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A Facelift for the Cottage

March 26th, 2012

Last summer, painting the shutters, doors, and foundation of the house was on the to-do list. Then we purchased the lot next door and spent our time getting a new edible garden space ready instead. As a result, the painting never got finished but we enjoyed a lot of great homegrown vegetables.

Since we have had such warm weather here in NE Ohio this past week and the soil is still too wet to work, we decided to get a jump on painting in order to mark a few more items off the “to-do” list. Off came the shutters, down came a few doors, and we were off.

We found this fantastic little sprayer that hooks up to an air compressor. It uses pint jars for the paint. That way you can use a few different colors, or in our case, primer and paint. Simply close up the jar when you’re not using it. It’s called the Critter Paint Sprayer and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It turned a job that would have taken me hours with a paintbrush into minutes. It’s also made to be repaired and comes with a parts list for each part, I can certainly appreciate that!

Our current shutters were painted green by me the first year we moved in (10 years ago). They were starting to look a little dated, not to mention they were faded and shabby looking. I settled on black as my color of choice for the shutter/doors a few years ago figuring it would be a classic look with our tan siding.

The foundation was also given a fresh coat of paint. I’ve always read that using a dark color on the foundation anchors the house to the garden. After one coat of paint I stood back and was amazed, it’s completely true. Not to mention, the plants and flowers look fantastic up against the dark background. I think the green was competing with the plants all along.

The exterior doors on the house were also in need of a fresh coat of paint, most of them were peeling and they were getting quite faded as well. Most of our exterior doors aren’t covered with porches and thus they take quite a beating. After a fresh coat of paint and some new knobs I couldn’t believe how nice they looked.

The weather has once again turned too cold to paint, so I turned my attention to scraping the loose paint on the exterior door trim. Not a fun chore, but a necessary chore. I’m all about getting the job done right, even if I don’t plan on being here forever. We inherited a lot of “good enough” jobs when we purchased this place and I’d never want to pass any of those along to someone else. (if you don’t have one of these painter’s tool in your toolbox I’d highly recommend getting one, I love it and use mine all the time and not just for painting).

There are still four more doors that still need a coat of paint (I know we have lots of exterior doors), when the weather wArms that will be the first thing to get finished so it can officially be crossed off the list. In the mean time, we will be replacing all the porch posts as a few of them are completely rotten. It’s a good thing they’re not structural! We’ll be going with square posts painted in white with a little bit of trim detail.

Overall, things are shaping up nicely. It’s nice to see the house getting whipped back into shape. We’ve spent so much time focusing on the gardens the last couple years that the house has been slightly neglected. My neighbor even stopped by the other day to tell me how much she liked what we’ve done. If I had to pick a favorite house color it wouldn’t be tan, but you live with what you’ve got. I’m more of a cedar shake, dark bluish gray, or a crisp white when it comes to the color I most like to see on a house.

What’s your favorite house color?

If you’ve got a lot of painting to do – invest in these tools. For not much money you’ll save yourself tons of time and a lot of hassle!

Quote of the Day: Cicero

March 25th, 2012

I look upon the pleasure we take in a garden as one of the most innocent delights in human life.
– Cicero

I’m delighting at the beginning stages of my tulip parade. Last fall when I was planting all these bulbs I was debating on planting them all in blocks of each specific variety, but then I decided to throw them all into a box and plant them all jumbled up. I’m certainly glad I did and it will extend the color that I see from my kitchen window.

I’ve been wanting to do something with this hillside for so long and I’m finally glad I did. If we do end up selling & moving, at least I will have the memory of this hillside this spring. Now to figure out what to plant on it when the tulips fade. Any suggestions?

Is there anything in your garden that you put off for a long time only to wish you had done it much sooner?

The Year of the Allium Revisited

March 24th, 2012

Last year I declared it “the year of the allium” and was determined to experiment with growing more varieties of alliums to get us through the year. As a result of my efforts I was able to produce about 80% of the onions we ate. I just used up the last of my bulb onions from the pantry

I am currently harvesting leeks that were overwintered along with some winter hardy bunching onions. The Egyptian Walking Onions are just getting to the point of harvest as well. I will probably have to buy some bulb onions at the store to get me through when the leeks run out. Green onions are great, but they just can’t take the place of caramelized onions in soup or an omelette.

The last few evenings have found me out in the garden direct seeding onions, planting my onion seedlings, and wishing I had my onion sets and plants that are on order. The bed I’m planting them in was manured heavily last fall, which hopefully will amount to good sized onions this summer. With the amount of onions I’m planting this spring, this coming year may finally be the year in which I don’t have to buy an onion from the farmer’s market.

My goal has never really been to grow 100% percent of the food that we eat. I enjoy supporting local farmers and I don’t really have the space to do that here at Chiot’s Run. That being said, onions at the farmer’s market are quite expensive and I know I can save a lot more money using my planting space for onions rather than cabbage or zucchini.

Is there a certain kind of vegetable or fruit that you’re like this with? One that you choose to grow instead of something else either to save money or because you can’t find it locally?

Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges

March 23rd, 2012

Since I’ve been working on writing up the posts for the non-toxic cleaning series, cleaning has been on my mind, when I’m not working outside of course. My friday favorite this week had to be one of my all time favorite cleaning tools: Twist Sponges.

Why do I love Twist Sponges? First, they’re made from natural materials! The sponge side is made with unbleached, undyed white cellulose and the loofah side is, well loofah. I bought these on a whim once when I was at the health food store and fell in love. Second, they’re compostable! When the sponge is getting a little ragged around the edges, into the compost bowl on the counter it goes. Thirdly, my most favorite reason, they never get that kitchen sponge smell. You know exactly what I’m talking about, that weird smell that kitchen sponges get after only a few days of use, the one that never goes away no matter what you do, the one that clings to your hands for hours afterwards. That never with these sponges. Why? I have no idea, but I’m guessing that the natural materials inhibit molds and bacteria unlike their synthetic counterparts.

I cannot recommend the Twist products more highly, my favorite is the Loofah Sponge for scrubbing the dishes. I also have a Heavy Duty Agave Scrubber that I use on the shower stall, and a Euro Sponge and Loofah Sponge for cleaning the bathrooms. I just got some of their heavy duty scouring pads and they’re great for scrubbing the toilet and other tough chores.

Any great cleaning tools you’d like to recommend?

Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
and more to come

Another Reason to go to the Farmers Market

March 22nd, 2012

I’m a big advocate of shopping locally, mainly because it’s good for both you and the local community. Even though I have a fairly large edible garden I still head to the local market a few times a month throughout the year. Besides purchasing eggs, cheese and milk there, I also wander the stands in search of new kinds of vegetables to try or to grow in my garden. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where the local farmers are branching out to sustain a year-round market, you might find yourself with a whole new world of vegetables to try to grow in your own garden.

Take this sprouting broccoli for example. I’ve tried growing it in my garden before, but I had a hard time finding specific cultivation information and thus was not successful in getting it produce. I was reading Tender“>’Tender’ by Nigel Slater the other evening and discovered how it needed to be cultivated in order to produce. I spent some time searching the internet for a few varieties that would survive my zone 5 winter and came across West Coast Seeds who sells a nice variety of sprouting broccoli. Essentially, you start sprouting broccoli in late summer and allow it to overwinter. In spring, around this time, it will start producing shoots of broccoli, not one large head, but small side sprouts.

Wouldn’t you know it, I went to Local Roots in Wooster, OH last week and one of the farmers was selling sprouting broccoli! You know I’m going to order some seeds for a few different varieties and I’ll be starting them in late summer to overwinter. There’s nothing I would love more than to be harvesting broccoli from my own garden right now – and I know for sure that it can be done in my area thanks to my friendly local farmer.

Have you ever heard of sprouting broccoli or grown it in your garden?

I cannot recommend this book more, it’s part gardening manual, part cookbook it really is quite a bargain for around $25. Nigel recommends specific varieties of vegetables to grow and cultivation information. The recipes are usually simple and any that I have tried are outstanding. After checking it out of the library several time I finally have a copy on my bookshelf.

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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.