Preparing for Spring: sowing seeds, planning for poultry, and dissuading the dogs.

We’ve had some strange weather here the last few days – it warmed up from below-zero temperatures midweek to the 50s on Friday and Saturday, resulting in a fierce wind that sent dried leaves swirling and dancing through the forest, driving our Shiba Inu Ruby mad with delight as she chased them hither and yon.  Earlier in the week it had snowed and even the snowflakes were worth chasing and snapping out of midair:

image

Spring is coming, and we’ll make a second attempt at raising poultry; we shall not be deterred by last year’s failure!   Continue reading

Start with respecting him in public.

On my old blog I would have taken some time to write up a well-worded essay on this topic, but in the present day, I will never have the time to write those kinds of posts, so I’m going to put this very simply.

I was picking something up at the local pharmacy several days ago, and as I was walking back out to my car, a heavy set woman of about fifty-something was walking past me into the pharmacy, saying something over her shoulder to the man in the car.  He appeared to be her husband.  She was saying something to the effect of, “Because that’s how you treat people with honor!  That’s called being honorable!”  She then walked back to the car, which was parked next to mine, and gave him a little piece of her mind even though I was standing right there.

Ephesians 5:33 says:

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

For Christians, this isn’t just a good idea; it is a requirement.  You either obey God on this matter or you disobey Him.  And notice that the verse says “let the wife see that” – clearly He anticipated the fact that women would try to hedge out of it by saying, “Oh, I will respect him…when he behaves in a way that is respectable.”  The verse doesn’t give a commandment to the man there, it gives a commandment to the woman; it is her responsibility to make sure she is respecting her husband with her words and actions.

Fine.  That should be pretty straightforward. However, this verse is also wise advice for the non-Christian woman.  No husband likes to be spoken to or treated with disrespect.  No one likes to have snide comments made about them or be the butt of jokes (“But I was only kidding!”), especially in public.

I don’t know what the husband at the pharmacy may have done or said prior to what I overheard his wife saying.  For all I know, he may have been acting like a total jerk or have done something that caused a real problem for his family.  But I do know there is never – not ever – any reason to berate, humiliate, disrespect, mock, or bitch at your husband in public.

Occasionally I’ll hear people say that telling someone to treat his or her spouse well in public is encouraging them to put on a mask, put up a false front, or act like they are better than everyone else.  I guess those folks think everyone should just let it all hang out all the time and involve the whole world in their personal business or something, but I disagree.  Social mores exist in part to restrain poor behavior by individuals at the community level.  There’s nothing “real” or “authentic” about acting badly in public, and there is nothing “fake” about telling women to put a cork in it in front of other people.

Whatever disagreement or dispute the couple at the pharmacy may have been having in the car on the way there should have ceased the minute her feet hit the pavement.  Should she have been treating him with respect even when they were alone?  Of course she should.  But disrespecting him publicly added an extra layer of humiliation for him; it’s bad to disrespect your husband when you are alone but it is even worse to do it when you are in front of other people.

If you are a woman who has recently come to realize that something is amiss in your marriage, and you suspect you have been treating your husband disrespectfully, and you want to make a change but don’t know where to start, I encourage you to start with this.  Whenever you are in front of any other person, whether they be family, friends, church members, or strangers on the street, treat your husband with respect, regardless of what he may be doing or how he behaves. Here is how to do that:

  1. Speak to him politely.
  2. Keep your voice calm and quiet when you speak to him.
  3. Never make a joke at his expense.  Never, ever, ever.
  4. Do not refer to any of his faults in front of others.
  5. Do not put him down, judge him, or blame him in front of others.
  6. Do not argue with him.  No point that you need to get across to him is that important.  Let it go.

What about when your husband is not present?  How do you still treat him with respect in public when he is not there?

Last year I was having lunch with a group of women – and I am going to be very vague here because these were real life women and I write under my real name, so I don’t want to embarrass anyone – and one of the women told another woman present (who was engaged to be married) that after she and her fiance got married, she would probably feel like she made a mistake and sort of hate him for a while but not to worry about this because it was normal.  Another woman agreed and then added that after the birth of her child, she particularly hated her husband.

The two women then proceeded to spend a good five minutes talking about how stupid they had thought their husbands were after they got married and how much they had hated them directly after the birth of a child.  I suppose they were joking around and trying to be funny, but I wanted to ask, “Was there a time in between when you liked and didn’t hate him?” but I could not bring myself to participate in the conversation.  A pregnant woman sitting next to me said to me, “I didn’t think I made a mistake after I got married to my husband,” so I said to her, “Don’t worry.  I didn’t hate my husband after having a baby.”  I have an imperfect, human husband, so it’s not that I didn’t hate him because he’s so much more awesome than anyone else, and I assume the pregnant woman I was talking to has a real-life, human, imperfect man as her un-hated husband as well.

But you know what?  Even if you loathe your husband, do you need to share this with the ladies at lunch?  Why would you do that?  There was no moral to their story; it was just a complain-and-mock-husbands session.  I can’t imagine what any men overhearing that conversation in the restaurant must have thought.

So I would add this behavior to my list above:

7. Do not gossip about him when he is not there.  If you can’t say something good about him, don’t say anything at all.

That’s not “trying to project” an image that you and your husband are better than everyone else.  Rather, it’s simply human decency.  No one truly wants to hear your dirt except for other women who want to get down in the dirt too.  Don’t do it.

You have to start somewhere, so start here:

Always treat your husband with respect in public, whether he is present or not.

The antidote for craving sexual attention from random men on the street.

I rarely trouble myself with what feminists think or are saying anymore.  I am busy with my garden, managing the woods and pond, canning, and learning everything I can about permaculture, older methods of food preservation, and Christian agrarianism.  These tasks are satisfying and are like a soothing balm for a worried mind and troubled spirit.  Instead of going on the attack against the evils of feminism, these days I’d rather focus my energy on sharing the positive things I’ve learned about finding satisfaction and contentment as a woman through family relationships and laboring in the natural world.

However, I’ve decided to address, in as kind and gentle a way as I can, this article (found on AGP) by noted feminist author and speaker, Jessica Valenti.  Mrs. Valenti has written what I think is a very honest article about her ambivalence surrounding the lack of catcalls from men she receives now that she is 36.  I applaud her for acknowledging honestly that it bothers her that men on the street don’t pay sexual attention to older women the way they do with younger women.  She could have just said, “Good!  I’m glad they stopped now that I’m nearing middle age!” even though it wasn’t truly how she felt.  She writes:

…as much as I wish it didn’t, the thought of not being worth men’s notice bothers me. To my great shame, I assume I must look particularly good on the rarer days that I do get catcalled […]  do care in some way that sits uncomfortably with my politics – enough that it worries me to wonder how I’ll feel when I’m 45, or 65.

Although catcalling is a low-class behavior, women always crave male attention, and losing it never feels good, no matter what your politics are.  Women want to be desired by men, and this desire when properly constrained is good and serves a purpose when we are young in that it makes us receptive to the sometimes clumsy romantic advances of the young men who we may marry.  After that age, women don’t lose the desire to be praised by men but they must control that desire such that their husbands’ attentions are sufficient, lest they fall into temptation and sin.

The problem is that thanks to feminism, women are much more valued for their sexuality than anything else now.   This is ironic because I think the original goal was not to reduce women’s value in this way, but nevertheless that has sadly been the result.  This is one reason why pick up artistry can flourish when in the past it could not, especially among older women.

Previously, men praised older women for their contributions to their families and their homes.  Feminism made it passe and suspect for a woman to focus on her husband, children, and extended family and to find satisfaction and contentment in her service to them.  But men don’t care that much about women’s outside-the-home careers, even if they sometimes appreciate the money.

Mrs. Valenti has the unhappy habit of complaining bitterly about how much work women do.  She complains about how much work we do as mothers:

“Whether you call it Attachment Parenting, natural parenting, or simple maternal instincts, this false “return” to traditional parenting is just a more explicit and deliberate version of the often unnamed parenting gender divide. Whether you’re wearing you baby or not, whether you’re using cloth diapers or teaching your four-week-old to use the toilet; it’s still women who are doing the bulk of child care, no matter what the parenting philosophy. Putting a fancy name to the fact that we’re still doing all the goddamn work doesn’t make it any less sexist or unfair”

She complains about how much work we do at the holidays:

We all know that women do the majority of domestic work like child care, housework and cooking. But the holidays bring on a whole new set of gendered expectations that make the season less about simply enjoying fun and family and more about enduring consumerism, chores and resentment so that everyone else can enjoy rockin’ around the Christmas tree…Being the holiday point-person can be drudgery.

She complains non-stop about anything women do to serve their families.  This complaining about family service is the feminist way.  But what men value in women most, I believe, are these three things:

1. Our sexuality

2. Our ability to care for and nurture families

3. and our ability to be good companions.

So when second-wave feminists made it passe for women to find their primary satisfaction in caring for and nurturing families, that reduced women’s value to men to only two things: sexuality and companionship.  But now, with the non-stop complain-a-thon about how overworked they are in relation to their male partners, younger feminists (probably inadvertently) turn women into poor companions.  What man wants to seek companionship with someone who never stops complaining?  So that leaves women with one value to men: sexuality.

And what’s more, I think modern feminists sense this, which is why there has been such a push to frame it as powerful when modern young women allow themselves to be sexually used and discarded by multiple young men.  These young women are lost and confused (as are the young men, but that is another topic) and sense that their sexuality is now all they are really bringing to the table, so they heap it up, but it leaves them feeling broken and empty and even like they’ve been raped.

And then on top of all that, the attention starts to dry up around 35.  And then what?  When you know your sexuality – your biggest asset – is waning and you are a poor companion and you believe it is old-fashioned for a woman to find self-worth in her family, what are you left with?  You are left with nothing.  You are left like Mrs. Valenti, wishing that the guy on the street would look up and whistle at you, and you are rightly ashamed for wanting him to.

Mrs. Valenti knows something is wrong.  I wish she could drop the feminist narrative for a moment and really try to figure out exactly what is wrong, but she just never does.  I hope someday she will.  But for now, she writes:

But I do wish there was more nuance in conversations about aging, beauty standards and feminism

As if that would solve anything!  It wouldn’t.  Women will still want to be desired by men and men will still want women primarily for sex, families, and companionship, no matter how many nuanced conversations feminists have about the matter.  And so everyone is left much sadder and emptier than they would be if feminists would just admit that it is our (God-given) human nature.

The antidote for being an older woman craving sexual attention from random men on the street is to be an older woman who finds her satisfaction and contentment in being the cherished companion of the husband of her youth and in her unselfish care and service to her immediate and extended family.

 

Remember to teach your children the home arts (plus a recipe for strawberry rhubarb jam)

One thing I sometimes forget in the busyness of life is how important it is to teach our children the home arts.  My kids can cook, but I haven’t taught them much about food preservation.  When I was in high school, I was instructed in canning quite regularly and spent many hours (grumbling in my head about the injustice of it all) in a steaming hot kitchen in July and August helping my parents can green beans, make jam and pickles, and shelling peas to freeze while my peers were swimming in the Thornapple River.

But now I’m glad I have these skills, and I was reminded recently about how important it is that we all teach the home arts to our sons and daughters. So when I had enough cucumbers for another batch of salt brine fermented pickles, I told one of our daughters how to do it and set her at it.  She did a good job, and I’ll be sure to praise her when we open that jar of pickles to eat them.

image

Later that day I decided to teach another child how to make and can strawberry rhubarb jam (if you’ve never canned anything before, you might find the Ball Jars website very helpful).  I found that at just shy of ten years of age, she was able to handle nearly the entire job from start to finish with some minor help and plenty of supervision.

Here is how to make a small batch of strawberry rhubarb jam for canning:

image

1. Pick (or buy) some stalks of fresh rhubarb and several cups of fresh strawberries.image

2. Assemble your ingredients:

  • 2 ½ c rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 ½ c strawberries, washed/hulled/halved
  • the juice from one medium lemon
  • 2 ½ c white sugar (can use a bit more or less depending on how sweet you like your jam to be)
  • 4 8-ounce glass canning jars with lids and rings

3. Wash and slice rhubarb (Daughter did the washing and I did the slicing).

image

4. Put it into a heavy-bottomed pot and sprinkle sugar over the top; let stand at least one hour.

image

5. Wash, hull, and halve strawberries, then add to rhubarb.  Stir in lemon juice.image

6. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and cook jam until thickened, stirring constantly, 20 to 25 minutes, then remove from heat and stir for three more minutes.

image

7. Because this recipe has to process in the water bath canner for ten minutes, you probably don’t have to sterilize the jars, but I did so anyway. Spoon the jam into a funnel to fill the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top, then run a knife around the inside of each jar to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars, then put on the lids and tops.

image

8. Place the jars on the rack in the bottom of the canner and fill it so that there are a couple of inches of water covering the tops of the jars.  Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 10 minutes.

9. Using a jar lifter, remove each jar and set it on a clean dish towel on the counter to cool for 24 hours, then check to make sure the seal has formed by pushing on the top with your finger.

image

 

I was surprised how well she did and I realized I need to spend more time teaching these skills to my children. They feel good about being able to do something helpful on their own, and I feel good knowing that I’ve taught them a useful skill.

Should grade-school aged children be allowed to walk home from the park without an adult?

I was just recently thinking about the topic of free-range parenting, comfort-addicted kids, and under-developed gross motor skills, and then today I noticed this news story:

‘Free-range’ Maryland parents hit with ‘unsubstantiated’ child neglect

The Maryland parents who believe in ‘free-range parenting’ and were investigated after police picked up their children — ages 6 and 10 — walking home alone from a park in January were reportedly found responsible for ‘unsubstantiated’ child neglect […]

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv say they will continue to allow their children to walk home together. The legal ramifications are unclear if the children are picked up by police again […]

In January, the Meitiv children were walking home from the park, which is about a mile from their Woodside Park neighborhood, in broad daylight and were stopped by police after someone reported seeing them.

The kids were returned to the home and police reportedly talked to the parents about the dangers of the world […]

CPS reportedly followed up and forced the parents to sign a safety plan acknowledging that they would not let the kids go unsupervised. Alexander told the paper he resisted at first, but CPS threatened that if they refused, the kids would be removed from the home.

Apparently the parents had taught them the way to walk home and the children were familiar with it. I would think six is too young to be a mile from home alone, but what about with an older sibling of ten? And it was daytime, not dark! This seems like it should have been fine. One wonders about the person who reported this to the police.

We all want to keep our children safe, no doubt about it. But children walk home from school all the time; should walking home from the park be considered any more dangerous?

A few pictures from the aftermath of the great storm.

All told, we got about sixteen inches of snow, our third heaviest 24-hour snowfall ever.

DSC03985DSC03973DSC03971

When my husband got home from ski patrol last night, he got out our garden tractor which he’d put a plow attachment on and added chains to the tires:

DSC03987

…and started plowing our endless driveway:

DSC03966

The children ran around in the snow excitedly while I swept off the porch.

DSC03969

Around ten, I shooed them into the house and got them ready for bed. I didn’t actually make them go to bed though; where would be the fun in a snow day if you’re made to go to bed? I, however, fell asleep around 11:00, only to wake up around 1:00 a.m. and realize that Phil hadn’t come in yet.

I stepped out into the garage, but he wasn’t there. I yelled for him from the porch, but my voice was lost in the howling wind and blowing snow. I got that cold dread in the pit of my stomach and pulled on boots and a long coat over my pajamas and set off down the driveway through the blizzard, terrified that I’d find him injured or dead from a horrible plowing accident. I found him at the very end of the driveway, alive and well thank goodness. He was in the plowing and shoveling zone I guess and didn’t realize how late it was.

This morning the sun was shining, brilliantly blinding on the fresh snow but giving no warmth.

DSC03986

Even the University of Michigan had cancelled classes, the first time I can ever remember them doing so.

We set about digging out in earnest and it took us nearly all day to shovel the porch, steps, walkway, deck, patio, and trampoline while Phil worked endlessly on getting that darn driveway clear.

DSC03981

Our driveway is…

DSC03978

…really…

DSC03976

…really…

 

DSC03975

…really…

DSC03977

…really LONG.

The children took lots of breaks to sled down the back hill and shovel the snow off our pond ice rink and made lots of trips inside to refresh themselves with hot cocoa.

Tonight there is a full moon and the sunset was all rosy pink and eerie blue:

DSC03988DSC03990DSC03991DSC03989

The temperatures have dropped down near 0 F, so we’re in for another frigid night.  Tomorrow it’s back to school and work for all of us, but it was a fun day off!

Break out the good stuff

My mother-in-law told me that she only has a stem or two of her wedding crystal left. The reason for this is because not only has she been quick to organize a social gathering for any occasion but also because she believes in “breaking out the good stuff” – using her prettiest china and nicest crystal for holiday dinners and get-togethers. Her philosophy has always been, “What are you saving it for? If it gets broken, well, that happens sometimes; you might as well enjoy it now because you can’t take it with you.”

I like this philosophy but haven’t really used it. When my husband and I got married, the shop attendant at Hudson’s tried to talk us into registering for Waterford crystal, which truly is gorgeous stuff but at that time cost around $60 per stem. We declined and instead registered for Mikasa crystal, which is also beautiful lead crystal though not quite up to Waterford standards, but it only cost $30 per stem at that time. Because we went with the less expensive crystal, we ended up getting the full set from our generous guests – including the champagne flutes, water goblets, and wine glasses. Of the set, I still have 5 champagne flutes, 5 water goblets, and 8 wine glasses all these years later; when I broke one of the champagne flutes while cleaning up after Thanksgiving, I just smiled and cleaned up the broken glass and blood. I will always have the memory of my sister-in-law pouring champagne which she’d stored out on our deck to keep chilled into that glass. The glass itself means nothing, but the memory of our Thanksgiving together will be with me always.

Throw a party, invite your family, and break out the good stuff. Don’t get upset if something breaks or spills – things are meaningless but people and memories are priceless. Don’t cling to what is worthless and miss what is truly valuable.