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...

Aug 27, 2017

Lessons Learned From A Layoff, Thrifting Scores, Cooking Sweet Italian Peppers

Lessons Learned From A Layoff-
For a variety of reasons I decided to not to post this until after it was over. Those reasons are personal. Primarily I think it's important to retain a positive focus during tough times. I also asked Dave if he was comfortable with my posting this in the interest of possibly helping other people and he agreed. He's that kind of guy! My husband Dave was lad off his job at the end of a day on a Monday in July. He knew it might be coming, and was working for a large multinational company, so big decisions aren't made locally. It's a numbers game in his field of industrial sales. He called me at home late in the afternoon and said "if you get a phone call in a few minutes I've been laid off and have my papers in the car." I was a bit surprised but not shocked, knowing that their sales and numbers were down. He did help set things up with his manger before he left, then was escorted out the door. He did find out later his management staff was very upset the next day, that was hard for them. Before he got home I was formulating some ideas.

Here was the initial good news- they laid him off a Monday (instead of the Friday before) to keep benefits for the next two weeks, enabling me to get him on my insurance with no gap. He wanted to go without out, and I said over my dead body! They also gave him two weeks severance pay and cashed out his vacation/sick leave. He found out he also had several hundred $$$ in his FSA account that he didn't know he could get. He submitted some paperwork and got a check. The day he was laid off he called out retirement person Craig, who was also a former co-worker in his filed. Here's some wonderful synchronicity- when Dave called Craig, Craig was on the line with someone who was hiring in Dave's field. Craig said he'd call Dave right back, and told the other person he needed to interview Dave. He called Dave back, and seven weeks later he hired Dave! It might not have been so delayed, but they were on vacation and short staffed. That was the good news.

There are variety of things that happen, even when you know things could happen, as far a layoffs. Dave thought about transferring in the Spring to another branch but was told by his manager that their sales slump would end and they'd be fine. Mistake. Listen to your gut in business. If he had transferred THEN it would have been a much easier and less painful.

We crunched numbers right away, and he filed for unemployment. We looked at what we could realistically cut as far as spending. At this point we had to NOT panic, just think more logically. We knew we'd be OK until November or so, with savings. I knew we could also tap into our retirement if it was really needed, worst case. I also knew he'd find something, since he has an incredible work ethic, and is very well liked and thought of in his field.

Networking is CRUCIAL, as in that initial phone call. Dave also used multiple job websites, including Linked In, to network and get the word out.

Emotionally, it takes a toll. Dave went thru anger, depression, boredom and just felt like the rug have been pulled out from under him. I had to do everything I could to reassure him we'd be okay, that he'd find a job and be the cheer leader. That took somewhat of a toll on me. We bickered some and got on each others nerves, but that's understandable. I think it helps in this situation to allow small things that can comfort a person in tough times. Dave liked to go to Starbuck's once or twice and week and he'd said he'd stop. I told him to keep going. I got him out of the house, and made him feel more normal. It was worth the money. We also took a short road trip one Saturday afternoon because it was a metal health things for both of us. Not everyone would agree, but we both knew this wasn't going to last. We needed to get thru the process intact.

I did set up an Etsy account during this time, which I had planned on doing. I was just more motivated. I also inventoried our foods- freezer, pantry closet, kitchen, etc. to see exactly what we had. I was happy that I had a fairly good stockpile to pull from.

Dave used the time at home and was very helpful. He deep cleaned the house, preserved peaches, did yard clean up, heavy gardening, car appts, etc. That freed up some time for me on the weekends. That reduced my stress some. He froze 12 one-gallon bags of rhubarb gifted from our neighbor for instance-

We talked daily about little projects he could do while I was at work. Planning a little at a time wasn't so overwhelming. He was really good about that.

He's starting his new job after Labor Day, and it's a good fit. He went to Portland this weekend for a family reunion, with a ticket from last winter when his flight was cancelled due to weather. He stayed with family and it was a perfect time for him to have a break. I did things here at home. We survived and we learned some things.

Chicken pitcher, $3.00

Thrifting Scores!
Had a really great finds at two Goodwill stores. I was needing a cardigan for upcoming fall weather at my job and found a beautiful J.Jill new sweater with the tag for $6.99, part wool and cotton, toggles down the front, a heathered cable knit, with Velveteen strap button loops, cream color. Fit perfect!

Also a new cheap solar system puzzle for Grand baby for a buck-

Also found a needed large wicker basket for $2.99. I went to another Goodwill today and found a
like-new purple corduroy shirt jacket, $5.00. Yesterday I got a great deal at the Eddie Bauer Outlet with my $10.00 off coupon, a 40% off tee-shirt for hubby, was $2.50. Most of his tees are in bad shape, so score! A good weekend!

Cooking Sweet Italian Peppers-
I read about these peppers in the last year, so I decided to grow some. I ordered some seeds, but was lucky to find some starts locally. I went recipe hunting after having a nice harvest (more coming!). This recipe looks amazing, I would need to try these on a weekend when I have some time-

I also found some random, anecdotal stories online, with great info-

They are sweet and are usually pan-fried with onions and eaten with sausage in my family. Occasionally, they are oven roasted and peeled, served with garlic, olive oil and red wine or balsamic vinegar as a side dish.

Make a slit lengthwise on each pepper, heat fry pan with a splash of oil, place peppers with slit facing down and fry until peppers have a light golden color. Turn them over and stuff peppers with either feta cheese or ricotta and fry until the underside is also a light golden color.

I went with simple frying- a large onion, some olive oil, salt, pepper, and a package of mild Italian sausage cut in chunks. I used about 7 peppers, split and seeded. Next time I would cook the sausage in a separate skillet as it was a bit to oily for me -

I also used some of our fresh tomatoes and parsley in a different skillet saute with pasta-

I used canned chicken breast for protein, tasty! Added fresh basil after I took the shot, with whole grain linguine, and crusty bread-

Next weekend I will be canning tons of our fresh apples! Looking forward to that!

Aug 19, 2017

Independence Days Challenge

Independence Days Challenge-
It's almost starting to feel like early Autumn right now. Cooler at night, days getting shorter, but the forest fire smoke has returned. Oh well, at least we had deep blue skies earlier this week! This is what I call high summer here at our little homestead- tall perennials, huge Russian sages, apple tree loaded! The basil is big and ready for pesto making to freeze. Some of this I'm trying to hold off unit Labor Day weekend, 5 days off for me! I'm taking the following Tues./Wed. off. Nice to have a longer break to work on more food preserving! Dave will be at a family re-union next weekend. It will be nice to have the weekend to myself, to work on projects and have some sushi out! Dave's not a Japanese food fan, so a friend and I are going out! I see some crafts I may do as well. I have really been enjoying reading Wendy's posts here 21 Days Until Teotwawki, Day Zero chronicling major financial changes in their family and how to cope, think outside the box. You never know when the rug will be pulled out from under you. Good to have some things already in place. Anyway, here it is for now, my ID Days. This is really one of the best things I can look at to let me know how things are going, and staying focused. Given world events I am working on storing more foods right now, etc. Nice to know I have a useful skill set.

1. Plant Something-
No fall planting here, but  have 2 lavenders (1/2 price) sitting on the deck. Will plant tomorrow now that it's cooled off a bit.  

2. Harvest Something-
I picked our 1st Lemon cuke last week, amazing! Now our Italian peppers, Gypsy peppers and tomatoes are ripening- 

I read a few ways to cook the Italian peppers, including grilling with a little Olive oil, or " Luscious on an egg, pepper, and provolone sandwich made with good Italian bread!" Oh boy!!! I'll experiment, but they're not hot, but sweet, yum.

Hens are starting to lay again yay! I increased some protein snacks and it's cooling. 60 this morning and only in the 80's. Thankful for that! 

3. Preserve/Store Something-
 Fermenting some Curtido. Still freezing blackberries, we have abut 2 Qts. Will freeze tomatoes as the ripen. They froze great last year, just wash, dry, quarter, and into a plastic container! Easy. Apples will be ready soon, hopefully for my five day weekend over Labor Day. I hope. Pears sometime after that. May make some pear butter.

4. Manage Reserves- Get a Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep-
Negotiating $75.00 off a Dr. bill. Unreasonable charges, and THEY suggested. Dave got a $650.00 refund on his FSA card, unexpected! Got a nice, new-ish work blouse on Ebay, LL Bean, scored! I adore their wrinkle/stain resistant blouses. Perfect out of the dryer.

5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipe-
I just saw some recipes for Chilaquiles, a Mexican dish I hadn't heard of. Two recipes here - and  These are basically eggs with a enchilada style sauce with tomato, on top of chips with cheese. The Tillamook recipe has a fun history of it. Basically day old stale chips topped with eggs, etc. This could be modified easily!  

6. Build Community Food Systems-
Bought some local fingerling potatoes from a small local market. 

 7. Recycle/Re-Use-
I saw a "free box" after a yard sale near our house and got both of  these-

Ceramic counter canister, perfect! Not sure where it will go yet, I may paint? Hmmm.

Heavy plate rack

Perfect for some cook books I want to see to use!

 8. Skill Up-
Learning some new things setting up my new Etsy shop. Looking at a craft demo to see how it sells. I think it will do really well. We'll see...

9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something-
Am planning on getting something to clean up my headlight covers on my car. Getting pretty hazy. Tried a DIY version, no worky. I want them BRIGHT for the shorter days coming...

Aug 15, 2017

Vacation Day (Sort Of) Peach Blueberry Bread and More, My New Etsy Shop!

Curtido Making

Vacation Day (Sort Of) Peach Blueberry Bread and More-
I had planned on taking the day off work today to can peaches, etc. We've been giving peaches to our kids, freezing some, making jams, eating raw and making desserts. We didn't really have enough to bother canning, since we'd frozen and used up some last week. I wanted to do something different today with some of our peaches. I saw we had some frozen blueberries, did some research and made this- peach blueberry bread. Excellent! Moist and delish! I did add some cinnamon sugar on top before baking. It's not overly sweet, and next time I might add some chopped nuts/ brown sugar/butter crumbles on top-

I also made a big blueberry peach cobbler using a modified version of this Nancy's Apple Blueberry Cobbler subbing peaches for apples-

I wanted to make Fermented Curtido Salvadorian Sauerkraut for a while. It's fermented, so there's lots of probiotics, and it's spicy! I made it a few years and it's worth the prep time. Lots of slicing on my little mandolin (very sharp!). Didn't cut myself :) I got 90% of the pounded mixture into my fermenting jar, amazing! It's setup is really fool proof and safe, so it was a good investment. A cheap mandolin was great for this too, just slice carefully. For the price of two heads of cabbage, etc., you have a great side dish!

I used a giant mixed bowl, and finished pounding with a french pastry roller, works great. Bought up the brine pretty quickly. Do this before you mop, it's messy!

Now on the pantry rack, but covered with a towel, 10 days to go!

My New Etsy Shop!
I'm happy to announce I have a new Etsy shop! It's called LittlehomesteadFinds, and there's a link on the right border of this blog. I have one item for sale right now. It's an amazing African tribal basket, leather with Cowrie seashells that I've had for years-

I've been downsizing lots of things over the years, and still had this. If you're interested, please let me know, might be able to give you a reader discount :) I will be adding more over time, and have a farm style organizing craft in the works. No details yet. I'm excited!

Aug 12, 2017

Organic Peach Harvest Time! Fave Kitchen Re-Do From Design On A Dime

Peach Harvest Time!
Happy dance, we finally have peaches! Two years ago we added a peach tree to our front yard, detailed here How To Add A Fruit Tree To Your Landscaping . Last year we had one peach, this year it's a BUMPER CROP!  I think the wet spring helped. I chose the Red Haven variety as it is a freestone (pit comes out easily), ripens early (since we have 2 other fruit trees) and is a thin-skinned peach. less fuzz. The last time I made anything it from local peaches was 2012 More Peach Jam . We lost our nectarine tree, and had an amazing peach tree at our last house 10+ years ago. It was a long wait but worth it! We've been eating them fresh, and I made a peach milkshake last night! OMG!!! Yummy. I used this low sugar recipe last time and it was a keeper, just buy the low sugar pectin -Easy Low Sugar Peach Jam. I do make a small part pf the batch "spiced", add some cinnamon and cloves. Tastes like a peach pie :) Anya said all the peach processing sounded exhausting-

Then she took a nap in my enamel washbasin for picking-

We realized today the squirrels were after the peaches so we picked all of them. We already froze 10 one gallon bags last week. I am taking Tuesday off work to process more, if the kids haven't picked up the rest. The rest are inside where it's safe and cooler. I want to make a peach bread too this weekend. Lots of recipe online. First I got out my jars and supplies, set up the processing areas, disinfected the sink, etc.- 

Cooling area

Cleaned jars

Where I will fill jars, easier to cover, then wash


I love the color of the jam! I made 14 1/2 pints, 2 pints, not bad for a few hours work!

I made 2/3 regular and 1/3 spiced, all labeled. It's fun to hear the pinging of the lids. While some don't do this I follow the old method- put boiling jam into hot, sterilized jars, seal, turn upside down for about 15 minutes. Turn back over, put on a cooling rack. As they cool the seals ping. Easy for jams and jellies. I've never had a seal fail this way.

We realized today the squirrels were after the peaches so we picked all of them. We already froze 10 - one gallon bags last week. I am taking Tuesday off work to process more, if the kids haven't picked up the rest. The rest are inside where it's safe and cooler. I want to make a peach bread too this weekend. Lots of recipe online. I also need to blanch and freeze collard greens, kale and make pesto to freeze. Tuesday will be busy preserving foods! It's amazing to cut up fruit, still warm from the tree, throw it in a pot and preserve! Talk about local! It will be nice to have the apples too, when they get ripe. Pears as well. It's been a great harvest year. Tomatoes are getting there slowly, lot there but green. Peppers doing well, eating batches of green beans weekly.

Love the color! Red haven indeed!

My peach crisp last weekend was great!

Fave Kitchen Re-Do From Design On A Dime-
I recently checked out the Design On A Dime book from the library for some bedroom ideas. I spotted this and remembered it from years ago. How cute, bright and colorful! Just paint, new pendant lights, art, mini curtains, small accessories and lots of vibrant colors. They were shooting for a colorful old world bistro look, sorry for the lighting on the photos. Link here Kitchen On A Dime

Painted canvas floor mat, love it!

Nice dressed up seating area

Aug 5, 2017

Thrifting Scores, French Country/Shabby Chic Ideas, Fire Season, A Different View

$2.50 Cute little nest display, I have plans for that!

Thrifting Scores-
We harvested our first peach today! Much more to come, and I will fill the freezer and can some. It's been hot and smoky, but we ventured out today! We hit two thrift stores while we were out. First I found two cute books for the grand babies-

69 cents, like new!!!

Each animal face has a flap that says "goodnight" underneath

This one from my fave author, Jan Brett-

I have been looking for one of these for years!!! Just a very small wall rack for my little bathroom, to clear the counter of daily use things, like-new $3.00, fits my beachy theme-

Dave mounted it on the wall with a few small nails, looks great! 

When I spot something vintage looking I stop and look! A little French here, translated to a grocery store list, $1.99. I'll hang it on my kitchen wall- 

 Keeping with some French country, $3.00-

More sunflowers, $2.00, great for summer or Fall, will take off the sparkly bow, maybe add a burlap ribbon?

Love it!

French Country/Shabby Chic Ideas-
Speaking of French country decor.... I borrowed several books from my local public library, only five minutes from my house. One I checked out was Romantic Prairie Style by Fifi O'Neill, and it gave me some great ideas- 

While I'm not into the chandeliers, lace, etc. I've always loved old pieces. Worn by time and well-loved. Here are a few of my favorite shots- 

Kitchen, great use of faux stone wallpaper

Kitchen, love the textures

Note the tin roof section over the desk, brilliant!!!

Porch, what's not to love?
Love the light and wire fruit rack

Cheap couch rehabbed by simply stapling fabric over seat, smart!

LOVE this bedroom! More inspiration for my paint job next month! Maybe light blue???

Smoky view down our neighborhood street today

Fire Season-
Fire season and smoke has hit the West. The triple digit heat is bad enough, but I'm thankful for the A/C. It has been smoky the last few days, but today was the worst- 

We decided to drive up to Idaho City for lunch hoping it would be more clear-

A bit better!

We stopped at our favorite little spot Trudy's, with her vintage collections on the walls- 

The whole place was full of these kinds of things! Love it and GREAT Food!

Bedroom view, morning chickens out

A Different View-
So many photos I post show the back and front yard, but from similar angles. I realized this morning I never showed a different view from our master bedroom window, see above and below- 

Bird food I put out on the fence top
Hummingbird near the center, it LOVES that plant!!!

From living room, faces the backyard

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