How to Freeze Horseradish

How to Freeze Horseradish

I LOVE horseradish.  :)

I love the look of the plant, the smell of the root and especially the taste!  Every autumn I can hardly wait to dig up a big chunk of the root and prepare it for freezing.

When we bought our home, I noticed some huge, strange looking plants in the corner of the lot, but I wasn’t sure what they were.  As always, I asked my daughter, who identified them as horseradish.  It took me a while to get brave enough to dig some up and use it, but once I did, I was hooked!

I harvest the root in the fall because I seem to remember reading that it tastes best after a frost. This year, I dug up a big ol’ chunk of root from one of the bigger plants.  (Always leave enough of the root so it can continue to grow.)

All I do to prepare horseradish for freezing, is: scrub it, peel it, and grate it.   It sounds deceivingly easy.

How to Freeze Horseradish    How to Freeze Horseradish  How to Freeze Horseradish

If you have ever grated horseradish, you know that you would be wise to employ as gas mask.  I  took the reckless route, grating the root by hand, in several short intervals, coming back to it when my eyes weren’t watering profusely and I could see clearly again.  My final prize being a nice pile of horseradish for the winter and extremely clear sinuses!

Then I just spread it out on the cutting board and pop it in the freezer to partially freeze it.  When it’s frozen enough to not stick together, I transfer it to a jar and put it back in the freezer.  It’s ready to use by the spoon-full, whenever I need it!  (Horseradish is the “secret ingredient” in my potato salad.)

How to Freeze Horseradish

Here is some interesting information on the horseradish from the International Herb Association.

Freezing Rainwater

Freezing Rain Water For Later Use

I really love my homemade rain barrel.  I used it all through the summer and my plants were very happy to have rain water instead of city water.

Homemade Rain Barrel

Typical to our weather up here in October, it has been raining for days, the ground is saturated and my rain barrel is overflowing.  It started me thinking about what to do with all the rain water I’ve caught in my barrel.  It is useless just to dump it out on saturated ground and I really don’t want to waste such a wonderful resource.

If I leave it in the barrel over winter, it will probably split the barrel, plus it will be of absolutely no use until Spring (or summer) when the giant ice cube finally thaws.

My solution?  I will freeze the water in gallon containers!

Freezing Rain Water

By putting this nutrient rich water in small containers, I can leave them outside to freeze and dig them out of the snow when I need one.

Water expands when it freezes, so I’ll have to leave enough “head room” for the water to expand and not split the containers.  By leaving them outside, I get free storage and freezer space! (Our winters get mighty cold)*

I always start seedlings in the house and I’ll bet they will grow faster and stronger with nature’s water than they will with the city’s water.  This will be the first time I’ve tried this, but I feel confident it will work!

The only drawback to watering inside plants with rain water, is the odor.  Rain water gets a little funky smelling, but I think the trade off is worth a little stink.  Plus, the funky smell disappears after a while.

Now all I have to do is find a bunch of gallon jugs!  Gonna have to ask the neighbors for their empty milk jugs.  They’ll probably think I’m crazy, but that’s nothing new! ;)

*Along the same line….remember to save your bean soaking water for use on your plants.  If your plants don’t need watering at the time, just freeze the water and use it later.  I would guess that freezing probably takes some of the nutrients out of the water, but it’s still going to be better than city water straight from the tap.

Getting Ready for Winter

The Mad Dash to Prepare For Winter

As is customary for me, I get a bit lazy in late summer and put off as many tasks as I can until it gets too cold to do them comfortably.  At this point, I still have to do them, but curse myself for wallowing in my laziness and tell myself I’ll never do this again.

Well, guess what?

It’s that time of the year again.

Preparing for Winter

I’m hoping my list looks worse than it will actually be:

  • Drain hoses and put them away
  • Wash and put up the storm windows
  • Clean screen windows and put them away
  • Clean rain gutters
  • Collect seeds
  • Pull plants
  • Cut back perennials
  • Spread compost
  • Mulch leaves
  • Fence around the raspberries
  • Dig dirt for seedlings
  • Prepare rain water for freezing
  • Clean the garage

It looks like I could do it in a couple of days (with good weather).

Cleaning the garage might be the sticking point.  It’s an unpleasant job even in nice weather, but it would be nice to be able to have the car in the garage for once!  We’ll see how that goes. 😉

repurposed tin cans, homemade humidifer

How To Repurpose Cans For a Homemade Humidifer

Winter dries everything out.

Turning on the furnace signals a long, cold winter ahead and the drying out of the house, the plants and us.  By Spring, I feel like a tough old piece of jerky.

I’m too cheap to buy a humidifier and my self-reliant side always inspires me to figure out how to make what I need with what I have on hand.

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Growing up on the homestead, we had forced air heat and my parents would always set  tin cans full of water on the registers to provide some humidity.  I seem to remember them using Hi-C cans because we had a lot of them.  (I was a kid and I enjoyed Hi-C! ;))

In my own home, we have a hot water based heating system, so I had to scale back the size of the cans to balance them on the wall mounted registers.  I found that the standard 15 oz can that veggies come in, is about the perfect size.  I don’t buy a lot of canned veggies, so this time of year I start saving cans to use for winter humidifiers.

Free Room Humidifier  Free Room Humidifier  Free Room Humidifier

How to Make a Free Room Humidifier

  1.  Use a pliers to push down any jagged edges on your cans.
  2. Thoroughly wash your tin cans and dry them.
  3. If you want them decorated, now is the time to do it.  Maybe some pretty fabric glued on?
  4. Assemble 3 or 4 in a row and connect them with paper clips (This helps the balancing act).
  5. Either screw hooks into the walls, being careful to avoid any wiring, or adhere large magnets to your wall.  I’ve done both and they both work!
  6. If you’ve used hooks, attach a pretty ribbon  or rick rack around the cans, tying them to the hooks.
  7. Fill your cans with water and be sure to refill them weekly.
  8. In the Spring, just recycle the cans!

I’ll be the first to admit that this method probably does not work quite as well as a big humidifier, but between these in each room, cooking, showers and houseplants, I have noticed a big difference in the house during the winter.  For my personal experience, I have had far fewer sinus problems since I started using the tin can humidifiers.

I looked online and a typical portable humidifier is about $49.97.  Cans are free!

MONEY SAVED $49.97!!

Seed Saving and Frugal Gardening

Seed Saving and Frugal Gardening

Seed saving is a frugal way to garden.

You plant a seed, care for it, watch it grow, enjoy your bounty and in the end, are presented with a seed to start all over again.

You hold in your hands the circle of life!

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This year, between saved seeds, free seeds my hubby picked up for me and seeds I found on sale, I only spent about $20.00 on my veggie garden.  Of course, I forgot to weigh all the beans, tomatoes, carrots, and other yummy veggies as I picked them, so I have no idea how much money I saved by growing my own, but I do know I would have spent a heck of a lot more than $20.00!

I have been saving peas and beans for years.  The peas and beans are eaten by us and put into Doggy Stew, so those free seeds are paying big dividends.  Plus, legumes fix nitrogen in the soil and work wonderfully as mulch when they are done producing.  I just pull them and drop them back into the garden!  All for FREE!

If you haven’t saved seeds yet, I would recommend Heirloom seeds.  You get the same plant year after year.  With Hybrids, you won’t necessarily get that.  Heirlooms can be a bit more expensive, but I consider it a good investment.  For the price of one packet of seeds, you can continue growing that variety for years, by collecting and saving seeds every Fall.  After the first year, I consider the seeds for each following year to be free because of the money you saved growing that veggie in the first place.

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Starting seedlings is a bit of trial and error, as anyone who has ever tried it will know.  In spite of a few failures and disappointments, it is the most amazing feeling to collect tomatoes from a tomato plant that reaches up to your chin, and know that you started it from a tiny seed!  That feeling is worth a million bucks!

Speaking of tomato plants; they can be really expensive too.  I know I saved about $40.00 by starting mine from seed this year, plus I had extra plants I gave away!

Seed saving can also be done with flowers, of course.  I grow a TON of zinnias every year from saved seeds.  I enjoy the bright, cheerful zinnias and they attract tons of bees, that in turn, pollinate my veggies!  I also grow Geraniums and Petunias from seed.

Geranium

There are many good websites explaining how to collect various seeds, so I won’t go into that, but  if you are excited to try, start with something easy like zinnias,beans or pumpkins. Beans are easy to collect seeds from; just let them dry on the plant!  When they are dry, crack open the pods and keep the seeds!  Zinnias are easy too.  Just cut the heads off the plant after they have lost their brightness and start to turn brown.  If they feel a little moist, lay them on a screen (like in the photo above) until they feel dry.  I keep mine in paper bags over the winter and come Spring, I break the heads apart and collect the seeds!  This site has good tips for saving pumpkin seeds.

Hope I’ve convinced you to try some seed saving.  I’ve gone a bit overboard with it, myself.  I find it hard to throw dead plants when I know there are seeds there, free for the taking.  I think to myself, “I can’t throw these, they will grow!” I feel a bit like Dr. Frankenstein….”It’s ALIVE!!!”  ;)

Yummy Pear Butter Recipe

Yummy Pear Butter Recipe

When the pears show up in lugs in the grocery store, it signals to me that Autumn is coming near!

Pears

I always can fresh pears.

I remember as a little girl, I would help mom and gramma with lugs of fruit every summer.  We would can apricots, cherries, peaches and pears so we could have “sauce” in the winter.  Sauce was just canned fruit and I never have figured out why it was called sauce, but it was served with bread and butter, cookies and coffee for afternoon lunch.  Maybe it was a Minnesota thing.  After-all, we had breakfast, morning lunch, dinner, afternoon lunch, and supper.

Anyway, back to pears.

After I have canned all the “sauce” I want for the winter, the rest goes into Pear Butter.  I love pear butter and will flatly state that it’s far better than apple butter.  Just to prove it, I will share my Pear Butter Recipe!

Pear Butter Recipe

Pear Butter Recipe

Wash, slice and cut out stem and seeds from the pears.

Put into large pot and cook in a small amount of water.  (I use whatever left-over syrup I have from canning the pears)

Cook until mushy and then put through a sieve to get the pulp.  Throw the skins into the compost.

To each cup of pulp, but 1/2 cup sugar.  Add some cinnamon to taste and some pumpkin pie spice (because…why not?)  Cook until thick.  If you know how to can, do what come naturally.  If you don’t, follow the USDA Publications for canning or some other trusted site.

Pear Butter

Want to know to keep your canning bands together?

Canning Bands

Keep them in a netting bag that lemons or oranges come in!!  Bands seem to multiply on their own, so this little trick will help keep the population under control.

Photos From the Back Yard

Grow Your Own Birdseed

Anyone who feeds birds black oil sunflower seeds knows that good seeds end up on the ground.  It’s obvious by the big piles of shells under the feeder; you know all of those shells haven’t been cracked open.  It’s even more obvious when a field of sunflowers starts growing around your feeder!

Photos From the Back Yard

Volunteer plants.  You have no work invested and sometimes you’re surprised by what comes up!

Any sunflowers that start growing, are usually allowed to grow around here.  The bees are attracted to them and the birds don’t mind the shelter they provide.  This year, I’ve noticed that the Goldfinches are really drawn to the sunflowers.  It’s been a lot of fun watching them try to get a good footing on the flower as they attempt to dislodge a plump seed to devour.  Bunnies wander around under the flowers, eating seeds that have been dropped.  The squirrels usually sit on top of the flower and ride it in the wind, like a bucking bronco.  It’s pretty cute.  My husband says it’s like a Disney movie in the back yard!

Besides the free entertainment and the micro eco-system it provides,  I’m guessing there are at least 1000 seeds on most of the heads, so there’s not a lot of waste.

When the seeds look fully developed, you can let them dry on the plant or cut the heads and dry them.  The birds and squirrels will usually get to them first, so again, not a lot of work involved.  In the fall, before the frost, I pull the plants and strip the leaves off the stems.  The leaves go into the compost pile and the stems can be shredded for mulch.

If I had more room, I would take a few handfuls of sunflowers and plant a small field.  It seems like a good investment…1 seed into 1000!  🙂

How to Make a Decorative String Holder

How to Make a Decorative String Holder

From gardening and cooking, to everyday chores, there are 101 uses for string.

Whether you use cooking string or twine, there is a cheap and easy way to make a decorative, portable string holder you will enjoy using!

How to Make a Decorative String Holder

This winter, my hubby surprised me with a thoughtful gift.  He converted an old kitchen canister into a string holder.  I use a lot of twine in the garden and his gift allows me to transport my twine where ever I need it, in a decorative, easy to clean and mostly waterproof container.  What a joy!

I don’t know if you haunt the thrift stores like we do, but if you do, I’m sure you’ve noticed a variety of kitchen canisters for sale.  There is seldom a whole set, but you can always make some use of the old canisters.  I personally like the old metal ones, even if they’re rusty on the inside.  The patterns are old fashioned and very pretty, plus they can be used for keeping critters out of seed, for storing a bunch of nails or screws, or for a string holder!

How to Make a String Holder:

  • Find a canister you like
  • Take the lid off and lay it top side down on a piece of wood (that will keep the lid from denting when you pound the nail through)
  • Find a nail about the side of the string you’ll be using
  • Locate the center of your lid (or just eye-ball it!)
  • Pound the nail through the lid
  • Sand around the hole with a metal nail file (so your string won’t snag)
  • Pop your string into the can, feed the string through the hole, replace the lid and enjoy!

How to Make a Decorative String Holder

If you can’t find a canister you like, buy an ugly one and decorate it!

Also:

  • If you have a shop and have a need for tying packages with string, a decorative canister can easily be attached to your counter!
  • If you are a crafter, the canisters can be used for ribbon, too!

Online, string holders average about $15.00.  Our canister cost us $.50!!

MONEY SAVED: $14.50!!!

Cheap and Easy Thermal Shades

Cheap and Easy Thermal Shades

Last summer, after our big, sick Elm tree was taken down, we immediately noticed a difference in the temperature inside the house.  Without the shade of that big old tree, it was a scorcher!

We have large windows facing south, so the summer sun affects the comfort of three of our most used rooms.  I have blinds in one room, so we can avert the sun’s rays there, but in the other two rooms, I have curtains.  The windows are three large panes across and it is not only hard to find a single shade that wide, but it is also extremely expensive!

I checked into shades that would fit each panel, which are easier to find, but still very expensive.

So, online fabric store to the rescue!

With the help of my daughter, I found thermal shade material and a coupon for free shipping!  I spent $15.00!!

Cheap and Easy Thermal Shades

I got enough material to cover each pane of the windows.  All I had to do was cut the material to fit.  No hemming required, because the backing on the material is kind of rubbery.  Then, I sewed some metal washers onto the top edge of each panel and pounded a couple nails for each panel, into the window frame.  Voila!

Cheap and Easy Thermal Shades

I used metal washers simply because I had a lot of them, they would work, and I didn’t have to spend money getting something else!

Checking on the price of a variety of thermal shades, I found the average price to be around $50.00 per panel. (Yikes!)  For six panes, that would be $300.00.  I spent $15.00!

MONEY SAVED: $285.00!!

Photos From the Back Yard

Photos From The Back Yard

Photos From the Back Yard

Adorable gray squirrels!  They keep us entertained.

Photos From the Back Yard

Drying my garden gloves.  They’ve got holes on both sides of the fingers.

Photos From the Back Yard

Lots of volunteer Sunflowers this year!

Photos From the Back Yard

Love the patterns the seeds make.

Photos From the Back Yard

Lots of Hops starting to form!

Photos From the Back Yard

My grapevine is focusing on world domination.

Photos From the Back Yard

Parsnip seeds are getting ready to harvest.  I don’t like parsnips very much, though 😛

Photos From the Back Yard

Kind of a tangled mess!

Photos From the Back Yard

Love these huge flowers!

Photos From the Back Yard

Raspberries have been delicious and prolific this year! 🙂

Photos From the Back Yard

Waiting for the Brandywines to ripen!

Photos From the Back Yard

Swamp Weed.  Butterflies and bees love it!