Posts tagged: frugal

Something from nothing: Breaking ground for a garden

By , March 4, 2016
(c) The Herbangardener

Mowing out the garden perimeter

Because we are now stewards of three whole acres of land, we’ve been spending hours and hours — so many hours — researching tractors and thinking of what we want to do with the space. One thing we want of course is a garden. I am not thrilled to be starting from scratch for another garden. If you garden, you know it’s a ton of work. I don’t have the energy level to match, so it’s overwhelming. But if you garden, you also know that not having a garden is not an option! It’s a given. A necessity. After months of tractor research, stalking craigslist, exploring creative solutions, lots of sticker shock, and springtime — planting time — right at our backs, we decided that we can’t make a decision right now. We’re unclear exactly how much we want to undertake in general, we don’t have a solid plan other than Do A Big Garden, and we haven’t been on the land long enough to have clear answers about either of those things. We had nearly settled on a BCS 853 walk-behind tractor from earthtools.com, but the price is dear and we aren’t settled yet on which attachments we need. We’ve been paralyzed and overwhelmed. Finally on Monday night, the overwhelm reached its zenith as F sat wide-eyed in front of his computer screen staring at yet another page filled with tractors and tractor attachments and other hunks of metal with names we have yet to learn and prohibitive price tags or the right price tag but in a faraway state. Right then is when we decided to work with what we have access to right now that’s within our price range — and without a huge decision or financial commitment needing to be made in haste. This turned out to be a rented rototiller from the local hardware store, and the really nice self-propelled Honda mower F bought for the lawn.

The next day we rented the tiller, quickly eyeballed the area we wanted to make into garden — ‘Yep, there’s about good’ — mowed the weeds and dry grasses, and “started tilling.” But the tiller tines only just picked at the surface weeds and kicked up a little dust. It wouldn’t dig in. The ground was dry, too dry evidently, and nothing was happening. Frustrated moments ensued, we tried forcing it, then we thought of scrapping the whole thing and returning the tiller. Then we both went online, each finding some key pointers. “Ahh – you can raise the wheels so the tines dig in more” and “Ahh – for hard ground try going lightly over your whole area with the tiller east-west, then lightly again north-south. Once you’ve cross hatched it, then try going deeper the next round.” We almost didn’t, but I’m glad we stuck with it. We made progress, though not a whole lot for a laborious !6! passes, but enough to tear into the ground. While I tilled, F mowed the acreage. The lawn mower was awesome and we had no idea it would do so well on rough land; it devoured everything in its path without a single sputter. Probably the mowing of the land wasn’t completely necessary; but mentally oh very much yes. Somehow having the grass mowed on the rest of the land makes the whole thing seem tamer and more under our control and not so wild and untouchable and unmanageable and impossible. And we learned that yes you can mow two acres with your self-propelled yard mower and yes wear those comfortable shoes because you’ll be walking for miles and miles, back and forth back and forth!

The next day I turned on our irrigation well and opened the floodgates as they say. The garden can be flooded in a matter of minutes which will be a huge time saver this summer. I soaked it several times and we’ve booked the tiller again for this Saturday so that we can do the whole thing again and till much deeper this time we hope.

When I look out at the area we tilled, it’s huge. It’s nearly 3,000 square feet of garden. That in itself is overwhelming, but not as overwhelming as it was last week, before we had started at all. We made huge progress in one day and our bodies made darn sure we knew it (like ‘Ohhh…shit.”). Seeing the land mowed and the garden tilled up makes it easier to believe we can actually make something out of all this nothing.

 

Mowing 2 acres with self-propelled lawnmower

Mowing 2 acres with self-propelled lawnmower

Mowing done

Mowing done

Rototilling

Rototilling

Before mowing & tilling

Before mowing & tilling

After mowing & tilling

After mowing & tilling

Essential!!! I love these boots.

Essential!!! I love these boots.

(c) The Herbangardener

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Winter Days~

By , February 9, 2015

Snowstorm, (c) The Herbangardener

Gingerbread cookies, (c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

Springtime starting seeds, (c) The Herbangardener

Family laundry, (c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

Beef marrow bone broth, (c) The Herbangardener

Doctors office, (c) The Herbangardener

Chat noir, (c) The Herbangardener

Winter aspen branches, (c) The Herbangardener

Aspen branch in water, (c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

Indoor cat grass, (c) The Herbangardener

Smiling orange, (c) The Herbangardener  (c) The Herbangardener

Making cookies, (c) The Herbangardener

Christmas cat toys, (c) The Herbangardener

Brewing, (c) The Herbangardener

Strawbale greenhouse, (c) The Herbangardener

Inside the straw bale greenhouse, (c) The Herbangardener

Mature zucchini, save seed, (c) The Herbangardener

Kitty, (c) The Herbangardener

Zucchini, saving seed, (c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

Lychee, Date palms, and cilantro, (c) The Herbangardener

Clothesline, (c) The Herbangardener

Nebulizer hypertonic saline, (c) The Herbangardener

Burdock in winter, (c) The Herbangardener

Heat lamp, (c) The Herbangardener

Cabbage seedlings, (c) The Herbangardener

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Kitchen Tip: Freeze your extra eggs

By , January 9, 2015

(c) The Herbangardener, Freeze eggs

Did you know? You can most certainly freeze eggs! I’ve never read about this handy tip but I’m sure others have done it. For the past year I’ve been freezing my extra eggs and they turn out great. I use them mostly in baking, but also for scrambled eggs or an omelet.

And let’s not think about Easter yet, but this is a great thing to do with the contents of the eggs you blow out for your Easter Egg Tree.

Here’s how I freeze them:

1. Crack egg into a small plastic container. Snap the top on and shake it until the egg is scrambled.

(c) The Herbangardener, Freeze eggs

2. With the top still on, place in the freezer till frozen solid.

3. Remove from the freezer, and let the container stand on the counter till it’s melted just enough to pop the egg-disc out.

(c) The Herbangardener, Freeze extra eggs

4. Place into a freezer bag. Thaw at room temperature whenever you need an egg!

(c) The Herbangardener, Freeze extra eggs

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(c) The Herbangardener, Cat sniffs eggs

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Make an Easter Egg Tree

By , March 25, 2013

What a dear holiday Easter is. I love the sweet, cheerful decorations, the colors of early spring, the smell of hyacinth.

Back in late January, I had clipped some aspen branches and brought them into the house. They’ve been such a nice touch of nature to have around, carrying on with their life cycle of blooming and leafing out, content in just a vase of water.

So naturally, our indoor aspen tree needed some Easter eggs. I do have some blown-out-and-dyed eggs from several years ago, and this year I blew out some brown eggs, which are beautiful just as they are.

***

To make your egg tree:

Clip a few branches and place them in a vase of water or sand.

Blow out some eggs by piercing both ends with a sharp implement like nail scissors or a needle or an old-fashioned ice pick; blow the innards into a bowl.

A nice way to hang each egg is to get a length of thin branch and cut it into short bits, 1/2″ or 1″ (2cm) long (or use part of a match stick or toothpick). The branch I used was from an elm tree.

Cut about 12″ (30cm) of thread, and tie a double knot on the branch bit. The knot doesn’t have to be completely centered on the branch. It helps to start a knot with the thread, and then slip the branch piece into it.

Slip your branch bit all the way into the top hole of the egg.

Hang it like this. Tie off the thread about 3″ (7cm) above the egg.

Then decorate your little egg tree! Don’t worry, your cat will help you.

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Japanese Squash and Soba Soup

By , January 27, 2013

This soup is incredible; I could hardly stop eating it. It’s light and different and so flavorful, and it’s quick to make.

It’s based upon this recipe from Martha Stewart Living magazine, except I leave out the tofu — and even the soba noodles could easily be optional, as they add more in the way of texture and filler, rather than flavor. The real flavor is from the broth, squash, mushrooms, and scallions. Just like that it is absolutely delicious, and would be a good Paleo dish to add to your repertoire.

Japanese Squash & Mushroom Soup

5 cups water (for out of this world soup, use bone broth — either beef or chicken bones simmered for many hours in water)

3/4 oz dried kombu seaweed (kelp)

1/3 cup dried bonito flakes, lightly packed

2 Tbsp soy sauce, plus more for seasoning (I highly recommend Ohsawa Organic Nama Shoyu!)

1 lb kabocha, buttercup, or butternut winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice

3 1/2 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced if large

8 oz soba noodles, preferably 100% buckwheat (feel free to cut down to 4 oz, or even leave these out altogether)

Scallions, thinly sliced for garnish

***

Boil water and kombu together in a large saucepan. Remove from heat, stir in bonito flakes, and let sit 5 minutes.

Pour through a fine sieve into a bowl, and return liquid (it’s now called “dashi”) to pan. Discard solids, or save only the kombu to reuse.

Add the soy sauce, squash, and mushrooms to the dashi. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the squash is tender. Stir it now and then if you think of it.

While the soup is cooking, cook the soba noodles separately. This is important since 100% buckwheat soba, especially, will turn its cooking water murky and starchy-slimy. So, bring water to a boil (salted or not, your choice) and cook the soba according to the package, about 7 or 8 minutes. Don’t overcook it. When it’s done, drain and rinse in cold water — to stop the cooking and rinse away the starch.

Ladle the soup into bowls, add the soba noodles, and top with scallions. Serve with soy sauce at the table in case anyone would like to add more.

Eat!! Yum!!

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Sand + Jar = Candle holder

By , December 6, 2012

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The other day I found my baptism candle in some old stuff.

I tossed it in the trash — no need to keep that.

But then the next day I had a cool idea for a candle holder, so I poured some sand into a jar and fished my candle back out of the garbage.

I’ve never liked tapers because they’re so tippy and drippy, but this holder is the solution! The sand keeps them stable no matter how thin or wide they are, and it catches all the wax drippings.

Now I’m sure this idea has been thought up before by someone, somewhere — but I’ve never seen it done.

And so now that I’ve found a good way to hold tapers, I’m going to use them a lot more because they seem to give off more light than pillars or tea lights — maybe because there’s less wax in the way.

And I do like the simple aesthetic of the sand and the jar and the warm glow of a candle…

*****

Classic Pumpkin Pie

By , November 19, 2012

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With an eye toward Thanksgiving this week, here’s my own recipe for classic pumpkin pie, along with my own crust recipe.

Neither recipe is the most decadent you’ll find out there because heavy, fatty things don’t agree with me. So if you’re wanting to make a pumpkin pie that’s on the lighter side, try this one. I make it every Thanksgiving. The crust is not really rich and flaky, and probably won’t wow any chefs out there, but it is humble and it does the job. I like it.

***

Lindsey’s Classic Pumpkin Pie

Rounded 2/3 cup of rapadura (or white or brown sugar)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp, heaping, of cinnamon

1/2 tsp, heaping, of powdered ginger

1 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp nutmeg

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup whole milk

3/4 cup half-n-half (light cream)

1 15-oz can Libby’s pumpkin (or 2 cups cooked pumpkin or winter squash, pureed, and cooked down if too watery — the healthfood store brands of canned pumpkin are way too watery. I learned my lesson to use Libby’s!)

1 9-inch pie shell (recipe below)

***

Preheat oven to 425°.

Mix sugar, salt, and spices in a small bowl.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then stir in pumpkin, sugar-spice mix, and the milk and half-n-half. Mix until thoroughly combined, but don’t get overzealous (like, don’t do what I did once and overbeat with egg beaters — it beats too much air in, and makes a souffle-type thing!)

Pour into unbaked pie shell.

Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, and then reduce temperature to 350° and bake 40-50 more minutes until a knife inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours.

♦♦♦♦♦

Lindsey’s Not-Too-Rich 9″ Pie Crust

2 cups flour (whole wheat, or white, or a combo)

1 Tbsp sugar

Scant 1/2 tsp salt

6 Tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces (salted or unsalted, either is fine)

Ice water (you’ll use about 3/4 cup)

***

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in cold butter.

I like to use my fingers to rub in the butter and blend until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Mix the ice water in, 1 Tbsp at a time, stirring lightly with a fork after each addition, until a dough is formed. (3/4 cup is about 12 Tbsp.) Try not to overwork the dough. Small bits of butter will be visible — this is what you want.

When a good, workable dough is formed — not too dry, not too sticky — wrap in cellophane and refrigerate until ready to use.

When ready to roll out, lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin.

Roll into a circle. Transferring to your pie plate is made easier by folding the dough in half and draping it over your rolling pin.

Trim off any excess dough, but leave enough extra around the edge to fold under and crimp with three fingers, as in the photo below.

If you do have a little extra dough, you could use a cookie cutter to cut out a little something-or-other (a maple leaf, for example) that you can bake and then place on top of your finished pie as decoration.

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Harvesting Our Apples

By , October 12, 2012

Well it’s been an awesome year for fruit here, since our usual blossom-killing frost mercifully did not occur this spring. And so “Make more applesauce” has been somewhat of a standing order on my to-do lists of late. What a blessing, to have so much free organic fruit! My mom’s recent comment in an email made me giggle, asking me what I’ll do with all my time once the apples are through!

The apple tree in the backyard is Red Delicious variety, but the apples are really not good for fresh eating, however they make great applesauce! So F and I harvested them all recently and I’ve been picking away at them, cutting out the wormy parts, peeling them, chopping, and then cooking and canning them.

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What kind of fruit are you harvesting this autumn?

*****

Our Clothespin Holder

By , August 27, 2012

Just wanted to share with you our clothespin holder that I’m really liking. We thought about buying or making a clothespin bag that would ride along the clothesline, but I didn’t want a metal hanger (metal dragging along metal is irritating), and I also didn’t want something deep that I’d have to repeatedly dig my hand into.

This shallow basket attached to the line with a simple length of yarn tied into a bow is just right. It rides quietly and smoothly along the line, and is easy to remove in the event of rain.

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