Animals, Appreciation, Bereavement, Brothers & Sisters, Compassion, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief, Healing, Holidays, Homesteading, Memories, Nostalgia

Hindsight is Always 2020

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where then your victory? Where then your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)

I don’t believe I am alone in saying this has been one of the most challenging years we have ever faced: A contentious election; conspiracy theories of wide-spread voter fraud; a deadly pandemic; the worst economy since The Great Depression of the 1930s, and a whole new meaning to the phrases “2020 vision” and, to reiterate the title of this post, “Hindsight is always 2020.”

As midnight creeps ever closer on this December 31, 2020, the only place I ever want to see 2020 again is through hindsight!

Of course, my inner-Pollyanna still looks for the silver lining: many of us have also renewed our appreciation for what matters most. As we sheltered in place, we got to rest, to read a few good books, enjoy the company of immediate family, pets, and find creative ways to occupy our minds and bodies.

I pray that everyone reading this is hale and hearty, and that somehow, some way, you are still standing strong. We WILL get through this challenging time.

And, as the tradition I started last year for New Year’s Eve, this last post of the year also remembers in a very special way those faces that will no longer grace The Herbal Hare Homestead…except in our hearts and the memories we keep deep inside.

My uncle, James Kimble, passed away in January. Sadly, by his own hand. He was 58 years old.

My Auntie Anne Marie Heon passed away due to complications from Covid-19, as did a family friend’s boyfriend, Richard.

A childhood friend, Paul Shelton, passed a couple of weeks’ ago due to a heart attack.

Technically speaking, none of these people ever physically visited The Herbal Hare Homestead; all of them lived in other states. However, they were loved and, again, will live on in our memories.

As for residents here, we lost quite a few beloved furry family members: chickens Goldie, a Buff Orppington, and Crow, a Black Austrolop; my first goat to be lost, Domino, who succumbed to heat stroke, and two beloved felines: my Pearlina Wilhelmina, who suffered cardiac arrest while being given sub-Q fluids by our vet, and Priscilla, who was found a couple of weeks ago on the floor of the rabbit room, also a stroke. And, though she was only here for a little over a week, Dolly. Dolly was a stray cat that showed up just before winter. I finally trapped her and took her to the vet for shots and testing to make sure she was healthy and, sadly, the vet found that she was having trouble breathing, there was an irregular heartbeat, and she was ancient. All of her teeth had fallen out, she was well beyond motherhood, and she had been lucky to have been carried as long as she had on the heart issues he detected. The kindest thing was to put her down. Still broke my heart.

I hate saying “Goodbye!”

Somehow, I believe this time next year will see me saying “Goodbye!” to the current location of The Herbal Hare Homestead as we search for new digs. That breaks my heart, too, as all of the aforementioned pets, and more, are buried here. But the fixer-upper house needs far too much TLC–more than I can give it, and it has become unsafe. I can no longer afford the mortgage payments. And, with the new neighbors raising Cain and Abel about zoning regulations, there’s no reason to fight in the first place. It is time to move on. Maybe we’ll bloom better where next we are planted.

In the meantime, may auld acquaintance be forgot, etc.

May 2021 be a better year for everyone…Happy New Year, my friends! May God bless you & keep you!

Pearlina Wilhelmina (white cat with black patches); Priscilla (tortoisehell laying across back of chair, her daughter, Emmylou, is the Russian blue tuxedo on the right)

Domino

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Bereavement, Brothers & Sisters, Christianity, Compassion, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief, Love, Memories, Nostalgia

The Cycles of Life

“And now, dear brothers, I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him all the Christians who have died.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

My heart is heavy yet again.

Snow is drifting and blowing about outside my window. There’s at least 10-12 inches on the ground, more still falling, and a prediction of up to 20 inches before it is done. Usually my heart delights like a little kid over a big snowfall like this. Instead, I keep thinking of a childhood friend: Paul “Peewee” Shelton.

Paul’s family rented the apartment above my family’s in St. Louis, Missouri about a year after we moved there in 1979. We were neighbors and friends for a number of years afterwards; have remained friends forever since. I went to school with his older brothers. His niece, Amy, played with my baby brother, Shaun. Our families went to Six Flags together and I saw my first concert–Johnny and June Carter Cash–with them at Six Flags. Our mothers became the best of friends, their birthdays a day apart, and every night (weather permitting, of course) like clockwork, the two of them would sit outside together on the stoop and chat about everything under the sun. They were like family.

They were family.

And always will be in my heart.

So that heart broke a little last night to learn that the youngest passed away yesterday. He’s younger than me. That just seems off balance for some reason. It’s hard for me to credit him as being 50-something (I’m 54; he was 2-3 years’ younger). I still see the gangly string bean of a boy who teased me throughout my teen years. I’m also reminded of a time–I’m not even sure how old we all were–but Peewee, as he was known then, had broken a window. It was an accident but, he was sure he was going to catch hell for it. He ran off and hid. When his mother got home I went looking for him. I found him sitting on the retainer wall by the basement door. He was still working off the mad, or fear, and told me to get out of there. I braved the mad to let him know she had said he wasn’t in trouble; she knew it was an accident. My heart went out to him in that moment of time. I’m guessing he was maybe 12 or 13. Later, he dumped the “Peewee” nickname, but I had to translate for Mom when I told her last night; she never knew his first name was Paul. He was always Peewee to her. She also caught herself thinking of him as that youngster, too; long distance will do that.

It sucks having loved ones scattered all over the country. One of the drawbacks of homesteading, or farming, is not being able to travel as readily as others; your animals always need care. I don’t begrudge it; they are God’s gift to me on this earth and they keep me going. But, when something like this happens, I wish I lived closer to hold a hand, to cook a meal for his siblings, to help them in whatever way I can to get through this hardship. They were always there for us when we were neighbors; it would be nice to return the love.

The best thing I can do from this distance is pray: for Paul, for his family, for everyone who loved and knew him…and at least offer my ear if they need to talk to someone who shares at least a little of their pain.

Rest in Peace, Paul Shelton…we will meet again. May God bless you & keep you! Love you always, my old friend!

Books, Christianity, Creativity, Enlightenment, Faith, God/Jesus, Gratitude, Healing, Memories, Music, Nostalgia, Open-mindedness, Rock & Roll, Self-esteem, Self-improvement, Social Media, YouTube

Another Chapter

“A merry doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick” (Proverbs 17:22)

I turned 54 the Friday before Thanksgiving. I started my day with a cuppa tea and a steady stream of Weird Al Yankovic videos from YouTube.

Odd.

No, I wasn’t jonesing because, as I grow ever deeper into my 50s, I cannot help but grow more aware of things like aging and mortality………

Okay.

Maybe just a little.

But who couldn’t use a little humor on their birthday?

And, if I’m really being honest, I’ve always had a “thing” for Weird Al. He’s my brand of sexy. And, as he was a bachelor for quite a number of years, well, he’s not now, but hope bloomed steady in this heart for those numbers of years (chuckle). As if…

Sigh.

No, I’m not jonesing that he’s been a seemingly happily married man for some time now. I wish he and the Mrs. many more happy years. If I had to analyze my musical choices on the birthday, I would say, if any jonesing, it was the trip down memory lane that many of his videos evoked: Donny Osmond, Florence Henderson, Michael Jackson…so many of the icons of my youth grace his videos, or inspired them. So much so that the real jonesing flourished alongside the chuckles over his cleverly written, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

Damn. I’m getting old.

Eventually I turned off the TV and headed upstairs to spend some much-needed time with my characters. And there I stayed, hacking out another chapter in the literary desert, praying that with God’s grace, this book will be one of many. Perhaps someday another individual will read a few chapters on their 54th birthday and feel some of the same emotions as I did watching Weird Al’s videos: hope, humor, awe, humility, nostalgia, and yes, even some low-key depression.

In the meantime, I have continued to ponder life. I’ve been looking back over the years. Seeing all that I’ve done, all that I’ve accomplished…at least in terms of academics. It’s time to put to use the college degree, the myriad certifications, and live the life of my dreams. There is no room in the heart of the faithful for fear. And I’ve allowed it to take root and stay.

Time to clean house.

Looks like my birthday spent with Weird Al had a bit of a cathartic effect, too. Here’s to another 54 years, give or take, and a merry heart finally ready to follow the path that God has been nudging me towards before it’s too late.

What dreams are you holding in your heart but too afraid to follow? Time to clean house and give the adversary the boot.

May God bless you & keep you!

Animals, Art, Books, Christianity, Climate Change, Creativity, Environment, Exhaustion, Faith, Fiber Arts, gardening, Global Warming, God/Jesus, Heavy Metal Music, Herbs, Holistic Health, Homesteading, Memories, Music, Plants, Poverty, Social Media, Spinning, Straw Braiding, Weaving, Writing, Yoga & Fitness, YouTube

Which Way Do We Go, Which Way Do We Go?

Rest in the Lord; wait patiently for Him to act. Don’t be envious of evil men who prosper. (Psalms 37:7)

Scatter Syndrome (skah’ ter sin drohm) 1. The inability to focus on that one thing owing to the over-eagerness of having so many options. 2. When the mind leaps from one option or opportunity to the next like a squirrel leaping from branch to branch in a tree. 3. The anxiety and subsequent exhaustion that results from considering too many of those options at once to the point of being overwhelmed and then getting absolutely NOTHING done so you crawl off feeling like a failure again. 4. All of the above.

No, I don’t believe that’s really a term. And I can’t claim I just made it up either because I got it from a friend. However, I’d like to think I’m at least one of the first to formally give it a potential dictionary meaning.

Now that I’ve graduated college with a Bachelor’s of Art in Creative Writing with an Emphasis on Fictional Writing, the world, supposedly, is at my feet. At least that’s what all the recruiters tell you as you sign the agreement at said university. In addition to a multitude of creative writing workshops, grammar and composition, literature, poetry and linguistics, I studied grant writing, business writing, entrepreneurship, art, advertising, and, of course, environmental science. This last encompassed the bulk of my electives.

So, where do I go now?

Of course, my main objective is to finish my book. But, in the meantime, I’m thinking I need to focus on some other aspects of writing, such as short stories, articles, etc. that I can finish quickly and send off to a potential editor for publication. I’m trying to focus on my writing as a business as much as an art. Though I’m leaning more towards self-publishing where my book is concerned, I would like to get my name out there. And, who knows? Maybe, in time, I’ll land a publishing deal after all.

Get an agent.

That was a steady stream of advise from nearly every college professor. But, as someone who is staring down the road to foreclosure right now (I’m behind more than the amount for which the Go Fund Me campaign was created), paying said agent would be next to impossible.

Then there is the zoning issue that I’ve recently come up against so that even if I could get right-side up on the mortgage, I would have to forfeit the heart of this homestead (the animals who share it with me) in order to stay. The attorney I consulted with over a decade ago–before I brought home my first dozen chicks and ducklings–either gave me some bad advise, or this new neighbor is throwing his weight around at the town hall. The attorney costs money, too. As does relocation. So, some of that scatter syndrome probably stems from the pressure to produce and succeed in a hurry. And it doesn’t help that his wife hides in the bushes bordering our two properties, craning her neck for…something? Gladys Kravitz has reincarnated. Maybe it’s time to twitch my nose and find my inner Samantha Stevens.

Financial challenges aside, yes, I do want to focus on my book, on my writing, first and foremost. But there’s also the homesteading and prepping that started years ago and all the myriad directions that I’d love to take it. There’s the original premise for The Herbal Hare: a business producing herbal, apian, and hand-spun/woven fiber products. There’s a second-hand spinning wheel downstairs that needs some TLC to get it moving again. It’s not the Walking/Great Wheel that I learned on and dream of owning, but it has potential…even if I do not have the fiber-producing animals yet. A loom and loom tool (smaller spinning wheel used for filling bobbins for the shuttle) are beyond me right now, but definitely hovering on the radar. There’s a shed full of bee equipment gathering dust. And dozens of seed packets and catalogs to plant that extensive herb garden for making those herbal products, selling plants and seeds, and teaching workshops on herbs. I’m even considering a YouTube channel for the same. I’d like to add some microgreens and sprouts to the list in time. There are visions of a market garden down the road. And a small garden patch planted with rye for drying and braiding the straw for making hats–a skill I never would have guessed at, a gift from my time in living history. As is the interest in lace making, which I have also tried and proven to have some proficiency in producing.

There’s an easel gathering dust. And a stack of books checked out from the library, where I currently work part-time, focused on drawing and art. There’s a guitar, amp, and Appalachian dulcimer equally dusty. Can I do something with either of those? I have a good voice. I spent over a decade fronting metal bands and I’ve served as both a member of our church choir and Lector for many years. (And, damn, if I don’t regret not taking a public speaking class during my tenure at SNHU…if it was even offered via online learning). I’m thinking voiceovers…albeit, that would require equipment I can’t afford at present, another agent, and it would take away much of the energy that I should be focusing on writing.

See? Scatter Syndrome. Twenty different directions to take and continuing to circle back to my true passion: writing, and the very real need to secure home and hearth before too much more time elapses. If this keeps up, I may find myself 90 years old and still circling.

Sigh.

Despite all of this circling, I rearranged the upstairs of my house. I used to have my office in the center bedroom where I painted a mural on the wall depicting a homestead with those fiber-producing animals, an extensive herb garden, lots of bee hives, and me standing triumphant in front of a PC whose screen shouts “BEST SELLER”. As the holistic woo-woo guru, I thought it might aid in manifesting my dreams but, I feel like it has kept me stagnant. The original intent when I painted it was to paint a house that resembled my paternal grandparents’ house, as it will forever be my happy place. I remember my irritation that I couldn’t quite get the roof line correct and, not wanting to wreck something that would forever be displayed on the wall of my house, I left it slightly “off” and continued on. Over the last couple of years since I painted it, I’ve realized that despite the white with black trim color scheme, and the dormer windows, that skewered roof line is this roof line…as is the positioning of the barn with my current barn. If it wasn’t for the new neighbor, I could have this dream here. There’s room enough. But alas…

Another sigh.

So, I’ve moved the office. And there’s a white board awaiting it’s first assignment in getting that much closer to my dreams…once I kick ol’ Scatter Syndrome to the curb and discipline that focus in its place.

May God bless you & keep you!

Animal Rights, Animals, Bereavement, Birthday Wishes, Christianity, ecosystems, Emergency Preparedness, Environment, Exhaustion, Faith, Family, gardening, God/Jesus, Grief, Herbs, Homesteading, Love, Memories, Reflexology

A Weary Heart

“I will lie down in peace and sleep, for though I am alone, O Lord, You will keep me safe” (Psalms 4:8)

I turned 54 yesterday.

I woke up this morning to find another beloved feline had passed away overnight. No sign of illness or injury, but her son, Alice Cooper, died of a heart defect when he was a little over a year old–on November 22, 2016; his mama left either late November 20, or early November 21, 2020, almost 4 years to the day. Perhaps Mama Priscilla had a heart defect, too.

Priscilla was a very pregnant stray dropped off here 5 years’ ago. Mom and I kept all three surviving kittens, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper and Emmylou Harris, got everyone spayed/neutered and they have all been a joy. It broke my heart to find Priscilla lying on the floor of the rabbit room. I wondered where she was last night when I went to bed. Usually she gets up on the bed for her nightly cuddle, rubbing her cheek as tightly against mine as she can possibly get it. I assumed there was a mouse brave enough to visit a home with 9 resident felines. Now I wonder if she was already gone by the time I went to bed. Not the most auspicious way to begin your 55th year of life.

Caught the next door neighbor–the same one who challenged zoning back in June and July–hiding in the bushes bordering our properties last week, craning her neck over the stone wall looking for…something. When we pulled up in front of the house to turn into the drive, she had the startled-deer-in-the-headlights look when she realized we were home and had seen her. She left rather quickly.

Mom smokes. When she goes outside at night for a cigarette, if the outside light pops on because she’s walked in front of the motion sensor, someone in this neighbor’s house walks over to the upstairs window and stands there, watching. What are they hoping to see? What is it about us that they find so fascinating? It’s a fixer-upper home. It didn’t have curb appeal when it was up on the market in 2004. It’s definitely gotten worse over the last 16 years. And, though my Mom is an attractive 74 year old, she’s still 74 years old. What do they care if their elderly neighbor sits outside at night?

It’s going to be hard leaving here…well, it would be if not for these neighbors. Perhaps that is His plan to break the sentimental hold this home has on me. 5 dogs, 11 cats, 1 goat, 3 guinea pigs, 1 pet rat, 3 parakeets, 20 rabbits, 4 ducks and 29 chickens have their final resting place in the pet cemetery out back. I kept a reflexology practice here; have planted trees and shrubs, fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs; learned how to can food, bake bread from scratch and a host of other homesteading skills here. More importantly, I’ve shared a lot of laughter and tears, both good memories and bad, and a whole lot of loving within these four walls…even if the roof does leak and a host of other updates need attending.

But I’m leaving.

The remaining goats, chickens and ducks probably qualify for contraband these days since the nosy neighbors raised a stink. I’ve had some acquaintances suggest contacting Legal Aid to see if there’s help with the zoning issues–help that I engaged long before any farm animals arrived–but I’m thinking, while I may inquire, the biggest part of me is tired of the struggle. The mortgage is high, the repairs many and costly, and the job market in this area is one of the worst. The zoning issue is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It won’t be easy. I’m looking to homestead, as I had been doing here, but I’m looking to do it on a larger scale. Not necessarily a larger property but a greater attention to self-sufficiency and environmental protection. So that will mean unrestricted use. Land only…to start with.

Even that little bit is daunting to this weary heart. But to give up is inconceivable. I’m getting too old for nosy neighbors and their drama, or living a life that barely scrabbles by rather than living a life that will bring me joy and a sense of security that will be the first I have ever known since I was a very wee child. A life lived with intention and a sense of purpose. It is too short, as Priscilla’s minute time on this earth has reinforced yet again, to waste it on drama and stress.

May God bless you & keep you!

19th century, Animals, Christianity, Climate Change, Compassion, Cooking, Creativity, Culture, ecosystems, Emergency Preparedness, Environment, Exhaustion, Faith, Fashion, Fiber Arts, Fleece, Frugality, gardening, Global Warming, God/Jesus, Greenhouse, Herbs, History, Holistic Health, Homesteading, Human rights, Minimalism, Nature, Nostalgia, Organic, Prayer, Scripture, Spices, Spinning, Straw Braiding, Weaving, Wool, Writing, Zero Waste

Yearnings

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation, whether it be a full stomach or hunger, plenty or want; for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and the power” (Philippians 4:12-13)

The above passage from Scripture is almost true for me: No material girl here, but I do know how to live on almost nothing. The last decade or so has taught me well…as did a good portion of my childhood. I don’t need much. In fact, growing up on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, and being both financially and occupationally challenged in current years, has developed in me a bit of a tightwad. No, I won’t skimp on your birthday or Christmas presents. I will buy you lunch, or tea/coffee, from time to time. I’m extremely frugal but, hopefully, not selfish or stingy. I give what and when I can.

But I perpetually yearn for a simpler life.

If you’ve followed my blog for more than a few months, you know I worked in living history, first as a volunteer for many years, and then as paid staff for a little over a year and a half. My deepest yearnings are for that kind of simpler life in these modern times.

Yup. Maybe I am a few fries short of a Happy Meal. I wouldn’t be the first to over-romanticize an earlier time. But, working in living history, I found a satisfaction in the skills that I learned…and a certain sense of rightness in each of them. Somehow spinning wool on a great wheel, refilling bobbins on a loom tool (smaller spinning wheel designed to load the bobbins for the looms), weaving, braiding straw, cooking and baking on a hearth came naturally to me. Whether this is some sort of ancestral memory, or maybe there is something to reincarnation after all, I don’t know. However, it wasn’t quite so easy for others who learned along with me.

Even the fashions of those earlier days proved to me to be much more comfortable and satisfying than today’s idea of fashion. First of all, the garments were made with natural fibers, which is healthier for us, and for the planet. In those long, full dresses I felt more attractive, more feminine, than in any other attire. So much so that I’ve been perusing websites for similar styles…either purchased ready made (someday when I’m back on my feet, not now that I’m struggling through financial hardship and zoning issues), or for patterns to make myself. There’s a part of me that would love to make several of the work gowns we wore for living history and maybe jazz them up a bit, a modern twist on an antiquated style. And, no, this may not jive with most people’s idea of frugality if I’m talking about purchasing new clothes, but we must wear something on our bodies. Why not something we truly love rather than conforming to modern expectations?

I remember some years’ back writing a post about how satisfying it was to sit down to a meal where the vegetables had been grown completely by my hand in the garden, the bread baked from scratch, the eggs from the chickens I raised, etc. I can’t help thinking that someday it might be just as satisfying to don an outfit that I either grew the cotton or flax, or raised the sheep; sheared/picked, cleaned, dyed, carded, spun, wove, and stitched all by myself. Yes, maybe that is a bit of pride, but I am of the mindset that maybe when we hear that “pride goeth before a fall” it’s not because having pride in one’s appearance, work, or living space will cause us to fall, but that, oftentimes, the only thing left someone has is their pride, and when they lose even that, that’s when they fall…sometimes never to truly get back up again. It’s tough to hold your head up when things are falling apart in your life. And Esther didn’t plead the cause for her people in rags; she dressed to the nine’s. She took pride in her appearance and made a statement. For me, that statement would be to embrace the comfort, simplicity and femininity of a simpler time.

Getting off a soapbox that threatens to get into a discourse on feminism, and going back to one of my beginning statements about yearning for a simpler life, I am referring to the whole reason I started homesteading in the first place. I’m tired of the rat race. I’m tired of killing myself, searching for a 9-to-5 that no longer exists, that will also leave me miserable, with no time to write, create, or work a homestead, and still not pay the most basic of bills. I’m tired of being dependent on the power grid, of our factory farm-to-grocery store food system. I’m tired of synthetic, plastic clothing poisoning our water and soil…and maybe even our bodies; can’t be healthy. I’m tired of all the additives to our foods, the pesticides and herbicides used to grow and preserve our food…and even the genetically-modified organisms that do not resemble food at all. I’m tired of watching species of life disappear, of honey bees struggling to exist. I’m tired of seeing advertisements for prescriptions that cause more maladies than the illnesses, or conditions, they were supposedly developed to alleviate. Our modern day lifestyle, the systems that have been put in place, make us vulnerable to them. This Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that. The power outages following each hurricane, tornado, or other natural disaster have shown us that, too. How many of us have friends or family members, especially the elderly, who start taking one pill for, say, high blood pressure then have to take another pill for bloating, or water retention, and then another as cholesterol skyrockets, etc?

Yeah, a bit of a rant today. I’m beating my head into the wall, preaching to the choir, because there are many things that I cannot change no matter how much I rant and rave, and seek to fight an uphill battle.

That doesn’t mean I give up entirely though.

My dream home has a hearth in the kitchen. It requires a hand-pump to draw water up from the well. It has a spinning wheel and a loom, a loom tool and a few niddy-noddies. It has a dough box for starting bread to rise. And a hand wringer for doing my laundry. It is lit with candles and/or oil lamps, and has a composting toilet if allowed (this last is often prohibited in many towns across the nation). My dream home is small and well-insulated with natural fibers, but sits on land large enough to support a decent-sized herd of goats for both fiber and dairy, sheep, chickens, ducks, honey bees and rabbits. There is a large herb and vegetable garden; a couple of greenhouses and/or hoop houses for year-round growing and for warm-climate spices. My dream home has an agility course because there are Border Collies sharing that home, too. Maybe there’s even a small pond for my ducks and geese, and for paddling a canoe once in awhile, because being on the water is such a great way to relax…even for those of us who cannot swim(!).

The yearning for such a life comes about as I navigate through this zoning and foreclosure nightmare I’ve been swimming through for too long now, always circling back to it just when I think I’ve finally got it licked. It’s where I go to escape, or better yet, to manifest? I know much of this is beyond me as building codes require certain regulations to be met, but to the extent I can get away with and still remain within the law, this is where I hope to go.

For too long now, a peaceful, simple, fairly self-sufficient life has been a dream only. I’m tired of the rat race. It’s time to live the life I was meant to live, a life lived with intention. And I pray the same thing for each and every soul reading this post…no matter how different your intentional life is from mine.

May God bless you & keep you!

Appreciation, Brothers & Sisters, Christianity, Exhaustion, Faith, Gratitude, Healing, Understanding

Do Better

“Don’t worry about anything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Mom was hacked again. We took a trip to the local bank and got her an account, which was a lot easier than she thought it would be. While there, I checked my account balance and I had bounced a check. I forgot to deduct a vet bill in June. Now my car payment is late. Thank God for the unexpected help of friends and I ask many blessings upon them all! At least I can call the loan company on Tuesday and, hopefully, sort it out.

I bought a gift card to pay my phone bill because I do not trust putting my account info online (I do this every month, withdraw the cash, buy the card) and my cell company will not accept it. Now I have to take a trip to the nearest store three towns over tomorrow to try to pay the bill in person.

While trying to log onto my PC, it took an inordinate amount of time to boot up. I went into panic mode. I cannot afford a new PC right now as I am trying desperately to save so we can relocate out of Dodge. Mom heard the growl of frustration and asked what was wrong. I snapped an answer…and still feel like a heel for doing so.

Then I noticed the notice on my desk that I was supposed to have my emissions tested by Wednesday. And Monday is a holiday.

Contemporary Christian artist, Francesca Battistelli, sings a song called “This is the Stuff” and talks about all these little things, like misplacing keys, or getting a traffic ticket, and how He uses even this to remind us how blessed we truly are. My faith is still here but I’m weary of this darkness that has been visited on my life for too long now. I am blessed. I know I am. But I don’t believe the platitude that He never gives us more than we can bear. I’m about used up. And so is every person who has ever gone insane, suffered a coronary or an aneurysm, or worse. Maybe it’s our resistance to whatever work He’s doing in our lives that we just don’t understand, but it’s hard not to succumb to despair when you’re doing the best you know how to do. Maybe it’s not my place to “do” anything…except wait on Him.

I am reminded of that meme that goes around on social media sometimes. I’m paraphrasing but it’s something like, I trust you God, but hurry. I vaguely remember asking Him to help me with my impatience. I’m still struggling with that one. (sigh)

May God bless you & keep you!

19th century, Animal Rights, Animals, Books, Christianity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Climate Change, ecosystems, Environment, Exhaustion, Faith, Fiber Arts, Fleece, gardening, God/Jesus, Herbs, Homesteading, Human rights, Open-mindedness, Plants, Self-esteem, Self-improvement, Spices, Spinning, Weaving, Wool, Writing

Running the Gamut

“He shall judge between many peoples and impose terms on strong and distant nations; they beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. Every man shall sit under his own vine or under his own fig tree, undisturbed; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:3-4)

Looking at the number of weeks since my last post, I am appalled that I have allowed this latest legal “drama” to derail me from everything else in my life. And that’s literally what has been happening. I have run the gamut of emotions: anger, outrage, sorrow. I feel betrayed by my local government who refuses to honor the work I did in 2009. I feel betrayed by the zoning attorney who may have given me some bad advice, which I acted upon, and who has set the bar (no pun intended) for any further interaction with another zoning attorney going forward. And yet, should I lay down and let this new neighbor walk all over me, force me out of my home entirely?

Of course, there are still the financial issues to deal with. I’m behind over a year. In order to turn this mortgage thing around, I would need to magically find at least $25,000 to get out of hock and, at this point, if I did magically find it, I would likely use it as a down payment in a more farm-friendly community. Why throw money away if there’s no certainty that I will win my case against this new neighbor?

So, to that end, I’ve looked at a site called Billy Land that has mixed reviews and may take longer than I have to finalize any deals. I’m keeping it on a back burner but it’s not my first choice of options. I’ve been looking into buying just land, with Mom and I considering boon-docking in a second-hand RV until we can afford to build a home. Not every town will allow it but, again, our focus has been unincorporated townships where there aren’t any zoning regulations. Maine still has a few of these and I’m sure there are others. Owner-financing is another possibility. We would need a decent down-payment so I’m focusing on saving as much as I can towards that end. But it’s a harrowing ride.

My chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is off the Richter scale. Amazingly, the other stress-related health issues are seemingly okay but the CFS is biting me in the backside. It’s been a struggle to stay on top of things, and I confess to failing miserably. Of course, there is also the very real fatigue–hence, its name–to factor in that, once triggered, I have little control over. It, too, has to run the proverbial gamut. (I vaguely remember asking the Lord to teach me patience…is He ever!)

More mainstream-minded individuals would advise re-homing everyone permanently and just sucking up the heartache while re-doubling my efforts to get right-side up on the mortgage. But I am as far from a mainstream mindset as one can get when it comes to my animals. With the loss of my goats, chickens and ducks, goes my reason for being, my reason for wanting to homestead in the first place; the heart will just go out of me. With the loss of my goats, chickens and ducks, goes the myriad cottage industries I’ve been trying to build to get off the mainstream grind, or at least to supplement the part-time income that seems to be the norm in today’s economy. With the loss of my goats, chickens and ducks, goes every hope and dream I possess.

Yes, I am a writer. Despite everything I’ve written above, I’ve chosen to “escape” for an hour or two each day by focusing on better character and plot development for my book. I’ve also started journaling again. Both have been extremely therapeutic while I navigate these troubled waters. Finishing my book and getting it published, possibly having a career as a writer that I can take anywhere I go in this world, is the ultimate.

But that’s only part of the dream.

As anyone who has been following this blog for a while knows, I worked in living history for a number of years. First, as a volunteer, and then as a paid staff member. The Herbal Hare isn’t just the name of this blog and this homestead, it’s also a future business venture making and selling herbal, apian and natural fiber products. I learned spinning and weaving while working in living history. The goal has been to grow as many of the herbs as this climate will support, maybe extend to adding a greenhouse in the future for growing spices and warmth-loving herbs, to raise honey bees and start a pollinator garden, and to raise animals for fiber, such as goats, sheep and Angora rabbits. All of these animals would require regular shearing but this would not harm them in any way. In fact, the opposite would be true because sheep and Angora goats and rabbits will develop a fungus on their skin if one does not shear them. Their fiber would be spun to make yarn and, as a tie in with the herbs, my herb garden would also grow many of the plants earlier generations used for dyes, like French marigolds, wild indigo, and Queen Anne’s lace.

Of course, there is also a much larger dream that this homestead will not support even if I can swing zoning and get the mortgage right-side up again: the dream of using goats to clear land. I would need a much larger herd than I currently possess…and more land to support that larger herd through the winter months when using living brush hogs isn’t an option. There are lot of these operations out West where forest fires are more prevalent but, here in New England, they’re few and far between. Goats are an eco-friendly way of mitigating forest fires because goats will eat the “fuel” for those fires: the heavy brush and undergrowth. They are also effective for removing overgrowth along highways and byways where steep inclines might be prohibitive for larger, heavier equipment. Or for clearing land for new building and development. Goats are incredibly agile and can make short work of such jobs without the noise, the fossil fuel pollution, or soil compaction that heavy equipment ultimately brings. Instead, they’re liable to leave behind some natural fertilizer as an extra bonus.

How’s that for a sales’ pitch?

Maybe it’s time to quit running another gamut of emotions: the fear and insecurity that has kept me from reaching for these dreams. Maybe it’s time to put to use the grant writing skills I’ve developed throughout my tenure in college these last 7 years and look for some angel investors. Maybe it’s also time to put my faith to the test and see if that door really will open when I knock upon it.

May God bless you & keep you!

Animal Rights, Animals, Appreciation, Bereavement, Christianity, Emergency Preparedness, Enlightenment, Faith, Family, Forgiveness, God/Jesus, Gratitude, Healing, Homesteading, Love, Minimalism, Nature, Open-mindedness, Politics, Prayer

Moving On Up?

“Let not your heart be troubled. You are trusting God, now trust in Me. There are many homes up there where my Father lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming. When everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

The Herbal Hare Homestead may be moving. In fact, I believe it is almost a certainty. I’m not sure where. Or exactly when. I definitely don’t know how but I feel like He has been conking me over the head repeatedly, one hardship after another here, to finally light that fire under my backside so that I start actively looking.

And planning.

And taking one step after the other, trusting Him to see us all through.

A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from the local zoning officer. One of my neighbors complained about my roosters crowing. And they don’t like living next to ducks either.

Now before anyone jumps in with recriminations, before I ever brought chickens, ducks, or goats to this property I contacted the zoning office and then a zoning attorney. Strictly speaking, this is considered part of the commercial district of town, even as the whole town is zoned agricultural. However, after reviewing my deed, the attorney determined I didn’t need to get a variance or anything because the property has grandfathered use. He did warn it could be challenged but, to safeguard that, I wrote a letter detailing my plans here, made copies, and got each and every one of my neighbors’ signatures that they were okay with me raising these animals. I promised not to include a buck as they smell bad. I also have a doctor’s note stating that I’m supposed to be drinking goat’s milk.

Fortunately, I save everything.

Unfortunately, we have new neighbors. They didn’t sign that letter. And I get it…even if we were here first. The country is NOT as quiet as one thinks if one has never lived in the country before. And I will not be the first homesteader to be adversely affected by the city-slicker-turned-country-wannabe.

Ironically, there was no mention about the goats in their complaint. It was the crowing of roosters and, apparently, the occasional honking-quack from some of my female ducks when the males are being overly-amorous that my new neighbors are protesting.

We also have a new zoning officer, who is a delightful woman, and we hit it off immediately. She raised sheep until her husband’s passing last year; it liked to have killed her to give them to another farm but she was unable to care for them by herself, owing to some health issues of her own, so she was sympathetic to my plight. But she also has a job to do. Having worked for a local municipality last fall as a temp, I got to witness first-hand the b.s. stories people fabricate when they knowingly violate a zoning regulation. I think the new zoning officer thought that’s what I was about when I called her in response to her letter and told her I’d had a zoning attorney out here 11 years’ ago. When I was able to show her the doctor’s note and the signed letters from all of my neighbors stating they approved of my raising these animals, I saw her expression change to one of even deeper sympathy…and a sudden willingness to push back against these complaints. This was not the usual b.s. but someone who actually took the steps to do this all legally and ethically…and who willingly allowed her access to inspect the premises without giving her a hard time about it (That’s the key, folks! Work with, not against…even if the outcome isn’t exactly what you’d hoped it would be).

She read the letter, checked each address to ensure that each of the homes directly affected were included, then inspected the barn (I hadn’t built or added another building but re-purposed one that already existed here when I purchased the property in 2001). She inspected the animals, too, and wrote in her report that they were happy and well cared for. As she was a farmer previously, there was a moment’s pride that she found no fault with any of them. Though there is no pond here, there is a large kiddie pool for the ducks with a ramp for easy access in and out of it. There’s a 6-foot chain link fence to keep them all from roaming off-site…and for keeping predators out. That Chester (goat) came over and immediately rubbed his face all up and down her leg for affection said volumes about how well they are cared for.

Will she be able to swing it so my babies can stay?

There’s no way of knowing just yet. And she did say the roosters would have to go but, if I showed a willingness to comply with this one part of it, this new neighbor might relent about the rest. But, there’s a big part of me saying, do I have to go through this every time I get a new neighbor??? Do I have to perpetually fight to keep what matters most to me outside of faith and family? And, to be honest, I regard my animals as part of the family.

So I’m looking further afield, further ahead.

The animals may go to a friend’s farm as boarders until I can scrape together enough for that relocation. I’m thinking Maine, upper-state New York, Vermont…maybe Tennessee (though I would hate the heat!), as my brother and his family live there so we would have family nearby. It would be nice to see them more than every couple of years when we can afford to travel. And I will be looking for farm land…or at least a property that is actually zoned for agricultural use, or maybe an unincorporated town where there aren’t any zoning regulations. They’re few and far between but it’s worth looking into.

Of course, my main concern is how to finance all of this. Before the pandemic, I was staring foreclosure in the face owing to an injury in January 2019, a subsequent job loss, and the inability to find full-time work again to sustain us. My credit sucks…no polite way to say it. But, even if I get to keep the animals here, that issue still exists. Will I be able to save the home? Will He provide that job at the last moment? Or will He slide everything into place once I set my sights in the direction He wants me to go?

Because that’s how He works.

When you obey His commands, when you follow His direction, He moves those mountains completely out of the way. So, now I wait, and I do the work I must do in the interim, and in the meantime, I ask for everyone’s prayers. This ain’t going to be easy…

May God bless you & keep you!

Appreciation, Brothers & Sisters, Christianity, Compassion, Culture, Diversity, Faith, Family, Forgiveness, Friendship, God/Jesus, Gratitude, Grief, Healing, Homesteading, Human rights, Humanity First, Memories, Open-mindedness, Politics, Prayer, Religion, Self-improvement, Understanding

Inner City Memories

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted; blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth; blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied; blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy; blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God; blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God and blessed are they who persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3-10)

I spent the first twelve years of my life growing up in a predominantly white community. I had one neighbor, a little girl a few years’ younger than me, who was biracial…and, in the first grade, one Asian classmate. That was it. Then, in December of 1978, my family moved to downtown St. Louis, Missouri.

To say I had a bit of a culture shock would be an understatement. However, the culture “shock” quickly proved to be a positive one.

I remember walking into that 7th grade classroom at Clay Elementary School shaking in my shoes. More because I was an inherently shy kid and being assertive, or outgoing, while being singled out as the “new kid” yet again, was not something I was looking forward to. But, yes, there was likely a dialogue of racist rhetoric running in the background, too. Though I loved all of my grandparents very, very much, one of my grandfathers loved to say that “we don’t mix colors.” He would’ve had a coronary to find out he had Hispanic and Portuguese blood in his veins (an aunt of mine only recently found this out).

But, you know what?

The moment I walked into that classroom, my classmates put me at ease.

Okay…maybe not the first moment. I will confess, for a split second, the culture-shocked introvert started hyperventilating just a little as several black students popped up out of their seats and came over to me: Who are you? Are you a new student? Where are you from? Welcome! Though this was not my first time being a “new” kid, this was the first time anyone had ever made any immediate overtures to talk with me and get to know me. Most of the time I just got stared at like maybe I was a python thrown into a cage of rabbits…or, being as I was the shy one, maybe I was the rabbit thrown into a den of pythons. However, it was Chandra and Rita and Janice who found me an empty desk (our teacher was out on sick leave and they were waiting for the substitute for that day), and then plied me with all of the necessary textbooks and school supplies I would need for this next phase of my academic life. Though my initial reaction was to draw inward (again, introvert!), there was so much warmth and kindness coming from each of my new classmates, both black and white, that I quickly relaxed. That same day I also started rejecting the notion of “not mixing colors” or seeing people whose skin tone may be different than mine as being different as people. I’ve realized that the only difference is our experiences.

Over the next 6 years, I shared classrooms with both black and white students, Asian, Hispanic, Latino, Indian (both from India and Native American), as well as being taught by men and women of each of these. My life has been the richer for it. And, when my immediate family moved back East a year after high school graduation, I came back with a very different attitude about life, about people. I’ve become something of an anomaly to my extended family. It makes for some heated discussions sometimes but, while I’ve shied away from too much political or social discussions here on this blog, I don’t usually shy away from it in a setting where I know everyone and feel relatively safe. The only thing I may be guilty of is silently telling myself to back off at times when the conversation becomes too heated and continuing to argue will only make matters worse. I have to remind myself that not everyone has had the experiences that I have had. Not everyone has had the chance to get to know people from all walks of life, from diverse neighborhoods and school districts, from diverse cultures, religions, and backgrounds.

In light of everything that has happened in the last month or so, I can’t help thinking that we need to cross those cultural barriers. We need to pop up out of our collective seats, no matter where those seats are, and extend the hand of friendship to everyone we meet. We need to have those difficult conversations and expect that from time to time they may become heated. The only way that we will ever end the systemic racism that plagues this country is to listen to the voices of those protesting it. What are they saying? What is it really like to be black or brown in America? And, on the flip side, are there any negative experiences that white friends and relatives may have had that have brought them to a place of fear and distrust? That last may be hard to swallow but we all have something to bring to this discussion. The only way to put an end to this plague once and for all is to be honest with ourselves, and with each other, and to openly share what’s in our hearts and minds. We can do this without name-calling, or judgement, and respect each other’s truths.

I have been blessed. From the moment I walked into Mrs. Borden’s 7th grade classroom, to each and every time that I have met someone who is “different” and found, as I got to know them, that we weren’t so very different after all. We all want love and acceptance and the right to live as free and equal citizens of this nation. We all want to walk down the street, or browse in a store, without being molested…or worse. We all want to feel safe in our schools, our places of worship, and in our homes. When one of us hurts, we all hurt.

It didn’t offend my God to paint such a vivid palette of people…and how boring would it be if we were all exactly alike, carbon copies of each other? Instead, each of us brings something beautiful and special to this tapestry of life. Just as we all hurt when even one of us hurts, we also all have something to rejoice about when we allow love and compassion and respect for each other win out.

May God bless you & keep you!