Sunday, December 2, 2007

Ideas Have Consequences, 7

Last year I mentioned Ideas Have Consequences at an online discussion forum, and wrote a summery of the book that focused on Chapter seven. I’d intended to revamp that info into a post for this blog series but owing to my daughter’s illness (I’m headed back to the hospital and will be staying with her until she comes home later this week — forgot to mention that in the previous post) I’m just going to repost here what I wrote back then and hope that it will add something of value to the discussion.

Be sure to read Cindy and Dana for a much more thorough and thought-provoking treatment of the book.

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Chapter VII: The Last Metaphysical Right

“A man’s character emerges in the building and ordering of his house.” I loved that statement last year when I read Ideas Have Consequences for the first time, and I love it still. Hopefully I’ve been able to grow in character in the intervening year.

I’m almost done reading this book. I meant to save my comments until I’d finished it, but it’s slow going - the concepts and his language are so far above my ability to comprehend. But now I’m to the chapter on private property and I wish I’d written something down for each chapter.

I don’t know how to articulate what this book has done for me, except to say that reading it inspires me to live faithfully to my calling. It can be summed up in Weaver’s statement that “a man’s character emerges in the building and ordering of his house.”

I was asked to explain that quote, so this is what I wrote a few days later:

First, Weaver says that private property must be recognized as actual, physical property. We are losing this sense of property because so much of our property is abstract - stocks, bonds, “the legal ownership of enterprises never seen. (p. 132)” *

This abstracting of property destroys the connection between a man and his property. “[R]eal property… is the individual’s surest protection against that form of dishonor called adulteration, (p. 139)” i.e. decline in craftsmanship.

In former times when the honor of work was upon us, it was the practice of a maker to give his name to a product, and pride of family was linked up with maintenance of quality. Whether it was New England ships or Pennsylvania iron or Virginia tobacco, the name of an individual usually stood behind what was offered publicly as a tacit assumption of responsibility. But, as finance capitalism grew and men and property separated, a significant change occurred in names: the new designations shed all connection with the individual and became “General,” “Standard,” “International,” “American,” which are, of course, masks. Behind these every sort of adulteration can be practiced, and no one is shamed, because no one is identified; and, in fact, no single person may be responsible. Having a real name might require having a character, and character stands in the way of profit. (p. 141)

He goes on to describe how modern businesses will “buy up an honored name and then… cheapen the quality of the merchandise for which it stands. (p. 142)”

He describes the effect of this decline in craftsmanship by pointing out that truly well-made, high quality items are either super-luxuries or museum pieces.

Then he gives the example of housing. One hundred fifty years ago, men built houses for their own families with the intention that his family should still be living there three generations hence. Many of these homes are still standing today. Writing in 1947, Weaver says:

Let us look next at the modern age, in which houses are erected by anonymous builders for anonymous buyers with an eye to profit margins. A certain trickiness of design they often have, a few obeisances to the god comfort; but after twenty years they are falling apart. They were never private except in a specious sense; no one was really identified with them. Thus our spiritual impoverishment is followed by material impoverishment, in that we are increasingly deceived by surfaces. (p. 143)

He had just mentioned on the previous page that we can’t really be sure that the world is growing richer, unless we measure wealth as “a multiplicity of gadgets.”

Next he goes on to discuss various nations’ economic policies in the wake of the two world wars, noting that authoritarian government can bring economic order in the midst of chaos, but at what price?

The idea of metaphysical right subsumes property, and it is this idea that was lost to view in man’s orientation away from transcendance [and toward nominalism]. If material goods had been seen as something with a fixed place in the order of creation rather than as the ocean of being, on which man bobs about like a cork, the laws of economics would never have been postulated as the ordinances of all human life. But this again requires belief in nonmaterial existance. (p. 144)

Near the end of the chapter, Weaver says, “It it likely… that human society cannot exist without some resource of sacredness. Those states which have sought openly to remove it have tended in the end to assume divinity themselves. (p.146)” And he closes the chapter by saying:

We are looking for a place where a successful stand may be made for the logos against modern barbarism. It seems that small-scale private property offers such an entrenchment, which is, of course, a place of defense. Yet offensive operations too must be undertaken. (p. 147)

So this is the context in which in that statement about a man’s character was made.

Private property, in the sense we have defined it, is substance; in fact, it is something very much like the philosophical concept of substance. Now when we envision a society of responsible persons, we see them enjoying a range of free choice which is always expressed in relation to substance…. It is… important to keep substance in life, for a man’s character emerges in the building and ordering of his house; it does not emerge in complaisance with state arrangement, and it is likely to be totally effaced by communistic organization. Substance has a part in bringing out that distinction which we have admitted to be good [that there is a world of ought, that the apparant does not exhaust the real (p. 130)]; it is somehow instrumental in man’s probation.

The issue involves, finally, the question of freedom of the will, for private property is essential in any scheme which assumes that man has choice between better and worse. It is given him like the Garden of Eden, and up to now he seems guilty of a second forfeit of happiness. (p.146)

Lengthy, I know, but I hope all that helps.


*He doesn’t even address the fact that very, very few actually own our homes. Initially, mortgages were 3, 5, or 7 year loans and were lengthened to 15 year loans during the 30s, I believe, but 30 year loans were unheard of before the 60s. IOW, at the time Weaver was writing, “homeowners” expected to get the loan paid off and actually possess the title to their home in very short order.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ideas Have Consequences

Blogging through this book with Cindy and others is not going to be easy. The concepts are so huge that they are hard to summarize and it’s difficult even to pick out quotes since Richard Weaver did not write in sound bites. For this reason, please be patient with me when I quote long passages.

Chapter I: The Unsentimental Sentiment

The man of self-control is he who can consistently perform the feat of abstraction. He is therefore trained to see things under the aspect of eternity, because form is the enduring part. Thus we invariably find in the man of true culture a deep respect for forms. He approaches even those he does not understand with awareness that a deep thought lies in an old observance. Such respect distinguishes him from the barbarian, on the one hand, and the degenerate, on the other. The truth can be expressed in another way by saying that the man of culture has a sense of style. Style requires measure, whether in space or time, for measure imparts structure, and it is structure which is essential to intellectual apprenhension. (p. 23)

When I first started this blog, my header said something like “…taking dominion by beautifying one tiny little corner of the world.” By saying that, I was trying to express the idea that everything we do as Christian women to beautify the sphere the Lord has put us into is a very real and a very valuable way of fulfilling mankind’s creation mandate, of rejoicing in being created in his image, and of glorifying the Lord. But after reading the book mentioned in the previous post, I changed it to the much superior words of fellow Arkansan John Gould Fletcher: “…to make our lives an art…”

This, I think, is at least partly what Mr. Weaver is pointing to in this chapter, and this is something I need to remind myself of on a regular basis. I tend to have lofty ideals but then translating those ideals into practice is very hard for me, and for other women I know. Here are some ideas that might inspire those who need foundational help in this area.

• Be sure that your day has a reasonably predictable rhythm to it. If you have no idea where to begin, start with meals and bedtimes - decide when you should have supper, and that will let you know when you need to start preparing it, when the little ones need naps, when to serve lunch and whether the little ones need a snack between lunch and supper, and so forth. From there you can decide when to schedule regular chores, like laundry, when to have storytime…

Do have nap time every afternoon, even if all your children have outgrown the need for a nap. Everyone in the family still needs a space of quiet, alone time when they’re free to daydream or play with their favorite things without having to share. Moms who are homeschooling (unless they are extremely extroverted and get charged up by being around small people all day long - of which, I am most decidedly not one) especially need this regular time every day, if they are going to make it for the long haul.

• Set the table, with real dishes, for every meal, using paper plates only on rare occasion. Unless you’re in absolute survival mode and can’t possibly face having plates to wash after meals, I’d recommend this for all meals. Having a pretty table to sit down to makes the meal so much more pleasant - and you don’t have to have all matching stuff. I have four different sets of flatware, half of it picked up at thrift stores, that we use at each meal. For a long time I had two different sets of stoneware, but they were both white, so it looked fine on the table.

• A trick I learned from a “More Hours in my Day” seminar with Emilie Barnes is to ring a bell a few minutes before a meal to give everyone time to finish up what they’re doing and wash their hands. At supper I ring ours twenty to thirty minutes before the meal because Mike and a couple of the older kids are usually still out doing barn chores. This gives them plenty of time to finish what they’re doing and time to change clothes if needed. In the meantime, the rest of us come to the living room and sit down and read or play quietly or talk. It’s amazing how civilizing this time is. The family gathers in one place, I make a last-minute check on things and then tell them they can come to the table. (This is, of coure, the ideal - it doesn’t happen every day, especially if Mike had to work late at the office.)

• Model using a pleasant tone of voice and encourage your children to do the same. Shouting is for outside - don’t yell for your kids unless there’s an emergency. Get up and go find them or send a messenger. We have a rule in our family that we aren’t supposed to speak to someone unless we can see their eyes. This reminds us to get close enough to speak in a moderate tone of voice, and it helps us notice whether the person is already speaking to someone else so that we don’t interrupt. Teach your children to say “Yes, Ma’am,” and “Yes, Sir,” or whatever is the appropriately respectful response in your family or region.

• Get dressed first thing in the morning. Fix your hair, and if you wear makeup or jewelry, put it on before you go to the kitchen to start breakfast. Don’t laugh! I know that sounds really basic, but I grew up with the habit of not getting dressed right away unless we were going somewhere (which, of course, was every day but most Saturdays) and I’d actually been a wife and mother for two or three years before I realized that this was my job and I ought to get dressed for my family even though I wasn’t going out that morning. :-p Expect the older kids to dress themselves before breakfast, including having their teeth brushed and hair neat. I am not going to require you to put on shoes every day the way some homemaking advisors do - I’m a Southerner, and like Henny-penny, “I go barefoot, barefoot, barefoot!” :-D

• Make eye contact, smile, and greet one another with a hug first thing each morning. As Laura said in These Happy Golden Years, saying “Good morning” really does make it a good morning!

• Listen to a wide range of good music throughout the week. We’re focusing our attention this term on Antonine Dvořák’s music, so sometimes we’ll listen to his piano solos or Slavonic dances while preparing meals. I prefer listening to his symphonies and string quartets when I have time to sit down and pay attention. His Mass in D major is simply beautiful (ignore the review at Amazon - the guy’s a snob; apparantly he didn’t like it because it’s a live recording of an actual church choir in church, rather than professionals in a studio, but that’s exactly the version I wanted).

• Read some poetry each day to your children. The little ones and I are reading through Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, and with the older ones I’m reading through Ambleside Online’s Year 6 poetry list, chosen because I haven’t read poetry with the older ones since they were little.

My biggest challenge is simply keeping the house tidy. Children need to grow up in an orderly and peaceful environment, and we have too much stuff, defined as “more stuff than I can manage without being consumed by it.” I feel like I’ve been ruthlessly dejunking this year, but evidently I’m going to have to be ruthlesser. ;-) If you’re a mom just starting out, take two bits of advice from me: 1) Don’t accumulate stuff, and 2) Teach your children to pick up after themselves from infancy. Trust me. I’ve learned this the hard way.

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The Hidden Art of Homemaking, by Edith Schaeffer

Sidetracked Home Executives, by Pam Young and Peggy Jones

More Hours in My Day, by Emilie Barnes

Ambleside Online has Charlotte Mason’s books online so you can read them for free - many of her ideas are in the vein of what I’ve been trying to say in this post.

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By the way, if you want to read the book is actually about, go over to Dana’s blog, Hidden Art. She has insight and a wonderful way with words.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

“ make our lives an art...”

[Reposted from 4 January 2006]

One of the books I received for Christmas was one I’ve been wanting for several years, I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition, a collection of essays by twelve Southerners, originally published in 1930. There’s so much good in here that I’m afraid I’m devouring it too rapidly to be able to taste it all, so I’ll have to reread - perhaps to the family. I think it would make a nice read-aloud in the winter evenings after Christmas is over. In the four essays I’ve read so far, several common themes keep reappearing, and today I’d like to share a bit of one of them - the idea of an aesthetic life, of living beautifully and graciously, which has nothing at all to do with material wealth.

We feed and clothe and exercise our bodies, for example, in order to be able to do something with our minds. We employ our minds in order to achieve character…. We achieve character, personality, gentlemanliness in order to make our lives an art and to bring our souls into relation with the whole scheme of things, which is the divine nature.
(John Gould Fletcher, “Education, Past and Present,” pp. 119-120

The arts of the [antebellum South], such as they were, were not immensely passionate, creative, or romantic; they were the eighteenth-century social arts of dress, conversation, manners, the table, the hunt, politics, oratory, the pulpit. These were arts of living and not arts of escape; they were also community arts, in which every class of society could participate after its kind. The South took life easy, which is itself a tolerably comprehensive art.
(John Crowe Ransom, “Reconstructed but Unregenerate,” p. 12)

The art gallery or art museum theory of art to which philanthropists and promoters would persuade us views art as a luxury quite beyond the reach of ordinary people. Its attempt to glorify the arts by setting them aside in specially consecrated shrines can hardly supply more than a superficial gilding to a national culture, if the private direction of that culture is ugly and materialistic…. The truly artistic life is surely that in which the aesthetic experience is not curtained off, but mixed up with all sorts of instruments and occupations pertaining to the round of daily life. It ranges all the way from pots and pans, chairs and rugs, clothing and houses, up to dramas publicly performed and government buildings.
(Donald Davidson, “A Mirror for Artists,” pp. 39-40)

[O]nly in an agrarian society does there remain much hope of a balanced life, where the arts are not luxuries to be purchased but belong as a matter of course in the routine of his living.
(Ibid, pp. 51-2)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Why is it...?

All summer long my oldest daughter and I worked hard at dejunking and reordering the house. We painted the bedrooms, which we’ve needed to do ever since we bought the house, and we rearranged two rooms so that one could be made into a more functional schoolroom/library - it always takes me two or three years to get really “moved in” to a new house. Everything was going along swimmingly, until…

We started back to school five weeks ago.

The house is a mess now. I always feel this way about my housekeeping and homeschooling. I can only do one thing at a time and do it reasonably well - and by “at a time” I don’t mean in any given moment a la multitasking; I mean in any given day or week.

And it’s not because I have I such a brutal homeschooling schedule or standard of housekeeping that it’s unattainable - it’s simply because I’m so slow, and once I get going I have lots of what Samantha calls inertia: I don’t turn easily from one task to the next and I have trouble stopping what I’m doing before it’s finished.

This year I’m using Ambleside’s Year One book list for my youngest four children, and we’re really enjoying it. Besides being part of my children’s education, I’m hoping that this method will help me learn the skill of pacing - of working steadily at several tasks, a little bit each day, over a long period of time.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Have you read the latest Credenda?

I especially appreciated Mrs. Wilson's column this month on creating beauty. I'm one of those who has always felt guilty for loving beautiful things and for wanting to make the things and the people around me beautiful. It's always felt so... fleshly and unspiritual. But no, she says, "God wants His children to take pleasure in the earthly things He has bestowed on us."

"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11)"

We who are created in his image, and most especially we who have been given his name in the waters of baptism, honour him when we delight in those things that our Lord was pleased to create.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Jamestown 2007

Our bishop's son put together a two minute video montage of Saturday's service. Be sure your speakers are on. :-D

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Third Sunday after Trinity

O LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may, by thy mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Four hundred years ago on this Sunday, the first communion service in Virgina was held at Jamestown, led by the Rev. Robert Hunt, in a makeshift church consisting of a sail suspended from the trees, a communion rail log attached to two saplings, and logs for benches.

I mentioned earlier that we've recently joined a chuch that uses the 1928 Prayer Book. Holy Redeemer is a member of the Anglican Church of Virginia, which has held a communion service at the church on Jamestown Island on the Saturday before 3rd Trinity every year since since its inception in 2001. Our bishop has been instrumental in bringing together other traditional Anglican bishops and their churches, and this year at Jamestown we hosted the first synod of the Anglican Church International Communion. The service yesterday was an especially big deal because we also consecrated a new bishop.

The celebration began with a procession to the church led by the St. Andrew's Pipes and Drums Legion.

All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
I Peter 5:5-11

The Epistle for this Sunday was especially meaningful, as the new bishop is from India where there is a lot of persecution of Christians. Church buildings are often destroyed and on Sunday mornings, the congregation gathers with the women and children nearest the altar, and with the men nearest the door, a row of them standing shoulder-to-shoulder and facing the door, so that they might protect the congregation if they are attacked during a service.

During the service, the Scriptures were read in French and Spanish as well as English. Mike and six of the children sang the Gloria in Latin at the end of the service, just before the recessional. My mother asked me to record them singing and I meant to, but I plumb forgot when the time came, which is a shame, because the acoustics in that building are outstanding.

After the service the St. Andrew's Legion regaled us with song and dance.

It was a long day (we didn't get home till after midnight) but I'm so glad we were able to attend. I only wish I'd been able to attend the Synod meetings during the week so I could have spent more time with the godly men and their wives with whom the Lord has blessed us.

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Other shots from the day:

Baby Princess and Pocahontas.

The young man in the white shirt is my oldest son - this was taken after the service while the pipes and drums were playing.

One of the bishops from India and his family.

All of us with about half the bishops in attendance. We had bishops from across the US as well as from India, Haiti, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.

Monday, June 18, 2007

This morning's colloquium

When the kids and I gathered for our morning time today, I brought with me my Chuch Year Calendar (published by the Ashby Publishing Co.) so I could look over the saints who are commemorated this month. Not that I'm perfectly consistent in this by any means, but I like to pick out one or two saints each month to study with the children because it's so important for them to know their family history, including our fathers in the Faith. And given that we live in such security, ease, and plenty, it's all the more important that we should remember our brothers who have suffered and died for the Faith.

So, as I was flipping it open, I noticed for the first time that the beheading of Charles I is commemorated - that is, that his martyrdom on the 30th of January is noted on this calendar! Up until recently, we've been using the Episcopal version published by Ashby, but since we joined an Anglican church here last month, I've picked up the Anglican version, which is considerably more high church than our family is.

Since we were still waiting on one or two children to gather, I took the opportunity to mention this fact, and of course, you can't talk about Charles I and William Laud without talking about the Puritans, and the conversation continued for about an hour, at which time we closed with Morning Prayers. I can't possibly recreate that conversation here, but I thought it would be fun to list the range of topics we covered in roughly the order they came up.

- Charles I
- Cromwell
- Puritans
- Divine Right of Kings
- Norman Conquest
- Pre-Norman Britain
- the Witenagamot
- benefits of a decentralized, confederated government with an elected federal head
- religious causes of the Norman Conquest
- religious differences between Pre-Norman Ireland and Britain
- historic politcal relations between Scotland and Ireland
- family history (Scots-Irish and Welsh)
- Wales
- Welsh language
- Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

At this point we went into hysterics and couldn't procede with the discussion, so we collected ourselves went to prayers as it was already nearly eleven o'clock. Unfortunately I was still so giddy from the end of the conversation that I prayed "Let not the greedy, O Lord, be forgotten," instead of needy.

P.S. I've settled on St. Alban, a British martyr who died in 304, because I know nothing about him other than that.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day dinner

My hubby is a meat and potatoes lover, but we don't often eat that way, so as my gift to him today I made a meaty dinner especially the way he likes it.

Flank steak
mashed potatoes and gravy
green beans
Vidalia onion pie
zucchini salad
fresh strawberries and whipped cream for dessert

I was a little nervous about making this steak because my steaks always turn out tough, but I followed the directions for flank steak in my circa 1950s Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and it was perfect!

Score flank steak; dip into flour; brown in hot fat. Season. Add 1/2 cup hot water; cover; cook over low heat or in moderate oven (350°) till tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

I browned the steak in butter in my iron skillet, sprinkled a little salt and pepper on it, then covered it tightly with foil and put it in the oven for a little less than two hours, since it was so thick.

The gravy was made from the all the pan drippings plus the water from cooking the potatoes.

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Here's my Vidalia onion pie recipe:

4 medium Vidalia onions
1 stick of butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp of freshly ground pepper (I use McCormick's peppercorn medley)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided

Preheat over to 450°. Thinly slice onions and cut into quarters, then sauté in butter until soft. Mix together eggs, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Pour 1/2 of sautéed onions into each of two pie pans, the pour half of the egg mixture over each. Top each with 1/4 cup of Parmesan (or more if preferred). Bake in 450° oven for 15 minutes, then turn down to 350° and bake till golden brown and set - about 15 minutes. Makes 16 side servings, but in our family, some of us eat about three servings. ;-)

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The zucchini salad was modified from one found in Nourishing Traditions since I didn't have all the ingredients. Put 2 Tblsps of Lemon Pepper seasoning into a bowl and cover with 2 Tblsps white wine and 1/4 cup water; set aside. Quarter four zucchinis and slice thin. Add to seasoning mix: 1/2 extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1 Tblsp flaxseed oil. Mix well, then place zucchini into a bowl, pour dressing over all, stir gently, and let sit at room temperature for a few hours before serving.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

We're kind of late getting in our garden this year. A couple of months ago, Mike and the boys planted the potatoes and onions (which are doing well), and peas and beans (which all died). Our peas have died every year and I'm not sure why. Our beans have never done well, but this is the first time they all died.

A month and a half or so ago we got the corn planted, and this week we've finally planted in the corn patch pole beans to grow up the corn, and pumpkin, watermelon, cantalaupe, yellow squash, and zucchini to grow between the rows.

In May the tomatoes went in, and yesterday I planted some basil to grow with the tomatoes, plus some marigold seeds. (Now I just have to keep the chickens from taking their dustbaths there!)

It doesn't look like much written down here, but all this, plus all the weeding, means that instead of having our Morning Time the kids and I have been gardening in the morning before it gets too hot, then around eleven I'll come in, take a shower, and lie down while the older girls get lunch ready. After lunch we have our "Morning Time" and then the little ones have naps (and sometimes I do, too). After supper we'll go back out work and for another hour or so with Mike.

Well, the older folks work - the little ones help for awhile and then start running around chasing lightening bugs.

I love this time of year.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Wendell Berry, in The Art of the Commonplace, describing the place where he lives:
The hill is like an old woman, all her human obligations met, who sits at work day after day, in a kind of rapt leisure, at an intricate embroidery. She has time for all things. Because she does not expect ever to be finished, she is endlessly patient with details. She perfects flower and leaf, feather and song, adorning the briefest life in great beauty as though it were meant to last forever.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blue moon
There's a full moon tonight, the second this month, so this one is a blue moon. From what I've read, this occurs about 40 times in a century - less than twice a year, but it's irregular. If memory serves we didn't have a single one in 2006.

This full moon is also called a Milk Moon since it's the season in which grasses and herbs in pastures are growing rapidly, meaning that this month cows and goats will be producing lots of milk that's especially rich and high in vitamins.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More favorites
Today's paintings are both by Jean Honoré Fragonard.

Education Is Everything

The Young Girl Reading

This painting is owned by the National Gallery of Art, which also sells prints of its artwork. I have a print of this, but I haven't framed it or displayed it anywhere yet. I have a vague plan of collecting pictures of people reading, and then hanging them in our library some day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Favorite art
Can't think of anything worthwhile to blog about, so I'm offering some favorite works of art - that is, things that are my favorite today, as my favorites are subject to change for no apparant reason. Looking over what I like best today, I realize I must be feeling awfully sentimental...

by William-Adolphe Bouguereau:

The Shell

Two Girls

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Online tutorials for homeschoolers
For the last few years we've been taking advantage of Peter Roise's knowledge and teaching skills by putting our oldest kids in his online classes at Cassiodorus. My oldest daughter has taken all of the classes over the years, my son has taken World History I, Latin, and Logic, and will be taking World History II (and retaking Logic) this year. My 14yod has taken Latin, but I've decided her reading and writing skills aren't where they would need to be in order to succeed at Mr. Roise's very challenging history class (check out the book list!) so she probably won't start that for another year.

The year my eldest took WHI, I listened in whenever I could and learned plenty myself - Mr. Roise, himself a homeschool graduate, has a thorough understanding of Scripture and a broad knowledge of history, having graduated from New St. Andrews College, and studied at Greyfriars' Hall. For example, I never knew that much of Paul's language regarding Christ, the Kingdom, and the Gospel, is very political in nature. Euongelion, the Greek word translated Gospel, was used at that time primarily in reference to proclamations made by Caesar, and the evangelist was Caesar's herald.

This language shows that Christ's reign over the earth is not just that he rules in his people's hearts, but that the kings of the earth must submit to him as well. The Roman Empire was a polytheistic place that was held together by worship of the Spirit of Rome and the Genius of Caesar. The early Christians were not persecuted for believing in Christ (Rome didn't care who or what you believed in), but for refusing to acknowledge Caesar as Lord of Lords. Having this kind of understanding of what was going on during the New Testament era helps us better to understand our faith and recognize what our duties in our own modern American culture are. And Mr. Roise always encourages his students in their faith in the LORD, praying with them at the beginning of class each week, and bringing Scripture to bear in all of their studies.

If you're looking for tutoring help in your homeschooling endeavors, do consider Cassiodorus. It's well worth the tuition.

Peter Roise is a member of Trinity Reformed Church, Moscow, Idaho (Peter Leithart, pastor).
Gotta love Chesterton
I opened a paper only ten minutes ago in which it was solemnly said, in the fine old style of such arguments, that there was a time when men regarded women as chattels. This is outside the serious possibilities of the human race. Men never could have regarded women as chattels. If a man tried to regard a woman as a chattel his life would not be worth living for twenty-four hours. You might as well say that there was a bad custom of using live tigers as arm-chairs; or that men had outgrown the habit of wearing dangerous snakes instead of watch-chains. It may or may not be the fact that men have sometimes found it necessary to define the non-political position of women by some legal form which called them chattels; just as they have thought it necessary in England to define the necessary authority of the State by the legal form of saying that the King could do no wrong. Whether this is so or not I do not know, and I do not care. But that any living man ever felt like that, that any living man ever felt as if a woman was a piece of furniture, with which he could do what he liked, is starkly incredible. And the whole tradition and the whole literature of mankind is solid against it. There is any amount of literature from the earliest time in praise of woman: calling her a mother, a protectress, a goddess. There is any amount of literature from the earliest time devoted to the abuse of woman, calling her a serpent, a snare, a devil, a consuming fire. But there is no ancient literature whatever, from the Ionians to the Ashantees, which denies her vitality and her power. The woman is always either the cause of a wicked war, like Helen, or she is the end of a great journey, like Penelope. In all the enormous love poetry of the world, it is practically impossible to find more than two or three poems written by a man to a woman which adopt that tone of de haut en bas, that tone as towards a pet animal, which we are now constantly assured has been the historic tone of men towards women. The poems are all on the other note; it is always “Why is the queen so cruel?” “Why is the goddess so cold?”

- The Illustrated London News, 6 April 1907.

(Thanks to Miss Kelly M. for directing me to this.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"Progress" v. Civilization

[Referring to early post-Roman Britain] David Howlett demonstrates - through the apparent existence of a most intricate, allusive, Christian Latin culture apparent in Insular writings (including, now, inscribed stones) - that people whose lives were passed in archaeologically rough and simple settings were, intellectually, anything but rough and simple.
(Charles Thomas, Celtic Britain (1986) p. 20)

The precarious state of our civilization has grown with our control over nature, though we were promised an opposite result. We have assembled a vast warehouse of machinery which would, it was hoped, if not minister directly to the civilizing spirit, at least free other forces for that ministration. Yet this spirit shows signs of failing - the signs were in evidence before the World Wars - and everywhere crassness, moral obtuseness, and degradation are on the increase....

The painful truth is now beginning to emerge that a flourishing technology may make civilization more rather than less difficult of attainment. It leads to mobilization of external forces; it creates enormous concentrations of irresponsible power; through an inexorable standardization it destroys refinement and individuality.
(Richard Weaver, The Southern Tradition at Bay (published posthumously in 1968, though written in 1943) pp. 31-2)

Friday, May 18, 2007

About this time last year, my dryer broke, and since it was still covered by our homeowner's warranty, we called the company and they sent out a man from Sears to fix it. The appointment was scheduled for a week off, since Sears only sends a repairman out here once or twice a week. The man arrived on the appointed day and whipped out a fancy computer which he connected up to my dryer. The computer told him that my dryer's heating element had burned out. Well, I had told him that, too, but I realize he has to confirm the diagnosis and look for any further issues before proceeding. So. Burned out heating element. The man ordered a new one, but the warehouse he ordered from had it on backorder, so it wound up taking about four weeks for the part to come in. When it came in, I had to call Sears and let them know, so they could schedule the repairman to come back out and replace it - another week away. Total time with dead dryer: six weeks.

Less than a month later, the element burned out again. But this time we called the local repairman - the man that fixes our furnace and air conditioner when they need it. He came out that evening and took the dryer apart, cleaned it out, replaced the heating element (he'd brought one with him since Mike told him what the problem was over the telephone), and he told me what had caused the problem - five years of using dryer sheets had gummed it up so that there was friction where there shouldn't have been. Total time with dead dryer: about five hours.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Last month my washer started acting up and it got so bad that we finally had the local man come out and look at it. He came that evening, a Monday, took the washer apart and cleaned it out. This time he had to order a new pump, so he told me how to finagle it so I could still do laundry in the meantime. That Wednesday afternoon, he came back and replaced the pump.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

There's a woman who wants to buy three of our goats, only she doesn't have the cash so she suggested a barter. Her father is repairing our lawn-mower, plus (and this is worth a whole lot, if you ask me) she's taking all the stuff I've been collecting in my dejunking adventures and will yard-sale it for me.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Last week a woman pulled up in my driveway asking if we have diary goats. When I said yes, she wanted to know if she could have some milk. Seems she raised all her own children on raw goat milk but no longer keeps goats, and now her sixteen month old granddaughter, who only drinks raw milk, was visiting and they had run out of the milk they'd brought with them. We had a nice conversation and then I gave her two quarts of milk, no charge - it's illegal to sell raw milk in Virginia. Later in the week, the woman brought my clean quart jars back to me, along with a plateful of ginger cookies, and a promise to help with hoof-trimming. I forgot to ask how she knew about us, though - wish I had.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

We haven't replaced our laying flock yet since the fox attack, so Mike has been buying eggs from his coworkers. The last couple dozen were paid for with a jar full of carriage bolts we had left over from a previous construction job on the farm.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Through a series of unfortunate events, we found ourselves the owners of an ancient player piano sadly in need of repairs we could not manage ourselves. Mike mentioned it to a neighbor, saying we needed to sell it. He came to look at it, fell in love with it, and we sold it to him for a truckload of manure for our garden.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ascension Day

Hail thee, festival day!
Blessed day to be hallowed forever;
Day when our risen Lord
Rose in the heavens to reign.

He who was nailed to the cross
Is Ruler and Lord of all people.
All things created on earth
Sing to the glory of God.

Hail thee, festival day!
Blessed day to be hallowed forever;
Day when our risen Lord
Rose in the heavens to reign.

Daily the loveliness grows,
Adorned with glory of blossom;
Heaven her gates unbars,
Flinging her increase of light.

Hail thee, festival day!
Blessed day to be hallowed forever;
Day when our risen Lord
Rose in the heavens to reign.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

words: Venan­ti­us For­tu­na­tus (530-609) (Sal­ve fes­ta di­es toto ven­er­a­bi­lis ae­vo)
tr. Maurice F. Bell
music: Salve Festa Dies, Ralph Vaughan Williams

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

When we bought this house the previous owners left here a brief history of our county written by a resident, and the uncle of one of our neighbors, back in 1962. I was re-reading it this past weekend and wishing that I had time to edit it, and bring it up to date, and have it published. It was so interesting and full of insights into previous eras.

King George County Virginia was originally settled in the mid-1600s, and the author had so much knowledge of the families who settled here - where they lived, who married whom, and who inherited what. In reading it over, I was reminded that quite often widows and daughters inherited huge estates from their husbands and fathers, and bought and sold land. It seems quite routine, really, and it fits with my knowledge of my own family in Virginia and Georgia during colonial times as well as into the 1800s.

One of the complaints that feminists have against our country is that women did not have the right to own property prior to the last century, and I've just got to ask - were they lying about the situation, or was it different in other parts of the country?

Because as far as I can tell, Southern women have always had the right to own property, and that in an openly patriarchal society.
The funny thing about dejunking is that the things you need to get rid of are the things that are boxed up in the attic or basement, or stacked in the cupboards in the schoolroom, or tucked away in the farthest reaches of the linen closet. So, you spend days and days throwing away things that can't be repaired, and filling the sunroom with things you need to yardsale or donate, and yet the top of your dresser, your desk, the dining room table, and the floor in the playroom are all still cluttered, because obviously, with all that junk taking up your storage spaces, the things you actually use always get left out.

And this leads me to a question - is there any really morally compelling reason why I should keep handwriting and elementary math workbooks belonging to my 18, 16, and 14 year olds? Because I feel like a Bad Mommy when I throw those things away.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Insights from Valerie on what to do when you're worried about something that you can't actually do anything about: Ora et labora. Thanks, Valerie! I needed to be reminded of that myself just now.
Short and sweet


Here lies the body of Jonathan Pound,
Who was lost at sea and never found.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

On Charles II

Here lies our Severign Lord and King,
    Whose word no man relies on,
Who never said a foolish thing,
    Nor ever did a wise one.

        John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Here lies John Bun;
He was killed by a gun.
His name was not Bun, but Wood;
But Wood would not rhyme with gun, and Bun would.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Here lies father, mother, sister, and I;
    We all died within the space of one short year;
They be all buried at Wimble, except I,
    And I be buried here.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Here lies the body of Old Man Pease
Resting quietly 'neath flowers and trees.
But Pease is not here, just the pod -
Pease shelled out and went to God.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Limericks - the first is by Edward Lear, the rest are anonymous.

Said a great Congragational preacher
To a hen, 'You're a beautiful creature."
    The hen, just for that,
    Laid an egg in his hat,
And thus did the hen reward Beecher.

A flea and a fly in a flue
Were imprisoned, so what could they do?
    Said the fly, "Let us flee."
    Said the flea, "Let us fly."
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

A handsome young noble of Spain,
Met a lion one day in the rain
    He ran in a fright
    With all of his might,
But the lion, he ran with his mane!

A girl who weighed many an oz.
Used language I dared not pronoz.
    For a fellow unkind
    Pulled her chair out behind
Just to see (so he said) if she'd boz.

(You have to say this next one with a British accent)

An opera star named Maria
Always tried to sing higher and higher
    Till she hit a high note
    Which got stuck in her throat --
Then she entered the Heavenly Choir.

A housewife called out with a frown
When surprised by some callers from town,
    "In a minute or less
    I'll slip on a dress" --
But she slipped on the stairs and came down.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

In honor of the birth of my firstborn, eighteen years ago

George MacDonald

Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the everywhere into here.

Where did you get those eyes so blue?
Out of the sky as I came through.

What makes the light in them sparkle and spin?
Some of the starry spikes left in.

Where did you get that little tear?
I found it waiting when I got here.

What makes your forehead so smooth and high?
A soft hand strok’d it as I went by.

What makes your cheek like a warm white rose?
I saw something better than any one knows.

Whence that three-corner’d smile of bliss?
Three angels gave me at once a kiss.

Where did you get this pearly ear?
God spoke, and it came out to hear.

Where did you get those arms and hands?
Love made itself into bonds and bands.

Feet, whence did you come, you darling things?
From the same box as the cherubs’ wings.

How did they all just come to be you?
God thought about me, and so I grew.

But how did you come to us, you dear?
God thought about you, and so I am here.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

"To a Young Lady"
William Cowper

Sweet stream that winds through yonder glade,
Apt emblem of a virtuous maid
Silent and chaste she steals along,
Far from the world's gay busy throng:
With gentle yet prevailing force,
Intent upon her destined course;
Graceful and useful all she does,
Blessing and blest where'er she goes;
Pure-bosom'd as that watery glass,
And Heaven reflected in her face.

Friday, April 27, 2007

My affection for Diana Wynne Jones got me started on Donne - one of his poems is the key to a problem in one of her novels, and she has a character who quotes or alludes to him regularly. He points out such details that I would never notice - but have been noticing them myself since reading this poem, "The Crosse":

Since Christ embrac'd the Crosse it selfe, dare I
His image, th'image of His Cross, deny?
Would I have profit by the sacrifice,
And dare the chosen Altar to despise?
It bore all other sinnes, but is it fit
That it should beare the sinne of scorning it?
Who from the picture would avert his eye,
How would he flye his paines, who there did dye?
From mee no Pulpit, nor misgrounded law,
Nor scandall taken, shall this Crosse withdraw,
It shall not, for it cannot; for the losse
Of this Crosse were to mee another Crosse.
Better were worse, for no affliction,
No Crosse is so extreme, as to have none;
Who can blot out the Crosse, which th'instrument
Of God dew'd on mee in the Sacrament?
Who can deny mee power, and liberty
To stretch mine arms, and mine owne Crosse to be?
Swimme, and at every stroake thou art thy Crosse,
The Mast and yard make one, where seas do tosse.
Looke downe, thou spiest out Crosses in small things;
Looke up, thou seest birds rais'd on crossed wings;
All the Globes frame, and spheares, is nothing else
But the Meridians crossing Parallels.
Materiall Crosses then, good physicke bee,
But yet spirituall have chiefe dignity.
These for extracted chemique medicine serve,
And cure much better, and as well preserve.
Then are you your own physicke, or need none,
When Still'd or purg'd by tribulation.
For when that Crosse ungrudg'd unto you stickes,
Then are you to yourselfe a Crucifixe.
As perchance, Carvers do not faces make:
But that away, which hid them there, do take.
Let Crosses, soe, take what hid Christ in thee,
And be his image, or not his, but hee.
But, as oft Alchemists doe coyners prove,
So may a selfe-despising, get selfe-love.
And then as worst surfets, of best meates bee,
Soe is pride, issued from humility,
For, 'tis no child, but monster; therefore Crosse
Your joy in crosses, else, 'tis double losse,
And crosse thy senses, else, both they, and thou
Must perish soone, and to destruction bowe.
For if the'eye seeke good objects, and will take
No crosse from bad, wee cannot 'scape a snake.
So with harsh, hard, sowre, stinking, crosse the rest,
Make them indifferent; call nothing best.
But most the eye needs crossing, that can rome,
And move; To th'other th'objects must come home.
And crosse thy heart; for that in man alone
Pants downewards, and hath palpitation.
Crosse those dejections, when it downeward tends,
And when it to forbidden heights pretends.
And as the braine through bony walls doth vent
By sutures, which a Crosses forme present,
So when thy braine workes, ere thou utter it,
Crosse and correct concupiscence of witt.
Be covetous of Crosses; let none fall;
Crosse no man else, but crosse thyself in all.
Then doth the Crosse of Christ work faithfully
Within our hearts, when wee love harmlessly
The Crosses pictures much, and with more care
That Crosses children, which our Crosses are.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

One of the more interesting, and even enlightening, things about living this agrarianish life is seeing the reality behind so many metaphors. The first time it happened, I was watching our goats eating. Goats, don't graze like cows, they browse - a little of this, a bite of that, a nibble here, a taste there. It was kind of funny thinking of all the times I've used that word while shopping or visiting a library and not realizing that it's actually a metaphor.

I used to think Don't cry over spilt milk meant not to regret the loss of such a little thing, but let me tell you, when we've worked so hard to get that milk, and especially when we only had one doe and the milk was very precious, I must say that I have actually cried over spilt milk.

Did you know that when you cut a chicken's head off, it really flops around like a chicken with its head cut off? Only I can't say it actually "runs around," which is what I always pictured. Running would denote some intent. It just flaps its wings and hops, in a wild, frantic randomness here and there.

I've seen the wanton devastation resulting from letting a fox in the henhouse, and I know the disgusting lechery of a young buck as well as the capricious behaviour of a bunch of capering goats.

But the most recent one is a word I'd rather not have learnt in such a personal fashion: the throes of death. One of our beloved goats died last week, with her head resting silently in Mike's lap, neck strecthing, legs circling slowly, as she strained uselessly in patient agony against the coming death, before taking one last long shuddering breath.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Most of my favorite poems tell a story - some of them use nonsense language, like "anyone lived in a pretty how town," some are bittersweet like "My Papa's Waltz," and some are fun and fanciful, like this one:

"The Duel"
by Eugene Field

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
'Twas half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t'other had slept a wink!
        The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
        Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
            (I wasn't there; I simply state
            What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

The gingham dog went "Bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "Mee-ow!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
        While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
        Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
            (Now mind:   I'm only telling you
            What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)

The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh, dear! what shall we do!"
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
        Employing every tooth and claw
        In the awfullest way you ever saw—
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
            (Don't fancy I exaggerate—
            I got my news from the Chinese plate!)

Next morning, where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!
        But the truth about the cat and pup
        Is this:   they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
            (The old Dutch clock it told me so,
            And that is how I came to know.)

The first (actually, the only) poem I remember memorizing for recitation, and just about the only one I can still recite from memory is on everybody's "favorites" list, but I'm going to post it anyway - Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky."

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
        Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
        And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
        The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
        The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
        Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
        And stood awhile in thought

And as in uffish thought he stood,
        The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
        And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
        The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
        He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
        Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
        He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
        Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
        And the mome raths outgrabe.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Pied Beauty"
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things—
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
        For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
        And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
        With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                      Praise him.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Another favorite

"My Papa's Waltz"
by Theodore Roethke

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

... but here's one of my favorites

"anyone lived in a pretty how town"
by E.E. Cummings *

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then) they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men (both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
Trying to play catch-up never works
In my education, I'm woefully behind in the poetry department, and, this being National Poetry Month and all, I've been reading quite a lot lately. Too much, it turns out.

In her post this morning Cindy says, "I am not unaware that this desire for peace is a sin." That reminded me of a poem and I was going to post it, but alas, I can't find it now - I thought it was Donne, but it wasn't in the anthology of English poets I thought I'd read it in, and I can't remember enough of it to google it. It was something about how, when God made man, he gave us all wonderful gifts, except for contentment, and he kept that back, knowing that if we were truly content with life here, we'd forget to be thankful to the one who gave us everything.

I don't actually agree with the sentiment since it's been my own experience that lack of contentment (with the sovereignty of God, ultimately) is caused by lack of thankfulness, but I was so proud of myself for having a poem to post, and quite disappointed that I can't find in the midst of all the poetry I've been reading lately.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
    Of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought forth Israel
    Into joy from sadness;
Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke
    Jacob’s sons and daughters,
Led them with unmoistened foot
    Through the Red Sea waters.

’Tis the spring of souls today;
    Christ has burst his prison,
And from three days’ sleep in death
    As a sun hath risen;
All the winter of our sins,
    Long and dark, is flying
From his light, to whom we give
    Laud and praise undying.

Now the queen of seasons, bright
    With the day of splendor,
With the royal feast of feasts,
    Comes its joy to render;
Comes to glad Jerusalem,
    Who with true affection
Welcomes in unwearied strains
    Jesus’ resurrection.

Neither might the gates of death,
    Nor the tomb’s dark portal,
Nor the watchers, nor the seal
    Hold thee as a mortal;
But to-day amidst thine own
    Thou didst stand, bestowing
That thy peace which evermore
    Passeth human knowing.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

St. John of Damascus, 8th century
tr. J.M. Neale, 1853

Friday, April 13, 2007

Our Nubian doeling, Winter, had her first kids yesterday afternoon, after a short and uneventful labor.

The one on the right is the oldest by about two minutes. We're calling them Tom and Huck... for now. We've been known to change our minds before.

Mama Winter is doing fine. Isn't she cute?

What form of poetry are you?

I am heroic couplets; most precise
And fond of order. Planned and structured. Nice.
I know, of course, just what I want; I know,
As well, what I will do to make it so.
This doesn't mean that I attempt to shun
Excitement, entertainment, pleasure, fun;
But they must keep their place, like all the rest;
They might be good, but ordered life is best.
What Poetry Form Are You?

HT: Carmon

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Over at Favorite Apron talk has turned to hats for men, and it inspired me to set off again in search of information on the proper wearing of hats, no easy task.

After wearing a hat to work every day for nearly twenty-two years in the Air Force, Mike wanted me to get him something to wear to the office where he works as a civilian in his retirement (hah!) and of course he needs something on when working out in the sun around here.

This latter was easy enough to find - we bought this leather one, which is especially nice for cool damp weather, at the local feed store.

And this one that he wears in warmer weather, was practically a no-brainer:

Notice that neither of these hats is a cowboy hat, which would have been by far the easiest thing to find. They are everywhere - the feed store, the Tractor Supply Store, Wal-Mart, gas stations, the mall... everywhere. But Mike doesn't own a single pair of cowboy boots, and since we own neither cows nor horses it's not likely that he'll ever own a pair. It's my opinion that man's hat (well, probably a woman's too for that matter, but we're talking about men's hats here) ought to go with his shoes, and his shoes ought to be appropriate to the activity at hand. Mike usually does his farm work in the rubber boots you see here, or in a pair of leather military issue boots, and the straw farm and leather outback hats seemed to be more fitting than anything else I've seen.

A harder task was finding something for him to wear to the office, and this is where I first started trying to find out what the etiquette is for what kind of hat to wear where. There's some information on proper behavior when wearing a hat - taking it off in church, for instance - but precious little about different kinds of hats and when and where it's appropriate to wear them.

My 1950s copy of Emily Post's Blue Book of Social Usage is not very helpful since not only is our lifestyle not formal, but we don't even live in a formal era. I'm not opposed to moving slightly in the direction of more formality, hoisting the culture up so to speak, but I certainly don't want my husband to look ridiculous - like he's in a costume or something. He doesn't even own a suit, so whatever hat I chose for him needed to be dressier than his farm hat, but still informal.

I don't have a photo of the first "office" hat I bought for him, but it was a straw hat along the lines of the one above, but smaller in scale - a narrower brim and such. For the fall, I finally hit upon this wool tweed driving cap:

Nice, isn't it?

His office "suit" is usually an oxford-cloth shirt (sometimes flannel as you see above), trousers, and burgundy oxfords or brown loafers, with a sweater (pullover or cardigan) in cool weather. Casualish, but nice.

But now it's spring again and I was still dissatisfied with his old warm-weather office hat, not to mention the fact that it was falling apart, being a pretty cheap thing, so I've been looking around again, asking the questions, What is the right style? and What is the right material?

My daddy never wore hats, but I remembered something he told me about my grandfather. Granddaddy was an engineer (that is, he drove a train) and a farmer, so he usually wore his pinstriped overalls and engineers cap, and boots, but he was also the mayor his small town for many years, and of course, the men of that generation always wore a suit to church. Daddy told me that Granddaddy had four dress hats: two felt ones (a black and a grey) for winter, and two straw ones (a black and an ivory) for summer.

So, armed with this informatin, I set off hunting for some kind of dress hat in straw. My mental image was of Bogart - a fedora of some sort. It took a lot of googling around, but I finally found something I really like - a Panama.

I chose this putty color over either black or ivory, thinking that those colors would be too formal.

Well. Another time, maybe I'll discuss actual hat etiquette - from an historical perspective, at least. There seem to be only about three rules for wearing hats nowadays, but I'm in favor of moving in a slightly more formal direction, and there's no reason to reinvent the wheel, now is there?
Look - a Dufflepud!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

"On the Resurrection of Christ"
William Dunbar

Done is a battell on the dragon blak,
Our campioun Chryst confountit hes his force;
The gettis of Hell ar brokin with a crak,
The signe triumphall rasit is of the Croce,
The divillis trymmillis with hiddous voce,
The saulis ar borrowit and to the blis can go,
Chryst with His blud our ransonis dois indoce:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

Dungin is the deidly dragon Lucifer,
The crewall serpent with the mortall stang,
The auld kene tegir with his teith on char,
Quhilk in a wait hes lyne for us so lang,
Thinking to grip us in his clowis strang;
The merciful Lord wald nocht that it wer so,
He maid him for to felye of that fang:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

He for our saik that sufferit to be slane,
And lyk a lamb in sacrifice wes dicht,
Is lyk a lyone rissin up agane,
And as a gyane raxit Him on hicht;
Sprungin is Aurora, radius and bricht,
On loft is gone the glorius Appollo,
The blisfull day depairtit fro the nycht:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The grit Victour agane is rissin on hicht
That for our querrell to the deth wes woundit;
The sone that wox all paill now schynis bricht,
And dirknes clerit, our fayth is now refoundit.
The knell of mercy fra the hevin is soundit,
The Cristin ar deliverit of thair wo,
The Jowis and thair errour ar confoundit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The fo is chasit, the battell is done ceis,
The presone brokin, the jevellouris fleit and flemit;
The weir is gon, confermit is the peis,
The fetteris lowsit and the dungeoun temit,
The ransoun maid, the presoneris redemit,
The feild is win, ourcumin is the fo,
Dispulit of the tresur that he yemit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

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(Click here if you need translation or notes.)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The pleasure of a grown daughter

Last fall my baby sister, who is single and lives alone, was diagnosed with cancer. She began chemotherapy almost immediately and because she lives in Arkansas, there was nothing I could do beyond praying for her and trying to encourage her. How I longed to be able to cook for her and do things for her!

I couldn't go to her, but my seventeen year old daughter could. We spent the end of 2006 reading up on cancer and nutrition, and planning meals, and then she rode back to Arkansas with my parents when they went home from their Christmas visit with us. She took her books with her, and has been writing me about her studies, in addition to regular food reports.

It's been hard for all of us having her gone for so long, but this is one thing we've been raising our daughters to be able to do - to serve those in need - and I'm so glad she's been able to do it. I'm also incredibly thankful that we've homeschooled all our children from the very beginning. If she were in a traditional school of any sort, it would have been impossible for her to go without dropping out of her senior year. As it is, she has been able to continue her studies, though they've taken a different path from what we had planned at the beginning of the school year.

I don't expect that when she returns things will back to the way they were before - she will have changed, and so will we. But I do look forward to reading and discussing things with her again face to face, continuing to train her to be a godly wife and mother, and simply enjoying her companionship. I also expect that the years between now and her eventual (Lord willing!) marriage will be similar to this one.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Signs of spring
crocus and daffodils blooming
curtains dancing in the breeze through open windows
sore shoulders from using the clothes line for the first time in months
children playing in the creek
that earthy spring-smell
buds swelling on the lilacs
blue jays scolding
geese flying north

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It's eerily silent today

It's amazing how pleasant the sounds of happy animals are, and how much we miss them when they're gone. Normally, throughout the day we'll hear the rooster and cockerels having crowing contests, the hens clucking proudly when they lay their eggs, the guineas trilling or squawking as the group wanders the garden in search of bugs, the goats' bells ringing as they play about. Today, except for some crowing with the sunrise, the birds have been silent. There are no hens clucking. The one remaining guinea is sitting dumbly under a small shelter in the garden. Even the goats are moving so carefully their bells hardly ring.

The smell of blood is still in the air.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Life and death on the farm

On Valentine's Day, two of our does had kids - a pair each of the cutest little white kids you've ever seen. One doe didn't want to nurse her kids at first, but we've been holding her still so she will, and she's getting better about it. The other doe is a very good mama, and sometimes even nurses the bad mama's babies.

Last night a fox got into our chicken coop and killed nearly all our birds, taking one (one!) guinea with him. At least a dozen were dead when we found them this morning, and we had to kill another half dozen. Right now we have one guinea, one rooster, and (I think) five cockerels living, three of which might be injured too badly to survive. All the hens are dead.

The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Restoring the Home Economy Essay Contest
Scott Terry of Homesteader Life is sponsoring an essay contest open to anyone 18 or younger on "why [a home economy is] important, what your family is doing to restore it and most important; what you plan to do to continue the restoration."

Scott is offering a $30 gift certificate to the winner, which is being matched by Pastor Thomas McConnell, aka The Missouri Rev, so that's $60 to spend at either Cumberland Books or Vision Harvest, winner's choice.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A little help for my friends
Valerie is putting on a blogathon next weekend to benefit a Christian school that many of her church family attend. Check it out, make a pledge, enjoy her return to blogging (if only temporarily), and be sure to keep her awake over the long, long night. :-)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Eleanor tagged me, asking for six odd things about me - having seven children and keeping goats is kind of odd, but I figured y'all already know about those things, so I tried to come up with things I've never blogged about before.

1. A fun date-night for us is driving into Fredericksburg to go to Lowe's, the Tractor Supply Store, Wal-Mart, or the health food store. We go into town two or three times a month, and really, it's a nice time because even though I don't much like shopping (a rather odd thing for a female!) we have a good two hours of driving time when we can talk about anything at all.

2. I can tell it's going to snow by the smell on the air up to a day before it arrives.

3. Speaking of smells, I often dream smells, though I've read that this doesn't happen.

4. Speaking of dreams, I'm a lucid dreamer, meaning my dreams are very clear and detailed I know that I'm dreaming [thanks, Eleanor!]. They're nearly always in color and usually have too many people in them, but if something starts happening that I don't like, I can back up and make it go the way I want it to.

5. Now I don't actually place any store in this stuff, but I always thought it was funny that the single verticle crease between my eyebrows, called "the suspended needle" by face-reading folks, signifies that I will most likely die young, but my life-line on my right hand runs all the way down to my wrist and wraps more than half way around the back of my hand, signifying extremely long life.

6. Hair oddities: I've had a grey streak in my hair since I was 13 years old and I started coloring it when I was 16 - using henna because I always wanted auburn hair, though I had to change to a regular semi-permanent color after a year or two because Daddy told me it was getting too brassy looking. I think Mike fell in love with me because he thought I really was a redhead, even though I told him I wasn't. I also learned to cut my hair myself when I was in my early teens. I had a very kind and understanding hairdresser who gave me tips on those rare occasions when I went to her. Just a couple of years after we married, Mike wanted me to start cutting his hair, so I got a book out of the library, bought some clippers and learned on him. Brave man, isn't he? Nowadays, I cut everyone's hair in my family except for my own. Four years ago I quit cutting it. Well, I've cut it once since then, but that's because two and a half years ago I quit coloring it, so in November of 2005 I cut off a foot and a half to get rid of the last of the color. I wear it in one kind of updo or another every day, and believe it or not it's so much easier to take care of this way than it was when I had to shampoo, blow-dry, and style it every day when it was chin- to shoulder-length. It's also prettier and healthier - no split ends. One more odd thing about my hair - the top layer is wavy, but the underneath layer is corkscrew curls.

I love being tagged, but I'm always afraid I'll bug other people if I tag them, so if you wanna be tagged post a comment and let me know. :-)

~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Update - I just realized that the comments are still down, but I'm easily contacted by email. It's over there in the sidebar near the bottom - just be sure to take all the numbers out of the address.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My little Hobbit
This morning, Baby Princess brought a package to me, saying, "Happy birthday, Mama!"

Only, it's not my birthday... it's hers!

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Putter's Wife
Heather P., who comments here on occasion has started a blog, Putter's Wife, a Reformed wife of a physicist and homeschooling mama sharing her "thoughts on motherhood, home-making and home-schooling."

Be sure to check her archives - there's a link there to a lady who sews modest clothing that Heather has been pleased with.
The Epiphany of Our Lord
in which we celebrate that Christ came, not only for the house of Israel, but for the Gentiles also.

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.

For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.

Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.

The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD.

All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory.

Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?

Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.
Isaiah 60:1-9

Friday, January 5, 2007

Chicken quesadillas for lunch today
We favor Tex-Mex foods around here and today when trying to figure out how to use some leftovers for lunch, I came up with this, which turned out pretty good, so I'm sharing it.

-leftover roast chicken, cut up into tidbits
-leftover chili con queso, a tasty concoction Mike came up with trying to imitate the chili con queso sold at Mexico Chicito, a restaurant in Little Rock (it's cream cheese, chili powder, cumin, and I don't know what else, with a little milk added to make it softer)
-whole wheat tortillas

Mix chicken and cheese together. Melt a pat of butter in an iron skillet. Place in one tortilla, spread some of the chicken/cheese mix on it and cover with another tortilla. Cook till it starts browning on the bottom, then flip and cook on the other side. Remove, add more butter and make another one. Keep warm on a preheated plate in the oven if needed. Heat a can of black beans, and serve with sour cream and salsa on the side.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

When I first married I always needed to follow a recipe, make a shopping list, and buy all the ingredients in order to do meals. It's taken me a long time to get to the point of being able to use what I have on hand. I guess the first step was to learn how to make soups using leftovers - after making lots of soups following recipes I began to figure out what foods and seasonings work well together, but it took years, really. There's probably some way to teach young ladies how to cook like this, but I don't really know what it is.

Kelly M. told me once that sometimes her mom (maybe on the day before grocery shopping?) will point out that they have a little bit of this and can of that and dab of something else, and will tell Kelly to make a meal out of it. Sounds like a pretty good practice for full-time homemaking to me.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

In spite of the fact that most of you have probably already taken down your trees, I thought I'd post a pic of ours, because I thought it looked especially pretty this year.

And, by the way, we're still on Christmas vacation. I go back to homeschooling on St. Distaff's Day, which, since it occurs on a Sunday this year, means that we'll start back on Plough Monday.
Books finished in 2006
I meant to read more on Church history, but got bogged down in Eusebius and never went back. Still, this was a pretty good year - I read some helpful books on health and nutrition, and for the first time ever read several books by agrarians. This list includes family read-alouds, but not books I read only to the little ones. Also absent are the scores of books I dipped into but didn't read cover-to-cover. Some of these were books I'd read before and simply wanted to reread certain passages, and some were poetry and anthologies, but many were good books I meant to finish but just didn't - like Eusebius, and the Christopher Dawson I've been trying to finish for a couple of years now.
* denotes books read before

Anderson, Arden - Real Medicine Real Health

Austen, Jane
Emma *
Mansfield Park *
Northanger Abbey *
Persuasion *
Pride and Prejudice *
Sandition and Other Stories
Sense and Sensibility *

Berry, Wendell
The Unsettling of America (very good)
Nathan Coulter
A World Lost
(these novels by Berry were unlike anything I've read before - disturbing and tragic, but so good)

Botkin, Anna Sophia and Elizabeth - So Much More

Buchan, John
The Thirty-Nine Steps *
Mr. Standfast

Dreher, Rod - Crunchy Cons

Gillman, Dorothy - The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax

Jones, Diana Wynne
Dogsbody (good)
Howl's Moving Castle (lots of fun)
Castle in the Sky
Charmed Life
The Lives of Christopher Chant
The Pinhoe Egg (not recommended)

Kains, Maurice G. - Five Acres and Independence

Kimball, Herrick - The Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian

Kliment, Felicia Drury - The Acid Alkaline Balance Diet

Kuiper, Benjamin - The Church in History

Logsdon, Gene - Living at Nature's Pace (very good)

Postman, Neil - Amusing Ourselves to Death

Sparks, Nicholas - A Walk to Remember (dreadful - will never read this author again)

Tolkein, J.R.R.
Farmer Giles of Ham (love it!)

Trapp, Maria Augusta - The Story of the Trapp Family Singers *

Trollope, Anthony - The Warden (surprisingly enjoyable - I didn't expect to like a Victorian as much as I liked Trollope - can't wait to read the rest of the series!)

Truss, Lynn
Eats, Shoots and Leaves
Talk to the Hand

Vasey, Christopher - The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health

Weaver, Richard - Ideas Have Consequences (very difficult book - need to read again)

Williams, Charles - War in Heaven (very good - would like to read more by Williams)

Wodehouse, P.G. - Leave it to Psmith *

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Last month Kelly P. emailed me asking for advice on helping her then-four-month-old be content in church and I sent her a lengthy response. She suggested I post it here in case others might find it helpful. I've removed personal references for privacy's sake, but otherwise, the remainder of this post is copied and pasted from my emailed response to her. :-)

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

I think about four to five months was when my babies stopped being content just sitting in church and needed real training. Our youngest, Baby #7, is the only one of ours who's never been in nursery before. We decided to keep all ours in church with us just before Baby #5 was born, about eight years ago, and I wound up putting her and Baby #6 in the nursery on occasion, mainly because we were in a church where, while young children were encouraged to be in service, noises from babies were frowned on. We were in a much more baby-friendly setting for #7, and that made training easier.

I tried to work on it in two ways, and can offer these suggestions. First of all, have some training time at home each day, preferably at around the same time of day the church service happens. Put on some music or a story or sermon tape and just sit quietly with Baby on your lap. You might want to give this time a name like "sitting time" or "listening time" or something, so you can tell him cheerfully that it's sitting time now, and tell him how you expect him to behave. Yes, tell a four-month-old. Also, during family prayers, do your best to keep him occupied and quiet. I don't advocate any kind of corporal punishment during prayers, since you want him to enjoy the time with you and Daddy, so instead, have him start out sitting quietly with you, kneeling when you do (well, at four months, he'd just be on the floor near you), and hold him when you stand, and have something quiet that he likes that you can amuse him with when he becomes restless. Also, if you sing during prayers, sit him on your lap facing you, clapping his hands if appropriate.

However, a thump on the leg might be appropriate during your morning "sitting time," since that's more of a training session. For the first few days, just see how long he can manage to sit quietly before he gets restless, and see if he's sitting longer each time. If he starts moving around too much, just firmly but gently put him back into the position you want him in. This doesn't have to be rigid - you just have to decide how much movement you think is acceptable. You probably wouldn't want him leaning upside down over the edge of the chair, or standing up, but changing from one sitting position to another is going to be normal. At some point, you may feel it's appropriate to flick his thigh if he starts kicking around, but I wouldn't suggest it right at first. What you really want to aim for is to lengthen the amount of time he can sit quietly before getting restless. You do NOT want to sit so long that he starts crying. So at first, have him sit with you, with nothing in his hands, just cuddling with you, and when you sense that he's beginning to grow restless, give him something quiet to distract him. If that does the job, then sit just until he begins to be restless again, and if he's not very, very easily distracted, go ahead and tell him that sitting time is over, and praise him for sitting and listening so well.

You want him to succeed at this, so aim for ending the time (both training and prayer times) on a successful note. This is a big mistake I made in child-training in general with my first few. I thought that if I did anything as I've suggested here, I was letting the child direct the training session, and so he was only learning how to get what he wanted. I thought that if I hadn't corrected disobedience, then I hadn't really trained in obedience.

So, training at home is the first thing. Training during the actual service is the second. Generally speaking it's not too much different from your prayer times at home, with the exception that you should give him a little more leeway (you might even let him sit on the floor, or crawl around a bit in the pew, as long as this helps him stay quiet rather than encouraging him to get rowdy), and that you'll have to be ready to leave the room if he gets squirmy or noisy enough to bother other people. If you have to leave your pew, it's better to go sit in the back of the church, or someplace where you can still hear the sermon, rather than to go to the nursery or a cry room where there are other moms and babies, particularly if the moms are chatting and letting the babies play, so that you can continue the training. Also, I know that in most Presby churches, the families with young children nearly always sit in the back of the church, but I've found that our kids pay attention better if we're sitting as close to the front as possible, since they can see better, and have fewer distractions.

With #5, we bought a little seat sort of like this one, only it was collapsible, so it was more portable. We took this to church with us, and when she was tired of sitting on laps we'd put her into it and give her a variety of quiet things (one at a time, of course), like a board book, or a cloth doll, or a few of these Lauri puzzles. If you do this, I recommend having these items be special Sunday-only items, so they're fresh every week - not something he's used to playing with every day. This doesn't rule out bringing along his favorite everyday quiet item, though.

Reading over what I've written so far I realize that I haven't said anything at all about keeping them quiet in church. This is because I haven't figured that out yet! During training I try to put my hand over the mouth and give a gentle "Sh," but sometimes that just makes them louder. If that's the case then you'll know not to do it in church. I generally allowed finger-sucking or pacifier usage in church, even when I was trying to discourage it elsewhere, simply to help the baby stay quiet. Naturally, this means they'll be sucking their fingers or whatever for much longer than they would be if you were discouraging it consistently, so it's your call. Sorry I can't be more help there!

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Mrs. P., I think it would be helpful if you'd add your experiences over the past month in the comments, since all my suggestions to you were going off of things that we did over the past few years and, well, my memory ain't what it used to be.