Saturday, July 23, 2011

Of Excrement, Fans, Guns and Christians

So, when the excrement hits the fan and society breaks down into chaos, what is a Christian supposed to do? About self-defense, I mean. I mentioned in my last post that I planned to get a gun and learn to use it. Homestead self-defense and all that. Sounds a bit like some of the militia groups who already are drawing their lines in the sand and protecting it with a cache of weapons, doesn’t it? One might rightly ask: Tina, would you kill another person who came to seek food or help to survive? Would you be generous, kind, and sharing of what you have in your pantry? Is “preparedness” just another code word for hoarders with guns?

These are actually questions we each need to ask ourselves. If we have a three year pantry, and IT happens --and we obviously don’t know how long we are going to need to eat off that pantry – do we share with those who ask or shoot all comers on sight? If we feed one, will others follow? How many can we help without risking the well-being of our family? Do we stand and defend or stand and depend? In other words, in whom do we trust – Smith & Wesson or Jesus Christ? Do we compromise our testimony by strapping S&W on our hip?

Well, if you are expecting me to hand you an easy answer to those questions, you are going to be pregnant a long time. I wish I could say I have the definitive answer to give you. Okay, well, I guess the first thing we need to do is look at scripture. Here are a few relevant passages:

[25] "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? [26] Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? ... [31] So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' [32] For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. [33] But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. [34] Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. - Mat 6:25-26, 31-34 NIV

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. Pr 3:5

[32] Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. [33] Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. [34] You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. - Hbr 10:32-34 NIV

[39] But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. [42] Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. – Mat 5:39,42 NIV

Does that help you any? How do YOU interpret those passages in light of each other and as they may…or may not…apply to our dilemma? Some would, and have, argued with me that I’m taking a “doormat” position if I interpret or apply these scriptures to mean that I am to literally allow anyone to come and take my stuff if they want it. To some extent, my willingness to “be a doormat” depends on just which “stuff” is at risk of being taken. I see no reason not to stand aside and allow the taking of material possessions such as electronics, furniture, car, money. It’s all just so much stuff. As I see it, what matters more to God, a TV or a soul? Where are my treasures stored, here or heaven? Doesn’t scripture admonish us to be willing to forfeit our “rights” and our “stuff” for the cause of Christ?

But, more to the point, what about the one who comes to take away the food, water, or medicines I’ve stored up for my family? If I learn to shoot a gun as a homestead defense measure, how does that measure up to the scripture about “they who live by the sword, die by the sword”? Some have argued that being willing to protect and defend my homestead and family is the essence of being a good steward. To be a good steward, according to their view, is to protect those provisions that God has given me to provide for my family. Scripture also tells us that not to provide for our own families is to be worse than infidels. Even Jesus (Luke 22:35-36) told his disciples to carry a sword – even to trade their coat for a sword if they don’t have one. He understood that His disciples were going to need to defend themselves. Since Jesus is God, He cannot change. It is impossible for God to be of two minds. Knowing this, we know that, somehow, His words in Luke 22 are not in conflict with His words in Matthew 6. There is a time to stand and defend. There is a time to stand and depend. And, always, it is time to trust in His wisdom.

So, all that said, where the rubber meets the road is that preparing for “in case of” is a practical, good stewardship, wise as serpents thing to do. Learning to defend the homestead also falls in that category. Knowing when to defend and when to depend will require reliance on the Spirit that indwells me. One of the benefits of being a Holy Spirit indwelt child of God is that we can trust that His power and His wisdom are available to us at all times and in all seasons.

Trust and obey. There is no better way. That is what we do here at the Not Quite There Yet Homestead.

Friday, July 22, 2011

In case of is coming... Will you be ready for it?

Someone I respect often asks questions about what I'd do if. What if I can't get to the grocery store... what if the electric grid goes down...for a long time... what if _____ happens... He gently emphasizes being ready, as he says, "in case of...". This works whether you are looking at "normal" level "what if" scenarios (i.e., weather extremes, loss of job) or larger/more extreme "what if" scenarios (i.e., Economic Depression). Be ready, in case of....

Just today, he spoke of a 'sense' that wise elders are whispering about...and what many ordinary folks like myself are also picking up in the breeze of life...that something 'big' is coming. Change. Not just the economic changes we've been experiencing the last few years. Not just the ebb and flow of governments. Something bigger. My friend's word of wisdom was "to defend what is yours but never be afraid to retreat. For often those who retreat wisely, win."

Perhaps you have heard people talking about sensing something. What I find interesting is that regardless of their faith/religion/spiritual beliefs...there is this rumble amongst those in tune to the things of the spiritual realm that something... a huge wind of change bigger than a single government collapse...something this way comes. If it were just one person or one belief system predicting it, I'd not be so concerned. But, when it is spoken of softly...solemnly...from such a diverse group...and it echos what I sense in my own spirit.... would be very unwise not to figure there is something to it... Those of us who are children of the Most High and thus lead by the Spirit, should be especially excited. We are sensing the coming of the End and the Beginning. We are feeling the increasing heartbeat of heaven as it waits the trumpet call.

My question as I ponder this is: how much will we Christians experience before the call of the trumpet? How much of the breakdown of society and nature will we experience before we learn to fly? Our flight lessons could come tomorrow...or not until another generation takes our place. God's time is not our time. Generations that went before us also had to endure difficult challenging times. Thus, knowing that we are in the last days does not tell us whether a minute is left or a hundred years. But, still, there is that whisper of the Spirit that says " ready...rough times are coming".

So, today, my friend posed a number of questions to measure my level of preparedness for "in case of". I'll share with you how I'm doing:

Can you live off what your homestead produces? Not yet. I know that with careful planning and using permaculture and biointensive methods, a half acre homestead can produce all or most of my family's food needs. I am just beginning. There is still quite a bit of work to do to get to that level of productivity. The fruit trees need to be planted, the herb garden planted, and the vegetable beds in top form.

Can you grow your own medicines? I can and that is the plan. I have studied herbal medicines to a basic level and am planning an ongoing study.

Can you grow your own salad greens year round? Not yet...working on it.

Can you grow your own culinary herbs as well as herbs for tea, for medicine, for dye, for defense?The herb garden will include culinary, medicinal, and tea herbs. As for dyes, that is possible though not top priority. I'm still not sure what he means by herbs for defense. He didn't clarify that.

If your city water was cut off forever, do you know where your water would come from? NOPE. Our well ran dry several years ago, tried to drill deeper but hit rock. I do plan to add gutters to the house to catch rainwater which with filtering would be potable. Water could be our weakest link.

Could you survive if the power went off and you knew it would never come back on? Yes, though I might lose my sanity listening to my mother complain constantly about the heat. Think I'm kidding?

What would YOU do if the power went off long term? first, eat or can what is in the freezer (using firepit; we are moving away from depending on the freezer--canning rather than freezing); cook on grill and firepit; wash clothes by hand; use candles/kerosene lamps; use solar lights that can be powered up during the day and used in the house at night. Would also like to explore solar and wind power options.

How would your family survive until you re-learned how to be self-sufficient? The above questions covered the basics. Having a network of folks for trading/bartering will be important because it is unlikely I can grow/raise/produce everything we will need. Security is another issue. I have spoken with several gentlemen who are willing to help me pick out a weapon and learn to use it.

Will your land grow for you all of the food you and your family needs for a 3 year pantry? Plus eating fresh from the garden? Not yet, and when you say "everything", not everything. That is where the trade/barter community will come into play. There may be things, like rice, which I won't be able to get at
all. Some grains I hope to grow but it will be small in quantity. Theoretically, I could grow sufficient calories for us though it would be a limited diet. The trade option would allow for a broader range of foods. Off property foraging would also contribute to our needs.

Will your land grow for you all of the fodder and food your farmstead animals will need to survive and produce for you on the homestead? Currently my homestead animals consists of four dogs and a cat. Plans are to add chickens, rabbits, and goats. The cat can hunt for herself. The dogs will eat eggs, chicken, and rabbit along with us. The chickens will forage on bugs and weeds and compost. I can also grow millet and sunflowers for them. The rabbits can eat scrap vegetables and hay...not sure where the hay would come from. The goats can browse on the woodlot, garden biomass, and we can walk them around the neighborhood to eat weed/browse.

Are you striving to become totally self sustaining off grid Case of? It's coming you know. Yes, indeed, it is coming faster than most suspect! I am working on being ready. The biggest hurdle was to get my family on board. They are now and so we are moving faster toward being ready.

You could get laid off, or be out of a job for years with no outside income, could you keep your homestead or would you loose it? As long as I could sale enough eggs, excess produce, and a cash crop (i.e., luffas, goat milk soap, etc.) to cover the property tax bill, we'd be fine in this regard.

Could you feed your family or maintain your standard of living they expect during the no off farm work cycle? We'd not keep the same standard of living...things like cable and internet would have to be sacrificed...fewer trips to town "just 'cause"...but, I think we'd adjust better than many that I know because we don't have a high standard of living now...

In case of might just be around the next corner. Will you be ready for it? We are not there yet, but we are on the way...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Of Weeds and Blessings

The Tallow Tree adventure took an interesting turn yesterday.

The tree trimmers from the Electric Company arrived to trim back the Tallow Tree from the electrical wires. Turned out this simply act uncovered a disaster lurking unawares at the top of our power pole. Unbeknownst to us or the power company, the wires at the top of the pole were bare. All the coating has been worn off leaving the wires exposed and dangerous. In an electrical storm or other cause of a power surge, our house would be damaged severely. There was no reason for the power company to come look at the wires since there was no loss of service. There was no reason for us to think there was a problem. No reason whatsoever for anyone to examine the powerlines.

Except for a nuisance weed tree.

That tree for all that it was where it wasn't wanted, was a blessing in disguise. Isn't that the way of many blessings? Coming in the guise of trouble so we can easily miss it if we are looking. I guess that is why folks talk about the importance of "being in the moment" or "being present" helps us see the blessings in the midst of the weeds of life.

That Tallow Tree was hiding a few other secrets, too. A volunteer pecan tree and a bunch of Wild Cherry Trees. How did we not see these? Well, I guess they were hidden in plain sight. The pecan, already about six inches in diameter, was tucked behind the tallow and surrounded by the cherry trees. The cherry trees (at this point more "bush" than tree) were just so much background noise until the tallow was gone. The nice tree trimming crew, who also did more than just top off the tallow--they cut it to the ground for us, identified the wild cherry trees, thus elevating them from "background noise" to foreground fortuitous find.

Prunus serotina, Wild Cherry Tree (aka Wild Black Cherry)

Wild Cherry Trees are good for several somethings, it seems. A quick google search revealed that the bark has medicinal uses and the fruit (if one can beat the birds to it) makes a tasty jelly. The one potential problem is they may get very large. They can get upwards of 80 feet but one university site says such heights are unlikely in the piedmont and coastal regions of North Carolina. I plan to keep these pruned so they stay more on the bush-to-small-tree side of their potential.

The pecan tree they surround, however, does not have quite so bright a future. It is just too close to the power pole and, in fact, is heading straight for the powerline. It will, alas, have to go. But, on the upside, there are several other volunteer pecans and an oak that are small enough for repositioning to better spots.

While I am thrilled to be able to encourage the grown of several pecan and one oak tree in my backyard (which desperately needs tall shade trees), it does mean relocating the orchard. Now, the fruit trees I had planned to put back there will have to go in the garden area with the blueberries and fig...or somewhere...this means also moving the grape and kiwi we go again...better now than when the trees are in the ground!

Best laid plans of mice and men and journeys that never quite "get there".....

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Homestead Fence

As my son and I erected a fence for the dogs yesterday, Mother asked me if it was an organic fence. My initial response was "of course" -- this is an organic homestead afterall. But, of course, a fence of metal can not be "organic" as metal is inorganic. My chuckling at this turned to pondering about the fence and how it symbolizes the homestead life.

Homesteading is a growing movement here in the US. It isn't the same as the homesteading that took folks west to settle new territory in the early days of this country. Today, it is about self-sufficiency. Folks are learning how to raise their own food organically so that they know what they are feeding their families. We're growing our own herbal medicines and learning how to make tinctures and salves. We are learning new skill sets so we are ready for what may come. It's a movement about gaining confidence in our ability to care for our own.

Dogs checking out their new Dog Yard

What does this have to do with a fence? Well, I got it through Craigslist at a great deal as long as I came, took it down, and moved it. BJ and I went and took it down and a friend came and loaded it on his truck. The same friend loaned us a post driving tool (non-power driven) but was not able to provide a stretcher for the chainlink. Together, we drove the posts and stretched the chainlink. Stretching that chainlink without a stretcher was impossible until I remembered a little physics trick. We got some rope, tied it around the link and post and used a screwdriver to twist the rope. Tada! The chainlink stretched, and the fence came together--literally!

Then, there was the issue of the damage done by the seller's dog. Mostly of no consequences except for one spot where our dogs were bound to decide to use it as a back door. More homesteading ingenuity. BJ took an old board we'd saved from an old set of porch steps, hammered a few nails in it, and wired it to the fence to close off the back door. And, finally, there was a small gap at the gate that was Chloe sized. Sure enough, it didn't take her long to find it. So, a metal post used for temporary fencing was hammered into place and the Chloe sized exit was closed.

I used to wonder why my dad and stepfather were so fanatical about saving "stuff". Neither were hoarders by any means but they tended to hold on to things that I saw as trash. Coffee cans, old brick, the odd piece of old wood or bits of wire. They understood what I am just beginning to learn: that today's junk is tomorrow's "just what I needed". Homesteading is about being prepared for the "in case of's" and that requires having a well selected stash of "I might just need that"s.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weeds aren't always weeds

Oenothera laciniata
In the garden, there are those plants we planted and those plants we did not plant. We label the ones we did not plant "weeds". But, if we take the time to look more closely before pulling them up, roots and all, we may just find a jewel or two. Such is the case in my garden.

This plant is growing along the edges of my garden space. I didn't plant it and it was all mixed in with a riot of other un-invited plants so I labeled it a weed and it was going to face the same fate as all the other "weeds". But, Mother noted that it is pretty and for her, that was enough to give it a pardon. I needed to know more. After consulting more knowledgable individuals, I discovered that the plant is a Cutleaf Evening Primrose plant. Yeah, that Evening Primrose! Well, technically, not the same plant as used in the commercial supplements; but, with the same chemical -- GLA (a special fatty acid). So, this weed turns out to be a medicinal plant!

 The other "weed" was being pulled up by the bushels full until I happened to see it in pots for sale at the local nursery! Imagine my surprise to see them asking $3.69 for a 3-inch pot for plants I was composting as fast as I could! This was no weed, it is an herb--both culinary and medicinal. You can eat it in salads or cooked like spinach. It is rich in Alpha-Linolenc Acid (Omega 3) -- the same as in the fish oil supplements.

I've noticed something else about "weeds" -- rain or no rain, they grow. Weeds are persistant. They are survivialists. Weeds don't need to be pampered or coddled. They are as pretty as hybrid roses but without the frail nature.

Perhaps, as we look within ourselves and aim at pulling the weeds out of our hearts and souls, we should be more careful. There may be some things we preceive as weeds but are jewels worthy of notice. Some may even possess within themselves just the things we need to be healthy. It may be that the plants to be pulled are the hybrid roses.

My garden has a long way to go but I have begun to make room for weeds.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Weed Tree?

Not all weeds can be uprooted by hand. Some won't come up with a hoe, either.

If you live in or have traveled through, the Southeast United States, you have probably seen "the vine that ate the South" otherwise known as kudzu. Kudzu was planted extensively during the 1930's as a soil conservation method. Not a good idea. The vine is seriously, majorly invasive. It also defies all efforts at eradication. It is useful, though. The root can be eaten by humans, the vines make good forage for goats and also can be used to make baskets.

Chinese Tallow Tree - The Tree that Ate the South!

But, you may not have heard of a weed tree that is also taking over the Southeast. I certainly had never heard of it. But, now, one has shown up in our yard. Actually, it has been here a few years but it is just now making itself noticed. What is this weed tree? It's called a Chinese Tallow Tree. Ol' Ben Franklin brought it here thinking it was a "useful" plant. Useful because the seeds produce a wax and an oil. The wax was used by the Chinese for candle making and the oil for burning in lamps. But, in the Southeast, it has no natural restraints to it's domination. And, dominate it is! As I am learning, this tree propagates quite easily and, with the help of birds, widely. It also is not willing to die quietly. Cut it down. It grows back tenfold. Grind the stump. It grows back a hundredfold. Try to pull up the roots. It grows back a thousandfold.

There is one possible solution. It involves my lowering the moratorium on purchasing a chemical product produced by The Great Evil Empire, Monsanto. Round-up is the one answer, so I'm told, to the problem of the Tallow Tree. So, this once -- and just this once -- I will purchase Roundup. Tomorrow, I plan to call the electric company and see if they would come and cut down the tree since it is next too and involving a power pole and line. If they will do that, then once the tree is gone and the stump remains, the stump will be well dosed with Roundup at the open wound. If all goes to plan, the stump will draw in the pesticide and carry it to it's roots and all will die die die. Plan B if the power company does not want to cut it down is to cut one limb at a time and treat the cut area with Round-up until we get it down to the trunk.

I'll keep you posted as to the progress of ridding our homestead of THE TREE THAT ATE THE SOUTH.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Family Dinner Table

Did you grow up eating at least some, if not all of your meals, around the family dinner table? I did not. My father was definitely the "TV Dinner" Dad even if we weren't eating Swanson's. We even ate Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners in the living room in front of the TV. About the only time we ate at the table was when we had guests or were at my grandparents. As an adult, I've tried at various times to cultivate a habit of eating at the table. Something about simply sitting at a table makes the meal more special and something to slow down and enjoy.

When mother brought home the puppies last November, we took down the dining room table and turned this unused space into a puppy pen room. It was not intended to be long term but, well, you know how that goes. Then, roughly 5 months ago, BJ joined our family. He continued to express a desire for us to set up the dinner table and eat "as a family".

Table legs painted a fresh coat of red.

Well, today, he brought this desire to fruition. He retrieved the table from storage, painted the rusty legs a cheery shade of red, and set it up -- and set it for dinner -- all on the same day he had a six hour project to start/finish. When I arrived home from work today at 4:30pm, it was ready and waiting -- the table and the meal. We sat and shared our day with each other and leisurely enjoyed the food mother had carefully prepared. Dinner was white beans and a pasta dish made with our very own homegrown tomatoes. Delicious! While we ate, a variety of Christian music played in the background. How decidedly lovely! How decidedly "family".

Table set for a special meal.
In a world that is oft times crazy and scary and bewildering, it is nice to come together as a family and re-establish our connectedness and interdependence. What a simple and singularly profound act. We have committed to eat our meals around this table from now on. In this special space of shared meal and shared lives, we build bonds that hold a family together no matter what happens "out there". We may not be "there yet" but this is a most exciting and special part of the journey.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dud Spuds

What a disappointment! Everything appeared to be going well but the truth was in the harvesting.

Let's step back to the beginning of the tale. Back in April when the garden was being planted, I started six potato tire gardens. Tire gardens? Yes, tire gardens. No, not growing tires, silly! using tires to grow potatoes. The idea is simple, really. Plant potato starts in the first tire and as the potato plants reach 8 inches tall, add another tire and bury all but the tips in straw, and repeat until you have four or five tires stacked one atop the other. The potato plants are supposed to produce tubers all the way up. What one is supposed to find when harvesting is an abundance of tubers -- spuds -- in the tires.

This morning, BJ and I found that two of the tires had wilted potato plants. Sooo, we decided to see how many spuds we had in those two towers. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. An utter and complete failure! Why? Well, I have no clue. Well, actually, there is one clue. Ants. Lots of ants. Could the ants have eaten my spuds? Possible. Not sure if that is the complete answer but it is clear they were having themselves a good spud time.

I hope to find out what else could have gone wrong so I can be more successful next time. I like the idea of planting potatoes this way because it takes less space to grow a large number of spuds...well at least that is the theory! We just aren't quite there yet with this method!