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I am recovered from my big race last weekend and was casting around for something new to try. One of my favorite local bike shops was offering a free cyclocross clinic for beginners. Don’t know what cyclocross is? Here’s a taste:

Now, those are championship racers but you get the idea.

The shop set up a mini course in the grass. There were sharp turns, mud, dirt, lumpy grass and two barriers a couple yards/meters apart. A diverse group of about forty people gathered to learn some new bike skills on a beautiful sunny day. Everyone was supportive and encouraging and out to have a good time. And we did.

I got dirty. I fell over in the grass while practicing tight figure eight turns. I missed a turn and broke through the tape marking the course yelling, Oops! as everyone laughed. I was pretty much the shortest person there and getting over the, for me, knee high barriers was a challenge while carrying my bike. All the tall gazelles skipped nimbly past me as I carefully stepped over the barrier, afraid if I tried to run and jump with my bike I would trip and fall flat on my face.

Dirt, grass, mud, sharp turns, these were fun and I was good at them. Leaping off my bike and carrying it over the barriers, not so much. Everyone else seemed to get the dismount more or less and some people got it right away, leaping off their bike while it was zooming up to the barrier and in one smooth motion, lifting their bike over. The one time I braved a dismount in motion, I lost my balance and almost ended up in the dirt on my ass with my bike on top of me. How I managed to remain upright I do not know but after that I came to a complete stop each time before getting off my bike.

Getting back on I was much better – throwing my leg over and hoisting myself up. Not as graceful as others but passable. I was super impressed by the folks who would put their bike down while running and then leap onto it without stopping.

I had fun but I am not sure cyclocross is a sport for me. I would need a lot of solo practice on dismounts (in the grass so it doesn’t hurt when I fall) because if you can’t do it while moving you have no chance of finishing the race. I am not certain I want to put in the effort to learn it especially since getting over the barriers will still be a risky affair. I might be better off trying criterium racing next summer. I met a woman who is new to racing and on a women’s race team at a local woman-owned bike shop who said she had tried a criterium in July and had fun though didn’t do very well. But I can handle being dropped and finishing last as long as I get to stay on my bike and don’t have to carry it over barriers or up stairs. So we shall see.

Buckwheat in flower – the bees love it

The garden keeps me busy pretty much ever day. The Japanese beetles just won’t quit. This is the first year I actually have some apples on my honeycrisp tree and the beetles are apparently not content with just eating the leaves, they are burrowing into the apples too. I will be very surprised if any of the apples survive. I don’t and won’t use pesticide and with climate change the beetles are not likely to never be a problem. This is making me seriously consider removing the apple tree completely. I doubt I would plant another tree but instead just use the space for more beans or carrots or other vegetables. It is extremely frustrating, but I have to adapt whether I want to or not.

On the happy side of things the bush cherries are ripe! If you love tart cherries but don’t want a tree, I urge you to consider the possibility of nanking bush cherries. You need two for cross-pollination. You get beautiful cherry blossoms in spring and in August you get small to medium sized

Cherries and still more to pick!

cherries in great proliferation. The birds and squirrels don’t bother them, the Japanese beetles don’t bother them, they are fairly low maintenance for a big payoff. We are planning on freezing some and dehydrating some. The frozen ones will get used in baked things and the dehydrated ones will get used in granola. They also make a great pie. We made one last year. We used our tree cherries for a pie this year so it will be fun to use these for other things. Yum!

Zucchinis take over the world

With all the prep for my big bike race last weekend, Bookman and I neglected to check the zucchini patch. Bookman had the day off from work on Tuesday and while puttering in the garden remembered the zucchini. He found some giants! There is a Dashwood egg in the photo for perspective so you can see just how enormous they got! Today Bookman made a chocolate zucchini cake with some we already had in the fridge. These giants will be shredded and made into sweet relish. We might just have a year’s supply right there. But then again we really like zucchini relish so a six-month supply is more likely.

In the week ahead I hope to be able to tell you about Twilight of History by Shlomo Sand and The Great Regression, a book of essays about how the US and Europe have found ourselves in the place we do right now. My writing about these all depends on the garden, Japanese beetles and the weather. Or maybe it all depends upon a red wheel barrow. Heh.

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