Earth Day Fun Day


Happy Earth Day, everyone!  I hope you all did something fun on this Saturday, and something that was mindful of treading lightly on this beautiful blue globe on which we all live.  We had a most excellent day today and now I am tired, but in the best way.

It was a beautiful day in Helena today!  This morning the Hubs and I took our dog, MaeBelle, over to the Scratchgravel Hills, just northwest of town, for a little bike ride.  What better way to celebrate Earth Day that with a mountain bike ride?  I’m a beginning mountain biker, and this trail system is perfect for me: it has mostly old 2-track roads that aren’t too rocky and some single track to give me little challenges to practice my technique.  Right off the bat we take a little single track side trail that has a pretty steep component to it.  A couple of weeks ago I cleaned the section, even though I hadn’t been riding my bike much.  This week I’ve been riding my bike a lot to the gym and to work and to run errands–my legs felt strong and I felt good.  My fitness level is at a good place.  I was confident….but.  That’s right, that dreaded word: but.  Near the middle of the section I somehow lost my balance and slipped off my bike.  I think I hit a rock funny or something, I’m not exactly sure.  What I do know for sure is that I have yet to master is hopping back on my bike while on a steep uphill climb.  I tried, and tried, and tried some more but eventually I had to push my bike all the way to the top.  I took so long that Hubs and MaeBelle came back to look for me.  At one point my chain fell of the chain wheel so I had to fix that, too.  I was pissed at myself for not cleaning that section.  Dang it, I just did it a couple of weeks ago!!  I always get upset with myself if I don’t perform well, and today was no exception.  Hubs got on me for being so hard on myself (the irony) but he gets it–he’s just as hard on himself when something trips him up, too.

Despite my rocky start, we had a lovely ride, complete with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and early spring wildflowers in abundance.  The ground was splattered with hues of white and lavender (Phlox hoodii), and fuchsia (Douglasia montana).

At the end of our ride I told Hubs I was going to ride the first section again–and clean it this time.  My legs were a little tired, but I was determined to get up that hill!  And true to my word, I made it to the top in a clean ride.  MaeBelle was at first a little confused.  I could just see the wheels turning in her little head, “Wait. What are we doing? Why aren’t we going to the truck?”  But she was a trooper and followed me dutifully up the trail.  Hubs couldn’t let me ride it again by myself–he’s not competitive or anything… but he rides a single-speed bicycle, and therefore does not have any gears to shift while riding.  Riding those steeper sections are a lot harder for him than they are for me–but he cleaned his the second time as well.  He’s a monster on a mountain bike: strong legs and a stubborn determination.  Plus he’s been riding for almost 3 decades.

MaeBelle was happy to hop in the truck and drink a lot of water.  She’s going to be 12 years old in a few weeks, but she’s still going strong!  What a happy gal she was at the end of our ride:


By the we got home it was lunch time.  I made egg salad sandwiches (including from the garden: green onions & chives & spinach!) and they tasted SO. GOOD.  Then I was craving something a little sweet.  For a few days I’ve had this idea rolling around in the back of my head–a way to use up some frozen blackberries and one of the limes that I grew over the winter (That’s right, I grow citrus.  In Montana.).  And so mini lime-blackberry cheesecakes were born.  Since today is Earth Day, and the sun was shining brightly, I decided to use my solar oven to bake my little cheesecakes. I love my solar oven and use it every chance I get.  During the week I will throw together a rice pilaf or something, put it in the solar oven, then go to work.  When I get home the dish is cooked to perfection.  Gotta love that!  All part of my sustainable, low impact living initiative, not to mention a way to be an absent cook and not burn down the house.

Oh, and those cheesecakes?  They are SO. GOOD.  Hubs and I had to pry ourselves away from them tonight.  It was hard not to eat them all.  I will have to post a recipe and a video showing how to make them, but not tonight.

While the cheesecakes baked, I worked in the garden.  MaeBelle loves it when I work outside.  She lazes around in the yard eating compost (and I yell at her to get out of the compost) and chewing on sticks or just watching people walk by.  I weeded and got rid of a bunch of last year’s dead flower stalks in my boulevard jungle of yarrow, blue flax, sunflowers, sagebrush, and rabbit brush.  A woman jogged by and said, “You have a beautiful garden!”  Ah, it nearly made me blush even though I hear that a lot from passersby.  It makes me happy that they take joy in my front yard garden.

Later this afternoon I noticed a woman dumping some food scraps over our fence into the orchard where the chickens were.  She had a toddler with her and they sat on the grass and watched the chickens for a few minutes.  She lives on the next block and though she’d asked Hubs last year if they could feed the chickens some of their kitchen scraps and watch the chickens, I’d never met her or talked to her.  I packaged a dozen eggs of varying colors: green, white, and several shades of brown, and walked outside to offer her some eggs in exchange for feeding our chickens some goodies.  She and her daughter were delighted to receive the eggs.  I was delighted to see this little girl take such pleasure in watching my Girls gobble up the strawberry hulls and apple peels, clucking and squeaking with happiness.  It gives me hope that maybe someday, when she grows up and has a house of her own, this little girl will want her own small flock of backyard chickens.

For dinner, I made a quasi quiche–meaning it was sort of like a quiche souffle or… something totally made up.  I tossed in bunch of veggies like mushrooms, onions, more green onions & spinach from the garden, along with some smoked cheese.  I separated some of the eggs and beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.  There were way more veggies than eggs, so there was spinach poking up out of the eggs.  I used some leftover rice pilaf as crust to hold the egg mixture and it turned out really tasty!  Hubs and I both had seconds.  It was a good food sort of day!  I haven’t cooked like that in a looooong time, and it felt good to be back in the kitchen.  Unfortunately, by dinner time the sun was too low in the sky and clouds were beginning to gather, so I had to use my indoor oven to bake the quiche-thing.  Oh well.  There will be more sunny days and plenty of recipes to try in the Solavore oven this spring and summer.

Have a happy, healthy week!


Spring fever is sneaking in


Spring fever is beginning to hit me.

It’s been so warm here lately.  The snow is melting in town and on the lower trails, which means the mucky-yucky season is just around the corner.  Right now the lower trails near town are ribbons of packed-snow-turned-ice laid out on bare ground that sees a lot of exposure to the sun.  As soon as these ribbons of ice melt, the trails turn into a muddy, mucky madness.  It’s best to just stay off the trails until they dry out because the trails are über slippery and ultimately you end up carrying half the trail home with you on the bottom of your shoes.  Not my favorite season.  Sometimes you get lucky and the higher trails are still in good enough shape for hiking and biking and trail running that you can stay high while the lower trails dry out, but there’s usually a period where you just have to either get muddy or hike elsewhere.  Or do something completely different.

Like read seed catalogs and dream of your garden this summer!!

Today I saw bare patches of earth that have not seen daylight since early December.  The snow has stuck around for a long period this winter due to a colder than normal (or recent memory normal) December/January.  I really have no complaints.  It made for good skiing, the roads in town were snow packed and my studded snow tires got put to good use, and shoveling the sidewalk is good exercise (TRUE farmgal fitness right there! No gym needed.).  Not to mention spending evenings sitting by the wood stove knitting and chatting with the Hubby while MaeBelle lays at my feet, happy that her pack is all in the living room with her.  But seeing these bare patches of earth made me think of spring: new growth marking the re-birth that occurs every year after a long winter.  The wildflowers that dot the hillsides make for incredibly scenic hikes in May and early June–probably my favorite time of year in Helena.  But it also made me think of my garden.  A few of my garden boxes are now exposed after having been hidden under the snow for months.  If this weather keeps up, it won’t be too long before my garlic and rhubarb and oregano start poking their sleepy little heads above ground to soak up some sunlight.

For me, spring is going to come very soon because this farmgal is traveling southward at the end of the month, heading back to the motherland to visit family and do a little bit of consulting work.  I hate flying, and my last experience was so bad with cancelled flights and what-not that I decided this time I’m going to drive.  Yes, it’s 1800 miles ONE-WAY to get to my destination, but I have decided to make a long road trip out of it and visit some friends, colleagues, and nature preserves along the way.  And, this is perhaps what I am most excited about, on my way home I’m going to stop in at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri!  I love their catalogs, their exotic seeds, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to love their farm set up they have in south-central Missouri.  I’m hoping to spend some time walking around their gardens and gorging myself on photography.  I may have to purposely leave my wallet locked in my car so I don’t go completely nuts buying vegetable and flower seeds (“I’ll take one of everything, please.”).  Then, I’ll pay a visit to the Laura Ingall’s Wilder home in Mansfield.  I was a HUGE “Little House on the Prairie” fan when I was growing up, so this will be a treat.

By the time I get back home, spring should be just around the corner and I can start some seeds in my basement for eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, and a whole slew of other goodies I want to grow this year.  I’m really hopeful we can get our fence put up this year to keep the deer out of the yard, and I’d love to put up a greenhouse this year (that might be wishful thinking).  I really miss my greenhouse I had when I lived in Arkansas.  That was my happy place.  I could go out, smell the earth, get my hands dirty, and feel complete and total stillness in my life.  I believe playing in the dirt is good for your health, and there’s even scientific evidence to back it up (though any gardener will tell you that gardening is good for your health and well-being).  So will I be able to play in the dirt by the time I get home from my trip?  Outside?  Maybe.  It all depends on how much more snow we get and if the warm weather sticks around.  If nothing else, I can play in the dirt in my basement and tend to some seedlings until I am able to get my hands dirty in my garden.  I’ll take whatever I can get.


Farmgirl Fit

One of my part-time jobs is working at my gym.  I started working the front desk a little more than a year ago then I began teaching barre classes last summer.  Even though the gym doesn’t pay a lot, I do get a free membership (so that’s worth quite a bit!) and, more importantly, I actually really like working there.  I’m not an overly social creature, but I do enjoy getting know to people, especially if they are bettering their health through exercise.  The front desk is a very social job–you greet members as they come in the door and tell them goodbye when they leave.  I especially love talking with new members or people who just come in for a day or week.  I can show them around and offer suggestions on classes to take–I love doing that.  There’s a lot more to the job, but the gist of it is to be friendly and helpful, just like any service job, yes?  One benefit of working at the gym is getting to know so many people from around the community–and many gym members have become friends over the past year.  Today I saw a family I rarely see anymore–I used to see them every Tuesday night when I worked that shift, but since I quit working the late night shifts, I hadn’t seen them for several months.  But they came in the gym tonight right before I got off my shift.  And the mom is going to come to my barre class next week!  So excited!  One final perk of working at the gym: when it’s not real busy, I can knit!  Bonus!

Now that I’m teaching barre, I have really began to focus more on getting fit.  I was already in pretty good shape when I began teaching, but now I’m looking to get serious.  Really serious.  I want to drop my body fat percentage so I can actually see those abdominal muscles that I know are hiding under that little bit of extra pooch around my midline.  Unfortunately, it takes quite a bit of discipline in the eating department to get there.  I’m not sure I have it.  I do love my carbs.  So I’ve upped my cardio a little more in the hopes that I can drop some more of the fat and I’m trying to be a little better about watching what I eat.  This means I can’t do what I did last night and make cookies, then eat 27 for breakfast the next morning, after eating 15 after dinner.  Ok, so I’m exaggerating–a little bit.  But I have horked down a lot of cookies since last night…so I gotta be a little better about that.  Oh, and you know what’s most annoying about trying to lose body fat?  You can’t pick where it leaves on the body.  Many women are familiar with this problem.  Our bodies like to store fat on our midsection, thighs, booty, and arms.  After I joined the gym a couple years ago, one of the first places I lost fat was my boobs.  Seriously?!  I’ve never been well-endowed in that department anyway, so to watch my boobs shrink even more just added insult to injury.  Why can’t I just suction the extra fat on my thighs and shunt it to my boobs?  Is that too much to ask?  I think not.

Anyhoo…this month I’m working the desk on Monday afternoons.  In the morning I take a Les Mills class, BodyAttack (my favorite cardio class), then I run home and shower, eat lunch, love on my dog, do a little work, then head back to the gym around 12:30.  I work until 5:00, then I teach barre at 5:30.  I am a huge fan of barre.  It’s a low impact class, so it’s great for people with joint problems.  My classes incorporate cardio, and as one woman mentioned to me tonight, “You don’t have to jump around to get your heart rate up and sweat.”  Absolutely not!  That’s why I love teaching barre.  It builds strength in the core, arms, and legs, it burns fat because we do get into that cardio zone, and it promotes better balance and posture.

Today while at the front desk I spotted a sheet laid out for members entitled “101 Benefits of Regular Exercise.”  I had to have it.  I haven’t given it a thorough look yet, but I thought I’d share some of my favorites on the list.  As I am a huge proponent of the healthy, less stressful lifestyle, some of these really hit home.

Here are some of my favorite benefits of regular exercise, in no particular order:

  1. Helps you effectively manage stress
  2. Helps you lose weight–especially fat (yes, and we know where I lose it from first)
  3. Reduces your risk of getting heart disease
  4. Helps alleviate depression
  5. May protect against the development of Alzheimer’s disease
  6. Improves your glucose tolerance (which means you lessen your risk of developing Type II diabetes, or if you have Type II diabetes, you can possibly reverse it and maybe even get off insulin!)
  7. Increases your productivity at work
  8. Improves posture (a HUGE focus in my barre class)
  9. Improves your balance and coordination (another HUGE focus in my barre class)
  10. Helps to alleviate low-back pain (a chronic problem for many Americans)
  11. Enhances sexual desire, performance, and satisfaction (why did this not make the top 10 on the sheet?!)
  12. Helps you to relax (which is but one reason why I am incorporating more yoga into my life)

There are so many more benefits to regular exercise that I think are just as important, but I didn’t want to bore you to death.  But the point of this little exercise it to remind you that exercise has wide-ranging benefits.  One of the hardest parts of exercise is simply getting started and getting into a routine.  If you are looking to incorporate more exercise into your life, I encourage you to take that first step and get movin’!  You don’t have to join a gym, though having the group classes is a big motivator for me.  Would I work as hard at home as I do at the gym in a group class?  Hell no!  There’s no one at home to keep me motivated or held accountable for getting off my tush and getting my sweat on.

A prime example:  I watch a lot of YouTube videos to get new ideas for barre.  I like to keep it fresh and incorporate new moves on a regular basis so we don’t get bored doing the same ol’ routine.  How often do I actually DO the exercises I’m watching on the YouTube video?  This weekend I did my first one.  I’m not kidding.  I have watched literally hundreds of YouTube videos and I am usually sitting on my tush (maybe even eating a cookie or three) and making mental notes on cool things to try in my next class.  Not going to burn many calories that way, am I?  Eventually I do burn those calories, while I’m trying out these moves in my class, but it’s because I’M IN THE CLASS.  Not in my basement.

So, if you’re a loner and have self-motivation, great.  If you need a friend, find one who wants to add more exercise to their life and the two of you can motivate one another.  If you need a large group of people to hold you accountable, then find a gym that offers some great group fitness classes and join!  It may seem expensive (and it will be if you don’t use it), but if you find improvements in your health, then the long-term benefits may include fewer medical expenses (and some insurance companies offer discounts on gym memberships).  And, most importantly, if you haven’t been active for a long period of time, you should probably consult with your doctor before you run off to the gym.  You know, just to make sure you don’t do anything drastic that could cause more harm than good.

And once you’ve made the commitment to start exercising, you have to also make it a priority.  Which means, dear friends, you have to schedule it into your life and STICK TO THE SCHEDULE.  This is probably the hardest part and the easiest out you have for not exercising.  But isn’t your well-being a priority?  Then treat it as such!  If you can incorporate exercise into your routine and stick with it, you will see results.  And once you begin to see results, you want to see more results!  It becomes easier to convince yourself to go to the gym or go for that walk or workout to that YouTube video once you start to notice all that work is paying off.  So don’t give up!  It may take a few weeks for you to notice a change, but it will happen if you stick with it!