The Chickening

I wish I had before and after pictures of my yard. I moved into this house about eleven years ago, and at the time, most of the yard was dedicated to a massive garden. It was too big for me, so we eventually sodded it over and put in grass. There was a pond at one time too, the neighborhood watering hole for a family of cardinals and a place for moles and voles to drown while trying to get a drink. That was torn out too. Today this area is home to a greenhouse and chicken coop (still under construction).

Greens to the left, chickens to the right.

FREE LABOR.


Chickens love compost. Give them some yard and kitchen waste and they turn it into beautiful compost. Above, the ladies are working over a pile of straw and scraps. Our ladies are brown egg layers and exotics, a mix of Wyandottes and others, a Cochin, an Easter Egger, and a Fayoudi. 

Obviously to use this beautiful compost, I needed to turn an old flower bed into a vegetable garden. 

Baby squash.


We are growing squash, tomatoes, cukes, zukes, eggplant, peppers, cantaloupe, and pumpkin this year. We planted a patch of asparagus and another for strawberries as well. Some of this will feed the family, and some of this will make it back to the chickens. 

Eventually the ladies will lay eggs, and after we eat the eggs, the ladies will eat their eggshells. 

Lady in front is called Adventure Chicken. She is an Egyptian Fayoudi.


They use the nutrients in the eggshells to keep making strong, hard eggshells. 

Further compounding the system we have going here is the greenhouse, where we can extend the growing season a couple of months on either end. I plan to grow greens, arugula, lettuces, and more, and the greenhouse should help keep the chickens warm in the cold season. 

The veggies feed us, the scraps feed the chickens and/or are turned into compost which feeds the garden where we plant the veggies that feed us, and so forth. 

I never thought I’d get this excited about compost, but hey. 

Biking With Google Maps

A couple of summers ago, my beau and I biked through Chicago from Logan Square to the Chicago Botanical Garden and back. It was a magical day: perfect weather, great company, and a lot of adventure. 

We didn’t have any maps to guide us other than Google Maps and a vague idea of where the bike trails go. It turned out Google Maps was an excellent guide for taking us through the city. Once we figured out how to find the trail heads, we were golden. 

The best part, at the end of a very long day, was coming back through Northwestern University’s gorgeous campus on the coast of Lake Michigan. We were a little lost, trying to find the trail head, when I looked up and saw the pristine Baha’i temple ahead, an imaginably ornate white dome bathed in pink against the bluest sky. 

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We pedaled in wonder, with the city and waterfront bathed in pink,  until the sun set. We were exhausted, euphoric, and grateful to be witness to such a golden moment.

But back to Google Maps. 

 

This trip was great fun, but in hindsight it felt reckless not to bring any other kinds of navigational equipment. We had our cell phones and our wits, and that’s all. 

Doubling down on our recklessness, we repeated this plan — nothing navigational but our phones — on a trip in Elkhart County, Indiana, that Fall, doing a sixty mile loop including the Pumpkinvine Trail, a rural rail-to-trail line through Amish country. On both trips, the Google Maps app gave us clear directions which included the best route for cyclists, using designated bike trails when possible.

Tip: get an inexpensive stem mount to hold your phone for easy use while in the saddle. Your friends will make fun of it until you lead them home.

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Purple Hat in Blackberry Stitch

  

I saw this hat on Pinterest and decided to try to make it without buying a pattern. I casted on 96 stitches (worsted weight yarn and size 8 needles), then 1×1 rib for about six inches, then blackberry stitch for about seven inches, then decreased and topped it with a Pom Pom. It’s super cute, but I did the decrease in stockinette which I don’t love. I’ll try it again and figure out a more attractive decrease. 

It helps to have an adorable model. 

Blackberry Stitch, aka Trinity Stitch, in the Round

I couldn’t find a straightforward explanation for knitting blackberry stitch — also known as the trinity stitch — in the round as when you knit a hat, so here goes. 
TrinityStitch 
The stitch is knit in multiples of four stitches. Knit in multiples of four rows until your desired length is reached. 

Row 1: Purl all stitches.

Row 2: *k3tog, (p1, k1, p1) into the next stitch; rep from * to end.

Row 3: Purl all stitches.

Row 4: *(p1, k1, p1) into the next stitch, k3tog; rep from * to end.

I’m currently knitting a hat from the bottom up. CO 96, (k1,p1) for 30 rows, then blackberry stitch until I decrease. I’ll let you know how it goes.

One tip is to keep the 1st and 3rd rows — the purl rows — looser than you normally knit, because knitting three stitches together will give you hand cramps. This is a remarkably satisfying knit, however, because the little bobs of yarn give you so much texture.

What is a succotash?

Yesterday I served a succotash at dinner, and even called it a succotash, but when my sister asked what a succotash actually was, I couldn’t define it. “Something with corn and beans, I guess,” I said, shrugging.

I was basically right. It’s a corn and legumes dish, frequently using corn kernels and shell beans like limas or, if you’re fancy, edamame. We make it at home all the time with edamame and tomatoes, onions and herbs at my house. It’s nutritionally sound, tasty, and easy.