Sweet William and some John Hartford.

There’s folks building homes as sweet as can be
They’re leveling their yards and planting their trees
But my little hut, I’ll just let it be
Lord Jesus is building a mansion for me

Mansions for Me, Bill Monroe

Joe has been planting trees and fruit brambles (does thornless also mean bramble-less?) and I finally have my garden planted. It was hot and dry and now it is cool and rainy. Maybe a false start to summer, but I am happy to be reminded I don’t get to be in charge of any of it. My little hut, I’ll just let it be…

My garden dirt is so happy though! I’ve never in my life had more crumbly, beautiful dirt. Between the topsoil last year on our no-till, cardboard beds, and the lovely compost from our wildflower nursery neighbors, it is excellent. I made a bunch of mounds to start melon seeds on and I’ll transplant the seedlings to the fence if they come out strong.

I tried to switch up the hugelkultur beds—if it had tomatoes last year, I moved in carrots and lettuce instead. Cabbage is with the onions; broccoli is minding its own business. I had done some lasagna method layering back in the fall with newspaper and straw and then I fluffed it all up last month. It didn’t break down completely but all the seeds I’ve tossed on top seem to quickly root and sprout up.

Over in the topsoil/compost area the beans look happy (they always do in the beginning) and I’ve got more hot peppers than I know what to do with—I think I was suckered in by the writing on the back of the package, pairs wonderfully with couscous! Dang you, Baker Creek heirloom seed marketing team.
I even planted corn for Joe in the best part of the garden—love is sacrifice, no? We will see how it grows.

May garden! Notice the cardboard along the edges.

I am stuffing bits of cardboard along the edge of my fencing to smother the weeds that want to join the fun. If I can just keep ahead of the weeds!

Last year I sprinkled a wild flower mix between the corn and sunflowers because we were going to set up our beehive by the garden. (This was idealistic, Colorado thinking at its best. Who in their right Midwest mind sprinkles glorified weeds in their vegetable garden?! In the mountains, it made sense.) Well, we ended up with the bees by the back barn but now the second year perennial flowers are popping up. I’ve got Sweet William and Siberian wallflowers and daisies—only one variety is worth keeping.

Sweet William. Before they bloomed I had no idea what they were because they have a really neat green tuft like a paintbrush!

I am so tickled to be out of school for summer. I was working my tail off and getting discouraged with the politics and educational misnomers. It is a breath of fresh air to make food and wash dishes and weed the garden. I stay up late and watch NBA finals with Jubal and read books out loud on the porch (Henry and Beezus).
Luke is channeling his inner John Hartford. Jubal is giving guitar lessons. FC turns on the Korg and will play all day if I don’t holler at him to turn it off. Gretty has been picking out Boil That Cabbage Down on her tiny fiddle. And if they do all the music and their chores I let them play Minecraft and Star Wars on the PS4. Maybe. (Ha.)

Ah, May!

Youtubers, Outliers, Fall Cleanup

Thank goodness for high school girls’ softball—today we get a day off school because our champs are headed to the final four—first time in school history. I pulled my boots over my sweatpants and dug up some dahlia roots in the garden and put them in the barn to dry, felled the okra “trees”, and tossed out tomatoes.
They say tomatoes really deplete soil nutrients, so I’m thinking of filling the beds with tulips for spring. I’ve probably got a hundred bulbs, I just need to get them discreetly in the ground before Minnie thinks she can help.

We really needed a break. Last week was the end of first quarter, with parent teacher conferences. A few of us teachers also caught a stomach bug rounded out with a head cold. I soldiered through because we all know what a mess it is to do sub plans. At our school the Title teachers end up subbing specials (art, music, P.E., library), which means the sub plans are hardly followed. To toss another wrench into the mix, all of my classes have been split into half hour periods instead of one-hour chunks, so I see double the kids each day. There are pros and cons—it makes for more efficient lesson delivery, but it also adds a lot of chaos and planning.

I’m trying to see all the benefits. This week I had some epic rap battles with my 5th and 6th graders. I only teach recorder to fourth graders for a blissful 30 minutes (they are mostly terrible listeners so even playing “The Annoying Siren Song”—look it up, a Mr. Henry fave—is torture when it should be fun) and my 2nd and 3rd graders will do anything to get to play with boomwhackers. First grade is working on a music video to go along with I Was Born (Hanson for the win) and kindergarten is practicing a song for the Veteran’s Day assembly. Whenever I get worn out from the incessant talking (both mine and theirs), I do read-aloud books.
I fly so so so under the radar and I need to be more thankful for it. No one is putting pressure on me to turn out outstanding musicians, no one is breathing down my neck or adding stuff to my schedule. My planning period is in the morning and the only grades I give out are quarterly pass/fail.

I read a Malcom Gladwell book this week, Outliers: The Story of Success, and he remarks,

[These] three things—autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward—are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying. It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether our work fulfills us…
Work that fulfills those three criteria is meaningful. Being a teacher is meaningful.

Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers

When I think of working at school, I’ve got to admit all these requirements for meaningful work are met, especially the connection between reward and effort. The kids (mostly) love me and I (mostly) love them. They are all learning, they are all growing, and that makes my effort well worth it. But I also found my life pre-teaching to be meaningful. I love a Friday off where I can can cook good food and clean my house and pull up my garden in the sunshine. And I always have a hundred things on my to-do list that don’t involve teaching. Would it be more meaningful? Maybe, but maybe not. It might require more of the on-the-radar presence—the kind the hermit part of me really doesn’t like.

But speaking of being on the radar, last Friday I was changing my mandolin strings with Jubal and we accidentally did something dumb which made the bridge fly off. So we YouTubed the situation and a channel with a guy named Jerry popped up. He had a ton of videos that skirted around the issue of fixing the bridge, but he obviously was an expert. Jubal looked the guy up and it turned out he didn’t live too far away, so we called his shop and asked if we could come down.

Next thing we knew, we were visiting with Mr. Jerry and learning all about intonation and bridge placement and strings. Then he asked if Jubal could play it for him for his Youtube channel. Ha!

When I told my kids at school the next day, they couldn’t believe it, because getting to meet a “real Youtuber” is like meeting Michael Jordan. And getting to be featured on a “real Youtuber’s” channel is like getting drafted in the NFL.

In Outliers, Gladwell concludes that success isn’t like winning the lottery, but more about finding yourself in the right place at the right time and seizing the opportunities offered then and there. I chuckle sometimes when I think about the opportunities we have totally missed out on and all our poor timing. In hindsight, a lot that has happened in our family’s life seems to be bad luck. Like how we left the southwest right when our kids were getting old enough to handle adventures. Or how Jubal’s cello teacher for two years in Denver was a mandolin player (what in the world). How we paid off our debt and then bought an old money-sucker of a farmhouse. How we have some super bright kiddos and we pulled them out of GT magnet schools to end up in the sticks where there aren’t enrichment programs. How Joe has a career now where he has lots of freedom and traveling and we could go with him except now I’m teaching at a public school. How I have property to cultivate and yet I’ve committed myself to a job where I’m never at home.

But missed opportunities and poor timing are muddled together with a wonderful life. Every time I’ve left something behind, a new something pops up.

How does your garden grow, music teacher?

One week away at school and the hornworms will play! Also the squash borers, weeds, and every pest known to man. My unpicked okra were like a foot long by Friday.

There’s hardly a chance I’ll get to the garden, so exhausting was my first week of school.
That said, it turns out and I’m hesitant to even say it: I sort of love teaching in the public school. It’s like me getting to dream up the funnest, most creative ideas in the world and then try to make them happen with real people in real life. I’m not at home, an anxious mess overthinking and obsessing every little detail of my four kids’ superior education and hoping I’m not screwing them up. Instead they are happy and thriving and conquering and learning and so am I! They’re still reading hundreds of books and playing music and driving me crazy, but once again there’s order and routine! Pinch me!
(But don’t pinch me, because I’ve done something bad enough to my back or hip that I’m worried about my future when it comes to passing out 23 glockenspiels every hour, eek!)

I’ve learned so many lessons from my first week. I thought about writing the principal some “music notes” every week but can’t commit to it. If I can keep a little journal I’ll be happy. Score for this week: one upset parent email (forwarded to the principal who graciously helped me figure out what to do) and two crying students.
I felt badly and spent one evening crying about the email (Joe was out of town for work so he couldn’t talk me off the cliff) but I have wonderful coworkers and friends who’ve assured me that those are good numbers for having seen over 300 students. I played Hanson and opera and Raffi and Billie Eilish (calm down, just Ocean Eyes). We sang solfège and played Row Your Boat with boomwhackers. We passed playdoh balls and an eggplant and squash and told funny things about ourselves. I can be silly and goofy and kids still think I’m awesome. I don’t have to impress any grownups or pretend I’m somebody I’m not. I am winning the lottery here, best job ever. Pray for my back!

You know how crazy it is to make plans? Well, right at the point in our lives we were able to break away from the steadiest of monotonous lifestyle, and all of the city work/school grind—that’s when we ended up moving to Honey Creek. In this beautiful place where it appeared as if the great pandemic had never happened, Joe became a work-at-homer and we settled onto forty acres where kids and crops and animals could grow and roam and suffer grass allergies to the point of misery. I could’ve become the next JK Rowling, hiding myself away in a locked room and writing middle school novels (the least realistic of possibilities, but a gal can dream). I could’ve turned the barns into a wedding venue. I could’ve started a catering company or planted a vineyard. I could be the hermit I long to be with minimal outside interaction. Heck, we could’ve legit homeschooled and traveled on a weekly basis, tagging along with Joe on his work trips near and far.

And what did I do? I put my kids in public school and got a teaching job. Locked in at the most opportune time to be untethered.
Joe’s work has an opening in Kauai right now—that’s what I’m trying to say. We could actually move to Hawaii at this point in our life. And wouldn’t you know we just installed solar panels, I have a contract for the next 10 months, and a very happy junior high boy who just made the ball team.

Does this make us farmers? I texted a buddy the picture and said “where your solar panels are, there is your heart also, or something like that”

I think God works just this way, probably to show us what’s best. You could have it all in Kauai, but you could have it all right here too. Not that I’m saying I wouldn’t go to Kauai, but that’s just what I’d expect God to do: put a person solidly in a spot where He calls them. One of those laying aside your own desires for the Better thing.
Don’t judge me if we end up moving to Kauai.

Joe says he’s pretty sure there are no allergies in Kauai. True/false?

Burpee Jack Be Little pumpkins. Indestructible!
Burpee Piñata Blend Hot Peppers. I didn’t get any red or yellows but the green and purple are super hot. Youch!
Ferry-Morse Sugar Baby Watermelon. Cute as can be—we finally got a beautiful ripe one that was juicy and delicious!

Happy Radish Day and June gardens

I remember trying to explain midwestern crawl to my friend Kendall when we lived in the mountains of Colorado—how you are always cutting things back or it will become overgrown in a heartbeat. I told her of houses that would disappear in a summer, the result of abandonment and a few invasive vines and bushes. She really couldn’t believe it.
Colorado is a land where your grass must be watered if it expects to be mowed, and water is a restricted resource.

May 29 garden, a few corn sprouts.
June 21 garden, the time of year where regret over weed barrier vs. “naw, it’ll be fine” begins to kick in.

We have an abundance of water and sunshine here. I still can’t believe our good fortune—God has sprinkled Miracle-Gro on every part of life and made it explode with good things (except not Miracle-Gro, probably, as my mother reminds me it only makes the foliage bigger and not the actual blossoms or fruit. Doggone you, Miracle-Gro).

Happy Radish Day, May 18! 22 days after planting! We mark our calendar based on what the seed packet says.

We spent a week at bluegrass camp (video here) and came back to real summer, the kind where you wish you’d put a swimming pool in the backyard instead of a garden. I think Thoreau said something about life being better lived standing up than sitting down writing about it, and we’ve been doing lots of standing up.
I learned how to edit videos and sync audio and it took a blessed forever. But it’ll probably come in handy so I’m glad to have a little sound system and Adobe skills in my back pocket.

The quiet kind of un-farming life I pictured has been replaced with an elementary music teacher position, so I am scrambling to become a person I never dreamed becoming; that is, a legit public school teacher. (One who needs to know more music theory than a person such as I knows.) The advantages are as follows: it is a country school, I know slightly more than the previous teacher, I have a certificate, and I can get kids to sing. If all else fails, I can pull my seventh grader from class to help. I’ll probably elaborate on this career change over on The Average Pearl when I get some more quiet time to think about what it all entails. I’ve already fallen a month behind on that blog, too, but these things happen.

Wisteria: another fragrant, beautiful vine one must continually hack at or it will take over your life.