This week I started my part of finishing the Backyard Industry video series.

The biggest/hardest parts of this process, for me, are the writing of the episode and the logging of the footage. We shot a bunch of footage of people’s chicken coops last summer – here’s my friend/neighbor/now-mother-of-Cliff, Colleen, talking about their setup:


I think Tim and I would agree that the way we’ve ended up working together on these things has been less than optimum for a lot of reasons; the overall lack of time sucks, but also the way we’ve divided up the workload (based mainly on skillsets, but also priorities/time) means that we each have our specific, siloed area of work. We rarely work together outside of the shoot itself. If we had it to do all over again, I think both of us would prefer to work more collaboratively from start to finish, but it’s also been a good experience with so many lessons learned. SO MANY LESSONS, Y’ALL. Anyway, we’re looking forward to finishing the series and moving into spring at about the same time. I’m pretty excited about spring, although… I still haven’t ordered my seeds. Am I OK?


My brain is wired in such a way that I have to write stuff down or I’ll forget it.


Occasionally I look at my notes and am perplexed. What the hell does that even mean? Was I asleep when I wrote this or what? I’m always writing little blurbs to myself about possible topics to cover here and eventually on the podcast, which I’m still planning to get to when the weather turns. Here are some of them:

The demise/”resurrection” of Modern Farmer magazine

At some point I’ll write a long piece about farmers markets and why I think they’re so important and it’s not just about food for me

The difference between being enveloped in a culture like a blanket and being part of the actual fabric of the culture itself – being the blanket, I guess – in the contexts of isolation and inclusiveness

How neighborhoods, and conversations among neighbors and small business owners are rarely part of the “brand” of most places that we see. Individuals, households, towns/areas are more connected with other individuals, households, and towns/areas than ever before, but getting out and conversing IRL is crucial; otherwise the “brands” dominate the conversation and places/people are not being represented truthfully. This happens all the time and everywhere and I’m not thinking up some new thought or anything, but I was struck by a conversation I had with two friends the other night, quite by chance, where this was apparent – the difference between what the 3 of us know to be true, what we see happening, vs various “talking points” we all hear – was amazing. The dominant narrative is so rarely what’s actually happening, and people do know this, and it erodes trust. Get out there and talk about it!

UGH, I’m all over the place. I should finish that shopping list and procure supplies before our (seriously downgraded) “weather event” makes its way here. But first… a little bit of LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

I found myself checking out the Lexington Market in Baltimore

I like analytics

And digital marketing stats, I like those too

Something great Jeff Johnson wrote at Medium about Marshawn Lynch

How the BBC is thinking about its future

Roads Less Traveled

A couple of nights ago, I dropped Lilly off at her friend’s house and decided to take some back roads to get home. The settling sun was providing some epic light, it wasn’t too cold, and I had some time to kill. It was a luscious pre-dusk-January-Saturday feeling.


Geese and other birds seem to move around this time of year in this part of Illinois (perhaps they’re confused by our weather? I know I am), so when I saw the kite in the photo above from a distance as I drove along, I wanted to get a closer look at the “birds” that were moving in such excellent concert with each other. I navigated the patchwork of rural roads to get closer to them so I could get some decent snaps. In so doing, I flashed back to my days of running the farmers’ market here – I’d go out to visit farmers on their land, trying to make sense of county roads and state roads and wondering if the GPS was KIDDING ME by bringing me to some isolated dirt road a hundred miles from home. Anyway, as I got closer and the “birds” didn’t move forward, it became obvious I was not looking at birds at all, but an enormous (and unattended) kite. I stopped the car in front of the house to get a photo. A very large and very fuzzy collie watched me intently from the driveway; I stayed on my side of the road, while the sun gilded everything generously with the last rays of the day. I admired the house to which the kite belonged, a cute little mid-century modern-ish affair just out of the frame above. And, to my delight, I watched many hundreds of very confused geese flying north in huge Vs high above my head. It was a perfect moment, one of many I’ve spent on back roads in Illinois watching thunderstorms on the horizon, comets in the heavens, and now birds and kites on the breeze.

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

GenX/Millennials vacationing with their Boomer parents (sorry for the generalizations)

One of my internet favorites, Melody Kramer

NYT: Write your way to happiness

I’m coconut oil-curious

Last week’s episode of MidAmerican Gardener

Medium is one of my favorite places to stumble upon thought-provoking writing

My friend Jessica did this fascinating interview with Bjork, and…

It’s Not Just Bjork: Women Are Tired of Not Getting Credit for Their Own Music

The Heritage Radio Network has some AWESOME podcasts, including Grace Bonney‘s “After the Jump”

The Goat Must Be Fed (digital journalism)

This piece on the cause of addiction is powerful (as are some of the comments)

So many blog entries this month. I’d say I don’t recognize myself, what with all this blogging, but… it’d be a lie.

Two Thirds

We’re “most” of the way through a tolerable January – let’s high five! Here’s some actual January sky for you:

IMG_6735That little white dot in the middle – that’s a plane. I think you can see it better if you click the photo to make it big.

Nothing else to report – just that it’s January 21, the weather has been good, and I still have not yet ordered my seeds. It has to happen soon, and I cannot spend $100 on seeds and sweet potato slips. THAT IS RIDICULOUS.


Exact Change

January always makes me want to change something up, and the more immediately I can change something, the better… which means I usually change something with my appearance, and that often means my hair. I mean, why not? It’s relatively cheap and instantaneous.

I know from plenty of experience that doing this never produces the desired results. Last January’s shearing off of 18″ of hair was transformative, but not in the way I’d expected or hoped for. UGH, JANUARY. The days are still short, the weather is still cold, work is work; everything feels low-grade and pedestrian and boring and it seems like the perfect time to, I don’t know, get a tattoo. Jim and I were talking the other day about how we could be – and want to be, and plan to be, because we used to be – so much weirder than we currently are, and I felt this pang of desire to be freed of this malaise by CARING LESS.

I was thinking this morning that I cleave way too much to the idea of immediate change/results as opposed to working toward something and having the process be transformative, not the result. Yesterday, Cody and I were talking about this with regards to creating a following on Instagram for his photo work – which he is doing with success – and we had this exchange (I’m in blue):


I sound so wise, don’t I? He really is a stellar example of what attention and patience and trust in oneself can do, giving zero effs while doing so. He’s experiencing rapid change on a large scale in his life because he’s put his energy and focus on doing this work after scattering that energy and focus to the winds for so long – and he’s just 22. His life is not perfect, of course, but the transformation, especially from the vantage point of being his parent, has been extraordinary these last 8 months. Extraordinary. It brings up a host of feelings about what I was doing at his age and how I got to now, which are fully mine to deal with.

Basically…I’ve been watching a few of my favorites undergo amazing personal transformations these last few years, and I might have finally, truly absorbed this: Drastic haircuts do not equal being the architect of one’s life.

Allrighty, then! On to LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

Food trends to watch… from an Australian perspective

The 14 Principles of the Future Organization

My old friend Any Resemblance

6 Great Apps to Help You Write

Wisconsin Foodie

Stoner Rock Band Name Generator

On speaking while female

A photo of Robert Plant holding a dove while onstage

Garden trends in 2015

Embroidery: Because I have all kinds of time

20 Ways to Make People Fall in Love With Your Instagram

My favorite article about last night’s handegg games

All Rise

It’s been about 30 years since I saw Naked Raygun. I was a … junior?… in high school and they played a show at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. It was my first (and only) time seeing them. It was also my first time at the Entry; I had no idea that place would become a second home for me in just a few years. Anyway. For a suburban wannabe-punk teenager (and likely for all the dudes in the pit as well), the show was magical and life-changing, though I went home with an EP from one of the opening bands. Sorry, NR.

That was 30 years ago?

IMG_0569This is not Naked Raygun.

Anyway. Here in Urbana-Champaign we have a yearly event called The Great Cover Up. In short: Local bands get 20 minutes to be someone else onstage, people attend in droves, and money is raised for a good cause. Braid were REM one year. Poster Children were the Cars in another. Hum were Led Zeppelin sometime in the mid-90s. And Jim’s band, Sixteen Tons, went out with a literal bang at their second-to-last Cover-Up performance in 1993 when they were Big Black.

[Jim and I began working together a few months after that performance. I had been shocked to find out during the course of our getting to know one another (the way you sort of get to know the people you work with) that he was the drummer for Sixteen Tons (OMHYGODNOWAY) and that they had had this legendary performance as Big Black that everyone in our office was STILL talking about with utter reverence (we worked for an independent music distributor at the time and everyone went to several shows a week, so this was par for the course). I had been a bit of a fan of Sixteen Tons when I’d been living in Minneapolis, and was a HUGE Big Black fan, so hearing about all this, plus Jim’s being such a friendly, cool guy – and handsome to boot – was quite the combo.]

[Sixteen Tons reunited last year for the first time since 1994 (?) and played a bonkers show that our daughter (and Ed’s son) attended. Can you imagine being L & T in that situation? Here are two guys you’ve known your whole life. They’ve read The Giving Tree to you at bedtime, they’ve taught you how to swear properly on the soccer field without getting caught, they’ve made your dinner and driven you places and coached you and given you a good talking-to and hugged you at the right times and sometimes at the awkward times… and then there’s Ed onstage yelling curse words through a bullhorn and there’s Jim beating the living crap out of a drum set, along with three other guys making a most holy racket. I’m sure it was weird.]

Anyway. The upshot of this entire blog entry is this: I just loved it when Sixteen Tons were asked to play this year’s Cover-Up – their absence from playing it is now of legal drinking age –  and they agreed, as long as they could pretend to be Naked f*cking Raygun for 20 minutes. And that’s what they did. It was thrilling and noisy and Darin lit an illegal cigarette onstage and Jim tore up his hands hitting the drums and Tony made jokes from his spot and Todd looked serious and Ed had all the NR moves down… but really what it was, at its core, was 5 guys of a certain age just enjoying playing music together again for a room full of people, many of whom were that same certain age, who just wanted to enjoy being there while it happened.

Should have worn earplugs.

How Soon I Forget

Paine Balsam Fir Incense making 909 smell like camping

Does anyone remember life before tabbed browsing on the Internet? I barely do. I’m trying to imagine, now, opening a new window every time I click on a link or whenever I want to enter a URL (it became a default in Firefox in 2002). I’m grateful for tabbed browsing the way I’m grateful for vegetable peelers and food processors and bulb planters – really simple but good ideas that became tools to help us save time and make things a little easier.

My problem with tabbed browsing is that I love all my tabs. I keep tabs open forever. It goes beyond mere browser clutter: I AM A TAB HOARDER. I’ll get motivated to clean things up and click on a tab and be like, what the hell is this.. oh, yeah, I had that open for work, I think… Instagram demographics, so yes… hmmm. Maybe I should read it again so I can get rid of it. Oh, wait… : clicks new link : I’ve even had a feature on past blogs called “Open Tabs” that I’m totally resurrecting at the end of this entry because, well, I can declutter my browser while sharing with you… and never really lose track of those links.

So yesterday I ran across Food52’s recent posting about cooking goals for 2015 (tab opened 1/2/2015) and I was like, shit, that’s right – it was just a New Year, and we were all so excited about turning over new leaves! [Is it just me or has the fact 2015 is new has kind of already faded into the background in the larger culture? I’m still excited about the New Year and the possibilities it brings, but a trip to the grocery store indicated that the New Year is loooong gone and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and it’s hard not to feel like we’re being herded through time in this really artificial way that, of course, demands the spending of money.] Anyway, I’m an unabashed fan of what they do at Food52 on all levels, even if I cannot relate to it financially, and upon re-reading this tab, I discovered they have some goals that are worth getting behind, like making soup ahead and making biscuits with leaf lard and reducing kitchen waste (although since my chest freezer crapped out on me last summer, I have a major storage problem). It was a nice discovery to re-make on a Sunday afternoon that was crammed, as Monday loomed, with laundry and grocery shopping and washing dishes. [Is that really any way to spend a Sunday?]

Another discovery I re-made yesterday: I’ve become a competent food person, with emphasis on competent. This is big and I appreciate this discovery every time I re-make it. I didn’t learn to cook at home as a child/young person, although my mother was/is a terrific cook. For whatever reason, I left home not knowing how to do much in the kitchen, nor did I really know how to appreciate food, to use any kind of discernment while choosing it or eating it. I also left home not really knowing how to do much at the table other than have good manners. I knew nothing of food ritual, other than eating traditional foods over the holidays. It took me forever to relax while eating with others. There’s more to this story, but the short version is that it never really occurred to me that food is the thing that matters in so many of our social interactions AND in so many of the ways that we spend our time alone.  Everything I know about food and its place in my world I learned here in Urbana, starting 19 years ago when Jim and Cody and I landed at 704. Thanks, Urbana.

What brought this rediscovery on, you ask?? Making chili with Jim, chopping peppers. Whipping up a batch of buttermilk cornmeal muffins, scraping every last bit of batter with a rubber spatula into the muffin pan (when I was learning to bake, this move was always difficult for me, for some reason), and judging them done by smell, not by timer. It’s been a slow evolution.

One last thing for this morning: I’ve been thinking a lot recently about success, how it’s defined in our culture, and how we define it as individuals. In my adult life I’ve seen a few friends and acquaintances reach what most people would consider the pinnacles of success in their fields – platinum records, magazine covers, awards shows, recognition of their work from legends, perceived financial security, etc. I can assure you that, at least with the people I know, they have worked their ASSES off, and continue to work their asses off, in their chosen vocations. They have had breaks, to be sure, but they have also gone in and still do go in every day to DO. THE. WORK. They hustled, in some cases for decades, before anything “happened”. Except… a lot was happening while nothing seemed to be happening. Maybe not visibly to you and me, but these people laid the foundation for their careers like one lays bricks for a wall and have reaped the payoffs… and the pitfalls, in some cases. There are sacrifices and mistakes at every level. And they have, at times, been absolutely terrified.

My points are these, and they are painfully obvious: Nothing really worth having comes easily; talent and gifts and abilities require care and feeding; being good at what you do is not effortless and does not always pay off right away and sometimes does not pay off at all; payoff, if it comes, often does not always look like what you think it should look like (in most cases, ++$$); giving up sucks. I lose sight of these points all the time, and I still cringe at the breaks I ignored over the last 2+ decades because I was unwilling or unable to do the work, because I gave up before I got started, but mostly because I got scared. I certainly have said “yes” more as I’ve chugged through my 40s, but there is more work to do, especially to deepen “yes” when I say it.

Sermon over. On to LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

Fan-athlete interactions on social media

Food52’s 11 favorite cookbooks from food bloggers

Smitten Kitchen’s butterscotch pudding

Some stuff from the NPR’s Social Media Desk Tumblr

Bullet Journal!

A Soundcloud mix from Sasha Frere-Jones

More about how tabbed browsing evolved

More about SFJ leaving the New Yorker for a startup

I wonder if she refers to herself as Google’s Security Princess

Are we living in the past of a parallel universe… or WHAT?



Pause Game

The weather has hit the pause button on getting back to normal after the holidays, but we carry on in the house. We make dinner. Well, Jim does.

FullSizeRender (2)

Lilly has no school today, which is amazing. Her school, which is on the U of I campus, rarely closes. The air temperature is in the low single digits and will fall further this afternoon, but the real problem, and I can see it out my window (I’m sitting in that window you see above), is the wind. And the wind is far, far worse in rural areas just outside town. I’m glad they canceled. I see nothing wrong with it, because people’s response to extremely cold weather is relative, and a lot of people who live here are not of Midwestern stock. And even for those who are – why suffer?

I lived in Minnesota from 1981-1991. The first winter we lived there – and we had come from FLORIDA, OK – was impressive even by their standards. I think there was an ice storm shortly after Halloween, and then it was kind of the usual wintry weather through Christmas (sledding! Snowballs! Tromping around!), and then January came. It was cold early in the month, and then we received 37″ of snow in 3 days in suburban Minneapolis, and then the cold arrived again. I remember going outside in late January just to see what -70 windchill (measured the old way) felt like. It sucked. I was in 8th grade, from the South, and hated/would not wear turtlenecks, socks, wool, and hats. I WOULD NOT WEAR SOCKS. Now I’m properly attired at all times, and I don’t mind the cold as long as the sun comes out and my car’s tires stay intact and the heat stays on, but I’ve lived in the Midwest for 34 years. I follow the weather closely all the time, I know what to expect, and I’m lucky enough to have plenty of warm things to wear. If people stay in this part of the country long enough, they often end up doing the same. Enjoy your Cold Day, if you’ve got one, and wear some goddamn socks and a hat tomorrow morning when it’s -13. OK?

Other cold snap advice: Keep your pets warm. Fill the bird feeders. Make soup. Declutter something. The days are getting longer even though the cold is getting stronger. Spring is just 72 days away.

Going Polar

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A year ago, almost exactly, Urbana-Champaign was coming off a pretty decent snowstorm and heading into this situation referred to as a “polar vortex” and it was already cold as hell and basically, friends? It’s happening again, including the snow, today and tomorrow and into late week. Sigh. But the full moon rising last night through some very pretty snow flurries was extraordinary, particularly so since the sun really couldn’t get its act together during the day. See below.


909 (our house) is small. And old. I mostly love it this way. I don’t much feel its smallness and oldness those 7-8 months out of the year where we spend a lot of time moving freely between indoors and out. But when winter comes, and especially with bits of weather like what we’re about to get, 909 feels dollhouse-small and extremely drafty. V unglamorous plastic covers some of the windows. The doors have fabric snakes to keep drafts out (BONUS: They also trip visitors). Things pile up by the back door to combine trips to the trash/recycling bins or the garage, and if the weather is happening on a weekend and we’re all just nesting under blankets and hanging around, it gets chaotic. There just aren’t many places for each of us to go. There are the bedrooms, the living room, and the kitchen area. That’s it.

OK, that’s not exactly true. We have a basement that’s partially finished and has a ton of potential, but no one hangs out there these days because a) it’s cold and b) it’s a repository for crap – mostly ancient homeschooling stuff, clothes, useless small appliances, etc –  that needs to be sorted and donated/thrown out. This task has been put off for YEARS. However… I’m currently reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, thanks to my terrific and smart friend Amanda, and I’ve decided that I like where Kondo’s head is at even though it’s pretty intense. There’s lots of baggage to jettison here at 909, both literal and figurative, especially as Jim and I move ever-steadily toward eventually being the only two B-Ks living here full time. 909 will seem cavernously huge then, I’m sure, and I’ll probably be getting misty over the time(s) during Polar Vortex 2014 where I made several batches of snickerdoodles and we put quilts on the windows Long Winter-style and watched a bunch of movies together and there were teacups everywhere and the heat always seems to be on and my beloved orange chair had a huge indentation from my butt being in it all the time, etc.

It’s 2* right now – I’ll report back on #PV2015 Wednesday, when our high will be a single degree.

Ring It In

Jim and I welcomed 2015 yesterday with a walk at Meadowbrook and saw this bit of squirrel goofballery:

IMG_0488[Lone nut. Rather fitting.]

I’m usually the walker, especially on colder days, so it was nice to have Jim along… even if he was only in it for potential deer sightings. [We saw no deer.] Our forecast is calling for freezing participation off and on through tomorrow, followed by my favorite – sub-zero cold – for a few days, so it is doubtful I’ll be outside much in the near future… unless I’m forced.

OK. Enough about the weather. I’m pretty much done with winter in my mind. I dress in base layers and wear hats (even indoors) (ask my colleagues) and deal with it in my own ways, which include denial. It’s over for me, OK? Today is 43 seconds longer than yesterday, the vernal Equinox is in 77 days, and the Market opens in 120 days. THAT IS PRACTICALLY TOMORROW, YOU GUYS.

Also: The seed catalogs are rolling in. I gave in to temptation and drafted an order last night from the Baker Creek catalog – it is of epic proportions [sidebar: I’m so impressed with how the business has grown since I started following along in 1998] and I ended up with the most ridiculous pretend seed order ever.

IMG_0497See that at the bottom? “Molokai Purple“? I’M SO PUMPED. Thanks to last year’s garlic success, I’m throwing all caution to the wind and am trying sweet potatoes. Purple ones, you guys. I have no idea how to grow them, what they need, if I even have the space (as my friend/neighbor Jill says, “My eyes are bigger than my yard”), but I don’t care. Those are definitely staying on the list. I’ll figure it out. PURPLE SWEET POTATOES.

Here’s the thing – my fantasy order is from one catalog. I have at least 3 more favorites coming. I know there are a zillion catalogs out there that I’ve probably never heard of, so – if you buy seeds, from where do you procure them? I need you to help me feed my addiction. My enthusiasm for 2015’s garden/food was only fueled by a trip into the backyard yesterday and seeing how huge of a mess I’d left it this fall. I AM ALL ABOUT CLEANING THAT SHIT UP…

…especially when it’s too cold to do it today.