Goslings floating four in a row
Piglets racing in crazy circles
Windborne whiffs of apple blossom
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We're having a warm and humid streak, with thunderstorms in the forecast for the next several days. It's 80º when Tallulah and I hit the road, and only a very strong south wind keeps things comfortable.
Tallulah is sporting her just-finished cycling helmet...
...for which she has been agitating a good while. "Why would you want a helmet when you have a perfectly good shell you can retract into?" I ask. "It's a safety issue," she replies.
"Helmets are over-rated," I say. "Didn't you see the article in the latest Bicycling magazine?"
"I don't read Bicycling magazine," says Tallulah. "I only read Shell Beautiful."
"You do know that a crocheted helmet offers zero protection," I say.
"I know - but I'll feel more like a real cyclist with a helmet. Pleeeeease will you make me one? Just think how cute I'll look" - here she bats non-existent eyelashes - "and how much fun we can have taking pictures of me wearing it."
"Okay, I give. What colour would you like?"
She chooses Jade from Planet Penny Cotton Club. ("So I can match Iris," she says.)
At the pond just outside town, we see four goslings paddling along between their proud parents. I debate whether to turn for a photo, but tell myself I'll get it on my way back. (I should know better.)
A few miles farther on, we stop for a wildflower shoot. An interesting plant is about to bloom, but I can't tell what it is:
White yarrow perhaps? The buds are all covered in a mysterious fuzzy substance. I'll keep an eye out for it on my training rides.
The next one I do know - wild mustard. It's dotting roadsides everywhere with happy colour, and competing with the rampant dandelions for brightness.
Around a few corners is our favourite willowy curve. A large flight of swallows is swooping and swirling back and forth, across the bridge and down to the water and up into the sky:
(They're much closer than they look in the above photo.)
As we tool along a favourite road, whiffs of apple blossom are carried along the wind. Wild plum has already come (and is nearly gone), and the apple blossom is only a few days old, but the heat and wind are taking their toll. We stop near a favourite apple tree to find the ground already littered with petals:
But some of the blooms are still on the tree:
Just up the road is my friend and coworker P's house. I stop, hoping for a glimpse of pig...
...and am rewarded by the sight of a male and female sleeping in the barnyard. This is a new breed, called Iowa Swabian Hall:
The male is very friendly and talkative. My friend P, who is mowing the lawn, stops to ask if I'd like to see the piglets.
Inside the barn are three sets of piglets (all are a cross of Iowa Swabian Hall with Red Wattle). One sow has a litter of fourteen, another a litter of about 7 or so (it's hard to tell because they won't stand still long enough to be counted).
A third batch are weanlings. A few of them let me take a photo...
...then suddenly they start running around and around their pen at an amazing rate of speed. (They seem to be getting a lot of fun out of it.)
All the pigs look healthy and happy, with large pens and plenty of straw to root around and bed in. Soon the weaned piglets will be moved out to pasture. (No crates for these lucky little pigs.)
Just up the road from P's house is a favourite lone oak (it marks the boundary of her land, and is a favourite with her as well):
We turn a corner, swoop down a little grade, and stop at a giant lilac bush out in the middle of nowhere. (The bush is so huge I can't get it all into one photo, unless I go way down the road.)
This is not the lilac bush - this is something growing at its feet and about to burst into bloom:
(Salsify, I think.)
Also growing here are violets...
...making this a perfect spot, in my book. (Any place lilacs and violets grow together is a good place.) :)
And now for the lilacs.
Tallulah is fascinated by the lush blooms...
...and seems to like their scent as much as I do.
One last long sniff, then it's back on the bike. We're riding through some gorgeous country, but the air is thickening steadily and the temperature is rising.
At the top of a hill, we stop so I can fix my braid (which is about to come loose), and find the very first wild columbines blooming right at our feet:
The blossoms are full of fluffy tree seeds (cottonwood, perhaps):
Above our heads is a lovely canopy of birch, the leaves whispering and chuckling in the wind:
It's getting hotter. A few miles on, our road leads through a lovely valley...
...full of Black Angus cattle. These are just a few of them:
Up a short grade, and we're out on the high prairie. The southern sky is growing steadily darker, and the wind has risen to a low shriek and is trying to push us off the road. Trees are groaning, making ominous cracking sounds. I start to think uneasily about thunderstorms.
One last photo stop...
...then we make tracks for home.
We turn briefly south, to find the dark clouds right in front of us.
Then our road turns west, and we're racing against the storm, with about 6 miles to go. We fly down the road with the wind (luckily) behind us. Thunder sounds, and the clouds begin to spit rain.
"Keep your head down, Tallulah - we're making a run for it!" I call.
"Don't worry - my head is as down as it can get," comes Tallulah's voice faintly. "You put me in your pocket upside down."
After the fastest 5 miles of my life (thunder is a great motivator), we reach the pond at the edge of town. The goslings are nowhere to be seen - they're probably safely tucked up under Mom, who is sitting on the grass.
The thunder is moving away now, to the east (whew), and in a few minutes we're home.
A good ride, though shorter than I had planned - but given the weather this is probably just as well.
Miles today: 27.5
Miles this year: 498.3
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