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Quote of the Day: Henry David Thoreau

February 28th, 2010

Nature will bear the closest inspection.
She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf,
and take an insect view of its plain.

-Henry David Thoreau


I love this quote and thought about it when I was taking a few photos the other day. I had to add this quote to one of the photos, it was a little to small to show up well here and be easy to read so I put it on Flick – check it out.

I have a small fig tree that I’m overwintering in the basement. It was dormant for a few months, but it’s starting to wake up for the season. It has beautiful little leaves that have emerged from the buds, they’re so beautiful! They’re tiny at the moment, only about an inch tall, but so intricate in detail. Plant are truly amazing things! I’m always amazed at the tiny new leaves that appear when plants are coming out of dormancy.

What’s most amazing to you about plants?

Shelf Life of Seeds

February 27th, 2010

After receiving a few questions about the shelf life of various seeds I figured I’d research a bit and come up with a list for you for you. Obviously different kinds of seeds have a different shelf life. Other things come into play as well, like humidity and temperature. You want to create the best possible environment for your seeds to have optimum shelf life. The garage or garden shed wouldn’t be the best storage place, unlike all the lovely magazine photos show.

There are a few things you can do to help increase the shelf life of your seeds. Keep them in a cool place, about 50 degrees and keep the humidity lower than 50%. One way to help with the humidity is to keep some of those little silica packs from purchasing shoes/bags in your seed box/jar. Some people choose to store their seeds in the fridge or freezer. I have read that storing in the fridge can double the shelf life and storing in the freezer can extend shelf life by 4-5 times. I’m thinking of making a little seed vault with a few varieties of seeds and stashing it in my freezer in a vacuum sealed bag, more about that later.

The seeds with the shortest shelf life are: onions, beans, peas, corn, grains. The ones with the longest shelf life are:
Brassicaceae (cruciferous family) broccoli, cabbage, radish
Solanaceae (nightshade family) tomatoes, peppers, eggplant
Cucurbitaceae (melon family) zucchini, watermelon, pumpkin


I have noticed that onions seeds lose about 50% germination by the second year and peas seem to lose germination rates quickly as well. It’s a good strategy to use most of those up each year or store them in the freezer when you’re not planting. Tomato seeds seem to last forever, I’ve never had trouble with reduced germination on tomatoes even with seed older than 5 years old.

Have you ever noticed changes in seed germination from improper storage or older seeds?

Organizing the Seed Stash

February 26th, 2010

I finally settled on a method to organize the seed stash I’ve acquired over the past couple years. There were tons of great suggestions when I posted about it earlier this week. I found this nice metal box in the attic and a few empty folders in the office. After spending the afternoon cutting and labeling I’m just about done taming all the little envelopes of seeds.

I cut each folder in half and then trimmed to fit my box. This made them the perfect size for the small metal box. I organized the seed by type and planting season. So I have early spring greens, summer greens, and fall greens, etc. I printed out a list for the front of each file listing the contents and where they were acquired. I’ll be able to see at a glance what’s inside each folder. I also left space for noting date of sowing and extra info.

This should help greatly in my efforts to find specific seeds when I need them. No more sorting through the entire box of seeds to find the one pack I need that always seemed to be at the bottom. Finishing this task also made my seed ordering much easier and saved me from accidentally ordering some seeds I already had, but had forgotten about. Now that I’ve got the seeds under control, I need to think about starting a journal to keep track of the specific things I grow so I know what works well in my area/garden.

Do you keep a journal of the things you grow for future reference?

Planning My 2010 Tomato List

February 25th, 2010

If you were reading this blog last year about this time you’ll remember that I grew around 25 different varieties of tomatoes last summer (here’s the list). I had great intentions of doing photos post reviews of each kind, but I got too busy in the garden tending that many plants to have time to make the posts.

This year I’m trying to keep my list at about 10-12 different varieties. I’ll be growing San Marzano for sure, these will be my main canning tomato. Principe Borghese will be grown at Chiot’s Run until I can no longer garden. They’re most wonderful little tomatoes to dry and add to just about any meal.

I’ll be growing another variety or two of paste tomato, I haven’t decided on the variety yet (any suggestions). Of course I’ll be growing a few eating tomatoes for eating fresh off the vine: a Brandywine variety (perhaps pink), Cherokee Purple, Sub-Arctic and Silvery Fir Tree (which will be new to the garden this year).

I could grow the same tomatoes year after year, but with so many wonderful heirloom varieties out there I want to try as many as I can. I’m going to try to add a few new varieties each year. I would like to try a current type tomato and a cherry since they ripen early and provide that fresh from the garden tomato so much earlier than the bigger varieties. I’ve been leafing through catalogs trying to nail down what kinds I’d like to try. I really need to buy The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit to keep as a reference when I’m trying to decide what kinds of heirloom tomatoes to grow each year.

Have you narrowed down your list of tomatoes for 2010? What kinds are you growing?

Making Colombian Empanadas

February 24th, 2010

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ve heard that I grew up in Colombia, South America. I really enjoy Colombian cuisine and Mr Chiots has grown to love it as well. One of our favorites is Empanadas. Empanadas are eaten in many Latin American countries, and each country has their specialty, as does each region within each country. I grew up in the prairie region of Colombia so I make mine the way they do there. I use areparina for the crust which is pre-cooked corn flour, I can’t find it locally so my dad brings it to me when he travels back from Colombia. In many other countries empanadas are made with a pie crust type dough, or a potato dough.

Traditionally the empanadas in the prairie region of Colombia are filled with ground beef and rice or chicken and rice. Typically they’re not super seasoned, but they’re eaten with a spicy aji which is a blend of cilantro, green onion, vinegar, salt, pepper and hot peppers. I generally make mine with beef and it’s fairly spicy with toasted cumin seeds, coriander and a lot of red pepper. They’re usually fried or baked, I prefer to bake mine. I mix some shortening in the dough which makes them nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Since I can’t get the crust mix often, these are a real treat for us. They grace our table a few times a year. Last week I made a big batch with some of Mr Chiot’s venison. These are the ultimate Colombian comfort food, definitely one of my favorites.

What’s your favorite ethnic dish?

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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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