The Introduction Continues…

I got broad-sided in my last post as I hit on one of my passions–feeding the hungry and feeding them well. But also, taking away the opportunity to “sponge” off of our government and the kindnesses of others. There are too many who abuse our system but the answer is a difficult one. Too often we find adults taking that advantage but, if you took away the benefit they are abusing, it is the innocent children who pay for it later on. And that is the dilemma our federal and local governments have wrestled with for time in memorium.

The environment is another big issue I could go on about ad nauseum. We damage our planet greatly by our dependence on fossil fuels; the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and household cleaners; the use of lawn treatments such as Scotsgard and TruGreen (Sp?); our over-consumption of electricity and water waste. Then there is the over-use of convenience foods and convenience items such as plastic cutlery and TV dinners that not only harms our rivers and streams but also our bodies. I read in Cunningham’s “Environmental Science: A Global Concern” that by 2020 there will not be enough fresh drinking water for everyone–even in the United States!  2020. That’s just 4 years’ away.  How scary is that?  Ironically, a major culprit in the contamination of our water is the plastic, single-serving bottle through which our water is sold on most supermarket shelves.  It actually takes the equivalent of 5 bottles of water (or 60 oz if the bottle is a 12 oz) to produce one of those plastic bottles. And, once created, the water used to make it is unfit for consumption.  Not only is it a waste of money–there  is usually nothing worse coming out of our taps, and bottled water companies likely get it out of a tap somewhere else–it is a waste of life’s most precious resource.  As a holistic health care practitioner, I am grateful to see so many people adding more water to their daily intake but a reusable travel mug would work just as well, save tons of money each year, and millions of gallons of clean drinking water.

Another environmental hazard today is the K-cup coffee machine. Mom and I figured it out one day. We took the large metal canister of coffee she buys at the supermarket for $5 and change, which lasts her a full month of 4 cup pots of coffee each morning, and divided the sticker price by, roughly, 120 cups (30 days X 4 cups) and came up with .05 cents per cup of coffee. Then we divided the sticker price of a box of K-cups by 20, which is the average number of cups in a package, and came up with .75 cents per cup so, by making coffee the old-fashioned way, you save .70 cents per cup. When you factor in the plastic K-cups themselves and how much water is contaminated to make them, the aluminum covers–aluminum has to be mined out of the earth and creates more water and soil pollution than I care to speak about in polite company–and the likelihood of having to replace the K-cup machines more frequently than the standard drip coffee maker due to our modern society’s obsession with the latest technologies and, the only thing I can ask is, does any of this make sense from either an economical or environmental perspective?

And, yes, this is obviously a pet peeve of mine. I have many others. As an herbalist, the list of side effects from modern pharmaceutical drugs is frightening. Oftentimes, the side effects are worse than the malady the drug is supposed to control (Note I said “control” not “cure”). There was one in particular that has always stuck with me. Sadly, I cannot remember the name of the drug but only its use for treating headaches. One of the side effects was “gas with an oily discharge”. Eeew! I think I’d rather deal with the headaches…or seek a different treatment, such as an herbal tea or a 20 minute nap or a modification of my diet. This is just my honest opinion, of course. I am not a licensed doctor so I am not asking anyone to do away with whatever he or she has prescribed. I am simply wondering how good for us these prescriptions really are. These are our bodies and, while I applaud the pharmaceutical industry for providing this information so we can make our own intelligent choices for our health, still, our health is ultimately our responsibility and we do have a choice in what goes into our bodies.

While I am on the pharmaceutical subject, another pet peeve of mine–actually, an issue that I am as passionate about as our environment–perhaps more so–is anti-vivisection. Vivisection is the use of animals to test drugs, household products, medical procedures, military weapons, and anything else science elects to experiment with this month. If these poor creatures could speak, would they choose to be the, um, well, guinea pigs (pardon the poorly-chosen pun) for these experiments? I doubt it. What makes their lives any less valuable? What makes it ‘okay’ to maim, poison, injure, infect or kill them simply because some members of our society view them as “lesser” life forms? And how accurate is the data from these animal experiments versus the comparison with human DNA? How many drugs get recalled after testing “safe” for animals because, when given to a human animal (yes, we are animals, too, not vegetables or minerals…) they cause serious side effects, even death? How many rabbits have to blinded before we can say this mascara is safe or we should avoid getting this bleach/pine cleaner, etc. into our eyes? How many goats must have their limbs blown off for us to understand how traumatic combat wounds are to our soldiers? And how many chimpanzees will be lost in space so that we can find another planet in our solar system (or a different solar system) to pollute beyond the capacity to support life? We say they are lesser life forms but it is Mankind that is often the true beast when such cruelty is so easily inflicted and justified for our own selfish gains. Again, there are other choices. And we can support those choices by electing to buy cruelty-free products and electing government officials who support both cruelty-free and eco-friendly practices.

If we could find a candidate who also has faith in God, what a blessing that would be. This one is a tough one because I have the utmost respect for other belief systems. I cannot, in clear conscience, “condemn’ or judge someone as “wrong” or “bad” because they worship Buddha or Goddess Diana or even Allah. Our beliefs are at our core. They are the foundation of our very lives (unless, of course, we are talking about atheism but even that tends to be deeply rooted). However, here in the United States, our very culture is being stripped away as our First Amendment right to freedom of religion seems to include every other religion EXCEPT Christianity. If I pray openly in school, I am at risk of being expelled. If I pray openly in a public place, well, I may not be arrested yet but I may be asked to leave if it makes the other patrons uncomfortable. Why? Does it remind you that you have forgotten Him, whatever name you attribute to your Higher Power? Government buildings can no longer have pictures, slogans, etc. that reverence our Christian God though He is the foundation for this government. And, yes, before we go further, I am one of the First Americans, with my Narragansett and Mohawk heritage, and well aware that Christianity is not truly the first religion practiced here on these shores. I cannot change what my European ancestors did when they took over this land but would it make sense to allow history to repeat itself so that yet another culture is all but destroyed? And, I believe in my heart, that losing Him, hiding Him, removing Him from the foundation of our government is why we see so many without work, losing their homes, and we see so much violence in every form. Yes, Christians have committed some bloody acts in history, too. But, without faith, there is no balance, there is no compass point to keep us straight and true. And, while it is often the actions of Christians–especially Christian officials–that turn people away from Him, we should remind ourselves that priests, pastors, ministers, Jesuits, etc. are merely human beings. They are not God. Though most of them sacrifice everything they have to follow Him and to lead others to Him, they, too, are subject to all of the human failings and, while it may be difficult to do so, it would be wise to remember this lest our faith be shattered by those human failings. Faith in God, not in priest, pastor or otherwise. As for those individuals who share different beliefs but still come to these shores? Our First Amendment welcomes you and invites you to stay true to your beliefs but it does not give you the right to take away mine, to tell me or my government that we cannot print “In God We Trust” on our American dollar or place a manger scene on the lawn of our town hall. Instead of protesting, petition this same government to include symbols of your beliefs on the front lawn during your important holiday celebrations. I will not be offended to see, for example, a Menorah during Hanukkah or, for 2016, pictures of monkeys to commemorate the Year of the Monkey for the 2016 Chinese New Year. In fact, I welcome these sights as they provide the opportunities to learn more about you, my new neighbor. And, perhaps, if I greet you with such love and respect, you won’t feel as threatened by my God when I share Him with you as well.

God bless you & keep you!

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Let Me Introduce Myself…

Wow! I cannot believe so much time has passed since my last post here. Part of it is in trying to find my feet as a blogger. Sometimes I think that what I write about will not be of interest to anybody so why write it? And then I think, if I work at this daily, if I take up the blogging challenge posted by Live Your Legend, there is a potential for this to evolve into something more than just a daily account of life on the homestead. Not that there is anything wrong with that but I also want to help people with my blog, to bring awareness to certain issues, to educate, to explore and experiment, even to restore faith. Over the past few months I have been brainstorming. And this morning I re-read some of my posts–again! (The eternal perfectionist I tend to re-read them a lot!) What I realized was that I have been hiding behind The Herbal Hare, an impersonal entity.
What is The Herbal Hare? It is the homestead itself. It is also the name of a fledgling business but I am more than The Herbal Hare and my blog should be, too. So, as the title suggests, let me introduce myself.
My name is Lisa Burbank. I am ordained minister, having received my ordination online through the Universal Life Church Monastery October 31, 2012. The date is ironic as I had spent a number of years practicing Wicca. October 31st is more popularly known as Halloween. For a Wiccan, it is Samhain, a most important holiday for that religion. Unlike many born-agains, though, I do not lament my study and practice in this nature-based religion. I am grateful for it! I started off taking a course at the local community college entitled “Intro to Wicca” to overcome the fear that our society typically has towards Wicca and came away with an abiding sense of respect and appreciation for it. However, He has been leading me in a different direction and so, I follow Him. Actually, even when I practiced Wicca I still kept Him in my sights. I never really “converted”. I simply added some of those nature-based practices to my spiritual life. I am part-Mohawk and part-Narragansett Indian so, while I was never raised within the tribe, perhaps the similarities between Wicca and Native American spirituality resonated with some ancestral core. Either way, I am happy that my journey through this life has taken me down this lovely road.
As for the ordination, well, the initial reason I paid the $45 for it was to circumvent some red tape for practicing Reflexology, Reiki and Touch for Health. None of the aforementioned bodyworks are massage but, not knowing how to categorize them otherwise, they are typically lumped in with it. I earn a very MODEST living from the three; too little to justify the expense so I became ordained. But it is interesting how He uses even those moments when we lack integrity. One of my earlier posts talks about facing foreclosure and then, later, how I wheeled and dealed with God, vowing that I would become the best minister possible if He would help me save the homestead. He did. And I enrolled at Grand Canyon University in their Biblical Studies degree program to fulfill that vow. I think that is the last update on my schooling in this blog (if not, forgive the redundancy). Since then, He has led me to switch degree programs and, consequently, universities. I am now enrolled in Southern New Hampshire University, earning my Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing with an Emphasis on Fictional Writing. And life just seems to be coming together. Suddenly, my confidence levels are, well, not exactly soaring but definitely on the rise. I’m doing something I love. I am writing again. And I am still serving as a minister. Though I do not lead my own church yet–and that may be something that never happens (more on that later), I have been giving graveside services and that is a very rewarding experience. I have also started an ongoing food drive to help support the local food pantry. For every canned or dry goods’ item you bring in for your treatment in either Reflexology, Reiki and Touch for Health, I take $1 off the fee. It may not sound like much at first but, even 10 boxes of Jello will take $10 off of your session. And, having been a recipient numerous times at said food pantry since my downsizing from Corporate America, I hope to really be able to give back.
The Food Pantry.
One would think that someone homesteading wouldn’t have any need for such a place. I hope one day this homestead produces enough food for Mom & I and our 4-legged menagerie that we won’t have to rely on it. But it takes years to develop a working homestead. And, while Mom is here, she’s not really into this homesteading thing. In fact, everything she does seems to be counter-intuitive. So I am still a single woman homesteader and every step forward seems to be followed by a few back as each new learning curve is revealed. And these learning curves are not just about homesteading. The Good Lord is using these difficulties to mold and shape me…perhaps so I can be a better minister.
When I first started visiting the food pantry, I did so with shame. It seemed a sin past bearing to have to “beg”. But my first and only season as a tour guide at Roseland Cottage ended and, with it, my only source of income. There was not enough time to save enough to make it through the winter months until the next season started. Starvation was a very real possibility. So I went. And I went with an attitude that our society seems to perpetuate–that most of the people there were rejects and lazy bodies sponging off of the government and good will rather than working. I felt like that myself. I had always given to similar organizations. How had my world become so topsy-turvy? But, as I visited each month, and got to know some of the familiar faces, I realized that my attitude needed a little adjusting. Oh, sure, there are plenty of single moms who cannot feed the multitude of children they already have and are pregnant again, with or without the father–I’ve seen both–and, yes, some are simply lazy, but there are plenty more who are simply out of work and/or under-employed. There are a lot of elderly whose social security checks do not cover all of their living expenses. There are also a lot of disabled individuals. One gentleman is Deaf. Another is older, severely-crippled and, despite his handicap, qualifies for a measly $16 per month from the SNAP program. (How on earth does anyone eat for a month on $16??) One girl is blind. All are capable but few employers are capable of seeing beyond their challenges. He has been slowly peeling away the layers of pride, arrogance and, yes, even ignorance from my eyes. I now see these individuals as people. Not that I didn’t before but I saw them with preconceived notions. Now I am proud to call many of them friends and I am saddened that, as one of the richest countries in the world (if not the richest), we still have so many who are hungry and destitute. I would love to figure out a way to reform our “system”. I know others have tried but it outrages me to see so many without the most basic necessities. Nobody should have to go hungry. And so many of the people I meet at the pantry want to work. They are simply too old, too infirm. There are a lot of reasons. I don’t know how to help but I will find a way. If He leads me to it, He will lead me through it.
Another outrage is, sadly, that most of the food donated to the pantry is packaged and processed. Granted, all those additives and preservatives provide a longer shelf-life and, for those in such dire straits, that becomes an important consideration. The pantry does supplement though with donated produce from local farmers and I know of at least 2 of them who grow their produce organically. They also receive vouchers to the local farmers’ markets in the summer months and offer recipes for healthy meals. But I think this is a growing problem in our country. I read in my Environmental Science textbook that municipalities typically locate dumps in the poorest sections of town so the highest concentration of greenhouse gasses, toxins, and contamination of ground water, etc. afflicts our so-called “low income” housing facilities (Cunningham, 2015). The same is true for our food supply. I understand that there may be some red tape involved, licensing, etc. that drives the cost of organic food skywards. But that just seems so upside down. I am reminded of a line from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” about decreasing the surplus population. It seems our society seeks to do just that. But how does one balance the need for healthier food for our poorest citizens versus the “convenience” these packaged entrees provide for the working, single parent? I used to spend my Sundays cooking for the week. I would freeze what I cooked/baked in single portion containers and then simply heat it up as needed. It saved money. It saved time during the work week. And I ate healthier. But it also took the whole afternoon. And, for many single parents–and even in homes where both parents are present–this may not be a practical solution when the demands for quality family time come to the fore. However, it is a step in the right direction. I heard a quote recently–I’m going to paraphrase a bit. But it was something to the effect that if you want to help someone to eat, it is better to teach them how to fish than to give them the fish. Now it is just a matter of figuring out how.
God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Cunningham, W. & M.A. (2015) Environmental Science: A Global Concern, 13th Edition. McGraw-Hill: New York.