Friday Project

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On Friday, Patsy finished the potholder she has been working on for a couple of weeks.  Aunt Janet came and worked with her.  The pattern was purchased at a quilt shop in Sister’s Oregon.  It was called Flutterby Pot Holders by Valori Wells.  She also chose a fat quarter to make her project with.  We purchased Insulbrite interfacing/batting elsewhere so that no one would get burned when they used this potholder.  Although the pattern showed exactly where to do the machine quilting, Patsy chose to make her own designs.  They turned out great!  Now she has her first Christmas project done.  Go Patsy!

Freezing Squash

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Today, we decided to cut up 2 of the large sweetmeat squash and process them for the freezer.  We have been blessed with so many this year and I want to get started using them.  It takes quite a bit of time to cook, mash and freeze these large squash, to I like to put some into the freezer.  Early this morning, Rob cut them up and scooped out the seeds.  I baked them on cookie sheets lined with foil.

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I baked them until they were soft at 350 degrees.    It took between 1-1/2 hours and 2 hours to get them to a place where a fork would easily slide into them.  I got 4 large cookie sheets full from the 2 squash and was able to fit them all into my double ovens.  When we remodeled this house a few years back, I put in the double oven because we run a large 4H club and it makes the cooking classes go better.  I’ve found so many ways to use both ovens during days like this, and also at holidays, that I’ve always been glad I made that choice.

I set them out on the counter to cool down while I took Patsy to an appointment.  I intended to put the squash through the food mill when I returned, but Ja’Ana surprised me by getting quite a bit of it done before I came back.  Her arm was tired by then, so Patsy took over.  Grinding the food mill is pretty fun, but I was very happy to have the help with that part of the job on such a busy day.

The end result was about 10 quart-sized zip-top bags and a sizable bowl for using fresh.  Some of the bags are stuffed as full as they could get for evenings when we want to use it as a vegetable for dinner and some have less in them for when I want to use it for cooking.  For meals, my kids like it warmed up with a little brown sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top.  For cooking, I use it as pumpkin.  It is less watery and stringy as many pumpkins I have grown and we love using it in pie, muffins, pumpkin custard, etc.  I love having the frozen squash in my freezer to make my life easier on busy days!

Baby Pigs

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Today, we purchased 5 baby Hampshire/York cross pigs from a lady on Craig’s list.  They were $90 each, which is a good price around here.  1 is for our freezer, and the other 4 are for other people to buy.  All but one are pre-sold.  One year, Rob had a baby pig die from tetnus, which is rare, but from then on, he has always bought an extra one just in case.  He has never had trouble selling the extra pork.  The 4 pigs that are going to be purchased will bring in enough money to pay the expenses for the 5th pig, which we will keep.  So, for his time, (which is substantial), we will have a “free” pig for our freezer.

Rob put clean straw into the pen, which has not been used for about 2 years.  He checked the fences to make sure no holes had developed.  Baby pigs are very small and can get out easily, even through the smallest opening.  The little shed where he stores hog feed needed some work, too.  He re-fastened the tin roof, which had blown part way off in a windstorm since the last time he raised pigs.  Inside the little shed, half is an area where the dog can get in out of the elements.  The other half holds the pig food.  Rob removed all debris, trash, empty bags, etc. that had accumulated.  He bought a ton of natural hog feed from the local feed store, where they mill their own.  It is not organic food, which is wonderful, but raises the cost of the pigs to more than we can afford.  It is natural, and very competitive in price to other, less attractive feed.  He got a reduction in price because he bought a ton.  If he can figure out a way to bring his own containers another time, he will save even more.

The pigs will be fed on a diet of natural pig feed, supplemented by vegetables and fruits.  Sometimes Rob buys bread that is too old for the store to sell.  He was able to get our van full for $20-$25, but that was a couple of years ago.  It will be interesting to see if that deal is still available.   Pigs are a wonderful way to raise meat in a few months because they grow quickly and taste wonderful. I’m already excited about getting some more pork into the freezer!

Garden Clean-Up

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The garden is winding down.  Yesterday afternoon and evening, Lovana helped me begin the clean-up job.  She pulled out the tomato cages.  I picked the last remaining vegetables off of dying bushes.  There is much more to do, but we got a good start before it became so dark we could not see any more.

I have several large raised beds.  I have a large portion of the garden that is able to be tilled.  About 1/3 of the fenced area is in berries, which are permanent.  I was able to get a start on cleaning out the raised beds last evening.  After I clean out the old plants, I will put compost on the emptied beds.  In one bed, I have some leeks, spinach, peas and chard, which I will leave in for the winter.  There are also 2-3 plants of overwintering broccoli.

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I was able to get butternut squash, a few zucchini, peppers, and cucumbers.  More tomatoes are ripening daily and there are many squashes that will be good for many months.  It was an extra-long growing season this year and I feel very blessed for all the wonderful produce we have harvested.

Frugal Accomplishments for the Week of November 2, 2015

There were many green tomatoes left in the garden to find a good use for!
There were many green tomatoes left in the garden to find a good use for!

I have the ability to work more around my home from Thursday-Saturday each week due to my homeschool schedule and my part-time job of teaching piano lessons.  This week I had the pleasure of sharing most of those days with a good friend who came to visit.  She lives about 8 hours away from me and her visits are treasured.

We both love to can and preserve food.  So, she picked green tomatoes from her garden, grabbed some jars, and drove over here to where gardens grow much better than where she lives, and we got to work.  She spent the time when I was busy with the children visiting her relatives and friends who live around here and shopping for items she cannot get in her remote town.

We made salsa verde, zucchini relish and chow-chow, which is a mixed vegetable relish.  I had quite a few green tomatoes, various peppers, cabbage, and onions from my garden.  I was given lots of cauliflower last Tuesday, which is also an ingredient of chow-chow. We experimented with agave nectar instead of sugar because my friend is super-allergic to many things and she tolerates agave better than other sweeteners.  The relish and the chow-chow both tasted good with that substitution.

I processed 30 quart bags of cauliflower Tuesday.  A friend gave it to me.  We saved out a bunch and used it for the chow-chow as well as having it for meals twice so far.

I walked on the treadmill most evenings.

I bought some netting and a ribbon for one daughter’s Halloween costume.   She used it to make an overskirt to tie on over a fancy dress I made a few years ago and it fits no one at this time.  It was pinned to make it work for this occasion.  The youngest was a detective with a trench coat, notebook, and magnifying glass (for a while until she lost it).   We didn’t want to spend much on costumes because, well, they are costumes!

I bought 50 pounds of red potatoes at Cash and Carry for a little under $10.  That’s 20 cents/lb.  I also chose to buy a gallon of gluten-free soy sauce for under $6.  One little jar of the SanJ brand is about that much!  I just keep filling my small bottle.  We use it to make marinade as well, and it keeps for a long time.  I got large bottles of salad dressing there as well along with a mega package of lettuce.   We have still been eating tomatoes from the garden.  I got 6 snap peas and put them into a stir-fry.

I started a new piano student.

We went to the library and checked out more books.  More importantly, we returned our old ones before we got fines:)

I washed eggs, put them in cartons, and began cooking with them.
I washed eggs, put them in cartons, and began cooking with them.

All in all, it was a frugal week on many levels.   Some weeks are about putting more food away when it is available.  There will be many other weeks where I rack my brains figuring out what exactly to cook from all of this marvelous preserved food. It’s always a project, but it is so worth it to me.  Being stocked up makes a tremendous difference.

If you had asked me during the summer if my husband was in danger of losing his job, I would have laughed and said, “no way after 18 -1/2 years.”  But, sadly, it happened at the end of September.  I’m thankful for all we have.  It’s going to come in handy before this issue is resolved, I think!  He and I are still praying, thinking and wondering what the next step is.  Right now, we feel at peace with waiting until it comes clear to us.  He has gone to many people for advice and we’ve been advised to treat this as a death and allow ourselves enough time to work through the process of grief and mourning.  Because our personal lives as a family were so enmeshed with his job as a children’s and family pastor, it has tremendously affected the entire family.  The children are mourning the loss of their friends and the only place they have ever gone to church.  We are grieving the  loss of helping people we have cared about and helped for so many years. Because it was the decision of a very small handful of people, people are upset.  They are still calling, writing, and visiting to show their support, and to talk to Rob about things, as they have done for so many years.  This will taper off as they start to process this and move on with their lives.  It just takes time.

Grief and mourning are not a fun or popular time of life.  None of us want to do it.  I don’t want to do it.  I hate that I’m bursting into tears at the drop of a hat!  But, if we don’t, we won’t be able to come out on the other side as  healthy, whole people.  One prayer I frequently have prayed through this, and other extremely difficult situations, is that I will not turn into a bitter old woman.  We are praying that God will help us handle the unfair way that this was done with grace.  How we handle this will affect our children’s lives forever, as well as our own.  So far, we know that our actions and words have been appropriate to the best of our ability.  We want to be able to hold our heads high and not be ashamed of how we acted through this.  It’s not easy, but we have a great God who can help us each and every day!

Salsa Verde

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This week was fun!  My friend visited from out of town for 3 nights and we canned up quite a few things from the last remains of my bountiful garden.  It is looking pretty bedraggled by now, but we found a few items that we could still use. She brought a few green tomatoes and a few peppers from her garden as well. The recipe we used was from the Foods of the Pacific Northwest pamphlet, Salsa Recipes for Canning.   One thing we decided to make was Green Tomato Salsa, or Salsa Verde.  The recipe is also on the website for the National Center for Food Preservation.  It is called Tomatillo Salsa, but I always use green tomatoes for it.

We made a triple batch.  The onions I grew this year were very small.  We had to peel a LOT of them!  We both cried a couple of times while peeling and as we got a whiff of the aroma when we started to whirl them around in the food processor.  The rest was easy.  We just chopped everything up, measured it out into a big pot, and followed the directions in the recipe.  Then we canned it up.  We got about 22-24 jars of various sizes, but most were pints.  They all sealed and the next day, after they were cool, we put half in my basement and packed half for her to take home.  We had a wonderful time, visiting and canning and agreed:  We both have a strange sense of what fun is–but we both love to can and got a lot of pleasure from each other’s company and the rows of jars gleaming on the counter when we were done!

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

IMG_4686The garden is winding down, but I still got a few things this week.  I picked some zucchini, a few peas and pea pods, some strawberries, a few ripe tomatoes, peppers, and a lot of green tomatoes.  We harvested sweetmeat squash, and have plans to can salsa verde tomorrow.

IMG_1570I have gained so much pleasure from these zinnias this summer.  The seeds were purchased from the dollar store–4/packs for $1.  Since you don’t get very many seeds per package, I bought a handful.  I think I remember planting around 8 packs in my flowerbed.  They grew profusely.  We picked many bouquets and enjoyed looking at them outside my kitchen window.  I feel like I really got my $2 worth and will miss them when it frosts.

IMG_1522We had a wonderful vacation at Sunriver, Oregon.  My aunt kindly invited us to be her guest at her time share.  We took our 3 youngest children and a friend, filling our 6-person unit with fun and laughter.  Our children loved watching tv channels, as we don’t pay for cable at home.  We hiked around the paths, rode the bikes that came with the unit, and the kids swam in the pool.  We took sandwiches for the trip over, and cooked in the unit for the most part.  Each night for dinner, we ate together with my mom and aunt.  Sometimes they cooked, and sometimes we did.    We got the kids a few burritos at Taco Bell, and ate out on the way home, making the trip very affordable.  I took some projects with me and worked on them during my down time.

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A friend thought of us and gave me a banana box of cauliflower she gleaned.  We have several heads to eat fresh and froze 30 quart-sized zip-top bags full.  I wrote a post about how we did it here.

It was a good week.

Freezing Cauliflower

IMG_1577IMG_1580I was blessed when a friend gave me an entire banana box full of cauliflower she had gleaned from a field that was about to be tilled up.  I was delighted to get it and decided to freeze it.  Some of it was a little muddy from the field, but I washed it very well and then chopped it into pieces.  Then I blanched it for 3 minutes in boiling water in my blanching pot.  You could drop it into a pot of boiling water and fish it out with a sieve after 3 minutes if you didn’t have one, but having it contained in a colander makes it easier.  After that, the cauliflower was dumped into cold water in my very clean sink.  The water was changed frequently so the cauliflower could cool down.  When it floats, it is still too warm.  Once it sinks, it is cool enough and was fished out and placed into a colander to drain.  I was able to get 30 quart sized zip-top bags full.  We love it eat it with cheese on top during the winter.  It was a totally unexpected way to spend my evening, and I was very tired when I finally got to bed last night, but I was excited to have the cauliflower.  A lot of food preservation happens when you “seize the moment” and I’m glad I did!  My food storage was increased by quite a bit because my friend thought of me.

Sweetmeat Squash Harvest

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Sweetmeat squash curing on the fireplace hearth.
Sweetmeat squash curing on the fireplace hearth.

We were blessed with a huge harvest of Sweetmeat squash.  In the picture above, my 15-year-old, Ja’Ana,  is bringing a wheelbarrow full up to the house for curing.  There are many more down in the second garden by the barn.  Some of these may be too small and immature to be good, but most are going to be delicious.   We will sort them out by color, choosing to take the grayish ones over the greener ones.  Also, the mature ones will be harder, and usually bigger.  If we really can’t tell by looking, we simply open one up, cook a little bit in the microwave, and we know right away whether or not it has the delicious flavor we expect, or whether it is chicken food.

You will notice in the picture that Ja’Ana cut them off with a knife, leaving a stem.  This helps them stay good longer.   We also put them in a dry place in the house for a couple of weeks to cure.  This seems to lengthen their life as well.

After they have been cured, we store them in the garage or shop in a cool location.  Usually, we store them in a single layer.  Sometimes we use newspaper to put them on, as seen in the picture above.  At times, we have stacked squash in plastic crates in the garage.  Last year, they were out in the shop on a pallet and the mice crept up through the boards and ate holes in them!  We’ve even had chickens peck holes in them when we’ve left them out too long!  So, we’ve learned to be more careful and you can be sure they aren’t going into the shop this year.

Once we have the squash cured and stored well they keep for months.  If one gets a soft spot, usually that can be cut out and the rest cooked and frozen, thereby saving most of the affected squash.

To break one of these open, we use a hatchet and chop it.  A large knife will work, but it is hard to safely cut it with a knife.  Another method we have used is to drop the squash on a hard surface, such as a concrete sidewalk.  It will break and can then be cleaned.  The seeds are removed with a spoon, and the cut pieces are set onto a foil-lined cookie sheet and placed into a 350 degree oven.  The squash is then roasted until soft, anywhere from 1 hour to 2, depending on the size of the pieces.  It is done when a fork can easily pierce the flesh.  Then the cooked squash is scooped out with a large spoon and ran through a food mill.  I use a Foley Food Mill that I have had for years.

Because the squash are so large, it is nearly impossible for our family to eat one up before it goes bad.  We simply freeze the puree.

We use squash in many ways.  Sometimes it is served as a vegetable, and brown sugar is often sprinkled on top.  We use this squash to make all of our pumpkin pies and other baked goods that call for pumpkin.  It is less stringy than true pumpkin and has a very sweet flavor and a non-watery texture.

Vacation at Sunriver

This past week, we enjoyed a week at Sunriver, Oregon, thanks to my aunt.  When she invited us, we joyfully accepted and spent a very relaxing week with her and my mom.  We took many walks, fished, swam, rode bikes and visited a quilt shop nearby.  I took several projects along with me that had been sitting around the house for far too long, and got quite a bit done on them.  The weather was beautiful and we saw a lot of wildlife, such as these geese in the picture I took.image3

Making My Home A Haven

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