Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it…Really?

“Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, make me whiter than snow”. (Psalm 51:9)

With last week’s nor’easter dumping over 14 inches on northeastern Connecticut, everyone in this part of the country should be almost virginal…or else we’re the bad apples of the country and in great need of that purification. (Chuckle)

And forgive my cynicism. In truth, there is none in my heart. Even about the snow. I am one of those weirdos who actually LOVES snow. I don’t mind a bit sloughing through 14 inches to get to the barn. And, as this was a light, fluffy snow, it was easy to shovel us out and about. However, it did chase away the gardening bug. A little over a week ago, I had been contemplating getting the garden beds prepped. Two nor’easters in as many weeks have put that activity on a back burner; ditto for the pruning of apple and crabapple trees–mainly because getting to them is a bit of a challenge at the moment. What little snow is left has turned to ice by morning, and slippery slush by afternoon.

This is mid-March. When I look back at just a decade or two ago, sure, winter extended into March but it didn’t start in late-February, early-March, as more recent winters have done. More, though it has only been a week, those 14 inches have melted down to about 2 inches; snow when I was a kid (granted, that’s like a few centuries ago) lasted weeks on end. I’m used to seeing snow in early-February, January, even December. Despite the 14 inches that fell outside my window last week, this is actual proof of climate change. It’s kind of scary; we need this sort of snowfall all winter long to replenish our waterways. Without it, we’re in danger of future droughts–not unlike that which California has been experiencing in recent years.

And, yes, I hear all of the climate change naysayers coming out of the woodwork. How is this “actual proof of climate change?” Warm air is forced to rise over cold air. Though the warmer temps are enough to melt some of our polar ice caps, as cooler air rises from that melted ice, it meets that warmer air, forms clouds, which then result in either snow or rain (Kitchen, 2016, p. 91). In this case, we got snow. And, judging only by a storm like this, we’re judging by weather, not by climate. “Weather is what we experience on a day-to-day basis. One day can be hot and dry and the next cool and wet. Climate can be related to the statistical probability that any day during the year will be similar to the same day the previous or following years” (Kitchen, 2016, p. 4). In other words, the earlier start of winter that many of us remember from as short a time ago as a decade, versus the late appearance of snow that has been happening for a few years now, is evidence of a change in our climate. The climate, our earth, is warming up. It should be in a cooling trend based upon the earth’s natural cycling. Oftentimes, we look at the weather, which is cold and/or snowy, and think how can this be “global warming”? I think, at times, this is a misnomer. It makes the whole subject confusing, and often scary, for any but the most seasoned meteorologist. The term “global warming” applies to the climate but weather may often be very different and seem at odds with the climate. A lot of it has to do with jet streams and how that melt off travels via those jet streams.

This may seem a strange subject for a Christian minister to tackle. I know plenty of others in the Christian community who fall into denial based upon biblical promises that God will never again destroy the earth as He did in the great flood (Genesis 8:20-22). Am I doubting this promise? No. And climate change advocates are not denying this promise. Even after Noah’s time there are famines and floods described in the Bible (i.e. Matthew 7:24-25; Revelation 12:15-17), just not to the magnitude of covering (and destroying) the whole earth. As Christians, we often lament that God doesn’t appear to talk to us as clearly and directly as He did Noah and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But maybe He is. Maybe all of these changes, all of the freak storms and natural disasters that keep hitting us in intensity and frequency are His way of telling us we’re not using His resources in a responsible manner so that there will be enough for later generations. If not God, Gaia is surely speaking. She’s gagging and gasping for an air that doesn’t sting and burn and destroy her.

I am reminded of the Parable of the Three Servants in Matthew 25:14-30 where a man goes away and leaves each of his three servants a certain amount of money. The first two invest their keepings and double the money; the third, distrusting, digs a hole to keep it “safe” and only gives back what he was given. He is chastised for this. And the money he kept safe, taken and distributed to the first two men. We are given currency in the form of the air we breathe, the soil we grow our food in and build our homes upon, the water we drink, cook and clean with. Instead of keeping it all in clean and healthy growth, as the first two servants did with the loaned money, we’re burying it all in carbon emissions, chemical fertilizers and plastic waste. We call it progress. But how is it progress when the only thing that grows in these conditions are more cancers, respiratory ailments and greater poverty? How is it progress when there is a perpetual increase in species’ extinctions on a day-to-day basis? Yes, Man is given dominion over the earth. But we are abusing that authority.

So, what can we do? What can we do as average, blue–or even white–collar workers? Some of these suggestions may seem like a drop in the bucket but, if each of us takes a few baby steps to reduce our waste, our energy usage, that drop can become a flood of a different sort. Got a leaky faucet? If you have to save to have it fixed, save.
And then get it fixed. You’ll save water. You’ll save energy if that water is also warm rather than cold. You’ll save even more on your electric bill if you have a well with a pump that’s kicking on every couple of hours to replenish your tank. I sheared $25.00 off of my electric bill each month by having a leaky kitchen faucet fixed so there’s a win-win situation. Get rid of the lawn; it’s useless. This is the U.S. It will never look as pristine as the old English manor house because our climate (there’s that word again) is different than England’s. The only way to get “pristine” in the U.S. is to use chemicals. And you’re part of the problem if you’re doing so. Plant low-maintenance plants that don’t require a lot of watering instead. Better yet, plant some fruits, veggies, herbs. And grow them without the Miracle Grow and Round-Up. Create a backyard habitat for birds, amphibians and other wildlife. If you bake, consolidate your baking and do it all in one day as homemakers of old did, putting everything in the oven at the same time. This saves energy. And money. And, if all of this sounds more like thrifty homemaking advice, that’s because the two go hand-in-hand. If you can walk to the grocery store, walk. Get one of those little shopping carts in which to carry your purchases home. In the U.S. we have the freedom to vote. Use that freedom to vote for those who want to preserve life in all its forms: animal life, plant life, insect life. Human life…regardless of socioeconomic standing, skin color, orientation, country of origin or religious beliefs. Vote for those who will invest in better infrastructure so that walking, bicycling and public transit become safer alternatives. Google Amsterdam + bicycles and see what this great city is doing. Don’t trust politicians? I don’t necessarily blame you. The U.S. government seems to be heavily influenced by the oil cartels, big pharma and pesticide/fertilizer giants who don’t give a damn if you or I live or breathe as long as they get their 7+ figure bonuses each year. They can afford to buy a new oceanfront McMansion in Ohio; the honeybees and future generations of children can’t survive their chemical pollution. They can also afford the expense of trucking in what produce they can grow without honey bees from northern Canada. And, once that part of the earth is exhausted, well, they won’t be here to care…nor do they seem to care that their children and grandchildren will have to live with those consequences.

Yes, I’m hitting hard. I’ve had enough. I do trust God to provide for our needs. But I also feel that we should be taking better care of what He has given us. Because our resources are not infinite. And there is a price being paid that will only get bigger as time goes on unless we take some real steps to try and turn this around. I don’t want to start over again on Mars, creating another big waste dump out of what was once a beautiful planet. I love earth. And, what started as an itty bitty blog post about a recent snowstorm has turned into a full-blown tidal wave on climate change. But it’s important. Because life is important. And we’re destroying life on this planet. One species at a time.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Kitchen, D. (2016). Global Climate Change: Turning Knowledge into Action. New York, NY: Routledge Publishing.

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Bass Ackwards

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

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

Thou Shalt Not Steal

“Surely I, the Lord, do not change, nor do you cease to be sons of Jacob. Since the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes, and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. Yet you say, “How must we return?” Dare a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! And you say, “How do we rob you?” In tithes and offerings! You are indeed accursed, for you, the whole nation, rob me. Bring the whole tithe to the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me in this, says the Lord of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?” (Malachi 3:6-11)

When you’re economically-challenged, tithing often presents a quandary–especially when your trust levels, whether for man, woman, or even God, are minimal at best. No, that isn’t to say that I don’t trust God, per se. It’s that I seldom trust that I am worthy enough of His love, His grace, His mercy. However, the above passage of Scripture says “nor do you cease to be sons of Jacob”; it does not say something like, “that is, all of you except Lisa”. I could take this literally, as I would be a daughter, not a son, but that’s neither here nor there. The truth is, He loves us and He will never cease to provide for us.

Why doesn’t this truth ever truly settle into my heart? I spend half my life feeling as though I have to earn His love, His grace, and His mercy–something none of us can ever do; it is already freely given–and falling short of the mark every time.

It’s a bit of that proverbial beating-one’s-head-into-a-brick-wall scenario.

I am economically-challenged. Though I work full-time now, I’m still standing on, well, not a mountain of debt; I’m actually quite frugal, but what little I have amassed is still looming. And, of course, I’m looking further down that track and seeing “student loan” ready to broadside me in a couple of years. (Yes, I do tend to be a worry wart..) The full-time gig is relatively new, only since August. Before then, it was 2 years of unemployment followed by 5 years of seasonal and/or part-time gigs. It’s going to take some time to re-coup. And that chronic worry wart keeps expecting a ton of bricks to rain down or the bottom to drop out from under me.

I’m not worthy of “getting back on my feet”.

This is the voice I hear in my head each week. And then this bit of logic: I’m putting money in the tithe basket every Sunday and then going to the food pantry to eat on Tuesday. Isn’t that sort of like stealing from God? Suddenly, that 10% looks enormous…even though I might readily pay the same amount out for something frivolous. Yes, I’ve definitely fallen off the celebrated tightwad bandwagon of late, grown weary of the struggle to a point where some small voice says, “I don’t care anymore!”

Definitely the work of the enemy of our soul.

So, I posed this convoluted stinking-thinking about tithing to my pastor and the above passage is what he gave me to think on. It’s rather eye-opening. And re-affirming as regards our obedience to God. So I’m thinking I’ll do just that: try Him.

Besides, He’s only asking for 10%; we get to keep the other 90%.

May God bless you & keep you!

Walking by Faith

“So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-7)

Walking by faith isn’t easy for someone with my background. It means trusting someone other than yourself…in this case, Someone. In the past several years I’ve been robbing Peter to pay Paul; oftentimes, finding Peter’s pockets empty, too. This is true financially and equally true where time is concerned.

Maybe more so.

It’s not easy being a homesteader, working towards that day when that homestead might also be a source of income; a full-time college student; a writer; blogger; minister–while also working a full-time job with a 2 hour round-trip commute. I’m not complaining, mind you. I love what I do. And I won’t always be a college student. But there are plenty of days where I wearily look at that alarm clock, that commute, the mountain of homework due by week’s end and think, “I can’t do this anymore!” Burn out happens more often than not.

The week before Christmas I caved in to that burn out. I had a two-part final paper due on plastic pollution. It was due Sunday evening by midnight (online degree program). I started working on it a couple of weeks’ in advance, researching, gathering data, pictures for the PowerPoint presentation that was due with the paper…and found myself on Sunday night thinking, “Damn! This is another all-nighter.” Exhausted, I looked at the work again, the time; my body was trembling, my head swimming with fatigue. And I made a rare decision for myself: I went to bed early, got up in the morning and handed in the assignment a day late, knowing it would mean a 10% loss of grade.

But I didn’t care. I was that tired.

Some part of my weary mind gave it over to God. He knew I’d been working on this steadily. He knew this wasn’t a case of my usual tendency to procrastinate. And, suddenly, though the lower grade didn’t sit well (I tend to be the Hermoine Granger type…), I found something in me that was willing to accept it.

Because a good night’s rest was more important.

I got a perfect score anyway. The professor’s comment started off with a “Wow!” and a “this deserves full marks”. (Okay, so I’m bragging again but, truly, it is only by His grace that I managed to get such a high mark when class policy is set for a 10% loss of final score…unless previously arranged otherwise with your instructor; this wasn’t pre-arranged.)

Anyway, I am sharing the PowerPoint presentation here. (I hope it plays okay…I’ve never tried attaching a presentation to my blog before) Though Environmental Science is my minor, each class has inspired me more in reducing my carbon footprint…and is giving me yet another direction to take this blog. Concern for the environment, for all the many species of life that are becoming extinct–or at least are classed “endangered”–due to global warming, is one of the main reasons why I homestead. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. And, if I can raise greater awareness of the problems Mother Earth is facing today, maybe more people will take a stand and start lowering their carbon footprint, too. Enjoy!

And may God bless you & keep you!

SNHU Eliminating Plastics Presentation

PS If it cannot be opened/run via this blog, please someone leave a comment below; I will try to remedy. Thank you!

It Comes in Threes

“Three times a year you shall celebrate a pilgrim feast to me” (Exodus 23:14)
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20)
“Jesus said to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times” (Matthew 26:34)

Threes pop up quite a bit in the Bible so I’m running with this old superstition that “things happen” in threes. I blogged about having a cold earlier this week; yesterday, Sargent Feathers’ wattles got hit with frostbite (he’s on the mend but I’m still praying, and crossing fingers and toes that he doesn’t lose them). This morning? The furnace went out. On one of the coldest nights in New England history.

I slept in the easy chair in the living room last night. As the congestion that has plagued me since Saturday eases up, the post-nasal drip triggers both a dry, hacking sort of cough and, oftentimes, an asthma attack or two. Lying flat makes it 10 times worse. So I leaned my head back and went out like a light…

…Until Mom came in, seeing the wood stove burning bright and came to check on me. Her voice startled me awake again. For the rest of the night I simply dozed, woke, checked the fire, replenished when needed and dozed again, never really registering why I felt cold sitting right next to a wood stove with fleece pajamas, a heavy robe, a woolen blanket and two cats piled on me. It wasn’t until morning that I thought to take a look at the thermostat. Though it was set for 68 degrees, the needle on the bottom of the dial was all the way over to the left (i.e. so cold it no longer registered on the thermostat).

Things got a little scary after that as the woodpile dwindled and the temperature outside stayed in the single digits.

I think I’m adding doomsday prepping to my litany of reasons why to homestead. I have not been up to this point (though the present job is certainly preparing me for it in learning how to survive without electricity, refrigeration or central heating). Though I’ve admired the movement, seen the logic of it all–especially as my college minor is environmental science–current circumstances…oh, hell, let’s be brutally, painfully honest here. Most of the time I’m broke; financially-challenged; severely under-employed, etc. “A rose by any other name would still smell so sweet.” (And I’ve probably butchered some Shakespeare now, too, but, c’est la vie!) Doomsday prepping takes time, money and more than a little of this Yankee ingenuity when you’re challenged by the first two. The larder is not well-stocked; ditto for the non-existent wood shed and I’m buying heating oil, wood for the stove and hay for the animals in small quantities (in short, whatever funds allow at the moment).

We’re not out of the woods yet as “they” say (Who are “they”??? They’re worse than that guy, Murphy…) This morning was a painful reminder of how everything has been breaking down, falling behind, constantly struggling to stay afloat. And it’s not my money management skills that are lacking; I’ve had more than one financial expert tell me I’ve taught them a few things about frugality and money management! It’s simply that, despite how much I have whittled everything down to the bare bones, my most basic living expenses still exceed my present income. Though I am striving towards self-sufficiency here at The Herbal Hare Homestead, it may be years before it comes to fruition. For every step I take forward, I take at least three backwards due to time and/or money constraints.

And, of course, this is where I have to remind myself to *thank* God. Because, as the oil company replaced the motor on the furnace tonight, and got us up and running again, that little red guy with the pitchfork is raising my anxiety levels, telling me I can’t afford this; I’ll miss this payment or that trying to pay for this repair; I don’t deserve to earn my keep…or even be warm in the midst of a deep frost; maybe I’m not “meant” to do any of this homesteading thing, etc., tearing away at the self-confidence and filling me with more overwhelm–if I let him.

I don’t.

I will weather this storm, as all the others, by the grace of God. Yes, it may have been a close call but we got through it. He brought us through it. Blessed be the name of the Lord! He also opened my eyes to an area of homesteading that I’ve long been neglecting: emergency preparedness. That’s something else to be thankful for.

And it’s coming. Despite this cold snap, Gaia is telling us as plainly as she can that she’s tired. We’re taxing her too much with our over-consumption of petrol and plastics. All these extreme temperatures, and violent storms, are Mother Earth’s way of righting herself, healing herself. The more violent, more frequent the storms and natural disasters, the harder she’s struggling to heal.

(And I seriously did NOT intend that this post should turn into a rant, or campaign, for climate change awareness but it somehow managed to grow out of it anyway…)

So I will trust in that grace. And I will follow His voice inside my heart, like Joseph–coat of many colors’ Joseph–who helped Pharoah prepare for seven years of famine (Genesis 41:17-36).

Do I believe we are headed for seven years of famine again?

Possibly.

Food scarcity and water shortages are already felt in many parts of the world. As we turn our Midwest into an even bigger desert by mono-cropping, it does seem important to me that, so minute a detail as a failed motor on a furnace, should be a warning to ramp up my efforts to be more self-sufficient…and to urge everyone else to prepare, too.

I’m also praying, as the beloved sound of my ancient furnace kicking on interrupts the silence of a chilly, January night, that this “coming in threes” thing is accurate: a cold, some frostbitten wattles and a broken furnace; it could have been much, much worse. And, if there is anything to this rule of three, then I should be done now…crossing fingers!

May God bless you & keep you!

My Apologies for the Delay…

Good morning (or whatever time of day it is in your part of the world…)

In the middle of some major “renovations” here on this blog. As soon as they are completed, I will certainly include more information about them. For the time being, I thank everyone for their patience. New content will be added soon.

In the meantime, keep working towards that faith-filled, sustainable and compassionate future. We CAN be the change we wish to see in the world.

May God bless you & keep you!

First Days

“There is nothing better for man than to eat and drink and provide himself with good things by his labors. Even this, I realized, is from the hand of God. For who can eat and drink apart from him?” (Ecclesiastes, 2:24-25)

Hope.

These first days working in living history are filled with hope…a new beginning. A chance to finally pick myself up off of the ground, dust off the hardships of the past several years, and put that proverbial one step in front of the other.

At least that’s the outcome I’m hoping for. But it’s His will…not my own. And I trust Him to see me through it…whatever “it” is as these first days turn into weeks, months…and, hopefully, years. Family and friends are right; this really is the perfect position for me. I mean, I’m an herbalist with an obsession with all things 19th century. And I’m suddenly in charge of an extensive herb garden in a recreated 19th century living history museum. It is so me. I hope I am so them, too.

Yesterday was the first official day of work. I confess, despite my knowledge of herbs, I was completely burned out by the time I got home. A lot of information all at once, interpreting herbs, not as I know them today, but as they would have been used in the 1830’s. I have a stack of pamphlets, printouts, copies, etc. of various 1830’s gardening tips to read. And yet, gardening methods, while they have evolved, are essentially the same. Sure, we may have certain tools that aid us in our work today but we’re still sowing seeds, pricking out first leaf plugs, hardening off, transplanting, direct sowing, pruning, thinning, weeding, watering, feeding, mulching, composting, harvesting and saving seeds. The plants, whatever variety, still need some combination of sun and rain, and a healthy soil in which to grow healthy and strong.

I am feeling the challenge.

Daunting to consider that I will have a voice in deciding whether to keep or cut down the overgrown sassafras tree that is starting to shade out a nearby Baldwin apple; ditto, as regards the Baldwin apple which is struggling…with one limb now devoid of bark and riddled with holes. How important to 1830’s medicine was a Buckthorn? As it overtakes what we refer to as the High Bed, do we simply remove it? Or does it make sense to replace it with a smaller specimen? This latter one requires some research, of course. My tender heart acknowledges the life force in each and wants to save them all…but doing so might mean the loss of others. In some cases, these are the “bullies” of the garden, stealing sunlight, stealing rain, stealing nutrients from their neighbors.

Then there are those heirloom plants that we meticulously save the seeds from each year so that we have a proper offspring the following growing season: medicinal poppies; Fuller’s teasel; an heirloom Calendula, whose stems hold a single flower on each instead of multiples and whose petals are a light, sunny yellow instead of the orange we expect today. The herbalist in me wonders if their medicine is more potent. But replacements, if they can be found, are costly and rare. This is a collection…as surely as the myriad antiques that grace all of the buildings. I’m not just a gardener. Or an herbalist. But a curator.

Of course, the flip side is the thirst to prove myself, to live up to this challenge, to develop the veterinary medicine tour I discussed while learning the new “ropes”, based upon the books of Juliette de Bairacli Levy and the many 1830’s-era volumes their research library carries. I want to build up the composting system so that we have more with which to feed our plants with…instead of buying organic from a local nursery. I’m looking at the greenhouse and thinking, while it is manned, and a separate department all its own, I would love to take cuttings and expand our plant base instead of buying new plants each spring. And, from my short tenure at Roseland Cottage, create a spares’ bed behind the scenes where, if we lose a beloved plant in the public beds, we have another to replace it. I’m also looking at the honey bees right across the lane and thinking a bee garden tour.

The ideas are popping.

For the museum…and for The Herbal Hare Homestead.

Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so impossible to plant hops. The museum has quite a good crop of them this year. They use a trellis instead of the more common straight pole method. As a result, the hops receive more sunlight. And they’re thriving. Where friends have tried and failed to grow them, adopting this method here might just be the thing. I use hops in the upper-respiratory tincture I make each cold and flu season. Hops relax us, help the body to rest…and to heal. And, using a trellis, they don’t take up as much space. I’m also looking at plants like rosemary and cardamom and turmeric–plants that typically grow in warmer climates and, suddenly, a small greenhouse might be a pretty sound investment for this homestead. And the informality of the beds appeals greatly. Currants grow amongst the sage bushes; colt’s foot alongside Welsh onions; raspberries and rue. There’s even a lovely knot garden…impractical but just the right hint of romance.

Luck?

I don’t believe in it.

But, grace. Surely, grace…God’s grace, to be so blessed. Credit’s going where it’s due. These first days are filled with His grace…as are all the days that follow. Grace, hope, faith…they make a fine new beginning.

May God bless you & keep you!