Random Thoughts – on life

On checking my corporate email – I hope all the spammers are getting blasted with auto-responses like mine. It would serve them right to have their servers overwhelmed with useless emails.

Where do peppercorns come from? Can I grow them in my backyard? Chuck did a little research, and he says no. I guess we’ll keep shopping at Penzey’s Spices.

Can I say I’m beefing up a dish if what I’m really doing is sneaking in grated zucchini?

Why is parsley growing in my rhubarb patch? Can I blame the same little guerrilla gardener that stole my garlic?

I planted cilantro. Where did this thyme come from, and where is the cilantro?

And finally, can I make good use of my teacher discounts, small though they might be, to refill the medicine cabinet with ibuprofen and saline rinses? Be Prepared is a motto teacher share with scouts.

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Walker’s Education Oopses

He can’t quite get his stories straight, this Walker guy, at least when it comes to education. Wisconsin Governor Scottie Walker wants to move on to a bigger, more important job out East, but on the road to the nomination he seeks, he’s having trouble getting his facts to line up.

Early in his tenure (pun intended), Governor Walker told the story of a teacher who had won the state’s Teacher of the Year award only to be laid off due to low seniority at the end of the school year. According to Walker, this teacher was a prime example of why his union-busting law, Act 10, was so important.

Except – he was wrong. The teacher to whom he referred had not, after all, won Wisconsin’s Teacher of the Year Award. She had won an award – an award for first year teachers of English Language Arts, an award for which she’d nominated herself. Walker didn’t do his homework. He gave her an award she hadn’t earned.

The real Outstanding Teacher of the Year in Wisconsin let him have it in an open letter online. The teacher he talked about (over and over, as though it were part of a script) asked him to stop. She didn’t want to be his poster child for Act 10. She didn’t agree with his policies, and singling her out as special made her feel awkward and distracted her from teaching.

Now he’s done it again. Walker’s educational “reforms” have been controversial, to say the least. Reporters asked him for someone influential, someone to whom he could turn for support and advice. He named former Milwaukee School District superintendent turned Marquette University education professor Howard Fuller. Fuller, Walker said, is someone he consults often and is the kind of person he’d like to have in his cabinet.

Except – that doesn’t make sense. Walker consults him often? Fuller isn’t even sure which opinions he and Walker share because he hasn’t talked to Walker in, his words, “a long time”. Fuller supports the Common Core academic standards. Walker says he wants to repeal them, but really? I don’t think Walker has a clue what the Common Core Standards really are. As for expanding the use of public voucher money for private schools, another program close to Walker’s heart, Fuller again disagrees. Fuller supported a limited voucher program in the early 1990s. When Walker announced his intent to raise the income limits and take the cap off the total number of children using vouchers to attend private schools, Fuller openly opposed the changes.

Walker might be more credible on the national stage if he got his stories straight. But how can he stay consistent when his stories are just that – stories? Based on a few random facts, perhaps, but his stories overall are closer to fiction.

Do the Common Core Standards ask students to differentiate between truth and fiction? Maybe the good governor needs to do some research of his own.

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Lettuce Lately?

It feels unusual, but I’m not complaining. I brought in another batch of lettuce yesterday.

Lots of Lettuce!

Lots of Lettuce!

This awkward looking pile of rhubarb yielded almost 5 cups when cleaned up and diced. I pulled enough out of the freezer to make rhubarb barbecue sauce. I predict we’ll see this sauce in the crock pot over a pork roast or whole chicken.

There's more here than you might think.

There’s more here than you might think.

And last, but never least, I cut back the basil, the basil, and the basil. I’ll hang these bunches in the attic to dry.

basil, basil, basil

basil, basil, basil

I start school tomorrow along with several hundred other teachers. I miss my time in the dirt, but it helps to know I have all these goodies stored away for later when I’ll need a little taste of summer.

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Learning from Dystopian Fiction

Things I’ve learned from reading the popular genre of dystopian fiction:

  • Honey doesn’t spoil.
  • Food and medicine shortages are likely.
  • Dried milk powder also lasts forever – or for a really long time.
  • Goats are worth their weight in gold.
  • Rain barrels – or a Rain Containment System – can be lifesaving.
  • A wood burning fireplace or stove is priceless.
  • Generators only have value while fuel is available.
  • Communication may be precious – or impossible.
  • Day lily bulbs may be edible (does anyone know if this is true?)
  • Chickens are more than pets.
  • Barter keeps the pantry stocked.
  • Feminine supplies can be trade bait.
  • Electricity and running water may be luxuries.
  • Friendship and trust continue to be worth more than money.

I’ve noticed that no matter what the cause or the premise of the disaster, hunger becomes the focus. Whether the moon is knocked out of orbit or a pandemic plague spreads or a war changes everything, survivors will worry about feeding themselves and their families. Rationing food, stashing food packages, even stealing food becomes a main thread in almost every apocalyptic novel or series I’ve read. There is the short term goal: get everything you can into the house and lock it up or hide it well. Then there is the long term goal: plant a garden. Raise chickens or goats. Preserve everything possible. As plots evolve, the characters move from short term to long term survival tactics.

You might notice I haven’t mentioned anything about government, local or otherwise. With communication sporadic or down completely, any form of government would be more difficult to maintain. But that’s more than a blog post; it’s a whole book!

Readers, have you read any dystopian fiction lately? What was it? What did you think?

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Election Noir – the Walker Way

It was a dark night in a city that likes to keep its secrets. No, wait, that’s Guy Noir, private eye, creation of Garrison Keillor. The story I’m about to tell took place in a city that used to be known for open doors and transparency of government. Used to be known, I said.

It was late at night and approaching a major holiday weekend when a new item was slipped into the massive state budget document soon to come to a vote in Wisconsin. This action, this insert of a new little piece, was done quietly. Delicately.

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) added a policy item changing Wisconsin’s Open Records Law. They chose their timing carefully: late at night on July 2, the Thursday preceding a long holiday weekend. The Powers That Be on the JFC hoped that legislators would return to work refreshed and relaxed and completely unaware of the changes.

They were wrong. This being Wisconsin, the birthplace of progressive politics, the people found out.

The changes exempted legislative communications from the law; shut down public access to all records created in the process of drafting legislation (any rough drafts, emails, written analysis papers); and specified that the Legislature could freely exempt any record from disclosure simply by passing a rule or policy. (source: Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council) In a nutshell, legislators could keep under wraps anything they wish to hide.

In keeping with the shadowy tone of secrecy, no one on the JFC would admit to authoring or contributing to this outrageous action. Some even walked away from reporters rather than answer questions.

Let’s jump to the final chapter of the mystery. As word got out that the suggested changes had come from Governor Walker’s Office, the insertion was quietly deleted. No one knew for sure, but the scent trail led to the top, and the top wasn’t willing to risk the biennial budget to the very vocal opposition.

So, folks, Governor Presidential Wannabe Walker didn’t have to admit his role, if any, in a potential gut of Wisconsin’s Open Records Law. And therein lies the danger: whether Walker suggested the changes or not, his office climate allowed and even encouraged this kind of action.

Is this dark and sneaky atmosphere the kind of climate we want in the White House?  I’ll answer that: absolutely not.

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August Harvests

For most teachers, Back to School means stocking up on notebooks, pencils, and other supplies for their classrooms. I teach online, and I don’t stock up on computers (thank goodness!). Instead, August gets me into a Stock the Pantry and the Freezer type of frenzy.

Last Wednesday while I was simmering tomato sauce in two crock pots, I harvested lettuce again. It’s been a strange year for lettuce, but I’m not complaining.

Roughly 1 1/2 pound of lettuce, mostly Romaine and red leaf

Roughly 1 1/2 pound of lettuce, mostly Romaine and red leaf

I’ve made two batches of applesauce with tart cherries. This is delicious. I may never buy applesauce from a grocery store again.

Tomatoes are driving me nuts because they’re almost ready to pick. They’ve been “almost ready” for days now. I’m almost salivating with desire for that first taste!

Not much of a harvest here, but there will be more. To see other gardeners and their weekly harvest. go to Daphne’s Dandelions. I enjoy seeing gardens from elsewhere in the U.S. every Harvest Monday!

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I love a bargain!

La Petite forgot to pack a few essentials last time she visited, so we headed to Kohl’s to take care of her needs and (of course) browse the clearance racks. My take-home was amazing.

La Petite bought a few basics and a pair of shoes. I bought – well, you can see it here.

Two sweaters, two shirts, and a dress

Two sweaters, two shirts, and a dress

The sweaters were hanging on the wrong rack to begin with. La Petite picked them up, said, “Oh, this isn’t my size. It’s your size, Mom.” If they shrink, she has dibs. The sweater on the right had a snag in the hem. As for prices:

Bargains galore!

Bargains galore!

I got an additional 20% off the sweater with the snag. Then, after adding it all up, I handed over my 30% discount coupon.

My bag with its five items cost less than La Petite’s two. In fact, my bag full of new clothes cost about the same as the steaks I bought for supper at the meat market.

They practically paid me to shop. Readers, have you had bargains so good you had to blog them? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear about yours.

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Trash Talkin’ Trump

Dear Donald;

Since you have so little respect for me, I don’t believe “Mr. Trump” will do. Your perspective on women is unbelievable. I mean this sincerely; I can’t believe that any decent man in the 21st Century would refer to women as bimbo, disgusting, fat pig, gold digger, 

But Donald, you outdid yourself when you knocked Megyn Kelly for being a strong debate moderator. You called her a lightweight, one attempting to be tough. Your statement would have been bad enough if you stopped there, but what came next was (I have to pause and take a breath) – what came next was this. “You could see that there was blood coming out her eyes, blood coming out of her [brief pause] wherever.”

Make no mistake, Don, we know exactly what you meant. By implying that Kelly was tough on you because she was menstruating, you put yourself down much more than you did her. Ever see the movie Annie Hall? They had this discussion in Annie Hall, how the male lead responds to everything the female lead says by blaming it on her period. 1977, Don. The movie came out in 1977. The calendar today says 2015.

Hey, Don. I’ve got news for you. Women make up just over 50% of the American electorate, and we vote. You have insulted a lot of individual women during your very public life, but they’re not the women that ought to worry you.

You should be worried about women who vote.

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The Harvest

We had three rabbits visiting all weekend because La Petite was here. You know what that means: lettuce!

Fresh as it gets!

Fresh as it gets!

It’s been the strangest season for lettuce. Normally, the second batch of lettuce is done by mi-July, if not sooner. I’m harvesting the first crop of lettuces right now.

Still waiting!

Still waiting!

Even after harvest, there’s more to be had. I predict a lot of salads and BLTs this week.

Meanwhile, “Chuck” was busy relocating a peony that we’ve had in the backyard since we moved in. It meant a lot of digging on a hot and muggy day, and thirst quenching with strawberry lemonade.

Dig. Dig. Dig.

Dig. Dig. Dig.

The large peony is now beside the northwest corner of the house. It’ll get enough sun, and we’ll enjoy it more.

The new home!

The new home!

If you look closely, you’ll also see the sod from the peony’s new spot. It’s filling an area that had been weeds. If you look even more closely, you’ll see the little black dress, er, fence. I picked those up at a rummage sale a while back, and I knew we’d use them eventually. Chuck’s research (a la Google) told him that tomato cages would be good, but I haven’t used traditional tomato cages for years.

My harvest wasn’t big this week, but you can see other gardeners’ bounty at Daphne’s Dandelions.

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There’s a Storm Coming In – not quite an encore

It’s literal and it’s figurative. There’s a storm brewing in my state.

Skies are clouding over and the temperature is dropping. The radar shows lots of green (rain) with patches of yellow and red representing the stronger storms within. The forecast predicts thunderstorms overnight and through tomorrow.

That’s the literal storm.

On the figurative side we have a storm of ideology, a flood of hard feelings, and the thundering sound of voters wanting their voices heard. There’s a yard sign here and a bumper sticker there, with patches of letters to the editor representing the strong emotions within. And this, the figurative storm, continues.

I first posted this in spring of 2012 as we headed toward a recall election – the recall that Scott Walker survived. in the all-too-long lead up to the 2016 presidential election, winds are swirling and the storm is gathering strength.

I prepare for literal storms with a fire in the fireplace and my tiny seedlings under cover in the mini-greenhouse. We unplug the computers to prevent trouble in the event of power surges.

Preparation for an election storm isn’t quite so easy. We can unplug the landline the day before the election to avoid the thundering sound of the Get Out the Vote phone calls. I’m always  on edge all day on Election Tuesday, awaiting results that carry as much meaning for me personally and professionally as the meaning and messages that are national in nature.

After this storm passes, the winds of change will pick up. The perfect storm of anger, disillusionment, and disbelief fighting with self-righteousness and misinformation threatens to blow up into a cyclone of another kind. The resulting funnel cloud will…well, let’s not think about it.

We’re already experiencing a dark and stormy period in Wisconsin history. It’s beyond frightening to imagine that storm spreading to the nation.

Readers, we’re all in its path. How do you hunker down and prepare for a storm that’s political in nature? Leave a comment.

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