Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The chill steeps through me,
Pervading blood and bones,
Promising winter.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A storehouse for winter

This year, I have been storing up the share my husband and I have in the farm, as well as our farm market purchases. I have made several types of pickle, including mixed vegetable pickles, a pickle spread, and a couple types of cucumber pickle. I've canned creamed corn and corn relish, peaches, spiced peach jam, sour cherries, whole tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, a few types of tomato sauce, and that doesn't even touch the stuff I've frozen over the summer - or for that matter, the things I am still canning. I have yet to make, but want to, some basil apple jelly, and perhaps some ginger lemon pumpkin chunk preserve. Plus, of course, using the share to base our meals around - this week, we'll be having plenty of summer squash, tomatoes, eggplant, and green beans. I find that it helps keep me aware of the food I eat, its value - both nutritional and economic, and the ways in which that food helps connect me to others.

During the onset of Irene, I was with friends who live significantly to the west of my apartment, playing a rather complicated card game as we waited to find out how bad the storm would be. It wasn't bad at all where I live - in fact, my apartment had only one blip in power that I know about, though when I went to the farm after the rain had cleared to harvest the tomatoes which had been thrown by the wind, I saw how lucky I had been. My county is still suffering significant outages. But as we waited to find that out, I contributed to the festivities by pulling out a few of my hard-earned jars - pickled vegetables and pickle spread, along with some soft and lovely spiced peach jam - almost more spiced peaches than jam-like. It was a hit. The pickles quickly disappeared along with the lovely dal our host had prepared, and the spread and peaches accompanied slices of local cheese as these, too were consumed. While I could easily pick up pickled vegetables from the grocery, these were more personal, and had everyone talking about other times we had shared food or cooked together.

And it's a good thing I have cleared out a couple jars, since I'm beginning to run low again. Even the quart jars are slowly filling up and moving to my pantry shelves from the storage area outside my kitchen. Some of these jars will go elsewhere - I'm bringing a quart of tomatoes to my parents this weekend, along with a few pints and half pints of things for my sister. Others have already been promised to friends. And yet others will be reused here. Even so, I'm glad that Mom has found some jars in the garage that I can have - and friends have begun to track down jars for me. I've filled up several dozen jars in all shapes and sizes. And harvest season is hardly over yet. We still have a couple months to go...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


For the second time since starting this journal, I've ridden out an earthquake. This one felt slightly less severe than the last one, and good thing, too. One major difference was that this time, I knew myself to be responsible for others, not merely as a further instance of our responsibility to our neighbor, but because school had not yet let out, and students were in the building getting ready for pick-up.

I am so proud of the students for working together, making sure their classmates were all right, and getting ready to leave in a safe and orderly way. We're taking a day to make sure our facilities are in good order, then it's back to work tomorrow!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

CSA haul

I got a call earlier this week to let me know that a share had opened up at the CSA I've tried to join for a couple years, if I was interested. Well. I was and am. And now, I've got the chance to pay about $550 for a season's worth of fresh veggies. Let the season begin. Garlic scapes, swiss chard, various types of kale and lettuce, herbs, radishes, turnips, asparagus, strawberries, mulberries, sorrel, and the season has barely started. I'm looking forwaard to zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, celery, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and all the rest of the bounty ahead.

What is CSA and why does it cost over $500? Well, the letters stand for Community Supported Agriculture, meaning that at the beginning of the season, each of us pays our share of the farming expenses for the year, and in return, gets a share of whatever's ripe each week, whether it's a little bit of the last spring spinach, or a lot of summer squash. Whatever we don't eat now, we need to figure out a way to store somehow, whether as frozen zucchini shreds, canned strawberry prserves, dried herbs, frozen pesto, or more simply in the bellies of friends.

So we will be eating whatever is in season, eating locally produced, sustainably farmed produce, and supporting our neighbors, from the farmers to the local foodbanks and shelters. What's not to like? Espevially when this bounty works out to less than $30 per week. Our share this week was easily worth that and we're barely into the growing season.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Had to share this link - it's a great dissection of the ways teacher's unions have been unfairly targeted for blame in the current fight over school quality. I agree that this is important to consider - but think that the underlying problem goes deeper, into the racism that our country continues to struggle with, particularly as our schools continue to resegregate. (When I first came to my present school, I sent holiday presents to a class that was not yet familiar with me and the students asked who had given them. The teacher replied that I was the woman who came to help a certain student. One child asked, "Oh, that light-skinned lady?" The teacher replied that when someone is as light as I am, they are usually called white. The students were upset on my behalf that I was called white.)

Not to mention the inherant classism in high stakes testing. It's been shown over and over again that what these tests reveal with nearly pinpoint accuracy is the educational level of the parents. So teachers in high needs schools are nearly automatically labelled as underperforming. I mean, teachers who serve in schools like mine are at a disadvantage in all these measures of performance simply because we have kids coming in at the Kindergarten level who don't already know the alphabet song, or how to count to ten, or any of those other things most children in more prosperous neighborhoods get before they're 3. We have children who are homeless, who have 1 parent, who are dealing with the vindictive war on the poor that this nation has been waging since Reagan.

And we work to overcome those disadvantages, and the further disadvantages of a lack of exposure. When our primary classes go on the annual field trip to the zoo, I gather a group of children around me on the bus and talk about the Potomac, the construction sites we pass, the Capitol dome, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and anything else I can possibly see that would interest them in learning - we even wave hello as we pass the downtown NASA headquarters.

But what do I know? I'm just another teacher who spends more than she probably should on furnishing my school (seriously, that chair at my desk? I bought it. The bookshelf filled with high-interest books? I bought the books and the bookshelf. How about the plastic tub thing that organizes the reading materials for my classes? Yep, bought that too. Even the set of round green rugs I use for defining an area for my more active children to get up and move around while they learn.)

Not to mention office supplies - pens, paper, dry erase markers, dry erase lap boards, pencils, erasers, pencil grips, pencil trays, grading stickers, sticky notepads both for my use and the students' use, binders, binder clips, magnets...

And then there are the things I need as a special educator, the specialized pencil grips for correcting a tendency to "fist grip" the pencil, the small stuffed animals and plastic dinosaurs for use as "study buddies", to keep distractable students on task, the relaxation balls to help students build grip strength and to have a tactile reinforcement while they work. And no, the county doesn't pay for that, either.

Oh, yeah, and stuff like "star student" erasers, scratch n' sniff stickers, pencils with holographic foil, my collection of McDonald's happy meal toys, the spoils of trips to the dollar store toy aisle, and the plastic poppers, silly putty, and dinosaur eggs I buy online. Or the snacks I buy so my kids won't be taking the standardized tests hungry.

Or the hours and days of unpaid overtime I spend tutoring kids, lesson planning, putting up bulletin boards, exposing the kids to new stuff like gardening, origami, and crochet. And teachers are the problem with schools?


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Once again, the fight for morale

I've posted here before about the DOD blocking social media sites. I've commented about the difficulties faced by family at home. Even written poetry about the heartache. And still the nonsense goes on. A teacher at my school has a son serving in Afghanistan, and was just on the phone last night with her daughter-in-law. apparantly, the DOD has decided to cut off email contact effective May 1st. And cut off the ability to mail to her son's unit effective June 1st. For soldiers who won't return until August.

Excuse me? This is a basic issue of morale, both for the soldiers abroad and for the family stateside. Being able to stay in contact is essential for getting everybody through a deployment and for coming back afterwards.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Welcome, Summer

It's been a long, hard year. I've learned a lot and done a lot. I'm still teaching, though I'm now on summer break. I am more than ever convinced that we need to work to make our schools better places to learn, to share, and to develop into good citizens. Unfortunately, I believe our current legal climate makes this goal an amazingly difficult one. I'm fairly frazzled, and can only hope that I will have regained my energy by the fall.