Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Spring is rapidly progressing into early summer. The lilacs are blooming wildly...and I still haven't planted much more than onions and flowers. I drove to Sandpoint with a friend today; among other places, went to the library and returned a _very_ overdue book, and checked out some music...Garfunkel.Would rather have gotten Simon and Garfunkel, but there wasn't much time to hunt around. It's OK- but to be honest, I prefer the rather cynical, bittersweet tones of Elton John. I guess the reluctantly romantic nature of his music resonates...Or perhaps like art, what we hear is different for each person, subjective I mean.

Done with Children of Dune, right to the last sentence it was the same; the women were conniving and manipulative, and the men were courageeous, self sacrificing heroes. I did enjoy the books though, they had many other interesting thoughts and perspectives to consider. Now I'm reading about Salvador Dali. This man was truly bizarre...and I'm not referring to his work! Georgia O'Keefe seems mundane by comparison, even Vincent Van Gogh seems sane in light of Dali!

There is a goat show coming up this weekend- possibly the only one I'll attend this year. I've been getting ready for that, primping the girls (the goats). It's a little odd that I should devote such attention to a caprine beauty show, someone who has such disdain for the human equivilant. First, they all get pedicures, then, a body shave to make them sleek and beautiful- no bearded ladies here!! Then a bath, and collars that look more like necklaces. Of course, there's also poise; and sometimes my does disappoint me in this regard. They get stage fright, or simply rebel and flip out, or the prima donna decides she's had enough and lies down: in the show ring! I haven't had much time to work with them so I'm anticipating a few hitches. Hopefully they won't embarrass me too badly. And now for something totally unrelated- I figured out how to get the gophers out of the flowerbeds: pour milk down the holes. Have tried water, ashes from the woodstove, and good sized rocks, none of which worked. I guess they don't care for milk!

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Well, I finished Dune Messiah within two days; these books aren't easy to put down. I am now most of the way through Children of Dune. They're good books, and I enjoy them. Maybe that's why I had to go through three of them to realize that something about them bugs me: they're sexist.

In Children of Dune, the Atreides twins are notable for the fact that they were born with the memories of all their ancestors intact. Each twin is a composite of personalities, which they can refer to and commune with when necessary. Why is it then, that the girl, Ghani, seems influenced only by her female predecessors? She knows all about 'female things'- sex, childbirth, etc, in addition to the history of the world dating back to the beginning of time as they knew it. Never once does she remember anything from a male relative!! And the same goes for the male twin, Leto: he remembers emporers and kings, his forefathers of old; but no women counsel him. In fact, he and his sister have to get together in a sort of mind meld to enable the father and mother to communicate through them. This is nonsense! Certainly every individual is a mosaic of countless other people, both male and female. But I guess it would present too many interesting questions for the male twin to have experienced childbirth in a former life, or for the girl to have fathered a child. After all, this might present some sexual identity problems.

This seems to be exactly what happens with the twin's aunt, Alia. She is the only character born with the genetic memory who connects with an ancestor of the opposite sex, and it proves disastrous for her. Her grandfather, the evil Baron Harkonnen, takes over her mind. The changes are noticeable as Alia develops a power hungry personality and other decidedly unfeminine traits. The Baron was attracted to men, so he satiates himself through Alia's conquests (instigated by the Baron). Alia becomes 'posessed' and a villian to rival old Grandpa himself.

This brings me to another thread: homosexuality is mentioned a few times, and is *only* portrayed in the bad guys. There is also a species of hermaphrodites, male or female at will, but these also are shown in a sinister light. I am trying to think if I have ever read a book where a hero or leading figure was something other than straight.... There is The Well of Loneliness but that book paints such a bleak, unhappy portrait that it wouldn't really qualify. There is Georgia O'Keeffe, but many books gloss over her bisexuality, concentrating instead on her marriage to Alfred Steiglitz. The Color Purple, but aren't there any *happy* stories?

I don't know why I'm letting this get to me- guess it is just that I can't stand generalizations and stereotypes. Why is there such a strong tendency to polarize, to search out an enemy or a threat somewhere- 'us' against 'them'? Is it a form of misplaced nostalgia? That we feel better with that which is familiar to us? Are our minds so puny and narrow that we cannot think past anything different from what we usually encounter? Why are some new concepts or trends 'novel' to us, while others are too threatening to even be examined with an open mind? Perhaps the bottom line is that so long as we hone in on someone else's perceived faults, we can feel ourselves to be superior, and remain blind to our own imperfections.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

I've wondered for some time now about whether the trait for foreudder attachment was dominant or recessive (its probably a combination of several genes). Why is there such a strong predisposition towards pocketed and shelved foreudders? After all, the rationale for breeding for this trait is that udders which are tightly attached to the doe's belly are less likely to suffer damage as the doe browses, and will hold the udder up high and tight under heavy production. If that were true, it would seem that does with strong foreudders would be more common, and the poorly attached ones would've died out to some extent, over the centuries.

Back to Sprite: her orphaned doeling, Song, has taken to nursing the other does. I'm glad, because I'd like her to keep growing well. She prefers nursing on black does, maybe because her dam was black. The three black milkers I have all have very tightly attached udders, and as I watched Song nurse, the answer to my questions above came to me. The reason that a loosely attached udder could be an asset is this: when a kid nurse its dam, it butts the udder, sometimes forcefully. If a kid has horns, as they would in a natural setting, the assault upon the udder is even more forceful. A loosely attached udder that just hangs there- the kind dairy goat breeders cull and select against- swings out of the way when a kid butts it, and doesn't sustain a whole lot of damage of even pain.If the kid butts too hard, the udder moves so that the kid looses its grip and has to find the teat again. With an udder that is 'glued on', it is an entirely different story. The perfect show udder takes a direct hit when the kid butts. It can't swing out of the way. Such an udder would mean more bruising, mastitis, and early weaning of the kids. Look at pictures of feral and European goats that spend a good deal of time browsing and rasing their own kids. The udder is like a bag ,it doesn't have a high wide rear attachement, and it 'just hangs there'. I used to look at those pictures and think that the European goat keepers either had very poor genetic material, or otherwise had different standards, ie: just didn't care about a really nice udder. But now, it all makes perfect sense.

This presents a problem for me, because not only do I want the perfect show udder but I also *hate* bottle feeding with a passion. How to dam raise kids on this sort of an udder without risking mastitis and udder damage? And is it truly defensible to breed for such an udder or is it simply my personal vanity and desire for a walking piece of art?

Monday, May 19, 2003

Sprite died yesterday. She was my favorite doe, a caprine alter ego of sorts I suppose. She left three daughters and a son behind, which is nice...but they're not the same. Anyway- what else have I been doing: we went to a library book sale and bought and checked out a bunch of books. The present reading list includes, but is not limited to: Dune Messiah (not sure yet if I like this one as well as its predecessor), The Disposessed (Ursula Le Guin), (interesting, but at times I get the sense that the author is using the book to tout her personal beliefs which is somewhat of a turnoff), Odd John by Olaf Stapledon(also interesting, but the main character is portrayed as heartless in a reptilian way- why are intelligent and eccentric people stereotyped as being cold and impassive? Does a lack of effusive emotion make one cruel and unfeeling? I don't think so. ), color theory (blue is the opposite of yellow? really?), Physics for Everybody, and Japanese Gardens and Floral Art.(It also goes into Japanese asthetics in the home, which is inspiring. And as you may be able to tell from the rocks, the Asian standard of beauty resonates with me). There are several other oil painting books as well.

And, another former friend has apparently shunned me for holding different viewpoints than her own on religious matters. This is new?? I don't know why it isn't enough for people to hold their own convictions and beliefs; why is it necessary that everyone else agree with them too? No wonder there are so many religious persuasions, and each one seems convinced that theirs is the only way...Reminds me of the old story about the blind men and the elephant, except that people tend to put what they call G-d into a human context,ie to make it more human and like themselves than it may be. I've encountered this shunning business several times now in Christian circles, and I have to say it seems a little self defeating. It doesn't accomplish anything but to insulate them from outside influences. Do they really find freedom of thought that threatening? Whatever....

Friday, May 16, 2003

A week ago, a friend and I went for a walk in the woods. We were looking for morels, which we didn't find- it was too dry- but no matter, there were plenty of other things to see. Everything was beautiful that day: kinnikinnic vines, lady slippers, trilliums, amber mushrooms caps spreading like umbrellas under stumps and logs, chartreuse skunk cabbage flowers, the constant play of ripples on the lake, changing to concentric circles when a light rain began.

But the sight that captivated me most was an outcropping of boulders on a hillside. Massive, carpeted with moss turned crunchy and dry, there was a sort of quiet strength about them that spoke to me. Who knows how long these rocks have been there and what they have endured? Perhaps they were moved to their present location long ago by glaciers melting, or maybe they were there for millenia, exposed as the glaciers scraped away the soil above them. Ages have gone by, countless rains have fallen on them, they have seen prehistoric creatures that we can only imagine or speculate over, but there they sit, impassive as ever. Some say that stones are cold, cruel and heartless; but that is not the way I see them. Pitted by time, fractured with crevices, the boulders are mother and host to not only the moss, but small, succulent plants, delicate larkspurs, and curling tendrils of ferns which I have seen growing only on stone, or under the sheltering overhang of it. To me they are the epitome of endurance and tranquility, triumphing over centuries of trials and abuse, and the more beautiful for it, too.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Original Sin. The song by Elton John (love the song BTW) alludes to original sin being sex related, a theory I've also heard tossed about in religious circles. But that doesn't make any sense. For one thing, animals have sex- they were told to-'go forth and be fruitful and multiply'. Animals can't sin, right? Also, what would be the point of making male and female humans if they couldn't have sex? :-/ No, the original sin must have been something peculiar to humans, something that animals haven't taken on.

Other circles teach that the original sin was when Eve ate the apple from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a version which follows the bible more closely. But you know, my goats get into forbidden fruit trees all the time, so again, I don't see how this could be taken literally and as something that only humans do. What happened when Adam and Eve ate the fruit? They were self aware- they realized that they were naked, and for the first time, they felt guilty. Prior to the forbidden fruit incident, they had frolicked in the garden and didn't have to work. They just harvested what grew naturally. Afterwards they worked, developed culturally, and civilization came into being. For all practical purposes, Adam and Eve before the 'fall' were animals, not people as we think of them.

I happen to think that the legend is an allegory, not a blow by blow account. That the fruit wasn't a literal apple, but rather the step from living as foraging animals to developing self awareness and looking towards the future and creating things. Was this a sin? It certainly complicated matters for homo sapiens. Morality and ethical behavior came into being; with animals, there is no ethical behavior; there are good manners and bad manners (which are punished), there is an instinctive system for each species, but not morals as we think of them, rather, survival of the fittest (remembering of course, that the fittest is not necessarily the largest or strongest, but simply the most fit for its environment.)

As I see it, the original sin wasn't a sin at all; it was just a step in the development of man that changed life dramatically both for him and the other species. This is consistent with the notion that we are all born with 'original sin', unlike the doctrine that somehow, since Adam and Eve ate apples a long, long time ago, every baby is sinful from the time of it's birth and will be punished by going to hell if it doesn't say the right prayer or join the right church.
Well, it looks like it's working at last. The day is bleary and grey and dull, about how I feel...maybe it will rain. Tulip acuminata is blooming today, this has got to be at once, the strangest and most stunning tulip I have ever seen, so oddly beautiful. The petals are long, slender and pointed, yellow flamed red at the tips, and change position from day to day. If you like unusual plants, this is a must have! I got it from McClure and Zimmerman- Peony 'Bowl of Beauty' is also blooming and is everything I'd hoped it would be. We have a solar greenhouse, and this year I put in flowerbeds on two sides of it (the third side had flowers but needs to be revamped too). The new bed are planted in oriental and asiatic lilies, hardy gladiolous (nanus), and the front bed had irises, which I left a few of. The side bed tapers off into a rock wall edging, which I recently completed, planting thyme, sedums, and herbs between the stones as it was built.

My only concern at this point is the rodents; I'm not sure of their precise identification. The locals here call them 'whistle pigs' or prairie dogs, although they're quite a bit smaller than prairie dogs, about the size of a guinea pig, and they have a short little tail. They build extensive networks of underground burrows and tunnels covering a large area. If they get into your garden, you can just forget about growing potatoes or most other root crops, and expect water to drain away and reappear quite a ways away when you water the garden. They eat plant roots from under the ground, leaving a plant wilting and dead for no apparent reason until you pull on it and see that the root system is gone, and they love to eat tulip and other flower bulbs, but not narcissus and daffodils, which are posionous, and were therfore interplanted heavily with the tulips...My boys, ages 10 and 8, derive great entertainment in catching these gophers. They lay a large PVC pipe near a tunnel, watch out the window for one to enter the pipe, and then they run down and carry the pipe up to the house (triumphantly) and upend the pipe, knocking the critter into a wire cage or trash can. The critter always finds a way to escape within a hour or two, and so they begin their search for another 'pet'. Unfortunately, the escapees then expand their territory by burrowing closer to the house and garden. Once one ran into the house, what a circus that was!!! And now, it is time for me to go and milk the goats.