Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Episode 1 is Alive!

It's short, sweet and shows off my knitting.  It's episode one of the Chicken Lady's Yarn!  You can watch it by clicking on the Vimeo link on the main page of the blog.  Be sure and let me know what you think!

Monday, September 24, 2012

We Interrupt This Silence

Hi my minions!  Have you missed me?

Sorry for the bit of silence.  Last week became entangled in work agenda and then I went away for the weekend.  Oh yes, a weekend away with my best girlfriend ev-ah!  It was glorious.

Where did we go?

See the red thumb??
Door County!  It's the Thumb of Wisconsin, a peninsula heading out into the waters of Lake Michigan.  This doesn't make it sound very attractive, but it is lovely.  Rolling farms, beaches, water as far as the eye can see, the changing colors of fall....ahhhh.

There is the Party Side of the peninsula (where you can shop until you drop, among other things), and then there is the Quiet Side, which is my preferred side to sleep on.  There is no sleep on the other side, apparently.

This is where we stayed:  Orphan Annie's Schoolhouse Inn  It is lovely, the old school in Bailey's Harbor, WI.  The suite we stayed in was once the library, and it was bigger than the downstairs of my house.  Wowza!

Our dining options were adventurous:  We went to the world's saddest steakhouse.  This establishment should have been labelled as a "supper club", and it looked like it peaked in the late 1960s.  It has an undulating bar, that appeared to want to be a craps table or where feather dancers would be performing.  Frank Sinatra was crooning, endlessly.  I felt like I was in a caricature of a dried up alcoholic lounge act.  But hey, the salad was pretty good and the bartender made an awesome Brandy Old Fashioned.  It made up for the seediness.  (Or at least, I didn't care as much after the alcohol kicked in.)

We did a bit of shopping on Saturday, and visited the best place on the island:

No, it didn't snow.  I borrowed this photo from www.eggharbor.org

That's right, we found the only thrift store in the area.  Yahoo!  I came out with four handmade Swedish Weave stitched placemats, in pinks and purples.  They were only 99 cents a-piece, and I got to leave a bag of donations I happened to have in the back of the truck.

Lucille Laverne once again demonstrated her necessary role in my life, as having a honkin' huge truck allowed us to swerve to the side of the road and snatch up some made-to-look-old-but-its-brand-new furniture left on the curb in a hoity-toity neighborhood in Sturgeon Bay.  Apparently, it was purchased solely for the purpose of "decoration" at a family wedding, and when the wedding was over, nobody wanted to keep it.  So between Amy and myself, we loaded up two large dressers, a vanity table, and an overstuffed, oversized wing back upholstered chair.  We left off a couple of bottles of my homebrew ale for the homeowner, who seemed startled but appreciative.

I may be the only person to return home from a vacation trip with free furniture.  My uniqueness knows no bounds, apparently.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sneek Peek

To see a hint of the mayhem to come, see a trailer for the podcast HERE!

It's gonna be epic.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Today is a perfect late summer kind of day.  It's about 80 degrees, sunny with a light little breeze playing amongst the drying cornstalks and causing the early fall colors to drift down onto the grass.  The chickens are happy, scratching and dust bathing and laying eggs.  I'm taking a break from homework, to the sound of Phoebe the Coonhound whuckling and wheezing in her sleep, while Max chases rabbits in his doggy dreams.

Oh, Sunday.  How I love thee.

In an earlier break from textbooks and discussion questions, I went out into the garden to address the jungle of the hoop house.  Lots of greenery greeted me, with some ripe peppers and tomatoes hidden in their depths.  Once again, I couldn't even walk into the door.  Instead, I reached in, grabbed me some vine, and started yanking it all out.  Thirty minutes later, I had a pile of former plants, a collander full of tomatoes in various states of ripeness, some peppers and a bucket of tomatillos ranging in size from quarters to fat monsters.  There was far more plant than fruit, sadly.  Next year, I am planning to do a little research on varieties that do best in greenhouses, because if I'm going to sacrifice the space in my garden to one kind of plant, dang it all but it needs to produce like crazy.  Keep your fingers crossed that there's a delicious heirloom variety out there that will fit the bill!

In any case, it wasn't a bad haul at all, all things considered.  I have a pot of tomatillos simmering away in a combination of vinegar and water.  I plan to freeze it in small cans or freezer bags, to reconstitute later as a savory sauce when combined with sauteed garlic, chili peppers, and onion.  Oh boy, that will be good come winter...almost makes me long for January. 

Well, not quite.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with my tomatoes and hot peppers, but tonight's dinner menu involves stuffed poblano peppers with a goat cheese-walnut sauce.  It's a version of chiles en nogada, which combines meat (I'm using some slow roasted rabbit), walnuts, raisins, onion and spices stuffed into a roasted poblano pepper and sauced over with a goat cheese-sour cream-walnut-and-white-wine concoction that is simply devine.  You can find a similar recipe here but it is one of those recipes you can mess around with and come up with something great, made out of whatever is in your cupboard or straight out of the garden.

I'm back to the books.  Hope your afternoon is a peaceful respite before the work week starts up again!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Feeling Extravagant

Today was such a nice day!  It was my fourth trip to the annual Knitting Extravaganza in Frederic, WI; a gathering of knitters, crocheters, and fiber aficionados of all descriptions, to discuss all things yarn & fiber.  My friend Suzanne set up a display of her wonderful pottery yarn bowls, custom buttons and assorted yarns from her shop.  I got to tag along to play salesgirl for the day, which is always fun.  I'm rather good at helping people to buy pretty things to support their knitting habit.

I mean, who wouldn't want to walk home with some of this?

 And the buttons...oh, the buttons.

A few of my stitch markers sold, which was gratifying.  Lots of lookie-lous and compliments, so perhaps more shall sell once they hit etsy.

During the day, there were talks and demonstrations--some repeats from last year, but some really interesting new ones.  I think I may need to pick up tatting....like I need another hobby!  It is tempting, though. And of course,a yummy catered lunch spent socializing with my lovely friend Raine, who just gets more interesting each time we visit.  If you think I manage to do a whole lotta stuff, you should check out her blog at Tails from the Farm and then you'll be impressed. One new thing this year was the fashion show, with crafters demonstrating their handiwork.  

Oh yeah.  I rocked my poncho.  Cover girl material, absolutely.

I found some lovely deals on yarn, and came home with some DROPS Merino, enough for two hats, a skein of handspun in lovely rich colors (which will be reincarnated as a gift for someone, eventually), and a skein of Malabrigo Rasta in a luscious blue colorway called Azules.  I came home and promptly whipped off this scrumptious Misty Swirl cowl:

Ahhh.  What a great Saturday, filled with knitting, knitting and more knitting.  I can hardly wait to see what Sunday brings.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Good Ale.

Tonight was First Night, for the official tasting of my first batch of homebrew.

It was fantastic!

Definitely a bit stronger than the usual ale, after the first glass I had a nice bit of a buzz going.  The flavor was good, rich and full and just a hint of bitterness at the very end of a long swallow.  I love a good brown ale, and this certainly qualified as a GOOD ale.

It called for pub food, so I made a batch of Mexican Potato Nachos.  If you're looking for a good nosh to go with a good beer, you should definitely try these.

Mexican Potato Nachos

You'll need a half dozen or so medium potatoes, scrubbed and slice thinly like round chips (I used yukon gold potatoes); olive oil, salt, pepper, one pound of ground beef (or whatever meat or meat substitute you want to use), one can of black beans, drained and rinsed; a packet of taco seasoning, a cup of water, shredded cheese, salsa and assorted toppings such as diced tomatoes, onions, olives, sour cream, etc.

Toss the sliced potatoes with a slosh of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread in a roughly single layer on a large cookie sheet and bake in a 425 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until brown and crispy.  Meanwhile, brown ground beef in a large skillet and add beans.  Stir in taco seasoning and water, simmer until thickened.  Take potatoes out of oven, cover with meat mixture.  Sprinkle with shredded cheese and return to oven for a minute or two until cheese melts, all gooey-delicious-bubbliness.  Serve hot, with garnishes as desired piled on top.

As I mentioned earlier, this goes really well with a nice, cold beer.  I recommend sharing both the beer and the pile o' nachos with good friends, which is a wonderful way to spend the evening, any way you look at it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Filming in Progress

Just a little note of levity to lighten up your day.

I decided to do a little filming while driving on my morning commute to the office today.  Envision, if you will, a large white truck with much pink decorating the interior, cruising down a country road, window rolled down to allow the frigid morning air and the occasional moth to pour in.  As you, in your oncoming vehicle, come up on this truck moving toward you, you notice: 

Is that an arm sticking out of the window??

You drive closer, and wonder:

Wait.  Is that a camera she's sticking out the window, too?!?

As you pass this insane person filming the passing cornfields and early autumnal shrubbery, you gawp in at the madly grinning, wild hair waving mad woman, and think:

Good lord.  What a nutter.

Ahh, yes.  I like to keep up my reputation as the local lunatic.  It keeps the neighbors entertained.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On the Theme of Chicken

I surfed iTunes this evening for a bit, searching out new podcasts to listen to while tooling around on my daily work drives.  As I am working on starting up a podcast, I thought I'd check out some music to pop into the bits and pieces.  Nobody wants to hear/see just me, trust me on that.  Besides, I think of music as my "theme song" of life: there's always a tune out there that could be applied to the soundtrack of the very boring movie of my life.  It would be worse than Waterworld.  I shudder to think of the reviews...anyway, songs to liven up a podcast would be just the thing.

So, what songs was I looking for, you ask?

Oh, anything about chickens.


There is a shocking number of songs about chickens out there.  Not just Old MacDonald, there's a whole raft of blues tunes about chickens.  For example, there's this:

And this:

I really love this one:

Boogie woogie, all you swinging chicks out there.  Shazzam!

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Price of Fame

Weirdness abounds today.

Much more than the average Monday, I tell you.

It all started off with a call I made to a fellow school-based professional whom I've never met.  In the course of our conversation, he asked me to spell my last name.  When I did, he exclaimed, "Oh!  You're the Chicken Lady!"  Turns out, his kids beg to come over and feed the chickens when they are on walks through the neighborhood, and they just love visiting The Chicken Lady's House.  He even said it in this momentous tone of awe.

Leave it at that, and you think: Huh, small world.

Later, I was ordering a sandwich for lunch at a sub shop in a town located over an hour away from here, and got to talking to the girl cramming vegetables on the bread, about chickens (of course).  She just got a couple hens and is in love with them, and I of course had to go on and talk about my flock, and mentioned all the pink everywhere.  She stopped dead, looked at me, and screeched: "Holey crap!  You're The Chicken Lady!!!" 

She reads my blog.  She's a lurker, and we just randomly met over a sandwich in the middle of freakin' nowhere.

If you think that was coincidence, let me tell you about Incident #3.

My across-the-street-catty-corner neighbor came over with her two little boys, who love to visit the chickens and to get some more eggs (thank god).  She told me how her oldest boy, now in Kindergarten, had wanted to take one of the turquoise eggs laid by Pearl to school for Show and Tell last week.  Apparently, when he started telling his little friends about living next door to the Chicken Lady, they all chimed in about how they, too, know all about the Chicken Lady and her pink house and her chickens and Halloween candy and her gardens and her barking but nice dogs.  The teacher wound up having to flip the lights on and off to get them back under control, they were so excited to talk about their visit to the Chicken Lady's house, they wouldn't shut up and share time went dangerously long and they nearly missed snack break. (You never miss snack break in Kindergarten.  Lord knows what would happen.)  Luckily, the teacher was very amused by the imminent chicken-related mayhem and shared it with my neighbor for a good "ha ha, what cute things your kid said today" moment.

After his mom told me this story, I looked at her son and said, "Really?  You talked about me at Show and Tell?!?"

He looked at me very solemnly, and pronounced with all seriousness:

"Yep.  You're famous, Chicken Lady."

Out of the mouth of babes.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

When You Can't Find it at the Store

I have been on a mission to find nifty-lou knitting accessories for holiday gifts for some knitting friends.  This is a challenge to begin with, because most folks who knit acquire all sorts of related paraphernalia on their own.  For those of us who want to buy little presents, this is soooooo irritating as generally, those people already have all the gear.  And yet, we love them, so we persevere in our search for the perfect unique accessory.  My current mission has been to find fanciful stitch markers.  Now, for those non-knitters who read my little blog, stitch markers are used for projects such as socks, patterned shawls, sweaters...really anything where you need to change up the stitch routine to create something textured and wonderful.  Definitely functional and needed, right?  Unfortunately, there is a dearth of boring plain plastic ones at the local knitting stores.  A search of etsy revealed that while they are out there, but either (a) plastic or (b) kind of spendy and not quite as fabulous as I have envisioned in my head.

What the heck is a gifter to do?

I'm not sure what everyone else might opt to do (think of something else, maybe??), but I decided to get all crazy crafty mistress on the theme of fantabulous stitch markers:

"We're drivin' on the freeway of love, in a pink cadillac..."

This is a favorite.  The colors reminded me of Portsmouth Harbor, N.H.

Vintage-y loveliness, just like Grandma!

Roll on, Fat Tuesday.  Pass the beignets, please.
Now that is what I am talking about!  Sparkly beads, nifty charms, metal rings...oh yeah.  As I doubt that I am the only knitter out there who covets these kinds of accessories, I followed my brilliant brainwave idea that popped into my head while tooling around in Lucille Laverne, listening to knitting podcasts and contemplating the dilemma of no pretty stitch markers, anywhere for the gazillionth time.

Here it is:  Start. Your. Etsy. Shop. Fool.

Lightbulb, meet electricity.  Oh yes, my madness knows no bounds and I am going to start channeling my creative side by merging pretty sparkly things with the electronic marketplace.  Why?  Why Not?  It has been forever since I played around with beads, and these stitch markers are really fun (and addictive) to make.  Before I set up shop online, I'm going to try them out on a test audience at the Knitting Extravaganza next weekend in Frederic, Wisconsin.  My friend Suzanne is bringing selections from her yarn shop and the latest version of her pottery knitting bowls and new line of pottery buttons, and I play salesgirl extraordinaire all day, encouraging knitters to buy things.  (It's a pretty easy gig, and I usually get paid in yarn.  Whoot!)  Suzanne is going to let me display my line of Baah-Da Bling Fancy-Dancy Stitch Markers at her booth, which is just awesome and generous and has me so dang excited I could just pee my pants.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Work It, Girl.

Anybody out there remember this movie?

Oh, I just love it.  I don't generally buy DVDs, but this is one that I watch over and over and over....

In another life, I hope I come back as a larger than life diva extra-ordinaire who can wear high heels, dazzling dresses, and amazing wigs.  Men will desire me.  Women will want to be me.  Oh yes.  (Never fear, I will use my powers for good, not evil.)

For now, I have a resident diva who recently arrived:

If looks could kill...she's glaring at Max the Wonderdoodle.

 Meet Miss Vida Boheme, formerly resident of a friend's farm and before that, a stray in a field.  She's sassy, and will not take any crap from dog, cat, or resident human.  Annoy her at your own risk, 'cause she's got claws and she is willing to use them.  And no feline ever had a more lovely coat; she is runway ready.

I kinda like her.  Miss Vida: a kitty after my own heart.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Great Grains

Today was a very full day!  In addition to a series of welcome visitors and finishing up some homework that had been put off for too long, I played around with grain.

First, I broke out my fermenting bucket and started a batch of Windriver Brewing Company's Zombielicious Pumpkin Ale.  I believe I will be changing the name to claim it as my own creation, but it was another of their handy dandy kits that had everything except for the water in it...and in this case, the 4 pound pumpkin as well.  My Rouge Vif d'Etampes wasn't quite ready, so I used the largest of my Potimarron instead.  Technically, it's a squash not a pumpkin, but it sure tastes the same to me so I thought ah, heck, and used it anyway.  The whole brewing of the wort seemed to go faster this time, but that may be because I had three people come say hello and visit during it instead of listening to arduous recorded lectures as I did last time.

After that was done (well, some of the rising time was during it....but that's just technicalities) I made two loaves of  gloriously simple and fragrant Oatmeal Raisin bread that my friend Sonya had mentioned on her lovely blog, Home Cooking with Sonya.  At least I think she did; maybe it was on Facebook instead.  Anyway, she and I have never met in person--we're pen pals--but I just love her!  She's funny, she's living as an ex-pat in the Netherlands, she cooks and bakes with a teeny tiny European oven, she makes her own ICE CREAM.  She goes grocery shopping in Germany and sometimes sends me amazing care packages with things like real, authentic, deep dark bakers chocolate in it.  She even has an awesome bike with a giant basket on it.  Sigh....I'm a little envious, can you tell?

Love ya, girlie!

I am thinking the bread is going to be awesome.  No, I haven't ripped into it yet--I wanted to, but I had class.  Dang education getting in the way of trying new yummy bread!  Of course, I could hop off this blog and go make me some toast, now that class has ended.

What a great idea.  Don't mind if I do!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Back to School

It's nearly that day:  the First Day of School.  Around here, that means the Tuesday after Labor Day.  If you head into any of the W-marts, K-Marts, or mall chain department stores, it is a jam-packed horde of small children and parents in fierce negotiations for folders, notebooks, lunchboxes and new blue jeans.  Buy it, buy it, buy it.  If its got glitter or a superhero on it, let's charge $10 more for it and toss it into the cart.  Need a pencil?  Buy twenty five of them that glow in the dark.  Want a cool pencil box?  Here's one that doubles as an MP3 player--every first grader needs one of those!  The whine of gimmegimmegimmegimme can be heard over the beep-da-boop of the cash registers.

Oh my.  It's nearly as overwhelming as Black Friday and the Christmas Machine mayhem.

I've found myself spending as much time as possible in the garden, not just to avoid the department stores but to eek out the last moments of summer break for as long as I can.  I have plans to celebrate the holiday tomorrow by baking bread, brewing some pumpkin ale, and maybe making something fresh from the yard for dinner.  Peaceful sounding, isn't it?  If everyone's back to school preparations involved gardening, just think about how nice a world it would be.

It certainly would be less expensive. 

This isn't to say that I don't love me a fresh new eraser or notebook with my gal Wonder Woman on the cover; it's just that all the parents and most of the kids look stressed out and anxious before the school year even begins.  Now, that can't be healthy.  Freud or somebody would have something pithy to say about it, I'm sure.  I think if we put half the dollars that we put into buying supplies and new clothes, into growing local food for our schools to use, we'd be off to a much better start with the educational year than we will be come Tuesday.  Maybe we should start a campaign to make it mandatory for every school in America to have a garden, rather than a concrete playground or baseball field complex. 

Grow carrots, not footballs. 

Test scores lowering?  Feed those little minds greens, brocolli, and beans from outside the classroom door--I'm sure it would grow those teeny brain cells faster than that high-fructose, chemical preservative laden crap that the USDA calls "acceptable school lunch program meals". 

Ketchup is not a vegetable; you need the whole tomato to call it that.  Why not grow the whole plant?  Or a whole field of plants?

Recess would be fun.  Kids could climb the monkey bars, which would also be supporting vines for pole beans.  Tag between the cabbages, swings that let you reach out and grab handfuls of ready vegetables like carrots or onions.  Imagine how awesome sandbox toys would be to help do the weeding between rows of lettuces?!?

Sigh.  I shall now go out and preach amongst the beets and dwarf siberian kale, and suck the marrow from the last of the last weekend before school begins.  If you're looking for me, I'll be the crazy lady with the hoe.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Weekending in the Garden

The end of summer may be near, but the garden is still producing a good quantity of wonderful things to eat.  This morning, I am on a mission to deal with some of the beets that are plumping up:

Just look at that pile o' beets!  There are a whole heck of a lot more in the bed, but they need about another week to be good and plump and ready to eat, or make into my favorite pickled beets.  Mmmmm, pickled beets...droooooling.  I don't know what it is, but man oh man am I ever craving beets these days!  Some kind of vitamin deficiency, maybe?  Or I could just be obsessed.

It's probably an obsession.

It is dry around here, so watering all the remaining beds is going to be on the docket for this weekend, as is a little bit of weeding.  The chickens will be so delighted.  They love to eat those weeds (aside from the Creeping Charlie that they spit out with looks of abject disgust).  And then there's the usual chores of cleaning out the coops and wiping down the rabbit cages, as well as poopa scooping the back yard.  The dogs find this last activity very amusing, and tend to roll around where their poop once was, which is just gross no matter how you look at it.  Generally, this adds washing the dogs to the list of weekend chores.  Oh, and I need to break out my machete and head into the hoop house to see how many tomatillos are plumped up in there.  I've been peeking at them, and it looks like there are bunches ready, finally!  My friend Kim and her crew will be so excited to come and share the bounty.  Yippee!  That's what I love about gardening, getting to share the goodness and have plenty to pack into the freezer and onto the pantry shelves (and under any piece of furniture tall enough) to enjoy when the snow flies.

The girls are laying 10 eggs or so per day.  Somedays are less, but the last two I've found eleven eggs amongst all the nest boxes.  There's been a rash of eggs laid in strange places in the Big Coop, so I think all the little ladies are now officially HENS.  They are so proud of those eggs, silly things.  In the Little Coop, I still have a broody hen and a moulting-recovery victim, so I'm lucky to get three or four eggs from those girls.  All the chickens seem very happy with the resumption of "normal" late summer/early fall temperatures, and I hope that they get back into their groove with egg laying soon.  Of course, that means that I am awash in eggs which is both nice (I do love eggs!) and daunting (wow, that's a lot of eggs...).  My neighbors are happy to get them, and I will hang out my Eggs For Sale sign on the mailbox again to advertise to the general populace that they are available for all and sundry. 

I just have to find that sign first....

Happy Weekend to All!