I returned to Sally Garden of Eden this week, social distancing. It was very hard not to hug Sally and her husband Paul, whom I love very much. I felt physically deprived. Sally Garden sits at the the top of the Shawangunck ridge with a rock face in the woods. I also began Misha English Cottage Garden this week pushing myself to five and a half hours to get the poor potted plants in the ground before June. They cried out so loudly.
I offer my Herb Family of Plants in every graden I work with, so Sally Garden has:
Anise Hyssop (already planted, now Sally’s favorite tea), Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae
Burdock (wild) Arctium minus, Asteraceae
Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae
Chocolate Mint, Mentha x piperita ‘Chocolate’
Peppermint, Mentha x piperita
Spearmint, Mentha spicata, Labiatae
Nettle, Urtica dioica, Urticaceae
Sunroot, Helianthus tuberosum, Asteraceae
Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa, Labiatae
Sally harvests and dries the herbs to use through Winter. So fun to label and store the herbs at the end of the season. The challenge with Sally Garden is many areas are shady so the plants aren’t flourishing as much. We decided to place the plants in “the meadow,” the sunniest spot in the garden. Last Autumn we planted Ramps and - so exciting - they are coming up! I want to plant them wherever I can! I hear a spot at the foot of a mountain calling my name..... We also found Trillium, which I have found at A Farm for All! as well. The rest of Sally garden is gorgeous perennial flowers and seven raised bed areas for vegetables.
I brought Comfrey (Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae) and Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Valerianaceae) to Misha’s garden last season and we planted them on the side of the house. They are up and happy in their spot. An English Cottage Garden is a mixture of ornamental and edible plants. A soft, free flowing mixture of flowers. As I said I went long and am totally feeling it today as I write here, but I could not let the plants that had been bought last Autumn, remain in their pots into June. I will be working in the garden monthly. The garden already has a stand of Vinca (Vinca minor, Apocynaceae). As I planted Rose (Rosa sp., Rosaceae, Asia, Turtle Island) and Clematis (Clematis sp., Ranunculaceae, Perennial, Asia), I transplanted the Vinca out of the bed to the grass slope down to the sidewalk. There is already a stand on the opposite side of the stairway that is thriving that indicates Vinca can withstand snow and salt through Winter so we want to continue the look at the bottom of the garden. Vinca along with Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis, Buxaceae, Japan) were a standard estate groundcover in early America and have been naturalized. Heading up the slope we planted Daisy (Leucanthemum sp., Asteraceae, Perennial, Asia, Europe) and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy,’ (Sedum spectacle, Crassulaceae, Perennial, Japan). Daisy and Sedum will be separated by a low white picket fence. Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) went in to the left of the stairs to the house. Hydrangea went in across the path next to Burning Bush (Euonymus alataus, Celastraceae, Shrub, Asia, Poke Forest (Phytollaca americana, Phytollacaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Spiraea (Hybrid Spiraea japonica var. alpina and S. x bulmalda ‘Goldflame’ and more Vinca. On the side of the house we planted Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis, Papaveraceae, Turtle Island), Iris (Iris sp., Iridaceae, Asia) and Columbine (Aquilegia sp., Ranunculaceae, Turtle Island). Obviously, an English Cottage Garden represents the multiple cultures that the English colonized over centuries and any attempt at native planting and restoration that is my method is out the window. Misha and I’s cultural heritage in the Caribbean (Jamaica, Guyana, Dominica) are countries that were colonized by England. I was born in England so we can take aspects of our ‘Mother’ country and incorporate them into our lives as we wish. The English Cottage Garden is going to be sooooo pretty! For me opportunity to explore another type of gardening is a thrill! Zeal got the best of me and the plants wanting to be liberated from their pots, pushed me over the edge and I was worn out for two days.
It is very important to pace oneself whatever work we engage in. Unfortunately the norm is the Protestant work ethic (Max Weber The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism) which I read as work oneself to death. I am a hedonist to be sure, but may I put forth a new hedonism which find pleasure in the harmony with nature. For me the Simple Life is Human 101 and reduces life to the basics - food, shelter and water and once these needs are satisfied, the rest of life is play. I moved upstate for the Simple Life. The peace and freedom that have revealed themselves is a bonus. When I call myself a simpleton, it is in reference to the Simple Life. So here I sit, aching and despondent staring mortality in the face at fifty-three, knowing I overdid it and wondering when I will know relief. I am a physical being and experience the world through my body. I ran track in high school, I commuted to work by bike and rollerblade in Manhattan over twenty years. You haven’t lived until you’ve travelled through rush hour traffic down Fifth Avenue on rollerblades! I can look back fondly now and even giggle, but today “Oh my aching hips!” I look forward to yoga this morning that can realign my mind, body and spirit. As Misha would say “growing old ain’t for sissies!”
I wish to grow old gracefully. Accept every turn and nuance. Menopause is a journey in and of itself. We don’t talk about it enough. Thankfully, our Guardian Angel, Ms. Susun Weed has written a book for us Menopausal Years The Wise Woman Way, that I can consult upon these occasions, when I am undone. Susun says menopause is a “metamorphosis, change at the cellular level.” “The matrix for the three classic stages of initiation: isolation, death and rebirth/reintegration.” Menopause is called the Change of Life and includes “three phases (before menopause, during menopause and after menopause)... each has special needs and offers special challenges.”. There is even Andropause - Male Menopause, a drop of testosterone after forty akin to women’s drop in estrogen. The problem with the Protestant Work Ethic is that all our natural processes are discarded in the pursuit of capitalism - an ecomonic system in which the production and distribution of goods depend on invested private capital and profit-making (Oxford English Dictionary). We are in an endless grind of doing, relieved only by death. I pledge to grow old gracefully, to let my natural processes guide me. I, being physical, have learned to listen to my body.
One excellent development during Covid-19 has been rising with the dawn. When Marc works, he gets on the 4:30am train to Manhattan and I drive him there. One of our goofy love rituals. Commuters have dubbed us “kiss and ride” because I hug and kiss him good-bye at the train station every morning. PDA be damned! Probably just another development under that Protestant work ethic. I would return home after dropping Marc off and write or make art in what I have come to believe are the hours of creation, one can hear creation crackle, the darkness before the dawn, the primordial oooze. I have wondered about our modern observance of time, morning being 12:00am. What if morning is dawn? Thanks to Covid-19, we get to find out. It has made for a quiet entrance into the day, doing what one finds. Sweet. I have missed the primordial oooze, though, mainly because my routine would be over by mid morning. My routine now extends into late afternoon. Marc has returned to work today and I have returned to the darkness before the dawn. I still love it.
I have always loved myself and only wanted to be accepted as I am. With the emphasis on self hatred (religion) in the modern world, there appears to be no place for a natural black woman. Cleo Manago, Behavioral Health Analyst calls the latest hair phenomena “the weave epidemic,” but I have certainly sacrificed assimilation in the process of engagement with the natural world. Black women process and/or alter their hair to procure jobs and advance in this world. But I’m solitary, Ogun, Artemis, better alone. So I have the opportunity to grow old gracefully. To explore me now in the midst of the Great Change. My memory slips away. I have aches and pains. I had a full blown physical breakdown last year after a dog tick bite, developing my belief in mind, body and spirit for health, wholeness, holiness. We are, to be sure. We enter the Earth realm numerous times, I believe. Death, like all natural processes, should be embraced, celebrated. So too, my memory loss, aches and pains. Part of the great dance of life.
It’s time to harvest Nettle friends, Urtica dioica, Urticaceae, Turtle Island
Hang her up to dry to make nourishing herbal infusions in six weeks. I made Nettle soup a couple of weeks ago. Nettle is also good for allergies and diabetes. Nettle has been found in Mexico dating back 8,000 years, thought to have been used for fiber. Nettle can flower anywhere from the 15th - 21st depending on the weather. One wants to get her before flower because harvested in flower can cause stomach upset.
Comfrey is next in flower. Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae, Europe
Curiously, individual plants are growing at different rates at Hiddenbrooke and they are all flowering much smaller due to the cooler temperatures. Comfrey is also known as knitbone and I have used dried leaf infusion for recovery after ear infection and here to soothe my aching hips. Comfrey/Plantain Salve is good for anything from insect bites to acne to cold sores.
I also want to get my first Mint harvest before flowering, Mentha sp., Labiatae, Perennial, Africa Eurasia
I cleared Mint bed, but they are also pretty low due to the cooler temperatures. I use Mint tea through the season as well as the holidays for any stomach upset, colon distress, heartburn. Mint family plants like Wild Bergamot and Anise Hyssop work wonders as well.
Welcome my two lovely gardens, Sally Garden of Eden and Misha English Cottage Garden. I can’t wait for the wonders to be discovered this season. I feel like a child in a toy store at Misha’s garden. I remembered zeal and had a glimpse of my younger self and sit here in my older self laughing to myself at the memory. This life in the natural world full of wonder and delight.
May is upon us and we see the states who have opened up having a spike in Covid-19 cases. I am thankful we have a governor who is standing firm in keeping us closed. We are the epicenter after all. Science journalist Laurie Garrett, who predicted the pandemic in 1994 suggest we may be dealing with Covid-19 for the next three years.
Hiddenbrooke, my herb garden, after three years, now has my Family of Herb Plants. At Groundwork in Wappinger, my former herb garden, I used a cultivator to remove the first layer of soil before I planted. At Hiddenbrooke, I have chosen to cover the beds in black plastic to kill the grass and remove it by hand. The challenge now is the grass growing back and Mugwort. So far I have cleared the Mint beds, which were challenged by grass and other weeds last year. Sage bed is challenged by Mugwort at one end. Currently, I’m working on St. Johnswort bed, removing grass. Hiddenbrooke, which is a mile in from the main road at the foot of the mountain, appears to be its own ecosystem. We have Bear, Bobcat, Coyote, Deer, Fox and Groundhog. Plants like Phlox (Phlox subulata, Polemoniaceae) that have thrived elsewhere, struggle to gain footing. Someone is eating Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Valerianaceae). I realize I’ve been OCD checking for growth on Anise Hyssiop (Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae). As a forest dweller, I realize, the leaf cover aids her growth. I now want to leave Anise Hyssop and Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora, Labiatae) (another forest dweller) to their own devices. I will plant more Skullcap this season, though. Many plants appeared to come up, but ultimately the bed did not fill out. At least I get to have the journey indefinitely this time.
I have three members in the community garden at SDG. Three lovely women with whom it is a pleasure to work. The garden was cleaned so quickly I didn’t know what to do with myself. We have planted
Nettle, Urtica dioica, Urticaceae
Chamomile, Chamaemelum mobile, Asteraceae, Nigella, Nigella sativa, Ranunculaceae and Poppy, Eschscholzia California, Papaveraceae as a Wildflower bed
Radish, Raphanus sativa, Brassicaceae
Carrot, Daucus carota, Umbelliferae
Lettuce, Lactuca sativa, Asteracaceae
Spinach, Spinacia oleracea, Chenopodiaceae
Kale, Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae
Beet, Beta vulgaris, Chenopodiaceae
We are going to plant lots of herbs this season as one of the new members is an herbalist. What fun to geek out on herbs! We have Motherwort volunteers all over the garden so have extended the Motherwort bed to transplant them out of the vegetable beds. We also have Catnip throughout the garden and are transplanting them into a bed also.
White Pine Community Farm is the resident farm at A Farm for All! (AFFA) (afarmforallnys.org). White Pine is primarily an herb farm, but also has a micro greens operation. It is fairly difficult to make a living as an herb farm. Micro greens are a money maker. White Pine has perennial herb beds and after reorganizing AFFA in 2019, three of us in the Core (four of us) has had to step in to manage the herb farm. We offer an Herbal CSA which can continue through mail order and have received funding for Solidarity Shares. With Farmers Markets considered essential, we can still distribute the herbs to our three sites. I have spent the last two weeks cleaning Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis, Labiatae) and Phil has been cleaning Anise Hyssop bed.
I’ve discussed my journey in past blog posts. I am a simpleton and have no need for material things beyond food, shelter and water. Every year is a hustle to get back outside. My mantra is “finance my life outside.” So far so good, twelve years outside, ten years with land. In 2017, I began working with AFFA and Wildseed (www.wildseedcommunity.org) and have had the opportunity to dream bigger, big land. As one travels upstate, the lands open up. AFFA is forty acres with a mountain and Wildseed is 180 acres. Wildseed has not developed as much as AFFA, but they have held a Youth Immersion for the past three years, the first of which I taught an herb class. 2020 is the first year at AFFA that I get to breathe (organizing the space was all consuming), look around and have a season. Office work in a good place, I can now go outside and manage the space as an extension of my herb garden. AFFA is an hour away from Beacon which is why I have my gardens in Beacon. After propagating in the greenhouse and cleaning the Lemon Balm bed, the three of us hiked up the mountain to harvest Ramps (Allium tricoccum, Amaryllidaceae) a native sweet green that I sauté to eat with rice and kidney beans. We harvested a couple of years ago, but the stands were small, but now they’ve flourished. I then went to the wild Nettle patch to harvest Nettle tops for soup. Along the way I can photograph Trillium (Trillium cernuum, Melanthiaceae) and munch on Trout Lily leaves (Erythronium americanum, Liliaceae). We have ten or so beds of perennial herbs that will have to be cleaned. My personal growth is organic, which is slower than the Establishment, but rich in engagement with Spirit.
St. Johnswort, Hypericum perforatum, Guttiferae, Perennial, Turtle Island
I found five species including St. Johnswort in two Florida native plant books. Traditional herb books place St. Johnswort origin in Europe to Central China. We work to also restore the value of Turtle Island plants due to cultural bias. One would think that Turtle Island was a wasteland before colonization. St. Johnswort has been an ally for body pain since I started farming. The flower oil is used topically for muscle ache and her tincture is an anti-depressant found over the counter in pill form as well. Used together is ecstasy. When I began farming, I immediately experienced back pain. I already knew of St. Johnswort and in the morning on my way to Stone Barns, I rubbed the oil on my back and started to take St. Johnswort tincture three times for the day. By mid-morning a giggle escaped my lips and I knew it was my ally St. Johnswort. Use the tincture sparingly as it can increase sensitivity to the sun. Also known as St. Joanswort in the Wise Woman World to honor our heroine Joan of Arc.
Mid-May and the season is afoot. Half way to the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. We now know what crops we will have - a full season of food and medicine. As we head down to Summer Solstice we see gratitude on the horizon. At the very lest amidst Covid-19, we can get outside and continue our relationship with Earth, our Mother, provider, sustainer. Happy growing!
New York remains on lockdown while up to thirty states reopen in varying degrees. There are possibly 1000 strains of coronavirus and the experts learn something new on a regular basis. Dr. Donald James Alcindor at Meharry Medical College is working on an anti-viral drug to treat Covid-19. As of April 22, New York has lost 15,000 people. On 9/11 we lost 3,000 people by comparison. We are blessed that the outbreak occurred at the start of the growing season. Marc may return to work on May 16. Meanwhile he is a whirlwind of organization in the home. Empty shelves and lines outside stores is fairly anxiety producing, not to mention wearing masks, but here we are. Humanity learns a new way, but still tailgating and gloves and masks litter hiking trails. “Sigh,” but I am happy for the natural world, breathing, if only for a moment, a sigh of relief.
I haven’t written about A Farm for All! (AFFA) (www.farmforallny.org) where I have greenhouse space. My original purpose for volunteering at AFFA was greenhouse space. I had lost Groundwork in 2017 where I had greenhouse space and I was looking for a new project after serving seven years as Treasurer at the Beacon Sloop Club (www.beaconsloopclub.org). Initially, I offered to organize AFFA’s office for them in return for greenhouse space. My OCD makes for good filing skills. AFFA incorporated as a non-profit in 2015, but had not organized into a viable entity by 2017. After a few months of filing, I was asked to become Director.
I have spent my Horticulture/Agriculture career in non-profits - Brooklyn Botanic Garden (www.bbg.org), New York Botanical Garden (www.nybg.org) and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture (www.stonebarnscenter.org). Then after seven years with the Beacon Sloop Club, it amounts to twelve years in the non-profit world. Stone Barns was a particularly great experience. Besides the great people, I was their within the first five years and able to witness the development of a non-profit. As I have mentioned, I’ve spent my life making it up as I go along (the way of Spirit), so stumbling upon AFFA has been quite the find. From my experience, I know the basic framework of a non-profit with four leadership positions - President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. Non-profits who pay their officers can have a series of Directors like Clearwater (www.clearwater.org). Beacon Sloop Club is an all volunteer organization and has the basic setup. With these officers a non-profit can function smoothly. I picked up a book Managing the Non-Profit by Peter F. Drucker to hone my skills. I quit college twice in my life being an experiential learner, not to mention I was not willing to go into debt for an education especially after finding out that the CUNY system in New York was free up until 1970. Of course now student loans are a debt crisis in American. Who knew?
According to Drucker, non-profits “exemplify and fulfill the fundamental American commitment to responsible citizenship in the community.” We are in service to community. Non-profits bridge the gap when government refuses to serve its people. Power to the people! who are always resilient and innovative when it comes to serving our communities. In return to Spirit for not having children, I have been in service to my community. Being child free allows for freedom, the one consistent mantra in my life and in that freedom I like to give back.
I start seeds April 1, hardy crops like Cabbage (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae) and Borage (Borago officinalis, Boraginaceae). I continue to start seeds (propagation) on a weekly basis. Last Spring we had April Showers (60 - 70º), but then the showers kept going through May. I had trouble with easy crops like Basil (Ocimum basilicum, Labiatae) and Parsley (Petroselinum crispum, Umbelliferae). This season I wanted to wait for warmer weather and sunshine. We had showers in April this season, but 50 - 60º temperatures. I continued with Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum, Asteraceae), although the seed is from 2012. I haven’t found any information on seed viability. Seeds from herb to vegetable last anywhere from 2 - 4 years. I like to collect seed and the Milk Thistle seed is from my crop in 2012.
I have my immediate Family of Herb Plants in the ground after three years and am now moving into my Experimental Family. As well as the greenhouse, I start seeds on my deck at home. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, Asteraceae) is tricky to get established, but once so very resilient. I focus on native plants and my work is restorative. Native plants have been overrun by invasives from Europe and especially Asia. I am hard pressed to imagine what the landscape looked like with our delightful natives. Imagine stumbling upon Pleurisy Root while hiking in the woods? Lovely orange flowers.
Echinacea, Pleurisy Root (Asclepius tuberosa, Asclepiadaceae) and Red Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata, Apocynaceae) all have to be cold stratified, which means to plant in a tray and place in the refrigerator, in this case seven days, ten days and fourteen days respectively. I have seen Pleurisy Root once and I have never seen Red Milkweeed. I planted Red Milkweed at SDG in 2016 and all of a sudden this season there is a giant stand in the garden. I may have looked for her in 2017 and 2018, but never saw anything. I understand the natives to be very sensitive, but again once established, very resilient. Red Milkweed likes wet areas and all of a sudden in the same area for the past two seasons is Horsetail (Equisetum arvense, Equisetaceae) an ancient plant dating back to the dinosaur era! Perhaps Red Milkweed and Horsetail are companion plants? Truly, there is no end to the wonder of plants. So right for my short attention span. It is said that even if one could learn all the plants in the world, by the time one did, they will have mutated into something else.
Borage, Borago officinalis, Boraginaceae, Europe
The flowers have been used to decorate salads and cakes and frozen in ice cubes. The leaves are full of minerals and the leaf and flower can be infused to make a tonic for the adrenal glands to treat stress and depression. I like to eat the flower while I’m in the garden. They give me a nice lift.
Echinacea, Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia, Asteraceae, Turtle Island
Experts have gone back and forth stating Echinacea is anti-bacterial and/or anti-viral, but today it is generally accepted that Echinacea is both. Susun Weed offers Echinacea as a preventative for Covid-19 to boost the immune system. I have used Echinacea tincture for toothache. I am still waiting for my thirty foot bed of Echinacea to make tincture.
Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum, Asteraceae, Southern Europe, Asia
Milk Thistle tincture is a labor of love because it is made out of the seeds from the prickly flower head. Thankfully, we only have to fill the jar a third full to make the tincture. Milk Thistle is liver support. Take a dropperful before you head out to the bar or party to protect the liver. I have been taking Milk Thistle tincture along with Dandelion Tincture for formication, a condition I have here in menopause, which is incessant itching due to an overworked liver processing extra hormones. I am also a drinker and I have learned that drinking exacerbates the condition, not to mention hot flashes. Look at that sweet splash of white on the leaves!
Covid-19 has shown us, for me, how we ought to live. Days should be spent with our loved ones doing what we find enjoyable. My life has not changed with the exception of Marc being home. The Simple Life is Human 101 and once the trappings of the Establishment fall away, we find food, shelter and water being the basics and a day spent procuring these basic needs is enough.
High winds took out some fencing at SDG. It was the second high wind day of the season. I wonder if Mama is pushing pollution around and out? The Himalayas can be seen for the first time in thirty years due to the lockdown. Weather has stabilized to Spring temperatures with April showers here and there. It is cooler than last year by about ten degrees.
April is cleaning in the gardens. Removal of last seasons dead stems from perennials. At SDG, because I have now three members, I have the time to remove debris that has accumulated over the past years. I have spent my growing self acquiring free land because I wanted to explore the Native American belief of “we belong to the Earth, the Earth does not belong to us.” I have also spent my life making it up as I go along and I have come to believe that it is they way of Spirit. Now, the Establishment is an artificial construct placed over Spirit that has built homes, roads, cars, planes, bridges, boats, utilities, entertainment, etc. but as we are being rudely awakened during this pandemic, we find that the Establishment seeks to hoard this artificial construct and leave the majority of people out. Never mind that the companies the Establishment has cannot run without people. They like to threaten us with AI, but they will always need technicians to repair the AI. It will never run without humans. We rush, as usual - into technology, intellectual pursuit leaving behind basic humans needs like love and compassion for a cold artificial world based on intellect. Human contact is a basic human need. Nature is a human need. We cannot live without either one. We are as intrinsic to the natural world as any creature.
I don’t engage in the status quo. I do not own a home, I do not have children. I watched a retro movie Take me Home Tonight with college graduates and the main characters found the status quo a trap. I like to think “misery loves company.” We get pressured into the house, two cars, two kids and a dog and then have to spend our lives as wage slaves to maintain it. A status quo that has also been hoarded for white people. Black and brown folks are subject to predatory practices to acquire what is now generational wealth. I believe generational wealth is a fundamental loss of faith in Earth’s ability to sustain us.
I moved upstate becasue I wanted to grow my own food and medicine. I left the boroughs with just a job on a farm. I did not know the notion of free land could even be entertained and even when the idea of land came up for me, I wondered if I even wanted the responsibility. In 2011, I acquired three spaces to create gardens, just like that - a snap of the fingers.
I am childlike. Herbalism opens the door to the fairy realm and wood creatures - sprites, gnomes, elves, fairies, animals, insects, rocks become one’s companions. Magic (read miracle in the religious realm) is at our fingertips. We are hard pressed to describe through science the actions of our plant family. And if we did, it would be regulated by the Establishment, therefore taken out of the hands of the people. Plant medicine is people’s medicine, inexpensive and often free. So in acquisition of these free lands, I am zealous. I plunge headlong into developing my relationship with my Plant Family and it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to communication with the land owner.
I am dedicated to the development of community. It was the first lesson I had to learn when I moved upstate. In the boroughs of New York City, one can and it is encouraged, to be an individual. Six million people and one still has the opportunity to be an individual. Moving upstate, however, the spaces between each other open up and without community, it becomes very cold very fast. As I have mentioned, I worked for Pete Seeger for four years. I was also a part of Common Fire, an intentional community. From Pete I learned “power to the people.” Through Common Fire I learned that community happens, intentional or not.
My development as a person has been organic. I don’t “keep up with the Joneses.” One thing I have learned as an herbalist is engagement with Spirit which allows for organic growth which is slooooooowwwww. One can watch oneself grow organically. I like to say organic growth is a quarter note in a bar of music in 4/4 time and the Establishment is a whole note. Organic growth is steady, regular, always and no matter how many artificial constructs we place over it, it is. Look at Spring. Spring has sprung without a doubt regardless of whether we are on lockdown or not. There is no stopping the rain, clouds, dawn, waves etc. I am the Wise Woman Tradition, which always has been and always will be. Organic growth is the undercurrent through every age on the planet. Harmony with nature, community is all an organic experience. These things happen through Empire rise and fall. We can count on organic experience. We can count on harmony with nature, community. It is all we have had, all we have, all we will ever have.
Free land develops communication. I have to communicate transparently because otherwise it will lead to miscommunication and uncomfortable relations. I have lost two gardens in my ten years. My zeal has pushed me headlong into relationship with my Plant Family without consideration for my Human Family, but here at the ten year mark and with A Farm for All! (www.afarmforallny.org) in a good place, I’m finding the grace to develop communication in all the spaces to which I have access. I feel practiced. My work, I’ve been told is Way of the Heron (Evan Pritchard, Center for Algonquin Culture) and definitely Be Present (Lillie Allen, www.bepresent.org). The challenge, and I believe they have evolved in this order is gender, class and race. Race is relatively new in comparison to gender and class which were easily the first recognizable differences in our human family. In the Wise Woman Tradition, we know woman like Mother Earth, life giver, sustainer, reproducer, was the ruler and perhaps became tyrannical after ruling too long (absolute power corrupts absolutely), not unlike men today, which if it is true, we formally apologize here. Herstory speaks of men cutting off their genitals to lay on the altar of the Goddess, not unlike our breast and uteri today on the altar of the medical God. And of course, once a chief was named, her family easily became revered and privileged above everyone else creating a class structure through their advisors, soldiers, etc.
Now race is another matter. Civilization occurred in Africa, Asia, Turtle Island and it wasn’t until the fair skinned people were apparently pushed into the caves of Europe that race became a thing. European history starts at year one CE - which is the very reason why we have BCE and CE - because the Europeans can’t fathom the idea that anything came before them. BCE (before the common era) is 300,000 to 500,000 years. BCE and CE are preceded by BC (before Christ) and AD (after death) to signify the life of Jesus Christ who was the savior for Christians who split from Judaism. So we find ourselves here, where slights, disrespects, hatred, have led to rape, pillage, murder, kidnapping, genocide, war as the norm today. We are 7.5 billion people. There is conversation around 4.5 billion being the carrying capacity of the planet and I believe the Establishment believes it, which is why their acceptance of “collateral damage” through this pandemic not to mention war, seems callous. We have been “fruitful and multiplied” to the point where we can stand to lose nearly half of us and still function. Imagine humans in demand. The influenza pandemic took 2.5% of the population. That’s 187.5 million people today.
I open up Anise Hyssop, Skullcap and Elecampane beds at Hiddenbrooke. Forest dwellers, I wonder if my poking around and looking for new growth hinders their growth? I have obsessive, compulsive disorder to be sure. Anise Hyssop, Skullcap and Echinacea are my greatest challenges to establish. There is Anise Hyssop growth and there was wind that blew the leaves back in place. We’ll see. No Skullcap growth. I have yet to clear Echinacea bed to see if there is new growth. I have a tray of plants ready to transplant and I am cold stratifying the next tray of plants. To cold stratify, one places the seeds in a, in my case a rectangular Kord Fiber pot, (www.fedcoseeds.com), wrap them in plastic and place them in the refrigerator for seven days. I also have Pleurisy Root and Red Milkweed in the fridge for ten days and fourteen days respectively. I am in to my more experimental plants with Pleurisy Root and Red Milkweed, which I have never used. I also want to transplant Joe Pyeweed from Seed Song (www.seedsongfarm.org). I have only ever been able to get three plants starting them from seed.
All these plants are natives. My work is in native plants, restoring the landscape. The land like people has also been colonized by European and Asian invasives, some very problematic, like Ailanthus, Japanese Knotweed and Mugwort, to name a few, all from Asia. We love Mugwort, as well as Comfrey and Motherwort from Europe. I have had a Rhubarb-like dessert made out of Japanese Knotweed. Tasty! Sweet/tart. My two Comfrey beds came from a site that is feverishly trying to eradicate it. They’ve just started to mow it regularly, but Comfrey just keeps coming back. I was able to “rescue” around forty plants. The same space eradicated Motherwort, the biggest stand I have ever seen back in 2007. I have gotten Motherwort from seed once back at Stone Barns (www.stonebarnscenter.org), but have just transplanted ever since. I created a five foot bed at SDG with volunteer plants a few years ago and have enough to extend the bed this season. I just found a ton of volunteer plants at A Farm for All! and Hiddenbrooke. The patch at Hiddenbrooke may get driven over so I better get to them.
Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae, Perennial. Turtle Island
Anise Hyssop is native cough medicine and was transplanted to Europe for beekeepers to make honey. The leaf smells like licorice and can also be used for seasoning, tea and potpourri.
Skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Skullcap is a native painkiller. I have used her recently for formication, incessant itching due to menopaue causing a hot challenged liver. Works well. Skullcap eases the nerves and can be used as a tonic. The aerial parts are soothing and can relieve tension in the muscles and have been used for epilepsy and rabies. The tea can be used for anxiety, depression, nervous exhaustion, PMS and rheumatism.
Elecampane, Inula helenium, Asteraceae, Perennial, Eurasia
Elecampane is one of those European plants that we love in the herbal world. There are allies to be found everywhere. Someone gave me a root years ago back at Stone Barns and all I knew was to put it up in alcohol. That Winter I had the worst cough I have ever had. I believe it was withdrawal from New York City. I did not know what it was good for that Winter, but when the cough started to return the following Winter, I pored through all my herbal books to find a remedy. There she was on the page and already tinctured in my cupboard. My cough left in a whisper in about a week, never to return again. Can we say pandemic medicine?
I will be returning to Sally Garden of Eden May 6 and starting Michelle Cottage Garden, May 16. We carry on. Thankfully, the pandemic happened at the start of the growing season. We can get outside and connect with the natural world as she breathes a sigh of relief. Hopefully we learn from this experience and engage in a more harmonious way when the pandemic is over. We are the one’s Mother has been waiting for. Pollution clears, birds fly lower, Deer ran alongside Twuck the other day. I came over a hill and there was a flock of Turkey Vultures eating a carcass. Enjoy this opportunity to engage the natural world in a new way. In THE way. Harmonious.
Wind gusts of 50 miles an hour last Thursday so I couldn’t go to SDG until Saturday. I was caught in the microburst in May 2018, so I’m fairly cautious now. April showers are one thing, but add in the wind and it becomes a dangerous situation. At least the weather seems to have settled down into Spring temperatures 50 - 60º.
Settling in to quarantine, Marc has purchased a pile of baked goods that I’m trying to stay away from, unsuccessful Thursday stuck inside. Interestingly enough, the gardens are my regular workout so I was wired until 2:00am Thursday night. As the hours wore on I realized there was nothing to do, but wait it out.
Hiddenbrooke Friday, I find the first few weeks of coronavirus here were pure anxiety and returning to Hiddenbrooke solidifying routine. The only thing that has changed for me is Marc home on a daily basis. Spring proceeds, Mama does her thing. I am a Spring baby (April 6) so Spring makes me blissful, Maple, Magnolia, Forsythia, Cherry, Rododendron, Quince, all bursting forth in their floral glory.
I direct seed Kale at the end of the month. We will be adding more herbs at SDG. I have worked alone for the last three years, but with Celia and Sarah, I can work on beds I haven’t used in those three years. I’ll be getting in Sage, Shiso and Sunroot this year. Sarah has already planted Nettle. I worried for many years herbs would become invasive, but they will actually round out the garden nicely. Also considering Elderberry.
Spring has sprung despite Covid-19, quarantine, etc. My gardens are the only time I spend outside beyond errands. Sunshine feels good. Susun Weed says vitamin D is good for the immune system. She also has a good video WARD OFF CORONAVIRUS. We are wrapped up in medical industry advice. Remember, it is an industry and profit the objective. Herbal medicine is folk medicine, affordable and often times free. The medical industry wraps us in a cloak of fear and then controls who can afford to live.
Over time, we can hear our body’s wisdom and provide our own healthcare. We have done so for millennia. The Witch Trials in Europe took healthcare out of the hands of the people and the medical industry was born. A world offered only to men and mother and child mortality and respiratory illness have been a problem ever since. Earth is a system and we are part of that system. Earth has, does and always will support us. The medical industry is alternative medicine because herbal medicine is as old as time.
We’ve forgotten our wild selves. Our selves connected to Earth, our Mother, sustainer. The relationship is always there for the asking. The Establishment is loud and we can no longer hear ourselves in the hustle and bustle, it is why meditation has become so popular. Recommended by the medical industry even! In the quiet, in the stillness, Spirit awaits our beckon and our reconnection. She sighs now, a breath of relief and our animal family returns to the wild lands, our skies clear of pollution - relief, restoration. For too long we have been in an abusive relationship with Earth, we the perpetrator. We have a golden opportunity right now to reimagine a harmonious relationship with Earth.
Shelter in place. Interestingly enough, not much different from my daily routine the last ten years. Main St. does look like a ghost town though. Marc is home, but enjoying a break from grueling construction work. The industry like all industries does work one to death. I am a solitary, I suppose. No children so not participating in the family rituals which brought many folks to Beacon. I am also black and we blaze our own trail in this world if we step outside the box. I am Yoruba, not Christian if I have to claim religion - Earth based. I journey engaged with Spirit in harmony with Earth, my foundation, my support system. My reward, joy and light come from days in the garden.
Opening Day in the garden Spring 2020. My only time spent outside except for errands to the post office, bank and grocery store. My thoughts shifted the other day to what would be the daily routine of thought long term. Managing a quarantine. I have started giving thanks at dawn and when going to bed like I used to. These first couple of months with Covid-19 sent us into a frenzy gathering information assimilating fact from fiction and for me finding Spirit in the midst of this thing. Today, anxiety was lifted and we are settling in for the long haul at least ninety days, eighteen months to a vaccine. I’ve made a list of family and friends to stay in touch with and make sure no one is isolated. During the 1918 influenza outbreak, the world population was 2 billion and we lost 50 million. Covid-19 holds steady at 2 - 5%. Our current world population is just under 8 billion. In Spirit, Earth breathes a sigh of relief with less cars and people. Wildlife ventures out reclaiming the lands. Pollution has no doubt lessened.
Opening Day in the community garden, I have two enthusiastic women this season. Sarah Carlisle in her twenties and Celia Reissig in her fifties. Danielle Levoit has returned to do the bees. I look forward to spending the season with them. We repair fence and close up the garden. The original gate which was always problematic because soil would wash down constantly and make it difficult to open, finally gave up the ghost last season and disintegrated. I have had Cedar posts on standby and an old post snapped off so we used the last Cedar post to replace it. I replaced the old gate with heavy plastic fencing to be used as a gate when we enter to water. I switched out the plastic fencing last year because it was so heavy it would tear under its own weight. I replaced it with Deer netting and it has held up nicely. Sarah planted Carrots and Radish two weeks ago and Celia planted Lettuce, Arugula and Spinach today. My first planting is Kale at the end of the month. Sarah’s only experience is with communal gardening wonder of wonders. Her communal garden was an herb garden in Brooklyn. She will be planting the perimeter with herbs. Celia is a novice. It should be fun. Covid-19 checkin out of the way and we’re off to enjoy the open air. That first heavy breath, that first touch of breeze, break of sweat and we are fulfilled. We are Earth beings intrinsically connected to Earth. A part of the natural world as any being, but what part? We spend our life, if we dare, finding that part - harmony. The sow and reap of the growing season, a dance. “Mother Earth absorbs all we give her and offers support,” I tell Celia who was sitting on bricks weeding a bed. I give her a plastic bag to sit directly on Earth and she is relieved. All our emotions, sorrows, celebrations can be given to Mother and she will cry and party with us. Many a time I have left the garden relieved from whatever ales me. Earth is alive, a living breathing entity, our support system.
We Africans, we Caribbeans (Southern hemisphere folk), know nothing but paradise on Earth. We were not pushed into the cold dankness of the Northern hemisphere until last generation. We were caught by surprise by this fearful being who sought to control the natural world, this man who lacked patience and wanted all to bend to his will to dominate all natural processes. We are born to take it easy and want nothing more than to be here, not wish for somewhere else, heaven is right here.
I cannot go to Sally Garden, because Sally and her husband Paul are elders and high risk. I did not go to Hiddenbrooke because I sent a Covid-19 update, but didn’t here back until the end of the day. Twenty-somethings (Sarah) are apparently asymptomatic and can be carriers. I want everyone to feel safe. I want to be compassionate in the exchanges and allow the responses that are running from open joyous freedom to downright paranoia. We are all allowed. If anything, here we are learning patience and perhaps compassion comes along for the ride. Michelle Cottage Garden will begin in the middle of the month. I am a simpleton, so the Spring bloom is moments of pure joy.
Linden, Tilia americana, Little Leaf Linden, T. cordata, Turtle Island, Europe, respectively, Tiliaceae, Tree
I used to get Linden honey from Integral Yoga on 13th St. in Manhattan. One of the things I really missed when I moved upstate. We toyed with the idea of Marc passing by Integral Yoga when one of his jobs was nearby, but it never materialized. I can still taste it’s sweet bitterness. Dried Linden flowers are heart medicine. I have not had them in quite sometime. Little Leaf Linden is used as a street tree here in Beacon. They are full of flowers in season, but are too tall to harvest. The infusion of flowers has a thick consistency, honeylike. The flowers are also used as a digestive aid, for insomnia, to calm the nerves and for overzealous children.
Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, Asclepiadaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Food for Monarch Butterflies, there has been a campaign in parks departments to eradicate Milkweed. Milkweed found in the Northeast has a poisonous milky sap, which can be removed if properly cooked. The trick is to plunge the plant into rapidly boiling water for two minutes and repeat two more times in two changes of water until all bitterness is gone. Milkweeds in the rest of the country are safe to eat. Blossoms contain high sugar content and can be boiled down to make a syrup. I have spent my growing life allowing the wild to dwell. Milkweed has a beautiful fat head of pink flowers.
Motherwort, Leonarus cardiaca, Labiatae, Perennial, Europe
Motherwort puts the Mother in Mother Earth. A gentle, sweet, abiding heart medicine, Motherwort supports us through anxiety, high blood pressure and insomnia. What more do we need than a soothed heart to drift off to sleep? Her botanical name means Lionheart. I have found Motherwort in the wild most often. I grew her from seed once at Stone Barns, but never again. She pops up when you least expect her. She started out in the old barn foundation at Hiddenbrooke and has since moved up closer to the house last season. I have enough wild plants at SDG to plant a whole new bed this season. I have made Motherwort tincture and vinegar over the years. One dropperful of tincture when having an anxiety attack, every five minutes as needed, two dropperfuls three times a day for about a month for high blood pressure and three dropperfuls to drift off to sleep in about a half hour. Note the difference between the first year leaf and the more mature leaf. Nature at her best!
As we buckle down for the long haul, I wish you all health, joy and peace in this brave new world. As always, we have community, be with them in love. Ninety days possible, eighteen months to a vaccine. Enjoy the extra views of wildlife, a friend saw a porcupine, a bear and a bobcat in one day.
Happy Spring! March 19 was the Spring Equinox, when the day and night are of equal length and the days continue to get longer right down to Summer Solstice June 20th, which is the longest day of the year and the days get shorter thereafter. What a gift New Moon and Solstice/Equinox. Our lives can be observed in a rhythm of ebb and flow, waxing and waning, lifting of energy and pulling back and in and down. The rhythm of Earth.
I moved a table and bench from Flora Jones Garden down to Sargent-Downing Garden. My friend Betty and new member Sarah were on hand to collect Dandelion, Nettle and Valerian.
I believe the productivity of having a writing/art practice has enhanced my personal growth. The energy and light in everyday conversations with friends and associates is magical. And now, I am privileged to return to the gardens! As we know we have not had Winter and here at the end of March, we are easily a month ahead into the season temperature wise, Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia) and Maple (Acer sp.) blooming, not due for another month. Along with the Coronavirus pandemic, the Arctic breaking heat records, a perfect storm for anxiety. Our governments doubling down on oppression, we have all we’ve ever had - community. Huddle close friends, we have entered manufactured Armageddon. We send compassion into the universe for these lost, miserable, sad souls who rule us.
April 1 is opening day in the gardens for me. I was sad but at Flora Jones, but excited for new ventures. Flora Jones Garden was a barter for land at the beginning of my gardening self. Native Americans believe “we belong to the Earth, the Earth does not belong to us,” so I have avoided ownership of land all these years. We consider it now, just to have a hub in New York as we’d like to travel in retirement. I love my sunny apartment, though tiny, it is easy to clean and on the second floor of a house with windows in the front and rear. Not to mention affordable and in line with the Simple Life. I provided Flora with fresh vegetables in return for the use of the space. She had been having the lawn mowed regularly, but remembered food coming out of the garden in Alabama when she was a child. The space is 50 x 70 and was my wild herb garden. Too wild ultimately, for neighbors, family and friends. I began 2019 wondering how I would find the way to move one because my business has started to make money and my time would be better spent developing it. When the opposition began I decided to take my leave. Immediately, I gained a paid gig, Michelle’s Cottage Garden, that will begin this season. Exciting times.
Routine grounds me these days where it would have bored me in the past. The humdrum. It is important to maintain our routines in these days of mandatory shelter in place policies come down from at least state governments. I got the last of my seed orders in and now look to live plants and propagation supplies. What a gift that we are at the start of the growing season. We’ll have Wild Salad soon enough. I look forward to new sites for my wild plant family.
Jewelweed, Impatiens pallida, I. capensis, Balsaminaceae, Annual, Turtle Island
Impatiens pallida flowers are yellow and I. capensis is the more well known orange colored flower Jewelweed. I have only seen or used Jewelweed wild. I have been graced with her presence at SDG. I make a Jewelweed salve for poison ivy. The young shoots up to six feet can be eaten as a vegetable. The young shoots can also be boiled to make a soup that can then be frozen into ice cubes that are affective soothing relief for poison ivy.
Juneberry, Amelanchior canadensis, Rosaceae, Tree, Turtle Island
Juneberry fruit is a cross between a Blueberry and Cherry, size falling right in between. Often made into jelly, the fruit is also loved by birds. Once the fruit occur get out there and get them, for they do not last long. I have three Juneberry outside of my place and I remembered to stop over and collect the berries last season. There is a tiny seed inside that probably made them not viable for commercial production.
Lamb’s Quarter, Chenopodium album, Chenopodiaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Highest level of iron of any green, I had a Lamb’s Quarter the size of a small tree at Flora Jones last season. I had to cut it down witha saw, the ‘trunk’ was easily two inches in diameter. I harvested the ‘branches’ for seed as well as the leaves for Wild Salad. Nutty in flavor, Lamb’s Quarter also contains protein.
Hold tight, friends. We are in the next phase of our lives. Community is what we have, all we have ever had, all we will ever have. Stay in touch with your community members. Hold them close and make sure everyone stays in contact with one another. The growing season is upon us. We are ready to go. Grow food for next Winter. We are open air beings. Fresh air, sunshine are always therapeutic for us. We are Earth beings, connected to Earth. We belong to the Earth, the Earth does not belong to us.
I have not watched the news since New Moon Prayer Week. I have to say I was also in the midst of studying copywriting, which took up a lot of time - well worth it. I have finished the course now and am making my way back to watching the news. I have also gained through prayer, a pile of books to study. An exciting time to be sure. So rich! So full! My mantra this year is “take the journey” followed up with “pace yourself.” I am an empath (hypersensitive) and dare I say we all are to a certain degree, we just happen to be caught up in a rat race. How about the human race? What does the human race look like? Where are we going so fast.
I can’t say I miss the news. And I have caught smidgens of news here and there - of course coronavirus in the forefront. Makes one wonder what the Establishment is up to while we watch the spread of this possible man made plague. They manufacture Armageddon. Why shouldn’t my spiritual life be as important as any other aspect. I have studied yoga for thirty years, it is fitting that I delve deeper into this now lifelong practice. It not longer feels like escape. It feels like connection to the eternal. I have discovered that self worth engaged with Spirit is more profound than any self worth offered up by the Establishment. It is immaterial and therefore foundational, unshakeable. The work is here, what can be created here. Creation, a birth, the created, it’s own entity. It is quiet, free. Harmonious. One can touch creation. Creation is the purest of energy.
We suddenly experience quarantine, attendance drops, schools close, my work (classes, consultation) cancelled, future classes being planned through coronavirus preparation. Folks seek to escape New York City. My husband and friends commute down to the city daily. I gather our herbal wares and sit tight, thankful old age wisdom comforts us, natural remedy information targeted online. Take a gander friends, at my teacher Susun Weed’s coronavirus video on You Tube: Ward off CORONA VIRUS. Available on Facebook and Twitter @Wise Woman Spiral. There is no illness for which there is not a natural remedy. Now trauma, broken bones and such, of course sometimes need surgery to save one’s life, but everyday illnesses can be met with prevention and cure through herbs. We have been preyed upon by the medical industry for so long, it is difficult at times to trust inner wisdom, the wisdom of the ages. It takes courage these days to take one’s healthcare into one’s own hands and use now what’s considered “alternative” remedies. Now sparking debate in person and online. We can share information one to one, but it is about as far as one can go before opposition. Herbal medicine is folk medicine, the people’s medicine (accessible, affordable (read free)) and probably should be shared on an individual basis anyway. It always has been and always will be. A well kept magical secret.
The growing season looms, though Winter hasn’t happened. We pray for a snowstorm by the end of the month. Be careful for what one wishes. Anticipation for opening day in the gardens can no longer be contained. Conversation about the start of the season creates a smile from head to toe. With all or any personal growth that the New Year has brought is now met with “oh yeah and now we return to the gardens.”
Friends, I have spent my life financing my life outside and for the first time I have grown to the point to where it is a way of life. It is my life. Living simply is real and true and viable. As I pull out my stores of ferments and pickles to nourish me through Winter I feel wrapped up in the embrace of Spirit. It’s a harmonious dance. So much is not necessary for my existence. I am bare bones, but peaceful and happy. The story has been told time and time again. I’m just another witness. Can I get an awomen? (heee, heeeee, an amen?)
Where are we in our Wild Plant Family?
Goldenrod, Solidago ulginosa, S. virgaurea, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island, Europe
The culprit, so many think of for allergies. I have seen insects all over Goldenrod so who really knows? More likely Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia). I have used Goldenrod leaves for Wild Salad and dried the flowers for tea. The tea is sedative. The seeds are edible and the leaves can also be cooked. Goldenrod is expectorant, anti-inflammatory, diuretic and may reduce cholesterol. Good for the kidney and bladder, cough and asthma. In China used for sore throat, flu, fever and indigestion. Used topically for wounds and sores.
Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, Pinaceae, Tree, Turtle Island
Leaves for tea, inner bark can be pounded into flour as well as used for tea for stomach issues and diarrhea, mouthwash or toothpaste, for swollen gums. Steeped longer can be used as a skin wash and antiseptic, cuts, bruises, stings, sunburn, poison ivy. Powdered bark can be placed in shoes for foot ache and odor. Groundwork had a large, beautiful Hemlock tree. I gathered leaves for tea once. I believe I have found a Hemlock tree at Hiddenbrooke. I will have to investigate further.
Hibiscus, Hibiscus militaris, Malvaceae, Shrub, Turtle Island
We have H. syriaca at SDG, which is native to China. H. militaris is white flowers whereas H. syriaca has white, pink and purple flowers on one shrub. H. sabdariffa from tropical Africa and Asia yield a swollen sepal that is made into a drink called Sorrel that can be found in Caribbean restaurants. Hibiscus are mucilaginous, emollient and demulcent, some can be astringent and diuretic. Flowers contain citric, malic and tartaric acids. One species, known as kenaf is used to make paper. Young leaves can be cooked. The sepal can be used to dress wounds and for cough. Dried sepal for fever and tapeworm.
Take care out there. Man made or not, coronavirus is here and we have no idea for how long. Those who don’t have to venture out, shouldn’t. Gather your resources and hunker down. The Great Plague of the twenty-first century is upon us.
New Moon Prayer Week once again. I can get used to this. The quiet, the meditation, the vision. I believe Astrology and Tarot are tools to guide us on the journey. I cast my own Astrology chart using The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need by Joanne Martine Woolfolk many Moons ago and then I had my chart done professionally and I was off by just a little bit. I think the astrologer may had had my birth time and place wrong which can affect the outcome. With Tarot, which I cast with Tarot for Yourself by Mary K. Greer one can have a Soul Card, which is one’s soul purpose through all their lifetimes and a Personality card which is what one has come into this lifetime to learn. They can be the same card like me in which case one is working on their soul purpose in this lifetime. Then there is a Year card for the annual work for every year of one’s life. Astrology comes from India and Tarot from Egypt. In love with history these days, perhaps it’s time to delve further into these origins. Origins ground me, I am prone to flights of fancy and I have the ability to compensate in the other direction now through history. Places it all into perspective. And eliminates unnecessary fret over the issues of today. I also use Runes, which we got from the Vikings, stones with symbols on them thought to have originated with the God Odin after hanging wounded upside down from a tree for nine nights.
I read through my Astrology chart this year wanting to cast my chart for the year, but have decided to leave it up to astrologers like Rob Brezsny. Once one has formulated the Tarot over the length of one’s life, the results can be charted on graph paper where patterns emerge. I just finished a ten year cycle. I think it is brilliant to find patterns through numerology, which is how Tarot is done. And don’t get me started on Astrology and Moon, Sun, Stars and Planets. I might start to levitate!
I have bought several Tarot decks over the years and have created an art piece with five decks and the runes for the last two years in my current journal, usually during Winter Solstice, to set my intention for the year. This year I am adding the Tarot of the Orishas by Zolrak & Durkin which I have always wanted. I have been purchasing practical things of late acquiring some unexpected income, but I thought it was time to invest in my spiritual practice as well. My practice has of course served me over the years, having enriched my life, filled my life with wonder and delight. Encapsulating the universal Spirit available like a garden tool. For me, they are tools that facilitate this work called life. I may as well have a bright and colorful way to experience it.
I haven’t watched the news since I started New Moon Prayer Week. Change is scary. I feel nervous, seemingly “escaping” the issues of the day, but don’t I also deserve to explore my spiritual self? Haven’t I grown to this point? Obviously I have. My mantra this year is “take the journey.” I am charting new territory and there is no view of the outcome. I will undoubtedly change by the end of the year, but as has always been the case, my core self will remain, that I know. I am Earth based in my Spirituality. There is no journey to Spirit for me without Earth. She is my Mother, my sustenance.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I am sharing my Plant Family alphabetically so look back through previous blog posts to start from the letter A. I continue with my Wild Plant Family.
Elderberry, Sambucas canadensis, Caprifoliaceae, Shrub, Tree, Northern hemisphere
Elderberry has been elusive for me over the years showing up in friend’s gardens, but never finding the time to connect and harvest. I was gifted berries a couple of years ago and I just found them in my freezer and had to toss them. Poke has always come to me in abundance and I believe plants come to one to teach one about themselves, Poke has been my go to for allergy, colds, antibiotic. Elderberry is safe for children, though and Elderberry elixir is yummy. I have found a source for bare root this year - a minimum of ten trees, so she may be planted at Hiddenbrooke and SDG this season. Kinda exciting! The flowers have been used culinarily, for the eyes, skin and for headache. The berries contain vitamins A and C. The leaves can be used for bruises and sprains. The bark has been used to treat epilepsy. Know as the “country medicine chest.”
Evening Primrose, Oenothera biennis, Onagraceae, Biennial, Eastern Turtle Island
I saw Evening Primrose for the first time on Denning’s Point and then she showed up at SDG now been over-run by Bull Thistle. She did choose another spot last season, but a single plant, not forming a huge stand like the first time she showed up. I was so happy to see her beautiful yellow flowers. I think she had been gone for a season. I have not used her for anything. Another elusive. The leaf and stem have been food for the Blackfoot tribe. Roots and tops can be boiled in honey to make cough syrup. Seed oil has fatty acids for healthy skin, containing gammalinolenic acid which can be used for PMS, allergic eczema and reduces blood pressure. Seeds contain tryptophan, which has been used as a sedative.
Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata, Cruciferae, Biennial, Africa, Asia, Europe
Woods are overrun with Garlic Mustard these days. Leaves taste like Garlic and are a spicy addition to our Wild Salad. Garlic Mustard is biennial and can be found in either stage. Quickly going to flower where the leaves go bitter. The seeds taste like mustard. I have made Garlic Mustard vinegar. Leaf tea purifies the blood. In flower the plant is expectorant, antiseptic, stimulant and antiasthmatic, expels worms and can help heal wounds.