Cider Making Party

Cider Making Party

This past Saturday we had a cider making party with a bunch of our friends! It is that time of year! Luckily, we have a great many apples from our home orchard this year. It is not the biggest harvest we have had. Two years ago, we had enough apples to make at least 40 gallons of cider!  We also made applesauce, dried apples, froze sliced apples for pie, and gave many away to our local friends.

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I fondly remember the night, two years ago, that my husband and I made cider. It was an early Friday in September, the night of the first home football game in our town. My husband set up the cider press outside of our barn. We could hear the game from our yard as we pressed the cider. Our boys were at school watching the game. Nightfall came, the barn lights turned on, and after only a few hours we had 40 gallons of cider!  Did you know that it takes approximately one – five gallon bucket of apples to make one gallon of cider? It does! Maybe that is the reason cider can be kind of pricey!

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Saturday was not as a productive night, but definitely fun!  Our friends arrived in late afternoon. Earlier, my husband had picked and cleaned the apples. For the most part we used Haralson’s, Honey Gold, and Cortland’s. Those are a few of our varieties that produced well this year.  We did not have too many of the coveted Honey Crisp – as they flowered during a cold spell and not many buds were pollinated. Still, our tradition of mixing the apple varieties produces a great tasting cider.

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Our press is efficient, although somewhat “old-fashioned” looking. No, it does not have a motor. It has a hand crank.  Everyone seemed to want to take a turn cranking. The crank turns the grinder.  The teeth of the grinder are sharp, Sharp, SHARP.  Every part of the apple is ground up = the peel, the stem, the core.  It goes into a bucket. Once the bucket is filled, a “lid” is put on and the press is lowered. Again, this is done with a hand crank with lots of body mechanics and physics involved.

We are kind of nerdy and yes, we talked about the physics of it all. One of our guests even suggested using a board to get more leverage on the crank. My husband has used a board before, but we never had occasion to talk about it! We did get a two by four which helped to crank down the lid to compress the mash. I did not get any photos of that.

Our friends were amazed! The pressed cider flowed freely out into containers we had collected and cleaned. Yes, it is a lovely brown color right away!  The mash is slightly odiferous and sure to interest a wild animal or two if it is not disposed of in a can.

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After pressing the cider, we poured some to drink with our dinner of smoked chicken breasts, baked beans, salad, and grilled vegetables. We toasted to our first cider pressing party, good food, and good friends!  Several hours later, each couple was sent home with a gallon of cider to enjoy! Our Saturday cider pressing party was a first but definitely will not be the last! Fun was had by all!

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Silent Sunday: Let’s Make Dessert

Silent Sunday: Let’s Make Dessert

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Berry Crostini 
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Fudgey Pecan Cake
July Blueberry Pie 2017
Blueberry Pie using our own Blueberries

 

July Blueberry Pie 17
Slice of Pie
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Apple Pie Using our own Apples
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Cheesecake 
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Carol’s Cherry Cheesecake Drizzle
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Slice of the Crostini

 

Senior Year: It Started Before Now

Senior Year: It Started Before Now

This past week was the first of many senior meetings for us. We were filled in on what our student needs to be doing to get ready for his time after high school and in selecting a college.

We have been through all this before, as we have an older son. However, it has been some years. Our oldest son has already finished college and is now a graduate student. He finished high school in a non-traditional way – via an online platform – due to needing more challenge than our resident district was able to provide.  Still, as a student who was allowed to continue to play in the local high school band and participate in theatrical performances, we took advantage of attending the “get ready” meetings our resident district offered at the time, as well.

However, as most seasoned parents know, each student is different. And, in addition to the student differences, our guidance department has completely changed as well in the time that has elapsed since we attended these meetings with our oldest son. Even the name has been changed from Guidance Office to Student Services. Go Figure! I still am not sure of the reason for that.  All of these reasons served as our impetus to attend this meeting.

So, Monday night, off we went. The meeting was short. References were made back to the “junior meeting” of last spring on a number of occasions. Of course, we attended that, too.  However, it made me feel for those who had not.  The meeting was poorly attended. This was something we did not understand.  But, with a little more conversation, it was realized that no reminders were given to students about either the meeting date or time, and need to be there.  It was only because I put the date on our calendar that I knew we needed to attend. The date was sent out with registration materials in the summer. Still, several parents, myself included, wondered why the students were not reminded about this important meeting. It was on the day’s announcements on the high school website, but other than that, there was no reminder of any kind.

We really did not need to attend. Even though my student is different from my first, the college application process has not changed all that much. The biggest difference is that the FAFSA applications should now be done in October, at your earliest convenience, rather than waiting until the spring prior to high school graduation.  At our insistence, our senior is actually ahead of the curve, with two college applications completed – one offer of admission and one institutional academic scholarship being confirmed, as well.  With the exception of his AP test scores needing to be sent to one of the institutions, he has little left to do. Except keep looking – or not. The decision is his. I do think there is a little pressure removed for him by having been accepted at one of his two top university choices.

But, again, the focus was on what has not been done by students and/or families, not who has been efficient and started this process already. I think this focus needs to change. I was secretly hoping the guidance counselors would ask if anyone had completed applications already or heard of acceptances from colleges. Of course, they did not. I have been careful to offer sincere and well deserved praise to my senior for having much of what he needs done, be done so early in the year. I wish his counselors knew of this expediency. Again, the focus is on those who are not as organized, leaving little room for time, praise, or recognition for those who are.

One thing is for sure, the year will go very fast. And, maybe that is a good thing for us all.

 

Zen Rock Building in Door County

Zen Rock Building in Door County

Lately, I have taken to participating in some photography challenge posts on other blogs. I consider photography to be one of my most beloved hobbies and am always looking to improve. Landscape and nature photography are my high interest areas.  I missed the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge, which is hosted on Wednesdays since they skipped this week.  So, I went looking for other challenges today. I found this one on a page I have been watching periodically and decided to follow today.  It is Cee’s Photography Blog page.

We visited the Door County Penninsula in Wisconsin last summer for the first time. Shame on us because we have been residents of the state for many years! It is very beautiful, although not more beautiful than the part of the state in which we live, in my opinion.  However, it has the added bonus of shoreline boarding Lake Michigan!  Here, in one of the county parks, we found many stones piled upon one another. We had to try to add to these piles or make piles of our own, of course! Enjoy! And, get your Zen, on!

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Inspired by Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge: Candid Shots

This is Not a Funny Blog and I Am Not Sorry: A Reflection on Writing Daily

This is Not a Funny Blog and I Am Not Sorry: A Reflection on Writing Daily

Having written/posted a whopping 178 blog posts since February 23rd 2017, the date I started this blog, I thought I would take a minute and reflect on my writing.

I sat back and tried to take an objective look at my writing and how it appears so far.

These are my thoughts:

Amusing? Yes, at times. I am thought to have a good sense of humor by those who know me well. Yes, I can be amusing and even funny or sacastic if the piece calls for it. But, it is not a funny blog. Rarely, do I attach a tag of humor to my posts. I am okay with that. There are other funny blogs you can visit. I am sure it is not the reason I have readers.

Informative? I definitely aim for my blog to be educational.

Conversational? I think so. One of my graduate school professors in the College of Education really liked my academic writing last fall duing a course I took from him on the Models of Teaching and Learning. We had several papers to write. It felt great to be complimented all semester long on my writing skills. One of his comments was that he “liked my conversational tone” and felt it made me accessible, increasing the comfort level of the reader, while still being able to make some very serious points. I question a lot of things in the educational world these days. It was reassuring that I could get my point across without going on a rant or being a bully. We still have a long road ahead of us in educational reform. But, perhaps, with some calm, comfortable conversations either writing or in person the reform will be made in a quicker fashion. It really needs to be all for one and one for all in the world of education.

Opinionated? Yes! There is no doubt that I have my opinions. I have voiced some and have more to share. I try not to rant. I believe I have only really done that on the blog a few (less than three) times in the last five months. I tend not to look at the world through the same lense as others, so voicing my opinion might open my readers up to a new perspective. I do not expect everyone or even anyone to agree with me. I just write what my life experience has been and what I have observed. It is my perspective. You do not have to share it, just be aware there are differing views available for consumption.

Grammatically correct? I try to be. However, anyone that writes daily and puts it out there for public consumption needs a little bit of a break when there is an error with spelling, a comma, spacing, quotes, or subject-verb agreement.  So, if you have read any of my posts and closed the page thinking: “Wow, she made an error with that comma,” or any other number of criticisms, know that I strive to provide grammatically accurate, solid writing, but cannot be perfect. I also do not care for the formatting that WordPress offers for some of my posts. For example, poems are not spaced correctly, and titles need to be adjusted. However, we writers can only work within the platform that we are using. So, know that sometimes the post contains formatting that we cannot control as writers.  Writing everyday is an accomplishment. There will be some mistakes.  Please give me a break, grammar police. I must note here that the grammar police only exist in my mind, at this point. I have not had anyone actually make a comment regarding this. It is just that I know they are out there. Point made.

Proof-read? Yes, I do this, several times per post. I write, correct. I rewrite, correct. I finish, and correct. I post, and yet will go back again to correct and update. I dislike errors as much as any grammar policeman.  Still, I might miss something……and have. I just hope not too much or too many times.

Inspiring? I hope to be. I often write about what inspires me in hopes it will inspire someone else. I have been told my posts inspire (Check my comments on the various posts, especially from Tuesdays.) Inspiration is my aspiration!

So, what I am comparing my blog post writing against? As a blogger, you also need to read blogs by other writer’s. I do so on a daily basis.  There are humorous blogs, teacher blogs, photography blogs, parent blogs, travel blogs, and even a few food blogs. All have merit and all are worthy of my time as a reader and writer.  I think my blog is doing alright. I have a regular readship and although it is small, many consistently leave a comment for my consideration. My readership grows steadily, so that is reassuring as well.  I feel supported having found the twowritingteachers blog that supports the Slice of Life Challenge (what got me started) and Slice of Life Tuesdays (a continuation of the community of writer’s that write for the challenge in March.)

I will keep blogging and look forward to reflecting again, once I have made posts for a year. My hope to to able to continue to post daily, or as close as possible to that schedule. Who knows where it will lead and really, who cares? I am having fun with it and for now that is what matters.

Monarch Education

Monarch Education

I spent this morning at a neighboring school district, about twenty minutes away by car.  Sixty first graders, in three separate classes, sat quietly and listened to my presentation on the Monarch Life Cycle, the importance of milkweed, Monarch Migration and the development of the Monarch Highway. With the exception of the information on the Monarch Highway, it is a presentation I have done many, many times before. And, I still love doing it.  It truly is my passion.

It is now, at this time of year, that monarch butterflies migrate. The little details of this migration are lost on many.  What follows is a little bit of what I shared today:

  • Only monarchs born in starting in late August and into the fall migrate South to the Sierra Madre’ Mountains in the central region of Mexico.
  • Monarchs travel several thousand miles to reach the overwintering grounds in Mexico. Actually, from my home in West-Central Wisconsin to the preserve in Mexico is approximately 1, 750 miles. An insect, weighing roughly as much as a paperclip – a mere 1/2 a gram, flies this entire distance on its own power. It is the only butterfly to migrate and can cover the span of three continents, up to 3,000 miles if travelling from Canada.
  • Monarchs also overwinter in Florida and, if west of the Rocky Mountains, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Monarch butterflies have declined in population by 90-97%  over the last 30 years  depending on the source you rely upon.
  • Monarchs born in the warm months, preceeding early August, only live about a month. It is only the last (fourth/fifth generation – depending on where you live) that migrate. This generation of monarchs lives 8-9 months.
  • The monarchs we see in the upper midwest in the Spring are NOT the same monarchs that we saw in the fall. It is most likely their grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
  • Nature signals when the migration should start in the fall.
  • Monarchs cannot survive our cold winters, so they start leaving when our days shorten and get cooler.  Monarchs cannot fly if it is less than approximately 60 degrees F.
  • Monarchs need habitat. Habitat loss is one of the reasons for the decline in this iconic species. Other reasons include: widespread pesticide use, mono-culture farming practices, and the spread of human development.

Couching this all in terms that first graders can handle takes some practice putting terms into phrases they can understand and making connections to things that most first graders know. We spent most of our time talking about the life cycle stages today, and obviously part of the reason for that is due to the Common Core State Standards being addressed with the content.

However, today, I also talked about tagging monarchs, which is something I have been involved with doing for the last three summers. It is part of Citizen Science. Monarch Watch is an organization that studies monarch butterflies. You can purchase tags in August and attach them to butterflies you raise for release or capture wild just to tag. You report your tag information, release date, and sex of the butterfly, along with the tag number (found on a sticker that goes on the distal cell of the hindwing) to a Monarch Watch data base. When the butterfly is found, the individual can report the information to Monarch Watch and then the recovered tags are reported to the public.

Although being a Citizen Scientist is where I am in my journey in raising monarchs, I realized that the tagging was information that was just not necessary for most of the first graders. There were probably only 1-2 students per class that showed understanding of what the tagging actually meant and was used for by the scientists. However, is that not differentiation? All learners should have something to reach toward and be able to grab on to once they are ready, right?  Would it not be boring to sit there as a first grader and only hear what you already know about monarch life cycles?  I think so. I would rather err on the side of too much detail than not enough. This has always been my approach.

Milkweed was discussed since it is the only plant that the caterpillars eat in stage II of the monarch life cycle. This one plant sustains and entire species of butterfly. So, I asked what could be done about the monarch’s population decline.

And, you know what?!

First graders can actually come up with what needs to be done!

We need to plant milkweed.

Since I was at this school two years ago to discuss the same topic, their supply of milkweed has grown and is plentiful in their school yard garden. With the exception of caterpillars brought in from the students’ homes, I believe they are raising only the wild caught caterpillars for subsequent release.  This is an improvement over ordering caterpillars through the mail, a practice that needs to be strongly discouraged due to the possible spreading of disease.

I mentioned the Monarch Highway at the conclusion of my presentation today.  It is a relatively new phrase coined to designate the I-35 corridor that runs from Minnesota through states further South to Texas and into Mexico.  These states, along with academic institutions and environmental/conservation groups such as Monarch Joint Venture, are leading the way to provide increased habitat and milkweed in the ditches and rights of way along this highway. Attempts at curbing roadside mowing, especially in the fall, is also being promoted. Monarchs need milkweed and hopefully, soon, the Monarch Highway will provide a plethora of this sustaining plant.

As you can see, there is a wealth of information that can be shared and excite children, even the very young, into providing for the well-being of another species. It is one of the things I love about this topic – I can customize my presentation to be appropriate for preschoolers to adults, making the topic awe-inspiring for the young with the miracle of metamorphosis and migration, to a pressing need for adults to be called into action. Butterflies are pollinators and without pollinators, our food supply is greatly diminished, and that fact has great implications for humans.

I left the classrooms today with hope for the future. Thursday, I will return to speak to three more first grades.  After that visit, all 120 students will be armed with milkweed seeds to plant in their home garden beds.  They got it! Monarchs need Milkweed, Monarchs go through Metamorphosis, and in the late summer Monarchs Migrate to Mexico! The monarchs might need a miracle now to keep their population from dwindling further. But, on days like today, I think it is entirely possible!

Thanks, West Salem Elementary First Graders!

Remembering 9/11

Remembering 9/11

Today’s post will be somewhat brief. Primarily, because there is not much to be said except we must never forget what happened on September 11, 2001.  The Alan Jackson song that asks “Where were you when the world stopped turning?”- sums it up. It asks us to remember. Do you remember where you were? What you were doing? Most of us, of a certain age, will always remember where we were and what we were doing when the Twin Towers in NYC were demolished, filling unsuspecting employees and visitors with terror and thoughts of never seeing their loved ones again. Death – on a grand scale, was what we witnessed.  Truly, it is unimaginable what it must have been like for those involved in the terror of a collapsing building and those who immediately rose to action to try to save the same.  It is one of those events so heinous that it is burned into your mind for all eternity. Its scope was meant to inflict pain on all Americans, not just those in the Twin Towers or the NYC metro area. It was a wound that would not only scar the ground where the buildings stood, but the hearts and minds of all Americans. Being a mid-westerner, I can attest to that.  Certainly, the wound was deeper, more painful, and harder to heal for those who lost loved ones or became sick from the aftermath, or had to look at a gaping hole in one of the greatest cities in the world, but it effected us all. And, the memories of it still should affect us.  It should be a wound that is never completely healed, only scabbed over – for memories can be powerful and function to alert us to future dangers or work to avert them.

I remember. We had a five-day old infant, the youngest of our three boys and for some reason was standing watching T.V., while I rocked him.  I had the Today show on – something I watched years ago, but not any longer.  My toddler was still sleeping. My husband was at work. My school pre-school child was at school.  Holding my newborn, I watched with horror as a plane crashed into the first Tower, and then the another into the second. I had a sense of disbelief.  What had I just seen?  I watched as the building came slowly down, as people were running, screaming, and certainly dying. It was gripping. It was malevolent. It was real. My husband called from work. He had seen it too. So, had millions of other Americans. Terror. At home. America was wounded.

I have since visited NYC – and the subsequent 9-11 memorial at ground zero. I feel it is something all Americans should strive to visit, at least once. It is difficult not to be affected by the names on the memorial, by the gravity of what happened there on “that September day, When the World Stopped Turning”  (Alan Jackson, Metrolyrics website) The wound is real, it is there for all to see.

It should remind us of what we have – Freedom. It should remind us to live each day fully. It should tell us that you never know what the day will bring. It should encourage us to use our time well on this earth. It should tell us to love each other – our families, and even strangers. And it should be a reminder that, unfortunately, there is evil in the world. We all need to be a little kinder, a little more tolerant, a little more loving, but never lose sight of the reminder the affect 9/11 has had on us all. Take a moment today to remember what we have, and what we lost.

Freedom is Not Free.

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