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Sweet Littles

October 14th, 2014

Our guinea hen has been doing a great job rearing her littles. We haven’t had much luck letting them raise their own in the past, this year maybe she’s just more mature. I let her sit on 5 eggs and she hatched out three. Watching her teach her littles how be guineas is such a beautiful thing.
babies 1
Just last week they were finally big enough to not need brooding any more, these photos were from the week before. I love seeing the babies snuggle under mom to warm up on a chilly fall day. After they’re warm, they pop out and away they go, searching for delicious things to eat.
babies 2
Keeping fowl has many benefits besides eggs and insect control, it’s amazing learning experience. We often don’t get to see wild birds raise their young, I find that watching this process is one of my favorite things about keeping birds.

Have you ever been lucky enough to watch a bird raise a clutch from egg to fledge?

The Curse Rears Up Again

October 13th, 2014

It’s been a LONG time since we’ve done a major home improvement project, for a few different reasons. One, we simply don’t have much time. Two, we’re undecided as to what exactly is going to happen here. Three, did I mention we just don’t have much time? Four, there is what we call the “Morris Curse” in that projects always take five times as long as you think and cost ten times as much. That being said we’ve been wanting to get our oven hood vented to the outside for a long time. Venting the hood outside is extremely important for indoor air quality. Cooking produces fumes that are not good to breathe, so if you’re cooking, have that vent going! Don’t worry about losing heat, worry about getting pneumonia, stroke, ischaemic heart disease, COPD and lung cancer if you don’t vent it outside. I’d say it’s well worth losing a few pennies of heat to not be breathing cooking fumes. This is especially important if you use a gas range which causes pollution from the flames. Any kind of cooking produce acrolein fumes that you shouldn’t breathe as well as fine particle pollution, so if you have an electric range don’t think you’re off the hook, you still should vent your range hood outside to keep your indoor cleaner.
kitchen redo 1
There has been big discussions around here revolving around remodeling the house or building a new one. Every small project we tackle has us leaning toward the second option. While installing our new powerful range hood we came across several issues, first one being the very spot we wanted to instal it had four studs stacking to form a support beam – GREAT. So we decided looks weren’t as important as fresh air so venting it with two elbows off to the right side would work. Oh well look at that, another group of studs. So we decided to vent it to the left.
kitchen redo 2 (1)
What did we discover with this option? Oh yeah a gas line. You can imagine our thoughts when we saw this. After a little searching we discovered it was and old line that was disconnected – whew.
kitchen redo 1 (1)
While tackling this project we also found a HUGE nest of insects underneath one cabinet, not sure what exactly happened here – but they are those bone beetles and I found some dog kibble there. Being that we don’t feed dog kibble, I’m guessing perhaps the previous owners kept their kibble in this cabinet? We also found that part of the wood paneling had been eaten by some sort of insect – great. There also seems to have been a time when water got in this corner of the house, not sure if it happened a long time ago and was fixed, or perhaps it’s just lots of mouse urine judging by the rather larger number of old mouse nests we also found – DOUBLE YUCK!
kitchen redo 2
With all of our setbacks we’re still working on getting this crazy thing installed at 8:30pm on Sunday night (so much for a quick project). We ended up having to use two elbows to get the vent in, so now we can’t cover the vent pipe. It’s a good thing I don’t mind the industrial look, and pollution free air will make up for the less than perfect look! I also now have four outlets in the kitchen, super awesome. Before the stove actually had to be plugged in above the countertop (crazy I know) and two outlets didn’t work, so I had to unplug the stove or my over the sink light if I wanted to run the blender or mixer. I’m debating whether or not I want to take the time to paint the kitchen, it’s pretty sad as far as a paint job goes. As you can kind of see in this image, the area above the stove hood wasn’t painted previously, so there’s a square of rather grease stained drywall paper. You can also see the outlines of where the upper cabinets and other things that were hung on the walls – decisions, decisions.
kitchen redo (1)
As we do projects like this we keep adding things to the list of reasons it’s probably not a good idea to sink more money into this current house. There are those times when remodeling can be more costly than building new, we’re still looking at things around here, but we may have reached the tipping point. At least we’ll be breathing clean air while our discussions continue!

Have you tackled any home improvement projects lately? Any setbacks?

Quote of the Day Shauna Niequist

October 12th, 2014

“Fall is harvest, when we’re getting all the good stuff that someone took the time to plant many month ago.  Someone planted it, and now we benefit from it.  And that’s how it is we make art.  We struggle and push and plant seeds deep underground, and it doesn’t look like much for a hilwe.  But then someone comes alone and listens to your song or sees your painting or reads your poem, and they feel alive again, like the world if freh and bursting, just like harvest.  Plant something today that will feed someone many months or many years from now.  Plant something today, because you’ve feasted on someone else’s carefully planted seeds, seeds that bloomed into nourishment and kept you alive and wide-eyed.”

Shauna Niequiest in Bittersweet.

Freshly_harvested_carrots 3
I love the farmers market this time of year, I come home with bags full of hearty roots for roasting, adding to gratins or long simmering in soups. While I grow potatoes, I don’t really grow carrots and celeriac much, they have such a long growing season I’m happy to allow someone else to plant those things so I can benefit from them.
I’m also loving the sweetening on the bitter greens like kale. Shopping at the farmers market is a great way to get in touch with the flow of the seasons.
root vegetables
Roasting is probably my favorite way to enjoy winter root vegetables, it bring out the sweetness and really showcases their flavor.

What’s your favorite fall/winter vegetable? How do you like it prepared?

Bringing in the Sheaves (or braids)

October 11th, 2014

Yesterday I started bringing in the onion crop. They have been drying in the top of the garage for a month or so. This year they were harvested a bit later than last, they didn’t get blown over like they did last year. The results were much larger onions, which I’m pretty happy about.
onion braids 1
I only braid the smaller onions, the big ones are put into wooden boxes in a single layer and stowed away in the basement where it’s nice and cool. Usually they last through early June of the following year, just in time for spring onions and small fresh onions. This is my best onion harvest so far, I’m guessing I harvested around a hundred and fifty pounds of onions.
onion braids 2
Onions are one of my favorite crops to grow, I love nurturing them from tiny seeds. Perhaps I love growing them so much because I really love eating them. Pretty much every meal around here begins with the chopping of an onion!

What’s your favorite crop to grow?

Friday Favorite: All Things Cast Iron

October 10th, 2014

It’s no secret that I love cast iron, you’ve probably noticed that it crops up in many of my cooking photos. I use my old Griswold cast iron skillet more than any other piece of cookware I own. It was left in the first house my parents bought back when I was only a few months old, my mom gave it to me many years ago. It has been used daily ever since. I cook anything and everything in it!
cast iron
Most recently I found a cast iron muffin pan and a corn stick pan (which I can’t wait to use). The muffin pan is great, I really have been happy with the way it has cooked both muffins and eggs when I used it.

One of the things I love about cast iron is that it is so versatile, you can fry bacon and eggs for breakfast, a toasted cheese sandwich for lunch, tuna steak for dinner and a pandowdy for dessert.

cast iron 2

Whenever possible I use cast iron for cooking, mostly because I love the way it cooks and it’s non toxic. No worries about non-stick coating coming off. As a result of my love of cast iron I have collected various pieces including cast iron bread pans and a cast iron pizza pan that gets used as a skillet on the stove top and as a cookie sheet in the oven, along with a collection of smaller skillets and one very small dutch oven.

One of the reasons I love cast iron is that it’s durable, it will last you the rest of your life and you can pass it on to future generations. The skillet in the front below, was the one gifted to me by my mom. It’s a Griswold and nearest I can tell is that it was made sometime in the 1920’s. Cast iron will also replace your microwave and toaster in the kitchen, if you’re into downsizing and minimizing a cast iron skillet or two will go a long way in your efforts of pairing down in the kitchen. Leftovers heat up like a dream and you really can’t get a better piece of toast!
cast iron 3
I find a cast iron skillet to be so versatile, when I travel it goes with me, it’s the only pan I carry. My trusty Griswold has been across the country in just about every direction. It has cooked eggs for breakfast in over 30 different states.
camping cast iron
My skillet is even used as my popcorn popper!
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Cast iron cookware also cooks like a dream. If you keep the skillet properly seasoned you just can’t beat the way it cooks an egg, mushrooms, or a steak. It’s also a healthy option for cooking, because it’s not adding weird chemicals into your food like non-stick and another kinds of cookware does. You want to make sure you buy vintage cast iron or cookware that’s made by a reputable company if you’re buying new otherwise you may not be getting great quality.
cast iron 1
Another beautiful thing about cast iron is that is goes from stovetop, to oven, to table with ease. It heats evenly helping you cook food to perfection and then keeps it warm at the table, doing it all with classic beauty that can only be achieved with time and frequent use.
The newest additions to my cast iron collection are a few Staub enameled dutch ovens Staub enameled dutch ovens Mr Chiots got me for Christmas a few years ago. I must admit, they’re as great as I expected. They have pretty much made my stainless steel pots gather dust. They are essentially stove top slow cookers, I often have a pot of soup bubbling away in one during the cold months. If the wood burner is on they can take the heat and bubble away cooking dinner while the stove warms the house. They are also perfect for baking the perfect artisan bread, mimicking an expensive steam oven, they were the missing peace in my quest to making perfect crusty bread at home!
bread in cast iron
As you can see my love affair with cast iron began long ago and only growers stronger with each day. In fact I love it so much that my go-to gift for newlyweds is always a pair of cast iron skills, both a new one and a vintage one, along with this beautiful cast iron cookbook filled with beautiful recipes and tips and techniques for using cast iron. In the card I always mention the long lasting durable qualities of cast iron along with wishes that their relationship also stands the test of time like a cast iron skillet.

Are you a cast iron cookware lover? 

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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.