Chickens · Construction · Gardening · Lazer Creek Apiary

All Cooped Up

Like the rest of the world, we are self-isolating but lucky to be living less cooped up than our friends who live in apartments.    We both continue to teach, but from a distance.  I’m finally getting into a routine and after a round of parent emails, students have been busy making up work today!

But tomorrow is Saturday.   Tomorrow we start building the chicken coop.   But first, a greenhouse update from Hubby:

Greenhouse is back up and running after a year with improvements that should extend its life and usability. Tried to go cheap last year and used standard 6 mil poly plastic. Found it worked great for about 120 days. Then it totally disintegrated due to UV. This year I used real greenhouse poly which is UV protected and suppose to last 5 years. I also added a solar powered vent opener and “wiggle wire” fasteners around the bottom to keep the poly tight. ‘Maters already growing.

Cattle panel greenhouseEven though the plastic turned brittle and tore easily by summer, the cattle panel greenhouse ended up being more energy efficient than our old pre-fab greenhouse.  The gravel floor seems to help retain heat.   We didn’t have many plants to overwinter this year as we got them all in the ground, so we didn’t need the greenhouse until spring planting time.  I was going to plant fewer tomatoes and peppers this year, but with the way things are going right now have decided that more is better.    We’d already planned to add more raised beds and we had the cinder-blocks delivered last week.  The delivery man from Taylor-Foster Hardware and Hubby found it odd to not shake hands, but we are all practicing safe distancing.

Hubby also added an automatic window to the greenhouse.  We may add one to the front next time around, but this year it’s easy enough to open the door when it’s hot and close it in the evenings, especially as we go up to the RV to visit our chicks in their temporary home whenever we need a computer break.

Because we have so much going on, we’d decided to wait until next year to get chickens.  Then schools closed for a week, then two weeks, then……     So, we now have 3 chicks in the RV and a friend has offered up 2 laying hens as soon as we have the coop built.   Maggie is fascinated by the chicks and they are now used to having big brown doggie eyes staring at them.   Just like the house site, we’ve changed our minds more times than we can count as to where to place the coop but have decided to place it close to the greenhouse with the two plastic compost bins between the two.

Meanwhile, a string of too warm days and 23 degree nights took its toll on our bees, but they are recovering.   We hope we won’t have another hard freeze.   Even if we do, the queens are laying like crazy and every hive is crowded now, so they’d survive.   Very few bees are visiting syrup feeders this week, so they must be finding real nectar out there somewhere.   We have the first blackberry and clover blossoms, but I haven’t seen bees on either yet.

We sincerely hope that all our readers remain healthy.   These are worrying times, and I feel so blessed to have 20 acres of stress relief right outside our door.   Stay safe.  Stay healthy.   Our thoughts are with you.




City Life

Farewells and new beginnings

A dining room full of classroom stuff!
A dining room full of classroom stuff!

After a week of sorting, discarding, and packing, we loaded my classroom things onto the 12 foot trailer and into my car and brought it all home.    The enclosed trailer is full of bee wood-ware, so we had to use the open trailer and to rush to beat the rain.   I’ve only moved enough out of the car to make room for the dog and some clothes, so I’ll be moving boxes into the shipping container as soon as I get to the farm.  When I see teachers leaving with one carboard box of things,  I think I must be insane to buy the books and other resources I do, but I’m always looking for new ideas to keep my teaching fresh and my students engaged.

Still, we’ll put most of the furniture into the new house and workshop instead of moving the heavier things to another school.   The beautiful podium Hubby made for me will, of course, go to the new school, as will some of the smaller bookcases from this house.

Why so much stuff?   Well, as I mentioned, there are so many good resources out there and every group of students is different.   If I’m not reaching them with the materials or methods that have worked in the past, I buy new books.   I’ve accumulated a lot of books in the past 10 years!   But there’s another reason: students constantly tell me how much they like my room.   I’ve tried to emulate teachers I admire and coordinate furnishings, but I always end up with an eclectic mix ranging from posters from The Royal Shakespeare Company to Big Bang Theory posters from!   I have Shakespeare and Teacher Care Bears and a fuzzy stuffed bee toy with huge eyes that just makes me smile on even the worst days.   I have coffee table books for Hamlet, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, The History of the English Language, Harley Davidson Motorcycles and many more.   Introverted students, especially, like to hang out  at lunch, away from all the bustle and surrounded by books.   I didn’t really  realize why until I experienced how totally depressing bare walls in a classroom can be when I sat in my depersonalized space for 3 days.

It was sad to say goodbye to people I’ve worked with for the past six years, and even harder to say goodbye to those I’ve known since student teaching.   I am very excited to be moving to a rural school and to be returning to the farm at the end of every day.  There’s so much to get done between now and then, but I’m up for the challenge and looking forward to making new friends.

City Life · Construction · Lazer Creek Apiary · Products and Vendors · Supplemental Feeding

A Mule for Christmas (and other distractions from grading).

During a job interview many years ago,  I was asked whether I’d rather be an art critic or an artist.  I’ve never figured out what that had to do with being a computer programmer, but I do finally know the answer — I want to be an artist — or at least be creative!   I only spent 90 minutes grading this morning before the urge to empty the compost pot became the most important thing in my life, and that led to seeing a bee flying, which led to visiting the bee yard, which led to taking pictures, which led me back to the computer and this blog!   To grade, one must be a critic, and I find it hard to “criticize” according the criteria on a rubric.  Yes, I agree that it’s a fair way to grade, and, yes, students knew what the expectations were for their oral exam, but the happy feelings that blue skies and sunshine evoke makes it hard to give a student a failing grade!   Never mind that my dominant learning style is hands-on activity, my second most dominant is visual, and my least dominant is listening — and here I sit with 17.5 hours of oral exams to listen to.   I should not have procrastinated, and I probably shouldn’t be blogging, but just like every other year I’ll get through it somehow.

Feeding pollen and sugar to bees
Feeding pollen and sugar to bees

It’s only 48 degrees out this morning, but the bees are foraging and we want them to have as much stored as possible going into the predicted 20 degree nights next week, so it wasn’t just procrastination that led me down to the bee yard.  Cold as it is, there were so many bees on the pollen feeder station that I couldn’t get to the trays and had to scatter the pollen-sugar mix where the bees can get to it but the dog can’t.   (Maggie climbed a stack of shipping pallets to get to a pollen tray yesterday — you’d think we didn’t feed her sometimes!)   I so enjoy standing there listening to the sound of happy bees, especially on a day as beautiful as today.   We are just so lucky to have this little piece of heaven to call our own.

Work boots

What does any of this have to do with a mule?   Not much, but our Christmas present to each other this year was a Mighty Mule gate opener.   Well, it was hubby’s Christmas to me, and my gift was to graciously concede that it is money well spent!    Even on a good day, having to get out of the car and walk across the gravel to unlock the gate becomes tedious.   If I’m wearing anything other than my trusty work boots, the likelihood of a twisted ankle increases with the height of the heel.   Rain makes the process even less fun.  Last week’s thunderstorm actually made it somewhat hilarious.   If we do end up moving here before retirement, we need to somehow be able to get out of the gate in all weather still looking presentable enough to show up at work.

It took hubby a while to install the gate opener, partly because of the instructions,  partly because of all the adjustments and settings, and partly because the dog and I were hibernating in the camper instead of helping for much of the time.   By the end of the day on Christmas Day, he had everything working, but then spent most of the next day trying to get it to work right!   The gate opens fine, and even closes after 30 seconds.  The problem was that it randomly re-opened.   That doesn’t offer much security and is likely to run the battery down.   I searched the Internet for answers on our way to the family dinner and found that many people have problems with the wand that detects when a car pulls up to the gate to leave.   Hubby spoke with tech support and tried many things, but the final solution was along the lines of Hotel California — guests who have the code can check in any time they like, but they can never leave!   The wand is going back for a refund and hubby will research other solutions.

Maggie - exhausted
Maggie – exhausted

Well, it’s time to listen to at least a couple more exams — 7 down, 30 to go!   It makes me want to curl up with the dog and just take a nap.




City Life

Thankful students

It’s so easy to get bogged down with grading and challenging students throughout the school year, but this is the time of year we can step back and look at the forest instead of the trees — or is it look at the trees instead of the forest in this metaphor?



Thank you card

This is the time of year we receive thank you notes from students — those who do not surprise us with notes because they have shown appreciation all year long, and those who do surprise us because teenagers do not always show on the outside what they feel on the inside!

Another reminder is our senior assembly which we started doing because graduation takes place during the school day most years and not all teachers and students are able to attend.   It’s a wonderful time of hearing about the wide-array of accomplishments of individuals and groups.   I am in awe of the young people who sometimes frustrate me so much in the classroom, but who are so very talented!

Then today the school blog included a picture of one of my students playing a violin he had printed on the 3-D printer in his CAD class.   I remember when he showed me his first 3-D printed project and never dreamed he would graduate to printing violins in less than a year!

So…. my students say thank you and this time of year makes me stop and say thank you to all the people and events that led me down the twisty-turning path I took to becoming a teacher.   It really is a rewarding profession once you step back and look at the forest, or the trees, or whatever it is you need to focus on to see the beauty in the moment!