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1. Mystery Eggs

Why do long holiday weekends go by so fast? Probably because I try and cram so much into them. And did I ever cram this weekend.

The garden is doing great. I picked so many peas this week I couldn’t keep up and had to start freezing them. This makes me very happy because I love peas so much and now even after the peas are done producing I will have some for a little longer especially since I have only just begun picking them.

Black raspberries

Black raspberries

Last week I mentioned the black raspberries were turning red, well, once they go red, they don’t take but a couple days to turn black and ripe. So I have started picking. The netting has done well to keep critters away. I have never had black raspberries before and was expecting them to be a bit tart like the red ones but they are slightly sweet, rich and kind of earthy, if that makes sense. Very tasty. Since this is only their second year there aren’t a huge amount but there will be enough to make into something, so as they get ripe I have been picking and then freezing them. Once they are all ripe we’ll see how much there is and go from there. I like them very much and may just have to plant some more in the chicken garden.

Last week I said I wasn’t going to bother to pick the elderberries but I changed my mind. I picked about a dozen very ripe berries and then froze them. The gooseberries are starting to get ripe and I even have a few

Gooseberries

Gooseberries

red currents, so I am freezing all of those too. I figure between gooseberries, currents and elderberries I might be able to cook up a tasty bit of jam. Why is it that so many berry bushes have thorns? The black raspberries have tiny ones but they will still get you if you aren’t careful. The current has very tiny ones that are just big enough to get your attention. The gooseberries have big, dangerous thorns that hurt like heck. When I am picking them I sing a little song called “Ouch” over the shrub. It has not yet drawn blood but I suspect it is only a matter of time.

I picked a bunch of radishes this week too. I had some sliced up on my tempeh sandwich today along with broccoli sprouts and a little mustard. So tasty! When picking radishes I realized I have to get better at thinning. I had thinned them but not aggressively enough which means much smaller radishes in spots where they are crammed together. If I had thinned them better I would have fewer radishes but the ones I did have would be much, much larger. I had to thin the beets and I think I did a better job at it. We shall see.

Looks like snake eggs but is really a fungus, darn

Looks like snake eggs but is really a fungus, darn

Here is the garden mystery of the week. Bookman was weeding and found a nest of eggs. They were in an especially sandy part of the garden and all together in a clutch, each one about the size of a walnut. What could have laid them? I investigated. They are white, felt firm and smooth but a little leathery. They look very much like snake eggs. So I did some snake research. Minnesota has 17 different kinds of snakes and of those only nine lay eggs. Of those nine two are very rare. Of the remaining seven because of range and habitat I was able to narrow down the possibilities to two. I decided that it wasn’t a gopher snake because they like to eat rodents, frogs and small birds and our garden isn’t exactly a prime food source for those critters. Squirrels on the other hand… So I decided the eggs must belong to a smooth green snake that solely eats insects, especially crickets of which we have an abundance. I was so excited about the prospect of having snakes in the garden that I’d go out an check on the eggs every evening to see if they had hatched.

Today when I checked on them I discovered that they aren’t eggs at all! It turns out they are a species of fungus called mutinus elegans, also known as elegant stinkhorn, dog stinkhorn, headless stinkhorn and, my favorite, devil’s dipstick. We’ve had the single red fruiting stalks pop up around the garden last year but they are in abundance this year. Turns out the red stalk grows out of the white eggs. When I checked on the “snake eggs” today, there were a number of the red stalks growing out of them. Fungi are good and this one is a rather weird, if rude looking one (Bookman says they look like a dog’s penis, which is true and which also might clue you in on why one of their common names is “devil’s dipstick” wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Still, I can’t help but be disappointed that I won’t be mothering any baby green snakes.

We’ve had a setback with the chicken garden, the area formerly known as garage. Bookman and I went out with rakes to rake up the sand into a pile and get to work on breaking up the compacted soil beneath. It turns out the one place we had dug beneath the sand is just about the only place in the entire area that has actual dirt under it. The rest really is nothing but sand. Well and so, there is more work to do to than previously thought. How does one go about turning sand into soil? One must add lots and lots and lots of organic material. To begin, we set up the old round black plastic compost bin we took down from the main garden last year when we built a two room post and wire bin. Good thing we saved the old plastic bin! We put it in a spot close to where we think we might plant a cheery tree next year. Since our two room bins are full we have already begun adding to the plastic bin.

Before the garage came down I was assuming there would be dirt beneath it that would need help and bought several different annual cover crops. I don’t know if they will grow in sand. An experiment is in order. I marked off an area and seeded some buckwheat. If it sprouts in a week or so I’ll mark off a few other areas and sow more. If the buckwheat doesn’t sprout I have some hairy vetch and winter oats I can try. If those aren’t successful then an inquiry into having topsoil delivered is in order and/or raised bed gardening until the soil in the whole area is generally improved. No matter how you look at it, those chickens are going to have their work cut out for them. Actually, all they have to do is poop, all the work falls to me.

We have the fence installation arranged but the work is 6-8 weeks out on their schedule. In the meantime, we are in the process of ordering the shed kit and arranging its delivery. Then we get to build it. Once the shed is up we’ll start work on the chicken coop. Huzzah!

Biking
I can happily report that Astrid and I are crash free this week! My scrapes are healing and my bruises have reached that oh so very colorful stage. It was nice to not add any new ones. It also made for a better ride. I am really liking “my route.” This week I thought I would add a bit more distance but instead decided to keep the same distance but just do some sprint intervals in a great section of trail that is paved, flat, fairly straight, wide, crosses no vehicular intersections for a several miles and is not crowded with slow moving cyclists or people out walking their dogs. It worked out really well and I had fun and was pleasantly tired when I got home. I’m looking forward to doing it again next week.

In spite of the summer warmth, Bookman has been getting out on evening rides with me a couple times a week. As long as he keeps moving he doesn’t overheat and doesn’t feel the fatigue (both are MS symptoms). We have a 22 mile/35 km route we’ve done a couple times that seems to work well for him.

We had been planning on doing the half-century route In October at a ride in Mankato, Minnesota but it is close to an hour and half drive to get there so we decided to do the 60-mile route at Jesse James Days in Northfield which is less than an hour’s drive from us. Plus 60 miles is a metric century so that’s something! They have a 100 mile /161 km route that we will do next year. The Mankato ride offers pie at one of their rest stations which is a great temptation, but the Jesse James ride has free massages at the end. If only there were a ride with pie and a massage that would be be oh so heavenly.


Filed under: biking, gardening Tagged: blakc raspberries, chickens, cover crops, Elegant stinkhorn, Jesse James Days, smooth green snake

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2. Oh Peas!

First off, it is Pride weekend and is there ever cause for celebration! In case you haven’t heard, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling Friday that makes same-sex marriage a legal right in all fifty states. The court made a good decision for a change and I am so very very happy I may have even gotten a little teary-eyed about it. A big virtual kiss to the five justices who wrote the majority opinion (Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan). Thank you for doing the right thing.

Now, on to gardening.

Yes peas!

Yes peas!

I suppose I should apologize to the rabbits but I am not going to. Turns out they are not the ones who have been eating everything. They have eaten some things like the sunflowers, but they have not been the culprits when it comes to greens. My true nemesis/nemisises/nemisi are slugs! Not the big huge fat ones, but tiny ones the size of the tip of a well sharpened pencil. They look innocuous, like little moist pieces of dirt stuck to leaves after a hard rain. And so I didn’t notice them. But I have been spending time with my face close to the dirt weeding and discovered them hiding in plain sight. But they are so tiny and the plants are growing so fast now they are no longer really an issue. Still, I am not going to say sorry to the rabbits.

The second planting in the polyculture bed is doing pretty well. I had to thin the radishes this week and soon I will need to thin the beets. While thinning the radishes I began to wonder whether the greens were edible. They are! As are carrot greens. Radish greens recipes abound but it seems like they do best in soup and stir fried and as pesto. Carrot tops also make good soup as well as tea and supposedly a really fantastic pesto. Who knew? So now all radish greens are being saved and any carrot greens that might happen will be saved too. And is it me or can anything green be made into pesto? I think by the end of summer I am going to have so much pesto in my freezer it will last me nearly all winter.

Last year I planted parsnips in the polyculture bed. I thought I had pulled all of them out in the fall but it

Parsnip flowers

Parsnip flowers

turned out to not be the case. Parsnips are biennial and flower and seed in their second year. I heard they were great for pollinators so when I saw three or four parsnips coming up in spring I let them go. Now they are really tall and blooming pretty umbels of yellow flowers that pollinators are definitely enjoying. I will allow them to go to seed and then save the seed for the garden next year and see if I get some good parsnips from it.

The peas are beginning to be pickable. I got the first ones today and there will be even more to pick tomorrow and every day or two after that for then next couple of weeks. Yay! It is nice that the peas are ready now just as I picked the last of the strawberries today.

Bookman being silly fixing up the raspberries

Bookman being silly fixing up the raspberries

Bookman staked up and covered with netting the black raspberries. They are getting close to ripe and I don’t want to share them with the birds and squirrels. The birds can’t get them but an enterprising squirrel can get under the netting if it dares. I hope none dare. The raspberries are supposed to be black but they look like they will just be a really dark red. Oh wait, nope. Just did some googling. It looks like they turn red first and then black when they are ripe. Nifty. They are starting to go from green to red. I assume black comes not long after. Will keep an eye out and let you know.

My tiny elderberry bush that I got at the plant sale in May has some berries on it. Not many, less than a

Going

Going

handful. Elderberries cannot be eaten raw, they must be cooked into jam, syrup, or alcohol. There are not enough berries to bother cooking into anything so I will just leave them be this year and wait until the shrub is bigger in a year or two. I got the shrub to plant in the chicken garden but had to temporarily plant it in the regular garden because the garage was taking so long to get knocked down. Now it is so far into the growing season the shrub along with the serviceberry and the prairie rose will stay in their temporary locations until spring next year when I will move them.

Going

Going

Speaking of garage, guess what finally happened? It ended up costing a little more than originally estimated because the concrete slab we also had removed turned our to have wire reinforcement in it. But it is all gone now with only a sliver left just big enough to park a car and on the NE corner is an 8×8 foot square that we will use to build the shed on. It is such a relief to have all of this finally done! Beneath all of that concrete I was expecting gravel and compacted dirt. What is actually there is a 1-2 inch layer of fine building sand. I joked with Bookman that we should forget about the shed and chickens and put up a volleyball net and start hosting beach volleyball tournaments. Not to fear, under the layer of sand is the compacted dirt.

Now that the garage is gone, the next order of business is to have a chainlink fence with a gate installed. That should not be the ordeal that having the garage knocked down was. While that is in process, we will be

Gone!

Gone!

raking up all the sand into a neat pile. We will save some to use for the chickens — they will need sand for dust baths — and begin distributing it through the garden. We have plans to turn the polyculture bed into a year-round garden by building a small winter-hardy hoophouse and growing cool weather veg beneath it to harvest when there is snow on the ground (that is the hope anyway). The polyculture bed is a raised bed made of cinderblocks. The sand will go in the cinderblock holes. Sand does not freeze in winter and will serve as insulation. More sand will get spread out on the main garden path before it gets covered over in pea gravel. If there is still sand left after that, well, we’ll worry about it when we get there.

Once we get the sand raked into a tidy pile, Bookman will begin going over the compacted dirt with a shovel and fork to loosen it up. Then we will plant buckwheat as a ground cover and mulch that under in September and seed hairy vetch and oats as ground covers that will sprout first thing in spring. The idea is to keep the weeds down and to improve the soil. Wish us luck!

Biking
I am not trying to kill myself, I’m really not. I crashed again yesterday. This time it was totally me being stupid. I was on the last leg of my ride coming from a street bike lane to an off-street bike trail (it strikes me now that I have difficulty with transitions) and hit the curb. The curb has a very narrow cutout that is still kind of high. I have successfully navigated it a number of times and cursed it every time. Yesterday I was going too fast and not paying attention. I missed the cutout and smacked right into the curb. I knew it was going to happen a spilt second before it did. I do not know how to pop my front wheel up off the pavement. I don’t know that even if I did I would have been able to react fast enough for it to save me. Nonetheless, Bookman has promised to teach me how to do this.

So, I hit the curb. The good news is I did not go over the handlebars. The bad news is I still got pretty banged up. Last week when I fell on the gravel I was going slow and the scrapes were pretty minor in spite of the blood, and are actually almost completely healed. Yesterday I managed to scrape my shoulder, elbow, knee and shin. There is quite a lot of skin missing. When I got home I saw my elbow and shin each had a big lump developing. We had no cold packs in the freezer so I used a bag of frozen corn on my shin and a bag of frozen peas on my elbow. This was very effective and the lumps have gone away. The scrapes are tender but they will be healed soon enough. My knee, however, is one very large scab that will take a few weeks to have skin again.

Far from feeling badass, this time around I feel like an idiot. The repetitive motion of cycling is very relaxing to me even when I am working hard up a hill. On the flats, though, I tend to get meditative and have a bad tendency to zone out. This is not such a bad thing on a nearly empty bike-only trail. It is a very bad idea when there is a tricky route change.

Astrid is perfectly fine. Her chain came partly off which panicked me a bit because I do not know how to put a chain back on a bike. But since it was only partially off, it was not hard to fix. Poor Astrid. She’s a trooper she is.

All that happened with less than half an hour to home. And in spite of it, it was a really good ride. I am still Queen of the Mountain on the one Strava segment and I even managed to beat my time by five seconds. Someone else had created a segment within that long segment, a particular hill, and I am sixth overall. Woo! I am a very competitive person, in case you haven’t noticed. I’ve not had anything over which to compete for a very long time (competitive vegetable growing just doesn’t do it for me, I really don’t care who has the biggest carrot) and cycling has awakened those urges. I am not interested in racing though, I am perfectly happy competing with myself and the likely never to meet them cyclists on Strava. It is good motivation and makes me work harder to improve my stamina and strength.

Aside from Bookman teaching me how to lift my front wheel, the thing I am really focused on at the moment is pacing on hills and for distance. I have a tendency to attack the bottom of the hill and then run out of steam about halfway. Same with a long ride, I ride fast early and then the second half is nothing but slog because I have used up all my energy. I read an article in a cycling magazine that says when going up hills to keep a steady pace throughout. Also, shift before you need that next lower gear, not when you find yourself mashing the pedals as hard as you can. I practiced this yesterday and you know what? It really works!

As far as pacing during the whole ride, I discovered yesterday that a mix of music is a great assist. Don’t worry, I don’t put my ipod earbuds in my ears, I am not that dumb and it is illegal. No, I wrap the earbuds over my ears and turn up the volume — musical earrings. Bookman tells me that it isn’t loud enough for others to really hear anything other than a low buzzing sound which is much quieter than the young men on the train who have their earbuds in and the music blasting so loud I can hear the lyrics. So the music mix helps with pacing. I have fast songs and slow songs and somewhere in the middle songs. When the slow songs come up I get to have a more relaxed pace. When the fast songs come up I pedal faster without even having to think about it. When I finished my ride yesterday I was hurting from my fall but I was not really tired like I had been before. So I count this as a big success.

When I ride with Bookman or on a group ride, I do not take music, music is for when I am out alone. Pacing is easier when I am with other people I find. When I am alone I have no one to compare myself to, no outside perspective. The music seems to have solved that problem. Plus, there is no way I won’t get up a hill with Ricky Martin’s She Bangs playing through my musical earrings

Yup, Ricky Martin. I have a number of his songs on my ipod. He is great workout music. Don’t worry I have more current songs too. Walk the Moon is also great and P!nk is always fantastic. And for a slower or more moderate pace Indigo Girls and Sia work pretty well. I have 15 hours of songs on my ipod, I put it on shuffle and let them fall where they may. Except on the hilly sections of my rides, I always skip around and make sure I have a fast beat.

My cycling goal for the coming week? No crashes!


Filed under: biking, gardening Tagged: beach volleyball, Carrot greens are edible too go figure, chickens, crash test dummy, radish greens are edible who knew?, the garage is finally destroyed and now it is on to reclaiming the land from car culture, uncooked elderberries are toxic

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3. Dragons, Library Holds, and Biking

cover artI finally finished A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin yesterday. I am glad it is finally over. I’m not going to do a full write-up of it because it is the fifth book in a series and frankly, I found it full of bloat and, while better than book four, still not great. In fact, I am not certain I will read the Winds of Winter when it finally comes out. Of course if people I trust read it and tell me how good it is I will probably cave in and read it, but otherwise, I’m burnt out. The thing has become so fragmented with a gazillion different storylines going on that it feels out of control and out of focus.

So there.

I know you have been wondering about my library hold situation and the resolution I made at the beginning of the year to keep my hold requests down to no more than five at a time. I had been doing so well and feeling so proud of myself. I got cocky. And of course I slipped.

Currently I have only one book checked out from the library, Lumberjanes, and one waiting for me to pick up, The House of Paper. But then there are eight hold requests. Only eight though, that’s not bad, right? One of them will be coming up to my turn very soon, When Mystical Creatures Attack! by Kathleen Founds. The rest I have a little wait for – I am 120 in line for The Buried Giant by Ishiguro but only third in line for Molecular Red by McKenzie Wark. There is a good time spread between the two. Granted the rest of my requests I am twenty-something in line, but still they won’t all arrive at once (Hahahaha!). So even though I went over my self-imposed five hold requests limit it isn’t terrible, not like when I had close to twenty hold requests out at once, right? And it’s not like I’ve gone completely crazy with new hold requests. I’m still in control. Yes, yes I am. I am absolutely certain of it. Yup. In complete control.

On a side note, I went on my first group bike ride last night. It is a women-only ride that leaves from a nearby bike shop. I was nervous, let me tell you. The route was to be rolling hills and since it is a no-drop ride (the group stops and waits for those falling behind) I was terrified I would be the one everyone was stopping to wait for. Since I had never ridden with other people before I had no idea how my fitness level would compare. Turns out I didn’t have a thing to worry about. My fitness level is just fine and I am not too bad on hills.

There were ten of us and I had a blast. Most of us had not gone on this particular group ride before so no one really knew anyone which meant no one got left out socially. And because of the hills I got to practice shifting on Astrid, something I haven’t done much of because I haven’t had to. And I discovered a lovely sound, the sound of a group of strong women on bikes coming up to a stoplight and all of us clipping out (unlocking our shoes from the pedals) and then clipping back in when we start again. I don’t know why I like the sound so much but I do. Maybe it’s because I am making it too as part of a group. At any rate, I will be riding out again next Wednesday so chances are good that unless the weather is bad and the ride gets cancelled, I will not be posting on Wednesday nights through the end of summer. I’ve got a bike to ride!


Filed under: biking, Books, Library Tagged: Dance with Dragons, Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin

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4. Everything’s Coming Up Including the Weeds

Happy potatoes

Happy potatoes

The week gave the garden some good rain and some good sun. Everything is green, green, green and the weeds are growing like, well weeds. It is impossible to keep up with them. Even when we mulch they still manage to find places where the mulch is thin and then they spread from there. Sigh.

The good news is that the replanting of the polyculture bed was a success. The radishes are coming up like crazy, the beets are poking up too and couple beans are just pushing up. I was talking with a gardening friend the other day and she said she had to replant her beets and lettuce too because nothing had come up. I feel a little better now because I can say it was nothing I did wrong. Neither of us was able to speculate why our first seeding did not take, but it’s working now so I’m happy. If only I can get rid of the two rabbits we keep having to chase out of the garden. They have eaten almost all of the sunflowers and they left one of the sweet potato plants with only one leaf. Since the other two plants still have all their leaves, I am assuming they are not tasty. I hope the singled leafed one is not doomed to die.

Speaking of potatoes, the regular potatoes are doing amazing. We mounded up dirt and are now using straw because we don’t have any more dirt. That’s fine, it will be easier to get to the potatoes with the straw than with the dirt. At least that’s what the literature says.

Two years ago we planted a white peony. I didn’t expect the little thing to bloom the first year. Last year it

white peony

white peony

grew into a stumpy shin-high plant that didn’t flower and didn’t look like it was ever going to do anything at all. This year, it has come back big and strong and has given us some pretty bright white flowers with the faintest smudge of creamy yellow in the middle. We got to enjoy them for two days and then it poured rain on them last night and flattened them. Peonies and rain never go together. But the climbing rose is starting to bloom and is doing as well as ever.

Does anyone know what to do with winter savory? I planted some in the herb spiral last year. It is a pretty

winter savory gone wild

winter savory gone wild

perennial herb, and this year it is going crazy. But Bookman has never had a recipe that calls for the herb and we are at a loss as to what exactly to do with it. Any suggestions are welcome! Remember though, we’re vegan so don’t tell me it tastes good on beef or fish, etc. that does me no good.

Because the city is discontinuing the program that provides free wood chips, Bookman and I have been struggling to decide what to do about the wood chip paths through the garden. They have reached the point where the chips need to be replenished. We tried to get a chip delivery from tree companies last year but no one had any which struck me as odd but whatever. I refuse to buy bagged mulch, I don’t trust where it comes from. At least with local chips I know they come from trees the city trimmed or had to remove. I don’t want to buy bagged mulch

changing wood chips to gravel

changing wood chips to gravel

that might be from trees that were cut down for the express purpose. So we decided to put down gravel at least on the main garden path. Those bags are heavy! Since we have only a small car we can only do a few bags at a time but we made a pretty good start.

Our poor corn field. We planted quite a lot of popcorn this year instead of sweet corn and it was coming up great. We removed the row cover fabric last week when most of the plants were a couple inches tall. During the week the wascally rabbits have thinned the field. We still have ten plants but when it was double that you can see why I might be disappointed. Today I planted pole beans by each of the cornstalks and a few extra in one empty corner where we will make a twig teepee for them to climb up. I also planted pie pumpkins and because the bed is bigger than last year I planted even more vines, about 12 seeds in all. If they all germinate the garden in fall will be buried under pumpkin vines. And if each vine produces 2 pumpkins, well you do the orange math. I love pumpkin however, and if I really end up with 12-24 of them I will try making my own pumpkin butter. Have you ever had it? It is so gosh darn heavenly delicious.

The Royal Horticulture Society in Great Britain has been doing some fab work on gardening and climate change. They have a website with helpful information for gardeners and they recently produced a report on climate change and urban gardening. Did you know that just a 10% increase in planting urban areas will help keep cities cooler? Urban gardens also assist with flood control and they help support wildlife. And of course, gardening is good for people too providing stress relief and exercise. Spend an afternoon lifting bags of dirt, cinder blocks and bags of pea gravel and there is no need to go to the gym! Plus, being outdoors you get vitamin D and a big dose of vitamin N(ature), two things the gym definitely can’t offer.

The week ahead looks to be warm, approaching hot, and dry. Good thing the rain barrels are full!

Biking
Yesterday Astrid and I managed to ride 54.2 miles/87km! My longest distance yet. It is a good thing Bookman and I went to the bike shop on Friday afternoon where I got a second water bottle and cage. I also got some snazzy gloves with gel in key places and for the first time my hands weren’t tingling and numb when I was done with my ride. Win! I also got a little under the seat bag to hold my patch kit and what-not. Now the only things I carry in my pockets are what I most want access to, my lip balm and my snacks!

You shall not pass

You shall not pass

I rode out along a regional trail I had not been on before. Once again it took a hop across the street and I missed the signage, went left when I should have gone right and took a tour of the suburbs and the astonishingly large mcmansions and expanses of green lawn. It was completely cringe worthy. The people who were out were nice to me though, saying hi as I rode by.

Eventually, my map and I found our way back to the trail only to run up against a closed sign five minutes later. Apparently with some recent rains there was a mudslide and trail washout. Sigh. So I turned around and got to see the part of the trail I had missed before due to my wrong turn. And then I got to another part of the trail where I couldn’t tell which way it was supposed to go. After much backing and forthing I finally figured out which branch I was supposed to take. The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful.

One part of my ride took me along the Mississippi River a portion of which runs north of downtown Minneapolis.

St Anthony Falls

St Anthony Falls

Minneapolis was founded was a flour milling town and back in the days of the mills, they built an artificial waterfall in the river to power them. The mills are gone now and one that remains has been turned into a pretty fantastic museum. The falls are still there as is a lock and dam system that was created to get the river traffic past the falls. The falls are called St. Anthony. I snapped a photo to give you an idea of what it looks like. you can see part of the falls in the background and in the foreground is part of the lock. There is a lookout park there that was super crowded so I didn’t try to ride in for a better view and photo. Behind me is the old flour mill that is now a museum. Part of the bike trail runs across what was once an old wooden road next to the mill. It’s a bumpy ride, but it is also kind of fun riding over and by a piece of history.

In some recent internet clicking, I came across a website called Velominati. It is pretty hardcore cycling and fairly male-centric but what was amusing was the long page of ”rules” that cover important things like tan lines, the allowed matching options for saddle, bars and tires, how to properly hang your helmet on your bike, those kinds of things. One of my favorites though is rule 38, Don’t play leap frog:

Train Properly: if you get passed by someone, it is nothing personal, just accept that on the day/effort/ride they were stronger than you. If you can’t deal, work harder. But don’t go playing leap frog to get in front only to be taken over again (multiple times) because you can’t keep up the pace. Especially don’t do this just because the person overtaking you is a woman. Seriously. Get over it.

Yes!

There were lots of women out riding yesterday which made me so very happy. And I even got a compliment from one of them. I was moving at a pretty good pace and a woman came alongside and as she passed she said, I’ve been trying to catch you for a very long time! You’re doing great! Squee! Best bike compliment ever.


Filed under: biking, gardening Tagged: climate change, Mcmansion tour, Nothing like a compliment, stupid rabbits, what the heck do you do with winter savory?

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5. Frustrations

Borage

Borage

It doesn’t seem like vacation yet because it has been a usual kind of weekend. Monday morning when I don’t have an alarm wake me up will feel more vacationy.

It is bothersome in gardening how you can do the same thing year after year and one year certain things will do great and the next year it is a complete failure. Take, for instance, last year. All the greens we planted did marvelous. We picked lettuce fresh from the garden for close to two months. The kale went nearly all summer. The mustard seeded itself from the previous year and did great. This year, we seeded fresh mustard and it is doing great. But we decided to branch out in our success of greens and planted, in addition to lettuce, spinach, chard and arugula. None of the lettuce came up. We have one spinach plant. A few chard and arugula. Hardly any kale. WTF?

In addition, nearly all of the sunflowers we sprouted and planted out when they were about four inches tall have been eaten by rabbits. I think we have four of the fifteen we planted. Of the five purple cabbages we sprouted and planted out, one has survived not being eaten by something. Most of the peppers are gone. A few of the tomatoes are hanging in there, stunted and not really taking off, but not dead either.

On the bright side, the comfrey is enormous and we had to cut back a bunch of it which is good, that’s what we want to do.

Comfrey

Comfrey

Comfrey, apart from supposedly being great for making poultices for to heal bruises and sore muscles, is a dynamic accumulator. That means it has super deep roots that pull up all kinds of minerals and good stuff from deep in the soil. When it gets big and starts to flop over, you trim it back and use the leaves and stems around the garden as mulch. Comfrey is like a multi-vitamin for the garden. Today the hazelnut tree was the beneficiary of the clippings. Comfrey also gets pretty purple flowers that pollinators like.

Also doing well is the borage. It has pretty purple flowers beloved by pollinators as well. And all the peas we planted, they are doing well too and starting to bloom and with luck in two or three weeks I will be able to start picking fresh peas. The squash is really coming up well this year. Last year it was so cool and damp we had hardly any at all. And the beans are looking good too. As are the potatoes that I can’t seem to keep mounded up fast enough.

New electrical outlet

New electrical outlet

Also on the bright side are the strawberries. Last year was not a great strawberry year. This year we have been having strawberries every evening all week and they are still coming. Some of them are huge. So along with the frustrations there are consolations. It is hard on a person though when she looks forward all winter to picking a fresh salad every night and then doesn’t get to do it. Perhaps the fall lettuce will do better.

Finally things are happening with the garage demolition. We had an electrician out on Thursday to disconnect the electricity from the garage and install an outdoor outlet on a fence post next to the garage. We will be able to use this outlet to heat the chicken coop if we need to as well as heat the water in winter. We do not have a date set yet for the garage demolition, the electrical had to be done first, but we do have a contractor engaged to do it. We are hoping later this week or next week for that to happen. In the meantime, We cleaned out the junk from the garage today which is not so very much, mostly broken things, pieces of fencing, trellis, wood boards we saved that might be useful that never turned out to be, empty boxes, some old carpet. Everything that is left now are things we plan on keeping that we will have to relocate to our basement or a corner of the garden when the garage comes down and until we get the shed built. Progress!

For the electrical work we learned the wire is buried under the garden and runs from the house to the garage by the

Does the dogwood have to go?

Does the dogwood have to go?

dogwood. We had to give the overgrown dogwood a major trim so the electrician could dig down for the wiring. We cut back half the dogwood and realized, gosh that takes up a lot of space. And now we are thinking we might take it out completely, allow the sunchokes to spread and plant a bit of prairie there instead. Because right behind the shrub is where the chicken coop is going to go. The dogwood is a bird and squirrel magnet as well as a place for rabbits to hide out in. We are thinking that as much as we have enjoyed it, it has become too large and unmanageable and could be a potential problem for the chickens. It’s been a great shrub and I am sad at the prospect of getting rid of it, but it seems like the logical thing to do.

We planted a few last beans today, scarlet runner beans, black beans and Jacob’s cattle beans. We are now officially done with planting until the end of August when we have to figure out fall/winter planting and how to build a hoop house. Won’t that be fun?

Biking
Saturday morning was cool with a light rain. I would not be deterred from a bike ride. I got rained on for the first 30-45 minutes. Once the rain stopped, it remained cool and cloudy. This was a glorious thing because it kept all but the serious cyclists indoors. There was hardly any traffic and no one was out walking on the bike paths. Astrid and I did not mind getting a little wet and when we got home later I cleaned her off before putting her away.

Rice Marsh lake

Rice Marsh lake

My ride was 55.8 miles/89.8km. I found some great hills to practice on, a few short and steep and a number of long, gradual climbs. None of these are huge hills though, I live in the midwest where terrain tends to be flat so my idea of a hill is very different from the hills of, say, San Francisco. But hey, I have to work with what I’ve got. My ride took my into areas I have not ridden in yet and I found a pretty nature preserve called Rice Marsh. I don’t think there is actually any rice growing there though. I liked this ride so much for its variety that I think I am going to stick with it for a bit and work those hills and work on getting faster and fitter and this distance. Once I start to feel like it is getting easier, there are many options for adding loops for more hills and distance.

I saw lots of robins and red winged blackbirds, a number of chipmunks too. And a flock of about six or seven gold finches that were hanging out on the trail and all flew up at the same time as I approached, flashing yellow and black. So pretty!

Today Bookman and I went out for a ride together but we had to cut it short because it was pretty humid and warmish and Bookman was getting overheated. With his MS getting overheated is always a potential danger because it causes fatigue and he heats up so fast it is hard to cool off. If it weren’t so humid it might not have been so bad. We were both a bit disappointed but better that then the heat making Bookman ill. We might try again later in the week when Bookman has the day off and this time we will go out very early instead of waiting until mid-morning. Still, we did just short of 21 miles/34km. Not bad for an “off” day!


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6. Notes from Vacation

Ah, what a wonderful week of vacation I have had. Sadly it all goes by too quickly. There was a lot of time in the garden and a lot of time on my bike and a lot of time reading books and magazines and online articles. I could use another week. Or two!

Monster sorrel

Monster sorrel

In the garden my new favorite green is sorrel. It is a perennial green and I have the tame French variety growing in my herb spiral where it stays compact and tidy. But last year when we dug a place for Amy Pond and discovered just how sandy our soil is and piled all that sand up not far from the pond intending to do something with it and never quite figuring out what, a common garden sorrel planted itself there. I have no idea where it came from, seed dropped by a bird or raccoon or maybe it was already there and grew up through the pile of sand. Regardless, we decided to let it stay. It grew all summer last year and got taller than the French sorrel but generally behaved itself. In spring it was one of the first green things sprouting in the garden. We used it’s leaves on sandwiches as a lettuce substitute.

Having established itself last year, this common sorrel made itself right at home and grew into a huge monster

Tastes so good

Tastes so good

of a plant, tall and sprawling. It got so large I began to doubt our decision to let it grow. But then I found a recipe for sorrel pesto. Bookman made it and we had it on buckwheat soba noodles. It was divine! It had kick. And because we have so much of the stuff there are plenty of leaves for more! I have cut the plant back a little and we have frozen some of the leaves to use later. I hope it keeps growing all summer because I am imagining freezing sorrel pesto to have in the middle of winter. Yum!

We have been eating strawberries from the garden nearly every day for the last two weeks. They are slowly winding down, fewer and fewer each day and smaller than the early ones. The raspberries are beginning to color up a bit though so perhaps in a couple weeks we will have some ready to eat. Which reminds me, I had better put netting over them now or I might never get to have any!

Yesterday evening I pulled the first two radishes out of the garden. Oh radishes, how I love them! These are pink ones, I can’t remember the variety, sorry. But they are mild with just the right amount of crunch and kick to really enjoy sliced up in a salad. I’m hoping the next ones I pull will get sliced up onto a sandwich. I am going to try planting more radishes in some bare places in hopes that I can have radishes all summer long. I usually just do one planting and when they are done I am sad. But radishes grow so fast I should in theory be able to plant them until the middle to end of July. We’ll see if it works.

The peas are looking great and have been blooming all week. How long from flower to edible peas? One week? Two? I have never paid any attention. But I love peas so much and my mouth is watering in anticipation that I will be paying close attention this time. I have also planted twice as many peas as I have in the past in hopes of having an abundance that lasts longer than a couple weeks. I am greedy. Fingers crossed!

What caused the glass to shatter?

What caused the glass to shatter?

There was a mystery that happened during the week. Late morning, I am indoors reading with the sliding door to the deck open to let in the breeze. All of a sudden I hear a crash. Bookman sometimes leaves baking pans precariously perched on the counter and even though he hadn’t been baking anything I couldn’t think what else it could be. I got up to check and discovered everything in the kitchen was fine. But Waldo was puffed up and staring out at the deck. I look out and to my great surprise, the glass in the outdoor table had completely shattered. There was no evidence of what could have caused it. No rocks or dangling icicles. No meteorites. Nearest we can figure is that maybe there was a crack in it we didn’t know about and a squirrel jumped on it and got a big surprise. But we can only speculate.

The garage was supposed to get knocked down Thursday last week but due to a communication mishap it got pushed to Friday. But Friday the contractor called and said a piece of his equipment he needed broke and it has been rescheduled for Monday. However the weather forecast for Monday morning is thunderstorms. Will it be put off yet another day? Stay tuned.

Biking

Astrid wounded. You don't need to see my bloody legs

Astrid wounded. You don’t need to see my bloody legs

I was able to get in a few great bike rides during the week. Friday I did the 55-mile/88.5 km loop I had done the week before. It is a good ride, perfect distance with a variety of terrain. Well, part of the ride is on a gravel trail and at the end of the trail by Lake Riley when I was turning off of it onto pavement, my back wheel slipped right out from under me and down I went. It happened so fast I didn’t know it until I found myself on the ground. A nice man walking by came over to check on me and make sure I was ok. I had scarped up my left thigh, my right calf and lost some skin on the palm of my right hand. I had a trail of blood creeping down each of my legs, but while it looked bad, I didn’t feel hurt, just a bit shaken up. Astrid took a wound too. The gear/brake mount thingy on the right handlebar was bent but not too badly and everything was still working ok. So I took a few minute’s breather, had some water, made sure Astrid and I really were okay, determined that we were and off we went to finish the ride.

I had nothing to wipe the blood off so just went with it. And when I got to the hilly segment of my ride I was feeling great. When I got home I discovered feeling great was not an illusion. My hilly stretch is a Strava segment and I had been awarded Queen of the Mountain, meaning I have the best time over that segment than any other woman on Strava. Woo! And that after wiping out.

Do you know what that means? Astrid and I are badass!

I also completed the ride five minutes faster than the first time I rode it. Badass!

And it turns out I did not have to take Astrid in for repairs, Bookman was able to move the gear/brake mount thing back into alignment. I am not happy about having to go back to work tomorrow but at least I will be able to show off my battle wounds. That’s worth something.

Allow me to indulge this just a little longer…


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7. Review: Ride with Me by Ruthie Knox

 

Title: Ride with Me

Author: Ruthie Knox

Publisher: Loveswept

ISBN: B0061C1OQ0

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In this fun, scorching-hot eBook original romance by Ruthie Knox, a cross-country bike adventure takes a detour into unexplored passion. As readers will discover, Ride with Me is not about the bike!

When Lexie Marshall places an ad for a cycling companion, she hopes to find someone friendly and fun to cross the TransAmerica Trail with. Instead, she gets Tom Geiger–a lean, sexy loner whose bad attitude threatens to spoil the adventure she’s spent years planning.

Roped into the cycling equivalent of a blind date by his sister, Tom doesn’t want to ride with a chatty, go-by-the-map kind of woman, and he certainly doesn’t want to want her. Too bad the sight of Lexie with a bike between her thighs really turns his crank.

Even Tom’s stubborn determination to keep Lexie at a distance can’t stop a kiss from leading to endless nights of hotter-than-hot sex. But when the wild ride ends, where will they go next?

Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: In the Arms of the Law, Ivy Secrets, and Because of You.

Review:

I have mentioned before how much I loved the Loveswept imprint of category romances.  I was tickled when Random House revived the line, with plans to re-release older titles, as well as introduce new stories to the line.  Ride with Me is the first original book that I have read in the Loveswept line, and I found it very true to the older books that I read and loved.  It’s sexy and funny and told with breezy prose.  I ate this one up very quickly.

Lexie has dreamed of biking in the TransAm for as long as she can remember.  The only problem? Her riding partner on the long trek from Oregon to Virginia had to back out because of an injury.  Not looking forward to the long journey by herself, Lexie puts out a few ads for a riding partner.  When Tom’s sister responds without his knowledge, she poses as Tom and makes plans for Lexie and her brother to ride together.  Tom is furious with her when he finds out, but his sister guilts him into at least meeting Alex.  Then Tom is furious to discover that Alex is actually Lexie.  One thing he doesn’t need is a woman holding him back on the ride.

I was actually afraid that the story would bore me, because I have zero interest in biking.  Now, if Lexie and Tom were going to ride horses across the country, you wouldn’t have been able to keep me away. After about two pages in, though,  my fears were put to rest.  I loved Tom right away.  He is cranky and aloof, and still stinging after discovering that his wife was cheating on him, his social skills have become decidedly rusty.  Lexie, on the other hand, is bubbly and vibrant and fun to be around.  Everyone loves her, and she has the ability to engage complete strangers in conversations, quickly making friends with them.  Lexie and Tom couldn’t be more different, and their different personalities clash for almost the entire book.  They are both strong people, which is a good thing, because Tom can be downright awful.  There were a few occasions that he had me so angry with him that I wished I could grab him by the scru

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8. Spring? Biking

So...Bicycling Magazine is hosting a contest: submit 100 words about your favorite ride  (I take that quite loosely) and a photo. I submitted a couple weeks ago, and TODAY (two days before contest ends), I read that I can submit ONE entry EACH day! Holy buckets.
So here's today's entry:

 

I ride to breathe in the seasons: I watch snow melting, mud emerging, the grass and tiny corn plants sprouting, and foals standing on toothpick legs. Geese honk, winging north, and the baby calves bawl. I smell rain coming, lilacs blooming, mown grass, baled hay, and grain drying in bins. I’m in my upper 50s. I ride so I only have one chin and so my thighs don't rub together. It doesn't hurt if I can beat some people 30 years younger than I am either.  Somebody asked me what I use on my face. I said, "Sweat."

: )
Photo by Steve Pottenger

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9. Raising money for Aplastic Anemia

Once again, I'm riding the Jackson County Brevet century (100 miles near Atlanta, Georgia) to raise money for research and treatment of Aplastic Anemia and related blood disorders. These are pictures from when I did the ride two years ago with my son-in-law Tom McCaslin, who is a healthy survivor of AA. I feel as if this cause is one worthy of my work and  makes me not ashamed to ask for contributions. Tom and I are at it again.

My Jackson County Brevet Page

George Hincapie on the Brevet! : )


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10. Spring!

 Last night I squeezed in twenty miles after school. I didn't feel all that great, and I knew that some exercise would help. It did. It's lovely to be able to ride outside in shorts again!
 And here's Freya down at the creek this morning. Happy girl waded through the water.
Just seven days ago, this was us! How easy we forget!

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11. Celebrating

First of all happy Easter and happy Passover to all who celebrate.

The original portable word processor

The original portable word processor

I have been celebrating my birthday this weekend. The big day was yesterday but no need to confine the celebrations to one day! Bookman made me a delicious carrot cake. He also made chocolate chocolate chip and peanut butter coconut milk ice cream. And he gave me a wonderful present, a portable Royal Aristocrat manual typewriter! It has been completely refurbished and is in excellent working order. I can’t say the same thing for my typing skills. It has been since seventh grade that I have used a manual typewriter and early college days since I have used an electric one. The keys are much farther apart than on a computer keyboard and take a whole lot more effort to push! Plus, this old typewriter has no key for the number one or an exclamation point. A lowercase “l” has to be used for a number and a period and single quotation mark combined to make a exclamation. There are no italics and of course, I can’t erase my mistakes. I have no correction fluid in the house, so the lucky people to be the first recipients of my typewriting will have to put up with some typos. It’s a wonderful fun toy.

Bookman and I took a bike ride today too. My beautiful new bike, Astrid, continues to do me proud. We are getting to know each other better and better and I like her more and more. We did a 19-mile ride today. Want to know how to go faster? Don’t dress warm enough for the weather! It requires you to pedal faster to keep from freezing. I thought shorts and a long sleeve jersey would be enough but the sun decided to disappear and a light wind blew the whole time and it was only about 50F/10C. When we got home my hands were numb. But it was a good time anyway. And a good excuse for a hot cup of coffee and a big piece of birthday cake!

Seed starting is going fairly well. The onions are doing great, the peppers are beginning to sprout and the

Steamy

Steamy

tomatoes too. Today I started twelve pots of basil. I found a new cover for the greenhouse online and it arrived Friday. The greenhouse is set up on the deck and I moved all the seed flats out to it. It stays warm enough inside it overnight that I don’t have to move everything back into the house at the end of the day. And so far it hasn’t gotten hot enough during the day to put the little sprouts in any danger of being cooked. They sit inside, steamy and warm. If the greenhouse were big enough I’d crawl inside it too.

Two years ago Bookman and I made two raised beds in which to grow blueberries. We have done everything we can to acidify the soil during that time from adding carbon in the form of leaves and shredded cardboard, using peat moss mulch, and adding a whole bunch of sulfur and watering with diluted vinegar. It is entirely possible that my PH meter doesn’t work, but since the needle does move I’m guessing it works well enough. I’ve been hoping for a miracle all winter, but after testing the PH yesterday and having the needle land just below 7 (it needs to be around 5) I decided the whole blueberry enterprise is just not going to happen. I can’t begin to say how disappointed I am because I love blueberries so very much and local organic blueberries are so very expensive.

Siberian squill

Siberian squill

In a last ditch move of desperation, I tested the soil in an area of the garden that has had leaves composting on it for two years. My reading was only slightly better than the blueberry beds. Defeated. The small half alive blueberry bushes will be dug up and composted, the raised beds disassembled, the soil from the beds used to fill in Amy Pond and dispersed throughout the garden. I’ll be planting a couple of honeyberry bushes. These are purple fruits that look liked elongated blueberries. The shrub is a member of the honeysuckle family. The fruits have a berry flavor that no one can agree on. Some say raspberry, others blueberry. Some say currants others saskatoon berries. They can be eaten fresh or made into preserves. Most important of all, they do not require acidic soil. It will take a couple years for them to get big enough to produce any sizable amount of fruit but hopefully it will be worth the wait.

Meanwhile, around the garden I notice the Siberian squill have put up leaves and will probably be blooming by the end of the week. It is a bit early, but the weather has been warmer than normal. Also up are the bunching onions (green onions/scallions). They are perennials we planted last spring. It’s not quite a big enough bunch yet to actually harvest from, but considering I was not expecting them to come back (I have no idea why) I am happy to see them no matter how small.

My witch hazel is also blooming. It is the common variety and is supposed to bloom in October. It did early on once or twice, but then it decided to change its bloom time to early spring. I have no idea why. I was hoping to see the asparagus I planted last spring popping up but there is nothing yet. I guess it is a little early still. Even when it does come up I won’t be able to pick any because it is too young. I have to wait at least another year or two. Oh the anticipation!

The forecast for the week is for cooler than normal weather with several chances for rain. I’m not happy about the cooler than normal, but the rain will be welcome.


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12. Glorious Day

After a cold week that brought rain, sleet and a little snow we finally have sunshine. It was sunny but chilly yesterday but today, today is a beautiful sunny 64F/18C. And let me tell you, Bookman and I have made the most of it. We were up about 6 this morning, not by choice — the cats were misbehaving — and there comes a point when the sun is rising and you realize you aren’t going back to sleep so getting up and starting the day seems the best option. Nothing a big cup of organic shade grown French roast coffee and homemade gingerbread waffles can’t fix. Followed by chores, a little rest and then a bike ride that was longer than we expected.

Me and Astrid, ready to ride

Me and Astrid, ready to ride

I have a PDF map of Twin Cities bike trails and it really is impossible to tell how long a trail is. I showed our proposed route to Bookman and said I thought it would be around 25 miles give or take. It didn’t look that far. When all was said and done however, we ended up riding 35.1 miles! It was probably a little longer than it should have been because we had to backtrack twice. The first time was when the river parkway trail said it was closed but it didn’t look closed, there were people jogging on it and the barrier was open. Plus it was a long downhill right next to the Mississippi River. Whee! And when we got to the bottom and came around a curve, yup, the trail was closed. There is no getting around a locked fence. So then we got to ride up the hill we had just zoomed down. Next followed a very poorly marked detour that took us through downtown Minneapolis and definitely off the detour path as we had to find our way back onto the trail much farther down from the closed part because we didn’t know where we were going!

Back on the trail, we had to look not long after for a connecting trail and of course it was not marked very clearly and we zipped right past it and up a short hill. At the top was a kiosk with an out of date map. When I got my iPhone thought it would never be a truly useful device to me, but turns out I was wrong. I have an interactive bike map on it that told us where we were and that we had missed our crossing trail which was at the bottom of the hill we had just ridden up. So back down the hill we went and sure enough, near the bottom was a small sign indicating our trail.

This trail did not look so long on the map. It ended up being quite long but a really nice ride through trees and prairie restoration areas, by lakes and a creek. It is entirely paved and off the streets, though we did have to cross some busy intersections a couple times. But it was a great ride that looped us around back to near downtown Minneapolis where we picked up another trail, this one familiar, and made our way home. At one point while I was ogling the nearly 3-foot tall stone rabbit statue in someone’s garden, Bookman was looking the other way and saw a huge heron that he thinks was a great blue heron.

Because I joined the National Bike Challenge yesterday that runs May through September and the app I was using to track my rides was not compatible to upload my data to the challenge site, I have switched to Strava. I had tried MapMyRide first but it has pop-up ads that made me grumpy really fast. Strava does not have pop-ups though the free version tracks the bare essentials and lets you do nothing else. But that’s ok really. I added an orange Strava badge in my sidebar so if you are on Strava too and want to be friends send my a request and I will follow you back.

Now to the gardening.

Everything is greening up. Walter the crabapple has dozens of tight little flower buds that will be bursting open very

Future potato hill

Future potato hill

soon. He is going to be so beautiful this year I can hardly wait! In the meantime, today Bookman and I planted potatoes. I have never grown potatoes before so we will see how this adventure goes. The variety is Irish cobbler, a creamy yellow all-purpose sort of potato.

We also planted peas. Lots of them. Twice as many peas as last year but it is still not enough to this greedy pea-loving person. I have two dozen seeds left and nowhere ready to plant. I am hoping during the week Bookman will help me dig out the grass next to the neighbor’s chainlink fence and we can plant the rest of the peas along the fence. Today we planted them in a bed alongside our deck that is an old strawberry bed that has run its course. Bookman has been working to clear it out because we plan to also plant spinach and chard in this bed. Then we strung twine around sticks down the middle of one of the main garden beds where we had tomatoes and peppers planted last year. Water and wait.

Ready for peas

Ready for peas

Last spring I planted asparagus, two crowns of it. It takes about three years before you can start to harvest any of it. I kept looking for it and was beginning to despair, thinking the rabbits had found themselves a delicacy. But today, there it was! Both crowns sprouting up tiny little spears. What a beautiful sight it is.

Meanwhile, we are having trouble finding a contractor to tear down our garage. They are all eager until they find out we don’t want to build a new garage to replace the old one. Suddenly they lose interest because a demolition is inexpensive work in comparison that only takes a day or two at most. You’d think someone would want the work but apparently we are

Asparagus!

Asparagus!

small fry so we keep getting tossed back. Bookman will be making more phone calls this week and hopefully will manage to finally find someone to do the work. We would like to have it done by the middle of May so we can then have someone install fencing around the new chicken garden and we can plant out a few shrubs to start growing. We also have a shed to build. And a chicken coop. C’mon you contractor people, one of you must want a job!

The week ahead looks sunny and warm with a chance for rain on Friday. That means we’ll be having to water our seeds all week. In spite of the precipitation we had last week, it has been a very dry spring and the whole state is in mild to moderate drought. Hopefully that will turn around soon, but please, not all at once. And leave the weekends dry. That’s not too much to ask, is it?


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13. Full Speed Ahead Gardening

dainty violets

dainty violets

This has definitely been a full weekend. With sunny days and high temperatures around 80F/26C, I had to get outside and take advantage of it. Saturday I worked outside several hours cleaning up the dead stalks from last year’s perennials. I have two more beds in the front of the house yet to do. This always takes so much longer than I expect it to and the compost bin is overflowing. But everything is looking great. The black currant has leaves and so does the gooseberry which also is getting tiny little flowers on it. And those wonderful violets that no one ever plants but seem to pop up everywhere are, well, everywhere and blooming mostly white but a few purple too. The tulips are open now as well and one of them has already been beheaded by a naughty squirrel. At least it is only one. The squirrels have ripped off the heads of all of them in one go before.

In the veggie garden the radishes are coming in strong. I am so looking forward to radishes. Last year I discovered how good they were sliced up on sandwiches and I’ve been craving them since the seeds arrived in the mail in January. Another three weeks and I can feed my craving.

Last night Bookman and I planted more peas. We also planted mustard, kale and spinach. Bookman has been on a spinach kick lately so we planted a lot of spinach. We also planted a lot of kale because I love kale and I found a recipe for garlicky kale salad with crispy chickpeas last month that I am yearning to try.

I can tell it’s spring because I am craving mounds of leafy greens. In the winter our greens have to come from somewhere else and that somewhere is California. But with the worst drought they have seen in decades, the greens have been rather small and sad and I have felt very guilty even eating them. So hopefully in a few weeks I will be able to start eating fresh greens from as local as my own garden. The French sorrel in the herb spiral is just sprouting up but there is a common sorrel that seeded itself from somewhere next to the defunct Amy Pond that is already tall and leafy. I am planning on pulling off a leaf or two to have on my black bean burger this evening at dinner. Yum.

Walter our crabapple tree has burst into bloom and is he looking gorgeous! I noticed last night that his

Walter the crabapple

Walter the crabapple

blossoms are lightly and pleasantly scented. The bush cherries are also blooming. This year I will be sure to put netting over them so I can actually try the little cherries! My nextdoor neighbor’s tart cherry tree is also in bloom. They don’t pick the cherries because they have to be pitted and cooked and they think that is just too much work. Bookman and I do not feel the same way, however, and they let us pick as many as we want. Last year there were hardly any cherries and the ones that did come on were really small so we didn’t bother. It is not looking like it will be good this year either. Several branches of the tree are completely bare. Depending on how things turn out in the chicken garden, I might have to seriously consider planting my own cherry tree because sweet or tart, do I ever love cherries!

We are expecting thunderstorms later this evening, but if I have the get up and go after dinner I will spend a bit of time in the garden planting arugula. I might not have the energy though because of all the bike riding I have been doing this weekend. Yesterday I did 34 miles/54.7 km indoors on the trainer and early this morning Bookman and I went out on our bikes and rode 35.7 miles/57.4 km. It was a beautiful ride, sunny and the perfect temperature. Our only snafu was getting caught passing through the Walk for MS crowd. We did not know the walk was today and there were so many people! They were totally oblivious about all the cyclists who were out and, like us, got stuck in their traffic. But since Bookman has multiple sclerosis we really appreciated seeing so many people and thanked many of the groups we passed for walking.

Look fast before the squirrels behead them!

Look fast before the squirrels behead them!

We are doing so well with our biking that we are considering doing the train and trail tour in June, a 45 mile/72.4km ride that involves taking the Northstar Commuter rail train north and outside of town and then cycling back. Doesn’t that seem like it would be lots of fun? We will have to decide soon if we want to do it because the ride is limited to 150 participants. I suppose even on a Sunday they don’t want to have hundreds of people and their bikes crowding onto the train, which probably has a capacity limit. Will we go? Stay tuned!

I have a lovely short week at work ahead because this Friday is the Friends School Plant Sale! Think of the biggest book sale you have ever been to, then imagine you are a gardener and the books are plants. That’s what this is like. And just like book people are generally very friendly, so too are gardeners. But when there is a sale, all bets are off and woe to anyone who gets in the way of the object of desire. I finalized my plant list just this afternoon. I am ready! Of course I will tell you all about it.


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14. Biking and Gardening Galore

The forecast for the weekend was warm, humid and stormy. Storms here usually happen in the early morning or the middle to late afternoon into evening when cool and warm air are most likely to clash. Saturday morning was partly cloudy and the humidity had not arrived yet, which meant storms weren’t likely to happen until afternoon. The forecast for Sunday was a bit dicier. Bookman had to work Saturday and I wanted very badly to go out for a long bike ride so I decided to go out on my own. I wanted to see if I could find a connecting trail off a trail we had been on before.

Bookman attached the small emergency bike pump to my bike and made me some homemade energy snacks (so good! made from fresh dates and peanut butter or almond butter, oatmeal, walnuts and whatever else you might want to add) then he went off to work. I pocketed some snacks, tire patch kit, ID and what-not, then off I went.

It was partly cloudy and slightly breezy and people were out enjoying it. Lots of cyclists out in pairs and groups, a few on their own like me. I noticed I was pretty much the only woman out on her own and even in groups the women were scarce. I have read about there not being a lot of women cyclists but I didn’t believe it, I know lots of women who like to bike. But as I was riding and thought about it I realized the women I know who like to bike like casual biking, short rides around the lake or an easy trip to the library. I know very few who bike everywhere or who are serious long distance cyclists. This made me sad and rather lonely and made look forward even more to going on the Wednesday evening women-only rides at my nearby bike co-op.

I cruised along at a good pace over familiar trails and was enjoying myself immensely. I made it to the area where I thought the connecting trail was, and yes, indeed, it was there. Not far down that trail was a coffee shop swarmed by cyclists. Obviously a good place to stop for a rest since I had been out for well over an hour. So I had some of the snacks I brought, stretched my neck and shoulders, and hopped back on my bike to explore this new trail. The asphalt paved trail turned into a compact gravel trail about half a mile up from my rest stop. I was a bit nervous about riding on the gravel but I decided I like it much better than asphalt. There are no potholes or pavement ruptures to deal with. And it wasn’t all that bumpy. My front wheel did kick up an occasional piece of gravel but I got whacked in the face and arms more by tree seeds and bugs than I did by gravel so it was all good.

The gravel trail took me out through semi-wooded areas with lakes and ponds. At one part of the trail there was a small pond covered in green algae or duckweed or something and singing with frogs. I didn’t see the critters, just heard them and were they ever loud! It was great. I kept traveling the trail until it came out on a wide semi-busy road and split in two different directions. Since I hadn’t looked at the map to know which direction I wanted to go and since emerging from the trees and seeing the sky and feeling the wind starting to pick up, I decided here was a good place to turn around.

Riding back I was passed by a guy who had also turned around in the same place I did (he had been there drinking water and having a rest when I arrived) and I set myself the goal of keeping up with him without being too obvious about it. I managed it until we got to the coffee shop and the trail split and he went a different direction.

Then a little after that there were two guys out riding together who passed me and I decided to try and keep up with them. We played cat and mouse for a bit, they’d start to get way ahead but then would come to a road crossing and I would catch up with them. Eventually they either slowed down or I got faster because I ended up riding about four bike-lengths back from them for a few miles. Was that rude? They kept me going at a good pace and kept me from feeling lonely and they were going fast enough where I couldn’t really pass them and keep up a pace to stay ahead. They kept looking back at me but didn’t say anything. When we got back to the city part of the trail and their ride together was obviously over and one guy split off to go his own way I passed the guy who stayed on my trail.

Back in the city on familiar trails that were busy was hard going. By this time I was starting to feel tired and it didn’t help that the crowded trails meant I was constantly slowing down and speeding up and couldn’t ride at a consistent pace. This was the five miles to home and it made me just want to be done. But when the trail would clear and I could go at a good pace once again I was happy as could be and feeling good. When all was said and done and Astrid and I were back at home it turned out we had ridden 39.2 miles/63 km in 2 hours and 40 minutes. I was tired and very happy and excited about the new trail and hoping the weather Sunday would be okay in the morning so I could show it to Bookman.

My garden is so phloxy

My garden is so phloxy

Well, Sunday dawned rainy and very humid. The forecast said rain in the morning, then clearing and a hot and humid afternoon followed by thunderstorms with the risk of turning severe with possible tornadoes this evening. Since heat and humidity cause MS fatigue for Bookman, we decided he’d have to wait until next weekend to see the new trail. Instead we spent the day off and on in the garden.

After the morning rain stopped Bookman went out in the front yard to try and dig out the forsythia stump. It turns out to be a massive thing and is going to take some work to get out. Bookman joked about tying a rope around the stump and a rope around me to see if I could haul it out. Instead he spent about an hour digging around it until he hacked away all the side roots and only has the huge taproot left. After that he needed to take a break which was fine because it was starting to rain again.

After the rain stopped we decided to go out into the garden and plant the chicken garden shrubs in a temporary location because the garage still has no demolition date. Because of my allergies I have to keep my outdoor clothes separate from my indoor clothes which means Bookman does too. So after a complete change of clothes, and gathering of tools we are standing out in the garden deciding where to temporarily plant the shrubs and it starts pouring rain. Back in the house, change our clothes and we decide it is a good time for lunch.

A little while after lunch the skies have cleared and we go back out and got the shrubs planted. Then we dug up

wild geranium starting to bloom

wild geranium starting to bloom

a bed and planted dill and cilantro seeds. Next we began working on clearing out the garage. There was a small pile of concrete from an old project we finished breaking up and turning into “urbanite” and lined garden paths and beds with it. As I was doing that, Bookman was also cleaning up old unwanted and broken items that had been stashed in the garage because we didn’t know what else to do with them at the time. When we were both good and sweaty and tired it was time to come in.

All of the plants from the plant sale last week are doing fantastic. The seeds we have planted are all sprouting. The peas are beginning to be tall enough to put out their first grabbing tendrils. The spinach and lettuce and radishes are sprouting. The corn we planted last week is also sprouting. The gooseberry we planted last spring has pea-sized berries on it already. The white peony we planted two years ago is big and tall and covered in tight flowerbuds. The black raspberry we planted last spring is covered in buds too. Walter the crabapple has quite a lot of tiny apples forming and Bossy, our green apple tree does too.

The garden is fluttering with red admiral butterflies. Whenever I walk out there are at least four or five that lift off from the garden path or plants alongside it. Dragonflies are beginning to make an appearance too. I saw a couple pretty blue ones zipping around this afternoon. Next weekend will see us planting warm weather seeds in the veggie beds for zucchini and cantaloupe and beans and the like. It’s all coming along!


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15. Scene From the Movie Giant -- And a Few Bits

Manuel Ramos


SCENE FROM THE MOVIE GIANT
Tino Villanueva
(Curbstone Press, 1993)
It's been several years since I watched the classic movie Giant, whose cast included James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Sal Mineo, and Rock Hudson. The first time I saw it, I was a young boy, probably eight or nine. It was the middle of the 1950s and I was in the Rialto Theater on Main Street, in a small Colorado town. The Rialto was one of those movie palaces that used to occupy places of respect in almost every American town -- a gaudy, blinking marquee, deep red carpeting, elaborate wall fixtures, and thick curtains that majestically opened when the lights dimmed and the newsreel flickered on the screen.

I remember Saturday afternoon matinees with my buddies and an occasional midweek night out with my parents and younger brother for some special screening. The Rialto was where I first encountered American icons of comedy such as the Three Stooges and the Little Rascals, and red-blooded heroes like John Wayne and Burt Lancaster. It's also the place where I practiced my recently acquired reading skill. Sitting on a worn cushion and scraping my shoes on the sticky floor, I read all the credits as they rolled up the screen; I learned that the director was always last and when his name appeared, the flick was about to start.

But my experience with Giant was different. Going in, I thought it was only a love story but it had some attraction for me because of James Dean. Back then, and maybe for years afterwards, I deluded myself that I was something of a rebel, even at that young age, and so I was drawn to teenage outlaw myths created by the movies and other facets of mass culture in the immediate post-War years. In another movie I thought Sal Mineo was perfect when he sauntered down a nameless New York street hunched over in a shiny red jacket, smoking a cigarette and flashing a switchblade. I saw the first four Elvis Presley movies and every rock and roll melodrama that passed through the Rialto.


And so I checked out Giant, mainly to see what James Dean had been up to after his surly bulldozing of the decaying middle American landscape in Rebel Without a Cause. Of course, I didn't think of it that way when I was a kid -- he was cool, man, and that was enough.

But what I got from Giant was this amazingly complicated story about Texas -- quick money from oil, cowboy aristocracy clashing with political tensions created by a vanishing Old West; rich and poor whites mixing it up in their own private class war; and, eventually, Mexicans: people who looked like my grandparents, who were scattered throughout the film as so many props.

I felt uncomfortable watching this movie. I didn't like the way the Mexicans were treated in the film but somehow I thought that maybe it was the Mexicans' fault. Why were they in a movie anyway? Movies were for slapstick comedy, outer space monsters, the glory and bluster of John Wayne on the shores of Iwo Jima, and juvenile delinquents.

Texas poet Tino Villanueva has focused his own reactions to this movie and created an epic poem entitled Scene From the Movie Giant. In his marvelously written book he capsulizes a lifetime of provocations inspired by the movie. In particular, he deals with one scene where a trio of quiet, almost submissive Mexicans are subjected to blatant and violent racism.

Villanueva agonizingly chronicles his own attitudes about the crucial scene, which portrays the apparent victory of brute force and hatred over the humble Mexicans. Sarge, owner of a diner, refuses to serve a Mexican family. When cattleman Rick Benedict (Rock Hudson) objects, Sarge savagely beats him up. Villanueva stretches his images over the years and miles to Boston where, as a graduate student, he still grapples with the real meaning of the scene from the movie. As Villanueva writes, he constantly must turn back to the time when his offended small world was disrupted, unresolved. As is made clear in Villanueva's pages, his own resolution comes through the words he has chosen to present to the reader, so many years after he watched a movie in fear and awe. He has presented the truth as only a poet can understand it.

(this review first aired on Denver radio KUVO in 1995)

A BIT OF NEWS

How Else Am I Supposed to Know I'm Still Alive?



If you can't read the image, it's an announcement of a presentation of How Else Am I Supposed to Know I'm Still Alive, written by Evelina Fernández and starring the very talented and always entertaining Debra Gallegos and Yolanda Ortega on January 19 at 7:30 PM at the Troutman Theater at Aurora Central High School, 11700 E. 11th Avenue, Aurora, CO. $35 for adults, $10 for students and seniors. The performance benefits the Nuñez Foundation College Scholarship Program. We love these women and their enthusiastic performance art, and I know I'll see many of you at the play.

Nation of Immigrants
The Art Students League of Denver sent the following announcement about their upcoming exhibit, Nation of Immigrants, curated by Tony Ortega and Susan Sagara Bolton: "This exhibit brings together a wide range of media, styles, concerns, and sensibilities from artists whose inspiration is the immigration experience. Walking through the exhibit, you will experience the history each artist brings to their art and how culture and heritage resonate through their work." Participating artists include Polly Chang, Manuel Cordero, Carlos Frésquez, Ken Iwamasa, Clara Martínez, Emanuel Martínez, Sylvia Montero, Adriana Restrepo, George Rivera, Danny and Maruca Salazar, Carlos Santistevan, and several others. Exhibit opens January 4, 5:30 - 8:00 PM and runs through February 27. The Art Students League is at 200 Grant Street, Denver, 303-778-6990.

Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta will be the keynote speaker at the Latina/o Advocacy Day event to be held February 24-25 at the Adams Mark Hotel in downtown Denver. Sponsored by the Latina Initiative and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, the event provides advocacy and lobby training on policy issues of concern to Latinas and Latinos in Colorado. For those who might not know, Dolores Huerta is a long-time human rights activist and a co-founder with César Chávez in starting the United Farm Workers in the 1960s. Info., send an email to: dusti@latinaadvocacyday.org. Image courtesy of favianna.com.

Sacramento Poetry Center
I'm passing on the following piece:

Another great night of poetry is coming up this Monday, January 7 at the Sacramento Poetry Center, 1719 25th Street, at 7:30 pm.

Starting off the new year will be Barbara Jane Reyes and Oscar Bermeo. It will be an exciting night of powerful poetry hosted by Arturo Mantecon. Don't miss it!



Barbara Jane Reyes was born in Manila, Philippines and raised in the SF Bay Area. She is the author of Gravities of Center (Arkipelago, 2003) and Poeta en San Francisco (Tinfish, 2005) which received the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. Her other honors include an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship and numerous Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Asian Pacific American Journal, Chain, New American Writing, North American Review, Notre Dame Review, among others. She lives with her husband, poet Oscar Bermeo, in Oakland.

Born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx, Oscar Bermeo is a BRIO (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) award winning poet, educator & literary events coordinator. Oscar now makes his home in Oakland, where he is the poetry editor for Tea Party magazine and lives with his wife, poeta Barbara Jane Reyes.

Sacramento Poetry Center
1719 25th Street
Sacramento, CA
916.451.5569 - www.sacramentopoetrycenter.org


Later.

1 Comments on Scene From the Movie Giant -- And a Few Bits, last added: 1/10/2008
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16. Student comparisons, or, Why Penn State students come out ahead



Eric is madly dashing around the office, trying to get ready for a presentation he's giving in Mexico--or he would have posted this himself.

But he knew I was NOT madly dashing around the office. In fact, I'm here on an almost leisurely Friday morning before the three-day weekend. I biked the baby to school today, as we have been doing for the past 2 weeks now. It turns out, it's practically as fast as the car and it may not be saving a ton of gas...but I decided it saves me feeling like a nincompoop for driving the 3 miles twice a day. Plus the fresh air, a bit of exercise, some drama as I turn onto the main road with lots of cars. All good.

But I digress. Penn State took the results from The College Students Perceptions report and compared it with their latest FACAC results, as reported by E-Tech.

Penn State students regularly came out on top, above national averages revealed by the report. Now, there are a number of factors that could be in play here:

  • Penn State students are above average. (Probably quite likely, yes.)
  • Students have gotten much more information literate since the report was published (less likely.)
  • Librarians have become much more aware of the need to bridge the chasm between student perceptions and library offerings since the report was published (Overwhelmingly likely!)

Any of the above--and in combination--I am ecstatic about the possibilities and excited by the potential. With academic life cranking back up next week (if it's not already cranked in your neck of the world), what's your response to these findings, in terms of your own experience?

Also (unrelated) a colleague just forwarded me a link to Wimba Pronto. Looks like a nice way to carry conversations from the classroom to the dorm room and beyond. Even if it's only for virtual office hours--could be a more formalized setting than Facebook and less stilted than Blackboard. (Not that I've actually used Blackboard myself, but so I'm told.)

Enjoy the holiday weekend.

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17. 10 Reasons to Enjoy Bike Week


This is Biking Week from May 21 to the 28th. There are at least ten reasons to dust off your bike and take it for a spin.

1. There’s nothing like fresh air blowing in your face and sunshine in your eyes to make you feel young and alive, as you pump away. Let’s hope your bike is oiled up and you’re wearing a helmet.

2. Biking for awhile will give your body a workout. Make sure you carry some bottled water, and refresh yourself along the way. Afterwards, you will be ready for a shower and your laptop, or a meal at an inn with your friends. The rushing blood in your head will make you a gifted writer or talker.

3. You can save on gas if you can bike to work or the nearby store. Biking communities enjoy better health and less traffic accidents.

4. Biking is healthy; it reduces obesity.

5. Biking is fun. It’s one thing to hop on a stationary bike and go nowhere, and it’s another to feel the wind in your hair and feel like a kid again.

6. Biking makes the roads safer because drivers have to slow down when they see bikers and be more careful. With slower cars, there is less chance of accidents.

7. Biking brings people back to nature to find trails and follow Rochester’s Erie Canal on bikes. There are wonderful trails in and around Rochester.

8. Biking is good for the economic community. It encourages trail building, parks, and inns. It increases tourism and possible job opportunities.
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18. OMGahhhhh SO BUSY

with:
daily walks & bike rides since free yoga is scarce in these parts
custom orders:
eating a whole lot of these:
sketchbook-for-sale designing
& more custom orders
all so I can get to LA by Monday to 1) beat thanksgiving traffic, 2) eat free noodles to 3) support my friend & 4) watch TV with bestie. Yay priorities!

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19. Good week

Gearing up for some book events in July. New Ulm Public Library has a cool website. I'm there on July 15.

This is my birthday week, so on my birthday yesterday, I rode 55 miles -- Eeek. That's a mile for every year. Muddy, wet, rainy, windy, puddles, grit, but I did it.

Wrote all morning, then rode, then met my writing group for a birthday party/goodbye party for dear friend Jann who is moving to Fargo-Moorhead this weekend. Then Tom took me out. What a great birthday.

Now: back to writing.

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20. Okoboji

Great ride yesterday--"University of Okoboji Cycling Classic." Rode the 50-mile route around the lakes, and after the jammed-10-mile-an-hour start on a clogged bike trail, we broke into the open and flew along the roads and trails--gently rolling hills and curves. It rained for awhile, but still, the route was beautiful.


Then this morning, I volunteered for the North Mankato Triathlon. That's a great, well-organized event. Several of my friends had a great race--and everybody seemed to have fun. YAY!

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21. Riding, writing

Yesterday, my friend's dog peed on my living room carpet--quite out of character, but enough to push me over the edge: YES, I need to rip up the carpet NOW, and have a nice wooden floor--or at least a clean wooden floor--with rug(s) before Alec comes to visit and crawl around on it.


So, in the next days: I need to mow (before the next rains come), finish second and third drafts of Slider's Son (the pen and paper version is second, translated into computer for third), rip up carpet (doesn't that sound fun?), do a reading/signing at the New Ulm Public Library (5:15 Friday the 15th if you're interested and that will be fun), ride every day (finally feeling almost like my old self on the bike--why does it take half the summer!?), and watch the Tour (cause I'm addicted). Good news: I can watch the Tour and rip up carpet at the same time!

Oh, I have been riding in the mornings or mid-day most of the summer. Yesterday, I stole a 20-mile ride right before dusk, and saw two deer (in my path on the downhill--had to brake to avoid them) and a raccoon (on my path on an uphill so he saw me in plenty of time). Might need to ride later in the day more often to check the wildlife! Not sure if the raccoon's extra time to get out of the way was an indication of his speed or mine uphill. Ha.

Oh, and my man Voeckler is still riding in the yellow jersey today. Haven't seen the results today yet.

Back to work.

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22. Fun at the Kasota Prairie


Here's a photo of the "dog party" at Kasota Prairie last weekend, before all the snow fell.









And here was my last ride, perhaps of the season--at least until the ice goes off the roads--which gives meaning to "snow tires."

It's back to the trainer for awhile. Sigh.

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