Sunday, February 22, 2015

Daily Doin's, Third Week of February

This is Sunday morning, it's snowing today.  Not heavily, and I don't think we'll get much accumulation.  I'm not complaining.  But I don't like snow.  Go out and make your snowmen and snow angels and what have you, if that's your thing.  I'll be in the kitchen making applesauce cake.

Snow makes me want to bake.

I made three because it just kinda worked out that way.  I was only going to double the recipe, but then about middle of the project I realized I had just enough shortening and applesauce in the containers for a third and enough of all the other ingredients to carry it off.  What's the point of refreezing a cup of applesauce and leaving 1/2 cup of shortening in the container, I ask you, when you're in the middle of the project anyhoo? 

The recipe is in a post I did almost a year ago, if you want it, it's HERE.

That got me digging around in the freezer, because you know I had to find the applesauce, and I found a bunch of other things that gave me ideas for meals in the days ahead.  I've got some steak out for supper tonight.  Then there are some containers of turkey broth and a bag of deboned turkey from when I "rotisseried" in my electric roaster around Christmas-time.  I've been kind of hungry for chicken and dumplings, so that will be another meal.  Then I also found half a meat sauce recipe for spaghetti, and we haven't have that in awhile.  So there will be three meals made and countless containers removed from the freezer.   The making of the applesauce bread emptied two containers of that applesauce I made from Leroy and Sherry's green apples, before I caught on to the idea of making juice out of them.  And yeah, Hubs has really been enjoying that apple juice and just about has it all used up.  We'll have to go buy orange juice before much longer. 

I was watching some program on TV that was explaining about orange juice and all the forms it's sold in, and it was quite interesting.  It seems they process the juice and store it away for months and months and when you buy "fresh frozen" or "fresh squeezed" juice, that just means that it was "fresh" when it was first "frozen" or "squeezed".  Most of the bottled orange juice you get is not 100% juice.  It contains added water, sugar, and artificial flavorings.  Usually it's made from their stock of frozen concentrate.  You come closer to getting real juice if you buy the frozen concentrate and mix it with water yourself.  Anything closer than that, you have to buy oranges and juice them yourself.  And that lower calorie juice?  Just has more water and artificial stuff in it.

Most kids and lots of adults are crazy about Sunny Delight and here's somebody's rendition of how you can make a clone of it yourself.  I've had Sunny Delight and it kind of reminds me of Tang.  Do they still make that?  I haven't this recipe, it's been in my "Recipes To Try" folder for such a long time I don't even know where I found it.  It figures that it's got a whole cup of corn syrup in it.  Seems like kids don't like anything unless it's full of sugar / corn syrup.  If I ever make it I might leave out the corn syrup entirely.  And I might leave out the Kool-Aid, too, I don't know. 

Homemade Sunny Delight
6 C. Water
1 C. corn syrup
1 1/3 C frozen orange tangerine juice concentrate
6 Tbsp. frozen concentrated apple juice
2 Tbsp frozen limeade concentrate
4 tsp. frozen grapefruit juice concentrate
1 tsp. Kool-Aid lemonade unsweetened powder

And of course if you're fond of Jell-O, you know you can make it a lot cheaper by using Kool-Aid powder, sugar, and unflavored gelatin, right?  Yeah, I know it's sugar and artificial flavorings, but that's what's in Jell-O too.  At least you could sub in some real juice instead of the water and sugar if you wanted to.   I think the measurements are 2 Tbsp of unflavored gelatin (bought in bulk, it's really cheap), mixed with 1 c. sugar.  Pour in two cups boiling water while stirring.  Stir till dissolved, then add two cups cold water.   Or if you make it with juice, mix the gelatin in about 2 Tbsp of sugar, add a cup of boiling water, stir till sugar and gelatin are melted in, then add three cups of cold juice.  You mix the sugar with the gelatin so it won't blob up when the hot water hits it.  Otherwise you'll have to soak it in a little cool water first and I've never had very good results with that.

Another thing I found while digging in the freezer was those containers of cucumber juice I froze last summer.  I had a little hiatus between May and November last year due to computer issues, and so I guess I didn't post about the great crop of cucumbers I had.  I must've planted 20 seed or so, in a circle of about two feet across, planning to fasten down a big tomato cage and letting the plants climb all over that.  The seeds germinated well and the plants were eventually grown past the top of the tomato cage and cascading down onto the ground.  I had enough fruit from the vine to satisfy my needs.  I ate them dipped in ranch dressing, and in green salads.  I made several batches of Bread and Butter Pickles and of Sweet Pickles, and some relish, which was called Fish Fry Relish.  I've been sharing the jars of Bread and Butters with Joe and Cathy across the road, as I know how they love them.  Once I'd made all the pickles I wanted to, I then started giving big bags of cucumbers to any of my neighbors who would take some, till they told me they'd had all they could use.  So then I had cucumbers still coming on that I really had no use for. 

I found a site that suggested juicing them, and I did that and found that the juice tasted like watermelon.  And then I began to wonder how the juice would freeze.  I don't have a juicer, so I just chopped the cucumbers finely in the food processor, poured it into a wire mesh colander, put the solids in the compost and packed the juice in pint containers in the freezer.    

Recently I thawed out a pint of the juice and drank it.  I don't remember if I peeled the cucumbers first, but I think I might not have, because there were some dark green solids on the bottom.  First taste was without stirring, and it was still watermeloney and I felt like it was a nice morning juice drink.  But after stirring, it was bitter.  So if you grow a lot of cucumbers and decide to save them for winter in the form of frozen juice, do discard the peel beforehand.  It would be good mixed with other juices and I just have a feeling that cucumber juice and also watermelon juice are the "vegetable juices" in those fruit-flavored juices that V-8 is marketing now.   In fact, HERE is a "cooler" recipe on AllRecipes that includes cucumber.  HERE is one that is cucumber and lime.  I'm thinking next time, instead of throwing the solids in the compost, I might use the solids for this cucumber salad instead of the sliced cucumber it calls for, make it kind of a "relish" consistency, eat it fresh as a salad, or as a salad dressing on greens or for Danish Potato Salad. 
Cukes & Onions in Sour Cream

1/2 C. sour cream
1/2 C. mayonnaise
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. garlic and fresh dill weed, or to taste
1/2 tsp. celery seed, salt and pepper, or to taste
1 sweet red or white onion, sliced, separated into rings
1 large cucumber, peeled and thickly sliced

Mix all ingredients together and chill in refrigerator.

Or maybe the solids would be fine for making relish with, since the recipe always calls for salting and draining the bejeezers out of the pulp, anyway.....

The variety of cucumber that I grow is called "Burpless Muncher" or "WI-5207".  If it doesn't get pollinated it'll still make cukes.  They just won't have filled-out seed inside.  To save seed you have to just stay alert for one that has nice plump seeds and sometimes once they are dry they look pretty flat and aren't any good.  I have tried lots of other varieties, including "Homemade Pickles", "Snow's Pickling Cucumber" and a strange, hedgehog-shaped "Gherkin" pickle, but Muncher is my cucumber of choice, both for pickling and munching.
These are quart jars.

And now, also for juicing.

I have also been enjoying little harvests from the plants I have growing under the lights in the garage.  The garage is not heated but it's attached to the house and so it doesn't get down to freezing in there.  It's a good place to keep the extra plant light and the cool-weather things have been growing out there just fine.

This is a half-gallon jar.

I checked on my spinach and kale that I planted out in the garden before the last cold spell, and they are still alive.  If they don't make it I have more plants that I can put in their place.  

Hubs and I had a busy day yesterday.  We worked on the fireplace a little bit.  Then about noon our grandson JR, not the one that lived with us for so long (that was JC), but the one that is married and has our little GGD, offered to come over and help us put down our flooring.  JR learns quickly and before we knew it he was the one making the trek out to the workshop to cut the pieces we needed for the ends.  That shifted our tasks a little, and enabled me to unpack the flooring, trim the ends and lay it out.  It was all I could do to keep a little ahead of them. We are now about four rows from being done.  We had to stop because Hubs got tired and started making mistakes and I was tired too.  Otherwise JR would've probably stayed till the job was done.  He said he was tired, too, though.  It was so nice to have help.  JR is a good worker and I'm so very proud of the man he has become.   He turned 24 last November, Our Little Thanksgiving Turkey, born on Thanksgiving Day.

This morning we had bacon and eggs, using some of the bacon we got on sale at the grocery a few weeks back.  Here's how I store my bacon:
I remember when bacon didn't go bad in the refrigerator for a long time.  Now it doesn't take any time at all.  So when I open the package, I make these little bundles and freeze them.  Then it's easy to take out whatever you need, whenever you want to.

We are having a little bit of one of God's miracles and I have hesitated to say anything because I wasn't sure it was going to last.  We've been down this road so many times before.  But Hubs has been using his vapor cigarette and hasn't had a real cigarette since December 14.  He says he still misses a smoke sometimes, but he feels better and that is kind of obvious to me.  We know there are harmful things in that vapor, but there are twice as many in a regular cigarette.  An added advantage is that if he just wants a few puffs, he can have just what he wants without anything being wasted.  There's no mess, no stink, and it costs less.  He made this decision all on his own after trying the vapor cigarette and rejecting it at first.  I didn't even know he wasn't smoking anymore till I noticed he wasn't going in and out the patio door.  He says it's really nice to be able to see his TV show all the way through, and nice not to have to go outside to smoke.  He tells me he intends to get to the point where he doesn't use the vapor cigarette, either.  So keep Hubs in your prayers.  I'm grateful for his progress, and I'm grateful for Paula and how she answered all our questions and helped us to feel like this might be a safer option for him.  I think JR has quit smoking, too.  He told me he was trying and he didn't go out to smoke all the time that he was here yesterday.  It's so bad for him and bad for his little girl to be around.

This gets you updated on what we have been doing the last few days.  We always get sick of being cold along about this time of year, but considering what some people are having to put up with, it seems rude, crude and obscene to complain about our weather.   Spring will be here soon....

Rock on...  xoxoxo

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Go To Town Day

We live amongst people who drive into town for just a few things but we are not like that.  We do pick up a few things if we need them right away, on the way home from the fitness center.  Things like milk, and the store bread that Hubs thinks he has to have, maybe a few sale items if we aren't planning a shopping expedition soon.  But otherwise, I make a list, and we try to get it all done in one day.

This Friday, for example, we skipped the fitness center altogether, because we felt like we were going to get a workout getting in and out of the truck and walking around in the stores.  For sure Hubs would get equal time because all he does at the fitness center is walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes and then on the stationary bike for 20 minutes.  He might use some of the weight machines but I've only seen him do that once.  The rest of the time, he sits in the break room with all the other old dudes and they drink coffee and harass each other.  And any unsuspecting woman who wanders through there.  I do the bike for 20 minutes and then I go around and use most of the weight machines.  The abduction/ adduction machine is one I skip because I can't get INTO the dang thing.  And there are a couple that seem to duplicate what some of the others do, so I skip those.  But all in all, I probably use about 15 of the machines.  Hubs wanted to start laying the floor in the living room and I needed to do some scraping on the last half of the floor and then lay the moisture/vapor barrier so I figured a workout would just be too much for me, on top of everything else.

The first place we went was out to Tractor Supply.  We'd stopped at Atwood's last Wednesday and I wasn't impressed with what they had in stock so far.  Atwood's marks down their packets of seed in early spring and mostly I go for that.  But they didn't even have their seed out yet.  Tractor Supply is a new farm and ranch store and they are cleaner, better organized, the merchandise is better, and their prices are no higher than Atwood's.  While there I found a Ponderosa Pine, a Calycanthus (Sweet Shrub) (lots of info on Dave's Plant Files HERE) and a Brandywine raspberry for $4.99 each.  They had 5# bags of seed potatoes for $5 each, a package of three Victoria Rhubarb plants for $3.99, plus I got a little packet of pea and been inoculant and a seeder for small seed, both for around a dollar each. 
Oooops, I had the Spanish side turned to the camera.  I know you can figure it out, though.  There's actually a growing tip on the raspberry plant that I'm thinking about propagating into a new plant.  Two for the price of one, maybe.  This plant has already broken dormancy so I will have to pot it up and keep it in the garage where it's cool. 

I kinda hated that I couldn't choose from out of a bin, but the potatoes are still in better shape than those you can get at Atwood's, and they are already starting to sprout in the bag.  I will take them out of their bags and spread them out on trays.  They can go out to the garage, too, to slow down the sprouting process.  Sometimes I will just plant the potatoes that I've bought for cooking, if they have started to sprout.  But this last time, Homeland sold the Navaho Pride brand from Farmington, NM, and they just are not very good potatoes.  Too dry.  It's been a real challenge to use them up.  So I won't be wasting my garden space on those.

I have bought rhubarb roots before at Atwood's, gotten the package home, and not found much in the package except for sawdust.  This time I felt around in each package and I think I got a good one.  I planted them a few hours later in the front of the asparagus bed.  I think they'll be good companions.

Then we drove to nearby Ochelata, (Oash-sha-LAY-tuh), where they were having an estate sale.  Got there just in time to see a man loading up two big iron cauldrons that he only paid $10 each for.  "OH! Ethel!  This is the BIG one!"  I told him if I'd gotten there before him, they would've gone home with me.  And that's the truth.  I didn't find much I could use.  There were some big area rugs in really good shape but none of them would've gone well with my decor.
I'll use the big stainless steel pan in the garden for something.  It's about 6" deep.  It was a dollar.  The gold tablecloth, I will use to reflect light at my lighted plant racks.  It was fifty cents.  I already have one just like it... somewhere.  I will make an effort to locate it and then I'll have a "reflector" for both.  Some people have recommended aluminum foil but it's hard to work with and then it's not reusable unless you're verrrrrry careful with it.  And there's some florist's foam that I paid fifty cents for.  I plan to use it in propagating things.  Carole tells me she roots geranium and violet cuttings by letting the cut side dry for a day and then putting it into a little piece of florist's foam that she's soaked in water.  I have a lot of trouble rooting certain things.  They tend to rot in water.  So if it's the wrong time of year to propagate under a jar, this gives me another option.  I certainly have plenty of florist's foam to experiment with now.  
I bought this old one-drawer filing cabinet because I thought it'd make a nice planter.  It and three quart glass canning jars and a pitchfork head were $5.  Auctioneers call that "all for one money".  Heh.

This was out on the trash heap and they just gave it to me.  I have a table that has a bad top, and this table here has no legs.  A match made in heaven, sorta.  I know the top looks a little rough, but the wood will clean up nice.   

Then we came back into Bartlesville, stopped at Aldi's and bought fruit.  Aldi's almost always has the best prices for produce of any of the other stores.  I think it's because they don't use refrigerated cases for them, and it doesn't seem to be needed.  This time blueberries were $1.39 a pint.  Bananas and oranges, I don't remember how much, but reasonable.  I got some unflavored Greek yogurt for me and some butter because we were about out.  I think that's about all.  Strawberry prices are not yet where I want them to be and it's a little early yet for them.  They just put them out for $1.99 a pound because all those Valentine's Day revelers will be dipping them in chocolate and feeding them to each other.  It's alllllllll about the dollar, remember......  But the blueberry price was good, I'm letting them drain from a rinse-off and they'll go in my freezer.

We stopped next at Food Pyramid for a few good deals.  I hate when they put limits on their deals.  Sometimes it's a limit of how many you can buy.  Sometimes you have to have a $20 purchase.  And you have to make sure that you comply or you end up paying more than you think you are, because the clerks don't point it out when you've not qualified for the sale price.  It's all computerized now and the register just rings it up.  They had bacon and eggs for a good price, but limited to one of each, and the bacon was only 12 ounces.  We found a different brand that had two one-pound packages wrapped together and it turned out to be about the same price per ounce as the sale-priced brand.  For the eggs, I just let Hubs go through the line with all our groceries and I paid for an extra dozen eggs at a different register.  That works well when one is not enough but two will do.  They had toilet paper and paper towels, with a coupon and limit 4 total, but that was enough.  Then boneless whole pork tenderloin at $1.99 a pound.  We have it sliced and use it in lots of ways, sometimes fried instead of pork chops, sometimes cubed and in dishes such as sweet-and-sour pork, and sometimes ground and in meatloaf half and half with beef or instead of sausage.  We are eating less beef now since it's so dang high.  The price of beef will go down when people find substitutes for it.  You know, people in the southern states of the US hardly ever ate beef until just recently.  It was pork, chicken and seafood.  Of course they're feeling the burn with seafood prices now.  Sheesh.  Hubs likes those frozen pot-pie sized fruit pies and they were 79 cents, so he bought several.  Yes, I could bake pie for him and sometimes I do, but at the price of store fruit and not having much fruit in the freezer, this is another option.  An 8" pie is now $7.99.  I think two, or maybe three, of these pot-pie sized pies equal an 8" pie and so at less than a dollar each that is a good deal.  Canned pie filling costs more than that.  Hubs can have his pie and ice cream now and I can have my Greek yogurt.  I don't use paper towels much but they do come in handy for wiping out greasy skillets and such, then they go into the trash that we burn.

From there we went to Downtown Bartlesville where the furniture store is, and I ordered my furniture for the living room.  I tried to strike a better deal with the shop owner and she just wouldn't budge on the price, even though the furniture store out on the highway had a LaZBoy sectional for $500 less.  She pointed out what I already knew and that was that FlexSteel is a better product and that LaZBoy's quality has gone downhill in the last few years.  Then I tried to use my credit card so I could at least get a healthy Cashback Bonus, and she announced she didn't take credit cards.  I didn't even bother to offer to give her a plug on my blog because I didn't think she'd go for that.  She told me she never had sales because then you have to mark up things when you're not having a sale, and yeah, I understand how that is.  But she was nice enough about it.  She knows she's got a good product and said if I wanted something less well made, she would be glad to sell me that for less than the FlexSteel costs.  But no, I want durability, and I want it to look good for as long as we are living in our own home.  I told her that I didn't want the dang throw pillows that seems like are included with every sofa you purchase, but she even called the factory and they said it's all computerized and the pillows come with sofas whether the customer wants them or not.  So I opted to have them made of the same fabric as the upholstery and I'll take them apart and make arm covers, which don't come with new furniture now.  Frankly, I find those a lot more useful than throw pillows, which wind up on the floor anyway.  She said lots of her customers say they don't want the throw pillows.  On the up-side, though, she gave me the phone number of an upholstery guy who might be able to sell me a new foam cushion insert for my big easy chair that needs one.  I looked on Amazon and I can get one for $16 but the shipping is $13.
After that, we headed back for the highway, which would eventually take us home, and stopped at Walmart.  Hubs is out of pickle slices and they have 2-quart jars that are priced about the same as jars that are less than one quart, other places.  I wanted to look at their blenders as I've been looking at one on Amazon that's priced at $45.  That's HERE.  I did not find the exact model on the Walmart shelves, but I found the same manufacturer, the same motor size, the same glass pitcher, the same blending mechanism.

And it was $25.

The reason I wanted Oster is that their blending mechanism is all metal.  And also because the base will fit on a regular canning jar.

This comes in really handy when you want to pulverize herbs or blend something that you're going to end up storing in a jar, anyway.   I originally was going to get one of those "Bullet" personal blenders but Amazon's reviewers were not too happy with them.  It seems they work well as long as they work, which doesn't seem to be for very long.  Then people started saying, "Oh, just get an Oster and you can use canning jars!"  You can even buy little plastic jars made by Oster for the same purpose.  And you can buy an attachment that's a mini-food-processor if you want.

I also looked in their Garden Center because last year I missed their scented geraniums and I thought I saw a Rober's Lemon Rose.  That is my favorite rose-scented variety.  It smells like real roses.  They didn't have those in yet, but they had onion sets.  So I got enough of those for the garden.  I think the sets have a better chance of surviving till it's time to be planted out than the little plants do that come in bundles.
I also found a simple watering wand, which I needed.  They have "fancied up" this garden tool so that it's hard to find one that has a sprinkler head that will screw off the wand.  We water out of the cistern and lots of times there are little pieces of debris -- leaf pieces and such -- that will clog things up in pretty short order.  I like the extra length so that I can get right down around the base of the plants when I water without having to bend over, and lots of times I use the wand without the sprinkler head on at all.  This one has a brass lever on the end that screws onto the hose, that shuts the water off.  You can buy those separately but don't buy the plastic ones.  They break right away.  They are handy for when you are a long distance away from your water source and need to go from one garden bed to another.  I used to carry a bucket and put the hose in it when I was moving around.  You'd be amazed at how much water will be in that bucket, shows you how much you waste. 

Then we headed for home after being out for four hours.  It was lunchtime.  But we had one of Wal-Mart's rotisserie chickens and there was potato salad in the refrigerator at home.  

I know that some of my readers may think I'm buying things for the garden 'way too soon, but if I waited for a month to buy, they could even be the exact same packages I brought home today.  The only difference is that this way I am in control of what happens to them from this day forward.  I can get some into the ground before they break dormancy.  Other things I can put into pots and keep them in the unheated garage till it's time for them to go into the ground.  If the rest of the public didn't get in such a gol-dang hurry to plant things, I wouldn't have to do this.  As it is, the local stores all want that first flush of money that flows out of the hands of over-anxious gardeners.  It's all about the dollar.  These gardeners buy twice what they need because they know half of it will die from being exposed to winter too soon.  And for many things, they'll have to come back and buy more because they'll get that late freeze that they ought to know is going to come, nine years out of ten.  Then people like me come along, at the right time to plant things, and all that's left is shriveled up stuff that's been laying on the shelf in a too-warm, too-dry environment for a couple of months.  Sheeeeeesh.

When I went out to the asparagus bed to plant the rhubarb, I ran into my resident jack-rabbit.  I've been unable to get this critter OUT of my garden.  It's very similar to the little one I had trapped in there early last summer, which had come in through the chicken wire when small and then grew too big to get back out.  The one this time probably got in the night I forgot and left the garden gate open.  We had quite a little chase after I opened both gates today, and FINALLY it found the west gate.  Hesitated there, looking in all directions, I was maybe 20 feet away, waving my arms like an idiot, and trying to move side to side so it might go straight out the gate instead of veering right or left, as it has so many times before.  This time it went out and I am so relieved to have that rabbit OUT of the garden.  The hawks have been hunting out in the nearby fields.  We can see that they are finding something, we just can't see what it is exactly.  Whatever it is, it will be one less critter trying to get into my garden.  We still have three deer roaming around.  When we saw a deer carcass along the road near our turn-off, I hoped it would've been one of them.  No such luck.  I'm starting to worry a little about my fruit trees in the yard and future harvests from them.  I wonder if maybe I ought to talk to someone about getting a taller fence.   Our yard fence is only 4' tall.  The garden fence is 6'. 

Today looks like it's going to be warm enough for Hubs to be able to bring the saw to the patio and so we will go ahead with his plans to lay some of the floor.  This means I'd better get crackin' as I didn't have time (or energy) to get it prepared on Friday.  Y'all have a good weekend, and till next time,   ......... Rock On.  Hugs xoxoxo

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Daily Doin's, First Week Of February

Here I am with another "mixed bag" of stuff to talk about this time.  My back is acting up so I did not get out and do much during the nice warm spell we had.  It hacks me off.  But it's my own fault.  I've started going to the workout center with Hubs, and I've been using the weight machines.  Then I come home and pull up carpet or scrape on the glue on the floor or whatever.  Or I go out to the garden and do something.  I think what did it was that we planned to go to the dump to get rid of our old carpet and pad, and I wanted to get rid of all those old industrial rubber-backed carpet tiles we had from the new floors in the bottom level and that included some that we took up in the kitchen.  I got the bright idea to use them in the walkways in the garden and then after I had them all down I read that rubber, as it disintegrates, puts some pretty nasty stuff into your soil.  You know, as I think about it, I'm not sure even cardboard is all that safe.  After we all use it in our gardens for twenty years or so, then they'll come out and tell us they use arsenic to make it or something.  I know that anything that's in the soil ends up in your garden stuff and therefore in your digestive system so I decided I'd better take those carpet tiles up.  My back started aching about halfway through and I ignored it because I wanted to get it all stacked where Hubs could load it up.  I should know better than to ignore it when my back starts talking to me.  It knows how to scream.  I spent my days just dinking around and doing what I could carefully do, and it's getting better.  It never entirely goes away.  I have learned to live with it.

By the way, I ought to mention that I talked Paula out of laying down old carpet in her garden because it seems the woven part underneath never disintegrates, but the top surface of the carpet does.  Consequently you have strings embedded into the ground wherever you have it and if you ever have to till there, you'll get those strings all wrapped around in your tiller.  I've used carpet in the garden walkways before and I know from experience that the Bermuda grass will grow right up through it.  I took mine up before it got any further than that, but it was muddy and nasty and a lot dirtier job than it had been to take up off the floor.  Not doing that again.  I have started to wonder if all those schools and municipalities that are spreading shredded tire material on playgrounds are going to end up in trouble with the EPA someday.  You know how it works, we are allowed to do something or use something for twenty years or more before The Powers That Be find out it's harmful in some way.  I can't see how it could hurt to use wood chips on a playground.  It would certainly keep wood chips out of the dump.  In my childhood we played on dirt and grass.  What's wrong with simple dirt and grass?  Oh, I guess none of those people who cut the grass want to dodge the swings.

Hubs loaded up everything in the back of the truck Tuesday and I rode with him to the dump.  I'd never been to The Osage Landfill before.  The first thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was that it no longer costs $16 no matter what you have.  It's $36 minimum and if you look like you have more than the minimum, they weigh you.  I was flabbergasted.  The people ahead of us got weighed.  They had bricks in their truckbed.  We weren't weighed, but were charged "the minimum", which I thought was kinda maximum.  I'll tell you how old I am.  I can remember when going to the dump was free.  And you could actually get out of your vehicle and look around, pick up and take away anything you found you could use.  My little Grammy, Susie Peabody Britt, would go to the dump JUST to find things.  I might've found some other ways to get rid of that stuff had I known the price had gone up so.  One time I got rid of a lot of old tile by advertising it on FreeCycle or on Craig's List.  Although Craig's List is getting kind of scarey these days.  I've been debating on whether to have a garage sale to get rid of the rest of the stuff I have that I don't want, and I could've probably given that carpet and pad to someone, same for the carpet tiles.  All it takes is a sign that says "FREE" and stuff walks off your driveway practically on it's own.  I'll do that next time.  We can get trash pickup here, but it was $25 a month last time I checked and usually we don't have that much trash.  We burn anything that's paper and that cuts back on the volume immensely.  So also does the fact that I use all our newspapers as a weed barrier under mulch in the flower beds.  I wash and save cans and use them in all sorts of ways.  I reuse plastic tubs either in the garden or for food storage in the freezer.  Our neighbor Joe keeps a dumpster outside of his place of business and gave us a key for that, and we might put a bag or two in there about once a month.  More often if I've been sorting through stuff.  The secret to not having much trash is in not bringing it home from the grocery store.  Or wherever.

Did you know that if you have a Homeland Grocery Store "savings card", you can get gas cheaper at certain service stations?  Hubs saved 17 cents a gallon on gas today at Casey's gas station by presenting his Homeland card with his credit card.  We didn't know a thing about this till someone at the workout center told Hubs about it.  This is a pretty good deal since Casey's listed price for gas is competitive with other service stations.  Hubs likes to go there because they aren't selling the "blended gas".  He thinks that stuff damages your vehicle.  If you have a Homeland store where you are, ask them if this is something that's available in your area.  In fact, any grocery store that has a card that you have to sign up for (it's free), in order to get their specials might have something like this.  Doesn't hurt to ask.  These savings cards are a way for their Marketing people to see what people buy, and I assume there are studies done on the data, such as how many people just come for the specials or whether most people also buy other things when they buy the specials, and so on.  Those marketers are always snooping into our spending habits and trying to figure out what's the best way to trick us into spending more than we want to or less than we think we are getting.  But the thing about trickery is that sometimes you can make it work FOR you instead of against you.  Just try to be smart about it, is what I'm saying.

I planted the Red Russian Kale out in the garden and some of the Bloomsdale Spinach in the herb garden on Sunday.  Even though we haven't had much rain lately, the soil is still moist and it has become so soft and loose that it was a joy to dig in.  I credit all those wood chips and leaves for that, partially, and the other part is the population of earthworms that has increased since we stopped tilling and since I started burying the contents of my compost bucket instead of throwing it in the compost bins, which draws the rats.  Because of the rabbit that I saw in the garden last Friday, and since they're in the back yard so much, I put the "rabbit guards" over the new transplants.  The rats will just go through the spaces in the wire.  I guess I should've had Hubs use hardware cloth instead when he made them for me.  So far, so good, though.  And now with this cold weather coming back, I've covered them with vinegar bottles. 

There is evidence of the presence of a rat in the drawers of the workbench in the garage.  I don't keep  anything edible out there, and normally we don't have a problem unless one of us leaves the garage door open.  So now I have to dump out the drawers that contain my canning tools and sanitize everything with bleach before I can gear up for canning.  Yuk.  I don't think the rat is still in the garage, as I left my bag of birdseed on the floor and there are no holes eaten out of the corners of the bag.  So the rat may have run out when we had the door open to the driveway, or maybe it was that dried-up rat "shell" I swept out a couple of weeks ago.  I hate rats, they are so dirty.  They have no bladder control and so they pee a little with every step they take.  {{{shiver}}}  So, much as I dislike using D-Con, that is one place where I keep a little bag of it in a plastic coffee tub lid on the floor, just in case.  Usually that is the only thing that would be edible that I leave in the garage.  I have since packed that birdseed into several ice-cream tubs and put them in the pantry.  We have baited the trap out in the garden a few times in the last 30 days and we haven't caught anything except for an occasional scared-spitless bird.  Maybe we are on top of the rat population for now.  That will change as soon as the ranchers around us start doing their 'controlled burns'.

I caught an episode about propagating plants on Growing A Greener World a couple of weekends ago.  This show comes on our educational station on Saturday mornings around 11am.   It's possible to go to their website and watch the program in its entirety but I have trouble with it buffering.  Either my provider doesn't have enough gig or my computer doesn't, I don't know which.  It's HERE if you want to try.  But anyway, I learned a couple of things about the process that I hadn't known before.  One thing was that the young woman being interviewed said you need to "nick" the bark of the cutting a little, and that makes a sort of a healing process start, which encourages root growth.  It also helps the cutting to absorb more of your rooting hormone.  She also explained that, in order for a cutting to live through the period during which it has no roots, it needs to be kept at the same humidity that it was before it was removed from the mother plant.  In her case she kept her cuttings inside and just misted several times a day but it's kind of inconvenient for me to be misting that often.   Those of you who've been coming here for a long time know I use Paula's system of rooting things in a shaded spot outside under a jar but if the weather is warm this just will not work.  The heat builds up in the jar, even if you paint the jar white (and yes, I tried it), and just cooks the little cutting.  Last year, or the year before, I tried sticking the cutting into a pot of soil and then putting a jar over the top and I saw a lot of mold.  So this time I thought I'd try one of the vinegar bottles I'd been cutting apart, planning to use the tops as cloches out in the garden and the bottoms as flowerpot drip trays.  This is some kind of little vine I found in a bag of leaves.   

I'm having the same problems with my some of my seedlings this spring as I had last spring, though not as widespread.

I've thought about it and done some looking around on the Internet and I think it's a form of damping off, resulting from keeping the peat pellets too wet.  As you can see, there's some kind of green stuff growing on the mesh stocking that holds the pellet together.  One of these looks like it might go ahead and develop some leaves, even though the cotyldons are gone, so I transplanted it into a cup.  I always peel that stocking off the pellet, even though you're not supposed to have to, and even if it's not gross like some of them get.  Getting the moisture just right with a peat pellet seems to be a challenge for me.  When peat dries out, it gets dry as a bone and then it wants to float on the water rather than soak it up.  So I've been making sure things don't dry out and I've probably taken that a little too far.  Last year I thought it was over-fertilization and maybe it's that this year, too, as I've been using Miracle-Grow in the dropper bottle, diluted in the water.  But it says on the package that it won't burn plants.  Oh, and don't re-use the pellets that have not developed anything.  That's just asking for trouble.  When I've finally given up on germination, I peel off the stocking and crumble the peat pellet into the next potting soil mix to go into the oven.  I tried baking the pellets for reuse, and I wasn't very happy with how that turned out.  Tried wetting down with peroxide and that wasn't satisfactory, either.  I think I have one more year's worth of new peat pellets and then I will not buy any more. 

I'm having situations where the seed just is not germinating at all.  Most of my kale varieties germinated great and have really thrived.  But the Blue kale has so far given me only one seedling.  And I've planted it twice now.  *Sigh*. On the up-side, the red cheese pepper seed that I planted 23 days ago is finally germinating, and the seedlings look good. 

Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug.

A link to a podcast done by Margaret Roach and her interviewee Mya Thompson about The Dawn Chorus HERE .  I was reminded of the Cornell Lab ornithology site by Lorraine on one of her blogposts.  I like how Mya describes some of the bird calls.  For instance, she says the Black-Capped Chickadee says "Hey Sweetie".  Heh.  And she mentions that the sounds of the birds that you hear will often remind you of your childhood.  I can agree with that.  The robin's song takes me back to the old farmhouse near Leanna, KS (on the line between Allen and Neosho counties, between Chanute and Humboldt), where we lived until I was seven years old.

Well, this is about all I can come up with this time, and I'm sorry if it's not all that interesting.  Not much going on right now.  Till next time.....   Rock on.  xoxoxoxo

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Guess What We're Doing?

On Monday we started saying goodbye to 2002.

It's going to be a big job because it involves the fireplace.
Here is the "before" picture.  I have always thought those "ears" on both sides of the fireplace were heavy and clunky, and I wanted to knock them down.  But Hubs says that's not possible without running the danger of doing so much damage that we'd have to call in a pro to fix it.  And we're talking $$$$ then.  I want to use those $$$$ on a new sectional for this room, not on a bricklayer.  Another problem with this fireplace is that it's so dark, it just kind of disappears into the shadows unless we have all the lights on, which is almost never.  And those cabinets tucked into the corner are still the same color they were when we moved in, which was what color the walls were, too.  I have another use for that wall that runs up to this one and it won't work if those cabinets are there. Shhhh!  Don't tell Hubs!  I'm working up to it gradually.  If I show him the big picture he gets overwhelmed and balks.

This is not a project we're going to have finished quickly.  We have to work a few hours of work into every day because we get tired and then we get frustrated and then our workmanship goes to hell.  So I don't expect I'll be able to show you the finished project very soon.  Today, in fact, we'll probably not work on it at all.  We have the fitness center to go to today and then there are seedlings that need to be worked on.

You know how I love a good mystery.  So I won't tell you exactly what I have planned, except to say that we've not done anything to this room to make it look better since we moved in except to paint over the Hershey Dark Chocolate color that was on all four walls.  That was horrible.  It made me feel like I was in a cave.  I didn't like the color I chose, it didn't look nearly as pretty as I thought it would be, after it was on all four walls, but at least it made it less dark in there and that was an improvement.  So you're going to get to come along with me as we try to improve the looks of this room.  It'll be more work than my upstairs bedroom was (posted on 1/21/13, with before pics a little earlier), but it won't be as much work as the kitchen redo was, which was posted on a previous blog and lost when I closed it because of poor planning on my part.  Here's a couple of pictures of that just to refresh your memory.  These first two are the "before", with the previous owners' appliances, furniture, and decorative accents in it. 

Believe me, they had to throw a lot of light in there to make these pictures look even as good as they do.  Note the ugly carpet and the cabinet that doesn't have any drawers.  Oh, and the ugly pony wall.

Here's what this room looked like when we were nearly finished, I can't seem to find pictures I thought I took after the skillet rack was put up in the place of that rack that the aprons are hanging on:

This and the next are better pictures, lighting-wise, but were taken before we took the pony wall out and replaced the carpet with wood-grain laminate.  You can see the new floor in the first pic, though.
Here's one taken when we started working on the doorway after the pony wall was removed.  We did a lot of big things and a lot of detailed things, it was a big job and seemed like it was forever before we got the whole thing done.  Some tasks overlapped, and we discovered some things that had to be dealt with before we could resume, any of you that have worked on projects like this know what I mean. We took a little break after Hubs insisted the way I wanted the doorway done after the pony wall was taken out would not work.  It looked to me to be the simplest way to do it, and in the end, it was. 

I'd take up-to-date pictures today, but unfortunately we're all cluttered with the contents of the living room now. This is how far we've gotten on the living room project as of today.

Notice at the top of the fireplace, where the bricks stop about eight inches before it reaches the ceiling?  I mean, THAT was quite a shock.  We can't figure out why it's that way, unless maybe before this house caught fire (lightning) and was rebuilt, that's how high the ceilings were.  Our neighbor and good friend, Joe, knows someone who has about a thousand bricks that are pretty close to this color, and he called him and was told since we only need twenty-three, we can just go pick some out for free.

We also went out to window-shop at a couple of local furniture stores.  I'm thinking we need a couple of small sectional sets, and true to my habit of wanting the most expensive thing in the store, I am attracted to this Flexsteel set.  I need to measure but I think the space on the left side of the graph paper can accomodate a 3-cushion one-armed unit, a small corner, and a single cushion one-armed unit.  The set on the bottom of the space on the graph could be a two cushion one-armed unit, a small corner, and a single cushion one-armed unit.  The corner shown in the picture is the wide corner and I only have room for the small corner, which is fine with me.  I even found a gray nubby upholstery fabric that I liked.  The owner of the shop seemed impressed and said I had good taste but you never can tell what they really think.  She did ask my opinion of something they planned to buy for a display unit though.  I'm not trying to win any honors or anything, I just want something that I'm going to love after it gets delivered.  Mind you, I haven't ordered yet.  I need to add up the dimensions and measure so I can see where they will both begin and end for sure.  On the graph, so you can get your bearings, the kitchen is through the doorway at the bottom.  Entry hall is the doorway upper left.  Fireplace is that rectangle on the upper right wall.  Sliding patio doors a little below middle right.  Each square equals 1'. 
Hubs says we'll spend some of our childrens' inheritance. *Giggle*.

We are due for a warming trend starting on Friday and I think I'll get the cabbages transplanted out that day.  I think I mentioned that I have some plastic vinegar jugs saved up that I'm going to cut the bottoms out of and make cloches for stuff like this.  The bottoms of the jugs will make good "water catchers" to set flower pots in.  Seems I never have enough of those.

I'm just loving my big roll-around PVC cart that I bought at a garage sale last year.

It's so much better than the littler carts that I have in that the wheels are bigger, making it easier to navigate, and there's enough space between shelves so if I want to I can just wheel it out into the sunshine and everything on it gets the sun.  I'd buy a couple more in a New York Minute.  Lately I've been thinking how nice it would be if I had a rack that holds fluorescent lights vertically on the sides, facing in, that I could just wheel the cart into.  I'll probably never ask Hubs to build me that because I have to pace myself on my Honey-Do list and there are other things that are more of a priority.

I have to say lately I've been kind of frustrated with people with limited skills in the english language.  I mean, isn't it enough that people on the local NEWS cannot even spell things right on their crawler??  Or use the correct tense?  Woken up is not the correct term.  It's "Awakened".  Or pronunciation: there is no "IT" in REAL-TOR.  There is no "Q" in NU-CLEAR.  And are you as tired of hearing "Utilize" all the time as I am?   I had to call AT&T the other day.  I guess that would be enough said but you know I won't leave it at that.  The only reason I called was because we pay $5 more on our phone bill for a long-distance plan that we never use.  Years ago, I had been forced to have a long-distance plan because they were charging me extra on my bill for NOT having one, even if I didn't make any long-distance calls!  I just wanted to find out if that was still the case.  Well, I got India, and really, my frustration is not so much with the people of India, because a job's a job, you know?  But I am extreeeeeeeeeemly frustrated with American corporations that take American jobs to other countries.  They grew to the conglomerate size that they are because American workers made their product and American consumers bought it.  They owe it to America to keep these jobs in this country.  I think they ought to be taxed, big-time, for taking them elsewhere now that there are so many people in America who need jobs.  But anyway, I got a young woman with a heavy India accent, and three times I told her I was having trouble understanding her and each time she told me she would talk slower and louder.  Well, hell, I don't have a hearing problem.  But the big problem was that she went off on a toot explaining to me about everything that was on my bill and that didn't address my question, which I restated in as many different ways as I could think of in order to help her understand me.  I mean, I must look stupid because it seems like so many people just assume that I am!  Finally I just got frustrated and told her I was sorry, but that I didn't feel like we were getting anywhere and I hung up while she was saying, "But I can help you, I can help you."  I hated to do it and I didn't want to be rude, but I didn't think she was going to be able to help me and it was obvious she wasn't going to say, "Ok, then, have a nice day".  A little bit later I called back and the first thing I told the guy that answered was, "I need to speak to an American."  He informed me he was American, but he had a slight India accent, so I kind of wondered if that was the truth.  However, he seemed to have a better grasp of the language so I decided to forge ahead.  He was able to address my question quickly after I stopped his sales pitch for a "package" in mid-sentence.  Turned out they don't ding people for not having a long-distance plan on their land line anymore and he told me what it would reduce my monthly bill to and it sounded right.  Then he told me there'd be a one-time $10 charge on my bill to make the change.  To that I said, "WHAT????  You're not making me want to keep my land line at all!"  So then he said he'd give me a credit for the same amount because of my being a loyal long-term customer and all.  Well I don't know how loyal I am to AT&T, but ok.  Saving $5 a month on a bill doesn't seem like much, but why should you ever pay anything for something you don't use? 

I also called Dish that day.   We had gotten a thing in the mail that showed the different packages and what they cost.  They have a package now called the "Smart" package that has most of the channels we normally watch and is cheaper than the "120" package we have had since we started out.  I had Hubs look at it and tell me if it would be a problem to switch.  He said it wouldn't, so I made the switch and that'll save us $25 on our Dish bill every month.  The agent also told me that I could cancel the "insurance" we carry on our bill.  He said that all they ask is that we keep it for 6 months and after that time we can take it off with no penalties.  I asked him what happened after that when we have a problem and he said they'd just ask if we wanted to take out the insurance and if we did the issue would be taken care of under that.  Then we'd have to carry it for another six months before we could drop it again.  We've had that on our bill for five years.  So that saves me another $8 on the bill, at least until the next time our remote or receiver dies.  Wah-lah!  I think the call center for Dish is in Puerto Rico but the person I got spoke fluent english and was very helpful and agreeable, I admit I was impressed with his candor about the insurance. 

Another thing I am easily frustrated by is people who can't absorb information from what they read.  I have a big container of Miracle-Gro crystals.  I prefer to use the liquid in the dropper bottle because the crystals, if exposed to the open air, liquify and then you don't know HOW accurate your measurements are.  Plus they're messy.  I just want to use up the crystals I have and then I won't buy it in that form any more.  So I looked on the Internet trying to find out what the ratio would be of crystals to water to make concentrate the same power that's in the dropper bottles.  Didn't find anything.  So I e-mailed Miracle-Gro and one of their representatives e-mailed me back telling me how to mix up a gallon of ready-to-use liquid from the crystals.  Like I can't read the instructions on the package or something.  I e-mailed her back and reiterated that I already knew how to do that, I needed to know how much of the crystals to mix with how much water to make concentrate that I could pour into the dropper bottles for mixing up in a watering can as I went along.  By her e-mail reply, it was obvious she could not fathom why I would even want to do such a thing.  She said Miracle-Gro crystals were not made to be mixed up into concentrate.  Huh?  I would've felt better if she'd just said, "Uhhhhh, we don't know".  Because that's what I think is the case.  I mean, this can't be rocket science.  To go in another direction, I just need to know how many gallons a 5.5 oz. bottle of concentrate makes.  It's 1/8 tsp per quart.  That's 1/2 tsp per gallon.  There's 3/4 cup of concentrate in the bottle.  There are 36 teaspoons in 3/4 cup, or 72 half-teaspoons.  So, correct me if I'm wrong, but I get that the bottle makes 72 gallons of ready-to-use dilution.  That's one side of my answer.  Miracle-Gro crystals may be mixed in different ways, but for house plants, it's recommended 1/2 tsp for each gallon of water or for the constant feeding method, it's half that.  So am I right in computing 18 teaspoons (or six tablespoons) in an empty concentrate bottle and then just fill it with water to the top??
Well, this is now afternoon and I've been dinking around with my plants all day.  Hubs and I had our workout at the Fitness Center this morning.  And it has turned cold, a perfect day for jam-making, so I made a batch from the last of the strawberries I found in the freezer.  Better weather coming after tomorrow.  Spring's not far away!

Till next time, Rock On.....