The Office – not on TV, just my spare room.

It’s looking a lot better. In fact, I’m blogging from my New Office even as we speak. Desk, file drawer (one might be enough), desk chair — and more.

Summer School, here I come!

Summer School, here I come!

Back to inventory. Desk, file drawer (to the left of desk), pencils (found in file drawer) and pens (also found you-know-where), clipboard, document camera, desk chair, and pillow.



You can’t see the last line. Here’s the verse.

Rain or shine, fail or pass

With crayons or computer, lad or lass,

Teachers never lose their class.

It was a sweatshirt. La Petite made it into a pillow, and it’s perfect for a desk chair.

The room isn’t fully converted, but in my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can do whatever I want to do! (with apologies to Oscar Hammerstein, of course)

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Amigo visits – Hogwarts?

We called a cab to take us from our hotel near all the modern travel amenities (like the airport and the Mall of America) to the NFB Training Center in Minneapolis. Amigo is planning to attend one of the centers, and this one is high on the list. The taxi driver, however, wasn’t so enlightened. He fiddled with his GPS, asked us if we were sure of the address, and called his central office before he could get us on the road. When we got to the destination, I realized why he couldn’t figure it out on his own.

                         A long fence…

We walked along the stone (concrete?) fence and saw —

lions? tigers? bears? dragons?

…these creatures guarding the gates. Then up the steps to the front entrance:

I’m not sure what’s guarding the main door, but it’s big and ornate. Looking more closely, we saw this.

Can you hear it? The door carving is moaning, “Ebenezer…. Ebenezer Scrooge…”

Oops, wrong British novelist. Anyway, the mood was set.

The cabbie must have been a Muggle. The mansion was obviously Minnesota’s answer to Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, bewitched such that ordinary non-magical folk would never know it was there. If he could have seen the mansion, he might have seen this.

                              Never Tickle Sleeping Dragons.

There are too many details to share in just one post. Stay tuned: you’ll enjoy more of the Midwest’s answer to Hogwarts. Just wait. I need another butterbeer to quench my thirst before I continue.

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Lessons learned from trees and Chinese food

The decision was simple: after a rather lengthy meeting of the Public Works committee, yet another emotion-packed set of speeches dividing the neighborhood into tree-huggers and tree-lovers-not, Chuck and I decided on our default plan for supper. We drove to our favorite Chinese restaurant and ordered take-out.

We relaxed a little, nibbled on crab rangoon and sipped our wine while we waited for our order. We shared our story with Charlie, the perpetually friendly restaurant owner and bartender: Trees, no trees, small trees, big trees, red trees, blue trees, any kind of tree. Charlie told us that in Chinese culture, trees do not belong close to a house. Trees and even shrubs interfere with the natural flow of Qi, or life force energy. Charlie said that when he looks at houses, he won’t buy one with a big tree or even with shrubs and bushes clustered around the house. That gave us another whole new perspective on the issue: a big tree close to the house was not just a set of roots destroying the pipes, but an interfering factor in the life force as well.

Then our food was ready, so I swallowed the rest of my wine and we headed home.

The cookie fortunes? I’m glad you asked! Here they are:

Wise men make more opportunities than they find.

Many receive advice; only the wise profit by it. 

I think I’ll ponder the meaning of these – later. The last City Council meeting is tonight.

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The trees! Save the trees! Or… or… not.

Observe: one of the trees that our neighbor wants to save. She circulated petitions and called our alderman and forced a review of the situation. Unfortunately, she’s not thinking logically. 

A blustery day in the neighborhood

It’s a big one. The branch cracked and fell due to a wind gust – just a gust of wind on a clear but windy day.

Big tree, big branch.

In conclusion, the trees are lovely, and they’re lived good lives. Saving these trees (and tearing up the roots with the road construction) isn’t a logical decision.

Remaining limb – and proximity to wire


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I speak for (the health of) the trees!

Chuck and I attended several City Council meetings and committee meetings last fall and winter. We listened, we spoke, we discussed. Neighbors attended, too, and said their piece.

Last night as I pulled out of my driveway, a neighbor waved me over to her side of the road. “Did you hear?” she asked, her voice breaking. “We’re losing the trees!”

Let’s put it together. Our small street is up for replacement of sewer lines and utilities, followed by reconstructing and repaving. It’s time. It’ll be costly, but that’s part of home ownership in a decent neighborhood like this. The trees along the street are old and huge. Some stand higher than the two-story homes on the block. Others branch out or lean over the street.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) considered narrowing the street in order to salvage the trees nearest the road. They would narrow the road by one foot on each side, and the elderly trees could stay.

Readers, you know me well. I’m Daisy, the dirt-loving tree-hugging organic gardener on this block. I’ve taught science at four different grade levels. I own two rain barrels and two backyard compost bins. I am environmentalist: hear me roar!

But this is no time for the Lorax to make an appearance. I respect the Dr. Seuss character as I do all of the good Doc’s compassionate critters. This time, however, the emotions and the practical reality oppose each other.

The trees in question are common species. There are a few red maples, a beech, an ash, and a silver maple or two. We’re not destroying the biodiversity of the neighborhood by taking these beasts down. These trees already exist in abundance in the park two blocks away. Most neighbors have at least one other tree to shade their backyards.

Trees along roads don’t live as long as other trees. They ingest the fumes of car exhaust. Their root systems are damaged by sidewalk construction and repair. As our impending summer of the sewer goes on, another side of the tree’s root systems will suffer and weaken. Add in the potential construction of lateral sewer lines from at least two homes, and the arboreal beauties are getting undercut (literally) on three sides.

Remember last September? A short but powerful windstorm destroyed a considerable number of large, old trees in the center of our city. Now imagine the scenario. Old trees, significantly weakened by construction, remain, towering over the picturesque Victorian homes on the street. Then a storm comes. 

This is not an emotional decision. It’s practical. I taught elementary and middle school science long enough to recognize that trees, like any other living being, have a finite life cycle. Making the road smaller in order to salvage trees that are weakened on three sides does not make sense – even to this eco-green groundskeeper.

So bring it on, utility crews. Quickly, before the wealthy & influential  neighbors decide to open the issue again.

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>Green in the City

I do a lot with my small city yard. Small city, small yard, and it’s just right for our needs.

We live in an older neighborhood not far from downtown: old Victorian homes, narrow streets, parks, big trees – lovely, really. Neighborhoods near us are similar, but many don’t have yards. We are lucky. Most homes near our downtown were built in an era when garages weren’t necessary and yards were just work. Only one block away from mine, large houses overlook a gorgeous ravine, but have no place to shelter the cars. My block doesn’t have a prestigious address, but it offers great neighbors, 2-car garages, and room to grow tomatoes.
I feel very lucky to have the space we do. True big city dwellers might have a balcony if they’re lucky, and it may or may not get sun. With a little square foot style gardening and a small section of rhubarb, we get a remarkable yield from our downtown piece of land.
In my own little corner, in my own little yard, we compost, use rain barrel water, grow tomatoes, herbs, and more. I always feel a little down in the fall as I bring the pots inside and start piling leaves on top of the garden plot. It’s a bittersweet time: lovely, colorful trees surrounding dying tomato plants and zucchini vines, picking tiny beans that never got enough warmth to fully mature.
This is the time I begin looking ahead. If my ankle heals sufficiently, I’ll spread compost on the new plot to help prepare it for spring. I’ll pull the boards that make the walkways and set them aside. Eventually I’ll drain both rain barrels and turn them upside down to avoid freezing and cracking.
Yes, small city and small yard, it’s a good place for growing. We do a lot on our small plot. Winter’s coming, but I still feel that life is good.

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>Remodeling the old Homestead: the bunnies & Dr. Seuss

>While the workers are here, the Big Bunny (Buttercup) has to be caged.
Since the daughter has graduated and is moving back home, her bunnies live here, too.
The bunnies are not friends with each other. Not. At. All.

Normally, Sadie lives in our bedroom. However, we have no bedroom right now; just a collection of 2 by 4s, many of which actually measure 2 by 4 inches – But that’s another story. Temporary home for Sadie is the den, but the den doesn’t have a door. Well, not a regular door.

We’ve been keeping Buttercup in her cage while the workers pound up and down the stairs. When she’s out of her cage, we have a temporary gate on the stairs. But the day the plumber was late (tried to put off our job until later, but the inspector said “ahem, today, sir”) Chuck took pity on the poor furry creature and let her out. In his frustration that day, he sent me the following email.

Try this Mr. Fox in Socks sir:
When the summer plumbers battle over a vent-le in a stud-le and the Butter-Bunny’s running on the crumblys in the roomblys and that Butter-Bunny’s eating the wettest of the lettuce, then that’s a Summer Plumber ventle studle Butter-Bunny crumbly roombly wettest lettuce battle.

The plumbing rough-in is done and passed inspection. They
may move forward onto the next step.

Thank goodness.

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>Remodeling the old homestead: The Reality Show


Presenting: the new TV Series, Driving Ms. Daisy’s Husband Crazy!

(Actual email from Chuck after dealing with a difficult day in the remodeling process)

The wild and wacky adventures of the father and son plumbing team, Chuckles and Bo!
It’s Two and a Half men, but the extra half is the big guy’s gut.
Reminiscent of Martin and Lewis, Laurel and Hardy, Sherri Lewis and Porkchop (except they were cute), Gonzo and Camilla.
It’s like Kukla, Fran and Ollie and the Keystone Cops compressed down into two people
The entire Muppet show on the road in a plumbing truck.

Enjoy classic comedic lines like:
“Phooey, we have to move the potty.”
“Hold on! I think I hit cement.” (Remember, they’re on the second floor of a wood frame house.)
“Hand me the saw up through the potty hole.”
“Hey! What’s going beep beep beep in the dumpster?”

Yes, it’s potty humor at its best. 9pm/8 central, right after America’s Funniest Home Videos. Pipe down; I want to hear the theme song!

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>Remodeling the Old Homestead: During

>Want brick and mortar? I’ll give you brick and mortar. This is in what’s left of the master bedroom; it’s the chimney. See those 2X4s? They really measure 2″ by 4″. Yes, they’re that old.

This is what remains of the bathroom.

When was this tile put in? Any ideas? It was under carpet since the 1970s at least.

And last, but not least, here’s the hallway. On the left is the new bathroom. On the right will be the new laundry. Straight ahead? The main bedroom still stands, without walls. The bedroom without walls; couldn’t that be a country tune? No, never mind.

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