Saturday, February 28, 2015

Rooting Roses

I have been successful rooting roses from bouquets in the past, but for some reason, I never thought of doing this with the $2 roses I bought until a couple of days ago. The roses themselves were past their prime, so I'm not sure if they will successfully root or not. I really have nothing to lose except for some soil, a little rooting hormone and time.

I took the roses and cut off the bottoms of the stem at an angle just under a leaf bud. I made sure to remove the woody part and am using only the younger green part of the stem. The next step is to remove the flower down to a leaf bud and then to trim from 1/3 to 1/2 of the leaves that are left off.

Dip the bottom in root hormone then put this stem in potting soil. There are two ways to do that - first is to put just a small amount of soil in the bottom, put the stem in and fill in around it or you can put the soil in first, poke a hole with a chopstick or dowel and put the stem in being careful not to brush the hormone off when inserting the stem. Some people say not to use soil, but instead use soaked perlite, then fill the container with water. Others say to just use water to root the plant in. I didn't have perlite on hand, so I opted the soil method.

Since roots aren't happy in light, I covered my container (the one from my amaryllis purchase after Christmas) at soil level with brown paper to keep the light out. I then inserted the whole container in a 1-1/2 gallon Ziploc bag, misted it some and then zipped it half way closed to allow for humidity retention but also allow for air circulation. I put them in the brightest window in the house and they will need to be kept warm - the way roses like it. In 6-8 weeks we will see if the roses survived and any sent out roots. I'm not sure how this is going to work with spent roses. I did crowd all 12 branches in the container, as I'm not expecting them all to live. Some say only expect half to root, and since my roses were spent, I'll be happy with just getting one! Keeping my fingers crossed.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chicken Bone Broth, Bone "Meal" & Kitty Food

I've been collecting chicken bones from both legs and thighs - both after being cooked or when I debone the thighs before cooking. I have been putting them in a Ziploc in the freezer and finally got a full enough bag to make some bone broth.

I put all the bones in a crockpot and then poured enough water over them to cover. I added an onion, a couple of sticks of celery plus leaves, a couple of carrots and a few spices: garlic powder, salt, pepper, a bay leaf and a little poultry seasoning. I also added a little vinegar to draw out some of the calcium out of the bones and cooked it on low for a good 12 hours.

The house smelled so good, but the best part was straining the broth and a sample taste to make sure it was seasoned correctly. OOOOHHH! Every time I make some of this, I can't help but to think back to my grandmother's chicken soup. She made the most yummy soup with celery, onions and carrots and poured it over her homemade Lane Kluski (Polish poured noodles). I never learned how to make it the way she did, but my broth is about as close as I'm probably ever going to get.

After straining and cooling the broth, I put it to chill and will remove the fat layer that forms on the top. My broth will be quite like jello and will need to be reheated to either can or make chicken soup with. I haven't decided what to do with it yet. Everyone here is now begging for soup since it smelled so good when it was cooking.

The bones I used - especially the ones I deboned, still had some meat on, so I took all the meat scraps, a little of the carrots, celery and onion and put that in my mini food processor and ground it up, rolled it into serving sized balls and made some homemade kitty food. My cat goes NUTS over this stuff! They were flash frozen and then put in a Ziploc to store in the freezer for future use.

The bones were soft and easy to break, so they were broken up in small pieces to add to the compost - not exactly bone meal, but will easily break down since they are broken up into pieces. These will help increase the calcium and give other nutrients to the garden. The rest of the veggies that didn't go in the cat food also went into the compost. Nothing was wasted except for the skin and the fat from the raw chicken. I didn't use that but should probably look up how to use that as well so I don't waste anything from the chicken.

Chicken thighs run $0.99 a pound here. I bought a 3.81 pound package and after removing the skin, most of the fat and bone, I ended up with 2.25 pounds of chicken. I had about $1.25 of waste. By making the broth and kitty food plus the bone "meal", that waste which normally would have been thrown out, became something delicious and useful (except for the skin and fat, that is).

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
Homeacre Hop #109

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Long Week & a Finish

It has been a very long week here. My husband was in a tremendous amount of back pain but didn't know what triggered it. He was unable to walk, sit or stand and could only lay in one position for some relief. After a trip to the Dr. and then a referral to a physical therapist that wouldn't treat him but sent him to the ER - we found out that he has a couple of herniated disks. That then took us to the orthopedic clinic where he found that his disk is pushing on a nerve. Right now, he is trying the least invasive treatment, but it doesn't seem to be working. Next up will be steroid shots and then disk surgery if that doesn't work. It amazes me that he went from being happy and normal to now using a walker and unable to stand for more than a minute or two.

Not much has been done here at home - just the minute trivialities of homemaking. I did take a little time last night while my husband was sleeping to make a dishcloth. This photo was taken right after it came off the needles and is not washed or pressed. It was an easy pattern and can be found on the Knitting Knonsense website along with other letters and numbers.

I have another cloth on the needles that should be finished soon. There's something about knitting that seems to calm and soothe me. Guess it's cheap (and well needed) therapy :)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Frugal Valentine's

Every year since the time we met, my husband gives me a single rose for both Valentine's Day and on our anniversary. He has been creative with giving the roses - especially on our anniversary. Not all of them were alive or single long stem roses. In the past, I've received a necklace, pin, water globe containing a real rose, a Capodimonte rose, a rose plant, etc. Usually though, Valentine's Day brings a single long stemmed rose. This year, he gave me a chocolate one!

Valentine's gifts have always been so expensive, and when we were first married, hubby used to feel badly about not being able to afford a nice gift. I soon talked him out of seeing things that way by showing him just how wonderful it could be the day after. Everything is marked down at least 50% and really, what's one day? We started hitting the sales the day after and even stocked up on our chocolate for a few months. So many times you can find other things - not just the overpriced boxed hearts, but things like Hershey Kisses, Snickers, Reese's, etc. as well as baking items and even apparel. I've come home with some really nice sleep pants and t-shirts at a huge savings - just because they had hearts on them or were marketed for Valentine's Day!

This year, I got to the store later than I wanted to, but still found a few good deals. I picked up 7 bags of Hershey Kisses at $1.44 each, 1 bag of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate strawberry filled squares and a couple of Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate and Brookside Dark Chocolate Acai each at $1.50.  All roses - actually all cut flowers were marked down and I ended up bringing home a dozed peach colored roses for $2. They look gorgeous displayed in the glass holder that my after Christmas purchase of the 98 cent Amaryllis was housed in.

Remember, being frugal does not mean you have to give up the finer things in life - it just means you know when to purchase them.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Good Day for Onion Soup

The wind and snow today made for some interesting whiteout conditions. I went outside to take this photo and found it almost impossible to breathe with the wind and snow hitting me hard in the face. We are under wind chill warnings until Monday with gusts of wind up to 50 mph. That makes for some interesting sounds here in the house! Plus I really have to  feel sorry for the poor birds. They were hitting the feeders hard today and when I went out, I saw one trying desperately to hold on to the feeder and eat. What a harsh life they lead!

One can no longer see anything out the windows. We don't have storm windows, just screens on them and the screens are plastered with snow and the window is spattered with what made it through.

With all that snow and wind going on outside, it seemed like a great day for some French Onion Soup. Nothing warms the soul like a good hot bowl of soup - and it feels like the soul needs a lot of warming today!

Onion Soup is both quick and simple to make. You slice up some onions and sweat them in butter. This makes them soft and sweet  - no matter how "hot" they were when you started.

Then you add some broth, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper if you desire. Top it with toasted French bread or croutons and Provolone cheese and it's ready to eat!

French Onion Soup

6 to 7 cups thinly sliced onions
1/4 cup butter
32 ounces beef broth (I used Emeril's Organic)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper (optional)
French bread or Croutons
Provolone Cheese

Sweat the onions in butter over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the onions are soft. Add the broth, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat to boiling. Serve in bowls with toasted bread or croutons floated on the soup. Put a slice of Provolone cheese on top of bread. If desired, you can heat under a broiler to melt the cheese, but if you do so, make sure you use broiler safe bowls.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Is Canning Worth It?

I can't tell you how many times I've been told that canning isn't worth the effort any more. One can go out and buy food cheaper than you can can it, so why put all the time and effort into it?  Why indeed!?!

Let's compare my last canning day. I made 5 pints of Chicken Corn Chowder and 2 pints of canned chicken thigh chunks. First lets look at the cost of ingredients.

chicken thighs - $4.12.
onion - 18 cents
celery - 8 cents
potatoes - 20 cents
corn - 99 cents
chicken broth - 1.99
canning jar lids - 81 cents
for a total of $8.37

If I purchase Campbell's Chunky Soup, they currently run $1.98 a can - 5 cans = $9.90. To be fair, the Chunky are in 18.6 oz cans, so we should be figuring by the ounce. 10.7 cents x 16 ounces = $1.712. That would cost $8.56 for comparison.

I then went looking for canned chicken. If I purchase Swanson Premium Light and Dark Chicken in water, I will pay $1.98 for a 9.75 ounce can. That breaks down to 20.3 cents an ounce. Unfortunately, I cannot find any dark meat only, so this is as close as I can get for comparison. 16 ounces = $3.248. 2 pints = $6.48

With that said, if I purchased the equivalent of what I canned from the store, I would have spent $15.04. My cost was $8.37 for a savings of $6.67. If I had used my own produce out of the garden as well as my own canned broth, I would have been able to save even more.

This isn't the end of the savings though, because the bones I had left from the chicken were frozen  to be used  at a later date. When I get enough, I will make a nice batch of broth to can.

So, is it worth it? In my opinion, yes. I saved money and the flavor is much better. Plus, I know exactly what went into those jars!

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Monday, February 9, 2015

Canning Chicken & Chicken Corn Chowder

There was a sale on Campbell's Chunky Soups a bit ago, so I decided to stock up. My daughter takes lunch most days and thought these would be good for her to take while it was cold out. I was sooooo wrong. I haven't had these in a long time, so maybe I'm remembering them being better then, but they were AWFUL! I have a bunch in the pantry that I will eat because I purchased them but never again.
Which leaves me no choice but to put up my own soups and stews.

I haven't canned much in the way of soup - just vegetable soup, so today was my first try with chicken. I got some thighs on sale and figured they would be perfect for canning. I found a recipe for canning Chicken Corn Chowder on that looked good, so I gave it a try.

I removed the skin, fat and bone from each thigh - freezing the bones to use later to make broth. I only did 10 thighs and put aside the other 6 for dinner. The 10 thighs made enough for 2 pints of chicken and 5 pints of Chicken Corn Chowder. I was surprised I ended up with so much out of ten!

The biggest time suck was the preparation, but when it came time to put everything together, it went quite quickly. Everything sealed and now I'm anxious to try a jar to see how they turned out.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

It's Bean Time!

I had purchased a lot of dried Roman Beans for 50 cents a pound at one of those outlet stores a couple of months ago. I had no idea what they were, but they were dried, cheap and looked a lot like pinto beans, so they came home with me. I did some research on the net and found that these beans can be used interchangeably with kidney beans, black beans. chili beans and pinto beans. Sounds like I found a goodie!

I decided that it would be a good time to try them, so I soaked 2 pounds to can for soups, etc. and while I was at it, I thought I'd do a pound of baby limas as well. I sat down with the Ball Blue Book and found that for every quart of beans I want, I need 3/4 pound of dried beans. Hmmmm - not enough for a canner load, so I decided to try SB Summer BBQ Beans from SB Canning to make a full load.

I used Garden Gnome's recipe for Home Canned Kidney Beans & Lima Beans as she does her beans just a little different than I normally do. If you haven't been to her website called Mom's Cafe Home Cooking, you really must! She has so many great recipes posted there with a lot of guidance for both the newbie and the experienced cook alike. I love her site!

Well, it appears Ball was quite a bit off the mark on how much I needed. I ended up with 4 pints of Baby Limas, 6 pints of regular Roman Beans and 6 pints of SB Summer BBQ Beans with quite a bit left over!! My All American Pressure Canner only holds 16 pints so I decided to use the leftover in chili for dinner tonight.

The beans cooked up nicely. They were meaty and larger than normal beans and made a delicious chili!

Dinner - a nice bowl of chili on a bed of salad topped with cheddar cheese, sour cream and taco sauce. Oh man! I'm glad there were leftover beans!!!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Becky's Soap Cut - hmmmmm

Today was the unveiling of Becky's soap and it didn't turn out like I expected. My guess is either the scent or the coloring or both didn't agree with the olive oil. I used Bertoli brand olive oil and also some homemade calendula oil out of the same brand.

 As you can see, the tops turned brown and didn't look great.

I discovered little beads of oil or sweat on the top of the soap of the larger piece.

Those that came out of the cookie molds had spots on the bottom and the tops were brown.

Cutting was interesting - the soaps cuts some and also broke. Possibly these needed to set longer? Maybe it was also the issues that turned the soap brown. It's sad, because these these were an interesting pink yesterday. 

I also have decided that the smell of the Strawberry Jam wasn't for me when I took these out of the mold. However, when I was rinsing off the cleaver, I found that the smell was really quite nice. Does this mean there is still hope? Maybe as these cure they will harden and turn out to still be decent soaps. I've read that it will take longer to cure and a good olive oil soap bar will be best at about 9 months or longer. 

I'm having a lot of fun trying the soaps out - the successes and failures really make me want to try for something better or change something to make the recipe work. Lots of crumbled pieces from this soap. I've decided to collect the crumbs and will put them all in a soap down the road. Might make for an interesting bar.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Dreaming of Spring

Spring - There are times like this past week that I think it's never going to get here. The calendar says differently though, so I must have faith... :)

I've been spending quite a bit of time online looking for projects to do this year. I found some great canning ideas and even had one of those DUH moments. I was reading how one person makes her chicken broth (I can't find that blog now - must go back through history!) Anyhow, she cooks her chicken legs, etc. and the family eats their fill. She takes those bones you'd normally throw away and freezes them until she has enough for a batch of broth. She then takes the bones, covers them with water and puts in some carrots, celery, onion, and cooks them until she has a nice broth. Then she strains it, cools it, takes off the fat layer, then cans it. She also says that you can grind the bones up for bone meal - many homesteaders do that. Talk about not wasting a thing!

I made some more soap this afternoon. I followed Becky's (from Becky's Homestead) Easy Homemade Soap recipe and made a half batch of olive oil soap. I added some Strawberry Jam fragrance oil and tried Gel Tones Neon Pink to color it. I'm not crazy over the smell right now, but we'll see what happens after it cures.

I loved Becky's flower soaps, so I went to Amazon and purchased a mold for myself for under $4 shipped. It's coming from China, so it won't be here for a couple of weeks.

Not much else going on at the Cottage. Just snow and snow and snow. We do have a little sunshine this after noon, but it's supposed to snow again this weekend. Tomorrow I cut the soap, so will post the results then.