In which the weather is so bad Eva and I both spontaneously decide to re-do a room

There has been a fairly solid amount of bitching going on about the weather and the winter around here, but you know things are serious when both Eva and I are so stir crazy we decide to start major home renovation projects on a whim over the weekend.

Right now eva is painting her bedroom the perfect shade of gray while we are doing this:

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Perhaps she can sleep at our house and I can cook at hers? Meals have been mostly this:

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aaaand this is what the living room looks like:

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Thankfully, the home improvement gods heard me say I was bored this morning and Eva and I “rescued” this beautiful rocking chair from the side of the road

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If you have never had the pleasure of living a block away from your best friend you probably should drop everything to do it now, because having someone to run errands with makes everything awesome. Like today for example, when we went to the grocery store and came home with a rocking chair and a slight buzz from the wine and cheese tasting that just happened to be going on. Anyway, this is so nice that I thought maybe someone wanted it even though it was on the curb so if this was less “rescued” and more “stolen” and you know to whom it really belongs, please let me know. We scooped it up into the car and drove away so quickly you would have thought we were professional thieves, or at least garbage women. Eva had the idea to paint it white all over, and do a dip style gold on the legs. Thankfully, I have some of that horrible Martha Stewart gold metallic left over so I can get started, I don’t know…tonight?

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What I’m Planting if Spring Ever Comes: Part 2

See part one here:

Sunchoke: Very large native herb, running to form colonies. Produces sweet, nutty-flavored tubers, highly productive. Flowers attract beneficial insects. Cultivated by Native Americans for centuries.

Turkish Rocket: Robust, long-lived plant. Spreads by seed, roots will sprout when damaged. Beautiful yellow flowers, young broccolis are much like broccoli raab – nutty and mustardy.

Eva tells me this is what the british called arugula. This sounds a lot like another perennial arugula, which is good since it is a perennial favorite around here (see what I did there).

Welsh Onion: This perennial scallion forms clumps, which can be thinned for harvest once or twice a year. Mild flavor with just the right amount of oniony zing. Lovely flowers too!

I have been trying to win Anna Hess’s walking onions for two years now. Honestly I think if I didn’t win while I was studying for the bar and refreshing my blogs every 15 minutes, I need to face the facts and admit its never going to happen lol. I think these might be a good (and less invasive) replacement.

Wild Leek (Ramp): Native woodland wildflower, emerges in spring and then dies back for the summer. Leaves have a fantastic onion flavor and bulbs are strong like an onion-garlic mix. Great perennial vegetable for full shade. Popular vegetable for omelets, pastas – the sky’s the limit!

Chinese Yam: Large herbaceous vine with cinnamon-scented flowers in spring, glowing yellow leaves in fall. Produces a large edible tuber after a few years, plus annual harvest of chickpea-sized airial tubers on the vine. These “yamberries” are very good eating roasted with olive oil or boiled and served with butter and salt.

Paradise lot talks a lot about how the first year of their permaculture garden the annuals were taller than the perennials. I suspect this is likely to be true of my garden too, so I am hoping to stuff annuals in wherever I can without crowding these new plants.

I will put lots of greens, radishes, and peas in the back beds between March 15 and May 15, before these new plants arrive. By then hopefully I will be able to see what I have coming up in the front beds. Once it is too warm for the greens, I will rip them out and aspire to put some squash and tomatoes in the back beds in their place. Cucumbers and beans will take the place of the climbing peas. In the front I can put basil, cilantro, beets, carrots, and onions, and garlic (I dropped the ball this fall) wherever they will fit after the frost date (in Michigan May 15). Last year I tried amaranth for the first time and was favorably impressed for a front yard decorative edible.

I also hope to put potatoes in the easement, and have heard that sweet potato vines make great ground cover.

As I’m sure you can tell, spring can’t get here fast enough! Do you have any perennial favorites I’m leaving out?

What I’m Planting if Spring Ever Comes: Part 1

Last year the front yard disappeared a little too late to get a good start on a true permaculture garden. However, we had a pretty impressive annual garden.
Since then, I have been stuffing a lot of random plants into the front yard. I had good intentions of keeping a map and when those fell away I just had the idea to plant in zones, to leave some space free, but then a neighbor generously gave me some bulbs that I had been admiring in her yard and it all went to hell. So, it is probably a good thing that these plants that I purchased today will not be shipped until May 19. I am stealing the descriptions in italics from Permaculture Nursery.
Good King Henry: Perennial vegetable, related to spinach.  Grows well in partial shade.  Medium-sized clumper.  Leaves tasty cooked, very bitter if eaten raw. Low-maintenance. 
This is a shade-producing plant, which I intend to use as ground cover. It contains an acid which is not digestible when eaten raw and in large quantities. However, the shoots, leaves, flowering buds, and seeds are edible. It can also be used as a green or gold dye.
Gooseberry ‘Invicta’Small to medium shrub. Delicious grape-sized fruits, but beware the spiny branches. Does well in partial shade. Tangy fruits great for fresh-eating, jams, baking. 
While the description says this is small or medium, what that means is 3 to 5 feet. I’m hoping to plant this against the front of the house where it will be in full sun, and unable to shade very much around it.
Ground Nut ‘Improved’Medium herbaceous vine, suckering. Native nitrogen-fixing root crop with tasty tubers high in protein. Beautiful leguminous flowers. Cultivated by Native Americans for centuries. This variety has improved tuber size and closer tuber spacing.I don’t know if I would have chosen this plant if not for the nitrogen fixing properties, and the beautiful flowers which are said to smell like violets and are a bee favorite. I honestly don’t even know if I will dig the tubers except later as a means of controlling this spreading vine later. It may be good for near the pine tree or to climb up the chuppah as vertical space can prevent it from taking over horizontally.

Jostaberry: Medium thornless shrub. Tasty cross of black currant and gooseberry. Tart and sweet, great flavor. Fruits well in part shade. Easily propagated from wood cuttings and seed.
While I know both jostaberry and gooseberry will likely take several years to really fruit I really hope I am able to taste at least one of each this year or next!
Pawpaw Seedling ‘Metacomet’: Medium native tree, suckering to form colonies. Large, delicious fruit, sweet and custardlike with a tropical flavor. Delicious in cream pies and fruit desserts or out of hand. Fruit ripens late Septemer into October in Massachusetts. Very pest resistant. Need two for pollination. This variety was bred in Western Massachusetts.

This was a really stupid decision on my part as these are full size trees that I don’t really have room for. By taking out two of the back beds (which I don’t need any more since I have so much room up front) I was able to add the three additional fruit trees I deemed totally necessary this year. Thats right, they are full sized fruit trees which are NOT self-pollinating. And, I suspect I will not like the taste but whatever I guess I will find out in seven years or so.

Perennial Arugula (Sylvetta):
Relative of arugula, strong flavor. Lovely yellow flowers. Self-sows extensively, plant where it won’t smother anything else. Great bee plant. Delicious fresh, cooked, or in pestos. Small perennial bush in warmer climates.
I have heard this is no substitute for real arugula but am excited to try it.
Perennial Wild Bean: 
Small perennial relative of the common bean, native to the Northeast US. Can be cooked and eaten like other beans. Will produce a fair amount of lentil sized beans if many plants are established and seeds harvested in year three. Can grow in some shade, or along a woodland edge.
Again, nitrogen fixing.
Perpetual Sorrel: Clumping leaf crop, wonderful sour flavor. This is a variety that never flowers, so it makes tender greens all season long. Ours comes up under the snow! Great addition to soups and salads (if eaten raw, eat in moderation).
So excited to taste this “sour” green.
Russian Comfrey: Hybrid sterile form of comfrey, doesn’t produce seeds. Great mulch plant and soil builder. Preferred habitat and egg-laying site for many beneficial insects and spiders. Useful medicinal. Edible in moderation. Breaking roots by tilling or digging will result in many new baby plants, choose location wisely.
This is such a bad idea. this spreads so rapidly and can grow an entire new plant in like 3 days. However, it has amazing medicinal qualities (it heals wounds), and I have been told chickens can learn to love it. Additionally, it can serve to fill in some places where we don’t want lawn, want to produce biomass, and have very poor soil. I just need to stay on top of this. My understanding is you top the plant frequently and either compost the leaves or feed them to the chickens.
Sea Kale: Clumping perennial vegetable, suckers if roots are broken by digging. Beautiful honey-scented flowers, fantastic edible broccolis. Ours are more than 10 years old. Shoots also edible in spring, and some tasty leaves can be harvested in fall without weakening plant.
I don’t know if I would have bought this plant except that it was one of the top three recommendations for a starting permaculture garden in Paradise Lot. It is almost like those guys wrote an entertaining advertisement for their company BUT I LOVE IT.
Anyway, since I know this is riveting I will put up another part of my garden plan soon!

A very sad day

Today we had to do something that I thought I would never do. This means that my dad has been right about everything to date except for one. We trimmed a chicken’s beak (Josephina).

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Who would have thought this red ball of fluff would turn into such a bully?

Trimming the beak is a pretty controversial practice. In conventional factories the beak is removed nearly entirely as a matter of course to prevent pecking in unnaturally close quarters. It is not always necessary when chickens have enough room. However, pecking is a self-rewarding behavior so once it starts it is difficult to stop. Our chickens have approximately 27 cubic feet which is much more than is considered humane. It is a balancing act to have enough space for the birds, while maintaining a small enough space for their body heat and the manure pack to heat.

We had tried many solutions including red-kote (which induced more pecking because of the color. Also it made it look like we were running a slaughter house), blu-coat (applied on top of the red-kote turned the chickens purple and didn’t work), sequestering the chickens, and changing their diet. Nothing worked and the other girls are suffering quite a bit. The other day I gave her some treats out of my hand and she pecked at them so hard she nearly drew blood on me, I can’t imagine how much it hurt the other girls who already had open wounds. Also, she looked more and more sad each day living alone in the basement (shades of Blackfish basically). There were no other solutions that didn’t end with her being eaten by someone.

So, we did the deed. John wrapped her up in a towel and I snipped with a dog nail clippers. I think it was most traumatic for me and I made several approaches before I was able to wrap my head around what I was doing. In the end I clipped approximately 1/8 of an inch off the tip on the top only. She may experience some pain and difficulty eating, foraging, or protecting herself. Some of the sites I read suggested she may experience phantom beak like a phantom limb, although I REALLY QUESTION how the chicken was able to communicate that concept to a researcher.

So, this was a real trade off and one I am still not 100% sure I made the right decision on. I’m sure some would argue that the right choice is not to have chickens at all. While I see the merits of that perspective, I really love animals and want to be around them, although as I am learning that seems to go hand in hand with some more questionable practices. A book I am reading, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, as well as many legal scholars, argue that I don’t have the privilege of saying that I want to be around domestic animals. To do so is not to recognize them as an entity free from entanglement with humans. The author also argues that chickens (and dairy cows) are a form of feminized protein, as the food system creates food product from the fruits of a female animals reproductive system.

However, I have also been swayed by the arguments of Joel Salatin from Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice who states that not raising animals contributes to till agriculture. Till agriculture (basically the repeated growth of annual plants such as soy beans and corn) results in monocultures, loss of topsoil, and the necessity of adding more pesticides. These actions eventually lead to the death of wild animals, in the place of those that otherwise would have been cultivated for food. Domestic animals; however, aerate the soil, fertilize it, and create topsoil over time when sustainably managed for food.

So, while I am not about to start eating animals, I think that in the long run 1/8th of an inch of beak may be the lesser of two evils.

I am open to your thoughts! Have you even encountered this problem (by which I mean chickens pecking NOT the inability to handle basic daily tasks without having to basically create a thesis around the morality of doing them. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who struggles with that.)

 

 

My 2014 Word of the Year

I don’t have any photos for you in this post except for one, of my dog, blissfully playing with an onion like its the best present he ever got. photo (16)

Please note how the sunbeam LITERALLY MAKES HIM LOOK LIKE AN ANGEL. Since I assume everyone came to look at pictures of my dog and will now stop reading I will be a little self-indulgent going forward.

I first became aware of the one little word movement after reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I have chosen words more informally in the past and decided this year to really go for it.

My word and theme for 2014 is rebuild. I found it VERY difficult to choose my word. I toyed with a lot of other re- words like restore, revive, recovery. The problem with all of these words is that they imply bringing things back to life. There are a lot of things I have tried, let go of, and no longer want to feel tied to. Rebuild seems to more imply a freedom to take what I like, and build it up in the coming year.

Law school, and especially the bar, wore me out in a whole new way. I am still in awe when I get home from work and can choose what to do. For a while the choices were overwhelming and I couldn’t do anything at all. Now, I am starting to do more things, but am trying to consciously only add the things I really like doing.

In another sense, I am trying to rebuild financially in order to purchase more property next year. It is very difficult for me to be patient and not want everything right now. However, by taking this year to save and plan I am able to be more financially secure, make a better decision, and research things like location and soil testing.

I also contemplated words like gentle, slow, and softness. While these are what would be good words for the next few months, I don’t think they will last a whole year. I just need to rebuild the comfort I have being home and stress free so that I am recharged when it comes time for me to for me to challenge myself again.

I sort of panicked yesterday when I didn’t have a word yet and asked my friends. One suggested growth and I said I didn’t feel up to having growth as a primary goal this year, it was a rebuilding year (like the Wolverines, ahem). So, it turns out I already had my word, I just had conjugated it incorrectly.

With that, I hope you have a happy and safe New Years Ever, and I would love to hear your word if you are choosing one.

Herringbone Katniss Cowl

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My brother and I were lucky enough to receive 26 books between the two of us for Christmas. Thankfully, most of them seem to be more useful than these very expensive blocking books:

photo 3(Civ Pro and Con Law).

I have a lot of knitting in my queue right now, a hat for a friend (blocking above), and two wedding gifts.

If I weren’t so busy I would probably rip out the lower portion of my Katniss cowl and pick up more stitched around the cowl:

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While it is in the spirit of the cowl, it feels a little tortured. I would like it to be looser fitting and broader all around. However, picking up and knitting from the cowl part was super unpleasant (likely why I did not pick up and knit enough to begin with). I am THRILLED with the hoop parts though, the distressed rope my dad pulled out of the garage for me was just right.

Do you think this as a fastener is too much?

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Full disclosure, if it had a true pin back I would already have purchased it.

 

 

Coop-yard Bullying

Lets play a fun game called guess how many chickens I have in my house right now. The answer is two.

The wind chill has been so cold in Michigan lately that the girls had been staying inside. This lead to a little hen on hen bullying (graphic chicken photo ahead)

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After we sequestered Charlotte, the next day Henrietta was similarly bloodied.

This is clearly a management problem, and I’m not surprised given we have never had chickens before. This is also why commercial growers routinely debeak their chickens.

My dad suggested a diet deficiency may have something to do with it. However, the feed store owner thought they should be ok, and told us that the chickens should be outside the coop until it is 0 degrees outside. My dad also recommended some anti peck ointment (I guess it is like that stuff you put on your nails to keep you from biting) which we got and applied. It also is supposed to help them heal up. In the mean time, Charlotte and Henrietta are in the basement, since once a wound is opened up they are incentivized to continue the behavior. I was happy to find a solution that did not involve brining Josephina.

Eva and I had our Christmas celebration today and we did everything we like. We went climbing, stopped at random business on Woodward as they called out to us, exchanged gifts, and made several versions of popcorn.

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Top left: cilantro, lime juice, salt and butter.

Small bowl: Two tablespoons sugar, one tablespoon cinnamon, salt and butter.

Bottom: Parmesan, garlic powder, salt, and butter.

These were to die for! All will be recreated soon. In the mean time the doodle is getting into the holiday spirit by eating yellow snow and pretending to be asleep in hopes he catches a glimpse of Santa:

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Nine shades of Gray

 

 

 

 

I picked this up at the Restore this weekend for $12.

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Then, I bought a separate shade off a different lamp for $3.99.

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It represents the start of something that has been bugging me for a while…it is time to re-do the master bedroom which makes the second room I will have painted twice in the 3 years we have lived here. It became clear to me when I was reading in the dark with a headlamp on so John could sleep for the third night in a row. Should I paint the brass parts white?

The Young House Love‘s paint guide recommends for colors to choose a muddier color than you think you want for walls. I am thinking something like this:

75302a03-1c04-43e6-a287-29d16a8c3778_145  bd25cd62-331d-49c5-8484-c7bbd8fd1cef_145 c7dc21ca-3e01-4d50-a272-7f2d5b835041_145   9a10996f-ffff-4c1b-817a-c1c23b646025_145 f6e524d5-0a8a-4c22-b436-8a23879f5811_145

85d6904f-01df-4149-9b2a-16def1edbe3c_14596048c92-7d84-4f03-978c-685b5377ca87_145c38a7728-95cb-4c25-8f32-2b7d029e1c7b_145c385a2b7-d5b5-433b-a9a5-a68d10850ee5_145

While I am clearly not afraid of really dark colors, I think I am leaning towards one of the last 4. Now I just have to find curtains that will block out the light and match this super light palette.

 

 

 

Rose Hips and Critical Thinking

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Sometimes I think that there are no natural remedies or foraged foods I will not try. (See, liquid gold fertilizer, washing my hair with baking soda, etc). However, I was looking at Healing with Herbs A-Z by Hanna Kroeger and came across these:

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Um, no thank you. You are not likely to find me consuming one raw onion a day for anything. I think this is a case where the remedy is worse than the disease.

The reason I was flipping through this book was to find the medicinal uses of rose hips. A friend who is rich in rose hips (and tickets to see Elton John!), gave me a bag over the weekend with her recipe for jam, which I was so excited to try.

Taken with a grain of salt (as these were found in the above book), Rose Hip can be used for the treatment primarily of weight control, with secondary benefits for diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. It can also be used to support the immune system. This warning does not seem to be very prominent on the internet so I am here to tell you: Do not eat the fluff or seeds as they were the main ingredients used in prank itching powders and can irritate your intestines. As such, some use it for its aid in digestion. 

Start to finish!:

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I used the top recipe, but the bottom makes use of the natural pectin in rose hips, requiring no commercial pectin.

I dried the rest of the rose hips for tea. Once dried, you can leave them whole and pour hot water over them.

Or, you can rough process them. Once they are lightly blended, sift them through a sieve in order to remove the dried fluff which can be an irritant. Once removed, I blended the rest finely:

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If this is not calling for sprinkles, I do not know what is.

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Snuffy and Mazy decided to grace us with a Thanksgiving miracle and cuddle up together:

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Are there home remedies you won’t try or foraged foods that are too far out there for you?

 

The cowl that literally everyone is blogging about

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Sorry for not blogging this weekend, it is because I devoted about 47 of the 48 weekend hours to the Hunger Games. I saw the movie twice, I re-watched the first movie, and then became obsessed with this: catching4 (source) 

I think I finally decided on this pattern:

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-katniss-cowl

John pointed out that her cowl stands up a lot more than Jennifer Lawrence’s (it is made using rope). I think I know the reason why:

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The pattern has complete circles and two triangles as opposed to the overlapping scarf in the back shown here. I think the reason why is that it is impossible to make a clean end on the rope unless it is a circle. So, I’m using her pattern as written, down to the same yarn. However, John suggested that smaller sailing rope might be more supple and look less harsh. And…I have already cast on. I can’t wait to wear this to all of the places in my life which are appropriate for wearing costumes…

Last year right before Thanksgiving John and I got in a blow out fight on the way about whether or not the Hunger Games is the first major feminist film. I argued that it is. John said he thought G.I. Jane was. I have never seen G.I. Jane. What do you think?