Home Sweet Home

It’s been a little quiet around these parts. Know why? I’ve been off in the second greatest, first littlest state of Rhode Island for a full week for work (oh, yeah, that job I never talk about here!), and Chris has been crying in a corner, missing me too much to be able to function enough to write a blog post.*

*That is a total lie. He actually busted ass with a sod cutter and did some awesome work around the garden. More on that in a mo’.

20120930. Partial WaterFire for our annual conference. PRETTY SPIFF.

Our conference opening session – we had our very own mini Watefire. Providence proved to us over and over what a cool city it is.

20120927. View from my Providence hotel room.

The view from my hotel room.

20120930. Partial WaterFire for our annual conference. Can you spot me and my look of utter terror carrying that torch?

For some reason, someone actually thought it was a good idea to hand me a flaming torch and have me walk down many flights of stairs. They apparently do not know my history (see: stabbing self with knives, nearly cutting off fingers, and falling down/cracking teeth off in Barcelona).

I arrived back at the first greatest state of Indiana yesterday afternoon, dumped my bags, then ran outside to hang with the chickens and get some dirt under my nails. A friend asked if Little Red charged my shins like a tiny rhino upon my return. No, but she did jump up onto my shoulder as I crouched down to say hi to the rest of the girls. We are homies.

After a week away, the three littlest girls look so different to me. Boo’s comb and wattles are getting big!

20121004. I leave for a week, and all the chickens look different to me.

Look at Little Red’s waddles! And I missed Dino Puppy’s black freckles.

20121004. Little Red is getting big waddles!

20121004. I leave for a week, and all the chickens look different to me.This was from a couple of weeks ago, but here is my second (sort of failed) attempt at getting video of the girls “flying the coop.” They get stage fright when I bust out the camera.

I was also thoroughly impressed with Chris’ work while I was gone. Sod cutter plus mulch plus the help of a good friend = LESS GRASS, MORE VEGGIES. He was nice enough to leave some of the sod rolling and mulching for me, though, knowing I would be so very sad to have missed all the fun.

20121004. Chris cut up a ton of sod in the garden area. Halfway done!

Less grass to mow, more room for veggies, and a new bed.

Finally, I decided it was time to harvest the sweet potatoes. We planted them after a potato bin workshop in June at Fall Creek Gardens, so we got a later start than you really should, but whatevs. I can’t wait to plant them again next spring! Look at how cute they are:

20121004. Sweet potatoes! Next year, these are going to be AWESOME.

20121004. First try at sweet potatoes.

Dang, sweet potato, you clean up real nice!

20121004. Growing sweet potatoes for the first time.I cut off some slips before harvesting the taters that will maybe, hopefully grow nice and strong all winter and be ready to plant by the spring. Again, it’s the blind (me) leading the blind (also me) here.

20121004. Sweet potato slips for next spring!There were a few things to harvest in the rest of the garden, too. I definitely dropped the ball with the garden this year – between the heat, the chickens, and the drought, I cut myself a little slack over that.
20121004. Sweet potatoes, peppers, an Romas.So glad to be home! I missed the dude, the chickens, the cats, and the garden. Ahhhh… Indiana.

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.

Potato Farming, Anyone?

I must say, potatoes were nowhere on my (giant) wish list of things I wanted to grow this year. They are just so dang cheap, and, while I like sweet potatoes a lot, I just don’t really eat much of your plain old, run of the mill potato. There’s also the fact that potatoes can take up a lot of garden space.

Fast forward to today. We now find ourselves with two potato bins in the backyard, filled with what will hopefully be veritable underground forests of potatoes (both the sweet and red varieties). How did this happen, you ask? I blame Fall Creek Gardens and their recent (fantastically awesome, by the way) potato bin workshop.

20120512. Sweet and red potato bins.

The “bins” are simply chicken wire, zip tied to a post hammered into the ground with a layer of landscaping fabric on the inside to help hold it all together. Sweet potatoes are on the left, red potatoes on the right (note that the soil is only about a foot deep in the red potato bin at this point; as the shoots grow, we will continue heaping dirt on so we will hopefully have kelp-like vertical roots chock full of potatoes by fall).

In just a little over an hour on a sunny Saturday morning, the lovely instructor convinced me that potato bins were not only the way to go but totally necessary in our own backyard. Potato bins, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

  1. Potato bins don’t take up much room, which is of particular concern in an urban environment such as our backyard where space is limited.
  2. At the end of the season, rather than digging through the dirt for your potatoes and potentially jabbing, squashing, missing, or otherwise ruining the poor dears, you can lay out a tarp next to your bin, cut open the sides, dump all your built up soil out, and pull out the potatoes, leaving a bunch of dirt to turn over into your other garden beds.
  3. Your potato bin grows with you (at least in the case of regular and red potatoes – sweet potatoes are a different beast altogether). As your planted potato eyes sprout, you slowly mound the soil around the sprouted leafy part, leaving more soil in which the shoot can send off more roots and more potatoes. In theory, you should have layers upon layers of potatoes growing as you continue to build the soil up and up and up in your bin.

I am definitely a novice as far as potato growing is concerned, so I will be sure to report back in the fall as to our hopeful success. For now, I am thrilled to see the beginnings of shoots jutting up from the soil in the red potato bin, and the sweet potato slips (fancy word for the shoots that come off a sweet potato balanced halfway into a jug of water, like an avocado seed) are faring fairly well.

20120512. Sweet potato bin.

The sweet potato slips. Sweet potatoes are in a different family from regular potatoes and red potatoes, which are in the nightshade family and whose leaves are quite poisonous.

The one strange thing for this OCD mama hen: you can’t visually gauge the success of your potato growing endeavor since (duh) it’s all happening underground. Those red potatoes may be rotting on the root under the soil, and I won’t know until I dump that dirt this fall. On the upside, they require so little in upkeep that it’s a welcomed change from the rest of the garden’s pruning and prodding and weeding.

20120512. The new potato bins.

The potato bins look right at home! Note Chris tending to the pruning, prodding, and weed(whack)ing mentioned above.