Thursday, June 30, 2005


Wednesdays are usually a day at home for me, so yesterday I spent hours weeding. D likes tools and machinery for weeding, and while I agree that they have their place, for getting close to the plants you have to do it by hand. I made the kids do it for about an hour, but for the most part, it was hot, solitary work, and I ache today from the exertion.

We have been studying the weed book to learn more about the characteristics of our particular weeds. For example, some can produce up to 200,000 seeds PER PLANT—seeds that can remain viable in the soil for up to 40 years. Those are the ones you certainly want to destroy before they flower and go to seed.

These are some of my friends:
Foxtail—tricky, because they don’t germinate till late, after you’ve worked up the soil and think you have the weeds pretty much under control.

Lambsquarter—some of the most prolific seed-makers. D says you can eat the leaves like salad, and is tempted to bag some up for the farmers’ market. Let's just say that if I had a nickel for every one of these we're able to produce, I wouldn't have to win the lottery.

Burdock—these are the ones with big prickly burrs that attach to the dog’s fur (and your socks) in the fall. We have a lot of these in the area of the yard where I have sat and pulled them out of the dog. Big, tough leaves, difficult to root out, or kill even with Round-up.

Ragweed—looks innocent now, kind of attractive with its lacy leaves, but potent to so many breathers come September. Not to be confused with giant ragweed, which looks like a poinsettia.

Sourdock—deep, deep roots; you wonder if you’ve caused an earthquake somewhere after you’ve dislocated one of these. Also a big seed-maker; in fact, some are going to seed already.

Canadian Thistles—they actually get pokier after they die. (“Was you ever bit by a dead bee?”) Can be pulled out by grabbing the stem, especially below ground level.

And weeds are so deceitful—by late August, as the days get shorter, they KNOW the growing season is coming to an end, so even though they aren’t mature, they know it’s time to go to seed.

When you see the carpet of green between the rows of vegetables, it’s just overwhelming. How do you ever get control? D’s theory is keep working up the soil so the latent seeds germinate and the weeds sprout, then remove/cut off/kill them before they can re-seed themselves. Sounds good, in theory.

We’re not trying to be a “certified organic” farm, for several reasons, one being that although we are never going to be pesticide- or fertilizer-happy, we do reserve the right to chemically knock out some pest invasion that otherwise would destroy everything. We are trying to emphasize the “buy local” aspect of getting your food from us. Also, General Mills is going to be able to do "organic" better than small farmers, and place it in your local Piggly Wiggly at a lower price. I don't think that's what the organic farmers were envisioning when they lobbied for official government labeling.


I listened to a lot of bird noises as I worked, most of which I can’t identify. The killdeer are easy (more on these later), as is the redwing blackbird. D says we have a pheasant living near the creek, who makes a really odd gurgle.

Mostly I heard the incessant barking of the neighbors’ rottweilers. Who needs three rottweilers, especially when you have a couple preschoolers? I suspect drugs. One got loose as we biked past one day; apparently its name is a**hole, because that’s what they shouted at it, and it halted at the edge of their yard.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bong-wielding man threatens dispatcher

Ok, the headline is funny enough. How does one do this, exactly? "I'm gonna make you take a drag from this thing?"

Then you read the article and see that the guy threw a glass bong at the dispatcher who was behind bulletproof glass. What a surprise: "The bong shattered, but the window did not."

"The motive for Friday's attack was unclear." Well, I could suggest some possibilities . . .
XM Radio

I love my satellite radio. I spend about six hours a week in the car commuting (not bad, I know). I can’t stand the commercials on normal radio, and the DJs during morning drive time are worse, giggling hysterically at their own (not very funny) jokes.

Why did it take so long to come up with a way to deliver non-commerical radio? I’m on a budget, but willing to pay $10 a month to avoid what I can’t stand.

Recently I traveled several hours with the kids to visit my parents in Iowa. If my metropolitan area radio situation sucks, the vast wasteland between here and Iowa is a thousand times worse. (There’s the occasional high-watt country station, of course!) While I do love the adult comedy station on XM, I can’t listen to that while the kids are in the car, due to its, uhh, language issues.

The 70s station embarrasses me, but it’s like a car wreck—you can’t turn away. Intermixed with classic Eagles, Frampton, and Fleetwood Mac are the weirdies like “Junk Food Junkie” (Just sucking on my plain white yogurt/From my hand thrown pottery jar . . . . I got a John Keats autographed Grecian urn/Filled up with my brown rice) and “The Streak.” Ahh, memories. But the weekend I’m writing about was full of the best songs from the top albums of the decade—I could listen for hours without switching away. (However, I find I automatically switch away from any and all Michael Jackson songs now. Don’t want that s*** in my life.)

One trifle: they advertise, “No commercials on the music channels.” True, sort of. They (all too often) hawk XM radio products—the family plan, radio accessories, what’s available on other stations. And the commercials on the comedy and talk stations are just BAD—fix your credit, impotence drugs, pc repair, etc.

Monday, June 27, 2005


While shopping with my sister this weekend, I bought a disposable camera for the boy, because he’d wanted to bring a camera to Iowa and we (mom) forgot. My sister said, “It’s nice that you didn’t also have to buy something for the girl.” Stuff like that never occurs to me—they both sometimes get stuff, and sometimes don’t. Pity the parents who have to keep things exactly balanced at all times.

The more you read, the more you realize you haven’t read, and then you have to write about it too.
Nancy Nall

D. and I do not have a
weekend marriage. This is so sad—high income couples with children, missing what money can’t buy—time, and time with each other. This is why I work part time. This is why D. works at home. (This is why we don’t make a lot of money.) We are able to spend time in our home—what the article doesn’t mention is families who spend all their income on a trophy home where they do little more than sleep!

We spent time with each other. We are able to homeschool the girl. The boy is able to come directly home from school. (At various times, we’ve used different varieties of child care, but not now.)

I’m not an
alpha mom. This poor mom enjoys her (single) child so little that she invents distractions for herself to avoid spending time with him.

I love my kids, but my world doesn’t revolve around them and carting them to dozens of enrichment activities. And I like my kids, although I admit to not liking “kids” in general. I have tried to deliberately raise kids whom I can stand to be around; too many people parent in such a way that they are guaranteed to produce kids that they themselves don’t want to be with.
All relative

Spent time this weekend trekking to Iowa for a family reunion. Left D. home to ostensibly work on the farm, but actually to avoid going to a 1) hot place to 2) make small talk with 3) people he doesn’t really know—three things he can live happily without.

Some families reunion in exotic spots—they travel to Las Vegas, or a theme park, or a resort, and travel about in packs with matching shirts boasting, “The ____ family reunion.” Not us. For about 30 years we have been gathering (approximately) annually at the home of whatever cousin in Iowa has agreed to host 70-80 people who share the same set of grandparents (and little else). Actually, Iowa is not a bad spot for the occasion—many of the regulars live in the area (including my parents, sister, and brother); this year, we had a New York cousin and a couple Atlanta ones attend. No one from the California branch ever appears, but Christmas letters keep us updated.

I have approximately 25 first cousins on my dad’s side, and due to some bizarre birth patterns (Dad was born about 20 years after his older brother and sister), many cousins are more like aunts & uncles to me, while their children are my age. Although they aren’t even her blood relatives, Mom is the keeper of family tree data, and spent part of Saturday getting current and accurate birth and marriage dates for her permanent record. One cousin (who died last year, and was also only in the family by marriage) had a pretty elaborate computerized family tree, but his program didn’t include month/day, only the year. How lame is that?!

We are a pretty congenial group. While there have been the occasional nasty spats (mostly among siblings and related to money), no large arguments have split the family. As a group we’ve handled illness and death, absorbed our share of divorces/remarriages/stepchildren, and managed the annual updating of everyone’s lives. No one has shown up with a same-sex partner, but maybe that’s because it’s, well, Iowa. (My dad did tell me recently that my 50-ish, odd, never-married cousin has a “male friend” that he spends a lot of time with; Mom jumped in to say that well, they are JUST FRIENDS. Loosen up, guys.)

Because she lives in the area, my sister is pretty much expected to show. Her family often arranges vacation to coincide with the reunion in order to avoid attending. On the other hand, I get brownie points for showing up, since I have to travel. I was the one who was pretty vocal several years ago about the absurdity of having a gathering on SUNDAY afternoon—great if you’re a farmer and live nearby, crappy if you actually want anyone from out of town to show up. I try to attend every other year; largely, it pleases my dad to see me maintain these ties.

If “home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in,” then the family reunion is the place where, if you show up with a dish to pass, they have to be nice to you.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Well, I have a hundred (profound, insightful, erudite) posts in my head, but committing them to . . . electrons . . . is something else instead. Discipline. Read other blogs for ideas and information, but commit to writing down my own thoughts.

Sunday the kids went to a neighbor’s house for swimming, while I got to spend quality time with my husband planting and weeding. Our vegetable farm really needs to begin earning some money. To that end, we’ve hired some serious help this year, recognizing that D. can’t do it all himself in the volumes we need, with my occasional help. The kids are sort of getting to the age where they can do useful stuff, but they aren’t serious contributors.

What’s wrong with the youth of today?! When D. was growing up (on a dairy farm, one of 8 kids), he had serious farm responsibilities from an early age. Is it that we didn’t start our kids early enough? That we want them to have an easier life? That we don’t have animals (outside the chickens) that need daily or twice daily attention or THEY WILL DIE? That there are more outside distractions and things that compete for attention (TV isn’t one of our distractions—that’s for another post).

Anyway, I got to spend time physically close, working with D., having some good discussions, accomplishing something necessary. Not like taking a bike ride, which is just recreation.

Mondays and Tuedays are difficult days for me, because I usually work all day. Thursdays are a short day for me, while Wednesdays and Fridays are usually spent at home. We are currently in a two week window between the end of school and the beginning of summer school, so the kids are pretty much responsible for themselves while I’m at work and D. is outside.

Summer school starts next week, four days a week, mornings. Mostly fun classes for the girl, enrichment-type stuff for the boy. He looked over his schedule (math, reading, art, Spanish, etc.) and commented, “I really wasn’t expecting Spanish.” To which there’s only one answer: “Nobody EXPECTED (the) Spanish (Inquisition)!”

I have ALWAYS had a difficult time getting to work regularly by 8:00 a.m., and have had bosses with varying degrees of acceptance of this philosophy/behavior. Fortunately I work in an extremely flexible department currently. Just about anything goes with respect to work hours as well as attire. Well, the entire company is extremely flexible with regard to what is appropriate work garb. For a Fortune 500 company no less.

However, during this two week window, I’ve been managing to arrive at my desk before 8:00 a.m., due to a combination of early morning light and bird noise, being the only one who has to get out of the house by 7:00, and lighter traffic due to schools/colleges being mostly out of session. Don’t expect it to last.

I once had a boss who thought that if you could be at your desk by 8:05, you could just as easily be there by 7:55. He was also one who didn’t believe people (women) should wear sandals or other open toed shoes to work—as he put it, “I don’t want to see your toes! Toes are gross!” Man, would he be disgusted at the environment in my current job.

I call it a job, but I’m a **contractor,** meaning I work by the hour, receive no benefits, and have, umm, basically no employment rights. I’ve been contracting here for five years, despite the company’s written policy of an 18 month limitation on contractors. (My boss has found a creative way around this limitation.) Theoretically, my hourly rate includes enough to compensate me for individually purchased health insurance, vacation/sick pay, and many of the other normal perks that REAL employees receive.

Today’s thought: You can’t drink all day unless you start drinking in the morning.
Well, she oughta know

Peggy Noonan (on Ed Klein's book):
The book is poorly written, poorly thought, poorly sourced and full of the kind of loaded language that is appropriate to a polemic but not an investigative work.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


There's a game of blog tag going around: what childhood books did you enjoy enough to re-read as an adult? Well, nobody knows me/will tag me, so I'll do it myself.

The girl is a super reader. Has been since she was not-quite-5. One of the benefits of that is I get to re-read some of my favorites, and share them with her. (However, there did come a point about age 8 when I had to tell her that I just wasn't going to be able to read everything she read.)

Some of the fun ones have been "A Wrinkle in Time," "The Phantom Tollbooth," "And then there Were Five," (part of a series which I didn't know about).

Some of the disappointments: She and I have never gotten into the Narnia stuff, beyond Lion, Witch, Wardrobe. Ditto the Little House on the Prairie books. She's read some of Anne of Green Gables (I never have), but hasn't adored them.

Things I remember enjoying a lot that she hasn't gotten to yet:
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Stand (Ok, read that in my 20s)
Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Lord of the Rings
lots of Vonnegut

The nice thing about children's literature is that the girl has literally thousands of choices I didn't have in the 70s. Right now, her favorite author is Tamora Pierce; we own a few of her books, but others we repeatedly check out of the library. I will probably get her some for her birthday this fall.

There was a discussion in the comments section of another blog this week about book recommendations for young girls, and Pierce was pretty much dissed for 1) promoting birth control; 2) promoting a "bad" worldview; 3) writing about sex. I'm pretty blase about knowing that the girl will read about sex (gosh, how else are you going to learn about it?!), and don't try to censor her book choices. I remember wanting to read "The Sun Also Rises" because I found out that the main character had "sexual problems." So I read it too early and didn't get much out of it. The school book order had a warning label on a couple books this year, something along the lines of "Contains mature themes. May not be suitable for all readers." I said, "Writing a warning like that makes you want to get the book and see what's it's talking about, doesn't it?!"

How about (good) books I own but haven't been able to finish?
The Red & the Black
Catch 22
The Grapes of Wrath (except I finally got it on tape and finished it recently, if that counts as reading. I think the reason it arouses controversy when high schoolers are assigned to read it isn't because of the adult woman giving breast milk to a starving man scene at the end--the real reason is because it promotes a [gasp!] view that unrestrained capitalism results in poor outcomes, and aspects of a society arranged in a socialist fashion can be good for people. But that's just me and my unformed opinion; I don't know nothing 'bout literary analysis.)

There's another game going around where you reveal how many books you own. Conservatively, I would say our family has 3,000 books. I'm amazed how many bloggers have so few! Guess that explains why I keep running out of room for them, and keep tossing them in boxes for storage. I could take them to Half Priced Books for a pittance, but it seems like a lot of work, and I hate to part with books.

Friday, June 17, 2005


After supper we watched "The Lion King," which we haven't seen in several years. I'm pretty sure the boy didn't remember having seen it before. The girl (10) was able to ask why Mufasa sounds like Darth Vadar. She's pretty good at picking up the similarities in voices from one (animated) film to another.

Speaking of animation, when Lion King was released in 1994, it was the height of animation--and now its scenes of water, fire, and animals moving are so flat when compared with the fire scenes and flowing water as rendered in "The Incredibles."

Now the autopsy reveals that Terri Schiavo was blind, unable to swallow, and not rehabilatative. Thankfully I wasn't blogging when this issue broke, but I did read far too many blogs and comment boxes on the subject. Amy Welborn was the only blogger I recall saying that keeping Terri alive did not depend on her ability to be "cured." The parents claimed all they wanted was more tests, more evaluations, but what they really wanted was what they could not get--their daughter back. Pretty much everyone on the save-Terri side spouted stupidity about what they just KNEW--tests not run, lies told by doctors, conspiracies by judges and the husband.

So it's clear that the nurses who went on the talk show claiming that they had seen Terri out at the nurses' station yukking it up were, umm, lying liars. Why would they do it? Well, the charitable explanation is that they have a juvenile moral sense. Just as the five year old claims he didn't break the cookie jar, the nurses reported the truth that they WANTED as reality.

I won't hold my breath waiting for many apologies. For one thing, Americans don't apologize. "It's in the past, why rehash things." For another, it's been over for three months--Americans don't have that long of an attention span. Why, it's on to the next attractive missing white woman. (Although there's another sad medical case developing--Susan Torres, brain dead but pregnant, being kept alive long enough to give her unborn baby more time to develop. Thankfully, her husband and parents are on the same side.)

Thursday, June 16, 2005


The boy (7) asked recently about where water came from. I talked about hydrogen and oxygen combining, which led to where did they come from. I said billions of years ago when the parts that made the earth combined—he interrupted with, “Oh, you mean after the Big Bang.” Now, he does read a lot of planet stuff, and I'm sure he doesn't have a complete understanding of the Big Bang (heck, I know I don't completely understand it); but still, when I was 7, I'm pretty sure that phrase wasn't in my vocabulary.

It's always been fascinating how my kids learn things that I didn't teach them. Naturally they learn a certain amount of information this way when you send them off to school, but you expect that what they pick up in the early grades is pretty basic stuff. I frequently quiz them--”Where did you learn that?!”--and the answer usually is, “In a book I read.” And they usually remember what book.

I shouldn't be surprised. I remember oceans of stuff I learned at a relatively young age just from . . . reading.

Hey, at least he doesn't believe the earth was created 6,000 years ago.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Well, my husband has been telling me for a couple years now to stop READING blogs (and rarely commenting) and just start posting. How hard can it be? Couldn't fall asleep last night thinking of all the brilliant stuff I will post. OK, here's my initial effort. Go!