Archive for April, 2012

Hope to see some of you at the Garfield Park Conservatory this Saturday for the 20th annual Green and Growing Fair! Click below for all the details and a proper invitation… there will be seedlings, soap (ahem!), demonstrations, information, food from Inspiration Cafe and more! Come out, get some goodies for your garden and meet some other green or greening thumbs… it’s a good time, folks! If you’re a super early-bird, the park district is giving away tulip bulbs in the wee-bright hours before this gets started- come for the free flowers, stay for the (also free) fair! Win, win, I’d say.

2012 GGF Save the Date- You are Invited!


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The fellow made a big ole batch of hopefully-sessionable summer pale ale on Sunday… and caught the long sparge just before it overflowed the pot. Whoops! Had to take a bit of that out to boil it, but we canned the rest in big jars for future yeast starters (time, plus one stir plate, one mini-carboy or Erlenmeyer flask, one packet of yeast, plus pre-canned wort means just one ‘spensive yeast smack-pack can pitch a big batch of beer). This one was a fridge-space maker… we just downsized a full-size commercial fridge from the studio, and the bale o’ hops bag was taking up lots of space in the *food* fridge. Most of those, bulk-wise, were the Zeus hops we harvested from the garden last fall, as they’re whole cones and not processed/compressed pellets like most of the “boughten” hops. So, into the kettle they went, along with several types of aforementioned hop/rabbit pellets (get it? Hop? rabbit? Oh dear). Looking forward to a hoppy beer in a month or so! It’s been pretty heavy on the heavy belgians and stouts for a while in the rotation… craving something light and palate-cleansing. This should do it!

Dog-date… Bella spent her first night at the studio with us last night, and it did not go so well. We don’t have a crate for her here, and she spent the night trying to claw above the doorknob (apparently she succeeded in opening a doorknob once or twice, and has not forgotten the sweet spot in the door is ABOVE the knob, not at the floor). That meant the towel/apron rack hanging on the door was in a heap in the morning… sigh. I’m hoping to hear back from a craigslist lead on a plastic crate for a backup studio dog-condo plus future dog-trailer conversion (I don’t think the doggyride trailer I bought before we got her is going to cut it- she’s a big girl, and needs a big girl trailer- an airline crate and a Bikes at Work trailer, most likely. The fellah has one of their old-model trailers, but it’s the 8ft version which is not so practical for smaller jobs- I’m savin’ my pennies for the wide 6ft model that you can make smaller by removing a segment… good for soap fairs and general hauling too, up to 300#’s!). The trailer bike is currently out of commission, as I snapped a spoke on Friday while locked to the cart-corral at the grocery store (this store doesn’t have bike racks, boo). Not sure if it was the 35 mi/hr winds, an errant cart pusher, or a car-love-tap, but I locked my wheel and frame to the pipe, and when I came out, one spoke was sheared off at the rim. I was able to ride it home, but that wheel needs serious TLC that I’m not qualified to give it before it goes anywhere else… doh. Cheaper than gas… cheaper than gas… in the meantime, I’ll be stealing the front wheel off the Peugeot, as I’ll need the trailer on Saturday to haul my wares to the Green and Growing Fair at the Garfield Park Conservatory, and hopefully to go fetch a second dog crate from Bucktown. *fingers crossed*

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A little lamb…

Alefellow’s grandmother gave us this gorgeous antique Griswold cast iron lamb cake mold. My jaw dropped when he pulled it out of his suitcase after flying to visit her and help sort things for her estate sale before she moved to smaller quarters… and even more so when I opened it up, and found inside a yellowed envelope from the Moody Bible Institute that contained an article from the Chicago Trib from the ’70s with various lamb cake recipes and frosting (the glossy white marshmallow egg-white frosting came from there)…along with a page of notes from his grandma of reminders of things to do to make sure the cake turns out well, and yields for the various frosting and cake mixes she used with it, but I couldn’t believe that also there, in a small plastic sleeve, was the ORIGINAL TAG with recipes that came with the mold, which dates from the 1930’s-1950’s… Priceless. Of course, that’s the recipe I used… pretty dense for the modern palate, like a heavy dryish pound cake, but it looked amazing and tasted pretty good. I tried to serve it at our Easter BBQ, but no one wanted to cut into it as it was too pretty, so they ate instant tiramisu instead. Their loss… we’ve been eating it for breakfast with coffee and it hits the spot. Here he is in pictoral pastoral splendor, from naked to fully clothed with coconut bits and dried fruit features. Enjoy!

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That ameraucana in front has attitude. Atta girl!

Happy Easter everyone! We just picked up our first chicks- two Ameraucanas (Easter Eggers… how fitting!), a Golden Laced Wyandotte, a California White Leghorn (will be white with black polka dots and lay large white eggs like a mo-fo), and a Red Star… ditto like the Leghorn but brown eggs. Should give us a nice balance between beautiful birds and fancy-pants eggs, and feed conversion and consistent laying. They’re living in a rubbermaid tote repurposed as a brooder on top of our bathtub… the only room with a door for dog-excluding and heat-retention. You can hear their tiny “peeppeeppeep”‘s through the closed door- super cute, and probably dog torture as her crate is in the kitchen… but she’s got to get over her chicken obsession one way or another…

Ok, a fish fry awaits at a friend’s house… time to wrap things up here!

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Sorry for the dead air lately… dog training, spring planting, rain barrel wrangling, working on the house, and just trying to keep up with life, there hasn’t been a lot of free time around here!

Bella is keeping us busy, but I feel much safer now with her around! She’s a good guard dog and mostly a big sweetie… we’re working on leash manners (that, or we’re getting her a harness and a stoneboat and putting her to work if she keeps pulling- even a prong collar won’t slow her down if she sees a rabbit cross her path- I suppose I understand and appreciate the drive, but it’s not safe or fun) and not jumping up on people to greet them (which is bad enough for any dog, but when she’s huge and scary-looking, really bad… she knocked someone down already. Bad dog!). She’s very protective, but good-natured, if stubborn. Alefellow calls her Knucklebeak, as she can be a knucklehead but is mostly a good girl! She eats like a queen, and her already shiny coat is getting a mirror-like gleam…

Doggie Dinner: chicken leg quarter, roasted sweet potato, kelp powder, and grain-free kibble made with bison and venison. Alefellow is a little jealous, though her fare is not always quite so fancy...

I have a hefty cast-iron lamb cake mold from the Fellow’s grandmother that needs to get used this week… but even more excitingly, we might get some Easter chicks to celebrate Zombie Jesus day … depends on what our feed store has in stock when I go in to pay for our bees- our hive made it through the winter but not the early spring cold snaps (for what they were)… we’d been seeing less and less of them, and finally opened up the hive- it’s a sad scene in there! Lots of dead bee butts sticking out of the otherwise empty comb… They never were a strong hive- they got a late start and missed the good early nectar flows and didn’t seem interested in the feed I tried to give them… looks like they clustered too far from the little honey they had left during the last cold snap and couldn’t find it, and had mites too… poor girls! We did get to taste our first honey though- we hadn’t taken any before now since they needed it all). Do-over, but this time we’re ready with all our equipment early in the season- it was mid-summer last year… not a lot of time for even a strong nuc to build up numbers, draw comb, and lay in provisions on new foundation…

In the chicken department, it’s time to start raising replacement layers for our original three girls who are tapering off in their egg production- it will be almost a year before new chicks will be laying steadily so it’s time to plan ahead! I want a couple Araucanas/Easter Eggers, a Golden-laced Wyandotte (which they should have), a Welsummer and a Black Copper Maran (which I know they don’t have)… but will probably have to settle for a Rhode Island Red and/or another Barred Rock… we’ve got a blonde and brunettes in our coop, could use a redhead I guess. Cackle cackle! We’ve done some reinforcing and rearranging in the coop area, as Bella is VERY interested in chicken activity. Nom. Nom. Nom. I dreamed she ate Goldie during the first week we had her… and decided to be proactive about it… it’s now a medium to high security slapdash contraption of wooden fence and wire… she’d get in unsupervised, but we never leave her in the yard without one of us keeping an eye on her, so hopefully it will do for now. She’s getting better about listening to us, and “OUT!”-ing as long as we catch her before she’s too engaged in “OMGOMGOMG those things look sooo fun and tasty!” mode… really she just wants to follow us around wherever we go, which is quite flattering. Ah, puppy wuv…

The only thing the coop and run need now are a sign: “Chicken Guantanamo: Escapees will be Eaten”. It’s on my to-do list, somewhere behind “hook up giant rainwater collection tanks”, “innoculate mushroom logs”, “finish enclosing the back porch with windows and corrugated polycarbonate and fiberglass panels to make a south-facing sunroom/heat collector/greenhouse”, “make batches of Lavender Love and Treehugger (a new one!) soaps”, and “start a million bazillian seedlings to grow, plant, sell, and give away”, “strip 80 years of lead paint and 30 years of regular paint from the trim around our front door (the Silent Paint Remover, gloves, and a respirator makes this relatively safe to do) and scrape 20-30 years of peeling thank-the-lord-non-lead red paint from our red brick facade” (why do people paint brick, especially the same color it is underneath? It’s bad for the brick and guaranteed to peel and look shabby later…), “clean and sweep 10+ years of dust from the attic; tack screen to eaves before cottonwood blooms and fills it up again” (a good respirator again, is the re-modeler’s best friend)…

Ole blue, temporarily equipped to hold 1375 gallons of rainwater. Actually, at 8#/gal, that would be five and a half tons in a 3/4 ton truck, not counting the weight of the totes or the dog, and would probably have broken the truck... luckily these were empty food-grade totes. One for us, the other four for our friends' housing co-op... we were going to get two of them, but then lucked into an amazing deal on a 500 gal. plastic conical tank. We're going to have sooo much rainwater for the garden!

She LOVES car rides. Hopefully she takes to the trailer as well... 'cause Ole Blue has smelly exhaust and is only used when really needed... and we're selling the small truck, since most stuff we'd use it for we can also do with the 8 ft. bike trailer (it moved a small kegerator across town last weekend), or the 40+ mpg hybrid wagon that I think the fellow is buying from a friend?

Went to a training last weekend at the Center for Green Technology, and we plan to host a Sustainable Backyards workshop at some point before early summer… we’ll be handing out vouchers and information for the city’s rebate program for purchases of rainbarrels, compost bins, trees, and native plants from local businesses, and giving informal tours of our rainwater harvesting systems and all the rest of our sustainable backyard adventures. Stay tuned for more details, and till then, visit here to find out more!



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