Dec 23 2014

Not a Creature Was Stirring, Not Even a Mouse? Don’t You Believe It!

The mouse who left these tracks in the snow was up and about long before I was. She — Yes, she might have been he, but I’m allowed some artistic license, I hope — lingered only a short while in the cozy hollow under this tiny pine. Then she moved on. So much to do. So little time…

And that pretty much sums up our own predicament. We’ve got a lot of work to do in and around this site, and time presses. Which means we won’t be adding anything new till the new year.

See you then — and may your holidays be happy!

Making Tracks


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Dec 22 2014

Bike Monday for December 22, 2014: It’s a Wrap! A Tool Roll Anyone Can Make

Every cyclist needs some carry-along tools, and the farther afield your travels take you (or the worse the weather), the more tools you’ll want to bring along. Keeping them together can be a problem, though, as can finding the one you need when trouble strikes on the road. But this handy tool roll solves both problems. I made it for Farwell from a retasked cotton canvas sample bag, and now he won’t go anywhere without it.

You say you can’t sew a stitch? Well, this is one sewing project that anyone can master. Even Farwell. In fact, he was going to make the tool roll himself, but I beat him to the sewing machine.

And you don’t need to have a geologist’s sample bag lying around the house, either. Almost any sturdy fabric will do. It helps if it’s light-colored, however. Yes, it will show the dirt. But it also makes the tool roll easy to find in the dark recesses of a pannier — and you’ll have an easier time locating small screws and nuts if you have a light-colored surface on which to place them. Once you’ve spent half an hour in the pouring rain groping around on a grassy verge, looking for a screw the size of a spoke nipple, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

OK. It’s time for me to wrap things up. And I’d suggest that you do the same.

It's a Wrapl

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Dec 20 2014

Bean Soup for Everyone!

Whatever your winter pleasure—whether it’s snowbiking, snowshoeing, skiing, or just splitting wood for the fireplace—you’ll burn a lot of calories, and not just because you’re using your muscles. Even the simple act of breathing takes its toll in winter. All that frigid air has to be heated up to body temperature, right? And warm clothes, as important as they are, aren’t the whole answer. After spending the day out in the cold, you need to thaw your inner self, and there’s no better way to do this than to sit down to a hot meal. But who wants to work hard at the stove after a hard day’s work? Not me. Luckily, though, there’s an easy way around this impasse. Just prepare your meal ahead of time. The good news? There are very few make-ahead meals better than 

A Pot of Hot Soup

Almost any hot soup will do—even canned soups, some of which are surprisingly good. But whenever there’s time to make a pot of soup from scratch, I turn to beans to fight the chill of winter days. Dried beans last just about forever in the pantry, so keeping some on hand isn’t hard. They’re versatile, too. And then there’s the nostalgia factor. I walked to school when I was a girl. Many kids did back then, even in rural towns, and even when the walk was a couple of miles or more. The school bus was for wimps and sissies. That said, there were winter days when I longed to join the sissies, days when the 30-minute slog back home seemed to last forever. How wonderful it was, on days like that, to open the door and be met with the delicious smell of something simmering on the back of my mother’s huge, wood-burning kitchen range!

Often that “something” was white bean soup. Why white bean soup? Well, beans are cheap, for one thing, and mothers of large families (those without a tiger in the house, at any rate) frequently have to make every penny count. And they usually don’t have time to fuss about in the kitchen, either. Bean soup is one of the easiest of quick-and-easy meals. Don’t be put off by tales of all-night soaking and similar alchemy. Sure, it takes time to prepare bean soup. But that’s stove time. Your active participation in the process is limited to assembling and sautéing ingredients, checking the soup now and then while it simmers, and stirring occasionally. All told, this adds up to about 30 minutes of your day. It’s time well spent.

Skeptical? I don’t blame you. To make certain that I wasn’t being led astray by wistful remembrance, I recently cooked up a pot of bean soup from scratch. The total time from assembling my ingredients to dishing up the first bowl was about three hours. That’s plenty long, to be sure, but I was tied up for only 30 minutes, tops. The rest was stove time. Still not convinced? Then give it a try yourself. Here’s my bean soup master recipe… Read more…

This article was originally published on January 21, 2009.

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