Saturday, July 25, 2015

This Week's Garden, Summer Fun and Savings!

Do you ever enter those online drawings and giveaways that are on some of the bigger blogs out there?  Once in a while, I enter one.  Recently, I was contacted because I had won a prize package (one of five) from Milford Valley Chicken.  We won 25 boxes of chicken entrees - two servings per package.  This is the first half of our prize.  They were kind enough to send it in two installments, so that we will have enough freezer space.  This was delivered to us in a styrofoam cooler, which we can re-use, and it was packed with dry ice.  True to form, we were as happy about the packing as the prize, and spent much of the morning of delivery pretending we were mad scientists!  Thank you, Milford Valley Chicken!

We had rooted some trees back in the spring and planted them along the south side of our property.  They are a fast-growing poplar variety...but...they were just sitting there, doing nothing.  We removed them and replaced them with some of the sprouts that were growing around our white poplar tree.  We had transplanted one of these at the same time that we planted the sprouts, and it has already grown about a foot!  We are hoping these will adjust well and grow in their new locations, and so far, they look very good.  One of them shocked badly and did not recuperate, so we replaced it with another sprout.  The 'mother' tree has a lot of them!

I started finding lots of little plants growing outside my big flower bed, mostly blanket flower.  I transplanted those into the flower bed along the front of the house, where we still have places to fill in.  I also moved some wild geranium, goldenrod and silver mound from the big flower bed, to help spread things out just a bit.  The changes we're making are coming along slowly but surely!

My friend helped her mom clean out some extra items, and she brought me two twin-size sets of flannel sheets for Daughter's bed.  These will be great for winter!  In addition, that same friend is moving.  In the process of packing she has given me some things that she no longer needs.  I have many new (to me) clothes that are both cute and fun, along with some towels and a norwex polish cloth.  I tried the cloth on the mirrors and they look very good - I hope to do some windows this coming week.

We went to the marsh and did some summertime exploring.  It was fun, and the bee tree smelled heavenly.  We watched the bees come and go for a while, and walked around the pond a bit.  It was a nice way to get out in nature for a little while.

The honeybees live in here!

I completed a survey on Pinecone Research, and I did my last two bunny programs for summer reading this week.  We will have some chicken programs in September for National Chicken Month!

A couple weeks ago I cleaned Daughter's bedroom window, then re-stained and sealed the frame.  We had a wood blind in that window, but it was not working properly.  I was unable to repair it, but I salvaged some parts from it, and replaced a tilter wand mechanism in one of our bedroom blinds with the one from the broken blind (our mechanism had stripped out and a replacement was $12 plus shipping).  Daughter said she didn't want a new/replacement blind.  She also had a set of blue curtains, but asked for a cafe' style curtain, to let in more light.  I altered one of the curtains to make the cafe' curtain for her room, and used a curtain rod we had on hand.  She is happy with the new setup, and likes having a single curtain that pulls to one side.  The single curtain was also her idea - she likes that it lets in more light even when the curtain is closed.  I like it because this fabric is kind of slippery to work with, and I didn't have to worry about matching length.

I just noticed that I have the curtain on backward....I'll fix that! 

I was able to get some second-hand uniform shirts for daughter for the start of school.  This saved us a lot!  We went through the house and treasure-hunted many of her school supplies, along with a backpack.  We picked up the remaining school supply items for about $11, and that includes a few extras of a couple of items, which I will keep at home in case they are needed later in the year.

You may be wondering about that last paragraph, because we have been using a virtual school for her education.  We (very) recently learned that the local school for expeditionary learning, a charter school in our area, had a space for her.  We have been on the waiting list.  This feels like a big, big change.  I am excited, but it's bittersweet.  She and I spend nearly all our waking hours together....even when I sub at the library, I frequently take her with me.

There are big changes coming for us, and I will be asking y'all for ideas.  In fact, I asked this on facebook, but if you don't follow on facebook, can you tell me about some cold lunches that you'd suggest that are healthy, quick-to-eat, and frugal?  Leave them in the comments, won't you please?  Thank you!

Our across-the-road neighbors had some out of town company this week, and they have a daughter the same age as ours!   The girls got to play together a couple of times, and have decided to become pen pals!  I'm especially excited - I think it will be a great opportunity for them to become better friends, as well as learning more about one another where they each live and more.

I belong to a local freecycle page on facebook.  On errand day, we included some freecycle pick-ups and got Daughter a Spirograph and a pair of shoes.  Taffy got a doggie coat, and I got some outdoor plant pots and two cutting boards.  We were able to freecycle a table that we no longer needed.

The garden continues to do well.  The tomato plants are getting really large - I'm having to tie the one nearest the gate just so I can get in.  I'm using their 'shade' to my advantage by planting lettuces beneath them where it's cooler and they don't bolt.  The green beans are blooming a lot and the cucumbers and squashes are starting to run.  Though our gardens are small, we are getting enough to eat our fill of fresh things.  It seems that just as we are getting tired of one vegetable, another starts to come in.  At this point, I'm planning and starting some fall plants - radishes, lettuces, a second planting of peas and possibly some brussels sprouts.

Hello, future pesto!

How was your week?  What's new in your world?  What have you done to spend less, save more and make do?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Another Week of Summer Fun and Savings!

The peas in my garden are still producing (it has been a fairly cool summer with cool nights and, for us, a lot of rain) and have gotten taller than me.  I tied them to the fence this week, because some of them were pretty loosely attached.  While I had the yarn out I also tied the tomatoes, cucumbers and sunflowers, just to keep things in their places.  I did a bit of weeding and picked some herbs to dry for winter.  When herbs are dried the volume decreases significantly, but this is the second time I have picked oregano, so it is accumulating.  There was a lot of lemon balm, so I steeped some in water (for a lemony drink), and put some in vinegar for making dressings and marinades, and finally, a little in some vodka for lemon extract....I hope.  I will be picking the first zucchini very soon and I am starting to find some wee little green beans on the plants.  I hope to can some for winter - if the season continues like it has, that should not be a problem.

Husband has been sharing his birthday freebies with us!  A couple of times, we have made a plan, picked up his free meals from 2-3 places, then gone to the park for a family feast!  It's been really fun.

I picked flowers from around the yard for indoor bouquets.  I also pulled some lettuces (mostly curly endive) that were bolting and fed them to the chickens.

I booked travel for Daughter and I to go visit the mainland grandparents!  Southwest had some fantastic deals, we got a great price on a rental car, and when it's all said and done, it was pretty much break-even to driving there, except we don't have two days travel each direction.  Not driving 1,000+ miles?  I'll take that!

We went into Big Lots the other day and they had little pocket size 'Skinny Girl' liquid stevia for $1 each.  Each one is 50 servings.  It was a 20% off day, so we bought a couple.  We really like it, so we went back and stocked up!  One day this week I made green smoothies out of kale and lettuces from our garden, peaches and cherries I'd frozen from our trees and two squirts of that stevia.  They tasted good, and it fed the three of us for about 4 cents total!

There was a patch behind our barn that had things in it - a sled, a small wagon, some logs, etc.  We moved all that and mowed the very tall grass.  Once the clippings dried, we raked them up to use as 'straw' in our henhouse and to use as a cover for grass seed we used to patch some bare spots in our yard.  We moved the wood to the firewood pile, put the wagon in the barn and moved the sled (it is easy to move) to a place that was already mowed.  It's much tidier back there, and will be a lot easier to maintain.  We discovered a lovely friend in the straw...see her, near the bottom of the photo?  Sorry, but she's a little camera-shy.  We have since seen her out basking on the straw three times!

Near the henhouse, Husband cut down some rogue trees that were spindly and over-crowded.  The hens will still have shade, but a little more light, which is a good thing.  Since I have borrowed half of their run for protected garden space, this will help the garden plants too.

This wee garden is quite full...and now, a little brighter!

I had 3 dozen extra eggs that I was able to sell.  It has been just enough to fund their food this summer.  My hens are actually money makers, because of the library programs, so we get to have fresh eggs as a bonus!  I keep hearing about the high cost of eggs, and I wonder if more people will consider a small flock.  I know several families with 2-3 hens who get enough eggs to meet their needs, plus they have all the fun of having chickens.

This has nothing to do with frugality or summer fun, but I am wanting to get some quail.  I like the eggs...and I like quail, very much.  I'll be researching that the next few months and as we get the barn cleaned out, I hope to use the 'stuff on hand' to make an appropriate space for them.  I know a man who raises them, so I can get stock from him....if you have any experience and/or suggestions, please leave them in the comments!

We took a day-trip and went fishing.  Daughter caught her first-ever all-by-herself fish!  She set the hook herself and landed it too!  She is very happy!  She insisted she would clean it herself, so she watched me clean the one that Husband caught....and then decided that she might try that another time.  (wink!)

Several months ago, Taffy had a urinary tract infection.  We caught it early, I was pretty sure that was the problem, but even though we were proactive, it was still about $90 for the test, office visit, antibiotic, etc.  She started to show signs of a UTI last week, so I looked up home remedies and treatments.  We are giving her cranberries and apple cider vinegar and she is getting better!  I do not like the idea of her taking antibiotics, even semi-regularly, if she is able to heal on her own and have stronger immunity.  We will certainly take her to the vet if she needs to go, but we are encouraged that the home remedies are helping, because in the long run, we think it makes for a healthier pup!  In the midst of all this, I gave her a bath and grooming as well. :)

Now, lets talk a moment about getting apple cider vinegar into a dog.  I can tell you with much certainty that full strength ACV in an oral syringe is not the way to go.  Then again, if you want yourself, your spouse and your dog to smell like vinegar, it works great.  We had much better luck with a tablespoon of ACV mixed with about a tablespoon of peanut butter.  The first time I offered this to Taffy was the day after the oral syringe incident (ahem), and bless her heart, she took a lick, ran to the living room and laid down facing the kitchen.  She returned a few minutes later and took a few more tentative licks, then finished the peanut butter/ACV mixture.  Poor doggy.  Luckily for us, peanut butter trumps the vinegar.

We had sunny-rainy days when there were beautiful rainbows, and we have done a bit of bird watching at our newly assembled bird feeding station.

Just today, I went to the afternoon session of the local garden club's free garden tours.  I decided to join the garden club - it is only $14 a year for the whole family and I met some very nice people.  I look forward to learning and sharing and making new friends.

One of the shrubs on display on the garden tour.

I grow this at home, and I was so happy to learn/confirm that it is tansy!  

We had milk that needed using, so I made this chocolate pudding.  Yum!

What about you?  Did you have a good week?  What did you do to spend less, save more and make do?  Feel free to share in the comments!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Last Week's Savings and Summer Fun

Daughter gave me the geranium for my birthday.
I grew the rest of the flowers from seed.

First, a quick thank-you to those of you that suggested I try the arugula with other things.  I had a little in a salad and liked it just fine.  I guess I grew more than I will probably need, but I'm learning!  I will likely try it a few other ways through the week.  Some of it is going to seed, so I'm going to try and save some seeds as well!

Our days have been cooler than is typical.  Our lettuces, kale and peas are producing very nicely.  The beans and tomatoes are blooming, so I'm hoping the predicted warmer temperatures will arrive, so the tomatoes will set.

We have herbs planted around the perimeter,
with vegetables protected inside the fence.

There were some really good grocery sales this week.  Bottom round roast was 2.98 a pound, bacon was 1.98 a pound and the same store was offering a free carton of ice cream with a $25 purchase.  We bought roasts, bacon, a few other items and got ice cream (two cartons!) as well.  I sliced a lot of the roast for teriyaki or jerky, and also cut one roast in half to make two smaller roasts.  The 'ends' from slicing were cubed for beef stew, and everything was wrapped and labeled for the freezer.  We also got some apples for .48/lb, and it was .48 for green peppers and .88 for red peppers.

One of the feed stores in our area opened two new stores this past weekend, so all stores in the chain were offering 15% off feed on Saturday, 7/11.  We stopped on the way to pick up free small Slurpees at 7/11, then went to the feed store for chicken feed and scratch and rabbit feed.

I had two rabbit programs this week, and learned that we'll be scheduling some chicken programs for September.  Woohoo!

We enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

We have also been getting quite a bit of rain, so we haven't had to water very much the past week.  We have been fortunate in regard to rain and storms.  Not too far from us, the storms included hail, and a lot of people had damage to their gardens.  There has also been a lot of flooding in the area, some roads washed out, etc., but we are high enough that the flooding did not affect our property.

We were in the practice of putting Taffy out on the deck sometimes, so she could get some fresh air.  We simply put a baby gate across the doorway, but she figured out that she could knock it down if she crashed into it.  Husband used some hinges and wood we had on hand from other projects and made a gate that keeps her safe and out of trouble.

Daughter attended a free library program for 'mad scientists'.  She had a great time!  We also checked out books and media for the week.

We used some things we had on hand to create a bird feeding station.

We had lost a small apple tree in the front yard, so we turned the trunk into a platform feeder.

We moved a bird feeder on a post and attached the two with an old garden gate that came with the property.  I wired on some wrought-iron hangers, and Husband made a platform for a bird bath.  We used a can of black spray paint to touch-up wherever we needed to and to make it look more uniform.  We are using a glass pie plate for the water, so it's easy to clean as needed.  I hung some things we had on hand, but I'm sorting through some ideas on Pinterest to make some bird feeders.  What do you think of it so far?  It was zero cost so far, and I'll share as I get more feeders made.

We've had enough sunny weather to hang our laundry outside on the clotheslines.  It smells so wonderful!  With all the rain, we've been busy with mowing, but we're keeping up with it.  We are also in the midst of sorting and weeding some of our possessions so that we can sell the things we no longer need, declutter, and make better use of the space in our basement.  We are staying busy!

Are you making the most of your summer, or is it a different season where you live?  What are your plans for the coming week?

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Week of Summer Fun and Savings!

Awesome photo of a fire-breather, courtesy of Husband.

We went to the Colorado Renaissance Festival this past weekend.  The funds for this came from our trip/vacation fund.  We went on "Children's Weekend", which made Daughter's admission free.  We bought half-price admission tickets for Husband and I from Living Social.  It is clearly stated that you cannot bring food into the festival, but you can bring in sealed bottled water, so I bought a 24 pack of bottled water (on sale) the week before.  We froze some and took some chilled.  As the frozen bottles thawed, we could re-fill them from the chilled bottles.  It worked out very well.

It was "vacation" so we shared various snacks while we were at the festival.   We would get an item, share it, walk around a while and go to a show or a joust, then have something else a bit later.  We had a turkey leg, some breaded green beans with a coconut-Thai-curry-peanut sauce, an Italian ice molded into an orange half and a pretzel.  Everything was tasty, and it was nice to just stay at the festival.  (We have brought a cooler with food in the past, left it in the car and then gone out to the car to eat, then returned to the festival, but we decided against that this year.)  We had a lot of fun and really enjoyed our day.

The royals welcomed us to the village in the morning.  Later in the day,
the queen knighted Daughter (and the other children who attended the ceremony)
for her honor and loyalty to the realm.

There were big cats!

There were acrobatic jugglers!

There was jousting!
The lady to the left was dressed as a seamstress.  She had many patches
on her dress, and her hair had spools of thread and ribbon.  She was delightful - she
welcomed us at the beginning of the day, and then she was our cheer-leader
during the joust.  I wish I had gotten a better photo of her and her costume.

Sir William.  He represents honor, chivalry and justice.  We were cheering for him!

Will-iam! Will-iam! Will-iam!

We have many more pictures from our visit, but these are some highlights.  There are also many shops, offering clothing, costumes, toys, jewelry, leatherwork, swords, knives, incense, brooms, furniture, wands and more.  There are also many food choices - virtually everything was available!

Lots of people dress up for the Renaissance Festival.  It is amazing to see all the people dressed as lords and ladies, princesses and peasants, wizards and....pirates.  There were a lot of pirates!  (I also saw a young boy dressed as a fire fighter.)  It is all in good fun, but I was not interested in dressing up - those costumes all look hot to me!  Daughter, however, did want to dress as a falconer.

We borrowed a dress from a friend that would work as a tunic, but we later remembered a hooded dress that daughter had in her closet - it worked perfectly.  She wore leggings and boots for the rest of her outfit.  She has a stuffed toy eagle that she took for her bird.  I used felt to make a hood for it (You can find patterns for everything online these days!) and braided some yarn for the jesses (leg 'ties' that falconers use much like a leash for their hunting birds).  We tied a couple of stuffed animals to her belt, hanging upside down, to indicate that she had been hunting, and had gotten a rabbit and a duck.  She tucked a toy dagger in her belt and wore a brown leather glove of mine for her falconer's glove.  Finally, I used some really lovely satin fabric that my friend gave to me and made a water bottle holder and a coin bag for her belt.  She really looked the part!

I made a felt hood for 'Liberty', with a
feathered top-knot.

'Liberty' in her hood and jesses.

Alas, the costume was a bit warm, so after the costume contest, we did make a quick visit to the car.  I had packed her flip-flops, a tee shirt and shorts and she was very happy to change into those after spending over four hours in her costume.

When I had the sewing machine out for Daughter's costume accessories, I altered a pair of pants for Husband.

Back at home, it was a busy week, but our activities were more typical of our day-to-day life.  We invited friends over to play one day.  The children played outdoors until it got a little warm, then they came inside for snacks - popcorn, watermelon and lemonade - and played with legos for a while.  We spent some time at the library and borrowed books and media to keep us occupied through the week.  I did two bunny programs and subbed at the library as well.

To wash the lettuce leaves from our garden, I fill a clean sink with cold water and two drops of dish soap.
Without the soap, it is more difficult to remove the dirt.

Next, the leaves are rinsed in plain cold water.

Finally, I spin the leaves dry in the salad spinner,
then store them in a plastic container in the fridge until it's time to make salad.

I stopped picking asparagus about a week early, to let the plants go ahead and build up for winter and next spring.  Also...I admit....I was starting to burn out just a little bit.  I love asparagus, but I was not as excited to have it as I was back in May, so it was time to let the plants burst forth!  Now we have a big, wild fern-like patch of asparagus plants.  Meanwhile, we are still getting lettuces from the garden.  I picked some arugula too, and I do not like it at all.  It is, to me, very bitter and strong.  I will see if anyone I know would like some, but clearly, arugula is not for me.  Kale, however, is lovely this year, and I picked a big bag full.  We had it in some vegetable blends, and I made a kale salad that we all enjoyed.  I also picked a few peas this week and harvested some herbs for some of our meals (chives, thyme, oregano, cilantro, parsley, mint), as well as for drying for winter.  A gopher did some digging in my beans, so I set traps, but I didn't have any luck.  I did unearth a salamander when I was removing the traps (We were both very surprised.), but I turned him loose in another spot, since I was afraid I would accidentally bury him when I was filling in the gopher hole.  My tomatoes are blooming, and I can see little tiny zucchini fruits on my squash plants.

Kale.  We are getting a good crop!

Husband and I took a walk around the orchard.  We got a very late frost this year, during the time when most of our fruit trees were blooming.  It was a hard frost that took the leaves off most of the deciduous trees in our area.  However, we discovered that we have some apples, pears and peaches on our trees, as well as sour cherries.  Our harvests will not be for at least a couple of months (with the exception of the sour cherries), so we will keep an eye on those trees and make plans for harvest, freezing and canning.

My friend is out of town on a trip, so she brought me some fruit that they would not use before they left.  I made a banana cake with the bananas, and we are eating the other fruits fresh.

There were some good sales on grill foods for 4th of July.  We combined some with coupons and stocked up on smoked sausages and chicken, some condiments and snack crackers.  We had nearly $40 left from June's grocery budget, so we are in 'good shape'.  Since we are getting quite a few of our produce items from the garden right now, this is a great time to stock up on other pantry staples.  I am on the lookout for sales on a few different items.

We do not have air conditioning in our home - it is rare to actually 'need' it here.  We open the windows at night and let cool air in, then we close the windows on warm days and use the ceiling fans.  We are in our typical summertime pattern where we often get rain or stormy weather in the afternoons, so I do my best to hang laundry outdoors earlier in the day so that I can be dried and brought in before the clouds begin to form.  I have only used the drying racks once in the past few weeks.

I hope you had a good week!  Do you have plans for special summertime activities?