Halloween, GaTech Homecoming and Chomp & Stomp!

Halloween weekend was the kind of weekend that highlights how wonderful life is in in-town Atlanta. The more I hear people comment on how "safe" they feel in the suburbs the more I realize they have no idea what they're missing out on. Friday night, after handing out candy to over 100 trick-or-treaters in Grant Park, we headed to a friend's costume party in Reynoldstown (costumes, with hints, below). Bluegrass band and BBQ from DBA? Perhaps I can overlook the sudden freezing temperature!

At noon the next day we hopped on our bikes and braved the frigid headwinds to join friends tailgating the Georgia Tech Homecoming game. After a couple of hours we jumped on the Beltline and cruised over to Cabbagetown for Chomp and Stomp. There we hung out with my brother and a few former co-workers. The transition from engineer friends to artist friends was barely noticeable as both events were so full of lively, happy people (and beer). Next weekend is MothBall - after that I'm hanging up all my costumes until 2015!!

Get the scoop from the coop!

If you're not following And Topher Too on Pinterest and Twitter then you're missing most of the new content! Twitter has up to the minute updates from the Coop Cam* (with photos) and Pinterest has links to both helpful relative articles and images from our daily life on this teeny tiny urban hobby farm. 

*After clicking the link to the cam, then click "flash" or "browser". 

The unbelievable (but true) life of the general who tried to defend Atlanta

My interest in General John Hood can be pinpointed to one historic marker in Oakland Cemetery (high five to Roman Mars/99% invisible - "always read the plaque"). It said something along the lines of "it was here that General John Hood watched the burning of Atlanta from the second story window of a [future Atlanta mayor's] home". At the time of reading I knew enough to think: why is the man in charge of defending Atlanta during Sherman's raid watching from a second story window a couple of miles from the action!? The answer is so much better (and more complicated) then I could have imagined. Read on.

• 1831 - John Hood born in Owingsville, Kentucky
• 1849 - Obtains an appointment to West Point from his uncle, Representative Richard French; his father would prefer a career in medicine. An average student, he is nearly expelled by Superintendent Colonel Robert E. Lee for an unauthorized visit to a local tavern. (1)
• 1853 - Hood graduates 44th out of 52 and is assigned to infantry in California. James McPherson, Hood's classmate, friend and future Union General opponent, graduates first in this class. (4)
• 1855 - Reassigned to the 2nd US Cavalry in Texas.
• 1857 - Wounded in the hand by an arrow during a routine patrol.
• 1861 - Battle of Fort Sumter. The Civil War begins; Hood immediately resigns from the US Army and enlists in the Confederate Army.
• 1863 (July) - Battle of Gettysburg. Hood is badly wounded in his left arm by shrapnel. The arm is saved but remains useless for the rest of his life.
• 1863 (September) - Battle of Chickamauga. Hood leads a key attack which drives much of the Union army from the field. In the fighting, his right leg is severely wounded and must be amputated four inches below the hip. Hood's condition is so grave that the surgeon sends the severed leg along with him in the ambulance (assuming that they will be buried together). For his bravery, he is promoted to lieutenant general. (2)
• 1864 (spring) - Members of Hood's 1855 Texas Brigade collect $3,100 in a single day to buy him a prosthetic cork leg imported (through the Union blockade) from Europe . Despite his two damaged limbs, Hood rides well (strapped to his horse with his artificial leg hanging stiffly, and an orderly following closely behind with crutches).
• 1864 (July) - Hood is promoted to the temporary rank of full general and given command of the confederate army just outside the gates of Atlanta. At 33 years old Hood is the youngest man on either side to be given command of an army.
** This is where the aforementioned historic marker comes into play. At this point, Hood has one leg and one arm yet still finds himself in the 2nd story of someone's home. My question this time was how did he get up those stairs!? Crutches?!**
• 1864 (September) - Battle of Atlanta. Hood fails to defend the city and is forced to surrender. His West Point classmate, friend and Union rival, James McPherson is killed during battle. Hood writes "the announcement of which cause[s] me sincere sorrow".
• 1865 (January) - Hood is replaced. 
• 1865 (spring) - the Civil War ends. Hood moves to New Orleans to start anew. 
• 1866 - Hood establishes a career in the cotton insurance business. (3)
• 1868 - Hood marries Anna Marie Hennen, the highly educated daughter of a New Orleans attorney. During the next ten years they have eleven children - including three sets of twins. They live an elegant home at the corner Camp and Third Street in NOLA's Garden District.
• 1878 (summer) - Yellow Fever ravages New Orleans. The family retreats to Hammond, LA for safety but Hood's insurance business is decimated and the family is forced to mortgage their home.
• 1879 (summer) - Yellow Fever continues to threaten the people of New Orleans but the Hood family no longer has the financial means to leave. A neighbor across the street develops Yellow Fever. 
• 1879 (August 24) - Hood's beloved wife dies of Yellow Fever.
• 1879 (August 29) - Hood's oldest daughter dies of Yellow Fever.
• 1879 (August 31) - Hood dies of Yellow Fever. He is 48 years old and leaves behind 10 orphans. The children are adopted by seven different families in Louisiana, New York, Mississippi, Georgia and Kentucky.

Links & Sources:
(1) http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/americancivilwar/p/jbhood.htm
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bell_Hood
(3) http://civilwarwomenblog.com/anna-marie-hood/
(4) http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/americancivilwar/p/American-Civil-War-Major-General-James-Mcpherson.htm

EAV and Grant Park Criterion, Summer Shade Fest

This time of year always makes me thankful for Atlanta's fantastic intown neighborhoods. The East Atlanta and Grant Park Criterion were held last weekend. Friends with homes/businesses along the courses hosted leisurely front porch parties with neighbors drifting in and out. Today and tomorrow are the annual Grant Park Summer Shade Fest. In a couple of hours we'll walk to the park with a blanket, cooler and hopes of running into my brother. (If you go to the fest be sure look for his t-shirt booth, Wandering Line.) And of course next weekend, Labor Day weekend, is my favorite Atlanta 3-day weekend. Bring on Dragon*Con and SEC football!

Life at home

Life in Grant Park, Atlanta. Summer 2014. Our almost century old home is half way between the Braves stadium (leaving) and the Cyclorama (leaving) with an amazing view of the downtown skyline. A lot of people might be surpised that everything you see below is living and growing in the center (literally) of one of the Southeast's largest cities. 

This summer our urban "homestead" includes:
• 4 Ameraucanas
• 3 Silkies
• Peppers: Thai, Poblano & Red
• Tomatoes: grape & several heirloom varieties
• Corn (not shown)
• Strawberries (not shown)
• Eggplant (not shown)

The Burning of Atlanta

Yesterday marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War campaign/battle that resulted in Sherman's burning of antebellum Atlanta. It seems fitting that this is also the week I finally receive an answer to the question I asked in November: "Hey Atlanta, what's next? Moving the Peachtree Road Race to Gwinett County?" Sadly, the answer is another direct hit to Atlanta's wonderful Grant Park neighborhood: the Cyclorama, a historic painting that depicts the Battle of Atlanta, is being moved from it's home in the park of Grant Park to the posh northern neighborhood of Buckhead. 

The Cyclorama isn't JUST a painting. Created in 1885, it is still the world’s largest oil painting (42 feet x 358 feet). Since 1893 it has been on display less than a mile from the subject matter it depicts. In 1921 it moved to it's current location: a beautiful building on the National Register of Historic Places (right next to the Zoo Atlanta entrance). It's new home will be 15 miles north of the actual battlelines (just 5 miles from the future Cobb County Braves Stadium).

The location of my home (built 56 years after the battle) can be seen in the painting - I love that. The news of the move brought tears to my eyes in the middle of a work day. After losing the Braves Stadium and the fight against a Grant Park Walmart (on my beloved Beltline no less), this annoucement feels like the nail in "historic" Grant Park's coffin. I never let the crime get to me - but these repeated betrayals by the city - they feel so personal. They sting.

Details about the Atlanta Campaign:
• July 22, 1864: Sherman orders that any artillery positioned within range begin cannonading, not just of the Confederate lines but also of the city itself, which still held about 3,000 civilians (down from 20,000 earlier in the spring). Battle lines correspond with present day Moreland Avenue (south from the Edgewood Shopping center to I-20) and then turn 90 degrees West (towards the city) and follow along 1-20.
• August 9, 1864: The barrage of Union artillery peaks with approximately 5,000 shells fired into Atlanta.
• September 2, 1864: Union Soldiers finally penetrate the city. Atlanta falls to General Sherman.
• Sherman occupies Atlanta for 10 weeks.
• Early November 1864: Sherman orders his engineers to begin "the destruction in Atlanta of all depots, car-houses, shops, factories, foundries."
• November 12, 1864: Orders are given to begin torching designated sites, some with explosive shells placed inside. Locations include a storehouse at Whitehall and Forsyth streets, a bank at the railroad and Peachtree Street and the Washington hotel.
• November 15, 1864: Leaving along Decatur Road (which in turns is also Marietta Boulevard and DeKalb Avenue) Union troops leave a smoldering Atlanta and begin their march to the coast.
• December 2, 1864: Sherman and his troops arrive in Savannah. The city surrenders.

Backyard chickens: corner crowding

Yesterday at dusk the chickens had me cracking up while they "wrestled" to see who got to sit in the corner. It was so odd and pervasive that I thought it must be an instinctive chicken behavior. Sure enough, "corner crowding" is a thing chickens do! Tonight I went back to the coop with my camera hoping to catch a repeat performance. It's close - but last night was definitely better. Silly chickens.

The chicks last night at home

Everyday for the last week the chicks have spent a few hours outside in their soon-to-be pirateship-coop home. Tonight is officially their last night in the dining-room-brooder. I'm going to miss having them indoors... so much so that I'm debating keeping two inside (don't tell Oliver). Six weeks into our urban chicken project the Muppets are even more muppety (the Silkies) and the Ameraucanas are unexpectedly intelligent and sweet (well two of the four at least). So far, so good; the chickens are exceeding my expectations!

(To see them live in their coop check out the COOP CAM click here and then click BROWSER.)

City Chicks ATL: Day 15

It's been two weeks since we brought the chicks home. Watching them grow has been way more fun and entertaining then I would have guessed. Their interactions with Topher (and vice versa) have been everything I hoped for. So far, so good, on all fronts! Photo updates below. 

Do you see the chick!? Starbuck and Topher get comfy on the love the seat. 

The girls checking out their reflections in an old make-up compact. 

Starbuck and Lovey tour the construction on their new coop.

Topher tolerates Lovey for a little laptime snuggle.

Topher negotiates with Blackbeard.

All 7 back in the box they traveled home in two weeks ago. They're already so much bigger!

Meet the chicks!

Our fledgling* little flock is comprised of two breeds: Ameraucanas and Silkies. When adopted, the Ameraucanas were 5 days old and the Silkies were 2 weeks. Their adult coop is being built inside a ship shaped tree house so we decided the chickens' names should stick with the theme; silkies are sailors/pirates and Ameraucanas are from Gilligan's Island.

Their live video cam is embedded in the post below. 

*After using this word I questioned it's true meaning. And hey, I've just learned something new! Fledge - the act of a chick's parents raising it to a fully grown state. 


Hi friends, as of June 19th the chick cam will be down for at least a week. (We're about to exceed our internet provider's data limit.)  If we put it back up I'll send out message on the And Topher Too Facebook page (so be sure to like us). Thanks! 

As of June 26th the chick cam is back. The girls have quickly grown from chicks to pullets and it won't be long before they're moved to their new home in the Black Pearl/Queen Anne's Revenge (the coop)! Watch them while you can! 

July 5th update: the chick cam has come to an end. Thanks for visiting! Check back in the future to see if we've installed a coop cam.

And then, there were ten

Tonight we brought home Topher's little brothers and sisters! When O&I were first introduced, it was a conversation about our mutual desire to keep backyard chickens that made us take note of one another (well that and a shared love of NPR podcasts). Two years later, when we were married, we each held a beautiful "show" chicken for our wedding portrait. It's been five years since that first conversation and the dream has finally become a reality. I proudly introduce: Starbuck, Blackbeard, Sparrow, Ginger, Mary Anne, and TBD (but leaning towards The Professor and Lovely). Apologies for the crappy camera phone photos - these were taken pretty quickly. Check back soon for updates!

Historic Grant Park

When the Grant Park neighborhood was under consideration for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places an inventory was taken of all buildings and homes in the area. The information was compiled into a series of notebooks - and those notebooks have recently resurfaced. Paul Simo, historic chair of the Grant Park Neighborhood Association, brought the heavy stack to a recent board meeting. Looking up my home and those around me was exciting!

Turns out our house was built in 1920, making it 94 years old! Our next door neighbor's house (where we were married in 2011) was built in 1889. Most exciting of all - I finally found out more about the gorgeous, overgrown Victorian home across the street. It was built in 1871 for/by (the) Lemuel Grant. The rumor I've heard is that his 2nd wife didn't want to live in their original home after it'd been used as a hospital during the Civil War. This was his home until he died in 1893. His wife lived here until 1912 when she passed (the same year the Titanic sank - and the fictional Downton Abbey begins). Now I'm dying to see inside!! 

If you live in the neighborhood and want to see what the inventory says about your home please contact Paul at historic@GPNA.org.

Atlanta's 2014 SNOW DAY!

Two weeks ago Atlanta made national news for it's "unexpected" "snowstorm". I sarcastically use both words because the snow was neither "unexpected" nor really a "snowstorm". Rather, the Weather Channel (which is based in Atlanta)  had predicted the couple of inches of snow which (as always) caused an ice problem. 

Friends who live outside of Atlanta continue to ask me if this storm was really any different from those of past years. My answer is, yes definitely. The Storm of the Century in March 1993 was a real snowstorm (by Atlanta standards); my suburb received half a foot of powdery snow! When Atlanta hosted the Super Bowl in 2000 we were hit with an ice storm that caused tree limbs to snap and create power outages all over the city. This time a dusting of powdery snow seemed to instantly freeze onto the roads (possibly because the city had been experiencing single digit temperatures in the weeks leading up to the storm). As the snow was falling the city closed schools. This prompted everyone in the city to simultaneously get into their cars and act like half a million little zambonis. Working together, Atlanta's infamous rush hour commuters transformed Atlanta's highways into a massive ice skating rink. It's not that Atlantans don't know how to drive in the snow; it's that we don't have cars equipped to drive on solid ice. And in a matter of three hours the roads went from snow to ice. 

People in my office were forced to either abandon their cars and walk or sleep in their cars on the highway. I was lucky: I left work at 4pm and had a really easy drive home through a mostly abandoned city. Just another perk of city living I suppose!

Photos from Tuesday evening/night
Driving home from work: the opening shot from the Walking Dead.

Looking East on 1-20 at midnight on Tuesday

Photos from Wednesday morning

Looking North on Hill Street.

Looking West on 1-20 at 8am on Wednesday (traffic is a stand still).

Looking East on 1-20 at 8am on Wednesday (traffic is a stand still).

A short history of baseball and mass transit in Atlanta

The recent announcement that Atlanta's Braves plan to leave the city center in favor of a new suburban stadium has caught the entire nation by surprise. While I am not in favor of the move, the decision reminds me of the various roles transit has played in Atlanta baseball. In my mind, the two have always been intertwined: Atlanta's earliest organized baseball team, the Cracker's, played in a stadium accessible by streetcar. Ivan Allen chose the location for Atlanta Fulton County's Stadium based on it's proximity to "the Georgia State Capitol, downtown businesses and major highways". (Turner Field was built beside the original Braves stadium - but I don't know enough about the Olympic plans to say if consideration had been given to building elsewhere.) 

With all of that in mind, a brief (unofficial) history of baseball and mass transit in Atlanta:

• 1866 - Georgia’s General Assembly charters the Atlanta Street Railway Company.
• September 8, 1871 - The first horse drawn trolley line begins operation. Tracks extend from the city’s center to Peters Street near the present location of Spellman College. The “West End” line goes along Mitchell and Forsyth to the Fort McPherson Barracks.

• January 1872 - Service added from Marietta Street (downtown) running northwest to North Avenue
• May 1872 - Service added from Decatur Street (downtown) running east to the north entrance of Oakland Cemetery (no longer an entrance)
• August 1872 - Service added from downtown running north along Peachtree Street to Pine Street.
• 1874 - Peachtree line is extended further north to the present intersection of Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon Ave. "Since the Ponce de Leon Avenue did not exist at the time, the rail line traveled east on a private right-of-way to Ponce de Leon Springs, a popular seasonal recreation spot in the lands beyond the city" [1].
• February 11, 1885 - the south's first organized, professional baseball league is formed by Henry W. Grady. At the end of the 100 game season Atlanta narrowly defeats Augusta to win the first Southern League pennant [2].
• 1899 - Southern League officially disbands but is credited with making baseball popular in the south.
• 1901 - Southern Association is formed. Atlanta's team is the "Firemen"[3].
• 1903 - Atlanta's baseball team changes it's name to the "Crackers". The Crackers become one of professional baseball's most successful franchises, winning more titles than any other team except the Yankees [4]. They play at various parks around Atlanta. 
• May 23, 1907 - Ponce de Leon Ball Park opens; the Crackers finally have a home field. The wooden stadium is built in the amusement park at the end of the streetcar line. 
•  September 9, 1923 - The stadium burns down. Uniforms, trophies and records are lost. 
• 1924 - A new steel and concrete stadium is built by RJ Spiller, a wealthy concessionaire. "The new park debuted in time for the 1924 season, and was widely hailed as the finest minor league stadium in the nation." [5] The outfield is noted for having a pair of magnolia trees in center field; as of 2013 these trees are still standing along the access road behind Whole Foods. 
• 1940's - the proposal to build an interstate cutting through downtown Atlanta begins
• 1954 - Atlanta Cracker, Montag hits the longest home run in baseball history. "It landed in a coal car passing on the railroad tracks beyond the right field fence at the Ponce de Leon park. A few days later, after the train had gone to Nashville, Tennessee, and back, the conductor asked Montag to autograph the ball, which by that time had traveled more than 500 miles." [6]
• 1958 - Interstate development maps outline a path alongside current-day Turner Field.
• 1961 - As part of his campaign for mayor, Ivan Allen Jr promises to build a sports facility that will attract a Major League Baseball team. After winning office, Allen chose a 47-acre plot in the Washington-Rawson neighborhood for the building site, citing its proximity to the Georgia State Capitol, downtown businesses and major highways [7].
• April 15, 1964 - Groundbreaking ceremony for the future Atlanta Fulton County Stadium
• 1965 - MARTA is formed by the Georgia Legislature
• 1965 - Atlanta Crackers play their final season in the new Atlanta Fulton County Stadium.
• April 9, 1965 Milwaukee Braves play an exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers in the new stadium.
• 1966 - Both the Atlanta Falcons football team and the newly minted Atlanta Braves baseball team move into Fulton County Stadium. Both teams share this facility for the next 26 years. (In 1992 the Falcons move to the Georgia Dome).
• 1968 - Construction for MARTA fails city of Atlanta, Fulton County and DeKalb County referendum.
• 1969 - Construction on 285 begins.
• 1971 - Voters pass MARTA construction referendum 
• April 8, 1974 - Hank Aaron became baseball's all-time career home run leader by hitting his 715th home run
• 1975 - Marta ground breaking
• March 29, 1997 - First Braves game in the new Turner Field (formerly the Olympic Stadium)