Thursday, June 30, 2011

From Garden to Freezer

I am really excited to be putting so much produce into our freezers for this fall, winter and next spring. In years past, yes I have gardened with the intent of canning and freezing, but this year I am really trying. I didn't realize until this year how ho-hum I have been in the past. I am hoping that this year is the beginning of our relying on the grocery store much, much less. Not only is this saving money, but the food is so much better for us since we are growing it ourselves and know exactly what is on it (which, so far has been next to nothing).

Right now the squash and zucchini are producing more than we can eat fresh. We have been eating it pretty much every night with dinner. Fried Zucchini, Zucchini Patties, Cooked Zucchini, Cooked Squash (I haven't tried fried squash?), with Roasted Vegetables... but it is still piling up in our frige.

Canning the squash and zucchini are not an option for us. Neither of us like canned squash very well, and I'm not sure you can can plain zucchini (I think it would be mushy gross-ness). We don't eat alot of relish, so zucchini relish wouldn't be a good idea unless I just wanted to fill my shelf space (which I don't). So I began thinking of the freezer options. What would I do with shredded zucchini? I'm not a huge fan of chocolate zucchini cake or zucchini breads (they are fine, just not my favorite way to consume vast amounts of calories!). Can I freeze sliced squash? I can BUY frozen sliced squash...

I decided to go ahead and freeze shredded zucchini. This morning I pulled out my food processor with it's shredding blade and went to town. I ended up with a big bowl full that I let drain through a colander for a bit before I packaged it up (since it gets so watery when frozen). So far I have 19.5 cups of shredded zucchini frozen.

Then I called one of my sisters who I thought had frozen squash before. After picking her brain and finding out that yes, you can freeze it and it's still edible, I sliced up all the squash that was waiting for something to happen to it. I got 3.5 quart Ziplocs to freeze.

Some ideas that I have for using these (but haven't tried) would be:
Create a casserole
Add to lasagna or spaghetti
Zucchini Patties

Do you have any experience with frozen zucchini or squash, or recipes that you use them in? Share in the comments section!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Finally the Slow Season. For Income.

I never thought I would look forward to Daniel's work slowing down like I have this year. In past years it's been a test of faith when the slow time kept going... and going... and going. And the bills didn't stop coming just because our income dropped drastically.

This year, though, we were anticipating it. And when things got BUSY instead of slowing down, we were thinking "Ok... it's nice overtime, I guess he'll work on the addition ... sometime!" Then last week he started getting home at more reasonable hours. And this week early.

He didn't have to go to work yesterday at all, and has off again today! Usually the slow time is much earlier in the year so I was thinking maybe it had skipped over his company this time. Now that this week has turned into a 3 day work week, it's kinda nice. I'm not anxious about getting through the slow season this year. I know that God will get us through financially, and we're also better prepared than we have been in the past.

While we have no way of knowing if this will last one week or several, here are ways I'm planning to make our household budget stretch:

Making meals strictly from what we already have on hand. We bought 1/2 a side of beef this spring, I have 2 turkeys in the freezer from the Easter sale (one is cooked and picked, the other one is still whole), sliced ham for sandwiches also from the Easter sale, and a couple weeks ago I stocked up on chicken when it was on sale and marked down. We are getting plenty of squash and zucchini from the garden plus there are plenty of peas in the freezer and some other frozen vegetables that I picked up here and there. I have been keeping more flour on hand so bread won't be a problem. The only thing we will need to get weekly will be milk, and maybe orange juice or eggs.

Ban use of the clothes dryer. I'll be honest and say that this week I have used it instead of hanging clothes out on the line because I felt I had so much going on. But I can rearrange priorities even more and start hanging out laundry again. I might save electricity by using my time to hang out the laundry instead of running the vacuum cleaner... :P I'm working on a wedding cake this week, so my already prioritized priorities are even more not the norm.

Use cloth diapers. Disposables are so not cheap when you're not sniffing out the best deals possible. Ok, "sniffing out" probably wasn't the best choice of words! Ha! I have really slacked off on the cloth diapers lately because I haven't made folding the flat diapers a top priority. Since I bought the FuzziBunz - which I could use day in and day out! - I have grown to really dis-like the flat diapers that require about 5x the work. I was actually considering buying more FuzziBunz (we only have 5, enough for 1 day), but of course that is going to go way back on the burner now. What we do have works just fine, I just need to take the time to use them.

I know none of this is new to me and probably not to you. I'm putting it in writing because somehow this makes it more do-able and more of a commitment on my part. I've done pantry challenges before. I've been strict about line drying everything before. I've been strict about using cloth diapers before. I can do it again.

I'll be posting again soon, I hope, with some new pictures of progress actually being made on the addition! It has been so long since Daniel's been able to make any real progress, this is exciting!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

How I {don't} Do It All

Click on the picture to read the captions.

While I do try to keep up with the housework, continually staying on top of it and keeping everything cleaned up, washed up, folded up, put up... does not put food in our freezers, pantry or bellies. So, many times I turn my focus to the garden instead of the housework.

I do enough to squeak by, and some days I really DO housework and get an area cleaned up like it should be. But for the sake of keepin' it real, this is what my kitchen looks like today. And yesterday. And maybe the day before. Except for the banana peels - they weren't there Thursday.

I know many of you look at my garden pictures and say "I don't know how you do it all". Well, here ya go! My secret: I don't.

Now, I know some of you would never be able to stand the clutter. Sometimes I can't either. Today at lunch I was frustrated because I had to shove some stuff around to make a clear spot to put together a sandwich. That means it's time to get the kitchen cleaned up again :) And I won't work in the garden this afternoon (I hope to at least go pick squash and zucchini this evening), but nothing is super pressing out there today.

This is a season of my life. One where my time is cheaper than our money. It's easier for me to let the housework fall behind than to try and squeeze produce out of our grocery budget for another year. I would make it work if I needed to, but I don't need to. And I'm enjoying my garden :) And not minding the clutter. Too badly. Most of the time.

Just another Real Housewife Reveal :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quick Garden Update

I need to run out and help Daniel with something so this is a quick update:

Notice anything different?
The garden looks empty :) The peas are finished, we tore them all out 2 Saturdays ago (6/4), and in total I froze 37 quarts, we ate some and gave away 3 quarts. I'm happy to have the peas over with for this year! They were a LOT of work and extremely time consuming. I think next year I will see if there's a pea sheller around here that I could haul my peas to and use. That would save boatloads of my time.

The broccoli and cauliflower were pulled out yesterday. I got 3 pints of broccoli frozen, and the cauliflower never did anything. I didn't realize it until too late, but worms were keeping what would've been the "heads" eaten off. By the time I pulled the plants, they were riddled with worm holes. Next year I'll be proactive in keeping worms at bay. Only 1 broccoli head had very many worms, and overall they weren't too bad on the broccoli.

We do have some volunteer peach trees growing :) I hope to transplant 1 or 2, to add to our current 1-tree "orchard".

The tomatoes are still doing well, though I'm not sure what the browning of the bottom leaves is. I know the plants have aphids on them, so that might be it. I have had terrible problems with thrips in past years when I bought my plants, but this doesn't look like thrips. I plan to spray with an insecticidal soap and hopefully that will be a "cure-all". It doesn't seem like a blight.

Blossom End Rot is something I discovered recently, and yesterday I sprayed all the plants with BER spray (calcium). I hope to get some powdered calcium nitrate to side dress the plants with so that I don't have to juggle spraying for both bugs and BER. Last evening I found my first tomato horn worm. He surprised me very much and I let out an "Eeee!" I removed him with a stick and piece of cardboard - and did you know that they spit green spit and make a clicking noise? Me either. They are uuuuuugly! I let Daniel "take care" of him. *shudder*

Here is my corn! The first 2 double rows (very right) I planted before the peas were out. The rest of the rows are where the peas were. You might be able to see little black upside-down "u's" at the far end of each double row. I have 14 rows in all (7 double rows). I am hoping to be proactive in ear-worm deterrent and am waiting to hear back from our county's extension office about what "safe" options might be. I know Sevin dust works, but I'm hoping I can use insecticidal soap.

The bare area is newly tilled yard that we're going to sew buckwheat in to start amending the soil for next year. (Buckwheat will also be sewn where the broccoli/cauliflower was.) The garden is still a bit snug and if I can keep a good garden like this one going in the future, more room will be nice.

My beans :) I weeded the left row yesterday - it took me most of the day since it hadn't been weeded yet this year. It was a lot of grassy stuff (1st year garden space) and was a LOT of weeds! There are some bugs on the beans doing some damage, but not too badly yet. From past years I know it will get much worse, so I plan to spray them with soap spray, too (and the squash, zucchini, peppers and eggplants). Since it's a safe spray, I don't mind using it.

Here are my surprise yellow pepper plants! I have more than I have space for so I'm giving some of them away.

And my surprise Eggplants :) I've never grown them before so we'll see how they do.

The pea vines, broccoli and cauliflower plants. Hopefully this will break down into some nice compost.

The lettuce is finished - I got 2 nice dishpans full and it is keeping well in the frige. We're getting zucchini and squash now :) It is so nice to be enjoying vegetables from the garden!

I know this is a hurried update, but it's been 2 weeks and I wanted to post :) Gotta run!

This post is linked to the Frugal Gardening 101 series hosted by Phoebe, Connie and Amy. Check it out!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Menu Plan 6/13 - 6/19

I have jumped back on the menu planning bandwagon recently. I was getting burnt out with the day to day "what to make", and especially being busy with the garden I was finding it hard to find even the motivation to fix supper.

One big help is that over the past several weeks I've decided what kind of meal to have 3 nights a week.
  • Monday is something in the crock pot so I can spend more time recovering from the weekend (not me recovering, but me helping the housework recover!), or getting a good start to the week.
  • Wednesday is a casserole. A one-dish type meal since we have an earlier dinner before going to church.
  • Friday is pizza night, of course :)
It's almost 2am Monday morning as I write this. I took a Sunday afternoon nap and it must've been a really good one. I crawled in bed ready to go to sleep at 11:30pm and just tossed and turned until I decided to do something productive with my wide-awake brain at 1am.

Monday - Roast Beef, Garlic-Parmesan Potatoes, Zucchini (from the garden!)
Tuesday - Pork chops, Cornbread, Vegetable
Wednesday - Turkey Turnovers, Vegetable
Thursday - Apricot Chicken, Rice, Vegetable
Friday - Pizza, Salad
Saturday - Taco Salad
Sunday - Leftovers

All the "vegetables" will either be salad or whatever I'm in the mood for when I go digging in the freezer :) I have a couple turkeys in the freezer from the Easter sale and I'll be roasting one this week to make a little room in the freezer for garden produce :)

I think after this I am more ready to fall asleep :) Hopefully I'll wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Normal, Again.

NEW normal, again, is probably more like it.

The peas are finally done and out of the garden (garden post coming next week, I hope!), and while pea season only lasted a couple weeks, it sure threw "normal" out the window.

This week we shelled the last of the peas Monday night, and every day since then I'm pinching myself to make sure it's not a dream that there are no more peas to pick or shell. Tuesday and Wednesday any free time was spent trying to undo what two weeks of almost 100% neglect had done to the house since my sister and her baby were coming for a couple days. Kudos to my husband for all of his help!!

Since the peas are done, I have resumed doing laundry, dishes and cooking on a regular basis. While my sister was here she washed dishes one evening and they are finally all caught up. There haven't been any over-24 hrs - old dirty dishes the past two days! Wow!

I haven't done anything in the garden other than water since Thursday morning, and the weeds are rejoicing at their delayed death sentence. Next week is supposed to be considerably cooler so I hope to get on top of it again :)

Susannah is LOVING the outdoors and gets very excited if you ask "do you want to go outside?" Daniel has been home early enough a few evenings this week that she was able to "help" him with some outside work.

Last evening he went out the door and she noticed, and got a very sad "You didn't take me with you!" expression on her face and voice. After checking with Daniel to make sure it was ok, I took her out to be with him. She loves her Daddy, that's for sure!!

On Monday we were ready books on the couch, which turned into looking out the window. I was playing with her hair, and was able to get her to hold still long enough for me to put in her first pony-tail. (And yes, she was wearing a pajama top for a shirt that day.) She looks super cute with her little whale-spout :)

Today was the 3rd day watching my niece while my sister went to the home school convention, and everything was finally going smoothly enough that I was able to get several things done. I made bread and a meatloaf for the freezer, and also worked on pureed foods for Susannah. I had frozen some things last evening so I bagged those up and froze some more. I still have a huge sweet potato that I cooked this afternoon to puree and freeze, and we'll have a nice supply again.

Daniel just pulled in the drive so I should go heat up some supper for him. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your weekend! I'm looking forward to Sunday and then starting a fresh, clean, new work week on Monday :) I printed off my Motivated Moms sheet and everything!