I would ride 100 miles and I would ride about 10 more.

I finally did it.  This Saturday, after two solid years of life and adventures sans car, I finally bicycled a century.  106 miles to be exact.

Ben and I set off about 8:30am, fueled by homemade bread, plums, and a few sips of coffee.  We met up with our friend Tiffany and headed North along the good old Mississippi River.  Newly paved trail and clear signage (what a concept!) awaited us, and the first hour and a half of riding up to the Coon Rapids Dam passed in a flash.  Tiffany turned back so that she could make the State Fair that afternoon, so Benjamin and I continued alone.

We lunched in Rogers, by way of Elm Creek Park Reserve, at the lovely Minne’s Diner.  Benjamin highly enjoyed his kraut laced burger, and I was surprised to find several tantalizing vegetarian choices on the menu (I decided on a veggie pita in the end).

With perfectly full bellies and snacks for later down the road, we took to the county highways, aiming toward the Lake Rebecca Park Reserve and the lovely little town of Delano.  Possessing a proper map was enormously helpful on this entire endeavor- on previous adventures both Ben and I somehow neglected to bring a map, making trail-finding and spontaneous route-planning nearly impossible.

Our map was not the only useful tool on this most excellent of century rides; helpful signage from the Three Rivers Park system helped too:

After a brief misdirection in Delano we continued southwest to Watertown, ‘Heart of the Luce Line’, and town that saved a very hungry and tired Lauren on the bike trip out to the Garlic Festival in Hutchinson last summer.  We paused briefly, the threat of rain nearly over, and then took to the east, with the promise of home, shower, and food.

A couple of hours of riding later, relieved that we don’t live in the ‘burbs and happy to have discovered the recently finished Dakota Rail Trail, Ben and I arrived home, tired, happy, and ready for a friend’s birthday picnic.

Now, I’m pretty proud of myself for riding a century.  106 miles is kind of a big deal.  But more than posting for the sake of self-glorification, I hope that at least one reader realizes how possible it is.  I went from never having ridden more than five miles in one go in my entire life to riding a century just in the course of two years.  So can you!  Rah rah rah!

So get out on your bike, just a bit every day, week, or even month if that’s all you can commit to for starters.  Ride to the store, to a friend’s house, to a movie.  And even more importantly, start to change your idea of what’s possible, and moreover, what’s enjoyable.  A bike is cheap, the roads and paths are just as much yours as anyone else’s, air is free, and your body will love you for it.

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Right Now I’m Reading: The Fifth Sacred Thing

Via a friend’s posting of the fantastic (and now, funded!) Kickstarter project to make a movie of the book, I finally picked up The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk.  And at about halfway through I’m wondering how and why I never read it before.

I’m a sucker for novels set in the future, for dystopias/utopias, and for nature writing.  This is all of the above.  The center stage for the story is San Francisco, circa 2048, which has been rebuilt as an enclave after the ruling corporations have taken over the rest of the country and perhaps the world.

Starhawk lays out a phenomenal vision of a future built around community, reverence for nature (ie the Four Sacred Things: earth, air, water and fire), authentic relationships, and ingenuity.  This rich novel is deeply feeding my desire for intentional community, something that just might be on my life’s horizon in the nearer future than I expected.

In the meantime, potlucks galore, collective visionings with friends (who wants to reestablish the Dreams Accountability Collaborative?), and deeply living and loving the last days of summer.

Save the food! Save the farms!

This could have been one of those Sundays spent bemoaning the end of the weekend.  I arrived back in Minneapolis around noon, relaxed from a weekend out at Ben’s parents place than included a music festival, sunset kayaking, and overnight french toast.  I wasn’t at all ready for the reality of work and responsibility tomorrow morning.  But rather than spend the entire day lounging about, I managed to convince myself that going to an activist gathering at French Meadow Bakery was a much better use of my afternoon.  And indeed it was.

In my recent ‘redefining and exploring my priorities and path in life’ exercise, I began thinking about what causes I truly want to spend my time, energy, and money on- I care about a plethora of issues, and those three things are finite, so a bit of focus is necessary to be any kind of effective.  Out of the throng of potential causes, I realized that sustainable agriculture and food is far and away the issue about which I am most passionate.  I can talk for hours on the thing; try me some time.

Within a day or so of this clarification/realization I received an email invitation to Food and Water Watch‘s activist gathering on the Farm Bill.  Perfect timing, I thought.  Thanks for the clear direction for once, universe.

I don’t know details about the upcoming Farm Bill, but hope to in the coming days read a bit more of the summaries of the various sections (the entire document is many hundred if not many thousand pages long).  What I do know is that the Farm Bill is the defining policy document for pretty much anything food related.  School lunch programs.  Organic certification.  Factory farming.  Food stamps.  Local food initiatives.  You name it.  The activist gathering convinced me of this even further, and solidified even further sustainable farming and food issues as the natural centerpoint of my activist and energy.

Food is something I can get excited about.  Something that almost anyone can get excited about in fact.  Everyone eats, many people garden, and almost everyone I know has at least one family member that farms.  Food and farming are relevant, are compelling, are essential.

In the coming weeks I hope to host a Farm Bill action/education potluck, perhaps a series even?  What would you like to know about the Farm Bill?  What would make the decidedly unsexy policy compelling, interesting, even fun?

Rebirth on the Eve of Autumn

Sometimes living things and ideas appear to die.  Their time has seemingly come, with something new to certainly take their place.

Sometimes, however, this death is undone, tossed away, and a rebirth ensues.

In addition to my aloe plant having risen from the dead, in the last few weeks I have found myself in the midst of a resurgence of the deep interest and devotion I felt in high school to nothing other than intentional communities.  It peaked last night with this trailer:

Don’t mind the narration- I think it’s kind of silly too- but the concepts, the vision, the realities of creating and living with others in holistic relationship with the land is delicious, enticing and, most importantly, compelling.

I’m doing a bit of life reorganizing today, reimagining my priorities and focuses, my free time and my vocational path.  And nearly everything I’ve written so far has centered around creating intentional community, establishing space to be and learn and support and create and express and build the kinds of relationships that our individualistic, consumer culture makes so incredibly difficult, nigh impossible.

Ben and I are still looking for a house, which for me is one of the essential steps to inhabiting the community, creative life that I so crave.  We’re hitting a bit of a wall on the financial end- who knew that saving money rather than incurring debt via credit cards was such a financial failing?  But we’re pressing on, with the help of all sorts of people.  I’m generally failing at writing about finding and making home, but hope to return to it once August is over.

Uniting my work and heart’s goals is still an interesting adventure.  But such is life, yes?  What I truly love will be reborn until it fits properly into my life, I think.

The best zucchini I have ever eaten.

Between last week’s CSA share and this week’s, we ended up with an inordinate amount of squash, zucchini and yellow both.  Something had to be done!

What resulted was the best zucchini I have ever eaten.

(an apology in advance to those that cook from recipes with measurements- I make it up as I go along)

Slice zucchini lengthwise- the larger the zucchini the easier this will be.  Try to keep the slices to about 1/4 inch thick.  Put slices in a tupperware.

Cover with a hearty glug each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar; don’t skimp on the vinegar in particular.

Grind some fresh pepper and sea salt over the mixture (or sprinkle from containers as the case may be).  Chop up a small handful of fresh basil, and an even smaller handful of fresh parsley.  Sprinkles those on too.

Mash up around four medium cloves of garlic and toss ’em on.  Put the cover on the tupperware (be sure it’s tight fitting first), and shake until liquid and herbs somewhat evenly cover the zucchini slices.  Let marinate in fridge overnight if possible.

I cooked mine in a cast iron pan on the stove, turned up hot enough to slightly blacken each side, but I think it would be good grilled too.  Each hot, cold, or on bread with a slice of hard nutty cheese.  Thank the summer for its bounty.

Words to Live By: Roxane Beth Johnson

A Shaker Speaks to the Invisible

My box and broom are not finer than my faith; my prayers unmade are better than the slender seams of my clock. I know wood’s moan and ring all day. I dream myself as a tambourine in hand. My friend, there is no morning lacking a tonic loveliness; no night without its apocalypse. Monotony’s drumbeat I play out with what I’ve got: pith, thistle, and knife. What I build has the beauty of sparrows pecking frozen ground. It is my salvation, my cross, my song. I once loved the daughters; longed to lick my salty deeds. These chairs I make are my repentance. The spirit in them is revelation, the coming harvest, my need. The evening silence is the only god I know. Like dust occupying sun, He settles. Let the daughters sing. Their voices sand my heart down to a seed.

I’ve been craving the holy, longing for the spiritual, reading Thich Naht Hanh and The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating.  Truth and beauty are in the every day, the extraordinary is that which we almost miss, these things I know.  But in the midst of summer chaos and constant movement, the moments I remember to stop and breathe are far fewer and further between than I’d prefer.

This lovely prose poem highlighted today on Poetry Daily speaks to what I’m longing for, I think, for finding solace in work, peace in the doing and contemplation at once.  May it help both you and me be present today.

Connections I Love: Bikes and Composting

I dearly wish I could write an actual post today, but twelve hour work days with umpteen projects and fires to put out are not particularly conducive to such things.  So I give you this instead from the Gardening Matters e-news:

The Compostadores are thrilled to introduce their three bicycle interns: Ahmed, Alishea, and Jackson.  Along with Lead Compostador Patsy Parker, these three interns have been building compost bins for several community gardens in North and South Minneapolis.  They’ve been helping us build an infrastructure for a bike-pickup program and community-based composting system.  All the while, they’ve been braving these sweltering and humid days to fill up our bins – carefully recording weights and monitoring the temperatures of our compost to ensure safe practices.

As we move ahead through the summer, the interns will have regular bike routes, picking up from establishments on some hefty and impressive bike trailers and making healthy soil in local community gardens.  Keep your eyes out for them!

I am a lover of many things, silly and serious, and compost is one that thoroughly spans both of those.  Soil = joy.