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:

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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

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When children’s carousels are outlawed, only outlaws will have children’s carousels: Confederate flag edition.

Saginaw Children’s Zoo carousel

So this nice little old man in Saginaw, Michigan named Gerald Willis took up wood carving as a hobby when he retired and especially enjoyed carving animal statues.  Some twenty years ago, he decided that what the local children’s zoo needed was a carousel for the little ones to ride, so he and his buddies raised $800,000 (!!) and received a paltry $15,000 from the city to make a carousel with horses carved by Mr. Willis.  He decided for some of the horses to use a historical theme, painting them to represent some part of American history; one pair of horses was painted to represent the Civil War, with one painted to represent the Union and one painted to represent the Confederacy, each horse sporting its respective flag:

The above horse was removed yesterday (Friday, July 31, 2015) because, according to the zoo director, several people had “complained” about it.

I’m not from the South.  I’ve never lived in the South.  None of my family has ever lived there until my military-wife sister had to move to Oklahoma and then Texas with her husband.  I’ve never owned a Confederate flag nor will I ever do so.  I do not care if other people own them, display them, or sit their asses on the backs of wood ponies sporting them.

What astounds me is the rapidity with which something can go from being no big deal to being near-criminal in our modern world.  Two months ago, there was no issue.  Now children’s carousels are being torn apart because of a 5×10-inch historical flag painted over one shoulder.

What I am trying to get at is that the emotional reaction people are having is not normal.  It is not normal that people went to this zoo and had such an intense emotional response to a children’s amusement ride with a historical flag on it that they had to complain to the director and demand that it be removed.  People have been riding that carousel for 20 years without an issue, and all of sudden now people are so overwhelmed with hysterical anger and so offended that they have to destroy (the flag will be painted over) this donated work of art for children.  How can people not see that their emotions are being manipulated by the news media which is acting as a mouthpiece for a specific ideology?

Perhaps if the pony is repainted to show the ISIS flag or the Nazi flag rather than the Confederate flag, kindly old Mr. Willis’ wooden pony which he worked so hard to create and which he raised the money for will be reinstalled on the zoo carousel.  But it is unlikely that people will stop and self-reflect and try to figure out why something that didn’t bother them at all 60 days ago now suddenly sends them into paroxysms of anger and offense.  It’s not about Confederate flags, friends.  This is only a test run to see how quickly and how intensely the populace can be manipulated into doing the dirty work of liberalism’s overseers.

We will see this tactic again, soon, and next time I doubt it will be about something as innocuous as flags.  Christians should be preparing themselves mentally, physically, and spiritually for what is coming.

The shame of victory, the social-appropriateness of defeat.

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat was an old slogan from ABC’s Wide World of Sports in the 1970s. A lot has changed in the 40 years since that slogan was popularized.

Earlier this week I overheard a boy holler, “I’m gonna win!  I’m gonna beat you!” and his mother immediately admonished him.  It caught my attention briefly because although it was just harmless kid-competition, it clearly embarrassed her, and my suspicion was that it embarrassed her because her son probably was going to win at the event in progress.  Of course, no one likes a braggart, but the kid wasn’t being over-the-top about it and it is normal for children, especially boys, to engage in the very human activity of competition and to take pleasure in winning.

I forgot about the incident until Friday when, during a speech therapy session that another mother was observing, one of the little boys in the group exclaimed, “I’m going to win!”  Since the task we were doing did not involve any competition, I started to tell him, “This is not a winning or losing activity, it’s an everybody-get-it-done activity” but his mother jumped in and corrected him before I could.  When we finished that task, the boys and I played a game to practice categorizing vocabulary items which involved competing to see who could be the first one to accumulate a word from each of five given categories.  I guess you could say everyone “wins” if they participate because they learn the words, but the actual game (and the only part the boys really cared about) involved someone winning by beating the other players and being first.

The boys tried to remind each other regularly about their individual imminent victory.  However, it was really stressing out the mother who was watching; whenever her son would get excited about acquiring another word and start to say “I’m about to win!” she’d jump in and say, “It’s not about winning; that’s not the point.”  I finally gently and respectfully pointed out that the game was in fact a competition and the object of the game was to win.

That was twice in one week that I had noticed the same thing from two different mothers, and I wondered what was going on with all this mother anxiety about children competing and getting excited about trying to win.  I decided I would explore the idea in a post when I had time and then forgot about it.

Until yesterday morning, when I had to take one of my daughters to run the Chelsea Heart and Sole 5K race. As I was sitting near the finish line waiting for my girl, I heard a boy say to his siblings, “I beat you!” as the family walked away from the finish line.  “It’s not about that!” his mother snapped at him.

OK, what?

Isn’t the point of a race to compete and hopefully win?  I think so and here is my evidence:

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Why have a time clock and finish line if there is no goal to compete or to win?  Even if you know you will be bested by someone else, you are still racing against them because that is the point of a race.  If races are not about running to win, then why does the 5K website note:

Overall Male and Female winners in each event receive a trophy.

Now, there were certainly many people participating in the 5K who didn’t care about winning because they weren’t racing, they were participating.  Their goal wasn’t to race but to complete the course as a social event for some fresh air and exercise.  This is a small town and these kinds of events are also social gatherings. That’s why they brought over a van load of folks from the senior center and that’s why some special-needs high schoolers in wheel chairs were participating.

My nine-year-old daughter’s time was just shy of 40 minutes for the 5K; when it comes to running, she’s more enthusiastic than talented.  Her time put her across the finish line just barely ahead of the grannies in their motor scooters – and that is okay!  It is okay to run the race knowing that others are faster and will beat you.  What it is not okay to do is to conclude that because some people weren’t trying to win, therefore the point of a race isn’t for someone to win and that it’s wrong for others to try to win just because some people can’t.

But the boy who said this is in my daughter’s after-school running club.  These kids were there to race, to see who could run the fastest and win. It was a friendly competition, entirely normal and healthy.  The purpose of competitive games is to see who can win.  Why pathologize normal competition?  Why should people who win be ashamed of winning?

Of course, a humble attitude about winning is necessary, but that doesn’t mean that the point of a race isn’t still to compete and win.  The mothers I observed this week kept telling their sons that the point of a clearly competitive event wasn’t actually to compete.  If they thought their sons were being boastful, they might have corrected them by saying, “Don’t brag” or “Be humble.”  Instead they told them that they were wrong to think that the point of an obviously competitive event (whether it be a game or a race) was something other than competing.

Is this competition anxiety reserved for boys?  Particularly for white boys?  (I’m only using “white” here because those are the only kind of boys I routinely interact with because I live and work in a nearly mono-ethnic community.  Also, when I lived in a more diverse town, I never observed a non-white mother correct her son for trying to win in a competition.  Maybe if I have any non-white mothers reading, you can weigh in here and let me know if this happens in other ethnic/racial groups, too.)

I don’t think the mothers I observed admonishing their boys were bad mothers; in fact, I think they were very good mothers.  They were experiencing anxiety because they unconsciously perceived that their sons were violating an unspoken social norm and they were doing what they believed was right and moral for training their sons.  What I find interesting is that this social norm even exists: competing or winning or wanting to win or saying you want to win or noticing you won or expressing any pleasure in having won seems to be the new shame for (white?) boys.

 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[b] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

Should college girls wait to get married until they graduate?

My girls were sitting on the couch with me yesterday evening looking at pretty wedding dresses on Pinterest… Continue reading

Helpless

I was raised vegetarian but about four years ago I started eating meat. The problem was I had no idea how to prepare it, so I spent some time watching videos about how to prepare various kinds of meat.  At one point I bought a whole fryer chicken to cut up and bake with lemon juice, olive oil and garlic, but first I watched a video on how to properly cut apart the whole bird into wings, thighs, drumsticks, breasts, and so on.  The video was just some country guy in his mid to late 50s on YouTube, and while he was demonstrating how to cut the bird apart, he noted, “‘Course, when I was young, we didn’t go down to Walmart and buy us a bird.  We jes’ went out and got ourselves a ‘yard bird’. That’s what we called chickens ’cause they was jes’ out in the yard.  So you’d go on out and get yourself a yard bird if you wanted fried chicken.”

That sounds pretty straightforward but stop and think for a moment – would you know how to just walk outside, catch, kill, butcher, pluck, clean, and fry a chicken right now in time for dinner?  If you are like most modern helpless people, including me, you would not.  When and why did we become so helpless? Continue reading

What is the “extreme right”? What are “liberals”? This is why all political discussions sound like teenage gossip.

As I was writing yesterday’s post, I was reminded yet again that I do not have the necessary words to say what I want to say about politics and culture.  The problem is that these words – left, right, conservative, progressive, liberal, leftist, traditionalist – don’t seem to have precise meanings and instead are used in any given situation to denote the speaker’s or writer’s affiliation with or opposition to some particular group of people.

I was reading through a CNN article while drinking my morning coffee today and thought of this problem again Continue reading

Survival homesteading on one acre: a free talk by David Goodman (but it’s only free for the next 24 hours)

Ladies and gentlemen, this is so exciting!

David Goodman is a highly accomplished gardener whose methods are eclectic, but he is mostly of the forest gardening persuasion.  He’s written several books and many articles, and I have a great deal of respect for his knowledge of small-scale homesteading.  You can find his blog here:

Florida Survival Gardening

I “know” David (aka “David the Good”) through one of my old blogs, and we also used to chat about faith, family, modernism, gardening, and homesteading on Twitter now and then, though sadly he’s no longer on Twitter.  That is why I was SO excited to see that for the next 24 hours, we can watch a one-hour teaching segment Mr. Goodman did for the Home Grown Food Summit for free!  After the 24-hour free period passes, it’s necessary to pay to watch those segments, so if you’ve got insomnia tonight or are up very early tomorrow, and if gardening and homesteading interest you at all, I highly recommend watching David’s talk.

One of my favorite parts is when he talks about all the mistakes he’s learned from in all his gardening and homesteading years.  Those of us who are trying to learn more about producing some or all of our food can relate to that; sometimes it feels like success is a rare thing in food production! But we needn’t become disheartened; that is a normal part of learning to grow and raise one’s own food.

I do hope some of you will have the chance to watch it!  Here is the link:

http://homegrownfoodsummit.com/Presentations/goodman.html