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Wednesday’s Weed Walk: Elderberry

“And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed to which it shall be for meat.” (Genesis 1:29)

In the midst of this pandemic, I have heard more times than I can count: “Have you been taking your elderberry?” My mother swears by Elderberry (Sambucus nigra).

Elderberry, which is often shortened to Elder, has a wonderful history in treating all manner of colds and flus, sinusitis and even night sweats (Tierra 78-79). Mom and I both take elderberry as a means of staving off colds and flus as the berries are high in vitamin C. I confess, it is definitely one of the more pleasing herbs to take. The berries can be used in teas, jams, juices, syrups, wines…and, of course, the occasional shot of Black Sambucca. It is delicious no matter what form it takes. The berries can even be given to your dog. Renowned herbalist, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, recommends mixing either crushed elderberries, or an infusion (tea) of elderberries, into your dog’s food if they become anemic (150-151).

The flowers may be used in salves for the treatment of “burns, rashes, minor skin ailments and to diminish wrinkles” (Tierra 133). (And, of course, having just found this last benefit of elder, I’m itching to add some to some facial cream…)

The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This blog post is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

Now, all of that being said, a word of caution: please make sure it is black elderberry (Sambucus nigra, or Sambucus canadensis) that you are using. There is a red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) and it is highly toxic so take care to get your elderberry from a reputable source if you cannot grow it yourself. Also, consuming the unripe fruit, or an “excessive use of the leaves, root or bark can cause nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, tachycardia and convulsions” (Tierra 78-79).

However, there are no known issues with the ripened fruit. Mom and I use it daily and we really do avoid a lot of the illnesses that come and go each cold and flu season.

Some interesting folklore: elder is often called the “Tree of Music” as the hollowed branches are used to make flute pipes and whistles. They can even be used as pea shooters! Bound together, they make great mason bee hotels, too.

Of course, elder was also said to house witches and spirits. In ancient times, people would kneel before the elder tree and recite: “Lady Ellhorn (one of its folk names), give me of thy wood, and I will give thee of mine, when I become a tree” before making that first cut. This was said to give any residents time to escape. The cut branches were hung over doors and windows to protect against evil spirits, robbers and snakes; the berries, carried on one’s person, were said to protect from negativity (I might recommend the dried berries for this last…). Grown in the garden, it will protect against the ravages of sorcery and shields the home from lightning (Cunningham 108-109). It will also bring prosperity into the home.

With all of these wonderful attributes, if you have room to grow it, I would highly recommend it. It is said to be fairly easy to grow. In fact, it has a reputation for being quite prolific. It’s worth a try.

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Cunningham, Scott. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. Llewellyn Publications, a Division of Llewellyn
Worldwide, Ltd.

De Bairacli Levy, Juliette. The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat. Faber and Faber Limited, 1955.

Tierra, Lesley. Healing with the Herbs of Life. Crossing Press, 2003.

Tierra. Michael. The Way of Herbs. Pocket Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, 1980.

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Feeding My Passions

“An empty stable stays clean–but there is no income from an empty stable.” (Proverbs 14:4)

Today was a rambling sort of day. I ran a few errands in the morning then spent some time in the garden. I weeded the strawberry bed, one of my edible perennials’ beds (Egyptian onions, broad-leaf chives and lamb’s quarters all grow there), and the rhubarb bed. The rhubarb was bolting so I clipped off the flowers and noticed that the soil level in this raised bed is getting rather low, which would explain why it is bolting. Rhubarb is a heavy feeder. I also noticed a new Mullein (Verbascum thapsis) rosette growing in behind it so I transplanted it. Most consider it a weed but, as it’s one of the main ingredients in my asthma tincture, I let it stay; I also love the yellow flowers that will form its second year. I clipped back the invading bittersweet and Japanese Knotweed from the border mix of flowering shrubs and small fruits, and fed some of the latter to Chester, one of my Nigerian Dwarf goats (a beloved treat!). Then the more common chives got clipped and brought in; they’re in the dehydrator now to preserve for use later in the year. The broad-leaf ones will get clipped once these are through drying.

Later I collapsed with a cup of Chai tea in front of YouTube and fed some of my other passions: tiny houses, and both agility and heelwork competitions for dogs. As most of the contestants are usually Border Collies–my favorite–I get a good fix.

I have been following the tiny house movement almost since its inception. I am fascinated with this minimalist lifestyle. I think one of the reasons is how economical it is. In such a small space, you use less heating/cooling, less electricity, and, potentially, less water. I also have too much “stuff” and think how much I would love to unload much of it, going all Marie Kondo by keeping only those special treasures that truly bring me joy. It can be overwhelming. Bigger isn’t always better; neither does having more of everything bring more contentment. Of course, I have almost no carpentry skills; no electrical or plumbing skills, and no place to park it. However, I am still fascinated. And I doubt I’ll ever lose that fascination…until I actually muster up the courage, or the confidence, to take that first step forward.

As for the agility and/or heel work competitions? This one’s a little more obtainable, if I can ever get completely back on my feet again. I loved working with my St. Bernards when they were going through obedience training. It was great fun for all of us…and a great way to bond with these two rescues when I adopted them in 2006. A little older now, though the gentle giants will always have a special place in my heart, I’m leaning more towards something a little smaller, such as the Border Collie, the Corgi, the Bearded Collie, the Australian shepherd or Australian cattle dog. As all of these are herding breeds and extremely energetic, they do well with both agility and heel work. And what a way to express some creativity by choreographing and then training the dog to “dance” with you.

I’m still feeling grateful for this extended shutdown, for the ability to dream and to continue feeding my passions.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Instead of Gatorade, Try Haymakers’ Punch

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

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

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

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

Or not.

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

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

I also decided I needed to go to the hospital.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

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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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Hey, Don’t Throw That Away!

“The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.” (Proverbs 21:20)

I have to caution myself. I come a long line preppers, pack rats, and even hoarders. There’s often a thin line between the intentional prepper saving for the apocalypse, the pack rat saving for “a rainy day” and the hyper-attachment to filling up any empty space…just in case. However, one can prep and save…and even hoard some extra ____________ (fill in the blank) without it becoming unhealthy.

Back when I was in my teens, I babysat for a couple who were foster parents. The third floor of their home was filled with children’s clothes. Every size and style; every color and texture. In their situation, it makes sense. They never knew when a new child would come in who might need a few changes.

A fellow musician friend has so many boxes and totes full of “stuff”, it is impossible to navigate from her living room to the bathroom without turning sideways and shuffling through with one’s gut sucked in.

We can go to extremes with everything. If you have the space, like in the first scenario shared above, to set aside for food, clothing, craft supplies, etc. without compromising safety or sanity, by all means. However, though the title of this post is “Hey, Don’t Throw That Away,” please do if you find yourself doing the sideways’ shuffle, or having to move bags of saved “stuff” to find a place to sit down. Such truly can be hazardous to your health (think tripping, falling, bruises, etc.), or a fire hazard, and even a mental health hazard as this overwhelming stash, well, overwhelms one’s senses.

For me, saving “stuff” falls under the heading of frugality. If I don’t have to buy something to accomplish something else, then it’s worth saving…again, within reason.

First on my list? If you’re a baker, do NOT throw away the outer wax papers of your sticks of butter. Place an old Mason jar, a mug, etc. on the door of your refrigerator and, once you’ve unwrapped the butter, place said wrapper into the jar/mug. When you’re ready to bake again and have to grease the pan(s), instead of reaching for new butter, grab a saved wrapper, open it up and wipe it around the pan or muffin tin. Bits of butter still clinging to it, even residual “grease” on the inside of that wrapper, will help to grease your pan while keeping your fingers pretty grease-free. PS You may need more than one; don’t sweat it! It would’ve gone into the trash anyway.

Toilet paper rolls make great compostable seed pots. Cut 1 to 1 and ½ inch slits along one end of the roll; fold sections inward to make the bottom. Fill with potting soil and place in a plastic, or metal, tray. You can plant them right into the garden without having to remove the seedling at all. (However, you may want to tear off the folded bottom to allow the roots to spread out; toss the bottom into the compost pile when done). They work much like the peat pots we see in the store…except your pocketbook doesn’t get any lighter and they’re much easier on the environment than peat harvesting.

Buying glass storage containers can be expensive…and the plastic/rubber lids often don’t hold up. Glass jars, especially those with wider mouths, whether we’re talking canning jars, or pickle jars from the grocery store, etc., are great for storing leftovers in the fridge. Rather than tossing them out, wash both the jar and lid well and tuck them into a top shelf, out of the way. You will have to ladle the contents into a sauce pan, or a microwave-safe dish, to re-heat but, it’s worth it to save both money and the environment. Besides leftovers, I use Mason jars for storing dried herbs and spices, for tincturing herbs, for making my own body oils. They can be used to sprout seeds. You can also fill them with water and use them to root plants or as a cheap vase for cut flowers; they’re pretty versatile.

If you have a woodstove or fireplace, newspaper rolled into knots is a great fire starter. You can use it in the garden (minus the shiny advertisements). Make sure it’s not a windy day when you do this but, you can layer pages of newspaper over a particularly grassy, or weedy, area and pile compost and/or topsoil on top to smother the weeds. You can plant directly into this. You can also use cardboard boxes. The cardboard actually fixes nitrogen in your soil (go to YouTube, Charles Dowding, No Dig Gardening). Newspaper can also be a folksy way of wrapping gifts, especially if you save the comics, or any puzzles, for this. People get a kick out of it. And, lastly, and again, provided you omit the shiny advertisements, it makes a great lining for bird cages for catching any droppings. You can compost the whole thing when you clean the cage.

Last on the list is plastic yogurt cups. While not as eco-friendly as the toilet paper rolls, they are roughly the same size and shape as seed starting containers sold in stores for exorbitant rates. These cannot be “planted” or composted later on but, they can be re-used for several seasons. Just poke a few drainage holes in the bottoms with a tack, or small nail, and wash them carefully after each use. Most stack neatly together and can be tucked away out of sight, out of season.

Eh, we all like to save a few bucks here and there. What are some of the ways you up-cycle what might have been another person’s trash?

May God bless you & keep you!

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Growing Hope

“There is a right time for everything: A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant; a time to harvest.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

A reprieve from academia last week led to a whirlwind of activity here on The Herbal Hare Homestead. We have been inundated with rain and eggs. The former has led to overgrown grass, lots of mud and weeds. The latter, a never-ending query of where are we going to put them? Grocery shopping suddenly brought on a flurry of angst as cartons of eggs lined first one shelf, then another, and moved into the top shelf. Worse, the frugal fanatic here started cringing about the potential waste.

Not wanting to profit during a pandemic when millions of people are out of work and struggling, I hesitated about advertising them. However, the desire not to waste food won out. I posted a message on Facebook that I had them, free of charge, as some of them had been sitting in the fridge a few weeks. 13 dozen went in a few hours’ time. I spent the early part of last week driving around northeastern Connecticut, meeting friends and strangers alike, in parking lots, masked and gloved, or setting a carton or two on the lawn, or a doorstep, to maintain that 6 feet apart. A trip to the grocery store revealed that eggs are actually scarce right now. Who knew? I have back-orders for more. If you can find them, eggs are being sold at what I can only describe as price-gauging rates. Here I was worried about taking advantage of people by profiting from them.

Amazingly, though they were free, most offered some compensation at least for my gas. I appreciate it greatly! I also appreciate that my girls are still laying quite prolifically and I will be making another delivery run tomorrow to fill some of those back-orders.

Today my back is reminding me that I’m not 25 anymore. Or even 35.

I spent most of the last two days in the garden, turning compost; clipping back the blackberries that were moving out of their own bed and invading the patch of Columbines surrounding the birdbath; clipping back the semi-invasive Japanese Knotweed, and the highly-invasive Bittersweet. I weeded several beds, did a happy dance to see the blueberry bush I planted a couple of years’ ago finally growing, and checked on the rhubarb, which is almost ready for harvest. I doubt we’ll get a large enough crop of strawberries to make a strawberry rhubarb pie straight out of the garden this first time harvesting the rhubarb, but we’re on our way. The strawberry plants are at least growing…as are the raspberries.

My herb beds are in need of some serious work. I’m going to have to advertise for more cardboard to cover the grass that keeps spreading everywhere (YouTube: Charles Dowding, No Dig Gardening). However, my chives are looking good and I’ll be drying some before the week is over. I may also plant more chives as we go through them a lot. Whatever chives I can harvest never seem to last more than a month’s time.

All of this rumination is simply my way of growing hope. Because that’s what a garden is: it’s a sign of hope. It’s a way of sowing continuity, of a belief in tomorrow. I have lettuces and cucumbers ready for planting; seeds to sow for more lettuces and dark, leafy greens. The tomato plants will go in next week, after the danger of any frost is over for this gardening zone. And I’m looking at the overgrown herb beds and contemplating what to add, what to transplant, what to divide. I’m looking at all of the plans I have for this little patch of land here in CT and a smile is spreading across my face. It feels good to get my hands dirty…and I’m looking forward to the fall, when the fruits of this labor fill the freezer and line the cupboard shelves. More, there’s an even deeper hope that this garden, along with these grass-stained hands, aching back and equally aching knees, will provide a surplus that I can share with others.

If you garden, I would be delighted if you would share what you have planted/planned for your future harvest.

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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A Thrifty Thursday – Leftover Rice

“You feed them with blessings from your own table and let them drink from your rivers of delight.” (Psalms 36:8)

I consider The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn to be one of my secular bibles. When I first purchased it many years ago, I poured through it with all of the enthusiasm of a school girl with her first crush. I mean, who can’t appreciate some tips for saving money? And the ideas contained therein are relevant even 20+ years after its publication.

Mom made wild rice the other day. Rice is truly one of those thrifty foods anyway. A little bit goes a long way. However, because it is also filling (though not heavy and bloating in nature like pasta), there is usually some left over for another day.

If it is plain rice, either white, brown, basmati, etc., I like to re-heat it in the morning by placing the rice in a saucepan with some melted butter and sauteing it. Once heated through, I may add just a little more butter and 1/2 tsp of organic cane sugar sprinkled and stirred through. It makes a hearty, satisfying breakfast and keeps me going for much of the morning.

However, Mom made wild rice. This was an organic packaged rice. Even organic “packaged” isn’t the healthiest choice, but it’s better for someone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome than pasta (though I love the latter equally as much). It would also not, in my opinion, lend itself well as an alternative to, say, oatmeal first thing in the a.m. so I pulled out The Tightwad Gazette and flipped through the back index until I found what I was looking for: a recipe for turning your leftover rice into a savory “pie crust” for quiche. It’s simple. Grab a mixing bowl. Combine the leftover rice with an egg and a bit of shredded cheese (you may omit the latter if you don’t have any; the egg holds it together) then mold it into a pie plate and pop it in an oven heated to–it says 425 degrees for 20 minutes. I set my dial at 400, because my oven tends to run hot, and only baked for 10 minutes. I have found that if I go longer, it comes out a little too crispy. While it baked, I rummaged through the refrigerator, pulled out the leftover broccoli and cheese, some fresh spinach, and heated them both in a skillet with some garlic and chives, then scrambled some eggs. When the “pie crust” was done, I poured the vegetables and herbs into it and then poured the egg over them. I used 3 eggs; depending on the size of your pie pan, you may opt for more. Then I popped everything in the oven, same 400 degree temperature, and baked for 50 minutes…or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. It was delicious.

Bon appetit!

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Dacyczyn, Amy (1998). The Complete Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle. New York, NY: Villard Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group.

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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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A Break from Coronavirus and Wednesday’s Weed Walk

“Now the report of [Jesus’] power spread even faster and vast crowds came to hear Him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But He often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” (Luke 5: 15-16)

The last few days the introvert went into a sort of hibernation from, well, this enforced hibernation. Too much information, too much “in-your-face” news coverage–both accurate and inaccurate–regarding this coronavirus pandemic. And, of course, our media, our government, etc. has set out on a course to make it all political. It became sickening.

So I took a break.

For the last two days I’ve been working on some more character development for my book, fleshed out a potential short story, and submerged myself in one of the novels that I checked out two weeks’ ago to tide me over during this hibernation…and now I’m wishing I’d checked out the whole series because it was good and I’d like to continue on (Angie Sage’s Magyk, 2005, Harper Collins, Young Adult). I got back on the yoga mat (I’ve been seriously lax), the exercise bike, the inversion table and I’ve started meditating. I’ve also been paying more attention to my spiritual life, praying the rosary for the victims of this pandemic…which is all of us one way or the other…and praying for true leadership, for divine guidance for our leaders, when we need it the most. It’s been a grounding experience and I’m feeling better mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

I turned on YouTube this morning to catch up…and was pleasantly surprised that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert appears to be back up and running to some degree. A little laughter over the first cup of tea of the day can never be amiss. There was an added chuckle as Miss Goldie, one of my Buff Orpington hens, put her two cents’ worth in from time to time from her cage in the kitchen.

Miss Goldie has been acting rather lethargic lately. That’s really the only “symptom” I’ve had that there might be anything “wrong” so I’ve been checking on her a little more often and contemplating separating her from the rest of the flock, maybe even a call to the vet. It is not unusual for chickens, because they scratch and peck in the dirt, the compost pile, the barn floor, etc., I even had one pick some undigested matter from a dog turd many years’ back (Ewww) when they were allowed to free-range a little farther afield, to also pick up a parasite. Or develop some sort of intestinal worm.

However, I should have separated Goldie a little sooner.

I found Miss Goldie curled up on the floor of the barn the night before last, her head and beak a bloody mess. After the initial gut punch as I assumed the very worst, I reached to pick her up and she turned her head and chirped at me. The wounds were still running freely so I had obviously just interrupted what would have been curtains for Goldie if I hadn’t walked into the barn when I did. Chickens are notorious for pecking to death any of their flock who is sick, or weak, in some way. Though it has yet to happen to me, I know other farmers/homesteaders who have found an indistinguishable bloody pulp in the barnyard. I didn’t think Goldie had reached such a place but, apparently, I was wrong. I can only be grateful that things had not progressed to that level of cannibalism (yes, that’s exactly what they resort to when they sense a sick, or weakened, flock-mate; they turn into sharks. Incited by the scent of drawn blood, they will often keep going until there’s nothing left of the sick one).

Fortunately, there was more blood than wound once I cleaned her up. She wasn’t sure about sitting in my lap but she bore my ministrations and, after I got the bleeding stopped, I gently dabbed the wounds with my “bunny” salve. This is equal parts of comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and plantain (Plantago spp.). I use a double boiler, add the dried leaves, cover them completely with olive oil, and a lid, and brew it on low heat for 20 minutes (do NOT bring to a boil). It is then strained and, in this case, because I want a creamier consistency, I only put 1/2 to 3/4 squared of beeswax into the 4 oz. container I just strained the oil into and stir until the wax dissolves (please do NOT use your best utensils/pans for stirring beeswax…and NEVER try to wash them in your sink or dishwasher but take hot water outside and scrub/dissolve away the beeswax over a patch of dirt; you will never unstop your sink, or the lines in your dishwasher again…). And, as you can see from the pictures below, the plantain is NOT the banana-like fruit found in most major grocery stores. This is that little patch of “weed” or “crab” grass that we choke out with all manner of harmful herbicides (PS Please reconsider…even if you’re not an herbalist; many pollinators visit those long, spindly “flowers” reaching up in the middle).

COMFREY (Symphytum officinale)

PLANTAIN (Plantago major)

Anyway, after cleaning Goldie up, I also found an eyedropper and popped open a jar of strained spinach, zucchini and peas (I always keep jars of baby food on hand for such emergencies) and hand-fed her. Then I placed her in the cage with a bowl of water, and another bowl of chicken feed with some birdseed mixed in to try and tempt her to eat on her own, and a clove of garlic minced up to kill any parasites that may have started the whole issue. Yesterday, I repeated said process and actually picked up a piece of the minced garlic, opened her beak, dropped it in and then chased it down with more of the spinach mix.

My biggest concern has been her right eye. It was swollen shut when I found her, and for all of yesterday. However, in addition to eating on her own last night/early this morning, both eyes are now open. So there is hope. And I am grateful that Miss Goldie does not seem to have lost her sight by this ordeal…even if she does still resemble Rocky Balboa a little bit…in chicken form, of course.

As Goldie, hopefully, continues to heal…and get pleasantly spoiled with all the hand-feeding and handling…I’m going to keep hoping that our nation continues to heal as well. Though I’m not 100% sure how accurate each source is, it appears there is finally a flattening of the curve, as they say, in the spread of this coronavirus. This is not a license to become complacent, or to relax our vigil, in controlling the spread of Covid-19…anymore than this marked improvement in Goldie’s condition is a license for me to become lax in continuing her treatments. As signs of improvement continue to show, this is actually the time to be even more vigilant.

Stay safe.

Stay home, if you can.

Wash your hands frequently…as well as door knobs, steering wheels, etc. anything that might have some of those Covid-19 germs on it.

Keep the world in your prayers; He’s got this…He truly does.

May God bless you & keep you!

The FDA has not evaluated these statements. The information contained is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseases.

REFERENCES

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) (n.d.). Yahoo Image Search. Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=A0geKIwEuYReREsA1yZXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybzY4bXJpBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjk4NDdfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=comfrey&fr=mcafee#id=8&iurl=https%3A%2F%2F2.bp.blogspot.com%2F-PIuJY1clecU%2FUBepNQAveYI%2FAAAAAAAAAcg%2FzTF_atb-HmE%2Fs1600%2Fcomfrey.jpg&action=click

Plantain (Plantago major) (n.d.). Yahoo Image Search. Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrJ6yvduYRe.NwAmChXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybzY4bXJpBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjk4NDdfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=plantago+major&fr=mcafee#id=24&iurl=https%3A%2F%2Fi.ytimg.com%2Fvi%2FOntYFofcDMM%2Fmaxresdefault.jpg&action=click