Thursday, December 18, 2008

And more eggs

Maybe I'm imagining it, but I really don't think I've ever seen egg yolks so yummy golden. They tasted amazing too!

Ella has begun to lay nearly every day. Sarah is still much more sporadic. (Perhaps intelligence is measured differently in the chicken world?)

(From left to right--Ella, Bessie, Sarah)

It finally stopped raining/snowing/sleeting long enough to let the girls out in the snow. At first they weren't too sure if they wanted to come out, but they finally wandered out. They were all too happy, though, to go back in to the relative warmth.

Here are few hard-to-get close-ups.

Our first five eggs...I promise I won't post a picture of every single egg they ever lay!

Friday, December 12, 2008

And then there were two

We always knew that Sarah would be the first chicken to lay an egg. She definitely has a personality that implies intelligence and competence (stop laughing, I'm serious!). Ella is kind of like the little sister that just follows her around.

Sure enough, just a few days after Sarah's egg, we found this lovely blue egg in the nest box.

Good job, girls!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quick gifts

Not that I've done it yet, but if I get around to making some handmade gifts (in addition to jams, soaps, and salsas already made), it will be these:

--little knitted toys from Knitted Toybox.
-- the wool stockings in this month's ReadyMade (just repurposed wool sweaters/blankets, cut out and sewn together).
--sewn bird ornaments from PurlBee. They have knitted ones too, but I think the sewn ones are cuter.

If I actually do any of these, I'll post pictures!

Any other great ideas?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Our very first egg, from Sarah, on the coldest day yet of the year (Monday). Hopefully Ella won't be too far behind. (Bessie, on the other hand, has a few months to go.)

And yes, that's a golf ball in the corner...apparently it helps them know where to lay the eggs.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Radical Knitting on Colbert Nation

Kay and Ann of Mason Dixon Knitting fame just brought my attention to Colbert Nation's cutting edge report on subverting the masculine paradigm through knitting and crochet.

Go to the Colbert Nation home page and click on the pink cozy-covered tank.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More holiday gift ideas (and a good cause)

For the Rochester readers:


Alternative Fair

Put your money where your heart is…
when buying HOLIDAY GIFTS

FRIDAY, NOV.30, 6-9:30PM

First Unitarian Church, 220 Winton Road South
$3.00 suggested donation (ages 12 and older)

Clothes, toys, games, pottery, jewelry and more - hundreds
of fair trade, earth-friendly and/or locally produced gift items

Building is accessible to all

* For more information, call Metro Justice at 325-2560

Monday, December 1, 2008

Want some pumpkin?

The 50-pound Cinderella pumpkin that's been adorning our porch for the past month met its end this weekend. There was creamy pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, minestrone with pumpkin, pumpkin bread pudding, and, of course, pumpkin pie. And there is a LOT of pumpkin in the freezer.

The girls got the leftovers...about 20 times as much as you see in the picture...can you believe, still no eggs, after all this great food?!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Something new

I've been wanting to try my hand at collage for some time, inspired in part by all the artists in my circle. But two-dimensional art feels way out of my league, and my drawing ability is the artistic equivalent of a tin ear. Collage felt like it might be a good medium for me to dip my toes into non-fiber art. T. has also been wanting to try it, so last Christmas I got her a collage kit, and we agreed we'd sit down together for our first go at it.

Finally, yesterday, we sat down and did it. I worked on a few pieces, but this bird is my favorite.

I think I'll be exploring birds for a while. (Even I can even handle drawing a rough outline of their shape!)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Reason enough to skip Black Friday

I don't know about you, but the mere mention of Black Friday causes paroxysms. Consumeristic madness at its best. I've seen some of the artists that will be featured at Second Storie here in Rochester, and they are well worth checking out! If you're buying holiday gifts this year, I hope you'll consider Second Storie, or your own local art/craft scene.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Night chickens

We STILL don't have any eggs, but our favorite chicken farmer told us that if their combs are red, they are ready to lay. Bessie's too young, but Sarah and Ella need to start earning their keep! He said they need at least 14 hours to lay, so we have given them their very own night light.

I think they are still adjusting to it. As you can see from this picture, they seem to think that it's roosting time, light be damned!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Just a moment

Today at church the service was focused on finding joy in the everyday. I'm usually pretty good at that, but lately I have been beyond cranky. Work stress, grad. school stress...nothing major (and I am well aware of how much more stressful life could be), but, throw in a little sleep deprivation and I lose perspective.

Even after church, on a walk with T., I was still cranky. I did, though, stop to notice the snow on the plant above (wish I knew what plant it is). I love the wispiness of it.

It seems like a good time to turn to Mary Oliver (when is it NOT a good time to turn to Mary Oliver?!). Here's her poem "The Sun."

Have you ever seen
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone--
and how it slides again

out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower

streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance--
and have you ever felt for anything

such wild love--
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world--

or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?

Friday, November 21, 2008

More sustainable gift ideas

Jody at That which rolls just posted her wish list. Lots of good ideas about handmade items, charitable gift ideas, and secondhand gifts.

Perhaps you want to prepare your own list for your friends and family?

Happy (and sustainable) holidays!

These pictures are from an annual Holiday Swap that I host with some friends. The swap is one of the ways that I try to keep the holidays from taking over my budget and my life. We invite artists, crafters, healing artists, goddesses of the domestic arts, and anyone else who's interested, and everyone brings something to trade (even if that something is money).

This year I brought those little cork people (which are used corks with knitted sweaters and hats, from the Korknisse pattern in Ravelry), along with printed cards of some of my photography, knitted scarves, handmade calendula skin balm (from calendula from my own little garden), handmade soap, canned salsa. You can also see some of T.'s beautiful drawings in the pictures, and some of the scarves are also hers.

We came home with some beautiful pottery, paintings, jams, a CD in a handmade case, and a little money! In the past we have traded for ayurvedic consultations, acupuncture, and jewelry.

If you decide to do a swap, I recommend finding your friend with the biggest home, inviting 20-40 people, and letting them know well in advance so they can plan ahead. This year we held it rather early due to scheduling constraints, and I actually like that! It was a fun way to start thinking about the holidays.

Coincidentally, I volunteered to write a "Green Tip of the Week" for the employee e-newsletter at work, so I focused it on "greening" the's what I wrote:

Did you know that Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday season than any other time of year? This extra garbage amounts to 25 million tons of trash, or about one million extra tons of garbage per week. (Bob Lilienfeld/The Use Less Stuff Report)

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many of us will be planning soon for holiday food, decorations, and gifts. There are ways to reduce our impact at this time of the year. Here are some thoughts for a sustainable holiday season.

1—November is harvest season in our area. All kinds of food is available from local farmers right now, such as squash, onions, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, kale, apples, pumpkins, and much more! Check out MCC’s own Agriculture and Life Sciences Institute “Buy Local” page ( for more information.

2—If your holiday traditions include gift-giving, discuss with your family some alternative gift ideas. Gifts of time or services, such as baby-sitting, cleaning, or dog-walking, are often appreciated as much as material objects. You could also consider giving a charitable donation on behalf of one of your gift recipients. Another option is to give consumable goods, such as home-baked cookies, specialty jams, or Finger Lakes wine, which have less impact on the environment and bring pleasure to the senses!

If you do give material objects, consider any of the following options for gift-wrapping: buying recycled gift-wrap, re-using gift wrap from previous years, or wrapping in a re-usable scarf or cloth bag. (Here’s a link to a web site on stylish fabric gift-wrap, based on a Japanese fabric-folding technique:

3—Consider natural decorations and homemade ornaments to decorate your home. The internet is full of craft sites with ideas, such as and Several local business and organizations offer workshops and/or products to help you out, such as Hurd Orchards (, and the Rochester Civic Garden Center (

For more tips, check out the Simplify Your Holidays free brochure at

Feel free to share your tips and good websites for sustainable holidays in the comments!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Still harvesting

Well, the chickens STILL haven't given us any eggs, and word is that if they haven't started laying by now, they probably won't until Spring. Fortunately, it's been a very long garden season. If you look over at my Harvest 2008 sidebar, you'll see what the harvest has been so far. The tomatoes were particularly impressive, if I do say so myself. The picture above shows collards, mustard greens, parsley, nasturtium, and calendula, all harvested this past weekend.

And below are some Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes. They become very tall and look like sunflowers, blooming in the late summer. After the first frost, they are good for digging up and serving raw, steamed, sauteed, or cooked in soup. I made a bisque (from Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven) from them, and it was really quite good. Don't be discouraged by their unappealing appearance; they clean up quite easily and are very tasty!

In my introductory post to this blog, I wrote that, "Although I now knit, sew (a little), grow some of my own food, can/dry/preserve food for the winter, and bike commute to work most days, I did not begin like that. I also live in an urban setting with a tiny backyard, not a typical back-to-the land homestead."

Part of my purpose in keeping this blog is to share triumph and trials in my own attempts to live sustainably. Let me tell you, collards, mustard greens, and nasturtiums are among my biggest triumphs! Not a lot of plants will keep going through mid-November!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Election Day Bike Ride

(Also posted at RocBike.)

Election Day here was a beautiful near 70 degree day, so I took the opportunity for a nice bike ride along the Genesee Riverway Trail through Genesee Valley Park. Although I have mixed feelings about graffiti, I have to admit that I love this one.

I wasn't the only one who decided to take in as much outdoor recreation as possible.

It was a truly glorious fall day, and I'm glad I have this ride to remember when I think back to the day Barack Obama was elected.

Thank you, Waldo J. Nielsen!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Daring to hope

I'm a latecomer to wholeheartedly supporting Barack Obama. When most of my social group were hailing him as our progressive savior, I was nonchalant. I was initially a Hillary supporter, even though Obama's positions are generally much more progressive than hers.

I told myself it was because Hillary had more experience, and I had recently read her biography, which had given me a sense of respect for her intelligence and skill in making the transition from First Lady to U.S. Senator.

The day after the election, I understood the real reason that I wasn't initially excited about supporting Obama. Racism. Not so much mine (though I believe that I am like the rest of the human population in having unconsciously and unintentionally internalized racist ideologies.)

No, I mean the racism of my parents, my community, my teachers, my peers, when I was growing up in that small town in Indiana. That racism told me that we were not to live near, be friends with, or be taught by African-Americans. That racism allowed my next-door neighbor to give his black poodle the name "Nigger." That racism tore my best friend apart when she fell in love with a young Black man. That racism told me that Black and white people shouldn't have children together, because those poor children would be taunted and shamed.

Certainly we would never elect the child of such a union to our nation's highest office.

And yet, we did.

Let me say that by election day I was extremely excited to support Obama, and thrilled at the prospect of his election. But I wouldn't believe it until I saw it. On election night, when they called the race, I couldn't celebrate until I saw the electoral college map with my own eyes.

Then I watched, holding back sobs, as Barack Hussein Obama gave his acceptance speech. I was crying partly because it was an historic moment, but mostly I was crying because of my own scars from racism, our nation's scars from racism, and my own lack of faith in the ability of humans to change and grow.

Truth is, I hadn't been excited about Obama at first because I would not ALLOW myself to be excited about him. I honestly didn't think our country would elect an African-American. Certainly the people I grew up with never would.

And those people didn't...70% of my small home county went for McCain. Yet the fact that the state of Indiana, along with so many others, went to Obama has restored my faith, and I can finally dare to hope that our communities, our country, our planet, might actually change for the better.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Elections matter--wars begin or end, funding for social services tightens or increases, health care becomes more or less available and more or less expensive, our schools have fewer or more resources to educate our children, women have fewer or more reproductive rights, our civil rights are or are not trampled on.

If you don't believe me, you haven't been paying attention.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Craft and bike

(Cross-posted at RocBike.)

Two of my favorite things! The latest issue of Craft magazine gives two examples of the combination...first, seen above, Christina Oh's miniature knitted bicycle.

Next, Natan Lawson's mosaic covered bike...and he rides it!

Mosaic Touring Bike - Full

More pictures at his flickr set.

Got any good craft/bike combos to share??

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Freeze warning

Before the freeze a couple of weekends ago (yes, I'm behind on posting!), I harvested a ton of garden goodies. Back in the spring, a few friends and I planted some tomato plants in a community garden. It was pretty neglected throughout the summer, but I still harvested 34 pounds of green tomatoes from it, and made green tomato salsa and green tomato/pepper/onion relish. The economy may be bad, but no matter what happens, we will be flush with condiments.

In these pictures you see mustard greens, collards, calendula, green beans, nasturtium leaves (which became a big salad), and peony leaves with black-eyed Susan heads and a few zinnias.
It's been a good year for the garden. I've also planted a fall garden, including more collards, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and beets. No harvest yet, but I'm hopeful!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Actual crafting

For a blog with "craft" in the title, there has been a conspicuous absence of actual crafting, at least in the most common definition of the word. That has something to do with the relative lack of actual crafting in my life, but I did finish this shrug, shown here worn to a friend's wedding. First the back...

And now the front...

It's the Minimalist Ribbon Shrug, available from from Interweave Knits. The yarn is Colinette Giotto, color zebra.

A quick knit, and great result, if you ask me. I hope to make at least one or two more.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I love beans fresh from the market that take an hour to shell. Not very practical, but totally worth it. Those above are butter beans, and below are butter peas. After shelling, you can just pop them in the freezer to enjoy throughout the winter.

And no harvest (of eggs) yet from the girls, but they are enjoying their free-range time...we wanted to wait until they were fairly big before letting them out...they usually head straight for the compost pile, after a few games of "run around the coop."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Autumn along the Genesee Valley Greenway

Whether you prefer to bike or hike, you must get out to the Genesee Valley Greenway, if you live anywhere in western New York. These scenes are from portions of the Greenway near Rochester.

Zoe loves the Greenway, because she gets to run for miles.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Walk with the animals

On a recent trip to Genesee Country Village, for their Agricultural Fair (where the above cornucopia was on display), I got to thinking about the strange relationship that we humans have with non-human animals. On one hand, we romanticize them and turn them into cartoon characters. On the other hand, we shoot them down from airplanes or confine them in inhumane conditions so that we can eat them.

Those conditions led me to become a vegan, about 14 years ago. At that time I ate lots of processed (but vegan!) foods like soymilk, tofu "pups" and "burgers," protein bars, etc. My journey out of veganism came when I learned that film (back in the days before digital) couldn't be processed without some animal product (I don't remember what it was). I wasn't about to stop taking pictures of my little kids, and that's when I realized that these kinds of decisions are a little more nuanced than I had thought.

During that same time in my life, I would buy only vegan shoes. At first I'd get them at big chain stores, until I realized that who knows who made those shoes, and for what wage and in what working conditions. Then I got them from fair-trade/ethical companies like Pangea. Then I thought about the fact that probably a lot of chemicals go into making synthetic shoes. Again, not so clear-cut.

Who would have thought, back then, that I'd be excited to see this at the musem...

Inside there was a cacophony of roosters (and we thought the Billie's were bad!). I loved looking at the chickens, especially those that were the same breeds as ours. (And by the way, this is what a FEMALE white-crested Polish looks like...rather different than those that were a part of our lives for a short time.)

But there were also ducks and pheasants. I had a hard time with that. These were the same species of birds that we see in parks and fields, undomesticated, like wood ducks, teals, and ring-necked pheasants.

In my mind, there are animals that it's okay to domesticate, and these include cats, dogs, horses, chickens, sheep, llamas, and goats (of course, as long as they are kept humanely). Other animals I don't feel so comfortable with...animals normally found "in the wild," and pretty much any animals in a zoo. Then there are the animals where it depends upon their living conditions, like cows and turkeys. I myself don't eat meat, but if animals are managed in a humane and sustainable manner, I don't condemn those who farm or eat them. In my mind, eating animals from those farms is still preferable to eating the hyper-processed, world-travelled, pesticide-laden food that most Americans eat.

The bottom line is that there are no easy answers. For me, what works is to grow a lot of my own veggies, raise chickens for their eggs, eat whole foods grown as locally and organically as possible, and minimize processed foods. I'm very pleased that both my kids have grown up to embrace many of these values, although in their own ways. I bet these two young men, cranking a cider press, will have a little more appreciation for their apple cider, too...

That's the kind of "hands on" activity that we all need...what would our food culture be like if more of us had some kind of hand in the food we eat, even if it's just a small vegetable plot, a few chickens, an apple-picking and applesauce-making day? And for those who choose to eat flesh foods, what if you visited the farm that your meat comes from, maybe even witnessed the slaughter?

I'm not advocating that we all grow all our own food...we've gone well past the time when that is a viable option...but we must pay attention to our food choices, not only for ourselves as individuals, and for the animals we share this planet with, but also for the planet itself. According to Michael Pollan writing in The New York Times, "After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent."

There are ways to reduce that 19%, and Pollan argues in the above article that we will all benefit if we strive to do so.  I'm convinced that my way is not the only way, so please feel free to share in the comments what steps you take towards conscious eating...

p.s. More pictures from our museum visit at my Flickr set.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Is anyone out there?

I think this is the longest I have ever gone without posting...the combination of work and full-time graduate school has totally thrown my whole routine off.  Something had to give, and unfortunately, it was blogging!

I feel like things are a bit more under control now, especially since I've set up a more efficient work space (not an easy feat in a 1,400 square foot with no separate room for an office). Somehow just getting visually organized clears space mentally and helps me get more done. So, I promise to do better, even if the posts are shorter...I hope I still have some readers out there.

Meanwhile, how about some non-work/research/teaching related updates?  I could sure use the diversion.

Perhaps we should start with the picture above?  Remember Billie #1? And then there was Billie #2? Billie # 2 turned out to be...yep, another rooster!  I was putting my bike safely away last weekend when I heard an odd noise.  I turned to T. and said, "what was that noise?"  "Um, I think it was a crow," she replied.  Then it came typical a cock-a-doodle-doo as you could hope to hear.  She (he) did it several times in a row.  I ran to my next door neighbor's houses to let them know, so that they knew that WE knew, and were going to deal with it.  I think they were almost as sad as we were to see Billie go, but we all agreed that waking up at 5 am wasn't really what we wanted to do every day.

So, Billie #2 went back to the farm with Billie #1.  I expect they'll spend their days bossing hens around and live a good life.  And we came home with that cutie above, Bessie (no more Billie's/Billy's around here!).  She's an 8-week old Barred Rock.  Apparently they're much easier to distinguish the boys from the girls.  Let's hope so, anyway...

The picture above is from a camping trip in mid-September, in the Finger Lakes National Forest. A truly serene and relaxing spot.

Here are some pictures from the summer's family kayaking trip, right before DS went back to college.  I'm so glad they've both grown up to really enjoy being outside.

And that is what a high school senior looks like, on the Friday of Senior Week, complete with "war paint."  Oh, my.

Those are the I said, more to come!

Monday, September 15, 2008

A long time coming

For the first time since her scary but fortunately quickly-recovered-from accident, DD got out on a bike this weekend!

She said she felt like a 7-year old, but she quickly got right back into it.

I' m very proud of her!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Almost grown

Billie 2 is a full part of the chicken family. Isn't that quite the face?

I don't always hand feed them, but most every day they get leftover ends from tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, corn, and melons. They were walking all over me this day, and they kept pecking at a spot on my knee. I must have spilled something there!

And by the way, we'll be putting up more fencing soon to give them some room to roam around the yard.

This is Ella, who looks to me like a hawk. When she gets angry, those golden feathers around her neck fluff out like a lion's mane.

And this is Sarah, who is undoubtedly queen of the roost. Is she not the epitome of chicken-ness?

I tried to get a group shot...this was the best I could do. Chickens are faster than you think!
The Rochester City Chicken Club, of which I am a proud member, was featured in our local paper recently. Read about it here.


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