Friday, January 30, 2015

Hummingbird Feeder Brushes

Every year I put out at least 2 hummingbird feeders starting at the end of April. I love seeing those gorgeous flitting jewels of the air as they stop by and take a sip. They always brighten my day. One of the problems that I've been having is finding a small enough brush to clean the feeding holes. I have been using pipe cleaners but they don't always have enough of a bristle or strength to clean well.

 While browsing Amazon, I found some cleaners designed just for the feeders called Droll Yankees PLB Perfect Little Brush (see link here). I was amazed at how much the brushes cost and was looking at them thinking I've seen something like that before. For the life of me, I really couldn't remember. I just knew it looked familiar - VERY familiar.

While I was looking at them, my husband came by and I stopped him and asked him if he thought they looked familiar. He gave me the dumbest look and said, "Don't you recognize mascara brushes when you see them?" Yah - one of those face-palm moments. That's exactly what they look like! So I went looking for Mascara brushes and found packs of disposable ones for TONS less than the Droll Yankees brushes. I took a chance and purchased the Leegoal Sheenroad 100 pcs Disposable Eyelash Mascara Applicator Wand Brush (see link here) for under $4 shipped! They were shipped from China so I didn't expect to see them for quite a while, but it took less than 2 weeks to arrive. These things work perfectly!! They fit in the holes and clean better than anything I've tried before!!

If you compare pictures side by side, you might notice there is a bit more loft on the mascara brush. I like that. These also can be bent  at the end so you can reach in places you might not have been able to with a straight brush.

I'm happy with my purchase. I got 100 for about 2/3rd's the cost of 3!!!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Crisco Soap Cut

I cut the Crisco Soap yesterday and am pleased at how it turned out. I did see some marbling and wonder if it is because the soap when from trace to really thick after I put in the scent. I'm guessing I didn't get the scent stirred in well enough. The scent is light and I'm wondering if it will fade more as time goes on. I'll have to add more next time, since this scent isn't an essential oil, but a fragrance oil. It still smells yummy, but I won't be able to get any more of it at the retailer I purchased it from. The fragrance was on closeout and is no longer carried. I do see other sites have it - wonder if it's the same thing?

I know my photo looks sad and doesn't do anything for the soap (soap is a light tan on tan paper in a cardboard shoe box - talk about monotone!). Heck, as far as that goes the soap cuts look sad. I used a mushroom container for the  mold and it wasn't smooth on the bottom. I am just going to have to invest into a decent mold now that I am going to continue. I'm not comfortable handling the lye yet - and it needs to stay that way to keep from having accidental burns. The one that scares me the most though, is the splash in the eyes. I've seen photos of that and it's scary!

My next adventure... Pink soap with a strawberry scent.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Soap Progress

The soap from class did set up, but not as quickly as I was told it would. At 26 hrs., it was so soft and wouldn't come away from the sides of the mold. However, today, after 48 hours, it was more set and came out of the molds with no problems. I cut it and set it aside to let cure for at least 2 weeks.

I know my cuts are sad to look at, but I thought I'd try different thicknesses to see what we'd like, plus they really need some help with being even. LOL

Then it was on to try a new recipe. I saw a soap made from Crisco on Brother's Handmade website where it used just Crisco, lye and water and a fragrance if you'd like to add one. Sounded easy enough, so I gathered everything and whipped up a batch. This one came together so quickly. Between the immersion blender and the fragrance, I went from a good trace to "mashed potatoes"!! It is now sitting wrapped in towels and curing. I can't wait to see how this one turns out. I used a fragrance called Lemon Bundt Cake and it smells divine!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Soap Making Class

So, I finally did it! I made my own soap. Was it a success? Only time will tell.

We had a nice small class, so there was lots of student/teacher interaction. That was nice. I measured out the lye, water and the fats: vegetable oil, lard, and tallow. We melted the fats, mixed the lye and water and when they were both at 100 degrees, they were mixed together.

Then came the stirring....
and stirring....
and stirring....

and about two hours later I had soap coating the sides. 
This meant that a trace should be soon to follow....

... but after another 45 minutes of stirring, still no trace, so the instructor said it probably wasn't going to.  She suggested quitting and just put it in the mold and see what happens.

She was with us through all the steps and helped us with measuring, etc, so she knew that everyone's should be right. But not all traced. Strange, eh?

She's not sure if it will set up or not, so we shall see after 24-48 hours. If not, I can remelt and try again.

Keeping my fingers crossed.

I must say it was a fascinating process and I will certainly try again. Next time, though, I use an immersion blender!!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Making the Bucket List Smaller

Every year I write a list of things I want to try or do and every year most of those items seem to gravitate to the next year's list. I was going back through my notebook of all my lists, notes on gardening, etc. when I stumbled upon a list for 2006 that had "Want to learn to make soap" at the top. I'm not sure if that's the first year I decided I wanted to try or not, but it is the first year I've found it recorded and it's moved from list to list each year.

I was going through emails and found a local class teaching soap making tomorrow. I called and found it still had an opening, so I've signed up! Tomorrow I will be able to cross off another item off my Bucket List! YAY!!!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Great Laundry Stain Remover

I have been using a wonderful homemade laundry stain remover for almost 2 years now. It is easy to make, inexpensive and works so much better than the commercial stain removers on the market. I have saved many shirts that hubby accidentally got something on at work, things that before may have been put aside to wear as work clothes around here.

Stain Remover:

2 Parts Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)
1 Part Original Dawn (blue)

Mix together in a spray bottle. Spray on stain - best if allowed to set for a day or two before washing. I spray it on and fold up the stained item to keep it moist. Wash as usual.

I found the recipe on Po' Papa Joe's blog along with a great homemade laundry detergent that works really well. I tried the detergent but think I grated my Fels Naptha bar a little too coarsely. Right now, I have to use boiling water to get it to dissolve. I think finer would be much better. It still works well - just a bit more fussing to use it now.

Small Batch Laundry Detergent 

1 bar Fels Naptha
1-1/3 cups washing soda
1-1/3 cups borax

Finely grate the Fels Naptha and mix with the other two ingredients in a plastic container (I used a 3 pound cottage cheese container). Use 1-2 Tablespoons per laundry load. I found that this works best for me if I dissolve the mix first in hot water, then add to my machine. I have a front loading machine and just put it in the drum then add the clothes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More Snow in the Forecast for Today

The new frames at left center.

Snow... I love the stuff fresh, but when it starts melting and it starts looking dirty, I'm no longer so fond of it. Nothing can match the beauty of a new snowfall - especially when it's heavy and sticks to everything. As much as I love snow, I'm getting more and more sensitive to the cold and sometimes wish we had moved further south. Funny I should say that, as we were looking at property in Maine. Ah, but we were younger then.

The forecast calls for 3-5 inches today. I'm betting that's going to end up covering my new frames (see photo). Our yard is not as large as the photo. It ends at the last maple tree on the right. I wish I could plant all the way to the line, but the water line comes down through the yard and if anything were to ever happen to it, whatever was planted on top would be dug up. I have to find out from the water co. how close I can get to it without fear of things being disturbed.

Town life is frustrating in certain aspects, but in other ways, it's really nice. We are on the outskirts of town, so our neighbors aren't very close and across the road are farms, giving us a feeling of living in the country. We are close to the hospital, doctors, dentists, etc., as well as many activities. I've never been able to attend a gardening group until now. They have been too far away from us before. 

I'm now involved with the community: I'm on the Election Board, a member of a women's group, a jewelry making group, 3 gardening clubs in which I'm now a leader of a one of them (hubby says I'm nuts! LOL) There's also a local Grange I've been thinking about joining, but I need to see how much time the groups will be taking before I take on any more. And then there's the Master Gardener's program that will be offered here soon. That's a must in  my book!

If you would have told me ten years ago that this would have been where I'd end up, I wouldn't have believed you for a second. It wasn't what we wanted. Looking back at everything, I know that God knows better about what we need and when we need it. All the places we put offers on that were rejected, all the areas we looked at that we thought would be great, all the money we scrimped and saved for years thinking we'd be able to buy a farm... Instead it all ended up for us to move here. We even had the exact amount for the down payment and closing costs. I came come to believe there are no coincidences. Now I need to make the most of the gift we were given!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

January is Seed Order Time

I can't believe January is more than half over already! I have been spending lots of time trying to get everything in order for the coming year growing year. Who says that winter is slow and a time to rest?! The garden may be put to bed, but between the holidays and planning the year to come, time goes just as quickly if not more-so.

We've been here two years now and my fingers are really itching to garden again. We left behind a 36' x 80' garden and now we are starting over. I do miss the large garden and I miss the soil even more. The first year here, there were 6 4' x 8' frames in the back yard. I didn't plant much in them, only the things I brought from the old house: strawberries, Egyptian walking onions, chives, garlic chives, mint and rhubarb. I wasn't sure how they would do here, but had to move them before we put the old house up for sale. I also brought some heirloom flowers that came from my mother's and grandmother's gardens. Mom and Grandma are long gone, but the flowers continue.

Things did pretty well, but I didn't plant anything else as I watched to see how the light would be on the frames. Some of them don't get sunlight until noon! I was going to pull those out, but am wondering if they will do well to keep lettuce and cool loving veggies in them.

Hubby made two new frames for me last fall. He decided to orient them differently. The frames that were here ran north to south - the new ones run east to west. We filled them with leaves and dirt to lighten up the soil. I'm hoping this will help!

Last year I tried some veggies, but some really don't like the heavy clay soil. I need to amend it a LOT to make it lighter. I took one frame in the fall of 2013 and put a whole garbage can of compost in it - then planted my garlic in it. I grew the best garlic I've ever grown last year! I did the same thing this past fall, but am hoping the added leaves won't be a problem (we used one of the new frames). We ended up planting 108 cloves of garlic. That should give me enough to replant, use for the year and maybe even share. Can't wait to see how they turn out.

So - back to the seeds...

I found a new place that I wanted to try called MIgardener . The site is run by a young man and his fiance. He is a gardener who want to inspire others by posting TONS of information and videos. All his seeds have been tested and grown by him before he offers them. He also only charges 99 cents a pack and the packages have generous amounts of seeds in them. My package was just shipped out, so I will be anxiously awaiting their arrival. Turn around from the time of order to shipping was FAST! MIgardener offers vegetable, edible flower and herb seeds.

I also purchased some seeds from Le Jardin du Gourmet . I have purchased from them years ago and was pleased to see they are still in business. They offer regular sized packets as well sample packets that contain enough seed for the small gardener or one that wants to try something new without spending a lot of money. Each sample packet runs 40 cents. They offer vegetables, flowers and herbs.

Now, off to research more about some of the unknowns I purchased...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Great Day to Sort and Toss

Today has been one of those days you just want to stay in and stay warm. It's raining, sleeting and snowing and everything is ice covered. The birds were hitting the feeders hard today and to say I felt bad for them is a complete understatement.

Since it's miserable outside, it was the perfect day to stay in, stay warm and work on those miserable tasks I've put off - like sorting and tossing. When we moved down here, we had to downsize but we found out that we didn't downsize near enough, so the basement has been sitting unused except for storage. Today was a day to start working on that mess.

I did surprise myself and those boxes I went through, I either put in a recycle, donate or toss pile. I did over 12 boxes and kept enough things to fill one.  Now,  if I can keep up the momentum, we will have a useful basement by spring. It's amazing how easy it is to put things away  - especially when they're boxed - and ignore them.

I'm looking forward to getting things cleaned out so I can start on a crafting/sewing area and a recreation area in the basement. Having that kind of a space down there would make life much easier. I just have to keep telling myself that now...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year. We can again begin with a brand new slate and a fresh outlook with new goals. There are no failures, just setbacks that can be learned from or changed. I love sitting down at the beginning of each year and plan. Those plans will be many and I may or may not attempt or succeed at doing them all, but this list of plans always signifies hope and dreams for me.

Yesterday, we went to town to get a pork shoulder for the traditional New Year's Pork and Sauerkraut and of course I have to browse the after Christmas markdowns. We always replenish our wrapping paper and boxes for the next year and look for things that can be used throughout the year as well.

I came across a marked down amaryllis that was abused and begged to be rescued.  It absolutely STANK with the smell of a putrid aquarium - almost a sewer smell to it. The poor bulb was swimming in water and it was hacked off - no flower, no leaves, nothing but a spent mass of smell.

I had to take it home and disassemble it. What I found was a bulb that had the basal plate chopped off, roots trying to grow but most were rotted off.  I washed it off and cleaned it as best as I could.

I really wish I had taken photos of the condition it was in when I took it out of the container, but my main concern was getting this poor thing planted in a new pot in soil and hope that it would recover from all its abuse.

It is now in a sunny window and possibly in soil for the first time in its life. I wonder what it's "thinking" now...

The plant was in a very tall vase type container that was filled with rocks and the spiked stand that kept it off the bottom of the container and kept it level. These things had to be washed and washed to get rid of the putrid smell. They still need to be bleached and then they will all be repurposed. That poor amaryllis will never have to worry about seeing that torture chamber again.

Now we just have to convince it to survive...