Spring Has Sprung, the Grass Is ‘Ris…

I wonder where the birdies is!*

*This was my late Grandma Farm’s favorite springtime poem, my mom told me recently. She would recite it every time my mom saw her in the spring – spring has sprung, the grass is ‘ris, I wonder where the birdies is! – then cackle with delight. I just love that.

Today was a simply fantastic day. It’s also that wonderful time of year where, even though still stark and brown, the air holds promise of greener days, of growing things, of time spent rolling in the grass and picking dinner from the backyard:

  • I spent a wonderful morning visiting just a few of the many churches in our neighborhood, inviting them to the upcoming Keystone-Monon Community Garden organizing meeting. So many friendly, smiling, welcoming faces and well wishes – it was a great way to start a busy Sunday! I’m reminded yet again of how many awesome people there are, right in our neighborhood, I have yet to meet. Also, if my church growing up had been like any of these? Well, maybe I’d still be a church goer. They made me feel embraced and welcomed.
20150322. First days of spring.

Although you can’t tell, so much has happened already this spring: fresh compost in all the beds, soil turned, hay removed, things cut back, sweet potato bin readied, and the first seeds planted.

  • I got some work done – a grant application for our after-school and summer camp programs, the Eat Well Club, and editing a monthly online newsletter – then got some food into the boy post-nap. Then….
20150322. First days of spring.

Gardening doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive: we’ve used this same chicken wire and canvas drop cloths to grow sweet potatoes three years now.

  • We headed back out and wandered around Arsenal Park, where we’re hoping the community garden will take root (literally), putting flyers on every house around the perimeter. I feel so strongly that we need our community to drive this effort, thus my flyering and helloing efforts this morning. Facebook and email only go so far.
20150322. First days of spring.

The middle bin was full of amazing compost just last week. Now? It’s mixed into all of our garden beds for some hopefully amazing plants this year.

  • THEN we had a very special surprise for our fearless leaders, who are expecting their first baby any day now. We headed to the farm at the Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center, which is a fantastic place to enjoy the spring weather. I was feeling a little lazy while volunteers moved wheelbarrows full of mulch all over, readying the beds, but Willem and I had the important task of hanging out with 4-year-old Berlin. She loved Willem and really wanted to teach him to not eat the mulch. Sorry, Berlin, we’re not quite there yet, but we appreciate your steadfast efforts and sweetness.
20150322. First days of spring.

Garlic, always our first green things!

  • Fearless leaders arrived, and we handed over their gift – well wishes for them and the newest little one from the entire Indianapolis food, health, and yoga community. We couldn’t think of a single “thing” to give them; but then we thought of the amazing work they have done to build this community right here in Indianapolis and realized the most meaningful thing we could give them were that community’s words, hopes, and dreams for their new family.
20150322. First days of spring.

Some fresh chicken bedding for the run and a set of Chris’ still-empty bee hives (I think he plans to use that for a swarm if he’s lucky enough to find one this year).

  • Willem and I finished our flyering, then headed home. On the way back, I noticed a bunch of folks a few doors down, doing some lawn work and hanging. Willem and I sauntered over, invited them to the next community garden meeting, then chatted all things gardening and neighborhood block partying. This community organizing stuff is making me bold!

Spring, friends. It’s here, in all its still-slightly-brown glory!

Fleeting Fall

The leaves seem to already be falling to the ground, and I feel like I’ve barely had the chance to enjoy them shifting from green to yellow to orange to red on the trees. What’s the deal, fall?

We’ve been in the throes of fall cleanup around here. A few weekends ago, the chickens got their coop and run deep clean. Last weekend, I dug the sweet potatoes and put more of the garden to rest.

There’s always so much excitement to see what’s buried under the soil on sweet potato digging day:
20141004. Sweet potato digging day!

And then? Sometimes, this happens. Yup. That is the entirety of our sweet potato “crop” this year.
20141004. Sweet potatoes... And this is all we got, folks.

Sad trombone.
20141004. A rather lackluster sweet potato year.

Still left to do: planting the garlic, cutting back the perennials in the back, and cutting back our newer/smaller perennials up front. Then the snow can fly.
20141004. Putting the garden to bed for the winter.

This weekend? This weekend, I took care of most of the older perennials in the front yard. We usually leave the coneflower all winter for the birds and other little critters, but we were a little distracted this summer and didn’t do much in the way of staking them as they grew. The end result was a bunch of beautiful, wild, crazy flowers laying across the lawn and each other. So… they had to go.

I feel like we should be doing “fall stuff” with Willem – taking him on hay rides and to pumpkin patches and little kid costume parades. But really? At this point, those things would be more for us than him, and he’s just not terribly keen on big crowds. He had such a great time playing on his blanket in the sun this morning, watching me hack away at the bushes of false blue indigo, butterfly weed, and coneflower. So instead of pictures of Willem with pumpkins, we’ll have pictures of Willem on my Grandma Farm’s colorful quilt in the front yard.

20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

Can you also tell our latest exciting development? Willem now has two bottom teeth coming in! His gummy smile is a thing of the past. Sniff…
20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

I must say, though, I can’t wait until he’s old enough to snuggle up on the couch with us and watch a movie or go play at Conner Prairie or the Children’s Museum or really have a blast watching the Christmas train display at the Eiteljorg Museum. Don’t grow up too fast, kid… but when you do, we’ll have some awesome stuff to do.

20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

Baby Spiders and Chicken Poop

This morning, well before I was sufficiently caffeinated to take on the day, I accomplished one of our big fall chores: deep cleaning the chicken coop and run.

20140920. The biannual massive coop cleaning.Chickens, you ask? We have chickens? Oh, right! We DO have chickens. What with all the all-baby-all-the-time lately, I can understand how you forgot about our five backyard dwellers and purveyors of fine eggs.

20140920. Boo dust bathing.

Raggedy, molting, super-layer Boo.

The girls are still alive and kicking, although I realized the other day they are starting to get a little, well, OLD. At least in terms of productive layers. We’ve had no problem with egg shortages yet, but the girls were born spring/summer of 2012. Two and a half years old, all of them!

20140920. Little Red and Dino Puppy, temporarily friends.

The only time Little Red willingly gets this close to Dino Puppy, who is a total bully.

Here are a selection of sentences I uttered to my husband before 10 am. Some weekends are just… like this:

  • “I have chicken poop all over me.”
  • “There’s some oregano in the front walk.”
  • “Don’t forget about the baby spiders.”
  • “There are three mosquitoes on Willem’s head.”
  • “I didn’t really scrub it. I just powerwashed it and poured vinegar all over.”

Speaking of babies (did someone mention babies?), Willem is now seven months old!
20140918. Seven months.

And he’s going to be a little lamb for his first Halloween:
20140915. Little lambie's first Halloween costume.P.S. I almost forgot about the baby spiders! Upon removing the wheelbarrow from its hanger on the wall, I discovered two sweet spider eggs hanging out, one of which had hatched. Hundreds of baby spiders smaller than poppy seeds were moving oh so silently around their little web. And by “sweet” spider eggs, I mean “terrifying.” And by “silently,” I mean “with great malevolance.” Spiders? I love them in theory, but not so much in practice. Or hatching in my garage.

Winter Blast and Chicken Related Woes

Generally, chickens do pretty well in the winter. Our girls will take sunny and 20 degrees over humid and 95 degrees any day. But when it starts dipping down into the teens and lower, well, the pressure on the chicken rearers gets to be a tad greater.

A small sampling of recent and upcoming winter chicken rearing joys:

  • On the new chicken waterer warmer (and our love/hate relationship): Don’t get me wrong – I love that this thing holds a lot of water and stays unfrozen down to about the high single digits. It’s reliable so far, and it keeps me from having to check the water (and refill it) multiple times a day. However, every time I fill the damn thing – and I mean EVERY time – I end up dumping about three gallons of water on my shoes at least twice. Seriously, the last two times I filled it, it took me three tries. It’s a problem.
  • On single-degree mornings and frozen doors: Yesterday on the second attempt to fill the water (and second dumping of water on my shoes in 4-degree temperatures), I managed to dump the water all over the doorway to the coop. Can you guess what that means? The freaking door is now frozen freaking shut.
  • So… at some point today I get to unstick the door so I can gain easier access to the food, water, and (most importantly) the extension cord.
  • Why the extension cord? Tomorrow, we are going to see about 10 more inches of snow, followed by a deep freeze. We’re talking by (tell me why, I don’t like) Monday, our high is going to be -7 degrees, and our low -18 degrees. The extension cord will allow us to leave a light on for the girls in the coop all day and all night until the deep freeze breaks, keeping it just warm enough to be comfortable.

Will we have five chickens sleeping under a heat lamp in our garage before Monday is through? Quite possibly. If we do, there will be pictures, fear not.

20130121. Wind chills of -10 to -20 call for extreme measures.

Last year’s winter setup – I’ve busted out the paneling again to ward against biting winds and snowdrifts.

 

Reduce, Reuse, Reprettify!

REDUCE, REUSE, REPRETTIFY! Since we got married at such a beautiful location (South Circle Farm), we kept our decorations really simple: some fun banners, beautiful flowers, big white paper globes, floral buntings, and strands of origami birds.

Koester-112-2769817604-O

20130907. Our wedding!

Koester-114-2769817664-O

I had a wild hair to re-use them somehow in the nursery, so after the wedding, I saved them. I kind of love our nursery “mobile.”

20131214. Nursery "mobile."

20131214. Nursery "mobile."

And a couple of prints I made:

20131214. Nursery art.

ON WINTERIZING THE CHICKENS: Earlier this week, it got frigidly cold here in the Midwest.  We’re talking low single digit temperatures with wind chills in the negatives. What with this pregnant/giving birth in the middle of winter thing, I decided we needed a reliable way to keep the chicken’s water completely unfrozen, even if we have to step out to the hospital for a day or two. So, although the DIY warmer was doing okay, I broke down and bought a legit chicken waterer warmer (this one, to be exact) – and just in time.

I also rigged up a light bulb clamped into the rafters of the coop for the two nights where it got really frigid. I feared I would awaken to a Little Red popsicle on Wednesday morning, but it’s amazing the heat that one 60-watt light bulb, some cracked corn before bed time, and five chickens can produce in a small space.

Safety Note: All you have to do is Google search “chicken coop fire,” and you’ll see that heating coops is no joke. Pine shavings and dried chicken poops make a pretty good incendiary device, so be smart about any electrical or lighting device you put in those coops! Our neighbors had a heat lamp going the other night, which would scare the bejeezus out of me with how hot they get.

In short, the girls are currently happily scratching away in their snowy run, searching for treats in the hay. I also realized one of my greatest chicken-related fears last week: went to pull a glove out of my parka pocket and found it covered in goo from a forgotten, smashed egg. This is why you shouldn’t really carry eggs in your coat pockets.

AND OTHER GENERAL CUTENESS/AWESOMENESS LATELY IN OUR LIVES:
My loves:
Friday night faves.

Birdie hugs:
20131207. Birdie hugs.

Me and my beautiful madre:
20131130. Our baby shower.

Chris’ new mistress – taking things to the next level at the Space-Farm Continuum!
Taking things to the next level at the Space-Farm, y'all!

Sneak preview – Christmas knitting:
20131214. Beard!

20131214. Grumpasaurus.

Birdie and Chris’ snowman from this morning:
20131214. Chris made a snowman.

And, as of today, we are in the single digit countdown: 31 weeks down, 9 (+/-) to go!
20131213. Almost 31 weeks.

Give Me Sweater Season, or Give Me Death!

Scarf and sweater season is upon us! Apples! Crunchy leaves! Crisply scented air! Cold mornings! Slippers and favorite sweatshirts!

Fall and I? We get along. I understand how to dress myself in cooler temperatures. I don’t sweat every time I leave my house. Fall means snuggling and cozy fires and Harry Potter marathons and rediscovering my favorite handknit sweaters and scarves.

To celebrate the cooler temperatures and one week of wedded bliss, Chris and I made our annual trek out to Anderson Orchard this morning, and it was wonderful. It’s hard to believe just a week ago, I was trying not to sweat through my wedding dress in near 90-degree temperatures, waiting to walk down the wood chip mulch aisle.

20130914. Anderson Orchard.

When we first started dating, we came here and picked a 1/2 bushel – I remember how we both had apples rolling around the bottom shelves of our respective apartment fridges for weeks and weeks. We’ve not missed a visit each fall since; I suppose that’s what the beginning of a tradition looks like.

20130914. Anderson Orchard.

I also had a realization the other day – the apple sauce I canned from these apples today may very well be among the first solid foods our baby eats next summer and fall (assuming Chris and I don’t eat it all first, which is entirely possible). Still… totally wild, right?

20130914. Apples and peaches.

Getting My Fall Planting On

Confession: I’ve never planted a fall garden before. I’ve always wanted to do a fall garden, but something about the dog days of summer – you know, mid-90s, suddenly no rain in the forecast, and air that sticks to the back of your neck and the insides of your elbows the second your walk out the door – has always made it difficult for me to even think about planting new seedlings.

Also, isn’t there something so cozy and wonderful about spring garden planning? Curled up on the couch with your seed catalogs and your spring dreams, watching the snowflakes skitter shakily past just outside the window? Let me tell you, there is nothing cozy about our current weather patterns.

But I digress. This year, I am planting my first fall garden over at Fall Creek Gardens! We got seeds in the ground two weekends ago and a batch of seedlings in last weekend (right before it got too hot and dry for words, of course, but the little buggers are hanging on).

20130824. Fall Creek Gardens' Stone Soup Kitchen Garden beds.

So what’s on the fall garden menu? Let me tell you:

  • Kale (2 kinds)
  • Beets (2 kinds)
  • Chard
  • Collards
  • Turnips
  • Parsnips
  • Radishes (2 kinds)
  • Carrots (2 kinds)
  • Okra (we’ll see if it grows into the fall or not!)
  • Lettuce
  • Mesclun mix

20130824. Fall Creek Gardens' Stone Soup Kitchen Garden beds.

20130824. Fall Creek Gardens' Stone Soup Kitchen Garden beds.

20130824. Fall Creek Gardens' Stone Soup Kitchen Garden beds.
20130824. Fall Creek Gardens' sunflower mural.

Uncle, Winter… UNCLE!

Earlier this week, we had 60 degree temperatures, thunderstorms, and tornado warnings. Last night, it was 5. FIVE! And so, winter, I’m calling it. You had your fun with us, and I know last fall I was all, “I love the cold as long as there’s snow! I just hope we get a good snowstorm or two.” Yes, you abided. I appreciate that about you, winter.

But I’m over it. Uncle. There, it has been officially stated. I call uncle.

20130201. Winter hobo style.

Winter hobo is totally on-trend this year.

Luckily, I have green things growing already and the promise of more green things. Last week or so, I posted about asking for free seeds from Wintersown. This was my first time contacting them, and I sent an SASE and a request for 6 packets of free mixed seeds. You wanna know what arrived today?

You know what was in it? Holy criminy, I am so excited!

20130201. Free seeds from Wintersown.org!

We’ve got:

  • Cabbage
  • Mexican Hat
  • Raymond’s Canada Extra Early Tomatoes
  • Tatsoi (a relative of Bok Choy)
  • Wildflower blend
  • Evening primrose
  • Shirley poppy
  • Rudbeckia Indian Summer
  • Pink Hibiscus

In the basement, we already have the following seedlings either planted or growing:

  • A bunch of different lettuces
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Artichokes
  • Peas
  • A couple of different types of cauliflower
  • Tomatoes
  • A bunch of peppers
  • And… some other stuff I can’t remember without looking

20130201. Greens to keep us going this winter.

20130201. Greens to keep us going this winter.

In totally unrelated news, I now have a chicken serving as co-pilot of a spaceship and a yarn ball planet on my arm. I am pleased with this.

20130201. Yarn ball planet.

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.

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!