Start of the semester

September 16, 2018

The start of the semester is always hectic, but things have started to settle down a little bit now, so here’s an update.

I’m teaching four classes this fall: two sections of a first-year seminar, an upper-level class on ancient Greece, and a graduate class on the end of the Roman Republic. First-year seminars are always a bit tricky: it’s a lot of students from many different fields with many different levels of preparation and expectations of college, some of whom are in the process of discovering that college isn’t the right place for them after all. The first couple weeks are the deer-in-headlights phase when they’re mostly just in shock. I try to ease them into the work by gentle steps, while at the same time making sure they understand that it only gets harder from here on in.

My Greece class and the Roman Republic grad class are, of course, magnificent. I am lucky to have such wonderful students.

The weather is starting to cool down here, but we still have hot days—today is in the 80s F.

My book has just come out! It’s very exciting. I’m trying to contain myself and not just spend all my time talking about how my book just came out, because I know that will get boring fast for other people. But still, my book just came out, and I’m thrilled.

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Pickles

August 9, 2018

My cucumbers are flourishing and producing cukes faster than we can eat them. On top of that, we’re getting lots of cucumbers from our farmshare. What to do? Pull out Marjorie Standish and make some pickles!

Four jars of fresh pickles

I got four jars full of pickles. I made these with just salt and vinegar, no dill, since E doesn’t care for it. I look forward to enjoying them in the fall after the fresh cucumbers have gone by.

July projects

July 30, 2018

July has been a month of projects here. I’ve been working on the proposal for my next book, which meant writing an introduction, assembling a list of documents, and writing up a proposal explaining why my book would be useful in the classroom and how it compares with the other texts that are available.

During the time I was working on that, we had a crew here for a couple of days to install our new solar panels. Then we had to have inspections and tests, and the local power company had to come install a new junction box, but today the system finally went online and we are now generating our own electricity.

As soon as I finished with the book proposal, we started a week-long painting project which involved moving furniture, taking down fixtures, taping off work areas, and repainting the walls in two rooms and the ceiling in the third. We worked on that for a full week, Sunday through Saturday.

So, after all of that, we’re taking this week very slow to give ourselves time to recover before August brings us more adventures.

Visitors

July 7, 2018

Last weekend we had a visit from our friends M and S, whom we don’t get to see very often. S was on his way up to Maine to visit a friend, so he took off for a couple of days and came back with lobsters, which we cooked up for a Canada Day dinner. M and I swam in the pond and talked a lot about teaching. We all had a wonderful time together.

So much food

June 22, 2018

Several things have come together lately. For one, we got strawberries out of our own back yard. For another, we went and picked more strawberries at a local farm. For a third, we got our first box from our farmshare (from the same farm where we have our weekly fish share pick-up), with lettuce, rhubarb, more strawberries, kale, apples, eggs, and fresh biscuits. Finally, since juhannus (the Finnish midsummer holiday) is this weekend, we’ve stocked up on groceries so we can just relax and hang out at home together, enjoying the long day. As a result, our refrigerator is more full of food than any time since Christmas. We have been triaging the leftovers to eat up whatever we can get rid of to make more space. What can I say? It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Popcorn nachos

June 14, 2018

As I continue to try to keep my glycemic load down, I sometimes make interesting discoveries about food. One I made recently is that even though corn is fairly high in glycemic load, popcorn is pretty low by volume, since the popped kernels contain so much air. This discovery led me on to a further thought: what if you made nachos with popcorn instead of tortilla chips? Once I had the thought, I had to try it out, and the results were pretty good.

I popped a batch of corn, picked out the unpopped kernels, and spread the popcorn in the bottom of a baking dish. Then I topped them with salsa, chopped peppers and olives, and mozzarella cheese, just as if I were making nachos on a layer of tortilla chips. I baked it in the oven at 350F until the cheese was nice and melted, and that was that.

The result tastes pretty good, although since the popcorn doesn’t stack the way chips do it tends to be a bit crumbly. Still, a big plateful has only about as much glycemic load as half a potato or a slice of rye bread.

Garden

May 12, 2018

I planted my vegetable garden for the year a couple of days ago. Last year was very discouraging, but at least I think I learned a few things from the experience, so I’m trying again this year.

I tried starting some vegetables from seed, but only the carrots took, so I transplanted those to the garden and sowed some more carrot seed. I also got some cabbage, beet, and artichoke (!) seedlings from our local nursery to try, plus I planted some old potatoes that had gone to seed. We’ll see whether anything comes of this at all. I also planted a few pumpkin seeds at the edge of the woods; I’m not going to put much work into them, I’m just seeing what happens.

I’m using a different mix of composts this year and I’ve put down newspaper around the seedlings to discourage weeds. The netting I put up last year didn’t keep the rabbits out at all, so I’m trying a deterrent spray this year.

Interview

May 6, 2018

Things are coming along on the book. I’ve been reviewing final edits and making some last corrections to the proofs. Last week I did an interview by phone for a book review podcast that should come out sometime this summer.

In other news, we had an engineer look at the recurring drywall cracks in our house and confirm that they are not signs of any structural problems, just the result of natural settling, so we can go ahead and patch and paint them without worrying about any bigger issues lying undiscovered.

Starting spring work

April 21, 2018

I’m in the midst of final proofreading for my barbarians book, but we finally had a nice calm, sunny day today, so I took an hour before lunch to do some random outdoor work. I picked up fallen branches, pruned the fruit trees and berry bushes, and shoveled some gravel that got banked up by the plows during the winter back onto the road. There’s a lot of work yet to be done, but it was nice to putter around in the sun.

Growth

April 20, 2018

I’m trying to start some seedlings for the garden inside this year, since I had very poor luck with the plants I started outside last year. I have a tray of carrot, green bean, and cucumber seeds. So far the carrots have sprouted nicely, but the beans and cukes have yet to put in an appearance.

In other news, the New England Historical Association had its spring meeting last weekend. I was the program chair for that conference, meaning I took all the submitted papers and organized them into panels, which is fun but a lot of work. We held our annual election at the conference and I was elected president of the Association for the next year, which is a great honor.

I’ve also recently been in talks for a second book with the publishing house that is putting out my barbarians book. They were looking for someone to write a brief introduction to the Greco-Persian Wars, with translated documents. That’s a subject I regularly teach and I’ve been wishing for more opportunities to do translation work, so I jumped at the chance. The next step is to put together a proposal. I hope to have a contract in hand and start working within a couple of months. It’s shaping up to be a busy summer again.