Friday, July 29, 2011

Homemade How To: Carpet Powder

This post is an update on my previous post on carpet freshener. Enjoy them both!
Store bought carpet powders can be filled with some really terrifying things. I would never consider purchasing them, but a home made, all natural version is pretty spiffy. Musty smelling house? Cockroaches lurking? Funky smelling dog? All these things can be remedied, in part at least, by sprinkling some all natural carpet powder that you can make with some easily sourced ingredients. Here are two versions:

Bug Killing Carpet Freshner and Doggie Dust:
  • 1 part Diatomaceous Earth (from an organic garden supply store NOT the hardware store, but sure that it is FOOD GRADE)
  • 1 part baking soda
  • Several drops essential oils:  Lavender/Eucalyptus/Lemongrass/Cedar (a combo of all, or whichever you have on hand

    Carpet and Linen Freshner (can also be used in your laundry cycle):
    • 1 part Borax
    • 1 part baking soda
    • Several drops essential oils of your choice, eg: Tea Tree/Lavender/Eucalyptus etc
    Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl or directly into the receptacle you plan to use for shaking. I used an empty sea salt shaker. Grated cheese containers would also work or any other carton with holes for shaking that has not held any chemicals.

    To use as a carpet freshener: liberally shake the powder on your carpets from one end of the house to the other. Let set for 15 or so minutes then vacuum. Ooh and aah at the lack of funky carpet smell!

    To use as a laundry aid: add up to 1/4 cup to a load of laundry for softer laundry suitable for sensitive skin. Brightens whites and gives your detergent greater cleaning power.

    To use as a doggie dust: Lightly dust your dog's fur, against the grain if possible (avoiding the genitals). Do not brush the dog afterwards. The DE is a natural bug killer and will rid your friend of any passengers, as well as absorbing any doggie smell he/she may be carrying. The DE also works against house pests: leave some of the powder un vacuumed along the walls and baseboards to combat nasty roaches and other bugs.

    Apologies for the stock images in this post. My camera is lost, or else i'd have some lovely photos to share.

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    Some Questions About Kale

    I hope that you know how much i love comments on this blog. I especially love it when people send me questions directly using the "Contact Me" option at the top of the page. I received a question yesterday about the various ways i prepare kale. Susy at Chiot's Run posted her difficulties with enjoying this wonderful green: many people (my mother included) are finicky about the texture of cooked greens. I am not among this lot. In fact, cooked kale is probably one of my all time favorite vegetables. I try to keep a nice stand of Lacinato Kale growing in my garden at ALL times with chard being a squeeky textured runner up: it grows so darned well, just not quite as tasty in my opinion.

    I could have kale with dinner every single night, and here are some of my favorite preparations:
    That last recipe is one of my go-to potluck dishes or quick dinners. The version in that post used brussels sprouts, but i've found that kale or chard work even better. Here's an even quicker and easier method to make that delicious and protein packed dish:
    Heat some chicken or veggie stock in the microwave or on the stove until close to boiling. Pour over bulghar wheat with some dried herbs of your choice, salt and pepper. Stir briefly then cover. I like to mix in a large pyrex bowl and put its fitted lid on it. Let sit aside while you sautee the rest of the ingredients. Some favorites: chopped kale, garlic, onions, hot peppers, water chestnuts, whatever is in season at the time. Sautee in plenty of delicious tasting olive oil and a bit of lemon juice (lemon keeps the green in greens) until just soft. Mix into the bulghar wheat mixture (bulghar wheat has a ton of protein, but you could add a meat as well) and serve as a main dish or a side. Delish!

     For kale chips, timing is key. Toss ripped kale chips, that have had the largest stem removed, in a bowl with some olive or coconut oil and generous seasoning of your choice. Imagine you're making oven fries. Lay the kale evenly on a cookie sheet (or two) so that they do not overlap much. Put in an oven at 350 or 375 for a few minutes, flip and do the other side for a few more minutes. The timing depends how hot your oven really is and how large your 'chips' are. You want to pay very close attention the first few times you make them: they can burn very easily. You want them JUST blistering, but not black. I like them to be a bit chewy in places, vs totally chipped but that's a matter of preferance.

    So there you go, some of my favorite ways to prepare kale. Feel free to comment with more questions, as i'd be happy to elaborate on any of these recipes or share more ideas for this calcium packed veggie!

    Wednesday, July 27, 2011

    Travel Log: Cow Ponds

    Pocket, the hubs and myself are FINALLY settling into our new town: Philomath, Oregon (near Corvallis). I've finally spent more than 2 days in a row in our new apartment, and i'm actually liking it. Not loving the cat-calling halfway house residents behind our back 'yard,' but am loving the bike paths, coastal mountain views, and potential proximity to the ocean and other fun activities. We've barely scratched the surface of 'to dos' here in our new town (the husband picked up a seasonal job at a local organic farm, thus limiting our days off together for cavorting about), but we well tromped my mother's stomping grounds down in the high desert before we left.

    Merrill, Oregon is in the Klamath Basin: a land of potatoes, nutritious hay, beautiful horses, and long Summer days filled with sunshine. So much sunshine you can get quite hot, even on days that only reach 75. On these days, you need to find a cow pond. Especially when you're a corgi.

     Pocket loves to swim, boy howdy! I spent a little time crouched by the side of the pond and noticed some other little critters enjoying the seasonal pond. Tons of tadpoles! And a few swimming tree frogs. Cute, cute, cute!

    My husband and I walked to this pond again a few days later and found some really mysterious, alien-like critters in with the tadpoles - and eating them! We had no idea what they were, and sadly got no photographs, but researched them on our return: water beetle larvae! We did see some big black beetles in the water, so it makes sense. I wish i had some photos to share, they were truly grotesque and fascinating. Google "water tiger" and tell me what you think: pretty scary!

    We're missing having these lovely ponds to walk to, and really missing having boundless property to explore without leashes. Hopefully we'll make it to the Alsea river in the national forest soon to do some fishing and let the pooch run about tether-free. Though if you're in Philomath, you may see a little red and white corgi off leash in some local parks despite being 'against the rules.' She's pretty darned well behaved and just needs to run and catch that frisbee in the air!

    Have you found any unique wildlife in a pond recently?

    Thursday, July 21, 2011


    To "Vegetable Garden Cook" for winning some free samples from Ball!  I can't wait to can with you next month.

    Now, unfortunately begins a brief stint without online access. Woe is me. I'll be back in posting action next week, but for now I'll just tease you with some of the cool things we've been doing and are about to do around the state:
    • Lava Beds National Monument in Tulelake California
    • Learning about White Nose Disorder in bats
    • The Newport Aquarium
    • Romping in the waves on the Oregon coast
    • Unpacking and filling our new apartment with the bare minimum of stuff and getting on a role in my new job
    Oh, wait. That last bullet point is actually really unpleasant and you're glad you're not along for the ride! Haha.

    See you all soon, can't wait to share pics and notes on the good stuff!

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Can Can Can!

    I've had some great response for my giveaway of canning supplies from Ball, but i'd love some more! Let's have a great canning party next month. Enter the giveaway! I'll choose the winner when we get back from loading a trailer full of stuff to move north. I swear, one of these days i'll be in the same town for a whole week and be able to actually write some articles. Grrrrrrrrrrr

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011


    Man alive. Started new job with a decent amount of success. I really like my crew of 18 year olds and I'm excited to get more involved in the planning and design of the project. I feel qualified, and the 'kids' seem to respect me. Go figure! I am, however exhausted from moving, driving, moving, packing, getting up at 5:30, working 2 10 hour days and driving and moving some more! Needless to say, i've been sleeping in when i get the chance! I didn't know i was even still capable of sleeping past 9 am..... 10:45 seems to be possible! hahaha.

    I'm a bit too exhausted and busy to really write up anything worth reading I'm afraid, but i do want to remind everyone about the great giveaway for some Ball canning products that ends tomorrow.  I'm excited to can some seasonal produce with you all on National Can It Forward Day and would love to send YOU some canning gear for you to use. Enter now!

    I'm off to be productive (as productive as one can be after sleeping half the day away) on my days off before driving back up to Corvallis and working next weekend. Phew!

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Travel Log: Klamath Wildlife Refuge

    My husband and I sought out a bit of exercise and scenery at a local wildlife refuge last week. There was not much wildlife activity: a bit hot and the wrong season, but we saw some choice duckies and enjoyed a brief bike ride at least.

    The Klamath and Tulelake Wildlife Refuges are an absolute must on any birder's list. In the Winter, bald eagles make their way to the area to live and eat and make general eagle merriment (to the chagrin of migrating geese and other 'tasty treats'.) This area inhabits the largest population of bald eagles in the entire country during the Winter! Other than baldies, there are heaps of ducks, geese and other predatory birds in their seasons. I love to take a stroll, on foot or in a car, to see the baby ducklings in the Spring and the snow geese in the Winter.

    Located along State Line Rd. between Oregon and California, the two wildlife refuges are a great place to see birds and to learn about wildlife habitat management as well as pick up some tidbits on the birds in the area. We were greeted by these little swallows in the info booth and my husband had plenty of opportunities to bust out his binoculars, despite the scarcity of bird life.

    Check it out, the refuge is free!

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Woot! 1 Month Til National "Can It Forward Day"!

    That's right, National Can It Forward Day is August 13th. With the recent increased awareness and excitement in home canning, Can It Forward Day is a great excuse for those of us who already know how to can and those of us who just want to learn to get together and have a canning party. Many of the fears of canning stem around preparing large amounts of fruit or veggies, sterilizing a ton of jars, and the potential waste of hours and pounds of hard work and delicious produce. Small batch canning is a great way to get into canning and Ball is selling products specifically to facilitate smaller batches. No more math equations to pare down a large recipe just to test a batch. Now you can start with as few as 6 large tomatoes and can 2 jars of salsa! How easy is that?

    I'll be posting more about Can It Forward Day and Ball products, but for now i'd like to announce a special giveaway! Ball sent me a great package full of canning supplies and literature. I'd like to offer sample sizes of their pectin and salsa mix, along with some party ideas and other 'how to can' literature to one lucky reader.

    Ball RealFruit Pectin captures the freshness and flavor of fresh fruit. The small batch pouch makes 2 jars of jam or jelly, perfect for folks who don"t have a ton of produce on hand or just want to try a small batch.
    Ball's Salsa and Pickle mixes are made with natural spices and seasonings and can be customized to be as hot or not as you'd like. The small batch pouch makes 2 jars of salsa.

    I'll choose the winner next Wednesday to get your goodies to you in time for you to host your own canning party! This is a great chance to try out some of Ball's products and to test a small batch of goodies.

    To win:

    4 chances and 4 chances only. You may enter with all the requirements, but please no extras

    1. Submit a comment below or at our Facebook Fan Page (or both!) with a link to or brief description of your favorite jam or other canned good.
    Not a canner yet? No worries, let us know what you'd like to try and can first, or what fruit/veg you have a current abundance of.

    2. If you're not already a fan or a follower of An Austin Homestead, please become one! If you are, please post/tweet/or mention this giveaway. Comment back with the link or your follower info for your second chance to win!

    3. Check out Ball's super lovely site and comment back with a tasty sounding recipe, or a tantalizing product you'd like as part of your canning arsenal!

    4. Shameless self promotion: For one last chance to win, please become a fan of Nude Soap, my all natural soap company, on Facebook and comment back with any feedback. I'll be promoting my brand new website soon, but it's still under construction.

    That's it! Happy entering. Tell your friends. Let's have a canning party together in August!

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Travel Log: Odell Lake

    We stopped by Odell Lake on our way back to Merrill from our interviews in Corvallis. I'd never stopped here before, and it was so worth it. Odell Lake is big, blue and gorgeous with some swell vistas around. It would be a great lake to boat on, but we satisfied our water craving with some Pocket fetch time with her super awesome new "Ball Rope". Ridiculous action shots were necessary.

    Could there be a better place for a quick dip when you're a corgi? I think not.

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Well, Hot Dog: Miranda Got a Job!

    Looks like my years of gardening and writing about have paid off! My husband and I drove up to lovely Corvallis, OR last week to interview at the Community Services Consortium Corvallis branch and i was offered a job! I will be Crew Leader of the youth-house Garden, in charge of preparing for and managing their farmer's market booth. I'm totally excited: for the experience, to work in a job i'm qualified for, and to be earning a very decent wage working for a great organization. Couldn't ask for more, really.....

    Well, there is the matter of 'where to live' that needs to be sorted out. My head was already a jumble, now my to do list includes moving. AGAIN. Not joyous, but totally necessary and a change for the better. I love my desert childhood home, but we're ready to get into the green of the valley!

    Apologies if i'm scant for the next week or two: I've got a job to get ready and move for!

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Salad for Dinner

    I love Summer, especially when it's in the 70s to 80s, breezy and lacking many biting insects. My mother's garden is popping with lettuce and spinach, so my husband and I took advantage and enjoyed a delicious dinner salad with the best view there could be. Top it off with a little tuna salad with real mayo and sweet onions from our garden. Delish!

    Pay no attention to the planter i left in the middle of the porch...

    Who needs restaurant decor when you have this to enjoy while you sup?

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Family Recipe: Frittatta in Pyrex

    As you probably remember, i like to cook my frittattas in an oven safe pan. I start it on the stove and finish it in the oven. That's just great when you're serving two as a main course or 4 as a side dish. Not as good when you're cooking dinner for your little family plus your parents while you stay as a guest in their barn for several weeks until you find a job.......    In other words: you need enough to feed everyone and keep them happy! I tweeked my recipe slightly, omitted any hot spices to accommodate my Yankee of a mother, and used the last full dozen eggs from our last 2 hens that we left in Austin.

    Fritatta in a Dish/Casserole/Pyrex/Lasagna Pan:
    • 1 dozen eggs (from our hens in Austin)
    • 1 crown broccoli
    • 1 sweet onion, 1 red onion (from our Austin garden)
    • Generous spoonful ricotta cheese
    • Plenty of garlic (from our Austin garden)
    • Salt, pepper
    • Dried spices: smoked paprika, thyme
    • Fresh basil
    • 2 potatoes
    Nuke the potatoes some. Meanwhile saute the onions with the dried herbs, salt and pepper and a splash chicken stock. As they begin to soften add the garlic (and lots of jalapenos if you're not serving my mother) and broccoli- chopped in uniformish pieces. Meanwhile scramble the eggs and ricotta, plus fresh herbs and more salt if you desire adding a splash of water or milk. Slice the mostly cooked potatoes thinly and line the bottom of a greased casserole dish. Top with the warm and perfectly (to your taste) sauteed veggies and top all with the egg mixture. You may wish to sprinkle some shredded cheese on the top as well. Bake at 375 for 20+ minutes or until the eggs puff and are cooked throughout.

    Slice into four sections for the perfect 3 egg meal. Great with a salad or all by itself: you've got all the protein and veggies you need for dinner. Add some sausage/bacon/ground meat for extra protein if you have meat lovers with you.

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Review: The Clown Motel

    Looking for my review of the Clown Motel in Tonopah, NV? Pop over to Pocket Pause!

    I think my favorite response when i posted to Facebook that we'd be staying at a place called The Clown Motel was by a friend who said:
            "Dear god, why?"
    or maybe my other friend who said:
           "Seriously. I am crossing my fingers regarding ever seeing or hearing from you again. What works against clowns? I don't even know - but get some of that before you go."

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    How About Those Plants I Propagated?

    Dead. All dead.

    I took cuttings from all my favorite plants from my Austin garden, babied them, potted them up, then put them in the back seat of an un air conditioned car being towed from Texas to Oregon. Bad idea. They all got shocked by the heat, sun, dryness and all around unpleasant climate of Steve, my Hyundai Accent. All but the lemon balm: it of course survived as lemon balm is just another of the many pervasive and invasive mints: you just can't kill 'em.

    At least California let me keep my kaffirs. My Meyer Lemon, alas was confiscated. More about the federal quarantine on citrus coming soon!

    Our Christmas Citrus tree met a very sad demise: incinerated in the state of California.
    Have you ever tried moving with plants? What were your results?

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    Scratch Made Pizza

    1. Pheonix is hot. Really hot. Hotter than Austin. Too hot.
    2. Eating pizza covered with Italian sausage at 9 pm is not good for one's constitution.
    3. Pizza covered with Italian sausage and homegrown garlic is delicious.
    4. HELPING in the kitchen is a nice change from managing it.

    Part of my contribution: homegrown onions, garlic and jalapenos

    Thanks to my old high school buddy for putting us up for the night as we traveled across Arizona, and for cooking up some super delicious pizza, even if it did take us til 9:30 pm to finish it!