Roaring into March

While we don’t begrudge the cold weather and the resulting snow, as the weather prolongs the season and the snow is good for the trees, we didn’t necessarily need two snow storms in quick succession, right on top of our precious weekends.  There’s a good four or five feet of the stuff laid down in alternating layers of fluff and ice, so much so that one mainline is almost completely buried.  Plus there’s the mundane things one needs to do when it snows such as shovel the walk and plow the driveway.

Still, we managed to trudge out into the woods, wearing snowshoes and snow pants, cursing the snowshoe bindings which were clearly meant for recreaters and not for people constantly taking them on and off, and put up 181 taps and began work on the new evaporator.

Where we were it was quiet, but in the distance was the constant dull roar of snowmobiles;  people with clearly nothing better to do with their hard earned time and money than to waste gas, make noise, crash headlong into trees, and then lug their pointless machines back home on a trailer.

Before we trudged down we met a couple on the road, up for the weekend, enjoying a winter walk.  She too had snowshoes on, her bindings alot more modern.  It appeared that she and her husband (snowshoeless) had never gone off the beaten path, but were keeping to the plowed and sanded roadway, making me wonder what the snowshoes were for.  I decided not to ask.

I have cross-country skis and ice skates somewhere, but I haven’t used them in ages.  The Bundle might force me out of this hiatus, but otherwise this kind of activity seems pointless when there’s other things, more useful things, to be done in the outdoors. 

There’s a red pine plantation which starts majestically at the edge of one of our fields.  In the mornings the red pines’ trunks glow red and their dark canopy shades the open spaces between them; they look like a gigantic stage curtain.  When we first moved here Lionel spent hours removing the maple saplings that kept growing up between the pines to keep the effect and planted new ones to replenish the stock.  Now the pines are old and getting broken down and instead of mourning them we are looking at the maples they shade beneath and contemplate removing them altogether.

We’re flying headlong into March, another sugaring season.  After that is planting season.  Then growing season.  Then harvest season.  And then the winter season once again.  The skis and skates will probably remain where they are.  Snowmobilers can roar up and down their little narrow paths all they like.  We’ll be inside hibernating, storing energy for the next go around.  Our relationship to this land has changed us and molded us and we can’t really turn it off now.  All we can do is follow along.

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Creeping Closer to Success

A friend of ours kindly came over to help us string the laterals which was somehow beyond us even though I do it every year (occasionally heavily pregnant).  He came over with a big tupperware box of tools, one of which was a “one handed” sap tubing tool which, he claimed, was going to change our lives.  He also lamented that even though the “one handed” tool was so much better than no tool at all, the “two handed” tool was even better, but of course cost twice as much.  We scoffed at his tool.  We’d been putting laterals together for years by hand, by Jove, although admittedly this usually involved chewing on the end of the plastic tubing to get it malleable enough to shove haphazardly onto the spout or connector or whatever, and didn’t usually involve enough tubing to support more than 150 taps.  But still.  Can’t we do anything manually anymore?

He showed us how the tool worked, quickly making ten drops in the time it took us to make one, and we were sold.  Still, we spent considerable time pulling and straining and releasing and cutting and trudging through the six feet of snow to put up all of three laterals (25 taps), and it took three people even with the one handed tool, which is where the two handed tool comes into play.

I was still being stubborn about it until  last night.  Really, I was just balking at the 200 dollar price tag.  But during the day another sugarer came by and apologized that we could not use his but he uses it “all the time”.  And I suddenly remembered that we’d be doing this for awhile, and maybe 200 dollars was a small price to pay to get the lines up in time for the sap to flow, which is all, in the end, that matters in the sugaring game.

But when all is said and done, and you take all the equipment and labor into account and all that has to happen to boil 40 gallons of liquid into 1 gallon of syrup, it really isn’t any wonder that the stuff costs more than 60 bucks a gallon itself.  We have to sell 4 gallons just to make back the price of the stupid two handed tool.  And that’s not counting our labor.  Or any of the other equipment.  Or the tax we pay to have the land. 

Farming.  If you were in it for the money, you’d buy a lottery ticket.

Entering the Mommy Wars from the Tomboy door

Today, ABCNews once again proved they are stuck in the 1950’s by posting this obviously unvetted story.

The premise of the article is a study which supposedly links working mothers to fatter children.  Since there is no actual link in the article to the actual study, it is hard to tell if that is the actual conclusion of the study, but from where I sit the study, or the article at least, is sexist, one sided and fatally flawed because it forgets the fundamental truth of parenthood and that is that it takes two to tango.

In other words, if working mothers are to blame for fatter children, than working fathers are too. 

The study would have been more accurate and also easier to swallow if it had focused on the two parent (or single parent) working household without bringing gender into the mix.  The inability of a working mother to both work and make suitable healthy meals for her children is also by the same token an inability of the working father, and does not have anything to do with their respective genders.  It has to do with how many hours there are in one day.

As it stands, though, this article implies that it is working mothers that are the problem.  It doesn’t matter if, like in our instance, the husband is not working.  I am a working mother and therefore my children are statistically more likely to be fatter.  Q.E.D.

What bugs me about this study is not that it re-ignites the apparent guilt trip that some women feel about having their cake and eating it too in the form of home, hearth, family and career, or the constant debate between the Stay-At-Homes and the Go-To-Works, but that it completely relegates the father to the background role and once again places all blame for any abnormality in a child’s development solely on the mother. 

Children can be raised by single parents, don’t get me wrong.  I was.  But for those couples who do choose to marry and start a family together, they have an obligation to see the family through the end point and not to delegate the majority of the responsibility and all of the blame on one party for any part of a normal functioning household.  That means not blaming your husband for not mowing the lawn and not blaming your wife for not doing the laundry.  Or in our case, vice versa.

If such a study does exist and it–for once– does not cloud the issue with Man versus Woman and Wife/Mother versus Career Woman, maybe the outcome could be better and easier food choices for all, more healthy work environments which encourage life/work balances, universal healthcare, mandated maternal/paternal leave, etc.  That would be useful.  Pitting society against working women, not so much.  Calling stay at home dads Mr. Mom, definitely not.  Try again, ABC.  You haven’t got it right yet.

Update:  we finally did find the study sparking the headlines: it is here.

Trying to wade through research studies isn’t my favorite pass-time, but I did try to get through it, although I immediately became concerned when one of the conclusions of the study was that in general mothers are African American, single, hold down a job with a high income and that they have a lot of children, a statistical anomaly in and of itself.  But Lionel kindly waded through it last night and sent this back to me:

Kay, so I read the full article and the main author’s resume.  She’s a real researcher, not a plant, although she has worked as a child care expert/lobbyist for Senator Tom Harkin (a democrat).  Her creds are good, as good as could be expected from a research/policy wonk (she has NEVER taught or professionally cared for kids herself, she has only studied them!)

The study relied on a mass of data from a long-term voluntary program that measured a variety of things on kids, including extensive questions about their home lives.  The study started out with more than 2,000 kids, but attrition over the years winnowed it down to 900 by the time the kids were in 6th grade.  So, the data set is suspect, as it only includes kids and parents that were willing to provided copious information about themselves over an 8 year period (not us, I reckon!)

So, the racial and other statistics the study cites are from this sample population, which comes from only urban families, I think just from PUBLIC SCHOOLS, from 10 cities across the US. It’s not a representative sample, but they don’t really care about it!

The researchers did not deal with fathers at all.  In fact, only the mothers were interviewed – fathers were completely left out of the study.  There were only 2 questions asked of the mothers that may have captured the fathers – 1) do you live alone, or is there a co-habitant in your home environment?  and 2), if there is a father, does he work more or less than 35 hours a week?  Obviously, these questions would completely fail to describe our particular arrangement, but even if it could, the researchers did not use the data from these 2 questions in their analysis – they deliberately ignored the fathers in the study, as if they did not exist, and did not matter.

So to one of the 900 African American single mothers  with eight kids out there, I’m sorry but one of your kids might be a little heavy due to all that work you’re doing.  But since you’re making a high income maybe you’ve saved up enough so that you can take some time off and be a good mother.  Go ahead, screw up the study.  It can’t get much worse.

The February Rant

Usually I rant about February because it is long and dreary and a pretty much useless month nestled in between January, a month of new hope and dreams for the new year, and March, sugaring season.  But this year it appears it may not be long enough to get us to where we want to be–mainly with two new lines, a collection tank and a new, set up, evaporator.  It’s the setup part that’s getting us.  Then there are the things that keep getting in the way of setting it up, like trying to clear the house out of all the myriad and sundry books we have been holding onto for years for reasons we can’t fathom now.  Trust me, one does not need three German to English dictionaries left over from high school language courses, nor am I ever going to read cover to cover Robert Frost Unabridged Collection.  Also there is this snow issue which, much as I hate to complain about snow, appears to have taken a liking to our ell roof and won’t fall off by itself, which means we’ll have to spend some hours to help it fall off and then clean up the resulting mess.

Bother.

But all in all, I have to say, this year’s February hasn’t been too bad so far.  I’ve even gotten another snow day.  In contrast my former place of employment went through the motions of pretending to care about its employees the day before the storm, asking them to call in to make sure they were open, and then, after doing a little financial calculation, decided not to close after all.  I think they were possibly the only business in Keene still open, so maybe they figured no one else would be on the roads.  So crazy, it might just work!

Anyway, Happy February everyone.   I hope that confounded groundhog is right and we get an early spring…but not too early.  We’ve got enough to do as it is.

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