The Two Row Wampum Renewel Campaign was the 2013 observance of the 400th anniversary of the signing of the original treaty between the Iroquois Confederacy and the Dutch. We all know how that turned out, but at the very least, the Mohawk and the Ramapaugh First Peoples retain their lands. The Iroquois Confederacy or Haudenosaunee are the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca people. I was coordinator for the Beacon festival. A group of paddlers in canoes started a thirteen day trip in Troy, New York on the Mohawk River paddling to the Hudson and down to Manhattan and marched across town to the United Nations for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. America walked out.
The wampum belt, the symbol of the treaty, signifies the First Peoples and the Dutch traveling through life together without interfering with one another. We had no idea what we were organizing so when I sat down at 2:00pm at the festival and the Dakota Riders arrived on horseback, it was only then I realized what we had done. My ancestry is Arawak/Caribe and I heard my ancestors whoop in that moment. I ran along the shore calling out to the paddlers as they arrived, hearing response on the wind.
Artists were commissioned to produce totems for the event and I realized too late that I could have made a totem.
Dare I say Two Row planted a seed that lead to Standing Rock and now the Ramapough Sweet Water Prayer Camp. The work continues and our organization, Neetopk Keetopk (www.neetopkkeetopk.org) was born out of Two Row providing indigenous education ever since. I couldn’t create a totem, but I did sit down and sketch in my newsprint pad.
Our original art were cave paintings, pottery and weaving - sewing our clothes possibly with Honey Locust needles. I reach back and touch my ancestors to engage my creative self off the page and written word to imagery, symbolism.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is the now well known protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016, an oil pipeline that travels 1,172 miles underground from North Dakota to Illinois where it connects to the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline which travels from Illinois to Texas. Once again America reneges on its treaty and the pipeline runs through the the Standing Rock Reservation water supply. Of course the concern are oil spills which will damage the drinking water and of course the pipeline leaked immediately. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe continues their protest.
I had gotten this far six years ago. I decided to finish now. It is oil pastels. I felt the paddle charged with energy and wanted to represent motion with urgency on the page. Fierce tribal mission, purpose moving down the rivers, the land holding Spirit as the journey unfolded.
The European has the audacity to declare it illegal to be, denying peoples for centuries, their language and culture. What happened to this upstart late to world civilization? Do we look back to Pangaea and continental divide to teach us of the trauma plaguing this human. If Africa is the cradle of civilization what face did the move take that pushed this human up and out of the bosom of Mother into the cold, dank, famine of Europe. Were we guilty of genocide, border patrols, rape and murder in creation of that Great Migration? Did we forsake our sisters and brothers and chase them out? Can we have these conversations? Is it the nature of the beast? As we bow to the shifting world and watch Mother dance, can we apologize, can we ask forgiveness? Can we infuse the collective consciousness with joy, love and peace and take hands and walk into the future together? Yes, we can. It is not easy. It is a fight, but we can do it.
63º over the weekend. A friend of mine says “Earth is convulsing.” I say She’s just doing her thing and we just have to sit back and watch. The days were beautiful, bright and sunny, but eeery. We can believe or deny climate change, but what if the “Sixth Mass Extinction” is inevitable? What if we think we have a say in it, but instead we are merely a blip on Earth’s radar.
Today is cloudy and gray, back to our previously scheduled Winter weather. Tree twigs are now looking pink in anticipation for Spring. Some plants may have bloomed early in the past two Spring-like days only to be frozen by the 28º last night. Who knows what to think? When I pause to have compassion for the Establishment, I see us fighting so hard against it that there’s room for understanding. Folks are driven by profit/greed and greed alone. They were raised to believe in scarcity, in not enough, that love is conditional and they do not have free will. Their lives have been dictated to them, they are miserable and so they seek to control our lives to deny us free will. Misery loves company. We dance in our warm and wonderful communities exploring our free will, loving unconditionally.
We can think of packs of animals when it comes to hatred. A new member can be killed or run off if not accepted to the pack. The potential new member has to ingratiate themselves to the leader. Once having gained entry, they are entitled to the support and protection of the pack. Predator does not hate prey. Prey does not hate predator, just participates in the circle of life. So people of color are prey. Predator guards their territory. Predator hunts for survival. They do not hunt for sport like humans do. I watched The Two Killings of Sam Cooke on Netflix yesterday. Imagine the black performers surprise traveling South past the Mason-Dixon Line and running out of places to stay and food to eat. Here is a people who gave their very bodies to develop the country. If anything, we should have preferential treatment because of our sacrifice. Bodies, minds, spirits, children, family. Instead we continue to be discriminated against as if we did something wrong. This predator may be fighting for its survival. In fighting for survival one believes they will be annihilated. And truth be told this predator will be outnumbered in thirty years so perhaps they are right and annihilation is what they’ve been fighting against all along. Perhaps they even delayed it? Are nations tribes? Clans? Perhaps enclaves of tribes/clans. States are not even tribes/clans. The Establishment defends their territory and we are the enemy. We have no territory, ejected even from the Motherland. Set adrift on Earth belonging nowhere, at the whim of any Establishment. Earth is a loving entity. Takes what we give her and offers support, sustenance. Abundant, vital, strong, absorbing our trials and tribulations. Many an hour have I spent outdoors letting go, letting down, returning home refreshed, renewed, peaceful. What a gift to find such peace in a hostile world.
My journey into the wilderness began in 2009 upon leaving Stone Barns to develop my herbal self. I walked the lands of Beacon engaging Mother wanting to find myself “out there.” Immediately, met with wonder and delight of the dark before the dawn, the primordial deep, sunshine over mountain, sunshine on flowing water and a relationship with my Animal Family - Beaver, Fox, Raccoon, Opossum, Skunk, Deer. Never an employee, I would take the odd job to contribute to the household, Marc commuting to Manhattan as a Union Carpenter. I became enamored of the Simple Life and slowly stripped away the trappings of the Establishment and explored just what it means to sustain oneself on the planet. My first Wild Salad was Wild Onion, Dandelion, Chickweed and Violet. Two strong flavors and two mild. I was struck by the tiny portion that satisfied me, my mouth filled with captivating flavors - spicy, bitter, sweet, green. Engagement with Spirit draws a giggle from one’s lips as one is awash with knowing and love.
In 2009, I was forty-two years old. Having never wanting marriage nor children, I found myself with an amazing love, so do I have a child? Surely, the opportunity was swiftly leaving me, but one last ponder couldn’t hurt. There had been a few close calls, but each time met with a resounding “No.”. Thank you rollercoaster and alcohol. Here was the final “no, I do not want children,” and I knew it. Profoundly sorrowful and over the Moon joyful at the same time. I believed motherhood had become optional by 1970 with the Women’s Movement. Interestingly enough, we had reached four billion people on Earth, which some believe is the carrying capacity of the planet so by my late twenties in the mid-nineties, having left the latest boyfriend, I knew I had a legitimate claim to motherhood being optional. So what then, no man, no children? Why spend a life in service of course, to communities, organizations, causes, enough work to fill a lifetime.
So in 2011 when land was gifted to me, it was perfectly bittersweet to accept this tremendous gift of Spirit and bid farewell to motherhood for the final time. By some sort of initiation into the wilderness, we were also struck by the recession and lost our home having to move annually for the next two years. A hedonist, a gypsy to the core, I had wondered at one point, “do I want land?.” Did I want the responsibility? Here I was in 2011, gifted three gardens so I had no choice, but to take Spirit’s had and endeavor, lest I be looking a gift horse in the mouth. Spirit is wily, a trickster, a comedian, a benevolent, brilliant entity here for us. Ask and ye shall receive. So, although homeless, I could take my tribulations to Earth and be supported, consoled.
Seven years now in my sunny, humble abode, I can look back fondly now. When one is in survival mode, there is not time for thought, depression, so busy fighting to stay alive, it wasn’t until we landed here that I slipped into depression for a year. Forty-four so much like twenty-four facing mortality, bumbling along. That interim rented house, still the best propagation I ever had. Now forty-five, landed safe, sound, not dead. What do I do now? How do I pick myself up and carry on? Well, the gardens my dear. Gardening is visioning, planning, executing - drop one of those balls and one will be playing catch up for the rest of the season, even I knew that, a mere two years into my lands. So pack up that depression, hope you are whole at the bottom and get on with it. I had cohorts, a Women’s Farming Cooperative, that had begun with five of us now down to two. I did not know what growing would look like for me, but once again thrust into racism, now joined with sexism, we women of color forged our own path. Empowering to say the least. As my partners moved on, I knew I had found my life’s work, my marriage to the land. I had no choice, but to explore this love affair.
My Plant Allies, my Plant Family, have been with me every step of the way. What I couldn’t find wild, I cultivated.
Cattail, Common, Typha latifolia, Narrow leaf, T. augustifolia, Perennial, Turtle Island
Cattail is a later ally and I have yet to find an accessible stand from which I can harvest. Easily a staple food for our indigenous people, Cattails can be eaten year round. The best way to destroy a people is to destroy their resources. The one stand I found was soon overcome with Phragmites. One can imagine every Phragmites stand used to be a Cattail stand. Ahhhhh, those lovely vigorous Asian invasives! Cattail shoots can be harvested early Spring and eaten raw or cooked. Root stalks can be used like potatoes or ground up into flour. The green female flower spike can be eaten like corn on the cob. The clear syrup can be used like cornstarch. The flower head can also be used medicinally for diarrhea. Rootstalk can be made into tea. At the base of each leaf is a sticky substance for cuts and bruises. The sap can be used to numb toothaches. The root starch is good for poison Ivy, burns, boils and stings.
Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens, White Cedar, Chamaecyparis thyroides, Cupressaceae, Tree, Turtle Island
I observe the Solstice/Equinox and other indigenous ceremonies so I have become familiar with the scent of Cedar when we are smudged. I have a gift of bundled Cedar on my altar. The original Groundwork was bordered by Cedar trees. A tea of the twigs can be used for stomach issues or inhaled for a head cold. White Cedar can be used in Sweatlodge for rheumatism, arthritis and other aches and pains. Can also be used to wash or bathe. The tea is diuretic.
Chicory, Cichorium intybus, Asteraceae, Biennial, North Africa, West Asia, Europe.
I will miss Chicory at Flora Jones Garden. Flora Jones was my Wild Edible garden. The garden may have looked unkempt, but it was filled with edible plants. Chicory has a sweet periwinkle colored flower. The roots are roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The brand Cafix can be found in our local grocery store. Flowers can be used as garnish in salads, buds can be pickled. Leaf clusters, known as chicons, can be eaten as a vegetable. Leaves are a source of iron, calcium and copper. Leaves can be used topically to reduce swelling.
The garden dance, magical, joyful, peaceful, life itself. Earth is here for us, heeding our every whim. Engage, be, enjoy. Even when she rages, she is beautiful. The future is uncertain, but one can be sure, that moment in the garden can feel like eternity, with Sun on one’s face, Earth between our fingers, touching our ancestors in the deep Earth, rhythm, pulse. The New Year is afoot and it is time to plan and purchase our seeds to, yes, get on with it.
I have taken a long break from Blog. Well deserved, it was a productive year. I must study the creative process. Perhaps The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron? I’m curious how constant creation affects one’s life. I want to learn to manage the energy.
Ready for 2020? Ready or not, here we go. I am excited and looking forward to it. We may have dark days in the Establishment, but individually, we can develop warm and wonderful community.
As revelry of the holiday season fades away. Visions of the growing season develop. I have my immediate Family of Plants installed at what I will now refer to as Groundwork at Hiddenbrooke. I think I was so traumatized by losing Groundwork in 2017, that I couldn’t think of the name until now. Adding Groundwork tickles me and brings an energy of beginnings again.
My immediate Plant Family comes from indigenous education - Plant Family, Insect Family, Animal Family, Rock Family and I suppose Element Family as well. We are interconnected with the natural world. She is our family. My immediate Plant Family are my Plant Allies that have developed over the course of my herbal journey. One’s Plant Allies are those individual plants that have come to you to teach you about you. One’s individual medicine. One of the challenges with prescription drugs is that they do not treat the individual, they are actually created for a white male. I have used my Plant Family for years now and have shared them with my Human Family of relatives, friends and associates with great results. Over the next year, barring any major happenstances, allow me to introduce their stories within my life. Who knew that blog would produce a journey for me. Hee heeeee..... We will start with the wild. We are prone to “dominion” over the natural world, but endeavoring with the thought of family relationship opens up one’s place within the cosmos, Earth and our selves. Kinder and gentler engagement.
A word about plant language. A small group of white men gather to produce the names of plants. Plants have a common name, a botanical name and a family name. Flowering plants (angiosperms) are categorized into families by their sexuality - male, female or bisexual. Sound familiar? Indigenous people group the plants that grow next to each other as families. Dioecious (female and male), monoecious (bisexual). Dioecious plants have the female part, the carpel and the male part, the stamen on separate plants,. Monoecious plants have the female and male parts on the same plant. The botanical plant names come mainly from Latin, which is a dead language so they won’t change with other languages like Greek also used. Regions have common names which can change. Burdock for instance, is the common name and Arctium comes from the Greek arctos which means bear and lappa from the Celtic which means hand or seize. Burdock is also called Love leaves in England and Wu shih in China and Bardane in France to name a few regional common names. Plants also have lifespans, Annual, flowering in one year, Biennial, flowering in the second year and Perennial, flowering for four or more years. I use each description here along with their origin. There is thought about naming plants by their DNA which would be more accurate it is believed.
Amaranth, Amaranthus retroflexus, Amaranthaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island. Here is a plant whose wild variety is more nutritious that the cultivated variety. I found Amaranth in abundance at Sargent-Downing where, in any given season, like 2019 grows wild. Breaks down like Spinach when cooked so I have been blending Amaranth with Kale for my pots of greens. In the Caribbean, Amaranth is blended with salt, scallion, onion, tomatoes and peppers and often served with salt fish for breakfast. Perhaps I will separate Amaranth and cook her the Caribbean way this season. In 2019 Amaranth grew in Kale bed so I harvested them together for my pots of greens. Amaranth is cultivated today because of her nutritional value. The seeds are very nutritious as well, containing our essential fatty acids (EFAs), protein, lignin and protease inhibitors. Amaranth is also a good source of antioxidants, calcium, carotenes, folic acid, phosphorus, potassium and can prevent cancer.
Aster, Aster sp. Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island. I met Aster at Flora Jones Garden, three different varieties, a late Spring/Summer tiny daisy like variety and two Autumn varieties, one white and the other lavender. The leaves are good for our Wild Salad. The root is used by the indigenous, like the Cree of Alberta who boil the root for eye drops and powder the root for first aid to stop bleeding. The Chippewa are also known to use Aster as food and medicine. The flowers are sweet at the end of the season, tiny, but many coming together create a spray of white or lavender.
Burdock, Arctium minus, A. lappa, Asteraceae, Biennial, Turtle Island, Europe, respectively, covered the slopes in Riverside Park in Manhattan when I worked there. One of our jobs was to remove them. I always thought to myself, “this neighborhood must have some serious digestive issues.” One of the park’s neighbors referred to Burdock as Cocklebur. We are all familiar with coming home with the seed head of Burdock on our clothes after a hike. Burdock’s seed head was the inspiration for Velcro. I was beginning my herbal studies when I worked at Riverside Park and I knew to place Burdock leaves in vinegar to heat up and apply topically to reduce swelling. Little did I know that within a couple of years I would be using them on my husband Marc when he fell on a construction site tearing his ACL and damaging his meniscus. One has not heard sorrow until one has heard their loved one cry in pain through the night. I thought “I must do something” and then I remembered the leaves in vinegar on my counter. Heated them up and applied them and he was good to go. Herbal medicine effectiveness can be quite astonishing. Place a towel between the leaves and skin.
The other use I knew of was Burdock root tincture for digestive issues which I had from years of alcohol and hot wings. The only catch was the dosage was a dropperful an hour for a year. Some herbal medicines are cumulative. Burdock root grows at least a foot down into Earth, about fifteen minutes to dig one up and so digs deep within us to unearth deep seated issues. It wasn’t until the summer of 2006, having moved upstate and so grateful to Spirit that I wanted to show my gratitude. Spirit only wants what’s best for us, so I thought I would give back faithfully and spend the year with Burdock. I gathered the patience to spend that year with Burdock root tincture. We Generation Xers have a thirty minute attention span so it wasn’t going to happen before 2006. I hear millenials’ attention span is seconds!
Our herbal journey is a journey to Spirit and once endeavored, we engage Spirit and the many gifts that await us. A year to the day, I understood my issue and what I was doing to cause it. I was sober for a year after and having found work on a farm, had access to fresh food and water.
Engagement of Spirit that runs through all things is engaging the Void. The Establishment falls away and we face ourselves in the cosmos. Unnerving to be sure, but having an understanding of Spirit can be the ride of one’s life as Spirit’s love envelopes one and lifts one up like any messiah, prophet or guru. Having grown up Catholic, Pentecostal and Southern Baptist and spent years studying many other religions, for me Spirit is and has been coopted by religion to control the masses, but pure engagement of Spirit creates a loving, supportive interplay.
Our Plant Family begins our engagement with Spirit, the love journey that awaits us all should we endeavor. Not for the faint of heart for we will meet ourselves and all that has brought us here. Courage, Faith, Humor are some of the tools to pack for the journey.
A chant I sing in my gardens while I work
I envision my life
As a Spiral journey
Gathering the tools
To take the ride
I travel the path
With love and peace
Finding the joy of life
I wish you joy, love and peace for 2020. We may enter with trepidation, but lift one’s heart to Sun daily and enter each day with joy, love and peace and we will be just fine. Ache!
2019 growing season is a memory. I finish the season without Twuck. Thankful for public transportation and good friends. The work is an extensive restoration.
I love cars so to see Tahoe under restoration is kinda awesome! Love the restoration car shows on television and we love to go to Beacon’s Annual Car Show. I grew up with three older brothers so we used to collect cars on road trips. My oldest brother owns a 1932 Oldsmobile with suicide doors and a 1949 Ford Pickup. He used to own a sea green 1967 Volkswagen Bug, my favorite car. I was born in 1967. I drove it when I stayed with him in California many Moons ago. My first car was a 1978 VW Bug.
I look back fondly on a full crop season and a fridge full of Winter Stores.
What a ride is all I can say. I wanted to be a Park Ranger when I graduated from high school, but I was in Florida, black, female and not bilingual. It wasn’t until I left acting and had no desire to work in an office that I decided to endeavor into what has become my life’s work - plants. The natural world. Where I belong. Perfect for my short attention span. Thirty minutes at best. I hear the latest generation is seconds! Even if I learned every plant in the world, by the time I learned them all, they will have mutated into something else! Forever learning.
I had bricks and bamboo stakes left at Flora Jones. When I get Twuck back, I can pick up the cookout table. I also forgot to transport Hellebore. It is cold and I hope she is hardy enough to survive. I placed her in a pot and the soil had frozen by the next day. I was also gifted Echinacea plants. I decided to pop them all into the ground rather than leave them in pots over Winter. Bricks went up to Hiddenbrooke, plants to Sargent-Downing. It feels good to move on. I can use another day in the office developing my business. Flora Jones was my wild edible garden. Too wild of course for neighbors, family and friends. I look out over Hiddenbrooke where we have let Mugwort dance and I realize I have become a big land gardener and wild is okay out here. We have quite an Animal Family - Deer, Turkey, Groundhog, Fox, Coyote, Bear and now - Bobcat! We have had Guinea Hens starting out with eleven, now down to two! They keep the ticks away. I cleared Tomato Bed at Sargent-Downing and laid down straw. Good night sweet beds. I did not get to haul straw, but - next season. It will be upon us soon enough. Time to rest, rest, rest.
Down to three gardens - Sargent-Downing, Hiddenbrooke in Beacon and Sally Garden of Eden in Rosendale. I will be working with a friend to install her English Cottage Garden next season, thrill of thrills. Age dictates slowing down, presents limits. I have to be thankful for organic growth all these years. Out of pace with the rat race. Human pace. We will never understand the departure from humanity, but we can reach out and touch it when we choose. I study copywriting now. Susun says I can do plant work until I’m eighty-five, but as I slow down I will need something to keep me financially stable as I age. I am a copywriter! I did not think I would have the opportunity in this lifetime to explore my writing self, but here I am. Not to mention Art. They are the other half of me and I look forward to the adventure.
Who knows what this Arctic Blast in November means for our Winter. We batten down the hatches and venture indoors to hibernate emerging with the Winter Solstice. Off to Myami. I will blog down there and then take a break in December. It has been amazing of course. Thank you for reading. Happy Holidays! Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Last November got cold quickly and here we are again cold the first week of November. Over the past four years the entire growing season has shifted from March to October to April - November. We are shifting back here in November, but we still are very cold through March. We are losing a month of the growing season. It was a hot Summer, it may be a very cold Winter.
I am on my way to Myami in a week and when I return I will take a break from Blog until Winter Solstice, my New Year. I have been writing since April and I welcome the practice these days. I’m studying copywriting and I enter American Writers and Artists Inc. Barefoot Writing Challenge monthly. I began writing my annual assessment in September and will most likely finish it in Miami.
I went to Junior HIgh and High School in Miami and this trip will be our second Thanksgiving without Mum who passed one year ago July 22. “Memories light the corners of my mind.” It is a gift to hold her in my heart.
I have a sketch pad and being a shy artist, it is the closest I get so far to a canvas. Canvas will be a next level of development for me - a next level of commitment to Art.
I am an Herbalist in the Wise Woman Tradition - Susun Weed and the Wise Woman Center. Our premier herbal wisdom on the East Coast along with Rosemary Gladstar. Susun’s teacher, Juliette de Baraicli Levy returned the Wise Woman Tradition to the world. Susun brought it to North America. The symbol of the Wise Woman Tradition is a Spiral. We are not linear beings, we are every growing, expanding, becoming without end. I have taken the Spiral for my business name, Wise Woman Spiral because I believe as a third generation Wise Woman, we have the privilege of being the Spiral now. Let’s Dance!
I am playing with pastels in my sketch pad here. Maybe these sketches will just be housed under glass in a frame as finished pieces.
I ran out of black pastel. These works are from 2013, the year of the Two Row Wampum. As I have mentioned, I produced a Dreamcatcher in 2012, my first exhibited art piece. It was hung in a tree for Two Row. I must have purchased the sketch pad then fancying myself an artist. Today may be the first time I’ve looked at the sketch pad since.
The sketches are me as a spiral. My journey through understanding this body. We get to change and transform on a spiral, ever growing, never the same. What a release from linear time. What an embracing of the variable. Of course this image is 2013. I wonder what it would look like now?
The Wise Woman Tradition evolved naturally in the human experience. We dwelled in Spirit “In the beginning.” We were one with our Plant, Animal, Insect and Rock families. There was no abandonment and separation, no superiority, no dominance - Oneness. As gatherer/hunters, we engaged in Spirit that runs through all things to guide us to wholeness.
The original woman, the black woman, the aboriginal woman gave us all these gifts. Taught us to heal, to become whole to become holy. We know the teachings instinctively when we engage, we are opened up to intuition and visions of health/wholeness/holiness. The plant medicines are whole. They teach us the dance of ourselves. It is an individual practice, a practice of courage and faith.
The Wise Woman Tradition is the undercurrent that has and always will flow under the Establishment. We always have been and always will be like the ocean tide. Never ending. There may have been efforts to silence us, but here we are still and evolving. We are nourishing, building the system and preventing extreme measures. We spend our lives in nourishment.
I was raised Catholic/Pentecostal/Southern Baptist. Moving through each belief system I realized Spirit was the abiding force. Stepping out on faith and moving 1100 miles away from home, I knew that Spirit would be with me. That there is a higher power who wants what’s best for me., When I engaged the Wise Woman Tradition in 2001, I learned of the Void. When I left my job in 2009 to become an Herbalist, I met the Void. It was a Tuesday and I remember initially being unnerved, frightened, until I recognized the Void and decided to play in it. I had had experience with Kundalini in my twenties, so I understood the faithful place. One is lost for sure, but only to the self that has been created by our human experience. All the labels, categories, biases, etc. fall away and one is free. All I have ever wanted in my life is to be free. So I let go and let the day show me, me. Show me its power and strength, love and compassion. It was a delight.
The season has come to an abrupt end. Just like that. I had two beds left at Sargent-Downing to clear and lay straw, but it looks like I will only have the chance to clear one. Not only was it cold, but it was also raining. I ran up to the garden just to pull out the Tomatoes and stakes. I will finish next week. I wanted to clear Echinacea bed at Hiddenbrooke and lay straw, but all I could do was wrap up the hoses. Good night, my beautiful gardens.
Happy Holidays! May the joy, love and light of the season fill you with peaceful, soulful, peace. Ache!
Twuck is a restoration. We are in the fourth week and the end is getting close but NOT YET! I become anxious. Am I going to have the truck before I go to Miami? Will the season end with no truck?! Apparently, we cannot rush the process because wiring is meticulous and tedious. I have been on public transportation to A Farm for All! Three hours! I was looking forward to it on Tuesday, then I missed the train and had to borrow a car. I wanted to sit back and be driven, but I could not find parking.
We have lost a truck and a car since moving upstate. Suburban was totaled and Subaru died. Right now Caprice sits in the parking lot dead. We await a body guy who welds instead of using Bondo, which is made of talc and plastic, invented by a World War II veteran, Robert Merton Spink. Welding seems to be old fashioned and many young body workers use Bondo. Caprice is from 1988 and the welders are swiftly retiring.
I have opened up Wormwood bed at Hiddenbrooke. The vision for Hiddenbrooke is a Kandinsky painting - curves, straight lines, etc. Wassily Kandinsky was a Russian artist who lived during the late nineteenth and earlier twentieth century. He is considered a pioneer of abstract art. Shannon is an artist. When we discussed design, I talked about curves and medicine wheels, which is my style and she talked about Kandinsky. I immediately went online to see his work. Shannon wanted straight lines as well as curves so when I saw his work, I felt the design open up and the opportunity to explore new territory.
Wormwood bed is a triangle. Shannon walked down the slope the other day and said she loves the shape and exclaimed “Kandinsky!” I told her that I immediately went online when she mentioned him and designed the gardens from there. Phlox, Columbine and Bleeding Heart curve around a bend. The Mints are Peppermint, Spearmint, Chocolate Mint and Peppermint curves to a straight line of Spearmint and Chocolate Mint. Valerian and St. John’s Wort are straight. Echinacea and Wild Bergamot are straight, but curve where they meet. Sage bed is straight along the same line as Spearmint and Chocolate Mint. Google Earth does not have an up to date shot. There is a man made waterfall that empties into a four foot pond in the middle of the garden from which I curve the beds out. I have installed the second of two Comfrey beds which stretch from the middle of Echinacea bed to the middle of Wild Bergamot bed also curve where those two beds meet. The pathways are a labyrinthian journey. I had to rethink Lavender bed which will be straight because I initially was placing her in full sun, but opening a new bed next season on the north side of the house in part shade will probably be a better location.
For me, curves change the energy and flow of the garden. It softens the space of rigid lines for me. Agriculture is male, scientific and linear. I love being a woman, soft, curvy, variable and working with herbs I get to infuse those characteristics into the space. It makes it all right to be a woman. And a black woman at that where we have to define ourselves in the Establishment. My gardens are home, haven, peace, joy and light. Not necessarily found out in the world. Whew!
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, Asteraceae, Perennial, Eurasia, North Africa) is an herb in Susun Weed’s Herbal Medicine Chest. I was given her Herbal Medicine Chest upon completion of my Apprenticeship in 2003. The Medicine Chest was my first list of herbs to grow. Herbal Medicine is an individual practice, so the Medicine Chest has been changed somewhat to my allies. The Herbal Medicine Chest is the herbs one carries with them in one’s handbag on a daily basis. An Herbal First Aid Kit. I have never used Wormwood. I was displaced from Groundwork in 2017 and I was just beginning to explore Wormwood’s properties. Wormwood leaves are good for digestive upset and diarrhea. She has been used to flavor vermouth and absinthe. A leaf and flowering top infusion is a tonic for the digestive system, liver, gallbladder and blood, lessening inflammation and removing impurities. Also expels worms and reduces the toxicity of lead poisoning. Can be planted beside other plants to deter insects.
Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum, Boraginaceae, Perennial, Europe) is a deep and abiding ally in my life. I use the Salve (Comfrey & Plantain) for pimples, cold sores, cuts, and insect bites. Also called Knitbone, I use dried leaf infusion to rebuild cells and the infusion is also good for arthritis and rheumatism. Comfrey contains calcium, potassium, phosphorus and allantoin. Leaf poultice for swelling and bruising. The leaves are great for compost. I have always had two thirty foot beds which make for one pound of dried leaf. A gorgeous nodding head flower mid-Spring. Beautiful giant leathery leaves.
It has been three years at Hiddenbrooke, the same length of time at Groundwork. I surely was distracted with two years with Goats. Unbelievable! And I have my immediate Family of Plants in the ground, which are my allies that I use on a regular basis. Next year, I get into the more experiemental plants of which I know little. A new adventure!
The season winds down and it has been good. One hiccup with Twuck we can handle. Time to be in gratitude and revelry as the holidays begin. A full season of crops, now my immediate Plant Family in. We interview new members at A Farm for All! having completed our Handbook and created a formal process. Air Bnb closes and Hipcamp is in full swing. I have new allies with whom to create. Time for celebration and rest, rest, rest.
The season winds down clearing and laying down straw at Sargent-Downing and planting beds at Hiddenbrooke. As exciting a season as any other to look back on the bounty. After two seasons of Goats, I return to my vegetable garden with a full season of crops.
Sauerkraut made, I move on to Parsley Pesto (4 quarts) (Petroselinum crispum, Umbelliferae, Biennial, South Europe). I have already made two Lamb’s Quarter (Chenopodium album, Chenopodiaceae, Perennial, Europe) and one Basil (Ocimum basilicum, Annual, Tropical Asia) for a total of seven quarts. Parsley contains vitamins and minerals. The leaves and stems are used fo bouquet garni and eaten to freshen breath. The leaf infusion is a tonic for hair, skin and eyes,. The root is used in soup and stews. The leaves, root and seeds are diuretic, remove free radicals from skin and can reduce the release of histamine. Also good for rheumatism, aids digestion and tones uterine muscles after birth. The leaf poultice is good for sprains and cuts. We had an abundance of Parsley Stone Barns one season so I decided to make Pesto. I have extra Parsley after I make the Pesto so I make Tabbouleh. The color of the best is a beautiful bright green, so welcome in Winter. Winter greens!
I have spent the week producing product for market. Salve, Tea, Tincture.
I started on a Sunday a couple of hours a day and finished by Thursday. Making product is fun of course and time consuming, it becomes meditative. I could do nothing else, writing, reading, no blog last week, barely any communication. A labor of love. I want to go to market from October - March until I sell out. A small batch operation. Should give me money for seeds, supplies, etc. It is also an opportunity to get out into the community and share herbal information. I’m looking forward to it as much as making money.
I have gone to market at Stone Barns and with Honey Locust in the past, but last summer I had the opportunity to vend and present at Neetopk Keetopk’s Medicine Pauwau (www.neetopkkeetopk.org). It was exciting and fun and the first time I had my own booth.
Each vendor shared their work in forty minute sessions. A Medicine Pauwau is a community gathering to discuss a hypothetical situation we may face in the future. It consists of four councils - children, women, young men and elders (men). Each council discusses the situation separately and when the councils have reached a decision, the four councils come together and share. It is a wonderful community process.
Two weeks have passed since Flora Jones Garden ended. I have to assimilate the extra energy. It’s weird. I am constantly lit. I have moved SDG to Thursdays so now I have Wednesday open. It is welcome right now because Twuck is still in the shop - now a month - and I have been taking public transportation to A Farm for All! on Tuesdays, a three and a half hour trip. The first week the bus had tire trouble! Beacon has a free Loop Bus that I can catch right in front of the house to get to the train. There is an hour and a half wait for the bus when I reach Poughkeepsie, though. I take my IPad and manage my communication, but I think I want to carry something to read as well. I got sooo bored last Tuesday, but upon gazing out of the window of the bus, I was met with Autumn hue and filled with joy! The boredom was sooo discombooberating I had to take Motherwort to straighten me out. (Leonarus cardiaca, Labiatae, Perennial, Europe), Leonarus cardiaca means Lionheart and Motherwort works wonders for anything heart related. A dropperful of Tincture (whole plant in flower) every five minutes for anxiety, two dropperfuls three times a day for high blood pressure (results in about a month) and three dropperfuls for sleep. Mum told me about the three dropperfuls for sleep. I had given it to her because HER INSULIN GAVE HER HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE and she called me up to tell me how good Motherwort is for sleep. It was perfect timing because I had insomnia at the time. Puts one right out in about thirty minutes. Motherwort can be habit forming.
I continue to make Zucchini bread and Tomato sauce. This week I have harvested Cabbage and begin to make sauerkraut. I look back fondly on the time I discovered the joy of processing the harvest. I remember how daunting working land seemed to be and then “Oh no, I have to harvest and process this stuff!” Now it is a wonderful meditative sensual experience. Warm tomato squishing between my fingers to remove the seed for Tomato sauce. The scent of drying tomatoes in the oven. Licking the bowl like a child after making Zucchini bread and now squishing the Cabbage with salt to start the fermentation process to make sauerkraut! What a failure the first time I tried to make sauerkraut! Now I realize, there’s no trying at all. I simply have to get the fermentation going and it makes itself. I have some Zucchini left after making eight loaves of bread so I am going to try my hand at Zucchini fritters.
I’ve gotten in Sage bed at Hiddenbrooke. Looking forward to those gorgeous flowers next season. Salvia officinalis, Labiatae, Perennial, Mediterranean, North Africa. Sage is used culinarily as well as in ceremony. I burn Sage at the Winter Solstice to clear the space for the fresh new energy of the new year. I have made Sage Honey and had Sage tea over the last few Winters. I also like to smoke her in a blend with Catnip and Mullein. Many Mint family plants are good for colds mainly the aromatic ones. Sage leaf tea is an antiseptic, nerve and blood tonic. White Sage (Salvia apiana, Labiatae, Perennial, Southwest Turtle Island and North Western Mexico) is the traditional Sage burned in ceremony by the indigenous of our Turtle Island.
Hiddenbrooke takes shape - very exciting. I was wrapped up weeding beds this season, but I’m going to use hay for weed control from now on. I did manage to lay black plastic in Summer to kill the grass so, Sage bed was a piece of cake. I did not have to pull grass, just lay Compost. I finished Valerian bed with plants from Flora Jones Garden. I redid Valerian bed and laid Compost (Valeriana officinalis, Valerianaceae, Perennial, Europe, West Asia). I had forgotten I laid Compost for Valerian at Flora Jones. Some plants do just fine without Compost, but Valerian has struggled. Valerian is a well know sleep aid available in health food stores. Usually the root is used, but if it’s too strong, the flowers can be used. Also good for headache, muscle cramps and irritable bowel syndrome. And can be used topically for wounds, ulcers and eczema.
The adventure continues closing out the gardens. There is a lovely sense of accomplishment at the end of the season. Removing the plants and laying down hay putting beds to sleep. It’s life itself, the great cycle of life dwelling with Earth through the seasons. Harmony.
Art entered my life in 2012 when my dear friend Vickie of miss vickie music asked me to produce a dreamcatcher for an indigenous month in November filled with events in different venues on Main St here in Beacon. The late Rainbow Weaver and I both produced dreamcatchers for the event, hers hung in a gallery and mine on the wall of the Bank Square patio. My dream catcher was given back to Earth hanging on the back catcher fence at University Settlement. Rainbow Weaver’s dreamcatcher still hangs on the wall inside the Education Center at Sargent-Downing.
What does art mean to me? I can recall when Marc and I made our great migration north in 2006, I wanted to give up writing and become a visual artist. I had read Carlos Castaneda and he mentioned thought without words and I still don’t know what it means. Or in this moment, perhaps it means the quiet mind of meditation. I was reacting to the limitation of words and how words have been used to categorize and label people forever locking them into imagery that brings them harm and degradation. I hated words then, although words have been my art since I became self aware at twelve years old.
Living the simple life I have the great pleasure of studying whatever I want. Using the library to find origins that help my empathic self make sense of this challenging world. I borrowed Art Through the Ages by Helen Gardner from another good friend, Betty Harkins. Of course art begins in ancient cultures, then catalogued and categorized by the Europeans who give us the great Renaissance and Elightenment movements. Art having crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa 8000 - 3000 BCE around the same time writing evolves in the Near East (Western Asia) influencing the “comparatively backward region of Western Europe, still Mesolithic and Neolithic.”
Art is a departure from words for me. Perhaps it is the thought without words. In any case, obviously I am back to writing, but I do have visual art to share. I am a writer, I’ve always been a writer and always will be a writer. I have committed myself to writing in 2019. The writing fast proved fruitful, I now have a relationship with visual art. When I have writer’s block I will break out the acrylics or pastels or watercolors and dance across the page.
A Dreamcatcher is traditionally made with Willow branches so I head out into the wilderness to harvest Willow (Salix alba, Salicaceae, Tree, Europe, W. Asia). Our Turtle Island variety is Salix discolor, the true Pussy Willow occurring in wet areas in Eastern Turtle Island. Willow stem bark is a painkiller, a fever reducer and an original source of salicylic acid for aspirin. In 2012, I was wandering the lands of my new home just before sunrise. The dreamcatcher turned out to be 5’ x 7’. I also gathered Walnuts to dye the string. Walnut (Juglans nigra, Juglandaceae, Tree, Turtle Island). There is also an English Walnut, Juglans regia, also known as Persian Walnut. Walnuts reduce cholesterol, and are added to salad and sweets. In China the nuts are used for wheezing, back and leg pain and constipation. I initially made a small dreamcatcher that just broke and I dismantled it recently. The small dreamcatcher gave me the confidence to approach the large one. The work immediately became a meditation. Thought without words as I weave the string across the ring. The Willow branches are fashioned into a ring. The string is then weaved from different points to form a web. Dreamcatchers are hung over one’s bed to catch bad dreams. I recently noticed I have two beautiful dreamcatchers that hang from my bedpost just above my head. I must have gotten them around the same time. Beads and feathers are woven in as well. Art, thought without words is ringing true in this moment. Mediation. Silence. Departing from the limitation of words into the infinite. Art.
I discovered my Arawak-Caribe cultural heritage around 2010. My mother’s sister, Auntie Pat had always said we were Amerindian and when we moved upstate, Spirit told me to find the natives. I had my first indigenous event in 2010. I understand why European Americans want to hold on to that heritage because whenI discovered I had returned to the region of the world of my cultural heritage, I felt immediately at home in my skin. One generation out of our Caribbean Motherland and we have the opportunity to return home. The problem the European American must face is that this is not your home, however deep in denial you are. Your home is Europe and always will be. You are the First Peoples of Europe. And though you don’t mind continuously destroying the lives of the First Peoples here, Turtle Island will never be your home. You are a conquered people oppressed becoming the oppressor, but we, the First Peoples will always rise and RESIST!
It is delusional to believe that you have created civilization. Evolution has created civilization and you have co-opted all you call culture from black and brown people. Numbers, religion, spiritual practice, commerce, machines, all co-opted in the great march of evolution. We are. There is not I, no individual. It is we interconnected and woven together through the Spirit that runs through all things. No superiority, no exceptionalism, WE.
Harmony with All. Tolerance, acceptance, allowance. We are all allowed. One big human family. Our differences make us strong and dynamic. We are bored with black and white, heterosexual, Judeo Christian. Let’s blend everything else to release the magic of being human.
Autumn Equinox and we head into the darkest nights of the year. The days have been shortening since Summer Solstice June 21, becoming noticeable around August. We bow to the deep dark and withdraw back and in and down in reflection and visions of the season 2020. I like to write an assessment this time of year looking back over the season and what went well and not so well.
Truck went out last week and we got them up to the mechanic thinking it was the trasnsmission. It turns out the wire harness had an electrical fire sometime ago and the issues have just manifested. We have a 1998 Chevy Tahoe, one of the last models with barn doors. We were just getting into the electronic age with push button 4 x 4. Barn doors are excellent for an edible landscaper for obvious reasons. The only other better option would be a pickup truck. Tahoe is a great truck. We will go take a look today to decide on replacing the wire harness.
It’s time to put the gardens to sleep. I cleared out Garlic bed at SDG and laid down hay. I started early this season because I didn’t get all the beds finished by mid-November when I travel to Miami for Thanksgiving. Hay suppresses weeds and feeds the soil. Come Spring, I just have to move the hay aside and plant. Hay is the Winter coat for the beds.
I say good-bye to Flora Jones Garden after nine years. It was my experimental garden, where I had the opportunity to learn edible landscape and go wild! I cannot be sad for the end because it is time. Family and friends have expressed their chagrin and I am aging and probably should cut back on gardens, not to mention I could use another day to develop as a businesswoman. Flora has asked me to finish at the end of the month and I am delighted. I developed an edible landscape. I let the land be itself and show me her beauty, her bounty. I harvested Wild Salad out of Flora Jones. She will be missed, but I cannot be sentimental. I have to take my leave. I look forward to my new adventure.
A Farm for All! is in a good place. We have had our first annual fundraiser. We have gotten a grant to offer Solidarity Shares for White Pine’s Herbal CSA. We will be able to offer free and half priced CSA shares to three low income communities. We look for new community members. Look for our post on Craigslist in Hudson Valley and North Connecticut.
I have five beds to open and plant at Hiddenbrooke - Sage, Lavender, Wormwood and two Comfrey. Hay will be welcome weed control from now on. Hiddenbrooke seems to be a different eco-system. Phlox and Sunrrot have not done very well here. Anise Hyssop comes in much later than other places. We’ll see what Sunroot does next year. Critters eat plants like Echinacea, Valerian and Comfrey like never before. She may be more wild, a half mile in from the main road, DePuyster. More critters have a comfortable home I suppose. I mowed the entire season creating a series of pathways throughout the garden - so fun! I have had black plastic laid out since July to kill the grass for beds. I learn a new space.
I’m harvesting Zucchini and Tomatoes, still making Zucchini bread for potlucks and sauce for Christmas supper. I have also harvested Corn (Zea maize, Graminae, Annual, Turtle Island) and Green Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris, Papilionaceae, Annual, Turtle Island). Corn contains carbohydrates, fiber, protein and vitamin B. Green Beans contain potassium, folic acid, beta carotene and protein.
It is root and seed harvesting time. I will be collecting Amaranth and Lamb’s Quarter seed to add protein to oatmeal and rice. Plantain seeds can be used the same way for omega 3’s. Seeds are often ground into nutrient rich flour. I have my stores of tincture of Burdock, Elecampane and Poke. I will have to check on my market stores.
Thankful for the peace and solace of Autumn Equinox. An opportunity to pause and savor before the dip down into the deep dark and hibernation. I take a tip from Bear and rest, rest. We are entitled to all the blessings life has to offer by the very fact that we were born. Joy, love and peace to you and yours this Autumn Equinox.