out like a lion

Yesterday, I marveled at the worms in my hopeful plot (I also ran for the first time in a few weeks and I am afraid to talk about it too much because as I learn what I can fit into my life and what I can't, I never want it to be running that goes...it won't, right?).

Today, I wore a down jacket. I mean, I am all for increased precipitation in western Montana but tomorrow it is APRIL. I remember lots of snow in Missoula as a kid but now I am so used to early spring (early garden). Oh, I do live in Montana. Hang in there little worms.


Photos of my backyard were taken at 8ish, 4ish, 7ish and 9ish. So it's not like he snow is sticking, but that is almost worst--like a nagging habit that won't manifest itself enough to be called an addiction, which can be intriguing, but is just there enough to merit exhausting and unsatisfying gossip.

In other really important news, the Milltown dam is being removed. yay.


chick chat

And I thought my bug was growing fast. The girls are all bird-like all of the sudden.

Peep and poop. That is the life of my chickens.

Dee is definitely not a Dee (the Ameraucana, the chick with the dark stripe on her head). At first I thought she was grandmotherly but now she is just a big, fat bully boss princess. So that is her name for now: big fat bully boss princess. Bossy P for short.

It is cold and snowy in western Montana so these birds are the little splash of spring a girl needs.



Easter day started with Alice briefly but thoroughly enjoying the new toy I bought her at Goodwill.

Then I made two blood orange upside-down cakes.

It was only 8:30am. Partly because I was productive and partly because bug hadn't slept and so I hadn't slept and I eventually gave up and got up.


We went to brunch at Laura and Craig's house. Bug wore the amazing dress my mom made her. The dress is seriously so gorgeous. I might make her squeeze into it next year too.

:: :: :: :: ::

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 blood oranges, sliced paper-thin crosswise, seeds discarded
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Sweetened whipped cream, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Set a 9-inch nonstick cake pan over moderate heat. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter and when it is melted, stir in the brown sugar until dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Arrange the lemon slices in the melted brown sugar.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and the egg yolks, one at a time. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the milk.
  3. In a stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar at high speed until firm peaks form. Fold one-third of the beaten whites into the batter, then fold in the rest. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert it onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.
Recipe from Food & Wine by Cal Peternell


March snow brings April hope, yo

Thanks, all, for your comments. Andy picked a number between 1 and 23 (the number of comments) and the winner is Jane Marie. Congrats! E mail me at nicirae at gmail got com with your address and if you'd like green tomato relish or smokin' plum butter.

In other news, this is what we woke to this morning:

It is great, actually. But whah. Looking back to posts last March at this time, my garden was so dry that I could turn the dirt and my compost easily and I was having to water some spring bloomers because they were parched. So, I am thankful (with a reluctant grimace). It does make me feel behind because my garden was totally ready to swallow seeds one year ago and today, the trench that is beginning to function as a regular annoyed topic of dinner conversation is still scaring my snow-covered, unthawed plot.


dig these chicks

*I will select the canned-good winner tomorrow.*

:: :: :: :: ::

Meet my girls. Dee, Clementine and Ida:

I am so psyched to have chickens. We have an Ameraucana, a Golden Sex Link and a Rhode Island Red. They currently chirp, poo and sleep in our guest bathroom. I (with the hopeful help of my loving husband so the project takes a few hours instead of a few days) now have to build our coop so they have a place to roam, peck, scratch and lay for the next several years. Andy is less than excited about this new project whilst we are learning to balance our previously busy life with a new kiddo. But I know he'll come around when he enjoys those amazing eggs laid in our backyard moments before consumption.

I have researched and wanted chickens for years. Missoula's chicken-lovin' ordinance passed on bug's birthday. I used to want a monkey as a kid and am thankful my mom said no way. After my monkey wishes were crushed, I turned to chickens--a legitimate pet that doesn't need diapers or the jungle; a pet that offers poo like gold, soil tillage, delicious eggs and funny companionship.

Oh, chickens.

Alice cautiously wags her tail at them and looks at me like, Come on mom, how many more creatures are you gonna divide your time among? Olive sits by the door with a twitchy butt. Sam, of course, is excited to have new friends that might pet him.

This morning Andy got up before me and I sleepily asked if he'd check on the chicks. He came back upstairs all serious-like and said babe, we have a problem. Oh no, dead chick, I thought. I sat up. I think we should take them back, he said. They aren't laying any eggs.

Then he admitted they're cute. Yes. He's in.

:: :: :: :: ::

My Brooder:

Our small shower stall is the perfect pullet habitat. I ripped down an old oil cloth to size, taped all the way around the perimeter and then bought pine shavings to place on top (I am told not to use cedar as ingestion can be bad for the wee ones. And, I read that I shouldn't use newspaper as it is too slippery when wet and can cause broken chick legs). The stall is blocked off with a baby gate and I hung the heat lamp overhead from the shower rod. As I drove up with my purchased pine shavings, my neighbor, who was in his front yard, asked me if I had any use for pine shavings. I am not kidding. I literally put the bag o' shavings back in the trunk, walked across the street and returned with his house project refuse.

My favorite chicken book (and I have looked at them all): Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces



Today, I have been blogging for one year.

One year ago today I planted spring's first seeds, fell and sprained my ankle while running and was pregnant and didn't know it.

Little did I know that the most substantial changes of my entire life would occur right out there on the world wide web. I started blogging because I like to take photos and I like to write. It is like an extra bonus that people actually tune into dig this chick. So I guess I feel like saying thanks.

In honor of my one year blogiversary, I would like to give a gift. Here is how it will work: leave a comment on this post within the next few days and I will randomly select a winner. I will then post the winner who will then e mail me their address. I will send said winner one of the following (their choice): a jar of green tomato relish or a jar of smokin' plum butter.


happy curtains

We have been in our casa for four years and I am on my third set of living room curtains and, like a bad relationship, I want out but I keep trying to make it work.

The thing is, our front window is big (87 inches) and two store-bought panels just don't cut it. So, when closed, there are gaps. I hate gappy curtains. As a woman who enjoys her evening privacy as much as daytime sunlight, I need gap-free curtains that are elegant, unique and slide easily.

Picking out curtain fabric is an art. The first tough question is, do I want leading or supporting role fabric? If one has a visually stimulating room, one will be ill-served by a curtain with aggressive print. If one has a room whose colors can be described by using coffee menu language, one will be ill-served with mocha or latte curtains.


After an obsessive few hours (bug was a great little fabric shopper), I narrowed my choice down to three fabrics that varied in price ($9.95/yd, $18.50/yd and $38/yd) but the prices were deceptive because the least expensive fabric required three panels and a liner where as the most expensive required two panels and no liner. My mom had her fabric picked out before I could even focus my vision on the colorful pinwheels of luscious bolts. I was jealous of her decisiveness. I was all tore up inside with the decision but then my dad came to pick up my mom and made my decision easy. He said, This one is busy. This one is happy and that one is harsh.

And so, I went with the happy curtains, of course.

My living room is open and light. The walls are pale, creamy yellow and carry quite a bit of art. We don't have a lot of stuff, only items we care about and want to showcase. So I went with a supporting role fabric that has its own distinctive personality.

And, the selvedge edge is so stinkin' cute.


a run and seeds are in the ground!

After yesterday's little snow and my little temper tantrum, Montana offered up a perfect spring day today.

I went for a run this morning with my girls, bug and Alice. I haven't been running. I thought that I would keep it up because I felt great when I started back,when bug was three weeks old, but I just haven't felt much like running so I haven't. It is that difficult, chicken-and-egg place that runners sometimes find themselves: I really want to run but I don't want to deal with getting back into running shape so I am not running but I'll never be in running shape unless I start running.

We had a great run on this sunny day. The squirting is subsiding, which is nice. I am ready to start training to train for my marathon this fall. I think I'll take it easy for a month and run on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday for 30-45 minutes. That will be a good start.

I got home and negotiated the effing gate to our backyard when I noticed yesterday's snow had completely melted by our garage...I wonder...I unhooked Alice and left bug in her stroller to keep snoozing. I dusted off my garden bucket and headed in for investigation. As soon as Alice saw the bucket she started peeling out all around the yard. I swear if she could click her heels, she would have. And Sam joined us too.

And. The soil was thawed! Only about two feet by ten, but still. I was hungry and thirsty (I often forget to eat and drink in the morning lately. Don't worry, I never forget my coffee.), but it didn't matter. I was on a mission. I had no idea how long bug would sleep and I had a meeting at 1:30. I brushed the leaves out of the way and gently dug the crumbly brown medium that would provide the perfect home for the next few month's dinners. I only saw a few worms but it is still early and I was gentle with my digging as to not upset the delicate microbes that are still enjoying their refrigerated habitat.

I hurried to grab my seeds and then had the tough decision of what to plant in my tiny, hopeful plot. It could be weeks before the rest of my plot thaws. I had to think about what will be there in June (tomatoes and peppers) and honor The Gardener's Rotation Golden Rule: leaf, root, fruit. The cool, wet weather is perfect for arugula so that was a no-brainer. And, peas come and go so quickly and are Andy's fave, so they were in too, even though they set fruit...it is only the skinny strip against the garage. But, then, for the remaining itty bitty section, do I plant a few beets (I have three heirloom varieties) or mesclun or lettuce or spinach?

I planted snow peas, snap peas, arugula and spicy mesclun mix. It was a good start to my day.


Montana is a Harsh Mistress

I am always hopeful for an early spring. I do love our Montana winters but some time in late February the poo brown, schlopy wetness starts to fry my will. Especially this year when I am not out on epic ski adventures.

I ordered my seeds and they came and I arranged to borrow a corner in my friend's greenhouse. I plan to start my seeds this weekend. I am getting chickens in two weeks and I think I guilted, ahem talked, my man into helping with the hen castle.

I have been poking at the bare earth and feeling like I could perhaps wedge some pea seeds down in there....but then this morning, I woke up to a beautiful and serene world that shattered my dreams of green lushness. There was an exhibit at MAM a few years back by a Swedish artist, Gerd Aurell, called Montana is a Harsh Mistress. Yup.

I mean, it is March and I do live in Montana. And I know I am being dramatic because this was hardly a *storm*. But still. This girl is ready for the sun rising early and setting late, jumping in a river and momentarily losing her breath to the glacial cold, flip flops, earthworms and freckles.
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