In the midst of the "weed" challenge, I also grow vegetables. The purpose of moving upstate was to live off the land. Here I should say that I am unconventional, and anomaly in my Caribbean family. My closest friends have all been married or married and divorced with two to five kids each. I left home when I was nineteen seeking freedom from an authoritative household. I was the only girl, with three older brothers. My parents never intended for me to leave home and consequently, I left home with no life skills whatsoever and thrust myself into the big bad world.
I wanted to be a Park Ranger when I graduated from high school, but I was in Florida then, a woman in the 80's, black and not bilingual so I didn't even have the courage to pursue it. Not to mention, my family would have looked at me as if I had three heads, which they do anyway. I studied Psychology for three semesters in college until Mum ran out of money and then moved to New York to study acting. I am an empath thrust into the most anxiety ridden city in the world. Of course, I didn't know that then.
I grew locks immediately when I left home in love with Bob Marley, who coincidently, passed on in Miami at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. I found his music when I was fourteen and my rebel heart opened. I knew he was the face of freedom. Of course, to this day there is no place for locks in show business outside of Whoopi Goldberg who still has to don a wig in movies. Whoopi Goldberg and Madonna inspired me to move to New York. I couldn't spend the rest of my life constantly concerned with my physical image so I had to move on from acting in my mid-twenties. I thought I should pursue my love of the the natural world and would find more options in New York. I began with studying for a Certificate of Horticulture at Brooklyn Botanic Garden and also studied at New York Botanical Garden and Bronx Community College for an Associates Degree in Horticulture. I was working in Riverside Park, Manhattan, by then. I wanted an alternative view of plants which led me to Susun Weed and the Wise Woman Center where I found my life's work - herbs.
I moved upstate in 2006, switching into agriculture at Stone Barns in Tarrytown. I knew I wanted to farm. Dutchess County was one of the most affordable then, which is what brought me to Beacon. Racism dogs the African American thoroughly and strong I now know, throughout one's life and though I can navigate the constant white spaces I find myself in, I know that I forge my own path as an herbalist. I love to grow and fortunately I have found my ancestors (Great Grandfathers) who were farmers, not to mention my indigenous cultural heritage (Arawak/Caribe) who were also engaged with the land which affords me the opportunity to believe in the Native American tenet "We belong to the earth, the earth does not belong to us." I know I have engaged Spirit in my work and I constantly receive gifts of Spirit.
I grow our Winter stores. Kale (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial, Europe). For years I grew six feet, but I have since increased it to fifteen feet to get a pot of greens from one harvest. I start making pots of greens in August and freeze portions for Christmas supper. Kale contains calcium, iron, beta carotene, vitamins E an C. It is considered a primitive cabbage.
A word about processing. The farming journey, for me has been a delightful process of discovery. As the possibilities for Winter stores unfolded, I fell in love with the processing of the harvest come August. I realized our earlier selves only concerned with the days work before we were shifted off the lands and crammed into cities. We live simply, but the quality of life is peaceful and connected to Spirit.
Sargent-Downing Community Garden (SDG) is grown communally. Individual plots can be found up the road at Stonykill and at SDG's height we had five members and one of the gifts a member left me with are Beets (Beta vulgaris, subs. vulgaris, Chenopodiaceae, Biennial, ancient Assyria (today Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran)). I love to make pickles and pickled Beets are so good in a Winter pasta salad with Pesto. Higher in carbohydrates than most vegetables, Beets are also a good source of folic acid and potassium.
I have always had digestive issues, which is why I love fermented foods, so good for gut flora. I grow a thirty foot bed of Green and Red Cabbage (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial, Asia Minor, eastern Mediterranean). I make three and a half gallons of Sauerkraut for Winter, one of the best ways to get one's greens in Winter. I remember when I was a child coming home from school and taking a fork to the bag of sauerkraut we kept in the fridge. Cabbage is rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, outer leaves of green varieties contain vitamin E.
I love origins, which is why I mention them here. I believe they will serve to unravel this mess of sexism, classism and racism in which we find ourselves today. We can learn to appreciate the contributions of our world family through our fundamental need - food. Cultural bias would have to fall away as we revere these contributions.
Engaged in indigenous education, our group Neetopk Keetopk (www.neetopkkeetopk.org) go back to the old ways of our Native American family and grow the Three Sisters, Corn, Beans and Squash. These three "sisters" are the cornerstone of the native's diet and the gift to the European settlers in early America. Today, unfortunately, Corn is as denigrated as the Native American, not even grown for human consumption, fed to cows (who don't eat corn) to fatten them and subsidized by the USDA for its byproducts, one of which, High Fructose Corn Syrup, is now used to sweeten our food and responsible for the rise of diabetes, especially in pregnant women. Maize is the original name for Corn and it was not as sweet, used for grain and fodder. Corn is thought to have originated in Mexico around 7000 BCE. Corn comes in a variety of colors from yellow to blue to black often found in South America. Corn ranks third behind wheat and rice as one of the most important cereals in the world. Corn (Zea mays, Graminae, Annual, Mexico) is high in carbohydrates, fiber, also contains protein and vitamin B.
Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris, Papilionaceae, Annual) also comes from Mexico as well as Guatemala and parts of the Andes. Settlers found the beans running up the Corn plant providing starch and protein for the natives. Corn provides a stake for the Beans, Beans provide nutrients to the soil and Squash shades out the weeds. A lovely symbiosis. Folklore speaks of the natives placing a fish in the Three Sisters mound as fertilizer. Beans contain potassium, folic acid, beta carotene and protein. Squash also originates in the Americas cultivated for up to 10,000 years. Pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima, Pumpkin and Squash, Cucurbita moschata, Summer and Winter Squash, Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbitaceae, Annual). From Zucchini in the Summer to Pumpkin in Autumn, we have a huge variety of food to choose from, high in beta carotene, also containing vitamin C and folic acid. Surely, the madness of today can stem back to this ungrateful European who denigrated this people who gifted them with nourishment in the "New World." On the flip side we can raise discussion about the circumstances of this now demon, leaving Africa so long ago. Paradise Lost? We know the "white devil" abhors the natural world and can only see dominance where our native family dwells within Her as family.
I wild forage Wild Salad April through June and then come July I harvest a Mustard Mix, Pink Lettucy Mustard, Ruby Streaks and Tatsoi. It all started at Stone Barns where we would bag a Salad Mix and a Mustard Mix for our farmers market. For us, it's the perfect variation after a a season of wild greens. Mustard Greens (Brassica juncea, Brassicaceae, central Asia, Himalayas). Sanskrit records show Mustard Greens have been cultivated since 3000 BCE. Annual and Biennial, Mustard Greens contain vitamin A and C, calcium, iron, potassium and phosphorus.
Stone Barns had an abundance of Parsley one season so my first Pesto was Parsley, a bright green welcome nourishment in the dead of Winter. We don't open our Pesto (I store five quarts) until January after the joy and delight of the holidays. Only in recent years have I made Basil Pesto. I have also used Walnuts as well as Cheese to make a low fat Pesto. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum, Umbelliferae, Biennial, South Europe) contains beta carotene, vitamin C and iron. I was inspired to make Parsley Pesto when I read that Parsley is used as a vegetable in the Middle East.
Last but certainly not least, the beloved Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum, Solanaceae, Perennial grown as an Annual, Andes), another gift from our Turtle Island region. Tomatoes were considered poisonous in Europe initially because of the strong smell and bright colors, then later an aphrodisiac earning the name Love Apple. Of course, we now associate them with Italians and I've even heard Germans. I grow Tomato with Basil of course, the strong smell warding of insects, Basil (Ocimum basilicum, Labiatae, tropical Asia) also associated with Italy, but who do they have to thank for a staple of their cuisine? Asia! I make a quart of Tomato sauce for Goat Lasagna for Christmas. Caribbeans are raised on goat meat. I also make a quart of oven dried tomatoes.
To find unity and an appreciation of our global family, we need look no further than one of our basic needs - food. Surely, in recognizing our individual contributions, there would no longer be the need for cultural bias, especially in recognizing the tens of thousands of years our contributors existed before "discovery."
Mid-May and with so much rain, the challenge is weeds. As an Edible Landscaper, I allow for Wild Forage food plants and medicine in all my gardens.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris, Asteraceae, Perennial, North Africa, Siberia, Europe) is the toughest challenge. She really doesn't know how to control herself. She is sacred to Asians, Europeans and Native Americans. She can be burned and smoked in ceremony. I make a delicious vinegar with her leaves and also use them in my Wild Salad. In the past two years I have dried the leaves for tea. I have been hedge-trimming her at Flora's the last couple of weeks and I don't think she likes it so far only returning in patches. I do maintain her in sections at Flora's and Hiddenbrooke. Mugwort is good for our Moontime and to ease the Great Change (Menopause), but should not be used by pregnant women.
Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare, Asteraceae, Biennial, Northwestern Africa, Western Asia, Europe) is the most dominant weed at Sargent-Downing. I did harvest two pounds of leaf once for cooked greens, but it took mighty long to remove the midrib of the leaf which can be too fibrous to enjoy. I consider it a survival food, very sweet and delicious, but too time consuming to process for a regular meal. The root can be eaten raw or cooked. The root and leaves contain mineral electrolytes and can provide energy when exercising. Spikey stalk and leaves. I have an electric mower at SDG so I just keep Bull Thistle mowed.
Ground Ivy (Glechoema hederacea, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island, Caucasus, Europe) is a beautiful blue mat of flowers in Spring. I like to have her around for her flowers, but I weed her out of the beds. She is a strong flavored green for Wild Salad and can also be used for tea, blood cleansing, tonic and diuretic. Topically, the leaves can be used for bruises and inflammation.
Stiltgrass or Sasa as a Japanese student said it is called in Japan (Microstegium vimineum, Poaceae, Annual, South Asia, East Asia) is a new challenge in the beds. Last year completely covered Anise Hyssop and Skullcap at Hiddenbrooke, though the plants were there underneath. The young leaves are edible and sweet. I once head up Mt. Beacon (1000 ft) without food or water, bonked three quarters of the way up and there was Sasa on the side of the path beckoning me to eat her. I ate five leaves and head up to the peak, refreshed and fortified. The leaves become too fibrous later in the season.
Flora Jones Garden is my Wild Salad garden. A variety of edible wild plants occur that have beautiful flowers. Aster (Aster ericoides, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) is an edible leaf with a white spray of flowers in Autumn. Aster macrophylla is also a tasty leaf with a lavender spray of flowers in autumn. Red Clover, (Trifolium pratense, Leguminosae, Perennial, Europe) has a pink flowerhead in Summer. The leaves and flowers can be eaten in our Wild Salad both containing iron. White Clover (Trifolium repens) is much smaller and usually grown for hay. The flowers were once used to make bread.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale, Asteraceae, Perennial, Northern hemisphere) is thought to have been brought to Turtle Island 600 years ago by the Vikings (who weren't interested in conquering). Dandelion along with Ground Ivy and Violet are the bane of the grass enthusiast. I consider their flowers a lovely addition to the boring green lawn, a symbol of wealth brought to us by the English. American lawns are considered English envy. Dandelion is like a multi-vitamin. The leaves are iron rich with vitamins A and C and minerals. The flowers can be made into a nutritious wine and the buds can be pickled. I make a Dandelion Soup with the leaves in late Spring. I am taking root tincture through menopause now to support the liver.
Violet (Viola odorata, Violaceae, Perennial, Europe) has taken over the driveway at Flora's. Beautiful heart shaped leaves and purple flowers can both be eaten in Wild Salad. The flower and leaf can also be made into a syrup for cough, headache and is mildly laxative.
Burdock (Arctium minus, A. lappa, Asteraceae, Biennial, Turtle Island, Europe) is one of my earliest allies as I have had digestive issues throughout my life. I have taken the first year root tincture for an ulcer, used the leaves put up in vinegar topically to reduce swelling and just recently used the fresh root for tea as a Spring Tonic. The leaves grow to an arm's length and in the second year, Burdock is multi-stemmed with purple Thistle-like flowers. Those burrs on your clothes that you come home with after a hike are Burdock seed heads, the inspiration for Velcro. Our plant Family has multipe uses so when you find your Allies, research them thoroughly.
Yellow Dock (Rumex obtusifolia, R. crispus, Polygonaceae, Perennial, North temperate and Arctic regions). Here is a case of cultural bias as the native R. obtusifolia (the leaf has a red midrib) is rarely included in herbals while R. crispus is always included. Both plants have the same properties. An iron rich root that can be made into a decoction, especially good for women. I find R. obtusifolia most often. The seeds can be made into a vinegar. I used leaves for Nettle soup in early Spring.
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata, Cruciferae, Biennial, North Africa, Asia, Europe). Garlic Mustard leaves taste like Garlic and the flowers and seeds taste like Mustard. A spicy addition to our Wild Salad, like Dandelion quickly flowering in Spring, but there are usually first year leaves available at the foot of the second year plants.
Field bindweed (Convulvulus arvensis var. arvensis (broadleaf), C. arvensis var. linearifolius (narrow-leaved) Convulvulaceae, Perennial, Asia, Europe). Field Bindweed is the bane of my existence the last two year's at Flora's overtaking Vetch. Related to Morning Glory (Ipomea hederacea, Convulvulaceae, Annual, Vine, Turtle Island to Argentina), Field Bindweed does contain glycosides and purgative properties. I have used the leaves of Morning Glory in salad. The dried seeds are thought to be hallucinogenic and are used in Asia for worms, constipation, as a diuretic and to stimulate menstruation. I. tricolor and I. violacea seeds have compounds similar to LSD and were used in Aztec rituals.
Vetch (Vicia americana, Leguminosae, Perennial, Turtle Island). Vetch seeds and young stems are edible, tasting like Bean Sprouts. The plants contain cyanide so use with caution. Sweet pink flowers in Summer. So prolific I was shocked when Field Bindweed overtook her. She was the first "weed to find her place at Flora's so I thought I would always have her. A succession plant lesson would be useful here.
Dare I say, if we used all of these plants mentioned here as food and medicine, they would be less invasive.
Sally Garden of Eden is my one paid Edible Landscape gig in Rosendale. The garden is at the top of the Shawangunk Ridge with a rock face at the back of the garden. It is a joy to leave Beacon for a day and enjoy a drive through the countryside in any season. I can imagine the colonizers back in the day must have thought the lands were infinite coming from their tiny countries in comparison to Turtle Island.
I met Sally and Paul Bermanzohn during the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign in 2013. I may have mentioned when I moved to upstate Spirit told me to find the natives. In the process, I uncovered my own Arawak/Caribe cultural heritage. The Caribes conquered the Arawak, what conflicted blood some of us have running through our veins! The Arawak are also known as Amerindians and come from South America (Guyana) where my Mum was from and the Caribe are from Dominica where my Dad is from. I produced my first native American event in 2010 at the the theater at University Settlement - a two day Eco-Fest featuring Evan Pritchard, Tony Moonhawk, Pete Seeger and Grandmother Flor de Mayo of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers (www.grandmotherscouncil.org). It was the beginning of this spirited life I have had the privilege of living.
Spirit runs through all things, people, animals, insects, rocks, earth, water, fire and air. It is what connects us and makes us one. Man has constantly sought to divide us over petty differences like gender, class, race and religion, but Spirit constantly returns us to ourselves . Community is the one human experience that can never be broken and it's the one thing we can rely on through dark days like today. Hold one another and share love and connection.
The Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign (www.honorthetworow.org) marked the 400th anniversary of the original treaty signed between the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) and the Dutch. The Haudenosaunee comprise the Five Nations Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga and Seneca Peoples, the First Peoples. The Haudenosaunee are the world's oldest democracy and the American Constitution is based off of their principles. The Two Row Wampum is a belt that symbolizes the treaty. It has two colors of beads and means that the two peoples will travel this life together parallel, without interfering with one another "as long as the grass is green, the rivers flow downhill and as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west." The Campaign was a two week canoe trip across the Mohawk River and down the Hudson to the United Nations International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. Kingston, Poughkeepsie and Beacon held the largest festivals welcoming the rowers for overnight stays. I was coordinator for the Beacon Festival. We organised the festival, but for me, I had no idea how it would feel to participate. We had performances and talks and vendors all day, but when the horses arrived from the Dakotas and the rowers arrived on the river, I was so lifted! Spirit is magnificent! It is now life before Two Row and life after Two Row. Unfortunately, America walked out of the United Nations International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.
A month later wearing my Two Row t-shirt, I attended the Ramapaugh Pow Wow and met Sally who also had on her t-shirt and we shared our joyful stories and experiences. Sally organized the Kingston festival and even paddled a section of the canoe trip. I wanted to paddle to Cold Spring, but I did end driving two African Drummers down and helped pull the canoes in the day after Beacon. The African Drummers were the only music in Cold Spring.
Sally and Paul Bermanzohn are long time activists now in their seventies who were victims of the Greensboro Massacre in Greensboro, NC in 1979. They lost friends that day and Paul was shot in the head and handicapped. It was a protest against the Ku Klux Klan and the local police delayed their response and white protestors showed up with a trunk full of guns and opened fire on the protestors. Sally and Paul travel annually to events held to commemorate the event. Sally has written a book about the incident, Through Survivor's Eyes: From the Sixties to the Greensboro Massacre. the work continues.
Sally's garden is a forest of White Pine, so my Plant Family (Stinging Nettle, Comfrey, Wild Bergamot, Sunroot, Burdock, Valerian) are not thriving in the shade. I did find an article from 2002 this Winter that is all about forest dwellers. I'm considering Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis, Papaveraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and Elecampane (Inula helenium, Asteraceae, Perennial, Europe), both shade loving plants. Sally already has Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and I actually transplant out of her garden into mine.
I have compost piles in all my gardens, but Sally was the first compost that I made for someone else. I have been Compost Queen at the Beacon Sloop Club Strawberry, Corn and Pumpkin festivals since 2007, but it is a different story when one explains the process to a client and it works. We have two bins, one for the current season's ingredients of weeds, food scraps and chicken hay and come Autumn we layer the first bin into the second bin adding leaves. To my surprise it worked like a charm and we have been adding her compost back to her four raised beds ever since. This season is the first season we have got enough for all four bins. Such a rewarding exercise!
Sally works with me so we start each garden time with a walk through to see how our plantings are doing. She has a beautiful ornamental garden already in place and my job is to add medicinal plants. She has three sections of gardens around the house and they are filled with Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis, Papaveraceae, Turtle Island), Fern, Matteucia sp., Perennial, Worldwide), Vinca, (Vinca minor, Apocynaceae, Perennial, Africa, Asia, Europe), Foxglove (Digitalis sp., Plantaginaceae, Africa, Asia, Europe) and Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus, Ranunculaceae, Perennial, Europe. Her family has always had gardens and Sally keeps the family tradition going.
April has drawn to a close and we have had April Showers this season. I don't know the last time we had April Showers. Rain, but warm weather rising into the high sixties. Perfect for a comfortable drenching in the garden. A Spring Shower! Unfortunately, the few times I spent in the garden when it rained, it was too cool to get drenched. I sat on the porch at Hiddenbrooke and watched the torrential rain until I was chilled and then went inside for tea.
Hiddenbrooke Open Space Preserve is the brainchild of Shannon Murphy of Beacon Yoga. I met her when she was in the midst of releasing the space from the developer who at least wanted his commission from the City of Beacon when his project fell through. Shannon was my yoga instructor and promptly told me of her plans for Hiddenbrooke.
Hiddenbrooke is also the home of Carmelite Nuns who took over from Ursuline Nuns years ago. Shannon's Grandfather was the caretaker for the Ursuline Nuns and they gifted him twelve acres when they left. Shannon's idea was for a Wellness Center and I walked the property with her, an artist and a waterkeeper in 2010. Hiddenbrooke became an Open Space Preserve around 2012 and Shannon set her sights on her grandfather's old cottage for the Wellness Center. In 2016, she informed me it was time to plant the herb garden.
I had been growing in Wappinger at Obercreek for three years and was displaced in 2017, interestingly enough, felled by organic certification. There are no regulations for herbs, but an organic farm cannot have a third party on the property. But Spirit provides and Shannon invited me to move my garden to Hiddenbrooke five minutes from my apartment. And I can teach onsite as well. Spirit be praised!
I began my journey into the wilderness with walks throughout the area. I hiked Mt Beacon once a month for six months, Madame Brett in the coldest of Winters and jogged the icy path of the Frannie Reese Trail along the river. By 2011, with the recession looming and losing our home in the midst (having to move twice in two years) I still walked to yoga class in the dead of Winter. Not much choice because we lost our Subaru as well. 2011 was perfectly bittersweet. I consider it a Rite of Passage into the wilderness, for I gained my three gardens in 2011, Sargent-Downing, Flora Jones and Groundwork. I also made the final decision not to have children in 2011. Bittersweet in deed.
I did come to understand the nature of Spirit. I believe the nature of Spirit is to make it up as you go along. Not much room for that belief in our controlled Establishment. On the contrary, we are taught to live in fear, anxious each day we venture out our door. We are unworthy and should be punished for ever having been born. Enter Abraham (www.abraham-hicks.com) and the belief that "the purpose of life is joy," thwarting my religious upbringing (mine being Catholic, Pentacostal and Southern Baptist). I left the church when I was sixteen vowing to find the truth. Vision Quests and mind-altering substances later in my mid-twenties I stumbled upon Seth Speaks (www.sethcenter.com), the entity channeled by Jane Roberts, my firt encounter with the purpose of life being joy. I still get the catalog. Jane Roberts passed on in 1984. Falling back on my religious upbringing, I left the books alone in my late twenties believing that if it was for me, I would revisit them again. Theo (www.asktheo.com) had occurred by then, but I wasn't ready to carry on beyond Seth. Ten years later, leaving the boroughs (New York City) and beginning farming, I was handed Abraham. What a joy to revisit what I had come to know as true. A true gift of Spirit. We have evolved, if ever religion was anything beyond a means to control the masses (opioid anyone?). We are brilliant, bright, magical beings and no one, especially a man, has the right to deny us, especially women, the gift of Spirit.
I consider all of my good fortune "Gifts of Spirit" these days. The question is whether or not the gifts of Spirit are diametrically opposed to the Establishment? The gifts of Spirit are definitely different and not necessarily monetary in value. As I venture forth, promoting my businesses, I wonder where Spirit and the Establishment meet. We most certainly do not need money to be happy, but we certainly need it to pay bills. My husband and I absolutely have a certain level of ease from the harvest, about food for Winter. We have to pay rent and we purchase water. So our basic needs food, shelter, water, we need money to pay for two out of three. Then we have to pay for transportation because, in our case, Marc travels to Manhattan for work five days a week. And I travel an hour upstate at least once a week. Abraham says "come into alignment with money" so that's the next leg of the journey. I look forward to the adventure.
Through United Plant Savers (www.unitedplantsavers.org), I have connected with native and endangered plants and consider them part of my work. There are easily European standard herbs that we all now and love that I will always grow.
My old herb garden, Groundwork had a sundial in the center and I radiated circular beds out from the sundial.
Hiddenbrooke has a fountain down the center of the garden so we have come up with a different plan. I consider my gardens a canvas with levels of texture, layer and form and Shannon is an artist and she suggested I look at the work of Wassily Kandinsky, an artist who uses curves as well as straight lines. Hiddenbrooke Herb Garden is on a slope as well. I now have a series of curved beds and straight beds. My first beds were ornamentals which also have herbal value Phlox (Phlox subulata, Polemoniaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris, Ranunculaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia, Perennial, Papaveraceae, Turtle Island). Next I opened beds for Chocolate Mint (Mentha x piperita 'Chocolate', Labiatae, Perennial, Africa, Eurasia), Spearmint (Mentha spicata, Labiatae, Perennial, Africa, Eurasia) and Peppermint (Mentha x piperita, Labiatae, Perennial, Africa, Eurasia). I open beds and plant in Spring and Autumn in the cooler weather. By the end of 2017, I had beds for Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Valeriaceae, Perennial, West Asia, Europe), Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica, Urticaceae, Perennial, Northern Hemisphere, Burdock, Arctium lappa, A. minus, Asteraceae, Biennial, Europe and Turtle Island respectively, Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and Elecampane (Inula helenium, Asteraceae, Perennial, Eurasia). At the end of 2018, I installed beds for St. Johnswort, Hypericum perforatum, Hypericaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Echinacea, (Echinacea purpurea, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island).
Phlox - leaves can be eaten in Wild Salad
Columbine - homeopathic for the nervous system
Bleeding Heart - leaves for Wild Salad
Mints - digestives issues, for me Spearmint does not work as well as Chocolate Mint and Peppermint
Valerian - sleep aid
Stinging Nettle - iron, protein, diabetes, allergies, promotes the optimum functioning of the eternal organs
Burdock - digestive issues, anticancer, headache
Anise Hyssop - native cough medicine
Skullcap - native painkiller
Elecampane - cough medicine
St. Johnswort - depression, oil for muscle ache
Echinacea - antibacterial, antiviral
Wild Bergamot - colds, digestive issues
Arbor Day 2019. Arbor Day is the last Friday in April, nationwide. Sargent-Downing Gardens has planted a tree on Arbor day for the last four years which means I have planted a tree for the last four years.
Sargent-Downing Garden and Nursery started out with a board of six of us in 2011. I was consulted by Richie Cabo as to how to go about approaching the city to gain access to a garden at University Settlement and to renovate a portion of the gym for our Education Center. The ideas was to provide a family experience of gardening with events and educational opportunities. I had been working with the indigenous since 2010 so I brought folks like Tony Moonhawk of the Ramapough through to put up a Peace Pole and to have Pow Wow on the Hudson.
When I moved to Beacon in 2006, Spirit told me to find the natives. I connected with the indigenous and the Europeans born or had spent the better part of their lives upstate. I uncovered my own cultural heritage of Arawak (South America) and Caribe (Caribbean) in the process. These folks remain my closest allies to this day. Beacon's latest incarnation is young families. For the past twenty - thirty years folks have moved up from the boroughs to raise their families.
At the same time I was studying the Wise Woman Tradition with Susun Weed (www.susunweed.com) and I had worked for Pete so my activist self was born. The Wise Woman Tradition teaches in my opinion, the feminine assertion which is different form the masculine aggression. For me assertion seems to come from an inclusive energy rather than from a rape and pillage aggressive energy. It stands up for the people. I am also a middle class Caribbean woman which comes with a certain sense of entitlement.
University Settlement (www.universitysettlement.org) is the first settlement house in the country providing aid to newly arrived immigrants coming through Ellis Island. They still function in downtown Manhattan on the Lower East Side. Where we proposed to have the garden was University Settlement's upstate sleepaway camp for youth. It's eighty acres and was sold to New York State in 2009 and turned into a State Park. The state gave it to Beacon to manage. Beacon does not have funding to maintain the space so any group with a good idea can use the space and renovate any building they wish to inhabit. In our case, the storage room adjacent to the gym. We held a fundraiser to repair the roof and use it for an Education Center. It is a narrow room that runs the length of the full size gym.
Little did I know when I grew locks on my head at nineteen years old that I would spend my life in Resistance to the Establishment. I just wanted to be free. I am thankful to all the benevolent folks who saw fit to employ me over my now middle aged years. I have definitely had to navigate outside the status quo. I have also foregone children which has provided that freedom, but set me firmly outside Beacon's latest incarnation.
I moved upstate to live the Simple Life and my husband Marc and I have achieved it our way in an affordable apartment with gardens that provide our food and medicine. After the horror of experiencing the 2008 Recession hitting us in 2011, we can confidently say we are in recovery and have well-being on a daily basis.
In 2012 I designed the garden with a spiral and eight curved beds. Vickie Raabin, known on Main St. as Miss Vickie Music had an indigenous month with events throughout Main st. I created a 4' x '6' Dreamcatcher to be hung on the wall outside Bank Square. I though she would be a good choice for President of Sargent-Downing so I nominated her at the end of the year. Interest in Sargent-Downing had begun to dwindle so I thought she would bring renewed interest. University Settlement is on the outskirts of town and many people don't even know it exists. And I believe if a family is interested in growing food they will have a garden in their yard. I use the garden because I live in an apartment. I also decided to make it a communal garden and that may not be of interest. Vickie's nomination resulted in what was left of the board to move on to other projects and it has been Vickie and I ever since. Vickie brought more education programming than we had in our whole existence.
Vickie now does Guerilla Gardening on Main St. and I manage the garden which is two blocks from my apartment. At the height I have had five members which is about the maximum, but it dwindled to one in 2018 and now just me in 2019. I grow plants from seed for myself and Vickie on Main St. I grow enough food to feed my husband and I through Winter which was always the goal. I have had my challenges over the years, but here I am growing again in 2019.
For Arbor Day we have planted Juneberry (Saskatoon Serviceberry) (Amelanchior alnifolia, Rosaceae, Turtle Island) for the past three years. The first year I planted a Redbud, but the deer got to the trunk and killed it. Deer nibble on the young bark for water through Winter. We hadn't fenced it. Lesson learned. I have to order the Juneberry in January if I want one. Another learning curve. Vickie talked me into planting a tree for Arbor Day. A good way to maintain interest in Sargent-Downing. I planted eighty trees in Riverside Park in Manhattan for Mayor Bloomberg's Million Trees initiative so I have experience. I can plant one tree a year. We planted a block off Main St on Henry St and we now have three Juneberries.
Vickie and I are assertive women of color most often dismissed in the Establishment. It is an honor and a privilege to support her as an indigenous woman. we love what we do in support of community in Beacon. Community is the journey we face in the current climate. The Establishment can not fight a well organized community. Community is what has developed the human race all of our existence and it's what will carry us through here. We all get a seat at the table or we will not find our way.
A Tree Committee was formed by the City of Beacon so now we have help. Vickie and I are both members. The Highway Department forgetting that I plant a tree, planted all the rest of the tree wells on Henry St. so I didn't actually get to plant on Arbor Day. I have to wait a week to get another hold dug for my Juneberry. Mark Price at Beacon Recreation has donated the tree over the years. We specked out ten tree wells between Teller and Chestnut on Main and Henry St and we have Kwanzan Cherry (Prunus serrulata 'Kwanzan', Rosaceae, Northern temperate) and Crimson King Maple (Acer platanoides 'Crimson King') planted in all ten. For Arbor Day we had a tent and food donated by Adams (www.adamsfarms.com) and Towne Crier (www.townecrier.com). We planted a Crimson King Maple in front of Oak Vino on Main St. (www.oakvino.com).
Planting a tree on Arbor Day has become very special to me. It's simplicity is incredibly profound. Working with plants is a gift of Spirit that, if you love it, is a gift that keeps on giving.