I have spent the week producing product for market. Salve, Tea, Tincture.
I started on a Sunday a couple of hours a day and finished by Thursday. Making product is fun of course and time consuming, it becomes meditative. I could do nothing else, writing, reading, no blog last week, barely any communication. A labor of love. I want to go to market from October - March until I sell out. A small batch operation. Should give me money for seeds, supplies, etc. It is also an opportunity to get out into the community and share herbal information. I’m looking forward to it as much as making money.
I have gone to market at Stone Barns and with Honey Locust in the past, but last summer I had the opportunity to vend and present at Neetopk Keetopk’s Medicine Pauwau (www.neetopkkeetopk.org). It was exciting and fun and the first time I had my own booth.
Each vendor shared their work in forty minute sessions. A Medicine Pauwau is a community gathering to discuss a hypothetical situation we may face in the future. It consists of four councils - children, women, young men and elders (men). Each council discusses the situation separately and when the councils have reached a decision, the four councils come together and share. It is a wonderful community process.
Two weeks have passed since Flora Jones Garden ended. I have to assimilate the extra energy. It’s weird. I am constantly lit. I have moved SDG to Thursdays so now I have Wednesday open. It is welcome right now because Twuck is still in the shop - now a month - and I have been taking public transportation to A Farm for All! on Tuesdays, a three and a half hour trip. The first week the bus had tire trouble! Beacon has a free Loop Bus that I can catch right in front of the house to get to the train. There is an hour and a half wait for the bus when I reach Poughkeepsie, though. I take my IPad and manage my communication, but I think I want to carry something to read as well. I got sooo bored last Tuesday, but upon gazing out of the window of the bus, I was met with Autumn hue and filled with joy! The boredom was sooo discombooberating I had to take Motherwort to straighten me out. (Leonarus cardiaca, Labiatae, Perennial, Europe), Leonarus cardiaca means Lionheart and Motherwort works wonders for anything heart related. A dropperful of Tincture (whole plant in flower) every five minutes for anxiety, two dropperfuls three times a day for high blood pressure (results in about a month) and three dropperfuls for sleep. Mum told me about the three dropperfuls for sleep. I had given it to her because HER INSULIN GAVE HER HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE and she called me up to tell me how good Motherwort is for sleep. It was perfect timing because I had insomnia at the time. Puts one right out in about thirty minutes. Motherwort can be habit forming.
I continue to make Zucchini bread and Tomato sauce. This week I have harvested Cabbage and begin to make sauerkraut. I look back fondly on the time I discovered the joy of processing the harvest. I remember how daunting working land seemed to be and then “Oh no, I have to harvest and process this stuff!” Now it is a wonderful meditative sensual experience. Warm tomato squishing between my fingers to remove the seed for Tomato sauce. The scent of drying tomatoes in the oven. Licking the bowl like a child after making Zucchini bread and now squishing the Cabbage with salt to start the fermentation process to make sauerkraut! What a failure the first time I tried to make sauerkraut! Now I realize, there’s no trying at all. I simply have to get the fermentation going and it makes itself. I have some Zucchini left after making eight loaves of bread so I am going to try my hand at Zucchini fritters.
I’ve gotten in Sage bed at Hiddenbrooke. Looking forward to those gorgeous flowers next season. Salvia officinalis, Labiatae, Perennial, Mediterranean, North Africa. Sage is used culinarily as well as in ceremony. I burn Sage at the Winter Solstice to clear the space for the fresh new energy of the new year. I have made Sage Honey and had Sage tea over the last few Winters. I also like to smoke her in a blend with Catnip and Mullein. Many Mint family plants are good for colds mainly the aromatic ones. Sage leaf tea is an antiseptic, nerve and blood tonic. White Sage (Salvia apiana, Labiatae, Perennial, Southwest Turtle Island and North Western Mexico) is the traditional Sage burned in ceremony by the indigenous of our Turtle Island.
Hiddenbrooke takes shape - very exciting. I was wrapped up weeding beds this season, but I’m going to use hay for weed control from now on. I did manage to lay black plastic in Summer to kill the grass so, Sage bed was a piece of cake. I did not have to pull grass, just lay Compost. I finished Valerian bed with plants from Flora Jones Garden. I redid Valerian bed and laid Compost (Valeriana officinalis, Valerianaceae, Perennial, Europe, West Asia). I had forgotten I laid Compost for Valerian at Flora Jones. Some plants do just fine without Compost, but Valerian has struggled. Valerian is a well know sleep aid available in health food stores. Usually the root is used, but if it’s too strong, the flowers can be used. Also good for headache, muscle cramps and irritable bowel syndrome. And can be used topically for wounds, ulcers and eczema.
The adventure continues closing out the gardens. There is a lovely sense of accomplishment at the end of the season. Removing the plants and laying down hay putting beds to sleep. It’s life itself, the great cycle of life dwelling with Earth through the seasons. Harmony.
Art entered my life in 2012 when my dear friend Vickie of miss vickie music asked me to produce a dreamcatcher for an indigenous month in November filled with events in different venues on Main St here in Beacon. The late Rainbow Weaver and I both produced dreamcatchers for the event, hers hung in a gallery and mine on the wall of the Bank Square patio. My dream catcher was given back to Earth hanging on the back catcher fence at University Settlement. Rainbow Weaver’s dreamcatcher still hangs on the wall inside the Education Center at Sargent-Downing.
What does art mean to me? I can recall when Marc and I made our great migration north in 2006, I wanted to give up writing and become a visual artist. I had read Carlos Castaneda and he mentioned thought without words and I still don’t know what it means. Or in this moment, perhaps it means the quiet mind of meditation. I was reacting to the limitation of words and how words have been used to categorize and label people forever locking them into imagery that brings them harm and degradation. I hated words then, although words have been my art since I became self aware at twelve years old.
Living the simple life I have the great pleasure of studying whatever I want. Using the library to find origins that help my empathic self make sense of this challenging world. I borrowed Art Through the Ages by Helen Gardner from another good friend, Betty Harkins. Of course art begins in ancient cultures, then catalogued and categorized by the Europeans who give us the great Renaissance and Elightenment movements. Art having crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa 8000 - 3000 BCE around the same time writing evolves in the Near East (Western Asia) influencing the “comparatively backward region of Western Europe, still Mesolithic and Neolithic.”
Art is a departure from words for me. Perhaps it is the thought without words. In any case, obviously I am back to writing, but I do have visual art to share. I am a writer, I’ve always been a writer and always will be a writer. I have committed myself to writing in 2019. The writing fast proved fruitful, I now have a relationship with visual art. When I have writer’s block I will break out the acrylics or pastels or watercolors and dance across the page.
A Dreamcatcher is traditionally made with Willow branches so I head out into the wilderness to harvest Willow (Salix alba, Salicaceae, Tree, Europe, W. Asia). Our Turtle Island variety is Salix discolor, the true Pussy Willow occurring in wet areas in Eastern Turtle Island. Willow stem bark is a painkiller, a fever reducer and an original source of salicylic acid for aspirin. In 2012, I was wandering the lands of my new home just before sunrise. The dreamcatcher turned out to be 5’ x 7’. I also gathered Walnuts to dye the string. Walnut (Juglans nigra, Juglandaceae, Tree, Turtle Island). There is also an English Walnut, Juglans regia, also known as Persian Walnut. Walnuts reduce cholesterol, and are added to salad and sweets. In China the nuts are used for wheezing, back and leg pain and constipation. I initially made a small dreamcatcher that just broke and I dismantled it recently. The small dreamcatcher gave me the confidence to approach the large one. The work immediately became a meditation. Thought without words as I weave the string across the ring. The Willow branches are fashioned into a ring. The string is then weaved from different points to form a web. Dreamcatchers are hung over one’s bed to catch bad dreams. I recently noticed I have two beautiful dreamcatchers that hang from my bedpost just above my head. I must have gotten them around the same time. Beads and feathers are woven in as well. Art, thought without words is ringing true in this moment. Mediation. Silence. Departing from the limitation of words into the infinite. Art.
I discovered my Arawak-Caribe cultural heritage around 2010. My mother’s sister, Auntie Pat had always said we were Amerindian and when we moved upstate, Spirit told me to find the natives. I had my first indigenous event in 2010. I understand why European Americans want to hold on to that heritage because whenI discovered I had returned to the region of the world of my cultural heritage, I felt immediately at home in my skin. One generation out of our Caribbean Motherland and we have the opportunity to return home. The problem the European American must face is that this is not your home, however deep in denial you are. Your home is Europe and always will be. You are the First Peoples of Europe. And though you don’t mind continuously destroying the lives of the First Peoples here, Turtle Island will never be your home. You are a conquered people oppressed becoming the oppressor, but we, the First Peoples will always rise and RESIST!
It is delusional to believe that you have created civilization. Evolution has created civilization and you have co-opted all you call culture from black and brown people. Numbers, religion, spiritual practice, commerce, machines, all co-opted in the great march of evolution. We are. There is not I, no individual. It is we interconnected and woven together through the Spirit that runs through all things. No superiority, no exceptionalism, WE.
Harmony with All. Tolerance, acceptance, allowance. We are all allowed. One big human family. Our differences make us strong and dynamic. We are bored with black and white, heterosexual, Judeo Christian. Let’s blend everything else to release the magic of being human.
Autumn Equinox and we head into the darkest nights of the year. The days have been shortening since Summer Solstice June 21, becoming noticeable around August. We bow to the deep dark and withdraw back and in and down in reflection and visions of the season 2020. I like to write an assessment this time of year looking back over the season and what went well and not so well.
Truck went out last week and we got them up to the mechanic thinking it was the trasnsmission. It turns out the wire harness had an electrical fire sometime ago and the issues have just manifested. We have a 1998 Chevy Tahoe, one of the last models with barn doors. We were just getting into the electronic age with push button 4 x 4. Barn doors are excellent for an edible landscaper for obvious reasons. The only other better option would be a pickup truck. Tahoe is a great truck. We will go take a look today to decide on replacing the wire harness.
It’s time to put the gardens to sleep. I cleared out Garlic bed at SDG and laid down hay. I started early this season because I didn’t get all the beds finished by mid-November when I travel to Miami for Thanksgiving. Hay suppresses weeds and feeds the soil. Come Spring, I just have to move the hay aside and plant. Hay is the Winter coat for the beds.
I say good-bye to Flora Jones Garden after nine years. It was my experimental garden, where I had the opportunity to learn edible landscape and go wild! I cannot be sad for the end because it is time. Family and friends have expressed their chagrin and I am aging and probably should cut back on gardens, not to mention I could use another day to develop as a businesswoman. Flora has asked me to finish at the end of the month and I am delighted. I developed an edible landscape. I let the land be itself and show me her beauty, her bounty. I harvested Wild Salad out of Flora Jones. She will be missed, but I cannot be sentimental. I have to take my leave. I look forward to my new adventure.
A Farm for All! is in a good place. We have had our first annual fundraiser. We have gotten a grant to offer Solidarity Shares for White Pine’s Herbal CSA. We will be able to offer free and half priced CSA shares to three low income communities. We look for new community members. Look for our post on Craigslist in Hudson Valley and North Connecticut.
I have five beds to open and plant at Hiddenbrooke - Sage, Lavender, Wormwood and two Comfrey. Hay will be welcome weed control from now on. Hiddenbrooke seems to be a different eco-system. Phlox and Sunrrot have not done very well here. Anise Hyssop comes in much later than other places. We’ll see what Sunroot does next year. Critters eat plants like Echinacea, Valerian and Comfrey like never before. She may be more wild, a half mile in from the main road, DePuyster. More critters have a comfortable home I suppose. I mowed the entire season creating a series of pathways throughout the garden - so fun! I have had black plastic laid out since July to kill the grass for beds. I learn a new space.
I’m harvesting Zucchini and Tomatoes, still making Zucchini bread for potlucks and sauce for Christmas supper. I have also harvested Corn (Zea maize, Graminae, Annual, Turtle Island) and Green Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris, Papilionaceae, Annual, Turtle Island). Corn contains carbohydrates, fiber, protein and vitamin B. Green Beans contain potassium, folic acid, beta carotene and protein.
It is root and seed harvesting time. I will be collecting Amaranth and Lamb’s Quarter seed to add protein to oatmeal and rice. Plantain seeds can be used the same way for omega 3’s. Seeds are often ground into nutrient rich flour. I have my stores of tincture of Burdock, Elecampane and Poke. I will have to check on my market stores.
Thankful for the peace and solace of Autumn Equinox. An opportunity to pause and savor before the dip down into the deep dark and hibernation. I take a tip from Bear and rest, rest. We are entitled to all the blessings life has to offer by the very fact that we were born. Joy, love and peace to you and yours this Autumn Equinox.
The weather cools and we bow to the deep dark of the coming Autumn Equinox. I forget and then am enamored when I realize there are three more weeks of Summer September 1. The weather did not cool until today so it was easy to enjoy Summer still here at the beginning of September. My classes wind down and I look toward markets for income Autumn and Winter. I went to market for the first time last Autumn and it sparked imaginings of a lucrative income opportunity and the opportunity to share herbal knowledge with folks is always a blessing. My wares are Salve, Tea, Tincture and Vinegar also available through my website www.sarahannelisabeth.com.
Time to wrap up the season gardening and processing harvest. I have ordered hay for the beds at SDG and Hiddenbrooke and I made Basil Pesto and Zucchini bread this week. (Ocimum basilicum, Labiate, Annual, Asia). Basil is a well known spice. Although my first Pesto was Parsley, I have come to appreciate having a variety of Pesto now for the Winter. I make seven quarts - three Parsley, two Basil and this season two Lamb's Quarter. Lamb's Quarter grew into a small tree at Flora Jones so I had no choice but to make Pesto. I have had Basil tea in the past and in the Mediterranean O. comosum is made into a drink called cherbet tokhum. The essential oil is used for flavor in condiments and liqueurs and scents in soap and perfume. Leaves have been used as mosquito repellent to expel worms and for snake and insect bites as well as acne. An infusion aids digestion and is antibacterial. Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbitaceae, Annual, Turtle Island) is high in beta carotene and also contains vitamin C and folic acid. The word squash comes from the Native American word askustasquash which means eaten raw or uncooked. Europeans pounded the seeds into oatmeal and used it on their faces to remove freckles.
Hurricane Dorian travels up the East coast in North Carolina today while wildfires rage in Brazil. The great storm of 2019 so far having ravaged the Bahamas. Two more months of hurricane season to go. As I stared at the radar image on the Weather Channel I marveled at how singular the weather is, having its own purpose and we just have to get out of harm's way. Let go of applying gender to the weather and its force just becomes a violent entity for which we have to prepare. Not unlike the Establishment that emulates nature and of which we have to stay out of harm's way. Hitler has a famous quote "I do not see why man should not be as cruel as nature," so I suppose we should take it into account managing our new reality. We are capable of benevolence and compassion, community and cooperation, but in the face of those who do not abide by such notions we have no choice but to stay out of harm's way.
I love to watch animal documentaries most recently Serengeti and it is wonderful to watch how the animals interact. The circle of life indeed as any of the animals from Baboon to Zebra can fall prey to the wild through starvation, injury, dominance, etc. Might makes right in the animal kingdom and so it seems in our Establishment. It helps me to recognize it. It sets my mind at ease to have clarity about the challenges we face. Embrace and appreciate the kind and loving, but remember we are inundated with animals who rule us. Those who see so far into the future we are but a speck of dust on their grand plan - dominance. The animal kingdom dips and sways adjusting to its triumphs and losses as we do. I want to understand and here is my latest attempt.
I have gotten my first grant for A Farm for All! In the frenzy of organizing the space I sent in some information and lo and behold we got the grant! We will provide Solidarity Shares from our Herb CSA for low income folks. So exciting! A Farm for All! appears to be a project with much potential (www.afarmforallny.org). I have spent my adult life working in non-profits in one way or another and I'm bringing that knowledge and experience to A Farm for All! We will have our first fundraiser September 15. Get your tickets at Brown Paper Tickets https://bpt.me/4344733 or donate at paypal.me/afarmforall. It will be great to see you! We harvested fifty pounds of Shiitake mushroom and we will be serving them at the fundraiser. Come one come all, there are rooms and campsites available for overnight stays. Air Bnb www.airbnb.com/rooms/345o2699.
Shittake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes, Omphalotaceae, East Asia) has been eaten since 199 CE and is the second only to Button mushroom which is 60% of the world's mushroom production. Before ketchup, mushroom sauce was the favorite condiment. Shiitake as well as velvet shank, nameko and oyster are the favorites in Japan. Oyster mushroom has the ability to take up toxins from the soil and still be edible. Mushrooms contain potassium, linoleic acid, folic acid, carbohydrates, iron, niacin and B vitamins.
2019 becomes memory. Joyful and peaceful and full of fresh food. To have all my crops again is awesome. I have spent my life making it up as I go along which has its share of pitfalls and triumphs. I believe it is the nature of Spirit, although controlling one's reality is the norm. Courage and faith, joy, love and peace abound. Certainly not for the faint of heart.
Rain indicates the change of seasons is upon us. The days still climbing into the upper 80's with showers in the afternoons. Dare I say this has been a "regular" season with April Showers, although they did turn into May Showers before the temperature started to climb through June and July. We've had so many ups and downs, it can be hard to recognize the weather we've known all our lives. 2019 slowly slips into memory.
I write an assessment in September, looking over the season at triumph and failure. Just to have all my crops again is exciting after two years of milking goats. I miss them and always will until my next encounter. It was a welcome experience, but I am a grower, my heart lies with the plants. I get so much joy from sitting in the garden and simply weeding. I feel the loss of bygone days when it was the days work.
Did I know when I entered the internship at Brooklyn Botanic Garden that plants would become my family? An all consuming journey for my life? Susun Weed and the Wise Woman Center gave me the Spirit that Horticulture lacked and I was smitten. I loved being outside as a child, Mum wanting a girl, dressing me up in pretty clothes that I would return home filthy from my adventures. I was raised with boys, how could I turn out dainty?
My husband and I moved upstate to live the Simple Life. Along the way I have had odd jobs to bring in extra money mainly to finance the gardens, but there is no greater indicator of what we've lost than the 9 - 5. My gardens have always suffered in the pursuit of the dollar. We have been ripped from the land and turned over our autonomy to an ungrateful master wishing to suck the life out of us. Instead of reward for our work we are given more work. We are taught to feel unworthy from birth and check one another for our output instead of recognizing our true challenge, the Establishment. I am happy to be back here fully present in the gardens enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.
In recent years, I've learned that my great grandfathers were farmers which answers all my question about why I am. Mum's paternal grandfather would take his horse and buggy and be gone for two weeks to harvest and go to market. Dad's maternal grandfather had a garden next to the house. Through colonialism, my maternal grandfather lost his life when my mother was twelve and my paternal grandfather was a bookbinder and caned chairs. My paternal grandmother married a wealthy man and had twelve more children. My maternal grandmother was a seamstress. Clearly the generation that lost the connection to the land. My interest in plants was met with more of the same looks I got all my life "Who is this child?" Dad deigned to pay me a compliment a few years ago after having used Poke (Phytollaca americana, Phytolaccaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) for a lingering cold whenever I was home. "You're a bush doctor." I'll take it. The highest praise I've ever gotten. Poke is an antibiotic. I use it for allergies, colds, ear infections and just recently a dog tick bite. Down south they make Poke Salad with the young leaves and the young stem can also be eaten. The purple berries can be harvested and frozen to be popped like pills two at a time to stave off colds through Winter. Children love to smash the berries on paper producing a beautiful magenta color.
Flora Jones introduced me to authoritarianism. If you don't know Flora Jones, ask around in political circles. Her mother was authoritarian and in that moment I realized my parents are authoritarian. The Oxford English Dictionary defines authoritarian as "favouring encouraging or enforcing strict obedience to authority as opposed to individual freedom; tyrannical or domineering; and a person favoring absolute obedience to a constituted authority. It makes me wonder what the matrilineal point in human history must have looked like. Absolute power corrupts absolutely to borrow a phrase. Perhaps the matrilineal line fell to corruption. There is a story of men severing their genitals to lay on the altar of the Goddess. Women freely lay their wombs and breasts on the alter of the medical God these days. Hmmm, full circle? Certainly his story seems to be a retaliatory energy against herstory. And wealth has now produced generations of tyrants who are corrupt simply because they have never known free will. Flora apparently fled her home life and so did I to find my self sitting on her porch laying my life bare for me. What choice do the victims of colonialism have, but to pass the control on to their children once their free will had been crushed - some semblance of control in their lives. Not to mention reducing our beautiful pantheon of (God)desses to one mean old white man with an iron fist. Mum was "saved" by Billy Graham in Wembley Stadium. I was raised Catholic, Pentocostal and Southern Baptist. Today is no different than any other point in his story. War, famine, disease, inequality, tyranny, hopelessness. The only difference this time is it's global and we are witnessing the one bright light of democracy dim and flicker out. We're fucked!
Even the hope of our children has been crushed as the literally poor millennial returns home to their parents' house with crushing debt. Who knew the Establishment which has already dismissed our elders, carting them away to cesspool nursing homes would then turn around and crush the spirits of our young people by placing the yolk of debt and joblessness around their necks in the prime of their lives?
All these woes I hand over to Earth in the gardens. I leave them refreshed and renewed because Earth has the ability to take my burdens and return joy and love Teaching, sharing the plants with loved ones offers no end of peace and fulfillment. Imagine a health care system that teaches mind, body, spirit connection. Teaching us to listen and trust our body's wisdom. Imagine yoga and meditation to begin the day starting in kindergarten. What would that world look like? We humans have an endless ability for hope. We can always dream and imagine and dance in the light of the dawn. Let's go again and dream big. I delight in my plants the same as parents do in their children. Even parenthood has become one of the greatest challenges of the day, but we still do it. Good for us!
Weeding is in a good place and I take a breather in these last couple of weeks. A moment to look over the gardens before the final push to close out the season. I have been delighted with Amaranth, Borage, Lamb's Quarter and Purslane this season, all growing wild alongside my crops. At least fifty percent of herbs are considered weeds to be eradicated by Round Up. Dandelion, Violet, Ground Ivy in our grass. Clever of the Establishment to demonize our wild food and medicine. If you ever want to conquer a people, destroy their resources. Colonialism 101. We fight to the death for our freedom and go down swinging.
I'm harvesting Goldenrod flowers for tea (Solidago gigantea, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island). Goldenrod has sedative properties, the seeds can be eaten as mush or used as a stew thickener and the young greens can be cooked and eaten. Dried and powdered, the plant was used to stop bleeding during wartimes. Zucchini is ready as well as Tomatoes and the next round of Kale and Mustard Mix. Cabbage Moth has ravaged the Cabbage patch, next year I'll leave the cover on all season. I have 1 1/2 gallons of Red Sauerkraut leftover from last season so I only have to add two more gallons for my Winter store so I'm not too worried. It's a thirty foot bed. Last season I got 2 1/2 gallons even after Cabbage Moth damage.
I guess writer's block has passed. I'm enjoying my writing practice now. I look forward to it. I have also been entering a writing contest monthly. Initially, producing was stressful and I found myself craving alcohol, but that craving has seemed to ease a bit. It is summer after all and one must hurrah! We've also been crunching numbers at A Farm for All! creating financial reports for a possible donor. Quite a productive season. One day at a time, moment to moment, creating joy.
August and we are heading into Autumn. The days are visibly shorter now. Time to submit to the darkening season as we head for the Autumn Equinox. We continue to pull back and in and down giving thanks for our bounty. I write an assessment in September, taking it all in and reminisicing. An opportunity to take a look at the big picture and the personal growth this year. The rain has brought lower humidity and cool mornings.
I have begun my Winter stores having harvested Garlic and made two quart jars of Lamb's Quarter Pesto. I have hung Mints (Peppermint, Spearmint, Chocolate Mint) to dry for Winter tea as well as Anise Hyssop. Also weeding Three Sisters (Corn, Beans and Squash), Mustard Mix and continuing to tie up Tomatoes. Beets are ready. Extra hours into the evening with a whirring food processor or something boiling on the stove. Visions of cold Winter days with hot tea and jars of vegetables that hold their fresh picked color. At the whim of dear Mother we begin to imagine what She holds in store for us this Winter after a hot and beautiful Summer. After three years of warm Novembers last November seemed to cool rather quickly and the temperature dropped to fifty-five after an unusually hot week in Miami. We wait with bated breath.
Writer's block this week. I sat before the page with - nothing. Not too bad for having started this blog in April. I have been a writer since I was thirteen when I bought my first diary for my birthday. I wanted to write the great American novel someday, so I figured I should start taking notes. I wanted to finish that novel by the time I was forty. I finished two years early at thirty-eight. I look forward to the day I can dust it off and take a look with fresh eyes. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to explore my writing self now. I want to write for the rest of my life. At the very least this blog is a regular writing exercise. It's been fun and a bit stressful churning out a post weekly.
Beet (Beta vulgaris, Chenopodiaceae, Biennial grown as an annual, grown since Assyrian times) contains folic acid and potassium. I make two pints of pickles. What a treat in January.
Mustard Mix (Pink Lettucy Mustard, Ruby Streaks and Tatsoi, Brassica juncea, Brassicaceae, Annual or Biennial, Central Asia, Himalayas (considered one of the ancient areas of domestication, cultivated since 3000BCE)) contains vitamin A and C, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus. Lamb's Quarter and Purslane are still available as Wild Salad, but Mustard Mix makes for a great cultivated change from Wild Salad for the end of the season. We will have harvest up until the end.
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae, Turtle Island) Wonderful aromatherapy tea for the Winter. Indigenous cough medicine. Lovely licorice flavor. Imported to Europe for honey.
Rain. It's been about four weeks since we had rain. We had April Showers and May Showers, but since the end of June when the temperature rose to 90°, we have been missing the rain. I don't recall such a prolonged time of heat without rain. Promises of rain and overcast days and then nothing. Finally, a 95° weekend followed by a half a day of rain from midday on on a Monday. The sky rumbled all morning and I went out and watered at noon in case it didn't rain. The surest way to get it to rain is to water one's garden. The deluge brought us cooler temperatures even 60° nights, so welcome and the temperature starts to climb here at the weekend again. Europe had record breaking temperatures, but low humidity, so Arizona heat which is quite bearable. Apparently France does not have air conditioning so their citizens took to the fountains.
I after many years of watering the bare minimum now spend time drenching the plants. I am a brat and in the pursuit of harmony with Earth have given up hit or miss crops like Radish, Lettuce and Spinach in favor of hardy crops like Kale, Cabbage and Parsley. So many crops to choose from, so much nutritional value to be found. Variety is the spice of life, but give me simple meals of Pasta Salad and Beans and Rice or Quinoa and I am a happy camper. For me the Simple Life strips down even crops and meals to the bare minimum. I am indeed a simpleton.
It's time to make pots of greens for Winter. We usually have Kale for Christmas. Kale (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial, Europe) contains calcium, iron, beta carotene, vitamins E and C. Amaranth has always been wild at Sargent-Downing and this season came right up with Kale so I'm harvesting them together for pots of greens. Amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexis, Amaranthaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) grows wild and like many wild native plants is denigrated so has no value in America. The wild species actually has more nutritional value than the cultivated species. Does not hold its shape as well as Kale when cooked, which is why I blend it with Kale, but Caribbeans use Amaranth to make Callaloo adding onion, peppers, salt, scallion and tomato and serve it with codfish. I was raised on Goat meat (Caribbean) so once we had a successful crop of Tomatoes, I made sauce and froze it, so our tradition is Goat Lasagna for Christmas with Kale on the side. Scrumptious! Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum, Solanaceae, Perennial, Annual, Andes) contains beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin B. The fearful European originally thought Tomato was poisonous because of their bright colors and strong scent. Also considered Tomato an aphrodisiac.
Bunches of Garlic adorn my doors. I only had half a bed this season because much of the crop rot lat season with all the rain and Garlic suppliers were sold out by the time I checked in. Hopefully, I'm not too late if I check in in August. Last season I made pickled Garlic for the first time and I ran out of Garlic before Winter was over. I usually have Garlic until harvest in July. Garlic (Allium sativum, Alliaceae, Perennial grown as an Annual) is good for the heart, infections and contains small quantities of vitamins and minerals. I use Bay Leaves and Garlic when I make my Sauerkraut.
Still opportunities for firsts, I harvested Wild Bergamot flowers for tea. I didn't get a lot, but they will be a joyful addition to my tea leaves this Winter. I harvested leaves earlier this season. They get powdery mildew by the time the flowers arrive. Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa, Labiatae, Shrub, Turtle Island) is sister to Red Bergamot or Bee Balm (M. didyma), the leaves have been infused in oil and used on hair, they contain thymol which is an antiseptic that can be used for pimples, steam inhaled for colds and brewed for nausea, flatulence and insomnia. Along with Peppermint, Wild Mint and Chocolate Mint, not to mention Anise Hyssop, my go to tea for heartburn during the holidays.
St. Johnswort doubled in size, but I let the flowers go for oil and tincture, until next season. Once one has success in the garden it can be challenging to keep up with the harvest stage. I would have gotten a small amount of oil which is what I use the most, but not tincture. I'll wait until next season when the plants double again. St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum, Gutteriferae, Perennial, Turtle Island) oil is good topically for muscle ache. The tincture, a well known over the counter anti-depressant, used with the oil, is in my opinion ecstasy. The tincture can cause sensitivity to the sun. I found another species in a Florida native plant book, St. Andrew's Cross, Hypericum fasciculatum.
Borage has been wild at Sargent-Downing as well, though I haven't seen her for many years. I propagated some from seed this season and low and behold, wild plants came up in the Kale and Beet beds. I have been using my compost for the beds this season so maybe there were seeds in it. Exciting to see them wild again. Borage (Borago officinalis, Boraginaceae, Annual, Europe) has the sweetest periwinkle colored flower which I pick and eat for a mild high. The flowers have been used for Wild Salad, cakes and frozen in ice cubes. The leaves are rich in minerals, are cooling and have been used to flavor drinks, dips and salt free diets. Leaf and flower infusion as an adrenalin tonic for stress, depression or cortisone and steroid treatment. Many other uses as well.
I've also gotten huge stands of Lamb's Quarter this season. Always welcome in my gardens. SDG and Flora Jones have Lamb's Quarter this season. She's like an old friend returning for a visit. I let a few grow to my height (5'5") and have harvested the leaves for Pesto for Winter. I freeze seven quarts of Lamb's Quarter, Basil and Parsley Pesto. Lamb's Quarter (Chenopodium album, Chenopodiaceae, Annual Europe) contains the highest level of iron of any green. Forbidden to grow by the church in Europe. The best way to break a people is to deny them their resources. Lamb's Quarter has a nutty flavor and can be eaten this time of year in Wild Salad. Cooking enhances the flavor.
Purslane has also made a comeback. A tangy delicious succulent for our Wild Salad. (Portulaca oleracea, Portulacaceae, Annual, India, Eurasia) Again in SDG and Flora Jones, Purslane contains iron and vitamin C, can be pickled and cooked and used in soup. Dried seed can be ground into flour. Used in China for diarrhea and urinary infections, also to reduce fevers.
Flora Jones Garden draws to a close sadly. Happily, I can use more time to develop my Herbal business, but the wildness of the garden has provoked the ire of not only the neighbors, but her family and friends as well. I guess I am a big land girl now and my gardening style does not sit well with urban dwellers. Nine years and I have cultivated a wild edible garden. Flora Jones is my Wild Salad harvest site. She will be missed, but I'm excited for what new adventures I will discover.
Mid-summer and all is well. The gardens are flourishing. I haven't had this much time to spend in the gardens for awhile. I love my gardens. They are life's work. It was our way up until 1950 when everyone had a kitchen garden. Beef entered our diet, then. Our meals were primarily vegetables. Then industry entered the scene and within the rat race convenience became the order of the day. There will always be the opportunity to engage in a simpler time. When I approach my gardens, the love in my heart is enough. Enough for me to take a deep breath and slow down and remember my connection to Earth, our Mother, our Sustainer.
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.