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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Year End .. It's a Wrap

Then end of another year and decade brings the occupants of The Thrifty Garden Home pondering all that took place .. and wondering what the new year ahead will bring.  2010 was a good year all in all.  Here are the goals I listed a year ago for 2010 with results in gold:

drinking in the view from the front porch rocker .. with a blanket, of course!
  1. never take my hungry children grocery shopping ... a given on a tight budget!
  2. take my own reusable grocery bags WITH me instead of leaving them at home or in the car trunk ... about 1/3 successful ;(
  3. grow, can, preserve, freeze enough food to last from summer to summer ... not quite there yet .. but 50% of what we eat is from our garden and a local farm
  4. purchase no out of season ... grown out of country produce ... this was easier than I thought
  5. buy local and organic when possible ... this was easier during the growing season .. I canned from our garden and the local farm
  6. buy only local farm meats (Thanks to watching the movie Food, Inc.;) ... 90 % of our meat comes from a local North Idaho organic ranch
  7. use my crock pot more often ... not sure why this was a goal since I'm a homebody and don't know how many people will be eating with us until it's time to start dinner
  8. plant only open pollinated, organic, heirloom veggie seeds ... this was mostly accomplished
  9. use no toxic products in the garden or for cleaning purposes ... I personally did not buy any ready made cleaners or toxic yard/garden 'tonics' .. can't say the same for hubby ... he buys a small bottle of spray cleaner... needs a little bit more education (nagging) to get him on board
Mrs. Mac on a little trek 12/30/2010
I  hope to have some new goals written up for 2011 this next week .. a fresh new month and year and decade on the calendar page.  What about you?  Got any big thrifty/green goals for the new year? 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Greetings

... from our home to yours. 

vintage image used with permission from here

Mrs. Mac and Family

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fruitcake ?

Yes or no?  Do you like fruitcake? Give me a fruit laden cake made with naturally dried fruits and nuts .. not the candied sugary fruit from a plastic tub at the store, brushed with brandy.  My grandma used to make such a cake.  I think my mom and I are the only ones in the immediate family that even like fruitcake.  The history surrounding fruitcake is centuries old and a bit muddled.  Today I am going to try my hand at baking such a treat.  I have purchased: dates, prunes, raisins and nuts.  I have some dried citrus zest to add as well.  Do you make fruit cake?  Anyone wanting to 're-gift' such a cake .. let me know and I'll (ahem) take it off your hands :)

vintage fruit image from Vintage Holiday Crafts

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Doing What You Can .. In a Toxic World

Some days I get antsy reading the headlines on the sidebar of this blog.  GMO foods and crops .. to soak or not to soak grains .. raw -vs- pasteurized milk .. toxic money .. etc.  Yes, it is good to be informed.  Taking in the news and trying to eke out a common sense approach to life is important to having a quality life.  There is just too much living to do that one needs not to be in fear of living.  Just breathing is dangerous it seems some days.  I get the most enjoyment trying to figure out how to make products at home.  Be it soap or green cleaners.  Trying to save money and not always needing the latest gadget.  Being content with thrift store shopping.  Growing as much food as possible for summer use and winter storage.  Can I do it all? NO!  .. and I have learned that being a good homemaker means not only keeping busy at home with the garden, etc. .. but also seeking the best local produce, eggs, meat, etc. in the community and not worrying that I can't do everything.  Big sigh :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Danish Heritage Cooking

I've recently started making a few heritage recipes given to me by my Danish cousin, Egon.  I remember having ableskivers on my honeymoon with Mr. Mac thirty years ago in Solvang, California.  On a recent thrift store outing, I was able to purchase a new ableskiver pan.  Here is the family recipe:

(Danish “doughnuts”)
This is possibly one of the most famous Danish desserts. To make æbleskiver requires a special
skillet called an “æbleskivepande”. Usually, you are able to find an “æbleskive-pande” at the
Scandinavian gift stores in the area.
2 cups flour
2 cups buttermilk
3 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼1/4 teaspoon salt
Melted butter or margarine for frying.
Separate the eggs and set aside the egg whites. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Beat
until it forms into a thickened, smooth batter. Let the batter rest for half an hour in the
refrigerator. Beat the egg whites until very stiff. Fold the egg whites into the cool batter. Pour the
batter into a pitcher. Melt the butter for frying.
Pre-heat the æbleskive skillet. Pour a little melted butter in each hole. Then fill the holes 3/4 with
batter. Fry the æbleskiver at medium heat. When a shell has started to form turn the æbleskiver
around with a (wooden) knitting needle or a meat skewer. Keep on turning the æbleskiver until evenly

When done remove the æbleskiver from the skillet and keep them warm. Decorate the æbleskiver
with powdered sugar. Served with jelly and sugar.
- Enjoy

Friday, December 17, 2010

Grandma's Remedy

To break up the winter doldrums, today I'm going to try a periodic piece about how I think 'grandma' would have found/fixed/made a solution to a basic need during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Today's problem .. oldest son is sick with a sore throat AND an empty pantry.  Calling me .. he asked if I had anything to eat that would not hurt his throat when swallowing.  He is used to buying canned soups .. which I don't buy.  Not having a tremendous amount of time I threw together something nutritious and comforting that my grandma would have made.

Gr-gr-grandma Minnie
Turkey Spatzen Soup: (small German dumplings)

1 quart turkey stock (I keep homemade on hand in the refrigerator and freezer .. grandma would have canned it for shelf storage)
1/4 cup each chopped - onion, carrot, celery
salt & pepper to taste

dumpling dough as follows - 

one egg, 1/4 cup water, 3/4 cup cake flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp double acting baking powder (organic),
a small pinch of nutmeg, 1/4 tsp dried parsley

To make soup base:

Heat the broth and veggies, salt and pepper to a low simmer.

To make spatzen:

Beat egg in a small mixing bowl with a fork; stir in the water.  In a medium size bowl, add the dry ingredients .. then blend with the liquid.  Mix well with fork.  Dough will be more like a thick batter.
spatzen dough

With stock simmering on low, drop 1/2 teaspoon size amounts of dough a few at a time.  They will sink .. then start to float.  Keep adding a few more small spoons of the batter .. not so much as to cool the soup .. it needs to be at a constant simmer.

Makes about 2-4 servings
turkey with spatzen soup

This soup took less than twenty minutes .. start to finish and can be easily doubled.
Our great grandparents made most of their meals from scratch.  Simple wholesome ingredients were used .. because that's all they had ... hum .. just imagine only having basic whole foods to choose from .. what a concept .. how far we've strayed away from that idea.  Let's get back to basics for the sake of our family's health! 

Brief History of Home Canning
Health Benefits of Homemade Broth (turkey, chicken, beef, etc.)

If you are interested in starting a 'Grandma's Remedy' page each week and want to link up, leave a comment.

Wagons Ho! Nebraska We Go .. (or bust!)

Henry and Minnie Melcher's home, Osmond, Nebraska

 Yesterday I recalled a elusive photo for our family tree.  Today I'll share a bit about my great-great grandparents.  Originally both from Germany, Minnie and Henry Melcher somehow arrived in Wisconsin.  From there they traveled by covered wagon to Norfolk, Nebraska to farm the land for a number of years; they lived in a sod or log house.  In 1887, the couple moved about 40 miles away to Osmond, Nebraska where they bought land and farmed west of town.  In later years, they bought a home in town; their home and property is where St. Mary's Church stands today.

Minnie Melcher's Parlor Lamp
This beautiful parlor lamp once graced a table of Minnie and Henry's (and later their daughter Laura's) home.  It somehow escaped breakage through the years.  My father had it for many years and promised to somehow get it to me.  This past autumn, a friend and neighbor of mine was driving through his area in Missouri and agreed to pick up the lamp and transport it home to me.  I pray that my family can one day pass it on to another generation.  It currently sits on a dresser in my bedroom .. waiting for a good dusting!

Minnie and Henry's son, Oscar, recalled (in the newspaper article), "The blizzard of 1888, Charlie Dunham and his 6 pair of oxen which broke sod for many farmers, the brick yard in 1898 run by Grinshaw, Mame Jones Millinery Shop .. and the years from approximately 1899 to 1904 that he worked for R. J. Crystal and Wylie drug store until the fire of 1904 razed the whole west side of main street."

Oscar Melcher
Boy ... I wish I had the inkling to ask more questions when my grandparents were alive.  Trying to piece together information is challenging to say the least .. a treasure hunt of sorts.

More hunting tomorrow.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ancestry Pay Dirt

great grandparents, Charles and Laura Calundan
gr-great grandparents, Minnie & Henry Melcher
I've been researching my family tree for several years now.  A photo of one member has eluded me for the longest time.  That of my great grandfather Charles Calundan.  He emigrated from Lading, Denmark in the 1880's and ended up in Osmond, Nebraska.  Hubby was organizing some memorabilia boxes down in the basement .. when what should he bring to me ..  not only a photo BUT also a newspaper article recalling some of my great grandparents and great-great grandparents history as told by my grandmother for a centennial newspaper article.  Elated is too small of a word! Tomorrow I'll relate some of their covered wagon adventures:)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Caffeine ... Giving It Up!

Tired of not getting good sleep at night, I'm giving up COFFEE, TEA, & CHOCOLATE!  Yesterday was 'ground zero' .. and I felt like a zombie or couch potato.  Today is a bit better.  Going cold turkey is hard .. especially when the rest of my family perks up a pot in the morning.  What do I drink in it's place?  For now warm water mixed with a little piece of lemon and a sprinkle of ginger.  Sometimes .. just plain very warm water.  When I get to the store, I'll buy some herbal tea.  But .. for now ... the water is sufficing.  Doing a little research yesterday, I found out that white and oolong teas have less caffeine than black tea.  And if you use whole leaves instead of the minced stuff in bags .. then infuse the tea for a few seconds .. throwing away the first 'brew' .. and make a second go of the same infusion .. most of any caffeine will be gone.  Will let you know if this works.  I'm very sensitive to caffeine .. and apparently it can cause allergies .. which I have in the form of hives on occasion.  I've heard that it can take up to eight weeks to detox from caffeine .. so far .. no headache!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Making Every Dollar Count

Yesterday was budget day a The Mangy Moose Lodge.  I have been working with a household budget for the past eight months; it's getting easier.  Allocating our spending categories at the beginning of the month ..  makes for good spending habits.  Its' easier to say "NO" to impulse buys.  Christmas shopping is easier with cash set aside in an envelope.  When the $ is gone .. no more shopping :).  Our youngest daughter is just starting out in life .. albeit .. still at home .. but learning good foundations that will carry her through life.  Being able to live on a fixed income AND budget will be vital for her future success.  Today I helped her type up an easy to read budget form that she can print out each month and fill in with pencil.  Learning to live within your means at an early age is a very good thing.  Our economy and government could use a good dose of living within a budget .. my wouldn't that be a saving grace!

Speaking of making every dollar count, look at the good turkey stock and meat that was made from cooking the turkey carcass after Thanksgiving.  We had a small 13 pound bird that gave us enough for an additional three meals ...