Closing the Loop

“Then the Lord planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and He placed there the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” (Genesis 2:8-9)

I feel like I’m back where I belong–in an environmental science class and feeling that “fueled” feeling that grips me every time I am in such a class. Though a part of me is also feeling a little burnt out lately between school, commute and farm, and the same ol’ financial struggles, another part of me is contemplating going for my masters in environmental science…something to discuss with guidance counselors and financial advisers. It will be well worth it.

I’ve also been contemplating some changes to this blog. Nothing major, just a more stream-lined focus. I’ve been a little all over the place. What started out as just another homesteading blog, has really evolved into so much more, but it is truly a reflection of its author–it has Scatter Syndrome. Scatter Syndrome is what happens when you try to focus on too many things all at once and, consequently, accomplish little. So I’ve been sitting back and evaluating what is most important to me and where do I truly wish to focus that energy. Since my passion seems to be held with environmental issues, it seems a worthy start.

As for the passage of Scripture I opened with, we have eaten of the tree of knowledge. We should know better than the wasteful course we’ve been on. The natural world is a perfect, closed loop system. God/Source made it so that all things in nature balance. It is only when Mankind tries to manipulate nature, when we over-consume, when we add things that should not be in nature, that everything goes out of whack. And Gaia is letting us know with the increase of higher category hurricanes and tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes. Yes, Mother Earth has means to right herself; these natural disasters are part of how she re-calibrates. The severity of these natural disasters should be clue enough that we’re over-taxing her beyond her limits.

The following link is to a YouTube video that was required viewing for my new class. It is definitely thought-provoking. I hope you enjoy it…may God bless you & keep you!

PS It is good to be back at the keyboard again…

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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!

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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Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it…Really?

“Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, make me whiter than snow”. (Psalm 51:9)

With last week’s nor’easter dumping over 14 inches on northeastern Connecticut, everyone in this part of the country should be almost virginal…or else we’re the bad apples of the country and in great need of that purification. (Chuckle)

And forgive my cynicism. In truth, there is none in my heart. Even about the snow. I am one of those weirdos who actually LOVES snow. I don’t mind a bit sloughing through 14 inches to get to the barn. And, as this was a light, fluffy snow, it was easy to shovel us out and about. However, it did chase away the gardening bug. A little over a week ago, I had been contemplating getting the garden beds prepped. Two nor’easters in as many weeks have put that activity on a back burner; ditto for the pruning of apple and crabapple trees–mainly because getting to them is a bit of a challenge at the moment. What little snow is left has turned to ice by morning, and slippery slush by afternoon.

This is mid-March. When I look back at just a decade or two ago, sure, winter extended into March but it didn’t start in late-February, early-March, as more recent winters have done. More, though it has only been a week, those 14 inches have melted down to about 2 inches; snow when I was a kid (granted, that’s like a few centuries ago) lasted weeks on end. I’m used to seeing snow in early-February, January, even December. Despite the 14 inches that fell outside my window last week, this is actual proof of climate change. It’s kind of scary; we need this sort of snowfall all winter long to replenish our waterways. Without it, we’re in danger of future droughts–not unlike that which California has been experiencing in recent years.

And, yes, I hear all of the climate change naysayers coming out of the woodwork. How is this “actual proof of climate change?” Warm air is forced to rise over cold air. Though the warmer temps are enough to melt some of our polar ice caps, as cooler air rises from that melted ice, it meets that warmer air, forms clouds, which then result in either snow or rain (Kitchen, 2016, p. 91). In this case, we got snow. And, judging only by a storm like this, we’re judging by weather, not by climate. “Weather is what we experience on a day-to-day basis. One day can be hot and dry and the next cool and wet. Climate can be related to the statistical probability that any day during the year will be similar to the same day the previous or following years” (Kitchen, 2016, p. 4). In other words, the earlier start of winter that many of us remember from as short a time ago as a decade, versus the late appearance of snow that has been happening for a few years now, is evidence of a change in our climate. The climate, our earth, is warming up. It should be in a cooling trend based upon the earth’s natural cycling. Oftentimes, we look at the weather, which is cold and/or snowy, and think how can this be “global warming”? I think, at times, this is a misnomer. It makes the whole subject confusing, and often scary, for any but the most seasoned meteorologist. The term “global warming” applies to the climate but weather may often be very different and seem at odds with the climate. A lot of it has to do with jet streams and how that melt off travels via those jet streams.

This may seem a strange subject for a Christian minister to tackle. I know plenty of others in the Christian community who fall into denial based upon biblical promises that God will never again destroy the earth as He did in the great flood (Genesis 8:20-22). Am I doubting this promise? No. And climate change advocates are not denying this promise. Even after Noah’s time there are famines and floods described in the Bible (i.e. Matthew 7:24-25; Revelation 12:15-17), just not to the magnitude of covering (and destroying) the whole earth. As Christians, we often lament that God doesn’t appear to talk to us as clearly and directly as He did Noah and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But maybe He is. Maybe all of these changes, all of the freak storms and natural disasters that keep hitting us in intensity and frequency are His way of telling us we’re not using His resources in a responsible manner so that there will be enough for later generations. If not God, Gaia is surely speaking. She’s gagging and gasping for an air that doesn’t sting and burn and destroy her.

I am reminded of the Parable of the Three Servants in Matthew 25:14-30 where a man goes away and leaves each of his three servants a certain amount of money. The first two invest their keepings and double the money; the third, distrusting, digs a hole to keep it “safe” and only gives back what he was given. He is chastised for this. And the money he kept safe, taken and distributed to the first two men. We are given currency in the form of the air we breathe, the soil we grow our food in and build our homes upon, the water we drink, cook and clean with. Instead of keeping it all in clean and healthy growth, as the first two servants did with the loaned money, we’re burying it all in carbon emissions, chemical fertilizers and plastic waste. We call it progress. But how is it progress when the only thing that grows in these conditions are more cancers, respiratory ailments and greater poverty? How is it progress when there is a perpetual increase in species’ extinctions on a day-to-day basis? Yes, Man is given dominion over the earth. But we are abusing that authority.

So, what can we do? What can we do as average, blue–or even white–collar workers? Some of these suggestions may seem like a drop in the bucket but, if each of us takes a few baby steps to reduce our waste, our energy usage, that drop can become a flood of a different sort. Got a leaky faucet? If you have to save to have it fixed, save.
And then get it fixed. You’ll save water. You’ll save energy if that water is also warm rather than cold. You’ll save even more on your electric bill if you have a well with a pump that’s kicking on every couple of hours to replenish your tank. I sheared $25.00 off of my electric bill each month by having a leaky kitchen faucet fixed so there’s a win-win situation. Get rid of the lawn; it’s useless. This is the U.S. It will never look as pristine as the old English manor house because our climate (there’s that word again) is different than England’s. The only way to get “pristine” in the U.S. is to use chemicals. And you’re part of the problem if you’re doing so. Plant low-maintenance plants that don’t require a lot of watering instead. Better yet, plant some fruits, veggies, herbs. And grow them without the Miracle Grow and Round-Up. Create a backyard habitat for birds, amphibians and other wildlife. If you bake, consolidate your baking and do it all in one day as homemakers of old did, putting everything in the oven at the same time. This saves energy. And money. And, if all of this sounds more like thrifty homemaking advice, that’s because the two go hand-in-hand. If you can walk to the grocery store, walk. Get one of those little shopping carts in which to carry your purchases home. In the U.S. we have the freedom to vote. Use that freedom to vote for those who want to preserve life in all its forms: animal life, plant life, insect life. Human life…regardless of socioeconomic standing, skin color, orientation, country of origin or religious beliefs. Vote for those who will invest in better infrastructure so that walking, bicycling and public transit become safer alternatives. Google Amsterdam + bicycles and see what this great city is doing. Don’t trust politicians? I don’t necessarily blame you. The U.S. government seems to be heavily influenced by the oil cartels, big pharma and pesticide/fertilizer giants who don’t give a damn if you or I live or breathe as long as they get their 7+ figure bonuses each year. They can afford to buy a new oceanfront McMansion in Ohio; the honeybees and future generations of children can’t survive their chemical pollution. They can also afford the expense of trucking in what produce they can grow without honey bees from northern Canada. And, once that part of the earth is exhausted, well, they won’t be here to care…nor do they seem to care that their children and grandchildren will have to live with those consequences.

Yes, I’m hitting hard. I’ve had enough. I do trust God to provide for our needs. But I also feel that we should be taking better care of what He has given us. Because our resources are not infinite. And there is a price being paid that will only get bigger as time goes on unless we take some real steps to try and turn this around. I don’t want to start over again on Mars, creating another big waste dump out of what was once a beautiful planet. I love earth. And, what started as an itty bitty blog post about a recent snowstorm has turned into a full-blown tidal wave on climate change. But it’s important. Because life is important. And we’re destroying life on this planet. One species at a time.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Kitchen, D. (2016). Global Climate Change: Turning Knowledge into Action. New York, NY: Routledge Publishing.

Not by Bread Alone

“He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

The power of music. It truly is a bit of manna for the soul. I’ll try not to be redundant but, yes, another blog post about my love affair with music. It’s simply that I’m itching to pick up the six-string again and, somehow, such endeavors always seem to get relegated to that “Someday” list. Ditto for the Appalachian dulcimer; I can’t remember the last time I played that. And then, of course, is the list of instruments I’m planning to learn “someday”: bowed psaltery, hammered dulcimer, Celtic harp, Nickelharpa, Hurdy-Gurdy, fiddle. I don’t want to wait until I’m retired. The way things are going I might be well into my 90’s before I can afford to do so. (Yes, there’s still a bit of Bad Luck Schlepp-Rock lurking around…)

And, why, yes, I do have a thing for stringed instruments! =)

The latest homestead dilemma has left me more frazzled than I care to admit…enough so that the Irritable Bowel Syndrome just kicked into overdrive and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is threatening to down me, too. I can’t afford either. There’s work to be done to get this homestead back right side up financially.

Paradoxically, He’s also giving me a little nudge to slow down, take it easy, even just for a moment. And music helps to make that happen. I tuned into Pandora radio on my iPhone on the way to work Saturday morning and listened to some Contemporary Christian for the hour drive. The nerves that have been dangling on tenterhooks suddenly mellowed out and I found myself singing along with Casting Crowns, For King and Country, Francesca Battistelli. The good mood carried me into the museum and stayed with me while I made preparations for a boiled dinner on the hearth. Even after I had turned Pandora off and tucked the cellphone away in the pocket of my 19th century flannel work dress, I found myself still singing, not caring if anyone heard (which might not be appreciated by the powers-that-be; these weren’t period correct songs). One of the volunteers came in and she, too, started singing. Different songs but we had a grand old time peeling vegetables and stoking fires while the songs flowed. I tuned into Pandora on Sunday morning’s commute, too.

I have visions of something similar here at the homestead. My dream is to eventually host Saturday night potlucks where everyone who plays an instrument brings it along and we sit around after dinner playing and singing by the fire. Of course, if I’m going to host something musical, I need to dust off the instruments and re-learn to play them. It’s been too long. And, even if this homestead is again at risk of being lost (at least the actual property), such a dream is not so far-fetched.

Only finding the time to put in the practice. (I really do need a 28-hour day.)

Time is a precious commodity these days. It feels like I have to make an appointment with myself just to find the time for the most basic endeavors…like shaving my legs and armpits. But, before anyone thinks I’m running around here in rural Connecticut looking like the hairy wildebeest, think again. ‘Tis only a metaphor.

Relax.

Breathe.

Phew! Glad we nipped that one in the bud.

Back to our regularly scheduled program: music. I’m missing the late nights of sitting alone with the guitar wailing away. Far more powerful than listening to the radio, or a CD, my own hands (or lips) creating that flow of emotion takes me out of myself and helps me to focus in on Him a little better. Suddenly, there is no one and nothing else in the room with me…except maybe the errant feline, or canine (when I had canines), sharing the moment with He and I. I can’t say that the music I’m playing is necessarily Christian, but it often does have an almost-spiritual quality to it…at least on the benefits to my soul, in helping me to relax. And let go. Just that.

Come to me and I will give you rest. We hear that over and again in the Bible. I can’t help thinking that maybe He’s giving me a nudge to find that rest again with my instruments. Maybe it’s time to check something else off of that “someday” list; I’ve been neglecting it for too long. The money I need to get right side up again will come. Or it won’t. But either way, He’s got my back. I have to trust that. And, in the meantime, I have to let go and let Him work the miracles He has in mind. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

May God bless you & keep you!

Heart’s Desire

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” (Ephesians, 2:8-10)

I am struggling to put words to the page this morning. I gave up social media for Lent, not my blog; I don’t consider them the same thing. The idea was to give myself a little more time for writing. And, for the most part, it has worked. I’ve been able to put those 3 pages of my book together each night and I’m starting to see some real progress. That pushes me forward. And yet, the enemy of my soul keeps tempting me with those little pop-ups that say, “You’ve been tagged in a photo, a video, a post on Facebook by so-and-so.” What photo, video or post??? Inquiring minds want to know. And what further proof of how addicting social media really is!

I am determined not to break my Lenten vows this year.

No, it won’t make a difference in my salvation (please read the bit of Scripture at the start of this blog post). But it is a vow made to God. It’s like when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane and some of his apostles, who were supposed to be keeping watch, fell asleep. I don’t want to fall asleep on this watch.

And so, I carry on.

However, the enemy certainly has some persuasive arguments. Like, it’s okay if I peek at that message as long as I don’t proceed to read the feed on my Facebook page, or someone else’s Facebook page.

Nope. Not working.

I’m still resisting…even if the temptation’s still there.

Ditto for the 3 pages of book each night. Last night was a push after spending 8 hours working on my final paper for class. The night before I actually fell asleep a few times over my notebook. I don’t have the time I used to have at the dealership so I have to squeak my book, blog posts and even quality time with the animals here on the homestead in around a 2 hour daily commute.

But still, I carry on.

I’ve been good about the music videos, too. In fact, I haven’t watched even one since the Lenten season started. I do miss that. As most of the bands I watch on YouTube are contemporary Christian, listening and watching their videos can be a nice little pick-me-up at the end of the week. The saving grace–no pun intended–is that I’m not getting so immersed in them that I neglect everything else.

Like writing.

Or homesteading.

My two heart’s desires.

Of course, for someone whose religion doesn’t follow any Lenten obligations, it may sound as if through these Lenten vows I’m still hoping to earn my way to salvation.

Nope.

If that were the case, we’d all be doomed. Lenten vows are often like New Year’s Resolutions; they keep for a week or two and then, as the struggle becomes too great, we often allow them to fall by the wayside. However, it is a good means of incorporating more awareness of Him in our daily lives. And that’s the best habit we can cultivate of all.

By the way, I have broken my vow to abstain from sweets: I had a frozen yogurt frappe on the way home from work the other day (complete with a single-serve plastic-lidded container and a straw; bad me!) and I couldn’t resist the free maple popcorn being offered for grabs at work. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying to resist future sweets; one can always readjust and reaffirm one’s resolve.

However, the measure of this broken vow may not necessarily be on the scale of one’s faith, or dedication to one’s vows, but on the scale of a different sort. Talk about your addictions.

May God bless you & keep you!

Thou Shalt Not Steal

“Surely I, the Lord, do not change, nor do you cease to be sons of Jacob. Since the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes, and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. Yet you say, “How must we return?” Dare a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! And you say, “How do we rob you?” In tithes and offerings! You are indeed accursed, for you, the whole nation, rob me. Bring the whole tithe to the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me in this, says the Lord of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?” (Malachi 3:6-11)

When you’re economically-challenged, tithing often presents a quandary–especially when your trust levels, whether for man, woman, or even God, are minimal at best. No, that isn’t to say that I don’t trust God, per se. It’s that I seldom trust that I am worthy enough of His love, His grace, His mercy. However, the above passage of Scripture says “nor do you cease to be sons of Jacob”; it does not say something like, “that is, all of you except Lisa”. I could take this literally, as I would be a daughter, not a son, but that’s neither here nor there. The truth is, He loves us and He will never cease to provide for us.

Why doesn’t this truth ever truly settle into my heart? I spend half my life feeling as though I have to earn His love, His grace, and His mercy–something none of us can ever do; it is already freely given–and falling short of the mark every time.

It’s a bit of that proverbial beating-one’s-head-into-a-brick-wall scenario.

I am economically-challenged. Though I work full-time now, I’m still standing on, well, not a mountain of debt; I’m actually quite frugal, but what little I have amassed is still looming. And, of course, I’m looking further down that track and seeing “student loan” ready to broadside me in a couple of years. (Yes, I do tend to be a worry wart..) The full-time gig is relatively new, only since August. Before then, it was 2 years of unemployment followed by 5 years of seasonal and/or part-time gigs. It’s going to take some time to re-coup. And that chronic worry wart keeps expecting a ton of bricks to rain down or the bottom to drop out from under me.

I’m not worthy of “getting back on my feet”.

This is the voice I hear in my head each week. And then this bit of logic: I’m putting money in the tithe basket every Sunday and then going to the food pantry to eat on Tuesday. Isn’t that sort of like stealing from God? Suddenly, that 10% looks enormous…even though I might readily pay the same amount out for something frivolous. Yes, I’ve definitely fallen off the celebrated tightwad bandwagon of late, grown weary of the struggle to a point where some small voice says, “I don’t care anymore!”

Definitely the work of the enemy of our soul.

So, I posed this convoluted stinking-thinking about tithing to my pastor and the above passage is what he gave me to think on. It’s rather eye-opening. And re-affirming as regards our obedience to God. So I’m thinking I’ll do just that: try Him.

Besides, He’s only asking for 10%; we get to keep the other 90%.

May God bless you & keep you!