Thursday, September 22, 2016

From Beautiful Books to Blueberries ~ A "Shabby Chic" Frugal Farm Lifestyle ~ Entry #3


{Entry #1 is shared here, titled A "Shabby Chic" Frugal Farm Lifestyle}
{Entry #2 is shared here, titled "From Alpha to Zucchini" ~ A Shabby Chic Frugal Farm Lifestyle}


In our last entry, the idea of simplifying in order to live within one's means was discussed. We also touched lightly on making the home pleasing on pennies and without over-cluttering. This can be a problem when you live in a small home because you become dissatisfied that it is not large enough to hold all your "stuff". The solution for our little "Shabby Chic" Frugal Lifestyle lays in the idea of what I call "practical decoration". There are a few ways we do this in our home and I will share the first one here today.

"It {Shabby Chic} is a style that is quiet, simple, peaceful, and practical, allowing for the mixture of many tastes. It does not commit to Victorian, modern, or any particular era and can work with a number of different styles or houses. Over the years I have learned that the house itself is of less importance than its contents and how those contents reflect the life within."
Rachel Ashwell, Shabby Chic

I particularly love old Victorian Era books. They are mostly very worn looking because of the age.
However, you can pretty them up with a piece of lace or ribbon in sets of three.

The concept is that you showcase what is necessary in the home but in a pretty way. For us, the bulk of our entertertainment revolves around books. The bulk of our home education revolves around books. Much of the homesteading know-how revolves around books. And finally, the bulk of my home-building revolves around books. Books are an integral part of our life and space must be made for them. For example, in our living room, we have a fireplace mantel with a few photographs and pretties on top and one painting hung above it. We have a small china closet that stores my collection of vintage "special occasion" dishes which has one family heirloom displayed above it (a samovar passed down to me by my grandmother). These are my only decorations in our living room besides books. The room is small and I must choose my "friends" wisely. Thus, books have become the decoration.


“Books are not made for furniture,
but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.” 
~ Henry Ward Beecher

We have shelves and shelves of them! And I think they are lovely to look at. There are rows and rows of different colored bindings and patinas on the older volumes. If we take the time to look, we can see the beauty in a book. This shelving area could have stored knick-knacks and other dust collectors but where would I keep our books? By removing what we do not "use", we have created space for what is important in our lives and our small home "works".

We purchased most of our books at second-hand stores.

Even those who don't have the same addiction or interests, books can be a frugal part of your decorating. You can find sets of abandoned and beautiful books at library sales, garage sales, estate sales and so forth (read this post on how to build your home library). I have found hardcover volumes on clearance in the library room for 15cents. These can be covered in scrapbook paper, wallpaper and even wrapping paper for less than 50cents and displayed in your home to make a beautiful vignette. Volumes and sets of books give a rich and luxurious appearance like that of the "Old World" library where people used to prize a large library as gold.

Diana at Dreams Factory shares a technique to make any hardcover book beautiful!

I have seen some covered in burlap and some spray painted to look antiqued (this would be a great disguise for those old volumes you have sitting around that can use some pepping up). Such beautiful ideas for the humble book! You can even gather your prettiest vintage volumes with a bit of lace or ribbon for an old fashioned display. The basic idea is to use what you love and USE as your "practical decoration". Try not to add other things that will clutter out your life (and make you think you need a larger home). Just maintain with love the things you do have.

Underneath the scrapbook paper cover are some of my favorite women's devotional softcover books such as Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot and A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George. When your shelves are getting crowded, you can decorate some of your favorites and place them on display on your nightstand until you are ready to open the volume again. 

Another major concept in our "Shabby Chic" Frugal Farm Lifestyle lies in seasonal eating. To all the gourmet cooks, it is a sign of sophistication to eat when food is at its freshest. For the frugal minded, it is a necessity (though we can assume the role of sophistication for that is what makes it "shabby chic" for us!). If I crave a strawberry in the middle of winter, it means nothing to me but a craving. As the good book says, "to everything there is a season". There is a season to actually buy strawberries, and there is a season of waiting until the day comes when you can buy strawberries.  While my favorite fruits are of the berry world and tropical variety, in order to make them a possibility in our life, I must be patient.



For example, when we moved into our homestead, we scouted the area for local farms and were thrilled to learn that there was a blueberry farm an hour away. In our old home in the city, we had strawberry farms, apple farms and cherry farms within a two hour distance. It does pay to do some sleuthing for you will receive the freshest produce and at a fair price (especially if buying in bulk). It is when they are in season that they become affordable. At that point, we will purchase as much as we can afford and make jams, syrups, pie filling, you name it! This will be our "fancy fruit" for the year and we will try and stretch it and preserve it to make it last until the following year.


This may shock some people, but the only other fruit we will buy regularly are bananas (they are just too convenient and useful for our morning smoothies, quick snacks, etc.). Apples are purchased in the autumn while the citrus fruits are picked for free from the kind neighboring farms in the winter. In between it all, we will rely on the provision of these seasonal "fancy fruits" as well as what we managed to store from our own farm. Though more fruit is on the way, at this point we have grapes, pomegranates and figs producing. The grapes are eaten "as is" and we also like to press them and add the juice into sparkling water for a refreshing beverage in the summer. The pomegranates are also eaten "as is" as well as pressed into juice. The other beautiful thing we do with them is freeze the juice by the dozens in ice-cube trays and add these pink cubes into our morning smoothies and blended drinks for the year. We make jams from the figs and flash freeze them to add into our smoothies also.



The last time we visited the blueberry farm, we were able to purchase 50 pounds at about $1 per pound (I will double the amount next time!). The timing was not perfect (we had overnight guests and family visiting at the moment). That is what is often the case but we must press on as the seasons do not wait for "me" to be ready. This is something my husband has to remind me of often! What to do with 50 pounds of blueberries? I placed the washed blueberries on cookie sheets in the freezer to flash freeze them. Once they were individually hardened, I placed them in freezer bags to be sprinkled into smoothies and cobblers. 


Another batch of blueberries were preserved into blueberry syrup for the pantry. This was my first time doing a fruit syrup of this nature and I was appalled at the waste. All those berries and time provided only 4 pints! And the residual of the syrup-making left me with a lot of pulp that I was apparently supposed to throw away. All I saw was dollars.... So, instead of doing my duty to "discard" as the recipe stated, I placed all the leftover blubbery pulp into mason jars to make shrubs (also known as sipping vinegar)*. These were popular in the colonial times as a way of preserving delicate fruits. They would add fruit, vinegar and sugar to bottles and drink them later on as a syrup. The rough estimate is 1 part fruit, 1 part sugar (honey could also be used though in reduced amounts as it is much stronger in flavor and sweeter) and 1 part vinegar (white vinegar will bring out the flavor of the fruit while apple cider vinegar is a more healthy option). I let these shrubs sit for about 3 - 4 days in the pantry and gave them a good shake once a day. Once the time was up, I strained them into bottles and we had deliciously, fruity, blueberry sodas to drink. Just pour the shrub over iced, sparkling water. This was a real treat as we do not purchase drinks.

* For more ideas on how to use up fruit scraps, visit here!


**I suppose that is a part of our frugal lifestyle that needs bringing up also. We serve water at most of our meals. It is quite cost effective :) When our goats are lactating, we can add milk to the menu or even chocolate milk (when you add a dash of cocoa powder and honey). The only other drink we enjoy is kombucha every evening. This is a very healthy and inexpensive drink if you manage to make your own.**

But back to the blueberry "soda" syrup... It added an extra enjoyment for everyone, it stretched the blueberries one step further and was still quite a frugal drink. The shrub will last a while in the fridge as vinegar and the sweeteners are both preserving ingredients. We usually keep a case of sparkling water on hand for these types of treats in the pantry. We will also use it with our frugal lemon peel syrup.


I also prepared and froze batches of blueberry pie filling. However,  I used half the amount of sugar (another way to save money and be healthier as most recipes call for too much sugar!). It was absolutely delicious! We will use this as pie filling, cobbler filling, crisp filling, over ice cream, over cheesecake and in turnovers. We will feel so very luxurious when enjoying all these wonderful things!

Frozen Blueberry Pie Filling (Recipe adapted from the Ball Blue Book, page 92)
  • 12 cups of blueberries
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar 
  • ¾ cup of cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp. grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice (I used my home canned lemon juice)
Wash and drain blueberries. Combine sugar and cornstarch in large stainless steel pot. Stir in berries and let stand until juice begins to flow (about an hour because I used less sugar). Stir occasionally during this time to release the juices of the berries. When time has elapsed, add lemon peel and lemon juice. Stir together and cook over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken. Ladle thickened pie filling into freezer containers (leaving 1/2 inch headspace to allow for expansion). When the filling has cooled to room temperature, seal, label and freeze.


I tried my hand one more time at dehydrating blueberries and I will do it no more. They came out once again like "mummified blueberries". But, the moral of the story here is that I did not toss those pathetic looking things away. I added them to our homemade granola (in lieu of the raisins) once the granola was finished and cooled (I dared not place the already over-dehydrated blueberries in to bake some more). They worked very well this way!


We also canned a dozen jars of blueberry jam and used the low-sugar pectin to make them. The fruit itself is so sweet, there really isn't any need for excess sweetener. 


And finally, when all the proper preparations had been made, our pantry is filled like that of the gourmet stores (think Harry & David or Williams-Sonoma)! Rows and rows of gleaming jars. It is quite a "shabby chic" venture to have these special preserves which were hand-crafted. We feel very "rich" and blessed to have these provisions for the year ahead.


I don't think anything mysterious was revealed here today. I just wanted to share how the seasons can bless the frugal farm lifestyle, how we must "make hay while the sun shines" and how there is beauty in the practical and everyday things around us. I hope you have a lovely week ladies! Until next time, yours truly, JES
All the fine print. This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sMonday's MusingsMake Your Home Sing MondayGood Morning Mondays,  The ScoopTitus 2 TuesdaysTuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersThe Homesteader HopWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays,  Coffee and ConversationHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeOur Simple HomesteadAwesome Life Friday Link UpFive Star Frou Frou Friday, and Shabbilicious Friday. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these. This post may contain affiliate links (which are merchant links that help to support this site at no additional cost to you if you purchase an item through them). Special thanks to Antique Images (for the first image) and The Graphics Fairy for the label.

43 comments:

  1. You always amaze me with all you do! Your posts are perfect, too. I am so impressed. So, do you drink the shrub straight or water it down?

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    1. You are too sweet Laura! If it makes you feel better, I do take a nap each day!!! :) Just pour the shrub over iced, sparkling water (so yes, it is diluted). Have a wonderful weekend!

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  2. Great post, entertaining and educational.
    And lovely to look at, YUM!

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment and encourage Tammy! Have a wonderful weekend :)

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  3. Thank you for sharing your wonderfully frugal lifestyle with us. I enjoyed every word and can relate in so many ways. Our home is furnished mostly from second-hand stores, garage sales, etc., and that has never bothered us as it just doesn't make sense to deplete the budget buying new things that probably aren't made as well as what we find elsewhere. Oh, I love your display of Lamplighter books! They are so beautiful. We have a modest collection of them, and they are highly prized in our home.
    We learned to make and drink shrubs when we volunteered several years at a local historical site. History is so fun when you can "experience" it. :)
    Hope you have a great weekend!

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    1. Thank you! I was fortunate enough to be able to build up a collection many moons ago (doing paperwork at home for dear dad's business and investing everything into the home library). It is also highly prized over here! :) Question about your shrubs, how long do you keep them out before you strain and bottle them?

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  4. My lots of work. Mama canned but not me.. It makes me nerves. I love blue berries. I have made litttle jar of jam when Ive boughten friuit and i need to do something with it so I do t waste it mama used to enjoy that. I have mixed fruits like blueberries necterines etc. I love the idea of tying some ribbon on a bunch of books and I like the covering idea too. Nice post. Thank you for sharing. I didnt realized you lived on a farm. Nice. Sometimes I have wished I lived on a small farm. Happy Fall, with love Janice

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    1. Nice hearing from you Janice! The book covers are fun to make and only take a minute of time! I am sure you would make some lovely ones! :)

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  5. I love your ideas! What beauty can be found in frugal ways and you have captured it. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  6. Wow, you've been busy! I add dehydrated blueberries to hubby's trail mix too. Just a future idea for the pulp, would the dehydrated pulp work in smoothies? (I don't drink them so don't really know???)

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    1. Perhaps from the juicer.... definitely something to try!! :)

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  7. Hi Jes!

    Your writing shows depth in your reading and applications to everyday life. The detail you provide is useful! Now you have introduced me to a 'shrub', and I am thinking of plant shrubs to remember this word! Thank you!!

    I relate very well to using practical items as decoration. At our place, this would be cooking pots and glass jars, at the moment! My interests in decorating are baskets; preserves and other pantry items; fresh produce; craft projects and firewood/kindling. Your books and lace work really well!

    Your grapes look wonderful, with so much potential for providing you with goodness. Now, I almost cringe to say this ..... I just asked my husband to recall what he knows about blueberry farming here in Australia. He said he once worked at a blueberry farm for one day, spraying. He was told to be very careful with the diluted spray. The story is that a worker somewhere had once been rushed to hospital after contact with spray concentrate on the lip, and didn't make it. Hence, we eat our own wild berries or go without. Funnily, our wild berries provide a real energy boost, and the plants are just coming up now, in our spring. Small portions make lovely French-style custard tartlets.

    Regards,
    Rachel Holt

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    1. Hi Rachel, Thank you for sharing! Glass jars are definitely on my list too!! You will see more about that in a future post! :) Baskets and cooking pots can also be beautiful decoration while being useful-- I couldn't agree more! We have planted our own berry plants but so far, no good results... I can't say I am surprised about the spraying... though of course it is agitating! This is why we rely a lot on what our farm is producing as I know that they are truly organic! Your French-style custard tartlets sound AMAZING my friend! Have a lovely weekend and thank you so much for stopping by :)

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  8. Your decoration style is very pretty!
    I hope one day to find the children's Bible Series for my children. Our old doctor's office had a couple of volumes and I always enjoyed reading to my daughter out of them (my son wasn't born yet at the time).
    Shabby chic looks beautiful.
    Blessings,
    Bibi

    http://simplesummit.blogspot.com/

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    1. Hi Bibi, I was able to find most of the volumes at second hand stores and filled in the blanks to fulfill the set with a few individual titles from Ebay. Keeping a list of the volumes you have of certain sets in your purse really helps to move things along. Happy fall to you! :)

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  9. I laughed at the dehydrating blueberry part! I did the exact same thing with raspberries last year.....even used them in our granola too. I'm loving this series of yours!!!

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    1. VERY good to know about raspberries!!! I certainly will not be dehydrating those in the future either my friend! :)

      Happy fall to you!

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  10. I love books and these ideas are neat. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Glad to meet a fellow-book-lover! Have a wonderful week Ramona! :)

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  11. Lovely post! I love decorating with books too!
    God bless
    Mrs.O

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs. O. Have a lovely weekend :)

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  12. I enjoyed both the books and the lovely covers! Thank you for sharing them!

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    1. You are most welcome! Have a wonderful weekend! :)

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  13. Jes,
    What a great post! Love the books!
    Thanks so much for stopping by!
    Hugs,
    Debbie

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    1. It was my pleasure! Have a wonderful weekend Debbie! :)

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  14. Dear JES,
    I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and look forward to each new post! I am also looking forward to your eBook and I'm so glad you were inspired to write it. I think a lot of us can relate to the need or desire to live frugally and you show how much of a joy it can truly be. I think there is so much satisfaction in it!
    I love your practical decorating ideas. We use books too, but now I will think about making covers for a few to change out seasonally.
    I had the same results with dehydrating cranberries. They are still in my pantry as I just couldn't throw them away! Thanks for the idea to add them to granola!
    I hope you have a lovely weekend!
    With love, Kelsey

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement Kelsey! I am glad you are enjoying the series! And it seems from the other ladies that those small berries are just not the best to dehydrate! Well, thank goodness for good old granola :) I like your idea of decorating the books seasonally! I can see a small pinecone nestled around a bundle with twine in the winter! And perhaps a leaf for fall and so on, also! Thank you for stopping by and have a wonderful weekend!

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  15. Our primary means of decoration is also books! And we have the very same blue Bible Story book set by Arthur Maxwell--wonderful books for our children!!! Thank you for your lovely post!

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    1. Wonderful! It is so fun to hear of others who are preserving the idea of a home library in this electronic age! Thank you for sharing here today! :)

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  16. Dear Jes, this is just lovely. My home library is precious and I will never part with my 'real' books, so this really calls to me. I do hope you'll come and share at the Five Star Frou-Frou neverending linkup so I can feature this post. Love, Mimi xxx

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    1. Thank you Mimi! Glad you feel the same way about books! There is nothing like a good hardcover in the hands... :)

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  17. I had to chuckle at your title after my son and I spent this afternoon reading books and snacking on the frozen blueberries we picked earlier this summer. :)

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    1. Oh my! Are you fortunate enough to have blueberries bushes on your property???

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  18. Such beautiful ways you showcase your books! I'm an avid reader and have books in every room of my home, but they don't look as pretty as yours. :) Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Ah, thank you Lisa! Have a wonderful week!

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  19. I just love the style of your blog! It's so refreshing to read, and a treat for my eyes! I hadn't heard of a shrub. I'll have to try that sometime. It sounds like it could almost be medicinal when one has a cold.

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    1. Dear Michelle, glad you have found us and thank you for taking the time to leave such a kind comment! Shrubs are fun to make and can be medicinal, especially if using apple cider vinegar and honey! :) Have a lovely week!

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  20. Oh, yum! Blueberries are our favorite. My youngest has a handful every morning. Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!

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  21. This post featured at A Tray of Bliss today Jes! Mimi xxx

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