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The baby velociraptors, I mean.

Well, given that I now live in 1000 square feet of super confined, ultra restricted area, I obviously was not able to bring my not-so-little-littles with me.  Or my non-working-working dog.  So, they have been adopted.

I sold 6 of my littles, back when I was at the St Johns and Guadalupe urbstead, to a man who has a big farm out in Burnet.

The remaining 4 littles stayed with me while I was at the urbstead.  Mable was attacked by something and was killed during the night, because the coop wasn’t closed up.  It was a very surreal and sad day for me.

When I left that urbstead, my friend from permaculture class, Dan, adopted the three littles that were left.  Roady (who really DID turn out to be a roo, we found promptly after we put him in the carrying crate!), Millie and Tweety.

They (Millie and Tweety, that is) have started laying.  And their eggs are absolutely, breathtakingly gorgeous.  And delicious!  I am so proud of my baby velociraptors…. all grown up!

During the craziness of the last several months, and watching my littles grow and mature and develop little hen (and roo) personalities, I could no longer fathom killing any of them for dinner.  Maybe it was because I only had the three left.  Maybe it was because we had been through so much together.  Maybe it was for my love of them.  Maybe it was that I just wasn’t emotionally ready to take that step into actually sacrificing their lives for mine.  Maybe it was all of those reasons.  And maybe even more.  So, I became vegetarian again.  Until I am ready to do the deed myself, at least once, I will not eat meat.  And, who knows, maybe I will never be ready to do that deed.  I’m willing to live with that.  Everyone has their reasons for being vegetarian.  Some of them silly, some of them noble.  All of them personal.   Until I am ready to do otherwise, I am a pesky-ovo-lacto veg head.

Until the next post, enjoy the view of my sweet littles’ accomplishments!

Courtesy of Millie and Tweety

Peace, love and popsicles!

~Michelle

Patiardens are sexy

Oh, yeah, baby.

AND, you can even grow them on a roller coaster!

Man, has it been a while or what?  I apologize to all 4 -yes, count them, F-O-U-R, subscribers.  You have remained with me.  Or… you have forgotten that you subscribed because I haven’t written in, oh, say, 4 1/2 months or so.

Well, here I am.  Inspired with an interesting new path in life.

What have I been up to since my last post?  Hmm…  Imagine any one of the Looney Toons cartoons with Bugs Bunny being harassed by Daffy Duck while being shot at by the never-quiet Elmer Fudd.  I’ll spare you the details.  But I will let you in on the fact that, not only, did I make it out of that rabbit-hunt-gone-awry alive, I’ve been doing some cool things in the mean time.

I managed to make it to each and every one of my permaculture design classes.  All 10 weeks of them.  Lovingly drafted a fabulous design for a friend’s urban lot.  Presented the design to my 20-some-odd class mates.  And graduated!  Yep.  I’m certifiable.  Er, um, certiFIED.  Yeah, that’s it.  Certified.  Permaculture.  Designer.

I have since moved on from the ol’ urbstead on St John’s and Guadalupe.  Daffy Duck ended up living there.  And it was just plain too crowded.    I narrowly escaped Elmer Fudd when I moved into a situation that was less than ideal, but escape him, I did.  I am a waskilly wabbit.  Didn’t you know?

I now live in a concrete patch, with no soil to dig in.  I was pretty depressed about this for a while.  But, the opportunist in me found that it was, actually, perfect that I am in the exact spot that I’m in.  How else can I teach Urban Permaculture if I haven’t got the first clue on what it’s really like to live in it, first hand.  So, Easter Sunday, I celebrated not the rising of a man so many believe to be the savior of mankind.  Rather, I went to Lowe’s, bought a 30 pound bag of soil and made my first patiarden.

That’s right.  Rich and knee-deep in HOA restrictions on what is acceptable to place on the space I’M paying to live in, I am defiantly growing tomatoes in a pickle bucket, sorghum in an old coffee can, squash…  oh my gosh, did I ever mention just how obsessed with squash I am??  Peppers, garlic, chives, marigolds, nasturtiums, cucumbers.  I planted too late in the season.  Especially for seeds, this I knew when I planted.  But I was determined.  I was going to grow SOMETHING on this patio of mine, dammit!

Well, growing it is.  I have blossoms on the squashes.  The first blossom was fried completely by this awesome furnace in the sky….  It has averaged about 100 degrees (F) just about every day since, oh, I don’t know, beginning of May?  Or so.  Not prime growing weather.  This, I know.  And next year, I know to start my seeds indoors, in December.  I will be very surprised, not to mention, impressed, if I get any sort of fruit from my little patiarden.  But it is terribly rewarding (and liberating) to just see the sprouts (the ones that don’t get eaten by those I-don’t-know-what-they’re-called-birds-that-reproduce-like-people-who-don’t-care-about-birth-control) and the blossoms!  Those blossoms!  They make me smile.  Just to know they are there, and they are tiny, in comparison to what they “should” be, and feeling the energy they give off while persevering against the heat and the crazy-baby-making-birds.

I’ve been making my own kombucha again.  I had to start all over, from scratch, and grow a brand new Scoby.  And, because my laundry room, off of my patio is ridiculously hot, it is the PERFECT room to brew my kombucha AND make yogurt.  Yeah, that’s right.  Perfect yogurt, when ever I want.  Mmm!  I haven’t had the time to try the whole sourdough bread thing, but that’s definitely in the cards.  As is ginger beer, and perhaps even real beer.  Oh, and rest assured there will be many other goodies!  I have the Wild Fermentation book and a perfect incubating room.  So, fermented foods, here I come!  At least during this wicked hot Texas heat.  Not sure how it’ll be during the winter.  We shall see.

In other news, I am technically an entrepreneur now.  I have delved into the world of being a personal chef.  I have only one client as of right now.  But, soon, I will have others.  And then I will be able to work my way through school (yes, again) for web programming (yeah, I know, that came outta left field…. But, really, it’s just like baking, only I don’t have to feel bad for not eating my work) and then once I am a wildy brilliant and successful web programmer, I will find a plot of (URBAN) land, build my home and make it a permaculture haven, in which I will then work on my next business…  A permaculture school.

Big plans in the mix.

Throw your hands up and shout, “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

Just a few days after I planted

Peace, love and popsicles, folks.

~Michelle

P.S.- If it seems like I’ve kinda gone of the deeper end, let me comfort you by sharing one of my new favorite quotes:  “Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light.” -Groucho Marx.

I did mention hijinks in the description of my blog…..  Better be careful what y’all wish for, the power of suggestion… it is… powerful.  ;o)

Land of the unforgotten

Greetings!

Still from Austin, still from the [not-so-new-to-me-anymore] urbstead on Guadalupe and St. John’s.

There is something stirring and pulsing in me that is new, and yet is ancient.  There is an excitement inside me, growing as I type.  I feel like that 6 year old that still believes in Santa and after a long night of trying so hard to get to sleep so that Dear Old Saint Nick wouldn’t pass up my house (because we all know that he doesn’t stop if you’re still awake), finally getting to sleep.  And when dawn breaks, bolting downstairs to that towering pile of gifts so artfully placed and sparkling with ribbons and bows and fancy paper with snow men and angels.

THIS is how it feels to wake up on that morning.

My heart is swelled, and pounding with anticipation at what will be next.

Mysterious analogies and metaphors aside….

I signed up for the Austin Permaculture Guild’s Design course.  Today was my first class.  The hours… brutal.  From 9 am till 545 pm.  But inbetween those hours, profound amazement and bonds and explosions happened.

The whole day was pure bliss for me.  But I will tell of one particular event in this day that really will stand out for me for as long as I can remember.

The very first principle in permaculture that we learn is observation.  And while you are observing, patience is key.  You can’t rush watching.  “The good observer is the good recliner,” so said Dick Pierce, our instructor. 

We had an exercise, just after lunch break in which we were to simply observe.  We were not allowed to talk.  We had to just observe Nature.  When we were… released… into nature (in the confines of a wooden privacy fence), we were free to just roam about and observe.  We were to note our feelings, both emotional and physical sensations.  We were to note smells, tastes, sounds.  Everything.  As I followed my fellow classmates out the door that led to this yard, I felt odd…  This was like meditation.  And I don’t do meditation very well.  Turn off thoughts?  Sure, for a minute, but they always come right back.  Let go of that old attachment (tasteless joke… I read the other day…  Why didn’t the Buddhist monk vacuum in the corners of the room?  Because he didn’t have any attachments!  *guffaw!* Ok… back on track…).

I saw an old tree.  What kind of tree?  I’m not sure.  It was at least 50 yards away.  I was drawn to it, as if it were calling my name, and using its long twisted finger-branches to motion me closer.

I didn’t know what I would do once I reached the tree.  I looked around and saw some classmates standing, staring up.  Some were seating themselves at the base another tree.  Others were still wandering aimlessly.  I looked back at my tree.  I could see in my mind, as if I were watching it happen right in front of me, myself climbing up that tree.  So, that’s exactly what I did.  I climbed right up that tree.  I amazed myself at how deftly I moved.  In spite of the pain that I have been having in my back for the last several days, I glided right up that tree trunk, and landed myself on a limb, about 15 feet off the ground.  The limb came up at an angle.  It was perfect for me to just wedge myself right into a sitting position.  I straddled the limb, wrapping my legs around.  I laid myself down on the limb and wrapped my arms around, as well.  I laid my head down and closed my eye.

At first, it was difficult to shut out the noise of the city.  The sound of people shouting on the other side of the fence.  Sirens blaring.  Engines revving. 

I don’t know how long I lay there, before the sounds just stopped.  My limbs became tingly, and then I couldn’t feel them at all.  And it wasn’t the falling asleep tingly that you get when you sit funny for too long.  It was as if I had become one with the tree.  It was as if I could feel the tree’s pulse.  The life, the energy rampaging through each branch and limb.  As I allowed my own energy to meld with this vibrant tree energy, a new feeling arose.  I don’t know what to call this feeling, or if it even has a name at all.  But, suddenly, the thought came to pass, “So, this is what it must feel like to be a baby being cradled by it’s mother.”  This was a sense of safety.  Of peace.  No fear.  A sense that time had sped up and was standing still all in the same instance.

I opened my eyes and spotted the grass below.  It was a vibrant green.  The leaves around it, blurry.  As I look down at the ground, the green popped and then faded, and all I could see was a pale pink color.  The pink seemed to be alive, ebbing and flowing, like water on a lake shore.

I blinked and noticed my classmates all heading in.  How could it have been 20 minutes already?  I looked down once more and panic almost arose.  I hugged the limb once more and climbed down like a monkey.

When we were all back in the classroom, Dick asked us some of us to volunteer to summarize our observation of experience in one word.  For me, TIMELESS. 

At the end of the class, we each were asked to go around the room, state our names once more, and tell what one thing was that we didn’t know before, and one highlight.

For me, one thing I didn’t know…  Was that nature doesn’t care about crowding.  There’s a reason for things to grow all close together and nature really thrives when things are close together and allowed to intermingle with each other.  My highlight…  The observation exercise.  How it reaffirmed all of my choices… and that in spite of some really difficult and painful things happening recently, that my choice in moving to Austin, my choice in doing everything that I have chosen to do leading up to now, all of my choices leading me down the path that I am on.

I feel so very blessed by the universe, to have open eyes and an open heart, to be able to feel all of these amazingly profound experiences.

Blessings!

~Michelle

It’s been a while since I’ve been here to write.

I’ve sort of been avoiding it, in light of recent events.

Due to some relationship woes (I will spare you all from the really dirty laundry), I have moved out of my house and combined farms with Emily. 

I wasn’t writing because I thought, “Who on EARTH would want to hear about me going through a break up with my partner?”  And last night it was brought to my attention that maybe someone just miiiiiight want to know about it.

So, long and short, YES, you CAN move your farm after a divorce/separation.  I moved all ten of my chicks (who, by the way are not very small anymore, but still WAAAAY cute teenagers) and dog to Emily’s and now they live with six full grown cuckoo marans, two teenaged guineas, and two pregnant goats and they are totally free range (oh, yeah, and we have two more chicks and two ducklings inside the house).  There have, thankfully, been no fights and everyone keeps to themselves.  And Jet, we have discovered is NOT a rooster.  I think, so far, the chicks’ favorite thing to do is to go shopping in the compost.  That was the cutest thing I had seen in a long time and it brought a very much needed chuckle to the air and a smile to my heart.  I only wish I had the camera with me, so that I could share the ridiculously awesome sight with you all.  And Charlie really IS a working dog.  She is very happy hanging out with her ducks all day.  Prissy (the Sanaan) has stopped trying to butt Charlie quite so much.  And Charlie’s pretty good at herding the big chickens back over to our yard (we SO need to build a fence!).

Emily and I have lots of big plans, however, I’m am still trying to make sense of my crazy life and finding out which way is up.

A strange and welcome turn of events, though…  Last night, in a rage, I went to my old house to tear into Bob about something and we ended up saying some things that if we had just spoken ours minds in the first place, we would have never gotten ourselves into this predicament.  So, we are going to try working things out.  The farm will remain where it is currently, for the foreseeable future and we will be trying things neither of us have tried before….  *gasp*…  dating.  Who knew Bob and I would have our first date two YEARS after we would become a couple. 

I will continue with the blog, as I enjoy it and I think there are others out there in the cyber ether that enjoy my blogging, as well.  And I will continue with urbsteading, of course!  So, while some things are different, others will remain quirkily the same.

I am thankful for that.

I am also thankful to know that I have been blessed to have the people that I have in my life.  My rocks, you know who you are.  Stand up and take a bow.  I love you all.

As for the hijinks…. stay tuned.  Emily and I have lots of projects…  But we must first eradicate the landmine that is our living room!   No matter where you are in life, moving is NEVER fun!

Thanks for sticking with me, everyone!

Blessings!

~Michelle

Ricotta, that is.

And it took me less than an hour!

In my wakefulness tonight, I have resolved to not waste dedicate the cow’s milk in my refrigerator to a higher purpose…. CHEESE.

In anticipation of Matthias’s (my 10 year old son) arrival from Albuquerque this week, we bought what used to be his favorite: milk and cereal.  Needless to say, he hasn’t touched it.  So, here we have just over a quart of local, whole, cream on top, milk, just going to waste in there.

I refused to dump that milk down the drain, soured and sad.  So, I did what any other urbsteader would do on a night where homesteading dreams are getting the best of her waking mind…  I made cheese.  Other urbsteaders would be up in the wee hours making cheese, too, right??

We bought a half gallon and I had used some, so we had about two thirds of a half gallon left (forgive me if my terminology is lacking;  It’s 2 am, and I’m up making cheese, not in my bed sleeping next to my sweet).

So, I dumped the doomed milk into a large saucepan, squeezed two lemons in and sprinkled in some sea salt.  I didn’t measure anything, so if you try this at home (which I really hope you do…), start with a little salt and taste as you go along.

Salt and lemons are the only other ingredients. How's THAT for simple?

I put the heat to medium-lowish and stirred a little more than occasionally and a little less than frequently.  The recipe I followedish (from the Urban Homestead book) said to heat the mixture to 185˚F, but I didn’t measure that either.  Bob gets on me, sometimes, about not following the recipes and using tools, but he’s a pharmacist, and pharmacists use tools.  I’m glad he loves me anyway.  ;o)  I just warmed it all until the liquid sizzled up the sides of the pan (that’s scalding, which is just below simmer, which is just below boiling, which is approximately 185˚F).

It's warm enough now to start developing curds of cheese.

It almost looks like a bread batter, but the scent will tell you otherwise

After the curds and whey sizzled satisfactorily, I ladled it all into a cheesecloth lined strainer.

I wet the cheesecloth so that I don't have linty cheese

Where's Little Miss Muffett, she may want to get in on this, because tomorrow, it'll probably be the stuff of legends!

Then, I tied and hung it up (on my cabinet knob, with the bowl of whey underneath to catch the drips) for about a half hour.  The longer you hang the cheese, the firmer the cheese will be.

I don't know if I'm supposed to have that much whey... Guess I'd better find some uses for it, eh?I think I hung the cheese on the longer side of thirty minutes, because it was a little firmer… But still perfectly yummy, nonetheless.

Finished Ricotta Salata (fancy Italian for Salted Ricotta)

And, of course, I have to taste, seeing as how I didn’t measure anything!

Down the hatch! But, slowly! You must savor!

It is 2 am 3 am, after all!

Blessings!

~Michelle

I killed the beast

Oops!

I bottled my kombucha.  And I did something wrong somewhere along the line.  :/

It is no longer fizzy.  It could be a whole host of issues…  I may have killed the culture.  I may not have used air tight bottles.  I’m not sure yet.  And like a total dufus, I tossed out Mama Scoby, not realizing that I could (and should) reuse her!!!  So, now, I’m waiting for Baby Scoby to be of age that she can be used to brew some more.

Le sigh.

Other crazy ideas….

I am going to try brewing ginger beer.  Non alcoholic (or, at least the same as Kombucha would have, anyway… Which is negligible).

In the farmette yard… The littles are still loving their run!  And their Aunty Em got them (me) a new, giant feed pal to eat from!  Thank you, Aunty Em!!

Now, it is time for all good little yardeners to go to bed!  There is lots to do tomorrow!  Baking some cookies to take along with my breads, pumpkin butter, and granola to the market on Saturday.  It’s the last market before the holidays.

I am also having a potluck dinner on Sunday, in honor of the Winter Solstice (which is also a full moon and a full lunar eclipse in North America!).

So, yes, lots to do!

Blessings!

~Michelle

Wow, I sorta dropped off the side of the earth lately!

It’s been a very busy two weeks.  I made a chicken run.  With plenty of help from my dear Bob and Bob D.

Let me just say, for the record, if building that ding dang chicken run is the most frustrating thing I ever do building this little urbstead, I think I’ll be ok!

This one was a tale of insomnia, obsessive-compulsive planning, too much time and too much money.  It could have been a disaster, but somehow, by the good graces of the universe, everything worked out.

A little wonky, but not dysfunctional.

Ideally, I wanted to post directions, here, to make the easiest chicken run ever.  But, with Home Depot being Home Depot and all, well, it wasn’t nearly as simple as my drawings were.

I used all PVC, as it’s inexpensive and lightweight.  Home Depot did not have 1x1x1 sideouts (which are the little connections that make a corner a corner).  They had 1x1x3/4, so we had to buy 4 additional pieces per corner to make each corner complete.  A corporate conspiracy?  Who knows, but the lovely cashier, named Ashley, was laughing like I was the Friday night comedy hour.  I had a few choice words about the Home Depot Corporate PVC buyer, which I will not go into here…  I wouldn’t want to tarnish my otherwise sparkling reputation as a sweet little gem .  (*wink, wink*)

The idea was that I would construct a 5×10 foot cube, wrap it with chicken netting, put a door on, slap on some milk crate nest boxes, and a perch and call it Chick Haven.

I have never desired to apply a LOLZ cat to anything in my life, but here, one would be appropriate.

Not only did the project take 4 extra days, it cost twice, actually, almost three times as much as I had planned.  And, I learned that I am very wet behind the ears, with this whole homesteading/urban farming thing.

I would like a towel for christmas, please.  Thanks.

All in all, though, it turned out alright.  The littles LOVE that they have space to pretend they are fighter jets on a runway.

Bob D holding the first half of the first side

Yay! One whole side!

Oh, and a back!

We're getting there!

Aaaalmooost!

Ta! Da! Still not totally finished, but she stands!

And in spite of my best efforts to not “get attached” them by not naming them, about seven of the little kids now have names.

That's Big Bird on the right and Tweety on the left.

That's Jet (because he sprints the length of the run with his wings spread out wide) on the right (I think he's a roo) and the little on the left is Roady (I think this one's a roo, but I'm not as sure about this one as the other two)

This is Mable. She thinks this is where she perches.

This is Millie. She's very forward and curious.

It’s pretty difficult to tell the difference between Millie and Mable by just looking at them.  They’re always together.  Gal pals, if you will.  The only way I can really tell the difference between them is to either pick them up or sit myself down with in flapping distance so they can hop onto me.  Mable is always the bravest and runs up my arm or back first.  After the territory has been scouted, Millie is given the all clear and comes on up too.

This is the used-to-be-a-runt, Roo. Roo is the little one who was all pasty when he first came home and a few days later, got his leg stuck in part of the cage and had a limp for a week. He's a roo, too. He's not so runty anymore, is he? And he traded in the limp for some awesome feathers!

Those are the only littles that have names right now.  I have two creamy colored Americaunas, that look a little like road runners in their coloring, who I still have a hard time distinguishing.  I think that one is a rooster (Roady).  That’s still up in the air, though.  And there are two darker brown Americaunas that have yet to really display their personalities and keep their distance when I’m around.  They tolerate being held for a minute, but really, they like being on the ground or their perch (which, for them, is not me).

I figure, in the future, it’s probably ok to name the girls, since they’ll be around for a while.  As for the little roo’s in training, it’s not such a good idea to give them names, as they will be dinner in about 3 or 4 months.  Such is the circle of life.

Blessings!

~Michelle

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