The Weekend Is My FAVORITE…

First and foremost, let’s pause for a moment of silence in recognition of Birdie’s current state. Poor girl got a hot spot on her back and, within three days, has chewed it raw. Thus… THE CONE OF DOOM AND TERROR.

20130426. Birdie and her cone... My poor babe.

How in the HELL do you get a dog to not hate the vet?! I mean, really. Look at this indignity.

Ahem. Now that we’ve gotten past that, let’s talk about the weekend! I am so excited about the weekend and, true to form, have way, way, way too much stuff I want to do.

20130426. In addition to the weekend to do list here, we also have to HURRY UP AND RELAX.

The ones with the stars next to them are the things I REALLY, REALLY need to do this weekend. There are too many stars.

Tonight, we got a jump start on the bottling beer item on the to do list. Chris has gotten completely obsessed mildly interested in the fine art of homebrewing (I am not complaining, not really). A few weekends ago, we did our first full boil, and the brew is ready to go into bottles. Tomorrow morning, we’ll crack open the fermenting bucket and see if my worst fears have come true: the reality that we are, in fact, dirty slobs who can’t keep a bucket and various other tools clean for even, like, 30 minutes.

20130426. Prepping bottles for bottling.

We’ve been stocking up bottles.

If my worst fears HAVEN’T come true and our beer looks magical, we’ll learn all about bottling and capping beer. Wish us luck! Tonight, we removed labels and sanitized ’em in the dishwasher. Tomorrow, there will be beer a-flowin’.

20130426. We obviously have clear feelings about beer.

We are particular about our beer-y bevvies.

Last but certainly not least, even though the weekend is officially here now, I like to think it really started last night with the Indy Food Council’s organizing event. Maybe I’m a total dork to have been so jazzed about it, but it was inspiring to see so many people in one room, interested in looking for solutions to our (rampant) food-related problems. I got hugs from people I’d met only once before on farms and around town, recognized a lot of people, met even more for the first time, and felt generally warm and fuzzy and energized about the future in Indianapolis.

And! The 2013-2014 edition of the Indy Local Food Guide, which I helped on in a very small way, came out! So excited to see it.

As I talked with one girl, she said something I couldn’t agree with more: “It’s nice when things like this happen and you think, ‘Wow, Indianapolis really could be a progressive place to live.'” Can’t wait to see where this group goes, and I hope to be a part of it.

20130426. Indy Food Council and other reading materials for the weekend.

Officially Official!

It’s official! I just sent in my acceptance to be one of eight lucky apprentices at Growing Places Indy’s 2013 summer apprenticeship program. I am so dang excited. DANG excited! It starts the day after Memorial Day and ends in August. The end of May will be here before I know it, but it still feels like forever to wait.

I am also so grateful to my employer for letting me do this. I’ll be taking a part-time sabbatical (and probably working rather strange hours) during this time. I’ll be busy, but I can do anything for 10 weeks, particularly when it’s stuff I really want to be doing. It’s really important to me, too, that I give my employer my all during those 20 hours a week. I never, ever, EVER want them to regret allowing me to take this opportunity.

From Growing Places Indy’s website, here’s the breakdown of what I’ll be doing this summer:

SO! DANG! EXCITED!

In totally unrelated news, yesterday I knitted a hedgehog
20130413. I knitted a hedgehog today.

And bought some splurge yarn to knit this sweater.
20130414. Splurge yarn for splurge sweater.

Spring: “Hello, Is It Me You’re Looking For?”

Why, yes, Spring. Yes, it was you I was looking for (for which I was looking? anyway…). Thanks for being all fashionably late and stuff.

True to weekend form, let’s just stick with a no-frills bullet point list of how Chris and I celebrated nicer weather today:

  • Attended an awesome urban backyard chickens workshop over at Fall Creek Gardens. Maggie, you crack me up (and make me feel like less of a crazy chicken lady, what with all we do to keep our chickens healthy and happy)!
  • Planted some of the kale in the outdoor beds. Looking at the forecast for next week, I think I’m going to get the rest of the kale and maybe the cabbage in the ground tomorrow, too.
  • Bought some propane, hooked up the new turkey fryer, and prepped the new giant brew kettle to make our first attempt ever at brewing our own beer tomorrow! (Note: Chris really did all of the above, but I’m super stoked to boil up our first batch tomorrow morning. The brew kettle is comically large and made me laugh out loud this morning when I walked into the kitchen, as it takes up our entire kitchen table. Pictures to follow!).
  • Planted a flat of sweet clover and started my own barley fodder trays to give the chickens some nice, fresh things to eat until we have the garden fence firmly in place. I’ll let you know how the barley trays works – it’s my first attempt at it, but it sounds ridiculously simple. Knowing me, I’ll find a way to jack it up.
  • Went to the grocery store to buy, among other things, ingredients to make another delicious egg casserole and Neufchatel cheese from scratch. It will be my first attempt at making such a cheese and only my second attempt at cheese-making ever.
  • Turned over a bunch of compost, uncovered glorious amounts of worms, and opened the compost bins up to the chickens. At one point, four of the five girls had jumped into the bin on the hunt for worms, pecking and scratching around. Help me process that compost, chickens!

So at this point in the garden, we have garlic, lettuce, kale, and a bunch of seeds, just waiting to germinate. Spring: the most wonderful time of the year.

WE HAVE LETTUCE.

Covered Rows and a Blanket of Sunshine to Keep Me Warm

What a day, people! WHAT. A. DAY. For the first time since I can’t even remember when, I was able to be outside all day in a t-shirt and corduroys. Well, okay, if I stood still for too long and the sun dipped behind a cloud, I began to think longingly of cozy old man wool sweater (you know, the one with the leather patches on the elbows), lying on the couch being a louse. But I refused to put that damn thing on, just on the principle of the thing.

Hello, spring! I’ve missed you! In no particular order and in reverence to the beautiful day, today I have:

  • Drafted and submitted my proposal to my employer for a part-time sabbatical for 10 weeks this summer to allow me to participate in the Growing Places Indy Summer Apprenticeship Program. That’s right, folks – I’ve been accepted! Please, please, please, employer – let me do this. This is one of those once in a lifetime/dream experiences, for goodness sakes.
  • Took Birdie on a long walk of the neighborhood, pausing to sniff grass, sign posts, and sometimes just the sidewalk.
  • Did laundry! Really, this is notable.
  • Ate fried eggs a la Chris and toast with blueberry-cinnamon jam a la me.
  • Scrambled some eggs for the chickens. We ran out of chicken feed, and the girls needed something first thing before we could pick up a new bag!
  • Went grocery shopping for such amazing things as ingredients to make banana pudding poke cake and egg casserole with sausage and peppers. It is a comfort food kind of weekend.
  • Planted two flats of lettuces and spinach in my covered row in back, threw a few more in with the garlic, then plunked the last four into the front yard bed, which I hope to turn into a PRETTY edible garden this year. Think chard, artichokes, beets, and kale mixed in with the perennials. 
  • Planted a metric butt-ton of beet, turnip, and chard seeds across the front beds and in a few of the back beds. What? I like root vegetables.
  • Got super excited upon realizing my sweet potatoes are FINALLY sprouting! We just might have sweet potatoes in the garden again this year.
  • Watched as Chris put in two more posts for our brand new, Birdie- and chicken-proof garden fence! Go, Chris, go.
  • Purchased a copy of Indianapolis Monthly, featuring an article on backyard chicken keepers this month, including MOI and the girls.

Evidence of the above, also in no particular order:

20130330. Indianapolis Monthly collage.

The Indianapolis Monthly spread – at least, the important parts (i.e. the ones that include ME and MY CHICKENS).

20130330. Putting posts in for the garden fence.

Those posts on the left? We are going to have the most awesome Birdie- and chicken-proof garden fence ever. This is a very good thing.

20130330. Putting posts in for the garden fence.

Work that post hole, Chris! Hmmm… that doesn’t sound too good…

20130330. Baby garlic!

Baby garlics!!!

20130330. The sweet potatoes finally started sprouting.

Thank goodness the sweet potatoes started sprouting. This was one of the funnest things to grow last year, and I really wanted a redo. Part deux.

20130330. Indianapolis Monthly's April edition includes an article of backyard chickens. We're (in)famous!

And, just in case you couldn’t read my words of wisdom in the collage above, here is my sage advice for Indianapolis – and the WORLD – at large.

Happy Spring?

You know, I like to think of myself as a pretty optimistic person. I like making plans, particularly when it comes to the garden, and I greatly enjoy watching sprouts turn to real-deal, not-messing-around, food producing plants. It is now a month before our last freeze date (did I say that right? anyway…) and I have an amazing little army of seedlings, just waiting to get in the ground, soak up some rays, and get high on chlorophyll and vitamin D.

My rarely seen pessimism, however, is starting to kick in a bit (in the form of utter disbelief that it will ever be warm enough to plant my seedlings outside again). Case in point:

(from the Indianapolis Star and National Weather Service)

Granted, last year was a ridiculously warm, early spring, but COME ON! Throw us a freaking BONE here, spring!

To continue encouraging my wistful daydreaming about springtime being right around the corner, though, I have some awesome things planned for the weekend:

  • On Saturday, I’ll be heading to the third installment of Fall Creek Gardens’ Organic Gardening class.
  • On Sunday, I’ll be the best little mulch mover that ever moved mulch by volunteering for a few hours at Big City Farms Indianapolis, where the garden will be expanded greatly this year.

If the universe cooperates, I may throw care to the wind and put the lettuces, spinach, beets, and chard seeds in the ground under a covered row on Sunday, too. Mama needs to make room under the grow lights for more seedlings – squash babies, I’m looking at you!

You Know, Just Your Typical Long Weekend

This weekend in no particular order, I have:

    • Planted the first seeds in our new growing setup. So far, we’ve got the first round of peas, spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, and artichokes planted.

20130121. The inauspicious beginnings of garden v.2013!

      • Ordered free seeds from this place: WinterSown. Free seeds? Too good to be true? I’ll let you know how it works out!
      • Signed up for a free, online course, “An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health.” It starts in two days, if anyone wants to join me!
      • Smeared Vaseline on a chicken’s comb for the first time. Nothing kinky here, I swear. Our Mediterranean sweetie, Boo, already has a touch of frostbite on one of her spikes, and this is supposed to help.
      • Set up possibly the KLASSIEST (yes, with a capital “K”) wind break ever. The wind chill is supposed to get down to -10 to -20 tonight, and with Boo’s frostbite, we are NOT PLAYING, winter. We also added a 60-watt bulb light fixture to the inside of the coop for a little warmth boost.
20130121. Wind chills of -10 to -20 call for extreme measures.

Paneling ripped off the walls of our office + lawn chairs = totally awesome chicken windbreak.

20130121. Wind chills of -10 to -20 call for extreme measures: a light in the coop to keep things warm(er)!

Did you know that your typical chicken produces 10W of heat? So this 60W bulb will almost double the chickens’ natural heat.

    • Created – and accidentally exploded – a sourdough starter bomb. Ignore the picture of the large Ball jar in that recipe, just ignore it. When they say to start it in a large bowl, LEAVE IT in the glass bowl while it sits and ferments. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT put it in the glass jar, covered with a tea towel screwed down with a jar ring. It will seal up, and you WILL shoot a flour-water mixture 20′ across the room and all over the ceiling when you finally cut a hole in your dead grandmother’s tea towel out of sheer desperation.
20130120. Post-sourdough starter bomb.

It looks so harmless, doesn’t it?

20130118. Oh, sourdough... how I've missed you.

The reason I had to create a new batch of sourdough starter, which you should really never have to do – I used it all up making two loaves of delicious bread. Really, though, sourdough starter should last you your whole life if you take care of it.

On Saturday, we made the brilliant decision to ignore our obligations and to do lists and instead took Birdie to Holliday Park, a most bizarre place just five minutes from our house. It was 50 degrees and wonderful out. Today, faced with snow and chicken waterers that just will not stay unfrozen, I am so glad we took some time to be outdoors together.
20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Bianca's Jacket.

Enjoying the View

Here’s our view lately:

20121122. The Eiteljorg Jingle Trails exhibit. IN State Fair!

The Indiana State Fair in miniature at the Eiteljorg Museum.

20121129. EGGIES! The brown one is our last storebought egg (ever???).

Eggies! Since 11/20, our two laying chickens have given us 14 eggs. Note: we have three more girls who haven’t even begun laying yet. EGGIE OVERLOAD!

20121122. First Thanksgiving hosting!

Our bird and the human residents of the Space-Farm (aka us).

20121123. The fam at the Eiteljorg.

Where I come from.

20121129. Birdie has nearly doubled her weight since we got her a month ago.

Birdie’s ears and spots.

20121130. Rocketman.

Sneak preview: blast off!

Metric (on repeat lately), “Calculation Theme.” I wish we were farmers. I wish we knew how to grow sweet potatoes and milk cows.

How’s your view these days?

It’s Decorative Gourd Season!

Maybe it’s weird to be making plans for the future in the fall. Everything around us is dying back. Once screaming-intensity desert temperatures are suddenly dropping into the 30s at night. Scarves have  been busted out, as well as handknit wool sweaters smelling of cedar. Hell, we had our first fire last night – and it was delightful.

However, a new life plan has manifested itself as of late, and I think it’s a damn good one. My new plan is to offer whatever services I can (aka whore myself out) to all the people I think are doing super-fantastic things in this town until one of them either hires me or adopts me… OR I learn enough that I decide I can move forward with my own thing. At the very least, I will meet people who I think are doing awesome things, learn a ton from them, and maybe, just maybe, make something out of it. At the worst? Well, I don’t really think there’s a downside, to be honest.

With that in mind, I’ve volunteered my time twice so far over at Big City Farms Indianapolis and had an awesome time. I’m hoping I can continue picking Matthew’s (head farmer/owner) brain about how he’s gone into business for himself and, well, everything there is to know about farming an urban plot. Right… I’m sure that would take me my whole life. In addition to gleaning these nuggets of wisdom, though, I’ve also been enjoying sharing stories about plucking turkeys, what happens to the chickens when young couples break up, missing the caramel apples of old handed out at Halloween, and how jumping into piles of leaves really is what a six-year-old should be most excited about re: fall.

On Thursday, I worked a full eight hours at my job, but I didn’t really feel as though I had accomplished much until I got to the farm and spent a few hours weeding. I think that’s saying a lot.

So yeah – new life plan: surround myself with awesome people, doing awesome things that I want to be doing, too. Seems simple, right? How did it take me so long to get here?

20120920. Big City Farms Indianapolis.

I came out on Thursday to start weeding the “disaster zone” by myself… and I was super excited to be able to take a few shots of the space without feeling like a total creep/dork. And yet, I still feel like a creep posting these shots.

20120920. Big City Farms Indianapolis.

It’s the quintessential urban farm plot: bordered on one side by the highway and an old factory-turned-antiques mart, a view of the skyline in the background, and a very active, noisy train bordering the other side. I kept thinking, “It’s so peaceful,” and then a giant semi would go wailing past on the highway. Ah, nature.

I also discovered today that just past those train tracks is Flat 12 Brewery, which makes fantastic beers (like Sushi Saison, a delicious Belgian IPA, a cherry stout that almost required chewing as you ingested it, and… some others I can’t remember because I sampled a few too many this afternoon).

20120922. A true lady always leaves lipstick stains on her plastic glass.

When we got home, it was time for the chickens to have some outdoor time of their own.

20120922. We hang. Me and my best bitch on a Saturday evening.

My favorite bitch, Beaker, came to chill in the late afternoon sun. She really does get this cozy every time I hang with her.

20120922. Me and Little Red.

Little Red is still quite little. We’re beginning to think she might be a bantam.

20120922. Boo.

Boo in high relief.

20120922. Dino Puppy says HEEEEY.

Dino Puppy, coming in for her closeup.

And this about sums up how I feel about my whole new life plan:
20120920. Happy!P.S. I almost forgot the whole point of this post. Would you like to read my favorite piece of prose related to fall and the changing seasons? Warning: it’s delightfully FILTHY in the language department. “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, M*therf*ckers,” by Colin Nissan.