Tuesday, July 26, 2011

And the Heat is Back.....

We had a short break from the heat with the rain the other day, however, it's back and more humid than before.  The garden isn't looking very good.  I have moths swarming my brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and kale all day long.  I put bird netting over the beds, but they can still get in.  It's a constant struggle to keep up with removing their eggs and caterpillars.  I am afraid it has become a loosing battle.

With the extreme heat, very few of the plants are producing as they should.  My tomatoes are not growing very well.  I have gotten a few small grape tomatoes from the volunteer plants that popped up unexpectedly.  How sad is that when your volunteer plants do better than the ones you actually planted?  The only zucchini I had growing rotted on the vine before it was large enough to pick and no others seem to be taking its place.
I had one cucumber on the vine yesterday I was leaving to get bigger and today it's gone!  I am guessing one of the many rabbits that frequent our yard enjoyed it.  We may have to try some rabbit stew this winter! 

With the heat I haven't been baking, so my family is having cookie withdrawals.  If it would cool off I'm sure we would all feel like doing more.  The heat is wearing us out.  Even the chickens don't want to do anything but sit in the dirt and try to keep cool.  The lowest high this week so far appears to be 87 degrees and that isn't until Friday.  Looks like it's going to be another long week.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Raining! My Rain Barrels are Getting Filled!

 Finally we have rain!  No watering the garden for two days straight.  Yesterday it rained just enough that I didn't have to water and today we are getting even more.  I am so excited to have my rain barrels full again.  With this dry spell I am thinking I need more to get me through times like these. 

 The original down spout had to be removed and replaced with this flex tube.
This is the second year of use for our rain barrels.  We have them set up behind our garage to collect the water that runs off of the roof.

They are set each one lower than the next to allow over flow to go into the next barrel.

 We bought the containers at True Value for just under $20 each.  We picked up the hardware at Tractor Supply and Wal-Mart for very little money.  Most rain barrels sell for at least $60 a piece. My son did the rest. Including drilling the holes for the spouts.  He is so creative!

This is screen to catch debris from going into the barrels.

 He also made holes in the lid of a milk jug for us to use for watering.  We saved several and would fill them with water so we had an additional supply of water.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

I was motivated by a friend’s trial of homemade dishwasher detergent to do some research for a recipe.

After doing a little searching, several comments I read indicated that homemade versions can cause a dull film residue to be left on your dishes.  Some claims were made that by adding citric acid to the recipe it helped to eliminate the issue. While looking through several sites, I came across this recipe that includes citric acid. 

I made my first batch of dishwasher detergent last night and have now run two loads using it.  It works great!


Dishwasher Powder
1 cup Borax
1 cup baking soda 
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup citric acid
I used the recipe as written with a few exceptions.  I didn't add the essential oils to the mixture. I use 1 Tablespoon in each of the two dispensers my dishwasher has.  In the first dispenser, I add a few drops of tea tree essential oil for its disinfecting properties.  In the second dispenser, I add a citrus essential oil.  I also use ¼ cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle to help eliminate water spots.  

I have now placed the powdered detergent into a plastic bag for storage.  The citric acid, when mixed with the other ingredients, tends to clump or harden.  By putting it in a plastic bag it is easier to break up and mix before use.

More recipes can be found on these following pages:

You can design the recipe to fit your needs and wants.  I like the way the dishes came clean.  They weren't left with a greasy or cloudy residue. The ingredients needed were easily obtained.  The amount of money the home made version will save, versus the name brand dishwasher detergents, is going to be immense.  I am not sure I will ever have to buy dishwasher detergent again!

The citric acid may be hard to find in local stores.  You may be able to find it in the vitamin isle if you look.  I know Now Foods sells it as a supplement. I purchase mine in bulk from Frontier Coop.  I get a 1 pound package for just over $5 with tax.  A little goes a long way.  It can also be used as "fruit fresh" to keep your fruit from turning brown when you dehydrate it.

I use essential oils in many aspects of cleaning and every day well being.  When purchasing essential oils, be sure to do your research.  Some are not true oils.  I like Aura Cacia the best.  I purchase them from Frontiercoop.com.  You can easily shop online.  If you purchase quite a bit, it is worth the $10 to become a wholesale member.  You get to purchase items at wholesale cost.  If your order is $250, shipping is free.  I join together each month with a few others to place an order so we can get free shipping.  By placing an order each month we can also take advantage of the monthly sales. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heartache and the Heat

Stubby, our spunky girl.
 The extreme heat we have been experiencing is making for a stressful time.  Tuesday, Stubby, one of our older girls, succumb to heat exhaustion.  The run was left open so the girls could get out of the coop early.  They all appeared to be foraging when I returned from taking my son detasseling after 5:30 in the morning.  When I got home from picking him up again at 10:00 I went out to check on them.  I noticed Stubby was too still.  She was already gone.  She was still soft so she had just recently passed.  She looked as if she was sleeping.  Poor girl, I couldn’t bear to remove her from the run until I was able to grasp the reality of it all.  I let the other girls out to play in the yard while I watered the garden.  

Since my husband was at work, I knew I had to take care of her. I took her out and placed her beside our back door.  Living in town, you can’t just dig a hole to bury a pet like you can in the country.  Thankfully my parents came in later in the day.  They brought a dog kennel for us to use to bring the others in the house if we had to.  Dad took her home to lay her to rest.  She will be missed.  

Stubby was named because of her lack of tail feathers.  She had them sheared off when the dogs attacked our coop last fall and they never grew back.  She always had a bald spot on her back side and just a few tail feathers.  She was our spunkiest girl.  My husband liked to call her Speed Racer.  She was the fastest chicken we had.  If she didn’t want to go inside, she would make you chase her around the coop several times before you finally gave up and tried to trick her into going back inside.  She was also the only bird that would try to fly out of your hands each time you went to pick her up.  She didn’t want to be contained.  

Miss Tail Feathers
I’m not sure if it was her breed, but the other Silver Laced Wyandotte seemed hotter than the other two as well.  I brought Miss Tail Feathers (our prettiest girl), in and gave her a bath to cool her off.  I ended up keeping her in the basement the rest of the day and over night.  The other two got misted down several times and seemed to be doing alright.   

That evening my husband put up a tarp for more shade and I made use of a cotton shower curtain given to me by a friend.  I cut it off, hemmed it, and we hung in on the other side of the coop.  It gives them a little extra shade while still allowing the breeze to blow into the run. It tye dyed in color so it just looks cool, NOT.   I really need to find some nice outdoor material to make some curtains to hang that can be moved on a rod to open and close them  periodically.  I also hooked up their fan inside the coop.  They seem to like to sit in front of it at night.

One Wednesday, I let all of the chickens outside for exercise.  The little ones were in the kennel with a tarp stretched over it for shade, and the others in the run.  After a while, I looked outside to check on them and noticed a strange shadow appearing in our yard.  It kept moving so I instantly looked up and saw two hawks soaring over checking out the little chickens.  They kept getting closer and closer trying to figure out how to get in and out of the kennel quickly. I don't think they would have been able to get to them with the tarp hanging over it, however, I didn't want to take any chances.  I grabbed their box and ran outside to get them in.  It was starting to get really hot again so I decided to bring the big girls into the basement to stay cool as well.   I had already made up a box for them with wood shavings and hay.  They got to spend the night inside and didn’t seem to mind.  

 I can’t wait for this heat wave to subside.  I’m sure it is causing more heartache for others as well.  Not to mention an increase in utility bills.   I can’t imagine not having central air-conditioning in times like these.  I can remember growing up sitting in front of the fan to stay cool.  We didn’t have air in our new house.  Why, I’m not sure.  Maybe because it was considered a luxury back then, where as now we find it a necessity.

I am also having a hard time keeping up with watering the garden. The ground is so dry and the heat continues to deplete any moisture you give it.   Because of the lack of rain, I have to use water from the faucet, which I know will cause and increase in our bill.  My rain barrels have been empty for over a week now.  In addition, we are taking more showers which will also add to the cost of our water bill.  The extreme heat seems to be making us very tired.  We can’t seem to accomplish as much when the temperatures become unbearable.forecasted for this evening which we desperately need.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Powdered Laundry Soap Update

I have now used almost a complete batch of homemade laundry soap.  I have learned to get over my "no suds" phobia.  It helps that I really like the smell of the fels-naptha soap. It  smells so fresh.  I also put the soap bars in my towel drawer to make my towels smell good.  That is a something my grandmother used to do.  You could count on her hand towels, wash rags, and bath towels always smelling good.

I have been using the homemade soap more often, and saving my more expensive soap for heavily soiled loads.  I still don't think the homemade version cleans as well, however, my family tends to create some tough stains to get out. 

Since it is time to make another batch of soap, I decided to try using my food processor to grate the bar instead of doing it by hand.  It worked wonderfully.  I was able to grate 3 bars in less than 30 seconds. When grating the bar by hand it took me about 20 minutes for one bar.  It actually took longer to measure the ingredients, than it did to grate the soap.  I did have to crush the soap a little with my hands to make the pieces smaller. In case some of you did not see the recipe in the previous post here it is again if you would like to try it. 

Powdered Laundry Soap
1-Bar Fels-Naptha Soap (Finely grated)
1-1/2 cups baking soda
1-1/2 cups washing soda
1-1/2 cups borax

I have an extra large capacity washing machine so I use 1/4 cup per load.  You can adjust the amount according to your washing machine's capacity.   I also use vinegar in place of fabric softener for most of my loads.

Because I like the smell of the fels-naptha soap so well, my next project is going to be making liquid soap from a bar.  I just need to locate some glycerin to try the recipe I found.  Of course I will add essential oils for their antibacterial properties.  I am excited to see how it turns out.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Recycling Packaging

One of the things I try to do is find new uses for essentially useless items that would normally be thrown away or recycled.  

They come in different sizes.  They easily stack inside each other for storage.

These containers are from our local grocery store.  They are used to package meat for "bulk" sales.  I normally try not to buy things that come with packaging like this simply because of the waste.  If I can buy directly from the meat counter, I do.  

Once in awhile meat will be on sale and the only way to get the sale price is by buying in larger quantities with the extra packaging.  I have found many uses for these plastic trays around the house and yard.  One of my favorite uses right now is gathering produce from the garden.  

 They are very sturdy and hold up well.  I can pick vegetables, cut herbs, lettuce and so on.  Carry the tray around with me as I harvest.  Once I have brought the produce inside and cleaned it, the trays are placed in the dishwasher for cleaning to be used again. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A No Cost Hamburger Press

Before you throw away your recycling you might want to see if you can find another use for it.  I have a tupperware hamburger press, but don't like using it.  Each time I use it, I feel like the plastic press is going to break.  The patties it makes are also a bit larger than I like.

I decided to recycle a sour cream container and press out the hamburger meat inside the container to make a patty.  To my surprise using two worked even better.  I put the meat into one container and took another container and stuck it on top, just like you would if you were going to put them away in a cupboard.  Pressed the bottom of the top container to flatten the meat into a patty and walla.... a hamburger patty was born.

The first few came out easily, however,  as I made more they became harder to remove.  I had to resort to smacking the container on the counter to loosen the patty for removal.  I bought ground beef in a bulk package and formed it into patties to freeze.  I placed paper between each patty before freezing to make it easy to separate them for grilling.

I love finding new uses for useless items!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Tomatoes are Growing!

I was starting to wonder if I would get tomatoes at all this year.  One of the varieties I planted is called Early Girl, and another is a 4th of July breed, which indicated it should be "ready" around the 4th of July.  No such luck for me.  Here the 4th of July has passed, and I still don't have any ripe tomatoes to enjoy.  In fact they are still quite small.

 I choose to plant tomatoes in large pots rather than in the garden bed.  This way I can use the tomato cages to support them easier and move them around the yard if I need to.  I try to keep different varieties separated so they do not cross pollinate.  It is also a lot easier to harvest them, in my opinion.  The vines can be propped up, and the fruit kept off of the ground, where bugs tend to get at them easier.

Thankfully with the storm this week, I only lost one tomato.  It fell off of the plant into the pot.  In the past, storms have almost destroyed my tomato crop and the cages that I use to contain them. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Preparing for a Heat Wave

 When it gets hot I don't like to use my oven.  I try to make things rather than buy them.  Not only is it better for you, it saves money.  One of the things my family loves is chocolate chip cookies.  But then, whose doesn't!  For my family it can't be just any chocolate chip cookies either.  They have to be Nestle Toll House cookies.  The forecast for the upcoming week is going to be extremely hot.  Down right miserable in my book.

I decided to take advantage of time before hand to make a supply of cookies that will hopefully get them through the extreme heat heading our way.  I usually make a batch at a time and only bake half of the batch.  I put the dough in the refrigerator and bake the rest later so they have fresh cookies again. 

This time I made a batch in a half and baked almost all of them.  Having only one rack in my oven this was a project over a few hours.  In the meantime I took care of laundry and dishes so the appliances would not have to run during the hottest part of the day.  Next project...muffins!

The "Not So Little" Ones

It's hard to believe, but it has been four weeks now since we brought the little chickens home.  They are growing up so fast.  My husband made the comment yesterday they are no longer the little frightened babies they were.  They are more like teenagers.  They don't scatter as much when they are left outside to play, but rather look at you.  It's as if they are thinking... yeah, what do you want?  They are getting very quick and less easy to catch.

Where one goes they all tend to follow.

 The two buff orphington's still stick together.  Where one is, the other is usually close by.

White Rock with the two Buff Orphington's (Amber and Ginger)

The white rock is twice the size of all the others.  She is starting to look more like a turkey vulture with her curved beak than a chicken.  I can only hope she is going through her "ugly duckling" phase.  It is still a mystery why she is so much larger than the others.  She is a larger breed bird, but so are some of the older girls.  There wasn't this much disparity in size with them. I am thinking we should name her "Big Bird".

Black Sex Link

Little Leghorn

Notice the shredded tail feathers on the Leghorn (right). She is still the favorite and I have a feeling the others sense it.  She is the only one with some of her tail feathers shredded.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Iced Coffee....My new addiction!

A friend of mine posted this recipe for Perfect Iced Coffee she found on the Pioneer Woman's Blog.  She insisted I try the recipe, because it was simply amazing.  There are many scrumptious looking recipes on her blog!  I have just never ventured into actually trying any of them.  As far as iced coffee goes,  I have tried iced coffee in the past and hadn't made up my mind if I really liked it.  I think the hefty price of those Starbucks coffee's persuaded me that I didn't really care for it that much.  And to add ice cubes to a cup of coffee was just yucky to me.  I will drink coffee after is has cooled, however, when adding ice to it is seems to get diluted too much.

I am sorry to report after being persuaded to try the recipe I am hooked, as is my son.  I wasn't sure I was going to like it, so I didn't want to spend much money on coffee to use.  I decided to get a container of Folgers Country Roast simply because it was on sale the day I was at the store.  I have more expensive coffee, but didn't want to possibly "waste it" if I didn't like it.

I used 4 ounces of coffee to 2 liters of water.  I didn't want to make a huge batch if I wasn't going to like it.  I let it sit overnight and strained it the following morning.  I found most of the grounds had soaked up enough water and were heavier, therefore, sitting on the bottom of the pitcher.  I poured the coffee through a cheese cloth which I placed inside a strainer.  Very little grounds ended up coming out of the pitcher which made clean up easier.

I had this squeeze bottle saved from Agave Nectar and used it for the sweetened condensed milk.  It works well.

After straining the coffee, chill it for a few hours so it's good and cold, and it's ready.  I used sweetened condensed milk and a splash of half and half.  It was amazing!  I am now craving iced coffee later in the day, but know if I have any I would end up being up all night unable to sleep.  I could try making some with decaf coffee for late night cravings in the future.

Put it all in a jar with a lid and shake!

So Good!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Garage Sale Find

Well sort of.  I don't do garage sales, but I did find this "pre-sale" listed on facebook for sale in our community.  I found this for $15 which I couldn't pass up.  I know many people love to shop garage sales.  I have been garage sale shopping before, however,  felt it was a lot of running around, rummaging through stuff to maybe find something you think you can't live without.

I prefer to live without those types of things.  I have gotten things from both my grandmothers when they passed away.  I feel I have more things than I have room for, and know what to do with at times.

The chair matches my dining room set.  It doesn't match the existing chairs perfectly, but close enough.  I had been regretting not getting more chairs when I purchased the set many years ago.  I had wanted to get two more captain chairs,  but didn't want to spend the extra money.  The captain chairs were more expensive than the ones without the arms. 

This addition will give me five chairs.  One more, and I would be set.  Now when we have family over for dinners, we no longer have to drag as many chairs from the kitchen to use. This chair is really comfortable to sit in too!  I wonder, will there be fighting over who gets the chair with the arms?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Surviving the Storm

Yesterday was an eventful one.  We were awoke a little after 3:00 am. to the sound of a storm approaching.  I quickly came down stairs to turn on the television to listen for storm alerts.  As soon as I got the TV turned on,  the power went out.  I quickly grabbed a flashlight, and at that time my husband was telling my son to get out of bed and head down stairs.  He was in such a deep sleep he couldn't get up.  I started yelling at them to get down here.  I was at the basement stairway with flashlights waiting for them.

By the time they finally got to the main floor, things had settled down outside.  We spent the next half hour trying to see the damage through the lightening.  The electricity remained out for several hours so we had to wait until it became light outside before we could venture out.  From the lightening we could see several limbs down around the house.  We only have one pine tree, so all of the limbs were from neighboring trees.

After going back to sleep for a few hours we awoke to start cleaning up.  Our neighbors privacy fence was blown down in two spots.  Their dog kennel was turned on it's side.  I let the chickens out and they seemed to be shaken as well.  I'm sure it was a surprise to see branches laying all over the yard.  I thought we would immediately start hauling the branches out of the yard, but my husband insisted it could wait until he got home later in the day.  He was already late in leaving for work because of the storm.  We cleaned up some shingles, pots and plants, and located our trash bins, and left the rest for later.

I intended on getting pictures of the damage, however, before I knew it, all of the branches in our yard were gone.  Our neighbor had fixed his fence, turned his dog kennel back over, taken all of the branches from his yard, as well as ours, and hauled them away.  If it weren't for the scattered potted plants and leaves in the yard you would hardly know the storm had been here.

That's how you know you are living in Iowa.  No one sits around in the aftermath of a storm.  They all get to work to pick up the pieces and get back to life.

Friday, July 8, 2011

It's a Girl!... I mean GOAT!

Gypsy Rose
  Actually it's both.  Meet Gypsy Rose.  This is my girlfriend's goat.  She was born in February.

Becky and her goat, Gypsy Rose
 Becky's husband came up the the name Gypsy, and her daughter chose the name Rose.  When you look up the term gypsy the definition of one inclined to a nomadic, unconventional way of life comes up.  This describes Becky herself.  She would like to live unconventionally when compared to most people now days.  Does getting back to a simpler life mean living unconventionally? 

Gypsy Rose and her mama
When Becky first told me her husband was getting her a goat for their anniversary we discussed her bringing it to town for visits.  She wondered how it would do on a car ride.  I told her Barney seemed to love it.  Just put a sheet on one of your seats and you should be good to go. 

What about a diaper?  Would it need one?  I could sew one with my new serger!  Wouldn't that be cute!  And a seat belt.  Should you strap it into the seat so it's safe?  And to think, growing up we didn't have mandatory seat belt laws.  We were allowed to roll around in the back seat without being restrained.  Mom's arm was our seat belt.  If she was making a sudden stop, up would come the arm.  It became habit to "catch" us.  Even if we weren't in the front seat with her, the arm would still come up.  Like that was going to save us, yeah right.  Now, if you go around a corner your seat belt almost chokes you because it's in the lock position thinking it needs to brace for something.

Since my friends also live in town, the goat can't be kept at their home.  Our city ordinance will not allow goats unless you have an acre of land.  I don't understand that concept. I think it's a little backwards in thinking. 

A goat makes less noise than a dog.  It won't keep you up all night barking at it's own shadow.  It won't pee on your tires or trees.  It might eat some of your trees, however, if you aren't careful.  Goats are also smaller than some dogs.  What would be the harm of having a small breed in your back yard?  Larger cities allow them.  A pigmy or a nigerian dwarf goat are both small breeds of goats.  Just look how little and cute they can be. 

Many years ago having a goat and chickens in your yard was the norm.  Not only were they pets, they provided you with food.  Now people act as if it's uncivilized to have those types of animals as pets.  However, having a pet snake or rat is acceptable??

In the meantime, Gypsy Rose will stay at her place of birth with her mama and get frequent visits from Becky and her family.  She will get to play with other goats and have lots of room to run around and have fun being a goat.  Becky now has a goat to call her own, after wanting one for so many years.  She will be going to see Gypsy Rose every chance she gets.  She will take her for walks, feed her treats, and spoil her as she would any other pet.

 Did you see the leash they got her to take her for walks?  I thought about getting a leash for my chickens and my husband just laughed at me like I was am crazy.  Don't laugh, they actually make a leash for poultry!  This is just one of them:  http://indoorducks.com/leashes.html

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Salvaging an Old Pillow Case to Make a Drying Bag for Herbs

This pillow case is several years old.  And by several, I mean over 20 years old.  It was given to my family after our house fire in 1982.  My mom had passed it on to me when I got married and moved out of the house.  I always thought the embroidery design was nice and having it be my favorite color made it even more appealing to me.  An embroidered pillow case is not something you see very often anymore.  Instead of throwing it away or using it as a rag, I decided to cut of the area that had worn thin and come up with a new use for the item.  

I plant a lot of onions and could use another bag to dry onions or herbs in.  After serging the edges and adding a hem along the top to run a cord through I now have a new drying bag!

Serging the edges inside the pillow case

Since this didn't need to be a "pretty" project I wasn't too concerned that the hem was uneven.

I hemmed the edge with my sewing machine. 
I purchased rope to make a drawstring for .37 a yard. And a set of draw string stoppers for $1.48.  You need to be sure the rope you choose will fit through the opening holes in the draw string stopper.  I used almost 2 yards of the rope for the project.
Place tape around the rope before cutting or else the edges can fray.  

 Thread the rope through a pin to guide it through the hem in the pillow case.  Be sure to leave a small opening when you are hemming to allow room to thread the rope.  I used a diaper pin.

Threading the rope through the hem

Once you have threaded the rope through the entire hem place each end through the draw string stoppers.

Tie knots in the end of the rope to keep them from pulling back through the stopper opening.

Completed projcect

Total cost $2.22
This will make a nice drying bag.  It will be easy to wash and dry after each use. Not to mention I was able to recycle something instead of throwing it away.