Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Dirty Life

On the Farm
Anne Perez-Guerra

Horses in the pasture lot,
A windmill whirling 'round,
Apples on the orchard trees
Tumbling to the ground,
Cattle grazing 'long the road,
Porkers in a pen,
Chickens scratching near a coop
Where lives the mother hen.
Sliding down a stack of straw,
Jumping in the hay,
When I'm on the far, I go
Barefoot all the day.

I have this idyllic dream of living on a farm, growing my own food and raising chickens and milking cows.

When I tell my husband about it, he laughs. Then he looks at me very seriously and says, "You think you want a farm. But you do not want a farm."

And he should know. He grew up working on his grandparent's and uncle's farm. His parents own five acres - they rent out three to a neighboring farmer. When he was a boy, my husband's parents would bring cows from his grandparent's farm to graze the other two acres. It cut down on the mowing.

But farms still fascinate me. I hate getting my hands dirty, but I like reading about others who do. Kristin Kimball writes about her amazingly quick transformation from city girl to farm girl in The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love.

Kimball's transformation is a great story. I find it amazing that this freelance writer gave up Manhattan to move north and start a farm. Not just any farm, but a tractor-free farm, designed to provide all the food people would need. In addition to raising vegetables, Kimball and her husband milk cows (by hand), raise beef cattle, pigs and chickens.

I loved reading this book. Kimball not only tells about the hard work on the farm, but also her personal shortcomings she had to confront in the midst of hard work and lots of dirt. In between it all, she tells of meals she and Mark (her fiance) share - some sound fantastic, others made me shudder and shake my head in amazement at her adventuresome spirit.

If you're looking for a book to read this summer, I highly recommend The Dirty Life. If nothing else, you will 1) appreciate your current life; 2) want to investigate a local Community-Sustained Agriculture (CSA) farm; and 3) enjoy a really good book.

Read more poetry here, for Poetry Wednesday.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Secret Gift

Newscasters and politicians have often compared the recent recession in the US with the Great Depression. However, after reading A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness - and a Trove of Letters - Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression by Ted Gup I cannot agree with those comparisons.

In A Secret Gift, Gup tells the story of his grandfather, Sam Stone. In 1933, Sam Stone lived in Canton, Ohio, and took out an ad in the local newspaper, offering a small gift of $10 to families greatly affected by the depression. In order to remain anonymous, he gave the gifts under a pseudonym, B. Virdot.

His offer of anonymity encouraged people who lost everything to reveal their stories to B. Virdot. And in the end, Sam Stone gave $5 to scores of people across Canton, from every walk of life.

Gup tracked down those who received the gift to discover how it affected their lives. He tells their stories, and the stories of their descendants. Some stories are heart-breaking, some are amazing - but every one of them is touching.

In between those stories, Gup uncovers the mysterious man who was his grandfather, Sam Stone. He weaves all together beautifully in this book - definitely worth adding to your summer reading list.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I am an American

April is a month packed with deadlines, interviews, meetings upon meetings squeezed in between school and home 'stuff' (sorry, my creative juices are all squeezed out of me today).

I'm off to an orthodontist appointment for my youngest daughter, then rushing back home to pick up the rest of the children. Then we head to church, where my beloved, lovely and oh-so-helpful! parents will take my children out to dinner (thanks Mom & Dad!) while I meet with potential counselors, junior counselors and senior staff for interviews.

Before I leave, I want to offer a poem for poetry Wednesday. It's rather long, but I read it to my older two children this morning (before dashing off to another meeting) and I really liked the imagery, rhythm and message of this poem.

I am an American
Elias Lieberman

I am an American.
My father belongs to the Sons of the Revolution;
My mother, to the Colonial Dames.
One of my ancestors pitched tea overboard in Boston Harbor;
Another stood his ground with Warren;
Another hungered with Washington at Valley Forge.
My forefathers were America in the making:
They spoke in her council halls;
They died on her battle-fields;
They commanded her ships;
They cleared her forests.
Dawns reddened and paled.
Staunch hearts of mine beat fast at each new star
In the nation's flag.
Keen eyes of mine foresaw her greater glory:
The sweep of her seas,
The plenty of her plains,
The man-hives in their billion-wired cities.
Every drop of blood in me holds a heritage of patriotism.
I am proud of my past.

I am an American.
My father was an atom of dust,
My mother a straw in the wind,
To His Serene Majesty.
One of my ancestors died in the mines of Siberia;
Another was cripples for life by twenty blows of the knout.
Another was killed defending his home during the massacres.
The history of my ancestors is a trail of blood
To the palace-gate of the Great White Czar.
But then the dream came-
The dream of America.
In the light of the Liberty torch
The atom of dust became a man
And the straw in the wind became a woman
For the first time.
"See," said my father, pointing to the flag that fluttered near,
"That flag of stars and stripes is yours;
It is the emblem of the promised land.
It means, my son, the hope of humanity.
Live for it - die for it!"
Under the open sky of my new country I swore to do so;
And every drop of blood in me will keep that vow.
I am proud of my future.

I really do love this poem. Find more great poems here for Poetry Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Extraordinary, Ordinary People

For some reason, Condoleezza Rice has always fascinated me. She seems so young to have gotten so far.

When I saw her memoir at the library, I snatched it up to read. My cousin saw it in my arms to check out and commented she had really enjoyed it, which made me anticipate reading it even more.

Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice is a very good book. I appreciate how adroitly she handles the topics she covers in her book - from segregated Birmingham and racism to her mother's cancer to her father's illness and death.

Rice herself is an extraordinary woman, but certainly not a proud one. She talks about her accomplishments matter-of-factly, crediting her parents for their investment in her and her education. It's amazing what she has done, and what she has a accomplished. I knew she played piano, but had no idea she was a competitive ice skater.

Rice also has a great ability to maintain relationships and remember names of people who helped her out years earlier.

All this makes for a delightfully easy book to read, in no way showy or proud. It is a tribute to her parents who sacrificed so much for her, and in a very large way made Rice the woman she is today. And despite the difficulties discussed, it ends up a feel-good book which inspires you to strive to be your best.

Plus, she reveals the origins of her name - which is really very interesting.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


I have to admit, I'm feeling particularly uninspired today. Perhaps it is the dreary weather. Cloudy skies, drizzly rain without the satisfaction of a thunderstorm. The weather man says we might see the sun later this afternoon, but I'm not holding my breath.

I am looking forward to spring! I do have some tiny crocus blossoms in my front yard, and I raked out the bushes by the house, uncovering the shoots of the daffodils and a few tulips bursting through the ground.

I'll post pictures when they bloom - assuming the deer and rabbits don't eat my tulips before they're able to show their beautiful selves.

(Which is why, although I absolutely adore tulips, I planted over 80 daffodil bulbs in front of my house. The deer hate them.)

Meanwhile, I did happen to find a poem about April in my go-to poetry book Favorite Poems Old and New, purchased from Sonlight Curriculum for Nathaniel & Anna's schoolwork this year. Believe it or not, we will have read all 567 pages by mid-May - and greatly expanded our poetry repertoire (not that we can recite any of them).

Without further ado, here is my offering for Poetry Wednesday.

Sara Teasdale

The roofs are shining from the rain,
The sparrows twitter as they fly,
And with a windy April grace
The little clouds go by.

Yet the back yards are bare and brown
With only one unchanging tree -
I could not be so sure of Spring
Save that it sings in me.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Birthday Bash

Our official family photographer, for various reasons, was unable to document our most recent family gathering.

So, I stepped in - with my inferior camera, and lack of a good eye. However, I think I captured some of the fun the cousins had while together.

It started off with sewing with Nana. The girls made some, ahem, interesting creations.

And it ended with a big birthday bash celebrated Sabourin style - with plenty of ice cream. Yum!

Peace Out!