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anise hyssop and bergamot bee factory

anise hyssop and bergamot bee factory

Summer is in full swing. Last week was the kind of summer weather you wish hung around all the time with sun and temperatures around 80F/26C during the day and cool, rainy nights. The forecast for the week ahead is for the kind of summer weather I could do without, highs over 90F/32C and tropical humidity making it feel closer to 100F/37C and the air thick and hard to breath. Blech.

In chicken news, Mrs. Dashwood tried to fly the coop! Bookman had the day off from work on Wednesday and so he decided to let the Dashwoods out of the run and into the chicken garden. Now the chicken garden is surrounded by a 4-foot/1.2 m chain link fence on three sides and a 3-foot/1 m retaining wall on the fourth side. As Bookman was closing the gate between the chicken garden and the vegetable garden he heard the flap of wings and turned around to see Mrs. Dashwood perched on top of the chain link fence and considering leaping into the alley! Thankfully Mrs. Dashwood was surprised enough to find herself perched on top of the fence that she did not immediately leap. Bookman quickly went out the gate and into the alley, calmly walked around to where Mrs. Dashwood was and gave her a gentle push back into the chicken garden.

Helen's flower

Helen’s flower

Bookman then decided that he could not leave the chickens out unattended after that, so he rounded them all up and back into the run, much to their collectively unhappiness. So we decided we are going to have to clip some wing feathers. We were planning on doing it today but after a nearly sleepless night thanks to Dickens who thought yowling for attention all night would be an awesome way to get some affection (it wasn’t and we ignored him hoping it would stop but when it did it was only long enough for him to wind up for more), we were both a bit too tired and grumpy and short on patience to make the attempt. The Dashwoods did get to spend some time outside the run while we were also out in the garden. We had rain last night so wet leaves and wood chips to scratch in yielded lots of tasty bug treats.

Marianne still performs her trick of hopping onto my back after I give them greens but we remain unable to get her to do it on camera. Yesterday evening she was on my back and didn’t seem to be planning on leaving any time soon so I started to stand up slowly to encourage her to jump off. But instead of jumping off, she climbed up onto my shoulder! If she is going be a parrot then I might have to go pirate. What a pair we will make sailing the seven seas! Arr maties!

With all the rain and warmth the garden is going crazy and keeping up with the weeding is darn near impossible. All the raspberries are picked now as are the currants and gooseberries. I don’t think I have enough gooseberries for a whole pie but maybe we can make a fruit spread and Bookman can make handpies with it. Will have to see how to cook up the gooseberries and figure it out.

corn field

corn field

I picked a couple volunteer pole beans that came up among the potatoes. The pole and bush beans I deliberately planted are doing well and blooming so I will have to remember to go out and look for beans later in the week in the heat and humidity. Fresh beans will be worth it, right?

The zucchini plants are all blossoming and I noticed there is a tiny zucchini on one of them already. Zucchini watch has begun! But you know, no matter how carefully I watch for them I will miss a few and find them only after they have become huge. But that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it? Plus, zucchini bread, one of those sweet treats I can pretend is good for me because it is made out of a vegetable. It falls into the same category as carrot cake and pumpkin pie.

The bergamot that has been buzzing with bees for a couple weeks has gone just past prime now, but the anise hyssop planted right next to it is beginning to bloom. It’s a bee factory in my garden and I love it! Their buzzing used to make me really nervous but bumblebees are not aggressive and besides, they are so busy with the flowers they pay no attention to me. I can’t say I find their buzzing soothing, but it has reached the point where it doesn’t make me nervously cringe.

Paddleboat on the Mississippi

Paddleboat on the Mississippi

Biking

Yesterday I went on the long ride I had planned out two weeks ago but was then too tired to actually go on. The ride was on the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) to Point Douglas the place where the St Croix and Mississippi Rivers meet. The MRT begins at the headwaters of the Mississippi River and goes all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. It is a popular bike touring trail. I am a ten minute bike ride away from the river and the trail and I have never once bothered to ride on it. I am so glad I finally decided to give it try. I don’t know if it is the case the entire length of the trail, but the portion I rode out and back to Point Douglas allowed me to make a loop so I rode out down one side of the river and back home on the other.

View from the trail

View from the trail

The trail doesn’t always stay right next to the river. A good portion of it took me away from the river and through rolling hills and farmland. It was a glorious day and some of the roads were so out of the way that I was all alone and didn’t see a single car in either direction for a number of miles. Part of the trail — and when I trail know that it consists of a mix of off-road bike trail and on-road bike lanes and sometimes just a wide shoulder or an empty road through cornfields — took me along the waterfront in Hastings, Minnesota. As I approached the Hastings Bridge that took me across the Mississippi River, I began to notice dead bugs everywhere. On the bridge itself the bugs were piled solid and thick. There had been a mayfly hatching recently. The path was carpeted edge to edge with them and my bike wheels made a disturbing crunching sound as I rode over them. I would have stopped to take a photo but I did not want to put my feet down in all the dead bugs! So you will just have to take my word for it.

Sidewalk art in progress

Sidewalk art in progress

To get the bug carpet out your mind, I also saw a flock of sheep at a farm that had a llama caretaker. All the sheep had their heads down and were busy eating and the llama patrolled the perimeter keeping an eye on things. It was a most excellent sight.

At Point Douglas there is park where the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers meet. Both are large rivers and I was expecting roiling waters and something exciting. We had some torrential rain up north in the middle of the week and both rivers were up 3-5 feet/1-1.5 meters so I was expecting something extra spectacular. But it turns out when two big wide rivers meet they kind of just blob into each other and there isn’t anything spectacular to see. It was obvious the rivers were high, however, as the path that goes along under the car bridge across to Prescott, Wisconsin was under about 2 feet/.5 m of water.

Point Douglas

Point Douglas

I sat at a picnic table in the shade beside the rivers watching all the people out on big boats enjoying the fine day. I lunched on a pancake “sandwich,” two big pancakes sandwiched together with peanut butter. I have decided, after much experimenting, that pancake sandwiches make the best lunch on long bike rides. And this was a long ride too. With a few wrong turns and one unplanned detour due to a road that was my MRT road being closed for a long stretch, I traveled 98 miles/157 km round trip. It was a great ride and I enjoyed it immensely and will do it again for sure sometime. Now though, I’d like to map out the trail going north and see where that might take me. A ride to plan for a not blistering hot August Saturday.

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