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Preparing for Dark Days

October 26th, 2010

I’m a light person, I love to have lots of sunlight coming through the windows. I would love to have more and bigger windows throughout my house, but I have to make do with what I have. I enjoy the seasons and I enjoy the relaxed pace of winter here in NE Ohio, but I don’t like the darkness of it. The days are short and often gray and I do anything I can to get more of that light into the house during the winter months.

Cleaning the windows is an important part of keeping the windows bright, it always seems like so much more light comes through clean windows. I usually take advantage of the last warm days in October to give windows a good scrubbing. The insides of the windows get cleaned almost once a month (a must with 3 cats and a dog living inside). The outsides only get cleaned 2-3 times per year, once in spring and fall for sure, and occasionally a mid-winter cleaning if we have a nice warm day.

We had such nice weather this past weekend I took advantage and spent some time washing the windows. When I finished, they were so clean and sparkling, I just had to take a few photos, I knew they’d have kitty and dog nose prints on them before the day was over.

I often take down the blinds during the winter and sometimes I even remove the curtains, although they’re light and white so they don’t block much sunlight. I also make sure I remove the screens from the windows as they block a lot of light from coming in. After this weekend my windows are undressed for winter and I’m much happier!

Do you clean your windows for winter? or remove the screens? or do you live in an area with the opposite problem – too much sunlight?

My Neighbors Must Think I’m Crazy

October 25th, 2010

Why? Because I raked all the leaves from the driveway onto the front lawn and spread them out in an even layer.

Last week I started making mulch for my flower beds. I collect the leaves when they fall and chop them up with my mower. I then mix them with grass clippings and use this mix as mulch on my gardens.

Leaves make the best all natural mulch for flowerbeds and your edible garden beds. The worms love it and it does a wonderful job of keeping weeds at bay and it does wonders to help retain moisture. Leaves also help improve the soil over the long term as the worms turn them into the soil. The best part is that they’re FREE! I’m lucky that our gardens are surrounded by giant trees so I have leaves in abundance, but we also collect leaves from our neighborhood leaf drop off center as I don’t think you can ever have too many!

Do you make use of the leaves in your garden? Do you have any great free things that you use in the garden?

Quote of the Day: Frank Lloyd Wright

October 24th, 2010

“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it.”

Frank Lloyd Wright

Many people disregard edible things in their garden for what they believe to be more beautiful ornamental plants. I find that edible plants can be just as beautiful, not only to look at but also in the way they nourish us. This radicchio is quite lovely, definitely something that brings much beauty into the garden!

What plants do you find most beautiful?

My Mom’s New Greenhouse

October 23rd, 2010

On Thursday Mr Chiots and I headed over to my parents house to help my mom & dad put together my mom’s new sun shed. My mom spent quite a while trying to decide what kind of greenhouse to buy and finally settled on a sun shed from It’s half greenhouse half shed. It’s made out of cedar, complete with a partial cedar shake roof.

My dad spent a few weeks putting in a gravel pad to install it on while at it he installed a rain barrel overflow for future rain barrel installation on the greenhouse. We helped them raise the shed and put most of it together, except for the polycarbonate panels. It’s a 12×12 shed with about 70% of the roof being clear.

It’s quite a nice little greenhouse. You’ll be seeing more of it as we use it this coming spring for seedlings and garden plants. I’ve always wanted a greenhouse, although I think I would lean more towards a traditional glasshouse type greenhouse (here’s a gallery of a few I made on Flickr). If I keep saving my pennies I may have one in a couple years.

Do you have a greenhouse? Have you always wanted a greenhouse in your garden?

Friday Favorites and Free Coffee

October 22nd, 2010

I’m going to start a few new special feature on my blog: Friday Favorites. There’s nothing I love more than hearing from people about products that they love so I can purchase something that I know is great. I don’t like to buy things blindly without hearing a first hand account of what the product is like and why someone likes it. I figured this would be a great place for us to help each other out. I’ll be sharing things that I LOVE on Friday Favorite posts, you can share things you love in the comments.

Today I’ll start with probably my most favorite thing: COFFEE. Mr Chiots and I are coffee lovers, I should specify that we’re “good” coffee lovers, we don’t just drink any coffee. We enjoy 2 cups of coffee each and every day, occasionally we’ll celebrate with a third. We are partial to brewing our coffee in the form of espresso. Coffee is the one thing in the kitchen that I don’t do, this is Mr Chiots’ domain and he does it very well!

We also enjoy trying to find good little coffee shops when we travel and found some wonderful ones while we were up in New England. We especially enjoyed our coffee from Espresso Bueno in Barre, Vermont (the barista looked like Lizbeth Salander). Probably the best latte we’ve ever had away from home was from The Daily Grind in Front Royal, Virginia. Muggswigz is a great little local place in Canton, OH that we love, but we don’t get there often since we brew our coffee at home.

For many years we tried different roasts of coffee from various places, searching for the perfect espresso beans. About 6 months ago we noticed some micro roasted coffee from Al’s Beanery at Local Roots Market in Wooster, OH. We bought a bag to give it a shot. We were amazed with the results, it made the best espresso we’ve ever brewed at home. It is perfect: smooth and creamy, strong but not bitter or acidic. (It was the closest I’ve ever come to a “God Shot”, said Mr Chiots). You can tell the beans are fresh by the way the coffee brews. They’re shade grown, organic fair trade beans, which is also important to us, and it’s a small local business, which we like to support as well. We’ve been buying Al’s beans every since and have been telling everyone we know who drinks coffee about Al’s micro-roasted coffee heaven.

Al roasts coffee in small 3 pound batches at this house. He takes care in each roasting and you can tell, the quality is amazing. Al really knows what he’s doing. When you go to the Local Roots Market you may have a hard time finding his coffee, they’re often sold out. Looks like a lot people have found the same coffee love we have! It’s a good thing you can order on-line. We meet Al at his home and he fills our glass coffee canisters with 3 pounds of beans once a month (another thing we love – no bags to throw away). Al and his wife are also in the process of opening a new restaurant in Wooster, OH called The Bake Haus, which is scheduled to open in January for any of you locals.

Here’s what Al says about his coffee: Al’s Beanery was started not only out of the motivation to bring our passion – artisan micro roasted coffee – to others, but also because we wanted to turn coffee, coffee roasting and coffee brewing back into the art it once was, before automatic drip and even Starbucks. Coffee is best enjoyed when it is micro-roasted freshly in small batches, then ground as it is about to be used and brewed in a french press or with a hand-poured cone filter.

At Al’s Beanery, we take pride in the fact that all our coffees get special individualized attention as they are roasted and blended. Al’s Beanery sells only artisanally micro-roasted fresh coffees. We purchase only fair trade coffee beans, shade-grown using organic farming methods. Our beans come from providers who support small farmers and cooperatives, largely made up of indigenous people in the tropics. We do not source beans from large estates and farms.

Al was kind enough to donate 2 half pound bags of his newest blend, the Indian Ocean Blend, for me to give away on the blog. So comment below and you’ll be entered to win a half pound of fair trade organic coffee from Al’s Beanery. If you’d like to order any of Al’s coffee (and believe me you won’t be disappointed), you can through his website, his prices are great for organic fair trade coffee! **WINNER chosen – Kat from Food, Literature, Philosophy and Susan. If you don’t get my e-mail contact me through the contact button in my sidebar.

What’s your favorite brand of coffee or tea? Do you have any great coffee/tea shops to recommend that you’ve found locally or in your travels?

NOTE: Al did not and does not give me free coffee to sing his praises, he only offered to give some to two lucky readers. We are more than happy to pay Al for each and every bean we get from him and many bags to give to family and friends to share the love of fresh micro-roasted coffee. As he says, “You are my best customer!”

Seeds and Sundries
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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.