Xylaria species

Xylaria species

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sailing

But first - what aid station crews do while waiting for runners:



Taken after the Voyageur Ultra runners went through the Jay Cooke aid station in the morning and a few hours before they would be coming back through on their way to Carlton.

Not seen in this picture is the sock that I started yesterday. I made a mad dash to Yarn Harbor on Friday to get some sock yarn as the only knitting I had on hand were the bird mittens. Charted knitting is way too complicated for carrying along to a race (why yes, this does mean that both the bobble-cable hat and the baby surprise are done). Yarn: Trekking XXL. Color 108. Apparently I was working on socks last year too, as Eunice, the head ranger remembered that about me ;-> Got the sock cast on and a few inches knit during my time there. The best way to ensure a runner would come along in the afternoon was to sit down and pick up my knitting.

I managed to get a run in while hanging out. Only 45 minutes, but gave me a sense of how warm it already was at 9:00 am. Porter joined me around 11:00 am and was there to greet runners and their crew for the rest of the day. He is learning that hanging out at races is a good thing. Lots of attention and food. He especially liked the watermelon rinds.

What (some) aid station workers do the day after a race. Check out the horizon line...



We were heeled over at about 25 - 30 degrees. Going around 5 - 6 knots at the time. A few miles out on Lake Superior. Apparently this is nothing, and the real fun starts when the rail is in the water! (if you look closely at the picture you can see that there is cell coverage out on the Lake - teenagers!)

Some of the scenery:



You may - or may not - be able to make out the name of the ship if you click on the picture. If not, it is the Paul Tregurtha. A Laker (meaning it is too large to leave the Great Lakes - can't fit through the St. Lawrence Seaway canals. Different then a Saltie, which is an ocean-going vessel. If you live in Duluth, you learn the difference early in life ;-> ). The Tregurtha is a regular visitor to the Twin Ports. It was anchored pretty far out on the Lake. We were much closer to it then this picture shows. Close enough to see - and wave to - a person on the upper deck on the back of the boat. Looked like they had a passenger (wasn't dressed like crew). Shortly after we passed by the ship started up and headed into shore.

If you were in Canal Park or on Park Point today and got bridged around 1:30 and/or 4:30 pm.... Sorry, that was us. But, in all fairness we were not the only sailboat out there.

To all the Voyageur runners: GOOD JOB!! Impressive effort on a warm and humid day. It was great to see you all and to meet one of the people who's blog I read regularly.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Old Dog Run

The weather has been pretty cool in Duluth this week - until today. The highs have been in the low 60's with an east wind (off the Lake). Today it is 83 degrees and humid. July 26th is the Voyageur Ultra - 50 miles on trails from Carlton to Duluth and back. Essentially the marathon I did, twice (minus Jarrow's Beach). Today's temps are not conducive to running. Tomorrow they are predicting low 80's, clear skies and winds topping out at 15 mph. Repeat of today. Let's hope they are wrong and it is cooler.

Wednesday I wanted to get out for a run but I had Porter to contend with (seperation anxiety + 95lb dog = destruction if left alone too often). I have not run with him since sometime this winter when he seemed to be having troupble with arthritis. I thought our running days were over. Wednesday it was nice and cool so I thought I would head up to Piedmont and get out on the trails with Porter. No watch, no where to be - we would run at his pace.

The moment I got up over the hill the temperature jumped 5 - 10 degrees. Now it was in the 70's! Porter has never run well in the heat. Can you guess why?



He seemed pretty excited to be at the trail - tail was up and curled over his back - so I decided to head out and see how he would do. We plowed through the tall grass on the snowmobile trail (waist high on me, over Porter's back, all you could see was the tip of his tail) until we got to the big knob and the intersection with the SHT. Headed west on the SHT - lots of hills in this section - with the intention of running to Haines Road and then heading back, maybe exploring the newly built bike trails in the area.

Didn't quite work out that way. Porter was slowing down already and by the time we hit the ski trail overlook I was stopping frequently to wait for him and offer encouragement. It was warm enough that we stopped at every puddle and stream crossing and took breaks. Still by the time we got to the second ski trail crossing Porter looked at me, looked down the ski trail, looked at me.... we headed down the ski trail. Porter found his second wind at that point and I had to work hard for a while to keep up with him. By the end of the trail he was dragging, tongue hanging out, so I figured we were walking it in.

Then we passed another dog. Nothing like someone watching you to put a little spring in a tired runners' step. Porter managed to trot in from there. Pretty good for an old dog! I think we ended up running around 5K or so. No speed records were set. But Porter was not limping the next day and his energy level seems to be good.

It was good for me to be out there also - no watch, not time limits, just playing around. Can't remember the last time I did that on a run!

Good luck to all the folks running the Voyageur tomorrow. See you at the Jay Cooke Aid Station!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Silver Bay to Mt. Trudee

It was like a flashback to Jarrow's Beach and the Carlton Trail! ;->

Finished up with the group hike around 1:30 pm. No rain, no dire predictions for lightening, so changed into my running gear and headed out. I really wanted to get to Mt. Trudee as I have not been there in years, but figured I would not make a final decision til I got out on the trail and got a sense for how I felt.

As usual I had forgotten how rocky this section of trail is! Within the first mile the outside of my right knee started to hurt - especially on the downhills where my right leg was on the high side. Hmm. Wishing I had packed some ibuprofen. Continued on as the pain wasn't constant, though did attempt to avoid situations that aggravated it.

Lots to see on today's hike and the run. Passed through many areas with ripe blueberries. Snacked on some dewberries and juneberries also. Found a couple of pyrola species in bloom and lots of pale corydalis. The best find of the day though was the just emerging indian pipe/corpse plant (monotropa uniflora - love that name, so descriptive). Caught sight of it on my way back from Mt. Trudee. Ghostly white, flower tucked down, barely out of the soil.... who says you can't ID flowers on the run?!

I made it to Mt. Trudee, though I had begun to wonder when I would turn the final corner/run up the final hill. Stopped to gaze out over Tettagouche State Park and it's interior lakes, catching a glimpse of one of the cabins that you can rent. As I mentioned before, Mt. Trudee is made up of anorthosite ( a coarse-grained rock, typically light colored, composed entirely (or nearly so) of the mineral plagioclase feldspar. It formed deep beneath the Earth's surface by accumulation of plagioclase crystals from a gabbroic-composition magma - pg 64 Geology on Display by John C. Green). Gives it - and other knobs along the north shore - that characteristic white color. If you can find a 'fresh' piece of anorthosite (not weathered in other words), you may note its greenish hue. My solution to the lack of 'fresh' anorthosite today was to create some by breaking off a bit from a chunk on the ground. Anorthosite is very resistant to erosion - that's why the knobs remain after all the surrounding rock has been eroded away.

Other observations on my run:

- if you own an attack beagle and want to sit at an overlook and enjoy the view: DO NOT tie the thing out on a 12 foot line in the middle of the trail, sit there and watch it lunge at a passing runner, apologize about it, but do nothing to control your dog! (no flaming - I have a dog, I love dogs, just think that owners should be smarter than their dog and take responisbility for teaching them some manners, and/or controlling them). Luckily for me it did not bite - but it did follow me - with no intervention by its humans. I did take a moment to point out that they may want to move it off the trail.

- most of the people I encountered gave right of way to the runner. Kind of like boats on the water, least maneuverable has the right of way, though I think in this context - as with hiking in general - faster person gets right of way. What exactly is the etiquette on this? Notice I said "most". I passed one family twice, and one of the kids (12 yr old?) essentially froze in the middle of the trail. Interesting response. Other groups would split, half moving to the side of the trail, half continuing on forcing me to move to the side.

- if you are going to take a break while backpacking, DO NOT do so by sitting down in the middle of a bridge. I think trail etiquette is clear here - taking a break = move off the trail completely just in case someone comes along.

- the Superior Hiking Trail is very well-maintained. It was obvious that both the section I hiked with the group and the section I ran had been weed-whipped within the past week. Very few trees across the trail. A few of the steps in this section are showing their age and are disintergrating. This is why - if you use the SHT at all - you should be a member. Parts of the trail are in their 20's and will need rehabbing. Like everything else prices for lumber and building supplies are going up. The SHT is a member-supported organization.... Need I say more?

I had a blast today running, though was getting pretty tired on the way back and was very low on water too. It did start raining (right after Jon checked in to see if I was getting wet) but I got back to the car before it really let loose. The loose rock was a challenge and I found myself having to walk a few downhills as the footing was not good and I did not want to get hurt. May have pushed it a bit by doing 12+ miles on that terrain so soon after a marathon, but live and learn.

Glad my car has fold flat rear seats as I had a nice dry space for post-run stretching. I have learned the hard way never to attempt the drive back to Duluth without a good stretch.

For those running the Voyageur 50: tonights weather forecast is calling for increasing temps throughout the week and a high in the mid - 80's for Saturday. Let's hope its not true.

Week Off?

Legs have been feeling great this past week, but no running. Mondays are my usual day off anyway. Decided to ride to work. The only question in my mind was how the ride home (uphill x 1 mile) would go. Decided I wanted to get to the library downtown first, then talked Jon into dinner on the sailboat (and a sail) so got out of the uphill portion of my commute.

Tuesday I did not have to be to work until 11:30 am, though had scheduled a chiropractor appointment for 10:30. Perfect day to explore the "long route" to work. Rode up to Skyline (narrowly avoiding being hit by a garbage truck as I ground my way uphill) and headed west to Highland and Getchell. You may remember a mention about my downhill adventures on foot and bike on 40th Ave. W.? Highland is straighter and longer. I had cut the timing a bit close so had to pedal hard so that I would not be late to my appointment. Skyline has it's share of hills despite running across the hillside (one of the beaches of Glacial Lake Duluth).

By the time I hit Highland it was about 10:00 am. I knew the ride downhill would be fast and that I would come out within a half mile or so of my destination so did not have to rush at this point. I am guessing HIghland is about a mile long. It is bordered on one side by Keene Creek and on the other by the Oneota Cemetary. The creek side has a guardrail = not much shoulder. It is a lightly traveled road though and all cars encountered gave me plenty of space. What a blast to ride down!!! I think it took about 4 minutes from the top of the hill to my destination.

Again, that evening (I work until 8:30) I rode up the parkway to home. Wednesday was another day on the bike, with another ride up the hill. The great thing was I was able to pedal up in.... 2nd gear!!!! Yup - proof that I am getting stronger. Didn't feel any harder than the previous day's ride up in 1st either.

By Thursday I was ready for a day off and drove. Also drove Friday. I have been feeling very tired for the last couple of days - falling asleep before 9:00pm and dragging out of bed after 7:00 am.

Today I have a SHTA group hike to lead from Beaver Bay to Silver Bay. Only 4.7 miles so I am thinking I will throw my running stuff in the car and head out on the SHT towards Tettagouche after the group hike is over. Haven't decided yet what my turn around point will be. May not until I get out there. Forecast is for 20% chance of scattered thunderstorms and a lot of that section is on exposed ridges. They are also predicting strong winds off the Lake, so temps will be in the low 60's at best. I am kindof itching for a nice long run though. It is 10 miles to the trailhead in Tettagouche.... 20 miles may be a bit ambitious, especially on that section! But I am tempted to go for Mt. Trudee (at 6.3 miles) - an impressive anorthosite knob with spectacular views. I guess we shall see what the day brings. No pictures today as the camera is having it's own adventure with Jon in the Silver Bay area.

It has been quite a few years since I trotted out my naturalist spiel. I actually was not prepared to do so, thinking that just being the hike leader would be a nice change. Then I found out they don't "hire" a naturalist when the hike leader is one! Ah, but I am 'retired'. Oh well, for those who know me well, my pack is usually filled with field guides anyway. Maybe no one on this hike will remember me as one of the long-time SHT naturalists and I can go incognito as just a board member?

Enjoy the weather. Wild strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are ripe and/or ripening. Can the thimbleberries be far behind?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A few more photos

Photo by Ed and Linda Dallman

Peterson's Aid Station - about 8.5 more to go (though when I got to Forbay I thought I was told I had 8 more to go).






The Mug. Still having a hard time believing this. I can't wait to see the overall results for the race.

Legs feeling pretty good today. Got out on a 2-3 mile walk yesterday at a local ski trail and will be heading out at some point to get another walk in. Right knee is a little sore on the lateral side on stairs, but that is too be expected as it was none too happy with the canted bits of trail yesterday.

Did I mention the ticks? Didn't see any on me during the run, got home, showered the mud off, still no ticks. Then as I was drying between my toes I noticed there was a piece of dirt that just wouldn't wipe off. What the heck?! Tiny, tiny deer tick, attached between my toes! Determined little bugger, surprised it hadn't drowned in all the puddles, stream crossings and then the shower.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Half Voyageur Trail Marathon

Finished. 5:40 (by my watch). And the big surprise: 9th woman overall!!!!

I thought Gene was kidding when he said I finished in the top ten for women, then they handed me the mug with my place on it.

I still have a hard time believing it. First marathon ever, first Half Voyageur and in the top ten for my division (visualize me shaking my head).

The start was at 6:00 am and the weather was perfect. Chilly at the start due to the strong winds, but that is good on this course and in July. Left the parking lot at the Lake Superior Zoo and headed up hill towards Spirit Mountain. The grade is not too terrible and I was able to run it, then once we turned onto the DWP (abandoned railroad) it was easy going. The early morning light was beautiful over the St. Louis River Bay.

From the DWP onto Skyline for about 1 mile until Magney - Snively and the first aid station. Grabbed a cup of water (stopping long enough to dispose of it properly) and headed onto the ski trail. This trail gets a lot of use by horses and had the holes to show for it. Pretty dry for Magney though.

This year the course included Jarrow's Beach (the Full Voyageur is 50 miles, so they add on to the Half to get a full marathon distance). Yeah - beach, only in someone's nightmare! To start off I, and three guys, missed the turn into this section. I did notice the trampled grass, but didn't think much about it. Luckily the folks behind us, who caught the turn, included someone who knew me, otherwise we would have probably ignored the yelling and gone on our merry way. This section is almost entirely composed of lichen and moss covered stones. Large, small, medium; sharp; and mostly on their edge. Not runnable by us mere mortals. We got an inch of rain in Duluth last night so they were slick. I was not the only one who resorted to all fours to get through this section without breaking a leg.

Made it through that section and the rest of the additional loop was pretty easy going on an old railroad grade. Though there is a pretty sketchy bridge in that section. As I was nearing Skyline I caught sight of Jon and Porter. Porter is pretty entertaining when he greets his family - lots of "wooing" (does not howl, rarely barks); ears back, and the goofiest grin on his face. They joined me on the road until we got to the aid station at Beck's Road.

From there it was downhill towards Fond du Lac. Parts of this section are on abandoned bits of Skyline Parkway (road washed out years ago) and are pretty rutted and slanted. There are three creek crossings through here - shin deep, murky from the rain and runners, full of rocks... Did clean the mud out of my shoes though!

Fond du Lac is another aid station and the drop bag site. Stopped long enough to grab some Cliff Shot Blocks and headed back up the hill to Becks. It is about two miles of pretty steady uphill. All but the very beginning runnable. After reaching the Munger trail, seeing Jon and Porter again, it was off to the Powerlines.

This part of the course has changed a bit over the years and now starts off with a narrow winding trail before getting into the hilly section of trail. The rain swelled the rivers, but the clay wasn't too slick. Still, it is a challenge climbing these hills. Steep, steep, steep - only 300 feet or so, but did I mention steep? Another section where making it up requires using your hands. I ended up slipping early on and sliding down on my right side - marking me for the rest of the race ;->

There is a nice section in the middle of the hills that is pretty flat and fun to run, then two more steep hills and you are out on Hwy 210. Aid station here, then up onto the Grand Portage trail. Knowing this was essentially an uphill section I was prepared for a lot of walking, but the first part is pretty runnable and even downhill at times. The Grand Portage trail joins up with the Oak trail and after more uphill running takes a right turn(edit: apparently my mind was a bit addles yesterday - it is a left turn into Peterson's Aid station) to head back down and towards the Gill Creek trail. Peterson's aid station is in here, run by Ed and Linda. I have done a lot of running with Ed and he was one of the key people to convince me I could do this race. It was great to see them, stop, chat, and let my heart rate come down a bit.

I love single track trail and the Gill Creek trail gives you lots of it - narrow, twisty, lots of ups and downs. Connects up with the Triangle trail, which then connects to the Greely trail. The toughest part of this section is the part of the Greely that is shared with the Munger trail. Paved and flat. Felt awful! I was happy to get back onto trails and headed down to Forbay. Jon had missed me at the Grand Portage aid station and I had told him to skip Peterson's so I was really hoping to see him at Forbay. There he was - with Porter (who was being spoiled by some girls) holding out a bag of pretzels. Nice! Grabbed a few, drank a cup of water and headed out.



By now I knew a five hour finish was out of the question and was thinking six would be just fine. Seeing Jon and Porter, eating the pretzels, or the combination was just what I needed. I had hit that aid station with legs that were feeling pretty tired so a second wind was wonderful. I felt reenergized at that point and it lasted through the Jay Cooke Headquarters aid station and onto the Carlton Trail. Interesting to run across the swinging bridge along with families. Little kids are not the most reliable when you warn them with a "passing on your left" - they often just stretch their arms out to both sides ;->

The Carlton trail is very rooty and rocky and hilly. But also has blueberries - ripe even. What a gift! I grabbed two and kept on going. I was really feeling good at this point and took every opportunity to run. This trail ends on the Munger Trail and it is a quarter mile or so (less?) into the finish.

Did I mention the winds today? 15-20 mph gusting to 30. Out of the west. I turned onto the Munger and it was like hitting a wall. I felt like I had enough left to be able to run well into the finish, but the wind made it feel like I was hardly moving and it was a struggle to keep going. But I did. Finished. Jon and Porter were there to greet me (Porter even ran in with me a bit) as were some other friends who were in the area picking strawberries. They had just walked up minutes before I finished. Nice to see them and have so much support.



So - next year the route will not include Jarrow's Beach...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Less than two days from now....

is the Half Voyageur Trail Marathon.

My first marathon.

Ever.

I feel like I am pretty well trained for this. I am lucky in that I can run on the actual trails used in this race - demystifying things like the "powerlines". I am also fortunate in that the Superior Hiking Trail runs through town, feet behind my house, and if anything is tougher than the Voyageur course (at least some parts).

I am a bit nervous about the distance though. Similar to how I felt before my first 5k, 13 mile, or 25k race.

Now it is time to fine tune my plans for race day. How am I getting there? How am I getting home? What will I wear, how many Cliff Shot Blocks to carry, what about water vs other beverages? The weather forecast has been moving all over the place this week making it hard to decide what to plan for. I am putting it out to the universe/weather gods that cool weather with overcast skies would be appreciated - at least until after the race ;->

Typical pre-race jitters, right?

My goal for this race is to finish in 6 hours. A friend I saw yesterday predicted 5 - 5 1/2 hours. We shall see. Update sometime after Saturday July 12th.

See you out there?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Visits to the frog pond

The Bobble-cable hat is still a brim! Not due to lack of effort, mind you. I have picked-up and ripped out stitches countless times, even got so far as 6 rounds before I decided I could not live with the look of the hat.

What's the problem, you ask?

Gauge is part of it. The pattern originated as a baby hat (Interweave Knits, Summer 2004) which I adapted to adult size, twice, successfully. This time I am having trouble. In order to fit around the typical adult head (about 20 - 21 inches) I needed to knit 9 repeats of the cable pattern. 234 rows. My gauge is working out to be about 9 sts/inch. For an adult size hat that is around 180 - 189 stiches. (I am not great at math, but can manage the basics, so feel free to point out the error of my reasoning). If I pick up and knit in each edge stitch I get 118 sts (I slipped the first stitch). If I were to pick up one stitch in from the edge per pattern recommendation I would get 236 sts (setup row, bind off row are in there). See the problem?

I do not like the look when picking up and knitting one stitch in from the edge (did that on a past version), so tried picking up and knitting two stitches in each edge stitch. Ended up being a bit of a yarnover thing going on and, after 6 rounds, I realized I could not live with that look. Rip it, rip it, rip it.

Earlier I had just picked up sts, but wasn't sure that increasing would make a good fitting hat, so ripped that out too.

I think I am on my fourth or fifth do over. I am back to picking up and knitting 118 sts, will then increase the additional 58 sts (K2, M1 around) and see how that works. Wish me luck! Suggestions are welcome.

Have a happy fourth - may it be quiet after 11 pm (when most municipal fireworks shows end). I had to close up the windows last night as the neighborhood was setting off their own display most of the evening and I was getting up at 5:30 am.

The wildknits family is heading for the sailboat this morning - will it be a cruise in the bay or out on the big lake? The winds will determine that. Then a big meal (Jon should start a blog with all his recipes - he goes all out) and maybe hiking up the hill to watch the fireworks from the Enger Driving Range. The hill blocks some of the show, but we can also watch the Superior and Proctor displays from there and no driving is required.

Tomorrow I am heading out for the last long run before the race. The plan is to run the Powerlines section of the course. I haven't run this in years - last time was when the NMTC was still doing the Roughrider course in the Fall series. It will be good to experience it - on a warm day - before the race.

I have been doing a minimal amount of running the past week. Lots of biking and walking though. Today I got out for a hilly 5K on the Piedmont Ski Trail, but after tomorrow it is serious taper time, so doubt I will run very much, or bike much near the end of the week!

Good luck to those running Afton, the Duluth Duathalon, Tofte Trek and all other races this weekend!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Realities of biking in Duluth - or running

Hills are not an option!

I am trying to bike to work more often - and other places as well. I live about two miles from where I work, depending on which route you take. Silly to drive. Exactly how one would get the worst gas mileage possible out of their car!

One of the doctors at the clinic bikes most days - winter included. My inspiration. He has two small children, long hours, yet still manages - makes my excuses seem pretty lame. There are a few other diehard bike commuters in town, too.

Anyway, one of the "realities" of my commute is the hill. I live near the ridgeline. I work near the shoreline. There is about a 300 foot difference in elevation and it all occurs in less than a mile. Great when your commute involves heading down the hill, a bit of a trudge for the way back up. I have to admit that the ride home has been the issue for me. It is one I am attempting to conquer.

So far I have managed two consecutive days on my bike. This is following a 20+ long run on the SHT on Sunday. Talk about hills! Yesterday I rode to work, taking the short route (2.5 miles) through Lincoln Park. The parkway is a fun ride. Curves, woods, river. Nice way to start the day. Lincoln Park Drive is also my usual route home. I used to ride a different way, weaving my way up the hill and ending with a grind up two steep blocks before I hit the relative flatness of 10th St. I gave the Drive a try and found that it is much more rideable. It has several crests along that way that give you a break, but overall is one steady uphill. Thank goodness for really low gears!

I ride a Gary Fisher Marlin with some pretty aggressive, knobby tires. The guys at the local bike shop got a laugh out of trying to fit it with a rack. I believe it is an XS frame (14") and the geometry is a little different, so finding a rack that fit was a challenge. We ended up needing a new, longer seat post and attaching the rack to that (my old seat post was extended as far as it was safe to go already). It is a bit odd to see a mountain bike outfitted for commuting, but you ride what you have. I figure the knobby tires make for good resistance and provide me with the strength training I would never accomplish otherwise.

Today was very hot! Low to mid 70's by 9 or 10 am and predicted to hit the upper 80's. Would have been perfect heat training if I'd gone for a run. Instead I opted to stay at home, pay bills, take care of some phone calls and then head to work the long way. I headed out from the house on the usual route but instead of going downhill at Lincoln Park Drive I turned right and headed up - gaining 169 feet or so in the first mile (much of it all at once). Then it was on to the real fun for the day!

40th Ave W. It is one of only a few roads in Duluth that goes through the hills (think of a mountain pass). It is very curvy, has almost no shoulder to speak of, and is only two lanes. I have run it once - when the road was closed to traffic. Today I road down it! You lose 450 feet of elevation in less than a mile. I am not the bravest of souls so was on the brakes for most of the ride down, but still was going pretty fast. Not too many cars on the road due to the time of day (11:00 am) so safe in that respect. The scariest part was crossing the railroad tracks littered with spilled taconite pellets. Think smallish marbles. Had a pretty big grin on my face when I turned the corner onto 8th St and hit the flats. Took me a total of 20 minutes to get to work (4 miles) including a stop at Walgreens for snacks. I can hardly beat that in my car.

So, hill training.... ever present aspect of my life. Even when I am not running or biking I have the climb from the road to my house (100+ feet, 36 steps). I laughed years ago when an orthopedic doc told me to avoid steps and hills after diagnosing me with Illiotibial Band Syndrome.

Living on the hillside gives everyone in the family a base level of fitness flatlanders may never have. Plus the views are so worth it!

A bit of randomness:

We have a hop plant that grows on one side of our front porch. Hops are amazing! Each fall they die back to the ground and each spring they emerge and grow about a foot a day. Our hop plant would be past the front porch roof if we let it keep going up (the decking of our front porch is about 10-12 feet off the ground, the roof another 8 feet or so). It is the first week of July and the hops are up to the ceiling of the front porch and heading across to the other pillar. They are so thick that you can barely see through them and provide nice shade. We have harvested the hops in the past for brewing and medicinal uses (the flowers are supposed to be a good sleep aid). The vines are quite scratchy though and have been known to make some members of the family break out if they get scraped by them.

Yesterday a robin decided to build a nest on the pillar next to the front steps. This has happened once before. I end up feeling a bit guilty about using the front entrance as our presence tends to startle her off the nest - scary for all parties involved. On the other hand, if our presence was so disturbing you would think she wouldn't nest there. This robin is not quite as good an architect as our last one was. She is a bit messy in her technique and is leaving long trails of vegetation hanging over the edge.

Tomorrow I am taking time off to bring my eldest in to have four wisdom teeth pulled. Since I need to be there throughout the procedure I am planning on bringing my knitting and getting some progress made on that hat - or maybe it should be the bird mittens? Hmmm, decisions, decisions. I have a new pattern tempting me also. Someone posted a ribbed hat to KnitU and I am itching to give it a try. It takes a lot of discipline to finish what you have started and I am determined to get these two projects done before casting on anything new. Really I am!