Spring Fever and 14 Days Left Til Summer

Spring is a busy time for me with school, wrapping up the tail-end of writing for Sandpoint Magazine, doing a bit of arts writing for Inlander (this piece on Ruben Trejo was a privilege to write), and the beginning of negotiations for the school district.

That and planting in the garden in between downpours kept me busy. But it was worth the effort.

School has been a good year, the usual ups and downs, if there's anything "usual" about teaching high school. One of my students won a trip to Washington, DC for her artwork. We did our first field trip ever (in 10 years of teaching), to do "Andy Goldsworthy" sculptures in the woods by the lake (a group project at right). And some of my little cupcakes are going on to college (like Alex, whose art is above left), art school, adult lives, etc. and taking a bit of me with them, I hope.

Negotiations is always an interesting process. And a challenge. Since the Legislature froze our pay last year and disallowed advancement for years of experience, this year (as they informed us) we needed to "feel the pain" that everyone else had been spared. So they cut funding by 4% to salaries, as well as other parts of our funding. And they imposed something allowing the Districts to basically do whatever they wanted with our payscale if they declared a "financial emergency."

It's been ugly, not so much with the District, with whom our Association has a pretty good rapport, but in general; people are upset and nervous and frustrated because teacher pay is some of the lowest in the national already in Idaho and now we're going backwards. And yet we have jobs. The problem, as I see it, is that we've been fighting for improved pay and working conditions since Day One so this is ON TOP of an already undervalued job situation.

Sandpoint Magazine, which always does an outstanding job, included two of my pieces: a small profile of Do and Scott's new gallery, First Light Gallerie, and a profile of Jackie Henrion and Dan Earle, a musician/artist couple who were just a delight to write about.

And I had most of the food section, too, which is usually fun to do. A lot of work driving up and back and following up. It never ceases to amaze me that when we're willing to basically give away free publicity to folks that they don't recognize or value that. If I had a dime for every time someone blew off a request for information...I could probably retire from writing!

It works out well enough, though. I get to write for Inlander, covering a lot of Sandpoint, which helps when I write for the magazine. And vice versa.

Here's a photo of Ben Olson, in fact, taking photos for the Magazine on the same day I was there (having already finished my magazine piece on Trinity at City Beach) doing a review for Inlander. There's my sexy food shot (above left) and Ben feigning surprise (right). Ben's an admitted pain-in-the-ass but a fabulous photographer and one of the many interesting folks I've met from my writing gigs. All in all I feel pretty fortunate to get paid for writing the way I do.

It was probably my food writing, actually, that made me pay more attention to gardening. That and my mom was into most of her life, albeit she was sort of a lousy gardener. It takes some serious work, I have discovered, and towards the end she didn't have the strength. But she grew up picking potatoes and maybe once you get some good brown dirt under your nails that young, it just seeps in somehow and you can't shake the urge to plant your own someday.

Anyway, I ripped up the grass in the yard, front and back, put in a concrete planter the full depth of the yard, added a living fence of arborvitae, and have slowly been adding perennials and edible plants. Last year I had the cherry tree, raspberries, strawberries and a sad blueberry that I've since transplanted. Here are a few photos of the work in progress (above: before, after). I've added bark and rock walkways, perennial groundcover like Creeping Jenny, and some low but pretty trees like flowering sandcherry.

This year I added more blueberries, asparagus, onions and peas outdoors, plus containers and starts indoors: mesclun mix, spinach, cooking herbs I hope to winter over, tomatoes, cranberry (I know, they're bog plants, right?), and even artichokes, which are down from 8 to 4 and probably not going to make it. I also planted flowers (morning glory, delphinium and columbine) and nearly wept when one made a little flower. Our school has a horticulture program so I picked up some "backup" basil, some iris, and some petunias.

It's a delight to sit on the front porch in the summer and just watch all the flying things flit about the yard. And although I've made some mistakes with what and how I've planted, I'm looking forward to my first big crop of berries and the homemade salsa from one of my fat little tomato bushes. Yum. Come on Summer!