Archive for June, 2010

The past couple years I’ve been reading more and more about winter gardening. It’s tough to do in my climate (zone 5), but it’s not impossible. One of my winter gardening heroes is Eliot Coleman (author of: The Winter Harvest Handbook and Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long). I have read his books over and over and have experimented a little bit with his methods. My main problems with winter gardening is the lack of garden space. My entire garden is taken up by summer crops with no space left for winter crops. As I expand my garden and grow more at my mom’s, I’m starting to have a small bit of space available for attempting to grow things for winter harvest.

Earlier this month I spent some time with my calendar noting time to start all the fall crops. For those of you interested in winter gardening that live in a zone 4-5 I thought I’d make sure to note the dates and what to start. It’s time to start fall cabbages, broccoli, brussels sprouts, radicchio, cauliflower and leeks. Next week it will be time to start fall carrots as well. I figure if I add a few things each year, in a couple years I’ll be harvesting all year long!

Have you had any success with fall/winter gardening?

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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It is not my personality to makes lists…even when I do I lose them so I figure what is the point?

But for this for an undertaking this big I made a list of rooms that needed de-cluttering, what I hoped to accomplish in each area, and what supplies I needed.

Then I had the task of decided which room to start…

I though about starting in the hardest most messy room in the house…my craft room.  But figured I would be so exhausted by the time I was done that I would not have enough gumption to tackle anything else for months.

So instead I chose a room that is rather public, that the kids seldom mess up in, and something that would please my organized-neat-orderly-hubby.  Our office/sunroom/exercise room is mostly being taken over by paperwork…something that seems to be a universal problem in most homes.

It is a room that once cleaned and organized would most likely would stay that way for the foreseeable future because I only use it to run on the treadmill and the kids only use it to jump on the trampoline.  Well except in the late winter/early spring when the big table under the window is covered with seedlings…but for now it is just collecting more clutter.

I am being very honest here and posting what it looked like just this morning…

I’m giving myself till next week to do this because chances are that if the weather is nice I’ll be out there..

Next week I’ll share the after photos and the strategies I came up with for organizing the paperwork monster.

If you guys have any great tips for keeping paperwork under control I would love to hear them!

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Kim here…considering how much its been raining here my garden has been growing really s…l…o…w!

I did harvest my first of my early garlic…

There are a few green tomatoes…but mostly still blossoms 

The borage is busy attracting bees and other pollinators to the garden

And my kiddos always find things to pick in the garden…whether it be a beautiful  red rose or a little purple weed or even a couple of field daisies!


This time of year year makes me a happy gardener at Chiot’s Run. I love growing all kinds of things, especially edible things that can be used in the kitchen. Right now the peas are in full production and I’ve got 16 cups in the freezer ready for winter stews.

The wild black raspberries and blueberries are starting to come on, taking the place of strawberries as the fruit of the season. They find their place often in pancakes, muffins and sprinkled on top of a salad as well as promising a enough bounty to fill the freezer for pies, cobblers and scones this coming winter.

And of course like Kim, we’ve got a lot of tiny green tomatoes and lots of blossoms, but no red fruit yet. I can hardly wait for them to come ripe, truly everything else in the garden is simply grown to keep my going until the tomatoes come ripe.

Of course the gardens wouldn’t be complete without some lovely blooms for color and beauty. The front foundation beds look their best in late June and throughout July. They truly are a riotous mix of all kinds of flowering and fruiting shrubs, herbs, and perennials with some edible mixed in.


I suppose I’m spoiled living more southerly than the other gals. Here at Unearthing this Life our heavy harvesting is just beginning – starting with berries, beets and turnips, the last of the greens, early potatoes, garlics, and our first tomatoes.


harvest collage

Just like Susy, our garden beds tend to look very happy and colorful this time of year.


What about you? How does your garden grow?

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This week we are having a family/friend get together at our home to celebrate the life of my mother in law who finally passed a few days ago after a valiant fight.

We will be barbecuing…one of the things I’ll be doing is vegetable kabobs.  They are easy and super delicious!

Any sort of veggies that will hold their shape on the grill work well… peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, onions, cherry tomatoes.

Pre-soak skewers if you are using wooden ones.  I invest in metal skewers years ago, they are much easier an have a nice little circle on the end to make flipping easier.

Wash veggies and cut into chunks and thread onto skewers.

Brush with marinade.  You can use your favorite Italian dressing, teriyaki sauce, or make a simple butter sauce by melting butter and adding freshly chopped herbs (my favorite is basil) and finally minced garlic or garlic powder.

Grill 4 to 6″ from medium heat grill for 8 to 10 minutes turning and basting frequently until they reach your favorite tenderness…I like mine with some crunch left in them.

Remove from grill brush with marinade and serve.

If you are looking for something simpler you can put all your vegetables in a foil packet, pour on marinade and put directly on the grill.  Not as pretty and kabobs but quick and easy!

I use my grill all summer long…here I am fire roasting peppers to freeze later.

We use the grill for pizza too!  It is an easy way to not heat up your house in the summer and there is just something about grilled foods that just says ‘summer’!

So what is your favorite thing hot off the grill?

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I suppose I’ve gone and worn myself out since today I’m feeling under the weather. So instead of being miserable trying to be witty and educational (I said ‘trying’ =P ) I thought I’d share one of my favorite posts from my own blog.  These are a few things that keep me doing the things I do. What about you? What prompts you to live your life?


We bought our house four years ago. We were returning to my husband’s rural hometown after 10 years of living in town. I always had this mental image of “Green Acres” when I thought of the transition, but alas I have none of the elegance nor grace of Ms. Gabor.

In reality I learned about country living from my paternal grandparents who lived on the outskirts of a small, Indiana town. The small farmhouse they lived in holds more places in my memory than any other place I lived. I helped my grandmother can tomatoes and pickle beets (all of which she stored in the cellar), we snapped green beans, picked apples, and grew strawberries. Days passed by watching the clouds take shape, playing cards, and pretending to drive the tractors all while listening to the neighbor’s roosters crow. So much for a life of diamonds and pearls.

I’ve always liked getting my hands dirty.

Moving to the country was a bit like finally having the space to practice all the things my grandparents taught me while giving us the ability teach our daughter those very same skills. My husband, having lived an even more rural existance, has his share of skills to pass on; riding motorcyles, raising chickens and horses, cutting hay, using farm equipment, fixing cars, and otherwise creating something from nothing.

A dichotomy exists in both of our lives, however. The Artists. Half of both our families are crafters, artists, scientists, or explorers. His predecessors were among the first barnstormers and hangliders around here. They travelled the world, spelunked and made art. Mine too. They were the crafters and artists, the needlepointers and knitters, oil painters and potters. My maternal grandparents lived in England for some time after my mother was born. Oh the stories of teas, scones, and bland food! The stories of culture and new experiences!

It only makes sense, then, that a scientist and an artist would bring their daughter to live out in the country. It only makes sense that her favorite food would be eel sushi and that she knows just when a persimmon is best picked; she can identify the differences between a phillips head and a standard while dressed up as a princess and drinking tea; she can spend hours drawing and cutting or just exploring the garage or the woods behind our house.

What, if anything, do we intend to teach our daughter? Well, everything of course! She is the reason we finally made the move back to the country. For the land, the garden, the hard work. So far it’s been worth every blister and back ache, the miles spent travelling to the city, the space, the dark skies and bright stars.

The quiet.

You can also find me over at my blog: Unearthing This Life.

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This time of year it’s all about eating fresh in season food and trying to figure out the best way to preserve some of it for winter. I’m trying to work on growing more fresh food during the winter months, but until I get everything figured out I’m still canning/freezing/drying fruit and veggies. My sister has two HUGE cherry trees on a plot of land she rents for a garden. There were way more cherries than they needed, so she asked if we wanted some. Never being one to turn up free food, we went out last week and picked and picked, and then picked some more. It’s hard to let anything go to waste.

With mountains of cherries, I had to figure out what exactly I wanted to do with them. Since I haven’t been preserving for a long time, I like to try different methods to see which one we like best. I also didn’t have a ton of time to work on them since we had other things going on. I decided to dehydrate as many as I could and make maraschino cherries out of a few as well (we picked ones with stems just for this purpose).

I ended up running out of time pitting for drying and freezing, so I brined 4 and half gallons for canning whole. A few of them will be preserved with brandy to give away to friends, most of them will be canned whole with the stems for making chocolate covered cherries at Christmas time. I’m excited to try the canned ones to see how we like them.

I really want to have Mr Chiots build me a solar dehydrator. That way I can preserve food without using much energy at all. Dehydrating is also very nice because it doesn’t require any refrigeration for long-term storage. I also love it because it doesn’t require, jars, lids, boiling, cooking, so it saves time. Dehydrating will be my method of preservation I chose above all this year.

Do you try preserving with different methods to find which one works best for you?

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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Apron Sew-A-Long Part 1

Alright, does everyone have their apron pattern and fabric?  Well let’s get started!  To begin you’ll need either McCall’s 2947 or McCall’s 5358 and 1 3/8 yd of fabric.

My apologies if this is too elementary for some of you.  I want to make sure it’s easy for everyone to follow along and successfully make an apron.  If you’re a gung ho sewer, by all means blaze ahead.

So first, you need to cut out your pattern pieces.  I’m using 2947, so that was pieces 13, 16, & 17.  Actually you don’t have to use 16 which is a pocket.  There are a number of pockets which you can use in this pattern.  I chose 16 and actually cut the piece of fabric in half to make two separate pockets because that is what I personally like on my apron.  You can put whatever pocket(s) on you’d like or leave them off altogether.


Next you need to lay your fabric out.  Make sure you have it on grain.  You can see with the stripes it’s super easy to find the grain of the fabric.  Below is the cutting layout shown on the pattern instruction sheet.  Secure your pattern pieces to your fabric with either weights if you’re using a rotary cutter or with pins if you’re using scissors to cut.


Here is a close up of the grainline on the pattern matching up with the grain of the fabric.


Once you have cut out your fabric, it should look like this (remember I chose to cut the one big pocket in half to make two smaller pockets)…


Let me know if you have any questions.  Next time we’ll start the sewing process!  I’m really pleased with how my apron turned out, the stripes make it so fun and summery!


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A new Perspective

Last week I shared my frustration at being unable to ‘do it all’ .

This week I have a new perspective partially because of your kind comments, partially because sometimes life makes you stop and take inventory of your life.

I have had hours and hours this last week while sitting alongside my mother-in-law to really ponder what it is in my life that I have found to be important and those things that are just not that big of a deal. It is interesting when you watch someone at the very end of their lives, as you watch them die, you turn to your life and take inventory.

When my husband’s family has recounted their childhoods, while remembering their mother, it was not the things they had, how clean their house was, or even what a great cook their mother was.  No, what they remember and cherish is how she was there for them, how she loved them, her quick smile, and quirky sense of humor.

Sometimes I, because I’m an all or nothing personality, tend to get fixated on things like an organic homegrown diet that I don’t remember to sit down and just enjoy a meal.

I truly believe that growing my own food is a worthy goal but if I find myself sitting down to dinner with my family and instead of being in the moment always thinking of all the things I need to do after dinner then my perspective needs to change.

I need to remember that when I am dying someday my kids won’t remember that they only ate organically grown broccoli from our own garden as much as they will remember that their mom sat with them at meals and interacted with them…really listened to what they had to say.

So I am hoping this summer to get a little change in my perspective…I’m not giving up on some of my goals and plans especially those that involve simplifying my life…but I’m going to put them in the ‘big picture’.  I’m going to focus more on those things that are as simple as spending time with my family.

For at the end of our lives are we really going to remember anything else?

So stay tuned throughout this summer as I’m going to be starting a series on how I am going to go about simplifying my life.  How I am going to re-prioritize and learn to focus more on those things that are important  and less on the other stuff!

First step for me…getting rid of the clutter.  It is driving me crazy and distracting me from things more important. See you next week when I will share my plan for getting rid of all the ‘stuff’ that I don’t want or need!

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What are Daddies good for?

Saving (and handling) creepy critters.

creepy collage



Being completely goofy (and reserving gross jokes for the fire pit)




And being good teachers.

rolling collage

And for being another big kid!

We gals love you fellas!

Happy Father’s Day to all of you Daddies!!


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When it comes to making jams and jellies I make a LOT!  We have a big family, I bake all of our own bread and that is a combination for eating a lot of jam…

Each year I do wild blackberry, white grape, apricot, and when I can get organic nectarines or plums I make no-pectin jam with them!


6 Cups chopped nectarines or Plums(I have found that this works best with fruit chopped by hand…in a food processor makes for a softer set)

3 Cups sugar

4 TBSP Lemon Juice

Combine ingredients and bring to a slow boil for 30 minutes stirring very frequently (I just stand and stir while reading a book)

Remove from heat…at this point you can add any spices you want, cinnamon, ginger, etc.  I like ours plain.

Ladle into sterilized Jelly Jars.

Put on hot lids and rings

Tighten (but no overly tight)

Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes

This is super easy, very delicious, and a great way to preserve your soft fruit bounty for the winter.

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