Weekly Word Press Photo Challenge: Autumn Glow

Weekly Word Press Photo Challenge: Autumn Glow

Here are my entries for the Weekly Word Press Photo Challenge for the week of 10/18/17.

Glow, on the water.
Glow, In the yard.
Glow in the Coulee


Dock Aglow.


The Downside of Distance Learning

The Downside of Distance Learning

Distance Learning. This term has come to mean a lot of different things, but to me it means learning from an institution or teacher from a distance – one that is not local to where you are but someplace, some distance away. I have experience with distance learning, both personally and with two of my boys, during their high school experiences.

Much of our experience, in fact almost all of it, has been positive. But, there are a few downsides, one of which has been occurring with me since last weekend.  I am having computer issues! Currently, I am enrolled in a graduate program about two and a half hours away from where I live. The entire degree, a Master’s of Science in Environmental Education and Interpretation, is online. I am just over half way finished.  As you can imagine, there is a lot of self-directedness involved in taking an online course. The communication patterns are different that being in a physical classroom. I know this is a stumbling block for some considering virtual education, but for me, it has worked out fine. I tend to be a very organized person, keeping track of when discussion posts are due (which replace classroom discussions), on top of all assignments, papers, and tests.

Yet, this past Saturday, I was thrown off track. I could not connect to my course pages! After several hours of trying, I contacted the help desk at the university. In the past, on the rare occasion that I have had to call them, they have been very helpful. Apparently, there was some WiFi problem going on effecting conductivity on campus. My weekly paper was not due until Sunday afternoon. Knowing I could work on this offline, it did not concern me. But, Sunday came, I finished my paper and found that I still could not connect!

What to do?

Well, about an hour before the paper’s final deadline, I emailed the professor and explained I was having computer connection issues. Proactively, I told her I would attach my paper to the email, so as to prove I had finished it in the required timeframe. She emailed back, stating that it was not a big deal, and I could post to the second discussion forum (which was also due) as soon as I had a connection, even if I missed the deadline. I appreciated her flexibility.

Yet, here it is Thursday. Two more discussion posts were due by 10pm last evening. I still had no computer connection to school. Now, all during this week, I had kept trying various ways to connect. Nothing from home worked, even after I involved my very tech savvy senior high school student. Calls to the help desk were made each day from Saturday through Tuesday. Tuesday, since I had online readings to do for this coming week of class, I went to a local restaurant/coffee shop with free wi-fi and was able to connect to the university with out a problem. Two afternoons were spent in our public library, using their computer to access my course pages. Our library is brand new, so my problem served a purpose in getting me there. It is beautiful and I enjoyed me time, so it might become a new place of study for me when I need to get out of the house during the dreary winter days to come.  Finally, yesterday, from home I emailed the help desk at the university, with a detailed list of what I have tried, and the difficulties I continue to experience.

Hopefully, today, something will happen to resolve this issue with getting on my university course pages. It is taking extra time to run around to get a connection, download materials and/or discussion questions, and upload my answers. Luckily, we do not have a paper due for ten days. During this time we are supposed to be working on a project, instead. That I can do. But, I am getting frustrated with the situation. Can you tell?

Placeholder ImageMaybe, today will be the day it gets resolved! If not, I will be contacting tech support again.  Not having adequate computer connections to complete distance learning, definitely presents a downside to learning this way.


Intensity: A Poem

Intensity: A Poem

Intensity, hard to live with

even harder for others to understand.

Thoughts consume as they are ruminated

and then spit out like cud

only to be left on the floor

without being digested.

Never the same.

Never understood.


No, not really.


Yes, for most.


So, I am told.

When a passion

overrides rational

thought and action

making one

unattractively incomprehensible.

Why? They ask.

I do not know,

You reply.



 Almost comedic,

in a sad sort of way.

Intensity, I live with you

so I need to find a way to

not let you alienate others,

as it seems I am not able

to pack you away

for all time,

even for my own good.

But, now I know I must.

Unhealthy pondering returns,

borne of  incomplete tasks,

propelled by desire to do what is Fair and Just.

Persisting at a calling I am not paid to perform.

Causing sleepless nights from swirling muses who force

me to ride a long board of words and phrases, speeding

together to form a ramp of sentences and paragraphs,

only to fall off the pipe at the end.




Hoo, Hoo, Hoo Hoo Hoo…….

Hoo, Hoo, Hoo Hoo Hoo…….

This morning, I woke to this sound coming faintly from outside our bedroom window at 4 a.m.  It made me smile. Our resident Great Horned Owl was back in the coulee, probably looking for a meal. The wide, dry creek bed adjacent to our property was occupied by grazing cows up until this time last year. There are a few downed trees, as well as two, less than healthy looking, oaks still standing.  I am assuming any of the tree branches, now loosing their leaves, would make excellent perches for the owl.

Over the years, after moving to the midwest, I have been able to listen to different sounds in the early morning. First, I listened to a train whistle, far off in the distance, being blown as the engine and cars approach one of the many small towns next to the Mississippi. It was always a comforting sound.  Then, the first shots of duck hunting season, being heard from the marshes and fields, before those were replaced by houses, and the people within.  The gun shots were not welcome sounds, as we do not have hunters in our family. Still, they marked the time of year, for many years to come.

We have lived in a house now for ten years that backs up to a valley and a dried up creek bed. The owl’s sounds, once he returns, are always welcome by me. It tells me that there is still nature outside my window. The cycle of life, continuing for bird and prey, the hunter on his perch, looking for a meal.  Nothing is as natural as that. So, when I hear the Hoo-hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo in the early morning before it is light, I smile.  I just wish I could get a glimpse of him someday.  PC: Pixabay, No Attribution Required.

If you would like more information about owls and their sounds, check out these websites:

Cornell – All about Birds.org – Owls

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Great Horned Owl

Journey North – Listen to Owls: Audio Clips

This post is part of a community of writer’s encouraged by the TwoWritingTeacher’s  Blog and Slice of Life Tuesdays.


Harvesting Milkweed

Harvesting Milkweed

Earlier this week I saw a post from the US Fish and WildLife Service about collecting milkweed seeds. Since I have done this before, both as an individual, and a student group facilitator, I believe it is an important thing to do and this is the time of year to do it! The video is interesting but it ended up being about collecting milkweed seeds on a large scale; the home gardener would not have the equipment necessary to free the seeds from the silk, as is shown in the USFWS video. They do acknowledge this through giving some brief tips on what the home gardener interested in milkweed seed saving can do.

In the interest of providing yet another view, one that has worked for me since I started collecting seeds in 2014, I thought I would post the steps I take to collect and preserve milkweed seeds.

  1. Access your milkweed patch. I have three such patches in my yard – one common milkweed, one swamp milkweed, and one of rose milkweed. Make sure you have permission to pick the seed pods if the plants are not on your property.
  2.  Make sure the pods are dried. You can check this by looking at their color, which should be brown, not green, and whether or not they have started to split open. The pods that have already split open will easily come free of their seeds and silk, at even the gentlest touch, but are showing you they are getting ready for dispersal. Harvesting pods that have been drying on the stems of the plant will decrease the chance of mold forming, once they are stored.
  3. Pick the entire pod off of the stem and put it in a large container. I reuse ice cream and cookie dough buckets for this purpose.  Vent the tops of the container by poking several holes through the top.
  4. Place the container of seed pods in a cool, dark place for the winter. I just keep them in my garage on a shelf.
  5. In the spring, you can remove the pods, place the top back on the container and simply shake to separate the silk from the seed.

In recent presentations, I have been asking children why they think the silk is attached to the seed. Unfortunately, most do not know.  It is there to help the seed travel and find a new place to settle and germinate. If you watch any milkweed patch in mid-to-late fall, on a windy day, you can see this in action! Or, you can watch my YouTube video on it.


Overwintering the seeds, either by letting them disperse naturally, or by collecting and storing in a cold place provides a needed stratification period for milkweed. Some plant seeds, including the milkweed species of plants, need a cold stratification period of several weeks to ready them to germinate in the spring. Your refrigerator can be used for this if you are not going to plant until spring. If you buy seeds, make sure they have received this cold stratification period.

Finally, even after you plant your milkweed seeds, you will need to be patient.


Sometimes, it takes several years for the seeds to germinate. But, once they do, you will quickly have a growing milkweed patch of your own, from which you can collect seeds.

Sharing seeds is the fun part! Make sure you only share seeds that are disease free (from a disease free patch and that are native to your area of the country). From the seeds I have saved, an entire section of fourth grade (3 classes) planted in the spring of 2016, neighbors and friends were given seeds, and 180 first graders were given seeds this fall.

A demonstration prop I made containing milkweed seeds and silk, travels with me to my presentations on monarchs and milkweed. I call it my excitement jar.  It has proved to be a great teaching tool to show students the beauty and potential of milkweed seeds.

Lastly, in the fall of 2014 my garden club students and I harvested seed pods from the butterfly garden at school. Monarch Watch had put out a call for milkweed seeds. This was a great service learning project in which we only had to pick the pods and send them to an organization that would then separate the silk and disseminate the seeds to areas in need of milkweed.  Check their website to see if they are doing that again and how you can help. Monarch Watch Website.

The scary part of the milkweed topic is that a group of researchers have determined that over 1 billion, 1.6 billion additonal NEW stems, to be exact, of this plant are needed to sustain the monarch population and keep it from extinction. One point six BILLION additonal stems! Yikes! They have called for All Hands on Deck!  The research is presented in this IOPScience article publisheed earlier this year. Be prepared to read some dire consequences about the monarch and milkweed.

If you plant milkweed, whether from seed you saved, obtained from a friend, bought, or received free, you are helping this effort. Thank you for being a needed participant in saving the monarch!

Insomnia pays a visit

Insomnia pays a visit

It is 4:45 a.m. on a dark Saturday morning. I have friends who regularly arise at this hour. Honestly, it is too early for me. But, awake by 4 o’clock, my thoughts began to spin in my head. Eventually, I got up, relieved my bladder full of the water I drank before bed and wrote down a few things to prompt action when I was completely awake. Returning to bed, I realized that although I am still recovering from a major surgery and have been careful to not physically over do it, I must be mentally stressed. It is the second time this week that my old friend insomnia has paid a visit.  For the last few months, sleep was my friend – coming easily and staying with me, wrapping me in comfort for seven hours of blissful slumber. Even when my surgical site was sore, I slept fairly well.

Stress. I know all too well what causes it for me. Most times, I put the things on my plate that are causing the stress. This is the case with some of what put my feet on the ground at this ungodly hour. Graduate school. I have spent hours reading Thoreau this week. Even though I am environmentally minded and a self-proclaimed conservationist, I have not enjoyed this week’s assigned readings. Now that the readings are done, I need to write a paper by Sunday night. Writing papers are not a problem for me at all, but there is no prompt, just a summary of several different assigned sources on Thoreau. I am finding I have to push myself to sit down and do it. This is very unlike me. A Research Study.  Yes, I am designing a study to evaluate the influence participation in my elementary garden club had on former students’ development of environmental stewardship. This is an independent study for credits with a 796 designation. I hope to publish my findings. Since it is an independent study, I have had to regularly “bug” my professor – not something I enjoy. Currently, I am anxiously awaiting her response to my survey so I can submit it to the IRB committee at the University I attend.

Stress. The opening of a book I thought was closed.  I wrote my opinion about something and shared it publicly, on my blog. It caused a backlash. I can handle it. But, I spent a great deal of time yesterday pulling out resources, drumming up facts, and making copies of old meeting agendas and minutes. In the last twelve hours, I have put my support network into action, copied a year’s worth of paperwork, and have been ruminating about what I want to say, the order in which I want to say it, and what other pieces of information I need to provide to state my case. It is old. It is something I do not wish to involve myself in any longer. Yet, here I am, dragged into some drama by someone else because of what I wrote. I have a right to my opinion. And a right to share it, whether it be the preferred way someone hears it or not. As I said earlier, I can handle this. Locally, no one has advocated for students in the last ten years more than me.  It is just stressful because it is another thing to do;  another thing during a time I should be resting.  Although I look normal and feel pretty good, I am not fully recovered from my surgery. I know that. I feel that. I am not pleased I have something more to do than was already planned. Sleep is elusive when I feel pushed into defending myself or my views.

Another thing that came to mind when I was laying in bed listening to my husband’s slow, measured breath was something I promised my senior I would do for him. He is taking a values class and I have to write his eulogy. Emotionally, that is hard for a mother to do. Yet, I try to always do what I say I will do.  So later today, when I need a break from writing about Thoreau, I will work on that composition. He is a great kid, so I will write him a great life. Perhaps, it will be more fun than I think.

Finally, my husband is changing jobs in the near future. I am thrilled for him. It is the right move at the right time. But, change is stressful. Major life decisions are stressful.

So,  as I head into today – after walking with a friend this morning – I will be working on reducing my stress by completing some of the tasks I have in front of me. I will probably need a nap. But, I am looking forward to Monday, when most of the busy work has been taken care of and I can relax enough to sleep.