Time for Some Campaigning

Buried up to my neck in work for the election, politics seems to be all I’m thinking about these days. Just in time, the folks at Jib-Jab are out with a new animated video. It’s as funny as ever:

Novel News

Work has remained extremely busy, leaving little time for blogging. I did want to pass along a bit of news regarding the novel, however.

The Catholic Bookmarks radio program did air their interview with me this past weekend. If you didn’t catch it on the air, they have an audio file on their website that you can listen to.

Also, Nancy Carpentier Brown posted an outstanding review on her “Flying Stars” blog; she was also kind enough to cross-post that review at Amazon. In part:

After spending every waking moment trying to finagle more moments to read just one more page of this book, I finally finished it much to my regret. I wanted more.

Passport is a difficult book to describe. It is a novel, yes. But what do you call a novel that makes you want to be a better person? That helps you see the sacrifices you’ve made aren’t really that much, and you should do more? That turns your mind to your own selfishness and lays it bare? That makes you ask yourself if you’re doing God’s will in every little thing, and not just when His will and yours converge?

This is an adult novel, and yet, it’s not that kind of adult novel. It’s adult because it deals with mature stuff. Not that kind of stuff, although that’s in there, too, just not graphically enough to give it an R” rating. It’s adult because the mature stuff is about sin. And sacrifice. And loving someone enough to give up everything for them. And the consequences of even a moment’s lapse in judgment. And the love of Christ to help you walk through the darkness.

This is a novel about … a difficult situation. A very complex story about the complexities of sin, sacrifice, love, honor, chivalry, manliness and womanliness. It’s a story about parenting, and families, and children, and faith, and hope. It’s a story about a normal man, an average man, and a story about humans as we are. It’s a story about how we try, and fail, and try again.

I think the greatest virtue in this story is hope. The main character never seems to give up hope, even though the situation–brought about by his own sin– seems so hopeless. I loved his circle of friends, the garage where they work on cars and talk about life, the community center where they volunteer. And even though the main character is often hopeful, he is real and human. He often fails, there, too, and tries to run from his sorrows and pain in ways many of us will recognize, because we’ve run like that, too.

And although this story is told from the guy’s point of view, I still liked it, and I could still relate to everything that was happening because it is a human story, and hope is something anyone can understand.

I guess I could also relate because of being a parent and a spouse, and the story revolving around those states in life and issues relating to them. I don’t know what an unmarried young adult or a grandparently adult would think of this book. But I suspect the emotions and situations are universal enough for most any adult to be able to find the story compelling, interesting, and even challenging.

I recommend this book to any adult looking for some leisure or commuter-type reading. This book is easy to read. It’s a page-turner because you want so badly for the situation to be resolved in a good way, and there are so many almost insurmountable obstacles in the way.

You won’t be uncomfortable reading it because it keeps itself modest, and yet, talks about subjects you might not talk about with your friends, unless you know them really, really well, and trust them with your secrets.

Passport: A Novel. Bring a tissue. Bring your hopes and fears. Prepare to be changed. Prepare to be challenged.

Now. Officially. Swamped.

As of late last night, my professional work (yes, the stuff that subsidizes our farm) has shifted into high gear and will remain there for at least 2-3 months. As we say on the farm, you’ve gotta make hay while the sun shines. But that will unfortunately leave precious little time for much of anything else — including blogging. Expect posts to be sparse for a bit.

Smarter Than You Think

Many farm animals have a reputation for stupidity. What has surprised us are the ways this stupidity is expressed — and the ways some other animals have proven themselves to be downright smart.

Turkeys, for example (at least the domesticated variety), deservedly have a reputation for being dumb. The common example given is that, during a rainstorm, turkeys will look up at the raindrops and then drown. I have never personally seen this happen, nor have I spoken with anyone who has seen it happen. That could be because most turkeys are raised indoors, and therefore never come in contact with rain. However, even when we had free-ranging turkeys, they always had enough sense to seek shelter when it rained. None of them would stand around getting wet, and I certainly never saw one looking up at the raindrops.

Okay, so they don’t drown in the rain. But are they stupid in some other way? You betcha. When raising young poultry, the crumbled feed goes in a feeder…and that feeder goes in their pen. But as the birds grow, they need more than what will fit in the original feeder. When I find myself filling the feeder too frequently, I switch to a larger one. Want to guess what has happened with every single batch of young turkeys we’ve raised? They do not recognize the feed as feed when it is in a different kind of feeder — even though the feed is clearly visible and is exactly the same feed. One batch of turkeys actually fled in fear when I inserted the new feeder, and cowered in a far corner for hours. This morning, when I switched to a larger feeder, the reaction wasn’t quite as extreme — but still, none of the turkey poults would even approach the new pan.

Contrast this behavior to that of our sheep, another animal with a reputation for brainlessness. I can’t speak for commercial meat breeds, but our Icelandics are pretty sharp. As our pasture isn’t yet tightly fenced, I can only let them out to graze when I can keep an eye on them. This morning, I decided to let them graze in the high grass while I mowed another section; that other section we’ve been keeping relatively low, and have been bagging the clippings to feed to the sheep. The gate opened, and all the sheep stampeded down the hill to the rich, long-grass section of the pasture. Meanwhile, I went to work with the lawn mower.

I filled the bag, stopped the mower to empty it, and then went back to work. A moment later, Dot, the flock’s leader ewe, realized that I must have emptied the clippings into a feeder in their paddock by the barn (that’s what I always do, and she’s quite observant). Dot broke from the flock, ran up the hill, and began feasting on clippings. Can’t blame her: it’s a whole lot easier than working the pasture. As I continued mowing, and began filling a wheelbarrow with batches of clippings, the rest of the flock became aware of Dot’s absence. One of them called to her with a “Baaaaah.” Dot called back with her own “Baaaaah.” The ewe ran up the hill and joined Dot at in the paddock…and it didn’t take long for the rest of the flock to catch on. Scooter the Amazing Wonderdog ran alongside to ensure they didn’t bolt for the hay field, but the flock didn’t need any help to find the paddock.

Fortunately, I’d been working quickly, and now had nearly the whole wheelbarrow filled. I dumped the full load into their two big feeders, and the flock swarmed to eat. But something interesting then happened: the lambs, getting crowded by the adults, ran back out through the still-open gate and went to work on the long grass at the edge of the pasture. I waited and watched them for several minutes, just making close observations of each animal and making sure none of them was looking sickly or lethargic.

This photo captures the scene: feasting lambs in the foreground, feasting adults in the distance…and Scooter the Amazing Wonderdog in the middle, having the time of his life being a part of making it happen.

Warning: Become a Yeoman Farmer at Your Own Risk

I think nearly everyone who has ditched city life in search of something more “relaxed” in the country could compile a long list of cautions for those who are considering such a move. This excellent story in CNN Money profiles one family that made the move, and how it turned out very differently from what they’d planned.

Like so many corporate types who dream about chucking it all for a mellow life in the country, Kathy and Josh had talked for years about moving to the family farm. Only problem: The simple life they envisioned isn’t turning out quite as they planned.

Yes, Josh loves working the land. “It’s hard work and exhausting but I get pleasure in what I do every day,” he says. And Kathy loves raising their girls close to nature and their extended families.

But between the demands of the farm and a gourmet beef business they’ve launched as a sideline, the Gunns are working seven days a week from morning till dusk, close to the 24/7 description associated with high-pressure city jobs. Notes Kathy, wryly: “It’s not exactly a relaxed life.”

The points I’d emphasize most: Don’t give up your day job. Farms can be cash-sucking machines, especially when you’re getting them set up. Make the transition slowly, and don’t try to do everything at once. You can’t simply start a farm business from scratch; it takes time for people to find you, and to discover that your high-quality produce or meat is really worth the premium — and the inconvenience of buying directly from you, rather than in a single trip to the grocery store.

Speaking of Modest Clothing

My recent post about Mrs Yeoman Farmer’s adventure trying to find a slip for Homeschooled Farm Girl drew considerable response — thanks to all who commented, or who sent private emails with suggestions for finding modest clothing for children.

Say what you will about that weird FLDS sect down in Texas, but one thing I’ll say in their favor: the children sure were dressed modestly and tastefully. Turns out, the recent raid brought with it some benefit for the mothers — and, possibly, for others who have been looking for modest clothing. So many people have observed how tastefully the FLDS kids were dressed, the mothers have begun direct-marketing that clothing to the public from their own website.

As the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Launched initially to provide Texas authorities with clothing for FLDS children in custody, the online store now is aimed at helping their mothers earn a living.

The venture, which has already drawn queries from throughout the U.S., is banking on interest in modest clothes, curiosity and charity to be a success.

“We don’t know what to expect on demand but we have had a flood of interest,” said Maggie Jessop, a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. “Our motive is not to flaunt ourselves or our religion before the world. We have to make a living the same as everyone does.”

Only in America.

Book Picked

Many thanks to Lisa at the Catholic Mom site. Just got word that she has made my novel, Passport, her Fiction Book Pick for the month of July. She would also like to schedule an interview for an upcoming podcast; I’ll post details about that once I have them.

In the meantime, I recently taped an interview with the Catholic Bookmarks program that airs on Relevant Radio and Sirius satelite radio. That is scheduled to air in the next week or two, and will then be archived on their website. Again, I’ll post those details once they are final.