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Posts Tagged ‘urban agriculture’

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…)

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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:
flamebike

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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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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Door’s open, c’mon in!

Late breaking news (sorry to not get this up sooner, it’s been a madhouse over here)… we are ON for tomorrow, to continue the first Sunday tradition of open studios at Alewyfe… “A trading post for the exchange of goods, ideas, and good will!!”

11 am-6 pm, Sunday Oct. 7th
Coffee and beer (to drink), soaps and sundries (for sale), ideas and good will (priceless).

We’re also concurrently hosting the October meeting of the Chicago Young Aggies group, so come by for farm chatter, soil schemes and dreams, or to meet others agriculturally minded! Afterwards, (or before, if you’re an early bird) head down the street to the Conservatory to visit the Garfield Goats, who are snacking on the prairie grasses this week! Sani, Salvi, and Gracie are dairy goats who live near Midway airport but spend a week a month vacationing in our ‘hood, grooming the park grounds, and getting some fresh forage. I only wish I’d thought of it first. :-)

Tell friends and bring friendly strangers, or just stop by for a beverage!

We’ll of course have our usual selection of handmade organic soap, local honey, jams, salsas, and relishes, dry herbal teas from the garden, and all manner of various and assorted sundries to offer.

Do you need; A pair of cast iron corn stick pans? A couple Kodak Brownies and a Holga camera, and lots of darkroom ephemera? Canning jar lids? Homebrewing bits and pieces? Misc bike parts? A saltwater reef tank? Leather pants? A traffic light? We’ve (still) got all that, and much much more!!! Despite what Alefellow may tell you, the dog is NOT for sale. Actually, he’s mostly stopped trying to sell her now that he likes her despite still claiming to not be a pet-person. She’s pretty charming. Except for the gas. Though I could say the same for myself, or the fellow… so it works out.

Virtually no offer refused, stuff has to go and we need to raise funds for things like masonry pointing, insulation, windows, a new roof, and the crew of 18 or so weight lifters it will take to get the bowling lanes back OUT of our basement and installed upstairs for floors… Thanks a million times again to those of you (and gravity) that helped get them in there! We will have to have a bowling party and set up some pins when they’re installed (and before we put up drywall, haha). Aaand we may board up the lower sections of the windows (those that aren’t already, that is). :-D

Email alewyfe (at) gmail to RSVP or if you need the address. Hope to see you tomorrow!

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School is in session! We’ll have our first class in early October at The Plant, and half the proceeds will benefit The Plant and our season-extension plans for the fall garden! This “Garden to Pantry” primer will be an overview of food preservation techniques to put up the harvest- either from your own garden, the late season abundance from your favorite farmer, or maybe that case of fruit you got at Maxwell St. threatening to turn into mush on your counter (ask me how I know about that last one). We’ll start in the garden with a bountiful harvest of fresh-picked produce, and then head to the kitchen to find out what to do with it all!

There will be samples of various types of preserves and demonstrations of equipment and basic techniques. Always wanted to try pickling, dehydrating, canning, freezing, or lacto-ferments but didn’t know where to begin? You’ll take home some recipes and a list of reliable information sources, and more importantly, the knowledge and confidence to put up healthy local food at home for year-round nourishment!

You’ll learn how to ensure both the peak of flavor and food safety in your preserved products from a trained chef, with techniques you can use in your own kitchen. This class will be an overview and introduction, with more in-depth topic classes to come… email me for more information or to sign up. This class will be capped at 10 participants. The fee for this class is $40 (for those who are able, email me to discuss paying-it-forwards and donating more to fund a scholarship spot in this or future classes for low-income participants). Date and time TBA!

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Monster truck rally at The Plant, Saturday Sept. 22. See you there, squares! Ps… I’ll have a soap table set up with various wares… You know, to wash off the mud from the monster trucks doing donuts in the parking lot. What do you mean, not that kind of monster truck? That the “monster trucks” are actually “food trucks’? You mean… there might be ACTUAL DONUTS?? Like the kind with bacon bits and maple drizzle, mah nizzle? Now that’s HOT. And fancy-pants cupcakes and burritos and beef and even vegan cheese (hey, whatever rocks your boat… er… truck?)! Prepared on actual trucks that are now allowed to cook actual food on the actual truck (thanks Chicago, it’s about time)? OH heck yeah. Now I’m SO there. But I’ll still sell you some soap. Soap that looks like food! It’s food for your skin though, don’t eat it, like that guy who took a bite of the mint chocolate chip bar…

I’ll also have a sign up sheet for more information on the series of upcoming classes this fall… more on that very soon!

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Two days in the life last week, by the numbers:

48 hours.

13 sleeping.

10.5 at work. More time from home reading, writing, and answering emails.

4 hours on my bike (28 miles).

7 or more hours shoveling wood chip mulch after work (a truckload or two at least? The pile has sort of mushed together so I’m not sure how many loads there are…).

2 dog walks.

2 pots of coffee.

9 eggs from the hens.

in the kitchen: raspberry custard pies, blanched tomatoes for salsa, dehydrated 10 trays of eggplant and other veggies, sauteed and froze two gallon bags of eggplant, sliced cukes for pickles, and of course dishes, cleaning…

Whew! Now back to the kitchen- need to make those tomatoes into salsa and can it up, check the stock that’s in the crock pot, fill the dehydrator with more onions or potatoes, check the bees, take the salsa scraps out to the chickens, do a load of laundry, feed the worm bins, make something for dinner and the fellow’s lunch tomorrow, maybe surprise him by stapling up some insulation in the ceiling before he gets home, and if there’s any daylight left, work on stripping the front door trim for a bit.

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