Saturday, February 25, 2012

Accessorizing the Hearth

I've been collecting stove parts for years before we actually installed our stove. The Jotul that we use now isn't even my first.
I had a Vermont Castings on the porch for a few years that I had bought second hand then eventually resold once my then fiance now husband finally convinced me that wasn't the stove for my house. 
In the mean time I continued to be a collector of all things wood stove related.

Advertised as a mostly complete stove accessory but is it ?
I found this on ebay, @ that time I had no clue how I would ever afford to install a stove but I knew I needed this. I just really really needed this.
I also knew that it had become a one of a kind piece. I bit the bullet and bought it for my as yet un-acquired wood stove for around $50. Then stored it the attic of my house for the next ten years only to be forgotten time & time again until a few days ago.

Clearly it's a ?
Demmler Bros. Pittsburg, Pa. Patented Apr. 20, 1869. Rare to find one with the adjustable stove collar, spine, and adjustable stops. Trivets & stops are cast iron. The spine is metal. Could use a good rub down with stove polish not to mention the Jotul. 

Placed in front of the chimney pipe for photo opp. 
An antique chimney shelf, what every box style stove needs.
After husband made the final placement behind the stove pipe he used a 7" stainless steel hose clamp from the plumbing supply to fasten it around the pipe. 
He promised to keep an eye out of another fastening option in black.

Off grid coffee cup warmer.
The trivets become good & warm never hot despite almost touching the stove pipe. Besides keeping my cup warm the trivets are great for warming mittens and stoppenfloppers.

Forget towel warmers the ultimate in luxurious comfort is a heated stopenflopper.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Free Firewood Isn't Free

Someone on a forum this past month reminded me that when I say we have free firewood it really isn't free. 
There's the cost of tools unless you inherited them. 
Maintenance on tools like axes, chain saws, manual cross cut saws, ect. 
There's also the tools that you need to preform the maintenance on your firewood making tools.
Add in gas & oil for a mechanical chain saw. 
Then of course there's the cost of traveling to the source & carting the wood back. Along with the cost of the equipment used to transport ... ect. ect. ect.

So no I wasn't being totally truthful when I post that we have free firewood but this is just about as good as it gets. 

Witness to the construction of a neighborhood.

Hundred year old Maple located in the hell strip was finally after eight years of complaining, pleading, and yes even cursing trimmed.

This tree is actually in front of my neighbor's home (to the left if looking out front door), but if it had split that trunk would have bounced off his home & landed in our driveway crushing our only horse or worse my front stoop.
I think the deciding factor for the city to have it trimmed was that my neighbor's home is in foreclosure.
Bank owned properties are as much of a hassle for local governments as they are for a neighborhood. Banks/mortgage companies can be very lazy about maintaining a property especially ones that they won't ever see any return on.

Race is on to get the logs cut & stacked out of view from the street.

For the cost of a few dozen cookies the tree trimmers were putty in my hands .... actually our driveway was closer then were they had their trucks street parked. If the tree had been Oak there be no way they would have let us glean but we're thankful for the Maple.

Legally I only own half of the drive but since notice of his impending eviction the neighbor has been agreeable to not using the area to park his truck (he has a second drive on the other side) when we've need the extra space.

Log rolled back this little piggy didn't run fast enough home. 

Sometimes you have to factor in a higher cost of keeping the home fire burning.
Thank you my husband you are a good man ... and patient.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Filling a Sweet Tooth With Whole Grains

Another example of my New Years Resolution #2 - Eat more healthy as if $ was no object.
My mother's B-day is tomorrow so I wanted to practice baking her as well as us a healthy cake.

Mi Mama, like so many of her countryman suffers from diabetes as well as high cholesterol. She's actually very good about her diet on her own but won't cook with whole grains due to her one & only attempt @ cooking brown rice with nasty results. After that there was no talking her into a second try.
She grew up with white rice learning @ a young age to cook a pot of arrozo con costillas on an open fire. She use to tell me that as important as having the right ratio of water to rice was to make sure that all three of your rocks that were needed to keep the pot level in the hot coals. When they traveled to another area of the island she always remembered to bring her rocks. Pretty smart for a seven year old girl.

Last week when she came for dinner I made arroz de gandules con pollo subbing in brown rice on the wood stove. Much easier than the open fires of her early childhood. Everyone including Mama, thought it was good but lacked that thick layer of pagao in the bottom.
Later during dinner Mama volunteered that maybe half breeds can't make pagao as she spooned a second helping on to her plate. My mother's skill of manipulation would make a Jewish Grandmother envious. 

An added stipulation to this birthday cake baking is I'm beyond broke (what else is new), so I needed a recipe that didn't require any bought ingredients. Well @ least a recipe I could manipulate (yes I am my mother's daughter in so many ways).

I got this free kindle book thanks to a heads up by Pam6, 
Healthy Whole Grains Dessert Recipes, Easy and Delicious Whole Grain Desserts last week. I was in need of a whole grain dessert cook book to fill that deprived void that we've been experiencing since our change in diet to whole gains. This has been a perfect fit for my pantry shelves.

I found a few Lemons in the fridge & sliced bananas in the freezer. Both left overs from the food bank I volunteer @. Hubby put in the time with the grain mill to grind up fresh Soft Winter Wheat I just bought last month with Swagbucks. I subbed in carob powder (had) instead of chocolate, powdered eggs instead of fresh, real butter instead of olive oil because I'm out of extra light, and nut milk for homemade Greek Yogurt because the yogurt maker has been slacking. Knock off brand of Splenda for any sugar needed. to make this recipe more diabetic friendly.

Other than a few substitutions mentioned for Mama's cake even the peanut gallery who doesn't suffer from the sugar is enjoying having sweets in the house again. 
I gave this book 5 stars on my Amazon review and although I was able to score the kindle version for free I would purchase this again ... guilt free.

One of the many hats my Kindle wears is being a Techno-Amish Cookbook 

There's no follow up pic because in my rush to put out coffee & dessert for unexpected guests yesterday evening I forgot. Cake baked up well in the stove top oven giving the house a wonderful smell.

Feliz Campleanos Mi Mama!

~~ pelenaka ~~

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Foreclosure in my Backyard

2nd in the series of the perfect storm (foreclosures) surrounding my urban homestead.

Foreclosure due to death/fraud - 
One of the memories my children have of when we first moved to our urban homestead is of the secrete whole in the fence which allowed them to cut through the neighbor's yard behind us (actually off to the right) down her driveway & on to the street. From there they would walk the city sidewalk to the corner, hang a right walk a dozen or so yards to a major intersection where a school crossing guard would greet them.   
They could accomplish the same route with a few more steps but it lacked the same ambiance as wiggling their bodies between an old chain link fence post and an even older garage. 

Have to admit that squeezing through the opening mindful of the roses & bramble was endearing. Only once on my way to shoot the breeze on her front porch did I get hung up. And yes, I could have easily just walked around the corner, past the garage to her house. 

The wonderful woman who lived in the house behinds (& off to the right) moved away a year later. Her husband received a promotion & relocation with in the prison system to an area where she had family. Children missed the invites over for cookie baking. I missed the pleasant conversations.
Secretly I hoped she wouldn't be able to sell this house with it's unique placement of the only bathroom years after it's completion. Owner builds, thick. strong and sound often don't have the best lay outs. You can always tell when a husband didn't heed his wife's constructive criticism.  

# 9 sold to an elderly couple from the sun shine state with a phoo-phoo dog in tow. He was in his late eighties the epitome of the word spry. More than once he would call over to me from his spot on the roof over the laundry room converted from a back porch that once held firewood and an ice box. 
You can't do that I would plead. I'm a nurse so if you fall I'd have to come help. I'm busy hanging laundry ... Maybe I need a naughty nurse he would yell back. 
This is why your wife dislikes me I always answered. 
An old sailor who had more children then even he knew about. Those that visited asked for funds but instead got a trail of international curse words throw @ them.  Those were the times that I hung laundry on my own without the help of little fingers handing me cloths pins.

Interesting the topics that are heard over backyard fences huh?  

In the Spring he planted a Cheery tree dead center of his little yard.  The sailor paid my 8 year old son a dollar to dig the whole good & deep. After finding broken china, a bit of a beer bottle, and clay title he would have done the job for free. For the next week it was all I could do to keep him from digging up our yard. 

"Aren't you concerned about that Cherry not getting enough sun? " I asked as I looked directly up into my next door neighbor's massive Maple tree that resembles a head of broccoli. That tree straddles four yards and two roofs. 

"Sweetheart, it don't matter", traces of Bronx accent @ the end of every sentence. 
"It's not like I'll live to see a harvest".

After the funeral the wife with her itty -bitty barking dog that mandated a gate made out of scraps to close the hole in the fence, felt a Cadillac would ease the pain of her sailor's departure. Bought with the proceeds of a reverse mortgage. Now with a new ride she was rarely home.
The Cherry tree just a year after it's planting despite the shade & lack of care gave enough to make a small pie. The neighborhood cats are in charge of the security detail

One day the widow just didn't come home. 

A year no two went by ... the Cherry tree thrived. 
The code man came & went. 
By now I was thankful that the Blackberry Bramble had overtaken the hole providing cover for my homesteading activities. In Winter he stands by his car never brave enough to trudge to the back of the lot. 

Then hollow pounding  of a process server every once in a while would ring out between the garage & our shed. Occasionally I'd hear a Hello ... Hello?  
I'd yell back a hello spoken like Julia Child. 

Eventually one spilled the beans to the neighbor on the right of the retro green painted house. The reverse mortgage company finally realized that the Grandma who reminded us all of Tweedy Bird's owner, had duped them. They didn't due their due diligence like so many in the mortgage housing scandal.
It was wrong of us to be proud of Con-artist Granny, but we were. 

No, we didn't know where she was but she enjoys her Bingo, check the halls start first with the Catholics then move on the the Elks. If she's not there check the Falls.
Yes, her husband is @ Forrest Lawn we attended the wake. 
No I doubt any of his children know her whereabouts. 

I could drop a dime if you want, have a card? 

~~ pelenaka ~~

P.S. - unlike the mortgage company that may or may not have acquired the house across the street from us, this one is good about property maintenance. Which is why when the crew shows up we always remind them about Pepe LaPew
The house is now on the market for a third of it's assessed value needing a new main roof (previous owner replaced roof over the converted porch).


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Homestead Valentine Gift

In my younger days I always expected the more traditional Valentine's Day gifts from a beau. Roses, candy, a good meal more if it was a serious relationship. I was a different senorita then ... I wouldn't have appreciated the man I am married to now.

Soap Stone bed warmer with a metal spring handle,
Take me to Bed ... I Will Keep You Warm.

We ran across this soap stone bed warmer on our last trip to our favorite mercantile but @ the time I was way too short on cash to snatch it up. Woods, being the ever observant homesteader mate that he is later went back. Of course there was a reason why he was discouraging when I asked him to buy the stone then.

The stone is heated on a trivet on the stove just enough but not so hot that I can't handle it. Depending on whether I'm just chilling in the living room then I wrap the stone in a towel to rest my cold toes on.
Bedtime application - start @ the head of the bed lying the stone down on both top & bottom sheets but underneath blankets. Slowly make your way down to the foot of the bed. Wrap the stone in a thick towel & place it under all the covers with you.
Quickly climb into bed & enjoy.

Food Warmer - Heat to almost hot, place stone on a thickly folded towel placed on table. Place pot of food on stone to maintain warm temps.

Summer use - chill stone well, place on thickly folded towel on table. Place cold salads such as potato on top to help maintain cold temps. Or use in a cooler as an ice pack.

This technique could also be used for personal cooling comfort either placing a stone behind you in the small of your back or simply kicking off sandals & placing bare feet on a hot Summer day.

Thank you my husband I love my stone.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chang up @ Alice

I got this email from about some recent changes they have made to their website.

  • Change # 1 -  Orders ship free @ $40. 
  • Change # 2 - Anything under $40 has a $6.99 shipping fee.
  • Change # 3 - Orders over $75 will be discounted 5% and free shipping. 
Currently gift cards are discounted in the swagstore so if you have enough swagbucks to buy three $25 gift cards then the $75 + 5% off & free shipping would be the way to go.

If you use my my referral link I get 3% of your purchases for a year.
You get a $10 sign up bonus when you buy $50 or more of groceries.
Use gift cards bought with Swagbucks and everything is free.

Currently there's a good deal on 20 Mule Team Borax 76 oz. box for $3.54 (75¢ off coupon automatically). Borax is a great green all purpose cleaner and a key ingredient for homemade laundry soap. Keep forever once in a water proof container. I keep mine in a plastic shortening container (Aldis brand).

~~ pelenaka ~~

Monday, February 13, 2012

Surrounded - Foreclosure Crisis Hits Home

1st in a series of the perfect storm surrounding my urban homestead.

 1900 - ?

Foreclosure due to drugs/divorce -
It started slow enough, in front of our own eyes so to speak.
Piece by piece, corner by corner we watched as it unraveled across the street on an almost daily basis until now the home sits vacant in legal limbo. Not so much of an eyesore because we the hood have taken to keeping the yard tidy coveting the space. Dreams of annexation sanctioned by a city auction float in our heads.

# 35 never really had good karma @ least since Nixon was president.
Years before I ever thought of living in the Queen City this typical four bedroom balloon framed home saddled with three mortgages had started in financial decline.
Neighborhood lore says the man of the castle a sheriff, wore his wife beaters proudly in the home. The lady who loved him so, she followed to the sunshine state. No doubt to wash his undershirts until her fingers bleed. Their children took advantage of the opportunity to scatter, to college where keggers were the norm not knock down spousal discord.

Then this home became a rental to a single mother with wayward teens who lowered themselves from the upstairs windows on sheets. I made a metal note to myself to short sheet my children when they became of age.

There was the family from Russia, teachers who hated Poles yet ate pirogi like candy.
Karma kicked them to the curb soon enough. Their names having gained profanity status @ the Polish Falcons club.

Then the blue house with white trim became a pawn in a privately backed note that didn't end well for the lender. After some costly repairs & a short sale a young couple moved in.

They proudly introduced themselves.
Young lovers since grade school who were to be married in the spring.
Wanderers from the rural portion of the county. Born & bred in open pastures they told us, three dogs in tow. Soon joined by another followed by a few cats.
And a mother of the bride who loved to tell me how much she enjoyed Puerto Rican food. Her crack mouth breaking into a wide smile each & every time.
And then their entourage that resembled the rejects from an open casting call of you know your a red neck punch lines, came & went running the streets like gas was 76¢ a gallon. Midnight knocking ... cars pulling away from the curb never eating where they shit.

I had asked if the house had been a wedding present, perhaps a rich uncle with a warped sense of humor. Or maybe they had won it in a lottery site unseen ?
Their city lot measures 40' x 100'.
No city shed, not much of a porch after a late seventies remodel.

By the time snow fell again their body language said it all as the came & went from this house built in 1900 on a stacked stone foundation. Four good sized bedrooms, two bath, an eat in kitchen. New replacement windows and kitchen cabinets. A fresh coat of paint to seal in that bad karma.

Soon the newest man of this house was replaced.
Then he.
Then one more maybe two.
The lady of the house grew thinner, given to bouts of housecleaning late into the night.
To fund her appetite items were sold; appliances, previous mister's belongings, then pipes, and eventually a furnace. Windows left open in rainy weather. Cats and squirrels made themselves @ home while she visited the big house. Two of her old romances came & loaded the last of the furniture that had been wedding gifts.
Eventually a few memos taped to the front door explained it all.
No trespassing by order of XYZ Mortgage lender.
No digits. No email addy.

Periodically a contractor stops by to check for human squatters. He snaps a cell phone pic of the meter then walks to the back yard. Makes a few notations on his clip board then gets in his ride unless we chat.

I always imagine the squatters wearing hazmat suits 24/7 because now the mold and native animal droppings have grown exponentially. My new neighbors would stroll across the asphalt measuring cup in hand. Can we get a cup of lye from you ? We were making a batch & ran out.

The lender's clip board holder never knows anything about when # 35 will be ready for sale.
It's not his job.
Neither is boarding up the opening were the skunks enter.
Each time he repeats that line I hear canned laughter and think of Chico & the Man. I tell him that my husband has replaced the plywood twice. Again he repeats Chico's line and assures us he will mention it in his report to them.
He plays deaf when I ask who them is.

He tells us tales of 200k homes in worse shape than this as he motions to the blue house with a quiet water stain that marks the siding were the gutters have failed. How's you like to be those neighbors ?
I roll my eyes knowing I'd die of stress with a bank note that size.
But I imagine a never ending yard to garden in. Then I realize I wouldn't have to time to garden I'd be working my life away.
200 grand.
My mind just can't wrap around the amount of debt.

Once he called the fire dept. to pump out the cellar of waist deep murky water.
As I watched fireman dig through snow, ice, gravel to uncover the shut off valve my mind wandered to the idea of growing fish in cellars of abandoned homes.

The code man tells us this house is in limbo.
If the neighbor turned metal scrapper would only sign off the powers that be can take over. He quiets when I ask if "the powers that be" is code for the city.
Call me he says handing me his card.
There's paper out on her.
I can get her to sign off.
I stifle a chuckle, thinking of him playing bad cop code man ... Sign this you delinquent homeowner who didn't give a crap about her neighbors SIGN IT NOW !

I wonder if the reason no one has seen her is she swimming with the fishes in basement ?

The neighbor to the right diligently mows the front lawn with her own weekly. She mumbles about it disappearing so she can buy the lot.
I joke that I could make it happen if she agrees to let me garden on this lot that has no shade issues all the live long day. I imagine the view from my living room window a dwarf apple orchard fragrant full of pink in May.

Every other week I join her with my weed eater and push broom.
A two woman neighborhood landscape team manicuring the front lawn of a lost cause.
Neighbor in back notifies us that he will be attending the as yet unannounced foreclosure auction.
Save us a spot I think as we both nod.
He hands us a large plastic trash bag to hold the grass clipping before going back inside.
So far I have collected almost a box's worth of bags since I compost.

With fresh snowfall it is easy to see if anyone has been peeping in the windows of #35.
I am given to fits of yelling out my front window @ people who lurk on the porch always asking if that girl still lives here, they need to find her.
Get on the list behind the dozen or so homeowners on this avenue, a bondsman who wears business attire and drives a hybrid, & the code man.

I can ask po po for you ... you want ?
No, it's not for rent it has bad karma.
Now get off the porch.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Rack Hack for the Garden

More than it's total. 

Oh the possibilities.

Brought home by my love who understands me.

Multi-tasking hack of an end cap product display rack.

Covered with bubble wrap an instant greenhouse.

Seedling display rack for this Springs plant sale.

Shelves removed an arbor to hold a pale pink climbing rose.

Winter's time a keeper of snow covered bags of potting soil.

Imagine the possibilities.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Monday, February 6, 2012

Off Grid Microwave

Off Grid Microwave a.k.a. firebox on my Jotul 

It's been a crazy Winter this year.
Some days we wake up & realize that we can go without a fire in the stove for most of the day because its so warm out.
K, 50 degrees now is a heat way here in Buffalo. Come May not so much.
Last year when a warm day presented itself (late Spring) I use to just work up a small fire for coffee & oatmeal. Then hang out waiting for it to die down.
I won't leave a fire burning when I'm not home. Houses on my street are too close & too old.
Call it MOCS or Mrs. O'Leary's cow syndrome.

This year I realized that I could convert the firebox in my wood stove to an off grid microwave that accepts metal without sparking.
Water heats up in 3 minutes. I have coffee in less than 5.
After the coffee is done I place a small saucepan with lid in for oatmeal.
But it's really all about the coffee.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Friday, February 3, 2012

Free Food Friday

Groceries & Paper Goods bought with Swagbucks

Today was grocery deliver day from Amazon & a new to me website

My Amazon order which was completely free thank you very much Swagbucks was Skippy Peanut Butter, Natural Creamy, 15-Ounce Jars (Pack of 6) Choose the subscribe & save option (which you can cancel @ any time) total cost drops down to $15.83/6 jars or $2.63 per jar.
I'll have to can up more jelly if I keep scoring peanut butter deals like this.

To be truthful I had never heard of before becoming a swaggernauts (that's what u r called when you swagbuck).
The swagstore (where u can redeem all those swagbucks for good stuffs like gift cards), had a sale on gift cards. Yes, there are sales on gift cards in the swagstore.
Snagged myself a $5 paypal gift card the other day when it was discounted. is an online grocery store that also features the use of coupons.
You don't even need to hunt those down as the site already has them posted.
Order 6 or more items and shipping is free.
You all know I'm all about the free :-)

If you use my my referral link I get 3% of your purchases for a year.
You get a $10 sign up bonus when you buy $50 or more of groceries.
Use gift cards bought with Swagbucks and everything is free.

Take the money you would normally have spent on groceries and pay off a debt faster or put that $ into savings. Or like me just pay the mortgage and keep praying that an end is in sight.

Here's my shopping list 
Angel Soft Reg. Rolls 2 ply, unscented toilet paper - 1 pk. 24 rolls $9.65 (B-day gift for Mom).
Folgers Whole Bean Coffee, Lively Colombian, Med. Roast - 11 oz. bag $6.39.
Fiber Wise Elbow Macaroni, 16 oz. boxes (6) $2.31 each.
Bounty Paper Towels, 2 ply, Select a size, 8 roll pk. $10.25.
Glad Tall Kitchen bags, 13 gallon size, 1 box (80 bags).

The coffee I should have waited on an Amazon score. I really need to get my addiction under control.
Paper towels ... don't think too bad of me. I do use recycled bath towels for cleaning. And we use cloth napkins for everyday use. Paper towels last use forever as I only use them to drain grease off of foods.
Plastic garbage bags ... can I justify it by writing that we only use on bag a week because we recycle so much of our garbage.

This brand macaroni that I bought is a high fiber version - 12 gm. of dietary fiber.
Being diabetic having a plate full of regular pasta is a huge issue. By the end of the meal my blood sugar has spiked and I'm really sluggish.

Pasta as you all know is an easy & economical meal to put together especially if you have fresh or preserved garden veggies. Add meat or don't. Pair with a salad ... dinner is served.
Choose elbow over spaghetti because I still hope to make my own pasta and we love homemade mac & cheese.

I was a little disappointed that this site didn't have powdered milk or some of the other dry goods that I use to stock my pantry. But they do have a good selection of everything else.
The site is very straight forward, allows you make up a shopping list. Ordering and use of the gift cards was supper easy. Shipping & packing was good and as you can see cute to boot.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Re-Stock of the Pantry Shelves

Once every two weeks I head out with a gf to the wilds of suburbia.
Sometimes we stop @ a discount clearing store where prices are decent or sometimes down right great.
A few weeks ago that was that case of RTRPMIMP or right time/right place/money in my pocket.

Here's what I bought geared toward our whole grain diabetic diet -

Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Wild & Brown Rice 1 lb. 11 oz. - $4 per bag. Bought 3 bags.
Down the street Wegman's had it for over $7 a bag.

Capatriti 100% Pure Olive Oil - 34 oz. $4.80 Expiration date 12/19/2013.
Not really sure I thought I bought two but I could only find one in the cellar.
Ghost has been acting up lately after a 3 or 4 year hiatus.
Only not made in America purchase.

Carnation Evaporated Milk - 12 oz. cans - 59¢ each. Bought 4 mainly to use in pumpkin pie recipe.
An alternative is to use filtered H2O and cup & half of powdered low-fat milk.
If you use powdered milk then decrease the cornstarch, flour, or tapioca flour (thickening agent) to just one tablespoon. The canned milk will be used in pies that I barter out.
Label proudly reads Made in America!

Kraft Mayonnaise - 30 oz. jar @ $3.50 bought one to tide us over until I can score an Amazon deal.  

Nevella Baking Blend - 9.7 oz (label says = 5 lbs. sugar) @ $3.50, bought 5 bags.
An off brand similar to Splenda.
Before I hear about this purchase, yes I wish I could grow & process or be able to afford to buy Stevia but right now I can't.
And now that I am a grinding fool with my White Winter Wheat I've been baking more.
Bag reads - Caremel, IN.

~~ pelenaka ~~