Tag Archives: self-sufficient

Almost Free Basil Plants

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I plant basil every summer. Not just for culinary uses but for its medicinal value.  A little research on the internet about basil will reveal that it has properties that help draw venom out of bites and stings but that a blog is for another day.

Since I usually don’t get around to planting basil seeds in the spring I end up buying a   plant at the local home and garden store.  This year there happened to be three plants in the planter instead of one.  So being the frugal person I am I gently divided the roots of the three plants and replanted them into separate planters.  And presto I now have three basils plants for the price of one.

Once the plants reached full size I took several cuttings and put them in water for a week or two to root.  Once each plant had a fair amount of roots I transferred them to planters to give away.  At this point I have lost track of how many plants I got from the one that I bought.  I have shared with friends and at the end of the summer plan to take one of the smaller ones I rooted and bring it indoors for the winter.  If all goes according to plan I won’t have to buy one next spring.

Thanks for reading. Have a frugal day.

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Easy Peasy Ranchero Soup

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Ranchero Soup is a cross between chili and vegetable soup and one of my favorite soups. It is a great choice for the frugally minded.   You can add a lot of left overs that will otherwise end up being thrown out.  When I made this one I used left over corn, home canned chili beans, lentils and left over broth in addition to the ground beef and a bag of mixed vegetables.  The end result was it cost next to nothing and tasted great.

Now about that left over broth. Whenever I cook vegetables I freeze the left over broth.  I also add that handful of vegetables that is too small to do anything else with.   I keep quart containers in the freezer and just keep adding left over broth and vegetables until it is full.  No need to worry about what type of vegetable broth it is. Just mix them all together.    I do the same with left over beef and chicken broth, however, I do keep them separate from each other.

This is the basic recipe but anyone that knows me knows that for me recipes are guidelines and I tend to deviate from the basic recipe a little every time I fix something.

Ranchero Soup

Brown 1 # ground beef, season with cumin, onion powder and chili powder Sautee ½ C diced onions with meat after browning is complete.

Add meat and onions to

  • 2 cans Ranch Style or Chili Beans
  • 1 package frozen mixed vegetables
  • 6 C chicken or beef broth
  • ¼ c chopped celery
  • 1 to 1 ½ t cumin
  • 1 t onion powder
  • 1 ½ t chili powder 

Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes

 

Easy Peasy Healthier Biscuits

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If you read my last post you know that I love pancakes.  Biscuits are another favorite of mine.  My Mom used to make what she called “yam cakes” which was basically a biscuit that had yams or sweet potatoes in it.  A few years back I got a hankering for those yam cakes and called Mom to ask for the recipe.  Long story short, she hadn’t made them in years and didn’t know where the recipe was.  Sooooo, I started experimenting until I came up with a recipe that worked and don’t tell Mom but it is better than the one she made.

If you try to eat healthy you will be pleased to know these biscuits have less fat, less flour, and milk than the typical biscuit recipe and the sweet potatoes add fiber.  If you love fall foods you will love this one. It is loaded with cinnamon, all spice, and pumpkin pie spice.  These biscuits are  good with jelly or honey.   My favorite topping on them is homemade  cinnamon spiced pear honey.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Mix

  • 1 1/4 C flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • ½ t allspice
  • ½ t pumpkin pie spice

Cut in 3 T butter until mixture is crumbly. Then cut in 1 ¼ C mashed sweet potatoes.  You can use canned or home grown.

Add ¼ c milk all at once and stir until mixture comes together. Place on lightly floured board and knead 10 times. Roll out or just pat it flat on floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with biscuit cutter or the opening of a pint sized jar and place on cookie sheet. (I like to stack 2 together for a thicker biscuit) Bake @ 450 for 12 minutes or until golden and puffed.

 

Starting the Summer Garden Indoors

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When starting seeds for the  summer garden I planted seeds in cardboard egg cartons.  These are free. I love free and can be cut into sections and be planted directly into  a larger pot or into the garden.  Since I start so early I  transfer the plants to a larger pot and then later into the garden.

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Next I put the egg cartons in a plastic container and cover it with a clear sack from the dry cleaners,  in a clear plastic disposable lettuce container with a lid or a clear shoe box storage container. It needs to be covered to keep the moisture in and create a greenhouse effect.  Even covered it will probably need to be watered occasionally. I use an repurposed dish soap container to water.  It is gentle on the young sprouts and less likely to knock them down than pouring water on them. Next I put them on top of the freezer where the defrost cycle keeps it nice and warm.  That way I don’t have to spend money on a warming pad or electricity to run it.  Most seeds do not need light to sprout.

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Once they are sprouted I move them to the light box the wonderful hubby built for me out of lumbar scraps (gotta be frugal).  It can be seen in the above photo. It is enclosed on the top and three sides. I lined it with foil to  help reflect more light.   It is open on the front for watering and to allow ambient light in.  When the plants are small I place the containers on a box to bring them closer to the light. As they grow I go to a smaller box.  Once they are big enough I move them to a wire shelving unit with a fluorescent light attached and set it In a south window so the plants also get sunlight.  Once the box is empty I move the next batch of sprouts into it.

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These are lettuce and tomatoes I started in January.  I will be able to move them to the unheated greenhouse in a few weeks.

Growing Sprouts to Reduce Chicken Feed Cost

Most people who raise chickens do so because they want farm fresh eggs.  If you are like us, you sell the surplus eggs hoping to recoup some of your feed cost.   A year ago I started growing oat sprouts and while it is extra work it has been worth it.  Not only are we covering the feed cost of our hens, we have made enough to cover the cost of 48 chicks that we purchased in November  and their feed. They should start to lay eggs in about a month or so and we can start saving for the next batch of chicks.

So if you are still reading, I will assume you want to know how it is done.  I have a six day cycle that I will explain step by step below.  On day one I start with four cups of oats and by day six I have approximately 20 cups of sprouts. The photos depict a five day cycle. I have bumped it to six so I will have sprouts for the chicks now that they are old enough to start eating them.

You will need two buckets and six containers with holes drilled in the bottom.  I used shoebox size storage containers and plastic meat containers.  I drilled (well the hubby did) approximately 10 holes in the bottoms of the each container. For day one I used a water garden planter that has holes all over it so it would work like a strainer.

DSC_0259 - CopyThis picture shows volume before and after soaking.

DSC_0262This picture shows the progression of growth. The yogurt container in the container on the left compares day 1 and day 5.

DSC_0261It will form a solid mat if you don’t stir it daily.

DSC_0264Ready to take out to the hens.

Day 1     Place 4 cups of whole oat feed in a 6-8 cup container with holes.

Put the container in a larger container (I use a gallon ice cream bucket) without holes and fill with water.

Soak over night. Each day you will need to soak a new batch of oats.

Day 2   Drain the water and transfer the oats to the shoebox storage container.

Day 3 Rinse the oats and stir. Drain the second batch of oats that you are soaking.

Day 4   Rinse the oats in each shoebox container and drain the batch that is soaking.

Continue to repeat this process every day and by day six you will have approximately 20 cups of home-grown sprouts for your girls. As long as you keep the process going you will have a batch ready everyday. It is not necessary to stir the oats. However, if you don’t, it will make a thick mat. I stir our sprouts because the hens eat it better that way. It is necessary to water each tray every day. I keep mine covered with a plastic trash bag and only rinse once a day. If you don’t keep it covered you will need to rinse twice a day.

We still feed them laying pellets just not as many. They prefer the sprouts over the laying pellets.  The egg production did not decline with the change. If anything if picked up.  If you give it a try let me know how it goes.

As an added note. I keep a drain strainer in place to keep the oats from going down the drain.  They don’t need light to grow and you could get a clogged drain in a matter of days if you don’t use a strainer.

 

 

Cob Cat Cave

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I have been reading about cob building and now that I have an outdoor cat I decided to see if I could build it a shelter for free.  For the bottom I used a greenhouse tray that I obtained the last time I bought a flat of plants.  For the upper portion I found a scrap of old Formica in the garage.  For insulation I lined it inside and out with 1/2″ thick fiber fill that was used as packing around some furniture we bought.

The hubby kept telling me the cat wouldn’t get in it but  you can see it did before I could even start putting the cob on it.  The cat is inside it in the featured photo but he is so far back he doesn’t show up very well.

I am by no means a cob building expert. If you want to do any cob building I highly recommend you find better instructions than mine. I just used what I had available.  I mixed equal portions of sand and clay.  Since I didn’t have any straw I used pine needles that I cut into 2″ lengths.  I mixed it all together then added enough water to make a moldable clay.  Then I applied it to the mold in blobs and used my hands to smooth it all together.

Once it was build I pressed pebbles into the top to make it more durable.  So far it is holding up well. It sits under an overhang so it doesn’t get very wet.  I don’t know if it would survive if it got thoroughly wet.

We jokingly call it the Cat Cave.  It even has a front porch.  The cat loves it.  I got him out of it one morning when it was 15 degrees outside and he felt toasty warm.   It was free so I love it.  I did learn however that I do not want to try a large-scale project like this. It was hard work.