Crofting: Bandwidth and Satellites

We get our internet connection via a satellite receiver. If we wanted television reception, it would be the same. It is much too expensive for what it is, but here aren’t any reasonable altenratives, and I looked at all of them.

If there is lightning, we lose connection. If it rains, we lose connection. If it snows, we lose connection..

I never know, though, if it is the satellite connection, my computer, or the programme. When the technician came to replace the damaged satellite receiver recently, he had to re-adjust the dish. He commented that soemtiems a house will settle, but he had never seen one move up. I explained that we had floor jacks installed, so it had indeed moved up.

I have threatened to get rid of the internet. We may yet. It is expensive. The nearest public access computer is not very close, and not all that accessible. I could go back to snail mail, if the snails were more co-operative.

Crofting: Goats Complaining

I can’t believe how much goats can complain. They hate rain, they hate drafts, they hate bugs, they hate having to eat herbs and grass and stuff when they know full well that there is grain in the house. So they are just outside my windows, baaing and moaning.

Tara discovered the shelf by the clothesline. I have a handy shelf for the laundry basket. The whole apparatus holding the clothesline needs to be straightened and adjusted, but there have been so many other things to do, that this is pretty far down the priorities list. The shelf has a slight downward tilt to it, but is sturdy enough to hold a basket of wet laundry, maybe 20-25 pounds. It will also hold a fifty-pound goat, who somehow clambered up onto it. She had to stand with all four feet together. I can’t imagine it was comfortable, but of the three goats, she is most definitely the climber. She lives up to the “alpine” definition.

looking for trouble - Tara

It is a beautiful day here. That is not quite good enough, but I am not waiting on goats hand and foot. It isn’t enough to make sure they have lots of clean, fresh water, a nice shady spot, clover, plantain, and timothy to eat – nor is it enough that I have to go outside to untangle a trapped foot or two goats who waltzed their leads into a snarl. I also must appear regularly with feedbuckets of cracked corn, oats, barley and molasses. These goats would be barrel-shaped if I listened to them.

If I could somehow set up barriers sufficient to keep them out of the neighbours’ flowers and away from the north neighbours’ dogs, I would let them roam. I did think of a line of fence and cattle guards on the road. This is not feasible,l I guess, as the province maintains and plows the road, and I doubt that they would agree to digging a pitch across the road and laying a slatted metal plate over it. I don’t know if goats would honour it anyway, or if they would blithely jump it. Some ranchers use false guards. They lay down a piece of plywood painted to look like a cattle guard, and the cattle are afraid to cross it. I doubt if that would fool goats for a second. I don’t know if they have better depth perception than cattle – I suspect they must – but they are certainly smarter.

But there is no way to completely fence the property cheaply and efficiently. So it looks like we will have to settle for expanding paddocks as time goes on.

Crofting: What Schedule?


Mowing the goat way

I don’t mind being boring. I don’t mind getting up at the same hour every day and going through the same routine.

If only the weather and my health would cooperate.

I am (maybe) finally getting over whatever it is I’ve been sick with – I suspect a sinus infection, probably viral. My skin is healing, although meds are still continuing. I still react to every stray chemical and mould spore that wafts by. But overall, I am improving. I still need a lot of sleep, which is sometimes hard to get, since I’m awake in discomfort, with foot and joint pain, and no analgesic I can safely take. And irritated skin still keeps me awake, until I stagger out of bed and find whichever med is appropriate, or utilize the soothing olive oil-beeswax-rose-lavender-frankincense salve I made.

Weather has been volatile and strange. Thunderstorms, then autumn-like temperatures. I lit a fire in the woodstove yesterday. The last of the wood from last night burned down this afternoon. (Oh, it’s efficient.)

Goats have appreciated the overcast, cooler weather, but they protest greatly if they have to endure a five minute shower. Tara’s deerfly bit is finally draining (lovely) and it looks as if Bucky’s abcess/hemotoma from his stupidity-inflicted gate injury is reducing. I was going to lance it, but the spell of warm muggy weather bred flies, and I thought it safer to leave it for now. He isn’t suffering from it.

I must say that with lots of good pasture and wild herbs the goats are getting into good condition. Bucky has these cute little curls on his neck. Tara glistens in the sun, and Vanilla is filling in along the ribs. They were in good trim when I got them, but winter always takes some of the condition out of ruminents. I am hoping for good breeding this fall, and maybe twins.

The garden is little islands of bean and tomato plants, and waves of squash plants, bearing orange blossom sails. Boom. Everything is growing. I will check Milli’s garden tomorrow if dry, and probably harvest some radishes from mine. If I had the strength, I would hoe between the bean hills here tomorrow, while the dirt is still moist and loose from rain.

We have had a few raspberries, but they don’t seem to be ripening fast. Maybe we haven’t had enough sun this week. I am picking up hay tomorrow. The farmer in Tilley who is selling it from the field said it has been hard to get it cut and baled, with all the sporadic rain.

I hope to get a bit of fence put up tomorrow. It’s only for a small chicken yard. We wil convert one stall to chicken quarters with nest boxes, a lower feed trough, shallow waterer and a roost. I’m hoping to go to Centreville on Friday to get a half dozen silkies. Nicholas loves chickens, and some exotic ones should please him. We were planning to build a coop, but it will wait until we have more birds. I am looking forward to having a small turn-out yard. It will make it easier to manage the goats when I need them out of the barn but not necessarily want to picket them.

I have a meadow full of St. John’s wort right now! It really should not be all that complicated to meander up through the clover with a basket and pair of shears. I bought extra olive oil on sale today, so a pint jar of St. John’s wort salve should be possible. That might help the joint pain a bit.

I am still so pleased with this little house and the property around it. It is clean, clean of mould, clean of pesticides, clean of rodents and bugs. We get a minimal number of houseflies, and regular attention to the stalls keeps the stable flies down. I’ve handpicked, from my garden, maybe three potato beetles, and two or three crawly things I didn’t like the looks of. We do get some of the usual white moulds in grass clippings and fallen leaves, and there is biochemical breakdown happening in the compost, but it is where it needs to be, and I just try to avoid it.

Now if I can just start rising at a decent hour, and get ahead on the housework…

Christians: Stand up for Jesus

As readers know by now, I am shocked and disheartened by recent world events, particularly the violence we see. I’ve said before that we need to work on our own lives to end acceptance of violence. It is all around us; it is the go-to solution when demanding doesn’t work. It happens on the large-scale when 93 people are killed in one day in Oslo, Norway by a man with homemade bombs and some guns. It happens on a small scale everyday whenever a teenager is beaten for being gay, or a parent hits a child in the name of discipline. It happens quietly with racial slurs and jokes. It happens loudly when a political rally is shouted into an angry frenzy over the issues of immigration and second languages.

I would like to see a large scale dayof peace. This would be a demonstration of unity among Christians, in fellowship with those who are not Christians, for the right to live in peace. We Christians need to step forward as world leaders in the matter of peace. We are the people of Peace; we have the promise of Jesus Christ. “My peace I leave with you.” It’s been done, effectively before. The Civil Rights movement in the USA succeeded with peaceful demonstrations and nonviolent resistance. It has happened elsewhere.

I asked friends on facebook if they would support organizing a worldwide Day of Peace. One said, “Only if it isn’t religious.” Another one said, “Demonstrations don’t do any good. We just have to live lives of peace.” The problem with the first statement is that Christians can’t leave their faith out of things. If we do, we are blocking the Holy Spirit from working through us. After all, our Faith is not a philosophy of doing good and living quietly. It is a belief that God Himself is working to change us utterly and thoroughly, and no part of ourselves or our lives can be set aside from that. The problem with the second is that while people may admire it, they have no motivation to try it themselves, because we make it look as if it is entirely personal, a matter of choosing between equal goods. But Christians, if they read the Bible, can see that that is not the case. We aren’t here to fit in. We are here to stand out.

The apostles stood up in the middle of cities and towns and told the people about Jesus, the Christ, the One who saves humanity from itself. They got arrested and beaten for it, often, but they also, in that witness as well as the witness of Christian life, changed people’s hearts. Following Jesus, they opened the path to God for many. Thousands were moved and joined the people of Jesus. And not once did they say to the people that war would work, that might equals right. Early witnesses in the church (Justin, Origen) emphasize the pacifism – the peace witness – of Christians, who would not even fight against those who would take their lives.

So sitting back and living lives of quiet righteousness may not be enough. My fear is that all Christians will be dumped into the category of people who advocate war and violence; the Norwegian who proclaims himself Christian and then kills innocent government employees, passers-by on the street, and most horribly, teenagers trapped at a youth camp; hawks who hold a Bible in one hand and a bundle of cash in the other, simultaneously quoting Deutoronomy and showering so-called defense contractors with money. Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry are what Christians look like in the public eye. We stand there mute as stones while this goes on.

If you believe that the way of Jesus Christ is the way of Peace, that we need to beat our swords into plowshares, that we need to send our public funds to those who are suffering rather than filling the bank vaults of very wealthy war profiteers, then now is the time. Who would get behind the initiative to have a Day of Peace, initiated by Christians?

It has to be the start of a new movement, to bring the Peace of Christ into the world, as He told us to do. It won’t be a one-time only thing and we get to go back to watching “Die Hard” movies and eating corn chips. It has to be the public proclamation that Christians are here to spread the peace that passes all understanding, the Peace that Jesus Christ left with us.


Life in Christ: the Witness of Peace

A day like this

It’s a beautiful day here. The sky is a mild blue, with streaks of white cloud afloat. The breeze comes and goes; the air temperature is mild. The rain yesterday left everything as bright green as an emerald. The garden, after its heartbreaking start in destruction, is recovering. We have baby tomatoes and tiny, ruby-like radishes. The raspberries are hanging heavy on the wild canes; I will be hanging the wash out and then picking some for dessert tonight.

It’s a quiet, bucolic life. I can see the goats outside the window, resting in the grass, enjoying the wind. Nicholas was out early to get their tethers set, and they were incredibly cooperative today in going where they were wanted.

It’s hard to believe that so many families, in a  country much like this, are grieving. And it’s not the proper grieving of those seeing off an elderly friend who lived a good and purposeful life. It is the soul-mutilating, life-changing grief of families who have lost children. So many of them, too. All at once, in a nightmare out of a horror film one would not want their children to see on the screen.

First, those who killed and injured in an explosion at the heart of the government, in Oslo, Norway. I think of the many times, when I lived in Washington, DC, that I walked into my own office building, a block from the White House, a building that housed government offices, too. My roommates worked as interns in various agencies and congressional liaisons. We think of terrorists and violent anarchists targeting the White House, or the Pentagon, or Congress. But there are literally hundreds of agencies and support offices tucked into privately owned buildings, where other people work who have nothing to do with the government. So many US government employees are really just clerks, secretaries, office managers, who have nothing to do with policy. Those were the people targeted by bombs in Oslo. People just like us, going to work, stopping for a cup of coffee, planning their weekends.

As frightening and horrifying as the bombings were, what happened next was unimaginable.

My husband, when he was a parish priest, was a big supporter and fundraiser for our nearby church camp. We all sent children from our parishes there for a week of fun and Christian fellowship. My own children had attended Scout camps in the States, always a week of relaxation and silly pranks, and learning. Nicholas’s children went as campers, and the middle child was a counselor for several summers. We all spent time there, chaperoning or teaching or leading worship. And I think of our children – Roland, Alex, David, Matthew, Kaitlin -as if they had been caught in a nightmare scenario there in the quiet woods of New Brunswick, as happened on a peaceful island outside Oslo. I think of all the other children and young adults who might have been there – Brittany, Claire, James, Nick, Zach, Kendra, Andrew, and many, many others. Because you must realize – all these young  people knew each other. They were friends, siblings, cousins. Their parents knew each other. They went to the same schools and churches.  I will not tell you to imagine what it would be like to lose them all at once. You probably already have today. I can empathize with the pastors, teachers and police who now are helping the families and communities of those lost.

I am not going to lamely excuse this terrible tragedy as “the senseless action of one deranged man.” He may have a serious mental illness that went unrecognized, or he may have hidden it well from those who know him. But those who will rouse both the unbalanced and the sane to hatred of others, who will manipulate with lies and exaggerations to enhance their own power and cravings for control, and those who capitalize on fear and xenophobia for a profit, bear the brunt of responsibility for this outrageous act. Those who call themselves Christians while spewing vituperative words and encouraging violence need to cower in dread when they think of the Great Day, the Dread Day, when the Lord will call them to stand before Him. They had best repent now and change their ways and work for God’s peace, not against it. The blood is on their hands, as well.

As it is on politicians who promote war and violence, who take campaign money and gifts from the gun lobby and the “defense industry”, which would be better termed “war factories.” No Christian should hold a weapon to use it against another human being. Each person is an image of the Creator; to harm that person is to desecrate the One who made the person, and who made the assailant, as well. To sin by violence is to destroy the Divine, both in the victim and in the perpetrator.

“All who take the sword will die by the sword.” Jesus, the Christ who went to His own violent death meekly and abhorring violence, calls for the witness of peace.  All Christians, everywhere, need to put down their swords. We need to stop letting “defense” and the right of might be excuses for death. There is no just war. In every war, the innocent die. People going about their business, shopping for groceries, cooking a meal, repairing a fence, looking for a lost sheep, walking to school, hurrying home from work, die because of politics. Bombs. Guns. They don’t change politics; they kill people.

Cut armaments out of national budgets. Stop making weapons to kill people.  Don’t glorify violence in literature, on television, in films and in video games.

Study war no more.

Crofting: When Not to Do

Scotland, a croft field

We are having strange, depressing weather. It is overcast, with the occasional storm. The air is heavy with humidity, and the temperature, while not high, is uncomfortable. All the rain and humidity have encouraged the garden like mad, along with the weeds. Since I mostly planted in hills, this isn’t too bad, since I can cultivate the hills and leave the weeds, or chop them back with the hoe. But not today.

The goats are out on picket,enjoying the prolific meadow plants. Since we didn’t mow the back quarter of the lawn, they are feasting on clover, timothy, sweetgrass, oxeye daisy and rudbeckia. The meadow itself has goldenrod and evening primrose and chickweed. I had planned to buy baled hay in the field this week, but haying is delayed by rain. I have no hay left, so they have to graze and browse. I will get hay soon, a few bales at a time as I can afford it. But not today.

Bucky still has a swelling on his neck. It is not CL, as he has no other symptoms of what used to be called pseudo-tuberculosis, a serious goat disease. It is not over or near a lymph node, he has a great appetite and energy, hasn’t been feverish or peaky. Our daughter-in-law, who is a vet tech, said I could lance it rather than having him break it in the barn and get it dirty. I will pick up clean razor blades and some gloves and iodine when I next go to town. Right now, though, I am fighting mildew and mould everywhere, the air is heavy and still, and we have had a huge fly and insect population explosion in these weather conditions. The barn is quite clean – I’m pretty fussy – and I think I will wait to lance the abscess, if that is what it is and not just accumulated serum from the bad bruise he got when he got his head caught in the gate. I suspect the latter rather than an infection. Tara has a bumpy place on her left cheek which I suspect is retained cud or maybe an insect bite. Neither animal is ill, and opening a wound may cause more trouble. So not today.

I am still recovering from my long illness. It isn’t something we think of much, but our skin is a major organ. Mine was quite inflamed and damaged. If it had been my liver or my kidneys, I would have been on all kinds of meds and probably hospitalized. Growing new skin cells takes energy, too. Although I am just about whole again, with minor patches of eczema on arms and legs, and the last of the inflammation on my face subsided and new cells being produced, I still need time to heal. Healing takes nutrition, fluids and rest. I am sleeping about 10 hours at night, much more than my usually seven. I have much to do and I’m impatient to do it. But not today.

I check in with God frequently on what must be done. Turning my heart and thoughts to Him, I have learned to wait on the Holy Spirit, because I am naturally an impatient, active person. I felt last night that I am idling here, waiting for things that may never come. I was about to – horrors! – start feeling sorry for myself. But I do have time for prayer, and study, and paying attention to my dear husband. Maybe that is all God wants of me right now.

Crofting: Summer Herb Days

Wild Yarrow -achillea

It is a real Maritimes summer day. Bright sun, lots of brisk breezes, a garden overrun with dandelions, wild yarrow and timothy grass volunteers. I will harvest some of the dandelion for medicinal use – dry some leaves for a mild, mineral-rich diuretic tea, dig some roots to keep for a stronger tea or a bitter tonic. The yarrow is excellent for colds and flu, and for bleeding. For menstrual bleeding, if it is heavy or prolonged, yarrow tea works pretty quickly, with no side effects. I dry the leaves thoroughly and powder them to use as a styptic if the animals get cut, or if I nick sheep while shearing. It is called achillea because Achilles used it to heal battle wounds.

I made a salve this week for my still-healing skin. I had made a wound salve for the goats that had tea tree oil in it, but that is a bit harsh on my aggravated, post-eczemic skin. I infused olive oil with rose petals and a couple of grains of frankincense, heating it over water just off the boil. This took a couple of hours, and the frankincense didn’t dissolve very much. but the oil smelled strongly of roses when done. Normally, I just stuff a small jar full of rose petals and pour olive oil over them and let it sit for a couple of weeks, but I wanted the salve sooner. It’s about a cup of oil to two small pieces of frankincense and four full roses, with the stamens removed. I melted a lump of pure beeswax, about the size of my thumb, in the still warm oil, and added ten drops of lavender essential oil. This will be my nightly moisturizer and daily soothing salve. Frankincense is boswellia, which is anti-inflammatory.

I see that the St. John’s wort is finally in bloom. I need to get out and down the trail with a basket and snips to gather some wild herbs. I don’t bother with the St. John’s wort if it hasn’t developed the red oil that is its chief medicinal component. I squeeze a flower head or roll it between my palms to see if it leaves a red smear. If the early summer is too cool and damp, the oil doesn’t develop, and the St. John’s wort has little virtue. I cold infuse the flower heads in olive or safflower oil until it turns red, then strain. (To keep oils from turning rancid, add the contents of a vitamin E capsule, or float a couple of tablespoons of vodka on top to seal out the air.) St. John’s oil is good for bruises, strained muscles, and as a topical pain reliever.

red clover

This has been an amazing year for clover. The goats are yes, in clover! They love it, but I try to vary their diet by picketing them in different places so they get a good variety of fodder. They are also fond of evening primrose, and that has an amino acid in it – a precursor of protein – that is both nourishing and medicinal.  They are still very fond of raspberry foliage, apple leaves, and roses. I have had to drag them out of the rose bushes. They will eat a certain amount of ground ivy, but not a lot. They seem to know how much is enough. I don’t dry clover as I did in the past. It is quite susceptible to mould while it is drying, or if it is packed before it is completely dry. Red clover especially makes a nice tea, but it can be blood thinning, so people on anti-clotting meds or approaching surgery shouldn’t use it, and pregnant women shouldn’t use it in the last month of gestation. I cut clover hay out of the animals’ diets when they are near term. It may have some factors that inhibit ovulation, so if I want the does or ewes to conceive early in the season, I get them off clover. I like them to have twins, and I watch their diet a bit when fall rolls around. Twinning requires good protein feed to release two ova, so they get richer grain and seed-head hay.


I’d really like to find some tansy to dry and hang in the barn. It repels insects and flies. Some people take tansy medicinally, but it has some uncertain volatile principles that can be harmful in some cases.

I see there is some good mullein growing on the old dirt piles beside the gravel pit. Mullein is used for coughs and colds, and right now, I could use some. Traditionally the little yellow flowers are gathered individually, and dried in a dark place. They also have to be kept out of sunlight once dried, or they turn black. The whole plant, though, has the same medicinal properties, so I will make a tincture of it. The tincture or anything made of  mullein to ingest has to be strained well, through a paper filter, because the plant is covered with fine hairs that can be irritating.

common mullein, photo via bhg

Grim Determination…

stop to smell them, and make a healing salve from the petals

…is how I live my life. We are gonna get it RIGHT today, people! That’s me – driven, determined, and taking no nonsense.

On the other hand, I’ve been ill for weeks, my husband tires easily, and I don’t have either small children or frail elders at home. Why am I so driven to get things done?

To recap: The house is decently clean excpet for the mild fluff of a midseasonal shedding of undercoat by the dog. (Broom takes care of that.) Laundry is done, bathrooms are relatively clean, and all living sentient organisms are fed, clean and comfortable.

Do I need to let up on myself a bit? Yes. Because no one is keeping score but me. And I still have some birthday cake left, as well…