Thoughts on 2015

It's natural to want to look back over the year as it starts getting close to January first. But, as I also have a birthday early in January, it's doubly so for me. As I was moving mulch this morning (the pile is getting smaller every day!), I thought a lot about 2015 and how it evolved, in every area; personally, professionally, and in the garden.

This was a big year for our yard. Very early in January, we were told we would be part of the Institute of Urban Homesteading's Urban Farm Tour. This lit a much-needed fire under our collective asses to get a lot of work done, fast. Our first project of 2015 was the chicken coop, which was also my birthday present. Soon after that was finished, we got our chickens. Not long after that, we got our replacement colony of honeybees. Then, we built the North Garden.  Tom replaced our old sprinkler system with a drip system. I successfully planted and maintained two year-round pollinator gardens which attracted more critters than we've ever had before. We planted three new fruit trees and countless fruit shrubs and vines. We managed to have a decent summer harvest despite the severe four-year California drought. We bought more rain barrels and built more compost bins. And we successfully raised the fence, to keep out the hungry deer! We learned to pickle and can food, we made bread and sausage and cheese, we fermented beer and wine and cider, and continued to eat well every day, mostly out of the garden. I'd call our year in the yard successful, for sure.

Professionally, this is the year I began to feel more confident in my abilities as a teacher to cognitively-affected children. It's taken four years to get to this place, and it feels good to know that I can help kids feel safe and loved, and maybe even help them to get to a place where they are able to learn. But it's also the year when I realized that this is a younger man's game. There's a reason everyone I work with is half my age. In a mainstreamed situation, with a child who is cognitively more higher-functioning, it's no problem physically. But at this particular school, we are extremely physical every day with kids who are alternately running away, needing to be tightly held or picked up, getting up and down off the floor numerous times a minute, quickly - I'm just not that good at that aspect of the job. I'm old, slow, and chubby, no matter how you slice it. My hands have stopped working right, due to severe arthritis. My feet are similarly destroyed. What this tells me is, no matter how much I love the kids and my co-workers, that I'll be looking for something else come June. I have an idea for a new business, but it's going to take more thinking and planning before I can tell you about it. Be assured, I'll write about it here as it comes to fruition. I'd like to work outside, and regular exercise is a benefit. I certainly don't want a desk job!

Personally, I feel quite fulfilled by the events and happenings of the past year. I fervently wish life was easier for Tom (the difficulties at my job may be physical, but the difficulties at his are interpersonal and political, which is far harder), with his job and his commute. Money continues to be tight which makes things stressful. Living as we do in a very affluent area, the cost of living continues to be quite steep and goes up all the time. We often dream of selling our place and buying a large piece of property elsewhere, for much less. With college expenses coming up in the near future for our kids, this will remain a dream for a while.

Speaking of the kids, what an interesting year it has been for them. I started out 2015 being extremely concerned about Kate's social life, but I end the year feeling very hopeful for her, as she has matured quite a bit and has even rekindled an old friendship. She continues to fascinate with the way she thinks and writes. We're looking in to a performing arts school for her for grades 8-12, which we hope will surround her with like-minded people, but she is an introvert and will always need a lot of alone time.  Adam has grown in both size and personality and is truly a young man now. He got a shaving kit for Christmas and was just invited to a party by a girl, so things are changing for him. He's had great moments of academic anxiety this year that manifested in physical discomfort, which was scary, but I think we've got a plan for high school that will help keep him engaged and interested and challenged. His mind is far sharper than mine has ever been, but he's like me in that he likes to learn fast. Public school is often not exactly fast.

So, on to 2016, with hope and vigor! Here's a few things I'd like to accomplish in the next few months, but it is by no means a complete list:

* build a raised bed area in the part of the yard we just sheet-mulched, but build it in a different sort
   of pattern, and plant herbs, citrus, and other perennial edibles.

* make an insect hotel.

* grow new-to-us plants, like horseradish and rhubarb.

* continue to think about ways to increase water storage in the garden, as El Nino moves through.

* keep my bees alive, and harvest some honey!

* grow a new business which combines my love of children and the outdoors.

This list will continue to change and evolve as the year proceeds.

I'd love to hear more about how 2015 was for you, and what you are planning for 2016. Please share!