This Bastard Winter Gets the Last Laugh

Yesterday morning, guess what we woke up to? Snow. Yup. SNOW. I covered the greens and the seeded beds, just to be safe. They probably would have been okay… but I decided not to take any chances.

Our morning view. This bastard winter gets the last word.

Can someone please let this winter know it’s not welcome any longer? UNCLE. UNCLE! In defiance of the view outside our windows, Willem put on his best gardening sleeper and kicked away in the sunshine all morning.

In protest of snow on the ground, Willem is wearing his gardening sleeper.

In other news, I made my own baby wipe solution today (finally): 1/2 cup apricot oil, 1/2 cup baby soap, 2 cups water. We’ll see how it works out for us!

Know Your Chicken

After the latest round of temperatures in the negatives, a sunny 25 at lunch time today felt downright balmy. I took the opportunity to waddle myself out to the coop, armed with my pitchfork, and clean up a bit. The shavings needed turning and refreshing, the nesting boxes needed some sprucing, and the girls needed some fresh hay.

It appears they are just as stir crazy as I am. When they bum rushed me as I opened the door, I decided to let them explore the snowy yard for a bit while I worked.

Most of them were pretty okay with the snow. Then there was Dino Puppy. She flew about 10 yards and then, come hell or cracked corn, would not budge. She just hunkered down in the snow like she was in a cozy, quiet nesting box. I think she was actually completely freaked out. I finally had to pick her up and carry her back to the run.

All of this brings us back to the subject of this post and the following video. I know my chicken. You’ve got to know your chicken!

P.S. How have I never posted this amazing song here?

I SOOOO Called It

And just like that, all five chickens are laying again, -15 to -25 degree wind chills be damned! Way to go, girls. To celebrate, I’ll fix you some nice, hot eggies before you go to bed tonight.

20140123. All five girls are laying again.

Nesting and Knitting

Nesting
The absolutely frigid weather this week coupled with a lack of motivation to make real meals made me realize that, hey, come baby-time, it would be so super cool to have some good food on hand, just waiting to be thawed and nommed. So this weekend, I made three different soups in three days. Is this what they mean by “nesting”?

We now have a veggie-rific vegetarian chili, homemade chicken noodle soup, and broccoli-pea-asiago soup (that is reminiscent of that famous scene in The Exorcist) clogging up our freezer. Chris professed the chicken noodle soup to be bested only by a concoction he had sampled as a kid at some church, made by a bunch of old ladies who even made their own noodles. Being in the same league as those little old ladies? I call that soup success.

20140112. Homemade chicken noodle soup.

So if anyone has other healthy meals that freeze well, please share! I also started the sweet potato slips yesterday. Let’s hope we get another great batch of sweet potatoes growing this year.
20140111. Starting the sweet potatoes.

Nesting Some More… with the Help of the Farmers Market
Speaking of food, I also made a much-needed trip down to the Indy Winter Farmers Market yesterday. I went for honey sticks, but I walked away with crusty sunflower seed bread, freshly made honey peanut butter, radishes, and red raspberry leaf and lemon balm for tea.

Even better than that crusty bread, though? I got to spend the morning chatting with some wonderful people – a much-needed break from my computer and the shut-in feeling that built over the last week. And this is coming from someone who really, really loves fresh, crusty bread.

All the goodies! Crust bread, radishes, herbs to drink, honey sticks, and freshly made honey peanut butter. Thanks, Indy Winter Farmers Market!

Knitting
A couple of winters ago, I joined up with an awesome group of ladies: the Indy Pub Knitters. We like to say we’re drinkers with a knitting problem. Every other Sunday, we meet up at a different area pub or micro-brewery, and we knit and chat. I look forward to our get-togethers very much.

Anyway, today turned out to be a two-cupcake day because, wouldn’t you know it, the ladies surprised me with an impromptu baby shower! I love how many handmade blankets, booties, hats, wash cloths, bibs, sweaters, and pants this baby is going to have. Thank you for making me feel so loved and special, ladies.

20140112. Hand knitted gifts from the Indy Pub Knitters.

On the knitting and nesting front, in addition to making ALL THE SOUP, I’ve also been knitting up a storm for this baby. A small, recent sampling: a sheep pillow…
20140108. Sheep pillow.

One of many bandana bibs…
20140108. Bandana baby bib.

A cozy cabled blanket…
20131225. Cabled baby blanket.

Some cozy baby pants…
20131222. Kanoko pants.

A sweet little vest…
20131112. Pebble vest.

And what baby doesn’t need a pixie hat?
20131007. Pixie hat for the sprout.

I’m 35 weeks today – hi, baby!
20140112. 35 weeks.

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.

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.

Boo, el Pollo de Muchos Huevos

In other news, it’s the 24th of January, and Boo has laid an egg EVERY SINGLE DAY this month. Still going strong.

Seriously, this is, like, unprecedented.

She’s tough as nails. Bring it, negative degree wind chills. Bring it, lack of sunlight. Boo, my feisty Mediterranean girl sporting her frostbitten comb, will always come out ahead.

20120706. Chris and the three wees.

Remember the three wees? Remember triple degree days? Yeah, me neither.

 

You Know, Just Your Typical Long Weekend

This weekend in no particular order, I have:

    • Planted the first seeds in our new growing setup. So far, we’ve got the first round of peas, spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, and artichokes planted.

20130121. The inauspicious beginnings of garden v.2013!

      • Ordered free seeds from this place: WinterSown. Free seeds? Too good to be true? I’ll let you know how it works out!
      • Signed up for a free, online course, “An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health.” It starts in two days, if anyone wants to join me!
      • Smeared Vaseline on a chicken’s comb for the first time. Nothing kinky here, I swear. Our Mediterranean sweetie, Boo, already has a touch of frostbite on one of her spikes, and this is supposed to help.
      • Set up possibly the KLASSIEST (yes, with a capital “K”) wind break ever. The wind chill is supposed to get down to -10 to -20 tonight, and with Boo’s frostbite, we are NOT PLAYING, winter. We also added a 60-watt bulb light fixture to the inside of the coop for a little warmth boost.
20130121. Wind chills of -10 to -20 call for extreme measures.

Paneling ripped off the walls of our office + lawn chairs = totally awesome chicken windbreak.

20130121. Wind chills of -10 to -20 call for extreme measures: a light in the coop to keep things warm(er)!

Did you know that your typical chicken produces 10W of heat? So this 60W bulb will almost double the chickens’ natural heat.

    • Created – and accidentally exploded – a sourdough starter bomb. Ignore the picture of the large Ball jar in that recipe, just ignore it. When they say to start it in a large bowl, LEAVE IT in the glass bowl while it sits and ferments. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT put it in the glass jar, covered with a tea towel screwed down with a jar ring. It will seal up, and you WILL shoot a flour-water mixture 20′ across the room and all over the ceiling when you finally cut a hole in your dead grandmother’s tea towel out of sheer desperation.
20130120. Post-sourdough starter bomb.

It looks so harmless, doesn’t it?

20130118. Oh, sourdough... how I've missed you.

The reason I had to create a new batch of sourdough starter, which you should really never have to do – I used it all up making two loaves of delicious bread. Really, though, sourdough starter should last you your whole life if you take care of it.

On Saturday, we made the brilliant decision to ignore our obligations and to do lists and instead took Birdie to Holliday Park, a most bizarre place just five minutes from our house. It was 50 degrees and wonderful out. Today, faced with snow and chicken waterers that just will not stay unfrozen, I am so glad we took some time to be outdoors together.
20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Bianca's Jacket.

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.