Monday, June 30, 2014

Save Money by Propagating Your Own House Plants

This post has a slight twist on how you can propagate your own plants. I am not talking about saving seeds from your garden. I am not talking about dividing up your outdoor plants. (I wrote a post on that last month.) This post is about how to save a plant and from it, make a new one. It is so much cheaper then purchasing new plants!

This particular opportunity occurred when I dropped one of my African violet plants. The pot broke and so did the plant. I really like growing African violets. The flowers are quite pretty and the plant is easy to grow. So, as I picked up the pieces, my thoughts turned to how to replace it. Normal people would have discarded the plant and broken pot and purchased new ones. I think that you, my readers, know by now that I am not normal! Of course, I didn't purchase a new one. I believe that would waste money. There is another way!

Instead, I carefully looked at each piece of the plant to see if any could be salvaged. I was in luck because I found one.

Place the piece in a disposable cup with a bit of water in the bottom. Have the water barely cover the bottom end of the plant. (If you add too much water, the plant will rot.)

Check it every few days to see if it needs new water. In a few weeks it will grow new roots. I got busy with life and this one stayed in the cup for slightly over one month. Don't add anything but water. The plant doesn't need any food.

Now it is time to re-pot the plant. I didn't have to purchase another African violet pot because someone gave me one as a gift a few years ago and I wasn't using it.

And we're done! Simple, effective, not much time or effort, and it didn't cost anything. While I did lose some of the older leaves during the past month, I didn't lose the plant. The leaves I lost will be replaced with new ones in just a few short weeks! I expect it to flower again before the summer is over.

This idea works for many, many different kinds of house plants. I have even used this technique on outdoor plants. One of the peanut plants my unwanted chipmunk tore up earlier this year was also salvageable. I used the same process on it. I brought it inside and place it in a cup. In a few weeks it grew new roots and I had a plant that could go back out into the garden. In addition to peanuts, this year I have also had success doing this with strawberries and roses.

Being frugal is really about watching your pennies. Saving a few cents here and there can really add up! You may find there isn't any need to spend money on new plants! You can propagate your own for free!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Make Your Own Chili Pepper Powder Insecticide/Critter Repellent

This week I have run out of a few things: chili pepper powder, garlic powder, onion powder, personal soap, chicken broth and parsley flakes. Normal people would just go to the grocery store and purchase these items. Will I? Of course not! 

I will make my own! I still have issues with critters in my garden so the first thing I made this week is the chili pepper powder. I am going to state the obvious here and say is not possible to make your own chili pepper powder if you don't grow your own chili peppers. You may recall that last year I grew three plants and harvested about 250 chili peppers. They produced all summer and fall! Here is a picture of my plants from last year. You can barely see some of the red peppers peeking out from behind the leaves.  I also saved some seeds for this year. The plants this year are not quite this big yet.

One you have picked some peppers, cut them up and dry for storage.

I vacuum sealed mine in a food saver bag and stored them in my pantry. I took them out yesterday and opened the package. Here they are.

The next step is to set up the grinder. I have a Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain/Flour Mill. I use the stone grinders when I make flour and the metal ones when I grind pepper, garlic and onions. The spices can embed themselves into the stones (and be difficult to remove). I don't want the spice flavors to mix with the whole wheat flour so I solve that problem by using the metal grinders. 

When you have made enough powder, fill your jars. I have some old chili pepper powder jars that I purchased from the store a few years ago.

I am not using this powder in recipes. (I have a lot of digestive problems and can't eat chili pepper powder.) The label from the store states that the purchased version contains salt as well as garlic powder. Since mine is just for bug and critter repellent, I don't bother adding these ingredients.

I made enough powder to fill four jars. It took a few hours to hand grind that much because I was multi-tasking and doing a few other things at the same time.  

The last thing to do is to sprinkle it on the plants. 

This is woad. I haven't had a problem with critters eating it in years past, but this year it must taste extra yummy! You don't need this much powder. Just a few sprinkles will do. I poured too much because I was focused on taking the picture and not focused on sprinkling. 

Processing food in a non-electric kitchen would not be possible without my Wonder Junior! It is a must have kitchen appliance for me! This afternoon, I think I will grind some garlic powder!

Monday, June 23, 2014

What Would My Great-Grandmothers Do?

I ask myself that question all the time! Anytime I have a task that must be accomplish, my preference is to approach it the same way my great-grandmothers or great-great-grandmothers did.

I am sure everyone knows, you have four great-grandmothers. (Two grandmothers, four great-grandmothers, eight great- great-grandmothers, etc.) For most of my life, I knew about three of my great-grandmothers. My mother talked about her grandmother all the time, (on her mother's side). My father's mother talked about her mother, grandmother and mother-in-law as well. The great-grandmother I never had the opportunity to hear about was my mother's grandmother on her father's side. She didn't get to grow up with her father, hence she didn't know very much about him or his ancestors. I only had the opportunity to visit with him a few times. The few stories he told me about his family were very general in nature. I never even knew his mother's name!

All that changed when my church gave me a free subscription to! (All LDS church members in good standing are getting a one year subscription to for free this year!) It took a few weeks, (and prayers asking for help), but I found her!

Let me introduce you to Mary Walsh! I found her in the 1915 New York State Census. Although she was born in New York, her parents emigrated here from Canada when her older sister Anna was a baby. Her ancestry is Irish. From what my grandfather told me, she married a man who ancestry is from Austria. I don't know his name yet, when the family moved from Austria, they changed their name to Howard. I am not sure what they changed it from. In the 1915 census record shown above, Mary was a widow. I haven't found her marriage records yet.

I cannot describe how thrilled I am that I found my great-grandmother! Working on my mother's line of ancestry has been difficult, to say the least.  Her relatives have very common names! I must pour through thousands of records to find the right ones! However, our Heavenly Father has promised blessing to those that do family history work, so I know it is all worth it!

Take some time to get to know your ancestors. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a FREE web site that you can use to help you locate your ancestors: This web site has all sorts of tutorials, on-line help, and live customer service representatives available to help if you don't know where to start. You can access records from all over the world! Anyone, from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, can access this site to search for their deceased family members. If you want even more help, stop by the family history center at your local church. You do not have to be a church member to use your local family history center. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cooking With Food Storage: No Knead Artisan Bread

I am always looking for new bread recipes and when I find a good one I like to tell everyone about it! I am new to the no knead bread experience, but this recipe really fits beautifully into the non-electric kitchen because it doesn't require electrical appliances to process it! Besides, this one is super easy to make! I found this one on the web, I have had the original bookmarked for a while, you can read it here. This is my interpretation of the recipe.

No Knead Artisan Bread
1 1/2 cups very warm water. (The original recipe calls for 100 degree water. I measured the temperature to be sure it was accurate.)
1/2 TBS salt  
3/4 TBS yeast (I used 1 TBS of instant yeast.)
3 cups all-purpose flour (I used a combo of whole wheat flour I made myself and store bought all purpose.)
Extra flour for dusting

Start with the 100 degree water and add it to a bowl. Then add the salt. Stir a bit to dissolve. Add the yeast and let it sit for one or two minutes. Stir it in. It is OK if it doesn't all dissolve. Measure the flour accurately by leveling off the measuring cup with a knife. Add the flour and mix until it all comes together. I used a wooden spoon. Since you are so dependent on the yeast doing it's thing, I would not use any metal utensils. Wood or plastic are best. Here is a picture of mine all mixed.

Notice the dough is sticky. It won't look the same as a dough ball that you would knead before letting it rise. Once it is mixed together, cover it with plastic wrap or the lid to the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for two hours. This is what it should look like when it is done.

Mine didn't take two hours to rise. I was cooking a turkey to make meals for the princess and the kitchen was hot. (30 pound turkeys don't fit in either solar oven I have.) Turn it out onto parchment paper. Dust the paper with flour liberally first. (For this recipe, you really need the parchment paper.)

The instructions say to fold the dough in half twice, then roll it into a ball. I didn't do that, I folded mine half a dozen times before I rolled it into a ball. I guess you can take the need to knead out of the recipe but you can't take the need to knead out of the bread maker!

Leave it on the counter to rise for the second time. It should take about 45 minutes. The instructions say to leave it uncovered. However, the people who wrote those instructions don't live with a princess who can't decide if she wants to be inside or outside. Hence, there was a fly buzzing around my kitchen. I covered mine with plastic wrap.

When it is ready to bake, it should look like this.

Dust the top with some additional flour and slice the dough three times before baking it. This will help the dough keep its shape and make it look pretty. I also trimmed up the parchment paper a bit.

This dough should be baked at 450 degrees. Before preheating the oven, add a flat cookie sheet or baking stone to the middle rack. Also, place a small baking pan on the bottom rack filled with one cup of water. This is what gives the bread a nice crust. Here is mine. I just turned on the oven to preheat it when I took this picture.

BTW, neither solar oven I have will go to 450 degrees. (That is why I want a new one, just out on the market, that will!)

Then, when ready, slide the dough onto the cookie sheet. (This is why you need the parchment paper!) Bake 20 to 25 minutes. It's done!

For the purpose of full disclosure, I must state that I had to make this bread twice. The first time I made it, it wasn't successful. Why? Because I got cocky! Normally, I don't need to measure the ingredients accurately. I rarely follow a recipe and add all sorts of extra 'stuff' to my dough.  I can tell if the bread will be successful by the look of the dough ball. If needed, I will add a bit more water or flour to make the dough ball 'just right'.  Not so in this recipe! The dough remains sticky the entire time you are working with it.  My first try, the dough failed to rise properly.  For the second try, I measured everything accurately and it worked perfectly!

I am going to use this for sandwich bread. It looks lovely and tastes delicious! It really is artisan bread without all the work!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Monday, June 16, 2014

Easy Ways To Save Money: Keep Your Freezer Full of Water

Everyone knows that a full freezer is more efficient than a half full one. But what do you do if your freezer is half full of food and you can't afford to restock it? Fill it with water! I have water bottles stuffed in every nook and cranny possible! Also, as we consume what is in the freezer, I fill the top with additional water bottles. Here is a current picture of my freezer contents.

Later this week I will remove a 30 lb turkey to cook for Molly. (It is down at the bottom and not visible in this picture.) That turkey won't be replaced until winter (when they go on sale). Instead, the space will be filled with a few one gallon water jugs that I save for just that purpose!

Filling your freezer with water accomplishes a lot! Not only will it keep you freezer running efficiently (saving you money on electricity and producing less wear and tear on the appliance overall) but it is also a great idea when those summer storms cause you to lose power! The foods in a full freezer will stay frozen longer than a freezer that is only half full. The last thing you want to do is lose money on food that goes bad because you have no power!

In that situation, the water will keep the foods frozen or semi-frozen long enough to give you time to figure out what to do with it all. If the power is out for a significant time at my house, my plan will be to cover the freezer with blankets. Depending on how long the authorities tell me the power will be out, I will set up the canner and can as much as possible. Having the water in the freezer will keep everything frozen or semi-frozen until I have a chance to deal with it. 

Another thing you can do with all that frozen water, is to put it in the refrigerator. The frozen bottles will help to keep your refrigerator cold during a power outage too. It will act like the icebox your great-grandmother had! 

Whether you lose power or not, filling the empty space in your freezer with water bottles will keep it running more efficiently. The bottom line is, it is an easy way to save money and be prepared for an emergency!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Cooking With Food Storage: Pineapple Angle Food Cake

Wow! Was this an easy cake to make! To top it off, it is a Weight Watchers recipe! It is a wonderful light cake - perfect for summer barbecues! Here is the original.

It took all of 30 seconds to make. No joke! Then you bake it for 35 minutes. Even better - it only has two ingredients!

Pineapple Angle Food Cake
One box of Angle Food Cake mix
One 20 ounce can of crushed Pineapple. (I used one with no sugar added.)

Granted, I used a packaged product, (I do have a recipe for an angle food cake using whole wheat flour) but I purchased this last winter at a buy one, get one free sale. The directions for making this cake can be summarized into three words: pour, mix, bake.

Empty the box of angle food cake in a bowl. Pour in the entire can of pineapple, juice and all. 

Stir just enough to moisten the cake mix, no more. Mine took 20 seconds. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan. I started with a slightly smaller pan and when I put it in the oven, it started to rise so much that I had to remove it and pour it into a larger pan. While I was doing that, I was eating the leftovers from the bottom of the bowl and forgot to take a picture! 

So here is a picture of it in the larger pan, in the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

One of the reasons this post was published so late in the day is because I wanted to bake this in the Sun Oven. I set the oven outside at about 10:00 a.m., hoping I could preheat it to at least 300. It was scheduled for thunderstorms all day and up until it rained, it was partly cloudy. The clouds were light and I was sure the oven would heat up. Unfortunately, it didn't. I couldn't get it to go above 250 degrees. Not hot enough to bake an angle food cake. So late this afternoon, I gave up and put it in the oven. 

35 minutes later, the cake was done. However, the top of my cake looks like the face of the moon with lots of craters and hills/valleys. 

This is because I baked it for about 10 minutes in a smaller pan, then switched to the larger pan you see here. Next time, (and there will be a next time - I am going to bake this again the next sunny day we have!) I will use an angle food cake pan. Mine was raising nicely in the oven but while it was cooling, collapsed a bit. I believe, if I used an angle food cake pan and turned it upside down to cool, this would not have happened.

Still, it tasted heavenly! While it was baking, I made an icing to drizzle over it. I didn't use a recipe, just added everything to taste. I used water, powdered sugar, powdered milk and a touch of cream cheese.

I am going to bring one to my next church social!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Garden Work Continues...

I really do love my garden, but I will be happy when I can take a break and just watch stuff grow for a while! I have been working quite steadily at it, but alas it still isn't done yet! Here is an update:

Some of the peanuts are up. Here is a picture.

These are Spanish peanuts. They are doing well. The Virginia Jumbo had to be replanted. They were eaten. Mister Chipmunk managed to pop the mouse trap without getting hurt and ate all the peanut butter on it. Then, he proceeded to eat every Virginia Jumbo seed I planted! We need to think of another way to rid us of this creature. 

The green beans I planted are up too. 

Now I need to move the raised beds that will hold the other half of this year's crop. That is on the list to do next.

In preparation of moving the raised bed, I harvested both carrots and peas that were growing in the old bed! Not many mind you, but anything is better than nothing. These were the replants I planted so late in March. I really didn't expect to get a harvest at all! There were not enough for canning so they went into the freezer.

I put up the rain barrels for the summer. 

The only thing I must do now is find the hose that hooks them together. I put it away last fall in a ''special spot' (so it wouldn't be misplaced) and now I can't find it! I still want another rain barrel. Because I won't pay retail price for another one, I must wait until I can find something that will work.

Most of the herbs are planted too! I only have the parsley and tobacco left. Well, plus one pink flower and the new woad I started from seed.

I harvested the garlic too. I am very pleased with the garlic this year. Some of it was left over fresh garlic from the store. (I planted what I didn't use.) Some of it I bought from a seed catalog company. I am going to save some of the cloves to plant this fall. The crop is stable enough now that I won't need to purchase any more garlic cloves to plant.

Onions are still in the ground. They should be ready by the end of the month. Then I will plant the squash in their place. 

To help with the crop rotation next spring, I think I am going to build another raised bed on the other side of the yard. That should leave at least one bed available at all times, and I won't have to skip any crop (or plant it late) because I don't have room for it.

The tomatoes and peppers are growing well. Although, nothing interesting to see yet.

Here is a picture of some of the corn. I am quite excited to be growing popcorn this year. I can't wait to eat it!

I am really looking forward to harvesting all of my summer crops this year!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Seventy-Five Ways to Save Money

When I see a blog post on how to save money, I like to feature it here. Many bloggers have good ideas on how to live frugally and save money. We can all learn from each other! Saving money and living frugally is one of my main interests. Personally, in today's economy I think it is critical to stretch your money as far as it can go. I don't know anyone who likes to waste it.

While I often post about how to save money, I don't often link to niche sites like this one. This site's main theme is emergency preparedness. In fact the title of the article is Seventy-Five Ways to Save Money For Prepping. However, this list is so comprehensive, I think it is fitting for anyone to use to help save money. In it, you will see ideas that I have mentioned here, as well as new ones I haven't.

If you are not into emergency preparedness, overlook the somewhat extreme nature of the blog, and concentrate on the list of the 75 things you can do to save money.

These ideas will help to make your money last longer!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Looking For Our Piece of Non-Electric America

My husband and I just got back from a trip to Tennessee to look for some homesteading land. We are looking for acreage. Enough to keep one or two beef cattle, a milk cow, a horse or two and chickens. The need for partial electricity or no electricity at all has been the subject of many discussions between my husband and me! 

This is our third trip looking for land this year. (I apologize for not creating enough posts in advance to publish while I was gone.) And, I am somewhat disappointed in the land we visited. We were so hoping that one of these properties would be "it"! We did a lot of research on the properties before we went. Cutting out a few of them because they didn't meet our requirements. However, my experience has shown me that there is no substitute for walking the land. After visiting all of the ones we thought had potential, my husband and I agreed that we were not going to make an offer on any of them. 

It is back to the drawing board to start all over in looking for our non-electric homestead.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Make a Fabulous Tote Bag for FREE!

That's right, make it for free! NO material costs! The only cost you may have is to purchase a crochet hook (If you don't already have one). I first saw this on The Shooter's Blog by the company Cheaper Than Dirt. It is made with plastic bags you get at the stores!

After I saw this bag, I had to research more on my own. Anything you can crochet with yarn can be made with plastic bags. People are making rugs, flip flops, Christmas decorations and a lot more! Here is a Pinterest link that has lots of other ideas on what you can make with plastic bags. 

What a great frugal idea this is! Besides, it is a great way to recycle all those plastic bags. For my first project, I wanted to make a tote bag. I watched this video before I started mine.

I didn't find any pattern instructions that I liked, so I didn't use any. I made up my pattern as I went along. I really like the shape of my bag, but next time I will move the bottom white stripe up a bit so it is closer to the top stripe. I think it will look better if both the strips are centered in the middle of the bag. (If you are making up the design as you go, these things happen!) 

As Sarah Beth instructed (the girl in the YouTube video), I made some 'yarn' to start (in all the videos I watched, I heard it called 'plarn'). I wasn't sure how much I would need so I ended up making new plarn as I went along. My bag has a round bottom that is 12 inches in diameter. It is also 12 inches tall. It took approximately 60 gray bags and 15 white bags to make it. I used a size J crochet hook. In my opinion, the size of the crochet hook isn't critical. If your hook is a bit smaller or a bit larger than mine, it really doesn't matter.

To make the plarn, cut up the bags as instructed in the video. I cut mine while I was sitting on the floor (hence, the blue rug in the background).

When I finished my first round of plarn making, I had two balls of it. At this point I had cut up 35 bags, so I thought it was plenty to start.

I chained 5, and joined them together. Then, I put two single crochet stitches in each chain.

I watched quite a few different YouTube videos on how to crochet with plastic bags before I started. On one of them, the woman suggested that you use single crochet stitches instead of double. She said that she found the double crochet stitch to be a bit weak. She thought the single crochet stitch made for a more sturdy bag. (My apologies to the maker of that video, I didn't bookmark it and I could not find it again to post here!) With that bit of advice, I decided to use the single crochet stitch to make my bag. 

For the first few rows, each stitch received two new stitches so the base would lay flat. 

Then, I only added two stitches when it needed it. My goal was to ensure it continued to lay flat.  In general, I think I added two stitches about every other stitch or so. I continued in this manner until I achieved a 12 inch diameter. I had a total of 98 stitches.

At that point, I stopped increasing the stitch count and kept it to 98. This forced the ends to curl up and create 'sides'.  I didn't have structured rows, I had a continuous loop. When I got tired of crocheting in gray plarn, I switched to white. When I switched colors, I had to create structured rows so the ends of the colors would match up.

I got tired of the white color really fast and decided to switch back to gray.

I kept going until it was time to make the 'handles'. I measured off where I wanted the handles with some safety pins. I measured the distance so the space would fit my hands. When I hit the safety pin, I chained about 15 stitches to create the handle. Then went back to single crochet stitches to complete the row.

On the second row of the handle, I skipped a stitch directly over where the handle stitches attached to the bag- for a total of 4 stitches - one stitch on each side of both handles. That helped ease in the fullness of the extra stitches needed for the handle. I then added 2 additional rows. At the last minute, I added an extra row of white to trim it off. The last thing to do is to tie off the last piece of plarn to make a nice finish. 

I don't finish my pieces like most people do. (Even when using yarn, I finish my projects this way.) I created a slip stitch to end the project, and then weaved about 6 inches of the plarn into the finished bag. This keeps the ends from unraveling and makes for a nice finished look.

It only took a couple of weeks to make. I usually cut up five or six bags and then crocheted a few rows each night after I came back from Zumba. 

It was super fun to make! I am going to start some new plarn for my next bag today!