I SOOOO Called It

And just like that, all five chickens are laying again, -15 to -25 degree wind chills be damned! Way to go, girls. To celebrate, I’ll fix you some nice, hot eggies before you go to bed tonight.

20140123. All five girls are laying again.

Trying to Find the Words…

I don’t quite know how to put this yet, but I feel like I am somehow cheating at life last week and this week. I started the apprenticeship with Growing Places Indy, and I can still say, without a doubt, it’s one of the best choices I’ve made/opportunities I’ve been given in this world. EVER.

20130607. Garden jungle.

(Meanwhile on the home front… the garden has taken on jungle proportions…)

It’s like I am living this decadent reality when, really, all I am doing is taking care of myself, taking care of plants and the earth, and taking care of people around me. I guess it’s a little sad that this feels so decadent, but that’s not the part I’m choosing to dwell on. Instead, I’m trying to fill myself up with the awesomeness of feeling this way and trying to figure out how to prolong it long after August 10 when the apprenticeship ends.

20130607. Nasturtium and garlic.

(Nasturtium and garlic make friends…)

And, for the record, we apprentices have already begun talking about how sad we will be to see the apprenticeship come to a close. It’s only the end of week two, but when every day feels like three or four days packed into one (in a good way), I feel very close to these people already. It’s like a happier, soul searching, plant- and food-centric boot camp.

20130607. Beaker does not like being left out of the garden.

(Beaker expresses her discontent at not being allowed to eat – and poop on – all the backyard garden plants…)

I’m surrounded by truly amazing people: the apprentices, the leaders of the program, and the handful of people who have come in to speak with us. It’s just too much! My heart feels like it’s bursting.

20130607. Beaker is the best mulberry forager.

(Beaker scavenges mulberries from the grass while I scavenge from the tree…)

I’m clearing my mind of the extraneous bullshit, being present (really and truly PRESENT), learning so much, working hard, eating well, talking and sharing, doing yoga… I feel like I need to milk every moment for all it’s worth because it’s such a foreign feeling, it’s just not NORMAL, and I fear it could go away at any time.

20130607. Garlic scape.

(Alien shapes find their way into the garden via garlic scapes…)

I feel centered and balanced and vibrant and like I’m paying attention to these things for the first time in years, if not ever. I feel supported and like I really could do anything, like there is a community of people, all around me in the program and in the city of Indianapolis, who can help me accomplish these things and who want me to succeed. And vice versa.

20130607. Mulberry.

(Mulberries fill jars and stain hands and lips…)

Just for the record, here are just a few of the many things I have done or learned so far:

  • Biked 116 miles in two weeks.
  • Learned how to take a soil pH test.
  • Learned how to grow micro greens and sunflower and pea shoots.
  • Laid out irrigation/drip/t-tape across many garden beds.
  • Realized I could still do cartwheels and yoga is actually way more centering and invigorating than I thought.
  • Opened myself up without fear.
  • Met local business folks who are working to put out sustainable, amazing products (and learned I should just do it – with a halfway decent business plan in my pocket, of course).
  • Harvested greens and herbs and helped organize/disperse green goodies at my first CSA pickup.
  • Laughed and got stressed out and talked and picked myself up and worked it all out and laughed again and shared more with strangers than I have in YEARS.
  • Found myself feeling nostalgic for the present, if that’s possible.
  • Began thinking about fundraising ideas and putting together proposals so all of this year’s apprentices can “pay it forward” for next year’s (I’m sure) equally, if not more, amazing apprentices.
20130607. Dinner tonight! All from the backyard or Growing Places Indy.

(What dinner looks like on most nights: beautiful greens and eggs from the backyard, herbs from Growing Places Indy. We lead charmed lives…)

And I Thought My Bike Upgrades Were an Awesome Early Birthday Present!

Hey, guess what, everybody? No, really, guess! You’ll never guess…

Are you ready for this? Brace yourselves… as of last night at roughly 6:03 pm (not that I was really thinking about the time or anything), CHRIS AND I ARE ENGAGED!!!

Here’s the abridged story: yesterday, Chris got home from work, and I was drinking a beer in honor of my birthday eve. Normal night, right? He went outside, and I saw he was checking out his hop trellis. I also realized I forgot to get the chicken eggs.

I charged out the back door in my wellies, and he called out, “There’s a really strange egg in there.” I was thinking he meant there was some horribly misshapen, nasty thing in the nesting box, and he left it there for me to check it out. Instead, I saw this:

20130517. A very strange egg...

It didn’t hit me what was going on. So I opened it:

20130517. What could it be?

20130517. A ring!

And there was a ring! I think the conversation that ensued went something like this: “This is a ring.” “Yes.” “Are you asking me to marry you?” “Yes.” And then we hugged and kissed a lot, and I forgot to say yes for a while, and I was all smiley and kind of shaky. And then I was like, “You didn’t really ask me!” And he asked, and THEN I remembered to say yes.

20130517. Surprise! We're engaged!

So, hey, we’re totally engaged! Then we called our respective parents, ordered a fancy pizza, drank fancy beer, and generally had an awesome night.

20130517. Engaged!

We’re going to go get it resized this morning, because I want to wear it now! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

20130517. Engaged!

THE END!

Hens are Supposed to be Quiet, Right?

Our hens are pretty quiet overall, but our leghorn makes a tremendous amount of noise after laying an egg. It’s loud enough that we can hear it from inside the house. I’m not sure if this is a breed or individual characteristic. Are any of your hens noisier than others?

I finally managed to capture her on video. So here’s Boo, singing loudly after laying.  Switch to 720p HD for best quality.

“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.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Curried Egg Salad!

Isn’t that  how the saying goes? What? Huh? Not quite right? Oh, whatever, you know what I mean.

A couple of Easters ago, I dyed a dozen eggs just so I could pretend to be a kid for a half-hour. I like egg salad all right, but I wanted something different. With some consultation of recipes on the internet, combined with consultation of my spice cabinet and fridge to see what I had on hand, I made this up: curried egg salad (that, at Easter time, has the added bonus of looking like confetti cake with its pink and blue and purple bits of egg where the dye leaked through).

20110410. easter eggs!

With how colorful our backyard eggs are, I don’t think we’ll be dying them this year! These ones from a couple of years back were gorgeous, though.

With our current egg overload, this recipe has come in handy. Without further ado…

CURRIED EGG SALAD, A LA SPACE-FARM (modified from Epicurious’ version)

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise, nayonnaise, or plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 6 hardboiled large eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans

In a small bowl, mix the curry powder and cayenne with the mayo/nayo/yogurt and set aside. Using a fork, mash the hardboiled eggs until they are at a chunky consistency (you know, not too finely mashed, not too many big pieces left). Dump in the onion, celery, and optional additions (I LOVE dried cranberries in this!). Stir in the spiced yogurt until everything is well-combined.

Chill, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with lettuce on nice, crusty bread or on a bed of fresh spinach. ENJOY!

Current State of Affairs: Egg Overload

The state of things in this little household: we are drowning in eggs.

Point the first: I used a dozen hardboiled beauties to made another curried egg salad yesterday.

20130224. Egg salad makin'.

20130224. Birdie thinks eggs are tennis balls for her to play with. This is her waiting attentively.

(Every time I collect eggs, Birdie waits patiently, thinking they are special balls for her to play with. Sorry to disappoint, Bird).

Next up: We sold another dozen to our neighbors today.

Wanna know how many eggs are currently still in our fridge? TWENTY-ONE EGGS. Twenty-freaking-one eggs.  I believe it’s time for our first foray into the wild world of pickled eggs, don’t you?

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?

Large and in Charge: Beaker Lays Her First, Frighteningly Gigantic Egg

Beaker, the brave, the fave, the ancient-in-chicken-terms chicken finally got around to laying her first egg… and, oh man, was it ever a doozy:

20130205. Beaker laid her first egg, and it is HUGE! And bright green.

On the left is a Little Red egg. In the right, Beaker’s first, giant egg.

20130205. Rainbow of eggs.

Large and in charge, indeed. She laid another yesterday, and it was much more normally sized and a darker green. We shall see what they end up looking like in the long-run.

20130205. Five different chickens, five different eggs.

Left to right: Boo, Little Red, Beaker, Edgar, and Dino Puppy.

Now to find out what’s in it. Multiple yolks? An alien, like those creepy swimming pool pods in Cocoon (I have nightmares about those pods)? Here’s one possibility, brought to my attention by my fantastic friend, Alina, up in Seattle. I would like to do a similar video, but I fear that my Chicago accent wouldn’t be nearly as charming as this fellow’s Australian accent… and there’s probably not anything THIS exciting in Beaker’s first egg.