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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Using up the rhubarb

Since our rhubarb is already growing, we've got to use up some of the rhubarb we have frozen.  And we have a lot frozen.  I came across this recipe and just adapted it to whatever fruit I had available.  If the recipe was for rhubarb or peach, why not rhubarb and peach?
 The recipe is easy enough and doesn't have that many ingredients.  It's basically brown sugar, oatmeal, butter, flour, & salt for the top & bottom.

The filling is your fruit, sugar, flour & nutmeg (yum).  It takes a whole 5 minutes to assemble and only 30 minutes to bake.

On our second crisp, we went with ground cherries, black raspberries & rhubarb.

The only problem is that the finished product does not seem to last.

We ate this entire thing in less than 24 hours

We've still got two gallons of rhubarb left, so when we're done eating our second crisp, we'll try out some recipes on this site, which has all the rhubarb recipes you'd ever want.

Garden report - the start of Spring

 We’re past the spring equinox by a week now and our garden is already growing nicely.  I recall that last year at this time we still had snow on the ground.  With the mild winter and the warm temps, we’ve got a lot to report about. 

Our yard doesn’t have a ton in the way of flowers, because I tend to use my sunny spots for edibles.  The only flowers we planted were tulips, astilbe, something my MIL gave us (I can’t remember the name) and bleeding hearts, because those are things we can put in the shady front yard.  The astilbe and tulips have poked through and have green foliage, but no blooms yet.  There were flowers in our yard before we moved in and some of those have started growing already too – peonies (a bunch, even under the black walnut tree), irises (still, after the bags-full we gave away last year), and roses (which I have tried to kill two years in a row, but keeps coming back - it’s too prickly).  The lilac tree is budding up nicely, as are the fruit trees (apple, two cherries, plum, peach, and pear), and the black walnut.  
This was taken March 19th - already budding before Spring

This is our garlic as of March 19th (still technically winter, but with spring/almost summer weather). 

This is our garlic as of last night, March 27th.  It’s getting very tall.  I am so excited that our garlic grew because last year’s crop died.  This will be our first successful crop!

We also have asparagus and rhubarb coming up. 

Asparagus in the foreground and rhubarb in the background

And we’ve got our hops growing, which should produce flowers this year so that we can make beer with them. 

As for fruits, the raspberries and grapevine seem to be alive.  I’m not so sure about the blueberries or juneberry, but I’ll give them some time.  I’ll likely be replacing the strawberries because the plants that we have haven’t really produced in the last two summers, but maybe I’ll just plant them in another area.  I do have some strawberry plants on order coming soon. 

Having variety allows you to still have produce even if one crop doesn’t do well.  There’s generally an abundance of some other crop to make up for it. 

I have already started planting some seeds.  There are several types of plants that do well in cooler weather and should be planted “as soon as the ground can be worked.”  In our zone, that’s generally late April or so.  This year, it was mid March, which made everyone wonder if you should really be planting that early.  But, one friend had success with her peas and other early crops, the nursery said to “go for it” except for the plants you’d generally start indoors (like tomatoes and peppers), and one farmer who provides us with our chickens thought that it was a great time to do the early stuff.  So, we planted peas, two types of lettuce, spinach, and broccoli raab.  If they don’t produce, then I’ve got more seeds to plant when it’s later in the season.  The weather forecast doesn’t show any freezing temps for the foreseeable future so I’m hoping we’ll be ok. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Week 12: $25 in groceries

This week I didn't notice how much we spent and am just adding it up as I type, so we'll see if we made it under budget.

Eggs: $3.50 (the eggs are getting bigger now!)
Cheese: $5
Cream cheese:  $1.98
Sour cream: $.99
Butter: $1.88
Peanut butter: $2.49
Parsnips: $1.93 (from a little grocery store that has all organic foods!)
Beets: $4.38 (Yes!  I am so excited that there are fresh beets now.  These are also organic and locally grown).
Dates: $2.34

And the total comes to $24.49.  And we're under budget!

Menu plan (3/24/12)

Monday: Lamb, roasted potatoes, beets & parsnips
Roasted veggies are absolutely fantastic

Tuesday:  Leftovers

Wednesday:  Pesto

Thursday:  Quinoa with zucchini (we have an abundance of zucchini in the freezer), and other random freezer veggies

Friday:  Pad thai with bean threads

Saturday:  Chicken, couscous and corn (maybe with the corn and chicken on the grill if the weather is good)

Sunday:  Egg foo young

Monday, March 19, 2012

Menu plan (3/19/12)

We did not get the bathroom project done this week, so we've got another week of quick meals to try to get it done in our ample spare time with Jaimie going to school full-time, me working full-time, and caring for two kids in diapers.  Plus, we're thinking that with this warm spell we should be working on our outdoor chores to prep for the garden.  So, more easy-peasy meals this week.

Sunday - we had take-n-bake pizza because it's delicious, Real, inexpensive, and we just didn't have the time for making food.

Monday - leftovers and pasta with garlic butter

Tuesday - Ostara Soufflé from Aldi Vegetarian

Wednesday - Chicken, carrots & corn

Thursday - stir fry with various veggies from the freezer and bean threads

Friday - noodle salad with leftover chicken (yes, it usually is 3-4 meals for one chicken), with pickled veggies (cukes, beets, green tomatoes, peppers, etc) on the side

Saturday - tortellini with garlic butter sauce (or pesto, but right now I'm loving garlic butter)

Sunday - We'll go with the flow and figure it out.  Otherwise, if we can think of nothing, then we'll have creamy polenta with oregano (our oregano is already growing!)

Week 11: $25 in groceries

We're nearing down to the last few weeks of our challenge.  Though I'm looking forward to the end of the challenge, I don't believe that we will be spending quite as much on groceries as we used to before the challenge started.  I love that we can live mostly off of what we grow or buy locally. 

This is what we bought for the week:

Milk: $2.38
Coffee: $3.99 (Jaimie has been drinking a lot more, because our one cup coffee maker died so he started making a full pot.  Now that we've bought another one-cup, hopefully we'll have less coffee consumption - not for the grocery budget but for his caffeine intake).
Cheese: $1.79
Aged cheddar cheese: $4.29
Steak: $12.12 (yes, for one steak.  We were thinking we might go out to dinner on Saturday night so we wouldn't need to cook, but then we thought it'd be nice to have something on the grill to enjoy the weather.  We didn't have any steaks thawed, so Jaimie bought one from a very reputable meat shop.  He said that it was worth the price.  It was certainly less than eating out). 

That totals $24.57 for the week.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Moving along with the bathroom project

A lot has happened since my last shower.  The demolition is done.  The first thing we did was scrape off those awful tiles.

Then I opened up the wall to get at the plumbing.

I was going to try to pull the old tub out in one piece, but it proved easier to break it up with a 2.5 lb hammer.  My dad came over to help, and we broke (well, I broke) two hammer handles getting the tub smashed.

I ended up needing to take out a lot more wall than I had anticipated.  I don't have pix of the plumbing end, but the plumber had me take out most of that wall and reframe it, which I did today.

In the pic below you can see the new vent fan, which I had the electricians install when they ran the wiring for the new tub.  It's a soaking tub with a heater and recirculating pump, and required a separate 20 amp circuit for the heater and another for the pump.  I had the electrician install the fan, as well, because I wanted it wired right, and I'm no electrician.  Actually, I didn't want to run the wires.  I figured I'd destroy the walls or something.  Sometimes you really do need to call in a professional.

Here's Shelly ready to start sanding the walls before we decided we really needed a bigger sander.  I'll pick that up tomorrow.

Here's me making sure the plugs will reach the outlets and being very relieved the new tub fits the alcove.  It's a tight fit, but it fits.

Here I am fantasizing about tomorrow night when I really get to take a bath.  This tub fits me so much better than the old one.

Here's Shelly having the same fantasy.

The plumber is coming back tomorrow to finish the pluming and connect the tub.  The joint is going to be jumping, because we have windows being installed tomorrow morning, too.

Now I'm going to finish my drink and help Shelly fold laundry.  See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Menu plan (3/12/12)

Sunday we had take-n-bake pizza because we were working on the bathroom project, because we just couldn't spend the time on dinner when we need to spend the time getting work done.  This week we'll be having dinners that are quick, so we can maximize our time working on the bathroom.

Monday: leftover pizza (we ordered quite a lot)

Tuesday: leftover chili from the freezer

Wednesday: wild rice soup with homemade bread

Thursday:  tortellini with a lemon butter sauce

Friday: spaghetti squash pesto

Saturday: Applesauce chicken over rice.  This can cook all day while we take the morning and early afternoon off from working to take the kids out for fun. 

Sunday: leftovers.  We actually really like leftovers.

Week 10: $25 in groceries

This week we went over the $7+ that was from the week before last's overage, but I knew that would happen so I'm not all too concerned.  Also, I noted in a previous week that Jaimie spent $6.99 on coffee, but it was $6.50.

This week we bought:

Clementines: $3.48 (on sale, with coupon)
Grapefruit: $1.99 (5 lbs, on sale)
Bananas: $1.30
Heavy cream: $3.79
Peanut butter: $2.85
Coffee: $13.00 (organic, free trade).  Jaimie noted that if we really only had $25 a week to groceries all the time, he would give up coffee.  I suggested that we could probably still afford coffee but it'd be a different brand.  He said he'd give it up rather than drink something he doesn't like. He said that he felt guilty that he's the only one who drinks coffee and it always makes us go over budget.  I don't think it's that big of a deal considering that he doesn't go out and buy a cup (or two, or four) of coffee every day, and making it at home does save money if you're a coffee drinker. 

That totals $26.41.  I think we will have to call it a wash for week 8's overage.  Everyone goes over budget at times.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ya gotta do what ya gotta do

Jaimie here.  Shelly has always hated our main bathroom, and to be quite honest, so have I.  As you can see below, it's tiny (can't do anything about that) and very dated.

The sink is cracked, though it doesn't leak, and there is no vent fan (there is a window, so it's technically up to code).  The absence of a vent fan wasn't an issue before we had the windows replaced with well-sealed low-e, yadda yadda yadda, modern windows.  Now that there's no breeze blowing through the bathroom, the paint on the ceiling has started to peel and we get mildew or mold spots on the ceiling.  On top of that, the ugly teal tiles you can see in the first pic are horrible plastic things, and the shower surround was completely chopped when a previous owner put on a shower door (nasty things - hate 'em).  Here's the result of the bad surround installation:

It's a huge spot of rot behind the surround.  That section of wall will have to be replaced with greenwall.  We decided that, since I'm on Spring Break this week, we would replace the tub and its enclosure.  (Note that I also have to write a bunch of lesson plans this week.)

We went shopping yesterday to order the tub we wanted, a deep soaking tub with a recirculating heater, and decided to do the floor and walls while we were at it.  Oh, and we also decided to replace that cracked sink.  Hundreds of dollars later, we had a plan and a vent fan.  The new tub and enclosure would be delivered on Sunday and I'd install it on Monday.  (That was before we found the rotten wall.)

We started removing tiles as soon as the girls were in bed.

As Shelly says, this part was a lot of fun!  We also pulled off the wallpaper and made a start at loosening the adhesive (yep, that's the order in which we did it).

They delivered the tub this morning (Sunday), and we discovered that I had not actually ordered the surround!  Shelly was a bit upset by this.  Sometime between the tub delivery and our leaving for Menard's, we decided to tile the tub enclosure instead of using a surround.  This meant more work, but it also meant we could do what we wanted with it.  We decided to do a simple brick pattern with 3x6 white "subway" tile.  In the end, Shelly decided she's glad I forgot to order the surround.

Below are pics of tonight's demolition progress.  I think it was another great date night.  Now I'm going to take a shower in the old tub and wash my leg where the cat just scratched me.  I'm sure Shelly will be posting later.  See ya!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Treasuring moments at the homestead

Though I know I will love the times when my children are old enough that I can sleep even if they are awake, I love this time with them too.  It's not that long of a time that you get to breastfeed, and snuggle constantly, and have baths in the kitchen sink. 

And it won't be forever that my girls will want to dress up in costume for story time. 

Greening up (or tie-dying) the kitchen

We go through a lot of paper towels.  Or we used to.  We used them for spills, as napkins, wiping little faces, and probably a bunch of other stuff.  I've wanted to get away from being so wasteful with paper products (but not so far as to give up toilet paper!), but it seemed like cloth napkins were so fancy.  We tired using Jaimie's flour sack towels but it always seemed like we'd use them once or twice and go back to the paper towels.  We needed something specifically for napkins.  But, if I had fancy kitchen stuff, then I'd have to worry about keeping it clean, and that would mean more time doing laundry.  In another blog (sorry, can't remember which), I read that a mom sends her daughter to school with tie-dye napkins because the stains don't really show and it's fun for the school-aged child.  Well, I just so happened to have tie-dyed handkerchiefs in a bag of tie-dyed shirts I made with my older sister several years before.  So, we've been using our new "napkins" and it has been a successful transition away from paper towels.  We keep them in a bread box on the counter, where we also keep the coloring books and crayons, so our toddler (who claims all contents of the box belong to her) decides who gets what color (she generally wants something with pink in it and Daddy gets something with blue).  It doesn't even seem like using cloth makes a difference in the amount of laundry.  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Week 9: $25 in groceries

With going quite a bit overboard in week 8, we're trying to make up the difference in the next couple of weeks, rather than going without any groceries this week at all. 
These are our groceries for the week:

Eggs:  $3.50 for two dozen.  They are for sale for .99 a dozen elsewhere this week, but I like that the eggs we buy are local, organic, & free-range.

Bananas:  $.55

Avocados:  $3.56 (4 at .89 each)

Milk: $2.10 with coupon

Butter:  $2.94, on sale.  We didn't need it with some still in the freezer, but with a one-day sale for $.98 a pound, I bought 3.

Alaskan Pollock:  $4.64.  We haven't tried this before, but it's cheaper than tilapia so I thought we'd give it a try.

This week's total:  $17.29.  That leaves only $7.16 for next week (the $24.45 it was originally after week 8's budget, minus this week's.  I think that we will likely end up going over again next week and taking it out in a future week).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Menu plan (3/5/12)

Monday: tacos with home made tortillas and home made salsa

Tuesday: pasties (made with the leftover taco stuff and some bread dough)
(We made kind of a meat pie instead of individual pasties - with a fufu (plantain flour) crust.

Wednesday: Chicken, polenta, brussel sprouts and cauliflower.  We're having company and she mentioned when we'd had polenta previously that she like it. 

Thursday:  Egg foo young (seriously, this stuff is delicious)

Friday: Fish, veggies, & couscous (unless we change it because we're having more company).

Saturday: I was planning for lamb, but since we had that tonight with couscous and corn, we'll have chicken, potatoes, and some veggie from the freezer.

Sunday:  Something made with leftover chicken.

Seed porn

A few months ago, I got my seed catalogs in the mail.  Jaimie calls them my seed porn.  I refer to his cooking magazines as his food porn.  It really is porn, because we will look at it for hours on end.  We'll admit that we look at the pictures too, not just the articles.
Last year I went to a seed exchange/seed ordering gather at a friend's house.  Looking at seed catalogs and planning a garden allows you to look forward to when you can get back outside and not be cooped up for so long.  Of course we've been outside, but not for extended periods of time because the cold will get to you.  There's no dirt to dig into because the ground it frozen.  Everything is resting and I know it's said that we should be too, but I need the anticipation of having the warm sun, and green growth, and getting my hands full of dirt.  As with most people around late winter, I think I'm going slightly crazy being inside all the time.  I know that I'm being productive and eating well, but I'd rather be eating it straight from the garden because I just can't make it into the house without popping some delicious veggie in my mouth.  For now, I am still eating well, but I would even give up the three types of ice cream I just made (banana cream, peanut butter with chocolate bits, and Guinness) for a juicy home grown tomato.

My mouth is watering already.

So this weekend I went to the same aforementioned friend's home and looked through catalogs together, discussing things we want to grow this year.  It really does put me in a completely different mindset to have the anticipation of spring, even though it's two weeks away and planting time is even further away.  While perusing through the luscious looking fruits, I came across some unexpected finds.  Many catalogs are carrying fruit trees generally suited for warmer climates but are rated as far north as zone 4 (where we live).  While this is exciting to me, I also want to make certain that we're not ordering Monsanto products.  We ordered from three catalogs altogether, and I am excited to have my garden plan.  (Well, the plan for what I want to plant, but not yet where I want to plant it all).

Seed porn and some food porn in the upper left (and a cat tail)

My friend has a great set-up to start from seed the things you need to start indoors.  I am not so great with that, as my tomatoes are teeny, tiny little sprouts rather than plants at the end of 8 weeks.  So, I will leave the indoor planting to the professional.  She will provide me with these plants:

Ground cherries (delicious in pies, salsas, or just eaten fresh)
Tomatoes (beefsteak, pear, and sauce types)
Eggplant (mmm... baba ghanoush)
Thyme and other herbs
Hot peppers
Cantaloupe (yes, even this far north - it's called MN Midget)

We will also be planting these:
Parsnips (they didn't produce last year but I need to try again because the farmer's market doesn't carry them).
squash (zucchini and spaghetti, maybe some other winter squash too).
potatoes (red, blue, and whatever else I find for seed potatoes)

For the medicinal garden, we will start with:
German chamomile
St John's Wort
Sweet woodruff
 (Eventually, I'd like to add skullcap, comfrey, mullein, wormwood, and white sage.  We already have plantain, yarrow, and chickweed throughout the yard).

We ordered some white and red currant plants, honey berry plants (like blueberries, but earlier and without the acidic soil), a fig tree (yes, for zone 4) and two paw paw trees.  I've never had paw paws but Jaimie likes them.  Our friend ordered a persimmon tree and I said that we should just trade some fruit when they start producing in a few years.  I'm also going to replace the strawberry plants.  Mine don't seem to want to make very productive strawberries.

Hopefully everything we've planted so far will come back and grow well.  This year we'll be able to harvest more of the asparagus that was planted two summers ago.  For herbs, we have mint, oregano, and lemon balm.  We also have rhubarb, raspberries, saskatoon berry (also like a blueberry but without acidic soil), grapes (well, a small vine anyway), hops, and the trees:  plum, peach, pear, apple, and two cherry trees.

Now I've just got to plan out the layout!