Chicken Blog by Natalie

Because Goats! - 3 hours 40 min ago

{There's nothing I can add to make this any more great. Because, Goats!}

{this moment} - 8 hours 30 min ago
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to see.
Maria and I wait for the school traffic to ease before we head home.
Sometimes we visit with friends at the swings.
Sometimes she collects flowers outside the farm fence.
Always, I am thankful to be the one who can be with her, bring her home.

One Potato, Two Potato, Egg! - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 09:03

The last of the raised beds is cleared and tilled, and ready for new stuff... like basil, peppers, carrots. Hidden in the weeds, beneath the untilled soil, we found three potatoes. Have you ever grown potatoes? The first time I did was a total accident. I tossed a bunch of gone-to-sprout spuds into our compost, and later (probably months!) I turned the compost and found loads and loads of potatoes! Firm, fresh, organic, gorgeous, dirty potatoes! Harvesting potatoes is fun. Or am I just easily amused? I spent a summer in Mexico sorting, cleaning, bagging and weighing potatoes on my Abuelos' ranch, and that summer we ate potatoes about every way you can imagine. As much time as we spent immersed in that spud summer, I hadn't actually seen them come out of the ground. I would love to have that for a memory... it must have been acres and acres of land to fill the rooms at Ojo de Agua with mountains of papas! It doesn't take acres of land to get some papas growing on your own rancho. Even a barrel will yield a nice crop!

I like digging up potatoes, and I love finding eggs! 'No kidding,' you might be thinking... I know, I do post about eggs, finding eggs, comparing eggs, pretty often, but every single day, every single time I find an egg, I wish I had my camera with me, and I consider posting about the discovery on social media... it's more efficient than actually calling all of my friends! Anyone here at the Bird House can confirm it; I will hold my hand out and share my find, express deep admiration for the hen, point out the colors, the flecks, the shape, the size. If it's especially fresh, I hand it over and say, "Feel it. It's so warm," and my voice glows with emotion. Would you believe Kamen laid an egg this week? I thought she'd laid her last in January, when she was the only hen laying in the dark of winter. Now she is more than four years old, and we don't much expect any eggs from her. It was an adorable, pale and pointed egg, small, too. I found it, like the blue one above, in the goats' hay feeder. Tasha and Ada don't get quite as excited as I do about finding a pretty egg, or dirty potatoes. They love pine needles, head scratches, and sprinting across the lawn.

Lemon Thyme and Geranium - Wed, 05/20/2015 - 08:52
Lemon thyme and geranium blossoms on our carrot cake.

This cake fulfills one of my resolutions for the new year: Bake a pretty cake. In recent years I've lost my cake decorating mojo, and I've documented many of the occasions when a cake has been remarkably ugly, yet delicious. Ugly Delicious is the name of my imaginary bakery, by the way. I owe my success to a new aesthetic, a bohemian nod, a minimalist's touch. My recipe was enough for three small rounds, but I knew better than to risk a towering cake catastrophe! Henceforth, I will turn to my garden for the pretty touches, and otherwise keep it simple.

{My other New Year resolution: Make a rice pudding that I deem my favorite rice pudding. Yes, it's true, I have really challenged myself to some grueling, life-altering resolutions. I am sure I will be a better person for it.}

ChickenBlogger Carrot Cake
3 1/2 cups grated carrots... we love the colorful ones... purple, yellow, orange!
2 cups sugar
1.25 cups of oil
4 eggs

Stir these ingredients together.

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of pecans
1 cup of oatmeal (I like the old fashioned kind)

Sift the dry ingredients together and then mix in the nuts, and oatmeal. I love oatmeal. Start adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir 'em up. I did this by hand, since I did not want to over-mix the batter.

Choose a favorite cake pan, and I lightly oiled mine, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. A cook time would be helpful, I know, but I don't have one. Expect it to take more than half an hour... it will smell good and an inserted knife will come out clean... you'll know when it's done.

I am not capable of following directions... I just made it up.

8 oz of cream cheese + a healthy scoop of some leftover whipped cream cheese we had leftover from breakfast.
A largish, perhaps 2, teaspoons of vanilla.
Powdered sugar... more than you want to admit, less than a box... I did not make it very sweet.
Whip it. Whip it good.

Thankful Blogger - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 10:41
Thankful for the friendships made, the experiences, and opportunities that have come through Chickenblog.

Thankful for the seeds sown, and all that's bloomed.

Thankful for the dreams that have come true, that I've pined for, whined for, celebrated, and reflected on.

Thankful for the new dreams, new inspirations, and all I can share with the people I love.

Thankful to see the people I love, to play with them, to encourage them, and be a part of what they do.

Oh, gosh, how I love to share my chicken love! Julie!!

Thankful to share my deep thoughts and other musings, and my chicken aesthetic... my flighty, whimsical, bird-brained passions.
Of course, any of it might be possible without Chickenblog, but I am glad CB is here to remind me of all that I am thankful for.

Good Monday Morning, friends. This is it, the official start week of Chickenblog, back in 2002. I am noting it, not because the original keyboard I wrote on is going to the Smithsonian, or I ever won a Bloggie. There's still a chance Terri Gross will reach out to me, ask me the big questions about my deep thoughts and musings, but really I am only marking this time, because I like numbers, patterns, celebrations, marked occasions, and making much ado about anything!

Calamity Kim sent us Chicken Lovers a card. I don't know if she was necessarily thinking of the Chickenblogaversary, per se, but as usual she was being very thoughtful, generous. She was one of the first A-list bloggers to give this blog a loving shout-out, and she has showered us with gifts from her endlessly creative artistic collection. This time she sent us seeds, and a lovely note. It's perfect... something to sow from the woman who sews! Something to spread around and watch grow, share with the bees and butterflies and friends.

Kim's card gave me something else, too... more to reflect on concerning blogging. She's active on FB, has a Tumbler site, but her blog is a much quieter space now, like so many of the bloggers I've known. Some have formally retired, and maybe I need to accept that and remove those links. But I am in a state of denial... a small part of me believes that leaving their names in the sidebar may summon them to pop their heads up, and let us know how their gardens fare, where they've traveled, to say they're feeling fine, doing well. There are a handful of bloggers who have simply cut-back. They post infrequently, and it's nice to see news from them, to have them drop by here, too. I can see that the hey-day of blogging, when it was novel, when we were figuring it all out, those days have past.

Of course, there are new bloggers jumping in, but the tone and function seems to have changed a lot. Gone are the homemade layouts and personable, familiar approaches... new blogs feel so slick and packaged. Did you know you can purchase traffic to a blog? A lot of blogs are really just window dressing for a business, a corporation, a news outlet. Big giveaways and loads of ads, promotions, and sponsorships make many blogs feel no different than glossy magazines. It would be hard to maintain, but who remembers swaps? Quilters, knitter, crafters... these bloggers would arrange for surprise exchanges between strangers, and all kinds of goodies would travel from one new friend to another. So many connections were made, talents shared. Even small gestures like linking back to other bloggers, acknowledging sources, inspiration, something good, so that it really was a web we were building, it felt connected to something of our own hands and hearts. I've always been aware that this medium is new, WeB-logging, and I feel like a pioneer, an old timer. And I feel really fortunate to have been around, blogging, when it was new, when we were pushing boundaries, exploring styles, networking, and making sense of these online logs, diaries, journals, scrapbooks. I'm glad I could participate before things got too glossy, too corporate. I am even more glad that there are other old timers still telling their stories, sharing garden views, travel adventures, recipes, and posting links. Be sure, I am not neither complaining, nor criticizing... {a shocking network of blog shaming and bullying follows some bloggers. Sadly, most of the mean-girl nonsense is directed at women, by women... quite a pathetic, sometimes scary, development, where the anonymous and cruel attacks do nothing for good, for raising our thoughts, and actions.} I'm not bellyaching about the good old days; it's just interesting to see where we've been, and wonder what the next thirteen years may bring.

My favorite parts of blogging are staying connected with friends and family, and having a record of our days, mine and Geoff's, and our children's. This is an open letter to family and friends, a scrapbook for our children, especially when we are far apart. I also like blogging for the new friends I make, for the ideas I can share, and things I can promote because they matter to me, like high school robotics, STEAM education, the Make community, and chickens, of course. Shining a spotlight on the talents, interests, and endeavors of others is very meaningful to me; I always hope it will make a difference, give support. And You, the reader... readers make Chickenblog good, and worthwhile to me, because I enjoy learning, sharing, laughing, being understood, feeling connected. {And, I really should add: I like having a place to enjoy the pictures I take, because they make me happy, and I am too lazy to get any printed and into albums. Derp.}

Kim, thank you for those seeds, for your kind words. Weren't we lucky to make the friends we did, and to still find connections, exchanges kindnesses? I kissed those chicks for you... they're in their hysterically awkward phase! Like me... hahahahha.

Saturday Night Photo Booth Marathon - Sun, 05/17/2015 - 08:29

Big night on the town with Grandma Boo in town, Julie too. We went out for falafel and nachos, then out came those mobile phones, and all silliness broke loose! You know how it goes, first it's selfie time, then someone raises an eyebrow... and wait, can you raise one eyebrow?? Maria could not, but she was determined to master the skill. Did she nail it? For sure she came really close, and she sure had fun trying! Scary, skeptical, disapproving, giggly, and fun, with extra grilled onions and salsa, please!

{this moment} - Fri, 05/15/2015 - 05:00

A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to see.
Maria and Emma... good friends, good school, good fun.

May Days - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 11:10
Most visitors want to do this... feed Friend, our charming and daring scrub jay. He comes around quite regularly, now. Grant took time out from working on a project to feed Friend, several times, and I think he was as delighted and smitten as the rest of us have been. We are getting some neat pictures of the bird, but now I wish I'd photographed our friends' faces the first time the jay sat in their palm and took a peanut. I'd have an album of joy, of child-like wonder, and happy bemusement. I used to watch for the bird, and now, when someone new to feeding Friend holds out their open hand, I watch for that moment when the feeling comes across their face, a benediction, a grace, and their whole countenance shows their pleasure at making this connection with a wild creature. It's an uplifting, good thing to witness.

Hmmm... wouldn't Mister Foo just love to _make a connection with a wild creature?_

He sits, and gazes out on wild bunnies, wild finches, fly-catching Phoebes, big fat hens, lizards, spring chicks, and he yearns to get closer. What is it called when a cat, so entranced and overcome with their natural calling, begins to vocalize a twittering meow, lips almost vibrating with anticipation?

Isn't this fantastic?
Answer: Yes, it is.

We got this for a song! For a ditty! It was cheep-cheep! I cannot help myself, sometimes there is as much fun in a good deal, as in the thing itself, and so that makes this hay feeder doubly great. Geoff hung it up for me on Mother's Day, and now we are enjoying convenience and even more savings in hay. The goats were eating from a milk crate on the ground, and they would pull the hay out, and lose about 30% of it to the ground. Goats are not keen on eating off the ground, and are naturally inclined to pull things down, like from shrubs and trees. This feeder keeps them from wasting all that hay! I can give them more, at once, and none of it is wasted! Of course no system is totally perfect. You sometimes have to expect the unexpected... or if you have chickens, expect something goofy!

Something goofy, like hens that think a hay feeder makes a lovely nest.

Ada? Tasha? Eggs for breakfast?
They weren't interested!

You really are some goofy chooks!

Around this place, I never know what I'll find, from eggs in the goat hay, to the scrub jay's stash of peanuts in a belt sander, to a pencil rainbow. Matter out of order, or at least artfully displayed, seems to be the status quo at the Bird House.

And. If things are disheveled, cattywampus, and random, here, I am as much to blame {more to blame?} as anyone. When the street was getting new transformers, and cross beams for the power lines, and the old ones were coming down, I was the one who asked the crew, May we have those, please? Suddenly, going five hours without electricity was totally worthwhile, and fun. For the record: Scoring all of these pieces of wood, with insulators and secondary rollers, was literally a dream come true... during one of our Mother's Day nursery visits, we were analyzing a favorite aviary, with reclaimed lumber, including power line cross beams, and Geoff said, "It'd be cool to build one of these, but where could we get lumber pieces, like those? And we sighed in unison, for want of gnarly, old, "high voltage" signed, reclaimed lumber pieces for making funky things in the backyard. Two days later, and voila! {We know they are a chemical s#it-storm, and will, of course, handle them with care.} And don't they look lovely next to the rubbish bins, and assorted construction bits and bobs?

Also happening... Mike is back, and some last bits of our projects are getting done, like making our fireplace hearth stone after removing the broken marble tiles, trimming the flooring, and finishing touches on the balcony... the balcony that leaked, and was the motivation for all of these improvements in the first place.

No more shiny white, slick, but cracked, marble tiles. Without a plan, or hired designer, we find we have stumbled upon our theme and "Style:" It's called Contemporary Hobbit Interior. We are so very pleased.

Rocks. I love rocks.

Yes, this post is all over the place. Probably five times a year I read some new bulletin-points article about 'the real way real successful bloggers get 'er done,' and then I just break all the rules, and do it like I do it, and now you know my secret for being unreal, and unsuccessful at blogging. I think I should write my own 5 Blogging The Best Way Tips For Mastery of Your Destiny article.

Simply Cozy Living inspired this confection, a lemon cake. It's shining with a tangy and sweet lemon glaze, and Maria decorated it with the mint,lemon geranium blossoms, and the last surviving raspberry. Raspberries are quickly inhaled around these parts. It was a perfect treat for a weekend with friends popping in, hanging about.

May 2. The Ameracauna, on the left, needs a name. The wee Buff Orpington is definitely Fiona.

Chicks! However "success" is defined, I have been blogging for 13 years, and a lot of wonderful things have happened in this time, some because of Chickenblog. This is the month of our Chickenbloggaversary! Hard to believe it's been around so many years. But it started with me being utterly engrossed and thrilled to have my first chicks, and here we are with five brand new pips! Pretty nice, I think.

We are adding two Ameracauna, Fiona the Buff, and two Silver Lace Wyandottes... the dark ones. Maria wants to call the Wyandottes Pepper, and Pippy. I love naming chickens.

She may lay green eggs, or blue. I may name her Lola, or Hazel.

Mako came in for a closer look at her new roost mates. It will be a long time before they're actually hanging out together, but she was pretty chill about the chicks.

Gratuitous Chicken Selfie, from the Chieknebloger ChickenBlogger.

Five Good Things - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 09:40

Happy Mother's Day~

All of my wishes came true! I enjoy four curious, creative, beautiful and kind children with my brilliant, generous, and handsome husband {Post-Mother's Day gushing + PDAs are always appropriate and permissible}, a home to call our own, paints and beads, pillows, pots and pans... everything to make, and cook, and play with, add cats, chickens, goats, garden beds, friends calling, family, too, plus high speed Internet, and being served the very breakfast I described... and it makes for a complete Mother's Day package. Ruth joined us, and we made our way to two nurseries... saw goats, chickens, curious little finches, a tortoise, fountains, and veggies, flowers, seeds, pots! Our local nurseries are amazing. We brought home both veggies, and seeds for more veggies! We found a gorgeous string of pearls hanging plant for Ruth, and she found us a lush and feathery maiden hair fern to go with the beautiful green house she brought us as a porch warming gift. I took pictures of African violets, and other flowers, for Grandmother Eunice, and my mommy and I kept exchanging photographs and videos throughout the day, staying in touch and up to date with our Mother's Day apart. Maria wrote a poem for me... it's a love-laden-humbling thing to see ourselves through our children's eyes... I feel so loved, and eager to really live up to her vision.

Back at home, we hung out. Well, I hung out... and everyone else were my darling minions, willingly and happily doing my bidding. So, curtains were hung, and a rabbit hutch refurbished. Garden beds were watered, dishes washed, and William baked a cake. Geoff hung the goat feeder we dragged home from a farm sale last fall, and he built a goat tower of straw bales. Alex and Max cleared a garden bed, then the old bamboo tower came down to make way for the pumpkin patch, and watermelons. It's no fun only hanging out, so I joined in the fun, and planted beets, chard, and pole beans. We even managed to collect a decent stash of eggs for Anna Banana! We all fixed things, and moved things, laughed at goats, fed the Jay, and enjoyed the day, out of doors, right through dusk.

Then comes Monday morning, and for this shock to the system I have a modest proposal: After any holiday weekend, when we have savored the sweet luxuries of life, celebrated earnestly, we ought to agree that school, work, duties, and the return to reality should be a gradual and gentle re-entry, starting no sooner than noon. Not necessarily to postpone the inevitable, but to deeply absorb and appreciate all of the good effects of love, companionship, kindness, and mindfulness enjoyed the day before. I think this is a fine idea.

Good Things...

1. Our phones with cameras, and means of connecting... it was so dear and familiar watching the little video of Grandma, Becky, Debbie, and my mom playing their game of Contract Rummy, then seeing the gorgeous garden lasagna they baked, with our favorite recipe!

2. Chcikenblog Chickenblog. {Sure, there are times when it makes me feel silly, overexposed, underrated, obsessed strongly vested, but} I couldn't ask for a more thorough family album, a better record of things... it's such a surprising keepsake, which I feel thankful to have when I can use it to revisit our days, and events, and appreciate the details and success we enjoy. Hard to believe it was a year ago that we enjoyed a Mother's Day in Pasadena, and the changes about to happen, then.

3. Friday night with Max, Maria, Alex, and William visiting the kitties in the pet shop shelter with Max's friend, and shelter volunteer, Hana. It's probably easier to stay away from the temptations there, but it felt really good to be company to all those dear kitties.

4. On FB, seeing everyone's posts, their love and outpouring of affection for their mothers, for all the women who nurture, lead, shelter, encourage, inspire, and mother.

5. I found my keys. {You guys, they were at the bottom of my not-so-big purse, all along. Please, remind me to not lose my mind when I feel desperately useless!}

{this moment} - Fri, 05/08/2015 - 08:50
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to see.

Whatever moments we've enjoyed this week, none seems quite so prominent, so noteworthy, as the rain that is falling. It's not sprinkling, nor drizzling. There are actual drops of water, falling in multitude. We have puddles, and rivulets. It's cold, like what we might have enjoyed in winter. I've heard that it's been snowing in the Sierra... something in the bank, some small savings. What a wonderful balm for our worries, for the frets of the week, the dry ground. I am happy, too, thinking of our seedlings and sprouts... what better way to begin a new garden than with rain.

Yarn Quest - Thu, 05/07/2015 - 06:45

Before leaving Portland, I was eager to get my hands on some yarn. I find it really helps to get absorbed, hands and mind, in something meditative when I am in an airplane. It helps to be sewing, or crocheting, during take-off, during landing, during the time when you can't get to the bathroom, because the tiny cart with salted nuts and Bloody Mary's is soothing everyone else's nerves. Yes, for all those times, I need yarn! What a stroke of good fortune and timing, I found Close Knit, and an UltraPima cotton yarn, in teal. The only disappointing part is there were only 4 skeins. I'm a goof. Why even start something, like a shawl, when I know I am going to come up short? It's just that I really enjoy the pattern, and couldn't resist diving in. I've already finished with all but one ball of yarn... now begins a second quest, for more yarn, in this corner of the country. I kind of love these minor catastrophes, these suburban trials, with no greater consequence than a smaller-than-hoped-for shawl. I raise my righteous fist of obsessive craftiness, and declare myself genuinely goofy!

We Call Our Home The Bird House - Wed, 05/06/2015 - 09:34

Our first days in this blue house, we saw quail daintily gliding across the fence stringers. If you've never seen quail, they are at once charming, and move in a distinctly endearing way... heads pert and erect, tiny feet dancing forward. If you don't happen to notice that their feet are doing the work, they can look as though they are being conveyed by an invisible thread. Seeing them made me feel like our home was lucky, extra special. Then we saw Western Bluebirds... a species I've longed to see for as long as I could remember. The Bluebirds nest beneath the Jacaranda tree, sit on the fences, visit our garden. A tree in the front yard has been filled with Cedar Waxwing, another bird I'd hoped to see, ever since we lived in Minnesota. We've watched owls, hawks, sparrows, finches, doves, and, of course chickens! Then came the saga of the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, when we were visited by birders from all over the globe, all come to see a rare bird wintering in our neighborhood. It seems like from the beginning we have enjoyed good fortune and happy visits from birds, and even for us people folk, this house has been our long awaited place to come home to, to nest, our Bird House.

Sometime around the start of the new year, I began putting out peanuts for the corvids... I was hoping to make friends with the crows who frequent our yard. They are such smart birds... Nature has a fascinating program about crows: A Murder of Crows. In only a matter of days we did have some corvid visitors, the Western scrub jay. They are territorial, a bit boisterous, blueberry blue, and intelligent. It turns out, they can also be friendly and engaging.

Our friend comes most days, now. He takes the peanut and buries, or stashes it in the yard. Those caches are stores for later, and he may keep track of as many as 200. The first time, he came to my hand was on a whim, when I saw him near and held out a peanut, thinking wouldn't it be impossibly cool if he took it? And he did! Now, we've all fed him from our open palms, from the brim of a hat, and he even sat on my shoulder. Every time it happens I feel lucky, like a fairy tale princess. {Next up: Squirrels sweeping the kitchen, bunnies folding the laundry!} This is, indeed, a good home, a happy and lucky Bird House.

Beautiful Alberta Arts - Sun, 05/03/2015 - 17:43
Pull up your comfiest seat... I'm going walking, again. With only 16 hours to absorb all of Portland, I walked until night fall when I arrived, and was up with the birds the very next day. I've never regretted taking pictures. I've never come home, uploaded my photographs, and thought, Oy. There are too many pictures. Why did I take pictures of everything?? It's never happened. Not even close. And while I've never posted all of the pictures I take, sometimes I post a lot. And today... today I am going to post way more than a lot. Today I have seventy-five photographs edited and formatted to publish on this here blog. You don't have to dare me, and it's too late to dissuade me, 'cause I am going for it. Starting with that stick you see up there.

The stick stopped me in my tracks. It beguiled me with its stickness, the moss, the lichen, the colors, and textures. I wanted to bring the stick home with me, but was discouraged by the memory of an airport security pat-down I endured in Canada. Those get personal. I couldn't risk it. I am thankful for this photograph, for the memories it recalls of the morning in Portland when I was walking briskly and taking pictures of anything beautiful, including my breakfast, a menu, trees, porches, a truck bed, notices, bird houses, cinder blocks, mushrooms, blossoms, lilacs, and the sky. Todo, and all, to my heart's content.

A truck bed of sticks, and leaves. Ask, and I might try to explain it, but the sight of this makes me happy all the way to my boots.

We are going to see a lot of trees on this walk. I don't know their names, common or Latin. But they were large, green, or purple, or red. They were abundant, breathtaking.

I don't know your name, flowers.

I don't know yours either. Everywhere I turned, I was being wooed by blossoms I have never seen before. These were like banks of snow.

You know you are smitten when even the sidewalks call your attention.

Little Free Library. So much to love, here.

So much to love, here, too.

Hello, Kitty.

Oh, Kitty.

Going Street. I saw more cyclists than motorists, Monday morning, in Portland. Everyone on their way to their Monday morning places.

Green house. Blue trim. Wisteria. Porch.

What is this? I really do enjoy not knowing. It's fun to be enchanted and mystified. But, if you know...

It's not just the drought, here in California, that makes me thirst for these sights... it's never been this damp, this lush, with something growing in every nook, on every stump, where we live. This green, soft, photosynthesis everywhere was a sensory joy.



For my brother, Mark: Revival Drum Shop.

Still walking...

Orange trim. Green trim. Porch, and dormer windows. Those are dormer windows, right? Anyway, that's what I imagine dormer windows should look like.

Lilacs. I know this, for certain. And the fragrance... more joy.

Community Supported Everything: "What would happen if communities took higher education into their own hands? What if education meant pursuing our passions and growing at our edges, immersed in a culture of creativity, accountability, integrity and action? What if instead of using degrees to measure our success, we were credited by the direct impact our work has on the world? We could transform our communities and build resilient new systems that will carry us through the next century."

I am not endorsing them... I don't actually know them, but I do like the questions they pose. I do like their intentions. I see maker movements, and open source knowledge as terrific opportunities for shared growth and learning. I value smart communities, healthy environments, shared resources... I feel better when everyone is doing well.

I am sorry they weren't open.

Petite Provence Alberta looked as inviting as it had the night before.

This time their bakery case was full. I wanted to bring some home.

And, I wanted to remember this crepe. The description reads like the book flap of an adventure novel... so enticing, so fraught with possibilities, that hint of mystery, suspense. It made me want to know, how does it end? It was tempting, to say the least, but I decided it was an adventure to share, so I really do have to return to Portland with friends.

It only looks conventional. The roasted butternut squash made this breakfast très magnifique. The Day Breaker. Oui.

I was tempted, but probably another thing I wouldn't want to explain to the TSA.

Every person I crossed paths with said the word "Beautiful," when they spoke. "Beautiful day." Isn't this day beautiful?" "A beautiful day to be out." "It's beautiful out here." And then I realized, it was the sky, the sun. A blue sky, no clouds... these were the exception, the special to be noted, appreciated. I smiled, and thought wistfully of the day before, when all was gray, and the rain fell, now and then. That was beautiful, too.

After breakfast, more walking. Then back to my room, to say farewell. I put my bags in the trunk of the car, then did a search for a yarn shop. Yarn for crocheting, to help me through take-off, landing, and the time between.

Half an hour 'til opening, so time for more walking...

Do you have places like these where you live? Food trucks, food wagons, food vans, purple tables, and cooks on a mission?

Lovely houses, lush trees... maybe these aren't unexpected sights. But I was so happy seeing the layers, the colors, the vibrancy, and charm. Even right down to the cinder blocks, which were like fairy gardens. Perhaps untended by human hands, but touched by some kind of incantation.

The tiniest blossoms were as captivating to me as the fullest trees.

Everything I could hope for before my flight home... a friendly welcome, beauty and inspiration, supplies, and help to get me started. I am so glad I found Close Knit.

I call myself the Chicken Abroad. While I love new sights, the chance to make discoveries, I am not a flyer, and not very daring, either. Like any chicken, you'll find me content at home, on the ground, but every now and then, this chicken likes to cross a road, or two. It helps me grow.

And then I like to come home to roost, and share my stories and pictures.

And catch up with all my chickies, in the Bird House.

Walking Alberta Arts In The Evening - Sat, 05/02/2015 - 11:16
We're in Portland... let's go walking, you and me...

Q: How did you find this gem of a neighborhood?

A: Pure dumb luck. I searched Airbnb for something in range of the airport, so I wouldn't have to stress-out over navigating in a new city, hoping to make my flight in a timely manner. And lo! Once again, Airbnb steered me right, and after an easy, pretty drive up from Albany, over rivers, through woods etc, I pulled up to the curb of a comfy and inviting house, street, and neighborhood: Alberta Arts District. I was so instantly attracted and intrigued, I didn't even check out my room, or bother taking my suitcase out of the trunk. I parked, then walked. And walked. And walked. And I took pictures, of course. Here is a lot of what I saw that evening.

Did they name the district, and then art came? Or was art always growing here, like the trees, the moss, the flowers, and then they realized, we have something special here, let's give it a name?

It has a Madison look, but it's funkier, grittier. It reminds me of San Francisco, but less business, more play. There's a hint of Leucadia, but Alberta Arts is bigger, deeper, with a stronger sense of community, purpose, like it has a certainty of its own worth, and destiny. It seems neither apologetic, nor defensive, and wholly available to be explored. So, I kept walking.

Anna Banana's... I was so delighted to see my friend's name on this eatery in the old Rexall Drugs. I was nostalgic for the corner drugstore I knew as a kindergartner, in Ramona, and happy to think of Anna B, who I imagine would very much enjoy this walk, too. In fact, many of the pictures I took were because of the people back home, who I was thinking of, missing, and was feeling quite certain would love this view, or those flowers, would enjoy that painting. In my head, I was talking to William, to Alex, Max, Maria, to Geoff, and my goats, the chicken's too, all of you... and saying, "Oh my gosh! Look! I wish you were here."

Would you believe? This might be one of my favorite pictures.

This is certainly my favorite ATM.

I will, shamelessly, try to incorporate this art into my life, somehow. I cannot speak for their tea, but the charm of these two signs convinces me it must be delectable, and good.

This is the band that Mister Washburn Foo drums for, when he can. He's a cool cat.

And the goats want to go to Pickathon, the Independent Music Festival... they're being a bit petulant about it, really, but can you blame them?

Okay. So. This might have been an emotional moment for me. Because, yes, I get strong feels about connecting dots, and stumbling upon truly exceptional discoveries, particularly ones that relate to creative pursuits! When I saw the name, {Collage} I felt a I-know-this-place tingle in my heart. It was, I suspected, the shop I heard mentioned by Amy Karol, Angry Chicken. When I went in, I was certain. Do you like stuff, to make stuff with?? This shop! It's your basic independent crafter-art-maker mecca with loads of inspiration and supplies, and things that make you say, "I need this. No. I need five of this. And maybe one more, to share." I got weak in the knees. I asked if I could take pictures. I asked if I could fondle the merchandise. Not really. But, you guys, please tell me you understand! It's a maker's candy store in there! You want all the flavors! I do think I showed admirable restraint, but not too much.

Every street off of NE Alberta led into the neighborhoods of houses, of front yards, and porches, of kitchen windows, and soft evening lights. People were coming home, sitting on their steps, greeting neighbors, dashing out. It was a pleasure to see so many flowers, and trees, that are new to me, like meeting friendly strangers... you don't catch their name, but they feel like they could be kindred spirits. I brushed my hand along the beautiful mound of thyme growing in the walled bed, and smelled home.

Back to my Airbnb base camp, to find my room, re-charge my phone, call my people. Then out, again, on a dinner quest!

I totally have a crush on cycling culture, and the cool people who travel on two wheels. This is me shouting-out to The Community Cycling Center, and my father-in-law, Phil, Georgia, Bill, Hans, Gretchen, Alison, Dan and Marla, Thomas and Dallas, Bob, Chuck W, Anna B... I think you all are brave, and genius, and strong.

My second episode of emotional feels, where I felt like I was brushing with fame, happened in the very local, very Comic-Con-esque shop: Screaming Sky Gallery. Art. Everywhere. And also in this shop, where I realized I was standing face-to-face with a wall full of Emily Winfield Martin. Both William and I are smitten with her art, her books, her world. She's a Portland person. {I am waving to her, in my mind, and she's waving back, because she knows I admire her stuff, and not in a creepy, overly presumptuous way, but just in a cool way. We could be friends, basically.}

I am such a dork. But in a cool way.

Okay. Dinner. This was easy. I asked in Screaming Sky for dinner suggestions, and he said, "Anywhere. Honestly. There are too many good choices." Then a another guy, a customer, chimed in, "Yeah, I am thinking about dinner, too, and it's just so easy, because everywhere is good." So, I walked outside, and tried to pick. Something unique. Something where it was smelling too delicious not to stop, and I found Petite Provence: warm and welcoming, good smells, interesting menu, and it turned out to be the right choice.

Do you ever feel like you might totally blow it? Gah! My one and only chance to have a "special" dinner, and be in a hip spot. And you want it to be tasty, not just "okay." But hopefully affordable, too. That was my state of mind. I am on an adventure. Out on my own... so rare. I've been walking for two hours, and smelling great foods, seeing obviously popular joints, and I want to find a memorable meal, something unique, and, and, and..." Yes, basically, way over-thingking it, and aiming for perfection. I am happy to say: I enjoyed my dinner. Salad. Pommes Frits a la Truffe... oh, yes... much better said in French, oui? There was live music, too. And from my window seat, I could observe the gentle rain fall, the people still out walking, the many dogs on leashes, and babes in strollers. I have happy memories of my special dinner.

Also: Portland has their own ketchup? On a hilarious, serious note: There were undeniable Portlandia moments. I did not double down, or lobster-ate, my dinner, but the couple that so passionately talked to the hostess for five minutes about "the gluten-free choices," and whether the hostess herself was "gluten-free," well, I would like to thank them, because they made me feel like an extra on the set. The ketchup was delicious on my Pommes Frits a la Truffe, by the way.

After dinner, I walked. I love Portland.

Window shopping. Do you think I could have that owl print shipped to me??

Like our Little Free Library, but everything.

I love Portland.

To finish the day, I sat on the porch, and watched everything. Rain, people, cars, flowers. And I wished you were there.

{this moment} - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 05:00
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to see.
We've made a friend.

Red Barn, Purple Trees & The Joy of Discovery - Wed, 04/29/2015 - 11:26

Honestly, I was not going to post anything today. {I feel self conscious about over sharing, wearing out my welcome in the blogosphere.} Then, I went out to feed goats, collect eggs, visit hens... and the day! The day is so beautiful I had to pick up my camera. I've waited to see how bodacious and riotous the barn would look, beneath a shower of purple blossoms, ever since October, when the boys painted it Barn Red. Now, the jacarandas are in full bloom, and it is a sight to behold. The sky is a blue confection. Nothing edited or enhanced on these photos. You can see, right, why I had to share? It's too beautiful to be contained. And the there's the smell of cut grass, and warm straw, sweet alfalfa, and sun. The sun smells like things growing, heat, something coming... summer, maybe? I found three eggs, and hungry chickens. They don't know that chicks will be arriving, soon... their summer will be one of adjustments, and negotiations. The goats were reclining in the shade of their cottage, and in no hurry to get up, but they smiled at me, then came for their second breakfast. They looked content, and mild.

Really, I didn't intend to write anything for Chickenblog, but as long as we're here... we had waffles this morning, an extra effort sort of breakfast, because the high school had a late start. Max loves a good breakfast and a late start. How many articles and studies have you seen that tout the benefits of late starts for adolescents and growing children? Seems like they're always "discovering" that young people fare better when they can get more sleep. They might go to bed earlier, but then there's the other frequently reported homework crisis we face. And even though plenty of studies suggest that homework isn't always beneficial, or necessary, it still manages to get heaped on them, more and more. The day is too beautiful for further pondering, so I'll just say... late start mornings are marvelous, and I don't hold much account for heap loads of homework.

If I were the benevolent rule-maker I would say, Let homework be play, and discovery, bring back show and tell, and nap time. Schools should send everyone home with seeds, and dirt, with flutes, and drums, with wood and nails, and ask them to build something useful, something to give away. Homework could be for tending a community garden, taking a sewing class, walking dogs, beach combing, surfing, cycling, opening a book, composing a tune, reading aloud, dabbling, tinkering, wondering, asking, answering, practicing the art of learning by doing. Not every day. I know there are "important" things to do, and duties to perform, but it seems like there is a lot to learn, a lot to grow from, when we make room to find something unexpected.

Corvallis & Farmer's Market - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 10:38

Yes, I got to return to Corvallis and that bakery I love, and the old buildings, grand trees, and more. This time for the Farmer's Market. Really, is there a better way to discover and appreciate a town than a visit to their farmer's market? Delia and I drove there, meeting Becky and Debbie. Getting veggies for dinner was just one excuse, otherwise I didn't need any incentive or pushes... Corvallis is attractive enough to lure me over. Do you spy the chicks and hens? All the plants and flowers were magnificent. Is it the light, the damp air, and clouded sky, that make their garden colors look so enlivened, so saturated in color? Everything looks like it's been run through a photo-editing app... someone hit Enhance!

The banjo man was touting the sweet skills of the OSU Organic Farming students, and I am, too. Well done, farmers! And how about even younger farmers, how about the Community Services Consortium's Youth Garden? They're building organic gardens with a mission: "To encourage learning, entrepreneurship and work readiness in Benton County youth and to grow and locally distribute responsibly raised produce." Plus: Gnomes, and Gnome Runs. {I'm no runner, but a Gnome Run?? I would do this. Seriously.} Also, their jellies are delicious. Strawberry~Spinach... yum!

And just one more shout-out... this time for the Corvallis Bicycle Collective. "Putting Bikes Under People Since 2009.
The mission of the Corvallis Bicycle Collective is to increase health, safety, sustainability, and happiness through bicycling.
We achieve this mission by providing the community with:
Used bicycles and parts,
Tools and knowledge to perform repairs, and
Outreach through workshops, classes, and events."

Brilliant! I love this. Makers are amazing, and there is something particularly extra awesome about makers who share.

My mom found the zucchinis she needed for dinner... {rice and wild rice, with sautéed zukes, and tomatoes, topped with cheese. It was delicious.} We caught up with my aunt and cousin, and found Ron, later, too. And mostly I just kept being awestruck by all the produce and flowers, those grape hyacinth, and sweet peas... swoon! And dogs! There were so many dogs, all well behaved, and patient, all in the mix of happy people, and loveliness. Oregon is good at happy and lovely, patience, too. It's a nice place to catch your breath, to find your veg, and take pictures to bring home. The last time we were here I was determined to return, and I feel the same this time... eager to go back to Oregon, especially with Geoff, and the kids, and friends. I am imagining a whole bunch of us bearded gnomes running through the Oregon gardens!

Five Good Things - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 05:00

Of all of us, I cannot say who loves the porch the most. But we all agree that it's done a world of good for Mister Washburn Indoor-Kitty Foo. He loves the porch. He loves the views, the birds, the cool concrete, the sunny spots, the napping spots, the rolling around and gathering dust spots. He loves springing up to the ledge, the excellent satisfaction he enjoys when the birds, at their feeder, dart off in a flutter. Bad kitty. But, he needs this, an outlet, some fun. We don't trust him on the loose, in nature. He's a hunter, a beast. He likes furry things, and feathered things. And it's likely, too, that some bigger furry things would like him. We feel better when he is indoors, and he feels better now that some of the outdoors can be enjoyed from inside.

We have our paints and chalks, strings, buttons, records, and tablecloths on the porch. It's a staging space for art, for picnics, for tinkering and make believe, for drinking tea, for lolling about, like a cat.

Good Things...

1. Coming home.

2. Being in Oregon, seeing my mother, and dad, my grandmother, aunt, cousin.

3. Having space for make believe, and company, for painting, and lolling like cats.

4. Missing Geoff, because I love him, and it's nice to feel a longing to be by his side.

5. Missing William, and Alex, and Max, and Maria, because I love them, and they make me laugh, and inspire me, because I am happy to think of being with them, again.

6. Wearing your heart on your sleeve, anytime, but most especially when you are far from home.

Happy Monday... care to wear your heart on your sleeve? Share something good~

The Porch Is Lovely - Sun, 04/26/2015 - 05:00
It's been a while since I mention the porch, and maybe the last time I mentioned progress on our big project was something of a cliffhanger!

Remember this?
I'd rather not.

And this?
Only one month ago!

I hardly remember this any more. Our old porch, with no roof, no screens, no straps holding the beams to the columns... not a comforting discovery, I must say! But, this was only two months ago, when we met Mike, and began the conversion from a shaded porch, to a covered, and screened and marvelous porch. And then we were able to repair the living room ceiling, from the roof leak (Geoff fixed that leaky problem, too.) Yes, one thing led to another, and it feels like we've hardly slowed down from start to almost finished. This might be as good a time as any to pause, then review, and see where we are...

We painted the walls green. Can you tell?? "Tournament Field," Behr Ultra, Eggshell. {I am sharing this because I've been uncommonly organized about the paints, and this is just my little self-congratulatory shout-out to me.} Wait until you see what we did with the ceiling!

For one thing we installed fourteen LED lights. It's the brightest room in the house. It outshines broad daylight. It's life changing, in a good way.

And to be sure everyone knows we were going for Bright & Light, we chose "Pure Turquoise," Behr Ultra, Flat. I must add, these were suggestions from Alex, and I don't say this to blame him, but because he deserves the credit for making interesting, and, ultimately, really pleasing choices. The room feels both soothing and enlivening. It's lovely, and good.

Actually, I liked this probably more than I should admit. It felt like we were living in the middle of an old curiosity shop. Oddly comforting.

Even when we were only a week away from hosting an Easter brunch, I was miraculously keeping my cool.

Meanwhile... in the living room, testing colors. Nope. And nope.

And Mister Foo would add, "No carpeting? Nope. Meow." This was a difficult transition.

Eventually, painfully, with confusion, and some hair loss, no doubt, we found our living room colors, too. For the walls: A custom mix to recreate whatever spongy-fungal-beighy-sage color is in our kitchen. {Geoff will never forgive me for using "fungal" in the paint description, but it is a confoundedly impossible color to describe.} The ceiling was to be Swiss Coffee, but we were shocked to see how little coffee was in that color, and hastily settled on "Almond Latte," Behr Ultra, Matte. It's a good thing these were good paint names, because it might not smell as sweet if it were called "Fungal Latte," or "Wind Beneath The Sheet." Good paint names are very important. The newly repaired beams got the biggest color change of all: "Spiced Berry," Behr Ultra, Matte.

As yet, there are no cover shots, no wide angle lens views. Curtains aren't up. Fireplace needs repair, there's trim pieces left to install, but this is our living room, now. We love it. It's our own, cozy, home. And just in time for the Easter Brunch, we managed to get things in some kind of order...

For the first time since in many years, I am not dreading summer. Oh, I love the season, theoretically. I love that the children are out of school, that our days can linger over anything, or nothing. I do love the long days, the smell of the ocean, or a forest. But the heat. The heat has become a miserable thing, and fire season, too. Geoff looks at me, plaintive eyes wide, and suggests 'An air conditioner? Just a small one, for one room. My room. Please! A closet. I could sit in the closet, and I wouldn't bother anyone.' It's pitiful, and I'd hate for him to find out how close I've come to cracking, to caving to the sweet sweet surrender of cool air, and sleep. Restful sleep on a hot summer night can be hard to come by, and our summer started in March, could go on through November. But I do not dread this summer half as much, because with the porch we can swing the doors wide open, and God willing, please, cool air will come in. Please. Then our lovely porch will be even more lovely.

Wanted :: Black Bart The Poetic Bandit of Gold Rush Days - Sat, 04/25/2015 - 05:00
This particular California Gold Rush assignment brings Maria full circle, back to the day when she knew for sure she wanted to be in Ms Butler's class, just like her friend Leo, and making wanted posters, a Mission, inventing a toy, and in a classroom brimming with activities. Fourth grade has been good, sometimes even better than expected. Open House is next week, and we'll get to see more of Maria's creations, and works, and maybe she'll want to pop over to the fifth grade classrooms... to see what's in store for her there. As for Black Bart, he got off pretty easy for his crimes. I guess it pays to be a gentleman and a poet when you hold up stage coaches. He served his time, then was never heard from again.

Maria, I love how you portrayed Charles Bowles in his flour sack disguise!