Friday, May 29, 2015

Feathered Friday

Just when we thought we were done with baby chicks for the time being, a hen surprised us by showing up with 6 adorable, extra tiny, fluffy chicks last week.  This was close to the time we had two chicks hatch in the incubator.  It is not normal for a mama hen to accept any chicks other than her own.  The common response is to kill any other little ones.  This hen was especially sweet and docile so we decided to try and see if she would accept the other two chicks.

She happily accepted them as her own.  Can you pick out her adopted children?  They are the two larger, brown colored chicks on the left side.

W also put her remaining 4 eggs in the incubator, and one of those hatched.  Once again she accepted this new baby.  She is now mommy to 9 cute babies!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

In the Garden - Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumbers

Each year I add to the list of things I grow.  W and I both tend to lean toward something unusual or something that we cannot easily buy in our local grocery store.

He first saw these unusual little cucumbers in an issue of Mother Earth News. I  am always up for growing anything.  In our garden he picks out stuff and helps with the early manual labor.  After that I am on my own until it is time to harvest.   He was drawn to the look; they appear to be tiny watermelons.

I purchased my seeds from Baker Creek.  I started them in small peat pots and then transplanted them straight into a container.  They quickly grew up the cages I placed over the containers.  The vines are covered in these tiny watermelon like cucumbers.

They have a slight sour taste with hints of citrus.  W noted that they had a bit of a watermelon rind taste.  Perhaps it was the look that influenced our taste buds.  We have been just eating them fresh, but I plan to pickle some this week.  From everything I have read, they only do well as quick refrigerator pickles.

These will definitely be staying on my list of plants to grow each year.  They are not only fun to see in the garden but also delicious to eat.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Weekly Savings

All of the hard work in the garden is starting to pay off as it is producing well.  This week we harvested squash, zucchini, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, potatoes, and herbs.

I bought 4 pounds (two 2lb packages) of country style ribs for just 39 cents. The meat was on markdown due to a fast approaching sale by date.  I cooked one package and vacuum sealed the second.

One of my splurges is a coffee subscription for fair trade, shade grown coffee.  My aunt gave me several packages of coffee beans so I have postponed my next coffee delivery.

My foot is finally healing, and I have been able to wear shoes again.  My usual shoes are a bit too tight on the toe and area of the foot that were broken.  My doctor had recommended that I try Crocs.  I searched on eBay and found a pair in my size (women's size 4) for just $8.  They do not look like they were ever worn.  They fit well, are comfy, and are easy to slip on and off.

I spent several evenings reading in the backyard.  Leo loves when I sit out there as he is happy to hang out with me.  It is generally cooler than in the house plus I have plenty of free light to read by.

I used some yarn leftover from other projects to make two small gifts - a hat and a dish scrubbie.

It was a quiet week but often those are the best!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pantry Challenge Update

This week the garden production was in full swing.  I expect that for the next few months I can base meals on what we are harvesting.  Not having to buy produce certainly helps the grocery budget.


Weekend meals (Saturday through Monday) tend to be on our own.  W works a 12 hour shift on these days  With the weather heating up he rarely wants anything heavy and often wants nothing at all.  Normally his weekend supper is cereal.  I eat leftovers.

Tuesday:  We had banana sandwiches with chips for dinner.  Supper was tuna and crackers, cheese, and veggies (carrots and cucumber mainly).

Wednesday:  I baked two loaves of French bread first thing, and we had French bread pizza for lunch.  Supper as usual on Wednesdays was popcorn for movie night.

Thursday:  We had ribs (I got a great deal!), squash, cucumber, and salads.  All of the vegetables were from the garden.

Friday:  I served leftover ribs, a squash/zucchini casserole, salad, and potatoes with a cream sauce.  Once again the veggies were from the garden.  Supper was pancakes using my favorite recipe.  It mixes up nearly as fast as the box mix and tastes so much better.

Now for the spending....

I did end up purchasing a few items this past week.  I bought bananas, lemonade, peaches, fresh corn, buttermilk and 4 pounds of ribs.  I spent a total of $9.52 leaving me $16. 49 for the last week of May.  I am certain that I can stick to that budget next week.  My best deal this past week was the 4 pounds of ribs.  They cost a grand total of $0.39.  That comes out to 10 cents a pound.  They were on markdown with a quick expiration date.  We ate one package and I vacuumed sealed the other.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Weekly Savings

I decided this week to take time to write down a couple of money saving things each day.  At the end of the week it is often hard to remember those small things.  It often seems that those small things do not matter but combined they do equal to savings.  I also think the little things put me in a mindset to do the big things.

I used an empty dog food bag as a trash bag.  I had a few things that did not need to sit for long in the kitchen trash can.  I used something I was going to throw away anyway and saved an actual trash bag for later use.

I made my own hummingbird food.  We get piles of hummingbirds in our yard.  Watching them at the feeders is good entertainment.  It is worth the cost/effort of making sugar water.

I spent some time reading a book outside one evening.  It was cooler there than in the house.  No electricity was needed for reading.  Leo was happy to sit beside me in the grass.  He loves to have someone outside with him even if we are not doing anything but sitting.

I decided that the porch needed a bit of color  Most of my plants are ferns or succulents since they tolerate the heat better.  I purchased a vibrant green coleus.  It added a different pop of green, and I can take cuttings to root and get more plants.  I also bought a six pack of portuluca (moss roses) and ended up using them in four different pots.  I put one in each of two hanging baskets.  Two went into a planter with a spider lily, and the final two went into the pot with the coleus.

I burned my arm while making bread - long story, but I am clumsy.  I immediately grabbed some aloe from one of my plants.  The burn is still quite bad but would have been much worse without the aloe.  Aloe plants are very easy to grow and having one in the kitchen is helpful.

I listened to the Essential Oil Revolution presentations for free.  I took my tablet around the house while I cleaned or worked on some craft projects.  I discovered some wonderful new blogs and learned some new things.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Pantry Challenge Update

A little over halfway through the pantry challenge, and I hardly feel that I have made a dent in the pantry or freezer.  That is a good sign that I will have no trouble making it to the end of this month at least

Meals first:

As noted last week - Weekend meals (Saturday through Monday) tend to be on our own.  W works a 12 hour shift on these days.  With the weather heating up he rarely wants anything heavy and often wants nothing at all.  Normally his weekend supper is cereal.  I eat leftovers.

Tuesday - I made baked fish with herbs from the garden.  I fixed a Parmesan pasta which is basically cooked spaghetti noodles, Parmesan cheese, a bit of butter, and parsley.  It is similar to the boxed mixes - just as quick but much healthier.  I made slaw with the last of the cabbage.

Wednesday - Big salads - a bowl full of lettuce, chopped tomato, cucumber (from the greenhouse), a bit of cheese, homemade croutons (from the end pieces of bread I made), baked chicken tenders, and homemade ranch dressing.

Thursday - We planned to go out to eat with a couple of W's clients this evening so I planned a simple lunch.  We had turkey sandwiches (cooked turkey from the freezer) on homemade bread with a few chips and pickles.  

Friday - We had leftovers from our meal out.  I added in some potato salad and rolls to finish off the meal.  If W eats a large mid-day meal, he is rarely hungry at night.  I try to have a snack at least.  This night I ate whole wheat crackers with natural peanut butter.

This past week's dessert was lemon bars for my dad's birthday.  He is a big fan of any lemon dessert.  As usual I cut back on the sugar amount called for in the recipe.  I did use fresh lemon juice from lemons I had in the fridge before I started the challenge.

Now for the amount spent.  I bought a 5 pound bag of potatoes, and W picked out a bag of grapefruit to take in his lunch. The sales on fruit were non-existent this past week.  I spent $6.94 for these two items.  I had $32.95 left in my monthly budget.  After this week I have $26.01 left.  I really hope to do no grocery shopping this coming week.  I will have to see what the sales ads have to offer though.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thrifty Thursday - DIY Hummingbird Nectar

One of my favorite things about spring/summer is watching the hummingbirds that visit our yard.  I have used the same hummingbird feeders for years.  I also prefer to make my own nectar.  The recipe is pretty simple.

Homemade Hummingbird Nectar
4 cups water
1 cup sugar

Heat one cup water and add in sugar.  Stir thoroughly until sugar dissolves.  Then add in 3 cups of cold water.  Stir to combine.

I like using a small amount of hot water and mostly cool water.  This means I am not waiting hours for the nectar to cool. I do not use red dye and have no problems attracting hummingbirds.

This time of year I fill the feeders with a fair amount of nectar.  The temperatures are warm but not so hot that the nectar spoils quickly.  As the summer progresses I put less nectar in the feeders.  I store the rest in the refrigerator.  It means that I need to fill them several times a week, but I am not wasting the nectar.

The last tip I have is to keep your feeders clean.  An old toothbrush works great for scrubbing them.  I also like to use pipe cleaners to keep the feeding holes clean.  Pipe cleaners are inexpensive and effective.

W and I enjoy sitting in the yard to watch the hummingbirds.  It is free entertainment in exchange for a bit of food.  Of course you could always grow flowers that attract hummingbirds.  Check out this link for information on the best flowers for hummingbirds.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Testing Tuesday - Pineapple Coconut Buttermilk Pie

I found this recipe on One Hundred Dollars a Month and had pinned it.  I had all of the ingredients on hand and decided to make it last week.  The recipe did not state the size of the pie crust.  I used a purchased frozen crust and thought I had bought deep dish ones.  I was a little annoyed to discover that they were regular crusts.  I seriously need to remember to double check and not go by the tag on the shelf.

As usual I made some changes.  I made enough changes this go around that I completely rewrote the recipe.  I omitted an ingredient and adjusted a few others.  If you want to see the original recipe (which is actually an adapted one as well) go here.

Pineapple Coconut Buttermilk Pie (adapted from One Hundred Dollars a Month)

1 frozen deep dish pie crust
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn meal
5 large eggs
1/2 cup drained crushed pineapple
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using a whisk combine sugar, corn meal, and eggs in a large bowl.  Add in remaining ingredients and stir well to combine.  Pour into pie crust.  Bake for 35 minutes or until set and top is lightly browned.  Allow to cool thoroughly and store in the refrigerator.

I ended up making two small pies.  When baked in a deep dish crust, it will be thicker than the one pictured above.  I sent one pie to work with W and took the other to Sunday dinner with my parents.  I was worried that W's co-workers would not like it since I cut the sugar amount by more than half.  He said they loved it so much he only got a tiny sliver of the pie.  Fortunately I had leftovers so he got pie at home.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

Weekly Savings

I stuck to my pantry challenge for the most part this past week.  I focused on using up some items from the freezer.  My goal for the remainder of the month is to only purchase perishables.

We put tarps up around the chicken house during the winter months to keep the cold wind out.  We took those down several months ago but had no good place to store them.  The old ones had been kept in a cardboard box.  While cleaning out a storage building, I found a plastic tote of Easter decorations that I no longer used.  The decorations went into a cardboard box for donation, and I used the newly emptied tote to store the tarps.

I harvested sweet mint from the garden.  I used it along with some purchased dried herbs to make an herbal tea.  I steeped mint, chamomile, rose hips, lemongrass, hibiscus, and raspberry leaf in near boiling water.  That gets mixed with a little bit of fruit juice for an alternative to the artificially colored and flavored typical sugary summer drinks.

I wanted to plant some calendula seeds in my garden.  I searched the usual places that I buy seeds but wanted a cheaper option.  I ended up ordering some off eBay for around $1.  Hopefully W can finish rebuilding the last of the raised beds so I can plant the seeds by the end of the week.

Mother's Day gifts here were crocheted dish rags.  I had purchased two cones of cotton yarn so I could do a mix of colors.  I know that may seem like an awful gift, but both my mother and mother-in-law like usable gifts especially if they are handmade.

The weather has been mild here.  Many people may not consider it mild since the highs have been in the upper 80s/low 90s.  We have been using fans rather than the A/C.  I am not sure how much longer W and Leo can hold out, but for now it is good for the electric bill.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Pantry Challenge Update

Yesterday was hectic with cooking and a few other odds and ends before we headed over for a dinner with W's family.  I never got online so the post is a day late.  Here is an update of what we ate for meals this past week and the purchases.  Meals first.

Weekend meals (Saturday through Monday) tend to be on our own.  W works a 12 hour shift on these days.  With the weather heating up he rarely wants anything heavy and often wants nothing at all.  Normally his weekend supper is cereal.  I eat leftovers.

Tuesday we had a chicken taquitos with guacamole and salads.  The taquitos were homemade from the freezer.  I am making an effort to eat out of the freezer this month.

Wednesday we had a hamburger/pork and beans casserole, slaw and rolls.  Supper was popcorn and movie theater sized boxes of candy for movie night.

Thursday was cubed steak, peas, macaroni and cheese, and squash.  I used some onion tops from the garden in the squash.  I am trying to thin out my red onions so the remaining ones grow larger.

Friday's dinner was on your own.  I ate a fish sandwich, and W ate leftovers.  Supper was shredded Italian style deer meat and chips on homemade buns.

A helpful pantry challenge tip:  never leave your husband alone with the grocery cart while you go off to look for wasp spray.  He definitely cut into my $60 budget for this month.  It will be tight, but I am still hopeful that I can make it work.

We bought lettuce, cereal, chips, lemonade and yogurt for a total of $27.05.  Can you guess which purchases were his?  That leaves me $32.95 for the remainder of the month.  I do need to buy some fruit this week, but I hope to limit my shopping to just fruit and get back on track.  

Friday, May 8, 2015

Furry Friday

When people talk about raising rabbits, they always assume you have tons and tons of babies.  After all rabbits reproduce like.....well rabbits.  Not at our house.  For some reason we have had very little luck with raising rabbits.  We have only had five baby rabbits in the year plus that we have been keeping bunnies.  

We had pretty much given up on the hope of having any unless we got a new boy rabbit.  We got a nice surprise when we found three baby rabbits in one of the bunny houses.

Then W checked a second spot and found one lone baby.

All four are fat and well-cared for by their moms.  They nearly have their eyes open and will be hopping around on their own in just a few short weeks.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

In the Garden - Fruit Plants

This year Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds began selling live plants.  I already love their seed selection.  I was very excited to give the plants a try.  I found several that I wanted but narrowed it down to just two types.

First I picked out the Truly Tiny Banana.  It is supposed to be ideal for containers and can easily be grown in a greenhouse.  My plants are small but very healthy.  Best of all they had a good root system.

I also decided to get dwarf mulberry plants.  We have a mulberry tree, but it is a male which means it will never produce fruit.  A neighbor has a female tree and shares the fruit.  I just like to have my own trees.  These will grow 2'-6' if kept in containers.  When planted directly in the ground, they will grow 10'-30' tall.  That may not sound dwarf.  However a regular mulberry tree can grow 50' tall.  My plan is to keep these in containers for a few years and maybe plant in the ground eventually.

Thus far I am very pleased with my live plant purchases from Baker Creek.  I will definitely be looking at other plants next spring!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Weekly Savings

I cooked all of our meals at home again.  That made me realize we had piles of food, which made me decide to do a pantry challenge. 

I signed up for a free herbalism mini-course from Vintage Remedies.  It is self-paced.  It is very interesting, and I am learning quite a bit. 

I picked strawberries at my parents' house twice.  They are just starting to bear, but I got enough to make a batch of strawberry popsicles. 

I also picked several cucumbers from the greenhouse cucumber plant.  I started some oregano and marjoram seeds in the greenhouse rather than buy plants.  They have grown well and will be ready to plant in pots soon.  A tomato plant branch broke a couple of weeks ago while I was trying to wrangle the limbs.  I put it in water and before long it was covered in roots.  I planted it in one of the raised beds, and it looks great now.  It also has several little tomatoes on it.

While at the grocery store I looked through the bags of marked down bananas.  I have learned that these are not always overripe bananas.  People often pull off one or two bananas from a bunch and leave those behind.  My grocery store bags these up and sells them for half-price. 

I used rags to clean with rather than paper towels.  I have enough that I can go a couple of weeks before washing them. 

I refilled a foaming soap container.  I think foaming soap means less waste.  All it takes is a few squeezes of soap and some warm water.  It makes the liquid soap go much further. 

It was a very quiet week here, and those are the highlights.  I did no extra shopping and talked myself out of a few purchases.  I am trying to do some spring cleaning/decluttering.  It is good motivation to not buy more stuff and work to make do with what I have.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Impromptu Pantry Challenge

I decided yesterday that I needed to do a pantry challenge.  It was a spur of the moment decision.  My plan is to limit my grocery spending for the month of May to $60.  I will share what we eat and buy this month.  Check back each Saturday for an update.

I will start with what we ate the first two days.

Friday - Breakfast was eggs and toast for W, and nothing for me.  Lunch was egg salad in homemade Pita pockets with chips and fruit salad.  We ate a late lunch and skipped supper.

Saturday - W takes a packed lunch to work.  He had grits, popcorn, carrots with homemade ranch, clementines, almonds, and cake.  (Not balanced, but it is what he wants.)  I ate cake, buffalo chicken mac and cheese, and a fish sandwich.  Not healthy, but we all have those days.  I am keeping it real though.

I would like to say that I have a grand plan for the month's meals.  That is not true.  I do know we have more than enough food to make it through the month.  I expect to buy some produce and hopefully not much else.