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

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pickle Taste Test

We've cracked into the fermented spicy garlic dills that were started a few weeks ago.  Actually, they are so good that we're on our second round and they are just as delicious.  Both times I used the same recipe.  Gathering about a gallon of medium to semi-large pickling cukes .. you know the size the delis sell from the pickle barrel.  All day sour pickles!
(an 'aside') .. look at those vine ripened tomatoes .. first time in YEARS to not pick green!

I cooled the freshly picked cukes in a bowl of ice and stored them in the fridge overnight.  Every single pickle is crisp .. even the spears.

Here's the recipe that I followed .. (except I substituted my own mix of mustard seed, whole black pepper and red pepper flakes for the pickling spice).  There will be several more batches 'hatched' as our backyard cukes are abundant this year.

 Fermented pickles are good for digestion.  Have you made any fermented pickles or vegetables this summer?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Mop To It!

Scrub, scrub, scrub ... the chore of cleaning hard surface floors, ugh!

Twice a year I get down on hands and knees with a bucket of hot soapy water and a scrub brush to get the nitty-gritty, corners and baseboards super clean.  We have quite a bit of surface to scrub by hand, so most weeks I sweep, vacuum, spot clean.  Every other week I get out my steam mop.

My kitchen floor gets abused during the summer with canning and preserving.  Berry parts drop and splash, tomato skins and anything else I run through my Sauce Master Food Strainer dribble here and there.  The rug attracts crumbs galore.  The steam mop does an OK job, but it's hard to get along the edges with much success.  And from the looks of the cleaning bucket's water yesterday, I'd say too much time has gone by since the last good cleaning .. and how can that much dirt be on the floor?

I use the same homemade cleaner for our no-wax vinyl, sealed wood and linoleum.  For the wood I don't use a scrub brush, but a cleaning rag wrung out followed by a soft dry rag.

Homemade floor cleaner:

1-1/2 to 2  gallons hot water
1 teaspoon borax (softens water/sanitizes)
1/2 cup white distilled vinegar (softens water/sanitizes)
1-2 teaspoons liquid dish soap (to help as a de-greaser)
2-3 drops lemon essential oil (optional)

Swish and mix the ingredients.  I have had no problems with this leaving any type of film.

Be sure to mix up a new batch when the water gets too dirty.  Most floors come clean from elbow grease when hand washing.  Do not let soapy water 'sit' on a wood floor, wash and wipe in small sections.  Next time I'm going to use my squishy gardener's kneeling pad.

Kiss those expensive floor cleaners goodbye.  

What's your best floor care tip?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Before Winter Sets In

We're readying our food storage areas.

This involves cleaning out the deep freezers by using up last years meats and frozen foods by sorting, tossing and separating the old from the new.  Our veggies are stored away by blanching, freezing in single layers and then vacuum sealing in food storage bags.  I've got three of our four freezer shelves designated for this summer's goods, leaving one shelf for last year's goods that will be eaten first.  Any produce that has been frozen too long gets tossed in the compost bin.   We store a mix of home canned goods as well for emergencies such as peaches, green beans and tomato products.

Beef and chicken stocks are made; some to be frozen in straight sided jars ... and some to be canned.  These are stored in 1-4 cup increments to make quick and delicious bases for soups, gravies and sauces.  When we order our beef, I always ask for bare and meaty soup bones.  They are kept frozen until I have time to prepare the stock.  Chickens are ordered whole and freshly butchered. It takes a good half day for me to cut them into serving parts that get bagged and vacuum sealed for the freezer .. but once this job is done, it's very convenient to pull out a bag of wings, drumsticks, thighs, breasts or mixed parts.  The livers and hearts are separated and frozen as well, and the backs are bagged 4-5 together, frozen and pulled out when it's more convenient to make chicken stock.  With the price of store bought stock, making it at home is very economical and of a better quality.

Our raspberries produced and produced!  They have been turned into homemade jams, juices, and some frozen for later use.  We have an abundance of wild raspberries, blueberries and huckleberries as well.  Frozen berries are good additions to homemade waffles, yogurt, pies and smoothies. These can be easily grown, picked wild, or purchased at your farmer's market.  With the exception of lemons, we try and only buy produce in season. 

We're starting to harvest herbs such as dill, thyme, oregano, marjoram and basil for drying.  They get picked, bundled and hung in the rafters of our shed.  In a week or so, they're dry and ready to strip off the stems to store away in jars.  We go through a lot of herbs during the winter months and growing them in the garden is quite easy.  With the exception of the basil and rosemary, most of our herbs come back each year.

Now that we've made the initial investment installing our gardens, much of our produce is practically free by harvesting and saving our own seeds .. and that's a good thing!

Ask yourself this question:  'This coming year I'd like to learn how to _________ .'  

Friday, August 23, 2013

... And now to a 'Mis-Adventure'

Two weeks ago our kayaking adventure .. well, let's just say a boating mishap at the dock involving another boater ended our date day before it even began.

The Mr. and I were just about to shove off from the dock in our kayaks when a boat caught on fire.  The boat's occupants were able to jump overboard .. and swim to the dock.  We were mesmerized by the whole scene ... needless to say .. no kayaking that day.  Mr. Mac pulled a lady out of the water and onto the dock .. then he rescued our kayaks as the flaming boat drifted ever so close and came to rest at the dock.

Nobody was injured.  Boat was insured.  Dock did not burn down.

All is well that ends well.

Now for a little less excitement!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

An Adventure

The Mr. and I enjoy kayaking.  We rented from a local outfitter for the first two years and even took lessons on how to stay safe ... tip over .. get back in drenched .. etc.  We ended up purchasing these same kayaks, used, for half the cost of new ones. 
Mr. Mac and friends

With the short lived summer months, we try and find any excuse to hit the local lakes and waterways.

Now on to the adventure:  As silly as it could seem, kayaking in the same location over and over can get boring.  We live in an area with lots of mountain lakes, streams and rivers.  This summer I have turned to the internet to find local spots worth paddling by following the calender of a kayaking club.  Yesterday we had a double date with a married couple we're friends with .. meeting up for kayaking and then a picnic.

At first glance setting the kayaks in the water, I actually thought this might not be a great spot .. and what was this 'club' thinking when selecting this location.  We launched from a bay with semi deep water and a view of the interstate hwy .. with the noise and such.  Yes, it was still a beautiful spot that I've often admired when we pass along the roadway in our truck.  Then I spied a small channel of water under a roadway with a sign that read 'no motorized' vessels.  Traveling for what seemed miles, we encountered a wetland with a water passage 10 ~ 100 feet wide .. winding around bends, opening up in places with views of secluded farms and cattle grazing.  A huge moose was spied along the shore, eagles, hawks, herons and ducks.  No highway noise .. just tranquil bird song and remnants of hewn log bridges to float under, weathered structures well over a hundred years.  Idaho history before our very eyes ... that whispered of past human existence here.

In the tradition of never giving out your huckleberry picking spot, mums the word on this exact location (LOL).
Mrs. Mac

Tomorrow .. on to some mis-adventure.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Roasted Roma Tomatoes

A mid winter's jewel to pull out of the storage pantry.  By far, this is my MOST favorite recipe for canned tomatoes.  Its rich earthy flavor can make spaghetti sauce go from plain to out of this world.  Rarely do I have to add additional tomato paste when using this jarred goodness as the base in tomato dishes.  Made from roma or paste type tomatoes, roasted fresh garlic, charred tomatoes, onions, a hint of extra virgin olive, fresh oregano .. and a little sea salt .. it begs to be awarded a blue ribbon.


12 lbs roma or paste type tomatoes
4 bulbs garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
bottled lemon juice

Drizzle the garlic with a little bit of olive oil ... wrap the heads in a pouch of aluminum foil; sealing well.  Place on a shallow baking dish and bake at 350F for 30-60 minutes (or until soft).  Remove from oven and cool.

If you have a second oven, while the garlic is baking, wash tomatoes ... pat dry.  Then place them on a baking sheet or broiler pan and place under the broiler until they just begin to char.  Turn tomatoes over with a pair of large tongs and broil the other side.

Place the tomatoes fresh from the broiler into a heavy brown paper bag that is sitting on a tray to catch any leakage from the bag.  Fold over the top of bag and wait for about  15 minutes.  This process took three times for my tomatoes.  When cool enough to handle, the skins should just slip off.  Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze out some of the seeds.  Chop the tomatoes into 1/2 inch pieces.  Place chopped/seeded tomatoes into a large stock pan.  Either peel or squeeze the garlic out of the skins and add along with other ingredients.  Cook until hot.  Add 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice to each quart jar.  Seal properly and process in a boiling water canner for 1 hour 25 minutes at sea level.  Adjust time according to your altitude.  Makes 4 quarts.  (Each quart takes 3 lbs of tomatoes .. I had 15 pounds of tomatoes so adjusted the recipe accordingly and ended up with 5 quarts).

This recipe is from the Ball Blue Book guide to preserving, 2010 edition.  Please refer to canning safety guides if you are new to home canning.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Pickle By Any Other Name

It's pickle making time and we've got a bounty of cukes this year from the garden. 

Dill Pickles
I've got two half gallon mason jars fermenting with sour pickles.  The taste test will have to wait 5-7 more days.  Recipe here.

I've heard of two ailments that dill pickle juice can possibly remedy.

1) a mild tummy ache

2)  muscle cramps

With a mild tummy ache this morning I took a small shot of dill pickle juice.  While the tummy ache eventually went away, I think this helped with causing me to burp so may aid in heartburn relief.  One try is not enough to make any conclusions.

Taking a small amount (2.5 oz) of dill pickle juice is reported to speed up relief from muscle cramps.  If you have a medical condition that limits salt, check with your doctor first.  Be sure to check out the links for more details. 

From the Original White House Cookbook, 1887 edition ... under 'Health Suggestions' ... it mentions on page 495:  "Nervous spasms are usually relieved by a little salt taken into the mouth and allowed to dissolve."

Yea or Nay?  What do you say?  Do you have an old time remedy for a tummy ache and/or muscle cramps/spasms? 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Cold ~ of Yore

 So last night I mulled around on Face Book with friends about catching cold from temperature changes .. wet hair .. etc.  The scientific community tells us we cannot catch a cold in such a manner .. but I've come down sick on different occasions from exposure to sudden temperature changes .. perhaps it was the impetus to push my immune system over the edge .. who knows.  Moist salt air is supposed to also be good for asthma .. and, yet, I've gotten bronchitis from spending a breezy day at the beach. Perhaps it was the breeze with a bit of fine particulate mixed in that ruined my week and sent me to the emergency room for a breathing treatment.  I'm certain this type of incident would spark an old wives tale.  Don't play at the beach with a dusty onshore breeze.   Perhaps there is a bit of truth to the miasma theory about disease from bad air. 
The works of Messrs Fairbairn and Sons, Manchester, 1860

With that in mind, let's just say that I don't go to bed with wet hair .. nor do I entreat sudden temperature changes and allow myself to get chilled, or visit the beach with hazy air. Have I prevented an illness?  I hope so.

How susceptible are you to weather changes and illness?

Next time we will explore the benefits of drinking pickle juice :)  (LOL)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hints in Regard to Health and Well Being

The Thrifty Garden/Home actually started out as my home building blog (This/New House) in 2006.  After the building process was complete, gears were changed to include learning how to live more frugally thru gardening, home cooking and managing our household on one income.

Today I'm taking the blog in another direction as I've run out of frugal living tips but have much to share about old time wisdom I have come across in many written accounts in various cook books published in the 18th and 19th centuries.  In times before modern health care, many a homemaker was the first responder to her family's well being both preventative and hands on.  With the advent of the industrial revolution, women going off into the work force, duel incomes, etc. the important tasks of the homemaker were neglected.  When at one time knowledge to ward off illness was life or death wisdom that was commonly carried across the prairies with the pioneers, in today's world such information has been forgotten leaving people to rely solely on 'modern' medicine.

It seems that western medicine has taken on the roll of sick care, instead of health care.  What I'm about to share is a bit of folk wisdom, grandma's remedies and old time common sense knowledge minus the avarice of modern insurance plans that place profits ahead of a patient's well being. Let's learn how to stay healthy together.

Disclaimer:  I am not a medical doctor and, therefore, am not giving medical advice.  Simply, I'm relaying some older generational remedies to mostly prevent sickness and bodily harm. 

"An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure"

by:  Benjamin Franklin, American Statesman and Inventor
1706 ~ 1790

The current readings are selected from the book, The Original White House Cookbook, 1887 edition
(I will often quote word for word as such books are well past the 100 year copyright date and beg to be shared)

From page 494, Hints in Regard to Health:  

     "It is plainly seen by an inquiring mind that, aside from the selection and preparation of food, there are many little things constantly arising in the experience of every-day life which, in the combined effect, are powerful agents in the formation (or prevention) of perfect health.  A careful observance of these little occurrences, an inquiry into the philosophy attending them, lies within the province, and indeed should be considered among the highest duties, of every housekeeper.
     That one should be cautious about entering a sick room in a state of perspiration, as the moment you become cool your pores absorb.  Do not approach contagious diseases with an empty stomach, nor sit between the sick and the fire (heater) because the heat attracts the vapor."

Simple put .. we are to not only know the importance of proper food preparation AND how to observe and know properly how to attend to a sick family member without greatly risking our own health.  We will learn much more on the importance of temperature control in rooms and the ill effects to our bodies.
Stay tuned ...