Thursday, June 27, 2013

Garden Update: It's On!

All of a sudden, the garden came into its own this week.  The sweet corn is taller than I am (so are a few of the tomatoes).  The popcorn is tasseling and tiny little watermelons are on the vines. And...

This is what we harvested today (click to enlarge). There are potatoes, onions, zucchini, beans, garlic, turnips, and blueberries!
Bird Egg Beans.  These are a shell bean, so we have to wait until they fill out and dry to harvest them. These pods are about six inches long.
Blue Dragon Tongue Beans. How could you not buy seeds with that name! This is the second bowl this size that I've picked this week. We have three other kinds of beans growing as well:  Kentucky Pole Beans, Lima Beans, and just a few Blue Lake bush beans.
A small zucchini with its flower still attached. We have two different kinds of summer squash.
The last of our turnips.
Pear-shaped cherry tomatoes.
Echinacea angustifolia (Coneflower).  I have had pretty bad luck with flowers this year. The groundhogs ate a lot of them before they ever really got started, so I was pretty happy to see this one bloom.
A red raspberry. We won't get very many of these this year, but the few we've gotten have been good.
Garlic. This has to be the most-delayed gratification plant you can grow. I planted these in October of last year. They are now hardening off in our garage.
Blue potatoes. Michael dug into one of the hills tonight and came up with about five pounds of them - all from one seed potato.
Monarda sp. (Bee Balm, Wild Bergamot). We planted these when we lived at the apartment. We transplanted about half of it when we moved and are really happy to see it growing and blooming.

Monday, June 24, 2013

High Rock and Pen Mar from Another Perspective

Michael, a friend, and I are training for Cycle Oregon in September, so we have been riding. A lot. This year's route for Cycle Oregon is actually similar in length and climbing to the route we did in Iowa during RAGBRAI two years ago, so we are training in the same way we did for that ride. This weekend, we wanted to climb, so we headed out to Meyersville, Maryland with a friend for a hilly ride along South Mountain. We hiked in the area a couple of years ago, but we had never ridden there.

We started out under gray skies and sprinkles, but that turned out to be okay. It was nice to ride without the sun bearing down on us while we were doing the majority of the climbing. The climb on Pen Mar road was, shall we say, challenging. I am pretty sure I could have walked up the switchbacks faster than I rode it, but I managed to make it up on two wheels. We took a long break at Pen Mar Park before tackling the two mile ride up to High Rock. That part of the ride turned out to be a pleasant surprise:  an easy climb with a nice, breezy view from the top.  The rest of the ride consisted of rolling hills, some of which were steep, but nothing as steep as the climb up to Pen Mar Park. It was a good, tough ride:  55 miles and 3,000 feet or so of climbing. It could definitely become a regular ride for us.

 Taking a quick break at the northern trailhead for the Catoctin Trail.
The view from the Catoctin Trailhead. Although this picture doesn't show it well, the route goes through some absolutely beautiful farmland. 
The Appalachian Trail in Pen Mar Park. This is where people typically start the Maryland and Four State Challenges.
Shoe shot from High Rock.
A better picture of the view from High Rock. The weather cleared while we were having lunch at Pen Mar Park.
About 12 miles from the end of our ride, we were grinding up a long hill out in the sun when we spotted a spring pipe in the ditch on the side of the road.  All of us soaked our heads in the ice-cold water, which was a perfect morale boost for the rest of the ride.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Garden Update: Blueberry Edition

A quick garden update:  We have ripe blueberries!  We planted the bushes in March after much debate about where they should go.  They are completely loaded with berries and we are getting more and more each day. We might have enough to bake with if we'd just stop eating them.
 A ripe one ready to be picked.
 Our daylilies are in bloom.
 All of a sudden I realized that the wax pepper plants are producing.
 Potato flowers.
A nearly ripe raspberry.  We are having mixed success with the raspberries.  We seem to have gotten an infestation of Raspberry Cane Borer.  They burrow into the canes and cause the ends of them to wilt.  Once we realized what was going on, we pruned off the infected canes, so hopefully that helps the plant recover.
Soybean pod.
Pretty green tomato.
Zucchini blossom.  Some of these are destined for fried squash blossoms.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Skyline Drive Sufferfest 2013.1 and a Short Walk in the Woods

Yesterday, we rode our first Skyline Drive Sufferfest of the year. We rode from Front Royal, Virginia to Elkwallow Wayside in Shenandoah National Park and back again, for a total of 48 miles and almost 4,800 feet of climbing. It is one of my favorite rides in the area. The road is in great condition, most drivers are considerate, it is a very challenging ride, and the view at every turn is just incredible. One of the best parts comes right at the end:  After working hard, grinding up miles-long hills all day, the reward is a six mile descent back into Front Royal.  All things considered (only our second ride of this length this year and our first real climbing ride), it went very, very well.  This ride was part of ramping up training for Cycle Oregon, which we are doing in September.
My bike at Hogback overlook, the highest point of our ride.  We could not have asked for better weather:  temperatures around 80 and very little wind.
Michael and two of our friends who rode with us at Hogback overlook.
The view from Hogback overlook towards Front Royal and where we started.

Today, Michael and I went for a short (3 miles) walk at Patuxent Wildlife Refuge near Bowie, MD.  Although it is less than ten miles away and we ride there regularly, we hadn't hiked there in several years. It was quite a bit hotter than yesterday, but most of the walk was in the shade, so it was still enjoyable.  We paused for quite a while at the dam at Cash Lake to watch swallows diving and weaving to catch insects over the water.
Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed) near the visitor center. There were a lot of flowers blooming in the sunny meadows, including three species that I had never seen before.
 A mushroom along the Valley Trail.
 Rubus allegheniensis (Common Blackberry). No ripe ones yet.
Look closely and you'll see a tiny little toad. We saw several of these little guys along the trail in the woods. This one looked like a pebble until he jumped. He was only about an inch long.
Erigeron annuus (Fleabane) near the Cash Lake dam.
Nymphaea oderata (Water Lily) on Cash Lake.
Solanum carolinense (Horse Nettle), which is a member of the Nightshade Family.
Baptisia tinctoria (Wild Indigo - yes, really, even thought it is yellow).
Nuttallanthus canadensis (Blue Toadflax).  These flowers are only about 1/4 inch long. This is one of the species I hadn't seen before.
A dragonfly on the trail near the dam.
Scutellaria integrifolia (Hyssop Skullcap).  This is another one that was new to me. I didn't get a good picture of the third, Lyonia ligustrina (Maleberry).
A pretty island on Goose Pond.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Air Force Cycling Classic and a Garden Update

Yesterday, we participated in the Air Force Cycling Classic's Crystal Ride. Unlike a lot of charity rides, where riders cycle a set distance, the Crystal Ride is a closed 16 km (9.9 miles) loop. Cyclists have 3.5 hours to ride as many laps as many laps as possible. The great thing about the ride is the location: The loop consists of roads in Arlington, Virginia around the Pentagon and Crystal City that are never, on any other occasion, open to cyclists. Major highways are closed for this event.

This was my fourth year riding and Michael's third.  The first lap is always uncontrolled pandemonium.  People going for the gold medal (six laps) who didn't have the foresight to arrive early enough to start near the front feel the need to force their way through the crowd. I saw the first major crash 200 yards into the course on the first real corner (Actually, we saw a puzzling car accident riding from the parking lot to the ride start, but no bikes were involved in that).  My strategy for the first lap is to hang back, take my time, and stay out of the way. By the time I started the second lap, though, the pack had spread out and I had a great ride, finishing with five laps (and just a few minutes too late to get a sixth). I can't wait for next year's ride.
After our ride was over, we stayed to watch the pro men's race.  This is towards the end of the race and the pack is pretty spread out. Watching the pros is so impressive. They were probably going close to 30 mph when they passed us in this shot.
The women raced after the men. The women are just as impressive as the men.

Garden Update:
 A blossom on a pickling cucumber plant.
 Edamame flowers.
Here is the whole garden.  Things have grown quite a bit since the last update, which was just three weeks ago..
Lima beans winding their way up a pole.
Potato flowers.
Tomato blossoms.  These are Cherokee Purples.
Sweet corn.  The plants are about 30 inches tall now.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bike Ride Flowers and Garlic Scapes

There is a spot on our local bike ride, where either the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Maryland Department of Transportation has planted a beautiful array of flowers.  I've biked by it for several weeks this spring and it makes me happy every time I see it.  I don't recall seeing it in previous years, but it looks fairly well-established, so I'm guessing I wasn't there at the right time.  Yesterday, I finally drove back out there in the evening and took some pictures:

 Poppies and orange flowers in front of a wheat field.
An orange flower that I think is part of the mustard family. This is by far the most prevalent flower there. None of the flowers along this stretch of highway are in any of my guidebooks, so they are almost certainly exotic, but pretty anyway.
Purple contrast against the orange and green.
 Another Poppy.
 Closeup of a poppy.
Bachelor buttons.
This white flower is the same type as the purple one two pictures above.
Quick garden update:  Our garlic produced garlic scapes just in time for grilling on Saturday.  We threw them in a packet of foil with fennel and cauliflower (from the farmers' market) and some olive oil and roasted all of it over the coals.