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Feed the Birds

January 31st, 2010

We have a bird oasis in our side yard. We love feeding the birds because it gives us something interesting to look at all winter long. We have 3 bird feeders and a heated birdbath.


I buy big 50 lb bags of birdseed and black oil sunflower seeds at the local farm store to keep our feathered friends fed all winter long. We also put out suet for all the woodpeckers and clinging birds.

We enjoy seeing all the different kinds of birds that come to our feeders. We have a bird identification book that we use to identify any new birds we see. Here are a few of them.

We also have blue jays, mourning doves, black-capped chickadees, house wrens, house sparrows, rufous-sided towhees, goldfinches, purple finches, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, and the occasional pileated woodpecker. And of course we have tons of the Ohio State bird, the cardinal.

Feeding the birds not only gives us something interesting to do during the winter, but it helps the birds stay strong and healthy through the cold winter months. We’ve noticed that since we started feeding them, we have more birds in the gardens in the summer. I had more wrens last year than any previous year and they keep all the cabbage worms off of my brassicas. I’ll keep feeding my little feathered friends and providing them with nice homes to keep them happy.

Do you feed the birds during the winter?

Quote of Day: Little House in the Big Woods

January 30th, 2010

Now the winter seemed long. Laura and Mary began to be tired of staying always in the house.

Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House in the Big Woods)



Winter is starting to seem long to me. We had a nice sunny warm day last week and it seemed like spring was on it’s way. We went for a nice long walk to enjoy the weather. This week we got a bunch more snow and the temps are back down into the single digits. I know we still have many more long weeks of winter, but I start getting antsy for spring once we have one nice day. Since I haven’t ordered any of my seeds yet, I should be thankful we still have so much winter left. I’ll be doing that next week after I get my taxes finished.

Do you tire of being in the house during the cold winter months?

Snug as Bugs

January 29th, 2010

We’ve been keeping an ear to our ladies this winter. Mr Chiots heads out after each snow fall and makes sure the doors are clear of snow and he scrapes away and dead bees from the entrance. He puts his ear up the hives and listens for that buzzing of bees beating their wings to keep warm. Both of our hives are still buzzing away, one’s louder than the other.

During winter, the worker bees cluster around the queen and brood in the hive. They try to keep the temperature at about 90 degrees. The bees from the outer parts of the cluster will move to the inside as the bees from the inside move out. This way all the bees stay warm throughout the cold winter. On warmer days they’ll take cleansing flights, basically to go to the bathroom. We haven’t had any days warm enough for such flights yet, but we may have one in the next few weeks. We’ll be watching the hives to see what happens come spring.

We’re hoping to have a good honey harvest this coming summer if both of our hives survive. Learning how bees work really makes me appreciate the honey I put in my tea, it’s amazing what they go through to make it!

What kind of foods do you appreciate that take such intricacy to produce?

I’ll Take a Tall Stack

January 28th, 2010

During the long cold winter months here in NE Ohio, it’s futile to think about gardening all the time! There are still many long months of cold and snow left (they’re predicting a few inches overnight). To keep myself from going crazy, I spend my winter months learning to do new things. I finally mastered sourdough bread, so now I’m learning to use sourdough in places besides bread, like muffins and pancakes. One reason I like sourdough is because the grains are soaked overnight, this is supposed to make them easier to digest and much more nutritious. On Tuesday morning I finally made my first batch of sourdough pancakes and they were a HUGE hit.

I used the basic recipe from Mother Earth News and amended it to suit my tastes. I used my sourdough starter and some freshly ground whole wheat flour, along with some buttermilk leftover from my butter making, eggs from the local farm. We topped them with some homemade butter and some local maple syrup (soon enough we’ll have our own maple syrup).

Sourdough Pancakes

1 cup sourdough starter* (I like to use recently fed starter)
1 cup water or buttermilk (I’ve made both and much prefer buttermilk)
1 cup flour (I used 100% whole wheat freshly ground)

In a large bowl, mix these 3 ingredients just until combined (don’t over mix) and let stand overnight. I use raw milk buttermilk in mine and it doesn’t bother me to let it sit out overnight, it has beneficial bacteria in it, so I don’t worry about the milk going bad. *I feed my starter white flour, so my pancakes were half whole wheat.

2 eggs
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or butter (allow to cool slightly)
1 tablespoon of sugar (or 1 tablespoon of honey)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
vanilla & cinnamon to taste if desired
*you can add a few Tablespoons of powdered milk if you used water in your starter above instead of using buttermilk

The next morning, sprinkle sugar, salt and baking soda over the starter sponge you made the night before (I always put my baking soda through a screen to get rid of any lumps). Whisk egg and butter or coconut oil together then add to sponge mix. Add additional buttermilk if the sponge mix seems to thick for pancake batter (depends on whether you like thick or thin pancakes, this batter is slightly thicker than normal). Mix until combined and allow to sit for 30 minutes before making pancakes.

Drop batter by quarter cups on a buttered, preheated cast iron pan. Cook pancakes until golden brown on both sides, flipping them once only when tops are bubbly and edges look like they’re starting to dry (I guess you know how to do this so I don’t need to explain it too much).

Some of the recipes I’ve read don’t use baking soda, I’ll be making a batch soon without. I hear that it helps reduce the sourness of the pancakes, so if you’re pancakes are too sour, add another half teaspoon of baking soda. Next batch I’ll try making without any baking soda to see how sour they are and how well they raise.

Mr Chiots loved these pancakes, he said they were the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever made. One great thing about soaking the whole wheat overnight is that it reduces the bitterness of the whole wheat. I must agree, these didn’t taste like they had as much whole wheat in them as they did. I’ll try making some buckwheat pancakes soon as well. I’m not as huge a fan of buckwheat as I am whole grain or oatmeal pancakes.

What’s your favorite kind of pancake?

Enjoying all my Hard Work

January 27th, 2010


When I read this quote in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine a while back I loved it. It’s so true that home canned tomatoes are like opening up a jar of summer. Yesterday I cracked open 6 pints of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes to make some sauce. All these wonderful tomatoey meals in the winter make all the hard work growing and canning tomatoes worth it!

I think if I could only preserve one thing from the garden to eat in the winter I’d choose tomatoes.

What would you choose?

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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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