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Dreams Bigger than My Garden

April 30th, 2012

Sometimes, when you make a seed or plant order you forget how small your garden is. This seems to have happened when I made my seed potato order. The box arrived last Friday and I couldn’t believe how many potatoes were inside. Thankfully I have space in my mom’s garden to plant a few of these and I’ll have a spot cleared out soon when I cut my overwintered cover crop. I will plant some of my potatoes now and save some of the long keepers to plant mid-June for a late fall harvest.

This order came from The Maine Potato Lady and I have a bag or organic Kennebec (my favorite potato) from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I ordered from Maine Potato Lady because she had Katahdin, which I really wanted to try this year. When I looked though all the varieties available, I just had to try some new ones alongside some old favorites (like fingerling potatoes). Which kinds did I get? (descriptions from Maine Potato Lady Website)

Kennebec - my personal favorite long storage all purpose potato. These potatoes fry up like a dream, and since most of our potatoes are eaten fried for breakfast, this tops my list!

Katahdin – Still very popular here in the Northeast, this old standard has been around since 1932. Flat to round tubers with smooth buff skin and white flesh. High yielding and drought resistant; adaptable to many growing conditions. One of the best for any of your winter soups. Excellent storage. Numerous light purple flowers on large spreading plants.

German Butterball -This is my favorite potato, a round to oblong tuber with lightly netted golden skin that wraps around deep yellow flesh. Slightly mealy, this beauty is superb for everything – frying, baking, mashing, soups – you name it. Resistant to scab and viruses; some field resistance to late blight, but susceptible to rhizoctonia. Large upright vigorous plant with white blossoms.

Dark Red Norland -Customers sometimes ask, “What should I choose for early spuds that steam up well?” I always recommend Dark Red Norland; it’s easy to grow with consistent yields of beautiful round red tubers from large to small. Steam or boil some of these babies for those first early meals straight from the garden. Resistant to scab; fair storage. Purplish-blue flowers on a medium-sized plant.

Mountain Rose – With red skin and red flesh, this new release from Colorado joins Purple Majesty in being very high in antioxidants. Developed from All Red and a white-fleshed chipping variety, Mountain Rose shows good promise as a specialty variety for chefs and market gardeners. A moist but not waxy texture makes it suitable for most uses. Early to medium maturity and high yields. Resistant to second growth, hollow heart, shatter bruise, and some viruses. Slightly susceptible to fusarium dry rot. Semi-erect plants with reddish-purple flowers.

Purple Viking – Truly a beautiful potato, with deep purple skin dappled with pink splashes and stripes. Bright white and creamy-good, the flesh bakes or mashes perfectly. This variety produces what we call “lunkers”, large oversize potatoes, so plant close (8”-10”) to control size. Small-to-medium spreading plant has some resistance to leafhoppers.

La Ratta Fingerling – From France comes this special fingerling. In appearance Laratte is similar to Banana, though a fine net to the tan skin and a nutty flavor to the dark yellow flesh set it apart. Smooth and firm texture. The babies (1/2”-1”) truly melt in your mouth. Fine chefs love this gourmet morsel, and the demand is high. Matures about ten days later than Banana. Resistant to scab and viruses. White flowers top medium-sized plants.

Red Thumb – Dug as small “babies,” these bright red-skinned thumbs of delicacy have beautiful dark pink flesh. Pleasing flavor and firm flesh is perfect for roasting in olive oil and rosemary, then caramelizing. Serve with your favorite steak and salad. An interesting fingerling for the specialty market. Very productive small- to medium-sized plant.

I certainly can’t wait to try a few of these new varieties. We just finished off the last of our homegrown potatoes a week or so ago so it will quite a while till potatoes grace our plates unless I find some at Local Roots. Some year I want to experiment with early planting in a low tunnel and with luck, I’d be harvesting some new potatoes right about the time the ones from the pantry are gone.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy a potato?

I have curated a list of seed potato sources, if you’re interested head on over & check it out. Want to know more about growing your own potatoes? Head on over to the Your Day blog at Ethel to read my in depth article on growing your own potatoes.

Quote of the Day: Dalai Lama

April 29th, 2012

“Cleansing your environment is a ritual means of also cleansing your mind”

Dalai Lama
(found in The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty)


I feel this way about weeding, for me, there’s nothing as clearing to the mind as spending some time in the garden putting weeds.

What task do you find helps cleanse your mind the best?

Historic Zoar Homeschool Days

April 28th, 2012

Yesterday I met my sister and my nieces/nephew down in Historic Zoar Village for their homeschool days. The kids had a great time and really enjoyed the educational exhibits. The blacksmith shop was a huge hit, the kids were especially interested in that process (probably since there was fire involved). They also visited the wagon shop, the bakery, the garden center, the historic center and the dairy. Here are some of the things we saw:















The kids especially loved the hands on nature of the day, they got to use their hands for: kneading bread, wool rug hooking, using a manual lathe, making bird seed pine cones and so much more (head on over to Flickr for more photos of the day). Zoar has so many wonderful festivals and interesting things going on throughout the year, they also offer classes on everything from blacksmithing to weaving. Behind the Fences is their annual garden which I’d love attend, but I always seem to be booked for the date and haven’t been able to make it. Someday perhaps, I’ll just head down to walk around the town looking at the lovely gardens.

If you had to pick a manual trade to do for the rest of your life which would it be? I’m pretty sure you know mine would be gardening, though baking would come in a close second.

Friday Favorite: For the Birds

April 27th, 2012

We love the birds that frequent the gardens of Chiot’s Run. I love watching them at the birdfeeder in winter, flitting around the gardens and nesting in the trees and birdhouses. Earlier this week I heard Mr Wren singing beautiful songs to me while I was out working and was happy to hear that he’s back. He’s already checking out the wren houses and will start building his nests, hoping one of them will attract a lovely lady wren.

The longer I garden here the more birds I see, not only in number but in variety as well. Birds aren’t just a pretty face in the garden, they provide valuable pest control. The more birds I have in my garden, the fewer pest problems I have. Wrens are especially great for cabbage worms, here at Chiot’s Run their broods hatch just about the time the cabbage worms are at their worst. Soon enough there are no cabbage worms in sight!

Another great thing about having lots of birds around is that you get to see them building nests and you get to watch the baby birds grow up and fledge. We have a robin that built a nest by our rain barrels the first year we put them up. They’ve come back to it every single year. I can’t get up and see the eggs, there’s not enough room, but I can spy the baby robins when they start to get big enough to barely fit in the nest.


We also have chickadees, hummingbirds, cardinals, finches, woodpeckers, and a few other varieties of birds that nest around here. Every year we see something new.

If you want to attract more birds to your garden there are a few things you can do:

*Don’t clean up your flowerbeds in the fall, allow seed producing plants to stand, this provides valuable food for the birds.

*When you want to add plants to your garden, focus on adding those that provide berries or seeds. For example, if you want a shrub rose, consider using ‘Rosa Rugosa’ which bloom beautifully, are very hardy and provide plentiful large hips in the fall for the birds.

*Add a source of clean water like a bird bath and refresh water regularly.

If I had to choose a favorite bird it would be the wren. I really love the male’s lovely song, I love watching them scurry around the garden gathering worms for their young and I especially love that they get used to me and will come almost right up next to me while I’m working and they’ll let me stand very close while feeding their young.

What’s your favorite bird to see in the garden?

If you want to read a little more about how to attract birds to your garden I did a whole series of posts about attracting and keeping birds in your garden, head on over to the Your Day Blog to read For Our Feathered Friends

Non-Toxic Window Cleaning

April 26th, 2012

Cleaning windows is one of those things that can drive you CRAZY. You scrub, wipe, polish, buff and then the sun comes out and there are STREAKS. What to do, what to do. This alone can make people who normally use non-toxic cleaners to resort to that blue stuff.

Like anything else, the more often you clean your windows the easier and quicker they will be to clean and the fewer problems with streaks you will have. The streaks are usually caused not by dirt, but by oily deposits on the glass, mostly from VOC’s. You’ve probably heard that indoor air is usually more polluted than the air outside and the reason is VOC’s. They come from just about everything in your home, the couch, mattress, fabrics, furniture, carpet, paint, detergents, cleaners, adhesives, cooking, etc. These collect on the glass and can be difficult to get off. One of the best ways to help keep the windows clean is to get rid of the some of the VOC’s.

Houseplants are one of the best ways (here’s my post on that topic),but there are some other things you can do: use non-toxic cleaners, use exhaust fans when cleaning and cooking, let new items off gas in garage or outdoors before bringing them in (if it smells “new” it’s off gassing VOC’s), don’t use air fresheners or burn candles, and open up those windows and let some fresh air inside! Another place those streaks come from is the rags that you’re using to clean, if you use fabric softener or detergent with fragrance, then your rags will most likely leave streaks.

Usually I just use cotton rags for cleaning my windows. I’ve tried using a squeegee before and didn’t like it. For this series however, I purchased one of the best rated scrubber and squeegee sets to cover all my bases. I must say, spending the extra money for a the right tool makes the job go so much faster and let’s face it, we’re more likely the clean our windows monthly if it only takes a few minutes! The one I got was the Ettore Steccone Products 65000 Progrip Window Cleaning Kit. I like it so much I’m going to be buying the handle extension and will be using it often.


So, how do I clean the windows here? I mixed about a quarter cup of my citrus infused vinegar with about 6 cups of hot water in a bucket. Then I dipped in my window scrubber in, squeezed out most of the water and scrubbed the windows. Next I squeegeed off the water, wiping my squeegee with a towel after each pass. Finally, I used a microfiber to clean up any bit of water left around the edges. It took less than a minute to do each window.


If your windows are super dirty you might want to add a squirt of castile in with your water, just a small amount, about a quarter teaspoon. I found that the citrus oil from the infused vinegar did just fine and I didn’t need any soap. If you don’t have a window scrubber, simply mix water and vinegar in a spray bottle, spray on windows and wipe off with clean cotton rags or old socks. If your windows are really dirty you might need to use a few rags, using dirty rags will also cause streaks! If you wipe in one direction (up/down) when cleaning the inside and the opposite (side/side) when cleaning the outside, you’ll know exactly where your streaks are if you have any.

If you do notice streaks, a microfiber towel will usually work to buff them off, turn towel regularly. A small squirt of vinegar will sometimes make it easier to buff off the streaks (not too much vinegar though a few drops usually works). Sometimes, if your windows are pretty dirty you might need to scrub them twice (which is a great reminder to do them more often). I find that cleaning mine once a month is the right frequency so that they never get that dirty, I don’t get too much dirt build up and it takes only a few quick wipes to clean them again. If I wait 2 or 3 months it takes much, much longer to clean them. Try to come up with a schedule, I generally clean my windows around the first of the month.

Of course when you have pets you’ll never have clean windows. As soon as you clean them the pets start sliming them up again so “clean” is a relative term around here when it come to windows here at Chiot’s Run (once a month they’re clean).

How often do you clean your windows? Any tip/tricks to share?

NON-TOXIC CLEANING SERIES
Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Homemade Whitening Scouring Scrub
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
and more to come

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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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