Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Has it Really Been a Month?

Missing a day when you blog is easy. Then one day turns into one week and then, before you know it, one month. It's shameful. However, not much is happening on the garden front. I finally cleaned out all of the dead peppers and tomatoes. The frost got them, that's for sure. The garlic went in and I harvested another huge basket of herbs, busted out the dehydrator, dessicated them and packed them away nicely.

This weekend I pulled the horseradish. I got a lot of little roots and not much in the way of large roots, but the box was in a bad location and under surely not the best growing conditions. I cleaned up the roots with all intents on processing them, but I didn't have rice wine vinegar. The roots are now hanging out in the refrigerator until I can get to the store.

The seed catalogs are coming in and those always make me happy. I now just need to go back through my seeds to see what I still have and what I need.

My time now has been pretty much taken up by grading essays and cranking out keychains. Good thing Christmas time comes AFTER the garden has finished for the year. I'm getting some good orders in every other day or so and have been doing a lot of custom work which is nice. The business has really done far better than I ever hoped it would do. We've already exceeded last year's proceeds and we've still got 5 more months of fundraising to go before Relay for Life.

Shameless plug, but if you're looking for stocking stuffers, teacher gifts or just a gift for someone whom you just need a little something, check us out at Keychains for a Cause.
I'm hoping to get that horseradish made up tomorrow when I get home from school. I'll try to remember to take pictures along the way!

The morning comes early. Sweet winter gardening dreams.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ahhh...The Beauty of Winder, GA

You know you live in Winder, GA when a soldier is welcomed home by red, white and blue Solo cups pushed through a chain link fence in the pattern of the American flag.

You know....when the sun hits it just right...it's rather beautiful, indeed.

This isn't the flag/fence I'm talking about, but it gives you the idea.

Welcome home, my friend.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What? It's November!?

I have no idea when the days started churning by, but I'm completely caught off guard by it being November already. I know it's frosted each night for the last week, but I still haven't gone out there and done my final clean up. I've neglected that garden far too long.

Last week I did manage to get out there and plant my garlic. I wonder if I can find some onions at the stores yet. I may just have to give that a try tomorrow.

Tonight, I decided it was bean soup night. It's not often we have bean soup, maybe only twice a year, but it's ggod when we do have it. Sometimes it's more like mortar and sometimes it's more soupy as it was tonight. I think it's the inconsistancy of it that keeps me from making it more often. I did manage to throw in a handfull of the dried tomatoes from this summer which is why I snapped this picture. You could completely tell when you bit into a canned tomato and when you got a dried one that had been reconsituted. They were still so flavorful! I can't wait to make more next summer.
Last night was senior night for our football players. I sponsored a player this year which meant I got him snacks and goodies for his games and wore his jersey to school on game days. I wish I had a snapshot of me in the uniform. It was rather insane. I suppose I could count myself lucky as some poor teachers couldn't fit in their player's jerseys, but I, on the other hand, wollowed in mine. My player is an offensive lineman and although he's not a big kid by any means, he's tall and broad. The jersey reached mid knee on me and was too long to bunch up and tie back. The joke was always that I could throw on some stockings and a belt and STILL meet dress code. ;)

Anyway, we had to walk our players onto the field last night and I had the kids with me. I did the best I could and broke out the masking tape and let them cheer him on as well.

They had fun on the sidelines cheering while we did our business. We got to stay for a little less than a quarter. The girl had a meltdown and it was best to remove her from the situation.

Tomorrow, I'm doing another 5K charity run with Keychains for a Cause. Christmas orders have been starting to come in already which is nice. I just cut the school a $400 check for Relay for Life in September and I'm ready to cut them another $350 check already. It makes me happy. Here's an order that went out today. The music ribbon was custom ordered for the woman. I like it!

The morning comes early - actually, it should come later, but the kids surely won't understand. Sweet gardening dreams.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cats and Mice

This weekend, the boy and the man had their first Boy Scout campout ever. I was nervous for them. It rained Friday night and they had frost warnings both Friday and Saturday night, but when they called last night, it seemed everything was going well. The boy couldn't stop playing to talk and the man seemed like he had teamed up with some of the other dads and caught the Georgia/Florida game on the radio. GO Dawgs!

I asked the girl what she wanted to do when the boys were gone:
G: You could paint my nails.
R: Yes, I could do that.
G: Then we could vacuum.
R: I suppose we could.
G: OOH! Can we do laundry?!

That's when I decided an intervention was necessary. Instead of domesticated chores (which we completed when we got home regardlessly) we picked up her grandmother and went to the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. They have a whole Jim Henson museum with an entire Big Bird, Ernie and several other puppets. My favorite was Dr. Teeth, oh yes it was. We went to see a production of "Silly Hollow." It was cute, but I think she got rather bored in parts. They wouldn't allow pictures there at all, so all of our pictures came later when we met her grandfather for lunch at a local 50's style diner.

She loved the juke boxes at each booth.

Here's her best Popeye imitation.
No lunch is complete without trying on Grandma's earings.
We got home and found the man had sent a picture of the boy camping. It looks cold, but he also looks like he was having a great time.
Such it is. We're on our last hour or so of manlessness as the boys will be home soon. Guess I better finish that housework I ignored yesterday.

The morning comes early. Stay warm, my friends.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nothing Like a Good Rivalry!

Everyone loves a good football rivalry. Within a county of 18 high schools, not including alternative high schools, rivalries are plentiful and not so hard to come by. Some, however, reign above all others.

Such it is with this Friday's game between the Grayson Rams and Brookwood Broncos. These two teams have taken spirit and rivalry to another level with amazing results.

Both schools have taken to YouTube to showcase their school's prowess in video and song. Grayson issued the challenge with their video "Brookwood, Where You At?" and Grayson answered this week with "Grayson, Step Your Game Up." Both teams' songs are now available on iTunes and they're giving the proceeds to the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

The kids at my school are so impressed by these songs, and honestly, so am I. I'm most likely going to jump on the interest and have the kids break down the songs to study them for alliteration, assonance, consonance, allusions, similies, metaphors, etc, for whether they know it or not, rap is a literary form that we've yet to fully recognize the power of.

Check out their videos - I promise you you won't be dissappointed.

Grayson's film: "Brookwood, Where You At?"

Brookwood's resonse: "Grayson, Step Your Game Up."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sir Gawain and the Green....Tomato?

We knew it would likely happen. Yesterday while I was in the Foods lab preparing to teach for the day, an administrator brought in a ton of green tomatoes. You know, I thought...I have a lot of green tomatoes sitting out there as well.

The day went on and the foods teacher talked about doing a demo on fried green tomatoes. Yummy! Then, she said, I wonder if we could can them.

Why, yes. Yes we can.

I started the process today during my planning period, but it became obvious rather quickly that I wasn't going to get done in time for my last class. It just so happened, that my last class was during her planning period. I relocated my class to her room and we finished up Sir Gawain and the Green Knight while canning the green tomatoes. It made for a nice change of scenery.

Here are two of the tomato jars - I can't wait to try them to see if they're as good as the ones I had this summer. I also snapped a shot of one of the roasted garlic jelly jars from yesterday.
I've come to the conclusion that powdered pectin doesn't work worth a .....you can fill in the blank. I've never had a problem with anything using liquid pectin, but recipies that call for powder usually stay runny. Can I just substitute the two bags of gel for the one box of powder each time or do I have to stick with the variety the recipe calls for?

The morning comes early. Sweet canning dreams.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Changing Hats

I'm so lucky that once a year the foods teacher at our school allows me to come in and teach the kids about home canning. I just love it. The foods teacher was kind enough to be the best sous chef there could possibly ever be and she had absolutely everything chopped, measured and ready to go the class before we needed it.
You can see on the counter I also brought a sweet potato, peppers and the dried (desicated - vocab word for this week) tomatoes and basil. Poor woman took several pictures throughout the day, but even said herself that she couldn't get one of me without my mouth running.

I always bring things for the kids to try. Usually, each class gets to try two different things from jams and jellies to pickles. They're always very appreciative and are surprised at how flavorful things are. One kid said he was never buying store grape jelly again and several each period asked if they could buy cans. When I told them I couldn't sell them, they asked for them as Christmas presents.

We try to stick to the crowd favorites as we can. We like to do grape jelly, banana jam, and apple conserve. Last year we also did pickles and salsa. Each year we try to do something new. Last year it was onion jelly. I thought it was gross; she loved it. This year we tried roasted garlic jelly. This is where she was a life saver. She started roasting the garlic, steeping it and draining it while I was doing the easier batches of grape jelly and banana jam in the morning. By the time we were ready to do the garlic jelly in the afternoon, everything was ready to go. She's amazing.

We tried some of the garlic jelly that we had left over and it was really rather good. I can picture it would be great on a bagel with swiss cheese. I pour the apple conserve over brie and serve it with graham crackers. Does anyone know a good soft cheese that would be good with the roast garlic jelly? I'm looking for something I can just pour it over and people can scoop out some for crackers.

Here are some of the cans when we were done. There's not a picture here of the garlic jelly since we did that last. It's a beautiful light amber color.

It's always fun to take a break from literature and put on a different hat. That.....and I got to add great things to my lecture about the Botulism Broad (had to make it alliterative somehow) from the festival a few weeks ago.

Still...talking about her makes me want pumpkin butter all the more. I may make some and freeze it. I hear it holds up pretty well. Any good recipies out there?

The morning comes early, and my cupboard is full. Sweet gardening dreams.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cold Start, Great Day

It was a very cold start to the morning, but it turned out very nice. We were out most of the morning, but when we came home I decided to pull some of the sweet potatoes. The ones in the corner yard did very well. I got about three huge ones, but they all have some sort of worm damage. I'm going to try to use whatever parts of them I can. Sadly, the pots in the front that did so well for me last year didn't pan out this year. Actually, I only emptied one of the pots, but I expect the same from the other. They only had finger length and width potatoes. Looks like it's planting in the back for me from now on...but I have to keep moving them around because of the beasties in the beds that keep getting at them.

I did take one of the potatoes and chop it up and make some roasted sweet potatoes with honey, lemon and cinnamon. They turned out very well. The man came downstairs and said it smelled like Thanksgiving. I suppose he's right!
We spent the morning and afternoon out at a park helping with our county's Law Enforcement Appreciation Picnic. One of the guys (Joe) in one of the man's bands works for the sheriff's department so their band played and I sold keychains. We had a blast which was only made better by a visit by one of my old students who recognized me. He's gone through college and has now been working for the department for about a year now and knows Joe well. Very cool, very small world.

Added some more ribbon for Keychains for a Cause since we've been doing some festivals in the area. They've sold pretty well. I was just able to cut the school's relay team a check for $470 and I'm already positive again on the year. It's wonderful how everything is going! Anyway, here's what I've added:

Phew! That's a lot for now. We've added a few more things as well. Our next stop is a 5K being held to help another local family. I'll head there in a few weeks and see how we can help out.

The morning comes early and I'm thinking about getting the garlic in. Sweet gardening dreams.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blow Blow Thou Winter Wind

We had a cold front come through, and what a cold front it was. This isn't like your GA summer cold front where you go...Really? This was impressive. Along with fierce wind we sheparded in a 45 degree day. This wouldn't be bad if the temperatures the day before weren't in the mid 80's. We all knew it was coming. The news was a broken record and talked about nothing else for days, but I still sent my kids to school without heavy jackets. That's how I roll. No mother of the year nomination for me yet again.

When we got home, I braved the wild winds and went outside to gather what I could. We've got a frost warning out for tonight. Some of you may know my deal with peppers. I can't grow them. I've tried and failed for an umpteen number of years. Ok - Two, but that's good enough. This year, however, even though the peppers were planted in stinkin' April, I've just now started getting peppers out of the deal. I couldn't be more excited.....and....I hate peppers. Hate them. The man likes them and I try to grow them for him, but now I've got all these peppers and the man is out of town. I kept three of the largest and put the others in the mailroom at school.

But let it be known that I grew them; yes I did. I grew them and someone else ate them, but I grew them. Took durn long enough, but I grew them.

Last night I decided to 'trim' my basil plants. I've five basil plants in the other corner yard that really have remained diminutive and rather embarassing. I planted two in the main corner yard and have gotten three batches of pesto, numerous daily meal cuttings and two batches of my favorite creamy tomato basil soup, yet I still put 'trim' in quotation marks. This may look like a butchering, but I promise you that if the frost doesn't kill these plants tonight, I'll harvest another load like this in a few days.

I'm going to bust out the dehydrator later tonight and see what I can do with the rest of this.

I just love the tomato basil soup I made earlier this year. I honestly think the heirloom tomatoes make it a bigger success than otherwise. My friend (Auntie Daddy from posts of yore) came over for dinner and we jointly made a succulent dinner.

Looks nice, doesn't it? You missed the preparation. Everything went as planned. The veggies stewed, the tomatoes boiled, the basil was fresh and the mixture smelled heavenly. Then came the blending and all is well. Everything churned up according to plan, however...and you knew that word was coming...when I removed said glass chalice from the mechanism, the bottom remained on the contraption and the soup went everywhere. Everywhere, my friends. I wish I was exaggerating. Friday the 13th had nothing on my kitchen last night.

Auntie Daddy, who was reading the kids a story for bed, came downstairs right at the pinacle moment. I shouted, "Don't come down here!" and she dutifully made an about face and went back upstairs. God I love friends who understand and recognize a fragile disposition and don't question the absurdity of a barked command. I cleaned up the calamity, salvaged what I could (thank goodness for quick thinking and dragging the pot under the deluge midway) and just threw the second batch back into the pot, carrot and onion chunks be damned.

Auntie Daddy would have been none the wiser if I hadn't cracked and 'spilled' all. Get it? Yeah, I'll just go ahead and wrap up the post now.

Such is life.

In other news, the most important day of an elementary school student's life (besides the winter holidays) is right around the corner. The boy is rather unnerved by my lack of innitiative in making him his Harry Potter glasses that he so desperately needs NOW even though Halloween isn't for another week or so, that he made himself glasses out of Legos.
What is they say about invention and necessity?

The morning comes early. Sweet -if the frost doesn't do you in- gardening dreams.

Monday, October 17, 2011

And Poof! She Was Gone

Showed up for day two of the festival and the jam lady had packed up shop and busted out.

Odd, that.

She made such a big deal of being alowed into the festival after the deadline date because she knew so many people on the organizing committee and she'd done it for years in a row. When we all left, she'd already shut down for the night and everything was stored right on site. She must have come back later that night or in the morning and just packed up with no one around.

It was most likely because she couldn't find someone to watch her kids for a second day, but I did find it rather odd.

However, I'm sure the people that will now not get ill from her improper canning will not have their feelings hurt.

DID have some chicken and waffles at the festival yesterday. Nothin' says southern love like chicken and waffles. I made just about $200 in profits for Relay for Life yesterday - and when that's coming from 4-6 dollar keychains, that's not too bad. Yesterday I also finished an order for 14 Bus Driver Appreciation keychains for a local elementary school. I love making people happy and raising money at the same time.

The morning comes early. Can your jams and jellies right, my friends.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fall Festivals and My Mouth

This weekend I'm doing a two day fall festival with Keychains for a Cause. Yesterday we did fairly well. Not as well as I would have liked, but our assigned booth space is rather facing the wrong way and at the end of the stretch. Most visitors won't venture that far down. Even so, we sold 21 keychains and still have today to go back. Most of the regulars say that Sunday is much, much slower, so we'll keep our fingers crossed.

You know, however, that you're at a fall festival in a Georgia town when the kids are walking around with balloons tied to pork rind bags instead of cotton candy.

It's of the woman in the booth next to me that I mean to post about today. She sells jams, jellies, salsas and chow-chows that she makes herself. I tried. I tried really hard. REALLY hard to keep my mouth shut. She maintained all day she had her certification from UGA - which I now highly doubt. First, she doesn't use two piece jar tops - she just reuses baby jars, pasta sauce jars etc. I tried to maintain my equanimity, but then I saw she had pumpkin butter. I love pumpkin butter. My mouth was screaming to buy a jar, but my head said ask more questions and when I noticed the two inch gap of air in the bottom and middle of half of the jelly jars I stepped up my questioning on processing and head space. In regard to the headspace, she said it was there - just at the top of the jar because when she inverted it to seal the jars it's all up at the top. Sorry - it's still two inches and not a quarter inch as required for jams and jellies. That, and she doesn't process at all. None of it. All she does is invert the jars for she feels she gets it 'hot enough' when she cooks it.

I tried to keep my mouth shut, I really did, but I told her I was surprised she said UGA would approve of her methods and talked about bacteria etc. She started back peddling pretty quickly and said she understood my concerns and had a few batches spoil on her before 'for no reason.' Yup. That was all it took. No pumpkin butter for me.

I didn't do or say much more, but I did manage to steer my mom and neighbor away from her booth. I'd always heard you shouldn't purchase home canned goods from a local fair as you don't know how they'll be processed and boy, is that right.

I'm likely going to print some stuff out from the UGA page and bring it with me today. I won't change how she processes things, but at least I can make sure she understands the risks she's taking.

Monday, October 10, 2011

October Happenings

It seems like the sweet potatoes want to harvest themselves. The last few days that I've been out to the garden I've found one or two sticking their faces out of the ground, begging to be harvested. I pulled this one yesterday. Although it came from the same bed as the first one with all of the little beasties inside of it, this one seems to be unoccupied, and a good thing that is because I can't wait to try it.
The tomatoes are cracking on the vine and just not turning red. I don't think it's warm enough. I've brought them inside, but they're mottling instead of turning color nice and uniformly. I'll give them a bit before I write them off completely, but it doesn't look promising as of now.

The garlic has arrived. Sadly, a lot of my garlic rotted away after the first month or so once harvested. I had them in a dry place, but it just wasn't to be. There's such a vast difference in the taste of the garlic from the garden and the store garlic that it's worth it to try over and over again, even if it doesn't store as I would like. This year I may try to dehydrate some of it so it can store longer. I've been enjoying the dehydrated tomatoes so much in soups, eggs etc. It's amazing that they maintain their tart flavor.

This weekend we had two heartwrenching emergencies. We went down to my mother's house Saturday - about 45 minutes south - and had just pulled off the highway on our way home when the girl screamed out she forgot her teddy there. We go nowhere without teddy. Nowhere. And now we were four miles from home. She did a good job of calming down when Mom texted back a picture of Teddy having a 'sleep over' with some of her other toys there and the boy gave her a teddy of his to substitute and told her of the times he left things at Omi's. She calmed down nicely then. She did. The boy snuck up to me later and said he wanted to cry as well because he was having a "dramatic flashback." I asked if this flashback was 'replete with onomatopoeia" (something he's said before). It wasn't, according to him, so I maintained it couldn't be that bad then, and they both went to sleep. Today we'll likely meet up for lunch and exchange the goods being that we have no school and the children don't have the sense God gave them to sleep beyond 5:30 AM, even on a federal holiday. UnAmerican, I tell you.

Then, I had an emergency of my own. I just finished reading The Winter Sea on my Kindle yesterday - good read, by the way. Very good read. The next book I wanted to read was on my Nook....
and BOTH of them needed charging. BOTH of them. Thank goodness after a 15 minute boost, the small one was ready to read on while the other contined charging. *phew* crisis averted here as well. There's got to be an e-reader's anonymous to join. There really has to be, but if forgotten teddys and uncharged e-readers are the biggest worries I have, my life is pretty good I must say.

The custom ordered scotty dog ribbon came in this week and I was able to finish the lanyard order from last week. I don't know about where you guys are, but it seems like everyone around here is lanyard crazy. I got so many requests for Keychains for a Cause to start making them, that I started a while ago and the orders keep coming, which makes me very happy!

This weekend I also shifted hats from fundraising for Relay for Life to attending a local 5K and selling keychains to help raise money for a local child's medical bills. I was only there for four hours, but it was nice to be able to hand the father all of the proceeds from sales right then and there. Here's two that were special ordered at that event that I'll ship out tomorrow.

Next week is our first two day festival in Auburn, GA. I'm optimistically hopeful that we'll do well.

The morning comes early - even on a federal holiday. Sweet gardening dreams.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Breaking Records

Because every kid's first catch on his first fishing trip
is a whopper, no matter the size!

The man is the boy's boyscout troop den leader. At their last meeting he brought all the fixings for the boys to make their own fishing poles out of bamboo and yesterday they tried them out at the local park. Every child caught at least one fish which was nice. As with every first fishing trip, someone had to fall in the drink. That would be my boy. He was so disheartened that it seemed to almost overshadow the joy of his first catch, but he was secretly thrilled and showed us his pictures with his trademark goofy grin.

Man, you did good by those kids. Thank you for being their den leader.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Behold the Awesomeness X3

*Booming voice* Behold the awesome peppers! Some may say, "Oooh aren't they quaint." To those naysayers, I respond - They're the first dratted bells I've grown in three years! Quaint my tuchas.
Not awesome: I love the way my cantaloupe decides to sprout now.....instead of in the early summer when I planted them. October? Really? Idiot seeds.

To continue: *clears throat for booming voice* Behold the awesome battle between good and evil....

and then I ask the girl if she was princess Leia and she responds, "What would I want to do that for?" Poor misguided child. However, last night we introdiced the boy to the first thirty minutes of Monty Python's The Holy Grail and when it came down to burning the witch the boy says, "I think their hypothesis is flawed." *Booming voice* Behold the awesomeness!!!

In the last, most awesome of awesomeness, in honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the first four orders this month at Keychains for a Cause receive a FREE breast cancer awareness key fob. Help support Dacula High School's Relay for Life! If you don't want to order keychains yourself, 'Like' our facebook page and share this offer.

There is the update on the awesomeness that is the Ribbit household. Can't ask for much more, can I.

The morning comes early. May the force be with you in your dreams.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Figuring Things Out

It took me long enough, but I think I've figured some things out. I haven't gotten a single bell pepper in three years of trying. I'm no Erin when it comes to peppers, that's for sure. I had just about given up on peppers altogether when I went out to the garden today and saw the pepper plants LOADED with peppers! What!? The plants have been out there since April with no peppers at all.

Ahhhh...the nights are getting cooler and the days are not generally in the mide 80's. When it was cooler in the spring, the plants weren't old enough to produce, but now, they're doing well, so here's my solution. I'm not going to plant the peppers in the spring. I'll use the space for other stuff, but once the things link squash and zucchini die off in late June/early July, in go the peppers. Then, by September when it cools off, the plants will be ready to put out some peppers. Whatddya think!?

I'm still getting a few tomatoes from the second round I planted. They don't get much sun, but the little they do get seems to be doing them fine. They're small, but still yummy.

I'm not the only one figuring things out today! Yesterday when we were outside, the boy asked us to take the training wheels off of his bike. Mind you, the boy is the most uncoordinated, unathletic kid on the planet, so I was worried, but he jumped on the very first time and took off down the drive way. I think he surprised even himself. I tried to take some film of him riding and then riding with his father.

He got an awesome battle wound when he target fixated on the tree in the front yard. He didn't run into the tree, but he did hit every branch he could as he plowed through it. We're pretty proud of him. The girl's begging to get her training wheels off now, but I'm not ready for that yet. She's going to be dangerous.

The morning comes early. Sweet bike riding dreams.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

September in the Garden

The days have thankfully cooled down again. Seems like we're in for a stretch in the 80's which doesn't hurt anyone's feelings. What beautiful weather! Although the garden has been largely neglected recently, some things are still going well.

Unfortunately, the cabbage and lettuce aren't some of those things. Whatever it was that got them, got them good. Not even a stump remains. Still thinking if I should replant, or if now that the critters know where the free meal is they'll keep coming back.
The sweet potatoes are looking good and the other day there was one as long and as fat as my forearm. I pulled it, put it in my bucket, and when I got in the house I noticed little white bugs crawling in and out of it. I'm sure the rest of them under here are infested as well, but I just love the vines. Thank goodness sweet potato vines are pretty!

The broccoli is going strong in the box farthest from the all you can eat buffet. Broccoli is right up there with lettuce and tomatoes as one veggie that grocery store produce can't touch in taste.

The second planting of tomatoes are doing pretty well. I've gotten a few off of the bush tomato plant, and there are some nice green ones waiting to ripen on the brandywine. I can't wait! Now that I haven't eaten fresh tomatoes in a while, I'm ready to have some again. The basil in the box to the left was harvested just last week and it looks like I'll be making more pesto soon! I've also taken the dehydrator to some leaves which has worked out very well.

All in all, the aerial shot shows the main corner yard as still trucking along pretty smoothly. The peppers are flowering again so I'll have some of those to take to school soon.

I've registered to do another festival for Keychains for a Cause in October and I've got three more in the works. I'm really excited about all of it. I was trying to come up with ways to bring people to the booth and increase sales. People like games, so I was trying to think of a way to incorporate our corn hole set into the action. I thought about giving a toss for a free keychain for purchases of 2 or more, but that would chip away at proceeds too quickly. Then I thought about that with every purchase, if you donate a dollar more you could buy a toss to get in a drawing for a free keychain at the end of the event. That, or I could just drop the extra dollar and say you get a toss for each keychain purchased and each completed toss is an entry for a free keychain.

What do you think? Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Things are Good While They Last

I took the kids to the county fair yesterday. They had an absolute blast. My heart warmed when the kids went on the "kid" roller coaster which, in my oppinion, was rather terrifying and they held hands the entire time. Then, while we were walking the fair and after the boy said, "I see some things that are really disturbing," I fussed at them for not holding my hands. The boy then said he'd rather hold on to his sister's other hand because he was worried for her. They're such good kids.

We got to see a baby chick hatch from an egg and they each rode three rides and got to play one game. My school's front office secretary works at the entry ticket counter and the kids couldn't be happier to see her. After each ride or each animal they saw they screamed, "We need to go tell Mrs. Stephens!" It got a bit old after the thirteenth time and I told the girl, "It's a pig, honey. You can tell her on the way out." She replied, "I know it's a pig. That's why we need to go tell her right now!" On our way out they did manage to walk in front of the entire line and tell her each and every thing they saw.

Like the fair, all good things come to an end which saddens me because bacon, ranch chilli cheese fries and fried snickers bars really deserve a place in our everyday lives. Sadly, in this case, the good things come at the cost of my law class. I know I've mentioned we're about 500 kids short of our estimate and we had to lose 4 teachers, a situation which put one of our LA teachers on extended day. Some how, we wound up getting one of those teachers back at least for two periods a day. He's taking my law class and I'm getting another woman's Senior CP LA class - for which I already teach two other sections. This does get rid of one extra planning for me, but I'm sad to see them go. We spent the last day discussing the Troy Davis case, the death penalty and the fallibility of eye witness testimony. Yes. I'll miss them.

The door has closed, but even in these short six weeks I've learned so much. I surely had a good time.

The morning comes early. Sweet fair fare dreams, my friends.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Can't Blame the Heat

This summer, we had a straight 90 days above 90 degrees with very, very minimal rain fall. Veggie gardens across the state felt the impact. Come late July - everything not already dead was rapidly dying. A break in the weather came a few weeks ago when we spent a good solid week in the 70-80 range. It was beatufiul. I took the opportunity to plant out my fall crops, noting only after the fact that I put the lettuce where the falling acorns destroyed them last time.

The acorns fell, the heat soared back into the 90's this week and they're gone now. Each lettuce plant, there were about 12 of them, is completely gone. Nope, can't blame the heat on this this one. The plants were completely uprooted and carried off by some unseen creature. I never have this problem with lettuce in the spring, but it seems like this happens each fall. Squirrels must be in prime harvest mode now and any and everything is fair game and yet it's funny to watch how I completely ignore the past and offer up the sacrificial seedlings over and over

A few weeks ago, Erin posted about a building set her son was working with. They boy here loves Legos and building sets so I emailed Erin to find out about them. She told me where to find them and also that, to paraphrase, it took her son a while to figure them out but once he did he was fine. This was apparently code. ;)

We found the sets and couldn't be more excited to learn they were on clearance for 50% off which meant we got the really large sets for about $2.50 each. You can't argue with that.
They're basically a wooden 3-D puzzle once you pop out all of the pieces and assemble them. I was working with the notion that the instructions were on the back of the cover sheet and that all would be well.

The back of the cover comes with a diagram of all of the pieces with random numbers and letters strewn everywhere. The instructions read: Get general idea of where each part goes by referring to the front photograph and the diagram below.

The boy read the instructions aloud to me, paused, looked at me, looked back at the paper and then said, "Well, that's just unreasonable."

After I looked it over some more I decided the key part of the instructions that was missing was that along with the glue and sandpaper you'd need a fifth of liquor. Really? The 'general idea'? As always with projects like this, I labored over the instructions and the boy went to play legos. An hour later, I had the body of the dragon done.
I'm thinking we should have started off with the fish. ;) That, was the code from Erin I should have deciphered sooner.

I just submitted my application for Keychains for a Cause to participate in Auburn, GA's Auburnfest October 15-16th. It's the largest festival we will have done yet and the organizer said that whereas they focus mostly on folk art, they like our concept and cause so much that they will allow us to participate. I couldn't be happier. We're also looking at doing some side fundraising for a charity 5K in the area and other school based fall festivals. I'm pretty excited, yet always just a little nervous as to how we'll do.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You Come To Terms - And Then You Read

The word is out, teachers are packing, a letter was sent home to parents today and schedules will be changing Monday. I'm keeping my law class but coming out of the Learning Center to pick up a Freshman English course.

Yuck. However, it's much better than it could be. The teachers who are leaving all seem to have phenominal outlooks. One of the English teachers leaving said she was grateful they just finished reading Puritan literature so she identifies more with the, "It's God's will" philosophy right now more than she would, say, after reading The Great Gatsby.

I've been continuing on my reading binge myself. Last week, after reading a few heavier selections, I opted for some no-brain, easy historical chick-lit just for kicks. It was horrible. As typical for those books, the female protagonist falls in love with her captor. Can we say Stockholm Syndrome, my friends? It was bad, and just like a train wreck I kept on reading the darn thing and honestly think I'm stupider for it. Not to say all romances are bad. I've read some excellent ones, but this was bad. B-A-D, Bad.

Seems like this is also the year for students to bring me books to read. I love the way that this year they're not just sayin, "Hey, you should read," but instead they're actually letting me borrow their books. Last Monday I read Upstate because a student gave me her copy.
I was honestly surprised and caught off guard by the language and situations that are graphically described. I'm all for colorful language - sometimes watered down just doesn't do, but this was rather impressive to the point that even I was taken aback. The book is in our school's library which I think surprises me the most. I like the themes present, but would I tell a kid to go pick it up....no. I'd be too afraid.

This year, I have a Super Senior (5th yr senior) whom I taught last year. He's repeating his senior year, but determined to graduate. He didn't say much last year and I don't think I've heard a full paragraph out of him this year, but yesterday he walked to me and just handed me a book.

He said simply, "It's good. Read it."

So I am.

It's written by Michael Oher - the man the movie The Blind Side portrayed. He wrote the book after the film came out to clear up some misconceptions and detail his life before the film picks up the story. So far, I'm enjoying it and know a lot of students who would as well. The language is incredibly simple, almost painfully so, but it's straight forward. I'm not very far into it yet, but I will be by the end of the night and hopefully can get it to him by Thursday, because...we have a problem.

Let me start by saying I don't like fantasy novels as a whole. Fictional countries and governments coupled with fantasy elements and names I am unfamiliar with and can't pronounce make me angry and I shut down completely. I've refused to read fantasy with the same ardor that I refuse to listen to country music. It's just not happening.

Two weeks ago, a student lent me The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks. I faked the smile, thanked him and said it was one that I was looking forward to reading because I had heard so much about it. Lie. Big Lie, but again, a kid gives you a book you show excitement and read it. Read it. All 638 pages of it. Right. However, I had to do it. I couldn't not do it.

So now, two weeks later he's lent me and I've finished not only book one but book two in the series and he was supposed to bring me book three today, but he was absent. HOW CAN YOU BE ABSENT WHEN YOU'RE TEACHER'S SANITY HINGES ON READING THIS BOOK!!! Totally unacceptable. I need to read this third book! I can't stand it. I still maintain I don't like fantasy and I'm so not reforming myself and listening to country, but I've gotten sucked into these books and the characters. The language is thoughtful, the characters fully developed and the fantasy aspect isn't so overwhelming that it's offputting.

I do love long series and sagas to which sense I think these books appealed. All I know is that I'm sitting here trying to read the Michael Oher book and all I can think about is the plot line from the other books. Am I a convert? Have I moved over to the fantasy dark side? I don't know, but what I do know is that it's a fast moving genre that plays very well into the new macabre teen fiction that's become so popular.

Do I recomend the Shadow series? Heck yeah I do...except for book three since I haven't read it yet because some kid was absent and is torturing me purposefully, or at least that's the story I'm going with. Good lord, what if he's at school tomorrow but doesn't have it with him? Think positive thoughts, think positive thoughts....

The morning comes early. Sweet reading dreams.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Antithesis of a Harvest Monday

Harvesting is sowing, reaping and enjoyment. It's sustenance, it's nourishment, it's knowledge and wonder.

Each year schools hire and displace teachers based on numbers. It's rare that a year goes by without fluctuations in that number on the county level and even if the county is spot on in their projections, where exactly the population falls within that county is up for grabs. A few years ago, my school was over projection and we gained an English teacher. Last year they made concessions that we were going to loose students and displaced more than 5 but under 10 teachers. Now, five weeks into the school year, more teachers are being displaced.

I understand that students move into and out of districts regularly. Our cluster is the only in the county that does not include the transient population of apartments, so our prediction numbers are generally off by a bit, but I do believe a lot of our problems with numbers stems from starting the school year in August where the general population of the country doesn't start until September. Therefore, we can't rely on accurate population numbers until after Labor Day. Thus, we (my school) is now approximately 150 kids short of projection.

What does this mean? It technically means we loose one administrator, one clerk and five teachers. Keep in mind, five teachers equals 25 classes of students that need to be absorbed. Our principal is wonderful. Even though loosing staff is inevitable, he brokered with the county to only have us loose 4 teachers. This is difficult on its own, but it still leaves us with three critical staff/faculty members which is better than were we started off.

For my department - that means I most likely will come out of the Learning Center which is a mandatory lunch time tutoring program for students who are failing 2 out of 4 academic classes. This is a program I've been with through its inception and for which I put my heart and soul towards since being certified in two content areas I can serve a wide range of students. Of our students we serviced at the start of the school year (all had failed 2+ academics spring of 2010), 50% of them are passing enough classes to exit now. Of that 50%, 67% were failing at this time last semester. There is an 8% school wide increase in passage rates from this point last year. The numbers don't lie. The program works by allowing and mandating students attend tutoring during the school day either voluntarily or through teacher and administrative assignment. I'll likely be able to stay for a half a period - but one half a period out of 6 possible doesn't make me feel productive in there. The LC is where I remembered why I became a teacher to begin with. Where else do you get to work one on one with struggling students and celebrate their successes with them.

However, the student population numbers don't lie. We're loosing four teachers, two of which are English which is 10 classes our department needs to absorb. Two of my senior lit classes are being disolved and with each at 26+ kids I don't know how many that will put in other classes. So I'm scheduled to pick up two new classes over all - who knows what grades and grade levels.

It's when we start overloading classes and taking away from the support tutoring like the Learning Center, we are no longer to harvest the knowledge what we have been.

It will all work out in the end. I know this as well as I know that I'll do anything I'm told or asked to do because my main focus is teaching and learning.

It's just sad for the teachers being displaced and those students in classes of a workable 26 students to have to go into ones with 32 +, but it is what it is.

Sorry to go on. I'm not upset, there's nothing to be upset about. It just is what it is, however, the next time someone comes at me with the state of public education today he better expect a certain finger to extend from my hand. I love my job. I have a purpose and I'll be doing it whether there are 17 or 43 kids in my class and regardless of if that means I can assign and grade fewer papers and I dare you to tell me I'm not. I'm not settling and I will not allow your children to either.

The end.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Back in the Saddle again

Today, the children decided to grace us with the sight of what 7:30 AM looks like when not approaced from either 6:30 or 5:30 AM. 7:30 on it's own is very benign and graceful. The birds heralded us to our feet and automatic coffee maker had the liquid morning gold already brewed in the pot. This, my friends, is what weekends are all about.

Things are getting back to normal and my energy for gardening is returning. I did, however, need to post about possibly the best present I ever got from a friend - Auntie Daddy to be specific. She went to a wine tasting festival and came back with the best wine glass I've ever had in my life:

I did manage to get out there and plant my lettuce, however I noticed today that something has gone through and hand picked out all of my romain lettuce. Very strange. I did, however, plant all of this lettuce underneath the oak tree again and only realized how bad of an idea it was AFTER I went back and read some old blog posts. Oh well. We'll deal with it.

I did plant my cabbage in a 3x3 that I can easily string some tulle over and staple it to the box and hopefully thwart the cabage worms. Don't know if it will work, but it's worth a shot.

I did pull a mess of basil out of the garden and made some more pesto. I cut back on the oil this time as it was just a bit too oily for me with the given recipe. It was nice to make more and I think I may have another harvest or two to go before the weather kills it all.

Orders for Keychains for a Cause http://keychainsforacause.blogspot.com/ have picked up this week as well given that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and college ball has begun in earnest. We've got ribbon for The University of Georgia, Maryland, GA Tech, Duke, Illinois, Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, Oregon, Mississippi State, Alabama, USC, and LSU among others! In addition, in honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, each and every order will contain a free patriotic fob.

Keep us in mind as you plan your Christmas list! They make excellent teacher, bus driver gifts as well as stocking stuffers and presents for those people you just feel like you need a little something for.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.