No, Not You… The Bow-Legged One

Advance warning: this entry is all about SEX. Chicken sex, to be exact. And by “chicken sex,” I really mean, “egg laying.”

Cue record scratching/music coming to a screeching halt. What do my scrambled eggs have to do with chicken sex, you may be wondering? And by “wondering,” I mean, “totally freaking out and rocking in the fetal position in the corner of your kitchen, as far from the cast iron skillet as you can get.”

Let’s back up. One thing we’ve learned in this first year of chicken rearing is that there are a few misconceptions regarding the magic of the chicken egg. People ask us all the time if you need a rooster to get eggs. This usually sparks an interesting, sometimes uncomfortable conversation likening egg laying in chickens to egg laying in humans, which is essentially what we females of child bearing age do every month. Chickens are just overachievers about the whole business (or, more specifically, our unfertilized eggs are worthless and we humans have never been bred to pop out a fresh egg daily).

In fact, if you want edible eggs (i.e. eggs that do not contain little baby chickies, waiting to be hatched), then you really DON’T want a rooster anywhere near your girls – just like we ladies should probably stay away from dudes if we absolutely don’t want a chubby, bald, eating, pooping mini-me of our own.

So when chickens start laying eggs, they are essentially saying that they are ready for sex. Really. What’s even creepier about it, though, is that their demeanor changes, too. About a week before Dino Puppy started laying, I went to pet her, and she did this weird hunkering down move, where she got low to the ground, centered herself, and spread her wings out a bit.

What was going on? To put it not delicately at all, Dino Puppy was ready to be mounted by some lucky rooster. And she apparently thought my hand was a rooster. See? I felt like a total creep. I just wanted to pet my sweet girl! Little did I know, my sweet girl was suddenly a grown-ass woman.

This all brings me to Beaker, our oldest chicken and the only one of the five not yet laying eggs. She’s also the only one of our day-old chicks to survive triple degree temperatures last summer.

20120329. Beaker.

Baby Beaker.

The other day we were chilling in the yard together (like we do). When I went to pet her – are you ready for this? because I don’t think I am – she did the weird chicken sex pose. My little girl’s all grown up!

20120822. Me and Beaker. Beaker and me.

Big girl Beaker.

Just you wait: the next time I go out there, she’ll be singing this song, word for word. Stay tuned – we’re hoping she lays blue eggs!

Bad Girls Do It Well

I have this problem with songs and song lyrics. Once I’ve learned the words, they never, ever leave my head. Sometimes, I even think in song lyrics, which is precisely what happened this morning.

Since our chickens all lay different colored eggs, we know exactly who is being the most productive (Boo) and who is falling asleep on the job (Beaker, I’m looking at you).

Which brings me to the whole point of this story: Boo, our shining star of a leghorn, has laid an egg every day this month. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I kid you not. So I started trying to make some half-baked analogy to Chris about her being like a comet, no, not a comet, like a shooting star of chicken, burning bright, hot, and fast.

And then the perfect song to describe Boo, my little shining star, popped into my head: live fast, die young, bad girls do it well.

The Boo version: “My chain hits my chest when I’m laying in the nesting box, my chain hits my chest when I’m scratching in the chicken run.” Sing it, Boo, sing it.

20130111. Our powerhouse, Boo.

Did They Tell You You Should Grow Up When You Wanted to Dream?

I’ve been daydreaming about growing things this weekend – so much so that I finally cracked open the various seed catalogs I’ve received so far this winter and carefully avoided. If you have never seen a seed catalog, they are essentially page after page of crack for the garden dreamer. Plant porn.

Purple and orange cauliflower; eight different kinds of kale; chard stems that scream color to rival the most vibrant sunset. You can guess what happened next, right?

I proceeded to add seed packet after seed packet to my shopping cart, using my holiday bonus from work upon checkout. Greater self-sufficiency seems like a good thing to spend one’s work bonus on. Chard, squash, artichoke, kale, nasturtium, cauliflower, and some sunflowers to round it out. This is on top of the peas, beans, turnips, beets, tomatoes, chives, and a whole bunch of other seeds I still have from last year.

Next up will be picking up seed starter from Worm’s Way, which is the only stuff I’ll buy after last year’s seed starting debacle with the organic mix from Lowe’s. Someday I’ll make my own seed starter mix, but I just don’t have it in me this year.

I bit the bullet today and followed actual directions for how to start sweet potato slips for planting. Last year was my first stab at growing sweet potatoes, and I’m excited to get them in the ground much earlier this year. I cut some of the vines from last year’s batch and plunked them into water, thinking they would root. And, well, they haven’t. Not really.

20121004. Sweet potato slips for next spring!

So, like I said, I bit the bullet, bought two sweet potatoes from the grocery store, cut ’em up, and threw them into a few jars. Each potato should produce many slips, which, in theory, will each become their own plant with oodles of sweet potatoes growing off of it underground. Sweet potatoes are kind of magical, right?

20130113. Starting the sweet potato slips.A rainy weekend spent daydreaming of sunshine and cool breezes, the smell of dirt, tiny seedlings turning to giants to fill my pantry and my belly, and converting more of our yard into useable, edible space? In case you were wondering, it has been lovely.

Did they tell you you should grow up when you wanted to dream? Did they warn you, better shape up if you want to succeed? I don’t about you, who are they talking to? They’re not talking to me.

It’s CHRISTMAS! Music, Storms, Priceless Projects, and SOMUCHFOOD

I have a confession to make: I bought the Carpenters Christmas album off the Apple store last night. Have you ever heard it? There is just something about Christmas that wouldn’t be complete without Karen Carpenter singing, “There’s no place like home for the holidays,” to me. I recognized the correct album based on the cover image – I have stared at that cover every Christmas morning, emblazoned on a bonafide record cover, not some mamby-pamby CD cover, since I was probably four.

In other words, it was totally essential to add that to the Christmas playlist today…

…along with this album, which apparently aired the same year I was born (“If you believe in love, that will be more than enough for you to come and celebrate with me” – SING IT, KERMIT!):

In other words, it has been a good day so far. I got to Skype with my family in snowy Colorado, including my two beautiful nephews, this afternoon so I could watch them open our presents (including this handknitted owl for Ben).

20121225. Skyping with the Colorado fam. Ben and his new owl.

Then tonight, we should be getting a massive storm (for Indiana) blowing through with a predicted 6-9″ of snow. Bring it, snow! I got no place to go!

In preparation for tonight’s storm, we stocked up on supplies…

20121225. We are ready for the blizzard.

20121225. Making new (food-related) traditions - cinnamon buns.

We have many good things to read (including TWO copies of this book – such a good read we bought it for each other!)…

20121225. We got each other the same book for Christmas.

We have a doggy to keep our laps warm…

20121220. MY doggy.

We have plenty of eggs (and a brand new egg skelter so I can admire them – best present ever!)…

20121225. Christmas prezzies - an egg skelter!

And we even made a warmer for the chicken waterer! Tin from Goodwill + lamp kit from Lowe’s = $13 warmer. Not having to refresh the chicken waterer four times a day all winter? PRICELESS. We followed the directions from the Chicken Chick, although you really only need to drill one hole and run the wiring through the screw that feeds through the side of the tin. It’s amazing what a 40W bulb will do.

20121225. Chicken waterer warmer.

20121225. Chicken waterer warmer - ready for tonight's storm.

The warmer for the chicken waterer gets highest marks: the Little Red seal of approval.

Tomorrow, all we have to do is watch the storm outside, skim coat a wall or two, plan out our dream furniture for the office, knit, and watch movies. Sounds downright decadent, doesn’t it? Merry Christmas, and hoping you are having an equally blissful day!

20121224. Skim coating the office walls.

Nothing says “Christmas vacation” like an ambitious drywall-related project!

“Walking ‘Round in Women’s Underwear,” Happy Solstice, and the Latest of the Duh Vignettes

Ever since I was a little kid, whenever it really starts looking seasonal out, the following song goes through my head. As a kid it was just funny – walking ’round in women’s underwear? how silly! – but I love it now that I’m older because, essentially, it’s about proudly and unabashedly cross-dressing (with your co-workers, even!) to a favorite Christmas tune. What’s not to love, am I right?

What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that we woke up to a winter wonderland this morning (and I also happen to be walking ’round in women’s underwear, but that’s a different story).

20121221. Snow banks and chicken wagons.

Snow banks and chicken wagons – the wind was brutal last night and today, and I had to refresh the frozen chicken waterer four times today.

20121221. I have a remarkably steady hand. The chickens' first snow.

Notice there are no chickens out yet. Smart girls stayed inside and cozy for quite a while this morning.

20121221. With all the wind, I blocked off one side of the coop's ventilation with a towel.

This is our first cold weather with the chickens, and I was really glad I covered one side of their ventilated roof with a towel. It has been SO windy, the entire coop would have been snowed under!

I also keep hearing that chickens are supposed to slow down or stop producing as daylight hours wane. We assumed we wouldn’t see an egg until the spring thaw, our girls were so… REMEDIAL about the whole thing. Our first chicken laid her first egg one month ago today; Boo followed soon after, then Edgar waited until two days ago. Beaker apparently felt like a total loser for not having laid anything yet, so, on the shortest day of the year, she defied all wisdom and gave me her first little pink egg. I am pretty sure this is proof-positive that our chickens are weirdos. Lovely, endearing weirdos.

20121221. Beaker's little pink egg.

12/21/12 – the world didn’t end, and Beaker’s egg laying began.

20121221. Shortest day of the year, and Beaker decides to lay her first egg.

Go, Beaker, go! They finally braved the cold to scratch around in the straw.

Finally, the latest in the ‘Duh Vignettes’ series relates to selling eggs. We bought a bunch of blank cardboard egg six-packs so we can start selling to friends on a small scale. Since they are blank, I want to spruce the cartons up a bit, and I was lamenting to Chris how ridiculously expensive it is to have your own stamp made via the place I bought the cartons from (really? $45 for my own stamp? that’s cray).

Cue “duh” moment: I Google “custom stamp making,” and come across the following Pinterest board in, like, one of the first links: http://pinterest.com/arteveryday/make-your-own-stamps/. HELLO! I took two block printing classes last year. I have block printing supplies, including corkboard. Block printing is basically creating a giant stamp, for goodness sakes!

Hell, WE TALKED ABOUT MAKING STAMPS IN THE DANG CLASS. What is wrong with me?! So tonight I plan on drawing out a nice little stamp of a chicken silhouette in a space helmet for the tops of our cartons (and maybe a few others). Lovely, right?

20121221. Oh, right. This is what cold feels like.

So finally, on this last day of work, this first day of winter, and this first blast of cold weather and beautiful snow, I think I’m in the Christmas spirit. Who’s with me?

Bonus Post: Thrift Store Jams

I’m not really sure what it is about this post that makes it “bonus.” Really, I just wanted to make it sound extra super special.

All my thrifty ladies (and dudes) out there must watch this (unless you are at a stodgy work place or are offended by swear words): Macklemore, “Thrift Shop.”

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?

Soundtrack for the WAITING

So Beaker (and perhaps Dino Puppy aka Yoshi Takashite aka Puppy aka whatever other random name we’ve come up with for her) should begin laying soon. She was born on March 19. Our very first egg!

And all we can do is wait. I plan to sing the following two songs to them EVERY SINGLE DAY until the dang chickens start laying. I almost forgot, through all the wretchedness and stress and fun times hanging with the chickens, that the eggs were the whole point, to be honest.

GIRL, YOU’LL BE A WOMAN SOON.

WAITING. WAITING. WAITING. WAITING.

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).

It’s My Party, and I’ll Cry if I Want to

I have a problem with song lyrics. I’m not sure if everyone is like this, but I get lyrics to songs stuck in my head for, literally, weeks at a time. I will sing a song in my head almost all day, every day. I remember lyrics for an absurdly long time, too – I can sing all of “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot and probably MC Hammer’s entire repertoire from the “2 Legit 2 Quit” era, not to mention every line of every Jawbreaker song ever written. For the last three days, this has been the primary stuck-in-head song (the video is fantastic, too) – “Fake Patois,” Das Racist:

Anyway, this is just to say that, for the last several years, I have gotten the song referenced in the subject line of this post stuck in my head ALL DAY LONG on my birthday. My birthday was yesterday and, true to form, the song was back in my head. This year I fought it, though, and was able at least to rotate between Cracker’s “Happy, Happy Birthday to Me,” and the dreaded “It’s My Party.” I claim that as a small victory.

But! More importantly, I had a birthday! Presents received: a SodaStream fizzy water maker (AMAZING), Fiskars watering can, hot pink snap watch, fancy IPA from Northern California, a new nightgown, Fiskars dirt scooper, a new bike light and bike pump (with attached pressure gauge, oh yeah!), a new necklace and earrings, a book from the early 1900s about Billy Whiskers the billy goat, a bird mobile, and… wait for it… a cheese making kit. Imma make cheese!!!

20120519. Awesome birthday present (from me).

This is my new, very professional, very grown-up watch.

20120519. Awesome birthday present.

I am incredibly excited about making cheese – although this will likely only serve to fuel my desire to get a couple of milk goats.

20120519. Awesome birthday present.

Speaking of goats, look at this beautiful book. It includes an inscription from the last person who gave it as a gift on the front page, dated 1921.

The best present, though, was hanging out with the boyfriend and doing awesome stuff, like dinner at Traders Point Creamery, Indiana’s only organic creamery (which also happens to be down the road from our house), putting money down on a new car for Chris, and wandering the Broad Ripple Art Fair. This afternoon, I cleaned up the coop a bit, watered the garden, and began noticing how insanely well our newest plants are growing. Seriously – we already have baby green beans, squash, strawberries, and cayenne peppers. How is that possible?

20120519. Green bean babies.

Baby green beans!

20120519. Insane snap peas.

Snap peas as far as the eye can see.

20120519. Insane fennel bulbs, waiting to be eaten.

Fennel bulbs – this will be my first experience cooking fennel bulbs.

20120519. Squash fuzzies.

Furry squash foliage and baby yellow squash.

This afternoon, I made some more fennel simple syrup in preparation for our (much belated) housewarming party, as well as a pizza from the sourdough no-knead dough I made last weekend. Is anyone familiar with sourdough or dough you can leave in the fridge for a week or so before baking? The parts exposed to the air seem to get… bluish around the edges over time. It hasn’t made us sick or anything. I just wonder what might be happening with all those molecules.

20120519. Fennel simple syrup.

Fennel simple syrup – delicious.

By the time I got around to harvesting peas and fennel, the chicks realized that they couldn’t get in to hang out with me in the garden.
20120519. The point at which the chickens realized I was INSIDE and they were OUTSIDE.

So I went to hang out with them in the brush pile (AKA their new favorite spot).

20120519. The girls are panting, not holding a very deep conversation with each other.

Someday, I will insert little conversation bubbles above each of their heads in this shot. For now, it’s just a boring picture of hot, panting chickens.

It got up to 85 degrees today, and the chickens were HOT. I’m planning to test out a frozen blueberry/yogurt concoction shortly. Yes, they are pampered and coddled and totally spoiled. No, I don’t mind. I don’t think they do, either.

20120519. Beaker panting.

Beaker panting.