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...

Nov 25, 2012

And A Partridge In A Pear Tree, No Brown Thursday/Black Fridays Here, Turkey Yummies

And A Partridge In A Pear Tree-

One new computer

One new vacuum

One new Black and Decker screwdriver

and a partridge in a pear tree (sings in loud booming voice!)

It's like Santa came early! Sometimes life just works out that way. Our really old XP CPU was on the way out. I knew that once Windows 8 came in full force, the old Windows 7 would be cheap, but would also disappear off the market. We could have bought and loaded Win 7, but our old computer was so old (even after adding more memory) that it wouldn't work. I shopped around online and in some stores, then found the HP above (on the link.) Since I could get Office Pro 2010 for $10.00 thru my employer ($400. retail!) we decided to but a new tower. I bought it online and it was delivered 4 days later. What a difference! It actually boots up and everything loads within a minute or 2! WOW!!! Doing happy dance. It didn't take too long to figure out Win7, I had backed up all my files, email address & favorites and they transferred pretty easily. We got an upgrade for $15.00 for Win8 that I will keep.

Our old vacuum kept clogging and after 7+ years, so I was finished. It kept losing suction, even after cleaning it out every time I used it. The top wouldn't stand up as the latch broke a few years ago, and cat litter would spill out. Yummy. We figured the motor was just worn out. Since we have fairly new carpet, we wanted to keep it clean and make it last. I browsed around again and found the nice Eureka above. Holy crapola, talk about suction! Lightweight and it all works great. No more messy cleanups :)

Dave knew I just wanted a little stocking stuffer for Christmas (I'm ms. practicality) so when we both spotted the Black and Decker yesterday, while getting the vacuum, he grabbed one for me. Thanks Dave! Our last one was 15 years old or more, and they're great getting into odd spaces and really fast. It also won't strip anything with too much torque from a power drill. Happy, happy....

No Brown Thursday/Black Fridays Here-

I did Black Friday years ago, but never again. My view is if you're a smart shopper (like getting the HP computer online) why bother? I also like to sleep and and relax the day after Thanksgiving, and make more handmade gifts. My daughter has a part-time holiday job and had to be at work at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night. That sucked, but I admire her work ethic. Gotta pay the bills. I hope I'm wrong thinking that the stores will be OPEN ALL DAY on Thanksgiving in the future. Ugh. I love Thanksgiving the best of all the holidays, and it's just a distraction now for some. Sad. People get shot over this! 2 Shot Outside Walmart The there was the guy back east who left a toddler alone in a car, but took his new tv home. Great priorities. Man Left Tot In Car I sometimes wonder what other countries think of some Americans obsession with STUFF? I love this send up of the new IPhone 5 and Chinese factory workers on SNL, hysterical! So many of us are just a bunch of whiners. I tell my students that where we are is a "no whine zone" :)

SNL Sketch IPhone Factory Workers Problems

Turkey Yummies-
After being gifted with an all natural turkey (we get one each year) by my hubby's company I roasted that baby up! 23 lbs., and it had great flavor. I always put a little butter and fresh sage under the breast skin and fill the cavity with tons of fresh sage. I grow my own culinary sage and it's great! I add the same to the stuffing as well. I made a great new recipe for Cranberry Conserve this year. I used 1/2 the pecans (too spendy) and a little less sugar. Everyone LOVED it! I also made-
roasted yams with a little butter, brown sugar and cinnamon,
traditional gravy,
mashed Yukon gold taters,
Pumpkin pie and Indian Pudding for dessert.
The kinds brought veggies, salad and a pie. It was great!

I sent home jars of conserve, as well as other leftovers, with the kids. I made 2 big qt. jars of turkey stock last night from the carcass. Soup's on the horizon...

Nov 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you to all my followers and fellow bloggers for being such a wonderful part of my life! Have a wonderful day!

Nov 18, 2012

Food Prices, Rustic French Meat Pie, Chicken Feed & Sprouting

French Meat Pie

Food Prices & Creative Thinking-
Reading a lot of other blogs I keep hearing about food prices going up and up. It's true. Here's some things that have helped me do pretty well at the grocery store-

*Start some kind of a working pantry, that you add to, and use from, on a regular basis. You can do some of this in your garage depending on your climate, a cabinet with doors will work, but it depends on what you're storing. You can store under beds, in linen closets, you name it. If you have too much stuff in general, free up some space and store food instead! You can eat your other stuff.
*We aren't heavy meat eaters, limit that to about 1/2 the week. The rest is some form of vegetarian, protein foods. I use beans for chili, soups and make whole grain pastas.
*Our small chest freezer last spring was an excellent investment! I stocked up on a lot of fresh, freezable produce over the summer when prices were low- bell peppers, blueberries, fresh rhubarb from our neighbor, all kinds of things. Buy one now if you don't already have one. Theyr'e pretty reasonable if you shop around.
*We don't eat a lot of junk food. I see people loading up on boxed this and that, and I just cringe. I made sour cream noodles the other night, it's so easy! Just cook big, wide egg noodles til done, add sour cream, salt, pepper, chives, stir and all done! Cheap and tasty. I try to stay away from packaged cake mixes, etc., with all the additives. They also tend to be really high sodium. Ditto sodas. Bad for adults and kids. I do break down once in a while and keep something for emergency use, like a scone or brownie mix. No soda at home, I usually drink iced tea or sparkling water.
*I shop around, but I don't waste gas driving across town to save a buck, unless I'm going that way anyway.
*I go for quality, not quantity, on some things. Cheap produce, for instance, usually goes bad pretty fast. 
  Ditto cheap ground meats with added water, in tubes. Why buy water?
*Save money on bulk in the bulk section for other things like whole oats.
*Buy good chocolate :)
*Don't buy cereals, make your own or eat hot whole cereals. You can make ahead and heat as needed for kids.
*I saw turkeys on sale today for 50 cents a lb., with a $50.00 purchase. I'll go back in a few days and buy one. We were gifted with one for dinner, but I'd like to have one, have the butcher split it in half and freeze it. Great for farther into the winter. Gobble gobble.
*Buy some used kitchen stuff for cooking and food prep. We just got an expensive coffee maker for $4.00. I see crock pots, etc. at thrift sotres all the time cheap.
Rustic French Meat Pie-
I saw this recipe Meat Pie , adapted from here Swiss Chard Pie. I had lots of leftover french roasted chicken (just used herbs de Provence and olive oil), so I decided to try using it for something different. I used my fresh collard greens, left out the rice, used romano instead of the 2 other cheeses. I didn't want to deal with making pie crust, so I used store bought. Since the idea behind many rustic meals like this is use what you have, I did! It's frugality in action :)

Pie interior-

going into the oven-

                                   Next time I will squeeze out more liquid from the cooked greens

Chicken Feed & Sprouting-
I'm wondering what our chicken feed will be by spring? Our chicken feed and winter scratch mix is way up.  Luckily my egg sales pretty much cover that cost and then some. I charge $3.00 a dozen at work and always have buyers. The system works pretty well. I read about sprouting for chickens for feed recently, and so I grew some. I used mung beans. The first time I put some out they weren't too sure. The 2nd time they attacked it!

                                    Anya enjoying the heat vent on her bed

Nov 13, 2012

1st Annual Dark Days Challenge

1st Annual Dark Days Challenge-
 I read about this last year, liked the idea so I saved it. I read about the Dark Days Challenge here-Urbanhennery .  She doesn't look like she's doing it this year, but I am! It’s a challenge to continue cooking at least one local meal through the leaner days of winter. Your ingredients can come from your freezer, pantry, cold storage or local sources like farmers and other producers. I’m going to make a personal commitment to one meal a week. I’m also going to try to include others in our meals so our extended family can experience the pleasures of local foods, even in the dark days of winter. So here's the guidelines of the challenge, which I borrowed and modified slightly-

The challenge runs from December 1st, 2012 – April 15, 2013.

What’s the Challenge?
Try to cook four meals each month (1 per week) focused on sustainable, organic, and local ingredients. Whatever you can find is fine! Write about it on your blog, or here in the comments section. Feel free to link back to me on your blog if you have one!

What does local mean?
Traditionally local food challenges call for a 100 mile radius, but winter is more difficult in many climates. If you’re new to eating locally try 150 miles. Typical exceptions are oils, coffee, chocolate and spices. If you’re making fewer, or more exceptions, please note that on your first post or comment.

What if I can’t find every ingredient locally?
If you can’t find every ingredient, or even most ingredients, please still write about your attempts. This is just as much about what we learn, the obstacles we find and the decisions we make as it is about cooking with SOL ingredients. Do what you can, where you can.

What if I don’t have a good photos?
Take photos of what you’ve got, just do your best. No worries, keep it simple, or just tell the story and we’ll use our imaginations.

What if I don’t have a blog?

You are still welcome to participate! Just you come by each week and add your meal/experiences as a comment.

If you post here that you're participating I'll add a list on the sidebar! This is not a competition, just a way to support each other and share ideas.

Nov 12, 2012


10' garland (all wood pieces) at a rummage sale for $2.00, what fun!


I found a nice 12 cup coffee maker for the holidays, only $4.00 a Goodwill. We only have a little french press for Dave, but we needed more for the family members coming over. I thought- let's go thrifting! We found one right away, brought it home and I washed it up. This would be about $50.00 + new. The pot was steamy in the pic. I also found a nice little St. Pat's day decorating set for work, 99 cents.

Nov 11, 2012

Independence Days Challenge

  Girls looking for a snack!

Independence Days Challenge-

1. Plant Something- Nothing til spring but hey, it's winter!

2. Harvest Something- Eggs, leaves for the flower beds and compost. We mounded some dry ones up around the base of the coop/nesting box area for some extra insulation-

3. Preserve/Store Something- Made some more refrigerator pickled carrots. 

4. Manage Reserves- Get A Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep- Stocked up on butter and peanut butter for winter holiday baking. Bought a nice LED lantern for $15.00 (pretty good deal) at Home Depot yesterday-

 5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipes- Used up some whole oats making chocolate chip cookies, yummy!

6. Build Community Food Systems- Still selling eggs at work.

7. Recycle/Re-Use- Composting leaves and regular recycling.

8. Skill Up- Growing sprouts for the chickens for a feed supplement for winter. Reading up on what kind of computer to get next, what the program differences are. Our old XP's are pooping out...

9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something- My sanity? I have a week off for turkey day break (furlough)! Got over a medium bad cold on my homeopathic stuff, yeah!

75 to 35 In Five Days, Thanksgiving Coming?

75 to 35 In One Week
We went from 75 degrees to 35 for the high in 5 days. Weird. I wore a short sleeve, light blouse Monday, wore flannel and a heavy coat Friday. Yesterday and today- polar fleece tops and jeans. Brrrr. The winter is finally here I think. The leaves are coming down hard. Dave raked yesterday, today (above) more of the same :) We had a skiff of snow Friday morning, with a bit forecast for tomorrow. We pretty much missed Winter Storm Brutus. The chickens are getting their winter scratch mix and I started my sprouts yesterday for them! Yummy. I turned on their water heater to prevent freezing, and their condo heat lamp, since it's in the 20s' at night. We added fresh pine shavings yesterday, so they are all cozy. Girls are happy!

Thanksgiving Coming?
I heard Christmas music playing in a store the day after Halloween. Really? Give me a freaking break! I hate this time of year. I actually have trouble finding a little Thanksgiving decoration each year. There's just not much even on the market. I like Thanksgiving better than Christmas, since it promotes being thankful and appreciating the gifts in life. There's not the glut of shopping insanity and commercialism. I'm moving more towards a Yule celebration myself as far as that goes. I don't put out my generic winter decorations in the house til about a week after turkey day, and I don't do Black Friday shopping, I sleep in! Luckily I'm a smart shopper so why get up early and stand in line? What fools....

Here's my post from last year- Materialism in America  and I think it still applies. Sorry the 1 pic is missing...

Nov 5, 2012

Interesting Facility

Interesting Facility-

My husband took these photos of a strange underground facility near our house. Really odd, high security and is pumping out massive amounts of air. Really strange...

What's behind door #1????

Nov 4, 2012

Independence Days & Sandy, Thrift Find

Independence Days & Sandy
After watching Super Storm Sandy unfold hit it really drove home to be how important it is to keep on top of things. Even little things, like keeping the gas tank full, BEFORE a storm hits, is critical. It is kind of shocking how little thought went into planning on the part of some in the storm-affected areas. With all the warnings before-hand some people didn't have any simple, cheap supplies on hand- batteries, water, gas, simple foods. I really feel for the victims, but it can also be a learning experience for the rest of us. I did get 2 two buckets of freeze-dried foods from Costco last wek! They looked good, nice seals, etc. A good variety for the price and I got them in 3 days buying online- 
                                  300 Total Servings Freeze-Dried Fruit Variety Emergency Food Bucket By Chef's Banquet
                                  320 Total Servings of Freeze-Dried Fruit Variety Emergency Food Bucket By Chef's Banquet
1. Plant Something- Nothing til spring.

2. Harvest Something- Eggs, herbs, leaves for the flower beds for winter.

3. Preserve/Store Something- Still stocking up the pantry, especially after Sandy. I check the freezer regularly, and keep an eye on reserves. That includes the 2 x 55 gallon rain barrels. Gotta have water. We have a good filter if we needed it for drinking water. 2 new buckets from Costco.

4. Manage Reserves- Get A Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep- Lately soups, more no-cook foods with winter coming. After getting a cold and minor cough I made sure I refilled the homeopathic stuff in the medicine cabinet closet, it really nipped it in the bud! :) Almost all gone!!! I used Coldcalm and Chestal Cough Syrup. Before I found these two items (at Walgreen's) I used to get REALLY sick, now it's about gone and no side affects. We finally bought a Sazall for various jobs, only $25.00! I bought a couple of warm, polar fleece tops and a pair of sweat pants for the cold weather. After Sandy storm I kind of did a mental inventory of what kind of warm pants I had, besides jeans or cords? I have sweats now, will buy a few more pairs soon. The forecast is in the 20's at night by the end of the week...

5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipes- Tried some new, Progresso chicken noodle canned soups for my cold, yummy! Not as good as homemade but I wasn't up to making some. Been working on lots of acorn squash, great with some butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.

6. Build Community Food Systems- Selling eggs to 2 co-workers. Got some free fruit from 2 friends.

7. Recycle/Re-Use- Scraps to hens. We put the chicken sun room back up, put some of the leaves into compost pile, rest in the garden.

8. Skill Up- Reading new recipes to try. Will start sprouting for the girls soon.

9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something- Dave took out a fairly dead, big shrub in the front yard. It will open up some space for another fruit tree (dwarf) or maybe some raspberries in the spring. Opening up more planting space is always good! 

Thrift Find-
I hit a local thrift store yesterday and found this, for $4.00, added new batteries, works great!

The globe is actually glass, and it's a very heavy resin. It's be great for the holiday/winter season :)
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