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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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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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Wednesday’s Weed Walk – Zingiberis officinalis

“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)

I use ginger (Zingiberis officinalis) for everything! It’s in the asthma tincture I shared about recently; it’s in my digest tea (see recipe below); it’s in the golden milk I drink to control my Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I put it in a winter tonic. I also make and eat gingerbread and ginger snap cookies (or small cakes, as we used to say in the 19th century). I mean, it is so versatile and I’ll bet most of the people reading this have it in their spice cabinet right now.

Ginger has many healing properties. It is said to be a “stimulant, diaphoretic, carminative, emmenagogue, expectorant, antiemetic, analgesic, antispasmodic, stomachic, antipyretic, and antimicrobial (Tierra, 2003, p. 87). It has been used to treat motion sickness. It’s great for any lung complaint, such as asthma, bronchitis, and even pneumonia. It’s a stimulant for people with poor circulation. It has been used in poultices to ease the pain of arthritis. It’s capable of soothing sore throats and easing menstrual cramps. It’s also good for indigestion, nausea and flatulence. In fact, if you’ve ever had candied ginger, this was one of the earliest “treats” found in the local “country” or “general” store, along with horehound and lemon drops. Candying these “medicines” was a way to get children to take them. Think of Mary Poppins and her “spoonful of sugar” to help the “medicine go down”.

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

Despite being a Christian, I have spent years studying Wicca and have a lot of respect for this religion. According to their traditions, ginger is said to “lend power” when “performing spells” as ginger is warming by nature and is particularly effective for “love spells” (Cunningham, 2006, p. 125). Supposedly, if you plant the whole root, you will attract money into your life, too. It is also recommended that you sprinkle some powdered ginger into your pockets, which could be interesting, to say the least ;).

Though we had ginger growing in the herb garden at the living history museum I used to work at, I have never tried growing it at home. My garden is still in the landscaping stages owing to when I have the necessary resources, such as time or money, to finish…or I dig down into that Yankee ingenuity to re-purpose something for the job. However, it seems to grow just fine in New England and overwinters with a healthy layer of mulch covering it. The only issues we had at the museum was that the groundhogs liked it a little spicy; we could never keep either the ginger root (it’s the root we use, not the leaves or other aerial parts) or the horseradish completely free of their nibbling. Surrounding it with chicken wire might do the trick. It’s worth a shot.

Whether you’re healing a bout of indigestion, casting a love spell, or baking some gingerbread to enjoy with family and friends, planting some ginger root in the garden, or simply buying some powdered organic, I’m confident you’ll find some new and effective uses for this little powerhouse.

May God bless you & keep you!

Digest Tea

1 tablespoon chamomile
½ tablespoon fennel
1/8 teaspoon of ginger
1 pinch of cardamom (with both the ginger and the cardamom, this is more to taste rather than science)

Heat water in a stainless steel kettle or sauce pan (water should be hot but not boiling; I often bring it to a boil and then let it sit for a few minutes so as not to damage the healing properties in each plant). Pour over the measured herbs/spices. Cover with a lid and allow it to steep for 20 minutes. Strain (or you may use a tea ball) and, if desired, add some honey to sweeten.

This is great about ½ hour before a meal…or as a soothing treat before bed.

REFERENCES

Cunningham, Scott (2006). Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, 2nd edition. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

Tierra, Lesley (2003). Healing with the Herbs of Life. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.

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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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Rare Indulgences

“So I decided that there was nothing better for a man to do than to enjoy his food and drink, and his job. Then I realized that even this pleasure is from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy apart from Him? For God gives those who please Him wisdom, knowledge, and joy; but if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away from him and gives it to those who please Him. So here, too, we see an example of foolishly chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26)

I am enjoying the luxury of long fingernails. As a Reflexologist, long nails are a no-no. Even a slight white tip on the end of a nail can put a world of hurt into the client, who has carefully put their feet (or hands) into your hands for treatment. I have been on the receiving end so I understand wholeheartedly what those long nails feel like navigating the “map” of your feet. However, in this forced shutdown, Reflexology is the no-no. It requires physical contact. So, I’ve been letting my nails grow…just because I can. I’ve stopped just short of picking up a bottle of toxic nail polish at the grocery store when next I visit it.

(Yes, we all have our vanities.)

I haven’t played guitar in ages. Picking it up again would be a much more worthy endeavor than growing my nails. And, if I was playing right now, I would be cutting my nails off so that I could actually play…and play well. However, I know that once I return to work, even if it is a part-time position, I would not be able to keep my practice up. As an online student, my classwork has not diminished and that takes precedence until I graduate later this year.

So, I’m catering to this vanity…for at least as long as we are in quarantine. Or until I get too frustrated with hitting more than one key as I type away on the keyboard in creating this blog post. It has been a long time since I’ve indulged myself with something so frivolous. And, while a part of me is saying, “Wow! Look at these hands. They actually look pretty and feminine for a change”, another part of me is also thinking, “Arrrgh! I just had to re-type that sentence twice because of these vanities.” And don’t even look at these hands after I’ve been digging in the garden dirt or, like yesterday, cleaning out a goat barn.

And, yes, the subject of this post is equally frivolous. I mean, really, what does any of this have to do with homesteading. Or herbs. Or frugality. Or social issues. What does it have to do with faith?

However, from a healing perspective, I would say that this forced shutdown has shined a light on something I typically neglect: ME. And I’m not necessarily talking about indulging a few vanities. In the last few weeks, I’ve indulged myself with the occasional nap, spent much more quality time with Mom, read some awesome books, and had time to explore some plot development for my own novel-in-the-works. Because I’m one of the lucky ones right now who has been receiving a paycheck even though I’m not at work, I can relax for a moment and simply enjoy life…albeit without the usual social interactions that constitute day-to-day life. I’ve been able to get things done on the homestead that have been pressing…and that are usually done with an underlying angst pushing me to “get ‘er done” before I have to go back to work on Monday. No, I’m not lamenting work. I like what I do at the library…and the ladies I work with; no issues there. However, I’m looking on the bright side of this pandemic and seeing all of the things I can do that I seldom have time for in “normal” times. It’s been a lot more productive an attitude than the constant worry and stress that started this shutdown…and peppered every blog post since mid-March.

Here’s to hoping that every one of you reading this is having just as restful and productive a time during this pandemic as I am. I would be delighted if you would share in the comments below how you’re using this extra leisure time. Stay safe and healthy!

May God bless you & keep you!

Abuse, Addiction, Appreciation, Books, Compassion, Emergency Preparedness, Frugality, Gratitude, Healing, Reading, Self-improvement

Frugal Fridays – “Mad” Money

“So I bought the field, paying Hanamel seventeen shekels of silver.” (Jeremiah 32:9)

One probably doesn’t think about spending, or “mad”, money in the same sentence with “frugal”. However, it has been my experience that I tend to binge shop whenever I don’t allow myself, well, an allowance. Every time I have tried to save, to pay down debt, etc. if I don’t have that little something once in awhile–it can be as little as $5 in a given pay cycle–I start to feel deprived. And, the next thing I know, I’m dipping into that savings. It may be just a smidge, but when that smidge doesn’t ruffle the financial feathers too much, well, it can become a vicious cycle of a lot of “just a smidges’ more”.

Fortunately, I learned long before my accident in January 2019 that this just doesn’t work. And, though I was working a pretty low-paying job when I fractured my shoulder last year, I had still managed to save enough in the 16 months I had worked there to pay at least one mortgage payment, plus 4 months’ worth of my other bills, before my extended convalescence ran my savings dry.

You see, $5-$10 each pay cycle allowed me to throw an extra dollar or two into the Salvation Army bucket at Christmastime. It allowed me the occasional lunch “treat” of a veggie burger at Burger King. Or a trip to the local second-hand bookstore for new reading material. It may not sound like much, but it makes a difference. The money I put aside as savings remained savings. And that unexpected tire repair didn’t ouch so much.

Now, some may argue that that $10 could’ve been a little extra in that savings’ fund. Yes, maybe it would have been initially…until that ol’ devil depravity started creeping up again. And, depravity, well, it’s sort of like holding on too tightly. You lose control of yourself, your circumstances. It’s a fear that there isn’t enough. And, maybe, sometimes there isn’t. But it’s also another way of beating up on yourself when you’re already down. Again, we’re not talking huge amounts here. And, to be honest, there were many times that the $5 or $10 I put in my billfold the pay period before was still there when I got paid the next two weeks. I didn’t always spend it, but I knew it was there if I “needed” it. I could afford to replace the worn-out slip-on summer shoes with the holes in them…instead of trying to tuck them behind each other so folks didn’t see them. There is a certain freedom that comes with pocket cash…even if it’s only a small amount here and there. And, if you’ll notice, when I did spend, it was the second-hand bookstore, not the $30 hardbound best seller sitting on Walmart’s over-priced shelf.

Actually, keeping that allowance at a small amount is a key in all of this. If you place, say, $100 in your pocket as “mad” money, you might be tempted to buy that $30 hardbound best seller instead of a second-hand book. Your rationale will be that you can afford it…and it’s okay if your budget can handle such a splurge. However, when you keep a lower tab on that allowance, you’re apt to weigh each potential purchase more before you make it. If I buy this $30 book, will I have enough left over for X-Y-Z? Or you’ll realize you can have a lot of last year’s bestsellers, while also supporting a small business in your local community, for the same amount of money you would’ve paid at the big box store for this year’s…which will wind up on the shelf at the local, second-hand bookstore once another patron of the big box store reads it and donates it to them.

Sometimes my “mad” money has even became another savings’ fund. Like in the early-spring when I know the next Sheep & Wool Festival is coming up. By the time it gets here, it may only be $20-$30 in my pocket, but it’s also lunch out with a friend. And maybe a bar of patchouli-scented goat’s milk soap.

Of course, there are times when even a small allowance just isn’t possible. Such was the case last year for me. I am not suggesting that a bill, or much-needed groceries, get neglected entirely. However, when we can be kind to ourselves occasionally, we often find we have more in the long run.

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!