Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat...
Please put a penny in the old man's hat!

Remember that? It's a scene of goodness and abundance and a plea to help those who are "less fortunate."

That seems to be a recurring theme around the holidays. It's too bad that food banks won't take home canned food or homemade bread. The alternative is to find someone who needs food and give it to them directly.

You'd think that with food stamps and soup kitchens, there wouldn't be many hungry people in the USA, but there are. If you can't find anyone to give to directly, you can always click to donate and that won't even cost you anything.

Still, if you canned and stocked up last summer, your pantry will be full of good things. Keep your eyes open; you just might find an opportunity to share. 'Tis the season, you know.


Ready for the end of the world?

12-12-12. December 21, 2012. Volcanoes. Earthquakes. Political "unrest."
Aliens landing. What else? And everyone intends to survive the "apocalypse." Don't you?

I do.

It will be nice to get past these next few weeks and reach Christmas all in one piece.

I'm getting ready for it regardless of doomsday stories. I don't know what else to do. I'm prepped as much as I probably will be so there's nothing left but to get ready in case nothing happens.

Just in case, you know. 


I will say Merry Christmas, too

I was in the waiting room at the doctor's office when a man came out, followed by the nurse. He turned to go and said, "Merry Christmas!" and then he said, "Some folks don't like that any more, but I will say Merry Christmas until I die."

I turned to look at the elderly man and he had a smile on his face. Time had worn deep crevices in his face and turned his hair white. He walked with a limp and his hands were misshapen, perhaps from work, but surely from arthritis, too.

I'm sure there were many things he could have complained about, but he was having none of that. He was determined to say "Merry Christmas" again and again.

And I will say "Merry Christmas," too.

Entering into the season, some of us have little money, some are without jobs altogether. Some of us have serious health problems or family problems. Some of us are stressed and pinched into a grinch-like stance.

All of us can say "Merry Christmas."

Will it offend someone? Maybe. Maybe what someone else does offends us. That's life. No one has the right to not be offended.

Merry Christmas. I'm going to make the most of it this year because who knows what next year will hold?

Drinks you may not know about: bean pod tea

Bean pod tea tastes like... green beans. A little, anyway. If you like green beans, you'll enjoy it. Sugar seems odd in it. Don't throw out those bean pods from your summer garden. You can compost them or feed them to your chickens (they'll more likely eat them after they're "cooked") after you make tea from them. You make bean pod tea with dry bean pods. Save the pods after the bean harvest and bring them to a boil and boil for a few minutes. How long depends on how strong you want the tea to taste. If you have trouble with high blood sugar, bean pod tea will help regulate that. It's a mild detoxing agent and will help cleanse the kidneys and bladder.


Drinks you may not know about: grain coffee

True coffee is made from coffea arabica, a tree or shrub that produces coffee beans (seeds), but there are other drinks that are called coffee, too. They're made from grains, which are seeds, and they're roasted and ground in much the same way.

You can make these coffees or drinks easily at home. The grains, barley, rye and others, are easily found if not in a grocery store, then in a health food store. Grains like these don't contain caffeine and they don't taste like Coffea arabica, but they have their own charms.

To make barley coffee, put a tablespoon or so of barley grains in a medium hot skillet and stir often until the grains are toasted a medium brown. You may prefer them lighter or darker, but start with medium. Once the grains are toasted, pour them onto a plate and let them cool. Put them through a coffee grinder just like you would coffee beans. Use any kind of coffee maker you have to make the barley coffee. It won't be as dark as regular coffee.

 The same method can be used for rye or okra seeds. (Don't use okra seeds you've bought for planting as they may have antifungus powders on them.)


Canning and Putting By

I'm slowly gathering enough tomatoes to make sauce, the yellow crookneck squash is outdoing itself and the sunflowers are crazy with blooms this year. Autumn is definitely coming on.

As each year rolls through its phases, promises of renewal hang in the air. Autumn, rather than being the end of something, seems to be the beginning, all over again.

I love to see the pantry shelves filled with gleaming jars of green beans and tomatoes and other good food waiting for winter. It's a throwback to when our ancestors had to put up enough food to last through the winter because if they didn't, they would starve to death before spring.

We don't have to worry so much about that any more (maybe? See Food Prices), but still, putting up pickles and beets and corn and squash gives one a feeling of satisfaction and security.

If you don't can, freeze or dehydrate summer vegetables, you don't know what you're missing! It's not all about the goodness of the food or saving money on it, although those are very valid reasons. A big part of it is the satisfaction of a job well done and looking forward to a less hectic, more secure winter.


Food Freedom

Back when I was growing up (yep, another one of those), we drank milk from the cow, chilled and skimmed for cream, which was used to make butter. It was good food. It still is.

Daddy BigGov seems to think that it's not and that we don't know enough to choose for ourselves. Enough said about that. And then there are zealous law enforcers who arrest kids with lemonade stands.

I think it's time to stand up and I'm far from alone. Tomorrow, August 18, is Lemonade and Raw Milk Freedom Day. If you don't do anything else, whether you agree with me or not, please read it.

Here's to family farms and child entrepreneurs - two of the many who make America the land of the free.

A Welfare Nation?

One in three Americans are on welfare. One in three. Our economy is in a mess, but that's not an excuse.

I guess I'm old fashioned. We were taught to work for what we needed and to work harder, think more and become more creative if the work we were doing didn't supply our needs.

We were taught that being on welfare was shameful and if it was occasionally needed, we were expected to get off of it as soon as possible.

We were taught that TV, fun and games and new shoes were not a necessity and charity certainly shouldn't be expected to provide them for us.

I know. There are those who really need it. I have to say that every time I approach this subject, because there's always someone who gets huffy about it. If you NEED it, get it. If you don't NEED it, get off it.

Take care of yourself and then you can make your own decisions.

Don't have money for food? Learn to get it in other ways. Grow a garden, learn to forage, trade for something you can do, take a dollar bill and see how much you can get at a discount or dollar store. Make do.

An old adage that would do us well today: Make it, make do, or do without. Try it.


Food Prices?

It's not news and I'm not alone in warning you to stock up as much as you practically can. The drought is driving up food prices already. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Learn.

This is the year to learn to can and dehydrate. It's time to learn to shop the sales efficiently. Learn to use a price book. Learn to look in other places besides the grocery store for food. Learn to glean; to take advantage of free food; to use that food; to cook from scratch.

Learn where to get farm fresh eggs and how to forage for wild food. Learn to shop at farmer's markets and salvage stores.

When (if) things get back to normal, you'll be far ahead of the game.

Don't just think about it. Do it.

Backyards in the City

The backyard next door was once a beautiful (in the eyes of some) green slope of perfectly trimmed grass with exactly two well shaped trees on it. The back fence was covered with Virginia Creeper. The neighbor hired a lawn service to come each week and do its thing. Flowers lined up along the sidewalk and a beautiful crabapple tree was sprayed each spring so it wouldn't set fruit.

Then he sold the house and the people there didn't do anything. As in nothing. The grass died back, trees sent up sprouts all over the place. Well, they did do one thing - they tore out the Virginia Creeper. I have some that is hardly under control, but theirs never tried to come back.

The neighbor on the other side waters her lawn sometimes 7 days a week. It's green and that's about all I can say about it.

Mine? Well, it's a little different from either of those yards. If you've read this blog or much of my other material, you know that I enjoy wild foods. There are several reasons, one being that they're free. Another reason is that they grow with little to no work on my part. If you've ever grown a garden, you can appreciate that.

The third point is that, as a rule, they're more nutritious than those plants we've changed to make bigger or prettier or easier to harvest and now use for food. What you see isn't always what you get when it comes to food.

I wrote a piece for Lehman's Country Life blog a few years back called Wild in the City. My backyard is still the same way as it was then: A lot of wild food growing all over the place.


Free Vegetables and Beverages

If someone offered you free vegetables and beverages for the taking all summer long, would you accept them? Most of us would. Free vegetables would help tremendously with ever rising grocery bills and with hot weather, free cold beverages would be quite welcome!

Now I'll give you a clue. If you have used chemical fertilizers or weed killer on your lawn, you can't have them. They might still be there, but they're not safe to use.

I'm talking, of course, about wild foods. As in, those weeds you fight every summer. Dandelions, amaranth, salsify, lambsquarters, purslane and mallow are some of the most common back yard "weeds" that are not only edible, they often surpass their garden cousins in nutrition. Some of them are the ancestors of vegetables we enjoy today. Some of them are considered delicacies or at the least, unusual, and come at a high price at uptown grocery stores.

Cold beverages can be made from the leaves of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and mint of any kind just like you would make tea.

They're free; they're good and they're good for you. What more can you want?


Wild and Domestic Sunflowers Crossed?

It rained, finally! The garden and the lawn soaked it up. The air is humid, the temperature is on the cool side - of 90 anyway!

And the sunflowers are blooming. They don't usually bloom here until the last of July, but like almost everything else, they're ahead of time. Last year, I grew big, beautiful and colorful sunflowers and the squirrels bit off each head as it matured so I thought that I'd just stick with wild sunflowers.

I guess the sunflowers had a different idea. They must have crossed with the wild ones because they're small, have several flower stalks and grew without any care at all, yet they're not the sunny, cheerful yellow of wild sunflowers I had expected.

I'm going to try to save seeds from them. IF I can beat the squirrels to them!

The picture doesn't do them justice, but I was shooting into the sun so I couldn't see what I was doing. I felt lucky to get a picture of the sunflowers instead of just the fence.


High Park Fire

A photo of the High Park fire taken from the car on Highway 237 north of Fort Collins.

It's about all anyone is talking about right now. That and the heat. Oh, my, the heat. It was officially 107 today, not much of a change from the last few days and if the forecast is right, it won't be much of a change for the next few days... or weeks.

With the extreme heat and very dry conditions, it's very difficult to fight a wildfire. The firefighters have our prayers and thanks every day.

I live about an hour away from Fort Collins, which is the closest town to where the High Park fire burns. Over there, you can see the plumes of smoke rising high into the sky and there is an eery glow to everything.

Some mornings here we can smell the smoke. We can nearly always see it, rising like a cloud that's tied to the ground. Sometimes the sky is brassy and sometimes it's white.

Over 80,000 acres. That's hard to imagine. Over 200 structures, most of them homes, have burned. People have been evacuated and are huddled in school basements, in church basements and anywhere they can find room. Water, food and prayers are going their way.

Controlled burns could have prevented it or minimized it. Most of the fuel is beetle killed pine, which has been there for some time. Controlled burns would have removed the fuel and made the fire easier to contain. But what do I know?


Let's Get Real: Genetic Modification and More

I believe that a parent can teach his/her own child after the age of five just as well as they can teach them before the age of five. I believe that a person can learn from a book and from experience just as well as he/she can learn from a book... inside a school. I believe that TV is making us dumber and lazier. I believe that we can be content when we set our minds to it and without having the latest fads and fashions.

Most of all, I believe that we deserve enough information to make our own choices when it comes to food. It's now required that labels list nutrients and ingredients and they're supposed to be honest about what's in the container. Sometimes the name of the product is misleading, but it's illegal to out and out lie about it.

So why is it okay to sell food that's been genetically modified without letting us know that it is? Because the FDA says it's "safe"? How does that give anyone the right to sell it to us without telling us about it?

If I went to the store and decided to buy eggs, don't I have the right to know if they're chicken eggs or goose eggs? GM foods are not the same as naturally grown foods. When a plant is modified genetically, it is no longer the plant it started to be. That is the essence of genetic modification.

There are no good examples because there are no other situations where one thing becomes another in the laboratory, then is passed off as the original.

What brought this on was an article on the Organic Consumers Association web site called "Why Genetically Engineered Food is Dangerous: New Report."

We've talked about it, worried about it, written letters and made phone calls. GMO food needs to be labeled. I would not knowingly feed it to my child. "Knowingly" is the key. We have the right to know.


Almost Canning Time!

I've been gathering a lot of lambsquarter and a few amaranth greens off and on as I have time. Sometimes it's only a handful, but each time, I wash them and blanch/wilt them, then put them in the freezer.

A handful of fresh greens equals about a tablespoon of wilted greens, so it takes quite a few, but when there's enough for a canner load, I'll can them.

They're much better greens, both nutrition wise and (in my opinion) taste wise, than any commercially produced greens and they're free.

A few jars of wild greens in the pantry to go with pinto beans and corn bread in the dead of winter is heavenly comfort food.

Last year I thought I was doing pretty good in putting up enough, but the last jar was eaten long before there were enough wild greens out there for a meal so this year... I'd better get busy!

I've also been picking purslane when I have time. I pickled a few jars last year and they were really good. I've dehydrated purslane, frozen it and canned it plain but wasn't happy with it, so it's pickled or nothing. Since it's so healthy, I'll just get used to eating it with everything.

Besides the cost saving of putting up free food, it's more than worth the trouble in another way. Wild foods are generally healthier than domesticated home grown food and quite a bit healthier than most commercially grown food.

For instance, purslane is one of the very few excellent vegetable sources of Omega 3 fatty acids.

Water Sense, Fire and Lawns

With the drought we're having here along with a wild fire not all that far away, water has become more precious than ever. We haven't had any more restrictions on watering lawns or anything like that, but I notice that more homes have quit watering. Maybe they're making a personal statement about the situation or they're just tired of the high water bills, but dry grass is apparent here and there all over town.

I have never been enthralled by an expanse of blank, green lawn that suits no purpose other than just being there. I'm not dull; I can see the beauty in rolling hills covered with green grass, but I just can't see it in the blank rectangles that surround houses. Water it, fertilize it, cut it... water it, cut it... water it, cut it.

I prefer to spend my water money on something more important, like food. If it comes to a choice between having a garden and having a nice looking lawn, the garden wins.

Just like having water for farmers should win over having water for town lawns. Should, I said. Water rights being what they are, it's hard to sort them out and still harder to make changes because the government has set hard and fast rules that take forever to change. Meanwhile, the land dries up, farmers lose crops. The threat of wild fire is real, here on the plains.

In the mountains, the fire is raging due to plenty of fuel and a wind that keeps it going. On the plains, it would be the same thing. Dry grass, dry crops and dry air combined with wind would allow a fire to sweep over miles of prairie in one day.

And my neighbors complain because not every lawn in the neighborhood is green. The city fines people whose lawns have obvious bare spots. Sometimes I think the lack of common sense will be our ultimate downfall.


Remember, it was 1948...

Three years after the Second World War, patriotism was still running high. There were some discordant sounds even then, though, but we were not afraid to face them.

This is not a political blog, neither is it a philosophical one, but there are times in everyone's life when we need to pause and reflect on what's going on around us. Have times changed since 1948? Maybe not so much.

A cartoon presentation: Make Mine Freedom


I wanted to make tortilla chips...

This is something like when you tell someone how to knit wool socks, you start by telling them how to shear a sheep.

Since most corn grown in the United States is genetically modified, I started looking for a recipe to make corn tortilla chips with, if not organic, then at least non GMO corn. That's how I ran across this post: Homemade Corn Tortillas - Part One: How to Soak Corn for Masa

It's not about where to buy masa harina or how to use it, but how to make masa (dough) straight from the dry corn. Seems like first, you get some corn...

But I don't have any corn, and buying whole grain, dried, organic corn is expensive! I happened to think that I had recently come across an envelope of dent corn that I'd picked up at the edge of a farmer's field where we lived over eleven years ago. That is, we lived there over eleven years ago. I don't know how long ago I picked it up.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I put four kernels of this dent corn in a little water to see if it would grow. In about twenty four hours, it was swollen and heavy. I put a few more kernels in there and tomorrow I am going to plant them alongside some squash that hasn't come up yet and may not.

So... I hope that one of these days I'll have some home grown corn tortilla chips. (Now... if I could just grow some cheese to go with that!)


Ye Olde Pat Verettto's Frugal Living Blog

I quit posting to it just about a year ago, but it still gets some traffic. I guess some things don't go out of style. I was browsing (lazy Sunday afternoon) some of the statistics and thought you might be interested in some of the most popular posts from that blog.

T-shirts and frugal braided rugs

Homemade Crackers

Variation on a Theme: Candle Stove

Facial Tissue Boxes Warning: extremely frugal tip ahead

Never Waste a Tea Bag

I guess not many things have changed, after all.


Is it just me, or do the roses seem especially beautiful this year? I took pictures earlier and need to take some more. I have several rose bushes and all of them are blooming right now. The one I showed before that started blooming almost a month early:

Another from a very old rose bush, my favorite:

Another one caught my attention today but I didn't have my camera with me and by the time I got back to the house, I'd forgotten about it.

Anyway, the beans are planted, the corn is coming up, the okra is popping up, some of the squash is up but I'm still waiting on the pumpkin. I want it to completely take over the area, but it won't if it doesn't sprout!


It used to be that I could put together a meal for four people for two or three dollars. Now I see articles that promise to show you how to make meals for less than $10. Less than ten bucks?? Have times changed that much, or have our eating habits changed?

After reading through several of these articles and recipes, it seems to me that our eating habits have changed. With a plentiful food supply, we think nothing of exchanging our money for feta cheese, tomatoes out of season, expensive nuts and seeds and so on. The world is our grocery store and we partake, hardly thinking that our bodies are products of our local environment.

I love good food, don't get me wrong. I grew up on beans and potatoes, wild greens and homemade cottage cheese and I grew up healthy... so here's my take on cheap meals. Cut the imported food, the exotic and the plain old expensive. Of course you love them, who doesn't? If you save them for a treat or a special meal, you'll enjoy them even more.

Too much of anything makes us unappreciative, like a child in a room full of toys. Abundance is one thing, overabundance is something else. An ice cream now and then is good for the soul and even if you're on a diet, you can indulge as a special treat. If you eat ice cream every day or whenever the thought strikes you, it becomes less of a soul experience and more of an ordinary food.

Who wants ordinary?


Growing Stevia

I bought a stevia plant last year and managed to overwinter it in the house. It's a little bedraggled for the stay, but I think it will live. (The picture is of last year's growth.)

I didn't get a good harvest last year because I was afraid of it! Not the plant itself, but I was afraid that if I cut too much of it, it would die. Wrong. I was supposed to cut it back a lot more than I did. I have to remember to read up on these different plants before trying to actually grow them.

Anyway, I did dry some of it and found that in its "raw" stage, it's a lot different from the white stevia powder bought from the store. For one thing, it's not as strong and for another, it works best if you steep it the same as you would tea. As I like it in hot tea, I finally figured out that I can steep it in the tea at the same time.

It takes some getting used to because, while it's very sweet, it doesn't taste like sugar. It's kind of funny that I never noticed that sugar has a taste until I tried stevia, but if you try a soft drink that's sweetened with sugar and then one with HFCS, the difference is obvious. It's like that with stevia - a lot lighter than sugar and a whole lot better than HFCS. Better for us, too, by far.

I might have to get another plant because this year I want to really harvest it!


How to Make it Work

People who pull together survive. Those who are in it for themselves, don't. That's the way it's always been. Helping each other out, trading work for work or food for food, people know instinctively how to "make it work." Bad economy? Getting better? Getting worse? Who knows. The only thing we have to measure it with is our personal experience and that of those around us. We don't have the numbers or the reports, but that's okay. They don't make any difference anyway. They don't change anything. When most people still lived on farms or at least in the country, work trade offs were common. Neighbors helped each other because that's the way it was. It's sad to say "that's the way it was." Oh, I'm sure it's still like that in some places. Some communities, whether in the country or city, still share and help each other. I'm not saying it never happens. I'm just saying that it may not happen often enough for survival if things get really tough. Just sayin'.


Bees? Yes, Bees.

Seasonal Illusions Photography
Used by permission
Do you know what commercial beekeepers do to their bees? They take the queen bee after a few egg laying cycles and they pinch off her head. Then they take another queen bee and they artificially inseminate her and put her in the hive. They take all of the honey from the hives and they feed the bees cheap sugar water through the winter.

And our bees are disappearing. Not dying, disappearing. No one knows where they're going. I have a theory that the foreign queen eats them. They probably refuse to bring her food since she's not their queen and she has to survive. Being the strongest and biggest, she cannibalizes the colony.

Will anyone believe me? Probably not. But my theory is as good as anyone else's.

When there are no more bees, our diets will be restricted to those foods that don't need much help in pollination, or we will very high prices for food that's been hand pollinated. Can you imagine a field of squash with a dozen workers bent over the blossoms wielding artist's brushes?

It could happen. Then squash will cost as much as asparagus out of season. THEN your kids will like it.


Happy Mother's Day, Mom

Not quite four years ago Mom passed on. She had lived a long and full life, but lives have a way of turning sad when one becomes old. It happens to us all. We can't do the things we'd like. People don't act the same around us. Kids find other things to do and we wonder if it's our fault.

Oh, but this isn't a sad post, for all that. Mom taught us so many things that we would never have known. She took us for walks along the river where the old trees had fallen and in their dignified way, had given life to the soil and the insects. She would say "shhh..." and if we shushed the way we were told, we'd hear baby birds chirping or we'd hear something scuttling under the leaves on the ground. If she said "look up" we would see a nest or a hawk or a cloud with a real silver lining.

She saw and heard it all and she taught us that if we wanted to see and hear it all, we had to be quiet and we had to look. Not just at where we were going or where we were, but at the things around where we were. At the ground and the sky and everything in between.

She taught us much more, but if those two things had been the only two things, her memory would have endured many tellings and retellings. When my grandkids ask about Grandma, I tell them. And I hope that, if I'm not here to do it, they will tell their children. Grandma said "hush" and "look up."

Try it. You might be amazed at what you've been missing.


It rained!

It really rained. After weeks and months with only traces of moisture, we got a good, soaking rain that lasted for hours, the way it used to. It misted most of the day after, then slowly cleared up. I can almost watch the grass grow. The lettuce jumped an inch overnight. We'll have radishes now, for sure!

No matter how much we water with treated water, it just isn't the same as a good rain. Rain brings nitrogen to the soil and there is no chlorine or flouride in it. No drugs or cysts or bacteria. Just water. Life giving water.

The new clothesline holds the rain the way I'd like to. I hate to let it go, even though the ground is saturated and things need the sunshine to grow, too. I'd like to hold on to it just a little bit longer.


Thirty Days Ahead...

These are June blooming climbing roses out front of the kitchen. I just took the picture a few moments ago - May 5, 2012. They have never bloomed before June first in the eleven years I've lived here.An early spring, indeed! I almost forgot to take a picture... so many things are growing and happening all at the same time.

And these... are amazing plants. Dandelions in a dry year. Notice how tall the flower stems are and how flat and efficient the leaves are. Nature is pretty smart.

And the new, "improved" blogger makes it difficult to align pictures or do much of anything else. At least until I have the time and patience to sit down and work with it. Meantime, ignore the open spaces and the strange alignment! :)

I finally got some manure (store bought, sterile kind) to help things along. I want to build another small raised bed just outside the back door... did I say that already? Got the soil, the compost, the mulch and now the manure. Just have to get a piece of wood for the front. I'll post a picture if when I get it done.

Oh, look! I rambled on so much that the blank space disappeared!



Sometimes it seems like life just gets too busy to think about things. That's my excuse for not posting here for awhile, anyway. :) Catching up:

I started tomatoes and peppers in the house and had them setting outside since the weather has been so warm. We got a hard rain that wasn't expected and some of them are flat. Well, all the peppers are. This week I'll have to go to the nursery and buy tomatoes! It's too late to start them again. I'm just hoping that I can find the kind I want.

On another subject, it's time to change the winter bedspread to a light weight one. Last year I used a pretty sheet that I found at the local Goodwill for a summer bed cover. This year, I have a project. I think. I was sorting through some material and sewing things and found a quilt top I'd started about three years ago. I was waiting for more jean material to show up to finish it, but had an idea. If I finish the edges to add another 6 inches or so on each side, it will be big enough to use on the bed. So maybe I finished that quilt once and for all!


Homemade Easter

Since there's a new little one in the family this year, Easter is going to be a lot of fun! Easter baskets and eggs and candy (well, probably not so much candy - she's not quite old enough). All those pretty colors and frills that go with Easter and baby girls makes me smile just thinking about it.

I want to make it a "homemade" and "homegrown" Easter as much as possible. (If I only had some chickens for eggs!). I just rounded up some natural dyes for Easter eggs, so I'm going to be using them. I haven't dyed eggs for a few years, so this should be interesting.

A hand knitted duck and rabbit, a chocolate dipped egg made with mashed potatoes and powdered sugar and a basket that I haven't decided on yet, will do it for her.

Her mom and dad get their own "basket" of course. I usually find a container of some kind and put Easter goodies in it for all the kids who are nearby, no matter how old they are.

It's fun to see how much I can hold down costs and still have a nice Easter for everyone. Any other tips I should be using?


Too Dry for a Garden

Dry. Warm. Too warm. Too dry. It's not just where I live, but much of the United States is warm and dry. That may be great if you want to play outside in the sun every day, but it's not so good if you want to grow food or flowers, or buy food or flowers that someone else grew.

I've been saving water from rinsing dishes and this and that to water the few things that are popping up. I put it into a bucket just out side the kitchen door and when it gets full I take it out to the garlic or the horseradish, the chives or rhubarb.

It looks like we're having an early spring and the ground is warm enough for them to grow, but it's so dry... but I said that. Keeping things watered may take a lot of creativity this year!

I could grow yucca or cacti, I guess, but that doesn't appeal as a major garden crop.

Other than saving rinse water from the dishes, leftover water and ice cubes from glasses, keeping a bowl under the faucet to catch everything else and praying for rain, what can be done?

If any of you are in a drought condition, give us your tips on survival, please? I don't want to give up the garden, but if it keeps this up, it's going to be very hard to keep it alive.

You Can't Eat Gold

I've been out and around on the internet, looking over the financial situation as well as the political situation worldwide. The thing that strikes me harder than anything is that people are hoarding, but many of them are hoarding the wrong thing.

What good will it do to have a stash of gold bars if you can't get a loaf of bread? A few seeds can be the difference between life and death in a future scene. What is it about gold?

I've never coveted gold or silver or even a lot of money. I've only wanted an abundance of the things that life should be giving all of us: Good food, clean water, fresh air. Trees, grass, birds. A measure of peaceful solitude, which is as necessary to the human soul as water is to the human body.

Gold? I don't want it. I'll take my little garden and the robins that have returned. I'll take the bright colors of an early morning and the green of the grass, even if it has to grow through the sidewalk crack.

You can have you gold. You can't wear it. It won't soothe your tired eyes. You can't drink it. You can't eat it.


When It's Springtime

My daughter and I took a little drive out of town this afternoon. Fields are greening up, farmers are out on their big tractors and their little tractors, manure is piled alongside fields to be spread for fertilizer, plant nurseries are gearing up and the leaf buds on the trees are swelling ever bigger.

Back at home, I saw a dove doing what I think was a mating dance in flight and the finches are very noisy. The little ones (human kind) from next door are playing in their backyard.

Does that mean anything?

Here's something that does mean something: The tomatoes are coming up. I have to replant the peppers (don't ask) and I'm so hungry for fresh, green stuff that I might have to go to the grocery store! A tiny pot of lettuce on the kitchen windowsill just won't do it.


Sunflower sprouts?

I feel like I got scammed, but I did it to myself. I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things - a very few things, and then I found a bag of sunflower sprouts marked down to about half price. Good snack, right? Better than chips or cookies! They didn't look too old, so I bought them.

After I got them home, I realized that there was a full head of sunflower seeds stored away. I had intended to save some to plant again and roast the rest and never got around to sorting them out.

D'oh! I could have made my own sunflower sprouts for much less, even marked down. AND they would have been fresh and no doubt, more nutritious than the ones I bought.

Will I never learn?

More about sunflowers (I don't always blow it)
How to Eat a Sunflower

I'm STILL waiting on Yahoo Voices to fix a problem with republishing an article on sunflowers there.


Twitter, spring... and other things, too

It's been a little while since I've posted here - again. I've been busy, though, here and there. Got my taxes done, took a carload of "stuff" to the Goodwill and learned how to make chicken liverwurst, since I miss liverwurst but can't eat pork any more.

I've been writing off and on, too. If you want to keep up with what I write (and sometimes what I think!), you can follow me on Twitter.

Other than that... I'm gearing up for spring. Three kinds of peppers have been started, tomato seeds ordered (different types from what I already have seed for) and I've already been stalking the seed racks at various stores.

Considering that the weather includes snow day after tomorrow and the day after that, I'm pushing it some!

Oh, and I went on a shopping spree at Walmart and managed to spend around $58. Not too bad. :)


Knitting by Candle Light

One night not long ago, I left the curtains open as long as possible to use the last of the daylight, then I lit candles and I sat down to knit.

After the candles were in the right places, it really wasn't too hard to see. I was kind of surprised, but then, our grandmothers or great grandmothers knitted by the light of kerosene lamps, candles or even firelight and they made some beautiful things.

It was actually restful, sitting in the quiet and knitting by the low light. Firelight is more natural to our eyes than artificial lighting and I think it's more natural to our souls, too.

Going from straight, harsh artificial lighting to candles or lamps can be hard, but going from natural daylight as it fades to candles or lamps makes it easy.


Oh, I give up...

Frugal is fun. And I miss "talking" about it. For instance...

I went to the store today because I had intended to buy mini blinds to replace the ones that came apart for the kitchen window. I had seen them there before and determined to get them, but they were out of the size I needed.

So... lying in bed, trying to get to sleep, I thought "What could I use for blinds?" And then I figured a way to fix the curtains so I could just drop them from their tiebacks and lift them back when I wanted to open the windows. The "tiebacks" are two cup hooks, but I am going to replace them with some screws and hot glue some beads that I have onto the heads of them.

I can sew a backing on to the curtains easily with some material I have on hand. Problem solved and I save around $12 dollars.


Knitted curtains

I looked and looked at lace patterns until I got tired of myself! I couldn't find one that was perfect for the curtains I want to make for the office/craft room. So... I wound up creating my own, very simple lace panels. When I get enough done (hopefully before the New Year!) I'll post a picture here.

It's going to take a lot of time and I will have to put it aside for other projects now and then, but I think they'll look nice when they're finished.

These long term projects always seem like such good ideas until they're about half way done!

I remember a quilt top that I decided to sew strictly by hand. And then there was the large braided rug I was going to make for the living room... One day, who knows? :)


Do you can meat?

I finally canned the last of the pureed tomatoes from last year and thought I was ready to put the canners away until harvest time again, until something that's been nibbling at the back of my mind made itself known.

With the power outage earlier this winter, there was the threat of losing the food I'd so carefully put away in the freezer. Good, grass finished beef, some wild meat, some organically raised chickens, some trout from the stream. If it had all gone, I don't know what I would have eaten. I have maybe 6 jars of home canned trout, the same of chicken soup and that's about it as far as canned meat goes.

That would have been a very limited diet and wouldn't have lasted long - maybe two weeks or three if I stretched it.

So... on my mind: Canning meat. I want to can up some of the ground meat, especially. Meatballs? Or "hamburger stew." Or... ? Any ideas? Have you canned beef or chicken? How did it go? I'm still a little leery of it, but having eaten both the soup and the canned trout with no ill effects, I have a little more courage now.


What's up?

I was standing in line at Walmart this afternoon when I saw a bag of Hershey's candy. Three Musketeers, Snickers and whatever other candy bar they have like that. I honestly thought (briefly) about buying some, but then I looked at the price. Nine dollars. Precisely $8.98. For candy?

On the other side were candy bars, all a dollar a piece. My mental calculator, limited though it is, was whirring. I have a small piece of chocolate here at home, the kind you're supposed to melt to coat things with. I also have a few peanuts in the bottom of a package. Why not combine the two and make my own candy bar for free? Or I could bake cookies. Or make a pie.

As I looked around, it dawned on me how lavishly people live and how I must be living all cramped up. I could no more pay nine dollars for a bag of candy than I could pay nine hundred for a meal. It just isn't in me.

Other things I noticed (not all at Walmart):
Flour has gone up about 20 cents for five pounds.
Sugar is back up, after a brief fall over the holidays.

Also, watch this. The price of beef will be dipping soon as ranchers sell off their stock because of wide areas of drought... BUT, the price will soon soar higher than it's been because after the glut there will be a shortage.

Does "shortage" ring a bell? I think we've been there. Remember the coffee shortage? The sugar shortage? The threat of a wheat shortage? The threat of food shortages altogether? Don't ignore them. It's going to hit where it hurts.


Wash it, hang it, iron it.

The old Maytag company doesn't exist any more, so these old machines are hard to find. I was ecstatic when my brother-in-law sold this one to me. I use it often.

I hang clothes on the line outside when I can. During those frigid times when laundry freezes as it's being hung, I sometimes hang it downstairs in the basement.

And... I iron my cloth napkins and cloth hankies. I cut up old clothes and socks for cleaning and dusting rags.

So what's the point of this post? I don't know. Maybe I just wanted to show off a bit. :)


I'm grateful for...

Nope, it's not Thanksgiving. I'm staying positive, so here are some things I'm grateful for today.

Presidential elections only come once every four years.
My TV has an off switch.
I don't have anything that I HAVE to do today.
The tomato sauce from last year's garden is excellent.
I found a brand new, sealed in the box, jigsaw puzzle at the thrift store.
My kids put up with my eccentricities without threatening the old folk's home - so far.
Spring is coming again.
I won't have to buy many seeds this year.
The wind blew down two large limbs from the neighbors tree and they landed on either side of the car without even touching it.

What about you?


Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes)

It's the middle of winter and I'm going to dig up some Jerusalem artichokes for a salad today. It still seems odd to me to harvest the best vegetables when they're under snow, but these 'chokes are so good right now. I don't know why it took me so long to get them started.

If you've never tried them, think about planting a few this year. You can eat them like potatoes, but you can eat them raw, too. I can't describe the taste; you'll just have to taste them for yourself.

Try them raw, then slice and fry or boil them. They cook very quickly. Use them in stir fry, but don't put them in until everything else is done. They can take the place of water chestnuts.


Dreams of the New Year

What better time to drool over the new seed catalogs than during a snowstorm? None, really.. but since there's no snowstorm in the immediate future, I drooled anyway. Why is it that everything looks so good, so fresh, so abundant in the catalogs? I want two of everything - no, make that three.

This year will be the year I have a great corn crop, tons of tomatoes, beans growing like weeds and squash that behaves itself. This year I will go out every morning and pull weeds and do whatever needs doing in the garden. This year I will keep the strawberries watered and fertilized. This year the plums will go into butter and jelly instead of on the ground for the bugs to eat.

This year, like every other year, is filled with dreams, with anticipation. This year. It's like no other and yet, it's like every other top of the year. We can look down the road and make it anything we want.

Never mind that hailstorms might flatten the corn and hornworms might find the tomatoes. Those things are just hazy possibilities. In my dreams, they don't really exist.

I hope you have a wonderful, dream filled New Year.


Cleaning House

Does everyone get the urge to clean house right after Christmas? Not just "clean house" but CLEAN house. You know what I mean. You start dusting a cabinet and wind up sorting the contents and getting rid of half of it. Empty shelves remind you that you have a box of "stuff" in the closet that needs a better home, so you start putting some of it in the cabinet. The rest goes in the giveaway pile. The empty spot in the closet reminds you that you really need a shoe rack... and on it goes.

That kind of cleaning house. I've been at it for almost a full week now and honestly, there's no end in sight. I figure that by the time I go through the entire house, it will be time to start over.

But that's okay. It's ridiculous for one person to have so much "stuff."

I've discovered that I've been holding on to some stuff because I got caught in a rut. I used to enjoy plastic canvas needlepoint, so I have tons of patterns for it. I subscribed to five different plastic canvas magazines at one point! I've kept them for several years, thinking that I would get back to it again. I won't. I tried and I don't want to do it any more. I had to turn loose of that part of me that enjoyed it.

Turning loose of who I was was definitely unsettling. It's kind of like cleaning house in my mind.

Well, it may be too early to philosophize, but it's hard to let go of some things, even though they don't suit us any more. We can't move forward unless we turn loose of the past.

And that's my deep thought for the day. Or maybe the week. :)