A short break from the heavy subject of addiction to share some homestead updates lately as well as highlights and misfortunes from the last year.
Starting with the good news, we have two new happy thriving lambs!
They are the first of the year with two more mamas looking full and ready to follow with some of their own any day now. Or more likely, since today it is beautiful and sunny, it will be the next time it’s pouring rain and freezing cold.
That was the weather once again for this rough start. Unfortunately, our permanent corral space is not yet finished.
I had to cancel a holiday trip at the very last minute and I spent a lot of time stressed and worrying. I couldn’t handle a repeat of last year, which is such a tragic story for me I haven’t yet been able to tell it publicly.
It was nearly a repeat. Hubby was at work again, and to keep it short and simple, I found one of our not-so-well-trained LGD (Livestock Guard Dog) had jumped the fence, grabbed one just after birth, jumped the fence back and was ‘guarding’ it until I found it barely breathing and injured.
Luckily there was a completely unplanned, last minute visit that cheered me up after my canceled trip.
And it’s hard to think of anything worse in the garden than poison ivy and wasps!
And my bee colonies didn’t even last the summer. This is an enormous disappointment. But I don’t give up easily and have next spring’s bees on order, locally sourced this time.
Additional misfortunes include the duck that was mysteriously fried by our electric pole in the front yard. And another incident that shot an electric impulse through my hand, up my arm, and landed in now nearly 2 months of stabbing shoulder pain. Then there’s the ram that’s butted me 3 times and therefore will meet his demise prematurely ASAP.
I don’t think Hubby shares this sentiment, but in my case, I’ve definitely had better years.
Here’s to better fortune in the coming year, for me, and for all y’all!
We just wanted to share a few updates from the wee homestead, on the winter garden and other news.
Dreary weather whiplash here, hard to say if our holidays will be white, green, gray or brown, but thankfully we still eat fresh, easily, every day.
Growin’ on now are: broccoli, lots of lettuces, carrots, cabbage, brussel sprouts, beets, kohlrabi, garlic, onions, kale, our favorite herbs–dill, chervil, cilantro–loads of collards for us and the critters, planted thick as green manure and spring bee food, too, like hairy vetch.
It’s high maintenance, we cover and uncover the boxes as weather requires, and it’s slow growing with shorter days and an abundance of overcast days.
But, the limited harvest results are DELICIOUS!
Triumph for the season:
I was interviewed about natural living on Crow777, a site I’ve mentioned here many times as a cutting edge, paradigm shifting, life affirming podcast I highly recommend.
Balneotherapy, crounotherapy, the drinking cure, taking the waters–whatever you want to call it–chalybeate pools, hot springs and mineral spas have a very long tradition behind them. And before I get accused of ‘appealing to tradition’ once again in order to assert the value of these traditions, there’s beaucoup science behind them, too.
“From the frontier years of the Republic to the postwar years of the twentieth century, people flocked to the state’s mineral waters primarily for one reason–health. In that sense, Texas springs were resorts in the truest sense, despite their relative anonymity to the rest of the nation.” (Valenza)
From the Journal of the American Medical Association, 1943: “Much of the discussion to follow on the historical background of resort therapy will be concerned with the forces which at different periods have raised this therapy to the central feature of medical care, have reduced it to the status of superstition, have diverted its main features into voluptuous cultural practices, have opposed its use on the puritanical background that its measures coddled the flesh that needed scourging from the sins of disease, have degraded it to a social fad, have allowed it to pass into the hands of the charlatan and enthusiast as a panacea, have obstructed it with the lack of economic provision for care and have brushed it aside with a disinterest that has come from attention fixed on only the novel in medicine.”
(Howard Haggard, MD) sited from “Taking the Waters in Texas: Springs, Spas and Fountains of Youth by Janet Mace Valenza
“The use of mineral springs for therapeutic purposes declined for several reasons. Many hotels burned or were washed away by floods, and rebuilding them seemed inappropriate because medicine had begun to change. With the rise of “germ theory” and the discovery of sulfa drugs and antibiotics, the belief in the usefulness of mineral water diminished. Many doctors supported water cures, but some began to eschew balneology, the science of bathing, because of some resorts’ extravagant claims. In Marlin the tradition lasted into the 1960s, primarily because the medical profession appropriated the practice and transformed it into a tool for physical therapy. Other factors, such as war and depression, also hurt resorts. The railroad guaranteed the success and demise of some resort.”
“Texas spas were unique among Texas towns and also different from resorts in the East. Daily life at these resort towns revolved around the waters. Architecture reflected the tradition. Pavilions and drinking fountains became gathering places for local citizens, depots attracted bands and drummers to meet trains, bathhouses set the scene for private ablutions, and large hotels employed big bands for entertainment. Other diversions included domino games, burro rides, picnics, and dances. Bathers overcame the fears attendant upon the theory of miasma-that harmful vapors association with swampy waters cause disease-to seek the sanative pleasures of the springs and wells. Osmotic exchanges with the water were supposed to benefit the body. Rheumatism, arthritis, and skin diseases were reportedly relieved more often than any other condition. (Valenza) https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/sbm11
Sounds to me like getting cured was a lot more fun back then!
As for the science
It was Europeans like Ernest Kapp, an early geographer who opened the Hydropathic Institute, that brought these practices from their own countries and ancestors to ours. “Dr. Ernest Kapp’s Water-Cure Treatment included not only hydropathy, but also gymnastic exercises.” https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fka01
Viktor Schauberger was another early researcher studying the properties of water.
For the deep dive into where the science stands now, including references to the numerous studies and on-going research, I’m definitely over my head with this newish publication, Pure Water: The Science of Water, Waves, Water Pollution, Water Treatment, Water Therapy and Water Ecology.
But it’s fascinating nonetheless and certainly convinces me our ancestors knew more than we often give them credit for.
Late summer here is my personal version of hell and I bitch about it every year.
What better time to take a break from my current reality where I feel like an indoor prisoner and wake up daily wanting to lash out at all the idiotic Geoengineering causing drought here and weather chaos all around the globe.
I even want to take a break from my last post pondering passivity and violence and just notice for a day, or so, all the little things and little ways we have improved upon since I last felt this level of droughtrage.
I know I am just a bit more blessed this year than last, mostly by my own sheer will and resilience, and that of Hubby as well, no doubt, and that of some inspiring neighbors and cyber-friends, and perhaps if I dwell on that fact just a bit, next year will be just a bit more blessed in turn.
Last year’s late summer garden
Or rather, lack there of 🙂
Last year’s late summer garden vs this year’s, not great, but still better!
A new young friend who loves plants as much as I do helps me identify the hardy, native heat-lovers of our area, and diligently and graciously watched our wee homestead so I could join my extended family at a reunion in July. I look forward to returning the favor when her family vacations in October. This is the sort of small steps a resilient community is made of, not the top-down control of Rockefeller’s ‘Resilient Cities’, because it’s the neighborly reliance that brings real hope and treasures and peace of mind.
I still don’t like okra, but I’m harvesting it anyway for the pigs and neighbors! Every once in a while I throw a few into a meal, along with other traditional Southern favorites we didn’t grow up with, but are learning to appreciate, like collards and Southern peas, eggplant and jalapenos, all which have survived the heat, but would not be here now without regular irrigation.
It’s very hard to keep up with the constant weeding and mulching requirements in such circumstances, but these plants, along with the sweet potatoes, are actually successfully competing with the grasses in some cases. Amazing!
I won’t mention the melons, because I’m hell-bent on keeping this post positive. So let’s mention instead the ‘mouse melons’, aka sanditas, or, Mexican Sour Gherkins. 🙂
Instead, let’s mention the fact that the young sweet potato vines and okra leaves are edible and quite tasty!
And the fantastic find this summer which I’m most excited to expand next year considerably, the Mexican Sour Gherkin.
Crop of the year, in my humble opinion!
Even in the dead of summer, of brutal heat and no rain, we enjoy meals raised primarily on this land. As an added bonus now my raw milk source is 5 minutes away, whereas last year at this time it was 5 hours round-trip!
The aging fridge is full of cheeses we will enjoy all winter: Cheddars, Goudas, a Parmesan and an Alpine, several Brie almost ripe, a Muenster even! YUM! Last week I taught a couple of neighbor ladies to make 30-minute mozzarella and we had such a nice time.
Next they will teach me skills they’ve acquired—spinning, dying, soap-making–a few more small steps in our agorism adventures. Skill-sharing has been such a crucial aspect of our most successful ancestors and I would be challenged to express how rewarding it is for me still, at 50 next month, to be learning so much that is new for me. It is indeed a sort of middle-age renaissance!
I also foraged for elderberries, mustang grapes and peppervine berries, dried some and made some syrups and preserves.
And, Another 400 pounds of pears, or so!
I do believe still that’s thanks to our bees. For several years we thought it was a weather issue, late frosts, whatever, but I am beginning to suspect it was a pollinator issue all along.
We will see, that’s just a hypothesis so far. And in any case we continue for another year to benefit from the cider, the preserves, the cobblers, and the pigs are getting their fill, too!
The Datura remains an absolute favorite of mine, blooming in crazy heat and exhaling the most exquisite fragrance into the evening air. The thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano are gracefully resilient as well, I appreciate all y’all!
And our dear Tori, who just as I was typing this post chased an enormous coyote off our chickens!
The blessings are very close at hand, the frustrations a million miles away. I vow to maintain that truthful balance deep in my heart as I brave the coming days.
“I’m selling you bees on Friday so you can kill them in your top bar hives.” so smirks JC of Frost Apiary in the Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas. I drive 2 hours across the small mountain range from my dad’s place in Mena, which is a 6-hour drive from our East Texas homestead, mostly because gentle, treatment-free bees are not too easy to come by here.
We’ve got some bad genetics in these parts, as my nearby beekeeping friend and I can both attest to, only she got proof of her Africanized bees on video. Had someone been filming me as I tried to work with mine, it would’ve been cartoonish and probably hysterical as I ran circles around trees trying, in vain, to get the vicious little buggers off me.
I’ve yet to meet a commercial beekeeper who doesn’t scoff at the Kenyan-style hives known as ‘top bar’ or sometimes called ‘horizontal’ hives that are now trendy with hobbyists. I chose them as a completely novice beekeeper for 3 reasons only: weight, esthetics, and the personal preference of the teacher of the beekeeping workshops I took.
Clearly none of those reasons would impress JC even remotely, so I kept them to myself.
In all his decades of beekeeping JC has yet to meet a beekeeper successful with top bar hives. It’s good for business, he says, because they come back every spring for more bees, until they switch to Langstroth hives. He recites a string of reasons why this is, which begins with “they starve in the winter” and ends with “they starve in the spring.”
For those of you who might be curious about this less-traveled region of the fly-over states, but without the time or inclination to actually visit, here’s some of what I saw, and smelled in that 2 hours.
There were approximately 20 Jesus billboards, 10 churches, 2 banks and 1 gas station, thanks be to Jesus perhaps, because I was running on fumes by that time.
As for the smell, unless you’ve had the misfortune to experience the poorer areas of Bangkok in rainy season, you will not have approached this particular olfactory ballpark. It is directly related as to why you see houses on the left directly juxtaposed to houses on the right.
You might have guessed, get-rich-quick by factory farming. If the entire region then smells like you live in a baboon cage at the zoo, well, at least you have the means for air conditioning and Febreeze spray.
JC and his wife busy themselves moving around the shop and yard, bees buzzing all around, as he offers me advice. After 5 minutes of this he says, “I want you to go now,” which he repeats again after 10 minutes, and then again after 20.
“My health’s no good,” he also repeats several times, taking his ball cap off to reveal a fresh scar the length of the top of his scalp where a tumor was recently removed. He says he has a similar scar down his chest, a barrel of a chest still I notice, at nearing 80 years old.
“You might take it a bit easier,” I suggest, because I know how heavy those Langstroths get and I’ve just watched him effortlessly move several around the yard.
“He doesn’t believe in that!” his wife answers for him. Despite his stooped posture and some less than urban-refined social graces, his eyes are still bright and his mind and tongue sharp, which greatly softens any coarseness, in my opinion anyway.
They then carefully load up my impressively-packaged bee packages in the back seat of the car and I set the feeders on them overnight until my 6-hour drive home the following morning.
Calm, happy, well-fed, well-contained bees ready for a wee road trip.
Or, so I thought!
I’m not sure at what point I fully took to heart that the bees were not at all well-contained. At first, I just thought I had a few roaming co-pilots, not a problem.
Then about high noon, still 2 hours from home, I made a pit-stop for gas and a sandwich and return to the car buzzing with hundreds of loose bees, inside and out. I have a moment of panic before realizing I at least need to move the car away from the main traffic area of the convenience store while I devise a plan.
Once at the corner of the parking lot I realize there is no plan to be made. There was no quick fix to this problem; I had no equipment to get the boxes apart and even if I could I could not figure out where the leak was coming from. I had a single choice and no other, leave 4 packages of bees in the parking lot right now, be out the time and the money and the bees, or get back in the car and finish the trip with them. It was all, or nothing.
It was worth the bees crawling over my arms, my face, my sunglasses to see the passersby at traffic lights gawk in stupor! Handy Hubby, being the wise guy he is prone to being, suggested with a chuckle that I visit the McDonald’s drive-thru. 🙂
Because as an American I can’t resist a happy ending, I waited a week to write this post until I had one: We now have four queen-right colonies happily nesting and growing in top bar hives.
The first of my determined objectives, as I stated plainly to JC before I finally left his apiary, “I will be your first successful top bar customer, I betcha.”
Our dear Tori is a master forager. She’ll steal unreservedly from the melon and berry patches to the fig and mulberry trees, to even the unripe cucumbers and squashes.
Equally in the forest she is clearly divinely inspired–the perfectly ripe passion fruit she’ll scout, the bones get unearthed as her possessions no matter who has buried them, and she leads me to all the best bramble patches. The forest and our garden are her perpetual oysters–and while to see my melons walk away makes me want to cry, to her happy prance with edible treasure, well there is only to laugh!
And, apparently she’s not the only astute forager.
I love seeing how many foraging sites and blogs are currently flourishing. They inspire me to add on and spread the wealth.
We have a big patch of these amiable volunteers just adjacent to the asparagus patch, natural companions, perhaps? In Scandinavia I met gardeners who insisted on planting their strawberries and asparagus and dill in the same space. I While these taste pretty bland compared to our cultivated varieties, they are still quite pretty, which is enough for me to spend the time to gather and prepare them.
I toss them in a salad with mulberries coming ripe at the same time. Or use them as a garnish with a spring weed pesto, along with the leaves, in moderation. Here’s a variation using chickweed, but it’s fun to get creative with whatever is in abundance.
While it is an invasive species for us in the southern U.S., at least it’s a useful one! While I’ve only made tea with it, some are patient enough to make jam. Maybe this will be the year I give that a try.
In TCM, the honeysuckle flower is commonly used to help ease the flu, colds and sore throat. According to Science Alert,11 this plant has the ability to prevent the influenza virus from replicating. An animal study published in the journal Cell Research supports this, as it found that honeysuckle, when combined with a plant microRNA called MIR2911, was able to suppress swine flu and bird flu viruses effectively.12 Xiao Er Ke Chuan Ling Oral Liquid (KCL), an herbal preparation that uses honeysuckle and nine other plants, was found to help treat acute bronchitis in children. A study in the Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine said KCL has antiviral, antibacterial and potent pharmacological actions.13 Honeysuckle was also found to have wound-healing properties in rat models, according to the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal.
A quite undermined tree of the South, considering its illustrious origins and conspiratorial fate. It is a tree widely cultivated in Asia-Pacific as an essential ingredient to the popular drug, or versions of it anyway, generally called “ecstasy”.
At first, like cannabis, it was classified among the most harmful of substances by the FDA, though our ancestors had previously been very acquainted and attached to these and so many other suddenly ‘dangerous’ plants. Then while they were deemed “carcinogenic” by our government, simultaneously expanding was its cultivation in foreign countries. This was actually before “Poppy Bush” but perhaps setting that very precedent for the former president?!
While I’ve no idea how to make the popular street drug, I can assure you it makes a deliciously fragrant tea, traditional root beer, and gumbo filé powder.
One of the few things growing strong all winter in the South is one of the classic remedies of the typical seasonable winter ails–upper respiratory infections, cough, sinus, and so on. Go figure, mother nature to the rescue.
As a tea it rivals the Lipton or Lausanne you are paying good money for, it really does. It does contain caffeine and was used among the native populations regularly and as an alternative to coffee in hard times among new settlers. Drying it for a just a couple of days before roasting makes the process quicker, but roasting isn’t necessary if you like a more mild ‘green tea’ taste. The beauty is, it’s prolific and harvestable all-year-round for humans, and for the bees they have a reliable early forage in spring. Just don’t eat the berries!
Spring weed pesto and/or chimichurra sauce
Of course we love our traditional basil-based pesto with pine nuts, such a classic. But, whatever’s available in our time/space, we use it! Walnuts or pecans can replace the pricey pine version, or skip the nuts altogether. I often leave out the parmesan too (my own homemade of course), and either add that last minute, if appropriate, or make more of a chimichurri-style sauce, so yum!
We both love a combination of wild and cultivated plants and I let them blend altogether in the garden and in the sauce. Chervil, parsley, cilantro, or maybe arugula generously and gorgeously partnered with wild violet, chickweed, wild rose petal, or whatever is out there! Once prepared it’s a delicious condiment for meats, a base for dressing and marinade, or a sauce, stand-alone or blended, an instant topping for eggs or toast. It freezes really well too.
I lost my last hive just a few weeks ago, mysteriously. They dutifully pollinated the pears before their departure, sweet little creatures they are. Unfortunately, they didn’t leave a note, or much clue. I hope they swarmed and found a suitable new happy home, but I believe from what little evidence remained, that this was not the case.
The drama of the bees has been droning on now for decades. But of course, have no fear, technology comes to the rescue! First create the problem, then try to fix it while creating 3 new problems–that’s the modern, strategic, scientifically-advanced model at work.
Problem with disappearing bees? Solution, robot bees!
The next big thing according to TV’s famed Dr. Oz, is the RFID chip. Keep losing your Alzheimer parent? Get ’em the chip!
Steve Hoffman gushes over the new tech which will allow our minds to merge with one another. He calls it ‘almost like heaven’—a state of all-inclusiveness with others where our individuality is traded and usurped by the collective, to the extreme degree we can actually feel another’s pain as our own.
But, only if we choose it, of course. Right. That’s good, because mark my words, I don’t want to be in his mind, and I certainly don’t want him, or anyone, invading mine at will either.
Do I get to choose whether Walmart creates robot bees? Nope.
Do I get to choose whether scientists experiment with technology meant to replace nature, meant to manipulate the environment beyond measure, meant to research consciousness with the intention of controlling it, even replacing it? Nope, nope and nope.
Dr. Andreagiovanni Reina, Research Associate in Collective Robotics in the University of Sheffield’s Department of Computer Science, said: “This study is exciting because it suggests that honey bee colonies adhere to the same laws as the brain when making collective decisions.
“The study also supports the view of bee colonies as being similar to complete organisms or better still, superorganisms, composed of a large number of fully developed and autonomous individuals that interact with each other to bring forth a collective response.
“With this view in mind, parallels between bees in a colony and neurons in a brain can be traced, helping us to understand and identify the general mechanisms underlying psychophysics laws, which may ultimately lead to a better understanding of the human brain. Finding similarities between the behavior of honey bee colonies and brain neurons is useful because the behavior of bees selecting a nest is simpler than studying neurons in a brain that makes decisions.”
Is it for a love of nature and mankind that science and technology seek to study it so thoroughly and in this particular direction? Or, is it with the intention of replacing nature and mankind for the benefit of god knows whom?
Do they ever ask themselves if we all have the same vision of a collective utopia?
As they preach for the essential Oneness of humanity, the love and light of unity, the exalted state of community, the Kumbaya collusion of the hive, the higher consciousness of the collective, do they consider as well the famed quote by a character in one of Jean Paul Sartre’s most read plays, “L’enfer, c’est les autres.” (“Hell, it’s other people.”)
As they profess their profound compassion and concern, do they care that some of us don’t care to live with robotized nature? Have they considered putting their intellectual efforts toward saving nature, co-creating with nature, relating equally to it, rather than commanding it, deconstructing it, subjugating it, destroying and replacing it?
Do they tread so shallowly in their own individuality that they cannot conceive of the notion that one’s relationship to oneself and to nature is by far greater, more fundamental and essential, than one’s relationship to any other?
Keep your robots, your synthetics, your hive mind, your Internet of Things, your technological collective Utopia, I don’t want it.
Many of us don’t want it, but we seem to have no choice in the matter.
If I weren’t an optimist, I’d feel we are doomed here on the wee homestead; doomed to watch as we are driven from the heaven of creating our own private Idaho into the hell of another’s version of ‘progress.’
My idea of progress:
Companion planting 3.0 (gardening by aesthetics) — cultivars co-existing with native volunteers (yes, I mean weeds); edibles among poisons; annuals with perennials with crops, seasonal ‘layering’. More on all that coming soon!
Handy Hubby’s idea of progress:
Spending his entire vacation building! Color me impressed. 🙂