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Which Way Do We Go, Which Way Do We Go?

Rest in the Lord; wait patiently for Him to act. Don’t be envious of evil men who prosper. (Psalms 37:7)

Scatter Syndrome (skah’ ter sin drohm) 1. The inability to focus on that one thing owing to the over-eagerness of having so many options. 2. When the mind leaps from one option or opportunity to the next like a squirrel leaping from branch to branch in a tree. 3. The anxiety and subsequent exhaustion that results from considering too many of those options at once to the point of being overwhelmed and then getting absolutely NOTHING done so you crawl off feeling like a failure again. 4. All of the above.

No, I don’t believe that’s really a term. And I can’t claim I just made it up either because I got it from a friend. However, I’d like to think I’m at least one of the first to formally give it a potential dictionary meaning.

Now that I’ve graduated college with a Bachelor’s of Art in Creative Writing with an Emphasis on Fictional Writing, the world, supposedly, is at my feet. At least that’s what all the recruiters tell you as you sign the agreement at said university. In addition to a multitude of creative writing workshops, grammar and composition, literature, poetry and linguistics, I studied grant writing, business writing, entrepreneurship, art, advertising, and, of course, environmental science. This last encompassed the bulk of my electives.

So, where do I go now?

Of course, my main objective is to finish my book. But, in the meantime, I’m thinking I need to focus on some other aspects of writing, such as short stories, articles, etc. that I can finish quickly and send off to a potential editor for publication. I’m trying to focus on my writing as a business as much as an art. Though I’m leaning more towards self-publishing where my book is concerned, I would like to get my name out there. And, who knows? Maybe, in time, I’ll land a publishing deal after all.

Get an agent.

That was a steady stream of advise from nearly every college professor. But, as someone who is staring down the road to foreclosure right now (I’m behind more than the amount for which the Go Fund Me campaign was created), paying said agent would be next to impossible.

Then there is the zoning issue that I’ve recently come up against so that even if I could get right-side up on the mortgage, I would have to forfeit the heart of this homestead (the animals who share it with me) in order to stay. The attorney I consulted with over a decade ago–before I brought home my first dozen chicks and ducklings–either gave me some bad advise, or this new neighbor is throwing his weight around at the town hall. The attorney costs money, too. As does relocation. So, some of that scatter syndrome probably stems from the pressure to produce and succeed in a hurry. And it doesn’t help that his wife hides in the bushes bordering our two properties, craning her neck for…something? Gladys Kravitz has reincarnated. Maybe it’s time to twitch my nose and find my inner Samantha Stevens.

Financial challenges aside, yes, I do want to focus on my book, on my writing, first and foremost. But there’s also the homesteading and prepping that started years ago and all the myriad directions that I’d love to take it. There’s the original premise for The Herbal Hare: a business producing herbal, apian, and hand-spun/woven fiber products. There’s a second-hand spinning wheel downstairs that needs some TLC to get it moving again. It’s not the Walking/Great Wheel that I learned on and dream of owning, but it has potential…even if I do not have the fiber-producing animals yet. A loom and loom tool (smaller spinning wheel used for filling bobbins for the shuttle) are beyond me right now, but definitely hovering on the radar. There’s a shed full of bee equipment gathering dust. And dozens of seed packets and catalogs to plant that extensive herb garden for making those herbal products, selling plants and seeds, and teaching workshops on herbs. I’m even considering a YouTube channel for the same. I’d like to add some microgreens and sprouts to the list in time. There are visions of a market garden down the road. And a small garden patch planted with rye for drying and braiding the straw for making hats–a skill I never would have guessed at, a gift from my time in living history. As is the interest in lace making, which I have also tried and proven to have some proficiency in producing.

There’s an easel gathering dust. And a stack of books checked out from the library, where I currently work part-time, focused on drawing and art. There’s a guitar, amp, and Appalachian dulcimer equally dusty. Can I do something with either of those? I have a good voice. I spent over a decade fronting metal bands and I’ve served as both a member of our church choir and Lector for many years. (And, damn, if I don’t regret not taking a public speaking class during my tenure at SNHU…if it was even offered via online learning). I’m thinking voiceovers…albeit, that would require equipment I can’t afford at present, another agent, and it would take away much of the energy that I should be focusing on writing.

See? Scatter Syndrome. Twenty different directions to take and continuing to circle back to my true passion: writing, and the very real need to secure home and hearth before too much more time elapses. If this keeps up, I may find myself 90 years old and still circling.

Sigh.

Despite all of this circling, I rearranged the upstairs of my house. I used to have my office in the center bedroom where I painted a mural on the wall depicting a homestead with those fiber-producing animals, an extensive herb garden, lots of bee hives, and me standing triumphant in front of a PC whose screen shouts “BEST SELLER”. As the holistic woo-woo guru, I thought it might aid in manifesting my dreams but, I feel like it has kept me stagnant. The original intent when I painted it was to paint a house that resembled my paternal grandparents’ house, as it will forever be my happy place. I remember my irritation that I couldn’t quite get the roof line correct and, not wanting to wreck something that would forever be displayed on the wall of my house, I left it slightly “off” and continued on. Over the last couple of years since I painted it, I’ve realized that despite the white with black trim color scheme, and the dormer windows, that skewered roof line is this roof line…as is the positioning of the barn with my current barn. If it wasn’t for the new neighbor, I could have this dream here. There’s room enough. But alas…

Another sigh.

So, I’ve moved the office. And there’s a white board awaiting it’s first assignment in getting that much closer to my dreams…once I kick ol’ Scatter Syndrome to the curb and discipline that focus in its place.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Yearnings

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation, whether it be a full stomach or hunger, plenty or want; for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and the power” (Philippians 4:12-13)

The above passage from Scripture is almost true for me: No material girl here, but I do know how to live on almost nothing. The last decade or so has taught me well…as did a good portion of my childhood. I don’t need much. In fact, growing up on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, and being both financially and occupationally challenged in current years, has developed in me a bit of a tightwad. No, I won’t skimp on your birthday or Christmas presents. I will buy you lunch, or tea/coffee, from time to time. I’m extremely frugal but, hopefully, not selfish or stingy. I give what and when I can.

But I perpetually yearn for a simpler life.

If you’ve followed my blog for more than a few months, you know I worked in living history, first as a volunteer for many years, and then as paid staff for a little over a year and a half. My deepest yearnings are for that kind of simpler life in these modern times.

Yup. Maybe I am a few fries short of a Happy Meal. I wouldn’t be the first to over-romanticize an earlier time. But, working in living history, I found a satisfaction in the skills that I learned…and a certain sense of rightness in each of them. Somehow spinning wool on a great wheel, refilling bobbins on a loom tool (smaller spinning wheel designed to load the bobbins for the looms), weaving, braiding straw, cooking and baking on a hearth came naturally to me. Whether this is some sort of ancestral memory, or maybe there is something to reincarnation after all, I don’t know. However, it wasn’t quite so easy for others who learned along with me.

Even the fashions of those earlier days proved to me to be much more comfortable and satisfying than today’s idea of fashion. First of all, the garments were made with natural fibers, which is healthier for us, and for the planet. In those long, full dresses I felt more attractive, more feminine, than in any other attire. So much so that I’ve been perusing websites for similar styles…either purchased ready made (someday when I’m back on my feet, not now that I’m struggling through financial hardship and zoning issues), or for patterns to make myself. There’s a part of me that would love to make several of the work gowns we wore for living history and maybe jazz them up a bit, a modern twist on an antiquated style. And, no, this may not jive with most people’s idea of frugality if I’m talking about purchasing new clothes, but we must wear something on our bodies. Why not something we truly love rather than conforming to modern expectations?

I remember some years’ back writing a post about how satisfying it was to sit down to a meal where the vegetables had been grown completely by my hand in the garden, the bread baked from scratch, the eggs from the chickens I raised, etc. I can’t help thinking that someday it might be just as satisfying to don an outfit that I either grew the cotton or flax, or raised the sheep; sheared/picked, cleaned, dyed, carded, spun, wove, and stitched all by myself. Yes, maybe that is a bit of pride, but I am of the mindset that maybe when we hear that “pride goeth before a fall” it’s not because having pride in one’s appearance, work, or living space will cause us to fall, but that, oftentimes, the only thing left someone has is their pride, and when they lose even that, that’s when they fall…sometimes never to truly get back up again. It’s tough to hold your head up when things are falling apart in your life. And Esther didn’t plead the cause for her people in rags; she dressed to the nine’s. She took pride in her appearance and made a statement. For me, that statement would be to embrace the comfort, simplicity and femininity of a simpler time.

Getting off a soapbox that threatens to get into a discourse on feminism, and going back to one of my beginning statements about yearning for a simpler life, I am referring to the whole reason I started homesteading in the first place. I’m tired of the rat race. I’m tired of killing myself, searching for a 9-to-5 that no longer exists, that will also leave me miserable, with no time to write, create, or work a homestead, and still not pay the most basic of bills. I’m tired of being dependent on the power grid, of our factory farm-to-grocery store food system. I’m tired of synthetic, plastic clothing poisoning our water and soil…and maybe even our bodies; can’t be healthy. I’m tired of all the additives to our foods, the pesticides and herbicides used to grow and preserve our food…and even the genetically-modified organisms that do not resemble food at all. I’m tired of watching species of life disappear, of honey bees struggling to exist. I’m tired of seeing advertisements for prescriptions that cause more maladies than the illnesses, or conditions, they were supposedly developed to alleviate. Our modern day lifestyle, the systems that have been put in place, make us vulnerable to them. This Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that. The power outages following each hurricane, tornado, or other natural disaster have shown us that, too. How many of us have friends or family members, especially the elderly, who start taking one pill for, say, high blood pressure then have to take another pill for bloating, or water retention, and then another as cholesterol skyrockets, etc?

Yeah, a bit of a rant today. I’m beating my head into the wall, preaching to the choir, because there are many things that I cannot change no matter how much I rant and rave, and seek to fight an uphill battle.

That doesn’t mean I give up entirely though.

My dream home has a hearth in the kitchen. It requires a hand-pump to draw water up from the well. It has a spinning wheel and a loom, a loom tool and a few niddy-noddies. It has a dough box for starting bread to rise. And a hand wringer for doing my laundry. It is lit with candles and/or oil lamps, and has a composting toilet if allowed (this last is often prohibited in many towns across the nation). My dream home is small and well-insulated with natural fibers, but sits on land large enough to support a decent-sized herd of goats for both fiber and dairy, sheep, chickens, ducks, honey bees and rabbits. There is a large herb and vegetable garden; a couple of greenhouses and/or hoop houses for year-round growing and for warm-climate spices. My dream home has an agility course because there are Border Collies sharing that home, too. Maybe there’s even a small pond for my ducks and geese, and for paddling a canoe once in awhile, because being on the water is such a great way to relax…even for those of us who cannot swim(!).

The yearning for such a life comes about as I navigate through this zoning and foreclosure nightmare I’ve been swimming through for too long now, always circling back to it just when I think I’ve finally got it licked. It’s where I go to escape, or better yet, to manifest? I know much of this is beyond me as building codes require certain regulations to be met, but to the extent I can get away with and still remain within the law, this is where I hope to go.

For too long now, a peaceful, simple, fairly self-sufficient life has been a dream only. I’m tired of the rat race. It’s time to live the life I was meant to live, a life lived with intention. And I pray the same thing for each and every soul reading this post…no matter how different your intentional life is from mine.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Running the Gamut

“He shall judge between many peoples and impose terms on strong and distant nations; they beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. Every man shall sit under his own vine or under his own fig tree, undisturbed; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:3-4)

Looking at the number of weeks since my last post, I am appalled that I have allowed this latest legal “drama” to derail me from everything else in my life. And that’s literally what has been happening. I have run the gamut of emotions: anger, outrage, sorrow. I feel betrayed by my local government who refuses to honor the work I did in 2009. I feel betrayed by the zoning attorney who may have given me some bad advice, which I acted upon, and who has set the bar (no pun intended) for any further interaction with another zoning attorney going forward. And yet, should I lay down and let this new neighbor walk all over me, force me out of my home entirely?

Of course, there are still the financial issues to deal with. I’m behind over a year. In order to turn this mortgage thing around, I would need to magically find at least $25,000 to get out of hock and, at this point, if I did magically find it, I would likely use it as a down payment in a more farm-friendly community. Why throw money away if there’s no certainty that I will win my case against this new neighbor?

So, to that end, I’ve looked at a site called Billy Land that has mixed reviews and may take longer than I have to finalize any deals. I’m keeping it on a back burner but it’s not my first choice of options. I’ve been looking into buying just land, with Mom and I considering boon-docking in a second-hand RV until we can afford to build a home. Not every town will allow it but, again, our focus has been unincorporated townships where there aren’t any zoning regulations. Maine still has a few of these and I’m sure there are others. Owner-financing is another possibility. We would need a decent down-payment so I’m focusing on saving as much as I can towards that end. But it’s a harrowing ride.

My chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is off the Richter scale. Amazingly, the other stress-related health issues are seemingly okay but the CFS is biting me in the backside. It’s been a struggle to stay on top of things, and I confess to failing miserably. Of course, there is also the very real fatigue–hence, its name–to factor in that, once triggered, I have little control over. It, too, has to run the proverbial gamut. (I vaguely remember asking the Lord to teach me patience…is He ever!)

More mainstream-minded individuals would advise re-homing everyone permanently and just sucking up the heartache while re-doubling my efforts to get right-side up on the mortgage. But I am as far from a mainstream mindset as one can get when it comes to my animals. With the loss of my goats, chickens and ducks, goes my reason for being, my reason for wanting to homestead in the first place; the heart will just go out of me. With the loss of my goats, chickens and ducks, goes the myriad cottage industries I’ve been trying to build to get off the mainstream grind, or at least to supplement the part-time income that seems to be the norm in today’s economy. With the loss of my goats, chickens and ducks, goes every hope and dream I possess.

Yes, I am a writer. Despite everything I’ve written above, I’ve chosen to “escape” for an hour or two each day by focusing on better character and plot development for my book. I’ve also started journaling again. Both have been extremely therapeutic while I navigate these troubled waters. Finishing my book and getting it published, possibly having a career as a writer that I can take anywhere I go in this world, is the ultimate.

But that’s only part of the dream.

As anyone who has been following this blog for a while knows, I worked in living history for a number of years. First, as a volunteer, and then as a paid staff member. The Herbal Hare isn’t just the name of this blog and this homestead, it’s also a future business venture making and selling herbal, apian and natural fiber products. I learned spinning and weaving while working in living history. The goal has been to grow as many of the herbs as this climate will support, maybe extend to adding a greenhouse in the future for growing spices and warmth-loving herbs, to raise honey bees and start a pollinator garden, and to raise animals for fiber, such as goats, sheep and Angora rabbits. All of these animals would require regular shearing but this would not harm them in any way. In fact, the opposite would be true because sheep and Angora goats and rabbits will develop a fungus on their skin if one does not shear them. Their fiber would be spun to make yarn and, as a tie in with the herbs, my herb garden would also grow many of the plants earlier generations used for dyes, like French marigolds, wild indigo, and Queen Anne’s lace.

Of course, there is also a much larger dream that this homestead will not support even if I can swing zoning and get the mortgage right-side up again: the dream of using goats to clear land. I would need a much larger herd than I currently possess…and more land to support that larger herd through the winter months when using living brush hogs isn’t an option. There are lot of these operations out West where forest fires are more prevalent but, here in New England, they’re few and far between. Goats are an eco-friendly way of mitigating forest fires because goats will eat the “fuel” for those fires: the heavy brush and undergrowth. They are also effective for removing overgrowth along highways and byways where steep inclines might be prohibitive for larger, heavier equipment. Or for clearing land for new building and development. Goats are incredibly agile and can make short work of such jobs without the noise, the fossil fuel pollution, or soil compaction that heavy equipment ultimately brings. Instead, they’re liable to leave behind some natural fertilizer as an extra bonus.

How’s that for a sales’ pitch?

Maybe it’s time to quit running another gamut of emotions: the fear and insecurity that has kept me from reaching for these dreams. Maybe it’s time to put to use the grant writing skills I’ve developed throughout my tenure in college these last 7 years and look for some angel investors. Maybe it’s also time to put my faith to the test and see if that door really will open when I knock upon it.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Instead of Gatorade, Try Haymakers’ Punch

“For I will give you abundant water for your thirst and for your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit and my blessings on your children.” (Isaiah 44:3)

There are many things I miss about working in living history. I miss “my” herb garden. I miss spinning wool into yarn on the Great, or Walking, Wheel. I miss filling the bobbins on the loom tool (another type of spinning wheel). I miss weaving. I miss braiding straw for making hats. I miss cooking and baking on the hearth. And I miss the clothing.

Except when it was 90+ degrees outside and I had to get a fire going both on the hearth and in the bake oven (that little beehive-shaped cavity next to the kitchen fireplace).

Housewives in the 19th century did bake…even in summer. Southern ladies had summer kitchens; those were rarer in New England. However, New England housewives were sensible enough to rise early and get their baking done before that afternoon sun rolled directly overhead. In 2018, in a living history museum, where you have to demonstrate during normal business hours, you simply endured.

Or not.

I remember one afternoon that I felt extremely tired, and even a little dizzy, after baking all day. During the long walk back to my car after the work day was done, I was hailed by a fellow co-worker. I turned to greet her and almost fell over. She looked at me funny. I think I mumbled something about heat exhaustion but that was all. Exhausted, I drove the 30+ miles home and figured a good night’s sleep would have me feeling better in the morning.

The next morning the alarm went off. I sat up in bed, intent on turning it off, and the whole room spun. I nearly passed out again. Instead, I sat there, chilling, thinking it was the longest minute in history before the alarm stopped on its own. Finally, I got up but I felt weak and shaky, and I had to cling tightly to the banister as I made my way downstairs. It took me 45 minutes to feed the barnyard; normally, it was a 25 minute job. I decided to call in; there was no way I could interpret for visitors this day.

I also decided I needed to go to the hospital.

Now, one would think I would’ve had the sense to call a friend, to wake Mom, etc. to take me to the hospital. There’s a reason why dehydration is equated with inebriation: both make you stupid.

After calling work, I got in the car and backed out of the driveway. At the end of the driveway, I turned my head to look both ways for traffic and the whole road spun out…much like my room had done when I first awakened. As soon as it was clear, I drove myself to the hospital (yes, folks, we’re out there…).

The folks in the lobby must’ve seen me zigzagging like a drunk across the parking lot. They had a wheelchair waiting for me.

I must add here, for the benefit of future heat exhausted patients, that emergency room workers should NOT run with their patients down to the ER. As I was hurled along those stark green and white fluorescently-lit halls, it was all I could do not to “hurl” in another sense.

Long story short, two hours’ later, the doc told me that I had flushed most of the electrolytes out of my body the day before. You see, I thought I was okay, all but immune to dehydration, because I had been sipping water all day. Apparently, when it’s 90+ degrees and you’ve got a couple of infernos going behind you…and you’re wearing three layers of clothing…you need to replace those electrolytes, not just slake the thirst.

The doc recommended either Pedialyte or Gatorade; I prefer something a little healthier…and less expensive.
Fortunately, folks in earlier centuries made something called Haymakers’ Punch, or Switchel. I got to try some while visiting another living history museum in New Hampshire over a dozen years’ ago and they gave me the recipe. It’s an acquired taste for some. Others, like myself, think it’s delicious. Here it goes:

1 cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cups of honey (preferably locally grown)
4 teaspoons of molasses
¼ teaspoon of ginger (there’s that ginger again…)

Place all of the above ingredients in a cup of warm water, stirring constantly until dissolved. Pour the mixture into a 1 gallon container (preferably glass or ceramic; I don’t recommend plastic for any recipe). Fill the rest of the container with water. Keep in the refrigerator.

A word to the wise: Switchel is meant to be sipped, not gulped, or drank straight down.

Though it does not have all the fancy labeling, coloring, and artificial flavorings of either Pedialyte or Gatorade, Switchel will keep you hydrated during those hot summer days when you need a little more than just plain water to keep your cool. And it’s definitely an inexpensive alternative.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Stay tuned…

…our regularly scheduled program will be back as soon as I’ve finished my final exam this week! =)

Stay safe, stay healthy…May God bless you & keep you!

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Prepping

“Finally the day came when the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the boat with all your family, for among all the people of the earth, I consider you alone to be righteous. Bring in the animals, too–a pair of each, except those kinds I have chosen for eating and for sacrifice: take seven pairs of each of them, and seven pairs of every kind of bird. Thus there will be every kind of life reproducing again after the flood has ended. One week from today I will begin forty days and nights of rain; and all the animals and birds and reptiles I have made will die’. So Noah did everything the Lord commanded him.” (Genesis 7:1-5)

The lights keep flickering. The forecast is for heavy rains (check) and high winds (also, check) with potential power outages. This last may be a “check” before the day is out. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic that could take the lives of hundreds of thousands in the U.S. before it is done. Our economy has been nearly frozen. Millions of jobs have been lost; mostly part-time jobs were to be had before the pandemic shutdown. Groceries are flying off the shelves. Ditto for toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Economists are predicting a depression that will rival the 1930’s. On a personal note, foreclosure has been eminent here at The Herbal Hare Homestead since last year’s battle with the icy driveway.

I’ve been “playing” at homesteading over the last 5-6 years. Financial struggles have left me on the fence about truly investing the time and energy into developing this place into the self-sufficient enterprise that I have envisioned. Confidence issues have gotten in the way, too. As has a personal struggle to get Mom on board with some of the more extreme projects.

Thanks to Covid-19, Mom is actually the one suggesting prepping. Working together, I know we can make this work.

As for the back mortgage payments, I’m considering swallowing my pride and filing bankruptcy so I can start clean again. At present, I am still employed. Albeit, it’s part-time employment but, if I do the work while I’m at home with this enforced quarantine, by the time work starts back up again, I may have a few supplemental incomes ready to roll.

My biggest obstacle though is myself. Yes, I procrastinate. But, more, I have a tendency to lose focus. I’ve never been tested, but I would be willing to bet, that I have some form of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I do have anxiety issues; that can rob you of focus all by itself…and may be all there is to it. So, for the last week that I’ve been MIA on this blog, I’ve been creating detailed outlines about my homestead and where I want to go; about my writing; even about this blog and the direction I am hoping to take it, the content I am hoping to share as the days, weeks, months go forward. I’m even writing multiple blog posts on the weekend to copy and paste in WordPress each day so that I have time for all of the many endeavors I’ve set for myself. It will give me more time with my book instead of an either/or writing habit. You see, I want this blogging thing to remain sustainable. I also want to finish my book. And, once I’m back to the “day” job, it won’t be sustainable to do both…unless, of course, I write everything on the weekend. So, that’s the start of it.

And what about my faith? You ask.

Somehow, I don’t feel that prepping, as much as one is able, for disaster(s) is a sign that I’m losing faith. Just look at Noah. I feel that this prepping is an outward expression of obeying the warnings He is putting on my heart.

Our healthcare system is broken.

Our economic system is broken.

Our housing system is broken.

Our educational system is broken.

Our election process is broken.

Even, and especially, our government is broken…no matter what side of the political aisle you stand upon.

Almost all of this brokenness stems from a.) A love of money and materialism, and b.) An inability to truly live the teachings of our faith, which is to love our brothers and sisters as ourselves. Perhaps it’s because so many of us don’t have any self-love. I’m not talking about cultivating a selfish heart, nor am I talking about narcissism, but a healing, appreciating kind of love that values “self” as a child of the Creator. Today, any outward expression of belief is frowned upon in our modern society. It might offend some people. So we leave it at the door.

Yet the non-believers can belittle and post their hateful rhetoric on social media…or spout it on the boob-tube on a regular basis.

I’m done with it.

I’m not ashamed of my God.

Nor of a renewed determination to live more intentionally, more sustainably…and, of course, more faithfully.

And, while it may seem crazy to invest myself in an—for all practical purposes—uncertain future here in Connecticut, I’m trusting Him. He has a plan. For my life. For your life. For even a frightening pandemic and its subsequent shutdown of all things “normal” in our society.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Yang Leaves, Takes Hope with Him

“Why, then, should you forget us, abandon us so long a time? Lead us back to you, O Lord, that we may be restored: give us anew such days as we had of old. For now you have indeed rejected us, and in full measure turned your wrath against us.” (Lamentations 5:20-22)

Last night when I received the word that Andrew Yang had suspended his campaign, I felt like I had been clubbed at the knees. I’m not surprised, really. The Democratic propaganda machine decided from the beginning that they wouldn’t allow Yang to run all the way. From pro-Democrat media outlets repeatedly inserting journalist John Yang’s picture instead of Andrew Yang’s in debate posters, to the muting of Andrew’s mic in many of the debates so that he couldn’t get the attention of the moderators when he wanted to speak, this man has been snubbed at every turn. Not by his fellow peers on the Democratic stage. Many of the other candidates–Republican and Democrat alike–have started parroting some of his talking points. But by the DNC itself. Yang is an outsider, not a career politician. And, I’m guessing, many of his ideas have seemed too radical for more traditional Democrats. I’ve also heard the argument from many that we have someone in office already who is not a career politician…and, sadly, we’ve become more polarized than ever since the 2016 election. So, while I’m not surprised, I am heartsick and disappointed.

Before I alienate every Republican in the room, like Yang, I am not here to attack President Trump or anyone who has supported him. In 2016, the majority of voters simply voted for what they viewed as the lesser of two evils and, depending on your party affiliation, voted accordingly.

Yang got that. And so do I.

In this last debate, he became very vocal about how Donald Trump was not the cause of this nation’s problems. He wanted to bring us together as a nation again. He wanted us to start talking and working together to get things done, to help the American people–many of whom are hurting worst than ever today. He said that Donald Trump was a symptom of the ills in our society, not the disease itself.

And he was right.

Granted, some of President Trump’s shenanigans may have turned that disease terminal. So many of our environmental protections have been rolled back under his administration. Again we must fear that our drinking water is more unsafe and unclean, species of life hang on a thinner thread dangling towards extinction, and our air quality is declining at an alarming rate with the roll back of emissions’ standards.

The environment is what swayed my vote in 2016; it always is. It’s also the reason I started homesteading: I want to know what’s in my food, my medicine, and even my clothing…and I don’t want it to be more chemicals and plastic, the latter a by-product of the fossil fuel industry.

We do have more jobs now.

However, if you’re in the job market, as I still am, you know that most of those jobs are part-time, temporary, seasonal and/or minimum wage. In Connecticut, minimum wage was recently increased from $10.10 an hour to $11.00 an hour. Even if you’re lucky enough to find someone to hire you full-time at minimum wage, that comes out to $440 a week before taxes and SSI, etc. are deducted. Gross income for the month is $1760.00. Again, this is before taxes, etc. are taken out. And, if you’re full-time, we have to factor in benefits as well. So, if you’re lucky, you may be taking home, roughly, $1400-$1500 a month. A one bedroom apartment in Connecticut averages $1200 a month…nothing included. And, sadly, most of these minimum wage gigs are, like my current position, also part-time. $1400-$1500 a month is grossly optimistic and totally unsustainable for the average person trying to stay afloat. It’s only one illness, one injury, one major car repair, etc. away from falling behind…perhaps indefinitely. And, if you can find two or three part-time gigs whose hours don’t overlap, you’re likely to run down fast trying to keep up this crazy pace…making you more ripe for that injury or illness.

Our unemployment numbers are better only because, yes, people are working, but they’re going without food, without medicine–much needed prescriptions, such as insulin and blood pressure meds–without hope just to keep a simple roof overhead.

Yes, hope.

You can’t do much if you lose that. And, no, Yang is not on the same plateau as my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but in him I saw a humble man with a heart, someone with a clear vision of how it could be in this country, of how we could help lift

Every.

Single.

American.

Period.

I truly fear for our country now because most of the remaining candidates do not understand why Trump got elected. They think taxing the rich will work. Yang debunked that; other countries have tried it. It failed. They think an increase in minimum wage will help. It will only create more part-time gigs…and fewer full-time because employers cannot afford it. Like the citizens of this country who are, like me, only an injury or an illness away from homelessness and total financial ruin, most businesses are slowly being beaten out of business by big tech companies like Amazon. They can’t compete when Amazon can run much of its operation with robots…instead of humans who demand a wage for their labor. Just look at your main street empty storefronts for proof of this. Even Walmart is going automated, having recently remodeled and removed more than half of their cashiers for self-checkouts.

Every one of those self-checkout lines is an American job being lost.

Let that sink in.

And it has nothing to do with Latinos and Hispanics coming across our southern borders. That’s a Republican propaganda fable to prey on our fears and uncertainties, our prejudices and bigotries.

I’ve been hit and miss on this blog because I’ve spent the better part of this year sharing Yang interviews and speeches, highlighting his policies from his website and sharing them on social media, and even canvassing for signatures to get him on every ballot. It’s the first time in my 50+ years that I have believed enough in a candidate’s platform to lend my support in whatever way I can. He may still get my vote…written in and impotent and not likely to ruffle the feathers of any other candidate.

You see, with foreclosure looming ever larger overhead, owing to the lack of a decent-paying job, to reduce the stress and worry, to channel all of my negative energy and emotions on something other than my problems, I threw myself wholeheartedly into this campaign. I haven’t ignored my problems. But, having something else to occupy my mind has made life more bearable, sleep more manageable–rather than the anxiety-induced insomnia. Some may argue it was an escape but, I would not be the first person in the world to donate her time and energy to a bigger cause…and find a solution to her own troubles along the way. Sometimes we stress and obsess so much that we block any good coming in. I gave my troubles to God and focused on getting Yang into office.

Again, he wasn’t a savior, or an idol. He was simply someone I would’ve been proud to call “President of the United States”…instead of another heavy sigh of “Oh, well, this one seems the lesser of two evils”. At this point, I’ll settle for Vice-President Yang. Is anyone listening?

May God bless you & keep you!

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I Have Been a Coward

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? When evil men come to destroy me, they will stumble and fall! Yes, though a mighty army marches against me, my heart shall know no fear! I am confident that God will save me.” (Psalms 27:1-3)

Back in 2017, especially towards the end of the year, my blog posts had gotten deeper. I no longer was exploring homesteading endeavors only but some of the real issues that I have faced over the years. Sometimes I questioned myself, wondering what these issues, such as alcoholism and abuse, had to do with homesteading. But I continued onward, seeking to find both a voice and a niche in the blogging world. What I eventually came to was that every homestead is different and reflects the individuality of the person/people living and/or working it. And, while this is a homestead–albeit a struggling one these days as I seek to find work to sustain us off the property–it is also a home. And the people that live here are human…with all of the human failings of every individual.

This homestead is the brain child of a 50-something-year-old woman whose father has never wanted any part of her life…and a step-father who wanted too much to do with her, if you take my meaning. It’s the brain child of a child who watched in terror as this same stepfather popped open that first can of many beers until he was raving drunk, breaking everything he could lay hands on, kicking holes in the walls and beloved pets across the floor, screaming like a banshee and generally terrorizing us all. I also saw the opposite side of alcoholism with a grandfather, the same paternal grandfather who instilled my love of writing, who came home inebriated, mildly sat down on the sofa, pulled me onto his knee and spent the rest of the evening reading fairy tales to me…or teaching this 3 year-old granddaughter the finer points of chess. At 8 years’ old, I visited a very yellow-skinned Poppop in the nursing home for the last time. And then was told by, again, the stepfather and my Mom not to cry about his passing because it might upset my maternal grandfather, with whom we were staying, and cause him to have another stroke.

However, before I continue to paint my stepfather in the darkest terms, there’s even a flip side to this raging form of alcoholism. He was endlessly patient when helping me with homework. He praised my writing to the hilt and, before he died, told me in all confidence that I would be a great writer someday and have that bestseller. I sincerely hope he is right. But, even if he isn’t, despite the abuse I endured from this man, it means a lot to me to have such confidence behind me…even as a part of me fears a feeling of failure if I never do write that bestseller.

Such is the mark of abuse: confidence is always subjective at best.

Some of my posts, and one in particular, focused heavily on the effects of alcoholism in a family. It shapes dynamics, creates an atmosphere of fear and distrust even among loved ones, and fosters a lack of communication. There were consequences to speaking your mind.

And I felt them after such posts.

One aunt, in particular, refuses to speak to me after one such post, denying such dynamics exist in our family because, on my mother’s side of the family, the last generation of active alcoholics was my great-grandparents. My post talked about learned behavior that, sadly, can be passed from one generation to the next. That’s why Al-Anon refers to alcoholism as a “family disease” because, in essence, it’s catching…even if you don’t drink.

Then there was the blog post, which has long since been taken down, where I lamented the cruel treatment of an animal where I was working. I came close to being fired, was put on probation, and threatened with litigation. Sure, I should’ve gone through the proper channels and brought the treatment to the attention of my supervisor first. I was so horrified, I didn’t think about it until after I’d calmed down…and after the damage had already been done, so to speak. I don’t negate what I witnessed–and continued to witness–but I stopped writing about it. And floundered some mornings about what to write about at all. After being written up for this infraction, I got reprimanded again for another post that, in all honesty, I never even considered might be offensive. In that post, I lamented being unable to serve at church on Sunday mornings because of the work schedule conflict. It wasn’t meant as a shot against the employer in question but they took it that way.

These hands have been, sadly, quiet over the last year-and-a-half or so. Fear of retribution has made me second guess every word typed. Yes, I know, as a writer, I have a responsibility to be cognizant of people’s feelings. I also know that I am going to piss some people off even without intending to. I know that I cannot please everyone and, maybe, depending on the subject of my post, someone will get angry enough to seek compensation for what they view as a damaging image created by those words. However, while I have no desire to cause pain to anyone, I also know that by remaining silent, sometimes I cause more pain.

To myself.

And, yes, to others, too.

None of the above subjects have anything to do with homesteading directly. Nor do the political or religious issues that sometimes crop up and demand my attention. However, they do have something to do with this homestead. Every homestead is unique. Not just in what that homestead produces, such as fruits and vegetables, herbs, fiber products, honey, etc but in the human force behind it.

What hurdles have those humans had to jump over to get to where they are right now? What hurdles have become road blocks to their success? What issues influence why they are homesteading in the first place? And what issues influence the direction they take?

I started homesteading because I wanted to rescue abused and neglected creatures. I wanted to help those without a voice, as well as remember those beloved pets of my youth whom I was too young and powerless to protect. Later, as I learned more about herbs, a love started by my mother when she cured a tenacious strain of conjunctivitis (pink-eye) with a decoction of spearmint leaves, I wanted to grow my own herbs organically and experience the healing power I’d heard so much of regarding gardening. Then, as commercial food products continue to get recalled and we learn about the harmful chemicals used in growing food on a commercial scale, I wanted to heal myself and my loved ones by growing as much of our food myself as possible. This led to an awareness of how much our planet is hurting due to the toxins in our air, water, soil and bodies. Many of those toxins come from plastic clothing, the synthetic fibers like nylon and microfibers and Spandex, etc that release tiny particles into our waterways every time we throw them in the washer. My brief career in living history was an enduring experience because of the gift of learning how to raise and then process natural fibers–without harm to the animals in question.

No, I can’t save the world. But I can mitigate the harm to our planet by reducing my own abuse of resources…and educating others on ways that they can reduce that carbon footprint as well. And I may not be able to save every animal who hurts or suffers under human abuse, neglect and/or exploitation, but I can mitigate some of that suffering one creature at a time…and, when resources allow, help empower others in the field of animal welfare.

Have I fallen short of the mark in my endeavors? Of course. I am human…with all of the human failings of our species. I can be lazy and undisciplined. I procrastinate. I can be short-sighted. I can also be loving and kind and laser-focused at times. I’m creative and a bit of a Pollyanna–this last can be both a failing and a success, depending upon one’s perspective. I’m also tackling another hurdle right now in trying to save this homestead from certain foreclosure if I don’t find a position, or a means of supplementing the current one, that helps me get caught up on all the back payments due.

I’ve cringed every time I’ve blogged about my financial situation. Shame, which is part of that pride cycle, has filled me even though I know my current situation stems from an unexpected fall and the subsequent injury I sustained in that fall. In many ways, it’s been a blessing. It’s made me stop and realize that, over the years, I have judged others less fortunate harshly. I’ve shared a common belief that somehow this person may have brought their troubles on themselves.

When I ought to know better.

In short, I’ve been a coward about humbling myself to my readers. I’ve allowed a few wrist slaps to influence the direction and reason for this blog. And, while those wrist slappings may curb some overzealous crusades, if I allow them to silence me entirely, I don’t deserve to be a writer at all. While a writer has a responsibility to all of the things I mentioned above, a writer also has a responsibility to share the truth, to be genuine, to lift people up and shed the Light of that truth on as much of the anger and prejudice and sufferings in this world as he or she can.

May God bless you & keep you!

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A New Start

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (the Revelation 22:13)

Today I start a new position as town librarian/librarian clerk. It’s only a part-time endeavor but what better place for a writer than in a house of books? Granted, I will need to supplement somehow but, it’s a tad more secure than a temporary position. They have also promised an increase in both pay and hours after my first 3 months, sooner if I catch on to everything quickly enough. I am looking forward to it.

More, this new position is within walking distance of home, which reduces fuel expenses and the wear and tear on my car. It reduces my carbon footprint significantly. It also relieves what may be an irrational anxiety of mine of losing time at work owing to transportational challenges. While I have a reliable vehicle (knock on wood), I’ve been in fight-or-flight mode for so long, I don’t know how to calm down out of it yet. Here’s hoping this new gig will be a new way forward.

May God bless you & keep you!

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

gf.me/u/vwpfwh

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A Sustainable Saturday – Keeping the Plastic Out of our Oceans and Streams

“O God, have pity, for I am trusting you! I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until this storm is past. I will cry to the God of heaven who does such wonders for me” (Psalms 57:1-2).

As Thanksgiving Day just passed here in the U.S., we now enter the delectable week of leftover meals of turkey and ham sandwiches (if you consume meat, of course), and re-heated potatoes, stuffing, squash, turnip, sweet potato and green bean casserole. We always make too much, wanting to have extra for that unexpected guest…or simply to have those leftover dishes for quick and easy meals over the next few days. We’ll do likewise for the coming holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or another holiday, there will likely be at least one other family gathering to share a special meal together…and this, too, will likely produce another mountain of leftovers.

And another mountain of plastic waste heading to our oceans and streams.

Plastic wrap and single-use containers often get displayed in supermarket flyers right along with the sales on stuffing mixes, cranberry sauce and turkey. For convenience sake, we buy them in large quantities the same day we go shopping for food for said gatherings. The reasoning is that folks can use them to take home those leftovers. They’ll keep everything fresh and clean, and nobody has to worry about returning a host’s favorite bowl or platter.

But what happens after we get those containers home?

As I’m a frugal fanatic, those leftovers usually get eaten. By Monday, Mom and I will probably be sick of stuffing and squash. Or my chickens and ducks will have had a feast of their own on whatever we don’t eat (minus any leftover meat that Mom does not consume). However, no matter how careful we are, sometimes containers of food get forgotten in the back of the fridge. A few weeks from now, we may find a container whose fuzzy, green appearance gives not the slightest hint as to what it once contained in life. I hope not, as I am cognizant of the fact that food waste in our landfills actually exceeds our plastic waste (14% versus 12% of plastic waste (Cunningham & Cunningham, 2015, pp. 476-477)), but it does happen from time to time. Either way, eventually, there will be wads of cling wrap and/or plastic containers entering recycle bins and trash receptacles across the U.S.A.

The former raises an “ah ha!” moment in many. If you are recycling it, what’s the big deal? However, some forms of plastic cannot be recycled, especially if there are layers of materials involved, such as in paper cups designed for both hot and cold beverages. And, as many of these containers and wrappings have been used to store food, even with careful rinsing, the aromas cling. If not carefully contained at the curb, they may get invaded by wildlife who scatter it everywhere in their search for something to eat. Gusts of wind, either from nature or passing traffic, may tip over a receptacle and/or blow lighter materials about. And, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t bother to properly rinse your recyclables, once they get to the recycling plant, the Zero Sort machine kicks them out and into a waiting garbage truck to be sent to the landfill. All is not perfect in the world of recycling. (Google The Pacific Garbage Gyre to find out where a lot of our plastic waste eventually ends up)

I have fallen far short of my goals of Zero Waste this year. As always, part of it stems from other family members not being on board with it, part of it my own inability in disciplining myself in whatever new behavior I’m hoping to adopt. I’ve wasted a lot of time talking, explaining, telling people about plastic waste…only to hear the response that everyone else does it so it doesn’t make a difference.

But every effort we make, makes a difference. It may be a small one, but we’re telling the world that it matters. The lives of sea creatures and birds and possums and raccoons…and countless other species of life matter. Our own health and well-being matter…because what so-called lesser creatures consume, we also consume.

So this year, knowing I cannot control the amount of plastic waste my family produces simply by telling, I decided to lead by example.

I always have tons of canning jars around the house from preserving whatever I produce in the garden. So I packed up several of the wide-mouth quart jars in a reusable shopping bag and toted them to my aunt’s house. When the meal was over, and my aunt was asking everyone if they wanted to take some of the leftovers home so they didn’t go to waste, I ran out to my car and grabbed the bag of canning jars. Though she offered the use of some of the plastic and/or aluminum plates she’d purchased for this express purpose, I politely thanked her, then told her I’d rather use the canning jars. I then filled the jars with what she’d offered. She watched me and then admitted it was a good idea because it was cheaper than buying the plastic wrap and single-use containers, which have gotten expensive.

No, it’s not exactly the reason behind my bringing the canning jars, but ecology and economy go hand-in-hand. The less we spend on things we don’t really need, the less we send to the landfills. This is true for pretty much everything. And, even if we can’t get everyone on board about plastic waste for the sake of our planet, saving everyone a few pennies can be an incentive. The end result will be the same: less waste overall.

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Cunningham, William P. and Cunningham, Mary Ann. Environmental Science: A Global Concern, Thirteenth Edition. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education, 2015.