Cold Days

I’m not sure the temperature has been above freezing at all so far this month. There may have been one day when we hit a scalding 37F, but that’s been about it. We’ve had several days in the teens, and some with wind chills in the single digits (or below zero). We got quite a dumping of snow last weekend (December 12), with a driving wind to make it even more miserable. It hit us so hard and so fast, we were not able to go to Mass (or anywhere else) that Sunday. These rural roads are a pretty low priority for the County snowplows, and our 4×4 truck only holds four people. The Yeoman Farm Family judged it best to lay low and stoke the fire.

We’re still below freezing today, but the sun is shining and we’re in the upper twenties. I opened the sheep and goats’ barn doors for the first time in a long while, to let them have some fresh air and space to roam around. Their coats are plenty warm enough to be out even in much colder weather, but we keep the barn doors closed to keep their water tanks from freezing solid. The downstairs portion of the barn has just a seven foot ceiling, meaning the animal body heat can’t easily escape upwards. With the doors closed, we can keep the downstairs portion of the barn in the low thirties even on days and nights when it’s much colder outside. Only when we get stiff winds does enough cold air force its way in that the water tanks begin icing over.

We had one type of livestock which unfortunately did not fare as well during last weekend’s mini-blizzard: our bees. We got our first “starter” hive this year, and they’d established a strong colony by the fall. We didn’t remove any of their honey, choosing to let them have it all to ensure they had enough for the winter. We were looking forward to starting off the spring with a strong and vibrant colony that would split / swarm into a second hive we’d already prepared. Sadly, the blizzard literally swamped them. Wet snow drifted into the hive’s main entrance and froze into a nasty ice pack, blocking much of their air flow. Then, when the bees emerged from their smaller upper entrance hole to take cleansing flights, many seem to have gotten disoriented upon returning and finding the main entrance blocked. When I came out to check on them, I discovered dozens of dead bees littered all over the snow in front of the entrance. With their numbers (and body heat) thus decimated, it looks like the rest of the hive froze to death inside.

I feel awful about what happened, and will do a full post-mortem on what was going on inside the hive, but in many ways this is not unlike the mistakes we’ve made in getting started with other livestock. We lost our first two lambs, for example, because we weren’t ready for them and they were born in the pasture on a frigid night. The only real mistake is not learning from this kind of experience. (The rest of the lambs were all born safely, inside a building.)

One huge lesson learned about bees: next fall, I’m putting the hive(s) at least a foot or two off the ground, on pallets or cinder blocks. Another lesson learned: get some insulating foam fitted tightly around the outside of the hive before cold weather sets in. And go out there to check on the colony every day or two when it does get cold.

As for us humans, our family has been enjoying pot after pot of hearty soups and stews, made from the lamb and goat necks in our freezer. When the temperatures get and stay this cold, it’s hard to think of a nicer way to warm oneself from the inside out.

I’ll close with a lighter anecdote about the cold. If you’ve been following the NFL at all, you know that the roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis collapsed from all the snow (same storm system that went on to hit us in Michigan and kill our bees). They haven’t been able to repair it, so tonight’s game between the Vikings and Bears will be played outdoors at the Golden Gophers’ stadium. Upon hearing this news and reflecting on it, Homeschooled Farm Boy’s face lit up in a smile. “You know what that means?” he said. “The cheerleaders will have to dress modestly!”

Yes, indeed. There are some good things about the cold.

We Hate Barbie

Mrs. Yeoman Farmer and I have never allowed Homeschooled Farm Girl to play with Barbie dolls. Part of the reason, admittedly, is that Barbie has struck us as the epitome of glorified blonde/white sexuality; we don’t want our beautiful mulatto daughter thinking there is some kind of arbitrary standard she is falling short of. But even if one opts for the dark-skinned version of the doll, there were other things that gave us pause: Barbie’s impossible proportions, and the endless parade of accessories, and…and…the pure commercialism of the entire franchise.

No one ever pressed us to justify our opposition to Barbie, so the whole thing remained largely a non-issue. Few of HFG’s friends even have Barbie dolls, so she never asked if she could have one. And we certainly never raised the subject. As a result, we never really thought through or formulated an over-arching explanation for our discomfort with Barbie.

Fortunately, Mary Anne Moresco has done our work for us. In a brilliant article at Catholic Exchange, she puts words to the subconscious thoughts that had been troubling us about Barbie — and adds some details and additional considerations that never would have occurred to us. In part:

In the late 1950’s Barbie became the first “adult” doll for children. She was copied from a German prostitute doll name Bild Lilli, who was a character in an “adult” cartoon. The prostitute Lilli doll was sold, not to girls, but to men in bars and tobacco shops. Unaware of her prostitute background, Barbie’s American creators used the prostitute Lilli doll as a prototype for the first Barbie doll.

Barbie’s wardrobe was and still remains indecent. The 2008 Holiday Barbie wears a silver gown with a more than plunging V-slit that goes straight from neck to navel, as she poses with gobs of thick black mascara and hand on hip. Barbie recently debuted as a “Happy Birthday Gorgeous” doll-with her shiny teal blue dress slit up the side of her entire leg. Modesty is decency (CCC 2522). How are girls to learn modesty, if they are, almost from infancy, bombarded with an assortment of over-sexed immodestly dressed indecent dolls?

Although America may be blinded by the indecency of Barbie, other countries are not. The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Saudi Arabia stated that: “[B]arbie dolls, with their revealing clothes and shameful postures… are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West.”

Barbie is unhealthy for girls, not just because she is immodest, but because she is so impossibly thin, with a figure that does not conform to normal human proportions. The International Journal of eating disorders has reported that if Barbie’s dimensions were projected to human size, they would be 38-18-34. Barbie dolls can cause girls to dislike their own body shape, and lead them toward eating disorders. …

Barbie is not only indecent and overly-thin. She is a narcissist. She herself could write a book on self-absorbed excess and acquisition. With disturbing ease, Barbie spreads this debilitating mentality of acquiring and excess to young girls. One look at the magnitude of Barbie’s paraphernalia will show you why. Barbie owns just about everything. This includes over forty pets from a lion to a horse to a zebra; multiple vehicles from a Corvette convertible to a “surfs up cruiser,” Volkswagon, Mustang, Ford, Jeep, “Hot tub party bus,” and a “Jam and Glam” bus; and a mountain ski cabin, a 3-story “dream house,” and “Barbie Talking Townhouse.” And this barely touches the surface of Barbie’s possessions and what has helped make her worth $3 billion a year to Mattel.

Go read the whole thing. Especially if you have a daughter you love.

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.