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.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Moving On...

Today is better than yesterday. I suppose that's to be expected. It was still as surreal as yesterday not to have to dart out of the car, leaving children, mail and groceries behind, and run to the basement to let the dog out before he got so excited to hear the garage door that he peed in the basement. Today we took our time, I gathered our belongings and made sure the kids had theirs and meandered into the house. I then acted on autopilot it appears and went to the basement door anyway before I caught myself. It's going to be hard to change old habits like leaving the back door cracked so Gibson could come inside when he pleased, filling up water bowls and leaving a kitchen chair pulled out for his food bowl. The hardest part, I think will be to look at his favorite places to sleep and know he's not there, even if you're sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that you saw him there just a second ago wagging his tail.
This bed of his is going to go to our neighbor's boxer, Harley. I think she'll get good use out of it. The bed downstairs and the rest of his food were given to other neighbors who have an older dog, themselves. The kids love Shadow and were glad that he could use Gibber's bed. The frog....will stay with me. The frog was a constant companion throughout the years. When a younger dog, he'd parade with the frog around the house at exactly 7:00 every single night. He'd go from room to room, upstairs and down, and made sure every person and each wall in the house saw his parade. He'd follow the same route for the same number of circuits each time. Now, as an older dog, the frog remained in the basement and became largely ignored, but occasionally, when you weren't looking, all of a sudden Big would be on his bed with the frog and the two of them would be snuggled like the best of friends they were.

Therefore I can only say, "Thus the joys of God / Are fervent with life, where life itself / Fades quickly into the earth."

I, understandably, have not been in the gardening mood and things have gone from bad to worse. Wednesday night I ripped out the old tomato plants and last night - partially for therapy, I planted out the lettuce, broccoli and cabage. It's nice to see new growth again. I did, stupidly, realize after the fact that I planted the lettuce directly under that stupid oak tree where they were shreadded by falling acorns yet again. I planted enough to keep us and even Granny and Cookie in a steady supply, so I'm thinking I'll still make it out with some. ;)

To make sure we're still keeping up with our amazing fashion sense, the girl got new pajamas and I think they're the most rockin' things I've ever seen - especially for $3.00 at a consignment sale. She's trying to mimic the mouths on the skulls.
The boy loves full body flanal pieces and whereas the man and I both have a deep rooted detestation for the New England Patriots, for $1.50, the boy got his pajamas. However, I've come to terms with the fact that to save his life he cannot take a picture in which he does not look perpetually drunk or stoned.

The temperatures went from solid 90's each day since June to days this week where we've been lucky to hit the mid 70's. We bypassed the 80's completely. Whereas if we were talking in decades, this wouldn't hurt my feelings one bit, but the lower 80's are so enjoyable during the fall. I'd wish for them, but Mother Nature can be a real *mother* and she'd most likely go all "beggers can't be choosers" on my rear end and we'll be back to 97 degree temps for another week. I'll just keep my mouth shut. None of the above counted, okay Mother Dearest?

I'll get some pics of the garden tomorrow and I've got an awesome present to blog on. It's a wine loving gardener's dream.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bye-Bye, Big

You were a good dog, Gibson. Sleep well, my friend.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Thomas....I Found Your Friend.

 A few weeks ago, Thomas from A Growing Tradition posted his problems with his nemesis the groundhog.  He detailed his wonderful, humane trapping of said 'friend' and chronicaled relocating him.  Thomas, I'm not so proud to say that he's found his way to Flowery Branch, GA. 

I posted a while ago about helping my friend since elementary school fill her first SQFT garden boxes this summer.  I've occasionally posted updates on "Auntie Daddy's" garden as well, but recently, she's suspected something was doing damage to her plants.  It wasn't bug damage to be sure.  Was it a squirrel, a ferral cat, a plane?  NO!  It's Thomas' groundhog!!!

Ok, so it's not really Thomas' groundhog, but it's just as bothersome.  Although he ran off before "Auntie Daddy" could catch his name, I took the liberty of naming him Bubba.  This is Georgia, by the way.  He's a cute bugger, but is he conducive to gardening?  No.  However, would you pass up a free meal?  No way.   Don't know yet if Nattie will take measures to stop Bubba, but I doubt she'd be successful as her property backs up with a HUGE green space and any efforts would likely be futile as if this one learned there was no such thing as a free lunch, his buddy wouldn't be far behind.

I found out one of my administrators sent out a blurb to the county PR representative about the speakers I've got lined up for that law class.  Maybe there will be some local publicity I can share with you soon.  Still looking for ideas for the Current Issues class that starts in January.  My aunt mentioned how social media has aided in recent uprisings like Egypt, England and Philadelphia.  What a great idea!

You can stop reading now if you want, but on a Keychains for a Cause note, we've already raised $100.00 this year and that number can only go up! 

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and for that cause we've revamped our gold ribbon keychain to include a satin center with gold grosgrain edges.  I think it looks nice.  If you Facebook (It's a noun and a verb now, people),  and you don't mind, please go to our facebook site and share the post about the Childhood Cancer keychain.  There's so many out there that would love to show support for the cause and not enough ways to do it.  That, and the proceeds support Relay for Life. 

 Here's the entirety of the woman's order.  I just love that she loves the bees as much as I do.  Her grandmother's nick name is "Momma B" so it works perfectly! 
The morning comes early.  Let's just hope that by Monday my kids will understand that a national holiday means sleeping in past 6:00 AM.  Sweet gardening - sands groundhog - dreams.