The Side yard Garden Project Completed-January, 2021

We finished the side yard project this week. This used to be a real mess, with waist-high weeds along the fence in spring and mud in the winter. We wanted it to be more usable, and for there to be a cleaner surface to walk on as we went back and forth into the camper. When we camp, we have to load in our fresh foods and our clothes for the week. We also use the camper fridge as our extra fridge when we buy a large quantity of something that was on sale. We also use the camper for a guest house on the rare occasions that someone visits us over night. Where the raised beds are now, there was a grassy area that was an inconvenience to mow and a wasted area to water, but it’s hooked into the sprinkler system. I wanted to grow more food there instead.

We started last fall. Patsy worked on it for a while, and was paid for her efforts, and then decided it wasn’t her favorite thing, so Rob and I took it on. There were concrete stones, weeds, roots, rocks and dirt to move.

As the fall and winter progressed, we worked at it when we could. There are pebbles where the camper steps stop and red bark for the rest of the area.

Rob built the first raised bed from reclaimed lumber. He had to buy part of the lumber for the second one, but using the scavenged lumber helped bring the cost way down. We saved all the dirt we dug up from the area by the camper to help fill the new beds. The bags are some dirt that was dug up before Rob got the beds built. We saved all the concrete edging stones for another future project. Rob has a plan to put in drip irrigation connected to the in-ground sprinkler system that is already there, and make it as easy to water as the rest of the yard and garden.

We covered the grass under the beds with old cardboard from boxes to discourage weeds, then shoveled in dirt.

A few weeks ago, I put some purchased, enriched soil and some bone meal in the first bed and stirred it up. Then, I planted baby strawberry plants in half of it. This weekend, Rob finished filling the second bed with dirt and more enriched soil. I spread out the rest of the red bark chips and he trimmed off the neighbor’s bushes that had been growing through our fence. The branches were starting to lean out toward the camper, and were a real trial to brush up against after a rain…..quite startling I’ll say when the water went down my neck!

I plan to plant some peas in the empty bed before too many weeks pass. The other half of the strawberry bed will be filled with early spring veggies such as boc choi, spinach and cabbage or more peas. I bought a big package of those. It’s just easier around here to get into a raised bed in early spring since they dry out sooner. The main garden is way too wet. There is good sun here, so I’m excited about what might grow.

The arborvitae look dismal now, but they will leaf out all too soon. I don’t want them anyway–they are the neighbors. He does know we trimmed them off on our side. Rob thought it was just common courtesy to ask permission even though they were growing through onto our side of the fence, and of course he was fine with it.

Since the camper is not at home now, we decided to hustle up and finish the job while it was easier to work in that area. How Rob does it, I’ll never know, but he will back it in there and the steps will open up right where the gravel is, every single time. The door will just barely open, but the slide-out will also open exactly enough to not hit the gutters on the house (about 3 or 4 inches) and there will be enough clearance to get in and out the door. It amazes me every time. Now that the project is done, we won’t track as much mud inside, and I’ll have 2 more beds to grow food in. I should not get water down my neck any more, and Patsy won’t have to man-handle the mower into that inconvenient place anymore. It’s nice to have it done.

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–January 18, 2021

This week, we trimmed up more branches.

With a little help from Jake, we filled the bin as full as it would go, and still have 2 garbage cans and a trash sack full, waiting for another garbage pick-up day. He wasn’t sure about getting in there, so clung to Uncle the whole time. In the end, I think he enjoyed the experience, but his slight weight didn’t make much difference in compacting the twigs, so it was mostly for fun:)

Rob’s hat and pull-over is another Christmas present I sewed, I just didn’t want to post it before Christmas in case he peeked:). It’s coming in handy as we continue walking for exercise. We try to get out most days, and especially when either Jake or Michaela is with us, since we like to make it one of our activities on those days to keep them engaged and occupied.

We had a gorgeous day today, so decided to drive down to the Oregon Coast. Rob and Patsy collected rocks and I walked the dog.

I packed a picnic lunch and we ate it at this overlook. I never tire of the ocean. I could watch it every day. It’s a special place for both Rob and I and we were so happy to be able to visit today. Since we took our lunch and one of the small cars, the trip was very affordable.

One day, we took Michaela with us when we went to the dentist. Our dentist is a distance from our house, and we wanted her to have some fun that day. After the appointments, we went to a park we knew of and fed the geese, ducks, seagulls and a pigeon some buns I had taken along for that purpose. She didn’t mind the rain, and seemed to enjoy herself tremendously, taking the longest time to break each bun into bits and throw the pieces to the various birds.

We also drove along the rail road tracks and looked for trains. It’s one of her favorite things to do. Imagine our surprise when we came upon the remains of a train wreck from at least a week ago. We had felt that would be cleaned up by now, but it wan’t. There was a tremendous pile of lumber being cleaned up, and twisted, mangled railroad cars. Thankfully, no one had been hurt, but the mess was horrendous. Since no one was hurt, we were glad she was able to see what was involved in the clean-up of such a wreck, all caused by a tree that had fallen on the tracks.

To top off the day, she got to use one of her Christmas gift cards to drive through McDonald’s. For her, it was a great day, and we didn’t have any cavities, so it was win-win for us all:)

Rob’s mom wanted him to stop by to pick up some things. His sister had brought avocados from her neighbor, there was a huge box of food from his cousin (a Christmas gift), and she also had quite a few groceries she had been given that were too much for her to use. I was delighted to see it all.

I was shocked to find all this broccoli in the garden. With the cabbage we are still eating, plus the large bowl of lettuce I picked, our purchased fresh veggies are stretching farther than ever. In fact, when Rob asked if I needed him to stop and get groceries this week, I was able to say that there was not one single thing I needed this time. In fact, I’ve decided that no more groceries will be purchased until the fridge clears out a bit. It’s too full.

That is because….(sad face)….the camper sprung a leak in the recent rain and wind storms we’ve had. It has been towed away to be looked at by a repairman who will hopefully pinpoint the problem quickly and be able to fix it immediately. It’s been a whirlwind week sopping up water, washing things that got wet, and cramming all the camper fridge food into my house fridge. The camper fridge doesn’t hold that much, but enables us to buy larger quantities of things like eggs (which we recently did), so now my house fridge is stuffed with eggs, for one thing, and a plethora of condiments for another. It looks like insurance will help with at least part of the repairs, so that’s a good thing.

In the meanwhile, the Oregon Park Service announced one day that it would be opening up camping reservations for a 6-month window, starting the next day. They’ve been slowly letting people reserve sites further ahead–starting at 2 weeks, then a month, and so forth. (Before the whole thing shut down last spring for Covid, it was 9 months). We knew the good ones were going to go fast, so we got up at midnight that first day and got several prime spots reserved over the next few months. We know Jake wants to go with us part of the time, and are hoping Michaela will take the plunge and go some time, too. We were so glad we were so aggressive, as they mentioned on the news the next evening that the website stopped working or something, and many people were disappointed, and that when people did finally get on, most of the good spots were gone at desirable times. Whew! I just can’t even think of taking special needs kids camping for several days without full hook-ups since the showers have been closed at most campsites since Covid started, but now I don’t have to. Now to convince Michaela that camping is fun…… We can use our park pass for these camping trips, so they end up being very affordable.

Rob has a day surgery on Friday, for Carpal Tunnel in one hand–they will do 2 small surgeries, one on his wrist and one on his elbow. This is a problem he’s had for a long time, but the hip issue was more important to fix. So, in preparation, he’s been fixing everything in sight–there’s a new light on the back porch, new mini-blinds in the bathroom since those broke, lots of firewood hauled, and the side-yard project is finished. I can’t even imagine how many projects he would have finished if it was a surgery where he would be down and out for a long time. He is supposed to recover quickly from this one, but I’ll admit, I’m thrilled to have those projects done. I’m also glad he is getting this fixed. They said it’s “severe” and that he will have permanent damage if it isn’t fixed. I believe it, since he keeps dropping things these days–he just can’t feel things like he used to. All the approvals are done, so this will be covered by insurance, which is a nice thing to know.

I got a notice that curbside pickup will resume at our library at last and have an appointment to get the books and movies I ordered months ago, that came into the library, and have been sitting there for the past few weeks while they were closed again for Covid. I no longer can remember what I ordered, so am looking forward to being surprised tomorrow when we get them.

So, I should have a quiet week where I do school, keep the kids, take care of Rob, read and cook eggs. Sounds good to me:)

I’ll leave you with this fossil Patsy found on the beach. I thought it was an especially nice one.

Thriving In My thrifty Week–January 10, 2021

Somebody likes his Grandpa. And, Grandpa likes him, too. Rob and I had the pleasure of spending some time with the baby this week–loved it! I’ve always called Rob the “Baby Whisperer.” I’ve seen absolute stranger babies leap for him on more than one occasion. It’s so cute to see them together.

I picked another large bowl of lettuce from the greenhouse. We mixed it with store lettuce and had many salads this week. I used some of our garden cabbage as well, in a stir-fry. It called for fresh broccoli, which I didn’t have, so put large chunks of cabbage in instead. It was great.

Our method of menu -planning this week was a mixture of all the ways I do it. I made a list of meals in my notebook, and I made a couple of recipes I had chosen and marked with sticky notes in magazines a while back. I referred to that list the first part of the week, then Rob went out to the big freezers in the shop and grabbed a whole chicken, some steak and hot dogs and we just cooked those the second part of the week. I made 2 soups–clam chowder and broccoli. We ate soup several times. It’s so easy during lunch times to just grab a bowl and microwave it. The broccoli and broth were some I’d frozen and the clams were given to us in some canned goods Rob’s mom couldn’t use and passed on a couple of months ago, added to potatoes and the milk that seems to be on sale constantly around here these days. Inexpensive meals, and really a treat this week. I plan to do a chicken-vegetable soup this week, since I boiled the bones of the chicken Rob took out of the freezer and I have tons of frozen garden vegetables.

He went to Safeway for the bargains. Our favorite one was a 3-lb package of bacon for under $6. He divided that into small baggies and froze them to pull out over time. He got yogurt for 37c/each, bread for 77c each (2), and a couple of other things we needed. Fred Meyers had butter for $1.77, so he got the 5 allowed, and topped it off with tortillas for $1 at the Dollar Store. He came out under $30 and that’s more than enough for this week. Last week’s shop was more extensive, but we are right on track for another month where we easily stay within our grocery budget and should be able to set some aside for bulk purchases later on.

We filled the yard debris bin again with clipped branches. Rob also took a chain saw to the fig tree in the front yard and removed the weak, dead branches and also worked on other bushes/shrubs. We are debating on whether to cut down the fig tree entirely, or just remove the weak and damaged parts, but don’t have to decide now. The bin only holds so much at one time. Since they will take that debris bin every week, for free, we love to fill it up as many weeks as we can.

Rob and I got our first Covid shot. We were offered the chance, due to our job–we are considered part of the health care workers, as we care for developmentally disabled clients. We were a little scared, as it’s so new and all, but so far, so good. (At least I was–I absolutely hate shots!) We go back in a few weeks for shot #2, and then I will be able to go out and about so much more freely. I know everyone doesn’t want one of those shots, but I have to admit, I’m excited to know that I won’t be spreading that nasty virus to any of my loved ones. That’s worth a lot to me.

We got our stimulus checks. We had an extensive repair done on the van, so…easy come, easy go. What a blessing to be able to drive a safe van! And, what a blessing to see the Lord provide for our needs in many ways. He just never fails us. Ever.

2021 gardening Plans

If I want produce like this again, I need to plan now. Rob and I have done quite a bit of garden planning this winter and I’ve already ordered and received my seeds. Here’s what we’ve got planned.

Over the past few months, we have been improving our side yard. There was a strip of grass that became a place to pile things, caused lots of moans and groans every time Patsy had to man-handle the lawn mower over there to mow the tiny strip of grass and was wasting water to irrigate something we did not like. Rob built raised beds. Cardboard was put in the bottoms and dirt is being moved from beside the camper to fill them in. Last week I mixed in 1/2 bag of purchased growing mix and some bone meal and planted 1/2 of one bed with strawberry runners that had grown from my existing strawberry plants. If we want strawberries, the beds need renewing frequently or they don’t produce well. I was happy to get this many new baby plants for free.

We have raspberry and blackberry (Marion) bushes growing as well. This fall, we cut down an old peach tree that shaded those berries and the back of the garden. I’m excited to see how much better things should grow with the additional water and sunlight they will get.

The bags on the left are full of leaves. Rob picked them up downtown where someone had raked them up and left them out for the taking. Patsy has since dragged them into the garden. They are still in the bags. When the sun shines on the bags as spring comes on, they will decompose more quickly then if we poured them out. At least they did the last time we did this and hopefully it will work again. In the late spring, they will be spread out and tilled in, as long as they are pretty broken down. Otherwise, we will have to wait as they will rob the soil of nitrogen while they break down if they are too intact. Part of our planning is a constant search to improve our soil. We expect a lot from our garden, so we amend the soil every chance we get.

Rob will clean the greenhouse soon. He has some winter lettuce growing now, and will start some of the baby plants soon. Right now, it’s not heated at all, but he will put a heat mat under the new seeds when he plants them. It’s been a very mild winter. We have a space heater we can plug in if we absolutely have to, but we’d rather not.

Here are some of the seeds we are using this year. We also have a bag full from of partial packets from previous years, and quite a few seeds Rob saved this past summer. Since it’s the first time he’s done so much seed saving, we are being a little cautious. We will use his and the purchased ones until our confidence has grown and we make sure it’s been done correctly. Still, we ordered about 1/2 of what we do sometimes. You cannot save seeds from hybrids–they won’t grow true to kind. Still, I grow some of those because I want the product they produce. The flowers were a Christmas gift. I love zinnias, so I know I will grow those!

It looks like a lot of seeds, and it is. I grow a huge garden, and we start our seedlings of things like tomatoes and peppers. We also give away some starts to my sister and others. I can and freeze large quantities of vegetables and fruits–I’m talking hundreds of packages and jars, so I need a lot of produce!

I ordered from Territorial Seeds and Pinetree Garden Seeds this year. I like to order from Johnny’s sometimes, but like to limit myself so I don’t have to pay as much shipping. We have several great garden centers around here and I can pick up more things if I need them. I like to order, though, because I like to choose the varieties I want with the disease resistance and productivity I want.

Here are some of the kinds I like to grow. Remember, some of these have been saved, or I already have a partial packet of them so you may not see them in the picture.

Lettuce: The photo is Yukon Winter Mix from Territorial. It’s from the greenhouse. It is the first time I’ve grown it. I had good success in the garden, have some in the raised bed under plastic and in the greenhouse. I ordered more, plus a winter mix from Pinetree. I always grow Buttercrunch. It’s my favorite. I like lettuce mixes and always grow them, plus Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed Lettuce from Territorial. I like the Flashy Troutback lettuce from Territorial, also. We have Gondor head lettuce from Territorial and have used Summertime in the past.

Onions: I have green onion seeds we saved. I get packets from the Dollar Store sometimes if I need them. I grew Patterson F1 onions for storage and Red Bull F1 as well, from Territorial, and will do so again. You cannot save these seeds, as they are hybrids. They store well. We still have tons left and usually they last until spring if they are not all eaten. I grew white onions last summer. They are all gone because they do not store well.

Cabbage: Last fall, we planted Quick Start cabbage from Territorial because is was the only kind Rob could find seeds for. They were in short supply around here last summer. It grew quickly, made a great fall crop, and I still have one out in the garden that looks good. The rest have been picked and eaten. We ordered another packet of it. It is a smallish head, grows quickly and tasted great. I’ve grown the Cabbage Mix from Pinetree for years. It is all kinds of cabbage mixed up–red ones, big ones, small…all mixed up. I only got 1 red one last year, and will have Rob make sure to not thin out all of those this year, as we enjoying the cabbage/apple relish (?) mix I canned. Even with only one, I got 6 or 7 small jars.

Carrots: I’m not picky on those. I ordered Eskimo F1 from Territorial, just for fun, but am happy with Danvers Half Long from the Dollar Store or anywhere else.

Spinach and Greens: Joi Choi Pac Choi from Territorial is our favorite Boc Choi for early spring and fall planting. Rob’s just getting into kale in the past few years, and finds he likes the Tuscan kind. We ordered Dazzling Blue Kale from Pinetree to try it, and have been enjoying several kinds of kale my friend Jeannie sent me seeds for. We are newbies to growing celery, and have lots of skinny, leafy celery with hollow stems growing right now. We will try Tango from Pinetree this summer and see how it does. We’ve grown Bloomsdale Spinach from various sources, ordered Palco from Pintree for early spring and Reflect from Pinetree for summer planting.

Beans: Blue Lake Bush beans are our favorite. I got 2-1/2 pounds from Territorial this year, as we grow a tremendous amount. I can many quarts each summer. Carson is a good yellow bush bean. I grow a few rows of those and usually mix them into some of the green ones when I can, if I’ve got any ripe ones, for color variance. I also like growing some pole beans for a continuous crop until fall so we can eat fresh ones as long as possible. The bush ones give a large crop all at once for preserving. Rob saved a bunch of Blue Lake Pole Bean seeds. I bought Violet Podded Stringless Pole Beans to grow. They were a bust last summer, but I’ll try again with more sunlight to help them along this year.

Tomatoes: Glacier (Territorial) for small, extremely early tomatoes. Black or Chocolate Cherry, Sungold and Yellow Pear for small tomatoes to snack on. We got Fantastic F1 from Territorial for canning, Cordova F1 as a sauce/paste tomato and are trying CarmelloF1 for the first time for slicing. We grew BuffalosteakF1 last year and will use the rest of the packet this year. We could not get WillametteF1 this year from Territorial, so Rob ordered some from the internet. We’ll see what they turn out to be:). We got some Longkeeper seeds. I grew them years ago and want to try again. The green tomatoes Rob picked and ripened lasted until Thanksgiving. Maybe these can do better.

Broccoli: Hybrid Broccoli Blend from Territorial. It gives broccoli at different times, as it is a mix of different varieties, which is nice.

Herbs: Dill, basil, cilantro, parsley. I’m not picky. I order some, get some from the Dollar store, and save seeds. My parsley self-seeds, as does the cilantro and sometimes dill.

Peppers: Carmen (Pinetree or Johnny’s)–it’s a long sweet pepper that ripens early, a must for my climate. I’ve grown it for years. I’m growing Jalafuigo Jalepeno from Pinetree this year as it promises to be larger and spicier than others. Anaheim can be purchased many places. Serranos from the Dollar Store work fine, as I only need a few. Lola F1 from Territorial is a recent favorite. It’s a long, light green sweet pepper and bears heavily. Rob started Hungarian Wax Peppers from the Dollar Store last year, not knowing what they would be exactly. They were great and we still have a package…We also have some bell pepper seeds from there.

Peas: I grew some Tall Telephone Pole peas last year and got a few. This year, I will go back to an old favorite, Maestro, a bush pea from Territorial. I don’t grow them every year, but I plan to put some into one of the new raised beds for an early spring crop.

We use multiple succession plantings of Oregon Sugar Pod II peas. Tons! We eat them as fast as we grow them and I plant a new, tiny row every 2 weeks all summer long.

Beets: Early Wonder Tall Top is our favorite. I’ve also used Detroit. Pinetree Beet Mix is good, too. Rob got a whole handful of Early Wonder Beets on clearance at a local farm store, so that’s what I’ve got this year, plus a bunch of the mix left over. Even with all I grew last year, we had to buy a bunch to pickle–beets are a favorite around here!

Pumpkins and Winter Squash: I struggle with those in this garden. I’ve tried Butternut and Delicata with poor results. I will try again, but was super grateful for the Sweetmeat and Butternut Rob’s cousin gave us, and the ones we were able to purchase at a local farm stand.

Summer Squash: Raven F1 Zucchini from Territorial is great, as is Easypick Gold F1. From Pinetree, I like Tromboncini and Summer Squash Mix. I use a lot of those and make relish and pickles with this as well as eat it fresh.

Cucumbers: Lemon cucumbers grow great and self-seed often in my garden. Rob saved some seeds of those this past summer. Pickling cucumber seeds are fine from the Dollar Store, but, again, Rob saved some. The slicers–same story. I also have some from last year in case his don’t grow, but I think they will. I use a great deal of pickling cucumbers–I canned about 50 pints last summer–so I need a lot.

Flowers: I always grow zinnias and they self-seed in my garden. I like nasturtiums as well, plus Rob grew great pansies last year. He also grew snapdragons from the Dollar Store seeds and they are still alive. He likes to experiment, and so I will have whatever flowers he decides to grow at the time. Last year he saved over the geraniums again, so I will have those. He started a bunch of those from seed last year, and then some cuttings from ours and my aunt’s plants.

Even with growing all of this, sometimes crops fail, or I can’t grow enough, so my sister is gracious enough to let me pick from her garden. We also buy things from farm stands, such as cauliflower, which we do not grow, or peppers if I need to make relish before ours are ripe. It’s always a changing process, but keeps my mind busy and my body active. I love gardening!

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–January 4, 2021

We’ve been enjoying our holiday around here! The kids came over on their usual days, and I did school with Jake on New Year’s Eve as I always do on Thursdays, but then we had our own little party. No one told him there wasn’t school, and he does very well with a routine, so his family got lots and lots of homeschool done this past couple of weeks since there was no distance learning with the public school, of course.

Rob stopped off and got a dozen donuts. We put out a plate full of candy and chips. They did a donut puzzle and I read the story about Homer Price and the Donut Machine. We had a game tournament where there were prizes for first, second, third, fourth, fifth and some prizes “just because.” I played Sorry with the girls, Rob played chess with Jake, then we all played Apples to Apples. Then, we watched “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” It was a rousing success of a party, and was over by 4:30. My kind of New Year’s party. I planned to go to bed early.

But……the dog was very disturbed by all the fireworks in the neighborhood and would not let me sleep until about 2:15 am. Poor thing. So I rang in the new year after all:)

Every single year since she was born, Alissa has celebrated her birthday with Rob, as they both have January birthdays. Hers is the 2nd, so we’ve always celebrated hers on or near the actual date. Then Jake joined in the January celebration when he was born. She wanted to continue the celebration. It was a teeny, tiny party compared to some years, but we had a great time. Isn’t that a cute cake their Mama made? Sadly, I dropped the cheesecake upside down while trying to take it out of it’s pan, and it did get a little beat up before Rob rescued it and flipped it over, but it tasted super good….thank goodness for blueberry sauce. It covers many flaws:)

She’s 20. Crazy!!! So, Rob taped 20 pennies, 20 nickels, 20 dimes, 20 quarters and 20 dollar bills together in a long, long strip and put them in a shoebox with a slit in it and she had to pull them all out. He wrapped the box in many, many layers first so she had to get through all that as well. With him and her, it’s all about who can give the silliest present sometimes…..they have fun, and she can certainly find somewhere to spend the money.

Even with our celebrations, we did get a few things done, and did some money-saving activities.

I made 2 kinds of soup and we ate those many times. I made home-made refried beans for the party. I did cook substantial meals a couple of other times, but we just ate lots of soup, leftovers, etc. for the most part. Rob got a cheap Little Caesar’s pizza for him and Patsy to eat New Year’s Eve. I ate an expensive frozen gluten-free one from Costco. That was still way less than buying a gluten-free one from a pizza place. I do make my own at times, but we wanted our own little celebration that night for Patsy.

I received a little spring form pan for Christmas for my Instant Pot. I used every last bit of cream cheese I had experimenting and made 2 little cheesecakes this past week. I used my home-made cherry filling for this one and my blueberry filling for the one I took to the party. It worked very well. It was also good to use the cream cheese, as it had been around for a while.

In the spirit of January, I cleaned quite a bit. One thing I did was sort the Tupperware cupboard. I received a few new containers for Christmas, so I put those in, and got rid of some things without lids, etc. and just got rid of a few things.

I worked several times on my pantry shelves in the garage where I keep my food storage. Patsy helped me one morning. We killed many spiders, wiped up little spills and organized it better. We filled up containers from bulk supplies. I was delighted to not find very many surprises, and that I didn’t have to throw away a lot of things–only one or two things that were hiding behind things. That’s why I go through it a couple of times a year. Sometimes, even though I have the best of intentions, things get put where they don’t belong or I just simply forget to use something, especially if it was given to me and it is not one of my usual items I cook with on a regular basis.

I’ve been holding off on grocery shopping for a while. I made a detailed list for Rob to fill today at Safeway. I was able to use the $10 off $50 coupon, many other coupons I downloaded onto my card, such as cereal for $1/box, milk for $1.99/gallon, eggs for $1.50 for 18, and many other bargains. He had to buy some things that were not on sale as well, but I was thrilled with the amount of groceries he got for what he spent. Now we are set again until the produce he bought gets used up.

They gave out free school lunches a few days over the holidays. We did not go every time, but did get a few of them. Today, they are back to their regular daily schedule, and I took Patsy for one.

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–December 27, 2020

Let’s see…..a choice between a picture of my super cute grandson, or 2 kind of ugly turkeys…….hmmmm……no contest–baby wins!

Back to the turkeys, then….. Rob found 2 fresh turkeys on clearance yesterday. We baked them both, boiled the bones and made tons of broth, and stocked the freezers with broth and turkey chunks. We did not make turkey for Christmas, so saved some out to eat.

I made a turkey-rice soup while I was at it. I also boiled the ham bone and then filled the crock pot with ham and beans. I do have a menu plan for this week, but I will save several of those meals for next week. In January, I always try to eat a lot from the pantry and freezers, and I plan to do the same this year, so it will nice to have a few meals already planned.

My amaryllis lily bloomed, just in time for Christmas. We’ve been enjoying watching it grow all month.

This week was very full of Christmas. We got all the presents finished and delivered in a timely fashion, and had short visits with some. We decided to drive to the beach Christmas Day. The weather was not very good, but we didn’t care. We had a great time. I took a short walk, and Rob and Patsy walked down to the beach to look for rocks for a little while. We took all of our own food, changes of clothes, blankets, towels, and pretty much everything else we could possible think of, knowing no stores would be open. Of course, we didn’t need any of it except the lunch, but, hey….it’s 2020. Better safe than sorry!

Contrary to what happened to others, 2020 was not the worst year I’ve lived through. After all, Rob had a life-changing hip surgery, some other people I care for had medical things that literally saved their lives, and I had an amazing gardening season. Although I know several people who had Covid, none of them caught it badly. I have a lot to be thankful for.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and are looking forward to the new year as much as I am. I always love January. It always feels so fresh and new. I’m excited to see what it has in store for us:)

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–December 22, 2020

We have spent the past few days exchanging Christmas gifts with family and friends. It’s so nice to have them all purchased and wrapped and almost all handed out! There’s a little more delivering to do, but that will be soon finished. It was nice to have mini-visits with some people as they either dropped things off or we did.

I made up a huge batch of rice/bean/cheese burritos for the freezer. One bag was sent off as part of a gift, along with some banana-chocolate chip bread. The rest were frozen for later. Patsy will eat these every couple of days and they make a quick lunch or supper. When I sent Rob to the store a couple of weeks ago for tortillas, they were quite expensive–over $2.50 for one package, and I had asked for 2. He got them, because he was there and we are limiting our store trips. They were soon eaten because Patsy absolutely loves them. I needed a better solution for mass production of burritos for gifts or mass consumption by Patsy! Thankfully, while he was in the Dollar Tree getting a few items for Christmas, he found them for $1 per package. He grabbed a handful, and I was in the burrito business!

I spent a couple of hours perusing old magazines for recipes that used foods I have on hand. I found at least 20 recipes I could make that looked good, marked them with sticky notes and added them to my menu plan. I went ahead and menu-planned for the next 2 weeks, and Rob picked up the groceries I needed. I should be done for the year now:). Sounds funny, doesn’t it? It’s amazing that the the year went both so slowly at times, and so quickly at others.

Jake needed an “ugly sweater” for his Zoom class for school. His dad fixed him up with lights over his normal shirt, and they promptly quit working, so Rob fixed him up with yet another string of lights at our house. He also has a bow, as you can see, and he was pleased as punch with himself and his “sweater. ” He showed his class, then we put it all away and no one was stuck with a sweater that would not be worn again. He does about an hour and a half on the computer, and does homeschool the rest of the time. I supervise/help on Thursdays. I concentrate of Language Arts, and do whatever his mother tells me to do. I read, read, read to him for one thing. We recently finished the book, “Caddie Woodlawn” and are now working on the Wright Brothers.

We were given several squash. Rob cut 2 up and we baked them and ground them with the Foley Food Mill.

Even though each time we cook squash, we eat a lot of it immediately, I am getting a good amount frozen now. One of these was much sweeter than the other, so I froze the sweeter one for eating in cartons, and the less sweet one in baggies for baking. That way, it all will be used and enjoyed.

While I was at it, I cut up a Butternut and roasted it with olive oil and salt.

We snack on the cubes and put them on salads.

We picked the first batch of lettuce from Rob’s planting in the greenhouse. This is a kind from Territorial called Yukon Blend, promised to do well in cooler weather, plus some Buttercrunch. So far, the greenhouse has been completely unheated. The weather has been quite mild for this time of year.

But, it’s definitely cool enough to enjoy chili and cornbread along with other soups and stews.

Patsy and Michaela made cinnamon rolls for Christmas Day. Patsy’s been banned from making them lately, since they are WAY TOO GOOD! But, hey…Christmas, right? We are always looking for projects to do with Michaela, so Patsy has painted her nails red and green a couple of times lately. She did it again this week.

Rob also took them to McDonald’s for the free McFlurry’s today. Well, not quite free…you had to make a $1 purchase. It was a great, inexpensive outing.

Have a wonderful Christmas, everyone! We are planning a quiet one, but a fun one. I hope yours is fun, too.

Thriving In My thrifty Week–December 14, 2020

We had another very quiet week around here. With the Covid numbers rising like they are, we feel it’s just best to stick to home for the most part. So, we concentrated on getting things done around here.

We went and got the school lunches several times. The small portions of canned peaches and pears from those lunches were stacking up in the fridge. Since we have so much canned fruit of our own, they are not on anyone’s list of foods to gobble down first. So, I froze a bunch of them on a cookie tray, then made a smoothie from some of them and saved the rest for another time. I also mixed raspberries with some and made more popsicles.

As I was making the smoothie, the mini-blender’s motor froze up. Rob tore it apart, fixed it, and hopefully we will have many more smoothies! It’s very old, and we have used it so much, it may be worn out, but for now, it’s working.

I did some sewing and made a Christmas gift using things I had on hand. I am very pleased with the gifts I have made, and especially pleased with the fact that I used some materials and supplies that I’ve had for years. I was able to get some supplies at JoAnn’s, such as several widths of elastic, this fall, and was glad I bought plenty. I don’t plan to go back any time soon.

I used a different method of menu planning this week. It was called the “I opened the little freezer on top of the fridge in the kitchen and tons of stuff fell on my feet” plan together with the “use it up before it goes bad” plan:). Every day , we ate some of the little bits of food I had saved at some point, mostly in little baggies (hence the avalanche!). They are slippery little guys! There were pork chops, hamburger and chicken breast in there, so I started with those, along with the 2 leftover bowls of soup in the fridge–split pea and chicken rice. There were little bits of various meats, rice and veggies, and assorted buns and breads. I added veggies and fruit as needed from the canning/freezing stash and made some strange combos.

I also roasted a Butternut squash and cooked a large Sweetmeat. I froze some of the Sweetmeat after I pureed it. We ate quite a bit of it during the week.

Rob had to go into the stores for the last few items to finish up the Christmas shopping. While there, he grabbed a couple of grocery items, but we needed very little as he had just shopped for us a few days ago. I did have him pick up 12 cans of Progresso gluten-free clam chowder, as they were on sale for 99c each and he was there anyway. That’s a very good price and we love to eat a can of that for lunch occasionally.

We organized and wrapped all the gifts and they are ready to drop off at people’s houses.

Patsy made some pretzels with white chocolate coating and bagged them up for Christmas. We used some pretzels purchased on clearance a while back and vaccuum-sealed for freshness, along with some white chocolate purchased on 49c on clearance a while back. It looks festive for pennies!

Some of Rob’s lettuce in the greenhouse is getting almost ready for us to eat. I’m excited! It’s not huge, but it’s not bad for an unheated greenhouse!

We ordered our seeds from Territorial as soon as their website opened up for orders. Today, we received all of it, but one packet. They said they are still packaging up seeds and will send us that one as soon as they get it packed up. Our seeds from Pinetree have arrived also. We are all set for another awesome growing season! Last winter, we ordered early, so were not caught in the frenzy of seed shortages. We did, however, have a hard time when we needed more of a few items mid-summer. All of the seed companies are stating that they expect high demand for seeds again this year, so we ordered even earlier than usual. We also ordered some fall veggie seeds as the fall/winter garden was a rousing success. We still have cabbage and celery out there. I’m going to pick more soon.

We also have a generous amount of seeds Rob saved last summer from part of our open-pollinated veggies, so we were able to order less than we usually would.

We continued our project of chopping our downed peach tree branches up and putting them out in the yard-debris bin. I think I will easily fit what’s left in next week and that job will be done.

We took lots of walks, in-between torrential rain showers, hail, cold sunshine, and fog. It’s getting challenging to get those in, but we are managing almost every day.

Sewing A Fleece Pullover For Michaela–December, 2020

This pullover is for Michaela, my autistic niece. Recently, she saw me sewing quilts for her sister and Lovana. She really, really wanted me to sew her something for Christmas, too. She loves soft, fuzzy things and animal prints, so I knew this piece of fleece would be perfect for her. She dislikes surprises intensely, so I let her choose what she wanted made from it. She choose a pullover “like uncle’s.” He has a couple I made him years ago that he wears while working outside.

I used a pattern that I have had for years. I can see from the envelope that it cost $1.25 at the time I bought it. I have used it many, many times and have really gotten my money’s worth out of it. Thankfully, I had some fabric she liked, a zipper in my stash and some 1/2 inch elastic for the sleeves on hand. I am not doing any extra shopping right now, so was very relieved I had what I needed, especially a zipper that was the right kind that matched. I use the kind with the thick, wide teeth for these pullovers. That kind are usually separating zippers, but I just sew over the bottom and cut off any extra because I don’t need them to separate for this project.

Since she spends Tuesdays and Thursdays here, I used this as an activity. We try to keep her busy. So, one day, she watched as I cut it out. Another time, I had her take the pins out of some of the pattern pieces, then she got a chair and stared at me as I sewed. No pressure there:). I worked on it quite a bit over the weekend while she was not here, and only had to measure the elastic for the sleeves around her wrists and insert it. I did that yesterday, then finished it up. She tried it on. It is enormous on her, even though we cut out her size. Thankfully, she doesn’t care. She will likely layer it with shirts under it anyway.

Tomorrow, I will let her and Patsy wrap it up, because they both love to wrap gifts. Then, she will open it on Christmas and be as happy as a clam.

Thriving In My thrifty Week–December 7, 2020

Or otherwise known as “Eating Cinnamon Rolls All Week!” Patsy has been making gluten-free cinnamon rolls all week long. There are some in the freezer, we have shared a few, but, I have to confess we’ve eaten quite a few! I think one of the reasons I have been enjoying them so much is because it has been a long, long time since I’ve had any, as gluten-free cinnamon rolls are few and far between in my world:) While gluten-free ingredients are not inexpensive by any means, it would have cost even more to buy them.

We have taken a few walks this week, for obvious reasons!

We finished up the cherry tomatoes. I picked them green and put them in a dish in the garage and most of them did ripen. We also finished the last of the larger tomatoes Rob picked green and wrapped in tissue. Not bad for the first week of December, we thought!

I got a small bowl of Yukon Mix Winter lettuce from the garden. I mixed it with iceberg from the store for 2 salads. I cut it off, rather than pulling the few bushes remaining, and maybe it will grow some more. Who knows? Not me. I’ve never harvested lettuce in December before. I’m thrilled with what I’ve picked and will happily pick more if it grows. There’s some little plants under my covered cold frame, but they were planted later than the ones I harvested today.

I also got some cilantro and some celery, which is still mostly leaves. I made soup with celery leaves and a small Waldorf salad with the tiny stems and an apple.

I have been working on a grocery list for the past week or so, by simply writing down items as we run out and scouring the ads for good deals. It took me until today to get a big enough list to use my coupon, as my menu plan has focused on my stored food. I sent Rob to Safeway to get the items and use the $10 of $50 coupon. He also had to go into Fred Meyers during the weekend to get prescriptions so picked up a few of the good deals there. I had him get plenty of head lettuce, carrots, milk and other things that will hold well since I don’t plan to shop again for 10 days or more, if we can make it.

I did notice I was making a few more substitutions as I cooked toward the end of this stretch, but it worked out.

I made a menu plan again, to continue to manage my food. I was able to use up a few more items that had been around for ages and lots of my preserved food.

A while back, Rob built me some wooden boxes to put empty jars in to leave me more “wiggle room” on my shelves until we use up more full jars of canning. We canned so much this year that he was afraid I might break some while shuffling things around getting desired ones out. Once the boxes are fully full, I should have no trouble fitting the remaining empties on the shelf.

I was also able to repurpose some food that was leftover from the free school lunches. Some celery went into soup and some chopped pears and peaches were mixed with my frozen raspberries and made into popsicles. One of the apples went into the Waldorf salad. Michaela helped drink up the extra milk and ate one of the leftover apples.

Snipped, dried tomatoes went into a pasta salad, dried zucchini went into a vegetable soup at the last minute so they wouldn’t get mushy, and grated zucchini went into a snack cake. We are sharing most of the cake with some friends, as there have been just too many desserts around here lately.

My Azure Standard order got lost for the first time, ever. After a few phone calls, they just mailed me another order, instead of sending it to the drop site. There were a couple of things they were out of, but I was glad they were so quick to make it right and glad to have the things I got.

I watched another beautiful, absolutely free, sunrise! It was even better than the picture.

Making My Home A Haven

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