10 oct 10 riding into winter

I'm 'in training' for a backcountry bike trip to Utah next week, so I've been trying to put on the miles that I didn't get in over the summer due to a number of excuses (boat, rain, sprained thumb). For the most part, this fall has been beautiful and I've been lucky with the weather. But last week did pit my competing desires to 'be in better shape' versus to 'stay warm and dry' against each other.

Cold temperatures at night had made the lower elevation trails a little gooey, so last Sunday, I suggested to Paul that we ride higher where maybe the temperatures were a little more even. We did find that the surface of the Powerline Pass trail was indeed mostly frozen. We were surprised to find that the upper part of the valley was also covered in snow. We weren't entirely thrilled to be riding in snow in October, but it was fun to see the upper valley in snow and ice.

On Monday, I biked to work in sleet and cold. And on Tuesday, the thermometer was set at 25 when I pedaled down the driveway. It's beginning to feel like winter.

2 oct 10 harvest

In many ways, this was a disappointing summer for gardening. The sun and heat of late May transitioned to one of the rainiest, cloudiest summers on record. Our vegetable garden site has become shadier over the years as the birch trees around the perimeter of our backyard have grown. And I've been busy with other activities and not spending the time I should to feed the plants and the soil and to hunt the slugs. The latter loved this summer -- between the constant moisture and my lack of vigilance, they had a long party.

At one point in August I almost gave up on getting much out of the garden. I was even buying lettuce at the farmer's market because my leafy greens weren't large enough to harvest yet and I'd already thinned as much as I could for baby green salads.

But being a gardener is partly about being an optimist, and I stuck it out. I visited the Alaska Botanical Gardens and took inspiration for next year in their edible landscape plantings. I read The Conscious Gardener by Alaskan Ellen Van deVisse, and tried to pick more slugs while not thinking of them with vengeance. I also took note of what veggies had done well -- red cabbages for the fall and winter, a beautiful red sorrel that dresses up every salad, and abundant nasturtiums.

But the real surprise and joy are the apples. I received this tree at least five years ago in a tree adoption lottery used to be held in Anchorage every spring. The little tree produced a few apples the first couple of years, then maybe a dozen, and two dozen last year. This spring on the Veggie Roll I learned that I should remove some of the spring buds to get bigger apples. I finally got around to doing that in late June and was surprised at the number of buds. Surely they wouldn't all develop into fruit. But they did. The final tally -- 103 apples!

Most of these fit within the hole formed by touching my thumb to my middle finger. They're beautiful sitting in a red bamboo bowl on the counter. The slightly tart flavor will be perfect for applesauce, one of the tastes of fall from my upstate New York childhood. These little red-golden globes may be the shiny lining in the garden in this wet summer.

23-26 sep 10 Eklutna Camaraderie

Once again after a summer of disappointing weather, the Alaska Dirt Divas were treated to a sunny, golden weekend at the Serenity Falls Cabin. Our gamble two years ago to push the weekend later in September has become the tradition and we haven't been sorry yet. We added a night this year to include the Equinox and Full Moon in our long weekend.

Three nights gave us time to explore the canyon by foot one day and relax in the sun another. As always, more food than we could eat, though we tried. Morning workouts by Stacey were a justification for the gorging for some of us. Maggie's tai chi was a welcome stretch and relaxation for some of us who did Stacey's workout.

Rose showed me how to balance rocks. We stacked rocks into cairns on a dry stretch of river bottom one afternoon. She is able to stack off center yet keep the weight balanced through a center plumb line. I was just happy to achieve a little balance in the autumn sun with good friends.

Here are more photos from the weekend: