Life on a little urban homestead in the making, with ideas for self-sufficiency, Permaculture, DIYing, organic gardening, food preservation, Chicken keeping, cookery, crafts, thrifting and more...

Jul 30, 2012

Tennessee Corn Pone Recipe, Surprise Pumpkins, Makeovers Soon

Tennessee Corn Pone Recipe-
Thanks to Margo at Thriftathome for posting this idea. I'd never heard of it before. She posted a crock pot version I'll try later. I decided to try this version-  I did 1/3 more and used a lasagna pan. This recipe is flexible spice-wise. I did pinto beans and added: 1 lg. can canned whole tomatoes loosely mushed, paprika, celery seeds, 2 bunches chopped green onions, Tabasco (about 1 TBL), salt, pepper, garlic powder & thyme. I added about 1/8 cup water to make them more "saucy". You can taste as you go before you heat the beans. I heated the bean mixture in the microwave to speed up the cooking. It looked like this-

Wet mixture, which REALLY puffs up-
Pour on top of beans and bake
I served this with green salad and sweet tea. :)

Next time I might try black beans, bell peppers, cilantro, a little cheese in the topping and cayenne.

Recipe- 4 cups very juicy cooked and seasoned beans (especially pinto or kidney)
2 cups cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 quart of buttermilk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 butter (I don't use margarine)

Heat beans until quite hot and pour into a lightly greased 9" x 13" baking dish. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix the cornmeal, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Melt the butter and combine with buttermilk and eggs. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until smooth and pour them over the hot beans. Bake on the top rack of your oven until bread is a rich golden color and the sides of the corn bread pull away from the sides of the pan. This takes about 30 minutes. Serves 10 to 12.

Surprise Pumpkins-
I finally ID'd my mystery veggies under the cabbages in the cold frame- PUMPKINS! I don't know what kind, but I moved them to a sunnier spot in the cold frame. I'm hoping they're big ones, but who knows? They may have been seeds from the compost pile or the manure we bought. We have 3 good sized ones, and 3 more small ones in the main area. Time will tell...

Makeovers Soon-
Dave got a good deal on 4 plastic chairs at a yard sale, a buck a piece. I'm going to paint them forest green, so we'll have enough seating for company soon. I'll be painting the new "canning cabinet" I posted a photo of too. We decided against building one from scrap lumber, as we don't have a Sazsall, and it would take a lot more skill than we both have. So we got the dresser and left the drawers behind.

Fun little shelf I found for 50 cents for our main hall corner for some little displays

Anya hanging out in the kitchen, what a spaz-

Jul 28, 2012

Chicken Run Add-On, Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles, Choke Cherry Jelly, Home Grown Blackberry Tea, Thrifting

Chicken Run Add On-
I use a mister in our main, fenced in veggie area, there's shade in the berries, but it hasn't really enough for my poor, hot girls. After watching my chickens cook for two summers I finally had a brilliant idea! We had a fence border at the edge of the rear coop corner. Behind the coop were two pallets and the components of the winter "sun room" we add on to the coop. When I looked at what was past there I realized it was all nice and shaded and had established shrubs- nothing they could damage. Bingo! Dave and I talked design, spent about $20.00 at Home Depot (nothing else to use), it took about an hour and now- fenced in shade! The girls LOVE IT!  We used culled wood,  hardware, and 1 roll of green plastic fencing (1" holes, 4' high, 25' long), we had some left over. There was storage area behind coop, so Dave later cut the pallets in 1/2 to make more of an open path.

New end of fencing, next to the compost bin. Love the duct tape!

Girls love the new cooler space!

Need to use those onions!

Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles-
I used this recipe Canning Garlic Dill Pickles and modified based on a comment that Cheryl left on her blog-
"We make a refrigerator pickle very similar, but, to make it even easier, the brine does not have to be boiled. Just use cold water and the vinegar (we use all cider vinegar, no white) and they are ready in about 3 weeks. We also add chunks of onion or slices to our jars and I suggest using fresh dill instead of dill seed. It is much more pungent. They will last up to a year in the fridge. We are just finishing up last’s years. I got a little crazy making them and luckily we have an extra fridge in the garage for produce, etc. But, it’s really my pickle fridge! " Thanks Cheryl!!!

I decided to give that a go! Since we have a college-sized fridge in our garage for extra produce, etc., it would work great! I like the idea of using all apple cider vinegar for a little different flavor. I added 1/4 tsp. pickling spice to each pint (1/2 tsp., to each qt.), 1/2 sliced jalapeno (with seeds) to each qt. It was so nice to be able to not heat the brine. Since I had some brine leftover I did 2 qts. of celery, carrots, Vidalia onion chunks and red bell pepper. Now I just have to wait 3 weeks to crunch time! I did realize that I could add some "pickle crisp" (finally found some at WalMart) to the cans and so I did. They should be extra crunchy!!! My total was 5 qts. and 4 pints.

Choke Cherry Jelly-
I planted a Choke Cherry bush in the front yard 3 years ago. It's a native plant here. This is the first year I had a small harvest to do something with. I decided to try a jelly. I realized, after picking, that I probably should have waited about 2-3 weeks later, oh well. I only had about 1/2 cup of berries to work with so I made two 1/2 pints. I know some people wouldn't have bothered but it will be nice come winter. Boiled the cherries for 15 minutes, then my version of a mini jelly juice extractor-

                                        the juice was almost lavender colored, very pretty

Sugar, lemon juice, pectin and a little later- jelly!

Home Grown Blackberry Tea-
I had to trim my blackberry vines, so I thought, "hey that's tea leaves!" I carefully removed some leaves, and dried them. Blackberry tea for winter-


Today I got some great deals- at Cost Plus World Market (where I got a 15 % off coupon in an email) we got: teas, 3 bottles (1 Liter each) of Italian extra virgin olive oil for $4.99 each. It was only today, an unadvertised special- good timing! This is my favorite- a cute tray with cover for picnicking, $3.00, and it collapses for easy storage! I now some of you would love this for GLAMPING :)

A cute little napkin holder at a thrift warehouse, 25 cents- I may cover with chicken wire, or paint?

nice, big basket, 50 cents

stainless steel water bottle, perfect for work

A dresser, drawers removed, for $6.00 for my new "canning cabinet", a work in progress, it will be painted and prettied up. I will post "after" pictures-

Dave and I went to a farmer's market about 1 p.m., and we got there as everyone one was packing up. I thought they closed at 3 p.m. I wanted to buy something before everything was gone, and spotted some red potatoes. I asked the lady farmer about them. She started bagging some, handed me a bag and said "here, try these.". I said, "let me give you some money", she said- "nope, I'd just have to take them home". Lesson learned- go early for better choices, go late for freebies, or discounts!!! We received about 5 lbs of 2 kinds of gorgeous fresh red tatters. I'll go back early next week and buy more local produce...

My best score last week, my 2 BIG down-filled couch pillows, these will be great for winter!
Washed and ready to go, and I love the design!

Jul 25, 2012

Independence Days Challenge, Camping & A Sleep Aid, Mystery Garden Veggie/Mushroom?

Cascade Lake Inlet

Independence Days Challenge-
I thought I'd get to the "work" I've done, so I can get to the fun- camping! By the way- I have this list as a word doc, so I can just copy and paste the blank...

1. Plant Something- Today I planted 2 paste tomatoes, perennials, and herbs to fill in some spots, all 75% off! Atleast it was cooler this morning, 70. I won't really be doing a separate Fall garden as there's no room. My summer garden will go til mid-Oct. depending on the weather. I have harvested green tomatoes into Nov.

2. Harvest Something- My first tomatoes, basil, berries are coming in finally. The chickens ate 2 tomatoes. I'm hoping this is not a trend :(  I think it's because we were camping and they didn't get enough snacks :) I also saved some blackbery vine trimmings to make tea out of.

3. Preserve/Store Something- Did peach jam. Bought more cukes yesterday to make fridge pickles. Will can the chokecherry jelly this week. Blackberry tea leaves to store.

4. Manage Reserves- Get A Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep- Bought several grill packs of chicken on sale, froze most of it. Ditto Italian sausage, and brats for the fall. I'm going to keep adding more meats for the Fall/Winter. I love our freezer, the small chest one has paid for itself. Great for freezing the 25 lb. bag of flour too :) I put the flour in a giant Ziploc bag after killing what might have been in there. Bought fresh dill for pickles, it finally hit the store!

5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipes- Tried a new chili rubbed chicken recipe, excellent! I used parts instead of a whole one- Chili Rubbed Chicken  I am LOVING my dilly beans I made, just awesome! Crunchy carrots I added are a bonus.

6. Build Community Food Systems- Trying to buy local, mostly cherries and corn right now.

7. Recycle/Re-Use- Will be building a canning cabinet, need to buy a Sawsall first. Used scrap wood camping for kindling. Thrifting: got 2 gorgeous like-new down-filled pillows for our couch (what a deal $2.00 each), water bottle, cat condo/bag, ball jar.  Got a used deviled egg tray on eBay, cute!

8. Skill Up- Renewed my camping cooking skills :)

9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something- Getting more scrap wood. Sold off some really nice stuff on eBay, as it wasn't being used and was just hanging out.

Ceramic deviled egg tray, cute huh?

Our Home For 2 Days

Camping and A Sleep Aid-
We finally went camping for the first time in years, with our daughter and her boyfriend of several years. It was a blast! Tami only has weekends off and no vacation so we had to keep it to the weekend. They were excellent company and everyone had a great time! I stole Kristina's idea and gifted Tami and I with kerchiefs as a little memento (un-matching though).  Tami got a cute purple floral design, mine's a bright blue standard pattern. We found a campground that is reclaimed BLM land and it's run by a group of seniors. Not being a senior, or an RVer, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'm not an RV fan, as they have been (in my experience) loud and obnoxious. Here's the experience, short version- very clean campground, free firewood, showers/toilets, water, set up more for RV's, but a had some nice tent sites. Very quiet during the day, the staff patrolled on their ATV's. Nice walking trail thru the forest to various edges of the lake, and I got lots of wildflower pics there. Went swimming, watched an eagle (bald?) swing down and catch a fish, hung out in camp and read. Then night fell, still fine, as we did dinner and smores, I went and took a nice hot shower, and watched the stars come out. I was tired and relaxed.

As we got into the tent about 11:30 we realized the air mattress wasn't inflated hard, mistake, but figured we'll fall asleep. FYI- Dave can sleep anywhere and thru an atomic bomb blast. First, an RV nearby had something that kept cycling, every 10 minutes or so, for hours. I almost went over there, but decided in the interest of personal safety to stay in my tent. Then the screaming (this is why I don't drink) on the other end of the facility went on for a short while. Then the dogs barked. At 2 a.m. I got up to use the bathroom, a ways down the road. It was finally silent. I looked up at the stars for a full 5 minutes and enjoyed the universe. Back to bed. I woke up at 5 after finally falling into deep sleep. Then the birds started up. In the forest, there's a lot of them. Note to self- take earplugs.

At 6 a.m. I gave up and got up. This was NOT in the plan on V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N. Note to self- take sleep aid next time, skip the earplugs. I went down to the bathroom area and got cleaned up. Went back and started a fire. Dave got up about then kid a bit later. Had a nice breakfast, packed the camp up and drove to McCall a few minutes away. It's a gorgeous mountain town, just stunning. Had lunch there, slept a bit on the drive home, then came back to 102 degree heat, ugh. I cooled down the chickens, watered the garden while Dave unloaded. Then- I went to bed, and slept for 2 hours. Dave did too, since he didn't wake me up on time. I got some dinner out as I was really groggy, brought it home, then had a nice evening. I slept for 10 hours, hard. I spent the last 2 days doing laundry and dishes from camping, but I do have a dishwasher thankfully. So much "clean up" after- I wanted to go camping why? We do want to go out in the Fall when there's less campers, in a more remote area. Note to self- camping is actually a blast- take sleep aid.

Anya had to check out the pre-camping inflation of the air mattress

View off walking trail, Cascade Lake inlet

Our swimming hole

Tami taking a reading break

wild iris or???

Asters I think


Payette Lake, McCall

Paddle boarder with dog! Cute...

Tami braving the very cold water, early in the day, brrrr....
The lake is VERY deep

Mystery Garden Veggies/Mushroom?
I noticed last week several of the same mystery veggies growing in our raised bed. I think it's some kind of squash, as it has fuzzy leaves. I'm afraid if I move it I'll kill it, so I'm leaving it and hoping for fruit. I think it was in the soil from the other garden area when we moved some of the soil over. Any ideas?

These have sprouted in part of my shady lawn, any ideas what kind they are?
I think they're probably from the bark mulch

My Life Savers In A Hot Summer Kitchen-

Fan blows cool air from the living room into the kitchen
Anya says hi!

Turbo fan up high on opposite corner in the kitchen for a cross breeze.
This one, single fan has REALLY helped with the heat!

Fan by kitchen vent helps blow the cool air more, and I'm grateful for A/C!

Anya exploring her $2.00, washed thrifting cat condo/bag

Jul 19, 2012

Garden Thrifting, Independence Days, Homemade Laundry Soap Results

Amen Ralph

Garden Thrifting-
It was HOT today, 102. Ugh. I had errands to run and decided to call a local feed store that has a nice garden area. I knew their veggies were probably on sale, if they had any left, and they did! 75% off! I picked up 2 BIG paste tomatoes, 2 tarragons, and 3 perennials. What a deal! I love tarragon in chicken salad. I also got some row cover on sale for next spring for the raised bed to help with starting seeds early. Their fruit trees were 1/2 off and I'm eyeing a pear tree :)  Need to find a spot though... Dave loves pears!

Out tonite Dave and I passed a junked fence pile. When I spotted the "free" sign I asked Dave to go back fast! :)  We got enough decent cedar fence boards to make a needed gate behind the coop. There's a 3' - 4' gap between the back of the coop and the main fence. We have plastic garden fencing in the gap, but it's a pain climbing over it. We can make a nice little gate there now, all free! I'll post pics.

Independence Days-
1. Plant Something- Bought the tomatoes and herbs, will plant shortly. Still thinking about a pear tree :)

2. Harvest Something- Eggs, compost, a few berries and a tomato for tomorrow night, our first! About another week for the blackberry deluge! Peppers are almost ripe.

3. Preserve/Store Something- Last week canned dill pickles, pickled green beans (they're wonderful!) and peach jam. I'm freezing more rhubarb in a few days from our neighbor, it's almost ripe. Will freeze berries soon. Next week will make my home-grown organic choke cherry jelly. Re-organizing the pantry, for better use of space. Got some Costco rosemary bread in the freezer.

4. Manage Reserves- Get A Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep- Bought some basics at Costco today- 20 lbs. sugar, 25 lbs. flour, 20 lbs. rolled oats, canned white chicken, canned smoked pork (sounds like a good dinner on buns with homemade spicy barbecue sauce!), a big bag wild black rice (only $5.00!), cat food, HUGE bag organic tortilla chips, and potato chips. After reading more about the drought nationally, etc., I' m getting more basics for everyday storage. I'm buying a bunch of chicken parts to freeze for the next several months. They're pretty cheap this time of year. Will check out the various peppers too.

5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipes- Made some homemade pizza with dough from the local pizza place, covered with my home grown basil, it was to die for!!! Bought some wild black rice at Costco, turns purple when cooked. Used leftover pasta sauce on leftover french bread for pizzas. I really use up my leftovers better now that I'm home and am more focused.

6. Build Community Food Systems- Talked to neighbor about getting more rhubarb next week, will give her some of my tomatoes when they ripen :)  Will hit a farmer's market next week. I want to can some pepper relish.

7. Recycle/Re-Use- Picked up wood mentioned above. I'm still deep cleaning our closets, and the garage. Sorting camping stuff in the shed. We' going camping for the first time in years! Since we have too much, we're giving the extras to our one daughter who also camps. She's going with us this weekend, I'm excited!  I have 4 items for sale on eBay- 3 purses and a blouse. Will use the funds for other projects. Thrifting I got a like-new blouse for work (Ralph Lauren), and a scarf for winter. I found a place to get free crate wood (very clean) to build a canning cabinet. That will be my next big project with Dave. I'll post pics.

8. Skill Up- Learning more new recipes for canning, quite a variety out there! I'm printing out quite a few for future use.

9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something- Garden fencing project, and crate wood for cabinet.

Not to confuse anyone, but I combined #3 and #4 (store and preserve) since that worked better for me.

Homemade Laundry Soap Results-
I posted my recipe recently and tried it after letting it sit a couple of days. I shook it several times a day as well. Clothes seem clean, soft, no odor! So far, so good! We do have hard water here, so that's a concern. A little blob of soap is there still. Next time I will use more boiling water to mix the shredded soap. I saw a big container of soap at Costco- $14.00 almost choked, then laughed!

National Droughts & The Future, Rising Corn Prices & Your Grocery Bill


National Droughts & The Future, Rising Corn Prices & Your Grocery Bill-

If you've followed the national news much (and you read between the lines) things could get pretty ugly at the grocery store soon. With the "worst drought in a generation" happening, affecting many crops and livestock, it's good to do what we can now to prepare for some certain upcoming changes. I read these two articles with some very sobering statistics- Worst Drought In A Generation  Rising Corn Prices & Grocery Bill

Those of us in the city (or in the country) who shop at a grocery stores on a regular basis tend to get lazy and complacent about shopping- the food will always be there, prices always about the same. I have peanut butter in my pantry I bought last year for $5.00 for a large jar. It's now $8.00+. Milk is up, grain is up. We tend not to notice the subtle, gradual changes right away. It tends to be cumulative. "Wait a minute, that was $... a few months ago". So what can we do? Think ahead.

This brings back thoughts about my Spring Food Preservation class I took. Ask yourself some questions when thinking about stocking your pantry (or talk to a friend who could use some info). If you don't have one now, start one. If you have one- good for you!!! Some dry goods can be stored in the garage- dried beans, paper products, things that aren't heat/freeze sensitive, in rodent-proof containers. The rest should be inside in a cool, dry area. Carve out an area somewhere. If you don't think you have room now think- how will you feed yourself later? Turn your linen closet into a food storage area, and store your linens somewhere else, like the garage (in a nice tote!). Buy an inexpensive food dehydrator, or build one. Start canning. Start stockpiling basics- grains, nuts, seeds, flours, salt, fats/oils, sugars, sweeteners, canned/dried fruits, veggies, dairy. Think about- what you would need if you couldn't go to the store for 2 weeks? What if 1 weeks food supply suddenly cost the same as 2 weeks food supply? What would you do? What would you do if you wanted to help other family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers? What would you be willing to give up NOW to get serious? I'm getting serious. I'm so glad we bought our small chest freezer. I'm saving a lot of $$$ that way. Right now split chickens are 99 cents a pound and that always ends around the end of summer. It's freezing time baby!!!

Here's an estimate of what 4 people would use food-wise for 2 weeks:
  • - 85 Gallons of Water
  • - 2 weeks of medications
  • - About 25lbs of grains/or equivalent calorie dense root vegetables
  • - 10lbs of beans or other legumes
  • - 3 lbs of sweetener
  • - 12 cans of fish or meat
  • - 5 lbs dry milk
  • - 12 cans of vegetables
  • - 2 lbs dried fruit
  • - 1 quart of oil
  • - Some Treats
  • - Just under 50 multivitamins
  • - Salt, baking soda, vinegar, baking powder, yeast, spices
Estimated Cost,  at the grocery store, depending on where you live (excluding Medications): $158.96
Estimated Cost, bought/ordered in bulk (plus extras):
$ 103.50

Food Storage Questions to Ask Yourself- 

What am I storing food for? 
What are my concerns? 
What kinds of situations are likely in my region? 
How much food do I want to store? 
For how many people/pets?  Don't forget your chickens! :)
How much water do I want to store? 
Am I likely to have people outside my immediate household who are with us in a crisis? 
Are there other things I want to store – clothing, medical supplies, tools?  What are they?
How much time and energy do I have to devote to this? 
How much space do I realistically think I have to devote to this?
How much money can I spend each week/month on this project?
Where will my stored food come from? 
How much of it will I grow/produce? 
What are my goals for food preservation? 
How much of my food will I buy, and from where? 
What can I get locally, and what do I have to get through the industrial food system? 
What’s the best and most ethical source for my food? 
What do I imagine doing with my food storage? 
Do I want it mostly to provide a hedge against a crisis, or for day to day use? 
Do I imagine myself eating regularly out of it and replacing it? 
Do I want to be able to share with others, or is my first priority protecting my own? 
How will I prevent loss of food to age, insects, mold?

Very thought-provoking, and better to answer now, than later. Breathe, don't panic and think ahead. It's much easier to be sane and smart when you have the time to go thru the process...
       Holiday barn ornament

        Holiday cow ornament
You can find out ways to support your local farmers with local groups or agencies, or go to  Farm Aid Store They have some fun gear for sale to support their work. If you know of any other groups please let me know? I'm ordering these two items to help out. I'd go to a concert if I lived in the area...
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