So, you’ve probably heard me talk about my friend Emily Ann before. If you have, you already know what an awesome friend and talented photographer she is! But did you also know that she wrote a book?!
1861 – Sixteen year old Joe Roberts leads a mundane life as far as he’s concerned. His world spins in the same circle each day: working at his family’s store, taking his sisters on boyish escapades and bickering with his rogue of a cousin, Lucas. Joe can’t understand why his mother allows Lucas to live and work with them after all the pain he caused their family. When war is declared, Joe is quick to join up and become a soldier with the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers, but war is nothing like he imagined. To make matters worse, he must endure having Lucas in the same regiment. Can Joe put the pain of the past behind him? Forgiveness is easier said than done.
Look for It Took a War in both print and e-book this December! Also check out Emily’s blog here for writing updates, character sketches, and more!
Before I started reenacting my main passion/interest was wilderness survival. I would often try building shelters in the woods, making fires without matches, and identifying edible plants. I also loved to go backpacking with family friends. For about the past 3 years we haven’t been, so I was thrilled when Mr. Maybray invited me to go on a trip they were planning in September. This time my 13 year old brother Marcus came along too!
We hiked the Minister Creek Trail in Allegheny National Forest. The trail isn’t too long and the terrain is moderate, perfect for those of us who hadn’t been packing in a while and for the younger members of our group. The weather was perfect; neither too hot or too cold, without a drop of rain, and the fall leaves were starting to turn. We were only gone from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, but it was a lovely little foray to get my backpacking feet wet again.
The trail was dotted with huge rocks (some approaching the size of a house!), including a cave made of boulders and a giant rock ledge opening up to an overlook.
The second night we set up near the creek. The water gurgling over the rocks was very soothing when I went to sleep.
Mr. Jeff taught me a new way of hanging a bear bag, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Method. It works great, and will definitely be my go to method from now on! (Click here to learn how to do it.)
I went ultra-light with my cooking set-up. I made an alcohol stove using, of all things, a cat food can! It may sound weird, but the stove boils water quickly, doesn’t require a pot stand, and weighs only 0.25 ounces! (I followed this tutorial to make mine.)
While hiking out on Sunday we stopped for a minute to take pictures at an old oil or gas pump house.
So, Emily Ann tagged me for the Sunflower Blogger Award,*cough*, 2 and a half months ago. Oops. But since I know what a lovely friend Em is I think she’ll forgive me and let me still participate. I have to tell 11 random things about myself, answer Emily’s 11 questions, write 11 questions of my own, and then tag other bloggers to enter. Feel free to comment and answer the questions yourself. Also, you can check out Emily’s Sunflower Award post here.
11 Random Things About Myself
1. I am a huge klutz. Seriously. I’ve broken both of my little toes several times simply from stubbing them, I’m constantly running into things, and I have over 10 scars just on my arms and hands!
2. I hate shopping. I’m not a very decisive person so I have trouble choosing. I also have vertigo so stores can make me dizzy. I do enjoy book shopping though!
3. I’m considering not having a TV when I grow up . For one thing, I would like to live without electricity for at least a year (Yup, I really just said I want to live without electricity for a year. Actually, I would like to do it longer, but I tell my family only a year so that don’t think I’m totally nuts.) I also think the time spent watching television could be more wisely used somewhere else (like reading books 🙂 ).
4. I really don’t like frogs. I used to be terrified of them when I was younger and would run away screaming from them. Now it’s a more mild dislike, but I still don’t want to hold one. Bugs and snakes are totally fine though!
5. When I went to public school from kindergarten to 4th grade I brought a peanut butter and cheese sandwich for lunch every. single. day.
6. One of my passions/hobbies is archery. One of my favorite activities in the winter is to snowshoe to my cousins’ house and shoot my bow (they have a better target than we do).
7. My hands and feet are always cold. It could be 80 degrees out and my feet would still be cold. The worst part is my mom and I have this weird thing when our hands get cold it aches all up our arms into our shoulder blades. My sweet siblings even bought me a box of hand and toe warmers for Christmas, and they’ve proved essential when snowshoeing and sledding. I console myself with the maxim, “cold hands, warm heart” 🙂 .
8. My two favorite words are “verdant” and “indelible”. I just think they sound so poetical, and I love the mental picture they conjure.
9. I’ve taught several college classes. I have a good friend (he’s like another grandfather to me) who was a history professor at Fredonia. Once he had me come in with my cousin and explain about our farm, and then another time I did a Civil War skit with my friend Jefferson. I’ve also talked at Canisius about progressive dairy farming to two animal behavior classes. I had to laugh when one student asked, “Um, just how old are you?” I think I was 15 or 16 at the time :).
10. I’ve been on a huge non-fiction book binge. It began when I started reenacting three years ago and hasn’t stopped yet. In the past three years I think the only fiction books I’ve read were for the Classics Club (which I know has been grievously neglected recently).
11. My whole life revolves around tents. When I was little Dad and I had a “camp in” where we roasted marshmallows on the stove burner and then he slept on a cot while I slept in a little pop-up tent. After the camp in I didn’t want to stop sleeping in the tent! Mom and Dad, being the kind and nurturing parents that they are, let me keep sleeping in it (actually they were just relieved that I was no longer sleeping on a mattress in their bedroom. Hey, I was an only child back then). Well, I slept in that tent until I literally outgrew it; my legs were so long they stuck out of the tent!
Mom and Dad bought me a brand new “big girl bed” but I wouldn’t sleep in it until they got a pink Barbie tent that went over the bed. The Barbie tent lasted for quite a while until I got the flu, and, to put it delicately, the Barbie tent was sadly ruined. I was tentless for several years, but contented myself with building epic blanket forts.
The tent fetish continued when I received a tent from my aunt for Christmas that I used while backpacking, then I bought my reenacting tent in 2012. The latest addition is a new Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 backpacking tent. I just used it this weekend while backpacking and it worked great! (Review to come soon.)
1. Hot chocolate or lemonade?
If it’s cold out then definitely hot chocolate. Since I don’t care for tea or coffee it’s one of the only warm beverages I drink. There’s nothing better than coming in from a January blizzard to a cup of hot chocolate and Ritz crackers! If it’s hot out I’d much prefer plain water, lemonade just seems to make me more thirsty.
2. Top 3 favorite fiction books?
This question is unfair! Asking a bookworm to choose her favorite book is like asking a mother to choose her favorite child! Hmm… The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, The Story of the Treasure Seekers by Edith Nesbit, Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (technically a series of 7 books, but I’m counting it as one), The Cambridge Book of Poetry and Song compiled by Charlotte Fiske, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Redwall by Brian Jacques, Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews, oh wait you said three not thirty. Better stop now.
3. Top 3 favorite non-fiction books?
Oh boy, this is going to be even harder than #2, I’ll attempt to restrain myself. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson, Camping and Wilderness Survival by Paul Tawrell, Patterns of Fashion by Janet Arnold, The Story of a Common Soldier, Of Army Life in the Civil War by Leander Stillwell, Hardtack and Coffee by John Billings, By Ox Team to California by Lavinia Honeyman Porter, and Company Aytch by Sam R. Watkins.
4. One of your favorite movie quotes?
“As you wish.” from Westley in The Princess Bride. (So many good quotes in that movie!)
5. One of your favorite writing quotes?
You mean quotes about writing? I like the advice C.S. Lewis gives aspiring authors,
“Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please, will you do my job for me?”
“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”
6. Dogs or cats?
I’m a decided dog person, which is kind of funny since we have quite a few cats on our farm and no dog. If I did have a dog I would want him somewhat largish and of the Heinz 47 variety. There isone cat that I dearly love. Her name is Shadow, and she is the sweetest, friendliest feline you’ll ever meet. She also follows you everywhere, hence the name.
7. City, small town, or country?
At the very least country, but probably even more rural, like deep in the mountains down a long dirt road. I don’t think I’d ever like living in town, and I’d probably go crazy in a city. I love having enough room to run around with fields, creeks, and woods to play in. Places with houses close together just seem claustrophobic to me.
8. Favorite blog post you’ve read this week?
This might look like I’m just digging for brownie points, but Emily’s post I’m Surrounded by Comedians was hilarious. Go and read it, but don’t drink anything while you do unless you want it to come out your nose!
9. Weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?
To be perfectly candid, up until recently I was horribly picky and unwilling to try new things. Obviously as I’ve gotten older I’ve matured, and my visit with Aunt Carol really broadened my horizons. Probably the “weirdest” things I’ve eaten are rattlesnake, goose liver Pâté, and injera.
10. Are you a writer? If so, what are you working on at the moment?
Well I write this blog, don’t I? So I suppose I’m a writer 🙂 Next on my list is a poem about flowers and a letter to a friend written in July 1863.
11. Longest road trip you’ve ever been on?
Driving to Florida, straight through, with 8 other people!
My Questions (Anyone feel free to answer these!)
1. I’m known as something of a pack rat. When I was little I used to keep expired coupons and magazine subscription renewal cards in plastic shopping bags and call them my “special papers”. As I got older my hoarding changed to pretty rocks that I stored in several large buckets. Now I collect books on a rather large scale (somewhere around 700 in my room alone, I think). What is something you’ve collected over the years?
2. Everybody has dreams. Some of mine have become a reality (like being a reenactor or flying in an airplane), some are going to be very difficult (like thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail), some are God-given (like going on a missions trip), and some are just kind of funny (I’ve always dreamed of being carried over the threshold on my wedding day 😀 ). What is one dream, whether big or little, that you’ve had?
3. I love poetry, especially the rhyming, sentimental 19th century kind. A few that I especially enjoy are Mortality by William Knox, Bivouac of the Dead by Theodore O’Hara, and The Old Man’s Motto by John Godfrey Saxe. What is your favorite poem?
4. Believe it or not, I used to be somewhat shy when I was younger (at least around strangers) and didn’t have much self confidence. I used to slouch in an attempt to make myself as small as possible. I’ll never forget my mom telling me to stand up straight and “take up space!” It’s good advice that I still remember if I’m feeling nervous. What is a piece of wise advice that your parents have given you?
5. & 6. My parents have had to choose quite a few names over the years! Something that has proven helpful in generating name ideas is our family tree. 7 out of 8 of us have at least one family name! Are you named after anyone in your family tree? Would you consider using any of your ancestors’ names for your children?
7. This might be opening a can of worms but, Pepsi or Coke? (I’m a Pepsi girl!)
8. As y’all know by now, I love history. I especially love learning from the lives of people in the past. My heroes include Abraham Lincoln, Sergeant Alvin York, William Wilberforce, and Amelia Earhart. Who is one of your heroes from the past?
9. I don’t know why, but I’d really like to visit Tennessee someday. Maybe it has to do with the combination of Civil War history and nature. What state would you most want to visit?
10. If you could live in a world from a book what would it be? Mine would probably be Narnia, but that’s a really difficult question!
11. What is your favorite Bible verse? Once again I don’t know if I could choose just one, but I really like Mark 9:24 and Psalm 139:7-12
“I propose to fight it out on this line, if it takes all summer.”
-General Ulysses S. Grant
The Army of the Potomac was once again making its annual push “on to Richmond”. The same ground of Chancellorsville stood to drink the fallen heroes’ blood. Robert E. Lee still waited, determined to beat back the Federal foes. What would make this time any different than the previous attempts?
Two months earlier Lincoln promoted a man to lieutenant general, a rank not held since George Washington. This man had been unsuccessful in almost everything he tried; farmer, clerk, bill collector, real estate, selling wood, all were failures. It was only until he tried his hand at modern war did Ulysses S. Grant succeed. Now in May 1864 Grant would accompany the Army of the Potomac on a mission to finally end the bloody conflict that had started three years before. For the first time the Union army would march south, fight, and instead of retreating, continue onward. Finally the North had an opponent worthy of General Lee.
Last weekend Addie, Mason, and I went to a reenactment commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of the Wilderness. This was the first time General Grant and Lee faced each other in battle. For three days 101,895 Union and 61,025 Confederates engaged in intense combat in a tangled, thick, brush-choked area of land fittingly known as “the Wilderness”.
The reenactment was held in the same place as Chancellorsville was last year. On Friday we were able to visit the Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania battlefields again. We also met up with our friends from the Mumford reenactment and Addie and Mason had a great time playing with the kids. I was worried that we might get cold, but Virginia is much warmer than New York! All-in-all it was the perfect start to the reenacting season!
To help improve your public speaking skills our county 4-H requires you to give a “public presentation” each year. A public presentation is a demonstration, speech, illustrated talk, recitation, or dramatic interpretation that is from 5 to 15 minutes long. Two judges evaluate your talk, give you pointers on areas you could improve, and score your presentation. If you score well enough (within the top 15%) you can advance to district level presentations.
This year I chose to do an illustrated talk about “Getting Dressed in the 1860s”. My goal was to instruct about mid 19th century women’s clothing, dispel some myths about corsets and cage crinolines (“hoop skirts”), and have an excuse to dress up in my Civil War garb 🙂 . I told about the “ideal silhouette” of the 1860s, explained how the underclothing helped build the proper foundation, and talked about my dress. I actually started out my presentation in my base layers of undergarments and added the other pieces as I explained their purpose.
Today Addie, Marcus, and I participated in the district level presentations. Since this is my last year in 4-H (next year I’ll be too old) I was really excited to do well enough to go on to state! Marcus impressed everyone with his computer savvy (his presentation was “Computer Parts”) and Addie is also going to state with her recitation of The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke!
Here are some pictures from county presentations. I have to send a *big* thank you to my friend Allison for helping me to finish my new corset in time.
I didn’t get any photos at district, but afterwards Addie kindly snapped a few quick pics of the new Civil War coat I sewed called a “paletot”. It’s actually Addie’s but she let me borrow it for today since mine’s not done yet. Mine will be the same pattern and fabric, I’m just going to make the sleeves longer. We also have to decide what color we want to trim them in. Any suggestions? As you can tell from the pictures it was quite windy out!
“The winds came down from mountains cold and like a tide it roared and rolled; and branches groaned, the forest moaned, and leaves were laid upon the mould. The wind went on from West to East; all movement in the forest ceased, but shrill and harsh across the marsh its whistling voices were released. It left the world and took its flight over the wide seas of the night. The moon set sail upon the gale, and stars were fanned to leaping light.”
–The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The past several years we’ve had fairly easy winters. Of course, living in western New York will never be the Bahamas, but for several years it hasn’t been that bad, that is, until this winter. This time we were hit with a polar vortex, stinging cold, several-feet-at-a-time, good old fashioned winter! Temperatures were below 0 for weeks at a time and we were blasted with blizzards and wind. My journal entries frequently sounded like this one from January 7th: “Very cold again. This morning it was -14 with a wind chill of -42! Can hear the wind moaning outside.”
People often ask me what we do on the farm during the winter. True, there are no fields to till or crops to harvest, but there are plenty of other things to keep us busy! Besides the standard cow care that we do every day (feeding, milking, cleaning barn, etc.) there’s also plowing snow (lots!), unfreezing pipes, fixing equipment, unfreezing equipment, etc. Tasks that we perform every day become difficult when compounded with snow, sub-zero temperatures and driving winds.
For example, we clean our milking cow barn 3 times a day. The manure is scraped into a spreader and applied to our fields as a natural fertilizer. We use a CAT Challenger tractor with tracks instead of wheels to pull the spreader. Normally you just jump into the tractor and drive to the field, but on really cold days the drive wheels of the tracks can freeze. That means you have to thaw out the wheels before you can go anywhere.
Another job that can be tricky in the winter is cleaning the heifer barn. All of our other barns can be cleaned with a tractor or skid loader, except for one of our heifer barns. It’s an older style barn with a gutter (trough) in the floor. The manure has to be scraped by hand into the gutter twice a day. There are paddles in the gutter attached to a chain that scrape the manure out of the gutter and dump it into the spreader. In the winter sometimes frozen manure can cause the chain to pop out of the gutter, which takes a while to fix. I helped Dad fix it one day and snapped some pics of him with my phone.
Thankfully, cows do pretty good in the cold. As long as they have shelter, high quality feed, and are clean and dry they do fine. Most cows actually prefer cooler weather to the hot, humid summer.
Since calves are babies they require extra attention in the winter. When it’s cold we give them deep and fluffy bedding that they can “nestle” in and blankets or coats to keep them warm. We closely watch that they are eating enough so they can maintain their body heat and make sure that their buckets stay unfroze.
Of course we have plenty of fun in the winter also! One of my favorite cold weather activities is snow shoeing. This year I snow-shoed over to our neighbor’s house several times to shoot my recurve bow. Living on a farm also means you always have the perfect sledding hills!
We even built an igloo this year!
I hope you all were able to keep warm! Even though it can be challenging, I don’t mind winter. I love the activities you can only do this time of the year and the hushed white beauty of the snow. Even the howling wind makes me feel warm and comfortable when I’m snug in bed. It reminds me of Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder:
“The first snow came, and the bitter cold…The snow kept coming till it was drifted and banked against the house. In the mornings the window panes were covered with frost in beautiful pictures of trees and flowers and fairies…They were cozy and comfortable in their little house made of logs, with the snow drifted around it and the wind crying because it could not get in by the fire.”
What is the most challenging part of winter for you? What do you do for fun?
Our farm is a member of Upstate Niagara, a cooperative of 360 local Western New York dairy farmers. Our co-op makes many different products including fluid milk, cottage cheese, chip dip, butter, flavored milk beverages, sour cream, and yogurt.
Recently, Upstate Niagara decided to start a new advertising campaign. The campaign, called “Return to Values, Welcome Back to the Farm” is showcasing our member-owner farmers and seeking to tell consumers about how our products are produced. Our family was chosen to be interviewed for one of the videos. Check it out here!
Remember any time you purchase dairy products from the Upstate Farms, Intense Milk, or Bison labels you can know it comes from local farmers who care!
Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave, Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave Oh hard times come again no more.
Tis the song, the sigh of the weary, Hard Times, hard times, come again no more Many days have you lingered around my cabin door; Oh hard times come again no more.
-Hard Times Come Again No More by Stephen Foster (1854)
Imagine a world completely ruled by facts, where lives are governed by cold, stark practicality. Dreams, fancy, and any other contradiction of fact are rooted out and squelched. In this place the fundamental principle taught is that everything must be paid for. “Nobody was ever on any account to give anybody anything, or render anybody help without purchase. Gratitude was to be abolished, and the virtues springing from it were not to be.” Such is Coketown, the fictitious English mill town created by Charles Dickens in in his book Hard Times.
In my last review I said that although Dickens writes on depressing themes, his books are still punctuated with humor. This is not true for Hard Times. First written in 1854 as a serial story to help increase his paper’s sales, the book is much shorter than Dickens’ other works and seems devoid of his usual humor and character development.
The story follows 3 different classes of people. First, Thomas Gradgrind, a wealthy, retired merchant who has completely adopted a philosophy of rationalism and Facts. Gradgrind drills his two oldest children, Louisa and Tom, in every rule of Fact: geography, economics, algebra, geometry, without ever allowing the barest hint of imagination or fancy. Stripped of childish dreams, Louisa and Tom are reduced to little better than automatons.
“When she was half a dozen years younger, Louisa had been overheard to begin a conversation with her brother one day, by saying ‘Tom, I wonder’—upon which Mr. Gradgrind, who was the person overhearing, stepped forth into the light and said, ‘Louisa, never wonder!’
Herein lay the spring of the mechanical art and mystery of educating the reason without stooping to the cultivation of the sentiments and affections. Never wonder. By means of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, settle everything somehow, and never wonder. Bring to me…yonder baby just able to walk, and I will engage that it shall never wonder.”
The second group are the poor mill workers, who people like Josiah Bounderby, the Coketown factory owner, treat as little more than flesh and muscle. Subsisting in the hardship, for it can not truly be said that they are living, the mill workers grind on day after day in the monotony and oppression of their existence.
“Surely, none of us in our sober senses and acquainted with figures, are to be told at this time of day, that one of the foremost elements in the existence of the Coketown working-people had been for scores of years, deliberately set at nought? That there was any Fancy in them demanding to be brought into healthy existence instead of struggling on in convulsions? That exactly in the ratio as they worked long and monotonously, the craving grew within them for some physical relief—some relaxation, encouraging good humour and good spirits, and giving them a vent—some recognized holiday, though it were but for an honest dance to a stirring band of music—some occasional light pie in which even M’Choakumchild had no finger—which craving must and would be satisfied aright, or must and would inevitably go wrong, until the laws of the Creation were repealed?”
Lastly are people like Sissy Jupe, a girl who once belonged to the circus and is taken in by Mr. Gradgrind. Sissy is compassionate and still possesses her imaginative skills, but is also somewhat ignorant.
My favorite character was Louisa, probably because she was the most developed character. I was able to sympathize with her, but I was often repulsed by the robot her father had turned her into. I think that her unfeeling obedience was a little overdone, and realistically she would have eventually broken free and acted for herself.
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand the story piqued my interest and I was eager to continue reading. On the other, I felt that after I finished reading I was still grasping for something more. Some characters once introduced seemed tossed to the side as if Dickens became bored with them. When I started the book I thought it was going to follow Cecelia “Sissy” Jupe, but after the first few chapters we barely hear from her until the end of the book. Although Sissy enacts dramatic change we here nothing of it until after the fact. As one blogger noted:
“As a writer Dickens needs space. He needs a lot of pages. We can’t put a tree in the living room and hope that it will grow well. It doesn’t. It needs fertile land. If not forest land, at least the land in one’s garden. The suppressed size of this book definitely seems to have inhibited Dickens.” –Vishy’s Blog
I tend to agree with this statement, and believe if the story hadn’t been hashed out quickly as a serialized story it would have contained more of the depth and richness characteristic of Dickens. The book does convey the meaninglessness, drudgery, and emptiness of a life barren of dreams, but if it does so while itself being barren and empty what good is it?
Book: Hard Times, For These Times
Author: Charles Dickens
Publish Date: 1854
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Finish date: December 2013
Book list number: 6 of 205
” ‘Bitzer,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, broken down, and miserably submissive to him, ‘have you a heart?’
‘The circulation, sir,’ returned Bitzer, smiling at the oddity of the question, ‘couldn’t be carried on without one. No man, sir, acquainted with the facts established by Harvey relating to the circulation of the blood, can doubt that I have a heart.’ “
“When the Devil goeth about like a roaring lion, he goeth about in a shape by which few but savages and hunters are attracted. But, when he is trimmed, smoothed, and varnished, according to the mode: when he is aweary of vice, and aweary of virtue, used up as to brimstone, and used up as to bliss; then, whether he take to the serving out of red tape, or to the kindling of red fire, he is the very Devil.”
“Besides which, ma’am,” returned Bitzer, while he was polishing table, “it looks to me as if he gamed.”
“It’s immoral to game,” said Mrs. Sparsit.
“It’s ridiculous, ma’am,” said Bitzer, “because the chances are always against the players.”