Sunday, December 13, 2009


Jeremy doing his thing in the wee hours

Jeremy and Anda

I've been thinking about our friend Jeremy's daily commute on his bike and realized how inspired I am by his example. He does in deed what I would probably only pay lip service to if I were in his shoes.

Jeremy is the pastry chef at the Red Hen Bakery and arrives at work each morning somewhere between 4:00 and 5:00 AM. He then works a (sometimes more then) full day and heads home.

The bakery is just shy of 12 miles from his home and he commutes each way by bike every morning and back every evening. That's nearly 24 miles a day, much of it in the pre-dawn darkness.

I think what I find most impressive is that he does this at such early hours. Maybe its a matter of adjusting to a schedule which then becomes normal, albeit earlier then average, but I imagine waking up at say, 3:00 and thinking "Hmm.. I could get up now, get ready and then bike in, or I could sleep an extra 45 minutes and then drive in...". It takes a strong will to forgo that short term indugence for the slightly less immediate sense of fun, adventure and good feeling that comes from a hearty ride. I should mention that Jeremy is the father of a 7 year old and a 5 month year old and that his commute often involves arriving in time for the hand-off of the kids when his work day is done and Sally's work kicks in. No schlumping in the easy chair with slippers and a pipe for this guy. I should also mention that he is no zealot out to change the world or convince everyone to do it his way; he just does his thing and lets his actions speak for themselves. No righteousness from this guy.

A hundred times I've found myself on the edge of the decision: "Should I ride, or should I just hop in the car and get it done quickly?" In virtually every case that I've decided to ride, I wind up feeling so glad that I made the effort and overcame my hesitancy. I feel rewarded for the decision every time and I remember that it feels harder and colder thinking about it then it does doing it. That said, I once read Grant Petersen saying that you should never ride if you don't want to, and I've taken that to heart. Its not an obligation, its a choice.

There have been a couple of periods in my life when I commuted by bicycle every day, day-in an day-out. In both cases it was about 6 miles each way and I loved it. I really miss that daily experience in my life and look forward to when I have it again, whenever that might be. My work these days is the house and lately I've ridden my bike so much less then I'd like.

I guess I've been thinking about this because Jeremy has just stopped biking to work for the season in the last week or so since the snow has arrived. If there is anyone who would make excuses for why they can't ride to work, have 'em look at what Jeremy does and then decide if its really too hard. I deeply appreciate his example and the humbleness with which he does it.

On a related note, I want to tip my cycling cap to Lize and Randy at Red Hen for rewarding employees who had the top miles accumulated cycling to work at the bakery. Jeremy came in first with somewhere over 2000 miles for the year.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Composted Memories

The various cups, plates and cutlery from our wedding going in the compost pile, June 2007

Nancy here.

Just as the snow started to fall today, I got to a project that has been on the list for some time: the annual emptying of our big compost bin. This led to sweet memories of our wedding two summers ago. What's the connection, you wonder?

The 2009 compost bin still has some room, but sometime in January the active pile freezes and then the bin fills up fairly quickly. So each fall, we empty out the compost that is two years old and prep a bin for the next year. By April the new pile is usually quite high, but then it thaws, heats up and sinks.

I was curious to see what would be in the 2007 pile as we had filled it with compostable plates (cardboard), cups (made of corn), and forks (ditto) at the end of our wedding weekend. We were informed by Aunt Joan that she had heard that these cups don't break down and that as a corn-based product, they aren't such a bargin for the environment. So... I can report that after two years of composting, I didn't find any paper plates. I did find cups and forks on the outer edges of the pile where things don't always heat up to 130 degrees. The found cups were mostly in stacks, though a few singletons were also present. In the middle I found a few remnants of the rims of the cups suggesting that the rest of the cup had successfully decomposed. I think in total, there are about 30 cups and 15 to 20 forks -- which is far fewer than went in to the pile.
Compost coming out of the pile and going into the cold frame today

The composted material was looking pretty good. In some years, the saw dust that we use as humanure cover material is still fairly present in the dirt, but by and large it was well rotted and gone in this pile. I put wheel barrow loads of the black gold in our cold frame and on the strawberry patch and rhubarb bed.