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Archive for the ‘frugal tips’ Category

Its so interesting to me to look at photos I have taken of the garden over the past few months, so posting some here to make them easily accessible. The first three were taken in the exact same spot. This is a flower garden that has tomato, rhubarb and strawberries co-planted.

April
May
June

And then there is my lower veg garden that was previously full of gladiolus and some shrubs.

Snap peas left. Beets in the middle and carrots to the right. Back row is sugar baby melon territory and a newly planted asparagus patch that should bear next year.
Plus bush beans front and centre. Melons doing nothing weeks later.
Snow peas and snap peas starting to flower. Melons still nothing. Its too cool this June and they are only getting about 6 hours sun in this location when there is sun at all. So next year either no melons or find a better spot. Snuck a second carrot planting into the barren melon patch as consolation
Neighbours Derek and Natalie gave me some sunflowers!

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I planted 2 plots of potatoes, 20 plants in all. And so far as I can see, topside, they are a huge success. They have not been nibbled like my radishes, or consumed completely by ants as happened to a whole row of romaine. They are big and vibrantly green, and still growing aggressively. I do sometimes wonder whether all the plants’ energy is going into the leaves and there will be no tubers to speak of. That would be disappointing.

I rummaged around two days ago and came up with one perfect, ping pong ball sized red potato, so feeling optimistic. I plan to dig up one plant in the first week of July, then hopefully harvest the lot two weeks later. The cooking onions are growing similarly trouble free and make me wonder if I shouldn’t just stick to these two crops as they are so trouble free and useful.

Here are some exciting moments in my life as a spud farmer:

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The new garden with 8 seed potatoes planted 8 inches down and with a heavy seaweed mulch.

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A smaller patch, mulched with dried leaves, sword ferns…

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A third layer of timothy went on top, then lots of seaweed on top of that

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New garden looking more tamed all the time, and potatoes coming up

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I’ve kept putting fresh seaweed on top, as this is a no-hill method. In future years, I will theoretically peel back this layer of mulch and plant under it again with fewer additions of fresh mulch on top

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So green and healthy in the early part of June

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This potato is hopefully a harbinger of many to come.

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I’ve been tearing out plants and shrubs that I haven’t found sufficiently rewarding.

A small pine has been replaced by a spud patch, a fern and a mystery plant with two rhubarbs, and an unsuccessful attempt at a moss garden proved too sunny, so now I have shade tolerant veggies like lettuce and radish growing there.

The rose has been a hassle since day one. It grows like a weed, overwhelms the trellis, needs constant cutting back, and always leaves us bleeding. But its an old, old rose….so it stays, right? Not any more.

In an exchange of marital confidences, it recently emerged that we both loathe the rose. So I dug it out.

Just about to begin its massive spring growth.

Already beginning to mangle the trellis, again.

But now its in the trailer for its last ride to the green waste.

The rose occupied a premium spot, with lots of sun and well drained soil. There is some over spray from the watering system, and a trellis.

Vegetable seeds are scarce, but with some effort I finally tracked down some scarlet runner bean seeds. They have bright red flowers to attract hummingbirds, are heat tolerant, grow indeterminately and the more you pick the more they produce.

They should love this spot. Plus my opponents, the deer, would literally have to approach from the road to get to them, which they never have.

Rand built a quickie planter at the bottom of the trellis to tidy things up a bit, and hold some soil. And now we have more food on the way. They should be fun to watch grow as they are aggressive climbers.

Scarlet Emperor bean seedlings, each in a wreath of seaweed.

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What was under that deck? Lots of ferns, salal and blackberries…and some flat land!

A peek up at the former deck, from cottage level.

Quick, lets plant something!. I had 8 seed potatoes left, so in they went. Since big, bold deer are frequent visitors from the adjoining park, it will be tricky to fend them off.

Looking in the window.

For a start, I’m mulching my plants heavily with seaweed from the nearby beach. When I go for a walk with the dog, I take a 5 gallon pail and selectively fill it, being careful to not take too much from any one area of the beach, as it is an important part of the ecosystem.

A quick rinse and into the garden.

Opinions are split as to whether the seaweed needs rinsing or not. I give it one quick fresh water rinse to take off the surface salt. I have read that deer don’t like to eat seaweed. But I also know they love salt…Stand by for my report in the months ahead.

Rand picked up a faucet splitter that allows us to run a hose up to the new garden area. This will also allow me to keep the composter wetted. Big improvement.

There are 8 potatoes under those piles of seaweed. that mess in the background is the “door to Narnia” before I attacked it.

Behind the new spud patch, there is an area that was a hole in the now-demolished deck. My kids called it the door to Narnia.

And Rand used to sweep leaves into the hole. So now, under a stump, more blackberries and ivy vines, what do I discover but about 12 inches of dark rich compost!. So I spent the whole afternoon with a heavy maddock, chopping out huge roots.

Rand came up and sawed down an acacia (weed) tree that would impact the light. And I hauled a half ton of debris down to the utility trailer for next weeks trip to the Green Waste.

Nasty blackberry roots.
The door to Narnia is ready to plant.

I will keep collecting, rinsing and distributing seaweed, both up top, and as a mulch for the lower garden. Here are some advantages:

Its free, and plentiful

It has dozens of trace minerals and is touted as a perfect, balanced fertilizer.

It rehydrates with each rain fall or watering, and delivers its goodness to the roots by leaching seaweed ‘tea’.

It prevents evaporation of water by shielding the ground surrounding plants.

It is attractive to helpful critters like worms and pillbugs.

But slugs don’t like it because it has sharp edges when it dries, and is a bit salty.

It doesn’t contain seeds or other plant bits that can take hold in your garden. Other mulches can hide surprises like…foxtails!

Like peat moss, it aerates the soil. Unlike manure, it doesnt need to decompose before using. Pile it on, 4-6 inches deep. Or more. This stuff is gold.

The only question is, will the deer scarf it up as quickly as I can lay it down?

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Recently, while out walking near Granville Island, we stopped at a coffee bar and Rand bought a giant apricot oat cookie thingy. It was amazingly good! Chewy, flavourful and filling but wholesome tasting, by which, I suppose, I mean not too sweet.

I looked online and found a very similar sounding recipe, which was gluten free and vegan.

While we are increasingly experimenting with meat free menus, I don’t see my love affair with dairy ending anytime soon.

And I definitely can’t be bothered to stock all the specialty ingredients required by this recipe (almond milk, coconut sugar, coconut oil, etc.) or to soak dates and blenderize all this lovely dried fruit.

So today I came up with a simplified version, and they are so good. Excellent right out of the oven for breakfast, and they would be a wonderful addition to a road trip. Had to write my modified version down right away, so I can make them again and again.

Update May 2020

I find this is a pretty flexible recipe: you can add a bit of flax seed, change the fruit or nuts, whatever. The key is to end up with a sticky but not wet dough, in order to pack the cookies into your dry measure mold (or a ramekin) and have them fall out of the mold onto your baking sheet, then hold this consistency through the baking process.

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup rolled whole oats

1 cup flour, can include some buckwheat or whole meal…

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Half cup or more sliced almonds, rough chopped, toast them for best flavour

1/4 cup finely minced dried apricots plus….

3/4 cup chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flaked coconut

1/4 cup melted margerine

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla

Combine oats, flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Stir in brown sugar and coconut.. then almonds, apricots.

Add vanilla to milk, stir into dry ingredients, along with melted butter. Stir to combine. This will not “come together” like a cookie dough, but it does take a few minutes of stirring to ensure all the ingredients get damp and sticky, so keep stirring.

If necessary, add another tablespoon or two of milk, one at a time, to get everything to a damp and clumping consistency. Now, use a 1/2 cup dry measure to mold into 8 large or ten medium breakfast cookies.

Bake about 15 minutes, at 350F, then check to see if they are slightly browned on the top and bottom edges. May need another five minutes, if not.

Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then gobble ’em up.

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Fall is a favourite time at the cottage. We put a king duvet on our queen bed to avoid tussling over the covers, then open the window and sleep so well in the cool, fresh air.

We blow leaves around, drink too much coffee, then make a list of projects and jump right on it.

First on the list this year was to somehow reinforce the unmortared stone wall that runs behind the cottage. Over the 10 years we have been here, the combined forces of gravity, roots and wet weather have begun to compromise the wall’s integrity.

The problem wall.

A few stones dislodged, then a few more, and over the last year it really picked up speed. So, time to act! If not, it became clear the whole thing would come down, bit by bit, or maybe kinda fast.

I proposed using chicken wire to create a semi – molded exterior barrier, and short pieces of rebar, pounded into the embankment, to secure it. Rand feared the rebar would further disrupt the stability of the bank.

Instead he built a series of reinforcing walls from treated timber, then screwed them together to make a single wall. This contraption exterts pressure along the vertical surface of the wall, and also downwards, for stability, owing to its mass. We dug it into the ground, a few inches here and there, in the interests of leveling, and then I hand fitted the fallen rocks both into the embankment from where they had fallen, and in strategic areas to add further reinforcement. It looks nice, and when all the wild sweet peas and periwinkle push their way through in the spring, it will look even better. We hope to have forestalled any further damage, and consider this to be, potentially, a 10 year solution. Time will tell.

The finished structure. Off the list!

Total cost was about $300. Rand spent 8 – 10 hours on it, and I about 2. If the doesn’t sound fair, I also made these amazing orange scones.

We really love this kind of project: Brainstorming a solution and putting it into action, preferably with as much time spent out of doors as possible.

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Two years ago the Cottager and I made a trip to Portland for our anniversary. On the way we stopped at a Cabela’s near Olympia, and purchased a pretty bonnet ceiling light complete with seeded glass, from a clearance shelf for just under $US 12.00. And then it sat around waiting for a purpose.

Recently I found a YouTube video for a recessed light conversion kit, available from Home Depot. Together these became my solution for a truly ugly recessed light at the cottage. Here it is, as was.

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And here is the conversion kit.

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And here is the  light in its new and improved version.

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Total cost was about $50, including a rather expensive old fashioned incandescent light bulb that casts a lovely, yellow candlelight-like glow over the table.  Not task lighting, of which there is more than enough, but very atmospheric. And in my view a big improvement. Love it when I find a use for something this way.  We have a couple of recessed lights in our home which we will also now convert, including one situated between our bedroom closets that does not manage to cast any light into either one.

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My sister made this. I am very jealous. She was always the artistic one. I have strong artistic impulses but no real eye or talent. She found this beat up and broken glass insulator in the boathouse of our family cottage near Nelson. Two pieces of driftwood and two nails later, she had created something I would pay to own. So cool that it perfectly holds a tea candle, making it both beautiful and useful.

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Went to look for this recipe on my blog today…and it’s not there. Let’s fix that!

Super easy, feeds a crowd and perfect for a fabulous weekend like this one.

Five ingredients, one pot, 10 minutes until its in the freezer. Caramel. Do you need more persuading?

INGREDIENTS

Two squares margarine or butter (1 cup)

1 cup brown sugar

7 cups rice krispies

1 – 2 litre carton vanilla ice cream

Caramel ice cream topping

Optional: sliced strawberries or bananas

METHOD

In a large pot on the stove top, combine margarine or butter with brown sugar and melt while stirring constantly but do not bring to boil. Remove from heat and stir in rice krispies, a cup or two at a time.
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Spoon half this mixture into a 13 x 9 inch pan and press down gently with back of spatula to smooth and compress into a smooth layer.  Unwrap brick of ice cream – no need to soften – then use a heavy chef’s knife to slice it into approximately one inch thick slices and cut to fit neatly in pan as required.
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Smooth briefly with a spatula, then pack remaining rice krispies mix on top and press down gently. Drizzle cake with some prepared caramel sauce to garnish, but not too much. This dessert is quite sweet already. Cover with foil and freeze at least six, and, ideally, 24 hours.

Best served with some lovely fresh fruit to give the impression it is good for you.

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Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, so why not pass on getting sucked into the commercial hype of it all and show your love with a unique breakfast treat.

This looks great just out of the oven and tastes even better. I adapted this slightly from a recipe given to me by Mary Wallgren, from the Idaho branch of my mom’s family.

You will need a blender and also a cast iron skillet. If you don’t have the skillet, perhaps you should? Next thing you know you will be making frittatas and oven-fried chicken.

If you are really frugal, pick up a grotty cast skillet at Value Village and recondition it. There are instruction for this process on-line. It is a bit of a dirty job.

INGREDIENTS

Filling:

2 apples, peeled,cored, sliced
2 T brown sugar
2 T butter or margerine
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon, or to taste

Batter:

3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 T granulated sugar
1/2 tsp orange peel zest (optional)
3/4 cup milk

3 T butter or margerine
confectioner’s sugar for dusting

METHOD

In a bowl, stir together apples, cinnamon, brown sugar and lemon juice until apples are coated.

Melt 2 T butter or margerine in a regular skillet on the stove top, add apples and saute until apples are tender – at least 5 minutes. Turn off heat and set this skillet aside for now.

Place your 11 inch cast iron skillet into cold oven, and set to 400 degrees.

Now, into blender put your three eggs, and blend really well.
Reduce blender to low speed. Add flour, salt, granulated sugar and orange zest.
Then slowly add milk.
Stop blender and scrape down sides to ensure all flour is being combined.
Blend again for one minute.

Carefully remove cast skillet from oven using two oven mitts.
Place on cold stove top and add 3 T butter or margerine, moving it around with a spatula until melted but not browned. Carefully add batter from blender, then distribute cinnamon sugar apples on top and return to oven using two oven mitts. Bake 25 minutes, until edges are puffed and brown. Test centre with finger to ensure fully cooked.

Dust with icing sugar, cut into wedges and serve with maple syrup.
Caution: Don’t forget and touch the pan. Hot!

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