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.

Honorary Titles: Best Stay-at-Home Whatever?

I’ve decided that, if given the opportunity, I really could be… THE GREATEST STAY-AT-HOME WHATEVER TO EVER STAY AT HOME. It’s unfortunate that work gets in the way of all my amazing activities, keeping me from actualizing my true potential to stay at home, being whatever, and making and doing all day long.

But it’s okay. The work part probably keeps me (sort of, mostly, kind of) sane.

Here’s my recent resume of what I’ve been making and doing lately, which I think clearly puts me at least in the running to be greatest stay-at-home whatever: We brewed our first batch of beer last Sunday, and now our front closet smells delectably of beer…

20130410. Our hall closet smells like beer.

To be fair, I was more the helper. Chris is the real brewmaster in training.

Ever since, I’ve been feeding the spent grains to both the chickens and to Birdie (in the form of these amazingly easy dog biscuits):

20130410. Birdie's spent grain biscuits - before and after.

I think she approves.

The sweet potatoes continue to grow:
20130410. Sweet potatoes continue to grow.

And the barley fodder tray has begun to green up. Soon, the chickens will be munching on delicious barley greens (and in a few weeks, they’ll have free rein over the yard again).
20130410. Growing barley for the chickens.

I was also terribly impressed with myself: I SUCCESSFULLY made Neufchatel cheese with dried rosemary and lavender from last year’s garden (and with the prompting and encouragement of a fellow blogger, Chris Kafer, whose blog is one of the few I make a point of checking in on regularly!). This turned out better than I could have hoped and is amazing on bagels.

20130410. Homemade Neufchatel with rosemary and lavender.

NEUF. CHA. TEL! NEUF. CHA. TEL!

So wouldn’t you agree? I would totally be the best stay-at-home whatever that stayed at home doing whatever. EVER.

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.

Life with Dog, or an Appreciation for Ears

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it recently or if you’ve ever taken note of this fact, but Birdie has amazing ears. She’s nearly eight months old, and her ears never fail to impress.

A pictorial overview of Birdie and her ears, from my first morning with her to today:

20121029. My first morning with Birdie.

20121101. Girlfriend is downright DISTRACTING.

20121110. Birdie.

20121123. Birdie and her heater.

Mid-yawn magic!

Birdie's first mirror (and hotel room).

20121208. Good dog!

20130216. Birdie is allowed on the bed when we travel. She obviously hates it.

20130328. Birdie, almost 8 months old.

Today, after a long walk in the sunshine and relative warmth.

You know what else? Today, Birdie did something new! For the first time ever in the five months we’ve had her! Are you ready for this?

Are you? Today, my little doggie… ate her first pair of shoes!

20130328. Life with dog.

And, yes, the inside toe of the left slipper is totally soggy with loving dog spit.

Okay, to be fair, they’re a pair of slippers. LEATHER slippers. That smell like me, her favorite human (sorry, Chris, but I’m her fave). And I left her alone with them for, like, hours. So, really, I wasn’t too shocked.

I still love the little rugrat. A lot. I’m feeling pretty lucky that we made the snap/somewhat random decision to get her from the shelter last October. She’s already brightened some bad days (sorry about that, doggie. I know you don’t like the bad days).

“P” Is for Pictures, Pheasants, and Pickled Eggs

How about a lazy Saturday post? Anyone? Anyone?

First up: pictures. One of the neat things about starting our own garden a few years back was getting to know what plants look like when they are seedlings all the way up through adults. I mean, I knew what tomato plants looked like. But okra babies? Kale? Cauliflower? It’s a really fun surprise to see those seedlings push their ways up through the dirt, to get to know the different types by sight, and (eventually) be able to, at a glance, identify what you’ve got growing where.

Or, if you’re like me, you will NEVER be able to tell the difference between your cauliflowers and your cabbages. But whatever – that’s what ridiculous seedling map after map are for.

20130309. Green, green, green - lettuces waiting to go outside.

I’m waiting on some row cover fabric from Gardeners so I can move the peas, lettuce, and spinach outside – and make room under the grow lights for squash and other summer-loving seedlings. Come on, Gardeners!

20130309. Cacophony of green - cauliflower.

For now, though, the overwhelming green under the grow lights in the basement is making me very happy. These cauliflower seem pretty happy, too.

Next up: in other breaking news, Birdie destroys a new toy! What, you don’t think that’s news? All right, fair enough.

20130309. Birdie destroys her new pheasant.

Order of destruction: the wings didn’t last a half-hour. Then the rope legs got chewed off. Then the pheasant was decapitated. Finally, this morning, destruction was complete with the evisceration of what was left of the body. Mommy’s little chewer!

And finally, I took my first stab at pickling eggs. Note that I had never before eaten a pickled egg; the thought of a giant jar of pickled eggs, just sitting behind the counter of some dive bar, always grossed me out too much.

I followed Food Republic’s pickled egg recipe, and they turned out quite lovely! They are actually far more mild in flavor than I thought they would be, and I’m eager to try other recipes to see if I can actually get a more pickled-tasting egg.

While they may be understated in flavor, the color… OH, THE COLOR! I’m in love with them for their color alone. I’ve been slicing them up and scarfing them down on a bed of spinach with sliced strawberries and smoked almonds. Dressing not required. YUM.

20130303. Pickled eggs.

The Haps: Backyard Photo Shoots, Doggie Classes, and a Riot of Green

BACKYARD PHOTO SHOOTS:

Our chickens have officially experienced their first ever real photo shoot. We’re talking big reflective flashes on stands, multiple lenses, and a photographer lying in the muddy grass, all Austin Powers style (“Yes! Yes! NO! NO! NO!”).

Indianapolis Monthly, which is a pretty great magazine (we used to subscribe to it but started getting overwhelmed by the piles of magazines everywhere we looked), is doing an article on backyard chickens in their April edition, and they decided they wanted to meet us. What an honor!

I just hope the photog (that’s what they call them in the biz, right?) got at least one or two decent shots. It has been gray and brown and muddy and generally very uninspiring in the backyard lately, and the girls… well, they look like their surroundings: muddy and damp and brown instead of bright and shiny and pretty.

DOGGIE CLASSES:

In other menagerie-related news, our sweet puppy turned seven months old yesterday – when did she get so big?! Our big girl also got her official doggie diploma. I’m so proud I could cry.

20130302. Birdie graduates!

20130302. Birdie's repertoire.

Birdie’s repertoire… sort of. She’s really good at some things, not so good at others. Particularly if other people, dogs, cars, or squirrels are involved.

A RIOT OF GREEN:

Thankfully, although the gray outside won’t seem to lift, we have a riot of green in our basement. The only regret I have this year is that our seedlings are hidden away, and I can’t appreciate them all day, every day. It brings me a bit of peace (and a good dose of Vitamin D), though, to visit them.

20130302. Riot of green.What does your weekend look like?

TREAT YO’SELF!

Last week, I did my first ever multiple day juice/veggies/fruits fast. Day one was a complete juice fast, but the rest of the days I incorporated raw and cooked veggies and fruits. Finally, I threw eggs back into the mix. I don’t think I eat horribly in general, but I wanted to reset how I look at food and move towards a more conscious way of eating. And, frankly, I have wanted to break the hold of processed foods, fried foods, and CHEESE for a while.

Dear baby Jesus in heaven, do I ever love cheese.

But get this – I felt fantastic this past week. It was hard, but not in an “I’M SO HUNGRY I COULD IMPLODE INTO MY CONCAVE, GROWLING, SHRIVELED STOMACH” sort of way. A few things:

  • The greatest difficulty I had was getting over my own head. I found myself getting up from my computer during the work day to make some tea, and the moment I was standing in the kitchen, my head switched over to, “What should I grab to munch on?” I hadn’t realized how strong that pull is.
  • The longer I went, the harder it was to put anything remotely crappy into my body. This, of course, was the desired outcome… so that was pretty sweet.
  • I also started thinking a lot about the whole concept of treating yourself. One of the main reasons I typically treat myself food-wise is because I feel like I’ve “been good,” which, in actuality, means that I feel I’ve been depriving myself or something is missing. But what if you looked at everything you ate as treating yourself? Example: fresh squeezed kale/pineapple/orange juice is DELISH, and it was not a stretch to think of it as a treat and to savor it. I tried to appreciate what I was eating and look at every bite as treating myself – treating myself right, that is.

By extension, then, what if you viewed your whole life as episode after episode of “treating yourself”? What would be possible then? I understand that cleaning the toilet will likely never feel like treating yourself. Your boss may occasionally be a hideous hose beast. Commuting in bumper to bumper traffic will probably never be elevated to “I’m totally treating myself right now” status (although a great album coupled with some inventive car dancing routines could perhaps ALMOST get you there).

20130209. Beaker's first egg.

Simple pleasures: cracking Beaker’s first giant egg to see what’s inside.

But if we make an effort to live our lives with a sense of levity and work to make more and more of what we do every day feel like a treat… what then? Think of how differently we would look at the world and each other. Think of everything we could do.

In honor of all this seeking and reaching, I give you this song: Cloud Cult, “There’s So Much Energy in Us.” I heard the captain say, “We’re so close to it. So very close to it. We still have energy in us.”

So far today, I have treated myself with the following:

  • Made (and ate) a delicious curried egg salad out of hard boiled eggs from my backyard tenants, aka the chickens.

20130209. Beaker and her giant egg.

  • Spent a good portion of my morning in the basement under the bright, clear grow lights, transplanting my beautiful seedlings, thinking about nothing… then friends and work and life and trips and to do lists… then nothing again… Just enjoying being with green things and dreaming of how they will grow.

20130209. Thank goodness for green things.

  • Hung out with my best feathered friends in the sunshine and relative warmth.

20130209. Backyard with the chickens.

  • Went for a long walk in the fresh air with my best furry friend, laughing as she ran through puddles and chased water droplets flinging off her paws, admiring her floppy ears and happy-puppy gait.

Birdie values inter-species relationships. Bean does not.

How did you treat yourself today? And, more importantly, what parts of your days are always a treat?

BREAKING NEWS: Little Red = 1, Beaker = 0

Ever since we got our first tiny pink egg on the shortest day of the year, we assumed it came from Beaker. Beaker the brave. Beaker the fave. Beaker the chick who lived. And, most notably, Beaker the GRANDMA.

Seriously, the girl was born March 19. She’s ANCIENT in chicken terms.

20130111. The chickens get some winter rye. Winter rye = chicken crack.

Because of her age, we assumed Beaker was the layer, and we hadn’t caught the pink egg layer in the act, as it were. Whoever it was, she was getting her business done FAST. So imagine my surprise when yesterday I come out, do the mental headcount of the girls in the run, and see that both Dino Puppy and Little Red are missing from the run.

You see where this is going, right? I open the nesting box and find both girls settled quite happily in their respective boxes. Twenty minutes later, I find a little pink egg right where our Little Red was nestled.

So, people, the moral of the story: Beaker the brave, the fave, the OLDEST of all, and the one who will never be destined for the stew pot since she’s also the chick who lived is also our one remaining non-egg-laying deadbeat.

20130111. My Littlest Red.

My Littlest Red, thanks for giving us your darling, tasty pink eggies! I will never accuse you of being a deadbeat again.

In other, non-chicken-related news, Birdie is still adorable…

20130105. Snow day snuggles with Birdie. Again.

Albeit a tad on the destructive side.

20130111. Birdie's toys looking a little worse for wear.

My Psychic Powers

Over the holidays, we found one of the Christmas cards I gave Chris in 2011. Note that we had not planned yet on chickens, and we hadn’t even discussed a puppy until, oh, September or so of this year. I’m psychic!

20130105. I'm psychic! My Christmas card to Chris in 2011 (note we had not planned on chickens OR a dog by Christmas last year).

(And, yes, generally speaking, Chris gets at least one cute animal card for every holiday or birthday. It’s kind of my thing).

Suffering from Snow Blindness

On Christmas night, we got hit with about 9″ of snow, along with gusting winds and a blizzard warning. They weren’t kidding – our cars had cornices by the 26th! The weather outside was frightful, but the fire was delightful. Not only did we have some corn for popping, but we also had fixins to make a mean Mai Tai. In other words, we survived just fine, thanks for asking.

Frightful:

20121226. The shoveled snow pile. Christmas night blizzard.

20121226. Our cars have cornices! Christmas night blizzard.

Car cornice!

20121226. There is a car under there, I promise. Christmas night blizzard.

There really is a car under there.

Delightful:

Snow day with my best girl.

Birdie kept completely exhausting herself in the snow. Exhausted puppy = adorable, well-behaved puppy.

Just as the snow started getting doggified in the backyard yesterday afternoon (you know – packed down, a little muddy, and, ahem, COLORED in certain spots), the weatherman told us we might get another 1-2″ last night. Yeah… more like 4″ on top of what we already had. I know, I shoveled that beautiful fluff!

Last night:

20121228. Snowy evening.

Did I mention beautiful? What a wonderful sight to wake up to this morning.

20121229. So we got a tad more snow last night.

20121229. So we got a tad more snow last night.

20121229. So we got a tad more snow last night.