When I Am Weak

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see you good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

I snagged the dream job three weeks’ ago. And, yes, it has been that long already. It’s also been that long, I think, since my last blog post. I went into retreat mode once the new job started. For just a moment, that little voice inside that I’d sometimes like to take a machete to, told me I was in over my head. I wasn’t qualified enough. I didn’t know enough. I can’t do this!

Sounds a little like the adversary with his tricks again.

Why do I listen to this voice? God dropped every minor detail into perfect place with this position. He must certainly have a plan. And, surely, the owner of my heart knows much better than that ol’ adversary. He says I can handle it. He says I’m qualified enough. He says I know enough.

I CAN DO THIS!

But, for a few moments this morning, as I realized yet again the size of the carbon footprint I’m wearing on the earth with this commute; as I realized that I sort of had to give up my parish community to accept this job; as I realized I have less time to work on my homestead; as I realized I have much less time to write my blog, the two books I have on the fire, and complete my homework assignments, I felt a little bit of the bottom drop out from under me. These are my core values. These are the things I live for.

I suddenly longed for something familiar, that seemingly “safe” little world where I hid myself for 7 years. A “safe” little world where dinner often came from the local food pantry and robbing Peter to pay Paul became a bigger juggling act when Peter’s pockets turned up empty, too.

And I realized, that some parts of this new routine are familiar…an echo from days gone by.

Back in 2009, before I lost the corporate position, my mornings were always rushed. I kept trying to cram a 28 hour day into a 24 hour one. Of course, it never worked. And, of course, I was trying to do everything at once…perfection being my worst enemy. There’s a lesson there somewhere. It’s called time management. I may not be able to spend 2-4 hours a day writing now; working part-time at the dealership I didn’t always do so even with the time available. I discovered during 2 years of unemployment and 5 more of severe under-employment, that I am not the self-starter. I need structure. If I have too much time on my hands, if I’m only having to fulfill part-time obligations, I slack off…so much so that nothing gets done.

The female dog side of my nature told the whiny ass to shut up and keep driving.

I ran a little behind this morning rushing out the door. About halfway to work, I came up behind a school bus. Back in 2009, I always came up behind the school bus traveling down Harkney Hill Rd. and the demon called Road Rage dogged my every a.m. commute.

I can do better this time.

The early bird catches the worm…I may be back to 3:30 a.m. risings again. Or at least 4:30; that would give me a solid 6 hours’ of sleep. Then I could write a couple of hours before work.

Old habits, die hard…I’m still trying to cram 28 hours into 24. It can’t be done. I believe that’s the definition of insanity.

Eventually, reason crept back in. This is necessary. I have bills to pay off. And, though I love my little fixer-upper, I confess, I’d like to eventually purchase a bigger piece of land. If I’m ever to increase my herd of goats, and add some sheep to the mix, I need pasture. This is my chance to get back on my feet again. If for no other reason, that is the reason to keep going.

The bus stopped again.

I waited.

The bus started moving again. We rode a little further. The bus stopped again.

It may have been a slower pace than I would like to go and yet, we were still moving, still getting where we wanted to go…”we” being the line of cars stopping and traveling, traveling and stopping along with me. There’s a lesson in there, too. Baby steps…

How many times have I had to remind myself of that? One foot in front of the other. I can do this. I even started reviewing in my head the lessons learned from friend, Farnoosh, last winter in the Smart Exit Blueprint Plan. I remembered my blueprint. I mentally adjusted it to include the new, ideal position. Actually, the new, ideal position is part of the SEB plan–I needed work to financially sustain me while I work to develop my homestead (or a future one) into a working herb and fiber farm, and goat dairy. I need full-time work like this to get out of debt so the bigger homestead might become a reality. I need full-time work like this so that my stress levels over bills piling up don’t paralyze me so I can’t write at all. This is necessary!

It’s also fun. And I’ve been doing this as a volunteer since 2012!

Some part of sanity returning as I turned onto Route 20 in Massachusetts…if I wasn’t 2 and 1/2 years’ into menopause, I’d swear I had PMS with the crazy squirrel leaps my mind was doing. How did I suddenly turn into this cry baby…well, not actually crying but this feeling of overwhelm and doubt?

In myself.

In God.

The blah kind of mood followed me into the Bullard Tavern and then back to the Herb Garden. I really needed a tea. Tuesdays the village is closed…as are all the cafes. Why didn’t I pack a few tea bags? I’m exhausted. Of course, the caffeine’s not the best thing for me…

Meetings all morning. Meetings with the teachers from the new charter school going up in the main parking lot. Suddenly, as we went around the table introducing ourselves and telling what we do at OSV, and where we’d like to go with the new charter school, I felt a nudge to share some of the ideas I’ve had for the Herb Garden–an addition of a vernal pool and native plant garden bed. The children from the school could help plan and plant it. They could watch to see what sort of creatures show up. We could study the frogs and salamanders and dragonflies that might move in. In sharing this project, I could teach them the importance of biodiversity and the dangers of introducing foreign species of plants. The master gardener came out to play…maybe I’m not such a lost cause after all. Everyone loved the idea.

It was then that I realized that maybe I am staying true to those core values after all. Won’t that vernal pool and native plant garden benefit the local environment? And won’t working with 5 – 9 year old children, teaching them about the environment, plant a seed (every pun intended) for future generations of environmentalists? If that’s not staying true to my core values, what is? It’s a golden opportunity.

When I am weak, He shows me His Way. He shows me the real hope for the future. Suddenly, I’m not hiding anymore.

I can do this…and, more importantly, I want to.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Things Learned When Walking is your Sole Transportation

It has been almost three months since Mom’s car had to be taken off the road. And while I still yearn for an adult-sized tricycle to get me around more efficiently and safely than my feet, I’ve also learned a great deal from this experience:

1. People look at walking, and sometimes even bicycling, everywhere as hardship!!??! In some ways, that’s true. When you’re forced to “grocery shop” for only what you can easily carry two miles from the local grocery store, it does get “old” and it makes for having to seriously manage your time and resources better. Those little hand shopping carts they sell in department stores everywhere help but…

2. Little hand shopping carts filled to the brim with cases of cat food and cat litter do NOT make it up steep hills without making one feel a deeper empathy for beasts of burden.

3. Friends come from unexpected places.

4. Walking in extreme cold is much easier than walking in 90+ degree temperatures; an extra layer or two, a good pair of gloves and socks to cover the extremities, and a hat make all the difference when it’s cold…and a brisk pace will set the blood moving that much faster. One can only remove so many layers of clothing before Connecticut’s finest gets involved…

5. Those kitchy, supposedly eco-friendly reusable grocery bags, when full, are much more capable of cutting off circulation in your fingertips than are the equally-full, bad-for-the-environment plastic numbers.

6. You meet people when you walk…neighbors…people you would never meet when behind the wheel; find a sense of community you never knew existed.

7. Despite traversing concrete walkways and macadam road shoulders, walking puts you deeper in touch with nature. Damage done by this year’s gypsy moth invasion; small wetland areas on the other side of guard rails…and the diversity of life that lives in them; longer days/shorter nights; shortening days and lengthening nights; sadly, a greater awareness of how many creatures really lose their lives on a major interstate all become more apparent when walking.

8. My piggy bank has grown due to all of the loose change found in parking lots, breakdown lanes and along the sidewalks near local gas stations.

9. Bursitis flare-ups, sore knees, hips, calves all help to remind me that I’m not 25 anymore.

10. Despite the 6 lbs. lost when I first started, walking alone will not readily shed pounds if a proper diet is not incorporated with it.

11. My status as a single woman seems to have reached the attention of far too many local gentlemen…

12. Wearing a bright, fluorescent vest (so that you become more visible to local traffic while traveling on the shoulder of the road) when visiting the local Walmart will get you mistaken for an employee…and prompt you to memorize where everything is located in the store so you can answer all those “Can you tell me where (fill in the blank) is, please?” sort of questions.

13. Wearing a bright, fluorescent vest often gets you mistaken for a crossing guard.

14. Trying to traverse 2 miles of extremely hilly territory without arch supports in your shoes is a good way to flare bursitis up…especially if you’re over 50.

15. Horror stories of missing women flash through your head when you walk home at dusk.

16. Strange men will offer you a ride.

17. Strange men who are also attractive will also offer you a ride…tempting good reason but provide relief that such good reason still exists as you pick up your pace towards home.

18. I don’t tan; I freckle.

19. Even if it is only 2 miles, travel light.

20. We need a better infrastructure in our cities and towns…one that includes sidewalks that connect everything so that people can walk safely; bicycle lanes so that cyclists can also travel safely, and good public transportation lines that don’t require walking several miles to a small handful of bus stops.

21. While there are buses in northeastern Connecticut that will come directly to your doorstep–elderly and disabled only–it took over 3 weeks for Mom to get her bus pass…I wonder how many other seniors and disabled persons are left isolated due to their lack of transportation…

22. Even with a bright, fluorescent vest on, motorists do not stop for pedestrians in the crosswalks…especially if that crosswalk crosses the entrance to Walmart’s parking lot.

23. Walking in the rain, as long as there isn’t any lightning to go with it, is actually kind of fun…sort of like being a kid again and splashing in the puddles.

24. The creative genius engages while walking…I “write” my best chapters, work out my best plots when I walk.

25. Walking provides the perfect medium for finding that quiet stillness where we meet God.

May God bless you & keep you!

Naming Trees and a Quest for Cardboard

And so the gypsy moths have completely denuded one of the big Norway maples in my front yard. Not Helen, mind you. Helen is the grandmother of all the Norway maples here. And, yes, the Master Gardener here knows Norway maples are invasive and not native to Connecticut. I didn’t plant them; they were here when I purchased said property back in 2001. Invasive or not, they provide much-appreciated shade in the summertime, and a nice bit of windbreak in the winter. So nobody touches Helen & Co.

Except the gypsy moths.

And there’s not much I can do about that. They’ve completely denuded Ollie already. Ollie is a slightly younger Norway maple, if one judges by the size of circumference (don’t trees grow a new ring every year??). And quite lovely…despite his invasive nature. The Japanese dogwood…or maybe it’s a flowering cherry tree…is also completely denuded. I’m not sure of the species because it is one of about a dozen saplings I received as a “Thanks!” for donating several years’ ago to the Arbor Day Foundation. Only three of them survived. They’re all part of the under story near Ollie. I’m almost positive the one closest to the house is a Japanese dogwood…and, so far, the gypsy moths have left it alone. It’s the other two–one denuded, the other on its way to becoming–that worry me. And Ollie. Can they all recover from this? Or will I have a rotting Norway maple stump next spring? Horrified at this finding this morning, I tried hand-picking some of them off of the smaller trees. But it was a futile endeavor; just too many of them. I may have to invest in some bird netting and then try to pluck em all off before I cover them. It’s heart-breaking as they are all part of the latest landscaping endeavor, an effort to beautify the area closest to the interstate with ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers. Eh, if it’s visible from the road, it has to be pretty…not that the current state of Tobacco Road could be called attractive, but I digress yet again…

And, yes, I’ve named some of the trees in my yard. Here’s how it started.

I won’t get into all of the spiritual changes within that brought this about–that could take a whole week’s worth of posts–but, several years’ ago I studied Wicca. For those of you who only know Wicca through TV and other pop culture mediums, Wicca is NOT any sort of devil worshipping. I am, and always have been, a Christian, accepting Christ as my Savior back in 1995, shortly after my first divorce. But, for some reason, the tree-hugging nature lover in me has always been drawn to Wicca. And I can only conclude because Wicca is a nature-based religion.

Anyway, to keep a long story short, I took a course at the local community college entitled, “Introduction to Wicca” after a long theological discussion with the then-deacon of my church, Brother Bob. I was expecting sermons as regarding fire and brimstone raining down upon my head for even considering such a course but Brother Bob encouraged me to take it instead. The reason? Because it is the fear of what we don’t know, or understand, that breeds distrust, hatred and violence. It is fear that the enemy of my soul uses to bring chaos into my life…and into the world. So, for four weeks, I drove to Mansfield, CT and attended class. And I loved it! I learned so much, so much that I can accept and appreciate…even to how the good Lord used this experience to help me re-connect with members of my own family (I have an aunt and a couple of cousins who are practicing Wiccans). I’m not afraid anymore; there’s no reason to be.

“His disciple John came to Him and said, ‘Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons. And we told him not to. After all, he isn’t in our group.’ But Jesus said, ‘You should not have done that! For anyone who is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)

Getting back to the naming of trees, this class sparked an interest so deep that I started reading every book that I could find on the subject. Some, I will admit, were a bit “darker” than others. Not necessarily sinister, or diabolical, but more like a sort of prejudiced attitude towards any religion other than Wicca (and haven’t we all experienced a similar attitude in other religions–including Christianity!). There was one though, written by a fellow Master Gardener, that talked about naming trees and how trees actually have spirits. Most Native American tribes believe trees, rocks, etc. have spirits and, as I’m part-Mohawk, part-Narragansett, it resonated within. More, I had been finding myself drawn to “Helen” and this book made me stop and think. Maybe Helen was giving me little mental nudges. Anyway, she was christened “Helen” shortly thereafter.

Now, before anyone thinks I’ve completely gone off the deep-end, and maybe I have, if you head over to http://www.treehugger.com and type in “trees” + “Melissa”, you’ll find a host of articles featuring the research of various scientists about trees. And how they share resources, protect one another, and even communicate with each other. There’s quite a number of them; they’re interesting reads…whether you believe in such or not.

So, now that Ollie is suffering from an attack of gypsy moths, and I prepare to possibly mourn the loss of him in the not-so-distant future, I can’t help worrying if Helen will eventually fall prey, too. She’s the grandmother here because she’s so enormous. I would be willing to bet she’s stood in this yard over 100 years or more, such is the size of her trunk. To lose either shade tree is a heart-wrenching thought. Invasive or not, trees don’t grow overnight. It’s one of the reasons we treehuggers object to things like over-harvesting from forests and the current annihilation of the rain forests in South America due to our hunger and greed for more wood; such important eco-systems can never hope to recover at the rate of said destruction.

But before this becomes one of my environmental rants (I’ll save that for another post…chuckle), I’m switching a few gears here. Helen, Ollie & Friends are a part of this very local landscape. As I’ve moved rock walls and started building raised beds, I’ve designed everything here to work with the current landscape, rather than any clear-cutting. I’ve been using something called the the No-Dig Gardening method, developed and promoted by Mr. Charles Dowding of England. Mr. Dowding is not the originator of this method but he has developed it to a level that has proven effective and efficient for any home gardener. Another name for it is lasagna gardening. Mr. Dowding has a wonderful You Tube channel that takes you from soup to nuts on how to landscape and grow fruits, vegetables and herbs without digging…or rototilling, which is very bad for the soil and will encourage the growth of weeds and invasive species.

Like Helen.

No-Dig, or lasagna, gardening requires the laying down of flattened cardboard boxes, which slowly decompose but act as a weed barrier while in that decomposition, directly atop the compacted soil, or grass, or weeds–wherever you decide to create this raised bed. Like any good lasagna, the next step is to layer everything: leaves, kitchen scraps, compost, etc. If you wish to go the more traditional route of bags of peat moss, potting soil, etc, that’s okay, too…even if it isn’t quite as sustainable. Once you’ve created a good six inches of layers, you simply plant your seeds directly into this mix or, if you’ve started seeds indoors, or purchased plants from the local nursery, you may simply part some of the layers and set the plugs into them. They will grow.

This initial landscaping project encompasses about 1/4 acre of my property; I have another 1/2 acre planned but in much smaller stages. This 1/4 acre is probably a bigger undertaking than Mr. Dowding would have recommended in the beginning but I’m committed to it. I spent most of last winter squirreling away every empty box that walked through the dealership where I work afternoons and early-evenings. I would pack the trunk of the car, the backseat, and throw them into what was once a garage, now storage room. One would think, with so much pack-ratting activity, that I would have more than enough to finish said project but, alas, I am on a perpetual quest to find more. Though empty boxes still travel through the dealership, walking everywhere now, I’ve been searching a little closer to home; flat-packed boxes are a prime example of dead weight. So, every now and then, I’m petitioning nearer neighbors and, hopefully, saving them a bit of the expense to have their cardboard waste hauled away…and keeping much of it out of the local landfills. It’s a design I can be proud of.

Even Helen agrees…

May God bless you & keep you!

Enjoying the Snow

It is a bit of an abrupt change as temperatures yesterday reached the 60’s here in Connecticut; tonight the overnight lows are expected to be in the single digits. Global warming at its finest.

Yup. Mom’s not the only one who will experience the incessant commentary on our planet’s health and well-being. Sorry…

NOT!

Okay. So I’m going to try to explain this rationale between the snow falling outside my window and this concept of global warming. As I am still a student of environmental science, this may be more of that murky water stuff but I’m going to give it a go.

Yes, these late-season snowfalls are a direct result of global warming. As our polar icecaps heat up from an over-abundance of carbon in our oceans, the result is more precipitation in the atmosphere. For those of us living in more northern climes, we have all seen the fog that results when snow starts to melt as the earth heats up in spring. The same thing is happening at the poles but trade winds and ocean currents move that fog, that precipitation and push it south (or north if you’re closer to Antartica), where it dumps on us as snow. The air is still relatively cool but the oceans are too warm. Mother Earth can no longer handle the amount of excess carbon we are dumping in her oceans. And the result is this melting of the polar icecaps.

Do I think we will see a major catastrophe like so many depicted in apocalyptical movies?

I sincerely hope not. I am a minister. There is a very large part of me that relies heavily on the biblical promise from God to Noah that He will never again destroy the world:

And Jehovah was pleased with the sacrifice and said to himself, “I will never do it again–I will never again curse the Earth, destroying all living things, even though man’s bent is always toward evil from his earliest youth, and even though he does wicked things.” (Genesis 8:21)

However, and this is not a doubt of God’s promise but an acknowledgement of the signs I see in His natural world that things are out of whack. Maybe not a total destruction of Mother Earth but certainly more of the catastrophic storms that have been plaguing our great planet for the last couple of decades as Mother Earth continues to warn us of overload. And we have been heating up over the last few decades…and not through any natural cycling of the earth, though that is also a factor…a very small factor.

I have attached a link to Michael Mann’s often controversial “hockey stick graph” that showcases the extreme warming trend that has been occurring over the last 30 years or so. This is a Wikipedia listing and Wikipedia is not necessarily a reliable source of information. However, they are often a good starting point for learning more. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_stick_controversy

According to what I have been learning in class, the real warming trend has been occurring since 1975. I’m thinking back to my childhood, growing up in the late-60’s, early-70’s. Things were a lot different than they are now. My family was not unique in that we only owned one car. Mom drove it to work in Conimicut (Rhode Island); my step-father walked to his job a few blocks’ away. There was still a lingering respect for the antiquated adage of “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” In other words, we weren’t quite the disposable society we are today. Technology has grown tremendously since 1975. Families now own at least two vehicles. Many live in McMansions that require an enormous output of carbon energy to heat/cool depending on climate or season. And, as our beloved laptops, Kindles, cellphones and various other electronic gadgets slow down due to faster technologies–and we all want the fastest model so we can sit before the boob-tube eating our packaged, processed diet–we dispose of them in the nearest landfill. Where they off-gas into the atmosphere, contaminating the air we breathe, the water we drink and even the soil from which we grow our food.

Our McMansions also come with large expanses of lawn–useless and vain, an attempt to emulate the English monarchs from a few centuries ago where a large lawn was a mark of esteem–that must be mowed and maintained to stay useless and vain. In England, where the lawn fetish seems to have started, upkeep is less expensive and harmful as the English climate is more conducive to lush, green grass. Here in the US, we use chemicals and further contaminate the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil that feeds us. We also use machinery that further pollutes our air…even more than the automobiles we take two blocks’ down to the local convenience store.

Better choices might change that hockey stick to something that more closely resemble a rainbow…if only we care enough about the other species that share this great planet, and future generations, to make those choices.

May God bless you & keep you!

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/green-guide/buying-guides/lawnmower/environmental-impact/

Poor Mom WILL be Groaning by End of this Term

I’ve been taking a sort-of “in house” vacation these past few days. My Intro to Drawing class ended last Tuesday and my new class, Global Climate Change, does not begin until today. As frigid, subzero temps have made going out of doors for any but the most essential activities unbearable, I opted to stay in and just veg out.

Well, within reason…

The spring cleaning prompted by December’s minimalist challenge is still ongoing. I didn’t complete as much as I had hoped but I did enough to keep me fueled and to keep me from becoming a slug for 5 days.

So, why is my Mom going to groan before end of this term? The title of the class should clue most in: Global Climate Change. This is a major passion of mine. Last summer’s Environmental Science class had me so fueled, all I did was chatter about both the atrocities affected by global warming, as well as the triumphs of environmentalists to mitigate those effects…ad nauseum. This particular class is more advanced, more in-depth, in regard to the science behind the environmental movement. And I am so looking forward to it.

One of the areas the class syllabus says it is focused on is how global warming affects economics. I remember last summer quoting my Environmental Science book in a Facebook post after an aunt called me out about an article I had shared in regard to the Paris Climate Change Summit (I think that’s what it was called…). It was just after the Paris bombing and terrorism struck at the hearts of many. The article talked about how the people who organized the summit planned to go ahead with it, despite the bombing, as a show of courage and solidarity in the face of that attack–in short, they weren’t going to let it stop them. I admired their brevity, the whole spirit of the thing. There was also something in the article about how economics play a hand in some of the tensions between the US and the Middle East–not so much in regard to terrorist attacks but simple politics. I do not have either the article or the textbook–which was written in recent years (2015)–in front of me, so will refrain going into the murky waters of memory–but suffice it to say, some of what I read, in both the article and my text, resonated. Yes, we know there is more to the tensions than just this but, my textbook in particular, outlined how the Middle East is very arid and many crops do not grow. They do not have even fresh water supplies to adequately hydrate their citizens or what crops they are able to grow. They have to rely on their one major cash crop–oil–in order to buy/trade what they need. When that market is threatened, tensions increase. Again, there is more to it than that–I know that–but this is often a contributing factor. I am looking forward to learning more about this, about how global temperatures and climate change affect the different economies worldwide.

(And, obviously, being challenged about this, even by someone close to me, hasn’t altered my interest in this subject, or the desire to understand…and, yes, I know it is a hot seat; with the way the planet is heating up, I may as well get used to it–literally and figuratively)

So, yes, Mom will be groaning. Suddenly, I will be spouting phrases like permaculture and the greenhouse effect; quoting statistics about lines and bubbles in the icecaps and icebergs that show changes in ocean temps…and zeroing in on less waste of resources and living a more organic, biodynamic lifestyle. I do this anyway but, knowing Mom is of a different mindset in regard to this whole homesteading, holistic health and environmental awareness thing, I tend to go a little easier in-between these passion-fueling classes. The passion is still there, but it’s tempered a bit once I come up for air from the lessons. And, with the climate-denying administration currently entrenched in our nation’s capital, understanding where we are, where we are headed, and what we can do, even in the face of such political ignorance, in my not-so-humble opinion, is worth learning.

Yup. Poor Mom…I’ll try not to spout too many stats. Really, I will.

May God bless you & keep you!

Trusting in Jesus

I confess. I have been caught up in the post-inauguration hype on Facebook. Nothing really wrong with that but it has been a distraction, keeping me from the more important things that matter, and using energy that would be better used in other areas in my life.

Granted, if I hadn’t worked yesterday at the dealership, I would’ve walked in one of the local marches. I was there in spirit. I admire the unity and strength that has sprung up between such a diverse group of people against–dare I say it?–a common enemy. Maybe too strong a word for Donald Trump. He’s not necessarily “the enemy” but I’m in the anti-Trump camp. I don’t believe he has our best interests at heart. I believe he thinks he does but his agenda, so far, suggests otherwise. He’s crude, vulgar and crass; not exactly the personality one would want to represent this great nation. But, who knows? I may be wrong and, underneath that crudity and vulgarity, may be a heart of gold. I can’t judge by the outer package; only God knows his heart…even if it is topped with a bad comb-over. (Sorry…couldn’t resist) Chauvinism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and his head in the sand about the environment–this last, as I posted about in November when he became the president-elect, was my reason for not voting for him. And, for that reason, as well as his derisive and demeaning talk about women, would’ve been behind my marching. Again, I was there in spirit.

As for the environment, and the next four years that leave me quaking in anticipation for his lack of appreciation for our natural world, and Mother Earth’s very violent warnings that we truly are in trouble, I can only pray. And put some of the energy I’ve been wasting debating this whole inauguration/march on Washington thing into leading by example. Every small effort counts. And more, I have to trust in God’s promise to Noah, a promise not to destroy the Earth.

It’s not easy though. I know what tar sands/oil shale drilling/mining looks like, what it can do to the earth. We would be better served with an investment in greener energies (which would also equal greener jobs…), and an infrastructure in our cities and towns similar to Amsterdam, where the whole city is designed around bicyclists and foot traffic rather than bumper-to-bumper auto traffic. I recently posted on my Facebook page an article from Treehugger, with a video of downtown Amsterdam, where even 4 year-old children get around on bicycle, already accomplished cyclists, due to this being part of their culture–and they didn’t wear helmets. What few motorists shared their streets and byways were respectful and mindful of the many cyclists–rather than aiming to take them out. (How dare they share the road with our gas-guzzling, carbon emitting selves???) In Scandinavia (sorry…can’t remember which country; I think it was Sweden), they’ve figured out how to recycle factory emissions to heat their cities. Implementing such methods, I believe, would be a win-win situation for all of us.

These are some of the things I’d like to see. But maybe that’s not His plan. While everything looks hopeless from an environmentalist’s perspective, maybe Trump being elected, and compromising our fair planet even more with his big oil plans, is part of a bigger plan He has. And who am I to question His wisdom?

Again, it is not easy. If our polar ice caps melt completely, and our oceans rise the 40 feet scientists predict they will (and this based upon well-documented evidence), it will be too late to say we should’ve focused on the real enemy–climate change–and taken a stand. But, while my heart aches for the many species of life on this planet who are struggling to stay alive in a rapidly-heating world, and I intend to do everything in my power to bring awareness and promote their protection, I’m giving over the reins to Jesus. I, and you, and everyone else on this planet, can do all things through Christ.

And that’s a promise I’m willing to put my trust into.

May God bless you & keep you!

Aquaponics 101…or Dreams of Fish, Flora and Fauna.

I am pumped.

Fueled.

Psyched.

I’ve been viewing some videos produced by a man named Murray Hallam, who hales from Australia, about Aquaponics. I’ve had an interest in this for some time but, for some strange reason, have not satisfied my curiosity about it…until last week when I decided to type “Aquaponics” in the Facebook search engine and came across his Facebook page. He provides a link to his website and a host of videos that provide a good introduction to this phenomena.

And, yes, phenomena would be the perfect terminology when one considers what this man–and others–are growing in such a system: potatoes, squash, cucumbers, papaya, and even bananas and mangoes! Who would’ve thought? As a Master Gardener, I am well-familiar with hydroponics, which uses a “raft” (a square of styrofoam with circles cut out with which to “plant” the plants) in a tub of water to grow greens, strawberries, and some herbs. But, because there are no fish involved–fish, which supply the much-needed nutrients each plant requires–there is a limit to what can be grown in hydroponics. From what I have been able to learn from these videos, hydroponics is designed for growing lots of a single crop, or a handful of crops in a rotational manner, similar to the big agribusiness farms out West. And, because it is designed for monoculture, nutrients must be added to keep the plants healthy. Oftentimes, especially in commercial operations where a large output is needed to stay afloat (no pun intended), synthetic fertilizers, plant feed, and even pesticides are added. They’re not needed with aquaponics. The only additive that Mr. Hallam added to his tanks was a bit of either compost tea or worm tea.

What is compost tea? It is very simple. You take a handful of composted waste from your compost bin, place it in a mesh bag, tie it off and steep it in a barrel of water–much like a giant bucket of tea. Then you pour that water into your tank (or, for those of more traditional garden means, you can pour this nutrient-rich “tea” into the soil around your plants). Worm tea is the run-off from a vermicomposting set up. Vermicomposting is using worms to digest kitchen waste. It is very easy to do. Get a square box, drill a small hole in the side towards the bottom and put a plug in it. Layer strips of newspaper (non-shiny…i.e. no glossy advertisements), and/or wood shavings in the bottom of the box (PS Box should be wooden or plastic, not cardboard as the worms may eat that, too, and it won’t hold up to all the moisture inside) and then add some worms. Red wigglers work best. Now start adding in all of your kitchen scraps: vegetable peelings and cores, eggshells, spent tea leaves and coffee grinds (minus the paper filters or actual tea bags) and those little guys will start eating it up. As they eat, they do what every other creature does after eating–they excrete. This pools up into the bottom of the box and this is the reason for the plugged hole. This worm excrement is the consistency of tea, a liquid black gold that has nothing to do with the petroleum industry and everything to do life. After about 2 weeks of steady feeding of these scraps, you should be able to harvest this “tea” by simply placing a bucket under that plugged hole and pulling out the plug. This, too, may be added directly to your soil as a natural means of fertilizing it. Also, for those of you in more northerly climates, you may also cover this worm bin with straw to help insulate it but there are companies out there that sell vermicomposting systems at a fairly low cost. They are designed to actually sit in your kitchen, being a fairly attractive apparatus, with a handy little spigot at the bottom for extracting the “tea”.

Anyway, I’ve veered a little off subject but that’s what happens when I get all fired up about something. My enthusiasm takes me away. And that’s what has happened with the viewing of these videos. Now that I have a better understanding of how it all works, I want to plunge right in and get started. But I may need a greenhouse for that as New England is rapidly approaching winter and the freezing temps that go along with it. And I have no desire to go ice fishing–even if it is a popular endeavor with many fishermen.

So how does it work? The system is comprised of multiple tubs, or basins. There are actually three types of grow “beds”. One is a raft system with the styrofoam “grid” (picture a square of styrofoam with 16-20 circles, about the size of the bottom of a styrofoam cup, cut into it in neat little rows). Another is called a media bed that has gravel or clay pellets and you plant directly into them. This is for more “permanent” plants like squash or corn, whereas the raft system is more for quick-growing plants like leafy greens and strawberries. The last is a wicking bed, which is used for growing root vegetables. It is similar to the media bed with its gravel but the plants are placed in a basket of gravel and then the basket is set inside a media bed (water and gravel). This keeps the roots from becoming too soggy and rotting. Some systems also have towers, which are basically PCB pipes with holes drilled in them for planting so that you can take advantage of vertical spacing…but you need a stronger pump for these. And, of course, you also have a tank or two of fish. Mr. Hallam recommends jade perch, tilapia, or carp as being the most hardy for these systems. In short, waste water from the fish is pumped up into the grow beds. The plants filter this waste water, extracting the nutrients from the fish waste, and then the filtered water goes back into the fish tank. In the media and wicking beds, the water is actually drained and then re-filled in a constant cycle, which is how the roots are kept from rotting; in the raft beds, you need a means of aerating it. (Not sure if the latter are also drained; still learning…)

What I liked best about this is that it is a perfect eco-system. Yes, you will get bugs–both beneficial and some not-so-beneficial. But, if your system is maintained properly, you’ll strike a good balance in keeping those harmful bugs to a minimum.

Yes, an aquaponics’ system does require energy to run. Mr. Hallam has a video about using solar. He had four batteries connected to 20 solar panels to power his Indy 23 system (he designs aquaponics’ systems). He also talks about using wood pulp/shavings/mulch in a pile that you keep moist–basically, green compost–and burying some geothermal coils in it. As the moistened mulch heats up, it heats the water in the coils and that keeps your plants at a nice, even temperature. So there are definitely alternatives and, with a little Yankee ingenuity (even if you’re not a Yank!), it may be easy enough to set something up at a reasonable cost. When one considers how much food can be grown in such a system, that certainly outweighs the cost of operation. You’re getting both vegetables and fish to eat, as the fish are also harvested regularly, and both are free of harmful chemicals. In one of his videos, Mr. Hallam, talks about feeding his fish naturally (i.e. no commercial fish feed), using some of the greens grown in his beds, vegetable waste, steel-cut oatmeal (dried oatmeal) and, occasionally, some finely-cut chicken. Fish, like chickens, eat just about anything. For fish, it simply has to be cut up a little smaller.

There is also a segment about the yield one of these systems can produce: 19.8 lbs. of Swiss chard from just 3 plants; 88 lbs. of tomatoes from 5 bushes; 22 lbs. of beets from 60 plants; 33 lbs. of lettuce from 30 plants; 6 lbs. of radishes from 60 plants. Those were some samples. It’s pretty impressive. And it’s food security at its best. In today’s market, with so many herbicides and pesticides killing our rivers and streams, animals, plant life, and human life, finding healthier ways to grow food is a worthy endeavor.

For more information, you may visit Mr. Hallam’s website at https://murrayhallam.com

May God bless you & keep you!