The Year of the Fly

No, this is definitely not a post about Chinese zodiac. (chuckle) Nor is it a belated commentary about the 1980’s remake of the movie “The Fly” starring Jeff Goldblum. That would produce way too much drool. Though there is plenty of gore in that film, there is also a brief scene of Mr. Goldblum in the buff and that’s worthy of quite a bit of salivation. However, that’s neither here nor there.

We are inundated with flies this year!!??!

Anyone who tells me that Mother Earth is not getting increasingly warmer needs to have their head examined to find out what planet they’re living on. The usual deep freeze that I’ve come to know in New England really hasn’t happened this year. Yes, we did see a few single digit nights. We even got hit with a blizzard a few weeks’ ago. But that deep freeze that lasts for weeks, even months? Nope. That freeze, despite the extra layers of clothing and that extra log on the fire, has always been a bit of a godsend. Fleas, ticks, flies, worms–all of the myriad creepy crawlies that can make life annoying, at best, and downright miserable at the worst on a homestead, have been snug as–dare I say it?–bugs in a rug all winter long. We haven’t seen any fleas (knock on wood) but I’m pretty careful about keeping everyone groomed. And mites have been at a minimum because, unlike most winters, my chickens have been able to take their dust baths all winter long. Usually the ground is too frozen for them to “bathe” in the dusty earth under my bathroom window. But the flies have been ungodly.

Take a walk into my kitchen right now and I guarantee you will be hit in the face with at least a couple of flies. There are fly strips hanging in nearly every corner–and, wow, are they a bit of a nasty hazard for those of us with long hair…ewww!–and they fill up within a day of hanging them. Mom and I have been swatting, and killing, them by the dozens on a daily basis. Our fly swatter now wobbles uncontrollably on its handle from so much use. It has become a nightly ritual to target as many as I possibly can before I go to bed–and I can usually count the number I swat in the double digits. And yet, we’re still inundated.

I am loathe to use any sort of spray due to the possible threat this might pose to Smoky the Cockatiel and the many rabbits and cats who share this home with us. I avoid chemicals as much as I possibly can, not wanting to add to the carbon footprint they create. However, I am getting desperate.

Where are they coming from? That has been the big question. Yes, I have a farm with live animals. Yet places like the barn, where most of those animals stay, are fly-free. It is only the house. Mom and I have been pulling spaces apart to try and find the source but we have yet to succeed. They still keep coming. For every one we swat, it seems there are 20 more to take its place. I’m wondering if Bellatrix Lestrange has somehow placed a curse on them similar to the goblet she bewitched in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” to multiply every time somebody touched it. It is that bad.

However, to keep this post from being one big rant, I remembered seeing an episode of a show called “Yankee Jungle” where the owners of this exotic animal refuge have something called a fly jar. I found their website and asked what is in the jar as the ingredients were non-toxic and eco-friendly, but did the trick to keep their animals from such a nuisance. I may be making a few of these jars on my own…

May God bless you & keep you!

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Rainy Days

“In bygone days He permitted the nations to go their own ways, but He never left Himself without a witness; there were always His reminders–the kind things He did such as sending you rain and good crops and giving you food and gladness” Acts 14: 16-17

I’m of two minds when it rains. There is that laze-around-in-my-pj’s-curled-up-with-a-good-book mindset. And woe the temptations of the flesh because that is often the mindset I follow under angry, black clouds. Today it’s the good-day-to-putter-around-the-house-and-get-things-done mentality. I hit the yoga mat early this morning, waking before the alarm–despite the dreary skies–and then added a few pages to my book. Max was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs to go out when I finished up. The rain was only threatening at 7:30 a.m. but the warmer temperatures we’ve had over the weekend has left a muddy mess of the barnyard as snow from Blizzard Stella melted away. Max, being a dog, did what dogs do best…he stayed out in the mud a little longer than usual and tracked wet, muddy prints throughout the house when he came back in. I tugged on my rubber boots, threw a coat over my pj’s (standard morning chore attire) and began schlepping water and feed out to the goats, chickens and ducks. The usual cacophony of barnyard greetings met me as I opened first the hen house and then the goat barn. I’d like to think they’re happy to just see me but I suspect it’s only the canisters of feed I’m bearing as gifts that bring about this reaction to me…

The rain started in earnest shortly after their breakfast.

Mom calls these heavy rains we’re having today “season breakers”. And she’s probably right except she will call every hint of snow or rain, from now until the trees finally bud and the thermometer hits and stays steady above 50 degrees for more than a week, a “season breaker”. It’s all good. And she bears the occasional razzing from me with grace.

Actually, I hope she’s right. There’s much to do this spring on the homestead and I am eager to get started. Despite Mom’s predictions, the weather in New England is too unpredictable this time of year so it will be a few more weeks before I can start planting and there’s a bit of landscaping to finish up from last fall before that planting can be done. Again, I’m looking forward to it. The last couple of years I’ve been in such a slump that I’ve neglected my gardens. I’ve got itchy fingers now, looking to plunge into that soil and cultivate some life-giving sustenance from it.

The goats, chickens and ducks are also getting new living quarters. The old shed that I converted back in 2010 has seen its better days. I can throw a few old pallets down on the rotting floors and continue to use it for storing firewood and/or hay but it has seen its last winter as a barn. This will take some doing; I’m definitely not a contractor or construction worker but I don’t think this will be too difficult. The “new” structure is already here in the form of a double bay garage. The previous owners of the property had removed the garage doors, built a wall, and added a door to the outside (albeit, it faces into the garden so it will not be seeing much use…). The floor is still concrete, which will be much easier to clean than wood. No oil stains or anything that might prove hazardous to the animals. There’s even a propane space heater mounted towards the ceiling, well out of reach of curious goats, but available if needed. The only real work to do is the construction of a few stalls inside, the removal of the back window that faces the barnyard, and building a ramp for the animals to get in and out. And, of course, said window will have to be replaced with some sort of door to keep them in at night…and the predators out. The biggest part of the job will be cleaning it out as it has become the depository of any unwanted “junk” and out of season “stuff”. And that about sums it up.

(Yes, I do still have some minimalist chores to attend to, too…)

In another 15 minutes or so, it will be time to head to work–the paid position in town. But, for now, I’m compromising with this rain, writing and working and puttering around in my pj’s, as it washes away the last of the snow and reveals just how much clean-up is still to do in the gardens. And about the homestead.

May God bless you & keep you!

Thoughts on This Blogging Thing

It has been seven months of pretty steady blogging. And, wow, what a change in my life this has made. Sure, there have been a few hiccoughs along the way when my postings haven’t been quite as steady: a bout of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (still recovering from that but it’s getting better); the loss of Internet service at home; and, amazingly, once you break a habit, such as a very early rising to write and blog, it is very difficult to get back on that horse again and ride, as they say. But I won’t give up. And I love horses…and blogging.

Obviously, this post is a reflection of these past seven months. Prior to making this commitment, my blog posts were pretty sporadic, spanning months sometimes in between. Now, when I’m away for even a few days, I’m like that hungry bear coming out of hibernation. It’s become like a drug and I need my fix. These seven months have taught me a few things, too.

First, I underestimate myself. And maybe others, too. When I first started, I think the reason my posts were so few and far between was because I didn’t believe I had anything to say that people would want to read. The long list of followers and “likes” for each post that I have received these last several months–both here on WordPress and on my Facebook timeline from friends and family–have proved me wrong. And a big “Thank You!” to all of you for the boost in confidence; the support; and simply for being curious enough to read a post or two in the first place. Also, to the many friends and family members who have “shared” some of my posts.

“In Al-Anon I realized that I had a distorted self-image. I had never thought to question my beliefs, but when I took a good look, I discovered they were untrue.” (Courage to Change, 1992, 192)

Another thing I’ve learned, and there is a little voice of cynicism rippling through as I type this, is there is definitely some truth to that old adage that those closest to you have the toughest time accepting changes in you. In being brutally and painfully honest about the effects of alcoholism and abuse in my past; in sharing political views; in taking a much stronger stand with my blog about animal rights and environmentalism; in staying true to my faith in God and openly sharing that faith, I have alienated many who have been close to me and yet, ironically, found new friends who share my views–in some cases, in places I never would have expected. This last one is a gift because we can never have too many friends.

A difference of opinion can divide the best of friends. I am learning, through blogging, to be more forgiving of those whose reactions in the face of a different opinion may be hostile. I’m learning not to react in kind. A difference of opinion is simply that. A difference. It need not divide us. But I’m also learning to accept that sometimes it does…and not to take it so personally. In short, I’m growing a thicker skin yet being more willing to offer that olive branch in return. Life is too short.

I think the most amazing thing that has happened with blogging, is I am learning to stand up for myself and what I believe in. I hope I am doing so in a respectful way; I have no desire to purposefully alienate anyone…I do enough of that without trying. (chuckle) But I am no longer as afraid to rock the proverbial boat. My thoughts, feelings, views and opinions may be in the minority in some circles. But I truly have learned to say, “That’s okay”, and really mean it. I now share those feelings, thoughts, opinions and views anyway. And not as a heart-on-my-sleeve victim but simply as a fellow human being with a voice that no longer wishes to be silent. And, really, I think that’s what writing is all about: having something to say. Whether it is a blog, such as this one, a news story, a textbook or even a story made up expressly for the purpose of entertaining, writers are good with words. I hope I am…and this blog is good means of exercising that creative muscle.

As for homesteading? This blog has been good medicine for that, too. I know where I want to go, where I want to be but, for years, I have allowed others to sometimes influence of bit of my direction. If there is anyone more of a non-conformist as me, I’d truly like to meet them. While more and more people turn back to the land because of a distrust of what’s in our food and what sort of damage is being done to the environment, I am in the minority even further being a single female doing this homesteading thing and, while I raise animals, I do NOT raise them for meat. That’s a complete anomaly. They are here for eggs or dairy, or fiber for spinning, depending on the animal; they give me free fertilizer for the garden; companionship, love and laughter. That’s enough. But it has taken me seven months of steady blogging to be able to write this and to say it aloud, and to not care if people don’t “get it”. This is part of who I am and I make no apology for it.

A friend sent me something that I copied on a little Post-It note that has been attributed to author Anais Nin. I don’t know if she really said this or not but it fits: The time came that to remain in a tight bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

“Courage to Change” Al-Anon Conference Approved Literature. Al-Anon, Virginia: 1992

Walking the Walk–Literally

I have long been extolling the virtues of choosing to walk or ride a bicycle rather than driving everywhere. When the Lenten season started, one of the vows I made was, as soon as we turned the clocks ahead and it was light enough out after work, I would start walking to and from the dealership. This probably doesn’t do much for auto sales but I have always walked to the beat of my own drum–no pun intended. And it’s all for a good cause.

However, I have not lived up to this vow…until I got pulled over by a policeman coming from the local grocery store. Now I had just pulled away from the traffic light so there was no way I could’ve gotten up to “speeding” and I did not peel out. Lights are working. Turn signal was on. I admit I was stymied.

The car was unregistered. (What?) It seems I have been driving around in Mom’s uninsured and unregistered vehicle for over a year now. (How the heck did I dodge that bullet for so long???) Though we had a current registration and insurance card sitting in the glove box, the DMV had dropped the registration after Nationwide dropped our policy for lack of payment. Mom was also mystified. She’s been making payments. What happened? Sadly, Mom was a recent victim of ID theft. Payments, of roughly the same amount, have been going to a cellphone company for someone in California. Mom saw the payment coming out but did not notice the name of the organization pulling the payment. And Nationwide did not send her notification that she was falling behind. A trip to the DMV revealed we cannot renew the registration in Mom’s name because she can no longer drive with her cataracts and does not have a valid license anymore. So I’ve been “grounded” so to speak…until we can find a way to get this thing valid again. And, as if that wasn’t enough, the car will not start. We suspect the battery. So we have a few obstacles to overcome. But it has also been a good turning point for me in this campaign to reduce my carbon footprint.

We live in rural CT so the roughly uniform city block is not a part of our immediate world. However, as The Herbal Hare Homestead sits just on the edge of the business district of the town, we are close enough to my work, the feed store, the post office, the library, town hall, church, and even the local Walmart so that this walking thing isn’t really so bad. The toughest part is the huge hill that leads from my neighbor’s farm down into that commercial area. It’s mostly downhill on the way into town but I am finding myself woefully out of shape traversing that uphill climb on the way home.

But I’m not complaining. When all is said and done, I should have lost this extra 30 lbs. I’ve been lamenting, improved my circulation greatly, saved money on gasoline and wear and tear of the car–because I don’t intend to start driving locally even after this glitch is resolved–and, yes, reduced my carbon footprint on the world.

The good Lord works in mysterious ways. I’ll admit to a bit of an “Oh, Lord, why me?” reaction after this citation (and, yes, the nice officer did cite me but, coming from a family of police officers, it’s all good; he’s just doing his job and it’s good to see). Now I am seeing some of the benefits of it. Even Mom asked me last night, “Isn’t walking or riding a bike part of homesteading?” Who-hoo! Yes, it is.

May God bless you & keep you!

As Stella Rages Through…

My maternal grandmother’s name was Stella. Is it mere coincidence that this blizzard should rage through New England exactly one week after what would have been her 96th birthday? And on the birthday of her eldest daughter, my Auntie Carol? Well, maybe I’m attaching too much importance to what might be considered by some an omen, but it is rather nice to think of her spirit perhaps visiting on the winds that are howling outside my windows as we speak.

I feel like a little kid today. Governor Dannel Malloy issued a travel ban yesterday for all but emergency personnel and a $75 fine for any but said personnel venturing out on the roads. That didn’t stop the dealership I work at from opening their doors and expecting employees to risk death, never mind the fine. So I’m playing it safe and staying home. Let the winds howl and the snow pile up. We are snug here in the house with enough eco-logs to burn should the power fail and a blessed cup of hot tea to warm the innards.

And, yes, we are back in business at home again. I bit the bullet yesterday and had Wi-Fi installed again. We trimmed away all but the essentials as Charter’s rates continue to rise and their competitors keep pace. Though I enjoyed the focus I found in a public “office”, relying on only the battery for this laptop meant I had to focus primarily on homework only and have not been able to blog as often as I would have liked. I also use this for business so it’s a necessary expense.

But I digress…

Blizzard Stella is promising to be a humdinger of a storm, dumping 2-4 inches of snow on us per hour. That was the forecast from WFSB Channel 3’s website. Stella seems to be living up to these predictions. I have taken to shoveling snow away from the doors every couple of hours and, the last visit out, I struggled to push the door open from the amount of snow built up in front of it. I barely managed to get the shovel I brought in and set by the back door through the crack I pushed open. And then it was awkward, indeed, to try and “shovel” through such a narrow opening. But I managed it. And I guess I haven’t gained that much weight because it didn’t take long to create an opening wide enough to squeeze through so I could finish the job…only to have to do it again in the immediate future.

As long as power stays on, my animals should be okay in the barn. I worry incessantly about the heat lamps I use as they have a reputation for starting fires. But that’s usually where they are kept lower to where flammable hay is scattered, or are not anchored properly and so, animals nudge them in their play and knock them into the hay…or the water bucket, if nearby. I have mine anchored pretty securely and check the cords routinely to make sure they are not getting warm. They are also anchored high enough away from the hay on the floor. They do the job. And I am always looking for alternatives that might be safer. (hint, hint to any readers who have found such a solution…)

This morning the snow was only a couple of inches’ deep and that owing, in part, to the inch or so that fell a few days’ ago. Still, the trek out to the barn was not without some hazard. The winds weren’t quite as fierce but the snow was falling in a fine haze of white-out. My coat is still soaked around the collar where it fell. When I got to the goat barn, the front board pulled off a little. I had to traipse back inside for a hammer to fix it, at least for now until I can do a better job. But the goats, and their one broody hen friend, were cozy enough. I fed and watered them, then headed around to the chicken coop. They, too, were cozy. And sensible enough to get that we were in for some rocky weather for the day; they didn’t even try to flutter outside. However, a couple of chickadees tried to flutter inside the henhouse. I opened it wide enough to permit them entry but they flew away from me instead. It wouldn’t be the first time wild birds have roosted inside to escape a storm. Instead, we’ve kept the feeders full so they have nourishment enough to keep warm. A few of them have even sought shelter inside one of the feeders (an open-faced one).

All of this rambling is just that, musing over Mother Nature, and the irony of taking a class in Global Climate Change as Blizzard Stella roars around the rooftops. Mom suggests that maybe Grandma is scolding us for too few periods of peace amongst her children. Maybe. Either way, this storm certainly has gumption; my grandmother did, too. Stay safe, my New England readers!

May God bless you & keep you!

Enjoying the Snow

It is a bit of an abrupt change as temperatures yesterday reached the 60’s here in Connecticut; tonight the overnight lows are expected to be in the single digits. Global warming at its finest.

Yup. Mom’s not the only one who will experience the incessant commentary on our planet’s health and well-being. Sorry…

NOT!

Okay. So I’m going to try to explain this rationale between the snow falling outside my window and this concept of global warming. As I am still a student of environmental science, this may be more of that murky water stuff but I’m going to give it a go.

Yes, these late-season snowfalls are a direct result of global warming. As our polar icecaps heat up from an over-abundance of carbon in our oceans, the result is more precipitation in the atmosphere. For those of us living in more northern climes, we have all seen the fog that results when snow starts to melt as the earth heats up in spring. The same thing is happening at the poles but trade winds and ocean currents move that fog, that precipitation and push it south (or north if you’re closer to Antartica), where it dumps on us as snow. The air is still relatively cool but the oceans are too warm. Mother Earth can no longer handle the amount of excess carbon we are dumping in her oceans. And the result is this melting of the polar icecaps.

Do I think we will see a major catastrophe like so many depicted in apocalyptical movies?

I sincerely hope not. I am a minister. There is a very large part of me that relies heavily on the biblical promise from God to Noah that He will never again destroy the world:

And Jehovah was pleased with the sacrifice and said to himself, “I will never do it again–I will never again curse the Earth, destroying all living things, even though man’s bent is always toward evil from his earliest youth, and even though he does wicked things.” (Genesis 8:21)

However, and this is not a doubt of God’s promise but an acknowledgement of the signs I see in His natural world that things are out of whack. Maybe not a total destruction of Mother Earth but certainly more of the catastrophic storms that have been plaguing our great planet for the last couple of decades as Mother Earth continues to warn us of overload. And we have been heating up over the last few decades…and not through any natural cycling of the earth, though that is also a factor…a very small factor.

I have attached a link to Michael Mann’s often controversial “hockey stick graph” that showcases the extreme warming trend that has been occurring over the last 30 years or so. This is a Wikipedia listing and Wikipedia is not necessarily a reliable source of information. However, they are often a good starting point for learning more. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_stick_controversy

According to what I have been learning in class, the real warming trend has been occurring since 1975. I’m thinking back to my childhood, growing up in the late-60’s, early-70’s. Things were a lot different than they are now. My family was not unique in that we only owned one car. Mom drove it to work in Conimicut (Rhode Island); my step-father walked to his job a few blocks’ away. There was still a lingering respect for the antiquated adage of “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” In other words, we weren’t quite the disposable society we are today. Technology has grown tremendously since 1975. Families now own at least two vehicles. Many live in McMansions that require an enormous output of carbon energy to heat/cool depending on climate or season. And, as our beloved laptops, Kindles, cellphones and various other electronic gadgets slow down due to faster technologies–and we all want the fastest model so we can sit before the boob-tube eating our packaged, processed diet–we dispose of them in the nearest landfill. Where they off-gas into the atmosphere, contaminating the air we breathe, the water we drink and even the soil from which we grow our food.

Our McMansions also come with large expanses of lawn–useless and vain, an attempt to emulate the English monarchs from a few centuries ago where a large lawn was a mark of esteem–that must be mowed and maintained to stay useless and vain. In England, where the lawn fetish seems to have started, upkeep is less expensive and harmful as the English climate is more conducive to lush, green grass. Here in the US, we use chemicals and further contaminate the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil that feeds us. We also use machinery that further pollutes our air…even more than the automobiles we take two blocks’ down to the local convenience store.

Better choices might change that hockey stick to something that more closely resemble a rainbow…if only we care enough about the other species that share this great planet, and future generations, to make those choices.

May God bless you & keep you!

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/green-guide/buying-guides/lawnmower/environmental-impact/

10 Years Sheared

Off of my life, that is.

This morning it was business as usual at The Herbal Hare Homestead. I trudged outside to the chicken coop, filled a small pool with water for the ducks and scattered the contents of the chicken bucket on the ground. I then opened up the door to henhouse and, while they dined on breakfast, I cleaned their perch and the floor of their house.

Suddenly, Sargent Feathers let out some ungodly screeching. I ran out of the henhouse as my flock of chickens and ducks came racing back to the coop. I looked up to see a large hawk flying away, evidently frightened by the sudden appearance of a human holding a long, shiny, dark object (an old hoe that I use to scrape droppings off the perch). I did a head count: 16 chickens, 3 ducks. And there were 2 chickens bunking in with the goats…

No, only 1…I carried Flame into the henhouse when I got out of work last night. She was now with the other hens, huddled at the back of the henhouse.

Who’s missing?

After a more thorough head count, I realized Taffy, my little Silkie, was missing. I confess to immediately resorting to copious blubbering. All I kept thinking was, “No, Lord, please, not my Taffy!”

I try not to have favorites but, sometimes there’s just that one who is such a little character. That would be Taffy. And yet, I wouldn’t trade one of the others in her place. I love them, too.

Devastation doesn’t begin to cut it…Especially after a search of the yard revealed a pile of her silky feathers near the fence the hawk just flew over. It seemed the worst had happened, with me only a short distance away. I tried not to imagine her little body being ripped apart piece by piece, prayed she died quickly so she would not feel the pain of it. And then shook my fist after the long gone hawk, threatening to shoot it if he/she returned. As I don’t own either firearms, crossbow or bow and arrow, I’m not sure how I might’ve carried out this threat…Even if my overly sensitive heart could readily have raised such a weapon.

Yes, I know predation is part of raising livestock, especially chickens, who are pretty high up there on the food chain. But I wasn’t prepared to be rational about this. Again, devastation doesn’t begin to cover it. I gathered up the feathers…I’m not sure why.

Mom was up when I went inside the house. Did I check under the deck? Yes, I had. How about under that corner of the barn where she hid before? I doubted there had been time for her to duck under there. I showed her the pile of feathers. I was already in mourning.

“Who is that saint you call upon when something is lost?” Mom asked.

St. Anthony. But I had already gone straight to the top, to God. And, yup, over a chicken.

I didn’t hold out much hope as I traipsed out to the barn. On the way there, though a voice inside told me I had already looked under the deck, I got down on my hands and knees and looked underneath again.

Lo and behold, a fuzzy gray and black head poked up from behind one of the footings. How she managed to crawl in there, I have no idea but I wept copiously again, with relief and joy this time, praising Him greatly for sparing her. Yes, He does answer prayers with a “Yes” sometimes.

May God bless you & keep you!