Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Another pic of the Grain Belt sign reflected in the Mississippi, somewhat obscured by a river birch (Betula nigra).

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Bike riding longevity

We moved our household in stages this fall, and so it wasn't until after we'd been in the new place for a week that I got my bike. I had my daughter drop me off at the old house and I rode my bike home (only about a mile and a half). I missed having my bike so much and was so glad to get it back; that's when I did this drawing in my journal. (The letters on the basket are from a "Local Intelligentsia" bumper sticker, which is a play on the slogan of the Minneapolis Observer: Local Intelligence.)

It's not that I'm this avid bicyclist with the spandex outfit and funny shoes and all that. Rather, I use my bike as transportation whenever distance and weather and other factors permit. Where we live now, it's about a mile or so to the post office, library, bank, and my current favorite coffee shop -- and all within 1/4-mile of each other. So most of the errands I need to run are within easy biking distance. My knees aren't so great and it would be difficult for me to walk that distance, and I would hate to have to drive to such close destinations.

The other day I noticed a white-haired woman peddling along in Downtown Minneapolis, her black sweater open at the front and flapping dramatically behind her, and I got to wondering how long I could expect to be able to ride my bike. OK, I'm only 50, so I don't worry that the end of bike-riding will be anytime soon. But it just made me think about how much I enjoy getting around by bicycle and how much I hate the thought of not being able to do that some day.

So I did a little Internet research to see what might be possible. I came across a story about 78-year-old Bill Anderson, who in October 2004 completed a bicycle trek from San Diego, Calif., to Jacksonville Beach, Florida, to raise money for a mission that helps the homeless. It only took him about a month.

Another site told of 85-year-old Bill Grun who regularly logs 1,000 miles a summer on his bike.

Now I have no such ambitions, but I figure for each of these guys that does something so spectacular they make it into the news for their bike-riding feats, there must be dozens more who ride their bikes to the post office and such, right? I sure like to think so.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

13 worms?

two worms . . .

While strolling along the pedestrian path by the Mississippi in the North Loop of Downtown Minneapolis, I came across the curious inscription above in the sidewalk. The question mark actually looks like a worm, so that's one, I guess. I didn't really look much, since I was there to photograph the bridges (see below), but I did find two more "worms" (made of bronze or something), and one of them appeared to be enjoying a bright red cherry, though more likely it's a crabapple this time of year.

Bridges over the Mississippi-part 3

This is the third photo of bridges over the Mississippi I took today. Read below for more about this, including links to interesting information about the Stone Arch Bridge, seen here under the arches of the Central Avenue bridge, and the Hennepin Ave. suspension bridge (the links are in the two previous posts, which appear below).

Bridges over the Mississippi--another view

Here we see just a little of the Hennepin bridge in the foreground, followed by the Central Avenue bridge, the arches of which, together with their reflection, frame the historic Stone Arch Bridge.

Bridges Over the Mississippi

I had an errand to run over on West River Road, which follows along the Mississippi in Downtown Minneapolis. I had my camera with me and, since it was such a beautiful day -- highs near 70 at a time of year when it would normally be in the 30s here in Minnesota -- with sunshine and nary a breeze, making for great reflections of the bridges in the water, I had to take some photos. I also do some freelance work for a community newspaper called The Bridge, which serves neighborhoods on both sides of the river, and they like to feature a small photo of one or more of the bridges over the Mississippi in the upper left corner of the newspaper each month, so I had a handy excuse to take some photos for that as well.

This one has the the vintage and now iconic Grain Belt sign (one of the city's longtime breweries, though it is no longer made here), with the Hennepin Avenue suspension bridge in the foreground, followed by the Central Avenue bridge seen under the Hennepin bridge.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Another coffee shop moment

Passing time while my son was at his reading tutor's (he has dyslexia; she's marvelous), I, of course, went to the nearest coffee shop and, looking around for something to draw, spied this bicycle with the bright yellow fender out the window. Before I was quite finished, though, the owner came out and rode it away. I couldn't remember the color of the rest of the bike, except that it wasn't yellow.

While I was sitting there drawing, three men came in and one of them ordered an iced drink, which was served in a plastic tumbler. He must have expressed some concern about that, for I heard the barista say, "It's corn plastic," in a reassuring tone. This was followed by some conversation about how prevelant this corn plastic seems to be these days, and speculation about how exactly it breaks down. Then she said, "And you can feel good that the coffee is from a small women's cooperative in Guatemala." This seemed to please or impress him, but then he asks, "Is it organic corn?" The barista didn't know, but supposed that "they had to do something with it to make it grow."

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Leafing it be

Just when I think the fallen leaves all over my yard are looking rather picturesque, my neighbors go and rake theirs and then my leafy yard seems to lose some of its charm!

We don't put our leaves in plastic bags and never have. Having always been an organic gardener with an ample compost pile, I just don't get that whole business of bagging up the leaves. Why give them away? We used to pile them into a wheel barrow and haul them over to the compost pile, to be added to next spring's gardens.

Then one fall, after talking to another gardener who advocated leaving the leaves on the ground as a form of "sheet composting" ("Mother Nature doesn't put leaves in neat piles," he said. "She just composts them where they fall"), I got the idea to just rake them under the trees and bushes and onto the gardens and let them do their composting there, hence becoming next spring's mulch (yet still clearing the lawn for the benefit of the grass). This has worked well for us for several years now. The only potential problem I see is if the leaves are carrying a plant disease that will overwinter with them. Then I suppose I would get rid of them.

We just moved in September and are in the process of establishing planting beds for next spring, so that's where most of the leaves are going this fall. The leaves we have are mostly maple, which do not make the best mulch because they tend to stay flat, thus matting down and shedding water and not helping to aerate the soil underneath them (unlike ash or oak leaves, which curl and crumble like a good mulch). But if you are trying to kill the grass by covering it up so it, too, turns to compost by spring, then a thick layer of maple leaves ought to do the trick, as I see it. Otherwise, we would lay down newspaper, about 10-12 pages thick, and cover that with wood chips. I have used newspaper, and other thick biodegradable paper and cardboard, but where the leaves are quite deep, we are just piling the woodchips on top of the leaves. This needs to be packed down a bit, but it will settle significantly over the winter.

Come spring, I'll just dig my planting holes right in the mulch. No removing of sod or turning of the soil or even adding compost, since that's being done for us (and with just the right mix of nitrogen from the green grass, and carbon from the leaves, papers, and wood chips). Now that's my kind of landscaping project.