Friday, August 23, 2013

Quick Takes


I have been spending all of my blog time lately reading Enbrethiliel's posts on Far From the Madding Crowd.  Good book!  Even better conversation going on in the comments.


I hope at least some of you have read my last post about the death of the small family farm.  I think it's really important to clear up a few misconceptions that most people seem to hold -- specifically, that the death of the small family farm is due to increased technology and therefore is unavoidable.  Considering the same shift from small farms to massive farms happened in ancient Rome and several other times throughout history, it's not about tractors.  It's about division of wealth.  You don't hear people say, "I know your dream is to start a business, but there just aren't any more small businesses nowadays.  Give up."

If they say that about farms, they're wrong.  There are some political reasons why large farms have prospered lately (can't believe I forgot to mention over-regulation and an industrial food system that takes a cut of everything farmers make!) but even those haven't made it impossible to succeed on a small farm.


Lately I've been working on baking the perfect loaf of sourdough bread.  It's harder than it sounds, but on the other hand even the funny-looking loaves are delicious.

The first loaf I made, I was set to bake on August 15th.  (It takes three days.)  Only I decided to go to the 8 am Mass because it's a Holy Day of Obligation and the noon Mass is during naptime.  I have to walk, because John has the car.  So I put the bread in the oven, got ready, took it out, wrapped it in a towel, and stuck it in the stroller basket.

The church was crowded and I was a little late, so I parked the double stroller in the back, kept the kids buckled, and was sort of able to pay some degree of attention.  But the whole time that cooling bread smelled so amazing.  First time in a long time that fasting before communion was remotely difficult for me.

Then we walked from there to the park and I was starving by the time we got there.  It was a beautiful, clear day, a little cool.  From that park you can see the Blue Ridge Mountains and there is always a bit of a breeze.  I unwrapped that bread, cut it up, spread butter on each slice (score one for preparedness!) and we just sat eating that delicious bread on an absolutely perfect day.

I would like to put that moment in a bottle and keep it forever.


On that note, the weather lately!  Oh my goodness!  I always love August in Virginia, where the intense heat of July starts to dissipate, but this August has been extra special.  It feels like Seattle.  It feels like September.  Only with cicadas and long days and haymaking in the fields on the way to church.

Every time the weather gets like this, I get nostalgic for everything.  First for my childhood and all the perfect days I remember experiencing in my life.  And second, if it's possible, for all the things I would like to happen in the future.  I can imagine making hay in my own fields, baking bread, milking my cow, picking apples.  I want a homestead badly at all times, but especially in August.


Marko refuses to answer to his name anymore.  He is Martha, from Martha Speaks.  Sometimes this a bad thing, like when he refuses dinner because he is a dog and only eats dog food.  Sometimes it can be worked in our favor, when we tell him that dogs love meat and Martha always finishes hers.


Remember how I've been complaining about Marko and his awful behavior?  I've been thinking of Dr. Sears's phrase that when a child feels right, he acts right.  Generally I think, "Well, that's nice, but I can't always insure my kids will feel right."  And yet I did notice a pattern was emerging.  He'd be super picky about food, or just forget to ask for food, and I'd forget to give him any, thinking he would ask if he's hungry.  Then suddenly he'd be starving, but only for one specific thing, always something unavailable.  (If he accidentally picked something I would say yes to, he immediately changed his mind!)  Then he'd start to get crabby from hunger and get even more rebellious and picky and refuse to eat dinner either.  Then he'd sleep badly and be up for the day at five a.m., whining and crabbing because he was starving ... and refuse to eat anything because it's not what he wanted.

Infuriating, but a little extra attention helped him eat better, which resulted in better sleep, which resulted in better moods.  We haven't had many awful days in several weeks.  It helps to have a pretty reliable schedule for meals and snacks, which I always try to do, but sometimes get careless about.  As long as he has food offered to him before he's absolutely famished, he's much less picky about it.  It also helps that we've finally got him reliably going to bed on his own.  I train him into it every time John is gone, but then John comes back and Marko just has different expectations for when Daddy is around.  Finally he seemed to get the idea that once he goes into his room at night, that's where he'll be till morning.  He doesn't have to sleep, he just has to lie in bed.  He could think about dragons!  Or Frog and Toad!  Or Martha Speaks!

He's asleep in about 20 minutes, I am pretty sure.


I started signing with Michael recently because he talks so little and so badly.  And it's helped a lot!  Not only does he do the signs, but he also has started using more words.  At this point he reliably says more, nurse, water, eat, dog, cat, ball, and quite a few others.  I'm trying not to compare -- Marko used at least 100 words by this age and was making two-word sentences -- because I know this is perfectly normal.  Also, Michael has a skill that Marko didn't pick up till almost three: he can give hugs and kisses, not just receive them.  If you asked Marko to hug a teddy bear, he would sort of lean on it.  Michael knows to give a big squeeze.  I wonder if that's because he's watched his big brother more, or he just is better at translating other people's actions into his own.

This post is so late I don't think I'm going to bother linking it up.  I'm not sure if anyone clicks through all 200-some posts each week, but I know I don't.  You all know the way to Conversion Diary, though, if you want more quick takes.  Might I recommend just clicking on the ones that look interesting rather than starting at the beginning?  Because the same people always end up at the beginning because they're disgustingly prompt.


Enbrethiliel said...


1) Thanks for the link! And for your participation. I've been loving everyone's contributions! =D

2) I don't think that the death of the small farm is inevitable, but homesteading seems incompatible with a lot of modern luxuries that a lot of people seem to think are non-negotiable basics. Remember when you were writing about people choosing to live in trailers instead of going into debt building houses? It's kind of like that.

Meanwhile, I think France has a new law forbidding people to live in trailers, and the greater reaction from caravan dwellers has been: "You'd rather have us homeless???"

3) If I had time to look after a "pet" bowl of yeast (which, in my house, means keeping my forgetful eighty-year-old grandmother from throwing it out during one of the ten times a day she tidies up the kitchen), sourdough would be my goal, too. I wouldn't care about funny-looking loaves. The point is how the taste, right?

Your day really does sound wonderful! =)

4) August is monsoon month for me, but I know what you mean about perfect days.

5) LOL! Did you try reverse psychology and making him sit and stay for long periods of time ("long" for a toddler being about twenty minutes) until he figures out that it's much cooler to be human? ;-)

6) It sounds as if you've got a good handle on how to lead him! But the learning process must have been much more eventful!

7) Michael sounds great, too! I guess that hugging and kissing count as a form of communication closer to signing than to using words. Now, I confess that I was not a cuddly child: I wiped off kisses right after getting them and didn't like giving them myself. But I was very verbal!

PS -- "Disgustingly prompt" is right! Whenever I see a linky stretching past 100, I try to start at the end.

Sheila said...

Marko loves to be put through his sit-and-stay paces. But if he gets bored he just wanders off and is a naughty dog instead.

I did, however, finally get him to eat fish again. For several months he's been insisting he doesn't like fish. I've hidden it, sauced it, bribed, cajoled, but all he says is, "This is fish, Mama! Fish isn't good!"

Last night he announced, yet again, that he doesn't like fish. I said, "That can't be right. Dogs LOVE fish." He didn't believe me, so I made the dog beg for a piece so he could see how crazy the dog was for a bit of fish. And after that Marko begged for fish too! Ate his whole portion!

Re: luxury, that is most assuredly the trouble. Which is why homesteading is not, in our current culture, likely ever to be more than a countercurrent. There are a sizable number of people who really do want to live like that, or who consider the independence worth the sacrifice. But the loud voice of our culture says, "You need this. You need that. You need the latest model." My great-grandfather's expenses were about $20 a month, mainly on ammunition and vanilla ice cream to go on his raspberries. But this lifestyle is very little respected.

And yet, for those of us who consider sharing a wall with someone else as a far worse indignity than going without a cellphone, homesteading sounds extremely luxurious! All the nature you can ask for! Food that's really fresh! Lots of pets!

And yet I'm convinced that in a truly free society, we wouldn't have to choose. You would be able to make a good enough living on a farm to have satellite high-speed internet and a smartphone and whatever else a middle-class income could buy. Unfortunately, when your poor inner-city shopper spends $4 a gallon on milk, the poor country farmer gets 25 cents a gallon for the milk, and the distributor pockets the difference, the system is weighted against the little guy, no matter what he does.

The Sojourner said...

I seem to recall that the whole premise of "Martha Speaks" is that the dog ate a bowl of alphabet soup and thereby learned to talk. So Marko's logic isn't exactly sound on the "dogs only eat dog food" thing. (Then again, he might just be smarter than the programmers of children's television with their contrived plot lines.)

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