Friday, June 15, 2012

House Update June 2012

Just a quick update on the house. Things have been kind of slow lately. Certain parts of house building are expensive (like a water system) and since we're paying as we go, we've been working on saving money for a water tank, fixtures and such. While waiting on funds we have been working on building a 10'x10' concrete pad to set a 1500 gallon water tank on that we'll build a shed around so we can heat it in the winter and not have to worry about frozen water. We've been capturing some rain water for miscellaneous household use, but we have started hauling water in a 300 gallon tank to use when we run out of rain water. There's a very sweet lady who allows people to use the water faucet at her store to fill up tanks and she's been such a blessing.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patty's Day Weekend

So this weekend Tony and I are staying home. It's 82 degrees and too hot for the potato and cabbage soup I had planned, and since I haven't come across any grass fed beef or even lamb recently I won't be cooking anything Irish today. This is the first time in several years I won't be making corned beef and cabbage with Irish soda bread.

We did work on the garden some today though. I pulled up the "cabbage" plant which did indeed turn out to be Brussels sprouts, just a VERY compact and broad plant with a head bigger than my fist. In the compost pile that I haven't turned recently, there is another Brussels sprouts plant that I pulled up earlier in the season that looks like a proper plant, but the sprouts are miniscule. The big broad plant had sprouts the size of my fingertips, so I picked those all off and Tony and I ate them raw. They were very good! The plant was bolting, so that's why I didn't leave it in the bed. It was interesting to see it bolt, the head split in half and flower heads popped out. Literally overnight I've had oat grass that I'm growing for my cat sprout an inch high where there was no grass before, the hickory trees and red buds have leaves they didn't have yesterday, and the Brussels sprouts bolted (the plant in the compost pile bolted as well). Observing the compost pile as well, we found half a purple cabbage head that started sprouting a new plant from it's center. I really should go out and take photos.

I worked some of my mother-in-law's horse manure into the bed and decided to go ahead and direct plant seeds into the bed since I'm fairly confident we won't be getting another freeze. I'm trying the 4 sisters in the western half of the bed and planted 2 corn, 2 cream peas, 2 sunflower, 1 zucchini and 1 yellow squash. We also used some bamboo stakes to make tipi supports for the peas, zucchini and squash. The English peas also got supports, however they are supposed to stop growing above 85 degrees, so I may not get anything out of them this year. I'm hoping I do. I also think they may be something to try in the fall garden.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Weekly Meals

For those of you interested in our journey to eat healthier, I thought I'd give an update to our most recent dining habits. We haven't eaten out together in over a month now and each week we have chicken one night, fish one night, homemade veggie pizza one night, and the other 4 nights are generally vegan. During the day Tony does get sandwiches (Boar's Head Buffalo Chicken, their most heart healthy option which I know still isn't good for him, but it's free of nitrates and preservatives) and fresh fruit and veggies, while I eat a variety of vegan options like pb&j, bean burritos, granola bars, hummus, stuff like that.

The chicken I'm cooking isn't organic ($9/lb), but it is free of antibiotics and hormones and is free range and runs about $6 for 6 boneless thighs (I think it's around $5/lb). I divide that into 2 meals, one for each week (since I do all my shopping for 2 weeks at a time) and I usually make a Yellow Curry with Chicken and Potatoes (and I use soy sauce instead of fish sauce) or fried rice. I have noticed lately though that I don't generally like chicken anymore and I feel better after eating a vegan or fish meal. For the fish meals, one week I'll make salmon cakes with some sort of green veggie like roasted Brussels sprouts or sauteed kale and a baked potato, the other week I'll make fish tacos with catfish nuggets ($3/lb). The vegan meals vary but are usually soup and bread, black bean burgers with sweet potato fries, mushroom spaghetti, 6 layer burritos, or tacos with lentils or mushrooms (I prefer mushroom tacos). I'll often try a new recipe each week too.

For the past month when I have stopped to grab lunch while I'm out running errands (and it's almost impossible to get something around here without meat unless I eat nothing but french fries) when I have meat I get sick. It's been encouraging me to make sure I have granola bars in my purse at all times. So there you have it. :-)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Arugula, Kale, Swiss Chard, Carrots and Strawberries

In this week's gardening adventures, I had arugula bolt, kale that has begun to bolt (and if you don't know what bolting is, it's when the plant sends up a flower stalk to produce seed and that means the plant is done producing), a Black Lab mix who ate my peppermint seeds, a cat who ate some of the seedlings I have going in the kitchen, my carrots are starting to look like carrots 6 months after the seeds were planted although they are still maybe half an inch long, my green onions have been taking off again, I have some strawberries growing, and I'm starting to see bees and grasshoppers. Temps have mostly been in the 60s and 70s, although we did hit 80 on March 1.

The first photo is the bolting arugula.

Next is the Swiss chard and carrots.

Strawberries, my mother-in-law's horse manure has given me the largest strawberries I've ever had. I'm not sure what happened with that photo...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Eggplant and Peppers

The weekend of February 11, I started the Fairy Tale eggplant, Shishito peppers and jalapenos. I'm using plastic egg cartons that cradle the eggs by surrounding them in plastic on both sides and a lid that closes over the top. I took the lid off and placed it on the bottom as a drain pan, and fold over the top to create a mini greenhouse. I then placed the egg carton on my stove top, which I have been keeping the oven set at 200 all winter so my female cat has a warm place to sleep now that her brother has passed (I removed the burners so she won't get hurt accidentally).

I figured out last year with our gas stove (which had a pilot light) that the top of the stove is the perfect temperature to germinate seeds after successfully starting some lemon basil on it. I do have a germination mat, but I'm using it to place the seedlings on underneath the newly installed plant light after they germinate.

The jalapenos germinated in just a couple of days and are growing quickly. The Shishito peppers germinated after 5 days and the eggplant after 7 days.

This weekend I am starting my sweet red bell peppers, tomatillos and tomatoes. The weekend of Jan 28 I started some Red Creole onion seeds which started to germinate within a couple of days and new seeds are still continuing to pop up.

This week I added some of my mother-in-law's horse manure to some freshly potted strawberries and romaine lettuce (I don't know that the lettuce is going to make it, I seem to have horrible luck with it). I also worked manure into some potted mint and lavender and tossed some on the top of the raised garden bed. Once everything that is in the current bed matures, then I'll work more back into the soil properly.

The Parisienne carrots I planted throughout the fall are finally starting to develop more leaves than just the first set, and the kale is finally starting to take off. I still have Swiss chard that is alive, just not really producing; the Brussels sprouts are growing as well but resemble a head of cabbage more than sprouts; and the pea seedlings have made it through a couple freezes and snow we had over the past couple weeks (I kept them covered in a folded towel). Oh, and my onions and garlic are growing like gangbusters!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Purchasing Seeds

After pouring over seed catalogs for the past couple of months, today I am ordering seeds so I can attempt to start them indoors over the next few months. I have had mixed results with starting seeds, but I really want to get the hang of it so I can save money by not having to buy transplants.

From D. Landreth Seed Company I ordered a mixture of items: Great Northern Beans, Kidney Beans, Big Red Bell Peppers, Yellow Squash, Feverfew, Zucchini, Sage, Fairy Tale Eggplant, and Queen Anne's Pocket Melon. I'm really excited about the Fairy Tale eggplant, which I bought from a farmer at the wholesale Dallas Farmer's Market and sold at the Saint Jo Farmer's Market in 2010, and Queen Anne's Pocket melon. Tony doesn't care for melons, I think he has a mild allergy, so I wanted something small that I would be able to eat by myself and not get tired of and the Queen Anne's Pocket seems perfect. I can't wait to see what they smell like!

From Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds I ordered tomatoes: Morning Sun, Amish Paste and Atkinson. I was really hoping to get yellow cherry tomatoes again, I grew them in 2010 and had a lot of luck with them, but everyone is sold out so I'm going to try the yellow grape tomato instead. The summer of 2010 I was given tomatoes from a friend at the Saint Jo Farmer's Market, German Queen, and I made the best pizza sauce with them. I'm hoping to do the same with the Amish Paste and as insurance if they or the Cherokee Purple I have don't produce well like this year then hopefully the Atkinson will produce.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Homemade Beauty Treatments

Tonight while Tony is putting up drywall, I'm being a spoiled little housewife and tending to myself. I noticed that the skin on my face was starting to flake so I did a search for homemade scrubs. I found these few links for what calls Recession Proof Beauty. I tried the sugar scrub (simply one part sugar to two parts honey) and it worked beautifully. It is every bit as good as anything I've bought from Mary Kay in the past and doesn't contain all the irritating chemicals. Also the honey has antibacterial qualities which will help with the little bit of acne I've been having the past couple of days.

Facial Scrubs
Facial Masks
Foot Mask

Vegan Blueberry Ginger Muffins

One of the things I miss most about Texas are the Vegan Blueberry Ginger Muffins from The Cupboard Natural Food Store in Denton. I came across this recipe for vegan blueberry muffins a few weeks ago and thought I'd try it this morning. As I was about to stir in the blueberries (I used dried) I remembered I have candied ginger in the fridge, so I diced some up (about 1/4 cup) and tossed them in.

The muffins from The Cupboard are crumbly which make them messy to eat but they taste incredible. The muffins I made this morning are not crumbly and have the taste and consistency of any standard muffin recipe. The ginger and dried blueberries are amazing in them. I think this might be my new favorite muffin recipe and no one would ever guess they are vegan.