Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cry me a river

Okay, here's a soppy "poor me" article on the "horrible" losses Democrats are likely to suffer in the upcoming mid-term elections this Tuesday.

Somehow, after stomping with great enthusiasm on the Constitution for the last two years (well okay, the last hundred years), I don't feel too sorry for them.

Of course that said, I don't hold great hopes that any incoming Republicans will be much better, given time.  Every politician is perfect on election day.  Only time will tell whether the new GOPs will be flip sides of the same coin.

Hang on folks, gonna be a rough ride.

 But for God's sake, VOTE.

Pretty larches

Here in north Idaho, we get very little by way of fall color since our woods are primarily coniferous.  But we do have tamaracks (also called larches).

Tamaracks are unique among conifers in that they turn yellow and drop their needles in the fall, just like deciduous trees do.  They can add quite a dramatic blaze of color in an otherwise solid-green forest in October and November.

I took this in our woods.  (Click on the first photo to enlarge - I took this shot half-way blind - didn't have my glasses on - but it turned out pretty cool.)

Took these on the way home from church. It was a misty foggy day but as I said, they make splashes of yellow among the dark green. Pretty larches!

Happy baby

This morning in church we had a lady sitting behind us who brought her little grandson, Reeser.  Poor Reeser just couldn't make it all the way through the service.  He sacked out, happy and secure against his grandma.

Is this kid cute or what?

Another welcome!

I've inserted a "Welcome" button on the left-hand side of the blog for new visitors.  It's always hard to "catch up" about a blogger when new folks come in in the middle of things, so to speak.  I hope this helps.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Canning meat

A few weeks ago, the local LDS (Mormon) church asked me if I would teach a class on canning meats.  We're not Mormon but are literally surrounded by Mormon neighbors, and this isn't the first time I've been asked to share some knowledge on domestic skills.  Apparently the LDS church holds similar skills-type classes once a month.

So today was the day.  Here's the stuff I brought along: My canner, some empty quart jars (seven, since that's all my canner will hold), lids, rings, sample jars of canned meat, my canning book, some bacon and chicken breasts (the other meats were provided by the hostess), and all the little accouterments needed for canning: jar lifter, tongs, kitchen timer, etc.

Rather than going to the LDS church (which has a kitchen the size of a postage stamp with no room for people to see what I'm doing), a church member with a large and luxurious home graciously opened it up for the class.

About a dozen people attended (I couldn't fit them all in the picture) and we all had a lot of fun.  The attendees ranged from fairly experienced canners to utter beginners, and they asked a bajillion questions, all of them excellent.  We canned bear meat (hey, this is Idaho), pork sausage, chicken breasts, and bacon.  By the end of the class, even the folks who were most concerned about the supposed dangers of pressure canners (a common fear, I now realize) were energized to give it a try.

I really enjoy doing stuff like this.  I adore canning and can almost can in my sleep, so to be able to share some of the joy of canning with other enthusiastic learners was a pleasure.

Equal opportunity insults

A reader sent this.

UPDATE:  Oops!  I didn't realize (until readers pointed it out) that Texas, Kentucky, and Oregon are missing from the list.  Sorry, have no idea what those mottos should be.  Unless someone wants to send in their ideas...?

ANOTHER UPDATE: The reader who originally sent me this realized he'd forgotten Texas, so Texas's motto is now included below.


Alabama: Hell yes, we have electricity.

Alaska: 11,623 Eskimos can't be wrong.

Arizona: But it's a dry heat.

Arkansas: Literacy ain't everything.

California: By 30, our women have more plastic than your Honda.

Colorado: If don't ski, don't bother!

Connecticut: Just like Massachusetts, only the Kennedys don't own it – yet.

Delaware: We really do like the chemicals in our water.

Florida: Ask us about our grandkids.

Georgia: We put the "fun" in fundamentalist extremism.

Hawaii: Haka Tiki Mou Sha'ami keeki tou. (Death to mainland scum, but leave your money).

Idaho: More than just potatoes....well okay, we're not, but the potatoes are sure real good.

Illinois: Please don't pronounce the “S.”

Indiana: two billion years tidal wave free.

Iowa: We do amazing things with corn.

Kansas: First of the rectangle states.

Louisiana: We're not all drunk Cajun wackos, but that's our tourism campaign.

Maine: We're really cold, but cheap lobster.

Maryland: If you can dream it, we can tax it.

Massachusetts: Our taxes are lower than Sweden's (for most tax brackets).

Michigan: First line of defense from the Canadians.

Minnesota: 10.000 lakes...and 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 billion mosquitoes.

Mississippi: Come and feel better about your own state.

Missouri: Your federal flood relief dollars at work.

Montana: Land of the big sky, the Unabomber, right-wing crazies, and not much else.

Nebraska: Come ask about our state motto contest.

Nevada: Hookers and poker!

New Hampshire: Go away and leave us alone!

New Jersey: You want a ##$%##* motto? I got yer ##@%&* motto right here!

New Mexico: Lizards make excellent pets.

New York: You have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney.

North Carolina: Tobacco is a vegetable.

North Dakota: We really are one of the 50 states!

Ohio: At least we're not Michigan!

Oklahoma: Like the play, only no singing.

Pennsylvania: Cook with coal.

Rhode Island: We're not really an island.

South Carolina: Remember the Civil War? We didn't actually surrender!

South Dakota: Closer than North Dakota.

Tenessee: The educashun state.

Texas: "Se habla Ingles"

Utah: Our Jesus is better than your Jesus.

Vermont: Yup.

Virginia: Who says government stiffs and slack jawed yokels can't mix?

Washington: Help! We're being overrun by nerds and slackers!

Washington D.C.: Wanna be mayor?

West Virginia: One big happy family – really!

Wisconsin: Cut the cheese!

Wyoming: Where men are men...and sheep are scared.

Warshing clothes

A reader sent this.

Years ago an Alabama grandmother gave a new bride the following recipe: this is an exact copy as written and found in an old scrapbook - with spelling errors and all.

Warshing Clothes
Build fire in backyard to heat kettle of rain water. Set tubs so smoke wont blow in eyes if wind is pert. Shave one hole cake of lie soap in boilin water.

Sort things, make 3 piles
1 pile white,
1 pile colored,
1 pile work britches and rags.

To make starch, stir flour in cool water to smooth, then thin down with boiling water.

Take white things, rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard, and boil, then rub colored don't boil just wrench and starch.

Take things out of kettle with broom stick handle, then wrench, and starch.

Hang old rags on fence.

Spread tea towels on grass.

Pore wrench water in flower bed. Scrub porch with hot soapy water.

Turn tubs upside down.

Go put on clean dress, smooth hair with hair combs .. Brew cup of tea, sit and rock a spell and count your blessings.

Paste this over your washer and dryer next time when you think things are bleak, read it again, kiss that washing machine and dryer, and give thanks. First thing each morning you should run and hug your washer and dryer, also your toilet – those two-holers used to get mighty cold!

(For you non-southerners – “wrench” means “rinse.”)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Creating zombies

I know some people whose twelve year old son who is very nearly functionally illiterate. I am frequently in a position to hear him read out loud, and it's like listening to a seven-year-old read. It's so painful to listen that I don't ask him to read out loud very much.

The sad thing is, this boy's mother is a highly-respected schoolteacher.

There's nothing wrong with this boy's intelligence. He's a little hyperactive, sure, but no more than any typical active kid. I was raised with three brothers, and active boys don't bother me.

No, as I see it this boy can barely read because there are so few books in the house, but enormous amounts of media.

A huge television is in a prominent location in the living room. There is another television in the parent's bedroom. A third television - drum roll please - is in the bedroom of this boy and his older brother.  They also have every electronic whiz-bang toy on the market - GameBoys and X-boxes and too many other things to list.

Blitzed with so much passive media, what kid in his right mind would choose the more active activity of reading?

Sadly, this is not an uncommon situation. Quite the opposite. Children are so regularly blitzed with television and other media that they do little else during their waking hours. And rather than chastising parents for using the damned idiot box as a babysitter, articles are printed that merely call for increased quality in children's programming. Grrrr.

The horrifying thing about television is it is the single-most preventable barrier to intelligence. Children who grow up without television, or with television severely restricted, are (ahem) forced to DO things. They build forts in the back yard and cities with blocks. They dream. They read. They imagine. They live in a make-believe world that is NOT populated by TV cartoon characters. All of these necessary and critical play habits later translate into intelligence.

But none of this is possible if the poor kid is turned into a zombie by his own parents.

Contrary to the actions of advocacy groups that lobby for higher-quality children's television programming, it's not the quality of programming that's the issue here (quality is a whole different issue!); it's the quantity. While children are watching television, they aren't doing anything else.

They sure as heck aren't reading.They aren't interacting with real people. They aren't learning critical social skills. Instead, they grow up thinking all the world's problems should be solvable within a half hour (the length of a sitcom) because that's all they've ever seen. As they get older, they're also sucked into video games, electronic toys, computers, and other media. And they never read books. They grow up to be virtually illiterate.

I confess I find it almost physically nauseating to see children strung out in front of a television, slack-jawed. It's worse when it involves babies and toddlers.

I remember an incident when our Oldest Daughter was about four months old. I went to a local laundromat to wash some sleeping bags. Older Daughter, of course, was with me, and I laid a blanket across the folding table while the washing machines hummed and we played little games. Another man was in the laundromat as well, and we got to talking. He and his wife also had a baby about the same age, he told me. But - and this was said with a certain amount of pride - his wife liked to put the baby in a wind-up swing in front of the television.

At four months.

I believe parents are doing a horrible disservice to their children by encouraging constant exposure to media. Rather than channeling my friend's son's hyperactivity into sports, they pacified him with television. (To their everlasting credit, they haven't drugged him with Ritalin.)

Many years ago I saw a magazine ad that was so awful it stopped me in my tracks.

The ad featured two children staring, zombie-like, in a darkened room at a television. In bold letters below the children was the word "HELP."

At first I thought, “Good. Someone is trying to break those poor kids loose from the grip of the stupid television.”

Then I read the text of the ad:

“The average American child spends close to four hours a day planted in front of a television. Which is why [name of company] is happy to sponsor the [name of an “educational” television series]. Charming characters present classic, positive stories that help you guide your children through the kinds of lessons you actually want them to learn. Courage. Honesty. Responsibility. After all, what better place to reach your children than right where they already are.”

Does anyone else find this logic sickening?

No expectation that the parents should actually take responsibility for their own children’s moral teachings. God forbid that you should have to interact with the little tykes. Instead, stick ’em in front of the TV and turn their brains to mush so you don’t have to be bothered.

These TV shows are supposed to teach responsibility (and courage and honesty) when the kids’ parents aren’t even willing to have the courage and honesty to take responsibility themselves? Huh?

The single best expression of my aversion to television and children was a poem written by Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and other great books. It goes as follows:


The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set --
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.

In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)

They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.

Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink --
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?


'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'

We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:

THEY ... USED ... TO ... READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!

The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!

Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)

The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!

So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.

Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-

Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.

And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!

And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rebuttal to homeschoolers

Last night I received a lengthy and thoughtful rebuttal from a Christian public schoolteacher regarding the column I just posted called Lazy Homeschoolers.  Rather than letting the comment languish unseen, I thought I'd bring it to the forefront.

Good Evening. I read this post because someone on Facebook linked this article to their page, and I just wanted to give my opinion of the article. I am hoping that since you open your comment section to the public that you are in favor of all comments, even if they don't mirror your own.

First of all, I have to say that the article was offensive as a product of the American public schools, as an educator in public schools, and most of all as a Christian. Here are my reasons:

As a product of public schools, I can assure you that I have never been brainwashed by "atheist indoctrination" as the original writer, Ron Strom, assumes, nor do I know any fellow public-schoolers that have been. In fact, many of my teachers in school made it very clear to me that were Christians. Every once in a while, we were taught other religions alongside Christianity, but it was always taught as strictly informational and never invitational (which I found it very interesting to learn about these other religions, especially since I have since met people practicing these religions and it is much easier for me to talk to them about my religion when I am not completely ignorant about theirs). In 9th grade, we were briefly taught about the theory of evolution, which is another concept that students need to know about (and make the decision for themselves about what they think about it) if they ever want to be involved in a scientific field (how much credibility would a Creationist have if they had never heard of evolution? none). Other than these two instances, I don't remember any other controversial teachings in my K - 12 schooling. I think it is insulting to my parents, who certainly raised me in a Deuteronomy 6:7 kind of way. They sent me to public school because they knew that a teacher, who went to college for their specific subject area, could teach me calculus, physics, literature, and history better than they could (this is not an attack on parents who homeschool, it is just the opinion of my parents). They did not ever have to "deprogram" me of what I was taught at school because they taught me to find out things for myself, and if I didn't agree with something that I learned at school, they encouraged me to study it for myself and find out what the Bible said about that subject. They did a great job of bringing me up in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord." It seems as though the Wife of Noble Character in Proverbs 31 did a fine job of bringing up her children as well, even though she was planting a vineyard, trading, sewing, making and selling linen garments. Her husband was busy taking his seat among the elders of the land, so it doesn't seem that they had the time to be the only teachers in their childrens' lives.

As an educator in the American public schools, I can absolutely assure you that I (nor my co-workers) participate in "atheistic indoctrination" of our students. We would get fired. I can also assure you that, as a math teacher, I have never even imagined giving math problems about cocaine or chopped up body parts (as a previous comment stated). Now, I understand that not every teacher is perfect, and some teachers probably do not need to be teachers. I've also met a few inadequate parents that homeschool their children, but I certainly don't write blogs grouping ALL homeschool parents together and accusing them all of doing a lousy job. Please understand that when you copy a story such as this one, you are talking about millions of INDIVIDUALS that spend most of their waking hours caring for, loving, teaching, and planning for their students (some of which don't get that standard of care at their own homes). If you would like, I can send you information about how you can visit my classroom in order to form your own opinions about my teaching and what students are learning in my classroom. Until then, please do not judge me, my profession, and the product of my profession until you actually know what happens in my classroom.

As a Christian, this article offends me because if all of the Christians take their children out of public schools (as it suggests), who will tell the children left in public school about Jesus? I really wish you could see what a difference some of my students make in the lives of others by being in public schools and telling others of their faith. Jesus spent his time on earth eating with sinners, and in Mark 2:17, He says, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Shouldn't we do the same? I completely agree with your (and Mr. Strom's) idea that we are to provide our children with "spiritual instruction." But, how are our children to be "witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" if they are only around other Christians? I also think that it is belittling to my religion that you and Mr. Strom assume that Christians won't be strong enough to stand up to this "cultural swamp." 1 John 5:4 says, "for everyone born of God overcomes the world." I am not suggesting that every child should just be thrown into the world and hope that things turn out okay. I am suggesting that if a child/teen has a firm foundation in Jesus Christ, then sometimes they need to be among the sinners, sharing their faith.

I just don't understand where these children are going to live and work in which they will be constantly sheltered from "pop culture" and "peer pressure?" I'm glad that I was able to experience these things while growing up because it helps me know how to handle them now that I face them in even stronger proportions as an adult.

Thank you for your time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Call me Senator

Some time go, you might remember the snotty incident where Senator Barbara Boxer reprimanded Brigadier General Michael Walsh of the Army Corps of Engineers for having the audacity to address her as "Ma'am" - a respectful term used in the military to address persons of higher rank.  She wanted to be addressed as "Senator" because she "worked so hard to get that title."  Oooooh, that made me mad!

So here's a brilliant (and hilarious) parody of that little incident - along with a reminder to vote this arrogant twit out of office.

Our wheat is growing!

If you remember, we sowed our wheat about a month ago.  The weather was fine for sowing: dry ground, then some rain, followed by warm sunshine, more rain, etc.  Now that the weather is turning nasty, the wheat should go dormant over the winter and begin to grow more vigorously next spring.

October 11:

October 18:

October 25:

In retrospect, we realize we made one error in sowing the wheat.  Just before we all walked abreast in the field and flung the seed on the ground, Don made one final pass with the chain-drag-thingy we borrowed from a neighbor.  This made the field beautifully smooth, but it also meant the seed landed on top the ground rather than in furrows and cracks.  Had we left the field disked but not smoothed - and then smoothed it after planting, thus burying the seed - our sprouting rate might have been higher.  Ah well, live and learn.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Warm goodies for a cold day

It was a day of absolutely miserable weather. Howling wind, pouring rain slanted sideways, and the temperature never rose above 36F degrees. We huddled near the woodstove all day - reading, doing schoolwork, playing on the computer. The rest of the house was chilly with that screaming wind, so the warmth of the stove felt wonderful.

It was a good day for baking. Nothing like apple pie and cinnamon crust to warm the cockles of one's heart!

The pie is from pie filling I can during the summer months.

Cinnamon crust is simply pie dough rolled flat, brushed with butter or margarine, sprinkled thickly with cinnamon sugar, and baked.  It's a family favorite and very simple.

After such a miserable day of weather, at least we had a few minutes of colorful sunset to remind us of God's wonders.

Pray. Vote. Buy more ammo.

A reader sent these.

And my personal favorite:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Behind the barn

After the lucky shots I got last week, there came two more days of the early morning sun burning off the fog behind the barn. Sorry if you're bored by these but I thought they were too pretty to resist.  I left them in high resolution so you should be able to click to enlarge.  In fact, these look like a bunch of boring trees unless you click and enlarge.

Also, two people last week asked me to email them high-resolution versions of those lucky shots.  I replied to one of them, but I'm embarrassed to say I can't find the email of the other person.  To my (hopefully forgiving) reader, if you'd still like a high-res version of any of these shots, either from the "Lucky shots" post or from this post, please let me know and (ahem) I'll try not to lose your email this time.

Oct 18:

And October 23:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On the river

Last Wednesday, which is the day Younger Daughter and her friend Miss Calamity volunteer at the county animal shelter, Older Daughter and I spent a couple hours on a dock of the river.  (Older Daughter volunteers every other week, and this was her day off.)  It was just about the last expected warm and sunny day of the season, and the river was beautiful this time of year.  I got lots of writing done and Older Daughter had a new book from the library she devoured until some friends showed up.

As we headed into town, we passed under a train going over the trestle.

Speaking of trestles, the one crossing the river in town looked spiffy as it was reflected in the water.  The air is still a bit smokey from some recent field burning.

Climbing a log.  What is it about kids and logs?

Fall leaves on the water's edge.

Ripples on the water.

A logging truck crossing the bridge.  Logging is the mainstay for this community, as it is for many small Idaho towns.  It's taken a hard hit in this economy.

Walking with a friend.

An abandoned staircase to nowhere.