Sunday, December 28, 2014

I do my best work in Pajammas

Years ago, many, seriously, many years ago, I sold Mary Kay cosmetics.  Didn't do too bad all things considered, but I couldn't have supported myself on it.  I sold mainly to get the products for myself at cost.  Anyway, I remember attending a seminar when I first started selling that supposedly would help me be successful in my new endeavor.  The speaker said we would be more successful if we got up each morning, got dressed in a nice outfit, and did our hair and makeup before making our calls (cold calls that is...telemarketing,,,,,,ick).  She said we would be more successful because we would feel successful and it would be projected through our voice into the phone.  I don't know how true that is.  I tried it both ways and never saw much of a difference.  Could have been though the reason for that was my less than enthusiastic view of cold calls.

Anyhoo, one thing I have noticed about  myself over the years; I get more accomplished in PJ's.  Yesterday I started putting Christmas decorations away in my PJ's and robe.  Started nothin, I put decorations away in my PJ's.  I didn't change until well into the afternoon.  I have cleaned my entire house in my jammies.  I have canned quarts of produce in my jammies, I have painted rooms in the house....in my jammies.  I have sewn complete outfits ...in my jammies.  Are you seeing a picture developing here?  I know, sorry if I am generating a visual of me in jammies.  Can't be helped.   I am a person who once started on a task can't be distracted by a little thing such as changing ones clothes.  I am also a person who once I decide to start, I start.  It's what I do,  It's who I am, and it has served me well all these years.

No real point to this conversation.  Just sharing one of the things that makes me me.  I am sure I am not the only PJ ensconced Productive Diva.  Anyone else want to fess up?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Another Christmas has past and a New year's on the way!

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas.  I know I haven't had time to do much on here other than a recipe, but I thought about it......does that count?  Our Christmas was great.  First of all I got to have an old fashioned Christmas with my parents, my younger brother and my sister.  Just us.  We had a blast just talking and...well eating way too much.   My sister and I got to share a guest room and we stayed up til nearly 3 in the morning talking.  Apparently loud enough for my Dad to say "Don't make me come in there(Smile).  We exchanged small gifts with our parents and with each other with one exception,  My wonderful sister blessed me with.......A SERGER!!!!  That was a surprise.  Now I have no excuse for not sewing.  The family get together was the next day filled with more "less than stellar"food choices and a White Elephant type game for gifts.  Carols were sung, my Dad, not realizing it wasn't a Santa hat, sported a goofy looking elf type hat.  His first clue to it  not being a Santa Hat should have been everybody taking out their camera for a shot.  Well except me cause I was sitting next to him so didn't realize it until later.  Guess it should have been my first clue too huh?  Our own family Christmas was full of all the traditions we have held each year; Pj's on Christmas Eve, Watching "A Christmas Story" and now "A Christmas Carol".  Plenty of bad food choices there as well.  Our Christmas day was a laid back affair with just us. We opened presents, had a breakfast of Gorilla Bread, Egg custard pie, Sausage cheese balls, Sausage croissants, OJ, Coffee, and Hot Chocolate.  We snacked on that through out the day,  By Friday morning we were like Ughh, I will just have a yogurt please////and water.....just water.   Yea.  Seriously.  We are ready to get back on a healthier heating routine.


So as of today my Christmas Decor is neatly (ummm  yea) packed away.  I don't like looking at decorations past Christmas Day because it makes me sad.  Plus I put my decorations up Thanksgiving week so by Christmas I am ready to pack them up and move on.  I am proud of the fact that I managed to consolidate my decorations into many fewer boxes by getting rid of the packaging of some of the decorations.  They are all wrapped and packed away to avoid any breaking.  Plus I invested a few dollars and bought 3 ornament storage containers.  I only needed to use 2 for ornaments, lights, etc.  The last one I discovered was perfect for storing gift wrap stuff.  So now all my gift wrapping paraphernalia is in one neatly arranged container and in my closet.  While putting decorations away, we had to find new placement for some gorilla shelves and a desk from Rubic's room.  He had received some new black shelves for Christmas and no longer needed those things.  Low and behold the desk fit perfectly next to my sewing desk.  This allowed me to take my serger out and leave it up for any time I sew.

Now putting all the stuff away and putting the normally used home decor out only took about 8 hours.  DH helped putting stuff away and the young men of the family were there for heavy lifting.  So since I had the stuff put away I went out to the garden and harvested what I have of cabbage.  I am sad to say my cabbages did not do as well as I had hoped.  I guess I have about 10 lbs.  Nothing to write home about, but I am going to make sauerkraut none the less.  I am hoping the cooler temps in the house will help make what kraut I make successful.  I have to say a fall garden did not do well so I am planning on just having my spring/summer garden.  There is too much to do in the fall to be worrying over garden plants.  Especially for so little in return.  So as each summer plant is done, I will be putting that area to bed for the fall.  Especially tomatoes.....Especially cherry tomatos!

So that is all for now.  Enjoy some pics of our Christmas !








Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Yep! Just successfully made vegetarian Sausage cheese balls.


 Motivated by the need for my vegetarian son to have more on Christmas morning than Gorilla bread, I tried another experiment. The results were great. Not a good as the real thing, but good none the less. Here is the recipe:

Homemade Biscuit mix (this can be used where ever Bisquik is called for)
5 cups self rising flour
3 TBS sugar
1 cup shortening
1 cup dry milk
Mix flour and sugar together. Cut in the shortening til mix is crumbly. Stir in dry milk

The "Sausage"
1 Pkg of Boca Crumbles, thawed
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp cayane
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 salt
1/4 black pepper

mix all together then add to the bisquik mix. To make up the rest of the recipe, add 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 2/3 cup milk. Fold milk into the mix/sausage/cheese mixture to incorporate it. If you need a little more milk add it a little at a time. Let sit for about 1 hour to let flavors meld. Shape into balls and bake 375 for 15-20 min.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Well you're stuck with me for the duration sooooo Get over it!!!!!

Went into work this morning thinking there was a chance I would be going full time.  The family had discussed this possibility and was on board.  I have to say the thought of more money was nice, but seriously I figured it would mostly go to my Uncle Sam (the mooch).  Though some would stay with us.  I was concerned though that it would limit my abilities to blog, garden, sew, can, etc.  But, as it is, I am still part time.  There may be a time when I go full time, but that is not the case now.

Not too disappointed cause my part time status enables me to continue to regal you with my antics, crazy ideas, recipes, etc.  So get prepared.  I am sure the future holds some crazy ideas that will take a hold.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Today the Perfect day

Well aside from the rain, but in reality it gives the day a homey, cozy feel.  Wednesday was a day off so I spent it cleaning like a crazy person.  No one else was here and so there were no interruptions.  I was able to finish my Christmas Decorations and get things caught up.  Upkeep for the past two days has been relatively simple and my oldest son took care of that yesterday.  This morning the men of the house joined in finishing up the rest of the house management.  While I could have forced the issue, I was overjoyed to see it happen with nary a complaint and they did a great job.  I finished up the ironing and baked a cake.  It is a wonderful feeling to be caught up, but the best part was the great attitude.  Once done with the ironing it was a long phone conversation with my mom while the guys did their own thing.  After the phone call I literally looked around for something needing to be done, but to no avail.  What I did notice was the peace.  The smell of chocolate from the cake and Hazelnut from a candle in my sons room permeated the house.  The lights of both trees sparkled brightly dispelling the gloominess of the cloudy day.  I couldn't help but turn on Christmas music and just savor this time in life.

We are, I am blessed beyond measure.   While I may not have all I want, I have all I need.  Time is so fleeting.  My boys are grown men now.  Living here while finishing up their education, the time will come when they will move on to start their own lives.  My daughter has preceded them by a few years and has added to my life another son in my son in law and two grandsons..  She has her own life and traditions and that is the way of things.  I couldn't be more proud of my children.  Each is different and adds another dimension to  my life.  Each day with my children, my family, my parents, my husband, is precious.  Once missed it can't be regained.  It is a gift.  So I will savor this moment in time.  There will come a day when DH and I will look back and remember when, but for now; I have today.  And it's perfect.












Friday, November 28, 2014

Get it together people! Really!

Every year the stores advertize for Black Friday, offering crazy deals on the lastest craze, but only while supplies last. Every year we are treated to crazy, rude, and sometimes violent people as a back drop to start the Christmas season.  The Christmas season.....a time to remember the greatest gift given, a time of peace, good will toward men.  This year seems particularly egregious because, instead of at least taking a break from the mayhem to be grateful for what we have, the Black Friday maddness started even on Thanksgiving.  It's sad really.  Part of the blame I am sure, lays with the store purposely dangling the carrot before the public to turn us into crazed animals intent only on obtaining "the prize".  You know who else gets the blame?  We do.  A public that willingly succumbs to the stores taunts and throws our better selves away for one more.....thing, gadget, trinket. 

Now don't get me wrong.  Not everyone acts like apes.  I will concede that point, but more and more we are becoming a comsumerist society; basing our status on what we have rather than who we are.  I will confess I look at the ads to see if there is anything to tempt me to venture forth, but more often than not I stay home.  Long ago, before it got too crazy out there, I would go out for the Black Friday shopping.  Then it was fun.  You would wait in line, striking up a conversation with others around you.  Sometimes ads would get passed around so everyone could get one more look.  The doors would open and we would pour in, but rather than trample each other to get to something, we were allies, helping each other get what we wanted for Christmas.  Fast forward some years, and I am dissappointed in what it has become.  For that reason I opted out of Black Friday shopping at the store a few years ago.  I opted out of Thanksgiving shopping all together.  I started some of my Christmas shopping in my Pj's with a cup of coffee at a reasonable hour this morning and then proceeded to put on Christmas music and decorate my house for Christmas.  You know what?  I still got good deals on gifts for Christmas.  I am happy to have started my Christmas shopping (with a budget of course). 

Is there a way we can get back to what Christmas really means and get that special gift for a loved one and do it on a budget?  Yes,  and it doesn't take the government passing a law.  Stand your ground and don't fall for the hype and craziness ginned up by stores.  The great thing about a Free Market is we dictate which direction it goes.  If we willingly throw Thanksgiving away, and make a mad dash for the latest new thing, then they will give us exactly what we want.  But if we stay home on Thanksgiving and treat each other with courtesy and kindness then they will accommodate that as well.  No item purchased at a store is worth the behavior seen on Black Friday.  No excuses. 

Okay, I will give my soap box back now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

WEEEEEEEeeeeeee

I know, seriously sound like I am on a swing set, but no, I am just excited.  Why do you ask?   Well let me tell ya!  We are now the owners of two, count'em two laptops!  I just don't know what to do with myself.  We have never had two pieces of technology at a time.  I mean seriously we still own a VCR.  We don't use it much, but it works and we have movies on VHS to play when the urge hits(not often).  We have a DVD player and hubby just bought a refurbished PS3 about the time the PS4 is coming out.  That's it, but now we have two lap tops.  Wow, two.  Amazing. 

So what happened?

Well I took our broken laptop down to my Mom and Dads for our Thanksgiving get together.  My dad worked on it forever. getting rid of viruses, etc.  It started to feel somewhat better.  We could at least operate it.  Still it was bogged down.  Then my nephew showed up.  My Dad grabbed him and he went to look at it.  Before dinner (Thank you very much Nephew).  I asked my nephew if he was my defender.  His response was that this wasn't defending it was more like the flailing around right before you die.  You see I had gotten a really nasty virus that even deleted, would just pop up somewhere else, under another program.  In addition to that it was inviting other friends over to play.  My poor computer was using every ounce of strength it had to just come on.  The battery was draining and we thought it was bad.  Since repaired the battery holds its charge fine.  I felt bad because all of the work my Dad did ended up being wasted because my nephew had to restore the computer back to factory settings.  It wiped everything. but also the virus.  He then reformated it for me.  Now this computer runs like new.  I am typing this post on my previously hospitalized computer.  And guys, it is true that more than likely the virus came thru on a Microsoft update.  Don't let your computer automatically update.  And be careful what you download.  We thought we were being careful and had done everything right.  Nope.  You can't be too careful. 

 So we have two "new" computers.  I had to go thru and change all of my passwords on just about every webpage.  I strengthend them as well.  I should have done that before.  I had on some pages, but now it is on every page.  I want to say a heart felt "Thank you" to both my Dad and my Nephew.  In exchange for his help, my nephew charged me 1lb of toffee, 1 chicken once butchered etc, and I have to say " he is awesome".  Easy payment plan I must say.  He is Awesome! A little more pricey than Daddy.  Daddy just wants hugs.  I got plenty of them.....especially for my Dad.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oh how the mighty have fallen!

I would love to say it has been a frugal week, but in the dollars and cents area, not so much.  I have done some frugalish things to mitigate the disaster, but it is a drop in the bucket.  Oh to be the type of person that can wire a house, fix a stove, and debugged a really bugged computer.  Then I could wow you all with the frugalness of my ways.  Alas that is not the case and the dollars started stacking. 

SO WHAT HAPPENED!  I hear you all shout to me from cyber space (I know you aren't really, but it makes for a good read wouldn't you say?)

Well for the past few months we have been dealing with our computer being crazy.  We had an automatic update  from Microsoft a couple of months ago, and while I am not saying Microsoft was at fault, it seems about the same time as the update, malware was downloaded to our computer in the form of System Optimizer Pro.  It is nothing but an advertisement to clean up malware (ironically), but instead it bogged down our whole computer.  We tried everything we could to get rid of it, but it kept getting worse.  We planned on taking it somewhere to get fixed/cleaned up.  Now the battery is gone.  In order to use the thing it has to remain plugged in.  Since we were planning on getting a second laptop or tablet after Thanksgiving, we went ahead and ordered another one.  That was Monday.  It did not add to our debt and was simply a move up of an already planned purchase.  We still plan on repairing the laptop if cost effective to do so.  That way DH can have his football on TV and laptop on Sunday and I have a laptop as well. 

Tuesday morning my stove went up in a puff of smoke, taking with it, apparently, the power cord and the outlet.  This stove has been the bane of my existence since we bought it 4 years ago.  This stove was supposed to be a place holder until I could get something better  Then life happened and it stayed.  I have dealt with a possessed stove for years now.  The right front burner will, without warning, go from med low to high and the only way to stop it is to turn it off and wait a few minutes.  It is so badly insulated, that I can keep items warm on top of the stove while baking in the oven.  I mean really warm.  Simmer is a non existent temperature.  The list of Grrrrr things is long so needless to say I was not sad to see the stove bite the dust.  I tried to find a used one, but my mom pointed out that with as much cooking I do, investing in a new well made stove would be wiser than obtaining someone else's headache.  Wise words.  So Tuesday I also ordered a stove.  It will not add to our debt, but only with some maneuvering.  Problem now is, we ordered the stove not knowing the cord and outlet were dead.  Enter a new cord (which we bought and installed) and an electrician for the outlet to the tune of $95 a hour plus parts.  Yay! 

In addition to all of this, Hubby can't find his glasses.  We have torn the house, car, and work up looking for them.  Murphy's law says they will show up after we have ordered another pair.  DH was due for an eye exam and a update to his prescription anyway.  Another blessing is we contribute to a Health Savings account and the money for the glasses will come from there. 

Now in all this "un frugalness", I have managed to do some things frugal.  I used Ebates website to buy my stove at Sears.  I shopped around the stores in my area.  I found the stove I wanted at the Sears store.  Went home and found the exact same stove for the same price as the brick and mortar store but with free shipping.  I went thru Ebates to get 6% back from my purchase and so will get a check for $24 and some change.  I also managed to cook a whole dinner as well as bake biscuits for breakfast this morning on our grill.  Once my stove is back, I will be back to making Granola and Bread for us and I have a long list of items to make to sell.  These are due around Monday.  Pretty much all I make will go back into the savings account for Christmas. 

So now you have it, my drama for the week.  I guess it is time to go watch for the electrician.  You guys have a great day!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Well I can do it.

Today was to be butchering day on the homestead for our resident roosters.  However,  once my friend Jimmy and I had butchered the first two we noticed they were kinda puny.  This surprised me since they are 20 weeks.  Unlike commercial chicken growers, ours haven't been plumped up with designer feed, hormones and such.  Not to mention they have plenty of moving around room, so don't get fat as quick.  That being said, we are waiting at least a few more weeks for the rest.  I do know now I can do it despite many people guessing I wouldn't go thru with it.  Not to say I am cold hearted.  I'm not.  It wasn't easy to do.  Had they all been hens, they would have had a place somewhere.  I will not sell a single rooster.  Not in my area.  My  choices were either sell and hope they were not going to use him for fighting ( not chancing that), keep him and feed him forever til he dies of old age (not), or butcher him.  We went into this knowing there would come a time when we would have to take the responsibility of butchering one or more roosters.  I also take the responsibility for one day having to butcher hens no longer producing.  I didn't go into this to begin a chicken retirement home.  These animals provide a service in either eggs or meat.  One way or the other they provide for my table.  In exchange I provide shelter, food, and care for them while they bless us on earth.  Ideally I would buy my chicken at the store ignorant as to where my meat comes from.  Many people do that very thing.  I guess I have been behind one to many chicken trucks.  At least my birds get fresh air, grass, bugs, and good things to eat.  Not to mention way more room to move around.  SO now I know it can be done.  Thanks Jimmy for your help, instruction, and friendship.. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Finally Chocolate chip granola bars, and the wonders of silicone baking mats.

Much like acquiring the ability to make bread, the art of making a good granola bar has always eluded me.  I would try recipes and they wouldn't be what I was looking for; namely a Nature Valley crunchy type bar.  Most recipes were for chewy granola bars which ended up more sticky and the crunchy ones ended  up hard despite my best efforts.  Granola itself was no problem, but a bar....no chance. 

With the holiday opening of my little "store" of toffee, conserves, etc, wax paper became my friend.  All Hail wax paper!  Anyway, Yesterday, making a batch of just regular granola, I had an epiphany.  What if I just pressed my granola into the cookie pan once it comes out of the oven!  Normally with granola you don't disturb it as it cools and then you break it up.  This time I would take it out of the oven.  Place a piece of wax paper on top and then, using my rolling pin, roll it flat.  Then let it cool.  Problem is I would need to be able to get it out of the cookie sheet without breaking it up.  So I took a piece of wax paper and lined my cookie sheet.  Then prepared my granola according to recipe only this time  after removing it from the oven, I covered it with wax paper and did the whole rolling pin thing.  I also went ahead and cut it into bars before it was cool to also avoid breaking them.  The granola bars turned out great and did exactly what I thought they would do with the exception of one thing.  Not all of the wax paper released from the bar.  It was a messy frustrating process and some of the bars broke.  Grrr.  So close!  So now enter my new best friend in baking.....the silicone baking mat.  I have taken some of the proceeds of my holiday store sales and bought 2 silicone cookie sheet liners.  Since they are reusable, it is a much better investment that wax paper and won't leave bits of paper on the finished product.  As for the actual bars, they have passed inspection from the men in the house and so I can check one more item off my to buy at the store list. 


Chocolate chip Crunchy Granola Bars

4.5 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dry milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
dash salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup oil
1.5 tsp vanilla or vanilla/butter flavoring
1/3 cup choc chips

Take your first 5 ingredients and mix together well on a cookie sheet (lined with a silicone baking mat or sprayed with cooking spray)
In a saucepan, mix the sugar, honey, oil, and extract.  Heat up on med heat just til boiling.  Pour over the oat mixture.  Mix as much as you can with a spoon (cause it will be hot FYI), and then lay the spoon aside and mix with your clean hands.  Spread out equally over the cookie sheet.  Bake in a 325 oven for 10 minutes.  Take out and stir well, spread evenly again and put back into the oven for 5 minutes.  Repeat, place back in oven for last 5 minutes.  Once removed, sprinkle the chips over your granola.  Cover it with wax paper and using a rolling pin, roll it flat, flat, flat.  Go ahead and cut into bars while the mixture is still warm or you won't be able to later.  Once cool, you can break the bars apart and store in an air tight container. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

What to say about Rubic...hmmm

Yesterday we celebrated the 19th birthday of our son, Rubic.  Although he has surpassed me in height by almost a foot, he will always be my baby.  I'm sure he hates that.  There are moments when I see this man before me as he was at five.  Usually those are moments where he is in a vulnerable situation such as illness, or upset about something.  For the most part, he has grown into a confident (sometimes a little too)man.  I enjoy watching this young man full of dreams.  Wanting to be a lot of things at once, travel, etc. basically take the world by storm.  And he is fully capable of doing it if he sets his mind to it.  (Sigh) ahh to be young again.   I remember my dreams.  Some have been fulfilled, and some have been replaced by dreams much better than anything I could think of.  But I digress......

Rubic is my go to guy for all things technical.  While he will be the first to tell you (and he has me) that he doesn't know everything about computers, he knows more than his parents do for sure.   He is also the encyclopedia of all this video, graphic novel, and movie.  He and I kind of have an understanding.  He will drone on about a video game character and my eyes glaze over; much like his do when I talk politics.  We understand these things about each other, but it doesn't stop him from telling me about his interests anymore than it stops me from sharing mine.  We tease him about being our resident liberal.  Though not active in politics....yet,  he is really more libertarian.  We do have some lively debates about many different topics.  He definitely keeps me honest and thoughtful.  I would hope his dad and I impart something to him as well.

Rubic is a ready smile, quick wit, and a hug when I need it.  He is ever curious, learning, growing.  He has so much to look forward to in his future.  As he matures, I know there are aspects of his personality that will be tempered some.  While I know that for a certain because it happens to us all as we grow and learn, there is a light of mischief in his eyes that I hope never goes away. 

So Happy Birthday to my youngest and tallest child.  I love you Rubic and am so proud of you.  One more year and I will no longer be able to say I am the mother of a teenager.  Maybe I can start saying I am the mother to tweenagers.  Hmmmmm  that's a thought.




Saturday, November 1, 2014

Well Brrrrrrrr!

Windy and cold here this morning.  Got down into the 30's over night and will be down to 29 tonight.  The current wind chill in Atlanta is 29 degrees. We are about 1.5 hours north of them and more rural so less concrete to hold heat so I am figuring we are a couple of degrees cooler.  Dh just put on his jacket to go see to the chickens and commented "maybe it just seems to be colder outside than it really is".  My response?  "once you go outside I think you will say "" nope it is just as cold as I thought it was"". 

I love cooler weather.  But usually we are done with outdoor work and can be warm and cozy inside.  Unfortunately, this colder weather has caught us by surprise and we still have more to do outside.  We are currently trying to decide if we want to try and revamp the old coop.  The advantage would be a quicker way for chicken maintenance/egg collection.  Plus with the thicker walls, the chickies will have a warmer shelter.  The disadvantage is having to do this in the cold, and well the work.  For my Alaskan, Canadian, and Yankee friends, these temps might be spring to you but it is cold to us! 

We have been able to take the divider down between the two chicken flocks sharing one new run.  They are slowly but surely mingling.  We are hoping we can get them together so everyone can enjoy the shelter of the new coop.  Until then we have a tarp covering one end of the run in order to give the chicks some form of wind break/shelter.  Fortunately these are cold hardy chickens.  That doesn't mean I want them to have to use that ability.  I am sure they would rather be warm. 

So in addition to that decision, is the fact that I need to make bread for the coming week.  That is much nicer to do when it is cold outside because it heats up the house.  It is definitely a cozy chore in fall/winter, and more of a hot job in the summer.  But I feel good about it.  DH told me the other day he loves my bread.  That makes it all worth while. 

So Dh has come back in from chicken duty and has confirmed our suspicions.  It is cold outside.   Big surprise.  Now I head off to get started with my day.  Not a barn burner today, but if we do the revamp, I will have more to post.  Have a great day!

12 hours later...... well we did it!  We muscled our energy, lacking though it was cause we did not sleep well last night (Mona our pitbull was afraid of a noise from outside due to the wind.  Go figure), and went to Lowes.  We bought our materials and went to it.  The old coop now has a back door similar to the new coop.  This will make it so much easier and faster to collect eggs, clean, etc. 



Isn't it cute!  Once we have the flock all organized, the PVC run (which you currently can't see cause this is the back of the coop) will be taken down and the two coops will be attached to the larger newer run with a divider in the middle.  It will be like a little subdivision!  Lol.  The Rubbermaid container next to the coop is for hay storage.  Works pretty good and keeps the hay convenient to the coops.

Okay, so finally there is the update!  WHEW!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mama's in the kitchen!

Yep!  Day off from work today and tomorrow so after church and lunch today I will begins to get things made for the up coming week.  On the docket for today and tomorrow is Bread, Granola, Black bean burgers, Hamburger buns, cookies of some sort, and possibly more yogurt. This will give me everything I need for packed lunches, breakfasts, etc.  It sounds like a lot I know, but really it isn't too bad.  It is more of a time watching thing ya know.  Bread and buns take me about 15minutes to mix up and knead.  The rest is waiting on it to rise and baking.  Granola is quick.  I can literally make that in the time it takes my bread to rise for the first time.  Yogurt requires a little more of my attention because I have to keep it at a certain temp for 30 minutes, but once that part is done it is just a matter of letting it incubate.  And cookies, well you know cookies.  Not very difficult.  The most labor intensive thing I guess would be frying up the black bean burgers for my son.  I am thinking that will be his job.  So no worries!   I have two days to do this anyway, and what I save at the store with doing these things more than compensates for my time and energy.  Plus I can do it while talking to DH in the " man cave".  Our Kitchen and Den/Man cave are one big room.  Like a studio apartment.  I like it that way. 

Outside we have moved one of the chicken coop/runs into place for the winter.  It is the very first coop we had, and currently houses Mama hen whom we refer to as Miss Priss and 3 of her offspring.  Those offspring are as big if not bigger than she is at the moment.  We decided to move the coops closer to the house for convenience and safety for the chickens.  Last year we actually had a coyote walk thru our back yard.  Neat to see, but concerning none the less.  Anyway, this coop had been lowered to almost ground level when we had baby chicks in it.  We didn't want to risk the little darlings falling out and breaking their little necks.  Now that they are bigger, we have elevated the coop up on 4x4 treated posts, about 8 inches off the ground.  Other remodels to this coop will take place as time and money permits.  We have learned a lot more since this coop was originally built.  Next week the plan is to move the second coop near the first.  Once the roosters that need to are safely ensconced in my freezer, we will combine the two coops with 1 main run.  This takes time, but once finished will be ultra convenient (for them and us).  Then hopefully we can sit back and enjoy lots of eggs coming in(hope). 

As for the garden, it is pretty much put to bed for the season.  The only thing growing in it right now are cabbages, lettuce, carrots, and herbs. Not sure how good the carrots are going to do.  As we move the coops, the spent hay/manure is being placed on the garden where corn will be planted next year.  it will age and break down over the next 6 months and be ready to till into the ground for hopefully a bumper corn crop next year. 

So there you go.  Updates from the homestead.  What projects are you working on?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Walnuts belong in Granola

As does Butter/Vanilla extract.  Just sayin.  I decided to make a batch of granola this morning.  I haven't made it in a while.   I read yesterday about "super foods" you should always have in your diet.  Happily many of them, most of them are.  So I get to live forever right?  Well not in this body anyway (thank God for a.ahem small blessings).  I think the list consisted of Spinach, Carrots, Blueberries, Yogurt, Oats, Walnuts and a couple of other things I can't remember.  Ooops.  Anyway I remember the ones I have regularly.  So my motivation for making granola was the yogurt I made the other day.  When I see this list I think ya know what would be good?  Yogurt with blueberries, and granola. So this morning I made a batch of granola.  During the process I realized I was out of brown sugar.  Oh well, I will just use white.  So I did.  I then thought "well if I don't have brown sugar maybe I should put in a little Butter/Vanilla extract to offset the lack of flavor from brown sugar.  I didn't want it to be bland.   In truth, I love, love, love Butter/Vanilla extract!  I am always trying to find ways to use it in cooking.  I will actually add a tiny drop to my coffee.  DIVINE!  But I digress.  I finally finished the granola and tried it.  YUM!  Very good.  Milder than what I usually make, but I think I prefer it this way.  Here is the recipe:

4 cups quick oats
1/3 cup wheat germ
2/3 cup chopped walnuts (are the best!)
1/2 cup dry milk
1 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp butter vanilla extract

On a greased (or sprayed with cooking spray) cookie sheet, combine the first 5 ingredients.  Dash salt over all and mix it in too.  In a sauce pan combine the oil, honey, sugar, and extract.  Cook on low/med heat til bubbling.  Pour over all the dry mix.  Stir a little with a spoon and then lay the spoon down and mix the rest of the way with your hands.  Spread evenly in your cookie sheet.  Bake in a 350 oven 20 min stirring every 5 minutes.  Take out and let cool.  Break up into pieces after its cool.

If you desire raisins in your granola, mix them in right after you remove the pan from the oven and then let cool undisturbed.  Then break up.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Getting back to normal...sorta

So six of the little baby chicks (1 rooster and 5 hens) have found a new home in some pretty sweet digs.  We made $60 on their sale which about covered the cost of feed.  So a break even.  The sale was to a friend of ours who is starting her flock.  Catching the little buggers was interesting.  There were 10 all in one run and so I thought it best to pull the ones for my friend from there.  That way she wouldn't have to worry about integrating chickens from 2 different coops.  Rubic helped me out at first by closing off the door to the coop once I had gone to the back door of the coop with feed and lured them all inside.   I then proceeded to pull them out one at a time and if it was one I needed, it went in the dog kennel (not with a dog FYI).  If it wasn't one I needed it went back into the run.  All goes well until the very last of the 10 chickens (of course).  She panics and almost gets thru the blockade Rubic had put in place.  Had she managed to get past there, she would have been mixed in with the ones that were staying and I would have had to go thru them again (minus the ones in the kennel.  So I rush to keep her in the coop and , yes, in doing so forgot about the back door being open.  Yea...I go around the back to find her OUT!  So the second way Rubic helped me out was catching the little red hen.  Between the two of us we managed to corner her and get her into the kennel to go to her new home. 

Once we have picked out the six hens and 1 rooster we are keeping; one of two things will happen.  If we have a glut of roosters left, they will become meat for the freezer.  If we have enough hens left, we have a buyer lined up.  Once we have that all situated, and the flock is down to 8 (2 roosters and 6 hens), we are planning on revamping the old coop and then attaching it to the new run.  In other words we will have 2 coops attached to one run.


The original coop, once revamped, will be attached there in the front right (your right)side.  We will create a new window on that side.  The old PVC run will be broken down and the pipe reused to make a hoop house to cover one of my concrete raised beds.  This will allow me to start seeds earlier and to hopefully extend my gardening of cooler weather crops.  Then the plan is to have one rooster and 3 hens per coop with a shared run.  That being said, we will have a divider up to keep the roosters from mingling.  Cause that would be BAD!  Lol.  We may change our minds and only have 1 rooster (Sound of doom for poor shmuck that isn't kept), but for now we will keep two.  N.O.A.H has released their forecast for winter and our area in the southeast is due for below normal temps and above normal precipitation.  For that reason we are trying to get this stuff done before that happens. 

Also on our outside to do list is to water seal the new deck steps,  the coop/runs and to pressure wash the house before winter.  Winter is so dreary in Jan I would prefer to at least have the house nice and white. 

Inside the house things are returning to normalcy in that I am able to start baking again.  That can be good or bad depending on your weight loss goals.  Lol.  Back to making bread, cookies, etc.  As things get more caught up and weather runs us inside, I will be able to get the house seriously cleaned and ready for Christmas d├ęcor. 

So while the list is still long, and we won't get everything done, we are slowing down a little and returning to normal.  Well as normal as we can be. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Seriously Simple Black Bean Burgers

So Rubic is our resident vegetarian.  I have to give him kudos cause he has turned down all his old favorites: steak, sausage, bacon, etc.  I also have to say if meat prices keep going  up I might join him out of necessity.......Nah.  Not yet anyway.  That being said, it wouldn't hurt for me to substitute a few meatless meals in our diet.  In order to keep Rubic in food, I rely(or have relied) on the B1G1F sales at Publix.  They periodically have Boca Burgers on sale 2.89 B1G1F.  So 1.45 gets a box of veggie burgers.  Not too bad, but I can't keep that up.  He eats two at a time.  So I got online and started looking for a good recipe for black bean burgers.  All of them seemed to have chopped peppers, carrots, and multitudes of spices.  While I am sure they are very good, I need something Rubic can put together on his own cause I am not doing it from now unto eternity....just sayin.  I also want something that will taste "Burgerish".  Anyway, I took what I read and came up with a very simple recipe for black bean burgers.  I also figured the cost and I can make 12 patties= to 3 boxes of Boca Burgers for under $1.  I still have left over black beans too!  Not to mention Rubic will eat 1 of these as opposed to two Bocas so really it equals 6 boxes or Boca.  So without further adieu:

Seriously Simple Black Bean Burgers

1 15 oz can of black beans; drained
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
2 oz bread made into crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Worcestershire sauce

So I take my bread and put it in a food processor to make the crumbs.  Add your onion and run it thru the processor as well to finely chop it.  Add your drained beans, salt, and pepper (you can add more salt and pepper if you like) and pulse the processor until the whole thing is mixed together.  It is cool if your beans get mushed up.  You want this.  Some beans will be intact.  You want that too.  It will be really thick. Spray your pan with cooking spray.  Take 1/4 of the mixture and shape it into a patty like you would ground beef.  Place in the pan and dribble a little Worcestershire sauce on it.  Brown each patty until good and brown on each side.  Remove when brown and let cool on a wire rack. 

That's it!  And Guess what!  Only 144 calories per patty.    Good times.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

On being Einstein's mother

No not Albert.  That would make me very old, and while I do date back to the days of no cable, rotary dial phones, and record players, I am too young to be his mom.  No I am referring to my not so little bundle of joy who turns 21 years old today.  That makes me old and proud.  Each of my kids has a "code name" for privacy on my blog.  Einstein is my oldest son, middle child.   At 18 months of age he knew all his letters on site as well as numbers 1-10.  He had a little V-Tech toy he carried around with him everywhere (along with Teddy Ruxpin).  By 3 he was writing and teaching himself the first stages of reading.  By 2nd grade I was informed by his teachers that Einstein was capable of reading anything you put in front of him; even up to college level.  By 7th grade I was told by his math teacher and counselor that if they paid attention to his strengths and not his weaknesses, he could go to M.I.T.  Needless to say Einstein isa really smart.  However Einstein has Asperger Syndrome.  While capable of reading whatever you put in front of him, he was slower in comprehending what he read.  While he has always excelled at the academics of math, reading, etc, he struggled with the application of what he learned.  Social queues are a mystery to him.  Certain sounds affect him.  As a child the sound of the vacuum cleaner, or the shower bothered him like nails on a chalk board.  Yet little by little he overcame it and now has no problem with either.  He talks very little to me, but he talks.  He has, over the years, and with steadfast determination, graduated high school and gone on to technical college.  I couldn't be more proud of him.  I look forward to his future.  He is constantly moving forward, never letting things bring him down.  I am the most blessed of mothers that I was selected to be his. 





So Einstein.  Happy Birthday!  I hope it is everything you desire. 

We Love you!

Okay, that is the sappy card.  Since the paper one we have is funny, all bases are covered.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Everything counts!

Hello all!  I am  finally able to say I have finished a large number of sweet potatoes; 40 quarts to be exact.  Now one quart didn't seal so it was part of last nights dinner.  Which brings me to this weeks post.  DON'T WASTE!!!!  Seriously, how many of you throw away a little bit of meat here or a few veggies there when dinner is over?  Those little bits here and there add up to a pot of veggie soup on cold winter nights.  Everything counts! 
According to an article in US News, The National Defense Council says the average American throws away 25% of their food each year.  My grocery bill averages between 400 and 450 a month including toiletries, pet food, etc.  That would factor out to about $1200 a year!  Uh, if I threw that much out.  I can't afford  to throw that much out.  With the cost of food rising, it is extremely important to rethink how we look at our grocery use.

 Here are some things I have done just recently;

Last nights dinner was pork chops, fried green tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.  Anyone who has made fried green tomatoes before knows you have one container of beaten eggs, one container of milk, cornmeal, and flour.  Well, I didn't end up using all of the ingredients to make my tomatoes.  I didn't want to throw it away, so I mixed them all together and added a little salt, and baking powder.  I then cooked them like pancakes in the now empty iron skillet used to make the tomatoes.  Now it only made 3 "Pancakes", but it was enough for the men of the house to have one with a little butter on it with their dinner.  On to example number 2.  When canning sweet potatoes, I used a light syrup for the liquid that covers them in the jar.  When that one jar didn't seal, I heated it up for dinner.  We had left overs as well as the syrup they were packed in.  This morning I strained the left over sweet potatoes to retrieve the syrup.  I measured 1/3 cup of powdered milk into a cup and added enough light syrup to make 1cup liquid.  I then proceeded to make sweet potato muffins with walnuts, cinnamon, and allspice.  Because I used the syrup/dry milk mixture instead of 1 cup of milk in my muffins, I was able to eliminate half of the sugar I would have used in this recipe.  I also whisked in some of the left over potatoes. 

In the past I have, used left over meat loaf as the meat in spaghetti or chili.  Left over meat, and veggies are saved in the freezer for veggie soup.  Leftover rice goes into muffins or pancakes to stretch the quantity,  Left over potatoes become potato patties or also go into breads.  I have taken the egg and milk for French toast and added flour, etc to make a batch of muffins for the next day.  The idea is to re think our uses for those little items we usually throw away.  It goes without saying I do not reuse egg and milk or flour from dredging meats.  Just wanted to throw that in there so as to not alarm anyone.  You know I may be crazy, but not stupid.  So the plan is to re think food usage.  Try and use things up, and re purpose left overs.  Your grocery budget will thank you.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Grandmommy look what we did!

I think I have mentioned before how I have my grandmothers pressure canner.




 She gave it to me many years ago; probably 10 years ago.  It had been stored in her basement, unused for some years.  She wanted someone to have it that would put it to good use.  It is a National Pressure company pressure cooker.  That company was bought out by Presto some many, many years ago.  There is a date on the bottom of Jan 3 1945.  My grandmother was 26.  My dad was just about to celebrate his 6th birthday.  When I got it, the weight that sits on top was missing, and the rubber gasket needed replacing.  The county extension office checked it out for me and claimed it worked fine, but those items needed replacing.  After some research, I was able to find and order the parts from Presto.  When they arrived, I also found out we were unable to get the old vent part out in order to put on the new vent and weight.  Once again Presto came to the rescue.  For the cost of shipping, I was able to send the parts and lid to their company and they replaced the parts themselves and sent it back.  I have used it every year since.  No where near as shiny as when it was new (but then neither am I ), this thing works every year without fail.  The faded, dull areas speak of years of hard work by loving mothers, whether Grandmommy or myself, providing for their family.

This summer, at almost 96 years of age, my grandmother joined my brother, my grandfather, and other members of my family in heaven.  When I first received the canner I liked the thought of having that link to my past, but with her passing on, that link is priceless.  With every jar I take out of this canner, she is there.  We work together, she and I.  I couldn't do what I do without her gift to me.  That heritage is something I value beyond words.  So Grandmommy, I wanted to show you what we did this year! You and I!  Thank you for continuing to help me provide for my family even now. 



So the season has wrapped up and the time has come for my canner to have a break.  But, Grandmommy, while the canner may be placed back on the shelf, you never will be.  I love you and miss you.  Know you are in my thoughts always.

Love you!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

((Sigh))...uh....I got nuthin.

Seriously folks.  I am at a loss right now as to what to write.  I have writers block on my own blog!  Mainly this is due to the change of seasons.  The gardening season is wrapping up and the Christmas season hasn't hit yet.  I have picked the last of the lima beans.  They aren't shelled yet, but I should at least get a couple of pounds of dried beans.  I will more than likely dig up the sweet potatoes on Wednesday so they can cure a little.  I found out they need  to have a couple of days at the 80 degree mark to cure.  Did not know that.  Hey this is only my second year of sweet potatoes!  According to the weather man I should only have 2 days of around 80 degrees and then we get some rain and cooler temps (Weeeeeee).  Most of my time recently has been spent putting the garden to bed for the season.  All but my cool crops which are loving the temps and are doing fine.  This is the time of year when I determine what worked and what didn't and where to change things next year.  This year, as the beds are put to sleep for the winter, I am covering them with black plastic.  This should heat the soil up to the extent that weeds and weed seeds should die.  They should break down over the winter and make really good soil come spring.  Hope. 

I have opened up what I call lovingly call the Beckner Country Store.  It is temporary; only open from September to December31st.  It isn't an actual physical store.  I am selling Cranberry Conserve, Blueberry conserve, Apple Butter, Fresh Bread, and Butter Toffee Crunch.  That is all.  I mainly sell to friends, family, co-workers, (ahem..readers).  I have had a few orders so far and am getting excited to start getting the orders filled.  Most of them are slated for Thanksgiving so I have a little bit of time to get situated.  This is fun I have to say.  So for those interested, here is the price list:

Cranberry Conserve- $5 a pint- A wonderful Hearty jam like addition to biscuits/muffins, bread, or even ice cream.  Also a great alternative to cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner.   Made with whole cranberries, chopped oranges, raisins and pecans.
 Blueberry conserve- $5 a pint- Like the Cranberry conserve, this jam is a hearty addition to any breakfast, except expect the wonderful addition of lemons as well as oranges.  No nuts in this one though.
Apple Butter- $3.50 for half pint - nothing feels more like fall than to open a jar of apple butter and taste that sweet spicy spread. 
Butter Toffee Crunch- $2 for 4 oz or $8lb-  Be fore warned this stuff is addictive.  But then you can't put 1 cup of real butter in a candy and it not be.  Reminds me of Heath or score bars, but so much better.  The candy is light, melt in your mouth.  Not as brittle as peanut brittle, but has a nice crisp feel to it.  I prefer it with Walnuts, but many like pecans or no nuts at all.
Fresh Bread- $5 loaf-  100% whole wheat bread made by hand (no bread machine) and with wheat flour ground the day of baking, olive oil, and raw honey.  If you prefer I can use half wheat and half white flour. 

Hopefully my next post will be chock full off all kinds of interesting tidbits.  Not a barn burner this one, but I promise to do better next time.

Monday, September 15, 2014

U.F.O's

Ha!  Made ya look!  The U.F.O's I speak of are not your high in the sky mystery sightings.  No these are the crafter/seemstress Unfinished Projects.  Those items you started with all good intentions and about that time the A.D.D kicks in, the kids become ever more demanding, hubby wants quality time, or just life intrudes and they get laid aside.  My problem is I can have multiple projects going on at once ( Ahemm, the A.D.D for me).  To which I end up with a variety of U.F.O's to deal with.  I am happy to say I have managed to complete two of them in the last couple of weeks:

This throw was started just for our own home. I started it about 2 years ago.  I left off of it with only 18 rows to go.  I finally finisheditabout 2 weeks ago.  I am looking forward to colder weather so I can break it out and test it for coziness.

 
This camo shirt/jacket was originally started for Rubic during his camo phase.  He has since decided he is vegetarian so I'm thinking there won't be any need for hunting in his future.  With a Zombie apocalypes less than likely in the near future, and with the fact he has since grown out of it; I feel safe finishing this for a friend of mine.  Jimmy has given us a deer for the past 2 years each time he hunts.  A camo shirt for him is a small thank  you,  but a heart felt one none the less.


 
I still have U.F.O's to finished and already know I am wanting to start different projects.  Yea, I am crazy like that. 
 
So here is a challange!
 
What U.F.O sightings are in your house?  I would love to see them.  I challange you to finish one U.F.O and post it here.  For those that enter and send me a pic of their finished project, I will send you a jar of cranberry conserve. 
1) Comment here to let me know you are entering.  I will run this challange til Oct 26th. 
 
2) When finished, send me the pic of your finished project to www.meandwarf1@yahoo.com.  I will post the pics here after the challange is over to brag on you.  I would love it if you could include a little history on the project such as how long it took, who it is for, etc.
 
 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Winding up and Winding down

I guess you could say my life is in a constant state of tizzy.  For those of you not from the south, a "Tizzy" is craziness.  I have about 2 months out of the year, usually around Jan and Feb, where a lull happens.  Christmas is over and it is too early to plant anything.  At that time I am chomping at the bit, pouring over seed catalogues or websites, perusing my gardening books, etc.  Then we are off with planting season, gardening season, and harvesting.

Now that harvest season is winding down, with the exception of the few scragglers and the cool weather things I have planted, it has dawned on me that Christmas is just around the corner.  I HAVE DONE NOTHING FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!!AHHHH!  And we're OFF!  Dada da ta da da ta da da da da!  Need to start planning gifts; what to make, what to buy.  I already have the space opened up for my tree(s)( yes I have two).  I love this time of year.  I am a Christmas nut!  I love the sights, sounds, food, all of it.  Now I don't like the early start stores have.  I mean seriously, many stores already have Christmas Decorations out and it is still Sept!  I try to not look at it because I don't want to already be burned out on Christmas stuff before the holiday season starts.  Don't get me wrong, I decorate as early as possible I think.  Our tradition is to put the family tree up Thanksgiving night and the rest follows over the following weekend.  I just don't think decorations in the store need to be put out earlier than Thanksgiving.  Just my personal opinion. 

(sigh)  I would love just one time to be able to experience the holiday season like my mom did as a child.  She tells me that there would be no sign of Christmas up until Thanksgiving.  All the stores were closed on Thanksgiving.  When they re-opened the day after, she said it was like a wonderland of Christmas.  Now we have stores competing to open as early as possible Thanksgiving day!  How many people are missing time with their family on Thanksgiving in order for people to shop that early.  I won't do it.  I stopped shopping day after Thanksgiving when they started opening on Thanksgiving.  I realize those people get paid time and a half.  I realize those people are lucky to have a job.  I just believe there needs to be something more important in our lives.  A time to stop for a day and give thanks for what we have.  A time to anticipate what the rest of the holiday means.  Thanksgiving is not about shopping. It is about giving thanks for the blessings we have.   Christmas isn't about shopping.  I love the whole gift giving things, but Christmas is about The Gift.  The Greatest gift.  Not just a babe in a manager,  but the gift He brought of grace and salvation to all who seek Him.

So while my official Christmas starts after Thanksgiving, my prep for it starts now.  Things I may want to make for gifts, can't wait until Thanksgiving.  Money needing to be budgeted, needs to be budgeted now.  3 months 12 days away.  Winding down the garden, Winding up for Christmas.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Garden 2014

I would say " total", but the garden is still in progress.




116 BEETS (Final)
7.5 BAGS SALAD GREENS (Final)(Fall Planting)
27 HEAD BROCOLLI (Final)
8 lb oz  oz Banana Peppers (still coming in)
7 lb   oz bell peppers (Still coming in)
4.4 lbs red cabbage (Final)
7.12 lbs green cabbage (Final)(Fall Planting)
43 lbs pickling cucumbers(Final)
16 lbs green beans (Final)
Pinto Beans (In Progress)
Sweet Potatoes (In progress)
20 lbs franken squash (Final)(what I processed.  The rest went to chickens so not counted)
32 lbs 0 oz yellow squash (Final)
30 lbs 2 oz Blueberries (Final)
8lbs 5 oz Black Berries (Final)
114 ears of Corn (Final)
10 lb White Lima beans (still coming in)
283lb  oz Roma Tomatoes (Final)
83 lb 4 oz Better Boy Tomatoes (still coming in)
7 lbs  8oz Cherry Tomatoes (volunteers)(still coming in)
Butternut Squash (in progress)
6 Watermelon- 140lbs (1 more to pick)
6 lb 2 oz jalepenos
Peanuts (Volunteers)(in progress)
8 oz Potatoes (volunteers)(Final)

Total so far not counting eggs, chicks, beets, salad greens, corn, broccoli, pinto beans, sweet potatoes, peanuts, butternut squash, or herbs:
706 lbs of food.  Please note, many of these items are still coming in.  Total outlay  of money is about $190 ish which counts items like edging for raised beds which will be used year after year as well as the difference in my water bill due to watering some.  So .25 per lb of food or less. 


Herbs harvested
Oregano
Lemon balm
Mint
Chives
Cilantro
Thyme
Lemon Thyme
Rosemary
*** all of these herbs do double duty: Culinary and Medicinal

Fall planted

More Cabbage
Carrots
Radishes
Salad Greens



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Yep, even I need to learn a thing or two.

Sooooo this mama had a minor meltdown the other day.  The stress I guess of constantly spinning plates got to me and I found myself .....upset.  Dh, the poor recipient of my er...uh...upsetness,(yes spell check I know that isn't a real word..according to you), pointed out that I need a hobby.  My first thought was I do have hobbies; gardening, canning, baking, etc.  Then it dawned on me (with his help) that I have no hobbies for just me.  Everything I consider a hobby is for the good of the family.  He said I don't read anymore.  Now I do read, cookbooks, savings books, homestead books.  See a pattern here?  I haven't read for pleasure in at least 2 years.  It's an occupational hazard of caring for a household, being a wife and mother, to lose yourself in the process.  I was trying to be all things to all people and that is not possible.  You have to do something that is yours and yours alone.  Now reading is one hobby I love, but others are sewing or shopping for me, and my dolls/doll clothes,  Love my baby dolls.  Always have.  I love reconditioning antique baby dolls.  Dh bought me an air brush painting system last year for Christmas and I have yet to take it out of the box.  I have purchased books (thrift store, I mean lets not get too crazy) that haven't been read, and I rarely shop; well unless at a thrift store.  I do love my thrift stores.  My defense was that I just didn't have time.  Make time was his response. 




So now this mama has turned over a new leaf.  I am allowing myself time to do some of the things I enjoy personally.  My Dh and sons have stepped up to help out more around the house, and I am letting them.  Very important frugal lesson, MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF! 



Now where to start first.......

Saturday, August 30, 2014

When ends don't meet.

Do you guys feel like I have fallen off the face of the earth?  I didn't mean to disappear, but between a preventative medical procedure and my sons graduation party, last weekend was a blur.  But here I am once again to submit, for your reading pleasure(I hope), my thoughts.

I've noticed gas prices coming down a bit over the last few weeks, while that's a nice little break, I'm amazed that I put a gallon of gas in my car equivalent in price to a gallon of milk.  Gone are the days of .99 gas( Sigh). That was nice.  Gone also are the days of $1.99 milk, .99 lb ground beef, 4/$1 canned veggies, or .99 for 5 lbs of sugar.  What's so sad is those prices weren't that long ago.  Incomes have not kept up with the rising prices of food and energy, and while our government likes to point to IPods being cheaper; you can't eat IPods.  They don't heat or cool your house.  So what do you do when the ends don't meet?  When all of the sudden you are looking at your budget and the money doesn't stretch to cover all you owe?  You are faced with either not paying a bill or not feeding your family.  I wrote a series a while back on Black Belt Frugality.  You can begin reading it here.  While the Black Belt Frugality series has some good tips, it takes a while to can veggies or plant a garden.  If you are needing an emergency solution, gardening, and canning isn't the answer short term.  I do believe those things are a solution in the long term so consider learning these skills.  Even in a small space, any amount is a start.

No I'm talking about right now what do I do? " The paycheck wasn't what I thought it would be", "the car broke down and it will cost WHAT?", or my favorite "what do you mean I forgot to record that check?".  That last one gets me more often than not.

We all have expenses; both fixed and flexible.  Fixed expenses are things like your Rent or Mortgage, a car payment, a credit card payment, a student loan.  Maybe a cable or phone bill if it's the same each month.  Flexible expenses are things that can be adjusted such as a grocery, electric, gasoline, or water bill.  Some fixed expenses can be somewhat flexible in that if it's not necessary for your survival, it can be placed on the back burner. Some flexible expenses are more fixed than others in that you have to have gas for your car to go to work.  Dave Ramsey says that above all else you have to secure food, shelter, and transportation.  That's very true.  Dave Ramsey does not say cokes, chips, ice cream etc are necessary for survival.  The grocery bill is the quickest way to cut back.  Look at your list (what you don't have a list SHOCK).  Cut out anything extra or anything you can make yourself.  Meat needs to become a condiment at this point.  Make casseroles, soups, stews, etc.  Double up on the veggies in your casseroles etc and cut back on the meat.  Tea or water to drink, and milk for the kids that need it.  Muffins, Biscuits, oatmeal are easy cheap filling breakfasts.  Dried beans are now your friend; as is rice and potatoes.  Here is a good reference article by Miss Maggie of Hillbilly housewife regarding an emergency meal plan complete with how tos.  I love to just read thru it.  The prices are higher now than at the time this article was written, but the menus and how tos are still relevant.  There is also one for $70.  Many of the items she lists you will most likely have on hand.  Focus on just eating what you already have on hand and only fill in what you have to have. 

Contrary to what people say now days, telephone, internet,  and a cable bill are not necessary for survival.  An exception to that is if a phone is necessary for work or other such emergency.  If that is the case, use a bare bones plan.  Internet service is offered at the library if you have a library card.  Granted you have to go by there and it's only for a couple of hours, but in a pinch it's doable. Include the trip in your regular errands to save on gas.  My point is that unless it's an emergency, cancel these services until you get ahead.  It is terribly inconvenient, especially if you have little ones, but it is short term.

People tend to have a kind of ostrich with his head in the sand when it comes to some bills.  If I ignore it they will go away.  They don't.  I know.  In all honesty, companies are more likely to help out if you keep lines of communication open.  Call them the minute you know your circumstance.  Know when you call how much you can pay at that time.  Prioritize your bills, and like Dave Ramsey says, if you get to the last of your bills and there is no more money left, they have to wait.  If possible pay something.  But don't let them pressure you to pay more than you have.  Power companies will work with you in some situations.  They also have services to help you if you qualify.  Look into budget billing.  While not ideal in all situations, budget billing gives you the same bill each month.  No surprises so easier to plan each month.  Our power bill can fluctuate by hundreds during extreme heat or cold.  It helped us immensely having budget billing for a while.  Some banks will allow you to only pay the interest for that month. The drawback is that you pay more interest over all and miss a payment, but it gets you thru. 

I realize non of these ideas are ideal.  They aren't fun either.  Not by a long shot.  But this isn't an ideal situation either.  This is a drastic time.  Just remember.  This is also temporary.  Just until things get caught up.  I speak of that which I know.  I have lived through times like these myself.  I have used, at one time or another, all of these tips.  These times come for everyone.  When you are thru this one, make sure you make a plan for the next one. With a plan you can run thru the next one easy peasy.  And, guys, there will be a next one.

LINKS TO THE REST OF THE BLACK BELT SERIES

http://frugalmavensdailyrave.blogspot.com/2011/10/black-belt-grocery-savings-part-2.html

http://frugalmavensdailyrave.blogspot.com/2011/10/blackbelt-grocery-savings-part-3.html

http://frugalmavensdailyrave.blogspot.com/2011/10/blackbelt-grocery-savings-part-4.html


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Chicken Drama on the homestead.

So the babies are growing by leaps and bounds. (excuse the mess, we tend to lean stuff against the coop cause it is right next to the garden)


 There was no way all 15 of them, mama included, could be housed in that one little coop and run.  We were on borrowed time.  Then we also have the new run which currently houses 3.  Yep, just 3.
 
So our first thought was that we would go ahead and split the flock layers/and meat birds.  So being the novice chicken owners we are, but not crazy, we then read up on how to do this in order that there are no problems.  First thing we read "Don't do it until the younger birds are the same size as the older ones", and " make sure they spend a while in proximity to, but not accessible to the original flock".  Well just darn.  That blew our plans out of the water.  So we think we will just put mama hen back with the original flock.  So read up on that too.  Umm, yea, you have to treat the returning bird as if she had never been a part of the flock to begin with.  Oh Joy.  So we block off part of the run for the day and have her in one side and the other three in the other side.  Things go well for the day.  We had learned to put her in the coop at night while the other guys were asleep and things would go smoother.  Okay  here we go,.  Hubby put her in the coop and immediately hears chaos ensuing.  Real quick he opens the coop to see all three of the flock attacking the mama hen.  Ungrateful little so and so's, some of those babies she had mothered weren't hers!  That is not the right way to treat your babysitter.  Just sayin.  So he grabs her out and puts her back in to her part of the run.  The next day, much to our Rooster(Garris) surprise, he is put into the run with her.  Just him.  We figured a one on one thing.  He does well with her.  No troubles.  So next day we thought we would see how things went if we took the barrier down.  We knew there would be some pecking and intimidation.  Well there is this one red hen.  Meanness should be her name.  Well she takes a hunk, and I do mean hunk, out of her neck.  Poor chicken ended up with a cut about 1/4 inch deep and about 1.5 in long.  Problem with chickens is that if they ever draw blood they will peck the poor bird to death.  So I get warm soapy water, triple antibiotic cream and a make shift bandage from an old t shirt sleeve.  I thought she would fight me,  but she didn't.  I took her out and she sat in my lap while I dressed the wound.  She even allowed me to put on a very awkward bandage.  I put her back in the coop, this time separating out "meanness".  Lets see how she likes being alone.  Things went better, but the other red hen, though not as vicious, was keeping up the attack.  Garris tried to intervene a few times, but for the most part he is hen pecked too.  In addition the bandage was coming off leaving the wound open to continued attack.  Early Wednesday morning, Dh goes out to see about the chickens.  He opens the back of the coop apparently when the little mama hen was being attacked again.  She ran right out the door and into his arms.  He comes to the back door holding her and saying "Now what?"  She is our best layer and the only one of our hens that has brooded.  Not wanting to lose her!  So we end up putting her back into the coop with the young chicks.  She isn't as mean as the other hens were to her, but she has definitely taken over.  She isn't hurting them, but she rules the roost.  I have to admit though she is a bit of a bully.  Just for kicks she will get up and run the chicks out of the coop (where they are all hiding) and the run them all back in again.  I think she likes being top of the food chain again.  But the chicks are getting braver by the day, and she is letting the chicks come in  and out of the coop at will.  Her neck is healing now since it is left alone.  Problem is we are back to where we started from.  We are planning on selling about 5 of the new flock which will help space wise.  Once the new hens start laying, those two red hens will be on my it list, but right now we need the eggs.  So their sentence is postponed....for now. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Tale of Two Squashes AKA the story of PunkinStien

Harken back to the glorious days of spring when the temps were cool and the anticipations of nature's bounty was yet to be realized (Okay you got to admit that was a totally good sentence).  My Darling Husband planted seeds we believed to be pumpkin.  We were excited and a little nervous when the whole row germinated and was going gang busters.  What would we do with all of those pumpkins?  Canning some, freezing some, giving some away, were all thoughts that passed thru our little noggins.  Later we realized these weren't acting like normal pumpkins.  They were shaped more like spaghetti squash.  OK, change of plans.  We now have an abundance of spaghetti squash.  No biggie.  I can turn on a dime; roll with the punches so to speak.  When we thought we had a couple to try, I picked them and baked them, but I must have done something wrong cause they didn't act like spaghetti squash either.  Well now we didn't know what to do.  So like most people when faced with indecision, we did nothing.  We just left them alone until the area was so over grown my DH had to get to them with the weed eater.  DH sharing my desire to not throw anything away if even remotely useful, piled all of the "squashes" up.  We got a good many.  Bout 15ish.  We started taking a good long look at said squashes and determined they looked an awful lot like pumpkin in color and texture, but not in shape.  One or two looked pumpkinish.  So looking to file this in "Things that make you go Hmmmmm", I grabbed up one of the bigger ones to check it out.  Bringing it into the house, I washed and dried it and then took my heavy duty butcher knife to cut it open.  Swing!  Thunk!  The knife barely went into the skin.  Hmmm  I know what I need.  I need a hammer!  Honey, where's the hammer?  Honey says, in the tool box in the shed.  Oh.  UGH.  I really didn't want to exert myself to go out to the shed.  What to do what to do.  Ah  Eureka!  A scrap piece of 2x4.  Yea that'll work.  And it did.  It took a bit of whacking the knife all around the punkinstien (Or Franken Squash depending on your ideological bent), but I got it split.  Well low and behold it was yellowish orange on the inside much like pumpkin.  I cleaned out all the seeds and into the oven it goes cut side down.  It baked about an hour and then it was out to cool.  The peel was still tough, but the pulp inside was soft and actually pulled completely away from the peel.  In fact, you could probably use the peel for a bowl.  LOL  I know appetizing.  Anyway, once cool I needed to find out if it would work like pumpkin.  If this failed I didn't want to sacrifice a lot of other foods, so I made 1/3 of a pumpkin pie recipe minus the crust.  I just need to know the filling would work.  I poured the filling into 2 custard dishes and they are currently in the oven baking.  Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock.........




And now!  The result is.........! Well it tastes good.  It makes a pumpkin pie that passes the Rubic test.  He is our pumpkin pie guy.  However, in order to process all of these I would have to can them and that would require peeling and cubing the fruit.  I think with the peel as tough as it is that would be a long drawn out affair.  I saved the pulp from tonight in my freezer and got 4 cups, 2 cups each container.  Maybe pumpkin butter.  Hmmmmm.   Not sure.  This maybe my only chance for something akin to pumpkin.  Some kind of beetle has made a beeline for my pumpkin plants and I think it is too late to fix it with the rain we have going on now.  It would keep me from spraying anything for a while.  Since we found the frankensquash,  I also have also realized a bed of speckled lima beans, which had been planted next to white limas,  are now mostly white, we are considering the thought that there has been some cross pollination...inter-fauna hanky panky going on in the garden.  Hey you never know what those plants can do when your back is turned!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

I'm Caught up!

I am finally getting caught up.......except for the corn I picked today that now needs canning....uh and there is bread to be made,,,,,and..well.. the tomatoes outside needing to be picked, sauces needing canning, and.....OH GOOD GRIEF! Okay I am not caught up.  It was an illusion.  I can say with all authority though, that I have emerged from canning tomatoes long enough to say, I am canning tomatoes.  I might be a bit.  (Smile).  It is still crazy, but a more moderate form of crazy.  It was bad.  Let me tell ya.  Bad enough to where I.....dare I say it......Went to Subway for dinner!  AH!  Now I don't do that every night I can tomatoes.  I would lose my cost savings from gardening and canning if I went out each night.  Tonight was an exception.  I was literally drowning in tomatoes and sauce.  There is always a time when I have tomatoes in all stages of processing. Which means I have my kitchen in a constant state of upheaval.   But now that I have that down pat (Not done, just controlled), I am looking toward the corn coming in.  Then the limas.  Watermelons are coming in as well, but those are just a treat. 

 I am at the point where I am asking myself if I really want to plant anything else for fall.  The consideration is, with food prices being what they are,  wouldn't it be prudent to plant such things as spinach and lettuce as well as cabbage to replace my bombed sauerkraut this past spring?  But I am so ready for the garden to be put up!  I think it was the cooler weather we have had recently.  80 degrees in July for Georgia is almost unheard of.  Cooler weather, school starting back, and the garden being put away for the season are signs of fall on the way and I am ready for fall.  LOVE, love, love that time of year.  Anyway, with the cabbage, I need to decide now but with the spinach and lettuce  I have a little more time to decide, but not much.  I know the corn area is done once all the corn is harvested..  I plan on mixing in some aged chicken manure and then covering the whole shebang in black plastic over the fall and winter.  Anything I do plant will be planted in my concrete raised beds on the lower end of the garden nearest the house. 


Edited to add:  (or in the words of  the spongebob narrator) 48 hours later..........(assume a French accent.  I can't type that)

So!  I actually have had the stove empty of tomatoes since last I typed.  I did have some BBQ sauce cooking down in the crock pot yesterday.  It was canned yesterday as well.  I got 6 half pints.  I plan to make more.  I also have canned 8 qts of spaghetti sauce and 8 pints of corn.  In addition I was able to make bread for the first time yesterday.  My poor family has done without bread for the past couple of weeks.  It has been biscuits, pita, crackers or muffins with meals.  I was happy to be able to  make up some loaves of bread as well as pizza crust yesterday.  I am hoping I have some other time maybe today to make some cookies.  I will be starting up the tomato pots again today.  So the lull is about over.  More corn to pick as well.  So off I go to get my day started......after another cup of coffee of course......

Oh and if there is any doubt.....yes all this canning/ gardening/ baking is worth it.