Thursday, December 28, 2006

First Sentence Meme

Because I thought it was fascinating on some other people's blogs. Turns out it wasn't so interesting here:

New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions. (quote by Mark Twain).

I've read a couple interesting posts lately on what bizarre strings of words people searched to get to your blog.

Well, I have four different blog posts started, but haven't had time to finish any of them.

I don't have much time to blog, having just started a part-time job doing research and writing.

Now playing at Women's Autonomy and Sexual Sovereignty Movements. (Carnival of Feminists).

I've been neglecting my blog lately. (Note: is there anything more pathetic than whining about not blogging in your blog? Unless it's talking about blog posts you never finished. My new year's blogolution will be to never start another post like this).

Perhaps prompted by my recent reading of Caitlin Flanagan's critique of compost ("compost heaps in the backyard: moldering heaps of garbage, rich with worms and loamy rot...hideous caches of broken eggshells and wet coffee grounds squirreled away on kitchen counters" p. 143, To Hell with All That), I've been thinking about our compost.

(Poverty, Class, and Lebanon)...are featured in the 20th Carnival of Feminists at Super Babymama.

Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World, by Linda R. Hirshman, starts out well enough: If Betty Friedan had lived just a little longer.

Don't Send Twisty a Picture of Your Breasts when you go to I Blame the Patriarchy and read I Got Yer Boobython Right Here...and she'll send a dollar to Breast Cancer Action.

I have lots of books.

The busyness of actual life has been interfering with my blogging. (OMG! Again with the inane lead sentence! Never, never, never again.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

29th Carnival of Feminists

Welcome to the 29th edition of the Carnival of Feminists

What a lot of fun putting this together was! It gave me the perfect excuse to conscientiously read my favorite blogs, to thoroughly explore their links, commenter's homepages, and blogrolls, and then to browse all manner of new blogs, using some of my favorite key words (shown below - try pairing them with gender or feminism for some interesting search results). I discovered all sorts of new bloggers, a number of vile stories and some inspiring ones, hilarious commentary, wicked sharp wit and humor, and a wealth of fascinating and insightful perspectives - all on feminist blogs. If I got paid for doing this, let's just say it would be my dream job.

If any readers and contributors out there are thinking about volunteering to host, I encourage you to contact Natalie. The few weeks that I spent on this Carnival was an altogether enjoyable and eye-opening experience.


In which we look at examples of sexism from all over the world - sometimes blatant, occasionally subtle, often insidious. Some key words for posts in this section: stereotypes, gender bias, toys, pretty, and porn.

Women Come in 12 Flavors: Female Stereotypes in Urban Culture, at luscious life by isis kali.

The utterly amazing Action Heroes in Bangalore is presented by Blank Noise.

From Chaos Theory: a look at Girls and Cars. And, of course, BOYS.

Fergie Sets Women Back a Gajillion Years (complete with YouTube clip) is brought to us from the Daily Hysteric.

In Ready, Aim, Puke, MissPrism of A Somewhat Old, But Capacious Handbag takes on some trite and oversimplified evolutionary psychology. Why don't newspapers ever cite feminist sociobiologists for their science stories? I know they're out there, because I've read their articles in popular magazines like Natural History.

Quite a few well-known feminist bloggers in the US have written about the Discovery Channel's gendered selections for science toys for kids, but in Girls and Science: More Than Just Nail Polish, Dana at Mombian also points you to "online resources for girls interested in science and engineering".

Tara C. Smith writes about Science, Intelligence and teh Pretty in Aetiology (this is may be of special interest if you also like science fiction). This also seems like a good place to put in a plug for the most recent Feminist Carnival of Science Fiction and Fantasy. And then check out Stereotypes and Subtext: A Wee Primer, by Thus Spake Zustra (and take note of her wonderful category labels while you're at it).

Sciencewoman (On Being a Scientist and a Woman) also has some interesting commentary and linkage in Women in Science - A Few Things of Note.

Emily from the Kiwi branch of the All Girl Army (composed of bloggers between the ages of 10-23 years old) adds her perspective on gender bias in Boy Things, Girl Things.

If you haven't already read about the brouhaha over feminist bloggers, Britney Spears porn, and Googlebombing, check out A Brief History of Google Bombing, or: If A Feminist Does It, It's Wrong, No Matter What "It" Is at Screaming into the Void.

Sour Duck adds a thoughtful response to the crotch shot debate at The Feminist Way to "Download Britney Spears Sex Video - FAST!".

I've seen several responses to Christopher Hitchens' Vanity Fair article, but Shark-Fu of AngryBlackBitch had perhaps the funniest one at Fun with Vanity Fair.

And Shakespeare's Sister brings us Men Are Not Babies - a post that makes a few points that are so damn obvious (now that she's said it) that I really wish I'd written it myself. I don't know of anyone else who has explained feminism in everyday life so well though, so go and read and then smack yourself in the head for not saying it yourself, too.

Labor Paid and Unpaid, and Work/Life Balance
In which we look at another aspect of sexism, as it is experienced in the domestic sphere, and how private life interacts with our public life. Or vice versa. Key words: income, glass ceilings, maternal walls, wage gap, crafts and invisible work.

Photo by Ann Rosener, 1942. Library of Congress,
Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, [LC-USE6-D-005878 DLC]

Uma has a short but enlightening (pardon the pun) story on Power Women at Indian Writing.

There's a cogent discussion of Division of Labor, and Income at the Reproductive Rights Blog - a nice follow up to the Work (and Women) post - and some thoughtful comments on Secret Lives of Breadwinner Wives by Rich at Queercents.

Dr. Mom writes about the gender gap in academia in My Postdoc Left.

Amy Tiemann, of Mojo Mom asks Does the Gender Wage Gap Begin at Home? in her blog at

If you don't know who Kiki Peppard is, and you've never heard the term 'maternal profiling', then you need to check out this Update on Kiki and PA from Cooper at been there, who also blogs at MomsRising.

Kiki herself wrote an Obituary for (proposed Pennsylvania state laws) HB352 and SB440, which "are survived by women everywhere who believe in equality and justice and are trying to provide the best they can for their families."

Elizabeth at Monster Blog ponders childcare problems and solutions, and mothers' participation in the paid labor force in "Hurray for Snow Days?" Asks This Mom.

If you live in the US, and you're part of a family, you should definitely read Elizabeth's post on FMLA Input Needed at Half-Changed World.

Artemis at the Feminist Mormon Housewives has a thought-provoking post on Domesticity, examining our stereotypes about craft and crafts, professionalism, and the value of women's work.

Status and Equality
In which we look at some of the social, legal, and political ramifications of sexism. Key words: law, culture, ICT, equality, cutbacks.

Artemis at One Woman Army sums up the situation with Canada's Status of Women program succinctly in Women Are Angry.

Remembering....And Taking Action! on Canada's National Day of Remembrance and Action Against Violence Against Women, is by Inside the Box, who notes that "Women’s chances for equality in Canada are slowing dying - but without youth they’re all but gone away."

And speaking of "young feminists", Online with Zoe has a bit to say about that phrase in Calling All Ages.

FeminisTIC, a bilingual blogger from Montreal, has many fascinating posts, but I was most interested in her participation in Take Back the Tech as described in Me, Moi, Violence & ICTS/TIC . ICT is "information communication technology" - read more at Take Back the Tech about how new forms of communication and representation are influencing women's global status and roles in surprising ways. You might also want to check out Fried Tofu and Scrambled Egg's defense of her ideas at A Take Back the Tech Challenge.

Ann Bartow of the Feminist Law Professors presents a Bloggish Overview of Feminist Legal Theory.

ThreadingWater brings us an update on US federal policy in Pain Killers, comparing the recent failure of the fetal pain bill in the US and federal cuts "to local communities attempting to collect child support money from delinquent parents".

In which we look at sexism taken to its most appalling extremes. Key words: abuse, rape, murder.

Zambian ICT Journalist Brenda Zulu provides an eye-opening look at ICT Tools and Gender Based Violence in Africa (see the section above if you don't know what ICT is).

Susan Loone, a Malaysian activist living in Bangkok, provides her thoughts on recent disturbing events in her homeland in 16 Days of Activism...But Women Bashed in All Directions.

Thinking Girl has an insightful post entitled How to Avoid Becoming a Rapist (with unusually thoughtful commentary, too). Which leads us directly to the next few posts.

Poster from Mind the Gap's Flickr photostream.

I wanted to avoid the most popular feminist bloggers, since so many Carnival readers probably already read them, but the story about a University of New Hampshire student's criticism of a safe sex poster in the campus newspaper (the link and hundreds of appalling comments have since since been removed by UNH) and the resulting flood of online misogyny was too important to ignore. Twisty featured the story in Season's Beatdowns (at I Blame the Patriarchy), and Amanda at Pandagon followed up on it with Giving Boneheads a Bad Name. Read the comments. Although you might think these posts should go in the section on Sexism, the violence that so many commentators threatened puts it unquestionably here.

From Suffolk, England, Ellen Seymour of ProActive PR looks at the recent murder of five women, and then asks her readers What Do Prostitutes Really Want?

Nimue from Notes, Recollections, etc. adds Some Thoughts on Legalising Brothels, and Winter from Mind the Gap examines mainstream media reactions and feminist blog coverage of the killings in Doesn't Everyone Love a Good Femicide?

And don't miss Women Like Me, at Diary of a Goldfish. She sums up the situation very well indeed.

Ourselves, Our Bodies and Our Choices
In which we examine the implications and limitations of our choices about our bodies. Some key words for this section: miscarriage, pregnancy, identity, ambition, family, childbirth, sexuality.

We have three thoughtful and interlinked posts from Australia dealing with the different aspects of childbearing and their sociocultural and psychological consequences.

Kerry at Pavlov's Cat examines the choice to become a mother (or not), and the role her feminism plays in Some Days You Make the Choice, Some Days the Choice Makes You. Ampersand Duck presents Working Through a Few Issues, a powerful post about her feelings on not having a second child following a loss and major surgery. Cristy writes frankly about pregnancy, her future choices, and feminism in A Woman's Work at Two Peas, No Pod.

On a related note, the Oxford University Press blog presents A Few Questions for Rosanna Hertz, the author of Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice: How Women Are Choosing Parenthood Without Marriage and Creating the New American Family.

A Womb of Her Own (what a great blog title!) writes an enlightening post that asks What About the "Community" in "Midwifery in the Community"?

Storm Indigo writes about sexuality and self-acceptance at Last night I dreamed I decolonized my thighs.

Did I Miss Something? presents an amazing and powerful post about real women in Inspired By. Don't miss it if you think that an important part of feminism is questioning your own assumptions. And while you're at it, read A Touchy Subject, by Book Girl at Falling Off My Pedestal.

Books and History
Because I can't blog without bringing up either or both of these topics. Key words: literary review, middle ages, meat, poetry, novelists, women writers.

Erasing Louise Labe describes the controversy over a French poet who wrote so eloquently about women over four hundred years ago at Ellen and Jim Have a Blog, Too.

Soy, Masculinity, Warriors, and Monks: Again, with the Meat is from In the Middle (a Medieval Studies Group Blog), and ties a current soundbite (get it, a sound bite) about soy products in with some interesting thoughts about medieval diet.

The new Feminist Review blog provides interesting commentary (and a couple more books to add to my holiday wish list): there's recent examinations of Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Fashion and Feminism, by Linda M. Scott, and Convent Chronicles: Women Writing about Women and Reform in the Middle Ages, by Anne Winston-Allen.

The review of Michele Landberg's Women and Children First: A Provocative Look at Modern Canadian Women at Work and at Home at Frieda's Feminist Book Blog brings a book that you may have overlooked back into the limelight (and onto my library request list).

Bitch Ph.D.'s Last-Minute Feminist Gifts has more recommendations for a couple of books that I'm sure many of us would appreciate as gifts.

20th-Century Women Writers at the National Portrait Gallery
, by Natalie Bennett (posting at the My London Your London cultural guide) provides an intriguing look at "the glam and the homespun" portraits of some of my favorite writers, and a couple more authors to add to my reading list.

And Finally
We have a few posts that can't be classified, but are definitely worth reading. Key words: music, language, the blues, and winter.

dogpossum writes about the blues in Just a Couple of Thoughts about Cold, Hot, and Va-Va-Voom.

Laurie and Debbie from the body impolitic tell us about Insults, Profanity, and Metaphor.

Malachi at Feminist Allies writes about teaching Japanese in I Reinforce Gender-Roles.

And finally, Tiny Cat Pants brings us a heart-wrenching but achingly beautiful piece of prose in Tribal Soul Mothers.

Thanks for reading. Happy holidays to those of you that celebrate in the next few weeks, and best wishes for a new year full of diversity and debate in the feminist blogosphere.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


I haven't done any regular blogging because I'm having too much fun pulling together all of the posts for the next Carnival of Feminists for next Wednesday.

And in a moment of madness last September, I volunteered to be the "paint parent" at my daughter's Kindergarten every Wednesday morning. Have I mentioned that I hate handprinting and fingerpainting? AND to do the holiday party, which meant planning a couple craft & game activities, and coercing other parents to donate materials and treats for tomorrow. At least I don't have to make cookies for the party now.

I was forced to buy a glue gun. Actually, my husband got it when he picked up the extra foam for the snowman ornaments on Friday. After an exciting Saturday night gluing monofilament to foam circles (which the kids will decorate with buttons and foam carrot noses, etc.), I did have the crafty urge to glue more things, like pine cones and dried seedheads.

The urge went away after I started reading Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, by Bill Buford, and then watched an episode of the last season of Dr. Who (the Daleks!), though, and it hasn't re-surfaced.

I really wanted to write something for the Carnival myself, on the whole Neandertal women hunting vs. archaic Homo sapiens women gathering possible origins of the modern division of labor article in the NYT (now hidden behind their you-must-pay firewall), and went so far as to read the original article in Current Anthropology (also behind a firewall, but you can read the abstract here), but I doubt if I can actually get it done by Wednesday. There will be a lot of other great articles in the Carnival, though, and I urge you all to check back here then.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The 28th Carnival of Feminists

Now up at Diary of a Freak Magnet. There are some very funny posts there, and some very thought-provoking ones. Go read now, about the uproar in Norway about boys sitting vs. standing to urinate, about modesty and rape and a new law in India, about secretaries, and sexism in academia, about porn, on taking your baby to work, about girls, and "dirty words", and socialized stupidity.

I'll be hosting the next Carnival of Feminists here on Wednesday, December 20...just two weeks from now. I'm particularly interested in your posts concerning feminism and motherhood (or parenting), women in history (or prehistory!), and the difference and the contradictions between the feminism we preach or read about, and the feminism we practice in our lives. As the other hosts have mentioned, posts on other topics related to feminism are also encouraged. If it's a good piece of writing, I want it. Please send your submissions to before December 19 - especially if you've never contributed to the Carnival before. And don't be shy about nominating a great post that a friend of yours has written, or that you ran across while you were surfing something obscure.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Busyness of Actual Life

...has been interfering with my blogging. In the last month, both of my kids have had birthdays (complete with ultra-messy chocolate-frosted chocolate cupcakes for their respective classes of 26 and 15 kids, not to mention extra for staff), we've had the always exhausting and enlightening annual IEP (Individual Education Program) meeting, to continue to educate my son's school faculty and staff about Tourette's "Plus" (OCD and ADHD), and to brainstorm appropriate accommodations for a mysterious disability that is as unpredictable as the weather, four children's doctor visits (with one follow-up and a dental appt. coming up), one adult nurse practitioner visit (as a result I am going to buy a nasal irrigator, and hope it's easier to use than a Neti pot), teacher conferences, dead elm tree removal scheduled (only to have it postponed by weather) and driven to Chicagoland for Thanksgiving. If you're driving I-94 across Michigan through Indiana into Illinois, I recommend that you avoid the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. But the Friday afternoon following Thanksgiving is a great time to make the same drive (two and half hours shorter for our return to the Ann Arbor area).

Last week my son was riding his bike to school wearing a sweatshirt and jeans. It was 13°F this morning (with a windchill around 4°F), and we had to shovel an inch of light snow off of our sidewalk.

I haven't had much time for reading, though I did finally manage to finish The Omnivore's Dilemma. I post-it-ed (is that a word? if not, it should be) a bunch of stuff to discuss, but I don't have time to do it now. Interested readers might want to check out Pollan's shorter essays on his website - I was thrilled to find many of my old favorites there, including "Weeds Are Us", "Opium Made Easy" (warning: it's only illegal to grow the wrong kind of poppies if you read this article), and "A Gardener's Guide to Sex, Politics, and Class" (you didn't plant magenta zinnias, did you? Cause that's just so ..... slatternly).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

As American as Pumpkin Pie

From the most recent book I'm returning to the library but wish I could keep in my personal library: Far-Flung Hubbell: Essays from the American Road, by Sue Hubbell:

...Americans were the first to understand what pie could be. For instance, the English had been making what they called pompion by cutting a hole in the side of a pumpkin, extracting the seeds and the filaments, stuffing the cavilty with apples, and baking the whole. New Englanders improved on this, combining the apples and pumpkin and putting them in a proper pastry. Then they eliminated the apples and added milk, eggs, spices, and molasses to the mashed, stewed pumpkin.

Pie has never been more loved than in nineteenth-century America, where it was not simply dessert but also a normal part of breakfast. The food writer Evan Jones quotes a contemporary observer as noting that in northern New England "all the hill and country towns were full of women who would be mortified if visitors caught them without pie in the house," and that the absence of pie at breakfast "was more noticeable than the scarcity of the Bible." (from pp. 7-8, Chapter One, "The Great American Pie Expedition").

Hubbell describes banana, coconut, raisin, lemon, cherry-cream, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, cherry, pineapple, apple, Dutch apple, peach, apricot, peanut-butter, walnut, pecan, sour-cream raisin, sweet potato, coconut-cream, green-tomato, chocolate-meringue, lemon meringue, Key lime, shoofly, strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb, graham-cracker (pie, not just piecrust), Nantucket cranberry, butterscotch, banana-pudding, buttermilk, apple-raisin, and icebox mixed fruit pies in her delicious account, which includes some recipes that I'd like to try. My husband, however, will be making the pumpkin pies tonight for dinner at his parents' house the day after tomorrow. I really prefer apple pie, but I'd rather wait until I can make one myself than eat one from the grocery store.

One of my favorite things about the day after Thanksgiving is a breakfast of apple pie and coffee. And I'd rather have a slice of very sharp cheddar with my hot apple pie than ice cream, thank you very much.

I wanted to add some interesting quotes from Laura Shapiro's Perfection Salad on the anti-pie movement at the turn of the century (which perhaps is better described as the failed "pie temperance" cult), but I can't find my copy. So I'll just provide a link to Linda Stradley's History of Pie until after the holiday. And a link to The Wrong Pie, a funny discourse on Crooked Timber from a few years ago. Healy is wrong about the neglect of pumpkins in the social science literature (well, in anthropology, anyway, where Curcurbita pepo has become a star in the constellation of prehistoric Native American domesticates), though he may be right about pumpkin pie.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Words, Landscape, and Motherhood

I ran across this blurb for a book I'd really like to get for Christmas (hint, hint) on the Family Scholars Blog:

A group of writers has collected more than 800 fading landscape terms in a new book — Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape. …Nature writer Barry Lopez launched the project after he found that he was unable to double-check the usage of some landscape words, simply because there was no place to look. Poet Michael Collier, who also contributed to the book, believes that the words are worth preserving because “language is the DNA of the culture."

Honestly, this looks like a wonderful book - it's got all my favorite things: eloquent writing, historical depth, beautiful photographs, and descriptions of different environments with personal meaning (that 'sense of place' writers like to talk about). I'm grateful to the Family Scholars for bringing it to my attention, especially since I missed the NPR story last week in the confusion of school conferences, birthday preparations (my son turned ten on Saturday), trips to the veterinarian, and runs to the drugstore for more cold remedies and kleenex.

The remaining part of the Family Scolars post, however, made me stop and think twice:

Reminds me of why some of us are concerned that redefining marriage and parenthood in ways that make us unable to talk about mothers and fathers (but rather simply “parents”) could contribute to more children growing up without their own mom and dad. When you are no longer able to talk about the thing itself you stand a grave risk of losing it — if you have not lost it already.

It is undeniably true that our society is redefining marriage and parenthood. I think that American mothers' and fathers' roles are more flexible than ever before. As more mothers work in formerly male-dominated fields (note that I'm not just saying that more mothers working outside the home - as many historians have shown, mothers working in the fields, in the marketplace, and even in industry are nothing new), and more fathers become more involved in childcare and housework, yes, parenting is evolving.

But what is the relationship between describing what we do for our kids as "parenting" instead of a specific kind of mother's work or father's work and children growing up without a mom or dad? How exactly do flexible gender roles (dad changing diapers, mom mowing the lawn?) contribute to more fragile marriages? Is commitment limited to those with traditional "family values"? Because good parenting is a family value, no matter what you call it or who does specific tasks.

I guess that by calling what mothers do traditionally ("kissing boo boos" as Linda Hirshman sums it up) parenting, as opposed to mothering, mothers do lose some special status. But using a gender neutral term and letting fathers nurture, too, cannot lessen the essential relationship between a child and their mother. As far as I can see, it just gives mom a chance to read the paper while dad reads the kids a bedtime story.

Please note that I don't think that men and women are exactly the same, either biologically, or in how they parent. But men as well as women can certainly nuture, and women can also protect and provide for their children without invoking the end of the world (either culturally or environmentally). Motherhood and fatherhood won't disappear if some of us parent instead of mother, or if Dad cooks and cleans like every day is "Mother's Day". And speaking of bygone phrases: we're not going back to the days when men "wore the pants in the family", and a government where women were active participants was dismissed as "petticoat government".

Friday, November 17, 2006

The 27th Feminist Carnival

is up in a particularly well-illustrated edition at body impolitic.

This one contains not just the thoughtful posts about body image that you might expect, but some important links about feminism and indigenous rights in Mexico, several posts on retailers and commercialism (how appropriate for the season), and a look at the feminist implications of the recent elections in the US.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Yay, Judith Warner!

Judith Warner's latest editorial - The Family-Friendly Congress? - (now unfortunately hidden behind the TimesSelect pay to view wall) really hits the mark.

Luckily, litbrit at Shakespeare's Sister has some good commentary that includes the gist of Warner's piece, as well as some good quotes from Warner's piece, in It's All in the Family.

Although I still think there were a lot of problems with Warner's book about high pressure east-coast motherhood (my review of Perfect Madness is back here, on the old Mothers & More* blog), I have to applaud her for this article, and for summarizing so many mothers' feelings about the recent elections and "family values" so damn well. So thanks for using your powers for good, Judith. I hope everyone we voted for can do the same.

*if you're interested in the local Mothers & More group (in Washtenaw County), the local website is at

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Check Out This Table of Contents the most recent (26th already!) Carnival of Feminists, at A Blog without a Bicycle. Love the blog title, love the arrangement, and the contents are all interesting - including This Is What a Feminist Blog Looks Like, Hot Topics, Halloween, and a really wonderful look at the Archives.

Did you all vote? It seemed pretty busy at my polling place - more so than in other off-season years, despite a cold November rain.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

On My Nightstand and on the Floor

I have lots of books. In piles and stacks and scattered around the house, there is a mixture of what some people would consider trash, some better literary selections, solid non-fiction and science, and highbrow academic tomes with endnotes and bibliographies that exceed the length of the always-subtitled papers.

Here's what's I've been reading lately:

On This Hilltop
, by Sue Hubbell

Friends and relatives think that it is great fun that we have a farm in the Ozarks. They conjure up pictures of husking bees, barefoot boys with cane fishing poles, and healthy outdoor work that tones the muscles and earns the right to enormous dinners composed entirely of apple pie (p. 3).

I picked up a copy of Hubbell's later essays about bee-keeping and living in the Ozarks - A Country Year - on a whim on, and now I'm hooked and working my way through all of her books. This one is a collection of essays that Hubbell wrote for a St. Louis newspaper in the mid 70's. Although some of it is definitely dated (but still fascinating, as when she describes the impact that local factories had on women's roles), most of the essays are timeless. These pieces aren't as deep or as detailed as those in A Country Year, but sometimes a light-hearted description of caffeine highs and truck gardening is just what you want to read.

Digging to America, by Anne Tyler

No quote here, because I've already returned this to library. I should have written down some quotes, though, because I remember thinking that there were a lot of good ones. This was my book club's choice for this month, and another one that I thoroughly and unexpectedly enjoyed. It sounds damning with faint praise, but this was just a thoroughly nice book. The characters were interesting, complicated, and so real I had a hard time believing that they were fictional. The issues - adoption, immigration, exile, social class, parenting, generational conflict - were handled deftly and intelligently. I liked most of the characters, and I liked the book, and I loved the ending. I think I'll buy this one for my mom.

Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan
, by Bruce Feiler

Sakamoto-sensei believed that clothes were a good indicator of character. He regularly monitored the shoe racks in front of the school to see which students were stepping on the heels of their sneakers instead of slipping them on all the way. This behavior, he said, was an early sign of deliquency (p. 77).

This is the fascinating account of a middle school teacher who went to Japan to teach "English literature and American culture". It's next month's selection for my book club, and rather eye-opening in terms of cultural differences in gender roles, education and how schools work and what they teach.

Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA
, by Ellen Meister

Maddie looked up and spotted a heavily made-up woman with an enormous mane of long, strawberry-red hair, bounding her way toward them, breasts bouncing chaotically from side to side. She wore a stylized sweat suit like Suzanne Podobinski, but instead of the intentionally sedate accessories the PTA president wore to suggest superior breeding, this woman was loudly accented with diamond jewelry, an oversized handbag, and some kind of hybrid footwear, part shoe and part sneaker, that Maddie thought looked like an experiment gone terribly wrong (p. 7-8).

I can't remember which blogger recommended this, but so far it is a satisfying look at suburban housewives. The characters are more likeable and probably more realistic than those in Tom Perrotta's Little Children, though they are also less memorable. Applewood PTA reminds me a lot of Jennifer Weiner's books about modern mothers (Little Earthquakes and Goodnight Nobody). But between these books and What Do You Do All Day? (and all of the non-fiction, like Judith Warner's Perfect Madness), I've had enough of east coast unhappy housewives. Let's have a little insight into how parents live in Texas, or Oregon, or Wisconsin next, ok?

In Pursuit of Gender: Worldwide Archaeological Approaches
, edited by Sarah Milledge Nelson and Myriam Rosen-Ayalon

I propose that the workload level for mothers that necessitated these changes in child labor and infant-feeding practices was present in Middle Woodland societies of the Midwest rather than the Late Woodland, as proposed by Buikstra et al. (1986:540). The evidence consists of the thinning of vessel walls that occurs in the fifth centry A.D., the population increase that begins in the Middle Woodland, the visible use of starchy supplemental food, the energy requirements necessary to establish and maintain the social network of Hopewell societies, and evidence of greater stress in the skeletons of at least some Middle Woodland skeletal populations (p. 233).

OK, so not every academic paper has a subtitle. Eleven of the nineteen papers in this book on prehistoric gender do have bipartate titles, but "Mothers' Workloads and Children's Labor during the Woodland Period", by Cheryl Claassen, quoted above, does not. Although I found several of the papers very interesting, a few years away from academic jargon really makes me appreciate writers like Robert Sapolsky.

The Essential Rumi, translated by Colman Barks

I have lived on the lip
of insanity, wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door. It opens.
I've been knocking from the inside!...

I saw this on the swap rack at my library this morning. Sometimes I love Saline. It's small enough to have a swap rack that works on an honor system, but large enough to have gems like this left in the rack along with the Harlequin romances.

Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, by bell hooks

...I want to have in my hand a little book so that I can say, read this book, and it will tell you what feminism is, what the movement is about. I want to be holding in my hand a concise, fairly easy to read and understand book; not a long book, not a book thick with hard to understand jargon and academic language, but a straightforward, clear book - easy to read with being simplistic (p. viii).

And I think that hooks has done just what she says she intended above, though I'm only a few chapters into it. I've been working on a blog post on the different types of feminism - from anarcho-feminism to post-structuralist feminism, and this is a refreshing change.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Book Meme from Jennifer UtP*

*Under the Ponderosas

The rules:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog along with these instructions.

Edward Duensing's Talking to Fireflies, Shrinking the Moon: A Parent's Guide to Nature Activities was at the top of the stack next to the computer - though my husband's How to Survive a Robot Uprising by Daniel H. Wilson was perhaps equally close. What the heck, I'll give you a piece from both, since you never know when you'll need this information.

But before you leave, you can enjoy one more activity while watching drops of water plummet from a waterfall - an activity that will impress the children with the value of mathematics and science, and with your knowledge of the world. Using the head-rolling technique described above, focus your attention on a drop of water as it begins its descent, and count the number of seconds it takes for that drop to hit the botton (one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, splash). Multiply the number of seconds by itself, and multiply the answer by 16. What does all of this multiplication tell you?

This is from a chapter on how you can watch a single drop change shape and fall from above. It tells you the the height of the waterfall in feet, in case you were wondering. Too bad we don't have any waterfalls nearby. Though there are a couple of dams on the Huron & Saline Rivers. Hmm.

Watch for the following telltale signs in the days and weeks before your robots run amuck: Sudden lack of interest in menial labor. Unexplained disappearances. Unwillingness to be shut down. Repetitive "stabbing" movements.

- from the chapter entitled "How to Recognize a Rebellious Servant Robot". Do you know where your robot servant's manual kill switch is?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Two Weeks to Voting Day!

And I'm sure all of you are going to vote. If you live in Michigan, you might want to check out this helpful League of Women Voters Voter Guide. You can download and print out the whole thing as a pdf file (32 pages) to read at your leisure, or just look at the answers different candidates provided by going to a particular race or proposal (in either text form online or as a pdf file). The LWV Voter Guide doesn't endorse particular candidates, but strives to provide information so you can make your own informed choice. It even includes a little "clip and take to the polls" section, so you don't accidentally vote differently than you intended.

And unless you've been really busy and have read all about the different candidates for the State Board of Education, the various university governing boards, and county court of appeals judges - in addition to the statements by the governor and her opponent, and the US & state senate & house representatives and their opponents - well, you should look at this. Unless you just plan to vote on how the candidates names appear to you, or on what kind of pretty pattern the filled-in circles make on your ballot.

The Voter Guide also includes information and discussion on the five ballot proposals on the slate this year. Have you made up your mind about DNR funding, affirmative action, dove hunting, eminent domain, and school funding? I thought I knew how I was going to vote on most of these proposals, but the more I read, the more I realized how utterly misleading some of the campaign literature on these issues was. Which shouldn't have surprised me.

And if you don't live in Michigan (but are still in the US)? Go here to find a voter guide for your state (you'll have to find the state group, then find a voter guide on their web site). Or just google your state's name and "League of Women Voters" - even if you're not a woman. They really do provide useful non-partisan guides to the candidates and the issues.

Hmmm....tasty appetizer or symbol of peace?
(see Proposal 06-3)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

It's Been a Year

...since the first Carnival of Feminists, so I think it is fitting that the 25th Carnival is up at Philobiblon, the host of the first Carnival and its organizer.

I've learned a huge amount from reading the diverse blogs that the Carnival brings together - and I'm looking forward to hosting it myself in December. This edition has topics ranging from women in the French revolution, the most recent winner of the Nobel Peace prize, feminism and fashionistas, the amazing bra dryer, modern witch killings in India, to the work done by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Categorizing, Labels, and Indexing

I spent way too much time over the weekend looking at my old blog posts and labelling them into different categories. I also fixed a bunch of broken links. I think I like the new beta Blogger. I've been wanting categories for a long time, as you might guess from my cobbled together "Index of Books Reviewed Here" and "Feminist Ponderings" at the top of the right column of my blog. I'm not ready to get rid of those links yet, but the more encompassing organization of labelling posts was a lot more satisfying and thorough.

Is it weird that I really like indexing things? When I helped edit a book a few years ago, I was one of the people that poured over the annotated bibliography and thought of all the different key words that a reader would use to find each entry. And I loved doing it, just as I still love researching different topics.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Pissenlit and Dandelions

I was reading the names of crayon colors to my almost-five-year-old daughter the other night. Since starting the "early 5's" Kindergarten program (her birthday is two days before our state's K deadline), she has embraced coloring in a way my son never did. She even likes staying within the lines. But this time, she also wanted to know all of the names of the colors in Spanish and French, which Crayola thoughtfully puts on their crayons.

I was a little surprised to find that Dandelion was a crayon color apart from Yellow. It's a very pretty color, more golden and not as brash as yellow (and quite unlike the brilliant color of actual dandelions). The French name for Dandelion really surprised me, though: Pissenlit. How do you pronounce that? And how weird is it that the French word for dandelion sounds like "piss"?

Well, it's not so weird after all, since piss in French actually means pretty much the same as it does in English, and the whole word translates as "piss in bed". Turns out that an old English name for the dandelion was also "piss-a-bed." Both piss names come from its use as an herbal diuretic. Other more poetic old common names include blowball, peasant's clock, tell-time, lion's tooth, and swine's snout.

There's a lot of interesting folklore about dandelions (linked to many of the common names above). I haven't been able to convince my kids to eat the young leaves in a salad yet, but maybe next spring.

Meanwhile, if you ever want to know the word origins of pissant, piss elm (Chinese elm), and why it was ok for them to say "pisspot" but not "take a piss" on the Waltons, I recommend a search through the archives of the American Dialect Society's mailing list here. It's kind of cool that it is administered by the Linguist List of EMU and Wayne State. I had no idea such a thing existed.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Another Feminist Carnival...

...this one is the 24th, and it's up at f-words, which has the intriguing subtitle "Feminism, Food, Fact and Fiction".

There are lots of interesting posts on American feminism and Muslim women, "choice feminism", make up, and access to Plan B. Go read and learn something. Debate. It's fun. A "fun feminist"* thing to do.

*You might also be interested in reading Confessions of a Fun Feminist and Why My Brand of Feminism is No Fun at All for some debate about some of the traditional (and not so traditional more recent) trappings of femininity.

Edited to add further responses to this - Fuck You and Your Feminist Beauty Standards from, Who I Am by Jill at Feministe, and My Feminism, by Shakespeare's Sister.

Monday, October 09, 2006

1491: Book Review

I started 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann, over a year ago. Because I read it so slowly and critically, I had to return it to my library with a couple of chapters unread. Finally - and fittingly, I thought - I came back to 1491 (my own copy, this time), and finished it just before Columbus Day.

Part of the reason it took me so long to read Mann's book is because I know so much about its subject. Prehistoric ecology was my daily fare for fifteen years of work (in both academia and "cultural resource management") in North American archaeology. So I felt compelled to check pretty much every endnote (and there are forty pages of them), along with many of the bibliographic references (another forty-five pages) in 1491. I have to say that I am extremely impressed with how well Mann balances current scientific and historical research and the often arcane jargon of anthropological archaeology* with the remarkably readable popular history (and prehistory) presented in his book. Balancing the nuances and complexities of this research with stories that can keep general readers not only awake, but thoroughly engaged, is pretty damn hard. Mann makes it look effortless.

His well-researched book is basically an overview of several American Indian societies (and some of the archaeological and historic research regarding them in the last few decades), mostly in the period before Columbus's arrival 515 years ago. Of course, this is a huge span of both space and time, and a monstrous amount of research. There is simply too much North and South American prehistory and ethnohistory to fit into any book, even one the size of the Oxford English Dictionary.

So Mann picked some of the stories that he found most interesting to relate. He jumps from an account of John Billington's sons** and their adventures after they disembarked from the Mayflower, to Squanto (aka Tisquantum) and his political machinations, down to Lake Titicaca and the Inka empire before Pizarro, up to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, lingers a bit on the origins and importance of maize and cotton, then returns to the remarkable Mississippian chiefdom of Cahokia (near present day East St. Louis) from 800-1200 AD, then jumps down to the Amazon basin a thousand years ago, visiting Olmec, Oaxacan, and Mayan cultures along the way, and then finally comes back again to historic times and the Iroquois Nation. It is quite the whirlwind tour, but Mann ties it all together admirably.

Readers who think of prehistoric Native Americans as timeless inhabitants of a sylvan paradise who "lived lightly on the land" will find much of Mann's book eye-opening. Those who assume that these cultures were not very populous, don't appreciate their diversity, and have never heard of the devastating diseases that followed the "Columbian exchange" or encounter may find the historic accounts of epidemic death in the New World more shocking than those imagined by Stephen King in The Stand.

Since I am familiar with the literature and research behind the book, I was also more than a little dismayed by how many reviewers said they were just blown away by it. They were shocked not because the book is so well-done (although it is), but because that they had absolutely no idea how radically some Native societies altered their natural environment, or because they'd never heard of Cahokia, or they didn't know how egalitarian the Five Nations were, etc. This unfortunately shows just how poorly my former colleagues manage to share their work with the general public. Which is not good for either archaeologists (most of whom depend on government funding at some level), or for people who are reading ideas about American history and prehistory that were out-of-date a generation or two ago.

So - Mann's book is definitely long overdue. But there is still a lot of room left for popular yet not overly simplified works that could help fill the huge chasm between college archaeology textbooks, American Antiquity articles, and reworked dissertations (which leave a lot to be desired in terms of "readability"), and the brief, often inaccurate snippets on archaeology that appear in newspaper and magazine articles. A few years back, I did read and enjoy Sharman Apt Russell's When the Land Was Young: Reflections on American Archaeology, which presents some of the controversies and the colorful people engaged in archaeology (though in a highly "edited for prime time" fashion), and I recommend her book, too. But there's still so much interesting research being done out there -- there's room for a lot more books like 1491. Maybe someday I'll try my hand.

PS Mann's book has an excellent index. I thought I should mention that, since I've ranted here about a lot of recent books that don't include indices.

*Readers who would like an introduction to modern approaches to anthropological archaeology (and some of the language you need to understand the academic literature) may want to check out Adrian Praetzillis's Death by Theory: A Tale of Mystery and Archaeological Theory.

**Like Charles Mann, I'm also descended from Mayflower passenger John Billington, who was executed for murder in 1630 (the first person hung in the Plymouth colonies). I found Mann's endnotes on Billington particularly interesting, as I had previously heard the story that this non-religious "Pilgrim" was framed, but hadn't heard the arguments behind the Puritan conspiracy theory.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Check Out Nature Class at The GreenHouse

If you're interested in kids and nature education, I blogged about it over at The GreenHouse today - click over and check it out. And while you're there, read the previous posts by Jennifer and Andrea. But be careful if you head over to their personal sites - Under the Ponderosas and Beanie Baby. You may find that you've been sitting at your computer clicking away for hours and that the better part of the evening is totally gone.

Meanwhile, here's a picture of a sunset over the field behind my house last week. I'm actually facing east, but it was so spectacular that it reflected all over the sky. My digital camera really can't do it justice.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Don't Send Twisty a Picture of Your Breasts...

when you go to I Blame the Patriarchy and read I Got Yer Boobython Right Here...and she'll send a dollar to Breast Cancer Action.

Ann Bartow of Feminist Law Professors is doing a matching Anti-Boobie-Thon, too. So check it out. It's a lot easier than rinsing all those pink Yoplait yogurt lids and mailing them to Minnesota. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Friday, September 29, 2006

On My Nightstand and Almost Due at the Library...

...are books I've just finished, or that I'm in the middle of, and many that I plan to read soon.

I still like doing the random quote thing that Mental Multivitamin did on her "On the Nightstand" entries, so I'm going to page 29 (or thereabouts) and taking the first complete sentence. Then I'll do a little blurb on each book to share what I think about it, why I'm reading it, etc. in lieu of a real review. Because if I did real reviews on every book I read I'd never have time to vacuum or mow the lawn or pick my frost-bitten tomatoes.

Song of the Water Boatman: & Other Poems, by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beckie Prange

slants low,
chill seeps into black
water. No more days of bugs
and basking. Last breath, last sight
of light and down I go, into the mud. Every
year, here, I sink and settle, shuttered like a
shed. Inside, my eyes close, my heart slows...
(from Painted Turtle, the last fall poem in the book,
which doesn't have numbered pages.)

This is a gorgeous book and I am so grateful that Jennifer (Under the Ponderosas) recommended it. It has the most beautiful, strong, graceful woodcuts I've ever seen, and such lovely, whimsical poems and wonderfully descriptive blurbs on natural history for kids. I think I like this book more than my kids do, though.

The only problem with the book? It's too short. I want it to be about five times as long as it is. Do you hear that, Ms. Sidman and Ms. Prange? More, please.

Upside Down: Seasons among the Nunamiut, by Margaret B. Blackman

If not, then the CB radio has provided them a weekend of mental journeys to Qalutagiaq, Masu Creek, and Narvaksrauraq through other villagers' shared experiences.

I think I saw this advertised in a University of Nebraska book catalog, and I vaguely remember ethnographic articles by Blackman from an ethnohistory course. Upside Down makes a nice counterpoint to Ordinary Wolves - although Upside Down is not nearly as well-written nor as graphic as Kantner's novel (and really, how many books could be?). I'm sure this is at least partially because Upside Down is non-fiction. It is definitely much more engagingly written than most anthropological writing, and should interest those who like stories about the arctic. It also makes a nice follow-up to Jodi Picoult's The Tenth Circle, which was a fairly gripping fast read with a main character that is a lot like a combination of Cutuk from Ordinary Wolves and the cartoonist from Stephen King's Cell.

Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children, and Struggling with Depression, by Tracy Thompson

And so I retreat to the safety of what Cusk calls my "coven of co-mothers, " where we cackle at our private joke.

I have been on the waiting list at the Ann Arbor District Library for this book for months. Finally, it occurred to me that I could request that the Saline Library buy it - and within a week, it was bought, processed, and in my hands. I'm impressed - by both the book and my little local library.

The Lake, the River & the Other Lake
, by Steve Amick

You live with two different parents, she figured, you can't expect the place to stay like a museum.

This is my book club's choice for October. I hope they like it as much as I did. I'm looking forward to re-reading it. The whole summer-place thing is so interesting - I loved Timothy Noah's "Summer-House Lit" articles in Slate. I really need cabin on a lake up north to be able to write more about this, I think.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Tra La La...Captain Underpants is Educational

My nine year old son still loves Captain Underpants. Though he is a fairly advanced reader (having already devoured the Lemony Snicket series, the Spiderwick Chronicles, and many of the Harry Potter books), he continues to look forward to each of George and Harold's epic adventures. He got Captain Underpants And The Preposterous Plight Of The Purple Potty People in his Scholastic book order* last week, and has already read it several times. And it really is educational - he asked me to define "anarchy" the first time he read it.

I blogged about Captain Underpants and Judy Blume last year for Banned Books Week (here it is if you want to read it) and it's that time again this week.

From the American Library Association's website:

Do you remember the first book you read that touched you, made you laugh, scared you silly or made you rethink the world? Chances are someone has tried to have that book removed from a U.S. school or public library somewhere nearby.

All kinds of books – from Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz to Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – have been targeted for all kinds of reasons. Every year the American Library Association (ALA) learns of hundreds of book challenges – or formal attempts to have a book restricted or removed.

Please tell us a about YOUR favorite book from the list below. Each of the books listed has been challenged in schools and libraries in the 25 years since Banned Books Week started.

Here's the survey.

*I would now like to gripe about the all of the non-book items advertised in the Scholastic "Book" catalogs that come home every month (or temptingly shown in the book fairs at school): stuffed animals, small electronics, and Game Boy games all compete with the books - how many kids ignore the books for all of this other stuff?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

It's the 23rd!

In addition to being the first day of autumn (or fall, if you prefer), it's also time for the 23rd Carnival of Feminists, now hosted by Lingual Tremors. The articles on health care are fascinating, but there's a lot more to read and digest - famous feminist bloggers answer your questions about feminism, Boob-gate 2006, and a very thought-provoking couple of posts on emergency contraception are just the beginning.

This is a good place to share the link to Our Bodies, Our Blog, a "daily dose of women's health news and analysis" by the people who brought you Our Bodies, Ourselves. Did you know there's a new edition (January 2005) of this classic? It would make a good "going to college" gift for someone who had "abstinence only" sex education in high school.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Clapperclaws, Cover-Sluts, and Shachled-Shoes (or The Word Museum: Book Review)

I ran across The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten, by Jeffrey Kacirk, in the free swap rack at my local library. I knew almost immediately that I would enjoy browsing this collection of words that the author says were partly chosen for their "Jabberwocky factor" -- basically, how they sound and the images they bring to mind.

As I read, though, it was the social and historical glimpses that many of the words provided that really struck me, and I did start wishing for a little more depth (like Michael Quinion provides in Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds). Quinion's site (oooh, and I see he has a new book - Gallimaufry - coming out soon!) really provide that in spades, which I appreciate. Kacirk's book is less research and more "check this fun stuff out", which is sometimes just what you want in a book, especially if you're reading it in the bathroom while your 4 year old splashes in the tub.

Anyway, in his introduction, Kacirk mentions that "teachers and historians, because of their socially prescribed curricular attention toward larger social concepts, often bypassed the smaller and more personal expressions of social custom and conduct" (p. 8). While I don't think that is a fair description of many good teachers or historians (or archaeologists, for that matter), it is undeniably true that the watered-down version of history that many grade school or high school students get fed in the US is de-personalized, over-generalized, and, well, boring. This book is not boring.

Since I've been reading a lot of women's history and feminist theory lately (not as boring as it sounds, dammit!), I took special notice of the words - especially the perjorative ones - in Kacirk's book that were historically applied to women. I thought it was interesting how most of these archaic terms described sexual behavior, uppity-ness, or laziness, which all come together in some feminine stereotypes. These words tell us a little bit about control (and the lack of control) that men had over women in England and Scotland in centuries past:

batterfanged - basically, to be beaten and scratched, and Kacirk adds as by "a termagant". Now there's an interesting word, too, right up there with virago. Check out the bizarre origin of termagant.

clapperclaw - to tongue-beat; to scold. To scratch, maul, fight in an unskillful manner; generally used of women. Hence, a clapperclaw is a noisy woman.

cover-slut - a long apron used to hide an untidy dress (or something in general that hides sluttishness).

curtain-lecture - A reproof given by a wife to her husband in bed. Yes, high-class beds used to have curtains around them.

fishfag - "any scolding, vixenish, foul-mouthed woman". Check out this blogger's description of Ann Coulter that uses fishfag along with many of this book's other entertaining words. It's an interesting twist on the more well-known "fishwife".

giggle-trot - a woman who marries late in life is said to "take the giggle-trot".

idle-worms - worms that breed in the fingers of lazy girls.

laced-mutton - a prostitute (as used in The Two Gentlemen of Verona). Also rigmutton. Some graduate student somewhere has probably written a paper on the symbolism of these comparisons with sheep.

married all over - used to describe women who "fall off in their appearance and become poor and miserable-looking" after marriage. The historic equivalent of "letting yourself go". Check out this Good Housekeeping quiz on how to discover if you're on "the fast track to Frumpville". There's a similar quiz on Oprah's site. Give me a break. Some things really haven't changed in centuries. Which leads us right to the last definition:

shachled-shoes - a no longer useful person, especially "a woman discarded by her lover". Shachled is an old Scottish term meaning distorted and no longer holding its shape. Ouch. So much for "the good old days".

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dinosaur-Like Swan Geese

Big birds really look like dinosaurs to me, especially when they come at you aggressively. We had a bit of a Jurassic Park scene at the Calder Dairy last weekend, with the geese looking at us with their reptilian eyes, greedy for corn and shoelaces.

Luckily, no children were pecked (despite the picture above, which includes my daughter's arm), though my husband did get a sharp nip in the rear. The most aggressive offenders were the swan geese (Anser cygnoides domesticus), these strange ones with the saurian bulges at the tops of their beaks.

Any locals interested in visiting the Calder Dairy (down in Monroe Co., halfway between Milan and Monroe) should definitely take a big cooler with ice packs when they go. I recommend the pound and half tub of butter, which is way, way better than the Land o' Lakes blocks from the grocery store, despite the whiff of cow barn that clings to the wax paper covering. And the chocolate ice cream. Or the vanilla ice cream.

I just wish they sold their own cheese curds, too. Why can't we get these around Ann Arbor? Or can we? Please, please leave a comment if you know of a local provider.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Migrating Monarchs

I took this picture of a monarch caterpillar on my son's hand a couple of weeks ago - it looks like it was getting ready to pupate, since it was getting into a J shape. I didn't see where the chrysalis ended up, though, and according to this chart on, "Toxy" (as my son named him, because he's toxic) may have already emerged and set off for Mexico. We haven't seen any monarchs in the last week or so, although it's been raining so much we haven't been out much.

Next year, we're definitely going to do some tagging. Check out the cool monarch tagging pictures at Burning Silo, which I just ran across when I discovered the third Festival of the Trees.

I love all the wildlife we've had this year associated with the swamp milkweed (which you see going to seed in my last post). If any locals want some seeds to start next spring (or a whole plant to transplant when they come again next spring) give me an e-mail. I'll mail you an envelope of milkweed fluff & seeds, or you can bring your trowel and dig yourself a shoot. We're going to be transplanting a lot of them next year anyway, and they are tough, these Asclepias incarnata plants.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Seasonal Changes

I can tell that fall is here - and even if it isn't here chronologically, the transition's in the air, reflected by the fact that:
  • - It's time to deflate the kiddie pool, although we're not ready for the flannel sheets
  • - Geese are in the air and overnighting in the wheat stubble behind the house, though hummingbirds are still at our feeders
  • - School has started (along with the first school-bourne virus - after just four days of classes!), though neither the MEAPs nor the first field trips are here yet
  • - Ragweed is pollinating, and I wouldn't mind losing the rest of my basil if the first killing frost just gets rid of the ragweed
That night was the turning-point in the season. We had gone to bed in summer, and we awoke in autumn; for summer passes into autumn in some imaginable point of time, like the turning of a leaf.
~ Henry David Thoreau, from A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849), p. 356.