Monday, June 25, 2012

Workin' for the dogs...

Literally!  We spent our weekend out at an area dog rescue that I do some volunteer work for, TIRR.  They have been friends of ours ever since we adopted our first Ridgeback from them, Charlie.  We were initially, one of their first ever out-of-state adoptions, and Charlie was a special dog, so we were doubly lucky!  We kept in touch with TIRR periodically, and eventually moved here to Texas, where we were able to continue our friendship more directly.

Well, with the horrible drought and heatwave of 2011, TIRR lost a lot of trees on their property, and being a small operation, have limited resources to clear deadwood.  Dave loves to run a chainsaw, and the kids love visiting the dogs there, as do I.  So we worked out a weekend where we could come out and stay the weekend there at the Ranch, and cut down trees for them.

The weather cooperated, sort least it wasn't storming or anything, though rain would've been welcome.  It also wasn't gale force winds...but it was HOT!  And the breeze was a little too calm to do much good out in the woods.  But such is life in Texas in the summer...

We knew there were snakes and scorpions out there, and Roy advised the spiders tended to be Black Widows, and big ones too...oh joy.  We never did see any snakes, which is good.  And the kids only found one scorpion (Whew!) which was dispatched to Scorpion Heaven by Dave after showing the kids what it was like, and where the dangerous bit was located.  Spiders, well, there were lots of those, and one of them I even took pics of, just to show folks. 

There will be pictures of spiders at the end. If this upsets you, or anything, please don't scroll down to the end to see them.  Seriously.

So here are some pics.  Since I was taking them, I successfully avoided having my own picture taken!

Dave cutting the first tree.
Most of the trees were small scrub oak and wild plum.  The wild plum were a PITA to work with, as their branches get horribly tangled up.  It makes them hard to get out of the surrounding trees, and to pile up into the brushpile by hand.  Some of the wood we cut small enough for them to burn in the fireplace, but most was piled for eventual chipping.

Their friend Larry was on hand Saturday to help out.  Here he is, with Dave, discussing how to drop another tree, and then the next pic is Dave starting to top the tree out.

 The dog runs are large, and there are a lot of trees.  Roy prefers to leave big stumps, so he has something to work with when pulling them with the tractor.  That's why you see the 2' stubs all over the place.

After knocking off for the evening, and getting cleaned up, we went into town to a steak house and all had a great dinner.  It was nice to do a sitdown meal, that we didn't have to cook!  Plus, their Red Velvet Cake was SOOOOO good!

Sunday saw us back in the pens cutting trees in the morning.  Larry wasn't available, so it was just Roy, Dave and myself.  I let the guys run the saws, as I don't have a lot of experience running a chainsaw.  So I was the prime hauler of cut wood all weekend.  This went great until late Sunday morning.

Dave had cut a small diameter oak into manageable pieces.  He and I were picking up an armload each.  I grabbed one bit, and as I was reaching for more, I noticed a really messy looking web and eggsac among a couple leaves stuck on the branch.  I said to myself, "Self, messy webs mean bad spiders!  Put down the branch!"  So I did... I rolled the chunk over, and saw this...


Hmm...big (body was as big as a standard marble), shiny black with some funny white markings just behind the head...I knew what she was, by the look of her right away!  Boy am I glad I dropped that branch before she decided to take a bite of me!  (Note I was wearing long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and something akin to pilots Nomex gloves.)  Here is the definitive ID markings for those of you still not sure.

 Yes, that IS a black widow spider in the wild.  Roy says they are very common out on the Ranch.  I believe him.  And like the scorpion, this one went to spider heaven, since I had to move the wood, and didn't want to get bitten.

All in all, we had a great time, and got a lot of work done for our friends at TIRR rescue.  All our dogs came from or through TIRR, and they are all much-loved members of our family.  Our newest, Shiloh, was temporarily at TIRR when we met her and decided to adopt her, although the final adoption occured via a different Ridgeback Rescue group.  Here are our furry friends in one of their favorite locations, the dog couch!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why I like to ride

I was thinking about this recently--why do I like to ride my bike?  I mean, it gets HOT here in Texas, and it seems the wind never stops blowing at least 15mph, which for me, means I always have a headwind on the homeward leg of any ride.

Well, partly I am enjoying the health benefits I have gotten from riding this past year.  I am down to 157#, from a doctor-recorded high of 219 back in April of 2010.  Yeah, I was fat!  I sleep better now, I have some endurance.  I can walk up hills without feeling like I am gonna die!

It also brings back memories of my childhood.  Riding my bike everywhere I wanted to go, back before I had a car.  Of doing fundraiser rides of a then-whopping 25 miles!  I remember how impressed I was, that I could actually ride that far!

As a single 30-something, I started riding again, and took a part time job at the local cool-guy bike shop, so I could pay for the parts I wanted to use to build up my old Masi.  That was a truly fun and enjoyable time of my life.    I did RAGBRAI, and CANDISC 2x.  It was also when and where I met my husband.

Yeah, we met in a now-gone bike shop, and our first informal 'date' was a bike ride to Baldwin KS.  Our first real date was to the pistol range, followed by overly hot Thai curry with friends at my place.  At least he saw past my curry disaster!

We didn't do a lot of riding after moving into rural KS though, much to our dismay.  We churned through a couple different tandems, which we did ride well together, but just were too busy working and getting settled to ride like we both loved.

Then came the forced move to Texas via his job.  He was diagnosed a diabetic and started riding to try to control it.  I had two babies, and a 3rd on the way, but tried getting some rides in, while pregnant.  I did, but it wasn't as much fun.  After #3 was born, we both stopped riding.  It was a 7 year hiatus from the bikes in the end.  Dave sold his prized carbon fiber bike first, leaving only his mtb.  His reasoning was since he wasn't riding, it was taking up space in the garage, and it wasn't comfortable any more.  Less than a year after that I sold my Masi.  It too, was no longer comfortable due to arthritis in my hands.

Enter last year--Dave realized he needed to do something about his diabetes.  You can read his blog for more info.  He really took charge of his life and health, and began exercising.  I of course had to follow suit, because I didn't want to end up left behind, with all the health issues that I was looking at from obesity.  We started walking, and eating better.  We started losing weight!  We began to miss biking...

So since we still had our mtb's we took them out for some rides.  OUCH!  Everything hurt after those!  Especially my hands and back.  Dave too had unrasonable back pains, so we began to look into a recumbent bike to ride.  While our first recumbent wasn't love at first sight, the CONCEPT of a recumbent worked well.  We each got a separate recumbent not long after selling the Vision off.  Dave got an F5 RANS, and I got a RANS V-rex.  Both of those however were sold off this spring, and we replaced them both with Bacchetta Giro 26 bikes.

I really like the Giro.  It is comfortable, and capable of speed, even though this engine doesn't average more than 12-13mph.  Dave can crank it up to 16mph avg over 100mi at a shot, so I know it is the engine, not the bike.  I can ride for hours, and the only thing I am at the end, is tired!  We ride out into the county, on the back roads both for the safety of lower traffic loads, and for the simple joys of the scenery.  I love seeing this part of Texas.  It reminds me a bit, of the rides I used to take in NE Kansas, but without so much green, or that in-born familiarity of place.

Being on the bike gives me a little time away from wrangling the Monkeys.  It gives me my much needed and much appreciated exercise.  Sure I would like to ride more, but I have kids to raise, and a house to try to run.  So I take what my schedule will permit and run with it.  I have met a number of other similar minded riders in this area via RBENT. We have gotten together several times for rides in our area.  Everyone is tyipcally on a recumbent (bike or trike).  It reminds me a lot of riding with the old Lawrence Bike Club, only not so roadie-oriented...but the people and the camaraderie are much the same.  I like that, and I have missed it for so long.  I'm just glad to be back on a bike, riding!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Peppermint Ride

I got a late start today for a ride, since I have company visiting later this week, we wanted to do some more house cleaning--what with 3 Monkeys and 3 Mutts, we NEED a lot of house cleaning!

So it was 1pm thereabouts by the time I got rolling.  It was also classically warm (90deg +/-), humid and just a little bit windy ( gusts to 27mph and steady at 20 +/-),  I had planned on going north to Weston again. but taking a different road north out of there for a couple new views and a couple more miles.  Goal was 40 mi.  I had plenty of water and Gatorade on board, but skipped the food except for a bag of Clif Shot Roks.  This perhaps was not the best decision on my part since I also skipped eating lunch.

Problems began on the ride, almost immediately.  First the heart rate monitor was buggered up. I certainly don't run a 45bpm heart rate, even at rest!  Eventually a few miles into the ride, I figured out why it was cutting out and reading low.  I had it on upside down.  Go figure, Garmin HRMs are directional!  You have to be able to read the writing on the back when you put it on or it won't read your heart rate properly.

Next, the left water bottle kept trying to fall out of the cage, and into my rear wheel.  It sort of got the mouthpiece ground off on one side because of that...ouch!  Those water bottles aren't cheap!  It still works though so I guess I won't buy a replacement yet.

Then the rear brake started scrubbing while I was riding.  I stopped to check and adjust it as needed, but then it wouldn't scrub the rotor without a load on the bike.  Fortunately after a bit that annoyance vanished, or maybe the howling winds got loud enough to drown it out!

I settled into the ride eventually after a few miles and made decent time up to Weston.  I did stop in the little cafe there, where I bought some ice and water for my bottles (note:  the proprietor did not want to charge me for this, but I paid him anyway).  After using their facilities, and soaking my arm coolers in the sink, I was on my way again.

Once I got turned south the winds started to take their toll.  My speed dropped and I had more traffic to deal with.  I stopped at a local cemetery, and texted Dave that I was hot & tired, but was going on at least to the big park a few more miles southeast from there.  I had some more of the Clif Shot Roks and more fluids and rested a little bit in the meagre shade.

I continued to dogleg around on the county roads, gradually heading south.  As I went along I started seeing something strange scattered along the road edge I was on...peppermints.  Yeah, those round red & white peppermint hard candies.  It was like one peppermint per mile until I got to the big park.  Hence the title to this blogpost.  I stopped there in the shade at the park, and texted Dave that I should be able to get to the Valero station in about 20min.  He asked if I wanted a pick-up, and I said "yeah", as I was pretty tired and was not looking forward to the last hill before home, aka Nemesis Hill.  It's deceptively steep and longer than it looks.  Plus there's a stoplight just before the peak of the hill, which if you catch a red light, will really mess up your pacing.

Dave got to the Valero before I did, and then decided to come looking for me up the road.  He caught up to me just before my last long downhill to the Valero.  I pulled into a subdivision, and he loaded up the bike.  Boy, that A/C sure felt nice!

Totals for the day:  35.39mi in 2:55hrs for a 12.1 avg.

Here's a shot of the winds on a sheltered flag next to the big park.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

TVP Sausage Crumbles--surprisingly good!

We recently added some new TVP items to our pantry to try out, from (aka Provident Pantry).  Great folks to do business with, btw.  So no complaints on the transaction itself.

We had an older can of this in the pantry that had a code of some sort 09/03, which I took to be a month/year code though we did not buy it that long ago--maybe 5yrs ago?  Regardless, I knew the contents should be fine, but as the older can, it should be rotated (eaten) first.  Product reports on their website indicate about 1 year of storage life after you open the can, so that alleviates one concern I had, which was a short life after opening.  Plus if I want I can vacuum bag some and pop it in the freezer too.

Instructions were to place in a skillet and cover with water, simmering for 10min (until water is gone I guess).  I did this to about 1/3c dry sausage crumbles.  Note:  They're fairly tasty if chewy, in their non-hydrated state.  I covered them with some water and simmered until the water was gone.  I did add some onion flakes to the water, as I was planning on dumping a mess of scrambled eggs into the sausage.  Once the sausage was done, I dumped in the egg (with fresh ground pepper) mixture and cooked it all to done.

Monkey2 thought it looked good and begged a bite.  He said he liked it!  I ate the rest, and it WAS good.  Sausage had some texture (would've been better if I had dried them out a bit after rehydrating), and the flavor was good.  It tasted enough like sausage to convince my palate.  I don't as a rule, dislike TVP, especially if it is quality TVP (not the stuff they used to feed us in school!).  It did need a fair bit of salt to taste perfect to me, but I am a bit of a Salt Vampire....

Now to see if there are any gastric side effects to note, but that will take a few hours to percolate through the system.  Planning on testing this on Dave tomorrow!