Giving Thanks, Day 3: Curbside Urban Scavengers

Today, I send a shout out to all the CURBSIDE URBAN SCAVENGERS/DUMPSTER DIVERS in the South Broad Ripple Area. You see, sometimes we have stuff we don’t want anymore. Some of it we put on Craig’s list, but a lot of it just isn’t worth it to try to sell for a few bucks.

However, it turns out that our curb the night before garbage pickup is much like our own personal Freecycle. You put something out, and it magically disappears before the first garbage truck hits the street the next morning.

It’s a win-win: all we have to do is get it to the curb, and the end recipient benefits, whether they use it themselves or find a way to sell or salvage it.

Here are just a few things that have been salvaged from our curbside:

  • A black standing dresser and cube storage unit (put out after work, gone by the time we got back from Bradley Method class. MAGIC!)
  • My awesome yet incredibly heavy old school desk
  • A full sized bed spring
  • More clunky end tables than I care to count
100829. boombox's new friend.

That beautiful 70s armchair in the background? That was a prize for one of the curbside scavengers of Bloomington, IN, before I moved.

Sometimes I wonder if we’re on the curbside scavenger circuit.

Giving Thanks, Day 2: She’s a Bird

Pretty much every day since we got her as an adorable pup, I’ve been thankful for Birdie. I won’t say it was a total whim to get her, but I also wasn’t exactly planning for years and years to get a dog. After all, we had two cats, five chickens, and two humans already occupying our 1/8-acre / 1200 square foot house. Was there really room for a dog?

The answer: absolutely. Getting Birdie was one of the best decisions we’ve made as a couple, I think – right up there with getting chickens, buying a house, and getting married.

TODAY’S THANKS: So while I am thankful for many, many things about Birdie, today I am specifically thankful for Birdie’s expressive, hilarious ears.

Today’s ears:

20131107. Birdie and her ears.

Ears of Birdie-days past:

The original shelter photo that forced us to fall in love with Birdie.

20121030. Birdie's sweetest face.

20121104. We are the best snugglers.

20121123. Birdie and her heater.

20130410. Birdie's spent grain biscuits - before and after.

20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

November: The Month of Thanks (Day One: FAT-KID SNACKS!)

This summer during the Growing Places Indy summer urban farming/yoga/good living apprenticeship, we talked a lot about approaching life with an overall perspective of gratitude, thanks, and abundance. I quickly found that, the more you look at the world through such a lens, the easier it is to express your thanks, to be positive in the face of not so great things, and to generally live a positive, giving life.

Three months later, of course, it has gotten a little harder to live a life of gratitude, day in and day out. Work can throw you a curve ball, or maybe you get sick and feel like utter crap. It’s hard to maintain gratitude when situations around you are less than ideal.

So on this gray, rainy, blustery day and in the spirit of the month of Thanksgiving, I’m going to highlight one thing a day for which I am thankful in my life. Big, small, profound, silly, it doesn’t matter. I’d like to get back into a mode of thinking where, no matter what, I can recognize the good around me and, more importantly, spread that thanks around a little bit.

TODAY’S SHOUT OUT: GRATITUDE TO ALL THE FAT-KID SNACKS OUT THERE – YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE! Today, I am thankful for my latest fat-kid snack*: rye toast with avocado slices and extra sharp cheddar cheese.

*I briefly lived in San Francisco post-college, and my roommate, Charlie, introduced me to the concept of fat-kid snacks – essentially, any snack that you know you probably shouldn’t be eating/will make you fat if you eat too many of them, but you can’t help yourself because they are SO GOOD. I remember his newfound fave at the time was Nilla wafers spread with peanut butter.

Other genres of fat-kid snacks:

20110817. our first food stop.

State fair fat-kid snacks!

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

Holiday tradition fat-kid snacks!

first "solid" food.

And actual chubby baby-snacks! No, my nephew Ben was never a “fat-kid,” but this is a clear expression of how fat-kid snacks make you feel – like you want MOOOORE.

Bump Watch 2013 (and Even More Exciting: Closet Watch 2013!)

RE: Bump Watch 2013. Yeah, yeah, yeah. My belly keeps getting bigger. Big whoop, right?*

Bump Watch, 2013: Weeks 22-25.

Let’s move on to… CLOSET WATCH 2013! I am entirely too pleased with my new bedroom closet. Here’s the before and after; first, we tore out the old hardware, and Chris patched, primed, and painted. Finally, it was shelving time. The best part is we get to remove the ugly-ass plywood dresser that was taking up space and causing a middle-of-the-night tripping hazard in our smallish bedroom.

20131103. Bedroom closet before and after.

Next up: getting the nursery closet done before Thanksgiving and my baby shower. So far, we have it painted. And, of course, we have this beautiful, very professionally done drawing. I could do this junk for a living!

20131103. High tech drawing of what the nursery closet will eventually look like.

*Note: Fear not, I mostly kid about the boring-ness of my giant belly. I’m super excited about it, really, and the little creature inside who just will not stay put. For real, when we were on vacation one night, it felt like its little heels were jabbing into the right side of my stomach. Usually, it’s more like dull thumps. Chris said it reminded him of this (not safe for work) Dave Chappelle clip:

Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy the Ride

I keep telling people that Chris and I are trying to pack all of our big life events in at once.

  • I spent a transformative summer at the urban farming apprenticeship, and I feel like a more balanced, happy, and just BETTER human being coming out of it. I will be forever grateful for this experience.
  • We are getting married in less than a month.
  • And drum roll please… we will be welcoming a new little one into our little lives next February.

No, really. Did you read that last bullet? Take a closer look. That’s right (second drum roll, please)… WE ARE HAVING A BABY!

20130728. It's official!There is a ton to say on this subject, but the long and short of it is:

  • I’m feeling pretty good.
  • I’ve started getting used to this whole idea/not being totally freaked out and worried at every pang that something is wrong.
  • I’m meeting a new midwife tomorrow and hopefully switching practices.
  • Chris is an awesome daddy-to-be, buying me candied ginger when I was in the throes of first trimester nausea, coming to my doctor appointments (even if it’s just for moral support when dealing with idiots), and peeling me off the couch every night after I’ve fallen asleep in the middle of yet another movie or episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I also seem to have popped out somewhere around 11 weeks, although I think to everyone else I probably still look like I just ate a few too many cookies. Which I have, but that’s besides the point.

Bump Watch, 2013: Weeks 6-9.

Bump Watch, 2013: Weeks 10-13.

On Cleaning the Chicken Run This Cool Morning

A Sunday morning haiku:
It was amazing,
The complex, rich, loam-y “dirt”
I scooped in brisk air.

20121214. Cover crops as chicken snacks.

I’m pretty certain the neighbors’ adolescent hens include a rogue rooster. Every morning when he gets going, I think to myself, “That ain’t no egg-layin’ chicken!” And on that note, Chris has decided if we ever get a rooster, we will name him Cock Cousteau.

One other haiku-related thought: I realized the other day that I use the word “amazing” a lot, and I began to think of it as a problem, scanning my mental thesaurus for other options. This morning, though, as I trucked that complex, rich, loam-y dirt/poop/straw from the chicken run to the compost, I decided if I use the word “amazing” too often to describe my life, this is, in fact, a very good thing. Maybe the best thing. “She lived, and it was amazing.”


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?

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.

Wendell Berry Is the Man

I first learned about Wendell Berry in college, working towards my degree in Natural Resources Planning and Interpretation at Humboldt State University in far northern California.

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

Last month, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Mr. Berry for this year’s Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the most prestigious honor bestowed by the federal government for “distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.”

An excerpt from his speech hit close to home: “So I am nominating economy for an equal standing among the arts and humanities. I mean, not economics, but economy, the making of the human household upon the earth: the arts of adapting kindly the many human households to the earth’s many ecosystems and human neighborhoods. This is the economy that the most public and influential economists never talk about, the economy that is the primary vocation and responsibility of every one of us.”

And just because now I’m thinking about the man, the myth, the legend Mr. Berry, here is just a small part of one of my favorite Wendell Berry poems:

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Everyday Scenes of the Distinctly Home Variety

Scenes from the Space-Farm Continuum this week: the extremely high-tech seedling planting map.

20120308. The current seedling plan. Very high tech.


20120308. The babies.

New prints, my final project of this session of a block printing class at the Indianapolis Art Center: HOMES. I would like to live in the very last one.

20120308. House block prints.

20120308. House block prints.

Chris appreciates my sketching and landscaping (dis)abilities. This is our home in pencil form!

20120308. Front yard plan.And then we have our cohabitants, who have not yet been properly introduced (although Boombox has his own “Boombox Seal of Approval Award” and everyone in Bloomington, IN, likes him WAY more than they like me). But here we have Boombox, doing his best Office Space/bad boss pose:

20120308. "I'm going to need that TPS report tomorrow, m'kay? Thaaaanks."

And Bean, generally loving life (and avoiding Boombox).
20120306. Around the house... Bean.Ah, home. While we’re on the subject, I’ve been stuck on this song lately. It makes me want to cry a little bit. What song makes you want to cry (in a good way)? Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, “Home.” This is adorable: