A Trip to the ER Prompts Some Serious Soul-Searching

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13)

First of all, I have to say that anyone who is still in denial about climate change in the face of this present heatwave, needs to have their head examined. It no longer matters the why it is happening; it IS happening. Period. If we can, we need to slow it down because temps of this magnitude are killing people and animals and the earth. If you have children and/or grandchildren, this should matter to you. Because they are the ones who will suffer the consequences of our inaction to address this issue…

I do not handle heat well. I jokingly tell everyone that my dream home is in Alaska. That is partly true. “Partly” because my stereotypical vision of Alaska is of snow and ice and cooler temps; I’m a fall through spring kind of gal. Give me crisp, fall temperatures and I am unstoppable. Three feet of snow outside? As long as the woodstove is going, the animals safe and snug in their barn, and I’ve got a good book, a cuppa tea and a couple of felines to cozy up to and it’s the ultimate. But I don’t fly–at least if I can avoid it–so such a move would mean an almost total separation from me and the many people I care about. That’s the part of the statement that would be untrue; I would not like to be that far away from those that matter most. I have enough family and friends scattered about the world that I seldom, if ever, get to see. While I might consider relocation from time to time, Alaska would be a bit extreme. We’ll save it for the bucket list of places to visit in the future; I’m not sure I would want to live there. (wink)

But that’s neither here nor there and getting a little off topic: the ER (Emergency Room)…

I do not handle heat well. I never knew how accurate that statement was until two weeks’ ago.

What has become an ordinary day for me started with the usual protest as the alarm went off. I don’t remember if it was a good night of close to 7 hours of sleep, or the more common 6 hour squeak. My body craved more, but I finally dragged my butt out of bed, wincing as the plantars fasciitis worked itself out along the hobble down the hall. Meditation, blogging, some early morning gardening have all gone the way of the Conestoga lately; yoga only sporadically entering into my morning routine. I may have done some yoga that morning; it’s a bit hazy right now…and probably always will be. I do remember running–literally–through the morning feeding/watering routine, yelling at chickens, ducks, goats, etc. to get out from underfoot because I’m running late as usual…and then the now-routine guilt trip that ensued, making me pause at least long enough to scratch a few heads and apologize for my mad-dash through life. The usual hour-long drive into work and also now-routine soaked-to-the-gills-standing-before-the-fire-cooking-in-three-layers-of-period-clothing-in-90+ temperatures followed. Only this time, I kept catching myself as the room spun a little before my eyes. My co-worker, a lovely volunteer named Diane, kept suggesting maybe I should sit down for a minute, drink some water. I did. Frequently. But more visitors would come and I’d be up again. This was the fabric of my day. And has been since this heatwave started. When the day finally ended, though I had been careful to keep drinking water throughout the day, I could definitely feel the effects of heat exhaustion. Another co-worker–this one a junior intern (high school student working at the museum for the summer) hailed me as I walked to the parking lot. I turned to greet this young lady and nearly toppled over; I barely caught myself in time. When I got home, it was blessed relief to feel the AC running. I took my time with evening chores, getting an early jump on feeding so I could get to bed a little earlier. My body needed rest. And I knew it. I’d be okay with a good night’s rest. Really, I would.

After 9 hours of sleep–a luxury for me and usually unheard of–I awoke to the alarm and sat up in bed to shut it off. The room spun completely out of focus. That’s not good. Carefully, I reached over to grab my cellphone and turn off the ever-increasing volume of a mechanical rooster crowing. I sat for a moment to get my bearings, head pounding. Then, hobbling down the hallway again, I found myself holding close to the wall to keep my balance. The stairs were a nightmare; I clutched the banister tightly and went down one step at a time, stopping to be sure my foot was firmly planted with each step. I considered calling into work. Then, stubborn, I persisted in getting ready for the day; I can’t afford another day out. I ate breakfast. The room kept spinning even while I sat to eat. I clutched counters, tables, chairs, whatever was in reach as I fed cats, rabbits and Smoky the Cockatiel. I zigzagged across the barnyard with buckets of water and feed, a different sort of panic entering the surprisingly gentler requests not to get underfoot this morning. I clutched the rooster tractors for support as I fed them. And finally made up my mind that maybe I’d better go to the ER because this dizziness was not going away and this was a bit more than mere heat exhaustion.

When I got back into the house, a whole half hour had passed in what would normally be a 10-15 minute job and I wasn’t even dressed yet. Running late? That would be an understatement. I made the call, pulled a skirt on over the cut-off leggings I wore to bed and got in the car.

Yes, you read that right…

Probably not the brightest decision I’ve ever made…

Don’t try this at home, kids…

When everything spun out of focus at the foot of my driveway while I was looking back and forth to make sure no traffic was coming, I probably should’ve pulled back in and called someone to drive me (an ambulance??). Again, do NOT try this at home, kids. Amazingly, and only by the grace of God, I managed to drive to Day Kimball Hospital all in one piece…and without injury to anyone else. Their parking lot became a bit of a challenge though. I found a space right next to the staircase leading up to the ER doors. Again, I clutched tightly to the banister, this time with two hands and pulled myself up each step. Like the barnyard, I zigzagged across the road that runs between those stairs and the sliding doors of the ER, and hugged the walls to the check-in desk.

Day Kimball Hospital has never moved so fast. There was a wheelchair behind me before I’d even finished telling them I thought I had heat exhaustion. I can also tell you that allowing orderlies to run you down to triage when all the world is spinning crazily before your eyes is a little like when Captain Kirk orders, “Warp speed, Scotty!” Just this blur of lights flashing by and before you. I’m not sure how I managed not to toss my cookies. They hooked me up to an IV and then another when that one finished. In between, they did a CAT scan to make sure I wasn’t having a stroke. At some point they fed me juice and graham crackers. I slept most of the day. I did a lot of praying, too. When I wasn’t sleeping, or praying, I was answering texts from my supervisor, who had messaged me as soon as she got the message I’d left on the call-in line, saying that I was heading to the ER for heat exhaustion. I was also doing a lot of thinking…as much as anyone can when their butt is burning from reclining on one of those wonderful gurneys for 7 hours’ straight (chuckle).

But it’s no laughing matter.

I am lucky.

I am lucky it wasn’t a stroke. I am lucky not to have passed out coming downstairs, feeding livestock, behind the wheel. I am lucky not to have hurt anyone in my travels. I am lucky to be alive.

I lost all of my electrolytes. Though I drank plenty of water, I did not replenish things like potassium and zinc; instead, they were getting flushed and sweated out. A sports’ drink, or Pedialyte, or even some orange juice from time to time would’ve helped. Not having incurred an incredible amount of sleep-deficit and stress would’ve also helped.

Those 7 hours, plus the 5 days’ enforced convalesce that followed, gave me a lot of time to reflect and think…as well as bear the brunt of family and friends’ fury that I didn’t wake, or call, someone to help me. Asking for help from time to time is not a sin passed bearing. It does not make me weak. Or a failure. Or any of the other insults the Adversary whispers through my brain. In those 5 days, and all of the days that have followed, as my body has rested and my equilibrium slowly restored (almost), inside, has been another sort of re-calibration.

“Those that matter most,” climate change and the environment, my homestead and all of the creatures who share it with me, this blog and my writing, herbs and natural health, my faith–these are the denizens of my attention and care. This is what matters most. This is what makes me, me. This is what brings me joy in this life. And I’ve been neglecting all of them…while also being a bear when dealing with all of them, human or humane. This infernal heat has only excerbated the bear-like personality; stress, sleep-deprivation, and living life like an out-of-control robot created this grizzly. Adding to the stress has been the incredible guilt that my reaction to even the simplest pleas for my time and attention has elicited. Changes need to be made. Better care taken of myself so that I can be here to share this life with family, friends, and pets, so I can write those stories, paint those pictures, work this homestead and worship the God of my heart is what needs to be changed. I can no longer keep this breakneck pace–especially in this heat–without serious consequences.

So I am slowly, painstakingly, removing the stress-causing entities in my life while my body still struggles to find that balance again. What matters most? My therapist and I have been working closely on this ever since. I’m learning to say, “no!” to some of the demands on my time that are not necessary. I’m learning that it’s okay if I finish that homework assignment a little late. I’m learning to even say, “no!” to that serpent-like voice that pushes me beyond endurance to be the perfectionist with everything…and snickers more guilt into my consciousness for a day off spent relaxing with a book, or watching a few videos, instead of working outside in the heat. My health is more important. And filling my time with those I love, and doing what I love, will go a long way towards improving that health and well-being.

This “salt” lost her flavor in more ways than one. Though my faith cautions against selfish behavior, in this case, selfishness, in the form of doing what it takes to be healthy again, is necessary.

May God bless you & keep you!

Advertisements

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…

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!