Independence Day. July 4, 1776. Independence for European Americans for slavery in America was not abolished for almost another 100 years. 1865. Not actually official until 1872. It's only come to my attention in the last ten years or so, along with Black women being dismissed in this Establishment. We, the African, Caribbean, Indigenous, live in a hostile environment. We had better chances living in harmony with the natural world for upwards of 10,000 years. Let's be frank, slavery built human civilization, the world economy. With the inception of agriculture we gained the ability to feed and sustain our prisoners of war, whereas before agriculture we had to kill them because we didn't have enough food. So technically, slavery was an evolutionary step forward. A conundrum to be sure.
Old world slavery - African, Asia, Europe, had avenues to freedom. Cash, years of service, manumission to name a few. American slavery sought to strip the slave of any of these options, reducing human beings to animals. If the white man is truly superior, why would he have to pass laws against education and voting for people of color? And what was all the fuss. Why were these - now accepted millions of black bodies needed for the industry? Not food crops but, except for cotton's practical use, luxury items for the European wealthy - sugarcane and tobacco. No nutritional value whatsoever. Items grown to satiate vice.
Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum, G. barbadense, G. arboreum, G. herbaceum, Malvaceae, Shrub, Temperate and tropical Turtle Island, South America, India and Pakistan, southern Africa, Arabian Peninsula). We can make a case for the idea of one's Plant Family, those plants that come to us as allies, Cotton being found all over the world. Cotton is spun into fiber and no doubt make's up one's favorite t-shirt. Cotton has been spun into cotton for over 2500 years. The seeds are pressed for cottonseed oil which is edible. Gossypol, found in untreated seed oil may be a source of hormones and a male contraceptive. Gossypol is also antiviral and antibacterial and eases menstrual pain. Seed hairs from G. herbaceum make cotton wool. Bark root tea infusion can be used to trigger menstruation and contractions during birth and abortion. It is a traditional method of birth control for the indigenous who grow the plant. Cotton root bark infusion can also be used to facilitate labor. Used with other herbs such as Witch Hazel or Lady's Mantle, the tincture of Cotton root bark can be used for postpartum hemorrhage. Cotton is the only Mallow family plant with poisonous properties. Use only with the aid of a professional. The manager of a friend's community garden grew Cotton at the gate so everyone could have the opportunity to see the plant. I think I will grow Cotton next season, just to see it.
There is a prickle in the Cotton ball that made it painful to pick with human hands, but with the invention of the cotton gin those human hands were necessary for production. The cotton gin was said to be invented by Eli Whitney (1765 - 1825), who may have borrowed the idea from a comb used by slaves and a woman, Catherine Greene may also have had input. Slaves were not entitled to patent inventions. cotton was simultaneously domesticated in India and Peru 5000 years ago. The first appearance of a cotton gin is from the 5th century C.E. in India. It was introduced to America mid 18th century but was more suited for long-staple cotton rather than short staple cotton which was what was grown in America.
Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum, Graminae, Perennial, S.E. Asia). I grew up with Sugarcane because my parents are from the Caribbean. The influx of Caribbeans to America began in the 1940's since colonialism was drawing to a close and folks needed jobs. The Caribbean diaspora encompasses the Caribbean, Europe (England and France (Spain for Latin America)) and America. My parents ended up in Miami looking for that tropical climate that reminded them of home. My father is from Dominica, my mother is from Guyana, both English colonies, which is why they met, married and had my three brothers and I. Dad returned home annually until his mother passed on, Mum never returned to Guyana. Because of the number of Caribbeans in America, especially New York, there are whole grocery stores that carry our traditional crops - callaloo, codfish, root vegetables, yucca, to name a few. Dad said he used Sugarcane like a toothbrush as a child. So it can be said for colonialism, that it meant finding viable crops around the world and exploiting whole countries with the similar climate to produce those crops. In Asia, Sugarcane is used in Thai fish stews, the stem juice is used as a drink. Of course our use of Sugarcane is for brown and refined white sugar with the byproducts yielding mineral rich molasses, syrup and rum. Cane sugar is a preservative. Cane juice can soothe asthma symptoms and is expectorant. It is applied to wounds and boils in Asia and along with the root is diuretic. Stem residue produces ethanol. Along with the now consumption of high fructose corn syrup, responsible for obesity and diabetes in America.
Tobacco (Nicotium rustica, N. tabacum, Solanaceae, Annual or Biennial, N.E. Argentina, Bolivia) Used for millenia by North and South American native tribes in ceremony and poultice on sprains, infected cuts and bites. The juice is applied topically for facial neuralgia and wet leaves used for hemorrhoids. In recent years, I have spent lots of time in native ceremony marveling that this precious plant used for ceremony has been exploited creating a crippling habit akin to heroin addiction destroying countless individuals health in the process. Poetic justice I suppose.
So division in America has real historical content. Yes we love America, but some of us for its definition as a white country and some of us for its definition as a melting pot. To be sure, we are the one country in the world that encompasses every other and America wold not exist without the contribution of all its citizens.
Marc was home for four days for the Fourth of July. Our local fireworks occurred the Saturday before. I have not been eager to attend as much anymore now that I know what I know. I spent the 3rd in the community garden weeding Beets and Kale harvesting for my first pot of greens for the season. The 4th morning was spent negotiating the future of Flora Jones Garden as her relatives and friends DO NOT like its wild look. July 5, I weeded Skullcap at Hiddenbrooke. My father said many years ago when Reagan was elected "it doesn't matter who is in the White House, I still have to work two jobs." The summer has begun and the holidays are upon us, but I still have my daily weeding, watering and harvesting, welcome meditation as we navigate our new challenges. For me it certainly helps to look back and recognize the history that gets us here. Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it? Or does history repeat itself? Or is history simply the tyrant's playbook?
HOT! The rain has given way to clear, hot summer days. The Dog Days of Summer are upon us, named for the visibility of the Dog Star Sirius in the night sky of Greece. These days I am heading out to the gardens 9:00am to get inside by noon. I like to thing about lions lounging in the shade after capturing a meal. How fitting is siesta this time of year.
Sun hasn't even gotten above Mt. Beacon at 9:00am so Sargent-Downing remains in shade for another hour or so. I made the mistake of wearing shorts once, but that won't happen again as the memory of insects feeding on me for breakfast is embedded in my brain. I can go barefoot though and the cool Earth beneath my feet is refreshing.
Corn (Zea mays, Poaceae, Mexico) is six inches so it's time to add her other two sisters Bean and Squash. Weeding the bed in preparation, I find Yellow Dock (Rumex obtusifolia, Polygonaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) also know as Bitter dock, sister to the more well known R. crispus which is also called Yellow Dock or Curly Dock. I decide to take some roots home to make a Decoction, which is the only way I've seen them used. Turns out Yellow Dock roots can also be made into a Tincture and Vinegar. I have made the seeds into Vinegar. Yellow Dock increases the uptake of iron. One can add Molasses to the decoction for iron and sweetening. Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris, Papillionaceae, Annual, Peru) provides protein and adds nitrogen to the soil. The vine grows up the Corn stalk. Squash (Cucurbita maxima, C. moschata, C. pepo, Cucurbitaceae, Annual, Turtle Island) provides vitamin C., giant leaves to give shade and hold down weeds. Squash has varieties from Summer to Winter. I've made Zucchini bread and Butternut Squash soup is one of my favorite soups.
As I've mentioned I weed from June to September although I have been weeding at Hiddenbrooke all Spring just to establish the herbs. I have one Clematis plant at Sargent-D0wning and it took no time at all to liberate her. I am so excited to see her back because she got weeded out last season. Flora Jones driveway has become Violet (Viola odorata, Violaceae, Europe) and as I discovered yesterday Red Clover (Trifolium pratense, Leguminosae, Europe). Violet can be used like lettuce in Wild Salad and Red Clover is good for managing our Moontime and provides iron.
Chocolate Mint (Mentha x piperita 'Chocolate Mint', Labiatae, Europe) at Hiddenbrooke is struggling so I have to liberate her. Mugwort is the culprit of course. There turns out to be more Chocolate Mint than I anticipated so I am pleased. I drink Chocolate Mint Tea through Winter for digestive issues like any mint. I have also made her into a Vinegar. Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island) is poking her head up right through Sasa or Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum, Poaceae, Perennial, Asia). In hindsight I should have taken some Sasa home for Wild Salad, she was still small enough for the leaves to still be tender enough to eat. Later in the season she gets fibrous. Once again there is a lovely amount of Skullcap in the bed. Skullcap is a painkiller. There is something to be said for plants choosing their spot.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium, Asteraceae, Perennial, W. Asia) is growing wild at Hiddenbrooke. She has overtaken a Phlox bed and has a spot next to the house, in the middle of the field and a full stand at the edge of the woods. Know here that half of our herbs are wild. It's always a treat to discover who will reveal themselves when I open up a property. I first saw Motherwort (Leonarus cardiaca, Labiatae, Northern temperate zones) in the foundation of the old barn last season at Hiddenbrooke. She has since moved up to the top of the field. I planted a bed at Sargent-Downing years ago now from volunteers in the garden. I still get volunteers and now along with Catnip she is gatekeeper to the fairy realm next to the Compost. It is time to harvest Yarrow flowers to dry for tea and Motherwort whole plant in flower for tincture and vinegar. Yarrow is diaphoretic, astringent, tonic and stimulant. The tea can induce sweating and reduce fever and can also be used as a skin wash for infections and inflammation. It can also stop external and internal bleeding. Motherwort's botanical name means Lionheart, so use her tincture, one dropperful every five minutes for anxiety attack, two dropperfuls three times a day for high blood pressure and three dropperfuls to be asleep in about thirty minutes. Motherwort Vinegar is a daily dose of heart tonic. I planted a bed of Catnip (Nepeta cataria, Labiatae, Perennial, W. Africa, India) at Sargent-Downing and she has since found spots throughout the garden as well as near the Compost pile. Catnip can be used for tea as well as vinegar. The dried leaves can be used as tea for colds. Tender leaves can be added to Wild Salad. The tea was used before tea was imported from China. The tea like many mints treats colds, calms upset stomach, reduces fevers, soothes headache and scalp irritation. Catnip is also a good smoke. I make a smoke blend with Mugwort, Tobacco and Marijuana.
I took a Yoga class this week which I don't get to do in the season. I'm committing to at least once a month. Yoga is life! I have been in yoga off and on for almost thirty years. I had a personal practice at home through Winter for the first time. It is my go to for restoration. I was and am in this moment astonished by the energy boost. The breathing alone is probably worth it. I can recall when I became a farmer thinking what a perfect compliment to farming is yoga, stretching out all those muscles I use on a daily basis. To find the time, energy and motivation at the end of the day is the trick. I have had pain afterwards in the last few years, but not this week. I have been through Hatha, Iyengar and Kundalini yoga. Iyengar is the most fascinationg with all the props and hanging off walls. I picked up my first Yoga book when I was sixteen in Miami when it was the last thing a young black girl would be thinking about. I must have seen it on television and it got stuck in my mind. My first yoga class was at the YMCA on 23 St. in Manhattan. The Hatha teach promptly sent me down the hall to the Iyengar class. I moved on to the Iyengar Center on 22nd St.
I've been eating Juneberry (Amelanchior canadensis, Rosaceae, Tree, Turtle Island) for the past three weeks. A cross between Blueberry and Cherry, wild, yummy sweetness this time of year. Also known as Shadbush because she flowers when the Shad are running in the Hudson River. There are three trees outside my apartment and I have been planting an upright variety for Arbor Day the past four years. A testament to our love of convenience and how our most popular fruit come to be, Juneberry has a tiny seed inside left over after eating them not unlike Grape, which is why we have seedless grapes, not to mention seedless Watermelon. Paw Paw is another native fruit similar in appearance to a small green Mango, but tastes like Flan. The fruit bruises easily which wold not be appealing in the grocery store.
Lazy, hazy, crazy days of Summer. Schools out and vacation is in the air. Gardening becomes meditation. I linger up to four hours some days. Soaking up that lovely Sun remembering our sometimes brutal Winters. We have had a spectacular season so far. April Showers, May flowers and now blazing hot summer. Occasionally, we get this most beautiful seventy-seven degree day with the loveliest breeze.
Happy Summer Solstice! The height of the season, the longest day of the year. So far, we may have a lot of rain, but a spectacular season with April Showers bringing May flowers and beautiful eighty degree days to linger in the garden.
My New Year begins with Winter Solstice on or around December 21, the longest night (about sixteen hours) of the year and believe it or not the days proceed to get longer. One can't really tell until February, but take heart, in the dead of Winter is the Return of the Sun.
Earth revolves on an axis and as it spins it's axis tilts North and South. Here at the Summer Solstice, the axis begins to tilt away from us (South) and at the Winter Solstice, the axis starts to tilt back. In between we have the Spring/Autumn Equinox followed by the deep dark down to Winter Solstice. Spring Equinox is the bright light that drives us to the height of Summer Solstice.
Imagine a world where time was not kept for us. Where we could only look up and follow Moon and Sun. How long would it take us to figure out the rhythm of the seasons? When we were in the Paradise of the Caribbean and Africa, the Southern Hemisphere, when a harsh Winter could not kill us? Spending lazy days fishing and growing food. Fail to plan here in the Northeast and one could lose their life.
With the New Year at Winter Solstice, the excitement for the season begins. At Summer Solstice we assess the gains and losses of the season so far. I did not get Lavender, Wormwood or Marigold in Spring. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, Labiatae, Shrub, Perennial, Mediterranean), Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, Asteraceae, Perennial, North Africa, Eurasia), Marigold (Tagetes minuta, T. patula, Asteraceae, Annual, Guatemala, Mexico). I can try again with Lavender and Wormwood on my deck for an Autumn planting, but it's too late for Marigold. I got Marigold from seed, but they rot when I transplanted them. I grow them in my living room so they don't get leggy, but when I transplanted them, I should have put them outside on the deck to dry out and take. There just was not enough sun in the living room. I also didn't get Sunroot pickled (Helianthus tuberosus, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island). I read that native Americans use them like Radish and I love to pickle Radish, so I make a couple of pints of pickled Sunroot. By the time I got to them, they were three feet tall and the tuber had no innards left. It was three weeks after the Spring Equinox. Visons of what to improve upon begin here, and what if anything new I want to grow. I've been considering perennial food crops for the last few years at Sargent-Downing. We may never use the Spiral for vegetables. Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis, Asparagaceae, Perennial, Africa) has been there since I've been there so it would be nice to extend the section. Berries in beds West of the Spiral would also be nice. That's as far as I've gotten thinking about it. Peppers are only half a bed I realize this season so considering some thing for the other half would be good. Possibly Fennel. I love Fennel, but Marc does not so I don't need much, maybe a quarter of the bed, maybe Ground Cherry in the fourth quarter.
Autumn Equinox is that final push to the end of the season. Processing the harvest will have begun in August. Roots and seeds can be harvested in Autumn. Visons of next season begin for me here. All my crops are planted, time to harvest and process.
For me, coupled with Moon, I find an ebb and flow of sowing and reaping. I pray at the New Moon. Winter Solstice like New Moon has all the promise of what I can conjure in my imagination. I can send my vision out into the universe knowing the energy of creation works for me. I buy seed to manifest my vision. Spring Equinox is that first quarter Moon where I put my vision into action starting seed April 1. Summer Solstice has the energy of fruition like the Full Moon as my dreams manifest and I start to give thanks for my first harvest. I am grateful at the Summer Solstice for the weather Mother Earth has given me. Autumn Equinox is that ebb in the season like the waning Moom drifting to darkness, where I've done my very best and give thanks for the gift of a bountiful season. It has brought peace to my life to follow the rhythm of the seasons with Solstice/Equinox and Moon to guide me.
I got Tomato (Solanum lycopersicon, Solanaceae, Annual, Mexico) in just before the Equinox. I fell a week behind during propagation and the clouds lingered so long Tomato is pretty small, taking them directly out of the seeding trays instead of having transplanted them into pots like I usually do. Cabbage has come directly out of trays for the second season now. I'll have all my crops this season. Mustard Mix, Peppers and Parsley left to go.
Happy Summer Solstice! It's time to celebrate. Festival season has begun here in Beacon and I have that first opportunity to pause, breath and give thanks for Earth's bounty. The feverish drive from Spring falls away and I start to linger in the garden. Here's wishing you have brilliance in your garden. That you have dreamed big and manifested your vision. I am in the gardens which is all I ever want. I am spending my life outside. Twenty years here through Botanical Gardens, the Parks Department and now my gardens. I dreamed of being outside, so I am and it is good. A good life.
I have planted Kale, Beets, Corn and Cabbage. It's late and my Tomatoes and Peppers are still quite small, but I will get Tomatoes in the ground here just before the Summer Solstice. Peppers, Mustard Mix, Parsley, Squash and Beans will follow. I didn't get Lavender and Wormwood from seed in the greenhouse, but I will try again in July on my deck for an Autumn planting.
The rain continued into May which is why my Tomatoes and Peppers are so small. I did fall a week behind in getting them started. I got very few Basil plants as well so I may have to purchase starts. Basil rot last season with all the rain and cool temperatures. The mornings are cool here in the beginning of June, so I think I'll be okay this late. I don't think I've ever gotten Tomatoes in before June 15.
We have been challenged managing A Farm for All! and White Pine Community Farm. We've decided to manage the space with a Core of four of us which means we learn what we can manage and then build from there. We used to have tenants in the house, but emptied out the space to offer Air Bnb. We have to make taxes by October. We haven't achieved tax exempt status on the land as a non-profit yet. We have to do more work with official low income entities. We are also researching grants for A Farm for All!
White Pine now has a microgreens business, Sharon Mountain Greens which should prove to be a sustaining moneymaker. At least two of us in the Core have been planting for White Pine, Burdock, Marshmallow, Chamomile and weeding Dandelion. White Pine is also an Herbal CSA.
We have gained a Hemp farmer and his partner who is going to use some land as a test site to learn how to grow. Very exciting as he is black. African-Americans have been locked out of the Medical Marijuana industry, but as CBD takes off these two partners seem to be at the forefront.
There is no industry African-Americans dominate in America. We may be part of the music and sports industries, but we do not own much of it. African-Americans were self sufficient in Tulsa, OK in a town called Greenwood until race riots broke out in 1921. Known as Black Wall Street, white residents killed up to 300 blacks and burnt the town to the ground. Some residents remained and rebuilt, but for the most part the town was obliterated. Some day we will learn how to manage this fearful, hateful, arrogant, hypocrite who has the audacity to believe this world was made only for him. If indeed Africa is the cradle of civilization, this European would be the last incarnation of humans, a rebellious teenager wishing to murder their parents. Perhaps woman should apologize for relegating man to breeding during matriachial culture and Black people should apologize for discriminating against the albino (to this day) and we would be on the road to allowing one another. Let me say it here. We are so sorry!
We have to start somewhere. We have to believe there is enough for everyone and there is! Basic Income Guarantee and free housing for the homeless have been tested and the numbers don't lie, but here we have this authoritarian victim who would like us to be as miserable as them. This focus on money and power above all else has produced this abhorrent psychotic character. They are us and we are them. A product of our evolution.
Having no children, my plants are my babies. Last Wednesday was perfect weather, 77 degrees, sunny with a breeze, so I lingered in the garden four hours. It's prep bed and plant season. To look back over a Cabbage bed planted is so satisfying, Cabbage (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial grown as an annual, eastern Mediterranean, Asia Minor). Contains beta carotene and Vitamin C, outer leaves contain vitamin E. May be the origin of our ball games, used as the ball.
Kale (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial, Europe) Our Brassica family of plants are derived from Cabbage so many of the plants are named Brassica oleracea and separated into different groups. Kale has been grown as far back as the Greek and Roman Empires. Contains calcium, iron, beta carotene, vitamins E and C. Considered a primitive Cabbage. I direct seed Kale in May. I make containers of cooked Kale for the Winter. We have Kale for Christmas after a good season. I started growing a 15' bed instead of a six foot bed last year so that I would get a pot of greens from one harvest.
Beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris, Chenopodiaceae, Biennial grown as an annual for swollen root and young leaves, dates back to Assyrian times). A bit higher in carbohydrates than other vegetables, contains folic acid and potassium. I also direct seeded Beet in May. I have had digestive issues all my life and figured out the value of fermented foods quite awhile ago so I process pickles and make sauerkraut for Winter. I just love pickled Beets in January! Sargent-Downing is grown communally and Beet is one of the gifts a former member left me. Thank you Nicole!
Corn (Zea mays, Graminae, Annual, Mexico) High in carbohydrates and fiber, contains protein and vitamin B. What to say about one of our most denigrated crops. Grown for cows and not humans. Cows don't eat corn, but if you feed them corn for three months, they bulk up quick for slaughter. If cows eat corn for six months, they die. Corn may have been cultivated in Mexico in 7000BCE. The colonizers found Corn, Beans and Squash growing together in native fields. Known as the Three Sisters in indigenous culture, Corn, Beans and Squash were the staple foods of the natives providing, fiber, protein and vitamin C. I grow Corn, Beans and Squash at Sargent-Downing. I honor our native ancestors and wish to learn the old ways. Beans grow up the stalk of the Corn plant and provide nutrients to the soil, while Squash covers the ground with her giant, leaves keeping down weeds. The Three Sisters were grown in mounds and a fish was placed in the mound for fertilizer.
It's time to harvest Wild Bergamot leaves for tea, (Monarda fistulosa, Labiatae, Shrub, Turtle Island). The leaves get Powdery Mildew once the flowers develop. We can return and harvest the flowers for tea as well. Minty flavor with a cacao backbeat, aromatherapy, good for digestive issues and colds through Winter.
It's also time to harvest Garlic Scapes, the flower stalk of Garlic (Allium sativum, Alliaceae, Perennial, grown as an annual for bulbs, Western Asia). From the taste to its medicinal properties, Garlic is a plant universally loved. Good for the heart, infections, uterine tumors and even to ward of witches. I make a Garlic honey annually and pickle the Scapes, which taste just like Garlic. We have to cut off the Scapes to get the bulb to grow. By Winter I have bunches of Garlic hanging on my doors. No Vampires here!
I look forward to the warm Spring days to linger in the garden. Unfortunately, Mama is constantly weeping, overcasting our days, washing our mess away and reclaiming herself. We have no choice to take the ride and watch the show waiting to come out the other side.
My growing season has consisted of propagation in April, planting in May, harvest and weeding from June to September and harvest and planting September to November. Here in the Northeast in the last four years our entire growing season has shifted from March - October to April to November. I am a purist and a simpleton. I have no desire to jump the season and start seed under lights. I wait for the sun in a greenhouse. My journey is harmony with Earth. Honor and respect for Mother. I do recall it becoming cold pretty quickly last November, though. We have experienced extremes of temperature here in the Northeast over my thirteen years upstate. I have become fearful of the cold. I heat up quickly (hot flashes, though I've been a Hot Mama my whole life) and I cool down quickly as well. We often dip down into the single digits in Winter, not to mention regular snow.
This season, though, I have been, instead of planting Hiddenbrooke (my herb garden) in particular, weeding through May. I realize I should have killed the grass before I planted. My method at Groundwork (my old herb garden) was to kill the grass then dig it up with a cultivator, but I felt I took up too much soil (at least 2 - 3 inches) so I didn't want to do the same this time so I pulled the grass instead. As I write here I realize it is not grass that I am weeding right now, but Sasa or Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum, Poaceae, Annual, Asia) so technically, by pulling the grass I did kill it making way for Stiltgrass.
I wanted to open six beds this season. I probably still can through Summer and then plant them in Autumn maintaining my process. I have black plastic that I can lay down to kill the grass. I think that I am engaging the space and making way for the new plants. The garden has always been grass.
I engage space, allowing the wild to dwell and, depending on the garden, incorporate my Plant Family be it vegetables or herbs. Half the herb plants are wild and it is quite the adventure to allow them. Flora Jones Garden has become my wild forage garden. I do plant a spiral of vegetables, but for the most part, the garden is wild (to the great chagrin of the neighbors).
Lawn is considered a sign of wealth and English envy, harking back to the rolling hills of the English countryside. I'll take a lawn with the added color of Ground Ivy, Dandelion and Violet any day. Incidentally delicious and nutritious plants. The Establishment will never shake off their royal Motherland regardless of all the cries of "America." We will always be steeped in our British origin, not to mention Dutch, French, Spanish - awwww heck Europe, not to mention Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America - a melting pot after all. Hey, I was born in England, so I get it. Turtle Island will always be steeped in the indigenous, thankfully regardless of all the attempts to rename it with European names (Tappanzee/Cuomo Bridge). Those so-callled "immigrants" down South are in the process of reclaiming Mexico. Don't get it twisted. Europe is white (barely), Turtle Island is red and always will be. The sooner we recognize that fact the easier the transition will be, otherwise it will continue to get ugly. Lawn is wasteful (water) and poisonous (herbicides) to our environment in an effort to keep it green. There are many alternatives.
Though I am challenged by Hiddenbrooke at the moment I do enjoy the arrival of Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island, Caucasus, Europe), which creates a lovely blue mat of flowers in Spring and can be used for Wild Salad and tea, is a blood cleanser, tonic diuretic and expectorant.
Dandelion, (Taraxacum officinale, Asteraceae, Perennial, Northern hemisphere) is thought to have been brought by the Vikings 600 years ago, who were not interested in conquering. Dandelion is the yellow flower found in lawns in early Spring. It is highly nutritious from leaf to flower to root. Leaves have vitamin A, B, C and E and minerals, is diuretic and detoxifies the blood. The flower can be made into a nourishing wine. I am taking Dandelion root tincture through menopause to support the liver and kidneys as they process the extra hormones.
Violet (Viola odorata, Violaceae, Perennial, S., C. & W. Europe) has a pretty purple flower that has been candied. The leaves contain vitamins A and C and can be used for Wild Salad and tea. They also contain saponin, are diuretic, expectorant, alterative and mildly laxative.
Plantain (Plantago major, (broadleaf), P. lanceolata (narrowleaf), Plantaginaceae, Perennial, Eurasia), is known to the natives as "white man's foot" because everywhere the colonists went, Plantain came up. I think it is a statement to the power of herbs that the European heading to the "new world" would bring this valuable herb with them. Susun (Weed) says they wouldn't have been that smart. Plantain leaves can be used in Wild Salad, the Narrowleaf variety is sweeter. The entire Plantain plant contains our Omega 3s. We can have the leaves in salad and collect the seeds to sprinkle on rice or oatmeal through Winter.
Aster (Aster ericoides, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) is an edible leaf with a white spray of flowers in Autumn. Aster macrophylla is also a tasty leaf with a lavender spray of flowers in autumn.. Astringent.
Mugwort (Artemisa vulgaris, Asteraceae, Perennial, N. Africa, Siberia, Europe) Mugwort is a sacred plant in Asia, Europe as well as to the indigenous of America. She can be dried, for tea and smudge. Whole plant vinegar, aids digestion, regulates menstruation, balances out the energy of menopause. Use sparingly in Wild Salad because she has a strong flavor. Avoid when pregnant.
Clover, (Oxalis acetosella, Oxalidaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island, Asia, Europe,) A tasty lemony flavored leaf that can be used for Wild Salad or lemonade. Astringent, diuretic internally, externally soothes rashes and boils. Large doses can block the absorption of calcium.
Lamb's Quarter (Chenopodium album, Chenopodiaceae, Perennial, Europe) Leaves contain vitamis and minerals, complete protein, folic acid, leaf poultice soothes sore skin, avoid shoots if one has kidney problems. Highest level of protein of any green. The leaf is a tasty, nutty flavor in salad. The young stem is also edible and with the leaves can be made into pesto. I recently had Lamb's Quarter cooked and the flavor is enhancee when done so. The seeds are ground into flour.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense, Leguminosae, Perennial, Europe) A pretty pink flower this season. The leaves and flowers can be eaten in Wild Salad and the leaves can be cooked. High in iron, chromium and B vitamins. Leaves, flowers, infusion monitors overflow of menses, reduces cramps, promotes fertility, reduces hot flashes, treats breast cancer.
Rain, rain, rain. At least I think we can say we had April Showers this season. Rain with 60 - 70 degree days. It has been years since we had April Showers. April has either been too dry, too hot and last year was too cold. Our mornings were 49 degrees right down to June last season. And grey and wet. Hardly motivation to get out into the garden. This year we've had a mixture of beautiful warm Spring days with sudden dips in temperature and rain, but the warming trend slowly kept creeping up so we have low 50's to 60 degree nights. I finally got to garden in the rain this week, my April Shower.
Though we have an administration that denies climate change, we have to look no further than the extreme weather taking place across Turtle Island. Tornadoes and floods are a regular and damaging occurrence in the midwest and south now. We will never forget the fire that raged out of control in California last year. I had my own individual experience with the unprecedented tornado that passed through Beacon last May.
I was gardening at Hiddenbrooke that day. I heard about the tornado watch and head out planning to leave the garden when the rain was scheduled to start. When it started to drizzle I packed up and made my way down the half mile drive to Depuyster Ave. I live five minutes away. I thought I knew the rain in Beacon and it would get heavy by the time I reached home. If one has ever been to Hiddenbrooke., one is familiar with the tree lined road of the Preserve. I didn't give it a thought, but will forever now be mindful of that treacherous tree line to get to the street. By the time I reached the straightaway to the street the wind had picked up and the trees were swaying mightily and branches were falling on the road. I drove over a set of branches because I was so close to the entrance. A large tree limb was blocking the entrance! At this point I called Marc. He wanted to know if I was safe and I had to tell him "No!" He suggested I turn around and go back to the house. When I did so, a tree limb fell and hit the front of the truck and there was too much debris to drive back to the house. I turned around again and thought briefly about staying in the truck until the storm passed, but quickly realized I could be crushed by a falling tree. I decided that if I was going to die, better to die trying to save my life that sitting in the truck and getting crushed. I jumped out of the truck praying for safety and grabbed a branch on the limb, which snapped off and I fell back on my butt, telling myself "No, you dope, grab the whole limb!" I got back up, dragged the limb (about 6" in diameter, 12' long) out of the way, jumped back into the truck and drove home. Halfway home, the world was completely calm and by the time I reached home, there was no rain. The limb that hit the front of the truck cracked the top of the windshield. We had gotten rust repaired and replaced the windshield six months earlier so here we were again! Marc likes to say I threw caution to the wind, but for possibly the first time in my life, I had planned my day with safety in mind. The tornado apparently jumped off in the Hudson River and stayed on the ground until Bridgeport, CT. It was said you could see the damage on Google Earth. It all happened so fast. I was in peril!
I have been traveling to Kingston and Wingdale for the past two years working with my partner farms. One night on the way home from Rosendale I came across a fallen tree with a police car onsite. A pretty big tree! It reopened the thought of peril with these massive trees simply "giving up the ghost." I'm from Miami, so I've see my share of hurricane damage, but to drive around Dutchess County and see the number of fallen trees was incredible. Mt. Saint Mary's Desmond Campus, where I have begun teaching this season, lost one hundred trees and a woman was killed when a tree fell on her car at the entrance. A young girl in Newburgh was crushed after her mother stepped out of the car. I suppose it wasn't my time.
I lost my Mum last July. I consider my own death now and saying good-bye to my husband Marc someday. As our Establishment becomes more treacherous, it is a race to see whether we will lose our democracy or our environment first. Either way, we are not on a hopeful path. Joy is found in the gardens and with the community we have built for ourselves.
I have harvested Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica, Urticaceae, Perennial, Europe) this month and have hung thirty-eight bunches to dry. I usually get a pound of dried herb that lasts a couple of months. Susun says we need six pounds of herb to make it through the year. Stinging Nettle promotes the optimum functioning of the internal organs. It can be used in place of coffee. With the internal organs functioning optimally, an energy boost is a natural result. Stinging Nettle is good for allergies. Also contains calcium, protein and is good for diabetics. I have planted a square foot of Nettle in my gardens. My original square foot came from Stone Barns. I've heard Nettle is wild on the Fishkill Creek off of Washington Ave. One has to travel by boat to reach it. Nettle spreads about three feet a year. I have planted a square foot of Nettle in my gardens.
This week I also harvested Sunroot also know as Jerusalem Artichoke (not an Artichoke nor from Jerusalem) or Sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island). Her sister H. annuus is the forerunner of Sunflower, hybridized in Europe to the giant head we know today. Sunroot has a tuber in the ground this time of year somewhat like a potato, tangier, I think. I read that the natives used them like Radish so I like to pickle them. The tuber can be boiled, mashed or roasted. Like beans can cause flatulence which is less likely when ingested the second day after cooking. Sunroots contain inulin, which is very good for diabetics. Sunroots cooked and eaten the following day are even more delicious as the inulin has converted to fructose. I've decided to plant them in all my gardens. I have fifty feet on either side of Flora Jones Garden. Just replant the tubers wherever one wants them. They will multiply ever after.
Think globally, act locally Pete Seeger used to say. When we tire of our compromised democracy and natural world, we can find solace in our gardens and community, which is all we've ever had or will have.
In the midst of the "weed" challenge, I also grow vegetables. The purpose of moving upstate was to live off the land. Here I should say that I am unconventional, and anomaly in my Caribbean family. My closest friends have all been married or married and divorced with two to five kids each. I left home when I was nineteen seeking freedom from an authoritative household. I was the only girl, with three older brothers. My parents never intended for me to leave home and consequently, I left home with no life skills whatsoever and thrust myself into the big bad world.
I wanted to be a Park Ranger when I graduated from high school, but I was in Florida then, a woman in the 80's, black and not bilingual so I didn't even have the courage to pursue it. Not to mention, my family would have looked at me as if I had three heads, which they do anyway. I studied Psychology for three semesters in college until Mum ran out of money and then moved to New York to study acting. I am an empath thrust into the most anxiety ridden city in the world. Of course, I didn't know that then.
I grew locks immediately when I left home in love with Bob Marley, who coincidently, passed on in Miami at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. I found his music when I was fourteen and my rebel heart opened. I knew he was the face of freedom. Of course, to this day there is no place for locks in show business outside of Whoopi Goldberg who still has to don a wig in movies. Whoopi Goldberg and Madonna inspired me to move to New York. I couldn't spend the rest of my life constantly concerned with my physical image so I had to move on from acting in my mid-twenties. I thought I should pursue my love of the the natural world and would find more options in New York. I began with studying for a Certificate of Horticulture at Brooklyn Botanic Garden and also studied at New York Botanical Garden and Bronx Community College for an Associates Degree in Horticulture. I was working in Riverside Park, Manhattan, by then. I wanted an alternative view of plants which led me to Susun Weed and the Wise Woman Center where I found my life's work - herbs.
I moved upstate in 2006, switching into agriculture at Stone Barns in Tarrytown. I knew I wanted to farm. Dutchess County was one of the most affordable then, which is what brought me to Beacon. Racism dogs the African American thoroughly and strong I now know, throughout one's life and though I can navigate the constant white spaces I find myself in, I know that I forge my own path as an herbalist. I love to grow and fortunately I have found my ancestors (Great Grandfathers) who were farmers, not to mention my indigenous cultural heritage (Arawak/Caribe) who were also engaged with the land which affords me the opportunity to believe in the Native American tenet "We belong to the earth, the earth does not belong to us." I know I have engaged Spirit in my work and I constantly receive gifts of Spirit.
I grow our Winter stores. Kale (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial, Europe). For years I grew six feet, but I have since increased it to fifteen feet to get a pot of greens from one harvest. I start making pots of greens in August and freeze portions for Christmas supper. Kale contains calcium, iron, beta carotene, vitamins E an C. It is considered a primitive cabbage.
A word about processing. The farming journey, for me has been a delightful process of discovery. As the possibilities for Winter stores unfolded, I fell in love with the processing of the harvest come August. I realized our earlier selves only concerned with the days work before we were shifted off the lands and crammed into cities. We live simply, but the quality of life is peaceful and connected to Spirit.
Sargent-Downing Community Garden (SDG) is grown communally. Individual plots can be found up the road at Stonykill and at SDG's height we had five members and one of the gifts a member left me with are Beets (Beta vulgaris, subs. vulgaris, Chenopodiaceae, Biennial, ancient Assyria (today Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran)). I love to make pickles and pickled Beets are so good in a Winter pasta salad with Pesto. Higher in carbohydrates than most vegetables, Beets are also a good source of folic acid and potassium.
I have always had digestive issues, which is why I love fermented foods, so good for gut flora. I grow a thirty foot bed of Green and Red Cabbage (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial, Asia Minor, eastern Mediterranean). I make three and a half gallons of Sauerkraut for Winter, one of the best ways to get one's greens in Winter. I remember when I was a child coming home from school and taking a fork to the bag of sauerkraut we kept in the fridge. Cabbage is rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, outer leaves of green varieties contain vitamin E.
I love origins, which is why I mention them here. I believe they will serve to unravel this mess of sexism, classism and racism in which we find ourselves today. We can learn to appreciate the contributions of our world family through our fundamental need - food. Cultural bias would have to fall away as we revere these contributions.
Engaged in indigenous education, our group Neetopk Keetopk (www.neetopkkeetopk.org) go back to the old ways of our Native American family and grow the Three Sisters, Corn, Beans and Squash. These three "sisters" are the cornerstone of the native's diet and the gift to the European settlers in early America. Today, unfortunately, Corn is as denigrated as the Native American, not even grown for human consumption, fed to cows (who don't eat corn) to fatten them and subsidized by the USDA for its byproducts, one of which, High Fructose Corn Syrup, is now used to sweeten our food and responsible for the rise of diabetes, especially in pregnant women. Maize is the original name for Corn and it was not as sweet, used for grain and fodder. Corn is thought to have originated in Mexico around 7000 BCE. Corn comes in a variety of colors from yellow to blue to black often found in South America. Corn ranks third behind wheat and rice as one of the most important cereals in the world. Corn (Zea mays, Graminae, Annual, Mexico) is high in carbohydrates, fiber, also contains protein and vitamin B.
Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris, Papilionaceae, Annual) also comes from Mexico as well as Guatemala and parts of the Andes. Settlers found the beans running up the Corn plant providing starch and protein for the natives. Corn provides a stake for the Beans, Beans provide nutrients to the soil and Squash shades out the weeds. A lovely symbiosis. Folklore speaks of the natives placing a fish in the Three Sisters mound as fertilizer. Beans contain potassium, folic acid, beta carotene and protein. Squash also originates in the Americas cultivated for up to 10,000 years. Pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima, Pumpkin and Squash, Cucurbita moschata, Summer and Winter Squash, Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbitaceae, Annual). From Zucchini in the Summer to Pumpkin in Autumn, we have a huge variety of food to choose from, high in beta carotene, also containing vitamin C and folic acid. Surely, the madness of today can stem back to this ungrateful European who denigrated this people who gifted them with nourishment in the "New World." On the flip side we can raise discussion about the circumstances of this now demon, leaving Africa so long ago. Paradise Lost? We know the "white devil" abhors the natural world and can only see dominance where our native family dwells within Her as family.
I wild forage Wild Salad April through June and then come July I harvest a Mustard Mix, Pink Lettucy Mustard, Ruby Streaks and Tatsoi. It all started at Stone Barns where we would bag a Salad Mix and a Mustard Mix for our farmers market. For us, it's the perfect variation after a a season of wild greens. Mustard Greens (Brassica juncea, Brassicaceae, central Asia, Himalayas). Sanskrit records show Mustard Greens have been cultivated since 3000 BCE. Annual and Biennial, Mustard Greens contain vitamin A and C, calcium, iron, potassium and phosphorus.
Stone Barns had an abundance of Parsley one season so my first Pesto was Parsley, a bright green welcome nourishment in the dead of Winter. We don't open our Pesto (I store five quarts) until January after the joy and delight of the holidays. Only in recent years have I made Basil Pesto. I have also used Walnuts as well as Cheese to make a low fat Pesto. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum, Umbelliferae, Biennial, South Europe) contains beta carotene, vitamin C and iron. I was inspired to make Parsley Pesto when I read that Parsley is used as a vegetable in the Middle East.
Last but certainly not least, the beloved Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum, Solanaceae, Perennial grown as an Annual, Andes), another gift from our Turtle Island region. Tomatoes were considered poisonous in Europe initially because of the strong smell and bright colors, then later an aphrodisiac earning the name Love Apple. Of course, we now associate them with Italians and I've even heard Germans. I grow Tomato with Basil of course, the strong smell warding of insects, Basil (Ocimum basilicum, Labiatae, tropical Asia) also associated with Italy, but who do they have to thank for a staple of their cuisine? Asia! I make a quart of Tomato sauce for Goat Lasagna for Christmas. Caribbeans are raised on goat meat. I also make a quart of oven dried tomatoes.
To find unity and an appreciation of our global family, we need look no further than one of our basic needs - food. Surely, in recognizing our individual contributions, there would no longer be the need for cultural bias, especially in recognizing the tens of thousands of years our contributors existed before "discovery."
Mid-May and with so much rain, the challenge is weeds. As an Edible Landscaper, I allow for Wild Forage food plants and medicine in all my gardens.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris, Asteraceae, Perennial, North Africa, Siberia, Europe) is the toughest challenge. She really doesn't know how to control herself. She is sacred to Asians, Europeans and Native Americans. She can be burned and smoked in ceremony. I make a delicious vinegar with her leaves and also use them in my Wild Salad. In the past two years I have dried the leaves for tea. I have been hedge-trimming her at Flora's the last couple of weeks and I don't think she likes it so far only returning in patches. I do maintain her in sections at Flora's and Hiddenbrooke. Mugwort is good for our Moontime and to ease the Great Change (Menopause), but should not be used by pregnant women.
Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare, Asteraceae, Biennial, Northwestern Africa, Western Asia, Europe) is the most dominant weed at Sargent-Downing. I did harvest two pounds of leaf once for cooked greens, but it took mighty long to remove the midrib of the leaf which can be too fibrous to enjoy. I consider it a survival food, very sweet and delicious, but too time consuming to process for a regular meal. The root can be eaten raw or cooked. The root and leaves contain mineral electrolytes and can provide energy when exercising. Spikey stalk and leaves. I have an electric mower at SDG so I just keep Bull Thistle mowed.
Ground Ivy (Glechoema hederacea, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island, Caucasus, Europe) is a beautiful blue mat of flowers in Spring. I like to have her around for her flowers, but I weed her out of the beds. She is a strong flavored green for Wild Salad and can also be used for tea, blood cleansing, tonic and diuretic. Topically, the leaves can be used for bruises and inflammation.
Stiltgrass or Sasa as a Japanese student said it is called in Japan (Microstegium vimineum, Poaceae, Annual, South Asia, East Asia) is a new challenge in the beds. Last year completely covered Anise Hyssop and Skullcap at Hiddenbrooke, though the plants were there underneath. The young leaves are edible and sweet. I once head up Mt. Beacon (1000 ft) without food or water, bonked three quarters of the way up and there was Sasa on the side of the path beckoning me to eat her. I ate five leaves and head up to the peak, refreshed and fortified. The leaves become too fibrous later in the season.
Flora Jones Garden is my Wild Salad garden. A variety of edible wild plants occur that have beautiful flowers. Aster (Aster ericoides, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) is an edible leaf with a white spray of flowers in Autumn. Aster macrophylla is also a tasty leaf with a lavender spray of flowers in autumn. Red Clover, (Trifolium pratense, Leguminosae, Perennial, Europe) has a pink flowerhead in Summer. The leaves and flowers can be eaten in our Wild Salad both containing iron. White Clover (Trifolium repens) is much smaller and usually grown for hay. The flowers were once used to make bread.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale, Asteraceae, Perennial, Northern hemisphere) is thought to have been brought to Turtle Island 600 years ago by the Vikings (who weren't interested in conquering). Dandelion along with Ground Ivy and Violet are the bane of the grass enthusiast. I consider their flowers a lovely addition to the boring green lawn, a symbol of wealth brought to us by the English. American lawns are considered English envy. Dandelion is like a multi-vitamin. The leaves are iron rich with vitamins A and C and minerals. The flowers can be made into a nutritious wine and the buds can be pickled. I make a Dandelion Soup with the leaves in late Spring. I am taking root tincture through menopause now to support the liver.
Violet (Viola odorata, Violaceae, Perennial, Europe) has taken over the driveway at Flora's. Beautiful heart shaped leaves and purple flowers can both be eaten in Wild Salad. The flower and leaf can also be made into a syrup for cough, headache and is mildly laxative.
Burdock (Arctium minus, A. lappa, Asteraceae, Biennial, Turtle Island, Europe) is one of my earliest allies as I have had digestive issues throughout my life. I have taken the first year root tincture for an ulcer, used the leaves put up in vinegar topically to reduce swelling and just recently used the fresh root for tea as a Spring Tonic. The leaves grow to an arm's length and in the second year, Burdock is multi-stemmed with purple Thistle-like flowers. Those burrs on your clothes that you come home with after a hike are Burdock seed heads, the inspiration for Velcro. Our plant Family has multipe uses so when you find your Allies, research them thoroughly.
Yellow Dock (Rumex obtusifolia, R. crispus, Polygonaceae, Perennial, North temperate and Arctic regions). Here is a case of cultural bias as the native R. obtusifolia (the leaf has a red midrib) is rarely included in herbals while R. crispus is always included. Both plants have the same properties. An iron rich root that can be made into a decoction, especially good for women. I find R. obtusifolia most often. The seeds can be made into a vinegar. I used leaves for Nettle soup in early Spring.
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata, Cruciferae, Biennial, North Africa, Asia, Europe). Garlic Mustard leaves taste like Garlic and the flowers and seeds taste like Mustard. A spicy addition to our Wild Salad, like Dandelion quickly flowering in Spring, but there are usually first year leaves available at the foot of the second year plants.
Field bindweed (Convulvulus arvensis var. arvensis (broadleaf), C. arvensis var. linearifolius (narrow-leaved) Convulvulaceae, Perennial, Asia, Europe). Field Bindweed is the bane of my existence the last two year's at Flora's overtaking Vetch. Related to Morning Glory (Ipomea hederacea, Convulvulaceae, Annual, Vine, Turtle Island to Argentina), Field Bindweed does contain glycosides and purgative properties. I have used the leaves of Morning Glory in salad. The dried seeds are thought to be hallucinogenic and are used in Asia for worms, constipation, as a diuretic and to stimulate menstruation. I. tricolor and I. violacea seeds have compounds similar to LSD and were used in Aztec rituals.
Vetch (Vicia americana, Leguminosae, Perennial, Turtle Island). Vetch seeds and young stems are edible, tasting like Bean Sprouts. The plants contain cyanide so use with caution. Sweet pink flowers in Summer. So prolific I was shocked when Field Bindweed overtook her. She was the first "weed to find her place at Flora's so I thought I would always have her. A succession plant lesson would be useful here.
Dare I say, if we used all of these plants mentioned here as food and medicine, they would be less invasive.
Sally Garden of Eden is my one paid Edible Landscape gig in Rosendale. The garden is at the top of the Shawangunk Ridge with a rock face at the back of the garden. It is a joy to leave Beacon for a day and enjoy a drive through the countryside in any season. I can imagine the colonizers back in the day must have thought the lands were infinite coming from their tiny countries in comparison to Turtle Island.
I met Sally and Paul Bermanzohn during the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign in 2013. I may have mentioned when I moved to upstate Spirit told me to find the natives. In the process, I uncovered my own Arawak/Caribe cultural heritage. The Caribes conquered the Arawak, what conflicted blood some of us have running through our veins! The Arawak are also known as Amerindians and come from South America (Guyana) where my Mum was from and the Caribe are from Dominica where my Dad is from. I produced my first native American event in 2010 at the the theater at University Settlement - a two day Eco-Fest featuring Evan Pritchard, Tony Moonhawk, Pete Seeger and Grandmother Flor de Mayo of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers (www.grandmotherscouncil.org). It was the beginning of this spirited life I have had the privilege of living.
Spirit runs through all things, people, animals, insects, rocks, earth, water, fire and air. It is what connects us and makes us one. Man has constantly sought to divide us over petty differences like gender, class, race and religion, but Spirit constantly returns us to ourselves . Community is the one human experience that can never be broken and it's the one thing we can rely on through dark days like today. Hold one another and share love and connection.
The Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign (www.honorthetworow.org) marked the 400th anniversary of the original treaty signed between the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) and the Dutch. The Haudenosaunee comprise the Five Nations Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga and Seneca Peoples, the First Peoples. The Haudenosaunee are the world's oldest democracy and the American Constitution is based off of their principles. The Two Row Wampum is a belt that symbolizes the treaty. It has two colors of beads and means that the two peoples will travel this life together parallel, without interfering with one another "as long as the grass is green, the rivers flow downhill and as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west." The Campaign was a two week canoe trip across the Mohawk River and down the Hudson to the United Nations International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. Kingston, Poughkeepsie and Beacon held the largest festivals welcoming the rowers for overnight stays. I was coordinator for the Beacon Festival. We organised the festival, but for me, I had no idea how it would feel to participate. We had performances and talks and vendors all day, but when the horses arrived from the Dakotas and the rowers arrived on the river, I was so lifted! Spirit is magnificent! It is now life before Two Row and life after Two Row. Unfortunately, America walked out of the United Nations International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.
A month later wearing my Two Row t-shirt, I attended the Ramapaugh Pow Wow and met Sally who also had on her t-shirt and we shared our joyful stories and experiences. Sally organized the Kingston festival and even paddled a section of the canoe trip. I wanted to paddle to Cold Spring, but I did end driving two African Drummers down and helped pull the canoes in the day after Beacon. The African Drummers were the only music in Cold Spring.
Sally and Paul Bermanzohn are long time activists now in their seventies who were victims of the Greensboro Massacre in Greensboro, NC in 1979. They lost friends that day and Paul was shot in the head and handicapped. It was a protest against the Ku Klux Klan and the local police delayed their response and white protestors showed up with a trunk full of guns and opened fire on the protestors. Sally and Paul travel annually to events held to commemorate the event. Sally has written a book about the incident, Through Survivor's Eyes: From the Sixties to the Greensboro Massacre. the work continues.
Sally's garden is a forest of White Pine, so my Plant Family (Stinging Nettle, Comfrey, Wild Bergamot, Sunroot, Burdock, Valerian) are not thriving in the shade. I did find an article from 2002 this Winter that is all about forest dwellers. I'm considering Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis, Papaveraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and Elecampane (Inula helenium, Asteraceae, Perennial, Europe), both shade loving plants. Sally already has Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and I actually transplant out of her garden into mine.
I have compost piles in all my gardens, but Sally was the first compost that I made for someone else. I have been Compost Queen at the Beacon Sloop Club Strawberry, Corn and Pumpkin festivals since 2007, but it is a different story when one explains the process to a client and it works. We have two bins, one for the current season's ingredients of weeds, food scraps and chicken hay and come Autumn we layer the first bin into the second bin adding leaves. To my surprise it worked like a charm and we have been adding her compost back to her four raised beds ever since. This season is the first season we have got enough for all four bins. Such a rewarding exercise!
Sally works with me so we start each garden time with a walk through to see how our plantings are doing. She has a beautiful ornamental garden already in place and my job is to add medicinal plants. She has three sections of gardens around the house and they are filled with Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis, Papaveraceae, Turtle Island), Fern, Matteucia sp., Perennial, Worldwide), Vinca, (Vinca minor, Apocynaceae, Perennial, Africa, Asia, Europe), Foxglove (Digitalis sp., Plantaginaceae, Africa, Asia, Europe) and Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus, Ranunculaceae, Perennial, Europe. Her family has always had gardens and Sally keeps the family tradition going.
April has drawn to a close and we have had April Showers this season. I don't know the last time we had April Showers. Rain, but warm weather rising into the high sixties. Perfect for a comfortable drenching in the garden. A Spring Shower! Unfortunately, the few times I spent in the garden when it rained, it was too cool to get drenched. I sat on the porch at Hiddenbrooke and watched the torrential rain until I was chilled and then went inside for tea.
Hiddenbrooke Open Space Preserve is the brainchild of Shannon Murphy of Beacon Yoga. I met her when she was in the midst of releasing the space from the developer who at least wanted his commission from the City of Beacon when his project fell through. Shannon was my yoga instructor and promptly told me of her plans for Hiddenbrooke.
Hiddenbrooke is also the home of Carmelite Nuns who took over from Ursuline Nuns years ago. Shannon's Grandfather was the caretaker for the Ursuline Nuns and they gifted him twelve acres when they left. Shannon's idea was for a Wellness Center and I walked the property with her, an artist and a waterkeeper in 2010. Hiddenbrooke became an Open Space Preserve around 2012 and Shannon set her sights on her grandfather's old cottage for the Wellness Center. In 2016, she informed me it was time to plant the herb garden.
I had been growing in Wappinger at Obercreek for three years and was displaced in 2017, interestingly enough, felled by organic certification. There are no regulations for herbs, but an organic farm cannot have a third party on the property. But Spirit provides and Shannon invited me to move my garden to Hiddenbrooke five minutes from my apartment. And I can teach onsite as well. Spirit be praised!
I began my journey into the wilderness with walks throughout the area. I hiked Mt Beacon once a month for six months, Madame Brett in the coldest of Winters and jogged the icy path of the Frannie Reese Trail along the river. By 2011, with the recession looming and losing our home in the midst (having to move twice in two years) I still walked to yoga class in the dead of Winter. Not much choice because we lost our Subaru as well. 2011 was perfectly bittersweet. I consider it a Rite of Passage into the wilderness, for I gained my three gardens in 2011, Sargent-Downing, Flora Jones and Groundwork. I also made the final decision not to have children in 2011. Bittersweet in deed.
I did come to understand the nature of Spirit. I believe the nature of Spirit is to make it up as you go along. Not much room for that belief in our controlled Establishment. On the contrary, we are taught to live in fear, anxious each day we venture out our door. We are unworthy and should be punished for ever having been born. Enter Abraham (www.abraham-hicks.com) and the belief that "the purpose of life is joy," thwarting my religious upbringing (mine being Catholic, Pentacostal and Southern Baptist). I left the church when I was sixteen vowing to find the truth. Vision Quests and mind-altering substances later in my mid-twenties I stumbled upon Seth Speaks (www.sethcenter.com), the entity channeled by Jane Roberts, my firt encounter with the purpose of life being joy. I still get the catalog. Jane Roberts passed on in 1984. Falling back on my religious upbringing, I left the books alone in my late twenties believing that if it was for me, I would revisit them again. Theo (www.asktheo.com) had occurred by then, but I wasn't ready to carry on beyond Seth. Ten years later, leaving the boroughs (New York City) and beginning farming, I was handed Abraham. What a joy to revisit what I had come to know as true. A true gift of Spirit. We have evolved, if ever religion was anything beyond a means to control the masses (opioid anyone?). We are brilliant, bright, magical beings and no one, especially a man, has the right to deny us, especially women, the gift of Spirit.
I consider all of my good fortune "Gifts of Spirit" these days. The question is whether or not the gifts of Spirit are diametrically opposed to the Establishment? The gifts of Spirit are definitely different and not necessarily monetary in value. As I venture forth, promoting my businesses, I wonder where Spirit and the Establishment meet. We most certainly do not need money to be happy, but we certainly need it to pay bills. My husband and I absolutely have a certain level of ease from the harvest, about food for Winter. We have to pay rent and we purchase water. So our basic needs food, shelter, water, we need money to pay for two out of three. Then we have to pay for transportation because, in our case, Marc travels to Manhattan for work five days a week. And I travel an hour upstate at least once a week. Abraham says "come into alignment with money" so that's the next leg of the journey. I look forward to the adventure.
Through United Plant Savers (www.unitedplantsavers.org), I have connected with native and endangered plants and consider them part of my work. There are easily European standard herbs that we all now and love that I will always grow.
My old herb garden, Groundwork had a sundial in the center and I radiated circular beds out from the sundial.
Hiddenbrooke has a fountain down the center of the garden so we have come up with a different plan. I consider my gardens a canvas with levels of texture, layer and form and Shannon is an artist and she suggested I look at the work of Wassily Kandinsky, an artist who uses curves as well as straight lines. Hiddenbrooke Herb Garden is on a slope as well. I now have a series of curved beds and straight beds. My first beds were ornamentals which also have herbal value Phlox (Phlox subulata, Polemoniaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris, Ranunculaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia, Perennial, Papaveraceae, Turtle Island). Next I opened beds for Chocolate Mint (Mentha x piperita 'Chocolate', Labiatae, Perennial, Africa, Eurasia), Spearmint (Mentha spicata, Labiatae, Perennial, Africa, Eurasia) and Peppermint (Mentha x piperita, Labiatae, Perennial, Africa, Eurasia). I open beds and plant in Spring and Autumn in the cooler weather. By the end of 2017, I had beds for Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Valeriaceae, Perennial, West Asia, Europe), Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica, Urticaceae, Perennial, Northern Hemisphere, Burdock, Arctium lappa, A. minus, Asteraceae, Biennial, Europe and Turtle Island respectively, Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and Elecampane (Inula helenium, Asteraceae, Perennial, Eurasia). At the end of 2018, I installed beds for St. Johnswort, Hypericum perforatum, Hypericaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island), Echinacea, (Echinacea purpurea, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island).
Phlox - leaves can be eaten in Wild Salad
Columbine - homeopathic for the nervous system
Bleeding Heart - leaves for Wild Salad
Mints - digestives issues, for me Spearmint does not work as well as Chocolate Mint and Peppermint
Valerian - sleep aid
Stinging Nettle - iron, protein, diabetes, allergies, promotes the optimum functioning of the eternal organs
Burdock - digestive issues, anticancer, headache
Anise Hyssop - native cough medicine
Skullcap - native painkiller
Elecampane - cough medicine
St. Johnswort - depression, oil for muscle ache
Echinacea - antibacterial, antiviral
Wild Bergamot - colds, digestive issues