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Category Archives: summer

The Summer of the Mouse

This cat is the nicest, cuddliest, sweetest cat ever.

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But this summer, she’s been slacking off.

This summer, we have caught fourteen mice in our trap under the kitchen sink. Fourteen! What happened to our fierce hunter? Is this the same cat, who, just six months after we got her, joyfully deposited a dead mouse at my feet on Christmas morning? Is this the same cat who spent the following six months killing mice out in the field and bringing them to the back porch to win approval?

Perhaps we should cut back on her allotment of kibble. Maybe she’s gotten spoiled by evenings on my lap, head rubs, and belly scratches.

After all, just the other day when I was singing her a song, she actually put her paw on my mouth with a look that said, “Hush. Just be a pretty face.”

Perhaps she is spoiled rotten.

But just when I think she has turned from mighty hunter to worthless lap-cat, she kills another mouse, as if to prove to me that she’s worth it.

And the purring and cuddles are pretty nice, too.

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Bernadette Smart is the main character in the middle grade novel I’m writing. She has a vivid imagination that takes her on all sorts of adventures! Bernadette also has a cat. His name is Mr. Wiggles. Next month, I’ll share a story about Bernadette and Mr. Wiggles.

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What Summer is About

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On Sunday, I saw one of my students at the grocery store. We said hello to each other and I asked if she was having a good summer. She said she was, but lamented that it was going too fast and that it seemed to be nearly over already. I assured her that we had five weeks left – I had counted – and she has plenty of time to relax.

Of course, I have to remind myself of that as well. I don’t feel as stressed out as I did last summer, when I was trying to develop an entire new teacher induction program from scratch, but I’ve still been plenty busy, and certainly not ready to go back to the classroom yet.

Husband and I vacationed in Prince Edward Island at the end of May and beginning of June. It was a lot of driving – two days of driving there and two days back, plus quite a bit of time in the car as we explored the island. Husband drove every last mile of it, which made us both happy. He loves to drive; I prefer to gaze out the windows until the hum of the motor and the movement of the car lullaby me to sleep. (And then I wake up with a sore back and a stiff neck.) We listened to seven audiobooks on the trip. While we were there, we went sailing (sort of – the wind died so we were really just out on an engine-powered boat that has the ability to sail). We kayaked out into the ocean (with a guide) till we found a sand bar where we dug for clams, and then kayaked back and assisted our guide in making (and eating!) clam chowder. We visited Green Gables (walking through the Haunted Wood and Lover’s Lane), toured an alpaca farm, walked along several beaches, and ate a lot of seafood. Lobster, clams, haddock, crab, mussels, and oysters.

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PEI is beautiful. Every single part of it is picturesque, and most of it is rural. I think Husband would like to live there. He’d have to live there without me, though, because one lady told us that last year, there was still snow on the ground at the beginning of June. No, thank you. Indiana might get miserably hot and humid, but at least our winter doesn’t last eight months. Of course, that’s one thing Husband would like about it.

Coming home made me happy. Everything is green here in the summer, and when the thunderstorms aren’t rolling through, the sun shines mightily.

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In June, Husband did some sand sculpting, and I picked raspberries and visited with friends I haven’t seen in ages. He worked on installing I-beams in the big carport we’d had put up in the spring, as part of setting up his wood shop to work on the timber frame house he is building.

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I went to a workshop on Project-Based Learning and started the second course in my Master’s program in Curriculum and Educational Technology. As July began, he drew designs for ice sculptures and house plans while he watched movies, and I listened to teacher podcasts while I washed the dishes or made dinner. We put up 13 bales of hay from our field, and then it rained three and a half inches in about two hours, and the hay – which we’d put in the barn but not in the hay loft – got wet because the barn floods. (Lesson learned.) He’s been playing soccer. I’ve been running and biking… and going to yoga, which seems a very middle-aged-woman-thing to do, but hey, I’m a middle-aged woman and I’m trying to embrace that. Besides, yoga helps keeps me flexible since I never remember to stretch after I run.

My book has languished. I’ve been waiting for feedback from a few of my students who promised to read my manuscript and let me know what they thought. And just like adults, when kids don’t have deadlines, sometimes they take a long time to get things done. It’s not such a bad thing, though. Most of my creative energies have gone into developing PBL unit plans, drafting emails to our new teachers and organizing their orientation, responding to online discussions for my class, and coming up with ways to redesign my classroom, both physically and culturally. Sometimes I play the ukulele. Sometimes I knit… and on days like today, I rip out twenty rows of knitting because I made a huge mistake waaaaay back there.

Summer, I’ve decided, isn’t about being lazy. It’s about giving my mind a rest by doing other things, by stretching it in new ways.

School’s Out!

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The weather’s hot, the grass is growing, and teachers around the city are beginning to relax.

Yesterday was my last day of school for the year.  Hooray!  I have approximately 10 weeks to sleep late, go to the bathroom any time I want/need (without waiting for passing periods), eat when I’m hungry (rather than only at 12 noon), and do those things I’ve been putting off.

So maybe you’ll see more blog posts from me.  Things have been happening on the homestead — animals born, others butchered, progress on the house-building, fruit ripening.  But I also have a lot to do this summer.  I agreed to develop an orientation program for new teachers at our school, and I need to write curriculum for the second year of my two-year honors class.  There are home chores — cleaning the chicken coop and the rabbit barn, putting a cover on the pool and taking down the fence, reorganizing the guest room closet.  I picked the first strawberries today, and there will be raspberries and blackberries ripening soon.  There are little green cherries and little green peaches on our trees.  Then the rest of the garden will start to be ready to harvest.

I want to write, knit, and draw up plans for a tree house / writing studio.

There is a lot of stuff to cram into 10 weeks.

I hope to make the most of the time.

The Progress of the First-Year Garden

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Today, I put up two quarts of squash and two quarts of beans.

The corn has little bitty ears on it.

There are tiny cucumbers and teeny watermelons and itty bitty cantaloupes. Even a couple of decent sized pumpkins that we didn’t plant. (The pumpkins we did plant aren’t doing as well.)

But next year, we’ll mark things better. ‘Cause this year, we didn’t mark them and we keep saying to each other, “Do you think this is kohlrabi? Is this kale? Did the beets not come up at all?” And we’ll need to be diligent about weeding next year, too. It’s sometimes hard to find the beans growing in the midst of all the grass.

Still, considering it’s a first-year garden, four quarts of vegetables (plus all those we’ve already eaten) isn’t too bad for the first of August. (Not to mention the seven quarts of black raspberries I put up earlier this summer.)

But next year, I hope it will be better.

Garden Harvest, July 20

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We dug a lot of potatoes, but not as many as Husband had expected.  We think maybe it was too wet this year.  And when we dug them up, we found that quite a few of them had already rotted.  I accused Husband of planting mashed potatoes in the hopes of harvesting mashed potatoes.  Instead, they were just mushy, stinky potatoes.  Still, we got a lot of good ones.

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We’ve had a few tomatoes over the last month or so, but not a ton.  The little yellow sunsugars have been coming at the rate of a couple a week for a while.  This is the first red one we’ve gotten, but it was small.  Still, it was enough to add to our lunch today which was…

rabbit tacosRABBIT TACOS!

That is a new one.  We’ve never had rabbit tacos before.  They were darn good.

Anyhoo, back to the garden.

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We got a couple of squash, too.  There are a lot more yellow squash growing out there.  The zucchini are not growing as fast, it seems (this one being an exception.)  And we had a volunteer squash plant come up and it’s been terribly exciting to try to figure out what kind it is.  We think maybe acorn.  I was hoping for butternut, but I’m okay with acorn.  Or whatever it is.

Oh, and we got a handful of green beans today, too, after I took the photos.

One of the cherry trees is not looking good; its leaves turned yellow.  So that’s sad.  And I accidentally mowed down a blueberry bush, and that’s sad, too.  And the pumpkins don’t seem to be doing much.

But the corn looks okay.  Maybe we’ll have ears in August.

And it is, after all, just a first year garden, planted in newly tilled sod.  Even Pa Ingalls said a first year garden in tough sod can’t be expected to do much.  At least we’ll have enough food to get us through the winter and it’s very unlikely we’ll have to live on potatoes and brown bread and convince Almanzo Wilder to give us a milk pail full of his seed wheat so we can live until the train comes through in the spring!  (Can you tell I’m reading The Long Winter right now?)

And this fall, Husband will till up the ground again, plus maybe a bit more for next year.  And next summer’s garden will be even better.

Out to the Garden

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I step outside and the humidity seems to hinder my progress. Instead of simply walking to my destination, I must push through the thick air, wading through an invisible barrier that collects in moisture on my skin. The warm breeze does nothing to ease the situation.

In the distance, dark clouds gather and thunder rumbles.

I make my way to the strawberry patch to check the progress of the new plantings. Though it seems sad to do so, I pick off this year’s blossoms so that the plants’ energies go to the roots to make sturdy plants for next year. If all goes well, I’ll have strawberries galore next year. And perhaps peaches and cherries, too, if the trees are mature enough.

I mosey past the spot where I hope to put the rhubarb patch this fall, and down the rows of potatoes. They look bushy and healthy. No flowers yet, but they’ll come. The vine patch shows evidence of cantaloupes, watermelons, pumpkins, and squash, but while most of the hills have plants in them, some of them are bare and I wonder if we had some bad seed that will not germinate. In the next section of the garden is the corn, which is small but growing. I wonder if it will be “knee-high by the Fourth of July.”

One little cherry tomato is turning yellow, and another plant is getting so big I had to put a cage around it to support it. Beans are coming up and looking good. Since we did not mark things well when we planted, it is hard to know what each little seedling is, and since some of the seeds were old, it is hard to know whether they will come up.

It’s enjoyable to have the garden just outside my front door. For thirteen years, we had such a small, shady yard that gardening was difficult at home. We tried a community garden and then had a plot at a friend’s house. That was nice, but it’s much handier not to have to drive or bike a mile to check on the plants.

The wind picks up and contains the faint scent of rain. Time to head inside.  I don’t need to be watered like my little seedlings do.

Summertime Schedule

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School-year daily schedule:

Get up, feed dogs, have prayer time, eat breakfast, get dressed, leave for school. Teach all day. Come home. Change clothes, maybe go for a run, eat dinner, relax a bit or do some grading, go to bed.

Summertime daily schedule:

Get up, feed dogs, have prayer time. Go for a run or bike ride. Take a shower, eat breakfast. Then what? It’s only about eight o’clock, so what do I do with the rest of my day?

There is much to be done. This I know. Laundry, mowing, cleaning. Checking on the garden. Reading and planning and preparing for next school year. Writing, or at least trying to get into the groove of writing. Knitting, mending, organizing. But it’s unscheduled, unregulated.

My parents arrived the afternoon of the last day of school, and we worked seemingly every hour until they left five days later. We planted strawberries and irises and sunflowers and petunias and zinnias. We weeded a sidewalk and a patio and around the air conditioner and along the fence. We cut up old lumber to use as kindling. We moved gigantic railroad ties so that we can try to re-grow the lawn where people had parked and spun tires in mud over the winter months. It seemed I never stopped moving while they were here; they may be in their seventies, but my parents are workhorses.

A few hours after they left, I was zonked out in the recliner.

Without them to keep me on my toes every minute, I can get more brain work done. Budgeting and school work and writing are easier when I’m alone. But it’s also easier to get a little sidetracked, to be a little lazy. It’s the same trouble I have every summer.

Or maybe it isn’t trouble. Maybe being a little lazy in the summer is what I need. After all, I tend to have 50-hour work weeks when I’m teaching, so perhaps a bit of unstructured time will rejuvenate me. It’s possible that living without a schedule for eight weeks will refresh my soul and energize me for the school year to come.

It’s just that getting used to it is the hard part.