A Note about Comments

I have tried to hold off for as long as possible enabling “Word Verification” for posting comments on my blog, because I personally find those things annoying when I’m commenting on someone else’s blog. In the last several weeks, however, I’ve come to realize the importance of Word Verification: it eliminates the posting of spam blog comments.

I used to get occasional spam blog comments, but the trickle has turned into a flood recently. It’s to the point now where the great majority of comments I moderate are spam solicitations for get-rich-quick schemes or Viagra. I apologize for the extra hassle you will encounter as you post comments, but hopefully this will put an end to the spam.

BTW, one of the more interesting spam comments is the following:

“Nice post and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you seeking your information.”

I allowed a similar comment a while back, from an anonymous poster, because the post he/she was commenting on was indeed packed with information. I recall being happy that I’d helped someone with their research.

Then, last week, I got the comment mentioned abovce, misspelled word and bad grammar and all, for another post. Now, I was curious. I Googled that exact phrase, in quotation marks, and it came back with 66 appearences in the comments sections of various blogs — including some blogs not in English. It’s obviously spam, but a curious sort of spam. It isn’t selling anything. Could it be a sort of Phishing marker, allowing a spammer to use Google to go back and easily identify blogs that seem very liberal about allowing comments to post — and then target those blogs for “real” spam comment postings?

I’d be curious if anyone out there knows. If so, please post a comment. Just make sure you do the Word Verification exercise! 🙂

Coda on Mean

My apologies for the slow posting of late; things with work and the farm have kept us preocupied. Some of this has related to the legal process in adopting Yeoman Farm Baby — which, by the way, is progressing nicely (we appreciate your ongoing prayers for this intention).

About a month ago, I wrote about the passing of a barn cat named Mean. She had a prolapsed rectum, and had to be put down. At the time, we puzzled over the choice the vet gave us: $15 to have her put to sleep on the spot, or $20 for an office visit if we took her home alive and put her down ourselves. After further discussion, Mrs. Yeoman Farmer and I came to a rough consensus about the price discrepancy: the vet’s office probably gives the price break to ensure the animals die as humanely as possible. I’m a pretty good shot, but not everybody is. The vet probably heard enough horror stories about people putting three or four bullets into their pets, causing unnecessary trauma for both the animal and the family, to decide an incentive should be offered to get the job done on the spot.

We thought that would close the books on Mean. Then, a few days ago, we got a nice card in the mail from the vet’s office. The outside was covered with an illustration of doe-eyed puppies, kittens, bunnies, and the like, and read “In Loving Memory of Your Pet.” On the inside was a hand-written inscription reading:

Dear [Mrs Yeoman Farmer], A loyal companion is hard to find, hard to lose, and impossible to forget. May you find comfort in the knowledge that you were truly belssed to have shared your life with such a friend as Mean. Thinking of you in your time of loss.

And it was signed by every member of the vet’s staff.

I want to emphasize that this card was extremely thoughtful, and very much appreciated…but it also sparked a conversation around our dinner table that was perhaps even more so. First off, we thought it was amusing to read the name “Mean” in the same sentence as the tender sentiments of pet friendship. “You know someone at the vet’s office was chuckling when they wrote that,” MYF commented (see the post linked above for more info about the name’s origin). But secondly, and more importantly, we discussed why the vet’s office probably sends these cards out: most families get so attached to their pets, and so “personify” their animals, losing one of them becomes as traumatic as losing a human member of the family. We’ve largely avoided that, by being vigilant in how we refer to the animals and treat them. Yes, it’s still hard when one of them dies — especially a barn cat that the kids enjoyed playing with, or a dog that was a constant companion [see the four “Goodbye to a Great Dog” posts linked in the right margin of the blog for an example]. But it’s not the end of the world, and we don’t construct memorials to them. By contrast, we have heard of some kids so stricken at a pet’s death that their parents allow them to miss school so they can grieve.

Our kids were sad about Mean’s death, but they got over it in relatively short order. It turned out to be good preparation, because we ended up going through an identical situation just last week: Mean’s last surviving littermate, Hairy (yes, an extremely long-haired cat), also developed a prolapsed rectum. We caught it earlier this time, so thought perhaps the vet might be able to do something. MYF and the kids took Hairy in, but the vet said that once this kind of thing gets going at all there really isn’t any treatment. Furthermore (and this was important), it wasn’t that we did anything wrong. Cats can have a genetic predisposition to rectal prolapse, and that’s clearly what happened here. Both littermates developed it within weeks of each other.

We told the kids that we could get another free kitten or two, the next time we see someone advertising them. Not surprisingly, all three of the older Yeoman Farm Children are urging me to start looking actively. And given the average life expectency we’ve had with barn cats, we may need to NOT have the new female kitten spayed, so we can produce some litters of our own in the future.

But that’s okay. We and our kids understand well that both life and death are all part of the natural order of things. Especially on a farm.

The Gibsonater

Tonight at dinner, I happened to mention something to Mrs Yeoman farmer about an extremely funny comedy piece featuring Mel Gibson. It came out quite some time ago, and we’d both laughed very hard as we’d watched it.

But tonight, when I mentioned the comedy piece, MYF’s reaction was quite different. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I’ve lost a lot of respect for Mel Gibson lately.”

Before I could reply, Homeschooled Farm Girl piped up and asked, “Why? Is it because he adulterated?”
MYF and I both began laughing, and I was soon laughing harder than when I’d watched the original Gibson piece.
“What?” HFG asked. “Why is that so funny?”

To which I only laughed more.

Finally, Homeschooled Farm Boy told her, matter of factly, “I think he’s just tired.”

Which is true, actually. But it was still that funny.

Adoption: No Waiting. Or Much Less, Anyway

Our adoption of Yeoman Farm Baby continues to more forward; it isn’t final yet, but we recently completed an important step: the post-placement visit from our local agency. Our case worker came to the house, sat down with the whole family, and we spent about 90 minutes talking about how things have been going. She had certain questions she needed to ask, but the whole process was highly conversational. She’ll now write a report, which will be sent to our attorney and filed with the court in the state where YFB was born.

Our case worker shared some interesting information with us: they, and other agencies, are currently suffering a real dearth of adoptive parents. The numbers are sharply down, meaning far fewer families seeking the same number of babies. Particularly if a family is open to adopting a child of color, the wait time is very short right now. Our agency believes the uncertainty of economic conditions, especially here in Michigan, is largely responsible for the reduction in numbers of parents looking to adopt. The economic downturn has also caused problems for agencies themselves; ours was very prudent with its resources over the years, and had reserves to weather the storm, but she said that many other agencies have had to close their doors.

But the babies are still being born and still need homes. If adoption is something you’ve ever considered or believed you might be called to undertake, but were intimidated by horror stories about the number of months or years it takes to get a baby…this may be the time to take another look.

Special Eggs

If you’ll indulge me one more post about eggs, I promise I’ll be brief.

As noted in previous posts, our kids have celiac disease and a number of other food allergies, and this was an important reason we originally decided to move to the country and take more control of our food supply. It’s also made us highly sensitive to the special food requirements that others may have, and interested in helping them obtain what they need.

I never would’ve imagined it, but there are some people who are allergic to chicken eggs (even those raised on pasture in the most wholesome of conditions), but have no problem with duck eggs. Actually, as I think more about it, I shouldn’t be surprised that there are people in this situation: our children cannot drink cow’s milk, no matter how it’s cultured, but they do just fine with cheese and yogurt and other cultured products made from raw goat’s milk.

Anyway, if you think goat milk is hard to find…just try tracking down duck eggs. Even the local Meijer supermarket is now fairly well stocked with goat milk; it’s expensive, but they have it. But I’ll bet ten-to-one that none of my American readers has a grocery store nearby that stocks duck eggs. Maybe if you live in the Chinatown of a large city. But otherwise? Forget it.

We love duck eggs; they have a higher fat content than chicken eggs, and have a wonderfully rich flavor. We’ve enjoyed raising Cayuga, Magpie, and Khaki Campbell ducks, which are all excellent laying breeds. But here’s the funny thing: once you put the word out in online directories that you have duck eggs…the folks with allergies to chicken eggs will find you. Fast. So will the Asians who want duck eggs for pickling and brining. When we lived in Illinois, we developed a nice little business supplying duck eggs to restaurants, Filipinos, and those with allergies in the Chicago area.

And then we moved to Michigan, and were no longer able to get to Chicago regularly. We cut the flock back quite a bit…but some of our old customers kept calling my cell phone and emailing me. Do you have any duck eggs? I really miss being able to eat eggs. You have no idea how integral eggs are to a normal diet until you can’t eat any. Kind of like gluten is for our kids. If rice was as rare as duck eggs, I’d be burning up the phone lines trying to ensure a steady supply.

So…we bought a bunch of Cayuga ducklings last spring. Mrs Yeoman Farmer much prefers their eggs to those laid by Khaki Campbells (personally, I can’t tell the difference…and neither can most people), so she can enjoy any that go unsold or that we can’t deliver. Cayuga eggs are especially fun because they have a dark green (sometimes almost black) tint to the shell — you can literally make Green Eggs and Ham. They started laying three or four eggs a day recently, and by early this week I’d managed to accumulate two dozen. Yesterday I needed to travel to Chicago on business, so shot an email off to one of my old customers who works in the heart of the Loop.

He didn’t get the email until the day before I was set to leave, but immediately replied. YES, absolutely he was interested. He was off site in meetings until 1:45; could I come by his building after that?

No problem. I took the South Shore Line train to Chicago, laptop slung over one shoulder and my other hand grasping a shopping bag with two dozen very special green eggs. Then I took them on the CTA Red Line and into my meeting on the Near North Side. Then to Holy Name Cathedral for the 12:10 Mass, and to Starbucks as I grabbed a sandwich and coffee and checked email. Back onto the CTA State Street Subway and into the heart of the Loop, down a side street, into the lobby of a major bank…and into the hands of one very grateful man who hadn’t enjoyed an egg for nearly a year.

We exchanged warm words for a few minutes, and then he retreated to the elevator and I headed for Millennium Station. Yes, he paid me a very fair price for the very special eggs I’d brought. But there really isn’t any amount of money that can produce the joy that of knowing I’ve supplied something he’s waited so eagerly for and cannot find anywhere else.