On a morning like every other, Jim Baichtal and his geologist buds meet for coffee. On a rock outcropping, natch. They’re on the shore of Tongass National Forest in Alaska, on the hunt for fossilized remnants of prehistoric marine reptiles.


It’s May, extremely low tide ~ prime conditions for monitoring the area.

A sip of coffee, an offhand remark.  

Hey, Jim, what’s that?  Say, how ‘bout a donut over here?  So, ya’ think it’s anything?

They take a closer look. It isn’t a fishbone or a branch. They give it a kick, it doesn’t move.

It. Is. Indeed. Something.

It’s a complete intact section on an exposed layer of rock in a place where the tide only occasionally leaves it uncovered.


The tail of a thalattosaur fossil found near Kake in Southeast Alaska in May 2011 is shown in this publicity photo released to Reuters July 28, 2011. Alaska scientists have discovered the fossil of the thalattosaur, a prehistoric, long-tailed sea creature that went extinct at the end of the Triassic period.


Jim and his buddies discover the entombed bones and vertebra of a Thalattosaur, an enigmatic marine reptile that swam in the tropical waters surrounding the supercontinent Pangea about 200 million years ago.




Jim and his team know there is a very good chance that more of the skeleton is still intact inside the gray calcareous shale near the tail section. They cut the top slab layers above the fossil, removing each section as they work their way down. A slab containing the original discovery is recovered and a second fossil-bearing slab comes free just as the tide comes in.



What the geologists do next is try to unravel what’s happened ~ to read and interpret the fossil message.

The Thalattosaur fossil?  It’s at the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks where the staff will process the slabs with x-rays, hydrofluoric acid, and micro-sandblasters.  It’s too much of a treasure to lose, says Baichtal.

Speaking of treasure….


In the next decade, half of America’s teachers will retire. What we do to recruit, train, and retain our new teachers will shape public education in this country for a generation. All of us are where we are today because we had great teachers in our lives.

We can make our schools better. And we can learn how from geologists. They go to a place that has a history of fossil finds. They know what to look for, observe with intent, talk, talk, dig deeper, then read and interpret the message.



Teachers need time to collaborate and sit in the corners of each other’s classrooms.  In a teacher-as-stranger role. They can target strategies that work, and then talk about how and why they do. Teacher-as-geologist.


We need to take a cue from those geologists.  Give teachers time (not guns) to observe, reflect, and interpret The Message.  So, Betsy*, listen up. The Message is about the future of our kids.  It’s too much of a treasure to lose.

Toni 3/6/18


*Betsy DeVos, US Secretary of Education, does not hold any degree in Education or ever worked in schools (either as a teacher or administrator), never attended a public school or sent any of her children to one.



















One of the most fun experiences I’ve had this winter was a Monday evening spent making sourdough bread at Ground Floor Farm.

Here’s how much fun it was: I don’t like to muck around with sticky dough and I had a great time.

I marvel at this ‘farm’ building on SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in the city of Stuart, FL. It wasn’t always such an urban dreamscape. I try to picture the street-savvy religious mission it used to be. Red-hot and righteous, the Salvation Army occupied this space off Colorado Avenue not that long ago.

Across the country, the Salvation Army plunges headlong into the emerging commercial culture of city life. Across town, so does the Ground Floor Farm.

I can tell a lot about a place by its chickens.

I heard about the farm but it wasn’t really on my radar until a chef at a local sandwich shop sang its praises. I realize now what all the fuss was about. Nothing else has measured up since.

I judge a farm or market to be a keeper if it adds something new and healthy to my diet. Food is medicine, after all.  And I just love the sense of discovery, don’t you?


Take a walk with me around the farm. Not a single thing or inch of space goes to waste.

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In the kitchen, Jackie and her staff bake bread, make cheese, and ferment almost anything from veggies to beverages to vinegars and more.

There are honeybees, flowers, and a cafe. Tours, educational programs, and a year-round farmer’s market.
Oh, and Joy.
There’s Lots and Lots of Joy.

Jackie (my bread guru), Micah, and Mike are dedicated to growing and producing food using sustainable methods. Ground Floor Farm is part urban farm, part kitchen/workshop, part market, part art/events venue, part community space…. and totally magical.

If you ate today, thank a farmer.

So, about that bread.

I’m not sure the evening convinced me to switch permanently from my bread machine.

The process of creating this loaf takes time, love, and plenty of muscle. But it has undoubtedly added to my quality of life. This hand-crafted loaf – the crisp crust, the internal crumb, the yeasty aroma, the complex flavor — is a work of art. And its life-affirming force promotes friendship and conversation. That alone is worth the price of the workshop. (Do I sound like an ad? Enthusiasm in the face of such joy is unavoidable.)

I’m aching for some sourdough bread right this minute.
That’s the beauty of this disarmingly lovely loaf ~ I can eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Plus, with the discards from the starter, I can make cheeky chews like these.


Ground Floor Farm’s next endeavor? To build a pizza oven.
I have no choice but to return.

Toni 3/10/17


Dear Newbies,

Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it.

― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables



It’s September. Again. And so the subject of why we do this crazy job is on my mind. Because let’s be honest~ teaching is grueling and rather grizzly. Fangs-in-the-neck intense. Every. Single. Day.


But I feel lucky, having had this teaching life, even though it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. 

There’s heartbreak. There’s triumph. And so much is out of your control.

But it’s worth it. I promise. It is so worth it.


Plenty of mornings, I dreaded the drive to school, especially the cold bleak mornings of winter.


But that first step into the classroom, well, it’s the best feeling ever. One absolute emotional liftoff.

Trust me, there are days when you’ll regret that decision. 243791-where-s-the-blanket-charlie-brown-windows-screenshot-sally

There are times you’ll be tempted to throw in the towel, move to an island paradise and eat roast pig for the rest of your days. Maeva!

But, oh, that classroom. Those faces. The teaching life.

It might just be your paradise.  I know it was mine.



Love what you do, even when the bureaucratic balderdash is mind-riddling.

Know that you are making a difference in the world. Every. Single. Day.

Good Luck, First-Year Heroes!


Toni 9/19/2015