Waiting to Exhale

classroomWe are studying the atmosphere in 8th grade science class and the students just learned that Earth’s atmosphere is pressing against them with a force of 14.7 pounds per square inch. Lately I’ve been feeling it.  I am enormously busy!

I started the school year behind, having been hired only days before it began – and in fact working the first day without even having filled out employment papers!  My classroom is a social studies room transformed into a science room with the addition of a sink and when I arrived it was a sterile blank slate. I had no supply budget so splurged at the dollar store and Goodwill and put a bunch of things on my Amazon.com wishlist.  Thanks to supporters for making the room look a lot more inviting with science posters and useful supplies!

I was behind in other ways as well. The school for which I work uses a pre-packaged science curriculum and the science kits didn’t arrive until school had been in session for 10 days. This wasn’t much of a problem for the other teachers who had used the kits in past years and had copied lesson plans and activity sheets but it was a bit more of a stumbling block for me.  Luckily the other science teachers (in particular the department head) were very generous and helped me out with copies of their activities.  I teach both 8th and 7th grade and I try to stay on track with the other science teachers so we cover the same material. Unfortunately my schedule alternates my 8th and 7th grade classes so in the 4 minutes between classes I have to scramble to erase boards, put away books, and lab materials and get out things for the other class (and then do it all again after the next period).  It makes it hard to keep my desk and room in order!  In addition I had new administrative software and policies to learn so no matter how much I accomplished in a day I went home feeling farther behind in the evening!

And of course school didn’t just start for me! My kids are in 5th, 6th, 9th and 12th grade this year and as well as school they are involved in extracurricular activities like 4-H, Cub Scouts, spell bowl, choir, drama and volleyball!  And my oldest daughter works 24 hours a week as a hostess at a local hotel. With one (old and unreliable) car and one driver it has meant a lot of running around and a lot of gas expense!

At home the garden continues to overflow with cucumbers that grow to monster size before we discover them hiding underneath the spiny leaves, and broccoli and tomatoes that feed a variety of bugs before we get around to picking them.  Didn’t school used to start AFTER the harvest was in?  Our baby chicks are about ready to leave the shelter of the bathroom (thank goodness) and move into their coop so we really need to finish transforming the old shipping container that we purchased from Habitat ReStore for $8 into a habitable coop!

We have a lot of other things we need to attend to at home – things that should be a bit easier once we have money coming in. Although I’ve been working since August 1st, because of the pay schedule, I won’t see my first paycheck until the 29th.  That one will be quite small as I’m only being paid substitute teacher pay for the first two weeks (I wasn’t hired as a ‘real’ teacher till August 18 as my hiring had to be approved by the school board and that was the first meeting).  So it’s been a tight month – lots of additional expenses and no income yet – but I’m looking ahead to September and October when I will be able to do things like fill up the empty propane tank so we have fuel to heat and cook with!

Despite finding it difficult to get caught up on everything (including sleep – my day starts at 5 AM and ends around midnight) and feeling not quite up to speed on all the administrative duties, I find teaching to be easy and enjoyable.  One of my university advisors called me a natural teacher and I have to admit that the classroom part of things feels like second nature to me.

The kids have no idea that I’m a new teacher – I introduced myself as new to their school but said nothing about being new to teaching and they seem to find the classes engaging and interesting for the most part. I have always read widely in the science field and I frequently bring in news items and real world experiences to augment the somewhat canned kit curriculum. For my 7th grade class that included digging up dirt in the backyard at 5 AM in the rain one morning so we would have local soil samples to examine along with the sand and potting soil provided by the kits.  To the delight of the kids I told them we would add a worm farm as our first class pet since we are studying soil. One of my 7th grade students even asked if I could make sure he has me for science in 8th grade as well!

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Posted in 2nd Career, back to school, school, teaching, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

School Starts on Monday

For the entire family!  That’s right – I finally (yesterday) landed a teaching job as a science teacher in a middle school about half an hour from home.  I have orientation and teacher work day on Friday and  then we are off and running on Monday!  I’m not exactly ready, especially as my new laptop has stopped working and all my electronic science files, lesson plans and worksheets from my student teaching are on it!!  10345542_833634709980518_6284059354064378791_n

This is my new classroom. Kind of a clean slate, isn’t it?  It was a social studies room and they added a sink so it’s not quite a traditional science room.  I’ve only met one teacher (head of the science department) and the principal and they are both very nice and seem like they will be supportive.

I was a little taken aback at the salary – lower than a beginning teacher in our local district  by $5,000.  I hadn’t realized how much variation there is.  We will still be pinching pennies and are eligible for free lunch but we will have a regular source of income and benefits.  And I will have the satisfaction of being part of a community and team again (I missed that a lot while unemployed).

I want to thank all our friends and supporters who have helped us out in so many ways, not the least of which is just reading and commenting on the blog!  We couldn’t have made it without you.  Stay tuned for our adventures along this new path!

Posted in 2nd Career, back to school, school, teaching | 23 Comments

What’s up with the Goats?

Hobby Farms Magazine had an article recently titled “How Do You Make Money Farming? Raise Meat Goats.”  If you saw it you might be wondering how our goat business is going.

IMAG1592You might say it hasn’t really gotten out of the box yet.  If you are a long time reader you will recall that we started with 3 young female goats – Ginger, Nutmeg and Honey.  They are all part Kiko (a meat goat breed from New Zealand).  They are great goats – lots of personality and a very hardy breed.  Because we were thinking of making goat’s milk soap, we decided to add a dairy goat to the herd and we acquired Tinker, a Toggenburg/Alpine mix who, in the vernacular of goat farming, had been exposed to a buck.  Tinker was a bit more skittish than the hand raised Kiko does but a pleasant goat with a long beard (which the kids thought was pretty funny).  We weren’t there when she gave birth and one twin was dead and the other barely holding on when we discovered that her time had come.  We doted on the little survivor, a doeling we named Doty.  And all seemed well.  IMG_0723

We added a Kiko buckling to the herd – Hot Rod was going to be our herd sire and he grew nicely with large curling horns giving him a vigorously macho appearance.  Next we added two full-blood proven Kiko does, Cotton and Cocoa.  Cocoa had given birth to quadruplets in her first kidding and we were looking forward to seeing her next kids.  Both does had been exposed to a full Kiko buck so their offspring would have been valuable additions to our herd.  We had 8 goats, 3 part-Kiko, 3 full blood Kiko and two dairy goats.  Now all we needed was for Hot Rod to do his part.

Then things started going downhill.  Tinker developed symptoms of two goat diseases,  Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis (CAE) and Caseous Lymphadinitis (CL), both fairly prevalent (I learned) among dairy goats, both potentially contagious to the other goats (and one to humans as well under certain circumstances). Our local rural vet tested Tinker for CAE with a positive result but felt that she didn’t have the more dangerous CL.  I wasn’t convinced that he was correct but before I had a chance to do more testing Tinker unexpectedly and abruptly died. We were saddened but given the situation I also felt somewhat relieved.

That was until other goats became ill.  Their condition deteriorated rapidly – they would seem fine in the morning, listless by evening and comatose by the next day.  It was a mad scramble to try and figure out what was happening. We got little Doty to a large animal vet who was able to solve the puzzle – a fecal sample showed she had an infestation of the Barber Pole worm, a  gastrointestinal blood sucking worm that can cause severe anemia, dehydration, loss of blood, diarrhea and internal fluid accumulation.  This worm is resistant to all the over the counter dewormers (which we had been using) so the vet gave me syringes full of cattle dewormer and I raced home to inject the herd.  We lost Hot Rod, then Cocoa (who was clearly pregnant) and then finally even little Doty. I don’t know whether the dewormer just didn’t work on those individuals or whether the infestation was too far along to be effective.  It was a devastating loss.

So there were no new little kids in our barn this spring and until I have a job we can’t afford another buck.  We think we will add one at some point and keep trying. We’ve put gutters on the barn, making the goat pen a lot less damp (barber pole worms thrive in damp conditions) and we’ve increased the grazing area so that we can rotate the goats (also supposed to cut down on worm exposure). We’ve added a herbal wormer to their routine as well.  Some people swear by it, others poo-poo it but I figure it can’t hurt.

We are hoping that our goat farming will some day be profitable money-wise.  In the meantime it’s been good for all of us to have something to care for and concentrate on – animals have a way of getting you to focus on the here and now.  And they can be pretty funny as well – they often bring a smile to our faces with their antics!IMAG1385IMAG1593

Posted in goats, hobby farm | 4 Comments