Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Alexe's School Garden

Alexe gets ideas.  Usually she doesn't want to do them, and often she finds other people to execute for her.  But when she can't, those ideas plague her, and she has to make them happen.

The idea of a school garden, where the local youth can see things grow and learn about where food comes from, is a great idea.  If you had a crew of volunteers and maybe a little grant money, it would be wonderful.

Alexe didn't have those things.  But she started anyway.  

First with the one-man grounds crew at the elementary school tilling up a chunk of grassy flatness. (He also takes care of the high school by himself.) Followed by raking of the poor soil into little hills for pumpkin plants.

She started before the school year to try to have pumpkins growing by the time the students arrived.  In terrible soil, with no time, and a year when the sky decided to hoard any moisture for four months.  And yet she persevered.

There were lots of pests.  Lots of time spent raking a berm around the perimeter, lots of hoses to run from the side of the school up the hill to the garden.  

The students arrived and Alexe's garden turned into a wonderland for 80 students over three hours on Thursday mornings.  4 classes, 2 at a time.  The teachers bring them out, and Alexe suddenly is responsible for educating and keeping the attention of those kids, ranging from k to 6th graders.  

All while keeping them from destroying the plants that she is trying to grow for them.

After the pumpkins came expensive truckloads of soil, donated mulch, electric fences, seedlings, bulbs, seeds, and who knows what else she has quietly purchased.

But even though she isn't particularly fond of large scale gardening, working outside, and was incredibly nervous about managing large numbers of children, she knew it was the right thing to do.  What started out as something she had to force herself to do, something she would get anxious about for hours each Wednesday night in anticipation, is now something she loves. 

She's great. 

And wherever she goes now, young people are running up and giving her hugs and call her the garden lady or the vegetable lady.

And in between the games of red light green light, and tasting tiny slivers of herbs and veggies, they are learning about seeds, and pollination, and nutrition.

Barn to Desk

Making Alexe new store shelves put me in the mood to build myself a desk.  

This had been stewing for a while, and the piles of old barn oak were calling.

Other than a few more blades for the planer, everything needed for the desk was already there.

The design is simple, feels light, and yet the wood is extremely heavy. 

There are no fasteners of any kind, and the base and desk-top fit together and are held in place by gravity/weight.

Because my office floors are not especially level, I added adjustable feet, which ended up raising the level of the desk by 1.5 inches.  I thought I could sneak by, but it's amazing how a little extra height can make you feel like a kid at the grown-up table, as opposed to a captain of industry ready to take over the world.  

I hoofed the lower section home for adjustments.  I'm tickled with the final product.

Soccer 2016

Soccer season is a social event, with a little organized sporting somewhere in the mix.  Two evenings a week, and if the kids' teams play at different times, it's 2.5 hours of hanging out with other parents, encouraging the kids to be as energetic on the field as they are for their chase-games during breaks.

Annaliese got more and more competitive over the course of the season.  After the first game, where she was largely disinterested, she was suddenly the fast girl who was always in the fray, often first to the ball, and never shy about stripping other players of the ball.  

Caspian is hyper-competitive, and probably should have been bumped up to the older team.  It wasn't a question of if he scored in each game, it was how many times, and if he was a good sportsman about it.

We either spent all night at the soccer fields, cheering the kids on together, or we could get home before 8 when the kids had games at the same time, but Alexe and I would have to each take a game to cheer on.  Sometimes we would switch at half time.

Which means I have lots of pictures of Caspian playing so that I could share them with Alexe, who was missing this game while she watched Annaliese.  

Caspian wore those blue shorts for every game.

The soccer seasons traditionally start when it's hot, and by the end of the season everyone is wearing sweaters.  Not so this year, with the never-ending hot and dry weather.

Sporty ladies.  Alexe may be one of those people who really gets into the games.  She and Annaliese go home and practice hip-checking.

Annaliese's last game of the season, wherein she scored a goal.

And then the season was over, we went out for pizza to celebrate, and two of our weekday evenings were suddenly available for family-hang-out time again.

Alexe is reading a pile of thank you letters from the elementary school children she teaches at her school garden.  More on that later.

School comes early...

And then the summer was over, and it was back to the bus stop bright and early.

And yet, even with 7 hours each day with us all spread out doing our separate things, we still seem to find plenty of time to hang out.  This picture is from a series of selfies I found on my phone.

Our pond project may have caused this drought; it hasn't rained since we built the dam.

We are lucky to have many lizards on the farm.  They are loved by this boy.  

If he's inside, he's probably eating. (Annaliese hiding behind her brother.)

Still finding time in the evenings to pop over to the pool.  (Annaliese hiding under her feet.)

Piano!  The kids have been taking lessons for several months now.  Their progress was impeded by having nothing to practice on.  We found this one way out in the country for $80.

One of the last Farmer's Markets of the season.  This whole year, what with the very wet spring and completely dry summer, was very thin at the market.  

I imagine we were headed to church.

Taken very late at night, a Caspian sleep-avoidance project.

Ms. Dixie and Ms. Jaime got married!   

A lovely ceremony at the old school house in Pine Valley.  The first gay marriage in Water Valley.  A gathering of support and love for a lovely couple, with all the biases and negative energy that often surrounds freedom of love and expression sunk under the community's deep affection for these two people.  

A little swimming.  A little Blokus.  

Labor Day.  A trip north was not int he cards this year, but we had to find a lake to swim in on Labor Day.  Lake Pickwick.  

End of Summer

Driving home one evening, our neighbor had just parked this in front of his house.  Single owner, purchased new in '81, and look at that color.  I stopped to inquire, and Alexe and the kiddos saw me as they were driving by and pulled in.  There wasn't really any question; its so cute!  And though neither of us have ever played a game of golf in our lives, we have all sorts of uses for a garden/farm cart.

Saturday morning, Alexe's at work, Caspian was off on his birthday date with Ms. Dixie and Ms. Jamie, so Annaliese and I made donuts.

A strange component of the coding academy, periodic field trips.  This was en route to Jackson, MS for a tech conference.  Driving a van full of 18/19 year olds was not something I saw in my future.  

Friday nights at the brewery are pretty standard now.  The kids form a pack and race all over the place.

Most other evenings look like this:

Took the kids to an Amish auction in Pontotoc.  It was a long day, with a crowd that was paying for decorations as opposed to functional tools, so the prices were all high.

Caspian found a goat in the barn,  Annaliese found puppies in the stall next to the goat.  They spent a lot of time in those stalls.

In between coming to find me and asking for a little more money for the concession stand.

The traps on the left, and the cardboard boxes, are full of new chickens for Alexe.  The two chairs are for our upstairs porch.  The young Amish children were both shy and territorial.  It was an odd dynamic between the Amish and non children, with several conflicts I felt inclined to interfere in.

We may have impulse-bought the little goat.  Mr. Goat-er-ton.

The kids will do anything for a short turn driving the golf cart.  They're slowly earning the privilege of driving farther afield.  

Alexe's shirt is full of eggs. 

Summer-friend from New Jersey.

Hanging out.

Pool visits snuck in whenever we have time...

We popped in to this market to look around.  Minutes later Annaliese had put these shoes on and parked herself in this leopard print chair.  We had a chat about taste...

One of Caspian's things: Juicing lemons.  He loves to do it, with no real goal in mind beyond the process.

Meet the teacher night before school starts.

Prepping for school, the bleached out summer shag needed a trim.

Caspian is particularly concerned with his hair lately.  He has yet to be happy with a haircut until his mama comes home and makes a big deal out of how handsome he is...

Watermelon Carnival.  Caspian brought all his savings to this thing, and managed to spend it all in record time.  He went on every ride, and treated his sister to a few as well.

It used to be a question of whether they would make it to the top and ring the bell.  Now it's a matter of speed.

Blackwater Trio, playing at the brewery the night of the Carnival.  Alexe heads home early on carnival nights, as she is up early and working a BTC shift that is swamped with tourists.  That leaves me and the kids in town alone after dark.  We feel like party animals.

Second day of the carnival, unlike the previous night when an early rain shower cooled things off, Saturday was back to furnace temps.  We did our best to find things to do in the shade.  A visit to the Casey Jone museum, a walk through the car show, many visits to the BTC to say hi to a busy Alexe, and eventually retreating to the pool.