Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Harvesting Is In High Gear!

Harvesting is is high gear this time of year and I am right in the middle of it! I have canned every day (except Sunday) for the last two weeks!  Mostly I have canned green beans and apple juice. I have also dehydrated quite a bit of summer squash. The tomatoes are starting to ripen now as well but I don't have enough to make sauce (yet!)  

However, I have been preparing to make sauce. Part of that preparation is to harvest and dry the Italian herbs that truly makes the sauce special. I have done a lot of that the past two weeks as well. While I have a dehydrator, I don't use it for herbs. I do like drying herbs in the microwave, but I don't have one (well, I don't have a working microwave - and haven't for over two years).

So, instead of using electricity to dry herbs, I do it the old fashioned way! I gather the herbs and dry them in a brown paper bag.

In this picture I have thyme, oregano, sage. I also harvested basil but it isn't in the picture.

The first thing I do is tie the herbs in bunches.

Then put them in the paper bag. Sometimes I just staple them to the bag and sometimes I will tie them to the bag. If I get too many bags, I like to tie them so I can hang them up, out of the way. In this picture, I used a staple.  

They should not take more than a few weeks to dry. I fully expect they will be dry when I have enough tomatoes for sauce. They do make the house smell wonderful!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Links to a Few Other Gardening Articles I Wrote

The last two weeks in July, I wrote three gardening articles for another web site, The The is a preparedness web site that has lots of good information on how to be prepared for emergencies. (While I also cover preparing for emergencies, MD Creekmore's site is devoted 100% to preparing for all types of emergencies.)

He sponsors a writing contest and encourages others to write articles for his site. As a guest writer, I entered his contest with my three gardening articles as my entries.  And the surprise of all surprises is I won!

I will write reviews of some of the prizes I won in the month of September. Today, I would like to provide you the opportunity to read the articles.  Here were my entries:


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Tour of This Year's Garden, Part II

I started a tour of this year's garden a week and a half ago, so I thought I would show you the rest today.

The cotton is doing beautifully.  The only problem is I didn't plant enough.  I think next year I will not put in peanuts and plant that area in cotton as well.

Here is a closer look at some of the bolls.

The peanuts are right next to the cotton.  I expect a bumper crop this year.

Here is a look at my apple trees.  The baby tree in front is a Gala (my favorite!) My husband is training it to be in an open 'V' shape. The tree way in the back is a red delicious.  Those apples are not ripe yet, all the rest have been picked. Most will be made into apple juice because that is what I am short of in the pantry.  The rest will be made into applesauce. (I tried a few times to get Molly to move out of the way - and she did because she is a good girl! - but kept going back to this spot to lie down. So, she is is the picture too.)

Even with the heat, I am still getting strawberries (although they are small). 

When the fall comes these ever-bearing plants will pick up the production and make some BIG berries!

I picked most of the purple grapes, although there are still a few more on the vine that need to ripen. I expect to make two gallons of juice from them when everything is done. Tomatoes are also starting to turn red so I expect to be making and canning tomato sauce before the month is over as well!

The only other veggie growing in my garden this year is chili peppers. These are grown for insecticide - we don't eat them. I used so much chili pepper powder on the peanuts and corn while they were germinating that I am quite low on my stash. So, this year I planted twice as many plants (6 total). There isn't anything to see on those yet, none of them are ripe. I will take a picture when I pick some.

Boy, I wish my yard was bigger!  I would definitely grow more.  It is a good feeling to grow and can your own food!  And in my opinion, it is frugal living at its best!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Making and Canning Grape Juice

The grapes are finally ripe and I started picking them to make juice. I  have been looking forward to this grape juice all year! It tastes nothing like store bought! I picked all the white grapes and will get started on the purple ones soon.

Last year I bought a NORPRO Juicer/Steamer. This is so much easier then using a jelly bag to strain the juice! Just wash the grapes and add to the steamer, 1 hour later you have juice.

I also purchased a gas cooker because I wanted to do the majority of the food processing this year outside (without electricity). However, this summer we have had too many days with 100 degree heat index. I decided to process and can the grapes inside.

Canning juice is quite simple too! Start by heating clean jars.

Then, heat the juice.

When the juice reaches 190 degrees (87 C), hold that temperature for five minutes. Then, ladle the hot juice into the hot jars.

Add a lid. (The lids should be heated too.)

Add a band to finger tip tight.

Process according to your geographic location.  (Process times are longer for higher elevations.) 

If you are new to canning, I recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. It will give you all the information you need about how to process foods in both hot water bath canning and pressure canning. You can also see more information here in another post I wrote Canning the Summer Harvest.

The white grapes gave me five gallons of juice! God has certainly blessed me with a bountiful harvest!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Do You Look at Your Money?

We all use money every day. It is such a common thing that we don't even think about it. But, do you really look at your money?

I remember once (about 18 years ago) I was in Minnesota on a business trip and I had a co-worker ask me that question. My answer was "Not really." He suggested that for just a few seconds to really look at the coins and bills you are handed (before you put them in your pocket or purse). You can find some that were minted incorrectly, or are otherwise unusual, and are worth more then the face value.

So I thought, "OK, maybe I will." And, actually I did start. Now it is second nature and I don't think twice about it - I look at both sides of each coin and bill I am handed. It takes no more then a few seconds. I am sure all the clerks in the stores I frequent think I am counting it to ensure it is correct. (Well, that is important too!)

With this in mind, I must tell you what I found just a few days ago. Actually, my husband received it as change from a convenience store. When he got home, he emptied his pockets on the counter. (He has been doing that for 35 years!) When I went to clean, I saw this 'thing' and thought to myself "How nasty!" It honestly looked like a piece of dirt. However, it was very hard when I went to pick it up. I asked him what it was and he said he thought it was a quarter. So, I put a dab of soap on it and ran it under water and looked at it. The date '1918' was clearly visible.

OK, so now I know that I don't have a quarter but I don't yet know what I do have. (I was quite excited.) I cleaned it up some more and this is what I found.

This side of the coin is somewhat damaged so you may not be able to see that it says '1 Franc' on it. Here is the front of the coin.

This is a Liberty (Liberte) coin. I imagine someone must have brought this home from The Great War as a souvenir! (OK, it could have been in a coin collection somewhere too. But the history buff in me wants to believe someone brought it home from WWI!) The detail on the woman is amazing. You can even see the details in her face and feet! (My apologies for the picture - I don't have a macro lens for the digital camera.) I think the detail survived all these years because of all the dirt covering it.

I looked it up on the web and this coin was made from 1898 to about 1960. It is a silver coin. I saw value ranges from $20.00 to $50.00 in very good condition (depending on the year). This isn't in very good condition, since the back side has some damage. However, I think it is in good condition. I would guess that it is worth between $35.00 to $40.00.

It really doesn't matter to me how much it is worth. To me, it is priceless because it is 98 years old and part of world history!  I am thrilled with my find!

This is not the only coin I have found in 18 years. I want to show you another one I have managed to collect. This one I found in 2003. It is a New Jersey State quarter.

Again, I apologize for the picture. If you look real close you can see that the word 'Crossroads' isn't spelled correctly. The 'r' in crossroads is missing! In fact, the strike on this coin was completely off because the picture of George Washington crossing the Delaware river is missing detail as well.

This is what it should look like. Look at all the detail directly under George Washington.  My coin doesn't have it.

Again, while researching this on the web, it appears state quarters that were not struck correctly are worth anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars.

In addition to these two coins, in 2000, I also received as change a 1957 Silver Certificate dollar bill. This one is cool because bills now say 'Federal Note' and not 'Gold Certificate' or 'Silver Certificate' across the top. In theory, I should be able to demand 1 dollar's worth of silver for my bill.

Next time you are at the store, try looking at your money.  Really looking at it.  I bet you can find a treasure too!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Tour of This Year's Garden

I have been working hard on my garden this year, and it has responded by growing quite well. So, I thought I would show you some of what I am growing this year.

We are completely out of tomato sauce, so here are most of my tomatoes. Some are in the ground and some are in pots. You can also see one of my rain barrels on the right. This fall, this area is going to get re-landscaped.

I am growing these sunflowers to produce my own cooking oil. This is a Russian variety that is specifically for making oil.  It is the first time I have grown them. I think the heads look a bit small. (Don't you?) Not sure how much oil I am going to get.

In this picture you can see one of the green bean beds (I have two). The fern looking things behind them are asparagus. You can also see the blueberry bushes in the back with three more tomato plants in front of them - in the blue pots. The blueberries are still producing and covered with nets. The rocks are holding the nets to the ground so birds won't get under them.

Here is the squash. I have both winter (bush acorn squash) and summer (vine type tromboncino). The vines don't want to stay in the mulch. I must move them every other day or so to keep them out of the grass. The 'dirt' you see on the leaves is food grade diatomaceous earth. It is doing an excellent job of keeping the squash vine borer and squash bugs off the vines and the fruit. The netting on the left is a shade net for the winter squash. They don't like the summer sun this year. In the lower right hand corner is my second green bean bed.

The grapes have been my biggest success this year. I have so many I can't count them all!
I have two lattice screens around my hot tub. Each has a grape vine - one purple grape vine and one white grape vine. Here are the white grapes.

The white grapes were not happy just playing on their own trellis and decided they also wanted to go over and play with the purple grapes. This is an overhead shot of the vines in between the two trellises. I didn't need to cover the overhead part with netting, the birds didn't bother these. The white grapes are just about ready to pick. I see canning grape juice in my future next week!

As you can see, the purple ones are not ready yet.

The last picture is of the popcorn. To the right of the popcorn you can see a vine growing over my fence in a gray pot. I have three. They are loofah gourds. I had them in the ground but I don't think they like my clay soil. They kept dying. I had to put them in a pot to get them to grow. You can also see another of my rain barrels at the edge of the picture. 

I have not sprayed any chemicals on these plants this year. In fact I have used very little chemicals at all in the garden. The exception being the cotton and some orchard spray on the apple trees.

I will show you pictures of the apple trees, peanuts and cotton next time!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I Am Finally Back!

Well, I did miss the July deadline that I set for myself, but I am back now!  I expect to post twice a week or so for the rest of the year and hopefully more next year.  I will continue to post on living a frugal life, trying to minimize the use of electricity as part of daily living, and highlighting the ways of the past to work towards the future - with highlighting a church video every now and then.  I am also working on a 'new' look for the blog and I expect to have that ready by the end of the month.  

Let me talk a bit about what I was doing for all this time. I was involved with a project that had a lot of scope creep and my help was really needed. For the most part, I have been working this way for almost two years. I found myself working many 80 hour weeks!  Let me tell you that is very difficult for someone who is getting older (aren't we all!)  I am exhausted!
I have also lost some family members over the past 18 months (this too, is part of life!) Two of them were cousins (one first cousin,once removed and one second cousin) as well as my mother-in-law and younger brother.  This really makes you think about how short and precious life is and how it should be spent with those you love doing the things you want to do instead of always working.

Having said that, I can add that I have missed living life the way I want.  I like to make or grow what I need. It is not possible to do that when you work 80 hour weeks.  It requires the assistance of electricity and the convenience of the grocery store to make it work. Both of those are incompatible with my DNA!

I can honestly tell you that I am very glad these past two years are over! It does give me even more respect for those of you who can't stop working or switch to part time.  I hope I can give more hints and tips to help those of you who find it difficult to set aside a spare minute too!