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Beautiful Blooms

January 21st, 2015

If you remember I purchased a variety of dwarf tropical plants this summer to add to my houseplants collection. They’ve all done very well so far and I’m pleased with their performance. Since winter is the dry season in the tropics, I let them dry out well between waterings. I noticed this past weekend that the avocado tree is blooming!
Day Avocado tree 1
Day Avocado tree 2
Most likely it will not produce any fruit this go around, from what I have read it needs to be about three feet tall before it will produce fruit. My tiny tree is only about 28 inches tall or so. If you’d like to read up on growing edible houseplants, check out Growing Tasty Tropical Plants in Any Home, Anywhere: (like lemons, limes, citrons, grapefruit, kumquats, sunquats, tahitian oranges, barbados cherries, … black pepper, cinnamon, vanilla, and more), it’s a great resource.
dwarf banana plant
dwarf papaya plant

My dwarf banana is putting off suckers, these will be taken off and gifted to friends. The papaya is also doing very well, it’s putting on lots of new growth. The mango seems to be the slowest growing of them all, but I’m OK with that. They have certainly been a joy to have around this year. Here’s hoping for homegrown tropical fruit here in Maine!

Do you have any tropicals that live in the house?

Where Have You Been All My Life?

January 20th, 2015

Last week I bought myself a little pruning saw. It’s nothing big, in fact, it’s super lightweight and slides easily into my back pocket. I have no idea how I have lived without one of these for the past 38 years. I got it from Amazon for those wondering. For some reason it won’t let me link directly to the page with this product. But search for Silky POCKETBOY Fine Teeth.
pruning saw 3
It cuts through large sapling, branches, small twigs and pretty much anything with great ease. I was blown away by how quickly it cut branches from the apple tree.
pruning saw 2
This will come in very handy because I’m planning on harvesting saplings that need thinned from an area out back. They will be used for garden supports of various shapes and sizes. I’m planning on making panels for my peas and tepees for my pole beans.
pruning saw 1
Several people were asking in the comments how long the blade was, so I snapped this photo so you can clearly see the size of the saw and blade when extended.
Silky Pocket Pruner
I also love that it comes with this handy plastic carrier. This tool will probably always be in my pocket when I’m working in the garden, I have no idea how I have made do without it up till now.

What’s a garden tool you would never want to live without? Have you discovered any new garden tools recently?

Sunday Night Sauna

January 19th, 2015

One of the things we were excited about when we purchased this place in Maine was the wood fired sauna. We didn’t use it too much the first two years we lived here, but we’ve been firing it up every Sunday night. It has become one of our rituals.
It’s a sweet little building sitting down below the house, built by a Finnish guy many years ago. It’s big, we could have sauna parties if we wanted to, with a dozen or more people. We love that it’s wood fired, since we heat with wood it’s not much trouble to cuts/split/stack a little extra.
sauna 3
This summer the plan is to do a little maintenance on the sauna. The trim can use a coat of paint, we have leftover black from the barn that should look nice. The interior needs a really good scrubbing as well, it’s been neglected for far too many years.
sauna 2
If you’ve never used a sauna or haven’t read about it, here’s a great website full of information. I smiled when I came across this quote where Ilmari Kianto (1874-1970) describes a countrywoman’s facial transformation in his novel The Red Line: “There in the gentle löyly, the wrinkles on her face smoothed away, and the deep-blue shadows under her eyes gave way to a healthy colour. It was as if the heat had also melted away the darkness of her soul…”.
sauna 1
It’s such a great way to end a weekend and start the coming week. Saunas provide physical and metal relaxation, along with marking the start of a new week.  There really is no better way to kick off the week than with a sauna!

Do you have any weekend rituals?

Quote of the Day: Albert Camus

January 18th, 2015

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

~ Albert Camus

winter 2
This is how I certainly feel in winter, summer is such a busy time, winter gives me time to think, to reflect. One of my favorite times to do this is while snowshoeing. There’s just something wonderful about being in the woods on a cold sunny winter day. I find having a hobby like this makes me get out on these beautiful days, it is too easy to sit inside by the warm fire.
Yesterday was the perfect day to be out and about. I followed moose, coyote, and fox tracks through the woods. I sat on the little bridge in the back and watched the water gurgle up through a few thawed spots in the creek.
Sun and snow
It was quiet, it was peaceful, you can’t help but think, reflect, and meditate in such an environment. It’s the perfect flip side to summer, just and wonderful in a completely different way. Less doing, more being, which is when you can find the invisible spirit you’ll need throughout the coming seasons.

What’s your favorite winter time activity?

Friday Favorite: Toasted Spices

January 16th, 2015

One of the things I love about making ethnic food is the toasting of the spices. After doing this for the first time many years ago I’ve been toasting spices every since. It really helps bring out the flavors from dried spices.
toasted spices
Last night I found myself toasting these fragrant spices to make duck pho and it reminded me how much I love them. If you’ve never given this a shot I’d highly recommend it! All you need is a hot dry skillet, I use cast iron of course. Add the spices and shake the skillet for 30 seconds or a minute and that’s it. You’re finished, your spices will be fragrant and the flavors will be enhanced. I guarantee you’ll take the time to do this from now on.

Do you toast spices before using them?

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Tropical Traditions

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.