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Another Chapter

“A merry doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick” (Proverbs 17:22)

I turned 54 the Friday before Thanksgiving. I started my day with a cuppa tea and a steady stream of Weird Al Yankovic videos from YouTube.

Odd.

No, I wasn’t jonesing because, as I grow ever deeper into my 50s, I cannot help but grow more aware of things like aging and mortality………

Okay.

Maybe just a little.

But who couldn’t use a little humor on their birthday?

And, if I’m really being honest, I’ve always had a “thing” for Weird Al. He’s my brand of sexy. And, as he was a bachelor for quite a number of years, well, he’s not now, but hope bloomed steady in this heart for those numbers of years (chuckle). As if…

Sigh.

No, I’m not jonesing that he’s been a seemingly happily married man for some time now. I wish he and the Mrs. many more happy years. If I had to analyze my musical choices on the birthday, I would say, if any jonesing, it was the trip down memory lane that many of his videos evoked: Donny Osmond, Florence Henderson, Michael Jackson…so many of the icons of my youth grace his videos, or inspired them. So much so that the real jonesing flourished alongside the chuckles over his cleverly written, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

Damn. I’m getting old.

Eventually I turned off the TV and headed upstairs to spend some much-needed time with my characters. And there I stayed, hacking out another chapter in the literary desert, praying that with God’s grace, this book will be one of many. Perhaps someday another individual will read a few chapters on their 54th birthday and feel some of the same emotions as I did watching Weird Al’s videos: hope, humor, awe, humility, nostalgia, and yes, even some low-key depression.

In the meantime, I have continued to ponder life. I’ve been looking back over the years. Seeing all that I’ve done, all that I’ve accomplished…at least in terms of academics. It’s time to put to use the college degree, the myriad certifications, and live the life of my dreams. There is no room in the heart of the faithful for fear. And I’ve allowed it to take root and stay.

Time to clean house.

Looks like my birthday spent with Weird Al had a bit of a cathartic effect, too. Here’s to another 54 years, give or take, and a merry heart finally ready to follow the path that God has been nudging me towards before it’s too late.

What dreams are you holding in your heart but too afraid to follow? Time to clean house and give the adversary the boot.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Running the Gamut

“He shall judge between many peoples and impose terms on strong and distant nations; they beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. Every man shall sit under his own vine or under his own fig tree, undisturbed; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:3-4)

Looking at the number of weeks since my last post, I am appalled that I have allowed this latest legal “drama” to derail me from everything else in my life. And that’s literally what has been happening. I have run the gamut of emotions: anger, outrage, sorrow. I feel betrayed by my local government who refuses to honor the work I did in 2009. I feel betrayed by the zoning attorney who may have given me some bad advice, which I acted upon, and who has set the bar (no pun intended) for any further interaction with another zoning attorney going forward. And yet, should I lay down and let this new neighbor walk all over me, force me out of my home entirely?

Of course, there are still the financial issues to deal with. I’m behind over a year. In order to turn this mortgage thing around, I would need to magically find at least $25,000 to get out of hock and, at this point, if I did magically find it, I would likely use it as a down payment in a more farm-friendly community. Why throw money away if there’s no certainty that I will win my case against this new neighbor?

So, to that end, I’ve looked at a site called Billy Land that has mixed reviews and may take longer than I have to finalize any deals. I’m keeping it on a back burner but it’s not my first choice of options. I’ve been looking into buying just land, with Mom and I considering boon-docking in a second-hand RV until we can afford to build a home. Not every town will allow it but, again, our focus has been unincorporated townships where there aren’t any zoning regulations. Maine still has a few of these and I’m sure there are others. Owner-financing is another possibility. We would need a decent down-payment so I’m focusing on saving as much as I can towards that end. But it’s a harrowing ride.

My chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is off the Richter scale. Amazingly, the other stress-related health issues are seemingly okay but the CFS is biting me in the backside. It’s been a struggle to stay on top of things, and I confess to failing miserably. Of course, there is also the very real fatigue–hence, its name–to factor in that, once triggered, I have little control over. It, too, has to run the proverbial gamut. (I vaguely remember asking the Lord to teach me patience…is He ever!)

More mainstream-minded individuals would advise re-homing everyone permanently and just sucking up the heartache while re-doubling my efforts to get right-side up on the mortgage. But I am as far from a mainstream mindset as one can get when it comes to my animals. With the loss of my goats, chickens and ducks, goes my reason for being, my reason for wanting to homestead in the first place; the heart will just go out of me. With the loss of my goats, chickens and ducks, goes the myriad cottage industries I’ve been trying to build to get off the mainstream grind, or at least to supplement the part-time income that seems to be the norm in today’s economy. With the loss of my goats, chickens and ducks, goes every hope and dream I possess.

Yes, I am a writer. Despite everything I’ve written above, I’ve chosen to “escape” for an hour or two each day by focusing on better character and plot development for my book. I’ve also started journaling again. Both have been extremely therapeutic while I navigate these troubled waters. Finishing my book and getting it published, possibly having a career as a writer that I can take anywhere I go in this world, is the ultimate.

But that’s only part of the dream.

As anyone who has been following this blog for a while knows, I worked in living history for a number of years. First, as a volunteer, and then as a paid staff member. The Herbal Hare isn’t just the name of this blog and this homestead, it’s also a future business venture making and selling herbal, apian and natural fiber products. I learned spinning and weaving while working in living history. The goal has been to grow as many of the herbs as this climate will support, maybe extend to adding a greenhouse in the future for growing spices and warmth-loving herbs, to raise honey bees and start a pollinator garden, and to raise animals for fiber, such as goats, sheep and Angora rabbits. All of these animals would require regular shearing but this would not harm them in any way. In fact, the opposite would be true because sheep and Angora goats and rabbits will develop a fungus on their skin if one does not shear them. Their fiber would be spun to make yarn and, as a tie in with the herbs, my herb garden would also grow many of the plants earlier generations used for dyes, like French marigolds, wild indigo, and Queen Anne’s lace.

Of course, there is also a much larger dream that this homestead will not support even if I can swing zoning and get the mortgage right-side up again: the dream of using goats to clear land. I would need a much larger herd than I currently possess…and more land to support that larger herd through the winter months when using living brush hogs isn’t an option. There are lot of these operations out West where forest fires are more prevalent but, here in New England, they’re few and far between. Goats are an eco-friendly way of mitigating forest fires because goats will eat the “fuel” for those fires: the heavy brush and undergrowth. They are also effective for removing overgrowth along highways and byways where steep inclines might be prohibitive for larger, heavier equipment. Or for clearing land for new building and development. Goats are incredibly agile and can make short work of such jobs without the noise, the fossil fuel pollution, or soil compaction that heavy equipment ultimately brings. Instead, they’re liable to leave behind some natural fertilizer as an extra bonus.

How’s that for a sales’ pitch?

Maybe it’s time to quit running another gamut of emotions: the fear and insecurity that has kept me from reaching for these dreams. Maybe it’s time to put to use the grant writing skills I’ve developed throughout my tenure in college these last 7 years and look for some angel investors. Maybe it’s also time to put my faith to the test and see if that door really will open when I knock upon it.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Inner City Memories

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted; blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth; blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied; blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy; blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God; blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God and blessed are they who persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3-10)

I spent the first twelve years of my life growing up in a predominantly white community. I had one neighbor, a little girl a few years’ younger than me, who was biracial…and, in the first grade, one Asian classmate. That was it. Then, in December of 1978, my family moved to downtown St. Louis, Missouri.

To say I had a bit of a culture shock would be an understatement. However, the culture “shock” quickly proved to be a positive one.

I remember walking into that 7th grade classroom at Clay Elementary School shaking in my shoes. More because I was an inherently shy kid and being assertive, or outgoing, while being singled out as the “new kid” yet again, was not something I was looking forward to. But, yes, there was likely a dialogue of racist rhetoric running in the background, too. Though I loved all of my grandparents very, very much, one of my grandfathers loved to say that “we don’t mix colors.” He would’ve had a coronary to find out he had Hispanic and Portuguese blood in his veins (an aunt of mine only recently found this out).

But, you know what?

The moment I walked into that classroom, my classmates put me at ease.

Okay…maybe not the first moment. I will confess, for a split second, the culture-shocked introvert started hyperventilating just a little as several black students popped up out of their seats and came over to me: Who are you? Are you a new student? Where are you from? Welcome! Though this was not my first time being a “new” kid, this was the first time anyone had ever made any immediate overtures to talk with me and get to know me. Most of the time I just got stared at like maybe I was a python thrown into a cage of rabbits…or, being as I was the shy one, maybe I was the rabbit thrown into a den of pythons. However, it was Chandra and Rita and Janice who found me an empty desk (our teacher was out on sick leave and they were waiting for the substitute for that day), and then plied me with all of the necessary textbooks and school supplies I would need for this next phase of my academic life. Though my initial reaction was to draw inward (again, introvert!), there was so much warmth and kindness coming from each of my new classmates, both black and white, that I quickly relaxed. That same day I also started rejecting the notion of “not mixing colors” or seeing people whose skin tone may be different than mine as being different as people. I’ve realized that the only difference is our experiences.

Over the next 6 years, I shared classrooms with both black and white students, Asian, Hispanic, Latino, Indian (both from India and Native American), as well as being taught by men and women of each of these. My life has been the richer for it. And, when my immediate family moved back East a year after high school graduation, I came back with a very different attitude about life, about people. I’ve become something of an anomaly to my extended family. It makes for some heated discussions sometimes but, while I’ve shied away from too much political or social discussions here on this blog, I don’t usually shy away from it in a setting where I know everyone and feel relatively safe. The only thing I may be guilty of is silently telling myself to back off at times when the conversation becomes too heated and continuing to argue will only make matters worse. I have to remind myself that not everyone has had the experiences that I have had. Not everyone has had the chance to get to know people from all walks of life, from diverse neighborhoods and school districts, from diverse cultures, religions, and backgrounds.

In light of everything that has happened in the last month or so, I can’t help thinking that we need to cross those cultural barriers. We need to pop up out of our collective seats, no matter where those seats are, and extend the hand of friendship to everyone we meet. We need to have those difficult conversations and expect that from time to time they may become heated. The only way that we will ever end the systemic racism that plagues this country is to listen to the voices of those protesting it. What are they saying? What is it really like to be black or brown in America? And, on the flip side, are there any negative experiences that white friends and relatives may have had that have brought them to a place of fear and distrust? That last may be hard to swallow but we all have something to bring to this discussion. The only way to put an end to this plague once and for all is to be honest with ourselves, and with each other, and to openly share what’s in our hearts and minds. We can do this without name-calling, or judgement, and respect each other’s truths.

I have been blessed. From the moment I walked into Mrs. Borden’s 7th grade classroom, to each and every time that I have met someone who is “different” and found, as I got to know them, that we weren’t so very different after all. We all want love and acceptance and the right to live as free and equal citizens of this nation. We all want to walk down the street, or browse in a store, without being molested…or worse. We all want to feel safe in our schools, our places of worship, and in our homes. When one of us hurts, we all hurt.

It didn’t offend my God to paint such a vivid palette of people…and how boring would it be if we were all exactly alike, carbon copies of each other? Instead, each of us brings something beautiful and special to this tapestry of life. Just as we all hurt when even one of us hurts, we also all have something to rejoice about when we allow love and compassion and respect for each other win out.

May God bless you & keep you!

Animals, Appreciation, Christianity, Creativity, Emergency Preparedness, gardening, Gratitude, Herbs, Homesteading, Minimalism, Plants, Self-improvement

Feeding My Passions

“An empty stable stays clean–but there is no income from an empty stable.” (Proverbs 14:4)

Today was a rambling sort of day. I ran a few errands in the morning then spent some time in the garden. I weeded the strawberry bed, one of my edible perennials’ beds (Egyptian onions, broad-leaf chives and lamb’s quarters all grow there), and the rhubarb bed. The rhubarb was bolting so I clipped off the flowers and noticed that the soil level in this raised bed is getting rather low, which would explain why it is bolting. Rhubarb is a heavy feeder. I also noticed a new Mullein (Verbascum thapsis) rosette growing in behind it so I transplanted it. Most consider it a weed but, as it’s one of the main ingredients in my asthma tincture, I let it stay; I also love the yellow flowers that will form its second year. I clipped back the invading bittersweet and Japanese Knotweed from the border mix of flowering shrubs and small fruits, and fed some of the latter to Chester, one of my Nigerian Dwarf goats (a beloved treat!). Then the more common chives got clipped and brought in; they’re in the dehydrator now to preserve for use later in the year. The broad-leaf ones will get clipped once these are through drying.

Later I collapsed with a cup of Chai tea in front of YouTube and fed some of my other passions: tiny houses, and both agility and heelwork competitions for dogs. As most of the contestants are usually Border Collies–my favorite–I get a good fix.

I have been following the tiny house movement almost since its inception. I am fascinated with this minimalist lifestyle. I think one of the reasons is how economical it is. In such a small space, you use less heating/cooling, less electricity, and, potentially, less water. I also have too much “stuff” and think how much I would love to unload much of it, going all Marie Kondo by keeping only those special treasures that truly bring me joy. It can be overwhelming. Bigger isn’t always better; neither does having more of everything bring more contentment. Of course, I have almost no carpentry skills; no electrical or plumbing skills, and no place to park it. However, I am still fascinated. And I doubt I’ll ever lose that fascination…until I actually muster up the courage, or the confidence, to take that first step forward.

As for the agility and/or heel work competitions? This one’s a little more obtainable, if I can ever get completely back on my feet again. I loved working with my St. Bernards when they were going through obedience training. It was great fun for all of us…and a great way to bond with these two rescues when I adopted them in 2006. A little older now, though the gentle giants will always have a special place in my heart, I’m leaning more towards something a little smaller, such as the Border Collie, the Corgi, the Bearded Collie, the Australian shepherd or Australian cattle dog. As all of these are herding breeds and extremely energetic, they do well with both agility and heel work. And what a way to express some creativity by choreographing and then training the dog to “dance” with you.

I’m still feeling grateful for this extended shutdown, for the ability to dream and to continue feeding my passions.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Wednesday’s Weed Walk – Zingiberis officinalis

“And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed to which it shall be for meat’.” (Genesis 1:29)

I use ginger (Zingiberis officinalis) for everything! It’s in the asthma tincture I shared about recently; it’s in my digest tea (see recipe below); it’s in the golden milk I drink to control my Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I put it in a winter tonic. I also make and eat gingerbread and ginger snap cookies (or small cakes, as we used to say in the 19th century). I mean, it is so versatile and I’ll bet most of the people reading this have it in their spice cabinet right now.

Ginger has many healing properties. It is said to be a “stimulant, diaphoretic, carminative, emmenagogue, expectorant, antiemetic, analgesic, antispasmodic, stomachic, antipyretic, and antimicrobial (Tierra, 2003, p. 87). It has been used to treat motion sickness. It’s great for any lung complaint, such as asthma, bronchitis, and even pneumonia. It’s a stimulant for people with poor circulation. It has been used in poultices to ease the pain of arthritis. It’s capable of soothing sore throats and easing menstrual cramps. It’s also good for indigestion, nausea and flatulence. In fact, if you’ve ever had candied ginger, this was one of the earliest “treats” found in the local “country” or “general” store, along with horehound and lemon drops. Candying these “medicines” was a way to get children to take them. Think of Mary Poppins and her “spoonful of sugar” to help the “medicine go down”.

The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

Despite being a Christian, I have spent years studying Wicca and have a lot of respect for this religion. According to their traditions, ginger is said to “lend power” when “performing spells” as ginger is warming by nature and is particularly effective for “love spells” (Cunningham, 2006, p. 125). Supposedly, if you plant the whole root, you will attract money into your life, too. It is also recommended that you sprinkle some powdered ginger into your pockets, which could be interesting, to say the least ;).

Though we had ginger growing in the herb garden at the living history museum I used to work at, I have never tried growing it at home. My garden is still in the landscaping stages owing to when I have the necessary resources, such as time or money, to finish…or I dig down into that Yankee ingenuity to re-purpose something for the job. However, it seems to grow just fine in New England and overwinters with a healthy layer of mulch covering it. The only issues we had at the museum was that the groundhogs liked it a little spicy; we could never keep either the ginger root (it’s the root we use, not the leaves or other aerial parts) or the horseradish completely free of their nibbling. Surrounding it with chicken wire might do the trick. It’s worth a shot.

Whether you’re healing a bout of indigestion, casting a love spell, or baking some gingerbread to enjoy with family and friends, planting some ginger root in the garden, or simply buying some powdered organic, I’m confident you’ll find some new and effective uses for this little powerhouse.

May God bless you & keep you!

Digest Tea

1 tablespoon chamomile
½ tablespoon fennel
1/8 teaspoon of ginger
1 pinch of cardamom (with both the ginger and the cardamom, this is more to taste rather than science)

Heat water in a stainless steel kettle or sauce pan (water should be hot but not boiling; I often bring it to a boil and then let it sit for a few minutes so as not to damage the healing properties in each plant). Pour over the measured herbs/spices. Cover with a lid and allow it to steep for 20 minutes. Strain (or you may use a tea ball) and, if desired, add some honey to sweeten.

This is great about ½ hour before a meal…or as a soothing treat before bed.

REFERENCES

Cunningham, Scott (2006). Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, 2nd edition. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

Tierra, Lesley (2003). Healing with the Herbs of Life. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.

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These Dreams…

“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)

I am grateful for this Covid-19 shutdown.

No, I haven’t lost my marbles. I know people are sick, dying, or have lost loved ones to this pandemic. I would be an insensitive clod to be grateful for that. Far too many people also don’t know where their next meal, or rent/mortgage payment, is coming from while they wait until it is truly safe to venture out again in numbers greater than 10. Without some serious assistance from our government, which doesn’t seem to be forthcoming anytime soon, far too many people are at risk of losing their homes. I’m not grateful for that either.

What I am grateful for is the stop of nearly everything “normal” in life.

You see, somehow along the line my life got “stuck” in survival mode. It’s been driven by purpose, by necessity, by the sheer panic that a potential foreclosure can instill in someone. Yes, I write my blog, my book, take care of my animals during “normal” times. Mom and I play games together, too, when there isn’t a pandemic.

But I don’t “stop”.

I can’t remember the last time I just sat and listened to music. Not while I’m playing games or doing housework, but just sat and listened. And dreamed. I can’t remember the last time that I woke up without an alarm and got to lay there and…yes, dream. Where do I want to go? What do I really want to do this day?

Daydreams…

Imaginings…

Manifesting…

Planning for the future…

During this crazy pandemic, I’ve actually been thinking about a future again. I’m looking at what I have, where I want to go, and allowing myself to dream about it…sort of like I did when I was a young girl just starting out in life with everything open before me. That is a gift, if we will only choose to look at it as such.

No, I don’t plan on wasting a whole day doing nothing but dreaming, but allowing one’s self to dream from time to time, actually opens our imagination. We start thinking about making the impossible, well, possible.

So, what do I dream about? What do I see when that imagination opens up?

Besides a few novels gracing the best sellers’ list, I’m imagining how my whole front lawn is going to look once I’m done landscaping. I’m envisioning all manner of herbs, small fruits, vegetables and flowers…a veritable food and medicinal forest. I’m seeing a stand along the roadside with cut flowers, herbs and plants for sale. I’m imagining that other half-acre fenced in and providing more ranging space for the goats, chickens and ducks. I see an agility course and several Border and Bearded Collies, and Welsh Corgis, running through lickety-split. I’m dreaming of a Great Wheel, a loom and a loom tool (another type of spinning wheel), and a number of Angora rabbits and goats providing fiber for spinning and weaving.

Sometimes, though, that dream isn’t here, but in another place…kind of murky and undefined, but larger, with room for more goats, and sheep. I see some greenhouses for growing spices, like cardamom and turmeric, year-round. I’m envisioning an aquaponics’ system and racks of microgreens and sprouts. When I’m really being far out, I see a greenhouse full of mulberries and silkworms…and the necessary apparatus for spinning their silken threads. I’m thinking of a thriving Reflexology practice–not just the occasional client–and herb classes hosted in my own extensive herb garden.

More, I dream of hosting potlucks and quiet nights spent with loved ones around a campfire.

Yes, all of this probably demands more energy, time, etc. than I have these days. This run-down, ramshackle abode has become a money pit; it would take too much to make such happen. Or would it? Maybe what it needs is simply for me to take a few more steps forward…and to really start thinking about that transition from impossible to possible.

That’s another thing to be thankful for: I have some time on my hands to do some of the work for those things I can do here and now. And I’m being honest enough with myself that I may not get all that I’d like to accomplish done, but I can certainly make a dent in it.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying not having to make a mad dash through life. We’ve got to take the silver linings where we can find them.

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!

Alcoholism, gardening, Healing, Herbs, Holistic Health, Homesteading, illness, Nature, Organic, Plants, Recipes, Self-improvement

Wednesday’s Weed Walk – Coltsfoot

“And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed to which it shall be for meat’.” (Genesis 1:29)

My Master Gardener instructors and classmates would be horrified: I have intentionally planted Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) in my garden. The reason for their horror? Coltsfoot is said to be an invasive species and is not native to this land (albeit it has become naturalized like so many other plants brought from European settlers in earlier generations). My reason for defying some unspoken MG oath? Coltsfoot is one of the main ingredients in the tincture that I brew to control my asthma and to heal any winter bouts with bronchitis. I have even healed a bout of pneumonia with it and that makes it more valuable than any “oath”. Furthermore, I want to know what’s in my medicine. In my home garden, I know it hasn’t been sprayed with any chemicals or genetically-modified.

The information contained herein is for educational purposes ONLY. The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This blog post/article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

In Coltsfoot’s defense, the one lone plant that I transplanted over 3 years’ ago has only “spread” to a second plant in those 3 years. At the museum where I used to be their herb garden lead, it was also slow-spreading. So, while I’ll give it the “non-native” status, I question the “invasive” part. It wouldn’t surprise me if the university is receiving kick-backs from one of the major drug companies to downplay this little beauty. The latter makes an awful lot of money off of seasonal allergy sufferers, asthmatics and others with chronic upper-respiratory illnesses. A plant whose primary use is for upper-respiratory complaints is a threat to their livelihood and, because it is a “weed”, it cannot be patented. (And, yes, I’m on another rant and getting all conspiracy theorist, too; sorry, I trust big pharma about as far as I can throw them.)

Ahem…ranting aside, many may mistake Coltsfoot for a dandelion. They have similar flowers, albeit, Coltsfoot’s floral head falls somewhere between a dandelion and an English daisy. Unlike the dandelion, whose foliage sprouts before the flowers bloom, Coltsfoot flowers first and then the colts’ foot-shaped leaves emerge (hence, its name).

Images from my garden:

Image found on Yahoo of the foliage later in the season:

Image comparing Coltsfoot in full bloom with a dandelion, also in full bloom:

As stated above, I use Coltsfoot (leaves only) as part of a tincture to control my asthma and to treat bronchitis. The tincture in question (and I will leave the formula below) contains several other herbs, but it is the combination of Coltsfoot with another “weed”, Great mullein (Verbascum thapsus), that makes this tincture so effective against asthma. While Coltsfoot is both an expectorant and anti-imflammatory, mullein is antispasmodic, as well as also being an expectorant. Both herbs have demulcent properties, which mean they produce a mucilage that coats inflamed bronchial passages. Additionally, Coltsfoot is antitussive, astringent and sedative. It’s very name in Latin translates to “cough dispeller” and it has been used effectively over thousands of years to aid the healing of coughs, wheezing, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, emphysema, laryngitis, hoarseness, flu, colds, sore throat, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath (Tierra, 2003, pp. 70-71). Since using Coltsfoot, I have not had to rely on a steroidal-based inhaler at all. And, while my allopathic medical doctor has not been willing to stake his medical claim on it, every time I have gone in for a note due to some sort of upper-respiratory ailment, he has repeatedly told me to keep taking/doing whatever I’m taking/doing as he has never heard my lungs so clear.

Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Now, all that being said, I would be remiss as a responsible herbalist if I did not state that even herbalists caution not to use Coltsfoot if pregnant, nursing, or stricken with some sort of liver disease. And, with children, only very small doses of the below tincture (1/8 – 1/4 tsp every 4 hours if battling some sort of bronchial condition, or as needed to control an asthma attack; or 1/2 cup of a weak tea brewed for 10 minutes with a lid with local honey added). Coltsfoot has contraindications with fritillaria, magnolia flowers, ephedra, scute, coptis and astragalus (some of these I have never even heard of using in herbal medicine???).

Asthma/Upper-respiratory Tincture:
3 1/2 tbsp each of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
1 tbsp each of Elecampane Root (Inula helenium), Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) or, if being used for smokers, substitute Hops (Humulus lupulus)
1/2 tbsp each of ginger (Zinziberis officinalis) and Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

To tincture, measure the above herbs (I normally use dried herbs; fresh herbs would need to triple amount) into a clean 1-quart size Mason jar. Fill the jar, covering the herbs, with 100 proof vodka or brandy (Majorska has a good 100 proof vodka that has worked well for me). Screw the cover on, give it a good shake, and place the jar in a dark, dry cupboard. Shake it a couple of times each day while it tinctures. In two weeks’ time, it will be ready to use. I typically strain the liquid through a sieve and funnel it into dark-colored bottles found at my local herb shop (check online if you do not have a herb store nearby).

NOTES: You can also use apple cider vinegar, if using alcohol is a concern, but it will have a much shorter shelf life and have to be kept in the fridge. Also, it can be challenging to find 100 Proof. I recommend it because anything less than that may cause mold to form over time. With 100 Proof, it typically has a shelf life of 2 years. However, if you can only find 80 proof, 1/4 tsp. of vitamin E will aid in the preservation. I would also recommend labeling the jar with the date created, the ingredients used, and I always include a batch number so, if you’re making this for the first time, it is “Batch 1”.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Tierra, Lesley (2003). Healing with the Herbs of Life. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.

Yahoo (n.d.) “Coltsfoot Plant-lore.” Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrJ7FWB6KpeHHkAzD9XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybDY4NmF2BGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQzAwNzBfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=coltsfoot%2C+images&fr=mcafee#id=62&iurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.plant-lore.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2010%2F12%2FIMG_2774-e1505765426444.jpg&action=click

Yahoo (n.d.). “Coltsfoot vs. Dandelion.” Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrJ7FWB6KpeHHkAzD9XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybDY4NmF2BGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQzAwNzBfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=coltsfoot%2C+images&fr=mcafee#id=7&iurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.coldclimategardening.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2Fcoltsfoot_vs_dandelion.jpg&action=click

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Stay safe, stay healthy…May God bless you & keep you!

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Lamentations of the New “Normal”

“A time to kill; A time to heal; A time to destroy; A time to rebuild.” (Ecclesiastes 3:3)

Yes, like many others, I’m growing rather tired of being home 24/7…despite being pretty much a home-body even during “normal” times. I know it’s more important than ever that we do continue to observe the quarantine imposed by state governments so that we do not wind up with another Swine Flu of 1917/18. Though many areas of the country are reporting the curve being flattened, there’s still a great risk of it spiking again. And, as someone who would be considered a “risk” (asthma), it is a concern.

But it’s not easy.

I feel like life is on hold again. It reminds me way too much of the Great Recession of 2008 when we all waited with baited breath to see what would happen next, cringing every time the boss walked out of his/her office, lest, he/she be handing out pink slips, and feeling the heartache growing every time a new tent “city” cropped up in another park, under another overpass, behind another church.

Yeah, I’m feeling pretty good right now (insert sarcasm here).

Is it me? Or does everyone else feel extra tired, maybe a little numb…or dumb?

I’ve had way too much screen time…and not of the productive kind. Though I’ve done some brainstorming as regards my novel, I’ve done very little work on it and may undo many of the changes I recently made to it. My homework assignments have all gone in late and without the usual level of interest I typically feel for them. I have the perfect opportunity to get some projects done and I’m glued to the news, social media, and endless games of Solitaire. The road to hell is paved with good intentions but the eternal procrastinator needs a good, swift kick in the you-know-what.

Yes, I know…complain, complain, complain (chuckle). I guess I needed to get that little rant out. I’m my own worst enemy at times and I’ve been a slug for the last few days: no energy, no interest in anything, just mindless distractions.

It doesn’t help that I lost an aunt this week, presumably to Covid-19. Sadly, because there aren’t enough tests, anyone who passes due to an upper-respiratory complaint is considered to have had Covid-19. Whether she really did or not, we’ll probably never know. And, sadder still, we cannot pay our last respects. It would require a gathering of more than 10 people.

We will get through this.

And, when we do, if you’re like me, you have so many “dates” with friends, family members, etc. that life will be one big party to make up for this dull, lethargic state for a very long time.

I talked to a friend on the phone today. It was an actual conversation, not just a text or a posting on social media. It broke the sluggish “spell” I’ve been under…and has made me appreciate that I have at least had Mom here to talk to when so many others live alone and do not have this interaction. It has also made me realize the real impact this Covid-19 is having on our society. Though this quarantine is necessary to reduce the chance of spreading this virus further, depression, loneliness, anxiety are all taking their toll. So I’m making a pact with myself to pick up that phone a little more often. The sound of a loved one’s voice on the other end is one of the best medicines.

May God bless you & keep you!