Simply glorious

This weekend was perfect. The weather has cooled down, the humidity has dropped, and the rain has stopped. I spent as much time outdoors as possible. Yesterday that didn't amount to much, but today I was outside nearly all day.

I'm getting into a routine now: get up shortly after dawn, let the dogs out, fill up water jug, open garage, then venture outside. I open the secure storage bin where I keep the chicken feed and Grub container and make sure it's got a generous amount of food in it. Then I step into the side yard and open the Eglu door. The chooks are right there ready to rush into the run; it's sort of like watching a horse race when the gate opens!

They are giving me annoyed sounding noises that they are impatient to be out and about and that I'm too slow to give them their feed. Then, I open the run door and slip in the Grub container. They are at it immediately; you'd think they had been starved for days! As they gorge themselves, I empty and refill their water container. Finally, I slip them whatever little scraps I've pulled out the fridge: some trimmings from the celery, chopped up stale bread, etc.

This morning I was able to rouse Mark at a fairly early time (about 8:10 AM) with promises of a fabulous breakfast at Lula Cafe if he just got out bed and onto his bike. Today was the farmers market in Logan Square, and I was in desperate need of eggs. But if I'm going to Logan Square, then I must make a stop at Lula!

Although we didn't hit the road quite as early as planned, we still were able to secure a table at Lula with no wait. Amazing! I was incredibly hungry since I'd been up for 2.5 hours already and only had one cup of tea with milk. Oh, and I had just cycled 4.5 miles, too. I dug into a yummy scone and savored a cup of coffee as I waited for my main course: savory corn griddle cakes with amarillo salsa, pinto beans, creme fraiche, scrambled eggs, and pico de gallo. Ahhh!!

We got to the farmers market about 30 minutes after it opened and I nearly fell apart when I heard that they were out of eggs already…until I heard that there was another vendor that just might have some. Yes, he did! I scored one of the last dozen eggs. Hopefully, I will not have to be so cranky about getting eggs for much longer.

After loading up so much last week at the Green City Market, I didn't need too much. I picked up some bread from the nice bakery guy, some plums, a couple bells of garlic, some scallions, and a cut up chicken. The chicken is still defrosting, so we didn't get to eat it tonight. Tomorrow it's going out on the grill.

We cycled home and put everything away, then I let the chooks out to graze for the afternoon. The grass in the back yard was incredibly lush, green and long from all of the rain we've been getting. Mark cut it and used the mower bag to collect the clippings. I dumped these out for the chooks and they loved playing in them. They scratched, they pecked, they ate a bit.

Mostly, they just hung out in the shady part of the side yard and pecked at greenery. There are a couple hosta plants over there that look quite raggedy now! No big deal; if there was anything I was really worried about I would have protected it from their insatiable greed for green.

The dogs are still much too eager to make the acquaintence of the chickens. I haven't tried to introduce them to each other any more for now.

I had a bit of a scare this afternoon, too. I was relaxing on the porch with my knitting, and I guess that was too far away for the chickies. One of them — I think it was Selma, the smallest one — flapped around and ended up sitting on top of the fence! I was alerted to this by the dogs, who had been laying on the porch, but keeping a sharp eye on the movement across the driveway. As the dogs excitedly danced around me, I quickly but calmly stepped out onto the driveway – shutting the gate behind me so the dogs didn't follow — and as I approached the fence Selma was sitting on, she casually hopped back down into the yard. I may have do some wing clipping!

OK, enough about chickens for now. It's time to reveal my knitting progress. I have two finished projects to show today.


First, a pair of socks knit in Panda Cotton. This yarn is soft and scrumptious. Click the photo for all the pertinent details on pattern, etc.


Finally, the item I was referring to in my last post: an easy, but pretty shawl. Again, much more detail available when the photo is clicked.

After so many months where it seems that anything I knit was doomed to fail, it really feels good to have 2 finished projects that turned out so well. I've already cast on another shawl and started swatching for another pair of socks. So far, boht of the new projects feel very "right" so I'm hoping that the time of bad knitting mojo has passed.

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At a certain point, it just doesn’t matter…

This may be true of many things, but at this time I'm referring to getting soaked by rain. The downpour was so severe this afternoon and evening that even with an umbrella it just didn't matter. I have a 1.5 block walk from my office to the train station. I used my umbrella, but was still soaked from the knees down and from the shoulders down when I walked into the station.

The station itself was like a mini-refugee camp – commuters stranded by delayed trains due to the inclement weather — but luckily the line my train runs on was operating on time. Almost a miracle when you consider that the sudden storm with wind gusts up to 80 miles per hour downed trees, limbs, roofs, assorted debris, and power lines across the region. I just wanted to get home to check on my "girls": both the canine and the avian variety. That's why I braved the the monsoon in the first place; I was really quite snug and dry at the office and could have held out for another hour or so.

The chooks are just fine. They had the sense to seek shelter inside their snug, dry Eglu. While they may have had to cut their dining/grazing time short (all the food is served up in the attached run and not in the Eglu coop itself), they at least weren't getting pummelled by wind-driven sheets of rain like some of us. The dogs were enthusiastic about my homecoming as usual, but also extremely anxious about the thunder and lightening. I've given them a bit of Bach Rescue Remedy, although I'm not sure how much it will help Hannah since she gets nearly catatonic in these situations.

Mark, on the other hand, had to do the most foolhardy thing. He decided that the storms were safely past us and that he could ride his bike home. Yes, he thought he could cycle the 10+ miles (about 1.5 hours) home safely without encountering any weather issues. Nevermind that by 4:30 PM the local news sites were full of reports of flooding, downed trees and branches, downed power lines, and general mayhem. And that more storms were on their way. No, he thought that he could just dash home before those new storms hit us. I was still stuck in the office and talking with boss at about 6:30 PM when Mark called me to say "I'm OK. I got caught in the rain riding home, but I'm stopped in a dry spot and I kept my phone dry." Stupid, stupid, stupid!

So, we both got pretty wet tonight. But we're safely home now, snug and dry. And I can reflect on the nicer things that have occurred in the past few days. Like…

  • Completing a knitting project. That's all I'll disclose for now since I still have to block it. But the knitting was completed last night.
  • Letting the chooks out to wander the yard for the first time yesterday afternoon. They had a ball! Look!



It was really quite difficult to get them back into the run, even though it was starting to get dark. They tasted every bit of greenery they could reach – even the stuff that really isn't good for them (they seemed to figure that out on their own, too) — and really streched their wings, too. Yep, it'll be difficult to keep them happy in their run after that taste of freeddom! The dogs, meanwhile, were kept in the house or paraded out individually on a leash to sit several yards away from the chickens. We're still not ready to mix dogs and birds yet. I guess that's more of long-term project!

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Rain, rain go away…

It seems there's a weather pattern stalled over the Midwest so yesterday was again a grey, rainy day. And, it looks like most of this week will be the same.

All this rain is good for the plants, though. As Mark commented yesterday, we typically don't have such a green lawn at this time of year. (I refuse to water turf, since it's such a waste of resources. I just let the grass go dormant in the hot summer, as nature intended. It greens right up in the fall, or in an unusually wet and cool summer.) The new plantings put in by the landscapers a few weeks ago are doing just great, too.

But, the rain is not so welcomed by the rest of the household. The dogs don't like getting wet, and usually it is a big pain to get them outside when the weather is like this. I think the only reason they eagerly rush into the back yard is because they are hoping to get near the chickens.

This weather isn't the best for the chickens, either. Even with both run covers on, the floor inside the run is wet. Thank goodness the run floor is wood chips or they'd be all muddy. I've always heard/read that chickens need to be kept dry, but I just can't figure out how to do so in this weather. At least their little Eglu coop is dry inside.

I actually found some time between showers to check out the inside of the coop yesterday and make a minor adjustment. I peer in there every day through the convenient hatch over the nest box to make sure it is dry, cozy and fairly clean. I've noticed droppings in the nest box, which seems to mean someone is roosting in there at night. Supposedly that's to be discouraged: the nest box is only for laying. So, I cleaned it out and put an upturned flower pot in there. When I went out to close up the coop last night, I heard quite a bit of shuffling going on inside as the girls figured out a new configuration for sleeping.

I think it was Maisy who was roosting in the nest box. She's also the more mature of the flock, and therefore the closest to laying. In a week or two I'll take out the flower pot and start putting some soft lining in the nest box for her. The pullets are approximately 17 weeks old when they ship from McMurray Hatchery; in Maisy's case, I think she was at least a week older than the other two. Since these birds can start laying in as little as 20 weeks, I've got to make sure the nest box is ready and they know what it is for.

The chooks are definitely learning the routine around here. Last night I ventured out to shut the coop door, hoping that they were already inside. And they were. Of course, with the weather like this, I don't need much prompting to snuggle down inside my house either!

All this wet, icky weather means that I am getting a good amount of knitting done, though. I hope to have a finished object to show in the next few days.

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Summer is on vacation

What a grey, blah day! It started out cool and overcast and has progressed into sporadic showers and drizzle and gotten even more cold. Is is still August? It feels more like late April or early May.

Luckily, the wet held off until after Rachael and I had a chance to hit the Green City Market early this morning. My produce haul included a watermelon, a muskmelon, sweet corn, golden cauliflower, swiss chard, carrots (both orange and yellow), cucumbers, a tomato for Mark, and peaches. I also picked up some pastured pork chops and more lamb bratwurst from Mint Creek Farm. The one pack of this bratwurst I picked up at our previous visit to the market were so lean and tasty that Mark specifically requested that I get more.

The last time we visited Green City Market we didn't realize that the $4 parking validation was only good for one hour. We ended up paying $12 to park in the lot and were not happy about it. This time, we found metered street parking about 5 blocks away and just hauled everything back in the cart. $2 in quarters for 2 hours was much better than $12 for 2 hours! And we had plenty of time to shop, sip coffee, and eat a fresh crepe.

The Air and Water Show was starting in the afternoon and people were pouring in with their gear by the time we were leaving. Poor folks probably got good and wet when the rain really started after noon.

I usually end up picking up a dozen eggs at the market, but still have some left from the last visit. Soon (hopefully) I won't have to worry about getting eggs at all.

The past 2 days have made me really glad that I sprung for the full run cover from Omlet. Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day and not extremely hot, but I noticed that the Ash tree underwhich I placed the Eglu wasn't providing any shade in the afternoon. The poor girls were huddled into the small bit of shade cast by the standard run cover. So, I went out and put the full run cover into place. Today the same cover was much needed to keep the girls dry in this rain. Yes, that was a good idea I had to order that extra cover!

The treat today for the girls was some of the carrot greens, hung from the ceiling of the Eglu run. They didn't seem to like the carrot greens as much as they liked the nasturtium greens I hung up yesterday. So, a few hours later I gave them the chopped up stems of the swiss chard. They like those much better.

I snipped up the rest of the carrot greens and put them in the worm bin instead. The worms are doing very well and I'm noticing lots of little baby worms. I had started out with just a handful that Jamie shared with me about 3 months ago, and now I'm sure the population is three times that.

Since it has been so cool today, I decided to roast the beets I bought a few weeks ago. It got really hot after I bought them and there was no way I wanted to turn on the oven. I cut off the greens and stored them in the refrigerator where they've sat and sat for the past month. These are golden beets and I'm not sure if it's the fact that the variety is less flavorful than the red ones, if they've just sat too long, or if I didn't roast them right, but they taste sort of bland. I saved the skins and ends for the chooks, and I may just end up sharing all the beets with them.

Tonight we dine on poached wild salmon and fresh sweet corn. Yum!

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Our growing family

Well, I've really done it. I've been thinking about this for nearly a year, talking about it for the past several months, and yesterday it all came together.

We have chickens.

Say hello to the girls. At the far right in the back is Maisy. Near the front on the left is bold little Betty, and…well…not sure about the name for the third gal yet. All my friends are suggesting names, but none is really striking me yet.

These ladies were shipped from the Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa on Aug. 15 and arrived on my doorstep at about 9:30 AM the next day. They were very quiet in their snug little shipping container. When I opened up the top and began to reach inside to move them from box to Eglu run, they got a bit agitated. I was glad to find that I could slip the whole container into the Eglu run, tear down a side of the box, and leave them to exit the box on their own.

When I peaked back at them about an hour later, they were all outside the shipping box pecking away at their food and water. In addition to the laying feed in their food dish, I gave them some active culture cottage cheese topped with some raisins and a bit of leftover bread. By the end of the day, the cottage cheese mixture was thoroughly devoured.

The girls are technically pullets: immature hens. They should start laying in about 4-6 weeks. So, I must be patient…

They are a Rhode Island Red hybrid called a Red Star or Red Sex-Link. This breed is supposed to be hardy, friendly, and an excellent layer of brown eggs. As they mature, their feathers will become ginger-colored, with just a touch of white around the tail.

Introducing these girls to the canine girls, Hannah and Sadie, is going to take some time. I had to block off the side yard from the dogs since they became much too agitated and boisterous around the chickens yesterday afternoon. They charged the run and Sadie started barking a lot, which really worked the chooks up. The more agitated the chickens became, the more agitated the dogs became and it was not a pretty sight. I ended up physically hauling the dogs away from the run and holding them in place until all calmed down a bit and I could move the dogs out of the yard. Yes, I could have handled that initial introduction better!

The dogs have not given up in their quest to get to the chickens, though. Hopefully Hannah and Sadie will not drive me totally nuts today as they occasionally break out in a whining binge. 

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Practice makes perfect

I'm spending tonight practicing my first official speech for the Toastmaster's Club at my work. I joined because I realize that I need more practice doing public speaking. Plus, it's a more social event than sitting in my cube hunched over a laptop and tethered to a conference line all day.

This will not be the first time I've done public speaking, but it still makes me nervous. Here's my speech (slightly edited to remove references to my work):

Fellow Toastmasters, I appreciate the opportunity to tell you about myself. As I reflected on how to talk about myself, I started with the most basic question: who is Linda? And I realized that there is no one, single answer to that question.

Who am I?

Well, I’m a Local. I was born in Chicago’s south suburbs, and now live on the northwest side of Chicago. I have lived in and around Chicago for nearly my whole life. I say “nearly,” because I spent about 2 years living in Toronto, Canada in my early college years. Basically, I ended up in Toronto because I like to travel and explore other places.

I’m a Traveler. I learned to enjoy traveling when I was a child and our family took to the road for vacations. In my youth, I traveled through most of the Central and Southeastern states on our way to places like Disney World, the Florida Keys, and even a day excursion into Mexico from a Texas border town.

As a young adult, I got my passport and headed off to Canada, Caribbean islands, Europe, Southern Africa, and Central America. I’ve bunked in a hockey rink in Copenhagen, ridden horseback through the rain forest in Costa Rica, and eaten fried caterpillars in Zambia.

Since I joined XXX nearly 9 years ago, I’ve done a bit of business travel throughout the U.S. – perhaps not as much as most of you – and made one trip to the Hyderabad office in India.

I’m a professional. I’ve earned two degrees: a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Masters degree. My undergraduate major was Anthropology, and while I did participate in an archaeology dig one summer, I decided that there wasn’t a very practical career to be had in Anthropology. When I went back to school to work on my Masters degree about 6 years later, I decided to study Library and Information Science. I like figuring out how to organize information and make it accessible so people can get the best benefit from it, so working here at XXX in Knowledge Management has been a good fit for me.

I’m a wife. In October my husband and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. I’m thankful I’ve had a supportive and loving partner for so many years.

Those of you who have been at earlier meetings may know that I’m a pet owner. I have 2 dogs and 1 cat. All are adopted  “mutts," and all of them are female. I sometimes tease my husband that he’s totally outnumbered. Next week, I expect to add to our household menagerie when the 3 chickens I’ve ordered come home to roost. And of course they’re all females, too!

Squeezed into the small pockets of spare time I have, I’m a hobbyist. I like to make things with my hands and build self-sufficiency skills. My hobbies include cooking, knitting, gardening, and reading about all of these areas and more. My house is full of books: cookbooks, gardening books, knitting books, and lots of fiction.

A few years ago, I participated in the Master Gardeners program through the University of Illinois Extension, where I learned a lot about growing vegetables, fruit, and ornamental plants. In the past year, I’ve been busy converting part of our yard into beds to grow annual vegetables and fruits like peppers, tomatoes, and garlic, as well as perennial ones like asparagus and blueberries.

I’m an environmentalist. So I guess it’s predictable that all of the gardening I do is organic. I have 3 compost bins outside, and a “worm bin” for vermicomposting in the basement. Compost alone keeps my garden lush and productive. Oh, and the chickens aren’t just going to be pets and egg-layers, but compost-producers as well!

Finally, I’m a friend. I still have friends from high school and college that I keep in touch with, as well as ones that I’ve made through pursuing my hobbies and my profession. I’m always ready to make new friends. So when you see me at the Toastmasters meeting or in the elevator, I’d be happy to strike up a conversation and get to know you better.

Thank You!

So, is this lame or good? Guess I'll find out tomorrow when I deliver it in person!

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Racheting up

I can just feel the stress starting to build up this week already. I spent nearly the entire day on conference calls, which substantially added to my "To Do" list at work while not allowing me to make any progress against the stuff already on there. Arrrggg!

Tonight I decided to try to tackle the stress in a healthy way and go to the gym. I usually try to ride my bike there since it is only a few minutes away, but the weather was getting ugly with a really dark sky. I did not want to get stuck in a rain storm on my way back from the gym. So, I drove. After getting stuck in a line of cars cruising the parking lot for a space, I tried the street for parking. The only spot I could find was at a parking meter that took only quarters. I had no quarters on me. I took this as a sign that I should just return home, andI did. I worked out to a yoga DVD for 45 minutes instead. Ahhhh!

I'll just finish here with a soothing photo I took last month in Central Park. Doesn't that look like a wonderful place to sit and relax/read/knit/snooze?

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