Friday, June 29, 2012

ANNA'S COMPUTER BROKEN

 Hello, Everyone! W do hope it isn't as hot where you are as it is here where we are. We also hope everyone is doing well.

We thought we better take a moment to make a short post to tell you all where we have been. My computer is broken  (on a dinosaur of a laptop at the moment) and Dave has been working long, hard hours. Plus, any spare moment either of us have is being spent watering, watering, WATERING, animals, plants and veggies. It has been over 100* F. for the past week, no rain, and no relief in sight. So we are pretty much in survival mode at the moment. Some plants are holding (not growing, really, just holding) and some are literally frying no matter how much water we put on them. Sorry to say, we weren't expecting this and it caught us off guard.

We greatly apologize for being away and for missing so many of our weekly posts. We will be back just the second everything settles down a bit and hopefully get in a few short posts before then, but we make no promises, as it is pretty crazy at the moment. We would also like to extend an extra big WELCOME and THANK YOU to our newest member that joined while we have been away dealing with all of our crazies.

You know.... it's funny ...... it seems that when we are so tied up with life that we can't get on here to blog... that is the time we have the most and most interesting material to blog about! We will be back soon and try our best to catch up on everything.

May you have a very WONDERFUL and BLESSED weekend!!!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

PHARMACY FRIDAY - Honeysuckle to Reduce Overheating

   Although it is officially still Spring here where we live, for many of us, that time of year that often renders the day unbearably hot is already here. With all that heat, and with us trying to live more naturally and reduce the amount of electricity we use (meaning no air conditioning) we begin looking for ways to beat the heat, keep cool, and, when that doesn't work, we look for ways to remedy heat exhaustion and heat stroke (both of which are very dangerous).

As some of you may know, I have a small shop at our local flea market. It is a cross between indoors and out. The inside is inside of a windowless metal building with no electricity, and the outside area is solid gray gravel. It gets VERY hot when the weather is hot! We have a few canopies up that we often sit under, but even with that, when the sun hits a certain angle, it simple heats up the gravel under the canopy, the canopy holds in the heat, thus creating a miserable summertime heater.

I have overheated quite a few times as I work throughout the late spring and summer, getting heat exhaustion nearly to the point of heat stroke a few times.. With several health issues, including heart problems, a few times got downright scary! So with my first (and extra early) round of heat exhaustion this year, I began to urgently search for natural remedies and aides to help me endure the upcoming summer's heat and still be able to work.

To my excited astonishment, I learned that the flowers on the honeysuckle growing in the corner of my yard was my answer! The Japanese Honeysuckle (which is what both Dave and I have) seems to be the one that is said to work the best. You simply drink brewed tea made from the Honeysuckle Flowers and drink to reduce the heat in your body!  HERE is some more great, detailed information about using Honeysuckle Tea to reduce/eliminate excess heat from your body when you are hit with heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

A couple of weekends ago, while working at my setup at the Flea Market, it got much hotter than we had expected and I badly overheated. I came home feeling really lousy and, as I pulled in my driveway, I was greeted with a burst of Honeysuckle blooms. I remembered what I had read, got out and picked a handful, then brewed me a big cup as soon as I got inside. I sweetened it with honey and sat down to taste my first ever cup. First, I was surprised at how wonderful it tasted!! Remember when you were a kid and you pulled those little flowers stamens out the end of that honeysuckle flower, anxiously awaiting that little 'drop' of sweet nectar to pop out so you could quickly catch it on your tongue, then wished like everything you could have a whole cup of it because that wonderfully sweet and tasty drop just wasn't enough? Well, that is what that tea tasted like... that whole cup I dreamed of having when I was a kid!!! It was pure Heaven!

And even better...... within an hour I began to feel much better! (oh, yes, I had also badly sunburned on one side, to the point of blisters). No doubt I was experiencing heat exhaustion when I came home, and it is the kind of heat that seems to take forever to leave your  body, but I was absolutely AMAZED at how fast I began to cool off and feel better just a little while after that cup of tea!

Now when I head out for the flea market to work I take with me a BIG mug of icey cold Honeysuckle Tea. I simply toss a handful of Honeysuckle flowers into about 2 cups of hot water and let steep for awhile. I pour that into my big mug with sweetener, ice, finish filling with water and stir. Because I have also been craving limeades, I also squeeze a couple of limes into my mug with the Honeysuckle Tea Yes, I toss them limes in, too, after I have squeezed the juice into my mug). It is wonderfully delicious! [Recently I have been craving citrus fruits HARD, and when I caved into my cravings, the heart palpitations that I had started to have completely disappeared, but that is a subject for another post at another time.]  Sometimes I sweeten this heat relieving iced tea with honey, and sometimes with granulated evaporated cane juice (I use Zulka). Both are excellent.  And I can first handedly say that sipping on my large mug of this wonderfully tasting and refreshing tea throughout the day (okay, sometimes I guzzle), most definitely keeps me cooler and greatly helps me get through a day of working outdoors in our sticky, icky humid heat. I hope this will help you, too.

Now, to figure out how to get my honeysuckle vines that appear to be slowing down its blooming cycle to pick its blooming back up. Oh, yes, when it is in heavy bloom, you can dry it and store it away for later use. Just make sure you hide it from your cats, as they seem to love it as much as they do catnip!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

TIGHTWAD TUESDAY: Clearance, Closeouts, Damaged and Seasonal

To be certain, I am always looking for a bargain, and sometimes they are right under my nose.  Working in a garden center has its perks and knowing when things go on sale is one of them.  Recently, my job has included the task of loading all the damaged bags of soil and mulch on pallets (originally stacked about knee high, but now it is about half that), writing down the UPC code and count, then wrapping the whole mess in shrink wrap and labeling it with a bulk price.  The main catch is that there is usually a mix of organic and chemical enhanced products on the same pallet.  Since Anna and I are both determined to keep our operation organic, this poses a problem.
 

Friday, we had a pallet of nothing but natural forest product mulch.  Needless to say, at the current price of $5 for the lot, I bought it.  As you can see from the picture, there weren't many bags (actually, there were four but one is hiding behind the others), though they were large bags.  Considering that the already discounted regular price averaged $3 each, it wasn't a bad deal, though not spectacular.  Sunday we had one of the taller pallets remaining, with only one bag of chemical laden garden soil among the large pile of organic stuff.  For $5 you can bet I bought it, and proceeded to stuff it in the back of my Jeep Cherokee Sport.  Quite a load for the little Jeep but I got here with the load and everything intact.

While I was loading my pile of bargains, I was also running the numbers in my head.  The lot turned out to be about a $50 value even based on the already marked down price.  These things make me smile, and also get me thinking of things that I normally do without thinking.  Things like watching for seasonal markdowns at a variety of business types (and it is the season for markdowns on garden center items). 

Seasonal markdowns are only the beginning, and pick a season, any season with its own corresponding items and you will find something being marked down.  Of course, as already mentioned, there are damage markdowns.  These are an unlimited source of tightwad resources.  Anything that can be damaged and remain potentially usable is fair game.  Building materials and tools are always fun ones for me.  While we are at it, lets not forget about clearance items that may be old but still good, or in many cases, just not selling as fast as anticipated.  And of course there are the closeouts, which are, more often than not, perfectly fine, their only flaw being that the new/updated model has just arrived and room has to be made.

To any tightwad, such bargains are a wonderful way to get what is needed and keep the money in the budget for------ well------ all the other things that are needed (or even an occasional "just because I want to moment").  However (and it is a big HOWEVER), there is a danger to this wondrous practice.  It can be just as addictive as dumpster diving and road scavenging (both topics for later posts).  The trick is to keep a focus on what IS needed and what is just cheap.  Example: a $100 pair of golf shoes for $2 would be cheap, and for some it would truly be a bargain, but for me, it would be $2 badly wasted on something that would lay around in the way until it turned to dust.  Point being, it is only a bargain if you need it or can make a profit on it, no matter how cheap it is.  Yes, I do mean even if it is free.  If they pay you to take it, on the other hand, it could still work out well.

So keep an eye out for those seasonal/clearance/closeout/damaged markdowns, enjoy the bargains and live well.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

(DF) LARGE HUNGRY GARDEN PESTS: kinda like bugs only BIGGER!!!!!!!!



By the time I got back from Anna's place Tuesday, it was almost dark, giving just enough time to feed the animals, so I didn't check the garden.  Wednesday morning found me heading for work before daylight, so as soon as the time clock hit 3:00pm, I was headed home to check on the veggies.  What I found was disappointing to say the least.  Take a look at the picture of my beautiful sweet potato vines.  If you are asking what vines I am talking about, that is my point exactly.  They were eaten off to stumps.  They are still alive and quite capable of growing back, but it is a major setback to say the least.

When I planted the sweet potato slips, I knew there would be a bit of expected bug damage.  Even a bit of a run in with rabbits was expected (and dreaded).  This blatant attack hadn't crossed my mind, though it should have (I do live in the woods, after all).  Judging from the tracks in the second picture, the culprit was obviously a deer, a fair sized doe, judging from the track characteristics.  And this fine doe didn't stop at the sweet potatoes.  She thoroughly pruned the tall stalks of lambs quarters I had left in the garden for seed, nibbled at the onions and didn't help the carrot crop either.  She even taste tested the cucumber and pumpkin vines, though they apparently didn't taste that great, as they were mostly intact.

As I said, I should have expected this, but old habits die hard.  Deer are common enough here in my area now, but it wasn't always that way.  Growing up, the only deer I saw in this area were the ones my uncles would hang up at my grandparent's house after a hunt an hours drive away.  There just weren't deer in this area at that time, so nobody even thought to protect their garden from them.  It wasn't until I was a teenager that I saw my first wild deer in the area, and it was certainly an amazing spectacle.  With less hunting pressure over the past thirty years, and efforts (both official and unofficial) to re-introduce deer into the area, they have now become "large bugs in my garden"

My grandmother's consideration of planting three times as much garden as needed (one third for the weather, one third for the pests, and one third for the family) was certainly not calculating for hungry deer, so I will have to do something to prevent the loss.  Repellents are a possibility, though they have to be replaced after it rains, assuming it does that often enough to be an issue.  I am also a bit skeptical of repellents, as in the past, my best efforts in this area didn't keep the deer off my young fruit trees.  Noise makers only work until the deer get used to it, then they are simply ignored.  Looks like when I am building goat fence around the pasture, I may have to make a slightly taller version around the garden, to keep the cute little devils out.  This is just one example of how things have changed since I was a kid, and a reminder that we have to always be ready to adapt with the constant changes.

And of course, this fall, I will have to make an effort to get my veggies back in the form of venison.  More on that option later, I suppose.

Friday, June 8, 2012

PHARMACY FRIDAY - Honey: Raw, Pure or Natural?

As Dave and I are trying to live more and more naturally, we are also using more and more honey in our diet. And honey is simply oozing withe health benefits! One of my favorite benefits of honey is the fact that it has strong, powerful, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. This, combined with its many healing properties, makes it great for soothing sore throats, abrasions and minor burns. And that is just the beginning of honey's many healthful and healing benefits. It's pretty amazing stuff!

I could easily get very carried away with discussing all the wonderful healing benefits of honey, and eventually I will, but that isn't the purpose of this post, today. If you would like to see some more of the many, wonderful health benefits of honey, have a look here.  Instead, my post today is about WHICH honey is best to use to get those great benefits.

First of all, local honey is best for you. By local honey, I mean honey that has been grown through bees and pollens that are as close to you as possible. Honey that comes from your own environment gives you the best protection and healing you can possibly get. 

Regardless of where your honey comes from, some labels will say that it is 'raw' while others will say 'pure' or 'natural'.  This can be very confusing. The labeling on honey has not yet become very regulated, so even the same word on a label may have a different meaning from one brand to another, and the meaning of the 'terms' used will also vary greatly from country to country. There are; however, some basic rules of the trade that makes it a little easier to decipher and decide. In this post, I will be discussing the most common meanings used here in the United States.

RAW HONEY- Raw honey is just what it says ... RAW. It is straight out of the hive and has not been processed in any way. It has not been heat treated. It has not been filtered. It has not been pasteurized. It does not have other ingredients added. And it has not had it's beneficial qualities killed off. It is exactly as it was as it came out of the hive, sometimes even containing an occasional wing, a bit of pollen or honeycomb, or maybe even some propolis. It has a much higher antioxidant level than processed honey. This is the honey you want. It still holds ALL of its natural healing benefits.

NATURAL HONEY - This may not even be 'just' honey! It says 'natural' so all of the ingredients are probably natural, but there may be other things in there besides honey. It could contain sugar, molasses, or any other number of natural sweeteners or ingredients.... even water. Also, it may have been (and probably was) heat treated and/or filtered, which could destroy most of the benefits you were looking to get from it.

PURE HONEY -  Now this is the term you probably see on MOST of the honey labels. And it is probably the one that is most open to the largest variety of definitions. It leaves all kinds of possibilities for what may be in that jar of honey! It might mean that it is 'raw' honey straight from the hive. But then, again, it might not even be all honey! It could be only a small amount of honey with other ingredients, such as sugar, water, coloring, flavoring, etc, but with all of the ingredients being pure. Regardless of whether Pure Honey is Raw honey or if it is a 'blend' of ingredients honey labeled PURE has usually (though not always) been processed to some degree. Most has been at least heat-treated ... pasteurized. The high heat used for this processing kills most, if not all, of the honey's health benefits. It may have also been filtered, which further removes some of the honey's health benefits.

Why would all of this processing be done? One, it makes it smoother and clearer for a nicer presentation to the customer. Personally, I think it looks pretty appealing just as it is, and I am not willing to give up its many benefits for it to look 'prettier'. Second, if the honey contains 'other' ingredients, the processing is necessary to keep down the risks of food poisoning. But a product like that, I consider pretty worthless. It has no benefit except for a monetary one for the company that is producing it and fooling the customer. And with today's lax labeling, you have no way of knowing exactly how much heat has (or has not) been applied to your jar of honey, nor how much filtering or other processing.

Your best, and most reliable option is to purchase your honey straight from the bee keeper..... purchase it from someone you know and trust to be selling you RAW, UNPROCESSED, REAL honey. If you want your honey to contain ALL of its healing, medicinal, and health benefits, this is the only way to go!


Have a sweet day!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

(DF) SOLAR POWERED CHEESE: alternative energy at it's tastiest

As those of you who raise goats will no doubt agree, when the goat isn't giving milk, you wish she was, but when she is giving milk, there is often more than can be readily used.  This is where cheese comes in.  Making cheese isn't difficult, though some would say it requires close attention to details and precise monitoring of  temperature, and of course, a good cheese press.  I must say I agree with the consideration of temperature control  and I do enjoy a good press, at least I agree when it comes to making specific types of cheese.  Lets face it, if the temperature and method aren't correct, cheddar might turn out to be almost anything, though it would still be something resembling cheese.  The fact is that all that is required to make cheese (at least in theory) is milk, rennet to make it curd, and a source of heat to get it to the right temperature for the rennet to do its work.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your view, I tend to be more inclined to experiment than to follow a set procedure, though there is usually some thought of what the general goal is.  Sunday morning, the goal was simply to turn the five quarts of goat milk into something resembling cheese so it wouldn't become chicken feed. 

Another major factor for the day was time constraints.  Working overtime during the past week left me with one day off to catch up on all the work around the farm, and honestly, one day isn't even time enough to maintain what has already been done, much less make progress.  I know this post is getting a bit scattered at this point, but if you will bear with me, I will scatter it a bit farther before bringing it all together.

Solar energy seems to be a big topic right now, and I do plan to set up a solar electric system as soon as possible.  However, farmers have always used solar power.  Technically, green leaves are solar panels and roots, fruits, seeds and vegetation are the storage batteries that power life on the farm.  Solar power is also used for heat (some times a bit too much heat, in fact).

Now back to the cheese.  On this particular day, due to time constraints and work load, I needed it to be simple.  How simple?  Simple enough that it would do the work itself and leave me to planting yet more tomatoes, among other chores.  With that in mind, I took the five quarts of milk I had stored in the refrigerator, poured them in a stainless steel stock pot, added rennet and placed the pot on the pump slab in the sun to heat up.  My thought was that the sun would warm the milk, allowing the curds to set, and all I would have to do was squeeze out the whey, add a little salt and eat fresh cheese for supper.  Having never tried this method (or even knowing of anyone who had) my consideration was that if it didn't work out, the chickens would eat well.

Three hours later, when I stopped planting to cool off a bit, I found that the curds had set beautifully.  The curds were quickly cut, placed in a cloth lined drainer and most of the whey gently squeezed out.  A little natural salt was added and a bit more whey squeezed out.  As a side note, my hands are large and strong, making it hard for me not to squeeze out too much whey when making fresh cheese.  This time, however, I restrained myself and the result was the absolute best fresh cheese I have ever made, dry enough but not rubbery. 


You can bet in the future, I will be making use of solar power for cheese making on a regular basis, saving the fire for cold weather.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

TIGHTWAD TUESDAY - Buying In Bulk

Oh my gosh! We can't believe Tuesday got away from us like this. We GREATLY apologize for getting this week's issue of Tightwad Tuesday posted so late! Dave and I have both been putting in so many work hours that we haven't gotten to see much of each other lately. Talking on the phone every night is great, but that in-person time just can't be beat! Opportunity arose for us to spend the last 24 hours together and we grabbed it. We were enjoying our time together so much that we forgot it was Tuesday!  Okay, so on with the post....

Believe it or not, Dave and I really enjoy going grocery shopping together. I have never enjoyed shopping with my fella as much as I do with Dave. What is even better is that we agree so much on our choices and shopping styles. We are both tightwads and both look for the most natural and healthiest of products we can find. It works out very well.

Today we were shopping at our favorite economy grocery store here in the town I live closest to. The bargains were great [Sun Butter - 99¢ (like peanut butter only with sunflower seeds), big glass jars of all-natural mandarin oranges (no sugar) - 39¢, marinated artichoke/olive salad - 59¢, Mexican wedding cookies - 39¢] and the list of great savings went on and on.

Then we came to the meat department. They were running the best of specials on frozen, battered, ready-to-cook Chicken Livers. Yes, it was pre-packaged and had a bit of ingredients that we usually try to steer clear of, but it wasn't a major thing, we do fudge on an occasional treat once-in-a-great-while, and the price this time was just too irresistible. The 5-pound bags were only $1.99. NO... not $1.99 a pound.... $1.99 a 5-pound bag!!  Fried Chicken Livers is something that both of us usually make from scratch, but at this price, Dave was standing there thinking of getting a bag. Then I said that I thought I was going to get a bag. So Dave suggested that we get the 10-pound box (which contained 2 bags) and split it. So why would be do it that way? Because the 10-pound box was only $3.49 (yes, that's only 35¢ a pound for meat) - a total savings of 49¢. That may not sound like much of a savings over 10 pounds, but if you do that on enough items, the savings really adds up fast! And as an added bonus, I got a good, strong, sturdy box to use at the flea market. That may not sound like much, either, but when you have a customer come up that wants to make a big glassware purchase, having that sturdy box on hand could easily make or break your sale!

Occasionally, buying in bulk isn't the way to go You have to really know your prices and watch those figures closely because some stores really play on people's tendency to buy in bulk, and if you look closely, sometimes the bulk price may even cost more per unit than the smaller bag price! So make sure you take a calculator with you shopping, then take the time in the store to figure the per-unit cost of your items, both in bulk and by individual packages. The results of your figures may surprise you!

Most of the time, though, buying in bulk can save you LOTS of money. If you are a large family, buying in bulk simply for your own use saves you lots of money, and also saves you shopping time by not having to repeatedly go back to the store for items. But if you are a single person, a couple or simply live in a very small space, buying in bulk may appear to have its downsides, such as not enough storage space and/or you aren't able to use it all up quickly enough. But these problems don't need to always hinder you from buying in bulk to save money. Get together with other family and friends in the same situation, or start and organize your own group. Make up lists of the basic grocery items, cleaning products, and basic staples you use throughout the month, check out how many people in your 'group' use the same items, then designate one member of the group to purchase the item(s) in bulk. Meet back up, divide up into agreed upon portions and also divide up the cost accordingly. Everyone saves. Often times I get 50-pound bags of potatoes that gets split up amongst me, Dave and my mom, which results in big savings for all of us. Later this month I may try it with fresh carrots, too. (I learned that, besides getting a per unit lower price,  I can also get a better quality of carrots by purchasing them in the BIG, restaurant-sized bags).  Sometimes co-ops are started this way and are also a great way to save. But the main suggestion of this post is simply to get together with a few like-minded people who want to save money but don't want large quantities all for themselves, yet wants the savings of the larger quantities. Very rarely will you have to look far for people that would like to share in a bulk purchase with you, as everyone today is looking harder than ever at ways to save money.

And now, I am going to go fry me up a pan of those wonderful looking chicken livers for a late dinner. Who would like to join me?


Friday, June 1, 2012

PHARMACY FRIDAY - Ginger vs Dramamine

We are heading into that time of year where some people like to do lots of traveling, or maybe just a little bit of traveling. But with any amount traveling often comes motion sickness.

Throughout my childhood, we made many car trips through the summers to Pennsylvania to visit family, along with many other places just for fun and relaxation.  I always go car sick and it seemed that the older I got, the worse it got.  I LOVED the traveling, but I HATED the motion sickness! It made the trips absolutely miserable! So, at a very early age I had to start taking Dramamine (dimenhydrinate) to make it through these trips. I never was sure which was worse.... the motion sickness or the side effects of the Dramamine. It made me feel lethargic, super sleepy, and just plain yucky. I adored getting to see all the beautiful scenery on our many trips to PA, but once I had to start taking Dramamine, I didn't get to see much of that part of the trip as it kept me knocked out and I slept through most of the drives. But if I skipped taking it, I was so sick I still missed seeing everything along the way.

As I moved into adulthood, I started hearing some not-so-good (even scary) things about Dramamine.  Of course, I learned about the drowsiness and dizziness real quick on my own. This is not only frustrating, but very dangerous if you are going to be driving any part of the trip. It also killed my appetite and made my mouth dry... not something you want to deal with when you are traveling and looking forward to trying new foods.

Upon further research I also learned that it can cause an array of other problems. It can cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, which was what I was trying to stop in the first place! It may cause dry eyes and blurred vision, which is also something I don't want to deal with when traveling. The fact that it can cause rapid heartbeat is scary!

If you purchase the non-drowsy formula, more side effects are added into the mix. It can cause agitation and excitability, react badly with certain antibiotics, and more.

So I set out to search for something to remedy my motion sickness that had far less side effects and , preferably was natural. The best thing that I found was right in my kitchen cabinet.... GINGER! I have tried it in several forms with great results. I have made it into tea (hot or cold), sweetened with honey, and it works great! I have also used candied ginger and ginger ale with great results. Candied Ginger is good, but you can eat too much sugar really fast with it. Ginger Ale works excellent, but, there again, on a long trip, you can consume far too much sugar, along with all that carbonation and other chemicals. But if you choose Ginger ale, make sure it is made with actual ginger and not just flavored.

Although you can also take powdered ginger in capsule form what works best for me is to to begin sipping on some Ginger Tea or Ginger Ale (I let it get a little flat) about 30 minutes before I begin my trip. I then take it with me and sip it slowly throughout my travel, whether it is 45 minutes or a couple of days of riding. As long as I am sipping it all along the way, I never get car sick! Oh, how I wish I had known about this all those years ago! It gives me total motion sickness relief with absolutely no side effects. This natural method is so much safer for your body. As long as I have my Ginger Tea or Ginger Ale along with me, I never get car sick and I can completely enjoy the ride! 

What do you use to effectively combat motion sickness?