Category Archives: Reflection & Ramblings

Mid Summer Projects/Garden Updates/News

Hello Lovelies,

I miss you all!!  We have been so busy this year I can’t even believe it.  I feel like our lives have been bouncing off walls with all the new things we are experimenting with and new journey’s we are embarking on or are in the midst of.  But what is life without growth right?

We tried something new with our gardens this year and I’m happy to say that they have worked!  We have had more tomatoes, more peppers, and more herbs this time around.  They say third time’s the charm.  This is our third year with a raised bed.  Instead of using chicken manure, we used cow manure.  It was locally made and has worked really well.  We also added compost, mixing locally bought and our own.  Ours has been slow going, but we’re praying by next season we’ll be able to dump the entire bucket in the garden versus buying compost. Now if only I can stop the neighborhood four footed thieves from eating them that’d be greattt! I’ve started drying sage to make smudge/scent sticks.  I happen to love the smell.  The sage went nuts this year and it is turning into a bush.  I don’t know what to do with it all!  Our pantry storage already has 4 pint jars full of dried sage.  It takes up over two feet of raised bed space.  It is the first year we planted sage and so far I am loving it.  It doesn’t seem to take a lot of work which is fine by me.  The mint is okay, the plant is still very small.  The Oregano popped up again from what we planted last year.  So that was a nice surprise! The jalapenos and spicy bell peppers are taking their time, but I know it is due to the excessive heat.  Hoping they will take off in the Fall when the weather cools a bit.

We added two Hibiscus trees.  We have a Red Presidential and Pink Hibiscus.  They are young, but absolutely gorgeous.  They are planted in 20″ clay pots and filled with rocks on the bottom for drainage and a mix of compost and peat moss.  Despite the heat, they too have done well.  I can tell when the temperature drops because they bless us with blooms.  I cannot wait until the calyxes are mature enough to pick and dry for tea.  That was the main reason we got them.  I have an herbal tea addiction so I am always trying to plant my own herbs or flowers to dry.

The Texas summer heat was brutal in July! It was almost two weeks of 100-112 and the sun gave no mercy.  Amazon has UV Block sun shades and we ended up getting a 12′ x 12′ x 12′ and a 9’10” x 9’10” x 9’10” shade and used bungee cords to secure to our fence.  It was probably the best purchase we have made in a long time.  It kept the sun from baring down on the plants, while still allowing light through.  I was so worried they’d fry.  Surprisingly, they didn’t.  They made it and with little burning.

I’ve done some canning although didn’t do as much as planned, but there is still time.  I canned about 35 jars of my grandmother’s spaghetti sauce and chicken stock this past weekend along with pickled jalapenos, pickled eggs, lacto fermented carrots, and bottled fermented Jun Tea. I’m looking forward to the end of summer farmers markets to get a great deal on produce to can for veggies.  It has been so hot here it has been hard to plant and keep anything alive.

Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal came back this year to have more babies!  They visited last year and built a nest within our rose bush.  I was sitting outside one day and noticed Mr. Cardinal was lingering.  All of a sudden, Mrs. Cardinal swooped across the yard into the rose bush.  Then left.  Then came back.  I decided to be nosey and investigate to find she was building another nest.  Mr. Cardinal was standing watch as she meticulously built over the period of a day.  She was busy!  A few days later, we had 4 little eggs.  It took about two weeks before they hatched.  I think I was more excited than she was.  It was such an amazing experience to watch their patterns and see the progress.

We also had a little visitor briefly.  I walked out the front door one day and saw this little guy sitting waiting for mama.  He was adorable!  I believe he is a Robin.  What do you think?img_3837

Sadly, we took down our wood brick rocket stove that we made a while back as well as moved the compost bin.  We’ve been preparing for additions to our family through the journey of adoption. Between classes, cleaning, organizing, building, decluttering, I haven’t dedicated much time to ongoing projects and blogging.  Which has been the reason I’ve been MIA for so long.  With that said, there are many, many more posts coming!  We will have more mouths to feed, more veggies and herbs to plant, more canning, and much more frugalness.  We are so excited and I cannot wait to share it all with you.  After all, this is my life.

The Life of a Frugal Wife!

 

Fall Madness, Projects, and Cleanup

Hello Lovelies,

I haven’t written in what feels like an eternity!  A lot has been going on here at our little homestead and a few projects are in full swing.  I’m pretty much the only one who does most of our homesteading and among daily research, I’m always adding to the “to do” list.  Needless to say, Babydoll has been a trooper!  Did I mention that I work a 9-5 job too?? Amidst all of the chaos, Fall is here!  I love everything about Fall and even though Texas doesn’t have the beautifully colored leaves or the crisp, fireplace aroma in the air, I’ve come to enjoy the little things. From the seasonal food, the Yankee Candles I have an addiction too, down to the way the air smells.  Being born and raised in New England, I love the smallest things about the season and it just makes me happy.  It also makes the perfect season for projects!

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So much has changed over the past month or two.  Babydoll changed jobs and went back into the oilfield. After all, we have a future homestead to save for! With this decision, some big projects were left on hold.  I don’t think I will ever get used to him being away for weeks on end, but that is the life we chose.  For the first time in our lives, we have goals.  Those goals are at the forefront of our minds in everything we set out to do and or purchase.  Having that common ground is what makes a homestead successful.  Many times you hear about families that homestead where it is very one-sided.  We have been blessed with a common mindset and it makes things much easier.  With more free time on my part lately,  many projects are able to get started nonetheless.

The Garden: The garden needed some attention such as harvesting, getting plants to grow, weeding, and transitioning from Summer to Fall plantings. The garden was coming along perfect when all of a sudden, we had no more fruit! It was as if “POOF!” they were gone. With a fenced in backyard, I couldn’t figure out what was eating them.  It ended up being squirrels and baby rabbits. We came up with a quick remedy of stapling chicken wire around the perimeter of the raised bed and covering the top with a bird cover mesh.  This did the trick nicely although made it tricky to harvest and weed.  After tackling this twice, it finally worked and we now have fruit! Now if only the butterflies would leave my brussel sprouts alone.

Harvest: Our harvest was much smaller than anticipated, but when compared to all of our mistakes in the past, we finally have more of a grasp on it.  Jalapenos and green bell peppers were what we got the most of.  Our tomato plants were falling over and really big, however didn’t produce much because by the time we caged the bed, it was already September.  Besides cooking with our harvest and the fact that it was small, we also made flavored vinegar’s, as well as used other techniques such as pickling, fermenting and dehydrating.

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Greenhouse: We desperately needed a greenhouse not only for seed starting, but to grow plants over the winter in an effort to grow year round.  In Texas, summers are hot and winters are cold, but they are still doable.  In researching greenhouses, we definitely have one in mind for our future homestead, but for now we’ve decided to opt for a smaller one in the meantime.  It wasn’t that expensive at around $30 shipped, so it was affordable because we are still learning.  We then needed to create a space for seed starting and growing winter plants.  To do this, we reused what we already had.  This is the best kind of shopping and saves a ton of money.  Reusing things such as tables and bins, made it easy to create a potting table and an old bin now used for amending soil.  Our seed order has been placed  from Baker Creek and now we wait.  I apologize for the dark pictures.  They were taken inside of a garage, but you get the idea.

Compost: Our compost that was started late last year and is just about broken down.  We used grass clippings, shredded paper from our shredder, and kitchen scraps such as food, coffee grounds, egg shells, and tea bags.  It is such a beautiful dark brown color.  This will help get seeds get started for spring.  A new bin has been started and will take another year to break down.  We just don’t have the space to create the compost pile we are hoping for, but this does the trick.

Cooking:  Food storage has been on the agenda most of this year.  Buying in bulk, growing what we can, and saving what we can , further enabled us to grow our canned food stock.  This year, we added fermented food like Kombucha, sour dough starter, vinegar, carrots, pickles, and sauerkraut.  We are still not where we need to be, but next year will be even more than this year.

It has been quite a busy start to the season and so much more to accomplish with the holidays coming.  It feel like an endless process, but it is so very rewarding.

What goals and projects have you set for Fall?  I’d love to hear about what you have going.  Inspire me! and who knows, you may inspire someone else!

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Morning Coffee & Garden Update

Hello Lovelies,

During my morning coffee outside enjoying our beautiful garden, I discovered that I now have flowers!!  Oh…if you could see me jumping for joy and then spilling my coffee on my foot, you’d laugh like hell.  Seriously, it’s coffee abuse!  Coffee to me is like air.  Despite this little mishap and delay in admiring my garden, I realized that two plants have flowered.  I’m so incredibly happy!  I’ve been stalking my garden since planting hoping that by doing so I can catch anything that may go wrong and quickly fix it.  Or am I being paranoid?  I don’t know. But for now, a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.  After so many failed attempts I’m determined to bear fruit.

My soil is doing well.  I see no bugs or insects crawling, no white spots on the leaves of my plants, no yellow leaves indicating that they are over watered, just happy and healthy plants! Phew!  I have noticed that they’ve grown taller too.  It’s amazing what a 5 days can do in regards to their growth.  Here’s a peek 🙂

everything seems more beautiful from a different view

Life Among the Roses…

Hello Lovelies,

Spring is coming quick! I cannot wait.  I’m nearly jumping up and down wishing it was here right now.  But all in due time, God’s patience is such a blessing.  Look at what he creates! This morning I noticed that our roses are finally blooming.  This is our first rose bush and it grew out of control last year making it very bushy looking.  It was quite the feat to cut down all of the branches especially seeming the stems were really thick.  I was quite surprised.  Now down to a manageable bush, I am very thankful we got flowers.  I had never cut a rose bush before and it was really a cut and pray type situation.

Halfway through, I noticed plastic.  What!  Who has plastic in a rose bush.  I began to just grab it and quickly noticed that it was the same plastic we covered our garden with last year and about this time of year too.  I had to cut numerous branches to get to where the plastic was, but oh my gosh! It was a small birds nest. Very well constructed and quite elaborate for using twigs and plastic. Don’t you think?

Hey! It kept me amused for a few. 😛

Our rose bush is beautiful when fully bloomed and the thick thorns have no mercy. So why would a small bird build a nest among thorns? It was beautiful and I had to stand back and just admire it.  The home was built among something that was strong, painful, yet beautiful.  A mom going to great lengths to protect her children.  We may be different creatures, but it melted my heart to see how intricately placed the nest was.  Protection. Just like you and I.  I love that we have small animals around our home and that I’m able to be blessed to see such things.  I often watch the squirrels from my office window who walk along the outside window sills and the rabbits scurrying across the front yard in the early hours of morning.  Nature always makes me smile. In some way, we are all the same on some level. At least I’d like to think so.

Happy Friday Lovelies.  May your weekend be blessed.

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No Bake Pie & Growth

20161221_203956.jpgHello Lovelies,

I wanted to share with you a highly popular dessert my mother always made in our household.  I made this no bake pie during the holidays and it is such a hit! It is super easy, can be made in a pinch, and requires no baking! It’s so delicious especially when the berries are really in season and are plump, sweet, and juicy.  Now, in March, berries are out of season and most farmers are beginning to plant seeds or starting to plant starters depending on where in the world you are.  But in these off months, I buy whole strawberries frozen.  Thaw them out and cut into pieces and it works like a charm.  I’ve tried raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries and mixed.  The best part of this recipe besides the no bake factor, it is cheap! You can make every other ingredient besides the berry from scratch.

You will need:

  • Graham Cracker Crust or a Homemade Graham Cracker Crust
  • 1 box Vanilla Pudding
  • 1/4 cup Sour Cream
  • 1 Container/Can of Whipped Cream or 3 cups homemade whipped cream
  • 1tsp Vanilla or Homemade Vanilla Extract

My favorite recipe for homemade whipped cream:  20161221_200152.jpgpour heavy whipping cream into a bowl or mixer and add a pinch of sugar, and 1tsp of vanilla extract.

20161221_200600.jpgWhip until light and fluffy.

To make homemade vanilla extract:

vanilla-extractGet a glass container or bottle with a tight fitting lid. I got a really inexpensive bottle from Ikea.  Get one bottle of good but inexpensive vodka and four whole vanilla beans.  Cut each vanilla bean lengthwise without cutting it in half. Simply fill a jar or bottle with vodka and the vanilla beans. Store in a cool, dry, dark place. When it turns the traditional amber color and your desired strength it’s ready!  Mine took about 60 days to get a good Vanilla flavor and deep amber color.

My recipe for a graham cracker crust:  Combine finely crushed graham crackers with cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter until it is slightly moistened.  Press mixture firmly in a pie pan and bake for 5 minutes or until golden and firm to the touch.  This will ensure that the filling doesn’t make the crust mushy.

If you are using boxed ingredients: Make the vanilla pudding according to package instructions.  Combine the pudding and sour cream together and mix until smooth. Put a layer of the pudding mixture at the bottom of the graham cracker crust, layer sliced berries (in my case strawberries), then a layer of whipped cream, and so on. Finish with a layer of whipped cream and decorate with any leftover berries. Put in the freezer for an hour if you are close to serving.  It freezes really well and defrost on the counter an hour or two prior. It doesn’t contain high fat ingredients and overall is a low fat pie!

*Due to the berries containing water, this pie will get liquidy the longer it sits at room temperature or if kept in the fridge for more than a day.
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Now that the chaos of the holiday is long gone and the start of the New Year is in full swing, we embark on Spring.  Growth will be abundant in the upcoming weeks as Mother Nature awakens and I cannot be more excited.  Not only do we grow each year personally, but our skills continue to grow, our goals continue to grow, and so does our To Do List!  I haven’t been really good at setting goals and sticking to them primarily because these past two years have thrown us some major twists and turns making it difficult.  This year though, is showing us that we need to slow down further and really hone in on the goals we’ve set not only for ourselves, but as a family.  I redid our goal lists this year and made it much more attainable.  It is so easy to be really eager and then create goals that are just too ambitious.  So this year we are focusing on growing.  Perfecting the skills we have, making more use out of skills we do know, and getting a handle on my ever dreaded gardening.  Stay tuned for a step by step tutorial of building a raised garden bed.

We have seeds to plant, raised beds to make, and lots of prep work ahead.  I worked all winter feeding our DIY compost bin so I’m hoping to have some really nice composted soil to use when we get our garden ready.  The seeds have been started and are coming along nicely.  They are nice and cozy. No nasty little flies this time, you can read my seed fail from last year here.  Or our planting too early post here.  Thankfully, I canned my heart out all last summer for this past winter and am now running low on key staples. You can find canning information here or some of my recipes from the Canning Menu.  I did find that I didn’t do enough of one thing and overdid another. Canning and food prep is very much a learning experience through trial and error in regards to “how much” you stock.  I did can up 3lbs of potatoes last night and still have 3lbs to go. I will to can more pinto and black beans this week as well.  I’m hoping to get some good use out of our homemade rocket stove this year for some canning as we come into the season of yummy produce.

I’ve been a busy bee making soap and getting that side business off and running. I’ve cut back some DIY projects for the house as we’re concentrating more outside.  Babydoll is trying so hard to be home more, helping with the garden, and yard work.  So much to do and the time is upon us.  Time to get crackin!

How are you doing this time of year?  What are some tasks on your agenda? I’d love to hear!