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Archive for January, 2013

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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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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a delicious landscape

Spent the better part of today polishing up a presentation about the outdoor garden at The Plant that I’ll be giving, along with Ryan Wilson, the head of our board and a landscape architect who does stormwater management projects and education for the Center for Neighborhood Technology. We’re speaking at the MidAm Horticultural Tradeshow at Navy Pier tomorrow morning… I’m almost done, and more than a little nervous.  I generally loathe public speaking, which is why I said yes when Ryan asked if we’d present with him.  I figure I need to get over it, and the only way to do that is to do it.  The up, or downside, is that it’s really early in the morning- we’re speaking at 8:30 am.  Heck, I’m usually at the “one and a half cups of coffee, feeding the chickens, try not to go back to bed” part of the day at 8:30, not halfway across town on a podium.  I know, I know.  I live a charmed life.  I’m not complaining, but I am nervous!  Early to bed tonight for sure.

In between rearranging slides and adding comments today, I made some breakfast tacos with our eggs, potato and onion, and salsa I canned this summer, topped with super-sale avocado and our neighbor’s “It’ll Knock Yer Panties Off” Bhut Jalokia homegrown hot sauce.  That’ll wake you up.  Then I made a savory cheesy egg strata with fresh basil from The Plant (god, what luxury to inhale on a brisk mid-January day!), some now-stale french bread our carpenter buddy brought over on Sunday, the last of the counter-ripened cherry tomatoes from the fall garden, and a goodly handful of rehydrated dried summer tomatoes.  Then buzzed up the last of the bag of basil with a clove of spicy local garlic, olive oil, romano cheese, and toasted sunflower seeds.  Nom. Nom. Nom.  I thought about just eating it with a spoon instead of putting it in the fridge but mostly restrained myself.  I’ve been typing away ever since, and have almost wrapped up the presentation in time to go to the Neighborspace planning meeting for a community gardener event in late February, both of which are luckily right in our neighborhood at the Chicago Center for Green Technology.  Check it out if you haven’t been there… lots of inspiration and green building ideas to be found!

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caulked and loaded

Well, this week has been a doozy on the project front.  Pretty much every day is wake up, coffee, feed the critters, go to work, come home, don respirator and cruddy work clothes, and back to the salt mines.  I mean the second floor… we’ve been making major headway but man it will be nice to get our life back (albeit with a newly beautiful space to live it in)!  Last night we took the night off from “homework” to hang out at the studio and do some low-key tidying up… it was weird to think that we used to do that every night, where the biggest project might be laundry, or waiting to see who might stop by for a beer!  The fella is now an expert foam measurer-and-cutter, and I’m following right behind him with backer rod and caulk, or cutting rolled rubber roof material (bitutac) to block off the eaves after the first layer of foam, forming a ventilation gap behind the first layer of foil-faced foam and up to the roof vents and future ridge-vent.

We’ve so far gone through a lot of foam, over 3 cases of caulk, destroyed one cheapie caulk gun and one inexpensive brad nailer, then exchanged the second sub-par replacement nailer for a take-no-prisoners third version (Hitachi Koki… never thought I’d love an air tool- generally I’m mostly scared of ’em… but this one might make me a convert.  It’s solid! And if it’s possible, kinda cute?), and have one to three layers of foam up on most of the lower parts of the inner roof deck… we’re about halfway on our way to R50.  Between that, and the fact that we got the replacement super-efficient windows in on the east dormer (to replace the single pane ones that had HUGE open gaps all around the framing open to the outside) it’s getting warmer in here!  Now if we can just get enough foam up to shrink the two stacks downstairs piled in front of the wood stove to only one so we can fire that bad-boy up again instead of relying on just the basement furnace, we’ll be back in serious business on the cozy front.  It was 53 in the house when I left for work this morning though, and I’ll take it! 

Great news… we found the fella’s camera (buried under a pile of papers on the table at the studio, whoops!) so there will be pics of the New CapitALE brew session after all… we stopped by last night to pick up the empty carboys, and were sent away with a copy of an album Conrad Freiberg recorded inside the Pod of Absence, his installation piece that landed out back of the gallery after travelling the country with him, that now is dismantled in our back yard in front of the wood shed.  I’m not sure exactly what our plans for it are yet… I’m pulling for octagonal goat milking parlour (no pun intended, ha) though I think the fella was thinking more along the lines of meditation chamber or outdoor garden room.  We’ll see… either way, I think we’ll find a good spot for it… as word from the ANLAP coordinator at the city is that our application is moving along, and their office might have clearance for the deed on Feb. 14th (!) and we could be able to close as early as March.  So… keep your fingers crossed for us and our potential yard-expansion/annexation!

Alright, time to wrap this up, head home, and strap on my old buddy, my oh-so-fetching pink and grey 3M respirator.  It’s a great look, trust me. 

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