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Archive for November, 2010

Handmade Gift Giving

Gifts do not need to cost a lot.

They don’t need to be mass produced from some foreign land.

Most often the very best gifts are those made with love and full of sweet memories!

This has more meaning than any fancy piece of artwork I could purchase.

It was made for people I love…

Featuring people I love!

Besides…it was much more fun to make than braving the crowds in town shopping for the perfect gift!

So how about you?

Are you holidays going to handmade?

*****

If you would like to know how I made the framed are go here for a tutorial

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“One morning the whole world was delicately silvered. Every blade of grass was silvery and the path had a thin sheen. It was hot like fire under Laura’s bare feet, and they left dark footprints in it. The air was cold in her nose and her breaths teamed. So did Spot’s. When the sun came up, the whole prairie sparkled.
Millions of tiny, tiny, sparks of color blazed on the grasses.”

Laura Ingalls Wilder

***

Winter is already taking hold here at Chiot’s Run. We had our first official frost a few weeks ago, and ever since we’ve waking up to a sparkling morning more often than not. One morning we even had a coating of snow. It sure looks like winter is upon use here in NE Ohio.





Do you live an area with frost & snow? Has it arrived yet?

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Cranberry Apple Relish

Here at Chiot’s Run we LOVE cranberry relish when it comes to Thanksgiving Day meals. I make a big batch each year and we take some to all of our holiday gatherings. It’s a quick and easy side dish and it really adds a great flavor to your turkey meal. Here’s my favorite recipe.

CRANBERRY APPLE RELISH
1 (12-16 oz) bag of fresh or frozen cranberries
2 apples, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 cup sugar
1 cup of cider (you can use water if you don’t have cider)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon grated cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan and cook covered for about 30 minutes (make sure you keep it covered as cranberries have a tendency to pop). Uncover, taste and adjust sugar and seasonings to your family’s liking. Cook until desired consistency; if you like it thick cook longer, if you like it thinner you can turn off now or add water if it’s already too thick. Chill and serve.

Do you take a big scoop of cranberry relish at the table, or do you pass it on to the next person?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter.

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We are blessed with a LOT of trees here in the Pacific Northwest.  We have not only evergreens which we are known for, but we also have lots of deciduous trees.  This means we have lots of leaves to use in our gardens each year.

The leaves that fall at home I shred and use directly on the garden beds each fall…it makes a great winter mulch along with grass clippings.

The leaves that fall up at our lake cabin are a different story.

As we don’t have a garden at the cabin, and not wanting to waste such a great resource, I rake them, bag them, and haul them back home.

I take all my bags full of leaves out to the garden.  Then I add a scoop of garden soil into each bag.  I then poke a few holes in the top and a few in the bottom for drainage (wet Northwest winters) and I’m done…there they sit all fall and winter.

Leaves that are not shredded will take between 6 to 12 months to break down completely.  I, having no patience what so ever, use mine at the 6 month mark.  In the spring I open up my bags and find the leaves to be reduced by about half.  I also find that a few worms have moved in through my drainage holes!  I then use my leaf mold in my trenches, mounds, and pots in the garden.

Leaf mold itself does not have a lot of nutrients like compost does.  But it is a marvelous soil conditioner.  It improves your soil texture and helps tremendously with water retention.  Leaf mold also is great for providing habitat for soil critters like earthworms and even beneficial bacteria!

Leaf mold is simple to make and free!  So if you are lucky enough to have a tree or two…or a hundred…go get out your rakes and make yourself some leaf mold…your garden will thank you!


 

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Sunday Photos…Fences

It’s been said that good fences make good neighbors, perhaps they do. I always enjoy seeing fences, there’s just something about a fence that I like. It doesn’t have to be pretty, neat or straight, I just love a fence. I have a fence here at Chiot’s Run, it’s a weathered wooden fence and makes it’s way into a lot of my photos.


I’ve photographed many in my travels far away and close to home; from Scott and Helen Nearing’s stone walls, to Eliot Coleman’s plastic stapled fence, from a giant clipped hedge to a beautiful cottage border by a fence in Bar Harbor Maine, here are a few of my fence photos.




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Around here, most fences serve one of two purposes: to keep livestock contained or to signify the border of someone’s property. I think I love old fences best; those with aged hardware – that show a time gone by.

pastoral

fence

nail heads

fence spike

IMG_1843

Hey Kim here.  When I think of fence I usually think of the doggone camel and how I am eternally fixing them due to him leaning over them.  But sometimes I go out at dawn and our fences seem to take on a whole different feel…

Or when they are covered with ice…

I am so very glad for our fence to keep the goats out of the garden…

And the kids out of the chickens…

I also love fences because they give you a vertical plane on which to grow things like sunflowers, beans or peas.

Most of our fences are wire with wooden and metal posts…very utilitarian.

 

This is a wooden fence that our elderly neighbor put in over 30 years ago…LOVE it!

Now if I could just protect my fences from this…

What’s your favorite kind of fencing material?

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apple swirl

Having recently prepared apple cider and frozen apple slices, it occurred to me that I should give brewing cider vinegar a whirl. After all, I’ve brewed plenty of wine and soda pop and both could unintentionally turn into vinegar… why not do it on purpose?

Cider vinegar has been touted for its health benefits. Years ago, I recall my great-uncle consuming it every day to help with his cancer therapy. My father-in-law takes a capful each morning to help with his IBS. It’s claimed that cider vinegar can help with everything from acne to yeast infections. It helps make hair shiny, it can be used as a cleanser, and it adds a great tang to salads.

So I looked into multiple recipes. Some called for adding sugar, others yeast. Wanting to keep my vinegar as organic, natural, and healthful as possible, I avoided those recipes and combined two recipes to suit my needs. The originals can be found at wikibooks.org and at Ultimate Money Blog. So you may ask why did I change the recipes? For simplicity and for eating “nose to tail” so to speak. I’ve had so many apple scraps that are happily going to my compost pile (and in turn into my chickens’ bellies as they scavenge) but I’d rather make a better use of them for immediate consumption. Also, Autumn apples have plenty of sugar to spare. Finally, I want to capture a “wild yeast” instead of using a winemaking or bread baking yeast in order to keep it as beneficial as possible. So this is what I came up with:

apple scraps

 

Apple Cider Vinegar

  • Apple scraps: peels, cores and flesh – cleaned and removed of dirt and bruised areas.
  • Chlorine-free water to cover fruit, preferably filtered or boiled.
  • Food-grade plastic, stainless steel, or glass containers. Vinegar can corrode some metals.
  • Campden tablet (optional)
  1. Put fruit scraps into your containers and just cover with water. Add a campden tablet if desired to kill any bacteria or yeast that could interfere with your desired wild yeast. Leave plenty of air space to encourage circulation and give room for bubbling. Cover with some cheesecloth or another fine cloth to keep fruit flies out, yet allow fresh oxygen (and wild yeast!) to enter. Keep your container out of sunlight and in room temperature (about 65F to 70F).
  2. Encourage the fruit to break down and fermentation to work its magic by mixing the solution every day for two weeks. After two weeks, remove the fruit scraps.
  3. Allow fermentation to continue. Once the bubbling slows down siphon the solution into a clean container, avoiding the sediment and foam. This may need to happen the day after you remove the fruit scraps depending on how quickly the process is working for your individual solution. Don’t do it the same day as removing the fruit scraps will stir up any sediment – give it a day to settle.
  4. Let this second container do its work for another 2-3 months. It should develop a white film on top – the vinegar mother. You want to keep this mother so you can continue to brew vinegar year round! You can now remove up to two-thirds of your vinegar for use. Refresh your mother with fresh, clear cider and you will have another batch of vinegar ready in about two to three months.

Please note that unless you can verify the acid levels (5% acetic acid) you should not use this vinegar for preservation, especially in canning. Canning goods requires a specific acid level in order to keep out harmful bacteria and keep food fresh.

Over the next couple of months I’ll update my progress with my first batch of vinegar. Have you ever made vinegar before whether intentionally or not?

You can also find Jennifer at Unearthing This Life where she blargs about living in rural Tennessee.

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After making my sourdough starter a few years ago, I make bread all the time. This past year I’ve been working on trying to learn how to make sourdough quick breads, like English muffins, pancakes, biscuits and other things. One reason I like sourdough is because the grains are soaked overnight, this is supposed to make them easier to digest and much more nutritious. On Tuesday morning I finally made my first batch of sourdough pancakes and they were a HUGE hit.

I used the basic recipe from Mother Earth News and amended it to suit my tastes. I used my sourdough starter and some freshly ground whole wheat flour, along with some buttermilk leftover from my butter making, eggs from the local farm. We topped them with some homemade butter and some local maple syrup (soon enough we’ll have our own maple syrup).

Sourdough Pancakes

1 cup sourdough starter* (I like to use recently fed starter)
1 cup water or buttermilk (I’ve made both and much prefer buttermilk)
1 cup flour (I used 100% whole wheat freshly ground)

In a large bowl, mix these 3 ingredients just until combined (don’t over mix) and let stand overnight. I use raw milk buttermilk in mine and it doesn’t bother me to let it sit out overnight, it has beneficial bacteria in it, so I don’t worry about the milk going bad. *I feed my starter white flour, so my pancakes were half whole wheat.

2 eggs (I usually use only 1 egg)
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or butter (allow to cool slightly)
1 tablespoon of sugar (or 1 tablespoon of honey)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
*you can add a few Tablespoons of powdered milk if you used water in your starter above instead of using buttermilk

The next morning, sprinkle sugar, salt and baking soda over the starter sponge you made the night before (I always put my baking soda through a screen to get rid of any lumps). Whisk eggs and butter or coconut oil together then add to sponge mix. Add additional buttermilk if the sponge mix seems to thick for pancake batter (depends on whether you like thick or thin pancakes, this batter is slightly thicker than normal). Mix until combined and allow to sit for 30 minutes before making pancakes.

Drop batter by quarter cups on a buttered, preheated cast iron pan. Cook pancakes until golden brown on both sides, flipping them once only when tops are bubbly and edges look like they’re starting to dry (I guess you know how to do this so I don’t need to explain it too much).

Some of the recipes I’ve read don’t use baking soda, I’ll be making a batch soon without. I hear that it helps reduce the sourness of the pancakes, so if you’re pancakes are too sour, add another half teaspoon of baking soda. Next batch I’ll try making without any baking soda to see how sour they are and how well they raise.

Mr Chiots loved these pancakes, he said they were the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever made. One great thing about soaking the whole wheat overnight is that it reduces the bitterness of the whole wheat. I must agree, these didn’t taste like they had as much whole wheat in them as they did. I’ll try making some buckwheat pancakes soon as well. I’m not as huge a fan of buckwheat as I am whole grain or oatmeal pancakes.

What’s your favorite kind of pancake?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter.

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