Walking by Faith

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

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

Maybe more so.

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

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

But I didn’t care. I was that tired.

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

Because a good night’s rest was more important.

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

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

And may God bless you & keep you!

SNHU Eliminating Plastics Presentation

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

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Remembering the Sabbath

“Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you.” (Exodus 20:8-10)

Remember the Sabbath day…and leave your cellphones, your tablets, etc. at the door. Seriously. There is nothing on your device that is more important than the message being spoken in church, regardless what church/denomination we are talking. I know I’ve preached this before. At least twice, in fact. But it bears continuous repeating. The enemy of our soul looks for any and every opportunity to distract us from God, our Father. Distracted worship ought to be outlawed like distracted driving is in many states (even if, like Connecticut, it isn’t strictly enforced…). We keep taking God out of the picture…and then wonder why the world is in such chaos.

Of course, if you’re an emergency worker, leaving your cell at the door isn’t a viable option; I get that. However, it should be on vibrate and in a pocket or a purse…not in your hand while you peruse your email messages or Facebook posts. Being on emergency call doesn’t equal a “get-out-of-church-free” card. The Lord wants us there, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and above all, spiritually.

And, while some may argue that they listen better when they’re on their cell (I’ve heard reasons of the mind not wandering as much), the light from your cell may be a distraction to fellow parishioners. You wouldn’t like someone playing on their cellphone and lighting up the movie theater after you paid top dollar for that latest blockbuster hit.

Jesus paid with something much more valuable than that “top dollar”; He paid with His blood, with His very life for us. And His word is far more compelling and important than any movie.

In most cases, it is only an hour of your time. I am reminded of Mark, Chapter 14, when Jesus was undergoing His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked Peter, James and John to keep watch:

“When He returned, He found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.'” (Mark 14:37-38)

If one hour is too much time, be thankful this isn’t 19th century New England. Though the Puritan church of the 17th century had all but disbanded and compulsory attendance with it, 19th century Congregationalists (descended from the Puritans) spent two hours in the morning, took an hour to an hour and a half dinner break, and spent two more hours in the afternoon in worship service. There were no stoves/hearths in the church. Your meal was cold…because cooking was work and that wasn’t allowed on the Sabbath. And yet, people attended willingly. Today that may seem crazy to some but it is only one example of how the further away we get from nature and an agrarian lifestyle, the further away from Him we also get.

“Ever since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what He has made. As a result, they have no excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

There’s a bigger sermon growing from this…but for today, let us walk through those church doors with naught but our Bible in hand and His love on our hearts. Let us sit in comfort in a church that is typically well-heated with a modern day HVAC system…and go home to a hot meal. Let us remember the many blessings He has given us…yes, even modern technology, to enjoy after the sermon.

May God bless you & keep you!

A Different Sort of Art

“Wisdom has built her house, she has set her seven columns; she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table” (Proverbs 9:1-2)

We hear of plenty of feasts in the Bible but the lowly cook, or baker, is seldom mentioned. Granted, cooking and baking is rather commonplace. Doubtless, there seemed little purpose in mentioning whether or not a feast was tasty or not when stacked up alongside of Jesus’ miracles, or the words of wisdom spoken by the prophets of old. Yet, we all must eat and drink to survive. Who among us, when given a choice, would not choose that fresh, vibrantly-leafed spinach salad over the pale, lifeless and wilted specimen from a can? And who hasn’t grumbled over a meal that didn’t come out “just right”? Though commonplace, the chemistry and magick that is cooking and baking is nothing short of a miracle in itself.

Today such miraculous wizardry is being lost to packaged, processed convenience. The result is unhealthy people and animals, and an unhealthy planet from all of the plastic wrappings. We have lost touch with our food. And that’s a sad thing.

I remember years’ ago, when I first got rid of the microwave once and for all, wanting a bowl of popcorn and finding only microwave popcorn in my larder. It actually set me into a bit of a quandary. I think that was my first real step away from processed foods. I bought a bag of old-fashioned popping corn (at a fraction of the cost of a box of microwavable popcorn!), heated some olive oil on the stove and gently shook the covered sauce pan back and forth until it all popped. The lifeless cardboard that is microwave popcorn has never been seen–or eaten–at The Herbal Hare Homestead again.

Since then, I’ve spent a number of winters learning how to cook and bake from scratch, searching through numerous cookbooks and trying new recipes; some came out well, some not so well. But I learned. Eventually, I purchased a cookbook by Alana Chernila entitled: The Homemade Pantry: 101 Things You Can Stop Buying and Start Making; it was a gold mine. Everything from a delectable recipe for baked mac n cheese to homemade marshmallow fluff. And, before any modern folks complain about the time lost in cooking, it is time much better spent than sitting before the boob tube. In fact, for me, it became a sort of “zen” time, a time to cast aside any worry or complaint and just “be”. It recharged the mental and emotional batteries…and the end results recharged me physically. Who wouldn’t feel completely blessed sitting before a roaring wood stove with a bowl of homemade lentil soup, fresh-baked rye bread and, while it came from a local package store rather than my bees, a glass of smooth mead while the snow piles up outside your window? (I haven’t tried my hand at homemade mead yet…stay tuned for future endeavors)

Microwaves, dish washers and Keurig machines are banned here at The Herbal Hare Homestead. But I still use an electric stove, toaster oven, drip coffee machine and even a bread machine. There are no plans to replace the latter once it burns out but these are the tools of modern cooking and baking from “scratch”.

Now, as I meander through 19th century cooking and baking at my job, I’m finding a new level of zen in antiquated kitchens…and discovering a whole new meaning to the phrase “cooking and baking from scratch”. Coffee doesn’t go through the drip machine–or even the percolator my grandmothers used. Raw, green coffee beans are roasted on the fire, sending out an aroma that puts the drip machine to shame; the dough is set to rise overnight in the bread box–a long wooden vessel that resembles an infant’s cradle–and then, as the fire is lit and kept roaring in the bake oven for, roughly, 3 hours before being ready for baking, is kneaded by hand and set to bake on the bricks. I am amazed at what 19th century women accomplished with little more than a fire, a kettle or two, a “spider” (skillet with legs)…and maybe some sturdy twine to dangle your meat over the flames to slow roast. They didn’t use (or need) fancy gadgets or tools, and yet, they created small miracles, small masterpieces of art everyday. Cooking and baking claimed much of a woman’s morning and early-afternoon in the 19th century (kitchen fires were typically banked after the midday meal and cold leftovers, or bread and cheese sandwiches, served as a light repast before bed). Few women worked outside the home (though factories were changing that for a younger generation of ladies) so “convenience” food was relegated to cold pies and bread, and the beans you baked overnight on Saturday to be eaten for the Sabbath. (Any “unnecessary” work was avoided on Sundays…and that included cooking and baking.) Cooking in a kitchen where all I have to do is turn a dial to get an electric “flame” seems almost like cheating now. (I wonder if 19th century clergy would consider our modern methods “work”…)

I created my own masterpiece on a 19th century hearth. This was baked in a kettle instead of a bake oven. And, while it won’t merit the term “miraculous” in any biblical terms, still, I’m claiming some bragging rights. (And, yes, I know all about the sin of pride…even we ministers have human failings…)

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Chernila, A. (2012). The Homemade Pantry: 101 Things You Can Stop Buying and Start Making. New York: Clarkson Potter.

No School Fosta-Glosta!

“Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become as white as snow; Though they be crimson red , they may become white as wool” (Isaiah 1:18)

In light of the massive curtain of blowing snow outside my window, this old world–at least the northeastern part of the United States–ought to be washed clean in no time flat. It is a total white-out again; the second time since mid- to late-December. And it’s only January 4th…

My heart just gave a pause as I typed the date. My maternal grandmother went home to be with our Lord, Jesus Christ on January 4, 1990; can’t believe it has been so long. This has absolutely nothing to do with the original intent of this post. But I hope everyone reading will forgive the pause; such blizzard-like conditions, when the world around me is rapidly being blanketed with fluffy, white cold, always makes me a little nostalgic, providing a much-needed rest to think and reflect.

And plan.

In the midst of a snowstorm, I’m thinking about springtime and gardening, planning each bed, what plants to grow, etc. I’m contemplating some time today watching more of BBC’s Gardener’s World with Monty Don (although that is often because of Monty, himself; sorry, Sarah, but that husband of yours is certainly pleasing to the eye); No-Dig Gardening with Charles Dowding and Growing your Greens with Jon Kohler. I confess, I watch gardening shows as religiously as I lamented Mom’s obsession with HGTV. No cable TV anymore but we do have Roku; that’s actually better. We can watch what we want, when we want. We spend most of our down time on YouTube watching these shows, or else music videos. Amazingly, I’ve gotten Mom into Blackmore’s Night, Casting Crowns and Kate Bush. I’m not making as much headway with Within Temptation but she’s also got me listening to Brothers Osborne and Carrie Underwood. Go figure!

There’s another side of me today feeling like a little kid. My supervisor called me last night, telling me the museum was shutting down completely for the storm (other than the farmers who must still tend to the livestock there; pray they, and the stock, and the feral cat colony, all make it through safely). I am thankful not to be driving in this; I probably wouldn’t have anyway. My menagerie of pets need extra care, too, in this storm. However, for just a moment, when I got the call, I could almost hear the echo of Salty Brine’s familiar voice singing out: “No school Fosta-Glosta!” For those of you who grew up in Rhode Island, you will totally “get” that remark. Every Rhode Island school kid wanted to live in either Foster or Gloucester! For everyone outside of Rhode Island, “Salty Brine”, born Walter Leslie Brian in 1918, was a disc jockey, newsman and talk show host for WPRO for 51 years (Flynn, 1999; NEHS, 2018). He is a legend in these parts.

And, I guess, this snowstorm is making me more nostalgic than I thought; it is certainly taking me back. Although, as I am no longer an elementary school student, I am grateful that this storm will NOT be cutting into my summer vacation with “make-up snow days” in June. I’ll likely be puttering around the herb gardens (mine or the museum’s), planting, planning and pruning away by then. But it is nice to go back and remember snow days at Grandma’s house, when Mom would leave me there before going to work, and my youngest aunts and uncle and I would sit and listen…and pray Salty would sing out, “No school Warwick!” too. Today’s date has a relevancy after all.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Flynn, R. (1999). “Walter “Salty” Brine Papers.” Rhode Island Historical Society. Retrieved January 4, 2018 from: http://www.rihs.org/mssinv/Mss1029.htm

New England Historical Society (n.d.). “Salty Brine for 51 Years Announces News, Weather and No School Fosta Glosta”. Retrieved January 4, 2018 from: http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/19838-2/

3:30 Woman Returns

“They are renewed each morning, so great is His faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:23)

Very early morning seems to be the sweet spot for me. So, it has taken some careful rearranging of my days, especially now that I am working a full-time job + the two hours’ commute round trip but, I think I have arrived. And it is good to be back at the keyboard.

So, where have I been?

Sedulously going through each and every blog post that I have ever written and removing any and all mention of the name of the museum where I am currently employed. I’m not sure why I didn’t extend this courtesy to my current employer; I’ve always been careful not to mention any past employer out of respect for the fact that my views and theirs may not jive. This is particularly important now with my occasional “Wednesday Weed Walks” and “Friday’s Flora and Fauna”. As their herb garden lead, even including an FDA disclaimer that what I write is meant for “educational purposes only” and not meant to “treat, diagnose” etc., the museum could potentially be held liable if someone were to, for example, gargle with sage to treat a sore throat and have an allergic reaction. If I had to analyze this lax, my tenure as a volunteer cast them in a different light than past museums I may have worked at or even the car dealership…which was usually referred to as simply “the car dealership”. So now they are simply “the museum” or I refer to myself as working in “living history”.

And, yes, there is more to the story than this. What I just wrote is absolutely true and valid, just not “all”.

There have also been a couple of posts removed…by request, but done so willingly. In short, they cast the museum in an unfavorable light. What I wrote back in November (Wow! Has it really been that long???) was also true and valid but, in reflection, it would have been more prudent to call a meeting with my supervisor and tell what I saw…instead of going public with it immediately. I haven’t given up, given in, but, as a writer, though I can tout our First Amendment with freedom of speech, press, etc, being a writer also carries with it a certain responsibility. And, if I want to mitigate something, there are always proper channels to follow…before blasting someone in public. By going public immediately, I actually hurt the cause more than I helped it. And I did lower myself to calling some fellow employees “barbarians”. I let myself get carried away with my emotions; understandably, maybe, but to lower myself to such standards, well, I may have also cast myself in an unfavorable light. And, no matter what the situation, calling names is never acceptable.

For that, I beg pardon. Sometimes, even ministers have to eat some humble pie.

May God bless you & keep you!

My Apologies for the Delay…

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

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!