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Archive for November, 2008

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There are many reasons I am thankful for herbs.  Some are good food, while others are good medicine.  Some smell wonderful and some are simply beautiful.  Herbs are any seed producing plant that does not develop persistent woody tissue, but dies down at the end of a growing season.  The word also refers to any plant material that is used for its medicinal, savory or aromatic qualities.  The judicious use of herbs can greatly improve the quality of life.

Here is a list of some of my favorites, and how I use them:

Alfalfa:  I collect alfalfa leaves in the spring, from mature plants, before they bloom. (In this part of the country, alfalfa grows like a weed, and is very difficult to kill.)  To keep them, I dry them for use as tea, or I tincture them.  I use alfalfa for a number of reasons.  It has a high vitamin content, being an excellent source of A, C, K, niacin and B-1.  It helps nursing mothers keep a good supply of milk, is a blood purifier, and helps prevent tooth decay.

Arnica:  I make a massage oil from arnica flowers, to use on all bumps, bruises and sore muscles.  It helps to heal muscles and improve circulation.  It is for external use only.

Cinnamon:  Besides smelling wonderful and tasting good, cinnamon kills a variety of illness causing bacteria.  I use it in food, for potpourris, and to keep the mouth healthy.  When sickness is threatening my family, I let each member have a cinnamon stick to chew on.

Cayenne:  Cayenne is one of my favorite spices, for flavor, but it also has many many health properties.  It stimulates every system in the body, and improves circulation.  I add a touch of it to most tinctures I make, and, on cold days, sprinkle some in our boots, to help keep our feet warm.

Flax seed oil:  Flax seed has been promoted for its omega-3 fatty acids, but that is not why I use it.  I use it, because it helps to rid the body of excess mucus.  It also seems to drive out disease and viruses.  To use it, I boil 1 Tablespoon of seed in two cups of water for 8 minutes.  This makes a thick egg-white like substance, which is the flax oil.  This can be drank straight, mixed with other foods, like mashed potatoes, or added to drinks, like egg-nogs, orange juliuses, and shakes.

Garlic:  Another food that is good for almost everything!  It is a natural antibiotic, a disease fighter, protects against  infection, and helps the body detoxify.  It is also a rich source of nutrients.  I cook with garlic, serve it raw to anyone feeling ill, add it to tincture, and use it as a salve, to draw out infections in the skin.  I have used it for yeast infection, and to heal diaper rashes.

Hops:  Best known for its relaxing properties, it is also useful for stimulating digestive function, and stimulating the liver.  I use hops to make my own soft yeast, for baking.  Bread made from this yeast is soothing, relaxing and healthful.

Lavender:  One of my favorite scents, it has a relaxing effect on the mind and body.  It also has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties.  Lavender oil, mixed with orange peel and white vinegar, is the perfect, non-toxic cleaner;  I use it on all surfaces.  I use lavender in potpourris, cooking, and bath salts.

Peony:  Peonies are my favorite flower, not only for the way they look, but the way they smell.  Over the years, I have discovered that their sent has a calming effect on young and old alike.   I use them for cut flowers, and dry the petals for potpourris.

Rose Hips:  Rose hips are the dried fruit of roses.  They are full of vitamin C.  I collect them from wild roadside bushes, after the first hard freeze in the fall , and tincture them.  We use this as a immune booster, and to heal burns.  When someone burns them self, I have them take a Tablespoon of rose hip tincture. 

Yarrow:  Yarrow is used as a fever reducer, especially in children.  I cut and tincture or dry the flowers in the summer, when they first bloom.  Some say the leaves are the better part of the plant to use, and that they should be collected before the plant blooms, in the spring.

What is your favorite herb, and why?

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I love my husband.  I know I have said that before, but it is true, and bears repeating.  There is simply so much for me to be thankful for, when I think of him, but I will only give you the short list.

  • He loves me. 
  • He adores his children.
  • He takes excellent care of us, his family. 
  • He is spontaneous.
  • He is fun loving. 
  • He is giving and helpful. 
  • He is a man of integrity. 
  • He refuses to indulge me in bad attitudes, or complaining.  

This messy picture was taken one evening when he volunteered to watch a friend’s seven children, while they went on a date.  He played most of the evening, and the kids thought he was more fun than a video game!

“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” 

 -Mark Twain

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Driving home through the plains of Idaho this weekend, the tall brown waving grass and the skiffs of snow, reminded me of Thanks Giving, 13 years ago.  It was my first year of college, and I was grateful to be home; I missed my family, more than I cared to admit, even to myself.

The mid morning sun shone bleakly through the thick clouds and the ground, though appearing muddy, was frozen stiff.  A number of relatives had arrived, all hurrying out of the brisk wind, into the warm house.  They brought armloads of food to add to the mountain my mother had already provided.  There were warm welcomes, and a few hugs (we are not a hugging family).  Hot apple cider was passed around, and eventually people settled into a few cozy groups, chatting away on every subject that could be potentially controversial.

Just as things were starting to get lively (and a bit heated), bells were heard in the yard.  Now, my parents live on a farm.  Their nearest neighbor is a mile and a half away, so naturally, everyone jumped up to see what was going on.

Nikki, our little barrel chested horse, was trotting through the yard with a draft horse harness on her neck, pulling an old-fashioned, child’s downhill bobsled.  My 17 year old brother stood on the sled, carefully, quickly driving this little horse. 

Nikki loved her place of honor.  She arched her neck proudly, trotted in her daintiest manner, and shook, just to hear the bells ring. 

My brother had reconditioned the old harnesses, relics of when farming was done with teams of horses, and made them usable once more.  In the weeks I had been at college, he had been learning to drive.  He had hooked up this contraption, complete with sleigh bells, to show me his new skill.

When all the relatives poured out of the house, he looked a bit embarrassed, but held his composer, smoothly coming to a stop at the front step.  “Anyone want to go for a drive?”  He asked, offering up the reigns.

“Sure,” came my Great Aunt Beverly’s reply.  “If you will drive!”  Several voices echoed this response.

He looked a bit stunned, then said, “How ’bout I go get the wagon, and give y’all a ride?”  A sea of grinning faces met with this proposal, so he hurried to the barn while we retrieved our coats.  When he came back with an old hay wagon, now pulled by Nikki and Shafee (a paint quarter horse), we were all ready to go.

The horses whinnied and snorted with delight; their breath white in the brisk air.  As we climbed aboard the wagon, they arched their necks and stamped impatiently.  At last we were off, everyone having found a crowded seat.  The horses hooves rang merrily on the hard ground.  The wind whipped hair and manes alike.  Grins, already great, grew broader and the horses trotted faster and faster.

My brother stood at the front of the wagon; guiding the horses down the gravel road that stretched lazily onward.  Up one hill, and down again, we rode till every one’s nose shown red, and still the grins remained.  We drove until we thought we might miss lunch, then turned and headed back the way we came.

I don’t remember what we had for lunch that day, or much of the conversation.  What remains with me is the utter delight on Beverly’s face, as she rode with legs sticking strait out in front of her, like a little child, grinning from ear to ear.

We later found out, through her sister, Sharon, that one of her life ling dreams had been fulfilled that day:  To ride behind horses.

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giving thanks: creativity

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I am thankful for the ability to be creative!  To make new things, and to learn from others.  I am grateful that everything I do does not have to be perfect…  I am glad for the wide variety of crafts available, and that more are be discovered, maybe even by me!

Without creativity, we would still be living in caves, eating only what grew naturally, in its natural state.  That would be boring, and discouraging.  Because of creativity, there is an endless supply of recipes, architectural designs, and fabrics.  How wonderful is our God!  He gave us creativity when He made us in His image:

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

-Genesis 1:26-28

God is the original creator.  We create because He created.  We create, because He has given us dominion over all the earth.  We will never create as He did, by simply speaking, but we will create. We create with our hands, our minds and our skill.  While He chose to speak the universe into being, He chose to shape man kind with His hands.  How lovely is that!  He allows us choose how we will live, what we will believe, and what we will do with the abilities He has given us.  He gives us the ability and freedom to chose or reject Him.  He is the hope that is within me.

More:

I finished the sewing I began for myself last week. The skirt was made according to the pattern, and the blouse I slightly altered, deciding to bring the waist in with tucks and side seam shaping.  They both fit very well, earning me a compliment from my husband.  He is coming around to my way of thinking.

A horse drawn plow.        My new outfit.      Building a smoke box.

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I have a new charge!  Her dad came by my house last week, looking for child care.  He had brought a child to me several years ago, when he was helping a homeless friend, by caring for his son, so I was his first thought when he needed help himself.  I am no longer in the business, but agreed watch her in anyway.  Her mother had a brain aneurysm, and is in intensive care.

This little girl has been an absolute delight.  She has played happily with my children and gotten involved in every activity that she can.  Her dad thinks he is the one being helped out at this time, and I am glad we can be of service, but we are the ones benefiting.  My children are learning to share what they know, and to instruct in a kindly manner.  This morning she climbed up on a stool and ‘helped’ Caleb to wash the dishes.  (I say ‘helped,’ because they had to be done three times.)  Then she joined him in cleaning the stove top and microwave, extra chores he took on himself.  She wanted to help with the cooking, but not with picking up toys (go figure).

Need:

Sometimes the need is small, and can be quietly met, like a sick mother, whose children you can watch while she gets some rest, or canned goods, to keep you local food pantry stocked.  Other times, the need is large:  a lost job; a fire, and lost home; or a traveler’s broke down car.  These are times when you may not be able to provide much assistance compared to the magnitude of the problem, but a little can also go a long way, when coupled with giving thanks. (See Matthew 14:14-21.)

I am grateful that we can help out at this time.  I am grateful to those who have helped us out in the past.  My friend Marsha’s advice, on helping others or on being helped, is some of the best I’ve ever gotten.  She told me, “When down and out, be thankful, but don’t try to repay those that have helped you, instead, pass it on.  Help some one else.”  I have been following this for ten years now, and never cease to be amazed at how a community can pull together in times of difficulty, when the attitude is that of ‘passing it on.’  Everyone has a story to share: a hard time, a good time.  These times come and go.  It is a game of give and take.

What are you doing to help out those around you, who are in need?  Or, like so many, do you need help?  Maybe you find yourself on both the giving and receiving end.  Let me know.

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This weekend we traveled to Idaho, visited friends, and then my husband preached at a little church in Rockland.  He has not done a lot of preaching in the past, even though this is the area of his first degree; however, he was welcomed with open arms, and invited back.  So what does this have to do with freedom?  For me, it has everything to do with freedom. 

Freedom of religion was why my ancestors moved to this Great Nation, before it was even a country.  Freedom to worship God, in the manner of their choosing, caused them to set sail, and leave their known world behind.  Freedom to believe and worship, apart from the Government, is what still makes this Nation great.  In this freedom of religion is also the freedom of speech.  In some countries, communication is severely censored.  I am grateful for the freedom to think and to express those thoughts.  I am grateful that others can do the same, whether or not their views are the same as mine.

Freedom to choose one’s lifestyle.  Freedom to choose one’s location and vocation.  Freedom to explore options outside of one’s background or training.   Freedom to pursue more than one thing at a time.  Freedom to travel.  Freedom to be a gun owner, or not.  Freedom to join the military, or not.  These things, that I sometimes take for granted, are not rights in every nation.  I am thankful, to God, that these are freedoms I can enjoy.

What freedoms are you thankful for?

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It is said that if you read to your children when they are young, they will be better readers when they are of school age.  I am no expert, but my experience is that frequently reading aloud to the children has created a love of books, and a love of learning.  When they ask questions that I cannot answer, I turn to books.  When they need to calm down, I turn to books. 

They are learning that books are pleasant, and that learning is pleasant. The little ones look at books, and tell each other stories, long before they know their letters.  They are learning about people, and how to read expressions and emotions in others. They realize that reading is a desirable skill, and therefore willingly apply themselves to learning. 

Besides reading to them, my husband and I also read to ourselves frequently.  We read for both knowledge and pleasure.  The boys know this.  They see us studying new ideas, researching topics of interest, and learning new things.  They see us researching things we don’t know or that are new to us, and looking at various sides of an issue.  We, by doing this, are demonstrating how to learn.  We are also demonstrating that learning never ends.  There will never be a time when we are out of ‘school.’

I think this is one of the biggest advantages to home schooling.   Learning is not confined to set hours, days or places.  Really, that is true for everyone; you cannot contain learning to a classroom. However, as I child, I remember thinking that the only ‘real’ learning I did, was in a class room, with a certified teacher.  When my parents made the decision to home school, I was sceptical.  Could they really teach me?  It only took about a day to find out that my parents were very capable teachers; and in fact, had been teaching me my whole life.

My dad read books and manuals every evening, advancing his carpentry skill, his understanding of motors, and his ability to design.  During the day, he applied these skills, as he kept our cars running, built buildings, and improved the homestead.  He remolded our home, and the homes of others.  He was the first person our neighbors called on, when they needed to do their own home repair.  I first learned fractions, at four years of age, while helping him fix cars.  I learned to pound nails, while framing walls.

My mother tackled different things.  She learned different teaching methods, especially as it applied to teaching dyslexic children.  She then taught these things at home schooling conferences.  She studied state home schooling laws, and was active in teaching others how to comply with them.  It was not unusual for State Senators to visit her, in order to better understand the needs of homeschoolers, and to discuss how to insure that children were learning when they were not in a public school.  They brought concerns of the State to her, for ideas on how to address the situation of the homeless and transients, who claimed to be home schooling, but seem more intent on avoiding authority.

Without reading, my parents would not have been able to help others, the way they did.  If they had limited their education to what they received in classrooms and seminars, then they would not have been able learn the thing they really wanted to know.  Neither was able to afford the education they desired, but both learned what they needed to know, in order to achieve their dreams.  Once we were grown and gone from home, my mother was hired by the local public school, to start a tutoring program.  She was then contacted about helping out with troubled students.  At times she has tutored within the public school.  At other times, students have lived with my parents, getting a ‘home’ education. 

Reading is the core of education; writing is the natural outcropping of reading.  Without the ability to read, one can only advance so far in their education.  Without the ability to write, one can only share their ideas with so many.  It is crucial that children learn these basic skills, and to that end, read to them.  Teach them to love books, by loving them yourself.  Teach them to learn, by learning yourself.  Let them see you tackling new things, even if it just the rules to a new board game.  Use what is available to you. The Internet, encyclopedias, and your local library are all wonderful resources.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find what you are looking for the first time.  Look some more, and share the adventure with your children.

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