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A Weary Heart

“I will lie down in peace and sleep, for though I am alone, O Lord, You will keep me safe” (Psalms 4:8)

I turned 54 yesterday.

I woke up this morning to find another beloved feline had passed away overnight. No sign of illness or injury, but her son, Alice Cooper, died of a heart defect when he was a little over a year old–on November 22, 2016; his mama left either late November 20, or early November 21, 2020, almost 4 years to the day. Perhaps Mama Priscilla had a heart defect, too.

Priscilla was a very pregnant stray dropped off here 5 years’ ago. Mom and I kept all three surviving kittens, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper and Emmylou Harris, got everyone spayed/neutered and they have all been a joy. It broke my heart to find Priscilla lying on the floor of the rabbit room. I wondered where she was last night when I went to bed. Usually she gets up on the bed for her nightly cuddle, rubbing her cheek as tightly against mine as she can possibly get it. I assumed there was a mouse brave enough to visit a home with 9 resident felines. Now I wonder if she was already gone by the time I went to bed. Not the most auspicious way to begin your 55th year of life.

Caught the next door neighbor–the same one who challenged zoning back in June and July–hiding in the bushes bordering our properties last week, craning her neck over the stone wall looking for…something. When we pulled up in front of the house to turn into the drive, she had the startled-deer-in-the-headlights look when she realized we were home and had seen her. She left rather quickly.

Mom smokes. When she goes outside at night for a cigarette, if the outside light pops on because she’s walked in front of the motion sensor, someone in this neighbor’s house walks over to the upstairs window and stands there, watching. What are they hoping to see? What is it about us that they find so fascinating? It’s a fixer-upper home. It didn’t have curb appeal when it was up on the market in 2004. It’s definitely gotten worse over the last 16 years. And, though my Mom is an attractive 74 year old, she’s still 74 years old. What do they care if their elderly neighbor sits outside at night?

It’s going to be hard leaving here…well, it would be if not for these neighbors. Perhaps that is His plan to break the sentimental hold this home has on me. 5 dogs, 11 cats, 1 goat, 3 guinea pigs, 1 pet rat, 3 parakeets, 20 rabbits, 4 ducks and 29 chickens have their final resting place in the pet cemetery out back. I kept a reflexology practice here; have planted trees and shrubs, fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs; learned how to can food, bake bread from scratch and a host of other homesteading skills here. More importantly, I’ve shared a lot of laughter and tears, both good memories and bad, and a whole lot of loving within these four walls…even if the roof does leak and a host of other updates need attending.

But I’m leaving.

The remaining goats, chickens and ducks probably qualify for contraband these days since the nosy neighbors raised a stink. I’ve had some acquaintances suggest contacting Legal Aid to see if there’s help with the zoning issues–help that I engaged long before any farm animals arrived–but I’m thinking, while I may inquire, the biggest part of me is tired of the struggle. The mortgage is high, the repairs many and costly, and the job market in this area is one of the worst. The zoning issue is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It won’t be easy. I’m looking to homestead, as I had been doing here, but I’m looking to do it on a larger scale. Not necessarily a larger property but a greater attention to self-sufficiency and environmental protection. So that will mean unrestricted use. Land only…to start with.

Even that little bit is daunting to this weary heart. But to give up is inconceivable. I’m getting too old for nosy neighbors and their drama, or living a life that barely scrabbles by rather than living a life that will bring me joy and a sense of security that will be the first I have ever known since I was a very wee child. A life lived with intention and a sense of purpose. It is too short, as Priscilla’s minute time on this earth has reinforced yet again, to waste it on drama and stress.

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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These Dreams…

“As a hungry man dreams of eating, but is still hungry, and as a thirsty man dreams of drinking, but is still faint from thirst when he wakes up, so your enemies will dream of victorious conquest, but all to no avail.” (Isaiah 29:8)

I am grateful for this Covid-19 shutdown.

No, I haven’t lost my marbles. I know people are sick, dying, or have lost loved ones to this pandemic. I would be an insensitive clod to be grateful for that. Far too many people also don’t know where their next meal, or rent/mortgage payment, is coming from while they wait until it is truly safe to venture out again in numbers greater than 10. Without some serious assistance from our government, which doesn’t seem to be forthcoming anytime soon, far too many people are at risk of losing their homes. I’m not grateful for that either.

What I am grateful for is the stop of nearly everything “normal” in life.

You see, somehow along the line my life got “stuck” in survival mode. It’s been driven by purpose, by necessity, by the sheer panic that a potential foreclosure can instill in someone. Yes, I write my blog, my book, take care of my animals during “normal” times. Mom and I play games together, too, when there isn’t a pandemic.

But I don’t “stop”.

I can’t remember the last time I just sat and listened to music. Not while I’m playing games or doing housework, but just sat and listened. And dreamed. I can’t remember the last time that I woke up without an alarm and got to lay there and…yes, dream. Where do I want to go? What do I really want to do this day?

Daydreams…

Imaginings…

Manifesting…

Planning for the future…

During this crazy pandemic, I’ve actually been thinking about a future again. I’m looking at what I have, where I want to go, and allowing myself to dream about it…sort of like I did when I was a young girl just starting out in life with everything open before me. That is a gift, if we will only choose to look at it as such.

No, I don’t plan on wasting a whole day doing nothing but dreaming, but allowing one’s self to dream from time to time, actually opens our imagination. We start thinking about making the impossible, well, possible.

So, what do I dream about? What do I see when that imagination opens up?

Besides a few novels gracing the best sellers’ list, I’m imagining how my whole front lawn is going to look once I’m done landscaping. I’m envisioning all manner of herbs, small fruits, vegetables and flowers…a veritable food and medicinal forest. I’m seeing a stand along the roadside with cut flowers, herbs and plants for sale. I’m imagining that other half-acre fenced in and providing more ranging space for the goats, chickens and ducks. I see an agility course and several Border and Bearded Collies, and Welsh Corgis, running through lickety-split. I’m dreaming of a Great Wheel, a loom and a loom tool (another type of spinning wheel), and a number of Angora rabbits and goats providing fiber for spinning and weaving.

Sometimes, though, that dream isn’t here, but in another place…kind of murky and undefined, but larger, with room for more goats, and sheep. I see some greenhouses for growing spices, like cardamom and turmeric, year-round. I’m envisioning an aquaponics’ system and racks of microgreens and sprouts. When I’m really being far out, I see a greenhouse full of mulberries and silkworms…and the necessary apparatus for spinning their silken threads. I’m thinking of a thriving Reflexology practice–not just the occasional client–and herb classes hosted in my own extensive herb garden.

More, I dream of hosting potlucks and quiet nights spent with loved ones around a campfire.

Yes, all of this probably demands more energy, time, etc. than I have these days. This run-down, ramshackle abode has become a money pit; it would take too much to make such happen. Or would it? Maybe what it needs is simply for me to take a few more steps forward…and to really start thinking about that transition from impossible to possible.

That’s another thing to be thankful for: I have some time on my hands to do some of the work for those things I can do here and now. And I’m being honest enough with myself that I may not get all that I’d like to accomplish done, but I can certainly make a dent in it.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying not having to make a mad dash through life. We’ve got to take the silver linings where we can find them.

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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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!

Animals, Climate Change, Cooking, Creativity, Culture, ecosystems, Environment, Family, Frugality, gardening, Global Warming, Healing, Holidays, Holistic Health, Homesteading, Minimalism, Nature, Self-improvement, Zero Waste

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.

Animals, Christianity, compost, Creativity, ecosystems, Frugality, gardening, Homesteading, Nature, permaculture, Zero Waste

Frugal Fridays – Leaves of Life

“And he pointed out to me a river of pure Water of Life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb, coursing down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew Trees of Life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month; the leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations” (The Revelation 22:1-2)

The artist in me revels in the fiery splendor of autumn in New England. This year’s display is particularly vivid and beautiful, made even more lovely by a visit from my brother, sister-in-law, and nieces. The colors simply shout and sing from their branches…and coast down along jets of autumn breezes. It’s tough not to wax poetic at this time of year.

Of course, there’s also the obligatory clean up of those fallen leaves. I confess to being a big kid. I love the crunch and crinkle of leaves under foot, the smoky-tangy aroma they give off when trod upon. I’ve even been known to jump into that pile of leaves a time or two. And, if you share your home with goats, I dare you not to succumb into a full-belly laugh as they jump about, catching those leaves on their fall, and munching contentedly the spoils of their harvest.

I save a couple of bags of dry leaves for my goats. It’s great fodder for them in the wintertime when everything green is dormant beneath the ground. And there’s a renewed warmth in watching their almost-human expressions are sheer bliss when you break open a bag in February when the snow is inches thick on the ground.

Another good use is as compost. Leave mold is extremely beneficial to your garden. It helps build soil fertility by adding nitrogen to your soil. It also helps as a mulch to retain moisture and provides a home for earthworms and other beneficial lifeforms in the soil. There are multiple methods for creating a good leaf mold compost. The easiest is to create a frame using a few stakes and surrounding those stakes with chicken wire, or old wire fencing (if you don’t have the chicken wire), to create a square, or circular, “bin”. (PS Chicken wire is pretty inexpensive and can be used for other crafts later on…even if you don’t have chickens). You’re looking for something that will provide lots of airflow while keeping those leaves contained…so you don’t have to rake them up again. You simply pile them into the wire “bin”, keep them moist (not soaking wet), and turn the pile often with a rake to help speed up the decomposition. Generally, it takes between 6-12 months to make a good leaf mold for the garden. You can also fill lawn and leaf bags, moisten the leaves, tie the bags closed, then poke holes in the plastic to allow airflow. Place the bags somewhere in the shade and give the bag an occasional shake. Every couple of months, moisten the leaves again and shake. Before long, you’ll have an awesome amendment for your garden.

Here’s to healthy soil…and happy, healthy goats (if you have them)!

May God bless you & keep you!

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Gratitude for Community

“Is there any such thing as Christians cheering each other up? Do you love me enough to want to help me? Does it mean anything to you that we are brothers in the Lord, sharing the same Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic at all? Then make me truly happy by loving each other and agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, working together with one heart and mind and purpose” (Philippians 2:1-2)

I’m feeling so grateful today. My church community is helping out with my situation and words cannot describe how grateful I am. There’s been an onslaught of emotions: hope, joy, relief…and, yes, even a little shame and embarrassment. The last vestiges of an attempt to hang onto pride…or maybe the adversary’s feeble attempts to keep pride’s hold on me.

But Jesus will always be stronger. God’s got this. So, take that, adversary!

There’s something to be said for community. Maybe that is the lesson He wants me to learn (above and beyond the pride thing…).

I’ve always dreamed of living like a hermit in the woods, the whole “Walden” thing. My dream home is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature, and living like it’s still the 19th century. Maybe there’s something to it. Solitude and simplicity are needed for a healthy life balance, but without fellowship with others, what’s the point? And even Henry David Thoreau wrote about visitors to his little cabin in the woods. We need both. If I can hang on to this place, or if He wants me to sock this money away for a potential move, either way, I want my homestead to be a welcoming place: for family gatherings; for friends sitting around a campfire at night; for prayer meetings; for knitting, sewing, quilting circles; for clients to have their treatments; for hosting classes about herbs, 19th century skills, and no-dig gardening…and even a refuge for those caught in the eye of their own personal storms.

I’ve blogged before about how I crave solitude like flowers crave the sun and rain. And it’s true. I’m the classic introvert. Too many people, too often, and I start to feel a little sick at heart. I retreat inward. Not because I’m anti-social, but because that’s how it is for an introvert. For an introvert, too much social time quickly becomes overwhelming. We enjoy time with our loved ones, and even strangers, but the introvert greatly needs that balance between solitude and socialization to keep recharging.

However, over the last decade, I’ve taken solitude to a whole new level. Some of it has been the 2 years of unemployment, followed by 8 years of severe underemployment. When socializing equals an event that requires an entrance fee, I’ve often had to reconsider. Some of it though–most of it–has been the depression that often comes with that same unemployment/underemployment. Due to a lack of steady and adequate funds, the house, the grounds, even myself, have started looking neglected. There’s also a lot of emotional baggage attached from the last “romantic” relationship I was in, that was anything but romantic, that has had me drawing the curtains tight and shutting out the world.

And, boy, does the adversary feed on that!

In many ways, though I’m not living in the middle of nowhere, I’ve allowed myself to become almost as isolated as if I was living in the middle of nowhere. And isolation is defeating. The neglect becomes indifference becomes more depression becomes more neglect becomes more indifference…until the effort to dig yourself out of this vicious cycle becomes so overwhelming, you don’t know where to turn, where to start. That’s where the hopelessness sets in.

And loneliness.

Despair.

Even bitterness.

Thank God, literally, for the fellowship He’s blessed me with! It started with certain friends and co-workers reaching out with a helping hand over the last several months. This time, it was a church member who saw my Go Fund Me campaign and brought it to the attention of our priest. And, truly, though the financial help is a blessing and appreciated, the true blessing is knowing how many people out there care enough to help. I’m overwhelmed…but in a good way.

I’ve been sitting back here, feeling sorry for myself, indulging the adversary with my “cares” and “woes” and getting nowhere in life. Today I’m feeling hope for the first time in a very long time. Yes, there’s still a risk of losing the homestead. I still missed the deadline for the second installment on the modification trial period and I don’t know where that leaves me. However, I’m that much closer to meeting the back payments owed. Or to engaging an attorney who can help me get back on track again. It’s help to tide us over until I’m working again…or to help us start over on a new homestead. I’m leaving it in His hands to decide, praying for His guidance regarding the best course of action.

Our God truly is an awesome God. Thank you! To everyone who has been moved to help, to share, to pass along the information. I don’t feel quite so alone anymore. And that’s the greatest blessing of all.

I hope everyone reading this is as blessed with community as I am.

May God bless you & keep you!

gofundme.com/9fymzf-medical-leave