Get outta my compost, punk!

I like my small compost bin most of the time. In winter, I park it right next to the driveway and close to the house so I can fill it up without trudging through (much) snow. The down side to my small composter is, without a doubt, the opening in the back. It’s lightweight, and it bulges out when the bin is full. That gives any wandering critter with opposable thumbs access to the goodies that haven’t yet decomposed. See for yourself.

Growl. Getting eggshells out of the wood chips – ugh.

I picked up what I could and tossed it back in the bin. I straightened out the back piece as much as possible. And then I did what I could to brace that back opening and make it less accessible to small furry bandits. Er, critters.

The temporary solution!

A couple of old campaign sign wires, a shepherd’s crook complete with wind chimes, and I think I have this thing put back together.

As for a more permanent solution, I’ll share soon. Here’s a hint: we made a trip to one of my favorite shopping centers: Fleet Farm.

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The 40 Bag Project and Books

I’m making a serious effort to keep up with this de-cluttering project. I had a rough morning today, though. I decided to go through a box of books leftover from my classroom days. Classroom libraries are a source of joy and a major cost factor for most teachers. I managed to donate mine to a new teacher when I moved to teaching online, but there are still a few boxes in the house. I went through one this morning. It wasn’t easy.

I listed several on my Paperbackswap account. One has already been requested. I have great hopes for more to fly out the door by way of the Post Office. There were a few, however, that I couldn’t post.

Three didn’t have ISBN numbers. Yes, readers, I have books old enough that they don’t carry that magic number. Without it, I couldn’t post them on the swap site.

Then there was the domino effect. I attempted to stack the new entries in the bookshelf with the others, but there wasn’t enough room. My solution: sort through the contents of the shelf and make room. I managed to group several folders together so they didn’t take up quite as much space, and I also found ancient paperwork worthy of the shredder. I reorganized so that all garden-themed books (not going anywhere, thank you very much) have one section of the shelves and all textbook types are together in another.

At this point the table was covered with piles of books and my laptop, open to the “Post Books” tab on Paperback Swap. Craziness, eh? More so than you realize; we had a meeting scheduled in less than an hour and we’d need the table by then. I did manage to get the books back on a shelf, power down and stash the laptop, and wipe down the table before our meeting began.

And I haven’t even mentioned the books I didn’t post or set aside for an upcoming rummage sale: a Leo Lionni, a Tomie dePaola Strega Nona book, and a couple more that need to be stored with others of their kind in the attic.

Books. It’s not easy being green when it comes to literature. I might sort through the garden stack again – or maybe not. It’s a good season for selling those to Half Price Books; it’s also a good season to browse through a few of my favorites.

Books. It’s not easy being green when it comes to the written word. Heaven help me if I ever have to decide between books and shoes for shelf space.

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The Daisy Reality Show Returns and Reminisces

Readers, if you haven’t been around long enough to recognize the Daisy Reality Show, here’s a brief introduction.

Daisy (yours truly) hosts a reality show at the O.K. Chorale. The show’s director and her bumbling assistant keep the show on track and provide a running commentary off-screen. This episode “aired” in late summer of 2013, two years before the surprise guest was recruited to become Speaker of the House. Oh, sorry. Was that a spoiler? Well, here goes.

Daisy: I’m baking cookies this afternoon. We have no snack foods worth eating. Well, few snack foods in the house. Peanuts, cashews, the makings for trail mix – that’s it.

Assistant: I see chips. What’s wrong with potato chips?

He had to ask, didn’t he?

Daisy: It’s like Michael Pollan says in his Food Rules: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. In this case, I’m following his advice that whole foods are better than processed foods and junk food is okay in moderation when I make it myself.

Assistant (pretending to understand): Oh.

Daisy’s cell phone chirps, indicating a text message. 

Daisy: Oh, it’s La Petite. She says:

So we were sitting at the fair eating ice cream and I spotted something terrifying — Paul Ryan.

Daisy (Laughing): That’s my daughter, a good progressive young woman! I’ll respond and tell her to run, run fast, run far in the other direction.

Director: Oh, I remember you were a volunteer for Obama last year. Was it really only a year ago?

Daisy (texting): It’s been a very full year. La Petite lives in Paul Ryan’s congressional district, and she took great pleasure in voting against him twice last November.

Assistant: She voted twice? Daisy’s phone chirps again. 

Daisy: Here’s the next one!

I was walking towards him to document this with my camera and cousin Doodles, age 2, followed. Her mom was all like, “No, nooooo! Don’t get too close!”

And then, after Daisy responds with “He didn’t try to talk to her, did he? Scary.”

No, I didn’t want to talk to him either, so I stayed my distance. Took a photo of people in line to greet him.

Assistant: Twice? Is that legal?

Daisy: She voted for his opposition in two different races — Congress and Vice President.

Assistant: Oh. Um — never mind. Oh.

Daisy: Back to cookies! Real food for snacks at the O.K. Chorale.

Director: Camera One, zoom in on the cookbook.

Daisy: The recipe is on my blog.

Director: Camera One, zoom in on the laptop on the kitchen counter.

Readers, with the exception of the reality show, this post is entirely true. Cookies can be a good snack, I looked up the recipe on a previous post of Compost Happens, and La Petite really did text me the conversation above. She was mixing work with pleasure by photographing the county fair for the local paper and spending time there with her adorable toddler cousin and family.  

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40 Bags in – Well, Approaching 40 Bags.

The 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge got difficult about a week ago. Chuck and I kind of hit the wall. Part of that was schedule related. I had some long days and a lot of grading to do. Chuck was working some mandatory overtime, and he needed to carve out time to sleep somewhere in his 24 hour cycles. Excuses aside, we weren’t keeping up.

And then Chuck started the Piano Project. We’ve been looking at our antique baby grand piano, a lovely piece of furniture with many memories, just as lovely. No one in the home currently plays piano, unless it’s in the guise of helping Amigo learn his barbershop music. For that purpose, we bought a Yamaha electronic keyboard. It works well and takes up very little space.

The piano is now destined to be repurposed and upcycled. Can an object be both? This one can. Chuck is currently taking it apart, piece by piece, with a goal of creating bookshelves. As he’s working, we are storing all the pieces. This isn’t helping the de-junking project, but it is going to help create space in a big way.

What’s that keyboard doing on my fireplace mantel?

The felt hammers needed to rest in the living room. That’s Amigo’s Spark Plug award on the left, a white elephant gift in the middle, and a cactus on the right.

A cactus in a tuba. Every home should have one.

Meanwhile, Chuck is working diligently to loosen the strings and remove the sound board of this lovely instrument. I pulled out the dampers today and set them aside.

When the project is done, I’ll post a few “After” shots. I think you’ll like it, readers. Maybe you’ll even forget that I didn’t make it to 40 bags in 40 days. Instead, we attacked a major family project.

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The Exceptions, Thank Goodness.

I’ve been overheard at school saying, “It feels like I’m continually bringing my horses to water, but they just won’t drink.” I’m reaching out, making calls, sending emails, and I have to admit that most of my efforts are working. I’ve gotten through to parents and students by phone and by email. Several respond well when I invite them to a small group session, and those who attend and participate seem to get the material and improve their work accordingly.

And then there are the exceptions. Those who plagiarize. Those who make things up. Babble on aimlessly. Have no clue, but write a goofy answer.

Here’s an example. The student was supposed to compare and contrast the book she was reading on her own to one of the selections she’d read in class – any of the selections she’d read since January.

the story grabbed my attention because it was a good story and it had good words and good verbs and the story was a good story for kids.

Yeah, you guessed it. She earned 0 points for that answer. Another student tried, at least.

This book has garbed my attention

I’d chalk it up to a typo, but she wrote “garbed” again later in the answer.

Then there was the youngster who wrote an essay about playing soccer and ended it with “Trump: Making soccer great again.” Huh?!?

It’s plagiarism that gets me the most. We use a plagiarism checker to seek out and reveal work that may have been copied from Internet sources. Whether it’s the dreaded Wikipedia or a paper mill that writes and sells essays, Turn It In dot com will find it. In the past three days I’ve had three major incidents of plagiarism. At 53%, 87%, and 92% copied, I couldn’t let any of these go. Had they been borderline, with the only copied material names and places and direct quotes, I could have pointed out the results and reminded the students to give credit where credit was due. But with more than half of an assignment taken directly, word for word, I had to go through plagiarism protocol with each student. I called each one, spoke with the student and the parent learning coach, and then told the students they needed to redo the assignments. And then, to make it official, I recorded the offense in our google sheet for such offenses. Thank goodness, each was a first offense.

I cope with the stress of these incidents by taking breaks from grading. I’ll deal with a difficult situation, and then I’ll take a short walk away from my desk. I’ll pick up any printing, rinse my coffee cups, refill my water bottle, and then head back to my computer. I’ll take a deep breath and then attack the grade book again.

I’ll also remind myself that these kids are the exception, not the norm. Out of 45 essays and 45 Social Studies projects, if only three are copied, I ought to consider it a decent ratio. Maybe. The truth is, I’ll be satisfied when we reach 0% plagiarism. Zero.

As for the others? I wish they’d stick to making their own writing great, much less great again.

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40 Bags in 40 Days

Final Jeopardy Category was Religion. The answer read, “Famous Catholics who’ve publicly answered this question include Susan Boyle (sweets) & Paul Ryan (beer).” The question?

“What are you giving up for Lent?” Of course. Now if you’re not Catholic (I’m not), Lent might not be a time of personal sacrifice. In Wisconsin, Lent might be an opportunity to find the best Friday Fish Fries.

Let’s go a different angle on the “giving up” philosophy. I’ve been slowly and steadily de-junking and de-cluttering our home. My process is fairly simple. I keep an old, worn out laundry basket in my closet, and every time I find something to donate to a thrift store, it goes in the basket. When the basket is full, I take inventory and go to a donation site. The basket doesn’t come home, either – it was worn out or breaking apart, anyway.

I saw the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge and thought, “Sure, why not? This will speed up the process of what I’m already doing. Maybe my blogger and reader friends would like to join in, too.” So just in case you’re interested, here are the main links.

Here’s the basic explanation.

You can also like or follow her Facebook page.

Rather than throw out or donate a full bag each day, I’m either throwing something away, tossing a stack into the donation basket, or setting aside something for a potential summer garage sale. No matter what, the “something” will be significant. A tiny key ring or scarf will not be enough to qualify. Can the significance be emotional rather than size? Maybe. I’ll see how it goes.

I started today by sorting through a basket of linens I bought at an online estate auction. The napkins I’ll keep. The bandannas from various fundraisers will go in the donation basket. The basket itself will go out in the sale in June. The scarves? I don’t know yet. I might run them through the laundry and then decide if I’ll wear them, sell them, or send them off in the basket.

I’m not ending with a question for you, readers, not this time. I’m asking myself: can I make it? My prediction is yes. After all, I’m still making room for all the canning jars I bought a few months ago.

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Warm Weather Wonders

I didn’t grab a jacket or gloves as I left the house. The air was so refreshingly warm! But then I wondered – is this a February thaw, or is this due to global warming?

I planted seeds and put the containers under the grow lights. This much is typical for February. Then I wondered – could I actually put these outside for a few hours? And I thought, this is strange. Very strange.

We went to a neighborhood brewpub for supper and stumbled into live music. Fun! The place left their entrances wide open. When we left, we heard a scooter drive by – in February. And I wondered – is this the new normal?

The aroma of a wood fire was strong in our neighborhood. I know of at least four outdoor fireplaces or fire pits. If this keeps up, we might even start using ours. Oh, dear. Then I looked at the calendar and wondered – What kind of cause and effect relationship is going on here? This odd warming trend just isn’t right.

And that, my friends, is the way it is. We might be enjoying a short thaw and warming trend, but the overall climate changes are nothing to enjoy in the long run.

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The Book Club – Dystopian or Apocalyptic?

It’s not an annotated bibliography, but a short plot summary for each should do.

Phoenix Rising, by Karen Hesse. Nuclear meltdown in a nearby power plant puts a whole community at risk of fallout contamination. Told from the perspective of a teen girl, this story will both touch and frighten readers. Masks, Geiger counters, and other protective gear become everyday items. When her family takes in a boy with radiation sickness, the girl starts to see the disaster with new eyes.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. If you’ve seen the movies, you’ll like the books even more. By telling the stories in first person, Collins helps readers understand Katniss’ point of view and how and why she becomes the reluctant role model for the revolution.

1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale would have to be on the high school or college list. The more recently published Cyberstorm could join those. If you’re really brave, try Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and don’t forget Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

Are you with me so far? Required reading for facing a Trump presidency will show the frightening ways that life imitates art.

I asked some of my friends on social media for suggestions.

Animal Farm becomes more relevant as Russia leans more toward its Soviet Union past. We the Living by Ayn Rand; One Second After. by William R. Forstchen. Brave New World, of course. They listed A Clockwork Orange – shudder.

Why the book list, people might ask. Why? Well, folks, I suggest that reading a few of these, followed by some serious thought and observations, might open some eyes. More than that, analysis of many of these plots has the potential to open minds.

Friends, family, readers, can you suggest other titles?

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Alternative Facts

We’ve all heard them. We disregard them, sometimes even laugh a little at the sheer ridiculousness that someone might want us to believe. Here are a few alternative facts that circulate – wherever.

One size fits all.

Easy open package.

Lifetime warranty.

Easy return policy.

Sanctuary cities are hotbeds of crime.

The dog ate my homework.

Wikipedia rocks.

Painless childbirth.

3 million undocumented immigrants voted in 2016.

Contents not included.

He must have misspoken.

Okay, readers, I’ve made my point. Can you think of others? Add comments for me, please.

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