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Pet Door for the Outdoor Cats

July 31st, 2010

I figured it was about time for an update on Miss Mama and Little Softie, as we call the two outdoor cats. They don’t have official names, just these nicknames. Ever since Miss Mama showed up with her little ones so long ago, we started leaving the garage door slightly up so she could come and go as she pleased. We keep some food and water in the garage for her and the kitten and we also feed her on the front porch in the mornings. We’ve been wanting to put a pet door in the garage for the cats, then they can come and go as they please and we don’t have the leave the garage door partially up. We finally got around to checking this project off our list this past week.

We decided to put the pet door under the rain barrels, then it would be protected from the weather. We though that putting it a little higher off the ground might help discourage other unwanted animals from venturing into the garage. At the moment we have 2 bales of peat moss pushed up against it to create a little table for them to use, but when they’re used to it we’ll put a little platform that they can jump up to (like the one inside above). We’re lucky that the outdoor cats are small, so we bought the smallest pet door we can find, that means an adult raccoon or skunk will not be able to get through it.

I wasn’t sure exactly how to train the cats to use it, since they’re outdoor cats. But Miss Mama was lured through with food, and Little Softie discovered by herself. Being a kitten, she thinks it’s great fun to go through it. At the moment we have the door propped open until they get used to using it, then we’ll close the door and they’ll have to learn to push through it.

This looks like it’s going to be a wonderful solution for our garage cats! I always thought pet doors were interesting, but this is the first one we’ve ever had. It’s quite nice knowing the cats will be able come and go through it whenever they want to.

Have you ever had a pet door or wanted one?

Orrville Community Gardens

July 30th, 2010

Last summer I drove through Orrville a lot to go to physical therapy. Each week I would look at the small community garden that’s near the hospital. I kept wanting to stop to look at the gardens, but I would always forget after my appointments. A couple weeks ago, my mom and I stopped when we were out running errands.

There were probably about 10-12 plots in the garden, each one delineated by an alternating fence. Some people were using the fence for a bean trellis or to support their corn.

Some plots were planted up very handsomely, others weren’t planted at all. Some had built raised beds and added beautiful trellises, others simply planted in rows. Some plots were filled with corn, tomatoes and peppers, and some were filled entirely with one kind of vegetable. Others were filled with interesting varieties of vegetables, like this variegated pepper.

I love that they have a rain barrel system on their little garage. It looks like they’re making compost tea in it for the gardens.

I love the idea of community gardens. If we had one locally I’d get a plot. I most likely wouldn’t grow food, since I wouldn’t know what chemicals those around me were using, but I’d fill it will all kinds of beneficial flowers and beautiful plants (perhaps I’d grow a few edible things, who knows). I keep thinking about trying to start one in my community, but I’m just too busy. Maybe when I have a few less plates in the air I’ll do that.

Do you have a community garden in your town? Do you have a plot at a community garden?

New Lives for Old Items

July 29th, 2010

Whenever I retire an all natural product from the house, I try to find a way to use it in the garden. Cotton clothing and rags get thrown in the compost when they’re too far gone to be of any use. This is one of the reasons I buy all-natural products, then I don’t have to dispose of them in the trash, they can be composted so there’s less waste and they produce humus for the garden. Several years ago I retired our dining room rug. It’s made of 100% sisal and was dyed with vegetable dyes so, I put the rug in the basement, knowing it would come in handy for a garden project some day.

This past week, I decided that it would be a perfect item to use in my watering area. The rain barrels are located on the back of the garage, and I have a watering station there to fill my watering cans. We also have a hose cart hooked up to a pump that allows me to use the rain barrel water with a sprinkler. As you can imagine this area gets a lot of foot traffic since I’m constantly filling watering cans to water all the potted plants. As a result there is no grass growing there, only dirt. I had a small sisal outdoor rug under the spigots, but it wasn’t nearly big enough to cover the area. Whenever it rains all of my watering cans get covered with dirt and the area can get a little muddy.

I finally decided to cut the rug into 4 pieces, each one now being 4′ x 5′. One piece fits perfectly underneath the area and is big enough to allow room for the hose cart and my watering cans. I now don’t have to worry about a muddy mess when it rains. The best part is that I still have 3 more pieces of the rug, so I’ll be able to replace it each year as needed. I love it when I give an item a second life, especially out in the garden! Who knew so many years ago when I purchased this rug for dining room it would eventually make it’s way out into the garden.

Do you ever repurpose or reuse items for garden or outdoor use?

Beautiful Parisienne Carrots

July 28th, 2010

I’ve mentioned before that one of the reasons I grow food in is because of all of the interesting varieties of vegetables that you can’t get at the store. When I saw these Parisienne Carrots from Baker Creek I just had to grow them. Carrots don’t do all that well here, our soil is heavy and compacted, lacking a lot of humus. Since these carrots grow fat and wide instead of long and deep, they do well in heavier soils.

I think these carrots weren’t very fond the hot dry weather we’ve been having since this particular variety started to die back. I dug the ones that had died back and left the rest to size up. I’m quite happy with these though, what beautiful little carrots. I haven’t tasted on yet (I should have yesterday), but I have yet to meet a carrot I don’t like. I also planted a few other varieties of carrot this spring: ‘Blance a Collet Vert’, ‘St Valery’, ‘Short n Sweet’, and ‘Oxheart’.

Sure, they’re small, but that’s normal in my gardens. In a few years after adding lots of manure I should be able to grow carrots and onions of reputable size. Until then I’ll be happy with these little rolly polly beauties. These will be wonderful with some tiny potatoes and pearl onions baked up with one of Mr Chiot’s venison roasts. A perfect homegrown meal!

Do you grow carrots in your gardens? Every tried round ones?

Hand Me Downs

July 27th, 2010

If you’ve been reading this blog for quite a while, you know that Mr Chiots and I own a business. We have a small production company (2nd Mile Productions) and do wedding videos and other corporate work. Mr Chiots also does websites (with a new Chiot’s Run in the works). We have an option called a Same Day Edit in our wedding package, which entitles editing a short video of the wedding and showing it at the reception (lots of work but well worth the effort).

Our old lappy (we we lovingly call it) was starting to give us a few problems, keys not working occasionally, the screen doing weird things. Mr Chiots and I are “wear it out” type of people, so it was tough to invest in a new laptop when the old one was still working most of the time) . But since we couldn’t rely on it to be working well on wedding days, we had to break down and buy a new one. Since we’re Mac people, we bought a new MacBook Pro and the old one got handed down to me, as a blogging computer and one to use throughout the house. Now I can blog from the comfort of the living room if I want (as I’m doing right now).

Having a laptop will definitely make a few aspects of my life a little easier. Having it in the kitchen with a recipe will be much easier than running to the office to double check each ingredient when I’m making a recipe from a blog. Copying quotes from books to a blog post will be much easier, and research work will also be much better since I can now work at the dining room table instead of in my office on my too small desk. We’ll also still use this computer for rendering and other workhorse tasks for the business until it gives up the ghost completely, but until then I’m enjoying being able to work in the light filled living or dining room where I can see the gardens instead of in the office where I can’t!

Do you ever get hand-me-down items from others?

PS – if you like the desktop image on my lappy you can download a large file size of it here from Flickr for your computer – ENJOY!


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.