So many things. Let’s start with the Dashwoods.

Mrs. Dashwood's fluffy behind

Mrs. Dashwood’s fluffy behind

Since we have begun letting them out in the garden they now want out all the time. They rush the run door and Margaret, she’s a wily one, is good at sneaking past behind me as I am trying to keep the other three from slipping out in front of me and between my legs. Since I usually have food in my hands, it is easy to distract them. Though poor Margaret gets so excited she forgets how to get back in the run and frantically races back and forth along the wire on the closed side of the run watching the other three gobble down the treat without her.

Chicken butts. They are so cute. The feathers on their backsides are downy and fluffy so it makes their butts look fuzzy. They scratch in the dirt and then stick their butts up in the air as their front half gets down after anything that looks tasty. I have an urge to walk up and put my hands on either side of them and then ruffle up their backsides. I have not done this however because it would probably scare the poop out of them.

The Dashwoods are better than guard dogs. If something is not right in their world, Mrs. Dashwood or Marianne will raise an alarm. Earlier in the week I let them out into the garden after I got home from work. They were out there happily rootling around when I hear one of them suddenly sound the alarm. I hurried out to see what was going on and Marianne came bolting up the steps from the chicken garden and all four of them surrounded my legs fussing up a storm. I headed slowly and carefull toward the chicken garden, not out of caution for what I might find, but because the Dashwoods were practically velcroed to my wellies.

Fluffy Elinor butt

Fluffy Elinor butt

Before I even got to the steps I could see what caused the alarm. A neighbor had opened their gate to do something in the alley and their dog was out. It had seen the Dashwoods and stopped at our fence to look in and wag. It didn’t bark or anything, just wagged its tail in a friendly way. But this was too much friendly for the Dashwoods so Marianne felt compelled to sound off about the imminent danger. Just then the owner called the dog back and away it went. The Dashwoods clucked at me about it a little longer before a) the danger had passed and b) they realized I was not going to give them treats. At which point they wandered away to scratch for bugs beneath the hyssop.

The garden is doing well. The cow peas (aka black-eyed peas), variety “lady pea,” are doing great and I harvested a bunch of the pods that had dried out. There are still a lot of half-dry and green pods so I have much more to look forward to.

Bookman is falling behind on the zucchini. He thought he had caught up last weekend and Monday found two in the fridge that he had missed. Today I picked five more from the garden. The zucchini bread he made was delicious so I told him it is a-ok to make more of that. Plus he really liked the pickles he had made so he will make more of those too. But when I asked him if we planted too much and if we should go one or two fewer next spring he said no.

The fava beans are growing tall. I have never grown these before, nor have I ever eaten them so this is a complete experiment. The Tom Thumb bush peas are true to their name. The plants are tiny and they have tiny pea pods on them that have only two or three peas in them each. Totally not worth the time or effort so I didn’t feel so terrible when I discovered today that the chickens had trampled a number of them.

Shiso in the garden

Shiso in the garden

We bought a shiso plant at the plant sale in spring and it has done beautifully. Tall with green leaves that shade into dark red, it looks lovely near the herb sprial. It is a member of the mint family and its leaves have that crinkled look mint leaves have but they are much larger, some of them as large as my hand. Bookman is going to make some pesto from it and we’ll see how we like it. If we do, we’ll make more and freeze it. But even if we end up not liking it the plant is so pretty I will gladly grow it again next year for that reason alone. If any of you have had shiso, let me know what you did with it.

We are probably a month away from frost but of course I am already thinking about next year’s garden. I have some small spring bulbs that should be arriving on my porch in a couple weeks that I plan to plant in the green roof on the chicken coop. Bookman and I decided to re-do the layout of the veg beds on one side of the garden. We’ll start working on that this year if we can. I’ve also been thinking about what to plant out in the chicken garden. We’ve decided to go for a hardy pollinator garden for the chickens and us and the neighbors going through the alley to enjoy. We don’t have a big chicken coop project to work on any more so we will hopefully be blessed with fine weather for garden work this fall.


After 100 miles of wind all I get is this dumb photo

After 100 m miles of wind all I get is this dumb photo

It has been a bike-tastic weekend. Yesterday was the Jesse James Days Bike Tour. I took the 100 mile/161 km route through beautiful rolling hills and farmland. Here’s a question, why are barns always painted red? Okay, I did see one white barn but all the rest, red. Is it just tradition or is there a reason? And if it is tradition, why red?

The moring began early, cool and lovely with a light breeze. I planned on completing the ride in 6 hours including water stops. I was making great time but then the light breeze turned into a wind. Not an occasional gusting wind, but a full-on continuously blowing wind. And of course it was not a tailwind. The were some croswind gusts that hit so hard a few times they almost blew me over. There were some long climbs into the wind. And there was not much resting on descents either because the wind was blowing so hard I had to pedal while going dowhill most of the time. I still managed to finish the actual riding in 6 1/2 hours but with brief breaks at every rest stop just to get out of the wind for a few minutes my total time out was 7 hours.

When I got to the finish I was so exhausted from being buffeted by wind. And all that wind also meant my allergies were going haywire. My eyes were bloodshot and my nasal passages were stuffed up and I had been breathing through my mouth a good portion of the way. But I made it to the finish and that overruled everything else for a little while.

At one point in the ride there were a bunch of us going up a long, steep hill into the wind. I managed to grab the wheel of a guy in front of me for a bit of draft and protection from the wind. About halfway up the guy began to flag so I moved around him and passed. Then I passed the guy in front of him. And the guy in front of that guy. And then another guy who cheered me on, “you go girl!” I smiled and passed a few more people, topped the hill feeling all cocky, and then my sandwich fell out of my pocket and ruined it all. I had to circle back around to pick it up and by that time, all those guys I had passed on the hill passed me and I felt like such a dope. Lesson: if you are going to blow by a bunch of guys on a hill, make sure your ride food is securely stuffed into your pockets. Oh, and I suppose you shouldn’t get too puffed up about passing all those people.

No souvenir of the ride except a photo afterwards with a Jesse James cardboard thing which I had to tip over and stand on tip toe to get my head up where it was supposed to be. Since my legs were rather tired, the cardboard figure and I almost toppled over but in the end we both managed to remain upright.

St. Paul Classic - so many cyclists

St. Paul Classic – so many cyclists

This morning we were up early again for another bike ride, the St. Paul Classic. I rode this one with Bookman. I felt pretty good in spite of yesterday’s ride and was spinning along comfortably at a leisurely pace with Bookman. We opted for the 15 mile/24 km route because after a few long, gradual climbs Bookman wasn’t sure his MS legs would hold out for the longer 30 mile/48 km route. The short route, however, goes up Ramsey Hill, a climb at an 11% grade, in other words, steep!

Even though my still tired legs were fine on the flats and moderate hills, I wasn’t at all sure they were going to get me up Ramsey Hill but I was going to give it my best shot. I was going great until about halfway up and then my legs began to protest. I shifted down another gear and kept going but my legs quickly began to burn again. I had one more gear in reserve and shifted into it. By this time I was 3/4 of the way up and could hear the people at the top cheering and shouting encouragement to everyone. But oh, my legs were screaming and I was breathing hard and it would be ok I told myself if I stopped. But right in front of me was a woman who was pedalling away and she looked a good 10 years older than me and, well, anything to get keep myself moving, I told myself I wasn’t going to let that “old lady” beat me up the hill. I passed her and kept going and then I was at the top and was so wobbley I almost ran over the poor kid who was handing out the “I topped Ramsey Hill” buttons.

New socks!

New socks!

Bookman made it part of the way up before he got off to walk. He told me he was walking with a couple other people and watching me go. He pointed me out, that’s my wife, he told them, she’s making it up the hill afer riding a century yesterday. They were suitably impressed apparently.

After Bookman had a rest, we were back on the bikes for the final stretch. At the finish we had bagels and coffee and browsed the vendor booths. In honor of the Jesse James ride and making it up Ramsey Hill, I bought myself s new pair of cycling socks. Well deserved. Then we headed back to the car. The wind was picking up again already and my allergies were beginning to get ugly so I was more than glad to be done.