Sunday, December 2, 2012

The final push

We were back to reality with a bump on Monday, after our nice long Thanksgiving Break, which was marred only by my struggles with the crashed computer. Monday marked the start of the last stretch of regular teaching before Final Exams. We have one more full week, then two days of wrap-up, three days of finals, a weekend of grading, and then home again for the Christmas break.

I'm looking forward to catching up on some much-needed rest. As usual, the tension is killing my sleep, and I've been up a lot at midnight and two and three in the morning getting work done so I can be free to spend time with students during the day.

Good teaching doesn't come without struggle. You need to be able to give each student your best efforts, and you shouldn't give up too easily when the student is being lazy or weak-minded about things. As a result, you wear yourself out not a little, butting heads with students that need to work harder, or struggling mightily to find a third or fourth way to explain something when the first and second methods didn't work. If you come home relaxed and refreshed, you're probably not doing it right. You should feel bruised and battered, at least a little.

I usually sleep a lot the first week of any of our two long breaks, as my body and mind repair themselves from all these bumps and hurts.

This weekend isn't helping any. For various reasons, some good, some not so good, the college decided to hold the biannual student conference on a Saturday instead of the first day of the final exam period. Student conference is a great event, and very good for student learning, since students are put on the spot by professors and made to defend their work verbally. But I was pretty battered at the start of it yesterday, and wasn't sure if I gave it my best by the end. I came home, did my farm chores, took about a half a cup of white wine, slept on the couch for two hours and felt better. Aimee, for her part, poor girl, had to do the weekly shopping before she could come home and take her nap.

I was in bed by eight-thirty.

Today is the Maine Association for Search and Rescue Quarterly Meeting, which I must attend if the Unity College SAR team wishes to continue to make a contribution to Maine SAR, and which takes several hours, and a couple hours of driving on either side.

Not a happy weekend pour moi. Aimee, for her part, cranky too but still good-hearted, will do the laundry and no doubt keep the wood stove stoked while I'm away. At least, I hope she will. It wouldn't be the first time she let the fire go out while I was on an errand, so I plan to leave the electric heater on too, as back-up. Nothing worse than coming home tired to a cold house.

Additionally, since we knew we were going to lose the great majority of our weekend, we were forced to take a risk with Bentley, our ram. His job for the year done, he needed to be separated again from his ewes. But this is an unhappy event for him, and so of course he batters fences and gates to make himself feel better. Normally. we'd do this job at the start of a weekend, so we would have time to monitor him as he settled down. Instead I was forced to do it Wednesday evening at dusk. That gave him Wednesday night and a little time before work Thursday morning to settle down, and of course he was still pretty mad, battering the fence as I drove away to work.

I'm reminded a little of the finale to Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, when the ecological and systems problems plaguing the German armies have piled up, so much the system begins to break down and they can no longer resist the western armies. All it takes is a straw, when the poor bloody camels are already so obviously overloaded.

But don't feel too bad for us. My comparison, except for the bit about straws, is obviously pure guff and hyperbole. And no-one said I had to run a farm as well as hold down an academic job. It's my own silly fault.

We'll be done with the semester soon enough, and recovery will happen. I'm looking forward to it. We've done our  pre-winter duty as Mainers and homesteaders particularly well this year. The house and farm are all set up for the coming winter, so we'll be able to relax. I have some minor energy efficiency projects to do around the house, mostly just for fun, a wild notion to try felt-making with our own fleece, as well as a nice tall stack of serious reading.

Since the weather turned bad and the farm and pre-winter workload has reduced itself, I've been reading some great books, including Anatol Lievin's Pakistan: A Hard Country, and Patrick French's India: A Portrait, and as a result I now feel I understand both countries a lot better than I did, even though I grew up around Indian and Pakistani people in Sheffield. Additionally, and not without a groan or two from Aimee, the History Book Club offered a special, all three volumes of Manchester's book on Churchill, The Last Lion, to add to my Churchill collection. All this I consider necessary to understanding how to fix climate change, and so I take credit for it as an academic. Even Churchill, whose "wilderness years" are an inspiration for many climate academics.

I also plan to eat well, rest well, and be nice to Aimee, although sometimes I think that doesn't get me very far, or not as far as it perhaps should.

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

The earliest posts, at the very end of the blog, tell the story of the Great Farm, our purchase of a fragment of that farm, the renovation of the homestead and its populating with people and animals. Go all the way to the last post in the archive and read backwards from there to get it in chronological order.

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