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!

Colorado Springs Local Business: Purple Mountain Hydroponics

I asked the same question I always ask at the end of the interview.

“Is there anything else you’d like people to know?”

“I just want people to know how great hydroponic growing systems are for vegetables and flowers,” responded Brian Keenan of Purple Mountain Hydroponics.  ”There’s nothing like coming home to a room full of living flowers in the dead of winter.”  Then he grimaced and lowered his voice.  ”When people hear about hydroponics, they only think of one thing.”

I grimaced back and nodded knowingly, but to tell the plain truth I had no idea what he was talking about.  I didn’t figure it out until later.

Disney World.

Disney World is the only other place I’ve ever seen plants grown without soil.  I don’t remember which park had the systems, I only remember riding around in a little tram and looking at plants growing in nothing, virtually in mid-air.  It had background music and a calm, disembodied voice spoke about a space-age future.  The whole thing had an air of expectancy.

I can imagine how hard it is for a local shop to compete with that.  They don’t even have a tram.

Colorado Springs Local Business Purple Mountain Hydroponics Growing Tent

They do have this space-age-looking thing I like to call the Vegetable Isolation Chamber. You can put in a light, zip it up and your plants think it’s summer!

Besides being a haven for winter weary vegetables, the shop is also a great example of teamwork.  In 2009, Brian and his friend Hondo were tired of working outdoors.  Brian was a landscape irrigation specialist who had started his career building log houses after he got out of the Army and made his way into landscape work.  Hondo was on a similar trajectory and they both had the same goal.  They  wanted to make a living without doing hard labor.

Colorado Springs Local Business Purple Mountain Hydroponics Tomatoes

Let the vegetables do all the work! These tomato plants were taller than me! In April!

Taking their outdoor landscaping experience indoors was a way to use what they knew to make the life they wanted.  Brian notes that retail had a learning curve.

“We went into it blindly,” he says.  ”We knew where we wanted to go with it, but not how much work it really takes to run a store.”

Colorado Springs Local Business Purple Mountain Hydroponics Bat Guano

For example, they have to keep an eye on the bat guano supply.

How did they handle it?  They recruited several friends and relatives to work in the shop for a percentage of the business.  Each member of the partnership is personally invested in its success and has incentive to learn as much as he can about the products.

“The only way we make it is through customer service,” Brian points out.  He knows we could order these same products through a faceless online retailer. He and his business partners form relationships with customers, turning indoor gardening into a community activity where people share their successes and help each other solve problems.

Colorado Springs Local Business Purple Mountain Hydroponics Lettuce

Here is some successful-looking lettuce. It grows in a non-nutritive medium and comes back within a week if you cut it down and eat it!

Jealousy over the fresh lettuce makes me think about trying this “aquaponics without fish” here on the Homestead.  I don’t have a tram either, but maybe I can get the lettuce to grow without one.

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© 2013 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!

 

Local Food with Backyard Furrows… Maybe

Let me begin by saying that if you really want to know how to get water to your Front Range garden, visit Pikes Peak Urban Gardens or Right to Thrive.  You won’t learn anything here.  But if you’re in the mood for a story about a city girl digging holes in the backyard, you’re in the right place!

Colorado Springs Local Farm Venetucci Turnips

I didn’t grow this food, but a picture of food seems appropriate here. Venetucci Farm grew these.

Since I arrived from Cleveland, land of the Great Lakes and an abundance of water, a few years ago, it really is amazing that I can grow anything here at all.  I’ve learned to grow peas, beans and kale.  (As it happens, I also learned to grow chard, but since I don’t like chard, that doesn’t count).

Colorado Springs Local Food in the Backyard Furrow and Cat

Like everyone else around here, I always struggle with water.

I was about to scavenge up the money to buy a drip irrigation system when two things occurred to me.

1.  I don’t really care how the plants are arranged.  I’m perfectly happy planting them wherever they can get water.  If I had ornamental plants then I might care about placement and want to bring water to them, but this is a vegetable garden.

2.  No doubt the chickens will find a way to conquer the expensive irrigation system for their own poultry purposes.

“What about furrows?”, I asked myself.  That did it.  Now I have to try.

Colorado Springs Local Farm Venetucci Flowers

Furrows are depressions next to the rows on a farm. The farm irrigates by sending water down into the furrows and the plants next to these little rivers drink it up!

I don’t have a tractor or anything, so I just started digging.

Colorado Springs Local Food in the Backyard Furrow 1

I dug a big square around the garden and then lined it with rock in the hope that water will flow even when the wind blows the dirt back in.

If you’re wondering where I got such nice rocks, I’ll explain that the prior owners of the house beautifully landscaped the backyard with rocks, ornamental plants and even grass.  The chickens and I have changed all that.

Colorado Springs Local Food in the Backyard Furrow 2

I ran the water to test it and quickly realized I could save myself a lot of work by taking the slope of the property into account.

Here is something I learned:  Water does not run uphill.  Put the hose at the highest point and it will make rivers for me.  Put it at the lowest point and I spend all day coaxing the water along.  Pretty astute, huh?

Colorado Springs Local Food in the Backyard Furrow 4

I rearranged a bit, moved the hose and the water ran right down into the furrows. Success!

Next, I’ll dig across the square I made and turn it into 12 inch rows for planting.  Then I’ll try to grow something.

I have no idea whether this will work, but I got to make the chickens jealous by digging holes in the garden.  Sometimes, that just has to be enough.

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© 2013 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!

My fish have feelings: Guest Post from Right to Thrive

Christine Faith, one of our local Front Range food production experts and the powerhouse behind Right To Thrive, and I decided to swap guest posts for our blog.  (This was back in January.  Have I written my post? No I have not.  But Christine submitted this lovely post about how much she likes the fish in her hydroponic system.)

Patience the Cat would like a hydroponic system on the Homestead, now that he knows about the fish.  Bet you’ll want one too.  Read on …

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As you may or may not know, fish are incredibly sensitive creatures.  Now, I know they don’t look that way, with their buggy eyes, blank expressions, and swimming in place, but trust me, fish have feelings, too.

Colorado Springs Local Business Right To Thrive Fish 3

I raise fish in my greenhouse in Colorado Springs, CO.  I run a year-round aquaponics system where I grow greens, vegetables, and herbs (yes I live in Colorado, no I don’t grow those herbs).  My 11 koi fish provide the “engine” that drives the system – fish poop.  Fish poop is glorious stuff for plants, and the more my fish dish out, the faster my plants grow.

When I first purchased my fish, they were essentially wild caught, brought in from a huge stocking pond near Pueblo, CO.  These fish were put into the pond as fry (itty bitty fish) or fingerlings (literally the size of your finger), and were pretty much left alone for several years as they grew.  By the time I made my purchase these fish were nearly a foot long.

Colorado Springs Local Business Right To Thrive Fish 3

These “wild” fish, once introduced into their new 300 gallon tank, did not care for the digs.  The tank is a cube, with four corners where the walls meet.  Fish prefer round tanks, as it facilitates their natural swimming style.  The good news is that koi are not a schooling fish, and as such the round tank is not as critical.  That being said, the habitat in the tank definitely needed some improvement.

To that end, I purchased several large, food grade buckets and partially filled the buckets with gravel.  I then dropped the buckets in the tank, making sure that they landed on their side when they settled to the bottom.  The fish were enamored.  Immediately, the koi began to explore the buckets, swim in them, hide behind them, and generally make use of the new addition to their habitat.

Since the fish were introduced into the tank, and the tank’s habitat was refined, the fish’s behavior has changed dramatically.  When the fish first arrived, a shadow (my shadow) passing over the water was enough to send my 11 little babies diving to the bottom.  Now, after two years, when the koi see my shadow on the surface of the water, they swarm to the top.  (I could try to claim that they do this because they like me, but I think a more likely reason is that they know I carry the feed bucket).

Which brings me back to the “my fish have feelings” statement.  The koi that live in my greenhouse behave very differently today, when compared to their behavior two years ago.  My fish are calm, unafraid, and will come to the surface of the water and nearly eat from my hand.  This change in behavior indicates a change in comfort and security, and those my dear reader, are feelings.

Colorado Springs Local Business Right To Thrive Fish 2

Now, I wouldn’t nominate fish for “The Most Highly Emotionally Intelligent Creature in the Animal Kingdom” award (though they might have a chance at that title if they were up against the Plant Kingdom, because, let’s be honest, fish do exhibit more emotional range than an eggplant).  But still, I contend that fish, do indeed, have feelings.   Which works out well for me, because I adore the little buggers.  It’s nice to believe that my fish like me a little bit too, and yes, I concede, even if it’s just because I carry the feed bucket.

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Sign up forRight to Thrive’s mailing list for free Front Range gardening information and learn about the online course too!

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© 2013 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: Heritage Belle Farm

We used a lot of complicated farming jargon when I visited Katie Belle Miller of Heritage Belle Farms in Calhan.  Phrases like, “holistic management”, “dryland farming” and sustainable agriculture” fell from our lips. But I really have only one word to describe the resulting food.

Colorado Springs Local Farm Heritage Belle Farm t-bones

Delicious.

Bear with me for a moment while I wax poetic about these grass-finished steaks Katie gave me to try.  I had thought they might be tough since the longhorn cattle from which they came were raised on the dry pasture of the Colorado Eastern Plains.

“You know to how to cook them, right?”, Katie had asked when she handed them to me.  ”Slow.”

They were not tough.  They were tender and a solid beef flavor just bloomed from them when I took a bite.  I knew it would.  The whole house smelled wonderful and beefy while they were cooking.

Colorado Springs Local Farm Heritage Belle Farm Chicken Tractor

Katie does a great job of using what she has to farm. You see this gigantic chicken tractor? Her husband built it out of recycled parts.

You can also see the prairie grassland in the picture above.  Katie moves the cattle every week.  She has 40 acres and eight cattle to work with.  She moves the animals, encouraging them to eat what nature grows, but without killing it.  The animals move on and the pasture recovers without any special planting or supplemental watering.

Colorado Springs Local Farm Heritage Belle Farm Pigs

These sun-drenched pigs are also recycling in their own way.  That plastic house is actually an old luggage cart from DIA.

Following the same principal of using what is available, the pigs keep thousands of pounds of human quality food out of landfills.

“Food banks get a lot of food they can’t give to humans,” Katie explains.  ”The boxes are opened or the cans have dents.  They can’t give dented cans to humans because of fear of botulism.”

Colorado Springs Local Farm Heritage Belle Farm Pig Food

As it turns out, pigs are not susceptible to botulism. And they don’t mind if Katie mixes all the foods together either.

Katie became interested in ranching at a young age.  She got a horse and two chickens as a child when her family bought land in rural Colorado. The land had a variance for a horse, but they would have lost it if they didn’t keep one.  She participated in 4-H and then got a job with the USDA at the tender age of 16!

Her roots here are deep. She attended Colorado College where two of her grandparents were professors and designed her own major in Sustainable Agriculture.  She worked at Venetucci Farm and still consults for farms in Northern Colorado.

Colorado Springs Local Farm Heritage Belle Farm Turkens

She wants Heritage Belle Farms to be an educational center for holistic farm management. As you can see, these turkens are ready to learn more.

You can buy beef, pork and eggs from the farm.  Visit the Heritage Belle website to order.  If you saw Right to Thrive’s recent posts on pig farming, you already know why it’s better to order your pork from local family farms.

And I’ve already told you why it’s best to order beef from them too.  Yum!

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© 2013 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: Lil Bit Farm Soap Adventure

If there is one thing we can’t do without on a homestead, it’s soap.

Colorado Springs Local Farms Lil Bit Farm soap

Where there are chickens, there is dirt. Where there is dirt … well, you see where I’m going.

I’m kind of picky about my soap.  I like to know what’s in it and I notice how it affects my skin.  I also like it to retain its shape when I carelessly put it in a dish and it has to sit in a pool of water.

Colorado Springs Local Farms Lil Bit Farm Soap Milk

And, if at all possible, I want it to make use of any goat milk I forgot about in the refrigerator.

I don’t like to make my own soap, thanks to a lye accident  in our recent past that necessitated licking the tip of Mr. Pickle’s tail.  I needed someone else to make it for me.

I thought of one of the nicest people I know.  Diana Ford of Lil’ Bit Farm!

Colorado Springs Local Farms Lil Bit Farm Soap Additives

She makes beautiful soap and teaches soap classes at Buckley’s Homestead Supply too!

I took two cups of Joyful Noise Farm lard and the milk from Easter Egg Acres to Lil Bit last week to see what Diana could do.

Now, if you’re a high school student and wondering why you have to take math & chemistry, I want you to know that these are useful when making soap.  Soap is formed when a lye molecule joins with a fat molecule.  The resulting soap molecule connects to water on one end and oil on the other.  Normally, these two things don’t mix and you would never be able to get oil out of your hair, but soap grabs the oil and can be carried away by water.

Colorado Springs Local Farms Lil Bit Farm Soap Calculations

If you put too much lye in the mix, there won’t be enough oil for it to join with and you’ll have free lye in your soap!

Diana knows everything about soap.  She explained that the goat milk would caramelize in the hot lye and turn brown.  Since I wanted white soap, she would use some frozen milk.

Colorado Springs Local Farms Lil Bit Farm Soap Mix

Her plan worked. It cooled down the lye quickly and it stayed pale.

While she did the scary part and mixed up the lye, I got to play with the scents.  I decided on a lavender lime scent.

Colorado Springs Local Farms Lil Bit Farm Soap Essential Oils

I learned something interesting.

Most soap oils smell pretty bland, but not lard!  When you heat up lard, it smells like meat!

I put in some lime essential oil and found it smells pretty good with meat.  Not so with lavender.  A lavender-bacon dish would not be appetizing.

The meat smell goes away when the lye turns the lard into soap.  I’m sure of that because the soap is done!

Colorado Springs Local Farms Lil Bit Farm Cut Soap

Well, mostly done.

I restrained myself from poking at it for two days and then went to cut it.  It was still softer than it will be.

Colorado Springs Local Farms Lil Bit Farm Pighead soap

The scraps, for example, were soft enough to form into this amateur pighead sculpture.

If I let it sit long enough, the lard will make it into a soap hard enough to withstand a soap dish full of water.  I like lard for this reason.  I also like that it’s locally sourced and doesn’t harm anyone’s rainforest.

Colorado Springs Local Farms Lil Bit Farm Ferret

Pickles the Ferret carefully investigated and approved the final product.

Diana takes custom orders, even if you don’t bring your own ingredients.  Contact them through their beautiful new website or visit them at the Colorado Farm and Art Market in the summer!

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© 2013 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!

Local Business: Springs Hosting

“Gosh,” I said to Don Brown, owner of Springs Hosting, “this place sure smells and sounds familiar!”

Colorado Springs Local Business Springs Hosting Sign

That’s just what a systems analyst turned amateur chicken farmer would say, isn’t it?

Then we went into a meeting room, which was also familiar.

Colorado Springs Local Business Springs Hosting Cutie Pie

Except that the species of meeting participants has diversified since I worked in the computing world.

I’ve been interested in people with “ordinary” businesses lately and wanted to interview Don about how he came to own an independent data center.  The data center is as workaday as a mobile notary, therapist or laundromat, but they are great examples of the self-reliant, homesteading spirit with which America was built.

Colorado Springs Local Business Springs Hosting Employees

Springs Hosting is big enough to employ 24 people! They don’t look exactly like this, but you get the idea.

Don said he started this business almost by accident.  He was managing a large data center for another businesses when some friends asked if he would host their site himself.  It wasn’t a big stretch since he was already a data center expert.  He got some equipment, found a place to put it and Springs Hosting was born.

Colorado Springs Local Business Springs Hosting - growing like a baby chick!

And then, like any baby, it grew.

Friends started telling friends about Don and his hosting business.  He outgrew his space and eventually bought the building Springs Hosting occupies today.  Don worked other jobs for a while in order to maintain a debt-free business and it’s paid off.

Springs Hosting prides itself on its customer service and Don still answers the support line sometimes.  Go to their website to move your website to this local business.  They may even be able to move your site for you.

As part of this customer service, they offered me a tour.

Colorado Springs Local Business Springs Hosting - Dogs love giving tours!

“Come on!”, says our canine friend, “I’ll show you around!”

I learned something you may regard as nerdy, but I am still excited I got to see it.  I’m always saying that dryness is a natural resource in Colorado Springs, but I’m usually referring to how quickly my laundry dries on the line.

Well, it turns out that Springs Hosting also uses this dryness to save vast sums of electricity!

Colorado Springs Local Business Springs Hosting Data Center

For those of you didn’t spend much of your youth under fluorescent lights with computers, this is what a data center looks like.

The computers generate a lot of heat, which attracts moisture.  Since heat and moisture aren’t good for the electronics, most data centers are loud and freezing cold because of the air conditioning.  The HVAC systems run constantly and every human in the building needs a sweater.

Colorado Springs Local Business Springs Hosting - Saving Energy

Not so at clever Springs Hosting. They send the heat up and out through these things that look like smokestacks.

A machine on the roof mixes the hot air with our cool, dry, desert air and sends it back into the data center.  Not only does this save energy and money, but the data center is comfortable and you don’t have to shout to be heard!

Colorado Springs Local Business Springs Hosting - Gigantic Generator

In case you’re wondering, they also have a HUGE generator to power the computers if the city’s electricity goes out.

Dogs aren’t allowed in the computer rooms, but they do give good tours.  And Springs Hosting makes data centers a whole lot more interesting than they used to be!

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© 2013 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!

Local Business: Gracie’s Urban Farmstead

Patience the Cat didn’t get to meet Desiree Marceau of Gracie’s Urban Farmstead, but he would like her.

Colorado Springs Local Business Gracie's Urban Farmstead Cat

“My three cats are my muses,” says Desiree. (Photo Credit: Gracie’s Urban Farmstead)

Gracie the Cat is one of those three felines and it’s her farmstead from which Desiree and the other two run a personal chef and catering business.

Raven the Cat is responsible for Raven’s Catnip Plus, a proprietary blend of cat friendly herbs stuffed into cat friendly toys.

Colorado Springs Local Business Gracie's Urban Farmstead Toys

Raven makes lovely arrangements of his toys for farmers markets. (Photo Credit: Gracie’s Urban Farmstead)

And Milo the Cat is working day and night in his lab developing Milo’s Mighty Fine Pickles.  Keep an eye on the Gracie’s Urban Farmstead Facebook page to hear when they are available.

I first met Desiree at a Colorado Farm and Art Winter Market.  Here is the first thing that caught my eye:

Colorado Springs Local Business Gracie's Urban Farmstead Candy

Word to the wise, if you want to get my attention, set out chocolate caramels. It’s just like animal training. I go where the chocolate caramels are.

I asked if she does a lot of farmers markets, but Desiree’s main business is that of Personal Chef and Caterer.  If you email her, you can get on the Gracie’s Urban Farmstead mailing list and receive a list of meals she can make for you every month.

Desiree was a flight attendant once and got to visit restaurants all over the world.  She would come home and try to recreate the dishes she had tried, just for fun.  In 1999 she went to school to become an herbalist.

“Food is medicine to me.  Better quality food makes you feel better and paying attention to the essence of what makes the food helps people eat to nourish themselves on all levels.”

She cut her teeth in catering as a Catering Director in Denver, but she really prefers to work for herself.  She’s run a gourmet catering store, a wholesale foods distributor and even a pilates studio!

These days, she focuses on her personal chef & catering clients.  She can do gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and ethnic cuisine, as well as more traditional dishes.

“I just love to feed people,” she says.  ”And cats and birds, etc.”

Colorado Springs Local Business Patience Appreciation

Patience the Cat appreciates that, even if he won’t look at the camera.

Contact Desiree at 719-221-1003 or at GraciesUrbanFarmstead@gmail.com.

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© 2013 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!

Local Business: A Little Laundry

This was fun.

Laundry is a Colorado Springs Local Business too

I know. Nobody really likes laundry, but it was still fun.

I interviewed brothers and entrepreneurial partners Scott and David McKeever about their laundromat.  It’s called A Little Laundry and you’ll find it on 447 N. Union Blvd.  Turn east on St. Vrain and you’ll find its parking lot there on the corner.

Cute, friendly & clean Colorado Springs local business.

It’s unusually cute, friendly and clean for a laundromat.

I would not have thought to interview the owners of a laundromat, but Scott took my last cooking class and since he owns a local business and I write about them, naturally we got to talking about them.

“I’d love to interview you!”, I said.

“Oh,” he responded modestly.  ”It’s just a laundromat.”

Local businesses working together.

Well … yes. And no. You see this pretty sign? Scott and David commissioned their neighbor, a tattoo artist, to paint it for them.

I visited them on a Wednesday afternoon which, by the way, is a great time to do your laundry.  No one thinks to do it Tuesday through Thursday.  Most people designate a weekend day as Laundry Day, but if you do yours on a weekday, you’ll have less competition for machines.

Colorado Springs profitable, local business

It was empty when I visited, but these resourceful brothers have made this a profitable business.

I had one big question I wanted to ask them.

“Why a laundromat?”

I suspected the answer would be interesting and I was right!

“My empire building switch flipped when my daughter was born,” Scott, the older brother, explained.  ”I wanted to make sure I could support my family and show my son, my older child, how money is made.”

“I think he wanted to show me the same thing.”, David, the younger brother added, with a completely straight face.

Both men have other jobs and they’ve built a community that runs the laundry.  A neighbor watches the security cameras, does the cleaning and locks up at night.  The tattoo artist in the shopping center painted their sign.  They’ve made friends and even took me across the street to introduce me to Ronnie Hatheway, the owner of another local business, Ronnie’s Automotive Services.

Scott is also part owner (and IT Director) of a local medical coding business.  ”I get the most job satisfaction over here,” he says.  ”I can come in and fix things, clean up … it’s very satisfying.”

"It's clean, reliable and safe." explains David.

That led me back to my original question.

“Why a laundromat?  Why a medical coding business?”  They probably didn’t dream of these things as children and yet here they are.

They love being entrepreneurs and these businesses are profitable.  Scott supports his family without working for someone else.  They did a lot of research before buying the laundromat.

“With what some people pay for cars, we’ve bought a turnkey business that’s been profitable from day one,” Scott told me.

David noted that it was also a place where they could make a difference in their community. “Laundry is boring.  We can’t make it fun, but we can provide a clean, safe, reliable place to do it.”

He’s right.  It is clean, safe and reliable.  It also has free wifi and good customer service.  If something goes wrong, these two community-minded young men do their best to make it right.

Maybe it is just a laundromat, but it’s also a community held together by two enterprising young men.    Now that’s a story worth telling!

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© 2013 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!

Chickens in the Kitchen Canning Classes Summer 2014

Are you ready to learn to can your own produce?

Canning Tomatoes grown on Colorado Farms

Personally, I feel one can never have enough home-canned tomatoes.

As you may have noticed, I like to encourage people in Colorado to buy food grown here by family farms.  If you can preserve the food then you can buy as much as you want and eat local all year round!

But where does one learn to can?

If you’re in the mood to be solitary and study, you can learn from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  This reputable and helpful online source will give you information about all sorts of food preservation techniques and links to the USDA guides on canning.

Patience the Cat loves local food, farms and businesses in Colorado Springs.

But, as Patience the Cat will tell you, canning is more fun in a group.

On Patience’s advice, I’m offering a series of hands-on water bath canning classes again this summer.  We’ll use locally grown herbs, fruits and vegetables from Colorado farms.  You might be wondering what fruit we will can in July, but I won’t know until the farmers tell me what will be available on the class date.

All four classes will be held at the Tabor Mountain Bakehouse on Saturdays at 2pm.  A nearby parking garage has $1 parking on Saturdays, which will make it easier to attend at this downtown location.

Click on the links below to sign up or click here for our Chickens in the Kitchen schedule page!

You can sign up for the whole series at once …

  • Canning Class Series:  Learn water bath canning techniques for a variety of foods in this four class series.  We’ll learn the basics in the first class in May, make our own mustard in June, preserve whole fruits in July and finally make pickles in August; all while practicing water bath canning safety.  You’ll save 10% and be sure of your space in each of these small, hands-on classes.  The cost is $117.

Or just take one or two classes.

Learn the basics of water bath canning in this introductory class!  We’ll cover canning safety, tools, jar preparation and proper storage.  Canning recipes can be complex and each type of food requires a different process, but you will have a chance to practice the basic steps in this hands-on class.

Learn to make mustard and practice your water bath canning skills.  We’ll prepare and can a lemon sage mustard in this hands-on class.  You’ll go home with a jar of mustard and the recipe!

Learn to safely can your own fruits! We’ll cover basic methods of preserving whole fruit in this hands-on class, including preserving in syrup, juice and water. We’ll discuss water bath canning safety, food preservation science and the steps to successful canning while processing a batch of local, seasonal food. Each participant will go home with information and a jar of produce.

This is a great way to make the most of our local harvest and have your favorite fruit on hand for desserts and jams all year long!

Amaze your friends by making your own pickles. We’ll make a batch of water bath canned quick pickles and start a batch of fermented pickles during this two hour workshop. Have you eaten deli pickles? Learn how they ferment in the lactic acid they make themselves! You can take this recipe home and run your own pickle experiment on the kitchen counter.

Each participant will take home a jar of quick pickles and a jar of cucumbers ready to ferment!

Plums from a Colorado Springs farm in cherry juice

We’ll cover how to can fruit in juice instead of sugar syrup in the fruit class!

Don’t delay!  Each class is limited to eight participants and we always have a lot of fun.  Sign up today and join us for all the fun!

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© 2013 Hungry Chicken Homestead

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The Principal’s Office at Ivywild

“Can I get you anything?”, asked Alex, a barista at the Principal’s Office at Ivywild School.  I was sitting with the manager, Eric Harry Nicol, the man with two names.

“Oh, anything,” Eric said.

We chatted for a few minutes and I learned Eric has two names because he used to work at Colorado Coffee Merchants, owned by Eric Umenhofer.  It was easier to go by Harry than confuse the customers by having the same first name as the owner.

Alex returned with the coffee and Eric tasted it.

“Oh, it’s the Demisse from Sweet Bloom!”, he said.  ”It’s a staff favorite right now.”

 

Coffees at the Principal's Office at Ivywild

Pretty impressive that he was able to identify it with one sip, but maybe we should expect that from people who sell coffee.

The Principal’s Office doesn’t just sell coffee.  You can also get some fine cocktails there, but we can talk about that after I’ve said everything I want to say about coffee.

Coffee at Ivywild

And I have a lot to say about coffee

Eric became the manager of the Principal’s Office after a mutual friend introduced him to Ivywild co-owner Joe Coleman.  Joe wanted to put a coffee shop in the school to complement The Old School Bakery.

Pretty smart, huh?

Old School Bakery baked goods

I had a lot to say about the Old School Bakery too, but that was another day.

Naturally, Eric and I talked about the coffee.  I said I knew they specialized in high quality coffee, but didn’t know what “high quality” means in the coffee world.  He said it’s hard to define, but his shop focuses on two characteristics.

  • All of the coffees at the Principal’s Office are “single origin” coffees, which means they can trace the beans back to a specific farm.  Eric wants to connect the customers to the source of the coffee.  Just like a CSA, buying directly from the coffee farmer results in a better quality product and farmers who are paid fairly.
  • The Principal’s Office doesn’t roast coffee.  They buy it from Colorado’s expert roasters who have direct relationships with coffee farms.  The roasters specialize in bringing out the flavors of the beans and making the most of it.

The expert roasting is especially important since most of the coffees Eric features in the shop are lighter roasts.  Poorly roasted lighter coffees lack flavor, but if done right you can taste the flavors in the bean!  I know this is true because I got to try a single variety of their coffee brewed five different ways.  Each brew tasted a little different and if I paid attention I could taste the different flavors.

Principal's Office Ivywild bar

You could say that good coffee is like good bourbon… subtle.

If you’re not in the mood for good coffee and a chocolate croissant, you can get a cocktail instead.  The bar specializes in pre-Prohibition classic cocktails.  Why?

“Because nobody else was doing it and I liked it,” explains Eric.  ”I enjoy the people and the creativity of it.”

Everything used in the cocktails is made in-house (except the liquor, of course … Ivywild has one alcoholic beverage producing operation and doesn’t need another).

Ginger beer with Nourish Organic Juice ginger juice.

They also make a non-alcoholic Ginger Beer out of ginger juice from Nourish Organic Juice!

I bought a bottle of ginger beer to try at home and it was delicious!  You can really taste the ginger.  But chances are I’ll never order it at the shop.

I’m just too fond of their fine coffee to pass up an opportunity!

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© 2013 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!