Archive for February, 2011

Here at Not Dabbling, we’ve been discussing whether or not we’re going to do the Real Food Challenge again this year, it seems like a lot of you are interested in it. If you’re interested in participating again this year, we’ll once again spend the Month of March once again focusing on Real Food.

No doubt you’ve all got some great stories and tips as some of you tried to incorporate the Real Food Challenge throughout the year. I’ve even spent some time this winter reading up on a few thing about pet food, and I might do a post or two about that during the challenge, after all, pets thrive on Real Food too!

Are there any specific things you’d like us to focus on during the Real Food Challenge this year? Do you want to join us again this year?

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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“The smell of good bread baking,
like the sound of lightly flowing water,
is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight”


— M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating


Here at Chiot’s Run I spend a lot of time baking in the winter. Freshly baked bread is good all year long, but there’s something especially warming and cozy about it on a cold winter day. I find myself baking a lot more bread during the winter than I do in the summer. Here are a few of the loaves that have been making their way out of my oven this winter.


Jennifer here! Since last year’s Real Food Challenge we’ve taken to baking all of our breads year ’round. We make everything from our sandwich bread to our pizza dough. I’ve found excellent recipes for our sandwich buns, bagels, and pitas. But once the weather turns cool I start to crave things like cobblers, sweet quick breads, and scones.

Ironically I think I’m more prone to bake an “artisanal” loaf of bread during the summer months when we have more guests staying with us. During the winter months we definitely bake more breakfasts and a few extra sweet things. Perhaps we cut down on those “artisanal” breads to make up for those sweeter things?

Are you a bread baker? Do you bake more bread in the winter?

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It’s that time of year to start thinking about the upcoming sugaring season. If you’ve never sugared your maples before I’d recommend that you give it a go. It’s loads of fun and you end up with maple syrup at the end. It’s a great way to slow down and take notice what goes into the production. It will certainly make you not ever want to waste a precious drop, even if it’s not your own homemade syrup.

Mr Chiots and I have been sugaring our maples for a few years. Last year we got over a gallon of syrup from our trees. It’s really not that difficult, basically you collect sap from maple trees (they don’t have to be sugar maples), boil it down, finish to a certain temperature, strain and enjoy. I’d highly recommend getting a book like Backyard Sugarin’ to read through before you begin. I’d also highly recomend reading the book Sugartime: The Hidden Pleasures of Making Maple Syrup, it is not only the story of making maple syrup, but some history and an explanation of the beauty of the process. This article from OSU is also very informative.

This week I’ll be getting out all of my spiles and washing them up. I’ll also get all the jars and wire hangers ready. We’ll put a tap in the big maple tree that we can see from the kitchen window and we’ll keep our eye on it. When the sap starts to flow we’ll tap the rest of our trees (about 25 total).

Then we’ll spend our days gathering sap and boiling it down. Hopefully our season lasts longer than it did last year so we get a few gallons of syrup. There’s nothing more wonderful that enjoying tall stack of pancakes topped with maple syrup you made yourself. It’s also a great conversation when you’re at parties and gatherings. People are truly amazed when they find out that regular people make their own syrup.

If you’d like to tap a couple of your maple trees you’d better start looking for some supplies. If you don’t need tons of supplies Tap My Trees is a great place. I go my local Lehman’s store to purchase what I need, you may also be able to find a local store if you check around.

Do you or have you considered tapping your maple trees?

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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Sunday Photos…Ice Storm

In America the ice-storm is an event. And it is not an event which one is careless about. When it comes, the news flies from room to room in the house, there are bangings on the doors, and shoutings, “The ice-storm! the ice-storm!” and even the laziest sleepers throw off the covers and join the rush for the windows.

– Mark Twain, Following the Equator

I’m guessing many of you had the same big storm go through this past week that we had here at Chiot’s Run. There’s something quite beautiful about waking up after an ice storm, everything is dripping in beautiful crystals. I posted some photos on my blog earlier this week, but I was able to head out and get more photos later in the day, I always love taking photos after an ice storm.

Ice storms are the worst of the weather we get here, they’re dangerous for driving and we often lose power. This storm was no different, all the local schools were closed and not a soul was out on the roads. We lost power overnight and no power in the winter usually means no heat for a lot of folks. We’re lucky to live in a small well insulated house so it didn’t get that cold in our 24 hrs sans power. We do have an emergency heater we can bring in from the garage, but that wasn’t needed this time around.


Down here in Tennessee, we were completely missed by the major winter storm that hit the rest of the nation. It doesn’t take much to close our schools and roads down thoug, and we Yankee transplants often joke about that fact. The truth is that rain quickly turns to ice during the winter months down here, and the last place I’d want to be is on one of the back roads in the hills when it’s slippery.

It sure does make for gorgeous mornings though when the sun is shining just right!


Did you get any ice from the storm system? What’s the worst weather you get where you live?

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feb collage


So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we here at NDiN wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule depending on your region.

February can be one of the last chances to get indoor projects completed before the spring thaw arrives. Gardeners are getting excited and it won’t be long before the first of this year’s farm babies are here! Spring is really just around the corner, so start wrapping things up inside and get ready to head back outdoors.


  • Check basement or crawl space for leakage during thaws.
  • Check bathroom caulking for re-sealing needs. While you’re in there, check your pipes for leaks.
  • Freshen your kitchen sinks by pouring a mixture of 3 cups hot water and 1/4 cup vinegar (or the juice of one lemon) down each drain.
  • Keep an eye out for cracks in your drywall caused by settling during thaws and freezes. There are expandable putties and spackles available for problem areas. While you’re at it, you may want to mark outdoor masonry to be repaired. Plan to complete this project after the last hard freeze and once your biggest worries of the house settling are past.
  • If you don’t have a cold frame or greenhouse, set up an area to start seeds for your garden. Few seeds need light to germinate (be sure to read the directions) so you may be able to get by without any lights other than a window for the first few weeks. (Check out chiotsrun seedstarting 101 guide).
  • Research and prepare for any animal purchases for the year.
  • Keep a tray of water and spray bottle near indoor plants to adjust humidity levels, especially if you have central air. Running the heater can dry them out quickly and cover leaves with dust.


  • Keep fresh water available and free of ice for birds and wildlife.
  • It’s National Bird Feeding Month. Keep feeding those birdies! Seed, dried berries, and suet are great meals for our feathered pals.
  • If you live in a climate with mild winters, this month may be a good time to dig new beds. You may also want to repair or build new composting bins to be prepared for this year’s cleanup.
  • Southerners could get away with planting bare root trees on warm days.
  • Keep driveways and walks free of snow and ice. Have shovels, plows, and salt/brine accessible and stocked.
  • Watch gutters and roofs for ice dams.
  • If you didn’t get to it during fall, now would be a great time to oil and sharpen garden tools.

Animal Husbandry

  • Be prepared for early birthing. Have any equipment you’ll need ready and accessible.
  • Nights are still very cold in most parts of the country. Keep your critters warm with fresh hay, heat lamps, or blankets, but be sure to avoid fire hazards. 
  • If you’ve been leaving a light on for your chickens you can begin weaning them off of it. The sun is setting noticeably later and your gals should begin laying more regularly soon.

You can also find Jennifer at Unearthing This Life where she blargs a bit about good food, home schooling, raising chickens, and being a suburban Yankee transplant in a rural southern town.

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