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I probably should have known better. But so many weeks of mild weather lulled me into complacency. Each weekend I thought, I should empty the rain barrels. But the forecast for the week would be warm and I’d think, eh, I’ll do it next weekend. The last two days we did not get above freezing and Bookman went out this morning to drain the barrels. Too late. Both of them are frozen solid. How could that be? How could 55 gallons of water freeze solid in two days? Well it did. We were hoping for some melt today but the high only made it to 33F/.5C. However, the forecast for the next few days says nights below freezing but days above. So. We opened the hose valves on the barrels for the water to drain should it melt. I hope it melts. Then we can tip the barrels upside down to keep snow out of them and set them up again in spring. Hopefully this one freeze won’t spilt the barrels. Plastic, even when it is thick, is surprisingly fragile when it freezes.

Butterfly weed seeds

Butterfly weed seeds

During the week I noticed the butterfly weed pods split open. I have one in the front yard and have never seen it do this, probably because by late summer it gets hidden by the taller purple coneflowers. At first I thought it was milkweed and for the life of me could not remember milkweed growing there at all. I was beginning to doubt my memory when I looked up butterfly weed on the internet and discovered, yes, it does have pods that burst open and looks remarkably like milkweed. I also discovered that the plants really like sandy soil which explains why it is doing so well where I planted it in the back garden, the soil in its bed is pretty sandy. This is a happy stroke of luck. I have a chicken garden that is full of sand buried beneath woodchips and leaves. Some of those seeds are going to get scattered along the sandy margins this week. Come spring I just have to remember where they got planted so if they actually sprout, I won’t accidentally pull them up thinking they are a random unwanted weed.

Speaking of the chickens, Bookman and I went out to work on the coop this afternoon. While our bodies were warmly layered, our hands were not. Work gloves are not insulated and one cannot build in mittens. So we got two rafter support beams up before our hands were so numb we could no longer feel them. Barring any surprise “warm” days or December/January thaws, our coop building is done until spring. We didn’t get as much done as I had hoped, but we made pretty good progress considering we have never done anything like this before. If we don’t get the rafters attached before spring, that will be first on the agenda. Then the fun with plywood and foam insulation begins. We bought a jigsaw in preparation for cutting holes in the plywood sheets for windows, doors and vents. Fun times ahead for spring!

Will you be surprised to know I am already thinking about what to plant in the garden next year? That early seed catalog I got? I’ve paged through it all and marked it all up. I’m planning on trying a new to me green bean in the garden, a variety called “masai” that I have heard is tasty and has a very high yield. I also just read a Mother Earth News article about turnips and learned there are small turnips about the size of a golfball that are mostly Japanese varieties that can be eaten fresh, even sliced up like water chestnuts and used in stir fries for a bit of crunch. This has made me far more excited than I should be. After two years of not having much success with parsnips, I have decided to toss those out and plant more turnips which I do have success with. So next year I’ll plant the big late season turnips and the small early season ones too.

And then of course I am planning what to grow on the green roof of the chicken coop. I decided to have a purple/blue and orange color scheme. All the plants have to be drought tolerant and low growing. So far I have decided on blue fescue grass, pussytoes, pasque flower and catmint (not a cat-attracting variety!). Next autumn I will plant spring blooming bulbs of Siberian squill, grape hyacinth, and orange species tulips. The roof is 10 feet/3 m long and about 2.5 feet/.8 m from peak to edge. I am planting both sides of it so have lots of area to play with and all winter to imagine and plan. If you could see me as I type this, I have the biggest, dopiest grin on my face.

I am still reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I am reading it little bits at a time and I hope, as the gardening posts become few and far between for a while, you won’t mind me updating you on my progress through this beautiful book and the occasional quote. This one is from the chapter called “Seeing:”

It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret to seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.

Isn’t that a beautiful image?


Biking on the trainer is going great. Zwift added a bunch of workouts a couple weeks ago and I thought I would give one of them a try. I chose an intervals workout that was 60 minutes long. The workout Zwift gives me is based on my FTP (functional threshold power). I expected it would be hard, but holy Lance Armstrong Batman! After the first two intervals I was sucking wind so bad I could not get my watts up to where they were supposed to be. The screen kept flashing “More Power” in big read letters. I yelled at my legs like Captain Kirk to Scottie, “Give me more power!” And my legs yelled back, “I’m givin’ ye all she’s got Cap’n!” And then the five minute interval would be over and “Fail!” would flash up on the screen in big red letters. To my credit I didn’t give up. I failed interval after interval right up to the end. I am apparently not the only one who is having problems because this week a new workout was added: 6-week ftp for beginners. Ha! As the name implies, it is a six-week workout training to improve ftp. I have decided to embark on that in January.

At the moment my riding plan is to add 5 miles/8 km to my Saturday ride each week through the end of the year. Have I mentioned this yet? Sorry if I am repeating myself. Anyway, by doing that I will be putting in a 100 mile/161 km ride on January 3rd. Yesterday I did 70 miles/112.7 km. I’ve done that far on Astrid outdoors but that included rest stops. Yesterday my only rest was a quick bathroom break. My legs were tired but my rear end was a bit sore. A hot shower never felt so good. Everything is feeling just fine today, but then I haven’t gotten on the trainer yet. That will be the real test.

That I think all of this is a whole lot of fun is utterly amazing to me. If this time last year you would have told me about this I would have called you crazy. Now it seems I am the crazy one.