Sunday, March 30, 2008


Walked to work tody, and was rewarded with birds that could have been swans. I only saw them fly overheard, and at first took them for geese, but there was something vaguely ungooselike about them. The bodies seemed slimmer, and the wings looked longer, and the way they moved seemed slightly different than geese, like the tips of their wings moved in a different way. The light was bad and I couldn't see any markings (which helps a lot) but what I saw of their necks looked white. When they called, it sort of sounded like an old-fashioned car horn going UHuh UHuh, a slightly more yodelling and trembling and delicate voice than Canada geese. There was just two of them flying together. When I looked up they were headed west but were in the process of making a slow circle to go east; a few blocks later I saw them (or another couple) again, this time deciding to go west after all.

They could have just been geese, too. I don't know swans well enough to be able to identify them by sillouhette and sound alone. All I know is that my girlfriend has been talking a lot about wanting to go out and look for the swans that could be flying overhead.

In addition to Mystery Birds, I also got to see the first crocus of the year coming up in somebody's yard, little white buds peeping up through the leaf litter on a warm, south-facing slope.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

first ride

I had to go in to work tonight for a special project, and I knew I'd be there later than the buses run, so I rode my bike and it was my first ride this year. Back in college, I used to be hardcore and ride year round, but I have apparently grown frail and decrepit in my old age (I'm 28).

The weather was just about perfect for it, sunny and upper thirties with no noticeable wind, just cool enough to be brisk and keep you from overheating.

My body condition, on the other hand, was a little less than perfect.

Now, I'm in pretty good shape, don't get me wrong. I do a lot of walking, and I have a very physical job that keeps me fit, but the muscles used in walking are totally different than the muscles used in cycling, and cycling is so much more intense--it's more like running. I know that overall you use less energy cycling than you do walking to go the same amount of distance, and I'm not so decrepit that I'll be sore tomorrow--it is only two miles, after all--but getting to work was, erm, interesting. It makes it extra fun that going to and from work I literally go uphill both ways, although the getting-there uphill is much worse than the coming-home uphill. I love Duluth and I love biking but, oh man, these hills. I think I've already staked out the routes with the gentlest slopes and all the same I was panting and dizzy when I got in to work.

But coming home was nice. I can coast for almost half of it, and then the rest is either flat or is a very gentle rise, requiring just enough effort so that you can marvel at how fast you can travel by the power of your own legs.

There's a Critical Mass going on this Friday, but I'll be working, and I think it's supposed to snow, anyway. But I'm glad it's happening, I'm glad that even with all the crazy hills that there's enough bike people in Duluth to stage a Critical Mass. And in another couple weeks the DTA will
put the bike racks back on the buses, which will make it easier for weenies like me--bus up the worst of the hills, and then coast back down back 'em.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

quote-unquote garden update

My basil and parsley finally sprouted too! It just took them twice as long as the package said it would. There's a good crowd of parsley, just a few basil sprouts as of this morning, and the dill is coming in thick and green... I might have to actually thin it out.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I do not have my Barbie Dream House quite yet, and the landlord won't let me tear up the whole yard, so for now my gardening is largely limited to containers. I don't even have a good place indoors to start seeds--everywhere in the apartment that it is warm and sunny enough for happy sprouty seeds, it is also full of cats, and all the cat-free places are dark and cool.

But I'm trying anyway, because seeds are cheap, and because I am itching to do something, to put seeds in dirt and wait for magic.

And look:

My dill went sproing! I also have pots of parsley and basil. The parsley has one sprout, and the basil nada. The pots are in the stairwell outside the back door of our apartment. They get some afternoon sun, but not a lot, and it gets cool at night. I need a house so that I can take over the sun porch and turn it into a greenhouse. Or I need to be able to afford to shell out for grow lights and a heated platform thingie. It'll be probably two months before I can safely move the pots outdoors.

My dill isn't the only thing going sproing:

Pussy Willows get all the glory for their fuzzy catkins in the spring, but the Paper Birch put on a good show, too, as seen here. Pussy Willow catkins are smoother and softer, like tiny little lucky rabbit's feet, and the birch catkins look more like they exploded out of their shell. As they get older, the birch catkins will get extravagantly long and dangly, and the Pussy Willows will get a little longer, most mostly poofier, and the tips of the fluff will turn green with pollen and they'll be sort of alien-looking. More on this story as it develops.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

spring fever

It's so depressing to come to work this time of year... okay, it's kind of depressing to come to work year 'round. But now, after a long northern winter, when spring is finally starting to make itself known and when so much is happening, I hate having to come in to work and spend more or less all the daylight hours cooped up indoors.

So sometimes I walk to work. It's only about two miles, but it's partly uphill, and then once I'm at work I'm on my feet all day, doing a lot of heavy lifting and going up and down stairs, so walking to work means that I'm going to be pretty exhausted by the time I go home again, so I can't do it every day.

But today it was warm (like, in the 30s) and sunny and beautiful, and I made myself slightly late for work walking here and dawdling along the way. There were chickadees singing their spring song, and nuthatches doing their courtship/nesting dance, and I heard a woodpecker drumming. The creeks aren't melted yet, but if you get close enough you can hear the water rushing under their skin of ice and snow. A little exhaustion is worth it for birds and creeks and fresh air and sunshine in the springtime.

I've been at work for four hours now, and I've got another four hours to go. Stupid breakroom doesn't even have a window. I want to go back outside again.

another lesbian kale recipe

In response to the Compost Maven's Lesbian Kale Sauce, I present to you my favorite kale recipe. As you can see, it's very complex and exacting. But I really enjoy the combination of sweet and salty and earthy, and the colors are awfully pretty, too. I'll take pictures next time I make it.

Kale-Yam-Pecan Stir Fry

1 bunch kale, washed-n-chopped
1 yam (a.k.a. orange-fleshed sweet potato) sliced thin (about 1/4 inch thick)
1 onion, sliced
handful of pecans
sesame oil
tamari or soy sauce
brown sugar
brown rice

Saute kale, yam, and onion in sesame oil and tamari (I don't measure it, keep adding enough so that things don't stick and so that it tastes good) until kale is wilted and yam is cooked through. It helps a lot to have a pan with a good lid so that you can keep it on low-medium heat and let the veggies steam a bit. When veggies are cooked, add pecans and a spoonful or two of brown sugar, and cook a minute longer so that the sugar melts and carmelizes a bit and the pecans get coated in goo. Serve over rice.