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.

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.


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.



nail heads

fence spike


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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My husband and I have scrimped and saved and finally paid off our mortgage…8 years early on a 15 year mortgage!

As freeing as this is, it means that we are pretty much broke going into the holidays as every spare penny has gone towards the mortgage for 2 years.

We are trying to stretch each and every dollar as far as it can go.

So to that end we have had to set up a budget.  One made especially to cover the months of November and December.

First we needed to come up with the amount we felt we could afford to spend over and above our standard spending on bills…our Holiday Budget

This amount would become our spending limit for the season.

Next we came up with a list of things we will be purchasing.

  1. Holiday Food
  2. Gifts
  3. Supplies for handmade gifts
  4. Decorations
  5. Cards and Postage
  6. Gift Baskets Supplies
  7. Charitable Giving

We then set a budget for each of the areas which became their specific spending limits…the total of these is the figure we came up with for our Holiday Budget

Being a spreadsheet wiz hubby came up with something like this free worksheet found here.

We are going track what we budgeted against what we actually spend throughout the season.

This gives us parameters for holiday spending…which actually feels freeing as I have in the past dreaded the after Christmas credit cards bills.  This year I know that there will be no more spent than is budgeted.

It also has my creative juices flowing trying to come up with creative and inexpensive ideas for the holidays!

Besides it’s not about how much you spend at the holidays…

It is who you get to spend the holidays with!

So do you budget for the holidays?


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




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“A simple enough pleasure, surely, to have breakfast alone with one’s husband, but how seldom married people in the midst of life achieve it.”

Anne Spencer

Here at Chiot’s Run breakfast is usually a piece of toast, a scone or something similar along with a cup of coffee. Once or twice a week we have bacon, eggs and potatoes, and once or twice a month we enjoy sourdough pancakes. In the winter we love soaked oat groats topped with all kinds of things like cinnamon, raisins and ginger. It’s kind of funny when you think about the fact that we have “breakfast” food, kind of weird really. I wonder if there’s something to that?

I could pretty much eat anything for breakfast, although I’m more of a savory eater than a sweet eater, so I prefer eggs, bacon, toast with butter. One thing I must have with my breakfast is coffee, no ifs ands or buts about that!

What are your breakfasts like? Sweet, savory, breakfasty, or normal food?

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This year my pumpkin vines went the way of the squash – horribly. Neither one seemed to produce any female blossoms, and so I ended up with no orange pie filling or bread sweets produced in my garden.  Instead I picked up a dozen pie pumpkins from a fruit stand (thanks, Mom!), and I’ve been busy processing them for use throughout the winter.

Not one to allow for much waste, I also baked up the pumpkin seeds to munch on for quick and healthy snacks. Again, thanks to my mom, I was given the idea to season my pumpkin seeds instead of the usual roasting. All I can say is that I find myself grabbing several spiced seeds each time I pass by the bowl, and have even found myself hovering near the bowl just for an extra munch.

sliced pumpkins

And who can roast pumpkins and not bake something with the gorgeous orange flesh. Pumpkins have tons of vitamin A, but also   Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. Additionally, pumpkin weighs in at only 30 calories per cup.

Since Halloween is only the beginning of celebrating the pumpkin, I thought I’d share several recipes I’ve been working on this week. I hope you enjoy!!

pumpkin persimmon scone

Pumpkin and Persimmon Scones

Best served with clotted cream or fresh butter.

  • 1cup all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 6 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree divided into two portions
  • ¼ cup persimmons (dried cranberries or raisins soaked for 5 minutes in warm water can be substituted if desired)
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup chopped nuts if desired
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  1. Heat oven to 425F.
  2. Chop butter into small bits, returning to refrigerator until needed.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together well the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, ¼ cup of the pumpkin puree, buttermilk, and vanilla.
  5. In another small bowl, combine 2 Tbsp sugar, the remaining pumpkin and your persimmons and nuts.
  6. Using a fork, pastry cutter, or a quick spin in a food processor, combine butter and flour mixture until it resembles corn meal. Add the liquid ingredients and mix lightly until just combined. Overworking will ruin your scones. Really, 10 seconds is all you need!
  7. Dust workspace with flour and pour out scone mixture. Drop spoonfuls of pumpkin/fruit mixture onto scone mixture and gently knead. You want little surprises of gooey fruit and crunchy nuts so don’t over-mix. Form scones into a circle, no taller than about an inch. Divide into 8 pieces like a pie and place onto cookie sheet, allowing plenty of space between pieces. Alternately you can place spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet like drop biscuits. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden brown. Serve warm with fresh jam or clotted cream!

(If you prefer to use cream in your recipe instead of buttermilk, remove the baking soda from your ingredient list. This would be an excellent way to use up the cultured cream from preparing clotted cream!)

clotted cream

Clotted Cream

adapted from Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll and litlnemo from Slumberland (thanks for the confidence!).

  • 1 pint to 1 quart heavy cream (not ULTRA-pasteurized) results in ½ to 1 cup clotted cream
  1. Heat oven to 180F
  2. Pour cream into a double-boiler and slowly bring up to 175F, stirring constantly. Pour into wide pan and cover with a lid. Allow the cream to stay warm for at least 8 hours.
  3. When you remove the pan, allow to cool a few minutes before setting it in an ice water bath. Do not stir cream yet even if it looks a little custardy.
  4. Place pan in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, strain off the thickened cream incorporating the “skin” into the mixture. You can use the reserved cream for any other application you’d normally use it for – it’s just now cultured.

clotted cream

 Spread cream onto scones, biscuits, or one of my favorite applications – pancakes!

savory seeds

Roasted pumpkin seeds – Savory

  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder
    1. Heat oven to 250F.
    2. Clean pulp from seeds and allow them to soak in water overnight. Rinse the seeds well in a strainer, rubbing them gently against the container to help remove any remaining residue.
    3. Place seeds on a cookie sheet, in a single layer, then place in heated oven. After 15 minutes drizzle with oil and seasonings, then return to oven.
    4. Turn over after 30 minutes and add more seasoning if desired. Bake for 1 hour total.
    5. Allow seeds to cool before enjoying.

Roasted pumpkin seeds – Herb

  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Thyme, oregano, basil
  • Garlic powder
    1. Heat oven to 250F.
    2. Clean pulp from seeds and allow them to soak in water overnight. Rinse the seeds well in a strainer, rubbing them gently against the container to help remove any remaining residue.
    3. Combine olive oil with herbs and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes.
    4. Place seeds on cookie sheet, in a single layer, then place in heated oven. After 15 minutes drizzle with oil and seasonings, then return to oven.
    5. Turn over after 30 minutes and add more seasoning if desired. Bake for 1 hour total. Be sure that herbs don’t singe.
    6. Allow seeds to cool before enjoying.

sweet pumpkin seeds

Roasted pumpkin seeds – Sweet

  • Walnut oil or other light tasting oil
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar
  1. Heat oven to 250F.
  2. Clean pulp from seeds and allow them to soak in water overnight. Rinse the seeds well in a strainer, rubbing them gently against the container to help remove any remaining residue.
  3. Place seeds on a cookie sheet, in a single layer, then place in heated oven. After 15 minutes drizzle with oil sugar and cinnamon, then return to oven.
  4. Turn over after 30 minutes and add more sugar if desired. Bake for 1 hour total.
  5. Allow seeds to cool before enjoying.

I hope you have the chance to take advantage of this wonderfully healthy and seasonal treat. Pumpkins can last quite a while in cool storage, but I have found it convenient to prepare a few ahead of time to keep frozen. The best part is that most of the fruit can be used and what is left over goes directly into the compost!

Jennifer can also be found at Unearthing this Life where she blargs about life with 6 chickens (yep, one more down), a frog, a fish, two cats, and her Hubby and Kid.

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