Springtime in the valley

Our fruit orchard in bloom.

Anne Josephine at 4-1/2 months.

The debut performance of “The Country Road Fiddlers” at the Best of the West Expo at the Glenn County Fairgrounds on Saturday. What a show! The new band consists of three Culbreaths and three members of another homesteading family, including the father. We had a tough time coming up with a name. Because this is dairy country, LeXuan suggested “The Orland Dairy Air”, but that sounded too much like “The Orland Derriere” …

Miss Glenn County and the 1st Runner Up. Very sweet girls who seem worthy of their crowns. Besides, they said nice things about “The Country Road Fiddlers”.

One of the many antique trucks, tractors, and machines on display at the Expo.

The Expo was organized by the Orland Chamber of Commerce and is great way for local businesses to promote their products. The “Best of the West” theme means that it is a “westside” event, reserved for the small towns and districts on the west side of the Sacramento River including Corning, Orland, Capay, Hamilton City, and Willows.

The marvelous St. Patrick Pipe and Drum Band performing at a fund-raising dinner last night. The band is much larger than the small group in this photo. Among his many goals for the band, the organizer would like to play during the Walk for Life in San Francisco next year. Imagine that, for a just a moment: the mean streets of San Francisco, the pro-abortion rowdies shouting their obscenities, the huge pro-life crowd … and twenty Catholic boys solemnly marching with pipes and drums. A fitting reminder that the Walk for Life is not just about politics, but about remembering the victims of abortion – and no instrument commemorates the dead like the bagpipes.

Hard times, part II

Chris of The Yeoman Farmer left the following comment on the Hard Times post below:

“I hate to play the skeptic, but this whole train of thought is reminding me of the runup to Y2K. I’m embarassed to say that I took the doomsday scenarios more seriously that I should have, and as a result I’ve grown far less ready to accept predictions of impending economic/social doom. At heart, I’m an optimist — because markets are remarkably resilient things, when allowed to function freely. High energy (or food) prices are painful things — but higher prices tend to spur entreprenurship (to reap the benefits of that premium pricing) like nothing else can.”

Chris, it reminds of Y2K as well. Although Y2K itself proved to be a non-event, I think the anxiety behind it – and behind the current economic quagmire – has legitimate roots and should not be summarily dismissed. Markets are indeed resilient, and I agree with your remarks about scarcity and entrepreneurship, but markets are never enough, and some markets can be harmful when they are “free”. Banking seems to be one of them. I think you will agree that the resiliency of markets is entirely dependent upon sound underpinnings – most importantly a culture of trust and financial integrity. When the underpinnings are weak, as they were in 1929 and most assuredly are in our times, markets can fail along with everything else. Here are my thoughts on why many ordinary people see disaster ahead:

1. Deep down, Americans know this country has been enjoying a false prosperity for five or more decades, a prosperity that cannot continue indefinitely. Most Americans have been living beyond their means and they know that the economic “scales” need a radical re-adjusting.

2. Of those who are wealthy and saving money, there are three types: a) those who have “earned” their wealth unjustly; b) those who have worked honestly and diligently but whose wealth seems disproportionate to the quality of their labors; c) those who have received their wealth through favors, connections, or inheritance. The men in the first category are large in number and they have reason to be afraid: justice will find them, and perhaps soon. The men in the second category have reason to be anxious because we live in historically aberrant times. Market rewards have little relation – and sometimes they have even an inverse relation – to whether a certain kind of activity is intrinsically good or worth doing for its own sake. This eats away at the conscience, and one feels that, one day, the scales will surely be balanced. The men in the third category are anxious because they live in a country which believes, as a matter of sacred ideology, if you didn’t earn it, it isn’t yours and you are more a thief than an heir. In a normal society the response would be gratitude and its corresponding works rather than anxiety. Unfortunately this anxiety results in behaviors that may help fulfill the doomsday prophecies.

3. The modern global economy is too big and too complex for anyone to understand. Therefore it has taken on god-like qualities and is seen as an omnipotent beast whose demands must be met, a ruthless master that rewards and punishes according to its own arbitrary laws – laws which are impossible to know with certainty. With a master like this, we are bound to make a mis-step sooner or later, and we wait for the other shoe to drop.

4. Men and their empires, nations, and economies all come to an end. There is no reason to believe the United States will be the exception to the rule.

Love songs

One can measure the health of a culture – or a music genre – by its love songs. Do its love songs exalt raw sentiment for its own sake? Or do they place emotion in the service of virtue or understanding? Sentimentality isn’t all bad. Americans these days tend to either wallow in sentimentality, or to despise it entirely, which only proves that our society is losing its balance. We do not have the good sense of the Irish, whose traditional culture has always contained a healthy balance of realism and sentimentality.

Secular love songs are by nature sentimental, and they have their place even if “love” is sometimes employed in confusing way. TSO – St. Blog’s resident expert on sentimentality – once said of John Denver (and I like John Denver) that the message of his music is “feelings are everything”. Well, perhaps, but that sounds hyperbolic to me, and anyway not all feelings are created equal. Emotions can be ordered or disordered, and it seems to me that the sentimentality of “Take Me Home Country Roads” is directed to virtuous ends. There is consequently a qualitative difference between the feelings inspired by the music of John Denver and the music of, say, Guns ‘n’ Roses.

So it should not surprise you that, sentimentalist that I am, I have been known to indulge in the occasional love song. And here I would like to showcase what I think are two of America’s best love songs. They have it all: courtship, marriage, sacrifice, devotion, suffering, loss, children and old folks. They have the perspective of time. They represent an America that seems to be slipping through our fingers, even disappearing before our very eyes. There are, in fact, millions of Americans who simply cannot relate to the kind of life these songs portray, who have never known anyone even remotely similar to the people in the lyrics, and who perhaps have always felt a silent and inexpressible longing for what these songs represent. Human love, marriage, and family life are meant to be shadows of heavenly things, and if we can be inspired by these things we are very likely still open to grace.

The embedding has been disabled for Alan Jackson’s “Remember When”, but the YouTube video is accessible here.

Jud Strunk’s “Daisy a Day”, from 1973, remains the American love song par excellence:

Hard times ahead?

The economic news has not been good, as most of you are well aware. Many are talking about how to survive the coming economic chastisement. Should you head for the hills and buy remote land far away from urban strife? Or is it better to buckle down in the suburbs near friends, family, and a healthy parish? If your utilities are cut off, which is the best substitute: a diesel generator, solar power, or something else? Do you rely upon city water? Can you grow vegetables in your front yard? Where should you keep your money? What kinds of skills will you need? These questions and more are being addressed by the folks over at Catholic Home and Garden.

It’s difficult to say which direction things will go. In the past, the cities were always the hardest hit by economic disasters – but that was before the modern industrial economy swallowed rural civilization as well. In our circumstances the rural areas will be suffering along with everyone else. That said, I still think it best to live someplace near a regional food source, in close proximity to fertile land that is not dependent upon a complex water delivery system. Las Vegas and Phoenix are not the best choices here; neither are mountainous regions with short growing seasons; neither is any region with extremes in the weather.

Broad swaths of the east and west coasts would seem to be ideal – inland from the large coastal cities – as well as the southern and lower mid-western states. The northern mid-west and Great Lakes states worked well for our hardy ancestors, but deprived of civilization they could be virtually uninhabitable for soft, modern Americans.

City or country? The largest cities are going to be quite dangerous. Imagine Chicago going for a month without power and water. Therefore, it could be advantageous to live in or near a small town with a population between 2,500 and 25,000. Such a community is small enough to avoid urban dependency and turmoil, yet large enough to provide basic goods and services. An older home on, let’s say, a quarter acre could still produce a significant amount of food while providing a safe environment for the family. In such places driving (and fuel consumption) can be kept to a minimum if one is fortunate enough to work in town.

Steve Skojec has some interesting thoughts on the subject.

I’ll have more to say about this later …

Stupid and malicious

Those are the only two possible descriptions of the authors of this anti-homeschool screed published yesterday in the L.A. Times. A few choice excerpts:

“The court’s decision means that home schoolers must be given some substantive instruction in social studies and not simply spend their time watching Fox with its strange assortment of oddballs pontificating on current events.”

“If home schooling forums on the Web are indicative of the views held by parents of learn-at-home kids, their offspring are getting an extremely warped lesson in civics.”

“It’s evident that the vast majority who teach their offspring in front of the television do so because they don’t want their children to be subjected to such dangerous doctrines as evolution, abortion, global warming, equal rights and other ideas abhorrent to the evangelical mantra.”

Well, you get the idea. I’d love to see real data on the average daily TV viewing hours indulged by homeschooled children and public schooled children, respectively. These bozos seem not to realize that television and public education are on one team, homeschooling on the other. We banned television from our home twelve years ago. Most homeschooling parents we know either forbid television entirely, or they severely restrict viewing time while controlling the content. Fox News isn’t even on the radar of acceptable viewing options.

The good news is that the ridiculous opinions expressed in this piece seem to be in the minority in California. Newspapers up and down the state have been running editorials condemning the Feb 28 ruling non-stop for two weeks. Comments on homeschooling articles are overwhelmingly in favor of keeping parent-directed home education legal. Why? I think it is because homeschooling has become so mainstream in California that almost everyone knows some homeschoolers, and their impressions of these families are mostly positive. Furthermore, while most parents don’t homeschool themselves, many of them would do so if they believed they could, and many more just want to keep this option available to them in the future.

California parents arrested –

Parents caught homeschooling without teaching credential:

Sacramento, California – A three-judge panel from the 2nd District Court of Appeals made it illegal on February 28 for any parent to home school their child, unless they have a teaching or tutor credential. Upon hearing of the ruling, school district officials began demanding that police take immediate action. So yesterday, throughout the state, judges secretly began swearing out and signing arrest warrants for any parent who was suspected of home-schooling their children without a teaching credential.

Setting up a special task force virtually overnight, SWAT teams and truant officers armed with arrest warrants and automatic weapons began rounding up wayward parents, and against their will placing their child in protective custody and enrolling them in public schools throughout the state.

Originally thought to be a logistical nightmare, distinguishing home-schooled children from that of the public school system, officials quickly learned they could gather up a list of suspects from last year’s contestants, finalists and winners of the National Spelling Bee Contest, unusually high SAT scores and any kid who passed a random drug screen and/or pregnancy test.

“Also, we followed home any polite, courteous or well adjusted child,” said Dug Martinez, SWAT Commander. “Oh, and any kid we caught actually doing their homework at the library.”

Courtesy of Dana at Principled Discovery.

Statement by Jack O’Connell on CA Homeschooling

According to this blog, the California Department of Education has completed its review of the February 28 appellate court ruling which declared homeschooling illegal unless the child is taught in the home by a credentialed teacher. Here’s the statement issued today by Superintendent Jack O’Connell:

March 11,

E-MAIL: hmclean@cde.ca.gov


SACRAMENTO – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced today that the California Department of Education has completed a legal review of the February 28 California Court of Appeal ruling regarding home schooling. O’Connell issued the following statement:

“I have reviewed this case, and I want to assure parents that chose to home school that California Department of Education policy will not change in any way as a result of this ruling. Parents still have the right to home school in our state.

“Every child in our state has a legal right to get an education, and I want every child to get an education that will prepare them for success in college and the world of work in the challenging global economy.

“As the head of California’s public school system, I hope that every parent would want to send their children to public school. However, traditional public schools may not be the best fit for every student. Within the public school system there are a range of options available. Students can take independent study classes, attend a charter school, or participate in non-classroom-based programs. But some parents choose to send their children to private schools or to home school, and I respect that right.

“I admire the dedication of parents who commit to oversee their children’s education through home schooling. But, no matter what educational program a student participates in, it is critical that the program prepares them for future success in the global economy. I urge any parent who is considering or involved in home schooling their children to take advantage of resources and support available through their county or district offices of education.”

Assemblyman Joel Anderson acts

California Assemblyman Joel Anderson, a Republican from San Diego whose children are home educated, is introducing a resolution to the state assembly in support of homeschooling and which calls upon the California Supreme Court to overturn the ruling. (In principle I don’t like to see the judiciary subject to political pressure, but in today’s context where everything is politicized I’m not sure we can afford not to play the game …).

The following sites are recommended for updates:

Private and Home Educators of California

California Homeschool Network

Homeschool Association of California

Reverse the Ruling


Chuck Norris on the CA homeschooling decision:

“My warning to such creeping companies of corruption is this: Best not to test Texas. If you thought we fought hard for the Alamo, wait until you see what we can do for academia. You can hide your sleaze behind No. 2 pencils, but our branding irons will find your tail sides.”

Homeschool Advocates Descend Upon Sacramento

Sacramento and the surrounding area – in particular, the foothill communities to the east – has been called “ground zero” for homeschooling in California. That sounds about right to me. Keep that in mind when reading this article from today’s Sacramento Bee:

“California home-schoolers have been deeply rattled by a state appeals court ruling that says children whose parents don’t send them to public or private schools must be taught by credentialed tutors.

Parents who don’t comply can be criminally prosecuted, said Judge H. Walter Croskey in an opinion issued by the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

‘It’s shocking,’ said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative law firm that has agreed to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. ‘This is without question the greatest affront to the rights of parents witnessed so far in the state of California.'”