Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Smooshy Cheeks and Duck-Walks

Well, there goes another umbrella. Why I went in to the office today is beyond me, especially because I could have worked from home. I woke up naturally, without an alarm, but it still took me ½ hour to actually get out of bed. I don’t know what I would do without my favorite morning radio show to wake me up.

I looked outside, and it stayed dark even when I hurriedly left the house, late, at 7 AM. It was gloomy and blustery, Hurricane 1-force winds, they said, and pelting rain. Ten minutes to get to the train—was I out of my mind that I thought I could make the 7:09?? I usually left at 6:50 or, at the latest, 6:55. I pulled into the train station parking lot, and saw a train up on the tracks. I thought, well, I’ve missed it. But the train pulled the other way—it was the outbound train. I was in luck—maybe if I hurried, I could get up on the platform in time for the inbound train. I got out of my truck, schlopped my bags together and by that time I could hear the horn of the inbound train, and a glance up revealed its headlights, even. Could I do it? I ran to the bank of parking lot slots and stuffed my $1 daily parking fee in. I could barely see straight, as the wind whipped my hair around my face and into my eyes. My umbrella turned itself in and out violently in the wind several times. The train had just about stopped on the tracks, and I sped up the 25 or so steps and miracle of miracles, made it onto that 7:09 after all.

Good thing I had thought to put my computer and paperwork in huge Ziploc bags before I left home. Last time it rained, I thought my bag was waterproof, and my computer was totally destroyed—the company had to rebuild practically all of it.

I ate my Egg McMuffin at the McDonald’s in the train station, and then ascended up with the other hundreds of cattle in the working stiff’s herd to the exit. I paused under the overhang, as did many others, contemplating at what moment they wanted their hair and umbrellas totally ruined. I extended my already beleaguered umbrella, hoping that the wind might have some mercy. I stepped out, and it really didn’t feel too terrible—a light wind, and the rain had let up. I thought, well this is not too bad after all. As if in retort, a huge gust of wind hit me and instantly bent the handle of my umbrella and broke the joints on several of its braces. Another one bites the dust. Sigh. I tried to hold what was left of my umbrella over my head, but at that point it was useless. I saw others put their umbrellas away, giving up as I eventually did, and let the whippy wind and strong drizzle have its way with my hair. I could have hailed a cab or taken a bus, but I felt more like walking. I realized I did have enough of my brain in gear this morning to remember to put on my ankle-length rubber rain boots. My feet stayed toasty warm and dry!

But walking was a challenge! As I crossed a street, westbound, I felt the wind smush my the skin on my cheeks towards one side of my face. I bet that would have been a funny picture! I sought the shelter of the east sides of building edges to ease the wind as I walked north, but that lasted only sporadically, as when I approached an intersection, the wind once again made itself known in a big way. At that point I was truly past caring.

After six long blocks I was finally at my destination, and I blew into the office, damp and disheveled. I plopped down at my desk and tried to finger-comb my hair into something presentable. It was time to start my workday. Good thing the company-wide meeting this afternoon with our CEO was via phone!

The day proceeded rather uneventfully, and at 5:15 I headed downstairs and out the door, back towards the train station. The wind at first felt as if it had died down some, and then a strong, sustained wind forced itself against the whole front side of me, and it was all I could do to stand up straight and try to walk at some kind of respectable pace representing putting one foot in front of the other and actually covering some ground. It was a real struggle, and at one point I did definitely feel like I was going to get blown down, and so did the woman in front of me, and for a moment we pasted ourselves against a building.

I continued on, but in the next block I had the other problem! The wind this time banged me from the back and made me walk faster and wider than I wanted to. I looked like a duck with my feet spread out to steady the pace.

Finally I gratefully slipped into the warm comfort of the Union Station and appreciated the beautiful interior architecture, the site of many movies, such as My Best Friend's Wedding and Flags of Our Fathers.
The train stood waiting, and I slid into the cushy seat for the blissful train ride home. As usual, Mr. Green Drink was sitting on the upper level, drinking his quarts and quarts of some green gook that he chewed too. I looked away and busied myself getting caught up with the local newspaper and, of course, the Bi-Level:
“...the snarky, snotty observations by Metra’s customers about fellow commuters ... offer some of the
best free entertainment around.”

I can always count on getting a chuckle from this paper. Here is an element from this month’s publication:

Seat hoggers, part 157
What bothers me during rush
hour are people who occupy
seats with their mounds of crap
from knitting supplies to laptops.
Or those who sit with their legs
crossed, blocking aisles or seats
and then look at YOU crazy
when asked to move. Listen peo-
ple… This is a public train NOT
your living room. If you have a
problem with people sitting next
to you – DRIVE. Unless you’ve
bought two tickets you don’t
get to occupy more than one
seat. Why should people have
to ask you to move every single
day when you know the train is
crowded with people going to
work just like you? And to those
people who seem too scared or
timid to ask these people to move
their stuff – you get what you
deserve – to stand!
Now that’s exciting and dis-
respectful! Actually, that’s what
we’ve always said: if you see a
hogger, ask him to move his stuff.

I came home to the animals and was grateful to finally be out of the elements. I will be soaking in a hot bath pretty soon!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Better Than TV!

I must confess that I usually keep Oprah and The Price is Right on in the background but today, I missed both shows because of an event that held far more interest for me. Imagine--a 2-hour show that was G-rated, but at the same time full of suspense, learning, and delight!

Around 9:15 AM Espie went up to the nest and began arranging the chips just the way she liked. Qweety positioned herself at the other side of the nest box and watched. About 15 minutes later Buffy hopped up on the observation deck and she and Qweety watched, but kept their distance.

They waited ten minutes, and curiousity and, I think, the desire to take their turns got the best of them, and they inched closer to Espie. Espie began looking dazed, but in deep concentration, and began her whirring noises. Qweety got so curious that she poked her head behind Buffy, craned her neck, and stared at Espie's back end--you can see this in the photo below. Twenty-five minutes after being on the nest, Espie had laid an egg!

I was SO proud of her--I suspected she had laid at least two eggs. This was the first egg I actually SAW her lay. Here are Buffy and Qweety inspecting the egg. Note how they've bunched Espie up against the side of the box--it's as if they are saying, "Step aside, WE wanna see!!".

Then The Symmetry of the Necks took over, and both Espie and Buffy lowered their heads down to egg level, faced each other, and eyed the egg just like this for at least a full minute. It actually looked kind of sculptural to me, almost like the farm version of two swans who were facing each other with their necks arched.

I got a closeup of their inspection session. I wonder what they were thinking? It's almost as if Buffy were saying, "YOU did this? That's pretty good! I want a closer look!"

Buffy waited patiently till Espie was ready step off the nest, and then she took her turn.

Half an hour later, she stood up and laid her egg, and then told the whole world about it. Here she is proclaiming her feat, LOUDLY.

The ruckus brought Qweety around, and Buffy skedaddled out from the nest, leaving Qweety to inspect the work thus far.

She decided to try to contribute to the effort and hunkered her fluffy underside carefully over the eggs.

Forty minutes later, a lovely blue egg!

The final result: three absolutely beautiful eggs from three very special girls! (oops, they are really more accurately called women, now!)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fit & Finish

This is my third post in as many days (I think!). Today I came home after work to two eggs--with slight variations. I am pretty much convinced that the bigger, rounder, lighter one came from Buffy, as I've seen her lay lots of eggs like this. Can you believe she's already laid 54 eggs? I still marvel at the miracle every day she lays one.

Notice the other egg--it is pointier than the other one, and smaller, and a bit darker and shinier. I am pretty sure this is Espie's egg, as eggs from beginning layers are usually smaller than chickens who have been laying for awhile.

At this rate I will have to have a brunch party to have help in eating the eggs!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

And on the Second Day and Also Second Month, Or So...

We find our Star of the Day!! This is my Blue Egg Layer, Qweety. She started out oh so well on August 6, laying the TWO blue eggs at once. Two days later she laid another nice egg. Then, nothing..........(crickets chirping)..............followed a whole month later by another two tiny, marble-sized eggs laid, one blue and one smaller white one, late at night,,,but they were the consistency of water balloons. Not good.

Yesterday, I noticed her sitting on Buffy's spot. She was there for quite awhile, a couple hours, but no egg. I have been home, let's see, the mornings of Thursday, Friday, Saturday, early Sunday morning, Monday morning (yesterday), and TODAY she finally lays the best egg she's ever laid. Nice hard shell and as big as Buffy's egg next to it! Or, at least I THINK it was Buffy's egg...could be Espie's, as Espie has been spending some time on the nest as well. (this is one hotly contested piece of coop property!) I was sorry I missed the big event, as I had to go downtown for work. I wonder how much jockeying for position there was to use the nest. They grow up so fast!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Decidedly More Than Ten Cents' Worth of Effort!

My black chicken, Espie (on the left), has finally taken a decided interest in spending time on the nest. Buffy, my egg-laying machine (on the right) is trying to deal with this. This was Espie's first real effort on the nest, and she picked the opposite corner from Buffy.

However, the last few days she is moved over to "Buffy's spot", and Buffy does NOT like this. The other day, Espie got up to the nest early (around 8:30 AM). Buffy usually goes up around 9:30 and begins her routine. Espie was carefully arranging the wood chips around her, picking up a few of them in her beak and throwing them on to the top of her back as chickens in a laying mood are wont to do. After a little while, she started making whirring noises, lasting about 5 seconds apiece, one after the other. It almost seemed like her little body was trying and trying to get an egg out, and she was practicing LaMaze breathing or something!

Most of the color had drained from her wattles and comb too. A chicken who is mature enough to lay eggs has a bright red comb, wattles, and face area. Espie's had turned a pale, muted, washed-out pink. I have a theory that the blood was going towards the effort to try to get that egg out.

While she was in such deep concentration, Buffy came along and started attacking Espie by biting her anywhere on the comb, wattles, and face that she could. It was time for Buffy to lay her egg, and there was OBVIOUSLY nowhere else to do so (HIC!). Espie did not fight back; she just turned her head or bowed it so that Buffy could not get at her as easily. Buffy gave up momentarily, and tried to hollow out a nest next to Espie, but for some reason that wasn't satisfactory to Buffy, so Buffy resumed her attack on Espie. After about 20 minutes of this, Espie finally gave up, got up, and Buffy laid her egg about 30 minutes later. Espie never did lay her egg, though I think she did lay one the day before, as that was the only day I got two eggs.

Now, how much is all of that worth to you? How much would you pay a chicken for her labor, anyway? The waiting (Buffy goes up to the nest up to 4 hours ahead of time), the competition for nest space, not to mention the physical effort it takes to lay an egg. I've seen Buffy lay a couple of her eggs, and she stands up to lay an egg, and really does have to push it out. I think that is worth more than the 10 cents or so eggs command at retail. Something to think about at your next breakfast!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shifting Landscapes

My mom and uncle lived in an urban environment, and every summer my grandparents would ship her and my uncle off to "the farm" of her uncle and his mother, about an hour away by today's travel times. The farm was sold out of the family in the 70's, but my mom always took me out there every summer when I was growing up, and as an adult too, and drove past it and told me stories about the draft horses, the fruit orchard, the time she was chased by a huge sow (and managed to scramble over the fence just in time), and how hard "Bobcia" (Polish for grandmother) worked on that farm. I guess my uncle stayed sometimes during at least part of the school year too, because he tells me of riding the blind draft horse to the school a couple miles down the road.

My mom and I would go to the surrounding orchards there and either pick or buy fruit like blueberries, peaches, apples, and tomatoes, and bring it home for a long session of canning, freezing, and connecting as mom and daughter. I learned a lot from her, and now that she has passed, summer is never complete without this tradition of visiting the farm and recalling the stories that my mother told, and picking or buying, canning and freezing produce.

The farm's new owner wasted no time in tearing the house down right after she bought the place. She rented out the land to be farmed. She let the other buildings go to pot, and let the vegetation grow around them. Vandals raided the buildings and left beverage cans and graffiti. This year I was elated to see that a path had been plowed so that you could more easily see and go to the buildings, so my fiance and I took advantage of the opportunity. He snapped most of these pics, because the weekend before when we visited, I came home with a little visitor that I did not find until two days later--a nasty tick! He also got himself full of burrs salvaging a few pieces of character-laden weathered wood from the granary (thank you, honey!). I may see if I get in touch with the owner (or her children, as she might be quite elderly by now) and see if they wouldn't mind if we took some more wood from the buildings. I know who she is, as she lives, or lived, on the farm next door.

My mom's brother, my uncle, made me a map of the different outbuildings recently, and for the life of me I cannot find that map right now. I have posted pictures. The large building with the tree that fell on top of it I believe is the granary. I don't know what the building is with the small door near the ground. The building with the overgrown vines growing up I think was the tack shed. It is a bit eerie for me to imagine my mom and uncle running all around this farm. I wish I had more pictures of what it was like back then.

I look forward to making new memories with my fiance on his farm!

What did I ever do before chickens?

It has occurred to me that my life is more delightful since the girlz arrived. Here is a picture that I call "I'll take all three!" The girlz don't seem to mind being all squashed like this when I pick them up.

My fiance, the handy guy that he is, constructed a "chicken tractor". This is a moveable enclosure you can wheel around on the lawn, in the garden, wherever you want to, and the girlz can peck at whatever they find where they are: bugs, grass, grit in the dirt--and fertilize at the same time! As you can see, my honey is pretty proud of his creation, and I am, too! We even enjoyed a dinner on the lawn with the girlz to celebrate.

Here was the menu:
  • Grilled chicken with paprika, onion, salt, and pepper (still on the grill yet in this picture)
  • Wild rice with lemon and butter
  • Salad with romaine and sweet volunteer grape/cherry tomatoes
  • Gazpacho (cold tomato soup made of tomatoes, sweet green peppers, cucumbers, red wine vinegar, garlic, and salt, and garnished with croutons)

Double Header!

Yesterday my star egg layer laid a HUGE EGG! I broke it open today and it is a double-yolker! Look how pretty it is!

Note the eggs in the carton. My star egg layer is young yet, and when they are young, their eggs start out small and get bigger. The ones on the right are the oldest, and progress on to the left, with the double-yolker on the left end. She has laid 15 eggs now and even not counting the double-yolker, they get bigger every day.

This is another example of things you don't see when you buy store-bought eggs...everything is very uniform and delightful surprises like this really don't come along. I made a lovely dish of scrambled eggs with muenster cheese and smoked Polish ham with this egg. ~Yummy~!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Delighting in the Wonder of Imperfection

My chicken Qweety's twin blue eggs got me to thinking. Pretty much anyone who grows things themselves appreciates the imperfections that come with the privilege of growing, I think. My mom taught me that early on, and we would marvel at the quirks that presented themselves, like the carrot I pulled up one day. Or so I THOUGHT it was just one carrot...it turned out to be TWO carrots twisted around themselves in a spiral. I wish I had kept a picture of it!
I have a theory that people who do not grow things (whether it is plants, children, or animals) have not yet discovered the full depth of life's meaning. I think that the serendipity of these events, such as the double egg here, from the Backyardchickens.com forum, lends a deeper understanding to the already intricately complex world God has created. I think this is God's way of reminding us that He is capable of anything, He is in charge, and He loves us and likes to surprise us with these little gifts.

Gifts can come in two, no three, types--practical and beautiful, or both. Take this pretty ear of corn from my garden this year--notice that there are TWO EARS within the same package! How wondrous is that! But what to do with the smaller ear? The sugars haven't fully developed, so it doesn't taste that great. I ended up giving it to the girlz (chickens). They are mini-garbage disposals and will eat just about anything, and give me beautiful compost and pretty eggs in return. Perhaps when my chickens come to the end of their laying days, they will serve another purpose as stew meat. MAYbe. I have fallen in love with my three girlz, but a chicken is still a chicken. And that is the cycle of life.
Talking about eggs, there are all kinds of other ways eggs present themselves.
  • Wrinkly Egg--shell is hard, but wrinkled.
  • Water Balloon Egg --these are shell-less eggs, with just the inner membrane holding things in. They feel just like water balloons when you pick them up.
  • Double-Yolker--two yolks in one egg! The egg is usually easily visibly larger than the others.
I feel sad for people who have not spent time learning how to grow, and thereby learn to be resourceful. I think it is far too easy to get caught up in the uniformity of a non-agrarian or childless life. I have a feeling that that type of life all too easily funnels one into a uniform, pre-fab way of thinking. Like when I go to Costco and see the produce sold in clear plastic compartmentalized clamshells, with the plastic formed perfectly to fit 12 mangoes or 24 apricots. Where do all of the double apricots and oversize mangoes go? I'm hope the grower/packer sends those to some type of food processing venue, and if they don't, shame on them. But if you would just shop at Costco, you would think that all produce is of uniform size, all chicken breasts handily fit into the same size plastic packages, and pineapples are always THAT sweet.

Those of you who grow things as I do, we know better!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thank you all!

I started this blog to write about things I find interesting, and hoping that others would enjoy reading about these things. I didn't know I'd have five followers though! Maybe that doesn't sound like a lot to you, but I'm new to blogging and it seems like a lot to me!

Thank you all for your interest, and let me know if there's anything about which you want me to write!

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Slice of Wildlife

It has occurred to me that my garden
is probably a haven for not one, but many types of, butterflies. I have planted plants specifically to attract them--the usual monarda, penstemon, trumpet vine (see Yellow Swallowtail to right), butterfly bush (a HUGE hit), and coneflower.

What I didn't know is that they are also attracted to roses, as is this Red Admiral on my Cinco de Mayo rose.

And the white-blooming Late Boneset plant, well, I did not plant that and I know not from where it came, but check out the Skipper visiting it.

All manner of bees and wasps and other little flying stinger-enabled creatures also love Late Boneset.

Right now there is a Black Spicebush Swallowtail taking serious inventory of my purple butterfly bush. Later on, the warmed bricks of my house will serve as resting places for Question Marks. If I am really fortunate, I might see an American Painted Lady or even a Mourning Cloak, but that doesn't happen too often. I have a better chance of seeing a Monarch, Viceroy, or Cabbage Butterfly.

It is a real treat to see such a variety of butterflies in my garden!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Like a Child with her Finger Stuck in the Door!

As some of you know, I have 3 indoor chickens. I got them on March 24, so now they are 20 weeks old. My Australorp is a sleek iridescent black number who is lead bird, as she has the most nerve and curiousity to investigate all new sounds and scenes first. My Buff Orpington (a.k.a. Fluffernutter) is soft, docile, pretty, easygoing, and cuddly. My Easter Egger is, well, let's just say, entertaining. She is not the sharpest tack in the box, but she makes me laugh.

For the last 3 mornings she has been yelling like a child who got her finger stuck in the door. She has been downright OBNOXIOUS! It has seemed that she was so distressed, yet I could not see the reason why she would be screeching with such unrelenting abandon. I started to look on the internet today for clues as to WHY.

All of a sudden things got reeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllyyyyyyyyyyyyy quiet. I went over to the coop and here she was, hunkered down in a depression she made in the bedding, under a ladder against one side of the coop. Her eyes looked glazed over, as if she were in a deep trance. I decided that she was concentrating on SOMEthing (I suspected getting an egg out), so I left her alone. I went back in 15 minutes, and she was throwing bedding onto her back. 15 minutes later she got up and LO and BEhold, there were not ONE, but TWO BLUE EGGS! I was elated! OK, still am! I knew she would lay colored eggs, but to get TWO on the first try...well, how rare is that?

In a few minutes, she shook herself off, then hopped over to the forage/spa area and joined the others in some QUIET exploration and digging and had a long luxurious dust bath. She is the star of the day!
I suppose if I were she, I too would be pretty
vocal if I had 2 of these things in me! I wonder if she was scared, or just complaining that she was READY to have these eggs already!
Kind of like a pregnant woman who is overdue.
Well at any rate, my little baby grew up today and became a woman. I'm ever so proud!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How to Walk

In the hustle of a major city, in pouring rain and hefty wind, 6 blocks from the train station to your job which you hope you can keep when you move, God knows when, to be with your soon-to-be-husband! :

  • Extra-big-jumbo ziplocs for your computer, your paperwork, your cell phone(s), and any other precious cargo in your bag.

  • Umbrella. Don't buy an expensive one: the metal handle will get bent and twisted and make it difficult to put back into that compact little handle. The braces might get bent and/or break, too

  • Grip. Your. Umbrella. Tight. Ly. As in, White Knuckle. Winds like that are apt to snatch the umbrella out of your hand before you even feel the wind!

  • Umbrella ettiquette: If you are walking and someone comes walking the other way and space is tight, the one with the most testosterone and/OR the bigger umbrella lifts their umbrella up so you don't have to. Yes, there IS courtesy in big cities!

  • Raincoat, microfiber, preferably with hood in case you suddenly discover that your broken and sad umbrella is taking a swift trip down the block. Your clothes will thank you.

  • Footwear: Athletic sandals that will take a splash in ankle-deep curbside impromptu lakes, OR...some really cute Rain Boots! Here we have Rain Boot Paradise. This was taken at the Farm & Fleet in Appleton, WI. I was in HEAVEN. I LOVE cute rain boots!

Monday, August 2, 2010

What can YOU get for $2?

This entire pile of produce in this picture cost me $2.

Having the chickens, I've been brainstorming about ways to feed them fresh fruits and veggies on the cheap. I know that grocery stores throw out old produce, but I was curious to see what constitutes a "reject". Grocery stores live and die by the quality of their produce and their meat...it will drive a customer to, or away from, a store. So I had a hunch that the produce they threw out wouldn't be that bad.

I called up the produce manager of a local store and told him I was trying to help feed chickens economically, and he agreed to call me when he had a boxful of rejects. This Saturday he gave me a call, and I retrieved a whole banana box of scratch-and-dent produce for the low low price of TWO DOLLARS! Here is what I got:

6 heads of organic broccoli

about 14 apples

1 beautiful pear with one tiny blemish

5 bags of precut stirfry (YUMMY!)

1 bag of celery (for the birds--not a fan of celery!)

I made an amazing stir-fry with those cut veggies--they are wonderful. They had only gone out of code the day before and still looked really good.

OK so I am sharing the birds' food but this produce is in just-about-perfect condition. WHERE was this going to end up? THE GARBAGE. What a shame, but what a good thing that I got it!

Stewardship...fiscal responsbility...conserving resources...food for thought................................

Fostering Dependency: Can you go without garbage service?

I have been thinking a lot lately about different lifestyles: farm vs. suburbs vs. city. Cities seem to be getting bigger, suburbs appear to be holding their own and/or expanding, and really small towns and farms to me appear to be waning. I think it's a loss and a shame, as in many ways I think it's easier to be self-sufficient and help yourself in many ways during hard times in a smaller community:
1. Real estate is more affordable.
2. It's easier to help the land help you make a living by growing your own food, whether it's fruits/veggies or meat (chicken/fish/beef).
3. You are not so bombarded by "BUY BUY BUY" messages at the mall, or billboards on the road. There was a case of a third-world group of people, I think it was a type of tribe, who had been living by themselves in the rainforest for all the time they existed. An experiment was conducted where they were shown catalogs containing pretty clothes, cosmetics, and other things. They had been living a "simpler" life with strictly homemade clothes and body decorations. Once they were shown the clothes and cosmetics, they became discontent with their situation. They began to want jobs to pay for all of these new things they never knew they wanted. And so the cycle began.

I'm not saying we have to live like these people originally did. But when I look out as I do tonight, at all of the heaps of stuff by the curb on garbage night, I can't help but wonder if we've gone too far off the other side. My own mother loved her things and would collect all kinds of beautiful items. Then she'd get frustrated at how complicated it was to take care of, and lament, "Just give me ONE bowl and ONE pot and ONE spoon!"

My neighbor called me this week and told me that she and her husband were cleaning out their basement and had a lot of stuff they wanted to put out by the curb, and could they put some stuff at the end of my driveway since they had so much? Well, I don't even have my own garbage service anymore! so I had to tell her no. I share garbage service with a neighborhood friend. About a year ago I was sitting around and looking at how little garbage I as one person generate. I remarked about this to my friend, and then we compared how much we pay for garbage. We found out that I had the more expensive service.

Then a light bulb went off in my head! I proposed the idea to her of SHARING garbage service. She thought it was intriguing and we decided to try it for a quarter. I brought my garbage over to her house and put it in her can, and paid her half. That was a year ago. So far so good!

Anyway, back to the neighbor. I see the heap piling up tonight and I see lots and lots of plastic hangers that are perfectly good. Who knows what other good things are in there? Why does she not truck on over only a mile and donate this to the thrift store? Granted, we do have a lot of curbside boutique surfers...but still, how hard is it to make a trip the thrift store and get the tax deduction? That's what I do, with my own castoffs and other people's as well (I am a curbside boutique shopper!). Not only does it help keep perfectly good things in circulation, it also feeds my desire to acquire stuff down to a manageable level. There's something very satisfying for me to find something good, and give it to the thrift store. It keeps it out of my house!

There are ways of saving money that some would regard as smacking of poverty. But really, isn't some of it just being responsible with our resources? During the Depression, my grandma's sister had a job at a hatchery. She would give my grandma the "reject" chicks (missing toe, blind in one eye, etc.) and my grandma raised them to adults. She would butcher some, and can the meat. With others she would keep them for their eggs. She would shoot rabbits in the yard and can those too. So, she and my grandfather would always have meat and eggs at a time when so much in other people's lives went lacking. I have bought incredibly cheap chicken at the store and canned it myself, thanks to inspiration from my grandma. Those mini-jelly jars of chicken have come in handy more than once at the office!

I wonder how much garbage there would be if people were held accountable for what was really garbage in what they put by the curb. Between donating to the thrift store, donating to places like pregnancy centers and women's shelters, and making a compost heap, there are plenty of ways to keep the good flowing. That is just a start. What ways can you think of to "wear it or wear it out"? Be a good steward today!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Garden is A-Buzzin'!

Garden activities are in full swing around here. Just planted last year, my mini-dwarf apple tree already has 3 lovely, perfect apples on it.

The tomatoes and beans are coming in really well right now. I like the big, flat Italian (or, eye-talian, as my fiance says) beans best.

My purple butterfly bush has all kinds of visitors--admiral, monarch, black swallowtail, yellow swallowtail, and mourning cloak butterflies. It is next to the other flowers in my butterfly and hummingbird garden--trumpet vine, monarda, penstemon, and coneflower. Hummingbirds come and go all day, and they even fly right up to my window to check me out. This garden is right outside my home office window and what a joy it is to see all of these animals flit in and out all day!

Raspberries, blueberries, and corn are already done. Hopefully some sweet peppers will get big. I planted 6 plants so hopefully I will get something! Last year they did not do so well for some reason.

Concord grapes should be in about late August/September or so, assuming they got over their fungus problem. I really should keep a better eye on that.

My chickens are having lots of fun, when I let them out, to roam around the yard and garden, eating weeds, dirt, bugs, and who knows what else. Here is my Fluffernutter enjoying some dappled sun/shade in the garden. Her little downy behind is so cute! I will be glad to get married and move because then I can keep my chickens normally, without worrying about the troublesome neighbors I have now! (They are inside because the neighbors are being difficult)

I love summer and I do not want to see it end!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Am I eccentric? Or just incredibly blessed?

Yesterday I introduced myself to one of the bigwigs in my company who happened top stop by my assistant's cube (she sits right next to me). She's the assistant for, let's see, it's got to be 20+ people and I have no idea how she keeps up with all of them. But, she knows everyone and they all stop by eventually to say hello to her, so it's great for me to get to know these higher-ups.

At any rate, one of these management folks came by, and I'd always wanted to meet him, as he's in charge of Innovation for the whole company, and I get along well with those types, since I'm pretty creative. (It helps to keep one's options open, and know people, in the event I want to move to another job in the company someday.)

So as I'm introducing myself to him, my assistant urges me to tell him about my "pets". I tell her no, I can't tell him about THAT. She says, Oh go on, he's an animal guy, so I take a deep breath, and tell him about my 3 chickens. A broad smile spread across his face, and he told me about his 4 dogs and 9 (NINE!) parrots and something of something else (I stopped paying attention when he said parrots, as I love parrots and miss the ones I had to give up (due to taking care of my mom and her affairs). At any rate, he thought it was the greatest thing and then complimented me on my necklace (that day I was wearing a silver tree).

So, when a new position opens up, and it comes time for him to look for that someone who can think outside of the box, hopefully he will think of that woman who had the nerve to introduce herself to someone so high up and who has chickens and unusual jewelry. It's nice to know that there are like-minded people in this company and they aren't all into sports teams and drinking.

After he left, my assistant said that he's about as eccentric as they get in this company. Am I eccentric? What makes a person eccentric vs. normal? Eccentric vs. creative? When is eccentric bad? Is it ever good? Or am I just incredibly blessed by God to look at things at a different angle, an angle that delights people and takes their minds down a path they hadn't known of before?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Livestock Wish List

A girl can dream! I've been dreaming of any additional livestock we'd get once we get married. My fiance already has meat cows and a few chickens. Here are the animals high on my list:

--More chickens! Exotic ones like Polish crested and Sultans. Some Rhode Island Reds and Welsummers. Regular ones for meat.


--A couple sheep. Just a couple.

--If we had a pond, some ducks.

Here are the animals I probably won't get, but can still dream of:

--A good riding horse. Just about every girl dreams of having a horse.

--A couple goats, for milking and for helping keep the weeds down. I hear goat milk taste simliar to cow's milk.

And, finally...our next dog:

--A good herding dog. Preferably border collie mixed with something like lab.

That's it. I love animals!

Rained Out!

I was going to cut the grass, but it started raining, so I thought I'd make another entry here.

I found that ready ear, and it was wonderful! 22 rows of tiny kernels, and 9" long. Tasty! Nothing like fresh corn from your own garden. My fiance says that you don't really need the 4 rows like it says on the seed pack. You just have to have the rows close enough that the pollen from one plant's ear will fall on the pollen of anohter plant's ear. (he should know, as he's a real live farmer!) That's good news, as I had only two rows of 6 plants each.

I "fooled around" (read: had fun!) yesterday going to a Chicken Coop Tour. Usually I have 1 fun day on my weekends, and 1 work day. A couple lives in a normal suburban house. They had chickens (all hens) for 2 years, living under a swing set. Some neighbors either didn't know about the chickens, and others were fine with them. At any rate, things were going along swimmingly for 2 years, no problem. They recently decided to build a proper chicken coop, with inside digs and a nice big covered area outside, all properly fenced in and with double closures to keep raccoons out, insulated for winter complete with a red heat lamp for when it's really cold out. It really is a brilliant design, the Cadillac of coops by their own description (a description with which I heartily agree). Now they get a notice from the city that they have to get rid of the chickens by the 23rd of the month. They have decided to fight this legally. If they need me to support their cause in court, I am pretty sure I'll be there. It irks me that there are so many problems with drugs, murder, driving while drunk, you know, things that will really KILL people and SOMEHOW there is also time for law enforcement to conclude that chickens are BAD.

We had long discussions on this yesterday at the coop tour. We came to the conclusion that people think chickens are bad for 3 main reasons: 1) they are afraid of bird flu, 2) they think that chickens are stinky and noisy, and 3) having chickens gives the appearance of poverty. This third one really stuck in our craws. We believe that having chickens, and other things like knowing how to cook, having and using a clothesline, and such, all are self-sufficiency measures people can take that will give them a feeling of empowerment. We agree that many of the problems people have these days is that they are dependent on others for too much, and that leads to feelings of disillusionment with "the system", powerlessness, and depression. It's like the feeling of living in your parents' basement at age 34.

Well, the rain has stopped, though I still hear thunder. Think I will check out the scene outside and see if I can cut that grass!

Friday, July 16, 2010

OK this is my first blog ever. I didn't mean to start a blog, but someone I know just started one and here I am! I live in the Chicago suburbs, and I'm a 44-year-old single woman who has never been married but is recently engaged to a wonderful man! I have one of those corporate jobs...but...

I am definitely not your usual corporate type. I love to "play-work", as I call it, harder than I work at work. I live in a single-family house, and the lot is 1/4 acre. I am constantly doing something around the house and yard here to keep things looking nice and in order. I have tried to sit around and that never lasts too long before I see something that needs doing so I get up and do it.

On my little piece of land I have a lot of food growing that is expensive to buy in the store:
2 apricot trees
3 apple trees
1 mini-nectarine
1 cherry tree that has 5 types of cherry varieties grafted onto it (sour Montmorency, 2 sweet yellow and 2 sweet red)
2 blueberry bushes
A raspberry patch
A strawberry patch
Starter shoots of 2 gooseberry bushes
A concord grape vine
A vegetable garden. This year I am growing corn, sweet green peppers, sugar snap peas, beans, cucumbers, Thai basil, regular basil, parsley, cilantro, and tomatoes.

I also have extensive perennial gardens including trumpet vine, penstemon, monarda, 15 different kinds/forms of roses (climbers, tea, miniature, etc.), black-eyed Susans, tiger lilies, lamium, lily of the valley, hostas, bleeding heart (both pink and white varieties), corkscrew rush, deep red hardy hibiscus (which will have at least 150 blooms on it this year), Siberian iris, obedient plant, sneezeweed....well, I could go on and on.

WHEW! Are you tired yet? I know *I* am! It takes a lot to keep all of this going and did I mention that I also cut my own grass and have a dog, 4 birds, and 3 amphibians/reptiles? Guess I stay out of trouble that way. I am actually looking forward to winter. I think God gave us winter to give us a break. At least, those of us who live in the Snow Belt! This year I am thanking God for winter for that very reason.

Well, all for now. I have been trying to be good and not pick my corn till it's ready. I can just taste how good it will be! I'm going to go outside and see if I can find a ready ear...