Homesteading Dilemma

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins that He might rescue us from the present evil age in accord with the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Galatians 1:3-5)

It feels almost like a sacrilege to write a piece of Scripture wishing peace on everyone when I’m contemplating what I consider the unthinkable: culling animals. Three out of the four chicks born last August are cockerels. No, the vegetarian isn’t going to butcher them. More likely, see if I can find a couple of farms that might need a rooster to protect their flock of hens; they’re super valuable that way. But I have too many now. And, worse, the three younger roosters are ganging up on Sargent Feathers.

Sargent Feathers, to jog everyone’s memory, has been recuperating from frost-bitten wattles in my kitchen for the last month. His lady friend, Taffy, has been keeping him company but, now that he is healed, it’s time to put him back outside. So, this past week, he and Taffy have been in the same cage but that cage was relocated to the barn. I wanted everyone to get used to their presence again before releasing them as they’ve been “gone” for too long and a slightly different pecking order has been established…in the form of three young cockerels thinking they now rule the roost. No super aggression exhibited towards the cage and its inhabitants. In fact, Goldie recognized her boy immediately and has been sleeping atop the cage to be closer to him. So, this morning, I let them out for a little while, staying close to them…just in case.

And it’s a good thing I did.

First, Radar came strutting over. (PS I have a naming system here at The Herbal Hare Homestead. Roosters get named for something military. Hence, Sargent Feathers, Corporal Denim, Tank, Radar, MIG and Hummer; the last three formerly K.C., Shelly and Pat before their gender was confirmed) I stepped between them and Radar ran back towards the flock (these young cockerels are not at all aggressive towards humans; they’d make a nice addition to another barnyard where there’s no competition for control); Sargent Feathers stayed near the barn door and let out a good, lusty crow. Amazing to see the loyalty of that barnyard. More than half of the ladies and Tank, my Silkie rooster, who has no aggression or seeming desire for dominance at all, came racing over to his side. That gave Sargent Feathers some confidence, I think. He started chirping and clucking right along with them, a sort of chicken celebration: “Yay! He’s back!”

Then Hummer came strutting over. I stepped towards him. He raced back.

Mom and I have been considering maybe we should put Sargent Feathers, Taffy and Goldie in with the ducks; they’ve all grown up together and get along fine (except for Dweezil’s lusty advances on Prudence…). And it may be an option. But I think more of the flock will want to be in the old coop with them instead of free-ranging and why should Sargent Feathers give up his turf? Or the bulk of his flock?

The light bulb went on in my head (I think it had a short in it though…).

How would the cockerels do with the ducks until I can either re-stock with more females, essentially making another flock, or figure out what to do with them otherwise? So I caught one–MIG–and put him in the coop.

Nope. That’s not going to work.

Duncan and Dweezil surrounded him in a heartbeat. They know and love Sargent Feathers; this guy was an intruder. I let him back out again before it got ugly.

To make a long story short, Sargent Feathers and Taffy are temporarily back in their cage. Tonight, I may let the ducks co-habitat with the chickens and goats again, and while they are quietly roosting, grab the young cockerels and put them in the old coop where the ducks have been. Though Dweezil gets a little too familiar with some of my chickens, they can flutter up onto their roosts to escape his attentions (or Chester’s back; Prudence’s place of refuge…who would’ve thought such a bond between goat and chicken could exist); Sargent Feathers has nowhere to go to escape a three onto one situation that his old bones can never hope to win…no matter his level of confidence–and there was one point this morning where he strutted and then jumped right in the middle of the three, intent on re-establishing his authority. That’s when I rescued him from said suicide mission and put him back in his cage; he can re-establish authority after the young boys are cooped away from him and, possibly, find a good home where they can lead their own flock of ladies.

But I hate having to make this decision.

And, even as I type this, I am remembering that old roll of fencing behind the coop and the old gate…maybe it’s time to build another coop…and, yes, create another flock. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Walking by Faith

“So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-7)

Walking by faith isn’t easy for someone with my background. It means trusting someone other than yourself…in this case, Someone. In the past several years I’ve been robbing Peter to pay Paul; oftentimes, finding Peter’s pockets empty, too. This is true financially and equally true where time is concerned.

Maybe more so.

It’s not easy being a homesteader, working towards that day when that homestead might also be a source of income; a full-time college student; a writer; blogger; minister–while also working a full-time job with a 2 hour round-trip commute. I’m not complaining, mind you. I love what I do. And I won’t always be a college student. But there are plenty of days where I wearily look at that alarm clock, that commute, the mountain of homework due by week’s end and think, “I can’t do this anymore!” Burn out happens more often than not.

The week before Christmas I caved in to that burn out. I had a two-part final paper due on plastic pollution. It was due Sunday evening by midnight (online degree program). I started working on it a couple of weeks’ in advance, researching, gathering data, pictures for the PowerPoint presentation that was due with the paper…and found myself on Sunday night thinking, “Damn! This is another all-nighter.” Exhausted, I looked at the work again, the time; my body was trembling, my head swimming with fatigue. And I made a rare decision for myself: I went to bed early, got up in the morning and handed in the assignment a day late, knowing it would mean a 10% loss of grade.

But I didn’t care. I was that tired.

Some part of my weary mind gave it over to God. He knew I’d been working on this steadily. He knew this wasn’t a case of my usual tendency to procrastinate. And, suddenly, though the lower grade didn’t sit well (I tend to be the Hermoine Granger type…), I found something in me that was willing to accept it.

Because a good night’s rest was more important.

I got a perfect score anyway. The professor’s comment started off with a “Wow!” and a “this deserves full marks”. (Okay, so I’m bragging again but, truly, it is only by His grace that I managed to get such a high mark when class policy is set for a 10% loss of final score…unless previously arranged otherwise with your instructor; this wasn’t pre-arranged.)

Anyway, I am sharing the PowerPoint presentation here. (I hope it plays okay…I’ve never tried attaching a presentation to my blog before) Though Environmental Science is my minor, each class has inspired me more in reducing my carbon footprint…and is giving me yet another direction to take this blog. Concern for the environment, for all the many species of life that are becoming extinct–or at least are classed “endangered”–due to global warming, is one of the main reasons why I homestead. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. And, if I can raise greater awareness of the problems Mother Earth is facing today, maybe more people will take a stand and start lowering their carbon footprint, too. Enjoy!

And may God bless you & keep you!

SNHU Eliminating Plastics Presentation

PS If it cannot be opened/run via this blog, please someone leave a comment below; I will try to remedy. Thank you!

Stumpy’s Legacy

“Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)

Yesterday one of the feral cats that calls the museum home greeted me outside one of the stores. She’s one of the more friendly cats, will actually allow herself to be scratched and petted and so, of course, I paid homage…as did several co-workers. She also stood there lifting one paw up off of the freezing ground, placing it back down, lifting the other. I would’ve loved nothing more than to pick her up, take her home and plunk her down in front of the wood stove with my cats so she could warm those little toes but, having never lived in an actual house, that might’ve wigged her out a bit. She does have barns and a corn crib to get out of the wind and, judging by the round belly, she eats well (she is altered so she’s not with child). This is not a criticism on her care but a quick reminder that, here in New England, at least, we are experiencing single digit temperatures all of this week. And there are plenty of stray and/or wild animals who are struggling to survive in this cold…struggling, and not all of them have even the meager comfort of barns and corn cribs to tuck into.

Yes, I know all of the cautions about feeding strays and wildlife…and yet, many of us have bird feeders and birdhouses. I realize that both strays and wildlife can become a nuisance but, providing at least a pile of brush, or old logs, perhaps a door to an old shed left partially open–similar to those corn cribs and barns–will at least get these animals out of the biting wind.

Livestock, too, need some extra provision in this cold. A three-sided shed works well in most instances but, in these single digits, even pigs struggle to keep warm enough. And all creatures need warm water to keep them hydrated enough that hypothermia doesn’t set in.

Granted, I baby my livestock. My chickens, ducks and goats have a small barn with two heat lamps going and about 6 inches of hay on the floor as added insulation between themselves and the frigid floor boards. (Lamps are well-anchored high enough away that even the goats can’t reach them and knock them over/off; cords are checked twice daily and the lamps used mainly to keep water from freezing solid) But pigs can get chilblain; cows’ noses and ears frostbite; ditto for chicken legs, combs and wattles, etc. Vaseline applied to wattles and combs helps but it is not a substitute for adequate housing.

Little Gray Kitty lifting her paws one by one against the freezing ground haunted me all night. I am reminded of a friend’s cat, affectionately christened Stumpy. Stumpy had been a stray who showed up on her doorstep…missing her two front paws due to frostbite.

I know many take the biblical passage I shared as God will take care of all creatures. Yes, He will. Oftentimes, He does so by calling them home in this bitter cold rather than having them suffer longer for lack of care here on earth. It seems an awful way to go, freezing to death. Yes, He works miracles. But we are the body. He uses our hands, our hearts, our minds to accomplish those miracles. If we choose to ignore the plight, even of those “lesser” creatures, then tragedies happen…like Stumpy’s missing paws. Thankfully, she now has a loving home where frostbitten toes are a thing of the past.

Lastly, if you’re moving and cannot take your pet(s) with you, had someone inconsiderately drop off an unwanted pet, etc. please do not do likewise and drop that pet off on the streets somewhere (or a living history museum!). Find/call a local shelter. I know many are strained and, sometimes, will refuse them. But don’t give up. Keep calling around until you find one that has the room. A small donation (food and blankets work fine if money is scarce; they appreciate any help, over-worked as they are) allows them to perform some small miracles, too.

May God bless you & keep you!

3:30 Woman Returns

“They are renewed each morning, so great is His faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:23)

Very early morning seems to be the sweet spot for me. So, it has taken some careful rearranging of my days, especially now that I am working a full-time job + the two hours’ commute round trip but, I think I have arrived. And it is good to be back at the keyboard.

So, where have I been?

Sedulously going through each and every blog post that I have ever written and removing any and all mention of the name of the museum where I am currently employed. I’m not sure why I didn’t extend this courtesy to my current employer; I’ve always been careful not to mention any past employer out of respect for the fact that my views and theirs may not jive. This is particularly important now with my occasional “Wednesday Weed Walks” and “Friday’s Flora and Fauna”. As their herb garden lead, even including an FDA disclaimer that what I write is meant for “educational purposes only” and not meant to “treat, diagnose” etc., the museum could potentially be held liable if someone were to, for example, gargle with sage to treat a sore throat and have an allergic reaction. If I had to analyze this lax, my tenure as a volunteer cast them in a different light than past museums I may have worked at or even the car dealership…which was usually referred to as simply “the car dealership”. So now they are simply “the museum” or I refer to myself as working in “living history”.

And, yes, there is more to the story than this. What I just wrote is absolutely true and valid, just not “all”.

There have also been a couple of posts removed…by request, but done so willingly. In short, they cast the museum in an unfavorable light. What I wrote back in November (Wow! Has it really been that long???) was also true and valid but, in reflection, it would have been more prudent to call a meeting with my supervisor and tell what I saw…instead of going public with it immediately. I haven’t given up, given in, but, as a writer, though I can tout our First Amendment with freedom of speech, press, etc, being a writer also carries with it a certain responsibility. And, if I want to mitigate something, there are always proper channels to follow…before blasting someone in public. By going public immediately, I actually hurt the cause more than I helped it. And I did lower myself to calling some fellow employees “barbarians”. I let myself get carried away with my emotions; understandably, maybe, but to lower myself to such standards, well, I may have also cast myself in an unfavorable light. And, no matter what the situation, calling names is never acceptable.

For that, I beg pardon. Sometimes, even ministers have to eat some humble pie.

May God bless you & keep you!

My Apologies for the Delay…

Good morning (or whatever time of day it is in your part of the world…)

In the middle of some major “renovations” here on this blog. As soon as they are completed, I will certainly include more information about them. For the time being, I thank everyone for their patience. New content will be added soon.

In the meantime, keep working towards that faith-filled, sustainable and compassionate future. We CAN be the change we wish to see in the world.

May God bless you & keep you!

Pat and Shelly

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Luke, 13:34)

Today’s passage has very little to do with today’s blog post…except I remembered this verse from the Bible as referencing a hen with her chicks.

Last night I went out to the barn to do the usual evening’s routine of feeding all the animals, doing a headcount to make sure all are present and accounted for, replenishing water and, lastly, shutting them in said barn, safe from predators. And, in some cases, safe from each other as the ducks, if not shut in the coop away from them, continue to bully the chickens.

Except Taffy the Silkie Chicken…

Taffy has been broody of late. Taffy goes “broody” quite a lot. It’s actually a characteristic of Silkies. They are some of the best mothers and, if they don’t have any chicks of their own to mother, they will mother everyone else’s. They also like nothing better than to sit on the eggs until one hatches…or I get worried and decide I’d better remove her from the nest before she dehydrates or cripples up too greatly. I was about to do just that with Taffy…until I went into the coop last night. Taffy is the only hen that will still co-habitate with the ducks; the rest have long since decided to bunk in with the goats. Of course, for a little thing, Taffy is all piss and vinegar. Now she has even more reason to be. If you look closely at the picture above, you can just make out the two little peeps in front of her. All are gray, or silver, depending on whom you ask. And she’s still sitting on a clutch of eggs, guarding them fiercely. I brought her, the two chicks, and the clutch of eggs into the house last night, not trusting the ducks not to harm them (not so much Dixie but the two males are brutes…) and fearing, too, that they might fall out of the nesting box. It’s too high off of the floor for those fragile little bodies.

Anyway, Taffy & Co. are quite happy in their little cage. I set it in the rabbit room where it’s cool and comfortable…and less feline traffic. So far, only Ozzy got curious enough by the sound of the peeps to investigate but Taffy’s squawk sent him running in the other direction; he hasn’t returned to the rabbit room since.

Miss Taffy, however, is facing what so many young mothers experience–she’s got two toddling around the cage, getting into mischief while trying to spread her tiny self over the remaining nine eggs. Not an easy feat. She’s also trying to keep the two hatched chicks warm. Earlier today, five of the eggs must have rolled out from under her as she tried to juggle so many responsibilities; I assumed she kicked them away so I picked them up. I swear, I heard a “peep” from inside one of the shells. I could be absolutely wrong but I even went so far as to hold them closer to my ear and I heard it again–and not coming from the cage and the two hatched babies. So I put them back. And now she has spread herself out as thinly as she can again, warming both the living and those yet to be born.

The two hatched chicks have been christened “Pat” and “Shelly” after the two friends who have been such a blessing recently, being responsible for the transportation I now have at hand to get back and forth to work each day. I’m not sure how they feel about little baby chicks being named after them but it was meant with good intent…and, knowing Pat at least is a major animal lover, I’m sure she’s not the least bit offended.

I can’t wait to see how these new additions look as they develop their first feathers. Will they be part-Silkies with hair instead of true feathers? Will they all be silver? Or will some turn black? Or red? Golden or white? Many of the eggs still under Taffy are blue, which says they were laid by one of my Americaunas: Flame, Sunset, Rae or Sylvie. None of the eggs are Silkie-sized. They’re all quite large–too large to be Taffy’s, and neither Pat nor Shelly has feathers on his or her feet.

I know in many cultures, and especially earlier eras, sons were desired over daughters. But I really hope most, if not all–especially if the rest of the eggs hatch–are pullets rather than cockerels…

May God bless you & keep you!

PS Would that some vet somewhere figure out how to safely sterilize a young cockerel so he doesn’t grow up to be a rooster. Though it may not make good financial sense from a more traditional farmer’s, or homesteader’s, point of view, I would much rather remove the hormones and get a tamer bird to be a companion to the others than have to send him to slaughter simply because he’s a boy. Maybe I’ll just look into buying some extra pullets…

Over It

“Get over it!”

I hear a lot of this whenever I talk about, or add a new blog post, that shares about my childhood. Oh, the fun and games that every child remembers is acceptable. But the darker, more sinister aspects of my childhood should be kept quiet…if only because it offends the delicate sensibilities of others.

I say, if it offends your delicate sensibilities, then good. Great, in fact! If I’m offending your delicate sensibilities, then I’m getting under your skin. I’m making you aware that 6.6 million referrals of child abuse/molestation are reported annually in the United States alone–many involving more than one child, and alcoholism affects 15.1 million adults over the age of 18 (Child Help; NIAAA, 2017). Quite often, the two are irrevocably linked. And these are just the incidents that were reported…because the delicate sensibilities of those closest to many of these lost children dictate that these children should suffer in silence, rather than exploit the family dysfunction. I say, to what purpose should I “get over it” unless both of those statistics change to a big, fat ZERO.

SPOILER ALERT!

I hate to burst a few bubbles but, I am “over it”. You see, if I wasn’t “over it”, I wouldn’t be able to blog, or talk, so candidly about my childhood experiences. 20+ years in therapy have led me to a much healthier place, mentally and emotionally. I know sometimes it may seem otherwise when there are so many “hang-ups” that still trip me from time to time. But, honestly, before therapy, I bottled everything so deeply inside that I couldn’t see the proverbial forest through the trees. And I guess this blog post is coming about as a means to change some misconceptions…about a lot of things.

First of all, therapy. Whenever I get tripped up by some sort of coping mechanism I adopted as a child, or by a wave of self-doubt, there are some who cast aspersions on that therapy…or the therapist who worked so closely with me. But therapy, while valuable, can never truly wipe away those “hang-ups”; my memories aren’t going to disappear. I’m not going to forget what happened. However, I no longer dwell upon it. It isn’t an all-consuming nightmare from which I cannot wake up anymore. Therapy has helped me to put those painful memories, well, not really on a back burner but, instead, I can look at them with some distance, take them out, study them, study their effects, and, like an onion, peel away another layer of hurt and dysfunction in manageable bites. This is important because, if I tried to deal with everything all at once, I would get overwhelmed and incapacitated by that overwhelming. The abuse that I endured growing up was spread out over several years; is it any wonder that the recovery from it would also take a number of years?

Another blessing of that therapy is that, while I am peeling away those layers, I also have tools to help lift me out of depression and anxiety, to boost my self-esteem when it wants to plummet, to deal with anger and even the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that became one of those coping mechanisms. I will probably always be afflicted with some trace of OCD. In fact, with Mom now living with me, I find myself falling back into some old obsessions. I’m guessing it’s because I am suddenly exposed to some of that learned behavior from dealing with active alcoholism again. I escaped life with an alcoholic when I was in my early-20’s; Mom lived with that same alcoholic for over 40 years. For at least half of those years, I was in that therapy, peeling those layers away; Mom was still in the midst of it, dealing with it. Yes, she did choose to do so but that doesn’t change the fact that she learned a few coping mechanisms of her own. I see it, hear the sometimes sarcasm, the passive-aggression, the lack of concern for her own well-being, the escapism, the manipulation, the desperate attempt to develop a new co-dependency with me. It saddens me. Because, overall, she’s a good woman who simply allowed herself to get caught in a bad situation…partly because she didn’t believe that she deserved better treatment, and partly because, underneath the alcoholism and abuse, she saw something–someone–that she loved despite the abuse…and she’s still struggling with the ill effects of that choice.

Of course, I will also concede that the OCD has become over-active again because some small part of me may still harbor some anger at Mom…for not acting when I first told her what was happening to me. I was eight years old. Today, she says she doesn’t remember me telling her. I’m not sure how one would forget such a conversation but, I am willing to concede that it may have been such a shock to her, that maybe some part of her did block it out. Because it was too much for her to deal with. It hurts too much to think that maybe she simply didn’t care enough to help me. Either way, acceptance is the only way to true forgiveness.

And therein lies another misconception: forgiveness. A lot of people look at forgiveness as giving in, giving up, as saying that whatever vile and/or hateful thing that has been committed is okay. No, it is never okay for a little child to be abused…in any way, shape or form. It’s not okay for any living creature–human or humane, child or adult to be abused. Forgiveness isn’t about the actions of the abuser. We’re not forgiving the act–or lack of action–but the person committing the act, or lack thereof.

“Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, He will not forgive you.” (Matthew, 6:14-15)

Forgiveness isn’t truly about them anyway. Forgiveness is a gift for the one doing the forgiving, for the peace that settles over the soul once we finally let go of the grudge, the anger, the stubbornness that inhibits further healing from the transgression. Forgiveness releases the power the transgressor still wields over us to hurt us even more…because by hanging onto our anger, truly, the only person we hurt is ourselves.

So, what does all of this have to do with homesteading? I get asked that one A LOT. Because, really, that’s the whole reason I started this blog. I wanted it to be a daily accounting–or at least a weekly one–of my journey as a homesteader. However, as I technically started this blog back in 2010, but never really contributed to it on a regular basis until last August (2016), obviously, I didn’t have as much to say about my homesteading endeavors. Or maybe I just needed to get into a regular writing routine, which I have done, and see which direction it evolved. I’d like to think that these two separate journeys are somehow intertwined…above and beyond the fact that this modern-day homesteader is also the one still healing from the effects of childhood trauma.

In fact, there’s the link: a journey of healing from childhood abuse…and a journey to heal Mother Earth from the effects of Mankind’s abuse of her. What’s in our food? A lot of things that should not even be used in the same sentence as “food”: high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, dyes, aspartame, saccharin and sucralose. Where does it come from? A package? A can? From over 3000 miles away where a huge carbon footprint is created to transport it across country, across the globe, after lacing it with these artificial preservatives, and growing it with chemical pesticides and fertilizers…which kill us, kill the animals, the plants, kill the honey bees. What’s in our clothing? Nylon, synthetics–by-products of the petroleum industry. Athletic wear, especially, contains a lot of plastic. Plastic off-gases in our landfills. It gets dumped into our rivers and streams, our oceans, where tiny particles of it…and sometimes even larger pieces…get ingested by wildlife and aquatic life. I recently did a presentation regarding climate change. I found a photograph of a seal that had died from ingesting run-off from lawn fertilizers–such as Scotts or TruGreen. We’re killing our planet, ourselves. And, while one lone homesteader may not be able to make much of a dent in that carbon footprint, I can lead by example. And I can rest knowing that I’ve done the best I could to lessen my contribution to the abuse. That’s worth it to me.

As this homestead is also intended as an animal rescue and rehabilitation, a sanctuary to help heal animals of abuse and/or abandonment, here, too, is another journey of healing. I need a bigger homestead if I’m to achieve the level of success that I envision but, for now, I work with what I have and mitigate whatever suffering I can, one heart at a time.

For every new skill I learn as a homesteader, whether it is canning, preserving, a new gardening technique, a new fiber art mastered, for every new animal that I learn to care for and that thrives, I gain a new level of confidence that takes me even further away from those painful memories. And that’s a link that will endure forever.

May God bless you & keep you!

References

Child Help, (2017). Statistics. Retrieved June 2, 2017 from: https://www.childhelp.org/child-abuse-statistics/
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Statistics. Retrieved June 2, 2017 from: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics