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An Answered Prayer

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

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

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

That happened Friday.

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

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

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

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

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

And my world just stopped.

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

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

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

She did.

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

Heavy sigh.

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

Christianity, Emergency Preparedness, gardening, Healing, Herbs, History, Holistic Health, Homesteading, illness, Nature, Plants

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.

19th century, Alcoholism, Christianity, Climate Change, Cooking, Creativity, Culture, Emergency Preparedness, Exhaustion, Frugality, Gratitude, Healing, Herbs, History, Holistic Health, Homesteading, illness, Minimalism, Nostalgia, Open-mindedness, Organic, Spices, Spinning, Straw Braiding, Weaving, Wool

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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A Plea for the Anti-Anti-Vaxxers

“The wise are promoted to honor, but fools are promoted to shame!” (Proverbs 3:35)

I’m struggling here. I know the whole vaccine thing is a heated debate. However, I’m a little disturbed by some of the stories I’m hearing about the upcoming Covid-19 vaccine potentially being mandatory. They may just be “stories” but

Hell, NO!

I am even more concerned about the abuse heaped upon those of us who choose not to get vaccines. We’re labeled selfish, insensitive, arrogant. I’ve even heard of people being physically accosted for their stand.

Yes, I understand the need to protect against another future pandemic. I understand that, in most cases, vaccines save lives. And I’m not necessarily an “anti-vaxxer” in the usual sense. I mean, I was vaccinated as a child against polio and small pox, and a host of other diseases, just like everyone else. If I had children, they would have gotten those vaccines just like every other kid. And, though there’s some controversy about the potential side effects of these childhood vaccinations, none of those side effects is death. These diseases kill…as does Covid-19, in some cases.

However, back in 2015, I had a bad reaction to a tetanus vaccine. I spiked 105 degrees, wound up back in the ER…and spent the next two weeks in a constant state of panic that I was going to die. The headaches that made it so I couldn’t even open my eyes; the serious brain “fog” that has never entirely left me; the constant fever surges, and the uncontrollable shivers that shook me, even as I burrowed under multiple quilts in 90+ degree temperatures, were terrifying. My doc believes that I had a reaction to either a preservative, or a carrier, not the tetanus vaccine itself as this was not my first tetanus.

But how can I be sure?

My doc also said that the next time will potentially be worse…and that those same preservatives/carriers are used for most vaccines, including flu, pneumonia, and shingles. Again, there is no way of knowing for sure. So I now wear one of those medical bracelets. Inside is a little card that says, “No TDP/TDAP, No Vaccines!” because the next time, I may not be merely terrified about dying. I am not a human guinea pig. And nobody else should be either…unless they choose to take the risk that they will be okay with any new vaccine.

You see, it’s all about choice. And that’s what a free society is all about.

No, I do not wish to harm anyone in any intentional way. I do not wish to spread this virus further. I wear a mask and gloves out in public; I wash my hands thoroughly. I clean door knobs and steering wheels, etc. with Clorox wipes. I’m staying home except for necessary trips to the grocery store, the feed store, etc.

But I’m not getting a vaccine. For me, it would be the equivalent of playing Russian roulette. And I’m not much of a gambler.

I recognize the fear; I truly do. We have this invisible enemy that we should all be working to defeat…and yet, we’re attacking each other instead.

Perhaps because our fellow human beings are more tangible than a virus.

Again, I’m not really an anti-vaxxer. I’ve had vaccines and, with the exception of that “bad” tetanus 5 years’ ago, there’s been no harm done…and I’ve avoided deadly diseases. I am certainly not telling anyone not to get the vaccine once it is available.

However, for all of the people who get in someone’s face and start ranting and raving, and even threatening someone, for not getting a vaccine–whatever that vaccine may be, or their reasons for not getting it–please stop and put yourself in their shoes for a moment. If you’re reading this, please consider that maybe this person has had a similar reaction as the one I shared here today and they fear more for their life with the vaccine than without it. Maybe they’re not being selfish at all.

May God bless you & keep you!

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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!

Alcoholism, gardening, Healing, Herbs, Holistic Health, Homesteading, illness, Nature, Organic, Plants, Recipes, Self-improvement

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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Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

“There are ‘friends’ who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

I had one of the most heartening experiences yesterday morning.

Mom and I rarely get visitors here even when there isn’t a pandemic. Though we live in Connecticut, we are transplanted Rhode Islanders. And Rhode Islanders are a rare breed. Because you can literally drive from one end of the state to the other in, roughly, an hour’s time, anything more is the equivalent to living on the moon. Mom and I being, roughly, that hour away from most family members, live all the way “out there”. So, you can imagine my surprise when I heard a knock on the door around 8 a.m. during a pandemic.

Sadly, I didn’t answer. I was still in my pj’s, on my way to take a bath, and Mom was still in bed. I also didn’t immediately recognize the truck parked behind my car (single female).

So I waited.

And then felt a moment’s perplexity (as well as a twinge of guilt) when I finally did recognize the woman walking back from my mailbox in the pouring rain: the owner of my local feed store. By the time I could throw my Wellingtons on and a jacket, she was gone. She left a note in my mailbox. As I hadn’t been into the store in a while, she was concerned and checking to make sure Mom and I were okay. I called her back to reassure her.

I know it sounds like a little thing but, especially in this pandemic when everyone is afraid of reaching out, that someone would make such an effort warmed my heart. She didn’t have to stop; in fact, she could have put herself at serious risk if either Mom and/or I hadn’t been feeling okay. However, her concern was stronger than caution. She told me when I called that she had actually had someone post on their website that we might be in need of help. However, I hadn’t been in because I did a little panic shopping for hay and feed a few weeks’ back. Not hoarding, just giving myself a little bit of a buffer until this thing passes. Apparently, people have noticed the fewer visits than normal and some, like my neighbor from the store, cared enough to check.

We may be quarantined, distancing ourselves, but we humans were not meant to be islands unto ourselves. We are a community. And never does that community rise with warmth and intention more than when we face a crisis such as this one.

Take that, Covid-19.

May God bless you & keep you!

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A Break from Coronavirus and Wednesday’s Weed Walk

“Now the report of [Jesus’] power spread even faster and vast crowds came to hear Him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But He often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” (Luke 5: 15-16)

The last few days the introvert went into a sort of hibernation from, well, this enforced hibernation. Too much information, too much “in-your-face” news coverage–both accurate and inaccurate–regarding this coronavirus pandemic. And, of course, our media, our government, etc. has set out on a course to make it all political. It became sickening.

So I took a break.

For the last two days I’ve been working on some more character development for my book, fleshed out a potential short story, and submerged myself in one of the novels that I checked out two weeks’ ago to tide me over during this hibernation…and now I’m wishing I’d checked out the whole series because it was good and I’d like to continue on (Angie Sage’s Magyk, 2005, Harper Collins, Young Adult). I got back on the yoga mat (I’ve been seriously lax), the exercise bike, the inversion table and I’ve started meditating. I’ve also been paying more attention to my spiritual life, praying the rosary for the victims of this pandemic…which is all of us one way or the other…and praying for true leadership, for divine guidance for our leaders, when we need it the most. It’s been a grounding experience and I’m feeling better mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

I turned on YouTube this morning to catch up…and was pleasantly surprised that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert appears to be back up and running to some degree. A little laughter over the first cup of tea of the day can never be amiss. There was an added chuckle as Miss Goldie, one of my Buff Orpington hens, put her two cents’ worth in from time to time from her cage in the kitchen.

Miss Goldie has been acting rather lethargic lately. That’s really the only “symptom” I’ve had that there might be anything “wrong” so I’ve been checking on her a little more often and contemplating separating her from the rest of the flock, maybe even a call to the vet. It is not unusual for chickens, because they scratch and peck in the dirt, the compost pile, the barn floor, etc., I even had one pick some undigested matter from a dog turd many years’ back (Ewww) when they were allowed to free-range a little farther afield, to also pick up a parasite. Or develop some sort of intestinal worm.

However, I should have separated Goldie a little sooner.

I found Miss Goldie curled up on the floor of the barn the night before last, her head and beak a bloody mess. After the initial gut punch as I assumed the very worst, I reached to pick her up and she turned her head and chirped at me. The wounds were still running freely so I had obviously just interrupted what would have been curtains for Goldie if I hadn’t walked into the barn when I did. Chickens are notorious for pecking to death any of their flock who is sick, or weak, in some way. Though it has yet to happen to me, I know other farmers/homesteaders who have found an indistinguishable bloody pulp in the barnyard. I didn’t think Goldie had reached such a place but, apparently, I was wrong. I can only be grateful that things had not progressed to that level of cannibalism (yes, that’s exactly what they resort to when they sense a sick, or weakened, flock-mate; they turn into sharks. Incited by the scent of drawn blood, they will often keep going until there’s nothing left of the sick one).

Fortunately, there was more blood than wound once I cleaned her up. She wasn’t sure about sitting in my lap but she bore my ministrations and, after I got the bleeding stopped, I gently dabbed the wounds with my “bunny” salve. This is equal parts of comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and plantain (Plantago spp.). I use a double boiler, add the dried leaves, cover them completely with olive oil, and a lid, and brew it on low heat for 20 minutes (do NOT bring to a boil). It is then strained and, in this case, because I want a creamier consistency, I only put 1/2 to 3/4 squared of beeswax into the 4 oz. container I just strained the oil into and stir until the wax dissolves (please do NOT use your best utensils/pans for stirring beeswax…and NEVER try to wash them in your sink or dishwasher but take hot water outside and scrub/dissolve away the beeswax over a patch of dirt; you will never unstop your sink, or the lines in your dishwasher again…). And, as you can see from the pictures below, the plantain is NOT the banana-like fruit found in most major grocery stores. This is that little patch of “weed” or “crab” grass that we choke out with all manner of harmful herbicides (PS Please reconsider…even if you’re not an herbalist; many pollinators visit those long, spindly “flowers” reaching up in the middle).

COMFREY (Symphytum officinale)

PLANTAIN (Plantago major)

Anyway, after cleaning Goldie up, I also found an eyedropper and popped open a jar of strained spinach, zucchini and peas (I always keep jars of baby food on hand for such emergencies) and hand-fed her. Then I placed her in the cage with a bowl of water, and another bowl of chicken feed with some birdseed mixed in to try and tempt her to eat on her own, and a clove of garlic minced up to kill any parasites that may have started the whole issue. Yesterday, I repeated said process and actually picked up a piece of the minced garlic, opened her beak, dropped it in and then chased it down with more of the spinach mix.

My biggest concern has been her right eye. It was swollen shut when I found her, and for all of yesterday. However, in addition to eating on her own last night/early this morning, both eyes are now open. So there is hope. And I am grateful that Miss Goldie does not seem to have lost her sight by this ordeal…even if she does still resemble Rocky Balboa a little bit…in chicken form, of course.

As Goldie, hopefully, continues to heal…and get pleasantly spoiled with all the hand-feeding and handling…I’m going to keep hoping that our nation continues to heal as well. Though I’m not 100% sure how accurate each source is, it appears there is finally a flattening of the curve, as they say, in the spread of this coronavirus. This is not a license to become complacent, or to relax our vigil, in controlling the spread of Covid-19…anymore than this marked improvement in Goldie’s condition is a license for me to become lax in continuing her treatments. As signs of improvement continue to show, this is actually the time to be even more vigilant.

Stay safe.

Stay home, if you can.

Wash your hands frequently…as well as door knobs, steering wheels, etc. anything that might have some of those Covid-19 germs on it.

Keep the world in your prayers; He’s got this…He truly does.

May God bless you & keep you!

The FDA has not evaluated these statements. The information contained is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseases.

REFERENCES

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) (n.d.). Yahoo Image Search. Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=A0geKIwEuYReREsA1yZXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybzY4bXJpBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjk4NDdfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=comfrey&fr=mcafee#id=8&iurl=https%3A%2F%2F2.bp.blogspot.com%2F-PIuJY1clecU%2FUBepNQAveYI%2FAAAAAAAAAcg%2FzTF_atb-HmE%2Fs1600%2Fcomfrey.jpg&action=click

Plantain (Plantago major) (n.d.). Yahoo Image Search. Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrJ6yvduYRe.NwAmChXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybzY4bXJpBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjk4NDdfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=plantago+major&fr=mcafee#id=24&iurl=https%3A%2F%2Fi.ytimg.com%2Fvi%2FOntYFofcDMM%2Fmaxresdefault.jpg&action=click