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At Sixes and Sevens

“Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10).

“A state of confusion or disarray”, says The Free Dictionary online to the phrase “at sixes and sevens”. Confusion? Yes. Confused how I got to this place again in life, worrying about foreclosure, which is eminent if I cannot get back to work soon. Confused with how to stay afloat, where to turn, what to do. I find myself so weary of the constant struggle. It’s been this way since 2009 almost indefinitely. Only brief little respites. I start to pick myself back up again. And I fall back down. Why?

Yup…I’m in that wowzy wowzy woo woo mode again. I know I’m suppose to release that struggle to Jesus, to trust Him to make it all work out–even if it’s not exactly how I would like it to be. And whining about everything surely doesn’t help but, would everyone understand if I said, “I can’t help it?” (Ok, ok…maybe I can but indulge me for a moment, please)

I’m in over my head right now. And, while the shoulder is feeling better, it’s still not 100%. Holding a cellphone for more than a few minutes becomes quite uncomfortable. I’m getting impatient with being a patient again…and this one is serious. Bones don’t mend overnight. But there’s too much of that disarray right now, owing to the current lack of income.

And yet, amidst all of this disarray and confusion, there’s a part of me truly grateful for the rest that this convalesce has provided on a physical level. I’m not as perpetually sleep-deprived. I’m writing more. Singing in the choir at church. Spending some quality time with Mom and the pets here at The Herbal Hare Homestead. And even sharing a few visits with friends who, prior to my injury, probably thought I’d forgotten about them. If I wasn’t so worried about finances, I would focus everything I have on the positive outcomes and just allow myself to heal. That’s why I’m home right now. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

Unfortunately, it’s not always so simple. Focusing on just healing is the ideal; the reality is something altogether different.

But, I’m not giving up. I’m going to trust that He does have a plan for all of this. And that everything will work out for the best in the end. In the meantime, I will keep posting my Go Fund Me campaign link and asking everyone to share it. There’s been a few “bites” for which I am eternally grateful; I am eternally grateful for all of the love and moral support that has been coming my way lately, too. I know, deep down inside, that He really does have my back.

And yours, too, no matter what storm you may be riding out right now…blessed be the name of the Lord.

May God bless you & keep you!

https://www.gofundme.com/manage/9fymzf-medical-leave

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Donor Help

My cousin, Gary Chelak, just found out he has one kidney not functioning at all and the other at only 17%. I am reaching out to my WordPress community to share this link in the hopes that we might find Gary a donor.

Many thanks…and May God bless you & keep you!

https://www.USCLivingDonor.org

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A Living Wage

“And woe to you, King Jehoiakim, for you are building your great palace with forced labor. By not paying wages you are building injustice into its walls and oppression into its doorframes and ceilings.” (Jeremiah 22:13)

As much as possible, I try to steer away from politics on my blog but, if my tagline is truly, well, true, then sometimes getting political is a must. If we are to heal as a people. And, if I’m being totally, brutally honest, Ivanka Trump just hit a nerve with me. A big nerve.

Ivanka stated: “I don’t think most Americans, in their heart, want to be given something. People want to work for what they get” (Reints; politicalobserver.com).

Yes, there is a lot of truth in that statement. We are a strong, courageous and proud motley of people who would rather work for what we get/what we have than to receive hand-outs. There is a certain pride in being able to pay for your cost of living. It is a pride that allows you to lift your head up and look people squarely in the eye. It is a pride that allows you to open the doors wide–to your home, and to your heart–because this is the home and life you have created (or, rather, that He has provided you the means to create). When that pride is missing because of a job loss, an illness or injury, or simply inadequate wages, suddenly the signs of neglect are everywhere. Homes start to show signs of neglect, disrepair, unkempt, over-grown. Clothing is much mended and threadbare because the means to purchase “new,” even in a thrift store, isn’t there. Faces take on a tired, drawn look. Dark circles and/or bags form under the eyes. Tempers flare. And people withdraw. Invites to dinner/outings with family or friends are declined because they don’t feel they have anything to contribute, or can’t afford to pay their way to an event. People start to feel like a mooch (uh-oh, here they come again, Martha, pretend we’re not home). And, in the case of illness or injury, if there aren’t any outward signs of it (i.e. brace, cast, etc), people even start to sneer that maybe this person does not want to work. Or hint that they brought it on themselves.

The end result?

Total.

Isolation.

Addictions.

Disorders.

Loneliness.

Depression.

Even suicide (No, I’m not, but I can certainly understand at this point why people feel so hopeless in the face of such conditions and, PS, I have a therapist; a lot of people are too ashamed to even seek help when they need it. Keep that one in mind the next time the temptation to judge another’s situation arises)

So, while I can agree with Ms. Trump for her acknowledgement of human pride in wanting to work for what you get, she’s missing the biggest piece of the equation. What if you’re working–and working hard, not a slacker in the least–and yet, your wages are too low to pay for even your most basic necessities?

Let’s crunch some numbers here:

Minimum wage sits at $7.25 per hour. It has been $7.25 per hour since 2009 (Reint; politcalobserver; Miller; Amadeo; Numbeo). If you can find a full-time job (because, despite Trump Sr.’s avowal, they aren’t as prolific as he’d like us to think; voice of experience) at $7.25 an hour, your gross pay after 40 hours of work is $290.00. Multiply that times 4 weeks in a month and you get a gross income of $1160.00 per month. Working overtime, say 50, or even 60 hours per week, would drive that up exponentially. But most employers don’t want to pay overtime. It may be because they cannot afford to pay the time-and-a-half required for overtime but, either way, most workers are not getting it. So they take a second, or a third job, working a total of 50 ($362.50 wk/$1450.00 mo) or 60 ($435.00 wk/$1740.00 mo) hours each week, traveling back and forth between those 2-3 minimum wage jobs, become over-tired, get sick–or injure–easily because they’re rundown, and cost their respective employers more money in sick/PTO (paid time off, if provided).

Granted, the above numbers are a single income household like my own. So, if you have a partner, maybe we can double this. And, if it’s just you and your partner, maybe you don’t have to work that second or third job. What if you have children? The average cost of daycare in 2018 was $211.00 WEEKLY(!!??!) (Care.com). That’s almost a full week’s wages for one partner at that minimum wage, 40-hour gig. Some will willingly pay it because that extra $79 left over in that check might be a week’s grocery shopping. But that’s the cost for ONE child; multiply for 2, 3, or 4. If you’re a single parent, and you only have that minimum wage, 40-hour-gig, do you see the problem? How is anyone supposed to hold their head up high under those odds? How can you expect to work for what you have when you can barely provide the most basic of necessities?

Now let’s look at housing costs in America (I would love to see a freeze on housing costs…):

The average median price (2018) for a one bedroom apartment in America is between $991.62 and $1266.40 (Miller). The prices vary depending upon location with the higher prices reflecting those homes closer to the heart of the city and all the amenities that affords. If you’re living in the suburbs, or the country, the lower rental price is balanced against the higher cost of transportation, usually an automobile, because bus services can be quite sketchy, especially in rural areas (again, voice of experience). A 3-bedroom apartment can range from $1601.58 to $2058.96, same variance reflected. The single parent does not even make enough to cover a month’s rent in the city, and less than $200 more living outside of the city’s heart. Again, these are gross wages; this is not what these people are taking home. And this single person may not qualify for government assistance at these wages, even if they can swallow that pride to apply for them. The U.S. Poverty Line used as a guideline by Social Services, etc. is as follows (Miller):

Family size: 1 person $12,140 annually gross income (AGI) Family size: 2 people $16,910 AGI
Family size: 4 people $25,750 AGI

$1160 per month at the minimum wage of $7.25 times 12 months is $13,920. If this is a couple, both earning $13,920 a year, even if there are children involved, they do not qualify at all because their combined wages are $27,840 annually. Without children, it may not be an issue. But, with children, they’re also likely to be forced into that bigger, more expensive apartment, as well as have daycare expenses to pay. Unless they opt to nix any quality family time to work separate shifts, or take on extra side gigs.

With mortgages, it is even more varied. Most people scraping by on a minimum wage position, even a full-time position, can never get approval to own a home of their own. However, if, like yours truly, they had a better paying job before the economic crash of, roughly, a decade ago, and still own a home, they may be paying for a mortgage instead of rent. The average cost of a mortgage is “$1030 a month, according to the latest American Housing Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau” (Pritchard). This is reflective of a fixed rate amortizing in taxes and insurance costs; principal and interest alone averages $853 per month.

The Green New Deal, which may become a topic here for a while, wants to provide “a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security” (Reints). It isn’t proposing that we simply hand people a new job; it is proposing that the job market overall should provide wages that a body can live on. We’re not talking about that random deadbeat who doesn’t want to work; we’re talking about millions of Americans right now who are working–and trying to “secure a job” that really will provide that “upward mobility” Ivanka talks about–and yet they cannot move upwards because they can’t afford to feed their children. Or even themselves. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is correct in stating that “a living wage isn’t a gift, it’s a right” (or it should be) and workers often are not paid for “the value they create” in their company (Reints; Sullivan).

And, sadly, far too many employers are aware of all of these numbers. If you don’t like it, you can always leave. I encountered that attitude a decade ago when I was still working a corporate position that barely provided for my needs and they refused to give wage increases the last three years’ running.

You expect some struggle. Hardships happen. Hopefully, grace will pull you through. And some careful budgeting, robbing Peter to pay Paul, and a local food pantry who doesn’t care about guidelines. You pray for miracles. And a community that cares. You endure the sneers that maybe you don’t know how to balance a budget, or that you’ve brought your hardships on yourself. You have statistics thrown at you that, even with an increase in minimum wage, people will spend that extra money instead of saving, investing and/or getting out of debt. Yes, maybe there’s some truth to that one, too. Oftentimes, people pay off a mountain of debt and go right back out, get another credit card…and run it back up again. More likely, increasing the minimum wage to a level that affords most families the ability to move upwards, will amount to them buying their own groceries, paying their utilities and paying off at least a portion of their debt. In short, it’ll place the 12.3% of Americans living below poverty guidelines (Miller) above those poverty levels and take them out of the welfare system. Heck, it might even stimulate the economy as they move out of poverty and, possibly, into home ownership. At the very least, they might be able to take in a movie, or go to a doctor when they’re sick. Because now they can afford the co-payment.

Ivanka hit a hot spot. I don’t begrudge her the advantages she’s had in life. It’s simply the way things are that some are born into privilege, while others struggle indefinitely. However, while she has the right on our American pride of wanting to work for what we need/have, and to grow wherever we are placed, she needs a lesson in reality for the other 99% in this country who don’t earn enough–no matter how hard they work for it–even to keep a roof overhead. If she, and others in that top 1%, were to switch places with even the so-called middle class, they’d crumple into a fetal position. And, knowing that, is a reason for us 99% to raise our heads high after all.

Now, if only our wages reflected that pride we take in ourselves, in our work, and in our lives. Yup…I know about the sin of pride. I suspect, with my reason fall, injury, and impending foreclosure, He’s working on that sin in me. But that’s another post for another day…

May God bless you & keep you!

https://www.gofundme.com/9fymzf-medical-leave?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=email&utm_content=campaign_link_t&utm_campaign=welcome

Works Cited

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Living Wage and How It Compares to the Minimum Wage: How Much Do You Need to Live in America.” The Balance. Web. https://www.thebalance.com/living-wage-3305771

Miller, G. E. “What is the U.S. Poverty Level Line and Could You Live Below It?” 20 Something Finance. Web. https://20somethingfinance.com/what-is-the-united-states-poverty-line

Numbeo. “Cost of Living – U.S.” Web. https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=United+States

politicsobserver. “Ivanka Trump, Peasant-Whisperer, Does Not Believe Americans Want a Living Wage.” US Politics. Web. https://uspolitics.10ztalk.com/2019/02/27/ivanka-trump-peasant-whisperer-does-not-believe-americans-want-a-living-wage

Pritchard, Justin. “What is the Average Monthly Mortgage Payment?” The Balance. Web. https://www.thebalance.com/average-monthly-mortgage-payment-4154282

Reints, Renae. “Ivanka Trump: Most Americans Want Upwards Mobility, Not Guaranteed Minimum Wage.” Fortune. Web. afortune.comp/2019/02/26/ivanka-trump-minimum-wage

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How Did It Come To This So Fast?

“I waited patiently for God to help me; then He listened and heard my cry. he lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God.” (Psalms 40:1-3)

I face foreclosure soon if I cannot come up with the back mortgage money by the end of March. I’ve been working with the mortgage company to try to modify it. And I’m still knocking on every door that looks like it might remotely be able to help. Life is pretty scary-looking right now so, as with yesterday’s post, I will be eternally grateful if you could share/forward this blog post on to as many of your online friends as you can.

I thank you for reading…and for the loving support that I continue to receive from this community.

May God bless you & keep you!

https://www.gofundme.com/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-155121056357-7c399618cb174c25&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

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YouTube Junkie

“We toss the coin, but it is the Lord who controls its decision.” (Proverbs 16:33)

Who would have thought that life could change so much in the blink of an eye. I know that sounds like a cliche; it is. I’m not sure what I would have–could have–done differently. I fell while going out to shovel the driveway in anticipation of work the next day. Sure, I could see the ice coating the driveway but, in order to shovel myself out, I had to navigate over it.

Now I’m laid up.

Yesterday I was wallowing in self-pity. The mortgage is behind. I’ve been knocking on every housing assistance door in Connecticut. Mom & I have visited a couple of local food pantries to get by until I’m back to work. I put up a Go Fund Me campaign to see if I can generate help with the bills/mortgage that way. And I am grateful to the friends who have been generous in their support; it is appreciated far more than you can ever imagine. I’m still looking at a hefty mortgage payment in three days that I don’t have adequate funds to pay.

But I’m taking it on faith. Either He will provide the means in time. Or He won’t…because maybe He’s forcing me into a decision I haven’t quite been able to make. I’ve spent the better part of 9 years’ oscillating between selling out and relocating (which might just mean closer to my work in Massachusetts) or finding another part-time income to help supplement…provided I can get back to work next month. My medical leave has been extended another month until the third week of March. Of course, part of that oscillation has been the very honest two years of unemployment, followed by 6 years of underemployment. It’s only been a little over a year that I finally found a full-time position. So, in short, the financial means to relocate hasn’t been here…anymore than the means of providing the most basic cost of living. I was still playing “catch-up” when my accident happened.

Okay…so some of that wallowing factor is still happening here…

And yet, it’s not crippling me completely. I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon knocking on those doors I mentioned earlier, filling out applications, etc. to see if there’s something to help preserve this would-be homestead…either here, or in a new location. We have to allow for processing time though. So…

…in the meantime…

When I’m not writing, working on my novel, I’ve become a bit of a YouTube junkie. Having my left arm in a brace means my activity levels are pretty low. Where my days’ off, especially in winter when farm activities are pretty minimal anyway (outside of feeding), used to be spent watching gardening shows on YouTube (Jon Kohler’s Growing Your Greens: BBC2 Gardener’s World with Monty Don; Charles Dowding’s No-Dig Gardening), now I’m expanding. Roots and Refuge Homestead. Off Grid with Doug and Stacy. The Urban Farmer with Curtis Stone. Living Big in a Tiny House. Tiny House Living. I’ve watched videos on raising angora rabbits, angora goats, silkworms, and training border collies to herd the sheep I don’t have land enough to raise.

Yet…

In addition, Mom & I have had a lot of laughs watching Late Night with Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. And ooh-ing and aah-ing over agility competitions where, most of the time, the border collies rock! I’ve watched interviews with old “idols”: Kevin Von Erich (pro-wrestler); Rik Emmett (frontman, Triumph); Jane Seymour. The latter happened to be a walk-through with her researching what became of two of her aunts during The Holocaust; it was actually quite interesting. And she gave a bit of advice in one interview about how her mother always taught her that when you’re down and have nothing to give, you give more. I’m paraphrasing but, in essence, her mother was big on giving back, of giving help to someone else in need. By doing so, you open the door to resolving your own problems. That one’s been taken to heart quite a bit. I’m looking for ways that I can do just that.

Lastly, I’m feeling like a kid watching MTV again. Music videos. This weekend it was some 80’s, early-90’s music that I haven’t heard in a long time: Powerstation; Platinum Blonde; Andy Taylor; Triumph; April Wine; Concrete Blonde, etc.

Of course, the nostalgia conjured up by this music does sort of feed the wallowing factor a bit. I remember my dreams back then and how I gave up on them. I have no desire to give up on the current ones. Ironically, in remembering, it also feeds my determination to hold on to the current dreams; I’m not getting any younger.

Maybe in a month’s time that first draft…well…let’s not jinx it by giving voice to it.

May God bless you & keep you!

PS I would be so grateful if you would share my Go Fund Me link with your friends, family, acquaintances and readers. https://www.gofundme.com/9fymzf-medical-leave?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=email&utm_content=campaign_link_t&utm_campaign=welcome

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One Day At A Time

“He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord! Trust in the Lord God always, for in the Lord Jehovah is your everlasting strength.” (Isaiah 26:3,4)

I’m holding onto these words of encouragement. As I navigate through this forced convalesce, and watch the bills pile up, and receive letters from the new mortgage company threatening foreclosure, and the bank account getting smaller, the above passage from Scripture reminds me that He really is in control…and my faith tells me He has a plan.

Even if I can’t see it.

I’ve been on the fence about whether to sell and find land/farm in another location, somewhere a little more manageable from a financial standpoint, but also more acreage, less house. The logical, human side of my brain says, if I do default, what are my chances of being able to purchase again? I need to keep up on everything to build my credit score up. Yes, I can see that dream farm somewhere in upper-state New York, or Maine. But my “day” job is in Massachusetts. Logic is saying it’s all beyond my reach. That I need to really push back, commit to staying. And trust that He’ll get me over this rapidly-growing bump in the road.

My faith says to trust in Him…regardless of the outcome. Though it all looks impossible, nothing is impossible with God. He is not bound by human rules of equity and credit scores. And, if the opposite is His will for me, then He’ll provide whatever I need to make the next mortgage payment, car payment, etc.

He’s teaching me patience…I say this while I rail and chafe against both my limited mobility–and my limited cash flow.

More importantly, He’s teaching me to truly put my trust in Him. I have too much of a grasping nature, holding on too tightly to what I have. In short, He’s teaching me to let go.

Can I do it? This one’s a tough one. I don’t like not being in control (as if!)…or at least feeling as if I’m in control.

So, I take a deep breath…

And wait…

And fret…as only I know how to do.

And keep reminding myself that, even if I can’t see the outcome at all, He’s got this. And His ways are always perfect.

May God bless you & keep you!
https://www.gofundme.com/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-15506107597-500376eb83394fe0&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

aquaponics, Biodynamic, compost, ecosystems, Environment, gardening, Herbs, Homesteading, Lasagna Gardening, Nature, No-dig Gardening, Organic, permaculture

The Worst Gardening Advice I Have Ever Received

“Jesus asked, ‘How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story shall I use to illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed! Though it is one of the smallest of seeds, yet it grows to become one of the largest of plants, with long branches where birds can build their nests and be sheltered’,” (Mark 4:30-32)

My family lived in apartments throughout all of my childhood and teen years. For much of those teen years, we lived in the inner-city where we didn’t even have a balcony to place a few potted tomatoes. How I got to be an herbalist and a garden lead at a local museum–and even how the gardening bug bit me in the first place–is beyond me. But bit me it has.

And it has been a long road.

So, what’s the worst piece of gardening advice I’ve ever received?

“Just get out there and get your hands dirty!”

Yup. You read that right. I can’t imagine anything more condescending from an experienced gardener to the uncertain novice thirsting for any knowledge they can absorb on the subject. Sadly, it was one of my instructors with the Master Gardener program who imparted this bit of wisdom. (Insert sneer here) as my inner gremlin asks, “How badly did you get your rocks off with that holier-than-thou bit of ‘wisdom’?” I mean, really, would you tell a would-be brain surgeon to go out there and just “get their hands dirty”??? Yes, I do have to get my hands dirty to really learn how to garden. But, please, a little quantifying might help (more on that later).

Confidence is a beautiful thing. I didn’t have confidence as a gardener when I first enrolled in the Master Gardener program. I enrolled in it in error, not understanding exactly what the Master Gardener program was/is. Years’ before, when learning about herbs and their medicine, the mother of one of my herbal instructors gave a lecture and demonstration about starting seeds. She had just completed her Master Gardening training so the light bulb went off in my head. I could learn how to do this sort of thing if I signed up for the Master Gardener program at my local extension center. It wasn’t enough that I learned what to do with the herbs once they were grown; I wanted to learn how to grow them so I could be sure they were organic and, especially, safe to use.

Four years’ later, I signed up for the Master Gardener program (yes, I am a bit of a procrastinator but it also required a bit of saving to afford the cost of the program…)

Now, before I go any further, I am not dissing the Master Gardener program. Experienced or not, knowing what pests and diseases may be infecting your plants is valuable knowledge to have and I have used it quite a lot over the last 9 months in my tenure as a gardening lead. But becoming a Master Gardener didn’t teach me the basics. The novice gardener has questions:

How deep should I sow these seeds?
How big should the plants be before I transplant them to the garden?
How much compost should I spread on each bed?
How frequently should I water them?
Are those little leaves popping up from the directly sown seeds I planted or are they weeds threatening to take over?
How early should I plant this plant?

The list can go on. Forget about the trade jargon of “potting out”, “hardening off” and “pricking out”. It’s all Greek to me. Oh, and I can grow these vertically? Why didn’t someone tell me? Dividing plants? Pruning??? (Gasp…)

It truly is quite daunting for the newbie gardener. These are living organisms. And, no, the vegetarian isn’t going to stop eating entirely out of respect for the plants. Many of these plants grow specifically for giving us food, others medicine. And, oftentimes, they don’t die immediately after delivering. I can harvest lettuce leaves over a number of weeks before the plant is spent; I know that now.

My first mother-in-law was/is an avid gardener. She grew mostly for beauty; her flower beds were/are gorgeous with beautiful water features–complete with koi fish, bird baths and feeders for the birds, and even perches for the squirrels to eat from. They are full of life. I learned some from her as I started landscaping the tiny stretch of front lawn I had while married to her son; it whetted the appetite to know more. Especially when I decided I wanted to grow as much of my own food as I possibly could on the current front and side lawns. Over the years, I’ve had some fairly successful vegetable patches from “just getting my hands dirty” but I knew there was more that could be done. And I knew these were basic gardening skills that the majority of my fellow Master Gardeners already had.

“Just getting my hands dirty” wasn’t enough. And it certainly isn’t advice that is going to instill some would-be confidence that you can do more, be more, as a gardener. I’ve heard this advice many times since the Master Gardener program. It’s cruel. And, always, the inner voice screamed, “But how???”

So, to add some of that quantifying advice, get out there and get your hands dirty by joining a local gardeners’ club. By volunteering at a local public garden. By asking a gardening friend, neighbor or relative if you can perhaps help them in their garden…or maybe they’ll be willing just to answer your specific questions when they crop up (no pun intended). Today we have a wonderful resource in YouTube, as well as other online gardening sites. I only half-jokingly admit that I learned everything I wanted to know about gardening from Monty Don, Charles Dowding and Jon Kohler. And they would be my personal recommendations if you want to learn. Both Charles Dowding and Jon Kohler have their own YouTube channels: No-Dig Gardening and Growing Your Greens, respectively. Monty Don is the host of both the BBC2’s Gardener’s World and Big Dreams, Small Spaces. The former is probably one of the most excellent gardening shows I have ever encountered. The camera crew gets in nice and close so you can see exactly what Monty is doing and explaining. And more, Monty always ends the program with some tasks you can do that particular weekend. It’s great step-by-step advice for both the newbie and the experienced gardener. Would that the U.S. had such a fine program; I might even reconsider TV (i.e. cable) for it. But, as always, we lag behind on such important matters. But that’s a post for another day…

In the meantime, yes, do get your hands dirty but, for that boost of confidence, find a gardening community to grow with. In the few short months that I have been a gardening lead, I have learned so much from my fellow gardeners–both paid staff and volunteers. You never really know everything there is to know about gardening, no matter how seasoned. Learning and sharing is part of the cycle of growth…whether you’re a plant, or a person.

May God bless you & keep you!

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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!

Abuse, Animals, aquaponics, Creativity, Environment, Faith, gardening, Gratitude, Healing, Herbs, Homesteading, Organic, Prayer, Religion, Self-esteem, Self-improvement, Spirituality

A Bigger Life

“Ask, and you will be given what you ask for. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Anyone who seeks, finds. If only you knock, the door will open. If a child asks his father for a loaf of bread, will he be given a stone instead? If he asks for fish, will he be given a poisonous snake? Of course not! And if you hardhearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask him for them?” (Matthew 7:7-11)

Believe it or not, I often struggle with this biblical passage. Struggle because there is too much doubt in my heart that what I wish for, what I hope will come to be, I am not worthy to have. This passage says nothing about worthiness. It asks only that we, well, ASK. No other hidden clauses.

Of course, when/if I discuss this passage with others, I invariably get that old standby of predestination. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Yes, that’s probably true. Does not the Bible also tell us that even the hairs on our heads are numbered by God? And that He knows when every sparrow falls so, therefore, He also knows our struggles…even the desires of our hearts? And yet, I hear that old adage and, no sooner have I gone to God in prayer for what I need, or even want, and I’m already deciding that what I’m asking for is probably not a part of His will and, therefore, why am I asking? I defeat myself as soon as the prayer is out of my mouth…or head.

What kind of lukewarm faith is this? Is there nothing too great for God? Did He not make me along with everyone else?

Then we get into the whole thought process of accepting that maybe He is instead trying to mold and shape me for something better, something that is in line with His plans. And my anxiety ramps up because maybe it will require too much of a sacrifice…like the loss of someone I love (did not The Twelve leave even their closest family members to follow Jesus?) in order to have that dream. Because, whatever dream He put on my heart, I’ve already convinced myself I’m not worthy of. So I try to guess His plans. What does He want me to do? Show me the way. And then I start chastising myself for being so ungrateful for what I already have. And I shouldn’t want or ask for more. Who cares if I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul and find that Peter’s flat broke? I’ve reached the cap on God’s mercy, or gifts, or grace. Such thinking, I consider, must surely anger God. For where in the Bible does it say He has a cap? Nowhere. His love is unconditional. Passage after passage tells us that He wants only the best for His children. Yet still I doubt. If You’re going to show me the way, I need neon signs and strobe lights highlighting that way. And even then I’d probably doubt if it was “meant” for me.

You see, people who grow up in abusive homes, especially if the abuser was their father, or a father figure, have difficulty believing in a loving and compassionate Father in heaven; it’s an alien concept. We get the angry and vengeful God who punished the Israelites for worshiping other gods and erecting idols, for being stubborn, etc. But the God who loves us, who will give His children good gifts, we struggle with.

I am grateful for everything I have. I know I have been richly blessed already. Even when so many others were losing their homes during the Great Recession, I managed to hang on to this one…despite only being a part-time and/or seasonal worker (the only jobs available in this sleepy New England town)…simply due to His grace. It does seem a bit, well, sinful and selfish to be wishing for something more. This house is a fixer-upper; the homestead is small and, because of it’s smallness, it can also be limiting. However, the smaller size has forced me to get more creative as I continue to landscape and design, to find ways to re-purpose certain areas. It’s also on a major interstate so the dream of growing organic vegetables, fruits and herbs is already out the window. With that much carbon zooming by in a continuous stream, even with the row of Thujas across the front border, that carbon is undoubtedly settling onto each and every leaf; the Thujas can only filter out so much. And, though I am grandfathered in for the use to which I put the land, as big box stores continue to climb the hill, closer and closer to home, I can’t help but fear how much worse that carbon impact is going to be…or how long before that grandfathered use gets challenged. Of course, I probably wouldn’t say “no” if some big developer came by and offered me a decent price for it, enough that I could start over somewhere else…but that’s a bit like waiting to hit the lottery.

I dream of acreage somewhere. I dream of that plot of land down that dusty, country lane, with pastures full of goats, sheep and chickens, maybe a horse or two, and border collies zipping around “Come by” and “Away to me” as they herd those sheep and goats into the barn at night. I dream of a small pond, or lake, on that property where my ducks can swim until their hearts’ are content. I dream of paddling a canoe, or pedaling a paddle boat, out onto that lake or pond after the workday is done. I dream of campfires, with friends and family sharing meals and some good music as we break out the guitar, the dulcimer, and open our hearts and lips to song. No Kumbaya, mind you, just a gathering of friends. I dream of herb gardens, lush, full, and diverse. Gardens made for teaching how to cook with herbs; how to tincture, infuse, poultice and compress. Maybe even some “magickal” uses for luck and love and a bit of romantic whimsy. I dream of equally lush vegetable gardens and small fruits growing and a greenhouse that houses an aquaponics’ system for growing even more food. I dream of a thriving produce stand, or a booth in the local farmers’ market. I dream of supplying the local food pantry with fresh, nutritious produce instead of the packaged, processed donations they typically receive. I dream of looms full of brightly-colored threads, all weaving a brilliant tapestry from the wool, angora, mohair and cashmere fibers routinely sheared, or plucked, from the animals I raise. I dream of a little store where yarns and fabric are sold from my stock. I dream of fresh goat’s milk and cheese, and goat’s milk soap scented with some of the herbs I grow. I dream that all, or at least most, of these animals are rescues, given a second chance at life, for a forever home. I dream of summer days out on the road with a trailer full of goats as we clear land for others in a manner that is much gentler on Mother Earth. I dream of an orchard with healthy and thriving honeybees buzzing in and out of the blossoms. I dream of honey and beeswax candles. And I dream of walking into that bookstore someday, or logging into Amazon, and seeing my name on the cover of that bestseller.

And I dream. And I yearn. And I consider that, maybe, these are just dreams and never “meant” to be. Maybe someday I will do as that Garth Brooks’ song says and thank God for unanswered prayers. Surely, His plans ARE bigger and better than anything I could ever imagine. But, maybe, just maybe, I can finally find it in my heart to TRUST that God truly has put these dreams in my heart for a purpose, that it isn’t all a pipe dream, fueled by an over-active imagination. Perhaps *Someday* I will trust that, yes, I am worthy of such dreams, that God loves me beyond any human ability to comprehend. Just because. Not because I “earned” it. Not because I prayed the most compelling prayer and that was the one He chose to answer. Not because of anything of my will but because His will shall be done. Maybe, just maybe, He’s using these dreams and yearnings to first answer another prayer, a prayer that asked to draw closer to Him, to know Him better, to learn how to trust in a loving Father.

Can I let go enough to let that healing begin? To allow His miracles to take place? Can I trust that, even if these dreams do not come to light, that wherever He does lead me, will bring me more joy than I can possibly imagine? Can I trust that His gifts are not like those given on earth, to sometimes bribe, sometimes stifle, to sometimes manipulate? This isn’t a toe-in-the-water sort of thing. It’s that proverbial, giant leap of faith. Can I do it? Can I accept God’s will for me on this earth? And, more importantly, can I accept that, yes, I do have a loving Father in heaven who does desire to give me good gifts?

Okay, then.

Breathe.

Relax.

And let go.

Thy will be done, Father. Thy will be done.

May God bless you & keep you!

aquaponics, Faith, gardening, Gratitude, Organic, permaculture, Politics, Religion, Spirituality

Squirrel Leaps

That’s what my mind feels like it is doing today–squirrel leaps. I have so much to consider right now. It’s time to take a deep breath and try to center myself.

Breathe. In. Breathe. Out.

Phew! There, that’s better.

Well, not really. My mind is still jumping from one avenue to the next. I’m thinking of making a nice long list of things that need to be done if I’m going to make this move. Especially since I don’t really know where I’m going yet geographically. (insert sheepish grin here) But it might give me a better sense of direction.

Or not.

I typically make lists and then forget about them. Or else scan the length and overwhelm myself.

Mom and I have been talking about this on and off all week, this whole relocation thing, as well as starting our own aquaponics’ farm. She likes the concept of it, seems to be fascinated by it almost as much as I am. And, of course, living with me, she keeps getting regular updates as I learn new things about it. As I consider my Mom’s gifted way with people, if we were to start a commercial scale aquaponics’ farm, Mom would be unstoppable where customer relations are concerned. She’s definitely a people person. She’s also very persuasive. Yes, Mr. I-just-drove-up-in-a-2017-Jaguar, you do want the 10 lbs. of spinach; 5 lbs. might not be enough to feed all of your guests.

Actually, doing the aquaponics thing right here in Connecticut isn’t a bad idea either. Having utilized the local food pantry in recent years, I know how hard they struggle to get the donations needed to feed so many individuals. Friends of Assisi Food Pantry in Danielson is only open Tuesdays and Fridays but there are often 25-30 recipients each day. If we take the conservative side of the range, this is 50 families per week X 4 weeks = 200 families. At least. And while The Pantry receives some produce, much of what they distribute is more of that packaged, processed crap. I’m not dissing The Pantry over it, nor the purity of hearts who opt to make the donations. I am grateful that so many care and are willing to help in whatever way they can. And the packaged, processed crap has a longer shelf life. I understand this is one of the reasons Mom invested in it growing up. But it doesn’t give the consumers of it a longer shelf life with it. And, no, I’m not going to go into one of my usual rants about the food industry but it does seem sad to me that it is the ones with lesser means who are forced to consume this agri-poison. When you’re receiving a measly government check the first of each month, whether it is welfare, unemployment, disability or social security, it is hard to stretch it for a full month. Again, I feel a sense of gratitude that our government has such provisions for our citizens but cost of living isn’t really factored into it. And it is worse with the SNAP program, or what was formerly food stamps. There was a man who used to visit The Pantry (he may still) who was so crippled up, his hands, fingers, all of his joints, severely twisted, one elbow perpetually frozen at a 90 degree angle. He used a walker. If I had to guess, he was in his late-50’s, early-60’s. Probably a forced early retirement. He was talking one day. He only qualified for $16 per month on the SNAP program. How the heck does anyone feed themselves on $16 a month? Especially if you’re only living in a rental where you likely can’t have a garden, outside of a few containers on the back steps. And, considering his crippled body, he likely wouldn’t have been able to tend it unless it was made up of raised beds. And most rentals won’t allow you to install something that’s even semi-permanent like that.

I am not a politician. I don’t know how to influence others into making certain decisions. I wouldn’t know where to begin to lobby for better, more humane provisions for the sick, the elderly, the infirm who cannot work 40+ hours a week to provide for themselves. Yes, there are the occasional lazy-bodies who do not truly want to work but, at the food pantry, they are far and few between. And, yes, I am of the mindset that it is better to help someone learn how to fish than to provide the fish. Again, I’m thinking of those who cannot. I’m also thinking of those who are working but their income simply isn’t enough to cover basic living expenses. Northeastern Connecticut has plenty of minimum wage and/or part-time jobs but few with full-time, competitive wages. I can’t force our government to up the cap or quota that determines a person’s eligibility but, with a commercial-sized aquaponics system, I could provide more produce for the local food pantries.

I am ruminating a bit with this because I’m trying to flesh it all out in my mind. But it is a worthy goal. And I am holding onto the faith that says if this is His will for me, then He will provide the means–both the financial and the mental/emotional support to keep going. Educational, too, as I may know what to do with the plants, but I have never put together or maintained an aquaponics system, so there will definitely be a learning curve involved. If these changes are signifying some doors being closed, then I am assured He is opening some new ones for me. I’m going to hold onto yesterday’s biblical passage from Jeremiah 29:11 that His plans are to give me “a future and a hope”; faith can move mountains. I’ve only got a few steep hills to climb.

May God bless you & keep you!