Monday, January 31, 2011

A simple hoop house for the farm

Over the Christmas break, I took care of a winter garden for some neighbors, Kurt and Karen. They were growing a healthy crop of greens inside a hoop house that Kurt had built, and I was impressed at how well it worked, even in some very cold temperatures.

So this weekend, in need of some R&R in the garden, I took advantage of some spring-like weather to cobble up a hoop house of my own on the farm. It's not quite finished, as I still have to make some doors for it, but this will give you an idea of the progress so far.

I had some 3/4" pvc pipe lying around from an old project, so I took that and bent it, wedging the ends against the stone sides of my raised beds: I ran one pvc pipe across the top and wired it to the hoops:

Then I added two more across the sides and metal fencing posts/stakes at either end and the middle for additional support (these were also leftovers from some old fences). All of these were attached to each other with simple baling wire:

You can see from the two photos above that this spot manages to get plenty of sunlight for at least a few hours a day, even during the winter. I'm running a soaker house along the part that gets the most sun, and leaving shaded section unplanted. I'll put down some boards to give myself a dry place to kneel while I harvest the crops. The hoops are high enough that though I have to stoop a little, I can easily move inside without feeling too cramped.

Then I covered the hoops with three foot-wide, 4 mil plastic sheeting, and attached the sheeting at the bottom to leftover pvc pipe to weight it down on the sides. I attached the top of the sheeting to the top length of pvc, using wire through spots I'd reinforce with duct tape:

 On the south side of the hoop house, the pvc that weights down the plastic sheeting is in sections, so that I can open it for ventilation during warm days, shown here:

On the north side, it is one long length of pvc:

The last three photos were taken late in the day, when the sun had gone down low enough to cause the back fence to cast a longer shadow. I only mention this because it might otherwise look like the plastic sheeting was not letting in much sunlight.

I'll probably work on it a little more this week, adding doors and further securing the sheeting against the wind (of which we have plenty here on the high plains). We're supposed to get socked with another arctic front this week, so I'll wait until after that to sow the seeds.

I'll post an update of the doors when I've got them figured out and installed. The only thing I've had to buy so far is the plastic sheeting, which cost me around $10, so I'm afraid I can't give you an estimate on how much it would cost to build this from scratch.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cycling Jersey: price breakdown

I once returned $100 that a distracted bank clerk accidentally gave me.

True story.

She had counted out several hundred dollars to me while she was talking to someone, and on a hunch, I re-counted the stack of bills once I got home. Sure enough, she'd given me a hundred dollars too much. So I immediately got in my car and drove back to the bank, stood in line, and gave her the money back. Needless to say, she was happy I did this.

Why am I telling you this? Because I need you to trust me when I say that I will donate $10 to the South Plains Food Bank farm for every Bike Garden cycling jersey you buy. It's just the easiest way to go about this. I'm not trying to make a buck here--I'm just trying to have some fun and send some money to the food bank farm. But then things like state sales and federal income taxes get involved, and it gets complicated real fast.

I'm not a 501c3 and have no intention of going to the trouble to become one, so I have to charge you state sales tax. And I know that by doing it this way, I'll have to report it on my income tax return. I'm OK with that, though, since I believe in taxes. They do a lot of good for us, like, for instance, pay for public education. (We forget that sometimes.)

So that's why, even though I'm asking you to pay a little more for the jersey than they actually cost ($10 more), and telling you that that extra bit is going for a good cause instead of into my pocket, I am still going to have to charge you state sales tax. Think of the sales tax as a donation to higher education in the Great State of You Are Not the Boss of Me, which is, even as we speak, threatening to cut waaaaaay back on our funding in order to make up for a state shortfall in the budget.

To further make things simple for me, I'm going to offer just the club fit, in the short sleeve version. (Both men's and women's cuts are available.)

Here is the price break down, as best I can figure:
  • Short Sleeve jersey (club fit): $72* + $5.94 tax and $4.95 shipping = $82.89
If you live in LBB, you can of course pick the jersey up from me and avoid the shipping cost, so your total cost would be $77.94, including the $10 donation.

The jerseys come in both men's and women's cuts, and the size ranges are XS-XXL. Here is a link to Canari's sizing chart. You are getting what is called the "pro" fit on the chart.

I find the fit to run pretty true. To help you out with an idea of what that is, I am 5'5", and weigh 137 pounds. And I am what is euphemistically referred to as an "apple."

I fall exactly between a medium and a large in women's and will probably get a large (actually, I'll probably get one of each, for different, erm...eating seasons**). If you are not used to wearing cycling jerseys, bear in mind that by their nature, they are generally form fitting (think "less wind resistance").

I'm going to place an order on Friday, so if you're interested, let me know. If you don't want to commit just yet, but you might sometime in the future, no worries, I will probably place another order sometime this year. We have a period of eight months after the initial order in which we can order more jerseys.

Once the order is placed, the pricing structure may change a little based on numbers of jerseys ordered. If I end up getting a price break, though, I'll just send the extra money on to the Food Bank farm. That's my promise.

*Includes the $10 donation and $3 extra for a hidden zipper
**Darn you, Girl Scout cookies!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Drum roll, please: The Bike Garden Cycling Jersey

I probably shouldn't be rolling this out just yet, since I haven't got all the pricing details worked out. But frankly, the cuteness factor just plain overwhelmed me and I just had to do it.

So brothers and sisters, without further ado, I present to you the first ever Bike Garden cycling jersey, honoring the South Plains Food Bank: 

Is that adorable, or what?

This snappy garment was created with the able help of Jason Bailey at Canari, who took my scratchy little vision and transformed it into something that is (in my humble opinion) an heirloom-quality cycling jersey. 

Design details:
  • There are two fits: Vortex Pro (which is Euro, i.e., snuggish and streamlined) and "club fit" (looser); I think the one I have is Vortex Pro and it seems fine, but I'm going to check up on that.
  • There are three mesh rear pockets
  • On the back panel, Pearl's thought bubble reads, "If you can read this, you're too close."
  • On the front, Henrietta greets the rising sun, or a fried egg, depending on what your mood might be that day.
  • The South Plains Food Bank logo is on the front and back, and the name is on the sleeves.
  • "The Bike Garden" is written on the side panels.
  • The sleeves will have a solid racing stripe (like the image on the bottom, not the twin racing strips on the sleeves in the middle image).
  • On the back of the collar are printed the words "Joy is a kind of courage."
I don't know yet how much these will cost wholesale, or if I'm going to offer them at cost or a little more (which I can then donate to the South Plains Food Bank), but they should be around the neighborhood of $70 (club fit) -$80 (Vortex Pro). Let me know if you're interested, and I'll keep you posted.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cycling and Doping

Jonathan Vaughters fired the highly successful Directeur Sportif Matt White yesterday from the Garmin Cervelo professional cycling team, for sending a rider to a doctor for a check up, without clearing it with team headquarters first.

For those who don't follow cycling this is the equivalent of Barack Obama firing Hilary Clinton, for sending an aid to a restaurant she's heard about in a country on which we have a trade embargo, without first clearing it with the White House. Well, sort of. I mean, it's both that big and that shocking. It also sends out a message: We mean it when we say "We won't tolerate this."

The reason Garmin has the rule is because they have a strict anti-doping policy, and they monitor every little opportunity in which doping might rear its ugly head. There was apparently no doping in this episode--just the opportunity for it to occur because the rider saw a doctor who had been linked to it in the past.

All the rider saw the doctor for was a VO2 test. It was Matt White who sent him there without asking first, so it was Matt White who took the fall.

I feel bad for Matt White and the Garmin "lads" (as he calls them), but this is a good thing. It tells me (and hopefully the rest of the world), that Garmin's anti-doping stance is no smoke.

I have also decided that in the interest of full disclosure, I should list the performance enhancing drugs that are getting me through the Bike Challenge. I feel I owe it to the many people who have placed their faith in me. I freely admit that without these drugs, I probably would not be able to complete all 2011 miles this year. If that makes me a doper, so be it; at least I've been honest with you.

Without further ado, here they are:

Drugs I take every day:
Nexium (for chronic acid reflux)
Crestor (for high cholesterol)

Drugs I take every once in a while:
Advil (for sore, achy muscles and the occasional headache--in fact, I'm thinking of taking one this morning)
Zomig (for the migraines I get about four times a year)

Drugs I have taken in the past year and may have to take again this year if the need arises:
Flonase (for a chronically stuffy nose; had to stop because it gave me a headache--see above)
Tylenol for Sinus Headache and Pain (see above, stuffy nose)
Cyclobenzaprine (OK, this was just twice, at night, for a muscle spasm caused by a pinched nerve in my neck)
Nyquil (I had a head cold last spring)
Dayquil (see above, head cold)

Drugs for which I have a prescription but have never used (well, maybe I used it once several years ago; can't remember):
An asthma inhaler (for seasonal, exercise-induced asthma; can't even remember the brand name)

I also eat walnuts, blueberries, and drink a glass of red wine with dinner on a nearly daily basis.

Oh, and of course, there are the apple fritters:

Well, I think that about covers it. I feel much better having gotten that off my chest.

Keep those pledges coming. We're up to nearly $4300 for the South Plains Food Bank farm. You all rock.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dust shall not stay me from my appointed rounds

We woke up to a pretty good brown blow in LBB today, so my plans to go for a long ride went the way of the dust. As befits a girl of grit, however, I used my time off the racing bike to do some long-overdue maintenance on the commuter and the Xtracycle:

In short order, the gears and derailleurs and, erm, clicky bits, were all sparkly and singing like pips. So excited was I by this, that I went ahead and put 10 miles in the Bike Garden Challenge kitty just by running my usual Saturday errands on La Chica (the Salsa commuter) and Annette the Xtracycle. 

A very good day, in spite of the wind and dust.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A beautiful day, that is all.

On Monday I took advantage of the school holiday to ride to the top of the hill at the windmill museum and back:

It was such a gorgeous day, they closed the road so no one else could see it, for fear that all of humanity would be eternally blinded by so much beauty. (And here is where Dee Nash would say, "Not really.")

I meant to post this update on my ride progress before this, but what with school starting up, UNIT board stuff, doing some agitating for bike lanes on 34th Street, getting the bike campaign underway, and some family issues, I've been a little discombobulated of late. No matter. The warm response to the Bike Garden campaign for the food bank's farm has kept me going.

Muchas gracias, y'all. You are the best. 

Keep those pledges coming. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cosmic Explorer, Destination Unknown

There is a story I've told my students for years, and it turns out that I've only been getting it about half right. I first read the real story in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt, and it goes like this:

Poet Conrad Aiken used to like to sit in a Savannah cemetery by the spot where his parents were buried, drink martinis, and watch the shrimp boats pass by.* One day a boat named Cosmos Mariner sailed past. Aiken saw this and was quite taken with the name. Later that evening he looked it up in the shipping news and found this: "Cosmos Mariner; Destination unknown."

This is part of the inscription that Aiken chose for the bench that is his own headstone, where he now lies in the cemetery beside his parents. The other part of the inscription reads: "Give my love to the world."

I didn't get the story too terribly wrong, I just messed up the name of the boat a bit. I've always remembered it as the Cosmic Explorer. But you know, I like the incorrect name better. Coupled with the second half, "Destination unknown," it seems a perfect instruction for life: We are all explorers on a journey in unknown waters. Like any voyage of discovery, peril, danger, and sorrow can be found at every turn. But there are also beautiful islands to behold, and they are named Grace, Mercy, Kindness, and Joy. The trick is to make it through the storms to the other side, where they await us.

I was thinking about this on the drive home from San Angelo this weekend. I was listening to a radio program called Humankind, an episode titled "American Resiliency," in which they examined the question of what makes some people more able to withstand hardship and disaster than others. Two things stood out among the things that the psychologists and historians on that program said about people who are resilient: They are part of a community of people on which they can rely, and they are able to focus on positive things even in the midst of the most terrible circumstances.

Oh, and there was one more thing one of the historians said that gave me pause. He said bad things that happen are a normal part of life, but we've forgotten that in the past couple of decades in this country. It seems we've grown complacent and logy, as if we believe we're permanently tied up in the safety of a port. We've forgotten that in reality, like it or not, we are all of us, most of the time, on a journey in unknown waters.

This past week has been a rough one, hasn't it? The shootings in Arizona are too awful to comprehend. Peril. Danger. Sorrow. We need a safe harbor.

Or maybe not. Maybe what we need is to square our shoulders and continue the journey, for grace, mercy, kindness, and joy are out there, too.

There's just one thing, though. All hands need to pull together on the boat. But it seems impossible to achieve this, doesn't it? What has happened this week in the aftermath of the tragedy in Arizona has been predictable and almost as depressing as the senseless shooting itself: The blame game starts up almost immediately. And then the heated rhetoric begins. And now the heated rhetoric about the heated rhetoric.

Robert F. Kennedy once said that one-fifth of the people are against everything all the time. It seems to me that right now in this country, that one-fifth of the people are driving the rest of us aground. They are not interested in reason. They are not even interested in grace, mercy, kindness, and joy. They are only interested in their own self-serving misery and infecting as many people as possible with their disease. They are even perversely gleeful about this. But too easily, the rest of us get caught up in the same virulent unhappiness and anger, and then instead of focusing on the positive, and what we can do that is right and good, we begin to founder.

Well, I vote we leave that malcontented one-fifth off the boat at the next harbor. Just ditch 'em there. They are merchants of misery, profiteers of hate; let them trade their wares somewhere else. They are cranky, selfish, addicted to celebrity and power even when it is bought with the pain of others, and they make us needlessly angry with each other. We don't need them. We can send them a postcard when we reach the island of Joy. It will read, "Give our love to the world."

Once we refuse to allow that perpetually dissatisfied one-fifth to influence us, we shall draw a deep breath and become strong again. We shall be a community, focused on the positive even when faced with senseless tragedy, resilient and sound, able to stand all storms.

Bad things happen, because it is life, after all. But we can do good things in response, because we are strong.

This good ship is the Cosmic Explorer, destination unknown. All willing and able hands on board.

*Maybe you think this is morbid, but perhaps you wouldn't if you'd ever taken my "Landscapes" course. Cemeteries are actually quite peaceful, and full of stories.

It's not too late to join the Bike Garden Challenge: 2011 miles in 2011 for the South Plains Food Bank farm! If you'd like to help out, just leave a comment on this post, or email me at Be sure to state specifically that you'd like to pledge a penny a mile ($20.11) to the challenge.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

This weather is not amusing

Native Minnesotan and fellow blogger Carmella Schnagel probably wouldn't think so, but in my opinion, it is dangerously cold outside right now. I tried to add a couple of miles to my commute into school yesterday and wound up unable to see the road for all the tears in my eyes from the arctic air. Since the bike creates its own windchill effect, there is no way I am getting on it again until this passes. No matter, I had anticipated such an occasion, and banked a few miles on the bike last week. By my calculations, I am going to need average around 40 miles a week to make my Bike Garden Challenge goal of 2011 miles in 2011 for the South Plains Food Bank. Since I expect that there will weeks when I'm off the bike because the weather doesn't cooperate, or I catch the sniffles, or I'm traveling, or whatever, I hope to bank more than the average in those weeks when the fates are more pleasantly aligned with my desires.

In the realm of other cold weather-related news: There is also no way on God's green earth that I am going out to the shop in these conditions to work on finishing the ottoman. I mean, my new kerosene heater, purchased on the advice of David Schmetterling (who has, BTW, pledged a penny a mile in the Challenge--thank you, David!), is a bonny good thing, but I don't want to stand around for an hour waiting for it to heat up the shop enough for me to work without gloves on. There isn't much left to do on the ottoman, however, so as soon as the freezing conditions let up, I'll whip out the final steps and do the big reveal.

For my neighbors, and in the realm of other, other news: There is a meeting this evening of 34th Street planners to look at revitalizing and re-desigining that troubled avenue. If you take a look at the proposed diagram, you can see they've added bike lanes. A very good thing. I plan to be there tonight to voice my support for such forward-thinkingedness.* The meeting starts at 6 PM with an hour-long open house so that the public can view the plans, followed by the meeting itself. Open to the public, at Sunset Church of Christ Family Center, 3631 34th.

*NOTE: Since this has not been discussed and approved by the board or the neighborhood association, I will be going to the meeting and offering my support for bike lanes not as the UNIT president, but as a bicycle commuter.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I'm serious about this...

...serious enough that I threw my bike in the back of the old wagon and took it down to San Angelo this weekend, where I went to visit my mother. San Angelo, as it turns out, has more hills than LBB. Nevertheless, I bundled up on Sunday morning and took the Ruby for a ride. As you can see by this photo at the end of my workout, I am still smiling, for the hills did not slay me:

I'm almost up to a dollar, for those who are counting...

Be a part of the fun! 2011 miles in 2011 for the South Plains Food Bank. Twenty-four people have already pledged a penny a mile. I honored by their faith in me.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Watch this space

I'm talking Destiny with a big D, my friends. That's the feeling I have about this wild and crazy plan I've just hatched.

It started with, of course, the advent of the New Year and the whole resolutions bit, which I really suck at. Resolutions, I mean. I'm not really bothered by this a whole lot, since I suspect I am not alone in this matter. In fact, I don't believe I personally know anyone who does well at them.

Actually, I suppose Walu is pretty good at resolutions, but then, he's really Superman in disguise, so that doesn't count.

Anyway, in spite of resolving not to do resolutions this year, I kept thinking of a few things I'd like to do, and at the top of that list was getting back into a fitness routine.

I started casting around for something that would keep me motivated and resistant to distraction and slackitude. I thought about running races again, since I am very good at focusing on my training when I have a specific race in mind. The problem is that my knees just don't like racing anymore, but since I am an old thoroughbred from waaaaay back, I am not capable of easing up and just "fun running." The gun goes off and the next thing I know the legs are out of the gate like they are Seabiscuit following a carrot that's been battered in oats and deep fried.

So I thought I might try a charity ride, instead (since there is no danger of me trying to go fast on a bike), and I came up with one that fits the bill nicely: A 45-mile ride at the Austin Livestrong Challenge next October. That's a goal I can get behind, and with it in mind, I started training this week.

But wait! There's more!

While I was thinking about the Livestrong Challenge, I starting to dream about having my very own Bike Garden cycling jersey to wear for it. Now, y'all know how I feel about cycling jerseys, so naturally, once I got the idea in my head, there was no turning back. Just as naturally, the design had to feature Pearl and Henrietta, and the one I've created, if I may say so, is cuter than a bug in a sparkly tutu. You'll have to wait a little longer for the big reveal, though, since I am going to do a separate post about it once I have some final details in place.

But wait! There's more!

The jerseys are so adorable, in fact, that I could see people wanting one for themselves, so I decided that I might even offer them for sale here on the blog. And since I am not doing this for profit, I thought that any extra money I made on the jersey could be donated to the South Plains Food Bank farm (Yes! They have their own farm! They believe in fresh vegetables!).

Is that a great plan, or what? I get all goose-bumpy and dizzy just thinking about it.

But wait! There's more!

The really cool thing about jerseys is that they can be (and often are) rolling billboards. As I was thinking about donating any profit I make from the jerseys, I thought it would be brilliant to put the SPFB's name on one of the sleeves to give them a little plug.

But wait! There's more!

As if a charity ride and an adorable cycling jersey-the-profits-of-which-benefit-the-SPFB were not enough to make this an incredible, motivating, kick-in-the-pants-and-get-fit plan, here is the best part of all: 

I will ride 2000 2011 miles in 2011 for the South Plains Food Bank farm this year.

Yes, that's right. And, as you might have guessed, I am going to ask you for a pledge of a penny a mile to hold my feet to the fire. A penny a mile! What a great deal! 

You can, of course, pledge more than this, but it's going to take you a penny a mile to buy in to the excitement. That's a twenty-dollar-and-eleven-cent donation to a great operation, brothers and sisters. And here's the kicker: if I don't ride 2011 miles this year, you don't have to donate.

If all goes well, at the end of the ride I will make a big announcement, throw some confetti into the air, and ask you to go to the SPFB website and donate directly to them.

I've put a little ticker up at the top of the page so you can track my progress. Right now, I'm up to 68 cents. An auspicious start for the first week of the year, in my humble opinion (I am counting both commuting miles and training miles, because I absolutely believe in hedging my bets).

This is HUGE! It's Destiny! With a big D! So watch this space to see how it all goes. And if you'd like to sponsor me on this crazy ride, leave a comment (saying specifically that you'll pledge), shoot me an email at the address on the sidebar, message me on Facebook, or DM me on Twitter. I'll put your name on the sidebar as a supporter of The Bike Garden Challenge (unless you want to be anonymous).

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go put some air in my tires.

Note: And by the way, progress is still being made on both the ottoman and the novel. The ottoman will probably be finished sometime on Monday or Tuesday of next week. The novel, however, will take a little longer. I am not as prolific as the amazing Dee Nash, who is apparently capable of writing an astonishing twenty pages a day.