I’ve been celebrating Juneteenth for a few years now. Like Kwanzaa, one never knows the depth of the history of the event until one gets the chance to lift one’s gaze from survival (read the rat race) to investigate. The force, the strength, the will of the South to run roughshod over American law is astonishing, but at least we are getting full stories these days. Juneteenth is the celebration of the end of slavery when troops reached Texas in 1865 to inform 800,000 slaves they were free. The Civil War ended in 1863 and slavery was abolished but it took two years for the slaves in Texas to find out. Some say the plantation owners wanted one more harvest before they complied with the new law. Around the same time I learned about Juneteenth, I realized that on the Fourth of July 1776, slavery existed for almost another hundred years in America. I love fireworks and Marc and I used to walk down to Memorial Park here in Beacon to watch the fireworks on Independence Day. Empowered these days by the protests I am investigating further the black perspective on the Fourth of July.
Frederick Douglass gave the most compelling speech when it came to the black perspective on Indepandence Day:
"The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro"
Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too, great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory....
...Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?
Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation's sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation's jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the "lame man leap as an hart."
But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!
"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."
Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!" To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery, the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate; I will not excuse"; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.
But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, "It is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, an denounce less; would you persuade more, and rebuke less; your cause would be much more likely to succeed." But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!
For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian's God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!
Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.
What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.
What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed.
At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation's ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival....
...Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. "The arm of the Lord is not shortened," and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from "the Declaration of Independence," the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. -- Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.
The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, "Let there be Light," has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. 'Ethiopia, shall, stretch. out her hand unto God." In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:
God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o'er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th' oppress'd shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom's reign,
To man his plundered rights again
God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end,
And change into a faithful friend
God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant's presence cower;
But to all manhood's stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his Prison-house, to thrall
Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I'll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive --
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate'er the peril or the cost,
The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Volume II
Pre-Civil War Decade 1850-1860
Philip S. Foner
International Publishers Co., Inc., New York, 1950
It is heartening to read for the very first time. We (black folks) can now place our contribution in perspective and be proud of ourselves. I am proud of us. We built America structurally and economically. It is undeniable. The former slave did not celebrate Independence Day until the end of the Civil War and it appears they coopted the holiday to the great chagrin of the white Southerner. (The Atlantic “When the Fourth of July was a Black Holiday, July 3, 2018). Frederick Douglass preferred to celebrate the holiday on July 5 “to better accentuate the difference between the high promise of the Fourth and the low realities of life for African Americans, while also avoiding confrontations with drunken white revelers.”
After slavery was abolished and might I say in great black tradition, we created a celebration all our own. The celebration got so large in Charleston South Carolina, they started calling it the Too-la-Loo for a dance created to poke fun at the “elite courtship rituals of their former masters.”. Let’s start calling Independence Day Too-la-Loo! Of course white southerners rose up to squash these celebrations and interestingly enough Confederate and Union veterans actually buried the hatchet and joined forces to eliminate the celebrations.
Go hunt your lover, Too-la-loo!
Go find your lover, Too-la-loo!
Nice little lover, Too-la-loo!
Oh! I love Too-la-loo!
The lady then selects a gentleman, and the two get into the ring, when they perform a jig. While the gentleman dances, the crowd sings the following verse:
Gentleman motion, Too-la-loo!
Watch dat motion, Too-la-loo!
Bull frog motion, Too-la-loo!
Oh! I love Too-la-loo!
Then the lady performs and the crowd sings:
Lady motion, Too-la-loo!
Nice little motion, Too-la-loo!
Pigeon motion, Too-la-loo!
Oh, I love Too-la-loo!
Then the lady and gentleman have a pas-de-deux, during which the refrain is changed by an injunction:
Salute your lady, Too-la-loo!
Kiss dat lady, Too-la-loo!
Berry nice lady, Too-la-loo!
Oh I love Too-la-loo!
At this stage of the performance the gentleman gives the lady a turn, embraces her, smacks her lips and permits her to retire. He then goes through the same performance, selecting another ‘lover’ for the occasion.
At a very moderate calculation, there were fifty rings performing this dance, in different portions of the Garden, and it was entered into with a zest which kept up the sport from 8 o’clock in the morning until after midnight. By sundown ten hours of the performance had worked up the participants into a moist state of patriotism which was equal to the (s)centennial emergency, and it was kept up by moonlight until long after midnight.” (Charleston County Public Library, Too-la-Loo for the Fourth of July)
One can’t help but smile when one says Too-la-Loo!
Friends, I find myself at an interesting time in my gardening life. My gaze is shifting toward big land. My gardens in Beacon – Hiddenbrooke and SDG are planted and I have help. Working at White Pine (www.whitepinecommunityfarm.com) this season, I have had the time to read what Ben refers to as “the bible,” The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer by Jeff and Melanie Carpenter and now I want herbs on my other partner farm Seed Song (www.seedsongfarm.org). We planted herbs at Seed Song that Creek had transplanted out of Groundwork when I was leaving the space. The planting could not be maintained, but I have checked on the plants annually since, as well as harvesting Goldenrod and I’m considering harvesting Joe Pye Weed this season because it grows wild up there. I’m realizing now that I have my Herbal Family of Plants at Hiddenbrooke, I’m free to roam and wild craft everything else. Schedule the time to harvest just like any garden chore. My time is opening up so I can venture into other realms. It’s time for long term acquisition of herbs and learning the lay of the land throughout Dutchess and Ulster counties! The Carpenters are in Vermont and are promoting the idea of full herb farms in America supporting the supply chain. Many herbs are imported. My work is native and restorative so it fits right in. It’s all coming together in my mind in this moment – very exciting. Big Land! And two, maybe three (Wildseed, www.wildseedcommunity.org) gorgeous spaces to roam.
The membership at SDG, Sarah Carlisle, Celia Reissig and Terri Pahucki, are lovely and we are working well together. So much work gets down so fast, it makes my head spin. The new herb bed this season is so exciting! We have been harvesting most recently Kale and Cucumbers and now we are close to finishing planting. This week we planted Beans and Squash as well as Bush Beans. Many hands make short work.
Hiddenbrooke is my cultivated Herbal Family of Plants:
Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Red Bergamot, (Bee Balm), Monarda didyma, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Wild Bergamot, Mondarda fistulosa, Labiatae, Shrub, Turtle Island
Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia horta, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Bleeding Heart, Dicentra eliminates, Fumariaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis, Ranunculaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae, Perennial, Europe
Echinacea, Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia, Perennial, Turtle Island
Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis, Caprifoliaceae, Tree, Turtle Island (2021)
Elecampane, Inula helenium, Asteraceae, Perennial, Europe
Marigold, Tagetes patula, T. minuta, Asteraceae, Annual, Mexico, Guatemala (T. patula), Peru (T. minuta)
Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum, Asteraceae, Annual, Southwest Europe
Chocolate Mint, Mentha x piperita, ‘Chocolate,’ Labiatae, Africa, Eurasia
Peppermint, Mentha x piperita, Labiatae, Africa, Eurasia
Spearmint, Mentha spicata, Labiatae, Africa, Eurasia
Nettle, Urtica dioica, Urticaceae, Perennial, Mexico
Phlox, Phlox subulata, Polemoniaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Sage, Salvia officinalis, Labiatae, Perennial, North Africa, Mediterranean
St. Joanswort (St. Johnswort), Hypericum perforatum, Guttiferae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Sweet grass, Hrerechloe odorata, Graminae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Valerian, Valeriana officinalis, Valerianaceae, Perennial, West Asia, Europe
Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, Asteraceae, Perennial, North Africa, Eurasia
Creating this list is as much for you dear reader, as it is for me. To see my Herbal Family of Plants on the page fills me with the imagery of food and medicine. My herbal medicine chest has carried Marc and I health-wise lo this many years. I have studied herbs since 2001. Twenty years! I am experienced! Definitely can see what skills ten years in the field have given me. The season is second nature – heck first nature, as intrinsic as walking and talking. The way it oughta be if you ask me. Gardeners can’t live without gardening. Like caged Hummingbird, we would die.
We shift to shade plants at Sally Garden. I have spent five years planting my Herb Family of Plants, but the garden is a shade garden. I’m growing Pleurisy Root that likes woodland areas. I want to thin Elecampane and bring her up. I’m also considering Lavender, Ginseng and Goldenseal. Lean in to the forest dwellers. I’m inspired by the Ramps we planted last year. We already have Comfrey, Wild Bergamot and Sweetgrass that should be transplanted into sunnier spots. Next steps at Sally Garden.
Misha Cottage Garden has been a hoot. I just got the book Cottage Garden Flowers by Gertrude Jekyll. Too exciting. I believe I heard of Gertrude Jekyll way back at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. You couldn’t have told me then I would be perusing her writings like an old pro! I may be humble to a fault and have no esteem whatsoever, but it has afforded me the opportunity to maintain Beginner’s Mind and delight in every adventure. We have a dry section of the Cottage Garden to plant. Sage, Lavender, etc. Also a bulb section.
I still have to weed Elecampane and Marshmallow at White Pine. I have had to spend time in the office in the past weeks, but I’ll just keep looking for the opportunity. I want to organize the compost piles come Autumn. Next season will be more organized. Manage the office until April 1 when I head out to the field. First Tuesdays for bill pay and our in-house newsletter Farmhouse News. Solstice/Equinox for our public newsletter. I am a bit obsessive compulsive, but I wouldn’t have been able to last this long in the field if I wasn’t. I love record keeping. I love Staples and Michaels for all the organizing capability they offer me. I love the smell of stationary! Ten years in the field has taught me organizing, numbers, planning start to finish. I have applied these skills to every opportunity that has come my way and what an adventure it has been! Here’s to the next ten years.
New Moon Prayer Week peaceful and quiet. Email, social media, etc. are a job in and of themselves. During Prayer Week, communication is a breeze. Marc was home two months due to Covid-19. Now we have a glimpse of what life should be. How many of us don’t wan to go back to the way it was? I am thankful for this weeklong respite. I rise at dawn these days. I have been menopausal for about three years now and here has been a stretch of no flow for a few months. So much change. Marc and I rose at dawn while he was home, drifting off to sleep around 10 or 11pm. I don’t have to take him to the train these days, it’s simpler for him to carpool with Metro-North on holiday schedule. He renovates an office in the midst of a city with boarded up windows. So I go back to sleep and rise at dawn. I used to drive him to the train and then return home to write or communicate, 4:35am. It seems then I was younger, I wanted to be in line with life as it occurred, but now I want to rest when I need it. My schedule shifted this season without Flora Jones Garden. Instead of three gardens in Beacon, I have two and I’m now scheduling garden work at White Pine. I’m also working longer in the gardens.
This New Moon feeling sick from drinking alcohol for the umpteenth time, I’m finding the vision and the strength to perhaps, maybe, someday stop drinking all together. Wonder of wonders. It’s a Caribbean cultural heritage thing just like the Irish so it won’t be easy. My colon feels like cardboard, dry and irritated. I can’t lie my last round was two Cosmos and four shots of Tequila, not to mention chocolate ice cream and white Wine. After two weekends if imbibing, my colon said ENOUGH! and has given me hell for a week. As if she has a memory and lies in wait for the opportune moment to remind me she’s in there and processing my indulgences. I’m coming out of it now feeling better, but my highest self is asking me to let go. I look up at my Post-It note for New Moon Prayer Week - “no judgment, news, social media.” Guilt over abusing myself over a lifetime slips away. I’m only human after all. This game ain’t for the faint of heart. We cope. I did head up Mount Beacon to the first switchback lookout to pray. I hadn’t been up there in a few years. I’m always amazed at the anxiety that accompanies the raise in heart rate. I could have sat up there all day. Again the stillness, the quiet, the peace. It is good this life, what we’ve made of it.
We’re developing education programming at A Farm for All! so I taught two resident community members, Tamara and Devon how to grow this season. Now it is marvelous to have one’s own journey as a grower, but nothing can prepare one for the joyful wonder and delight of passing the knowledge on and to see that same wonder and delight in others. Tamara was over the Moon when I arrived at A Farm for All! Tuesday. She had begun to harvest! Ben had thrown his finished micro greens trays into the beds so Tamara and Devon were now getting the leaves from those micro greens. She made codfish for us with a tasty green from the garden. The two of them have herbs, Tomato, Cabbage, Peppers, Curry, Peas, Beets. I’m proud and happy for them. We growers cannot live without gardening. I will incorporate White Pine as one of my spaces next season and have a full schedule outside. The goal now is to learn what the Core (Ben, Phil, Tamara and I) are capable of and scale up from there.
The membership at SDG were away this week so I got a chance to spend the day alone in the garden. What a sweet remembrance of years past just futzing around in the garden. I still had Lavender and White Sage that could go in. Corn is sporadic this season so I transplant from mounds to have at least two corn plants per mound. I weeded Sage bed, mowed and watered so full of love for this wonderful garden of ten years. My old friend Goldee Greene has included us in a story on Beacon Gardeners in the Beacon Free Press this week. We are fundraising for the next ten years (Paypal, Venmo - Sargent-Downing Gardens). Yarrow is in flower. The flowers can be harvested for tea. Shannon had a full season of tea and Yarrow meals on a retreat last season. Yarrow is wild at Hiddenbrooke and SDG, but we planted a section in the Spiral at SDG.
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, Asteraceae, Perennial, West Asia to Europe
Yarrow is one of those herbs that we don’t mind having naturalized on Turtle Island. She quaintly blends in with the landscape. The spicy leaves can be chopped into Wild Salad. The flowers have been used to flavor liqueur. The flowers are a digestive and cleansing tonic. They are also diuretic and can be used to reduce high blood pressure. Fresh leaves can be used as a poultice to stop bleeding, treat wounds and shaving cuts. Flowers can be used for eczema. Our native people have used a root decoction for strengthening muscle.
It’s also time to harvest St. Joanswort (St. Johnswort). I’ve mentioned in the past I’ve found five native varieties in A Gardener’s Guide to Florida Native Plants by Rufino Osorio - St. Andrew’s Cross (H. hypericoides), Weeping St. John’s - Wort (sic), (H. lissophloeus), Myrtleleaf St. John’s - Wort (H. myrtifolium, Aromatic St. John’s-Wort (H. reductum) and Blueleaf St. John’s-Wort (H. tetrapetalum). Won’t it be fun when I find those varieties in Florida and figure out their properties!
St. Joanswort (St. Johnswort), Hypericum perforatum, Guttiferae, Perennial
Renamed for our heroine Joan of Arc. A fitting tribute to one of our bravest. St. Joanswort is one of the allies that are habitually found in the Herbalist’s medicine cabinet. Once you’ve gotten her in the ground and that first season comes when you can harvest the flowers it is beyond delightful. Flowers put up in oil makes for the most soothing muscle ache remedy and put up in alcohol, make for the most soothing anti-depressant. Taken together is ecstasy. When I began farming, the first issue was back pain. I had the two remedies available so on my way out the door to work I took two dropperfuls of St. Joan tincture and rubbed my back down with her oil. By mid-morning a giggle escaped my lips and I knew it was St. Joan. The subtlety of plant medicine can be unnerving. The power of the plants is so profound that one can hardly believe they have worked so effectively.
Alas, I have not gotten Black Krim Tomato or Parsley this season. There is still a chance for Parsley, but Black Krim is hard to find even in a good year without a pandemic. The Tomato I saved the seed from last season, may not have been at its peak. It is the first time I will not have Black Krim. I’m in mourning. Last season I wa able to get Curly Parsley (my favorite) starts at Adams (www.adamsfarms.com), our local farm turned well-stocked grocery store, carrying a lovely array of their own products, cheeses, local farm goods and breads, but many plants were wiped out this season due to Covid-19. I placed a request on Facebook for Black Krim and I’ve started another tray of Parsley fingers crossed. One lone plant is coming up in the tray I started back in April. I did get a few late last year. I’m going to start the Parsley on the deck May 1 next season. It is the second season I did not get them in the greenhouse.
Prayers for all of us. Health and safety through Covid-19. Power and safety through the protests. How do we change hearts and minds? Are these sad, miserable beings the descendants of the Dark Ages, plotting revenge in the cold dank caves Pre-Europe perhaps 500 years? Hate is much more difficult to maintain than love, and yet some of us have evolved to hate. Hate hurts. Have you every tried to hate someone? What a waste of energy. Don’t we have so many better things to do with our energy. Much easier to go with the flow. Yet these haters are locked in this sadistic dance. We lift them up in prayer.
I awaken to George Floyd crying out for mercy in the hour of his death. How do we feel in that hour? George called out for his Mama. Facing the abyss because of an accusation. An accusation in which a white man has revealed that upon finding he was holding a counterfeit bill in his bank with security and a cop in witness, was handed back the bill and sent on his way.
I’m working hard to not let my life and my work fade away in the midst of global unrest amidst Covid-19. It gets easier as the days go by. At least I’m not crying daily anymore. Time to get on with it. Thank goodness for the sunshine and my gardens. The Establishment will never stop the dawn, the flow of the waters, Sun and Moon across the sky. I bathed in the showers yesterday! There’s nothing like a Spring shower, heck a shower Spring or Summer, which is Saturday, by the way.
Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and the days proceed to get shorter. It takes a couple of months to actually notice, but make no mistake, we are heading into the wan of the season. That time of year to pull back and in and down and bask in gratitude, starting to assess the season. I have downloaded the soundtrack to Cry Freedom and it makes me smile. A lovely tribute to Steven Biko, a strong and amazing hero of apartheid. What if we protested using the Toyi Toyi like our South African brothers and sisters? The strong rapturous vocals on the soundtrack lift my soul to the heavens.
Black people worldwide, a rhythm in their step, walk through this world with grace. We can point fingers, but we only need look to the greatest empire the world has ever known - Egypt and Pharoah and the Jewish slaves to gain clarity on the march of empire through human civilization. An Exodus that possibly sparked the displacement of the Palestinian (Canaanite?), the power structure at the heart of our struggle today as Amerikkka and Israel defend themselves agains the international criminal court. Amerikkka is officially accountable to no one. Now I know why the president is the most powerful person in the world.
Anyhooo, the days have been amazing. The gardens are planted for the most part. Tomatoes, Peppers are going in at SDG and I have Fennel for the first time, woohoo! Sunroot are in all the gardens, my long term plan. Can’t wait to see those sweet yellow flowers in the breeze. Hiddenbrooke winds down, perennials in the ground, just looking like mowing and weeding from here on out. It is an interesting development. I can’t say I didn’t wonder how I was going to fill the entire meadow with herbs. Here is an opportunity to watch the plants take their place naturally. Ten years at SDG and Wild Bergamot, Echinacea, Motherwort and Catnip have made their place. I used our compost on the beds last year and Borage and Lamb’s Ear have returned wild after seven years. At Sally Garden Anise Hyssop travels into the forest. What a gift to engage in the gardens at the ten year mark. We are considering trees - Elderberry, Redbud - and berries at Hiddenbrooke in the coming years. I mow creating pathways around the herb beds which makes a fun design throughout the garden. I used old seed (2012) for Milk Thistle starts (Silybum marianum, Asteraceae, Annual, Asia, Southern Europe) and I didn’t get anything, so I have one last bed covered in black plastic.
Borage, Borago officinalis, Boraginaceae, Annual, Europe
Her flowers have been used to decorate salads and cakes and frozen in ice cubes. The leaves contain minerals. The leaf and flower infusion has been used to treat the adrenal glands easing stress and depression. Reduces fevers, dry coughs, skin rashes and stimulates milk flow. I eat the flowers or drop them in my water in the garden for a sweet lift.
Lamb’s Ear, Stachys byzantina, Labiatae, Perennial, Turkey, Armenia, Iran
No much herbal information on Lamb’s Ear, but what a lovely contrast in the garden with her soft gray leaves and pink flowers.
At fifty-three, winding down and observing is a welcome development. I have had the opportunity to get outside at White Pine Community Farm (www.afarmforallny.org) this season, weeding Lemon Balm, Anise Hyssop and Echinacea beds. We work on maintaining our herb operation since Ben (the head farmer) has moved into micro greens - the money maker. We do have a forty member Herbal CSA that Phil (Ben’s business partner) and I work to maintain this season. It dawned on me at the beginning of the season that Ben was at capacity with the micro greens, the office was in a good place and I could get outside and manage the perennials. I must say they look good right now. I still have to get to Elecampane, Marshmallow and Burdock, but we’re getting there. I realize I should just incorporate the work into my regular growing season. It’s times like these when the gifts of the Spirit fill me with gratitude. My life in service, I am content.
And wonder of wonders, Misha English Cottage Garden takes shape with an array of ornamentals and herbs. As a gardener it is always a delight to engage in a new style. As I’ve mentioned, I was born in England so an English Cottage Garden is near and dear to my heart. We spend hours in nurseries looking for varieties that Misha has researched over the years. Perhaps its time to find a book on the subject. Last Autumn, we planted Valerian and Comfrey. I brought Misha the plants and when I arrived, I couldn’t start planting without organizing her garden supplies which led to her becoming a client. “I want an English Cottage Garden,” she said and my wittle English heart skipped a beat and I was immediately intrigued. I can always dash off into fantasies of being royal - Queens and Kings, Dutchesses and Dukes. We can be snobs for a day in Misha’s English Cottage Garden. I am working in the garden once a month and our first planting was:
‘Gold Heart’ Old-fashioned Bleeding Heart, Dicentra spectabilis,
Clematis ‘Jackmanii,’ Clematis x Jackmanii
Donahues Clematis Gillian Blades
Columbine ‘Crimson Star’, Aquilegia hybrid
Zagreb Threadleaf Coreopsis, Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’
Montauk Daisy, Nipponanthemum nipponicum
’Radiant Rose’ Spotlight Series Hollyhock, Alcea rosea
Oriental Lily ‘Stargazer,’ Lilium orientale
Peach Drift Rose ‘Meiggli’, Rosa ‘Drift Peach’
Sedum Autumn Joy, Sedum spectabile
Profusion Double Fire Zinnia
Vinca, an estate groundcover, is planted in all the beds and as we plant, we transplant Vinca to the slope to match the other side of the stairs from the sidewalk to the house which has an established Vinca stand. From what I understand so far, we have planted perennials and then we are filling in with annuals for instant color.
Our second planting is:
Canna, Cannova Yellow
Dahlia hybrid, ‘Mystic Illusion’
Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus,’ Magnus Purple Coneflower
Hibiscus hybrid, Summerific ‘Berry’ Awesome
Tradewinds Hibiscus, Sunny Wind
Lavender, French Phenomenal
Rose White Dawn, Large-flowered Climber
Salvia nemorosa ‘Lyrical Blues’
Salvia nemorosa ‘May Night’
Native and restorative are out the window as are botanical names and families replaced with the creator of the particular plant. Flower breeding is easily on the level of dog breeding, inventors holding as much pride in their creation. Only the most beautiful of plants are a consideration in an English Cottage Garden, no doubt an array of plants from the former English colonies. Plants have been colonized as well. Leads one to wonder, what did England do before they “discovered” vividly colored plants, not to mention “exotic spices for food. I am excited to research and find out the origins of the English Cottage Garden plants.
Worldwide protest is exciting. We have found our common ground. Empire is the struggle throughout the ages. It is Europe’s turn. We have African, Asian, including East Indian empires that occurred in BC, which may have been 300,000 years. Is anyone counting? Empire is the battle, we the people have struggled against throughout human civilization. The fight is always for the people no matter the current empire. Power to the People! ✊🏽
I had been married a year when Amadou Diallo was killed by New York City police in 1999. It was shocking, but I knew that it was the next stage of racism we, black people as a people would have to endure. I thought about his family who had made it possible for him to travel to New York, the greatest city in the world, full of opportunity, only to be snuffed out in a hail of bullets. So quick, so easy. It was in the midst of Rudy Giuliani’s Quality of Life campaign which began to remove all the grit and charm that we all had come to love as Manhattan. No more smokin weed or drinking beer on the street, not even in a paper bag. Cops were coming out of the suburbs, only having heard about the hood through rap and the media - as usual, white, fearful, believing in inevitable annihilation and wanting to take it out on anyone they could. We all asked the obvious question. Why don’t they aim for the leg or the arm, why a barrage of bullets aiming to kill?
The Central Park 5 had already happened in 1989. I was living in New York two years and I saw the full page Donald Trump ad and I thought what do five teenage boys have to do with his day to day life? I did not know that people like Guiliani and Trump thought that the city was going to hell in a hand basket because of us, people of color. Never mind that our neighborhoods had been flooded with drugs in the 60s right up and through the 80s when the streets were then flooded with guns. We now know, through redlining, those same neighborhoods were marginalized and starved of opportunity, jobs, homes everything that the pursuit of happiness was supposed to promise.
My family left Queens for Miami when I was twelve because my mother saw what was coming. She wanted a better life for us and could afford to give it to us. We are the Caribbean “upper middle class” as Mum would say. House, two cars, dog, the American dream hard won through the Caribbean diaspora through Europe to America. Mummy and Daddy taught us to be respectful of the police, to stay out of harms way. My brothers had their brushes with the law, but our tight knit family unit softened the judges’ hearts and they gave them leniency. To this day, I have been to one vigil, for Samuel Harrell in Beacon who was murdered by a tortuous sadistic “beat up squad” in Fishkill Correctional Facility in 2015. I believe in building community, not fighting against the system, but, there comes a day like today when one must join the fight. And I know why the protest has gone worldwide (thankfully), where we, the marginalized, now a majority of us across the races, realize our common bond. Human race.
I am pained to the point of immobilization some days. First Covid, now this. The American Empire crumbles like any other empire before, 400 years in. We have no idea where we will end up. We do know that our lives will never be the same. And what of this angry, fearful being, this white character, pushed into the cold dank caves of Europe before Europe. What did the North African, Sumerian, Persian borders look like back then trying to keep the refugees out. The albino is discriminated against in Africa to this day. What did they think as they huddled for warmth in those Dark Ages? Did they vow revenge? Is the hate still seething in their DNA, that when they got the opportunity for revenge, they would seek to kill their ancestral parents like any deranged child? They hate their shadow selves and their shadow is us. They think their white skin makes them pure. They think they can be rid of us. They think they can eradicate us from the face of Earth. Did it work with the Jews? I think not. And now we gain economic power, we just have to learn to wield it and you dear white people are finished. The future is female and brown, but when women have, everyone has.
Five years after 9/11 we moved upstate because I wanted to farm. We are so blessed to be upstate with Covid-19, but here lies another layer with the protests over the death of George Floyd. They are all around us. We are out of harm’s way. I travel upstate once a week to A Farm for All! to work and the roads are empty, seemingly in a bubble. Marc travels back down to the city the last two weeks to resume work. We take spoonfuls of lacto fermented food (sauerkraut) and dropperfuls of Echinacea and Elderberry tinctures for prevention directed by Susun Weed. We feel safe. But we have to head out to the streets. The gravity of the situation hits home. The world is fed up. The youth abandoned, jobless, locked down, mired by crushing debt from student loans have taken to the streets. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.
What do we do? I write my blog. I maintain my schedule. I garden. I did not know if Earth would be able to take this pain from me today, but just walking through Sally Garden of Eden, told me yes, Earth can and Earth will, not only take my pain, but give me back love. Lay down your burden says Mother Earth and I will hold you up. By the end of the work day, I was gleeful again. We do have to hear a story of a loved one trapped in their apartment at Union Square because theirs so much looting it’s too dangerous to go out.
In the midst of New Moon Prayer Week George Floyd is killed so I don’t enter the fray until the end of the week. I can hardly believe my eyes. Not to be brash, but did Officer Chauvin cum on himself as the life drained out of George Floyd’s body? Is it a rush? Does that genetic hate bubble up inside of you and you feel like you have done your part for the absurd notion of white supremacy? Have you forgotten that we, the people of color taught you about empire? Perhaps you are our chickens coming home to roost when we abandoned you into the Dark Ages. Perhaps we fortified our borders like you seek to fortify this border that never was, is not nor ever will be yours. This country is red, the indigenous people remain. The only white area of the world is Europe, step outside your borders and folks are immediately brown. And the immigrants come from your former colonies. Black and brown.
I have bought Tarot of the Orishas this year to add to my collection of decks. I have been studying the spreads during New Moon Prayer Week. A deck with dramatic depictions of the Orishas against intricate backgrounds. A mixture of white and brown people. New Moon Prayer Week is a break for me. I have decided to journal and have no judgment, no news or social media. The days become very peaceful. Last Prayer Week I dreamt of the Goddess for the first time. This New Moon, I acknowledge the confidence I have gained from engagement in my various endeavors. I believe human evolution of bias is gender, class and race in that order and race is relatively new. Empires have risen and fallen, female, male, black, brown, yellow, red and now white. Absolute power corrupts absolutely no matter who is at the helm. Will we finally learn that we are all created equal and all these differences are a human construct and can be wiped away like a mandala.
My lovely women at Sargent-Downing give me the opportunity to focus on areas of the garden I have not had the chance to pay attention. In the last two weeks we have planted
Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Beet, Beta vulgaris, Chenopodiaceae, Annual, Assyria
Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum, Annual, North Africa, West Asia
Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae, Perennial, Europe
Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis, Labiatae, Perennial, South Europe
Nigella, Nigella sativa, Ranunculaceae, Annual, Southwest Asia, Meditteranean
Pea, Pisum sativum, Papilionaceae, Annual, Mediterranean, Europe
Sage, Salvia officinalis, Labiatae, North Africa, Mediterranean
Sunroot, Helianthus tuberosus, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, Labiatae, Shrub, West Mediterranean
We’ve opened up a bed I’ve never used for all the herbs. I have a fellow herbalist in the garden with me this season and she’s only grown communally in community gardens. We geek out regularly on herbs. What fun! We open up Three Sisters bed and plant Corn. Three Sisters is a native American tradition of planting Corn, Beans and Squash as companion plants. Beans grow up the Corn and enriches the soil and Squash shades out the weeds. It is delightful to engage in the tradition. We create sixteen mounds of soil in a thirty foot bed forming them into a volcano shape and plant the Corn seeds in the four directions. When Corn is six inches we plant the Beans inside the volcano and Squash outside the volcano. I have not had luck with Squash, but I think I will start the seeds in a tray on the deck and transplant this season. I have been direct seeding all along. I have had to move to starts with certain plants like Sunflower in recent years because they have been hit or miss otherwise. We live and learn. SDG is indigenous land, regifted to the Lenape by Madam Brett, a colonial businesswoman who’s father owned 80,000 acres (Beacon to Poughkeepsie). Her father passed on leaving the land to Madam Brett and her husband. Her husband passed on leaving all of the land to her. She gifted the valley in the mountain to the Lenape.
Hiddenbrooke is an engagement in the wild. I am hard pressed to weed out Yellow Dock and Mullein who have shown up in Echinacea bed (Echinacea purpurea, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) this season. The work is to establish Echinacea, but now I have these possible companion plants, that I think, should stay. Anise Hyssop establishes herself finally after six years of me not realizing she is a forest dweller. Somehow thinking because she occurs in the midwest, she would like full sun. Again we live and learn. Red Bergamot plants have finally shown up in the mail and I opened up the bed this week.
2020 is my tenth year gardening on my own. I’m realizing my experience with the plants. Outside of native/restorative, in the last couple of years I’m considering companion plants. Those plants that grow together without overtaking one another. Native belief (Choctaw) is that families of plants are those that grow next to one another. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris, Asteraceae, Perennial, North Africa, Siberia, Europe) has been the greatest challenge, but she grows amicably with Sunroot (Helianthus tuberosus, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island), while Echinacea, Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island) hold their own amidst Mugwort and Sunroot. Now this season we will monitor Echinacea amidst Mullein and Yellow Dock. Mullein chooses different spots every season so may not show up in Echinacea bed unless 2020 is year one (Mullein is a biennial). After nine years at SDG, Wild Bergamot has chosen many spots in the garden so I expect the same at Hiddenbrooke. I have planted the perimeter of what we can call Hiddenbrooke meadow (a slope in front of the house) and want to watch who chooses where to migrate. It is an interesting development. Thirty foot beds of herbs I want in quantity and then to allow the wild and cultivated to blend.
Yellow Dock (Rumex obtusifolia, Polygonaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island
I have made decoction with Yellow Dock root and taken it for formication here during menopause. I remembered a friend of mine making it many years ago. A good source of iron especially for women. I use a cup of Yellow Dock leaves in my Nettle soup. I have also made vinegar with Yellow Dock seeds.
Mullein, Verbascum thapsus, Scrophulariaceae, Biennial, Asia Europe
Leaves can be dried and used for infusion with milk for asthmatics. Folklore states that the smoke can be blown into the face of the asthmatic to stop an attack. Mullein flowers can be used to treat eczema and heal wounds. Seed oil can be used for dry skin. Mullein root is diuretic.
Red Bergamot (Bee Balm) Monarda didyma, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Natives have brewed the leaves of Red Bergamot as Oswego Tea. M. citriodora (lemon-scented), M. pectina and M. fistulosa (lemon-oregano-scented) and M. menthifolia and M. punctata (mint-scented) were used as seasoning. Leaves were also infused in oil to be used in hair. The leaves contain antiseptic thymol and can be used for pimples, steam inhaled for colds and steeped for nausea, flatulence and insomnia. I use Wild Bergamot (M. fistulosa) for heartburn for digestive upset throughout the year, especially at the holidays. It is time to harvest Wild Bergamot leaves for tea. Once the flowers appear the leaves get powdery mildew.
I do have my experimental plants, Pleurisy Root (Asclepias tuberosa, Asclepidaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and Red Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata, Asclepidaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) that need woods and wet areas respectively, which I can expand with into A Farm for All! I tried to grow Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) the last time I started Pleurisy Root and Red Milkweed, but I only got three plants. I was thinking to transplant from Seed Song (www.seedsongfarm.org) ( I could to A Farm for All!), but why not just plan to go and harvest at Seed Song? I have harvested Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) for the past two years at Seed Song. My evolution has been from wondering if I wanted the responsibility of land to now visioning big land with access to A Farm for All! and Seed Song. At ten years, I’m all in and dreaming bigger. I also got my beloved White Sage (Salvia apiana, Labiatae, Annual, Turtle Island) our Southwestern Sage annual here in the Northeast. I think I will plant her at SDG.
It is time to harvest Comfrey (in flower).
Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae, Perennial, Europe
One of our European standbys, Comfrey is also called knitbone and I have used Comfrey infusion for recovery after an ear infection, hip pain, and I make a Comfrey Salve for anything from cold sores to cuts and bruises. Comfrey is also good for arthritis and rheumatism.
Hate is learned. Children have to be taught difference. Hate. We are loving, kind beautiful beings. Humans have place artificial constructs on top of our natural inclinations leading to abhorrent unnatural impulses. These haters are hurt, damaged, miserable beings. How did they get here? We are resilient, strong, loving beings. Martin Luther King, Jr. the Saint of our time said that racism is a disease. May we find the cure. May we learn how to treat it. May our black brothers and sisters stop being sacrificed. I offer strength to us all who take to the streets. I participated in my first march last Saturday and every time I have a day off, I will be out there. Solidarity is a strong and uplifting experience. It takes away frustration, confusion, anger, despair. Mother can hear us. Can feel our feet on the pavement. Can watch us kneel for eight minutes and forty-six seconds.
I returned to Sally Garden of Eden this week, social distancing. It was very hard not to hug Sally and her husband Paul, whom I love very much. I felt physically deprived. Sally Garden sits at the the top of the Shawangunck ridge with a rock face in the woods. I also began Misha English Cottage Garden this week pushing myself to five and a half hours to get the poor potted plants in the ground before June. They cried out so loudly.
I offer my Herb Family of Plants in every graden I work with, so Sally Garden has:
Anise Hyssop (already planted, now Sally’s favorite tea), Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae
Burdock (wild) Arctium minus, Asteraceae
Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae
Chocolate Mint, Mentha x piperita ‘Chocolate’
Peppermint, Mentha x piperita
Spearmint, Mentha spicata, Labiatae
Nettle, Urtica dioica, Urticaceae
Sunroot, Helianthus tuberosum, Asteraceae
Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa, Labiatae
Sally harvests and dries the herbs to use through Winter. So fun to label and store the herbs at the end of the season. The challenge with Sally Garden is many areas are shady so the plants aren’t flourishing as much. We decided to place the plants in “the meadow,” the sunniest spot in the garden. Last Autumn we planted Ramps and - so exciting - they are coming up! I want to plant them wherever I can! I hear a spot at the foot of a mountain calling my name..... We also found Trillium, which I have found at A Farm for All! as well. The rest of Sally garden is gorgeous perennial flowers and seven raised bed areas for vegetables.
I brought Comfrey (Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae) and Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Valerianaceae) to Misha’s garden last season and we planted them on the side of the house. They are up and happy in their spot. An English Cottage Garden is a mixture of ornamental and edible plants. A soft, free flowing mixture of flowers. As I said I went long and am totally feeling it today as I write here, but I could not let the plants that had been bought last Autumn, remain in their pots into June. I will be working in the garden monthly. The garden already has a stand of Vinca (Vinca minor, Apocynaceae). As I planted Rose (Rosa sp., Rosaceae, Asia, Turtle Island) and Clematis (Clematis sp., Ranunculaceae, Perennial, Asia), I transplanted the Vinca out of the bed to the grass slope down to the sidewalk. There is already a stand on the opposite side of the stairway that is thriving that indicates Vinca can withstand snow and salt through Winter so we want to continue the look at the bottom of the garden. Vinca along with Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis, Buxaceae, Japan) were a standard estate groundcover in early America and have been naturalized. Heading up the slope we planted Daisy (Leucanthemum sp., Asteraceae, Perennial, Asia, Europe) and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy,’ (Sedum spectacle, Crassulaceae, Perennial, Japan). Daisy and Sedum will be separated by a low white picket fence. Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) went in to the left of the stairs to the house. Hydrangea went in across the path next to Burning Bush (Euonymus alataus, Celastraceae, Shrub, Asia, Poke Forest (Phytollaca americana, Phytollacaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Spiraea (Hybrid Spiraea japonica var. alpina and S. x bulmalda ‘Goldflame’ and more Vinca. On the side of the house we planted Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis, Papaveraceae, Turtle Island), Iris (Iris sp., Iridaceae, Asia) and Columbine (Aquilegia sp., Ranunculaceae, Turtle Island). Obviously, an English Cottage Garden represents the multiple cultures that the English colonized over centuries and any attempt at native planting and restoration that is my method is out the window. Misha and I’s cultural heritage in the Caribbean (Jamaica, Guyana, Dominica) are countries that were colonized by England. I was born in England so we can take aspects of our ‘Mother’ country and incorporate them into our lives as we wish. The English Cottage Garden is going to be sooooo pretty! For me opportunity to explore another type of gardening is a thrill! Zeal got the best of me and the plants wanting to be liberated from their pots, pushed me over the edge and I was worn out for two days.
It is very important to pace oneself whatever work we engage in. Unfortunately the norm is the Protestant work ethic (Max Weber The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism) which I read as work oneself to death. I am a hedonist to be sure, but may I put forth a new hedonism which find pleasure in the harmony with nature. For me the Simple Life is Human 101 and reduces life to the basics - food, shelter and water and once these needs are satisfied, the rest of life is play. I moved upstate for the Simple Life. The peace and freedom that have revealed themselves is a bonus. When I call myself a simpleton, it is in reference to the Simple Life. So here I sit, aching and despondent staring mortality in the face at fifty-three, knowing I overdid it and wondering when I will know relief. I am a physical being and experience the world through my body. I ran track in high school, I commuted to work by bike and rollerblade in Manhattan over twenty years. You haven’t lived until you’ve travelled through rush hour traffic down Fifth Avenue on rollerblades! I can look back fondly now and even giggle, but today “Oh my aching hips!” I look forward to yoga this morning that can realign my mind, body and spirit. As Misha would say “growing old ain’t for sissies!”
I wish to grow old gracefully. Accept every turn and nuance. Menopause is a journey in and of itself. We don’t talk about it enough. Thankfully, our Guardian Angel, Ms. Susun Weed has written a book for us Menopausal Years The Wise Woman Way, that I can consult upon these occasions, when I am undone. Susun says menopause is a “metamorphosis, change at the cellular level.” “The matrix for the three classic stages of initiation: isolation, death and rebirth/reintegration.” Menopause is called the Change of Life and includes “three phases (before menopause, during menopause and after menopause)... each has special needs and offers special challenges.”. There is even Andropause - Male Menopause, a drop of testosterone after forty akin to women’s drop in estrogen. The problem with the Protestant Work Ethic is that all our natural processes are discarded in the pursuit of capitalism - an ecomonic system in which the production and distribution of goods depend on invested private capital and profit-making (Oxford English Dictionary). We are in an endless grind of doing, relieved only by death. I pledge to grow old gracefully, to let my natural processes guide me. I, being physical, have learned to listen to my body.
One excellent development during Covid-19 has been rising with the dawn. When Marc works, he gets on the 4:30am train to Manhattan and I drive him there. One of our goofy love rituals. Commuters have dubbed us “kiss and ride” because I hug and kiss him good-bye at the train station every morning. PDA be damned! Probably just another development under that Protestant work ethic. I would return home after dropping Marc off and write or make art in what I have come to believe are the hours of creation, one can hear creation crackle, the darkness before the dawn, the primordial oooze. I have wondered about our modern observance of time, morning being 12:00am. What if morning is dawn? Thanks to Covid-19, we get to find out. It has made for a quiet entrance into the day, doing what one finds. Sweet. I have missed the primordial oooze, though, mainly because my routine would be over by mid morning. My routine now extends into late afternoon. Marc has returned to work today and I have returned to the darkness before the dawn. I still love it.
I have always loved myself and only wanted to be accepted as I am. With the emphasis on self hatred (religion) in the modern world, there appears to be no place for a natural black woman. Cleo Manago, Behavioral Health Analyst calls the latest hair phenomena “the weave epidemic,” but I have certainly sacrificed assimilation in the process of engagement with the natural world. Black women process and/or alter their hair to procure jobs and advance in this world. But I’m solitary, Ogun, Artemis, better alone. So I have the opportunity to grow old gracefully. To explore me now in the midst of the Great Change. My memory slips away. I have aches and pains. I had a full blown physical breakdown last year after a dog tick bite, developing my belief in mind, body and spirit for health, wholeness, holiness. We are, to be sure. We enter the Earth realm numerous times, I believe. Death, like all natural processes, should be embraced, celebrated. So too, my memory loss, aches and pains. Part of the great dance of life.
It’s time to harvest Nettle friends, Urtica dioica, Urticaceae, Turtle Island
Hang her up to dry to make nourishing herbal infusions in six weeks. I made Nettle soup a couple of weeks ago. Nettle is also good for allergies and diabetes. Nettle has been found in Mexico dating back 8,000 years, thought to have been used for fiber. Nettle can flower anywhere from the 15th - 21st depending on the weather. One wants to get her before flower because harvested in flower can cause stomach upset.
Comfrey is next in flower. Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae, Europe
Curiously, individual plants are growing at different rates at Hiddenbrooke and they are all flowering much smaller due to the cooler temperatures. Comfrey is also known as knitbone and I have used dried leaf infusion for recovery after ear infection and here to soothe my aching hips. Comfrey/Plantain Salve is good for anything from insect bites to acne to cold sores.
I also want to get my first Mint harvest before flowering, Mentha sp., Labiatae, Perennial, Africa Eurasia
I cleared Mint bed, but they are also pretty low due to the cooler temperatures. I use Mint tea through the season as well as the holidays for any stomach upset, colon distress, heartburn. Mint family plants like Wild Bergamot and Anise Hyssop work wonders as well.
Welcome my two lovely gardens, Sally Garden of Eden and Misha English Cottage Garden. I can’t wait for the wonders to be discovered this season. I feel like a child in a toy store at Misha’s garden. I remembered zeal and had a glimpse of my younger self and sit here in my older self laughing to myself at the memory. This life in the natural world full of wonder and delight.
May is upon us and we see the states who have opened up having a spike in Covid-19 cases. I am thankful we have a governor who is standing firm in keeping us closed. We are the epicenter after all. Science journalist Laurie Garrett, who predicted the pandemic in 1994 suggest we may be dealing with Covid-19 for the next three years.
Hiddenbrooke, my herb garden, after three years, now has my Family of Herb Plants. At Groundwork in Wappinger, my former herb garden, I used a cultivator to remove the first layer of soil before I planted. At Hiddenbrooke, I have chosen to cover the beds in black plastic to kill the grass and remove it by hand. The challenge now is the grass growing back and Mugwort. So far I have cleared the Mint beds, which were challenged by grass and other weeds last year. Sage bed is challenged by Mugwort at one end. Currently, I’m working on St. Johnswort bed, removing grass. Hiddenbrooke, which is a mile in from the main road at the foot of the mountain, appears to be its own ecosystem. We have Bear, Bobcat, Coyote, Deer, Fox and Groundhog. Plants like Phlox (Phlox subulata, Polemoniaceae) that have thrived elsewhere, struggle to gain footing. Someone is eating Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Valerianaceae). I realize I’ve been OCD checking for growth on Anise Hyssiop (Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae). As a forest dweller, I realize, the leaf cover aids her growth. I now want to leave Anise Hyssop and Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora, Labiatae) (another forest dweller) to their own devices. I will plant more Skullcap this season, though. Many plants appeared to come up, but ultimately the bed did not fill out. At least I get to have the journey indefinitely this time.
I have three members in the community garden at SDG. Three lovely women with whom it is a pleasure to work. The garden was cleaned so quickly I didn’t know what to do with myself. We have planted
Nettle, Urtica dioica, Urticaceae
Chamomile, Chamaemelum mobile, Asteraceae, Nigella, Nigella sativa, Ranunculaceae and Poppy, Eschscholzia California, Papaveraceae as a Wildflower bed
Radish, Raphanus sativa, Brassicaceae
Carrot, Daucus carota, Umbelliferae
Lettuce, Lactuca sativa, Asteracaceae
Spinach, Spinacia oleracea, Chenopodiaceae
Kale, Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae
Beet, Beta vulgaris, Chenopodiaceae
We are going to plant lots of herbs this season as one of the new members is an herbalist. What fun to geek out on herbs! We have Motherwort volunteers all over the garden so have extended the Motherwort bed to transplant them out of the vegetable beds. We also have Catnip throughout the garden and are transplanting them into a bed also.
White Pine Community Farm is the resident farm at A Farm for All! (AFFA) (afarmforallnys.org). White Pine is primarily an herb farm, but also has a micro greens operation. It is fairly difficult to make a living as an herb farm. Micro greens are a money maker. White Pine has perennial herb beds and after reorganizing AFFA in 2019, three of us in the Core (four of us) has had to step in to manage the herb farm. We offer an Herbal CSA which can continue through mail order and have received funding for Solidarity Shares. With Farmers Markets considered essential, we can still distribute the herbs to our three sites. I have spent the last two weeks cleaning Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis, Labiatae) and Phil has been cleaning Anise Hyssop bed.
I’ve discussed my journey in past blog posts. I am a simpleton and have no need for material things beyond food, shelter and water. Every year is a hustle to get back outside. My mantra is “finance my life outside.” So far so good, twelve years outside, ten years with land. In 2017, I began working with AFFA and Wildseed (www.wildseedcommunity.org) and have had the opportunity to dream bigger, big land. As one travels upstate, the lands open up. AFFA is forty acres with a mountain and Wildseed is 180 acres. Wildseed has not developed as much as AFFA, but they have held a Youth Immersion for the past three years, the first of which I taught an herb class. 2020 is the first year at AFFA that I get to breathe (organizing the space was all consuming), look around and have a season. Office work in a good place, I can now go outside and manage the space as an extension of my herb garden. AFFA is an hour away from Beacon which is why I have my gardens in Beacon. After propagating in the greenhouse and cleaning the Lemon Balm bed, the three of us hiked up the mountain to harvest Ramps (Allium tricoccum, Amaryllidaceae) a native sweet green that I sauté to eat with rice and kidney beans. We harvested a couple of years ago, but the stands were small, but now they’ve flourished. I then went to the wild Nettle patch to harvest Nettle tops for soup. Along the way I can photograph Trillium (Trillium cernuum, Melanthiaceae) and munch on Trout Lily leaves (Erythronium americanum, Liliaceae). We have ten or so beds of perennial herbs that will have to be cleaned. My personal growth is organic, which is slower than the Establishment, but rich in engagement with Spirit.
St. Johnswort, Hypericum perforatum, Guttiferae, Perennial, Turtle Island
I found five species including St. Johnswort in two Florida native plant books. Traditional herb books place St. Johnswort origin in Europe to Central China. We work to also restore the value of Turtle Island plants due to cultural bias. One would think that Turtle Island was a wasteland before colonization. St. Johnswort has been an ally for body pain since I started farming. The flower oil is used topically for muscle ache and her tincture is an anti-depressant found over the counter in pill form as well. Used together is ecstasy. When I began farming, I immediately experienced back pain. I already knew of St. Johnswort and in the morning on my way to Stone Barns, I rubbed the oil on my back and started to take St. Johnswort tincture three times for the day. By mid-morning a giggle escaped my lips and I knew it was my ally St. Johnswort. Use the tincture sparingly as it can increase sensitivity to the sun. Also known as St. Joanswort in the Wise Woman World to honor our heroine Joan of Arc.
Mid-May and the season is afoot. Half way to the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. We now know what crops we will have - a full season of food and medicine. As we head down to Summer Solstice we see gratitude on the horizon. At the very lest amidst Covid-19, we can get outside and continue our relationship with Earth, our Mother, provider, sustainer. Happy growing!
New York remains on lockdown while up to thirty states reopen in varying degrees. There are possibly 1000 strains of coronavirus and the experts learn something new on a regular basis. Dr. Donald James Alcindor at Meharry Medical College is working on an anti-viral drug to treat Covid-19. As of April 22, New York has lost 15,000 people. On 9/11 we lost 3,000 people by comparison. We are blessed that the outbreak occurred at the start of the growing season. Marc may return to work on May 16. Meanwhile he is a whirlwind of organization in the home. Empty shelves and lines outside stores is fairly anxiety producing, not to mention wearing masks, but here we are. Humanity learns a new way, but still tailgating and gloves and masks litter hiking trails. “Sigh,” but I am happy for the natural world, breathing, if only for a moment, a sigh of relief.
I haven’t written about A Farm for All! (AFFA) (www.farmforallny.org) where I have greenhouse space. My original purpose for volunteering at AFFA was greenhouse space. I had lost Groundwork in 2017 where I had greenhouse space and I was looking for a new project after serving seven years as Treasurer at the Beacon Sloop Club (www.beaconsloopclub.org). Initially, I offered to organize AFFA’s office for them in return for greenhouse space. My OCD makes for good filing skills. AFFA incorporated as a non-profit in 2015, but had not organized into a viable entity by 2017. After a few months of filing, I was asked to become Director.
I have spent my Horticulture/Agriculture career in non-profits - Brooklyn Botanic Garden (www.bbg.org), New York Botanical Garden (www.nybg.org) and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture (www.stonebarnscenter.org). Then after seven years with the Beacon Sloop Club, it amounts to twelve years in the non-profit world. Stone Barns was a particularly great experience. Besides the great people, I was their within the first five years and able to witness the development of a non-profit. As I have mentioned, I’ve spent my life making it up as I go along (the way of Spirit), so stumbling upon AFFA has been quite the find. From my experience, I know the basic framework of a non-profit with four leadership positions - President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. Non-profits who pay their officers can have a series of Directors like Clearwater (www.clearwater.org). Beacon Sloop Club is an all volunteer organization and has the basic setup. With these officers a non-profit can function smoothly. I picked up a book Managing the Non-Profit by Peter F. Drucker to hone my skills. I quit college twice in my life being an experiential learner, not to mention I was not willing to go into debt for an education especially after finding out that the CUNY system in New York was free up until 1970. Of course now student loans are a debt crisis in American. Who knew?
According to Drucker, non-profits “exemplify and fulfill the fundamental American commitment to responsible citizenship in the community.” We are in service to community. Non-profits bridge the gap when government refuses to serve its people. Power to the people! who are always resilient and innovative when it comes to serving our communities. In return to Spirit for not having children, I have been in service to my community. Being child free allows for freedom, the one consistent mantra in my life and in that freedom I like to give back.
I start seeds April 1, hardy crops like Cabbage (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae) and Borage (Borago officinalis, Boraginaceae). I continue to start seeds (propagation) on a weekly basis. Last Spring we had April Showers (60 - 70º), but then the showers kept going through May. I had trouble with easy crops like Basil (Ocimum basilicum, Labiatae) and Parsley (Petroselinum crispum, Umbelliferae). This season I wanted to wait for warmer weather and sunshine. We had showers in April this season, but 50 - 60º temperatures. I continued with Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum, Asteraceae), although the seed is from 2012. I haven’t found any information on seed viability. Seeds from herb to vegetable last anywhere from 2 - 4 years. I like to collect seed and the Milk Thistle seed is from my crop in 2012.
I have my immediate Family of Herb Plants in the ground after three years and am now moving into my Experimental Family. As well as the greenhouse, I start seeds on my deck at home. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, Asteraceae) is tricky to get established, but once so very resilient. I focus on native plants and my work is restorative. Native plants have been overrun by invasives from Europe and especially Asia. I am hard pressed to imagine what the landscape looked like with our delightful natives. Imagine stumbling upon Pleurisy Root while hiking in the woods? Lovely orange flowers.
Echinacea, Pleurisy Root (Asclepius tuberosa, Asclepiadaceae) and Red Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata, Apocynaceae) all have to be cold stratified, which means to plant in a tray and place in the refrigerator, in this case seven days, ten days and fourteen days respectively. I have seen Pleurisy Root once and I have never seen Red Milkweeed. I planted Red Milkweed at SDG in 2016 and all of a sudden this season there is a giant stand in the garden. I may have looked for her in 2017 and 2018, but never saw anything. I understand the natives to be very sensitive, but again once established, very resilient. Red Milkweed likes wet areas and all of a sudden in the same area for the past two seasons is Horsetail (Equisetum arvense, Equisetaceae) an ancient plant dating back to the dinosaur era! Perhaps Red Milkweed and Horsetail are companion plants? Truly, there is no end to the wonder of plants. So right for my short attention span. It is said that even if one could learn all the plants in the world, by the time one did, they will have mutated into something else.
Borage, Borago officinalis, Boraginaceae, Europe
The flowers have been used to decorate salads and cakes and frozen in ice cubes. The leaves are full of minerals and the leaf and flower can be infused to make a tonic for the adrenal glands to treat stress and depression. I like to eat the flower while I’m in the garden. They give me a nice lift.
Echinacea, Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia, Asteraceae, Turtle Island
Experts have gone back and forth stating Echinacea is anti-bacterial and/or anti-viral, but today it is generally accepted that Echinacea is both. Susun Weed offers Echinacea as a preventative for Covid-19 to boost the immune system. I have used Echinacea tincture for toothache. I am still waiting for my thirty foot bed of Echinacea to make tincture.
Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum, Asteraceae, Southern Europe, Asia
Milk Thistle tincture is a labor of love because it is made out of the seeds from the prickly flower head. Thankfully, we only have to fill the jar a third full to make the tincture. Milk Thistle is liver support. Take a dropperful before you head out to the bar or party to protect the liver. I have been taking Milk Thistle tincture along with Dandelion Tincture for formication, a condition I have here in menopause, which is incessant itching due to an overworked liver processing extra hormones. I am also a drinker and I have learned that drinking exacerbates the condition, not to mention hot flashes. Look at that sweet splash of white on the leaves!
Covid-19 has shown us, for me, how we ought to live. Days should be spent with our loved ones doing what we find enjoyable. My life has not changed with the exception of Marc being home. The Simple Life is Human 101 and once the trappings of the Establishment fall away, we find food, shelter and water being the basics and a day spent procuring these basic needs is enough.
High winds took out some fencing at SDG. It was the second high wind day of the season. I wonder if Mama is pushing pollution around and out? The Himalayas can be seen for the first time in thirty years due to the lockdown. Weather has stabilized to Spring temperatures with April showers here and there. It is cooler than last year by about ten degrees.
April is cleaning in the gardens. Removal of last seasons dead stems from perennials. At SDG, because I have now three members, I have the time to remove debris that has accumulated over the past years. I have spent my growing self acquiring free land because I wanted to explore the Native American belief of “we belong to the Earth, the Earth does not belong to us.” I have also spent my life making it up as I go along and I have come to believe that it is they way of Spirit. Now, the Establishment is an artificial construct placed over Spirit that has built homes, roads, cars, planes, bridges, boats, utilities, entertainment, etc. but as we are being rudely awakened during this pandemic, we find that the Establishment seeks to hoard this artificial construct and leave the majority of people out. Never mind that the companies the Establishment has cannot run without people. They like to threaten us with AI, but they will always need technicians to repair the AI. It will never run without humans. We rush, as usual - into technology, intellectual pursuit leaving behind basic humans needs like love and compassion for a cold artificial world based on intellect. Human contact is a basic human need. Nature is a human need. We cannot live without either one. We are as intrinsic to the natural world as any creature.
I don’t engage in the status quo. I do not own a home, I do not have children. I watched a retro movie Take me Home Tonight with college graduates and the main characters found the status quo a trap. I like to think “misery loves company.” We get pressured into the house, two cars, two kids and a dog and then have to spend our lives as wage slaves to maintain it. A status quo that has also been hoarded for white people. Black and brown folks are subject to predatory practices to acquire what is now generational wealth. I believe generational wealth is a fundamental loss of faith in Earth’s ability to sustain us.
I moved upstate becasue I wanted to grow my own food and medicine. I left the boroughs with just a job on a farm. I did not know the notion of free land could even be entertained and even when the idea of land came up for me, I wondered if I even wanted the responsibility. In 2011, I acquired three spaces to create gardens, just like that - a snap of the fingers.
I am childlike. Herbalism opens the door to the fairy realm and wood creatures - sprites, gnomes, elves, fairies, animals, insects, rocks become one’s companions. Magic (read miracle in the religious realm) is at our fingertips. We are hard pressed to describe through science the actions of our plant family. And if we did, it would be regulated by the Establishment, therefore taken out of the hands of the people. Plant medicine is people’s medicine, inexpensive and often free. So in acquisition of these free lands, I am zealous. I plunge headlong into developing my relationship with my Plant Family and it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to communication with the land owner.
I am dedicated to the development of community. It was the first lesson I had to learn when I moved upstate. In the boroughs of New York City, one can and it is encouraged, to be an individual. Six million people and one still has the opportunity to be an individual. Moving upstate, however, the spaces between each other open up and without community, it becomes very cold very fast. As I have mentioned, I worked for Pete Seeger for four years. I was also a part of Common Fire, an intentional community. From Pete I learned “power to the people.” Through Common Fire I learned that community happens, intentional or not.
My development as a person has been organic. I don’t “keep up with the Joneses.” One thing I have learned as an herbalist is engagement with Spirit which allows for organic growth which is slooooooowwwww. One can watch oneself grow organically. I like to say organic growth is a quarter note in a bar of music in 4/4 time and the Establishment is a whole note. Organic growth is steady, regular, always and no matter how many artificial constructs we place over it, it is. Look at Spring. Spring has sprung without a doubt regardless of whether we are on lockdown or not. There is no stopping the rain, clouds, dawn, waves etc. I am the Wise Woman Tradition, which always has been and always will be. Organic growth is the undercurrent through every age on the planet. Harmony with nature, community is all an organic experience. These things happen through Empire rise and fall. We can count on organic experience. We can count on harmony with nature, community. It is all we have had, all we have, all we will ever have.
Free land develops communication. I have to communicate transparently because otherwise it will lead to miscommunication and uncomfortable relations. I have lost two gardens in my ten years. My zeal has pushed me headlong into relationship with my Plant Family without consideration for my Human Family, but here at the ten year mark and with A Farm for All! (www.afarmforallny.org) in a good place, I’m finding the grace to develop communication in all the spaces to which I have access. I feel practiced. My work, I’ve been told is Way of the Heron (Evan Pritchard, Center for Algonquin Culture) and definitely Be Present (Lillie Allen, www.bepresent.org). The challenge, and I believe they have evolved in this order is gender, class and race. Race is relatively new in comparison to gender and class which were easily the first recognizable differences in our human family. In the Wise Woman Tradition, we know woman like Mother Earth, life giver, sustainer, reproducer, was the ruler and perhaps became tyrannical after ruling too long (absolute power corrupts absolutely), not unlike men today, which if it is true, we formally apologize here. Herstory speaks of men cutting off their genitals to lay on the altar of the Goddess, not unlike our breast and uteri today on the altar of the medical God. And of course, once a chief was named, her family easily became revered and privileged above everyone else creating a class structure through their advisors, soldiers, etc.
Now race is another matter. Civilization occurred in Africa, Asia, Turtle Island and it wasn’t until the fair skinned people were apparently pushed into the caves of Europe that race became a thing. European history starts at year one CE - which is the very reason why we have BCE and CE - because the Europeans can’t fathom the idea that anything came before them. BCE (before the common era) is 300,000 to 500,000 years. BCE and CE are preceded by BC (before Christ) and AD (after death) to signify the life of Jesus Christ who was the savior for Christians who split from Judaism. So we find ourselves here, where slights, disrespects, hatred, have led to rape, pillage, murder, kidnapping, genocide, war as the norm today. We are 7.5 billion people. There is conversation around 4.5 billion being the carrying capacity of the planet and I believe the Establishment believes it, which is why their acceptance of “collateral damage” through this pandemic not to mention war, seems callous. We have been “fruitful and multiplied” to the point where we can stand to lose nearly half of us and still function. Imagine humans in demand. The influenza pandemic took 2.5% of the population. That’s 187.5 million people today.
I open up Anise Hyssop, Skullcap and Elecampane beds at Hiddenbrooke. Forest dwellers, I wonder if my poking around and looking for new growth hinders their growth? I have obsessive, compulsive disorder to be sure. Anise Hyssop, Skullcap and Echinacea are my greatest challenges to establish. There is Anise Hyssop growth and there was wind that blew the leaves back in place. We’ll see. No Skullcap growth. I have yet to clear Echinacea bed to see if there is new growth. I have a tray of plants ready to transplant and I am cold stratifying the next tray of plants. To cold stratify, one places the seeds in a, in my case a rectangular Kord Fiber pot, (www.fedcoseeds.com), wrap them in plastic and place them in the refrigerator for seven days. I also have Pleurisy Root and Red Milkweed in the fridge for ten days and fourteen days respectively. I am in to my more experimental plants with Pleurisy Root and Red Milkweed, which I have never used. I also want to transplant Joe Pyeweed from Seed Song (www.seedsongfarm.org). I have only ever been able to get three plants starting them from seed.
All these plants are natives. My work is in native plants, restoring the landscape. The land like people has also been colonized by European and Asian invasives, some very problematic, like Ailanthus, Japanese Knotweed and Mugwort, to name a few, all from Asia. We love Mugwort, as well as Comfrey and Motherwort from Europe. I have had a Rhubarb-like dessert made out of Japanese Knotweed. Tasty! Sweet/tart. My two Comfrey beds came from a site that is feverishly trying to eradicate it. They’ve just started to mow it regularly, but Comfrey just keeps coming back. I was able to “rescue” around forty plants. The same space eradicated Motherwort, the biggest stand I have ever seen back in 2007. I have gotten Motherwort from seed once back at Stone Barns (www.stonebarnscenter.org), but have just transplanted ever since. I created a five foot bed at SDG with volunteer plants a few years ago and have enough to extend the bed this season. I just found a ton of volunteer plants at A Farm for All! and Hiddenbrooke. The patch at Hiddenbrooke may get driven over so I better get to them.
Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae, Perennial. Turtle Island
Anise Hyssop is native cough medicine and was transplanted to Europe for beekeepers to make honey. The leaf smells like licorice and can also be used for seasoning, tea and potpourri.
Skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Skullcap is a native painkiller. I have used her recently for formication, incessant itching due to menopaue causing a hot challenged liver. Works well. Skullcap eases the nerves and can be used as a tonic. The aerial parts are soothing and can relieve tension in the muscles and have been used for epilepsy and rabies. The tea can be used for anxiety, depression, nervous exhaustion, PMS and rheumatism.
Elecampane, Inula helenium, Asteraceae, Perennial, Eurasia
Elecampane is one of those European plants that we love in the herbal world. There are allies to be found everywhere. Someone gave me a root years ago back at Stone Barns and all I knew was to put it up in alcohol. That Winter I had the worst cough I have ever had. I believe it was withdrawal from New York City. I did not know what it was good for that Winter, but when the cough started to return the following Winter, I pored through all my herbal books to find a remedy. There she was on the page and already tinctured in my cupboard. My cough left in a whisper in about a week, never to return again. Can we say pandemic medicine?
I will be returning to Sally Garden of Eden May 6 and starting Michelle Cottage Garden, May 16. We carry on. Thankfully, the pandemic happened at the start of the growing season. We can get outside and connect with the natural world as she breathes a sigh of relief. Hopefully we learn from this experience and engage in a more harmonious way when the pandemic is over. We are the one’s Mother has been waiting for. Pollution clears, birds fly lower, Deer ran alongside Twuck the other day. I came over a hill and there was a flock of Turkey Vultures eating a carcass. Enjoy this opportunity to engage the natural world in a new way. In THE way. Harmonious.
Wind gusts of 50 miles an hour last Thursday so I couldn’t go to SDG until Saturday. I was caught in the microburst in May 2018, so I’m fairly cautious now. April showers are one thing, but add in the wind and it becomes a dangerous situation. At least the weather seems to have settled down into Spring temperatures 50 - 60º.
Settling in to quarantine, Marc has purchased a pile of baked goods that I’m trying to stay away from, unsuccessful Thursday stuck inside. Interestingly enough, the gardens are my regular workout so I was wired until 2:00am Thursday night. As the hours wore on I realized there was nothing to do, but wait it out.
Hiddenbrooke Friday, I find the first few weeks of coronavirus here were pure anxiety and returning to Hiddenbrooke solidifying routine. The only thing that has changed for me is Marc home on a daily basis. Spring proceeds, Mama does her thing. I am a Spring baby (April 6) so Spring makes me blissful, Maple, Magnolia, Forsythia, Cherry, Rododendron, Quince, all bursting forth in their floral glory.
I direct seed Kale at the end of the month. We will be adding more herbs at SDG. I have worked alone for the last three years, but with Celia and Sarah, I can work on beds I haven’t used in those three years. I’ll be getting in Sage, Shiso and Sunroot this year. Sarah has already planted Nettle. I worried for many years herbs would become invasive, but they will actually round out the garden nicely. Also considering Elderberry.
Spring has sprung despite Covid-19, quarantine, etc. My gardens are the only time I spend outside beyond errands. Sunshine feels good. Susun Weed says vitamin D is good for the immune system. She also has a good video WARD OFF CORONAVIRUS. We are wrapped up in medical industry advice. Remember, it is an industry and profit the objective. Herbal medicine is folk medicine, affordable and often times free. The medical industry wraps us in a cloak of fear and then controls who can afford to live.
Over time, we can hear our body’s wisdom and provide our own healthcare. We have done so for millennia. The Witch Trials in Europe took healthcare out of the hands of the people and the medical industry was born. A world offered only to men and mother and child mortality and respiratory illness have been a problem ever since. Earth is a system and we are part of that system. Earth has, does and always will support us. The medical industry is alternative medicine because herbal medicine is as old as time.
We’ve forgotten our wild selves. Our selves connected to Earth, our Mother, sustainer. The relationship is always there for the asking. The Establishment is loud and we can no longer hear ourselves in the hustle and bustle, it is why meditation has become so popular. Recommended by the medical industry even! In the quiet, in the stillness, Spirit awaits our beckon and our reconnection. She sighs now, a breath of relief and our animal family returns to the wild lands, our skies clear of pollution - relief, restoration. For too long we have been in an abusive relationship with Earth, we the perpetrator. We have a golden opportunity right now to reimagine a harmonious relationship with Earth.
Shelter in place. Interestingly enough, not much different from my daily routine the last ten years. Main St. does look like a ghost town though. Marc is home, but enjoying a break from grueling construction work. The industry like all industries does work one to death. I am a solitary, I suppose. No children so not participating in the family rituals which brought many folks to Beacon. I am also black and we blaze our own trail in this world if we step outside the box. I am Yoruba, not Christian if I have to claim religion - Earth based. I journey engaged with Spirit in harmony with Earth, my foundation, my support system. My reward, joy and light come from days in the garden.
Opening Day in the garden Spring 2020. My only time spent outside except for errands to the post office, bank and grocery store. My thoughts shifted the other day to what would be the daily routine of thought long term. Managing a quarantine. I have started giving thanks at dawn and when going to bed like I used to. These first couple of months with Covid-19 sent us into a frenzy gathering information assimilating fact from fiction and for me finding Spirit in the midst of this thing. Today, anxiety was lifted and we are settling in for the long haul at least ninety days, eighteen months to a vaccine. I’ve made a list of family and friends to stay in touch with and make sure no one is isolated. During the 1918 influenza outbreak, the world population was 2 billion and we lost 50 million. Covid-19 holds steady at 2 - 5%. Our current world population is just under 8 billion. In Spirit, Earth breathes a sigh of relief with less cars and people. Wildlife ventures out reclaiming the lands. Pollution has no doubt lessened.
Opening Day in the community garden, I have two enthusiastic women this season. Sarah Carlisle in her twenties and Celia Reissig in her fifties. Danielle Levoit has returned to do the bees. I look forward to spending the season with them. We repair fence and close up the garden. The original gate which was always problematic because soil would wash down constantly and make it difficult to open, finally gave up the ghost last season and disintegrated. I have had Cedar posts on standby and an old post snapped off so we used the last Cedar post to replace it. I replaced the old gate with heavy plastic fencing to be used as a gate when we enter to water. I switched out the plastic fencing last year because it was so heavy it would tear under its own weight. I replaced it with Deer netting and it has held up nicely. Sarah planted Carrots and Radish two weeks ago and Celia planted Lettuce, Arugula and Spinach today. My first planting is Kale at the end of the month. Sarah’s only experience is with communal gardening wonder of wonders. Her communal garden was an herb garden in Brooklyn. She will be planting the perimeter with herbs. Celia is a novice. It should be fun. Covid-19 checkin out of the way and we’re off to enjoy the open air. That first heavy breath, that first touch of breeze, break of sweat and we are fulfilled. We are Earth beings intrinsically connected to Earth. A part of the natural world as any being, but what part? We spend our life, if we dare, finding that part - harmony. The sow and reap of the growing season, a dance. “Mother Earth absorbs all we give her and offers support,” I tell Celia who was sitting on bricks weeding a bed. I give her a plastic bag to sit directly on Earth and she is relieved. All our emotions, sorrows, celebrations can be given to Mother and she will cry and party with us. Many a time I have left the garden relieved from whatever ales me. Earth is alive, a living breathing entity, our support system.
We Africans, we Caribbeans (Southern hemisphere folk), know nothing but paradise on Earth. We were not pushed into the cold dankness of the Northern hemisphere until last generation. We were caught by surprise by this fearful being who sought to control the natural world, this man who lacked patience and wanted all to bend to his will to dominate all natural processes. We are born to take it easy and want nothing more than to be here, not wish for somewhere else, heaven is right here.
I cannot go to Sally Garden, because Sally and her husband Paul are elders and high risk. I did not go to Hiddenbrooke because I sent a Covid-19 update, but didn’t here back until the end of the day. Twenty-somethings (Sarah) are apparently asymptomatic and can be carriers. I want everyone to feel safe. I want to be compassionate in the exchanges and allow the responses that are running from open joyous freedom to downright paranoia. We are all allowed. If anything, here we are learning patience and perhaps compassion comes along for the ride. Michelle Cottage Garden will begin in the middle of the month. I am a simpleton, so the Spring bloom is moments of pure joy.
Linden, Tilia americana, Little Leaf Linden, T. cordata, Turtle Island, Europe, respectively, Tiliaceae, Tree
I used to get Linden honey from Integral Yoga on 13th St. in Manhattan. One of the things I really missed when I moved upstate. We toyed with the idea of Marc passing by Integral Yoga when one of his jobs was nearby, but it never materialized. I can still taste it’s sweet bitterness. Dried Linden flowers are heart medicine. I have not had them in quite sometime. Little Leaf Linden is used as a street tree here in Beacon. They are full of flowers in season, but are too tall to harvest. The infusion of flowers has a thick consistency, honeylike. The flowers are also used as a digestive aid, for insomnia, to calm the nerves and for overzealous children.
Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, Asclepiadaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Food for Monarch Butterflies, there has been a campaign in parks departments to eradicate Milkweed. Milkweed found in the Northeast has a poisonous milky sap, which can be removed if properly cooked. The trick is to plunge the plant into rapidly boiling water for two minutes and repeat two more times in two changes of water until all bitterness is gone. Milkweeds in the rest of the country are safe to eat. Blossoms contain high sugar content and can be boiled down to make a syrup. I have spent my growing life allowing the wild to dwell. Milkweed has a beautiful fat head of pink flowers.
Motherwort, Leonarus cardiaca, Labiatae, Perennial, Europe
Motherwort puts the Mother in Mother Earth. A gentle, sweet, abiding heart medicine, Motherwort supports us through anxiety, high blood pressure and insomnia. What more do we need than a soothed heart to drift off to sleep? Her botanical name means Lionheart. I have found Motherwort in the wild most often. I grew her from seed once at Stone Barns, but never again. She pops up when you least expect her. She started out in the old barn foundation at Hiddenbrooke and has since moved up closer to the house last season. I have enough wild plants at SDG to plant a whole new bed this season. I have made Motherwort tincture and vinegar over the years. One dropperful of tincture when having an anxiety attack, every five minutes as needed, two dropperfuls three times a day for about a month for high blood pressure and three dropperfuls to drift off to sleep in about a half hour. Note the difference between the first year leaf and the more mature leaf. Nature at her best!
As we buckle down for the long haul, I wish you all health, joy and peace in this brave new world. As always, we have community, be with them in love. Ninety days possible, eighteen months to a vaccine. Enjoy the extra views of wildlife, a friend saw a porcupine, a bear and a bobcat in one day.