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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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A Break from Coronavirus and Wednesday’s Weed Walk

“Now the report of [Jesus’] power spread even faster and vast crowds came to hear Him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But He often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” (Luke 5: 15-16)

The last few days the introvert went into a sort of hibernation from, well, this enforced hibernation. Too much information, too much “in-your-face” news coverage–both accurate and inaccurate–regarding this coronavirus pandemic. And, of course, our media, our government, etc. has set out on a course to make it all political. It became sickening.

So I took a break.

For the last two days I’ve been working on some more character development for my book, fleshed out a potential short story, and submerged myself in one of the novels that I checked out two weeks’ ago to tide me over during this hibernation…and now I’m wishing I’d checked out the whole series because it was good and I’d like to continue on (Angie Sage’s Magyk, 2005, Harper Collins, Young Adult). I got back on the yoga mat (I’ve been seriously lax), the exercise bike, the inversion table and I’ve started meditating. I’ve also been paying more attention to my spiritual life, praying the rosary for the victims of this pandemic…which is all of us one way or the other…and praying for true leadership, for divine guidance for our leaders, when we need it the most. It’s been a grounding experience and I’m feeling better mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

I turned on YouTube this morning to catch up…and was pleasantly surprised that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert appears to be back up and running to some degree. A little laughter over the first cup of tea of the day can never be amiss. There was an added chuckle as Miss Goldie, one of my Buff Orpington hens, put her two cents’ worth in from time to time from her cage in the kitchen.

Miss Goldie has been acting rather lethargic lately. That’s really the only “symptom” I’ve had that there might be anything “wrong” so I’ve been checking on her a little more often and contemplating separating her from the rest of the flock, maybe even a call to the vet. It is not unusual for chickens, because they scratch and peck in the dirt, the compost pile, the barn floor, etc., I even had one pick some undigested matter from a dog turd many years’ back (Ewww) when they were allowed to free-range a little farther afield, to also pick up a parasite. Or develop some sort of intestinal worm.

However, I should have separated Goldie a little sooner.

I found Miss Goldie curled up on the floor of the barn the night before last, her head and beak a bloody mess. After the initial gut punch as I assumed the very worst, I reached to pick her up and she turned her head and chirped at me. The wounds were still running freely so I had obviously just interrupted what would have been curtains for Goldie if I hadn’t walked into the barn when I did. Chickens are notorious for pecking to death any of their flock who is sick, or weak, in some way. Though it has yet to happen to me, I know other farmers/homesteaders who have found an indistinguishable bloody pulp in the barnyard. I didn’t think Goldie had reached such a place but, apparently, I was wrong. I can only be grateful that things had not progressed to that level of cannibalism (yes, that’s exactly what they resort to when they sense a sick, or weakened, flock-mate; they turn into sharks. Incited by the scent of drawn blood, they will often keep going until there’s nothing left of the sick one).

Fortunately, there was more blood than wound once I cleaned her up. She wasn’t sure about sitting in my lap but she bore my ministrations and, after I got the bleeding stopped, I gently dabbed the wounds with my “bunny” salve. This is equal parts of comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and plantain (Plantago spp.). I use a double boiler, add the dried leaves, cover them completely with olive oil, and a lid, and brew it on low heat for 20 minutes (do NOT bring to a boil). It is then strained and, in this case, because I want a creamier consistency, I only put 1/2 to 3/4 squared of beeswax into the 4 oz. container I just strained the oil into and stir until the wax dissolves (please do NOT use your best utensils/pans for stirring beeswax…and NEVER try to wash them in your sink or dishwasher but take hot water outside and scrub/dissolve away the beeswax over a patch of dirt; you will never unstop your sink, or the lines in your dishwasher again…). And, as you can see from the pictures below, the plantain is NOT the banana-like fruit found in most major grocery stores. This is that little patch of “weed” or “crab” grass that we choke out with all manner of harmful herbicides (PS Please reconsider…even if you’re not an herbalist; many pollinators visit those long, spindly “flowers” reaching up in the middle).

COMFREY (Symphytum officinale)

PLANTAIN (Plantago major)

Anyway, after cleaning Goldie up, I also found an eyedropper and popped open a jar of strained spinach, zucchini and peas (I always keep jars of baby food on hand for such emergencies) and hand-fed her. Then I placed her in the cage with a bowl of water, and another bowl of chicken feed with some birdseed mixed in to try and tempt her to eat on her own, and a clove of garlic minced up to kill any parasites that may have started the whole issue. Yesterday, I repeated said process and actually picked up a piece of the minced garlic, opened her beak, dropped it in and then chased it down with more of the spinach mix.

My biggest concern has been her right eye. It was swollen shut when I found her, and for all of yesterday. However, in addition to eating on her own last night/early this morning, both eyes are now open. So there is hope. And I am grateful that Miss Goldie does not seem to have lost her sight by this ordeal…even if she does still resemble Rocky Balboa a little bit…in chicken form, of course.

As Goldie, hopefully, continues to heal…and get pleasantly spoiled with all the hand-feeding and handling…I’m going to keep hoping that our nation continues to heal as well. Though I’m not 100% sure how accurate each source is, it appears there is finally a flattening of the curve, as they say, in the spread of this coronavirus. This is not a license to become complacent, or to relax our vigil, in controlling the spread of Covid-19…anymore than this marked improvement in Goldie’s condition is a license for me to become lax in continuing her treatments. As signs of improvement continue to show, this is actually the time to be even more vigilant.

Stay safe.

Stay home, if you can.

Wash your hands frequently…as well as door knobs, steering wheels, etc. anything that might have some of those Covid-19 germs on it.

Keep the world in your prayers; He’s got this…He truly does.

May God bless you & keep you!

The FDA has not evaluated these statements. The information contained is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseases.

REFERENCES

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) (n.d.). Yahoo Image Search. Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=A0geKIwEuYReREsA1yZXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybzY4bXJpBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjk4NDdfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=comfrey&fr=mcafee#id=8&iurl=https%3A%2F%2F2.bp.blogspot.com%2F-PIuJY1clecU%2FUBepNQAveYI%2FAAAAAAAAAcg%2FzTF_atb-HmE%2Fs1600%2Fcomfrey.jpg&action=click

Plantain (Plantago major) (n.d.). Yahoo Image Search. Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrJ6yvduYRe.NwAmChXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybzY4bXJpBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjk4NDdfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=plantago+major&fr=mcafee#id=24&iurl=https%3A%2F%2Fi.ytimg.com%2Fvi%2FOntYFofcDMM%2Fmaxresdefault.jpg&action=click

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Sunday Cyber-Service

“Remember to observe the Sabbath as a holy day. Six days a week are for your daily duties and your regular work, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest before the Lord your God. On that day you are to do no work of any kind, nor shall your son, daughter, or slaves–whether men or women–or your cattle or your house guests. For in six days the Lord made the heaven, earth and sea, and everything in them, and rested the seventh day; so He blessed the Sabbath day and set it aside for rest.” (Exodus 20: 8-11)

So this feels just a little awkward…so I guess I’m on the right track. God loves to take us out of our comfort zones. He wants us to trust Him…even in the midst of coronavirus. Actually, I should amend that: especially in the midst of coronavirus. And, while this isn’t exactly a traditional service, I’m going to start by sharing a song by Christian artist, Zach Williams, called “Old Church Choir”. Though I can carry a tune myself, just for today, I’m leaving it to the pros. Let’s lift the somber mood of these past few weeks just a little bit:

For everyone reading this today, I hope that the prayers and Scripture I offer, even the music I share, will enrich your day, your week, and bring you solace and hope in a seemingly chaotic situation. Truly, faith in Something–Someone–greater than one’s self is the only thing that does bring hope in the face of chaos and adversity.

And the adversities we face today are unlike any that we have seen in 80, 90 years.

I don’t share that to overwhelm, or to spread further terror. It’s to bring this situation into perspective. There’s been so much anger masking fear and uncertainty, so much finger pointing–something of which yours truly has been guilty–and it only excerbates the situation…both in our hearts, and in our communities. Yes, we are seeing who the *true* leaders are, and those whose hearts the Adversary’s lies have settled into as well. And, no, they’re not the ones closing down even the churches. The officials that have closed nearly every door are doing so to save lives, to prevent the spread of illness. However, the Adversary is watching this, wringing his hands together at the opportunities he sees before him now that so many of us are not coming together in prayer, to receive Communion and fellowship, to confess our sins of the previous week(s), and to seek forgiveness. I say we pray without ceasing, giving praise to the One who is truly in control and has our backs in all of this, effectively binding those wringing hands from doing their dirty work. We have enough to contend with in Covid-19. That’s enough chaos for one community, one country, one world. And, without God, without a belief in Someone greater than ourselves, where will we find the strength to get through the weeks ahead and their endless challenges? Or to resist those adversarial lies?

Yes, you read that correctly: give God praise during this epidemic. He knows what He’s doing, and why. It is our job to trust Him, to believe Him, when He tells us He loves us, that He has our best interests at heart. Though it may not seem apparent at the moment, He does. He truly does. If we give in to the doubts, and I know it’s difficult not to at a time like this when so many are sick, scared, dying, but this is where He needs us to follow Him ever more closely. He needs us to be steadfast and stand together in solidarity with Him, to root out the lies and bring them into the Light, to bring comfort to those who are afraid, or have suffered loss.

You know, we talk about pulling together during this crisis. And yet, we are being asked, for safety’s sake, to stay apart. It seems a bit of an oxymoron but, while we may not be together physically, we CAN be together in our hearts, in our minds, in spirit…in Spirit. It is, in my opinion, the only way we will get through this crisis.

And that brings me to another point of this post. I’ve talked a lot in previous posts about being an introvert. Truly, it’s not all that difficult being an introvert in America. Our society encourages distance even when things are “normal”. Look at how we are structured. Most people travel to work solo. In fact, I know of plenty of people who look down their noses at people who carpool, or utilize public transit. The auto industry touts independence, freedom of spirit, etc. to sell their products. If you don’t have an automobile of your own, people are scandalized (I have first-hand knowledge). In short, we’re encouraged to be alone in our commutes. Though “tiny houses” are all the rage today as sort of a grassroots’ movement that is gaining some traction in the mainstream, our housing/construction industries push the mantra of bigger being better. Our streets are lined with countless McMansions, surrounded by acres of well-manicured status symbols of lawns that rob us of clean air, clean soil, clean water…even home-grown food so, if for no other reason, we do not starve during an epidemic. We’re disconnected from the earth, from our food, from the animals that sacrifice theirs that we might have life (oftentimes under horrible conditions). More importantly, we’re disconnected from each other. Again, in short, I see millions of “islands”. I get needing elbow room…and we don’t always find “good” neighbors, but in these Islands of Suburbia, we might never know. How many of us, when there isn’t a pandemic, have walked across those acres of useless grass to extend the hand of friendship to those whose multi-acres of McMansion border ours? And, sadly, even within the walls of those McMansions, we remain islands of humanity. Every child must have its own bedroom. We must have a man-cave, or a she-shed. Every human in the house must have their own bathroom, too. I suppose during a pandemic such as this one, we might conclude that the distance between us, even within our own communities, is a good thing to help slow the spread of infection. But do we know how to sit down as a family and share a common meal? Do we even know how to cook a meal without zapping it in a microwave? We’re not running off to countless after-school sporting events, clubs, extra-curricular activities right now. How has that changed the dynamics? Do we know how to entertain ourselves as a family? When was the last time we pulled out a board game? Or a deck of cards? When was the last time we prayed together as a family…outside of our church, temple, synagogue, or mosque? For those of you who have been sitting down together as a family to share a meal, a game, or a prayer, you are truly the wealthy during this crisis. And that’s something we can all appreciate, whether introverted, or extroverted.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I praise you in this “storm”. We truly are at “war” with an enemy we cannot see. But I know that Your Eyes do see this “enemy” and You’ve got this! I praise You for that knowledge. I praise You for the knowledge that You are giving to doctors, nurses, first-responders, scientists, etc. to help heal those who are ill. I praise You, too, for protecting these healthcare workers from contracting the Covid-19 virus themselves; we need all of their expertise. I praise You for lifting every healthcare worker up, relieving their fatigue, and for giving them clarity when it is most needed.

I praise you for every grocery, pet and/or feed store worker, for every pharmacist, for every essential worker who is also on the front lines during this epidemic. I praise you for protecting them also, and the families that they go home to each night.

I praise You for our government officials. I pray that sound minds and compassionate hearts will prevail in this crisis. I praise You for guiding the hands of those who would lead…and showing us just who those people are. I praise You for touching the hearts of those who would profit from the sufferings of others that they might repent and seek You in all future endeavors, bringing Light, instead of the darkness that our world has become.

I praise You for lifting up the hearts of all people everywhere during this epidemic. Where hearts are hungry, provide them Your sustenance. Where hearts are frightened, give them courage. Where hearts are angry, bring them peace. Where hearts are in doubt, fill them with Your grace. And, for those who have lost a loved one to this illness, I praise You for comforting them in their hour of sorrow and loss. Help them to remember that when we are a part of the body and blood of Christ, we are never truly alone. I praise You for the hope that is forever Your name, in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come, thy Will be done.
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses.
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power,
And the Glory, forever and ever…Amen

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Casting Crowns (2008). “Praise You In This Storm (live).” Lifesong (2005), producer by Mark A. Miller, Beach Street/Reunion Records. Neyolov. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ype1xE0wzsg

For King and Country (2015). “Shoulders (Official Music Video).” Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong, producers Ben Glover, Matt Hales, Seth Mosley and Tedd Tjornhom, Fervent Records alongside Word Records. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfiYWaeAcRw

Williams, Zach (2017). “Old Church Choir (Official Music Video).” Chain Breaker, producer Jonathan Smith, Essential Records. Vevo. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOEviTLJOqo&list=RDyOEviTLJOqo&start_radio=1

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Blessings in Solitude

“Wisdom is enshrined in the hearts of men of common sense, but it must shout loudly before fools will hear it.” (Proverbs 14:33)

Though I’m still shouting at the television screen on a nightly basis while both Democrats and Republicans dither over partisan agendas, instead of putting cash into the hands of the American people and small businesses to help them make it through this pandemic, I’m actually enjoying the solitude. If you look in the dictionary under “introvert”, I’m pretty sure my picture is sitting there beside it. My dream home is a small cabin out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature.

For the moment, I’m making do with an early-20th century fixer-upper sitting alongside a major interstate in rural Connecticut.

When this whole shutdown started, I checked out a stack of novels for Mom and I to read. I’ve read two. The other two, well, I’m sure I’ll get to them sooner or later. Instead I’ve been going through a lot of paperwork. Isn’t it amazing how it piles up over time? I’ve cleaned my office, my bedroom and rearranged them both. Ditto for my workout space. Next is the bathroom…and that pile of bags and boxes that have been sitting outside the bathroom in the hallway since my Auntie Marjorie died several years’ ago. Most of it can be shredded. They’re old rent receipts and telephone bills. There are also some stuffed animals; it’s about time they went to a shelter…when it’s safe to make such contact with the world again. The kitchen could use some re-organizing, too. And I’m contemplating a major purge of all the unnecessary bric-a-brac that also tends to pile up over time. The idea is to keep one gift from each person. If I have multiple gifts from the same person, I’m choosing the one I love the most and putting the rest into a yard sale. Going minimalist has been a long time in coming.

As for the homestead itself, we’ve had lots of rain, and even a snow storm yesterday, so outside work has been curtailed. The snow has already melted. My Mom would call it a season breaker. She says it’s God’s way of purifying the earth of this scourge, the coronavirus. I hope she’s right. Her anxiety disorder has been through the roof with this pandemic, especially with so many reports that people over 60 are likely not to be treated as there aren’t enough ventilators for everyone.

The biggest blessing is being home together in all of this. We’ve been having Scrabble tournaments. And, at night, though it’s a break in Lenten vows, we’ve been watching all of the uploaded videos from Crufts’ 2020 dog show on YouTube. My favorite is the agility competitions. When I’m back on my feet again financially, I’m hoping for a few Border Collies of my own to train in agility…and, if I can finally swing it, the herding of sheep.

Of course, that will probably require more land for the latter. For now, I’ll be happy with the Border Collies and an agility course–my plans for the half-acre that has been completely overgrown for years.

That’s the other blessing right now: being able to relax, just a little, and to dream. Because I’m one of the fortunate ones who is still getting paid, despite being out of work, it’s different than last year’s fall and subsequent convalesce. I just sent off the electric bill, paid the Internet, the car insurance and the car loan. We’re well stocked with 300 lbs. of poultry feed (a month’s supply), 50 lbs. of both goat and rabbit chow, 14 bales of hay, and 5 cases of cat food. We had just done our month’s grocery shopping a week or so before this hit and I stocked up on a few more bags of frozen vegetables, tea, sugar, cereals, etc last week. We won’t starve. The only thing marring the peace is the mortgage payments that are overdue…and the threat of foreclosure that still looms. But one thing at a time. There are so many who are worse off than we are right now. And, so far, nobody I know has come down with this coronavirus. Though it is a serious situation, a part of me is giving myself permission to relax, to think, to dream, to write…and who knows? Maybe with this extended breather, maybe all the noise and chaos of day-to-day life will quiet enough that I can finally hear Him speak to my heart and show me His will for me in this situation.

In the meantime, I give thanks for these blessings, for the quality time with Mom, my pets and livestock, for the phone calls, emails, text messages, and even an Easter card that came in the mail from friends I haven’t seen in ages. I give thanks for being slightly ahead on the bulk of this household’s expenses…and for our continued good health. And I give thanks for everyone reading this blog, the friends/acquaintances I have made through it. I pray that each and every one of you stays safe and healthy through this worrisome time. He’s got this. He truly does.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Weathering This Storm

“Riches can disappear fast. And the king’s crown doesn’t stay in his family forever–so watch your business interests closely. Know the state of your flocks and your herds; then there will be lamb’s wool enough for clothing, and goat’s milk enough for food for all your household after the hay is harvested, and the new crop appears, and the mountain grasses are gathered in.” (Proverbs 27:23-27)

It’s funny how God works. Always, just before some unforeseen calamity hits, He provides a boost in financial resources. We’re not talking a major windfall, but a little something extra that comes our way. Such happened to me just before this pandemic hit. I am so grateful for this resource. It will allow Mom and I to stay reasonably safe at home during this pandemic.

It wasn’t always this way though.

Sure, I’d get a rebate check, or find an error in my favor when balancing my checkbook, but I’d spend it. And then calamity would hit. No, not another major virus like corona, but I’d get a flat tire, spring a leak somewhere, get sick and lose hours, and I’d be hurting for it.

Lesson learned.

This time, like many more before it, I put the extra aside and left it alone. This week I spent it…on a month’s worth of animal feed, groceries and toiletries for Mom and I, and the delivery of a load of hay to get us through at least two months. Now we can weather this storm…provided neither of us has corona already percolating in our system, waiting to breakout in the days ahead.

We’ve been staying in most of the week. However, yesterday, after it was announced that Connecticut may go into total lockdown, I looked at what I had stockpiled for animal feed and took a trip to the feed store again for more chicken feed and a bag of rabbit chow. I also made a stop at the local grocery store, replenished some of the perishables we’d run out of, and actually found a can of disinfectant wipes on the shelf. I grabbed it, thinking of doorknobs and draw pulls and car door handles. I was in and out quickly, came home, washed my hands carefully with soap and water and then used the wipes as mentioned before. I even washed the steering wheel and the dashboard…just in case.

No, it’s not fear-shopping. Not really. It’s getting in whatever we might need–without going to extremes and selling the stores out of supplies to hoard them away here–to make it through. I want to do exactly what our health officials and governors, etc. are telling us to do: STAY HOME!

I spent some time over the weekend also making up a new batch of the herbal upper-respiratory tincture I make to combat my asthma. It’s helped to clear bronchitis and pneumonia in the past; I’ve started taking it routinely…again, just in case. And, though I bought some sanitary wipes, I also filled a spray bottle with water and vinegar, my usual cleaning solution, and added some rubbing alcohol to it this time to give it a boost.

Yeah, I guess I am a little afraid. But I’m also using that fear to take the necessary precautions to help us fight this thing. If I give in to the panic that threatens to overtake me from time to time, it serves no one…and will undoubtedly paralyze me from taking those necessary steps.

Mom is the one I really worry about. She’s not a self-starter. She’s on medication for an anxiety disorder. And she spends WAY too much time on Facebook and other social media sites, reading all the hyped up, doom-and-gloom that is overwhelming cyberspace these days. Though I tried to curb it, there were a few times, while she was reporting the latest pandemic “news,” that my head dropped to the back of the easy chair in exasperation. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, I decided to take affirmative action yesterday afternoon. I broke out the Scrabble board game and turned YouTube on to some of our favorite Christian rock music to listen to while we played. We had a nice 4 rounds, in which she kicked my a**, and for those few hours at least, she put some of that stress and worry aside.

We WILL get through this.

We have to BELIEVE.

No matter what happens, a failed economy, several weeks, even a few months of quarantine, even a depression, God/source has THIS.

And, yes, I did type “source” for all of the people out there who do not believe, or follow a different religion, where maybe it’s Buddha or Goddess, etc. It is out of deference to those people. Criticizing another’s beliefs–or even a lack thereof–only divides us more…and pushes folks away from God, rather than leading them to Him. I always think of how I feel when I hear someone ridiculing me, or other Christians, for our faith. Or how I feel when another religion shows a serious lack of respect for mine. We’re all in this together, folks. Again, Covid-19 doesn’t discriminate so why should we?

God has THIS. He has your back. We WILL weather this storm.

He’s already giving us some sensible tools…like staying home, if you can, and frequent hand-washing. We can use this time to take better care of ourselves. Sleeping in, or the occasional nap, will help build our immunities to help us resist better. It will make us stronger. And, if you’re like me, your home is getting the thorough spring cleaning it has long been needing. This, too, will help keep germs from spreading, keep us healthier. It also gives our hands something specific to do so we don’t use the time playing all day on social media, stressing and worrying. And we can take our time about it, actually enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a job well done. If you can, it might also be a good time to plant a garden…or at least a few pots with some herbs, or tomatoes and peppers. If we’re making a trip to the grocery store to stock up on necessary items, I don’t think anyone’s going to sneer if we pick up a couple of packets of seeds to plant during this enforced quarantine. It’ll keep us home…and provide some of those perishables so we have fewer trips to make. Incidentally, dark leafy greens, like spinach, arugula, bok choi, etc. grow rather quickly.

Above all, if you are a believer, pray without ceasing…or a reasonable facsimile thereof. And be an angel of mercy in spreading hope and encouragement on social media–instead of fear and anxiety. We are all in this together. We need to stand together, too. We need to share with those less fortunate by not hoarding every roll of toilet tissue or can of beans. We need to remember the elderly, and those with a compromised immunity system, and offer to pick up a few things for them, too, on our next grocery/pharmacy trip. If we follow that advice of frequent hand-washing, maybe leave those purchases on the front steps so there’s less contact, etc., we should be able to do so without infecting anyone. And, instead of lamenting how we can’t go out and about as we normally do, we can focus on what we can do. We can call that friend we haven’t talked to in ages. We can sit and read to our children, or grandchildren (if you have them). We can play board games with our family. We can cook real meals…instead of the “instant” crap that is slowly killing us anyway. We can play fetch with the pooch…or peek-a-boo with the pet bird. This is a time for quality time with loved ones. This is a time for reflection…and renewed faith. It is a time to focus on strengthening our relationship with whoever, whatever, that “source” is…and maybe learning about someone else’s “source” so that the next time we see them, we can approach with love…instead of fear and suspicion.

We all bleed the same…but a smile, a kind word, a prayer, can bind wounds and heal hearts.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Shutdown

“Rich and poor are alike in this: each depends on God for light.” (Proverbs 29:13)

I’m of two minds in this pandemic crisis. Yes, I believe it is serious. Yes, I believe we do have to isolate to prevent the spread of this coronavirus. However, I also think there’s an extra hype being built around it that may just have its roots in the political scene. I know that sounds all conspiracy-theorist and, maybe there’s a doubting Thomas in me that just doesn’t want to believe it, but I am worried that this over-hyped coverage will continue to empty grocery store shelves and cause an economic panic that will make the Great Depression of the 1930’s look like a walk in the park. However, like the 1930’s I hope we haven’t forgotten how to pull together as a people and help our neighbor along the way…because we’re all in this together, worldwide.

The Herbal Hare is a homestead first and foremost. It’s funny. Mom and I aren’t overly worried about ourselves but the many animals who share this homestead with us. Though I am loathe to give in to the panic, I also sent a silent prayer of thanks that we recently received our month’s wages (library pays once a month). It allowed me to take a trip yesterday morning to the local feed stores. I stocked up on poultry and goat feed, cat food and litter. As we’re down to only one rabbit, she has enough feed left to get her through several weeks. However, I did order a delivery of hay today.

And breathed a sigh of relief after I got it stacked and realized, as long as things don’t go all wonky later on down the road, we should weather this okay. I also bought some extra groceries for Mom and I…just in case.

So here we are hunkering down, preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.

Like so many other places, the library closed its doors last night at 7 p.m. until further notice. We took the added precaution of isolating any returned books, disinfecting them, and setting them aside. Because we will be home for an extended amount of time, I also stocked up on reading material for Mom and I. We have cards and games. I have my classwork, a book to write, and, as we’re heading into spring, I have a goat barn to finish cleaning and repairing, vegetables to get started for planting out later in the season, and fruit trees to prune. I’m hoping to use this unforeseen vacation of sorts to get caught up on things around home.

And now we wait.

I confess, I’ve also broken some Lenten vows. I brought home some fiction and, as we rely on Roku for media, YouTube is our window on the world.

To stay healthy, we all need nutritious food, adequate sleep, exercise and fresh air. Malls and movie theaters may be forbidden right now, but there’s no reason we can’t take a walk around the block. If we run into someone, a hello in passing won’t hurt us either. If you have a neighbor who is elderly and/or has mobility issues, it won’t hurt to check on them to make sure they have enough to eat…or medications if they need them…even if you just leave them on the stoop for them and both of you make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. It’s not a plague; it’s a particularly nasty flu virus. Yes, it is serious. But, even in crises, we are a community.

Or we should be…as long as we use common sense and follow the instructions our medical experts are giving us.

Though most of us have a remote connection to each other via this thing called the Internet, it is important to remember that, amazingly, some of us do not have Internet. Again, the elderly are often less likely to have it. Being asked to stay home can be particularly hard on them. If you have older relatives, and/or relatives/friends out of state, this forced shutdown might be a good time to pick up the phone and call. It won’t spread any germs and it will brighten someone’s day.

Just some thoughts. I hope everyone weathers this well. I hope those who are sick, heal.

May God bless you & keep you!

Appreciation, Books, Christianity, Culture, Exhaustion, Faith, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Prayer, Reading, Scripture, Sleep Deprivation, Spirituality, Understanding, Writing, Yoga & Fitness, YouTube

Overindulgence

“When dining with a rich man, be on your guard and don’t stuff yourself, though it all tastes so good; for he is trying to bribe you, and no good is going to come of his invitation.” (Proverbs 23:1-3)

Okay. No, I haven’t sat down with a rich man…or woman. I didn’t stuff myself either. And I doubt anyone is trying to bribe me. However, I did overindulge just a little yesterday…in the pleasure-reading department.

Normally, during Lent, I don’t bother to give myself the allowance of having Sunday as a free pass day. I continue to follow, to the best of my abilities, the Lenten obligations that I’ve given to myself. The rationale has always been that I’m liable to have a tougher time getting back into the groove, so to speak, come Monday morning.

Boy, have I ever!

I told myself no Facebook, outside of wishing loved ones a “Happy Birthday!”; no YouTube, except on Sunday, and no fictional reading, also except on Sunday. So I rented a book from the library (my day job) last Wednesday–Ash Wednesday–as one-part an immediate slip regarding giving up novels for 6 weeks, and one-part a temptation (as if working in a library full of books isn’t enough of one…) to see if I could avoid it.

I did.

I didn’t read the novel I checked out until Sunday afternoon.

All day.

And into the evening.

And I suppose I did “cheat” a little because I was still reading said novel at 2:00 a.m. when I finished it from cover to cover.

Needless to say, I did NOT get up early and get on the yoga mat, or write anything at 3:30 a.m. I slept later–still without getting enough sleep–because “later” was 7 a.m. That is the latest I can do before I push my goats off of their feeding schedule. Now I’m sitting here yawning, a bit over-tired, and thinking that maybe I was wrong about one thing: I actually CAN string two or more words together in the evening; might be a good way to develop it into a more sustainable habit as 3:30 a.m. isn’t. At least not when you’re staying up late on a reading marathon…which I’m liable to do even during “ordinary” time.

Maybe I should go back to my usual plans and save the novels until after Lent…even on Sundays.

May God bless you & keep you!

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An Offering of Ashes

“So I earnestly pleaded with the Lord God [to end our captivity and send us back to our own land]. As I prayed, I fasted, and wore rough sackcloth, and sprinkled myself with ashes, and confessed my sins and those of my people. O Lord, I prayed, You are a great and awesome God; You always fulfill your promises of mercy to those who love you and who keep your laws.” (Daniel 9:3-4)

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. I knew that. And yet, for me, it was Tuesday all day…despite going to the early morning Mass. I let MIG out of his chicken tractor instead of Sargent Feathers and Tank (and, yes, I do have a schedule so each of the roosters gets some free-ranging time). I tried opening the library an hour earlier (Wednesday we don’t open until 2 p.m.) and, then, after laughing at myself and with the other librarians, I also tried to close us up two hours’ earlier. We had another good laugh. I’m not sure why my brain was in such a fog but it was. Now this morning I’m up and at ’em, grabbing something to eat as soon as my feet hit the floor at 3 a.m. after yesterday’s obligatory fast. I’m praying for the strength and determination to see this Lenten season through so I don’t break my vows.

So, what have I pledged this year?

I’ve given up social media, at least for the most part. I will still check Facebook each day for any birthday notices so that I may wish long distance friends and family a happy one, but I won’t be scrolling through all of the political commentaries and sharing/posting on my own timeline. I’ve given up YouTube except on Sundays (I really have become an addict). And fictional reading, except my own, and except on Sundays. I even checked out a novel yesterday as both a temptation to resist and something to look forward to on a day of rest. I’m committed to praying the rosary each day and listing 3 things I’m grateful for every night before I go to sleep, both practices that have fallen by the wayside as my work schedule has shifted over and again over the last year or so. I’ve committed to 3 pages of my novel each day, one post to each blog daily, a daily posting of my Go Fund Me campaign on all of my social media accounts (I can do that from my Go Fund Me page without visiting my social media sites…) and I’ve given up sweets and white flour products (diet has also fallen by the wayside over the last couple of years).

Sound extreme? Yeah, well, I’m sort of an all-or-nothing sort of gal.

Will I break one of these vows? It was already a near miss with the novel I checked out yesterday but I resisted. It’s not supposed to be a punishment, but a break in the very real habit of hiding within each story and avoiding some stressful situations.

Such as working through my financial issues.

I can’t avoid it anymore. The time to act is now, to become more aggressive in my job search…and in swallowing my fears and insecurities, and querying editors regarding the publication of some short stories. In the immortal words of Dr. Phil, “It’s time to get REAL!” Life is too short. And the yearnings for a better life, of peace and tranquility, of some financial security, etc. is too painful to ignore any longer. I am trusting in Him to see us through it but, I feel like He’s brought me full circle to this very scary place again for a reason. And I believe it is because I didn’t do the work He was calling me to do the last time. I keep telling myself that I don’t know what that work is but, deep down inside, if I’m truly honest with myself, I do know. It’s time to act. Not waste more time.

The vows may be extreme but the heart is committed…at least it is this morning. A few prayers to keep it strong are greatly appreciated.

What were some of your Lenten vows this year? I’d be delighted if you’d share in the comments.

May God bless you & keep you!

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A Song for the Year

“Play joyous melodies of praise upon the lyre and on the harp. Compose new songs of praise to Him, accompanied skillfully on the harp; sing joyfully.” (Psalms 33:2-3)

I probably should’ve written this post on January 1st. However, as we enter the Lenten season this week, my resolve to stay a particular course is tested and strengthened. This is my “new year”, my time to find something in my heart that I feel needs attention.

This time around it’s a growing awareness–an awareness that has been with me for many, many years (not just the last 3 or so)–of how divided we are in the U.S. And in the world. We see people who look differently than us, worship differently, love differently, dress differently. And we judge. I don’t think deep down inside that we’re inherently racist or filled with hate. I think we’ve become indoctrinated with a lot of racist rhetoric and assumptions about each other, rhetoric and assumptions that cause us to fear and mistrust…instead of reaching across an invisible aisle, or line, that we have drawn in the sand. Of course, it doesn’t help when our leaders continue to reiterate those assumptions. Or that we’ve been fed American history from a biased perspective.

What would American history be like if our history books told about slavery from the perspective of the men, women and children who were trapped in it for centuries?

What would our curriculum be like if it included the oral histories of the Cheyenne, Sioux, Cherokee or Iroquois’ (etc) nations?

Do we realize how many Hispanic and/or Latinos have contributed to that history, to the building of this country, from its very inception? Ditto for Asian, Indian, Jewish and Muslim/Middle Eastern peoples, etc.

And how many of our most revered authors, artists, etc from centuries’ past would identify today as LGBTQ? Does who they love(d) make their contributions any less?

What truly makes America–and all the world, really–great is the beauty of that diversity. And I think it’s time that we focused on what brings us together, not what divides us. As my choice for “song of the year” by Mandisa (feat. TobyMac and Kirk Franklin) says, “We All Bleed the Same”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVKuA1s5I3o

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Mandisa. “We All Bleed the Same.” Out of the Dark, Sparrow Records, 2017.