Saturday, January 28, 2012

Not About Chickens!

As a college professor, one thing I've learned is that I need clearly stated policies regarding every aspect of my classes.  This applies to grades, especially.  My policy, I think, is simple.  Any assignment past due by three days receives an automatic zero.  Students can contact me for permission to turn in late work, but that doesn't mean I have to grade it.  I also tell students in my syllabus that they need to remind me--before dead week--of any assignments they submitted that I agreed to grade. 

I have a freshman from last semester who contacted me after final exams about her grade.  I have been going back and forth with her--though, again, my syllabus says that I will not discuss grades when dead week begins.  I have reminded her of my policies, but she persists.  Perhaps she thinks that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease"--that if she bugs me enough, I will relent. 

What generally happens is this--I go to the chair of my department and the dean of the college and explain what's going on.  My policies are clear. I remind students about them constantly, especially at the end of the semester. Students must submit all assignments to keep from making an automatic F in the class.  That still doesn't mean I'll grade the late assignment.

I have to jump through hoops to change a final grade in a class.  That's why it's important for students to read and understand my policies.  If I make one exception, then any student who didn't submit work and wants to do so now can use this one case as justification.  I like to be consistent.

I don't know how this will resolve, but it's something that won't go away until I hand it over to my bosses.  I hate dealing with this kind of stuff.  It detracts from the work I need to do now.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Chicken Obsession...

At some point, I'm sure I'll write about something else. But, for now, my chickens absorb quite a bit of my time.

I picked up four eggs today.  Since Monday, I've collected 15 eggs, all white.  I've found one broken brown egg, but I think Mrs. Bennet and Lydia, the two non-white hens, are low on the pecking order and are feeling a bit stressed about it.  I hope they'll lay soon, but they are older hens and might be at the end of their laying time.  Still, I'm not willing to slaughter them yet, especially since they are new to me.  They might just need a bit more time, and I'm not in any hurry.  To me, this is a long-term investment.

And what an investment!  I bought a 50-lb bag of feed today, as well as some grit.  Together, these cost me about $20, which I don't consider expensive.  That's about what I spend on cat food, cat litter, and wild bird food. I've also purchased wood shavings for the coop, but a bag of that isn't expensive either.  A bale of wheat straw costs about $4-$5; that's not expensive either.  They eat practically any cooked leftovers, which reduces the waste that goes into my garbage.  I'll also get some great compost for my gardens. And they are fun to watch and to talk to.  They know when they see the "blue bucket" that I'm bringing them some treats.  All in all, it's a mutually beneficial relationship.  And I love the eggs.

I also enjoy watching my cats as they watch the chickens.  It's great "cat TV"!

The hens don't need much prompting going in to the hen house at night, and, as soon as they hear me in the morning, they start making soft clucking noises. I've seen the sunrise every morning since they arrived; I'm usually a late riser.  Plus, I've been going to bed earlier and sleeping better.  Maybe my circadian rhythms are finally resetting.

I'm excited mostly because this is one more step towards self-sufficiency.  Now, if I could just figure out how to get my gardens to grow in 115-degree summers, everything would be great!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rain and More Rain!

My poor chickens!  They spent yesterday huddled under the hen house for most of the day.  The yard was a lake. Their food stayed mostly dry, but they didn't eat much.  I did get two eggs last night before I closed them up for the evening, and I had two eggs this morning.  I've filled their feeder up twice today; they are obviously hungry!  Plus, I've given them some treats to make them happy.  Since they moved in, I've gathered 11 eggs; they've broken three!  But that's not bad for five days!

The broccoli is finally producing.  I have four plants; this one was the largest, and it has a bunch of small florets growing up the side of the stalk.  The others are doing fine, but not producing any side growths yet, so I'll let those go a bit longer.

I have a bunch of paperwhites and daffodils growing in the side of my yard.  I love when they bloom--I can have fresh flowers for days!  I picked these this morning when I went out to retrieve the garbage can.  Plus, they smell divine!

I was up last night until nearly midnight, and I got up at 6:30 this morning to tend to the chickens.  I stayed up for a couple of hours, then went back to bed to take a nap.  I guess I need to start working now!

Monday, January 23, 2012


I came home this afternoon and found three eggs in the nest box! Someone laid an egg last night, but she dropped it from the roost.  It busted on the floor of the coop.  I went to clean it this afternoon, but I think they managed to push it out with some of the wood shavings.

Last night, one of the leghorns refused to go into the henhouse. I have a light on right now in hopes that they all will go in so I can shut the hatch to keep them safe.

A good second day of chicken owning!

My cat, Boudreaux, spent some time checking them out this afternoon.

I finally had to remove him from the top of the pen.  The chickens were as curious about him as he was about them!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Chickens Have Arrived....

These are the Bennets.  If you've read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, you know their names.  The red one is Mrs. Bennet; the four white Leghorns are Jane, Lizzy, Mary, and Kitty; the black and white is Lydia--the troublemaker!  She escaped when Julie was trying to unload them into the coop, and Julie and Randy, her husband, had to retrieve her from some brush in the ditch!  In the book, Lydia runs away with Mr. Wickham.  Ironic that the first thing she did when she got here is run away!

I'll post more pics--I've taken so many already.  The girls are settling in.  This will be a great adventure for all of us!

Friday, January 20, 2012

What I do when I'm not grading papers...

A finished tea towel apron.
A tea towel apron in progress...
I make aprons.  Or knit.  Or crochet.  Or quilt.

I add extensions to the chicken coop.  This was my project today.  I hope it will be inhabited soon!

I'm tired now, and every bone in my hands hurts.  I also gouged my thumb with the drill.  I probably should have gone for stitches!  I'll check it later.

Sometimes I read or play solitare Scrabble.  Sometimes I just sit and stare into space.  I think I'll do that now.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Joy of Working From Home...Mostly!

Most semesters, I teach two courses on line and two courses on campus. As the university has restructured class times/days, teaching two classes on campus has become difficult.  I want to minimize the 90-mile roundtrip as much as possible, so I try to limit my time on campus to two days per week.  That means I usually end up teaching 1 1/2-hour courses, but those slots don't begin until noon on Monday/Wednesday.  The last time I did that (last spring), I ended up teaching one class from noon until 1:15, then another from 2pm until 3:15.  That made for a long day.

This semester, I'm teaching three courses on line (all writing courses--gah!) and one class on campus at noon on M/W.  I will have my four-day weekends back, but will still need to get up on Monday mornings.  Hey, everything's a trade-off!

Since I became one of those intrepid souls who teach college courses on line, my life has expanded in unforeseen ways.  I can spend more time at home--five days a week.  My students have multiple ways to contact me, via Skype, IM, two email addresses and my office phone (messages go to my email inbox, and I can listen to them).  So I'm still accessible, but I have time at home for baking, cooking, gardening...reading, even!  I love it.

I blundered into teaching much the way I blunder into the rest of my life.  I have a degree in secondary education, but I kept trying to find jobs that paid well that weren't primarily teaching.  I should have just been a teacher. This lifestyle suits me well. 

Most people think teachers have cushy lives.  Hah, I say.  I teach year-round; I have to design my courses with the course management software, monitor those courses, and constantly find ways to make them interesting and helpful.  Plus, I grade papers.  Oy, do I grade papers--some weeks, I have 90 or more essays and/or other assignments to grade.  I spend anywhere from four to 10 hours a day reading/grading/returning emails, etc.  Anyone who tells you that teachers have it easy obviously hasn't ever taught. 

In spite of the grading, I wouldn't trade this career for any other.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

What I Did on My Winter Break...

My son came in from Austin and helped me build a chicken coop:

I plan to get the chickens as soon as it warms up a bit, though I think now would be okay.  So far, the winter has been mild, but we haven't had February yet!

I took Daniel, my son, back to Austin after Christmas, and I spent about four days there.  Did a bit of shopping for plants.  We went to The Great Outdoors--they were having a plant sale, half-off everything--and I bought more stuff to plant.  They gave us a flat of Asian vegetables, bok choy, etc.  So I had to plant those when I arrived home.  Here's a pic of one of the beds:

Right now, I have broccoli, collards, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, spinach and other assorted greens.  The winter garden seems to be about green vegetables!  Oh, and I've planted an artichoke.  I haven't grown those before, so we'll see how that works.

Mostly, I've been baking, cooking, planting, and working on my spring courses.  I've had an excellent break--and now, I have only a little more than a week before spring semester begins!