What’s For Supper?
July 2, 2015, 2:11 PM
Filed under: Gardening | Tags: ,

This is finally the time of year when all of our gardening efforts pay off-woo hoo! Surely this month we can drop below the $150 grocery spending level that we’ve been stuck at for some time now. Even if we don’t manage that, we are eating healthy and delicious meals every day, with the satisfaction of knowing that much of it was grown organically on just a small amount of ground, by two old hippies that are still learning.

The earlier spring greens, lettuces and cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages) have all been either eaten or stored in a little produce frig that we keep running just for them during this time of year. These are just some of the beauties I have stored away…


My experience tells me that if I don’t dampen or wet them before storing them in special ‘produce bags’, cabbages will last for 3 months or more, and everything else at least 2 months. By continually replanting as room opens up in the garden beds, we eat fresh food like this about 9 months out of the year. This year we planted six Swiss Chard plants, since they tend to produce reliably right on through hot weather, and though not as prolific as say, fall kale, it’s nice to have some kind of fresh greens all year long…

20150630_171931[1]A couple of nights ago our supper was simply new red potatoes with their skins on, cooked in a bit of veggie broth with fresh-cut rosemary, then topped with melted butter, a skillet full of ribbon-cut chard sauteed with chopped onions and garlic in a bit of olive oil and two tiny little pieces of fish we cooked on the grill. Tuesday night we put all the ripe tomatoes we had on hand in a pasta dish that uses basil, white wine and lemon juice, topped with Parmesan cheese. Served with steamed broccoli on the side and hot garlic bread, our ‘company’ enjoyed it too, and there was enough left for our lunch the next day. Last night we had a red lentil Indian dal that made good use of some of that cabbage, onion and garlic, along with my red lentils bought at the discount grocery for 50 cents a lb and brown basmati rice purchased for 60 cents a pound. Tonight my brother’s coming for dinner and a Netflix movie, so we’ll have BBQ chicken thighs, red potato salad, fresh broccoli and maybe some more fresh green beans too! Eating whatever’s ‘ready’ in the garden will dictate our meals until cold weather finally sets in again.

The new-to-us Roma Italian green beans are more flavorful and productive than the tried and true Blue Lake that we’d planted for over 10 years. So far, I’ve harvested 17 pounds, from only 32 square feet, with more still coming every day! They are coming to the end of their life cycle though and will be soon pulled out to make room for other things we love. I canned 14 quarts last week, but would like to end the season with 30 or 40 quarts in the pantry, but that would require us to stop eating them by the bowlful every night for supper, and that’s not gonna happen, so I may just plant some more of these quick producers after we return from a mini vacay to Ohio over the holiday weekend.


We had our best onion crop ever this year! After the summer solstice has been reached, the bulbs won’t ever get any larger since onions are completely daylight dependent, so we harvested them this week in order to ‘cure’ them for a few days before storing them in the root cellar. The red ones are curing in the greenhouse…


…while the yellow storage onions (Copra variety) are curing on the front porch.


Nothing says “Welcome” quite like 20 lbs of onions on the front porch, right?

It seems that most of our meals begin with onions and garlic, and this year we finally planted a few soft neck garlic bulbs since they store better than hard necks that we normally grow. It will be an interesting experiment to see how they compare. Fresh garlic not only adds wonderful flavor to many of our meals, it’s known for having some serious health benefits, and it serves to keep vampires away too, giving us one less thing to worry about…

Oh, and the carrots! They’ve outdone themselves this year: we harvested twelve pounds of them from just two four-foot rows!  We eat them fixed every way possible and marvel at how much better they taste than ‘store bought’. This dependable root crop will be replanted as a fall crop, along with beets, but those will be a variety especially for storage. Let’s hope I don’t lose the whole lot like I did last year!


So, let the stock market slide and Greece default on their debts. Let the coal mines close and water rationing continue. Here in rainy NE Tennessee, we’ll eat well, stay healthy and spend the Fourth of July having fun with family and friends. If you’re local, come see us tomorrow in front of the International Storytelling Center at 11:15 as we play some Celtic tunes with our friends from the “Thistle Dew” trio.  You’re all invited to supper afterwards.

thistle dew


Frugal Friday- May 15, 2015
May 15, 2015, 4:46 PM
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Getting back to basics has reinforced long-ago lessons that slowing down, eating well, watching my spending and getting plenty of sleep and exercise enables me to lead a life that focuses on the positive and good things in my little world, while also giving me the energy and time to focus on some of those things in the world that perhaps need a bit of extra attention. Invariably, living a simpler life saves me money…and I’m saving up for a bucket list goal now, so there’s even more incentive to keep things simple.

Monday: I told you last week about my earth-friendly ant killer, and because I really do want to have a healthy life and a healthy home I mixed up some non-toxic glass cleaner and finally began the task of washing my windows today. But I am NOT using the damn paper towels, and  am using newsprint in place of them,  to do the job. I’ve learned over the years that if I clean the windows when they are in the shade, or when the day is overcast, they actually clean a lot easier than when it’s sunny. It seems that when the sun is shining on the glass, it dries so quickly that it streaks rather than cleans. My goal is to clean one room per day, so I should have them done by next week. I’m on a roll, just not a paper towel roll 😉  And if you’re interested, here’s my tried and true recipe for a ‘green’ window cleaner: Combine 2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar, and up to 1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap or detergent in a spray bottle. That’s all there is to it.

Tuesday: My ‘back to basics’ mindset finds me outside more often: in the garden in the morning, washing windows in the afternoon, and strumming my ukelele in the backyard as the sun goes down and the moon comes up. All that outdoorsy-ness can lead to bug bites. Michael is especially susceptible to them, even though they rarely bother me. He says that’s because I’m so mean they won’t mess with me. Whatever. But here’s the recipe for my very own “Bug Potion #9” that we keep in the bathrooms, the kitchen and on the porch to wipe our skin with as soon as a bug has made it’s presence known. It really doesn’t help much as a repellent per se, but seems to completely take the sting out and prevents swelling. I also save all the cotton plugs that are packed in pill bottles and keep them in a ziplock with the bottles and use them to apply the soothing potion. Here’s the recipe..try to use a quality peppermint oil.

Bug Potion #9

1 cup witch hazel
1 cup rubbing alcohol
8-10 drops peppermint oil

Shake well, then store in a tightly capped container so that the alcohol doesn’t evaporate


Wednesday: Picked my first ripe tomato and strawberries of the season! This is like Mardi Gras at my house!  They’re both organically grown and delicious with lots more to come. Ya’ll already know how absolutely important I feel it is to grow some of your own food, or at least to know where and how it’s grown, so I won’t get on my soapbox about it yet again. I enjoyed making several jars of freezer jam with some of the berries but it is a little ‘too’ good, if you know what I mean. How will I ever keep any of it around for Christmas gifting?


Thursday:   I wanted you to see what I found in the alley behind my house…it was literally in pieces, but I was able to find all but 2 little connectors, which I easily solved by clipping on a couple of black PVC clips that hold plastic onto my little hoop houses in the winter. I put them on the bottom and you don’t even notice them. This is going in our little tool shed out back to hold cans of paint and other stuff. It’s really sturdy and the price was perfect.  I think repairing and repurposing should be followed closely by rehoming before something is tossed out. There’s an adage that I firmly believe in: “There is no away, as in, throw it away.”


 Friday: This has been a week of walking my errands, hanging clothes on the line to dry, and buying absolutely nothing. It’s also been a week of using what I have on hand and can harvest from the garden. In my efforts to avoid food waste I save and freeze the stems from mushrooms and when I have a cup or two, I use them to make a pot of cream of mushroom soup, which will give us another meal, made from what many might consider food waste. Homemade mushroom soup is my one concession to cream and the stems are what Mr. Campbell makes his mushroom soup from, only he doesn’t add real cream. Just sayin’…


Last month we spent $176 on food. I’m trying to lower that to $150 this month, and since the garden is offering up lots of lettuce and kale right now, we’re eating a lot of salads from the garden, paired with a grill cheese or tuna sandwich or a cup of soup. The salads are almost a meal in themselves, with hard-boiled eggs or cooked beets thrown in, even some leftover beans, pasta or nuts. Making big dinner salads like that really avoids food waste because I can add the tiniest amount of something to them rather than adding it to the compost pile, and no two are ever alike. Michael enjoys making his vinaigrette dressing to put on it, and now we have fresh herbs to add to that, which really pumps up the volume!


Now, about that bucket list: I want very much to go to Cuba and hope to make that dream come true before the year is over. Dreams like that take big money. The very essence of being frugal is that by saving money on the small things, it allows me to spend money on the bigger things that really matter; for years, that meant simply being able to make the mortgage payments or buying shoes, glasses and braces for the kids. Now it’s more about musical instruments or traveling or doing fun stuff with my grandkids, and I’ll happily eat beans and kale in order to enjoy those things.

A Pictoral: How I Spent My Summer Staycation

 Yesterday I wrote about what we can do to contribute to making our towns and cities a better place to live. Today is completely different;  I wanted to share with  you what I’ve been doing to contribute to making my own life and family a better place to live. I’ve been staying close to home this summer, trying to be on hand as a gopher caregiver to my husband while he’s going through his cancer treatments. Normally, our summers are filled with camping, gardening, hiking, and playing with the band…


But this summer, we only got in a quick trip to Florida back in May…


And an even quicker trip to Ohio to visit my ‘grandbabies’…


before he was diagnosed with the Big C. So while Michael goes through the healing process, I’ve been growing and preserving the very best food  I can to help him win this fight, because I’m a firm believer in the adage…


I’ve been whipping up some ‘Farmaceuticals’ for him to eat once he can enjoy food again. Like many of our modern medicines, all of mine come from the Earth. In my kitchen farmacy, I transformed  just-picked zucchini…


into salted, dried chips…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

that are great for munching on right out of the jar


Cabbage was fermented from this form…


To this chow chow


My heirloom Hopi Orange Lima beans started out small…

bean tower 2


Then after the pods were dry…


I waited until a friend came over 😉  and while chatting over a cup of tea, I casually set the bowls of beans on the table, and they got shelled out in no time flat! Then the beans were stored in jars until they’re cooked this winter. The fresh beans aren’t nearly as pretty as these dried ones, but they both taste awesome with some of that chow chow on them!


Recently a friend uttered those three special words we all love to hear: LOCAL, ORGANIC, and FREE. So I picked her concord grapes, and loved transforming them from this…

grapes basket

To these Christmas gifts jars of jelly. Thank you Sara.


This month, as the tomatoes have ripened, they’ve gone from the vine right into the jars and will be used in the months ahead as the basis for many pots of soup, pasta sauces, chilis and casseroles. The 50 jars I’ve canned this summer should last a year…IF I only use one jar a week!


Luckily, onions, potatoes, garlic and winter squashes just needed to be stored away in a dark, dry, rodent- proof place…



Drying some of the garlic allows me to keep it year round though…


Old fashioned, plain green beans are Michael’s favorite and recent research shows they can be effective against cancer:


In addition to all this canning, the freezer’s full of berries, chopped peppers, edamame, peas and pesto, with apples and pecans coming in next month. My young daughter once asked:


How did you spend YOUR summer staycation?

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