As 2018 Greets Me with Frostbitten Wattles…

“The One who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ Then He said, ‘Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me, ‘They are accomplished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water.” (Revelation 21:5-6)

This has been one of the coldest New Year’s in my memory. Welcome to 2018! The wood stove is cranking and, though I cringe a bit with their use, ditto for the heat lamps in the barn. Like it or not, the chickens, ducks and goats are spending their day in the relative warmth today, out of the wind.

Here in New England, the temps have scarcely risen into double digits this week (unless we count minus doubles). Single digits–including some minus single digits–have been the norm. So much so, that we hit 16 degrees on Saturday and it felt like a heat wave! The animals here at The Herbal Hare Homestead felt so, too. And, as they had spent all but a few hours of the afternoons in the barn all week, they were waiting at the door for me Saturday morning, eager to get out and about. Yesterday was a little cooler but still warmer than it has been. The animals raced out again to greet it.

We lost power yesterday for a few hours. We have a well for our water, which includes the need for a well-pump. No water flowing from the faucets; no flushing ability. Not knowing how long we would be without it, Mom & I took a trip up to the local grocery store to purchase extra bottled water and a few extra bundles of wood as our furnace has an electric start. The animals were outside, enjoying the deceptively-bright late-morning sun. We stopped for a bite to eat and then came home. All total, we were gone less than two hours.

Thankfully, the power was back on when we came home. Without even removing my coat and gloves, I traipsed out to the barn to check and replenish water buckets, knowing that without the heat lamps, they were likely frozen–or quickly on their way to being so. The goats and ducks were huddled inside the barn, as were a few of the chickens, but most of the chickens had decided to huddle under the bathroom window where that deceptively-bright sun was being absorbed by the black painted walls there (this is a small corner space where they are protected on two sides (north and east) from the wind and a hill that acts as a buffer on a 3rd side; usually a pretty protected area).

It was on that first return trip from the barn that I found Sargent Feathers, head bloodied and, to be honest, my initial thought was I had lost him. He looked bad. I have a couple of new cockerels from Taffy’s latest brood-fest. Had they ganged up on him? Nope. He’d likely be a bloody pulp in that instance. So far, they’re more afraid of him than anything else; he’s not the boss of the barnyard for nothing (though I am well aware as he ages, that could change…especially with these new boys; fortunately, there are enough females, a large enough barn and plenty of free-ranging to mitigate most reasons for aggression…). Anyway, the blood appeared to be isolated to just the bald spot on the back of that Polish-crested pompadour. The flesh had chapped and cracked in the cold. I picked him up to carry him indoors to treat it and found something much, much worse: seriously swollen wattles…i.e. frostbite.

This is my very first case of frostbite here. Oh, sure, we see a few little black dots on a comb here or there–quickly treated with Vasoline, or some of my Bunny Salve (recipe below)–but never anything of this magnitude. And, of course, it is a Sunday so his vet, Dr. Japp, is closed. I quickly cleaned up the bloodied bald spot and applied some Bunny Salve to both it and the swollen wattle (salve has herbs for healing skin), very gently dabbing rather than rubbing and risking damaging the flesh even more. But I knew he would need more for the frostbitten wattles.

Though I spend at least 40 hours per week in the 19th century, it is times like these that I am ever thankful for some 21st century technology. I started perusing the Internet–some of the chicken raising community sites that I have visited and received good advice from before. I am also an herbalist with several books on both raising small livestock, and herbal remedies for pets and livestock. I grabbed a leaf from the Aloe plant in my kitchen and cut it open; again, gently dabbing it onto his wattles. You could almost see the little sigh of relief as it cooled the burn to his flesh. I set up a small cage in the kitchen for him with a big bowl of warm water to drink and some food; he drank copiously and, I am happy to say, he still has a good appetite. He has also been receiving regular treatments of warm water, soaking the wattles in the warm water to slowly warm up and, hopefully, restore the blood flow to them. There is some gray-black along the bottom edge so I am bracing myself for the possibility that he may lose part of them but, despite the seriousness of the situation, he seems to be doing quite well so far.

Of course, he is aided by the companionship of Miss Taffy, my spunky, Silkie problem child.

As soon as Sargent Feathers was settled in his cage in the house, I went back out to put the rest of the chickens in the barn. Many of them I carried in; some had to be herded (I seriously need a Border Collie…). Sunset decided to be contrary and kept ducking under the deck (Grrr…) but, eventually, I got them all settled back in with a fresh bed of hay in their nests to keep warm, fresh water and fresh food.

Or so I thought…

Taffy spends most of her time underneath what used to be a rabbit hutch in the barn. It is low to the ground and, as I use a deep litter method* here to help insulate during the winter months, Taffy has built herself a cozy little nest here. More intent on just getting everyone into the barn so I could go back to Sargent Feathers, I did not look under the hutch to ascertain that she was in her usual spot. On the next trip to the barn, I did a more thorough headcount and discovered her missing!

One can imagine the panic and the usual berating I gave myself. Fortunately, she had crawled under the barn (There is a low spot right near the barn door (barn is really a shed re-purposed as a barn) where she often nests in warmer weather). It is a shallow area, she was easy to reach and, more fortunate, she was hale and hearty, chirping away to me as I picked her up and carried her into the house. Though she did not have any frostbite, I don’t know how long she was under there and her Silkie feathers were damp.

She and Sargent Feathers are now shacking up in the kitchen just below Smoky Bones the Cockatiel’s cage. Smoky isn’t too sure about his new roommates. Master of Mimicry, Smoky has been known to “cluck” and “cackle” like the chickens pecking around in the yard in summer, searching for worms and bugs; let’s hope he doesn’t learn how to mimic Sargent Feathers’ lusty “Cock-a-Doodle-Doo” that greeted us “in stereo” the moment I turned on the kitchen light before dawn…

I’m taking heart from it though; perhaps I found Sargent Feathers just in the nick of time. It sure sounds like it.

A very Happy New Year 2018 to Everyone…may God bless you & keep you!

*Deep litter method is spreading a layer of pine shavings on the floor of the barn/coop and just adding layers over their waste and discarded hay and allowing it to slowly compost. Sounds gross; compost is warm and insulating and, if done correctly, there is no build-up of any harmful bacteria or moisture. There is also a ridge vent all along the roof of the barn for any moisture to escape if necessary. In spring, it makes a nice addition to the garden.

Bunny Salve

Equal parts organic Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and Plantain (Plantago major or Plantago lanceolata) (This is the grass-like plantain found in most lawns, not the banana-like fruit found in grocery stores, which is Musa x paradisiaca…).

Using a double boiler (or a small stainless steel sauce pan (Please do NOT use non-stick cookware, or cast iron, when making herbal decoctions…) in about 1/2 – 1 inch of water in a larger sauce pan), on low heat, cover the herbs with olive oil (if using beeswax) or, you may melt a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil then add the herbs (again, very low heat; avoid scorching or boiling herbs…if they scorch, dispose of scorched herbs in the compost bin and start again on a lower heat setting). Allow them to slowly simmer for 45 minutes, covered. Strain when done, saving the liquid. If using coconut oil, simply add a couple of drops of Vitamin E oil to preserve and pour into a glass jar (short and squat is best size/style). The coconut oil will solidify as it cools. If using beeswax, pour the oil back into the pan and, on lowest heat setting, add about 1 inch squared piece of beeswax to 8 ounces of oil and slowly melt it; stir; pour into glass jar and add a couple of drops of Vitamin E oil; stir again.
(Word of caution: Do NOT pour any unused beeswax…or any unused salve made with beeswax…down the drain, or attempt to wash the pan with the beeswax and oil in a sink; you will never unclog the drain again without the very costly assistance of a plumber having to replace said piping. It is biodegradable and non-toxic; use a kettle of hot water to rinse the pan outside. Also, it is highly flammable; never leave it unattended when heating on the stove.)

This salve has worked wonders for urine scalding, chapped combs and wattles, chapped hands, lips, and even diaper rash (although, for the latter, I often add equal parts of calendula (Calendula officinalis) and St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum); these last two are not recommended for animal use but work well on human skin).

“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.”

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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!

19th Century Reality

“O my people, listen to my teaching. Open your ears to what I am saying. For I will show you lessons from our history, stories handed down to us from former generations.” (Psalms 78:1-4)

I tend to over-romanticize earlier times in history. Sure, there’s a lot to be said for a quiet, peaceful walk where no motorcars pollute the air, assault our ears with their constant rumble, and the threat of being struck down by one is non-existent. There’s something to be said for growing your own food, knowing where it came from, knowing what’s in it, and knowing how to preserve it for the winter months when nothing grows. There’s an art to cooking. Sadly, many in our society no longer take the time to learn that art. They’re too busy to slow cook anything; nuke for 3 minutes instead…and watch most, if not all, of the nutrition evaporate. And, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, the craftsmanship that went into everything! Today’s styles, whether we’re talking clothing, or furnishings, or even architecture, are–in my not-so-humble opinion–bland. There’s no attempt at individuality. Everything is churned out in a factory so that every house, every sofa, every pair of jeans is often identical to the next. The only difference may be that this house is blue and its neighbor is yellow. So, I lament the loss of such craftsmanship.

However, yesterday afternoon, I spent some time reading some of the literature in the herb garden “office”. “Office” because it’s really the basement to another exhibit, but it has been converted into a part-garden shed, part-gardening library and, yes, part-office. Some of what I read, I already knew but it was kind of sobering all the same:

Every family could expect to lose at least one child in infancy…mostly due to bacterial infections and viruses, of which infants have not developed immunity against and, of course, there’s no real hospital with today’s pre- and post-natal care.

Every family could also expect to lose at least one child before the age of 21 because one out of every five children never got the chance to grow up due to childhood diseases. I often criticize certain vaccinations–usually the flu vaccine and, in this case, I will continue to do so–but, while some of the vaccinations we received as children may cause some unpleasant conditions and/or side effects, they also save lives. I, for one, would not want to contract tuberculosis–what was called “consumption” in the 1800’s. Consumption was one of the biggest killers in the 19th century.

Diseases like malaria and cholera took the lives of hundreds of people each summer. When was the last time we heard of anyone contracting cholera? There’s something to be said for public sanitation, too.

Women between 20 and 45, their childbearing years, were always at risk of losing their lives in the birthing process.

Menstrual pain, PMS and menopause were treated with patent medicines. These were primarily alcohol-based “remedies” prescribed by doctors to suppress certain symptoms. And, as anyone knows who has had alcoholism in their family, sometimes the effect is not calming but the basis for more irrational behavior.

One could practice medicine without a license, without even a formal education. The herbalist in me says this one isn’t so bad. No, I don’t want a surgeon cutting me open without ever having received formal training to do so but I don’t mind being able to tincture a few herbs together and being allowed to call it “medicine” instead of “remedy” or “supplement”. However, doctors of the 19th century were of two extremes. Some were merely learned herbalists who, rather than just the more benign plants like chamomile, mint and fennel that nearly everyone knew and trusted, employed harsher herbs. One such fellow, Samuel Thomson, believed the body must first be purged of all ill humors and then heated up because he believed that cold was the enemy. So he prescribed, almost exclusively, first, Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata) to induce violent and copious vomiting and diarrhea (Lobelia inflata has since been proven to be quite toxic) and then followed it up with a heavy dose of Cayenne Pepper (Capsicum annuum). He was incarcerated for murder when one of his patients died but then acquitted when nobody on the jury panel could readily identify Indian tobacco. The other side of medicine in the 1800’s used mineral-based remedies like calomel (Mercurous chloride), which had pretty much the same effect on the patient as Lobelia inflata. Bloodletting, purging and blistering were other orthodox methods of “healing”, methods that often sped a patient on their way by further weakening the victim. Lastly, though surgeons were often quite skillful, even in the 1800’s, the risk of infection was great and I, for one, would not like to endure such surgeries without the use of anesthetics.

Lastly, as a woman, the 1830’s hold less appeal, not enough to taint my joy in learning the skills and donning the beautiful outfits of the time, but because I’m simply far too independent to leave myself at the mercy–or lack thereof–of my closest male relative for my care. There were strict boundaries between women’s work and men’s. There was little to no industry for women at all (though the rapidly-growing textile industry was changing this). A widow living alone, even if she could figure out how to manage a plow on her own, hired out for the job instead; that just wasn’t woman’s work and one might appear “unseemly”. I face some of this same discrimination today as there are certain “stations” within the museum that women are strictly prohibited from learning: tin smithing, pottery, coopering and blacksmithing are a few of them. These were men’s tasks and so, in an effort to stay true to the time period, modern women are pretty much denied these skills. (Funny how we bend that period correctness when women are needed to “clerk” at the store and for a Christmas program during a time period when Christmas would not have been commonly celebrated in New England…but that’s another post for another day…) What’s that old expression? “We’ve come a long way, baby!”

May God bless you & keep you!

When I Am Weak

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

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

Sounds a little like the adversary with his tricks again.

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

I CAN DO THIS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can do better this time.

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

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

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

The bus stopped again.

I waited.

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

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

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

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

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

In myself.

In God.

The blah kind of mood followed me into the morning check-in point and then back to the herb garden. I really needed a tea. Tuesdays the museum is closed…as are all the cafes. Why didn’t I pack a few tea bags? I’m exhausted. Of course, the caffeine’s not the best thing for me…

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

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!

Leap of Faith…into a Bright, New Future

“These trouble and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever!…I was given a physical condition which has been a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to hurt and bother me, and prick my pride. Three different times I begged God to make me well again. Each time He said, ‘No. But I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.’ Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power. Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite happy about ‘the thorn,’ and about insults and hardships, persecutions and difficulties; for when I am weak, then I am strong–the less I have, the more I depend on Him.” (2 Corinthians 4:17; 12:7-10)

Letting go…that has always been my biggest problem when it comes to faith. I lack trust. Sure, I can–and have often–blamed many of my trust issues on my childhood. And I’m not belittling the effects of childhood trauma when I say this but, what am I doing with this lack of trust? Am I continuing to point that finger of blame at another person and thus staying mired in the pain…and in the past? Or am I turning it around at myself, asking what can I–or You–do with this pain for the highest good and taking responsibility for that lack of trust? Choosing the latter option really can be a leap of faith…

I took that leap of faith last week. And here I am in an entirely different world all of a sudden…a world of hope, of joy, of faith.

For many of you reading this blog, you may or may not know that I have been a volunteer at a local museum since 2012; two summers’ ago, I had to request that I be taken off of the schedule for awhile as a return to academia (as I work towards my degree in Creative Writing with an Emphasis in Fictional Writing, and a minor in Environmental Science), a massive landscaping project here on The Herbal Hare Homestead, work on two separate novels, and part-time work at a local car dealership to make ends meet, overwhelmed me time-wise. Something had to give. But I always planned to eventually return…Someday.

God had bigger plans.

Friday, out of the blue, I received an email from the Coordinator of Volunteers (and I sincerely hope that is the correct title of this wonderful lady…) telling me about a position that had opened up at the museum. This was not a volunteer position, but a paid one heading up their extensive Herb Garden.

I hesitated. Two years’ ago, when I had asked to be taken off their schedule for a time, their long-time Horticultural Lead had left, partly, because the pay scale was so low. As many of you know, though this is a homestead where I am attempting to grow most, if not all, of my fruits, vegetables and herbs, I am still in the early stages of development. It will be some time before this is producing enough to be even semi-self-sufficient. So salary isn’t something I can readily compromise on. There was also the matter of being transportationally-challenged. Mom’s vehicle is still “grounded” as we have yet to get it registered again (see past blog posts on the whole story) so how do I get there??? I’ve been walking nearly everywhere since mid-May.

I called the United Way. I called Unemployment. There is a ride-share program and a reimbursement program if one must take a cab, or some other temporary means, and I found I qualified for both but, they are extremely temporary–as in the “help” would only last a few days because of the distance. I didn’t want to apply, get it, and then have to quit again in three days’ time. Our transportation issues may not be resolved by then.

Or so I thought.

While I was hemming and hawing about all of this, about an hour after the first email, I got another email. The C of V touched base with the Agricultural Lead. I was told to get my resume in yesterday as they had extended the window for getting in said resume just for me and recommendations were already given.

“Lord,” I thought, “You dropped this into my lap; You must have a reason. I don’t know how on earth I’m going to get to this job, if I even get it, but You must have something in mind. I’m going to trust You in this…and not worry about the ‘how’ of it all.”

So, last Monday, I submitted my resume before 8 a.m. and, by 10 a.m., I had received the call to set up the interview. The young lady on the phone sounded enthusiastic about everything so we set the interview for Thursday. I contacted a friend of mine to see if she was available to take me up for the interview and I put a call into my rep at the Unemployment office about the reimbursement program. While I waited for the returned call, I tried not to think about how much a cab ride, twice a day at 37.5 miles each way, was going to cost up front…and fought to suppress the shudder that threatened to erupt in that contemplation. The chorus to Lauren Daigle’s “Trust in You”: “I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You...” echoed through my brain over and again.

The first ray of hope occurred. Mom put in a call to the bank that holds the loan on the car. We had avoided this for weeks, fearing they might repossess the car instead and she would lose all of the money she had invested in it. But she said they were wonderful. She explained how she has cataracts. She gave up her driver’s license as she fears harming another on the road driving with such blind spots in her vision. She told them she also owed back taxes (something we are still struggling to remedy) but the biggest hurdle is that the Connecticut DMV refuses to renew the registration because of her loan and her not having the valid license anymore. She lives with me. I am a licensed driver. And I’ve been the one driving the car, not only to work, but taking Mom to her doctors’ appointments, to the store, to visit family, etc. The DMV wouldn’t put me on the registration because Mom still has the note on it…despite having put me on the insurance policy as the main driver of the car. The bank sent a letter authorizing the DMV to transfer my name to the registration. Once the back taxes are paid, we should be able to re-register the vehicle.

Thursday came. I donned my favorite garden gnome attire (my period-correct costume that I always volunteer in) and waited for my friend to arrive. We stopped for coffee (her) and tea (me) and, along the way, the second obstacle was blasted out of the way. My friend bought a “new” (pre-owned) truck; she offered to let me use her current vehicle until we can get Mom’s vehicle issues resolved. God bless this woman! Now, the only two hurdles left were the salary questions…and the actual hiring for the job.

The interview went well. There was a good, instant rapport. We toured the Herb Garden together while we talked. She asked about my education. I told her I had received my certificate in Herbalism from Michael Ford and Joanne Pacheco, then Apollo Herbs, now Mike heads up Apollo Botanicals. I also have a Master Gardener certificate from the University of Connecticut; my minor in Environmental Science with Southern New Hampshire University also stood me in good stead. I shared my experience with beekeeping as the museum now raises honey bees.

She had another person to interview.

I breathed a sigh of relief after we parted; I hadn’t realized how nervous I had been. I thought even then that it had gone well but, of course, we always second guess ourselves. I thought about all of the things I could have mentioned, the questions I could have asked and then forced myself to quit stressing about it. He was in charge of the outcome, not I. Thy will be done, Lord. I realized, as I went back to the car where my friend was waiting, that salary had never come up. I hadn’t asked, not wanting to blow the interview, but knowing if it was too low, it might be a game-changer.

The next day passed in a sort of fretful struggle not to fret. I considered calling. Then rejected it as I remembered a friend of mine who used to do hiring that today’s employer doesn’t want skeighty-eight hundred calls from hopeful employees. Before I went to bed that night, the idea came to me that she hadn’t asked for references. I sent her an email with three. She called me two days’ later, thanking me for the references and said she was waiting on one of them to return her call; she would let me know one way or another on Monday. She also realized she hadn’t mentioned the salary.

The third miracle. It was much better than I expected. Another sigh of relief. While it won’t make me rich, it’s enough to live on.

Monday morning I got the call. And the position.

How quickly a life can change! After over seven years of first unemployment and then under-employment, I now find myself not only in a full-time position, but in one that utilizes most of my formal education, and I get to do something I absolutely love. A more perfect job could not be tailored for me. And every obstacle that could have made me hesitate too long and lose this opportunity, He removed.

That simply.

How is this even possible? I have been in complete awe since Monday. Yes, there’s the usual jitter of nerves; that’s natural. I’m going into new territory…almost. I have been a volunteer there so I know most of my co-workers already. That certainly helps. My awe is in Him. Again, this position won’t make me rich. But I can’t help thinking how all these years of struggle and strife have molded and shaped me…for this??? This is wonderful. This is incredible. This is better than anything I could’ve ever imagined. I mean, I’m working in a garden most days, playing with and instructing about herbs; I’m steeped in history; I’m surrounded by antiques and farm animals; I get to wear beautiful, period-correct clothing on a daily basis. Not only am I using my certifications in herbalism and master gardening, but even the two semesters of acting I took at the Community College of Rhode Island back in the mid-1990’s. No, we don’t role play at the museum but, trust me, you become another person anyway when you don such attire and move amongst the public. How cool is that? I almost want to ask, how did He know?? But this is God we’re talking about. Of course, He knows.

Looking back over these last several years, while I’ve railed and cried and growled in frustration as yet another thing goes wrong, another something breaks, another vet bill, another something crops up, when I look at my very limited income over these years, really, I shouldn’t still be standing with a mortgage intact and surviving as well as I have. He’s been with me all along. And, though there have been times when I’ve doubted along the way, deep in my heart, there’s been this little mustard seed of faith that maybe, just maybe, He was grooming me for something bigger and better.

Wow. Was He ever.

I’ve been singing His praises along with the rails and cries and growls; now those praises are shooting straight to the moon and back, Alice, to the moon. Because this is all Him; it always has been. And I know, in this heart of mine, that He truly is with me…and always has been. I know that whatever storms or ripples may come up in my future, if He leads me to it, He will lead me through it. The key is, and has always been, for me to let go of that “how”; to let go of the outcome. His plans are so much bigger than mine. Or yours. Such gifts are here for you, too…if only you let go and trust in Him:

When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You”

May God bless you & keep you!

References

Daigle, L. (2015). “Trust in You”. Centricity Music. Trust In You Lyrics (n.d.). Lyrics.com. Retrieved July 27, 2017, from: http://www.lyrics.com/lyric/31688835.

A Pipe Dream

“For I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me strength and power.” (Philippians 4:13)

This morning I arose early, unable to get back into a deep sleep again after Paz’s not-so-rude awakening. I mean, how can you resist when your butterball of a tuxedo cat wants cuddles? At 17 years old, Paz is my geriatric buddy so, while he’s hale and hearty, and I’m definitely not writing him off, everyday we have together is precious. Though “Mommy” laments a bit of lost sleep, I was happy to scratch him under the chin and cuddle him close. When he’d had enough, he took my hand between his paws–much like a child would a stuffed toy–and went to sleep…typical Pazzy-style. I dozed but it wasn’t long before the knees started aching and I noticed a faint line of pink gracing the horizon. As soon as the first birds started twittering, Paz leaped down in search of some dry kibble.

It was a productive morning. Yesterday Mom and I were graced with a visit from an old friend from my corporate days. She had seen my plea for more cardboard on Facebook and, also being a resident of northeastern Connecticut, she offered to bring some by. Christmas came early in the form of an SUV loaded to the gills with huge cardboard boxes. I am so grateful! I managed to build the largest of the beds I will use to plant my herbs into just as the sun was coming up. Now I just need to make some more compost to fill it. Again, I am grateful.

And still on a quest for more so I can landscape the rest of the garden…(hint, hint) (chuckle).

All of this was before 7:15 a.m. I did some yoga and then headed back downstairs to start feeding time here on the farm. And, for the more traditional farmers reading this, yes, 8 a.m. is a little later than most for feeding time but, as I work until 7:30 p.m. off site, it’s a good 12 hour balance between feedings this way. Anyway, I fed and watered ducks, chickens, goats and cats; dosed the goats with some B-12 as some anemia had set in with the recent worm issues. The worms have been eradicated but, Domino, in particular, took it hard; I am happy to say that he seems well on the mend, with his appetite returned (thank God!). I spent the rest of the morning in the rabbit room, giving them some playtime outside of their cages, feeding and grooming them. Of course, I also spent some of the time in prayer (rabbits are restful creatures) and reading one of the chapters due for this week’s homework assignment.

Now it is 1:30 p.m. and I’ve already spent some time writing my book, now this blog and will soon begin the trek to the dealership.

I love what I do at the dealership. More importantly, I love the people I work with; it’s like a great big extended family. But, as much as it’s needed, there’s a part of me lamenting that, once the midday heat passes over, how much I would love to be back out in the garden, working this farm, working to make it into a working herbal, apian and fiber farm.

That is my dream.

Other people do it. But I am definitely not in a place financially where this is even remotely viable. So, for now, this is my little pipe dream: to earn a living, both as a writer and a homesteader, and not have to rely on the insecurity of working elsewhere.

And, yes, everyone read that correctly: insecurity. There is no such thing as job “security” anymore. In fact, there never really has been. The economy, sales–or lack thereof–affect every single industry in some capacity or another…at some time or another. That’s why achieving a measure of self-sufficiency is so appealing. No, not self-sufficiency away from God; He’s at the heart of every endeavor, whether it’s planting some seeds and watching them grow, trimming a goat hoof, or greeting someone on the phone at a local car dealership, I can do nothing without Him. This is the self-sufficiency that doesn’t rely on the traditional 9-to-5 (or, in my present part-time scenario, 3:30 – 7:30), or the energy grid, or the fossil fuel industry but a self-sufficiency that relies on faith in God, and on the wit and capable hands He blessed me with. To know where my food comes from, to make it all from scratch, to spin my own yarn, weave my own cloth and sew my own fashions…that is the dream.

And, as I bask in this feeling of satisfaction from such a productive morning and early afternoon, I hold onto this feeling, memorize it and allow it to motivate me into making it more than just a pipe dream. A reality, where all of the goodness of the Earth gets purposed to God and abundance is shared with a smile.

May God bless you & keep you!