Thursday, March 15, 2007

7 Month Spazola

Somebody has replaced my child with Hammy McHammerson. He's now making some serious goo-goo eyes at auntie and anyone else who will indulge him, scooting, almost crawling and pulling himself up on things, and is VERY INTENSE about what he likes (hitting the buttons on the the toy farm that neigh, moo, crow and play three farm songs) and does not like (the diaper change drama, being contained or restrained in any way). I wonder where he got that? Here are some recent snaps of our trip to Madison and Chicago last weekend to see Jay's family and our new niece, baby Sanne!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Inside Jay's head on March 4

Yesterday I was blessed to receive a letter from a previous student in Portland at the Cedar Lodge. I am fortunate to average about a contact a month from students who are now Juniors and Seniors in high school. If I was better at writing them more, I would be even luckier and hear from them more often.

In every letter I am always amazed at how articulate these young adults are: thinking and writing. In every contact I am delightfully perplexed at how beautifully they matured. Some struggled to write complete sentences and now form entire letters with better speling and grammar than me. Some students were phobic of math and now have the confidence and desire to be in honors classes.

What happened? That is always my joyful question. Is it the simple maturation from 13 to 17? If this is the case, then what is the point of middle school? Is middle school really necessary in its current generic format? Would students mature the same ways they have if they went to school where they played, where they experimented with ideas and games, where they tried theater, music, sports and outdoor recreation instead of nouns, verbs and spelling?

I feel these students would become articulate mature beings without the current middle school concept. I bang my head against my desk daily over students who do not bring a pencil to class (every day!), let alone those who do not complete any of their assignments. I then have students who write with the sort of imagination and description that make me grin. I honestly have no control over either one - it just seems to be what and where they are right now. I could give the student without the pencil lunch detention and I could force past perfect participles on the creative writer, but are either going to make a difference?

What is the purpose of middle school?


Becca and I have had some excellent conversations about NDD - Nature Defecit Disorder (for more on this see Last Child In The Woods by Richard Louv ). How do we insure that our sons will want to play outside? How did it happen for me? I was encouraged to play outside by my parents but not like I desire and do now. The K-12 machine had no play in my ontology that way. How do I prevent NDD when it comes to Owain?


We had a fantastic community meal a week ago with a new friend Dan. Dan is the son of Winnie, who married my uncle Harold (dad's oldest brother) and she lives in Bruce, WI, about an hour NE of our place. Harold just died from cancer. We still stay in contact with Winnie because she is cool. She is a true anti-NDD-style innovater. She grows her own food and has informed me that many of the things I consider weeds are actually edible greens (lamb's quarter, needles and most recently the root of the nasty pasture burr). We had her son Dan over a couple of weeks ago. We knew it would be great conversation and that he would be a kindred spirit, as when he was 17 he finished high school early so he could ride a horse north 300 miles back to Wisconsin where he grew up. He made his home in a root cellar until his parents were able to move back. He also logs for a living and does a majority of it in the winter with draft horses.

After a great dinner and wonderful stories, it was decided that Chris and I will trade work with Dan: Dan is going to help us cut down a few large dead Elms (one being the width of our dinner table) and Chris and I are going to help him with some houses he is building. We are also going to go over and take a look at some harnesses, carts and sleighs he is going to be selling. Apparently Dan's grandfather started a 2-acre organic blueberry lot in the 60's, and Dan now oversees the plants, so we'll get to do some picking this summer. Hurray. Plus, he is going to help us spur on our sad, slow berry plants.


Chris and I (OK really Chris) are thinking about and reading about edible forest gardening. This means nut trees, pears, apples, and bush berries around and beneath the trees. I wanted to order all these trees this spring, but Chris helped me think a little bit first and we are going to hold off on the order until we plan more exactly what we need and where we can plant. You know me - just do it and think later. We are mulling over an edible forest garden behind and around the garage area.

Charis and I had lunch yesterday at Haymarket Grill, one of a few restaurants in the Chippewa Valley that support local, organic foods. I asked them how they purchase their produce. We learned that I can call him and tell him what I have or walk in the front door with boxes and he will buy it. He says he has his spring greens and heirloom tomatoes taken care of but needs red potatoes and sweet onions. Would it be profitable? Something to think about.


We are struggling with Owain's third cold in the last three months. I find myself cursing the air a lot. I hate being helpless in this evil circle for Charis and Owain. Charis is sick and not at full strength from her inconsistent thyroid and problems stemming from a weak immune system. Some of these problems can not be solved completely until she stops breast feeding. It is not time to stop breast feeding. Therefore, Charis is never fully healthy and easily succeptable to illness, which exposes Owain, and Owain becomes sick, making longer nights and days for Charis which then make her more tired and weaken her immune system and she becomes sick again, and the cycle continues.

Thankfully, Owain is still a joyful trooper by day, but the poor guy can not sleep. Last night he spent 3 hours on my shoulder which helped a bit. He likes to walk around the house while you hold him up under the armpits. His recent favorite is to chase a ball and kick it. He literally does go after it and kicks it with much excitement. He also loves to slam the button on our toy farm that plays "Old MacDonald Had A Farm" or "The Farmer in the Dell." I am blessed to not to have either song stuck in my head. Otherwise, I would have to smash the farm.


Sadly, we just finished our last jar of applesauce. I actually shed a tear. We have one last jar of salsa, but still lots of frozen tomatoes in the freezer. I just kegged two porters (a Black Butte clone I varied a little with more chocolate grains and a porter with fresh ginger and cocoa - please see below) Both are awesome. Please come visit!


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Snowed In

When I was a kid I never dreamed that teachers would get as excited about a snow day as we did. I just assumed that the teachers lived to torture us with their plans for our education, plotting and planning behind the staff lounge door and hating to see us enjoying ourselves outside of school. Boy, what a fallacy. Who would have guessed that the teachers are JUST AS, IF NOT MORE, psyched when the mighty gods decide to scratch their great, dandruffy heads? And who knew that teachers don't really give a good gosh darn that the kids are having fun at their education's expense?

We've got 4 or 5 inches now, with another 4-8 to fall today and ANOTHER 4-8 tonight. It's like a crazy snow globe outside. And here's a little taste of what we do around here when snowed in...