Chickens Love Colorado Springs!

IMG_2069-300x225Welcome to Hungry Chicken Homestead! Six hungry chickens live here as well as some other animals, and people who know where the food is stored.

The chickens love Colorado Springs and want to tell you about local farms and small businesses right here in our community!  Chickens know a thing or two about the importance of a good flock and good things to eat.  Likewise, people benefit from knowing their neighbors and knowing where to get good food!

Look around!  You’ll find stories about Colorado businesses and farms, stories about the Homestead and even listings telling you where to buy food grown or produced right here in our neck of the woods.

We hope you’ll find a little inspiration for your own story too!

What Everybody Ought to Know About Farmers’ Markets in Colorado

It’s not my practice to criticize other people’s hard work and I’m not telling you where to shop.

I’m just telling you to ask questions and keep your eyes open.

If you see something like this at a farmers' market, the produce is not all from Colorado.

If you see something like this at a farmers’ market, know that the produce is not all from Colorado.

I took that picture at a Colorado Springs’ farmers’ market.  We tend to think that shopping at a farmers’ market means buying local produce.  This is not entirely untrue, but it’s not entirely true either.

This isn't California or the South.  We can only grow food in Colorado during the summer.

This isn’t California or the South. We can only grow food in Colorado during the summer.  The season is short and we don’t have much fresh, local food at times.

If you’ve been to the Colorado Farm and Art Market or the new Acacia Park Market downtown or Hunt or Gather in Ivywild School, you’ve probably wondered why they don’t have as much food as other markets and grocers in Colorado Springs.  It’s because there are two different approaches to selling food here in the high desert.

One approach is to make the market as abundant as possible all summer.  This means buying food from other states or countries to sell along with whatever the Colorado farmer can harvest.  If you find tomatoes alongside greens in June, this is a likely scenario.  The farmer probably grew the greens and imported the tomatoes.

The advantage of this method for the consumer is that you can get what you want.  The disadvantage is that you have to be careful about what you buy.

The quality of locally grown food is usually much better since the food has been picked when ripe.  If you’re shipping food across the country, it’s best to pick it too early and let it ripen on the truck so it doesn’t spoil before it gets to its destination.  Shipping also requires planting varieties that ship well, as opposed to taste good.  Growers intending to sell locally usually select varieties for flavor, since they can pick it right before selling it.

Another problem is that you might find imported food when a locally grown variety is in season.

Peaches and plums are in season here in Colorado, but I found these California fruits at a market last Saturday.

Peaches and plums are in season here in Colorado, but I found these California fruits at a Colorado Springs market last Saturday.

Palisade peaches were available the very same market.  Guess which tasted better.

Palisade peaches were available at the very same market. Guess which tasted better.

I also found cherries at that market.  One might think they were local since the cherry season just ended here.  I had to ask to learn they were from Washington.

I also found cherries at that market. One might think they were local since the cherry season just ended here. I had to ask to learn they were from Washington.

The other approach is to sell only what the Colorado farmer can grow.  This means selling greens, radishes, herbs and turnips in June and foregoing tomatoes until late July.  The advantages for the consumer include higher quality food, being able to talk to the farmer and direct support for the local economy.  The hard part is waiting for the produce to become available, especially fruit and tomatoes.  It means learning to cook unfamiliar vegetables.

I took this picture at the Colorado Farm and Art Market.  Venetucci Farm grew these tomatoes.

I took this picture at the Colorado Farm and Art Market. Venetucci Farm grew these tomatoes.

Personally, I value locally grown food and I’m happier at a market where I don’t have to suspiciously interrogate every vendor.  It’s easier to go to the grocery store when I want something that doesn’t grow here.  Maybe you feel differently and I’m not telling you where to shop.  Just know what you’re buying.  The old adage still applies … Buyer Beware.

Hungry Chicken Homestead Recipe: Slaw in a Jar

Picture this:  It’s Thursday.  You’ve gone on a buying spree at the farmers’ market on Wednesday and the refrigerator is full of fresh, locally grown vegetables.  Suddenly, you remember that you pick up your CSA share on Friday and more vegetables will be coming into the house!  Oh no!  What will we do to make room?

I don't know what you would do, but I would make up a recipe.

I don’t know what you would do, but I would make up a recipe.

This very scenario occurred last week on the Homestead and I had to make up a recipe fast.  It had to be something I would eat, that wouldn’t take up much room in the refrigerator and that used the following:

  • a kohlrabi
  • a bunch of small beets
  • a bunch carrots
  • two small cabbages
  • Optionally, it could be something that is good topped with Colorado goat feta.
I had some garlic infused olive oil and some garlic scapes handy too.

I had some garlic infused olive oil and some garlic scapes handy too.

In my panic, I remembered to be inspired by the Flying Carrot.  They had made a lovely slaw to go with their quinoa patties the week I interviewed them.

I pulled out a funny little machine called a Spiralizer.

I pulled out a funny little machine called a Spiralizer.

There is a story behind this Spiralizer thing.  My mother sent it to me back in December.  She has one and has been enjoying making vegetable noodles with it.  Every week, we had this conversation:

Mom:  “Did you use the Spiralizer?”

Me:  “Not yet.  Wait until summer.”

Sure enough, the conversation changed as soon as zucchini season began.

Me:  “That Spiralizer thing is great!  I made six pounds of zucchini noodles this week and froze them!”

Mom: “Why do you have so much zucchini?”

Why DO I have so much zucchini?  That’s a topic for another post.

I spiralized all the crunchy vegetables.  These beets are raw and unpeeled.  Who knew we can eat raw beets?

I spiralized all the crunchy vegetables. These beets are raw and unpeeled. Who knew we can eat raw beets?

Once the vegetables were in pieces, I chopped up two garlic scapes and added them to the mix.

Now ... how would I pickle it?

Now … how would I pickle it?

I mulled over the best way to make the slaw tart and soften the vegetables.  Do you remember the fermented pickle recipe?  It’s water, vinegar and salt.  The proportions are important when you’re fermenting vegetables since you need the salt and vinegar to suppress bacterial growth until the fermentation is far enough along to handle it.  I didn’t ferment this slaw, but the basic principle applied.  I could put water, vinegar and salt into a jar, along with the vegetables.  The salt draws more water out of the vegetables and allows the flavors to seep in.

A day later, the slaw tasted tart and the flavors had melded nicely.

A day later, the flavors had melded nicely.

Slaw in a Jar

(Note:  Remember, I’ve made this recipe up.  You can use more or less of anything or add vegetables and spices.  There is nothing sacred about my cooking.)

1 medium kohlrabi
4 medium carrots
5 medium beets
2 garlic scapes
2 cups shredded cabbage

Shred, chop or spiral cut the vegetables into small pieces.  Mix together.  Stuff into two quart jars or one half gallon jar.

Mix 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar,  1 tablespoon of salt and 1.5 cups of water.  Stir until the salt is dissolved and pour it over the vegetables.  It should come to about the halfway point in the jars.  Let it sit in the refrigerator overnight and shake it gently every few hours.  The vegetables will relax a little as it marinates and the water they release will bring the liquid up higher.

Mix in a little garlic infused olive oil and serve with goat feta!

***

© 2014 Hungry Chicken Homestead

Want to read about locally owned businesses in Colorado Springs? The chickens want to tell you about them! Join them in supporting our local economy by signing up for our twice-monthly newsletter!

 

Colorado Springs Local Business: The Cheesecake Artist

Kami Coldiron, baker and owner of the Cheesecake Artist, tells the best story about how she started making her fabulous cheesecakes.

“I was about eight years old and I was following my mother around the house,” she recalls.  “‘I asked her if we could make cookies.”

Note that Kami is one of seven siblings in a military family.  Her mother patiently responded, “Honey, why don’t YOU make cookies?”

“I don’t know how,” answered young Kami.

“Can you read?”, said her mother.

“Yes,” responded Kami.  And a legend was born.

Kami learned to follow a recipe and bake on her own.  She loved baking and made all sorts of delectable desserts for her family.  Not long after, she picked up her mothers mini-cheesecake recipe and made it from scratch for a school bake sale.  The cheesecakes sold well and she found her passion.

Kami continued to make these delightful little "junior cheesecakes" into adulthood.

Kami continued to make these delightful little “junior cheesecakes” into adulthood.

Kami has honed the recipe over the years.  Her siblings are tough critics and she had to adjust the recipe for altitude when they arrived in Colorado Springs.  Finally, she had this conversation with her brother when he grimaced over dessert.

“You don’t like it?”, she asked.

“No.  I love it,” he responded.

With that, she knew she had perfected the recipe.

This is Kami's Irish Cream cheesecake with ganache.

This is Kami’s Irish Cream cheesecake with ganache.

Kami has a day job, but her friends had encouraged her to start a bakery.  Finally, she though, “Why not try it?”.  It was a chance to branch out and try something new.  It’s essentially the same way she approaches baking.  Why not try something new?  She patiently works out her recipes and is patiently building her business.

Her friends help her.  She has a way of extending her family out to her friends.  She talked about what a blessing they’ve been.  One friend even comes to the market every week to help her put up and take down her tent!

Kami takes special orders.

Kami takes special orders and does holiday assortments.

You can find The Cheesecake Artist at the Colorado Farm and Art Market on Saturdays at the Margarita at Pine Creek or contact Kami through her Cheesecake Artist Facebook page.

Kami also makes other baked goods, such as these Bride and Groom Cupcakes.

She also makes other baked goods, such as these Bride and Groom Cupcakes.

I’ll leave you with Kami’s own words about why she does this work with her family, her friends and strangers.

“I love baking and I love to see the joy of what I’m doing spread to my customers.”

(Note to the FTC:  Kami once gave me a cheesecake without charging me.  This happened sometime in the winter and it was delicious.  Since then, I have not been able to keep myself from buying them and eating them before noon.)

***

© 2014 Hungry Chicken Homestead

Want to read about locally owned businesses in Colorado Springs? The chickens want to tell you about them! Join them in supporting our local economy by signing up for our twice-monthly newsletter!

 

Colorado Springs Local Business: Shark Hat Cafe

Those of you who have been reading for a long time will remember Snowball the Cat.  Snowball was one of the three Traveling Cats with whom I arrived in Colorado Springs a few years ago.

Here they are after a long day of traveling.

Here they are after a long day of traveling.  Snowball is the lone cat on the left.  He and Spot never got along.

Snowball died in 2012.  He was the last of the three and I never had a good outdoor memorial for him.  My friend Lisa Pence, of Pence Design, painted memorial stones for Spot and Kitty, but she had moved away by the time Snowball died.

Catherine Evans of Shark Hat Cafe recently remedied this situation.

Catherine Evans recently remedied this situation.

Catherine is the artist and owner of Shark Hat Cafe.  It’s not actually a cafe, you can’t buy a cup of coffee or anything, but you can buy some very interesting art!

Catherine is fascinated by the human body.  It's not a gruesome interest.  It's "kind of like taking a clock apart," as she says.

Catherine is fascinated by the human body. It’s not a gruesome interest. It’s “kind of like taking a clock apart,” as she says.

After seeing her body part art, I wondered how it would be to interview Catherine.  She turned out to be an engaging and charming woman with a family who made me feel at ease.  Catherine’s art gets its share of double-takes, but it’s not about the macabre.  It’s a way of expressing her view of humanity and our place in the spiritual and material worlds.

Shark Hat Cafe got its name from a difficult time in Catherine’s life.  As with many parents, it was difficult when her daughter went away to college and she was sad.  She didn’t do much laughing during that time, except at a hat shaped like a shark that she saw in a store.

These detailed lemon-slice earrings might make me laugh ... especially if I saw them on a shark.

These detailed lemon-slice earrings might make me laugh … especially if I saw them on a shark.

Catherine actually started selling her unique art to raise money for her daughter’s college education.  She told me the story I often hear from artists.  She had always had an artistic side and loved to draw, but she didn’t think to sell the art until she needed money.  At that point, it really started to blossom.

She started out doing more mainstream work, but the sales weren’t what she had hoped.  Art and creativity are often the children of necessity, as you no doubt know.  She got mad that she was making cute stuff that didn’t really work for her and started making pieces that would “make people flip out”.  And guess what!  They started selling!

This interesting eye is looking at you from a magnet.

This interesting eye is looking at you from a magnet.

Catherine brings her work to art shows around town and gets interesting reactions.  Some people are fascinated, some are horrified.

Personally, I've always been intrigued.  It's unusual work.

Personally, I’ve always been intrigued. It’s unusual work.

We were talking about her family and work when her memorial flower arrangements came up.  She started making them when her grandfather passed on and she couldn’t find one she liked for his grave.  I told her about my late husband and how our cat Snowball didn’t have a memorial.  Do you know what Catherine did?  She volunteered to make one for me and came over to put it on Snowball’s little grave.

I was stunned at this gesture.  At the risk of making a pun, it was heartwarming.

I was stunned at this gesture. At the risk of making a pun, it was heartwarming.

You can buy Catherine’s art online at her website or Etsy. Look for her work at local stores Rainy Day Anime and Warped.

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© 2014 Hungry Chicken Homestead

Want to read about locally owned businesses in Colorado Springs? The chickens want to tell you about them! Join them in supporting our local economy by signing up for our twice-monthly newsletter!

 

Colorado Springs Local Farm Education: The Flying Carrot

“What are you making tonight?”, I asked Nuwanee Kirihennedige when I arrived at the weekly Flying Carrot planning dinner.

“Tabbouleh with quinoa,” she replied.  “We aren’t allowed to use recipes, but we sort of know how to make tabbouleh.”

I suddenly felt a kinship with these young people.  I "sort of know" how to make all of my recipes.

I suddenly felt a kinship with these young people. I “sort of know” how to make all of my recipes.

The Flying Carrot is a partnership between the Pikes Peak Community Foundation and the UCCS Sports Nutrition graduate program.  As one would expect with these sponsors, it combines well-defined goals with real-life farms.  Nuwanee explained the program’s goals.

  • Environment: This one is pretty obvious.  Buying food that was grown locally is better for the environment.  You’ve heard all this about miles traveled and biodiversity before.
  • Economy:  Buying food from local farmers supports our economy, helps farmers stay on their land and creates jobs right here in town.
  • Equity: We promote justice for farmers, who get fair prices for food when we buy it directly from them (rather than through a third party like a grocery store).  We are also promoting justice for animals when we buy meat, eggs and milk from small producers who treat their animals like the living beings that they are, not lifeless commodities.
Buying local food also promotes deliciousness.

Buying local food also promotes deliciousness.

This probably all seems very academic until you realize you’ve seen the Flying Carrot’s table at farmers’ markets and events.

They cook the food right there at the event and you can try it!

They cook the food right there at the event and you can try it!  You can take home the recipe too.

Every week, the group of graduate students and their local-food-loving friends get together with their teacher Nana Meyer, and try to come up with a simple recipe using local ingredients.  As the group experimented with the vegetables they’d gotten from Colorado farms this week, Nuwanee told me funny stories about tasters’ reactions to their recipes.

“People don’t always know how good locally grown vegetables taste and they are surprised when they try our samples.  They think it’s our recipe that’s so good, but it’s not!  It’s the food we got from the farms!”

Kids are no exception to this rule.  Their parents are often surprised when they enthusiastically eat a locally grown sugar pea or bit of summer squash and ask for more.

It's not vegetables that are yucky.  It's under-ripe vegetables, grown for shipping and shelf life rather than flavor.

It’s not vegetables that are yucky. It’s prematurely picked, under-ripe vegetables that were grown for shipping and shelf life rather than flavor that are yucky.

The group will be proving Nuwanee’s point this week at the Colorado Farm and Art Market on Wednesday.  The tabbouleh recipe didn’t work.  When I left, they were experimenting with tastier ways to use the locally grown garlic, parsley, kale and (possibly) goat cheese.

What will they have at the Market?  Visit Ivywild School between 3PM and 7PM to find out how they solved the puzzle!  It may or may not be fried quinoa patties, like this one.

What will they have at the Market? Visit Ivywild School between 3PM and 7PM to find out how they solved the puzzle! It may or may not be fried quinoa patties, like this one.

I don’t know exactly what they’ll have, but I do know it will be delicious.  Our local farms have made sure of that.

Colorado Springs Local Food Education Flying Carrot Sign

 

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© 2014 Hungry Chicken Homestead

Want to read about locally owned businesses in Colorado Springs? The chickens want to tell you about them! Join them in supporting our local economy by signing up for our twice-monthly newsletter!

 

(Economic) Independence (Day)

I don’t want to write a post about politics, but in the light of the recent “Hobby Lobby” Supreme Court decision, they may creep in.

Tomorrow is Independence Day, July 4th.  You probably remember how it got that name.  Independence Day celebrates the American victory over the British in the 18th century, an event that precipitated the development of this big diverse country we call the United States of America.

We like to decorate in red, white and blue all the time here on the Homestead.

We like to decorate in red, white and blue all the time here on the Homestead.

I like to think I have some authority to speak about Independence because I’ve interviewed hundreds of small business owners and farmers.  I’ve learned a few things from all this talk and whenever we start complaining about the tyranny of large corporations or government entitlements, I come back to the same principle, that same word.

Independence.

Independence.

There are a thousand stories in every city of people seizing their independence.  Many of them are right in your neighborhood.

You see, if these interviews have taught me anything, it’s that Americans really do have the power to change their lives.  We often think we have two choices … dependence on a large corporation or dependence on somebody else, maybe the government or family.  I don’t know where we got this idea, but I have plenty of evidence that it’s not true.

It takes courage to strike out on your own, but thousands of small business owners show it can be done.

It takes courage and sacrifice to strike out on your own, but thousands of small business owners show it can be done.

Do you want some examples?  Start by looking around your neighborhood for work trucks.  The owners of those trucks often run independent businesses as carpenters, handymen or landscapers.  Next, look in your address book.  You might have the numbers of people running personal service businesses, like Maid It Green Housekeeping, Springs Sounds Entertainment or Heather Sams Fine Portraits.

I’ve never written about Maid It, a business owned by Colorado Springs native Amy Willard.  Amy started out making extra money by cleaning houses herself.  She had to make a choice when faced with a diagnosis of cancer a few years back.  Shut down the business? Or find some way to keep it going?  She chose the latter and learned to hire people to help.  Today she has a thriving cleaning business and employs several people.

Or try looking on the internet.  My friend Matthew Duffy supports himself selling blankets online at Matt’s Blanket Offers Plus.  He buys stock, stores them in his home and maintains an eBay store to sell them.  You can also find a variety of artists selling their handmade art online, such as Evaline Jewelry, Elle Karel and Liese Chavez.  Artists often tell me they began selling their work out of necessity, but they’d rather work as an artist than anything else in the world.

My point is this: whatever you think about the Supreme Court decision or about Hobby Lobby’s policies, none of us are obligated to work for someone else.  I’m not saying it’s easy or that you won’t have to sacrifice something.  I’m not saying it’s not a whole lot of work.  I’m saying our economic choices are just that … choices.  We are all free here to make new choices.

Want to take hold of that independence, but you’re not sure how?  Colorado Springs has lots of resources to help you.  Visit the Small Business Development Center.  Check out one of Colorado Springs’ many networking groups.  Visit a business coach.  You’ll find people who want to help you in every corner.

What are your resources?  What are your needs?  What do you love?

Why waste your time complaining about somebody else’s tyranny?  This is America.  We have the same freedom as generations of immigrants.  Take hold of that freedom and make something of your own.

Please remember that setting off fireworks in Colorado Springs is not an available choice.  Wildfire-shy homeowners all over town will thank you.

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© 2014 Hungry Chicken Homestead

Want to read about locally owned businesses in Colorado Springs? The chickens want to tell you about them! Join them in supporting our local economy by signing up for our twice-monthly newsletter!

 

Colorado Springs Local Business: Abundance

Julie Lavigne, owner of Abundance, has a funny story to tell about her homemade deodorant.

“My husband sweats a lot and he’s the guinea pig,” she said, explaining how she tested each new formula.  “One day he came home and said, ‘Honey!  Come smell my armpits!’.”  She tried to decline, but he insisted.  The latest formula had worked perfectly and he wanted her to experience the evidence.

What better way to test a product than on your loved ones?

What says ‘I care about you’ better than a lovingly made deodorant?

Julie’s deodorant experiments began as part of a larger movement toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

“We have chickens, drink raw milk and I make my own jam.”, she explained.  It didn’t make sense to go to so much trouble to get healthier food and then use conventional anti-perspirant.

After the success of the deodorant, Julie realized she might be on to something.  A teacher by trade and crafter by avocation, she decided to try making a few other things and becoming a summer vendor at the Colorado Farm and Art Market.

You can find Julie at the market on Wednesdays at Ivywild School from 3PM - 7PM.

You can find Julie at the market on Wednesdays at Ivywild School from 3PM – 7PM.

She makes a variety of soaps using essential oils and recognizable ingredients.

She makes a variety of soaps using essential oils and recognizable ingredients.

The soaps are carefully arranged into a display every Wednesday by her 11 year old son.

Abundance also offers a plain, unscented soap.

Abundance also offers a plain, unscented soap.

And you can find this nice, cooling peppermint soap.  I love peppermint soap and oils in the summer.

And you can find this nice, cooling peppermint soap. I love peppermint soap and oils in the summer.

Julie also makes a sugar scrub.  She points out that boys love the sugar scrub because it is actually made of sugar, as well as edible essential oils.  Her young nephew likes to taste it while his mother scrubs the grass stains off his knees.

She says it doesn't taste very good, but who can account for the tastes of little boys.

She says it doesn’t taste very good, but who can account for the tastes of little boys?

I’ll conclude with Julie’s words…

“We’re a happy, healthy family.”, she told me.  “And we’re just trying to change the world, one armpit at a time.”

***

© 2014 Hungry Chicken Homestead

Want to read about locally owned businesses in Colorado Springs? The chickens want to tell you about them! Join them in supporting our local economy by signing up for our twice-monthly newsletter!

 

Weed Eating Experiments

You know how people sometimes start to look like their dogs?

Similar phenomena take place if you live with chickens.

Similar phenomena take place if you live with chickens.  (When I say “similar”, I do not mean that I now look like a chicken).

As you probably know, weeds tend to grow where you don’t want them and then you have to figure out what to do with them.  People often pull them or put poison on them, but I’ve been watching the chickens and decided I like their strategy regarding misplaced, fast-growing plants.

They eat them.

If you've been following this blog, you know that it is indeed possible to eat many of the weeds.  I think of it as revenge.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know from the article about Earth’s Green Gifts that it is indeed possible to eat many of the weeds. You might think of it as practical, but I think of it as revenge.

I thought I might try it.  After giving this some thought, I realized the question at hand isn’t, “Can I eat these weeds?”.  It’s “Who should eat these weeds?”.

After all, I don't need to be greedy about it.

After all, I don’t need to be greedy about it.

We tried two experiments.  First, I commissioned a friend to build a Hen Playpen.  I set up the playpen in the weed-infested front yard and put some hens in it.

They like this in the evening, but in the morning they get mad because there is no privacy in which to lay an egg.

They like this in the evening, but in the morning they get mad because there is no privacy in which to lay an egg.

The hens do enjoy the weeds!  They would spend a couple hours eating every leaf.  Unfortunately, they did not eat the stems, leaving me with stems to pull.  I put the birds out there anyway.  Weeds lead to nice orange egg yolks and also to happier chickens.

I’m going to make the most of these pesky weeds, which means treating them like non-weeds.  Tamara and Drew came out to plant a garden of carefully selected weeds in a pretty arrangement.  Who knew weeds could look so nice?  They brought me spiderwort with purple flowers, violets, two kinds of clover that have two-tone flowers and even quinoa!  These plants are growing fast in soil that was minimally amended and the chickens like to stand at the fence and daydream about eating them.

See that curious chicken in the background?  They may look like animals with tiny heads, but they know what's going on with the plants.

See that curious chicken in the background? They may look like animals with tiny heads, but they know what’s going on with the plants.

I know the chickens are plotting right now how they are going to get into my new garden.  I’m trying to hold off their little chicken coup by keeping them happy with more weeds.

We've developed a morning routine for the entire family!

We’ve developed a morning routine for the entire family!

Every morning now, I go out to the vegetable garden with the cats and we divide up the weeds for breakfast.  The cats eat the grass, I eat the lambs quarters, and I toss all the other weeds over the fence for the chickens.  You’d be surprised at how pleasant it is to graze on lambs quarters while sipping locally roasted coffee.

Nobody can say homesteading isn't full of surprises.

Nobody can say homesteading isn’t full of surprises.

I haven’t grown any feathers yet, but I remember what Roxanne Chicken taught me.  All of our friends, even those with tiny chicken heads, have something to teach us.

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© 2014 Hungry Chicken Homestead

Want to read about locally owned businesses in Colorado Springs? The chickens want to tell you about them! Join them in supporting our local economy by signing up for our twice-monthly newsletter!

 

Colorado Springs Local Business: New Earth Beads

Michelle Hair, owner and bead artist at New Earth Beads, never thought she was artistic…  At least until she took a class in something called “lamping”.

“Michelle, you’re the best student I’ve ever had!”, said her teacher on the last day of the class.

You see these glass beads?  Our non-artistic friend made each of them.

You see these glass beads? Our “non-artistic” friend made each of them.

Yes.  You read that right.  She doesn’t buy the beads.  She makes them.

They're made from glass rods.  Glass rods and fire, that is.

They’re made from glass rods. Glass rods and fire, that is.

Michelle says she’s surprised by this turn of events.  She had a technical job and was ready for a change.  She discovered her talent for making glass and New Earth Beads has developed organically from her desire to do what she loves.

“I feel like the Universe was leading me in this direction before I even knew what I wanted to do,” she comments.  “It’s moving fast!”

She had seen someone rolling glass at a festival and was curious.  Could she do that?  She took a class and learned to fuse glass.

Fused glass artists adhere glass to glass to make pictures, like the ones on these nightlights.

Glass fusing is where an artist adheres glass to glass to make pictures, like the ones on these nightlights.

When she had taken all the fused glass classes, she moved to lamping, in which glass is melted in fire and reshaped.  Would you like to see how it’s done?

First, Michelle starts up the torch.  She chooses a glass rod and melts the glass around another rod called a mandrel.

First, Michelle starts up the torch. She chooses a glass rod and melts the glass around another rod called a mandrel.

The bead is lumpy at first.  Michelle puts it back into the fire to smooth it out.

The bead is lumpy at first. Michelle puts it back into the fire to smooth it out.

I was really impressed with how the hot bead would be a flaming orange and then cool to the original blue.

I was really impressed with how the hot bead would be a flaming orange and then cool to the original blue.

Next, Michelle makes the decoration on the plain bead.  She takes a thin glass rod in a different color and makes little bumps on the original bead.

Next, Michelle decorates the plain bead. She takes a thin glass rod in a different color and makes little bumps on the original bead.

The bead comes out bumpy and she has to smooth it out in the fire again.

The bead comes out bumpy and she has to smooth it out in the fire again.

She did this a couple of times with different colors and then twisted them with another tool.

She did this a couple of times with different colors and then twisted them with another tool.

When she has the bead the way she wants it, she puts in in a kiln and fires it at 960 degrees.  The firing makes the bead more durable.

The finished bead is smooth and glossy.

The finished bead is smooth and glossy.

Michelle loves making beads and started showing them to her friends.  Like any true artist, she was reluctant to part with them when her friends wanted to buy them.  She had to get used to the idea of letting her creations go to a new home.

She got used to the idea and now you can find her selling her art.

She got used to the idea and now you can find her selling her art.

You can catch Michelle and her glass-work at the Colorado Farm and Art Market on Wednesdays from 3PM – 7PM.  Watch her website for other events.

Stop by and visit Michelle in her brand new life.  It’s full of beauty… and fire too!

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© 2014 Hungry Chicken Homestead

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Colorado Springs Local Business: Mountain Grounds Coffee

It’s true what Mountain Grounds Coffee says on its website.  It is a “coffeehouse of quality,” as evidenced by their use of Colorado Coffee Merchants’ coffee, Royal Crest milk and locally made pastry.

It's also a coffeehouse of family and friends.

It’s also a coffeehouse of family and friends.

We have a variety of coffee houses in Colorado Springs.  We have everything from the sophistication of Urban Steam to the neighborliness of Fifty Fifty.  But up until now, I didn’t know of any coffee house in their neighborhood at Academy and Carefree Circle or any coffee house that is the first choice of kids all over the east side of town.

Walking into Mountain Grounds feels like walking into the home of a friend.

Walking into Mountain Grounds feels like walking into the home of a friend.  Actually, it quickly becomes the home of a friend.

Mountain Grounds is the first step in the entrepreneurial dream of Nathan and Melinda Haggerton.  Melinda greeted me the first time I visited.  She wasn’t behind the coffee bar.  Rather, she was out in the shop visiting with customers and making them feel welcome.  I had a few minutes while I waited to interview Jaime Cross of MIG Soap & Body and Melinda sat down to chat with me while I drank an iced latte her barista had made.   She didn’t know me; this is how she interacts with all her customers.

People came in and out of the back door while we chatted.  Parents bring their children to play in the welcoming back yard of the shop while they socialize and drink coffee.

People came in and out of the back door while we chatted. Parents bring their children to play in the welcoming back yard of the shop while they socialize and drink coffee.

Nathan, an Army veteran and member of the Air Force Reserves with a demanding full time job, told me he had envisioned a more traditional coffee shop when they started.  At first, he wasn’t sure what to do when customers came in asking for a version of something made by a national chain coffee shop.

“Why not give customers what they want, but do it better?”, he decided.

Then he and Melinda started to notice that while their clientele included business groups and students, parents frequently came in with children.  The Haggerton children are often at the shop with Melinda and the atmosphere felt welcoming to them.

“We want families to come in and feel like this is an extension of home,” they said.

And it does.

And it does.

Every time I go in there, I feel warm and cozy, as if I were at the home of a relative during a holiday visit.  Kids run around while adults catch up.  A group of adults is usually sitting around the big dining table in the shop, discussing a serious business topic.  I can’t speak for your family, but that is exactly what happens during holiday gatherings in my family.

And all the while the Haggertons play the perfect hosts; chatting with customers, visiting with the children and making everyone feel comfortable.

They enjoy this role and look forward to the future.  They’d like to expand their business and even add other services.

“My goal is to be here all the time,” says Nathan, “instead of going to Japan for two weeks.”

***

(Note for the FCC: I couldn’t work into the flow of the article that Melinda did treat me to a cup of coffee when I went back to interview her, as most coffee shop owners do when someone asks to write an article about them.   As a group, they are marvelous hosts and always remember to offer, unlike writers.  It was an iced mocha and I drank the whole thing.  I would also like to let you know that while I don’t mind fulfilling the full disclosure regulations, I do mind very much if I am required to interrupt my story or write something that is not funny.  Please remember that when you update your regulations.)

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© 2014 Hungry Chicken Homestead

Want to read about locally owned businesses in Colorado Springs? The chickens want to tell you about them! Join them in supporting our local economy by signing up for our twice-monthly newsletter!