Saturday, March 30, 2013

Catching Up Again: February 2013 Reading

Farm memoirs were the order of the day for February. I'm always hopeful that reading about gardening or farming will inspire me to be a bit more enthusiastic about outdoor endeavors, but alas, it does not seem to help. I like doing stuff with produce, but I don't like the process of getting it to my kitchen. Digging in the dirt does not satisfy something deep within me - it just dries out my hands, and makes me dirty, sweaty, and grumpy, to be perfectly honest.

Well, the farm memoirs I read were at least honest - no glossing over the dirt, sweat, and tears, and no idyllic vision of a simpler life as one might conclude from reading Laddie. Whether it was the hobby farm of Michael Perry or the all-inclusive, self-sustaining project of Essex Farm, the message was clear that work - hard, physical labor - is involved in any farming venture. And I was quite happy to be reading about it from the comfort of my couch and cozy, down blanket in February, when at least I didn't have to feel guilty for not pulling weeds!

Well, I should stop rambling and making excuses for my laziness and tell you about the books, which aside from the barn, chickens, and author's picture on the cover, are really quite different.

I really wasn't sure I would finish Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting, but various things kept stringing me along - a home birth story (told from a man's perspective, so not that interesting), an impromptu visit to our local Children's Museum with no other reading options, the death of the author's nephew, with which I empathized having had two friends lose babies last year. But all told, I didn't like the author's rambling style in writing or homesteading. Carrie had a different opinion when she reviewed it a few years ago, but I didn't quite see the model of manhood that she did. I appreciate that the author is honest with his shortcomings as a husband, father, and provider, but it came off more as false humility than true repentance, and I'm not sure that's a model worth emulating. (Sorry, Carrie - we usually see eye to eye on a lot of things, but not this one. I hope we can still be friends!)

I wasn't sure I would like The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love either, but I turned out to be pleasantly surprised. I liked the author's writing style, and it was fascinating to hear of all that she and her fiance experienced in a year of making a rundown, neglected piece of land in upstate New York a productive farm and a home. While I didn't agree with some of the moral choices she made on her way to the altar, she didn't glory in them or present them in lurid detail. As I mentioned before, it was mostly about hard, physical work, with love and humor on the side, all giving the impression of a very full and satisfying life. If I lived near Essex, I might consider becoming a part of their CSA - it would be worth it for someone else to dig in the dirt!

Our read-aloud time somehow slipped away in February, but we did enjoy the second in Douglas Wilson's Maritime series: Susan Creek. As I mentioned before, I plan to discuss the whole series after we finish reading the third one, but for now, I'll just say that both my kids really liked Susan Creek, and I really like the values, history, and theology that are incorporated so seamlessly in a good story. Thank you, Doug Wilson!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Yikes! It's Almost Spring!

Well, so much for my good intentions of keeping up with blogging this year. It's almost March now mid-March, and I haven't posted about my other January reading yet, not to mention February. Oh, dear!

I already mentioned my L. M. Montgomery reading, so I won't reiterate that. My other personal reading in January consisted of rereading Laddie: A True Blue Story by Gene Stratton-Porter. I first read this book in 2010, and you can read my original thoughts and some really good quotations here. It was well worth rereading, and I'm so glad a friend picked it for our book club selection. We were amazed by the work ethic and self-sufficiency of this 19th century farm family - how many chickens would they have had to have to put on a spread like that every Sunday and for special occasions like a wedding? We were also saddened by the many changes that came to the real-life Stratton family soon after happy ending for the Stanton family of the book. As I mentioned in my earlier review, Laddie is the most autobiographical novel of Gene Stratton-Porter's, and it really is a true blue story when you understand it in the context of her and her family's life. I'm really looking forward to reading this one aloud to my kids and rereading it again myself in years to come - it's that good!

As for reading aloud to the kids, we were off to a good start this year. We finished two books in January: Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John and The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks. Both were received with great enthusiasm! Treasures of the Snow engendered some thought-provoking, faith-building questions from my 5-year-old, and I could see my 8-year-old's mental wheels turning, too. While we enjoy a wide variety of books, I don't mind reading something overtly Christian and morally didactic every so often, because such stories can give my children concrete examples of our faith that is, more often than not, communicated abstractly, in spite of our best efforts to help them understand their sinfulness and need of Savior. I would highly recommend this one for your family read-alouds, too!

The whole family, including Daddy, enjoyed the imaginative fantasy of The Indian in the Cupboard. We discussed what we would like to make real if we had a magic cupboard. My daughter and I thought a Victorian family that could live in a dollhouse would be fun. My son has a plastic Indian, so he wanted one just like the book. And my husband tried to think of something more lucrative, such as a goose that would lay golden eggs, even if the eggs were only the size of a pinhead! My kids are looking forward to reading other books in this series, but I learned from the Chester Cricket books, and we will be spreading them out over a good long time, not reading them all at once.