Thursday, May 30, 2013

Getting My Hands Dirty

Despite the 22 mph winds yesterday, I pedaled my way to 51 miles. When I started out, the wind was out of the SW, so I headed west, thinking I'd have a nice, somewhat of a wind at my back for the return ride. Sounded good, but the wind didn't cooperate. After 25 miles into what was mostly a headwind, I turned around to find the wind had shifted to be a straight out of the south crosswind. By mile 44, I was toast. But, I managed to get 51 miles logged, and the fatigue felt really, really good, so I reveled in my winning the battle against the wind all evening, as I watched the Blackhawks win in overtime against the Redwings.

My plan to get out again today most likely won't happen. The wind is still at it, more so than yesterday it seems. I just can't get excited about cycling into 25 mph winds today. With my self-supported ride nearing, along with the ride with the Northern Tier group through Indiana and Illinois, I'm afraid I won't be physically ready to tackle the daily mileage. I've not ridden anywhere close to what I rode last year right up to the day we left out of Yorktown. Instead, I've been gardening and making things. Not exactly the kind of prep work required to be able to cycle an average of 65 miles a day. It is what it is, though, and I know I'll muddle through.

What I am excited about right now is my garden. Everything is growing! I was fearful the amount of rain we've had over the last three weeks would create problems, but so far all of my plants look good. My grapes are creeping over the trellis I put up for them. This is one of my favorite pieces to the garden. I am so looking forward to what it looks like when it's completely covered by the grapevines. I do have a new branch growing in the opposite direction of the trellis, towards the fence in the background. Not quite sure what to do about that, maybe get another cattle fencing panel to go up and over the wood fence. That might be kind of cool. 

My strawberries are ripening now. While I had decided to remove the entire strawberry patch, I just couldn't bring myself to take out what might end up being a really, really good harvest. I ended up weeding it thoroughly. The amount of runners this year has created a very thick, plush patch. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to pick enough strawberries to freeze some or maybe even make some strawberry preserves. At the very least, I should be able to make strawberry shortcake for dessert all through June.

Then there's the raspberries. The vines are chock full of emerging berries. Like with the strawberries, I'd love to be able to freeze some or make preserves. How wonderful would it be to open the freezer in the cold of January and pull out some tasty raspberries to eat on hot pancakes or in a steaming bowl of oatmeal? Yum. Another idea (sparked by thinking about pancakes) is to make raspberry syrup. See, this is exactly why I've not gotten a lot of cycling miles in--just too many fun things to work on, like finding a good raspberry syrup recipe to have on hand once the berries are ripe!

All of the gardening has given me permanent dirty fingernails. I try to clean them every night, but I've become like one of those guys working in a garage, whose fingernails are constantly stained with grease and oil. I don't mind so much; my dirty hands are helping grow food. That's a good feeling.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Birdbath, Pink Rocker, and Fruit Garden

When I signed off back in April, I knew I would be back sooner or later. At the time, I just needed a breather. I turned off a lot of the background noise for the last month and some days, and focused on a few things pulling at me, like gardening and creating. The joy that I've felt completing a few of these projects got me through the end of the semester, to the end of the school year for my boys, and ready for the beginning of summer.

Bicycle Birdbath
The bicycle wheel birdbath is by far my favorite project to date. During a meeting at work the last week of the semester, I drifted off into JK Land and thought, "I really need a birdbath." Then I started doodling on the pad of paper I always carry with me, thinking about the couple of old wheels hanging on the side of my workbench. I knew I still had the fork from the pawn shop bike, too, so I figured I could combine the wheels and the fork to make my birdbath. As soon as I got home that day, I went to the garage and set to work. Hubby helped me figure out how to fit the top wheel to the fork, which meant a quick trip to the farm store for the type of rod I needed. After the fork and wheel were attached, I then needed to make a quick trip to the huge box store for the water trays. Then, because I couldn't find the bolt that fit the fork (somehow it disappeared from my bench), I had to return to the farm store to find a bolt that fit. If I were to make another, I know what I'd do differently to make the process a whole lot smoother. That said, I am enamored with my birdbath though I had to endure a learning curve. I now have flowers around it, making it just about the cutest thing I have seen in a long time.

Little Pink Rocker
My second favorite project is my pink rocking chair. I found this beauty at a yard sale, and it didn't look anything like this when I bought it. The seat was a woven bark that had split, broken, and was not in any shape for someone to sit on. The chair itself was a dingy cream. The chair was just plain sad looking. I paid the owner $5 and loaded the chair into the back of my SUV, wondering how the heck I was going to fix the seat. I have no clue how to work with bark or any other weaving materials. Some searching online brought me to a page where someone had used fabric to weave a seat on a ladder-back chair. I figured I could do the same on the rocking chair. So I rummaged through every drawer, closet, and storage bin I have to find something to use, finally coming across an old tablecloth I wasn't ever going to use again because the red dye had run into the yellow when I washed it. Being a strong weave, I knew this tablecloth was meant to be the new seat for this chair. Returning to my childhood, I pretended I was making a potholder, and when it was all said and done, the seat turned out all right. Initially, I thought of going the white route with the chair, but when Lovely Beautiful Daughter showed up with three cans of spray paint, one being the Berry Pink, I knew I white just wasn't going to cut it. Pink is all happiness.

Tidy Fruit Garden
Another project that kept me busy for awhile was getting the fruit garden cleaned up. The raspberries had taken over in one corner. The strawberries were spreading across another corner. And the grapevines were unhappy with the lack of support they had with the rotting string that had been strung between two pathetic posts. So I put on my rubber boots, got my plant cutter, shovel, and rake together, and set to work. After a little more than a week of working, I was able to get the garden under control. I cut back the raspberries then restrung the line between the posts. The line helps keep all the vines curtailed. I then went to what is now my favorite place--the farming store--and bought a cattle fence panel to use as the support for the grapevines. They are now happily crawling up and over the panel. With the strawberries, I am in the process of transplanting some of the plants to the cement bricks. This should help keep the plants from spreading all over the garden. While I still have a large area of strawberry plants, I 'm going to transplant most then till the space so I can plant my two dwarf apple trees there. That's the job I hope to complete this week.

There have been other projects going on along with all of these, mostly gardening. I haven't cycled much the last month. Just some commuting, short errands, and a couple of longer rides on the warmer days. The past week has been mostly rainy and chilly, so the desire to get out just hasn't nagged at me. I have, though, been prepping for my self-supported ride that's coming up. I am getting stoked about it, and I even have some shorter self-supported rides in the works to do during the next couple of weeks. I found a couple of campgrounds I can ride to, camp for the night, then ride home the next day. Hopefully, the weather will turn warmer and dryer for these rides.