Category Archives: adult learning

Gardening

NOTE: This post was drafted in early April, about a month ago. I have been waiting for the spring blossoms to show themselves as I laid down bucket after bucket of mulch. Now I have pictures to share along with the words. If you like, feel free to skip the words.

Gardening is a passion of mine, and this time of year can be overwhelming as well as exciting. I was up and out early today, weeding and mulching. The roadside garden on the farm has been, as they say, years in the making. It started as a small perennial bed near the driveway with the usual daylilies, irises and hostas. But it quickly grew, expanding along the road to the opposite edge of the property. Now, after close to five years of work, it is mostly complete except for the wildflower bed I have planned, and the seeds for that are just waiting until the evening temperatures get above 50 degrees. That means the ground will be warm enough for them to germinate.*

A bad hip kept me from finishing the full garden over the past three years. I tinkered around the edges and even tried paying people. But no one was willing to get on hands and knees and dig up wire grass for what I was willing to pay, and I just couldn’t do what needed to be done. Last spring, I did better but was still recuperating.

This spring I am back and better than ever. I get into the garden beds for some time every day and for hours on the weekends. Seeing them come together in ways I could only imagine have made all the work worth it. And, the lovely finishing layer of mulch reveals the garden design, highlighting the plants that, for now, are just getting started.

This year, I took a before video on March 21 when I was just getting started.

And then again on May 14, 2021, which just happened to be my birthday.

It wasn’t just my health that kept the garden from completion. I lacked the finances to simple buy a garden at the home center in one fell swoop. I paid for or was gifted a few unusual (read expensive) plants, worked with my husband to raise things from seed (his particular gardening super power), divided plants, swapped plants, and plundered bags of perennials at the local dollar store. (They are cheap but tend to have a low success rate.)

Here are pics from early spring through yesterday:

The Gardens on My Birthday and Beyond

I was fortunate to grow up in a family, really a community, of gardeners. Small, neat kitchen gardens were common. I have a family photo that features my maternal grandmother’s peach tree in her urban garden in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  When my paternal grandmother died, we discovered dusty jars of canned vegetables and fruits on the basement shelves, enough to last several lifetimes. My father always had a vegetable garden in the communal garden at the high school and continues to cultivate roses and orchids even into his 80s. My mother canned and froze the produce from the garden and even now takes advantage of living in central Pennsylvania to buy locally grown vegetables to preserve. She also makes her own ketchup when the tomatoes are cheap and sweet.

There is something satisfying about engaging with living things from people to animals to plants. Plants bring the bonus of digging in the dirt, an activity that I suspect many of us enjoyed as kids. Even if you don’t have an outdoor space or want to make time for a large garden, container gardening is a possibility whether it’s radishes and greens on the patio or herbs on the windowsill.

I am also a fan of the odds and ends garden. You can put those bits of potatoes with their eyes sprouting into dirt, and you will get more potatoes. They like sun and a deep pot where you can mound dirt as they grow to get more potatoes. You aren’t going to feed the world, but you will get enough for a meal or two and they will taste wonderful of dirt and sunshine and rain. You can experiment with celery ends, onions and garlic, too.

* I planted these seeds on Monday, May 10, and am happy to say they are sprouting!

Turkey Update

Earlier this year, I wrote about the problem of our wandering turkeys. They were attracted across the street to scavenge from our neighbor’s bird feeder. Part of it was our fault: we had stopped regular feedings as they seemed to find enough in their wandering so their explorations got farther and farther afield. They found leftover greens in the overgrown vegetable garden and then discovered the feeder.

I am happy to say that the turkeys have been successfully “trained” to stay near the house and the barn yard rather than wandering down front. They get fed twice a day, once in a penned area and once at their very own turkey-level bird feeder and sometimes a third time just to make sure they are close by and come when they are called. They are, by no means, pets, and one of them, in particular, is aggressive so I carry a big stick as we walk along to wherever I am going to spread the food.

For those of you who are having trouble imagining these birds, here they are at their sunflower seed feeder. The tapping is loud so it is hard to hear the happy sort of chirp they make.

Toolkit for Meditation Practice

I have known about and flirted with meditation for a very long time. In fact, my high school research paper–the one where I learned the 3X5 card research technique–was on transcendental meditation. I have no idea where I even heard about it or how I managed to get a copy of the book or enough print-based resources to write the paper. Certainly it was not widely practiced in the 1970s in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the heart of Amish country, where I grew up. But, that was my topic. I don’t remember much about my conclusions, and it did not immediately convince me to meditate every day.

Over time, I have dabbled with the usual fits and starts but connecting with Dan Harris and 10% Happier was the impetus for this current journey. His books tell his personal story of discovering meditation, how that discovery changed his mind and his life, and how he traveled the country to get the word out. The app is an inclusive introduction to meditation with courses taught by well-known teachers like Sharon Salzberg and Sebene Selassie. They teach the basics as well as different types of meditation. Salzberg’s main focus, for instance, is lovingkindness.

The challenge that is on right now highlights different courses and teachers each day to give a good sense of the full range of the offerings.

The only drawback is that the app has only limited offerings for free. A subscription is $99/year. In a world of free, that may seem like a lot but it is another encouragement to actually open it up and explore. But, if you want to explore meditation for free first, consider Sharon Salzberg’s #RealHappiness challenge that takes place in February.

Farm Life: Authentic Problem Solving

turkeyavatar

The last two farm animals left after having both pigs and chickens on the farm are two Royal Palm turkeys. Both males, they are at least five years old, surviving several hens and a couple of their hatch mates. I don’t think much would mess with them at this point. We allow them to roam and had mostly stopped feeding them every day, just kitchen compost and scraps. But, we discovered they have been heading down to the front of the property and across the street where our neighbors put up a bird feeder on a low hanger, turkey level. They have managed to avoid being hit by a car on the road and always seem to come home to roost.

They are, however, a nuisance to our neighbor, eating all the food and just generally making a mess. So, we have spent the last week or so trying to keep them away from the road by encouraging them to stay in the house and barnyard. It mostly means feeding them pretty regularly so they stick close by.

I thought we were doing pretty well until we walked down the driveway yesterday and found them busy cleaning out the feeder across the street. We called to them but they pretty much ignored us. Our neighbor helped by appearing with a broom, and they followed us home.

We could pen them up but it is a challenge since they can fly enough to get over a high fence so we need a canopy. And, it seems mean as they do like to wander. That is our last resort although we may work on a pen to use when we are going to be away.

Today’s new strategy: fight feeder with feeder. We’re going to fill a feeder and put it close to the ground the way our neighbor does. That way, they can eat right out of it. And, we are going to loan our neighbor a higher crook for their feeder so it becomes less attractive.

This is real-world problem solving with trial and error. And, of course, trying to think like a turkey helps as well.

 

 

 

Second Day of School

I teach a technology course for school leaders seeking a master’s degree. Most will become school or division leaders such as principals or curriculum specialists. Normally, the course is fully face to face during the fall semester.

This year, I am implementing a blended, mostly online approach, with weekly synchronous meetings.  We will have three face to face meetings. Last week, we met on campus to get to know each other and make sure everyone was comfortable with the tools we were going to be using to do our work during the semester. More on those tools in another post.

Tonight was our first online meeting using Zoom as our interface. There are 7 students in the class, which seems like a good number for an online meeting, particularly because I wanted to use video and audio. It was good to see their faces, and I think it facilitated conversation. My face to face class is very interactive. My students have a variety of professional experiences related to educational technology that can inform their understanding and provide diverse perspectives to their classmates. We talk a lot about how our work connects with standards and research and practice.

And, we did that tonight. We spent time making sure everyone was comfortable with the Zoom room. We used the text chat and then video discussion to explore the topic of technology transformation. My one technology glitch was that they couldn’t hear the audio on a video. I’ll explore that more this week as I do want us to have some communal viewings.

At the end, I asked what they thought, as many of them hadn’t had an online course or even used Zoom. I got positive feedback and am excited about exploring the possibilities. There are some drawbacks that I will explore in another post.

For now, I am a happy teacher: I had an engaging few hours with some thoughtful, smart educators that allowed me to be closer to my base while they could go home and relax a bit before we connected.

I did do one thing to make sure we would be successful: I am renting office space in the small town next to my farm. The internet at my house is problematic: our potential cable provider has refused to provide us with broadband so we are stuck with DSL, and it is notoriously unreliable. I didn’t want to take any chances with losing connectivity during class. It was the right decision.

I had honestly forgotten what good internet was like…I’ve already messaged the landlord about creating a co-working space. I don’t need daily access but knowing I had a place to go for important meetings and large file uploads would be reassuring.