Sunday, September 21, 2014

that little greenhouse project

I did promise pictures of my side endeavor ages ago, didn't I?  I'm trying to make good on my word in several areas lately, so let's get after it, shall we?

Walking from our driveway to the GINORMOUS MAN CAVE, you see a sidewalk leading to the edge of the building. 


Behold!  That, friends, is the perfectly situated location for my Barbie Dream Greenhouse (TM).  It's in full sun all day long in a grassy area and the metal building provides a break from the wind and reflects the sun's heat, too.  


You may recall that a greenhouse was my perk in the whole GINORMOUS MAN CAVE deal.  I've wanted one for quite some time.  After months of research, I settled on the RIGA IV, a German-designed 9X17 greenhouse constructed less for beauty and more for endurance in harsh weather.  It's also among the more affordable greenhouses. 

I ordered my kit last summer and it arrived only to sit in the shed's garage for the entire winter because last fall turned ugly fast and by the time I had help rounded up to put it together, snow covered the ground.  I had to wait ALL WINTER LONG, people, and look at my dream greenhouse in boxes.


The next issue I faced, once this thing got put together, was the raised beds.  I went round and round on this, because my greenhouse is on a concrete slab.  Wood would rot, you see.  Finally I settled on the affordable choice of stock tanks purchased from Fleet Farm.  I could fit 2 of these babies at a time in the back of the Momvan.  A few trips later, I had 5 tanks (2 feet deep by 2 feet wide and 5 feet long).  I bought some styrofoam insulation to rest them on and filled them with 6 inches of clean crushed gravel topped off with 18 inches of good composted soil from my favorite landscaping guy, Kirk.  These steel tanks are durable, rot-proof and will help retain the sun's heat in the winter.


Seed selection was my next hurdle.  Johnny's Selected Seeds has a nice variety of greenhouse seeds, so I placed an order.  Above you can see how my romaine lettuce has started well.  Also planted:  bibb lettuce, mixed greens, arugula, cucumbers, beets, carrots, onions and cherry tomatoes.

That there is the first cuke shoot.  Pretty cute, isn't it?


The day I planted I started a daily journal documenting what got planted when and how well it grows.  Ideally we'll be munching on freshly grown veggies year-round here.  If things go as well as I hope, we'll be able to sell some, too.  All the seeds are organic, heritage types and I'll have to study how quickly they grow to begin estimating the greenhouse's production capacity.  This is my first season, so I started conservatively.  Already I see I have room to plant more, it's a question of what and how.
 

I most definitely have room to plant starter seeds for summer gardening.  I love the built-in shelves running the length of the one side.  They're the perfect height for working and I haven't yet dragged over the rest of my garden tools and pots and such.  I also need to find a stool for sitting on and a heater for an auxiliary source in case the temps dip really low like they did last winter. 

Also cool: the self-opening vents in the roof.  On a hot day, they open all the way.  I have no idea how they work, but between them and the back window, which can lock in any position, things won't scorch. 
 In other garden news, things are mostly yellow and purple around here.


I've gotten behind in some parts of the yard work.  In another week or two I'll have to clean up this mess.  Meanwhile I just pick things when I feel like eating them.  As usual, there are too many damn tomatoes ripe exactly when school starts.


Now the cricket chirping gets punctuated by geese honking as they fly overhead.  Today was a bright, balmy day.  You have to cherish those in the fall because you never know if it will be the last.  Mr. T and I enjoyed a walk through the woods with Jax.  Already leaves cover parts of our trail and a bad storm the night before left some obstacles of fallen branches and puddles.


Mr. G buzzed by on the little four-wheeler, disrupting our peaceful stroll with his racket. 

That's the sum of things today outside.  I felt grateful for all of it--the flowers, the woods, the quiet and the noise.  Most especially I appreciated the space to escape into after spending most of my week inside Room 212 without a window.   I do miss the outdoors.  And not having to wear shoes all day.

Spill it, reader.  What made you grateful this weekend?


Thursday, September 11, 2014

chillin'

It's gloomy and chilly out today, the final punctuation marking summer's end.  The news says we're supposed to get our first frost tonight.  I guess we need the cold to help us appreciate the heat.

And speaking of cold, Room 212, my current digs every week day from 7:30 - 4:00 has been freezing.  Bone-aching, knee-shaking, muscle-quaking COLD.  When I take attendance, little puffs of steam escape from my lips.  I kid you not.  It's an old building and the temperature fluctuates from one extreme to another and it seems Room 212 is positioned directly beneath the main blower for the entire building.  All the cold air intended for a three story building flows directly down on me and my students, then dissipates through the door to points beyond.

This wouldn't be bad if it were winter, but getting dressed in muggy 80 degree weather (and subsequently sweating as one feeds children, stuffs lunch bags, scoops the litter box etc.) makes it tricky to transition to tundra-like conditions.  I cannot bring myself to pull on a wool turtleneck while I'm sipping lemonade to cool down.

But today?  Oh, mercy!  Today I opened the door to Room 212 and a BURST of heat flowed over me.  So much heat in fact that the mob of freshman boys who congregate in the hall outside my room each morning remarked upon it.  "Wow!  It's HOT in your room!"

Indeed it was.  And do you want to know how much more quickly time passes when one isn't hunched over their knees trying to conserve their body heat?  Five times is my estimate.  The hours go five times faster when my body feels warm.  I daresay I even perspired a little, dressed as I was beneath three layers of clothing since I had no way of knowing the building would switch over from air conditioning to boiler last night.

Sweet, sweet heat.

But that's not all the good news!  The cleaning lady came today and every nook and cranny here at Chez Green Girl is sparklin' clean. 

AND that narrative essay I assigned the students for today?  Only THREE kids (out of 130) didn't turn in rough drafts--and out of those three, two had reasonable excuses.  That's a percentage UNHEARD OF in the modern classroom.  From what I saw during their first peer editing session, most of them rocked it, too.  

Spill it, reader.  What great things are happening in your neck of the woods this week?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

1,500th post and a really big deal

I noticed on my dashboard that this is my 1,500th post, which makes my big news here feel nicely rounded off.  Fifteen hundred posts!  That's a lot of Muttonchop Mondays, meaningless fritter, gratuitous photos of Team Testosterone, tales of yetis in the Back Forty, photos of my garden and other stuff.  Fifteen hundred! 

When I started writing this blog I was a SAHM feeling isolated and lonely with only my (much younger at the time) kiddos to keep me company all day long.  In that time I've made amazing bloggy friends and even visited several, I've gotten a couple of books published, planted a few thousand trees, achieved a second degree black belt (and caught that sword!) and completed some major home improvement projects.  Life has blessed me abundantly.

That said, I've spent a lot of time in the past couple years wondering what is next for me.  I've asked God to send me a clear sign--what's the best use of my skills and talents?  Where do I belong?  Working? Staying home? Writing? Selling organic produce? 

Last spring I got called up to cover a maternity leave for a high school English teacher, which was my former occupation before having three kids.  I had no current resume, my license was expired and I wasn't actively looking for any work, but I took the opportunity because it was a chance to get to know the school Mr. T would attend this fall and it was a good match since I used to teach senior English.  The gig was right up my alley, and I actually enjoyed being back in the classroom.

Summer came and lots of people asked me what I would do this fall.  I'd shrug and say I had no particular plan.  They'd press, "Not going back to teaching? _______ really liked you as their teacher."  I'd reply that I appreciated the complement, but wasn't looking for just any teaching job, so no, I had no resume to send around, wasn't taking any credits (I have a Masters plus some, what is the point?), I was letting God handle the details.  I'll probably write a little, edit some and sell lettuce out of my greenhouse.

Two weeks ago the same principal called me while I was getting a haircut. The woman I'd subbed for had lined up something else, any chance I'd come back and be the senior English teacher?  The course load would be English 12 and Advanced Placement Language & Composition.  I already knew the staff, building, basic expectation of the job.  I knew a fair number of the kids from overseeing a junior study hall last spring, and I'd developed three months of the year's curriculum.  In short, the job is perfect for me and in a lot of ways I'm perfect for the job.

Five days later I passed out one of the crappiest syllabi in the history of education in a classroom that I'd rigged to functioning.  The DPI had my request for an extension of my expired teaching license.  I've patched together a clipboard from a board and a binder clip.  I've re-purposed the classroom podium as a bookshelf out of necessity and preference.  I've dumped two boxes of baking soda on the carpet to absorb the smell of sweaty feet.  I'm teaching familiar concepts (the personal narrative and how to peer edit seemed like a good starting point) to a great group of twelfth graders.  The class of 2015 is huge, so I have an overload (discovered two days before school started when I realized I had SIX rosters in my hand instead of FIVE).  The boys outnumber the girls 3-to-1, but I live with all boys, so I can handle the maxed-out testosterone levels.  I'm learning their names, most of them are called Zach or Jacob, so it's mostly a matter of designating last initials.


My adjustments include removing a few volunteer posts from my calendar and phoning a friend who cleans houses.  Mr. D will have to step up more and Team Testosterone will learn responsibility and independence.  Now when I say I won't look for laundry that didn't make it into the basket, I really mean it. They'll have to go around in dirty clothes or figure it out--and I'll be too busy to notice or care.

Teaching full-time is a BIG change, not at all what I expected to happen.  I learned a long time ago that people make plans and God laughs while overriding their plans.  I never thought I'd return to teaching high school, which shows what I know about anything.  But I know this: He's got my back. He provides. 

So, it's Sunday night and the laundry's done, the pantry's full and I've got a week's worth of decent lesson plans to get me through until next week.  Beyond that I can only guess what will happen next.




Tuesday, September 2, 2014

dragonflies

Today's gift:

We got home from school and Mr. B's football game and the sun still shone low on the horizon.  Almost eighty degrees, low humidity, no wind.  I stood for a moment to appreciate the perfection of the weather and the light glowing across the lawn, through the trees, when a steady, spiraling sort of movement caught my eye.

At least 50 dragonflies swooped and swerved, feasting on some new hatching of insect.  Like sun dust, the air was full of tiny specks.  If I focused on one, floating midair for a few seconds, I was rewarded by the sight of a dragonfly snatching it into its mouth. 

The bug buffet hovered softly, like gentle snow, illuminated by the sun's last rays of the day. The dragonflies zipped in every direction, turning on a dime to snap at the bugs.  I lay on my back to enjoy this amazing display and was rewarded by the scene drawing close enough that I could hear the buzz of the dragonfly wings beating and count each segment of their bodies as they passed over me, a mere foot or two from my face.



© 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved 

Monday, September 1, 2014

endings

The very last day of summer vacation.
The very last book to give away.
The very last winner.

Congratulations, Jen on the Edge!  You are just warped enough to enjoy The Recently Deflowered Girl by Edward Gorey as much as I did.  I promise it will arrive at your door in less than a fortnight!

In other endings, about three weeks ago Mr. T started with this:






With a LOT of help from his brothers, his parents and his friends,


five impact screwdrivers, a heavy duty cart, two bottles of bug spray, 


He reached the end of his Eagle Scout project.



An 800 foot boardwalk through Happyland Elementary's Nature Center.
Whew!

(I'm bursting with pride.)

© 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved 

Friday, August 29, 2014

around the bend

We have 70 feet left of the Eagle Scout boardwalk project.  Today I bashed myself in the nose, had a board dropped on my right hand and my shoulders feel like a bruise from hunching over an impact screwdriver for the eleven-billionth day in a row.  Tomorrow we plan to finish.  I will videotape Mr. T drilling in the final board (feels kind of like the golden tie connecting the Transcontinental Railroad) and cheer wildly.

My greenhouse needs seeds and that is all.

We're entering BLT and Caprese Salad season around here.

We have a nest of garter snakes by our door and Team Testosterone caught three of them in buckets today to "study scientifically."  One snake is two feet long.  They've been released to their nest to continue feasting on mice and frogs and toads.

I'm full of recriminations and regret for leaving our Summer Bucket List half completed.  We never went to the Wisconsin Dells, Chicago or Door County.  We didn't camp, make s'mores or finish the library summer reading program.  So many missed opportunities.  So many high hopes for adventures I'd bring the children on, but instead we frittered away our time and I let random stuff take over our schedule.  Next year I vow we will leave town for a proper road trip, baseball and the rest of it be damned.  It makes me mad that we wasted this summer staying home, but no one else seems too upset.  The boys had fun riding their bikes around town, gathering friends and blowing their allowance at the gas station.

Tuesday everything changes, but before we get to that, I'm giving away a book on Monday.  A sly, funny book about deflowerment.  A book with pictures.  Each comment is a chance to win it.

Spill it, reader.  Any end of summer regrets?


© 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

the results have been tallied

Congratulations to Cassi Renee on her BIG WIN!  Send me your mailing address and I Was Raised to Be A Lert and The Second Book of Pearl: The Cats by Pearl Vork-Zambory will be on their way for your reading pleasure!

I think Jax caught wind of my informal polling regarding dogs and cats.  The cats won the popularity poll in a landslide.  Was this landslide due to cats' superiority or due to the demographic polled?  I mean, there IS some bias among women of a certain age and frankly, anyone who has had to clean up after their own children for years isn't keen on cleaning up after an animal.  Cats self-clean, which totally gave them an edge in this particular contest.

Whatever the reason, Jax demonstrated his displeasure to me.  Beneath my clotheslines he left a token which I stepped into with bare feet while attempting to hang out laundry.  To his credit, the gift was fresh, even still warm.  Meanwhile, Rose purred and placed her dainty white paws on the edge of the window sill, heightening her usual aura of cuteness. 

And now, for my final giveaway of the summer, I present to you the source of much giggling during my stay in Concord this June.  Among the genius hailing from Massachusetts is the incomparable Edward Gorey.  I've admired his sly humor and skillful artwork for years, but I didn't know he poked fun at more than the macabre.  Marni presented each of us with this book:



This slim yet practical hardcover offers advice on the right thing to say when losing one's virginity in a variety of circumstances.

Here's a video blurb:


Say it with me:  deflowerment.

Now giggle.

Spill it, reader.  One archaic word we need to pull back into circulation.   (You totally thought I was going to ask about your deflowering, didn't you?  For shame!)



© 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved