasp* make their own food. They're certainly old enough. And Mom bought them enough junk food to feed an army, including a bunch of stuff that my son likes but is allergic to.

I will be so glad when they go home. It's times like this that I hate living here. Most of the time I'm okay with it, but right now it's all just making me so irritable. I am so glad that our house will be done in about two more weekends and then we can put the thing on the market and hopefully it will sell and we can buy a new house and get the heck out of here.


<< Newer EntriesOlder Entries >>