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Gardening Quote: Thomas Jefferson

January 31st, 2009

“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to it’s liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.”

-Thomas Jefferson

Monticello Vegetable Garden
Monticello Gardens and Pavilion by Mr T in DC

Anyone ever visited Monticello? It’s one of those places I would love to visit but haven’t had the chance.

Adding Asparagus

January 30th, 2009

I’m hoping to add a few new things to the edible gardens this summer here at Chiot’s Run. The one I am most excited about is the asparagus patch. I know asparagus takes up a lot of space, which is at a premium here, but I really love it so it’s worth the space. Asparagus is a long lived plant, so once you put in a patch it will produce for many many years. I have slightly acidic soil which isn’t the best for an asparagus patch, but since I’m planning on giving them a raised bed of their own I shouldn’t have any trouble.
asparagus
I’ve been leafing through a few catalogs trying to decide which kind to purchase and where to install the dedicated asparagus bed. I’m considering Nourse Farms, I ordered my blueberry and strawberry plants from them last year and was very impressed with the quality of plants and the shipping. They don’t have heirloom asparagus, I can get those here if I decide to go that route.

Anyone have any great suggestions for types or where to order from? or tips & tricks for growing great asparagus?

Chiot’s Run on Ice

January 29th, 2009

We’re snowed in here at Chiot’s Run, actually iced in. We had quite a winter snow/ice storm yesterday. It’s all quite beautiful and I’m glad I don’t have to go out and about (we work from home). Mr Chiot’s snapped a few photos while outside clearing off the driveway. For those of you who live in the north, I’m sure it’s the same thing you’re seeing. For those of you in the south, enjoy.
bird-house-with-icicles
ice-on-branch
bird-feeder-in-ice
icicles-on-railing
pinky-winky-hydrangea-in-ice
watering-can-on-fence-with-ice
ice-storm

Are you seeing the same thing? or are you enjoying an icy beverage in the sun?

Another Reason to Go Local

January 28th, 2009

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time you know I’m a dedicated localvore. I try to eat as locally as possibly for health, economic, and environmental reasons. The main reason we eat locally is for our health and safety. When you read about tomatoes, spinach, peppers, some peanut butter is tainted with salmonella, and that high fructose corn syrup contains mercury, it makes you really want to know where your food is coming from. I’m surprised more and more people aren’t searching out locally grown and raised products the more we hear about tainted food.
peanut-butter-on-knife
I know that the peanut butter I grind at the health food store isn’t tainted with salmonella. I know that the peppers and tomatoes I pick in my garden aren’t full of bacteria or pesticides either. I know that the pastured beef and chicken from my local farm are not filled with hormones, chemicals, antibiotics and other weird stuff.
basket-of-tomatoes1
Daphne Miller, MD is a family physician and associate professor at the University of California San Francisco, she wrote this great article on Civil Eats. Give it a read, I’m sure you’ll be heading to the health food store for your next jar of freshly ground peanut butter! Here’s a quick quote from her article:

Who knows. Perhaps this latest outbreak of salmonella, along with a will for change, is finally the catalyst we need. We will become a much healthier nation if our community health programs and community food systems team up, if our family doctors and family farmers link arms and, most importantly, if the two Toms, our Secretary of Health and our Secretary of Agriculture, take each other out for lunch and discuss ways to collaborate—hold the chicken satay, please.

Do salmonella outbreaks make you consider eating more locally or growing your own? If you already eat locally or grow your own, what are your reasons?

For our Fine Feathered Friends

January 27th, 2009

We feed the birds in the winter here at Chiot’s Run. In the summer only the hummingbirds get free food, but we have plenty to eat around here with all the plants and bugs in the summer for the other birds. In the fall I made sure I leave the seed heads on all of my flowers because the birds eat those. But in the winter, we make sure that we feed our little feathered friends.
white-bird-feeder
We feed them because we enjoy watching them (as do the cats). With so little else going on in the garden during the winter, it’s nice to be able to look outside and see signs of life.
small-birdfeeder
We also feed them to keep them healthy. As they lose their habitat due to logging and urban sprawl they are often lacking food sources; so they are in need of a little help, especially in the cold winter months. Birds are great pest control in the gardens, so we want them here at Chiot’s Run. They naturally prey on insects like mosquitoes, cabbage worms, and other pests.
chikadee-at-feeder

During cold snaps, you will almost certainly notice more birds coming into your garden to seek sanctuary from the harsher environment in the countryside – particularly if you provide food on a regular basis. The variety of species may increase too and you may be lucky enough to attract unusual visitors.

Finding a regular source of high-energy food such as a garden feeding station is the equivalent of winning the lottery for wild birds and a well-stocked garden is a real lifesaver.

Birds will become dependent on the food you supply, so it is important to make sure your feeders are kept topped up to prevent them from having a wasted visit. Providing a fresh, ice-free supply of water is another cold weather essential – drinking and bathing is a vital part of the daily routine of birds.

You may well witness a flurry of bird activity first thing in the morning – as they replenish energy lost overnight – and last thing in the afternoon – to prepare for the long night ahead.

The smallest birds, like blue tits and goldcrests, have to effectively feed throughout the hours of daylight in winter and consume a vast quantity of food – as much as 30% of their body weight – to make sure they build the necessary fat reserves to get them through the long, cold nights.

suet-cake
We provide a few different kinds of food for various birds in our area. We have a finch feeder full of nyjer seed, 1 feeder with a bird seed mix, 1 feeder full of black sunflower seeds, and a suet cake feeder for the woodpeckers. We also provide fresh water for our feathered friends with a heated bird bath.
heated-bird-bath
Our bird feeders not only attract birds but also other animals like rabbits, opossums, and the cunning squirrel. We actually have 3 different kinds of squirrels that attempt to get into our bird feeders.
opossum-at-bird-feeder
We don’t mind the rabbits and the opossums because they just eat off of the ground underneath the feeders. But the squirrels get in the feeder and empty it rather quickly. So we try to keep them away.
squirrel-on-birdfeeder
So how do we keep these little furry thieves out of our bird feeders? With hot peppers, I mix hot sauce with some oil and coat my bird seed with it. Works like a charm!

So do you feed your fine feathered friends?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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