Stacking Functions Garden


On bike commuting

I really have no idea why biking is such a divisive issue. I’ve been bike commuting for years, and when I tell people this they act like I’m trying to start a fight with them. Newsflash to all those Minneapolis drivers who curse me out on a regular basis: I don’t care how you get to work; why do you care so much how I get to work?

But enough ranting; this blog is supposed to be constructive. So here are some facts about bike commuting:

1) It’s not for everyone. It’s much easier if you live in the same town that you work in, or at most only 1-2 towns over.

2) You don’t need an expensive bike or expensive gear. In fact I recommend against that because your bike could get stolen and your stuff will get ruined by rain and road salt. My only expensive biking gear is my Timbuk2 messenger bag which I’ve had for 6 years now and it still looks pretty much like new. It’s best feature is its water-resistance: I’ve ridden through many rainstorms and still arrived at work with dry clothes in my bag.

For my bike clothing I have an old tan pair of shorts, some old running tights, various t-shirts, and a bright yellow fleece. All are over 5 years old and kinda grungy-looking, but I really don’t care.

My bike (seen in the header image) is a 1980 Schwinn WorldSport. It is my fifth bike in 10 years, and my favorite of all, and it was the cheapest! My first two were stolen, my third died in a crash (luckily I survived), and I sold my fourth because I decided it was too nice of a bike for my purposes.

3) If you want to try bike commuting, know that it might take a few weeks or months to figure out your own unique rhythm. Like, what route should you take? Bike in your work clothes or bring them along in your bag? TRY different things and you will figure out what works best for you. I recently changed my bike route after years of riding the same old route.

4) On safety: I found this website a few years ago and am constantly recommending it; it is simply the best guide to how to be safe on a bike that I’ve ever seen. Had I read this in 2002, I might have avoided the one crash that I have experienced. Getting “doored” is not fun at all, and I was very lucky to only have minor injuries.

5) On weather: if you never ride when there is a chance of rain in the forecast, you will never become a regular bike commuter. At some point you just have to get over the weather. Riding in the rain is fun, in the summertime at least. For cold weather, dress warmly but not too warmly. You should feel a little bit chilled the first 1/2 mile or so, and then your heart gets going and you feel nice and snug.

I rode a couple times in below zero weather and I don’t know that I’ll do that again anytime soon– right now my minimum temp for riding is 10-15 degrees F. Essential extra piece of gear for cold weather biking (under 30 degrees): a balaclava. I got mine from REI and it’s lasted about 6 years now.

In Minnesota, it really is possible to bike about 8-9 months out of the year with little hassle. With a certain amount of hassle dedication you can add in those other 3-4 unmentionable months.

6) This goes without saying, but biking is a great way to get extra exercise. I haven’t had much time to work out since I had my kids, but with simply bike commuting I was able to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight no problem.

So yeah, I’m a biking advocate, within reason. I understand that not everyone can or even should do it, but even if we approached something like 10% of commuters (instead of 1-3%) it could really make a difference in both traffic congestion and pollution. And it sure saves a lot of money.

What have I missed here? Do you have great reasons to bike? Safety strategies? Cold weather coping strategies for us upper-midwesterners?

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Garden update – Me 1, Rabbits 0

Almost all the seeds that I planted on April 18 are now sprouted and up!   I was starting to get worried about the peas, because I couldn’t see anything yet as of Saturday and that was day 14 since planting them (seed packet said germination 7-14 days). But Sunday night I looked again and two of them are definitely up. Hopefully the rest will show up shortly. The radishes and lettuce are both showing too.  I don’t expect to see any parsnips for another week at least.

The new seeds that I started inside two weeks ago really took off:

The cucumbers (large, in back, in peat pots) really took off.  It’s a little bit early, but since the forecast is quite mild for this whole week, we decided to chance it and Adam planted the cukes today during the kids’ nap:


This is our “cucumber cage” located on the south, fence side of the garden.  I used this last year too and it worked well; I simply trained the little vines to grow up the cage and then along the rabbit fence, and harvested cucumbers on a regular basis.  We didn’t get enough to make pickles, but I’d love to learn that someday.

Adam put in the rest of the herbs that we started, too, in various places in our front-yard flower bed that were still somewhat open.  He also cleared off a tiny, random little patch of grass right next to the house.  I’ve always thought an herb garden would be nice here; it’s “part-shade” so we did a little research and are going to try parsley and chives (from seed) there.  The chives are perennials, so that’s a bonus.


Having a little herb garden right next to the house is something I’ve been wanting to do since reading Gaia’s Garden this winter.  I don’t quite have enough sunlight and space to do a full-fledged permaculture “food forest” in my yard, but some of the ideas I got from that book really stuck.  Such as: growing your frequently-used foods — such as herbs — as close to your house as possible.  Hemenway said something about being able to collect herbs for your morning omelet without getting dew on your slippers.  That nice mental image really stuck with me, and I think it’s a great way to help get outside of the mentality that the garden is this place which you must hide away in the back yard and walk a great distance to get to.

The fact is, if something is out of the way it is easier to forget about it and put off chores like weeding and watering.  If you are walking past your oregano several times every day, it’s no big deal to occasionally bend down and pull a weed here and there, and that way you don’t get overwhelmed.

This is how I’m trying (TRYING) to look at my yard/garden.  But on the other hand I do have some voracious bunnies that live in a Watership Down-sized warren under my deck in the backyard.  So how much of this giant herb garden that I’m envisioning is actually going to last?  I guess I’ll find out what the bunnies like, anyway.

My main vegetable garden is protected by rabbit-proof fence, so my most prized vegetables (my parsnips, duh) are most definitely in there.  So far this spring I’ve been successful at keeping the rabbits away from my tulips by employing a couple methods:

1) Spraying them, when they first came up with a mixture of (mostly) water with a little bit of biodegradable dish soap and a couple good tablespoons of cayenne powder mixed in.  Only problem is you have to re-apply after every rain… I’ve actually only gotten around to doing this one time this year.

2) Adam cuts his own hair, so since early January I made him save his cuttings in an old plastic yogurt container (gross huh?).  I’ve spread the hair around the tulips several times and it seems to be working.  There’s been a little chewing on the tulips around the edge of the flower bed, but nothing near the total decimation I’ve seen in the past.

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Recipe: Hearty wheat berry salad

I found this recipe in a whole foods cookbook, and I’ve adapted it slightly to simplify it a little bit. This makes A LOT, so if you’re cooking for one or two people it would be better to halve the recipe. I didn’t care for it much the next day because the pumpkin seeds got all soggy. This would be a great salad to take to a potluck. There’s some ahead-of-time prep work, but you could wait until the last minute to assemble it and that only takes a few moments.

Wheat Berries with Chilies and Pumpkin Seeds
1 1/2 c. wheat berries
3/4 c. brown rice
1/2 c. roasted pumpkin seeds
2 jalapeno peppers (or equivalent amount of those canned diced green chilies which aren’t quite as spicy)
1 16-oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (a little less than 2 c.)
1/4 c. plus 1 T. lime juice (or lemon)
1/2 c. minced fresh cilantro
1/4 c. plus 2 T. olive oil
1 1/4 tsp. salt

1. Cover the wheat berries with water and soak at room temp. overnight.

2. The next day place the wheat berries and rice in a large saucepan with 8 c. water.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered 40 min. or until both the wheat berries and the rice are tender.  Drain off excess water and chill in the refrig.

3. Optional extra step: roast the jalapenos in a 400 degree oven for 10 min.  Remove the seeds from your roasted or raw peppers, then chop.

4. Mix everything together in a big bowl and serve.  If you are making ahead, mix everything except the pumpkin seeds and then add them at the last minute.

Wheat berries are the entire wheat kernel, minus the hull.  This is as whole-grain as you can possibly get.  This salad is really delicious and a lot more filling than you might think.  The wheat berries have a really great chewy texture.  This was the first wheat berry recipe I’ve ever made and I loved it.