Friday, June 30, 2006

Frugal Fridays - Free Food

If you have been reading this blog, you know that we have been experimenting with wild foods (ie weeds.) If not check these previous posts for more info. Eating Weeds Poke Pickles Of course the blackberries and our wild salad at the end of this post .

Last night we tried some new things. My parents ate with us and I think everything was a hit. The starring weeds (wild foods!) were flowers.

Day Lily

Queen Anne's Lace (wild carrot)

I made a salad (using store bought veggies) and topped it off with
some cut Queen Anne's Lace and Daylily petals.
It added some flavor, but mostly it just made it look very pretty.
The lily has kind of a sweet lettuce flavor and the Queen Anne's lace a mild carrot (surprise!) flavor.

Common Milkweed

If you look at a daylily stem, there will be blossoms, buds and spent flowers. They are all edible. We made fritters out of the blossoms and sauteed the buds. The fritters were good, (what isn't good when it is battered and fried?) but there wasn't much taste of the flower. The buds were excellent! They reminded me of asparagus, but with a different texture. The spent flowers I left out to dry. These can be used in soups.

Apparently, daylily is widely used in Asian cooking. I am still looking for some good recipes. One (not Asian) that I would like to do is to stuff the flowers with chicken salad. Wouldn't that be an impressive dish to make for a party or carry in?!

I never realized how pretty milkweed flowers are and the smell wow! They smell wonderful! These we parboiled (have to for the sap) and also made fritters. I liked these fritters better, probably because the flowers are more substantial and you can actually taste some of it. We will be eating the milkweed greens later today.

Everyone seemed to love our new foods. The lily buds were a hit with the adults, the kids of course favored the fritters. It was a very inexpensive meal and really was not time consuming to gather or prepare.

A note of caution: Do not try any wild foods you have not postively identified. There are poisonous plants with flowers that look similiar to Queen Anne's Lace. Common Milkweed also has a poisonous look alike and it has to be prepared properly. The book we like best for identification is Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants by "Wildman" Steve Brill.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Let the harvest begin!

Yummy! Up until yesterday we had only found a few handfuls of raspberries. I went picking with the kids yesterday and found a bunch of ripe black raspberries and blackberries. The best part is these were in a new spot that I didn't realize had so many berries. It is close to the house, so between there and the drive way I think we will have more berries than we can handle. There are berries all over the property, but I am happy to have so many close to the house!~

It is still early and there are a lot more unripe than ripe berries, but even so the kids and I brought back about 10 Cups of berries in a couple of hours. Ok correction, Kellen and I brought back the berries. Kellen was a big help, but Lydia could not resist eating every berry she picked and then some! :) When her belly was full she went back to the house!

Another exciting find - Blueberries! These are my favorite fruit. I had never found any wild ones before. Yesterday we saw a small bush mixed in the raspberries. Now this bush wouldn't provide even enough for me to eat, but I am encouraged that they do grow on the property. Where there is one there is probably more. Now I just have to find them. I am wondering if the deer are eating them and that is why I haven't seen more. I don't know how to identify the plant with out the berries. I need to learn.

Ok that was a rabbit trail sorry! I get a little excited for blueberries! We brought the raspberries back and made Boiled Wild Blackberry Dumplin' from Bootstraps an Biscuits. It was so good. I am planning to eat lots of berries, make lots of cobblers and pies, freeze some berries, make some jam and maybe make a raspberry vinegar. There should be plenty of berries, but time? Well we will see. We are going out of town next week and I am sad about the berries we will miss, but I think there will still be plenty when we return and heck the red raspberries haven't even started yet!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Festival of Frugality

This weeks festival is hosted at Free Money Finance.

Looks like a lot of good enteries. Everything from cell phones to freezer meals I always love to chck out the freebies I am interested to read this about buying books vs borrowing from the library.

Check them out and let me know your favorites!

Monday, June 26, 2006

What kind of flower are you?

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

I am a snapdragon? "Mischief is your middle name, but your first is friend. You are quite the prankster that loves to make other people laugh." I am not sure that is an entirely accurate description, but I like snapdragons so I will take it! Let me know what you are.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Like a Momma Bird

Outside, on our make shift patio, a bird built a nest in one of my baskets. She may be a wren, but we aren't sure. There were four eggs in it. We watched her sit on those eggs. Then we saw four babies, so ugly they were cute; no feathers, just skin and beaks. We watched the momma feed them while the dad sang a few yards away, trying to divert our attention away from the nest and precious contents. We watched them grow and now they are gone.

I watched them a lot. I could see the nest out my kitchen window, and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen! :) Awhile ago, momma started placing the food just a bit outside the nest, encouraging her babies to venture out to get it. It struck me how the instinct given to her is so amazing. She seems to know just what to do. It got me thinking about parenting.

The momma has nurtured those babies, keeping them warm in the eggs, bringing food, and keeping up the nest. The parents have guarded and protected their young, yet all the while preparing them for one thing, to leave the nest.

Are we preparing our young to leave the nest? Sometimes I think we get too caught up in the daily stuff and lose sight of the goal. It is hard to imagine the kids as adults. Hard to see past the dishes, diapers, and laundry. Hard to find the balance of nurture and discipline. Hard to know exactly what each little one needs to learn before venturing into that big wide world. Momma bird seemed to have the perfect balance. I know baby humans are much more complicated than baby birds, but isn't that our ultimate goal; to train our kids to be adults, to function on their own?

It strikes me that God gave momma bird the instincts she needs to train her young. I wish it was as easy for us humans, but I guess that is by design. Raising our kids is yet another area of life that we simply can not do it all. We are not enough. We have to rely on Him and teach our kids to do the same. Find our strength and wisdom in Him and teach our kids to do the same. To trust that He will work all things together for the good and teach our kids the same.

Updated February 7th, 2007 to add: This post entered in Write Away February Hosted at Scribbit.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Festival of Frugality

I have joined the Festival of Frugality this week. If you are not familiar with this, one persons hosts it and people submit their frugal posts to the host. The host then posts links for all the frugal articles. Sounds complicated when I try to type it out, but it isn't really. The host this week is Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.

I haven't read through the articles yet, but it looks like some good ones. I am planning to read ones about three cheaper meals, shopping for gifts and second hand shopping. Hope you enjoy some of these too. Let us know your favorites!

Isn't she too cute!

Last night we took Vivian to Wal-Mart for her portraits. Here are a few of them. The all were too cute! So I ended up spending a bit more than planned, ( I planned to only buy the $6.88 package that has plenty of prints for us and our families) but we didn't go crazy or anything. I love getting the disk with the pictures so I can do things like this with them!

While we are on the subject on Vivian, I have posted here about her being high maintenance. Well, I think we have finally out grown that newborn period. In the last few weeks she has been just sweet. She has been going to sleep more easily and sleeps better. I am able to transfer her to her bassinet with out waking her. She plays and smiles so big. She wants to laugh, but there is no sound yet. She is a lot of fun.

As a side note, she is losing her hair like crazy. None of the others really did. But the hair coming in looks to be a reddish blonde! It seems as each kid has gotten more fair, so maybe she will be our blonde. We will have to wait and see. Her eyes though are starting to change. They are more gray than blue.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Poke Pickles

For those of you who were wondering. I did try a test batch of Pickled Poke stems. The results (drum roll please!)


The good. I did like the flavor. The recipe I used was a sweet pickle which I am usually not overly crazy about, but this one was good. The stems were crisp and crunchy but here is where I get to the bad. . .

The recipe does tell you to peel the stalks. I did peel them, but admit to doing a quickie job of it. Many of the pickles are still woody. Peeling more would certainly take care of this, but for me I am not sure the labor time is worth the payout. (in pickled poke stems)

So I may do some more, but only if I have lots of time to. Our wild raspberries are loaded and starting to turn and I have big plans for them. And I have some other projects in mind too. Ok, so that is basically saying I am not going to make more poke pickles! :)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Frugal Fridays - Entertainment

Monday or Tuesday I started thinking about posting frugal entertainment ideas for today's post, then all week long I am seeing other posts about the same topic. It seems everyone is out of school and has summer entertainment and travel on the mind.

Jenn at Frugal Upstate posted Festivals~Cheap Summer Fun!
Free Summer Activities For Your Kids! can be found at Getting Out of Debt
Vacation Sans Bankruptcy can be found on Want Not

Here are some more ideas that we use year round.

This doesn't have to be a lot of work. I regularly check the event calendars on our state , state parks and library websites. These are full of free and low cost events for all ages. We also get a free paper that lists quite a few events.

If there is someplace you want to go check their website first. You can find coupons or times that are discounted. For example, by checking the website I found our local art museum is free on Tuesdays and offers free kids classes on Saturday. Another museum near us is free on Thursday nights.

Sometimes the website will have deals you can't find anywhere else. I learned of a local theater's free movie camp (kids movies in the AM) on the web site. I haven't seen this advertised anywhere else, not even at the theater itself.

Go early. Go late. Don't go on the weekends!
In other words go when it isn't busy. Not only is it more enjoyable, (in my opinion!) it is cheaper. Movies offer matinees, restaurants early bird specials, some museums and amusement parks offer after 5 specials. (and with little kids do you really want to spend the whole day at the amusement park?!)

During the week you can find great deals at restaurant. Does going out to eat count as entertainment? Well in this house it does. We love to go out to eat. During the week there are often specials where kids eat free. There is a local Italian type restaurant here that offers Two for Tuesday, buy one pasta dish and get one free. We used to have a minor league ball park near where we lived. They offered lots of family specials and discounted tickets during the week to try to fill the park.

Buy the Membership.
To the museum, to the zoo or other places your family loves. I will say right now we don't have any memberships, because we don't live close to any zoos and the art museum is already free on Tuesday. There is another museum I am considering, but it is an hour away so I am not sure how much we would go.

But before we moved, we had a zoo and science museum membership. The zoo membership for the family was $55. What a deal! For $55 we could go to our zoo anytime as often as we wanted for a year. We could also go to lots of zoos all over the country for free or discounted admission. At the time we lived close enough to five zoos we could visit for a day trip. (We never did make it to all of them though!) The science museum was slightly more expensive, but was similar in that we could use it at other science museums.

What I really loved about the memberships was we could pick up and go whenever. We didn't have to plan it for the budget or even plan for the full day. We could go to the zoo for an hour. We could go when the budget was tight and we had no cash. By the way, memberships are great family gifts to give and receive!

Pack a lunch!
If you are not taking advantage of cheap dining as mentioned above, save yourself a ton of cash and pack enough food and drinks for the day. The food at places like the zoo or amusement parks is so over priced! At the zoo we could easily spend more than our membership cost in food and drinks for the day.

So enjoy cheap entertainment this summer, and all year round! Research. Go early or late and during the week. Buy the membership and pack your lunch!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Deer Ate my Homework

This summer we are still doing some school. It is relaxed. We are working on spelling, speed on the multiplication tables and writing. I also like to do outdoor "projects" in the summer. One thing we wanted to do this summer was to build a sunflower house.

The basic idea of the sunflower house is you plant sunflowers in a square then plant something climbing, like beans or morning glories, to climb up and between the sunflowers to make walls. I think I originally read about this in a magazine, but then Googled it to find some plans. There are lots out there.

We had to use a site a good distance from our house because our "garden area" near the house is still part of the "construction zone" that my dad and Tim are working on. We started seeds in pots and then transplanted them to the area.

After about a week the deer had nibbled about half. We went ahead and planted the beans, thinking that if we didn't get a house we could at least get some good beans and sunflower seeds to eat. The beans sprouted and were getting to be a couple of inches. Then for some reason the deer decided to come back. They demolished the sunflowers! They left the beans alone, for now!
The crazy thing is we have zucchini and squash planted even further from the house and they haven't bothered it at all. The only difference is we spread our rabbit's droppings for fertilizer there. So do deer not like squash or does the scent of rabbit (?!) keep them away?

My mom read that Native Americans use to put human scent around their fields to keep the deer off. One way was after working in the fields they would take off their clothes and drag them around the field. Another way was to "mark their territory" if you know what I mean. I am not quite ready to go naked with the sunflowers, but I am encouraging the boys to let it flow out there! We also may put out some more rabbit stuff. We will see if any of the sunflowers come back, if not, we will need poles for our beans.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A trip to the ER

Yesterday evening Tim was outside working on the van. The kids were out with him. (except Vivian of course!) I heard Eric and his kids come home and shortly after I hear Nolan (2) scream. At first I didn't think much of it. He often screams because he is mad at the dog or sister. But the screaming continued. I look out the window and Tim is kneeling down holding Nolan's hand with bloody rag. Not good! Tim says to me, "Let's go to the hospital."

I gather a few things. Get some ice for Nolan's thumb. We leave the older two with Eric and go. I had not looked closely at the thumb. I just saw lots of blood. I have learned that faces and fingers bleed a lot. I made a trip to the ER once when Kellen cut a finger and it turned out to be minor, no stitches required. So I asked Tim if he was sure that it was deep and not just a lot of blood. He tells me he could bend the top of the thumb almost off. Ok then it is deep!

And it was. We did have to wait at all. The ER sent us up to Immediate Care and we saw a doctor right away. There was a little waiting for the whole process, but not bad. He got an X-ray. No break! And then the stitches. Six of them in his little thumb. He lost the whole nail, and the cut was down to the bone. He was a brave little guy. Yes he did cry and scream, but didn't really fight too much. After the thumb was numbed and they were stitching. He laid still and stopped crying.

After we got home, we tried to piece together what actually happened. Best we can figure is he went over to Eric's car when they came home. Miles had opened the front door and he must have put his hand in the space where the doors are connected because when Ashley opened the back door his thumb was caught. It is amazing how quickly things can happen when there is a two year old involved!

But everything should be fine. He has to take antibiotics and go back in a few days. The biggest challenge now will be to stop him from taking the dressing off. He is still sleeping now, but it wouldn't surprise me if the bandaging was off when he gets up this morning.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Frugal Fridays - Some thoughts

Well last Friday in talking about eating weeds, I decided to dedicate Fridays to frugal topics. I don't claim to be an expert. Learning to be frugal is a constant process. I decided to talk about being frugal here for a few reasons. I do hope to share some things I have learned with those of you who are interested, but I am looking for you to share some ideas also and am hoping writing about these things will keep me more accountable.

Necessity is the mother of invention. I learned the most about being frugal the year Lydia was born. We took a big cut in income because I stopped teaching. At the same time our living expenses increased because we left a job that provided our housing. Typical of my family, we had a baby, both changed jobs, bought a house and moved. Being frugal was not a choice then. Since then we have learned different things and stopped doing some of the things we used to.

There seems to be this trade off of time vs money. Not all, but many things that save money cost time. There are some things that I have chosen not to do anymore because of time. Grocery shopping is my best example. There was a time when I would look through all the grocery store ads and coupons. Then I would shop at Aldi for things that weren't on sale at other stores and then hit two or more other stores with sale ads and coupons in hand. Did this save me money? Yes. (the stores were all pretty close so gas wasn't much of an issue) Do I do it now? No, not with four kids. It would take me as long to get everyone in and out of the car as to do the shopping. Will I ever do it again? Probably.

There are some things I have learned that have become ingrained in me, like shopping Aldi. There are other things that we used to do, but have lost in the craziness of moving out of state and having a baby. Using cash envelopes is an example of something we need to get back to.

So this is what Fridays will be; sharing ideas and reminding myself of what I need to do. Please, please leave your comments so we can all learn from each other!

Of an for an update on our foraging adventures - We had a salad last night made almost entirely of foraged greens. We used wild carrot greens, lady's thumb, wood sorrel, chicory, and Greenbriar. I really liked it. I also pickled a little bit of Poke stem. A test to see if we like it. It is supposed to sit a week so I guess I will let you know next Friday.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Potty Training Begins

Potty training. The words can provoke dread in even the most seasoned parents. We have all heard horror stories. I can't complain too much Kellen and Lydia were fairly easy. Tim and I have thought for awhile that Nolan is probably ready to train. He has gone several times on the potty and has been interested. With two in diapers for the first time I am ready for him to go on the potty! What I haven't been ready for is the process. My goal was to start training while Tim is home more to help. He has been home more the last couple weeks, but we still hadn't started.

Apparently, Nolan was tired of waiting for me. Yesterday he refused to put on his diaper. We let him run around bare bottomed outside. Three days naked is a potty training method. Most of us were outside working on the concrete. (yeah! We have sidewalks and a porch!) Nolan said pee pee to my mom a couple times and she told him to go ahead and go and he did outside. Boy was he proud. Why is that boys (of all ages) just love to pee outside?

Around lunch time, Nolan went and got his Spiderman underwear that Delilah had recently given him. We put them and he kept them dry for a couple of hours until his nap time. After his nap we put them back on. He didn't keep them dry all afternoon, but he did go again outside a couple times and even told me in the house that he had to go and went in the bathroom. So we still have a little work to do. But I am hoping since he was the one that started this and because he is a very determined little boy that this process will be quick and easy. I will keep you updated.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Planting Grass

Last night we finally planted some grass around the house. Well we planted the backyard. The one side is drive way and the other is hopefully going to be garden soon. So that leaves only the front. Dad and Tim are working on getting ready for cement for a front porch and sidewalk. Then dad can finish leveling the front yard and then we can plant grass. Is there an end to mud in sight? Maybe if grass will actually grow in this red clay we call dirt here! :)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Frugal Fridays - Eating Weeds

Ok some of you out there are probably going to think we are total weirdos after this post. We have started foraging for food. Extreme? Maybe, but I just see it as an extension of the things we already do to be frugal. If we can find fresh, delicious and healthy food for free why not? It is easier than gardening. No tilling, planting, or weeding just finding and harvesting.

I have 'foraged" before for your more typical things like morel mushrooms or berries, but now we are looking at so much more. I think what got this started was a cookbook I bought around Christmas time. It is called Bootstraps and Biscuits. It was written by a lady in WV who grew up foraging and returned to it after health problems made it difficult to work. I was amazed at the variety of things she uses.

So this spring we have been learning. There is a big learning curve. I don't know much about wild plants. We have mostly been reading and researching. We did go mushroom hunting. We never did find those morels, but found tree ears which were pretty good. Over the weekend Delilah helped us identify Poke and we cooked up a mess of greens. We cooked more Poke last night and added it to scrambled eggs with mushrooms, wild garlic, bacon and cheese. It was really good.

We are a bit late on the salad greens. They are still there, but starting to get bitter b/c of the heat. We did make a salad the other night. To our store bought lettuce and spinach we added wild carrot greens, wood sorrel and chicory. It reminded me of the "spring mix" you can buy. A little more bite and a fuller flavor than your typical lettuce salad.

We are still learning and identifying plants. We have some plans for some we have found but aren't ready to use yet. There are some plants we are still trying to identify. And I want to try a few different things with some of the plants we have already used. I will let you know the results.

I am going to start talking about being frugal on Fridays so look for more on foraging for food and other things we do to try and save money. Have a good weekend all!