First things first… What’s an Alewyfe??? It’s one of the first “legitimate” trades medieval free-townswomen were allowed to have: working as a brewster (making beer) or an inn or tavernkeeper. Since I homebrew, and my home often feels like a tavern when enough friends stop by (and I’d love to open up my home as a part-time B&B someday), it seemed only appropriate.
Also, I was almost a beer baroness of sorts (or so I wish) but my great-grandparents sold the brewery when I was just a wee-southern tyke. Alas. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? (I know. I weep for a time-machine every time I consider my alternate fate… if not to prevent the sale, at least to tell Fred & Nana that maybe Enron was not the best place to keep all their investment funds)?
Want to learn more about the early Alewyves? Read on:
Ok, enough with the history lessons. Where are we now?
Tune in for the story of citified southern country girl just trying to make it here in the Wild West Side of Chicago, while transforming the yard and a few vacant lots into productive urban farmland… and most of the time, life is pretty good! I share my home with another southern transplant- a Georgia-born, third-hand, first-class Rottweiler named Zeus. You’ll mostly hear from me, Alewyfe (Chef, farmer, teacher, soapmaker, agitator, brewer, beekeeper, butcher, baker, doggie treat maker, and betty crocker punk rocker!)… Now be a good neighbor, pour yourself a brew, pull up a chair, and sit a spell with us… talk about the weather (right now it’s lousy, but our little nook is pretty cozy), the crops, and which way the wind’s blowin’.
So, living where we do, a few folks (friends, strangers, the guys at the firehouse down the street) have called us “urban pioneers” (or sometimes just crazy) for living where we do… to which we shrug and think, “urban pioneers, huh?” I have to admit, as a white gal in a predominately black neighborhood, who is all-too-aware of what gentrification does to communities of color, and what the history of pioneering in this country has in common with that… I want no part of it. I like my neighbors, from the church ladies to the drug dealers, they’re all pretty fine folks, and I prefer them to drunken coeds any day of the week. I know their names, and we all keep an eye out for each other. It’s a small town in a big city. I do not like Lincoln Park. Or Wicker Park. Or Forest Park. Give me Garfield Park any day of the week! Humboldt might do in a pinch, but it’s actually druggier and more violent, so we’ll stay where we are (postscript- life has other plans than our own. We’ve moved, but we’re nearby, in a home of our own, finally).
No, I do not identify with those “urban pioneers”, the trendsetting yuppies who move into an affordable neighborhood only to leave a path of Urban Outfitters, Starbucks, overpriced apartments, and boutiques in their wake… there’s no manifest destiny to be found here, and hopefully no chain stores moving in anytime soon. I’m kinda glad the condos down the block are sitting empty, that real estate prices are stagnant, that our neighbors can afford to stay where they are and that some of our friends can afford homes nearby- a few already live here and a few are looking, but most are already near enough. Here, you’ll find advice and ruminations on just good plain livin’- gardening, bike commuting, homebrewing, canning, home cooking, soapmaking, re-use, and other forms of folky frugality.
I’ll be joined hopefully soon by some chickens.. and rabbits, and greenhouse aquaponics, and a dog, and hopefully maybe a pair of Nigerian Dwarf goat-gals, and some babydoll sheep and a pig and a pony and and and… but now I’m dreaming big and a lot of that’s crazy talk… so one thing at a time, now! (We settled on chickens and a dog. And sometimes bees).
Update- the chickens have landed, right behind the bees, and ahead of the dog. Life is better shared. That same life has thrown some curve balls my way lately, and I’m doing my best to hit those suckers out of the park. Look out.
Post-post script… Zeus the Moose-dog and Gurl are currently kickin’ it in East Oakland, which basically feels just like home but the citrus trees and jasmine don’t have to be brought indoors for the winter? Bay Area life is lovely, and the Inn and farm are in good hands back in Chicago, so still come book a visit with us!