White Noise

White Noise

There are times when you keep silent, knowing that whatever you could add to the conversation would just be more noise. There are times, however, when not making noise is giving silent approval to things that make life unlivable for people around you. This has almost never a blog about politics or society. It is mostly been about family and being a mom, and that is precisely how I knew I had to make noise. It is why I could not be silent about what has been happening to other families in Georgia and Louisville and Minneapolis.

I’m white. I live in a predominantly white state. I may have family and students of color whom I love and with whom I can sympathize. As a teacher, I can make sure that a diverse set of voices are represented in my curriculum. I can try to empathize, but I know that even empathy can’t impart how it truly feels to walk a mile, let alone thousands of miles, in any of their shoes. I know that, as a middle-aged white woman my skin color is armor. 

I first recognized the privilege that armor endows about 25 years ago, when, dressed in my grumpiest clothes and filthy vacation hair, I stopped at a convenience store to stock up for a road trip home. I wandered through the store, pulling items off shelves and putting them in my pockets as I browsed. The storekeeper ignored me, instead trailing one of my well-dressed but much darker traveling companions. I have seen it numerous times when being stopped for a broken taillight or blinker. The police officer watches me dig through my purse and assumes I’m looking for my license rather than a weapon. I was reminded of it again this week, watching with the world as another white woman deliberately weaponized her privilege against a birdwatcher of color in Central Park. 

I have also heard my privilege when listening to mothers of children of color and realizing what we have very different conversations with our children. We all tell our children to obey the law, but I tell my kids to know their rights. I’ve heard other mothers talk about the law but also about ensuring that her child knows all things he must do, about when and where he should or should not go to earn the presumption of innocence that my sons take for granted as their birthright as citizens.

 This month, I’ve also been thinking about the conversations no mother should have to have about her child. There’s the conversation that her child was executed in her own bed. There’s the conversation that her baby was gunned down while jogging. And there are the conversations about the killers who enjoy the presumption of innocence that their children never got.

 So I’m making noise. I’m bearing witness. Black lives matter. Black mothers’ children matter. 

Not Weed

Not Weed

This time last year, I would have regarded this fluffy clump as a sign that summer was officially here. This year, I’m thanking it for the hard work it’s done helping our bee population.

I think we have the dandelions to thank for it.

We’ve had apple trees since we moved here. Our plum and pear trees are old enough to flower each year, and the flowering bushes are not new. What is new this year is the profuse flowers that have appeared on every plant, attracting symphonies of laboring bees.

The dandelions seemed to arrive first in all of this miracle. I’m not sure if they brought the bees who brought the flowers or if the late snows brought the flowers who brought the bees, but the dandelions were there first.

The green in our yard can hardly be called a lawn. It gets cut once a week, but we let Mother Nature do the watering and fertilizing, so, to thank these puffs for their contribution, I decided to let them be until they’re ready to fly around the yard, setting us up for another year of miracles.

Cliquety Cluck

Cliquety Cluck

Well it was bound to happen sooner or later. Apparently you can’t assemble more than three chickens without a clique starting to click because that’s what our Rhode Island Reds have started to do. 

There are four Reds and three Americaunas.  The chicks are very sweet to us, but they’ve discovered that the tiny white flowers that are growing outside (and inside) the chicken tractor are infinitely more delicious when they are fed to you by humans on their knees (I think the Jim-Bob may have been reading to them from his soon to be published How to Have Your Human Serve You). The Americauna’s take turns yanking the flowers from our hands, but three of the Red’s, whom I am now calling the Plastics, butt in front of their smallest sister every single time.

The boys came up with a strategy of distracting the Plastics with the fluffy flowers on one side of the tractor while I feed Baby Sister her share from the other. It’s worked once or twice, but the Plastics are not your average bird brains. They seem to be catching on, and we’re scratching new ground as we start our field research into Social Emotional Learning for Chickens so our ladies can keep the peace.

Garden Journal – Straw Bale Update

Garden Journal – Straw Bale Update

When we moved to Vermont, our ZIP Code sat in a solid zone four. Now it is comfortably into zone five, and we set out seedlings a week earlier on Memorial Day weekend. Our day and nighttime temps can still be a bit bipolar, so when it looks like the nighttime lows will be below 40, I cover the tender annuals. Yesterday morning, however, I learned that, with straw bale gardening, less protection can be more.

The straw bale method involves conditioning the bales with plant food and water almost two weeks ahead of planting. This causes the straw to break down, and you are, essentially, planting your veggies in a compost heap. Like most compost heaps, the decomposing bales Start to “cook”. This means if you cover your tender annuals, like I did with the cukes pictured below, you need to make sure that they are uncovered as soon as the sun hits your garden. As you can see, I slept in a bit yesterday, and at least one of my little cukes got fried.

It’s still early enough in the season and hot enough outside that I can direct seed it to replenish, but I hate to sacrifice a soldier that was trying to serve me well.

By contrast, I did not cover the summer and winter squash or the tomatoes. Those plants were slightly bigger, and I had only so much material for protection. It was down in the low 40s on Saturday night and Sunday night, and I knew I was gambling.

When I walked out to the garden in the morning, however, this was the sunshine that greeted me:

I took a little trip to the back of the garden to check on the tomatoes, and every single one of them was getting ready to salute the sun:

The tomatoes do have weed block around them, but the real heat is coming from the bales.

Later in the day I went back to visit the garden –– I visit to talk to the plants and the bees in the nearby apple trees a few times a day – and while I highly recommend talking to plants and bees regularly for your mental well-being, my straw bales blessed me at the end of the day with a little botanical happy pill in the form of newly sprouted bush beans that I had direct seeded less than 48 hours earlier.

If I were to do the straw bale garden over again, I might set some of the seedlings out earlier and cover them for the first couple of weeks. The one caveat I have for other would-be straw bale gardeners is that, while the claim that you can’t overwater them appears to be true, the reverse is also seems to hold. You do need to check the moisture around your plants as you do with any gardening method.

So far, however, my plants seem to be loving the heat and the decomposing bales, and, as mentioned previous post, you can still sit to do your gardening.

Partners in Crime

Partners in Crime

Thing2 has been experimenting with the digital projector I use for presentations at school. He’s been projecting video games and Avengers movies on the ceiling and underneath the TV. here’s an idea man, so it should’ve been too much of a surprise when the two of us looked at each other and said, “let’s have an outdoor movie night.“

The other family members were out of the house when the idea got started, and, by the time everyone else got back we had collected a makeshift screen and two plant hangers from which to hang a curtain rod.

Immediately we agreed that we should all watch the original Star Wars. The kids have never seen it on “the“ big screen, but I think this one will be just as good. We just have to rig up THX in the yard before we screen Empire.