Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it…Really?

“Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, make me whiter than snow”. (Psalm 51:9)

With last week’s nor’easter dumping over 14 inches on northeastern Connecticut, everyone in this part of the country should be almost virginal…or else we’re the bad apples of the country and in great need of that purification. (Chuckle)

And forgive my cynicism. In truth, there is none in my heart. Even about the snow. I am one of those weirdos who actually LOVES snow. I don’t mind a bit sloughing through 14 inches to get to the barn. And, as this was a light, fluffy snow, it was easy to shovel us out and about. However, it did chase away the gardening bug. A little over a week ago, I had been contemplating getting the garden beds prepped. Two nor’easters in as many weeks have put that activity on a back burner; ditto for the pruning of apple and crabapple trees–mainly because getting to them is a bit of a challenge at the moment. What little snow is left has turned to ice by morning, and slippery slush by afternoon.

This is mid-March. When I look back at just a decade or two ago, sure, winter extended into March but it didn’t start in late-February, early-March, as more recent winters have done. More, though it has only been a week, those 14 inches have melted down to about 2 inches; snow when I was a kid (granted, that’s like a few centuries ago) lasted weeks on end. I’m used to seeing snow in early-February, January, even December. Despite the 14 inches that fell outside my window last week, this is actual proof of climate change. It’s kind of scary; we need this sort of snowfall all winter long to replenish our waterways. Without it, we’re in danger of future droughts–not unlike that which California has been experiencing in recent years.

And, yes, I hear all of the climate change naysayers coming out of the woodwork. How is this “actual proof of climate change?” Warm air is forced to rise over cold air. Though the warmer temps are enough to melt some of our polar ice caps, as cooler air rises from that melted ice, it meets that warmer air, forms clouds, which then result in either snow or rain (Kitchen, 2016, p. 91). In this case, we got snow. And, judging only by a storm like this, we’re judging by weather, not by climate. “Weather is what we experience on a day-to-day basis. One day can be hot and dry and the next cool and wet. Climate can be related to the statistical probability that any day during the year will be similar to the same day the previous or following years” (Kitchen, 2016, p. 4). In other words, the earlier start of winter that many of us remember from as short a time ago as a decade, versus the late appearance of snow that has been happening for a few years now, is evidence of a change in our climate. The climate, our earth, is warming up. It should be in a cooling trend based upon the earth’s natural cycling. Oftentimes, we look at the weather, which is cold and/or snowy, and think how can this be “global warming”? I think, at times, this is a misnomer. It makes the whole subject confusing, and often scary, for any but the most seasoned meteorologist. The term “global warming” applies to the climate but weather may often be very different and seem at odds with the climate. A lot of it has to do with jet streams and how that melt off travels via those jet streams.

This may seem a strange subject for a Christian minister to tackle. I know plenty of others in the Christian community who fall into denial based upon biblical promises that God will never again destroy the earth as He did in the great flood (Genesis 8:20-22). Am I doubting this promise? No. And climate change advocates are not denying this promise. Even after Noah’s time there are famines and floods described in the Bible (i.e. Matthew 7:24-25; Revelation 12:15-17), just not to the magnitude of covering (and destroying) the whole earth. As Christians, we often lament that God doesn’t appear to talk to us as clearly and directly as He did Noah and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But maybe He is. Maybe all of these changes, all of the freak storms and natural disasters that keep hitting us in intensity and frequency are His way of telling us we’re not using His resources in a responsible manner so that there will be enough for later generations. If not God, Gaia is surely speaking. She’s gagging and gasping for an air that doesn’t sting and burn and destroy her.

I am reminded of the Parable of the Three Servants in Matthew 25:14-30 where a man goes away and leaves each of his three servants a certain amount of money. The first two invest their keepings and double the money; the third, distrusting, digs a hole to keep it “safe” and only gives back what he was given. He is chastised for this. And the money he kept safe, taken and distributed to the first two men. We are given currency in the form of the air we breathe, the soil we grow our food in and build our homes upon, the water we drink, cook and clean with. Instead of keeping it all in clean and healthy growth, as the first two servants did with the loaned money, we’re burying it all in carbon emissions, chemical fertilizers and plastic waste. We call it progress. But how is it progress when the only thing that grows in these conditions are more cancers, respiratory ailments and greater poverty? How is it progress when there is a perpetual increase in species’ extinctions on a day-to-day basis? Yes, Man is given dominion over the earth. But we are abusing that authority.

So, what can we do? What can we do as average, blue–or even white–collar workers? Some of these suggestions may seem like a drop in the bucket but, if each of us takes a few baby steps to reduce our waste, our energy usage, that drop can become a flood of a different sort. Got a leaky faucet? If you have to save to have it fixed, save.
And then get it fixed. You’ll save water. You’ll save energy if that water is also warm rather than cold. You’ll save even more on your electric bill if you have a well with a pump that’s kicking on every couple of hours to replenish your tank. I sheared $25.00 off of my electric bill each month by having a leaky kitchen faucet fixed so there’s a win-win situation. Get rid of the lawn; it’s useless. This is the U.S. It will never look as pristine as the old English manor house because our climate (there’s that word again) is different than England’s. The only way to get “pristine” in the U.S. is to use chemicals. And you’re part of the problem if you’re doing so. Plant low-maintenance plants that don’t require a lot of watering instead. Better yet, plant some fruits, veggies, herbs. And grow them without the Miracle Grow and Round-Up. Create a backyard habitat for birds, amphibians and other wildlife. If you bake, consolidate your baking and do it all in one day as homemakers of old did, putting everything in the oven at the same time. This saves energy. And money. And, if all of this sounds more like thrifty homemaking advice, that’s because the two go hand-in-hand. If you can walk to the grocery store, walk. Get one of those little shopping carts in which to carry your purchases home. In the U.S. we have the freedom to vote. Use that freedom to vote for those who want to preserve life in all its forms: animal life, plant life, insect life. Human life…regardless of socioeconomic standing, skin color, orientation, country of origin or religious beliefs. Vote for those who will invest in better infrastructure so that walking, bicycling and public transit become safer alternatives. Google Amsterdam + bicycles and see what this great city is doing. Don’t trust politicians? I don’t necessarily blame you. The U.S. government seems to be heavily influenced by the oil cartels, big pharma and pesticide/fertilizer giants who don’t give a damn if you or I live or breathe as long as they get their 7+ figure bonuses each year. They can afford to buy a new oceanfront McMansion in Ohio; the honeybees and future generations of children can’t survive their chemical pollution. They can also afford the expense of trucking in what produce they can grow without honey bees from northern Canada. And, once that part of the earth is exhausted, well, they won’t be here to care…nor do they seem to care that their children and grandchildren will have to live with those consequences.

Yes, I’m hitting hard. I’ve had enough. I do trust God to provide for our needs. But I also feel that we should be taking better care of what He has given us. Because our resources are not infinite. And there is a price being paid that will only get bigger as time goes on unless we take some real steps to try and turn this around. I don’t want to start over again on Mars, creating another big waste dump out of what was once a beautiful planet. I love earth. And, what started as an itty bitty blog post about a recent snowstorm has turned into a full-blown tidal wave on climate change. But it’s important. Because life is important. And we’re destroying life on this planet. One species at a time.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Kitchen, D. (2016). Global Climate Change: Turning Knowledge into Action. New York, NY: Routledge Publishing.

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Something to Crow About

“But He replied, ‘I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me’.” (Luke 22:34)

One of my earlier homesteading dilemmas was the fate of three extra roosters here at The Herbal Hare Homestead. The three cockerels hatched last August have grown up big and beautiful. But they are also showing signs of aggression towards their sire–and each other–which is quite normal behavior for roosters. So I posted on my Facebook account, a few weeks’ before I gave it up for Lent, that I was looking for a home for them but, of course, they would only go to a home where they would be kept for protecting any hens on site. They were not to go to any “home” where they would ultimately end up in the proverbial stew pot. I got a few “Likes”, even a few serious offers of help from people who knew other farmers who might be interested.

However, after a recent purging of extra roosters at work, I have decided instead to simply build a few chicken tractors here. There is certainly enough land that I can make it work and, as there are plans to re-stock hens this year anyway, I can give them each their own little harem. For the time being, they are in some roomy pens with perches and other paraphernalia needed to keep them happy and healthy. It’s a little more work on my end but they’re worth it.

I met someone earlier this week who referred to his livestock as “pets that produce”. I like that. And it certainly falls in line with the core values that are at the foundation of The Herbal Hare Homestead: that any animal residing here need not fear their end unless they prove too aggressive towards the other inhabitants here. While MIG, Hummer and Radar would certainly fall into that category if I let them free range with Sargent Feathers, Tank and Corporal Denim (all three of whom free range and get along beautifully; have been for many years), with a little Yankee ingenuity, there’s another solution that will keep them out of harm’s way.

And, truth be told, I’ve truly grown attached to these boys. Though their natural tendency is to fight each other, towards their humans they are as gentle as lambs. Those are the kind of roosters that do a homestead proud. And, while I am definitely not writing Sargent Feathers or Corporal Denim off any time soon, they are both 7 years old; life expectancy for chickens is around 8 years. I am anticipating needing a few good roosters to protect future generations of hens.

Now let’s just hope there aren’t any males mixed in with this year’s re-stocking…

May God bless you & keep you!

PS I am now on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/theherbalhare

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!

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!