*11-26-2001 Family Caregivers Month

Hello Everyone:                                 November 26, 2001


On  November 26th, 1493 Paracelsus (a Swiss  Alchemist)  was born.

November  30th is St. Andrew’s Day- the  patron  Saint  of Scotland.

Not much happening this week.  Mostly this is the brief breathing  space  between Thanksgiving and the onslaught  of  the  Christmas holidays.

Farm Report:

The weather is ridiculously warm. We had a little rain-  not enough  to allow us to start washing clothes at home again.  They are predicting more- I hope they are right. After all these years of  leaning on the kids to flush every time, it’s odd to  try  to remind them NOT to flush.

We  moved the month old chicks to the bigger brooder with a warm  spot  they can go to if they get cold, but they are much bigger, and they are no longer in immediate danger of freezing to death if conditions do (eventually) return to normal.

The goats, meanwhile, are irritating AElfwine by  attempting to  eat  the new battens off the barn. We had an  amusing  moment while moving the chicks into the chicken room and a couple of the goats tried to stuff themselves through the chicken door into the chicken room. Very funny looking!

Medical Stuff:

We  didn’t  have  much  medical stuff  going  on  this  week personally.  But  Saturday we got a call  that  Alva  (Aelfwine’s father)  had had a stroke. It seems to have been very minor-  Sue rushed him into the hospital, where they gave him an aspirin as a blood  thinner to minimize any damage, and so far there doesn’t seem to have been any long term damage. They kept him of  course, to do testing. (we joke “as many tests as his insurance  company is  willing  to pay for”, but of course, the more you know, the better.)

I had managed to forget how every time the phone rang this summer my mind immediately assumed it was bad news. I could really have gone much longer without being reminded. Still, this time  it seems to have been pretty much a false  alarm-  although I’m  sure it was awful for Sue and Alva. They  are  theoretically going to spring him tomorrow.

My fighting-off-a-cold dragged on almost all week. It  never got to the point where I’d even call it HAVING a cold- but I went through  quite  a lot of hankies! Sadly, looks like  Aelfwine  is getting  it now. When it went to my chest, I made a new batch  of cough syrup which worked beautifully. It’s funny, but even though I  know herbal remedies work, because I’ve used them  for  years, each  time  I try a new one and it does work- I am still a bit surprised.  No one would be surprised if they took a  brand  name,  over  the  counter  cough syrup and  it  worked.  Actually, they wouldn’t  even  be surprised if it didn’t. Sometimes  they  work, sometimes  they  don’t. Different personal  chemistry,  different reactions. Well, it’s the same with herbs- still I guess I always try  the herbs with the idea that it might help and  won’t  hurt. (I’m  always  careful to research doses and use  the  recommended amount.)  I’m  also thrilled that they are finally  beginning  to examine drug and herbal interactions. It’s not an issue with  me,  because I’m not on any drugs, but so many people are these  days, it’s  an important general issue. Both drug and herbal  responses are bio-chemical reactions, and so can interact with each  other- benignly, synergistically, even catastrophically.


In  case  you get a cough after the stores are  closed  some night, you can  try this (in the unlikely occurrence that  you  have these ingredients around and no cough syrup!).

Simmer for ten minutes in a pint of water:  2 cloves of garlic,  2 tbsp. anise, a chopped up orange or lemon peel.  (you  can  eat  the orange while it cooks-  and  the  water  will reduce- don’t worry about it. It’s supposed to.) Strain the herbs out and stir in 1/4 cup honey,  1 tbsp. cider vinegar. There’s a cough syrup that will hold you until morning!

If you want to try a more complex one, and the health food  store IS open, here’s another good cough syrup combination:

Put together in an enamel or steel pan in enough water to cover: 1 ounce chopped licorice root, 1 ounce anise seed, 1/4 to 1/2 ounce fennel seed, 1/4 to 1/2 oz. caraway,

Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add            1/4 cup of Coltsfoot, 1/4 cup of Mullein, 1/4 cup of Boneset, 1/4 cup chamomile, 1 ounce rose hips. Cover and steep for another 15 minutes.

Strain, and discard herbs and spices.

Add            8 ounces of honey

Simmer gently until the consistency is back down to a syrup.

You can leave any of these herbs out if you can’t find them- each  contributes  its own healing aspect. The  rose  hips  offer vitamin  C  to  bolster your immune system. I  tend  to  lean  on licorice  and anise a lot because they both taste good,  and  are good  for  coughs,  from  bronchitis to asthma.  Mullein  is specifically an expectorant- great for bronchitis. Coltsfoot is great for congestion whether in the sinuses or chest. Fennel  and caraway  are both good for the digestion as well  as  respiratory problems,   but  fennel  takes  away  appetite, while   caraway stimulates it, so I use them together to balance each other.

A  “simple”  is  any  herbal  recipe  that  uses  only   one ingredient- many herbalists (including me) think that that’s  the best  way  to  start  using herbs.  If  you  drink  chamomile  or peppermint tea when you need calming or to settle your  stomache, that’s using a “simple”. When herbs are combined they are recipes.

I  gave this expectorant syrup to Honour last year when  she was visited: Garlic, Mullein, Fennel with apple cider vinegar and honey. She loves home made remedies because they have no  alcohol and no artificial colors or flavors that cause reactions in her family.  I have a feeling that there are a lot more  people who have reactions to these ubiquitous ingredients than are aware of it,  since they are never “off” them, so they  can’t  notice   difference  between when they are exposed and when they aren’t.

How  many  of today’s ailments include pains or  fatigue  r mood swings that are nearly constant? Honour just has checked, and knows it’s true for them. It’s  especially frustrating that as more and more  people discover that they are sensitive to unnecessary ingredients  like colorings or flavorings, there is legislation moving forward under  he guise of protecting people from unsafe medication,  to make it illegal for anyone but big drug companies to formulate medicines. One variety of pharmacist (compounding) is trained to be able to mix up medicines for you without the potentially harmful and unneeded ingredients, and that’s what prescriptions used to be- directions from the doctors for what  the patient needed, which  the pharmacist would compound.  Yet now congress is  unwittingly passing legislation that will transform even those trained pharmacists into nothing more than people who count out pills and check the computer to see if a drug interaction between the other medications THAT THEY KNOW ABOUT are possible. This is a very bad idea. Frankly, the more one’s medications would be tailored to  a patient by the doctor and pharmacist, the better off the patients would  be.  Of  course, that cuts into the  profit of the drug companies- so they tell the congressmen that it’s dangerous-  and unless the congressman has a relative who needs personally mixed medicine, they don’t know any better and figure it’s a good idea. After  all, they are worrying about more important things-  like the  war on terrorism, or the war on drugs, or war on  poverty…

Don’t  get me wrong. I think drugs are very useful- I’m  thrilled that they are available along with herbs. I think only people who have studied either should be dispensing them.  I  REALLY wish doctors knew more about commonly used herbs, and that patients would  be more honest about the herbs, as well as other self medication they are using with their doctors. I use herbs because the ones I use tend to be  safe,  effective and economical. Certainly adding a dye that can hurt you to an drug that is there to save you is a bad idea.

Anyway,  I’ve never had a problem with the syrup going  bad- honey  is a great preservative. But if you are nervous,  you can keep it in the `fridge; it’ll feel good on your  throat cold anyway.  A dose is a normal (teaspoon from the drawer)  spoonful, and  for me it took care of my cough for about 4 hours.  You can also hold it against the roof of your mouth for a while before you swallow if your nose is stuffy, honey tends to help with  the congestion.  Chewing comb honey is great for unclogging a  stuffy head  all by itself. If your honey crystalises, which makes it  a pain to put in tea- you can use that instead.


Raven  dropped  by  on Monday with  the  new  Cauldron  Farm “intern”.  They  dropped off the last of last  year’s  geese  and stayed  for supper (and arranged to board Esmerelda for Wolf  and Tree until they can come back for her, in exchange for a buck  of her  next kidding). When exactly they’ll be getting off is  still up in the air, Wolf is packing like mad, but there is so much  to pack.

On Thanksgiving we went down to Winchester. Dad made most of the dinner, Liz brought incredible buns, Kitty brought her usual ambrosia,  I brought the pies, but I guess we are  getting  old, only  a  few pieces actually got eaten. Liz’s kids were off at Joe’s family for their thanksgiving but she had Duke with her. Duke is their new Boston Terrier  puppy.  Star was totally enchanted with him, and I was incredibly amused watching him get Elvis,  Trish’s  good old black lab to play;  and especially watching him play with Molly, Kitty’s Saint Bernard!

Cate came by before  going  over to her family’s for dinner, and Dan  brought Brad,  since his family is in Tennessee. At one point Dan,  Brad and Aelfwine were climbing the big beech tree out front,  and I tried  to boost Willow up into the tree and managed to bounce  a fairly  large branch right into my nose. I am so lucky I  didn’t break it, but I did manage a fairly impressive looking bruise on the bridge of my nose- advertising my foolishness. Well, it FELT like  foolishness, and I was embarrassed. Nancy and Jay and  Kate also came for dinner- Jay is blond this month. I still feel  that other people’s kids are not supposed to grow in between the times you see them. I  expect  that this will be the last Thanksgiving  in  that house.  Dad has apparently begun the process of getting ready  to sell  the  house, but Liz tells me that while it would  sell  for over  a  million  dollars,  it would  probably  be  bought  by  a developer  because of the large amount of unused land  out  back.

The  houses in the middle of the block, like ours, have acres  of land  between them, and if a developer could get hold of  it,  at least one of the big old houses would be flattened so they  could put several small ones on the space in the back. Liz tells me how the  town  is  currently fighting with some jerks who bought  a beautiful old Victorian up on the hill, got a permit for  putting on an addition, then took the house down to the foundation so they  could put in a modern house. Since that was NOT what  the permit was granted for, and it was an historic house, the town is not  letting them build and profit from their duplicity- but the old house is already gone, and the town doesn’t have the money to fight it forever. Don’t these people realize that the reason that property values in Winchester are high is because the houses have class-  not that the houses have class because they cost a lot?

So,  with that hanging over the house like a black cloud,  I suppose Dad may not be really eager to sell. Still, it can’t  be convenient  for one person to try to keep a ten room  mansion by himself.  He  had a list of the contents of the house from when Mom’s estate was valued and we initialed by the pieces we might be  open to taking when he doesn’t need them anymore. Of course, we all have our own houses, I know Bob and I both already  had gotten pianos; and most of the furniture is much too fancy for our farmhouse. I have to admit that it was really hard not having Bob there. Having holidays somewhere else might not reinforce his and Mother’s absence so strongly.

On  Friday most of us went down to Steve and  Vicki’s  house for  St. Clement’s day. We kept trying to call to find  out what time we were supposed to get there, but never managed to get  in touch.  Turns out that the number we had was one digit off.  I wonder whose phone we were ringing all that morning. Star had had enough stimulation on Thursday, so he stayed behind to feed Fitz and  milk the goats. The rest of us got a second dose of  family. Jenny  and Niles had come up, with Issac, and the  very  exciting news  that they are expecting another baby! Anne was  there  with the twins, who are about as cute as two little girls can be. I’ve always  felt that not being a pushy, grabby aunt would endear me to kids.  When I was a kid I was VERY ticklish,  and was often touched  more than I cared for. They are SO cute it is hard  to admire them from a distance- at least Issac was willing to talk a bit. Alva and Sue were there too, but not Jan and Tracy.  Sadly, we  got there late; but that did allow us to have a more  relaxed time  with  the “New Braintree branch” of the Taylor  family.  We spent a  lot of time playing a game Kat  had  brought answering leading  questions:  “If you could have one wish, what  would  it be?”  “If you were stranded on a desert island, what  two  things would you want with you?” “If you could go anywhere, where  would you go?” “If you could talk to anyone, who would you choose?”   I suppose  the questions are more important to oneself than to  the other people in the room.

I  also noticed, after it having been sitting there for at least a year, that they had one of those tree-stump sculptures in their front yard. Apparently they had a huge old willow that died and  one of the local students (named Jon Williams) did  chainsaw sculpture-  he  did a group portrait of their family:  Steve  and Vicki, Jenny, Niles and Issac. Boy, do I feel unobservant to have taken so long to see something that big and gorgeous.

Since  we  were going to spend so much time in  the  car,  I started  a new knitting project- I’m making Kat’s American Girl Doll Molly, a scaled down stocking in the  traditional  (tacky) Richards  family pattern. Grandmother made us all stockings  with our names on them with our names on them back in the fifties  and sixties, then in the seventies and eighties, Mother made them for the  next generation and spouses. I LOVED them when I was a  kid, and as an adult I find them ugly, but emotionally feel the  power of tradition- and fear that if my children start having children, I  may end up knitting them for my grandkids. A doll version is just  cute.  But I don’t know- four generations of this weird design is a bit scary.

After two days of travel, having Bruce, Mark and Rusty come over for gaming Saturday was relaxing. Of course, we were  somewhat distracted with one ear always cocked for the phone in case there was  some new information about Alva, but luckily, all that  news was good.   Sunday  we  helped hang the lights on the town tree  on  the common  (I  guess  we are now active  members of the  Fireman’s Auxiliary!)


Aelfwine  installed  a  ventilation  system  into  the  root cellar. It still needs two thermostats- one to know when the root cellar is warm enough that it needs some outside air, and one  to check  to make sure the outside air is actually cooler before  it starts sucking  it  in. I still think there’s  a  problem  since cabbages and squash and such are harvested in the fall when  it’s still  fairly warm out, and root cellars are supposed to stay  at around  35-40  degrees to store them. After a  long  summer,  our cellar  is  cooler  than the house, but not  nearly  down  to  40 degrees,  and sucking in 50 degree air wouldn’t help much. So  in theory, the thermostats will suck in whenever it gets chilly, and not when it’s warm. He also put a thermostat on the heat lamp in the chicks, and a timer on the laying hens light. (Electronic self sufficiency.)

My  big  project this week is that I brought  back  about  a dozen of Mother’s old photo albums  Thanksgiving  night.  I’ve bought four albums,  one for each of the kids,  and  I’m  going through  Mother’s pulling out any of the pictures no one else in the family would want (Dad asked us each to do that), and  making copies of the ones that everyone would want. So far I’ve found  a picture  of  my maternal Grandfather as a little boy  in  an  old photo clipping dated 1884. There’s another picture of Mother, her mother  and HER grandmother when she was a baby in 1928.  There’s another  picture of my maternal grandmother and  grandfather  and HIS  mother. I want to have pictures me as a kid, and of each  of my  siblings as kids and adults for each of my kids albums.  I’ve found pictures of most of their weddings. For MY personal  album, I want pictures of my parents friends from when I was a kid.  I’m hoping to find pictures of our old houses and Camp and maybe  our old rooms. (I KNOW we always took pictures of us in our Halloween costumes- but so far I haven’t found them.) It is sure giving  me perspective on of what one should take pictures!

After going through all my mother’s albums, I’m going to see what  I can dig up from Aelfwine’s side of the family.  Maybe  my uncle will have a couple of good ones. And I should make  copies of my best photos for each of the kids. We’ve  been trying out the scanner on Willow’s  machine  and trying to convince ourselves that we don’t need to spend money on better software or hardware. I understand that Photoshop is  the best- but WAY expensive, as well as REALLY hard to use. What  we have now is no good at improving pictures that are too bright  or too dark or too blurry (or pictures that prove that I weigh about a hundred extra pounds). When we’ve selected and scanned the best pictures we’ll  put them  on the family website so people can look at- or  even  take them off to print for themselves.

Willow has been shopping until she dropped. And Star and Kat are beginning to make “when can you take us shopping?”  overtures (yuck). They are also putting together their wishlists. Just  ask if you really want to see them. I’ve been trying to generate  one for  myself (and leaning on Aelfwine too), but after a year  like this, anything short of “a new roof” or “a solar retro-fit” just doesn’t seem that important anymore. This is ridiculous,  because I  am  sure  that I continue to enjoy  toys.  Aelfwine  has  been getting  all  excited because he got some “Fusswrappen”  for  his birthday. Apparently when he was a kid he saw a documentary about Russian soldiers, and they were issued squares of flannel to wrap around  their  feet rather than socks, and he got  some,  and  is having  fun  with them. (They do seem to do the job  when  paired with the German army boots he wears).


The  rest  of the family went to see Harry  Potter  and  the Sorcerers  Stone  this week. Willow was out when the rest  of  us went  Tuesday, but went herself yesterday. I was VERY pleased  by it,  but rather surprised about the length. I’m not used  to  two and  a half hour long movies. And they even had a  Three  Stooges short before it. Star thought it was better than the book. (As if it  had  a chance of that!) I personally didn’t  think  that  the quidditch match was too long (not after that wretched pod  racing scene  in  the last Star Wars movie). The  characters  were  just about the way I pictured them, and I am really looking forward to the  video  so I can catch all the little details I  missed  that other  people  are telling me about. Our local theater  seems  to have  had the largest first weekend attendance in the State-  and they didn’t, as some theaters did, pre-sell their tickets. On the other  hand they did have to let people into the balcony,  which they don’t usually use.

I watched The Frugal Gourmet cooks New England from the library this week, and got all excited about some of the recipes. I actually went to the local fish shop, which I’d been driving past for the last 20 years, to see if I could get some of the smoked white fish to make a smoky chowder, it looked so good.  On the other hand, it would have cost me $22 to buy a two and a half pound smoked whitefish that only would have had a pound and a quarter of meat on it. Not very frugal, it’s like those recipes for flank steak from a while ago before flank steak became a fancy cut. A box of salt cod costs $10! Now I expect it swells up a bit when you soak it, but still, fresh only costs about $5 a pound (or maybe it’s that I only buy it when it gets down to that price).  Still, my excitement kind of got squeezed away by the ridiculous costs. Oh, and we continue to eat the oldest meat from the freezer-  I am afraid that I really don’t have very  classy taste. The porterhouse steaks were not very exciting- and weren’t thawed  after two days sitting in the `fridge. Of course,  that reassures my worries about potential loss of frozen meat if we had a power loss.

One of my library books this week is called Santa and  Pete, the title refers to Svart Piet, St. Nicholas’ black assistant  in European  tradition.  In it the writer talks  about  “Grandcestor Ornaments”,  an  ornament  on  their  tree  for  each  of   their ancestors,  and  a  tradition of using trimming the  tree  as  an opportunity to talk about their family stories. I love the  idea, but have been wracking my brain trying to figure out what I could use  for  the relatives I know about! Mother used to  tell  me  a story about one of her grandmothers- or great grandmonthers,  who once  dressed in her husbands working clothes and went around  to the back door pretending to be a hobo, with a hot dog hanging out of  her fly. As she had intended, she terrified their  cook-  but she  hadn’t figured that the cook would run down the main  street screaming  and  trying to get away, as she ran  after  trying  to explain.  So would I hang a hot dog on the tree? And is that  the way  that  poor  girl  would be  remembered  by  her  descendants forever?  I  tried  to  check  on some  of  the  best  stories  I remembered  about Dad’s relatives at Thanksgiving, and he  denied them all. My sisters concurred, and told me that I should  never have believed any of our parents stories.  Well, they’d  better start telling me some true ones quick, or the only one’s I’ll have to pass on is the interesting, but apparently untrue ones I was told when I was a gullible young kid. Somehow I imagine that the one about Dad getting coal in his stocking when he told his younger sibs (he was the oldest) that since he’d missed his deer during hunting season he was going to stay up and see if he could tag one of Santa’s reindeer on Christmas eve. He was enough of a tease when I was a kid, and so was his son after him, that that’s believable, and the coal would be a VERY Grammie reaction.

Philosophical musing:

I  was remembering how insecure I was as a kid (pathetic  is more like it), and it occurs to me that while I thought I’d gotten past it, perhaps my severe cynicism about the establishment may not be just leftover sixties training, but  an extension of that anxiety. Also I was thinking that while I worked very hard to be honest to my kids about what I  perceived as real  dangers, perhaps this passed on what amounted to near paranoia in regards to things like food additives, or the DCYF, or other things I worried and cautioned them about. There’s a big difference between what an adult, or even a teenager can hear and say-  “OK,  that’s your point of view, but I think you are more worried about it than you need to be.”, whereas any small kid will simply absorb the concept as THE WAY THE WORLD IS- the  same way a southern kid will absorb anti-black prejudice, or an Hispanic kid will absorb macho-bull attitudes. There’s  a LONG tradition of “shielding” kids from painful reality. The older I get, the more I think that it might be a good idea.

Another thing I was thinking about (listening to a talk show about child-rearing) was that while parents teach you that the world is responsive: you get hungry, they feed you; you get cold, they warm you, you get scared or lonely, they comfort you…  the purpose  of siblings is to teach you that the world is NOT entirely responsive. If you want to play house, they may want to play army. If you want to rescue the princess from the dragon by slaying it, they may want to trick it. Siblings teach you to negotiate.  They teach you that you AREN’T the center of the Universe.  It’s really the most wonderful way to learn it-  there with the adults doing their best to satisfy each of you. What a great system it is. How much I learned from my brother and sisters!  Even though I chose totally different life than they did-  I expect each of us did, those early times together were incredible. What a pity the modern world makes it so easy for us to drift so far apart physically- I’m sure I’d see more of them if it wasn’t an hour and a half or more just to drop by.

Political Diatribe of the Week:

This  morning  I heard that New Hampshire Health and Human Services has discovered that only about ten percent of the kids whose parents have to leave them to work are in licensed day care facilities. The rest are being cared for by (horrors!) relatives and friends. So the Governor has given Health and Human  Services some  money to do a study to figure out how to get more kids  out of  the clutches of those unqualified folk. It occurs to me that due  to the recent “spend $ to save America” climate, it  may  be considered  subversive to actually leave your kids  with  someone you don’t have to pay (as much). And of course, once they figure out  how  to keep kids from being cared for by  their  aunts and grandmothers- how much longer will it take before they figure out. a way to keep them out of the hands of those UN-licensed parents?

Willow told me her simplified Economic Theory-  money gets spent, if not on one thing, on another. It doesn’t just  sit there, because it’s only reason for existing is to get spent.  So you don’t have to try to “stimulate the economy”.  People will spend  money,  the only question is who’s spending it,  and what they are spending it on. Apparently, the economy is supposed to be good if they are spending it frivolously, and bad if they  are spending it carefully on important things like food, housing and education. Go fig.

I keep wondering why they keep talking about our “dependence on foreign oil” when we only get about 10% of our oil from abroad anyway?  If  we can’t conserve that much, it shouldn’t be too difficult to switch that much of our energy use to  renewable resources.  (I’m sure that given the choice of reducing use and switching, industry’d come up with ways to switch PDQ!)

Another thing I noticed in the media this week was  everyone talking  about  how  many, and how few  people  were  flying  and driving.  However, they never mentioned what the “norm” was.  How many  people would they expect to fly- and how do they  get  THAT number? And why didn’t they give it?


“It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.”  – Thomas Jefferson





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