Eclectic and Eccentric, Spiritual and Sublime
H. A. O'Connor

Two Butterflies went out at Noon, Emily Dickinson

Earthy, Feels Friday!, For the love of animals, Poetry!, Write Away 1 Comment
Two Butterflies went out at Noon, Emily Dickinson

In honor of the butterflies we’ve been “raising” (post on them to come), I thought I’d share Two Butterflies went out at Noon, by Emily Dickinson.

Dickinson was born (1830) and died (1886) in Amherst, Massachusetts. She lived in relative isolation throughout her life, although her family provided her with intellectual and emotional companionship. The rare visitors to her family’s home also had a significant impact on her, as can be evinced throughout much of her work. Though she was not publicly recognized for her writing during her lifetime (her first volume of poems being published posthumously), she is considered to have helped create a unique, distinctly “American” poetic voice.

I love Emily Dickinson’s poems, not only for their natural themes, but also for their seeming simplicity which often belies deeper meaning.

Two Butterflies went out at Noon

Emily Dickinson1830 – 1886

Two Butterflies went out at Noon—
And waltzed above a Farm—  
Then stepped straight through the Firmament  
And rested on a Beam—  
   
And then—together bore away 
Upon a shining Sea—  
Though never yet, in any Port—  
Their coming mentioned—be—  
   
If spoken by the distant Bird— 
If met in Ether Sea
By Frigate, or by Merchantman— 
No notice—was—to me—

Thank you for reading! Hope you’ll join me in wishing our two butterflies well as they enter the Firmament!

H. A. O'Connor

What was that?

Ethereal, Searching for Inspiration 2 Comments
What was that?

Hold on, because you might think I’m weird when you start reading this. Hear me out, if you will.

I have a certain memory, and it serves as inspiration for some of my writing. Inspiration for what, exactly? A sexy male lead, of course. Or at least part of him.

 

So many parts to choose from…

Images via pixabay/PinSharp and bycfotografem

Still reading? Okay, here’s the memory. Brace yourself.

I  dated this guy at one point in my life (vagueness absolutely intended). He was pretty cute, pretty confident, pretty cool. So, one day, we were talking and I said something too quietly, as I was occasionally known to do. He leaned in, kind of sexy like, and said, “What was that?”

Man, leaning. Nice. 

Image via pixabay/Engin_Akyurt

Good stuff, am I right?

Are you laughing at me? Clearly, I need to explain.

Where exactly is the sexy? Well, never mind that he was a musician (I dated a few of those, so still being vague), or that he was probably tucking his longish hair behind his ear as he leaned in (grunge was kind of my thing when I was younger. Still vague, trust me).

The truly sexy part was this: he’d missed what I said and he was asking me to repeat it. Why? So he could hear it and, likely, respond. (He did.) *Bonus: the leaning in. There was a hint of intimacy there, of course, but he was also making sure he heard me the second time around.

Probably listening really, really well…

Image via pixabay/Ryan McGuire (edited from the original)

Now, you follow?

That’s right. Men who listen. Sexy.

…Actually people who listen, because I’m sure that road runs both ways.

Can I share a little more? One of the reasons I love writing so much is that I’m heard. If I can keep the reader’s interest, I mean. If not, that’s likely on me. Still, I’ve had plenty of moments in my life when what I was saying fell on deaf or distracted ears. Nope, not nearly as sexy or as cool or as nice as being heard.

Never mind the phone. I’m sure he’s a good listener.

Image via pixabay/Free-Photos (edited from the original)

So, the moral of my post?

…Well sure, if you’re a guy I dated at some point in my life, an aspect or two of your personality might find its way into my male characters. (Especially if you were one of the good ones. Happily, most were.)

That’s not a moral, though. The moral, then, must be this: be sexy. Listen when someone speaks to you. (Reading’s always nice, too, so thank you for that.) If the situation calls for it, you might even think over what the person has said and respond, accordingly.

Sex-y. That’s what I’m talking about.

Maybe he’s done a little too much listening…. Still sexy.

Image via Unsplash/bodyscape
H. A. O'Connor

I Heart Argan Oil

Earthy, Natural and Noteworthy, Natural Beauty No Comment
I Heart Argan Oil

Dear RSO (Rosehip Seed Oil),

You haven’t seen my face for about a year, so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that there’s someone else. You see, Argan Oil and I were introduced at about the same time you and I started having troubles. I thought it was a rebound thing, at first, or maybe infatuation, but it’s real. Everyone has an oil that’s right for their face, and as much as I love you, Argan is the one for me.

Image via pixabay/oceanverde

Argan Oil has staying power, not that you don’t. Still, women in the Mediterranean have been pampering their skin with it for centuries. It’s full of Vitamin E, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, plus it’s great for my hair. That makes it multi-faceted, a truly deep kind of oil. It’s generous, too–it helps with anything from eczema and rosacea to fine lines and wrinkles. You can’t find support like that just anywhere. Not to mention how light an oil it is, or how easily it absorbs into my skin. It’s like wearing nothing at all…very freeing, you understand.

I know some people pay a fortune just to have Argan Oil in their life, but I still get mine from *Mountain Rose Herbs. They’re every bit as trustworthy as when I first discovered you among their online shelves, Rosehip. I believe in my heart of hearts that others will find you there, too, and appreciate you for all that you are.

Before you ask, of course I still need a third, for the moisturization to be complete. Water has been fine–I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that I always begin my moisturizing with clean, damp skin–but I think Argan and I have found something that takes what we have and makes it even better. White Rose Hydrosol…maybe you’ve heard of it? I understand, the rose thing probably hurts a bit, but you know the scent of roses has always been one of my favorites. It always will be.

Dear Rosehip Seed Oil, please try to remember: it’s not you, it’s my face. Honestly, I’d love to stay friends and keep you in some of my other skin products, but I’ll understand if you’d prefer that we go our separate ways. No matter what, we’ll always have body butter!

Love you, my special friend.

HAO

 

See what I mean? Even goats love Argan.

Images via pixabay/jackmac34 and remilozach

*Mountain Rose Herbs is not a sponsor; I’m just a fan. Natural products are not regulated, so it’s difficult to know if you’re getting what you pay for. I trust MRH and have always been pleased with whatever I’ve ordered from them. Just an FYI, in case you’re shopping around.

H. A. O'Connor

Sheltered Garden, by H. D.

Feels Friday!, Poetry!, Write Away 5 Comments
Sheltered Garden, by H. D.

I took only one poetry class in college, but during that time, I was introduced to the poems of H. D. (Hilda Doolittle)  and have loved them ever since. I associate them with gardens and seascapes, and pine trees bending in the wind.

A bit about her: Doolittle was born on September 10, 1886 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She attended Bryn Mawr College and, later, the University of Pennsylvania, where she met William Carlos Williams and spent time with Ezra Pound, among other poets. Doolittle traveled to Europe in 1911 and remained abroad for the rest of her life. She died on September 21, 1961, and was later buried in Bethlehem, PA, near family.

H. D. is often identified with imagist poetry, though she eventually grew beyond this movement. She is also considered a modernist and metaphysical poet, and feminist themes run throughout her writings. She completed novels and non-fiction works in addition to poetry and received various awards for her writing, including the Gold Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Brandeis Award and the Longview Award.

This poem is a favorite; it speaks to me:

Image via Unsplash/Benjamin

Sheltered Garden

I have had enough.
I gasp for breath.

Every way ends, every road,
every foot-path leads at last
to the hill-crest—
then you retrace your steps,
or find the same slope on the other side,
precipitate.

I have had enough—
border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies,
herbs, sweet-cress.

O for some sharp swish of a branch—
there is no scent of resin
in this place,
no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,
aromatic, astringent—
only border on border of scented pinks.

Have you seen fruit under cover
that wanted light—
pears wadded in cloth,
protected from the frost,
melons, almost ripe,
smothered in straw?

Why not let the pears cling
to the empty branch?
All your coaxing will only make
a bitter fruit—
let them cling, ripen of themselves,
test their own worth,
nipped, shrivelled by the frost,
to fall at last but fair
With a russet coat.

Or the melon—
let it bleach yellow
in the winter light,
even tart to the taste—
it is better to taste of frost—
the exquisite frost—
than of wadding and of dead grass.

For this beauty,
beauty without strength,
chokes out life.
I want wind to break,
scatter these pink-stalks,
snap off their spiced heads,
fling them about with dead leaves—
spread the paths with twigs,
limbs broken off,
trail great pine branches,
hurled from some far wood
right across the melon-patch,
break pear and quince—
leave half-trees, torn, twisted
but showing the fight was valiant.

O to blot out this garden
to forget, to find a new beauty
in some terrible
wind-tortured place.

     ~ from Sea Garden, 1916

 

Thank you for reading. I hope you felt something special this Feels Friday.

 

Sources and recommended reading:

http://www.imagists.org/hd/bio.html

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/h-d

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/h-d

H. A. O'Connor

Herb’s Garden

Earthy, Living Sustainably, Natural and Noteworthy, Neighborhood Homesteading 2 Comments
Herb’s Garden

How do you say it: herbs (pronounced like a man’s name) or (h)erbs (silent h)?

I usually say “(h)erbs,” (silent h) because I’m from the US. Still, when my family and I visited a lovely, family-owned plant farm near Lancaster, PA, Groff’s, the conversation in the car went something like this:

Husband: What are you getting at this place, again?

Me (wearing an overly giant smile): Herbs.

Husband: did you just say herbs?’

Me: Hm. I did. …Maybe they sell ‘Herbs’…as in the guy. A garden of Herbs.

Husband: Who says ‘herbs’…the British?

Me: Yes. And Martha Stewart.

Well, I’m neither British nor Martha Stewart, so I guess I’m not supposed to say herbs. In honor of my mistake, I’m unofficially dubbing our garden: Herb’s Garden. Now, my kids are sure to have as much trouble remembering which way to say it as I apparently do. You’re welcome, kids. 🙂

Anyway, I left with a nice little haul of (h)erbs and companion plants, and thought I’d share some helpful info I’ve dug up on each. (Bad pun intended. Very sorry.)

*By the way, although the edible herbs I’ve mentioned below offer various health benefits, they can also have some pretty significant side effects, especially if taken in large amounts (particularly for pregnant/lactating women). I plan to eat them as part of my meals, in amounts typically consumed.

Basil

Image via pixabay/tookapic

Have any tomatoes? Mozzarella? Well, then. You need basil. In addition to tasting delicious, basil contains Vitamins K, A, and C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, among other nutrients. It also contains DNA-protecting flavonoids and acts as an anti-inflammatory. It is antibacterial as well, and has been found to be effective in treating drug-resistant bacteria strains. Basil also acts as an adaptogen, to help the body fight the effects of stress.

·

Cilantro (+coriander seeds)

Image via pixabay/Hans

Since it is high in antioxidants, cilantro not only benefits our health, but also prolongs freshness when added to other foods. It is also antifungal, promotes skin health and may help combat the effects of UV B radiation from sunlight. In addition, it is antimicrobial, and is believed to help detoxify the body. Coriander (the seed produced by cilantro) has anti-inflammatory properties, but studies have found that imported coriander is often contaminated by salmonella; I suggest growing your own.

·

Comfrey

Image via pixabay/ustalij_pony

Due to the pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) it contains, comfrey is toxic to the liver and is not recommended for internal use. (*Note: the levels of PAs change, depending upon the time of year, age of the plant, and throughout the different parts of the plant–e.g. newer leaves have more PAs than older ones and the roots contain the highest amounts by a large margin.) However, comfrey serves many other purposes in the garden. It is a great healer and has been acknowledged as such for thousands of years (dating back to ancient Rome). This is due to the allantoin it contains, which is known to aid in cell formation. Though it shouldn’t be applied to open wounds, comfrey’s crushed leaves, poultices, or creams can be applied externally to injuries, to promote healing. *Note: the toxins present in comfrey can be absorbed through the skin, so care must be taken not to overuse. It is not to be taken while using acetaminophen or similar products, because of the heightened risk of liver damage.

·

Dill

Image via pixabay/ruslanababenko

In addition to tasting delicious in pickling recipes and egg salad (which is how my grandmother used to make it–yum!), dill contains Vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants. It is also a good source of calcium, manganese, and iron. Dill was once believed to harbor protective forces, which would help ward off witchcraft. Handy, no? Today, it is sometimes used to treat problems with digestion, menstruation, sleep, urinary tract disorders, and to help boost the immune system. Not for use by diabetics, pregnant/nursing women, or by those with allergies to plants in the carrot family.

I can attest to the fact that dill is highly prized by swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. This cute little guy and his buddies ate all of ours.

The parsley in the background survived the onslaught; the dill, sadly, did not.

·

Echinacea

Image via RGBStock/Babykrul

All nine known species of echinacea are native to North America and were used by Native Americans medicinally. All parts of the plant are used, and can be taken internally (as teas, tinctures, in capsules, etc.), as well as applied externally. Echinacea boosts the immune system, in order to help ward off the common cold and flu, and also to help fight infections. Its widespread popularity declined with the introduction of antibiotics, but appears to be growing once more, particularly in Germany, where it is approved for medical treatment by the government.

Longterm use has not be evaluated, and some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to echinacea. (It may also increase allergic reactions to other stimulants). Contraindicated for use by individuals with auto-immune issues and not recommended for use in pregnant or breastfeeding women.

·

Fennel

Image via RGBStock/AYLA87

Fennel has a delicious, licorice-ish scent and flavor, which I love. I particularly love the coloring of the bronze fennel, so I picked some up to add to my garden. Its leaves are gorgeous and feathery (they look like actual feathers as they start to emerge). Fennel’s a perennial herb, which can be used in foods and teas. It’s not only attractive to the birds and the bees, but is also a host plant for the Anise Swallowtail and the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies. Cheers to more butterflies!

·

Holy Basil (Tulsi)

Image via pixabay/shajis001

This plant has been grown in India for over three thousand years and is revered as a symbol for the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. It is valuable medicinally because of its antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and pain-killing properties. It acts as an adaptogen, improving the body’s response to stress. It can be taken as a tea (safe for daily use), pill, tincture, etc. It is used to help regulate diabetes and also to promote wound healing. It is believed to help lower cholesterol, ease joint pain, and protect the stomach, as well. It should not be used by pregnant or lactating women.

·

Lavender

Image via Unsplash/Ray Hennessy

Sure, its fragrance is absolutely delicious, but it tastes good, too. Dried lavender buds can add flavor to your desserts, from ice cream to baked goods to yummy summertime drinks. (I found some great recipes from Country Living.) I love adding lavender to my soaps, and I often wear lavender essential oil on a clay diffuser necklace. Its scent is calming and soothing, perfect for combatting stress or promoting sleep. It can be brewed in a tea and cooled, then sprayed over burns, bug bites, or troubled skin, to bring relief and aid in healing. Lavender plants in your garden can also help keep mosquitoes and other pests away from the area. Bees and butterflies, on the other hand, tend to love it. I’m with them!

·

Lemon Balm

Image via pixabay/cocoparisienne

Lemon Balm is an herb in the mint family, with a bright, lemony scent. It can add flavor to foods or teas and has been used since the Middle Ages to help relieve anxiety. Likewise, it works well in promoting sleep (often paired with valerian) and regulating stress. Lemon balm is also used to help treat stomach upsets, including cholic, and has shown promise in relieving some of the symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease. In cream form, it is used to treat cold sores. Lemon balm seems safe to use medicinally in limited amounts and durations, even by infants, under the guidance of a physician. However, long term studies have not been done and, as with any herb, it is probably best avoided by pregnant women. It may increase the effects of sedatives, as well.

·

Lemongrass

Image via pixabay/sarangib

Lemongrass smells like a fresh, sunny summer day, don’t you think? Go ahead and smell some; I’ll wait. Lemongrass is full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds. What’s not to like, right? Hang on, because there’s more. It’s also antifungal, antimicrobial, and can help regulate cholesterol levels, as well as detoxify the body. It is good for digestion and for regulating blood pressure, plus it also helps boost your body’s metabolism. Its vitamins benefit hair and skin, and its nutrients can help treat joint pain and fever, as well as colds and flu. Due to its ability to stimulate the uterus, it is not safe for pregnant women; also, because it can lower blood sugar, it should be avoided by people with diabetes.

·

Milkweed

Image via pixabay/ballonimals

First and foremost: monarchs! Monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed, so without it…no caterpillars. No caterpillars means no adult butterflies. You get it. You know how this nature thing works. Second: they’re beautiful plants, and there are over a hundred species native to North America. Mine, however, are perennials, which seem to be more readily available (since native milkweed was often considered a “pest” and chased off the land. Shame on us humans, once again.)

Besides being essential for the monarchs, milkweed can be beneficial for us. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the strong fibers of milkweed were used to make rope and fabric, and the fluffy floss of the seed pods was used to stuff bedding or to act as tinder for fires. It was even used to stuff lifejackets during WWII!

As useful as milkweed is, the plant is mildly toxic, so only experienced foragers should ever consider consuming it. The juices of milkweed can also be a skin irritant, so wearing gloves while handling is recommended.

I hadn’t even planted my milkweed in the ground, when the first monarch appeared. She immediately started landing on the leaves and curling her abdomen around to lay her eggs on the undersides. Which means…we now have a monarch nursery!

Six babies in this pic and I found a dozen overall!

Cute, chubby baby monarch!

·

Mint

Image via pixabay/strecosa

What’s better than mint, I ask you? Chocolate mint, of course. While I love peppermint (and have some growing in a container, currently, because mint loves to spread), I thought my kids might be more apt to enjoy the chocolate variety. Truth be told, it smells more chocolate-y than it tastes, but I’m not complaining. I love mint and I love chocolate, so there can be no loss if the two are involved.

Mint is of course used to flavor foods, from savory dishes to ice cream. As a tea, it is said to help reduce stress. Mint compresses can help cure headaches and the herb can also be added to personal care products, such as a vinegar-based hair rinse or witch-hazel face toner, to increase their benefits. Dried mint also works well as a pest repellant. Use with care, though, because in large amounts, mint can affect the endocrine system, and like many herbs, over-use by pregnant or lactating women is warned against.

·

Parsley

Image via pixabay/AllNikArt

In addition to adorning plates and combatting breath issues, parsley is also high in vitamins A, C, and K, folate, calcium, magnesium, and iron. It helps promote healthy bones and good vision, while boosting immunity. It is also believed to help prevent diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and even some types of cancer. It is not safe for pregnant women to consume large amounts, as it can promote uterine contractions.

·

Rue

Image via pixabay/Justugly

This plant has been used throughout history as an herb, although it is said to have some toxicity and should never be consumed in large amounts (it’s probably best for pregnant/nursing women to avoid it completely). So, like many others, I’ll consider rue an ornamental herb and just hope it brings all the butterflies and bees to the yard.

Rue works well as a companion plant, because its scent often keeps animals and pests like Japanese beetles out of the garden. (In fact, the dried leaves can be kept as a bug repellant.) It’s important to wear gloves when handling rue, because it can cause rashes and phototoxicity (which may create blisters in response to sunlight).

·

Sage

Image via pixabay/marionkollmeier

Got ghosts? No problem. Do a sage rubbing and drive off any unsavory spirits. My tongue may be in my cheek right now, but many people value sage for this use. I’ve never had the need, but if I did? Point me to the nearest smudge stick.

In addition to being a ghost-fighter and a culinary herb, sage is also used medicinally. The leaves are said to help relieve digestive problems, menstrual issues, and possibly even combat the chemical imbalances that cause Alzheimer’s. It can be applied directly to the skin to help treat mouth and nasal irritation. Sage tea can be used to dry up breast milk during weaning. It can also darken graying hair (with repeated use), and be used topically to help combat oily skin or acne.

Because sage contains thujone, a chemical known to cause seizures and/or damage to the liver and nervous system, large doses or prolonged use are to be avoided. Not safe for use in pregnant women, those with diabetes, hormone-sensitive conditions, or blood pressure issues.

·

Thyme

Image via pixabay/Hans

I bought the creeping variety of thyme, hoping it will act as a ground cover in my garden. Anything that helps control weeds is a friend of mine! Also, though I don’t have any issues with deer, it acts as a deer repellant and may deter them from consuming nearby plants. Like other types of thyme, it is edible. Either the leaves alone can be harvested or sprigs can be snipped off and dried, and the leaves removed later. It smells and tastes fairly similar to mint and can be used to flavor foods or in teas. Last, but not least, it is loved by bees!

 

That’s it for now, as far as our garden grows, but how about you? Do you have an (h)erb garden or a Herb’s garden? What herbs do you like best? I’d love to hear recommendations!

 

**For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

Sources and recommended reading:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266425.php

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/277627.php

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/comfrey-leaves-zmaz74zhol

http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/comfrey

http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/285/

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/echinacea/ataglance.htm

http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/Echinacea

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/grow-bronze-fennel-25058.html

http://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/basil-benefits

http://www.naturallivingideas.com/reasons-to-grow-lavender-in-your-garden/

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-437-lemon%20balm.aspx?activeingredientid=437

http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lemon-balm

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-719-lemongrass.aspx?activeingredientid=719&activeingredientname=lemongrass

http://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/7-wonderful-benefits-of-lemongrass-tea-the-healing-brew-1459468

http://blog.nwf.org/2015/02/twelve-native-milkweeds-for-monarchs/

https://www.almanac.com/plant/mint

http://healthyliving.azcentral.com/health-benefits-plain-italian-parsley-16735.html

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/rue-plants-used-for-49380.html

http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/312/

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-504-sage.aspx?activeingredientid=504&

https://www.healthbeckon.com/sage-herb-benefits/

http://www.healthline.com/health/health-benefits-of-thyme

H. A. O'Connor

Overcoming Your Enemy

Ethereal, Searching for Inspiration No Comment
Overcoming Your Enemy

We can all agree Mahatma Gandhi was a wise man, can’t we? If not, I recommend you watch the story of his life, Gandhi (1982), and give my question another try.

One of my favorites among Gandhi’s many expressions of wisdoms is this:

“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is fear.”

By Unknown – https://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/Mahatma-Ghandi-Photo,
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=179397

I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot lately, with all the horribleness that has been coming to a head in the US. This is not a post about politics or statues or tiki torch-wielding protestors, however. It’s a post about humans.

We are all human, right? We still have that in common?

I think we’d remember that clearly if, say, some violent group of extraterrestrials invaded Earth, our common home, hell bent on destroying us all. We’d band together pretty quickly, wouldn’t we? Who would care if the person beside you, fighting evil ET, was of a different race or religion or sexual orientation? You’d recognize this person as a fellow member of the human race and join forces. You’d forget to fear your differences in fearing a common enemy.

So, forget the invading ETs for a moment. Forget the differences between you and the human fighting beside you. What’s left? A fellow human being, with a desire to be safe and to protect the safety of loved ones.

Image via pixabay/41330

Let’s talk a bit more about this person, the one beside you. This person probably desires good health and happiness, wants to love and be loved. Correct? Don’t we all, right down to our cores? Then, what makes us forget these common needs and hopes? Anger and distance, maybe, but mostly fear.

Fear comes from a lack of knowledge. An inability to understand.

I think of the modern world, spewing hate across the internet. It reminds me a bit of road rage. People who would run each other off the road for minor driving infractions would be a lot less likely to get into a fist fight if they annoyed one another in person. They’d be far, far less likely if they knew a few things about each other, on a personal level. Things like the other’s most cherished memory or children’s names or favorite pizza topping.

Same goes for all this political opposition. It’s not easy to get to know each and every one of our philosophical opposites on a personal level, but it might help to remember that much of our opposers’ anger or apparent hatred is coming from a place of fear. Name it what you will, it’s coming from the same place of fear we hold within ourselves. Remember: we all want to be safe and ensure the safety of our loved ones, don’t we?

Image via Pixabay/PublicDomainPictures

The only way to combat such fear, to keep it in check, keep it from consuming our better thoughts and impulses, is to seek understanding. Seek to know your opposer, or the person who’s beside you, the one who seems so “different.” Approach them on a human level, and you will grow. Learn whatever you can and do your best to recognize a fellow human being behind the words and ideologies. You may still disagree with your opposer’s point of view, but the mind-numbing, sense-obliterating anger won’t be there.

Hatred cannot exist in a place of true understanding, which means, in effect, you win. You have overcome your real enemy, and that is fear.

H. A. O'Connor

Funky chickens!

Uncategorized 2 Comments

What does summertime mean around your house? Around here lately, it’s meant funky chickens. That is, funky nest boxes and pimped out coops. All right, that last one might be a stretch, but either way, our girls are digging their new… digs. Check them here, if you’re feelin’ it.

Catch you on the flip side 🙂

 

H. A. O'Connor

Hot Process Soap – *Ready to use quickly!* – Green Marble (Citrusy Bergamot)

Earthy, Living Sustainably, Natural and Noteworthy, Natural Beauty, Neighborhood Homesteading No Comment
Hot Process Soap – *Ready to use quickly!* – Green Marble (Citrusy Bergamot)

When I recently noticed my family was running low on our homemade soap, I knew hot process was the way to go. Why? It’s easy to make (as long as you don’t mind dedicating a slow cooker to soap making–you might pick one up secondhand, if so). It’s also ready to use much sooner than cold process soap. Instead of taking four to six weeks (or longer) to cure, as cold process soap does, hot process soap is technically ready to use within days. That said, allowing it to cure for a week or two will help any remaining moisture evaporate, making the soap harder and longer-lasting.

I really enjoyed making this soap and hope you’ll enjoy watching! Even better, maybe you’ll even give this homemade, hot process soap recipe a try!

*Note: I used a recipe from one of my blog posts to make this soap, which includes the lovely scented Aroma Foundry Bergamot Essential Oil. The original blog post can be found here.

*In case you have any trouble finding the recipe in that post, I’ll share it again here:

Citrusy and Simple Bergamot Soap: (formulated using the lye calculator from soapcalc.net)

8.36 ounces distilled water

3.24 ounces lye (NaOH)

10 ounces coconut oil

8 ounces grapeseed oil

4 ounces olive oil

0.5 ounce Aroma Foundry Bergamot Essential Oil

optional–approx. 1 tsp clay (e.g. rose, kaolin, bentonite, etc. – I used green zeolite clay)

optional–mica (as desired, for color)

Directions: add the lye to the water (NOT the water to the lye)–*Important: lye/water solution will heat up quickly and give off fumes, plus it can burn skin (so, do this step in a well-ventilated area, wearing protective eyewear, gloves, etc., and allow the solution to cool quite a bit before using–I find it easiest to work at somewhere between room temperature and 100 degrees F). (Note: lye reacts to aluminum, so don’t use any while soaping.)  Melt the oils together over a double boiler, add clay (if using; clay can also be added later, with the essential oils). Once the lye/water solution has cooled, mix into the oils, using an immersion (stick) blender. Add essential oil. Color with mica (if using). Pour into a soap-safe mold and allow at least 24 hours for soap to set and 4-6 weeks before use.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy!

H. A. O'Connor

Saving the Green: Earth-wise, Budget-friendly Choices

Earthy, Living Sustainably, Natural and Noteworthy, Neighborhood Homesteading 2 Comments
Saving the Green: Earth-wise, Budget-friendly Choices

Green is one of my favorite colors. I like it in terms of growing, planty things, and I like it in terms of cash. Nope, I’m not materialistic, but I am a realist (as much as reality requires, anyway).

Since nature and I are already on pretty good terms and because I’m trying to form a nice, healthy friendship with money, I’ve been looking into ways people can help save the green (both kinds). Here’s what I’ve found, so far:

Image via pixabay/terimakasih0

General Household:

Reusable/washable “paper” towels – leftover fabric (flannel, fleece) can be cut into squares and used to wipe counters, tables, etc., as an alternative to paper towels. Some people go the extra mile, add a terry cloth backing and store them in a pretty basket, but I’m easy (lazy): I keep mine in a drawer and, once used, throw them in the wash.

Hand towels – if you’re not already using hand towels in your kitchen, trust me, they work just as well there as they do in the powder room. I usually hang two: one for drying hands and the other for drying dishes. Again, they’re easy to toss into the wash and they further reduce the need for paper towels.

Stainless steel straws – have you seen the video of the poor sea turtle with the plastic drinking straw lodged in its nostril? No joke, I ordered my stainless straws the day I saw it. Here’s the video, if you want to see. You may never be the same again. *Warning: contains strong language and graphic images. 

Stainless/glass water bottles – bottling your drinks at home is cheaper than buying bottled water, etc. No plastic is even better than recycled plastic.

Reusable bags – we use these whenever we can; however, when we do get plastic bags from the store, we reuse them at home (and recycle the torn ones). That said, our goal is to reduce (and hopefully eliminate) our use of plastic bags in the future.

No-throw lunch items – when packing lunches, we use washable containers (plastic or glass), stainless steel bottles (rather than juice boxes, etc.), and forks/spoons from home–no need for the use-and-toss stuff. Beeswax-coated fabric is a great alternative to plastic wrap, too (from what I’ve heard–I still need to try it), and a cloth napkin can be brought home and washed. Also, we use insulated lunch bags, which usually last a couple of years (and we save brown paper bags for school field trips).

Image via pixabay/falco

Food:

Back to nature – in terms of food, closer to nature is generally better for our health and the environment. This is especially true with locally grown food–there are more nutrients in fresher foods; plus, when food travels a shorter distance to get to you, that equals less pollution. You can trying growing your favorite herbs, vegetables, fruits, berries right in your own back yard (or in containers on a patio or balcony). Good soil, clean water, and sunlight are pretty much all it takes.

Foods as medicine – healthy foods, even right down to common yard weeds, have traditionally served both as preventative healthcare and as medicinal treatment. I say, Eat your weeds! (Too far? Sorry if you’re not with me on that one yet.)

Image via pixabay/terimakasih0

Personal care:

Safety razors with replaceable blades – these are on my wish list, because I haven’t made my way through my plastic razors yet…

Simple oils as moisturizers – I just apply a simple oil to damp skin and it keeps my largest organ happy and healthy. For my body, I’ve been using grapeseed oil, which is light, absorbs easily, and contains a lot of skin-loving Vitamin E. It’s also inexpensive and easy to find, plus it’s not loaded with chemicals or preservatives. Likewise, for our faces, my husband uses rosehip seed oil and I use argan oil, which I adore… (More on that in another post.)

DIY self-care products (from the same basic ingredients) – I make soaps, body butters, balms (including lip balms), homemade deodorant, and much more, using a fairly small group of ingredients (things like coconut and olive oil, beeswax and essential oils)…I’ll share the list once I compile one (a task which I’m now adding to my to-do list…) *By the way, as I mentioned in another post, milk of magnesia also makes for a great, safe deodorant…one without chemicals or additives.

DIY makeup – although I still buy foundation and mascara, I make the rest of my makeup myself. As I’ve shown in my YouTube video, I use colloidal oatmeal tinted with cocoa for face powder, activated charcoal for eyeliner, and arrowroot powder, mica, and cocoa powder for eye shadow. Yes, that’s right. Food on my face.

Cloth diapers – I absolutely love my babies (as big as they are now), but I changed my millionth diaper long ago and grandkids are still a long way off, so you’re on your own with this one…

Feminine products – menstrual cups and washable cloth sanitary pads are becoming increasingly popular; they’re two options for women which not only benefit the environment, but also protect us from the harmful chemicals that can be found in many mainstream products. These items can also help save money (after initial purchasing costs).

Image via pixabay/terimakasih0

Cleaning:

White vinegar = use in dishwasher as a drying agent, and in clothes washer in place of fabric softener

Vinegar (diluted) = windows, tile floors, etc.

Vinegar (diluted) + baking soda = scrub tubs and sinks, helps clean out drains (*Also: hydrogen peroxide + baking soda = stain-removing scrub, safe for some surfaces)

Vinegar (diluted) + essential oils (peppermint, tea tree, lavender, and lemon are some of my cleaning favorites–they kill germs while freshening the house) = cleaning spray for counters, cabinets, etc. *Vinegar may not be safe to use on some surfaces, so please do your research and use with caution

Vinegar (diluted) + essential oils + liquid castile soap = great when you need a little soapy-ish boost (although castile soap doesn’t really lather, so don’t expect bubbles)

Image via pixabay/Alexas_Fotos

Pets:

Pet towels – we’ve designated old bath towels for use on the pets, for bath time or muddy feet. They also double as great picker-uppers if the pups get sloppy with their water bowls or if one of the humans spills a drink.

Dawn dish soap – this works well if you have a flea problem–wash, rinse, repeat (and then probably repeat again in a day or two)

Security system + smoke detector + fire alarm + crumb cleaner-upper + stress reducer + cheerer-upper + seat saver + foot warmer + all-around snuggly cuddler = pets (*Note: cats reserve the right to leave all–or most–crumb cleaning-upping to the dogs)

Images via pixabay/teadrinker

Last, but never least: Reduce, reuse, recycle always and in all the ways you can. (At least that’s something to strive for.) Those three Rs will reduce landfill fill, while saving money. Win, win. No question.

This is what I call a “living list.” It will evolve as my knowledge and experience do. All in all, though, I think the best rule of thumb for saving the green (if that’s your goal) is to make the transition how and when you’re able. Rather than seizing everything you own and dumping it all into a landfill somewhere, make good use of the items you have and recycle or reuse them as you’re able. When the things around you need to be replaced, that’s the time to go for the green–doing some research can help you find the eco-friendly items which will best suit your needs.

It might take some time to adjust to a greener life, but I’ve found it addictive in the best way. I can’t help hoping it’s contagious.

H. A. O'Connor

Confirmed Mutt

Ethereal, Searching for Inspiration 6 Comments
Confirmed Mutt

I wanted to write this post earlier, but my eye doctor dilated my pupils, so I couldn’t see well for a chunk of the day. (Brief aside: does anyone else get completely disoriented when they have their pupils dilated? I felt like because I couldn’t see, I also couldn’t hear right or think right, and was being generally being bombarded by sunlight and the world at large. Only me? Fine…)

Me, with dilated pupils: I’m lost!

Image via pixabay/TonW

Anyway, what I wanted to write about is ancestry, DNA, and…um, spit. You see, there’s this thing you can do these days, where you submit a little ol’ spittle-laced DNA to unlock the clues to your ethnic ancestry. No doubt you’ve heard of it already. As you probably know, it’s hosted by ancestry.com. (Just to note, I’m not sponsored by them, just a fan.)

My husband and kids bought a DNA test a while ago (caught it on sale) and gave it to me for Christmas. Sure, Christmas happened many months ago, but no, it doesn’t take that long to get the DNA results. (I think the wait can be about six to eight weeks or so, although mine took less time…which is nice, because being patient can be painful.)

Me, trying to be patient, and slowly…falling…apart

Image via pixabay/annca

Therefore, the long wait for my test results rests not on Ancestry’s shoulders, but squarely on my own. Why? I’ll admit it: I was chicken. I’d been dying to find out more about my lineage and then, when I got the chance? Unh-uh. To be fair, the spit-in-a-tube thing bothered me some…it looked like a pretty long tube…and the thought of someone analyzing it? Ick. Turns out, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Although, I’m not on the receiving end of those vials, so easy for me to say.

All spitting aside, the real thing that held me back was fear. I was afraid of what they might find…rather the lack of what they might find. I wanted my genetic makeup to show a little bit of everything. Native American, African, Asian, Continental European, Easter Islander…you name it. You see, I’ve always known most of my ancestors came from Ireland and Great Britain and I’ve been very content with that fact. However, not knowing who else might have contributed to my lineage meant I could potentially claim a bit of everyone. Maybe I’m just greedy.

Genetic glutton or not, I brushed and flossed, waited a bit, did the spit thing, sent it in, waited longer and then, lo and behold…Thursday night, my husband, kids, nephew and I gathered around my laptop (literally) so I could do a grand unveiling of my ancestral location results. They were…duh duh duuuuh…63% Ireland and 30% Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales). Womp womp. Yes, I was a little deflated to find I wasn’t a mix of all things. On the other hand, I’ve had my Celtic Mutt status confirmed. Which I really like. I mean, these are my people. They got me here. I’m simultaneously proud and grateful.

That said, there were also some unexpected potential ingredients in the mix of my ancestral blood. They were interesting, if not guaranteed. Listed among my “Low Confidence Regions” were the following: Iberian Pensinsula (Spain/Portugal) 3%, Italy/Greece 1%, Caucasus region of West Asia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey) 1%, North Africa (Morocco, Western Sahara, Algeria, Libya) <1%, Finland/Northwest Russia <1%. Granted, these aren’t “sure things” when it comes to my genetic mix, but I like the diversity, so I’ll accept, thank you very much.

Image via pixabay/TheAndrasBarta

There was more info, by the way; Ancestry also shares what they call your “Genetic Communities.” I had two: settlers of the Delaware Valley, (which was no surprise, given that’s where most of my known ancestors settled), and the Connacht Irish. Very cool, if I do say so myself.

Aside from all of this, I was linked to several potential relatives…almost 300, actually, which should make for a pretty decent family reunion. Of them all, one was a second cousin and the rest fell anywhere from third to eighth, which means I’m probably less connected to them than I am to Kevin Bacon. (You know, Six degrees…? Never mind.) The point is, none of us share close blood ties, but still…we are family. Somehow, deep in the threads of our DNA, we seem to be connected.

“Everybody, say ‘Cheese!'”

Image via pixabay/geralt

Some of my genetic curiosity has been satisfied…for now. As expected, I’m mostly a Celtic Mutt, but I’m also potentially linked to people from various regions of the world. I guess I didn’t need a DNA test to tell me I’m part of the big, diverse human family, but it’s kind of nice to see that the connections I feel in my heart and spirit even show up in my…spit.

Newest release! Take a peek:

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