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Fresh and Seasonal

February 26th, 2013

One of the things I really miss is all the fresh seasonal tropical fruit from my childhood. It’s hard to come by a really good mango in Ohio and Maine. Though you can occasionally find a passable piece of fruit, they’re just not the same as the ones plucked right from the tree.
Tropical Fruit 2
Tropical Fruit 1
While we were in Colombia, I was able to enjoy lots of delicious seasonal fruit. We enjoyed watermelon, mango, pineapple, guanabana, mandarin oranges, oranges, mangoes, limes, pomarosas and star fruit.
Tropical Fruit 3
Tropical Fruit 4
I also enjoyed seeing all the trees blooming. This star fruit tree, or carambola as I know it, was blooming and fruiting at the same time. When I was a kid, I didn’t notice the blooms or the foliage, I was mostly interested in the fruit.  Now, as a gardener, I can appreciate those aspects of these fruit trees.  Growing up, mangoes were my favorite tropical fruit, I have very fond memories of eat green ones with salt and plucking ripe one from the tree.

Do you have any fruit that you remember from you childhood?

The Gardens at Monserrate

February 21st, 2013

This past Sunday, we spent the afternoon taking the cable car up to Monserrate, in Bogotá. Monserrate is a cathedral built on top of the mountains that surround the city. It is located 10,341 ft above the sea level.
monserrate 17
monserrate 12
The gardens surrounding it are quite beautiful, filled with all sorts of plants, both tropical and familiar to those of us that live in the north. It’s quite wonderful to see banana plants intermingling beautifully with hydrangeas.
monserrate 15
We took the cable car up the mountain, it’s a half mile journey. From the top, there’s a fantastic view of the city below. Bogotá is a sight to behold, it’s one of the largest cities in Latin America, it’s expansive spread from high above. The population density of the city rivals many Asian cities.
monserrate 16
monserrate 2
monserrate 9
The gardens surrounding the church are spectacular. It’s quite amazing because you can’t really walk through them, you have to take them in from the cable car, catching small glimpses here and there. You can hike up to the top, I haven’t done that since I was in high school. Here are a few of the beautiful plants and gardens I spotted while we were there.
monserrate 14
monserrate 5
monserrate 1
monserrate 8
monserrate 4
monserrate 10
monserrate 6
monserrate 11
monserrate 7
monserrate 3
monserrate 13
Our tip to Colombia was a working trip, thus we spend most of our time behind our computers and behind the camera filming. I was happy to be able to spend at least a few minutes enjoying the beauty of the tropical climate. It was a refreshing change from Maine, which received 3 feet of snow in our absence.

Do you have a favorite tropical plant?

A Special Delivery

February 20th, 2013

Last week, Mr Chiots and I were in Colombia, South America. It was a work related trip, we were producing videos for the non-profit I work for, which was founded by my parents. In addition to missionary work, my parents do a lot of benevolent work, trying to improve the lives of the poor refugees, those neglected by society. One of the things we did while we were there, was deliver soap.
lavame clean soap 1
This isn’t just any soap, it’s 100% all natural handmade soap, some of the best soap money can buy. You see, Wendy, traveled to Colombia a few years ago. Deeply moved by the poverty and wanting to help in a tangible way, she started Lavemé Clean. She makes all natural soap, for each bar that is purchased, a bar is donated to an impoverished area. Some bars of soap go to Honduras, other to shelters here in the US.
little girl in the slums of Colombia
This is her story in her words:


It all started in the summer of 2011. My oldest son Caleb and I went on a mission trip to an impoverished barrio nestled beneath the Andes Mountains in the heart of South America.

That experience broke us.


Shelter was nothing more than small shanties with bare packed-earth floors; walls of wood pallets, corrugated tin, or whatever material was to be found. For water, the slum area had one well; one small well for many people to drink from, bathe in and wash clothes in. Lice and mange were running rampant.

In North America, for most people, it’s not terribly challenging to procure a bar of soap somewhere. In the slums, it’s simply not readily available, and if it was, it would not be affordable. I watched a construction worker labor from sun up to sun down, working for a monthly paycheck of $100.00, in an economy where a bar of soap costs as much as it does in the States. read the rest of the story on her website

lavame clean soap 2
Mr Chiots and I delivered many bars of her soap on our trip. It’s encouraging to know that there are people like Wendy, who are moved enough by the pain and suffering around them to do something proactive. In a world where liking something on facebook or signing a petition is seen as action, it’s refreshing to meet someone who is actually doing something. A big thanks to Wendy for making this soap, we were honored to deliver it for you!

If you are in need of all natural handmade soap, consider purchasing from Lavamé Clean. Mr Chiots and I are particularly fond of the Eucalyptus Cold Care.

Cultivate Simple: Lost in the Jungle

February 18th, 2013

We will return to our regularly scheduled podcast next Sunday, as much as we wanted to record one this past week, it wasn’t feasible since we were traveling. You’ll hear all about it next Monday as we will be filling you in the details on episode 19.

Sorry for any hiccups that have occurred on the blog over the past 10 days, Mr Chiots and I have been in South America. We traveled down on the 8th, after a flight cancellation we ended up on the red eye to Bogota arriving at 6:30 am on Saturday morning. As you can imagine, it was not pleasant.
Colombia Trip 1
My dad picked us up at the airport and we were off down through the mountains onto the prairie below. It’s a beautiful drive, more about it later. We met the rest of our group, 7 others, at a camp for a week of work. Mr Chiots I were on hand for filming and photographing.
dale driving
From our cabin, we could see some jungle, we enjoyed watching the howler monkeys one morning and lots of wild parrots and toucans. The temperatures were in the 90’s during the day and the 80’s at night. Thankfully, it wasn’t humid.
Colombia Trip 6
Today, we’re actually on a flight back to the US, at least hopefully we are. This post was quickly scheduled on Saturday night when we were in the capital city in between events. You’ll be hearing more about our trip in the coming weeks, I’ll even share the links to the videos we made.

Have you traveled anywhere tropical in your life? Where & when did you go?

Reading & Watching

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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.