Sunday, March 25, 2007

What I did on my Spring Break

Teachers always get those "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" essays, so, I guess, this is my retaliation. Actually, I write one of these almost every year; I'm just upholding a tradition!

Let's see--I began the break by grading papers (so what else is new?). But, on Saturday, my plum trees arrived, so I planted them. One is a Victoriana, which is an English plum, self-fertilizing. This one is a dwarf, which means it will only grow to be about 5 or 6 feet tall. The other plum tree is a Stanley that I hope will help fertilize the other two plums I have on my property. The Stanley is also a dwarf. After a week, they've already started to leaf, so I guess I planted them okay.

For most of my break, I spent half the day grading papers and the other half knitting, cleaning or cooking. I finished two pairs of socks, a baby sweater, a pair of baby booties, and a shrug. But then I started two other pairs of socks. I still have a couple of sweaters, but those always take longer to finish.

I did get the car inspected! Hooray for me; and I worked at the bookstore one day. I edited three transcripts for my friends at the art gallery.

The weirdest thing happened on Wednesday, around 1am. I was sitting on the couch, knitting, when I heard something chomping down the cat food as though it was starved. I figured it was one of the stray cats that sneaks into the house every once in a while, but my cats weren't fussing as they usually do. I leave the door to the washroom open during the day and into the evening (until I go to bed) so I don't have to get up a hundred times to let cats in and out. The screen in the storm door to the outside was busted out when I bought the house, and I haven't fixed it. The cats can go in and out through that.

I got up and quietly walked through the kitchen and around the bar; just as I rounded the end of the bar, I saw the back end of a possum exit out the kitchen door.

I had seen the possum's back end once before. One evening, as I pulled into my carport, I saw its back end going over the ramp that runs up to the laundry room.

The possum doesn't seem to be afraid of the cats and the cats don't know what to make of the possum. They don't run away from each other; the cats just don't know what kind of critter this is.

So, my dilemma was to find a way to block the possum from getting into the house while allowing the cats to go in and out. I found some tall boards to block the bottom half of the doorway. The cats can jump over them, but the possum can't climb over--or, at least, it hasn't yet.

I've tried to get a picture of it, but, believe it or not, possums move pretty quickly when they want to get away. One day, maybe I'll manage, and I will post the picture here on the blog.

I spent the entire break working in one capacity or another, but I still managed to relax a bit. I'm not sure I'm ready for classes to begin again, but, this too shall end very soon. I'd like to say I'll have a relaxing summer, but, if my summer class makes, I'll be driving 90 miles a day to teach one class. Sigh! I guess the wicked really don't get a rest.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Spring is Busting Out All Over...

Well, here it is, again. My annual spring alert!

My Mayhaw tree has been blooming like crazy, which worries me a bit because I don't think we are through with winter yet. I check it periodically, just to make sure the buds and flowers aren't freezing; I think it's okay. The Forsythia I planted in November is beginning to leaf out, as are many of the trees I received from the Arbor Day Society, so I'm thinking spring is just around the corner. I hope the plum trees I ordered arrive soon. I ordered a Stanley for pollination (I have two other plum trees that need a pollinator) and a Victoriana (English) dwarf plum that is self-pollinating. And of course, all manner of flowering plants on my property are blooming, too--the Japonica, the Jonquils, the Narcissus. Today I noticed that my Azaleas are flowering.

I might be mistaken, but I think Mr. Lester's peach trees are beginning to bloom, too, which means that the vegetable stand should open in about 8 weeks (first week in May). This also means that the bulk of the hawk population should be winging its way back north by the end of the month. Most of them leave around Easter; since Easter's a bit late this year, maybe they'll stay around a bit longer.

I'm a bit worried about the bee situation, though. I saw a piece on CBS that discussed the dire straights that beekeepers are facing--bees are dying in droves. Without bees, we don't have pollination, and that can affect crops. I noticed, earlier in the winter, that the beekeeper who lives 12 miles north of me took down all of her beehives (she had seven). I don't see them anywhere else on the property, so I'm wondering if she has been affected by the bee blight. I'm thinking about buying some Mason bees; they don't produce honey, but they are good pollinators. They live in houses and lay their eggs in straws that protrude from holes in the bee house. It's a thought, and it's less costly and labor intensive than trying to raise honey bees.

Oh, and we have a new cat in our household. His ("its"--he's neutered) name is Golum--for the character in Lord of the Rings. A professor at the college needed a new home for him; the prof is allergic. Golum is settling in. The younger cats find him fascinating; the older cats, who don't even like each other, just stay away from him. I've attached a picture of him here and I'll attach it to my website (

So, that's the "state of spring" report from my house. As I'm typing this, I'm hearing my cat, Bubba, sneeze. I think he has allergies, too!

Here's a postscript to the Austin post--speed limits in Texas are just suggestions; I notice, on all of my visits there, that Texas drivers ignore the posted limits, pretty much.