Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Here's what 8 1/2 lbs of tomatoes got me...

I started with about 8 1/2 lbs of tomatoes...beefsteak, roma, and a few other varieties, even a few small green ones.  I used the food processor, left the seeds in, as well as the skin on.  I processed for about 20 seconds and viola, liquid, lol.  I poured it all in a spaghetti pot and boiled for several hours.  I know that since I decided to freezer can them instead of boiling process can them, that I didn't really need to do this, but I did it anyway.  The boiling process gavei t some thickness, which we like in our pasta sauces (which is what we use our 'mator sauce for mostly).  I add (shh) 5 tbls of A-1 sauce, lol  no one in my house likes A-1 but me, but it gave it some zest w/out tasting like A-1 and they'll never know...well, unless they read this, rofl.  8 1/2 lbs of tomatoes turned out to be 2 and 1/2 of these Ball Freezer jars, lol.  I knew it would boil down, but I didn't want the tomatoes to go bad before I had enough to do a full out boiling process canning session, so I decided to go ahead and make my sauce and freeze the finish product.  This is 2 wonderful batches of pasta sauce, all for free from my garden..yummmm.  We'll season it to taste when we thaw and use it.

I've also harvested some of my globe basil....ohhhhh basil is devine. I love to go to the garden and just smell it.  I have it planted all over my garden (it helps to keep bugs and slugs away), and there's barely a spot in my garden that you can't smell this devine herb.  It's very resilient, in that I'll snip several sprigs from a bush one day, and 2 days later you won't even be able to tell that any had been snipped.  I've been snipping sprigs and giving them to my neighbors (except the hateful old bats next door, grrr).  They've dried nicely, so I'll be drying some more and storing it in sealed canning jars, and storing them in the basement (note: I won't can them, that's just a great way to store and seal them, even better than bags because they won't get crushed). The neighbors on the other side of us gave me 4 more tomato plants the other day that they hadn't had a chance to plant in their topsy turveys, so I had a section in my garden where the lettuce didn't grow (thanks to the overgrown weeds that my kids didn't pull...a hem, that's a different irritating post), so I planted them there, as well as I had a Green Zebra that I'd been nursing back to health in my zipper green house...can't wait for that baby to pop some out.

We've only gotten 2 cucumbers so far.  I'm so sad about that.  Last year I had sooooooooooooo many.  I crop rotated, so I wonder if the bed they're in now is getting too much sunlight?  Some of the cukes are getting yellow spots on them before they're even 3" long (and these babies get up to 16" long, so that's well before maturity).  I'm going back to their old bed next year.  PLUS, the hubs has decided that I need 2 tomato beds next year, not just smoothing them all in one, and I agree.  I feel some of the smaller varieties aren't performing as well because they're too overcrowded 4' in the air with their neighbors, vieing for nutrients and attention.  This is what's enjoyable AND annoying about growing your own food...learning as you go.  But, alas, no is what it is, and next year, I'll just try something different. 

NO green beans grew...grrrrr.  The hubs said he's till that empty bed again this weekend, and since green beans are fast growers, there's plenty of time for a new bed to grow and produce in the next month or so.

OH, I didn't tell you one of the most exciting parts.  Wait, did I tell you about the story of my rat terrier finding a nest of newly born bunnies in my onion bed?  I think I did a few posts back.  But real quick catch-up, she snooped and found a hole in my onion bed whilst I was across the garden tending to my gourds (OH, you should see those beauts...I'll take pics and share in a day or so)...anyhoo, I looked over in time to see her pick something up and fling it in the air to the golden retriever who, knowing something was just not right with this picture, just looked at me and looked at what she threw to her (sharing is caring, after all, lol), lieing on the ground.  I'm running over and I find this baby bunny, no hair, eyes closed, itty bitty ears and tail bob, and the terrier digging to get another, which by this time was close to the top of the hole. GRRRR bunnies in the garden aGAIN...NOW I know how Farmer Ted (what's his name in the bunny book?) felt.  I picked the itty bitty up and ran off the dogs, noticed a trickle of blood (just a teensy bit) near the ear, but put it and it's brother/sister back in the hole with the mommies hair and grass back on top (no worries, the next morning, mama had moved her babies OUT of my garden..whew).  Anyhooooooooo, about the exciting news, the other day, I was looking at the hole (because now I'm paranoid about bunny  holes in my garden beds, lol), and noticed 5 onions (pearl onions) just laying at the bottom of the hole.  They'd fallen through from the top of the dirt to the hollow part beneath them, to lay at the bottom of the hole.  I'd just assumed (as a gardener, i should know better than to do that) that the bunnies had just ransacked and ruined my garden bed and didn't even think to look for a harvest this year.  I got my trowel and plucked 3 rows of pearl onions out. YUM.  I've cut them in half and fourths and frozen them for stews and stoups and roasts this winter...double yum!

I just LOVE my garden.  I'm physically  not able to tend to it as much as I could last year, but I still try and get out there to enjoy it as much as my body will let me.  And sowing is wonderful.  I got 15 new potatoes the other day, lol  That fact just made me giggle with the fun of it!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Frugal laundry tips, along with homemade fabric softener sheets recipes!

I get so tired of folding laundry and finding 1-2 used fabric sheets in each load.  If it's a day they're doing many loads (I'm not able to do laundry, the hubs and girls are on 'laundry rotation' lol), then I usually end up with a pile of used fabric softener sheets, grr.  If they're using good quality ones (depending on what my coupons were for...we're not brand loyal, I have about 5-10 boxes of various brands at any given time in the laundry room), then they can be used again, but if they've chosen to open and use a box that's not such great quality, they're only good for dusting, keeping dresser drawers and linen closets smelling fresh, and whatever else I can think of, but not laundry again.

How about making your OWN fabric softener sheets that you can use over and over again AND save money while you're at it?  I figured you'd like that idear.  Try this:

Homemade Fabric Softener Sheets
Flannel fabric pieces
4 TBS liquid softener
10 TBS water

• Cut fabric sheets from old flannel pajamas, sheets, shirts, or leftover flannel fabric from sewing and cut into 3″ x 5″ strips (approximately).
• Stack flannel strips in a cleaned butter or ice cream tub (large in size) or another lidded plastic container (cleaned baby wipes container works well too). Mix the liquid fabric softener and water together, then pour evenly over top of stacked flannel strips.
• Seal container and shake well.  I like to open the container and move'em around a bit, squish'em and such, just to make sure each strip has been coated.  If you use a LOT of strips, you may need to use a 2nd batch of the liquid to ensure that all the strips are might need to 'eye' it.
This mix should make several dozen strips, (yep, that means you'll get several dozen loads of dried clothes just by using 4 tablespoons of store bought liquid fabric softener with some water...that jug'll last you awhile). Leave the container sealed for about 2 or 3 days before using any of the sheets...let it all soak in, then use one flannel strip per dryer load (you may need to squeeze out any excess that may have built up, if any, because the wipes should only be damp when you toss it in the dryer).  Keep the container sealed at all times, and I like to keep mine out of direct sunlight (it can actually kind of 'sour' the mixture and give it an 'off' scent). Wash the flannel strips after each use, and then use'em again to make another batch when needed.

How about THESE thrifty and frugal laundry tips?

1. Add 1/4 cup vinegar in your laundry’s rinse cycle.  NOTE:  do not add vinegar to a laundry load that has bleach in can kill someone with the fumes and gas it creates.  Someone actually suggested that you can add essential oil to the vinegar to help make it smell better, but I've found you need to use quite a bit of EO and EOs are not cheap.  Unless you're doing the vinegar choice due to health reasons or allergies or something, spending the money on the amt of EO you like may not be worth not actually paying for fabric softener.  But, for those that like soft clothes and no perfumes, this is a great way to go.  I don't know if it softens 'line dried' clothes though, cuz I don't have a way to line dry...but if anyone knows, can you let us know?

sponges are great fabric softener 'sheets'
 2. In a bucket that has a lid, mix 1 gallon of water and 1 cup liquid fabric softener.  Dip a sponge or washcloth in the liquid and squeeze out the excess liquid until it's just damp, then toss it in the dryer with your laundry. Keep the pail sealed and out of direct heat/sunlight when not in use.

3. Pour liquid fabric softener and hot water in a spray bottle (you can either do a 50/50 mix or I like doing a 25/75 just the same, but uses less) and either lightly mist (2-4 spritzes) the wet laundry pile after you load the dryer but before starting it, or spritz a clean washcloth or sponge and toss it in the dryer with your clothes.

4. If you're like me and have a good sized stockpile of fabric softener sheets built up, but still want them to last, then you can just cut your dryer sheets in thirds or halves (I use halves), use one strip per dryer load.

5. If you're out of fabric softener or allergic and still want the nice smell that vinegar doesn't give you, you can mix equal parts a hair conditioner (even the $1 store brand) and water in spray bottle.  Mist a washcloth or sponge and toss in dryer with a wet load.

6. My husband is a chemical engineer, so when he tells me something about a 'chemical' (which a liquid fabric softener is), I usually pretend I'm not listening, but secretly take note, lol (shh, don't tell him I said that, or else he'll be talking about chemicals all day, lol), anway he says that you should actually only use about 1/4 of the amount of liquid fabric softener that's suggested on the bottle.  They want you to USE it faster so you'll BUY it faster and more of it...try it, you'll see that it really is true, 1/4 of a cap will soften just as well as a full cap will.

*  *  *

Liquid Dishwasher Detergent Recipe

1 part baking soda
1 part borax
1 part water
1 drop lemon or orange essential oil per cup of detergent (optional)

• Mix the ingredients thoroughly and store in a sealable jug.
• Use 2 to 3 TBS per load.

note: some people have told me they sometimes get some 'cloudy' dishes when they use this recipe, but it seems it may depend on the type of dishwasher and age of it, etc.  It's worth a try to see.


Gonna can me some 'mator sauce!

I've planted only 12 tomato plants, then just planted another 5 (we'll see how they do), and a few are producing pretty well, including the Romas.  My Yellow Boy has only produced one mator that the bugs got to before me, grrr.  But, alas, I have a large colander full of yummy ripe tomatoes, so I'm gonna make a small batch of tomato sauce.  I hate when I get so few tomatoes at one time, because by the time I save up for a large batch, the first ones are going bad, so I'll be making small batches at a time.  What I like about this recipe is, you can apply it to however many tomatoes as you have.  I got this new EASY recipe at Heavenly Homemakers, and believe it or not, it calls for NO blanching (thank goodness!).  Check out her fast, easy recipe.  Then all you do is boil bath it for 20-25 min.  The only thing she doesn't say is that citric acid should be added, which I agree, however, she also mentions that you can add other veggies to the sauce if you want...the problem with this is:  if you add veggies to the sauce, you MUST add additional citric acid, seriously.  If you decide to add other veggies (although some say it's at that time you should pressure cook rather than boil water bath it), those veggies will add volume to which the acid from the tomatoes won't be able to SAFELY accommadate, which can actually possibly KILL someone from botulism poisoning.  So, note this please, for safety reasons...adding extra citric acid won't hurt the recipe, but not adding it, could kill someone, so if you add other veggies to your recipe (not spices, but veggies) ADD CITRIC ACID.  Otherwise, if you're only using the tomatoes, consider adding citric acid only if you're using hybrid tomatoes.  If you're growing your own HEIRLOOM tomatoes, the acidic levels are higher than common modern-day hybrid tomatoes, so citric acid shouldn't be needed, but it never hurts to add it if you want.  If you don't know what your tomatoes are, don't take someone's word for it, be on the safe side and just add the citric acid. 

Citric acid:  you can pick this up in the canning aisle at the store OR you can go the super easy route and add about 1 tsp per quart jar amt of LEMON JUICE to your recipe.

I've been thinking about stripping my mator plants of their green mators and either making some chow chow or relish or something...hmmm.  I grew no fruits this year.  Hmmmm, now I've got the hankerin' to make some jelly...guess I'll head to the market and get some juice to make me some!

Do ya'll can??? what's your favorite veggie to can?  your favorite EASY canning recipe (grape jelly doesn't count, lol)?

preserving food at home

Did you know that the National Center for Food Preservation offers a FREE online course on learning the basics of canning???  If you're new to canning OR if you're old school but want and need to learn the safety of the newer canning standards (such as open kettle method and oven canning is not safe and is not authorized as such any longer), then you can check it out and sign-up for it here, it's called Preserving Food at Home: A Self-Study.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Enter to win a Back to School prize pack worth $550!!

I'm hosting a Back to School themed giveaway over at my sister blog, Thrifty and Frugal by Debbie, with a prize package that's geared more toward middle to high school kids (or adults even) worth about $550!!  It's ONE large prize pkg, with products ranging from fun tees to supplies like UGLee pens, a $100 assortment of Pilot Pens products, and so much more!   It's easy peasy entry with Rafflecopter form too, so no commenting on posts required.  Check it out and enter for some Early Bird entries that end tonight.  The actual event begins tomorrow and will end on Sunday, the 21st.  So get some entries in!

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