Charity begins

I really believe that Americans are some of the most generous people in the world.  I also believe that Americans are some of the most selfish people in the world.  And I most certainly include myself in these statements.  I know, it’s confusing.

As a whole, when a crisis occurs, as in the 9/11 tragedy, America pulled together.  We were united in our desire to help our neighbors, loved ones, friends, and strangers.  We willingly emptied our pockets and our hearts to help those who were so closely affected by the terrorist attacks on our nation.  It was a beautiful thing to watch perfect strangers reach out to each other in a way our nation has not done before.  Sometimes it was done through organizations like American Red Cross, but in many cases it was just one person offering a helping hand to another.  It was endearing and noble, and selfless.  It was charity in perfection.

Recently we received the first of many Christmas giving catalogs.  We like to support organizations that are helping to feed, clothe, and train people out of poverty.  I often have tears in my eyes and a huge lump in my throat as I look through these catalogs.  Not just because of the moving photos and heart-warming success stories, but because I look around my own house and see nothing but excess.   We’re not rich by any American standard.  We’re solidly middle-class.  We work hard for what we have, and we have more than we’ll ever need really.  And yet I often find myself using sentences like, “I need a new pair of shoes,” or “I need to get my hair colored,” or “I need some mums to plant in the yard for fall.”  Of course these really aren’t ‘needs’, just wants.  But in our American mindset these are often treated as needs.  As a whole, and yes, this is a very broad statement, we are a needy, selfish bunch of people who live in excess rather than necessity.

The reason I get teary eyed looking at these charity catalogs is because I see people who can truly live and thrive with the most meager and humble of possessions.  The gift of a single goat to a family in Guatemala can change their life monumentally.  It seems like such a trivial thing to us, and yet these are people who can build a business out of one animal.  They can feed their family.  They can help others.  It’s just a single goat, not world peace.  But that’s the key.  They don’t need world peace to make a difference.  And neither do we.  It just takes one person, doing something for someone else to make that difference.

I’m sure I don’t have to say it, but the holidays are fast approaching.  Kids are already starting to get those Christmas catalogs too.  The ones filled with toys and games and gadgets.  Already phrases like, “I need a cell phone,” or “I need a new PS3,” or “I need a new Macbook” are starting to fly around.  And the sad thing is, they really believe they ‘need’ these things too.  Just like I believe I need mums for the yard or another pair of shoes.

But what we really need is to develop a sense of charity.  We need to look around us and be more sensitive to the guy standing on the street corner holding a sign asking for help.  We need to realize that shelters in our community are filled with people who truly have no place to go.  That families are being torn apart by violence, drugs, alcohol, and abuses of other kinds.  These are our neighbors, our loved ones, our friends, and even strangers.  And sure, there are people out there who are playing the system.  There are genuine crooks, scammers, and bums who want to take advantage of the compassion of others.  And that’s okay.  Some day they’ll have to answer for their actions, whether it’s here or in eternity.  But we have to not worry about being ripped off.  We have to stop expecting the worst of people.  We need to train ourselves out of the mindset of “I need…” and start thinking more along the lines of “how can I help?”  It starts with us.  Not with Governments.  Not with foundations.  Not even with churches.  Just us.  If we want to change the world we have to start doing it ourselves.  Charity needs to begin in the heart.  It needs to begin now.

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Filed under EMPOWERMENT, MOMENTS OF TRUTH, RANDOM THOUGHTS

Real

For those of you who actually ‘follow’ this blog it will shock you to see that I’ve taken the time this afternoon to write something.  It’s safe to assume that writing here is not a priority on my list these days.  Oh, I’m writing plenty still, just not blogging.  In the past seven months my daily schedule has become a frenzied network of chores, construction projects, lists, errands, and quality time with the people and things I love most in this world.  Basically I’m trying to fill my life with things that are real.  Things that matter.  I have very little time (or desire) to sit in front of a computer and stare into cyberspace, hoping that someone out there will be as bored as I am and actually read the drivel I’ve put on here.  And so as not to be insulting, for those of you who actually do that, ‘thanks’.  But for me, I’m over the whole blogosphere scene.  I’ve stopped reading blogs.  Most of them have really devolved into lengthy Twitter or Facebook posts anyway, and quite frankly I’m just not interested in that.  Sadly, at one point I was faithfully reading 22 blogs per day.  And some of those blogs took nearly thirty minutes or more to get through.  Especially if there were recipes or photos involved.  I’m a sucker for recipes and photo contests.

However, in the past seven months my life has changed.  Radically.  My priorities regarding my time have changed as well.  Time is our most valuable commodity; and yet, every day we waste most of it.  No wonder life passes us by so quickly.   We spend our childhood wishing we were an adult.  By the time we reach adulthood and enter the working world we spend our week wishing it were the weekend.  And on the weekends we wish we were kids again so we could forget that dreaded “to-do” list that awaits us.  Such a shame to wish our entire life away and forget to live in the moment.

Today I was doing some research on a company called Monsanto.  They’re an evil, multi-national, chemical corporation that is completely engrossed in their own greed.  And they have the balls to cloak that greed in the nobility of “feeding the world,” when in fact, they care nothing for the world at large, but only the myriad of ways they can control our food chain and thus line their already massive pockets.  And as I finished up my research, I came to the conclusion that I need to do something.  I need to take control.  Even though I’m only one person I can still make a difference.  It only takes one, remember?  So I’m not exactly sure what it is I’m going to do yet, but it will be something.  And I can guarantee you it won’t involve sitting behind this computer a moment longer and blogging…..

Peace, out.

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Crave

Last night my beloved and I treated ourselves to a date night.  It doesn’t happen often, especially since starting up the farm.  There are so many chores to be done in the evenings and on weekends that we really don’t have a lot of extra time to ourselves.  But yesterday we managed to finish early enough to head to the QT for a snack and then off to the cinema to see Secretariat.  For years Sam and I have been dreaming of the day we could retire from this hectic life we live and move back to Kentucky, start a little farm, put up some horse fence, and live out our days in quiet wonder of all that God has created.  The movie didn’t help that desire any – we’re more determined than ever to realize our dream.

Despite a wonderful evening, I didn’t sleep well.  I don’t know if it was the excitement from the movie (I do love good horse racing), or just realizing how much of a contrast in lifestyle I crave.  Right now, we live a life of comfort and ease.  Sure we’ve got some hard work to do each day with the farm and garden chores, but for the most part we’re very comfortable.  God has very richly provided for us, however I’m desperate to turn my back on all this “stuff” in search of a much more simple way of living.  All that we have is lovely and grand, but it has come at much too high a price.

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Awkward moments

In my life there have been numerous moments where I, or those around me have wanted to die and fall into the deepest, dark hole they could find.  I’m a whiz when it comes to saying inappropriate things at inopportune times.  It’s a gift really.

Today I had one of those embarrassingly awkward moments.  Right now, we’re smack dab in the middle of allergy season in Georgia.  We’re on the 13th month of a 12 month allergy cycle.  But things are looking up for us.  The ragweed is nearly done….just in time for the pine pollen to begin again.  Anyway, I’m struggling with the slightest stuffy nose.  It’s nothing big, but definitely enough to change my voice a bit and make my words run together slightly.  Out of the blue I decided to make a phone call to someone I haven’t talked to in a few months.  Its a family thing, and if you have extended family I’m sure you understand where I’m going with this.

So I dial the number and listen patiently as the phone rings two or three times.  The line picks up and I hear my beautiful aunts voice on the other end.  I offer her my most chipper, “Hello Auntie ______”, and then there’s silence.  And I’m not talking about that take a breath kind of silence before you go on with your conversation.  It was the “who in the heck is this and how did you get my number?” kind of silence.  It’s that “crap, why did I answer this?” kind of silence.  It’s the kind of silence that makes you (the caller) feel at a complete loss for words.  And in that silence you think to yourself…did I dial the wrong number?  Has my tongue swelled to twice its normal size and I’m talking like I’ve had an injection of novacane?  Did I just call this person by the wrong name?  Poop…it was the name thing again, wasn’t it?!

And as it always happens in these types of situations, my dear sweet auntie asks the questions we all do…”who is this?”

When you have to introduce yourself to your kin, its been too long!  I’m horrible at keeping in touch.  You’d think after all these years I’d learn to either call more often or just throw in the towel and become one of those funeral and wedding kinds of kin.  You know, the ones who only show up when there’s free food and liquor….

And as I was sitting here reflecting on the conversation; which by the way went charmingly well once we got past the formal introductions; it reminded me of another phone conversation that didn’t end so well……….

Sam and I were living in Iowa at the time.  His daughter had gone off and married a hairy Scotsman.  I didn’t attend the wedding (it’s a long story), so I’d never met the chap.  I hadn’t even spoken to him on the phone before this conversation….a conversation which is told and re-told at all major family gatherings…much to my horror and shame.  Anyway, Sam and I were in the process of getting ready to head out of the house for an evening of fun and frivolity when the phone rang.  Sam was in the shower so I answered it.  This is how the conversation went…

Caller: “Is SUM there?”

Me:  “Who?”

Caller: “SUM?”

Me: “Um, I think you have the wrong number.”

Caller:  “Oh, sorry ’bout that.”

*Call ended*

I turned around to walk back to the bedroom and the phone rang again, so I answered it.

Caller: “Is SUM there?”

Me:  “I think you just called here and I believe you have the wrong number.  There is no SUM here.”

Caller:  “Oh sorry.”

*Call ended*

As I turned to head back toward the bedroom the phone rang again.  And like an idiot I answered it…..again.

Caller: “Is SUM there?”

Me: “Um I think you’ve still got the wrong number.  There is NO SUM that lives here.  You might check your number again.”

Caller:  “Is this 237-6439?”

Me: “Yes it is, but I’m telling you, there is no SUM that lives here.  You’ve got the wrong number!”

Caller: (in a very reluctant voice) “Oh, okay, sorry ’bout that.”

*Call ended*

Thankfully the phone didn’t ring a fourth time or I might have ripped the cord out of the wall.  However, when Sam exited the shower and inquired about the multiple phone calls I relayed the jist of the conversations to him.  I explained that the caller was looking for SUM and there were no SUM’S that lived in our house.  Sam thought for a moment about the strange calls and then turned to me and asked it the caller would have possibly been asking for “SAM”?  I explained that if he was looking for SAM that he needed to learn English!  And then Sam did the funniest thing…he put on his own Scottish accent and asked if the caller was looking for “SUM”?

It took me a second to process it all, but I’m sure the blood flooded my cheeks as I realized I’d just hung up on Sam’s son-in-law….three times!  I was mortified.  Laughing, Sam picked up the phone and dialed Scotland.  Yep, it was his son-in-law all right, who was just as befuddled by the conversation as I was, only in a different way.  But truly, if you’ve ever heard a thick Scottish accent over long distance it’s very confusing…at least, that’s what I keep telling myself.  Now anytime I see their phone number pop up on the caller ID I just ignore it because I know the caller will be looking for “SUM”!

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Where does the time go?

Holy cow, its been a while since I’ve posted anything on here.  I’ve just become so overwhelmed with farm projects that I don’t have much time to just sit here and type anymore.  I know that during wintertime things will slow down a bit for us and I’ll have more free time during the day, but the last couple of weeks have just flown by with projects coming out my ears.  Here’s what we’ve been up to:

* We added about 5 acres of pasture fencing to the farm

* We moved all the animals into one of the new pastures

* I built a new hen pen with 10 nesting boxes

* We’ve moved chickens four different times between pens

* I built a portable shade barn

* I repaired a chicken tractor we got from some friends of ours who prefer the traditional chicken coop layout

* We spent a Saturday stretching fencing and repairing/strengthening corners

* We harvested two raised beds chalk-full of sweet potatoes – I still have to do something with those

* We’ve started gathering eggs (only a few so far, but the girls are all coming into maturity so it won’t be long now before we’re getting lots of eggs every day)

* I’m currently building pastured rabbit pens for the farm so we can get our bunnies off the back porch and out with the rest of the gang

* We amended about 20 EarthBoxes and have finally got all of our fall garden planted

* I gathered about 5 pounds of fresh chestnuts, and the tree is just now starting to “shed”

* I’ve managed to squeeze in making a few wheels of cheese as well

And I know that’s not a huge list, but when you’re working alone for most of it it takes a bit longer to accomplish things.  I was delighted to have my parents here for a two-week visit the first part of September, which gave me a chance to slow down a bit and visit with them – the break was wonderful!  My baby brother is coming for a couple of weeks at the end of October as well, and our major project is going to be another fencing one –  I need to build some garden fencing in our back yard.  Iris and Guinness are still ravaging my tomato plants.  We haven’t gotten one single slicing tomato all year long – between the blight and the dogs its been a rough year for the garden!  But good, solid garden fencing will stop at least the dogs, and thankfully my brother has some fencing experience.  Good thing too, because we have between 30 and 50 holes to dig out with the post hole diggers, and anyone who knows this Georgia clay knows what kind of hellacious task that’ll be!

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Filed under East of Eden Farms, HOME AND GARDEN

Is it fall yet?

I am one of the few people who doesn’t like to complain about how hot summer can be.  I would much prefer to endure the heat of summer than the dead cold of winter; especially since we moved away from northern Maine three years ago.  I was pretty sure we were never going to dig our way out of that state!

But I have to admit, that this summer has been really hot and humid.  Even the weather people are saying that this summer has been one of the record setters, with multiple weeks of day-after-day of 90 degree plus temperatures and minimal rainfall.  And the humidity has been the real killer for me.  I can handle the heat.  I can handle the dry.  But the humidity seems to zap my energy every time.  And since we’ve been spending a large part of our time out on the farm working with the animals, I’ve found myself sweating a great deal more than I ever have in my life!

So, in an effort to psych myself out and to gently encourage summer to submit itself to the greater good I started putting up my fall decorations last week.  I’ve got a lovely garland of fall leaves wrapped around my banister, some beautiful burgundy mums ready to go out on my front porch, and scarecrows and pumpkins placed strategically around my living room.

I’m ready for the beautiful patchwork of leaves on the hillsides, beckoning me to crunch through the forest.   I want to spend the evenings enjoying the sunroom, listening to the crickets and locust sing the stars into the night sky.  I’m ready to wrap up in a flannel throw and sit by the fireplace with a steaming mug of hot cider.  I can’t wait to burn Macintosh scented candles and go apple pickin’.  I’m desperate to resurrect jars of harvest spices from their resting place in the cupboard and combine them with winter squash and sweet taters, for succulent and sweet creations.  I’m ready to throw the windows on the house open at night and snuggle deep into homemade quilts, finding my way into dream lands full of sugar plumbs and gingerbread men.  I want to awaken to the glisten of frost on my windows and the sight of my breath in the early morning sunshine.

Oh fall, how I’ve missed you.  Please come to visit soon!

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Doesn’t that just figure!

In an effort to continue on our path of self-sufficiency and healthier eating, I ordered a nut grinding machine.  I love natural peanut butter, but to purchase it in the grocery store is dreadfully expensive.  How does that work exactly?  Process it less, add fewer ingredients, and charge more.  Seems like a great gimmick to me.  So I searched online for an economical, home grinding machine, and I found one.  Only one.  It had a few reviews, which were all favorable and seemed to indicate that this machine would be perfect for our needs.  So I ordered it.  That was this spring!

A couple of weeks passed and I didn’t receive the order.  I checked our bank account and the money hadn’t come out yet either, so I sent an email to customer service requesting an update on my order.  I received a prompt reply that went something like this:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for your recent order.  Unfortunately, this item is temporarily out of stock.  We do not have an estimated restock date from the manufacturer at this time.  Your account will be charged when this item is ready for shipment.  Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.  Have a nice life.

Okay, I didn’t end with “Have a nice life,” but it might as well have.  Basically, what that response told me was you ordered something that no longer exists, so don’t hold out any hope of ever receiving it.  After all, how many people do you know who grind their own nut butters?

This past week Kroger was having one of their 10 for $10 sales, and peanut butter was included in that.  So we decided it was time to stock up since our nut grinder was obviously not going to come through for us.  And stock up we did.  We now have 20 jars of peanut butter in our pantry.  Did I mention that we’re suckers for a good deal?!  But who doesn’t use peanut butter?  It’s not like it has a short shelf life.  It’s practically as indestructible as Twinkies are.

On Monday morning I sat down at my computer with my coffee in hand and pulled up my email.  And wouldn’t ya know it!  Smack dab in the middle of my list of emails was a notification from the nut grinder place.  My order is getting ready to ship.  Well, doesn’t that just figure.  Maybe I can give jars of peanut butter away as stocking stuffers this year…

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Filed under MISCELLANEOUS, RANDOM THOUGHTS