From two years ago – what a difference.

Two years ago, the garden had officially succumbed to the freezing temps overnight. Today, I was outside in my Wisconsin Badgers tee shirt, turning soil and enjoying the huge blooms on the marigolds.

The election was nearly over (and I was worried). We’re a few days away from Election Tuesday. I’m worried sick. This election – it’s so unreal that it’s scary.

So what’s next? How did Compost Happens find a way to continue without politics or gardening on the topic list? Ha-ha. As if I’m ever at a loss for words!

Don’t worry, friends, family, and fans. There is still almost half of the NFL season to go. You’ll read the reactions of the O.K. Chorale as the Packers do their best to protect their best – Aaron Rodgers, that is. I might even post the results of our Eating the Opponent tradition. Indiana corn chowder (with bacon) and bacon cheeseburgers tonight as we prepare to meet the Colts on Sunday. if you were curious.

The garden was a simple pile of dirt and scattered straw two years ago. This year, like 2015, there’s a lot of green in the yard, providing a beautiful backdrop to the multi-colored leaves falling from the neighbor’s maples. In fact, I turned soil today and pulled up rogue grass roots to make room for a row of walking onions.

I still have a small tray full of green-turning-red and even more green-turning yellow tomatoes. I have enough ripe tomatoes to add to salads and BLTs for a little while longer.

As for the election results – I’m sure there will be reactions, good or bad, from the family here at the Chorale or from our favorite time traveler, Grandma Daisy.

What to write? Blog fodder? No shortage here, folks. As my favorite quarterback said a couple years back, R-E-L-A-X. I’m not going away any time soon.

Flashback – Foreshadowing?

I was browsing my archives and reminiscing, and at the same time thinking about how I’ll be teaching flashback and foreshadowing as literary techniques very soon. Here’s a flashback to Election 2012.

The flashback begins with a smallish haul from a midweek farm market.

I’m not growing zucchini this year. Can you tell?

Unfortunately, Chuck thought I went overboard.

Fortunately, I have good recipes for zucchini bread and zucchini cookies.

I met a friend for coffee. Unfortunately, I ran late. Fortunately, I found a great parking place and we had delicious coffee as we worked.

Lovely, tasty beverage!

Fortunately, I donated zucchini bread when I did a little volunteer work for the Obama campaign.

Unfortunately, I didn’t plug the meter with enough change.

A $5 Ticket!$@#^!

I dropped off the Obama postcards at the post office and then went to City Hall to pay my dues. It’s a small price to pay to help re-elect the president. Fortunately, I had change for the meter that time. Unfortunately, I left the change in my pocket. Fortunately, the meter readers were still canvassing the blocks by the political offices. So… I made another investment in downtown and brought home smoothies for me and Amigo.

Oh, what a day. I think I’ll go hide in the tomato jungle. At least I don’t have to pay for parking there.

Foreshadowing? Come back for more in the category of literary techniques, Daisy style.

Back to Virtual School – Daisy Style

(almost an encore)

Back in my regular classroom days, preparing for school meant something different. Here are a few examples.

  • Then: I’d browse the school supply ads and stock up for students that I knew couldn’t afford supplies.
  • Now: I stock up on canning supplies and fresh, local foods so I can feed my family through the winter.
  • Then: I’d plan at least a week in advance, usually more, to spend time in my room setting it up for the students’ arrival. It would take several days.
  • Now: The entire staff moved to a new building with almost no advance time. We worked like crazy to get everything unpacked and into our cubicles so we can work efficiently. This is the only item that’s different this year.
  • Then: I’d get the calendar up to date, noting staff meetings and parent-teacher conferences and any other commitments outside of the regular hours.
  • Now: I’ll get the calendar up to date. This item is still necessary.
  • Then: I’d spend a few Saturdays at school preparing my room and catching up with coworkers.
  • Now: I spend Saturdays at the farmers’ market or in the kitchen working on stocking the pantry.
  • Then: We’d order pizza on my first day of school with students.
  • Now: We still order pizza on my first day of school with students!

I also make a point of spending time outside. It can be as simple as weeding or watering the garden or reading a book on the deck, but getting out is an important ingredient in self-care. Back to school means back to my cubicle and much, much more. The process may look different on the surface, but underneath the hustle and bustle it’s the same: getting ready for a new group of kids and parents.

The Great Bunny Rescue – encore

A Facebook friend posted this warning: Live Easter bunnies are not a good idea. It reminded me of spring 2011 and the night La Petite got a phone call from a friend’s mother. The point of the call: five domestic rabbits needed help.

When La Petite’s phone rang, it was the mother of a friend. She and her youngest two children had come across five domestic bunnies that had been abandoned at a construction site near a local bike trail. They went back with lettuce and a large box, lured the furry ones, brought them home, and called The Bunny Whisperer, a.k.a. La Petite.
We knew what to do, so Chuck and I joined her. We gathered two cages from our basement with litter, hay, and pellets for each. La Petite knew where we were going, so she drove. When we pulled into the driveway, Friend’s Mom and two kids in pajamas led us into the garage where she’d set the box.
Five full grown domestic rabbits were in the box. Two were harassing the others, so Chuck picked up those two first and looked them over closely. “Yep. Boy bunnies. Let’s separate these from the others.” We put the two males in one cage and the three females in the other, and they calmed down significantly. All five started to nibble on the hay and pellets, and they even found the corner with litter and used it appropriately.
Four looked like they may have been related or from the same litter; the other was a lop-eared character who didn’t resemble any of the others. He was either a major case of recessive genes or was unrelated. Cute, though. They were all cute, even though they were incredibly dirty and smelly from their adventure and trauma.
We left them settled for the night, and La Petite made arrangements to help Friend’s Mom take all five to the Humane Society the next day. When they delivered the bunnies, La Petite reported to me that all five looked cleaner and they were eating well and (are you sitting down?) at least two of the three females were pregnant. We were further appalled.
We’ll never know why the owners dumped the bunnies. Maybe realizing the males were mature was too much to handle. Getting them neutered could have been too expensive. Maybe the owners realized that not only were the males mature, but the females were expecting. If five bunnies are too many, five plus two litters of babies would be overwhelming.
The girls, getting a little attention
I still don’t fully understand, though. La Petite and Friend’s Mom brought the rabbits to the shelter. The previous owners could have done that instead of dumping them. Pet rabbits are not equipped to survive in the wild. They don’t know what to eat, and they’ll be eaten soon because of their lack of camouflage. With their domestic coloring, they’d be hawk bait before long. The little albino in particular would be easy prey for eagle-eyed predators – and I do mean eagles.
La Petite was pleased with the people and the set-up at the shelter. Rabbits and other small animals were kept a significant distance away from dogs and cats and in a separate room. She said they looked clean and well cared for. We wished we could have done more. When cash flow is a little easier, maybe we’ll make a donation. We’re grateful to have a Humane Society in town. We’re also grateful to know people like Friend’s Mom who thought it was important to rescue these animals when they were homeless and in danger.
The Boy Bunnies

We’re grateful we’re able to make a good home for our pet rabbits: Buttercup at our home; Krumpet, Biscuit, and Sadie at La Petite’s apartment. We love them dearly.


Where’s the Bunny? Encore.

Here’s an oldie but a goodie. The room looks totally different now, many years later. Amigo no longer plays host to a bunny. If he did, we’d have electrical cords galore to hide. This small bunny was very special; here’s one part of his story.

This little bunny moved into Amigo’s room from his outdoor hutch when winter hit. Chuck has been working in Amigo’s room, remodeling and repainting, and the small rabbit has found new places to hide and hang out and do rabbit things, like bathe and nap. Can you find him?

Okay, I give in. Here he is. He has taken this shelf, temporarily stashed in the middle of the room and currently empty of Braille books, as his own.

Cute, huh?

There is hope in our younger generation.

An encore only because I’m no longer teaching fifth grade history. If I were, I’d have a whole new collection of student answers, and a whole new feeling of hope for the future.

My students were learning about the Articles of Confederation and the events and debates and compromises leading up to the writing and ratification of the United States Constitution. As I corrected their tests, a trend emerged in the essay questions – a rather thoughtful, insightful trend..

I can’t post the specific question, but I’ll just tell you that they were discussing the creation of the Constitution and interpreting George Washington’s warning against the destructive nature of political parties.

Actual student answers:
-“I think Washington wanted people to be happy and to work as a team.”
Can this student run for office some day? Please?
-“They would disagree on things because they would have different opinions and they would argue a lot.”
Run-on sentence aside, she was predicting the future with amazing accuracy.
-“It creates tensions and the good that could be done is lost in the arguments of each party’s plans.”
Another candidate for office someday – governor, perhaps.
“Washington knew that if the country split into political parties, then the country would be more split up and there would be too many disagreements.”
Politicians, stand warned. This student and others like him will be voting before you know it.
It’s time, it’s well past time, to start cooperating. Bipartisan collaboration would be a good start, but in all honesty, nonpartisan cooperation would be even better.
I’m sure George would agree.
Now back to the grade book to grade the maps of Ancient Egypt. My students know the real history of the pyramids. Maybe a certain candidate at tonight’s debate needs a little Common Core in his life.
But anyway, readers, feel free to step in. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. How do you feel about that?

Who is Paul Ryan? An encore, updated.

You heard the news, folks. Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan is now Mitt Romney’s running mate.  Speaker of the House. But who is this guy? What’s his vision? What is Paul Ryan really like?

Paul Ryan represents a district in southern Wisconsin in Congress. He is 42 45 years old, the fourth youngest candidate on a major party ticket when he was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012..

Paul Ryan is an economist by trade. He graduated from college with a double major in economics and political science. On the surface, this could be a plus on his balance sheet. He is articulate and intelligent, and he can expound upon economic theories at length.

But let’s look deeply into this economist’s vision for the country. His budget plan, nicknamed the “Path to Prosperity,” didn’t really propose to increase prosperity for the average middle class American. His plan as introduced last fall (2011) included major changes in the programs known as entitlements, most notably replacing Medicare with a voucher program. His overall plan also relied on severe spending cuts. These cuts, and the austerity policies that would result, promised to be extreme and far-reaching.

The Ryan Budget bill did not become law. It passed the House, but the Senate voted it down.

What’s next, moving forward? Well, blog readers, that’s where the problem sits. Paul Ryan’s plans would move our country in reverse, back to the archaic values of the 1950s. His plans are extreme, severe, and austere in all the wrong places.

Ryan describes himself as being “…as pro-life as a person can be.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t include pro-women who need birth control, empathetic toward women who become pregnant by rape or incest, or supportive of women who have a legitimate need to terminate a pregnancy. He doesn’t value their lives at all.

Rep. Ryan’s budget proposals favor privatizing public education and using public funding in order to do it. His austerity measures and cuts will harm public schools – schools that are suffering  financially already.  A full generation of students are at risk. These students, unfortunately, are too young to vote.

Rep. Ryan likes the idea of for-profit colleges. He ignores the years of evidence that show for-profit colleges’ students’ poor payback record for federal student loans. Defaults on loans like this – well, where does the money come from to make up the missing dough? Ryan hasn’t answered that question. He has a history of voting against increasing amounts or availability of Pell Grants, grants that target low-income students pay for college. In general, his policies show that he views education as a privilege for the wealthy rather than an opportunity and a right for all.

Three years after the Romney/Ryan loss, I still question Ryan’s priorities. I’m glad to see him insist on family time, but I’m disappointed that his voting record doesn’t support middle income and low income families. Readers and Voters, what do you see in this new Speaker of the House? 

Observations from a fall day in 2006

Here’s what I said on an autumn day nine years ago. Photo credit goes to La Petite. She was already talented with a camera back then.

Things I can do now until the cold weather strikes:
*Clean the bunny litter boxes outside with the hose
*Take small amounts of easily digestible compost out to the bin
*Shake rugs out on the deck in my stocking feet
*Take out garbage and recycling without a coat or jacket
*Rake leaves (a simple pleasure)

I can’t:
*Harvest from the garden, the last frost did it in
*Sit out on the backyard swing, it’s just a bit too cold to enjoy
*Leave the windows open, because the heat is on

But I can enjoy:
*Coffee or tea or hot spiced apple cider in a favorite mug
*A wood fire blazing in the fireplace
*NFL or college football on television
*leaves falling outside as I read a book in the cozy, warm den

Know what, readers? Not much has changed. I now compost through the winter with a second bin closer to the house. I still carry the bunny boxes outside, and after I empty them in the compost or in the garden, I rinse them with water from the rain barrels instead of using the hose. It’s windy enough today that I don’t feel the need to rake leaves, but I don’t mind the chore. I pile the leaves, like the biodegradable litter, on top of the raised beds. No wonder my tomatoes grow so tall!

Readers, how about you? Do your fall chores stay the same each year? Or differ greatly?

Like Minded People – an encore

First posted in July of 2012 – the memories are positive, and the sentiment is still true.

Imagine a busload of people who like Car Talk, get the jokes on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, and know the difference between Michael Feldman and Michael Perry.* This is a bus trip of people who are polite to each other, make friends readily, and enjoy intelligent conversation about issues that matter to you, er, them. Amigo and I took just such a trip a few summers ago. Sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio, the trip goes to tiny Bayfield, WI, where the group takes in a show at the Big Top Chautauqua.

A summer City Council meeting seemed like it was ripe for conflict. People attended to speak for the trees, speak for the right to raise urban chickens, and support an up and coming project that will turn a former country club and golf course into a large community garden. Despite the differing opinions, all in attendance had something in common.

Last, but never least, I attended two meetings at the local Organizing for America office. One was simply a monthly update of the citywide group, and the second a training in canvassing techniques for the upcoming campaign kick-off weekend.

What do these three have in common? I’ll give you a moment to think. Take a look at the OFA office windows from summer 2012 while you’re contemplating.

How can you resist? Pose with the cardboard cut-outs!

Remember the question? I asked you to consider what these three examples might share in common. It’s the people.

In each example, you’ll see a group of like-minded people. The Public Radio bus trip was thoroughly enjoyable because of the camaraderie. In the second example, all three issues had to do with sustainability and the city environment. In the third, all of the meeting attendees were motivated to help re-elect the President of the United States to a second term.

Seeking out like-minded people is one way to stay calm and focused during difficult times. We share experiences, we share attitudes, and we share priorities. These groups will meet again, I’m sure. Trees, chickens, Public Radio, and elections are topics that inspire passion. Finding focus for a passion can lead to making a difference in the world.

Go ahead, readers. Find like-minded people. Talk. Then come back here and tell me: what will you do to make a difference?

Michael Feldman hosts a Saturday morning show on WPR called Whadya Know?. Michael Perry hosts Big Tent Radio on Saturday nights. Good enough?They’re both comics, hosts, and fascinating people. 

Encore: Autumn Garden Chores

Was this really only two years ago? So much has happened since then. I was looking forward to spring, not knowing what awaited me. I still look forward to spring – as soon as I can get the tomatoes indoors for the fall harvest.

I’m looking forward to spring. I know, it’s not even winter yet, but autumn is the season when I pull apart the fading foliage of my garden and take steps to prepare for next spring. Chuck got into the thick of it this year. Take a look.

Straw bales and repurposed boards

Straw bales and repurposed boards

Another Angle

Another Angle

Rather Awesome, I'd say.

Rather Awesome, I’d say.

Yesterday and today I took to the task of harvesting all tomatoes that could ripen indoors. The herb pots are already inside. Next, I pulled all the tomato plants and tossed them on the brush pile at the back of our yard.

We’re adding leftover potting soils to the new patch as I deal with most of the containers. If weather permits, I will dig out compost from the base of the brush pile and from the base of the compost bin and fill in what I can of the new patch. It’s going to be a raised bed, built inside the repurposed lumber that Chuck assembled so nicely. Whatever I don’t fill this fall, we’ll build up next spring.

It’s another experiment: straw bale gardening. As long as we were expanding the once-triangular plot, we decided to try the bales. A year from now, when the growing season is done, the straw-based soil will become compost for the future. Planning ahead, we are.

But stay tuned, folks. There are still piles and piles of green tomatoes ripening indoors. I’m sure there will be stories.

So, readers, what kind of autumn tasks have fallen your way? Leaves? Lawns?