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Gifts from Readers

November 18th, 2015

A month or so ago I received this lovely hand-forged tool from a blog reader. She said it was one of her favorite garden tools and she thought I’d like it as well. As I’ve been clearing out the front flowerbed, I’ve been using it to level the soil. The extra reach provided by the extra long handle is quite convenient, with it I can reach more of the bed from one location.
homestead iron 1
homestead iron 2
This tool is made handmade in Missouri by Homestead Iron. You can find their tools over in their Etsy shop. I really like some of the other items, a boot scraper would come in handy around here that’s for sure.
homestead iron 3
So far I’m loving this tool. A big thanks to Amy for sending this along. If you’re looking for a gift for yourself or for friends/family this Christmas check out this little shop.

Have you received any thoughtful gifts recently?

Friday Favorite: This Old Blanket

July 20th, 2012

I have this old blanket that I can remember having on my bed when I was as young as 3rd grade and I’ve used ever since. A very simple quilt, made by sewing two cotton king sized sheets together with a flannel sheet sandwiched in between. It’s tufted with that multi-colored yarn that was so popular back in the day.

This quilt was made for me by a group of older ladies in the church. Every time we’d come back to the States from Colombia, they’d present us with beautiful quilts, some very intricate and pretty, other’s crocheted from yarn and some plain and simple like this one.

This blanket is one of my favorite things because it’s the perfect weight for summer. It provides that comfortable weight that helps me sleep better without being too heavy or too hot. It’s also a great layer in winter, we usually add a heavy woolen blanket on top of it.

It’s not stunning, beautiful, intricate or pretty, at least not in the usual sense. I still LOVE it and it will be on my bed until it’s fallen into threads, not likely in my lifetime since it’s already almost 30 years old and shows no signs of wear. No doubt, many of the ladies that worked on it are no longer living and that makes even more special. I wonder if they realized when they lovingly stitched this blanket that I’d still be using it as an adult?

Keeping it around reminds me that it’s not always about surrounding yourself with beautiful things. Sometimes utility trumps beauty, and yet that makes something beautiful in it’s own way! This quilt will never be in a magazine, but it’s worth it’s weight in gold to me for the comfort it provides.

Do you have any items like this that you love?

247 E Mohawk Drive

May 11th, 2012

Yep, that’s my address. I purchased some house numbers a while ago with plans to put them on the front door. Then I got nervous and didn’t want to drill holes in the door. Earlier this week, we decided to make a plaque to hang on the front porch since it’s all spruced up and looking lovely.

Originally we were going to buy some wood, but then we remembered that we had some beautiful maple that was milled from one of those trees we had taken down last spring. First we thought about painting it, but then decided the light maple would be perfect as is.

Mr Chiots cut the perfect size board, complete with a slightly beveled edge. He gave it a good sanding, though not enough to make it furniture smooth. We wanted to still have some texture. Then I gave it a few coats of organic boiled linseed oil.

After it was dry, I attached the number, added the eye hooks, and wrote a small description on the back. Hopefully whoever has this house after us will find this little treasure when they take the number down.

Mr Chiots and I were laughing that they’ll probably take it down because they think it’s ugly then they’ll feel bad since it’s got history.

This house humber is perfect because it’s easily visible from the road now, which is why you put house numbers up. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been searching for someone’s address and couldn’t find house numbers either on the house or the mailbox. We’ve always had a mailbox with huge numbers on it to make it easy for people to find, now this is even better.

Do you display your house number somewhere visible?

Friday Favorite: Handmade

March 30th, 2012

Over the years I have discovered the joy in honoring those whose work I will never match – and learning to love that I don’t have to. When I find them, I buy mosaics made my artists with a better eye for design and color than I have. I serve potatoes in an exquisite purple bowl thrown by a potter from my hometown in Iowa. I keep flowers on the kitchen table in an indestructible water jug made by a main I met is Asheville, NC, fired in a kiln powered by methane gas from a landfill. I brew tea in a mustard yellow pot that I picked up dring one of my best days I spent in Japan. I’m drawn to all of these things for their beauty and utility of course, but it’s also the people who made them – and the stories behind them – that make the difference to me.

Robyn Griggs Lawrence (The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty)

Whenever possible, I like to purchase items made by hand by someone here in the USA. Being a small business owner myself, I see this as important. I know the care and detail that goes into each item, though we don’t make something tangible, we still put our heart and soul into our product. Handmade items just have something about them, a soul of sorts. Just this week I bought this beautiful hand coffee mill made by the Red Rooster Trading Company.

Mr Chiots and I are coffee lovers and freshly ground coffee is so much better. When we travel we have always ground coffee beforehand to take with us. Now we can take this beauty along for the ride. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this mill, for only $60 it’s a bargain since it’s handmade. When we ground a small batch of coffee we were pleasantly surprised, it can grind the coffee finer and more evenly than our pricey burr grinder. We’re espresso drinkers, so the fineness and evenness of the grind is very important to brew the perfect shot of espresso.

It’s so nice that it may even trump our other mill. Happily I add this to my list of growing items in the house that are made with love by someone with a name, including my salt & pepper mills from Tea & Gold, and a few lovely wooden kitchen utensils that rest in my lovely handmade crock from the local Moorefield Pottery.

Any great handmade items in your house? Any great small businesses to recommend?

Beautiful and Meaningful

June 29th, 2011

How much more pleasant would drying dishes be if you could use a thick, densely stitched hand knit dishcloth? Might you be less likely to let a wastebasket woven of willow branches overflow with trash? Have you ever swept the floor with a handcrafted broom made from real broomcorn? It has tiny spurs that trap and hold dust, whereas plastic bristles rely on static electricity. These are the tools of our everyday lives. If we choose them wisely, our everyday lives will be that much more beautiful and meaningful!

Robyn Griggs Lawrence (The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty)

I would highly recommend reading the book above. You will find yourself thinking about the things that you chose to bring into your home. In our culture it’s often about acquiring more, bigger, better, faster, newer at the expense of quality, handmade and local. Over the past couple years I’ve really been striving to detox my home of the mass-produced low quality items that have no soul. When something needs replaced I try to find it made locally.

While shopping at Local Roots a month ago I noticed a local potter was selling crocks. They were all fairly small, so I contacted one of the potters, Emily from Moorefield Pottery to see if she’s make me a bigger one. I love that she uses clay harvested in the Ohio River Valley. This is a truly local product.

I was super excited to hit the market last week to pick up my crock. Emily did a wonderful job creating the perfect crock to hold my utensils, it is beautiful! Perhaps someday I’ll have her make me a few plates and bowls so we can get rid of our made in China white dinnerware.

It’s so much more meaningful when you can purchase a product made by a local artist or craftsman. I like seeing the artist’s signature scratched into the bottom of the piece instead of a “made in China” sticker – makes me very happy.

I love her little clay birdhouses as well, someday I may have a few of these hanging around the gardens. I really appreciate that there are people who take the time to learn such skills and I will spend my money to support them. Every time I reach for a utensil I’ll be able to appreciate the beauty of this handmade piece of art. Emily does have an Etsy store if you’re interested in checking out a few of her things.

Do you have any handmade items that you really appreciate? Do you know of any great artisans in your area?

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.