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Lovely Lavender

August 11th, 2016

At the beginning of July I stopped at Glendarragh Lavender Farm in the next town over. I needed to get both fresh and dried lavender to make infusions with jojoba for a blog post on The Jojoba Company’s website. The air was thick with the smell of lavender, it was quite amazing. It’s a wonder I didn’t sleep on the way home with all that lavender in my car. As far as herbs, lavender isn’t my favorite for scent, but it has been growing on me, especially the fresh lavender I got from the farm. I find some types of dried lavender to be a little overpowering.
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Currently, I don’t have any lavender plants in my garden, they were all left in Ohio. This past winter I winter sowed a packet of seeds and have a few tiny lavender seedlings that need transplanting to the nursery beds. In a few years I’ll be able to harvest my own lavender for infusions. Head on over to The Jojoba Company’s blog to see more photos of this lovely farm and for directions to make a lavender infusion.

What’s your favorite herbal scent?

Making Cidah

October 13th, 2015

Cider (or cidah here in Maine) is one of Mr Chiot’s favorite fall treats. In Ohio, we had a local press we purchased gallons and gallons of cider from each year. We have yet to find cider as good as there’s here in Maine, so we usually get 8-10 gallons for our freezer when we’re back in Ohio for Thanksgiving. Lucky for our, our neighbor was given a cider press and we had an abundance of apples.
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We have lots of different varieties of apples here, probably around 15, of which 8 are ready to be used right now. We have no idea what varieties they are, some over 120 years old. We’re hoping to figure out what they are here one of these days. We picked two of each variety and I made juice, which we tasted to see what flavor profiles they each had. It was amazing to taste the difference between them all, some where sweet, some were intense, others were watery, and still other were astringent.
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After tasting the various juices, we started picking apples into big totes. Each tote holds around 2 bushels of apples, we picked three totes and a bushel. We picked for an hour or two and then loaded them up in the car to head down to our neighbor’s.
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He was ready to roll, the cider press was fixed up nicely and on the front porch. After a little tweaking we were in business putting the apples through the crusher and making our first batch.
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After a few hours we had all of our containers filled and tons of apple mash. Some went to his chickens, some went to our chickens, some went to a local farmer for their pigs.
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Overall it was a really fun day, ending up with a lot of cider wasn’t so bad. The cider ended up being delicious, next year we might tweak our recipe a bit, but it’s still better than any of the cidah I’ve purchased from any of the local orchards. We were pleasantly surprised by how quick and easy the process was.

Have you ever been a part of a cider pressing day? Do you like apple cider?

Making a Birdseed Wreath

February 22nd, 2012

On Sunday I was mixing up a batch of suet for the woodpeckers and I posted it to my Facebook page. Krista asked if I had ever made a batch in a bundt pan. Since I hadn’t, I decided to give it a try. I mixed up a batch and make cakes as usual and mixed up another batch and put it in a bundt pan. Here’s my suet cake recipe.


My bundt pan isn’t a real one, it’s a springform pan with a bundt insert. I was worried about the removal of the wreath from the pan, but a few minutes over the warm oven vent and it popped right out. I think one of these silicone bundt pan would be perfect since you could peel it right off and these mini bundt pan would make the cutest gifts!

If you do make one, make sure you hang it with wide ribbon as a thinner string might cut right through the suet on a warm day. I hung mine from the maple tree by the bird feeder and within a few hours the woodpeckers had already found it.  This will be perfect because I won’t have to replace the suet cakes quite as often.

Any great crafting going on in your kitchen?  

The Cycle Begins Again

February 8th, 2012

The weather seemed perfect on Sunday afternoon, so we decided it was time to tap our maple trees. Out came all the supplies, the spiles and jars were scrubbed, the extension cords were brought out and the first tree was tapped.


As soon as the hole was drilled sap was running down the side of the tree before we could even get the spile in. Thirty taps later and we were done. That evening we collected five and a half gallons of sap and so the cycle of collecting and boiling has begun again.

Last year was a long sugaring season and we got 5 gallons of finished syrup. This year we tapped more trees because we think the season will be short, which is the usual here in our area of Ohio. In total we have 30 taps going and are hoping to get a few gallons of syrup once again.

The little black garage cat (aka “The Sweets”) loves it when sugaring season rolls around. Just like her mama used to do, she followed us around the woods as we tapped trees and she runs ahead of Mr Chiots on the paths when he collects the sap. No doubt she’s enjoying some human companionship after a long lonely winter in the garage.

Our maple syrup is precious and since we use it as almost our only form of sweetener, we use it sparingly throughout the year. We’re always happy to reach the next cycle with a few jars of syrup left in the pantry. When I checked last week we still had almost 2 gallons left.

What’s your favorite way to use maple syrup?

If you want to read up on maple sugaring I’d highly recommend these books:

I Spy With My Little Eye…

December 2nd, 2011

Yesterday afternoon was really beautiful; the sun was shining and it was in the high 30’s temperature wise. Perfect for digging up the back hillside and planting some of the tulips that have been waiting in the garage. About dusk, I wandered back into the maple grove to look around and much to my surprise I noticed some of the my mushrooms logs had started to produce mushrooms!



I guess all that warm rainy weather we’ve been having the last couple weeks made them decide it was time to start fruiting. One of the ‘Pearl Oyster’ logs was producing huge masses of beautiful blonde mushrooms. They were a bit frosty because the temps dipped down into the mid 20’s overnight, but I picked them anyways. The texture might not be quite right, but they’ll still be flavorful in a venison stew.

These logs were inoculated way back on April 21st of this year. I ordered these spawn plugs from Grow Organic this spring, they’re also available from Fungi Perfecti.

Inoculating logs with mushroom spawn couldn’t be easier. Basically you drill holes in the logs 3-4 inches apart in a diamond pattern, pound in the spawn plugs, cover with wax and let sit in a shaded area. After a few months you can start watering the logs to encourage fruiting, or you can let them fruit naturally during spring and fall rains. (since folks were asking in the comments I figured I’d add that the logs are supposed to continue to produce mushrooms for 3-5 years depending on the size of log used and the type of wood used).


I used three different kinds of spawn plugs to inoculate logs this spring, Pearl Oyster, Hen of the Woods (Maitake) and Shiitake. I also inoculated some wood chips in the garden area with Garden Giant and Elm Oyster mushrooms spawn.

After plugging your logs with spawn you’re supposed to put some wax over the holes to keep bad fungus and bacteria out. I will use beeswax next time, but I didn’t have any when I did these logs so I used some extra cheese wax I had in the pantry. I’m not keen on using a petroleum product but it was all I had. I have since purchased some organic beeswax to use this coming spring when I inoculate more logs.

I’ve declared my love of mushrooms before, so being able to grow my own makes me a very happy camper! If all continues to go well with this experiments I’ll be inoculating many more logs this coming spring to keep up enjoying mushrooms by the bushel! My harvest tally for this picking was 3 pounds – not bad indeed!

Have you ever grown mushrooms? Do you think you’d like to try? Yay or nay on mushrooms in your food?

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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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