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Find Poets. Read Stanza. Jobs for Poets. Materials for Teachers. The Walt Whitman Award. James Laughlin Award. Ambroggio Prize. Dear Poet Project. Back Issues. Balio follows me around the farmstead for our daily routine of morning chores and flops down lazily in the nearest shade whenever I come to a stop. I ease into the steady rhythm of the day and take in the repose of a quiet Saturday morning.
A teacher walks out of the classroom in quest for what sparks joy – Twin Cities
Everyone lends a hand in preparation for the summer festivals, landscaping, planting flowers, building stages, painting spool tables, clearing brush, prepping campsites, and cutting firewood. I am amazed at the amount of work people can accomplish when they come together for a common cause. It is a beautiful thing, and I am happy to be a part of it. Well, even though greenhouse 2 still does not have plastic, we finished the planting of tomatoes, red slicers already blooming with tiny yellow flowers. I am happy to report the first 2 rows we planted made it through the last few cold nights with only minor damage.
I think we should be in the clear now, as far as cold temperatures go…hopefully, but we still need to get the plastic on as soon as possible. Another long awaited mark of spring has also arrived today, the walking of the asparagus patch. We have picked a few handfuls for ourselves, but today we found the plants had put on enough height to justify a full harvest. In the evening, we joined some friends for a mushroom hunt and were lavishly rewarded for our efforts with a hat full of the delectable morel mushrooms, grilled in butter and shared with incredible company.
It was the perfect ending to a lovely week of spring. This morning I had the pleasure of visiting my sister and new baby nephew. She is nursing, and I want the both of them to have the best. She is curious about how to use new veggies, and I am so excited to go on this journey with them. This is truly the greatest joy of farming, sharing food with the ones you love, and watching it all grow.
I weeded for 8 hours today, and I only got through 2 beds…but one of the beds was carrots, which have proved to be one of the more challenging weeding tasks. The other was rainbow swiss chard, which is usually easy to weed, but since it has been badly neglected, I pulled a full wheelbarrow of weeds out of just the chard bed.
The carrots were insane though, not to mention it was cold, rainy, and windy. My legs are going to be sore tomorrow. Everyday I feel different, and if someone were to read this journal, they may interpret these writings as erratic, dramatic, wavering, or contradictory, but the truth is, I am new to farming, and this lifestyle and livelihood continue to toss me about. In the course of 24 hours, I can cycle between bliss and acrimony more times than I would like to admit, and as ludacris as that may seem, I feel I will always prefer the emotional tumbling over monotony.
Today was an idyllic harvest day. Rufus and I were completely in synch and on beat with a soulful rhythm. We agreed on every task, priority, and suggestion. There was complete musical harmony accompanied by the full-voiced song birds and the cool sunny breeze. Our CSA box looked and smelled absolutely luscious. We worked until dark and only stopped for one meal, propelled forward by a unique combination of love, passion, and deadline. I shake my head at my own juxtaposition against yesterday.
This is the time of year when everything picks up speed, the orders, the weeds, the planting, and the pressure builds. Today Rufus and I met during office time to discuss our planting plan, which we are behind on. I feel like by spending the sunny morning in the office, we are getting even more behind. We go back and forth proposing solutions to make up for our lack of compost, seed, plastic, space, time, and money. Everything gets spread thin and I feel overwhelmed by the never ending to do list that never quite gets checked off. It is daunting to think about two people growing food for hundreds of people.
Projects are left unfinished. The weeds start to get out of control. Plants need to get in the ground, and almost everyday, there is a harvest and a delivery that needs to be made. I love the work that I do, however, my Capricorn personality does not love the feeling of falling further and further behind. Rufus, a Cancer, is much better at going with the flow and making the slow and steady march of progress on the treadmill of time that constantly pushes us backwards.
He is always there with a word of encouragement or comfort that comes from a more sunny perspective than mine. He reminds me to look around at all the progress we have made and that this is just how vegetable farming is, especially in May.
Why You Can and Should Look Your Best
I try to come around to view the momentum of our journey in a brighter light. All we can do is the task at hand and keep making improvements. What a day! Although it is Sunday, I think we put in more hard work today than most days of the week. We are now pretty much desperate to finish greenhouse 2 and get the tomatoes planted before they start going downhill. We now have all of the structural pieces finished, including channel lock for the wiggle wire. Rufus got all the compost we have on the farm moved into the greenhouse and today we did the labor of shoveling and shaping the mounds of new soil into 8 50 ft beds.
Since we are so low on compost, we shovel out the walkways and only use the precious dirt for the actual beds where the tomatoes will be planted. To our great dismay, the piece of plastic we planned on using to cover the greenhouse was too short. We sit down and rethink our plan. For now, we decide to just get the tomatoes planted and order new greenhouse plastic when we can. We fight the wind, rain, thunder, and lightning to tack down the black plastic for the weeds, not the building and get one row planted before Rufus yells at me to get inside before I get hit by lightning and we run to the house with the dogs.
Once the storm passes, we head back out and plant one more row and cover it with hoops and row covers before the day is through. We have been out of coffee and milk for almost a week now, and our motivation is suffering this Saturday morning. Instead of making breakfast and heading outside, I lay on the couch and watch horrible reality shows. Oh My Goodness, We have to figure this out soon, or I will have to start drinking straight maple syrup for a burst of morning energy.
This morning Rufus and I get up early to harvest, clean, and pack an order to be delivered to Viroqua. I find myself amazed at how much easier it is to get up early when the sun comes up earlier, although I would still like a cup of coffee. Before long we will be getting up even earlier to beat the midday heat, especially in the greenhouses. I finally got the golden nugget cherry tomatoes transplanted into the ground in greenhouse 3.
I cleaned up the beds, covered them with black plastic and planted 79 happy little tomato plants. It is a relief to get them planted, but the slicer tomatoes really, really need to be next. They are over a foot tall and getting too large for their little pots. Rufus and I are spending as much time as we can getting greenhouse 2 ready for the red slicer tomatoes, but there is never enough time in a day to quite get there. Maybe this weekend we can get the plastic on…I hope. Rufus gets on the road early to start his deliveries while I nurse what I can only assume is a broken toe on my left foot.
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It was a run of the mill stubbed toe on the kitchen table that made just the right impact to shatter my poor toe. When Rufus came back from deliveries today, he brought me a new pair of rubber boots. I have to admit that I have had a bit of a bad attitude due to my wet and cold feet, and it was super sweet of him to buy me new boots despite my grumpiness. He is always so helpful when we need something and it is nice to be able to return the favor. When we get back to Keewaydin, it is back to cleaning ramps and packing CSAs…this time with nice warm dry feet.
It is amazing what a difference a new pair of boots can make. Why is it always cold and rainy everytime we have to clean ramps or pick watercress? It is actually a nice cooldown in the hot summer months, but on cool rainy days like this, my hands and feet go numb. I am running into a bit of a footwear predicament here. I only have one pair of boots, and if my feet are going to be cold and wet, they might as well be naked too.
Well, almost all of our plants made it through the cold and snowy night. There is sometimes only a thin white line of fabric between life and death for plants during the unpredictable inclement weather of early spring. Covering crops is time well spent. The snow and cold weather are coming. I feel a twinge of panic creeping in as I collect hoops, row covers, and clothespins. With the help of some family and friends, I get all of the crops covered except a small patch of basil because I ran out of coverings.
The snow hits, I put the chickens in early, button down the greenhouses, and walk somberly to the house and once again wait helplessly for the morning sunshine to come melt this all away. He puked six times round trip and was majorly freaked out pretty much the entire time we were in Viroqua. He did fall asleep for a bit on the cool tile floor of the vet office during his exam, which I thought was pretty weird, but he had to be carried back and forth to the car because he absolutely refused to walk with a leash on.
Besides those difficulties, he is a healthy growing puppy and is getting all his bases covered as far as vaccinations and treatments. When we arrived back at Keewaydin, we were both extremely happy to get out of the car. The rest of the day was much more enjoyable. I prepared for a family cookout, harvested veggies, chopped salad, and set up for a big family gathering.
It is one of my greatest joys to share food on this farm with family. Thursday is usually planting day, but this morning when we look at the weather, we see Saturday has an expected low of 25 degrees and they are calling for 3 -5 inches of snow. Rufus and I both sink back in our chairs. Are you serious?! Okay, well none of the outdoor planting is happening today. Instead we discuss our plans to pull out the heaters and cover everything up once again. My thoughts are only interrupted by the singing of the birds and the occasional family visitor…oh and of course my rambunctious and quickly growing puppy.
It was a bright blue morning for our first spring CSA packout. This is my second year harvesting ramps with my Dad and I really enjoy our time together in the woods. He has the ultimate ramp spot where the hillsides are carpeted with bright green leaves. We joke that we could dig ramps out there until we hated each other. My Dad is also the ultimate ramp digger, despite his multiple neck, back, and shoulder injuries.
When I arrive out at the land, he already has 3 full crates dug and neatly stored in coolers.
We head to the hillside and only dig for a short time before we have more than we need. As we drive the crates of ramps back up to my car on the four wheeler, I take in the fresh smell of spring onions and the beauty of the bold rock faces, budding maple trees, and bubbling spring.
I thank my Dad for all of his hard work and allowing us to harvest here. Then I head to Kendall to visit my Grandma Miller and take her some eggs and greens from the farm. She has diabetes, so I always try to bring her what we have growing at the farm when I come her way. I just love her sweet smile and her incredibly funny stories. We visit for only a short time today because I have to get back to the farm to finish our packout.
When I get back to Keewaydin, Rufus and I head to the watercress patch. As anticipated, we are both soaking wet in no time, and I barely make it out with my boots. I know I say this frequently, but I am so very thankful that these were my Tuesday tasks and I am not sitting in some god forsaken stuffy office on this gorgeous day. Today we celebrate our first harvest. Well, not exactly our first harvest, because we have been harvesting greens for our own salads for a couple weeks now, but it was our first harvest of the year to feed other people.
Rufus and I slide into the familiar cadence of counting out ties, slicing at the base of bright green stems, and rinsing soil away to reveal delectable vegetables. The harvest moves along smoothly as Rufus and I banter back and forth. It is on harvest days that I am most thankful for weeding days.
Our beds are far from weed free, but they are also far better than they were last year, which makes harvesting so much more enjoyable. After the morning harvest, we move into planting mode. Rufus tills up beds and works on direct seeding and I plant potatoes. We are experimenting with a new growing strategy with the potatoes this year, planting them on the surface of the soil and covering them with mulch, to make for easier digging.
As I mulch the potatoes, already a messy job, thunder rolls in the distance and heavy rain begins to fall. Now the mulch is sticking all over my skin and clothing, but it is the end of the day and I am determined to finish the job. I press on to the end of the bed getting dirtier and itchier by the second. When I step into the foyer, I am more mulch than farmer and dripping wet. Rufus laughs at my disheveled appearance and directs me straight to the bathroom, where I proceed to cover everything there in mulch and soil.
It is almost impossible to keep the farmhouse floors clean this time of year. Even after a thorough hot shower, I brush some hay from my hair. On this Easter Sunday, Rufus and I move at a leisurely pace. We take some time off during the weekends, but we never truly come to a halt in the spring. Today we planted a beautiful hedge of red raspberries that Papa Rich brought back from his family in Plymouth.
Ever since I started helping Rufus with the farm in , I have been contributing to this hedge. It is really a satisfying feeling to see the entire project come together. We added a bit more topsoil, layed down black plastic to give the bushes a head start against the weeds, and planted a neat curved hedge outside of greenhouse 3. After I started the drip line of water along the hedge, I stood back and smiled at another transformed space, an establishment of perennial life that will be there for years to come. Today we hosted a little Easter get together for our family. I had the pleasure of preparing a mostly farm raised lunch and sharing it with some of the company we love best.
I was up at the crack of dawn opening greenhouses, collecting eggs, and chopping vegetables. When it all came together, we sat outside in the radiant sunshine on a rare calm day.
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I can barely believe the wind actually gave us a break today. We were even able to fly a kite reasonably well. Rufus and I colored and hid Easter eggs all over the farm for Aurora and her little cousin Aaliyah and it was a real treat to watch them on the egg hunt. I felt like a kid again. Their bright white wool and frisky frollicking filled my heart with the lightness of springtime. On days like this, I swell with gratefulness for being at Keewaydin and being able to share all that this place provides with the ones I love.
We spent our third day in a row working on the greenhouse 2 rebuild. G2 will be tomatoe land this year, and the tomato transplants are growing strong and putting the pressure on us to get their new home ready to go. There is nothing like time sensitive transplants to light a fire under a farmer. We are close to finished with the front end wall of greenhouse two. Having the sawmill makes construction projects so much easier and less expensive.
If I run out of two by fours, I can just go make another one. I enjoy working on construction projects, however, it is not my strong suit. Before coming to the farm in , I had very little experience in construction, and I still have a lot to learn. I am not really comfortable wielding power tools and I am almost always worried about getting hurt due to my inherent clumsiness. Today Rufus trained me on the sawzall.
This may be the most terrifying tool yet. I could not quite steady the tool and hold the wiggle wire track at the same time. I was pretty sure that I was going to slip and saw a gash into my thigh. Rufus was extremely gracious and helped me out. Maybe one day I will become comfortable with power tools, but for now, I proceed with extreme caution and ask for help…a real burn for a perfectionist, INTJ, Capricorn like myself. Today Rufus and I worked on repairing greenhouse two, which went through a tornado in We removed most of the plastic last fall and took down the end walls this winter.
Today we replaced the bents that were severely bowed and started rebuilding the end walls. Climbing on a ladder that sinks deeper into the soft ground with each step was a bit disconcerting, but I found my balance and continued removing screws from the bents. Before long, however, we had to give up the project for the day. We hear an ominous rumble of thunder in the distance and it starts to sprinkle. Rufus and I scramble to pick up tools and make a run for the barn as it starts pouring.
We barely made it. We move on to indoor projects and watch the rain and lightning from the shelter of the greenhouse where the dogs crowd into the doorway also seeking shelter from the storm. Although my legs are tired and my hamstrings feel tight enough to snap, I spend a good part of the day planting and weeding. Just last week our gardens were covered in snow and ice and now the soil is soft and warm, ready to receive these cute little lettuce transplants.
I spent the majority of my day working the ground, weeding and planting. As it is the beginning of the season, my body is still adjusting to this unique type of physical work. Last week my body was so out of alignment that I finally broke down and went to the chiropractor on Friday. After he cracked me back into a human person, we talked about physical strategies for crawling around in the dirt all day.
He suggested that the best approach is to change positions often and listen to your body. Rufus almost always works on his knees, scooting himself forward beside the bed as he works his way down the row. This is one knee up, one knee down, very similar to the Roman Catholic genuflect. Once one side of the body tires or it is time to move along down the row, you switch legs. This seemed to be relatively comfortable and a nice way to bring variety into my stance. I would not even notice that I regressed into this position until I was finished weeding a row. After about seven hours negotiating my body close to the earth, my quad muscles were trembling.
I came into the farmhouse, made a hearty dinner of spaghetti and cauliflower bake, washed it down with a few beers and promptly took my tired loins to bed. It was a rare night of sound sleep, and I treasured every minute of it. When I woke up, I realized that I had not even washed the dirt off my feet and there was a chicken feather stuck to my heel. Needless to say, I was disgusted with myself. Today I am thankful to be back in the quiet peacefulness of Keewaydin, away from the madness of crowds and traffic which I experienced yesterday.
Since studying social justice at Johns Hopkins masters program, I am hyper aware of all the things that are wrong with society, all the mistakes we make, all the damage we do, and all the widespread stupidity. I wrestle with the dichotomy of wanting to fight injustice and wanting to retreat from it all. I feel like I have a more steadfast connection with a basil plant, a cool breeze, or a group of clucking hens than most people I meet…and they make me happier, more at peace.
I realize this is not the typical or even advantageous stance of an activist for change, and I have to deal with that somehow. Again Thoreau echoes in my mind. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. This Saturday we had a family day off the farm. Horse lovers from all over brought a stunning variety of equine life to the Alliant Energy Center. We saw breeds of horses I have never even heard of like the curly horses who have hair that looks more like a sheep or poodle.
Some of our favorites were the Rocky Mountain, the Icelandic, the Norwegian Fjord, the Gypsy, the Clydesdale, and last but not least, the mini donkey. We walked around the stables, watched horse clinics, ate some extremely questionable food, drank a couple heinously overpriced beers, and meandered among a crowd of people which was a bit too large for my liking. The big event of the night was the Mustang show, an event which offers the chance to train a wild mustang in 90 days and give a presentation of their progress at the show.
It is phenomenal to see the connection between man and beast, or in this case, young teenage girls and beasts. The winner of it all was an unlikely candidate, a short petite blonde girl who I believe was only 15 years old. She used no lead rope and was able to get her mustang to follow her lead, perform tricks, and even lay down, which is apparently a pretty big deal. Although the crowds were overwhelming, the animals and our ability as humans to connect so strongly with them captivated me. There is zero motivation at Keewaydin to go outside and be blown apart by the vicious biting wind which makes everyday farm tasks nearly impossible.
The only one who seems not to mind it so much is Balio. He was born in mid January this winter while it was negative 30 degrees and spent his first few months of life entirely exposed to the elements. His double coat of thick fluffy fur keeps him relatively warm and dry. When I bring him into the house, he overheats relatively quickly and appears to be much more comfortable outdoors.
I watch him sleep peacefully out the front window while the wind ferociously whips his fur in all directions and snow piles up on his back.
He is undisturbed. With a cold tolerance like this, I am a bit worried about how he will fair in the dog days of summer. Well, the weather this morning is brutal and blustery and all signs of spring have been whitewashed and wind whipped. It would only feign ignorance to act surprised. The weather in Wisconsin and around the world grows more and more chaotic as we increasingly see the effects of climate change.
As farmers, we are at the mercy of the weather, and today we will not be going outside to work in the gardens, or even the greenhouses. I take pity on Giz and Balio and allow them to spend the day indoors. When I go out to do the morning chicken chores, I had barely turned the handle on the door and a powerful gust of wind almost ripped the door off the hinges and my arm out of socket.
Needless to say, the chickens will be staying in the coop today. If they flapped their wings, even a little bit, in this wind, they are likely to land somewhere in Richland Center. Rufus is already restless and it is only am. We are supposed to have this weather for two whole days. I am exceedingly glad that I decided not to plant the kohlrabi in field B. Last year we did an early outdoor planting and attempted to cover it with plastic to weather a snowy wind storm like this one.
It did not go well. As Rufus and I wrestled with the ft of plastic, it tossed us around like rag dolls. Wind aggression is an emotional breakdown that strikes a normally happy person into pure frustrated madness. We hunkered down in the farmhouse, watching Mother Nature give our plants a proper beating and whispered curses under our breathe, as we knew it was out of our hands. Mother Nature always wins. This morning when Papa Rich showed up to work in the sugar bush, I spontaneously offered to give him a hand. I had been on the computer since early in the morning, and I just really wanted to get out in the woods.
Papa Rich and I spent the morning pulling taps, cleaning lines and…well shooting the shit. We seem to have gravitated toward the same authors in different decades, authors who have shaped who we became, which is probably one reason I love his son so much. Rufus was off the farm today helping his brother Jake, but I am never alone on the farm. Apart from the animals who wait for me at the door, I am surrounded by family and friends. Our friend Alyssa stops by to pick up her honey extractor, which is stored in the back of our barn, and this afternoon my cousin Beth arrived with her four child crew for a farm field trip.
This was my favorite part of the day. We took the kids around to the gardens, greenhouses, chicken coop, compost trench, and pack shed and I taught them all about Keewaydin. The kids got to find their own eggs and pet some chickens in the chicken coop, check out a working pottery studio, get a tour of the greenhouses and gardens, play with Balio, Giz, and Carrot, climb a hay wagon, sit on a tractor, check out the saw mill, plant some seeds of their choice, transplant some lettuce into the ground, taste some fresh maple syrup, water the gardens, and see where the veggies are cleaned and packed up.
I relished their curiosity and engagement and I definitely want to do more educational tours in the future to share what we do. Today Rufus and I repaired and improved the chicken run so we could let the chickens out on pasture. I have been wanting to get them outside for awhile, but our fencing was woefully inadequate.
The weather today was just way too nice to keep the chickens in for one more day, so we wore out our hands tying and twisting a fence together. Chicken wire has an uncanny ability to rip up the tips of your fingers and palms of your hands and both of us were bleeding when all was said and done. However the sight of our happy chickens scratching in the fresh green grass and pulling up fresh juicy worms made the whole ordeal worthwhile.
It was another beautiful morning on the ridge. As I walked the dogs around their morning patrol, I stopped for a moment in the open field, closed my eyes, and took in the sunshine and sounds of a hundred song birds. The vast variety of calls, tweets, cheeps, and twittering come together in an orchestra that no man could conduct. I open my eyes and take in the glistening horizon of newly greening grass, still covered in the morning dew.
The wind blows my hair sideways, and the words of Henry David Thoreau echo in my mind. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Springtime splendor was alive and well as the sun came up over the horizon during my morning chores.
Each morning I greet Balio and Gizmo, try to peacefully feed them both, and walk Balio around the farmstead perimeter that he is learning to patrol. First we wind around the outside of the gardens. He is still learning to stay out of the gardens, but doing relatively well for a curious puppy. When I scold him for getting into the garden or greenhouse beds, he barks at me playfully, lays down at the edge of the bed, and scoots his big paws right across the line he is not supposed to cross.
This day swept by me. Between pulling weeds, redirecting the puppy, and watering our baby transplants, I lost the rest of the day. I have come to recognize that I spend a good portion of my day walking the property, from one destination to the next, but I love it. With each springtime jaunt, I take in the scenery, breathe in the fresh air, and keep my eyes open for new life on the farm…and I always find it. It was a nice cool day for planting seedlings in greenhouse 3 and we have now filled a full row of tables with planted trays. The cool weather, however, enlivened Balio with an extra punch of spunk and mischief.
We are kindred spirits as far as heat intolerance goes. As I stood planting at the table, I frequently had to put down the seeds and redirect his puppy curiosity from troublemaking. Each time I focused back on the seedlings, I would become distracted by a mischievous noise of Balio chewing on tomato clips, getting tangled up in plastic, harassing the cat, digging at the edge of the cucumber beds, clawing at the garbage, or just barking at himself. When I put him outside of the greenhouse, I thought perhaps he had finally dozed off, but I peeked around the door to find him chewing on an extension cord.
I knew he was being too quiet. Finally, I took him up to Field B to hang out with Rufus, like taking a misbehaving child to their daddy so I could finish my work. When I finished planting and returned to Field B, indeed, Balio was finally napping tranquilly, like he had never disturbed the peace…typical. This afternoon, I worked in greenhouse 3, transplanting and rearranging tables. Balio alternated between laying down in the greenhouse plastic bunched around the seedling tables and snuggling into the row covers at the end of the cucumber beds.
I am surprised at how quickly he is learning to stay out of the garden beds, and I think it helps that it is a little too hot for him in the greenhouses. His curiosity and playfulness have both Rufus and I smiling and laughing even more than usual. Transplanting seedlings is a particularly satisfying task for me. My task today was transplanting tomatoes and cucumbers into a more roomy situation. I love the sensation of extracting the small soil pod from its plastic enclosure, peering at the vitality in the roots, and placing the entire bundle into a new home where the baby vegetable can stretch out.
Indeed, I am distracted as I go about my work this week, by the adorable, fluffy, curious, and ever present Balio. He has stolen my heart and my attention, and I count myself grateful that I have a job at which he can trot happily alongside me and nap within view. He is already patrolling our familiar route on his own, napping outside the greenhouses as we work inside, friendly toward the chickens, and making friends with Gizmo.
It seems that everyone he meets falls involuntarily head over heels for him, and I am confident that he could win over the coldest of hearts. Today Rufus and I bottled our first batch of beer together. We spent more time indoors than we typically like, but I think it will be worth it. This brewing project has combined two of our favorite things, growing in self sustainability, and beer.
The first tastes of the brew were delicious and I can hardly wait for the two week carbonation process to be over, so we can crack open a rich Keewaydin IPA! It was a beautiful day for a maple syrup boil. Rufus and I headed down to the sugar bush with our 2 trusty dogs, Gizmo and Balio, who are adjusting well to each other thanks to their chill personalities. Balio is great at following the group and kept up like a champ on our many walks around the property today. Rufus and I collected syrup, started a fire, and soon the sweet smell of boiling sap and billows of white steam fill the crisp spring air.
In the evening we are joined by Papa Rich and Charna. We tell stories, laugh, and watch Balio explore his new world and nap in the shade. We have been talking for awhile about bringing a livestock guardian dog to the farm to protect the chickens, gardens, and coming soon cows and sheep. We went about our search in typical fashion, through Craigslist. We found some Great Pyrenese puppies for sale in Illinois and contacted the family.
We visited the puppies on our way to Colorado and went back today to meet the parents and see how they interacted with other animals on their farm. When we arrived, we found a colorful array of free range chickens and goats accompanied by a number of other dogs and cats getting along nicely. Rufus, Aurora, and I were all pretty well smitten with the entire scene. It was clear he had been broken down. With that, we brought our new puppy, Balio home to Keewaydin, not without a couple puking episodes on the 3 hour car ride home.
Balio is Basque for valor: great courage in the face of danger.
As an adult he will make an excellent guardian, weighing in at up to pounds and standing 32 inches tall, but right now he is the cutest little fluff ball I have ever seen. I struggle to remind myself that he is a working dog…a full time outside dog. Wrestling with the idea of little Balio sleeping alone outside, Aurora and I pitched a tent and opted to spend a brisk night outdoors with our new outdoor dog. This Friday was a day of beating back the eager weeds and revealing neat rows of tiny vegetable sprouts. I find the first round of weeding to be the one that requires the most meticulous care, but is also the most important.
I move methodically down the row, squatting, standing, and kneeling as my legs work their way back into summer shape. Before long, my eyes adjust to a higher level of plant identification and I more easily determine what needs to be pulled up. At the end of each row, I look up at the plants, satisfied in my unique Capricorn way with the beauty of the bed.
What a beautiful day to dive back into farming! The sun was shining, and it was downright hot in the greenhouses. I was not in greenhouse 1 for more than 5 minutes before I was barefoot and in a T shirt. My hands and feet, which had been squeaky clean on vacation, tucked away in warm mittens or floating along for a hot springs soak, were once again returned to their dirty selves.
As I transplanted chard, joi choi, and lettuce into the greenhouse beds, I watched slithering earthworms, shiny beatles, and quick moving spiders scatter in a display of renewed life in the soil. While I weeded beds in greenhouse 3, I listened to the chirping and twittering of an array of new songbirds. Robins pick at the mulch in the gardens and poke at the worms in the yard. Well, we made it back from an epic ski vacation, and to our great surprise, our plants are doing well. Rufus and I are always a little nervous leaving the farm in the hands of others, but thankfully we came home to some awesome looking plants.
I think this is one of my favorite stages in plant life, when they are popping out of the trays in beautiful uniformity with no weeds. The chickens have improved as well while we were gone. Their feathers are growing back and they are putting on weight. The snow is melted, green sprigs of grass are coming to life, and we feel as refreshed as the spring morning air, ready to dive into the season.
It is good to be back on the farm. During our road trip out to Colorado, we saw so many disgusting CAFOs and ungodly amounts of corn that infuriate me and break my farmer heart at the same time. I return to Keewaydin with a renewed sense of the importance of what we do: farming without pesticides, supporting biodiversity, setting aside land for bird and animal habitat, raising animals with care, and farming as a family.
An activity goes better than expected—or worse, or merely differently. After teaching a particular learning objective several times, you realize that you understand it differently than the first time you taught it. And so on. The job never stays the same; it evolves continually. As long as you keep teaching, you will have a job with novelty. Skip to main content. Search for:. The joys of teaching Why be a teacher? The short answer is easy: to witness the diversity of growth in young people, and their joy in learning to encourage lifelong learning—both for yourself and for others to experience the challenge of devising and doing interesting, exciting activities for the young There is, of course, more than this to be said about the value of teaching.
Maybe I have marking to do before class, or maybe I have to get a lab demonstration ready. Or maybe we all have to troupe down to the library for a staff meeting groan…. I try not to do it then, but a lot of times I have to.