Monday, May 29, 2017

Pumpkins and Pizza

My post title sounds familiar...I'm sure I've written about pumpkins and pizza before in the same post! We haven't had pizza in a few weeks so we thought we'd really test our digestion. It's all REAL food on these pizzas. No more grocery store "cheese" for us! The first pizza was a Margarita with fresh Mozzarella, olives and basil. I'll admit I overdid it on the cheese. Next time I'll use a lot less, it doesn't need as much as the fake cheese for flavour and texture that's for sure! The second was simply apricot jam with some Blue cheese and Parm. Deee-licious! And we digested just fine. Phewf!

Alex made a little side salad of spinach, tomatoes and corn with some of the Blue cheese, Balsamic and oil. I have to go shopping today, our fridge is nearly bare again! Shopping day is much different this time around. There will be no processed foods whatsoever in my cart. It'll be a financial challenge I think. And I may have to go back to bi-weekly shopping for a while since most of the food will be fresh with no preservatives. Sigh...I loved that monthly shopping trip, it made life so much easier, but health beats convenience any day.

So onto the pumpkins! Our weather is so cold this year...last summer we had hot days and mild nights. So far this year it's mostly rainy days, but if we're lucky, a few sunny days with temperatures anywhere from 14 to 20 (57-68 F); and nights from 8 to 14 (46-57 F) I had a dilemna about transplanting my huge pumpkin plants. I know they love hot weather and warm soil. So after debating, and some great advice and encouragement from Mama Pea (thank you again! BIG hugs!)...I went for it! I built my pumpkin patch. Half is the seedling plants and the other half has new seeds. As is my new custom, it's fenced in with chicken wire on top...

...and just to be safe, poly tarp for colder days and nights. I put the same tarp over tomato and pea land and they are doing so well. I just have one of the nineteen tomato plants that is wilting a bit, but everything has transplanted nicely! Now the only thing left for the pumpkin patch is my symbolic scare crow! :) I used up the last of the free lattice boards that the lumber yard gave away last year, I had just enough thankfully. I still need to build a few little fences, but I'll have to see what we have in our own lumber pile for that.

Question: Should the poly tarp come all the way to the ground?

I tried to plant more seeds directly into my pots yesterday, but the swarming biting black flies defeated me. I couldn't take it anymore, even though I wore a head net and proper clothes. I think I have a dozen bites on me, grrr...I finally gave in and put on some DEET spray (I know, it's highly toxic...but the only thing that works). They stopped biting, but swarmed grosse! Nothing like being batted endlessly by icky swarming bugs...But the rain started so it wasn't meant to be anyway. The next sunny day, I'll be planting more seeds, I have a lot of veggies left to seed plus all of my flowers too.

I think that this weather is challenging for any gardener. I'm finding that the challenge is making me more creative and do more research, so I think it's the perfect weather for my first attempt at having a full garden.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Tomatoes and Peas

Here is my stash of pots that I got at that thrift store. With my three tomato pots from last year, I had 29 pots to clean today. It was a nice mild sunny day so I didn't mind at all!

It was a VERY productive day! I transplanted my nineteen tomato plants (yeegods) and my five pea plants. I just don't have the space or money to give them each their own pot, so they are sharing, two plants per pot. I only have 3 tomato cages, so I'll have to find some more soon.  I also made a small lattice fence to go around tomato and pea land.

And I built a frame with chicken wire to keep the curious critters away. When I was at the hardware store, I bought some clear plastic tarp. I set that up too, but it's too dark to take a picture right now. We are still having 10 degree nights and I don't want my plants to freeze, so each night I'll cover them to keep them warm.

Dinner is oven-fried chicken strips. I just use chicken breasts, dipped in egg white then bread crumbs and baked for 16 minutes at 425 (flipped once). I also made a side salad of lettuce, tomato, corn and Feta. Alas I'm eating alone tonight. But that's okay because Alex got to sleep around 3pm, which means maybe tomorrow he'll be awake until mid-week, we should be back to the same schedule!

I decided to cozy-up my porch so I put up a few teeny shelves for tea light candles. I'm outside on the porch right now with the dogs, listening to the Spring Peepers chirping and the rain drops falling! Now I shall post this and close my laptop and enjoy Nature's show. Nothin' could be finer! :)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sleepy Dogs and "Cheese"

It was raining this morning, but it didn't stop me from having coffee on my lovely porch! :) The dogs wanted to be with me so we all found some room. They doze off so quickly, I wish I had that gift! Marlene, bless her heart, tries so hard to stay awake...Jack found a cozy spot between the girls and Charlie fell right to sleep after that big yawn. It was so nice and relaxing!

After coffee, I headed out to the thrift store and scored! I got 26 nice big containers for $15 that will house all of my plants. They look practically new, what a great find. They look like they came right from the Dollar Store actually. I was debating that...since my ban on the Dollar Store this year...but I was also wondering how I'd afford all the containers I will need in the next month so I relaxed my rule a little bit! I also scored on some garden soil/compost mix, 99 cents for a bag of 25 liters. I got an abundance of it, my car was tilted backwards it seemed when I drove home! Whatever I don't use now, I'll definitely be using in the fall for my winter garden.

So Alex and I are continuing to eat very well, no processed stuff at all. He's sticking to his herbal regime and is doing very well now. We are enjoying salads every night with dinner. But we wanted to try some of the old dishes again. I decided to make a small portion of my Papas Fritas since we had some leftover Cracker Barrel Monteray Jack in the fridge.

This was the wee portion I made, we shared it. Since neither of us has had cheese in over a week, we were curious to see how we'd handle it. Well, it digested okay, but this "cheese" didn't taste like CHEESE anymore. So sad. Everything from the grocery store is subpar. Alex and I are cheese-ADORERS...we both came to the sad realization that this stuff is just crap. I mean, the meal is healthy with potatoes, salsa, fresh cilantro and chicken...but that "cheese" didn't cut it. We made the big decision that we will only buy REAL cheese from now on...nothing pre-packaged at the grocery store. We'll just have to alter the recipes to have less of it because real cheese is mucho expensive! Until the day comes when I don the hat of Cheesemaker, we'll have to enjoy the good stuff less often!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Porch Finished! Container Garden Started! And Some R&R For Me :)

Yesterday's grueling task was to tack down the lovely fake grass carpet on my porch. What's the point of screening it in, if there are openings between the slats on the bottom??? Plus I love feeling like I'm on a golf course took nearly 150 nails and some sore knees, but I got it done. :) This frugal project is a source of pride for me, here's the breakdown:

Wood: $45
Stain: $23
Hardware: $21
Carpet: $33
Screen: $27

The total including taxes was $149 and my budget was $150. This porch is so UN-level and was a real pain to get this done, honestly, the frustration of having a level door not fitting because the whole porch is crooked was challenging for me! But I worked with what I had and I'm so happy it's done. I mentioned in the comments last time that if this were my property, I'd have invested in better wood and likely have torn the entire porch down, extended it and done it properly! But I have to say it was a wonderful experience!! :)

Today we had a bit of warm weather and some pockets of sun, so it was transplanting day. My container garden is moving along nicely. I'm relieved to get the lettuce and spinach into bigger pots! On the left are my spring onions. They only took up half the big pot so I planted more seeds in the other half.

I have three areas that I dug up for my veggies and this is the first one. The two extra pots in the front are newly sown lettuce and spinach seeds. I decided I'm not taking a chance with the curious Blue Jays and grackles...everything will have a chicken wire cover. This is just a temporary one, when the sun goes away, those black flies swarm so I wanted to get something quick done. Next sunny day I'll make a proper fence and chicken wire top.

I also transplanted my beets and planted new seeds in half the container. I took care of the crops that could tolerate cooler nights for now.

This is what's left of my seedlings, not including the herbs. Peas, pumpkins and three varieties of tomatoes. These will come in at night for another week or so until the nights stick to 15 degrees and up. Tomorrow I have to shop for containers and get some more soil!

I also transplanted my two little pots of chives that I got last summer. They were the only plant that lasted through the winter in my window. Now they have lots of room to breathe, those old pots were way too small.

And all of my herbs are on the "herb shelf" now! :) I planted more herbs in the green pots in the front so I'll have a nice supply all summer :)

That lime green hanging pot is my strawberry plant from last summer...I saw a wee little bud, so I'm hopeful! I even moved my laundry line over so it wouldn't get in the way of the new screen door...I did a lot of work and I feel great about it! I honestly never though I'd get all this done in a week, but the container garden is well on its way, my porch is done...

Now it's RAIN TIME....Alex is sleeping, and much better I'm happy to report! :) I can finally enjoy sitting on my porch without getting eaten alive; with a glass of wine, a book and my fur kids by my side! :)  Oh happy days! :)

Monday, May 22, 2017

I Built A Screened In Porch! :)

Hi Everyone!! :)

It is raining pretty hard today so I had some time inside to catch up with my blog friends and post an update. I have to say it's been a challenging week! Alex is still pretty sick and spends most of his time in bed, he has no energy. But he is gradually healing so we're both really happy about that! His insomnia is gone thanks to passionflower tincture but he still sleeps pretty much all day and is up all night. He's trying to shift his schedule by staying awake an extra hour each day, he should be back to his usual sleeping schedule in a few weeks. All of the household and pet responsibilities have fallen on me so I've been a wee bit overwhelmed! We had some really hot weather to start last week, but I'm shivering as I type this today. 

My seedlings are doing so well...too well to stay in this window! Look at the pumpkin...the leaves are too tall now, but it doesn't look like we'll have warmer weather until the first week of June. I can probably start to transplant the lettuce, spinach and beets, but the rest will have to patiently wait!

The last hold outs were the carrots, and finally they are starting to sprout! I planted them April 29th.

Despite the cold weather, the lilac tree is starting to come alive! That's good news! have I kept busy, besides caring for my home, pets and boyfriend for the last week? I decided to build my screened-in porch on my own. Bug season is upon us and I need my sanctuary!

Alex wanted to do it for me and asked me to wait, but you know what? He's just too sapped of energy right now and we don't know when he'll be healthy and energetic again. Plus, I wanted to see if I could actually do this on my own. I didn't buy the best material, knowing it would be temporary for the next 2 years. I started with 2 x 8's and sanded them all, all 30 of them.

Then I stained them what I thought was the same colour as the fading brown on the current porch!

Not a bad match! But my colour is nicer. :) I took advantage of the sunny beginning of the week to build the frame on one side and screen it in. Thank goodness I have that arnica gel for my hands!

I finished TODAY. For someone with zero carpentry skills, I'm really proud of myself! Remember I talked about that silly space where I hang my garden tools? I was going to completely block that off because it's about 1 1/2 feet wide and you can only walk sideways on there - such a wasted space!

Instead, I decided I needed the space, but also needed access so I built a screen door. That was my "guinea pig" because I've never built a door, door frame or hung a door before, so it was a learning curve!

This was the real challenge. The front screen door. OMG...the challenge...mistake, fix mistake, mistake, fix mistake...I was so frustrated at the end that I was in tears! But I got it all done. It hangs perfectly, has handles, a lock, and even magnets to keep it shut when I go down the stairs. Alex came out to help me hang it. After just half an hour, he was out of energy again, but I couldn't have finished it without him!

I'm pretty proud of myself. Now I just have to hope that Charlie won't barrel right through the screen on her way to the yard...I think when I go out next time, I'll have to stop by the hardware store for some kind of "kick guard". The only thing left to do is lay down the carpet. I bought some of that green fake grass carpet!!! I love that stuff! :) I'll do that tomorrow, then I can sit and rest my weary muscles!

That porch was a heck of a lot of work for me. Mama Pea, you said your ankles hurt one day after you were gardening...well, my ear lobes hurt, how's that? Lol...The dogs got their walk in the woods each morning still, that was kind of my "nature therapy" helping me through this challenging time! See Jack? He's "pointing" because he saw a rabbit. He's got some hunting dog in him that's for sure!

And look what I got in the mail the other day! Alex ordered this book for me because he said he wanted me to have some fun "porch reading". Even though he's quite ill, he's still spoiling me. Meals have been all over the place. I'm making very bland and healthy food for Alex and by default I've been eating a lot less and have been losing weight. I need my comfort food again! :)  No skinny minny in this house!!! Tomorrow will be warm and sunny again, so I'm going to try to do some work in the garden after I lay down my fake grass carpet. :)  I saw Charlie sniffing and eyeing my seedlings when I brought them I don't need convincing that my container garden will need to be fenced in, I'd like to do that this week. 

I hope the upcoming week will be a little easier but you know, I love Alex so much and I love my little fur family, so even though it's exhausting, I thrive on taking care of them. I just can't forget about myself in the shuffle!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Gardening Season Is FINALLY Here!!! (I HOPE)

Thanks to all of my Blogger friends for your lovely comments and friendly advice! Just wanted to send that positive message out. :)

Yesterday I didn't end up outside at all because about fifteen minutes after posting that I had a window of rained! Ugh! But I did get ahead on my menu planning, got 17 dinners planned and worked on my shopping list for Monday.

However...when I woke up this morning at 6:30am, it was actually sunny! I looked at the radar, and the rain was supposed to start around 3pm, so after a walk with the dogs, I was out. I "rebuilt" so to speak, the lattice fence we have on the side of our yard where the icky neighbours are. Despite all of our efforts, the village did NOTHING about the loose dog situation, in fact, they don't even reply to us anymore. Whatever...we aren't planting roots here...anyway, this fence was put up last fall in a hurry and on a very tiny budget, now it's secure and I even made a gate so that we can bring the lawnmower up and down without having to walk all the way around the house. This took a long time, but I'm so proud of my skills! :) And it only cost me about $25 in total to buy those green T-posts. The lattice was given to us by the lumber yard, they had scraps of it, lots damaged, but we salvaged what we could. I love making frugalness work!

I also extended my pumpkin patch and covered my carrots and radishes with chicken wire - those Blue Jays were hovering this morning...I also started to measure, saw and sand the framing for my screened-in porch. The skies started to get dark around 2pm so I came in, stretched and re-hydrated. The Arnica gel is being tested right now!

Now it's time to plop! My dear Alex is sick, and he has insomnia. He can't seem to sleep at night and was usually falling asleep at sun up...but the last few days, he can't even fall asleep at all. I am going to spend my days out in the yard and garden, and taking care of him too. 

I've been posting almost daily for three months now, but I can see a slow down imminent. Just wanted to mention that so nobody thinks I've disappeared! But I'll be lurking lol! I'm so excited that the warmer weather is here. It's still going to rain for a few days, but that'll give me time to plan my monthly meal plan and shopping list. But as of Tuesday, I'm in the dirt! I'll probably slow down the posts to a few a week and I still need to catch up on everyone's blogs! 

**I just re-read my post and it seems rushed...funny how that happens, I need to breathe, I'm overstimulated by being out in the garden and in the sun lol...**


Friday, May 12, 2017

Window of Opportunity

Looking up into the sky today...something was tugging at me. I had to delve deep into my subconscious to figure out what I was looking at. The memory came back slowly. That's it, blue sky! :) Could it be? Is it possible that the sun will make a show-stopping appearance today??? Well, the good news is that the possibility of rain is only 30% today so I'm heading outside, sun or not!

I'm going to work smart today overdoing it. (ahem) The weekend promises a deluge of rain, so I want to get what I can done while I have better weather! 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Homemade Chicken Broth and Radish Sprouts!!

Proud of myself #1: The last sunny day we had was May 4th. Isn't that crazy??? Anyway, that was two days after my fall, and also the day I overdid it again in the garden. I planted carrot and radish seeds in big containers on April 29th, and look! Look!! :))  I have radish sprouts, despite the crazy cold weather and not having watered them more than once since I planted them. They actually have been covered 99% of the time with the lids of the containers. The only time I took the lids off were when we had tiny pockets of sun, so I'd say in the last 8 days, they got 1 hour of sunshine. The carrots haven't popped up yet. I'm so happy to see these little radish sprouts!!!

Proud of myself #2: I made 5 liters of chicken broth yesterday! Whole chickens were on sale the other day for $1.79 a pound so I bought 2 of them. 

Our combined digestive issues have Alex and I at the end of our ropes. We love to eat and there are things we won't give up...but we are striving to eat better food. After reading some labels, we decided it was time to try our own broths. This is the label of the Bovril chicken broth. I got some great advice many years ago "if you can't pronounce it or don't know what it is, DON'T eat it." with regards to label ingredients! Besides all the other crap in this bottle, there seems to be chicken used in making this lol...but that's not good enough for us. 

If anyone has recipes or tips on a really amazing broth (chicken or beef) please share btw. I'm always looking to improve!

So...I roasted the two chickens I bought, then de-boned them and kept the meat. You never saw bones so empty let me tell you, I got every piece of meat off those birds! Then I pulled out my only two big pots and in each I put one carcass, 4 carrots, 4 celery stalks, an onion and some garlic; then covered it up with water. I added a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 2 bay leaves and a bunch of parsley - aah, I found a use for my parsley after all!

This stayed on the stove simmering for 5 hours while I baked my bread. Alex was starving at that point so we strained and jarred one of the pot's contents into 4 Mason jars and made a chicken rice soup with the leftovers. We had soup and fresh bread for dinner. By the way, we both have noticed that we digest bread and pizza dough much easier with unbleached flour vs. regular flour. I can't wait to see the difference when we buy organic. Though the bread isn't as fluffy...but I read that bleached flour makes baked goods fluffier, so I'm guessing it must be true since I used the same recipe I always use.

After tasting the broth, we both thought "chicken water"...the recipe I used said minimum 4 hours. At this point, this process had been going on all day and I was pooped. But while I slept, Alex decided to work on the second pot of broth and he strained half of it after 10 hours, and the rest after 14 hours.

Both the colour and flavour difference was amazing. The longer the better it seems! How long do you simmer your broth? We are having some broth each day and so are the pets. The dogs LOVE it and one of our cats does too, but the 2 other cats turn their noses! The health benefits are great - boosts immunity, helps with intestinal inflammation, heals the gut and provides lots of minerals. And MY label reads: "chicken bones, fresh vegetables, apple cider vinegar, water"...we can pronounce all of THOSE ingredients! It might take a while for our palates to get used to this real food. The broth we've been used to was so laden with salt and wonder we have poor digestion considering all that nasty stuff the companies add to the "food". (or as the makers of Cheez Whiz refer to it "processed food stuff", shudder!).

Today I'm working on beef broth. I got some soup bones at the butcher when I bought the chicken the other day. That will simmer all day and night! I'm really proud of us for taking these steps gradually. I think it would be an interesting exercise to see what kind of processed foods we still use vs. what we now make (and soon grow!) on our own.

I love being in the woods with the dogs. I discovered a new trail today which links to two of the others. I actually stopped to take a picture of that moss-covered rock, but the dogs ran ahead. They were watching a set of squirrels running up and down the trees.

I got my latest book in the mail today! :) I love real books, especially biographies! Alex and I have a used book budget every month, we love to read and sometimes E-books don't cut the mustard. It's unfortunate that we can't get English books around here, but the used books via Amazon are pretty reasonably priced.

The cereal box I read this morning wasn't much better than the chicken I'm making my own granola. Have you ever dehydrated frozen fruit? I mean, FROZEN...I was too impatient to actually thaw them lol...I had a few bags of frozen strawberries, so I decided to give it a try! I'll report the results tomorrow! I have to bake those pretzels today and also the dog cookies! Then I have to run outside and do some kind of sun the British comedies say..."I'm starting to get prison pallor!"...