Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Winter Squash in August

I've always found it funny that winter squash is ready to be harvested in summer. I get that its name comes from its ability to be stored through winter and for that I am very grateful. Our volunteer squash are doing very well and the other day I harvested two butternuts and one acorn squash.

The tomatoes appear to be waiting for cooler weather to ripen. Note to self: a glacier tomato is probably better suited to cooler climes.

The sunflowers are really putting on a show as are the cosmos. Things are looking really good here, despite my inattention and downright neglect.

Speaking of neglect, we pretty much forgot we planted two cherry trees a few weeks ago. They were in bad shape by the time we got to them this past weekend. I think they may be able to be resurrected. I see now how permaculture's notion of zones really comes into play. The closer the zone, the more likely you are to visit it to maintain that zone's vitality. Maybe the ditch is just too far for us to have plants we really have to care for. 

In two days our middle school is having a cooking-from-scratch extravaganza. We'll be making pizza, mozzarella, pesto, oven fries and homemade vegannaise. I hope I can get my mozz. technique down tomorrow night because my first attempt was nothing like cheese. I think I need to heat the milk a little higher and maybe more slowly. Keep your fingers crossed! We'll be using convection ovens, conduction stovetops, solar ovens and an horno. This is to prep us to watch What's on Your Plate? a documentary made by two adolescent girls in Manhattan.

Also at school our 45 6th and 7th graders and I built 10 4'x4' tables using power tools and elbow grease. They turned out beautiful and funky and the kids looked great working at them today. They have such confidence and pride in this type of work. My outdoor ed class is also looking forward to building the school chicken coop, which we hope to start next week.

Busy, busy, busy around these parts.

And it's raining!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

What's On My Mind

When I last posted, we had had three good monsoon rains. Since then we have had next to zero precipitation and no rain of any consequence on the horizon according to the weather report.


Luckily we have the acequia, but after the fire at Las Conchas, the acequia water was not its usual color. For a day or two it ran very silty, almost a terracotta color, and then it ran a dark, dark brown, which is unusual. This weekend it was back to its usual coloration so we felt like we could irrigate with it. Lane and I were concerned that the added silt would suffocate the plants that get covered in water during flooding. Saturday we gave the yard a good soaking and the plants are perking back up again. The butternut is seriously taking over the yard and most of the sunflowers are in bloom. Pulling up to the house after a day at work has been lovely with all of the yellow blossoms bobbing in the breeze.

Two of the Stella cherries in the guerrilla orchard did not break dormancy so the nice folks at the nursery replaced them with two more Bings. Those were planted yesterday and I am sure feeling it today. I'm really not meant to wield a pick axe.

Speaking of work, middle school starts in two days. Two days!!! I've been frantically preparing my classroom and long range plans to get ready for the Big Day. Our first two days are pretty unique. We're heading to the UNM ropes course and climbing wall for community-building and a whole lot of fun. I've heard that some of the younger students at our school are already talking about doing the ropes course when they are in middle school. I hope we can keep the tradition alive!

Our first two days on campus will also be exciting. The 6th and 7th graders will be building their own tables! Last year's 6th grade built their own desks, but since we'll be switching rooms we thought tables would be better to have that whole community feeling over the, "hey, that's my desk" sort of thing. I'll post some pictures when they finish.

The start of the school year is always stressful for me. I want the first days to be near perfect and to make sure I have all of my routines and procedures down pat. The first day of school is so crucial for establishing boundaries and expectations and I do not want to blow it. No way. This is the first year for MMCS to have a middle school and I want it to go well.

Part of the other planning I'm doing is for our outdoor education elective. This first trimester is called "Working with the Land." We're going to build the school chicken coop, cook in the solar oven, build a solar dehydrator and begin planning the middle school garden. There is also orchard maintenance and native bee research to be done. If anyone out there has relatively easy plans for solar dehydrators, please pass them along in the comments. These kids are handy with all kinds of tools, but any project that requires a pneumatic nail gun may not pass the safety board.

I'm also on the lookout for fruit leather recipes where I can use the solar dehydrator. Prickly pear, apple or quince recipes are top of the list as they will ripen about the time we'll finish up the dehydrator. I hope.  

And, finally, my sister has just had her first child. She's the first (and will be the only) in our immediate family to have kids. Cameron Elizabeth came into this world without too much of a struggle and is doing well at home in Virginia. My sister sends me pictures daily which I very much appreciate.

This time last year I was working part time and a full-time grad student. Time moved more slowly and there always seemed to be opportunities for leisure. Now I'm a full time teacher and the pace of life has picked up a lot. There are many things I had hoped to do over the summer but didn't get to. I haven't planted the fall garden (which is buried under the butternut) and hope I will have time for jamming and putting up all the goodness that comes at the end of summer. The pantry shelf is looking pretty bare.

On the transportation front, my intention is to bike commute every day and I really, really hope I can stick to it. Our house is less than two miles from school, so it would be downright shameful to drive. I even have a bar-mounted coffee cup holder. If that doesn't motivate me, I don't know what will.

So as we get into the new routine, posts may slow down for a while. Be patient. We're still working on the lean-to and cooking delicious things but we may not be able to sneak a moment to tell you about them. We'll get there. Promise.

Enjoy the tail end of summer, I know I am!