Rain indicates the change of seasons is upon us. The days still climbing into the upper 80's with showers in the afternoons. Dare I say this has been a "regular" season with April Showers, although they did turn into May Showers before the temperature started to climb through June and July. We've had so many ups and downs, it can be hard to recognize the weather we've known all our lives. 2019 slowly slips into memory.
I write an assessment in September, looking over the season at triumph and failure. Just to have all my crops again is exciting after two years of milking goats. I miss them and always will until my next encounter. It was a welcome experience, but I am a grower, my heart lies with the plants. I get so much joy from sitting in the garden and simply weeding. I feel the loss of bygone days when it was the days work.
Did I know when I entered the internship at Brooklyn Botanic Garden that plants would become my family? An all consuming journey for my life? Susun Weed and the Wise Woman Center gave me the Spirit that Horticulture lacked and I was smitten. I loved being outside as a child, Mum wanting a girl, dressing me up in pretty clothes that I would return home filthy from my adventures. I was raised with boys, how could I turn out dainty?
My husband and I moved upstate to live the Simple Life. Along the way I have had odd jobs to bring in extra money mainly to finance the gardens, but there is no greater indicator of what we've lost than the 9 - 5. My gardens have always suffered in the pursuit of the dollar. We have been ripped from the land and turned over our autonomy to an ungrateful master wishing to suck the life out of us. Instead of reward for our work we are given more work. We are taught to feel unworthy from birth and check one another for our output instead of recognizing our true challenge, the Establishment. I am happy to be back here fully present in the gardens enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.
In recent years, I've learned that my great grandfathers were farmers which answers all my question about why I am. Mum's paternal grandfather would take his horse and buggy and be gone for two weeks to harvest and go to market. Dad's maternal grandfather had a garden next to the house. Through colonialism, my maternal grandfather lost his life when my mother was twelve and my paternal grandfather was a bookbinder and caned chairs. My paternal grandmother married a wealthy man and had twelve more children. My maternal grandmother was a seamstress. Clearly the generation that lost the connection to the land. My interest in plants was met with more of the same looks I got all my life "Who is this child?" Dad deigned to pay me a compliment a few years ago after having used Poke (Phytollaca americana, Phytolaccaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) for a lingering cold whenever I was home. "You're a bush doctor." I'll take it. The highest praise I've ever gotten. Poke is an antibiotic. I use it for allergies, colds, ear infections and just recently a dog tick bite. Down south they make Poke Salad with the young leaves and the young stem can also be eaten. The purple berries can be harvested and frozen to be popped like pills two at a time to stave off colds through Winter. Children love to smash the berries on paper producing a beautiful magenta color.
Flora Jones introduced me to authoritarianism. If you don't know Flora Jones, ask around in political circles. Her mother was authoritarian and in that moment I realized my parents are authoritarian. The Oxford English Dictionary defines authoritarian as "favouring encouraging or enforcing strict obedience to authority as opposed to individual freedom; tyrannical or domineering; and a person favoring absolute obedience to a constituted authority. It makes me wonder what the matrilineal point in human history must have looked like. Absolute power corrupts absolutely to borrow a phrase. Perhaps the matrilineal line fell to corruption. There is a story of men severing their genitals to lay on the altar of the Goddess. Women freely lay their wombs and breasts on the alter of the medical God these days. Hmmm, full circle? Certainly his story seems to be a retaliatory energy against herstory. And wealth has now produced generations of tyrants who are corrupt simply because they have never known free will. Flora apparently fled her home life and so did I to find my self sitting on her porch laying my life bare for me. What choice do the victims of colonialism have, but to pass the control on to their children once their free will had been crushed - some semblance of control in their lives. Not to mention reducing our beautiful pantheon of (God)desses to one mean old white man with an iron fist. Mum was "saved" by Billy Graham in Wembley Stadium. I was raised Catholic, Pentocostal and Southern Baptist. Today is no different than any other point in his story. War, famine, disease, inequality, tyranny, hopelessness. The only difference this time is it's global and we are witnessing the one bright light of democracy dim and flicker out. We're fucked!
Even the hope of our children has been crushed as the literally poor millennial returns home to their parents' house with crushing debt. Who knew the Establishment which has already dismissed our elders, carting them away to cesspool nursing homes would then turn around and crush the spirits of our young people by placing the yolk of debt and joblessness around their necks in the prime of their lives?
All these woes I hand over to Earth in the gardens. I leave them refreshed and renewed because Earth has the ability to take my burdens and return joy and love Teaching, sharing the plants with loved ones offers no end of peace and fulfillment. Imagine a health care system that teaches mind, body, spirit connection. Teaching us to listen and trust our body's wisdom. Imagine yoga and meditation to begin the day starting in kindergarten. What would that world look like? We humans have an endless ability for hope. We can always dream and imagine and dance in the light of the dawn. Let's go again and dream big. I delight in my plants the same as parents do in their children. Even parenthood has become one of the greatest challenges of the day, but we still do it. Good for us!
Weeding is in a good place and I take a breather in these last couple of weeks. A moment to look over the gardens before the final push to close out the season. I have been delighted with Amaranth, Borage, Lamb's Quarter and Purslane this season, all growing wild alongside my crops. At least fifty percent of herbs are considered weeds to be eradicated by Round Up. Dandelion, Violet, Ground Ivy in our grass. Clever of the Establishment to demonize our wild food and medicine. If you ever want to conquer a people, destroy their resources. Colonialism 101. We fight to the death for our freedom and go down swinging.
I'm harvesting Goldenrod flowers for tea (Solidago gigantea, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island). Goldenrod has sedative properties, the seeds can be eaten as mush or used as a stew thickener and the young greens can be cooked and eaten. Dried and powdered, the plant was used to stop bleeding during wartimes. Zucchini is ready as well as Tomatoes and the next round of Kale and Mustard Mix. Cabbage Moth has ravaged the Cabbage patch, next year I'll leave the cover on all season. I have 1 1/2 gallons of Red Sauerkraut leftover from last season so I only have to add two more gallons for my Winter store so I'm not too worried. It's a thirty foot bed. Last season I got 2 1/2 gallons even after Cabbage Moth damage.
I guess writer's block has passed. I'm enjoying my writing practice now. I look forward to it. I have also been entering a writing contest monthly. Initially, producing was stressful and I found myself craving alcohol, but that craving has seemed to ease a bit. It is summer after all and one must hurrah! We've also been crunching numbers at A Farm for All! creating financial reports for a possible donor. Quite a productive season. One day at a time, moment to moment, creating joy.
August and we are heading into Autumn. The days are visibly shorter now. Time to submit to the darkening season as we head for the Autumn Equinox. We continue to pull back and in and down giving thanks for our bounty. I write an assessment in September, taking it all in and reminisicing. An opportunity to take a look at the big picture and the personal growth this year. The rain has brought lower humidity and cool mornings.
I have begun my Winter stores having harvested Garlic and made two quart jars of Lamb's Quarter Pesto. I have hung Mints (Peppermint, Spearmint, Chocolate Mint) to dry for Winter tea as well as Anise Hyssop. Also weeding Three Sisters (Corn, Beans and Squash), Mustard Mix and continuing to tie up Tomatoes. Beets are ready. Extra hours into the evening with a whirring food processor or something boiling on the stove. Visions of cold Winter days with hot tea and jars of vegetables that hold their fresh picked color. At the whim of dear Mother we begin to imagine what She holds in store for us this Winter after a hot and beautiful Summer. After three years of warm Novembers last November seemed to cool rather quickly and the temperature dropped to fifty-five after an unusually hot week in Miami. We wait with bated breath.
Writer's block this week. I sat before the page with - nothing. Not too bad for having started this blog in April. I have been a writer since I was thirteen when I bought my first diary for my birthday. I wanted to write the great American novel someday, so I figured I should start taking notes. I wanted to finish that novel by the time I was forty. I finished two years early at thirty-eight. I look forward to the day I can dust it off and take a look with fresh eyes. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to explore my writing self now. I want to write for the rest of my life. At the very least this blog is a regular writing exercise. It's been fun and a bit stressful churning out a post weekly.
Beet (Beta vulgaris, Chenopodiaceae, Biennial grown as an annual, grown since Assyrian times) contains folic acid and potassium. I make two pints of pickles. What a treat in January.
Mustard Mix (Pink Lettucy Mustard, Ruby Streaks and Tatsoi, Brassica juncea, Brassicaceae, Annual or Biennial, Central Asia, Himalayas (considered one of the ancient areas of domestication, cultivated since 3000BCE)) contains vitamin A and C, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus. Lamb's Quarter and Purslane are still available as Wild Salad, but Mustard Mix makes for a great cultivated change from Wild Salad for the end of the season. We will have harvest up until the end.
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae, Turtle Island) Wonderful aromatherapy tea for the Winter. Indigenous cough medicine. Lovely licorice flavor. Imported to Europe for honey.