Archive for August, 2010

I have had many people email me wanting to know the status of both my mom and my blackberry situation with my neighbors.

I thought I would give you all an update.

First the blackberries…

If you recall our neighbor took it upon herself to rid my property of what she considers a ‘weed’, she sprayed all the blackberries along our fence line.

After talking to her daughter I expected to hear from her when she returned home from her vacation…that has not been the case.  I have left notes on her door and tried calling but to no avail.

And in the meantime all the blackberry vines have died along the fence bordering her property…sigh.

So hubby and I have decided to return that bit of land back to it original form which is evergreen forest with mixed understory trees and shrubs.

We will be planting fir and cedar trees along with dogwood and vine maple.  We had considered doing this 15 years ago when we moved here but enjoyed the blackberries so much we just couldn’t bring ourselves to…now there is no reason not to.

Unfortunately for my neighbor it will completely block her view of the valley.

I guess pesticide use has more consequences than just those listed on the label!


As far as my mom’s newly diagnosed breast cancer…

She tested positive for cancer in the lymph nodes.  We are going in for an MRI this morning to check the other breast for cancer.

Last week blood was drawn to see if she is (as they suspect) a carrier of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene which causes breast cancer…we get the results in a couple of weeks.

We have not heard the final pathology report on which type of breast cancer she has yet.

Surgery is tentatively scheduled for the 14th of September.

Thank you all for you well wishes and prayers…they mean more than you can know.


Finally kinderGARDENS in entering it final weeks. The children’s gardens are maturing and the kids are having a blast harvesting their own fruits and veggies !

Yeah for kids in the garden!

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“To ‘put by’ is an old deep-country way of saying to ‘save something you don’t have to use now, against the time when you’ll need it.’ “Putting food by is the antidote for running scared”.

-Janet Greene (Putting Food By)


Here at Chiot’s Run I’m filling up my pantry with all sorts of goodies for the winter. Since we live in NE Ohio, our cold weather season is LONG. This year I’ve been focusing on growing things that don’t require canning or freezing to fill the pantry. So far I’ve harvested about 150 pounds of potatoes for the pantry and my sweet potato patch looks like it will be very productive as well. My winter squash didn’t do very well, so I’ll be purchasing some of those. My fall crop of broccoli and cabbage is doing well it should be ready to harvest in November to store in the pantry and to make sauerkraut. I also made a bunch of fermented pickles that are living in the fridge.

Of course I’m still canning tomatoes because I could never live without those. I’ve canned some, roasted some to freezer, and I made a lot of sun dried tomatoes. I’ve also frozen some peas, because you just can’t have warm winter stews without peas. I also have a nice stock pile of wild black raspberries in the freezer, those will be perfectly warming baked into a nice cobbler during the cold dark months of January and February.

Overall I’m happy with my success so far in my efforts to reduce the amount of stuff I need to process in order to stock the pantry. I’m also experimenting with growing winter crops in cold frames. We’ll see if those those work, or if I’ll be going to the local farmer’s market mid-winter to pick up winter greens someone else successfully grew.


We are canning, freezing and dehydrating so much around here my kitchen hasn't been clean in weeks!
And next?
Blackberry season!!!

How’s your pantry growing? What have you been canning, freezing, drying or preserving in some way?

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I shared this on my blog, Unearthing This Life, earlier this week. I thought I’d pass it along for all of  you looking for a way to be crafty while (re)using thrift store purchases. Everything but the ribbon is vintage in this item. This was way more fun to design than purchasing something brand new! I hope you enjoy!!
pillowcase purse

This summer I picked up three or four sets of vintage pillowcases to make a few dresses for the Kid. I had originally intended to create a matching top for myself with the extra cases, but I thought it would be much more fun to create a new purse! Now I don’t claim to be any good at sewing. I’m much more of a free-form artist and sewing is so… final. So instead of digging up a pattern and trying to follow it, only to mess up and despise what I created, I decided to design my own pattern.

pillowcase purse

Once I decided which pillowcase design I wanted to use, I checked for any mending needs. If you’re like me, you have several old, worn out purses hanging around. So instead of purchasing a new handle I looked through what I had. (I have my eye on a few purses at the thrift shop just for their handles!)

pillowcase purse collage1

Next I played around with shapes for the purse. I folded the pillowcase and centered upon the design. I didn’t want a humongous purse that would fold under weight, but I wanted something big enough to carry what I consider my essentials. Think about where the pillowcase opens versus where your purse will open. My pillowcase opened on the “bottom” of my purse so I had to figure out where I wanted the top of the purse to be. Be sure to add an inch to the top for a rolled hem and a 1/2 inch to the bottom for seams and hems.

I was fortunate that I had enough “scrap” pillowcase leftover to make a liner for my purse. This is a must have if your pillowcase is older and the material is soft and worn. Because I didn’t want my purse quite as wide as the pillowcase I needed to trim it a bit. I wanted the purse 2-1/4inches narrower than the original pillowcase, but wanted to allow for a 1/2 inch seam, so I trimmed off 1-1/2 inches from one side. (I left the folded side of the pillowcase alone).

pillowcase collage 3

Once I trimmed down the pillowcase, I made a simple zigzag stitch on all raw edges to prevent running. Make sure to stitch the liner as well. If only because I can’t do anything simply, I decided that I did not want a plain rectangular purse. Instead I opted to blunt the corners of the bottom of the purse. Before I commited to a shape, I pinned the corners to get a visual. Three inches inward on both the side and bottom was pleasing to the eye.  I added 1 inch for the bottom seam, so only trimmed off 2 inches in either direction. Before going any further I made a quick zigzag stitch on these raw edges.

pillowcase collage 4

Next I sewed a seam on the bottom and bottom corners. Turn your purse inside-out so that you’re looking at the wrong side. Line up both edges of the bottom of the purse (and corners if you don’t want a straight bottom). Sew a straight straight stitch 1/2 inch from the edge on the bottom edge and up the open side. I sewed an extra seam 1/4 inch inward for additional strength. Next do the same with the liner. Iron seams open.

Now it’s time to stitch everything together. Insert the liner into the purse and turn everything inside-out so that you’re looking at the wrong side of the liner (If you look “inside” the purse you should see your design). Line up the top edges and make sure your sides match up as well. Roll the top edges of both the liner and the exterior down 1/2 inch and iron flat. Fold all the way around a second time (1/2 inch) and pin then iron flat. With matching thread, use a straight stitch to sew the hem closed 1/4 inch from the edge.

pillowcase collage 5

Now to finish up! Take some matching 1 inch ribbon and line it up with the hem stitching on the interior of the purse. Tack it down with some pins. If you want to incorporate your handles like I did, insert them underneath the ribbon, then sew the ribbon and handles onto the hem edging (don’t go all the way through to the exterior of the purse) with a needle and thread. I used some craft glue for additional strength. The ribbon hides all the handwork and the sloppy ends of these handles. If you’re using straps or handles with rings, sew the rings onto the interior hem edge (without going all the way through the purse) and then tack on the ribbon by hand to hide the hardware. Finally, make the purse yours! I added some iron-on sequins I happened to have in my craft box. It was the perfect addition and required no fancy handwork.

pillowcase purse

I’m absolutely thrilled with my new purse and I know I could not have purchased one brand new quite as cute!

pillowcase purse

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If you live in the northern part of the United States and are hoping to have a fall garden it’s time to start seeding all your leafy greens, radishes, turnips, kale, bunching onions, and peas. Since I’m attempting to grow more food throughout the year instead of relying on canned summer produce, I’ve been meticulously planning my fall planting schedule and trying to stick to it. If the weather is normal it looks like I should have a nice fall crop of veggies, and I hope I can overwinter some for harvesting in Dec, Jan and Feb.

One of the great things about gardening is that you can experiment. When you live in a cold climate you can attempt to plant a second round of certain crops like beans, zucchini and cucumbers. If you get an early frost and no harvest all it cost you was a few seeds and some time. If the weather holds off, you’ll get a good second harvest your pantry will be stocked with even more winter goodness. I started some cucumbers back July and transplanted them a few weeks ago hoping to start getting a good flush of cucumbers for pickling near the end of September.

I planted a lot of cucumbers hoping to have enough to do large batches of pickles. I planted 15 cucumbers plants at my mom’s house and 25 here in my gardens. Let’s hope we’ll be enjoying vats of fermented pickles all winter long!

Have you been wanting to plant a fall garden? Have you had any luck growing second rounds of crops?

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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I have spent the last week since my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer looking into specific dietary guidelines for those living with cancer.

As I have read many books and perused even more websites I kept coming back to the same conclusion…

A good diet for cancer patients is the same one that is good for all of us... it is a fresh, locally grown, non-processed, organic diet heavy on whole grains, healthy fats and proteins, and deeply colored fruits and veggies…simply prepared or eaten raw.

Haven’t we been preaching that here at Not Dabbling in Normal for a very long time now?

Maybe we should write a book…

Or maybe we should just keep on urging and prodding and challenging you (and us) to eat the way cancer patients are urged to eat!

So head out to the garden or down to the farmer’s market and get a basket full of your own cancer fighting ingredients…

Happy healthy eating all!

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It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts
while eating a homegrown tomato.
-Lewis Grizzard


When I think of edible gardening, I think of growing tomatoes. If I only had room for one kind of plant here at Chiot’s Run I would grow heirloom tomatoes. They come in all shapes and sizes and colors and are quite beautiful, and of course they taste AMAZING! So here’s an ode to a tomato, I don’t think we really need to say much about the beloved tomato. I could include so many photos in this post, but I’ll leave room for everyone else.


Hey Kim here…unfortunately because of the unseasonably cool summer I have only gotten a few tomatoes here.  But last year was a banner year and I have lots of photos from then!

Getting ready to make raw tomato sauce…tomatoes, onions, basil, and spices in the Vita-Mix, freeze!


Down here at Unearthing This Life we’ve had issues with our tomatoes too. It gives me a huge sad, especially since I’d purchased tomatoes while shopping only twice all winter. I just can’t stand the flavor of a tomato unless it’s fresh out of the garden, and juicy from ripening in the sun. Oh believe me, was I ever anticipating those tomatoes! I think the wait makes them taste that much better!



I think I could honestly eat tomatoes every day in one form or another. Sliced, chopped, sauced, juiced. It’s a good thing they’re so healthy!

green tomatoes

This year we started primarily heirlooms with a few hybrid leftover seeds. The heirlooms survived the blight longer, and were more reliable than the newer breeds of hybrids. And as Susy said, they taste better!

basket of 'maters
Do you grow tomatoes in your garden? Do you have a favorite variety?

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I wanted to share a recipe that a friend of mine gave to me.  I don’t know where or whom she got it from but the men in my family especially love this on everything from fish to veggies.  I make it up and keep it on hand at all times!

3 TBSP kosher salt

2 TBSP sugar

1 TBSP brown sugar (light or dark)

2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp celery seed

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp cayenne

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground fennel seed

Store in airtight container.  Make 2/3 Cup

So if you want a little spice in your life…give this a try!

Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer where she raises organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and…a camel!

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Now that blackberries are done for most of us, Elderberries are the next wild fruit in season. I can’t just sit by and watch good food go to waste, so of course I must climb through the remaining rose and blackberry brambles to reach the tiny purple fruits of the Elderberry. Poke berries are also starting to ripen so be sure to avoid those!! Know how to identify your berries before consuming. Poke is poisonous!

Elderberries should be picked and consumed with some knowledge as well:

According to Wikipedia, 

“The leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots contain a cyanide producing glycoside. Ingesting any of these parts in sufficient quantity can cause a toxic build up of cyanide in the body. In addition, the unripened berry, flowers and “umbels” contain a toxic alkaloid.

Due to the possibility of cyanide poisoning, children should be discouraged from making whistles, slingshots or other toys from elderberry wood. In addition, “herbal teas” made with elderberry leaves (which contain cyanide inducing glycosides) should be treated with high caution. However, ripe berries (pulp and skin) are safe to eat.

If you’re fortunate enough to have access to this wonderful plant, I suggest taking the time to prepare one of these tasty recipes. The sweetened berries taste a bit like a cross between a cherry and a blackberry. Who could go wrong with that?!



Elderberry Wine

  • 3 lbs fresh, ripe elderberries
  • 1-1/2 lbs sugar
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • Campden tablets (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 1 tsp citric acid (optional)
  • 1/2 lb sugar
    1. Wash berries and pick out any green fruit and stems. This can take quite a while for 3 pounds worth of fruit. I suggest pouring the berries onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (for contrast) to make the job easier.
    2. Sterilize all equipment with boiling water. If you purchased campden tablets you can crush one per gallon of water to ensure sterilization.
    3. Boil water and  1-1/2 lb sugar until well dissolved. Pour into elderberries and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
    4. Put elderberries into a food mill to release juices. Return berry skins to liquid. Alternatively, wear rubber gloves and smoosh with hands.
    5. Add crushed Campden Tablet and citric acid then allow to rest for 24 hours.
    6. The next day, add yeast to your soon-to-be wine and mix well. Top off your carboy or watercube with an airlock and allow the juices to do their work over the next 2 weeks.
    7. After 2 weeks, strain berry pulp from fermenting liquid using a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve. Make sure you use sterilized equipment! Add final 1/2 pound sugar and close your container with an airlock or balloon.
    8. Allow to rest 10 days.
    9. Ten days later, use your original bucket (cleaned and sterilized) and tubing to siphon the fermenting liquid from the sediment. Place your bucket on the floor and your carboy/watercube/jug on a table or counter. Insert one end of tubing into the wine and suck just a bit to get the siphon action going.
    10. While the siphoned liquid is resting in the bucket, clean your carboy/cube/jug and re-sterilize along with your tubing.
    11. Siphon the liquid again – back into the cleaned carboy/cube/jug .
    12. Close container with airlock or balloon as before.
    13. Let rest for 3 months or longer so that the yeast can work its magic. Once the mixture stops bubbling (if you’re using an airlock) or the balloon deflates the wine is ready to be siphoned into your sterilized bottles and corked.
    14. Allow to age an additional 3 months minimum (9 months to one year is best) before drinking.

    Country Wine: Equipment and Ingredients

    It is possible to make wine with minimum equipment and purchases. The bare necessities (in my humble experience) that you’ll want include:

    • Food-grade bucket, preferably 5-gallon. Check with a local bakery or deli.
    • A large strainer or sieve plus some cheesecloth.
    • About 4-5 feet of food-grade tubing. Look in the plumbing section of a hardware store.
    • Gallon-sized glass carboys or 5-gallon collapsible water cubes. Carboys can be saved from juice purchases. The water cubes are fantastic for making odd-sized batches of wine and can be found at camping supply stores.
    • Balloons and cotton balls, or  airlocks.
    • Yeast. You can use regular baking yeast, but if you want a better flavor you can opt for different “wine” strains of yeast found at winemaking/brewing stores. I’ve used Montrachet as it’s recommended to balance the flavors of berry wines.
    • Bottles and Corks. I save all my bottles from other purchases like wine, vinegar, juice, and so on. I purchased “mushroom” corks since they don’t require a tool to insert them into the bottles.


    • Campden tablets to sterilize equipment, remove stray yeast and bacteria (highly recommended unless you have problems with sulfites).
    • Tannin, citric acid, or Earle Grey tea for flavor balance in sweeter wines.
    • Extra sugar or wine conditioner to sweeten and brighten finished wine.
    • Pectic acid for removing extra pectin and “clarify” wine.
    • Yeast nutrient to feed yeast. Recipes without nutrient require extra sugar.

    You can purchase all of these items from a wine and beer making supplier or spend a little more energy and locate many things locally. I purchased my airlock, water cube, yeast, campden tablets, and corks from E.C. Kraus. for less than $50. The rest I found locally or did without.



    Elderberry Jam

    from the Ball Blue Book, yield about 3 pints

    • 2 quarts crushed elderberries (ripe berries, stemmed)
    • 6 C sugar
    • 1/4 C vinegar
    1. Combine berries, sugar and vinegar. Bring slowly to boiling, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves.
    2. Cook rapidly until thick. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking.
    3. Pour, boiling hot, into sterilized jars. Adjust caps.

    Yield: about 3 pints.

    I hope you get the opportunity to sample some elderberries in one form or another this year! The purple stains are worth it!!

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    Enjoying the Fresh Taste of Summer

    Here at Chiot’s Run we make sure we’re enjoying all the fresh tastes of summer. Since we’ve been trying to eat more seasonally and not spend as much time canning & preserving, I’ve been making sure to enjoy things as they’re at their peak. That means we’ve been eating sliced fresh tomatoes with every meal.

    One of our other favorite fresh summer tastes is pesto. I usually make a batch and we enjoy it on; homemade pasta, pizza, toast, vegetables, etc. My pesto recipe is very simple, I use walnuts or pecans instead of pine nuts because I always have some in the freezer.

    1/4 cup of walnuts
    2 cloves of garlic, sliced
    1 1/2 cups of fresh basil leaves
    1/3 cup good olive oil
    3 T. butter
    1/4 cup romano cheese
    salt & pepper to taste

    Add walnuts, garlic and basil to food processor and process until finely chopped. Drizzle with 1/3 cup of good olive oil and process until combined, add 3 Tablespoons of butter and pulse until blended. Empty contents into bowl and stir in cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Allow to rest for a few hours before serving.

    This particular batch of pesto was enjoyed over some fresh linguine that I made last night. There’s enough left over for something else, I’m thinking make a white lasagne with cheese and pesto and no marinara.

    What are you enjoying at the peak of it’s fresh flavor?

    I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping and more; I also blog at Eat Outside the Bag blogging about all things food & cooking. You can also find me on the Your Day Blog and you can follow me on Twitter and find me on Facebook.

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    Apron Sew-A-Long Part 3

    Ready for part 3 of the apron sew-a-long?  Time to finish up those aprons and start wearing them!  If you missed any of the previous posts, you can find them here – part 1 and part 2.

    Now it’s time to make the binding for the apron.  First lay your fabric and draw lines with a water-soluble marker 3.25″ apart (these will be your cut lines).


    Line up pattern markings so you can cut one continuous strip once you sew binding piece in a loop.


    Sew the seam to form a loop with your binding piece.


    Cut on the lines you drew.  You will now have one very long piece of fabric that you will use for binding both sides of the apron as well as the neck and back ties.


    Fold the binding, wrong sides facing each other, and press.


    Open the binding and fold each side, wrong sides together, to the center fold crease.


    Now fold along the center crease and give the binding a good press.


    Now your binding is ready to attach to your apron.  First cut your long piece in half.  Now you’ll want to find the center of your apron side and center of your binding piece and pin it to the apron.  When you attach it to the apron, you’ll need to open one of the sides of your binding so the right side of your binding and the right side of your apron are facing each other.  Pin in place, then sew the binding to the apron only stitching on the outer crease line.


    Fold the binding on the center crease and around to the back side, pin in place.


    Now using an edge stitching foot, start at one tail of your apron strap and stitch until you get to the apron.


    Keep stitching on the apron and then back off on the rest of the loose strap.  This step closes the ties and secures it to the apron.


    Repeat on the other side and viola, you have your very own apron!  Pat yourself on the back and tie that apron on – you made an apron!


    Here is my finished apron.  I love the stripes.

    Thank you to all who participated in the sew-a-long, I hope you found it helpful.  I have enjoyed sharing a little about sewing with the readers of Not Dabbling in Normal.  I’ve decided to end my little sewing series.  School is starting in a few weeks and my family is traveling down a new-to-us path, we’ll be homeschooling our four children this year.  I’m super excited, but can only imagine I’m going to have even less time for writing posts.  I need to clear off my plate and make sure our school year gets off to a solid start.  Have a great rest of your summer!


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