Sunday, March 20, 2011


The wind today headbutts our windows and dervishes the wrong way down the kitchen exhaust fan. It slaps banana leaves against the bedroom walls and blows clouds, sleek racing greyhounds, across the track of mountains. It turns rain into cold bullets. But our house holds. It doesn't have holes.


My mouth, on the other hand, does have holes. Or, it has one big hole where a wisdom tooth and some bone used to be, now replaced with a synthetic bone-like material and loosely sewed over with stitches that scratch the inside of my cheek.


Today's rain stops me from my now-nightly routine. Just before going to bed in the evening, I've slid on the miner's headlamp, grabbed a bottle of beer and a pair of chopsticks, and headed out into the garden. Each night, slowly, poring over every plant, I look for slugs. When I find them, I pluck them with the chopsticks from their slime trail and drop them into a plastic container I have outside for this very purpose. After I find what is out and visible, I tip the container over on the driveway and stomp on the assholes. Then, into two bowls in two different beds, set deep, the top flush with the surface of the soil, I pour the contents of the bottle of beer. In the mornings, I dump the bowls and their slimy drowned prisoners out into the compost pile. (No worries, I only use the cheap stuff; the buggers don't deserve any better.) The slugs have been messing with me this year, leaving holes in everything. Not only have they nibbled down nearly all the historic beans I brought from the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center (I've started more in six packs on the patio, safe from slugs but potentially slowed by a future transplant), but they've also been nibbling on my garlic. My garlic! No one messes with my garlic.


I spent this afternoon grading essays and entering scores into the computer. Red gaps where scores should be glared at me; many students aren't turning in their work. In the three sections I have of AP English Language, a composition and rhetoric class, students' grades are nearly entirely dependent upon their essays. If they don't write them, they can't prove to me that they're learning; but, I know very well that student performance is very closely related to teacher performance. The students aren't doing their homework for a reason. There is a hole in my teaching somewhere. Those red gaps are telling me that I'm missing something, for a good teacher's gradebook shouldn't look like a bloodied, gap-toothed grimace.


I am tired of holes.


Dave @ HappyAcres said...

Ouch, I had a wisdom tooth chiseled out and I know that's no fun. Not that I remember the process, since they put me out for it.

Slugs on garlic? That's downright criminal! They got after my Asian greens but I spread Sluggo. I've done the late night flashlight gig but I always seem to miss a lot that way.

michelle said...

I have to laugh at the image of you with headlamp, cheap beer, and chopsticks - seemingly dancing on the driveway late at night - the neighbors must think you're crazy. :-) Boy, the things we'll do to protect our gardens.

I'm happy to hear that your house doesn't have holes! These storms have been pushing water through the holes in our pretty but poorly designed door sills, thank goodness for lots of old towels and tile floors.

Hope your jaw heals quickly, your students shape up, and the slugs don't enjoy that beer too much before they expire.

Anonymous said...

Oh no, not the GARLIC!

I've struck a deal with my slugs and snails. They can eat all the swiss chard they like so long as they leave everything else alone. So far, it's working.

Terry at Blue Kitchen said...

A wonderful post, Christina, even if it's about less than wonderful moments in your life right now. Good luck with the slugs, both in your garden and in your classroom.

Christina said...

Villager: I'm really trying to avoid the Sluggo. So, late night flashlight and beer it is. Not tonight again though--it is raining again! It has been a long time since we've had a year this wet around here (thus the hordes of slugs).

Michelle: That idea you sent me of the slug smashing part with slugs of whine and an army of chopstick-wielding friends is sounding more and more tempting.

AH: HA! You must have the special, logical breed in your part of town. We've got the dullards over here. The beer bowls do seem to be having a good effect lately. You should see the carnage in each when I check on them in the mornings.

Terry B.: Thank you! I had a meeting with a parent today--I hope that will cause at least a little desluggification.

Carrie said...

You might have the makings of a fantastic lesson plan in this post. Enemies as a topic ... a presentation about slugs ... a classic story of revenge. I think your students could find inspiration in such a theme.

Feel better, and good luck!

Sophie said...

What a wonderful post with all your interwoven stories! Good luck with all the holes.

say what? said...

Slugs nibble at garlic? Ga!

I doubt slugs would be more than an occasional, minor problem here. If it were wet enough for slugs my garlic wouldn't do well anyhow. I'm mostly worrying about garlic eating nematodes I may have introduced to my garlic bed via seed bulbs I got from a farm in NY!

As for your students, some of them you are never going to inspire (odds are I'd have been one of that bunch.) Others, you couldn't possibly hold back. That you are aware you're missing something amazes me. So many of my teachers didn't care enough to notice they had lost so many of us.

the good soup said...

On your holey students: you're so hard on yourself Christina! I wonder that a teacher who thinks so self-consciously about her students' performance could be doing anything really holey herself?

On you mouth: I got my wisdom teeth dug out of my mouth nearly 20 years ago and I still remember the feeling after waking from the anaesthetic. I was certain the surgeon had stitched my tongue to my gums by mistake.

On you slugs: I must hold the image of your night time raids in my thoughts when I next hesitate at cutting munching grasshoppers in half with my secateurs.