Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Beer Interlude

Aprihops: "A serious India Pale Ale brewed with real apricots." Why, you ask, would anyone want to brew beer with apricots? Hmmm. I suspect the folks at Dogfish Head did so because then you can have a very hoppy brew, that is remarkably great tasting and smooth and still have an alcohol content of 7%.

Me, having greatly enjoyed said Aprihop, but being both a lightweight in the beer drinking world, and also having done so on an empty stomach will now conclude this post.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

So little time, so many books

More than a few have asked so I guess it's time to address the question on this blog: "Why do you have links to Amazon? Are you getting a kick back or something?"

The main reason is I like books. I like to read them, I like to talk about them, I like to share them, and Amazon makes it easy. If someone is interested in a book that I'm interested in talking about - they can just click on the link at check out the book for themselves. On the site they can read others opinions of the book too, sometimes they can read parts of the book. It's something I certainly like to do.

I can also use Amazon to organize what I've read, and what I want to read.

The second reason, or rather, its not really a reason but a side effect, is yes, I get a kick back. A 4% account credit for all titles ordered after someone clicks through on a link I post. So far I've "made" a whopping $30.00 in over 4 years of blogging. I'd like to make more - mostly so I can buy more books. But I like it when people think enough of a book I like to want to read it too. (hmmmm. maybe that's one of the reason's I'm a librarian or is it more of a power thing?)

Rhode Island Sustainable Aquaculture

or ... why I should have raised oysters instead of chickens during my 'back to the land' phase.

Suppose you could indulge in one of your favorite foods and not only would it be good for you but it would also be good for the environment as well as supporting the continuation of an historic trade and a sustainable foodway?

Until a few days ago I thought chickens (and their eggs) were the closest anyone could come to that idea. But I have since discovered that if you like oysters then there is a much better proposition. This liberating insight occurred to me just as I had finished reading The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell and A Geography of Oysters: The Connoisseur's Guide to Oyster Eating in North America while my daughter, having just read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.)
was looking to by local sustainable foods, and S.D. was lining up a tour of Rhode Island aquaculture sites.

For various reasons aquaculture has gotten a bad name. But like agriculture which includes both the destructive practices of agribusinesses with feedlots, disease, and inhuman working conditions and sustainable, organic farms growing high quality produce for local markets so too does aquaculture range from high density feed pens (mostly foreign) to sustainable, locally run farms.

Oyster aquaculture falls soundly into the latter category. But unlike raising, say free range chickens or beef, oysters don't even need to be feed and they improve local habitat. They spend their lives removing excess nitrogen from the water. Historically, waters all along the coast were remarkable clear (explorers repeatedly, literally, remarked on the clarity). Scientist attribute today's murky waters to increased run off both from unanchored soil and excessive suburban lawn fertilizer (especially from coastal properties) and the absence of the giant oyster reefs that existed all along the seaboard and cleaned millions of pounds of nitrogen per year. Folks are trying to restore the oyster reefs that were decimated over a hundred years ago but in the meantime oysters are mainly grown in floating rows of wire cages that look surprisingly like lobster pots. Not only do these chains of cages clean the water around them but they also provide a safe house for small fish, which in turn feed the bigger fish.

So instead of raising chickens, worrying about where their food came from and what it contained, as well as having to clean the pen and compost the waste and worst of all encounter mice, rats, opossums and weasels I could have grown some adorable little spats (I dare you to watch the video and not say "awww" when you see the baby oysters), set them out in a beautiful coastal bay, rowed out occasionally to check on them (all the while working on my tan) and then harvested the best food ever. (No offense to chicken eggs, which remain an essential part of my daily diet.)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Getting Ready for the Tour

Less than a month to go until the Tour de France and I'm gearing up. Not by riding necessarily, but by reading. Inside the Postal Bus: My Ride with Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Cycling Team is a great way to get back into bike racing lingo. Written by Michael Barry, a professional cyclist and member of the United States Postal Team it tells of events in his cycling career up to 2004. Lots of Lance stuff there, but lots of other details including Floyd. I'm still not sure what to think of Floyd but after reading the book one thing is certain. He has a lot of drive but not too much self-control.

Anyway, the book is a fun reading on how the team handles their crazy lifestyle riding all over Europe and US, how the team bus has an espresso makers and other insider details on races. When so many cycling books are dry, this one keeps you reading...and wanting to pedal.

I could still do it, couldn't I? With a little training? Couldn't I ride Le Tour?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Moose, Thoreau Falls the AT and some very sore feet, . Day 4

The plan for day four was to hike (or see if we could hike) the 9.9 miles back to the car. The trip was beginning to take its tole on two relatively out of shape bodies. Back when I worked at EMS I would joke with people who thought they could just get up off their couches, strap on a pack and climb a mountain. Now, I understood a little better, but the joke was even funnier as it was on me and my feet. With every step they felt like they were flattening out another centimeter. And bending down to go over fallen trees, or climbing...aaarg.

However, there was something else to keep us occupied. Moose poop. Today's trail was on an old logging train bed. It was a wide, relatively flat lane through dense forests and it was easy walking. Apparently, hikers, were not the only one to use this lane. Every 5 feet or less there would be an enormous, but strangely tidy, pile of moose poop. My first concern was stepping in it, but then it occurred to me that with where there's poop there might be an animal. What does one do when meeting a moose on a relatively narrow lane? Sure I'd thought about bear encounters before, but never moose. This one could have actually been fun. Sadly it did not happen.

At 5 miles we arrived at Thoreau Falls. A gorgeous fall, and fantastic, moose-free lunch spot. The water was soooo cold. We were both tired and hurting but given it was only noon and we were over half way to the car, we thought we should push on. If we made good time we could even get in the car in time to beat the Memorial Day traffic through the New Hampshire tolls. (Nothing is worse that broiling away in your car, the dirt and smell of 4 days percolating away, while waiting to get through those tolls).

The trail from Thoreau Falls back to Zeeland is the AT. And it is a most beautiful stretches of AT. Running, again, on an old railroad bed it is easy walking. But as this railroad bed was cut out of the side of a mountain it has much better views than the morning's trail. Walking along we could look back over our entire 4 day loop. From Zeeland Hut and Falls to the East, along the ridge to Mountain Zeeland, south to The Bonds, southeast to the Pemigawasett River valley and the North along the River/train bed. The panorama was stunning, and a great way to end a great hike.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Bonds - Day three and planning

Ever since I first began serious backpacking I've heard of this mysterious thing called "The Bonds." Each mention of it is made with reverence and awe.

"Oh man, have you been to The Bonds?"
"Yeah, I went last year and it was more amazing than I'd remembered"


"I haven't been in years. Really got to go."

And then there were those like me.

"No, but I really, really, really want to go."

And finally I did.

It takes a bit of planning to get to The Bonds. Located in the middle of the Pemigawasett wilderness just sumitting one of the three Bonds involves either a very long day hike or treking in from a base camp. We had planned our trip so that on Day 3 we would be traversing them on our way south to the river.

We started early, leaving Mt. Guyot campsite around 8:00. By 9:00 we had summitted West Bond. It is there, looking North that hikers get a fantastic view of the ridge between Mt. Bond and Bondclift. And boy did we ever get a view.

Looking South west we also got a view of a large, gray, fast approaching cloud. On the summit of Mt. Bond, the cloud was much closer and the wind was picking up. Still, the one mile ridge stretching southeast to Bondclift looked amazing and inviting. We headed down.

The thing about backpacking that has always intrigued me is what I refer to as 'the turtle effect.' In backpacking much like with turtles, everything you have is on your back. If you're out in the middle of no-where, or perhaps on ridge in the middle of nowhere and you need something, it had better be in your pack.

And so it was that I found myself standing, or rather, trying to stand on the ridge between The Bonds, braced against a 40 knot wind with driving rain wondering if, perhaps, I should have packed my raincoat on the top of the pack, and thought to buy a rain cover!

My rain plan had always been that I would stop before the rain hit and repack everything into my dry bag. Dry bags are great. The help compress things, are lightweight, keep everything extremely dry and you can use them kayaking. But there on the ridge, as D. pulled his pack cover out of the bottom pocket and flipped it over his bag, I questioned the wisdom of my plan.

Luckily, the rain didn't get too heavy, and the sun came out later that day so I was spared the agony of sleeping in a wet down bag in wet clothes. But it does make me think, perhaps I should plan a little better.

Good plans don't lock you in but they do give you alternatives. For instance, if you don't have time to repack everything into a dry bag, you can pull up a pack cover. Or...if you are crossing the most beautiful, most coveted ridge in New Hampshire, you can decide whether to wait for a break in the weather, or trudge on through.

Luckily (again) we had planned for the second scenario. There were options on Bondclift but we got a few great views - what is more spectacular than a storm sweeping through a mountain valley? - and had plenty of time to hike down to dry land.

We camped that night beside the Pemigawasett river. It was a beautiful site, and from the bridge nearby we had a clear shot of a place we could now fully appreciate, The Bonds.