Archive for the ‘Hearth and home’ Category

Strawberry enclosure

June 15, 2017

We have a little patch of strawberries out back and I’ve tried various arrangements in the past few years to keep the critters out of them, but I wasn’t quite satisfied, so today I built this little netted enclosure to go around them. We’ll see how that does.

To keep the rabbits and chipmunks out of our berries


Conference, conference, conference, garden

April 30, 2017

I’ve been a busy academic lately. A week ago, my university hosted the spring conference for the Historical Association that I’ve been an officer of for the past couple of years. As local host, it was my responsibility to coordinate session rooms, catering, meeting spaces, and other practical details. I’ve been working on those practicalities since last summer and it was very gratifying to see everything come together. The conference went off almost without a hitch (there was a little last minute confusion in room booking, but we got it sorted out) and people seemed to be having a good time, so I’ll call that a success.

Also at the conference I was elected vice president of the Association for next year. The vice president’s job is to organize the conference panels. I didn’t have to do that as local host, I just found spaces for the panels to meet in. So, next year, I won’t have to wrangle session rooms and catering, but I’ll be collecting paper submissions and assembling panels for both the fall and spring conferences.

The Association’s custom is that after one year as vice president, you become president for a year, so I have that to look forward to. The president’s job is mostly ceremonial—giving a short address at lunchtime at the conference. I look forward to that. (And it will look nice on a CV.)

In other academic news, I just had a proposal accepted to a conference in Edinburgh this December, so I’ll be making a quick trip across the pond.

Somehow, in the midst of all this academicking, I’ve also fond time to plant my garden. I’m trying corn, green beans, and cucumber this summer. I’ve tried various setups with deer netting to try to keep critters out of the garden in the past, and now that I’m giving corn a shot, I know that I need something a little more serious, so here’s the frame I built for this year.


February 20, 2017

I’ve been sick for the past few days. Nothing more than a mild cold with a persistent sore throat. I’m still able to work and function, but I’m getting tired of sucking on cough drops all day long.

Christmas peace

December 24, 2016

This year has not been a good one for holiday cheer. In addition to stressing out about the news, I’ve been wading through the end-of-semester grading and preparations for the spring while trying to draft another book chapter. It hasn’t felt very Christmasy here. Yesterday I finally decided to call a halt and put myself on vacation, and I’ve been feeling better every since I did. Preparations for our Christmas dinner are well in hand, presents are wrapped under our tree, and I’ve stopped stressing out about things that haven’t gotten done. I’ll get back to work soon enough. Right now, I’m happy to have myself a little break.

Utility pole crash

December 13, 2016

Yesterday morning I was up early to make pizza for the departmental holiday party. We got a wet, slushy rain/snow mix overnight and I wanted to give myself plenty of extra time for driving to campus. I had been cooking for about half an hour when we heard a plow truck going by outside, then suddenly a big crunch. We looked out to see that the plow truck had struck the utility pole right next to our driveway and the pole had just snapped and come down. The truck was stuck, tangled up in downed wires, and blocking our driveway and the road. Fortunately, it didn’t look like the driver was hurt.

Pretty soon we had a fire truck, ambulance, and several town utility trucks out front. They got the plow truck disentangled, then to work clearing the old pole out of the way and installing a new one. The whole process took about four hours and we were blocked in until it was over. Happily, we only lost power for about ten minutes during that time. I was able to finish my cooking, but I couldn’t get out of the driveway in time to make it to the party. I was sad to miss it, but at least I didn’t have to try to drive to campus on slushy roads.

I give a lot of credit to the town utility crew. They were on the job right away, they got it done, and they were good about communicating with us as it was happening.

In shock

November 13, 2016

Has it only been five days since Election Day? It feels like a month already. We’ve been sleeping poorly, crying, and generally numb with our fears about what the new president-elect is going to do to this country and the most vulnerable people in it. We know that we–well-off white people who live in a quiet country town in a solidly Democratic state–will be the most insulated from the worst consequences of the next four years, but we know that so many people are going to be much worse off and some of the damage will be irreparable. We’ve been watching the upsurge of hate crimes and racist violence in the news with a sick feeling of frustration and outrage. Through our social networks, we have already heard of people who have died.

I need to be a source of calm and comfort for my students. A lot of them are very upset and frightened by what has happened. That’s hard to do when I am so far from calm myself, but I’m doing the best I can because they need it.


November 8, 2016

This scary fellow was at our door to greet tick-or-treaters last week. Unfortunately, no one came. I don’t think they were scared off–we don’t usually get many on our dirt road in the woods, anyway.

161108jackSpeaking of scary, today is election day. We’re looking forward to a lovely sunny fall day, so our plan is to walk out to the polling place together after breakfast, spend the day trying not to freak out about how badly this could all go wrong, then watch the results in the evening. One way or another, this long terrible campaign season will be over soon.


September 25, 2016

I’ve been doing so many adult things lately. I finished writing another chapter. That’s six down, seven to go, and I’m feeling pretty good about this one.

I also decided to enroll in the TSA pre-check system. Hopefully this will make traveling (especially traveling as a dark-haired, darkish-skinned man with an accent) a little easier.

Yesterday I presented at a small regional world history conference. That was a very nice experience. I got to see several of my colleagues from work and some old students as well. I was talking about the Baltic/Mediterranean amber routes and how various peoples at various times monopolized the amber trade to leverage their way into larger networks of trade. I was presenting with a couple of other people who were talking about the silk road, which made for an interesting set of presentations.

And I just had my birthday. Happy day to me! I made a cake, which came out pretty well, but something went wrong with the frosting and I think it made both E and me a little bit sick. Oh well. That just means I have to make another cake, right?


August 27, 2016

I now have a contract for my barbarians book! This is very exciting and a little nerve-wracking. I have a year to finish writing, which means I need to start pumping out the chapter drafts. I’m very glad to have had a full year’s sabbatical to start working on the book. As I go back to teaching in the fall, I hope I can keep up a good working schedule.


August 3, 2016

This has been the week of revision. On Monday, I got the latest round of editorial comments on my short story that will be published this fall. I spent the whole day and a good part of Tuesday rewriting and got the revised version sent back. Then on Wednesday, I got peer review comments on the draft chapters of my scholarly book and now I have to rethink some sections of what I’ve already written and what I had planned.

Editing and revising are important. That’s how things get better, and I know this. Also, on the whole, the comments on both my fiction and my scholarship were very positive. Really, I couldn’t realistically have hoped for better. But, still, the things I write are my special little babies and criticism is always just a bit shredding at first. I’ll be fine, I just wasn’t prepared to have so much land in my lap within a few days.