Quality of Life

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly.” (Thessalonians 1:2)

I have some important decisions to make here at The Herbal Hare Homestead, decisions that have me back in therapy. But that’s a good thing. Because they are decisions that I keep procrastinating about, decisions that may require some information before I can truly make them. And I’ve been spinning my wheels for so long, I don’t know which way is right.

Sound ambiguous?

It’s nothing compared to the ambiguity in my head.

I had my first fully-fledged panic attack a few weeks ago, complete with a tight chest, shortness of breath and I alternated between tears and rage. I came close to changing direction on the way to work and heading to the emergency room until I realized that, as I took a few deep breaths, the symptoms went away almost immediately. However, not taking any chances, I have since gone to the doctor. The doc did an EKG on me (electrocardiogram); the EKG came back with no concerns. He also ordered a stress test, which is coming up in about two weeks. I had one last summer and it came back fine; hopefully, this one will, too. But it has made me realize how unhealthy my current stress levels are. I keep talking about the books I’ve been writing, the homesteading plans I have, etc. and, if I keep running at this uncontrollable, breakneck speed, I’m not going to be here to realize these dreams. Or to enjoy them once they are a fait accompli.

And that’s just not acceptable.

Because, if I am not here to enjoy these dreams–or even to enjoy the journey towards them–what’s the point of having them? More, if my current stress levels are having such an impact on my life, then am I really living? As far as I know, though I do believe in reincarnation, this is the only life I am guaranteed to live. And there’s no way in knowing how many days this life is numbered. Only God has that answer.

I’ve been hearing myself over the last few weeks. I’m snappy, irritable, tired all the time. Poor Mom! She’s suddenly become roommates with Grumpy from the Seven Dwarfs. That’s not fair to either of us. Again, not really living. And life is way too precious to waste being stressed out and miserable.

So, while I go through all of the health procedures to ensure that this isn’t something physical, I am also back in therapy. And this is the smartest decision I’ve been able to make in a long time. After hearing everything, my therapist has me back in for regular visits every two weeks with some “homework” in between. I actually felt much, much better with just one visit; I am looking forward to the next one.

As for the results? I give them to God; I’ve been neglecting Him a little lately, too. Also unacceptable. And He’s let me know with a panic attack. Time to stop, put aside the “little” things and remember what’s most important. I’m giving thanks for that anxiety/panic attack. Rock bottom can be a blessing; the only way to go is up and back on top.

May God bless you & keep you!

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The Animal Rights Activist Emerges

“So the Lord God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and He brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals.” (Genesis 2:19-20)

This really has nothing to do with homesteading except maybe peripherally: my commitment that no animal coming to this homestead will ever be abused or abandoned, or slaughtered as “food”. They are individuals.

And their lives matter.

This video arrived in my Inbox. It’s a little graphic but it may also be an eye-opener to many; I hope it will be. These are God’s creatures, too. Yes, the Bible does talk about our “dominion” over them but nowhere in the definition of dominion does it include abusing them, poisoning them, injuring them or torturing them…even in the name of science. We’re supposed to be a higher intelligence than that. And, yes, I get that we may have learned something about healing and medicine from these experiments but we don’t seem to stop even when we have that rare “break through”. And how many medicines testing safe on an animal have had to be recalled because their DNA really isn’t all that close to ours? What truly gives us the right to forfeit their lives in exchange for our own? What choice are we giving them? If they could speak, would they not choose life…and a life lived by their natural inclinations, free to roam and love and live…or whatever their concept of these are? I know many may not agree but, as I’ve alluded many times in this blog, I’m all about the animals.

May God bless you & keep you!

PS To find out more, check out http://www.neavs.org

Wry Neck in Ducks

“O God, my heart is ready to praise you! I will sing and rejoice before you.” (Psalms 108:1)

One of the new ducklings has something called wry neck. I’ve been raising ducks since 2010. That’s not an incredible amount of time but still, this is the first time I’ve encountered wry neck. I tried getting a better picture but Whimsy, as this little darling has been christened, cannot hold his/her head all the way up. It lists to one side. (Not sure if that comes through entirely in the photo below…)

There is also a picture of Whimsy in the background (right) in this photo:

Whimsy eats and drinks okay but, according to every source I have read on this condition, the problem is vitamin deficiency. So I made a trip to the feed store after work on Sunday and picked some up. It’s really easy. The vitamins are in powdered form and get added into their water supply each day. And it’s totally safe if the other chicks and ducks consume some of the vitamin water. It’s only been a couple of days and I am already seeing less of a list and an easier time getting around. Again, it hasn’t seemed to inhibit Whimsy’s ability to eat or drink but his/her balance does get thrown off from time to time and he/she spooks more easily than the others so I’m hoping for some significant improvement soon! (He/she because Whimsy is still covered in down so not real easy to sex him/her yet.) Keep Whimsy in your prayers…and cross all fingers, toes and anything else you can think of. Apparently, it is a common condition but it hasn’t been for this worry wort of a homesteader.

Praising God for a new learning experience and praying His will is also a speedy recovery.

May God bless you & keep you!

Taking Heart

“Be strong! Be courageous! Do not be afraid of them! For the Lord your God will be with you. He will neither fail or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Some days the alarm goes off and it’s all you can do to keep from shutting it off, rolling over and committing to spending the day in bed. Not because you’re ill or seriously sleep-deprived, but because some little guy with a pitchfork is sitting on your shoulder telling lies: You’re not good enough. You’re wasting your time. No matter how hard you work and strive to do otherwise, you will never succeed…or get ahead of the game.

You’re in this alone.

This last one doesn’t frighten me overmuch. I know I am not truly alone; God is always with me. Some days though, it is hard to remember this fact. Not because I don’t feel the Lord’s presence in my life but because, despite my faith, there is a part of me that caves under the onslaught of the adversary’s attack. I start to believe that maybe my life would be better if (fill in the blank). Yearnings escalate. I sink into despair. That little hamster running on the wheel that is my brain just turned into a T-Rex. Inwardly, there is a protest that, if I gave into it, would find me hiding under those covers.

I had just such an anxiety attack yesterday on the way to work. I wanted to turn right back around and head for home. Where it’s safe. It’s known. It’s familiar.

My work place is familiar. No real step out of the comfort zone there. But anxiety, depression, low self-esteem are many of the tools the adversary uses to trip us up. I disobeyed the wowzy wowzy woo woo voice and carried on. The day would begin with or without my presence.

But I’m glad I showed up.

Newly-acquainted friends from my church showed up with their children for our homeschool days and I got to chat, find out I’m not such an oddball after all with wanting to grow my food, raise honey bees or goats; they do all three. There’s a common interest in herbs, too. Rather than spend the day solo in the herb garden (though I fairly love it), I got to spend the day helping my supervisor and another co-worker create a new vegetable garden for our charter school kids to work on as a project. What a great blessing to be able to share gardening (and learn some gardening skills) with so many eager youngsters! Later in the day, a trio of lambs escaped. I got to help round them up and even carried one back to his/her Mama. Such joy! His/her bleating nearly broke my heart but the little kisses I planted upon his/her brow had every ounce of love in my heart being given. And the look on his Mama’s face as I drew near the sheep pen with her baby was classic. I pushed away the dark reminder that said lamb may one day become a roast or a pile of chops; today is when we need to be living. And, God willing, this one will escape such a fate. But that didn’t stop me from fantasizing about bringing the whole herd home with me where such a fate would never be theirs (yes, I have it bad). The rest of the afternoon was spent with my co-worker digging a new hot bed for early plant starts–a good skill to learn for a would-be homesteader.

All in all, it was a productive, happy day and one I would have missed if I had given in to those ol’ devils: anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and even panic that rode with me for much of the hour’s ride into work yesterday morning. I once read a book by author Susan Jeffers entitled, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. That should be the battle cry for anyone whose ears are being filled with the adversaries lies. I know, oftentimes, it’s easier said than done but I am enough. I am good enough. My time is well-spent. I am a valuable asset. People do like me. And, through that hard work, one step at a time, I am succeeding. I am never alone. God is always with me. And He will never leave me.

Or you.

Invite Him into your life today; you won’t regret it. Take that Mr. Pitchfork.

May God bless you & keep you!

An Unexpected Gift

“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)

This is actually one of “those” posts again. The cycles of life and death are never more apparent than when working the earth, working close to the seasons, as one does as a farmer or homesteader. I have been eagerly anticipating the birth of a few ducklings as Dixie Duck has been setting some eggs over the last few weeks. She hatched one yesterday morning. I found the tiniest but most perfectly formed duckling lying on the floor outside of the nest. I wanted to weep. After all this time, with Dixie and I both worrying and waiting and, again, eagerly anticipating.

A stillborn.

It is surely one of those “Why?” questions I hope to ask God someday. I know I’m not supposed to question His wisdom, His plans. But seeing such a tiny life that never got the chance was heartbreaking. Moments later, I also said “Goodbye” to Connie, my New Hampshire Red hen. Truly, Connie was only 3 years old and should have been in the prime of her life. She snuggled down in the hay the night before last, tucked her head under her wing as always and simply went to sleep. I suppose I couldn’t have asked for a kinder end. But I wonder what sort of illness or injury might her stoicism been hiding for she exhibited no sign of either. And there were no signs of having skirmished with either a fellow chicken or even the hoof of a goat.

(Miss Connie is in the lower right corner of picture)

I’m going to hold in my heart that she went to care for the little one, Little Duckie, as I christened his/her remains, on his way to eternal rest. So little and cute, he/she needed someone to care for them. And Dixie, being the only female duck on the farm, elected to stay. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Of course, I also said “Goodbye” to a human acquaintance this week, too. A gentleman who used to greet people at church and also serve as an usher was found on March 21st on the floor of his home. He had suffered a coronary; his 86 (I think; give or take) year old father found him. And my heart goes out to him. I worked with Don at the dealership (the father, not the son); we also share the same parish. I can’t imagine the pain of losing one’s child, no matter how old (Stephen was in his early-60’s). To make matters worse, his mother recently broke her hip. My heart, my thoughts and my prayers go out to this family. When I see the loss and the struggles of others, I often wonder what I’m complaining about in my life.

And yet, there were two unexpected gifts during the memorial service for Stephen on Monday. First, the strength and apparent serenity displayed by his mother. Oh, I’m sure inside a storm was raging over the loss of this child she sheltered for 9 months in her womb, raised to be the fine gentlemen so many of us were blessed to know. But the joy on this woman’s face…it was easy to see that the eulogies given by both Father Ben and Father Elson were of great comfort to her. Again, I don’t know what was truly going on inside but, to be able to display such grace outwardly, when all of your world is crashing down around you, is a faith worth striving for.

And, yes, Father Elson. That was the other unexpected gift. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that Father Elson was transferred out of our parish back in November. I had been away from church for some weeks due to a conflict with my work schedule and came back with a shock to realize that Father Elson had left. I tried hard not to mind that Father Ben now stood on the altar. And, in truth, Father Ben is proving to be as much of a blessing as Father Elson. However, my heart broke just a little thinking I had never gotten the chance to say “Goodbye” to him and wish him well on his future endeavors. He gave so much to our parish, breathed so much life into it, that he will be forever missed. So it truly was a blessing to see him standing on the altar again, giving this eulogy. His first words were that he had loved Stephen. You could feel the warmth and gratitude such words meant to all of Stephen’s loved ones as it was apparent that he meant them. Though it was a sad occasion that brought him back to our parish for the day, it was good to see him, to talk with him and, yes, to wish him well as he journeys back to India today. Though he was just getting over the flu, his trademark smile still lit up the church and the altar. In finally saying, “Goodbye” in another way, I realized just how much I have grown to love this young man…as a friend, as a brother in Christ, as a priest and spiritual leader in our community. Father Elson is not the reserved and somewhat distant priest I remember from my childhood. He’s warm and welcoming and as down-to-earth as anyone could wish. Whatever parish that receives him in the future will be truly blessed, indeed. And I give thanks to our Father in Heaven for the many years we were graced with this man…and for the new chapter that is beginning with Father Ben. In all fairness, he seems cut from the same cloth.

May God bless you & keep you!

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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.

Not by Bread Alone

“He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

The power of music. It truly is a bit of manna for the soul. I’ll try not to be redundant but, yes, another blog post about my love affair with music. It’s simply that I’m itching to pick up the six-string again and, somehow, such endeavors always seem to get relegated to that “Someday” list. Ditto for the Appalachian dulcimer; I can’t remember the last time I played that. And then, of course, is the list of instruments I’m planning to learn “someday”: bowed psaltery, hammered dulcimer, Celtic harp, Nickelharpa, Hurdy-Gurdy, fiddle. I don’t want to wait until I’m retired. The way things are going I might be well into my 90’s before I can afford to do so. (Yes, there’s still a bit of Bad Luck Schlepp-Rock lurking around…)

And, why, yes, I do have a thing for stringed instruments! =)

The latest homestead dilemma has left me more frazzled than I care to admit…enough so that the Irritable Bowel Syndrome just kicked into overdrive and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is threatening to down me, too. I can’t afford either. There’s work to be done to get this homestead back right side up financially.

Paradoxically, He’s also giving me a little nudge to slow down, take it easy, even just for a moment. And music helps to make that happen. I tuned into Pandora radio on my iPhone on the way to work Saturday morning and listened to some Contemporary Christian for the hour drive. The nerves that have been dangling on tenterhooks suddenly mellowed out and I found myself singing along with Casting Crowns, For King and Country, Francesca Battistelli. The good mood carried me into the museum and stayed with me while I made preparations for a boiled dinner on the hearth. Even after I had turned Pandora off and tucked the cellphone away in the pocket of my 19th century flannel work dress, I found myself still singing, not caring if anyone heard (which might not be appreciated by the powers-that-be; these weren’t period correct songs). One of the volunteers came in and she, too, started singing. Different songs but we had a grand old time peeling vegetables and stoking fires while the songs flowed. I tuned into Pandora on Sunday morning’s commute, too.

I have visions of something similar here at the homestead. My dream is to eventually host Saturday night potlucks where everyone who plays an instrument brings it along and we sit around after dinner playing and singing by the fire. Of course, if I’m going to host something musical, I need to dust off the instruments and re-learn to play them. It’s been too long. And, even if this homestead is again at risk of being lost (at least the actual property), such a dream is not so far-fetched.

Only finding the time to put in the practice. (I really do need a 28-hour day.)

Time is a precious commodity these days. It feels like I have to make an appointment with myself just to find the time for the most basic endeavors…like shaving my legs and armpits. But, before anyone thinks I’m running around here in rural Connecticut looking like the hairy wildebeest, think again. ‘Tis only a metaphor.

Relax.

Breathe.

Phew! Glad we nipped that one in the bud.

Back to our regularly scheduled program: music. I’m missing the late nights of sitting alone with the guitar wailing away. Far more powerful than listening to the radio, or a CD, my own hands (or lips) creating that flow of emotion takes me out of myself and helps me to focus in on Him a little better. Suddenly, there is no one and nothing else in the room with me…except maybe the errant feline, or canine (when I had canines), sharing the moment with He and I. I can’t say that the music I’m playing is necessarily Christian, but it often does have an almost-spiritual quality to it…at least on the benefits to my soul, in helping me to relax. And let go. Just that.

Come to me and I will give you rest. We hear that over and again in the Bible. I can’t help thinking that maybe He’s giving me a nudge to find that rest again with my instruments. Maybe it’s time to check something else off of that “someday” list; I’ve been neglecting it for too long. The money I need to get right side up again will come. Or it won’t. But either way, He’s got my back. I have to trust that. And, in the meantime, I have to let go and let Him work the miracles He has in mind. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

May God bless you & keep you!