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.

Sense of Place (or Why the Midwest Is the Best)

I’ve lived a lot of places. Some might say I get around. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, then jumped between Colorado and California for a number of years (mountains, ocean, mountains, city/ocean) before heading back to the Midwest for grad school. While the ocean and mountains are fantastic (and you’d have to spend a significant time in the car to reach either mountains or ocean from here), though, I am really glad to be exactly where I am.

the ferns are as big as me! redwood national park.

Little 20-year-old me in Redwood National Park, CA.

2002. hiding from the wind on top of a mountain in colorado.

Hiding on an 11,000′ mountain from the wind in Rocky Mountain National Park.

2002. mono lake.

Chillin’ in Mono Lake, CA.

Back to the present. Chris and I own a house – a decent house we got for not very much money at all. We have land we can do whatever we want with – not a ton of land, but it’s ours. And if we decide in a few years we want a few acres to farm within easy driving distance of the city (if not actually IN the city itself), we will actually be able to afford that, too. What we have just would not be possible in those other beautiful places I have lived.

There’s also the question of where you are in life, what you want out of it, and how you relate to your city. While living in a progressive city where nearly everyone is on the same page, raising chickens, riding their bikes all over the place, recycling every last shred of waste that comes into their house, peeing in their compost bins, etc., is cool and all, I also feel a little like it would get… a bit boring. YAWN. SNOOZEFEST. WE ALL THINK WE’RE AWESOME AND ARE DOING ALL THE SAME, AMAZING THINGS. Do I want to be preaching to the choir? Not particularly.

I think it’s way cooler to be on the leading edge of getting those really cool things engrained into communities where it’s NOT the norm. Indianapolis has a lot of normal, everyday people doing just that.

The other thing about Indiana is that it’s downright beautiful. For real. Although it doesn’t have craggy, windswept mountains to climb or pounding waves and rocky beaches, our rolling hills are all I need to make me feel better after a long week. Which is exactly what Chris and I did this past weekend.

First, we headed to Gnaw Bone, Indiana (for real – that’s the name of the town), and Kelp’s Pumpkin Patch, which every year has the most amazing selection of decorative gourds I’ve ever seen. See previous entry, featuring “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers,” which we quoted copiously (and quietly) while we were here. Must think of the kids!

20121013. Fall leaf hunting adventure in Southern IN.

20121013. Best fall farm stand ever - Gnawbone, IN.

20121013. Fall leaf hunting adventure in Southern IN.

We bypassed Brown County State Park because, oh holy crap, the line was out to the road to get in. Leaf season in Southern Indiana is serious biz! Instead, we escaped the crowds and headed toward Monroe Lake and the Charles C. Deam Wilderness, the only wilderness area in the state. First, though, we required Scenic View burgers and (strong, delicious) mixed drinks.

20121013. Fall leaf hunting adventure in Southern IN.

20121013. Fall leaf hunting adventure in Southern IN.

20121013. Fall leaf hunting adventure in Southern IN.

Then, it was on to the Deam Wilderness and the firetower. Sadly, it was overrun by wasps, so we hit the trails instead and ended up at the most remote, peaceful graveyard I have ever seen.

20121013. Fall leaf hunting adventure in Southern IN.

20121013. Fall leaf hunting adventure in Southern IN.

20121013. Fall leaf hunting adventure in Southern IN.

20121013. Fall leaf hunting adventure in Southern IN.

20121013. Fall leaf hunting adventure in Southern IN.

20121013. Fall leaf hunting adventure in Southern IN.

I don’t need a ton of reminders about why I love living where I live, but I love it when they jump up and hit me out of nowhere. Life, it is good. Life in this place in particular is great.

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.

Living the Dream (or at Least a Weekend Spent Outdoors)

This weekend was the epitome of why I love when summer begins its slow shift to fall: bright blue skies, a crispness to the mornings and dew-laden grasses, soft breezes, and shifting clouds-to-sun, leaving you packing an extra cardigan and scarf for dinner out on a patio somewhere, just in case the air turns a little chilly.

I am so glad, then, that I spent the entire weekend outside. Yesterday, I tended the chickens and the garden, then headed over to Big City Farms Indianapolis to volunteer my time (and pick the brain of farmer Matthew). The location was idyllic, if you’re thinking of the quintessential urban plot: bordered on one side by a major highway, on the other by a very active train track, and overlooking both an old factory that now houses an antique mall AND the buildings of downtown Indy. Matthew runs a CSA and supplies a handful of restaurants via seven different urban plots scattered about the city.

I learned a lot in just three hours and really hope I am able to continue volunteering (and, from a purely selfish standpoint, LEARNING) with him. A very cool guy running a very cool enterprise. Actually, I think he should just hire me, but you know… that’s just me. I may just continue whoring myself out as free labor to the various people doing awesome things here in town until one of them decides I’m so totally indispensable. 🙂

This morning, I planted some cover crops in our open beds…
20120916. Platning cover crops, drinking coffee.

I spied on some of our fennel-loving caterpillars…
20120912. Caterpillar and fennel.

And then it was time for the Tour de Coops, which we had originally planned on being a part of, but pulled out after our various chicken woes this summer. We met some lovely chickens, though, including Gumbo and Chimichanga:

20120916. Tour de Coops. Kicking it with Gumbo and Chimichanga.

And this lovely, who lived in a wildlife-certified sanctuary (and the only spot on the tour who required booties to protect their girls… way to go!):
20120916. Tour de Coops.

Chickens? What chickens? This was the house that was a wildlife sanctuary (I’m totally botching the correct nomenclature, but whatevs). I want to channel their overall look in our backyard.
20120916. Tour de Coops. Chickens? What chickens?

We also totally coveted this detached screened in-porch/chicken coop (they converted the back half into chicken space):
20120916. Tour de Coops.

We were also reminded if, nothing else, chickens have personality out the yin-yang.
20120916. Tour de Coops.

This gal was nice and cozy amongst my biosecurity shoes.
20120916. Tour de Coops.

Unfortunately, all my outdoor time this weekend meant my own chickens didn’t get much time out in the yard. That had to be rectified this evening.
20120914. All the chickens.

Way to go, weekend! You were an awesome one.

Channeling My Inner-Martha Stewart… Cheapo Hippie Style, Of Course

This weekend, we are having our much-belated housewarming party. Yes, we got the keys to the place on Friday, May 13, 2011. So what? We were so busy getting settled and embarking on epic projects all summer long last year that a party just didn’t seem feasible.

Now, however, a party is SO feasible! Not only that, it also seems like the most fun idea. Both of our sets of parents are coming, as well as my aunt and uncle and one of my cousins. On top of family, we’ll have new neighbors, old friends, work friends, friends from out of town, friends from across town, and even our fantastic realtor who snarked his way through house after house with us a little over a year ago. I keep mentally coupling up our wide variety of friends and relatives, thinking who will love who the most, who will hit it right off, and how many objects of Mallory’s clothing will feature leopard print (I’m hoping for THREE).

In true me-form, I’ve decided that it’s not enough to just feed people and laugh a lot and get them drunk. Things have got to be just a tad crafty. Here’s a housewarming party preview:

20120620. Belated housewarming party decor.

Signs inspired by my hair salon and paint chip garlands.

20120620. Belated housewarming party decor.

Home sweet home and leftover paint chips from our bedroom paint job.

20120620. Belated housewarming party decor.

Ball jar lanterns.

20120620. Boombox helps Chris.

The awesome thing about housewarmings? We are finally getting some long overdue projects done – like hanging the amazing poster of Indianapolis neighborhoods I got for Christmas. Boombox is the best little helper.

20120620. It only took us 6 months to hang this awesome poster.

Indianapolis neighborhoods poster, bird mobile from Chris’ parents, our amazing Darth Vader fireplace, a 3D ship from my grandparents, and an oil painting from my parents. Lovely.

20120620. Belated housewarming party signs.

Signs of great value and importance.

20120620. Belated housewarming party signs.

I’ve also brewed up some rosemary-lavender vodka and fennel simple syrup, as well as lavender simple syrup (if it makes it until the party – it is too delicious!). I’m going to empower people to make awesome fizzy cocktails for themselves.

20120620. Belated housewarming party decor.

The garden needed a little sass, too, in the form of pompoms…

20120620. Belated housewarming party decor.

…and beer bottle vases. These will probably hold fennel and maybe a cut flower or two.

I also put together a music mix, including such varied artists as Air, NWA, Cursive, Damien Rice, Elliott Smith, Jay-Z, Jawbreaker, Mates of State, the Mountain Goats, and this song (of course).

Tour de Coops 2012: Be There or Be… Somewhere Else

UPDATE: Due to our crazy summer of chicken deaths and chicken illnesses, we decided we couldn’t be a show coop on this year’s Tour de Coops. We were sad to not be able to do it, but the possibility of anyone else getting our chickens’ respiratory illness pushed us over the edge. However, we’ll still be attending, and you should, too!  

It’s really happening, people! We became the first official “show coop” for the 2012 Tour de Coops in Indianapolis, organized by Nap Town Chickens! I am over the moon.

The Tour de Coops is a self-guided, bicycling-encouraged tour of various chicken coops in Indianapolis neighborhoods. Last year’s event was the first ever in town, and over 500 people joined the tour. This year’s event will be held in neighborhoods surrounding ours, so it seemed like a good fit. Plus, as new chicken owners, we have learned a LOT already, and I’m really looking forward to talking to others about all our high points and low points (HELLO, chickens almost getting eaten by a hawk).

This year, the Tour de Coops will take place on September 16 from 1-6 pm and will feature the Broad Ripple, Meridian-Kessler, Butler-Tarkington, and Rocky Ripple neighborhoods. Indianapolis and other area friends, come on out!

Speaking of chickens, they are doing quite well. We have created a “chicken exclusion zone” in the back half of the yard, because chickens do, indeed, poop a lot. Anytime I work in the garden or come out of the house, they come running for the fence. I take it as a sign that they like me – in their weird, chickeny way.

20120519. The point at which the chickens realized I was INSIDE and they were OUTSIDE.

Americanism, Beets, and the Long Weekend

Here in Indianapolis, Memorial Day weekend is kind of a big deal. You see, not only do many people get three days off and the chance to barbecue/burn their faces off, drink too much cheap beer, and perhaps bust out the tents along with the rest of this great nation, but the largest single-day sporting event in the world also occurs tomorrow. In the blazing summer heat, approximately 400,000 people will swarm the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch a bunch of cars drive in circles for 500 miles. Ah, yes – the Indy 500.

What will I be doing, you ask? In my dream world, I will be going for a long bike ride with my beau in the early morning, assembling a tomato trellis, pickling beets (for the first time EVER), and hiding in the air conditioning, cross stitching a gift for my dad and watching the entire second season of Lost. In reality, I’ll probably do everything except for the Lost marathon because, as much as I love the sound of it, I have far too many other projects to actually take an entire day off.

Getting back to our planned absence at the noisy, rowdy ridiculousness that will be the race, though, we totally did our part today – we attended the Indy 500 parade! Going back to the title of this here blog entry, one of the groups today listed their mission on the side of their float as, “Supporting Our Veterans,” “Homeland Security,” and “Americanism.” Americanism, eh? I didn’t know that was a thing, but I think we partook in it.

First there was Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who rode in with a posse of Harley Davidsons. I think he might just be having fun at this point.

20120526. Our governor rode in on a motorcycle with a crew of Harley riders. Classy. Indy 500 parade.

Check out the Indiana state flag painted on the front. Nice touch.

Then there were the balloon handlers. In some cases, the balloon handlers were more interesting to me than the balloons.

20120526. Smurf tenders. Indy 500 parade

Look at that cute little girl on the right. I smurf you, smurfy girl!

Then we have a bunch of people who love the flag so much they want to wear it…. together. As a group. All at the same time. Like a really big set of overalls. Group overalls. Can you tell there’s something mildly disturbing to me about this?
20120526. Does anyone else find this mildly disturbing?

And we must not forget the post-parade, big-as-your-head onion rings.

20120526. Portraiture with onion ring.

‘MERICA!!!

What a fun time! After all that Americanism, though, I needed to spend some quality time with the chicks…
20120526. After all that Americanism, I needed to go relax with the chicks for a while.

Yolko, the lap chicken.

Yolko and Beaker are the only two who willingly let us catch them and cuddle for a minute.

And the blackberries, which we planted last weekend…
20120520. We have blackberry bushes!

And the potato sprouts. Since we planted them on May 12, they have been growing nicely, and I’ve already begun heaping more dirt against the sides of two of the biggest sprouts. I am weirdly excited about red potatoes (because who the heck gets excited about potatoes? THIS GIRL).
20120526. The red potatoes are sprouting!

Oh, and speaking of my planned FIRST EVER BEET HARVEST tomorrow, this clip makes me laugh out loud. Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica. Indeed.