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I probably should have known better. But so many weeks of mild weather lulled me into complacency. Each weekend I thought, I should empty the rain barrels. But the forecast for the week would be warm and I’d think, eh, I’ll do it next weekend. The last two days we did not get above freezing and Bookman went out this morning to drain the barrels. Too late. Both of them are frozen solid. How could that be? How could 55 gallons of water freeze solid in two days? Well it did. We were hoping for some melt today but the high only made it to 33F/.5C. However, the forecast for the next few days says nights below freezing but days above. So. We opened the hose valves on the barrels for the water to drain should it melt. I hope it melts. Then we can tip the barrels upside down to keep snow out of them and set them up again in spring. Hopefully this one freeze won’t spilt the barrels. Plastic, even when it is thick, is surprisingly fragile when it freezes.
Butterfly weed seeds
During the week I noticed the butterfly weed pods split open. I have one in the front yard and have never seen it do this, probably because by late summer it gets hidden by the taller purple coneflowers. At first I thought it was milkweed and for the life of me could not remember milkweed growing there at all. I was beginning to doubt my memory when I looked up butterfly weed on the internet and discovered, yes, it does have pods that burst open and looks remarkably like milkweed. I also discovered that the plants really like sandy soil which explains why it is doing so well where I planted it in the back garden, the soil in its bed is pretty sandy. This is a happy stroke of luck. I have a chicken garden that is full of sand buried beneath woodchips and leaves. Some of those seeds are going to get scattered along the sandy margins this week. Come spring I just have to remember where they got planted so if they actually sprout, I won’t accidentally pull them up thinking they are a random unwanted weed.
Speaking of the chickens, Bookman and I went out to work on the coop this afternoon. While our bodies were warmly layered, our hands were not. Work gloves are not insulated and one cannot build in mittens. So we got two rafter support beams up before our hands were so numb we could no longer feel them. Barring any surprise “warm” days or December/January thaws, our coop building is done until spring. We didn’t get as much done as I had hoped, but we made pretty good progress considering we have never done anything like this before. If we don’t get the rafters attached before spring, that will be first on the agenda. Then the fun with plywood and foam insulation begins. We bought a jigsaw in preparation for cutting holes in the plywood sheets for windows, doors and vents. Fun times ahead for spring!
Will you be surprised to know I am already thinking about what to plant in the garden next year? That early seed catalog I got? I’ve paged through it all and marked it all up. I’m planning on trying a new to me green bean in the garden, a variety called “masai” that I have heard is tasty and has a very high yield. I also just read a Mother Earth News article about turnips and learned there are small turnips about the size of a golfball that are mostly Japanese varieties that can be eaten fresh, even sliced up like water chestnuts and used in stir fries for a bit of crunch. This has made me far more excited than I should be. After two years of not having much success with parsnips, I have decided to toss those out and plant more turnips which I do have success with. So next year I’ll plant the big late season turnips and the small early season ones too.
And then of course I am planning what to grow on the green roof of the chicken coop. I decided to have a purple/blue and orange color scheme. All the plants have to be drought tolerant and low growing. So far I have decided on blue fescue grass, pussytoes, pasque flower and catmint (not a cat-attracting variety!). Next autumn I will plant spring blooming bulbs of Siberian squill, grape hyacinth, and orange species tulips. The roof is 10 feet/3 m long and about 2.5 feet/.8 m from peak to edge. I am planting both sides of it so have lots of area to play with and all winter to imagine and plan. If you could see me as I type this, I have the biggest, dopiest grin on my face.
I am still reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I am reading it little bits at a time and I hope, as the gardening posts become few and far between for a while, you won’t mind me updating you on my progress through this beautiful book and the occasional quote. This one is from the chapter called “Seeing:”
It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret to seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.
Isn’t that a beautiful image?
Biking on the trainer is going great. Zwift added a bunch of workouts a couple weeks ago and I thought I would give one of them a try. I chose an intervals workout that was 60 minutes long. The workout Zwift gives me is based on my FTP (functional threshold power). I expected it would be hard, but holy Lance Armstrong Batman! After the first two intervals I was sucking wind so bad I could not get my watts up to where they were supposed to be. The screen kept flashing “More Power” in big read letters. I yelled at my legs like Captain Kirk to Scottie, “Give me more power!” And my legs yelled back, “I’m givin’ ye all she’s got Cap’n!” And then the five minute interval would be over and “Fail!” would flash up on the screen in big red letters. To my credit I didn’t give up. I failed interval after interval right up to the end. I am apparently not the only one who is having problems because this week a new workout was added: 6-week ftp for beginners. Ha! As the name implies, it is a six-week workout training to improve ftp. I have decided to embark on that in January.
At the moment my riding plan is to add 5 miles/8 km to my Saturday ride each week through the end of the year. Have I mentioned this yet? Sorry if I am repeating myself. Anyway, by doing that I will be putting in a 100 mile/161 km ride on January 3rd. Yesterday I did 70 miles/112.7 km. I’ve done that far on Astrid outdoors but that included rest stops. Yesterday my only rest was a quick bathroom break. My legs were tired but my rear end was a bit sore. A hot shower never felt so good. Everything is feeling just fine today, but then I haven’t gotten on the trainer yet. That will be the real test.
That I think all of this is a whole lot of fun is utterly amazing to me. If this time last year you would have told me about this I would have called you crazy. Now it seems I am the crazy one.
Filed under: biking
Tagged: Annie Dillard
, green roof
I’ve been thinking about the terrorist attacks in Paris all weekend. It breaks my heart, all this hatred in the world. My deepest sympathies to the family and friends who lost loved ones and to all the people of France. I grieve with you.
I rode 65 miles/104.6 kms yesterday and it was really amazing to see the support for France offered up by the other cyclists. We all have our country’s flags that appear with our names on the rider board and people riding in France were deluged with “Ride on” thumb’s up. One rider even commented on how wonderful the support was. Many riders added “PFP” or #France or some other tag after their name. There was even talk of having a group ride against terrorism. It was a supportive communal kindness I did not expect to find in an online virtual cycling “game” and it made me glad to be part of it.
This morning Bookman was out working in the front yard cutting back perennials for the time when the snow arrives. Even though it was close to 60F/15C today, the cold and snow will eventually descend. And since I do the snow shoveling I can tell you it is a giant pain in the backside to have the dead perennials and grasses flop over onto the sidewalk and freeze there. Unfortunately Bookman’s hard work gave him a pain in the back and he barely made it into the house before he was hit with a big spasm.
He sprawled out on the floor just inside the door and lay there until the worst of it passed. I got the heating pad and arranged pillows on the couch and stood at the ready to lend a hand as he slowly struggled to get himself upright. Water and ibuprofen soon followed.
Gradually his back began to feel better and he was able to get up and carefully move around. We had plans to do the rafters on the chicken coop today and it seemed as though they were in jeopardy. However, not long after lunch Bookman decided he wanted to give the rafters a try, he needed to move around. I did all the bending and lifting and ever so carefully we managed to not only cut all the boards to build the rafters but we put all five of them together too!
Five rafters ready to install!
I must say we both feel rather proud of ourselves and like we accomplished something really big. The rafters are not up on the coop itself yet, I can’t lift them up alone and Bookman was in no condition to do any lifting anyway. So getting those up will be for next Sunday which will not be nearly as nice as it was today. It appears the weather shoe is about to drop and by mid-week we will be crashing to seasonal temperatures — hard frosts at night and daytime highs only a few degrees above freezing. As long as there isn’t snow we’ll keep working.
And now for something a little different. I’ve been thinking for a few months about wanting to try my hand at essay writing. I am not keen on the idea of writing an essay and then flogging it around to different websites or magazines trying to get it published. Nor do I want to purposely write commercial pieces with a specific audience or publication in mind. I just want to write essays on whatever I feel like.
I read an article at The Guardian the other day about how the internet is an ideal home for the essay. And I thought, hmm, what if? I haven’t made it past the idea stage to execution stage yet, but my plan is to create a separate website from this blog for the purpose of essays. I’d like to aim for two a month but I don’t know if that is too ambitious. It seems like it might be. I am thinking it would be good if the site were more active than just one or two essays a month from me, and wonder if any of you might be persuaded to write an essay? It could be a one-off or perhaps you enjoy essay writing so much you might want to write a few. In my mind, I am thinking posting one essay a week would be pretty decent. Topics will not be limited to books. My intent is a site for personal essay writing to explore whatever strikes my — or possibly your — fancy.
What do you think? Even if no one wants to contribute an essay I will still be moving ahead with it for my own personal experiments in writing. It could be a wild success or a terrible failure. But to me, essays are all about the process, the attempt, as the word “essay” implies. I don’t know when I will have this new venture up and running, but it is in the works and I already have begun a list of things I want to write about. It’s a little scary, a leap into the unknown for me, but no matter what happens, I’ll be glad I at least tried.
Filed under: biking
Big leafed aster
We had frost! Two weeks late but, hey, who’s counting? One of the best things about frost? My allergies are pretty much over. It will be another week or two before they are completely gone, but the worst has passed. I can’t begin to say what a relief this is. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you will completely understand.
The frost happened Friday night/Saturday morning. Friday evening after work I took a bowl out to the garden and picked a bunch of very green tomatoes, a small lemon squash, a few beets and brussels sprouts. If this were early October we would have simply covered the tomatoes, but seeing as how we had frost last night too and except for a surprise warm day here and there, it is not going to be warm enough going forward for the tomatoes to get ripe. So I picked them. Bookman is going to either make green tomato salsa or fried green tomatoes, he hasn’t decided which yet.
The kale survived the frost as did the turnips and chard. The asters and the mum are still going too. Everything else is done. Gardening now turns into pulling the dead vegetable plants and stuffing them into the compost bin and cutting back some of the perennials. Also seed saving. Also harvesting the pumpkins, amaranth and sunchokes. I am so looking forward to trying the sunchokes. One of the pumpkins that was done early Bookman cooked up last weekend and turned into pumpkin butter. It tastes just like pumpkin pie on my toast! We still have lots of apples to cook too. Today Bookman made apple spice muffins. Fall is definitely one of the most delicious times of the year!
I had completely forgotten what we had planted in the new little bed on our boulevard in
the spring and early in the week was pleasantly surprised to see a bunch of beautiful purple asters blooming in it. I might have even exclaimed, where did those come from? I had to check my new plant list for the year and, what do you know? I planted them! They are symphyotrichum oblongifolium
, aromatic aster. I love a good garden surprise.
Chicken coop progress
We began building up on the chicken coop today and were making good progress until the battery in the drill prematurely died. We took a break for it to recharge and even though it indicated it was fully charged, it did not last long at all. Since this is the only drill we have, we had to stop work sooner than we wanted. Very disappointing since it turned out to be such a gorgeous day. We’ve had the drill for quite a few years so I guess the battery has sustained as many recharges as it could. Time for a new battery. We will get on sometime during the week and have it charged up and ready to go by the weekend.
Last weekend I ordered a smart trainer. A smart trainer is a contraption I fit my bike on for indoor riding. The smart part is that the trainer connects to my computer and I can watch video and ride routes around the world in the comfort of my own home. When the road goes up, the trainer will make it hard to pedal my bike. That’s how it is supposed to work anyway. I was hoping it would be delivered by yesterday so I could set it up and try it out, but it won’t be here until tomorrow.
Which means I had to bundle up and ride out into the frosty morning. Now the only warm cycling kit I have invested in are arm warmers, a windbreaker and gloves. These would keep my torso and hands warm enough but my legs, not so much. I have warm clothes that I have biked in before. Seven years ago, before my current job, I used to bike commute to work year round. It was only a three mile/4.8 km ride so I didn’t need special bike clothing, I just needed to be warm when it was ten below (-23C). No need for the thermal underwear Saturday, but I pulled out my fleece ear warming headband and my knit leg warmers.
I am not worried about being aerodynamic so I was not concerned about the knit leg warmers slowing me down. However, if you have ever seen actual cycling leg warmers, they are usually sleek and black and spandex and they have grippers that hold them up. My leg warmers? Not so sleek. Also, gripper-free so to keep them up I had to tuck them under the grippers on the bottom of my bike shorts. A bit unconventional but no big deal. However, my leg warmers are not black. Oh no, they are a snazzy gray with blue and black stripes and scream, dork! When it is freezing cold and blowing snow in your face you don’t care about looking like a dork, you only care about not going down on a patch of ice. Plus anyone who bikes in the winter in Minnesota is automatically awarded “badass” status no matter what their kit looks like.
Not once during the summer did I think, hmm maybe I should buy some leg warmers for when it gets cold. And now it is too late. So I pulled on my striped knits and ventured out feeling a bit embarrassed. To my surprise, there were hardly any cyclists out. By the time I began seeing more cyclists I had been out for close to two hours and was happy as could be with warm legs and no longer really caring what I looked like. I felt so good I actually decided that everyone who saw me must be jealous of my stripes. Far from being a dork I am a cycling fashion trendsetter!
I didn’t want to ride out to the park reserve like I did the last couple of weekends so I decided to do the training route I had been riding most of the summer. Except I rode it in the opposite direction. If you ever want to freak out your body and your brain, such a thing is highly recommended. I was tired in all the wrong places and my brain did not know where I was in the ride since the landmarks were well known but they came during different parts of the ride than usual. My hilly segment came after the halfway mark instead of before. While my legs were more tired than usual at that point, I also didn’t have to worry about moderating my pace very much so I would have energy left for the rest of the ride. It was all so strange, but fun.
I have no idea what to expect for the weather next weekend. At this point long outdoor rides are wait and see. But I will have my trainer by then so if I decide I don’t want to be a fashion diva with my striped leg warmers I will have an alternate way to ride.
Filed under: biking
Tagged: cycling fashionista
Follow the yellow brick road
The leaves on Melody Maple have all turned golden and after a beautiful week of sun, we had a cold, windy, rainy Friday that blew all the leaves off the tree. Autumn leaves on trees are definitely gorgeous, but if you ask me, the show isn’t quite over even after they have fallen off. When I walked up to my house after work Friday, I couldn’t help but smile at the sight of my leaf strewn sidewalk. It’s like a piece of the Yellow Brick Road came from Oz to take up temporary residence in front of my house.
There are still plenty of leaves on trees though. The city-planted boulevard tree, a different kind of maple than the one in my yard, still has its leaves. It is currently half green and half red-orange. My apple trees still have their leaves too, though not as many as before Friday. Apples are not striking autumn trees. Their leaves mostly turn a pale yellow and drop off but the entire tree is never yellow at once. The leaves do their thing on an individual basis and almost as soon as they change color they fall so the tree is mostly always green with the leaf density getting fewer and fewer until they have all fallen.
Of the asters that were blooming last week only the aromatic one is still going. The mum
Leave and bluestem grass
is still going too. And in the herb spiral, there are a few calendula that the frost did not kill and they are valiantly blooming yellow and orange.
Today Bookman and I spent some time in the vegetable garden pulling out dead tomato plants, squash, beans and various other things. In spite of the frost we had, the weather here remains unusually warm for this time of year and one of the tomatoes I pulled out was resprouting as were a good many of the beans. It is really kind of crazy. I don’t recall an October since I’ve lived in Minnesota that has been this warm.
We harvested most of our Brussels sprouts and had them for dinner tonight. Neither of us has ever had Brussels sprouts before. At their mention I have only ever heard people say, yuck! There are so few people I have encountered who say yum that they seem to be the freaks. But over the past few years I have had enough people tell me that I had to try them and the plants themselves are really odd looking, I decided fine, this year I’ll give them a try. And you know what? They are delicious! Bookman liked them too. That means I’ll be planting them again next year. And next year I will know they need a lot more room to grow than I gave them this year. Success!
We have not tried the okra we grew yet. We didn’t get enough at any one time to do something with so we would chop them up and put them in the freezer. This winter Bookman is planning on using them in a stew or two. When he does, I’ll try to remember to let you know what we thought.
We did not work on the chicken coop today, instead we chose to work in the garden. We did spend some time figuring out a piece of building engineering that had us baffled. We both have the day off from work tomorrow to celebrate our wedding anniversary and plan to make a trip to the hardware store to get the brackets we decided we need. Then we have plans to work on the coop in the afternoon since the day is supposed to be sunny and mild.
As we were out in the garden today I noticed the bees have all gone. There was one lonely bee on the hyssop that is normally abuzz with activity. No butterflies about either. Or mosquitoes! The chickadees and juncos are here in abundance now. We get the dark-eyed juncos here and I do love them ever so much. They are such pleasingly round birds.
The squirrels are quite enjoying the extended warm weather, using it to fatten up even more. This week they took the opportunity to fatten up on the pumpkins that were still in my garden! We had about ten of them and the squirrels ate five. Bookman saw them at it one morning before he left for work and ran out and rescued the ones they had not gotten to yet. Not only am I disappointed about the squirrel raid of the pumpkin patch, but next year I am going to have pumpkin coming up all over the garden from them dropping the seeds everywhere. We got enough for a few pies and other pumpkin goodies, just not as much as we were looking forward to! @%*$#& squirrels!
My smart trainer arrived in the mail during the week. Just in time too because while I could have bundled up for an outdoor ride yesterday, it was gray and blustery and damp from the rain the day before and would not have been any fun. So I set up my trainer and had a great time!
My trainer is a Cyclops Powerbeam Pro with ANT+. What that means is that I plug the ANT+ usb dongle into my computer and it talks to the trainer. There are a number of cycling sites that can be integrated with a smart trainer. They show you video and tell your trainer to increase resistance when you are going uphills and make it easier when going downhill. They measure your energy output and miles and all that. It is pretty nifty.
In addition to the trainer I got a special trainer tire so I don’t wear out my road tire. I took my road tire off Astrid’s back wheel and put on the new one. Since my double flat over the summer I am getting pretty good at the whole tire thing! It didn’t take long to do at all. I did have to borrow Bookman’s thumbs though to get the last bit of tire pushed into the wheel rim, but other than the brief assist, the tire was all my doing as was changing the wheel quick release mechanism for the trainer compatible one. It took both of us to get the bike hooked into the trainer, Bookman lifted while I kneeled on the floor and directed the parts to where they needed to connect.
The cycling program I am using with the trainer is a new one called Zwift. It basically turns indoor cycling into a kind of video game. Riders get experience points, and special prizes for accomplishments and when you level up you get access to more customization goodies like a new jersey for your avatar or a new bike.
As you ride around there are three competitive segments on the course for which you can get points and a special jersey to wear until someone else beats your time. There is a big hill for which you can get king/queen or the mountain, a sprint segment, and an overall best lap time. The course is about 6 miles/9 kms.
Queen of the Mountain!
It is so much fun! I did 9 laps yesterday and even though the virtual miles were less than I have been riding on the road, I worked harder and my legs were really tired. I was really good for about five laps and then I began feeling tired. I started telling myself I could take it easy, I didn’t have to sprint. But then the sprint segment would roll up in front of me and the timer would flash up on the screen with the best time, my best time and where I was at that moment in comparison and gosh darn it, I had to try!
The sport of cycling is predominantly men. There are more and more women joining to be sure, but the crowd is mostly male. It is that way on the roads when I am biking around and it is that way on Zwift. The plus side of that is, while the men on the Zwift discussion boards complain about never being able to get close to wearing the KOM jersey because there are too many better riders out there, I, a newbie to the sport, got to wear the QOM jersey twice yesterday. I did not get a green sprint winner jersey. I suck at sprinting. Nor did I get to wear the orange best lap jersey. But because there are so few women, I think of the 250 people riding in Zwift while I was on about eight were women, I have a chance at those jerseys and I find that highly motivating.
So it appears my outdoor biking is done for the season. But Zwift and my new smart trainer look like they will be an excellent indoor alternative. Yay!
Filed under: biking
It was a cool, rainy week and we even had snow mixed in with the rain one day. And sleet. We had sleet too. But in spite of the snow and sleet, temperatures remain above freezing. There are still trees with leaves. This week temperatures are going to hover around 60F/15C with a few days forecast to be warmer. It’s really crazy how mild it has been. In the just over twenty years I have lived in the Twin Cities, I don’t recall it ever being this warm at this time of the year even when there was an el niño.
With this long mild autumn, the sorrel has regrown and is looking even nicer than it did in the spring. Bookman has plans to make some pesto to enjoy with dinner one night this week. The chard is still going too. And that’s really it, nothing else in the garden any longer except the turnips which will also be made into dinner sometime during the week. If I had known it was going to be so mild this late I would have planted some late season peas and radishes. Too late now. I will have to work on my psychic abilities for next year though so I don’t miss another wonderful opportunity.
Bookman had the entire week off from work and had planned on working on the chicken coop. That did not happen because of the rain. Today, however, was quite comfortable so we spent several hours outside working on it.
We gave up trying to prime all the boards before building with them because it kept raining or was going to rain and they never had time enough for the paint to dry. It isn’t a big deal really, the wood is all treated. The primer is so we can paint the coop later and is easier to get on when you just have a flat board to paint and no corners and angles. But if we continued painting we were never going to be able to start building and building was more important. So.
We got all the upright supports done, the top cross supports for the walls and roof, and the supports for the coop floor. Next step is to figure out how to frame the roof. It’s coming along and we are having fun making it and feeling rather proud of ourselves especially since we have never done anything like this before. Now that we are really making progress, it is beginning to feel like we really are going to have chickens.
Eventually the weather will get too cold for us to work outside and then we will have to start thinking about where the chickens will live indoors. We will be getting them in March as chicks just a few days old and they will have to live in the house under a heat lamp for a while and even when they don’t need the lamp anymore they will still need to live indoors until they get all their feathers and it is warm enough for them to safely move outside, probably around the end of May. So they need a place to live that is big enough and safe from the sure to be curious Waldo and Dickens. We have a few months to get that worked out.
Since there isn’t much to do in the garden any longer, I have picked Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek back up. I wanted to share a thought that caught my attention:
beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do it try to be there.
Biking until I’m nothing but bones
I am very much enjoying riding Astrid indoors hooked up to the smart trainer. This week for Halloween, the folks at Zwift had a little fun and and turned all the avatars into skeletons. We all had little scarves on our heads that matched the color and pattern of our jerseys when we had flesh on our bones. They also added jack-o-lanterns on the roadside throughout the course. It was pretty fun. I wonder if we might all get Santa hats for Christmas? Or maybe our bikes will turn into reindeer?
Anyway, they recently added structured workouts as a beta feature. The one workout everyone is trying is the FTP, functional threshold power. It’s a “test” to find out how much power per weight you can maintain for twenty minutes of going all out. They structure it so you get ten minutes of warmup at a cadence of 90 rpm and then you do about twenty minutes of riding at various watts (power is measured in watts), and then you do twenty minutes all out with nice messages telling things like, you are halfway there if you aren’t struggling you should try to go up ten watts. At first I thought, no way but I’ll try. And I did it and it was hard but not as hard as I thought it would be.
After the twenty minutes is over there is ten minutes of cool down riding. Then you get your FTP. I was hoping for 160 but got 157. It will serve as a baseline for training. I will check back with the FTP workout in three months and see if I have improved at all. It’s my understanding that FTP works better than maximum heart rate for training purposes. I will have to do some research to figure out how to use that number and improve it.
I did read a really good book published by Bicycling magazine called The Bicycling Big Book of Cycling for Women. It has all kinds of general stuff about cycling like the different types of riding and the kinds of bikes and lots of good stuff specific to women like core/strength training exercises, nutrition, and how our hormones affect performance because they do and it isn’t our imagination. Very informative I thought. It’s a good book for novice to intermediate level cyclists, is written by a woman, and is encouraging and motivating as well as fun.
You know you have fallen in love with a sport when you read books about it. I’m pretty sure I’m a goner.
Filed under: biking
Tagged: Annie Dillard
The weather is making it really difficult to believe it is November, but I’ve decided to just go with it and try to not be too freaked out by the weirdness of it. Climate change in action? Probably a little bit. But there is also a “Godzilla” el niño in the Pacific that is a major contributor as well. The combination makes part of me very happy because, wow, November and I spent time outdoors today plenty warm in a sweatshirt. The other part me of is worried and a little angry because this is just not right, not normal at all and nobody seems concerned, too busy running around and believing we are somehow lucky. Humph.
On a happy note, I jumped with joy the other day when President Obama said no to the entire Keystone Pipeline project. I want to thank the farmers in Nebraska for all their lawsuits that slowed the entire review process down and gave a lot more people time to comment and protest and government officials, including the president, time to seriously consider what an oil pipeline running across the U.S. from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico would mean in terms of climate change and immediate environmental impacts. So thank you Mr. President. You made me squeal with joy, clap my hands and do a happy dance. My eyes might have gotten a little teary too.
Then there is the news that Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon have proposed legislation to stop the government from issuing new leases on public lands for fossil fuel extraction. The “Keep it in the Ground Act” would also end all current non-productive leases for fossils fuels on federal land and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific. It would also prohibit offshore drilling in the Arctic and the Atlantic. It is a bold move and Republicans, many of whom don’t “believe in” climate change, are already saying the bill has no chance of passing. It is unfortunate but not surprising. Nonetheless, the fact that anyone is even proposing such legislation is a huge step in the right direction.
Turnips and a radish
Closer to home, I pulled the turnips today. One huge one and three radish sized ones and an actual radish that’s a bit deformed. Bookman is going to boil them and mash them up with a potato to have with dinner tonight. Yum.
We do not rake our leaves up from the yard. We rake them off the sidewalk only. This year we are putting the sidewalk leaves in the chicken garden. Remember it is all sand? We covered it in wood chips in August but those take so long to decompose. Now we are adding leaves. And since it has been windy these last couple of days and the neighbor across the alley from us has a huge tree in their backyard that dropped its leaves, a good many of them blew over and caught themselves along our new chain link fence. I raked them all off the fence and deposited them in the chicken garden while thanking the neighbor’s tree for the donation to our soil-building project.
Bookman and I spent quite a lot of time today looking at pictures of rafters on the internet and discussing physics and geometry. We are ready to frame the roof on the chicken coop and run and sine we are building it as a green roof we have to account for extra weight. What’s the best and easiest way to build five rafters? Lots of rafters are notched on the end of the board that sits on the structure’s frame. Do we need to do that? Also, how steep do we want the pitch of the roof?
Geometry in action
We decided from roof peak to frame would be a foot which means the roof pitch is not super steep but steep enough to provide decent drainage for the green roof. So then we had to do some geometry. Kids, if you are sitting in geometry class thinking, this is so stupid, I will never need this in real life, let me tell you that you are wrong! So we worked out the math and started to cut and drill and we changed our minds about how we wanted to build the rafters from mitered triangles screwed to the frame to notched rafters sitting on the frame edge. And we got ourselves so turned around upside down and backwards that we decided to stop and have some chocolate chip cookies.
The cookies made everything better. We decided to go back to our original rafter plan of making triangles that attach to the coop frame. Much easier than figuring out how to make notches. By this time though we had worn ourselves out so we called it quits for the day on coop building. Our building progress today was conceptual rather than actual but we have to have the concept down before we can make it reality. Now we know what we need to do and how to do it so next chance we get should go more smoothly.
That’s the idea anyway.
Something bookish. I am very much looking forward to Richard Mabey’s new book The Cabaret of Plants becoming available in the U.S. The Guardian had an essay by Mabey recently in which he talks about plants and the environment and much of what he talks about is in his book. Things like how beans use echolocation to find their poles and mimosa shrubs have a greater memory-span than bees. I am all agog. I must know more! Please book, hurry up and get published!
Just a quick note about how indoor biking is going: great!
Achievement unlocked! I did a metric century on Zwift yesterday (100km/ 62.2 miles). For that I get a special jersey my avatar can wear to let everyone know about it. It was actually harder to do on my trainer than on the road. When I am riding outdoors I get to coast on the downhills and get to rest at traffic signals. On the trainer I am pedaling all the time, no stopping. I did stop halfway for about two minutes to run to the kitchen and get a couple energy bites. But golly, did I work! And sweat! Even with a fan blowing right in my face the entire ride I went through both my water bottles, something I only have ever done on the hottest days of summer. But it was good and it was fun and I got lots of kudos from other people riding at the time. The next big goal is an imperial century (100 miles/ 161km). I wonder if I can do it by New Year’s?
Filed under: biking
Tagged: In which I learn that geometry and algebra are both handy real life skills to have
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
Tagged: Tour de France
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
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!
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
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
It is season transition time! That means some days are like summer and some are like fall. The leaves on maples are beginning to change color already. The Canadian geese are flocking around the lakes for food and rest on their way south. The bees are very busy. The monarchs float through the garden. The crickets chirp almost 24-hours a day. The cicadas buzz in the heat of a warm afternoon. Days are noticeably shorter. Nights are cooler and mornings are on the verge of crisp. Some of the pumpkins in the garden are hinting at orange. On my bike rides I see masses of goldenrod with their feathery flowers turning yellow and bluestem grass flowering and starting to turn pink/red. The squirrels are frantically collecting their winter stores and digging holes everywhere to hide it in. And my allergies are raging beyond what my medication can control but I refuse to lock myself in the house and as a consequence have a near-constant sore throat, dry, itchy eyes, and swollen sinuses so I feel as though I am coming down with a cold even though I am not. But in a little over a month there will be a killing frost and it will be the end of the growing season and I will be both relieved and sad.
We have a sunflower in the garden that is 10 feet/3 m tall. The flower on top is ridiculously small given the plant’s height. It must have put all its energy into getting tall and not saved enough to make a big flower. We have a few shorter sunflowers in the garden and we are attempting again this year to save them from the squirrels so we can eat the seeds ourselves. One has a bag over the flowerhead already as the seeds grow and dry. We did this last year and it worked until we left it too long and an enterprising squirrel broke the flower stalk and ripped the bag apart and had itself a tasty meal. Not gonna let that happen this year!
The amaranth is going great. I had thought it would only get about 5 feet / 1.5 m tall
but some of them are about 7 feet/ 2 m tall. They are very beautiful plants. I looked up when and how to harvest the seeds and it should be pretty easy. Famous last words! But I also discovered the plant has a golden yellow variety too. So Bookman and I are thinking we will plant both read and yellow next year. The seeds are tiny and you can use them like flax seed or cook them like quinoa. Apparently they make a delicious breakfast porridge. The whole enterprise being an experiment this year, I am not certain how much seed we will get from our patch. Next year I will know to leave more room between each plant. Also, the young greens are reportedly very tasty and rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C. According to one website I found, if you prune down the main stem for greens early in the season it will promote a somewhat shorter but much bushier plant that will produce more flowers. The greens are used like one would use Swiss chard. I also learned that amaranth is a nitrogen hog so next year, since the plants get so tall, I am going to try growing pole beans with them and see how that goes.
Brussels beginning to sprout
The summer has been cooler than usual this year which is fine by me, but it does present a problem for plants that need heat to ripen the fruit like tomatoes. We have loads of green tomatoes in the garden and so far have had only three cherry tomatoes get ripe enough to pick. The coming week is forecast to be downright hot, summer’s last hurrah. So my fingers are crossed that the heat is enough to get the tomatoes on their way to ripening. If not, I suppose Bookman will have to make some green tomato salsa or discover the pleasures of fried green tomatoes.
I picked the last of the yellow wax beans, a second effort from the plants that are now officially done. I also picked a couple of small yellow beets. When I say small, I mean small, they are about the size of a gobstopper, but I am happy about it nonetheless because they are the first beets I have ever pulled from the garden. Every gardener has the vegetable that she just can’t grow and it is always one that is so easy, according to everyone else, but for some reason it is not easy for her. Beets are my Achilles heel. Every year I plant them and they sprout and get a few inches tall but never really leafy and never any beetroots. That I have pulled two beets big enough to actually eat is a cause for celebration and makes me inordinately happy. Perhaps my beet luck is about to change!
We had a bald eagle visit the neighborhood yesterday. It is not uncommon to see them near
the lakes but they generally don’t fly around the neighborhood. It circled around low a few times, watching something, no doubt, though I don’t know what. All the crows in the vicinity were in an uproar and goodness can they make a loud racket! After circling around four or five times it gave up and left, much to the relief of the crows who quieted as soon as the eagle departed. Unfortunately I was too busy watching it to even think about trying to get a photo. Such a beautiful bird too!
Thursday the fence people came our and set the posts for out fence. Yay! This week they will come out and install the chainlink. Yay! Bookman and I are still working out all the materials we need for the chicken coop. It is taking longer than I thought but we are getting there!
My long ride yesterday was lovely. It was cool enough that I had to start the ride with arm warmers. I took them off about halfway through and was still a bit cool but it was also really humid and I was borderline warm with them on. So I figured better a little chilly than hot. It was foggy in a few places though not so foggy that it affected visibility. A very nice ride.
My friend who rides with me Saturday mornings for part of the way had a wasp fly into one of the vents of his helmet and sting his head! I’ve eaten my share of gnats, been smacked by bugs and other unknowns, have even been pooped on by a low flying crow, but I’ve never had anything fly into my helmet let alone sting me while riding. Luckily he isn’t allergic to wasps and while it hurt he was able to keep going and still enjoy the ride. Next weekend he is getting married so I will be on my own for the whole ride. The weekend after that is the Jesse James fun ride Bookman and I are signed up for. One of the perks is a chair massage at the end of the ride. I am not sure which I am looking forward to more, the ride itself or the massage at the end of it!
Filed under: biking
Minnesota midget cantaloupe
It’s been a hot and humid week and because of it I haven’t spent much time out in the garden. The garden, however, is at the point where it needs no help from me other than to keep it watered and weeded. The watering happened but the weeding did not because it was just too uncomfortable to be outdoors for any length of time.
The good news is, the heat has finally brought our cantaloupe to ripeness. We have two chilling in the fridge and two more almost ripe still on the vine. And all those green tomatoes? Still green but finally starting to blush. Well, not blush exactly since they are cherokee purple, but you know what I mean.
Are you wondering about the crabapple jelly? Turns out it takes a bit of time to cut up crabapples and boil them and then let the juice drain through cheesecloth. And you don’t end up getting all that much juice, at least not from the amount of apples we had. So we have about a pint of juice in a jar in the refrigerator. Tomorrow we will get it out and boil it up, add sugar and spice and hope for the best.
Also tomorrow we will be attempting sweet zucchini relish. Just like cucumber pickle relish only with zucchini instead. I will report back next week on our success or failure.
It is also apple picking time! And all I can say is, thank goodness for this long Labor
Our single ear of popcorn dry and ready to pop
Day holiday weekend! Because tomorrow we will also be picking apples from our green apple tree. We’ll fire up the crockpot and start making apple butter and applesauce. Which reminds me, I still have a container of gooseberries in my freezer. I have to cook those up into jam sometime. But since they are frozen, they can wait a bit until after the rush of everything else.
Of the two sunflowers we had bags over, one was raided by squirrels and lost. The other, I rescued just in time! I cut the head off and it is now in the house drying upside down in a paper bag. The flower on the ten-foot tall sunflower has actually gotten pretty large. We cannot reach it without a ladder. Bookman thinks it is safe, I know otherwise. It is not ready to cut down, the seeds are still not all developed, so who gets it first, us or the squirrels remains to be seen.
Meanwhile in the chicken garden…
Our chain link fence was installed during the week. It looks really nice. In the spring I’ll be moving some shrubs we got this spring out to the part of the fence that runs along the alley. The idea is to form a screening hedge. The shrubs that will go there are elderberry, serviceberry, and flowering quince. I also have a prairie rosebush to plant along the fence that goes from the alley into our yard. And, Bookman and I loved the black raspberries from our small garden patch so much that I am planning on planting more of them along the fence because I am greedy that way.
Lovely new fence
As you can see from the photo we have covered over the sand with wood chips. This keeps weeds from growing and the wood will also decompose, albeit slowly, to improve the soil so we will actually be able to grow things in it. After all the leaves fall from the trees in a month I am also half inclined to ask my neighbor, who bags up his leaves for the city to take away, if I can have some of them to spread out on top of the wood chips. Leaves decompose faster than wood chips and between the two I might actually end up with a thin layer of loam over the sand by next May. I want so badly to plant a cheery tree there in may, but I might have to wait another year so it is possible the area will be a “field” or amaranth, popcorn, pole beans and pumpkins which in itself will be fun.
Today Bookman and I took our list of chicken coop supplies to the home improvement store to investigate what standard lumber sizes are available so we can figure out how much we need of everything. We also looked at insulation, hardware cloth, and windows. We are very happy with what we learned. We will get the final figures together tomorrow. We have decided we will have the lumber delivered instead of renting a truck because it makes Bookman happy to have other people do the loading and loading instead of us. So either tomorrow or sometime during the week, we will go back with out final list and place our order.
Up until today it has all been so abstract and I have been doubting whether or not we could actually build our own coop. But after our expedition I feel much more confident. Our coop plans turn out to work very nicely with standard sized lumber and we won’t have much cutting down to odd sizes to do. Yay us!
Bookman wants to do a time lapse video but I don’t want to have to figure out the filming and editing for such an undertaking so there will be a combination of video and photos, or possibly just photos. We’ll see how it goes once we get started.
What a ride I had yesterday! There was rain, sun, wind, heat, and humidity. I ate quite a few gnats too. The cicadas and crickets were incredibly loud. Some spots of the trail were covered in goose poo. Sometimes the geese were still there and I rode by warily hoping none of them would decide to attack. Since they aren’t nesting it was unlikely, but you just never know with geese.
Because it was raining for about the first two hours of my ride, there was hardly anyone else out. Since it was warm it was quite pleasant and having the trail mostly to myself was marvelous. How marvelous? At one point there was a large deer standing right next to the trail. She looked up as I approached, I slowed down and moved to the other side of the trail, looked at her and told her it was okay, I’m just passing by and she didn’t have to interrupt her breakfast. She tensed up and was thinking about bounding away but decided I wasn’t a threat and stood there watching me as I pedaled carefully by not three-feet (1 m) away from her. She was so beautiful.
Later in the day what I thought was a big twig with leaves on it at the side of the trail turned out to be a snapping turtle on its way across to the lake. It was almost the size of a dinner plate. It paid no attention to me, just went about its business of slowly crossing the trail.
The squirrels are out in force right now, fattening up and collecting stores for winter. They are thick on the trails and thank goodness I managed to not run any of them over. A few of them nearly got up close and personal with my bike tire, but I am glad we missed each other. I’d feel just terrible if I ran one over.
I did however, get beaned by a huge dragonfly. I saw it hovering over the trail ahead of me but it zigged when it should have zagged, bounced off the the inside of my right arm, smacked into my chest, bounced against my left arm, ricocheted off my chest again before finding an exit under my right arm. Since there was no bug spatter on my arms or jersey I’m assuming it escaped shaken up but uninjured.
So much excitement!
This coming Saturday the 12th is the Jesse James Days fun ride. Bookman and I are riding together and it should be, well, fun! The weather is forecast to be sunny with a high of 69F/20C, with the day starting off cooler than that of course. Perfect! The course reportedly goes over some beautiful rural roads. I’ll try to remember to snap some photos. And maybe we will get lucky and be around for one of the re-enactments of the failed 1876 bank robbery that led to the ultimate downfall of Jesse James and his gang!
Filed under: biking
It is officially harvest and putting by season in the garden. I have so many dried beans to shell and still more to pick, I’ll be busy at it for some time. Have I ever mentioned how much I love beans? Definitely the fresh ones, but the dry ones to keep and cook in stews or burritos or other yummy dishes? You plant them the end of May and then except for the occasional water and weed, you pretty much forget about them and let them do their thing. I tuck them into places all over the garden, between bigger plants, in front of shrubs, in nooks and crannies. For dry beans you let them dry right on the plant. You know when to pick them off when the pods are brown and crispy. And beans are so beautiful too. I’ll have photos next week when I have enough shelled to make a decent picture.
Picked more cantaloupe melons from the garden this week. There is one small one left on
the vine with a bit more growing and ripening to do. I used to think a sweet melon from the market was good, but oh, just like vine ripened tomatoes, there is nothing like a melon picked fresh from the vine, chilled and eaten the same day. So incredibly sweet.
Speaking of vine ripened tomatoes, one of them actually got ripe! There are a number of others that are just beginning to color up. I also picked a couple of cherry tomatoes too. I think next year I just need to start the tomato seeds a couple weeks earlier, instead of mid-March, more like around Valentine’s Day. Now watch, next year I will end up with enormous plants by the time it is safe to put them out at the end of May and I will be complaining that I started them too early!
Still picking zucchini and lemon squash. Those will keep going until frost, sometime around early October. The pumpkins are going crazy and turning orange. There are a bunch of them this year and I can hardly wait until they are ready to pick just after frost (frost makes them sweeter). The Brussels sprouts are getting bigger and will hopefully be ready to start picking in a week or two. I didn’t realize the plants got so big and kind of crammed them too close together so instead of all six plants doing really well, there are two doing great, one doing okay, and the rest aren’t sure what they are doing (kind of like me sometimes!).
We started picking apples and last week Bookman made three pints of apple butter. Today he is making apple sauce. Last week he also made sweet zucchini relish. It came out so good! Tastes better than cucumber relish if you ask me, but then I am biased since it came from my garden! We have three pints and will probably make a few more. There was also success with the crabapple jelly! First time we have ever made it. Two cups of juice nets less than a pint of jelly, but hey, any little bit. The recipes call for one cup of sugar to every cup of apple juice so that’s what we did but the result is much sweeter than we’d like so next year Bookman will be cutting back on the sugar, maybe try one cup of sugar for two cups of juice. I don’t mind my jelly a bit tart, I’d rather that than too sweet.
We didn’t manage to get the final materials list together for the chicken coop last week, but we are close. The plan is to have it done today or tomorrow and then Bookman will go and order the lumber one morning during the week and have it delivered as soon as they can fit us into the schedule. That will hopefully be in time for next weekend so we can get started building it!
The road ahead
Yesterday was the Jesse James fun ride. Bookman and I planned on the 60 mile/100 km route. The day was forecast to be sunny and mild. We drove 45 minutes south with the bikes on back of the car. When we first moved to Minneapolis 20 years ago, we could drive 15 minutes and be outside the city and surrounded by farm fields. In a testament to urban sprawl, it now takes half an hour.
The morning was quite chilly and both Bookman and I were wishing we had brought light
Bookman rising (click to enlarge)
jackets instead of just wearing long sleeves. We worry so much about Bookman and heat with his MS and didn’t even think about the cold which, at a certain point, acts almost as detrimentally as the heat for Bookman. Only difference is he recovers quicker from cold than heat. We began the ride around 7:30 and quickly found ourselves out amidst rolling hills and fields of corn and soybeans. The sun took a while to break through some low clouds to warm us up, and in the process kept Bookman too cold for too long. He was really struggling for awhile. It didn’t help that we missed the sign pointing to a turn in the route and we, and a good many other people, went the wrong way for about three miles that included a long hill. The riders in front of us figured out we missed a turn and let us know. We stopped to look at the very poor map the ride folks had given us and a kind police officer who had been sent out to find all the riders who had missed the turn came up and helped us out. At least the way back to the route was mostly downhill!
Back on track, we wound our way through beautiful country. A tractor parade drove by on their way to the Jesse James Days festival. The tractors were decorated with little flags and the farmers were all smiling and waving as we passed.
Fields of soybeans
Our first rest stop was at the 22 mile/35 km mark. Bookman took a long rest and asked if we could take the 45 mile/72 km route instead. He’d gotten some energy back after being so cold at the start, but not enough to feel confident we’d make the longer route. He also wasn’t quite prepared for all the rolling hills (and there were a lot!). I was having a blast on the hills, a bit of a surprise really since the hills on my training ride are not my favorite thing but a necessary evil. But the work paid off apparently and there were only two hills that turned out to be real work.
Can I brag a second though? Even the hard hills I did really well on and passed people. The people I pass on hills though aren’t the really fit riders out with their really fit bike club pals, but the cyclists who are non-club sorts and tend to be larger men (as in very tall with big frames) or general recreational riding sorts and people who haven’t figured out how to pace themselves on hills. Still, it was great fun to pass people on hills especially when they were halfway up already when I hit the bottom and I pass before they reach the top. Bookman and hills do not get along at all. He did great though and made it up every single one without having to walk up. I’d wait for him at the top and cheer him on.
There were a couple of big downhills that were great fun. Country roads with hardly any
Barn and farm fields
traffic and no stop lights or stop signs at the bottom of the hill meant I go fast and not worry about having to stop. Whee! Is that ever fun! Maybe because I’ve been riding all summer and feel balanced and confident on Astrid and maybe because I am just fearless enough that I don’t worry about crashing while zooming downhill, and maybe because I really like going fast, I’d hunker down over my handlebars to try and get more speed for as long as I could. Bookman found himself a bit unsure and, while he appreciated the opportunity to rest, he didn’t quite get the thrilling whee! that I did.
While it didn’t turn out to be the great success and long ride we had planned on, it was still overall a very nice day. I loved riding out in the country, seeing all the farms and fields, smelling the skunks and the cows, waving at horses and goats watching me ride by, listening to the birds, crickets and cicadas.
I will definitely be going on the ride again next year. Not sure about Bookman, he’s rethinking the whole long distance cycling thing a bit.
Filed under: biking
Tagged: Jesse James Days
The week was warm and we had a couple evenings and one day of rain. A lot of rain. The warm and the rain are rather unusual for this time of year, especially night time thunder storms. The month is trending much warmer than normal and the weather people are saying we might be looking at a top ten warmest on record. I am pretty happy and so is the garden but my allergies are not pleased. September is one of those love-hate months. I love that the weather has been mild because gardening and biking. I hate that it has been mild because I suffer. As long as I am busy and absorbed in a task I manage ok, but sit down to rest and I fell like I’ve been through the wringer.
Needless to say I did not spend much time working in the garden this week. And when I was out in it, I was simply passing through and maybe picking a tomato or checking on the progress of the pumpkins. Grasshoppers are everywhere and I don’t even want to think about what they are chewing on. Bees of so many varieties are on the hyssop, the zinnias, the asters, and goldenrod. The monarchs are everywhere too and one even flew into my head as I was watching bees yesterday. Was it drunk on nectar? Hungry and disoriented? Whatever the case, those butterflies pack a wallop! Not that they hurt, only that they make a bigger thud when they run into you than you would expect.
We got all the beans I picked last weekend shelled. There are still more to pick in the garden. The coco noir black beans are not very prolific so I think I will not grow them again. If we do another black bean, it will be a different variety. The Jacob’s cattle beans (great in stew or soup) is pretty prolific and I wish I had planted more. This year I just planted what remained in the seed packet from the year before. I think in spring I will be ordering these again, or maybe saving a large portion of what we got this year to plant next year.
What I am really pleased with are the cow peas, also known as black-eyed peas. This
variety is called “lady pea” and is about the size of a lentil. The plants are really prolific and are still blooming and producing more pods. We’ll be harvesting these until frost. I definitely will be planting more of these next year.
Bookman was cooking up apples into sauce the other day and had put the cores in a bucket and set them out on the deck until he had a chance to take them to the compost bin. The squirrels are busy and extra bold right now and before the bucket made it to the bin, a squirrel made it to the bucket. Dickens was looking out the screen door at the time and as the squirrel helped itself to the apple cores, Dickens turned to stone inside, watching. The squirrel didn’t care at all that there was a cat less than a foot away watching him through the screen window.
I’ve been talking about it all summer and finally, finally, we have begun work on the chicken coop! Today we began with the “foundation” and digging critter barrier. Our options were to build the coop on brick pavers or to bury hardware cloth a couple inches down and several inches out from the edge of the coop to keep digging critters out. We went for the pavers. It is a more expensive option but we thought less work in the long run and we felt better about having the coop sit on something solid instead of bare ground.
Laying the foundation
Today we started laying down the pavers. Of course we can’t just lay them out and start building. They all have to be squared and level so our coop doesn’t lean and all that. Luckily we have plenty of sand to lay the foundation on! We managed to put down half of the foundation today. A good start I think. Once all the pavers are down we’ll start building the coop and run frame. Hopefully we will have time to work on the foundation a bit this week, if not, next weekend will see us finishing it up.
Bookman, who was initially reluctant on the chicken idea back in January when I suggested it, is now gung-ho and as excited as I am. We are both really glad to at last start work on the coop!
Well, bad news. The Gran Fondo race I signed up for at the end of the month has been canceled due to road construction. Apparently there is too much road work being done in the area where the race is to be held that they can’t put together a route that avoids it. I was so disappointed. I’ve been working so hard all summer to train for it and now I won’t have a chance to find out if my hard work paid off. Plus, since we didn’t do the 60 mile/100 km route at Jesse James Days, the Gran Fondo was going to be my “century” ride this year. Disappointed as I am, I will still do a 100 km ride even if I am on my own. I was going to do that yesterday but it didn’t quite work out.
Not having to train for a race anymore, I decided I was now free to do some exploring for different routes and just ride for the fun of it. Not that my training rides aren’t fun, I do love them, but I don’t have to worry about time or getting in so many hills or practicing sprinting or anything like that.
Saturday morning began chilly and I had a really hard time warming up. I felt like I was pedaling through sand for the first hour and half. My allergies were also bothering me and I was fighting off a headache. I road a little less than half my usual ride and took a turn off where I see some other cyclists turn now and then. It turned out to be quiet suburban streets that felt suddenly almost rural. I was hoping for some good hills to try but there was only one, a long gradual grade that didn’t make me work too hard until I got close to the top. The route spit me out close to the end of a nice hilly section I usually ride on. I doubt I will take that alternate route again.
I then decided I was going to take on Purgatory Park, a trail Bookman and I had tried in early spring that had a couple really short but steep hills. I headed down the road and turned off into the park, finally starting to feel energetic and looking forward to the challenge of those little hills. I came down a hill and around a bend to cross a foot bridge over the creek. I was on a packed gravel path and it had washed away a bit from the edge of the bridge, leaving a concrete lip sticking up of about 3-4 inches / 7.5-10 cm. I hit it rather hard, got a bit of jolt, continued across the little bridge and back onto gravel. And then I noticed Astrid did not feel quite right. I stopped to check things out and surprise! Two flat tires.
I knew at some point I would get a flat. I even took a class early in the spring to learn how to fix one. Now confronted with not one but two flat tires I was somewhat at a loss for what to do. For some reason I thought if I just pumped air into them they would miraculously repair themselves. So I took my little pump off my bike and realized I had never used it before and had no idea how to use it now. Fifteen minutes later when I figured out how to get the pump locked onto the valve stem I started pumping, listening for air to leak out to confirm the tube was punctured because for some reason I thought maybe I could have two flats but no punctures. I could not hear any air leaking but the tire was not inflating. Instead of blaming a puncture I blamed the pump. Why not? I called Bookman who was at work. I was not far from the park entrance which is on a major road and not far from where Bookman works. He happened to have the bike carrier in the car still. He decided he would take his lunch break and come get me.
I walked poor Astrid out of the park and we waited for Bookman’s arrival. I felt really dumb not being able to figure out how to use the pump and fix my tires. I had a spare tube and a patch kit so I technically could have gotten myself mobile again so I could ride home but my hands and my brain just couldn’t manage it. After Bookman got lost a few times he pulled up, put Astrid on the back of the car and delivered us home. My Hero!
I showered, had lunch, and in a better frame of mind and comfortable surroundings decided to tackle fixing the tires, or at least one of them since I only had one spare tube. And it is just as well Bookman rescued us because I had to come in the house and quick watch a YouTube video to figure out how to get the tire off the bike. I have a quick release lever but I also have to unlock the break lever too. Oh yeah! That fix a flat class was a long time ago! Once I got the wheel off the bike I was fine with the rest, though getting the tire back in the rim almost had me in tears. I do not have strong hands and I could not get the last little bit to go in. I was just about to give up, when as a last ditch effort I used my feet to hold the tire and act as a counterweight while I pushed with my thumbs on the tire and in it popped! Then I started pumping. I used the little pump I carry on my bike to make sure I would know how to do it next time. Then I got the wheel back on and checked to see how long it took me: 45 minutes. And that was one wheel!
I didn’t have another tube to do the back tire but I took it off and got the tube out anyway. Then I decided now would be a good time to do some cleaning. So I scrubbed the cassette and the derailleur and cleaned them of road gunk and felt pretty good about that. The bike shop was closed by the time Bookman got home from work last night so we went today and I got three tubes. One for the tire now and two spares. I also talked to one of the bike mechanics and she said from the punctures I described it sounds like my tires were underinflated. So she talked to me about inflation and I had brought one of my wheels with me and she inflated it to the proper psi and it was hard as a rock. Turns out we had not been reading the pressure gauge correctly on the pump. That means both my flats could have been avoided. Live and learn, right?
So now having crashed twice this summer and getting two flats at once I have learned many lessons. I am stronger than I suspected. And I also now really know how to fix a flat. Next weekend Purgatory is not going to beat me!
Bookman likes me to text him from time to time while I am out so he knows I’m still alive. My eyes have reached the point where the text on my phone is almost too small for me to see clearly. I also wear polarized sunglasses which prevents me from seeing the screen on my phone with any kind of clarity, and yesterday my eyes were burning and itching from my allergies. All that to say with autocorrect, Bookman got some interesting text messages.
About an hour into my ride I was stopped at a traffic light and still pretty cold. I texted Bookman “Brrr” Except with autocorrect and my inability to see the screen the text Bookman actually got was “Beer.”
An hour later I stopped for a brief snack. I texted, “snack break finally not so cold.” The text Bookman received: “smack break finally not so old.”
The next time Bookman heard from me was a phone call to tell him I had two flat tires. That wasn’t fun but the text messages kept us laughing all day.
Filed under: biking
Tagged: flat tire
, Gran Fondo
, Purgatory Park
Autumn joy sedum
September has turned so warm that the trees have been changing color very slowly. We are at least two weeks, probably three, away from peak color in my area. Usually by now the trees are starting too look pretty spectacular but the summer just does not want to let go.
That is okay in some respects. It means we are still picking zucchini and our tomatoes have had time to get big and ripe. The amaranth has grown to monstrous size and the blossoms are so huge the poor things have become top heavy and all but a few sturdy ones are leaning over. The basil is still going strong too which means more pesto is in the offing. Some of the pumpkins are fully orange, others are halfway there.
Rumor has it there is the chance for frost next week. It is a long time out to forecast anything however, so I won’t hold my breath but I will certainly hope. A frost, especially if it ends up being a hard frost (below freezing instead of close to) will mean I can harvest the amaranth. It will make the pumpkins sweeter too. I am also anticipating being able to harvest some sunchokes for the first time. The patch has gotten quite large and needs thinning, what better way than to dig up some of the roots and eat them! Oh, and I keep forgetting there are some turnips out in the garden too. A frost will make those sweet as well. Frost will also go a long way towards helping my allergies. Once all the ragweed is dead I will be able to breath easy once again.
The porcelain garlic I ordered over the summer arrived in the mail last week. It is too warm yet to plant, I don’t want the cloves to start sprouting. But if the week turns out to be cool and the chance of frost looks more certain for next week, I’ll be planting the garlic on the weekend.
It’s also time to start seed saving. I’ve got calendula, marigolds and zinnias in the garden I want to save for next year. Also dill and coriander.
All of the coneflowers have gone to seed now and the goldfinches are thick among them. I
love coneflowers of all kinds and when I began planting them I had no idea the goldfinches loved them so much too. I love their little chirruping! And what a delight to walk up to my front porch after a day at work and have yellow burst out of the flower beds at my approach. They are so wonderfully beautiful that my breath catches in my throat at the sight of them.
Board painting station
The bees are frantically busy on the asters and the sedums and still crowding on the anise hyssop. Most of the monarch butterflies have left but one floats through the garden now and then. I also saw a hummingbird flitting about too. You know, I’ve lived in Minnesota for twenty years now and had never seen any hummingbirds about until two years ago. They aren’t frequent visitors to the garden these days but they are visitors which is a huge step up!
Today Bookman and I finished laying down the foundation for the chicken coop. The week was wet so we did not have a chance to prime and paint any of the boards to build with. We got started on that today too but unfortunately the primer didn’t dry fast enough for us to be able to start building. Next weekend the saw and the drill get to do some work!
The best kind of biker bar
This was the weekend that was supposed to belong to my Gran Fondo race. Since it got cancelled because of so much road construction I had to take matters into my own hands. No race, but by golly, I was determined to ride 100 km /60 miles on Saturday. I did and then some! I ventured out to find a new trail, Minnetonka Regional Trail. It is 15 miles /24 km of aggregate trail that starts near my favorite “biker bar”, Hopkins Depot, a cafe that sits at the confluence of several different bike trails. To get to the trail head I had to ride through a couple blocks of “downtown” Hopkins, a suburb with one of those quaint small town-like shopping districts. The trail was well marked and good thing or I would have missed it as it was crammed in between the driveway to a business parking lot and someone’s backyard.
The trail was marvelous. It took me right out to Lake Minnetonka and along the shore with
Through the meadow
views of the lake and a number of boat marinas. Lots of people were out boating on such a gorgeous day too. Near the very end of the trail is a turn off to Carver Park Reserve, with 9 miles/ 14.5 km of paved bike trail. The Reserve also offers camping, boating, hiking, a nature education center, and hosts rolling wooded terrain, meadows, lakes and marshes. It is also a waterbird sanctuary. Supposedly you can see trumpeter swans there.
I road into the park around 9:30 in the morning and was one of very few people there. I suddenly felt like I was a long way from anywhere and it felt so good. I didn’t see any swans but saw lots of goldfinches, a flock of grackles, geese and ducks, and a whole bunch of northern flickers. There was also lots of little piles of poo on the trail and at first I was disgusted that people weren’t picking up after their dogs when it dawned on me that it was deer, not dogs.
There are lots of turnouts throughout the park with lookouts and benches. If the weather is nice next weekend I plan on going back and taking a lunch with me to enjoy. And hopefully the trees will have begun changing color by then too.
One of many lakes in the reserve
It was a great ride even with the wind picking up and my last 10 miles/ 16 km riding directly into it. When I got home tired and sweaty I checked to see how far I had ridden and was surprised: a little over 69 miles/ 111 km! I gave Astrid a happy pat on the saddle for a ride well done.
Something that made me laugh. At the beginning of my ride the sun was just up and my shadow was to my right and just behind me enough that it kept making me think someone was riding on my tail. I’d catch sight of the shadow and expect someone to pass me but the person would keep riding on my ass so I would pedal faster and they kept following me! For the first 45 minutes of my ride I kept thinking my shadow was another person even after I realized it was my shadow. As I approached the trail turn off for the Hopkins Depot, there my shadow was again! And I laughed at myself for being startled and thinking someone was riding on my tail, but I raced my shadow anyway because I was happy and feeling good. It turned out that time there was someone riding on my tail and when I turned off the trail and my “shadow” kept going it scared the bejeezus out of me! Those shadows sure can be tricksy!
Filed under: biking
Tagged: Carver Park Reserve
, Minnetonka Regional Trail
Autumn has finally truly arrived. High temperatures during the week hovered around 60F/15C. Nights got chilly and I had to wear a sweater or light jacket to catch the bus in the early mornings. Waldo and Dickens are both behaving as though it is freezing already and stubbornly curl up against me at night and refuse to budge even when I roll over or begin to flail around because I am too warm with them laying on me.
Some of the flax is still blooming but I wanted to plant garlic in that spot so I clipped off all the seed heads from the spent flax and pulled the plants out for the compost bin. In went garlic cloves. I bought a pound of porcelain garlic, a hardnecked variety that will produce delicious scapes. Last year I think I planted Spanish red and most of it got heaved up with all the freezing and thawing from a winter that was warmer than normal. With a super el niño in the Pacific this year, winter is expected to be mild and possibly snowier. When planting the garlic I kept telling Bookman, make sure the cloves are 2-3 inches deep! I said it so many times he got a little annoyed with me, but I don’t want another garlic disappointment next spring. The patch where the flax was didn’t turn out to be big enough so we also planted garlic in part of the strawberry bed and with the Egyptian walking onion we planted this spring. A pound of porcelain garlic was six heads with 4-6 cloves in each. If it all sprouts and bulbs up, garlic paradise next summer!
Currently the garden is a pumpkin paradise. We picked the first one today. Pumpkins have to cure for about a week before they get cut up and cooked but that doesn’t stop me from imagining all the pumpkin-y goodness that will be in store!
Some of the amaranth was obviously ready for harvesting too. I cut off two big flower heads and put them in a plastic bag to dry. Normally something like that would go into a paper bag, but amaranth seeds are so tiny that any seeds that drop out while the flower is drying would be lost in the crevices of a paper sack. The biggest flower is still going strong though and is it ever gorgeous. Bookman has decided he likes amaranth flowers to much that even if the grain harvest turns out to be negligible, he wants to keep planting them every year just because they are cool looking. And I must agree, they are pretty cool looking. At the moment some of the flowers are developing longer strands in the middle that stand up above the rest of the flower so it appears they are giving us the finger. Maybe they are.
We have a squirrel Bookman has named “Jimbo” who has decided it thinks screens are really awesome things to climb. Jimbo keeps climbing the big screen on the sliding glass door to the deck. This freaks out the cats who have thus far not tried to climb up the screen from inside the house in order to have it out with Jimbo. I don’t think they realize they could do this and I hope they remain ignorant for my sake and for the screen door’s. But it isn’t just the screen door that Jimbo likes. The other day I hear a big thunk! at the kitchen window and move the curtain aside to look out only to see a big fat squirrel belly! I pounded on the window and Jimbo didn’t seem to care. So I pounded and yelled and he reluctantly jumped off. It would be funny if it weren’t so annoying and if we weren’t convinced that Jimbo was trying to find a way to get into the house for a cozy winter hangout.
We didn’t make any actual building progress on the chicken coop this week. Time was spent priming/painting boards while the weather was dry and not too cold. Next weekend we will be able to start building the frame. In anticipation, today we got a square at the hardware store to make sure our corners are aligned so the coop doesn’t end up crooked. To test it out we put together the base frame of the coop which amounts two 4×10 foot boards and 2 4×5 foot boards screwed together in a rectangle. The corners are square but one of the boards is sightly warped so the edges aren’t coming together perfectly flush like they need too. Since this rectangle base is what the upright support boards get screwed into, I am not sure how critical perfectly joined boards are. No doubt it is one of those matters where we will find out just how important it is when we start framing the roof and everything begins to come out crooked or something. Before we begin building up next week we will make a valiant attempt to get these bottom boards as perfect as possible.
Sailboats on Lake Minnetonka
I still felt under the weather due to my reaction to the flu shot earlier in the week but my outdoor cycling days are numbered and I wasn’t going to let it keep me from what could be my last really long ride of the year. Hoping the cool weather had brought more color to the trees, I rode out to Carver Park Reserve, the same place I went to last week. The morning was cold so I wore a long sleeve bike jersey underneath a windbreaker jacket. Should I manage to get hot, both the sleeves of the jacket and my jersey are removable but I never did get hot mostly because the wind picked up and I rode directly into it nearly all the way home. At least when I am riding up a hill I might not like it but I can see the top and know there will be an end to it. When riding into the wind it feels like riding up a hill that goes on forever, I never get to reach the top and I certainly don’t get the pleasure of zooming down the other side of it after all that hard work. I did stop at Lake Minnetonka and watch the sailboats that were out taking advantage of the wind. They were really flying across the water too!
Hardly anyone was around at the reserve, at least not when I first arrived. As I pedaled along I saw something out of the corner of my eye come swooping down out of the woods. When its swoop took it right across the path in front of me I saw it was a hawk and it had just caught something. As it flew up into a nearby tree I was so busy watching it and trying to see what it had caught I almost rode off the path into some bushes!
A little while later while coming around a curve in the path, I saw what I first thought was a big orange tabby cat heading into the undergrowth. Then I saw the white tip of its tail and realized it was a fox! I have never seen a fox before and thought they were bigger than that. It moved pretty fast so I didn’t get a very good look at it but I was thrilled nonetheless.
I stopped at a different lookout than last time I was in the park. It was in bright
Me at the park lookout
sunshine and Strava said I had ridden 33 miles/53 kms so I thought it was a good time to stop for a bite to eat. I had gotten really hungry while out riding the week before in spite of my date bar snacks so I had Bookman make me a banana-rito (peanut butter on a whole wheat tortilla wrapped around a banana). I sat in the sun eating my banana-rito, listening to birds sing and watching the breeze move across a lake and through the reeds and grasses. It was absolutely marvelous and I could have sat there all day.
Sumac just past peak color
Back on Astrid we continued our tour through the park. The trees were stubbornly not changing color. The sumac did, which was nice, and was just past its prime but still beautiful. A good many trees had dropped their leaves but the leaves were brown so I don’t know what that was about. It was still beautiful. I got through most of the park without seeing another person, but as I got closer to the park entrance more and more people were coming in on bikes and skates and I was glad I was leaving, having had the chance to enjoy the peace and quiet.
When I got to my street I checked my mileage and it said 69/111kms. Since this was probably the last really long ride of the year — next weekend is NerdCon and who knows what the weather will be like the following weekend this being Minnesota it might be snowing — I decided I wanted to do 70 miles/112.6 kms. So I took a tour of the neighborhood until my mileage clicked over.
Astrid and I are both quite happy with our adventures this year. Hopefully there will be another short ride or two around the city before the weather gets too cold, but the big outdoor adventuring is done for the year.
Filed under: biking
Tagged: Carver Park Reserve
, Lake Minnetonka
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
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!
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.
Filed under: biking
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
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
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
I 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.
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
Tagged: Dance with Dragons
, Game of Thrones
, George R.R. Martin
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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.
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
Tagged: climate change
, Mcmansion tour
, Nothing like a compliment
, stupid rabbits
, what the heck do you do with winter savory?
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, 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
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?
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?
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
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
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!
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
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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 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
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.
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
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!
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
Tagged: beach volleyball
, Carrot greens are edible too go figure
, 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
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.
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
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
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!
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
Tagged: blakc raspberries
, cover crops
, Elegant stinkhorn
, Jesse James Days
, smooth green snake
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
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?
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
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…
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 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
Tagged: black raspberries
, chicken garden
, Gran Fondo
, malaga radish
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,
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.
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
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!
Filed under: biking
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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
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.
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
Tagged: broad-winged hawk
, Gran Fondo
, Jesse James Days