Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Urban Farmer

I am writing the blog post from my backyard with my computer sitting on a bale of straw. I have arranged several bales of straw to form a makeshift chicken play pen. The chicken coop is built, but it doesn't have a run yet. It is time for my babies to eat grass and scratch dirt, so I made a makeshift play pen for them. They are young, and there are several stray cats in our neighborhood, so I am watching them and blogging.

I put in a full day at school today, supervised the school paper meeting after school, and went to the Feed and Seed store to buy straw. I had heard that straw is a cheap alternative to bags of mulch from the big box store. If you ever need to know how many bales of straw will fit in the back of a Jeep Liberty, the answer is six. Six bales of straw cost $30, and should mulch my garden area nice and deep. I spent $100 on garden mulch from the big box store last year, so I am feeling pretty good about the straw.

I should start getting deliveries from my veggie CSA next week. Eating local and supporting local farmers has become an very important issue for me. Knowing where my food comes from in this day of corporate, genetically modified food has a lot to do with why I have a garden and six baby chickens.

Maybe I am not an urban farmer yet, but I am trying!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Yes, I am still alive!

Dear Poor Neglected Blog and anyone who might still care:

It has been a long time. Let's sum up.

Last June, I accepted a job closer to home at Barker Middle School in Michigan City. I love that my 100 mile commute has been cut down to 26 miles. Saves both gas and time. I am happy at BMS, and settling in nicely. There was the threat of layoffs last week, but I survived the cut. I am looking forward to next year. My teaching career so far has not been steady or stable, but I am starting to get settled.

On the home front, we have chickens on our little urban homestead. They are about a month old today and doing well. There six hens: one Rhode Island Red, 2 Red Sex Linked, and 3 Black Sex Linked. All are good brown egg layers. Building the coop has been tons of work, and we still need to instal the run so the chickens can safely be outside. Should be Wednesday this week.

I am installing a new garden bed next weekend, and looking into urban fruit trees. I joined a local CSA to supplement my garden production and give me enough food to can.

I even finished a few knitting and spinning projects!

I will try and have a real post with pictures latter this week.

Happy knitting,!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Editorial from South Spencer [Indiana] Teacher

From an e-mail sent to me by the building rep:

Imagine this conversation took place between you and your school-age son or daughter:

“What happened in school today?”

“I got back my science test I took a couple of days ago.”

“How’d you do?”

“I got an 83.”

“Not bad. What grade is that? A ‘B’?”

“Not on this test. It’s a ‘D’.”

“A ‘D’? That’s not right, is it?”

“Our teacher isn’t grading us on how many questions we get right anymore. He’s grading us on how much we improve over our last test. I got an 82 on my last test so I didn’t improve very much and I got a ‘D’.”

“That’s ridiculous. You should be graded on how well you did. Did that happen to everyone?”

“Well, the boy that sits next to me got a ‘B’ on his test, but he only got half of the questions right.”

“How in the world did that happen?”

“On his last test, he only got 40 percent of the questions right. This time he got 50 percent right.”

“So he got a ‘B’ because he improved 10 percent while you got a ‘D’ because you improved only 1 percent.”


“That sounds absurd. Anything else go on today?”

“I didn’t pass a math quiz today.”

“Why not? You’re good in math. How many problems did you miss?”


“One? How many problems were there?”


“Let me see if I understand this. You got 16 problems right and missed one but didn’t pass the quiz?”

“Yes. Our teacher says we have to get them all right to pass.”

If this were your child, you’d be up in arms, I bet. Yet this is how Indiana schools are being graded. The number of students who pass the ISTEP test doesn’t matter anymore; it’s how much improvement the schools make over the last test battery.

A school where 50 percent of its students pass the test can receive a high grade if its overall improvement is high enough (and it should be recognized for that improvement). Conversely, a school that has 83 percent of its students pass the test can receive a low grade if its improvement isn’t high enough.

In addition, schools are judged on Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind system.

To meet AYP, schools must pass all 17 categories. Not passing one category means the school did not meet AYP.

I teach at Mount Vernon Junior High School. We have an outstanding school with many excellent teachers. Yet because of the grading system now in place, our school has been given a ‘D’.

In all, 83 percent of our students passed the ISTEP test but because our improvement was not high enough, we received the ‘D’. We also passed 16 out of 17 of the AYP categories but did not meet AYP.

When you read about the grades given to schools, take the time to examine all the data to find out how well a school really did.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I ran out of aluminum foil

I know that statement doesn't bring to mind the kind of urgency that would pull me out of a three month long blog drought. Most readers are wondering what has prevented me from just going to the store and buying more. It is a reasonable question, but the truth is that I haven't bought aluminum foil in 5 years!

My grandmother passed away 12 years ago. What does this have to do with foil? Keep reading. I was very close to my grandmother, and she was a huge influence on me growing up. She was generous, kind, hardworking, and practical. I hope that I have some measure of these good qualities.

My grandmother's possessions with any meaning or value were divided by her four children. It was my mother who claimed the knitting needles for me because she thought I would bother to learn (I am, however, certain that my mother had no vision that she was giving birth to my obsession). Grandma's house and everyday objects were sold in an action. For some reason, my mother decided to take grandma's aluminum foil.

Grandma was a frugal person. And while my mother isn't sure when, she is reasonably sure that grandma bought the foil because is would save money. This foil was a roll that was 18" x 1000'! For the curious, the roll of foil was longer than 3 football fields! For at least 8 years, my mother swaddled every left over morsel of food in her house in foil. The shinny roll seemed endless.

Time passed, mom and dad never thought about foil, but really, who thinks about foil? When my parents moved to a smaller house, my mom, not wanting to waste such a valuable commodity, passed the foil to me. The box was heavy and old. Covered in layers of kitchen gunk from two kitchens, I put the box on top of my refrigerator and covered left over food in foil with reckless abandon. I often joked about my "heirloom" foil (I was the third generation to keep the foil). Last year, realizing that my inheritance would soon run out, I thought about passing the foil on to my daughter (she enjoyed the joke, but didn't want the foil).

It is gone now. I called my mother to tell her I was out of foil. We shared a good, heartfelt laugh. We had a long chat about my grandmother and the importance of passing things on. We cried. I am still out of foil, but my life has been greatly enriched by the people who have bothered to share the seemingly insignificant things with me. It was only a beat up box of foil, but it was in grandma's house, mom's house, and finally, my house. Foods made with love, care, and the skill of generations were held safe for a brief time. The foil is gone, but my inner maid, mother, and crone are wrapped in foil.

I will miss that box, but somehow, I think it will always be with me.

Happy knitting!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Worn Out!

Winter break wasn't long enough. Sigh, but I am back at work; establishing routines with my new classes (that will make things easier as time passes).

There has been a new development. I started teaching in my old program again. Just the middle school English class. I no longer have a plan period, which makes finding time to grade papers and plan lessons very hard. So, I teach three 8th grade English classes (including one co-taught with the Special Education Teacher), two 7th grade English classes, and one alternative education 8th grade English class. It keeps me busy.

I wish I had more of a life. I could blog about my exciting adventures in exotic lands. How about a life full of relationship drama where I compare the relative merits of Mr. Y over Mr. Z? I would love to go back to blogging about my domestic life, but my house is a pig sty, and I just don't have much time to cook or knit (I did finish the world's most boring pair of handknit socks).

But I am a teacher. I spend long hours grading papers, planning lessons, and typing test. For every book I assign to my students to read, I read six. I am a teacher. I have no life.

And I wouldn't trade my job for the world.

Happy Knitting!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas update!

I had wanted to post after Thanksgiving. I had pictures and everything. However, work got a little messy. There was a forced transfer, which meant that I had to leave my 40 alternative students and become the new classroom teacher for 120 eighth graders whose teacher wasn't able to keep up with her responsibilities as teacher.

It was a bit jarring to go from a situation where I had grown comfortable and had a regular routine to a new classroom that was basically in chaos. Realistically, the classroom isn't new, it is the same class I did a long term subbing gig in last year, but last year I was the teacher on day one. There was no hassle trying to figure out where the class left off. Due to the teacher's illness, the classes are way behind. I am not sure how I will be able to get them ready for the state testing in two months!

One to happier subjects, Christmas is here, and we are all snug, warm, and over fed! We had a simple celebration with a few thoughtful and meaningful gifts, a small tree (that I have had for a couple of years now), and a meal planned around taste and not over indulgence. I made a serious effort to shop for gifts locally which was actually very pleasant. In all cases, the local stores were less crowed, the staff extremely friendly and helpful, and the prices were good.

Organic and local foods filled my table and several of my own canned goods were opened and shared (these were things that I made for *special* occasions). There were even items grown in my own backyard.

Our charitable contribution went here. If you haven't given this year, check them out! One of these days, I am going to spring for the "Knitter's Gift Basket!"

Happy Holiday Knitting! (I hope you are all done with the holiday knitting)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

February Lady Sweater

I started knitting this in February, but my life being what is for the past year, I have only just now finished. Happily, Michell loves the sweater. I think she'll forgive me for giving her a birthday present 9 months late.

A close up of the knitting and the cute dolphin buttons