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Making Lemonade – or Stone Walls

March 31st, 2012

“He builded better than he knew,
The conscious stone to beauty grew.”
Ralph Waldo Emmerson
(found in Stone in the Garden)

Every time I dig a hole here at Chiot’s Run I end up with more stones than soil. It’s back building work (and biceps too), which I have to look at it as a treasure hunt for stones or it would quickly become frustrating drudgery. There’s a rather large pile of stones in the back that came from the digging of the foundation, I’ve added to it when the rocks I dig up aren’t needed for an immediate project. As a result I have a nice stockpile of stones ready for any project I can dream up, as long as my back can hold up.

Last fall, when I was planting tulips on the back hillside, I dug up rocks by the thousands. Some were small, about the size of a golf ball, most were about the size of a frisbee, and there were a good many that required a spud bar and could be categorized as boulders. I have been wanting to build a small rock wall to hold up the front edge of this bed for years, but have not had the energy or inspiration to do so. This past week, the weather was beautiful, the soil was still soggy, it was too cold to pain the remaining doors, so I decided to work on this wall.

Most of the rocks that went into the wall were dug from the soil that it’s holding back. The result is definitely wonderful as stone walls add a sense of history and permanence to a garden. Where once a garden seemed to drift into the lawn, now there’s a definite dramatic edge. This wall is the perfect height for sitting and from it you can admire the maple grove behind you up over the small hill or the raised bed garden behind the garage. I capped it with large flat stones just for this purpse (the little black garden cat seems to think it’s the perfect spot for her afternoon naps).

I need another day or two to finish up this project, my arms were getting pretty tired by the end of the afternoon I had spent working on this. It’s so nice to see dreams taking shape in the garden. Hopefully this stone wall will help limit erosion on this hillside and provide a beautiful spot to sit and enjoy the garden.

Around here building with stone is like making lemonade from lemons. What could be a source of frustration is now a source of raw materials and beauty throughout the garden (not to mention some serious biceps and a strong back).

What’s one of the biggest frustration that you have with your current garden? Have you been able to turn it into lemonade?

For more reading and great inspiration on how to use stone in your garden, I highly recommend this book. After renewing the copy from the library many times I finally purchased a copy for my library. The beautiful images are an inspiration for all the stone projects in my garden.

Friday Favorite: Handmade

March 30th, 2012

Over the years I have discovered the joy in honoring those whose work I will never match – and learning to love that I don’t have to. When I find them, I buy mosaics made my artists with a better eye for design and color than I have. I serve potatoes in an exquisite purple bowl thrown by a potter from my hometown in Iowa. I keep flowers on the kitchen table in an indestructible water jug made by a main I met is Asheville, NC, fired in a kiln powered by methane gas from a landfill. I brew tea in a mustard yellow pot that I picked up dring one of my best days I spent in Japan. I’m drawn to all of these things for their beauty and utility of course, but it’s also the people who made them – and the stories behind them – that make the difference to me.

Robyn Griggs Lawrence (The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty)

Whenever possible, I like to purchase items made by hand by someone here in the USA. Being a small business owner myself, I see this as important. I know the care and detail that goes into each item, though we don’t make something tangible, we still put our heart and soul into our product. Handmade items just have something about them, a soul of sorts. Just this week I bought this beautiful hand coffee mill made by the Red Rooster Trading Company.

Mr Chiots and I are coffee lovers and freshly ground coffee is so much better. When we travel we have always ground coffee beforehand to take with us. Now we can take this beauty along for the ride. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this mill, for only $60 it’s a bargain since it’s handmade. When we ground a small batch of coffee we were pleasantly surprised, it can grind the coffee finer and more evenly than our pricey burr grinder. We’re espresso drinkers, so the fineness and evenness of the grind is very important to brew the perfect shot of espresso.

It’s so nice that it may even trump our other mill. Happily I add this to my list of growing items in the house that are made with love by someone with a name, including my salt & pepper mills from Tea & Gold, and a few lovely wooden kitchen utensils that rest in my lovely handmade crock from the local Moorefield Pottery.

Any great handmade items in your house? Any great small businesses to recommend?

Daffodils for Charlotte

March 29th, 2012

I promised my friend Charlotte a parade of daffodils. She works at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply (aka Grow Organic) and she has a blog called Daffodil Planter (now you can see why she was asking to see my daffodils). Here’s a parade of daffodils that have been blooming in my garden over the past month.

The daffodils in my garden range in color from the brightest yellow you can get to the palest yellow that almost looks white. I have big ones and small ones, tall ones and squat ones. I never was much a fan of the bright yellow ones, but then I discovered that they came in all shapes, sizes and colors that weren’t quite so obnoxious.

I don’t know the varieties of the daffodils pictured below, a few were here when we arrived, others were purchased in a bag labeled “daffodils” at the store. This small buttery yellow double narcissus I purchased the first fall we lived here, but I have long since lost the information on what variety they were. I think they’re ‘White Lion’ but I’m not positive.

This past fall I added ‘Small Talk’ and ‘Little Gem’ to the front lawn. They only grow 4-6 inches tall and are so perfect blooming just above the grass. They’re so tiny and intriguing and perfect mixed with crocuses and muscari.

Last fall I also added bluebells and tiny narcissus along the pathway through the maple grove in the back of the garden. These beautiful ‘Minnow’ narcissus are really love. They have multiple tiny multi colored blossoms that float above each stem. They’re so dainty and beautiful, it’s hard to believe their so rugged.

I wish I had planted more daffodils in my garden over the years, they’re such hardy bulbs, multiplying with ease and never bothered by burrowing pests or foraging deer like tulips are. Once you bury a bulb in the garden you’re pretty much guaranteed that it will come back year after year in increasing numbers.

Do you like daffodils? Any blooming in your garden?

If you’re looking for a good prices and a great selection of daffodils and narcissus bulbs head on over to Van Engelen.

Chicken, Duck, Goose

March 28th, 2012

I buy chicken and duck* eggs at the farmers market all the time, in fact we eat about a dozen duck eggs each month and about 2 dozen chicken eggs each week. A lot of eggs, I know, that’s why I’m so excited to have chickens someday. Until then I’m happy getting them from Martha’s Farm, the chickens run happily outside and are fed a diet of organic GMO-free grains purchased from a local farmer. The eggs are fantastic! Yesterday, when I was at Local Roots in Wooster, OH I reached into the egg cooler and spotted goose eggs. WOW.

I grabbed two and nestled them in the skein of alpaca yarn I was buying (my mom’s making me a nice new winter hat). The cashier and I were talking about how the farmer couldn’t figure out what to put the eggs in for people to take them home. She offered some newspaper, but I had my hat and gloves since it was a chilly 28 when I left the house that morning. One giant egg was nestled into each glove which were then stuffed into my hat.

They made it home without a scratch. Each one weighed in at almost 8 oz, that’s almost 4 chicken eggs. Now that’s a bargain for 60 cents!

I’m an adventurous eater so I can’t wait to try these, I was told at the market that they make a wonderfully rich scrambled eggs. I’ve never met an egg I didn’t like and these will most likely be no different. It certainly will be interested to see what they’re like, I’ll have to do some reading on popular cooking methods. I certainly hope they have more next time I’m there!

Have you ever had a goose egg, ostrich, or any other egg besides a chicken egg?

*The duck eggs I buy are used for custard and ice cream since they have big thick yolks and thinner whites than chicken eggs, this results is a creamier custard.

Taking Root

March 27th, 2012

Some of you may have been around in the fall of 2010 when I talked about the boxwood cuttings I got from a friend’s home. I have no idea what kind of boxwood it is, but it’s a big beautiful shrub that thrives despite his neglect. Since it does so well in his garden, I figured it would be prefect for mine as well since we are in the same climate. Three years ago I took a dozen or so cuttings and stuck them in a pot that was overwintered behind the garage. Last summer I planted 2 of them flanking the stairs that lead to our front porch.

These box seem to be fairly slow growing, so I can only imagine how old the ones I took cuttings from are because they’re HUGE. No doubt they spent last summer taking root and this year they’ll really start putting off some top growth. They are about three times as big as they were when I first cut them.

If we end up moving, these little box will be potted up and taken with me. There’s simply too much history to leave them behind. There are also other plants that will go with me and some from which cutting will be taken this spring/summer in preparation for a possible move. All of my hydrangeas will move with me, my collection is now up to about 20 different varieties. Some will go by cuttings because they’re too large to dig up and take. Others are small enough that they can be dug up. I love starting plants with cuttings, it’s a great way to inexpensively propagate plants you already have in your garden and a great way to get starts from friends.

Do you like to propagate your own plants from cuttings?

If you’re not sure how to propagate plants with stem cuttings here’s a post I wrote a few years ago about it. Start with something easy like catmint and soon you’ll be off trying to propagate all kinds of plants.


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.