Solar Production 2016 and 2018

Solar Production 2016 and 2018

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Emporia, Kansas

             Emporia Kansas has a memorial to fallen teachers on its campus. It is a replica of a one room schoolhouse set on a knoll, with a pair of black granite plinths carved with names. It is on the edge of town; the highway purrs in the distance beside the football fields on one side, on the other is an empty parking lot. .  It was a still peaceful evening. School was not in session in late June.113 names on the two slabs, 113 adults who died in school,  protecting their children they were hired to keep safe—and most of them have been added in the years since I began teaching.  We studied them—there was a clump of deaths in Texas back in the 1930s—but the rest of the names were familiar, even though we had forgotten—how can you forget?—a few. Springfield. Columbine.  Roseburg. Sandy Hook.         

I was a fairly new teacher when Kip Kinkel walked into a high school in Springfield Oregon, about fifty miles south of here.  The idea that a student would walk into a middle class suburban school and begin shooting was unfathomable. There had been shootings Near schools before, of course, but not At school. It was different. Not a pattern. After Columbine happened, one of my ninth grade girls, given to drama, was afraid to walk across the quad to the counseling office. “What if a shooter came in?” she asked. I assured her that she would be fine and sent her on her way. Schools began to search for patterns, to interview kids who wore trench coats and failed English class, who were not engaged. The biggest change, though, was that kids stopped wearing trench coats. No positive changes in the gun laws. No increase in mental health screenings.  Then the Two Towers came down and our attention shifted elsewhere.

              I have been teaching for twenty years now. I have distinct memories of at least two students ho terrified me because there was nothing behind their eyes. They never did anything in my class to raise suspicions, but I watched them closely anyways.  We all know these kids, like we know the ones who shine so brightly in our classrooms.  And the unfathomable is now….commonplace. Another shooting? We say. Something has got to change. But nothing does.  This behavior is now normal. And my confidence that we will be fine, that we are safe at school—or in any big crowd of people-- has slipped away. I don’t think I would send a young girl worried about a shooter out into the building these days. I’d let her stay where she felt safe, at least for a little while.  Because I know, now, that it is just a matter of time. It could happen here.  And we would just be more names on the plinth.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Owl Calls

February is a lovely season. Once the pruning is done, there’s not a lot of garden work yet, so there is time for long winter walks. This afternoon, after the laundry was folded, groceries, purchased, house cleaned, and starts moved inside (it has been nippy at night, we went for a walk. The day was kind of grim—forty degrees and cloudy—but that’s what wool hats are for.  We headed up to Dimple Hill from Oak creek, a steady slow climb for about two and a half miles, with a view over the valley. This time of year, we stick to the old logging roads to avoid mud pits. As we climbed, we covered the local, nation, and international scene, decided that “working from what’s working” and “raising the lowest boat” were not in direct opposition to one another, and considered dinner. Our voices rang through the woods. It was cold to start with, but we shed layers as we climbed. The top of Dimple Hill was clear. We could see over the entire valley from our bench in the trees; we quickly put our layers back on in the light breeze. Spring Queen crowned the hills; small purple flowers that bloom early in sheltered spots. The peace enveloped us.

On the way down, we were silent. At first, there was only the sound of our feet, left, right, left right, on the gravel road. Crunch, crunch. Crunch, crunch. We turned the bend and into the valley. A barred owl called from one ridge. My ridge, my ridge, he claimed. Left foot, right foot. Crunch, crunch. A second owl, from the other side, responded. My ridge, my ridge. Soon, we had debating owls. Left ear, right ear. My ridge, my ridge. We dropped down further and picked up the sound of Oak creek. Stream on one side, rivulets on the other. Left ear—my ridge, rivulet, gravel underfoot. Right ear—my ridge, stream, gravel underfoot. The rhythm deepened. Then the sun came out and turned all of the trees, wearing moss like old wooly sweaters, a brilliant shade of green. The ferns perked up and glowed deeper. The usnea, hanging from the trees in long, spooky drifts, turned from grey to green.  The forest glowed and echoed with winter life. Owls, streams, feet on gravel.
Then, the sun descended behind the ridge. The temperature dropped.  The owls stopped their debate. The road widened. We could see the gate ahead, and, beyond it, the parking lot.  And we were left with the sound of our own feet, once again, on the gravel.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Slug Prevention

It is that time of year—one warm dry weekend and gardeners want to get out and Plant! At least some lettuce seed.  Start the garden….but then, there are the slugs. How to avoid having your entire crop munched down to nothing overnight?

 I’ve fought this battle for years. When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest, I had never encountered hungry slugs. There would be one or two climbing around the garbage pails in New England, but nothing like the herd that slides through the garden every night here. My beans were munched down to stumps in two hours.  I went out with a flashlight and spotted them—tiny, slimy grey creatures with little horns seeking anything green. They lurked under the parsley during the day.  I stalked them with a fork and jar of soapy water, but that gave me nightmares. I tried beer traps, but that didn’t work. The slugs perched on the lid and looked down into the pool, but never dove. I sprinkled sluggo, which helped, but not enough. I still lost crops.

One year, I replanted a row of beans a few weeks later and they jumped out of the ground and put on a leaf a day, healthy and unmunched. What was different here? Timing. When I planted my seeds or seedlings when the ground was warm enough for them and there was enough light to support vigorous growth, they outgrew the slug munch. It was a revelation.

In retrospect, it seems obvious. Gardeners have been gardening for hundreds of years, planting seeds at the recommended times. If there was a way to push the season forward, it would already be discovered. Nineteenth century farmers were far more eager for the first green sprouts than I am; they did not have access to the grocery store. The collective knowledge is far greater than my own. I need to heed it. So, now, I let my garden be during those first, false warm days in late January. I repair the raised beds, maybe build a trellis, dream over the seed catalogs, or take a long walk in the woods. In early February, I will plant the first round of spring crops in six-packs and raise them under lights in my classroom.  But nothing goes in the ground until late March.  It’s not perfect, but I am no longer stalking slugs by a dim flashlight before bedtime.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Women's March, Corvallis

The Women’s March came to Corvallis on Saturday; when it was clear that Portland was not going to be able to organize a march, Corvallis—and many other smaller cities—stepped up and organized their own, a classic example of Thinking Globally and Acting Locally.

Corvallis is not a loud marching city. We do not shout “This is what democracy looks like” along the entire marching route, even when the organizers set the stage. We are civil, introverted, earnest engineering types. Our premier celebration was, for years, a combination of art and engineering, of lectures and music, where men in shorts and sandals discussed the viscosity of mud while watching human powered vehicles work their way through said mud on a sunny Sunday morning. We tend to walk quietly, talking to our fellow marchers, admiring the clever signs. There are a lot of dogs along for the walk.

Corvallis, however, does know what democracy looks like. Some days, it is a wall of humanity, mostly in pink and red, densely packed on the sidewalks through the park, listening to speeches, avoiding the muddy grass. Other days, it is the Raging Grannies, in full regalia, singing “Which Side Are You On” to the city council before a vote on sanctuary cities. Or it’s a scientist handing out photographs of stream erosion and channeling to the planning commission while they debate an annexation further upstream. It’s a series of letters to the editor on a local ballot measure. It’s the longest running anti-war protest in front of the courthouse, every evening from five to six.  It’s a group of people showing up to move the chairs around for an eco-film festival right after the space empties out from a modern dance lesson.  It is the thousands of hours Corvallis residents spend, every year, working in small and large  groups to make the city, the country, the world a better place. We don’t always agree on what that looks like, so it can be a messy, time consuming process but it is Democracy. And, on Saturday, it wore a hand-knit pink hat.  

Monday, January 15, 2018

Seed Planning

Seed Ordering season is upon us. There’s a whole process involved.

1      1.    Draw the garden map for the year. Rotate the potatoes to the next two beds in line and then place the other crop families accordingly. In theory, it all shifts two beds to the back each year.
2       2.     Decide on the year’s crops. Make a chart.
3       3.    Inventory the seeds in the tin. Toss the very old seed packets. Shake out the dirt that has collected in the bottom.
4      4.  Look through every seed catalog that has arrived and mark all of the tempting seeds.
5      5. Be realistic—cowpeas do not even germinate in the back yard.
6      6.     Narrow the search, decide of the varieties. Write them in the chart.
7      7.     Meet with friends to consolidate orders.
8       8.   Order seeds.

9       9.   Continue to read the catalogs. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

New Years Day

                New Years Day broke golden and pink this year as we rolled out of bed to prepare for our long walk. Right after dawn, the clouds dropped down to ground level, blanketing the world in silvery fog and frosting the twigs and branches. We ate hot oatmeal and made a large pot of tea, planning on having left-overs for the trail. By nine am, friends had gathered--- six people and two dogs—all bundled in layers of rain gear and wool. Even the dogs were dressed for the weather.  We piled into cars and headed for the trailhead, watching the sun burn away the fog in a few clearings. It would be a beautiful day.

                Our walk started at Oak Creek trailhead, climbing steadily up an old logging road along a creek, passing maples and alders, then moving into doug fir, all covered in fat, bright green winter moss. Ferns   blanket the ground and the understory of Indian Plum and other shrubs faded away, leafless and still. There were others on the trail as well—older men on bicycles, families walking the dog, women chatting cheerfully….and hour later, we emerged on the top of Dimple Hill in full sun. Below, the  valley was still covered in the thick fog, and just a few other hills, like islands, peaked above. Sun and snacks, then down into the Saddle, another long walk through Doug fir forest along the logging roads. This part of the forest has been thinned recently, and, right before the crossing road, a clear cut patch allowed us to see across the entire Willamette Valley to the Three Sisters and Mount Jefferson, covered in snow.  Because we were at the half way pint, it was time for Lunch!  Two more people joined us and added another dog to the mix.

              After lunch, we settled into the quiet rhythm of the Long Walk. Even the dogs began to pace themselves, instead of running madly after every stick and scent on the trail. The light shifted to late afternoon by one thirty, backlighting the mosses brilliant green.  The air was chilly, but still. The trail followed the contour of the ridgeline, rising then falling towards the arboretum and the end of the walk. We turned steeply downward, following a path through thinned forest until we reached the unchanged section of the woods. Yews and big leaf maples twisted and turned, searching for the best light under the fir canopy.  Mosses and ferns held the ground together.  We crossed a stream, though about what would bloom there come springtime, and came down to the pond at the base of the hill. By now, it was chilly; the dogs did not jump into the water. We circled the pond and walked the last half mile to the trailhead. There is something satisfying about walking the ridgeline of your homerange on New Year’s Day; the traverse grounds you to your place in a new way.
  Mark and I came home to black eyed peas cooked with onions and garlic in the crockpot, added collards from the last garden plant and some tomatoes from the basement shelf, and made cornbread from the last of our home-grown cornmeal. I built a fire and the cats gathered around.  After dinner, I read another section of of A Christmas Carol aloud and spent a peaceful half an hour contemplating new tomato varieties in the seed catalogs.  A new year has begun.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Love About Life

Every year, I have my ninth grade students make lists of what they love about their lives...the more specific, the better.

This is my week:

I love my room when it is raining hard outside, gold light inside, and everyone is working on an assignment that takes some serious thought to do, but not to grade. The room hums.

I love walking to work in the morning and seeing Christmas lights gleaming through the dawn mist on the other side of the park.

I love sitting in the (very warm) balcony of our old movie theater, surrounded by people wearing Santa Hats, all watching "It's a Wonderful Life" and hissing at Mr Potter and cheering at the bank bailout and amazing speech.

I love watching the elk herd watch us while we all listen t the geese settle in for the night on the marsh. Twilight.

I love having a second pot of tea while visiting old friends.

I love stollen, baked on Christmas Eve. I also love the idea that, although four or five of us started with the same recipe, it has evolved in all of our houses.

I love the silence that falls when everyone at the table has a full plate.

I love fuzzy pants in the evening.