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1. A Taste of Autumn

The week was an unusually cool one for August, even in Minnesota. It gave us a taste for fall and it was rather delicious if I do say so myself. Days around 70F/21C and nights dipping down to 60F/15C or a few degrees cooler. It’s great for the humans but not so great for the hot weather veggies like tomatoes that just don’t want to get ripe in the cool. It warmed up a bit for the weekend but we had a cool front and storms last night and the cool will again stick around through the middle of the week. The State Fair starts on Thursday this week, however, and there are guaranteed at least a few hot days during its 10-day run.

The amaranth flowers are getting bigger and they are so pretty too. I’ll take a picture after they get a little bigger. The pumpkins are going crazy. The cantaloupe isn’t ripe yet but it is getting close. All of the different varieties of dried beans we are growing, black beans, cattle beans, cow peas (black-eyed peas) are looking great.

We picked a normal-sized zucchini from the garden, more lemon squash too and a few more yellow wax beans. There are some yellow beets that are almost ready to be pulled too.

Crabby apples for jelly

Crabby apples for jelly

Bookman is currently making our first ever attempt at crabapple jelly. We’ve got the apples cut up and simmering and the house smells delicious. They get cooked for a while and then left to drain their pectin-filled juices through cheesecloth into a bowl. Then the apple mash goes on the compost bin and we work with the juice to make the jelly. If all goes well I will have a photo of a jar or two of pretty jelly to share next week. Wish us luck!

On the chicken front, we are making some progress. The fence people are coming out this week to set the posts for the fence we are installing around the chicken garden. Yay! We’ve been waiting nearly all summer for the fence and now it is finally our turn. They will set the posts and then the following week come back and do the fencing. It will be good to finally have this done and no more contractors to deal with.

We did not receive the packet of information from the city regarding the permit process so Bookman called them Friday. He actually got to talk to someone in animal control, the department that does the permitting and all that instead of some admin person that doesn’t know anything. Unlike what Bookman had been told before, the animal control person said we can definitely start building our coop now and don’t need a permit for it at all. We don’t actually need the permit until next year when we are ready to get the chickens. That’s a good thing because the permit has to be renewed every January so we won’t have to pay for one now and then pay again in January.

So Bookman and I sat down earlier today and started figuring out what we need for lumber. Since neither of us has ever built anything before we are moving into new territory here. We have a plan for a coop like we are building but it is not the same size nor is it insulated for a cold climate or have a green roof. But the basic footprint is there. So we have to figure out how many 2x4s we need and how long and sizes of plywood and how big are sheets of plywood anyway? And what to do we have to do to build the rafters to support the weight of the green roof? And we only have a Honda Civic hybrid car, how are we going to get a load of lumber home? We are making progress but we still have quite a bit of figuring to do on the supplies. We haven’t even begun to consider nails and bolts and door hinges and screws and all that.

One very important thing we have decided on, the coop will be bright yellow with white trim.

When it comes to the actual building part, my Saturday biking buddy has offered to come and help us if we need it. So it’s good to know we have access to an extra pair of hands if necessary.

All I can really say at this point is that it is a good thing we are getting started on this now because we are going to need all the time we can get to build this coop!

Biking

We are three weeks away from the Jesse James fun ride Bookman and I are doing. We are both very much looking forward to it. Two weeks after the fun ride is my Gran Fondo race that is not a race.

Bike ride scenery: old flour mill ruins now an awesome museum

Bike ride scenery: old flour mill ruins now an awesome museum

My long ride on Saturday began in a nice and cool morning. It was humid but the constant wind that was blowing kept me from feeling the humidity. Of course for the entire outing I was riding into the wind or battling a cross-wind. Never once did I catch a break and get a tailwind. I told Bookman that it felt like I was riding uphill the whole ride which made the actual hills almost not even noticeable. Almost. Because riding uphill into the wind is something you notice a little bit. My average speed was slower than I wanted it to be but not as slow as I feared. All things considered, the constant effort was a good workout.

I need to take Astrid in for a tune up before the sponsored September rides. Her shifting has gotten a bit rough. I have tried to clean the chain and put fresh lube on it but it has not solved the problem of the gears not switching smoothly. Since I have not managed to take a bike maintenance class this summer I don’t know what else to do, thus time to call in a professional!

I am also thinking of getting a professional bike fitting. I have trouble with my feet going numb and have determined it is not my shoes. I am glad it is not my shoes, I would hate to have to buy new ones. The problem is my posture and how I am sitting on the bike. A professional fitting will do all sorts of analytics, figuring out the width of my sit bones, knee/ankle alignment, hip/pelvis rotation, etc. They will help me figure out my optimal riding posture and form and get everything just right and hopefully help me make my numb feet trouble go away.

In an effort to help my posture improve, because I have noticed my feet don’t start to go numb until I begin getting tired, I have added exercises to help strengthen my core muscles. This means planks and side planks and boat pose and bridges and a few other things. I should probably do crunches too but I hate crunches more than I hate planks and will avoid them as long as I possibly can. I feel like I have mentioned this before. Have I mentioned this before? I could go look but I am too lazy.

The core exercises are in addition to the free weights I do and I know it will help because the weights have helped improve my arm and shoulder strength so I don’t get a sore neck and shoulders like I did when I first began riding in the spring. I’ve been doing weights for several months now and I am just getting started on the core exercises so I expect it will take some time before I begin to notice much of a difference there. But then maybe not. I’ve been doing intervals twice a week for three weeks now and I have noticed a small improvement. Yay!

Now please excuse me while I go enjoy some dinner that includes basil pesto made from fresh-picked basil from my garden.


Filed under: biking, gardening

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2. The Popcorn that Was

The hawks have flown the nest. Oh they are still around now and then, but essentially they are gone. The squirrels wasted no time moving back in.

Now, I think I have mentioned we are growing popcorn in the garden this year instead of sweet corn. About a month ago Bookman asked, should we put nylon socks on the ears of corn? Nah, I said, the hawks have been keeping the squirrels away, nobody is going to bother the corn this year.

Except the hawks left at the same time the corn was ready to be picked. Want to guess who got the corn first?

One ear. One. That is all they left for us.

Yes, I am a stoopid hoomun.

Lemon squash

Lemon squash

Today I did manage to harvest quite a few things, however. Picked all the crabapples. Once they get cooked down I don’t know how much juice they will translate into, but there are a couple pounds of apples. We have cheesecloth now and are ready to go. Just need to carve out time to cut the apples open and stand over the stove stirring them while they cook down. We got half-pint jars too which will also come in handy for making zucchini relish.

Also harvested some carrots. We didn’t get many but the ones that did sprout are really lovely. And purple. Cosmic purple. Dug up the rest of the potatoes too. There were quite a few, enough to encourage me to grow potatoes again next year. Picked several softball-sized lemon squash. They are called lemon squash not because they taste lemony but because they are round and lemon yellow. Makes it really easy to see them in the green leaves for picking.

We already have a few small pumpkins on the vines. The cantaloupe is growing like crazy this year too and if all goes well it looks like we will have quite a few. The variety we grow is called Minnesota Midget. It is a short growing season cantaloupe that is not quite as big as the huge ones you get at the market, but perfectly sized for two people. The flesh is a lovely orange and the flavor is sweet and juicy. Another week or two and they will be ready for eating. I can hardly wait!

I cut back the comfrey for the second time this season. It had gotten huge. I must try to

Perennial sunflowers

Perennial sunflowers

be more proactive about cutting it back because the big stems flop over and the huge leaves cover and smother everything they land on. I had two big armfuls of comfrey that I spread around the chicken garden to build soil. I had planted an experimental patch of buckwheat in the sand and it sprouted but the plants were little things with tiny leaves and tiny flowers. They are now buried under comfrey. The rest of the chicken garden is mulched in a thick layer of wood chips. The wood chips will keep the weeds from growing, because weeds don’t care if they grow in glorious loam or stingy sand, and they will decompose, creating soil as they go. Wood chips take a long time to do this but we will also be adding leaves and straw to the mix. And we have a compost bin set up in the area too.

Regarding the chickens, Bookman called the city on Wednesday. We are not allowed to start building the coop until we get the permit process started. So the city is sending us a packet with all the information and forms and stuff. We should have it in a day or two. The city has taken its sweet time and not yet changed the rule about needing your neighbors’ permission, so we will have to get their signatures. We also have to submit a site plan for approval. I think once we get that done we can start building the coop. Hopefully it will be a long, mild autumn.

Biking

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my bike, Astrid? I thought I could still love my

The Ninja, brand new in 2006. I thought it was true love until Astrid came along

The Ninja, brand new in 2006. I thought it was true love until Astrid came along

city bike, Ninja, but after pulling it out for the first time this year to ride it over to the library —it has a basket, handy for carrying books and stuff — I realized for the first time what an uncomfortable bike it is. It is slightly too small for me, which explains why when we used to go on rides longer than to the library, I would get so frustrated. I never understood why. But Astrid and I fit really well and the difference is so obvious that I wonder why I never figured it out when I just had the Ninja. Well, I do know. It’s because I had never had a bike like Astrid that actually fit me before. It also makes me mad that the bike shop I got Ninja from let me out the door with it, that they didn’t bother to make sure it was the right size and all that. I have not been back to the shop I got the Ninja from since I bought it, and I will never go back to it or one of their many locations ever again.

Anyway, Astrid. I love her dearly.

We had a really fantastic ride yesterday. It was the usual training route. The day was one of heat and tropical humidity. At 7 a.m. it was already 70F/21C with humidity somewhere around 70% or more. One of the great things about cycling is you generate your own breeze when you ride so even while I sweat a lot, as long as I keep moving I don’t feel how hot and humid it is. When I have to stop for a traffic light though, I am suddenly one big puddle. So I guess you could say the hot and humid weather encourages me to keep moving.

Riley Lake, one of the many lakes along my ride

Riley Lake, one of the many lakes along my ride

And move I did! Last week I was so thrilled to have finally averaged 15mph/24kph. When I began my ride I told myself it was okay if I couldn’t do it again because of the weather. But I felt good, really good. Maybe the intervals I began doing twice a week two weeks ago are starting to pay off already. Maybe it was the overnight oatmeal I ate for breakfast. Or the zucchini bread that was my cycling snack for the day. Or maybe it’s that I am getting really good at drinking small amounts of water while riding instead of stopping every 45-60 minutes to guzzle some down. It could be a combination of everything. Whatever it was, when I got home and looked at my ride stats I averaged 15.3mph/24.6kph and I beat my Queen of the Mountain time by four seconds. Not too shabby! It just might be by race time at the end of September I’ll be averaging 16mph/26kph. It could happen, right?

I had a little splurge yesterday on some new cycling kit. I only have two jerseys, one pair of shorts and a skort. Team Estrogen is having a summer clearance sale so I thought I would take advantage. I ordered a new jersey, a jacket that will be great for spring and fall, bad kitty socks, and BOGO (by one get one free) shorts. I saved almost as much as I spent so I don’t feel too guilty about it. And now I won’t have to worry so much about when I need clean clothes for a ride and whether or not I’ve done the laundry. If you bike, tri, or run and haven’t visited Team Estrogen before, I recommend you stop by and take a look. They sell the good brands, have plus sizes, have frequent sales, and the whole site is geared toward active women and run by women too. Plus they have good customer service.

If you are looking for a little cycling motivation, or just enjoy the Tour de France, Bookman and I watched the movie Chasing Legends the other night. It is a documentary that follows team Columbia-HTC on the 2009 Tour. They were a new team that year and I believe it was Mark Canvendish’s first Tour. He made the most of it too by winning eight stages, the most any British rider had ever won. It’s a good film, exciting, funny, harrowing. The cinematography is fantastic. Plus it gives a bit of the history of the race during which at least one rider has died from exhaustion in the mountains. I was feeling pretty good about my average speed, these guys average 24mph/40kph over a day’s ride of 125-186 miles/200-300km!

Astrid and I won’t be riding in the Tour any time soon, or ever, but it might be a fun challenge some July to ride as many miles as the Tour over the course of a month instead of 21 days. I might be crazy but I am not that crazy! Ok so even a month would be kind of crazy since the Tour is 2,200miles/3,500km, which over the course of 31 days comes out to 71 miles/114km a day. Whoa. I’d have to save up my vacation time and take the entire month off! Might have to rethink that challenge a bit.


Filed under: biking, gardening Tagged: Tour de France

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3. 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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4. How the Garden Does Grow!

Common milkweed in bloom

Common milkweed in bloom

A hot day today with extremely high humidity makes it an impossible day to garden. Even going out to hang laundry to dry I am soaked with sweat within minutes. In spite of the breeze the air is oppressive and I get hotter and hotter so that returning indoors feels so very good. It is unfortunate to not be able to work outside as there is so much to be done, so many weeds to pull. There are peas to pick as well but it is just too hot. Perhaps later this evening before the thunderstorms arrive there will be a bearable window for pea picking.

All the black raspberries have been picked and we have very full pint. So many have mentioned they had ever heard of black raspberries before and wondered what they taste like. They do not taste like your regular red raspberry, not even close. The nearest thing I can liken their flavor to is concord grapes; sweet but a little tangy too with perhaps a hint of blueberry. How’s that for a precise description? Someone totally needs to hire me to write for their garden catalog!

I’m still picking gooseberries, a few every couple days. I think by the end of the week I will have them all

A happy herb spiral

A happy herb spiral

picked and then it will be time to figure out how to make them into jam. I picked the few remaining red currants and popped one in my mouth to try. They are supposed to be not as tart as black currants. Now I have only every eaten black currant jam and had dried black currants, nothing fresh picked. The red currant was tart but not unpleasantly so. What was a surprise was the seeds. Three or four rather large ones. Currants are small enough as it is, now I find out they are at least half full of seeds inside. The red ones are anyway. I have not yet had any fruit on my black currant. So when jam making with the currants, gooseberries and elderberries, I can look forward to straining out seeds. It had better be worth it!

With this heat the zucchini is really taking off and is covered in yellow blossoms. The cantaloupe is flowering too. And finally the tomato plants we started from seed are growing well. All of the bell peppers, however, are either dead or stunted and sickly looking for no reason that I can figure out. So earlier in the week we cleared the garden space and I planted turnips and some more radishes. Speaking of radishes, one of the varieties I planted this year are purple all the way through, malaga they are called. They grow well and unlike the red ones which have a tendency to split, stay round and firm. They do, however, have a bit of bite to them, not so hot to make your mouth burn but enough to make you take notice. Crunchy and a little peppery, they are marvelous sliced up on a sandwich with tofu or tempeh. I wouldn’t want them in a green salad though, I don’t think they would play well with mild flavors. Of course, you might think otherwise if you are a hot radish fan. Regardless, I highly recommend growing them if you have a little patch.

Are there potatoes under all that straw?

Are there potatoes under all that straw?

The potatoes are also growing like crazy. This is the first time I have grown any so I hope I am doing it right. I keep mounding up straw and the plants keep getting taller and taller and I add more straw. Are there potatoes in there under all the straw? I hope so but I won’t be able to find out until after the plants begin to die back. That doesn’t look like it will be very soon but I can’t say for certain. I just watch and mound up straw and wait and hope for the best. A lot like most things I do in the garden.

Squirrels and rabbits have been a bit scarce around the garden lately. Why? Remember the hawk nesting in my neighbor’s tree? There is now a baby. It can kind of fly between the nesting tree in the backyard and the big oak tree in my neighbor’s front yard. I haven’t managed to see it yet, it is careful to keep hidden in the leaves. I can hear it just fine though. Hawks aren’t songbirds and don’t tweet or chirp. So imagine the sounds you’ve heard raptors make, scale it down and raise the pitch to that of a squeaking door and you will come close to what this baby sounds like. And it being a hungry impatient baby it makes quite a lot of noise! Still, it is great fun having it around and I wonder if the parents will return to nest in the same place again next year. If so, I will have to be very careful that my chickens don’t give the impression of being a good dinner.

Last week we experimentally seeded buckwheat in the sand of the chicken garden. While morning glories and grass

buckwheat sprouting in the chicken garden sand

buckwheat sprouting in the chicken garden sand

have already begun to sprout, I did not have high hopes for the ability of anything desirable to grow in all that sand. But Friday I went out to check and there were sprouts! I watered them, then watered again yesterday, and today they are coming up really strong. Hooray! It’s going to take more than buckwheat sprouts to make the sandbox a garden, but it is a beginning.

We have bought the shed kit we are building for storage of bikes and garden tools and it will be delivered on Thursday this week. It comes with all the screws and nuts and bolts and pre-drilled holes, etc, like IKEA furniture. Bookman and I are actually pretty good at putting together IKEA furniture, how will we do with a shed? It can’t be that hard, can it? Four walls, a roof and a door. Hopefully it won’t take us long to get it all built. Once it’s up, or at least mostly up, I can mark out more areas to sow buckwheat. Stay tuned…

Biking

Another crash-free week for me and Astrid. The riders in the Tour de France have not been so lucky. There have been loads of crashes and a number of riders have had to drop out because of broken bones. Yikes! My scrapes are almost all healed and my bruises have turned all kinds of lovely colors and are just beginning to fade. I can wear a skirt again and not make people gasp in horror.

It was a warm and humid day for my long ride yesterday (55 miles/88.5km) so I left a full hour earlier in the morning than usual. I felt really good and was sure when I was done that my sprint intervals would have gotten me personal best times and that I surely had managed to average 15mph/24kph, a goal I have set myself as I have been hovering so very close to it for the last few rides but not quite making it. Well, once my ride data was uploaded I found I didn’t make it yesterday either. Nor did I get personal bests. I did beat my QOM time on my favorite hilly segment by four seconds though so that was something. Still, I was a bit disappointed. Even though I felt good I guess the humidity had more of an effect than I expected. Oh well, there is always next week when I will try again!

Speaking of beer--historic signage along my biking route

Speaking of beer–historic signage in downtown Minneapolis

Have any of you ever ridden in a Gran Fondo? There are three in Minnesota that I have recently discovered. They aren’t exactly races but they are run like races and riders get a tracking chip and are timed. It’s like the chip runners get in their timed “race” events. There is a Gran Fondo in April as part of the Ironman bike ride. There is the Fulton Gran Fondo in May sponsored by the Fulton Brewing company in Minneapolis. The ride is followed by a beer festival and event participants get a coupon for one free beer. Then in September is the Life Time Gran Fondo sponsored by Lifetime Fitness and the Waconia Brewing Company. What’s the deal with bike events and beer? I don’t drink alcohol so I am a bit mystified. Anyway, the September ride is 60 miles/96.5km and I believe one or both spring rides are 100 miles/161km.

The Life Time Gran Fondo is a week after my 62-mile/100km Jesse James Day ride. I am tempted to do it. For my $40 registration fee I get a t-shirt, a beer (or a root beer), live entertainment at the finish line festival as well as a fully supported ride that includes aid stations (snacks!) and bike assistance. Plus, since it is timed, I suspect I will get a ranking among finishers which is very motivating because, as I have mentioned before, I’m kind of competitive. Plus it will give me extra incentive to keep working on improving my average speed. What do you think? Should Astrid and I go for it?


Filed under: biking, gardening Tagged: black raspberries, chicken garden, Gran Fondo, malaga radish

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5. Shedding

Shed before

Shed before

I am so very tired. It has been a full weekend plus hot and yesterday was tropically humid and Friday night we had severe weather blow through which meant not much sleep. I need another weekend!

The main reason I am so exhausted right now is because Bookman and I spent all day working on assembling our new shed! Woo! There has been lots of sweating and swearing I can tell you that. The shed is a kit and everything comes labeled and the holes are pre-drilled. The video shows a happy couple putting it together in eight minutes! It looks so gosh darn easy surely it will only take us a couple of hours. Ha!

We’ve worked on it all day in the heat and we still aren’t done. The walls were pretty easy to put together,

Shed after

Shed after

the roof, not so much. There are a number of places where you have to line up holes blind and you can’t tell if they are aligned until you drill in the screw and the piece stays on or falls off because you missed the hole. What we have left to finish is the peak of the roof, the door handle and locks, and the outside corner finishing pieces. Once we finish the last bit of roof, everything else should be easy, keyword there being “should.” Strike that, as I was writing this, Bookman went out and put in the door handle and locks and the windows and snapped on the outside corner finishing pieces. So all we now have left is to secure those finishing pieces and screw down the peak of the roof. Bookman is an awesome fellow, have I mentioned that lately?

In the garden itself, there are butterflies everywhere, red admirals, monarchs, swallowtails, and what I think was a red-spotted purple, one I don’t recall ever having seen before. It was very pretty with its blue markings on black wings. There are also all kinds of bees and other tiny pollinators everywhere and the size of the dragonflies this year! As big as dragons some of them!

The real excitement for the week though has been the baby hawk that is in my neighbor’s tree. It is flying now and it’s parents force it to practice. They push it out of the tree and it flies down and lands on our clothesline pole. If it doesn’t move fast enough, one of the parents swoops down and gives it a poke to make it fly somewhere else. So then it will land on the roof of the garage of my other neighbor and sit until a parent pokes it to make it fly again. It is all rather amusing to watch. When I came home from work a little after noon on Friday, one of the parents was sitting on my deck railing keeping an on junior in the nesting tree. Parent hawk had just brought junior something to eat and junior was up in the tree digging in. I could not tell what it was eating, my guess is a squirrel. Meanwhile, Waldo and Dickens had spotted the parent hawk sitting on the deck railing and both were plastered to the closed sliding glass door making that weird chattering sound cats make. The hawk is as big as they are so I told them they shouldn’t get too excited since they would each make a very nice meal. Since they are strictly indoor cats, they have nothing to worry about and they can dream of catching and eating that really big bird.

Blvd beauty

Blvd beauty

I planted flax in the garden this year and while it didn’t germinate as well as I had hoped, I still have a nice little patch. Today it flowered. The flowers are pretty little blue things and I had planned on taking a photo but when I got the chance late this afternoon, they had all closed! I’ll see if I can catch them some time during the week.

Bookman and I are really pleased with how our boulevard area in the front of the house is looking this year. It’s a hard place to grow things and I have lost count of how many varieties of plants I have tried and that have failed. The soil isn’t the best, it is hot and dry, and in winter it gets snow plowed up onto it from the street and shoveled onto it from the sidewalk. So you know the plants that end up flourishing there are pretty indestructible. At the moment they are gorgeous shades of purple and yellow in different shapes and colors. A couple of these plants migrated there from other areas of the garden and I doubt I could have planned their arrangement any better than nature herself has done. It is a great joy to come home work at the end of the day and walk by all these flowers and see bees and butterflies having dinner.

The popcorn is tasseling. It is only waist high. I didn’t expect the popcorn to be as tall as the sweet corn

More blvd beauty

More blvd beauty

but it seems a bit short. Nothing I can do about it though. The pole beans I planted to grow up the corn are going to outgrow it and I even chose a shorter variety this year than I had grown last year to account for shorter corn. I’m starting to wonder if it is even worthwhile trying to grow corn anyway. Maybe next year I will just make teepees for the pole beans and grow pumpkins beneath them and leave out the corn. It was fun to try though.

I am suddenly reminded I need to place my order for garlic before the variety I want is all gone like last year. I am very sad about our garlic fail this year. This fall we just have to be careful we don’t overcompensate for not planting them deep enough last year by planting them too deep! Gardening generally has a wide margin of error so when you miss it you really miss it good!

Adventures in Biking

My long bike ride this weekend was quite an adventure! As I mentioned earlier we had severe weather Friday night. Nature threw a party and left the place trashed. We had strobe lightning, a thunderous bass and the rain stick sounded like a waterfall. Saturday weather was forecast to be 90F/32C + with high humidity that would make it feel like 100F/38F. So I left for my ride around 7 a.m. when it was still cool. There was a light breeze and it was really pleasant. I saw right away the storm had left a mess. Just riding down my street there were a couple broken tree branches on the sidewalk and street. During my 55 miles/88.8km I was almost always dodging leaves, twigs and small branches, mud puddles and standing water. I came across seven trees that had fallen across the path. One of the trees Astrid and I were able to walk under as we had about four feet/1.2m of clearance. Two trees were small enough I could pick Astrid up and carry her over them. The other trees required detours. The first detour was through some light underbrush to the train tracks that ran parallel to the path. Not a big deal. Another was walking with Astrid off the curb, carefully around into the street and then back up the curb to the path on the other side of the tree. Another tree there was no way around and I had to backtrack a little along the path and take a nearby street as a detour.

Then there was the huge tree close to mile 21/34km. On the other side of it was where the path crossed the road on either side of the path there was nothing but trees and thick underbrush. The easiest side to get around it required I carry Astrid through the underbrush into a ditch and up the other side through more underbrush and the tops of the fallen tree. There was so much debris in the ditch I didn’t discover it also had water in it until I stepped in it and my right foot up to the arch was soaked. There were people who lived nearby out for a walk gawking at the tree. One of them told me that I’d have to get up a lot of speed to jump over it. We had a good laugh. I think he expected I would simply turn around. I was too busy concentrating so I didn’t fall while carrying Astrid that I don’t know what sort of reaction my bike portage maneuver was worth.

So I carried my Astrid into the ditch, up the other side, through the undergrowth and tree branches talking to her under my breath the whole time, come on Astrid, it’s ok, you can do it. And, good girl Astrid, we’re almost there. When I told this to Bookman he got a good laugh, finding it hilarious I was talking to Astrid as though she were the one doing the work. Well, of course I was really talking to myself but it felt like Astrid and I were working together as a team so addressing her seemed right. Once we got out to the road we surprised the group of gawkers on the other side of the tree who did not expect to see anyone come through it carrying a bike. I pulled a few leaves from Astrid’s spokes and a twig from the chain, we eased across the road to make sure we didn’t get blindsided by a car, and off we went on our merry way, quite proud of ourselves.

By halfway through my ride the fresh morning breeze had begun to turn into a wind. I have learned that if there is a wind while cycling, I will always be riding into it. By the time I was 3/4s through my ride it was getting hot and humid and the wind was making me very grumpy. I was tired and grumbling and just wanted to be done.

Then the wind suddenly shifted direction, an angel began to sing — oh wait that was Elvis on my iPod — and instead of laboring into the wind, it was pushing me along from behind! I shifted up just one shy from my biggest gear and was zipping along at close to 22mph/35.4kph with hardly any effort. It was exhilarating! It lasted for about ten minutes before the wind shifted back around but it was enough. I had found the fun again. I got to go fast, have a rest and even manage to cool down a bit. Those ten minutes were pretty much the best part of the whole ride, enough so that when I got home tired and sore from all the extra work of bike carrying and riding into the wind, after first being glad I was done for the day my thought was, I can’t wait to go again next week!


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6. Beans and Hawks

This time of year there isn’t much to do in the garden except weed, water, watch, wait and harvest. Actually, now that I type that out, that’s quite a lot! The harvesting right now is bush beans! Yellow wax beans to be exact, though I don’t remember what variety. Bookman made us a delicious dinner with beans, garden peas, tofu, couscous and a cashew “alfredo” sauce earlier this week. He just made it up as he went along. When I asked him if he’d be able to replicate it because it was so good he said “probably.” That’s the thing with cooks who make things up on the fly, they don’t know what they’ve done half the time so an exact repeat performance is not likely. But he’ll be able to make something close so I shouldn’t complain.

The zucchini has been flowering heavily but there are no zukes on the plants yet. We planted lots of zucchini this year instead of cucumbers. We never have much luck with cucumbers and I can’t eat them (they give me really bad indigestion) so the ones we do get Bookman always has to eat on his own. I’ve been saving up recipes for things like zucchini pickles and zucchini relish and there are the old standbys of zucchini “noodles” and bread. So we are ready for a zucchini bonanza!

The tomatoes are flowering and there are even a few green tomatoes on the cherry variety we have growing. The bell peppers this year were a complete disaster. All the plants we sprouted died and the two plants we bought, one died and the other has two very tiny peppers on it about the size of a big marshmallow and they are not getting any bigger. A gardening friend tells me all of her pepper plants are stunted and only have tiny fruit too. So I can comfort myself and say it has nothing to do with me.

The cantaloupe is vining an flowering like crazy. And I noticed yesterday the pumpkin is starting to vine too. The popcorn has tiny ears of corn on a few of the plants. None of the stalks every got taller than me and I am not very tall! I’m not confident that we will get many ears of corn, but we’ll see.

broad-winged hawk babies

broad-winged hawk babies

The big thing this week are the hawks in my neighbor’s tree. With our handy Birds of Minnesota Field Guide, we have identified them as Broad-winged hawks. Also, it seems there are three youngsters and not just one! Three hawks were sitting on our garden arch at the back of the garden. We thought one was baby and the other two were the parents. Then a fourth hawk came swooping in, much sleeker than the three on the arch, and landed on the power line not far away. Since our identification of them and learning a bit about them, we figure that was mama hawk. Papa hawk doesn’t really hang around much with this species. I managed to get a photo of the three babies, they are nearly as big as the mother but have a fluffier look about them yet (click on photo to enlarge).

This afternoon as I was hanging laundry out to dry, one of the babies was drinking and bathing in my neighbor’s bird bath. It was a rather amusing thing to watch!

We are expecting some hot days this week at or close to 90F/32C. It will make the zucchini, tomatoes, corn and lone okra plant very happy. Me, not so much.

Biking

Yesterday I did 56 miles/90 km and averaged 14.9 mph/23.9kph. My goal is 15 mph/24 kph which is a little slow on the racing side of things, but I’m still pretty pleased. I signed up for the Gran Fondo on September 27th. They have the course posted (a metric century!) and it has some big hills in it which scares me a bit. I might have to go drive the route in a car before the race date just to get an idea of what to expect. Bookman will not be joining me for the race but he will be at the start and finish to cheer me on.

I am finding that long rides involve just as much psyching myself up as they do physical exertion. The big hills on my route are mostly between miles 22-30 (km 35-48) and mostly come one right after the other. But there is one steep hill at about mile 40/64 km that I have always made it up but that some days, like yesterday, really kicks my butt. It was warm and humid by the time I got to it, I had been feeling nearly my entire ride like my legs were tired and by the time I got to this last big hill I had convinced myself it was going to be really hard. So it was. For the last month I have been able to make it up this hill without shifting down from my big ring, but yesterday I was so convinced I wouldn’t make it I shifted out of the big ring at the bottom of the hill and ground my way up. So whenI got home and discovered I had almost made my 15 mph average speed goal I realized my legs weren’t as bad as I had convinced myself they were. Then of course I started making up excuses. Oy.

I had company on my ride yesterday for the first 13 miles/21km, a coworker who wants to up his biking fitness joined me. It was fun to have company for that short while (about 50 minutes) and we chatted away the whole time. I think I did most of the chattering as he was working hard after a bit to keep up the pace I was setting. But it was fun for both of us. He plans to join me again, not next weekend because Bookman and I will be attending a wedding, but the Saturday after that.

Bookman and I both registered for the Jesse James fun ride on September 12th. It too is a metric century (100 km) but because it is a fun ride it is not timed and we can take all day to ride the course (as opposed to the Gran Fondo that requires you finish in 5.5 hours). The ride is an hour south of the Twin Cities and the course is over country roads with some lovely rolling hills. It will be good practice for the Gran Fondo two weeks later.

I have a feeling August is going go zooming by. Why not, it seems like the whole summer has been on continuous full-speed. And I still have a chicken coop to build!


Filed under: biking, gardening Tagged: broad-winged hawk, Gran Fondo, Jesse James Days

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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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!


Filed under: biking, gardening

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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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!


Filed under: biking, gardening

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13. 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…


Filed under: biking, gardening

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14. 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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15. 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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16. 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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17. 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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18. 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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19. 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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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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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23. 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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24. 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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25. 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.


Filed under: biking, gardening

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