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!

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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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I Have Been a Coward

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? When evil men come to destroy me, they will stumble and fall! Yes, though a mighty army marches against me, my heart shall know no fear! I am confident that God will save me.” (Psalms 27:1-3)

Back in 2017, especially towards the end of the year, my blog posts had gotten deeper. I no longer was exploring homesteading endeavors only but some of the real issues that I have faced over the years. Sometimes I questioned myself, wondering what these issues, such as alcoholism and abuse, had to do with homesteading. But I continued onward, seeking to find both a voice and a niche in the blogging world. What I eventually came to was that every homestead is different and reflects the individuality of the person/people living and/or working it. And, while this is a homestead–albeit a struggling one these days as I seek to find work to sustain us off the property–it is also a home. And the people that live here are human…with all of the human failings of every individual.

This homestead is the brain child of a 50-something-year-old woman whose father has never wanted any part of her life…and a step-father who wanted too much to do with her, if you take my meaning. It’s the brain child of a child who watched in terror as this same stepfather popped open that first can of many beers until he was raving drunk, breaking everything he could lay hands on, kicking holes in the walls and beloved pets across the floor, screaming like a banshee and generally terrorizing us all. I also saw the opposite side of alcoholism with a grandfather, the same paternal grandfather who instilled my love of writing, who came home inebriated, mildly sat down on the sofa, pulled me onto his knee and spent the rest of the evening reading fairy tales to me…or teaching this 3 year-old granddaughter the finer points of chess. At 8 years’ old, I visited a very yellow-skinned Poppop in the nursing home for the last time. And then was told by, again, the stepfather and my Mom not to cry about his passing because it might upset my maternal grandfather, with whom we were staying, and cause him to have another stroke.

However, before I continue to paint my stepfather in the darkest terms, there’s even a flip side to this raging form of alcoholism. He was endlessly patient when helping me with homework. He praised my writing to the hilt and, before he died, told me in all confidence that I would be a great writer someday and have that bestseller. I sincerely hope he is right. But, even if he isn’t, despite the abuse I endured from this man, it means a lot to me to have such confidence behind me…even as a part of me fears a feeling of failure if I never do write that bestseller.

Such is the mark of abuse: confidence is always subjective at best.

Some of my posts, and one in particular, focused heavily on the effects of alcoholism in a family. It shapes dynamics, creates an atmosphere of fear and distrust even among loved ones, and fosters a lack of communication. There were consequences to speaking your mind.

And I felt them after such posts.

One aunt, in particular, refuses to speak to me after one such post, denying such dynamics exist in our family because, on my mother’s side of the family, the last generation of active alcoholics was my great-grandparents. My post talked about learned behavior that, sadly, can be passed from one generation to the next. That’s why Al-Anon refers to alcoholism as a “family disease” because, in essence, it’s catching…even if you don’t drink.

Then there was the blog post, which has long since been taken down, where I lamented the cruel treatment of an animal where I was working. I came close to being fired, was put on probation, and threatened with litigation. Sure, I should’ve gone through the proper channels and brought the treatment to the attention of my supervisor first. I was so horrified, I didn’t think about it until after I’d calmed down…and after the damage had already been done, so to speak. I don’t negate what I witnessed–and continued to witness–but I stopped writing about it. And floundered some mornings about what to write about at all. After being written up for this infraction, I got reprimanded again for another post that, in all honesty, I never even considered might be offensive. In that post, I lamented being unable to serve at church on Sunday mornings because of the work schedule conflict. It wasn’t meant as a shot against the employer in question but they took it that way.

These hands have been, sadly, quiet over the last year-and-a-half or so. Fear of retribution has made me second guess every word typed. Yes, I know, as a writer, I have a responsibility to be cognizant of people’s feelings. I also know that I am going to piss some people off even without intending to. I know that I cannot please everyone and, maybe, depending on the subject of my post, someone will get angry enough to seek compensation for what they view as a damaging image created by those words. However, while I have no desire to cause pain to anyone, I also know that by remaining silent, sometimes I cause more pain.

To myself.

And, yes, to others, too.

None of the above subjects have anything to do with homesteading directly. Nor do the political or religious issues that sometimes crop up and demand my attention. However, they do have something to do with this homestead. Every homestead is unique. Not just in what that homestead produces, such as fruits and vegetables, herbs, fiber products, honey, etc but in the human force behind it.

What hurdles have those humans had to jump over to get to where they are right now? What hurdles have become road blocks to their success? What issues influence why they are homesteading in the first place? And what issues influence the direction they take?

I started homesteading because I wanted to rescue abused and neglected creatures. I wanted to help those without a voice, as well as remember those beloved pets of my youth whom I was too young and powerless to protect. Later, as I learned more about herbs, a love started by my mother when she cured a tenacious strain of conjunctivitis (pink-eye) with a decoction of spearmint leaves, I wanted to grow my own herbs organically and experience the healing power I’d heard so much of regarding gardening. Then, as commercial food products continue to get recalled and we learn about the harmful chemicals used in growing food on a commercial scale, I wanted to heal myself and my loved ones by growing as much of our food myself as possible. This led to an awareness of how much our planet is hurting due to the toxins in our air, water, soil and bodies. Many of those toxins come from plastic clothing, the synthetic fibers like nylon and microfibers and Spandex, etc that release tiny particles into our waterways every time we throw them in the washer. My brief career in living history was an enduring experience because of the gift of learning how to raise and then process natural fibers–without harm to the animals in question.

No, I can’t save the world. But I can mitigate the harm to our planet by reducing my own abuse of resources…and educating others on ways that they can reduce that carbon footprint as well. And I may not be able to save every animal who hurts or suffers under human abuse, neglect and/or exploitation, but I can mitigate some of that suffering one creature at a time…and, when resources allow, help empower others in the field of animal welfare.

Have I fallen short of the mark in my endeavors? Of course. I am human…with all of the human failings of our species. I can be lazy and undisciplined. I procrastinate. I can be short-sighted. I can also be loving and kind and laser-focused at times. I’m creative and a bit of a Pollyanna–this last can be both a failing and a success, depending upon one’s perspective. I’m also tackling another hurdle right now in trying to save this homestead from certain foreclosure if I don’t find a position, or a means of supplementing the current one, that helps me get caught up on all the back payments due.

I’ve cringed every time I’ve blogged about my financial situation. Shame, which is part of that pride cycle, has filled me even though I know my current situation stems from an unexpected fall and the subsequent injury I sustained in that fall. In many ways, it’s been a blessing. It’s made me stop and realize that, over the years, I have judged others less fortunate harshly. I’ve shared a common belief that somehow this person may have brought their troubles on themselves.

When I ought to know better.

In short, I’ve been a coward about humbling myself to my readers. I’ve allowed a few wrist slaps to influence the direction and reason for this blog. And, while those wrist slappings may curb some overzealous crusades, if I allow them to silence me entirely, I don’t deserve to be a writer at all. While a writer has a responsibility to all of the things I mentioned above, a writer also has a responsibility to share the truth, to be genuine, to lift people up and shed the Light of that truth on as much of the anger and prejudice and sufferings in this world as he or she can.

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