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!

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Taking Heart

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

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

You’re in this alone.

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

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

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

But I’m glad I showed up.

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

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

Or you.

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

May God bless you & keep you!

An Unexpected Gift

“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)

This is actually one of “those” posts again. The cycles of life and death are never more apparent than when working the earth, working close to the seasons, as one does as a farmer or homesteader. I have been eagerly anticipating the birth of a few ducklings as Dixie Duck has been setting some eggs over the last few weeks. She hatched one yesterday morning. I found the tiniest but most perfectly formed duckling lying on the floor outside of the nest. I wanted to weep. After all this time, with Dixie and I both worrying and waiting and, again, eagerly anticipating.

A stillborn.

It is surely one of those “Why?” questions I hope to ask God someday. I know I’m not supposed to question His wisdom, His plans. But seeing such a tiny life that never got the chance was heartbreaking. Moments later, I also said “Goodbye” to Connie, my New Hampshire Red hen. Truly, Connie was only 3 years old and should have been in the prime of her life. She snuggled down in the hay the night before last, tucked her head under her wing as always and simply went to sleep. I suppose I couldn’t have asked for a kinder end. But I wonder what sort of illness or injury might her stoicism been hiding for she exhibited no sign of either. And there were no signs of having skirmished with either a fellow chicken or even the hoof of a goat.

(Miss Connie is in the lower right corner of picture)

I’m going to hold in my heart that she went to care for the little one, Little Duckie, as I christened his/her remains, on his way to eternal rest. So little and cute, he/she needed someone to care for them. And Dixie, being the only female duck on the farm, elected to stay. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Of course, I also said “Goodbye” to a human acquaintance this week, too. A gentleman who used to greet people at church and also serve as an usher was found on March 21st on the floor of his home. He had suffered a coronary; his 86 (I think; give or take) year old father found him. And my heart goes out to him. I worked with Don at the dealership (the father, not the son); we also share the same parish. I can’t imagine the pain of losing one’s child, no matter how old (Stephen was in his early-60’s). To make matters worse, his mother recently broke her hip. My heart, my thoughts and my prayers go out to this family. When I see the loss and the struggles of others, I often wonder what I’m complaining about in my life.

And yet, there were two unexpected gifts during the memorial service for Stephen on Monday. First, the strength and apparent serenity displayed by his mother. Oh, I’m sure inside a storm was raging over the loss of this child she sheltered for 9 months in her womb, raised to be the fine gentlemen so many of us were blessed to know. But the joy on this woman’s face…it was easy to see that the eulogies given by both Father Ben and Father Elson were of great comfort to her. Again, I don’t know what was truly going on inside but, to be able to display such grace outwardly, when all of your world is crashing down around you, is a faith worth striving for.

And, yes, Father Elson. That was the other unexpected gift. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that Father Elson was transferred out of our parish back in November. I had been away from church for some weeks due to a conflict with my work schedule and came back with a shock to realize that Father Elson had left. I tried hard not to mind that Father Ben now stood on the altar. And, in truth, Father Ben is proving to be as much of a blessing as Father Elson. However, my heart broke just a little thinking I had never gotten the chance to say “Goodbye” to him and wish him well on his future endeavors. He gave so much to our parish, breathed so much life into it, that he will be forever missed. So it truly was a blessing to see him standing on the altar again, giving this eulogy. His first words were that he had loved Stephen. You could feel the warmth and gratitude such words meant to all of Stephen’s loved ones as it was apparent that he meant them. Though it was a sad occasion that brought him back to our parish for the day, it was good to see him, to talk with him and, yes, to wish him well as he journeys back to India today. Though he was just getting over the flu, his trademark smile still lit up the church and the altar. In finally saying, “Goodbye” in another way, I realized just how much I have grown to love this young man…as a friend, as a brother in Christ, as a priest and spiritual leader in our community. Father Elson is not the reserved and somewhat distant priest I remember from my childhood. He’s warm and welcoming and as down-to-earth as anyone could wish. Whatever parish that receives him in the future will be truly blessed, indeed. And I give thanks to our Father in Heaven for the many years we were graced with this man…and for the new chapter that is beginning with Father Ben. In all fairness, he seems cut from the same cloth.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Lenten Re-Cap

“The next evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene and Salome and Mary, the mother of James, went out and purchased embalming spices. Early the following morning, just at sunrise, they carried them out to the tomb. On the way they were discussing how they could ever roll aside the huge stone from the entrance. But when they arrived they looked up and saw that the stone–a very heavy one-was already moved away and the entrance was open! So they entered the tomb–and there on the right sat a young man clothed in white. The women were startled, but the angel said, Don’t be so surprised. Aren’t you looking for Jesus, the Nazarene, who was crucified? He isn’t here! He has come back to life! Look, that’s where his body was lying. Now go and give this message to his disciples including Peter.” (Mark 16:1-7)

I made a number of vows on Ash Wednesday (February 14th, Valentine’s Day–a serious celebration of love this year). One of them was that I would avoid social media. Amazingly, my blog posts have also been few and far between, though my blog was not targeted as “social media” when I made the vow. However, I can honestly say I did very well in keeping this vow. I peeked at one message from an aunt of mine as it was obvious it was an actual message rather than a joke or inspirational then politely reminded her that I had given up social media for Lent and she would have to contact me via phone or come visit until Easter. Otherwise, I stayed away from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. What blog posts I did create automatically posted to my FB account when I hit “Publish”; ditto for the Treehugger news stories I shared. Neither required me to visit my social media sites as I have them linked. However, it’s funny. I didn’t really miss them. And I didn’t really miss much on them. I value my social media accounts primarily for keeping in touch with friends and family members who live too far away to make frequent visits between us. I may opt to keep my social media usage to a minimum going forward; less time wasted getting into the political hypes–whatever they may be this week.

I gave up sweets, desserts, etc.

FAILED

Miserably.

Albeit, I did significantly cut back and, the few times I fell off the wagon, so to speak, I made a valiant effort to get back on and keep trying again. But my sweet tooth won out quite a few times. Scary to think how addictive sugar is! (My waistline can certainly testify…)

I would avoid music videos except for 2 hours in the afternoon on my days’ off. That one tanked, too. However, I will add that I stayed predominantly in contemporary Christian and used the time to recharge my spiritual batteries instead. For King and Country’s version of “The Little Drummer Boy” is, in my not-so-humble opinion, so upbeat and uplifting that I don’t care if it is a Christmas carol; it’s worth listening to–and viewing their concert video footage–any time of year. And, no, it doesn’t really justify the broken vow. I’ll simply have to do better next time.

Lastly, I vowed to write 3 pages per day of my adult fiction novel. On this one, I rocked (insert stoked ego here). I have filled two college-ruled spiral-bound notebooks (one subject, approx. 100 pages each) full of scenes for my novel + many pages of a few others. Granted, some of these scenes may never see the light of day outside of their respective notebooks, but I plowed ahead anyway. There were only three nights where I didn’t pick up the notebook to write until bedtime and, on one such occasion, fell asleep mid-stride and two others, crashed before a word was written. Otherwise, I managed to do at least three pages; some days, more. Like many other writers, I am my own worst critic but mission accomplished. And I have every intention of continuing with the momentum. I’m looking forward to the day when I can post here that the first complete draft is, well, completed.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Happy Nowruz!

“If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them, and could speak every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise. If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do? Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love. If I gave everything I have to the poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

It is in learning one another’s language–and culture–that we show our love for one another. It is in learning one another’s language and culture that we lose the fear and distrust that keeps us starving little people on this planet. This article appeared in The New York Times last March. An Iranian friend shared it with me then; I am sharing it with you today. I’m a day late, as usual, as Nowruz was yesterday, the first day of spring. Better late than never. It is a wonderful article, written by Iranian-American author, Firoozeh Dumas. I hope you enjoy it.

May God bless you & keep you!