Sunday, October 28, 2012

Shifting Gears

In case you hadn’t noticed, Mother Nature dropped the hammer with a vengeance here in the PNW a couple weeks ago.  You know that scene in the movies where a person gets a bucket of cold water in the face to encourage them to get out of bed?  Like that. 

We had a nice little unexpected dry spell going on, one of those ‘almost set a record’ deals, a minor sensation at the time.  I fantasized that global warming, for all its ills had arrived and winter in these parts was going to be like the central coast of California:  sunny, temps in the 70’s (well OK I’ll take 60’s, we are after all nearly a thousand miles north) and …. dry.  Ok, so I got my bucket of cold water to help disabuse me of this sweet dream. (Californians; head out to the patio and count your blessings!)

We did get the place pretty much shipshape before the deluge:  The last of the carrots, squash, onions, and spuds were harvested and the beds were turned, weeded and mulched. The turn in the weather finishes the food crops but of course the weeds seem to be even more energized. 

I did a major cleaning in the pond.  I emptied and packed up the quarantine tank and as I was draining it what did I find but four little orphaned Koi babies! 
I guess the fish that were recuperating from the Osprey attack this summer got better faster than I thought.  I let these little additions loose in the pond to fend for themselves, I noticed one swimming under the water fall from my office window as I was penning this post
I gathered about a million water iris and lupine seed pods (each of which holds half a million seeds) and the water temp promptly dropped to right at 50 degrees or thereabouts.  For the fish this means they are thrust into winter starvation mode.  50 degrees is not cold enough to trigger their dormant phase, but it is right on the edge which means their digestive systems are also on the edge of shutting down.  So, unless we inexplicably lurch back to the Cal fantasy of 60’s and sunny they are through eating until Late March or April when the water temp rises to the low to mid 50’s.  They of course are not so ready to go without food. Anytime they spot me they swarm (school?) in my direction, heads up and little mouths working the surface like a school of tuna looking for the elusive herring.  Sorry guys, see me in April. 
So now we are back to hunting for breaks in the weather.  The forecast earlier in the week suggested a donut hole in the downpour for Friday; partly cloudy and mostly dry, something like 20% chance of rain.  For a variety of reasons I have not gotten my 100K perm in this month (we did ride a 200K) so it seemed appropriate to try to slip one through this window of opportunity.  You have to schedule these things ahead so I sent my paperwork in to the Perminators last Monday. 
Sometimes the weather forecast is like a fortune cookie fortune; its meaning varies depending on who and how it is read.  At other times it’s Black Monday; plan on taking a bath.  At all times it is like going to Las Vegas; if you’re lucky you come home without getting hosed. In any event, five days is a lifetime in the weather forecasting bidness and as you might expect, by the time Friday came around, that window had slammed shut.  No matter where I looked the forecasts predicted lots of steady rain, and temps in the 40’s.  The first of many gifts blown in from the North Pacific.   Ugh.
There are really only two ways to deal with this: ride, or don’t.  Not to get all Jean-Paul Sartre, but his quote “Freedom is what you do with what has been done to you.” comes to mind.  So that, plus the fact that I am the prisoner of my procrastination (need to get this in the books before the end of the month) lead me to the conclusion that I would be riding at 8:00am on Friday morning. 
When I ride in this weather I keep telling myself, it’s rain, it’s just water, a gift from nature, what makes the salmon come home in the fall and sends the fry off to their oceanic adventure in the spring, it keeps the forests green.  In my younger days when I was a tree planter my mantra was ‘it’s good for the trees’.  All that stuff.  But after five or six hours of gritty road wash, shoes and gloves soaked through, wiping my glasses with soggy gloves, blowing gobs of snot onto the should or of my weepy rain jacket it’s hard to stay above it.  I get a little sour, I get snippy, I start counting down the hours and minutes until I will likely be done with this lunacy.
First thing I did Friday morning was to peek through the curtains; it wasn’t raining.  I wasn’t a ball of fire but went through an abbreviated routine and was out the door shortly before 8:00.  This route starts in my home town so it was less than 5 minutes to ride to the start (much better than a 45 minute ride to somewhere).  I got my cash machine receipt and turned the bike south. 
I was almost all the way to Centralia before I started getting those tiny drops that land and stay on the glasses.  Here we call it mist, it’s not really rain by local’s standards but if you are driving you‘ll need your wipers on intermittent.  Through the twin cities (Centralia and Chehalis) it turned into bona fide rain.  That was not so bad, (later is bette than sooner) but the headwind was an unwelcome interloper.  The last few miles on the outward leg is uphill.  What more could I ask for on a late October day: out on a bike, in a pouring rain, riding uphill, into a headwind. Makes it hard to think how this is so good for the trees. 
Thanks to the ‘challenging’ conditions I didn’t have much time in the bank at the turnaround.  Mary’s Corner is not so much a place as a name on a map, if it is a very small scale map.  A stoplight and a gas station convenience store with a poorly serviced porta-potty.  I got myself a cup of convenience store coffee, water for my bottles and a not-so-stale pizza pocket; rando gourmet fare.  I was wet and a wool jersey only holds so much heat, so with little time to spare and no good reason to hang around I retraced my route, this being the classic out and back. 
Things improved on the homeward leg right away.  First all the hills were ‘down’ and that head wind was still blowing; only now it was a tailwind.  Still raining but tailwind on a downhill stretch? I’ll take it.  I peddled hard once I hit the flats to overcome the chill of coasting while soaked.  
By the time I was back to Centralia I started doing the mental gymnastics figuring what time I might finish.  I have a computer on my bike but don’t bother with a cue sheet on this route.  I figured out that if I pushed hard, and the wind didn’t turn around on me I could finish this thing in less than six hours. (What did I say earlier about counting down the hours and minutes?)
It ended well, I didn’t have any flats or other mechanicals (Thank you God!) and though the wind abated at least it didn’t turn against me.  I did indeed finish in under six hours which is a good time for me. I did the exotic muddy striptease in the garage and went straight for the hot shower.  Done and done.  Saturday I was really sore from this ride, and crampy too.  The rain was relentless all day, I was so happy I was not out riding. Sorry, no biking pics this post; wet pavement and soggy gloves just aren't that photogenic. And for those of you 'inspired' by epic travail in a 'harsh environment', ... get a life.
Though the weather has gone south, there is a change of seasons within the inner sactum of Codfish manor as well. 
I have been nursing my sourdough starter back to productivity.  It is a long story but early this week (about the time I was signing up for the permanent) the SD took off.  So now I am doubling it every couple days and as you might expect I have starter coming out of my ears. This is really unavoidable; to keep it lively you have to feed it and the accepted standard is to double it, either by weight or volume with water and flour at least once a week, but more frequently when it is ‘young’.  As you can imagine it takes about two weeks before your two cups of starter turns into a swimming pool full, … unless you toss some.  So I usually cut it in half, and then double what’s left.  But still, I feel a little guilty about just tossing the excess, so today I put some of it to good use.  
For starters (get it, 'starters'?) I have been experimenting with drying some of the starter for preservation instead of freezing it wet.  Freezing does not work very well (don’t ask me how I know this) but rumor has it that dried starter lasts pretty well.  We shall see.  Anyway this is what dried SD starter looks like.
and here is another simple, and tastier project one can complete very easily with leftover starter:


English muffins!
The scientifically inclined among you will note that there are a few more uncooked muffins than finished muffins.  There is no scientific explanation for this.  
It’s here; November, December, January, February, … and likely much of March.  This is the White Pass climb for weather survivors in our neck of the woods; A long hard slog with not much relief along the way.  Best to finds ways to preoccupy ones self while not out soaking up road grit.  

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