Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Greener Still

Here's the garden on July 19. Everythings a bit taller than in the picture I took on June 30. The neighboring plot is finally occupied and tilled up.

We really need rain. Really, really.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I Like You Stewart

At 9 a.m. on this last Saturday, I set out from my front door on a little ride to check out the newly opened southern segment of the Badger State Trail and one of its more interesting features, the Stewart Tunnel.

I rode southeast from home through the UW Arboretum, south on Seminole through Fitchburg to Whalen, Fitchburg and Borchert roads, picking up the Badger at Purcell Rd. Now, I grew up on the rail line whose route this trail follows, so I've been looking forward to riding this thing for a long time. In fact, the northern segment would run right into Madison, but the Wisconsin DNR has seen fit to drag its feet on this whole project for better than a decade. But I digress. Sure seems like a popular facility already since its opening two weeks ago, and one of the more scenic rails-to-trails routes I've ridden.

I stopped at the Town and Country Mart (a PDQ, IIRC) on the outskirts of lovely Belleville and bought a trail pass, some Fig Newtons and a Vitamin Water. About 11 miles south of Purcell, I arrived at the tunnel.

Here's a shot of the north entrance to the Stewart. As much as I liked the world that Peter Jackson came up with Lord of the Rings movies, this is more like what I saw in my mind's eye while reading Tolkien's description of the entrance to the Path of the Dead in Return of the King. Anyway, there wasn't a ghost army or anything like that in the Stewart. Just cool, damp and quite as dark as the inside of a can of pitch. It's a quarter of a mile long and bends in the middle, so even at midday (about the time I was there) you really can't see a thing right about the middle. I had my Planet Bike Beamer along, but I think I'd bring a bigger light next time.

Here we are a bit closer. That's a huge blessed tree hanging over the entrance and that tiny fleck of light inside the tunnel is another cyclist's headlight.

Here's the south end, with some peeps for scale.

Then the ride continued south in hopes of meeting up with the Sugar River State Trail and following it back to New Glarus. Turns out it was a lot farther south than I had anticipated, and I ended up riding all the way to Monticello before turning northwest 32 miles out from home.

My next stop was lovelier New Glarus, a very neat little town chock full of Switzers. Here's the Trucker taking a break at the trailhead.

Next I rode out on County O, out onto some back roads and up past this Church. Lots of churches still out in the country like this in Wisconsin. Used to be the hub of farming communities, but fewer are in use now that those populations are more and more living in towns and cities. This one looks loved up.

Here's a farmer baling hay. That's a kicker baler, and you can see the bale in midair as it's being kicked into the wagon.

Then further north to lovely Mt. Vernon, up County Highways G and J to Dairy Ridge and White Crossing Rds., then a turn east and back onto the Military Ridge State Trail for the ride through my beloved hometown of Verona and back into Madison.

Arrived home at about 4 p.m. after something like 5 and a half hours of actual pedaling a total of 73 miles. Perfect day. Brilliant.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Let us Freep

I'm not usually one to advocate skewing online polls, but today's Lacrosse Tribune poll asks: "What do you think of the relationship between area bicyclists and motorists?" The second-place answer at the moment is "Bicyclists need to get off the highways and onto the bike trails."

The wonderful thing about the internet is that one need not live in close geographic proximity to LaCross to form an opinion about the relationship between the area bicyclists and motorists. One need only point one's browser to the link above and scroll down toward the bottom right of their home page and let nature take its course.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hated to Do It

I really did, but I had to. After enjoying its shade and many a fruit, the poor old pear tree in our back yard had to come down. It had always been improperly pruned and had periodically lost a few branches to the wind, but it still bore enough and seemed solid enough to keep. Then, last summer, I noticed the ants and their sawdust. I decided it best take the old devil down before the wind beat me to it.

Here it is just after taking the first two limbs. Both were hollow. A few limbs later, I had to lasso that one leaning over the garage, and had the missus pull on the rope while I cut the limb. She did a great job of dropping it right where I wanted it to fall (which was anyplace but on the garage roof.)

Here's the new view with all four trunks down. Turned out it was the right decision, since all four trunks were hollow and rotten. Opened things up a bit.

The implements of destruction: a pole pruner and a milk crate. Not pictured: cheap, rickety bow saw.

More implements of destruction: trenching shovel, grubhoe and single-bit ax. Looks like fun, doesn't it? Turns out even the heartwood in the roots was rotten. I had hoped to get enough wood out of the trunk to maybe make a couple of mallets, but I'm not optimistic.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Giving Grandma a Ride Home

The first step is to admit it. My name is Michael, and I have a bicycle addiction. Worse, ever since my one and only visit to Amsterdam, I've always wanted a Dutch Omafiets. So graceful. So stately.

I spotted this old dame on Craigslist, hiding behind about a dozen other bikes waiting to go as a lot. It belonged to a car mechanic who is actually kind of a closet bike nut. He was cleaning out his garage and needed to sell a bunch of stuff. I went over and looked at it one day last week and was pretty sure it was a real Dutch bike. Confirmed its identity with a visit to omafiets.nl (in Dutch) and went back Friday to pick it up. The seller was a little surprised when I showed up on a bike, so he watched and actually helped as I lashed it to the Xtrakoram's right-side V-rack. Pictured above is a stop about 2 miles into the 4-mile trip home to reposition and tighten the nylon web strap.

I ran the web strap under the long stays on both sides and to the front and rear bridges. I could feel the Omafiets back there, but I was really surprised how little torsional flex it caused. It didn't really affect handling at all.

Here's the left side and rear.

Those are the neighbor's flowers.

Here's me chatting with the neighbors. Something about public nuisances, property values, and eccentrics, plus a few remarks I didn't catch.

The bike itself is a basket case. Mainly, I think, because it's quite old. Here's a pic of the decayed saddle. I doubt the fenders are original, the chaincase is all bent up, the coaster brake is more theory than application and it needs a complete overhaul and adjustment. And it's rusty. And has no identifying marks. Not sure what I'm going to do with it yet, but here it is, and I like it...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Detour de Madison

I've never thought of myself as a cyclodetourist, but one morning on my commute I became one. This is not the kind of bicycle tour I had in mind.

I had hoped they were just kidding with the whole "BIKE PATH CLOSED AHEAD" sign, so I went around it. Sure enough, there was a big backhoe in the way, and plastic fencing that not even my plastic brushguard could plough through. A sign advised me to "CONSIDER ALT ROUTE."

All for the sake of a little hole in the street.

Sand, gravel and backhoes, oh my.

So I skipped off onto a side street and over to the entrance to Camp Randall.

The granite generals were, as always, happy to see me. They even stood at attention.

Then down past the Shell and behind the big (really, really big) Home of the Badgers scoreboard...

...and out through the Secret Agent exit to Greek Sports Fan Alley...

Down the street, past the Bunny Droppings sculpture, and back onto my usual bike path (the Southwest.) Whew.

Then an elective trip down the gravel service drive behind the golf course, just to offset the trauma of the not-so-elective detour. Sparkling dew, twittering of birds, aroma of pesticides and all that.

Better, I suppose, than visiting violence on the detour sign, as it would appear happened here.

It's Plastic

So here's a typical steel brushguard. Ideal for ploughing through thickets and hedgerows as they jump out in front of one's offroad vehicle while tooling around downtown Madison.

And here is a similar vehicle sporting a plastic brushguard. Does anybody know what this is good for? Running down artificial christmas trees? Pushing through plastic snow fencing? What? Why? How? Evolution or devolution?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Q2 2007 Report

Well, I'm back, so this might be a good time to put out a report. Here's the scoop on April 1 to June 30:

1612 total miles

I don't have a detailed breakdown, but something like 400 on the Woodpecker, 300 on the Trucker, 150 on my Trek 400 roadie and the balance on Xtracycles and whatnot. The weather has been just about perfect most days, and I've only been rained on twice (and lucked out about 5 times...)

Hoping to do a solo tour into the Driftless Area about the middle of July.


This has been going rather well. I've almost completed the Master Gardener program through our county extension office.

Much of the work I did bringing compost into the garden last fall paid off this season. Pretty healthy, as you can see. The bad news is that I'll have to move out of this plot because the city wants to put a street in its current location. I have another spot picked out and have begun to work on it for next season.

Given a little more notice, I could have planned a bigger garden at my parents' house out in the country. I'll be better prepared next year. I'm also thinking about trying to start a couple of permaculture guilds there. We'll see.

I've also completed the course work, but not the volunteer time, for the county extension's Master Composter program. Believe me, there's no title I want more. I've also got quite the composting operation going, but that's a topic for another post.

I posted a list of resolutions in the Q1 Report,where they were listed and reviewed. I won't re-hash all of them here, but here are a few worth mentioning:

2. Retrofit your home for energy conservation. The insulation projects I mentioned in April won't happen until late summer or early fall, but I think we may also add more insulation to the attic. In fact, I've been considering removing most of the stuff stored up there and piling on a lot of insulation. Another suggestion I might try is to remove the current attic access door (it's a trap panel in the ceiling) and replace it with a panel screwed in place and caulked, with insulation piled on top. We're not keeping anything of any importance up there and the energy savings might well be worth the trouble.

Also, the new fridge seems to be drawing less electricity. We're still getting by on no air conditioning and with no dishwasher. Yes, we're roughing it.

3. Cut back on your gasoline consumption. Between January 1 and June 30, we've put just over 3,000 miles on our car. We're on track to cut back significantly on our usual 11,000 miles for a normal year, in no small part because the Missus has committed to cycling, bussing or walking for almost every trip under 4 miles. Hooray for the Missus!

4. Plant an organic vegetable garden. I planted 3, which may well qualify me for freakdom.

5. Compost your food waste. Mine, my family's, waste from a local coffee shop and chicken poo from some city chickens. More in a future post.

Not much on the other resolutions for now. I made a list of topics for future posts today, so stand by for more...