Homemade Lime-aid goes over well

Ugh, it is hot and humid here like it is in most of the US.  We’re trying to stay cool and hydrated.  I got a good deal on limes at the store and Sheridan asked if I could make lime-aid.  Well, I had never done it and didn’t find any recipes in my cookbooks and didn’t want to run to the computer so I just gave it a shot.  Here is the recipe:

Lime-Aid

  • 3 limes
  • 1 C sugar (more or less to taste)
  • cold water

Wash the limes well and remove any stickers. Cut the limes in half and juice into a large pitcher or other glass container (don’t use plastic, they are very acidic.)  I used a Pyrex 1 Qt measuring cup.  Add the sugar and mash the limes into the sugar with a wooden spoon or something like that.  Let sit for 5 minutes or so.  Put this mixtures into a 2 quart (1/2 gallon) container – preferably glass – and add water to fill.  Chill.

That’s it!   I’ve been told it is tasty and it is about gone now so I’ll have to make some more.  I want to try substituting honey for the sugar next time since we are trying to cut down on refined sugar.

I had a shock yesterday while strolling the garden.  The plants I though were cucumber plants are not, well, I don’t think they are.  One of the fruits is softball sized, round and looks surprisingly like a cantaloupe.  I have things things all OVER my garden so whatever they are, if they live until the fruits are ripe we’re going to have a lot of them.  I found ten while I was out there.  Still getting strawberries, peas (almost over), peppers and my first Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomatoes.  Not many tomatoes made it past the deer this year.  <sigh>  Still thinking toward fall.  We may build some hoop houses this year.  We’ll see.

Stay cool!!!

Plan for next year, save your tomato and pepper seeds!

Never too early to plan for next year - save those seeds!

Boy was it hard to get motivated this morning.  I didn’t sleep well plus the weather is just oppressive and doesn’t make you want to leave the house.  Ugh!

As I was fixing dinner the other night I found myself doing something that I bet a lot of people don’t think about any more.  When I was cutting up a green pepper I saved the seeds instead of throwing them out.  I wrapped them in a paper towel to dry, taped it shut and labeled them with what they were and the date.  After a few days drying on top of the fridge they’ll go into my seed box for planting next year.

I do the same thing with tomatoes and sometimes stone fruits too – just to try my hand at growing them from seed.

“Way back when” (which in most places was pre-WWIII) people used to do the regularly as it was the best way to get seeds for your garden.  Somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten that the seed sold by Burpee for $2.99 a packet  is the same seed we get free inside our food.

It is true that if you are eating a hybrid crop (and if it came from the supermarket most likely it is a hybrid) the pepper you get next year may not be the same as the one you ate today, but it will be a pepper for sure and the seed will be free.

It is kind of fun to put all your pepper seeds (separating hot and not hot if you like) in the same container and then plant them without knowing exactly what you will get.

Tomatoes work the same way though for those the prep is a little messier.  For them I mix the tomato seeds/pulp in a baby food jar with some water.  I let it sit for a few days, shaking to mix the stuff up when it separates.  Eventually most of the seeds will drop to the bottom and you can get them out to dry on some paper towels and then pack them away.  Sometimes the stuff in the jar ferments and smells unsavory, the seed is still OK but it is best to not soak the seeds in a plastic container since you’ll never get the smell out.

Keep all your seeds in a cool place or in the fridge crisper drawer (I have way too many for that) and next year you’ll be set.

Other seeds you can be collecting for next year are:  columbine, sunflower, marigold, thyme, oregano, chives, catnip, basil, four o’clocks and lots more.

The Feline Pine Adventure

Ronnie is on the left, Hunter on the right

I think kitty litter is the worst part about having cats.  Ours do not go outside so there is no outdoor privy for them, they have boxes in the basement.  I don’t mind changing kitty litter, but I do mind seeing it on the cats’ paws.  Hunter is a Maine Coon and has a lot of hair between his paw pads so he often has clumpy litter stuck to them.

Enter my bright idea to try a more healthy, and environmentally friendly, kind of cat litter.

We tried Yesterdays News which is a nice option since it uses waste materials, but our cats did not like it at all and I didn’t either.  It didn’t keep the cat boxes from smelling like ammonia.  So it was a no-go.

Then I tried Feline Pine which, when compared to clumping litter, seems very expensive.  I loved the way it worked and the cats seemed OK with it.  It keeps the boxes smelling fresh which is great.  Problem was cleaning the boxes was tough since you scoop out the still usable pellets and leave the sawdust behind.  Not an easy task.

So I bought sifting cat pans.  They work wonderful.  With two pans and a sifter to each set you can alternate out bottom pans to make cleaning easier.  They were not cheap – we’re talking $30 or so for both of them and we could really use a third for upstairs.

Then I read online that you could use heating stove pellets instead of Feline Pine.  They are MUCH cheaper and made of wood so are basically the same thing.  Only they aren’t.  A friend has a pellet stove and had a few bags partially damaged by water so she let us have a bag to try.  The pellets are larger than Feline Pine and are made of hardwood not softwood.

They DO work and perhaps could be successfully used by certain people, but they didn’t control odors well and our cats rebelled by using the floor instead of the box.

So I had had enough and switched back to scoopable litter.  I bought an average priced brand and used the sifting boxes thinking they’d work really well and make cleaning easier.  NOT.  The litter clung to both sides of the sifting lid and ended up like cement.  I also found that I was spending way more money on clumping litter than I had been on Feline Pine.  A $13 container of clumping litter was used up in a week and we were back to stuff being stuck on the cats’ paws and dust everywhere.

I finished that container of litter and went back to Feline Pine.  It took an hour to pry the scooping cement off the litter boxes, but I got them clean and the cats and I are now happy to be back to the sweet smelling pine stuff.  I’m trying extra hard to keep their litter area vacuumed and so far they are pretty happy.

So ends the Feline Pine adventure – for now.  I’m sure someone will protest soon and I’ll need to find another solution.

Making a sandwich used to be so simple….

Marshmallow Kitchen Art by Sheridan

I used to take two pieces of bread, spread peanut butter on one half and marshmallow on the other and smoosh them together, voila!!!  Sandwich for Sheridan.

Well, a few years and a few diagnosis’ later now here is what it takes to make sandwiches for my kids:

  1. I get out six slices of bread.
  2. I open a jar of Crunchy Barney Butter (almond butter that spreads just like peanut butter) and get enough on the knife to make one sandwich and put it on one slice of bread (I can’t double dip because Scott likes Barney Butter and double dipping would contaminate the jar with gluten.)
  3. I open a jar of marshmallow (or nutella or jelly depending on the day) and get enough for three sandwiches (again, no double dipping) I put it all on one slice of bread and divide up between two other slices.
  4. I smoosh Sterling’s sandwich together and give it to him.  (Sterling is allergic to peanuts so his sandwich can’t come anywhere near it so he gets his before I even open the PB.)
  5. I can now get enough smooth peanut butter out of the jar to do one sandwich at a time.  (Scott doesn’t like smooth PB so it is OK to double dip)
  6. I put one sandwich together and give it to Sheridan.
  7. I put the other sandwich together, cut off the crusts and give it to Alyn.

NOTE: If Scott is eating a sandwich his has to be made first so the wheat bread doesn’t get near it BUT I have to make sure that no PB gets on the counter to touch Sterling’s sandwich.

<sigh>

It used to be so easy.

Gluten Free Rice Krispies have arrived!

They're here!

Yes, it is true.  All those celiac patients out there can now have rice krispie treats!  General Mills has developed a brown rice based Rice Krispie that is gluten-free.  This is one cereal we thought at the beginning that Scott would be able to have in its regular form, but not so, it had malt in it.  In fact most breakfast cereals have malt in them.

I haven’t found these at our stores yet but we will be trying them. Brown rice is better for you for sure, but I’m not convinced it will pass my taste test in the marshmallow squares.  We’ll see.

Here is the website for Gluten Free Rice Krispies – with recipes of course!

A two-hour perennial bed – how to make one fast

The Perennial bed is in the front - too long to get all in the photo

Last week we had 50 or so perennial plants that needed a new home.  We’ve been having hot and humid weather so I avoided the task as long as I could, but finally I set myself to do it.

Scott knew where he wanted things but when I went to dig in the ground I couldn’t.  It was hard as rock – so…. I decided to improvise.  Fortunately for me we had all the makings for a “lasagna” garden.  It took a lot of trips in the wheelbarrow but that probably was easier than the digging I’d have had to do if I did it the normal way.

First I put down a layer of cardboard that we get from the grocery store.  These are the boxes that frozen food comes in.  Boy is that an education seeing what people eat and how much packaging is involved.  Made me swear off of frozen food.

I didn’t have enough cardboard so I finished with thick layers of newspaper.  You aren’t supposed to use color pages or glossy pages, but if your paper is like ours EVERY page has color on it now, even the classifieds.  So I did skip the glossy pages and heavily colored ones, but used the rest.

The point of this first layer is to block out all sun to the grass beneath to kill it.  Some folks say to poke holes in it for the plant roots to go through but that also means you have holes for grass and weeds to come up so I don’t.  It will break down completely over about 2 seasons here.

Next I put down a big layer of straw, probably more than a foot, in the center of the cardboard.  This straw we bought to mulch the strawberries but we had too much. It was already starting to break down.

Then I put a thick layer of compost over the straw – about 6-8 inches.  I made sure all the straw was covered.  This was the planting area for the plants.

Next came the wood chips to put on the border where you could still see the cardboard.  This is playground mulch we got to work on the yard earlier and it was left over.  I put that on thick to to make sure the cardboard was held down.

Then I planted the plants.  Tansy, yarrow, lavender, coreopsis, shasta daisy, lambs ears, purple bee balm and others I can’t remember.  These were either given to us by a neighbor we found on Freecycle who needed to clean out her garden or they were bought for .99 at our town florist who is cleaning out the plants nobody bought.  The plants from the florist were badly root bound so I had to break apart the root ball and in some cases cut it because it was too densely matted for me to pull apart with my hands.  I also cut off any blooms so the plants could put their focus on growing new roots.  Made them look pretty ugly.

Once the plants were in I watered them well and then covered them with more wood chips to help retain the moisture.

I thought the bed looked really nice for only two hours of work.  It is over 10 feet long and I still have a lot of space to put things in. The plants won’t be much to look at this year, but next year they should do better and spread.  We get nice sun in this part of the yard which will help them.

Hope that helps any of you wanting a new garden bed but not really wanting to do the heavy digging.  This method has worked for us over and over and it makes a real nice looking flower garden that grows well.

Make one change at a time to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly – they add up to something big!

Some nice fruit on our everbearing strawberries

It’s a little after 6am here, a late start for me but it is a Saturday and I was really tired last night. The kids are all still sleeping which hopefully will last at least another hour or so.

Sometimes I think all the things we are doing to live sustainably and environmentally responsible aren’t enough. There is always so much more we could do. But as I sit here at my desk with the cool morning breeze coming in the window I realize a lot of the changes we’ve made and the way we do things do add up to a life that is more thoughtful toward saving the environment than that of most of my friends.

For instance, my Excaliber dehydrator is running in the background. I’m drying plums at the moment for use in the winter in my fruit cobbler. I pulled out kale and pickles just a few minutes ago. Not sure yet what to do with them but heard you can dry both. The pickles are like little bursts of salt (since they were are sun pickles who had a little too much salt) so I’m not sure I can use those for anything, and I didn’t try the kale yet. So we are taking farmers market produce and saving it for winter in a way that won’t require further electricity. That’s a good thing.

Also I just put in a load of diapers. We are still using cloth diapers most of the time and every one of those has saved thousands of disposables from going into a landfill.    We hang a lot of our laundry outside to dry which is probably the single biggest thing we do to save energy.  Dryers use a ton of energy and I much prefer the free sun and wind out there to do my drying.

The diapers are rinsing now but will be washed next with our homemade laundry powder. This actually is not a more environmentally friendly product than regular detergent, but it does eliminate the traveling of water over long distances. Liquid detergents are mostly water and carrying them in trucks from who knows where is a waste of energy. If we all used dried powder so much more could be transported using the same fuel – plus we wouldn’t be loading our recycle bin with plastic bottles. The containers for our homemade soap are cardboard and paper.

Then there is the fact that I have the windows open. We have a ductless AC unit here now thanks to my mother gifting it to us last year and it is very “green” but it still uses electricity. Have the windows open in the AM when it is cool costs us nothing and smells so much better.

Upstairs I’ve just turned off the crockpot which has been cooking overnight with pork and barbeque sauce. The pork was gifted from a friend so there we are building community which is so important to permaculture and the future success of our world. The sauce was homemade and contained no high fructose corn syrup or other manufactured ingredients so we are saving ourselves all those chemicals. The sauce was stored in a Ball canning jar so we didn’t use a plastic container or something else that must be thrown out.  I used the crock pot to save on the electricity of my stove both in quantity and price since I cooked in the off hours.  I’ll pull the pork when it cools and store it for a fast lunch today when we’re busy.

In the hallway upstairs are 3 bags of clothes ready to be donated to the Salvation Army. Sheridan (finally) cleaned out her closets and drawers and packed up the stuff that no longer fits. I have a bag in my room too of things that I just don’t really like – you know the things that hang in your closet that you pass by nearly every time unless you’re late with laundry? So we are allowing those items to be reused rather than going to a landfill. We’ll be dropping them off on her way to school so we are not using any extra gas to get them there. In addition we are helping support the community efforts of the Salvation Army.

Later today Scott and I will be heading into the city to hopefully pick up a new dining room table and chairs. While on our anniversary trip last week we saw it at a thrift shop. $150 is a lot for us to spend on anything but it is solid wood with 6 chairs, and it is in pretty good shape. The top needs refinished but we can do that. The table we are using now was found at a yard sale for $10 in 2001 and it wasn’t good quality to begin with but it held on pretty well. The main problem is we need a larger table to fit 5 of us so hopefully this table will still be there. If we get it we won’t get rid of the old table, it will be turning into a craft table for me in the basement and Scott will get the table I’m using now for a bigger and better desk. He’s using a drafting table as a desk that I got for a birthday present over 20 years ago. It’ll be kept to use as a drafting table for his permaculture designs.

And that is just the things that came to mind immediately, but there are plenty more. We each have choices every day which can reduce our impact on the environment and support our local economy. All these little things add up to something big.

The point is, if you are feeling overwhelmed by all the things you COULD change in your life, just pick one and make it a part of your routine. In a few months when that becomes second nature choose another. Eventually you will have found your lifestyle has changed dramatically and you barely noticed it.

Hope everyone has a great day!

Sunshine Dill Pickles – make them in your yard!

Perennials waiting to go into the ground

It’s 5:30am here and I’m trying a new posting scedule for Earth to Eats. I’ve been reading The Amish Cook’s Anniversary Book: 20 Years of Food, Family, and Faith
and it has inspired me to try writing early in the day.  This book is an enjoyable read for me and helps me keep my work in perspective.  Reading all about an Amish family who get up at 4am and all they do before leaving for work or school motivates me to get more done.  It is just amazing all they accomplish – and it is important things too like cooking, preserving and keeping their homes clean.  It isn’t watching TV or playing video games.

I made some pickles last week in our front yard.  Yep, in the yard.  I forgot to take a picture of the jar, but they turned out good enough that I want to try them again.  I just put dill in and not garlic and something was definitely missing.  A little too much salt went in too since I didn’t have a gallon jar.  I’ll adjust all that next time.  You can find the recipe here.

I’ve been chatting with some folks from Paperbackswap this week and that is what pushed me to try a different writing schedule here.  The discussions and ideas we are sharing there would benefit so many people if they were put here in this public forum so hopefully I’ll get more posts up.  I especially want to thank Jamie G for chatting with me about frugality and making a better life for our families.  You’ve been inspiring Jamie so keep up the great work!!

Above you see a picture of perennials I purchased at our local flower shop for .99 a piece.  These are the ones she hasn’t been able to sell and it is a great way for us to extend our garden without spending much money.  I got 40 plants for $39 or so and put in a perennial bed the other night.  I need to take pictures of that and explain how I did it in another post.  Yes these plants are pot bound something awful, but if you bring them home and soak them and then break up the root ball they do just fine.  I even picked up one of my favorite plants – lemon verbena.  MMMMMM…..  Not a perennial sadly, but at least I’ll have it till frost.

Must get things moving here.  Hope everyone has a great day.