Founding Faith

NRO’s Katherine Jean Lopez has an interesting interview up today with Steven Waldman, an editor at BeliefNet (and author of a new book about the faith of America’s founders). It provides an excellent, balanced look at how the founders conceptualized religious freedom and understood the First Amendment.

Lopez: What do Americans United for the Separation of Church and State types have most wrong?

Waldman: That the First Amendment intended to separate church and state in every nook and cranny of our land. The First Amendment was a states’ rights compromise that envisioned separation at the national level but allowed a great deal of church-state mingling at the state and local level. There’s an amazing moment during the congressional deliberations on the First Amendment when Rep. Benjamin Huntington of Connecticut complains that Madison’s proposed amendment could be “extremely harmful to the cause of religion.” How could our beloved Bill of Rights harm religion? Huntington feared it might wipe out the official state establishment in Connecticut. Madison had to reassure him that Connecticut could keep having an official state religion. Madison actually wanted the First Amendment applied to the states, but he didn’t have the votes to carry the day.

Of course over time, the states got rid of the establishments, and the 14th Amendment did attempt to apply much of the Bill of Rights to the states, and that’s how we end up with prayer-in-schools cases. But it was a very gradual process, driven more by the framers of the 14th Amendment than by the framers of the First Amendment.

And for those who read the full interview and are curious: No, I do not share Thomas Jefferson’s view of God, religion, or the relationship between church and state. Just his love and respect for the yeoman farmer.

Marching Out Again

Maybelle again leads the way, with the first lambs of the year…once more right before the end of March. She also gets credit for the first two lambs born in Michigan. They are both males, and were sitting waiting for me when I went out to the barn a moment ago.

They are still wet, and she is continuing to lick them off. But they’re up and nursing, and appear as spry as Maybelle’s lambs always are.

She is by far our most consistent lamber: twins every single year, all six of her lambings. Have we really had her that long? She was among the first sheep we bought. Amazing how time flies.

Freeze. Thaw. Repeat.

We survived our frozen Good Friday, and even Easter Sunday didn’t bring much of a thaw. That finally came on Tuesday night, when the two oldest kids and I took a flight to Arizona to visit my parents (who retired there from Seattle a few years back). Mrs. Yeoman Farmer stayed behind to tend to the animals, and was particularly on the lookout for newborn lambs; we figured they’d all arrive once I drove off the property and wasn’t around to help — but for once that didn’t happen. Anyway, our youngest (aka “Forest Puppy”) said he preferred to stay here and have MYF all to himself for a few days.

All I can say is: now I understand the attraction of the whole Snowbird thing. And if I can talk MYF into it, I want to retire to some place like Tucson. Never thought I’d say this, but the sunburn I got the first day out there, and still have now, feels GOOD.

We arrived late Tuesday night, walked out of the airport, and it was suddenly shirtsleeve weather! And then the kids did not stop talking to my parents (even to take a breath, it seemed) the entire 45 minute drive to their house. We had all day Wednesday, all day Thursday, and were intending to fly back Friday morning — until American Airlines cancelled all those flights, which had ripple effects on us; our flight was delayed so long, we would’ve missed our connection had we taken it. They could’ve gotten us out of Tucson later on Friday, but couldn’t get us three seats on any connecting flights back to Detroit. Rather than take my chances getting stuck someplace like Dallas with two kids with severe food allergies, we spent an extra day in Arizona and then came home Saturday. My apologies for the blog silence; the whole past week and a half has gone by in a blur.

Our kids being rabid Chicago White Sox fans (they refuse to transfer their loyalties to the Tigers), a Spring Training game at Tucson Electric Park was a must. I bought the tickets over two months early, so ended up with some excellent seats: just to the right of home plate, about 20 rows up, still behind the safety screen. And the most amazing part? The seats were just $15 each. TEP was a wonderful ballpark — we essentially got to see a major league game in the intimacy of a minor league park (and at minor league prices). And because this was one of the last spring training games before opening day, the players were primed and ready to go. We just wish they’d hadn’t insisted on trying out the third-stringers in the bullpen, because the Sox squandered a comfortable lead and ended up losing to the Brewers 12-10.

Thursday, we spent several hours at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum — a definite must-see attraction. It’s like a big preserve cut out of the desert, with walking trails and interpretative signs. There are also caves and other things; it’s like a cross between a zoo and a botanical garden. One of our favorite attractions were the Javelinas, a bizarre animal that looks like a wild boar (but they are not related to pigs). We watched them for quite awhile, and they were fascinating.

The kids also enjoyed the raptor free flight demonstration — they had an owl, a hawk, and some kind of raven. Very interesting, but by that time (11am) it was already starting to get quite hot.

I’ll have some additional posts over the next few days, with some additional thoughts about the trip and the community where my parents live. Suffice it to say, we had a wonderful trip…but are also glad to be home. Even though it’s again dreary and rainy, at least the snow is gone at last!

Go Bulldogs!

Pity those of us who attended colleges with lame athletic programs. But sometimes even we get lucky…and marry into a winning team. Such is my luck this year with the NCAA tournament.

Mrs. Yeoman Farmer’s brother is the top assistant coach at Drake University, and the team had a terrific season. They’re a #5 seed in the tournament, and play their first game on Friday at 12:30. Several family members have flown down to see the game; if we didn’t have two goats in milk and nine ewes set to deliver any day, I’m sure we’d be on our way as well.

At game time tomorrow, we’ll be at the Good Friday services at our parish. Thank God for DVRs. I just hope we can avoid hearing the results until we’ve had a chance to watch.

Tandem Time

We’ve finally had a thaw these last few days, which has allowed us to get the tandem bike out of the barn and back on the road. Feels wonderful to be getting fresh air; this place was frozen solid for an unbelievable number of weeks. I did set the tandem up on an indoor trainer for awhile, but it just wasn’t the same as being outside.

Both of the boys went out with me yesterday, when it was sunny and fifty degrees; Big Brother stoked for nearly ten miles, and Little Brother (who would now like to be known on the blog as “Forest Puppy” — long story) stoked for nearly seven miles. Homeschooled Farm Girl (HFG) did a 10K on Thursday, and another 11 miles today. The big news is that HFG grew quite a bit over the winter, and has now graduated to the “adult” pedals that Big Brother had been using. Her feet even grew enough to fit his cycling cleats comfortably. That means little Forest Puppy is the only kid still using the Child Stoker Kit (visible in this photo, but notice that his pedals have been removed so HFG can ride using the lower set).

HFG and I had a grand time exploring the rural roads surrounding our farm today. We especially enjoyed riding past one house, where a couple of crusty old farmers were out in the front yard burning leaves. They looked up and smiled broadly as we rode past, and we all waved at each other. “Great day for a ride!” one of them exclaimed. I think it’s difficult to look at a tandem, especially with a kid on the back of it, and not smile. And speaking of which, we passed several houses over the last few days that had kids playing in the front yards. Regardless of age, each of these children has had a nearly identical reaction: a gaping stare, accompanied by an expression of wistfulness. My stoker kid typically smiles and waves, and then we disappear over the next hill. Perhaps someday they’ll realize how lucky they are.

Daddy is tired, but glad to be getting back into shape. I used to be an avid cyclist, having ridden over two dozen events like this one or these when I was younger. But when the kids started arriving, I found that I just couldn’t do justice to both family and cycling. I tried to do both, for much too long, and both suffered badly; finally, at the end of 1999, I hung up the cleats and rarely touched my Bianchi again. But I never lost my love for the sport, or the open road. And now that the children are older and finding they enjoy riding stoker, cycling has gone from Family Time Killer to Coveted Daddy-Kid Time.

Here’s hoping that we can all rack up many many more miles this year…