Resolutions, 2014 Edition (or Can We Just Continue on with the Awesome, Please?)

Last year, I had some kick-ass resolutions. How do I define “kick ass”? For starters, I actually kept them (to be fair, one of them was to drink more juice).

A brief recap: my 2013 resolutions…

  • Drink more juice. Check!
  • Apply for an apprenticeship this summer with Growing Places Indy. So much checking!
  • Take a trip with my honey. So we didn’t end up in Oregon, but our vacation did require passports. Check and check!

More importantly, though, it seemed my mental pump was primed this time last year for some big changes in 2013 (of which there were so, so many). It’s easy to list off the events that happened: got engaged, got pregnant, did an urban farming apprenticeship, learned so very much all summer long, expanded our garden, got married, went on an awesome vacation, had a fantastic baby shower, etc. etc.

20130907. Our Wedding!

However, the internal shifts are harder to quantify or even vocalize without starting to feel like a dirty hippie. But they are really, incredibly important to me. A few of the things I learned this year:

  • View the world through a positive lens.
  • Actively kick those negative, ugly, or self-defeating thoughts out.
  • Get excited about the immense number of things you can do, the things you can learn, the people you can meet, the ways you can move forward and just be better at being you; don’t worry about your limitations.
  • Actually, just kick those (mostly perceived) limitations to the curb while you’re at it.
  • Do it. Show up. Open your heart. Don’t be afraid.
  • Approach the world and especially the people in it with abundance and gratitude and thanks and gentleness. We all need more gentleness.
  • Let people know you appreciate them. Show your gratitude any time you can.

20130801. Growing Places Indy Summer Apprentices.

Speaking of showing gratitude, I am so thankful for so many people over this last year. My parents (gratitude times a million, this year and always, really); Chris, who got me through the worst days, supported me unconditionally as I came up with new schemes and dreams, and cheered me on through the best; Laura, Tyler, all of my Growing Places Indy peeps, and my inspiring, thoughtful, hilarious fellow apprentices this summer; Amy at South Circle Farm for so graciously opening up her farm to us on what turned out to be one of my favorite days this year, our wedding; Maggie at Fall Creek Gardens for being generally awesome and letting me help out with the new demonstration garden; our good local friends, fellow knitters, and neighbors; all of my girl friends scattered across the country, who listened during some damn dark days early this year; and my amazing, generous, loving extended family, of which I’ve always been so thankful to be a part and which expanded even more this year.

20130512. The whole clan.

So my resolutions for 2014?

  • Keep working to live all those hard to quantify, sometimes easy to forget life lessons I picked up in 2013. 
  • Approach motherhood and our soon-to-be expanded family with humor, joy, and adventure. Oh, the places we’ll go.
  • Go on a real vacation with my husband and my baby. Maybe this year will be our chance to roam the Oregon coast, expand our micro-brewery horizons among the Portland-hip, and introduce our baby to a starfish or two.
  • Continue to put myself out there and open my heart to people who make it easy to feel gratitude, thanks, and positivity.

Happy NEW YEAR! Here’s to lots of goodness in 2014.

20130928. New onesies for the sprout.

20131231. Chris' favorite Christmas present.

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What. A. Year.

This year has been, without a doubt, one of my favorites so far. Perhaps my favorite. Like, of my whole entire life. It has been life changing and perspective shifting. On January 1 last year, I could never have imagined where I would be today in so many aspects of life.

I feel like it’s been one constant positive feedback loop, which is a pretty amazing place to be living. And I can’t wait for 2014.

So without further ado, let’s take a walk through memory lane and hit just a few of the many highlights:

January – Birdie’s first hotel room and snowy, cold day snuggles.

February – Surprise Valentine’s Day trip to Chicago with this guy and Birdie (the first one was from Revolution – amazing beer, amazing food, amazing beer bottle chandelier).

March – Dreams of summer gardens and our famous chickens.

20130309. Peppers and tomatoes.

20130330. Indianapolis Monthly collage.

April – Upping the ante with our new garden fence (backyard time lapse, 2011 to 2013).

20130415. The backyard - year 1, year 2, and year 3.

May – Celebrating my parents’ 40th anniversary with the whole fam-damily. What a great weekend.

20130511. Mom and Dad's 40th wedding anniversary.

20130512. The whole clan.

Oh – and we’re engaged!
20130517. Engaged!

June – Pregnant! Garden is growing. Apprenticeship starts. So many new, really fantastic things all at once.

20130608. Pregnant!

20130607. Garden jungle.

20130530. The sexiest top shelf of a fridge ever - completely local or homemade items.

20130530. What ever could be hiding in that over-stuffed bag?

July – Apprenticeship with Growing Places Indy is in full swing, and my world is shaping up to be a pretty fantastic place to be.

20130709. Front page of the Indianapolis Star! Er, well... the D section.

20130709. Sky Farm at Eskenazi Health.

20130613. Asparagus dreams at the Near Eastside Legacy Center.

August – It’s official – we let people know we’re having a baby! And summertime is in full swing, as evidenced by a trip to the state fair and our garden.

20130807. First baby gift!

20130807. I got every kid to try a husk cherry, and only one spit it out. Success!

20130810. Indiana State Fair. Deep fried Oreo.

20130810. Indiana State Fair. Ferris wheel.

September – Our wedding at South Circle Farm.

20130907. Our wedding!

20130907. Our wedding!

20130907. Our wedding!

October – Honeymoon/babymoon to Jamaica!

20131028. Amazing storm clouds.

20131028. First time in the water.

20131028. Chris and his thematic reading matter.

November – Our wonderful baby shower, thrown by my mom.

20131130. Our baby shower.

20131130. Our baby shower.

20131128. Me and Chris. Our amazing baby shower!

December – Just a whole lot of thankfulness and happiness going on. I started working with the amazing team at Growing Places Indy, doing operations stuff for them. My parents came to visit for Christmas. We’ve got some ambitious house projects before the baby comes. And Chris and I both took two full weeks off work over the holidays. Life is sweet.

Can you tell how super excited I am to be part of the amazing Growing Places Indy team? #whatayear

Boombox wishes you a Merry Christmas Eve.

20131214. Chris made a snowman.

20131214. Nursery "mobile."

20131207. Birdie hugs.

Bust Out the Kleenex!

I am so thankful to Maggie, one of my fellow apprentices, for documenting the inspiring, thoughtful, candid, wonderful human beings I got to spend my summer with during the Growing Places Indy summer apprenticeship. It’s strangely comforting to me that everyone’s mannerisms, their voices, how they talk, their thoughtfulness was captured for me to listen to any time I need it. Which means I’ve watched this video probably about five times today.

I guess what I’m saying is I miss you all already.

Chigger, Please!

Last weekend marked our final one as urban farm apprentices with Growing Places Indy, and in celebration we took a very special trip to Hobbit Gardens Erth Gathering Center to get a tour of extensive herb gardens, participate in a Native American sweat ceremony, and share possibly the most amazing potluck dinner I have ever had. Constance is an herb farmer, which makes for a beautiful, colorful, and delicious smelling place, full of the buzzing of bees, flutter of butterflies, and flowers in every direction.

20130804. Hobbit Gardens.

I would love to sit down with Constance and pick her brain about every plant and its uses and benefits. Her whole demeanor (a ball of energy, quick to laugh, rattling off scientific names like breakfast cereals) and outlook (“gardening is not a benign act”) was a breath of fresh air.

20130804. Hobbit Gardens.

The only downside: by Monday, the chigger bites started showing up. By Tuesday, nearly every single one of us had extensive, itchy bites popping up in all the wrong places. And I mean ALL THE WRONG PLACES. A sampling:

20130807. Chigger, please!

Tomorrow marks our last day as apprentices. I’m a jumble of emotions: sad, nostalgic, missing my new friends already, excited to move forward onto the next adventures, and a whole lot I can’t even put into words.

At one point today, we had about 12 itty bitty kiddos walking through the garden, reminding me of one of the many ways this summer has been so incredibly special. We had a bucket of husk cherries out, and I showed them how to remove the husk and eat the berry inside (they even got to throw their “litter” – the husk – right on the ground). Every kid tried one, some came back for seconds, and only one spit it back out. I call that success!

20130807. I got every kid to try a husk cherry, and only one spit it out. Success!

Squash Bake. Squash Bake. Party Time. Excellent.

Currently, we have a bit of a squash problem – meaning we have seven, count ’em, SEVEN large green and yellow squash taking up half a shelf in our fridge. Keep in mind, this is after pickling five pounds of the beasts, making almost countless loaves of zucchini bread (really, I think we’re up to about eight, at this point), and devouring a previous squash bake.

20130714. So THIS happened: suddenly, it's summer!

When a friend told me her mom makes apple crisp in the summer but replaces apples with summer squash, I was all for it. Health food, it is not. But our house smells of wonderful baking deliciousness and cinnamon right now, and I couldn’t wait to share it with you. Because if you could smell it, you’d be jealous right now.

SQUASH BAKE, SQUASH BAKE, PARTY TIME, EXCELLENT. Helllllooooo, 1992!

SQUASH OATMEAL CRISP
Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 cups peeled, chopped squash (1/2″ cubes will do)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Putting It All Together

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan.
  • In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, oats, flour, and butter. Mix until crumbly. Lightly press half of crumb mixture into pan.
  • Spread the squash evenly over crumb mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and top with remaining crumb mixture.
  • Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

In other news, today was another amazing day at ye olde urban farming apprenticeship. We spent the morning picking onions, weeding, and planting broccoli seedlings with Genesis and Eli, the farmers at Full Hand Farm. On our way out, I told Tyler, part of the Growing Places Indy dynamic duo, that I think I heart Genesis and Eli, and he said, “They make it easy to heart them.”

Check out some beautiful photos of their farm and a little more of their story at Farm Stories, a photography project by local photographer Kelley Jordan.

I am just so continually impressed, inspired, and encouraged by the farmers in this area, their stories, and their advice, wisdom, and knowledge. I get the warm fuzzies every single Tuesday when we visit other farms and community organizations. The willingness to share knowledge and experiences and personal stories with us has been downright heartwarming, and I doubt I will ever have quite this experience to this extent again.

P.S. Click here for a special little snippet of today’s magic, captured by the lovely Kate: Eli playing a squash stalk like a trumpet. Who knew?!

Look, Ma, I’m in the News!

I finally got my hands on the paper version of the Indianapolis Star article on the Growing Places Indy apprenticeship, featuring this here blog, that I mentioned a few days ago. Front page, no less! So what if it’s the front page of the D section. I am just so tickled!

20130709. Front page of the Indianapolis Star! Er, well... the D section.

I’m sure I’m either saying something really profound here or talking about my favorite ice cream store in Indianapolis (Brics, for the record).

20130709. Front page of the Indianapolis Star! Er, well... the D section.

20130709. Front page of the Indianapolis Star! Er, well... the D section.

On that note, if you’d like to support fresh, local, sustainable, beautiful food and help me fund one of next year’s lucky summer apprentices, I just passed the halfway point in reaching my goal! Any contribution is very, very much appreciated. More details here: http://www.razoo.com/story/Christiewahlert2013

Just Another Manic Monday

When I pause for a moment to take a good, hard look at all the things we have going on this summer, I realize it’s kind of a lot. Today was one of those days where it felt like it. Kind of a lot, that is.

Have I mentioned lately that we are engaged? Because we are. Which basically means the next step is to get married. Have I also mentioned we are pulling together a wedding by September (date still TBD)? I realized today that even very small weddings require a certain degree of coordination that is a large step above “backyard barbecue,” which is pretty much the extent of my party planning skills to date.

And then there’s the apprenticeship, the chickens, the dog, the cats, the summer projects, the garden, the job, the still-nebulous dreams for the future, and the many, many other things I’ll divulge in more detail at some point.

The long and short of it: I’m overwhelmed today, so I’m going to show you some pretty pictures of my evening, then curl up on the couch with some warm zucchini bread and a good book until I pass out at, oh, 9:00 or so.

Life continues on the homefront. The bee balm is swarmed by bees daily…
20130708. Bee balm bonanza.

The zucchini plants continue to bleed…
20130708. Bleeding zucchini.

Birdie maintains her cuteness…
20130708. Backlit Birdie.

And, as her winter coat falls out, we learn that her skin is spotted like a wee, tail wagging cow’s…
20130708. Birdie's winter coat fell out, and it turns out she's spotted like a cow underneath.

And finally, the peppers multiply like bunnies. I seem to have a pepper problem, though. The problem is I got the seedlings completely mixed up, and I have no idea what’s what. Well, I have a little idea… Eh, whatever. They’ll all get pickled and scarfed down regardless.
20130708. First pepper haul.

P.S. Heavens to Betsy, this may be the best zucchini bread I’ve ever eaten. Bless you and your restorative powers, zucchini bread!

Best Week Ever: Felege Hiywot Center

Each Tuesday during the Growing Places Indy summer apprenticeship, we learn new farming skills and get to put them to work, either on our gardens or at other locations around the city. This past Tuesday, we had the great pleasure of working at the Felege Hiywot Center.

20130618. Felege Hiywot Center.

We started the day with greetings and hugs from the founder and executive director of the center, Aster Bekele. Aster is from Ethiopia and has an amazing energy about her: friendly and motherly, extremely intelligent and well-spoken, and just full of welcoming vibes and warmth. The work was hard, hot, and totally fulfilling: we helped build new garden beds using cinder blocks and weeded and cleaned up the compost area. There was so much compost under all those weeds that we were able to fill almost all of the new garden beds!

20130618. Felege Hiywot Center.

Aster, who used to be a chemist at Eli Lilly, explained to us that she had decided she really wanted to teach kids about science. At the same time, she started purchasing empty lots and homes at 17th and Sheldon St. on the near eastside in the Martindale-Brightwood area of Indianapolis. One garden bed grew into many; houses were torn down or renovated to provide cooking and eating space for kids in the neighborhood; and the kids started coming. Through Aster’s programs, youth learn how to grow vegetables, tend land, sell crops, and recycle. In addition to developing their skills and knowledge around nature, the environment, and gardening, kids also get involved in their community, building a sense of place and pride for their community.

20130618. Felege Hiywot Center.

I was so inspired by Aster’s story because, in some ways, it seemed so simple and straight forward: she had a dream to teach kids about science and that is exactly what she’s doing. I think it’s so easy to get caught up in the minutiae or to want to have everything planned out before you start something big (at least, I do). But Aster’s case is a great learning example: she had a dream, she realized she could connect with youth through gardening, and it has snowballed from there into year-long programs, summer camps, and employment opportunities.

20130618. Felege Hiywot Center.

Not only that, but her place is beautiful. What was once abandoned lots and worn down houses is now something that the community can take pride in. And there are so many empty lots, so many worn down houses where similar things could happen, all around this city.

So my assignment for you all: find one of these special places in your community, and volunteer an afternoon or a day to help them out. I have never felt both so thanked for our efforts and so grateful for the opportunity to help than I did at Felege Hiywot.

20130618. At the Felege Hiywot Center.

Sometimes, I can’t believe this is my life. In a good way.