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Follow the yellow brick road

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

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!

Biking

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!

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!

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