What’s been happening at Frugal Upstate?

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on August 9, 2013

Its been a typical crazy busy summer here at the Frugal Village Homestead.  Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to live 3 lives simulatneously–Wife/Mother, Village Homesteader and Blogger!  Since family comes first, always, and the garden doesn’t care what my plans are (planting, harvesting and preserving need to be done when they need to be done)–well, the writing is what has taken a bit of a hit.

So I thought I’d just give you a quick update on some of the things that I was doing from late June through the end of July.  Most of these pictures (and more) were already posted over on the Frugal Upstate Facebook page–it’s just so easy to take a quick photo of what I’m doing with my phone and quickly upload it with a comment.  We have some great discussions over there–if you haven’t already “liked” it, well, you are missing out!  ( Frugal Upstate Facebook Page)

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So I’ve been saving dryer lint all winter in a ziplock baggie and toilet paper tubes because I had seen an idea online about making fire starters.  Since we usually roast marshmallows a couple of times in the summer and enjoy a few campfires (although my fire pit cracked and broke at the village homestead–booo!) I figured I better make those up before Yankee Bill started throwing stuff out :)  To be fair, he doesn’t usually randomly throw stuff out, but these were just piling up in our combination guest bathroom/laundryroom.

So I pulled out the odds and ends of candles from my candle drawer (mostly the uneven purple ones left over from our annual Advent wreath) and melted them in an improvised double boiler (a tin can inside of a saucepan of water).  I stuffed the tubes full of lint, put them on a paper plate that was on top of a piece of foil (I didn’t want to be scraping wax off my counter) then poured the wax down through the lint.  After they had dried for a minute I flipped them over and poured some on the other side.  Viola.  Firestarters.

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Early in the summer we had a slight cell phone accident.  As in running it over with the riding lawn mower.  This was a bad day.  Luckily the SIM card (that little yellow/orange thing you see in the middle) remained intact.  Also luckily we don’t upgrade our phones regularly–we’ve always been of the “it’s not broke so why try to fix it” mentality.  Well that meant when we went into the store if we got the same version of our iPhone (which is now 2 versions ago) it was free with a renewed contract.  Done.

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We spent a week up in the Adirondacks at a cabin for our annual multi-generational family vacation, courtesy of my wonderful and generous mother in law.  Yankee Bill was able for the second year to borrow his uncle’s boat and we spent tons of time having fun on the water with the kids, hanging out with Nana, playing games and just being a family.  For 3 days we also overlapped with my sister in law and her family and my husband’s 94 year old grandmother–plus we had the annual “Christmas in July” party with his extended family.  It is such a great time each year.  We are so blessed that our kids are growing up knowing and spending time with so much family.  I always say–you just can’t have too many people who love your kids!
IMG_9013The garden has done pretty well this year.  The snow peas went nuts–it was awesome.  I was able to blanch and freeze enough for probably 12 meals.  I’ve never gotten more then a few handfuls at a time, so I was excited to finally have the right combination of planting them early enough and just luck of the draw on weather.

Other things didn’t do as well.  My tomato and cucumber seedlings pretty much all got eaten (I had to buy and plant replacements), and I didn’t get seed started soon enough for squash and such.  For the first time in several years I wound up buying a lot of my plant starts both from Walmart and local nurseries.  Ah well, you do what you can.  I still am JUST starting to get baby squash, and most of them flowers haven’t even opened.  It’s August–usually I’m drowning in squash by now.  Also most of my beans rotted in the ground due to a cold wet spell right after Memorial Day, so I had to replant almost all of them.  The only ones that actually came up were a few of the purple podded beans–and I’ll be saving seeds from those to use from now on because OBVIOUSLY they are survivors!

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In there somewhere we got Princess ready for her first time at sleep away camp–2 weeks!  She went to the same Masonic camp up in the Adirondacks that Yankee Bill had attended growing up.  She had a fantastic time and even though she missed us BEGGED to stay a 3rd week.  We figured we had spent enough money for the summer :)

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Just as a fun side note, on the way home from dropping her off we drove a different route (Yankee Bill is one of those guys who loves driving different ways each time for the fun of it) and crossed the Tug Hill Plateau.  This is one of the largest wind farms in NY state–195 windmills stretching miles and miles.  I couldn’t really take a picture that gives you the real sense of these just parading off into the distance. . .

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The tomatoes went nuts when we were on vacation, and then I didn’t have time to do much about it while I was getting Princess ready for camp, but finally I got out there and did some MAJOR pruning.  We have a huge problem with late blight, so it’s important to get air circulation around the plants and to keep as much foliage out of contact with the soil as possible (blight lives in the soil and can get splashed up onto the leaves).   Trimming the bottom leaves off and mulching helps with that.  I’ve also done a couple of applications of copper fungicide as a preventative (it’s considered organic).

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I have canned.  I have made stewed rhubarb, canned blueberries, canned chicken, canned dry beans, pickled stems, marinated peppers, strawberry jam, and canned greens.  And maybe a few more things that I’m forgetting right now.

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Speaking of blueberries we’ve gone twice to a local pick your own place.  $1.25 a pound.  That’s a pound folks, not a “pint”.  My Mom really enjoyed it and wants to go at least one more time.

Oh, that’s right!  I forgot to mention that.  Not only has my mom finally sold her house and moved to my town for retirement (well-a working retirement) which has involved a lot of activity with helping to move, unpack, get settled, run errands etc…but my sister took a travel nurse assignment nearby and has been living with my mom for the summer.  It’s been awesome, but we’ve had a lot more family fun, meals and activities which has added to the chaos.  In a good way :)

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Buddy turned 10.  He said he wanted a Boston Cream Donut cake so Auntie made him one as his birthday cake!  She said it was the easiest cake she ever made–she just ran through the drive-thru at Dunkin Donuts :)

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This spring I had purchased an planted a BUNCH of  bushes and trees.  A peach and 2 pears along our side fence line.  3 elderberries near the house.  5 half high blueberries across the front porch (which involved digging up and splitting the hostas that were already there).  12 raspberry canes.

My intent had been to mulch around and between the raspberry canes (I left about a 4 foot aisle between them–canes drape) so that we wouldn’t have to worry about mowing.  I finally got around to laying the cardboard down and mulching (with the wood chips from the pine trees we had cut down and chipped in the early spring).  Can I just tell you how much I am not fond of shoveling mulch?  And yet I seem to be doing it a lot. . . eh.  It’s really good for the soil and cuts down on weeds.

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My mom found a flier at the grocery store (isn’t that where you find all interesting things?) for an NRA “Women on Target” women’s only event at a local Rod and Gun club.  We signed up and went.  For $30 we got initial safety training and then small group sessions on the shotgun (where we shot clay pigeons), pistol (folks without their permits fired air guns, I got to fire the revolver and pistol), rifles (a bunch of kinds–including the one you see me with above.  I may have totally bl0wn over 2 of their targets), black powder (yes, as in going all pioneer and pouring in the powder, ramming down the ball, and firing with a big “flash”–it was SUPER fun) and archery.  Oh, and they provided all the ammo and guns, lunch, and a goody bag.  It was a great event.

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Recently I finally dug out my garlic.  The soft neck didn’t do so well (tiny cloves) but the hard neck is lovely.  It is still curing in the barn but I’ve got about 30 cloves I think.  I’ll be saving the best to replant for next year.  I spent a bit of time over the course of 3 days completely peeling all the tiny softneck garlic cloves–I wound up with about 3 cups worth.  Right now they are in a baggie in the fridge–but I’ll be canning some and then drying the rest (out in the barn–I don’t want my house to reek of garlic).

So there you go–a glimpse at what I’ve been doing at the Frugal Upstate Village Homestead!

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