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"A bargain is something you can’t use at a price you can’t resist." ~Franklin P. Jones

Photo by  Bob Jagendorf


 

Snakes on the Homestead

By Bonnie Lavigne

 

     "Our fear of snakes seems almost primal. Indeed, along with fear of falling and fear of the dark, it’s, more or less, a universal fear.  This makes sense when you consider that our early ancestors were likely targeted as prey by slithery monsters and had to watch their step in the tall grass and lush jungles of the Palaeolithic past.  

     Today, it’s still prudent to treat snakes with caution.  Although North America has nowhere near the number of poisonous reptiles found elsewhere, those we do have warrant respect.  We need to know what potentially dangerous species look like, how to avoid them, and how to keep them away from our chickens and our children.  

     For all snakes though—even the dangerous ones—some appreciation is called for.  They are worthy allies in the war against insects and rodents that carry disease or dig holes in our fields and gardens.  Some species of snakes can be amazingly beautiful.  And most are harmless...

     As children we caught small striped garter snakes in the tall grass by a nearby river.  They were fun to catch and a hoot as they slithered out between our fingers.  We never hurt them, although the game was probably more fun for us than it was for them.  They were tiny snakes with mouths too small to get a grip and we were never bitten (I can’t even remember one trying).  Even now I enjoy the sight of these pretty little snakes in the brush or streaking across a pathway.

     Not everything has to be functional to benefit the homesteader.  An appreciation of nature’s balance, of the beauty of the land, and the creatures on it, is something close to the heart of most of us seeking a simpler, sustainable, more natural lifestyle."

 

 

Snake Lore

By Catherine Lugo

 

     "Words like cold-blooded, venomous, slithery and cunning come to mind.  Not very many living creatures hold such a place of respect, awe and downright fear as the snake.  There are so many stories and legends about snakes; including what they can and can’t do, where they live, tall tales about snake bites and their cures.  All you have to do is mention snakes and the stories you’ll hear will amaze you.  Ophidiophobia, the abnormal fear of snakes, restricts some peoples lives to the point that they won’t even venture outside in their own backyards for fear of encountering  this infamous creature.  

     Snakes are numerous in mythology;  Mercury the messenger god carried a staff entwined with two snakes to show his authority.  The staff was called a caduceus; it’s now the symbol of the medical profession.  According to the Greeks, the mythical figure Aesculapius discovered medicine by watching as one snake used herbs to bring another snake back to life. 

     The Hopi Indians performed an annual snake dance; it honored the union of Snake Youth, a sky spirit, and Snake Girl, a spirit of the underworld.  The purpose of the dance was to renew fertility and nature; the snakes were then released into the fields so that crops would increase.  In some cultures, snakes were a symbol of the umbilical cord that joins all humans to Mother Earth."

 

 

Cooking on a Wood Cook-stove

By Karen Zlattner

 

     "Last year, in the process of renovating our home, we decided to approximately double our kitchen space.  This allowed us the room to keep our ceramic cook-top and electric, double-wall oven with space left over to install our new Waterford Stanley wood stove.

     We wanted to be as self-sufficient as possible, but we also wanted to maximize functionality and flexibility.

     Now that we have the wood stove, if the electricity goes out we can still cook, plus, still being on the grid, burning wood helps lower our electric bill.  We still have the electric kitchen for summer use, or if I just make coffee or tea, etc.  It's not worth to make a fire in the wood stove just for that, unless you keep the fire going all night which we didn’t want to do.

     When we started looking for a wood stove, we first went to antique shops, auctions and shows, but we couldn't find anything that was in good shape, and didn’t require a lot of work...

We made the decision for a wood cookstove for two reasons: 1. to help keep down the electric bill, and 2. so that I can cook even without power.  After the stove was installed, we found another reason for a wood cook-stove: it makes you slow down."

 

 

Locavores

Messages from The Sleeping Prophet

By Barbara Bamberger Scott

 

     "You may be about to learn two new words (I did).

     'Locavore' is now an accepted word (it was the Word of the Year in 2007 the Oxford American Dictionary).  It combines the root words 'loca' or 'local' with 'vore' or 'consumer.'

     'Foodshed' denotes the region around you on all sides, where your produce is freshest.  Some define their personal foodshed as a certain mile radius; for others its size and shape are purposely undefined.

     If you are a locavore (some say 'localvore'), you are someone who believes that your life is healthiest when the food you consume comes from the closest possible sources (within your foodshed).

     The Locavores recommend a foodshed of a 100-mile radius.  They realize that people will, as mentioned before, make some exceptions; some foods we like to eat are only grown under certain climatic conditions, and some things we like to eat year round are only available fresh in certain seasons.  But awareness is the key, as it is in all movements that lead to change.  So, the Locavore chain goes like this: if not local, then organic; if not organic, then family farm; if not family farm, then local business, and so on.   

     I can’t prove it, but I would be willing to bet that the grocery stores of my childhood bought nearly all of their fresh produce from local farmers.  Now, in order to get ordinary veggies grown in one’s own neck of the woods, most city-dwellers have to go to farmers' markets that are sometimes few and far between.  That creates the paradox of having to drive outside your immediate region to get foods from your region."

 

 

Homesteading with Pythagoras

By D. Glenn Miller

 

     "When a neighbor offered us an old outbuilding—one that was in fairly good repair but that he’d no longer wanted—Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician and philosopher, was not foremost in my mind.  I did have some deep philosophical questions, though.  'Did we really want an old hand-me-down chicken coop?' was one.  And, 'If we did want an old hand-me-down chicken coop, why did we want one?' was another.

     It took little time and debate to make the decision that we did want an old hand-me-down chicken coop, and we’d already picked out the location for it.  And a name.  You see, once we’d acquired it it was to be referred to, quaintly of course, as 'the cabin.'  That’s because we would be staying in it occasionally while finishing the house.  

     So the big question was this: What does a brilliant, if ancient, Greek philosopher have to do—posthumously of course—with relocating an old chicken coop onto a half-arsed homestead?  Well, it wasn't long before I needed his help.  The 10' by 20' building was well-constructed and substantial enough that it would take a sizable crane to move it in one piece.  And prepping a suitable foundation to receive it might call for some attention to detail."

 

 

There's Something About Rosemary

By Gay Ingram

 

     "Just the name evokes mystery and romance. Its Latin name means literally 'dew of the sea' and this herb has been steeped in traditions and folklore for centuries.  The Roman, Pliny, recommended rosemary for failing eyesight, jaundice and the healing of wounds.  Although it was introduced to England by Queen Philippa of Hainault in the16th century, it already had been mentioned in an Anglo-Saxon Herbal of the 11th century. 

     The students of Ancient Greece supposedly wove twigs of rosemary in their hair to help them remember for examinations.  In the Middle Ages, people depended on sprigs of rosemary to ward off demons and evil spirits.  In some parts of Wales, mourners at funerals are still given a sprig of rosemary to be cast on the coffin as it is lowered into the grave, for rosemary is best recognized as the herb of fidelity and remembrance.  Because it is the symbol of friendship, remembrance and love, rosemary has traditionally been a wedding guest.  Brides wore wreaths woven with rosemary or carried rosemary in their bouquets.  Anne of Cleves wore such a wreath at her wedding.  A rosemary branch, richly gilded and tied with silken ribbons used to be presented to wedding guests. "

 

 

The Autumn Olympics

By Neil Shelton

 

     "I've been pretty busy lately doing whatever it is that I do.  Besides all that, I've personally spent the week preparing for the Olympics.

     Not that Olympics.  Not that thing with the five rings and the Coca-Cola logo.  Any wimp can do that stuff.

     You take your weight-lifting: in the normal, ho-hum, panty-waist everyday Olympics, some big bruiser in tights grunts, howls, and groans until he lifts a few hundred pounds over his head.  B-I-G deal.  Pardon me while I drop off to sleep.  The way I see it, this doesn't take any real skill or planning, just a good breakfast, and maybe, if you've got a musk-ox somewhere in your family lineage, that doesn't hurt either.

     Now MY Olympics, that's a different story.  My Olympics are held every spring and fall, but the fall event is somewhat the more spectacular.

     Preparation begins when my razor-sharp perceptive abilities begin receiving vibrations of minute and subtle changes afoot in the environment.

     First, the walnut leaves turn a golden yellow, and each crisp breeze brings more and more of them gently floating down from their branches.  Before long, flocks of geese can be seen and heard in the sky overhead as they make their way southward.  One night, I walk outside to learn that the balmy night air of summer has been replaced by a sterner, less forgiving ether."

 

 

Staying Healthy on the Homestead

By Betty Taylor

 

     "Before retiring, I worked for 38 years as a registered nurse in a variety of healthcare settings that included busy emergency departments, hospital medical and surgical units, and a large pediatric clinic.  As part of my job, I had to handle patient phone calls.  In the earlier years of my career, I was expected to ask questions, assess the situation, and determine whether the patient needed to be seen by a physician or whether that person could take care of their problem at home and then give advice on how to do so.  By the time I retired, the fear of malpractice suits was so great that my hospital emergency department forbid nurses from giving any advice by phone.  We had to tell people that we could not give advice over the phone and if they thought they needed to be seen by a doctor they should just come in. 

     But seeing your doctor is not always the best advice.  I want to give you some facts that I hope will show you how critical it is to take charge of your own healthcare, to educate yourself, and to make good lifestyle choices to keep yourself well. 

     Sadly, gone are the days of the family doctor who knew you, who had time to listen to you, and really sort you out.  Physicians do not have time to get to know their patients these days, and a lot can get missed or go wrong because of miscommunication and time pressures.  More than ever, we are called on to take charge of our own health.  We do have complete control over what we eat and how we use or abuse our bodies, and this is most of what staying well is all about.  However, when despite our best efforts, things do go wrong with our health, in today’s world, we find that we must increasingly be more informed and must take part in the healthcare decisions that affect us to assure the best and safest care possible."

 


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