Friday, August 31, 2012

Going Wilds

After a busy two weeks during which I had to go up to my small college on the hill on seven of the past 12 days, today we decided to take it "off" and we went to The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio. We've been meaning to go since we moved to Ohio in 2001 but we never managed to make it, until today.

It's only about an hour and 30 minutes away from our old house in our small city, and the trip is easy and through some beautiful country. The preserve has 10,000 acres, donated by American Electric Power, and they're used for conserving some of the world's most endangered animals. This include the Asian rhino above, and the beautiful Cheetah below.

We learned a lot during out day trip and it felt great to do something other than sit in front of this computer to either work on class preparations, tenure-review materials, or my book project. I might just decide that Fridays will be the "play hooky" day when I go to the movies or do something away from my desk and fight the ever present temptation to do one more work-related thing.

Classes began yesterday and I have two full classes, 15 (or maybe one or two more) for the first-year writing-intensive seminar and 20 for the Intro to Trans-American Literature. On Monday, I teach the Honors Seminar for the first time so I'll be busy working this weekend to prepare for that three-hour class. Right now, I have 14 students doing Honors, which is a lot.

I am happy to be back in the classroom, and I was glad to see my advisees and to welcome my new first-years. Once the materials gathering process of the tenure review is over by Sept. 15, things will be a lot more mellow and I can return to the book project. The plan is to revise, revise, revise before I have to meet my extended deadline in December. I also will be glad to be done with that all-consuming project.

Today felt particularly good precisely because nothing was required of me, except to sit back and take in the experience of seeing, up close and personal, many dangerously endangered species, grazing happily (except for the Cheetah, of course). I am conflicted about zoos but I can see the important work in conservation that a place like this does. Sadly, because there is no worse scourge on the Earth than humans, places like this may just be the only future for wild endangered species.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

For my Spanish-speaking friends, here's an essay by a Puerto Rican journalist about using English in a "Calibanesque" way (Roberto Fernández Retamar's phrase). Excellent essay and in keeping with my own philosophy of why, as a Puerto Rican, I teach and write in English. (Thanks, mami, for sending it my way!)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Late summer deliciousness

Like June, which whizzed by, July was another month that moved way too quickly. Its claim to infamy, though, was that there were a nearly record number of days above 90 degrees, and not a few above 100 degrees. Gotta say I was not unhappy to see this July go, though it did mean wishing most of the summer away.

Because I was teaching in the bridge program at my small college on the hill, I rented an apartment and lived there for two weeks, mostly sweltering because there was no air conditioner. While the co-teaching experience with a colleague and friend was great, and the group of students was wonderful, on the last Friday of the second week I was bitten by a horse or deer fly while taking a morning walk with the dogs. 

It all went down hill from there. Not only did my hand swell that day, but five days later the two spots where the fly bit me (eeek!) got bright red, hot to the touch, and swelled again. I had to race to the doctor, who prescribed mega-antibiotics. After that, I quickly decided to move out of the apartment (even though I'd paid rent for the three weeks), and returned to our home in the small city, which is totally free from evil insets who suck your blood and then contaminate it with God-knows-what (I felt like Lucy in Dracula!).

Everything improved from then on, not only because we have AC at home, but because I didn't have to worry about being attacked by wildlife. The hour-long commute to and fro wasn't too bad for the rest of the third week but I was glad when the program finally ended and I could return to the slower pace of summer, and stay put in our cozy home.

One thing August has been marvelous about has been the peaches. This year, the peach crop has outdone itself and I, true to my yearly pledge, have tried to get peaches as often as possible. Recently, I discovered a farmer's market about 40 minutes away where I can get my favorite peaches and where I also got this monster basil, with which I made delicious pesto.

Our tomatoes also did the bumper-crop thing, despite the awful drought that has killed crops all over the state and the country. I love making this simple recipe of fresh tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar and salt, and serve it over spaghetti. It's definitely one of my summer favorites.

Our apple trees, which are purely ornamental, also outdid themselves and while the apples in the pictures look lovely, they don't have any taste so they're no good for pies or for much else except for  squirrels to nibble on them. Our Concord grape arbor also produced wonderfully juicy and sweet grapes, and my husband has already made at least two batches of home-made grape juice, which my father used to love.

The milder weather in August has lured all three cats onto the deck, which will soon be history after it gets torn down next month to be replaced by a patio, which we hope will be a huge improvement, especially since the wood on our deck is nearly rotted away.

This weekend, because of the embarrassment of peaches I had, I ended up making a peach galette (left) and a cobbler (with a buttermilk crust). The galette was perfect but I don't care for the cake-y crust of the traditional cobbler recipe so I'm just picking out the cooked peaches and eating them solo.

I didn't get to the farmer's market this Saturday because I had too much to do (I'm in the process of preparing materials for my tenure review at the same time that I'm trying to finish syllabuses and still hoping to get work done on my book project, which is now due in December). But I hope to make it to the market this week and I hope to get back to these pages more often than I've done for the past two months.

In the meantime, I hope you are all enjoying the fresh produce and the cooler weather of late summer, which will soon become fall, shortly after classes begin. Way, way, way too soon.