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Magic Beans

Magic Beans

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

Cat TV

Cat TV

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

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 a 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.