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Friday Favorite: Color in the Garden

April 25th, 2014

The grass is just starting to turn green, but brown is still the dominant color in the garden.  I’m always happy to see the Johnny Jump Ups blooming, they’re such a cheery sight even when things are still brown.
color in the garden
They’re edible as well, so when the salad greens are ready to harvest I’ll be harvesting these little beauties to add color to our meals.

What’s the first thing to bloom in your garden?

Ornamentals for the Garden

April 24th, 2014

It’s finally time to start adding a few ornamentals to the garden. I’ve finally lived through an entire gardening year here, watching where the water runs and pools, watching where the sun rises and falls and taking note of where the wind comes from. I’m finally starting to add ornamental plants.
new plants 1
I purchased two ‘Anabelle’ hydrangeas, this variety is my all time favorite flowering shrub. I also purchased a ‘Limelight’ hydrangea which is another one of my favorites. Both of these varieties of hydrangeas produce food for pollinators. Back in Ohio I had one type of beetle that loved my ‘Annabelle’ blossoms. I never saw it on any other plant.
new plants 2
I also purchased a climbing hydrangea, which I have wanted to add to my garden for many years. Right now I’m trying to decide which part of the house I want to have it climb, I’m thinking perhaps on one of the walls of the back porch. A lovely clematis ‘Alpina’ also made it into my basket, along with a false indigo. Most of these will go in a few flowerbed I’m adding up by the garage.
new plants 3
Yesterday I headed out to one of the local greenhouses and purchased a few of my favorite plants that I had to leave behind in Ohio. Plants aren’t cheap, thankfully I have a lot of starts from plants from my previous garden and I can get a lot from my mom as well. I did have to purchase a few replacements. I usually don’t mind spending money on plants, I know they’ll last in the garden and give me years of joy.

What’s your favorite ornamental shrub?

Get Those Hands Dirty

April 23rd, 2014

When I first started gardening I didn’t like to get my hands dirty.  Granted, I have sensory issues, so there are lots of things I have a hard time doing, gardening without gloves was one of them.  I’m working on this and I garden more and more without gloves.  Unless I’m digging for a long time and using long handled gardening tools I will often not wear gloves.
dirty fingers 1
dirty fingers 2
Getting your hands dirty gives gardening a whole new dimension.  It also gives you a much better feel for your soil – the moisture level, composition, etc. I highly recommend gardening with gloves at least every now and then.

Do you wear gardening gloves?

Here We Grow Again

April 22nd, 2014

I’ve spent a lot of time this past week expanding the little potager behind the house.
back potager
back potager (1)
Last fall I laid down cardboard around the permitter and topped it with compost. I’m working on smothering ridding the garden of it’s couch grass infestation. One of the ways to do that is to keep the grass mown short around the garden. The problem is, two sides of the garden are difficult to mow because they are so steep.
potager expansion 1
potager expansion 2
I’m planning on digging the soil back a bit and building a rock wall to level the garden and keep the soil in place. It’s a BIG task, but I’m up for the challenge. Before all this can be completed I’m trying to keep the majority of the couch grass that’s in this location. In the are that the grass was smothered, I’m digging up buckets and buckets of rhizomes. In the area that is still in sod, I’m turning it over and the chickens are scratching it up exposing the roots.
expanding the potager 1
As a result I’m adding roughly 400 more square feet of gardening space. Most of this will be take up with rock walls and hedges. One of the reasons for expansion is to plant a few low windbreak hedges to protect the plants within the garden.
expanding the potager 2
In the next few weeks I’m hoping to get Mr Chiots in there with his tractor to dig down for the base of the rock walls. I may have a strong back, but that’s not something I want to do with my shovel.

Any garden expansion happening outside your window?

Celebrating Our Pigs

April 21st, 2014

Yesterday we celebrated Easter with our neighbors and their family.  Both of our families are a long ways away in Ohio, so we are thankful to be included in their celebration.  This year, we provided the ham, which came from one of our pigs.
pigs
Since we slaughtered them ourselves here on the farm, I was in charge of curing the hams myself, which was a little scary to say the last. I used the Cider Cured Ham recipe from the The River Cottage Meat Book. Our hams all weighed in at 25lbs or higher (our scale only went to 25 lbs and some topped it off).
pig butchery 5
It’s been hanging on our back porch since I took it out of the brine back in January (one went into the freezer for later). We took it out and boiled it on Saturday night for a few hours to reduce the saltiness, then we coated it with brown sugar and cider reduction and hot smoked it for 4 hours with apple and cherry wood. Needless to say, it was AMAZING. If you’re lucky enough to raise and slaughter your own pigs, I highly recommend this recipe, it’s not cheap, but it’s FANTASTIC and so easy.
easter ham (1)
We were super nervous as we took the ham to it’s final destination. I had never cured a ham before, we had never smoked a ham before, we had no idea what it would taste like. The yearly Easter meal isn’t really one you want to mess up with a bad ham. We had faith in the recipe, but were still nervous. That was until Mr Chiots tried the first bite when they were carving it.  Needless to say, it was a hit and I’ll definitely be using this recipe for future hams.  We’re scheduled to pick up piglets in about a month.

Do you celebrate Easter? What foods do you use to celebrate?

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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 moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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