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Observing

February 17th, 2015

Winter is a valuable time in the garden if we take the time to observe. We can see how the wind moves, where snow drifts and where the ground is blown completely bare. We can see where the snow melts first and what areas are soggy when it does.
snow drifts 1
snow drifts 2
I spend a good amount of time watching the garden this time of year. What I find most important are the snow drifts. I’m figuring out where I shouldn’t plant really tender plants and where I can. I’m figuring out where I should plant windbreaks and where I should plant tough shrubs to act as drift fences. I now know which spots thaws fist in spring and would be a fantastic spring woodland garden filled with early snowdrops, hellebores and other spring beauties. I also know where I shouldn’t plant hydrangeas.
snow drifts 3
It’s very true what they say about spending a few years observing a garden before you begin to plant and make big changes. It’s especially important to watch through a few winters to see what they bring. The longer I garden the more patient I become and the more I value time spent in observing the space around me.

Do you take the time to observe your garden in winter? Does what you see affect where/how you plant?

Earning their Keep

February 16th, 2015

We’ve been hearing lots of mice in the house, in the walls, in the ceilings. We were wondering if the cats were doing their job, but then on two different occasions in the past month we have found evidence that they have.
dead mouse
In case you can’t quite tell what’s in the photo above, here’s a cropped version. Typically they leave what we call “mouse pants” which is just the back legs. I’m not sure why this time it was just the face.
dead mouse (1)
It’s nice to know their doing their job, but I’d be happy if they ate 100% of their catch. Oh well, I guess as long as I don’t have mice getting into the pantry I don’t mind picking up mouse parts every once and again. Two of our cats are not mousers at all, the other three are great. Having working animals is so nice, it’s so much easier than setting and monitoring traps! At least in the house it’s just mice that they leave, when they’re all outdoors they’ll leave squirrels and various other rodents on my front step.

Do your pets ever leave you gifts?

Friday Favorite: Wear it Out!

February 13th, 2015

We’ve reached that point in our marriage where many of the things we received as wedding gifts or inexpensive items we purchased have started to wear out. I’m a big fan of wearing things out, I HATE getting rid of things before their useful life is over, it makes me feel like I’m wasting money. My clothes are usually completely indecent before I finally turn them into quilts or rags. The jeans below were worn for 5 more years after this photo was taken. They eventually made it into my travel patch quilt.
old-jeans
This year we’re going to have to replace a few major household items, like our living room furniture. When we first got married we had a hand-me-down sofa that was in rough shape. After we’d been married a year we finally purchased this couch. It wasn’t a pricey couch, so it was never going to last 30 years.
wear it out 3
wear it out 1
It did well enough, but we’ve been talking about replacing it for the past 3-4 years. It’s full of holes and the worst part is that the foam is breaking down. I vacuum up a little ring of foam dust around the sofa each week. That’s horrible for your lungs, so we finally settled on what we wanted and ordered a new sofa.
wear it out 2
Our new sofa is a classic shape (English roll arm) and we chose natural colored textured linen for the fabric. We knew we wanted to get something that would last much longer than our previous sofa. The linen is really tough and we can order new cushions if needed, when it wears out it can be reupholstered. Of course there’s no instant gratification when you purchase furniture like this, it will be 10-12 weeks until it arrives. That’s actually a good thing considering our only 36″ door is in the back of the house and there are 6 foot snowdrifts all around the house. No doubt it will be scheduled for delivery during mud season, stay tuned, no doubt there will be some kind of excitement that happens.

living_room
It feels great to wear things out before replacing them. It’s been a good sofa, we’ve watched many movies on it and Mr Chiots has used it for many naps. It’s moved with us three times and has almost always been a part of our lives. I’m debating on whether or not the sofa should be donated to Goodwill when we get our new one, it’s in such bad shape and so uncomfortable I’m almost embarrassed to pass it along to someone else.

Are you a use it up, wear it out kind of person? 

Stress Less – Puzzle More!

February 12th, 2015

One of the things we like to do around here is puzzles. We find them to the perfect stress reducing activity. Last night we finished up Escort to Oshkosh puzzle, which was a great puzzle.
plane puzzle
Maine Puzzle 1 (1)
Now we’re moving on to a Piatnik puzzle, a brand we haven’t tried before. We found this Starry Night puzzle at a local art museum. I’m always happy to find a puzzle featuring classic art, I have the Japanese Bridge by Monet Ravensburger Puzzle and it’s fantastic. One of my favorite, we do it every
van gogh puzzle
Our collection of puzzles is growing quite nicely. Perhaps next we’ll pull out an old favorite. So far I think we’ve tried just about every brand of puzzle, some are better than others. It’s always nice to spend a few minutes in the morning working on the puzzle while I enjoy my coffee. It’s great to start the day with a stress reducing activity.

Do you have any great puzzles to recommend?

Curing Winter Squash

February 11th, 2015

Several of you asked yesterday about how to cure winter squash so it would store for many months. First off you need to start with the right kind of squash. Different varieties of squash will store for different lengths of time. In general acorn, delicata and spaghetti squash will store for a few weeks to a month, winter squash and pumpkin will store for 4-6 months, butternuts will store the longest up to a year. I have stored squash for 18 months with success. In fact I cooked a pumpkin from last year just before I harvested my crop from this past season.
squash harvest 5
Squash must be cured if you want them to last a long time in storage. It’s fairly simple, just store them unwashed in a warm sunny place for 2 weeks. A greenhouse works well, as does a warm back porch. I like to put mine on the back porch which gets the afternoon sun and stays nice and warm.
squash harvest 1
Store squash in a cool area of the house, generally between 50-60 degrees works best. Squash are not like potatoes, apples, and other vegetables, they appreciate warmth. Make sure they have good air movement. My squash are often laid out in a corner of a cool bedroom and they store very nicely. I have also simply kept them in a corner of the dining room.
stack of pumpkins
There are a few other things you can do to ensure your winter squash will store for ages.

First, make sure they are ripe at harvest. They have a long growing season, select varieties that will ripen in the amount of time you have. Those of us that live in shorter season areas should select shorter season squash. Most seed companies will give you length till harvest, use these as a guide. Allow the vines to start to die and the skins to toughen before harvesting.

Second, cut, don’t rip the squash from the vines. You want to leave a nice piece of stem on the squash to help protect them. Avoid carrying your squash by the stem to make sure they remain attached.

Third, harvest squash before frost. Squash that has been left in the garden during a frost will not store as long as those harvested earlier.

Fourth, do not water or manure too much. Squash that was overwatered or over fertilized will not store as long. Feed and water them, but don’t get carried away. It’s better to have smaller squash that store longer.

pumpkin-in-the-oven
There you have it, a few tips to keep your winter squash fresh in the pantry all winter long.

Do you have any tips to share on growing, curing, and storing winter squash?

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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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