Looking for Slug Stoppers

Our garden has, I believe, the highest per capita slug population on the planet. In the past we kept them in check, to a degree, with ducks. Now we have chickens, who provide all kinds of advantages, but do not eat slugs. SO, here is your chance to waigh in with your favorite organic pest control measures.

Monsoon Season

Inclement weather and urgent home improvement projects have kept us off the bike this past week, and technical difficulties have kept me off line. I have managed to knock back the encroaching clutter in my home, some what, in preparation for an energy audit, appraisal, and the arrival of appliance repair people to work on the furnace and clothes washer. I was aided by the enthusiastic assistance of The Boy, who was eager to impress upon me how mature and responsible he is, so that I would agree to let him go to an event on the weekend. I didn't mind the ulterior motives one bit, when motivated he makes an excellent assistant!

The chickens are here!!
Ruby and Ester are settling into the chicken yard, which I am told is much swankyer than their previous digs. The two are sisters, born under the same mama at the same time, and they are so sweet together. Their arrival was delaid while I completed work on a bi-level hen house with individual reclaimed cedar nest-boxes and the works; and after all that they are nesting together in the old duck house, barely a glorified crate, that has been rotting in a corner of the yard the past few years. Go figure!

We opted for adopting adult chickens so we could start getting eggs right away, though we were warned that, with all the excitment of the move, they might lay off laying for a few days. But I guess all the human grade organic grains and produce, as well as the sweet crib, are paying off
because they havn't missed a morning. The aviary at the East end of the garden allows them to fly, and gives them access to sun, soil and bugs --they love the bugs. They are great company while I work in the garden, and they latest step in our journey towards sustainability.

The monsoons brought work on the garden to a stand still earlier in the week, and the weather report has the rains lasting into the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, the veggie starts in the kitchen window continue to grow! The plan is to have over 200 sqare feet of garden, from which we hope to get most of our produce --if it doesnt all flaot away!

I know that my ancestors, and the other farmers of yore, had to contend with unending rains and other adverse conditions, but I imagine they had some better idea what to do in this kinda situation. I have managed to play catch-up, to a certain extent guess thats all anyone can do.

Bike Miles This Week: 7 miles
Cumulative Bike Miles Since Febuary 1st: 160
Cumulative Cycling Expenses: $40
Cumulative Cost per Mile: $0.25


Hey Mikey -he wont eat it!

Another day, another trip to the Chiropractic clinc -SUVman is going to make them rich, which is only right and proper.

I was tired enough on the way home with my son that, while we were making a quick stop at the store, I started to reach for a boxed instant pasta dinner thing --hey, it was organic! My son wrinkled his nose and said "Mom, that has fake powdered 'cheese' that when you mix it up looks like fondue, thats not real food." oy vey, thats what I get fer raising him right!

Had to share this photo, taken yesterday, of my lovely and amazing bike with the buckets, leaving the farmers market loaded with yummy organic groceries and veggie starts for the garden

Wednesdays Ride: 2 miles
Cumulative Bike Miles Since Febuary 1st: 153
Cumulative Cycling Expenses: $40
Cumulative Cost per Mile: $0.26

Market Day

Wednesday I woke up to NPR announcing that Oregon has the third highest air pollution in the Nation, owing largely to auto emissions. The paper went on to explain that Oregonians have some of the highest rates of Cancer due to air pollution. Sure made me glad not to be contributing to the problem.

I had another Chiropractic appointment, after which I peddled to the hardware store, City Bikes, and onto the Farmers Market. I love market day, especially in spring, everything looks so new and vibrant. People's Food Co-op hosts one of the city's only year round markets, and even though there are fewer booths this time of year, the teaming baskets of produce, the musicians, and the people are a delight to the senses. I love knowing the people who raise my food.

My bike buckets drew a lot of attention (I hope to have photos soon), the Farmers Market is in a neighborhood with a large cycling population. Several people were curious as to why I have them mounted over the front wheel, rather than the rear (I didn't have the Trail-A-Bike attached, so the answer wasn't obvious), as well as exactly how I built and mounted them, so I will be posting DIY instructions here soon.

Thanks to the bike-scale bungee cords that I picked up at City Bikes, I managed to use the top of the buckets as a surface on which to strap a flat of veggie starts and other delicate items from the Farmers Market. Also noteworthy: I was able to get all of my errands done in just over 3 miles: most car trips in America are under 5 miles -many are under 1 mile- making utility cycling a real option. Yet many folks have the misguided notion that they have "too much running around to do" to go by bike. If they actually looked at the mileage, and perhaps planned their trips, they would find utility cycling not only very do-able, but also far more enjoyable than fighting their way through traffic

Wednesdays Ride: 3 miles
Cumulative Bike Miles Since Febuary 1st: 151
Cumulative Cycling Expenses: $40
Cumulative Cost per Mile: $0.26

Cancer Cuasing Emissions: O

Subverting the dominant paradigm: Priceless


Shopping on a Bike

Peddled over to the Co-op Tuesday to forage for dinner before picking up The Boy. I was pleased to discover that the new buckets hold a canvas bag of groceries each with a minimum of juggling. While there I ran into a friend who has a huge garden --really, it's a small homestead, last year he was selling his surplus at the farmers market. Remembering how much he enjoyed the eggs I used to get from my ducks (before their sad demise), I mentioned that I was going to have poultry again and would love to barter my eggs for some of his produce, an idea he was very amenable to. One more step towards sustainability!

With National Bike Month coming up (May), I have been thinking about writing a series of posts on different aspects of utility biking, but in the case of grocery shopping, it just strikes me as so simple. But here are some tips:

Handlebar baskets can hold a limited number of essentials, for example, a box of rice milk, a bag of pasta, jar of sauce, and a roll of TP. Basically one meal. Too much weight in the basket can complicate steering and handling of the bike.

One grocery bag will fit in:
a back pack
a bike bucket
When loading any of the above, take care that heavier/ridged items are at the bottom, while lighter/delicate items are at the top. I don't frequently buy a lot of frozen items, but when I do, I try to have the cold items together in one bag, or together at the bottom of the bag, to keep each other cold.

Someday I hope to add a FreeRadical from Xtracycle to my rig, allowing me to do big shopping trips like the woman in this photo. They just got a nice write-up in the local paper as part of an article on inventions created by collage students. I understand that these racks can hold 4+ fully loaded grocery bags on either side, plus theres that wooden platform over the rear wheel that can hold more gear -or even a kid!

Bikes At Work offers a wide varriety of sturdy, versatile bike trailers that will allow you to haul anything from a tub of groceries to a refrigerator (seriously)

Shopping by bike is quite possibly the easiest example of utility cycling: no worries about deadlines, or professional appearance as or anything like that, so why not give it a try?

Tuesday's Ride: 4 miles
Cumulative Bike Miles Since Febuary 1st: 148
Cumulative Cycling Expenses: $36
Cumulative Cost per Mile: $0.25
Subverting the dominant paradigm: Priceless


Happy Equinox

I have been pondering a number of sustainability issues this Equinox, including Peak Oil and permaculture gardening. I hope to distil my thoughts into some posts in the coming weeks, but in the mean time I couldnt resist sharing this article about how Cuba has thrived after a suden and drastic recuction in thier access to imported oil and foods. Some people think that life post Peak Oil will look like a Mad Max movie, but this story shows that it doesnt need to be that way

Night Rider

My first real ride since the accident also ended up being my first ever late night ride –and cross town no less-- as well as my first opportunity to try out the bike buckets.

Over the past few days friends and family have been doting on me and shepherding me to appointments and places I needed to get, but by Sunday I was feeling well enough to accept an diiner invitation, and to get myself there by bike.

I was really pleased with how my home-made bike buckets worked. The first pair I made fell victim to the car accident before I got the chance to really use them. The new set of buckets worked beautifully and carried an impressive amount, I was able to bring my contribution to the dinner, as well as extra layers for the ride home and my Supper Hero Cape (ok, it's not really a cape, it's this crazy reflective yellow biking poncho that fits over me like a giant tent and looks ridiculous, but also makes me extremely visible at night)

One thing I have noticed about riding with the buckets is that people get out of my way and cars give me a wider berth! The buckets give the effect of a wider profile (although they do not extend beyond the widest part of my handlebars), and just generally lend themselves to a more substantial, commanding presence. I have noticed a significant difference in how much room I am given, both on the street and shared pedestrian/cycle lanes. It's a real added benefit, along with the extra cargo space!

The date went late, and I found myself winding my way home through unfamiliar streets in the middle of the night. I was a little nervous about it at first, especially given that this was both my first real ride since the accident, and my first night time ride, but my bight yellow buckets and bright yellow Supper Hero Cape made me very visible (along with my front and rear lights), and it felt so good to be back on a bike, I arrived back home feeling elated and renewed.

Last Nights Ride: 9 miles
Cumulative Bike Miles Since Febuary 1st: 144
Cumulative Cycling Expenses: $36
Cumulative Cost per Mile: $0.25
Subverting the dominant paradigm: Priceless


The New Garden

This is the first time I am gardening alone. Two years ago, and going back 15 years previous, I had a partner with whom I created this garden and every garden that came before.

As I begin turning the soil, it is as if I am exhuming the memories. Breaking up the clods and reveling forgotten bulbs, I am reminded of the songs we sang and the plans we made here. Almost as if the memories themselves were planted here. I turn them back under tenderly and prepare the place for new seeds.

Last season I did not garden at all, I did not even set foot back here. The yard grew wild, shaggy and feral, all thorns, barbs and snares. Now we are slowly getting re-acquainted and finding how we fit together in this new arrangement, and in doing so I am falling in love with gardening all over again.

The peas are in, sewn along the south fence. I managed to slip them in between the rain and snow and other storms and adverse situations we have had of late. Roma tomatoes starts are growing large in my kitchen window, and bell peppers have begun to emerge next to them. I'm thinking I am going to need to buy broccoli starts, as mine are spindly and annimic for want of a warm spot in the garden. Poor things just didn't get enough sun in the window

I am regretting, just a little, not going with my very ambitious inclination to create an elaborate, swirly, permaculture inspired garden design. Instead I am following, more or less, the layout that was there before: long straight East-West rows. Not as interesting, but infinitely more manageable, and thats the thing: I really need this garden underway, and for it to be bountiful, as W keeps cutting my Financial Aid and raising the interest on my student loans --I would love to see he and Laura try to make ends-meet on my budget!

If things go as planned, this will be the largest garden I have ever tended, although weather and my school schedule have thrown a wrench into the plans and delayed progress. When I headed into the garden Saturday morning, the weather report indicated sunny skies for most of the rest of the week, and with that the possibility of getting the beds turned and the plants in seemed almost doable. When I cam in last night, covered in soil and scratches, and tuned into the weather report I got the update: it now looks like I only have till Tuesday night! So I better get back out there.


Weekend Update

I had intended to post updates on my various cycling and sustainability projects early this week, but then a big ugly SUV plowed through a red light and into me, which has thrown the schedule off a little

Sustainable Eating
Work began on our new improved Poultry Palace last weekend, and continues. We had ducks last year,but had not realized that predators lurk in even the most developed and urban of environments. Not sure whether it was raccoons or feral pets that got them, but we lost them last fall and have not wanted to get more without the ability to protect them from all comers.

We have missed having fresh, organic, cruelty free eggs, as well as the pest control and free fertilizer that egg-layers provide, and our timing in raising our own couldn't be better: the last local organic family poultry farm in our area just “closed it's coops” (they are shifting to other crops and critters), so our only options for store bought eggs will be conventional, cruelty-intensive varieties, or eggs shipped in from large scale facilities hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Not sure what varieties of poultry we will be raising, other than I know we will have quail because my son brought home a pair quail chicks from the feed store earlier this week(long story, don't ask). We are considering the addition of ducks, as we just loved the Cambells that we had last year, as well as Bantams.

In The Garden
Well, ok, sadly not much is happening in the garden, this is perhaps the area where I am most behind in my chores, but every surface in my home is covered with starts urging me on, anxious to be transplanted. The Boy and I are planning our biggest garden yet and are eager to see how much of our own food we can grow (he wanted to plant wheat so we could “harvest” our own pasta)

Mama Called Doctor and The Doctor Said . . .
Went to my first ever Chiropractor appointment following my run-in with SUVman: apparently I drink too much coffee, don't get enough sleep, and take care of everyone other than myself, so clearly my mama credentials are firmly intact.

All that aside, there is damage from the accident, but nothing permanent. Rather than years of physical therapy, I'm just looking at months of Chiro, massages and hot tub soaks. It could have been so much worse.

The Bike Lives!
The genius mechanics at City Bikes somehow managed, without Kings Horses, Kings Men, or even a King's ransom, to put my bike together again! Many parts were replaced, but it is back good as new, and I hope to be soon as well. I took the bike out for a brief ride, still feeling a bit shaky, but all the better for being back in the saddle. I definitely feel safer, and better on a bike.

War -UH!- What Is It Good For . . .
This weekend marks the 3rd anniversery of the war in Iraq, marches are planned in nearly every part of America today and Sunday. Thomas Jefferson said that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. I would go further, and say that without, without the freedom to express dissent, we are not patriots, we are not Americans.
One more quote before you head out into the streets, from Ed Murrow: "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it . . . We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home".
Thats the update, now lets get out there.



Caught in the crush of Finals Week and errands and the various pressures of life, I took to the streets in a car Wednesday morning, my beloved bike riding on the bike rack, when a massive black SUV plowed through a red light before crashing into the side of the car I was driving. The impact threw my bike completely off the rack and shoved the car into the next lane, and oncoming traffic.

I am alright, as is the SUV driver, but my bike suffered significant damage. After exchanging information and formalities with the other driver, I took my bike directly to City Bikes, and tonight it sits at their shop waiting for a welder and frame builder to see what might be done.

Had things gone only slightly differently, I would be dead. Had that happened I would have died doing something that conflicts with my core values and belief, and which steels the planet from future generations in incriments.

The good folks at City Bikes, after giving me a cozy chair and making sure I was ok, observed how lucky it was that I had been in a car, rather than on my bike. Strictly speaking this is true, there no way I would have survived such an impact, it is a miracle I survived it in the car. But I don't believe I would have been in the collision had I been on my bike, for a number of reasons, and am in no way grateful for having been in a car.

Absent a car I would not have been trying to fit so many errands into a single morning. Even if I had been running the same errand I was on when I got hit, I would have been using a different rout in order to take advantage of bike lanes. As a cyclist I am hyper vigilant in watching for cars and other dangers, in a way that it is not possible to be in a motor vehicle. As motorist we travel in these metallic bubbles that insulate us from our communities and even our own senses.

Hurtling along in these missiles of steel and glass, our ability to see and hear is compromised, as is our connection to the surrounding environment, while our sense of protection and invincibility is heightened. Children and pets are killed every day because they couldn't be seen in rear view mirrors or over the hoods of a cars, or because the driver could not stop or change trajectory in time.

Approximately, 6,000 pedestrians and cyclists are killed annually by cars, another 125,000 people are injured, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Those 6,000 pedestrians and cyclists are among the 42,000 + people killed annually in traffic fatalities; meaning that in any two year period more Americans are killed by cars that were killed during the entire Vietnam War -and those are just the deaths resulting directly from collisions and accidents.

I guess all of this is a long-winded way of saying that I don't believe in driving cars, for all these reasons and more, and yet I nearly died while doing so, and it has me reevaluating the choices I make --and fail to make-- in my life. It has me noticing how easily we are lured away from those things that matter to us, even when we are cognizant of all these facts and and reasons for doing the right thing.


Cracking The Mt. Tabor Ridge

In cycling, as in life, the barriers and obsicles we encounter are often more mental than literal. In my pursuit of a more sustainable, eco-friendly life, I have been making the shift to using bikes as transportation, but I have had this mental block about cycling the full distance (over 7 miles) to school every morning. The Mt Tabor ridge has become, for me, the symbol of this barrier. Friday I cracked it.

My rout to school takes me over the Mt Tabor Ridge, a ridge formed by a dormant volcano, creating a narrow East/West divide that runs about a mile. Put that way it sounds very rugged, treacherous and legitimately daunting. How many people need to face a volcano on their way to school? In actual fact, from my home, it's a rather steep incline of 3 or so city blocks. Actual city blocks, paved, with sidewalks and street lights, even has bike lanes through part of it. The ridge is long enough that riding around it seems impreacticle, but it takes fewer than ahalf a dozen blocks to cross over it, once over the ridge the rout is nearly all flat or down hill. Still, combined with the 7 miles that follow, it has felt daunting to me. So up until this week I have "carpooled" over the ridge and to a point just 3 relatively flat miles from PSU.

I am no athlete, and between the demands of single parenting and the approach of Finals week, I have been cycling less and busing more. In doing so I have been feeling that my "conditioning work" was not moving in the direction I wanted it to. Friday morning's clear sunny skies beconed, and I didnt need to be on campus till late afternoon, so I headed out plenty early and rode the full 7 miles to school. As is so often the case, doing it was easier that thinking about it.

The next challenge, riding the full distance home, nearly all seven miles of which is UP hill.


Snow Day

Ah, I had such plans for today: I was going to get the chicken coop finished so we can once again have "home fresh eggs" and organic pest control in the garden, I was actually going to get work don putting in the garden, and I was going to going to get some riding in. But I woke this morning to a winter wonderland.

The rows of starts coving the kitchen table, arching toward the light as starts do, look as if they are peering out the window at the snow. Not yet my dearies, cant go out now.

So, the boy and I headed out for some provisions, as the light flurries turned to a cacophony reminiscent of a child's snow globe. We gathered supplies and hustled home through the "blizzard" and have currled up on the bed with warm drinks, our two cats, and good stories.

I suppose I could take the opportunity to write my Final paper, but instead am boning up on permaculture principles and planning the spring garden. Spring is right around the corner, after all.


Juggling Life, School, and Bike Buckets

I have been in a bit of a funk the past week or so, I wonder if this is, at least partly, inherent to the process of the shift I am making: I have lost some of the bright-eyed, giddy enthusiasm of the newly converted, mastered most of the novice level challenges, and am getting down to the real work of creating a sustainable life.

It hasn't helped that I the boy and I have been plagued with myriad complications and theoretical barriers to going by bike: cold and flue season, I have had an ankle injury, finals are looming large. Making the life I have work, while concurrently creating the life I want is proving daunting, and I'm not far enough along to see the rewards and benefits, gotta go on faith at this point.

The good news is I got my bike back from the shop, complete with front rack (managed to score a used one: more affordable and more sustainable) and have finally, just this evening, gotten to work on the "bike buckets". These awesome pannier alternatives that protect contents form crushing as well as the elements, while widening the bike's profile (thus making it more visible) and offering the perfect surface for political stickers and extra reflectors. (photo, above, shows an example)

I figured that I could make a pair myself for far less than the $50 the shop was charging.
Sure enough, for less than $8 I was able to get the hardware to mount 2 buckets obtained from the local food co-op's bulk food department (DIY photos coming soon)


The Serendipity of Cycling with Children

I have found so many unexpected benefits to cycling in tandem with my son --and have had so many questions about how to get started cycling with kids-- that I thought it deserved it's own article

I think that starting when when my son was young has been a real key to our success, although we only recently gave up the car, my son has never known a time when we didn't have and use bikes. When he was an infant I towed him to the park in a bike trailer, and he has had bike of his own from a young age.

When we as we made the shift to being full time bike commuters I tried to make the trips we took by bike fun and manageable, aiming for routes and destinations that were interesting and appealing to him. With the Trail-A-Bike, knowing that we can komokazi down hills at speeds he would never be able to do on his own is reason enough for my son to want to join me on rides, and he loves the attention we get (you would think we were freakin Super Heroes for all the heads we turn)

One important element, at least with my son, has been packing layers for him. Like most kids, he figures that if he is comfortable standing on the front porch, then thats good enough. He doesn't take into account that we create out own wind chill factor, or that it might rain or get warmers or colder.

Prior to their first birthday, infants should ride in trailers, the child seats that attach to your bike frame [] more neck and muscle strength than infants have. Trailers can be used with kids up to about age 6, many models come with attachments that allow you to also use them as push strollers, and many offer sufficient space to carry a bag of groceries.

Although I know a number of families who have used and enjoyed the plastic baby seats that attach to an adults bike frame, I never used one. I used a trailer from the time my son was born until he outgrew it at almost a decade later, when we switched to a Trail-A-Bike. I still use the trailer to haul cargo. The baby seats may offer advantages, but they also have a very short useful life, and cant be converted for other uses.

These magnificent inventions may take a day or two for you child to adjust to and feel comfortable on. My son panicked the first time he tried one, we had to start with me walking the bike as slowly as I could manage while he screamed that he was going to crash and die. The movement and overall feel of a Trail-A-Bike is different than a solo kids bike, and of course there is the small matter of no steering or breaks (from the child's perspective). Gradually my son warmed to it, and now loves how fast can go on it. One would never guess that the kid bellowing “Peddle Lady!” and “DONT put on the breaks, I wanna go FAST” is the same kid that was sure he was going to die as I walked along side the bike.

Riding in tandem is a great way for me role teach The Boy bicycle safety. Without the distractions of navigating his end of the bike, he has a front row view of how I negotiate traffic, handle tricky intersections, use hand signals, etc. of course this means I have to use good sense and appropriate hand gestures.

Perhaps the best benefit of cycling as a family has been that my son has grown up outside the dominant paradigm, unlike so many kids (and adults for that matter) he does not worship cars, nor does he share the widely held belief that they are necessary. He has been compiling a list of all the places we can go by bike, and proudly proclaims that "bikes are the cars of the future"

Cycling as a family has been, and continues to be, a wonderful experience for my son and I. I feel like it has really enhanced my relationship with my son, as a Child and Family studies major, I know that boys tend to open up during recreational and sports activities, and I have experienced this numerous times while biking with my son. Cycling together has facilitated conversations and provided opportunities for bonding that I don't think we would have had any other way.