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Friday Favorite: Us

June 1st, 2012

Mr Chiots and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary earlier this week. The funny thing is that we both completely missed it and realized it the next day. We’re not really into celebrating birthdays and anniversaries so it wasn’t a big deal: there’s plenty of fun throughout the year to make up for it. In our 14 years of marriage we’ve lived in 4 different places, the last 10 years here at Chiot’s Run.

We’ve been from sea to shining sea, we’ve watched sunrises and sunsets, laughed, cried and simply enjoyed life. Most of all we have lot of great fun here at Chiot’s Run. Since we both work from home, we’re here 24/7 together, laughing, joking, and loving it – definitely two peas in a pod!

We have big dreams of places we’ll want go and things we want to do, we’re most excited about driving to Alaska someday. Here’s to many more wonderful years and lots of new adventures along the way!

What’s one place you want to go that you haven’t made it to yet?


March 7th, 2012

We finally arrived back at Chiot’s Run at 2:30 am yesterday morning after a LONG drive down to the bottom of the US and back. Last Saturday it was 95 degrees when we were in Naples, FL and when we arrived home it was 17 with the ground covered in snow.

All sorts of wonderful experiences were had, from watching my friend run her first half marathon, visiting Ernest Hemingway’s house, taking my first sea plane ride, eating lots of seafood, meeting some great new folks, all while enjoying the warm sunny weather of Florida. We even had a few hours of relaxation in between our weekends of work and the long hours in the car.

Stay tuned for lots of great photos of lush tropical foliage and flowers. I soaked up a good dose of vitamin D, hopefully enough to keep me going through the busy seed starting season that is now upon us. Even though the warmth of the sun was nice, I’m certainly glad to be back in the chilly north – I’m a northerner through and through. Give me snow, cold weather and some warm woolens and I’m happy as a clam!

What climate do you find suites you best?

Discovering That Which Brings Joy

February 23rd, 2012

We realized that we had a collection – a passion, actually – that required attention. This happens often, and we have learned over the years not to ignore the signs. For that is where joy lies.

Joe Eck & Wayne Winterrowd (Our Life in Gardens)

My childhood was filled with gardens. My parents tended a huge edible garden which we dreaded having to work in all summer long. The house was always brimming with houseplants of all colors, shapes and sizes. Since my childhood was spent in both a northern climate in the United States and on the equator in Colombia, I’ve lived in both extremes of gardening climates. The gardens of my childhood contained everything from exotic staghorn ferns and papayas to common snap beans and marigolds. (I’m the one on the right)

Even though my parents were avid gardeners, I never really was all that enamored with it. My mom let me choose something interesting to grow in the edible garden and a few blooming things for the front flowerbeds. I had a few plants in my room during college and herbs in pots on my first apartment balcony, but gardening wasn’t something I’d even mention when talking about my hobbies. When Mr Chiots and I purchased our home ten years ago that was still the case. I had no desire to garden. For some reason, I still felt the need to feed the soil even though I had no plans of lush gardens nor vine ripened tomatoes. For the first few years, I added chicken manure and mulched leaves at intervals throughout the year and replaced a few uninteresting plants with ones that caught my eye.

After few years of tending the soil and I started to develop a green thumb, before I knew it, I was spending most of my free time in the garden, planting, making compost and expanding the flowerbeds. I found myself frequenting the local greenhouses in search of interesting plants. I woudl check piles of gardening books out of the library. I was discovering that deep down I really enjoyed gardening and the peace and satisfaction it brings.

Five years ago, three 4 x 10 raised beds were built in the back garden “to grow a few vegetables and strawberries”. Little did I know, when we built these raised beds that a new gardening passion would be discovered. My love of ornamental gardening hasn’t been lost, it’s simply been overshadowed for the moment as edibles have taken root. Growing edibles was a natural progression since cooking is one of my other loves (something I’d always mention when talking about my hobbies). Living in a rural area doesn’t mean that fresh vegetables are easy to find. I quickly found out that if I wanted them I had to grow them myself.

Since then, my love of edibles has grown stronger; we even purchased the lots of both sides of us to have more space for popcorn, pumpkins and what ever else interests us. From regular edibles my interest deepened when I discovered the world of heirloom vegetables – and what a wonderfully interesting world it is.

Growing heirloom vegetables can be addictive, when you savor the first ripe ‘Brandywine’ tomato from the vine in July, you want to grow every single colorful variety mentioned in the seed catalogs. Who can resist not having a bouquet of fresh tomatoes on their table in August?

The ornamental gardens at Chiot’s Run have not suffered from my newfound love of edible gardening. I use the world “ornamental” loosely since a well-tended vegetable can be every bit as lovely as a perennial border.  When you take the time to cultivate good soil a strong foundation is developed and the plants that take care of themselves. Besides weeding twice each summer and adding a thick layer of chopped leaves and manure in the fall, my ornamental beds pretty much take care of themselves. They also provide a beautiful backdrop and beneficial biodiversity for the edible garden.

As I discovered my passion for edible gardening, my mom rediscovered her love it edibles as well. When I started growing a few vegetables, she tilled up a section of her lawn that had grown vegetables when I was still living at home.  Like mine, her edible garden grows each year.  I often head over to her garden and we plant and grow a variety of things together there. Since her soil is already well established, it has been a wonderful place to garden as I work in building up the soil in my own gardens to produce more bounty for my table.

If you’ve never grown anything edible in your garden I’d highly recommend that you try.  Even if it’s only one tomato plant on a small stoop you’ll be amazed at the deep sense of joy and satisfaction that comes when you pluck that first ripe fruit from it’s branches.  Deep down I think we all have the need to tend a small plot of soil and provide for ourselves.

How has your gardening evolved throughout the years? Do you have a passion for a particular area or plant? 

Just Go Out and Do It

February 3rd, 2012

Life on the Maine coast is hard, but it is a good life, a quality life, a way of living simply in troubled times. When Scott Nearing was ninety-five, I heard him give a lecture at the Common Ground Fair in Litchfield, Maine. He talked about gardening and homesteading, and concluded by telling the audience, “If you want to have a garden, just go out and do it. Just go out and do it.” I’ve often heard those words as I think about taking on a new project or expanding the gardens. Despite any divergence from Scott’s philosophy and practice Lynn and I have taken as we made the Maine farm ours, that too would be my best advice to anyone thinking of creating a new life for themselves: “Just go out and do it!”.

Stanley Joseph from Maine Farm: A Year of Country Life

I read this book a couple years ago and have been meaning to buy it. I actually forgot the name of it and had trouble finding it again until a few weeks ago. It was written by the couple who took over the Nearing homestead. When it arrived in the mail, Mr Chiots decided to read it. One evening, while we were sitting in the living reading, he said to me, “I just flipped to the afterward of the book to see where they are now and listen to this…” He then continued to read the quote above.

He continued to talk about how this was exactly what he needed to hear as we think about starting a new chapter in our lives. We’ve spent the last month or two looking at houses in Maine, Vermont and a few other New England states. After choosing a location we thought would suite us perfectly, we called a realtor, rearranged our schedule, and set off to Maine. Today we’re on our way home from this journey, with a lot to talk about during the 12 hour drive. You’ll be hearing all about what we saw and experienced over the coming weeks (perhaps a poll so you can help us choose which house to purchase).

This quote really resonates with us right now. You see, we’ve been dragging our feet a little, reluctant to give up the comfort we’ve achieved here for the unknown. Our reluctance is starting to turn to excitement, even though we know we have a lot of hard work and long days ahead. I have no doubt the future will bring many rewards and we’ll never regret just getting out and doing it.

Do you have something that’s been nagging your mind that you need to just go out and do?

Old as Dirt

January 23rd, 2012

Every now and then I reach into the junk drawer in the kitchen for a pencil, which doesn’t happen very often. I don’t like to use pencils being more of a cheap bic pen person. This pencil shows you exactly how little I use a pencil:

Yes, I got this pencil in 1990 when the census representative stopped by our house; I was 14 years old. The pencil has never been sharpened, still sporting the original short point and the eraser has barely been used. I guess it’s not as old as dirt, but it’s pretty old for a pencil!

For some reason I distinctly remember the day when this pencil appeared in my life, but I have no idea how it’s stuck around for 21 years. It’s not that I particularly like this pencil or keep it around for a specific reason, somehow it has just moved through life with me.

I’m not really a sentimental person and I don’t place much value on things, so I don’t have objects around the house that I’ve saved for that reason. Of seemingly weird trinkets from my youth, I also have this tiny blue cow eraser that I got in the 3rd grade when the dairy association came to our school to promote how healthy milk was.

No doubt this census pencil will remain in my home for many more years and I’ll chuckle every time I reach into my junk drawer and pull out the pencil. I won’t be sad when it’s finally gone or lost, but I sure enjoy seeing it surface every now and then! It’s funny how something as insignificant as a pencil or an eraser can float in and out of our lives for many years, not having any value but somehow carrying a few memories with it. Every time I see this pencil I can hear the doorbell ringing at our old house on Metzger Ave. in Rittman, OH and I remember seeing the census representative handing me a clipboard with this pencil.

Do you have any items like this in your house, insignificant items that seem to stick around?

Reading & Watching

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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.