A Sustainable Life

“Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interest, but also everyone for those of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

I’m searching for that one thing to take root and hold. That side hustle, as some may call it, that will help to supplement what I earn at my “day” job. Perhaps it is many things: writing, blogging, art, crafts. Perhaps it is even a return to doing some Reflexology, Reiki and/or Touch for Health on the side. If I had a safe place to practice, I might be tempted. And it is certainly a goal to eventually have a room set aside here at home for a holistic health practice in the future. But, for now, it isn’t possible.

One step at a time…

That is my dream: a sustainable homestead. Not just sustainable in being as environmentally-friendly as possible (although that is one definition and certainly part of the dream), but sustainable on a financial scale, too. I am working towards that day when I can earn a living for and from myself, rather than someone else. A day when this homestead provides an income (or many), along with writing and artwork. But it will take a while to get there, I’m thinking.

And it will never happen as long as I keep focusing on Self.

What can I do as a writer to help others? To fulfill a need or a longing? What can I do as an artist? Or a homesteader for the same? How may I use my talents to serve Him better, His children better? Those are the questions I should be asking. And it shouldn’t matter the outcome. I.e. whether or not it sustains me because my faith tells me to trust Him; He is already providing for my needs. Can He use me to provide for others? To teach? To listen? To share? For too long now I have been operating from a place of want. It’s time to change the way I look at things. I used to say the line from Jewel’s “Deep Water” about my “standard of living somehow got stuck on survive” reflected my way of life. I’m taking a leaf out of Casting Crown’s book now, “It’s time for us to more than just survive; we were made to thrive!”

You can’t get more sustainable than that.

May God bless you & keep you!

Hall, J. M. (2014). “Thrive.” Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.
Kilcher, J. (1998). “Deep Water.” EMI Music Publishing.

https://www.patreon.com/theherbalhare

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Something to Crow About

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

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

Bass Ackwards

“I am confident in this, that the one who began a work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Despite working with computer and online technology for at least a couple of decades now, I still flub up every now and again. Part of it may be that whenever I go to a new site, new application, etc., I am more liable to just start following menu paths and clicking here and there as to read the actual instructions beforehand.

Such is the case with my new Patreon site. I was supposed to build suspense by posting little snippets of its launch on my social media sites, my blog, etc. Well, as I’ve given up social media for Lent, such a climatic approach would be nearly impossible anyway. So, I clicked the “Launch” button almost from the moment I first logged into the site. Needless to say, a quick visit, at this point, would be a little anticlimatic anyway; I haven’t downloaded much yet.

Bear with me; fiction, in the form of short stories, some poetry, some samples of business icons, etc. as well as paintings, drawings, knitted, hand-spun and hand-woven items will appear from time to time. Perhaps even some herbal products as time goes on. I’m still working it all out.

So, what is Patreon? “Patreon is a membership platform that makes it easy for creators to get paid.” We’re challenged to memorize that; I haven’t yet. It’s in a spiral-bound notebook for the moment. (Chuckle)

This menu path should bring you to my Patreon page if you’d like to check it out: https://www.patreon.com/theherbalhare

May God bless you & keep you!

PS If, for some reason, this doesn’t bring you to the site (may have to copy and paste in search engine), please post a comment below and I will check into it. Again, I’m still learning. Thank you for reading my blog…and for your patronage! =)

Not by Bread Alone

“He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

The power of music. It truly is a bit of manna for the soul. I’ll try not to be redundant but, yes, another blog post about my love affair with music. It’s simply that I’m itching to pick up the six-string again and, somehow, such endeavors always seem to get relegated to that “Someday” list. Ditto for the Appalachian dulcimer; I can’t remember the last time I played that. And then, of course, is the list of instruments I’m planning to learn “someday”: bowed psaltery, hammered dulcimer, Celtic harp, Nickelharpa, Hurdy-Gurdy, fiddle. I don’t want to wait until I’m retired. The way things are going I might be well into my 90’s before I can afford to do so. (Yes, there’s still a bit of Bad Luck Schlepp-Rock lurking around…)

And, why, yes, I do have a thing for stringed instruments! =)

The latest homestead dilemma has left me more frazzled than I care to admit…enough so that the Irritable Bowel Syndrome just kicked into overdrive and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is threatening to down me, too. I can’t afford either. There’s work to be done to get this homestead back right side up financially.

Paradoxically, He’s also giving me a little nudge to slow down, take it easy, even just for a moment. And music helps to make that happen. I tuned into Pandora radio on my iPhone on the way to work Saturday morning and listened to some Contemporary Christian for the hour drive. The nerves that have been dangling on tenterhooks suddenly mellowed out and I found myself singing along with Casting Crowns, For King and Country, Francesca Battistelli. The good mood carried me into the museum and stayed with me while I made preparations for a boiled dinner on the hearth. Even after I had turned Pandora off and tucked the cellphone away in the pocket of my 19th century flannel work dress, I found myself still singing, not caring if anyone heard (which might not be appreciated by the powers-that-be; these weren’t period correct songs). One of the volunteers came in and she, too, started singing. Different songs but we had a grand old time peeling vegetables and stoking fires while the songs flowed. I tuned into Pandora on Sunday morning’s commute, too.

I have visions of something similar here at the homestead. My dream is to eventually host Saturday night potlucks where everyone who plays an instrument brings it along and we sit around after dinner playing and singing by the fire. Of course, if I’m going to host something musical, I need to dust off the instruments and re-learn to play them. It’s been too long. And, even if this homestead is again at risk of being lost (at least the actual property), such a dream is not so far-fetched.

Only finding the time to put in the practice. (I really do need a 28-hour day.)

Time is a precious commodity these days. It feels like I have to make an appointment with myself just to find the time for the most basic endeavors…like shaving my legs and armpits. But, before anyone thinks I’m running around here in rural Connecticut looking like the hairy wildebeest, think again. ‘Tis only a metaphor.

Relax.

Breathe.

Phew! Glad we nipped that one in the bud.

Back to our regularly scheduled program: music. I’m missing the late nights of sitting alone with the guitar wailing away. Far more powerful than listening to the radio, or a CD, my own hands (or lips) creating that flow of emotion takes me out of myself and helps me to focus in on Him a little better. Suddenly, there is no one and nothing else in the room with me…except maybe the errant feline, or canine (when I had canines), sharing the moment with He and I. I can’t say that the music I’m playing is necessarily Christian, but it often does have an almost-spiritual quality to it…at least on the benefits to my soul, in helping me to relax. And let go. Just that.

Come to me and I will give you rest. We hear that over and again in the Bible. I can’t help thinking that maybe He’s giving me a nudge to find that rest again with my instruments. Maybe it’s time to check something else off of that “someday” list; I’ve been neglecting it for too long. The money I need to get right side up again will come. Or it won’t. But either way, He’s got my back. I have to trust that. And, in the meantime, I have to let go and let Him work the miracles He has in mind. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

May God bless you & keep you!

Spinning Wheels Got to Go Round

“Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Dorcas. She was completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving. Now during those days she fell sick and died, so washing her, they laid her out in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, ‘Please come to us without delay.’ So Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs where all the widows came to him weeping and showing him the tunics and cloaks that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to her body and said, ‘Tabitha, rise up.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. He gave her his hand and raised her up, and when he had called the holy ones and the widows, he presented her alive.” (Acts 9:36-41)

In the Catholic faith, when you make your Confirmation, you choose a new name. This isn’t a legal name. It’s usually a name from either Scripture or one of the saints. And, in essence, by choosing the name, you are choosing your patron saint.

I chose Tabitha.

In a world where churches are lucky to be half-full on a Sunday morning, and everyone spends more time in front of the boob tube than reading the Bible, you can imagine the quandary this choice created. Even my own mother thought I was choosing a “witch name,” as she called it. In her defense, some translations of the Bible do not mention the name “Tabitha” when recounting the story of Dorcas. And, of course, Elizabeth Montgomery immortalized the name when, as Samantha Stevens in the old sitcom, “Bewitched”, she and husband, Darren, christened their daughter, Tabitha. Who, of course, like her mother, could twitch her nose to make things happen.

I chose the name because the story represented to me a rebirth, much like the one that occurs when you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. And Dorcas received a new name just like I was in being confirmed.

However, just as some translations don’t mention Tabitha, the Catholic Bible I quoted from at the beginning of this post, only touches on the fact that Dorcas/Tabitha was a seamstress. She sewed and spun and wove fine garments for people in need. This translation has the widows showing Peter some of the garments she made for them, but the translation states instead that she “was completely occupied with good deeds.” I like the other translation better. And, maybe it’s not just the story of rebirth but the humble tasks this dear lady used to help those in need that won my heart and led me to choose her for a patron saint.

Thursday I had my first lesson on the Great Wheel, the Spinning Wheel, the Walking Wheel at work. It has many names; all of them correct. Wool did not traditionally get spun on the little treadle fed spinning wheels we see at the local “Sheep to Shawl” competitions at our local Ag fair. Those portable little wheels more closely resemble a flax wheel. And flax may “Someday” become a crop here at The Herbal Hare Homestead…definitely if this homestead eventually relocates, which is a tentative plan on the horizon (more on that later…). But, for now, I’m spinning wool.

On a Great Wheel.

And loving it.

I’ve tried my hand a few times on the more modern pseudo-flax wheel; I much prefer the Walking Wheel. First of all, it’s a simpler rhythm. And I chose the word rhythm on purpose because the “walk” is almost like a dance as you step to the left while angling the roll of wool away from the spindle, pull it out to thin out the clumps, give the great wheel a turn with your right hand to strength those thinner areas on the roll then give it another gentle stretch. A couple of more turns of the great wheel then we step to the right, turn the wheel slightly in the opposite direction to bring the now yarn up onto the “cone” of the spindle (wound yarn that has built up on the opposite end of the spindle from where we spin it; best way I can describe it) and then slowly step forward while turning the wheel clockwise again to roll the yarn up and back to the left again. Your feet form an almost perfect triangle.

It’s all in the feel, as the wonderful ladies who have been teaching me tell us. Us, because there are 5 of us learning this wonderful art. What wonderfully encouraging instructors we have, too! I was prepared to beg for some practice time towards the end of the day yesterday but I need not have worried. Both ladies were willing to accommodate. And one of them told me yesterday that I was doing very well; I hope so. This is one skill, this and next week’s weaving class, that I really want to master. I suspect every spare moment, if possible, I will be trying to sneak in some practice. I may have to comb some estate sales and auctions. I am envisioning a Great Wheel here at The Herbal Hare Homestead…albeit, I’ll be doing this spinning “dance” to some music. I’m not sure yet what effect spinning yarn while listening to Megadeth will have…

May God bless you & keep you!

A Different Sort of Art

“Wisdom has built her house, she has set her seven columns; she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table” (Proverbs 9:1-2)

We hear of plenty of feasts in the Bible but the lowly cook, or baker, is seldom mentioned. Granted, cooking and baking is rather commonplace. Doubtless, there seemed little purpose in mentioning whether or not a feast was tasty or not when stacked up alongside of Jesus’ miracles, or the words of wisdom spoken by the prophets of old. Yet, we all must eat and drink to survive. Who among us, when given a choice, would not choose that fresh, vibrantly-leafed spinach salad over the pale, lifeless and wilted specimen from a can? And who hasn’t grumbled over a meal that didn’t come out “just right”? Though commonplace, the chemistry and magick that is cooking and baking is nothing short of a miracle in itself.

Today such miraculous wizardry is being lost to packaged, processed convenience. The result is unhealthy people and animals, and an unhealthy planet from all of the plastic wrappings. We have lost touch with our food. And that’s a sad thing.

I remember years’ ago, when I first got rid of the microwave once and for all, wanting a bowl of popcorn and finding only microwave popcorn in my larder. It actually set me into a bit of a quandary. I think that was my first real step away from processed foods. I bought a bag of old-fashioned popping corn (at a fraction of the cost of a box of microwavable popcorn!), heated some olive oil on the stove and gently shook the covered sauce pan back and forth until it all popped. The lifeless cardboard that is microwave popcorn has never been seen–or eaten–at The Herbal Hare Homestead again.

Since then, I’ve spent a number of winters learning how to cook and bake from scratch, searching through numerous cookbooks and trying new recipes; some came out well, some not so well. But I learned. Eventually, I purchased a cookbook by Alana Chernila entitled: The Homemade Pantry: 101 Things You Can Stop Buying and Start Making; it was a gold mine. Everything from a delectable recipe for baked mac n cheese to homemade marshmallow fluff. And, before any modern folks complain about the time lost in cooking, it is time much better spent than sitting before the boob tube. In fact, for me, it became a sort of “zen” time, a time to cast aside any worry or complaint and just “be”. It recharged the mental and emotional batteries…and the end results recharged me physically. Who wouldn’t feel completely blessed sitting before a roaring wood stove with a bowl of homemade lentil soup, fresh-baked rye bread and, while it came from a local package store rather than my bees, a glass of smooth mead while the snow piles up outside your window? (I haven’t tried my hand at homemade mead yet…stay tuned for future endeavors)

Microwaves, dish washers and Keurig machines are banned here at The Herbal Hare Homestead. But I still use an electric stove, toaster oven, drip coffee machine and even a bread machine. There are no plans to replace the latter once it burns out but these are the tools of modern cooking and baking from “scratch”.

Now, as I meander through 19th century cooking and baking at my job, I’m finding a new level of zen in antiquated kitchens…and discovering a whole new meaning to the phrase “cooking and baking from scratch”. Coffee doesn’t go through the drip machine–or even the percolator my grandmothers used. Raw, green coffee beans are roasted on the fire, sending out an aroma that puts the drip machine to shame; the dough is set to rise overnight in the bread box–a long wooden vessel that resembles an infant’s cradle–and then, as the fire is lit and kept roaring in the bake oven for, roughly, 3 hours before being ready for baking, is kneaded by hand and set to bake on the bricks. I am amazed at what 19th century women accomplished with little more than a fire, a kettle or two, a “spider” (skillet with legs)…and maybe some sturdy twine to dangle your meat over the flames to slow roast. They didn’t use (or need) fancy gadgets or tools, and yet, they created small miracles, small masterpieces of art everyday. Cooking and baking claimed much of a woman’s morning and early-afternoon in the 19th century (kitchen fires were typically banked after the midday meal and cold leftovers, or bread and cheese sandwiches, served as a light repast before bed). Few women worked outside the home (though factories were changing that for a younger generation of ladies) so “convenience” food was relegated to cold pies and bread, and the beans you baked overnight on Saturday to be eaten for the Sabbath. (Any “unnecessary” work was avoided on Sundays…and that included cooking and baking.) Cooking in a kitchen where all I have to do is turn a dial to get an electric “flame” seems almost like cheating now. (I wonder if 19th century clergy would consider our modern methods “work”…)

I created my own masterpiece on a 19th century hearth. This was baked in a kettle instead of a bake oven. And, while it won’t merit the term “miraculous” in any biblical terms, still, I’m claiming some bragging rights. (And, yes, I know all about the sin of pride…even we ministers have human failings…)

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Chernila, A. (2012). The Homemade Pantry: 101 Things You Can Stop Buying and Start Making. New York: Clarkson Potter.

Manifesting my Dreams

“And we have this confidence in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14)

I struggle to know His will for me versus my own hopes, dreams and aspirations. Did He put these dreams on my heart because this is where He wants me to go? Or am I hoping to super-impose my will over His simply because He provided the grace, the talent, the desire…whether we’re talking writing, art or homesteading? I guess, in some ways, I’m trying to read God’s mind. It’s almost as if I’m looking for permission to be a writer, artist and/or homesteader. And, in the long run, I don’t think He minds what avenue we choose to spread His word, to do His will. His will is that we love Him with our hearts, our minds, our souls–in short, every ounce of our being, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Last Sunday this awful cold–which is turning into bronchitis, I suspect–kept me from church. Mom and I sat and watched some daily devotional videos with Mark Hall from Casting Crowns. I am going to paraphrase him but we’re not writers. Or artists. Or bankers. Or whatever our profession. We’re Christians who write, draw/paint, or work in a bank. In other words, being Christian, serving Christ, should be first. That should be our identity. I like that because it puts us all on the same playing field. We’re all the same in God’s eyes.

So today I am a Christian who writes. And I finally finished the mural I blogged about many months’ ago. I’m also a Christian who paints:

The ultimate symbol of Christ’s sacrifice for us shining down on all of my dreams. I’ve spent a lot of time in holistic health, which tends to have a crossover with New Age beliefs. There’s a lot of talk about manifesting your dreams. In short, in many ways, it is a feeble attempt to superimpose our own wills over God’s. But His plans are greater than any that you or I may have. And, if it is His will, His means of getting there are much more effective. Still, it was rather nice to pour all of my longing into this folk-art rendering of where I hope to be one day.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Hall, M. (n.d.). “Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall Daily Devotional”. YouTube. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9E60B7BC20898E21