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

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Knitting blackberry, AKA Trinity, stitch.

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:
 
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. (EDIT: It was cute!)

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

Targeted, Promoted Tweets for Marketing in Higher Ed

Below, I live-tweeted and storified the UPCEA 2015 JMH consulting presentation on #Tweetsmarter, Twitter marketing for higher education. Is Twitter marketing effective for marketers? Is it a good platform for higher education marketing in particular? Is Twitter a good way to connect with prospective students?

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Biking and Feminism: “I belong on the road.”

I’ve been very fortunate that I haven’t had some of the aggressive interactions with drivers and pedestrians that others have had — mine have been limited to cat calling and the traffic incident that inspired my petulant “red dress” campaign

A guy I know wears an American flag jersey on his distance rides, and has anecdotally reported a sharp decrease in aggressive road incidents with angry drivers. Also, I once read that one of your best safety measures on the road is to ride without a helmet, with a mess of long blonde hair trailing behind you. If that isn’t loaded symbolism, I don’t know what is.

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One London lady’s commute to work got weird this week when a man got incensed at her request for him not to walk in front of her while she crossed the street — which seems wise — and he chose to chase after her and push her off of her bike into traffic. Lucky for her, it was caught on her GoPro. She submitted the video to police, and the man turned himself in after the video went viral. A friend sent along this essay about biking and feminism, written in response to this London woman’s story and the number of people cheering her attacker on social media:

The first time I cycled from my front door to the sea (a ride of about 65 miles thanks to a particularly poor map) I stood on the beach, looked out at a bending blue horizon and realised that I had reached the very edge of the country using nothing more than my thighs, sweat and gears. I felt like Tessie Reynolds, the 16-year-old girl who shocked 19th-century England by cycling from London to Brighton and back in eight hours, wearing knee-length breeches. I felt like Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst cycling around Manchester and London agitating their female comrades. I remembered the words of the American suffrage campaigner Susan B Anthony: “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling: I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.”

 

From suffragettes to midwives, Olympians to resistance fighters, commuters to campaigners, the history of the bicycle runs like a dual carriageway alongside the history of feminism. Cycling put us in trousers, let us pass messages behind the frontline, stood us on podiums, helped us mobilise in the streets, took us out of our conscribed domestic sphere and taught us the thrill of having the wind in our eyes. Despite the warnings from AD Shadwell published in 1897, our wombs did not fall out, we did not suffer dementia and we avoided the “bulging eyes” and “tightened mandible” that characterised the dreaded (and entirely fictional) “bike face”.

 

And we are good cyclists. Many of those victim-blaming on Twitter were keen to point out that cyclists jump red lights, cycle on pavements or hog the road. To which I say yes, sometimes, we do. The mayor of London does, the prime minister does and probably I have too. Primarily because I don’t want to be accidentally crushed by an HGV – one of the few road casualties that disproportionately affects women, too timid to overtake on the right or pull ahead, out of a driver’s blind spot. But the urge to push a woman off her bike while calling her a mug and shouting in her face has very little, if anything, to do with road hogs and red lights.

I’m still not certain why cycling is reserved an extra-special level of hatred that other modes of transportation are not. I think many people see cyclists as a sub-culture, and perceive people with gear (even so little as a helmet) to be road warriors, and believe road warriors don’t respect the rules of the road, so why, it follows, respect a person on a bike?

My Favorite Cure for Writers’ Block

I read this article yesterday while I was fretting about an upcoming project, so I pulled up my WordPress set-up and started typing like I was writing a blog post instead of a major presentation. Lo, the words came easily.

Something about writing in a Word document lends itself to formality, where I can compose a logical and clever argument about things far more easily as a blog post or a series of tweets, which is more casual and has a well-defined audience. Starting the writing process by speaking to that audience plays to my strengths.