Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Fine Day at the Farmers Market

Today I decided to go down to the local Farmers Market, for me anytime I can combine cycling and fresh locally grown food is a good day. I got the bike out, decided that one bag would be better than two, it would keep me from over buying, and set out.

Part of my route took me along the Saginaw River, where the city has done a nice job putting in a "Riverwalk" multi-use path. I saw a lot of folk making use of this walking, riding and rollerblading.

New this year at the market is the bike rack. So far I haven't seen anyone but myself making use of it, I did take the time to stop by the market managers stand and thank him for it.

I love the smell of a farmers market, it's one of my happy memories from childhood. My mother, sisters and myself would go on Saturday mornings, only thing missing from this one is the smell of blacktop. This market is set up in a large tent on a grass lot with a gravel parking lot, the one from my boyhood was a permanent structure with a black top parking lot.

One of my favorite things at the farmers market is finding the odd thing I can't get in my local grocery store, today I found two of my big food loves, Kholrabi,

and golden or yellow beets. If you have never tried either of these you are truly missing out. Kohlrabi is wonderful raw or my favorite, sliced and misted with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled, I'll be having it that way this evening. Kohlrabi tastes like broccoli but has a bit of a sharper, peppery flavor to it that can't be beat.

A lot of people don't like beets, and for good reason, they have never had beets anyway except pickled, even I don't really care for those. However take either red or especially these beautiful golden globes, clean them up and cut them up in a rough chop, toss em in olive oil and roast them and they are a whole different vegetable.

I'll try and get some more involved recipes for both of these veggies posted later in the week.

Lots of wonderful things this week, we are starting to get into the best part of the season. These onions were gorgeous, but I didn't need any, so I only got a picture. I had bought potatoes from this vendor last week and will be back for onions when I run out.

Now to one of my favorite subjects, HOT PEPPERS! I love the heat, I love the complexity of flavor that they add to so many dishes. If you only know of jalapenos and maybe Serrano peppers, you need to broaden your education. I had a wonderful discussion with the lady running the stall and bought a pint of mixed peppers from her. She let me know she was growing 25 different varieties! But not all were ready for market and she would have much more in the next couple weeks. I promised her I would be back and asked after a couple specific varieties. She then surprised me by pulling a plastic bag out of her pocket and giving a few Chile Pequins. A small fiery pepper which I learned to love from my grandmother in San Antonio, I had not had one in years. She said they were "precious" so far this year and she wouldn't sell them yet, but she gladly shared some with a fellow pepper aficionado. Try and get something like that at your local chain grocery. I will be visiting her again and you may expect a full post or two on peppers when I do.

So, let us know what good experiences or wonderful things you have found at your own farmers market in the comments, we would love to hear from you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Technical Difficulties

Having a bit of technical difficulties, my server went down for some reason and while I am working with my friend who runs it for me a good deal of the images for the blog are off-line. I am moving back to my flickr account and updating and will be working from there for images in the future due to traffic and security. I am attempting to edit in new links but it may take some time.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sustrans UTravelActive case study draft

Ok so i mentioned this in one of the earlier posts, that I completed a case study for Sustrans Leeds before i left in June. this is the first draft of the proposed article that is going in for UTravelActive. from the website, "UTravelActive aims to increase the level of walking and cycling amongst staff and students at the University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan University, and in communities around the Universities." so with this in mind the following bit focusing on the commuting and money saving as well as a bit of health was completed. there will be a second case study put together by Sustran's Sian Bell, whom I interviewed with for these. The second study will be on the website and focus on cycle tourism.

So here is the first draft, there are some changes in it that I have made since it was sent to me, if people would like to comment and add thoughts that would be great. unfortunately due to the nature of its presentation it needs to be short but let me know any thoughts! I would also like to thank Lisa Brannan, who helped me get my velocampus bike as well as set up the case study work.


When the opportunity to hire a bike inexpensively was offered through UTravelActive’s Velocampus Leeds, John Pelletier, a student at University of Leeds, took full advantage.

He had recently lost weight and wanted to keep it off. He hired a bike through the scheme and found that not only did he maintain his weight loss, he lost more weight as well. He was physically healthier, but he also felt that his mental health had improved, ‘I have more overall energy and a greater mental capacity’ said John.

Although he had cycled since secondary school, John says that he cycled far more miles in the last six months with his Velocampus bike then in the previous 6 years. Cycling every day to University, often beating the buses and cars on his journey in and saving £3.20 in bus fares each day.

If the Velocampus Leeds bike hire hadn’t been available, John would probably not have been able to ride everyday as he wouldn’t have been able to afford to buy a good quality bike. He says 'The Velocampus scheme has changed the way I travel and I feel great!'. He has now permanently changed his travel behaviour and has decided to study for a Masters in sustainable transport and in particular, cycle and walkability infrastructure and development.

Result: Access to bikes gives people a healthy, low cost travel alternative that they may not ordinarily afford and in turn the opportunity to increase their physical activity through their daily travel.

larger image

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Feature, End of the Line

welcome back! For today I am featuring one of the problem spots I found when cycling around West Yorkshire. The trail is the National Cycling Route 66 or the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, which also happens to be part of the thousands of miles of restored canal work by British Waterways. It also turns into cycling route 69 around the town of Saltaire, which is known for the Salts Mill art complex, some really good stuff up by David Hockney, whose photography happens to have inspired a number of my works, as well as a wonderful café (if a bit pricy, but its local and some organic bits so worth it). The Saltaire rail station is right next to the cycle route and the Salts Mill complex as well so makes for ease of mode transfer if so desired.

Back to the image though, (sorry I get easily distracted by little tidbits and such) this is taken a little bit after route 69 goes on road for the official route part. The section I am on is part of a continued purposed (car)traffic-free rout to replace(I think) the on-road section of 69 into Silsden. This traffic free route is purposed currently to continue all the way north to Skipton following the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. I should note at the time I made this trip I was not aware of Sustrans live map feature (so useful) and thus didn't really know where I was going, or how the route split off at this point, or where I would end up either. I had cycled a bit of the route down the hill from where I lived in Kirkstall, so I knew it went north but had no idea how far. I took the southern route later on in the spring, but that's for another time.

The plan for the day was to ride until about noon or 1:00 or until I reached a town in that time window. I left around 9:20 that morning so by noon a café for a nice healthy lunch was in certainly in order. luckily I was able to do just that! I found This café around 12:30 after spying a rather large collection of houses along the waterway. needless to say a wonderful fresh made sandwich on hand-baked bread with local ingredients ensued finished up with a fresh crushed oh so amazing fruit smoothy. After taking about 30 minutes to eat and rest and look at the pictures I had taken so far I headed back home, still not knowing where I was as I had somehow missed any and all town signs.
Cafe Address

the route off the official path is about a mile and a half long and goes right between some very friendly sheep and the canal. It is very very very bumpy, I took the bike very slowly along this, she held up wonderfully though and was quite a champ! I do not recommend taking this "short cut" until they can make it officially part of the network though. Silsden is a small Yorkshire town, so the on road section did not look that bad and I think it would have been just fine and safe to cycle on it. For those of you looking at the route and are confused, you will get to the point where it says route 69 and an arrow pointing off the trail in nice official form to the left as you cycle north from Leeds, take that on road bit and follow it, it will lead right into down town Silsden. if you continue along the canal you will pass under a bridge, turn back before you do so unless you really enjoy bumps.

a collection of images I took along the official network of route 66 and route 69. I should note that it was not as quiet as it looks, while there were stretches where I didn't see anybody, I just don't typically take pictures of large groups while on my bike since I am busy making sure I let them know I am there and don't run them over.

out for a nice ride, a lock in the background
full size

never too old
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typical quality of the trail
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almost home
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Google Maps
Sustrans Map just look where the green line turns into the royal blue line near the bottom right of the screen.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Profile Image

so for those that noticed (all 1 of you out there) I managed to get myself up a nice (I think so) profile picture(click for full size!!) its very exciting!. For a bit of background on it, the picture is taken outside the walls of Cardiff Castle in Cardiff, Wales. There are huge expansive gardens surrounding the castle and the river. The shadows were right, the time was good, and it was my last few hours so I thought hey why not! It was also yet another opportunity to show off me and the Velocampus bike in yet another location. Part of the whole reason I did show off the bike so much was my work right before I left on a case study for Sustrans and the Velocampus Leeds programme, there will be more on that a bit later, and I will post and link here once the study has been compiled and is online. I did some contrast and colour boost of that in Photoshop, in case you were wondering

the Park is Bute Park

Google Maps

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Friday Feature, Cycling in the Park

My, this week has gone quickly, the session 1 kids have left and we get session 2 kids on Sunday, for another 3 weeks of art and farm and fun. Should be good! For today’s image though we are in London, and Hyde Park specifically. When I visited London in late march I had my velocampus bike with me, so of course I used it and didn’t take the tube. I was estimating I was riding 25-30 miles a day for 3 days around London. It was an amazing experience and for the most part quite pleasant, I got kind of lost twice and once at night had to use the London Eye to get me back on track (that’s another story). I think the worst bit of cycling is around Westminster, I wouldn’t even drive in that area, its really bad but I did it I think 6+ times while I was there and no injuries or even yells out the window, so guess I did something right. However I must say doing it at night when its wet was I think the scariest moment of my life, even with plenty of lights and a nice reflective vest. The normal drivers are fine; it’s the cabbies and the lorry drivers you need to watch out for. Anyway back to the image, I got in late actually for the first night (came from Portsmouth), and I was staying with a friend, I cycled this path at around 9pm, it was quite dark, yes I cycled through Hyde Park in the dark, and the world didn’t end. Nevertheless I revisited this as a nice off-road shortcut (not really a shortcut, it just looks nicer) from central London to Notting Hill, yes, that Notting hill, where my friend lives. While this is not an amazing path it is a nice raised cycle path, physically separated from both cars and pedestrians. The picture shows one of the crossings along this rout as well. It is also very much used, I passed by here 3 times I believe and I always saw usually 10+ other cyclists in the 3 minutes I was on the path, the road is a little heavily travelled, but the speeds are slow and the separation gives that safety. The road splits the edge of Hyde Park, bordering Kensington Gardens on the west and is called West Carriage Drive. Or The Ring (according to the google)

Google Map
Sustrans Map
Larger Picture

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A little bitty rant

For something not so off-topic for me, but way off-topic for this blog so far, I shall introduce you to some of the ladies on the Putney farm. For those that don't know, I am currently working at the Putney School in Putney Vermont, apprentice teaching photography, but because of my interest in agriculture I help out down at the farm bit of the campus every once in a bit. Yes I do this for fun, and yes 5am is early. So the farm has about 60head of dairy cows, of different breeds, these are milked 2 times a day, 6am and then around 4 in the afternoon. There are sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and a large veg patch as well but the cows are where I typically help out. Most of the job involves shoveling shit, you start the morning cleaning out the gutters behind each cow, this involves a shovel and a wheelbarrow, and needs to be done quickly and with open eyes because they can shit on you at any time. It then progresses to haying, feeding, cleaning the utters, attaching the milking machine, and then getting them back out again, and shoveling the shit they produced while you were feeding, haying, and milking. The younger ones, that do not go out to pasture, require other things but usually it’s a whole lot of shoveling shit and laying down fresh sawdust. Its great work and certainly works up an amazing appetite for breakfast, and certainly makes you appreciate that milk even more.

So how does this relate? Well small-scale dairy farms are hurting very much thanks to the giant Midwest factory farms where most of your milk (in the US) comes from, and the artificially low prices that they create. However it’s the small-scale operations done mostly by hand involving pasture raised cows that we need to keep, and these are the ones most hurt by this economy and changing milk and feed prices. Its the skills involved that we are at risk of loosing and when the oil runs out will have to try and relearn, but there will be nobody left that knows how to do it properly if we are not careful. It’s these practical skills that need to be taught again in our high schools, thankfully Putney does just that during the summer programmes and during the main year. It also comes back to reducing your dependence on foreign energy as well as increasing your health, and the health of your local economy. There are many on the environmental side that don’t like dairy or beef production and see all of it as bad. The problem is, as with most things it’s not that black and white. Small-scale organic pasture fed beef and dairy are fine, so long as you are not having meat and or large amounts of dairy with every single meal (like most Americans do). Yes there is an environmental impact from the production of both meat and dairy, but when done right and combined with a change in our diet it can be ok and easily offset by using renewable energy or using the cow shit to produce methane and power the facility. Just because traditional large-scale agriculture has destroyed the environment in many forms, does not automatically mean that small scale local production is just as bad. It just annoys me when many vegans and environmentalists constantly beat up on all meat and all dairy and don’t distinguish between them.

a couple more pictures,here, and here

The Putney School

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Feature, back to Scotland

Ok so for the second installment of our Friday feature, I took this in Clydebank, a bit west of Glasgow. It is on Sustrans cycling route 7 which is the Clyde and Loch Lomond cycleway. The Road you see in the background is the A8014, or Kilbowie Road. I actually don’t know who designed and commissioned the giant bike, but Sustrans has done and commissioned a great deal of artwork along the various cycle paths, so I would hedge my bets that they are behind it. When I saw this bike as I came from under the bridge you see on the right, I thought it would be picture perfect opportunity with my trusty Giant(ha,ha)Expression DX Velocampus bike. Not much else to say except that the bike is complete with "U" lock attached to a giant staple rack, which you can see if you look through the actual staple racks in the foreground of the image. However it is not attached properly, and is only going through the front wheel, and not even the frame! I do however challenge any thief to try and steal this sucker, because its solid steel. It was a very (very) rainy ride back from a day spent in Dumbarton visiting a friend, this totally made me happy.

Google Maps

Sustrans Map. It is a bit north-west of the station location, you should be able to compare the google map and the Sustrans map to get the full idea

Saturday, July 4, 2009

"What's the Best Commuter Bike"

I see this question all the times on cycling forums. Or various renditions of it, people are very concerned about having a proper commuting bicycle, so they do some research and they end up with information overload. There are dozens of types of bikes, and as many manufacturers, then they start looking at components and it gets worse. The truth is you can commute on any bike, will it be perfect? probably not, but the best bike for you is the one you will ride.

I have personally commuted on a road bike, a mountain bike, a triathlon bike and a couple of touring bikes. My present ride is a touring bike and I like it. But that is me. So if you are new to commuting and have a bike, use it. The will to ride is far more important than what you ride. As you ride more you may decide what you have doesn't work for you, then is the time to go to the bike shop. Going before you have some experience is like taking an exam without reading the material, you don't have the information you need to answer the questions.

If you don't have a bike, it is different, hard to ride without one. So take your time and shop around, do not jump at the first thing the bike shop employee recommends, ride several bikes and find the one that feels best. Try to find something you are comfortable on, you won't ride a bike that doesn't feel good to ride. Other basic things you need to look at are fenders, or the option to mount them, mounts for a rear rack and a decently wide tire for comfort, things like suspension are not critical for a commuter, a wide tire does quite a bit to cushion your ride and doesn't weigh as much.

Your first bike is unlikely to be your last, as you gain experience certain likes and dislikes will become apparent, ask any cyclist what the perfect number of bikes is and they will respond N+1, N being the current number of bikes they posses. So don't try and find the perfect do all bike, it doesn't exist. Find the one you will enjoy riding and just ride.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Feature, infrastructure pictures!

So it’s a known fact I am a bit of a dork, I was in York recently and was more interested with the cycle infrastructure then with the old town, the walls, or all the amazing historical stuff in the city. It was the same in Vienna when I was there in early April; I was more interested in the Tram lines, then the amazing elements of old Vienna. Anyway going to start a Friday feature on cycling/sustainable infrastructure pictures. I will take from my collection as much as possible, and that should last me a good long time, as mentioned above I have a great deal of pictures of European transport systems. Sometimes it could be lack of infrastructure as the focus but I will try to pick images that focus on what is being done well, even if it was a token effort by the council.

So without further ado, today's image is from Glasgow, Scotland, which I visited in March of this year. The image is taken along the main waterway through the centre of town looking northwest. The Sustrans rout is Cycle Network rout 75 and the picture is taken at the Clyde Street access point. Enjoy

Sustrans Map location
Google Maps location

Ghost Bikes...

I have only seen 2 "Ghost bikes" in my life, I hate seeing them really, even writing this I am tearing up a little. The two I saw were in London and York earlier this year, I didn't stop to photography, I don't know why. I think in a way they make me want to press on even more, to plan, to talk, to think, to try and prevent these unnecessary deaths in the first place. I have had many close calls over the years, especially these past 6 months as I commuted about 5.5 miles every day. Not one of these encounters with lorries, taxies, busses, pedestrians, or cars has stopped me from cycling, not one has even deterred me a little. Maybe its a desire to show that safe cycling can happen and be cool, that its not a requirement that you ride a fixie with no helmet and weave through traffic ignoring traffic laws if you are a college student. Maybe its more of a desire to let reluctant cyclists know that close encounters or accidents even are for now par for the course, but they don’t have to be! Maybe one day our modes of transportation can interact on a safe, secure, and efficient level, I urn for that day, unfortunately that day is not today.

And so we have "Ghost bikes"
Farewell to you all
Ghost Cycles
thanks flickr for the photo
recient bbc article on the topic

Thursday, July 2, 2009

from Treehugger. Cycling in parks?

I actually kinda thought this was a no brainier yes answer. apparently not so fast, that's what I get for living in the UK for the past 6 months. Parks are a safe place for people of all ages to both cycle and walk, its a shame that apparently so many make it impossible (well the sign says so at least) to cycle through. The new Greenways movement, especially in NYC is certainly maximising the use of a mixed use, pedestrian, cyclist, wheelchair accessible green park space that allows for the safety of all users. Hop on over to TreeHugger if you want to comment or read a bit more on it, or make a note here, good idea? thoughts?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bamboo... for a bike?

Ok so most of us know the amazingness of bamboo, if you don't well this should give you a bit of idea. It’s a German site, the link is translated with google translator. Anyway, this story was forwarded tome today by a good friend, it was a featured article on bamboo bikes in Zambia, Africa. Basically the story focuses on the creation of the Zambike and how, out of a perceived need for a rugged bike and quality jobs, a company was built and is flourishing while changing lives and communities. I guess that when I hear about bamboo used for a bike frame I still wonder how it actually works, it just does not seem strong enough, despite what i know about bamboo! This is not new though, Calfee design has been building high end bamboo bikes in California for many years now, i actually saw them featured on a Discovery Network show a year or so ago, now they are teaming up with Zambikes to sell them in th US. I feel that too often many cyclists forget that without fossil fuels their bikes would not be built, yes they don't burn anything but they still use a good deal of energy, many exclaim how they cycle and have cut their dependence on fossil fuels, yes they have cut back on their direct burning of it but working with bamboo is truly a great way to lesson the overall impact of personal transport by using a plant species that is extremely fast growing, can flourish in many climates, does not need fertilisers, and is easy to harvest. I don't see a way just yet to live without the use of fossil fuels in some way, but these bikes bring us one more step closer to that dream of true independence. Pretty sure I want one now.