Saturday, April 23, 2011

In which we celebrate Saturday Stories: a tale about Rabbit

It's my turn to host the radio show tomorrow morning, and in honor of Easter Sunday, I'll be featuring all kinds of stories about rabbits.  Br'er Rabbit, Peter Rabbit, maybe even a story about the Rabbit in the Moon...

Knowing that many of my readers are SHE ("Survivors of Higher Education"), I thought this would be a good story to share with y'all. It was sent to me by a storyteller on the Storytell listserv.  Enjoy!

(Oh, and if you want to listen to the rabbit stories, tune your computer to on Sunday morning between 9 and 11am, Pacific time and click on the "listen now" button)

The Rabbit's Story : a one-act play

Scene: It's a beautiful day in the forest; and a rabbit is sitting outside his burrow, typing away on his laptop. Along comes a fox, out for a walk.

Fox: What are you working on?

Rabbit: My dissertation to graduate from University.

Fox: Hmmm, what is it about?

Rabbit: Oh, I'm writing about how rabbits eat foxes.

There is an incredulous pause.

Fox: Don't be ridiculous! Any fool knows that rabbits don't eat foxes!

Rabbit: Oh, yeah? Come with me and I'll show you.

They both disappear in Rabbit's burrow. After a few minutes, rabbit emerges alone, gnawing on a fox bone. He resumes typing. After a while, along comes a wolf.

Wolf: What are you working on?

Rabbit: My dissertation to graduate from University.

Wolf: Hmmm, what is it about?

Rabbit: Oh, I'm writing about how rabbits eat wolves.

There is another incredulous pause.

Wolf: Don't be ridiculous! Any fool knows that rabbits don't eat wolves!

Rabbit: Oh, yeah? Come with me and I'll show you.

They both disappear in Rabbit's burrow. After a few minutes, rabbit emerges alone, gnawing on a wolf bone. He resumes typing. After a while, along comes a bear.

Bear: What are you working on?

Rabbit: My dissertation to graduate from University.

Bear: Hmmm, what is it about?

Rabbit: Oh, I'm writing about how rabbits eat bears.

There is an incredulous pause.

Bear: Don't be ridiculous! Any fool knows that rabbits don't eat bears!

Rabbit: Oh, yeah? Come with me and I'll show you.

Scene: Inside the rabbit's burrow. In one corner, there is a pile of fox bones. In another corner is a pile of wolf bones. In the third corner crouches a huge lion, belching and picking his teeth.

The Morals of the Story:

1. It doesn't matter what topic you choose for a dissertation

2. It doesn't matter what you use for your data

3. It doesn't even matter if your topic makes sense

4. All that really matters is WHO you have for a dissertation supervisor.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

In which fame comes my a standardbred-ish sort of a manner

I just got a note from the publisher of Hoof Beats  magazine that my article "After the Finish Line : Standardbreds go the distance as endurance horses" has been published in the May 2011 issue!!!

Actually, Dom from the Collection of Mad Escapades blog in New Jersey saw the hard copy this morning and emailed me.  She recognized the photo of me and Fiddle...and then she recognized her own photo with her standie Ozzie. 

"Real" freelance writers probably get notes like that all the time, but I'm pretty new to the biz (and I have no intention of quitting that dayjob, either!) so I'm just plain thrilled.

Hoof Beats doesn't publish the entire issue of their magazine to the web, so if you want to read my article (and give me the additional thrill of sending it to you!), send me a note in the comments with your email address and I'll email it privately.  

Doing the happy-butt-dance.  Also, the sn*w is melting.  Hooray!

In which my Thursday training ride is cancelled because of the weather


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In which I endorse a food that fits in the saddlebags and tastes good!

When we first started riding endurance together, Jim taught me a phrase that they apparently use a lot in the Army to get troops to eat in a hurry:

"Eat now, chew later."

This advice is clearly contrary to everything that nutritionists, dieticians, and our moms have told us all our lives. 

However, eating food quickly is a reality for endurance riders. 

If you have a 30 minute hold at the vetcheck, and there's a 15+ minute line for the vet, and you need to restock your saddlebags with water and apply some sunscreen and take a pee break, there is no opportunity to sit down to a leisurely knife-and-fork meal that will sustain you for the next 20 miles or more.

Many endurance-riding bloggers have posted entries about their search (sometimes successful, often not) for foods that they can
*  eat in the time allowed
*  send to vetchecks in a bag that will certainly be kicked around en route
*  digest without upset
*  chew with minimal effort (long-distance riding is difficult! even your mouth gets tired!)
*  wash down with plain water if possible
*  carry in saddlebags without worry that it will become an inedible disgusting mess
*  afford

I've tried a lot of the commercially-available "energy bars" over the years.  I love the taste of Clif Bars, but they have a ton of sugar--I might as well eat a Snickers.

I love the texture of Luna Bars (the lemon!  delightful!) but they melt and get gross in hot weather.

PowerBars are disgusting.

Nature Valley Oat and Honey Bars were the Toad's favorite treat...and he learned to slorp them right out of the foil packet, because they crumbled into dust by the second vetcheck and I would choke on the crumbs if I tried to eat them.  (Fiddle doesn't like them).

My main complaints about the bars I've tried in the past is that they are often loaded with refined white sugar (which I cannot digest, especially when I'm working hard) and preservatives I cannot even pronounce, plus they don't travel well--they either crumble to a tasty powder, or smush into a revolting puddle and permanently adhere to the wrapper.

In recent years, I've discovered that works best for me to eat is FOOD.

Real food, not the stuff that author Michael Pollen refers to as "edible food-like substances."

Real food includes oatmeal for breakfast, a banana and a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, some nuts and an apple for snacks, and tons of vegetables for dinner.

None of the stuff listed above, you notice, will fit into saddlebags with any kind of grace.  Most of it won't survive the journey to the vetcheck in an "away bag", either.

So, what to eat at an endurance ride?

Ideally, I will eat:
  • Veggies and protein and pasta the night before the ride.
  • Oatmeal for breakfast, with applesauce.
  • A peanut butter sandwich at the lunch stop--it will look horrible, but it will probably taste okay.
  • LOTS of water!  (I'm trying out a new electrolyte drink that Healthy as a Horse carries--very dilute, tastes like water, so far it's okay but I need to test it more)
  • A banana or two, if I can convince a crew person to carry them carefully to the vetcheck for me.  Most bananas do not survive the journey in a condition that I consider edible!
What about something to eat on the trail?  Real food turns nasty very quickly, and it's not easy to chew anything of substance when I'm travelling at Gigantor's amazing Big Thing trot. 

Until somebody figures out a way to make banana armor,
I finally think I've found something that will work!

I don't endorse a lot of products.  Even products that work well for a lot of riders aren't necessarily a good fit for me, but when I do find something that works, I'm happy to share with my friends via this blog.  Having said that, here's what I like about the Belly Timber bars:

*  They are made of FOOD.  The basic ingredient list:
Organic Peanut Butter (sea salt), California Dates, Organic Rolled Oats, Organic Ground Flax, Brown Rice Syrup, California Almonds, Sunflower Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Unsulphered Coconut, Pear Juice Concentrate, Nooksack River Wildflower Honey, Organic Soy Flour, Defatted Soy Flour (non gmo), Canola Oil

For variety, the bars include extra ingredients like blueberries, pistachios, and cherries.    The nutrition label is posted online here.  For people who are not sugar-impaired, the chocolate and espresso flavors sound yummy.  The espresso also has some caffeine. 
(Can anybody say "last loop of a 100-miler"?)
*  They travel well. I've tried them for long training rides, and I'm really happy.  Belly Timber bars travel well in my saddlebags, they don't take up a bunch of room, and they don't smell weird, crumble to dust, or turn gross if I leave them unopened in the bottom of the pack under a water bottle and a hoofpick for 20 miles..or, uh, several days, if I happen to forget that I left one in there.
*  They are reasonably priced.  I can buy 80 servings for $139, which comes out to less than $1.75 per bar.  I might be able to find PowerBars cheaper than that...but I don't think I can make something that inexpensively in my own kitchen.  Besides, PowerBars are icky.

* They are easy to chew and digest. My friend Swil Kanim swears by these bars--he's a professional musican (and an old friend) who still (after a lifetime onstage) sometimes gets tummy-butterflies before a performance...but he can't avoid eating, either.  

The bars are easy on the stomach, which is good if you are nervous, or exercising vigorously, or both!

*  They are filling.  Each packet contains two bars, but a single bar provides enough substance and fuel to keep me going for a loooo-oooo-ooong time without feeling like I just swallowed a bowling ball.

**EXTRA BONUS (but mostly only for me):  they are made locally to me, in my own home town of Bellingham, WA.  I haven't lived in Bellingham for more than a decade, but I can't escape hometown loyalties!

Wanna try them?  REI should be carrying Belly Timber bars soon--if your local branch doesn't have them, start bugging the manager.  Or you can order them online at the Belly Timber website. 
I want to hear what other folks are eating (or wanting to eat) during competitions.  Got any favorites?  Got any rules about what works (or doesn't work) for you?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

In which building the barn is illustrated from beginning to end

Follow along, and see how we grew our very own barn!

In January, 2009 on this blog I posted  a plan . The plan showed an aerial photo of Haiku Farm, and included our notes about where things were, and where new stuff needed to go.

In early 2010, we were able to start adding the most important building of all:  the barn.
Jim dug the hole, using Tootles the Tractor.  
(Tootles is for sale now, by the way.  Anybody wanna buy a friendly blue tractor?)

After the hole was dug, we added gravel.  Lots of gravel!
 Throughout the project,  it seemed like the answer to almost every roadblock was "MORE GRAVEL."
The barn frame was made by Noble Panels, a manufacturing company based in Oregon. 

We bought the frame through our local farmer's co-op, rather than directly from the manufacturer because the purchase price is the same, but the co-op gives us a 10% rebate on all purchases at the end of the year.  Our 2011 rebate is going to be a big 'un!
 Our building site is sloped; we had to dig ditches so the frame could set level.  We also needed some substantial post-holes for the support poles. 
The panel pieces are heavy!   That's good, of course.  We didn't want a flimsy, lightweight barn.  But it took two or three of us + Tootles to move most of the panels into place.

 Next step: bolt the pieces together.

 The brackets and bolts are very simple, but strong.  It's the bolt/bracket arrangement that means our barn is legally a temporary structure, because technically we could take the whole thing apart and move it elsewhere if we wanted to do that. 
 Having a "temporary structure" means we didn't have to hassle with the local government about permitting, which saved us a lot of time and money. 

(I can't imagine actually taking apart our temporary structure anytime soon, though!)
 Structural inspections took place periodically, especially if somebody left a gate un-latched somewhere on the property.
 Inspector Lupin Goat Gruff gives his approval.
 The roof rafter isn't very heavy, but it's bulky, and needed to go wa-a-ay up in the air.  Tootles helped again.  The instructions sent by Noble included step-by-step photos, which were really helpful. 

That's how we knew to use 4x4's to support the rafter while it was being bolted. 

January 1, 2011:  raising the roof!
 The roof-raising party was blessed by sunshine. 

 We must've used up our sunshine quota for that day, because we haven't seen much of it since then.

The frame was up, the roof was up.  The next step:  make some walls.
The instructions for the frame included the dimensions of all the wood pieces, but a few of the provided measurements weren't accurate. 
 We checked every single piece before stacking it away to be painted.

 The weather was totally uncooperative for painting: cold and wet and windy.  We made walls out of tarps, hung the tarp-walls on our panels, and proceeded to paint. 
 After the walls boards were painted with KILZ + paint, we bolted them to the frame.

 We finished the "horse-side" first. 
 Each stall is 12'x12', with a tall door and roof, so even Gigantor has plenty of room. 

 The final building:
The modular barn is constructed of 12x12 squares, so the aisle is 12' wide and 24' long, with enough roof clearance to bring in a pickup truck full of feed to unload right from the aisle into the hay room (which is also a 12'x12' space) or the tack/grain room (also 12'x12').  

It's simple.  It's basic.  And it's finished!

Well, almost finished.  We still have to attach some gutters and do a little bit of "finishing details".  But functionally, it's done at last.