Friday, May 27, 2011

Getting Ready for Tour!

We are planning a bicycle tour from Helena, MT to the coast at the Canada-Washington border, down the coast to Northern California, and then back to Helena.  We have been planning this trip for over a year and it seems unbelievable to me that we are actually about to do it!

Here is our very tentative route:

For the last year we have been riding our bikes everywhere in anticipation and preparation for our trip, (as well as to save money on gas and avoid burning irreplaceable fossil fuels and displacing the Carbon they contain into the atmosphere).  Brenton definitely had the more impressive daily commute to school every day, his being about 5 miles one way and mine being only half a mile.  Our commutes to work are each about 7 miles (14 round trip).  We did a good job of sticking to our guns and even rode through snow storms, sub-zero temperatures, and plenty of rain.  We each have a trailer to pull for transporting things like groceries, but the trailers were purchased for the purpose of pulling the dogs on our tour.

I realize that it sounds a little bit crazy for each of us to bring an extra 40 pounds of dog along as we pedal impossible climbs through the Rockies, but in having traveled cross-country with them on several occasions we have found that the entertainment they provide is priceless on a long and sometimes lonely journey.  Not to mention kenneling them for two months is simply not an option and my sister is already doing me the enormous favor of taking care of Pickles (the big dumb, but very sweet, coonhound) while we are gone.  I couldn't possibly ask her to take care of all three of them.

This is Pickles the coonhound at her best.

Another plus of having the dogs is for an alarm system, in particular to scare away bears, as we are going to be in some prime Grizzly country and will be tent camping every night.  We will have to use bear bags and be very careful about our smell-ables.  Brenton is pretty nervous about bears but I'm not to worried.  We will be camping right off the road, mostly in established campgrounds with plenty of other people around.  Plenty of people back-country camp all of the time, (and we will not even be in the back-country), and a very small percentage of them have any bear related incidents.  

I think we have all of our gear and our bikes ready to go!  I will post some pictures of our touring rigs, as I am very proud of my new Soma Saga that Brenton and I built from the wheels up!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The purchase of a couple of Rhode Island Reds via Craigslist began our first attempt at keeping chickens.  The endeavor ended a couple of nights ago when we found them dead in their coop.  We aren't sure if it was a coon, cat, possum, or some other critter that got to them.

I really enjoyed the two 5 month old Rhode Islands that we named Tortilla and Tortellini, (because we said we would prepare them as such when the time came to eat them).  As much as I convinced myself that they were not pets, I was stilled disheartened at losing them beyond the fact that they never really earned their keep in eggs due to their short stay.  After buying the pair, constructing a coop, and feeding them, they really needed to lay for a couple of years to make them cost efficient.

They did, however, lay almost an egg a day each throughout the time that I had them.  They laid brown to light tan, sometimes speckled, large eggs.  They were delicious and fresh and I really enjoyed the eggs almost as much as I enjoyed watching the ladies follow me around the yard and peck at anything and everything.

I'm not sure if I will replace them or not.  If I do, it will certainly not be until mid August when we return from our bike tour (more on that later).  I guess if anything good came out of the unfortunate deaths of the Tort sisters, it is that no one has to come over for the month and a half that we are gone and feed them.  Maybe I will try bee keeping instead next!  (I recently went to see Queen of The Sun, a documentary featuring Micheal Pollan, about colony collapse in honey bees.  I'm feeling inspired!)

Rediscovering the Co-op

As we have settled into our new lifestyle, we gravitated back to the local co-op, (Open Harvest), which we had dismissed as trendy and over-priced back when I didn't eat meat and we were buying frozen processed foods such as veggie hot dogs with more substance in the packaging than in the food itself.  The hunt for pasta brought us back to Open Harvest with our skepticism wholly in tact, but as implied by the title of this post, we left with an entirely different attitude.

Open Harvest not only carried multiple types of pasta in bulk bins, but also about everything that we could possibly want!  From bins of olive oil, honey, and peanut butter, to wasabi peas, spices, oatmeal, and flour.  We even got laundry detergent and hair products!  We were even more thrilled as we checked out and were rewarded for bringing reusable bags with a punch card that when filled will give us a discount on groceries.  The produce is amazing and we even found fresh mushrooms that you pick up with tongs and throw in your produce bag.  Although prices are ever so slightly higher for the fresh and delicious organic produce that we buy there, we seem to be eating more and more healthily and don't seem to be spending more money overall on groceries because we aren't buying the expensive packaged stuff.  Not to mention how much money we save by buying from bulk bins.  We have also successfully cut out almost any food waste, which saves a lot of money.  Its amazing how when we used to buy junk like Ramen noodles and Hamburger Helper we would take food for granted and throw out or never cook so much of what we payed for.

Open Harvest has become an absolute necessity in our lives and it is so refreshing to be surrounded by people who don't think we are strange for pulling trailers with bikes to get groceries and bringing in our own jars.  In fact, it is completely normal and maybe even expected!  Now if only they would get meat and cheese that is plastic free!