Animals, Climate Change, Cooking, Creativity, Culture, ecosystems, Environment, Family, Frugality, gardening, Global Warming, Healing, Holidays, Holistic Health, Homesteading, Minimalism, Nature, Self-improvement, Zero Waste

A Sustainable Saturday – Keeping the Plastic Out of our Oceans and Streams

“O God, have pity, for I am trusting you! I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until this storm is past. I will cry to the God of heaven who does such wonders for me” (Psalms 57:1-2).

As Thanksgiving Day just passed here in the U.S., we now enter the delectable week of leftover meals of turkey and ham sandwiches (if you consume meat, of course), and re-heated potatoes, stuffing, squash, turnip, sweet potato and green bean casserole. We always make too much, wanting to have extra for that unexpected guest…or simply to have those leftover dishes for quick and easy meals over the next few days. We’ll do likewise for the coming holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or another holiday, there will likely be at least one other family gathering to share a special meal together…and this, too, will likely produce another mountain of leftovers.

And another mountain of plastic waste heading to our oceans and streams.

Plastic wrap and single-use containers often get displayed in supermarket flyers right along with the sales on stuffing mixes, cranberry sauce and turkey. For convenience sake, we buy them in large quantities the same day we go shopping for food for said gatherings. The reasoning is that folks can use them to take home those leftovers. They’ll keep everything fresh and clean, and nobody has to worry about returning a host’s favorite bowl or platter.

But what happens after we get those containers home?

As I’m a frugal fanatic, those leftovers usually get eaten. By Monday, Mom and I will probably be sick of stuffing and squash. Or my chickens and ducks will have had a feast of their own on whatever we don’t eat (minus any leftover meat that Mom does not consume). However, no matter how careful we are, sometimes containers of food get forgotten in the back of the fridge. A few weeks from now, we may find a container whose fuzzy, green appearance gives not the slightest hint as to what it once contained in life. I hope not, as I am cognizant of the fact that food waste in our landfills actually exceeds our plastic waste (14% versus 12% of plastic waste (Cunningham & Cunningham, 2015, pp. 476-477)), but it does happen from time to time. Either way, eventually, there will be wads of cling wrap and/or plastic containers entering recycle bins and trash receptacles across the U.S.A.

The former raises an “ah ha!” moment in many. If you are recycling it, what’s the big deal? However, some forms of plastic cannot be recycled, especially if there are layers of materials involved, such as in paper cups designed for both hot and cold beverages. And, as many of these containers and wrappings have been used to store food, even with careful rinsing, the aromas cling. If not carefully contained at the curb, they may get invaded by wildlife who scatter it everywhere in their search for something to eat. Gusts of wind, either from nature or passing traffic, may tip over a receptacle and/or blow lighter materials about. And, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t bother to properly rinse your recyclables, once they get to the recycling plant, the Zero Sort machine kicks them out and into a waiting garbage truck to be sent to the landfill. All is not perfect in the world of recycling. (Google The Pacific Garbage Gyre to find out where a lot of our plastic waste eventually ends up)

I have fallen far short of my goals of Zero Waste this year. As always, part of it stems from other family members not being on board with it, part of it my own inability in disciplining myself in whatever new behavior I’m hoping to adopt. I’ve wasted a lot of time talking, explaining, telling people about plastic waste…only to hear the response that everyone else does it so it doesn’t make a difference.

But every effort we make, makes a difference. It may be a small one, but we’re telling the world that it matters. The lives of sea creatures and birds and possums and raccoons…and countless other species of life matter. Our own health and well-being matter…because what so-called lesser creatures consume, we also consume.

So this year, knowing I cannot control the amount of plastic waste my family produces simply by telling, I decided to lead by example.

I always have tons of canning jars around the house from preserving whatever I produce in the garden. So I packed up several of the wide-mouth quart jars in a reusable shopping bag and toted them to my aunt’s house. When the meal was over, and my aunt was asking everyone if they wanted to take some of the leftovers home so they didn’t go to waste, I ran out to my car and grabbed the bag of canning jars. Though she offered the use of some of the plastic and/or aluminum plates she’d purchased for this express purpose, I politely thanked her, then told her I’d rather use the canning jars. I then filled the jars with what she’d offered. She watched me and then admitted it was a good idea because it was cheaper than buying the plastic wrap and single-use containers, which have gotten expensive.

No, it’s not exactly the reason behind my bringing the canning jars, but ecology and economy go hand-in-hand. The less we spend on things we don’t really need, the less we send to the landfills. This is true for pretty much everything. And, even if we can’t get everyone on board about plastic waste for the sake of our planet, saving everyone a few pennies can be an incentive. The end result will be the same: less waste overall.

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Cunningham, William P. and Cunningham, Mary Ann. Environmental Science: A Global Concern, Thirteenth Edition. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education, 2015.

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Summer Rayne Oakes and the Chicken Skirt

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but when dreams come true at last, there is life and joy” (Proverbs 13:12)

Okay. So the Proverb I quoted above is misleading. I can’t exactly say it was a “dream come true” to meet Summer Rayne Oakes of Plant One on Me fame, but I will confess to feeling giddy in the days and weeks leading up to her visit at Logee’s Greenhouse two weeks’ ago (yes, I am a bit behind…). Though I am not on the regular schedule at the greenhouse anymore, I still make myself available for busy seasons and special events, of which Summer Rayne’s visit was a bit of both. The anticipation of her visit, being with friends again, and being surrounded by beautiful plants really didn’t seem like work at all. It was good to be back, if only for the day, and fun to meet a fellow plant and chicken enthusiast.

Yes, chickens.

For those of you who have never visited Summer Rayne’s YouTube channel, Plant One on Me, Summer Rayne shares her New York apartment with a chicken named Kippee. And it was Kippee’s seemingly miraculous adaptation to apartment dwelling that really caught my interest with Summer Rayne.

How does she do this???

I raise chickens. And I have had the occasional convalescing chicken in a cage in the kitchen from time to time where I can more adequately care for them while they heal. I’ve also penned the whole flock of them, along with ducks and goats, in my laundry room/rabbit room during a snowstorm. However, I can’t imagine letting any of them free-range the house.

Like Kippee.

Obviously, that was one of my first questions for Summer Rayne…and I made sure to wear my infamous quilted chicken skirt to help spark that early rapport. How on earth did she house-break Kippee? Is she house-broken? It appears not 100% but one chicken alone is not so overwhelming to clean up after regarding an errant “accident” along the way. Kippee even sleeps on a roost over her human’s bed…with a hammock underneath, just in case.

All I can think of is this ROCKS! I mean, totally ROCKS!

No, I’m not planning to roost 22 chickens indoors now. Ditto for the 7 ducks and 3 goats…though the latter have figured out how to open the backdoor if Mom & I don’t latch it properly. But I like how warm and comforting her abode looks on YouTube, with so much beautiful greenery and a chicken gently clucking away at her side. During the aforementioned snowstorm, I confess it was rather comforting to have my many “children” so close at hand. It’s, like, the ultimate of bringing nature indoors with you. And the word I’ve been searching for is harmony. Again, with my crew, it’s simply not feasible for the long-term, but it tickles me pink nonetheless. (No, I’m not your average bear…)

Oh…and as for the chicken skirt?

Long before my ill-fated sojourn into living history, I have always had an affinity for long skirts and dresses. Like my honorary mentor, Tasha Tudor, I am convinced I once lived in the 19th century. And, like Tasha, I hope that my brand of heaven has me wearing those long skirts and dresses, and spinning wool on a great wheel to make yarn. It’s a goal for this life, to be sure. And, many years ago, I took some steps to make that dream a little more of a reality by slitting the inseams of my trousers and jeans and searching fabric stores for the funkiest, wackiest fabrics to fill the triangles between those ripped-out inseams. I love the modesty of long, full skirts and high necklines…but I also like to have fun. I like my clothing to be fun.

So, without further ado, here I am with Summer Rayne, having received her autograph inside her most recent book, How to Make a Plant Love You, in my chicken skirt, though the skirt is rather cut off; will have to take a picture of it and upload for a future post (sorry!) (And, yes, I really do need to lose those extra 40 lbs….after seeing this picture, I am so on it!).

May God bless you & keep you!

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Frugal Fridays – Leaves of Life

“And he pointed out to me a river of pure Water of Life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb, coursing down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew Trees of Life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month; the leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations” (The Revelation 22:1-2)

The artist in me revels in the fiery splendor of autumn in New England. This year’s display is particularly vivid and beautiful, made even more lovely by a visit from my brother, sister-in-law, and nieces. The colors simply shout and sing from their branches…and coast down along jets of autumn breezes. It’s tough not to wax poetic at this time of year.

Of course, there’s also the obligatory clean up of those fallen leaves. I confess to being a big kid. I love the crunch and crinkle of leaves under foot, the smoky-tangy aroma they give off when trod upon. I’ve even been known to jump into that pile of leaves a time or two. And, if you share your home with goats, I dare you not to succumb into a full-belly laugh as they jump about, catching those leaves on their fall, and munching contentedly the spoils of their harvest.

I save a couple of bags of dry leaves for my goats. It’s great fodder for them in the wintertime when everything green is dormant beneath the ground. And there’s a renewed warmth in watching their almost-human expressions are sheer bliss when you break open a bag in February when the snow is inches thick on the ground.

Another good use is as compost. Leave mold is extremely beneficial to your garden. It helps build soil fertility by adding nitrogen to your soil. It also helps as a mulch to retain moisture and provides a home for earthworms and other beneficial lifeforms in the soil. There are multiple methods for creating a good leaf mold compost. The easiest is to create a frame using a few stakes and surrounding those stakes with chicken wire, or old wire fencing (if you don’t have the chicken wire), to create a square, or circular, “bin”. (PS Chicken wire is pretty inexpensive and can be used for other crafts later on…even if you don’t have chickens). You’re looking for something that will provide lots of airflow while keeping those leaves contained…so you don’t have to rake them up again. You simply pile them into the wire “bin”, keep them moist (not soaking wet), and turn the pile often with a rake to help speed up the decomposition. Generally, it takes between 6-12 months to make a good leaf mold for the garden. You can also fill lawn and leaf bags, moisten the leaves, tie the bags closed, then poke holes in the plastic to allow airflow. Place the bags somewhere in the shade and give the bag an occasional shake. Every couple of months, moisten the leaves again and shake. Before long, you’ll have an awesome amendment for your garden.

Here’s to healthy soil…and happy, healthy goats (if you have them)!

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.

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Please Forward to as Many as Possible

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God bless you & keep you!

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Longings

“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)

Nope. No enemies that I know of, though I could be mistaken. And, despite the financial destitution I find myself in at the moment, I’m neither hungry nor thirsty–at least not physically. However, I am hungry in other ways.

I have a favorite quote by Anais Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

That’s where I am in life…and have been for some time now.

You see, I like that false sense of security. You know the one. It’s a “security” in having some clue about the outcome of something, not stepping out in faith. It’s a “security” in commonsense dictates. It’s a “security” in following the status quo, a status quo that assumes debt is normal…even if it does hurt. It’s a “security” in that college degree, that 9-to-5, that happily-ever-after marriage with 2.3 kids and a white picket fence costing a fortune to keep and maintain. In striving towards the goals of this “security”, I’ve had two marriages fail without any children ever being a part of the equation and have struggled for 15 years now to pay a mortgage that two people once struggled to pay. (And before anyone asks, it is a fixer-upper; it’s been on the market before with barely a glance). I’ve had the big 9-to-5 corporate job…and had it shipped overseas where the company didn’t have to pay benefits and the minimum wage is much, much lower (if there even is such a thing as minimum wage in these other places…). Even the present position, in light of last January’s fall and subsequent injury, isn’t entirely secure owing to my inability to actually “work”. Kudos! because my employer has been wonderful in regard, though I cringe at how short-handed they must be in early spring with a horticultural lead missing in action. As for the college degree, well, I won’t graduate until October 2020…with a mountain of more debt. And how many college students find even a supplemental income in their chosen field? (Yeah, sometimes I question the wisdom in signing up, too, but I’m determined to see it through…).

I’ve been putting my faith, my “security”, in the wrong things. Though that may be how life has been set up for most of us, though that may be the “normal” in our modern society, we are not cookie cutters of each other. Part of what makes life interesting is diversity. Yes, we all need a place to live and a means to pay our way through life that doesn’t burden others over long (eh, we all need a helping hand once in a while; it’s called community), but, in the end, this is not what carries us through. For me, I have my 9F philosophy: faith, family, friends, farm, fiction, flora and fauna, fiber and frugality. The first three are pretty straight-forward. “Farm” refers to the myriad creatures who share this life with me. “Fiction” is my writing (though I write both fiction and non-fiction). “Flora” and “Fauna” are the herbs, veggies, fruits and flowers that I love to plant and cultivate, harvest and preserve. “Fiber” is spinning and weaving. And “frugality” is a minimalist lifestyle that uses the least amount of resources to sustain. It’s what’s most important in my life, what matters most. For others, it may be entirely different.

My deepest longing is to live completely off-grid. I work at a 1830’s museum; I would love to live that way. Yes, I know I am typing away on a modern computer. That would be one of few concessions to modernity if my dream homestead ever becomes a reality: there would be at least a few solar panels to power the laptop, the wi-fi unit, and charge the cellphone. During harvest season, I might use it for operating the food dehydrator. And maybe a small refrigerator but even that’s negotiable. I dream of growing and preserving my own food, spinning my own yarn, weaving my own cloth, sewing my own clothes, using a bicycle, or shanks’ pony (legs), for most of my journeys, and making my own herbal remedies (albeit, I do a lot of this already on a smaller scale). My dream homestead has a rainwater catchment system that is gravity fed into the house; no well-pumps or water softeners. It has a graywater reclamation system. My dream homestead has a couple of galvanized tubs with a wringer attached to the side and an old scrub board for washing clothes. My dream homestead has a clothesline for drying those clothes. I even dream of a composting toilet. I’m looking at the lowest impact possible to our earth. I’m looking at a return to a back-to-basics’ lifestyle that is, in my honest opinion, way more healthier than our modern way of, well, existing.

At this point, I’m can’t see exactly how I’m going to accomplish all of this; I’m putting it in His hands. And, looking at today’s scriptural quote, there will certainly be the “enemies” dreaming of conquering me: the naysayers who think I’m either crazy or simply tell me I “can’t” have all that I dream of. To them I say, it truly is “to no avail” because this is the dream He has placed upon my heart since I was a very young girl and I cannot ignore it anymore. If that means a few sacrifices, then so be it. Because it has become more painful to “remain tight in a bud” than to “blossom” and grow. I am a free spirit; always have been. This cookie cutter way of life has never fit, like a too-small shoe that pinches and blisters the soul, rather than the feet. For now, healing and getting back to work is the main priority but my dream homestead is just looming over the horizon. It’s time to walk by faith, not by sight.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Fear Overwhelms

“Trust in the Lord and sincerely worship Him; think of all the tremendous things He has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24)

Things have been at sixes and sevens here at The Herbal Hare Homestead. Not only is foreclosure eminent if I can’t find a way to pay $5K by May 1st, while still out of work due to a fractured shoulder, but my beloved Pearl decided to revert back to her childhood last Thursday, winding up in critical condition at the vet hospital. Snuggling in my lap while I attempted to complete a homework assignment (college student), she suddenly jumped down and, moments later, I heard her chomping on what sounded like a piece of plastic. I reached down to grab her and she ran out of my office like her non-existent pants were on fire. In reflection, I probably shouldn’t have asked, “What have you got?” as I reached down but how was I to know? Anyway, not seeing any toothy plastic on the floor, or anywhere nearby, I followed her downstairs. By the time I reached her again, her mouth was free and clear of any foreign object and there was no way to ascertain, at that point, if she had, indeed, swallowed the object, or dropped it in her flight. A short while later, she started vomiting bloody, watery stuff. As it was evening, I had to wait until the next morning to call the vet and, by that time, she was hunching over as if in pain. Fortunately, I got her in that same day and, after a couple of x-rays, showed that, yes, she had ingested some plastic (still no idea from what…) but had also chewed it up into a mushy mass that was actually moving okay through her system. The doc kept her overnight and administered two enemas. By morning she had passed a good amount, though a small amount still showed in her gut (albeit further along her digestive tract).

Pearl is home now and appears to be doing better. She has a gel laxative that I have to give her once a day for the next few days and a special high-fiber food to keep things moving but she is eating and drinking, using the cat pan and seems to be perking up. But my heart has been lodged somewhere in my throat while also somehow settling in the bottom of my stomach ever since she started gnawing on the offensive material.

I try not to have favorites. I love all of the animals that share this homestead with me like the children I never had. But, no matter how even-handed and minded you try to be, there’s always that one that carves a very special place in your heart. Pearl is that kitty. She’s my eternal shadow, waiting for me to come home each night, eager for bedtime, office time, anytime she can spend in my lap, by my side, at my feet–wherever she finds most comfortable for the moment. A sane part of me tries to remember she’s 15 years old but love has no logic. She could live another 15 years and it would never be enough. Of course, this is true for all of my loved ones, human or humane, but the fear I felt in that moment that this might be the last time knocked me to my knees–both in prayer but also in anguish and agony. When she finally came home on Saturday, you would think I would do the happy dance–and I did–after I blubbered copiously with relief.

As for the vet bill? I am blessed with a compassionate vet who, mercifully, didn’t charge for 2 out of 3 x-rays and nixed any overnight fee so my bill was blessedly low.

All of this fear and anxiety though has got me thinking about how much the adversary uses such things to try to break our relationship with God. The adversary doesn’t understand, because, like Voldemort of the Harry Potter series, he doesn’t understand love, that for a believer, such adversity, fear, anxiety and every other mean and negative thing actually draws us closer to God. Instead of the paralyzing fear I’ve been experiencing since my own accident, worrying about paying bills, the mortgage, etc., I decided to trust God that this was His plan. That Pearl had to go through this crisis. He used it to jolt me out of my debilitating apathy and depression. I have since renewed my commitment to fight for what matters most in life and to never give up. He’s calling me to commit, and to trust Him with the outcome.

This morning a peace settled over my heart. I decided that, while I hope to avoid the foreclosure, I am also accepting that He may have something else in mind, something, or some place, better in mind. That maybe, just maybe, He’s looking to bless me and my family with something greater than we could ever imagine. Of course, maybe not. But you know what? This morning I let go of the outcome. I trust His will, His plan. Whatever it is, He will make it manifest. All I have to do is trust Him.

He’s left me no choice. And He showed me with Pearl that He is in control, that He hears our prayers, He knows our hearts, and whether He takes us out of the storm, or rides it with us, He is always here.

I’m letting go.

Finally.

He broke me.

And it’s the most wonderful feeling…

…no, the threat of losing Pearl was not a wonderful feeling but the surrender, the peace, that He brought to my heart in that surrender, and the renewed sense of faith and commitment are wonderful.

And, no, had I lost her, while I would be sorely grieving for awhile, I would still be trusting in God. I cling to Him like the Rock He is. Because that is what He wants me to do. He is in control. And, though this financial storm still swirls around me, He is definitely riding it with me…

…just as He rides the storms in your hearts and lives, too.

May God bless you & keep you!

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