Closing the Loop

“Then the Lord planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and He placed there the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” (Genesis 2:8-9)

I feel like I’m back where I belong–in an environmental science class and feeling that “fueled” feeling that grips me every time I am in such a class. Though a part of me is also feeling a little burnt out lately between school, commute and farm, and the same ol’ financial struggles, another part of me is contemplating going for my masters in environmental science…something to discuss with guidance counselors and financial advisers. It will be well worth it.

I’ve also been contemplating some changes to this blog. Nothing major, just a more stream-lined focus. I’ve been a little all over the place. What started out as just another homesteading blog, has really evolved into so much more, but it is truly a reflection of its author–it has Scatter Syndrome. Scatter Syndrome is what happens when you try to focus on too many things all at once and, consequently, accomplish little. So I’ve been sitting back and evaluating what is most important to me and where do I truly wish to focus that energy. Since my passion seems to be held with environmental issues, it seems a worthy start.

As for the passage of Scripture I opened with, we have eaten of the tree of knowledge. We should know better than the wasteful course we’ve been on. The natural world is a perfect, closed loop system. God/Source made it so that all things in nature balance. It is only when Mankind tries to manipulate nature, when we over-consume, when we add things that should not be in nature, that everything goes out of whack. And Gaia is letting us know with the increase of higher category hurricanes and tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes. Yes, Mother Earth has means to right herself; these natural disasters are part of how she re-calibrates. The severity of these natural disasters should be clue enough that we’re over-taxing her beyond her limits.

The following link is to a YouTube video that was required viewing for my new class. It is definitely thought-provoking. I hope you enjoy it…may God bless you & keep you!

PS It is good to be back at the keyboard again…

Advertisements

Quality of Life

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

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

Sound ambiguous?

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

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

And that’s just not acceptable.

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

The Worst Gardening Advice I Have Ever Received

“Jesus asked, ‘How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story shall I use to illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed! Though it is one of the smallest of seeds, yet it grows to become one of the largest of plants, with long branches where birds can build their nests and be sheltered’,” (Mark 4:30-32)

My family lived in apartments throughout all of my childhood and teen years. For much of those teen years, we lived in the inner-city where we didn’t even have a balcony to place a few potted tomatoes. How I got to be an herbalist and a garden lead at a local museum–and even how the gardening bug bit me in the first place–is beyond me. But bit me it has.

And it has been a long road.

So, what’s the worst piece of gardening advice I’ve ever received?

“Just get out there and get your hands dirty!”

Yup. You read that right. I can’t imagine anything more condescending from an experienced gardener to the uncertain novice thirsting for any knowledge they can absorb on the subject. Sadly, it was one of my instructors with the Master Gardener program who imparted this bit of wisdom. (Insert sneer here) as my inner gremlin asks, “How badly did you get your rocks off with that holier-than-thou bit of ‘wisdom’?” I mean, really, would you tell a would-be brain surgeon to go out there and just “get their hands dirty”??? Yes, I do have to get my hands dirty to really learn how to garden. But, please, a little quantifying might help (more on that later).

Confidence is a beautiful thing. I didn’t have confidence as a gardener when I first enrolled in the Master Gardener program. I enrolled in it in error, not understanding exactly what the Master Gardener program was/is. Years’ before, when learning about herbs and their medicine, the mother of one of my herbal instructors gave a lecture and demonstration about starting seeds. She had just completed her Master Gardening training so the light bulb went off in my head. I could learn how to do this sort of thing if I signed up for the Master Gardener program at my local extension center. It wasn’t enough that I learned what to do with the herbs once they were grown; I wanted to learn how to grow them so I could be sure they were organic and, especially, safe to use.

Four years’ later, I signed up for the Master Gardener program (yes, I am a bit of a procrastinator but it also required a bit of saving to afford the cost of the program…)

Now, before I go any further, I am not dissing the Master Gardener program. Experienced or not, knowing what pests and diseases may be infecting your plants is valuable knowledge to have and I have used it quite a lot over the last 9 months in my tenure as a gardening lead. But becoming a Master Gardener didn’t teach me the basics. The novice gardener has questions:

How deep should I sow these seeds?
How big should the plants be before I transplant them to the garden?
How much compost should I spread on each bed?
How frequently should I water them?
Are those little leaves popping up from the directly sown seeds I planted or are they weeds threatening to take over?
How early should I plant this plant?

The list can go on. Forget about the trade jargon of “potting out”, “hardening off” and “pricking out”. It’s all Greek to me. Oh, and I can grow these vertically? Why didn’t someone tell me? Dividing plants? Pruning??? (Gasp…)

It truly is quite daunting for the newbie gardener. These are living organisms. And, no, the vegetarian isn’t going to stop eating entirely out of respect for the plants. Many of these plants grow specifically for giving us food, others medicine. And, oftentimes, they don’t die immediately after delivering. I can harvest lettuce leaves over a number of weeks before the plant is spent; I know that now.

My first mother-in-law was/is an avid gardener. She grew mostly for beauty; her flower beds were/are gorgeous with beautiful water features–complete with koi fish, bird baths and feeders for the birds, and even perches for the squirrels to eat from. They are full of life. I learned some from her as I started landscaping the tiny stretch of front lawn I had while married to her son; it whetted the appetite to know more. Especially when I decided I wanted to grow as much of my own food as I possibly could on the current front and side lawns. Over the years, I’ve had some fairly successful vegetable patches from “just getting my hands dirty” but I knew there was more that could be done. And I knew these were basic gardening skills that the majority of my fellow Master Gardeners already had.

“Just getting my hands dirty” wasn’t enough. And it certainly isn’t advice that is going to instill some would-be confidence that you can do more, be more, as a gardener. I’ve heard this advice many times since the Master Gardener program. It’s cruel. And, always, the inner voice screamed, “But how???”

So, to add some of that quantifying advice, get out there and get your hands dirty by joining a local gardeners’ club. By volunteering at a local public garden. By asking a gardening friend, neighbor or relative if you can perhaps help them in their garden…or maybe they’ll be willing just to answer your specific questions when they crop up (no pun intended). Today we have a wonderful resource in YouTube, as well as other online gardening sites. I only half-jokingly admit that I learned everything I wanted to know about gardening from Monty Don, Charles Dowding and Jon Kohler. And they would be my personal recommendations if you want to learn. Both Charles Dowding and Jon Kohler have their own YouTube channels: No-Dig Gardening and Growing Your Greens, respectively. Monty Don is the host of both the BBC2’s Gardener’s World and Big Dreams, Small Spaces. The former is probably one of the most excellent gardening shows I have ever encountered. The camera crew gets in nice and close so you can see exactly what Monty is doing and explaining. And more, Monty always ends the program with some tasks you can do that particular weekend. It’s great step-by-step advice for both the newbie and the experienced gardener. Would that the U.S. had such a fine program; I might even reconsider TV (i.e. cable) for it. But, as always, we lag behind on such important matters. But that’s a post for another day…

In the meantime, yes, do get your hands dirty but, for that boost of confidence, find a gardening community to grow with. In the few short months that I have been a gardening lead, I have learned so much from my fellow gardeners–both paid staff and volunteers. You never really know everything there is to know about gardening, no matter how seasoned. Learning and sharing is part of the cycle of growth…whether you’re a plant, or a person.

May God bless you & keep you!

A Violent End

“The Lord is close to those whose hearts are breaking; He rescues those who are humbly sorry for their sins. The good man does not escape all troubles–he has them, too. But the Lord helps him in each and every one.” (Psalms 34:18-19)

I found Dweezil duck’s remains beside the waterer last week. And I’ve been beating myself up over it. None of the ducks wanted to go into the barn that night but I played border collie and herded them inside, thinking predators might get one (or all) of them if I left them out overnight. Their resistance to going indoors and to their nest should have tipped me off. But, over-tired and over-wrought, I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

Some small predator ripped out his throat, scalped him and took out his eyes, too. Not sure what. The hole under the waterer was scarcely big enough for a chipmunk to get through. But through it this predator did get because all of Dixie’s eggs were gone, too. I’m guessing Dweezil either chased it to try to save the eggs (she’s been sitting on a clutch for a few weeks now), or else was trying to get out the door and away from whatever it was. Or maybe he was totally unsuspecting that it was waiting below him when he went to get a drink of water.

I’ll never know.

I’m guessing a rat, or a small weasel. There’s no way anything larger could’ve gotten in. I’ve checked carefully in case of a larger entry but there aren’t any. So Duncan and Dixie are bunking in with the goats right now. Not the best solution as I have to be extremely clever and sneaky when feeding the ducks or Felicity and Co. are thinking they’re getting an extra treat. But they’re safer than in their own space.

Until I can get it properly repaired and gnaw-proof.

I blogged last year about having to replace the floor in their area. The plan was to replace the wooden floor with a cement one. But under-employment and too many hours’ away from home made that next to impossible. I can’t afford to hire a handy man (or woman) and I lack the proper tools to do it myself. My best was to patch the floor where needed.

Obviously, my best wasn’t good enough.

And Dweezil paid the price.

The scary thing is Mom heard it happening. She was outside having a cigarette but she said it sounded like cats fighting. But not. Of course, grieving and upset, I asked her why she didn’t come wake me up. But, really, I was angry with myself. And, even if she had awakened me, could I have made it out to the barn in time to save him? Probably not. But I certainly would’ve tried.

Being angry at myself–or Mom–won’t help the situation any. Dweezil is gone and I am heartsick at how terrified he must’ve been in those last moments of his life. My poor boy! It’s a lesson. I’m not sure what. But there’s work to be done around here. Lack of funds? I’m going to have to call upon that ol’ Yankee ingenuity and find a solution that doesn’t set me back but truly is a solution. Tall order…a good dose of prayer won’t hurt either.

My poor Dweezil…Rest in peace, Sweetheart! You will never be forgotten.

(Dweezil is on the right)

May God bless you & keep you!

Away To Me!

“When David saw the angel, he said to the Lord, ‘Look, I am the one who has sinned! What have these sheep done? Let your anger be only against me and my family.'” (2 Samuel 24:17)

Nope. No sacrifices being made here. Just a lamentation (maybe I should’ve chosen that book from the Bible for my passage instead…) after a wonderful Saturday spent with one of my best friends at the annual Connecticut Sheep & Wool Festival.

Wonderful because of the company. And wonderful because this is a beloved event that neither my friend nor I want to miss. In the last 8-10 years or so, I think we’ve missed one. But, don’t quote me on that, because I’m not even sure about the one miss. It’s all things fiber: yarns, fabric, spinning, weaving, knitting and, of course, the myriad animals that produce these fibers–sheep, Angora goats, alpacas, Angora rabbits. One year, there was even some silkworms! How cool was that? While I confess that this year was a little short on the animal attendance, still, we love this event so it was a good day all around.

Lamentation?

This event feeds that internal hunger, that innate desire to cultivate and create a life that mirrors this event. Not so much as regards the fiber production; I’ve got that down already. While I don’t have my own loom yet, nor the walking wheel I hope to score “Someday”, I’m learning spinning, weaving, knitting and there’s a dyeing demonstration coming up at the end of the month at work that I hope to be allowed to help with. So that’s happening. And, as I continue to work with fibers in the 19th century, I am confident that I can pull this knowledge into the 21st.

My lamentation is the border collies.

Sure, I can go out tomorrow and adopt a rescued border collie. And that’s not a bad idea. But my dream, my desire, is to work with border collies, to train them to herd sheep. And, before the armchair experts come out of the woodwork, yes, they should have an internal instinct to herd. However, if they haven’t been trained, or sheep broke, as it is often called, their instincts may tell them to go after the sheep, but they may just as easily run them down as gather them up and bring them home. That’s why they need training. And it is my fondest wish. These dogs are amazing.

It’s in the “Someday” bucket.

I sure wish “Someday” would finally get here. But, until it does, praise God for what already is…and the dream He’s placed on my heart.

May God bless you & keep you!

Wry Neck in Ducks

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

Taking Heart

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

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

You’re in this alone.

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

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

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

But I’m glad I showed up.

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

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

Or you.

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

May God bless you & keep you!