Sunday 18 June 2017. Dark Clouds but No Rain

It was 71 degrees F and cloudy with a 12-mph WSW wind at 6:25 pm as I took Rhododendron out toward south First Street.

Rode south on Race Street, reasonably comfortable though feeling the somberness of the clouds.

Did not stop before Windsor Road except to examine the bike for the source of a light banging sound, but could not make it happen when I got off and spun each wheel independently. It was annoying but didn’t seem to impair the bike’s performance so just rode on.

Stopped at the linden tree on the corner of Race and Windsor.

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Was not sure whether it had not yet fully bloomed or whether it was mostly done blooming, but it didn’t exude the perfume I remember from past years.

Headed into the westerly breeze on Windsor, noticing dark clouds ahead.

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Observed how the diminished light and color pressed on my mood. The expression “like a wet blanket” came to mind.
There was some current pain in it (everyone has his or her list!), a little fear that the clouds would deliver discomfort-inducing rain or even electrical danger, but also some broody comfort, a little space to allow that pain before going back to face the slings and arrows that caused it.

Nevertheless decided to limit the ride (oh waste of extra daylight and free time!) to checking the lead plant at the City of Champaign “Prairie Restoration.”

The lead plants were starting to bloom,

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lax stewardship notwithstanding.

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And didn’t notice any plague of beetles, either. There is hope for that place, I think.

Thought again that I was missing a chance to get in good ride, but really felt averse to being far from home in a storm, and was not sure that the banging, knocking sound was not the sign of some kind of trouble with the bike.

Then riding north on First Street happened to look look at my right Keen sandal, which had a plastic knob at the end of loop of the elastic lacing, and saw that it was banging on the bike frame. Mystery solved!

So on the way back stopped at Japan House garden

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Where amazing, durable hellebores contributed to the design of the hosta planting.

Also stopped at the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard, where the summer bloom was beginning to build.

There were post-peak spiderwort

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and Penstemon

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Black-eyed Susan,

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common milkweed, in a big way(!)

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false sunflower, sporting either milkweed or box elder bugs,

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and lovely blue vervain.

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Made it home without getting wet, satisfied enough with the ride.

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Friday 7 April 2017. Colder and Windier Than Expected

This morning, the seventh of 30 Days of Biking, at 6:50, it was 35 degrees F under clear (at last!) skies. Was psyched to get back (at least closer) to a daily bike ride!

Checked the wind speed and direction (WNW at 9 mph, a velocity that didn’t seem to dictate a direction for the ride) and decided on a trip west on Windsor Road.

Felt that suspicious ease as I rode south on Race Street, which would mean resistance on the way home. Did not feel overdressed in the down coat!

Rode out Windsor–into the wind–and decided at Fourth Street that it was enough. What kind of lightweight was I?
But my face was cold from the wind and just didn’t care to prolong the experience.

There was plenty to see on the way back.

In the pond to the west were a number of ducks, apparently not all mallards.

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So wished I had a better zoom to identify them.

Got a shot of the “State Farm Center” (I still think of it as the Assembly Hall) from the southeast.

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Then downhill on St Mary’s Road, riding the west wind! Yippee!

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Stopped for a round barn shot.

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At the end of St. Mary’s Road at Lincoln Avenue stopped at the U of I horticulture Idea Garden

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for a view of some lovely spring blooms.

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There were hyacinths

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and yellow tulips, most artistically composed.

Then in the neighborhood closer to home were lovely hellebores.

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On another day I will go farther.

Sunday 12 March 2017. Spring Forward–Brrr!

It was 21 degrees F under a cloudless sky at 7:55 this morning on which, just a short time ago, we (the entire USA, except Indiana, as far as I know) had just purposely removed an hour from the day. As if the day wasn’t barely long enough already. But there it was, Daylight Savings Time. Nothing to but embrace the remaining day. And look forward to when the hour returns in the fall.

One encouraging event for this morning was that I’d finally fixed Rhododendron’s (rear) flat tire and was happy to be rolling the road bike out of the garage. I’ve enjoyed riding Shadow (a mountain bike), but in the flatlands, those 27-inch road-bike wheels can move a body along at an exhilarating clip. Oh, yes!

Nevertheless it was cold this morning, which curtailed my thirst for a long ride. So set the modest destination of the Japan House garden.

Rode between the rows of cherry trees lining the path to Japan House, noticing the sparseness of buds on their branches.

The sun slanted on the carpet of bald cypress needles with the sizable, vertically furrowed trunks with horizontal branches rising above it.

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Checked on the Winter’s Ghost” Hellebores

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which were full of blooms, if turned down toward the ground.

Saw that the weeping willow by the pond was well into greening,

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and that robins were out in force.

Heard but didn’t photograph plenty of vocal red-winged blackbirds, and noticed that grackles also had returned.

Turned back homeward before my fingers got too cold.

Cold as it was, 21 degrees F is not especially unusual for March, it’s just that it’s been so mild till now that the spring bloom is well along, and this blast of cold feels like an affront. But the daffodils in the neighborhood were not collapsed in limp heaps, the way impatiens are after the first hard frost in fall would be.

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Was glad for these hardy yellow star-faces standing up to the cold!

Sunday 5 March 2017. Inexorable Spring

At 7:51 this morning it was about 38 degrees F under mostly clear skies.

My rides seem to be getting shorter and shorter, but at least there was time to behold some splendid spring (so early!) blooms in the neighborhood.

There were hellebores, or “Lenten rose,”

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of which, somehow, I was barely aware until not long ago. Now I see them everywhere and even have some in my yard! They are quintessential party-down flowers: they arrive early and stay late!

Also gorgeous were the dwarf iris.

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They are smaller than their later-blooming relatives but still spectacular.

When the weather warms I’m hoping to expand my bike travels!

Saturday 25 February 2017. A Return of Winter

It was 27 degrees F at 7:30 this morning under cloudy skies, as I recall. Had the briefest of rides but did get out to record the bit of snow. (Yesterday it was in the 50s.)

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Noticed witch hazel in festive bloom.

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Early irises also were beginning to emerge, and, of course, there were hellebores.

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Elsewhere were unphotographed snowdrops, aconite, and crocuses. And the day, as the season, proceeded.

Saturday 28 January 2017. Hellebore Check at Japan House Garden

This morning at 7:20 it was 27 degrees F under, surprise, surprise, cloudy skies.

Was pressed for time but felt an urgency to connect with “nature,” to be present with things that grow (even if now dormant) things outdoors, to have a personal relationship with the weather. However brief, it’s so much better than not doing it.

So rode on Shadow to Japan House Garden to check the condition of the Hellebores, the blooms of which sometimes already are out at this time of year.

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Last year’s foliage hadn’t gone completely brown, but couldn’t see this year’s coming up yet.

Last year some plants had flowers in early February. And unlike, e.g., snowdrops or crocuses, which come a little later, they don’t die back to the ground after a brief bloom but persist (often with flower-shaped structures that remain after the actual flowers are spent)robustly until winter They are a most intriguing species.

While in the area got a few shots of the lovely bald cypresses with their thick, folded trunks and horizontal (on average) branches

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that rose above the rust-colored carpet of last year’s growth of needles.

It was good to touch the earth even at these few points.

Saturday 10 December 2916. The Edge of Japan Garden

This morning at 7:10 it was 27 degrees F under mostly cloudy skies.

Set off on the bike
For yet another short ride
To Japan Garden.

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The once-lush Hostas
Were frozen down to the ground,
The surface level.

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Ice at the edges,
The pond, willow beside it,
Was starting to freeze.

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Old Hellebore leaves
That had been out all season
Gave a last greeting.