Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Leland School's Halloween Concert

When kids are preschoolers, all it takes to make a costume is a hat or a mask. In kindergarten or first grade, they need a whole costume, but they really believe in the transformational power of the clothing. If you have a real baseball uniform, you will be able to hit the ball. I once met a first grader who wanted a chicken costume so that he could hatch out a fertile egg.

By third grade, kids start to appreciate the humor of impersonating another character. The kids in grades 4, 5, and 6 make the most of Halloween and the chance to make fun of what scares them, whether it be monster, politicians, or the opposite sex.

Alanna as Gwen Stephani, Anna as a business woman, and Lydia as a Klondike Woman, with Guy looking on.

Grownups in costume were admitted free. Everyone else had to pay a dollar. Joe and Mary Povolo were a Monk and his Candy Corn.

Mr. Evans manned the door as a Recently Canned Mouseketeer.

Austin took the challenge of dressing as a girl to new heights by aptly portraying his mom, Deb, in the background.

A Halloween concert is a great idea. Nobody gets stage fright in costume -- if you make a mistake, nobody knows who you are, anyway. If you get nervous, it's probably because of the monster next to you. The kids sang Halloween songs, made good use of the percussion instruments, and practiced entering and exiting wearing all sorts of impediments. It was all great fun.
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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bottomless Chicken Pen

This is the bottomless chicken pen that we built from the aluminum frame of an old window awning. It has a floor space of 30 square feet. I have put six hens in it and moved it around the yard this fall, effectively taming an area that was knee high in lambs quarter and ragweed. It takes about two days for the hens to eat all the vegetation and scratch it up. On the second day I've been feeding them a mixture of oats and buckwheat to "plant" a winter cover crop. They miss enough oats that I've got decent coverage on the places they've already been.

The pen is heavier than it was supposed to be, because of the very large and sturdy nesting box. That part detaches and will probably be re-engineered over the winter. The hens were very bad at foraging at first; they just stood at the wire and begged for grain. Over time, they turned more industrious. Now they are scratching like champs and even laying eggs despite a minimal diet and no lights.

Looking for more chicken pen ideas? Try the City Chicken's chicken tractor page.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fall Color

Fall has been so late. I was starting to think that the leaves were going to just color and fall off instantaneously, or fall off while still green. After last week's wild thunderstorms with tornadoes, we had a rainy Friday and then on Saturday, on the way to work, the rain cleared from my windshield enough to see that we had colors, lots of them.

One of my blackjack players claimed that the storms "scared the colors into those trees." It works for me. The newlyweds were home this weekend, and Shelagh took this one on the way to Pyramid Point.
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Monday, October 22, 2007

Asian lady Beetles

Yesterday was the day the the Asian Lady Beetles started looking for homes for the winter. I first noticed them when I was cleaning the stray mint out of the herb garden. When I looked up, they were crawling over the whole west side of the house. By the time I came in, the hall ceiling looked like this.

I turned off all the lights upstairs except Liz's, as no one was sleeping there last night. They congregated near the light. Luckily, we have very low ceilings upstairs so it was easy to reach them with the vacuum. Luckily, I have very low cleaning standards, so it was easy to find a few cobwebs to suck up on top of the lady beetles so they couldn't manage to crawl out again. Problem solved, but I pity the folks with cathedral ceilings.
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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Roof is Done

With an old house, you're never totally Done, but it feels good to get the new roof finished. This is another gorgeous sky, but it has either rained, stormed or threatened most of the days since my last roof photo. they finished on Wednesday and then Thursday night a wild thunder storm featuring 1 inch diameter hail swept through in the evening. There were several tornadoes that touched down in Northern Michigan, including one in Kalkaska that killed a man.

I wasn't home to see it. I was at working dealing the aptly named "Thunder Thursday" poker tournament. I was glad Richard was home to keep it all together here.
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Monday, October 15, 2007

How to Start the Conversation

It was over at No Impact Man, where I often contribute my MomVoice to the discussion. They were talking about the following scene:
When my friend Elizabeth drops her son off at school in Connecticut, the moms gather in the courtyard to chat. There is a cool new feature to their SUVs which allows them to lock the doors while leaving the engine on. They stand around, a bunch of them, having a nice chat, while their motors idle in the parking lot, keeping air conditioners going in cars that have no one in them and are going nowhere.
I volunteered that I am not the sort of person who could observe such a scene without commenting on it. Furthermore, I would welcome the chance to make that sort of comment at school, in front of my kids, because:
when the conversation takes place at school, I'm giving my kids a "responsible adult" role model. The other moms may not realize it for a long time, but everybody benefits when there are kids in the group who can say "Wait! This isn't right! Let's do something smarter!"
I was surprised when another poster said that she didn't have the guts to initiate such a conversation, and wondered how it was done.

I thought about this all day yesterday, as I did outdoor chores in the (finally) fall weather. I realized that I have, over the years, developed a technique for initiating these conversations. Here it is:

Sibylle, my script for starting these conversations goes something like:
I used to.....(fill in the offending behavior), but then I realized .....(fill in the new information or better practice.)

"I've been drinking out of these one-way plastic bottles for years, but lately I've read about how bad they are for the environment and how the water in the bottle isn't any better. I guess I might as well just drink tap water."
I used to let my car idle to keep in comfortable inside, but when I read that the carbon dioxide coming out of my tailpipe is going to warm the earth for the next fifty years, well that puts everything into perspective. I guess I can just crack the windows and let it breathe a little.
You don't have to get anyone to agree with you on the spot, just plant the seed. You don't attack anybody, just give them the information they need to make a better decision. And it is about information! Even veteran environmentalists are having to rethink their ways in the new light of global warming. I recently said this to one of my farmer friends:
I used to think I would end up being cremated when I die to "save space for the living" and all that, but now I realize that this body has already sequestered a certain amount of carbon, and why would I want to put it all back up into the atmosphere? I hope my kids can figure out how to compost me....

I didn't realize it until I read Effect Measure, but today is Blog Action Day for the environment, when bloggers are encouraged to write a post about environmental action. I think that having conversations in everyday life are much more important, and educational, than spewing words out into cyberspace. There is simply no subsitute for speaking up!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Neon and Clotheslines

Brother Tim had just returned from Shanghai when we ate dinner the other night. He had been there to "blog from the Special Olympics for espn.com". He said that Shanghai was crazy with construction of high rise buildings, and that at night they were lit up with all colors of neon lights, rather like "Blade Runner on steroids."

He also saw clotheslines everywhere, on the balcony of every apartment. Here is a short column about his impressions of the trip, published in USA Today

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change

We are in Ann Arbor this morning, on a quick trip to visit Shelagh and Jordan, and to have dinner last night with brother Tim and nephew Christopher.

I have recently noticed how many "global warming doubt" websites have been constructed and how much money they are spending on advertising. Hopefully, I will find time to write about the process of manufacturing this doubt, but for today I will invite my readers to explore the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change website. They, along with Al Gore, won the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

October Tomatoes

Back in April, one of my 4-H parents gave me three tomato plants. There were two basket tomatoes and one of a variety called "First Lady". I planted the First Lady in early May atop a nice shovelful of composted chicken bedding, but one night when it got cold I forgot to cover it and it got nipped by frost. It grew back from its blackened branches and , as the summer progressed, came to occupy a space in the garden about nine feet across. As other tomatoes succumbed to the usual late season blights and fungi, this plant was making new growth at the end of each branch, and putting out impressive amounts of fruit.

This is the basket of tomatoes I picked from that one plant after a rain storm on October 1st. The shoulders of this variety always retained those green streaks, but the flavor was excellent. I picked an eight quart basket full every few days in September. Now the days are shorter, but still no frost, and I am still picking a dozen tomatoes every three or four days.

Anna and I went swimming in Lake Michigan on October 8th. It was pushing 90 degrees and it was a pleasure, not a challenge, to mark October off on the calendar as a swimming month. Maybe this year we'll try for November.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Where My Sleep Went

This is the last little piece of our old roof -- two layers of asphalt shingles and the original cedar shakes. We have a hired crew working to replace it, tearing the old stuff down to the planks, laying tar paper and then 2x4s on their sides to make an airspace, and then board sheeting, more tar paper, and finally the shingles over that. They are also boxing in the soffits and putting vents in top and bottom so the whole thing will breathe.

They start at 8 am and I work until midnight. Until recently, I was working until 2 am and going to bed at 3. They say that adjusting to an earlier shift is much harder than simply staying up later. I am proving it, laying in bed for an hour or more before I can get to sleep. It's hard to be grumpy when the days are as beautiful as this.
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Monday, October 01, 2007

More on Sandhill Cranes

My casino job is a great source of information from both near and far. I stopped by the Three Card Poker table on my way to the break room to tell one of our regulars about seeing the Sandhill Cranes. "Oh yes," he told me, "they've been nesting down at Garvin's Landing all summer."

The lady playing at that table was from Ann Arbor. "Are they rare here?" she asked. "Around us they are taking over the golf courses, just like the Canada Geese."

As I left, I heard the dealer, a young guy from the Upper Peninsula, bragging that he had seen a lot of them up north, as well. Almost out of earshot, I heard him ask the regular, "Did you ever eat one?" I wonder how that conversation played out.....
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