I didn’t do a Summer That Was post this year, since I was on research leave and didn’t feel the usually-clear demarcation that comes with the beginning of the fall semester. But the year and the leave are now nearly over, so it’s time to add it all up. It’s been a good and unusually quiet year, which I’m grateful for. I was a little superstitious about this leave, actually. All during grad school, whenever I would come into a long stretch for writing and research, something terrible would happen: I broke my ankle, Mr. Husband developed serious blood pressure problems, my grandfather died, my dad had surgery, my mother-in-law had a long, gut-wrenching decline and death. I was unreasonably worried that something awful would happen during my sabbatical, and am now unreasonably pleased that nothing did.
It’s been a good year, filled with wonderful colleagues hither and yon, smart grad students, our fabulous staff, and interesting projects. There was room for a fair number of projects:
- Two new single-authored articles, one accepted and one still out for review
- One collaborative book chapter
- Co-editing a journal special issue (with a co-authored intro)
- A nearly-done book manuscript that needs to be hauled up the hill about another foot and a half.
- A presentation on a new aspect of my ongoing 18c research, presented on an entirely historical panel (a first for me as a mostly-digital scholar).
- Good progress on the curricular work I’ve been doing. The revised design of our Professional Writing course saw nearly 100% adoption last year, along with the recommended textbook. And my committee made solid progress on That Other Project, which will likely be a bit longer in the works.
- I was on one-course release to devote time to Said Project, and so only taught one course in the spring: an upper-division pilot on Usability. It feels odd to have taught so little over the past 12 months, but the teaching that got done went well enough.
Travel, or Lack Thereof
It was an unusually stay-at home year, but it somehow felt right. After ten years of long road trips, conferences travel, and archival flights, we pretty much hung out at the house. Each year, I’m a bit more thrilled by Central New York and its four very distinct seasons. (As I type, we are in the midst of a gentle all-day snowfall which is drifting down on top of about 14 inches that are already down.) We are close to the Finger Lakes region, which is more or less the breadbasket of New York as well as the seat of US riesling production. And we’re bounded by the Catskills, the Adirondacks, and the Tug Hill Plateau. The Hudson and the St. Lawrence Seaway are both easy drives. So day trips are always in the offing during the summer, but we rarely took advantage of them this year.
Two trips I did take: A road trip with Mr. Husband to Philadelphia for RSA. Getting there required a stop at the Tunkahannock Viaduct and the Exorcist Priest Statue in Scranton:
Being there meant a walk over to the Oldenburg Clothes Pin:
And returning meant a detour through New Jersey and Delaware:
In November, I took a solo drive to Boston to stay with the Spadaforas and bum around the city for a couple of days. Both J and I had cameras, but we took no photographs. It was a marvelous time — two old and dear friends, good food, a city I love. And the drive down took me over the Hudson, down the Mass Turnpike with its pilgrim hat signs, across the highest point of the Berkshires, and over the Appalachian Trail.
The was a year when a lot of elements conspired to level up the household food obsessions. People brought food as gifts, Prof. A and I kept going to the markets regularly, and gardening also brought me closer to the seasons. And of course being on leave gave me more brain space than usual for this sort of exploration. One of my goals for that leave on the personal side was what I thought of as “systems management,” by which I meant setting up and learning to do household system things that require some brain space to learn: canning, better gardening, cellaring, fermenting. That way, they’d be established skills that I’d be more likely to use during a regular, busy semester. Here’s what happened, more or less:
- Eating really close to the seasons from citrus season to the first fiddleheads in the spring (thanks to JL’s foraging) and onward into ramps, asparagus, Copper River salmon, garlic scapes, all through the summer vegetables and on into honey, pumpkins and nuts.
- Stumbling into baking after a lifetime of being “not really a baker.” This had everything to do with Mr. Husband’s encouragement and deserves a post of its own.
- Learning to bake bread. Baking bread until it was no big thing to pop a loaf in the oven for company.
- Learning to can, and learning to make things to go into all those jars. Jams, preserved fruit, pickles, compotes. Following the harvest by bringing it into the basement, the jar rack, the freezer.
- Going berry picking. Standing on a hillside in the sun picking black raspberries, and remembering that when RMH congratulated me on my marriage in 2005, she said it was clearly lucky that we got married in the black raspberry season. All indications are that she was correct.
- Haunting the farmer’s market with Prof. A.
- Growing my first fairly functional garden: garlic, cucumbers, dill, tomatoes, tomatillos, carrots, lettuce, green onions, several types of chiles, cabbages. Also quite a few herbs: marjoram, parsley, basil, rosemary, sage, lemon grass.
- Making both quick and fermented pickles. Now that I’ve figured out homemade pickled okra, I’m never going to let it go.
- Discovering the Mennonite store just outside Seneca Falls, which led to us rethinking our relationship to dry goods and bulk storage. I now buy flour and rice 25 pounds at a time, and we have a much wider array of beans and rices on hand.
- Learning to better manage the pantry, the liquor cabinet, and the burgeoning cellar. I felt like I hit a milestone in October when Mom asked me to help her with some gift baskets and I was able to put together really specific beers, wines, and cheeses based on both cost and preference. And there were other moments in the winter when I looked at rather involved recipes and realized that the pantry held all the central ingredients, or pulled a local Long Island Cheese pumpkin out of the cellar for an amazing Thanksgiving pie, or when I inventoried the liquor cabinet for New Year’s and realized that no new booze purchases were necessary. We are grateful for plenty.
Last but not least, the best milestone: celebrating ten years with the best partner one could hope for. Here’s to many more years, Mr. Husband.