Naming Trees and a Quest for Cardboard

And so the gypsy moths have completely denuded one of the big Norway maples in my front yard. Not Helen, mind you. Helen is the grandmother of all the Norway maples here. And, yes, the Master Gardener here knows Norway maples are invasive and not native to Connecticut. I didn’t plant them; they were here when I purchased said property back in 2001. Invasive or not, they provide much-appreciated shade in the summertime, and a nice bit of windbreak in the winter. So nobody touches Helen & Co.

Except the gypsy moths.

And there’s not much I can do about that. They’ve completely denuded Ollie already. Ollie is a slightly younger Norway maple, if one judges by the size of circumference (don’t trees grow a new ring every year??). And quite lovely…despite his invasive nature. The Japanese dogwood…or maybe it’s a flowering cherry tree…is also completely denuded. I’m not sure of the species because it is one of about a dozen saplings I received as a “Thanks!” for donating several years’ ago to the Arbor Day Foundation. Only three of them survived. They’re all part of the under story near Ollie. I’m almost positive the one closest to the house is a Japanese dogwood…and, so far, the gypsy moths have left it alone. It’s the other two–one denuded, the other on its way to becoming–that worry me. And Ollie. Can they all recover from this? Or will I have a rotting Norway maple stump next spring? Horrified at this finding this morning, I tried hand-picking some of them off of the smaller trees. But it was a futile endeavor; just too many of them. I may have to invest in some bird netting and then try to pluck em all off before I cover them. It’s heart-breaking as they are all part of the latest landscaping endeavor, an effort to beautify the area closest to the interstate with ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers. Eh, if it’s visible from the road, it has to be pretty…not that the current state of Tobacco Road could be called attractive, but I digress yet again…

And, yes, I’ve named some of the trees in my yard. Here’s how it started.

I won’t get into all of the spiritual changes within that brought this about–that could take a whole week’s worth of posts–but, several years’ ago I studied Wicca. For those of you who only know Wicca through TV and other pop culture mediums, Wicca is NOT any sort of devil worshipping. I am, and always have been, a Christian, accepting Christ as my Savior back in 1995, shortly after my first divorce. But, for some reason, the tree-hugging nature lover in me has always been drawn to Wicca. And I can only conclude because Wicca is a nature-based religion.

Anyway, to keep a long story short, I took a course at the local community college entitled, “Introduction to Wicca” after a long theological discussion with the then-deacon of my church, Brother Bob. I was expecting sermons as regarding fire and brimstone raining down upon my head for even considering such a course but Brother Bob encouraged me to take it instead. The reason? Because it is the fear of what we don’t know, or understand, that breeds distrust, hatred and violence. It is fear that the enemy of my soul uses to bring chaos into my life…and into the world. So, for four weeks, I drove to Mansfield, CT and attended class. And I loved it! I learned so much, so much that I can accept and appreciate…even to how the good Lord used this experience to help me re-connect with members of my own family (I have an aunt and a couple of cousins who are practicing Wiccans). I’m not afraid anymore; there’s no reason to be.

“His disciple John came to Him and said, ‘Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons. And we told him not to. After all, he isn’t in our group.’ But Jesus said, ‘You should not have done that! For anyone who is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)

Getting back to the naming of trees, this class sparked an interest so deep that I started reading every book that I could find on the subject. Some, I will admit, were a bit “darker” than others. Not necessarily sinister, or diabolical, but more like a sort of prejudiced attitude towards any religion other than Wicca (and haven’t we all experienced a similar attitude in other religions–including Christianity!). There was one though, written by a fellow Master Gardener, that talked about naming trees and how trees actually have spirits. Most Native American tribes believe trees, rocks, etc. have spirits and, as I’m part-Mohawk, part-Narragansett, it resonated within. More, I had been finding myself drawn to “Helen” and this book made me stop and think. Maybe Helen was giving me little mental nudges. Anyway, she was christened “Helen” shortly thereafter.

Now, before anyone thinks I’ve completely gone off the deep-end, and maybe I have, if you head over to http://www.treehugger.com and type in “trees” + “Melissa”, you’ll find a host of articles featuring the research of various scientists about trees. And how they share resources, protect one another, and even communicate with each other. There’s quite a number of them; they’re interesting reads…whether you believe in such or not.

So, now that Ollie is suffering from an attack of gypsy moths, and I prepare to possibly mourn the loss of him in the not-so-distant future, I can’t help worrying if Helen will eventually fall prey, too. She’s the grandmother here because she’s so enormous. I would be willing to bet she’s stood in this yard over 100 years or more, such is the size of her trunk. To lose either shade tree is a heart-wrenching thought. Invasive or not, trees don’t grow overnight. It’s one of the reasons we treehuggers object to things like over-harvesting from forests and the current annihilation of the rain forests in South America due to our hunger and greed for more wood; such important eco-systems can never hope to recover at the rate of said destruction.

But before this becomes one of my environmental rants (I’ll save that for another post…chuckle), I’m switching a few gears here. Helen, Ollie & Friends are a part of this very local landscape. As I’ve moved rock walls and started building raised beds, I’ve designed everything here to work with the current landscape, rather than any clear-cutting. I’ve been using something called the the No-Dig Gardening method, developed and promoted by Mr. Charles Dowding of England. Mr. Dowding is not the originator of this method but he has developed it to a level that has proven effective and efficient for any home gardener. Another name for it is lasagna gardening. Mr. Dowding has a wonderful You Tube channel that takes you from soup to nuts on how to landscape and grow fruits, vegetables and herbs without digging…or rototilling, which is very bad for the soil and will encourage the growth of weeds and invasive species.

Like Helen.

No-Dig, or lasagna, gardening requires the laying down of flattened cardboard boxes, which slowly decompose but act as a weed barrier while in that decomposition, directly atop the compacted soil, or grass, or weeds–wherever you decide to create this raised bed. Like any good lasagna, the next step is to layer everything: leaves, kitchen scraps, compost, etc. If you wish to go the more traditional route of bags of peat moss, potting soil, etc, that’s okay, too…even if it isn’t quite as sustainable. Once you’ve created a good six inches of layers, you simply plant your seeds directly into this mix or, if you’ve started seeds indoors, or purchased plants from the local nursery, you may simply part some of the layers and set the plugs into them. They will grow.

This initial landscaping project encompasses about 1/4 acre of my property; I have another 1/2 acre planned but in much smaller stages. This 1/4 acre is probably a bigger undertaking than Mr. Dowding would have recommended in the beginning but I’m committed to it. I spent most of last winter squirreling away every empty box that walked through the dealership where I work afternoons and early-evenings. I would pack the trunk of the car, the backseat, and throw them into what was once a garage, now storage room. One would think, with so much pack-ratting activity, that I would have more than enough to finish said project but, alas, I am on a perpetual quest to find more. Though empty boxes still travel through the dealership, walking everywhere now, I’ve been searching a little closer to home; flat-packed boxes are a prime example of dead weight. So, every now and then, I’m petitioning nearer neighbors and, hopefully, saving them a bit of the expense to have their cardboard waste hauled away…and keeping much of it out of the local landfills. It’s a design I can be proud of.

Even Helen agrees…

May God bless you & keep you!

Livestock Guardian Goats

Sargent Feathers, Corporal Denim and Tank all broke out in a loud, raucous screeching this morning around 10 a.m. Knowing this is their warning cry, I ran out of the rabbit room and outside to the back deck where my livestock guardian goats were all standing at attention, eyes focused up in the trees, while the roosters and some of the hens fluttered about near their feet; the rest of the girls had scattered. My guess is the goats had been sunning themselves on the deck when the Sargent awakened them…rudely. Trust me…this is not a noise you can readily sleep through.

Goats are not necessarily what one thinks of as a guardian but Felicity, especially, is very protective of her feathery friends. Though she’s not above head-butting them out of her way to the feed bowl each morning, heaven help the creature who tries to nab one of them in the yard. Last summer’s unfortunate skunking is a perfect example. Felicity may not have received the full force of Mr. Skunk’s defense mechanism, but a few droplets did hit her…and should have been enough to teach her a lesson. I’m not sure though that the lesson took hold. If we are ever unfortunate enough to receive such a visitor again, Felicity is liable to go on the rampage again. Not on her watch, you don’t. And Prudence the Plymouth Barred Rock chicken will readily jump up on Chester’s back if Duncan and Dweezil suddenly become too amorous again. They may not be traditional guardians but the chickens have certainly found that having them near is a safer place to be.

Of course, the moment I walked out onto the back deck, the goats trotted over, eyes bright, ever hopeful and nuzzling my hands in the most obvious of body languages: Got any treats???

Sorry, guys!

I did a quick headcount, finding most of the hens in the coop, all huddled in the corner under the Japanese knotweed. Taffy and Kiel were inside the henhouse; a couple of girls ran into the goat barn. Though the ducks were quacking, excitedly, they stood milling around outside the goat barn. There were still three hens missing, however.

As I walked back out of the goat barn, I discovered the cause of all the commotion. I’m not sure what kind of hawk it was but it had a pretty good-sized wingspan. Seeing me emerging from the barn must’ve spooked it. It flew off of the branch it had perched upon, overlooking the yard, and flew into the woods behind us. I didn’t think it had gone far though so I stayed outside a little longer to make sure, still searching for the three missing hens. As I started back towards the house, one of my Americaunas crawled out from under the deck. Mystery solved.

I went back inside then returned again with my glasses to see if I could spot the hawk better but he/she was nowhere to be seen. And, so far, all has been quiet outside. The last time I checked, the goats were still sunning themselves…with a circle of feathery friends staying close and near. What are friends for?

May God bless you & keep you!

Who’s Really in Charge Here Anyway?

“We ought not to insist on everyone following in our footsteps, nor to take upon ourselves to give instructions in spirituality when, perhaps, we do not even know what it is.” St. Teresa of Avila

I’ll admit it. “Charles in Charge” has nothing on me. I’m in control, or so I tell myself, and then hear the echo of what can only be God laughing as I tighten the reins…and chaos erupts.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I think I remember reading somewhere that 98% of us have at least a touch of it. Some of us have a bit more than a touch, unfortunately. Oh, it comes in handy at times. The alphabetized CD, DVD, VHS and book collections make finding whatever I’m looking for a snap. Because, really, who wants to waste time looking for something that may be right in front of your nose? I have bigger fish to fry, as they say. And, maybe it’s a bit extreme but my closet is color coded with all the yellow garments together, all the red, all the green, etc. Again, it makes finding that outfit easier. And I’m all about economizing my time. However, these little impulses and neuroses also tie me in knots and can make me a rather difficult person to live with.

Poor Mom.

This feeble attempt at perfectionism often manifests as criticism. I hear myself and cringe. Criticism was definitely NOT the intent but that’s what surely came across if I put myself in her shoes. And really, how important is it if the buttery popcorn bowl wasn’t rinsed first before it went into the sink? Or if the spoon rest is backwards on the stove? This latter “pet peeve” doesn’t get spoken; I simply turn it around again but then I think, as I’m doing it, does it MATTER???

And here is where the knots get tied because, as one voice is asking about the importance of such an act, another voice knows how much of a mental distraction it will be if I leave the spoon rest backwards…or the toilet paper feeding from under, rather than over.

Of course, I’ve never really sat down with Mom and tried to explain exactly what it’s like to live with OCD. Sadly, such a conversation tends to veer off into why mine is so intense in the first place: it’s a response to the molestation I grew up with. And that is a subject Mom would rather forget about altogether. As a child, I couldn’t control what was happening to me so I acted out by adopting these little “habits”. It gave me a false sense of security. And I was desperate to feel secure. Not only the abuse but also the alcoholism, the drunken accusations that told us all that we were “stupid” and couldn’t do anything “right” and to “look a little harder than you have to”. Like many children who grow up with some sort of substance abuse…as well as the abuse of their bodies, minds, and spirits, I turned all this negativity onto myself and shouldered all the blame. If I was a better student, he wouldn’t be so angry. If I kept my room neater, maybe he’d leave me alone. If I did all the chores around the house, all this chaos would stop.

Who was I kidding?

I’ve been tied up in knots since I was a very little girl. Is it any wonder that I’m still tying myself in knots? Unhealthy though it may be, it’s also a comfortable numb. It’s familiar. And, if I don’t grasp, and clutch, and sterilize my whole life, I start to relax…and then chastise myself for being “lazy”.

The paradox of all of this is that my property from the roadside looks like tobacco road. This is another coping mechanism from dealing with alcoholism. It keeps people away. But such a desire never cropped up until a few years ago when I had a live-in boyfriend…who was also an alcoholic. He seemed a nice enough guy when we met. And there was an instant rapport. This last one should have been a red flag…heck, it should have been flashing in neon red. Because that kind of comfort level so early on, well, they say a girl looks for her father when she dates…or, in this case, father figure. I was embarrassed. The sometimes-arrogant self, who would never allow herself to be caught in such a situation, got caught in it. How did this happen? How did I let this happen? And, worse, it took me forever to finally get out of it. The same mind control that I grew up, manifested again in this romantic partner. The same self-doubt and shame crept in. And I felt sorry for him. He, too, had grown up with abuse in the home. I knew what that was like. And, while I had had a network of family and friends behind me as I sought therapy and tried to claw my way into some sort of normalcy of life, he was still wallowing in the beaten-down misery he grew up with. He even threatened to beat me physically…and I still let him stay. It wasn’t until, in a drunken stupor, he cut down a beloved shade tree in the yard that I snapped and gave him the boot.

Tobacco road’s been growing ever since…because I’m mortified that I allowed myself to be caught up in this unhealthy situation. I fell down on my principles. Every stitch of therapy went out the windows. Though I have no actual proof, I even suspect he was abusive to one of my cats as Trooper’s behavior while he was here was almost unbearable. And it stopped almost immediately once this man was finally gone for good.

A little bit at a time. That’s what friends tell me as I tackle this overgrowth. It’s a little bit like that “One Day at a Time” motto advocated by both Alcoholics’ Anonymous and Al-Anon. A little bit at a time, one day at a time.

This homestead is healing me as well as it is healing the land. My OCD says I should be able to perfectly landscape the 3/4 of an acre I’ve set aside for fruits, vegetables and herbs in a weekend’s work; it’s not good enough otherwise. Reality says, as I am implementing Charles Dowding’s “No Dig Gardening” method to bring as low an impact to the earth as I can, that such an enormous undertaking simply cannot be done in one weekend…not to the scale I envision. And not by one single person…especially one on a part-time income.

No, the “No-Dig” method isn’t expensive. Quite the contrary. It uses flattened cardboard boxes laid out on the ground (something easily had for free from many of the local businesses who don’t mind not having to pay out to cart the cardboard away instead) and then composted waste, from both the kitchen, and the animals, layered on top of the cardboard to create a raised bed. I’ve been dismantling a broken section of stone wall that runs along the front of my property to outline the beds once they’re made and using old feed bags that I’ve cut open and laid flat for the walkways in between. As funds permit, I buy a bag or two of red mulch and lay it atop the bags. This is where the part-time income comes into the picture as I cannot purchase enough at one time to cover all of the walkways at once. And, as I am on a major interstate, as well as in the commercial district, it has to be “pretty”.

So, a little bit at a time, one day at a time.

And, when the OCD starts kicking up again and stresses perfection, I need only look outside to see the rhubarb growing tall and strong in the three-tiered pyramid I built for it and the strawberries; I need only look at the green beans poking their kidney-shaped heads out of the ground in one raised bed and the beautiful purple flower heads of the chives, and the lush expanse of marjoram in another to tell me that, yes, one day at a time is good enough. It doesn’t matter that it’s not “perfect”. Obviously, these plants don’t care a fig if it’s perfect or not; they’re still growing in imperfection.

As for the grass?

Mankind has ever strived to tame and “control” Nature. I refuse to use anything gas-powered, or any chemicals, to kill it off. Even with the raised beds, the weed and grass barriers being laid down, there’s still the occasional blade that pokes up even amongst those sections already landscaped. This is a reminder that, despite my valiant efforts to control and manipulate this landscape, much like the landscape of my life, there is Someone greater than I who is really in charge. Someone who takes those knots I’ve tied myself into, lays them out flat…and helps me to grow.

May God bless you & keep you!

A Big “Thank You!” to my Guardian Angel

It must be that. At the very least I am reminded all over again of His blessings…and at a time when I tend to be at an all-time low, feeling trapped and stifled in a situation I didn’t create.

However, today is not to be spent dwelling upon the negative. Today is a day when faith, hope and joy have come together and blessed me with abundance. And I praise Him for the gift.

Less than an hour ago, a flatbed truck pulled up at the end of my driveway. The young man driving it got out of the cab and started unloading bales of hay. When I told him that I hadn’t ordered any hay, he told me that was okay; someone else did. And he was under orders not to tell who. The person who bought and paid for the hay, and paid for the delivery, wished to remain anonymous. All he could tell me was he had come from Plainfield Agway and that the order was for eight bales of hay.

Now I’m sitting here wondering which friend decided to bless me with such a gift. And I’m blogging about it because I’ve blogged recently about the local feed store not having any hay and how, with not having a car to drive to another feed store (like Agway), I’ve been worried about running out. This is so unexpected. Words cannot describe what I am feeling right now. And, because this “angel” wishes to be anonymous, I don’t even know who to thank. So I hope, whoever you are, you will accept this blog post as my “thank you”, which doesn’t seem adequate even as it is heart-felt. I hope that I can someday repay your kindness, though you obviously haven’t asked for payment, or, barring that, I hope that someday I can pay it forward by blessing another in such a beautiful way.

I don’t know who you are. But God does. God knows your heart. And, today, so do I. So I ask His many blessings on you and yours, that your life might be all the richer for the abundance you have graced me with this day. And I praise God for your light in my life.

May God bless you & keep you!

Peace Be Within Thy Walls

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others–the armies of heaven–praising God. Glory to God in the highest heaven,” they sang, “and peace on earth for all those pleasing Him.” (Luke 2:13-14)

A friend of mine once remarked about how peaceful my home was. Without the background noise of the television that fills the silence of the average American home, and the only drama being the occasional squabble of a couple of cats vying for the same kibble…or accidental mouse.

Home has always been a sanctuary for me, a place where I can shut the world, and all of its dramas, completely out. In truth, I’ve always had a little bit of the hermit-in-the-woods in me. I like my privacy. And I crave solitude like flowers crave sun and rain. And yet, paradoxically, I consider myself a people person. Despite liking my quiet time, if you need help with something, I am always happy to oblige. Need help moving? Need your mail collected, plants watered and/or pets cared for while you’re away? No problem; I’m happy to help. Stuck on the highway somewhere? That’s what the GPS is for (at least when I had a car to drive to find you!). Need to vent? It goes no further than my ears. However, I draw the line with the drama and gossip.

Sadly, Mom is just the opposite. She likes company…almost 24/7. And even the little things become big dramas. And, before I go further, I know many of my posts sound like I’m verbally beating up on my mother. I love her more than life itself. It’s just that we’re polar opposites and, though it has been over three years since she moved in with me, I’m still having a hard time adjusting to having a roommate…especially one who seems to thrive on a little drama now and then. In many ways, this blog has become a means for me to vent…just a little.

Yesterday, Mom was in a dither because one of her sisters contacted her via Facebook about how certain siblings went to the wedding of one of her nephews but this sister hadn’t been invited. Neither were Mom and I. They spent the day commiserating with each other…until the aunt’s daughter came home (she gets in trouble fraternizing with “the enemy” these days). Mom kept saying how it would’ve been nice to be asked. Yes, I suppose that’s true. This obviously got under her skin that she hadn’t been asked…albeit, this high dudgeon had been fed all afternoon via that commiseration. Trying to be diplomatic, I reminded her that we have no transportation. Her reply was we could’ve rented a car. No, we couldn’t. At present, such an expense would’ve been a bit prohibitive…and I seriously doubt I would’ve rented one for a wedding. Though I’ve been a bride twice, watching a tipsy groom smash cake into his bride’s face while the rest of us flap our “wings” doing the chicken dance is, well, only under duress, please. While I wish the young couple well, and would likely have sent a card and a gift, I doubt I would’ve gone to the extreme of renting a car for it. Besides, Mom’s side of the family has been so splintered since my grandmother’s passing in 1990 that I haven’t seen this cousin since he was a little boy. And that was my next attempt at diplomacy. Maybe we weren’t invited because we’re really strangers to him. “It still would’ve been nice to be asked.” It wasn’t until I reminded her that, when I married my second husband, I only invited the two aunts who have since defected from the family, and my godfather, that she seemed to calm down a bit and realize it wasn’t the big deal that she was making it out to be. I was also quick to point out that these little family dramas are the main reason I live in another state…even if we are only over the state line a few miles.

Mom’s family lives in Rhode Island, the biggest little state in the union. Years ago, a co-worker from one of the company’s Texas sites, was relocated to RI. I remember him commenting how there are ranches in Texas that are bigger than the whole state of RI. In short, most of the rest of the US thinks nothing of driving an hour to visit friends and family; Rhode Islanders treat anything more than a 20-minute drive like a trip to the moon. “You live all the way out there???” Who cares if we didn’t get an invite? Are we supposed to ostracize him, too, now? And with that I buried my nose in a new book.

This morning I couldn’t help but chuckle as I trudged outside at dawn to move more rocks, finding that zen of meditation in the rhythmic work of landscaping.

Relax.

Breathe…

And a big “Congratulations!” to my cousin and his new bride; such dramas should not be coloring your day in any way. This should be one of the happiest days of your lives. And I wish you all the joy in the world. =)

Incidentally, that world is not coming to an end because we didn’t get an invitation. And, no, I’m not trivializing something that obviously bothered Mom greatly. However, I am learning not to allow my feathers to get ruffled right along with Mom’s. In the long and short of everything, it really isn’t the end of the world. Drama is unhealthy. And reacting to it only fuels it more. So I’m still Switzerland–neutral–minding my own business and trying valiantly to recapture some of the peace and sanctuary that should be home. And, if I want to do the chicken dance, all I have to do is walk out in the barnyard and join Sargent Feathers & Co. for a real lessen in how to flap those wings.

May God bless you & keep you…Namaste!

Rain

“In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too.” (Matthew 5:45)

Rain. Rain. RAIN.

I’m not usually one to bemoan something so vitally important as rain. Considering the West Coast has been experiencing drought conditions over the last couple of years (or maybe longer…), I suppose I shouldn’t mind over much. My well is getting a thorough replenishing and the rhubarb, at least, in enjoying the good soaking. The seeds I planted last week are also getting a good soaking. We should have a decent crop…if the sun will also shine on occasion. Too much of anything–even something so good as rain–is never a good thing. Moderation.

While my garden is getting a good drink, the barnyard is a oozing with about two inches of mud and muck. The chickens lift one foot high and gingerly set it down again whenever they near the barn as the mud and muck seem to be worse there. My own Wellington-clad feet are doing the “Squee–elshhh–pop” thing again as I sink into those two inches of mud, trudging out to the barn with feed and hay and water. The mud seeks to keep me there, tugging and sucking on the souls of my boots until I finally tug free with that unmistakable “pop” in an endless tug-o-war. The goats are going to need a good hoof trimming soon; wet ground is never good for goat hooves. And I’m praying none of them get any foot rot from it. We’ve been battling worms; that’s enough. Only the ducks seem unfazed by it, quacking happily and splashing about in the river running through the very back corner of the barnyard. I’ve taken to placing boards down in front of the both the goat barn and along the pathway to the hen house so my poor babies have someplace relatively dry to place their toes.

I am grateful the forecast over the next few days is calling for warm temperatures and, finally, sunshine. All this rain brought a more ominous threat Tuesday when I went to the feed store: No More Hay. The local farmer who supplies them can’t get his hay cut and baled. If it doesn’t dry up soon, he’ll lose the whole crop. There was definitely worry etched across the store-owner’s face. She’s a woman after my own heart though. Sometimes bale straps break; she has her workers sweep them into large lawn bags and sells them for $3 per bag. I bought six out of the 8 she had left. My goats and rabbits will eat it well enough but there’s a lot of small, crumbly pieces of hay in it, chaff that they’ve also swept up and saved. It doesn’t stretch as far. She also carries a product called Chaffhaye, which is a bag of fermented hay. It is very good for their digestion but it is also fattening so, if I must eventually resort to using it (the animals love it!), I will have to modify how much I give to them. However, as Domino lost a bit of weight from the worms, it won’t hurt him if he does eat a bit more than usual.

Not having hay has me in a bit of a panic. My animals need to eat. What if this farmer can’t get his hay in? There are already contingency plans to call the local Agway and see if they have any…and how many bales I will need to purchase for them to make the delivery. They are the only feed place in the area that I know of that will deliver. (Sometimes not having a vehicle really sucks…) You see, the local feed place, while good folks and I will keep supporting the local business as much as I can, do not have an arsenal of resources for their hay. They run out a lot. Agway, on the other hand, has a host of sources so I’m going to call today. If nothing else, I can get a small stock in for winter.

Of course, looking out my window at the severely overgrown lawn–what’s left of it–I’m thinking I might be able to make some hay of my own in a few days. Here’s to looking at the bright side of things…literally and figuratively.

May God bless you & keep you!

A Bigger Life

“Ask, and you will be given what you ask for. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Anyone who seeks, finds. If only you knock, the door will open. If a child asks his father for a loaf of bread, will he be given a stone instead? If he asks for fish, will he be given a poisonous snake? Of course not! And if you hardhearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask him for them?” (Matthew 7:7-11)

Believe it or not, I often struggle with this biblical passage. Struggle because there is too much doubt in my heart that what I wish for, what I hope will come to be, I am not worthy to have. This passage says nothing about worthiness. It asks only that we, well, ASK. No other hidden clauses.

Of course, when/if I discuss this passage with others, I invariably get that old standby of predestination. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Yes, that’s probably true. Does not the Bible also tell us that even the hairs on our heads are numbered by God? And that He knows when every sparrow falls so, therefore, He also knows our struggles…even the desires of our hearts? And yet, I hear that old adage and, no sooner have I gone to God in prayer for what I need, or even want, and I’m already deciding that what I’m asking for is probably not a part of His will and, therefore, why am I asking? I defeat myself as soon as the prayer is out of my mouth…or head.

What kind of lukewarm faith is this? Is there nothing too great for God? Did He not make me along with everyone else?

Then we get into the whole thought process of accepting that maybe He is instead trying to mold and shape me for something better, something that is in line with His plans. And my anxiety ramps up because maybe it will require too much of a sacrifice…like the loss of someone I love (did not The Twelve leave even their closest family members to follow Jesus?) in order to have that dream. Because, whatever dream He put on my heart, I’ve already convinced myself I’m not worthy of. So I try to guess His plans. What does He want me to do? Show me the way. And then I start chastising myself for being so ungrateful for what I already have. And I shouldn’t want or ask for more. Who cares if I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul and find that Peter’s flat broke? I’ve reached the cap on God’s mercy, or gifts, or grace. Such thinking, I consider, must surely anger God. For where in the Bible does it say He has a cap? Nowhere. His love is unconditional. Passage after passage tells us that He wants only the best for His children. Yet still I doubt. If You’re going to show me the way, I need neon signs and strobe lights highlighting that way. And even then I’d probably doubt if it was “meant” for me.

You see, people who grow up in abusive homes, especially if the abuser was their father, or a father figure, have difficulty believing in a loving and compassionate Father in heaven; it’s an alien concept. We get the angry and vengeful God who punished the Israelites for worshiping other gods and erecting idols, for being stubborn, etc. But the God who loves us, who will give His children good gifts, we struggle with.

I am grateful for everything I have. I know I have been richly blessed already. Even when so many others were losing their homes during the Great Recession, I managed to hang on to this one…despite only being a part-time and/or seasonal worker (the only jobs available in this sleepy New England town)…simply due to His grace. It does seem a bit, well, sinful and selfish to be wishing for something more. This house is a fixer-upper; the homestead is small and, because of it’s smallness, it can also be limiting. However, the smaller size has forced me to get more creative as I continue to landscape and design, to find ways to re-purpose certain areas. It’s also on a major interstate so the dream of growing organic vegetables, fruits and herbs is already out the window. With that much carbon zooming by in a continuous stream, even with the row of Thujas across the front border, that carbon is undoubtedly settling onto each and every leaf; the Thujas can only filter out so much. And, though I am grandfathered in for the use to which I put the land, as big box stores continue to climb the hill, closer and closer to home, I can’t help but fear how much worse that carbon impact is going to be…or how long before that grandfathered use gets challenged. Of course, I probably wouldn’t say “no” if some big developer came by and offered me a decent price for it, enough that I could start over somewhere else…but that’s a bit like waiting to hit the lottery.

I dream of acreage somewhere. I dream of that plot of land down that dusty, country lane, with pastures full of goats, sheep and chickens, maybe a horse or two, and border collies zipping around “Come by” and “Away to me” as they herd those sheep and goats into the barn at night. I dream of a small pond, or lake, on that property where my ducks can swim until their hearts’ are content. I dream of paddling a canoe, or pedaling a paddle boat, out onto that lake or pond after the workday is done. I dream of campfires, with friends and family sharing meals and some good music as we break out the guitar, the dulcimer, and open our hearts and lips to song. No Kumbaya, mind you, just a gathering of friends. I dream of herb gardens, lush, full, and diverse. Gardens made for teaching how to cook with herbs; how to tincture, infuse, poultice and compress. Maybe even some “magickal” uses for luck and love and a bit of romantic whimsy. I dream of equally lush vegetable gardens and small fruits growing and a greenhouse that houses an aquaponics’ system for growing even more food. I dream of a thriving produce stand, or a booth in the local farmers’ market. I dream of supplying the local food pantry with fresh, nutritious produce instead of the packaged, processed donations they typically receive. I dream of looms full of brightly-colored threads, all weaving a brilliant tapestry from the wool, angora, mohair and cashmere fibers routinely sheared, or plucked, from the animals I raise. I dream of a little store where yarns and fabric are sold from my stock. I dream of fresh goat’s milk and cheese, and goat’s milk soap scented with some of the herbs I grow. I dream that all, or at least most, of these animals are rescues, given a second chance at life, for a forever home. I dream of summer days out on the road with a trailer full of goats as we clear land for others in a manner that is much gentler on Mother Earth. I dream of an orchard with healthy and thriving honeybees buzzing in and out of the blossoms. I dream of honey and beeswax candles. And I dream of walking into that bookstore someday, or logging into Amazon, and seeing my name on the cover of that bestseller.

And I dream. And I yearn. And I consider that, maybe, these are just dreams and never “meant” to be. Maybe someday I will do as that Garth Brooks’ song says and thank God for unanswered prayers. Surely, His plans ARE bigger and better than anything I could ever imagine. But, maybe, just maybe, I can finally find it in my heart to TRUST that God truly has put these dreams in my heart for a purpose, that it isn’t all a pipe dream, fueled by an over-active imagination. Perhaps *Someday* I will trust that, yes, I am worthy of such dreams, that God loves me beyond any human ability to comprehend. Just because. Not because I “earned” it. Not because I prayed the most compelling prayer and that was the one He chose to answer. Not because of anything of my will but because His will shall be done. Maybe, just maybe, He’s using these dreams and yearnings to first answer another prayer, a prayer that asked to draw closer to Him, to know Him better, to learn how to trust in a loving Father.

Can I let go enough to let that healing begin? To allow His miracles to take place? Can I trust that, even if these dreams do not come to light, that wherever He does lead me, will bring me more joy than I can possibly imagine? Can I trust that His gifts are not like those given on earth, to sometimes bribe, sometimes stifle, to sometimes manipulate? This isn’t a toe-in-the-water sort of thing. It’s that proverbial, giant leap of faith. Can I do it? Can I accept God’s will for me on this earth? And, more importantly, can I accept that, yes, I do have a loving Father in heaven who does desire to give me good gifts?

Okay, then.

Breathe.

Relax.

And let go.

Thy will be done, Father. Thy will be done.

May God bless you & keep you!