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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Wednesday’s Weed Walk – Coltsfoot

“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)

My Master Gardener instructors and classmates would be horrified: I have intentionally planted Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) in my garden. The reason for their horror? Coltsfoot is said to be an invasive species and is not native to this land (albeit it has become naturalized like so many other plants brought from European settlers in earlier generations). My reason for defying some unspoken MG oath? Coltsfoot is one of the main ingredients in the tincture that I brew to control my asthma and to heal any winter bouts with bronchitis. I have even healed a bout of pneumonia with it and that makes it more valuable than any “oath”. Furthermore, I want to know what’s in my medicine. In my home garden, I know it hasn’t been sprayed with any chemicals or genetically-modified.

The information contained herein is for educational purposes ONLY. The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This blog post/article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

In Coltsfoot’s defense, the one lone plant that I transplanted over 3 years’ ago has only “spread” to a second plant in those 3 years. At the museum where I used to be their herb garden lead, it was also slow-spreading. So, while I’ll give it the “non-native” status, I question the “invasive” part. It wouldn’t surprise me if the university is receiving kick-backs from one of the major drug companies to downplay this little beauty. The latter makes an awful lot of money off of seasonal allergy sufferers, asthmatics and others with chronic upper-respiratory illnesses. A plant whose primary use is for upper-respiratory complaints is a threat to their livelihood and, because it is a “weed”, it cannot be patented. (And, yes, I’m on another rant and getting all conspiracy theorist, too; sorry, I trust big pharma about as far as I can throw them.)

Ahem…ranting aside, many may mistake Coltsfoot for a dandelion. They have similar flowers, albeit, Coltsfoot’s floral head falls somewhere between a dandelion and an English daisy. Unlike the dandelion, whose foliage sprouts before the flowers bloom, Coltsfoot flowers first and then the colts’ foot-shaped leaves emerge (hence, its name).

Images from my garden:

Image found on Yahoo of the foliage later in the season:

Image comparing Coltsfoot in full bloom with a dandelion, also in full bloom:

As stated above, I use Coltsfoot (leaves only) as part of a tincture to control my asthma and to treat bronchitis. The tincture in question (and I will leave the formula below) contains several other herbs, but it is the combination of Coltsfoot with another “weed”, Great mullein (Verbascum thapsus), that makes this tincture so effective against asthma. While Coltsfoot is both an expectorant and anti-imflammatory, mullein is antispasmodic, as well as also being an expectorant. Both herbs have demulcent properties, which mean they produce a mucilage that coats inflamed bronchial passages. Additionally, Coltsfoot is antitussive, astringent and sedative. It’s very name in Latin translates to “cough dispeller” and it has been used effectively over thousands of years to aid the healing of coughs, wheezing, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, emphysema, laryngitis, hoarseness, flu, colds, sore throat, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath (Tierra, 2003, pp. 70-71). Since using Coltsfoot, I have not had to rely on a steroidal-based inhaler at all. And, while my allopathic medical doctor has not been willing to stake his medical claim on it, every time I have gone in for a note due to some sort of upper-respiratory ailment, he has repeatedly told me to keep taking/doing whatever I’m taking/doing as he has never heard my lungs so clear.

Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Now, all that being said, I would be remiss as a responsible herbalist if I did not state that even herbalists caution not to use Coltsfoot if pregnant, nursing, or stricken with some sort of liver disease. And, with children, only very small doses of the below tincture (1/8 – 1/4 tsp every 4 hours if battling some sort of bronchial condition, or as needed to control an asthma attack; or 1/2 cup of a weak tea brewed for 10 minutes with a lid with local honey added). Coltsfoot has contraindications with fritillaria, magnolia flowers, ephedra, scute, coptis and astragalus (some of these I have never even heard of using in herbal medicine???).

Asthma/Upper-respiratory Tincture:
3 1/2 tbsp each of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
1 tbsp each of Elecampane Root (Inula helenium), Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) or, if being used for smokers, substitute Hops (Humulus lupulus)
1/2 tbsp each of ginger (Zinziberis officinalis) and Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

To tincture, measure the above herbs (I normally use dried herbs; fresh herbs would need to triple amount) into a clean 1-quart size Mason jar. Fill the jar, covering the herbs, with 100 proof vodka or brandy (Majorska has a good 100 proof vodka that has worked well for me). Screw the cover on, give it a good shake, and place the jar in a dark, dry cupboard. Shake it a couple of times each day while it tinctures. In two weeks’ time, it will be ready to use. I typically strain the liquid through a sieve and funnel it into dark-colored bottles found at my local herb shop (check online if you do not have a herb store nearby).

NOTES: You can also use apple cider vinegar, if using alcohol is a concern, but it will have a much shorter shelf life and have to be kept in the fridge. Also, it can be challenging to find 100 Proof. I recommend it because anything less than that may cause mold to form over time. With 100 Proof, it typically has a shelf life of 2 years. However, if you can only find 80 proof, 1/4 tsp. of vitamin E will aid in the preservation. I would also recommend labeling the jar with the date created, the ingredients used, and I always include a batch number so, if you’re making this for the first time, it is “Batch 1”.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

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

Yahoo (n.d.) “Coltsfoot Plant-lore.” Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrJ7FWB6KpeHHkAzD9XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybDY4NmF2BGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQzAwNzBfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=coltsfoot%2C+images&fr=mcafee#id=62&iurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.plant-lore.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2010%2F12%2FIMG_2774-e1505765426444.jpg&action=click

Yahoo (n.d.). “Coltsfoot vs. Dandelion.” Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrJ7FWB6KpeHHkAzD9XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybDY4NmF2BGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQzAwNzBfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=coltsfoot%2C+images&fr=mcafee#id=7&iurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.coldclimategardening.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2Fcoltsfoot_vs_dandelion.jpg&action=click

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Stay tuned…

…our regularly scheduled program will be back as soon as I’ve finished my final exam this week! =)

Stay safe, stay healthy…May God bless you & keep you!

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Rare Indulgences

“So I decided that there was nothing better for a man to do than to enjoy his food and drink, and his job. Then I realized that even this pleasure is from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy apart from Him? For God gives those who please Him wisdom, knowledge, and joy; but if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away from him and gives it to those who please Him. So here, too, we see an example of foolishly chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26)

I am enjoying the luxury of long fingernails. As a Reflexologist, long nails are a no-no. Even a slight white tip on the end of a nail can put a world of hurt into the client, who has carefully put their feet (or hands) into your hands for treatment. I have been on the receiving end so I understand wholeheartedly what those long nails feel like navigating the “map” of your feet. However, in this forced shutdown, Reflexology is the no-no. It requires physical contact. So, I’ve been letting my nails grow…just because I can. I’ve stopped just short of picking up a bottle of toxic nail polish at the grocery store when next I visit it.

(Yes, we all have our vanities.)

I haven’t played guitar in ages. Picking it up again would be a much more worthy endeavor than growing my nails. And, if I was playing right now, I would be cutting my nails off so that I could actually play…and play well. However, I know that once I return to work, even if it is a part-time position, I would not be able to keep my practice up. As an online student, my classwork has not diminished and that takes precedence until I graduate later this year.

So, I’m catering to this vanity…for at least as long as we are in quarantine. Or until I get too frustrated with hitting more than one key as I type away on the keyboard in creating this blog post. It has been a long time since I’ve indulged myself with something so frivolous. And, while a part of me is saying, “Wow! Look at these hands. They actually look pretty and feminine for a change”, another part of me is also thinking, “Arrrgh! I just had to re-type that sentence twice because of these vanities.” And don’t even look at these hands after I’ve been digging in the garden dirt or, like yesterday, cleaning out a goat barn.

And, yes, the subject of this post is equally frivolous. I mean, really, what does any of this have to do with homesteading. Or herbs. Or frugality. Or social issues. What does it have to do with faith?

However, from a healing perspective, I would say that this forced shutdown has shined a light on something I typically neglect: ME. And I’m not necessarily talking about indulging a few vanities. In the last few weeks, I’ve indulged myself with the occasional nap, spent much more quality time with Mom, read some awesome books, and had time to explore some plot development for my own novel-in-the-works. Because I’m one of the lucky ones right now who has been receiving a paycheck even though I’m not at work, I can relax for a moment and simply enjoy life…albeit without the usual social interactions that constitute day-to-day life. I’ve been able to get things done on the homestead that have been pressing…and that are usually done with an underlying angst pushing me to “get ‘er done” before I have to go back to work on Monday. No, I’m not lamenting work. I like what I do at the library…and the ladies I work with; no issues there. However, I’m looking on the bright side of this pandemic and seeing all of the things I can do that I seldom have time for in “normal” times. It’s been a lot more productive an attitude than the constant worry and stress that started this shutdown…and peppered every blog post since mid-March.

Here’s to hoping that every one of you reading this is having just as restful and productive a time during this pandemic as I am. I would be delighted if you would share in the comments below how you’re using this extra leisure time. Stay safe and healthy!

May God bless you & keep you!

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I Have Been a Coward

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? When evil men come to destroy me, they will stumble and fall! Yes, though a mighty army marches against me, my heart shall know no fear! I am confident that God will save me.” (Psalms 27:1-3)

Back in 2017, especially towards the end of the year, my blog posts had gotten deeper. I no longer was exploring homesteading endeavors only but some of the real issues that I have faced over the years. Sometimes I questioned myself, wondering what these issues, such as alcoholism and abuse, had to do with homesteading. But I continued onward, seeking to find both a voice and a niche in the blogging world. What I eventually came to was that every homestead is different and reflects the individuality of the person/people living and/or working it. And, while this is a homestead–albeit a struggling one these days as I seek to find work to sustain us off the property–it is also a home. And the people that live here are human…with all of the human failings of every individual.

This homestead is the brain child of a 50-something-year-old woman whose father has never wanted any part of her life…and a step-father who wanted too much to do with her, if you take my meaning. It’s the brain child of a child who watched in terror as this same stepfather popped open that first can of many beers until he was raving drunk, breaking everything he could lay hands on, kicking holes in the walls and beloved pets across the floor, screaming like a banshee and generally terrorizing us all. I also saw the opposite side of alcoholism with a grandfather, the same paternal grandfather who instilled my love of writing, who came home inebriated, mildly sat down on the sofa, pulled me onto his knee and spent the rest of the evening reading fairy tales to me…or teaching this 3 year-old granddaughter the finer points of chess. At 8 years’ old, I visited a very yellow-skinned Poppop in the nursing home for the last time. And then was told by, again, the stepfather and my Mom not to cry about his passing because it might upset my maternal grandfather, with whom we were staying, and cause him to have another stroke.

However, before I continue to paint my stepfather in the darkest terms, there’s even a flip side to this raging form of alcoholism. He was endlessly patient when helping me with homework. He praised my writing to the hilt and, before he died, told me in all confidence that I would be a great writer someday and have that bestseller. I sincerely hope he is right. But, even if he isn’t, despite the abuse I endured from this man, it means a lot to me to have such confidence behind me…even as a part of me fears a feeling of failure if I never do write that bestseller.

Such is the mark of abuse: confidence is always subjective at best.

Some of my posts, and one in particular, focused heavily on the effects of alcoholism in a family. It shapes dynamics, creates an atmosphere of fear and distrust even among loved ones, and fosters a lack of communication. There were consequences to speaking your mind.

And I felt them after such posts.

One aunt, in particular, refuses to speak to me after one such post, denying such dynamics exist in our family because, on my mother’s side of the family, the last generation of active alcoholics was my great-grandparents. My post talked about learned behavior that, sadly, can be passed from one generation to the next. That’s why Al-Anon refers to alcoholism as a “family disease” because, in essence, it’s catching…even if you don’t drink.

Then there was the blog post, which has long since been taken down, where I lamented the cruel treatment of an animal where I was working. I came close to being fired, was put on probation, and threatened with litigation. Sure, I should’ve gone through the proper channels and brought the treatment to the attention of my supervisor first. I was so horrified, I didn’t think about it until after I’d calmed down…and after the damage had already been done, so to speak. I don’t negate what I witnessed–and continued to witness–but I stopped writing about it. And floundered some mornings about what to write about at all. After being written up for this infraction, I got reprimanded again for another post that, in all honesty, I never even considered might be offensive. In that post, I lamented being unable to serve at church on Sunday mornings because of the work schedule conflict. It wasn’t meant as a shot against the employer in question but they took it that way.

These hands have been, sadly, quiet over the last year-and-a-half or so. Fear of retribution has made me second guess every word typed. Yes, I know, as a writer, I have a responsibility to be cognizant of people’s feelings. I also know that I am going to piss some people off even without intending to. I know that I cannot please everyone and, maybe, depending on the subject of my post, someone will get angry enough to seek compensation for what they view as a damaging image created by those words. However, while I have no desire to cause pain to anyone, I also know that by remaining silent, sometimes I cause more pain.

To myself.

And, yes, to others, too.

None of the above subjects have anything to do with homesteading directly. Nor do the political or religious issues that sometimes crop up and demand my attention. However, they do have something to do with this homestead. Every homestead is unique. Not just in what that homestead produces, such as fruits and vegetables, herbs, fiber products, honey, etc but in the human force behind it.

What hurdles have those humans had to jump over to get to where they are right now? What hurdles have become road blocks to their success? What issues influence why they are homesteading in the first place? And what issues influence the direction they take?

I started homesteading because I wanted to rescue abused and neglected creatures. I wanted to help those without a voice, as well as remember those beloved pets of my youth whom I was too young and powerless to protect. Later, as I learned more about herbs, a love started by my mother when she cured a tenacious strain of conjunctivitis (pink-eye) with a decoction of spearmint leaves, I wanted to grow my own herbs organically and experience the healing power I’d heard so much of regarding gardening. Then, as commercial food products continue to get recalled and we learn about the harmful chemicals used in growing food on a commercial scale, I wanted to heal myself and my loved ones by growing as much of our food myself as possible. This led to an awareness of how much our planet is hurting due to the toxins in our air, water, soil and bodies. Many of those toxins come from plastic clothing, the synthetic fibers like nylon and microfibers and Spandex, etc that release tiny particles into our waterways every time we throw them in the washer. My brief career in living history was an enduring experience because of the gift of learning how to raise and then process natural fibers–without harm to the animals in question.

No, I can’t save the world. But I can mitigate the harm to our planet by reducing my own abuse of resources…and educating others on ways that they can reduce that carbon footprint as well. And I may not be able to save every animal who hurts or suffers under human abuse, neglect and/or exploitation, but I can mitigate some of that suffering one creature at a time…and, when resources allow, help empower others in the field of animal welfare.

Have I fallen short of the mark in my endeavors? Of course. I am human…with all of the human failings of our species. I can be lazy and undisciplined. I procrastinate. I can be short-sighted. I can also be loving and kind and laser-focused at times. I’m creative and a bit of a Pollyanna–this last can be both a failing and a success, depending upon one’s perspective. I’m also tackling another hurdle right now in trying to save this homestead from certain foreclosure if I don’t find a position, or a means of supplementing the current one, that helps me get caught up on all the back payments due.

I’ve cringed every time I’ve blogged about my financial situation. Shame, which is part of that pride cycle, has filled me even though I know my current situation stems from an unexpected fall and the subsequent injury I sustained in that fall. In many ways, it’s been a blessing. It’s made me stop and realize that, over the years, I have judged others less fortunate harshly. I’ve shared a common belief that somehow this person may have brought their troubles on themselves.

When I ought to know better.

In short, I’ve been a coward about humbling myself to my readers. I’ve allowed a few wrist slaps to influence the direction and reason for this blog. And, while those wrist slappings may curb some overzealous crusades, if I allow them to silence me entirely, I don’t deserve to be a writer at all. While a writer has a responsibility to all of the things I mentioned above, a writer also has a responsibility to share the truth, to be genuine, to lift people up and shed the Light of that truth on as much of the anger and prejudice and sufferings in this world as he or she can.

May God bless you & keep you!