Alcoholism, Ghosts, Hauntings

A Possible Haunting…

I always chalked this one off to the now-ex-husband/husband at the time, who often would sleepwalk whenever he’d had too much to drink. It was not uncommon to awaken and find a half-cooked meal on the stove, a meal that he had gotten out of bed to cook and, thankfully, at least remembered to turn off the stove again before going back to bed without eating it.

There was one weekend morning when I awakened and then sat up abruptly, blinking in amazement. Starting at the top landing (staircase has two of them) was a line of pet carriers marching down the hall like some sort of play choo-choo train. Having always had numerous pets, and a carrier for each one, this “train” went quite a distance down that hallway, ending in a slight curve in the home office at the opposite end. It was a little unnerving as it seemed well-planned out. But, again, because Dan often would sleepwalk after an over-indulgence, and also do some odd things during his sleepwalking, I assumed that he had set the carriers up in such a way. Now, as I reflect over all of the odd, unexplainable events that have taken place here, I wonder if this was simply one that could, potentially, be explained to human activity and so I supplied that explanation. I mean, who wants to think that ghosts can move such items around in the middle of the night without anyone knowing or awakening from the potential noise that movement might make? As we were man and wife, being used to each other’s movements about the house at night (i.e. bathroom trips, husband’s sleepwalking, etc) was perfectly normal. However, I can’t help but wonder, because Dan typically slept on the couch downstairs where he invariably passed out after a number of beers, was he actually the creator of this “train”. He seldom, if ever, came upstairs but, most of the time, slept through the night on the couch.

If it was a ghost, then this would be one of only two incidents where harm might have been met. Though the “train” was not in anyway blocking the staircase, if either of us had decided to walk down the hall, we would have tripped over it. What kind of warning might this have been, if any? And, I can’t help think that, no matter how used to his movements at night, such an operation might’ve caused enough noise to awaken me anyway; I can’t imagine that Dan would have been ultra-quiet about it during one of his sleepwalking acts…

May God bless you & keep you!

Healing, Herbs, Holistic Health, Organic

Wednesday’s Weed Walk: Do Re Mi…

Singer’s Tea…no, that’s not actually a legitimate product, that I know of, but that’s what I call one of my favorite herbal tea blends.

I don’t sing professionally anymore. Or even semi-pro. While the vocal chords may get a bit of a workout on the weekends when I’m enclosed in my home office and working on the mural that is currently consuming me, rare do I get on a stage–or even in the choir loft at church–to sing. Some of it is time constraint. As a full-time (online) student, minister, herbalist, homesteader, writer, artist, holistic healthcare practitioner and part-time photographer/receptionist most evenings, I have a pretty full plate. But many years ago I fronted metal bands, both lead guitar and lead vocals. I didn’t know about this tea then; I learned about it years’ later. It might have helped in the metal years; however, no matter what genre you sing in–even if it’s only the shower–taking care of one’s vocal chords is important.

In 2007 I took Apollo Herbs’ “Herbal Apprentice” course with Michael Ford and Joanne Pacheco. It was during one of our weekend workshops that Mike mentioned this combination, primarily for sore throats, but he also mentioned that a student from one of his previous classes used this combination religiously. She was a singer, like me, and fronting a local band. I was singing regularly with the Folk Group at Our Lady of LaSalette Catholic Church in Brooklyn, CT at the time so I gave it a whirl.

The blend is equal parts of Echinacea purpurea (Echinacea, Purple Coneflower are common names) and Ulmus fulva, or Slippery Elm. “Equal parts” is just what it suggests. If you measure a teaspoon of Echinacea, you also measure 1 teaspoon of Slippery Elm; a tablespoon of Slippery Elm, a tablespoon of Echinacea, and so on. The combination has a pleasant flavor so it is also palatable rather than tasting “medicinal”. I typically use the dried herbs, purchased from a local and reliable herb shop (organic; responsibly harvested) but you may also use fresh herbs if you have them in your garden or from another reliable source (i.e. one without pesticides). As we are brewing roots and bark here, a standard infusion doesn’t quite cut it. You will need a decoction of the herbs. And how we do that is preferably through the use of a double boiler but a makeshift of setting a slightly smaller sauce pan inside a larger one that has at least an inch or so of water in it will do in a pinch. No non-stick pans for this. The coating may leach into your herbal tea; I don’t recommend non-stick pans for any purpose. Cast-iron will also leach into the herbs and affect the outcome. Stainless steel, or enamel, is preferable. Place the herbs in the smaller pan, cover them with water (about an inch higher than the herbs) and place a lid on the pan with the herbs in it. The idea is to simmer them, not boil them. And you will want to watch that the water is not evaporating too much as you don’t want the herbs to scorch. If you see the water level lowering too rapidly, you may add a little warm water and lower the heat a bit. This takes approximately 45 minutes on low heat. I always add honey to mine, which also acts as a mucilage to the throat but it is optional.

So how does it work?

Slippery Elm** (Ulmus fulva) is the inner bark of the slippery elm tree. This dried bark is rather stringy and may range from a light tan to a light beige in color. It has a sweet, spicy scent and it is a well-known demulcent. “Demulcent” means that it soothes and moistens, usually via mucilage. This particular demulcent is specific for sore throats, cough, bronchitis and for relieving the inflammation of the respiratory tract, including the mouth and throat (L. Tierra, 121). It is also good for soothing the intestinal tract, and relieving the pain and irritation from indigestion and colitis, but it is the respiratory tract that we are most concerned with here, for obvious reasons.

Echinacea** (Echinacea purpurea) is also good for relieving sore throats; all infections and inflammations, and swollen glands. A known sialagogue, it increases the flow of saliva in the mouth. It is also an immune enhancer, helping to prevent and cure colds and flus (Tierra 78-79),; for singers, it makes it a wonderful combination with Slippery Elm. Back in the metal years, it seemed I always came down with a cold and/or upper respiratory complaint whenever there was something important coming up in music. It is a singer’s nightmare. It could be because I tend to be a perfectionist and so pushed myself harder, practicing longer, and depriving myself of much-needed sleep in preparation for whatever I was doing but, regardless, whatever “bug” was lurking around always found its way to me. Again, I wish I’d had this tea in my arsenal then.

One last thought, as both of these herbs are now on the endangered list, please use only the cultivated herbs from a reliable and responsibly-harvested source. For more information about sustainable harvesting, please visit http://www.unitedplantsavers.org.

May God bless you & keep you!

**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This article has been presented for educational purposes only; it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.”

Works Cited

Tierra, Lesley. Healing with the Herbs of Life. Ten Speed Press, California: 2003.

Faith, Ghosts, Hauntings, Reading, Supernatural, Writing

Voices from Beyond

In the immortal words of Ron Weasley in J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”: “Hearing voices no one else can hear isn’t a good sign, even in the wizarding world.” So, of course, I am mindful that this posting might just have a well-meaning friend sending the men in white coats to my door. But now that Mom admits to hearing them, too, I feel much better about it.

Yesterday’s blog opened up about the homestead’s history as the once familiar sight of the Windham County Hanging Tree. And, it would seem, that some of those who met their end here are still not quite ready to move beyond…

I am an avid bookworm. And, I confess, reading a good book, a good story, even takes precedence over writing. I write because I love to read. I write because other authors have created works that have influenced me, delighted me, provided solace and hope in troubled times, an escape, and so much more. I write because I want to create new stories for others to enjoy. But reading is what started the whole thing. A good book will keep me enthralled from cover to cover. A good book will have me up until 2 in the morning because I can’t put it down even to sleep. With a good book, you’ll be lucky to get me to come up for air until I’ve finished it.

It was during one of those reading marathons that I first noticed it. The clock was moving up on 2 a.m. and even Interstate 6 was quiet, save for the occasional 18-wheeler blowing through, and these were far and few between. The animals were all tucked in for the night. Mom wasn’t living with me then so there was no cable (i.e. no TV). No radio was on either. PC was in sleep mode upstairs. I sat at the kitchen table, blurry-eyed, but unwilling just yet to put down the book I was reading. Despite having my total absorption, my attention divided. What was that? Was the toilet still running from my last visit there? I drew a deep breath and listened more closely. Then I got up and went into the bathroom. Nope. Nothing running. No hiss from the commode, no faint trickle of water from a faucet not being shut off all the way. I went back to my book.

Yes, it is almost 2 a.m. but I want to get to the end of this chapter. There’s only, like, 100 pages left. It’s really getting good.

Okay. So it’s not so much a hissing noise drawing my attention away from the story again. It’s also not the refrigerator running. I got up again, walked into the living room, looking for felines. Nope. They must be all upstairs. I decide to check anyway. Yup. All 6 are asleep on my bed. It looks tempting but, with so many of them tucked in, I’d have a tough time crawling in with them. I go back to my book.

I am well into my book again when I get distracted once again. This time, I simply sit and listen. When I can finally zone in on what I’m hearing, I start to think maybe I should’ve put the book down an hour ago. I must be more tired than I thought. That can’t be someone whispering. Several someones, actually. I can almost make out separate words. Almost…

I decide to pack it in and squeeze in with all the cats. I’m out like a light. In the morning, I tell myself I must’ve really been tired and maybe I shouldn’t have pushed myself so hard with the book; I can finish it as soon as feeding time is over with. It is the weekend, after all. With the constant rush of traffic passing the house during the daylight hours, and even into early evening, the house is, well, not exactly quiet but the voices are silent. I forget about them until the next page-turner has me up until the wee hours of morning. Then it demands my attention again. This time, I know it’s neither a cat purring, a refrigerator or toilet running. I pause to listen. Yes, that is definitely someone talking, whispering. Again, I can almost make out distinct words. But not quite. This goes on even after a big rig downshifts through this brief residential strip. As I listen, it appears to grow louder. Maybe I should go back to visit Dr. Mueller. But I can definitely understand that expression of feeling one’s hair stand on end. This time, I’m not quite ready to pack it in. They did no harm to me before. I keep reading. The whispering grows louder, still. Then dies away. I get back into my story. It starts up again. I remember the hanging tree. What on earth could criminals from almost 200 years’ ago still have to say at this time of the day/night? Are they trying to communicate with me? Why? Yup. I’m losing it. But the voices don’t go away. In the stillness of any night, they begin to mutter.

So why are you trying to find out the future by consulting witches and mediums? Don’t listen to their whisperings and mutterings. Can the living find out the future from the dead? Why not ask your God?” Isaiah 8:19.

However, I’m not trying to divine the future. I’ve got the past poking its nose into the present…and disturbing a good book, I might add.

“Dear Lord, if these are lost souls, please help them to see your light,” I pray. Then, “Look for the light. Whoever you are, look for the light.”

The whispering falls away. Until next time…

When Mom arrived on my doorstep two years ago, I warned her about all the strange happenings here at #209. Her “thank you” was definitely sarcastic and followed by a little nervous chuckle. I conceded that her daughter might also be losing it a bit, but that every time the house was quiet, I could hear the whisperings. I also assured her that no one had ever hurt me here but it was unnerving just the same. (Admitting to one’s mother of these things doesn’t really count where the men in white coats are concerned…at least I hope not…)

Mom and I have been frequenting the new, second-hand bookstore in Danielson, Pourings & Passages. Lately, we’ve been stockpiling books for the long winter ahead. Mom’s almost as much of a bookworm as I am and she has been plowing through every Danielle Steel book she can find on Pourings & Passages’ shelves. She recently had her own late-night book-a-thon.

The next morning, when she came downstairs for coffee, she looked at me and said, “You were right about the voices. I heard them last night, just like you said. A little unnerving; I almost woke you up.”

All I could do was chuckle. I know exactly what she means.

Works Cited

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Scholastic, New York: 1999.

The Living Bible. Tyndale House Publishers, Illinois: 1971.

Alcoholism, Ghosts, Hauntings, Healing, History, Homesteading, Supernatural

The Hanging Tree

As we coast into October and my favorite time of the year, it wouldn’t be complete without a few ghost stories here or there. After all, the funnest holiday of the year (in my not-so-humble opinion…) falls on the very last day of this month–Halloween, or Samhain.

What does this have to do with homesteading?

Everything…if your homestead sits where your community’s hanging tree used to be. This little almost-acre of land is where the Windham County Hanging Tree used to be, or so I’ve been told. And it makes sense.

hanging-tree

When Dan and I first purchased this property back in 2001, I started having reoccurring dreams of walking in the door from work and seeing a pair of blue-jean clad legs hanging from the upper banister. I didn’t have a clue where these dreams were coming from or why I was having them. Being a bit superstitious at times, I also worried that maybe this might be a bit of a premonition…and I hoped I was wrong. My ex-husband, Dan–husband at the time–was an alcoholic but he didn’t strike me as being depressed or, in any other way, being a likely candidate for suicide, as that was what I perceived this potential premonition to be warning. Nope. It just didn’t fit. Dan was tied too strongly into his faith, into family. He loved life too much and, even though he drank heavily, he was always a happy-go-lucky sort of drunk. He drank more as a social thing rather than a need to get wasted…even if a 30 Pack on the weekend was “normal” for him.

The mystery of these dreams wasn’t revealed until Dan and I filed for divorce in 2004. Initially, we had placed the house on the market but, at the time, Route 6 was in the middle of some major construction and we had a trench running the full length of the property between the road and our front yard. To get into the driveway, you had to drive over some steel “planks” the construction crew had placed over the gaping hole. Needless to say, we had little to no curb appeal. After several months, the real estate company was ready to reduce our price unless one of us would consider trying to get a pre-approval for the mortgage. Dan had some major gambling debts that prohibited him from refinancing and, as he was living with his older brother–and the two were proving incompatible for co-habitation–he looked at me. At first, I balked. I really didn’t want to stay. It was too expensive for a single person. It needed a lot of work that I didn’t know how to do and couldn’t afford to have done. I saw the financial struggles I would have–all of which have proven prophetic–as well as the restrictions that living in a rapidly becoming commercial zone might bring. I wanted acreage. But, as another week went by without any interest at all, I decided to try. I had a good paying job, though I hated it, and it would mean I could stay somewhat settled. So I applied. And I won. But there was a stipulation. I would have to paint the house before the mortgage company would give me the loan. (Yes, that raised a few eyebrows here, too, but, in light of the fixer-upper state, I guess it made some sense.)

I tend to be a bit of a spiteful person. I am one of those people that if you tell me I have to do something, I automatically dig my heels in. However, digging my heels in would’ve been counterproductive to what I was trying to accomplish so, instead, I decided to get funky with it. No “normal” color palette like white or yellow, or even touching up the blue that already graced the clapboards. Instead, I got it into my head to go with black. I didn’t jump on impulse. I actually took a trip to Home Depot and, in their paint department, they had a computer that was set up so you could get an idea what your house would look like with a particular paint scheme. So I typed in the style of house and then started “painting” it. I loved it! But it was still an overly-bold color scheme. Would the town balk at it with me being on the main road? I gave them a call the next day but there were no prohibitions in their charter. So I walked across the street to the hardware store, wanting to give the business to someone local rather than a big box store. I was also hoping they could give me an idea how many gallons I might need as I this was a DIY project–with the help of some friends, of course–and I confess to being a little out of my element.

The conversation with Bob went something like this:

“What color are you going with?”

“Black.”

“No, I mean for the house itself, not the trim.”

“I know. I’m painting it black.”

“What color do you want the trim?”

“Also black.”

“Black on black?”

“Except the front door. I want to paint that orange.”

There was a moment’s pause. Then Bob shook his head and said, “Let’s hope you don’t stir anything up over there.”

I latched onto that one immediately. Not only had I had reoccurring dreams, Dan and I had also experienced some unexplainable occurrences over the years; I had never thought to ask the neighbors about the house. And nothing was revealed when we closed on it in 2001 so I just chalked everything off to some over-active imaginations. Dan and I were both writers and artists after all. And we watched “Haunted History” on The History Channel and another show on The Travel Channel that featured haunted tourist traps religiously.

However, Bob nixed that explanation.

Every criminal that passed through Windham County met their end on this property until hanging was finally outlawed as a means for punishment. The actual tree, he assured me, has long since been cut down. No, that great big grandmother in the front yard that I’ve christened “Helen” was not the actual hanging tree. However, there is a large crevice in back where even the roots were dug out. The previous owners had planted a Rose of Sharon bush in that crevice. Perhaps as a way to heal its sordid past. Over the years, I’ve envisioned this place as a thriving herb farm; a holistic retreat center; a wildlife refuge for local and native plants and animals as a means to further heal this stain on the land.

Why should it matter so much? They were criminals after all. Except one of the stories Bob told me continues to haunt me: the last person hung here was a poor African American man who got caught stealing a cow because he was hungry and had nothing to eat. Was this his first offense? Or one of many? Had he turned to crime as a sort of profession? Or had an empty belly made him desperate? Did he have children who were also hungry? And, as this was 1905-ish, had the color of his skin played a hand in the lack of mercy that took his life for his desperation? There is no way of knowing but it seems a horrible way to lose one’s life. A murderer? Rapist? Yeah, maybe I’d feel differently. Despite being a minister, I’m not opposed to the death penalty for such, especially knowing that such crimes would likely be repeated if these individuals were released into society again. But it seems a little extreme for theft. No, I would be all over anyone who stole one of my chickens or goats–even for hunger–but I wouldn’t be wanting to string them up.

Amazingly, after having this conversation with Bob, the reoccurring dreams stopped.

May God bless you & keep you!

Herbs, Homesteading, Organic

Wednesday’s Weed Walks and Meanderings

Though it has been Friday’s Flora and Fauna, I am thinking that “Wednesday’s Weed Walks” might be a better title because Wednesday might be a better day to schedule blog posts about various herbs and wild edibles. I seem to either be missing them–like yesterday–or else, they feel rushed to me. Fridays are my only days off of work. I figured that might be a good day to do the research so that I could provide a good posting about whatever herb or edible I was writing about. But Friday is also my day for all the “busy” work that takes over all of our lives. Yesterday was no exception.

Of course, yesterday a.m., after tending to all the myriad creatures that share this homestead with me, I grabbed breakfast, a cup of tea and a good book. I am an eternal bookworm. It was raining outside, windy and raw. The perfect weather for such a thing. But there was also a list of places I needed to go, things I needed to do. Mom and I shared a second cup of tea together then headed out.

We haven’t been grocery shopping in months. Little side trips to “pick up a few things” but nothing major. I also needed some herbs and we both wanted to pick up some books. In Danielson, which is the next town over from us, there is a second-hand bookstore that is just awesome. I know I’ve blogged about “Pourings and Passages” before; it has become a favorite. Granted, one must accept and make do with whatever has been donated to the store as it deals with second-hands, not current publications. Still, we find some great books. And, while they are second-hand, they are not that second-hand…i.e. so old as to be obsolete. And you can’t beat the prices. I came home with 5 “new” books for under $9. Mom did likewise. And, of course, we’ll share them with each other so we both have more than we bargained for.

Next stop was Homestead Herbs in Sterling. Bob runs a modest-looking store. In fact, it is so far off the beaten path that word-of-mouth is pretty much the only way one is likely to find it. But it is neat and clean, the herbs are organically-grown, the prices are better than reasonable, and best of all, the resident feline, Patches, is openly loving and affectionate. I restocked on a lot of culinary herbs–including some vanilla beans to make homemade vanilla extract; our bottle has gotten quite low as Mom and I both love to bake–as well as some green tea to better maintain my asthma, and both Echinacea and Slippery Elm to brew my singers’ tea. (That may be Wednesday’s Weed Walk…) After making our purchases, we chatted with Bob, paid more homage to Patches–as was her due–and did likewise to Goldie’s grave. Goldie is the former resident feline. She lived to be 22 years old so Bob must be doing something right. And, like Patches, she was openly loving and affectionate; must be a prerequisite at Homestead Herbs. We left the herb store and decided we were hungry so we stopped at Jade Garden for some Chinese cuisine. While there, I chatted with friend, Jasmine, one of the proprietors, and then we hit the road again to Aldi’s, Big Y and, lastly, Walmart’s.

It was pouring out when we finally made it home. Numerous trips to and fro, bringing in our purchases, had us both a little wet but, all in all, it was a productive day. Albeit, also an exhausting one, as well as an enjoyable one spent with Mom. I could’ve slept a little longer this morning but that may be the rain that’s still falling.

May God bless you & keep you!