Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yesterday I trekked to town to pay a visit to the public library. Seeking more information about gardening practices for the Inland Northwest, I picked up the following books:

Gardening in the Inland Northwest, a Guide to Growing Vegetables, Berries, Grapes & Fruit Trees, by Tonie Jean Fitzgerald. (This book interested me greatly as living in this area poses many challenges since we have a short growing season). Although not totally organic in nature, there are many ideas to glean from this short read.

The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing A good reference type of book that is reader/novice gardener friendly.

Lasagna Gardening For an easy read ... this book gives directions to plant a garden with "a new layering system ... no digging ... no tilling ... no weeding ... no kidding" I actually tried a similar method two years ago (my own formula) so I thought I'd compare notes.

The Organic Garden by: Allan Shepherd, Green gardening for a healthy planet

Already I've gained an important tip regarding the use of grow lamps ... place the plant tray no more than six inches from the lamp source or your seedlings will grow too leggy/tall trying to reach the light. You should see my lettuce plants growing in the basement ... so that's what went wrong. I'm a learn by doing type of gardener.

Winter is the perfect time of the year to start gathering and learning new skills to practice while waiting to plant a spring garden.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

There are a few inside household 'chores' that are required several times a year in a thrifty home. One that is on my 'to do' list is emptying my kitchen's pantry closet; sorting, tossing out, and reorganizing food staples. Cleaning toast crumbs from the toaster ... and the ones that fall through the white wire shelving and land on the floor. Checking for expiration dates, any sign of pests in the opened goods, and rotating canned goods having oldest near the front of the shelf. This plan is in the 'brain .. wait and see .. when the mood strikes ... mode' for now. But at least if I commit it to a blog post, the thought will nag at me until it's completed ... please hold me accountable and ask in about a week or two if I've completed this task :)

Our supply of frozen and canned summer veggies is dwindling. Next year it will be necessary to better judge how much to store away for winter. And, perhaps, I'll try my hand at some garden row covers to protect autumn plants to extend the growing season. My experiment of growing lettuce in the basement with a grow light is still in progress. Some of the plants now have four leaves and look sturdy. We're down to our last jar of basil pesto ;(

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Nathan enjoys eating cookies. Saturday was spent at a little friends home. The two were to decorate gingerbread men. He has a mind of his own and insisted on keeping his undecorated ;) He's truly a plain and simple guy. Perhaps he's Amish :). Come to think of it, his bedroom decor is nothing other than a simple wooden headboard, a dresser and a night stand. Not one thing hangs on the walls ... a simple window shade and a plain red valance dress his window. Plain white or well worn flannel sheets, a soft blanket and a bed quilt. A true 'give me simple comfort' type of fellow.

(Nathan is my 13 year old son that has Down Syndrome.)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Winter Garden: A month ago I purchased a grow light ... I now have lettuce plants growing inside ... the only garden plant I miss in the winter. Will post pics and let you know how it works out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Thrifty Garden/Home has been on an extended vacation. Today I came across this article about the use of clotheslines in the U.S.A. In my opinion, I think a nicely arranged clothesline is a piece of yard art :) I have a retractable one to use outside in the summer .. and a folding one to use inside. People should not be banned from saving electricity. If more and more people start using a clothesline, communities will have to start relaxing their (unrealistic) standards.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mystery ice cream flavor revealed:

Name: Winning name suggestion ... Banana Float (submitted by Patrick)

Ingredients: half and half, whole milk, sugar, rennet, ripe banana, birch (or root) beer extract.

The double blind fold test came back: Successful flavor! Good color, texture, taste, aroma!

Recipe: Makes 1/2 gallon

3 Junket (brand) rennet tablets
2 tablespoons cold water
3 cups of whole milk
2 cups of half and half (or heavy cream if you want to fatten your thighs ;)
1 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons birch or root beer extract
1 soft/ripe banana (no brown bruises please;)

Directions are here using the standard vanilla recipe .. of course substituting root beer for vanilla flavoring. Add a well smashed banana to the mixture during the last ten minutes of hand crank or electric freezing.

Inspiration: As a child I favored the banana and root beer freezer pops often eating one bite of banana followed by one bite of root beer. The mixture of flavors is quite good.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Scientific experimentations have been going on in The Thrifty/Garden Home's test kitchen

yesterday and today. Starting off with a new recipe for Italian bread (akin to French bread ;) .. , mystery flavored ice cream (I have to do a double blind test on a few lab rats ... ahem, I mean family and neighbors before I reveal this flavor) ... could be a hit with Ben and Jerry if the mystery is revealed too soon .. and I don't want to give them reason to worry about competition ;) ... chocolate zucchini bread, peach butter, peach pie fillings, and something else that will come to mind later (I'm sure). I'll let you know what flipped and what flopped. Pictures, recipes and results to follow. Oh, IT came to mind before hitting 'publish' ... a big jar of refrigerator (Claussen type) pickles.

Pics: Mrs. Mac's kitchen 'pretties' , a few lovable 'lab rats', the experimentation chair.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It's been a while since I've had to purchase bread. Once I got into the routine of making a few loaves each week, even sticking some in the freezer for an emergency, it's been rather nice to offer my family some home baked goods. Even forcing me to find the time .. but, I have to admit, the stuff off the sprawlmart shelves can't compare. Here's another recipe I've been perfecting .. and can make with ease after a few go-arounds.

The same bread book that is mentioned in this post was used. If you don't want to make the bread the old fashioned way (by hand), you can use a stand mixer with a dough hook to do the kneading, or tweak the recipe to use in your bread machine (see below).

Challah Bread .. makes two loaves

4-1/2 to 5-1/2 cups unsifted flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 package active dry yeast (about 2-1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup softened butter*
pinch of saffron
1 cup very warm tap water
4 eggs (at room temperature)
1 teaspoon cold water
1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds (optional)

In a large bowl thoroughly mix 1-1/4 cups flour, sugar, salt, and the dry active yeast. Add the butter.

Dissolve the saffron in very warm tap water. Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat two minutes at medium speed of electric mixer (I used a hand mixer (Kitchenaid) with just one beater), scraping bowl occasionally. Add 3 eggs, 1 egg white (reserve yolk for later use), and 1/2 cup flour. Beat at high speed two minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth and elastic, about eight to ten minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down; turn out onto lighly floured board. Divide in half. Divide each half into 2 pieces, one about 1/3 of dough and the other about 2/3 of dough. Divide larger piece into 3 equal pieces (you're going to be braiding ladies/gentlemen). Roll each piece into a 12-inch rope. Braid the ropes together; pinch ends to seal. Divide the smaller piece into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 10-inch rope. Braid the ropes together; place on top of large braid. Seal braids together at ends. Place on greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough to form second loaf.

(recipe makes two large loaves of double stacked, braided bread .. with that picture in mind, it's not all that hard to make this recipe .. see photo of unbaked bread)

Beat together remaining egg yolk and 1 teaspoon cold water; brush loaves with egg mixture. Sprinkle with poppy seed. Let rise in a warm place, free from draft, until double in bulk, about 1 hour. (a closed oven with no heat will work).

Bake at 400 F, 18-25 minutes, or until done. Remove from baking sheets and cool on wire rack.

The taste and texture is similar to a croissant roll .. just not as buttery rich. Makes delicious toast and good sandwiches.

Here's a challah bread recipe I've adapted for the bread machine.

3/4 cup water
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
3-3/4 cups of unsifted (bread) flour
1-1/2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast
1/4 cup butter (cut into chunks)*

either make this single loaf dough and bake as directed above or bake at a medium setting following your bread machine directions.

*since challah bread is a Jewish egg bread, the original recipe called for using margarine .. which is kosher ... I'm not fond of margarine .. and am not Jewish nor kosher .. so prefer butter ;)

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Potato Bread

Last week a friend left a comment asking for my potato bread recipe.

This recipe is adapted from a booklet titled: Fleischmann's Bake-it-easy Yeast Book (printed about 1972). It is a very good, detailed book ... my copy was published before 'rapid-rise' yeast and bread machines became so popular in the early 1990's ... it's worth scouting out online or at book sales.

Old-Fashioned Potato Loaves (makes two loaves)

1 medium potato
hot tap water
2 packages active dry yeast (equal to 4-1/2 teaspoons of traditional dry yeast)
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt (I use 2 teaspoons)
1 cup warm milk (105F-115F 40C - 45C)
6-1/2 to 7-1/2 cups unsifted flour (I use organic, unbromated, unbleached)

Peel and dice the potato ... boil in water to cover until tender, approximately 20 minutes; reserving liquid. Add hot tap water to potato liquid to make one cup; cool to warm (105F-115F. 40C to 45C) Mash potato; set aside.

Pour warm potato water into large warm bowl. Sprinkle in yeast; stir until dissolved. Add butter, sugar and salt. Stir in mashed potato, warm milk and three cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough additional flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about 35 minutes.

Punch dough down; turn over in bowl. cover and let rise again about 20 minutes.

Punch dough down. Turn out onto lightly floured board; divide in half. Roll each half to a 14 x 9 inch rectangle. Shape into loaves. Place in 2 greased 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans. cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about 50 minutes.

Dust loaves with flour. Bake at 375F (190C), 35 to 40 minutes, or until done. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

I actually enjoy kneading the dough ... it's great exercise for your hands and arms. Don't be shy .. give it a try without a bread machine/mixer with bread hook :) This is how our grandmother's kept their hands in good shape.

As you can see from my photo, I baked one loaf in a bread pan .. and the other I baked on a cookie sheet .. somehow my nice bread pans got misplaced when we moved and I am making do with what I have on hand.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Filler Up ... (the freezer that is)

Winter is (well, not often talked about once the snow melts .. but is just around the bend) coming .. time to get the pantry, larder, and freezer stocked. Come winter, it's nice to be hunkered in as the snow piles up outside. Work from the summer months is stored away and only steps from the kitchen to prepare. Summer is a hectic season .. but winter brings much needed rest. We are in the process of stocking up for the coming months .. months without the backyard garden. Canned goods are being made .. veggies frozen .. berries preserved .. jams made .. all in preparation for winter. That time of year that warms the soul with good soup, good company, and more time to relax than in the summer.

How do you prepare for winter?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Digging for Yukon Gold ....

potatoes that is. In April I planted several rows of these delicious golden nugget seed potatoes along with a few rows of red 'new' potatoes. Yesterday a few were harvested, boiled, mashed with half and half, sprinkled with sea salt, and infused with a mix from my mini blender of butter and fresh basil. The result ... heaven! Add a quick stir fry of tender pork loin strips with freshly picked carrots, onion, and garden sugar peas .. and we dined on a delicious and easy meal. No gravy required ;)

Eating from the garden is akin to having dined on food kissed by a technicolor rainbow. The flavor explodes with rich 'colors' not found in store bought fare. All those years growing up .. eating canned veggies and hamburger helper ... years 'wasted' food wise ;(

My best childhood memories of food always drift back to visiting with relatives during the month of July that lived on farms in Illinois .. or had backyard gardens and home canned foods. We in the USA have grown accustomed to over processed, chemically altered, blah foods that hold no candle to nutrition and/or taste compared to home grown food. I encourage anyone that hasn't planted a garden to start planning for next year to give it a try. Even if you just try growing tomatoes and herbs in containers on your back deck or patio ... it's a start to wake up the inner gardener inside all of us.

artwork credit here

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cookbook Review:

I never buy books. Why buy when you can borrow from the library? This week's run to the public library netted half a dozen great cookbooks. Currently, I'm perusing, "The Little House Cookbook" ... about "Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories." Having read all of the Little House books, this cookbook has a lot of pioneer recipes that I wondered about when reading said books. The author, Barbara M. Walker, has done a great job of reliving a portion from the novels that recall certain foods the Ingalls family ate. She has adapted the recipes and some of the ingredients to modern measurements/products, but for the most part, has done an excellent job of retaining authenticity to the pioneer era. Illustrations are by Garth Williams; I believe he illustrated the series I read. This is a good read for those of you that would enjoy minimalist ingredients and a sense of history through the preparation of food. At one time I had wanted to make 'ginger water' as described in The Long Winter book. Having mistakenly made the likes of ginger beer, this book describes the beverage ginger water or switchel .. a non alcoholic drink given to farmers on hot days. I shall try to once again make this drink. It sounded so refreshing as I read through the book years ago.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Taking care of your health.

Old time remedies may just soon have a comeback ... especially if President Obama's health reform bill is passed .. and we are forced to give up our private insurance care. There is talk about the many limits on what treatment will or will not be available under this scheme.

I have a fascination with 1800's cookbooks. There is usually a section of good health advice and remedies from nature to help alleviate some common maladies and prevent poor health in the first place. Admittedly, some have talk of adding opium to tinctures which gave me a good chuckle. Some of the remedies seem plausible as prevention. Simple ideas such as serving 'milk toast' to an invalid, alleviation of growing pains in children, leanness (not too common today, eh) remedy, etc. give new food for thought at taking better care of our bodies in the first place. Preventative medicine .. goes along the lines of the old saying, 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' .. My latest read is: The Original White House Cookbook, 1887 edition. It has all manner of intriguing articles from carving meats .. to measures and weights in ordinary use. In between there are recipes for custards, cordials, rabbit stew, turtle soup ... and mock turtle soup. This last entry gave my daughter a fright when I asked her what 'mock' meat was used in place of the turtle. She read: "Scald a well-cleansed calf's head, remove the brain, tie it up in a cloth, and boil an hour , or until the meat will easily slip from the bone ..." Sorry I asked! Even with the old recipes, there are others that give great instruction that are more appetizing to our current likes. Refrigeration was not readily available (electric) so ice and dry curing methods were used. This is definitely a good read. Check it out in full context here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thrifty Home Finds.

I spotted a Kitchenaid mixer paddle yesterday at a vintage store. Price $2.99. Mine went missing about a year ago .. or did I throw it away when the paint started coming off (?). Anyhow, the perfect replacement just happened to appear .. so I purchased it today. Ann (my daughter) had her wisdom teeth removed (ouch), and while waiting for her prescription, I dashed across the street to some thrifty/vintage stores. Another item on my 'to find at bargain basement prices' list was a nice pair of off white king size pillow cases for my bed. At the Hospice store, they had a pair of barely or never used luxurious Egyptian cotton king cases .. asking price: $.50 ea. A christmasy pillowcase for a quarter was had to repurpose into a holiday apron .. some scrap material totaling $.50 to make new kitchen table napkins ... a pressed glass shaker bottle for storing baking soda in my bathroom for cleaning the sinks ... $.25, and a dainty little glass syrup/cream pitcher with lid .. $.45. How about a Hepplewhite (shield back) chair from the Salvation Army for $7.99 (I already have fabric to reupholster the seat) ... some mismatched tea cup saucers (vintage of course) ranging from .$25 to $3.99 will be perfect to 'repurpose' as soap dishes this Christmas with a bar of homemade soap. Christmas shopping in July. Repurposing inexpensive castoffs into new and usable items. Very rewarding. Total spent .. under $20. I would have spent at least that much to buy a new mixer paddle with the cost of shipping. No, I didn't buy all this stuff while my daughter sat in the car (silly) ... some was purchased yesterday ... what kind of mom do you think I am? ;)

Do you shop at used or vintage shops? Tag sales? One man's junk is another man's treasure :)

Wall art photos: Little Girl Eating Biscuit .. Rumford Baking Powder vintage advertisement framed (copyrighted 1885) $1.25. Little girl rocking her dolly .. $.75

Turnip greens (at least the ones from my garden) are not bitter. They are not palatable fresh (such as spinach) due to prickly fuzz, but blanched they are delightful. I have had success feeding them to my children by chopping them up (about 1/2 inch diced, thick stem parts removed) along with some carrots, celery and onions. Brown rice and chicken stock make a good addition as well with said veggies. If I told them to eat their turnip greens (alone), they might just turn up their noses! For 'non greens' eaters, the trick is to not overpower them by eating all greens. Moderation is a good thing. Are you a 'greens' eater? If so, care to share a quick fix?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How to make a turnip/rutabaga hater into a lover of root veggies.

I'm a master of disguise (with food that is ;) If you want to get your family to consume healthy root veggies but they balk, try what I do.

Most kids will eat mashed potatoes (minus those with sensitive gag reflexes). When we have an abundance of turnips I boil a few in with the potatoes and mash them together. This will work with rutabagas too, but they have different cooking times so you may need to start the rutabagas ahead of the potatoes or cook them in separate pans. I've had success getting my family to eat both roots when they are prepared as follows:

I never measure (except when baking).

Using about one cup of mashed cooked turnips or rutabagas for every two to three cups of mashed potatoes add to taste the following: Butter, half & half, one small bud of pressed fresh garlic, salt & pepper. Now for a special treat ... add anywhere from one teaspoon to a tablespoon of prepared horseradish .. mix well ... and serve steaming hot garnished with your favorite fresh garden herb sprinkled on top. No gravy needed.

This combination is always a 'smash' hit.

Tomorrow I'll give some tips for getting your loved ones to eat turnip greens.

I have become quite good at getting my kids to eat their veggies. My son, Nathan, age 13 (and the possessor of an extra chromosome ;) has taken a liking to quite a variety of garden greens. For someone that beat great odds to survive (2% chance), having been tube fed for the first four years, and me not giving up on teaching him to eat ... has turned into one of my best eaters.

Tonight I made one of his favorite veggie combos, peas and carrots.

Here are some vague directions for the dish.

You can be the judge of the serving size for your family.

Cook equal amounts of diced carrots and cut up sugar snap peas in a shallow pan of boiling water for five minutes; drain and set aside. Put a pat of butter in the pan to melt and quickly saute a small amount of diced onion. Add the peas and carrots back to the pan along with a sprinkle of dill weed, sea salt, black pepper and a 1/2 teaspoon of honey to taste. I need to remember to make a double batch next time as we always run out of this favorite dish.

Tomorrow I'll share how I got my family to enjoy turnips, including the greens, rutabagas, and horseradish.

My kids HATE shelled peas but will always eat the sugar snap variety. Nathan thinks they're green beans ... I'm OK with that!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Taking & Making Stock:

A frugal homemaker will not waste her provisions. If you can purchase a good quality whole local chicken for half the price of already cut up portions, buy the whole bird. Learn to cut up the chicken yourself and freeze or use immediately. Once the back bones have been cut from the bird, you can easily wrap them and freeze for later use. Today was the day to prepare for the autumn and winter meals by making homemade chicken stock. I used about seven back portions including the necks to make my broth. Other ingredients added to enrich the flavor and nutrition were fresh carrots, celery, onions and herbs, as well as dried garlic slivers, black peppercorns and a smidgen of sea salt.

Today's batch should last well into winter. The next stock will be made from a turkey carcass after Thanksgiving dinner. Yesterday I took inventory of my freezer and pantry supplies and found only two jars in the freezer, and three in the basement pantry.

I prefer the taste of homemade stock from the freezer, however, it takes up quite a bit of space. For some of our needs, I pressure can it in quart size jars for longer shelf life. This frees up valuable freezer space and ensures we have some for year round use.

To make chicken stock:

Use your largest stock pan. Put seven to eight frozen chicken backs and neck pieces in pan. Add several whole onions cut in quarters; onion skin will impart a nice warm color, four large carrots, and three or fours stalks celery. Add your favorite herbs (mine are oregano, rosemary, thyme and black peppercorn) and a few teaspoons of salt (this is not much salt ... you don't want the stock salty). Fill pot with water a few inches shy of the top. Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer (covered) for three to four hours or until all the chicken meat falls off the bones. Cool the stock and remove chicken and veggie pieces. You can pick through the meat and set aside. Strain the cooled broth several times and skim the fat. Pour into clean jars leaving a few inches of head space for expansion during freezing. Store in the deep freeze after the liquid is completely cool. Will last for about twelve months.

With any chicken meat you remove from the bones, place in a freezer safe container and cover with some of the broth. This will make a quick addition when you want to make chicken soup this winter.

I feed the cooked veggies to my dog mixed with her dry food over the course of a week.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rhubarb Pie:

You need four cups of fruit. This can be made with all rhubarb ... or if you don't have four cups, mix in enough fresh or frozen strawberries to make the total fruit equal four cups. I used three cups rhubarb and one cup strawberries for my pie.

4 C diced rhubarb (leave on the skin ... stalks only as leaves are poisonous)
1-1/4 to 2 cups sugar
1/4 C flour
1/2 tsp. lemon zest (optional)
1 T. butter

Mix the above (except for butter) ingredients in a large bowl and let sit for at least fifteen minutes (to get the juices flowing)

Make your pie crust(s). I never use a bottom crust (who needs the extra calories)! Put the fruit into a pie pan. Cut up the butter and place the small pieces over the filling. Cover with a top crust. Turn the crust edges under a bit and press against the top edge of the pan. Cut a few slits in the top and sprinkle with a little bit of sugar. Bake in a preheated 450 oven for ten minutes, then turn down the heat to 350 F and bake for 35-40 minutes. I always place a cookie sheet under the pie pan when baking to catch any drippings.


Thursday, July 09, 2009

What's being harvested this week in the garden?

I got so excited today to pick some rhubarb! I planted it only this spring and was directed that it needs to wait until the second year before harvesting a few stalks ... but one of the three plants had some gigantic stalks that were just aching to be made into a pie. There are still plenty of small and medium size pieces left (at least 40 between the three plants) to carry it over until next years production.

Our sugar peas are being picked each morning. I have enough for the freezer every few days ... and some for the evening dinner table. My walla-walla onions are so plentiful that a few were picked (undersized) to go with the peas for our meal.

The lettuce is producing well with several different varieties. Our turnips are thinning out, but newly planted seeds are already sprouting. Radish and green onions as well as spinach have made delicious salad ingredients too.

Herbs including thyme, basil, rosemary, cilantro, and tarragon have regular appearances in the nightly fare.

We have had no slug problems around the veggies that had ground up egg shells sprinkled on the soil. And relatively few bugs on the lettuce.

What have you been harvesting?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Continuing world wide kitchen table discussion that started at 'Down to Earth' website.

We are in economic hard times. The government would like everyone to spend their way out of said poor economy. If you want to stay one step ahead of our crazy new 'non' taxes that are really taxes ... just renamed that are sure to eat a great percentage of your hard earned money ... you might want to consider some cost saving ways to help ease the coming financial collapse of the late great United States. I have been able to trim quite a bit from our budget by rethinking how our money is being spent.

In the hair care department alone, by letting my natural color shine through, and letting my hair grow out a bit (requiring fewer cuts), I've gone from $900 per year down to $100.

Savings $800

We discovered when Ann was away on vacation for ten days that no one was watching TV (other than the news). We have been paying $61 per month for satellite service. I can catch the news on line or in the newspaper, thereby saving $732 a year.

By planning a large grocery shopping trip once a month and not purchasing as many prepackaged food items (instead making most of our food from scratch) I have been enjoying a savings of ... get this ... 30 to 40 % of our average food bill. This includes the savings from making most of our natural cleaning products and not buying all of the paper disposable goods we once used.

In a typical month I fill up my vehicle once every three weeks costing approximately $45. Past driving habits would require a fill up once a week. Savings: $120/month. We live 13 miles from the closest grocery store ... so by making my once a week trip to town our cost has gone down tremendously. DH's car gets super good mileage. He drives a 1999 Ford Escort with over 250,000 miles and averages about 40 mpg. No trading in his clunker for us!

Our generation has been sold a bill go goods ... and as a nation, we've fallen for it hook, line and sinker. We are over consumers. Our economy is in a free fall fix. There were too many merchants peddling the same old stuff. When you start thinking outside the box, and get off the fast track of consumerism, it doesn't take long to figure out how to make do with less. Yes, even in the cleaning products that you buy. With a supply of baking soda, soap, vinegar, and some cleaning rags made from your old terry cloth towels you are off to a good start making natural cleaners and start saving money ... as well as being kinder to your health and the environment.

It's time to take back the home making and life skills of our grandparents and ancestors that were not tainted by the 'sin' of over consumerism.

Friday, July 03, 2009


Where Does Your Money Go/Grow?

One of my favorite blogs, Down To Earth, is promoting a "No Spend Week", in which hubby and I are going to participate. Since yesterday was our once a month big grocery shopping trip, we're off to a good start to begin this endeavor tomorrow. What is a no spend week? Silly, it means you don't spend any money for a whole week! Why would anyone not want to spend money for a whole week? To drive home how much money a person/family can spend unconsciously/deliberately without much planning. The current economic situation has been partly a result of reckless spending. As Cindy at "Letters From Midlife" finds a cure for 'stuff-itis' (the awful habit of collecting too much STUFF), have you given much thought to your spending habits on stuff? (I have been weeding out closets for the past few years and donating stuff to local charities, or helping my adult children have needed items as they leave home). I think most families can (out of necessity) trim their spending habits and get themselves out of debt. Bad habits are easy to pick up and hard to break. Are you up to the challenge of a no spend week? Would you be willing to divvy up your money each payday and use an 'envelope system' to help develop good spending habits. Remember, sometimes less is more. We used this system years ago when our children were young. It was a great tool to teach them how delaying the purchase of an item and waiting until you had enough money saved is necessary to stay out of debt.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I've written before about the no-no using bleach with our septic system. There comes a time when even oxy-type stain remover has trouble keeping up with my heavily used white kitchen towels. In grandma's day, they would take a big kettle and steep some tea leaves. I've gone an easier route and have used regular black tea bags. First, take a large pot and fill with water 2/3's full. Add about six or eight tea bags ... the more you add , the darker the tea will stain your fabric. When the water has boiled with the tea for a spell, turn off the heat and remove the bags. Add several dry all cotton towels (that have been washed with mild soap) and stir them around in the tea. After a while check the color ... you can keep the towels in for as long as overnight. Just be sure to stir several times for an even color. When you're ready ... wring out the cooled fabric and rinse in a sink of cool water with a bit of white vinegar 1/2 to 1 cup is good. Rinse again until the water is clear then dry on the line. I have plans to do a little embroidery work to give my 'tea' towels a true vintage flair

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Floral-bundance! I just love to make up new words. And 'floral-bundance' seems to fit the description of this lovely bouquet I picked from the garden when my parents were visiting. Included are peonies, cat mint, wild lupine, and spirea.

The Beginning:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of god was hovering over the waters ... Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: see-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds ... and it was so."

From Genesis, Chapter 1 (NIV)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Soap Saver Ideas: The price of liquid hand soap can range from about a buck to twelve dollars a bottle at some higher end bath shops. After using the soap you are left with another plastic or glass bottle to deposit in the landfill or recycle. When I started making bath soap I gave up buying liquid hand soap. I have replaced the fancy store bought products with small guest size home made soaps. One problem with bar soap is that it tends to turn goopy when left sitting in a soap dish. Take a peek at my new method of washing up at the sink. The teacups .. now soap dishes were my husband's grandmother's ... we inherited them (without saucers) when she passed away. They make the perfect soap holders. Teacup saucers work as well. To keep the soap from getting soggy, place a small piece of loofa sponge under the soap. This will allow the water to drain through to the bottom of the dish. About twice a week, I gather up my soap dishes and give them a good cleaning ... washing the loofas with hot water and 'steaming' them in the microwave for about 45 seconds (while still wet) to kill bacteria. When they are cool, a few drops of tea tree oil can be rubbed in to help keep your soap smelling good and act as natural germ killer.

Helpful Hint. My mom gave me this great tip several years ago about getting the most from a steel wool soap pad. After using your soap pad, gently squeeze out the excess water and wrap in a piece of aluminum foil. The pad will be reusable for many more scrubbing chores without turning rusty.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A good gardener's hand soap can be easily made using the following method. The measurements are vague ... because that's the way I operate ;) ...

Take a bar or two of bath soap ... can be home made or store bought. Castile soap sold in some laundry sections of the grocery store is preferred if you don't make your own bath soap bars. Grate soap using a cheese grater (medium to fine shreds ... not the side for hard cheese ... that will take too long. Place the soap gratings ... about two cups (approximate) into a double boiler placed over rolling boiling water. Heat until warm/soft (it shouldn't completely melt. Add about a tablespoon of finely ground egg shells* and a teaspoon of your favorite essential oil. I happen to like tea tree oil ... so that's what I add. Mix with a fork ... it will be stiff. When the soap shavings have been mixed ... carefully take about two tablespoons of it and form a ball (think of making a meatball ;). Press firmly making the soap as round as you can. Let dry for several days or until hard. This soap will really scrub the garden dirt from your fingers and make them soft if you use a good quality soap. Yields approximately 3-4 soap balls.

*ground egg shells: I save my egg shells by washing them, patting them dry, then baking on a cookie sheet for about 3-5 minutes at 350F to kill any bacteria. Then they are ground up in my spare coffee grinder to a fine powder. Wait until you have at least a dozen egg shells so you have enough to make it worth the effort. (These shells are also sprinkled in the garden around the carrots and lettuce when I plant to increase the calcium in my veggies.) I hope you try this easy to make hand milled soap. You don't have to use lye ... because you start with already made bars of soap. Sometimes I even add a teaspoon of finely ground oatmeal and a pinch of finely ground dried lavender.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The turnip greens are growing. I had to thin out this section of the garden. Soup's on! Today's fare included the wilted turnip greens and a few small turnips, thinly sliced ham, garden garlic. Can't get much fresher than that!
Last winter when time was plentiful, I froze and canned chicken stock ... and cooked white beans to freeze. These are handy items to have available for a quick batch of soup at lunch time.

To freeze cooked beans: Sort and wash your beans. Soak overnight. Discard the water and place the beans in a large pot. Add water to cover the beans by one inch. Add some diced ham if available (optional). Add a few pinches of salt and bring to a boil cooking until just barely tender. Let cool. Ladle beans and liquid into freezer jars 2/3's full to allow for expansion when frozen. Label the container and date. These will keep frozen in a deep freezer for at least six months. To thaw and use, just remove from the freezer a few hours ahead of time. I like to rinse the beans before adding to soups. If I'm short on containers, I've used plastic quart size freezer bags ... just squeeze out the air before freezing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The garden this week received four afternoons of rain showers. This is the type of deep watering that can really make a garden 'take off' ... a good thing. My parents are visiting for a few weeks. Dad grew up on a family farm and has been a great help clearing a path around one of my veggie gardens. Wild berry growth was pushing up against the deer/moose fence surround ... we can now walk around with ease. He is eighty years young and is used to hard work. This is what has kept him so young and in good shape for so many years.

With the garden growing leaps and bounds, we have begun harvesting (finally) some edible crops such as radish, lettuce, herbs, and using up the thinned out onions in salads. I have picked a few turnips and will use them along with the green tops in a nice rustic Italian soup for lunch tomorrow that includes greens cooked with smoky bacon, white beans, chicken broth, garlic, and topped with bread croutons.

Speaking of the deer/moose fence, a few moose have been spotted this week lumbering around our neighborhood. I'll never tire of seeing them ... of course, if they find a way inside the garden fence, then I'll be hopping mad!

Friday, June 05, 2009

The 'Mother' ...

of all mothers :)

Have you tried organic raw apple cider vinegar??? If not, run out and buy yourself a bottle. It's the best tasting stuff since ... since I don't know what! I bought this brand at the health food store. We like to slice fresh garden cucumbers ... or the English store bought ones .. sprinkle with a little course sea salt, a few pinches of sugar, and a few splashes of the vinegar. Tonight I made a salad dressing with this zesty ingredient.

The 'mother' is explained here and is what makes the vinegar so flavorful, special, nutritious, and delicious.

Salad Dressing:

1/2 C vinegar
1/3 C olive oil
1-2 tbls honey
pinch of sea salt to taste
1-1/2 tbls. dijon mustard

whisk and enjoy

Ex-chlorine-bleach-queen discovers old method proves efficient.

Being unable to use chlorine bleach products with our septic system, I have resorted to scrub some of our whites with my handy dandy wash board. It's very efficient and convenient as it sits next to my electric washer in a laundry tub sink. There's even a place for my handy-dandy bar of Fels-Naptha laundry treatment soap. This soap works great for removing stains and is part of the ingredients used when I make my home made laundry soap. If we should ever not be able to afford the electric bill in years to come, I can wash the clothes manually and hang them up to dry on my outside line;). Gosh, now I know why our forefathers only had two sets of clothes.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow ? ...

Of late, I've been eating, sleeping, breathing all things garden related. This year I've doubled the size of last year's garden ... and added a new separate section. I cheated a bit and ended up buying my tomato plants. With last year's poor production and short season, I got a head start with some nice four inch pots. In the photos you will notice the blue/green tents in the garden. These are my wall 'o water plant covers that help to get the plants growing quicker. Today, I was able to remove them as the plants have grown to the top. I replaced them with wire cages. We planted eight tomato plants this year. Several varieties.

Here's what is growing:

red & Spanish onions
walla-walla onions
thyme, Italian parsley, basil, cilantro, tarragon
sugar peas
cucumbers (two varieties)
zucchini & yellow crooked neck squash
pumpkins (two varieties)
green beans
sour cherries

later we will plant

winter squash

Most of my 'babies' have at least sprouted. The radishes are ready to eat ... but then, they are always the earliest to harvest.

Lest we have hail or pests, this year is off to a good start ... LORD WILLING AND AMEN!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My 'Thrifty Garden/Home' has been hard at work ... just haven't had time to do much posting though. Friday found hubby and myself sale-ing at the local rummage and garage sales. I had a great score and scooped up a box of soap-making supplies including this book. For the past four months, I've been dabbling in the soap making business: Laundry (liquid & powder), shampoo, bath soap, liquid hand soap, etc. With this newest book, I can turn basic cold pressed soap into milled specialty soaps. You know, those bars that cost a fortune at the spa shops. I haven't purchased laundry, bath soap, nor shampoo since last year. OK, let's come clean; it's a fun and rewarding scientific experiment/hobby that gives you a luxurious product made by your own two hands.

Friday, April 10, 2009

This week started out with great weather, so I've been able to work two days in the garden enlarging it by two and a half times the original size. There is plenty of room now for corn and two rows of potatoes (in trenches). Five or six raspberry plants and two blue berry bushes were relocated to a permanent home there. Rows were hoed for strawberry plants ... and tripod steaks were erected for pole beans and cucumbers. Everything and every plant is now being drawn up in my mind (and on paper ... a safer bet ;). Welded wire fencing was installed around the entire area to keep the deer and moose out. A gateway was left open for easy access ... some type of actual gate will be installed in a few weeks. It's a good start and I thank the Good Lord for the great weather. At the end of the day I'm feeling a 'good' tired from all the digging and pounding in fence posts. I'll post a few pictures soon.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Oh Darn!! :) Running a thrifty home means making do with what is at hand (or foot :) I actually went to the fabric store while in town to get some darning thread to mend hubbies white socks and was shocked they didn't sell any ... I then asked for cotton floss instead (which they had an abundance). The store worker said I was the 10th person in the last few weeks asking for darning thread. Seems that more people are making do with less and fixing rather than tossing. If you've never darned a sock, give it a try. You can 'google' how to darn I'm sure*. I find it rather therapeutic and rewarding to mend. If you don't own a darning egg, you can use a round ended light bulb to stick in the sock.

[*This only means I'm too thrifty with my time and don't find it necessary to make a darning tutorial when you can easily find one on-line such as here, and here. I'm also too time spent to go dig through our family photo albums to find the one of my daughter Elizabeth ceremoniously receiving her great grandmother's wooden darning egg that was given to her in the early 1900's and used to darn the socks of eleven children and those of her farmer husband.]

photo credit here

Friday, April 03, 2009

The dreadful job of cleaning a sink. We have eight sinks in my home (including the two laundry sink-tubs). Since I've given up buying chemical cleaners I had to come up with a way to clean all of these watering holes. Five sinks are porcelain, two are some type of white composite, and one is a double stainless steel kitchen sink. Then we have four bath tubs (three are shower combos) made from acrylic ... and one tile shower stall in the master bath. I'll spare you the toilet count for a later post ;) (what was I thinking when I designed my home?) Needless to say, that's a lot of surfaces to keep clean. BTW, I don't have to clean each one daily ... some are cleaned weekly ... some only when we have company using them :)

My tried and true cleaner is ... are you ready? baking soda Just pure unadulterated BS (baking soda). I keep a small covered plastic container in each bathroom with this magic cleaner. It doesn't scratch even the shiniest of acrylic (that being my nice big claw foot bathtub). Simply sprinkle a bit on to a wet sink/tub surface and scrub with a wet cleaning rag ... rinse well. For my stainless steel kitchen sink, I use a light sprinkling of salt along with the BS. The sink comes out stain and spot free.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Buttery Spread. I've been experimenting with making a butter based spread for toast. I'm not a big fan of margarine ... yet butter is very expensive if you're on a thrifty budget, and it's impossible to spread on bread when cold. Years ago I read about a mixture that had equal parts of light olive oil and butter ... a half/half recipe. Yesterday I tried my hand at such a mixture and tested it out on my kids. They all like the end results. Not having any light olive oil, I substituted vegetable oil. Next time, I'll try using the light olive oil.

1 stick very soft butter
1/2 cup light olive oil (or vegetable oil)
pinch of salt

In a bowl, mix the two oils together along with a pinch of salt. I used my stick blender. Put in a covered container and store in the refrigerator. The consistency is soft enough to spread right from the fridge. My next attempt will be to make a light whipped buttery spread ... stay tuned.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Furniture spray wax can be replaced with a home made formula to easily clean your wood furniture. By mixing 1/2 teaspoon olive oil with 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (or vinegar) in a glass jar with a lid, you can dab a bit on a soft recycled cleaning rag when you dust (shake well before using). You can find similar recipes by searching the web. Bye-bye dust ... bye-bye expensive store bought products that pollute the air and take up space in the landfill. I like to think of it as 'salad dressing' for your furniture :) It really does work.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

We've become a generation of consumers ... and less and less producers. The economy is in the tank ... and big gov. is encouraging people to spend, spend, spend. To me, this does not feel right (the spending part). I think there are too many factors involved to be brief here ... but the treadmill spending of the past several decades has come to an abrupt halt. During this time of uncertainty is an opportunity to make do with what you have, re-purpose items that would otherwise be tossed in the landfill, and think outside the box. Our forefathers had to get by with very few staples ... and yet they survived. This month I hope to focus on a few steps to shrink your grocery bill.

Today's money saver tip:
Cut back on your use of paper towels

My kids were the biggest offenders in wasting paper towels. How did I get them to use less? I put away the paper towel holder on the kitchen counter and replaced it with a two-ring fingertip towel holder. Each day I stock it with two clean wash cloths. At one time we used about 1-2 rolls of paper towels a week ... now a roll lasts us about three months. Another big waste was using them in the microwave oven to cook bacon. How about cooking bacon in a cast iron skillet?

Washing windows and mirrors.

This was another area that paper towels were used. Recycling your newspaper really does work well and is lint free. Before you use the paper, take a full sheet and rip it in half along the crease, then crumple it up a bit. It takes about thirty seconds or so to start absorbing the window cleaner, but once the paper is a tiny bit damp, it works wonders. You will have to wash your hands or wear cleaning gloves due to the newsprint. I toss the damp paper into the compost bin. You could also use non printed newspaper ... the type used for packing moving boxes. One box would last several years.

Here is a list of products we no longer buy:

  • window cleaner
  • toilet bowl cleaner
  • pre-moistened cleaning wipes
  • tub/sink cleaner
  • floor cleaner (Pinesol/Mr. Clean)
  • furniture polish
  • disposable dusting products
  • disposable floor cleaning mops/pads (swiffer)
  • fabric softener/dryer sheets
  • laundry detergent
  • bath soap
  • plug in type air fresheners
This coming month I will post some tried and true recipes you can make for pennies. You probably have most of the ingredients sitting on your pantry shelf.

Now don't think we're all covered in dirt that I've included 'laundry detergent and bath soap' to my list of products we don't purchase ... these are easy and fun to make ... stay tuned ... or do some research and find a simple recipe to replace your store bought product ... you really will save money and know what's in your cleaning arsenal.

In paper towels alone, we're saving a minimum of $60-75 a year.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Irish Blessing .... for ye garden.

May the frost never afflict your spuds.
May the leaves of your cabbage always be free from worms.
May the crows never pick your haystack.
If you inherit a donkey, may she be in foal.