A Day for Nostalgia…and some Postponed Mourning

“Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.” (Isaiah 35:10)

Yesterday started out as a bit of an early spring cleaning day. I spent the earlier part of it dusting, chasing away cobwebs on the ceiling and just some general tidying up.

Until I got to the cedar chest in the downstairs hallway.

Originally, the cedar chest has been a place to display family pictures. The wall behind it has a montage of photographs in mixed-and-matched frames; so, too, the top of the chest. Everything of real value that, once Mom, pets and I were safely out of the house, I would run back in to rescue before the flames overtook it (heaven forbid). In more recent years, it has also become the depository for the beloved remains of departed pets, the artwork done by a beloved aunt of special needs and even a few cat toys left in the lane of traffic from the stairs to the rest of the house.

I’ve been avoiding it like the plague.

Dust? You ain’t seen nothing, honey.

Feeling ashamed and full of sorrow, I took a folding chair and sat down in front of it, duster in hand, and carefully, painstakingly, began dusting off each and every item. The canisters of Bear and Trooper’s remains were tough. I’m not really a fan of cremation, despite my environmental leanings. I hate the thought that a tiny canister of ashes is all that is left of this beloved St. Bernard and mischievous feline, respectively; it seems a sacrilege of some sort. Granted, the countless cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits, ducks, birds, rats and guinea pigs buried behind the house are just as unrecognizable to the lively and lovable creatures who once shared this home with me…and a bit of “hold” for this property that, in my more honest moments, I would love to sell. As this is rapidly becoming a more commercial area of town, the thought that they might be dug up or paved over for the next strip mall horrifies me. So I stay. And continue to struggle…but that’s another blog post for another day.

The beloved aunt was also cremated. However, her ashes were buried behind her parents’ graves in Providence. Still, pictures of her smiling face stared up at me…along with the framed pen-and-ink drawing of an elephant she’d created years’ ago; she had so much talent.

A part of me wanted to abort this mission but I carried on, lifting the lid of a keepsake box atop the chest, and feeling a bit of bittersweet delight in the treasures contained therein: an old felt hat worn by either my paternal grandfather, great-grandfather–or both! It’s a child’s hat. If my grandfather’s, he was born in 1905 so at least 100 years’ old; my great-grandfather was born in 1878. I have photos of both wearing a similar hat as young lads. The crystal candy dish that always sat on the end table between my paternal grandmother’s chair and the sofa, always filled with starlight candies. The…I’m not sure what you would call it…I’m going to say little yellow goblin that my maternal grandfather purchased and sent home to St. Louis with my mother after she’d visited RI for her sister’s wedding…or, perhaps, her brother’s funeral, I’m not sure which. It used to hold a little plastic sign that said: You and Me, Me and You, That’s the Way It’ll Always Be. One of my dogs did away with the sign; amazing that I still remember what it said. But it’s imprinted on my heart. A carefully wrapped Hummel given to me when my maternal grandmother died; it used to grace the shelf in the window by her front door. An Indian necklace of silver and turquoise, also given by my maternal grandfather as a reminder of our Native American heritage. And, for some strange reason, my cap and now-faded tassels when I graduated high school.

After setting it all aside, I finally lifted the lid of the chest. At least a dozen photo albums and countless envelopes of photos greeted me. My heart wrenched even as I picked up one of those envelopes. I took these photos. My photos tend to be predominantly of my pets. And I’ve lost quite a few over the last several years.

Yup. There’s Ariel, younger, healthier, livelier, sprawled out on the kitchen floor, looking up at me with those bright eyes and a smile on her little kitty face. I could hear the echo of her very distinctive “Me-o-ow!” Trooper hanging nearly upside-down on the kitchen chair. His was more of a “Rr-i-owww!” with the mouth doing a little arch as he uttered it. Picture Chewbacca’s voice but somewhat muted. (Chuckle) Megan, Woody, Alice, Roxy and Bear. Tessa, all white-faced in the later years of her life. The almost twin photos I took by the back gate first of Tessa and Hooch when I first moved here; then of Roxy and Bear shortly after they arrived. Rueben the Rat, poking his little twitchy nose out, looking for treats. My first 6 chickens: Rusty, Ruby, Rouge, Copper, Penny and Amber; Delilah Duck. Other chickens, too: Pierogi, Wiggy, Lil’ Peep, Flame, Autumn, Beauty, Charity, Linen, Flax, Patience, Blessing, Black Velvet, Squire, Winnie & Mannie. The budgies: Nigel, Jamaica & Skye. Guinea pigs, Harry, Ron and Hermoine (Yes, a Potter fan!); bunnies, Gizmo, Choo-Choo, Jillian, Isabella, Tango & Cindy Lou, Moxie, Splash, Mr. V, Violet, Rose & Lily, Orion and Lemony Snicket, Rainy. Mom’s dog, Max, lost three days before Christmas; he wormed his way into my heart pretty quickly. And, I confess, my heart started feeling a bit heavy. I realized that some of the depression and lack of motivation in recent years is simply grief. I’ve been in mourning yet, somehow, unable to really let it all out. Sure, there’s been tears with each loss but I’ve tucked most of it away somewhere, where it’s festered and scraped and left this raw, aching hole.

Worse, seeing pictures of that beloved aunt and hearing her tell me yet again how something is “too much like work”…or asking me “Wasn’t I darling?” when I looked at her baby pictures. The step-father I never wanted to claim as “father” because of his abuse. I’ve blogged about how forgiveness is more for ourselves, how it’s not about condoning the actions of the individual–and I could never condone that; I know how much it hurts, how difficult a hurdle it has been to overcome through life–but a means of letting go of something–hurt, anger, etc–that hurts you more than the person you’re holding that emotion towards. Yes, the forgiveness has been there. But I haven’t really allowed myself to grieve. As if grieving the passing of this man would somehow be hypercritical. And maybe to some people it would be. But without him, I also wouldn’t have a brother, whom I love more than life itself; beautiful nieces and sister-in-law that I wish I lived closer to, had more of an opportunity to know better; another family of beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I lost that third grandfather, my stepfather’s father, a year after my stepfather. Raw, aching hole…

Hypocrisy be damned.

But, you know what? Even with all the sorrow, the grief that I’ve been holding inside, bottling up, there was also a bit of healing yesterday. Despite the losses, I could look at these photos and, oftentimes, laugh. I could watch Trooper’s funny face hanging upside-down from the kitchen chair and remember his antics with real joy and appreciation for the years I got to share with him. When he showed up on my doorstep that night, my life was truly blessed. Ditto for every other pet, family member and friend. And, along with faces that I will no longer see in this life, there were photos of baby showers, and trips to the Big E Fair; of fiber fests, Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. And, suddenly, over the grief slid a sort of wonder and awe at how richly my life has been blessed. I’ve been focused on the negative: the losses. Instead of looking at all the goodness that has also been part of my life.

Of course, I shared the laughter with Mom. Mom’s not good with grief. She understands it, probably better than most, but she’s quick to mouth platitudes that I’d rather not hear, platitudes like how this pet or that is no longer suffering and in pain, or how I should think of all the little children in hospitals with cancer (I’m not sure the logic behind that one being of comfort…whether we’re talking beloved pets or family members or good friends). She means well. But she also gets anxious, as if it is a sin past bearing that one should openly exhibit emotion. But I have to. I have to let it out. Finally. Because I do mourn both human and humane. But I also rejoice in the memories. And was able to share those memories with someone else I love dearly. And that was the greatest healing of all.

May God bless you & keep you!

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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!

No School Fosta-Glosta!

“Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become as white as snow; Though they be crimson red , they may become white as wool” (Isaiah 1:18)

In light of the massive curtain of blowing snow outside my window, this old world–at least the northeastern part of the United States–ought to be washed clean in no time flat. It is a total white-out again; the second time since mid- to late-December. And it’s only January 4th…

My heart just gave a pause as I typed the date. My maternal grandmother went home to be with our Lord, Jesus Christ on January 4, 1990; can’t believe it has been so long. This has absolutely nothing to do with the original intent of this post. But I hope everyone reading will forgive the pause; such blizzard-like conditions, when the world around me is rapidly being blanketed with fluffy, white cold, always makes me a little nostalgic, providing a much-needed rest to think and reflect.

And plan.

In the midst of a snowstorm, I’m thinking about springtime and gardening, planning each bed, what plants to grow, etc. I’m contemplating some time today watching more of BBC’s Gardener’s World with Monty Don (although that is often because of Monty, himself; sorry, Sarah, but that husband of yours is certainly pleasing to the eye); No-Dig Gardening with Charles Dowding and Growing your Greens with Jon Kohler. I confess, I watch gardening shows as religiously as I lamented Mom’s obsession with HGTV. No cable TV anymore but we do have Roku; that’s actually better. We can watch what we want, when we want. We spend most of our down time on YouTube watching these shows, or else music videos. Amazingly, I’ve gotten Mom into Blackmore’s Night, Casting Crowns and Kate Bush. I’m not making as much headway with Within Temptation but she’s also got me listening to Brothers Osborne and Carrie Underwood. Go figure!

There’s another side of me today feeling like a little kid. My supervisor called me last night, telling me the museum was shutting down completely for the storm (other than the farmers who must still tend to the livestock there; pray they, and the stock, and the feral cat colony, all make it through safely). I am thankful not to be driving in this; I probably wouldn’t have anyway. My menagerie of pets need extra care, too, in this storm. However, for just a moment, when I got the call, I could almost hear the echo of Salty Brine’s familiar voice singing out: “No school Fosta-Glosta!” For those of you who grew up in Rhode Island, you will totally “get” that remark. Every Rhode Island school kid wanted to live in either Foster or Gloucester! For everyone outside of Rhode Island, “Salty Brine”, born Walter Leslie Brian in 1918, was a disc jockey, newsman and talk show host for WPRO for 51 years (Flynn, 1999; NEHS, 2018). He is a legend in these parts.

And, I guess, this snowstorm is making me more nostalgic than I thought; it is certainly taking me back. Although, as I am no longer an elementary school student, I am grateful that this storm will NOT be cutting into my summer vacation with “make-up snow days” in June. I’ll likely be puttering around the herb gardens (mine or the museum’s), planting, planning and pruning away by then. But it is nice to go back and remember snow days at Grandma’s house, when Mom would leave me there before going to work, and my youngest aunts and uncle and I would sit and listen…and pray Salty would sing out, “No school Warwick!” too. Today’s date has a relevancy after all.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Flynn, R. (1999). “Walter “Salty” Brine Papers.” Rhode Island Historical Society. Retrieved January 4, 2018 from: http://www.rihs.org/mssinv/Mss1029.htm

New England Historical Society (n.d.). “Salty Brine for 51 Years Announces News, Weather and No School Fosta Glosta”. Retrieved January 4, 2018 from: http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/19838-2/

As 2018 Greets Me with Frostbitten Wattles…

“The One who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ Then He said, ‘Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me, ‘They are accomplished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water.” (Revelation 21:5-6)

This has been one of the coldest New Year’s in my memory. Welcome to 2018! The wood stove is cranking and, though I cringe a bit with their use, ditto for the heat lamps in the barn. Like it or not, the chickens, ducks and goats are spending their day in the relative warmth today, out of the wind.

Here in New England, the temps have scarcely risen into double digits this week (unless we count minus doubles). Single digits–including some minus single digits–have been the norm. So much so, that we hit 16 degrees on Saturday and it felt like a heat wave! The animals here at The Herbal Hare Homestead felt so, too. And, as they had spent all but a few hours of the afternoons in the barn all week, they were waiting at the door for me Saturday morning, eager to get out and about. Yesterday was a little cooler but still warmer than it has been. The animals raced out again to greet it.

We lost power yesterday for a few hours. We have a well for our water, which includes the need for a well-pump. No water flowing from the faucets; no flushing ability. Not knowing how long we would be without it, Mom & I took a trip up to the local grocery store to purchase extra bottled water and a few extra bundles of wood as our furnace has an electric start. The animals were outside, enjoying the deceptively-bright late-morning sun. We stopped for a bite to eat and then came home. All total, we were gone less than two hours.

Thankfully, the power was back on when we came home. Without even removing my coat and gloves, I traipsed out to the barn to check and replenish water buckets, knowing that without the heat lamps, they were likely frozen–or quickly on their way to being so. The goats and ducks were huddled inside the barn, as were a few of the chickens, but most of the chickens had decided to huddle under the bathroom window where that deceptively-bright sun was being absorbed by the black painted walls there (this is a small corner space where they are protected on two sides (north and east) from the wind and a hill that acts as a buffer on a 3rd side; usually a pretty protected area).

It was on that first return trip from the barn that I found Sargent Feathers, head bloodied and, to be honest, my initial thought was I had lost him. He looked bad. I have a couple of new cockerels from Taffy’s latest brood-fest. Had they ganged up on him? Nope. He’d likely be a bloody pulp in that instance. So far, they’re more afraid of him than anything else; he’s not the boss of the barnyard for nothing (though I am well aware as he ages, that could change…especially with these new boys; fortunately, there are enough females, a large enough barn and plenty of free-ranging to mitigate most reasons for aggression…). Anyway, the blood appeared to be isolated to just the bald spot on the back of that Polish-crested pompadour. The flesh had chapped and cracked in the cold. I picked him up to carry him indoors to treat it and found something much, much worse: seriously swollen wattles…i.e. frostbite.

This is my very first case of frostbite here. Oh, sure, we see a few little black dots on a comb here or there–quickly treated with Vasoline, or some of my Bunny Salve (recipe below)–but never anything of this magnitude. And, of course, it is a Sunday so his vet, Dr. Japp, is closed. I quickly cleaned up the bloodied bald spot and applied some Bunny Salve to both it and the swollen wattle (salve has herbs for healing skin), very gently dabbing rather than rubbing and risking damaging the flesh even more. But I knew he would need more for the frostbitten wattles.

Though I spend at least 40 hours per week in the 19th century, it is times like these that I am ever thankful for some 21st century technology. I started perusing the Internet–some of the chicken raising community sites that I have visited and received good advice from before. I am also an herbalist with several books on both raising small livestock, and herbal remedies for pets and livestock. I grabbed a leaf from the Aloe plant in my kitchen and cut it open; again, gently dabbing it onto his wattles. You could almost see the little sigh of relief as it cooled the burn to his flesh. I set up a small cage in the kitchen for him with a big bowl of warm water to drink and some food; he drank copiously and, I am happy to say, he still has a good appetite. He has also been receiving regular treatments of warm water, soaking the wattles in the warm water to slowly warm up and, hopefully, restore the blood flow to them. There is some gray-black along the bottom edge so I am bracing myself for the possibility that he may lose part of them but, despite the seriousness of the situation, he seems to be doing quite well so far.

Of course, he is aided by the companionship of Miss Taffy, my spunky, Silkie problem child.

As soon as Sargent Feathers was settled in his cage in the house, I went back out to put the rest of the chickens in the barn. Many of them I carried in; some had to be herded (I seriously need a Border Collie…). Sunset decided to be contrary and kept ducking under the deck (Grrr…) but, eventually, I got them all settled back in with a fresh bed of hay in their nests to keep warm, fresh water and fresh food.

Or so I thought…

Taffy spends most of her time underneath what used to be a rabbit hutch in the barn. It is low to the ground and, as I use a deep litter method* here to help insulate during the winter months, Taffy has built herself a cozy little nest here. More intent on just getting everyone into the barn so I could go back to Sargent Feathers, I did not look under the hutch to ascertain that she was in her usual spot. On the next trip to the barn, I did a more thorough headcount and discovered her missing!

One can imagine the panic and the usual berating I gave myself. Fortunately, she had crawled under the barn (There is a low spot right near the barn door (barn is really a shed re-purposed as a barn) where she often nests in warmer weather). It is a shallow area, she was easy to reach and, more fortunate, she was hale and hearty, chirping away to me as I picked her up and carried her into the house. Though she did not have any frostbite, I don’t know how long she was under there and her Silkie feathers were damp.

She and Sargent Feathers are now shacking up in the kitchen just below Smoky Bones the Cockatiel’s cage. Smoky isn’t too sure about his new roommates. Master of Mimicry, Smoky has been known to “cluck” and “cackle” like the chickens pecking around in the yard in summer, searching for worms and bugs; let’s hope he doesn’t learn how to mimic Sargent Feathers’ lusty “Cock-a-Doodle-Doo” that greeted us “in stereo” the moment I turned on the kitchen light before dawn…

I’m taking heart from it though; perhaps I found Sargent Feathers just in the nick of time. It sure sounds like it.

A very Happy New Year 2018 to Everyone…may God bless you & keep you!

*Deep litter method is spreading a layer of pine shavings on the floor of the barn/coop and just adding layers over their waste and discarded hay and allowing it to slowly compost. Sounds gross; compost is warm and insulating and, if done correctly, there is no build-up of any harmful bacteria or moisture. There is also a ridge vent all along the roof of the barn for any moisture to escape if necessary. In spring, it makes a nice addition to the garden.

Bunny Salve

Equal parts organic Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and Plantain (Plantago major or Plantago lanceolata) (This is the grass-like plantain found in most lawns, not the banana-like fruit found in grocery stores, which is Musa x paradisiaca…).

Using a double boiler (or a small stainless steel sauce pan (Please do NOT use non-stick cookware, or cast iron, when making herbal decoctions…) in about 1/2 – 1 inch of water in a larger sauce pan), on low heat, cover the herbs with olive oil (if using beeswax) or, you may melt a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil then add the herbs (again, very low heat; avoid scorching or boiling herbs…if they scorch, dispose of scorched herbs in the compost bin and start again on a lower heat setting). Allow them to slowly simmer for 45 minutes, covered. Strain when done, saving the liquid. If using coconut oil, simply add a couple of drops of Vitamin E oil to preserve and pour into a glass jar (short and squat is best size/style). The coconut oil will solidify as it cools. If using beeswax, pour the oil back into the pan and, on lowest heat setting, add about 1 inch squared piece of beeswax to 8 ounces of oil and slowly melt it; stir; pour into glass jar and add a couple of drops of Vitamin E oil; stir again.
(Word of caution: Do NOT pour any unused beeswax…or any unused salve made with beeswax…down the drain, or attempt to wash the pan with the beeswax and oil in a sink; you will never unclog the drain again without the very costly assistance of a plumber having to replace said piping. It is biodegradable and non-toxic; use a kettle of hot water to rinse the pan outside. Also, it is highly flammable; never leave it unattended when heating on the stove.)

This salve has worked wonders for urine scalding, chapped combs and wattles, chapped hands, lips, and even diaper rash (although, for the latter, I often add equal parts of calendula (Calendula officinalis) and St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum); these last two are not recommended for animal use but work well on human skin).

“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.”

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!