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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Christmas thoughts.. and finally updated pics :)

Oh christmas tree, your fragrant branches spread so beautifully.
Oh so perfect for little meow paws to climb on.
Oh so many lovely ornaments to be swiped at by curious claws.

Oh yeah, we are decorating the tree differently this year. Why? Because even though all of the adult cats were very good about the tree last year- except the tinsel, but who can blame them for that?- we now have a very playful kitten in the house. I sorted through all the tree decor. I have a lot of ornaments that I would be bummed if they got broken or wrecked. And not really enough ornaments that are kitty survival pieces. Well crap.
Then this morning I checked the orange slices I'm dehydrating. They look like lovely bright orange stained glass windows, ohhhh. It hit me- we are going to do a wildlife tree this year. Didn't get my crap together in time for it last year, and if the kitten gets into mangling, no big deal.

About 3 dozen orange slices are now in their storage containers
About 4 dozen lemon slices are now in the big dehydrator
I may pick up a couple blood oranges, limes, or clementines if I see them for a good price. Waste not, want not- since I know after drying and all they won't be all that smelly in the rind, and critters don't really eat them- so I peeled the zest off and set it aside to dry for culinary use :)

The sliced lemons after peeling off the zest.. 

The dehydrator all loaded up...

 This is what the fresh zest of 6 lemons looks like...

This is what the zest of 4 oranges looks like after it's counter dried, and ready to jar up... 

This is a pretty orange slice, looks like glass :)

And this is what a lemon slice looks like.. 

Doing up a batch of apple slices for ornaments. I have a bit leftover on the shelf that needs using up, and I picked up a couple more that were on sale to do up.
Cranberries were on sale and keep for ages in the fridge, those might become garland or ornaments, not sure yet.
Picked up a generous pound of nuts in the shell- couple hours with ribbon and a glue gun, and there are now 8 dozen nut ornaments nestled away in recycled egg cartons. Locked into a big plastic storage tub- no need to incite the mice.

Got half a bag of almost stale big marshmallows- those will get loops for ornaments. Right now they are packed into their own egg cartons to separate and finish getting stale.
Got a couple bags of popcorn on the shelf, so popcorn garland for sure.
Whatever I end up with extras of after trimming the tree can just get tossed into bathroom baskets and such. 
Picked up a nice little treeskirt on super clearance after last season. Still got lights, and those are less breakable little LED ones. Now I just need to get back to work on making presents, hehehee.

On a side note, got in some of my government seed today. Got 2 types of soybean, Enoki and Fifth Moon. And got in 2 packets of Sorghum bicolor, one from Kenya, one from Sudan. By the plant ID I chose, they are both called Dill, but, er, looks nothing like any dill seed I've ever seen! It really looks like wheat..

Got the three pots of celery stubs potted up. I put one upstairs to see how it does there, and the other two are currently on top of my filing cabinet. Been using the squirt gun so someone quits jumping up there. I don't think they will stay there though, not enough light I think.

Finally pulled out the camera and took some picks of stuff. I know just reading text is plain ole boring.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cool stuff...

I think I might want to set up a worm bin or two in the solarium to take care of indoor scraps.



We get enough newspaperish and indoor plant stuff to make bedding, and kitchen scraps to make food supplies. Including all of our coffee and tea stuff, and goodly amounts of eggshell grindings. I'm pretty sure that the solarium stays warm enough during the winter to keep active bins going. Some notes read being able to put them in unheated garages and they do fine.
And yep, I'm horribly lazy about hauling the kitchen scraps out to the main pile. So having a weekly dump spot out in the solarium might just be the ticket for helping me keep up with that. Now I just have to figure out how to get the worms at this time of year to populate the bins with. And pick up a new 2 gallon bucket- I need to start over with figuring out just how much scrap we make in a week.

Also stumbled across this site... http://www.riverparkfarm.com/Riverparkfarm/farm.htm Very, VERY inspirational. Holy crap milkcrates and great dirt.. Makes me kind of rethink some of my square foot gardening ideas..

Got the 3 bunches of celery all dried up and in its jar :) The ends have seen 48 hours in water now, so it will be time to pot them up in the morning. I wanted to give them an extra good soaking before potting this time.
And the last batch of slaw mix I should need for a while- though now I'm kicking around uses for the stuff. Like dip mixes, veggie salt.. hmmm :)

Got the final done on the squash powder too.
2 medium carving pumpkins,
1 large delecata,
1 large dumpling,
5 small to medium buttercups,
1 large green and 2 small golden acorn squashes,
1 medium large (filled the pan in it's own roasting) and 1 small butternut squash.
I think that made around 9-10 quarts of pulp. All that roasted and steamed, drained, dehydrated on jelly trays that took 4 loads of drying. Toasted the leathers in a warm oven to make them crispy dry. Powdered them in a spice mill.
Final yield- 3 3/4 cups of dried product. I already tested, and it's a 1:2 ratio of powder to water to make a rehydrated paste, a 1:3 ratio makes it more of it's fresh puree form. It's potent, and very roasted, maybe just a smidge too much so. I already knew that would be the case since I over dehydrated a round of squash in the first place. And it's a very deep rusty orange instead of bright fresh pulp orange, again, due to a tad bit of over dehydration. But that's ok, the stuff is great otherwise! It has a really robust and squashy taste.

Here's my new helping hands keeping the oven cracked while the squash toasted :)

I zested the oranges that needed taking care of, sliced them up, and now they are in the dehydrator. They are drying out quite nicely so far, but I think I will run it on low overnight just to be sure. The zest is air drying by the dehydrator.
Next up I need to grate up the carrots I picked up on sale and dehydrate those up. I want grated and sliced carrots because they will have different applications.
Then I'm going to experiment with making tomato powder. In reorganizing the pantry, I realized I have kind of an overstock on canned tomato paste. I want to try out a few cans and make some powder- see how that turns out :)

And tee-hee.... I have two little limes growing on my mini lime tree!!!

I've noticed that the cats don't seem to want to chomp on the leaves of the citrus plants. Not sure if that's because they had the tasty celery to maul to death and the lemon verbena to mess with. So now the celery pots are going elsewhere, and I moved the verbena to a still bright and warm kitty free spot. Now it's just the citrus on the table, so we shall see if those plant develop bite marks or not. I hope not, I want to start having more plants around the house.

Got the first batch of solar light jars done- they are now charging for testing on the windowsills of the workshop. Was able to put together 7 double high spikes to plug into the herb garden. That will make it easier for me to locate my herbs come springtime :) And used up all the stakes leftover from making solar light jars.

Tried out a new baking product today because it was on sale.. Fleishmann's Simply Homemade bread. I think perhaps I really should have stirred it with a spoon instead of using the mixer- oops. I was kind of underwhelmed with the yeast bloom and rising, but that might just be because of the kitchen being a bit chilly. And I think it would probably bake off nicer in a loaf pan instead of free-form. Even though I lubed my sheet real well it still stuck to the sheet. Perhaps some corn meal or something to help line the pan with. It tasted pretty good. I picked up two of them, so I will be able to try another mix and see what happens.

Also found out my yeast is still good, so I can do some of my own from scratch baking. It had a best by date of this February 2012, but it hadn't been opened yet. So I tested it, and it's still good- and in the freezer now :)

And easy test for yeast:
1/2 cup warm water- between 105-115, don't go over 120
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons yeast
 Give it all a stir and let it sit for a while. It should start foaming within 10 minutes, max. By the time it's done foaming, you should have visually just as much liquid in the measuring cup as you do foam. 

I think maybe I will make up a batch of English Muffin Loaves soon- I need to get back into the habit of making that, it's pretty darn yummy. And I have some preserves for sharing around and eating up to go with it :)

Got the last of the reshuffling done upstairs. Now it's time for cleanup on individual areas and rooms. Sorted out the kitten friendly from the stuff I don't dare put out this year in the christmas decorations. I got a bunch of christmas stuff that sucks a lot of space for really not being much, hehehe. I think if I reshuffle a couple full bins into currently empty ones I could already have the containers I need for worm composting.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Puttering around...

Yes, been trying to keep up on regular bottle returns... I'm down to my last batch of small box recycling. Now it's just taking care of the return boxes, hooray! And I can start on my small returns at Hardings... But boo, need to do some cleanup of all the rest of stuff too. Now I'm starting to end up with empty boxes- what to do with them? Use some duct tape and set up some temporary shelving to store up all the wedding stuff as it accumulates. It's now getting stored in the workshop instead of in the florida room, so that's nice for my love :)
Got some bottles turning up as no-go for auto turn in. We shall see how those accumulate in the future. When I get a full box or few I will shuffle them down to the pole barn. 

But I've been spending some serious hours in the workshop. Choosing inspired days over duty days.

Got a lot of cleanup and organizing done in the workshop. I cleared all the storage off my bench, pulled it away from the wall a bit, and took out the unnecessary center support on the shelf- and hung a slim light there instead. I now have almost the entire bench for workspace instead of just the front strip. And when I get long sewing projects, I can just let them hang over the back edge of the bench instead of bunching it up. HOORAY!!
What did I do with all that stuff? Some creative shelving stacking. I also cleaned up the floor space too- and did a serious sweeping and drymopping of the floor so I can start laying out fabric to get some sewing projects done in time for christmas.
Also did a bunch of rearranging done between the costume room and the storage room. And a bunch of stuff swapped out between upstairs and downstairs.
Got a couple of Kusudama done, and a trio of geodesic ornaments. And a big goody sized box geodesic ornament.

I'm going to make a few giant paper goodie ornaments. I currently have 2 other good shapes that I have saved up that I am going to use for patterns. Those are flattening out right now.
The two batches of bath salts are curing away.
Been working on the snowflake pin ornaments, much more of a pita than I anticipated. Probably because this is the first time I'm trying them. Still turning out pretty darn sweet. I'm down to the last set of pins that need to go in, only problem is that now there are so many pins crossing the center I know darn well I won't be able to properly sink the last 24 pins in- tried some silk pins, too short and too small of a head- looks like I did need to get the glass head pins after all.

Figured out some creative lighting for the outdoors. Solar lamp in a jar.
I shot a couple papers with the glow in the dark paint, but I think I prefer just using a tad of glitter dust to coat the insides of the bottles rather than anything more fussy. I'll still have the late fall and christmas sales to hit for more lights. And I have a goodly batch of recycled jars to take upstairs to put to use too.
Using the lights as I currently am leaves me with a quandry of refuse. All of the original tubes and spikes that will not be used with the lights project. Crap, that's a lot of junk. Or not. I'm going to recycle those into the gardening areas as plant marker spikes. That way they can be reused year after year. I think my first ones are going to be marking off herbs in the herb garden. Want to do this very soon so I can sink them in before the ground starts freezing up. At least the stakes, I can do up the cards after that.

I got all the origami boxes for garden in a box favors done, yay! Now I just need to sit down in my "best handwriting" mode to make the tags. I'll use up a bunch of the leftover strips from cutting out the squares to do so.
Picked up a bunch of tulip bulbs on clearance. A couple of bigger bags of mixes, and a handful of bags of particular cultivars. I think they will be nice to try to force for the wedding. I'm betting that I can do up a bunch of pots, keep them in the garage or workshop porch, and force them in the solarium when I need to. Some real blooms to ensure for decor. I will have to make sure I put a note on them, or make them hard to pick up and go for setup. I want to put in some tulip border action for future use.
Made up the rough wiring for the quartz and rings neckpiece for my sister. I want to try out the hang before I start working in square wire.

Picked up the big sheets of mesh at the fabric store and cut out the inserts for the new dehydrator. I had a good coupon, so I was able to do four inserts for less than the price of two of the ones sold to go with the machine. And they fit all the way around with no cutouts like the intended ones. I used one of the jelly trays as the template :)

Got in some more seeds :) Marigolds from the last person that offered on my initial share request, yay! And my first packet of trade seed. I sent off some beans, carrots, and tomatoes, and got in beans, melons, cukes, Fish pepper, Lemon Balm, and a random flower seed.
Heard back on the government seed. The decided to turn down my pepper and squash requests, but it looks like everything else is on the list. I got a second notification that at least my soy is being shipped out. Looks like bean, tomato, and asparagus are still on the list. One of their notes says oat? and I'm not sure why. I thought I had requested coffee.
Still haven't seen back from GardenHoard :(

Got a badly needed reorganization of the pantry done. Well, almost done. Still need to move the mixer out of there. Hung up a bunch of stuff on the kitchen walls too.
I also hung up my trivets on the wall and all the potholders on the side of the fridge. So I was then able to resort all my cooking utensils- no more buckets of utensils eating up cooking area space :)

Got the organization of the recycling done in the garage. Not as much crap there as there used to be, but still got a lot to get done out there.

Hardings had celery on sale so I picked up 3 bunches of it for drying. Amazingly, the new dehydrator can handle 3 bunches at a time! Sadly, the two celery stubs I had growing puked out- too much kitty interference. So now with my new stubs I'm going to put them in a much safer kitty free place- the workshop.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


It's Halloween, one of my favorite holidays :)

I just don't got the spirit this year though, I think it's the damp, drizzly, chilly, windy weather. Was really hoping to do a bonfire, but that's a no-go.

I realized this morning that I wouldn't be able to put out all of the jack-o-lantern trinkets my love and I made on the windows- new naughty Nova meow is just too frigging curious right now. I was going to blow some hours making paper ones to tape on the windows. Then I lucked out and spotted window clings at Hardings! Saved the day there. And they are reusable so long as I store them nicely. I may have to do up some more in windowglass paint stuff.
So where did all those trinkets go? All of them got used :) They filled the solarium windows- and I lined up lots of the salty ones in the workshop and around the fireplace.
Now the house is kittenproofed and all sealed up.
Using pretty much all flameless candles this year. We have enough of them to be able to be kitten safe there too.
Just doing a simple sipping of wine ceremony tonight. You bet there's going to be toasts to departed loved ones tonight..

A happy resurrected Halloween tradition... There's a Witchypoo on the table again tonight. It's one of our smallest gourds with a drawn in witchy face.. Decked out in a tiny felt witches cap. The cap comes from over a decade ago.. One year a buddy and I got some little gourds- he was willing to carve up a bunch with me so I could celebrate that year. We had an extra so I quick made a tiny black felt witches cap for it. So now this year I have homegrown gourd in a goodly dark green to grace the hat upon this year. Witchypoo is now hosting the wine glass that will be left out for the departed to partake from.

All the kitties got a double helping of canned food tonight.. One for them, one for Moon.

Since thin sliced sandwich steak was on managers clearance, I brought the package home and made rouladen. It's brazing in the oven right now next to a pot of greens and beans. Got the greens, spinach, onions, beans, beef, mustard, and bacon on sale. The pickles were regular price.
I have one more batch of dehydrating to go on the squashes and pumpkins. Then I will toast up all the leathers, bust them down, and mark off that container with the info.
Got the Berry Preserves I made up labeled and on the shelf.
Finished one of the geodesic ornaments- I decided to forego the Cinnamon filling. It just wasn't potent enough and worth the trouble of doing it for me.
Tested out the half sized boxes for seed favors. Too small. I will just stick with the full sized boxes. If I end up feeling like they aren't full enough, maybe I will include some origami seed envelopes, or perhaps a little basic book on how to grow all the stuff.I have the test model down, now I need to really get down and make up some really nice ones.
Got the flour and corn syrup for making up a batch or two of birdseed ornaments. I have some old dried apple, mullberry/blueberry mix, some refrigerated prunes that need something done with them, the tail end of the bag of macerated strawberries and some fresh oranges that need zesting that need drying. I think I'm going to bust up a bunch of fruity goodness addition to the ornaments. I'll fill up the jelly sheets tomorrow and fill up the rest with prunes and the macerated strawberry. Overfill can go into the first dehydrator. Dry them up as much as possible before adding them into the mix. I also want to add some powdered chicken shells to the mix- Good for birds, particularly at the time of year that these will be put out. I think I'm going to do them on big loops of florists wire. Help them stay hanging longer.
I think I will ask my love to print out a bunch of fruitspikes too- put those along with the birdseed ornaments.

I've decided to expand the plants as wedding favors. Catgrass for sure. I'm thinking of chives, dill, and parsley too. Perhaps some basil starts. That way I can do up a few cans of each and spread around table decor. I envision a scattering of table goodies, and illumination, and bird goodness.
I think my first plastic bag fusion bits are going into making ribbon ties for everything.

And the day after Halloween... Went around to all the stores hitting Halloween sales. Got some test tubes, a bunch of nail polish, some cool glitter, more jack o lantern window clings, a skull kitchen scrubber brush, and a set of killer blackened metal skeleton hand salad forks. Well, they will be used year round for salad and pasta action.
Took a ride up the road and discovered a rather nice olive oil shop. I picked up a couple bottles, black truffle and butter to try out. They have a nice program where you buy 10 bottles, you get one free. It will likely take me quite a while to get that many built up, but I think it's a nice bonus. I also discovered they are currently building a Meijer up there, so I will have to keep my eye out for when it's completed.
Halloween kind of sucked this year, but that's ok. Not every holiday can be rocking.