Sunday, August 30, 2009

Alpaca Socks and Squirrel Shirts

Fall is well on it's way. You can tell by the few yellow leaves that are falling. The temperature at night is getting colder and the nights are getting a little longer each day. I know I wasn't as active as I wanted to be this summer with my garden because I had no control over what my dad did with it but next year will be different. I'm putting my foot down and planning that garden myself.
On Friday before I headed to work I stopped by the farmer's market. The vendors were few before the sky decided that it was going to rain on their parade. My mission was beets but none of the vendors had any. The one vendor that I had talked to said that his beets were taken by the deer. But I didn't leave empty handed.
I've been wanted some really warm socks for a time now. I've attempted to make my own but that hasn't gone to well. The only choice I had was to buy them. I snagged a really good pair of alpaca socks from a vendor that came from Hunderton County, New Jersey. There's 78% alpaca wool, 20% nylon and 2% lyrcra. Not bad. The best part is that they have a terry cloth like interior which makes them really cozy.
Normally, I don't bother with getting warm socks but I'm challenging myself this winter by not using the electric heat in my room. My one dog will get a nice blanket for extra warmth and my sheltie should be fine. As for me an extra blanket or two will be added to my normal four layers. As soon as the sewing machine is fixed I'll make my fleece blanket and I'll perhaps buy a nice alpaca blanket for the same vendor I got the socks from unless a better product elsewhere.
I'm still knitting my scarf. Hopefully I'll be done by the end of September. Then I'll make a hat.
A little earlier on Friday I bought a T-shirt that I've been wanting for awhile. It snagged it at a garden center that is going out of business for $10. This particular shirt has a squirrel with a mask on that reads "Hand over the sunflower seeds and no one gets hurt." The line is called Squirrel Stuff. I have a long love hate affair with squirrels. In middle school they where the cause of everything that with wrong. The artist as a lot more up on her website that you can buy. Very cool stuff.

Friday, August 28, 2009

No Electric, No Problem

This morning I woke up to rain on my face. During the summer I love to have my windows open. There is rarely a moment when at least one window is open. I got up, kicked the cat off my bed and went to do my morning routine on the computer. Around ten o'clock the electricity went out. I shrugged and lit some candles to do my hair in my windowless bathroom. My mom and I went out to the garden center that is closing for business.
It's so sad seeing something close that I've known all my life. They do anquies there too. I almost died when I saw the butter churn for $15 and a spinning wheel for $160! So where's my own homestead when I need it? I keep finding things I want but can't get because I have no place to put it except in boxes.
I found this set of stoneware plates that I want but can't use them. Ah, the restrictions of living with parents.
Thank goodness we have a propane stove. I don't know where I'd be without it. For lunch I made my gooey grilled cheese. I found that if you butter the bread with soft butter and fry it on low for about six minutes on one side and about four on the other it makes for a really yummy sandwich.

The Bag Bag

A few months ago I started to crochet a grocery bag out of plastic grocery bags. I never finished it. After browsing through Mobile Home Woman's blog I found a video on how to melt the plastic bags into a bag. It's simple really! The part that took me the longest was sewing the side up by hand. I haven't really tested to see how much this can hold but I did use it to transport water ice and a tea shirt home. Today I'll go to the farmer's market to use it more.
So to make this, collect ten plastic bags about the same size.
Cut the tops and bottoms off.
Pull them inside out. This is important because they ink will bleed and make a mess.
Fold them in half three times.
Iron them between pieces of wax paper. Iron one side and flip over. Iron one by one until all of them are done.
If you have a working sewing machine you can just sew the panels together, three for the front and back, one for each side and bottom, and one for the handles.
For the handels just cut two stripes from the remaining back about an inch thick and sew it on.
For those who do not have a sewing machine you can fuse the front and back panels together and the bottom to the two sides. Two up the four remaining side with the blanket stich.
Ta da! With a sewing machine this would probably take you about an hour. With out a sewing machine three hours unless you can sew faster.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Pickle Expedition

It seems like a lot of hoopla over something so small. I must confess, it is but they are my pickles not just something generic that I picked up at a whim in the grocery store. It's a commitment.
Wednesday morning I took another trip to Trauger's to get beets and more pickling cucumbers. When leaving the house I noticed that we lacked vinegar and my mom wanted tomato juice so I took a trip to the nearest supermarket, the IGA in Frenchtown, New Jersey. This was something different. I had never drove acrossed those bridges let alone by myself. It's scary knowing that about twenty feet below the Delware River is churning and that one false move could send you hurling to your death. Okay, maybe that is a little dramatic but it was a big deal to me.
Anyway, once I got the vinegar and tomato juice I headed back to PA. The next leg of my journey was enjoying the river scenery ((and dogging the many potholes that grace the road)). A few minutes later, and after worrying about taking the wrong turn, I arrived that Trauger's. I swear, that place is my happy place. Old farm house, river setting, acres of plants that produce food to make very good food. That's is my place, if I dare say, a little more homier than my own home. There I snagged 15 good sized pickling cucumber, to add with my existing 30 smaller ones, for $3, and 2 good bunches of beets for $2 a piece. I also snagged a packet of Mrs. Wages Kosher Dill Pickle mix for $2.50 just in case the other mix was too little.
I'm glad I did because I ended up processing twelve pint jars and one gallon of fridge style because I didn't have any wide mouth lids. Lesson two and three learned.
To those that are curious, it's very easy to make pickles with or without a packaged mix and with or without a water bath canner.
First, get your canner or stock pot to a boil.
Meanwhile, wash your jars and set them in warm water until ready to use. Some people say to boil them but it's not nessisary. If you wash them in warm enough water they'll be sterilized and if you keep them in warm water they will not break.
Next, follow your packet's intructions or if you want to make them from stratch go here.
While you're waiting for the brine to boil pack your cucumbers in the jars. Remember keep them warm. To activate the glue on the lids you can place them in a pan of water on low or dip them in the canner for a few seconds (when your ready to seal).
Once your brine in to a boil pour it into your jars and cap. Process jars according to the intructions.Lastly, enjoy your pickles year round. Looking at the jars just seem romantic. Sigh. The cost per jar, not including energy is about sixy-five cents per jar.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

From Scratch Pancakes

When I move out of my parents house I'm going to have three homemade meals a day no matter what. I crave good filling food. The problem with fast food is that there is really nothing there. You can order the king size but there is nothing there. Empty calories just filling your calorie intake, that's it. Even if it's nothing something totally made from scratch such as my fab chicken and dumplings. It's enough for me.
This morning I craved pancakes. Of course, like my hungry lazy teenage self should, I reached for the box of Hungry Jack Complete Buttermilk Pancake mix. Only to say, "Hey, where did it all go." Unlike most I didn't toss it back and get out cereal, instead I went online and found a pancake recipe at It's a simple recipe designed with a few people in mind. Of course I did my own variation. Instead of 1 tablespoon sugar I used 4 teaspoons. In place of oil I used butter. I added about 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and I lacked buttermilk so I used regular milk. They turned out wonderful, not very fluffy which can be fixed by seperating the egg yolk and whites then beating the egg whites.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Owch! And other news

So someone up there was beating me with a stick today. I came home from shopping with my mom. Within 30 minutes I was on the road again to go to work with my lunch of pizza in tin foil waiting for me to eat it when I get there (I've only been driving a month and didn't want to take a chance). I get to work, eat it, and run it. When it was time for my dinner break I had a game plan. I needed pickling cucumbers but couldn't go to the farmer's market so I drive to the produce stand near work. Huzzah! I snagged 30 good pickling cucumbers for $3, less then half I was expecting. I get out to the car, bend over to slide my box in the car and BAM! I hit my head on the car. With my head throbbing I attempt to cross one lane and a turning lane. That didn't go to well. I ended up driving back to work, turning around and going out that stop light to McDonalds. Dumb me went to do this in rush hour traffic. Needless to say I had ten minutes to eat. It could have been worse. I get back, put my cucumbers into the fridge and in my excitment of telling my manager, a family friend who as been giving me advise on canning, I cut the corner to short at the register, it's raised about eight inches, and sliced a nice whole into my favorite pair of jeans. Eventful, no?
In other news, I found a very interesting artical on, A while back, I thought it would be neat to find edibles in the words but I doubt that would go over too well with my mom although raspberries are okay. I know not many people read this, but let's see who can find a wild edible. Do what the artical suggests. Take a picture of it, tell me where you foudn it and do something with it. Post the link to your picture in the comments. It'll be interesting to see what people find. Don't forget to do your research first.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Garden

This morning, before it got too hot out, I took pictures of what I like to thinks is my homestead, as least is my homestead for now. As I've probably mentioned before, I'm still quite young and live with my parents. Since I live with my parents I'm restricted in what I can do with my lifestyle. In other words I'm not allowed to have chickens, can a winter supply of food, eat 95% local, or run my garden with out someone else stepping in and doing what they want with it.
With is what happened this season. I had it all planned out, carefully not over doing it, seeds bought and all. My dad and I were suppose to put a fence up around our raised beds. Three posts in and he didn't to the forth. Needless to say the fence was never finished but I was still determined to get something into the ground. I planted bush peas but they never came up. I didn't give up so I planted bush beans which yeilded about six plants that are yet producing. During the winter I didn't really feel like doing seedlings for sweet peppers so I bought six plants from Walmart and those are also still producing. Then the fence issue came up. We ended up putting scrap pieces of chicken wire up around everything which makes it hard to weed. Okay, so not a problem right? Then came the tomatoes. In my plan I didn't include tomatoes because everyone around here does tomotoes. My dad never passes up anything free so he planted as many tomato plants as he could, about eight, that covered a row and a half of potential beet and squash plots. I also see not logic in planting a blueberry bush in raised beds in the middle of the garden.

This is the back view of my green peppers. Notice how they are protected.

My only cucumber plant next to some random rot; grass clipps and such. Another thing I need to do is designate a compost pile. It's everywhere right now.One of my green bean plants. Still being choked my weeds. I need to mulch better next year.

I'll post the rest as a slideshow.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


What a event. Around 11 o'clock in the morning I started. I mushed my berries one layer at a time. At first I didn't know what this was. So I threw a few berries into the bowl and mashed them then add more. Hopefully this was what they were getting at. The biggest mistake the I made was not starting the canner before I started jamming. After I made the jam, which was quite easy, I put the lids and bands on and waited for canner to boil. During that time I encountered another problem, the half pint jars don't fit on the rack! With a little testing I noticed that the jars fit nicely on the outer edge of the rack and if I carefully lower and raise it would work. I lost my jar lifter, which is old anyway, but it worked with regular tongs. After the jars were processed you couldn't imagine my excitment when I heard the tops pop! It was like Christmas. All of my jars sealed.
It's amazing to know that you played a part in putting food up for the winter. Yeah, it's only jam but that's one less thing that I need to buy at the supermarket. I played a part in it's making. I picked the berries, mashed them, cooked, and processed them. Just knowing that will make the jam taste great. As for the cost, it was about $1.79 per jar which doesn't include getting a canner, bands, jar lifter and anything that can be reused. So for $9 in berries, about $1 in sugar, 75 cents for six lids. If you have your own blackberry bush it's even cheaper, only 30 cents a jar.

I'm looking forward to making pickles next weekend and after that perhaps applesauce. Yummy!

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Great news! Every time I update my blog I update my Twitter with the link. For those who Twitter a lot this is great! Just follow me, Willowoak.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Not Quite As Planned

Those two lovely jars of lemon tea were shared looking over the Delaware River. What a lovely way to end a perfect picking session. Well, things didn't go quite as planned. Instead of picking raspberries, which seem out of season, we picked blackberries. That goodness for thornless blackberry bushes! It was a lot of fun. My friend and I each picked two quarts of blackberries, about 3 pounds each, enough to make jam and then some. We squeezed outselves through the canes, fought off bugs and the occasional spider web. It was humid but it was nice when you could feel the breeze come off the Delaware River. And it didn't rain like it said it was going to! As after picking blackberries which, if anyone is curious, cost about $9 for a little over 3 pounds, we sipped lemon tea by the river and knitted, talked about being self sufficant, and Made From Stratch. It's amazing how good it is to be around someone that is like minded.

P.S. In case you are wondering, we picked at Trauger's Farm and Market on Rt 611.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Two Jars of Lemon Iced Tea

Looks yummy, doesn't it? Lately I've been aspiring to make things. I'm not talking about cookies I'm talking about pickles and jam. I've been craving homemade pickles and jam. Soon that craving will be satisfied. Tomorrow a friend and I will go pick raspberries, enjoy these two jars of lemon iced tea and knit. It's not much but at least I get to spend a little time with someone other than my mom and the people that I work with. And with our haul tomorrow, raspberries and pickling cucumbers, I shall make jam and pickles! That's all I'm going to do in the way of canning this year. Hopefully next year I will take on a little more, at least one or two more things; perhaps tomato sauce and strawberry jam? Well, whatever I decide I bet it will be good.
As for the lemon iced tea I got the recipe from here. But for those too lazy to click the link here it is:
2 tea bags
2 oz lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
2 qt water
Boil water. Remove from heat and steep tea bags covered for an hour. Stir in sugar and lemon juice. Served chilled or over ice.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Today's Haul

The ground is still very soggy and I don't want to chance falling in the mud, although it would be fun. So what kind of a haul did I get? No, it's not raspberries, blueberries or anything like that. Oh no, it was canning jars! What makes this so special to be considered a haul? Well, I've been interested in canning some of my own things such as jams, pickles, apple butter, ect. but the intital cost was going to throw me into the loop. The thing with canning is that when you first start you need to buy everything. The Ball brand water bath canning kit has everything you need to start but it would cost you about $50. Yikes! However, I am fortunate enough to have parents that use to can. That's right, I get everything. Grant it, I had to hunt everything down in the cellar but it's worth not spending the $50. When I first got down there I was playing with small stones but I hit the mother load; unopened boxes of wide mouth canning jars! And better yet there were coupons inside with no expiration date! JACKPOT! So now I've cut cost down to another $20 because I would have had to bought jelly jars and wide mouth jar which are about $10 a box. All I really need to spend it the $2 for the jelly jar lids, $3 on pickle mix, $2 on fruit pertin, and how ever much cucumbers and raspberries will cost. Sweet, right?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Soggy Days

On days like these when the rain never seems to end we, or at least I, look to ways to pass the time indoors. Okay, I'm not an all out mountian girl that wants to spend every waking minute outside, but I wish I did. No, not wish, I will become that girl.
Anyway, on days like these I turn to more simple forms of entertainment. My scarf is coming along well, I hope to finish it by September. Also, to the tune of my own entertainment, I wish to play the fiddle. Okay, IMing a friend is not considered a simple form of entertainment but I can stop anytime I wish.