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Movin’ on up!

moving day
Howdy ho, readers! So, I bit the bullet and am moving this site over to a self-hosted page… Come on over in a little while and keep reading! Hopefully it’s a smooth transition… give me a bit to work the kinks out and get used to the new digs, then update your links! Thanks y’all…

Our new home sweet home will be: www.alewyfe.com.

our celebrity salad...

our celebrity salad…

“Don’t cook produce from The Plant”

Don’t be fooled by the title of the article… Mike Sula (Chicago food-writer) loves our salad!  My farmer heart is all swelled up with pride.  Now time to get to work!  We’ve been selling out for the past month or so… thank for all the support, Logan Square market customers!  Your purchases go a long way towards keeping this not-for-profit, teaching and research aquaponics farm afloat (and keeping me in a day job, so I can spend my “free time” working on our house, making soap and writing about our homesteady-adventures here… instead of slingin’ hash browns in some brunch joint trying to keep the lights on…)

snow day!

no, that's not snow ice cream the gals are enjoying... it's gmo-free soy mash, aka okara, from a local tofu producer.  Yum!

no, that’s not snow ice cream the gals are enjoying… it’s gmo-free soy mash, aka okara, from a local tofu producer. Yum!

It finally looks like winter, for real out there- we got a couple inches of white stuff this morning to dust off the single digit and teens temps we’ve been “enjoying” this past week. I must say, I’m enjoying the change of scenery! After a fair number of dismal gray days, the bright sparkle was most welcome!

We tucked in early last night, after stopping into Revolution Brewpub for a pair of pints to cheers our friends’ John and Steven formerly of Grid Chicago as they announced and celebrated their blog’s virtual move to Streetsblog Chicago. Had a slice of awesome arugula pizza with shaved parmesean and lemon-infused oil to go with my ESB and Coffee Porter… we almost stopped in at a friend’s for their homemade pizza as well, but missed their street while cutting through the park, which was a minor bummer but for the best. We had planned to come home early (and the Bella Wooski was eagerly awaiting our return, and her bathroom break and dinner), as we fully intended to get to work… but were overcome by a powerful and undeniable sleepiness. Best laid plans… and sometimes the nap wins.

So instead, we got up with the sun and the chickens, the fella at five and I at six, got caffeinated and got to work. We rearranged a bunch of materials on the second floor, and the fella used the newly assembled tablesaw to make a pretty badass rolling cart for the pair of sawhorses organizing most of our framing lumber, which will soon have foam stacked ceiling high on top. I made us a breakfast of Tribble and Eggs- we had a bumper crop of Lion’s Mane mushrooms last week, so I finally got to bring one home to try… and they DO taste like lobster! Only cuter. And less crustacean-y. I caramelized half a minced onion in a goodly pat of butter, chopped and sauteed the mushroom pieces, broke three eggs in the pan, added a sprinkle of cheese, and served it up. Awesome. The fella commented at 7:57 that he had three minutes till he had to leave for work, still furiously loading wood onto the cart… I joked, great. Three minutes till I can get back in bed! Just kidding… and took over the wood-loading duties, then put on my mask and swept and shop-vacced the whole second floor, took out the trash, shoveled and salted the front walk, took down the christmas decorations, fed and watered the hens (see pic), rescued a cat the dog had trapped under the woodshed (really, I just distracted the dog so the cat could make a break for it…), a bolt of fluffy black lightening so fast that dumb-dumb dog didn’t even see it get away, and spent the next two hours wedging herself behind the fence and under the shed as far as she could fit, alternately, trying to find the thing. Oh, Wooski…

Time to feed the fish before I head back to the studio to cut soap- I’m really happy with that new Orange Chai batch. I checked on them this morning in the molds, and they look and smell fantastic! Can’t wait to start cutting them- it’s always a surprise to see how they look inside, especially these marbled batches!

soap and salad

Urban Folk Circuit at the Logan Square Farmer’s Market!
UFCfarmersMarketColor

All manner of crafty creativity and delicious delectables here for you on Sunday… soaps! cheese! eggs and knife sharpening (this is one booth)! sausage sticks! salad! squash! vintage clothes! handmade goodies! coop hot sauce! homemade preserves! pork chops! great lakes fish! cream puffs! bacon and cheese baguettes! vegan waffles! Exclamation points! I expect I’ll be seeing you all there on Sunday, then?

I’m making you some Brown Sugar Scrubs to polish up and moisturize that winter skin right now… pumpkin spice? maple? vanilla lavender? One of each? Come and get ‘em!

Mush, you rotties, mush!

I'd have said, "Global Warming"... but whatever.  They're cute.

I’d have said, “Global Warming”… but whatever. They’re cute.


In honor of the sprinkle of snow we might get today, this looks like a blast… although we’d need a LOT of obedience work before I’d let Ms. Isabella take the lead:
Rotten Mushers
More on this dog team:
Steinplatz Rottweilers

But more importantly, my clever friends, another engineering challenge: I need you to fabricate something like this, but that I can afford. I’ll pay you in pie, tamales, salsa, salad, soap and candy… and of course reimburse you for materials.


Bike Tow Leash

Would have to be wicked strong- Bella is 80# but if she sees a rabbit (or cat, squirrel, other dog, bus, streetsweeper, “suspicious character”… etc…) she has the tow force and torque of a mack truck. A hungry mack truck, with bloodlust and foam-flecked face. Seems like something like this would be a good way to get her more exercise though which she really needs- she can walk for hours and not be tired (I don’t have hours, haha)… and really really wants to move faster than I can keep up with on foot. So either I take up jogging (not likely), quit my job and hike with her all day (nice in theory, but not an option) or figure out how to use mechanical advantage to my advantage. Her former owner’s son used to harness her up and “skate-jor” on his longboard, but admitted that he had to bail out more than a few times when she went running for something other than the idea of running forwards. She does seem to love running alongside our bikes, but not as much as she likes the idea of “herding” them by cutting in front of the wheel. Not fun for us, or safe for either of us!

Most importantly, this way she could join us on long rides- she can pull me and our gear uphill, then hop in the dog trailer when she gets tired or for the downhill slolom. Genius! The fella and I, pre-dog-ownership, looked forward to at least one bike camping trip each summer… this could help make that still a reality without an expensive boarding bill or the need for a house sitter (we have nice neighbors who feed our chickens for us in exchange for keeping the eggs while we’re away). I’ve always daydreamed about eventually doing a long extended trip (like to the Ozarks to visit my family, via the Katy trail, or even coast-to-coast!), which this would be probably more practical for… most of our short weekend trips rely on taking the metra to “slingshot” out of town and save some of the more tedious peri-urban slog of getting somewhere less traveled. Without getting her a service dog vest she’s not welcome on the train… and she’d give herself away as a fraud in about 35 seconds (the muzzle she should probably start wearing in public while we work on impulse-control would be the first dead give-away). I suppose we could enlist a friend to give us a lift outside town and either ride home or get a pick-up on the return trip… though the idea of needing a car to use your bike rubs both of us the wrong way…

I do think a lot of her anxiety and issues would smooth out if she got more vigorous physical activity on a more frequent basis (doing backflips and scaring the bejesus out of anyone who walks down our alley notwithstanding), and this looks like one way to get there! Otherwise, someday the fella is going to make her a dog cart from an old canoe cart he picked up at an estate sale, and she’s going to haul downed firewood home from our walks around the neighborhood… that, or the fella once said he was going to get up and start jogging with her before work, which would do them both good (yeah, it would be good for me too, but good intentions and fantasy-land aside, that’s just not going to happen. I’ll have the coffee and kibble ready when they get home, haha). Carting would be good though. She does LOVE having a job to do… and she could earn her keep by hauling home her own kibble like this guy!
kibblecarting1

Here’s a good primer on dog carting, from which I borrowed that last image!

Ok crazy dog lady. Time for work! I’ve got Orange Chai Spice soap to make, and will be whipping up some Brown Sugar Scrubs and maybe other yummy bath and body goodies for Sunday’s Urban Folk Circuit market at the Logan Square Farmer’s Market. Hup to it!

Texas

Texas

Ghosts of America | Luis Alberto Urrea | Orion Magazine.

I just read this Orion article, by a UIC professor. It’s a pictorial landscape, a word snapshot of a road-trip across last summer’s drought-scape. A good read, or there’s an audio version if you want the author to read it to you!

chicagohorses

I was biking back from the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum, after dropping off my final paperwork from the weatherization program I help out with each year, and decided to take a different route home, just following the grid and the sun-compass roughly in the direction of home, when I stopped dead in my tracks. I was in a pretty dense, high-dollar northside neighborhood, but here in a large well-fenced but empty vacant lot were two enormous horses. They had obviously spent a lot of time here, not just appeared- there were two half-full, half-frozen water troughs, some hay, and a deflated ball to kick around. The ground was frozen, but pockmarked with hoof-prints. Of course, I had to get closer and say hello! The gelding near the fence stuck out his muzzle in greeting, and I gave him a soft pat as he munched his hay. I stood for a moment, breathing in that intoxicating horsey perfume that anyone who’s ever loved and been near horses knows all so well, while I cleared space in my camera phone memory bank to snap a photo. I had to send one to my friend, who’s ridden and worked with horses far more than I could have ever dreamed growing up… we’ve got this probably pipe-dream about a horse or two (I really just want a large pony, or a small horse, trained to ride and drive… not much to ask, right? haha) kept nearby. It works in North Philly… so I’m not utterly in fantasy la-la-land, right?
This American Life: Horses in North Philly

Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club

I technically have a horse, but he’s an ancient sway-backed Arkansas pasture ornament, and after over a dozen or more years away in the city, and possession being nine-tenths of the law, he’s my dad and stepmom’s pet by all rights. Overcome by teenage romanticism, I named him Stormy Moon, though Stormy was all anyone ever called him. He was the result of years and years of reading, dreaming, and talking horses… of saving my allowance and birthday money and babysitting cash… of combing the swap-ads at the local filling station, until finally finding and buying the first horse we saw, the first one I could afford that almost met all my requirements. Of course, I knew the CARDINAL rule of horse buying (“don’t buy the first horse you see”) but it was such an ordeal to coordinate and cajole my parents into the idea that I didn’t want to risk it not happening again… I was in high school, planned to go away for college (somehow) so I was running out of time for this particular dream. He was a grey gelding, part-Arab, and to my eyes, the most beautiful thing in the world. He came with tack, or at least a western saddle and some assorted gear. I already owned an english bridle, and other horsey accoutrements. I learned early that putting the cart before the horse is not necessarily a bad plan… and made inspiring wall decor until it could be useful. The Mennonite family that sold him to us said he was gentle and that their kids rode him, but didn’t ride him enough so he needed a new home. He was gentle, from the ground, and as it turned out, more green-broke than kid-broke… My horse experience up to that point was mostly seat-of-the-pants, thick on book-learning and a bit of bareback trail-riding on a friend’s older sister’s bombproof retired show horse. Misty, also dapple grey, was a Quarter Horse that had won trail and halter classes, and competed in barrel-racing and pole-bending before a pasture accident ended her ring career and left her with one eye- she was dead-calm and kid-proof in spite of the affliction, and she carried my friend Jeanie and I, riding double through blackberry hollows, fields, and roadsides without incident. For Stormy and I, our combined inexperience was a bad combination indeed.

My cowboy cousin-in-law Stacy helped haul him home, saddled him up, and said to hop on. Unlike his rodeo horses, which were used to trailer travel and unfamiliar situations, this guy was rattled and already a little out of his element… but I mounted, and set off downhill into the pasture at a walk, then a brisk trot. My poppy (grandpa) and other cousin were baling hay that day, and Stormy caught an eyeful of a square bale ejecting from the machinery and tumbling out onto the field, and decided that this tractor-demon was very dangerous indeed. He sped to a run, whirled and reared, and I went flying. After a mid-air backflip, I broke my fall with my left arm outstretched over my head, and half-broke a bone in the process. Everyone came running as I sheepishly and painfully dusted myself off. True to form, cowboy cousin says “get back on the horse”, which I did with a leg-up, and rode to the back of the hill, where the house and bags of ice were. Spent six weeks in a cast with what the doc called “a greenstick fracture” as one of the two bones in my forearm had bent and snapped on one side but not the other under the strain of the landing… a lucky break, and it healed well… but I never rode that horse much either. I’d spend time with him, and brush him, but we didn’t have the girl-and-pony mind-meld and endless adventures I’d dreamed about for years. I loved him, and admired his beauty and power, but was also more than a little intimidated by it, and more than a little afraid to climb back up there and try again. I was in over my head, and it’s not the last time I learned that kind of lesson. Riding lessons would have helped both of us… or should have been essential, but there was no budget for such things. Someday I’d like to try again, with some guidance and groundwork first. And a dead-broke schoolmarm of a horse. And a helmet, haha. My bones aren’t as pliant as they were back then… but I’d like to think I’ve learned a lot of lessons about falling. And getting back up.

In other news, our pig is ready, at the locker in Chenoa, IL, waiting for us to drive two hours, pick it up, and start turning it into delicious bacon and sausages. I consider it a good omen that my friend, who works at the Spice House, just brought us a jar of their italian sausage seasoning, and didn’t even know about our pig purchase. The fates are with us! He was one of four raised on pasture by a woman in Lemont, on a diet of organic feed, food scraps, and acorns. If he’s half as delicious as the pig I raised in FFA, we’re in for some great meals. 241 pounds of great meals- we requested pretty much “everything but the squeal”. Who wants to fry up some pork rinds with me? We have to render the lard first…

Have more realistic urban livestock dreams, but not sure how to get started? There’s an Urban Livestock Expo event at the Garfield Park Conservatory on February 16th… come learn about chickens (the gateway drug), bees, rabbits, and goats, and meet other current and aspiring urban farm folk; talks and Q&A to follow! It’s being put on by folks from Advocates for Urban Agriculture, Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts (two great list-servs that I’m on) and Angelic Organics Learning Center, among others I believe? I’m hoping to attend if I can wiggle my work schedule… it’s 10 am-1 pm, which might make it tough. Looks to be a fun event, so put it on your calendars now!

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