Christianity, Cooking, Creativity, Emergency Preparedness, Environment, Frugality, gardening, Herbs, Homesteading, Lasagna Gardening, No-dig Gardening, Spices, Zero Waste

Hey, Don’t Throw That Away!

“The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.” (Proverbs 21:20)

I have to caution myself. I come a long line preppers, pack rats, and even hoarders. There’s often a thin line between the intentional prepper saving for the apocalypse, the pack rat saving for “a rainy day” and the hyper-attachment to filling up any empty space…just in case. However, one can prep and save…and even hoard some extra ____________ (fill in the blank) without it becoming unhealthy.

Back when I was in my teens, I babysat for a couple who were foster parents. The third floor of their home was filled with children’s clothes. Every size and style; every color and texture. In their situation, it makes sense. They never knew when a new child would come in who might need a few changes.

A fellow musician friend has so many boxes and totes full of “stuff”, it is impossible to navigate from her living room to the bathroom without turning sideways and shuffling through with one’s gut sucked in.

We can go to extremes with everything. If you have the space, like in the first scenario shared above, to set aside for food, clothing, craft supplies, etc. without compromising safety or sanity, by all means. However, though the title of this post is “Hey, Don’t Throw That Away,” please do if you find yourself doing the sideways’ shuffle, or having to move bags of saved “stuff” to find a place to sit down. Such truly can be hazardous to your health (think tripping, falling, bruises, etc.), or a fire hazard, and even a mental health hazard as this overwhelming stash, well, overwhelms one’s senses.

For me, saving “stuff” falls under the heading of frugality. If I don’t have to buy something to accomplish something else, then it’s worth saving…again, within reason.

First on my list? If you’re a baker, do NOT throw away the outer wax papers of your sticks of butter. Place an old Mason jar, a mug, etc. on the door of your refrigerator and, once you’ve unwrapped the butter, place said wrapper into the jar/mug. When you’re ready to bake again and have to grease the pan(s), instead of reaching for new butter, grab a saved wrapper, open it up and wipe it around the pan or muffin tin. Bits of butter still clinging to it, even residual “grease” on the inside of that wrapper, will help to grease your pan while keeping your fingers pretty grease-free. PS You may need more than one; don’t sweat it! It would’ve gone into the trash anyway.

Toilet paper rolls make great compostable seed pots. Cut 1 to 1 and ½ inch slits along one end of the roll; fold sections inward to make the bottom. Fill with potting soil and place in a plastic, or metal, tray. You can plant them right into the garden without having to remove the seedling at all. (However, you may want to tear off the folded bottom to allow the roots to spread out; toss the bottom into the compost pile when done). They work much like the peat pots we see in the store…except your pocketbook doesn’t get any lighter and they’re much easier on the environment than peat harvesting.

Buying glass storage containers can be expensive…and the plastic/rubber lids often don’t hold up. Glass jars, especially those with wider mouths, whether we’re talking canning jars, or pickle jars from the grocery store, etc., are great for storing leftovers in the fridge. Rather than tossing them out, wash both the jar and lid well and tuck them into a top shelf, out of the way. You will have to ladle the contents into a sauce pan, or a microwave-safe dish, to re-heat but, it’s worth it to save both money and the environment. Besides leftovers, I use Mason jars for storing dried herbs and spices, for tincturing herbs, for making my own body oils. They can be used to sprout seeds. You can also fill them with water and use them to root plants or as a cheap vase for cut flowers; they’re pretty versatile.

If you have a woodstove or fireplace, newspaper rolled into knots is a great fire starter. You can use it in the garden (minus the shiny advertisements). Make sure it’s not a windy day when you do this but, you can layer pages of newspaper over a particularly grassy, or weedy, area and pile compost and/or topsoil on top to smother the weeds. You can plant directly into this. You can also use cardboard boxes. The cardboard actually fixes nitrogen in your soil (go to YouTube, Charles Dowding, No Dig Gardening). Newspaper can also be a folksy way of wrapping gifts, especially if you save the comics, or any puzzles, for this. People get a kick out of it. And, lastly, and again, provided you omit the shiny advertisements, it makes a great lining for bird cages for catching any droppings. You can compost the whole thing when you clean the cage.

Last on the list is plastic yogurt cups. While not as eco-friendly as the toilet paper rolls, they are roughly the same size and shape as seed starting containers sold in stores for exorbitant rates. These cannot be “planted” or composted later on but, they can be re-used for several seasons. Just poke a few drainage holes in the bottoms with a tack, or small nail, and wash them carefully after each use. Most stack neatly together and can be tucked away out of sight, out of season.

Eh, we all like to save a few bucks here and there. What are some of the ways you up-cycle what might have been another person’s trash?

May God bless you & keep you!

Christianity, compost, Emergency Preparedness, Exhaustion, Frugality, gardening, Gratitude, Herbs, Homesteading, Humanity First, Lasagna Gardening, No-dig Gardening, Organic, Plants, Potted Plants, Self-improvement, YouTube

Growing Hope

“There is a right time for everything: A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant; a time to harvest.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

A reprieve from academia last week led to a whirlwind of activity here on The Herbal Hare Homestead. We have been inundated with rain and eggs. The former has led to overgrown grass, lots of mud and weeds. The latter, a never-ending query of where are we going to put them? Grocery shopping suddenly brought on a flurry of angst as cartons of eggs lined first one shelf, then another, and moved into the top shelf. Worse, the frugal fanatic here started cringing about the potential waste.

Not wanting to profit during a pandemic when millions of people are out of work and struggling, I hesitated about advertising them. However, the desire not to waste food won out. I posted a message on Facebook that I had them, free of charge, as some of them had been sitting in the fridge a few weeks. 13 dozen went in a few hours’ time. I spent the early part of last week driving around northeastern Connecticut, meeting friends and strangers alike, in parking lots, masked and gloved, or setting a carton or two on the lawn, or a doorstep, to maintain that 6 feet apart. A trip to the grocery store revealed that eggs are actually scarce right now. Who knew? I have back-orders for more. If you can find them, eggs are being sold at what I can only describe as price-gauging rates. Here I was worried about taking advantage of people by profiting from them.

Amazingly, though they were free, most offered some compensation at least for my gas. I appreciate it greatly! I also appreciate that my girls are still laying quite prolifically and I will be making another delivery run tomorrow to fill some of those back-orders.

Today my back is reminding me that I’m not 25 anymore. Or even 35.

I spent most of the last two days in the garden, turning compost; clipping back the blackberries that were moving out of their own bed and invading the patch of Columbines surrounding the birdbath; clipping back the semi-invasive Japanese Knotweed, and the highly-invasive Bittersweet. I weeded several beds, did a happy dance to see the blueberry bush I planted a couple of years’ ago finally growing, and checked on the rhubarb, which is almost ready for harvest. I doubt we’ll get a large enough crop of strawberries to make a strawberry rhubarb pie straight out of the garden this first time harvesting the rhubarb, but we’re on our way. The strawberry plants are at least growing…as are the raspberries.

My herb beds are in need of some serious work. I’m going to have to advertise for more cardboard to cover the grass that keeps spreading everywhere (YouTube: Charles Dowding, No Dig Gardening). However, my chives are looking good and I’ll be drying some before the week is over. I may also plant more chives as we go through them a lot. Whatever chives I can harvest never seem to last more than a month’s time.

All of this rumination is simply my way of growing hope. Because that’s what a garden is: it’s a sign of hope. It’s a way of sowing continuity, of a belief in tomorrow. I have lettuces and cucumbers ready for planting; seeds to sow for more lettuces and dark, leafy greens. The tomato plants will go in next week, after the danger of any frost is over for this gardening zone. And I’m looking at the overgrown herb beds and contemplating what to add, what to transplant, what to divide. I’m looking at all of the plans I have for this little patch of land here in CT and a smile is spreading across my face. It feels good to get my hands dirty…and I’m looking forward to the fall, when the fruits of this labor fill the freezer and line the cupboard shelves. More, there’s an even deeper hope that this garden, along with these grass-stained hands, aching back and equally aching knees, will provide a surplus that I can share with others.

If you garden, I would be delighted if you would share what you have planted/planned for your future harvest.

May God bless you & keep you!

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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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Gratitude for Community

“Is there any such thing as Christians cheering each other up? Do you love me enough to want to help me? Does it mean anything to you that we are brothers in the Lord, sharing the same Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic at all? Then make me truly happy by loving each other and agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, working together with one heart and mind and purpose” (Philippians 2:1-2)

I’m feeling so grateful today. My church community is helping out with my situation and words cannot describe how grateful I am. There’s been an onslaught of emotions: hope, joy, relief…and, yes, even a little shame and embarrassment. The last vestiges of an attempt to hang onto pride…or maybe the adversary’s feeble attempts to keep pride’s hold on me.

But Jesus will always be stronger. God’s got this. So, take that, adversary!

There’s something to be said for community. Maybe that is the lesson He wants me to learn (above and beyond the pride thing…).

I’ve always dreamed of living like a hermit in the woods, the whole “Walden” thing. My dream home is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature, and living like it’s still the 19th century. Maybe there’s something to it. Solitude and simplicity are needed for a healthy life balance, but without fellowship with others, what’s the point? And even Henry David Thoreau wrote about visitors to his little cabin in the woods. We need both. If I can hang on to this place, or if He wants me to sock this money away for a potential move, either way, I want my homestead to be a welcoming place: for family gatherings; for friends sitting around a campfire at night; for prayer meetings; for knitting, sewing, quilting circles; for clients to have their treatments; for hosting classes about herbs, 19th century skills, and no-dig gardening…and even a refuge for those caught in the eye of their own personal storms.

I’ve blogged before about how I crave solitude like flowers crave the sun and rain. And it’s true. I’m the classic introvert. Too many people, too often, and I start to feel a little sick at heart. I retreat inward. Not because I’m anti-social, but because that’s how it is for an introvert. For an introvert, too much social time quickly becomes overwhelming. We enjoy time with our loved ones, and even strangers, but the introvert greatly needs that balance between solitude and socialization to keep recharging.

However, over the last decade, I’ve taken solitude to a whole new level. Some of it has been the 2 years of unemployment, followed by 8 years of severe underemployment. When socializing equals an event that requires an entrance fee, I’ve often had to reconsider. Some of it though–most of it–has been the depression that often comes with that same unemployment/underemployment. Due to a lack of steady and adequate funds, the house, the grounds, even myself, have started looking neglected. There’s also a lot of emotional baggage attached from the last “romantic” relationship I was in, that was anything but romantic, that has had me drawing the curtains tight and shutting out the world.

And, boy, does the adversary feed on that!

In many ways, though I’m not living in the middle of nowhere, I’ve allowed myself to become almost as isolated as if I was living in the middle of nowhere. And isolation is defeating. The neglect becomes indifference becomes more depression becomes more neglect becomes more indifference…until the effort to dig yourself out of this vicious cycle becomes so overwhelming, you don’t know where to turn, where to start. That’s where the hopelessness sets in.

And loneliness.

Despair.

Even bitterness.

Thank God, literally, for the fellowship He’s blessed me with! It started with certain friends and co-workers reaching out with a helping hand over the last several months. This time, it was a church member who saw my Go Fund Me campaign and brought it to the attention of our priest. And, truly, though the financial help is a blessing and appreciated, the true blessing is knowing how many people out there care enough to help. I’m overwhelmed…but in a good way.

I’ve been sitting back here, feeling sorry for myself, indulging the adversary with my “cares” and “woes” and getting nowhere in life. Today I’m feeling hope for the first time in a very long time. Yes, there’s still a risk of losing the homestead. I still missed the deadline for the second installment on the modification trial period and I don’t know where that leaves me. However, I’m that much closer to meeting the back payments owed. Or to engaging an attorney who can help me get back on track again. It’s help to tide us over until I’m working again…or to help us start over on a new homestead. I’m leaving it in His hands to decide, praying for His guidance regarding the best course of action.

Our God truly is an awesome God. Thank you! To everyone who has been moved to help, to share, to pass along the information. I don’t feel quite so alone anymore. And that’s the greatest blessing of all.

I hope everyone reading this is as blessed with community as I am.

May God bless you & keep you!

gofundme.com/9fymzf-medical-leave

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Down and Out

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27)

I want to believe those words. I want to believe His grace is sufficient for this particular trial. I want to believe that He has something special planned at the end of it all.

But, today, I’m down and out for the count.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll find the way to bounce back up again. I hope so. Right now the fear and anguish in my soul is almost more than I can bear. Proof that there’s still fight left in me that I can feel such emotions, such protest, but, if I’m meant to go through this, if there’s something He means for me to learn that I didn’t learn the first time around, there’s a part of me even fighting that.

So much for laying it at the cross. But what other choice do I have? All of my efforts have gotten me nowhere. But where do I go from here? What does He want me to do? To go?

Losing the house, the land, I can bear. It’s potentially having to re-home the animals if I cannot find a farm where I might board them until I get on my feet again…and, of course, for a fee that I can manage in my current situation. My heart is breaking at the thought. And, at the moment, I’m not feeling God’s love. I’m feeling His anger. I’m feeling the punitive “father” that reflects the neglect of my biological father and the abuse of my stepfather. “Father” for me has always implied mistrust. Is He trying to heal this once and for all? Or is this going to cement it once and for all in my heart that the word “father” is equivalent to a dirty swear word?

No, I don’t hate men, and certainly not fathers. There are good ones in the world. I’ve just never known that love…at least not without personal cost. And you’re never too old to need that love–His love.

Right now, I really need a healthy dose of it. And as many prayers as I can get.

May God bless you & keep you!

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-156707024092-4fb3fb58787b443d&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

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Laying Everything at the Cross

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterwards; and now He sits in the place of honor by the throne of God” (Hebrews 2:12)

After Saturday’s widely-publicized meltdown, I went outside and attacked the giant multi-flora rosebush climbing over the back fence. And “attacked” is definitely a good word for it.

I pruned ruthlessly.

It pruned me of blood just as ruthlessly.

I look like I’ve just narrowly escaped a particularly nasty cat fight but I can now walk under the multi-flora rosebush without losing even more blood…and a thorny branch’s worth of hair. This particular stretch of fence line has been a problem “child” as the ducks and chickens know I can’t get underneath the rose bush to check the fencing. Now I can. I found an almost-duck-sized gap in a low spot underneath; I shoved an old cage in front of it for now and will find something more permanent going forward.

I also found several bird’s nests in the upper reaches of the bush…and delighted in them. I should probably add that this bush has been allowed to climb up and over the 6 foot chain-link fence. Despite its invasive nature, I allow it to stay as it does provide shelter for the birds, shade for my chickens and ducks in summer, and beauty for all of us when it blooms. And my goats had a feast on the leaves I pruned off (Really guys? There’s THORNS!!). It simply needed a good trim to keep it manageable.

Somewhere along the way I lost the anger and angst that so overwhelmed me earlier that morning.

Maybe it was finding those bird’s nests in the bush. Maybe it was watching the new ducklings exploring the world outside of the pen they and their Mama have been in since they hatched for the first time; they’re finally big enough that I don’t have to worry about them slipping through the gate jamb or even the chain-links(!). Maybe it was marveling over the goats’ delight at the new “treat” awaiting them with each cut of the loppers…thorns and all. Maybe it was retrieving a few dozen eggs from the nests and watching Miss Opal, one of my Buff Orpington chickens, streaking across the yard, squawking loudly, in celebration of those eggs. Either way, I found myself laughing often, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, and the warm company of my beloved pets. Such a sense of peace settled over me. It was bittersweet, in light of my current situation but this is home.

And I’m not losing it.

It may not be this particular plot of land in the end but the farm and I will survive, together, intact, some way, somehow.

I may sound determined. I may also sound unrealistic and delusional. But I’m not giving up.

I bought this property with a husband, now an ex-husband. Two incomes can handle it; one income will always struggle…unless I can find a way to pull in enough income to equal what two could do. Maybe that’s out there somewhere. Or maybe He’s giving me a much-needed shove to look elsewhere. If this was where I was meant to be, I’d be thriving.

Or maybe He’s telling me I need to learn how to thrive wherever I am, however I am.

Either way, God has this. He knows where I am, what’s happening in my life, in my heart, in my thoughts. God has a plan. There’s a reason He’s brought me around full circle to this place of uncertainty and fear. I don’t know what it is. And I haven’t stopped being scared shitless. But I’m surrendering my will to His. He’s brought me to this place one more time; I’m trusting Him to carry me through it.

May God bless you & keep you!

PS I would also be delighted, and ever in your debt, if you would share the Go Fund Me campaign link below in your blog, your social media sites, etc. The wider I cast my net, the greater chances for that miracle I’m so in need of. 😉

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-156682970061-1e1042ab1d164daa&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

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When All Hope Seems Lost

“I waited patiently for God to help me; then He listened and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God” (Psalms 40:1-3)

I have one week to come up with $989 for the next mortgage payment or the homestead goes into foreclosure. The current job has cut me back to 12 hours’ per week; the previous job wouldn’t have kept me up-to-date either. I had an interview for a position yesterday. It’s another part-time position, but one that I can work while continuing at the greenhouse…provided they don’t decide I’m seasonal and I lose even the 12 hours in the coming weeks. I start training for the new position on September 16th; I don’t get paid until after training. Then the money is decent and will, hopefully, keep us afloat. But it’ll be too late for the homestead…unless the mortgage company is willing to negotiate another modification.

I’m not sure they will.

And, yes, I’ve read “The Secret”. I know about manifestation. Maybe there’s something to it. Maybe it’s “Pshaw!”. Maybe there’s too much angst in my heart for the basic principles of “The Secret” to work. Either way, I’ve also read the Bible numerous times. I know what my faith tells me I should be feeling, thinking, doing.

And I’m coming up empty.

Maybe He has something bigger in mind for me down the road. I hope so. Maybe this new something will be the dream homestead: off-grid; enough acres to grow my own hay; room for more goats to start my brush clearing business; a greenhouse for growing food and spices, such as turmeric, cardamom, ginger and others, year-round for sale. Maybe the new something will provide room enough that I can provide a forever home for animals that have been abused and/or neglected. Maybe the new something will allow me to plant an extensive herb garden that I can teach from…and a backyard habitat to help mitigate the destruction modern-day progress has made of the natural world.

You see, when I’m down and out, I escape into my fantasies (or a book…and endless YouTube videos (sigh)).

I keep thinking, if I could only get back on my feet again, I would be unstoppable. But I’m drowning in debt and doubt and fear and futility.

Yes, futility.

I feel like all of the efforts I have made in the last 5 years to improve my credit rating, to pay down the debt, to build up the homestead to be a working endeavor have been in vain. Granted, the latter has been half-hearted out of fear that any efforts I make might also be futile if I eventually lose the property. The result has been over-grown and overwhelm. I keep spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. I don’t know what to do. I keep asking Him to take the reins, to drive this train wreck of a life, because I have no more fight left to put it back on track again.

I’m down.

I’m broken.

I’m done. Stick a fork in me.

And, underneath it all, I’m scared shitless. I thought I was done with this 5 years’ ago. How the hell, why the hell have I come around this full circle?

And, yes, I’m almost done with the woe-is-me-feel-sorry-for-me pity-party. I’m not so sure about the intermittent crying jag that’s running interference in the background. And I can’t promise there won’t be an F-bomb lacing this post further along…I’ll try to refrain.

I’m asking, but from where I’m standing, the answer seems cruel.

I’m seeking but I’m not finding.

I’m knocking but the door’s not opening.

And, most importantly, I’m angry. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t ask to fall. I didn’t ask to fracture my shoulder. I didn’t ask to be jerked around by the previous company regarding the necessary time out to heal. I didn’t ask to be backed into a corner so that I was forced to resign…even if, in many ways, it was a blessing in disguise. Despite this desperate situation.

What’s that expression? When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I’m just not sure in which direction…except He’s asking me, I think, to go through this. Again.

I’ve been paralyzed by indecision over the years. Even after I righted the mortgage (or so I thought), I continued to waver. I’ve wanted to relocate. But I’ve got a lot of years in this house. Sure, it’s rundown and needs a ton of work, but it’s home. I have friends and family close by…even if they seldom call or come to visit. I have a church community that I’ve been active in and that I love. I’m close to the current job, even if it is part-time. I have a vet that I also love, who has been kind and caring and has given great care to my animals over the years. This is my world.

It’s familiar.

It’s comfortable.

And I’m not 25 anymore. I am the poster “child” for proof that the older you get, the harder it is to change, to uproot and leave everything beloved and familiar.

Again, He’s asking me (I think) to step out of my comfort zone and trust Him. Really trust Him.

I have trust issues even on a human scale.

So where do I go from here?

The song, “What If I Gave Everything” by Casting Crowns is running a steady monologue in my head. What if I did give everything? What if, despite this seemingly impossible situation, I poured my whole self into building the homestead of my dreams…wherever it lands? Or even if it winds up staying where it is? To hell with the toe in the water. What if I plunged in right here, right now? What if I stopped waiting for the perfect conditions to be that “unstoppable”? And, more importantly, what if I stopped trying to reason everything out with my limited human understanding?

Maybe the only thing really stopping me is, well, me. Somebody, please, push me out of my own way (heavy sigh).

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Casting Crowns (2016). “What If I Gave Everything.” The Very Next Thing. Beach Street Records.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave