March 31

#SOL22 #31

The end of any lengthy exercise requires a reflection, right? I am a first-year “slicer,” and have these observations:

  • This daily routine was so liberating! I often find blogging a laborious task because of my tendency to get too down in the weeds, everything requiring evidence and citations. But, this is not (necessarily) academic writing, but rather sharing “whatever” happens in my day/life at a moment in time. Some posts took only a few minutes to formulate, others longer, and there was no “right” or “wrong.”
  • A few themes popped up multiple times, which is a message to myself that they are important to me, and I need to honor them.
  • I greatly appreciate having glimpses into your lives and learning from you! Some posts made me laugh, others brought tears. I found additional books to add to my already-lengthy list. I “stole” some new structures.

Until next time!

March 27

#SOL22 #27

As my eyes drifted around the circle of women, I was flabbergasted to realize I was one of only two wearing cute footwear with a heel. The rest were adorned in lovely clothing paired with flats, many of them utilitarian as opposed to attractive. Now, I am a total fan of comfortable shoes, and am most often found in my sneakers or Birkenstocks. Nonetheless, I imagine that many of these women are wearing their sensible shoes because they feel wearing heels will lead to an embarrassing turned ankle or tumble.

As I observed this scene, it renewed my commitment to keeping physically fit. As we age, we tend to lose muscle mass, balance, and mobility. But, it’s not a foregone conclusion. With consistent effort, we can immensely slow down the process and retain a lot of our youthfulness.

I’m off to yoga followed by kettlebells. I plan to be dancing in my high heels at 99.


March 26

#SOL22 #26

A short news article floated across my feed today, stating that “Oregon [where I live] has more than 120,000 miles of polluted or ‘impaired’ rivers and streams — the most nationwide.” This information is part of a recent report by the Environmental Integrity Project, which expressed dismay about our failures, “Long After Goal to Make All U.S. Waters ‘Fishable and Swimmable’ by 1983, 50% of Assessed River and Stream Miles Are Impaired by Pollution.”

In all honesty, I was surprised Oregon was so high on the list, because it is a state filled with people who love to spend time outdoors; hiking, biking, camping, paddle boarding… in other words, people who seem to appreciate and respect nature. As I dug deeper into the report, I discovered:

“Oregon has the most overall miles of rivers and streams categorized as impaired for any use (122,800 miles), followed by California (83,361 impaired miles), and Michigan (54,687 impaired miles). Changing water temperatures are responsible for impairing three quarters of Oregon’s river and stream miles, because many streams have become too warm to provide a healthy habitat for cold water fish or other aquatic life. Stream temperatures can increase when flow rates are reduced by the diversion of waters for irrigation or when agricultural and urban runoff reduce water depth by filling streambeds with sediment. Other causes include the removal of trees and vegetation that help to shade and cool streams. Reversing the loss of forest and vegetative buffers and protecting streams from runoff may become even more important if climate change, which brought such extreme heat to Oregon last summer, continues to drive hotter weather.”

I found it fascinating that they did not blame the increasing water temperatures on the catchall “climate change,” but rather on our agricultural practices and disregard for nature in our urbanization practices. I am living in that reality, and a party to the problem. I moved into a brand new home two years ago which backs onto a protected wetland, which I’m excited about. But… did the developer really pay attention (or care) about making sure nature was respected in how they excavated, built, chopped down trees, etc. in the process. Absolutely not.

I’m pleased to be counterbalancing these destructive moves with my slowly evolving permaculture gardens in the back yard, but it is not enough. In all honesty, I don’t have any good answers to resolve this growing disconnect between what Mother Earth needs and what the humans who inhabit the planet think they “deserve.”

March 24

#SOL22 #24

I just finished evaluating seven history fair documentary projects created by middle school students. I am constantly challenged in my quest to perfect the art of Ron Berger’s model of “kind, specific, helpful” feedback. These young students have been challenged to create a project which argues a thesis. They work within the National History Day framework to conduct research, develop an argument, and assemble their analysis into a persuasive form, in this case a documentary video. They are also required to create an annotated bibliography of their sources.

This is tough work, demanding well-developed higher-order thinking skills to be able to sift through numerous sources, make sense of them, and synthesize that bombardment of information into a coherent narrative. And then combine evidence in the form of visual elements (photographic images, newspaper clippings, maps, political cartoons, etc.) with an audio narration, and oftentimes a layer of background music.

So, when the “experienced adult” part of me wants to pull my hair out with the inaccuracies, omissions, or incomplete thinking, I need to take a step back and put myself in their 12- or 13-year-old shoes and simply say, “my hat’s off to you for a job well done.”

March 23

#SOL22 #23

I have recently been working on the second “lasagna layered” garden in my backyard. Bit by bit (or maybe in a few large steps), I have been converting much of the grass into permaculture fruit tree “guilds.” In this area of Oregon, so many things grow well, so I am slowly developing an intertwined system anchored with fruit trees and surrounded by other edible plants that help deter pests and balance the soil. Berries, onions, garlic, horseradish, rhubarb, borage, herbs, to start.

I am a neophyte, have little idea of what I’m doing, yet know with observation, research, and asking many questions, I will prevail!

March 21

#SOL22 #21

“In case you find yourself in the swamp, you should know that humans can easily outrun alligators, which reach a max speed of 10 miles an hour and have no endurance. But they do have teeth. Lots of teeth.” ~Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, p. 111.

In our EPIClearners Daring Classrooms book club, we are doing a slow read of Brown’s book, along with activities and reflections on how her principles apply in our teaching and learning environments. I’m pondering the meaning of this quote and how it relates to teaching and life.

I’ll keep pondering, but for now I interpret it to mean to not be afraid of alligators. I just need to get out of the swamp and stand on the rock of my values and vision of what true education consists of.

March 20

#SOL22 #20

Another nature exploration today! Robins are such a sign of spring, and this one has been frequenting my backyard for a week or two. The incessant hoeing I’ve been doing to rid the perimeter area of the yard of a blanket of weeds has unearthed great food sources for this creature, and I am sure that is part of the attraction. The Oregon grape I have in the yard is evidently also a good food source.

I wondered whether the robin also has a nearby nest, since when it flies, it doesn’t go far. But, no! Robins only lay their first clutch of eggs in late April or early May, even here in the temperate Pacific Northwest. So, this visitor is evidently just enjoying the peace of the ‘hood. Well, other than for the redtail hawk that roosts in a nearby tree!

Not surprisingly, pesticides can kill or harm robins. Not only directly, but also in the harm/death that occurs among some of their favorite food sources, worms and bugs.

March 19

#SOL22 #19

Yesterday, I startled this Pacific tree frog while mowing the lawn. I was very excited to see it, a sign of spring and of ecosystem health. I sent a snapshot to my herp-loving son, who responded with “whoa, that’s a VERY pregnant frog!” I was oblivious, but he assured me as wide as the body is, it must be a pregnant female.

I was jubilant, having visions of additional frogs appearing in our backyard to help reduce the slug populations, my main nemesis since they chomp everything I am growing! I wondered if this was the same frog I first spied in the extreme heat last summer, the one who hung out on my hose reel, obviously seeking water.

I was fascinated by the color variations between the critter I saw last summer and the one I recently spied. And was gratified to discover that they, indeed, can change their coloring to reflect their environment.

My pleasant vision came crashing down when my husband commented that the birds of prey who inhabit the area will undoubtedly enjoy munching on the newly-hatched frogs.  As I read more about this species of frog, I learned that they do eat slugs, insects, and a variety of other arthropods. On the flip side, “most treefrogs die at the egg or tadpole stage.” Their predators include everything from diving beetles to foxes.

This is, after all, the cycle of life. Most animal species are both predator and prey. And when humans leave everything in balance, it works well, and our planet flourishes. When we try to control, when we decide what is “good” or “bad” and propagate or annihilate accordingly, our planet suffers.