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Which Way Do We Go, Which Way Do We Go?

Rest in the Lord; wait patiently for Him to act. Don’t be envious of evil men who prosper. (Psalms 37:7)

Scatter Syndrome (skah’ ter sin drohm) 1. The inability to focus on that one thing owing to the over-eagerness of having so many options. 2. When the mind leaps from one option or opportunity to the next like a squirrel leaping from branch to branch in a tree. 3. The anxiety and subsequent exhaustion that results from considering too many of those options at once to the point of being overwhelmed and then getting absolutely NOTHING done so you crawl off feeling like a failure again. 4. All of the above.

No, I don’t believe that’s really a term. And I can’t claim I just made it up either because I got it from a friend. However, I’d like to think I’m at least one of the first to formally give it a potential dictionary meaning.

Now that I’ve graduated college with a Bachelor’s of Art in Creative Writing with an Emphasis on Fictional Writing, the world, supposedly, is at my feet. At least that’s what all the recruiters tell you as you sign the agreement at said university. In addition to a multitude of creative writing workshops, grammar and composition, literature, poetry and linguistics, I studied grant writing, business writing, entrepreneurship, art, advertising, and, of course, environmental science. This last encompassed the bulk of my electives.

So, where do I go now?

Of course, my main objective is to finish my book. But, in the meantime, I’m thinking I need to focus on some other aspects of writing, such as short stories, articles, etc. that I can finish quickly and send off to a potential editor for publication. I’m trying to focus on my writing as a business as much as an art. Though I’m leaning more towards self-publishing where my book is concerned, I would like to get my name out there. And, who knows? Maybe, in time, I’ll land a publishing deal after all.

Get an agent.

That was a steady stream of advise from nearly every college professor. But, as someone who is staring down the road to foreclosure right now (I’m behind more than the amount for which the Go Fund Me campaign was created), paying said agent would be next to impossible.

Then there is the zoning issue that I’ve recently come up against so that even if I could get right-side up on the mortgage, I would have to forfeit the heart of this homestead (the animals who share it with me) in order to stay. The attorney I consulted with over a decade ago–before I brought home my first dozen chicks and ducklings–either gave me some bad advise, or this new neighbor is throwing his weight around at the town hall. The attorney costs money, too. As does relocation. So, some of that scatter syndrome probably stems from the pressure to produce and succeed in a hurry. And it doesn’t help that his wife hides in the bushes bordering our two properties, craning her neck for…something? Gladys Kravitz has reincarnated. Maybe it’s time to twitch my nose and find my inner Samantha Stevens.

Financial challenges aside, yes, I do want to focus on my book, on my writing, first and foremost. But there’s also the homesteading and prepping that started years ago and all the myriad directions that I’d love to take it. There’s the original premise for The Herbal Hare: a business producing herbal, apian, and hand-spun/woven fiber products. There’s a second-hand spinning wheel downstairs that needs some TLC to get it moving again. It’s not the Walking/Great Wheel that I learned on and dream of owning, but it has potential…even if I do not have the fiber-producing animals yet. A loom and loom tool (smaller spinning wheel used for filling bobbins for the shuttle) are beyond me right now, but definitely hovering on the radar. There’s a shed full of bee equipment gathering dust. And dozens of seed packets and catalogs to plant that extensive herb garden for making those herbal products, selling plants and seeds, and teaching workshops on herbs. I’m even considering a YouTube channel for the same. I’d like to add some microgreens and sprouts to the list in time. There are visions of a market garden down the road. And a small garden patch planted with rye for drying and braiding the straw for making hats–a skill I never would have guessed at, a gift from my time in living history. As is the interest in lace making, which I have also tried and proven to have some proficiency in producing.

There’s an easel gathering dust. And a stack of books checked out from the library, where I currently work part-time, focused on drawing and art. There’s a guitar, amp, and Appalachian dulcimer equally dusty. Can I do something with either of those? I have a good voice. I spent over a decade fronting metal bands and I’ve served as both a member of our church choir and Lector for many years. (And, damn, if I don’t regret not taking a public speaking class during my tenure at SNHU…if it was even offered via online learning). I’m thinking voiceovers…albeit, that would require equipment I can’t afford at present, another agent, and it would take away much of the energy that I should be focusing on writing.

See? Scatter Syndrome. Twenty different directions to take and continuing to circle back to my true passion: writing, and the very real need to secure home and hearth before too much more time elapses. If this keeps up, I may find myself 90 years old and still circling.

Sigh.

Despite all of this circling, I rearranged the upstairs of my house. I used to have my office in the center bedroom where I painted a mural on the wall depicting a homestead with those fiber-producing animals, an extensive herb garden, lots of bee hives, and me standing triumphant in front of a PC whose screen shouts “BEST SELLER”. As the holistic woo-woo guru, I thought it might aid in manifesting my dreams but, I feel like it has kept me stagnant. The original intent when I painted it was to paint a house that resembled my paternal grandparents’ house, as it will forever be my happy place. I remember my irritation that I couldn’t quite get the roof line correct and, not wanting to wreck something that would forever be displayed on the wall of my house, I left it slightly “off” and continued on. Over the last couple of years since I painted it, I’ve realized that despite the white with black trim color scheme, and the dormer windows, that skewered roof line is this roof line…as is the positioning of the barn with my current barn. If it wasn’t for the new neighbor, I could have this dream here. There’s room enough. But alas…

Another sigh.

So, I’ve moved the office. And there’s a white board awaiting it’s first assignment in getting that much closer to my dreams…once I kick ol’ Scatter Syndrome to the curb and discipline that focus in its place.

May God bless you & keep you!

Animal Rights, Animals, Bereavement, Birthday Wishes, Christianity, ecosystems, Emergency Preparedness, Environment, Exhaustion, Faith, Family, gardening, God/Jesus, Grief, Herbs, Homesteading, Love, Memories, Reflexology

A Weary Heart

“I will lie down in peace and sleep, for though I am alone, O Lord, You will keep me safe” (Psalms 4:8)

I turned 54 yesterday.

I woke up this morning to find another beloved feline had passed away overnight. No sign of illness or injury, but her son, Alice Cooper, died of a heart defect when he was a little over a year old–on November 22, 2016; his mama left either late November 20, or early November 21, 2020, almost 4 years to the day. Perhaps Mama Priscilla had a heart defect, too.

Priscilla was a very pregnant stray dropped off here 5 years’ ago. Mom and I kept all three surviving kittens, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper and Emmylou Harris, got everyone spayed/neutered and they have all been a joy. It broke my heart to find Priscilla lying on the floor of the rabbit room. I wondered where she was last night when I went to bed. Usually she gets up on the bed for her nightly cuddle, rubbing her cheek as tightly against mine as she can possibly get it. I assumed there was a mouse brave enough to visit a home with 9 resident felines. Now I wonder if she was already gone by the time I went to bed. Not the most auspicious way to begin your 55th year of life.

Caught the next door neighbor–the same one who challenged zoning back in June and July–hiding in the bushes bordering our properties last week, craning her neck over the stone wall looking for…something. When we pulled up in front of the house to turn into the drive, she had the startled-deer-in-the-headlights look when she realized we were home and had seen her. She left rather quickly.

Mom smokes. When she goes outside at night for a cigarette, if the outside light pops on because she’s walked in front of the motion sensor, someone in this neighbor’s house walks over to the upstairs window and stands there, watching. What are they hoping to see? What is it about us that they find so fascinating? It’s a fixer-upper home. It didn’t have curb appeal when it was up on the market in 2004. It’s definitely gotten worse over the last 16 years. And, though my Mom is an attractive 74 year old, she’s still 74 years old. What do they care if their elderly neighbor sits outside at night?

It’s going to be hard leaving here…well, it would be if not for these neighbors. Perhaps that is His plan to break the sentimental hold this home has on me. 5 dogs, 11 cats, 1 goat, 3 guinea pigs, 1 pet rat, 3 parakeets, 20 rabbits, 4 ducks and 29 chickens have their final resting place in the pet cemetery out back. I kept a reflexology practice here; have planted trees and shrubs, fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs; learned how to can food, bake bread from scratch and a host of other homesteading skills here. More importantly, I’ve shared a lot of laughter and tears, both good memories and bad, and a whole lot of loving within these four walls…even if the roof does leak and a host of other updates need attending.

But I’m leaving.

The remaining goats, chickens and ducks probably qualify for contraband these days since the nosy neighbors raised a stink. I’ve had some acquaintances suggest contacting Legal Aid to see if there’s help with the zoning issues–help that I engaged long before any farm animals arrived–but I’m thinking, while I may inquire, the biggest part of me is tired of the struggle. The mortgage is high, the repairs many and costly, and the job market in this area is one of the worst. The zoning issue is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It won’t be easy. I’m looking to homestead, as I had been doing here, but I’m looking to do it on a larger scale. Not necessarily a larger property but a greater attention to self-sufficiency and environmental protection. So that will mean unrestricted use. Land only…to start with.

Even that little bit is daunting to this weary heart. But to give up is inconceivable. I’m getting too old for nosy neighbors and their drama, or living a life that barely scrabbles by rather than living a life that will bring me joy and a sense of security that will be the first I have ever known since I was a very wee child. A life lived with intention and a sense of purpose. It is too short, as Priscilla’s minute time on this earth has reinforced yet again, to waste it on drama and stress.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Yearnings

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation, whether it be a full stomach or hunger, plenty or want; for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and the power” (Philippians 4:12-13)

The above passage from Scripture is almost true for me: No material girl here, but I do know how to live on almost nothing. The last decade or so has taught me well…as did a good portion of my childhood. I don’t need much. In fact, growing up on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, and being both financially and occupationally challenged in current years, has developed in me a bit of a tightwad. No, I won’t skimp on your birthday or Christmas presents. I will buy you lunch, or tea/coffee, from time to time. I’m extremely frugal but, hopefully, not selfish or stingy. I give what and when I can.

But I perpetually yearn for a simpler life.

If you’ve followed my blog for more than a few months, you know I worked in living history, first as a volunteer for many years, and then as paid staff for a little over a year and a half. My deepest yearnings are for that kind of simpler life in these modern times.

Yup. Maybe I am a few fries short of a Happy Meal. I wouldn’t be the first to over-romanticize an earlier time. But, working in living history, I found a satisfaction in the skills that I learned…and a certain sense of rightness in each of them. Somehow spinning wool on a great wheel, refilling bobbins on a loom tool (smaller spinning wheel designed to load the bobbins for the looms), weaving, braiding straw, cooking and baking on a hearth came naturally to me. Whether this is some sort of ancestral memory, or maybe there is something to reincarnation after all, I don’t know. However, it wasn’t quite so easy for others who learned along with me.

Even the fashions of those earlier days proved to me to be much more comfortable and satisfying than today’s idea of fashion. First of all, the garments were made with natural fibers, which is healthier for us, and for the planet. In those long, full dresses I felt more attractive, more feminine, than in any other attire. So much so that I’ve been perusing websites for similar styles…either purchased ready made (someday when I’m back on my feet, not now that I’m struggling through financial hardship and zoning issues), or for patterns to make myself. There’s a part of me that would love to make several of the work gowns we wore for living history and maybe jazz them up a bit, a modern twist on an antiquated style. And, no, this may not jive with most people’s idea of frugality if I’m talking about purchasing new clothes, but we must wear something on our bodies. Why not something we truly love rather than conforming to modern expectations?

I remember some years’ back writing a post about how satisfying it was to sit down to a meal where the vegetables had been grown completely by my hand in the garden, the bread baked from scratch, the eggs from the chickens I raised, etc. I can’t help thinking that someday it might be just as satisfying to don an outfit that I either grew the cotton or flax, or raised the sheep; sheared/picked, cleaned, dyed, carded, spun, wove, and stitched all by myself. Yes, maybe that is a bit of pride, but I am of the mindset that maybe when we hear that “pride goeth before a fall” it’s not because having pride in one’s appearance, work, or living space will cause us to fall, but that, oftentimes, the only thing left someone has is their pride, and when they lose even that, that’s when they fall…sometimes never to truly get back up again. It’s tough to hold your head up when things are falling apart in your life. And Esther didn’t plead the cause for her people in rags; she dressed to the nine’s. She took pride in her appearance and made a statement. For me, that statement would be to embrace the comfort, simplicity and femininity of a simpler time.

Getting off a soapbox that threatens to get into a discourse on feminism, and going back to one of my beginning statements about yearning for a simpler life, I am referring to the whole reason I started homesteading in the first place. I’m tired of the rat race. I’m tired of killing myself, searching for a 9-to-5 that no longer exists, that will also leave me miserable, with no time to write, create, or work a homestead, and still not pay the most basic of bills. I’m tired of being dependent on the power grid, of our factory farm-to-grocery store food system. I’m tired of synthetic, plastic clothing poisoning our water and soil…and maybe even our bodies; can’t be healthy. I’m tired of all the additives to our foods, the pesticides and herbicides used to grow and preserve our food…and even the genetically-modified organisms that do not resemble food at all. I’m tired of watching species of life disappear, of honey bees struggling to exist. I’m tired of seeing advertisements for prescriptions that cause more maladies than the illnesses, or conditions, they were supposedly developed to alleviate. Our modern day lifestyle, the systems that have been put in place, make us vulnerable to them. This Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that. The power outages following each hurricane, tornado, or other natural disaster have shown us that, too. How many of us have friends or family members, especially the elderly, who start taking one pill for, say, high blood pressure then have to take another pill for bloating, or water retention, and then another as cholesterol skyrockets, etc?

Yeah, a bit of a rant today. I’m beating my head into the wall, preaching to the choir, because there are many things that I cannot change no matter how much I rant and rave, and seek to fight an uphill battle.

That doesn’t mean I give up entirely though.

My dream home has a hearth in the kitchen. It requires a hand-pump to draw water up from the well. It has a spinning wheel and a loom, a loom tool and a few niddy-noddies. It has a dough box for starting bread to rise. And a hand wringer for doing my laundry. It is lit with candles and/or oil lamps, and has a composting toilet if allowed (this last is often prohibited in many towns across the nation). My dream home is small and well-insulated with natural fibers, but sits on land large enough to support a decent-sized herd of goats for both fiber and dairy, sheep, chickens, ducks, honey bees and rabbits. There is a large herb and vegetable garden; a couple of greenhouses and/or hoop houses for year-round growing and for warm-climate spices. My dream home has an agility course because there are Border Collies sharing that home, too. Maybe there’s even a small pond for my ducks and geese, and for paddling a canoe once in awhile, because being on the water is such a great way to relax…even for those of us who cannot swim(!).

The yearning for such a life comes about as I navigate through this zoning and foreclosure nightmare I’ve been swimming through for too long now, always circling back to it just when I think I’ve finally got it licked. It’s where I go to escape, or better yet, to manifest? I know much of this is beyond me as building codes require certain regulations to be met, but to the extent I can get away with and still remain within the law, this is where I hope to go.

For too long now, a peaceful, simple, fairly self-sufficient life has been a dream only. I’m tired of the rat race. It’s time to live the life I was meant to live, a life lived with intention. And I pray the same thing for each and every soul reading this post…no matter how different your intentional life is from mine.

May God bless you & keep you!

19th century, Animal Rights, Animals, Books, Christianity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Climate Change, ecosystems, Environment, Exhaustion, Faith, Fiber Arts, Fleece, gardening, God/Jesus, Herbs, Homesteading, Human rights, Open-mindedness, Plants, Self-esteem, Self-improvement, Spices, Spinning, Weaving, Wool, Writing

Running the Gamut

“He shall judge between many peoples and impose terms on strong and distant nations; they beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. Every man shall sit under his own vine or under his own fig tree, undisturbed; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:3-4)

Looking at the number of weeks since my last post, I am appalled that I have allowed this latest legal “drama” to derail me from everything else in my life. And that’s literally what has been happening. I have run the gamut of emotions: anger, outrage, sorrow. I feel betrayed by my local government who refuses to honor the work I did in 2009. I feel betrayed by the zoning attorney who may have given me some bad advice, which I acted upon, and who has set the bar (no pun intended) for any further interaction with another zoning attorney going forward. And yet, should I lay down and let this new neighbor walk all over me, force me out of my home entirely?

Of course, there are still the financial issues to deal with. I’m behind over a year. In order to turn this mortgage thing around, I would need to magically find at least $25,000 to get out of hock and, at this point, if I did magically find it, I would likely use it as a down payment in a more farm-friendly community. Why throw money away if there’s no certainty that I will win my case against this new neighbor?

So, to that end, I’ve looked at a site called Billy Land that has mixed reviews and may take longer than I have to finalize any deals. I’m keeping it on a back burner but it’s not my first choice of options. I’ve been looking into buying just land, with Mom and I considering boon-docking in a second-hand RV until we can afford to build a home. Not every town will allow it but, again, our focus has been unincorporated townships where there aren’t any zoning regulations. Maine still has a few of these and I’m sure there are others. Owner-financing is another possibility. We would need a decent down-payment so I’m focusing on saving as much as I can towards that end. But it’s a harrowing ride.

My chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is off the Richter scale. Amazingly, the other stress-related health issues are seemingly okay but the CFS is biting me in the backside. It’s been a struggle to stay on top of things, and I confess to failing miserably. Of course, there is also the very real fatigue–hence, its name–to factor in that, once triggered, I have little control over. It, too, has to run the proverbial gamut. (I vaguely remember asking the Lord to teach me patience…is He ever!)

More mainstream-minded individuals would advise re-homing everyone permanently and just sucking up the heartache while re-doubling my efforts to get right-side up on the mortgage. But I am as far from a mainstream mindset as one can get when it comes to my animals. With the loss of my goats, chickens and ducks, goes my reason for being, my reason for wanting to homestead in the first place; the heart will just go out of me. With the loss of my goats, chickens and ducks, goes the myriad cottage industries I’ve been trying to build to get off the mainstream grind, or at least to supplement the part-time income that seems to be the norm in today’s economy. With the loss of my goats, chickens and ducks, goes every hope and dream I possess.

Yes, I am a writer. Despite everything I’ve written above, I’ve chosen to “escape” for an hour or two each day by focusing on better character and plot development for my book. I’ve also started journaling again. Both have been extremely therapeutic while I navigate these troubled waters. Finishing my book and getting it published, possibly having a career as a writer that I can take anywhere I go in this world, is the ultimate.

But that’s only part of the dream.

As anyone who has been following this blog for a while knows, I worked in living history for a number of years. First, as a volunteer, and then as a paid staff member. The Herbal Hare isn’t just the name of this blog and this homestead, it’s also a future business venture making and selling herbal, apian and natural fiber products. I learned spinning and weaving while working in living history. The goal has been to grow as many of the herbs as this climate will support, maybe extend to adding a greenhouse in the future for growing spices and warmth-loving herbs, to raise honey bees and start a pollinator garden, and to raise animals for fiber, such as goats, sheep and Angora rabbits. All of these animals would require regular shearing but this would not harm them in any way. In fact, the opposite would be true because sheep and Angora goats and rabbits will develop a fungus on their skin if one does not shear them. Their fiber would be spun to make yarn and, as a tie in with the herbs, my herb garden would also grow many of the plants earlier generations used for dyes, like French marigolds, wild indigo, and Queen Anne’s lace.

Of course, there is also a much larger dream that this homestead will not support even if I can swing zoning and get the mortgage right-side up again: the dream of using goats to clear land. I would need a much larger herd than I currently possess…and more land to support that larger herd through the winter months when using living brush hogs isn’t an option. There are lot of these operations out West where forest fires are more prevalent but, here in New England, they’re few and far between. Goats are an eco-friendly way of mitigating forest fires because goats will eat the “fuel” for those fires: the heavy brush and undergrowth. They are also effective for removing overgrowth along highways and byways where steep inclines might be prohibitive for larger, heavier equipment. Or for clearing land for new building and development. Goats are incredibly agile and can make short work of such jobs without the noise, the fossil fuel pollution, or soil compaction that heavy equipment ultimately brings. Instead, they’re liable to leave behind some natural fertilizer as an extra bonus.

How’s that for a sales’ pitch?

Maybe it’s time to quit running another gamut of emotions: the fear and insecurity that has kept me from reaching for these dreams. Maybe it’s time to put to use the grant writing skills I’ve developed throughout my tenure in college these last 7 years and look for some angel investors. Maybe it’s also time to put my faith to the test and see if that door really will open when I knock upon it.

May God bless you & keep you!

Animals, Appreciation, Bereavement, Faith, Gratitude, Grief, Healing, Herbs, Homesteading, illness, Love, Memories, Prayer, Yoga & Fitness

An Answered Prayer

“Lord, you know the hopes of humble people. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort their hearts by helping them.” (Psalms 10:17)

I know I said in a much earlier post that I would save “those” kind of posts for New Year’s Eve only. “Those” being the posts that mention a loss here on The Herbal Hare Homestead. For the most part, I’ve stuck to it. The reason being there was a particularly dark period of time here where it felt like I was making one of “those” posts every other week. In sooth, there were 8 losses that year. Still a lot…and I could just hear all of my friends remarking how lately every time they read it, they get depressed. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But, I confess, I started to feel depressed every time I sat down at the keyboard.

However, every once in a while, though homesteading conditions you to expect the occasional loss, there’s that “one” that truly clubs you off at the knee.

That happened Friday.

About a week earlier, Pearl went off her feed and started looking a little lethargic. This went on for almost a day with me deciding that, if she was still looking “droopy” and not eating the next morning, I would call the vet (she had had similar situations over the years and within a few hours, maybe a day, she’d bounce right back; we even visited the vet once in regard and he had reassured me that if it was only a missed meal or two, not to worry too much but simply keep an eye on her. He did a thorough check, took blood tests then, and could find nothing “wrong”.) Anyway, the next day she was eating again and seemed fine. In retrospect, I wonder if I should’ve taken her in anyway…even without any specific symptoms showing. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Last Thursday afternoon, I came in from dropping my car off at the garage and saw Pearl sleeping on the sofa. When I went over to cuddle her, she responded but something seemed “off” about her. I made a comment to Mom in that regard. As I told her, “she’s not showing any symptoms of anything but she doesn’t ‘look’ well”. I recalled that Pearl had eaten that morning, not as vigorously as usual, but it was also not one of her favorite flavors so I hadn’t been too alarmed then; perhaps I should have been. I sat down beside her on the sofa and she curled up in my lap…until Ozzy did his usual horn in on the action and she moved over to the afghan she’d been sleeping on when I came in. Then, maybe 15-20 minutes later, she got down and went into the bathroom where we have a water bowl sitting under the drippy tub faucet. Again, nothing too unusual except, over the course of the next couple of hours, she made multiple returns. I suspected she probably had a kidney infection coming in but, by then, it was evening, after hours for the vet, and the closest emergency facility is in another state (not to mention, I was without transportation) and I’m not overly trusting of this emergency facility in the first place. I brewed an infusion of parsley as a first aid and fed her some in an eyedropper, only as much as she would willingly take, knowing parsley’s gentle healing properties for anything kidney/bladder related. I also kept checking for dehydration. As the night wore on, she had started showing symptoms of the latter. By early morning, she was actually sleeping in the tub by that water bowl and there was no doubt about it: she needed to go to the vet immediately.

Of course, the car was still in the shop and, to be honest, the vet wasn’t open yet. I ran through the usual morning feeding routine, texted a friend to see if she was available to drive us up to the vet hospital, and then called the mechanic. Low and behold, the car was done so I walked over and, by the time I got home (1/2 hour later), the vet hospital was open. I called, got their answering service, and told them I was bringing her in; I wasn’t arguing about it. A few minutes’ later, we were waiting in the parking lot for one of the techs to bring her in for examination. They took her in almost immediately and confirmed what I had suspected: a kidney infection. They asked permission to keep her overnight. They were starting her on subcutaneous fluids, as she was dehydrated by then, and antibiotics to kill the infection.

I got a call a few hours later to give them a call back as Pearl was not responding to treatment. For some reason, the call had gone straight to my voicemail so I called them immediately back.

Dr. Lambert apologized the moment the receptionist put the call through to him: Pearl was gone. They had given her the sub-Q fluids but they discovered when they went to administer the antibiotics that she was still dehydrated. When they went to give her more sub-Q fluids, she started convulsing. They tried to save her but her heart just stopped.

And my world just stopped.

I am devastated. This was my little shadow. I haven’t been at the keyboard any more than necessary (homework only) because I know I won’t have her chirping at me to get in my lap…and then getting all indignant when my fingers are banging away at the keyboard instead of scratching under her chin indefinitely. I haven’t been on the yoga mat because little Miss Pearl would lay on the floor and stretch with me. I’m expecting a little white kitty with black patches to get in my lap when I’m eating my breakfast cereal, waiting for me to finish and leave her the last few drops of milk. Going to sleep at night has been a challenge. I no longer have 9 lbs. of kitty sprawled across my belly and chest, front paws encircling my neck, head tucked under my chin.

So where does the answered prayer come in? Because you know I was praying right along for Him to heal her, to bring her home safe, sound, healthy, etc–ALIVE!!

Four years’ ago, I came home from work, Pearl came running to greet me at the door, lost her balance, and flopped over. I took her to the vet. They treated her for an inner ear infection but Dr. Blakesley (other vet at same hospital) had cautioned that, if she didn’t respond, they would have to do a biopsy as they suspected Pearl might have a brain tumor. However, Pearl responded. When I was burying her beside her sister, Megan, I remembered praying that night that Pearl was too young. She was only 12 (then). Please, would He give me just a few more years with her? Let her at least make it to 16, which is a very great age for a cat, but Ariel had made it that far; please, could He let Pearl make it till at least 16, too?

She did.

Of course, I also remember telling Him that I knew when that day came at age 16, I would probably beg for a few more years with her…and I did…but that I would accept it, knowing that 16 is quite elderly for a cat and that I couldn’t expect too many more years with her.

Heavy sigh.

No matter how many years we have with each other, there is NEVER enough time. As I posted briefly on Facebook last week, who would’ve thought one little cat could have this big of an impact on my life? I feel so lost without her; I look for her everywhere…and even feel a twinge of guilt every time I cuddle one of the other 6 felines that share my world. I also apologize that, even though I love them all dearly, well, no, they aren’t Pearl. They’re Kirby and Ozzy and Emmy Lou and Priscilla and Whitney and Rosco, this last one actually traveled cross country with Mom 6 years’ ago, and they are each special in their own way. I wouldn’t trade them, would mourn them just as fiercely, but I’m still looking for a little sassy white cat with black patches and a black tail, leading me upstairs for some one-on-one cuddle time together, and listening for that sweet little voice talking to me at every opportunity.

But despite this empty, aching hole in my heart, I would do it all again, Miss Pearl. Maybe I would’ve adopted you the very first time I saw you and Megan in the cage at the vet hospital awaiting a forever home (I had visited the vet hospital a few times before finally deciding to take them home). Maybe I would’ve taken you to the vet the week before when you went off your feed that first day last week. Would it have made a difference? Would you still be here with me? Or would I have lost you a week sooner because your little heart was simply done and would’ve given out that much sooner with the stress of being in the vet hospital? I’ll never know. But I do know that Celine Dion was right: the heart does go on.

And, ironically, there is a mixed blessing in this stupid pandemic. Though I had to wait out in the parking lot while the doc examined Pearl, I got to spend these last 1 and 1/2 months with my girl almost non-stop because being a librarian is not an essential worker and we have been home since mid-March. I’m actually grateful for that today.

R.I.P. my little Pearlina Wilhelmina…I love you, Sweetie, and I’d do it all again.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Wednesday’s Weed Walk: Elderberry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

Animals, Appreciation, Christianity, Creativity, Emergency Preparedness, gardening, Gratitude, Herbs, Homesteading, Minimalism, Plants, Self-improvement

Feeding My Passions

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

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Instead of Gatorade, Try Haymakers’ Punch

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

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

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

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

Or not.

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

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

I also decided I needed to go to the hospital.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

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Wednesday’s Weed Walk – Zingiberis officinalis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

Digest Tea

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

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

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

REFERENCES

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

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

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These Dreams…

“As a hungry man dreams of eating, but is still hungry, and as a thirsty man dreams of drinking, but is still faint from thirst when he wakes up, so your enemies will dream of victorious conquest, but all to no avail.” (Isaiah 29:8)

I am grateful for this Covid-19 shutdown.

No, I haven’t lost my marbles. I know people are sick, dying, or have lost loved ones to this pandemic. I would be an insensitive clod to be grateful for that. Far too many people also don’t know where their next meal, or rent/mortgage payment, is coming from while they wait until it is truly safe to venture out again in numbers greater than 10. Without some serious assistance from our government, which doesn’t seem to be forthcoming anytime soon, far too many people are at risk of losing their homes. I’m not grateful for that either.

What I am grateful for is the stop of nearly everything “normal” in life.

You see, somehow along the line my life got “stuck” in survival mode. It’s been driven by purpose, by necessity, by the sheer panic that a potential foreclosure can instill in someone. Yes, I write my blog, my book, take care of my animals during “normal” times. Mom and I play games together, too, when there isn’t a pandemic.

But I don’t “stop”.

I can’t remember the last time I just sat and listened to music. Not while I’m playing games or doing housework, but just sat and listened. And dreamed. I can’t remember the last time that I woke up without an alarm and got to lay there and…yes, dream. Where do I want to go? What do I really want to do this day?

Daydreams…

Imaginings…

Manifesting…

Planning for the future…

During this crazy pandemic, I’ve actually been thinking about a future again. I’m looking at what I have, where I want to go, and allowing myself to dream about it…sort of like I did when I was a young girl just starting out in life with everything open before me. That is a gift, if we will only choose to look at it as such.

No, I don’t plan on wasting a whole day doing nothing but dreaming, but allowing one’s self to dream from time to time, actually opens our imagination. We start thinking about making the impossible, well, possible.

So, what do I dream about? What do I see when that imagination opens up?

Besides a few novels gracing the best sellers’ list, I’m imagining how my whole front lawn is going to look once I’m done landscaping. I’m envisioning all manner of herbs, small fruits, vegetables and flowers…a veritable food and medicinal forest. I’m seeing a stand along the roadside with cut flowers, herbs and plants for sale. I’m imagining that other half-acre fenced in and providing more ranging space for the goats, chickens and ducks. I see an agility course and several Border and Bearded Collies, and Welsh Corgis, running through lickety-split. I’m dreaming of a Great Wheel, a loom and a loom tool (another type of spinning wheel), and a number of Angora rabbits and goats providing fiber for spinning and weaving.

Sometimes, though, that dream isn’t here, but in another place…kind of murky and undefined, but larger, with room for more goats, and sheep. I see some greenhouses for growing spices, like cardamom and turmeric, year-round. I’m envisioning an aquaponics’ system and racks of microgreens and sprouts. When I’m really being far out, I see a greenhouse full of mulberries and silkworms…and the necessary apparatus for spinning their silken threads. I’m thinking of a thriving Reflexology practice–not just the occasional client–and herb classes hosted in my own extensive herb garden.

More, I dream of hosting potlucks and quiet nights spent with loved ones around a campfire.

Yes, all of this probably demands more energy, time, etc. than I have these days. This run-down, ramshackle abode has become a money pit; it would take too much to make such happen. Or would it? Maybe what it needs is simply for me to take a few more steps forward…and to really start thinking about that transition from impossible to possible.

That’s another thing to be thankful for: I have some time on my hands to do some of the work for those things I can do here and now. And I’m being honest enough with myself that I may not get all that I’d like to accomplish done, but I can certainly make a dent in it.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying not having to make a mad dash through life. We’ve got to take the silver linings where we can find them.

May God bless you & keep you!