28 June 2012

YWCA holds 8th annual womens triathlon

Serpentine swim at the York College pool.
Photo courtesy of
Last Sunday June 24, the YWCA in York, Pa. hosted the 8th annual women-only triathlon. Over 150 women from around York County gathered at the York College campus to swim, bike and run in competition, but more importantly, in fun.

The charm of this event was the supportive attitude expressed by the organizers and participants. It was a great way for me to start off the season and I recommend it for anyone curious to give triathlons a go.

The logistics were smooth and the atmosphere was encouraging.

Thanks York YWCA! I had a great time! For results and to get more information, click here.

26 June 2012

Weeding in the rain

Ground ivy garden
When I was in second grade, my class was assigned a different list of spelling words each week. The list was revealed on Mondays with the test on Fridays. To study, I would pen each word repeatedly down a sheet of loose-leaf lined paper 10 times, 20 times.

My theory was that the repetition would burn the correct spelling into my brain. The reality was that after 10 or so tries at a word, my brain would shut off and I would be running on muscle memory. The longer I spent spelling each word over and over, the less I was able to recognize the accuracy, or inaccuracy, of my spelling.

The word, initially a challenge to pen, was worked past the place of consistency and accuracy until I came full-circle back to a new unfamiliarity with the same term.

A few weeks ago I took a good look at my backyard vegetable garden. The majority of green-age that I saw basking in the afternoon sun was nothing I had planted. It was an infiltrator; a weed known as ground ivy. The heart-shaped leaves ringed with a serrated edge looked like miniature water lilies stretching their arms over the naked ground rather than the surface of a pond. No blooms were visible, just a web of green taking advantage of the soil I disturbed for the sake of my garden.

I got down on my hands and knees to strip away this invader and take back my garden. It was not a quick task. The ground ivy was everywhere. It curled around the corn. It crept between the potatoes. It buried the beans.

I lost track of time in my garden. While I worked, the sky changed from sunny to cloudy to raining and back again. The dirt around the roots of the ground ivy loosened with the rain. But the longer I worked, the more mistakes I made. I switched off my brain and went with muscle memory. See green, grasp and pull without mercy.

I was practicing for my spelling tests all over again. The familiarity was gone and all the plants looked the same. Ground ivy is string beans is oregano.

Eventually I worked through my brainless confusion, pulled up hundreds of handfuls of ground ivy and stood back to see my garden clearly once more.

08 June 2012

Car Talk retires!

A.T. O/B

Appalachian Trail -- somewhere in the Pennsylvania woods.
It's a rare occasion when Richard and I have the same day off, let alone two in a row. So when the schedule eclipse formed over Memorial Day weekend, we took to the woods.

Richard hiking south.
I have a history with the Appalachian Trail. In 2009, I hiked from Georgia to Maine on the spine of the Appalachian Mountains. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, and not in the ways I imagined it would be challenging. On a trail that is frequented with hikers just out for the day or following the path to its terminus at either end I never felt more alone. And Richard was the person I missed the most. He was finishing his fourth year of medical school while I hiked alone in the woods.

So hiking with Richard on the Appalachian Trail, even if only for a 10-mile stretch, felt wonderful.

Getting ready to sleep on the floor of the woods.
We got a late start, per usual. Heading south on the A.T. from Pine Grove Furnace State Park, we hiked for about 10 miles. The last mile or so was under a precipitous and thundering sky.

But we arrived at the Birch Run shelter to a happy group of future-friends. After drying off and finally getting the alcohol stove lit, we boiled some water and cooked some homemade Mexican rice concoction I made for my thru-hike three years prior. Hiking food, like most prepared meals, is capable of lasting decades if left undisturbed. It tasted just like I remember: salty, cheesy and filling. Yum!
New friends!

A small group of us kept the other hikers awake long past dark chatting and getting to know each other better. I have made lasting friends thanks to the A.T. Like I said, it is full of people for being an unassuming trail through the woods. And now I have three more.

I love the A.T. because it rejuvenates me. Never a fan of cities -- all the more now that I live in one -- I forget how much they drain from me. I love slipping under the cover of the woods where all things green hide me from the world of combustion engines, television sets and my to-do list.
The pack I took on my 2009 thru-hike packed for a weekend trip.

As we head back to our own combustion engine-powered car to transport us back to the city, my head is full of  wonderful weekend wandering memories of our Appalachian Trail out-and-back that provide a vehicle for escape no matter where I am.

24 May 2012

An eye on Everest

Everest: Source -
I have never climbed Everest. I probably never will. It's an expensive climb -- the average cost of an Everest expedition is $65,000. I'm not that good of a mountaineer... yet -- you never know. But mostly because it's getting really crowded up there on top of the world.

A record 300 climbers headed up for a summit push on May 19, according to a report by Rock and Ice magazine. As of Tuesday, there were 11 confirmed dead climbers on Everest for the 2012 season. The deadliest Everest season was 1996 with 15 fatalities.

Many are predicting a similar bottleneck event that caused eight of the 1996 deaths. A crowd of 34 climbers converged on the Hilary Step at 28,750 feet.

"Between 80 and 150 climbers are currently (Thursday on the mountain; Wednesday in the U.S.) headed up into the night for the summit in windy, rocky and crowded conditions," reports Rock and Ice. In an update today, about half of the teams decided to postpone their summit attempts for one day.

Duane Raleigh of Rock and Ice wrote:

"While accurate weather forecasts are now available to Everest climbers, warning them of impending storms, climbers now all converge at once when the forecast is most favorable, exacerbating an already crowded situation, slowing everyone and making them more likely to get caught in bad weather or run out of oxygen.

According to a recent statistical study, climbers who summit between 9 and 10 a.m. are more likely to survive than those who summit four hours later. The death of Shan Klorfine over the weekend is just one example: she topped out at 2 p.m. and died on the descent, same as most of the dead on the 1996 climb. Her last words to her Sherpa guide were "save me.""

If you are interested in following the activity on Everest, you can follow National Geographic's team on Twitter, @NatGeo. They are tweeting and blogging their progress. 

03 May 2012

Sarah Palin* wants to be a mommy

*Just to be clear: the Sarah Palin I'm referring to is my chicken. Pretty sure the human Sarah Palin is already a mommy.

Sarah Palin hunkers down.
It's spring! Want to know how I can tell? Trees are blooming, the humidity is back and my chicken, Sarah Palin, won't get off her ass.

Something inside of her has clicked and the Mommy hormones are flowing. For the past few days she has stopped scratching, has generally lost her appetite and spends all of her time hunkered down in the darkest corner of the chicken coop.

She has stopped laying eggs -- which is a shame, because her eggs were big and beautiful. She will sit on Liz Lemon's eggs (my other chicken) until I come in each day to collect them. And then Sarah will brood over...nothing.

Feathers puffed as she defends eggs that don't exist.
She's not prone to aggression in this state. But when I try to coax her off Liz Lemon's eggs everyday, Palin will puff up her feathers and give me a menacing, deep croak. I try to entice her with food or a mouse. She loves those. But I guess I can't compete with nature.

According to, Palin is brooding. This natural process will last for about a month.

Fertilized eggs take a solid 21 days of incubation before they are ready to hatch. A brooding hen will devote herself to keeping her eggs warm and protected during those three weeks and for a little while after they are born.

Sarah Palin has already proved to me her devotion to her pretend chicks when I found her crouched in a corner with chicken crap on her wing. From what I can figure, Liz Lemon was perched above Sarah Palin when she took a crap and Palin just chalked it up to one of the sacrifices of motherhood.

Sarah Palin and Liz Lemon in their normal state of curiosity.
Sarah Palin should return to her normal self in a few weeks. Until then, I will not stop finding it super cool to watch chicken nature live in my backyard. 

25 April 2012

Planting my own seed in the guerrilla gardening movement

Guerrilla gardening attempt.

A couple of weeks ago, Richard planted a tree. This isn't a new occurrence for Richard. He has planted many trees in our yard before that are all growing nicely.

This tree is a renegade. An illegal. A product of guerrilla gardening.

Across the street from our house, there is a patch of dirt where a sidewalk tile never was. The patch gets trampled everyday as students from the nearby college trudge to and from class. The row houses behind the patch are rented properties that looked very rented. Meaning, the people that live in the structure do less than inhabit it, they abuse it.

I used to be like that, so I understand the mentality: if you don't own the property or structure, there's very little incentive to care for it, maintain it or improve it. For me, that meant beer stains on the carpet, scuff marks from black-soled shoes and water damage in the bathroom that I merely shrugged my shoulders at. Not my problem, I thought. I'll be out of here in a few months.

Things have changed, though. I now own the property I live on. I have invested lots of time and money to make it look and function the way that I want. And most of my actions have been contained to within said property lines, like painting shutters, landscaping the backyard and adding raised beds to the bare, concrete slabs out front.

Until now.

Baxter checking out the tree.
This tree is not motivated by a need to provoke social change. I am pretty well convinced that young twenty-somethings are content to have trash strewn about the streets and alleys, while living in dwellings that just meet code. So I feel no need to motivate them to care for this patch of dirt that I see every time I look out my front window and that my dog waters every morning on our stroll.

Some guerrilla gardeners, like Erik Knutzen, coauthor with his wife, Kelly Coyne, of "The Urban Homestead," see the act as "a reaction to the wasteful use of land, such as vacant lots and sidewalk parkways."

I just want to mend an eyesore.

See it in there?
After a quick perusal of the Internet, I am pretty sure the dirt patch belongs to the City. Technically, if they find the tree, they have every right to tear it out by the roots. But from the look of the neighborhood, and the look of the city budget, I doubt anyone will mind, even if they notice.

Just a couple of weeks into this guerrilla gardening foray, I predict the biggest threats will be feet -- particularly the stiletto heels of drunken collegians -- or lack of rain.