Archive for December, 2012



True, true.

My boss and some of his friends have pennyfarthings and ride them in parades and critical mass rides… but even I’m not that brave. “Safety bike” or not, I’ll keep the teeth I have left. But I’m not hatin’… looks like this guys having fun!

Rubber-side down, kids. It’s getting slick out there… but keep on riding! See you on the streets…


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Ok, rat patrol. I know some of you made that grill-bike, with the grill in the front so the smoke and cinders blew back into the rider’s face when they were grillin’ and ridin’… and I know that this has already been done now, and thus probably passe, but someone make us one of these:

Pretty please?

Check out the updated FarmHack site for more gorgeous, homemade, open-source creations and solutions, and here for more about this bike’s creator and the farmhack project!

I think this would be a great salt-alternative for our front sidewalk. Plus it will convince the neighbors once and for all that we are definitely insane… and by insane, I mean, truly bad ass and not to be trifled with. We can do the whole block and be everyone’s best friend! Oh yeah. And it works on weeds too, so they can stop spraying Roundup in the vacant lot across the street where the kids play. We’ll just burn the mother down instead! Er. Or not. I’m pulling for a pair or trio of babydoll sheep, and a couple goats, but that’s just me. You know, being all sensible.

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Well, while neither the fella or I have gotten too much of a reprieve from work, we have been relaxing and enjoying the season regardless.  Our friend and new neighbor B came over on Sunday for dinner along with her friend L who works for a rigging company in the neighborhood and was helping her build fence panels at their shop.  We didn’t sell many mushrooms at the farmers market that morning (but sold out of greens and herbs… go figure.  Whatever we bring more of is what we sell less of… but isn’t that the way it goes?), so we had oyster mushroom ragout with rich rabbit stock veloute, mashed potatoes with preserved lemon, our salad greens with walnut, pomegranate, and half an avocado and kalamata dressing, and pasta with tomato-vodka cream sauce (from a jar, but doctored up of course), arugula, and bacon.  A feast!  I can’t say how much it does for my psyche to be able to occasionally have a normal impromptu dinner in the middle of our camp-cabin-construction zone… I wiped the mortar dust off the farmhouse table, excavated enough chairs and room for everyone to sit and we had a wonderful time. 

Someday we’ll both be done with our major rehab projects and be able to enjoy such happenings all the time!  For now, she’s just starting to lay out her strategy, secure the property, and is staying with her parents while she waits for the weather to warm and to heal from her upcoming shoulder surgery.  As for us, we’re trying to track down a truck that is roadworthy and rated to pull our big trailer to the insulation warehouse a couple hours away.  Know anyone with an F250, cargo van, or similar beast for hire? Send ’em our way!  Know anyone who wants to buy a classic ’77 Ford highboy with a custom rack and a crane on the back?  We just acquired a sensible small Toyota from a friend, and are putting ole ‘Blue on the block.  She’d be a great restoration project for someone, or a scrapper’s delight, and we’d like to see her go to a good home… and I can’t wait to get the half of the yard back that she takes up, much as I’ve enjoyed the things that she brought us- like the chicken coop and rain “barrels”.  Heh. 

We’ve had a pretty non-traditional but still enjoyable holiday… we stayed home, and his parents are in Florida visiting family, so we got to spend it together with just us and the dog.  We ordered Chinese food on Christmas Eve, which we usually do on New Year’s Eve while hanging out with neighbors, but I think we all have other plans this year and will be hanging out at the studio on New Years Day instead.  I didn’t do much decorating, other than the outside of the house, where our fence is decked with yew boughs (trimmed from the bush in our front yard that otherwise will turn back into a tree), the front door bears a giant red bow with more greenery, the urn of kindling branches on the porch have ornaments hanging, and I fired up our still-hung Halloween lights, which are mostly green with a touch of purple.  Close enough. 

He had only Christmas day off work, and I had Monday and Wednesday, my usual days off (thanks to a volunteer who lived nearby and filled in on fish feeding for my other coworker who was out of town) and only stopped in for an hour or so on Christmas day to feed, weigh out the next feeding, and return the farmers market gear (coolers, tables, banner, bins, etc…).  After sleeping in a bit, and a breakfast of bacon and eggs, the fella and I drove down to the farm in the afternoon with the big Bella bear, and she had a holiday frolic running free in the fenced two-acre lot around the building.  It makes me so happy to let her run off leash somewhere safe but bigger and more interesting than our yard- she positively glows, and floats about two feet above the ground as she trots and races in circles, sniffing everything, checking the perimeter, and hoping for rabbits.  I wish I could take her with me more often, but she’s just too unreliable still, and would fuss and bark and whine the whole time that I wasn’t with her… and dogs aren’t allowed in food-processing buildings.  Oh well, oh dear.  She’s best left at home where she can hold down the fort while we’re gone. 

After work we headed back to the house, where the fella got a roaring fire going while I threw together a simple dinner- more mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, roasted baby brussels sprouts from Iron Creek farm with bacon and caramelized onion, and a roast chicken with red and white turnips from Radical Root farm, carrots and onion and half a preserved lemon and some good garlic stuffed inside, and finally a green salad.  I chatted with my family on the phone while I cooked- the were mostly being spared in the snowstorm that was sweeping through the south that day.  We sipped eggnog and rum, and Revolution porter, ate in front of the fire, and talked about plans and the new year.  It was the first Christmas I spent not either at home with my family, or at someone else’s home with their family, and was weird but nice.  I would have liked a tree.  Someday we’ll get there.  Maybe next year? 

We traded gifts- one each (we didn’t plan it that way but luckily neither of us really need much, and we’re both hard to shop for!). I got him a tastefully nude farmer calendar, of the ladies of women-run Rosasharn Farm CSA- what could be better than beautiful farm women thoughtfully posed in their fields or with their food, and a recipe per month to boot? If it’s also for a good cause! The calendar is a fundraiser by a group in New York that is putting together a mobile food-processing facility so that nearby farms can sell value-added products… it’s a great idea and a sexy concept! You can learn more about the project and get your own here: Pasture to Plate Calendar. And thank you to the Greenhorns and their blog, The Irresistible Fleet of Bicycles for helping me find a great gift for a guy who doesn’t need much of anything! If anyone is feeling charitable, we’d love a copy of their New Farmer’s Almanac here at Alewyfe Farm, or at The Plant!

He got me an even better gift: a still-sturdy leather-bound copy of “The Household and Farmer’s Cyclopedia: One Hundred Thousand Facts for the People.” from 1878, “A Book for the Farmer, Mechanic, and Working Men of all Trades and Occupations, the Stock Raiser, the Household, and every Family who wants to Save Money, a Book of Solid Worth and Practical Utility, containing a Remedy for every Ill, a Solution for every Difficulty, and a Method for every Emergency”!!! Wow. I didn’t know I needed this, but I don’t know how I managed to get through life without it. And from it so far I’ve learned that a horse can drink a LOT of laudanum syrup when unwell (laudanum is basically opium dissolved in booze- a heroin cocktail. Would cure the most persistent cough or lameness I’m sure), that if a mad dog bites you in the butt you should pay someone to suck the evil out of the wound, and that two parts flour of brimstone and one part potash, heated together in an iron pan and then dissolved in water, will rid your house of ants. I couldn’t make this stuff up. Thanks, hun!

I hope that you’re all enjoying this time, wherever you are and whoever you’re with… here it’s finally white and magical outside, and the yard looks a bit less drear and trashy with a partial coat of fluffy snow.  Our house is cold but it could be worse, and we’re warm and well fed.  And we’re getting a pig! For the freezer, not the farm, but from a woman who raises a few a year on pasture, with organic feed, veggies, fruit, and whole grain bread scraps, and finished on acorns… I found her on craigslist and suggested we take a half… but the fella is going whole hog! We’ll be making sausage, curing bacon and ham, rendering lard, and swimming in pork and cracklins soon! Such riches! I’m looking forward to next year and all the projects, challenges, and opportunities that lie in wait… now let’s go get ’em!

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We’ve finally broken the longest stretch of snowless days here in Chicago in a looong spell (290!!!)… outside is a blustery, gusty, wintery mix of wet streets and fat blowing snow. I gave the chickens extra bedding this morning- straw for the nest boxes (where two hens have been roosting at night… can’t say I blame ’em but I sure wish they wouldn’t… luckily the few eggs we’re getting these days are mostly clean regardless) and a thick layer of coffee chaff from the Bridgeport roastery. Trust me, no chicken coop ever smells nicer than one freshly blanketed with fluffy coffee chaff (it’s a remainder of the roasting process which flakes off the beans while the morning magic is happening). I finally put the submersible aquarium heater into the chicken waterer bucket and plugged it into the thermo-cube that turns it on when it’s below freezing, and traced the snake of extension cord back to the porch and plugged it back in. I filled their feeder, tossed them their bag of bolting arugula from the farm and an extra handful of scratch.

Bella has added Houdini to her looong list of names (not all of them suitable for a family-friendly website)… I usually crate her when I’m doing chicken chores, otherwise she’s unmanageably bad. I was tying up the coop gate and looked up to see her on the other side of the fence, all drooly and foamy-lipped and waggy-nub-tail excited… we clip her wire crate door with two carabiners and the two latches, and have zip-tied all the sides together because she’ll get out otherwise (she’s STRONG)… apparently this time she squeezed between the door and top of the crate and bent it out a bit more than before, leaving her id collar behind in the process (thankfully she’s chipped now, and for just this sort of reason- she’s fond of sticking her head where it doesn’t belong and losing her collar on the way out). Bad dog! Now she gets the carabiners, latches, and two leash ends holding door corners tightly to the crate sides. Oh, anxious beast… I went thrift shopping on my way home from work today and got her a blanket for her solstice present- baby, it’s cold INside! I found a blue gingham shirt, a cute cardigan sweater, and two pairs of pants for myself (since I’m down to one pair without patches and/or holes, and spent two hours mending a pair last week… three dollars for two pairs of perfectly good pants seemed a sound investment) and a beautiful woolen handwoven lap quilt from the Handcrafts College in Berea, Kentucky also for THREE dollars. So what if it needs washing? Woolen blankets are like gold around here, especially ones in multi-hued jewel tones made by hand! What luck! I left early-ish from work to beat the snow, but by the time I’d stopped for butter, bacon, eggnog, and orange juice (just the essentials!) and spent too long at the thrift store, the snow caught up with me. Luckily the pavement was warm and wet, and the city was antsy to send the salt trucks around. The ride wasn’t bad, and I found myself grinning most of the way in spite of the ridiculous bags strapped to my rear bike rack which swayed from side to side and caught the wind gusts, almost blowing me broadside into the curb a few times… blinking away the snow that blew around my glasses, taking it nice and slow (wet rims don’t brake well), and actually enjoyed the ride. Warm mittens, tall boots, and a lot of layers meant I was mostly cozy even though I could have been miserable. All about the preparation, and a little bit about your attitude…

And then, Home! Let the gratefully happy and wiggly dog out, started a load of dog laundry (her crate towels, and the sheet we keep over the armchair she gets to sleep in… man, she is a dirty dirty dog. Which is to say, A dog.). Got a fire going in the woodstove, and thought about drying my socks and changing my boots… but first to work! Did a sinkful of dishes, fried up two slices of bacon, and started caramelizing an onion in the bacon pan… brought up a handful of potatoes from the basement that were getting sprouty and soft, and decided that an Irish fry-up was in order. While that was going, I pulled the pot of vegetable stock I’d made but not strained a few days ago from the fridge and poured it from the pot into a colander over a big bowl, and pulled the other pot of rabbit stock, also needing straining, but jiggly and semi-solid with meaty goodness. Our friend makes amazing dog jerky treats with 100% rabbit and brings us an extra bag of bones once in awhile- Bella gets a bunch of them but I always make a pot of dynamite stock for us as well! If you cook the bones long enough, they’re soft enough to crush between your fingers, so I feed those back to her too… I figure if they’re crumbly, she can handle them… they’re not going to splinter and hurt her if I can smush them with a fingertip.

And now, the good part! I finally thawed my feet by the fire, put on some dry boots and wiggled my toes to get the blood back into them (the tall wellies keep you dry from OUTSIDE puddles but the self-generated ones are another story… haha). The bacon didn’t last long enough to make it into the dish, but I tucked into a hot bowlful of lightly curried fried potatoes and caramelized onion redolent with bacony-goodness, washed it down with a whiskey-spiked vanilla eggnog with a dash of cinnamon on top, and got to catch up on some email, do some reading and writing… bliss! Hey, what can I say. I’m a simple girl.

I’m looking forward to the sunrise- Mayan calendar or not, it’s the birth of a new season and while winter is finally here, the sun is on the way back, and it’s longer light from here on out. The darkest days are on their way, out. Happy beginning of the world, again… and happy solstice to you all!

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So as usual, not all went according to plan in the artful brewing session, but all mostly went well… as always I owe the Fellow infinite thanks for going along with my crazy ideas without too much protest… he did all the hard work, and I (wo)manned the clean-up shift. Thanks to the fellow for his continued patience, and thanks to those who stopped by, to those who sampled the frothy medieval-style fresh beer in the big green bucket at the closing party, and to those who will try the finished beer in the new year that is currently bubbling away.  Photos from the day coming soon…

Highlights from the closing party included the summoning of the White Nile Crocodile, a fearsome beast with mighty riddles, conjured from the Lye Pit by the horned and wizened Al.  Nasty ashes from the junk mail burning two days previous still swirled around the bonfire pit as two modern-day hipster lumberjacks displayed feats of strength, laboriously sawing through a stack of over $50 worth of perfectly good pallets and torturing what looked like a serviceable crosscut saw with more than a few nails along the way.  The fellow and I looked on, somewhat bemused at the rhythmic soundtrack that their efforts lent to our friends’ crocodile performance… the first riddle (answer: gentrification) standing out in stark relief to these art-students chopping up what would have been a good week’s work for any scrapper in our neighborhood.  We wondered then what they were going to do with all that good kiln-dried wood, and recalled our kitchen last winter, a horror of sawdust, splintered wood and nails as we broke up pallets, fed them to the hungry wood stove, and huddled near their warmth. 

I had those small cares rocked away by the next performance, where I got the chance to climb into a resonant coffin that swayed gently as two ghouly femme fatales bowed and sawed away at the electric-cello-like instrument built into the top lid.  It was oddly soothing, and i enjoyed the brief sound bath. 

Good show, New Capitol.  It was odd last night to not have a bonfire to head to just down the street… though the smoky echoes remain, deeply embedded in the fibers of my Carhartt jacket… but I hope that you guys are enjoying a return to normality and regular sleep.  Cheers!

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From the Fellow…

So, you know how in the “About us” page, I mention that the fellow may chime in from time to time?  He’s often a man of few words, but brewing (or sometimes, a few brews…) gets him going!  I’m looking forward to this chance to “take the show on the road” and brew in a different space… I’ve still got a lot to learn, so I’ll be taking notes!  Cheers…

“Hey Friends,
Sorry for the last minute invite to an artful event that we’ll be doing tomorrow from 6am to 2pm. 12/12/12

Yes, I will have coffee going.  Everyone is welcome to bring fermented
beverages to drink and share.

As part of the 24hours for 25days closing day of the New Capital gallery space located alley track side of 3114 carroll, I’ll be keeping the show going in the upstairs gallery with a live multi-split-batch-party-gyle brewtacular starting at 6am.  I’m supposed to be done and cleaned up by 2pm so that the next artist can setup their show.   I will be teaching whoever shows up what I know about brewing with the focus on growth and change via the brewing process and regeneration of yeast (and hopefully very minimal other singlecell monsters:)

Its the last day of New Capital officially hosting gallery hours and they have been open for the last 24days 24hours a day..with around the clock shows etc.  The general theme is transformation, rebirth and change.  Personally I haven’t had time to brew for the last 2mos or more and am looking fwd to it.

If you wanna bring anything to ferment as part of the interactive
growth of our exhibit, i have lots of yeast starters going and the
brews created tomorrow will be drank on new years day as part of a
follow up event at the gallery for the rebirth of the year.

Please feel free to come tomorrow even if you can’t make it during the 6-2 slot.  There will be lots of really fun things going on including an awesome people puppet alligator show around 7 (or 9?) and a big bonfire to warm the evening.

basically you stand on carroll looking at the tracks at the furthest
east part of the building and then walk north through a giant gate
when you are almost to the tracks you will see a bombed out loading
dock, and in that general corner area there are two doors, one pushes
open and one opens to a wall.  You’ll figure it out.  Bring a friend!”

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New CapitALE update

Image borrowed from thefoodlunatic.wordpress.com as my camera is still on the fritz.  Technology hates me.

Image borrowed from thefoodlunatic.wordpress.com as my camera is still on the fritz. Technology hates me. Careful though, his blog will make you HUNGRY.

Figures… in an exhibit dedicated to transformation, our time slot has shifted! Didn’t you expect that? The fellow is taking the day off work and we’ll be keeping “brewers’s hours”… we’re brewing an all-grain batch inside the gallery (yay! should be toasty in there!) from 6am till approximately 2pm tomorrow to coincide with the afternoon installation schedule. The gallery is at 3114 W. Carroll Ave; look for the 24hrs/25days sign on the chainlink gate east of the building… the gallery door is in the back.

We’ll be back in the evening for the alligator performance, and you can visit the beer there or at our studio (not sure yet where it will be fermenting? Depends on the temperature in the gallery… it’s a perfect 62 in our studio right now).

We made three eherlenmeyer flasks of starter culture last night with three different yeast blends, so if you want to join in the fun, bring in a clean gallon jug or carboy, an airlock and stopper if you have them, and some sort of sugary liquid to ferment! Tej (Ethiopian honey wine)? Mead? Cider? Cyser? Funky fruit wines? Jailhouse hooch? Let us know if you’re bringing something and if you need a vessel or airlock! The starters are whirling away on their stir-plates and making millions of billions of yeast babies that are ready to get to work!

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